Post Game Analysis - A Simple Approach
I've recently been asked by a few players how to approach post game analysis. I've finally had time to sit down and put together this blog explaining my approach to post game analysis.
The first thing I would like to address is whether or not post game analysis is actually necessary to improve your game. The answer is absolutely YES!
Post game anaysis (PGA) serves 2 primary purposes; It helps you evaluate your mistakes and correct them and it helps you improve your thinking and planning during games.
The Tools -
At the very least, all you need is a chessboard. However, I would suggest a pencil and paper to write notes.
Taking notes during your PGA is very important. There is just something more concrete about seeing your mistakes written down then just thinking about them in your head. Plus, having everything documented will help you find patterns of good and bad play on your part.
WHen I first started, I used pencil and paper. But I am a bit of a messy guy. So I was finding chess notes all over the place with no idea what games they were for.
Now I use SCID vs. PC. Softwares like this are great for PGA because everything is easily recorded and organized. I use SvsPC, but there are other great softwares out there that can do the same thing. Please see my notes about using software in your PGA at the ''Engine Assisted' section below.
The Mindset -
In order to do an effective PGA, you MUST have the right mindset.
A common trap for chess players is blaming some condition either personal, environmental or game play related for their loss. This is VERY counter-productive.
All chess games are lost because your opponent took advantage of some mistake or group of mistakes you made in the game. That's it; plain and simple.
With this in mind, you can more easily approach your PGA with an open mind that is ready to learn and be corrected.
Choosing a game -
Ideally, you would want to do a PGA on all of your games. However, now-a-days, many people play lots of games each day and aren't going to be intersted in spending so much time analyzing games. Or, perhaps, you are like me. I don't play a lot, but I have a busy life and cannot analyze every single game I play.
I find there are basically 2 types of games I have been able to learn the most from:
Games that I lost, but am not clear why.
Games that I won, but am not clear why.
BTW - Perhaps you have heard the old saying 'We learn more from our mistakes than our successes.'. Although this is true, there is still tons to be learned from our wins.
I can't find the quote at the moment. But there is a chess quote floating around from a famous chess player that says, basically, you should scrtinize your wins more so than your losses.
This is very good advice as, quite often, our wins are not because of our great efforts, but because of our opponent's weak efforts.
The Process -
My process has 3 stages. These stages can take from just a few minutes to over an hour depending on the complexities of the game.
1. 'Thought and purpose' review. In this stage, I just go through the game move by move making notes about what I was thinking or what I thought my opponent was thinking.
During this stage, I don't address blunders or complex positions. I only take notes related to ideas in the game.
2. 'Blunder and wonder' review. During this stage, I take a closer look at blunders and positions that were complex and required a lot of thought during the game. (This is the wonder part because you wonder what would have happened if you had made different moves )
For me, this is the most time consuming part as moves often require as much thinking time as was invested in them during the game.
For this stage, I go through the game backwards. I do it this way, because I see the results of blunders and mistakes BEFORE I see the actual bad move. I find this useful because once I get to the bad move, I've had an opportunity to see all of the reprocussions of the move and can do better in the next step.
The next step is to stop at the bad move and determine what move or moves I could have made to avoid the blunder and it's negative effects on my game.
There are 2 important things to remember at this stage:
Do this for ALL blunders. Even ones that seem so obvious like hanging a piece.
Although I keep saying 'bad moves', you might consider adopting this stage for moves you felt were very strong. You might find they were not as strong as you thought.
3. 'Engine assisted' review. The final stage of my PGA is an engine assisted review of the game.
This stage is meant to be a bit of a sanity check of my own analysis of the game, not the guiding light of my analysis. This is why it is last.
During this stage, I go through the game from the beginning with an engine running. I look at the moves the engine suggests and try to determine how the move might have helped or hurt my game. And if the engine has a particuarly good move, I add it as alternate line.
One thing to keep in mind when using an engine to assist your PGA is that engines are able to make moves that only the engine can really understand. Because of this, it is important to not take the suggested moves as a complaint about your ownmoves AND don't invest too much time in moves you just don't understand.
There is quite a bit of debate about using engines in a PGA. Personally, I look at the engine as a source of suggestion, not a source of instruction. Although, I have to admint, engines have taught me some ideas I might not have otherwise come up with on my own.
For greater results, look at your opponents moves as well during these 3 stages.
Honesty is the best policy -
At the end of each PGA, I make notes about what I learned from the game, patterns in my play and general feelings about the game.
It is very important to be honest with yourself. You cannot afford to be dismissive of your mistakes or too proud of your successes.
I hope this helps those who are looking to start the practice of a post game analysis.
Please feel free to leave any questions or comments below.