Analyzing Your Chess Games with Software
Every player eventually must face an undeniable truth: do I want to put effort into improving at chess or do I want to stagnate? If you’re interested in improving, the crucial skill you must develop is analyzing your own games. There are different levels to this skill which I will share with you and I will like you to products along the way that will help you.
What is Game Analysis?
Game analysis is the act of going over games, usually your own, to look for ideas that will help you improve as a player. Here are some reasons to analyze games:
- To spot weaknesses in your game
- To learn openings
- To understand opening principles
- To learn middlegame plans and planning
- To find trends in how you or common opponents play
There are many other reasons to analyze games, but these are a basic few ideas worth remembering.
How do I analyze my games?
There are 3 main ways people analyze their games. Let’s look at each:
- Going over the game with a friend or their opponent
- Writing the game down in a notebook with notes
- Putting the game into a database program
After you finish a game, it is common to ask your opponent to go over the game with you. This is especially good to do if you lost and it is the main way you make friends in the chess community. However, there is generally not a lot of note taking happening during the post mortem (the term used for when people go over the game after the game is completed). But it will give you insight into how your opponent was thinking which can help you with your own game.
Designating a notebook specifically for game analysis is a good idea. It can be tricky to determine how you want to organize it. I recommend writing the game score across the top and analyzing specific move numbers below in chronological order. Regardless of what you do, this process is a bit lengthy. However, when you write things down, especially when you write down your own moves again, it helps your memory. When you first begin, you’ll find you analyze very little. As you improve, you’ll be able to write 20 pages (if you want).
Finally, if you use database programs like ChessBase then you will be able to incorporate computer analysis into your game. You will also be able to check your own analysis. I should note that you should always do your own analysis before ever turning on the computer. If you rely on the computer too often then you cheat yourself out of valuable thinking time. For example, if you had a tough decision during a game you should try to think on it some more when analyzing your games and write your thoughts down. Then, use the computer to check your thoughts. If you do it in this order, you will grow as a player. If you use the computer first, then you can no longer benefit from working hard on that game since the answer was given to you.
What can Help Me Analyze Games?
The most powerful way to analyze your games is by using software. Specifically, you can investigate ChessBase and Chess Assistant. There are other database programs which can be found here. These programs can keep track of every game you play, they have statistical analyses you can run, they have large game databases that can be used to research openings, and they often have (or are compatible with) tablebases which are used to calculate the proper moves for endgames. This software is powerful, highly recommended, and costly. If you use the software regularly then you will improve your game.
Do not forget to analyze your own game for weaknesses!
Weaknesses are often more easily pointed out by others, usually a coach. If you wish to identify your own weaknesses, the statistical software offered by ChessBase, Chess Assistant, and/or LiChess.org are useful. But if you are not using statistical software, you can try to identify the reason why you lose a specific game. Reasons for losing can vary but often are due to a poor opening, you keep missing tactics, you choose a bad middlegame plan, or you overlook a subtlety in the endgame. The above books and software are helpful for you to improve and can help you self-assess many weaknesses.
A format for analyzing your own games that I would recommend is as follows:
- Write out all the moves either in a database program or in a notebook
- Look for errors, either tactical, positional, or strategic, and list them out
- Use a computer to check your analysis to see if you hit on the right areas of the game
- If you missed anything, review it and write any useful observations about why you missed those moments in the game as important
- Finish by writing no more than 3 things to take away from the game and write this summary after all the analysis is completed.