Author Archives: AshvinC

A Strategic Opening for Beginners: The Ruy Lopez Exchange

Rather than memorizing opening moves and copying what top players are playing nowadays, it’s really great for beginners to play simple strategic chess openings. In the Ruy Lopez Exchange (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Bxc6) White exchanges his bishop against Black’s knight on c6 and then plays d2-d4, exchanging the d4 and e5 pawns.

That creates pawn islands where White has a pawn majority on king side ( 4 vs. 3). On the other side, Black’s pawn majority won’t easily be able to create passed pawn, at least not without the aid of pieces. White’s strategy is very simple yet can be decisive. All you need to do is trade off pieces and reach to the king and pawn endgame where White is technically a pawn up and winning is relatively easy.

Here is the game for you to study, for more games on similar structure you can visit

Lasker – Tarrasch World Championship Match in 1908

Ashvin Chauhan

Knight vs. Bishop Endgame

In practice it has been shown that a bishop is usually stronger than the knight because of its mobility, but there are always some exceptions. Do remember that in such endgames position of the kings and pawn structure matters a lot. Here are some general pieces of advice with instructive examples:

The pawns are both the side and the position is more dynamic – the bishop is usually better

The pawns are on both sides and the bishop has no targets; generally the knight is better

If pawns are on just one side of the board and position of the king is not passive, then usually a side with a pawn down holds because the defender can sacrifice a piece for a pawn or pawns and can achieve an easy draw. We can conclude that if there are pawns on one side only, most of the time the game ends in a draw.

Ashvin Chauhan

Rooks On The Open File

Activity does matter in chess and when it comes to semi open games you need to pay attention to the open file to help the activity of your rooks. If your rooks can control that file, most of the time the position will favour you. But controlling the open file is not enough; you must also stop your opponent from neutralizing its effect, create some targets on it and ideally some penetration squares.

Anatoly Karpov against Boris Spassky, 1974

Q: In the position above, Spassky’s last move was …Be7 threatening to play …Rd8 after which White wouldn’t have any serious advantage. How can he stop Black?
A: Karpov did it as follows:


Threatening Rd7.


Almost forced as if …Nb8 then the rook on a8 is shut in.

2. Rxd8!! Bxd8

If 2…Rxd8 then 3 .Nxe5 is followed by penetration via f7 square. Though it’s worth considering 3…Qc7, a good calculation exercise.

3.Rd1 Nb8


4.Bc5 Ra8

What else?


Followed by Be7, so Spassky resigned.

The following instructive game of Peter Svidler was played in 2007 against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, and provides a great illustration of our theme. After Mamedyarov’s 18 . e4 and 19 Re1?! he was never in the game:

Ashvin Chauhan.

Some Instructive Positions from Levon Aronian in Grenke

First of all, let me congratulate Levon Aronian for winning Grenke chess classic 2017. Secondly I would like to be clear that this article is aimed to beginners and pre-intermediate players only. Here I will discuss a couple of positions which might help you improve your endgame technique.

Here is the first one:

Aronian vs Vachier Lagrave, Grenke Chess Classic 2017 Round 3

Q: Which bishop should White exchange and why?

A: White should exchange the light square bishops as Black’s dark square bishop has no targets while White’s dark square bishop can easily target Black’s pawns. On top of that White’s king will be free very soon to join the attack pawn on e4. This would fall because Black’s king and bishop have to defend his pawns and to stop White’s outside passer.

In the game Aronian played
1. e6!! Bxe6


2. Bxe6 Kxe6 3. Kd2

Black resigned. Black can force the exchanges of dark square bishops but then the king and pawn endgame would be an easy win for White.

Matthias Bluebaum vs Levon Aronian, Grenke Chess Classic 2017 – Round 4

Q: Formulate a plan that pockets the full point.

A: Of course the plan would be to win more material or exchange the rooks which simplifies into a winning king and pawn endgame.

Q: But the question is how?

A: Well, bring your Rook to b4 that forces the exchanges or loss of further material for White. But there are few turns where you must be careful.

1… Rc2 2. Kg3 Kg7!

Very important, bringing the king into the square. If 2…Rb2 3.f3 Rb4 4. Rxb4! and White can also make a queen and game might end in a draw.

3. h4 Kf6 4. Rf4+ Ke7

Now the White king is boxed in.

5. Rd4 Rc3+ 6. f3 Rc2!

The king has to guard g2 so it can’t support the rook on d4 in case of Black playing …Rb2 and …Rb4.

7. Kh3 Rb2!

White resigned.

Ashvin Chauhan

Another Indian Chess Star : Nihal Sarin

Photo by Asarinus

Let me introduce a new Indian chess star. Nihal Sarin, now an International Master, was born in 2004 and started to play chess once a week in school. He became World U10 champion in 2010 and at recent tournament, the Fagernes International 2017, he scored his first GM norm. He scored 6/9, beating GM Evgeny Postny and was undefeated.

The main reason behind chess becoming so popular in India is Viswanathan Anand whether he is World Champion or not it doesn’t make any difference to us. He is our hero. And of course it helps that the Indian government has taken steps to make chess and other sports popular by providing financial benefits and career opportunities.

Here is Sarin’s game against Postny for you to enjoy!

Ashvin Chauhan

Prevention from Castling

If a king is uncastled we all know that we have to open the lines against it, especially those of major pieces. Sometimes your opponents are so friendly that they don’t castle for personal reasons :), but sometimes there are some tough guys who are not so friendly and there you have to demonstrate your skills. Here are two interesting examples with which to check your skills:

Samsonkin against Nakamura in 2009

Q:- In a given position, Black needs just one move to castle. Can you trick Nakamura?
A:- In the game White started to press a follows:

1. f5! e5??

1…Bf6 was a good alternative but everybody makes mistakes! After 1…Bf6 2. Be3 e5 all three results were possible.

2.Ne6!! fxe6 3.Qh5+ g6 4.fxg6 Nf6 5.g7

Nakamura fought for next 11 moves and surrendered.

Steinitz against Bardeleben in 1895

Q:- How could you force Black king to relinquish his right to castle with a series of forced exchanges?
A:- I could do it as follows:


If 1.Bxe7 then N6xe7 2. Qb3 and castles


If 1…Bxg5 then 2. Bxe6 – fxe6 and d5 is crushing.

2. Nxd5 Qxd5

If 2…Bxe7 then 3. Re1+ Be7 4. Nxe7 – Nxe7 and Qe2 and Black can’t castle.

3.Bxe7 Nxe7 4.Re1 f6 5.Qe2

And Black can’t castle.

Ashvin Chauhan

The Formulation Of Plans And Personal Style

Many chess amateurs like to talk about whether certain openings are unsuitable because they don’t suit their personal style. They might additional argue that their chess style is something which very hard to change because it reflects their nature. I don’t believe in this at all and would like to explain my reasons.

The formulation of plans and personal style is closely connected. For instance in the Queen’s Gambit Declined Exchange Variation White can adopt either a minority attack or playing with his central majority (the f3 and e4 plan). There is the nice example given by Sam Davies in his last post.

Similarly there are two plans in the position given below, and in both of these White is winning.

Q: White has two plans at his disposal. White of these do you prefer and why?
Plan A: Greek Gift sacrifice
Plan B: Winning a piece with Bd2

Here I would prefer to go for winning a piece with Bd2 because I am biased towards simple chess and I found that simplicity suits me better in chess. Yet in my early days I tended to play very aggressively. This contradiction shows that personal style in chess can be developed and it has little to do with someone’s nature.

Here is an exercise to prove my point. If you believe you’re an aggressive player then quickly go through some games of Capablanca or Geller. You will soon realize that their play is not that different to your own.

Ashvin Chauhan

Improve Your Calculation With King And Pawn Endgames

In my last article, I have stated that calculation and formulation of plan are the core skills in chess. There are different ways to getting better at calculation and studying king and pawn endgame is one of them.

Why king and pawn endgames? Because the result usually hinges on precise calculation. Let’s consider the following example from one of my games. I am playing Black and in a losing position.

White to move

In this position White played 1.f4 with the hope that after gxf4 then Kxf4 followed by g4 he would have a protected passed pawn. I really feel bad for him but now it is draw after 1…g4! and the game ended in a draw after some more moves when White discovered he could not break through.

Here is another example from game of my students who has White.

White to move

Of course White is winning but in the game he played 32. Ke3 and went on win as his opponent didn’t resist much. But the natural Ke3 is, in fact a bad move and game could be draw after Black’s 32…c4!

The winning move for White is actually really instructive and interesting. White can play 32. Kg3. I just don’t want to jump into variations but I would like to just emphasize that king and pawn endgames can be very tricky.

How should someone study king and pawn endgames? Well first one should look for theoretical positions in king and pawn endgames as they are building blocks. After that you can move forward to solve endgame studies.

Do you remember when you last spent enough time studying endgames? If not then this is a good time to start!

Ashvin Chauhan

The Bad Bishop: An Instructive Position

I don’t study; I create.

Viktor Korchnoi

Here I am not going to discuss the technical terms which you can find easily elsewhere. Instead let’s just dive into a position:

Question: How should Black recapture the on f6?
Option A: Bxf6
Option B: gxf6

In the game Vishy recaptured the pawn with the g pawn and then even went for exchanging the good bishop against White’s technical bad one. Recapturing with the bishop (…Bxf6) is not a bad move but it is a mechanical recapture. Chess amateurs will often play such moves without a single second thought and won’t even consider exchanging light squares Bishops.

The possible reasons are as follows:
1. Usually amateurs calculate when there are chances of tactics.
2. They are relying a lot on given advice.

“Don’t be lazy and don’t forget that core skill in chess is calculation and formulation of plans, remaining are just tools to improve your core skills.”

Here are the rest of moves in case you’re interested.

Ashvin Chauhan

Isolated Pawn: An Overview

A pawn which has no pawns of its own colour on neighboring files is called an isolated pawn. The most common sort of isolated pawn is a d- file pawn known as an IQP. It offers its owner some advantages and disadvantages, and these in turn are the basis for formulating strategies around the isolated pawn.

Advantages that isolated pawn offers include a space advantage, two half open files for the rooks and the possibility of sacrificing it and liberating the power of the pieces. The main disadvantage is that it can’t be supported by a pawn and therefore needs to be defended by pieces.

If you’re playing with an isolated pawn you should keep at least one pair of minor pieces on the board to defend it. If you are playing against it you should keep major pieces on the board and try to exchange minor pieces in order to win it using a pin and a lever (…c6-c5 or …e6-e5 against a pawn on d4). Of course proper blockade is must.

Here are two nice games which illustrate the strategy of playing with and against isolated pawns.

1. Huzman against Aronian in 2010

2. Adersson against Portisch in 1985

Ashvin Chauhan