A step by step method to analysis: Introduction.

Apr 16, 2018, 6:15 AM |

What is analysis and why it's so important?

    This post will attempt to answer that with a series of simple examples, some of them taken from novice games.First, allow me to note that you can never be a good player if you don't learn how to analyze a position.Your ability to analyze determines your ability to find candidate moves, plans even tactical threats.It determines your ability to develop a proper thinking process.Not surprisingly analytical skill is considered by top coaches and players the most important skill for a chess player. You might have read many books, you might do  200 tactics a day and you might know all the opening lines.You will still be a bad player if you don't know how to analyze a position properly.

    Needless to say that analytical skill can't be improved over a night.It needs constant and intense training and it's a skill that can never reach perfection.Analytical skill is the embodiment of human imperfection.The training of analytical skill is a never-ending journey for a chess player.

     Once you realize how important analytical skill is, you start to realize some of the "secrets" of chess.For example, it is well known that the famous Soviet school started the training from the endgames.Why did they do that?Not because endgame is the most important phase of the game and not because they wanted to win endgames.That is a side effect, a very pleasant one indeed, still only a side effect.The reason is that endgames help a player develop his analytical skill faster(among other things).

    Let me give you an example:


                                                             Black has the move and both sides must choose their plan.

If you have study endgames then you know Black has a theoretical advantage an outside passed pawn. The practical problem is that this outside passed pawn is also weak and White's king is just a few moves from capturing it.So what Black must do?He must create another passed pawn if possible(not possible in this case) or find a way to attack White's weaknesses.So which are white's weaknesses and more important, which are white's realistic weaknesses?What is a weakness?Theoretically, everything that is unprotected is a weakness.Practically only the weaknesses that can be attacked are real weaknesses.h4 is a theoretical weakness(unprotected) but not a practical weakness(can't be attacked).f3 is a theoretical weakness(unprotected) but not a practical weakness(can't be attacked).That leaves only e3.Once you establish that e3 is the only realistic target, the rest is "easy"(well, the truth is, nothing is easy in chess but we tend to say "easy" when a number of difficulties have been somehow bypassed). 

      Determining all these, automatically determines what you must not do!


Now, none of White's weaknesses can be attacked because of the protected passed pawn on d5(Black can't prevent e4).Black turned a winning position into a losing one(how many times that has happened to you?).


An amazing move that deserves 2 exclamation marks because it initiates the correct plan. Black's plan is simple.He wants to attack e3 with Kd6-Kd5-Kc4-Kd3. That is actually the only way to do it but how many of you would find that plan?



We are at a very important point of the game.It is now clear that Black is better because of his better king and his better pawn structure but what on earth that means?It means one simple thing.Black has more targets!When you see an annotated game and the annotator says things like "White has more active pieces" then look for targets.If you can't find targets then you can't understand what the annotator means.Simple as that.

     Good pawn structure is not enough to win a game. Let's take the above position and change the position of the kings.


Black has again the better pawn structure but he can't win.Why?Because he can't attack White's pawns without exposing his pawns to attack.In the above position, all 6 pawns are practically equally weak! So piece activity determines what is a weakness.Remember this:

A weakness that can't be attacked is not a weakness.


Let's return to our game.



How white should defend?This is quite obvious.He has to attack Black's pawns.And which pawn can be attacked?not e6, not h5, only f7.Once f7 falls, both e6 and h5 will be valid targets.



We reach a point where calculation and good visualization are the skills needed.This is the type of position where evaluation is not enough.You need to calculate the win and you need to be accurate.This is the dynamic factor of the position.You might have favorable all the positional aspects of the position, still, you have nothing if your opponent has a forced checkmate or a forced win of material.When you evaluate a position you can't separate the positional factors from the dynamic factors.The dynamic factors usually reveal the better piece cooperation.What's the key word again?Targets!

I will let you find the best move because it's not difficult to find if you analyze and calculate methodically.Afterall you can find the game easily.I think that I proved my point.In this endgame position, we saw how important piece activity is, we saw what is a weakness and we "learned" how to evaluate the positional(weaknesses) and the dynamic factors(lines) of a position.

    For those of you interested, here is one more exercise:


                                                                                    Black to move

Analyse the position.

Which should be white's target?

Which should be Black's target?

If you don't answer these questions easily then you didn't pay any attention!

Put the position on a real board and try to calculate the lines without moving the pieces.

I will give you a hint: Black can draw if he forces white in an endgame with K+RP(rook pawn) vs K.