A game review (or analysis) is a process where a game you played is discussed by
- yourself, and possibly either
- your opponent, or
- a teacher
Reviewing games helps players improve. A review will help you evaluate your abilities, identify the big mistakes in the game and the flaws in your play, and give you more practice reading, positional judgment, and whole-board thinking.
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Reviewing your own games is a good way to find out where you make mistakes, and is something you should try to do regularly, or even immediately after every game if possible.
You should be able to replay the opening of the game without help from your opponent or (in an online game) the computer. How many moves you can replay will depend on your strength, but even beginners can strive to reconstruct the first 20-30 moves.
Remembering a game is not a matter of voodoo or memorization. You should try to think through the logic you followed when you made the move in the game; remembering what reply you anticipated from your opponent should help you find his moves, as well. If you cannot remember where you played your own stones, that may mean that you considered a very large number of similar moves; that you played the move thoughtlessly; or that your understanding of the position in the game was very different from the understanding of the game during the review. If you can't remember your opponent's moves, that could be because his moves were unorthodox, because they were illogical, or because his style is very different from your own, so you look at the position different. It is also easy to get confused about the order of moves when you know that a certain move is sente or kikashi, and so expected it during the game, but have no idea why it was played at a certain point rather than earlier or later.
Getting a stronger player to review your games can be very helpful, since he will see possibilities and problems that neither players ever looked for. A DDK should look for someone 10 stones stronger, and a SDK should look for someone 5 stones stronger. This ensures that your reviewer will be able to find plenty of useful suggestions and variations about which they are absolutely confident, and which they can explain to you easily. Someone three stones stronger than you may have insights to share, especially in their favorite area of the game, but is better regarded as a peer than a teacher.
Reviewing someone else's games can be as beneficial as reviewing your own games. Both your own games and strangers' games give you opportunities to practice reading and positional judgment, but strangers' games may expose you to new ideas, styles, and moves. Professional games are especially good for this kind of exercise. You can rely on professional moves to be uniformly excellent, so these games can provide inuitions about good shape, thickness, direction of play, and many other aspects of the game that are easier to pick up from pattern recognition than from formal instruction. Professional games are also a great way to become familiar with standard fuseki and joseki; an exciting source of life and death problems; and a good place to find tense endgame sequences were every move matters. The fact that many professional games come with commentaries filled with helpful observations is also useful.
Most amateurs play through professional games quickly when they first start to study professional games, just to get the feeling of the game. One common strategy is first try to understand the logic of a game's opening moves, and then to play through more and more of a game every time one returns to it. In this way one first learns the fuseki, and then bit by bit studies the middle game, and finally spends time analyzing the endgame. A true appreciation of professional-quality moves requires professional-level life and death skills, but even a mediocre amateur can begin to get a feel for the beauty of the game and some striking patterns in professional play.
Reviewing professional games should improve your 'feel' of the game, i.e. you will find yourself playing moves that seem reasonable, without necessarily being able to explain why.
The following skills are helpful to get the most out of reviewing a game with an opponent or by yourself. One would hope that a teacher would apply them automatically:
Control your Emotions
If you have lost a game, it is important not to let feelings of regret prevent you from giving the review your full attention. Console yourself with the thought that lost games teach you more than games you have won. It may be easier to review with detachment if you refer to the players as "Black" and "White", rather than as "me" and "you".
If you cannot control your feelings sufficiently, then wait until later, but don't omit the review. If you only review games in which you excel, you will miss the opportunity to correct your worst mistakes.
Sore losers are often tempted to prove that they "should" have won the game. This is called trying to "win the review" (although sometimes we also say that the more insightful player has "won the review" by offering the most incisive analysis). A review will only do you good if you honestly seek mistakes and not if you seek to justify yourself. Likewise, dwelling on how brilliant your own good moves were, and how poor your opponents were, does not contribute to a good review.
Many reviews go off into long branches that bear little resemblance to the game. While it can be useful to show how a game might have developed if a certain path had been taken, you can easily end up discussing a game that never happened. This can be good practice, but generally it would be more fun and more education to just start a new game. Try to keep close to the game itself, especially when you need to make sure you that have enough time to review the most critical sequences.
In some reviews, most of the time goes into playing out on the board variations which the players were reading out during the game. This may be useful, especially when two players disagree on a certain variation and need to play out stones to figure out who is right. However, putting the stones down and picking them up prevents the other player from reading out whatever variations he might have been interested in, and also takes time away from a productive back-and-forth dialogue about the game. When possible, mental reading is better practice, more respectful of your opponent, and helps keep the review focused on the most piquant points.
The foremost principle when reviewing your opponent's moves is respect. This is particularly important when the review takes place immediately after the game, when both players may experience strong emotions. A friendly atmosphere helps both players enjoy the review and learn from it.
There is no obligation to endure an analysis. If you don't want to, just decline politely.
- Ask if your opponent would like to review. (In an online game, if your opponent does not speak your language and does not respond, you can also just start reviewing the game for yourself -your opponent may still gain from it.)
- Use "Black" and "White" instead of naming the players or using pronouns. This creates an objective discussion which allows both players to learn without their ego getting in the way.
- Point out your opponent's good or brilliant moves, but beware of being patronizing.
In a good analysis, both players review a game with interesting points and input from both sides. Bad analysis is when the losing player goes over a disastrous game as consolation ("oh, if only I had done this and that, he never could have won! he was so lucky!") This kind of "review" is certainly better done in the privacy of your own home. See /Ilan's Dreaded Analysis for an example.
Guide To Reviewing for a more specific list of "dos and don'ts" with respect to review for both yourself and others.
A common practice is to play a teaching game with a teacher. This game will usually be reviewed by the teacher.
You can have your games reviewed at the GTL.
There is a story about the great Japanese player Sakata to the effect that one day he was in a bad mood. When asked why he explained that things were really bad; he had lost a tournament game and also lost the review. I guess winning the review of a lost game is also common among the pros.
See also Tajii/NemesisStory
Related topic: positional judgement.