How to Study Games Guide
Included in each band are a list of classic games that have been chosen for their instructive value. These are some of the greatest games played by some of the greatest players throughout history. Each individual band has been given a specific player/era to study.
In order to get the most out of going through these games, our main recommendation would be to analyze the game with a partner or group (using Discord voice chat + a shared Chess.com Classroom or Lichess study, for example). Having multiple perspectives will allow you to notice more details and understand the intricacies of the game.
We’d also suggest the following practices:
Learn at least three ideas from each game — this could include tactical/strategic patterns that you haven’t seen before, opening principles, endgame concepts, how to approach certain positions, etc.! Advanced players (above 1600) are encouraged to look for as many interesting ideas as possible.
Try to understand what would have happened in case of alternative moves/defenses. Look at the position with your own eyes and ask questions. Was there a hanging piece that wasn’t captured? Did someone neglect to make an obvious sacrifice? As soon as you notice an interesting/obvious move that wasn’t played, that’s exactly the right moment to pause and analyze (without the engine) what could have happened. Depending on your level, you can take 3-10 minutes to analyze an alternative.
At the end of each game, you should be able to describe the narrative of the game — who was better and why? Did the winning player convert their advantage with sacrifices/tactics, or slow positional technique? See if you can agree with your training partner/group about a general story of the game.
Spend at least 30 minutes going through each game.
If you’re working alone, using a physical board is ideal, especially if you’re practicing for OTB tournaments. You are also far less likely to rush through the game and get more out of it. If working with a partner or group, a shared Chess.com Classroom/Lichess study is probably the most convenient, but you could also play through the game OTB while someone else handles the shared board.
Make sure to evaluate key positions with your own eyes. If an obvious move/plan wasn’t played, take a few minutes to understand why.
If a moment is particularly confusing – for instance Player A hung a piece and the opponent didn’t capture it, first (if studying OTB) make sure you have the right position, you may have missed/played a wrong move earlier. If you’re sure you have the right position and still can’t figure it out, you can either post a question in the Training Discord to see what others think, or you can consult with the engine to see if there’s something tactical that you’re missing.
Do not: run through the whole game with the engine on. You will be distracted by random engine evals and not engage your own mind, which is what this is all about! The only time you should turn on the engine is after you’ve already spent some time trying to figure something out for yourself. If you want to check your analysis after you’ve spent 30+ minutes going through the game, that’s fine. (David still says never ;-) )
As a final note, there are so many different things you can learn from a classic game. The key is to put yourself in the shoes of the player and try to understand what it was like to play the game. You will learn things about calculation, strategy, attack, defense, openings, middlegames, endgames, converting advantages, pacing (is it time to strike, or build up), and so much more! It is tempting to just blast through the games and check them off, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice. These are the greatest players of all time, try to learn from their moves!
To see how IM Kostya goes through annotated game books, check out this video: