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How to Improve at Chess – Part 10

We’ve previously discussed the importance of reviewing your own games to your overall process of chess improvement. I’ll here repeat the idea that reviewing your own games is absolutely critical so that you might identify your strengths and (more importantly) your weaknesses.

But there is another form of game review which is also vitally important to your development as a chess player. Just as it’s useful to consult with stronger players and have them critique your games, it’s also quite beneficial to replay the games of stronger chessplayers. Playing over the moves of strong players, especially past grandmasters and world champions can “show you how it’s done”, illustrating proper techniques, and providing you with interesting and exciting ideas which you can use in your own games.

10. Play over the chess games of others

For beginning players I especially recommend games which were played in the 1800’s; it’s often much easier to understand the concepts and ideas in these games when compared to current grandmaster play. For intermediate club players I’d recommend not only 19th century games but also games from the first third of the 20th century, and for the same reason: these games are usually easier to understand than games played today at the top levels.

I also recommend using annotated games, in which a commentator adds his or her insights into what’s happening. While I certainly don’t discount the value of playing over unannotated classic games, you’ll have an easier time of it if you are playing over a game upon which someone else has commented. There are many classic chess books which contain dozens or even hundreds of commented games, and quite a few commercial chess databases contain annotated games numbering into the thousands.

Another interesting way to follow the games of others is to pick a favorite chessplayer of the past and play over his or her games. Many biographical collections are available which contain more or less complete records of their subjects’ games.

After you’ve been reviewing annotated games for a while, it can also be very interesting and instructive to take unannotated games and write your own commentary for them. Look at each move and try to discern why the player made that particular choice, then write down your thoughts. You can also look for useful alternatives, moves and variations which weren’t played, or even look for worse moves — then write down your thoughts about these unplayed alternatives. It’s instructional (and also great fun) to come back months or years later and re-read your comments; you may surprise yourself with your prior insights.

10. Play over the chess games of others

And when you play over these games, don’t just bang through these moves at a furious clip. Take your time and try to figure out why particular moves were or weren’t made. Reviewing classic chess games by the past greats is a wonderful way to improve your own chess. You’ll also frequently find yourself marveling at the incredible play of these wizards of the chessboard.

ChessCentral offers many chess game collections; of especial interest will be the classic Three Hundred Games of Chess by Siegbert Tarrasch.

Have fun! — Steve

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