Author: GM Rafael Keitao
In this article I will expand on some ideas that were presented when I wrote about preparing your opening repertoire. Many chess players have no clue on how to use the machine to their benefits. I hope that after reading my advices you will have a much better idea of what you must do and will avoid the common mistakes made by those who thoughtlessly use chess engines. Since I am a GM both on correspondence (where nowadays everyone analyzes with the engines) and over the board chess, I know both sides of the coin: the scientific and the practical.
An incorrect work in this field can be very harmful to the tournament player, leading him to stop thinking for himself and only believing the computer's suggestions. I know many players who work like that. They have no patience to think about the position anymore. The result of this is a total lack of creativity in his analysis and worsening of his practical skills of calculation and decision taking. When I ask them why they do it, usually the answer is that they save time, since the screen suggestion will be better than what they think, anyway.
But this idea of “saving time” is not the correct approach for those who seek to achieve grandmaster class. Independent analysis, even though it's more time consuming, is what makes the difference. When asked about what directions chess would take with the growing of technology, the great Mikhail Botvinnik said computers would be a good tool but independent analysis would always be necessary.
Unfortunately, many chess students do not see it this way. They spend many hours looking at the screen, memorizing openings or passively reproducing books and engines' suggestions. This method is completely wrong. To improve you have to understand and question these analysis, have your own ideas. With this aim, chess softwares can be very useful, if used correctly.
Obviously, like with everything in life, people diverge on how to use this tool. I will propose two methods of working with the computer, which I think will be very useful to your training:
I-Setup the position on the board and on your computer;
II- Turn on the analysis engine, minimize the ChessBase screen (so you can't see what it suggests) and analyze the position for some time (15 minutes is a good start). You can work moving the pieces;
III- After this initial time, verify your computer´s suggestions and compare with your own conclusions. Minimize the screen again and repeat the individual work, analysing the machines’ ideas;
IV- Repeat the process until you reach trustable conclusions.
There is another interesting method which virtually transforms the computer in a coach. This one is especially useful when watching games fast in your database:
I- Open your preferred chess engine;
II- Resize it in your screen in a way you see only the engine's evaluation and depth, but no moves;
III- Whenever the evaluation goes way high or down, try to find out why that happens and what is the best move in the position.