Memorizing chess games is always a daunting task that every chess player will have to face at some point. There are fortunately several strategies that will make the burden a little bit easier which I will share here.
If you are new then it is natural that you will find this more difficult than experienced chess players, do not worry, this is normal. But we can be better at memorization! by following these simple tips.
As a chess player here is what I know:
Chess players can memorize moves so easily since the position/lines are usually patterns that they have seen before. Memorizing a 15 move sequence is achievable if a player has played 10 know moves before it in their games. Chess players also find it hard to memorize completely new lines.
As for beginners this is what I recommend:
Notating the moves, recreating the game, putting it on a board, dissecting it, finding related matches, associating it to a person, improving visualization, and becoming a better player in general are the ways to effectively memorize chess games.
I really think one can find it easier to memorize if they follow these tips, enjoy!
Here are the tips to efficiently memorize chess games:
1.) Notate the moves
Chess notations (mix of letters that represent a given position) is the best way to accurately record chess coordinates.
Most chess games are usually complicated and hard to understand which such notation will break down into readable material.
It is after all very challenging to write the positions in any other way since this is the only one that works.
So I recommend having documentation in some way using chess notations so you have something to bring up when being forgetful.
2.) Master chess notations
You can’t use chess notations without having the knowledge to create one, the symbols in particular will be useful when interpreting the findings.
You can’t just copy and paste from a random source that you’ve found online without actually the capability to decipher them.
Plus moves are usually notated in official competitions which you will have to learn anyway so do it as soon as possible.
3.) Find a way to be reminded of the recorded moves
This is a trick that I haven’t even tried myself but may work for your type of learning.
This is to embed the moves in a piece of paper and incorporating it in a way that you will notice the thing on a regular day.
Maybe it’s in your bag, room, bathroom whatever it is, if you really want to memorize the game that badly then visualization might help.
4.) Recreate the game
Visualization is good, but there are certain cases where the position is so rich that it needs another level of liveliness.
When you can actually see the position of the pieces at an observable level it makes it easier to understand and associate them.
It also puts you in the position of the player that is acting in the game (or you at the moment if you played the game) which can add relatedness.
5.) Play the moves on a game
Recreating the game is cool but even better is reaching the same position in an actual game that you have worked yourself.
There might be certain key ideas that you can remember more profoundly by doing it this way.
Of course it is not a guarantee that you will reach the same position but it’s the journey to get there that matters.
6.) Use a regular board (not online)
This is pretty important, our brain can easily familiarize things that we can touch and move.
If you’re trying to memorize a game try playing it on a chessboard; the act of moving the pieces can help trigger your brain’s cognition pattern.
The next time you are on a board you are more likely to remember the position during that particular time.
7.) Go from simple to complex
Our mental capabilities find it harder to consume complicated positions right off the bat.
Doing a routine in succession (from those that have simple ideas) into the ones that are vaguer is helpful in memorizing multiple games.
After all easier concepts can be learned much faster which can then equip you with the tools to memorize the hard ones.
8.) Do a segmented approach
Completely tucking the game in one’s memory can be quite challenging I recommend dissection only into parts that are important.
This makes the material more digestible and motivating to actually understand.
Plus by focusing on things that only matter you are more likely to improve than just randomly studying positions.
9.) Connect the game to a person
If this is something that is played by a famous player association may just be the tool you need.
After all it is easier to be reminded of someone than something, and if there is an association the position becomes more memorable.
If this was played by you then this can be implemented by associating the version of yourself at that moment in time with the same idea.
10.) Associate the game with a concept
Is this is a famous ending like “how to win with the bishop pair” try to make a connection to the position.
This makes it notable to remember since the actual concept that it teaches you is usually applicable.
It also trains the brain to categorize the particular position as an important task making it likely to be commemorated.
11.) Find related games
After finding a concept that your desired position express try to look for related games.
Especially if it was an ending, there is a high likelihood that there are similar-looking positions with only minor differences.
This makes it more relatable since you can review the situation from different angles.
12.) Treat it as a puzzle
After you lay down the position try to analyze it, look for certain ideas that you would’ve played yourself.
Test yourself and find better moves or possible plans that can be implemented.
Again, this is an attempt for you to familiarize the position in a way that is harder to forget which this does.
13.) Memorize the structure not the moves
This is the trick that helped me recollect more positions that I can have initially which is focusing on the structure.
Now I have said earlier that you should notate the moves which are still helpful (you can’t draw the position right?), but this one is about the memorization process.
It’s hard to distinguish what to what just from seeing the letters that are similar to one another, learn the arrangement instead.
14.) Try imagining moves without board and pieces
This is an approach that completely contradicts with one of my earlier tips (recreate the game).
It is not contrasted but a supplement instead, most recollection that you’ll experience is not in the reach of your chessboard.
You need to ensure that the position is engraved sufficiently in the brain as you would expect, which can only be confirmed by imagining it.
15.) Don’t force it, memory flows naturally
The reason why most people try to search for this is due to the frustration of not retaining the position enough.
Detach yourself from the activity and try to find another time that is more suitable for your mental power.
Do not punish yourself for not being capable of memorizing complex things it will make things difficult.
16.) Keep your brain stimulated
Just like our body the brain can function more easily if it’s constantly under use.
I’m talking about the other task that is chess-related, which is like the dumbbell that would make other things easier.
Your brain can more easily reminded of the positions if it’s frequently used for that purpose.
17.) Rest the mind when necessary
This is an important concept that applies not just in this instant case but to life in general.
Your brain is an organ too just like your body which can be exhausted and require some kind of a refresh.
Do not deprive the “gray matter” that will be used from it’s desired replenishment, it will help you long term.
18.) Improve your visualization
The visualization that is being referred here is the ability to spot moves in general.
When you have a great depth in understanding chess positions it makes it easier to dwell upon things you want to memorize.
This can be achieved by a designated studying routine, exposure to chess, or working with a lot of materials.
19.) Be intimate with the game
I don’t want you to view this in a weird way but you do need to form a relationship with the game itself.
I’m talking about interest, if you can memorize one game then it’s tempting to skip the next.
This can be done through by having enough passion (intimacy) to push through those feelings.
20.) Accumulate chess experience
By just being a better player in general you will naturally be able to understand deeper abstracts long-term.
By being good at other aspects of the chessboard memorization can follow since you are more likely to understand the game’s theme.
I think you can experience this yourself at some point, personally I can reminiscence most of my games without even having a routine (not always, and not as detailed than recordings).
As a beginner it can be intimidating to know that you have to memorize even one game let alone multiples.
But from experience I can definitely say that knowledge from other concepts can take over memorization.
Chess is not all about memorizing things, but it is still an aspect that can be used to improve.
Hope that’s helpful, sleep well and play chess.