Your chess development plan (2-steps)

Chess development. Analyzing your chess games.

Introduction

Analyzing your chess games has to be done honestly and objectively. I’ve written in previous posts the methods we use at Better Chess to analyze games. That is good advice to follow but it is also specific to how we present games to our audience. What about analyzing your own games? The approach is similar and can be distilled down to two steps:

The 2-step approach to start your chess development plan

  1. Review your games.  Follow the steps in my previous post regarding how to play through and annotate your game.  Don’t use an engine right away.  Play through variations you were considering during the game first.  Then, use an engine to check your analysis.
  2. Make a list of the areas in your play that you find the most concerning.  Keep the list somewhere you will see it.  Read the list each time you begin your chess studies.  This is your chess development plan. 

Let’s start with an example.  

I recently came in third place in a Lichess.org tournament.  I chose two of my  worst games that I will share below. It’s tough to look at your losses.  They bring up memories of mistakes you would like to forget.  But it’s important to remember.   Identifying your weak areas is critical to chess development.  

Game #23 – Passive play leads to a blunder

Tarrasch Defense – [D34]
Crossroads Invitational XV Arena
3 minutes 2 sec. blitz

Game #24 – Plan your transition to the endgame

Sicilian Defense – Unusual moves [B20]
Crossroads Invitational XV Arena
3 minutes 2 sec. blitz

Analyzing your chess games – create “The List”

All goals should be written. The same is true for your chess goals. A chess development plan comes from analyzing your chess games. Write down what you find during this analysis. If you find you are consistently hanging pawns, put it on the list.

My chess development plan – The list of improvements I need to make:

Passive play. I find myself making random moves like h4 just for the sake of moving with no strategy behind it. This needs to be eliminated. From now on, I want to make sure every pawn move has a purpose behind it. If I can’t find a purpose, I will focus on improving the scope of my pieces or creating a better defense.

Trading pieces too quickly. There are only a limited number of pieces on the chessboard. Careful consideration should be given to trading pieces without understanding the strategic reason as to why.

Stop hanging pawns. This often happens because I think that I remember the main line of an opening but am in error. The second game saw me hang the e5 pawn without too much of a fight. I must look at my opponents moves and see what they are threatening.

When it comes to openings be careful of what I remember. As mentioned in my previous point, I put too much emphasis on positions that I think I understand without really calculating what the best move should be. Analyzing your chess games should focus on ideas, not memorizing a sequence of moves. All positions need to be analyzed carefully no matter how confident I am of the position.

Understand the ideas behind the Catalan. This opening always seems to get the better of me. While browsing through my chess library, I came across a book called, Strategic Chess by Edmar Mednis. It explains the ideas behind the Catalan, King’s Indian and several closed openings. I need to review the games specific to the Catalan to improve my results against this opening.

Minor piece endings. The bane of all amateur players. In game#2 I was too quick to trade down to a Bishop vs Knight ending without assessing whether I was worse or not. After playing Rad1 and Black replying Rad8, I am under no obligation to trade. In fact, smarter moves like Kg2 might be what is required to improve my position. The King plays a role in the ending so getting it closer to the center can make a big difference. Minor piece endings are critical for a chess development plan.

Stay focused. This is good advice for anyone at any level. In my case, I tend to get very discouraged when I am down a pawn. Losing a pawn is rarely the end of a game, particularly in an amateur game. Good chess players are fighters. If I hang a pawn, I need to continue to fight.

Pace myself. This is more of a blitz chess critique. I constantly find myself running low on time. Playing safe, solid moves should be done quickly. Long thinks are inevitable but only during critical phases of the game.

Conclusion

When you finish analyzing your chess games, create a list of weaknesses. Make sure you keep it up to date. Look at it before you begin your chess studies. Your chess development plan is a living document. Once you see a pattern of mistakes in your games, it’s time to update it. I’ll write more about this in future posts.

Do you have a chess development plan? Please share you thoughts below.

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