Analyzing your own chess games – why is it important?

It is well known that analyzing your own chess games is an important part of your chess training regime. If done right this will greatly help you improve your game. But I get the feeling that many students of chess don’t like to spend a lot of time doing this kind of work. They often just enter the moves of the game in the latest version of Chessbase, switch on Stockfish 10 chess engine or whatever is the latest version and make some notes of what the engine says are better moves. This is a very passive approach and you don’t learn much (if anything) from that at all.

When analyzing your own games you should first realize the purpose of doing it. You don’t have to analyze the games to make your coach happy; the main reason should be because you want to improve your own game. From doing extensive analytical work (=active approach!) on your own games you benefit in the following ways:

  1. You critically (this can’t be stressed enough: always everything critically!) look at the opening you had on the board and you try to find new and better ways of playing a certain line the next timehints
  2. You are looking for mistakes in your play and try to understand why you made them. It is also a good habit to categorize your mistakes. If you are working with ‘a list of mistakes’ (this phrase I borrowed from Axel Smith’s excellent book ‘Pump up your rating’, 2013) so that over time you become more aware of certain mistakes you have made in the past. The awareness alone will make you less vulnerable to those mistakes that were typical for you in the past games
  3. Try to find new ideas that you didn’t think of during the game. Very often we only focused our thoughts in one direction during the game. In the analysis, we should keep an open mind and try to see if there are other ways in which a certain position could have been played. This will stimulate your understanding of typical positions and also enhance creativity (I have absolutely no proof for the latter but just take my word for it 🙂 )

After you have done all that, you can look at your games with a coach. It is likely that he (or she) will have something valuable to add. If not, fire him! Only then it is time to switch on the engine.

Goodluck!