Author Archives: AshvinC

Teaching Kids How To Trap Pieces

When teaching kids how to trap an opponent’s pieces, and not get their own trapped, I start with a very simple example:


Here White is able to win the pawn it is fixed on d5; in other words the pawn is not mobile. The same can be applied to a piece, and here is the most common example:

The knight is less mobile than other pieces and so it is very easy to trap it like this. To promote better understanding we ask kids to play a game where one has only knight and the other has a queen, the winner being the one who can trap the knight in the least number of moves. In a nut shell, if you can hamper or restrict opponent piece mobility there are more chances that you can win that piece.

A common way to trap a piece is by shutting it in with an obstructing piece. This often happens in practice, here’s an example with Black to move:

Here it would be a mistake to capture the g2 pawn because of Bg3, and white will win a rook on his next move. Of course I am not including any points like trapping the opponent’s bishop inside his pawn chain as it is not relevant when you first teach kids. It is very hard to trap a queen but this position often arises while playing against the French Defence.

Though I am not winning the queen here I am creating such threats that I can win some material. Capturing pawn on b2/b7 is also known as poisoned pawn variation in some openings.

Ashvin Chauhan

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Identify The Key Defender

Identifying the key defender can be a very useful technique, particularly when you are in attack. For example in this position (taken from The Encyclopedia Of Chess Combinations):

Here the queen sacrifice on f3 look very promising (it is often good to start your calculation with forcing moves as your opponent won’t get time to execute his plans) because it opens the g- file and increases the scope of bishop (f1-a6 diagonal) and knight. Then I calculate ….Qxf3, gxf3 Rg8+, Nxg8 Rxg8+ and notice that he can return the queen by playing Qg4. Even after Kf1 Ba6+ he can return the material. So I rejected that variation and looked around for something else, and note that Black has to do something as otherwise his own position is critical.

However we can conclude that the queen is the key defender if I want to play Qxf3.

With this in mind I looked position again and tried to see what happen if queen was not on the d-file or the h3-c8 diagonal. Now it is crystal clear you can deflect the queen by playing …Rxe7!, again this is a forcing move. It is also wise to see whether your opponent has a good intermediate check before executing this kind of sacrifice.

Now you know how to try to solve such positions.

Ashvin Chauhan

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Keep Your Chess Interesting

Have you been ever become bored while working at chess or playing? To be honest I have done so quite often and many times I have fallen asleep while doing some chess. Part of the problem is that my whole day involves chess and chess alone, whether it’s coaching or preparation. That in turn has affected my playing skills quite badly, so I have developed some rules about what one should avoid.

Stop playing mechanical chess: This happens when you think that you are 100% familiar with the positions you play and believe that how are you playing them is the only way to go! In order to overcome this habit I started to play some unorthodox chess openings. You can try 960 chess too. This is quite interesting as you don’t get familiar positions and you start to play chess again!

Unplug yourself from routine: This applies to any field, not only chess. One should take regular breaks and rest from anything in which you find yourself becoming too routine. Some organisations even offer paid holidays so their employees can balance their personal life and work, keeping them focused and effective while at work. If you are not, you started losing interest in the activity you most like.

Apart from that you can use music or inspirational quotes while working at chess. This helps you in keeping focused even if you are training too much.

Ashvin Chauhan

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Playing Better Rook Endgames

You can learn technical rook endgames using any good endgame book, but what I am going to share is based on my experience and little reading. If you deploy following points while playing rook endgame it will definitely help you.

An active rook is your hero: Rooks love to attack in the endgame. Here are two simple examples which will help you to understand what I mean by that.:

With these examples I am not claiming that an active rook will always secure you a win or draw a pawn down, but it will definitely provide you better chances to win or defend in worse conditions.

In order to keep your rook active you should know the Tarrasch Rule which is to place rooks behind the passed pawn, whether it is your passed pawn or your opponent’s.

Cutting off the enemy king: This can happen a lot in practice and often decides games (a very useful tool to obtain lucena position!)

In this position Rd1!! is a forced win for White and no other move will do. Here the Black king is cut off by a file, and if you want to check how effective a rook is when it cuts off enemy king along a rank, please study the Philidor position.

Rook works well when weaknesses are fixed rather than mobile, something I have learned by studying Capablanca’s rook endgames. And in order to target those weaknesses you must have an entry point into the enemy camp. You can do that by working hard!!

Ashvin Chauhan

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Evident Advantages In King And Pawns Endgame

Like mating patterns and attacking patterns, there are patterns in that endgame which can help you to formulate simple but effective strategies.

1. Material Advantage: A material advantage is an obvious winning advantage in the endgame; a person who has a material advantage can win easily, though one should always investigate the resulting positions in relation to key squares & rule of square.

2. Virtual material advantage: How one should obtain a virtual material advantage? In my view there are two ways to do it.

i) Doubling the opponent’s pawns: Here is an example.


Now following the same example, if Black has a pawn on d7 instead of e6 then the game is equal.

ii) Pawn crippling: Through pawn crippling you can prevent the march of two enemy pawns with yours, which secures you a virtual material advantage. For example:

With White to move he can move his pawn to e4, thereby stopping the advance of Black’s e- and f- file pawns. While with Black to move he should play here f5 in order to save the day.

3. A piece is out of action: If you can force the enemy king to leave the main battle area it can secure the win. For example:

This is win for White with either side to move.

4. Far advanced rook pawns on both wings with opposition: This can be possible because the one who promote the queen first can prevent the enemy pawn to promote into queen by controlling the queening square. Here is an example.

5. Passed pawns: I have noticed that in practice a distance passed pawn is more advantageous than a regular one. However, it becomes much more critical when you are fighting with two scattered pawns against protected passed pawns or connected mobile pawns. So the question arises as to which passed pawn/pawns is/are better? Here I have divided them into the following categories.

i) Usually the protected passed pawn is better than the scattered one, though you can find some exceptions too. For example here White can’t win because the Black king can manage two tasks. (1. It is in the square of white’s passed pawn and 2. It is able to protect his own pawn without any risk):

ii) Scattered passed pawns against two connected mobile pawns: This is more crucial and securing a win depends on king and pawns positions.

a) Usually two scattered distant passed pawns are stronger than the two connected mobile pawns. For example

b) Two connected mobile pawns are better if they are far advanced, along with the king. For example

Ashvin Chauhan

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Every Position Offers Something

Black to Move

I got this position as a Black in a recent tournament against a 2085 rated player (peak rating 2300). Here white has managed to fix the a5, c7 and c6 pawns (weaknesses should not be mobile – an important concept). Personally I don’t like to play with this kind of positions but it was a tournament and I did what every chess player should do, which is to fight (How to Defend Difficult Positions by Paul Keres, is a nice chapter from The Art of the Middle Game which was recommended to me by Nigel).

At first glance it looks as if Black will lose in the long run but on the other hand Black has some dynamic chances. He is well developed and in a position to seize the open d-file by powering his rooks onto it. Another thing is that in the current position it is only a Bishop that can exploit my weaknesses so the plan is very simple; swap off the Bishops and penetrate with rook/rooks to the 7th rank. At the end I managed to draw the game.

Lessons:
1. Don’t give up: This is most important thing when you are defending a difficult position. Don’t surrender before a fight. Put up as much resistance as you can.
2. Chess positions in general always have good and bad sides: Here I had weaknesses but also an open file.
3. Target the piece which can exploit your weaknesses. Here it is the bishop.
4. Find/create weaknesses in your opponent’s camp too.

To support my arguments here is one more example. It is taken from The Art Of The Middle Game chapter on how to defend difficult positions and is a nice illustration by Paul Keres of defence where you are desperately cramped.

Ashvin Chauhan

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Towards Your Chess Improvement

The position below was taken from the game of Tarrasch against Berger, played in 1889:


White to move

At first glance it looks as if it is winning for white as you can play Rxd4, winning a piece.

First raw thought:
Rxd4 – cxd4
Qxc8 – Qxc8
Ne7+ and White wins a piece,

Normally a beginner, with some combinative knowledge, will instantly play this given combination and ended up in losing (as after Nxc8- d3 wins). The reason is that they don’t care to look at the position that arises after the combination which gives them a material advantage.

Lesson 1: Always try to see another half move ahead before playing a combination. The same thing has been recommended by Jacob Aagaard in his book Grandmaster Preparation: Calculation.

Second thought:
Before executing the combination I must bring my king closer so that I can stop the pawn advance. But then he can defend easily with Ra8 or Rb8 so I must stop here and look for other good moves. But now I see there is a chance to gain a tempo with:
Rxd4 – cxd4
Ne7+ (Changing the move order) – Qxe7
Qxc8+ – Qf8 and Qxf8 and gaining a tempo.

Lesson 2: Don’t give up in between.

Third thought:
I don’t get any material advantage then. Yet looking another half move ahead (lesson 1) I see that I now have a winning endgame position because the d4 pawn will fall soon and I can create outside passer on queen side.

Lesson 3: In the endgame a tiny advantage can be decisive and whatever combination you play must consider resulting endgames.

This position and the associated thought process shows that every position teaches you something. Progress is dependent on how much you learn and capitalise on it in future games.

Ashvin Chauhan

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Sources And Thoughts On Teaching kids

Normally, I use books which advocate a step by step method in order to teach kids, but every kid is different and you can’t apply the same method to all of them. One day I came across the following sentence when I was reading Chess Fundamentals.

“The first thing a student should do, is to familiarize himself with the power of the pieces. This can best be done by learning how to accomplish quickly some of the simple mates.” Capablanca

So why can’t we do just this while teaching tactics to kids? I didn’t see why not and came to the conclusion that the mates in two from Laszlo Polgar’s 5334 Problems, Combination and Games was the best source of material for teaching kids tactics and mating patterns, and without using any jargon! There is also no need to find problem sets for different tactical motifs. One of my students did around 1600 mates in two and was then able to find tactical possibility without learning particular tactical motifs.

As I gained experience in the field of chess coaching, my belief become stronger and stronger that kids should solve more and more checkmate in one move problems before proceeding further. Here you can use Elementary Checkmates I and II that can be found at ChessOK.

Ashvin Chauhan

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Chess Preparation for the Busy Person

Before writing, I checked for other peoples’ views on how a busy person should prepare? But most of the time they suggest opening repertories which save time. Instead of this I have a different idea that does not involve the effort involved in changing openings, instead putting the focus on managing your existing repertoire more efficiently.

1. Create your own database: You put in tournament games, online games with a decent time control and correspondence games.

2. Select critical positions: Whatever opening systems you play, you can find some middle game positions that occur in your games the most and put them into different categories. For example winning positions, losing ones and those which are difficult to handle or uncertain.

3. Use the computer as playing partner: I am not big fan of using a computer for chess preparation but here you can use computers in more sensible way. First of you can select levels which you want to play against then play your selected positions as black and white in order to grasp the ideas and spot out tactical possibilities.

4. Using the database: Once you have plenty of experience in playing the selected positions, now it’s time to see how the experts play them. You simply search positions using any chess database and can go through the games.

The whole process is nothing but a way working on the selected patterns in more organised way.

Ashvin Chauhan

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An Interesting Way To Teach Knight Moves To Kids

While teaching how pieces move, the most difficult to explain and understand is the knight. This is because other pieces move in in straight lines and the knight is the only piece which can jump. Kids can usually grasp the point that knight can jump but still find it difficult to understand its movements.

The best way to teach anything is to keep it simple, interesting and if possible make it funny (a kind of trigger) so that kids can easily remember it. Here is one interesting and funny method. The founder of this method is one of my chess friends (Mr. Rushang) who is a chess coach and also a very creative person. Nowadays I am using this method very effectively and enjoy doing so.

Normally we have tiles on the floor. Then we ask one of the kids to come up and ask him or her to stand on any tile they like with their legs together and then jump two steps, one by one, still with their legs together. Once he or she has completed the second jump, we ask him or her to spread their legs to show where the knight came from and where it is now. Believe me, the is very funny and effective way to teach kids knight moves. Parents even told me that after my departure the kids would continue to play this game.

If you would like to use this method on a board then you can do it with two fingers together and the same process outlined above. But it is not as funny!

Teaching should not be stereotyped, you have to make it interesting.

Ashvin Chauhan

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