A hardcore guide to analyze your chess games
This article was originally published here
I knew this would not be short, but what can I say - this will be useful for the rest of your chess career … Or maybe you will decide to end it right now after reading this! :D So before you start, go to the bathroom, then grab yourself a snack and a soda and start reading like you have all the time in the world...
Why should we analyze our games?
The guidelines for analyzing your chess games:
The first is when you run out of moves that you know in the opening you played. No matter who made the “novelty”, the important thing here is your thought process. Did the move surprise you? What plan did you implement after the novelty? Did you assess the resulting position as good or bad for you?
- From opening to Middlegame
- Middlegame to the Endgame.
- A quiet game into a tactic storm (or vice versa), or a drawish endgame to a lost one.
- The conversion of advantages in others (or change of plans, or when the configuration of pawns changes drastically, or a massive trade of pieces)
- Your mood changes during the game
- And last but not least, situations where you find yourself “lost” in the position: that is, you were unable to find a plan or you had to make a new one because the last one was useless, or you overlooked a continuation, tactical or not.
Sure, it’s a lot of information to collect, but the more you collect, the better for you. Therefore it is advisable to do so after almost immediately after finishing your game (“almost immediately” because first you should analyze the game with your opponent).
This is an interesting anecdote told by Kotov in his novel-autobiography "Notes of a Chess Player". I don’t remember it precisely so I have to recreate it: Nikolai Ryumin (or perhaps another Russian master, I’m not 100% sure), a master from Soviet times, used to record everything that was going through his head in a little notebook during his games. And when I say everything, I mean everything. Once, a rival wanted to take advantage of the “bad habit” of the master Ryumin, making his move and getting behind him, to read what he was writing. It was a complicated game, and at first Ryumin tried to keep the player behind him from reading what he was writing down, but then he gave up … or he seemed so. The game acquired a bloody character and at one point Ryumin wrote in his notebook “I fear the sacrifice on g6.” It was an idea that was around long ago in the minds of both players, and now with the Ryumin’s confirmation, the opposing player calculated a couple of moves, the he sacrificed his knight on the g6-square and with evident pleasure, he went to stand behind his rival. Ryumin, the wrote down in the little notebook: “I was afraid of the sacrifice, but it is wrong one” and then gobbled up the knight, winning the game afterwards
So you know what you can do with some curious opponents ;)
6 - After establishing the critical points, you can begin to analyze them.
(Starting from the moment you were on your own in the opening because you had run out of moves from the book, or if you decided that the variation played is good till move 12, the analysis of the opening and the transition to the middlegame start right there.)
Some think this is easy: they go to the computer, open some database, look for the novelty, and then they insert the best games of the opening line played, and they’re done. The next time they “know” they should move “b” instead of “a.”
Actually, the real work is a bit more difficult: it is not only locating your mistake, it’s knowing why it was wrong. It’s challenging yourself on whether you know (or knew) the main plans in the system chosen, and the kind of middlegames that derive from those openings. It also does not have to be a punishment, this way you may even discover new opening ideas and novelties. Soon (probably the next article) I will share with you how you should study and investigate the openings.
8- Positional patterns searching.
This is an intermediate step from which you can learn EXTRAORDINARILY and your game can make a qualitative leap by doing this consistently. Pay attention:
I guess that you, like many, have reached certain positions in your games in which you were unable to find a correct plan because you could never fathom the principles of the position. Even when you are analyzing it you have not been able to extract some concrete knowledge out of this. If this has happened to you and you could not even decipher it with your opponent in the analysis post mortem, this is the moment when the giant databases can help unravel the mystery.
Pay attention mainly to the pawn structure and the remaining pieces, and perform a search query in Chessbase. Don’t forget to select the games from the highest rated players through the rating selection because if you don’t do that you will get thousands of useless and unproductive positions from lower rated players who were unable to find the right path. Using the rating selection to choose among games from only titled players you will get positions of great value which will help you to understand the kind of structures you would like to reach in your games.
We can enhance this step by making it much more general. Suppose you could manage finding the correct game plan, like trading the correct pieces…now you can search for similar positions and see how masters played. Maybe you chose the correct plan (good!) but always you can find different ideas and learn something new.
For those who do not understand what I’m talking about, stay tuned because I will soon post a video series about Chessbase and how to use it to its full potential. For example, the correct way to do the kind of searches I was just describing.
9- Analyze the game by yourself (and when to use programs like Fritz and Rybka.)
This is important because if you get used to this “system” you will never learn anything. The computer will point you out the tactical moves you missed, but by no means is it able to teach you anything about positional chess and strategies, or explain to you why a move is bad, and so on.
When to use software? Well, besides checking the openings theory and the other advice described in Step Eight, you should use the computer only when you have done your analysis already (by writing down all the variations and describing verbally everything that happened). Only then you can go to any engine you have and set it in “blunder-check” mode (error checking) to see what the engine found that you missed.
However, that’s not what is the most important; what matters most is when the engine finds a tactical error in your game (and in the analysis of variations that you said you saw in the game) you have to look for patterns. Searching for tactical patterns, you have to look at how many moves in your calculations until you made a serious mistake. This will help you determine your horizon. If you find that you often make a mistake in your calculations after four moves, then you will develop a more watchful eye and pay more attention in such calculations during your games.
10- Reports and diagnostics.
We thank Aargard for putting into words this advice. It simply involves making a list of errors in the tournament and describing them verbally. At the same time, adding the patterns found by the analysis of program such as Fritz or Rybka, and compiling it into a full diagnostic report of your major weaknesses so that you may seek a remedy for each one.
11- Publish your analysis.
“Why do I need to check it against other humans?”, you ask me, “if I did so thoroughly with Rybka (Fritz, Shredder, you name it)?”
The brain is a complex organ, and one of the many tricks it can make us suffer is complacency and exhaustion, both grouped in a conduct named Recursion. Recursion is when our thinking runs along the same path to reach the same place, and in the case of chess, complacency and exhaustion that gives a long analysis can lead to the belief that our analysis is excellent. Sometimes it is, but sometimes we overlook a mate in two, to give an extreme example, or assess a position as good when it is not.*
A dictionary joke:
Recursion: see Recursion.
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And as always: Ad Majorem Caissa Gloriam! :)
Esta es una versión imperfecta en inglés de mi artículo orginal en español, el cual lo puedes encontrar aquí.