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ccmcacollister 746 ( +1 | -1 )
Breakdown Analysis of Players' Style & Execution thru Post-Mortum aor analysis of their past games of record.
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Surely you have studied the games of some GM's and great players looking to add to your understanding of the game, and add something to your own play. Do you ever, also, study the games of your upcoming or potential opponents? I have found that doing so can provide knowledge that may significantly improve your play
& chances against them. So when any games were available for me Postal Chess opponents, I would jump at the chance to glean any & all info I could by reviewing them.
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Back in the 80's and even 90's it could be much harder to actually find opponent games to review, unless they were quite well known & good enough to be included in many highly visible events where games were collected for Tournament Books, or put into Informants aor other Chess aor Opening Books. At times one would feel fortunate to have found even 2 or 3 games of a certain player to study, even Expert or Master players. Sometimes higher! And finding games for Class players was nearly impossible unless they had some published in the newsletters of their state or likelier ... of the postal Chess club they played in. (Such as USCF, APCT, CCLA, NOST, or TCC for instance. )
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Now however, that has greatly changed, & it is frequently possible to see dozens, even hundreds of games played by most players. Not just Masters & tournament winners, but nearly everyone who plays online. And so there is a great chance for the enterprising and determined player to scout their opposition; or even select their opposition, by going thru many of their games with a fine-tooth comb. Before a game starts with anyone, they might even seek advice from better players or engines, as well as texts of theory, in annotating games of the opposition ... and have such info ready in case someone should repeat their prior play.
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What to look for in their games? Well I can tell you some of the things I would look for at one time, when Chess seemed a very serious business & the time, energy and
motivation was present. And maybe a few other things to look for that I've thought
of more recently. It would be something like given below.
Post-mortum Game Dissection, elements & objectives:
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[ Before getting into it, I'd just like to say that any comments are welcome, questions, suggestions; as well as what You look for when you are scouting? And any particular things to look for that you have found most helpful or result producing. Or do you just like to play every game as if you face an unheard of stranger in a tournament hall, and seek the most objective plans & moves each time? That's perfectly valid too. But one thing I do like about scouting besides useful info obtained, is simply the Feeling that one may have an edge, and feeling their is something to go by, and that you have "paid your dues" in work-study to be entitled to win your game~! I feel there Are psychological & confidence issues that place one in superior stead just by feeling that they have Prepared, and that they are Prepared. Confidence increases in the course of a game, as one finds them fitting into your profile on them ...and their develops a sense of control during the game, as opponents can be anticipated, and found to be doing what you expect of them. This also indicates when to use extra time and care; at such time as they move outside of the profile. It is good to feel like you know what you are doing~! [Especially if you have to realize there are things you do not know about the game of Chess ... then it is doubly delightful being able to say to yourself that you Do know about your opponents Chess. And that being More than He/She knows about Your Chess, unless they have put in the same level of work. You can feel like you Should have chances to win, when/if you DO know more about their game than they do of yours; because there are Only THREE things that win Chess games. You must KNOW MORE, or SEE MORE, and so EXECUTE BETTER what you do know aor see, than they do. In other words; You must either KNOW MORE about Chess {or at least the positions produced in your particular Chess contest} or if you know LESS than they do then you can only win if you APPLY your own lesser knowlege in more accurate & effective manner then they happen to apply their superior but insufficiently utilized knowledge, during that game.

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1) Find improvements upon the play
2) Determine style markers of player(s), anticipating future pairing, or for adoption of elements into ones own play.
3) Determine position types which caused player discomfort, errors or unsatisfactory result.
4) Determine players generally strongest & weakest parts of their game such as: Openings, MiddleGame, Endgame, or the two Transition Phases between those three. Also of Strategic, Positional, & Tactical abilities. Plus Static vs Dynamic assessments and execution.
5) Find if any particular piece(s) are used with exceptional dexterity or clumsiness. Also same for any particular pawn formations overall, or specific singular formations aor defects.
6) Determine what piece(s) and position type most likely involved when/if players is hit with a "shot". (IE has blundered or been surprised by a move or concept.)
7) Determine if any specific endgame type/techniques are weak or unknown to player.
8) Determine any specific opening(s) of their repertoire that are unsatisfactory or easily handled vs them, or uncomfortable to them.
9) Note players time utilization patterns in any particular positions, phases, or situations ... insofar as such can be determined, if data is available re such. Also if they have a "breaking-point" at particular time remaining ... or some certain time-per-move remaining. This would be the point where they blunder, err, or begin to display nerves and experience doubts in their ability to play satisfactorily to reach Time Control.
10) Assess degree of sharpness in their play, and degree of willingness to enter into complications; or if they do so inappropriately when simpler winning technique was called for. And how small an advantage they will expend great energy trying to convert to a win, or decline to try; and how small they can be successful with.
11) Particular singular advantages, and combined advantages, with which they show great proficiency aor likeliness to win with. Or any they overvalue. Also any they underplay or undervalue.
11) Their general abilities and propensities in & for Attack, Defense, Counter-Attack, equalization,
12) What square(s) aor section(s) of the board are they most likely to err upon, to be attacked upon, or to defend inadequately?
13) Any move type(s) more likely to be missed, or cause them grief? EG's: Diagonal moves? Rank moves? File Moves? Long moves? Short moves? Knight moves (espec. backward N moves, ala Kramnick, and ...may as well admit it... me?) ?
14) Any other misc. inclinations or bad habits noted. ?
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}8-)
marinvukusic 302 ( +1 | -1 )
My comments and views Lot of the stuff you talk about is a waste of time and practically impossible to do, for example analyzing opponent's games and even looking for "improvements upon the play" in them. This should be done with YOUR OWN games, and I mean all of them. Know yourself first!

Since I already covered this subject I will quote myself - "My preparation for games involves analysing possible opponents' games from the database and: 1. trying to find weaknesses in their repertoire 2. trying to find weaknesses in their play 3. trying to figure out their way of thinking and approach to the game"

Let me expand on that:

1. trying to find weaknesses in their repertoire:
1) Put all their games in a separate database (create it) and first ruthlessly delete all that have no correlation with your current repertoire. Lets say this leaves 20 games out of a 100.
2) Remaining games get another quick glance, after which those that lead to positions you do not like get deleted. This should leave 3-10 games standing - ideally not more than 3 "groups" of positions stemming from the opening. Presumably they represent branches of the opening tree that you want to play against this opponent.
3) These games get a closer look with use of a computer (to spot any tactical stuff quickly).
4) Very important! Young opponents tend to switch openings frequently so newer games are more important repertoire-wise. Older guys tend to stick to what they like and know.

2. trying to find weaknesses in their play
Do they:
- blunder tactically in sharp positions
- lose half points in the endgames, and if so which types
- push their pawns too much and leave too many weaknesses
- tend to force things in calm positions
- tend to start passivizing their positions on their own
- fear attacks against the King (can be spotted when a player focuses too much on overprotecting potential pathways to the King)
- tend to start playing carelessly when winning
- tend to lose heart and self-destruct when things go bad
All this should be obvious after a glance, there is no need to analyze deeply.

3. trying to figure out their way of thinking and approach to the game
This is the most difficult part and takes some skill (a weak player can't do this at all).
- Mostly I tend to look at player's choices in positions where there are several EQUAL IN STRENGTH (very important, if they are not equal then strong player will typically pick the best one) moves:
- Does he try to solidify the position, or tries to fight for the initiative?
- Does a player like to attack or defend?
- Does he like open (exchanges pawns) or closed (blocks often) positions?

Generally speaking, universal players are the only ones who should try to steer the game to the opponent's weaknesses. All others should steer towards their OWN strengths.
rallyvincent 75 ( +1 | -1 )
I agree that the purpose of your own play shouldn't be to create a situation that is one of your opponent's weak points. Instead, you should always try to create a situation that is prefarable to you. Else you might find yourself losing focus of dictating the terms of the match.


I am just interested to see if I can get a hunch for my opponent's general playing style - e.g. if he likes to sacrifice - and which are his favorite openings. It helps to avoid an opening you don't want to be involved in...


Other then that I prefer to go into the match without too much knowledge. I tend to overlook certain things when I look at a position with a certain expectation of my opponents intentions.

(Looking at your huge post - Craig, how much time do you have? o_O)
ionadowman 84 ( +1 | -1 )
Two such radically different... ... approaches - or are they so different? Craig and Marin both have their useful points, and, it seems to me, occasionally express differently what amounts to the same thing (e.g. Craig's 7th [determine if any endgame{s} ... are weak or unknown to the player], Marin's second [lose half points in the endgames, and {in} which types] - not precisely the same thing, but pretty close.)

Me, I've always been too lazy to go in for this kind of thing (which is why my opening play has never been much chop neither), but on the rare occasions in which I have prepared an opening, I've been surprised at the dividends I've reaped against even quite strong opposition. So, something along the lines of Craig's and Marin's approach to the game has a lot to be said for it. If you take the game sufficiently seriously.

I've never quite managed that for long enough...
More: Chess
ganstaman 56 ( +1 | -1 )
I tend to take more of rallyvincent 's approach: "I am just interested to see if I can get a hunch for my opponent's general playing style - e.g. if he likes to sacrifice - and which are his favorite openings. It helps to avoid an opening you don't want to be involved in... "

It takes much less time, and I feel I wouldn't be able to fully and accurately work out all the details anyway. All I want is to get a general feel for how my opponent plays so that I can understand how he looks at the board and try to see what he sees.
ccmcacollister 60 ( +1 | -1 )
marinvukusic ... granted the approach is work intensive. Thats partly why I retired.

It worked well for me with world class postalites and Sr Master types tho, even where there is
not as much to find.

Not everyone is going to want to pay the dues. :)

BTW I agree about knowing your own game. My most common error occurs on move 18
second most on 22. I will often feel inferior to around move 12 but start feeling comfortable
by move 16 then. Generally winning by 26 if there was no mistake.
And I have never had to yell "J'adoube" ...
Take what you want from that ...

}8-)