Originally posted by WanderingKing
I'm a weak player (about 1100-1300 on the sites where I have an estabilished rating). This means I am very often unable to assess positions by myself. After I finish a (usually lost) game of rapid chess, I try to analyze it, but without much success. Being curious I ask Stockfish and I notice that seeing a number next to a move often satisfies my curio ...[text shortened]... ehind the number. Do you think this is harmful for my development? How should I use an engine?
My novice two cents: If you can't understand at least some of the logic behind the number, then I think you're just wasting your time with engine analysis. And maybe you're even harming your development, if you're using engine analysis as a crutch to avoid putting in the study time necessary to get better.
You can use engines to find tactical shots, that is, if you're willing to dig through the variations. The engine isn't just going to give you the tactics on a silver platter. And I don't think the engine will be able to explain the positional/strategic aspects of a game.
How should you use an engine? I really only use one for tactical analysis of games. (And I'm not even sure engine analysis makes you a stronger player. So you find a number of tactics you missed in a game, so what? What does that tell you, that you need to work on your tactics? I already knew that. 😉 )
When I analyze a game, I usually use Arena. I'm not saying Arena is best, it's just what I use and am most familiar with.
Actually, I think the first step in game analysis is to go through the game by yourself, without any silicon assistance. Try to find things that you missed during the game. Only after you've done that should you turn to engine analysis.
Once into the engine analysis phase, I'll usually start with an automatic analysis of the entire game. (Make sure the engine's multi-pv setting is off for this. If you run the auto analysis with multi-pv on, you'll get gibberish output.) You can choose 10 or 15 seconds per move, but even that will often result in variations that are 15 plies deep or more. I have a hard time understanding tactics deeper than about 6 plies (3 full moves). Instead of setting a time per move, you could set a number of plies per move, say about 8.
Automatic analysis will identify the major tactical blunders in the game, and the move numbers associated with those tactics should be easy to spot in the histogram chart.
Now, the second phase of analysis: Close out the automatic analysis window, click on the Edit button, and change the engine's pv setting to multi-pv. I usually pick a multi-pv setting of around 6, but that's just my preference. (Note that multi-pv slows down the depth search somewhat, but the advantage is that it not only gives you the best move, but it also gives you a number of "next-best" moves.) Now you can click on any move in the histogram that you're interested in, and then click on the Analysis button. Now you can go forward and backward through the moves in an attempt to figure out what the missed tactic is for that particular move. If you can figure out what the tactic is, great, you're a little higher on the knowledge curve. If not, you've just wasted some time. 🙂