What is more important, getting results or having the right approach? Even if your results are good in the short term, there is a danger that eventually your luck will run out if you don’t have the right approach.
I realized that last year, that when I was up against strong players. You can’t get away with the sort of stuff that you can against players of a lower level, you quickly get found out. They analyse better. They see through your tricks. Basically I understood that I wasn’t calculating well enough, so I had to go back to the drawing board, I got the dusty old chess set out of the cupboard and trained myself to calculate again. I’d set up a sharp middlegame position from a game I’d find online or something like that, and try to work my way through the complications.
Eventually I discovered that I had more to fall back on when I was faced with a test in a practical game. If the position was complicated, I had more faith in myself. I wasn’t going to fall apart and become afraid because the position was so complicated because I was used to analysing such positions at home.
Good analysis is also about understanding the key facets of a position. Let’s have a look at the following game:
I think gradually we are losing the art of analysis. Why? Because of computers. Kasparov emphasised how important it was to analyse your games. Analyse, then publish the games in a magazine, so that your thoughts can be subjected to objective analysis by others. Otherwise, there would be a tendency to analyse by “result” and skip over any uncomfortable parts where your opponent might have actually put up some resistance to your “brilliancy”.
Nowadays such an approach could be considered antiquated, because computers are already analysing the games in real time, on sites like chessbomb and chess24, and everybody in the chess world knows exactly what was going on in your chess game. The influence of computers can already be seen on sites like ChessBase. There’s no point putting in a commentary of a game unless you have checked it with a computer.
Failure to do so will inevitably mean that Joe Bloggs sitting at home starts to find fault in your commentary. That’s assuming it gets so far, as the editor will no doubt tell you the same thing and ask you to check all your analysis with an engine before the commentary is even published. Which you do, and then it tells you that all your own analysis was rubbish, so that you end up annotating pretty much every game with an engine.
It would be easy to say “throw your computer in the bin” and learn to analyse without the aid of chess engine. But it’s not as simple as that. All or most of the top players in the world analyse with an engine now.
Nevertheless, I think that when analysing your own games, you should at least first analyse it without the aid of a computer. By all means check your analysis later with the engine if you want. That way you get used to training your chess mind.
Often I’ll coach students and I’ll ask them to show me the game. They’ll get the scoresheet out and then at some point say “Houdini thought this was good”. I’ll think what’s the point of hiring me in the first place? You get the impression that players are now over-dependent on technology.
The other advantage of analysing your games by yourself is the joy of discovering a hidden tactical resource or a beautiful idea. Take the following game as an example.
Kasparov was a tactical genius of course. So idea’s like Rxh6 in the Smirin game came naturally to him. But it’s also much easier when you are used to training at home. If you get used to solving problems at home then it becomes much easier to do that in a real game. No doubt in his training sessions Kasparov was set much harder problems than that by his trainers.
One of the things I’ve noticed when working with students is they cut off their analysis too early. They’ll see a move, then mistakenly stop their analysis because they’ve seen a refutation. You have to get used to seeing further.
By contrast, I notice that when I analyse with very strong players, they will want to go much further in a position. I’ll cut off my analysis and say “that looks good”, but they’ll want to investigate much more. Good chess players are really “truth seekers”.
Kasparov also used this theme of attacking on the kingside with a small force, in a game against Tal.
Another great analyst was Fischer. In his prime Fischer was like a human chess sponge. He’d sit there all day reading chess books, and soak up a huge amount of information. He just knew a lot more about chess than anyone else around at the time.
Chess is a knowledge game, and it’s much easier to analyse if you have some history to go on. If you can say “Oh yeah, I’ve seen this position before, and this is what I do”, then you know you’re not just guessing.
A game that made a profound effect on me was a game that I played against Nigel Short. It showed the importance of identifying as many candidate moves as possible.
Analysing chess games shouldn’t be a chore. If you really want to be good then you’ve got to truly love the game. Players like Anand and Gelfand have had such long and successful games because they really love chess and love to analyse. Even if you don’t want to be good, analysing can be fun. I recall looking at the next game just before the prize giving with Andrei. He really wanted to analyse and all I wanted to do was drink and forget about the tournament. But eventually I got into the game as well. Andrei was really a great analyst. I really got the sense that he could have been much stronger, and that perhaps his nerves let him down.
I found this whole analysis session really enjoyable and to me that’s what’s fun about chess. Getting the board out, getting a different perspective on a position. It’s so much more fun analysing with another human being, because their views are open to interpretation. They suggest something, you give another view. The fact they can give you a different perspective on a position can really help your chess. If you’re quite a timid strategic player, then it can be helpful to analyse with an attacking player, and so on. Analysing with a computer by contrast is quite boring and soulless.
Danny Gormally is a talented English Grandmaster. He lives in the bustling market town of Alnwick, somewhere near Scotland.
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