A Detailed Guide to Analyzing Chess Games 

analyzing chess games

“You may learn much more from a game you lose than from a game you win. You will have to lose hundreds of games before becoming a good player.”  

                                                                                                José Raúl Capablanca

Capablanca, the Cuban World Champion, rightly emphasized on analyzing chess games. It’s true that chess player learns a lot from their lost games.

However, chess experts/coaches would disagree with his opinion on learning from the games he won. In modern-day chess training using chess clocks, pupils study both games that they lost and won.

For people who’re self-learning, don’t worry! I have provided a detailed guide on how to analyze your games and why it’s necessary. Go ahead, give it a read and try chess analysis for yourself.

What does Analyzing Chess Games mean?

Analyzing a chess game generally means the habit of studying your games after participating in a tournament or competition.

Many people study games played by others, especially in important tournaments like the Candidates, to learn from expert players.

In this guide, I am going to share tips on how to do both analyses.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Analyze Your Games

1. Jot Down Your Immediate Thoughts

Nobody has time to jot down their thought process during the game. So, it’s recommended to write down your thoughts immediately after finishing the game.

Now, you might be thinking, “what thoughts? Do you mean emotions?”.

You can obviously note your emotions after the game; it’s entirely up to you. However, apart from that, you also need to write down your thoughts related to the moves/decisions you made.

For example, you can quickly note down, “I should have played Bg5 instead of Bh4.” Or, you can also mention stuff like, “I shouldn’t have gone for the En Passant capture on the 17th move”.

2. Use the Scoresheet or Download the Game

Spassky's score sheet
(Image credits: ekoshapu.in)

After writing down your thoughts, you can take a break. Once you’re mentally prepared to study the game, get your scoresheet. In the case of online games, you should download the game.

The motto is to find the whole game, which means all the moves.

3. Play the Moves on the Chessboard

analyzing chess games

Next, play the moves and variations from the game on the chessboard. If you want to do this process online, you can go here.

Remember, the goal is to replay the game.

4. Analyze the Book Moves & Variations

Look at the moves and try to think, what was the opening? What book moves did you follow to begin the game? Was it followed by any strategy?

Check if there’s any variation you followed, and then note it down.

Find out the Number of Possible Chess Games

Read The Shannon Number to find out.

5. Critically Analyze the Moves

Critical game analysis can be tricky, especially for new players.

Checklist to judge the game

  • Any move that led to material disadvantage.
  • Main lines or variations that you could follow.
  • Any instances where you could fork?
  • Is there any outpost you missed?
  • The best moment for castling.
  • How many times did the opponent cross the halfway point?
  • Massive blunders.

Judge your performance. Keep in mind the above points, and make sure you note if you find anything as such.

6. Cross-Check the Blunders in The Previous Games

At this step, you know your mistakes. Now, the next step is to study your previous games and check if you did something similar.

7. Check Blitz Games

While cross-checking the mistakes with your past games, don’t forget your blitz games. Why?

Because we follow our instincts and reflexes during Blitz games. So, if the blunders from your latest game are a pattern, then you must have done it when playing Blitz.

This will help you to break your bad pattern of moves and come out of it.

8. Run it on Chess Engine

stockfish - engine to analyze chess games
Screenshot of Stockfish, the chess engine

This step is specifically for offline participants. When you’ve already made a list of your judgments, it’s time to run the game on a chess engine.

Sometimes, chess engines can make wild suggestions and even go to the length of saying every move is wrong. So, don’t take every suggestion seriously. Instead, focus on the blunders and see the suggestions the chess engine provides for such grave mistakes.

Again, don’t follow the suggestion blindly. Try to study the suggestions and take the best one only.

Here’s a video on how to use chess engines to study your own games.

9. Find Alternative Moves to Your Blunders

Once you have a list of your own mistakes, it’s time to find alternative good moves. Now, you can either study books, watch YouTube videos or read blogs to find better moves or you can simply hire a chess coach.

The best solution here is to hire a one-on-one instructor and clear your doubts. For this, you can take help from EnthuZiastic chess instructors from the comfort of your home.

Check out EnthuZiastic Chess Classes for a personalized Chess learning experience.

How to Analyze Chess Games Played by Others

Analyzing games played by other chess players is always easier than doing yours. Because we feel we did our best in the game and can’t come up with anything smart after losing/winning it.

Even though it’s somewhat true, TBH, analyzing others’ games is also very challenging.

So, here’s a step-by-step guide to pull off this chess game analysis job.

1. Get the Moves

You obviously need the moves to study a game of chess. So, either you download the game from a chess database or get it from a book.

No matter what your means are, just keep the moves in hand.

2. Play the Game Move by Move

Now, just as you study your game, you can either do it on a chessboard or online platform.

Study the Opening

The opening of a game of chess is crucial for its course. So, try to study the opening phase keeping in mind the below points:

  • Which opening strategy
  • Which variation and why
  • They followed book moves till which move
  • What is the pawn structure
  • Which pieces are they developing, and how
  • How is the player slowing the opponent’s development

Study the Middlegame

The middlegame is when the players ransack each other’s pieces and pawns. So, here are a few more points to study the middlegame.

  • Check the trades and think about how it helped
  • What strategies they followed to attack the opponent
  • Material disadvantages
  • Tricks they used to block enemy pieces
  • Check the defenses

Play an Aggressive Middlegame to Excel the Endgame

Read 8 Chess Middlegame Strategies to learn how to do that.

Study the Endgame

The first thing that you should do when studying the endgame is to see what type of endgame is going on.

Study the sacrifices the player made in order to check the enemy king. Try to understand how the chess player manipulated the opponent into giving up.

Here’s a detailed study of Magnus Carlsen’s endgames.

How can I analyze chess games for free?

Firstly, you can play out the games on a chessboard and try to understand the moves, variations, and tactics behind them by yourself. Or, you can simply run the game through free chess engines and study absolutely free.


How long should it take to analyze a chess game?

It will take around four to 7 hours to analyze a game. Also, it depends on the game you’re studying. It won’t take more than 3 hrs for a beginner to review their games. However, if you’re studying a grandmaster game or one of Carlsen’s games, then it might take even more than eight hours.

So, it varies depending on whose game you’re trying to study.

Which one is the best chess engine to analyze a game?

Stockfish is one of the best chess engines for free. It has an ELO rating of 3594, which is way higher than Magnus Carlsen’s rating. You can download this engine on both desktops and smartphones.

What is an average chess player rating?

An average chess player has a 2000 to 2300 ELO rating.

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Leisure chess players often don’t analyze their games and that’s okay. However, if you are aiming to become a chess grand-master, you must train yourself the right way.

No matter how qualified chess instructors you hire, you must learn how to do game analysis, as self-learning is the primary step to gaining knowledge in any domain. Along with analyzing on computer chess, one should also play out their failures on a board.

Good luck in your upcoming tournaments! Until next time!