The Art of Analysis, Part 1

Let us begin with a mistake - what we might call a positional mistake:

"Positional sense should free you from the slavery of `variations'." - Nimzovitch

Statements like this, and one or two other factors, led me to
neglect the analysis of variations - instead preferring to develop
positional assessments - for many years. It is possible to consider
positional judgement and planning as somehow a higher calling,
which avoids the need for grubby heavy analysis. This, however, was
a mistake on my part.

Here is some treatment for people suffering from the same

"What is the essence of the chess master's art?
Fundamentally it consists of the ability to analyse chess
home analysis has specific features of its own: you are
not restricted by time, and you can move the men freely. Despite
this difference between home analysis and practical play, there is
much in common between them. It is a well-known fact that almost
all the outstanding chess-players have been first-class analysts.
"It is useful to publish your individual analytical work.
Then you are subject to objective criticism." - Botvinnik, 100

"So I began to analyse games..." - Timman, THE ART OF

"I got to know Mark (Dvoretsky) at the very beginning of my chess
career, at one of the sessions of Botvinnik's chess school in 1974;
in those days, Dvoretsky was Botvinnik's assistant. (...)
"We are adherents of the same, analytical, way, and we
believe in the triumph of analytical penetration into the secrets
of a position" - Kasparov, Preface to Dvoretsky's SECRETS OF CHESS

"I selected from tournament books those games in which the greatest
complications had arisen. (Then) set myself the task of thinking
long and hard so as to analyse all the possible variations. I would
sometimes ... write down the variations I had examined and then I
would compare them with those of the annotator. (...)
"Great help can be got from solving studies from a
diagram without setting up the position on the board." - Kotov,

"Analysis, if it is really carried out with a complete
concentration of his powers, forms and completes a chess
player." - Polugayevsky

"Many players, even of a high calibre, will assert,
half jokingly and half seriously, that a difficult labour of
analysis can be replaced by intuition. 'I played this move in a
flash - it was obvious it couldn't be bad' is the sort of
thing we often hear in a post-mortem.
"Criticising such a policy is not simple - not after it has just
been successful! [...] Instead of appraising the state of struggle
on the basis of precise calculation, Black makes a move, which on
general considerations, is wholly in the spirit of the position - a
flank attack is countered by a break in the centre. Yet in chess
there are no axioms."
-- ZAK, Improve your chess results.

Two sorts of games should hold a special place in your own study:
(a) Analysis of master games, and (b) analysis of your own games
(especially losses). So, I have an exercise which involves
I have been privileged to obtain a copy of the six games
from the first match of the Exeter `A' team this season. I propose
to analyse each game with the coaching group during a session in
the New Year, but I would like you to have a go at analysing them
first. Then we can compare notes...

How do you analyse a chess game?

If it's someone else's:
(1) Play through the whole game fairly quickly, seeing what ebb and
flow the game had.
(2) Divide the game up into episodes, even if they are only opening
middlegame and endgame, and try to describe what happened and who
if anyone had the advantage.
(3) Try and find the critical steps, where one or other side made
an important choice (even if it was only to overlook
(4) Put your account aside for a few days and have a fresh look
later. What other ideas now occur to you? Did you make a too-smooth
moral fable out of a more fluctuating scrap?

If it's your own:
(1) write down as much as you can remember about what you thought
about at the time, and
(2) any thought your opponent shared during a Post Mortem.
(3) Leave it for a few days and come back fresh, then analyse it as
you would somebody else's. Be particularly wary of self-serving
interpretations, especially of the "I was winning all the way
through" variety. What did you miss?
Below, Round numbers are board numbers. The Exeter players
(White on even boards) hold BCF grades this year between 171 and
156; Teignmouth between 180 and 130. These are roughly between 2000
and 1600 ELO.

N.B. Games 2 and 5 feature an early loss of material; to
analyse past this point, in Game 5 at least, may not be very
profitable. See our Analysis

[Event "Exeter vs. Teignmouth"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1997.11.01"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Hodge, D."]
[Black "Lane, PC."]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "C07"]
[PlyCount "114"]

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 c5 4. exd5 Qxd5 5. Ngf3 cxd4 6. Bc4 Qd6
7. O-O Nf6 8. Nb3 Nc6 9. Nbxd4 Nxd4 10. Nxd4 a6 11. Be3 Qc7 12. Bb3
Bd6 13. h3 O-O 14. a4 Bd7 15. Qe2 Bh2+ 16. Kh1 Bf4 17. Rfe1 Bxe3
18. Qxe3 Bc6 19. Qe5 Qxe5 20. Rxe5 Bd5 21. c3 Bxb3 22. Nxb3 Rfd8
23. a5 Rac8 24. Ra4 Rd1+ 25. Kh2 Rb1 26. Re2 Nd5 27. Nd4 g6 28. Kg3
Kg7 29. c4 Nf6 30. Rb4 Rd1 31. Nf3 Rc7 32. Ne5 Ra1 33. Ng4 Nxg4
34. hxg4 Rxa5 35. Rd2 Rac5 36. b3 b5 37. Ra2 bxc4 38. bxc4 Ra7 39. Kf3
Kf6 40. Ke3 a5 41. Rb5 Rxc4 42. Raxa5 Rxa5 43. g5+ Kg7 44. Rxa5 h6
45. gxh6+ Kxh6 46. f3 Rb4 47. Re5 Rb3+ 48. Kf4 Rb2 49. g4 g5+ 50. Ke3
Kg6 51. Ra5 Rb3+ 52. Ke2 f5 53. gxf5+ exf5 54. Kf2 f4 55. Ra2 Kh5
56. Kg2 Kh4 57. Rc2 Ra3 1/2-1/2 See our analysis (Game 1)

[Event "Exeter vs. Teignmouth"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1997.11.01"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Pickering, A."]
[Black "Brusey, A."]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C05"]
[PlyCount "84"]

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 Nf6 4. e5 Ne4 5. Bd3 Nxd2 6. Bxd2 c5 7. c3
Nc6 8. Be3 Qb6 9. b3 cxd4 10. cxd4 Bb4+ 11. Kf1 Bc3 12. Nf3 Bxa1
13. Qxa1 Bd7 14. g3 Nb4 15. Bb1 Rc8 16. Kg2 Nc2 17. Qb2 Nxe3+ 18. fxe3
Qb4 19. Ng5 h6 20. Nf3 Bb5 21. Rc1 Rxc1 22. Qxc1 Kd7 23. a4 Be2
24. Nd2 Rc8 25. Qe1 Bh5 26. e4 Qxd4 27. exd5 Qxd5+ 28. Be4 Qd4 29. Nc4
b6 30. Kh3 Qd1 31. Qe3 Bg4+ 32. Kg2 Qe2+ 33. Kg1 Qxe3+ 34. Nxe3 Rc1+
35. Kf2 Bd1 36. Nxd1 Rxd1 37. Ke3 f6 38. Kf4 f5 39. Bf3 Rb1 40. g4 g5+
41. Kg3 f4+ 42. Kf2 Rxb3 0-1 See our analysis (Game 2)

[Event "Exeter vs. Teignmouth"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1997.11.01"]
[Round "3"]
[White "Halmkin, PE."]
[Black "Bellers, CJ."]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "B24"]
[WhiteElo "2500"]
[PlyCount "64"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 g6 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 Nc6 5. Nge2 d6 6. d3 e5 7. O-O
Nge7 8. Kh1 h5 9. f4 exf4 10. Bxf4 Bg4 11. Nb5 Be5 12. c3 a6 13. Na3
Rb8 14. h3 Bxf4 15. Rxf4 Bxe2 16. Qxe2 O-O 17. Raf1 b5 18. g4 hxg4
19. Qxg4 Ne5 20. Qg3 b4 21. Nc4 bxc3 22. bxc3 Nxc4 23. dxc4 Nc6
24. e5 Nxe5 25. Bd5 Kg7 26. h4 f5 27. h5 Qf6 28. Rxf5 Qxf5 29. Rxf5
Rxf5 30. hxg6 Rb1+ 31. Kg2 Rb2+ 32. Kg1 Rb1+ 1/2-1/2 See our analysis (Game 3)

[Event "Exeter vs. Teignmouth"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1997.11.01"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Rudall, D."]
[Black "Hill, D."]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B06"]
[PlyCount "104"]

1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nf3 d6 4. c3 c6 5. Bd3 Nd7 6. Nbd2 Qc7 7. Qb3
Ngf6 8. Bc4 O-O 9. Ng5 d5 10. exd5 cxd5 11. Bxd5 Nxd5 12. Qxd5 Nf6
13. Qc4 Qb6 14. O-O Bd7 15. Qb3 Qa5 16. Nge4 Nxe4 17. Nxe4 Bc6 18. Ng3
e5 19. Be3 exd4 20. cxd4 Rfd8 21. Qc3 Qd5 22. f3 Bxd4 23. Bxd4 Qxd4+
24. Qxd4 Rxd4 25. a3 h5 26. Rfd1 Rad8 27. Rxd4 Rxd4 28. b4 Kg7 29. Ne2
Rd2 30. Nc3 Rc2 31. Nd1 Kf6 32. Ne3 Rc3 33. Kf2 a6 34. Ra2 Ke5 35. g3
Kd4 36. Rd2+ Rd3 37. Re2 Kc3 38. f4 Kb3 39. Nc2 Kc3 40. Ne3 Rd2
41. Rxd2 Kxd2 42. f5 Kc3 43. fxg6 fxg6 44. g4 Kb3 45. Kg3 Kxa3 46.
gxh5 gxh5 47. Kh4 Be8 48. Nd5 Bf7 49. Nf4 Kxb4 50. Nd3+ Kb5 51. Kg3 a5
52. Kf3 a4 0-1 See our analysis (Game4 )

[Event "Exeter vs. Teignmouth"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1997.11.01"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Lee, RJ."]
[Black "Gorodi, J."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E24"]
[PlyCount "119"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. f3 d5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 c5 7. e3
O-O 8. Bd3 b6 9. cxd5 exd5 10. Ne2 Re8 11. O-O Nc6 12. Ng3 Be6
13. Bb2 Rc8 14. Qd2 Qd7 15. Rae1 Red8 16. Qf2 Ne7 17. e4 Ng6 18. e5
Nf4 19. Bc2 Ne8 20. Qd2 g5 21. Ne2 Bf5 22. Nxf4 Bxc2 23. Nh3 h6
24. Qxc2 cxd4 25. Qd2 dxc3 26. Bxc3 Ng7 27. Nf2 h5 28. Rc1 Ne6
29. Bb2 Rc4 30. Rxc4 dxc4 31. Qxd7 Rxd7 32. Rd1 Rc7 33. Ne4 Kg7 34.
Bc3 Kg6 35. Kf2 Kg7 36. g3 Kg6 37. Ke3 a5 38. Rd6 Rb7 39. a4 b5
40. axb5 Rxb5 41. Rc6 a4 42. Rxc4 a3 43. Ra4 Nc7 44. Rxa3 Nd5+
45. Kd4 Nxc3 46. Rxc3 g4 47. Rc6+ Kg7 48. fxg4 hxg4 49. Nf6 Kg6
50. Nxg4+ Kg5 51. h3 Rb4+ 52. Ke3 Rb3+ 53. Kf2 Rb2+ 54. Kf3 Rb3+
55. Ne3 Rb5 56. h4+ Kh5 57. Rf6 Rb7 58. Kf4 Rb4+ 59. Kf5 Rb7 60. Nd5
1-0 See our analysis (Game 5)

[Event "Exeter vs. Teignmouth"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1997.11.01"]
[Round "6"]
[White "Blackmore, M."]
[Black "Ingham, W."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B12"]
[PlyCount "129"]

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nf3 e6 5. Bd3 Bxd3 6. Qxd3 c5 7. O-O
Nc6 8. c3 Qb6 9. Nbd2 Rc8 10. dxc5 Bxc5 11. Nb3 Bf8 12. Bf4 Nge7
13. h4 Ng6 14. Qd2 Nxf4 15. Qxf4 Be7 16. h5 h6 17. Qg3 O-O 18. Nh2 f6
19. Ng4 Nxe5 20. Nxh6+ Kh8 21. Ng4 Nxg4 22. Qxg4 f5 23. Qd4 Qxd4
24. Nxd4 e5 25. Rfe1 e4 26. Rad1 Rf6 27. Ne2 Rb6 28. Nf4 Bg5 29. Ng6+
Kh7 30. Rxd5 Rxb2 31. Rxf5 Bf6 32. Rxe4 Rxc3 33. Nf8+ Kg8 34. Nd7
Rc1+ 35. Kh2 Rc6 36. Rg4 Kh7 37. a4 Rd6 38. Nf8+ Kg8 39. h6 Be5+
40. Rxe5 Rxh6+ 41. Kg3 Rb3+ 42. f3 Kxf8 43. Reg5 Rh7 44. Rc5 a6
45. Rc7 b5 46. Rd4 Ke8 47. Ra7 bxa4 48. Rxa4 Rh6 49. Rxg7 Rbb6
50. Ra2 Rhg6+ 51. Rxg6 Rxg6+ 52. Kf4 Rb6 53. g4 Kf7 54. Ra5 Kf6
55. g5+ Kg6 56. Kg4 Rb4+ 57. f4 Rb6 58. f5+ Kf7 59. Rc5 Rb4+ 60. Kh5
Rb1 61. Rc7+ Kg8 62. Kg6 Rb6+ 63. f6 Rb8 64. Re7 Kh8 65. Rh7+ 1-0

Chess Quotes

"It was night. I went home and put my old house clothes on and set the chessmen out and mixed a drink and played over another Capablanca. It went fifty-nine moves. Beautiful, cold, remorseless chess, almost creepy in its silent implacability.

When it was done I listened at the open window for a while and smelled the night. Then I carried my glass out to the sink sipping it and looking at my face in the mirror.

'You and Capablanca,' I said."

— Raymond CHANDLER, The High Window, final sentences.