Erro ergo sum: analysis and error

A tactic appears for you: you get it right.

Here's a simple one to get us started:
Regis,D - Jones,R (1995)
1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e6 3. e4 Nc6 4. Nf3 b6 5. e5 Ng4 6. d4 g6 7. h3 Nh6 8. Bg5 Ne7 9. Qd2 Nhf5 10. g4 Ng7 11. Ne4 f5 12. exf6 Bb7



13. f7+ Kxf7 14. Ne5+ 1-0


  And a more complicated one: the idea is easy, but can you analyse it to a finish?

Regis,D - Lane,P (1994)


13. Bxe6 fxe6 14. Qh5+ Kf8 15. Bh6+ Rg7 16. Ng5 Qe8 17. Nh7+ 1-0


  Ah, if only it was all like that...


A tactic appears for you: you miss it.

Regis,D. - Aston,P (1994)


21. Qe8+??

[21. Qe6 Qd8 22. c6 or even 21. Rxd7 Kxd7 22.Rd1]


  Patzer sees a check... It didn't affect the outcome in the end but White had to start all over again to build up another combination.


Jackson,Dave - Regis, D (1993)


17... b4 ??

[17... Qxa2+ 18. Kxa2 Ra6+ 19. Ba5 Rxa5+ 20. Kb1 Ra1#]

18. a4 Bd7 19. e5 Bxa4 20. Bc1 O-O 21. Nd2 Bb5 22. Bb2 Nf5 23. Nc4 Bxc4 24. dxc4 ( Draw agreed)

  I suppose I wasn't looking for a win just then!

A tactic appears for your opponent: you miss it.

Oh, how many times... asleep, overconfident or confused, we ignore our opponent's best reply.
Regis,D. - Beake,B. (1994)


18. g3? f3 19. Bd3 Ne5 20. Nxe5 fxe5 ...0-1

  You don't get away with that sort of thing against 200-grade players.

Regis,D - Stirling,A (1984)
1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. c4 Nb6 4. c5 Nd5 5. Bc4 e6 6. Nc3 Nf4



7. Qg4 Qh4 ...0-1

  There are lots of opening traps like that: White bites off more than he can chew.


Fayle,A - Regis,D (1984)


29... Rfc8?? 30. Rd8+ Rxd8 31. Rxd8+ Kh7 32. Bg8+ Kg6 33. Rd6+ winning a piece (but ...0-1!)

  It was almost the only thing Black had to analyse, and I didn't!


A tactic appears for you: you see it but analyse it wrongly.

Regis,D. -Stooks, Charles (1993)


19. Nef4? ( yes, very good but unfortunately 19...exf4; 20 Rxf4, g5! gets at least a draw! 20 Nxf4 also fails to 20...g5 )

19... Nc6??

[19... Qb7]

20. Nh3 Qg4 21. Ng5 1-0

  Simple over-optimism: I didn't consider 20...g5.


Regis,D - Prideaux,E (1994)


White lashes out without much justification:

  30. Rd8+ Bxd8 31. Nd6+ Kf8 32. Nxf5 Bxb6+ 33. Kh2 Bxf5 winning...

  (but here and black's flag fell... 1-0 There ain't no justice...)

  Not hard to analyse, just I felt I had to do something and couldn't see anything else!


A tactic appears for you: you see it and analyse it correctly, but wrongly assess the outcome.

Ward,D - Regis,D (1994)


26... Bd4 27. Bxd4 Rxe4 28. Qxe4 Ng3+ 29. Kg1 Nxe4 30. Rxe4 Re8 31. Rbe1 Rxe4 32. Rxe4 Qf7 33. Re6 Kh7 34. Rf6

[34. Kh2! ...when it's all a bit tricky!]

34... Qe8 35. Re6 Qxa4 36. Re7+ Kg6 37. Rxc7 Qd1+ 0-1

  The tactic was obvious enough, what I failed to assess was how good White's pieces would be in the ending.


Webb,S - Regis,D (1994)



18. Bxd5 cxd5 19. Nxd5 Bxd5 20. Rxe8+ Qxe8 21. Rxe8+ Rxe8

  As last time, Black has secured (or provoked White into giving up) a material advantage that is difficult to make use of, this time with the opponent having the Queen.

22. Ne5 Nxe5 23. dxe5 Bc6 24. Qc3 Re6 25. f3 a4 26. a3 g5 27. Bxg5 Bxe5 28. Qd3 Bd4+ 29. Kf1 Ne3+ 30. Bxe3 Bxe3 31. b3 Bf4 32. c4! Bxh2 33. bxa4 bxc4 34. Qxc4 Bg3 35. Qg4+ Rg6 36. Qc8+ Kg7 draw agreed .

  As we start to comment more deeply on these examples, we see two sources of error: mistakes in analysis, surely, but also misjudgements - errors in the general assessment of the board or the opponent.

  Let's clarify this with an example:

Kasparov - Karpov, Linares, 1994


1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nd7 5. Bc4 Ngf6 6. Ng5 e6 7. Qe2 Nb6 8. Bb3 h6 9. N5f3 a5 10. c3 c5 11. a3 Qc7 12. Ne5 cxd4 13. cxd4 DIAGRAM

13... a4

[13... Bxa3]

14. Bc2 Bd7 15. Nxd7 Nbxd7 16. Qd1 Bd6 17. Ne2 Nd5 ...drawn

  I wouldn't like to say there's anything wrong with the analytical abilities of either player - what we have here is and error of judgement. My guess is, it's a quiet position in a solid opening, and neither player bothered to look.

  Chess is a tense game. This tension may make you want to believe things that aren't really true, and comfort yourself with things that mean you don't have to think too hard any more. Not a bit of it....

Petrosian-Korchnoi 1963


Black has a hopeless, passive position, just as he has had for the last umpteen moves. Petrosian just went

1. Rxh6

  which was met by


  Hoping for 2. Kxf3 Kg7 discovered check, winning the rook.

2. Kg5 Ke8 White resigns, unable to catch the f-pawn.

  Afterwards, Petrosian explained that a move like ...f3 just didn't fit with "Black's hopeless position". But where there's life, there's hope!

"For a long time I had regarded my position as a winning one. Thus the whole opening phase of the struggle, when Korchnoi was unable to get out of trouble, had psychologically attuned me to the idea that the ending would be favourable to me ... and here comes the oversight 35 Rxh6?? I did not even see the threat ...f4-f3, possibly because it was in contrast to Black's hopeless position. Personally, I am of the view that if a strong master does not see such a threat at once he will not notice it, even if he analyses the position for twenty or thirty minutes." - PETROSIAN.

  I have a whole book full of these types of disaster, when one player just turned the alarm off. You should be on guard all the time, with the alarm dial turned up to 11!

  Please note that Petrosian was also thinking less than objectively about the game, and thinking only about his plans. Your opponent also has a right to exist...

B. Analysis

It used to be thought that there wasn't much difference in the abilities of strong and weak players at analysis - rather, it was all about judgement and experience. There might not be a lot of difference between GMs and IMs, but there is increasing evidence that among we club players, there are large and important differences.

  Here White gets carried away with his attacking possibilities, when unflappable Exeter player Brian Hewson calmly sidesteps the main line of a sacrifice (11...fxe6) threatening a pin on the e-file.

  and won. It is often the case that players will analyse one line very deeply but fail to spot an early alternative - as mentioned above, Grandmaster Kotov advised many years ago to identify each candidate move at the outset before analysing any one move deeply. Had White done this he could not fail to notice the possibility of Black castling, and should then spot the classic pattern of Q and K lined up on the e-file which suggests a pin from a Black R on e8.


surprising/paradoxical moves


Christiansen - Karpov (1993)
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.a3 Ba6 5.Qc2 Bb7 6.Nc3 c5 7.e4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Nc6 9.Nxc6 Bxc6 10.Bf4 Nh5 11.Be3 Bd6 (wait for it...)



12.Qd1 1-0

  The error made by Karpov above is actually a common one - missing an undeveloping retreat.

  Other errors of this sort - hard types of move to spot - include long moves, sideways moves by Queens, captures by Pawns away from the centre, and so on. Another example:


Putting pieces en prise

Fischer - Sherwin, USA Ch'p , 1957


30. Rxf7 Rc1+ 31. Qf1!! h5 32. Qxc1 Qh4 33. Rxf8+ Kh7 34. h3 Qg3 35. hxg4 h4 36. Be6 1-0

  How about that one: a Queen moving backwards into a position where it can be captured!

'Creeping moves'

Purdy advises:

"examine moves that smite!"

  ...which is clearly good advice. But have a look at this:

Spassky - Korchnoi, Kiev, 1968
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f3 O-O 6. Be3 Nc6 7. Nge2 a6 8. Nc1 e5 9. d5 Nd4 10. Nb3 Nxb3 11. Qxb3 c5 12. dxc6 bxc6 13. O-O-O Be6 14. Qa3 Ne8 15. h4 f6 16. c5 Rf7 17. Qa4 Qc7 18. Bc4 Bxc4 19. Qxc4 Bf8 20. h5 dxc5 21. hxg6 hxg6 22. Qe6 Rd8 23. Rxd8 Qxd8 24. Rd1 Qe7 25. Qxc6 Nc7 DIAGRAM



The situation in this Candidates' Match game is tense Although White undoubtedly holds the advantage, Moscow players analysing while the game was going on could find no clear continuation, e.g. 26. Nd5 Qe6! and Black holds.

26. Qb6

  Surprising and elegant, this 'creeping move' impressed many, including Kotov who has cited it more than once. The move prepares to answer ...Qe6 with Bxc5 and leads to a swift win. To Kotov, this was a far more brilliant move than the Queen sacrifice that ended the game.

26... Kg7 27. Nd5 Qe6 28. Bxc5 Bxc5 29. Qxc5 Nb5 30. Qe3 Qc6+ 31. Kb1 Nd4 32. Rc1 Qb5 33. Nc7 Qe2 34. Ne6+ Kh7 35. Qh6+ 1-0

  It's hardest of all to spot a 'creeping' move in the middle of a combinational exchange.

Wahltuch - Palmer, Manchester, 1912
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4 Nd6 (Berlin Defence, Rio De Janiero Variation) 6. dxe5 [6. Bxc6] 6... Nxb5 7. a4



This is a gorgeously messy line

7... Nd6 [better 7... d6]

8. Bg5 f6 9. Re1 fxg5 10. exd6+ Ne7 11. Ne5 cxd6 12. Qh5+ g6 13. Nxg6 Qa5 14. Nxh8+ Kd8

  Have a look at the next diagram and see what you think.



15. Nc3

  [Obviously not 15. Qf7 Qxe1#]

  It is tempting to try a forcing move, but none work.

"A quiet move in the midst of an attack is the sign of the master" - Du Mont

15... Qf5 (else Qf7) 16. Nb5 Ng6 17. Qxg5+ 1-0


The 'tree of analysis'

The starting point for any consideration of analysis must be Kotov, again.

Candidate moves must be established straight away and they must be clearly enumerated.


Once we have established all the candidate moves, we then proceed to work out the variations arising from them one by one.


In analysing complicated variations, one must examine each branch of the tree once and once only.


This task cannot be split into parts, by examining one move fully and then looking for the next one.

  Kotov gives some example of positions where the analysis get progressively more detailed.


     bare trunk          bare trunk  with     coppice                bush                   

'Just plunge in':

Corden - Nunn, Birmingham 1975
Nunn and Griffiths advise: "Just plunge in"

  The first move to look at must be 15. Ba4 Nd2+ 16. Kc3 Qe3+ 17. Kb4 a5#

..."and straightaway you have learned a lot about the position".

  That is, you can regain at least one piece whenever you wish, still keeping the K exposed. Other lines include:


'Play a good positional move'


How to improve your analytical skills

So much for theory. How do you put this into practice? Well, you practice!


Solving problems in books and magazines

You have probably seen either the British Chess Magazine column Find the Winning Continuation, or the same idea in Chess magazine, called there Winning Combinative Play. There are also books of tactical positions for solving, one I quite liked for the basics was Chernev and Reinfeld, Winning Chess.

  After that, you get serious. More testing (literally) is the Chess magazine feature, How Good is your Chess? which takes you through a real game and gives you points (There is a book of these under the same name by Danny King; BCM have a similar feature called Test Your Chess.) Here's an easy example of such a test:

How good is your chess?

If you are determined to get better, try the Russian chess training programme contained in three books by Livshits: Test your chess IQ, Vol.1 (for players up to 160), Test your chess IQ, Vol.2 (for 160-200) and Test your chess IQ, Vol.3 - Grandmaster Challenge (for 200+ grades).

  This is all 'practice makes perfect' style with little explanation. The theory of candidate moves and trees of analysis I found in Kotov, Think like a Grandmaster (a summary is also to be found in Kotov, Plan like a Grandmaster). This book also describes how Kotov used to analyse complicated master games, writing down his conclusions for comparison. Both books give test positions with a full tree of analysis.

  Another important book for theory is Nunn and Griffiths, Secrets of Grandmaster Play. It is a deliberately educative book, showing, firstly, what a complete analysis of a game looks like, but also giving lots of practical tips and observations, and trying to show how much players really see at the board.

  And lastly, there are some good ideas in Dvoretsky, Secrets of chess tactics. In particular, he describes the technique of playing-out of positions for which an analysis has been published. For example, he played on from the following positions from the Nunn/Griffiths book with his pupils (Yusupov and Dolmatov) as if the position had arisen in a game against the clock. This is a realistic test and you can check your conclusions against what Nunn has analysed.


"I can see the combinations as well as Alekhin, I just cannot get into the same positions" -- SPIELMANN


E. Bibliography

Alexander, The Penguin Book of Chess Positions

  Avni, Danger in Chess

British Chess Magazine, Find the Winning Continuation

  Chernev and Reinfeld, Winning Chess

Chess magazine, Winning Combinative Play

Chess magazine, How Good is your Chess? (Book of same name by Danny King)

  Dvoretsky, Secrets of chess tactics

  Kotov, Think like a Grandmaster )_candidate moves, tree of analysis, analysis of master games

  Kotov, Plan like a Grandmaster )

  Livshits, Test your chess IQ, Vol.1

  Livshits, Test your chess IQ, Vol.2

  Livshits, Test your chess IQ, Vol.3 - Grandmaster Challenge

  Nunn and Griffiths, Secrets of Grandmaster Play