# What can I learn from my "80 average centipawn loss" game, which I thought I played well?

In a LiChess game (Vakeesh vs. becky82), during the game I thought I played well, and won as black without and real complications. Here's the game:

``````[fen ""]
[Event "Rated Classical game"]
[Date "2019.01.23"]
[White "Vakeesh"]
[Black "becky82"]
[Result "0-1"]
[UTCDate "2019.01.23"]

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. f4 e6 5. Be2 c5 6. c3 Nc6 7. Be3 Qb6 8. b3 cxd4 9. cxd4 Bb4+ 10. Nd2 Nxd4 11. Bxd4 Qxd4 12. Nf3 Bxd2+ 13. Nxd2 Ne7 14. Bb5+ Nc6 15. Rc1 O-O 16. Bxc6 bxc6 17. Rxc6 Qxf4 18. Qe2 Rfc8 19. g3 Qd4 20. Rxc8+ Rxc8 21. Kf1 Bd3 22. Qxd3 0-1
``````

However, the post-game computer analysis gives me a "80 average centipawn loss", which implies that for my average move I blundered the equivalent of 4/5-ths of a pawn. (My opponent had "123 average centipawn loss", outblundering me.) I'm not sure what to think of this.

Question: What can I learn from my "80 average centipawn loss" game, which I thought I played well?

It seems I repeatedly played "a good move" rather than "the best move" (as there were often multiple winning moves).

Edit: I'm after humanly understandable "take home" lessons from the game, which I can apply to other games in general (when using an engine is considered cheating). I'm also after an evaluation of the applicability of the engine analysis (available from the linked game) to a human player trying to improve.

I'm not seeking "this move is better because the computer says so", I'm seeking how I can find the best moves as a human in a tournament game.

• The average isn't all that useful. There were probably a few moves where you could have done much better (missed opportunities?) and most of them where it was more about small details. You probably know which moves they are? Jan 24 '19 at 8:10
• There is a "Learn from your mistakes" button under the opponent stats. Try it. Jan 24 '19 at 8:56
• Suggestion: Try to change the title to something shorter and more general, capturing the essence of what your question's aiming at. Jan 24 '19 at 13:55
• Just to note here, everyone blunders. Also some positions are easy for machines and humans to play where others are hard for humans but still easy for machines, so a machine will always point your mistakes even though some are hard to find in a practical game. In the end its one who blundered less that wins the game. In other words what im trying to say is that the centipawn loss will differ depending on the type of the position. Therefore in hard positions for humans we will inevitably have higher centipawn losses since we are not engines, despite playing at the same level.
– Isac
Jan 24 '19 at 14:35
• Hi, your question has received 2 quite decent answers, please consider accepting if you've found either one to be satisfactory. Thanks. Jan 29 '19 at 14:13

You are asking two very different question: How to interpret the number 80, and how to make that number go down :-) I'll focus on the first one.

80 means that on average, you overlooked many better moves. What this says about your playing strength depends on how hard those better moves were to discover. In complicated tactical positions higher values are normal. You may miss many opportunities that the computer can see because it looks, say, 10 moves ahead. So the bar is high.

In calm positions the centipawn loss is lower because there are no tactics (as by the definition of "calm"), so as long as you don't blunder your move cannot be a lot worse than the computer's optimal move.

I've had games with a centipawn loss below 20 and above 100 even though, I'd argue, my playing strength was the same. (My) Chess960 games tend to get into complicated tactical positions quickly, for example, so my centipawn loss in those is higher.

Finally, it's an arithmetic mean so it is susceptible to outliers. Many good moves and one blunder will give the same result as just mediocre moves.

You are probably aware that Lichess offers a tool to evaluate your games based on centipawn loss ("Chess Insights", on your profile page).

This is too broad to answer meaningfully, moreover, a one game example provides no real ground for investigating what the weaknesses or strengths of a player may be.

That said, here are a couple of general advice that may help you improve in the long run, specially if you manage to make a routine out of them (by no means an exhaustive list, but these are things you should continuously be doing if you intend to improve your game):

• Keep working on your tactics! Try to reach an average of 50 tactics per day (it's no magic number but it's a good start), and consider diversifying your source: thematic combinations, endgame combinations, etc. To diversify, keep solving your lichess tactics, to have a mix of easier puzzles in between (which helps your calculation speed) you can try other websites such as chesstempo. But I strongly recommend getting some of the well-known tactics books by John Nunn, or the series of "The Manual of Chess Combinations" (chess school 1, 2, 3, by Sergey Ivashchenko, Alexander Mazja et al.) The recommended way is to go about solving them completely mentally (and blindfolded when you can) and only try out your solution once you've been convinced.

• Keep playing a healthy dose of blitz/rapid games online (10 games per day is quite feasible), in order to prevent from getting rusty, improving your calculation speed (shorter time controls), and they provide for a casual setting to try out some new lines/openings that you may be interested in learning. Most importantly, irrespective of the result of each game, do go through them afterwards by yourself to realise in hindsight how you could have gone better about the game strategically, and then turn on the engine to see what combinations were missed.

• Improve your strategic understanding of the game: Tactics are not sufficient to improve your chess understanding, you need to regularly study top players' games, I suggest starting from Kramnik, Botvinnik or Alekhine (you can choose better based on your style and opening interests): go through a select of their games each day, and try to get into their heads, to understand what they intended to achieve in the opening (more on how to do that) and middlegame (trace out their strategies), to learn how they convert and maintain small advantages, to uncover how they exploit even the smallest weakness in their opponent's camp. In addition to studying other player's games, I highly recommend solving middlegame-strategy problems (they are about finding the best strategy, not the best moves per se), and for that the book of "Chess Middlegame planning" by Peter Romanovsky makes for a perfect start. Another gem at one's disposal nowadays is Peter Svidler's (among others) commentary and post-analysis of top tournament games (absolutely recommended).

If you aren't a very strong player - by which I mean Master level - then Stockfish is regularly going to find significantly better moves than you do, simply because it can look further ahead in the game with more insight (even if given only a few seconds to think per move). So don't be ashamed of losing "only" 80 centipawns per move on average relative to Stockfish.

The important point in this game is that you played better than your opponent, who was also not a very strong player. So while you didn't exploit your position and available tactics to the utmost possible, you did so well enough.

Along with the analysis, Lichess should have identified specific moves where Stockfish thought each player made particularly big mistakes. If you select these moves, and look at the variation from the actual game that the engine suggested, you might be able to spot a reason why the suggested move was better. Most likely there was a weakness that you opened in your position, but which your opponent failed to exploit, so check their mistakes too - as the engine will certainly choose lines which exploit those weaknesses.

The winner is the person who makes the next to last mistake. Centipawns are meaningless although an interesting guide to how you played and also to make you feel good when you get a low score.

Honestly, do a computer analysis and look at what the computer says are mistake and blunders.

Now figure out why the computer called them that. Look carefully at the position and the analysis. If you have a (specific) position that bugs you, ask here.

Another alternative is to get a chess coach.