Simple Guide to Annotation

Sherwood, Russell  Friday, May 5, 2017

Annotated games are the lifeblood of any Chess magazine or website and a very valuable source of improvement for the player, yet only a small number of players actually annotate games.

To help improve this I considered if there are any basic ideas which can be utilised to help the aspiring annotator and surprisingly there are!


What makes this game interesting?

If the game is not interesting to you then this will come across in your annotation and will probably not be interesting to other people! So what could make the game interesting:

  • The Event
  • The Opponent
  • The Opening
  1. Any instructive characteristics in the game
  2. A Novelty
  • A Story behind the game
  • The importance of the game (did it give a Norm?)
  • And much more!


Tell a Story

In an extension to “What makes this game interesting?” we need our annotations to tell a story. With a couple of mouse clicks Chessbase can create a deep engine based set of annotations but without a Human “Angle”, the annotations are likely not to be interesting. This can be seen in good annotations having a lot of text description.

Consider your Audience

Who is your (target) Audience? Knowing this will aid in a number of ways:

  • What to include and what to omit
  • The level of explanation you put in (tactical themes, positional ideas, lines not taken, the length of analysis, the balance between text and variations…….


Consider writing annotation with your Opponent

The games are very rare but are often the most instructive: Games annotated with your opponent. For CC players these games can be especially interesting as the insights gained from two sides of the board can be vital in terms of improvement.


Don’t be a Megalomaniac!

A common issue seen in annotated games is players who try to give the impression that they had a complete understanding through the game. This can be boring for the reader and does not tend to read well. Of course if you are a 2700+ rated Super GM your understanding will be rather more complete that a 1600!


Draw’s and Losses can be an interesting as Wins!

Although emotionally much tougher to annotate, draws and especially losses can make very interesting games to annotate, especially as any advice on what was learned may be of interest to other players.

Be Respectful of your opponent

As a general rule, you should not deign your opponent in annotations, regardless of any issues during a CC game. There is a type of “roast” annotation where a number of Humorous remarks are made at a player's expense (typically from a third party annotator) but these are generally best left to those who are naturally humorous and know the players!

What was the Novelty?

(Almost) All games have a novelty (New Move). This is an important move to provide some in-depth commentary on. Were you aware of current theory or was this your cunning plan?

Was a move unexpected?

Choosing which moves to annotate can be difficult. A good, simple way to select them is to ask the questions.

  • Did I expect my opponents move?
  • Would the average reader expect the opponents move?


If the answer to either of these questions is yes then it is a good move to put some commentary on!

Quote Relevant Sources

Consider the level and relevance of sources – it can be very interesting to know the best players to have gone down a line but (a) make sure the number of references is relevant to the audience as the source (For example CC games can be a more interesting and relevant reference)

Don’t worry about making mistakes!

Any Analysis in your annotations will have errors! Don’t worry about this – firstly have an engine check anything you feel unsure about and then should errors be found be happy that someone has gone to the trouble of (a) reading your annotations and (b) taking the time to disprove them, in the process you have both learned something!


This is very important. Offer your annotations up to websites and magazines. Editors are always happy for new content. Do check the rules of the event in terms of public dissemination before you do though!

Updated Friday, May 5, 2017 by Russell Sherwood

Welsh Correspondence Chess FederationBritish Correspondence Chess AssociationClergy Correspondence Chess ClubSchemingMind Internet Correspondence Chess ClubSocial Correspondence Chess AssociationNational Correspondence Chess ClubWelsh Chess UnionInternational Correspondence Chess Association