Chess, Ajedrez, Schach, Xadrez, Schaak, Шахматы, etc.
Study Your Own Games!

GM Alex Yermolinsky

The problem I had to acknowledge was the stagnation of my development. I was simply going nowhere. It's not that I lacked experience - I was 28 years old then, and I had been playing chess for some 20 years up to that point - it was a rather sad realization that my game was not improving. In search for inspiration I decided to follow the most common advice one can find in the works of Alekhine (my favorite player) and Botvinnik (one of my least favorite ones) which can be put into simple words - study your games. Ever since, every game I played has been extensively annotated."

- GM Alex Yermolinsky, The Road To Chess Improvement
Yes, I'll say it again!

GM Jesse Kraai

We give idealized answers, offering the paths to improvement we wish we had followed ourselves. It’s a lie. But I’ve decided that it’s an interesting lie. Here is mine:

1)  Study your own games with a notebook and pen, no computer. Get a nice wooden set. Write everything down, the variations, what you missed, your valuations, your prejudices, your principles of play.
2)  Study your own games with a notebook and pen, no computer. Get a nice wooden set. Write everything down, the variations, what you missed, your valuations, your prejudices, your principles of play. I know, I repeated myself.
3)  Do tactical puzzles. Easy ones, like the Polgar mate-in-twos, but also hard ones, and thousands of endgame studies.
4)  Study with friends. Learn to see the game from their perspective.
5)  Go over classic games.
6)  Teach others.
7)  Get fit. Don’t eat crap. Chess, like life, is going to feel like a throwdown – no matter what metaphysical sugar people like J. Kraai sometimes coat it with. The game will push you to your limits. Be ready for it."

- GM Jesse Kraai, How to Improve Your Chess
What should be the focus of study?

GM Artur Yusupov

I think that the analysis of one's own games is the main means of self-improvement. I am convinced that, without a critical understanding of his own play, it is impossible for a player to develop...

First you should find the turning-points - decide where mistakes were made, where the evaluation of the position changed or an opportunity for sharply changing the situation on the board was not exploited...

The second factor to which you should pay attention in the analysis of your games is to seek the reasons for your mistakes...

The third factor. It is very important to seek new possibilities, which you did not notice during the game due to being carried away by other ideas of your own...

And one last thing. When analysing a game you have played, you should ponder over the opening stage. Try to improve your play, especially if you were not altogether satisfied with the outcome of the opening."

- GM Artur Yusupov, Secrets of Chess Training
Okay, but exactly how?

Vladimir Zak

Annotating a game takes 12-16 hours on average. For convenience, the whole task may be divided into 5 steps:

a)  Play through the game quickly, taking 15-20 minutes, so as to call to mind again what you had thought and felt.
b)  Go over the game in the course of an hour, and make a synopsis of its characteristic critical stages.
c)  In the course of 3-4 hours, analyze the critical stages in detail.
d)  Analyze the opening phase, taking care to fill any gaps in your knowledge of this or that variation... For this, 3-4 hours are needed.
e)  Go through the game and put together the commentary as a whole (4-5 hours).

Often, in the process of notating, you will convince yourself that your overall plan which did bring you a win in the game was nonetheless faulty. This fact should be self-critically disclosed, and not concealed in the undergrowth of inevitably specious analysis; theory and practice are united. The work finds its culmination in the conclusions about your typical, repeated errors - inadequacy of opening preparation, weak technique in endings, etc."

- Vladimir Zak, Improve Your Chess Results
Okay, but then what?

GM Jacob Aagaard

1.  Write down three new things you have learned from the game... After a while it actually becomes more difficult as you will eventually run out of new things to write. However, I am sure that seeing each game also as a stepping stone to new knowledge will benfit your overall performance...
2.  Always write down the time spent during the game. This is a well known idea and should be followed strictly. Quite simply, when you write down the moves you also write your time, or the time of your opponent. I have found in my work with pupils that this will always reveal where mistakes are quite commonly placed during the course of the game...
3.  Check the opening theory. This is easy. If you have a database on your computer you check some critical positions and some strong GM games that are played along the same lines as your game. The same goes for using books, of course...
4.  Write down the critical moments of the game, the things you saw during the game and what you think went wrong. Do this the same evening... The thing is that we learn much less from being given conclusions than we do from finding them ourselves. This is why it is so valuable to analyse your own games...
5.  Analyze the game yourself. Only when finished should you refer to Fritz... you first need to have done all the work yourself. You cannot truly realise what is new for you if you do not test the limits of what you know.
6.  Check for structural assistance in Chessbase to gain additional insight... Often a great revelation will come when we look through games between really strong players in positions we do not understand.
7.  Tournament reports and diagnosis of weaknesses. After having analysed all my games from a tournament there is something that I generally enjoy doing - I make a list of all my mistakes from my games, and I describe them... After making this list and finding your most serious weaknesses it is natural to continue with:
8.  Training based on tournament reports. If you know where you lose points, there is nothing as logical as building a training program based on eliminating these weaknesses. For every weakness there is a remedy, and it is never the same. I hope you will find yours."

- GM Jacob Aagaard, Excelling at Positional Chess
Okay, Thanks 8-)