We start our week in fine style with a guest post from Grandmaster Alex Colovic. Alex presents the second part of his series on How to Analyse Your Own Games. If you need to reacquaint yourself with the first part, then you can find it here.
How to Analyse Your Own Games – Part Two
The middlegame is the most complex part of the game to analyse. The reason is that there is a mixture of everything: positional play, calculation, planning, psychology, time-management. I start with my notes. I first analyse my own calculations and check whether I had calculated precisely during the game. The engine is ruthless and sooner rather than later it points to blunders in my calculations. Still, this doesn’t kill my confidence. I judge whether what I had missed was simple or not. If what I missed was something elementary, I make sure I am more careful in the next game. I immediately try to implement what I had learned of my own state and improve it.
Checking with the Engine
I also check my conclusions. I consult the engine in positions where I had reached a certain evaluation by simply continuing the analysis and looking whether this further analysis confirms my evaluation. During the analysis the engine will often come up with moves I didn’t consider (I make sure to understand why I didn’t consider them!). These moves are important because they will be quite good. I proceed to analyse these moves and it is this analysis of the moves I didn’t consider that enriches my understanding of chess. I often discover fantastic things when going along the paths of the engine.
It is very important to accept the fact that the engine will always make you feel as if you’re a complete patzer. We are all patzers compared to it. Even Carlsen is rated some 800 points less than Stockfish. Accept the fact that it will point to every single miscalculation. I described above how I deal with it – by judging whether the miscalculation was elementary or not. If it wasn’t, don’t worry, you played the game well.
Time management is a huge issue for many players. I rarely have problems with time-trouble. With the shortened time-controls I even made a conscious effort to further speed up my play as playing in eternal time-trouble with only 30 seconds per move is not something I like.
Many sources advise to write down the time spent on each move. This is good advice for people who end up in time-trouble. I don’t do it, but I do note the moves on which I spent more time. These moments are usually the critical moments and they are worthy of special attention.
The critical moments are positions where an important choice needs to be made. This involves planning and/or calculation of several lines. Going through the notes of my calculations I check whether I had made the correct decisions during the game. It is very important to understand why you spent that much time on a given decision. Here the awareness of your thought processes comes to the fore. Ideally you would have written down the lines you calculated so then you could justify the time spent. But if you’ve written down only a few lines and you’ve spent 25 minutes, then something is amiss. This most likely means that you’re inefficient when thinking, but in any case do make an effort to understand what happened.
Still the Best Policy
One of the most difficult aspects when analysing your own games is remaining honest to yourself. It is so easy to lie to yourself when you say (or write!) that you missed that forced win because of time trouble when in fact you didn’t see an important move in your calculations. Being brutally honest is the only way to go (and be!). You are doing the analysis for yourself, it may never see the light of day (so no need to be ashamed to admit whatever you need to admit to yourself), it is done with the sole purpose of your improvement. You can only improve if you understand first and you can understand only if you’re honest with yourself.
The analysis of the endgame is similar to the middlegame, with the difference that with the emergence of tablebases you can use exact knowledge for certain positions. Make sure you note down your knowledge (or lack of) of these positions. In technical positions it is OK to be easy on yourself if you chose a slower winning method than the one suggested by the engine. If you kept control then you’ve done everything right, no matter what the engine says.
After finishing the analysis you will have a lot of conclusions and new information about yourself. You will know more about your general level of chess-playing strength and also about your current playing level. Using common sense it should be possible to make good use of these conclusions, whether for long-term chess improvement or for mini-improvements for the next game.
I tried to describe the analysis process as I do it. This is not intended for a simple copy-paste application. My aim was to give you an idea how I do it and what brought me results in order to inspire you to find your own way of doing it. I hope I was helpful in that.
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.