Learn from Your Chess Games
by Mark Goodwin
Playing blitz is not necessarily bad for your game, and can be a useful tool in improving your "board sight" and tactical prowess, as well as getting you comfortable in an opening you might be trying to study. Can you learn from Blitz chess? Maybe a different approach to studying your Blitz Chess (meaning 5 minutes or so per game) games can help you improve both in blitz and longer time controls. It is best to play blitz games on a server that automatically records your games. I play on USChessLive which will email games to you AND append your games automatically to a local file on your hard drive. Couple this with a program like ChessBase, (ChessBase Light is available free here) and you instantly have cataloged and sorted access to all your games. Using this, do the following:
1) Play a series of Blitz games on the server.
2) After playing, open ChessBase and import the games and sort them, then inspect the opening play for each game against the Opening Database to see where you or your opponent deviated from the main lines, especially if either one of us got into difficulty in the opening.
3) Once you have assessed the opening play and "corrected" your errors (i.e., look over a few variations and get a better understanding of them - this may include reference to opening books that give you more than just variations and explain the strategy behind the moves), you will then briefly look at the game to see what tactical shots you might have missed or your opponent missed. This is very important because middlegame plans tend to repeat if you play along the same opening lines, hence certain tactical resources may repeat as well.
For Class C and B players, getting better at tactics will get you over the hump faster than anything else, as most games are lost at that level are a result of tactical blunders, and not opening inaccuracies or positional mistakes. The key here is to learn the opening you are playing and not repeat your mistakes. You'd be surprised the next time you come down that line and you play the better move how your understanding of that position has greatly improved because you took the time to examine it in a controlled environment. You become instantly aware of certain strategies and plans you may not have known had you just blindly accepted the result of the previous play.
If you did this with a series of say, G/15 or G/30 games, inspecting your opening play and correcting any mistakes, and understanding the tactical motifs that appeared in the games, you'll find that your openings will improve and you will subsequently find yourself in better positions in the middlegame. Of course, if you play c4/d4/e4 on a rotating basis as White, or respond in several different ways to those moves as Black, this is less effective, as you will need to learn and understand many variations, something a player less than Master strength should probably not do. A deep understanding of a few openings is much better than a weak understanding of a broad number of openings.
The other benefit of cataloging your games is tracking which openings you have greater success in than others. This is important! Even if you "think" you like an opening, but the record shows otherwise, then you might consider a different path, or, if you are stubborn, this will motivate you to take a deeper look at your losses and make a better assessment of your strategic thinking, hopefully for the better.
As you play your blitz games and collect them together in ChessBase, understand how to use the ChessBase Repertoire features. This feature allows you to take your games and combine them into a repertoire of similar opening lines. Reviewing this repertoire and going over the problematic lines WILL improve your opening play tremendously.
Now some may ask: Why not just memorize the lines from NCO or Encyclopedia of Chess Openings?
I always felt that actual playing of the moves made a much more deeper impression to the chess player than reading them from a book. That is why playing blitz - when no other option may be available - is a viable and useful study tool for the C and B player who is trying to improve his tactics and his opening experience.
Try it. You WILL see an improvement in your opening play because you will begin to see, under game conditions, similar strategic and tactical patterns from the same openings. These mind impressions you gain from your own games are worth way more than going over some obscure master game with copious strategic notes which you have no clue what they refer to.
Another suggestion is to play email chess at www.letsplaychess.com (or any other similar service). These are games you can play where you make a move 1 per day up to 1 per 20 days. This is where your opening laboratory can really flourish and improve, and you analysis skills can greatly improve. Without going into the gruesome details, write down all your thoughts when you play these games! You will gain SO much from your notes!
Remember: Tactics decides 99.9% of the games. If you are a borderline B player or lower, studying tactics and playing blitz with an eye on reviewing your openings afterwards will make you a better player and get you very prepared for real tournament time trouble should it occur.