Analyzing One's Own Games

Feb 10, 2014, 1:00 PM |

Analyzing one's own games feels like the chess equivalent of doing wind sprints. For those who haven't trained as distance runners in their youth, wind sprints are a way of conditioning your body by increasing your lung capacity and rapidly increasing blood flow to your muscles for short periods of time.

Wind sprints start by running at a comfortable pace for a while. Then, you begin alternating between sprinting at top speed and then slowing back down to your normal running pace. Sprint 100 yards, jog 100 yards. Sprint 100 yards, jog 100 yards. Do this for 5 minutes and I guarantee you will be puking by the end of it. At least the first few times. Then, something miraculous happens. Your body starts to build a tolerance. Your lungs become capable of quickly pulling in more oxygen and your muscles are able to process more blood, sending that oxygen into the muscles.

How does this have anything to do with analyzing one's own games? Because everyone hates doing it.

Maybe hate is the wrong word, a bit too strong. We don't hate analyzing our own games. But, there are so many other more enjoyable ways of studying chess. Tactics trainer is FUN! Chess Mentor is cool. Videos are entertaining and don't even require us to think for ourselves. Reading books? Again, fun! Someone is there to tell us what to think and if such and such position is better for white or black--and why!

Getting back to analyzing our own games, though, where is the friendly book author or video personality to tell us what to think about the position? Maybe crack a well-timed joke when the material gets hard. Entertain us. No, they are not there with us and we have to think on our own. We have at least as hard as in the actual game because we don't have a clock as an excuse.

Even worse, it seems all for naught. We cannot call for a do-over on the game and recoup lost rating points. We'll probably never see this exact position again either.

So why do it? And, how? Instead of me attempting to answer that, check out this fantastic guide to analyzing your own games, by WGM Natalia Pogonina, How to Analyze Chess Games.

My coach, IM Attila Turzo, asks that I analyze all my OTB games and then email the analysis to him. I think I do this with about half my lost or drawn games and it is usually at least weeks after the game was played. Imagine how much more I would learn if I did this consistently for every game? I know that I learn openings and endgames better when they are from my own games because there is emotion tied to those positions that help me to remember. Learning the same material out of a book simply will not make the same lasting impression on me.

In this spirit, here is a game I lost yesterday that points out all my warts and what I was thinking during the game. (It was played as part of a DHLC slow time control tournament.)

Lessons Learned:

  • Look at all my opponent's threats, even seemingly unsafe pawn moves.
  • When playing an evening game, spend a few minutes getting centered and refocused on chess and my chess thought process.