Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Art Of Analysis

I popped over to the chess club at Manly-Warringah RSL last night to watch my brother-in-law Steven play. Anyway, while I watching his duel with Michael Morris, I was asked if I could give a very nice lady a game so we proceeded to play. Unfortunately, in the middlegame, she missed a tactical shot and lost a Knight in the process which was enough for me to convert to a winning R+N+2P v R endgame. I even missed a simple tactic (which I should have spotted) towards the end. She was very gracious and congratulated me for my game and we exchanged pleasantries. I noticed one change in my play. I am starting to play very very slowly in the endgame, sometimes, taking four times as long as I normally would, carefully calculating and analysing, playing prophylactic moves to make sure I don't blunder or lose the win. This was a surprise to me. Previously, when I am a winning endgame, I used to "rush". Now I play slowly, cautiously and taking my time to calculate lines when I normally don't when I see the win in sight. I think that is the most heartening thing to see.

As the saying goes,"It is of no use to have a winning advantage if you cannot convert it."

I've managed to acquire Alexei Suetin's book, 3 Steps To Chess Mastery. It's now my favourite bathroom reading material *grin*.

In the section "The Test Of Mastery", Suetin comments:

"....how, by what means, does one learn to analyse correctly?"

"A player must first master various principles, schemes, and characeteristic tactical and strategic devices. At the same time, the development of one's thinking is preceded by the acquisition of combinative vision. This is also a complicated process. At first a player notices only simple threats, then he begins to see all sorts of double attacks, and finally, that harmonic interaction which leads to combinations. Only after going through such a schooling does a player obtain the nececssary basis, which allows him to use flexibly his knowledge and skill. The analysis of complex positions, where strategic and tactical factors are closely interlaced is first and foremost very hard work. For the unprepared, it may even be beyond their strength.

Therefore, don't try to take too many steps at once. Get to know your true capabilities, each time, of course, setting yourself new problems. Along this path there is much disillusionment, causing annoyance and dissatisfaction. Without these bitter feelings you cannot get by. But remember that if you are dissatisfied, it means that you are searching. This is one of the fascinations of the art of chess."

The above note definitely struck a chord with me.

I continuously get dissatisfied with my chess skills OTB. I get frustrated from making analytical mistakes, not thinking "correctly" or mis-evaluating the nature of the position. And usually after games, when I reach home, I fire up Fritz only to be told what I really should have played and I learn. As a result, I fall down, get up, fall down, get up .... ad infinitum, striving to improve my game. I acknowledge that I might never be able to reach master level or even attain a 2000 FIDE rating but that doesn't mean I can't try for it.

In the meantime, I just have to work much harder on my analytical skills. Botvinnik once wrote," What does the art of a chess master consist of? Basically - in the ability to analyse chess positions. Anyone wishing to become an outstanding player must strive for perfection in the field of analysis."

Someone once asked me,"Why are you so hard on yourself?"

The simple answer is,"Because I want to improve."


  1. exactly!

    recently, i am playing a LOT less and conducting a LOT more analysis.

    this is contrasted by Carlsen and Kajarkin. the prior surely plays more, and wins our hearts, but the latter is of similar rating, and plays little, but spends hours upon hours in analysis.

    this was evidenced in the late rounds of Khanty Minsky, where he would consistently wind up in advantages in every opening, with many an innovation, but sadly (and please, no suggestion of disparagement here) he (K)could not convert, for example, against Shirov.

    warmest, dk

  2. Super post! Playing the ending nice and slow, not worrying about tricky quick wins, but going for the surest, known winning position that you understand, not worrying about repeating moves or how long it takes, is a trait that even many very good players never seem to master. Sounds like you're on the right track.

    I have Three Steps to Chess Mastery but when I bought it many years ago I wasn't ready for it, I think I need to dig it out! Thanks for the reminder.

  3. great post. talk about disillusionment! that happens about every few hours. the desire to improve is there, i just can't seem to figure out how. it seems i don't know enough to analyze, i hope as i keep trying i improve somewhat.
    again, great post, lots to think about.

  4. dk:

    what you say rings very true. i remember how van Wely mentioned something about benefitting from being Kramnik's second during the World Championships.


    Thanks! I just need to calculate more and more these days towards endgames and sometimes, it can get pretty hairy! Because one slip is all it takes to go from winning to losing/drawing.


    not to worry, dude. I'm sure all your labour will come to fruition one day. this reminds of a small story told by Anand about Ivanchuk. apparently, Ivanchuk gave Anand a rather interesting idea regarding a variation of a queen pawn opening sometime in the early 90s when both were in their 20s. Anand started thinking about it but he never got to use it until a match some 2 years later in which he used Ivanchuk's idea and won vs his opponent. Ivanchuk who was there, walked up to him and exclaimed,"I see you used my idea!" and both laughed. so dun worry if you can't see the improvement. work on it and success will come.