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The art of analyzing your own game

by Sagar Shah - 14/07/2016

Strong grandmasters often say that you must analyze your own games. While there is no doubt that this is a very useful advice in order to become a better player, very few people actually tell you how to analyze your game. If you are one of those players who are struggling to figure out what is the best way to analyze your own games, do not worry! Help is at hand. Himanshu Sharma is one of the strongest International Masters in India. He became a GM elect, with a career high rating of 2471, without any formal training. He is a self made chess player. There was one thing that Himanshu knew better than his peers - the art of analysis. In this article he shares his secret recipe with you with the help of a beautifully annotated game. We also take this opportunity to introduce the new PGN replayer to you.

Himanshu Sharma is an International Master from Haryana. In September 2009 he had a rating of 2471. This is just an indication of how strong he was and still is. One worrying detail about Himanshu's chess career was the fact that after achieving his IM title in 2006, he couldn't score a GM norm until 2014. However, everyone knew that he was a class act and getting the norms was only a matter of time. He scored his first norm in June 2014 in Mumbai Mayor's cup and by June 2016, he was already a GM elect. We all are waiting for Himanshu to reach the magical 2500 figure so that he becomes the next grandmaster of India.

Himanshu made his final GM norm in Montcada Open in Spain just a few days ago and is now a GM elect

There was a period in Indian chess where Himanshu won one rating tournament after another. If Himanshu was present at the event, there were high chances that others would have to fight for the second spot. And believe it or not, he reached the rating of 2471 by just playing in India. So the natural question is: what is it that makes him such a strong player?


It is definitely not opening preparation. A small chat with Himanshu is enough to convince you that opening is not his forte. After he won a game I once told Himanshu, "Bahut acha opening khela aapne! Kaha se prepare kiya!" (You played a great opening. Where did you prepare it from?) To which he replied, " Kal tournament mein ek board pe ye opening dekha, socha interesting hai! Kyun na khel lu?" (I saw this opening on some other board yesterday and I thought to myself why shouldn't I try it today!)


If there is one thing that Himanshu truly excels in it is the art of analysis. Give him any position and he will try to dissect it in the best possible manner. And he doesn't really believe in making use of engines. He tries to think with his own mind and spends a lot of time analysing different possibilities. Once he asked me, "Yaar tum itni saari books padh kaise lete ho? Mein do mahine se Advanced Chess Tactics padh raha hoon aur abhi tak sirf do chapter khatm hue hai!" (How do you read so many books in such less time? I am reading Advanced Chess Tactics since last two months and have only been able to complete two chapters!) That's how meticulous he is!


After winning a rating tournament in India recently, I asked Himanshu to send his favourite game from the event. I thought it would be an ideal chance for the readers of ChessBase India to get a glimpse of how top level players analyze and annotate. After a few days I received a game with the following opening moves. 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5. " Oh my God! The boring exchange French I said to myself!" However, as I began to read Himanshu's annotations, it was so richly analyzed and filled with so many instructive points that I spent nearly an hour going through the game! And now, dear readers, I would like to share this analysis with you.


So how can you gain maximally from this game that Himanshu has annotated. Normally you could just play over the moves and comments and learn quite a lot. However, I would recommend that you get your chess board and pieces out and set them up and then play over the analysis on the chess board. In this way you will be able to retain much more than by just pressing the forward arrow key on your keyboard.


But if you are an extremely hard working chess player who is really desperate to improve at the game, then here's the way to really make the best use of this article. Below is the unannotated version of Himanshu's game. Save it to your computer and analyze it on your own. Spend around an hour with the game and write down your analysis in a book or in ChessBase 13. After that compare your notes to that of Himanshu's and you will understand the difference between your and a GM-elect's thinking process. So here's the unannotated version of the game:

[Event "Pavna All India Open 2016"]
[Site "Elgoibar"]
[Date "2016.05.22"]
[Round "9"]
[White "Sharma, Himanshu"]
[Black "Sharma, Dinesh Kumar"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "C01"]
[WhiteElo "2389"]
[BlackElo "2297"]
[PlyCount "52"]
[EventDate "1999.11.??"]
[SourceDate "1999.11.16"]

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 exd5 4. Bd3 Nc6 5. c3 Bd6 6. Qf3 Be6 7. Ne2 Qf6 8.
Bf4 O-O-O 9. Nd2 Bxf4 10. Qxf4 Nce7 11. Nf3 Bf5 12. O-O-O Bxd3 13. Rxd3 Ng6 14.
Qxf6 Nxf6 15. Ne5 Rhe8 16. Re3 Nxe5 17. Rxe5 Ng4 18. Rxe8 Rxe8 19. Nf4 g5 20.
Nd3 Re2 21. f3 Nf2 22. Nxf2 Rxf2 23. h4 h6 24. hxg5 hxg5 25. Rh7 Rxg2 26. Rxf7
Rf2 1/2-1/2 After going through this game we recommend that you spend some time with it and try to annotate it own your own before moving to the analysis done by Himanshu. In this way you can make the optimal use of Sharma's efforts.

Himanshu Sharma Annotates

Enjoy the annotations with ChessBase's new PGN replayer: 

[Event "Pavna All India Open 2016"] [Site "Elgoibar"] [Date "2016.05.22"] [Round "9"] [White "Sharma, Himanshu"] [Black "Sharma, Dinesh Kumar"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C01"] [WhiteElo "2389"] [BlackElo "2297"] [Annotator "Himanshu Sharma"] [PlyCount "52"] [EventDate "1999.11.??"] [SourceDate "1999.11.16"] {This was the last round of the tournament and my opponent D.K.Sharma was my room mate. I was the leader until the last round. But because of the direct encounter rule, it was very clear to both of us that we should be ready to honour the battle with optimistic play. A draw was enough for me to remain the champion in this tournament and a victory was necessary for my opponent. The stage was set and I made my first move.} 1. e4 e6 {One of my opponent's favourite defences - the French.} 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 {The French Exchange Variation is considered as hard to win from both sides. However, playing for the equality with White is not so appealing. I decide to enter it to make my opponent's task harder. A draw was enough for me, but not for my opponent.The reason for choosing this silent variation are purely psychological.} exd5 4. Bd3 Nc6 {A Normal developing move. The idea is to castle queenside as early as possible. The tempo over the central d4 pawn usually increase the pace of his forces. However, another logical continuation to remain complex is connected with the opening of the position with c5!? In this case the isolated pawn in the centre along with the piece activity could offer more chances to Black for getting the full point in the long run.} 5. c3 {A dual purpose move. Preventing Nb4 tempo and securing the important d4 pawn.} Bd6 6. Qf3 {The main idea is to exchange more and more forces inorder to get closer to complete equality. Now Either Bf4 or Bg5 (If Black goes Ne7 or Nf6) would come next. White can also plan to castle on the same side. It is worth mentioning that opposite side castling usually changes the nature of the play. Every tempo counts for both sides in such a situation. My opponent would naturally be happy with complexity. So, I decided to choose the calm response which would enable me to castle long as well if required.} Be6 (6... Nf6 {I was expecting this natural development. Later on the tempo with Bg4 will help him to gain time.} 7. Bg5 Be7 8. h3 h6 9. Bf4 Be6 10. Nd2 Qd7 11. Ne2 O-O-O 12. O-O-O $11 { When the middlegame battle has just begin in an equal looking position.}) 7. Ne2 Qf6 {Normally, exchange of forces helps my chances for equality. But I do not appreciate this exchange as it helps my opponent's development.} 8. Bf4 { Developing the piece with purpose and breaking the enemy pawn structure.} (8. Qxf6 {It is important to mention that exchange of queens helps Black to develop faster.} Nxf6 {This development by force is actually beneficial for Black psychologically. However, things are simpler as the queens have left the board. But why should I let Black develop his pieces. Instead I focused on my development.} 9. Bf4 O-O-O 10. Bxd6 Rxd6 11. Nd2 Ne7 $1 $132 {With the idea of Bf5 and using the e-file for doubling the rooks is pleasing for Black.}) 8... O-O-O (8... g5 $2 {Black can not get any benfit by doubling my f-pawn. Since the open files on the kingside help me to attack my enemy's vital pawns and getting the key squares.} 9. Bxd6 Qxf3 10. gxf3 cxd6 11. h4 $1 $36 {securing the f4 square for my knight.}) 9. Nd2 {Defending my queen on f3 and intending long castle.} Bxf4 10. Qxf4 {This move was made by me in just two seconds. I should have thought about the alternative.} ({Better was} 10. Nxf4 $142 { Perhaps I should consider this as the main move as white forces seem to be better co-ordinated after this.}) 10... Nce7 $1 {A move played with the idea of exchaning light squared bishop and gaining time with Ng6.} 11. Nf3 {I decide to use the e5 square in the given time. However, a pawn on f3 would be required inorder to prevent the Nf6 in the later phase of the game from coming to e4.} (11. Qxf6 Nxf6 12. Ng3 {But I did not want to allow Nf6 by itself. Thus, i rejected this option.} Rde8 13. O-O $11) 11... Bf5 {Black is exchanging his bad bishop for my good one.} 12. O-O-O $2 {A big mistake infact and positionally a bad choice. I lost the rhythm of the position and weakened the f2 point. More accurate is to continue with} (12. Ne5 $142 {I should choose this move..But i was wanted to use the e-file for my major forces.} g5 $5 13. Qd2 $14 {is just convenient for White. In the long run the kingside pawn structure should be handled properly by Black.} Ng6 $140 $6 14. Bxf5+ Qxf5 15. Ng3 Qf6 16. Nh5 $1 Qf5 17. O-O $1 $14 Nxe5 18. dxe5 Qxe5 $140 $2 19. Rfe1 Qf5 20. Qd4 $18) 12... Bxd3 13. Rxd3 $6 {Diagram [#] A natural but dubious move. Hoping to use the e-file in the near future, but missing the main theme of the position. It was approproate to accept the fault and continue the position with} (13. Qxf6 $142 Nxf6 14. Rxd3 Ng6 $1 $15 {Black is better but White can hold on.}) 13... Ng6 $5 {Looks like the correct choice. However, the deep essence of the position can be felt calculating and assessing the position after choosing the alternative which was much stronger.} (13... Qa6 $1 {This is a difficult decision to make. Things are pretty complex at the moment but Black seems to be coming out on top.} 14. Rhd1 $1 {A highly difficult move to choose. But this saves time for White as after} (14. Re3 {I was planning to play this move.} Qxa2 15. Re1 {It seems that I will get the pawn with a bonus, but there is something which we both missed} Ng6 $1 16. Qxf7 {I saw until here and thought that White's forces are adequately placed and the only open e-file favours me. But my assessment of the position was incorrect. It is actually better for Black.} Nf6 $1 $17 {This shows the weakness in White's position. The e4 square, Ng4 is a big threat. White has no real threats except the g7 pawn which certainly can not be touched at this moment. Black enjoys a firm grip over the position.} (16... Nh6 $5 $17 {This knight development on the edge of the board also is very pleasing for Black. He gets what he wants from the beginning. The complexity without loosening the grip of his position. Psychologically White would be doomed at this point.} 17. Qe6+ (17. Qxg7 Nf5 $19) 17... Kb8 $15)) 14... Ng6 (14... Qxa2 15. Qg4+ f5 16. Qxg7 $132) 15. Qf5+ Kb8 16. Kb1 {Now the a2 pawn has been saved and that prolongs the fight for the initiative. However, Black gets the desired goal. He can develop his knight without wasting any time.} Nh6 $1 17. Qg5 {White can actually retreat with his queen and can think of exchaning the forces via only open e-file. but it is beyond doubt that Black has the upper hand at this moment.} Rhe8 $36) 14. Qxf6 {Accepting the fate as it is. While with every exchange Black's chances to win diminish, he certainly has the initiative here.} Nxf6 $132 {This is a crucial moment for White. What should he do now?} 15. Ne5 $5 {I was pleased with this knight exchange. The reason is that it exchanges one more force plus I can use it for exchanging the couple of rooks if given chance. I can use the move Rd3 to e3-g3 to counter enemy rooks via the e-file. Also it enhances my option to get the desired exchange. But I had to calculate deeply before making this move.} (15. Rdd1 $142 $1 Rde8 16. Rde1 $13 {is passive but relatively the best.}) 15... Rhe8 $1 {Development is the key. Black rightly chooses to be active over the only open e-file. But it was necessary to know the real meaning of the position. Here are a few variations.} (15... Nxe5 { This helps me to exchange one more force...} 16. dxe5 Ng4 {A double attack on f2 and e5.} 17. Rg3 $1 Nxe5 (17... Nxf2 $2 18. Rf1 Ne4 19. Rxg7 $16) 18. Rxg7 Rdg8 $1 19. Rxg8+ Rxg8 {Nd3+ is threatened and so is Rxg2.} 20. Nf4 $1 { This knight controls the vital square on d3 and the g2-pawn simultaneously.} ( 20. g3 $6 c6 $1 (20... Nd3+ {This would not gain anything for Black.} 21. Kc2 Nxf2 22. Rf1 Ng4 23. Rxf7 Nxh2 24. Rxh7 $11 {The activity of the rook will guarantee White a draw.})) 20... Kd7 $11) (15... Ne4 16. Rf1 $13 Rde8 17. Nxg6 hxg6 18. h3 g5 19. Re3 $13) (15... Rde8 $5 16. Re3 Nxe5 (16... Ne4 17. Nxg6 hxg6 18. Nf4 (18. f3 $4 Nf2 19. Rxe8+ Rxe8 $17) 18... c6 19. Nd3 g5 $11) 17. Rxe5 Rxe5 18. dxe5 Ng4 19. f4 f6 20. h3 Nf2 21. Rf1 Ne4 $11) 16. Re3 {The chance of exchanging more pieces has been given and taken by my rook. This was the only reason to play Ne5.} Nxe5 17. Rxe5 Ng4 $1 {It looks Black is winning a pawn but that's not the case.} 18. Rxe8 Rxe8 19. Nf4 $8 $11 {This was the main critical position: 1. The number of pieces have been diminished and so have Black's chances for an advantage. 2. The knight develops and attacks the d5 pawn. 3. Black doesn't have a way to develop his initiative.} g5 $1 { Active move and hoping to invade along the e-file. But I had foreseen this move when I had played Ne5.} (19... Nxf2 20. Rf1 Ne4 21. Nxd5 $11) 20. Nd3 { The knight comes back for the safety of f2 pawn.} (20. Nxd5 $2 {This is not what White wants to do with his knight.} Nxf2 21. Rf1 Re2 $15 {Seems very bad for White. The threat Nd3 can not be parried easily.} 22. g3 (22. Nb4 a5 23. Nc2 Nd3+ 24. Kd1 Rxg2 $19) 22... h6 $1 $15) 20... Re2 {Diagram [#] Black forces look quite threatening. How should White continue?} 21. f3 $2 {A mistake that gives Black a long term initative.} (21. Kd1 $4 Rxf2 $19) (21. h4 $1 {I saw this move and even after calculating it, I rejected it. Quite a silly decision.} Nxf2 (21... h6 $6 22. hxg5 hxg5 23. Kd1 $1 $14) (21... gxh4 22. Rxh4 Nxf2 23. Nf4 $1 Re4 24. g3 $11) 22. Nxf2 Rxf2 23. hxg5 Rxg2 (23... Kd7 24. Rxh7 Ke6 25. g6 $1 $16) 24. Rxh7 Rxg5 25. Rxf7 $11) (21. Rf1 $142 Nxh2 22. Rh1 (22. Kd1 $2 {This cunning idea doesn't work. Black has nothing to fear for his knight.} Rxb2 $1 $17 23. Nxb2 Nxf1 24. Ke2 Nh2 25. f3 {The knight has been trapped. But it is not so easy to capture it.} c6 26. Kf2 g4 $1 $17 {The knight can not be touched from any side.} 27. Kg1 gxf3 28. Kxh2 f2 $19) 22... Ng4 23. Rxh7 Nxf2 24. Ne5 $1 (24. Nc5 {I was deeply calculating this knight move. When the chief objective is to gain enemy queenside pawns with knight forks.} Kd8 $1 (24... c6 25. Rxf7 b6 26. Rf8+ Kc7 27. Rf7+ Kd8 28. Nb7+ Kc8 29. Nd6+ Kb8 {I saw until here but missed the following perpetual check.} 30. Rb7+ Ka8 31. Rc7 a5 32. Rc8+ Ka7 33. Rc7+ Kb8 34. Rc8+ Ka7 35. Rc7+ $11) 25. Rxf7 b6 26. Ne6+ $1 Ke8 27. Rf3 $8 g4 28. Nxc7+ Kd8 29. Rf7 Nd3+ 30. Kd1 Rxg2 $132 { When the position seems to be out of control.}) 24... b6 25. Rxf7 {With the intention of pushing g4 and securing the kingside pawns.} g4 26. g3 $1 $11) 21... Nf2 (21... Ne3 $6 {Black cannot gain anything with this way.} 22. Re1 $8 {This helps Black to take control over the position.} Rxe1+ 23. Nxe1 Kd7 24. g4 f5 25. h3 $11) 22. Nxf2 Rxf2 $15 23. h4 $8 {In endgames the defender should try to exchange as many pawns as possible and this helps me to improve my silent rook.} h6 (23... g4 24. fxg4 Rxg2 25. g5 $11) 24. hxg5 hxg5 25. Rh7 { Only activity can save White. Black's chances have been improved by my mistake earlier. Yet, Rook endgames have great drawish tendencies even if you lose a pawn and I wasn't too worried.} Rxg2 $6 {Quite a relief for me. It was much better to keep the f-pawn.} (25... f5 $142 {Black should choose this move without any fear.} 26. Re7 (26. Rh8+ $2 {My opponent was worried about this move but it wasn't so dangerous.} Kd7 27. Rh7+ Kc6 $1 {Black simply missed this route for his king. This helps him to secure his queenside pawns.} (27... Ke6 $6 {Black only calculated this move and true this would have created a race scenario which wouldn't be easy to foresee.} 28. Rxc7 (28. g4 $2 Rxf3 29. gxf5+ Kf6 $3 30. Rxc7 g4 31. Kd2 g3 $19) 28... Rxg2 29. Rxb7 Rf2 30. Rxa7 Rxf3 31. Rg7 g4 32. a4 {This needs precise calculation. Black's chances seem better as his pawns are advanced. But White can somehow defend.} g3 33. a5 Rf1+ $1 ( 33... f4 $2 34. a6 Rf1+ 35. Kd2 Rf2+ 36. Kc1 $1 $11) 34. Kd2 Rf2+ 35. Kd3 f4 36. a6 Rxb2 37. a7 Ra2 38. Rg6+ Kf5 39. Rg7 Kf6 40. Rg4 Rxa7 $1 41. Rxf4+ Kg5 42. Rf8 Ra1 43. Rg8+ Kf4 44. Rf8+ Kg4 45. Rg8+ Kh3 46. Rh8+ Kg2 47. Rd8 $132 { And the game ends in a draw. Quite a thrilling race.}) 28. Rh6+ Kb5 29. Rh7 Kc4 $1 $19 (29... Kb6 30. Rf7 f4 31. Rf5 Rxg2 32. Rxd5 $15) 30. Rxc7+ Kd3 $19 { When black kingside pawns would decide the position surely very soon.}) (26. Rf7 f4 27. Rf5 $8 Rxg2 28. Rxd5 $15) 26... Rxg2 27. Re5 f4 28. Rxd5 $15 c6 ( 28... g4 $140 $6 29. fxg4 Rxg4 (29... f3 30. Rf5 f2 31. Kd1 $14) 30. Kc2 Rg2+ 31. Kb3 $11) 29. Re5 $1 {Cutting the enemy king as long as possible.} b5 30. a3 $15 {Black's chances are preferable although the outcome of the position is most probably a draw.}) 26. Rxf7 Rf2 $11 {With a draw offer by my opponent. I happily shook hands with him. Although I did not play very nice chess and playing the part of the defender for most of the game, it would be worth mentioning few of the lessons I learnt. Keeping a note of them would help me in the future. 1. Playing for equality with White is generally a dubious strategy. 2. A dull and equal looking position can never be ascertained as drawn. The chances of going wrong generally increases with every lazy judgement or assessment of play. 3. We both missed the right assessment of the positions which showed the lack of judgement at critical moments. 4. White did not play well and achieved his desired goal and Black played better than White and did not achieve his desired goal. Chess is a funny game!} 1/2-1/2

This game is ideal training tool for young students to learn the art of analyzing their own games. One of the things which you will find impressive is the truthfulness with which Himanshu has annotated. He doesn't mind saying that he made mistakes. The other thing is his inquisitiveness. At every point he is curious to know what is the best move in the position - not only for himself but also for his opponent. And lastly he learnt a lot of lessons from this game which he jotted down at the end. This means that he will try and avoid making similar mistakes in his future battles.

This is the secret of how a chess player can make three GM norms. This is the secret of how you can reach 2471 and this is the secret of how you can dominate the Indian rating tournaments for years.

The secret is learning the art of analysis.


We thank Himanshu Sharma for sharing his valuable analysis with our readers and we wish him the best for reaching 2500 and becoming India's next grandmaster! May the force be with you, Himanshu!

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