Analyzing Your Games

You can always improve your game if you analyze your own games.Learn from your mistakes.Recognize some pattern that got you in trouble and try to avoid that pattern in the future.Iíve been going over my 36,000 plus games for years, analyzing my openings, middlegames, endings, and losses.I look for trends as to where and why I lost.And with todayís computers, it is easy to see missed opportunities from tactical shots and combinations that you normally wouldnít see.

I would start with a database of your games.I have put all my games in Chessbase 11, but there are a few free databases, such as SCID, that you can use.The advantage of the database is the sorting ability, the ease of replaying games, and the ease in annotating your games.I usually look at my losses and try to find out where the losing move is.I also look at theoretical novelties, but that takes a second database, or at least a large file, of previously played games.I use the Mega Database 2013 with over 5 million games in addition to my own 36,000 games to look for new moves.There are many sites that have an Opening Explorer that you could also use for alternative moves that have been played in the past.

Once I play an important games, either over-the-board in a tournament or online, I try to analyze the game as soon as possible.If I lost, I try to find the losing move.If I won, I look for where a novelty occurred and run a chess engine against the game to look for blunders for both sides.When I just finish a game, I try to put my thoughts I had about the game and what alternative moves I thought about.I try to list the serious candidate moves and try to pinpoint where the game was winning or losing for me.If I have a scoresheet, I sometimes write the times it took with each move for Black and White.I usually see a trend that if I did not spend the proper amount of time on a difficult position, I would make less that best moves.

Chess software now have blunder checks, so I do look at major blunders and find the alternative better moves for me and my opponent.I usually start backward, and look for blunders at the end of the game first, then move forward to the beginning of the game.

Most chess engines can evaluate the position with a plus or minus factor.A minus factor of 1 is like a pawn down.A plus factor of 3 usually means a winning position equivalent to a minor piece up.†† I try to find where these evaluation factors swing to high numbers during the game.†† The point is to find the critical moments of the game where you are winning or losing.††† Then I look to see if I can increase the winning percentage or minimize the losing percentage with candidate moves.

I try to analyze the opening very carefully, since that is the most important stage in the games that I play.I look at traps and see if I can force a trap and make sure I avoid a trap.Iíve written dozens of chess books on traps (the 500 Miniature Series) and I look at chess traps first in any opening that I plan to play.I usually have two openings prepared for White and two openings prepared for Black when I play in a tournament.I also have one opening for White and one opening for Black that I play when it is not a serious game (final round with nothing at stake) and these are usually my fun, gambit or very irregular opening that I experiment.Also, with databases, I can compare my openings with my past experience of that opening and see how well I am doing.If I have serious problems with a certain opening, I analyze that opening carefully with the latest master games and try not to get in a bad opening position again with whatever variation I played.

I try to verbally state, ďwhatís the threatĒ after each move and try to justify why my position is better or what I missed to get in a bad position.

I try to keep a record of how the game was decided.Was it in the opening, or middlegame, or endgame?Most of my games are really decided in the opening.I play few endgames, but the ones I do play, I study and try to categorize the endgame.Was it just pawn endgame, or rook and pawn endgame, or minor piece endgame with pawns, or queen endgame, etc.Every chess game I play that ends up with 6 pieces or less (counting the kings), I put in an endgame database that has solved all 6-piece endgames.I then look at all the possible moves and see which one win, lose, or draw.With practical endgames that I do play, I try to refresh my memory on that particular endgame, such as rook and 2 pawns vs rook and pawn, or bishops of the same or opposite color.

With a little bit of vanity, I try to publish my games, win or not.I have published hundreds of my games over the 40 plus years and always look forward to any feedback.

I also try to show my games to stronger players and let them analyze my game for me.Iíve approached International Masters and Grandmasters when they are not too busy and asked them whether they would look over my game.You would be surprised that if they are not too busy, they will look over your games.I have had Paul Keres, Viktor Korchnoi, Eugenio Torre, Eduard Gufeld, John Donaldson, Walter Browne, Bill Lombardy, Emory Tate, Arnold Denker, Igor Ivanov, Peter Biyiases, Yasser Seirawan, George Koltanowski, and Doug Root all look at one of my games at one time or another and analyzed some of the moves.

Finally, I analyze some of my older games again with the same opening or some theme that was common with my more recent games.I find it fun to see what I know now vs. what I knew when I was a 1600 player in the 1960s and 1970s.I missed a lot more in my earlier games than I do now, so that must mean some kind of improvement over the years.