Streamlining the Game Analysis Process
Everyone knows the importance of analyzing your games to improve at chess. World Champions Alekhine, Botvinnik, and Kasparov in particular were known for the deep analysis of their games.
A couple years ago, I created a 4-step process for analyzing your games that involved annotating the game with your thoughts and analysis, identifying key positions to analyze, and checking your analysis with computer engines or stronger players. It typically took two to four hours to analyze one of my games “properly.”
The process worked very well and I learned a lot from my games by using it. However, I found that I was often skipping analyzing my games altogether because I felt I didn’t have enough time to implement the whole process.
Realizing that neglecting this part of my chess study was not a good idea, so I started to find ways to streamline and optimize my analysis process to a reasonable amount of time where I could still discover what I needed to improve while not feeling overwhelmed by the process.
The results are these questions I share with you today. At the end of the article, you can find a link to the seven questions in a printable format.
Question 1: At what point did the game leave opening theory?
At some point, either you or your opponent will play a new move. Unless you are a master who has created an exciting novelty, it is possible that this new move is a slight inaccuracy or maybe even a blunder. Perhaps you just didn’t know what the next move was in theory. Either way, try to find how you could have best dealt with the new move or why theory is better (if you are the one who played the new move.
Question 2: Where did the LAST mistake happen?
Mistakes are going to happen in every game. Try to find the last position at which either you or your opponent could have saved the game (either drawn a lost game or won a drawn game).
In the following example, I demonstrate one of these mistakes that I made during a game. When you are the one who made the mistake, you should try to find out what you should have played, and also try to identify why you didn’t play it as I do in this game.
Question 3: Where did the FIRST mistake happen?
This is similar to the last question, but you try to find the first mistake that was made and try to find what should have been played. If the mistake is your opponent’s, try to see how you would have or should have responded. If you didn’t have a response planned during the game, that is something to note as well.
Repeat Question #2 and #3 for the NEXT mistakes for the time you wish to allocate to this game. You can focus on just your mistakes if pressed for time. This is where you can control how much time you spend on each game. If you don’t have much time, just find the first and last mistakes in your game. I believe the analysis of those positions will bring you 50-60% of the benefit of analyzing your games.
Question 4: What was my best move I made during this game?
The purpose isn’t just to give you something to pat yourself on the back for – although there’s nothing wrong with that either. Instead, I recommend you analyze your thoughts and feelings that you when you played this move and see what elements – e.g. thought process, attitude, etc. – you can replicate in future games to make more moves like this one.
For example, the following game excerpt gave me much encouragement as I had been studying the positional nuances of the Dutch (as White) and was able to apply that knowledge in a game.
Question 5: What can I improve about my thought process during this game?
Based on the answers to the previous questions, what can you improve about your thought process? Perhaps you need to look more deeply into your positions before making an evaluation. Perhaps your need to consider more candidate moves? The answers to this question will give you something to practice in future games.
Question 6: How was my attitude, energy, and focus during this game?
If you had difficulties with these factors, what caused them? If you felt great, what factors can your reproduce – e.g. environment, pre-game routine, diet – to feel that way again in future games?
Question 7: What chess knowledge would have helped me perform better during this game?
See the answers to the previous questions for this one. Where you totally surprised in the opening? Was there a positional theme you never encountered before in your games? What do you need to know that you didn’t know before this game? This is where a good chess coach is very useful, as you may not know where to start and a computer chess engine can’t tell you.
This final example comes from a famous game. After studying this game, I have used the concept of creating an outpost – even at the cost of a pawn – many times.
Conclusion and a Gift
Analyzing your games is important. If we don’t learn from our mistakes, we are bound to repeat them. With this list of questions, I hope game analysis is less burdensome and perhaps more like a treasure hunt, where you are seeking diamonds in the form of new chess knowledge and insights to improve your game.
To help you use this, I have created a google doc with these questions without the examples so you can use when you analyze your games. I hope you will use it and please contact me and let me know what you think of it.