The Art Of Analysis

In the last few weeks I started working with my ten (soon to be eleven) year old son on his chess analysis skills. Earlier than this there wasn’t a chance he would understand the idea.

The way I’ve been doing this is to set up a position (mainly from Tony Gillam’s Simple Chess Tactics and Checkmates) and ask him to see a good move. After he finds one I then ask him to list the possibilities for the defending side and try to figure out if one of them works. Then I might suggest he changes sides again to find the best continuation against the best defence.

This is a tough thing for kids to do and is far from easy for most adults. Not only do you need the ability to visualize the board, you also need deductive reasoning. And probably certain character traits, such as an ability and willingness to falsify.

Disproving or falsifying your own ideas requires readily admitting that you were wrong, at least with your first attempt. This is far from easy for those with a lack of self confidence who will hate, even during their internal dialogue, to admit to their own fallibility.

How much worse might will this be when analyzing with other people? Very much so, which might explain why so few players indulge in this activity. And when they do analyze the sessions tend to be political affairs rather than a search for the truth.

One thing I do wonder about is whether you can the required character traits can be reverse engineered by indulging in lots of chess analysis. I suspect the answer is that they can as one annoying feature of strong chess players is that they will argue a particular point and then take the other side as soon as you agree with them!

Here anyway is a post mortem analysis session between Magnus Carlsen and Etienne Bacrot. Interesting…

Nigel Davies

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About NigelD

Nigel Davies is an International Chess Grandmaster living in St. Helens in the UK. The winner of 15 international tournaments he is also a former British U21 and British Open Quickplay Champion and has represented both England and Wales on several occasions. These days Nigel teaches chess through his chess training web site, Tiger Chess, which has articles, recommendations, a monthly clinic, videos and courses. His students include his 15 year old son Sam who is making rapid progress with his game. Besides teaching chess, Nigel is a registered tai chi and qigong instructor and runs several weekly classes.