How to Analyse Your Own Games – Part One


Table of Contents

Today brings a special guest post by Grandmaster Alex Colovic, who presents his thoughts on how to analyse your own games.

Alex’s posts are always very popular, thanks to his no-nonsense style and Grandmasterly wisdom. Last time we saw an article covering Complete Confusion but this time Alex recommends bringing order to a complicated issue.

Grandmaster Alex Colovic

How to Analyse Your Own Games – Part One

The advice that you learn best from your own mistakes is one of the most popular ones. But how often have you really seen it bear fruit? How many times all of us keep on repeating the same mistakes? In order to learn from a mistake you first need to understand it. Even more importantly, to become aware of it. Only then can you do something about it.

Here I will describe how I analyse my own games. They are the ones that show – in broad daylight – the quality of my play. It is a time of reckoning and there is no hiding when I analyse my own games. Lying to myself is never an option.

Ideally, the analysis of the game just played should be in two phases – the first one is when you insert the game in a database of your own games with the lines you calculated during the game and the conclusions and evaluations you had reached throughout the whole course of the game. Psychological insight and feelings should also be noted. The more information you put in this phase, the better.

Self-Control and Discipline

The second phase is the one when you go through the game and the notes you provided in phase one with the help of an engine. However, I’ll be honest with you and will admit that I never do phase one. The reasons are usually two: there is no time and/or I’m too impatient to see what the engine says. Still, in spite of missing phase one, I actually do manage to merge it with phase two. I have enough self-control and discipline to remember the lines I calculated and the conclusions I reached so that they are not blurred by the constant influx of engine-generated moves on the screen. What happens is that I am writing down my calculated lines and textual comments with an engine running at the same time.

I wouldn’t recommend this mix to less experienced players. It is way too easy to forget your own thoughts when you see the moves the engine is suggesting. The look of the constant flickering of the moves and evaluations produced by the engine has a stupefying effect on the brain.

Now, onto the process.

Making Notes

In the opening I write down until which move my preparation went. Sometimes I also write down psychological notes on my opening choice. In case I was surprised or I forgot my notes I consult a database to see whether there are any games in that line. I also consult my notes to see if I had the surprise line analysed at all. In case I encountered problems in the opening I make a note in my opening preparation database that I should take a look at that line as soon as possible. Often it is possible to repair a line relatively quickly, whether by using an improvement suggested by the engine or simply changing the line. A word of warning though – this type of “quick fix” can often turn up to be superficial. Therefore I usually take a look at the line after the tournament and then I analyse it more deeply.

Opening Ideas

Opening ideas come to my mind even when I play the most obvious opening moves. Sometimes I would get an idea during the game in familiar positions. I make sure I analyse these ideas after the game and these can often lead to back-up or alternative solutions to the opening in question. This is very important when your repertoire isn’t very wide – then you can still surprise your opponent within the same opening. I remember I read somewhere that this is what Capablanca did.

So how do you analyse your openings? What is your process? In the next installment I will explain how I analyse the middlegame and the endgame, together with some common themes like time-management and calculation

Further Reading

Readers can find more excellent and instructive articles on Alex’s official website.

Click here to learn more about Alex’s Chessable courses.

There is also an interview with Alex, here.

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