Author Archives: AshvinC

Carlsen: The Classical Master

Perhaps the best way to improve your chess is to study masters’ games. I am biased towards older games for their instructional value as with modern masters’ games you often feel they are playing like computers. But I believe Magnus Carlsen is an exception here as he plays almost any playable position and gets something out of them. Here are some examples which I have picked up randomly and find them very instructive.

Carlsen against Aronian in 2015

In this game Carlsen got a standard minority attack. Aronian defended his both the weakness (the pawn on c7 and pawn on d5) but carlsen opened another front of attack after Aronian’s …g6 and won quite convincingly:


Q: How would you target Black’s weakness on d5?

Hint: Some theoretically bad pieces are great defenders.

A: White played 1.Bg4! exchanging the defender after which it is really hard to defend the d5. Here is rest of the game in case you’re interested:

Carlsen against Anand in 2012

Q: How would you play with the White pieces?

Hint: Improving the position of your pieces or exchanging the passive ones for active ones is very simple but effective strategy here.

Solution: Carlsen played 1. Bb4! and Black can’t avoid the exchanges. Also taking on b4 is not that good because it helps White create pressure against c5 or d5. Meanwhile 1…c5 helps White in activating his dark square bishop via c3.

Here is rest of the moves in case you’re interested:

Ashvin Chauhan

Knight Against A Rook’s Pawn

Usually a knight alone can hold against a passed pawn without the help of the king, but the rook pawn is an exception. The problem is that the knight can’t move to the other side of the pawn when attacked by the enemy king. To make the life simpler here is the rule:

In order to defend against a passed rook’s pawn the knight has to occupy any square in front of the pawn except the queening square. If the knight can’t get to this square then the help of the king is needed.

Here are a few interesting examples:

Vishay Anand against MVL in 2016, London Chess Classic

Q: Although it’s not a pure knight against rook pawn ending White can make it artificially. How would you play with White pieces?

A: In the game Vishy played Bf3 and now Black’s rook can’t use the d- or e- file and has no defence against Bxb7.
1.Bf3!! Rxc2

What else?

2.Bxb7

Black resigned in view of Nxb7 then a6, and Black can’t pawn being promoted. Meanwhile Nxa5 doesn’t require any explanation.

Kim Pilgaard (2432) against Alejandro Moreno (2509) in 2013 – White to move

In the game, White played Ne2 with the idea of Nc1 and Na2, occupying the square in front of the pawn. But he fails to save the game because of 1…Kd2 preventing Nc1.
Q: Can you save the game for White?
A: Yes, like this:

1.Ke1!

Preventing Kd2 and preparing Ne2 to c1. Let’s check the options available to Black.

a) 1…Kc3, 2. Kd1 then Ne2-c1 when the knight is supported by the king.
b) 1…Kc2, 2. Nd4+ Kc2 3. Ne2 a3, 4.Nd4+ Kc1, 5.Ke2 to d3 in order to support knight on c2 and the game is a draw
c) 1…a3 2.Ne2 Kc2 transposes into option b.

Ashvin Chauhan

The Squeeze

Every win brings us joy! Some of us are delighted by crushing our opponents with sacrifices and tactical shots, but others, like me, like to squeeze.

A squeeze is a way of exploiting a bind by gradually building up pressure on the opponent’s position. As new threats are created the opponent’s pieces are too overworked and passive to be able to cope with them all.

The key to this process is to deprive the opponent of counter play and then attack different targets which become impossible to defend simultaneously. The skill to do this can’t be achieved by just solving puzzles, instead it’s better to study the games of masters like Jose Raul Capablanca, Tigran Petrosian, Vladimir Kramnik and the current World Champion Magnus Carlsen. When you see how it’s done enough you should be able to mimic their approach.

Here are a couple of examples:

Game 1: Capablanca against Ragozin in 1935

In this game Capablanca played all over the board. First he gets space by playing 10. d5 and then slowly spreads his influence to both wings. Finally he attacks the opponent’s king whilst his own king was quite safer in the middle of the board. Really an interesting gem!

Game 2: Petrosian against Fischer in 1959

In this game Petrosian first breaks Black’s queenside starting with 17. c6. Fischer tries for counter play on the kingside but there was never really much hope. The rest is a matter of Petrosian’s python technique.

Ashvin Chauhan

Making Chess Popular

In India cricket is extremely popular and the best rewarded sport compared to other sports. And when I look at some other countries, I must admit that India seems like a good model to follow as far as motivating sports professionals, and this includes chess players. Financial support and a good environment is provided from an early age.

Let’s talk about professionals and the financial stability needed to motivate them. Vishy Anand is one of our national heroes but almost all IMs and GMs are highly respected and financially stable. You can’t expect them to spend their valuable time developing chess across society if they are not making enough bucks. In India you can even find many players around 2000 rating with permanent government jobs, and they are given special privileges to play chess regularly. They have been selected based on their chess talent, and of course there are some quotas assigned for this. But at least this provides some motivation to work on chess rather than put it aside for academic studies.

Let’s talk about kids and the good environment and financial support they receive. If a kid performing well at city or district level they will be backed financially by the government. In my city there are many students who are getting financial support every month. This even motivates their parents too. Of course there are some selection criteria to meet. Even last year Gujarat state chess association had hired two Russian trainers to coach them.

This does seem to be a lot better than many other countries and perhaps explains why India is producing so many good players.

Ashvin Chauhan

Indirect Ways Of Winning Material

Checkmate ends the game, but a game is more often won by winning material directly or indirectly. A direct win of material is very simple to explain, you make a profitable capture or exchange. The indirect method involves cutting the opponent’s pieces off from the main battle field, having a superiority of force there or locking down a piece temporary or forever. In a nutshell one can say that indirect methods deal with reducing the quality of opponent’s pieces or increasing quality of your own pieces. Here is an instructive & famous example:

William Winter against Capablanca in 1912


Q: White’s last move, Nd5, was a mistake. How can you build a winning position because of this mistake?
A: As follows:

1…g5!

The beginning of the end.

2.Nxf6

If 2. Nxg5 then 2…Nxd5 wins a piece or if 2. Bg3 then 2…Nxd5 3. exd5 Bg4 followed by f6 leaves White’s dark square bishop with no future. Please note that the bishop pinning the knight on f6 is quite a common theme and you can find a detailed explanation of its effect on the center and the future of the bishop in My System by Aaron Nimzowitsch.

2…Qxf6 3.Bg3 – Bg4

Now White can’t avoid doubled pawns on the f- file and White’s dark square bishop can’t come to life without sacrificing a pawn.

4.h3

If 4.h4 then 4…Bxf3 5. Qxf3 Qxf3 6. gxf3 f6 with same result discussed below.

4…Bxf3 5.Qxf3 Qxf3 6.gxf3 f6

Now the bishop can’t be unlocked without sacrificing a pawn. In the game White choose not to sacrifice and Black attacked the queenside with his extra piece. Black won after 15 more moves.

Here is the whole game in case you’re interested.:

Ashvin Chauhan

Creativity In Endgames

A general assumption about the endgame is that it is boring and merely technique. But this is far from the truth. The reason behind the belief is that people tend not to find any action while studying endgames. It might be similar to mathematics where one plus one is two but not 100%. Similarly to the middle game you must be creative and imaginative in order to play better in the endgame.

Here are two beautiful and creative endgames which are having instructive values too:

Emanuel Lasker Vs. Edward Lasker in 1924: White to Move

This one is a very famous endgame played between the two Laskers where Emanuel Lasker managed to save the game despite being an exchange and a pawn down. In order to save a day you must have to win the b3 pawn even at the cost of White’s two pawns, but it is really difficult as Black can hold the b3 pawn. So Lasker came up with a really creative idea of creating a fortress with knight and king against king, pawn and rook. He played:

1.g7 Ke6 2.g8=Q Rxg8 3.Kc4 Rg3

3…Rb8 doesn’t change the outcome, for example 4.f5 Kxf5 5.Kc3 Ke4 6.Nc Kd5 7.Nd2 b2 8.Nb1 Ke4 9.Kc2 Kd4 and 10.Nd2 after which Black’s king can’t penetrate and the rook can’t leave the b file. Therefore the game would be a draw.

4.Na4 Kf5 5.Kb4 Kxf4 6. Nb2

Again a fortress! The rook can’t leave the third rank as Black’s king can’t support the pawn. White tried to win for some more moves but was soon force to agree to a draw.

Kasparov Vs. Timman in 2000: Black to Move

Black last move was c4, mainly relying on Rxc4 Rxb5 when fight is on. Instead this happened:

1.Kxc4!!

A surprise; Black had thought that Kxc4 is not possible because of d3, winning.

1…d3 2.Kxd5!! d2 3.g4+!

The point. Black resigned in view of 3…Kxg4 4. Rc4+ followed by Rd4.

Ashvin Chauhan

Sacrifices on e6

A piece sacrifice on e6 (e3) is a typical middle game attacking theme to destroy the pawn structure around the enemy monarch and hopefully get a decisive attack. Sometimes it has positional characteristic too in order to secure outpost on e5 (usually a knight). Here are some instructive examples:

Yuri Balashov against Rifat Sabjanov in 1994 – White to Move

Q: Is it worth considering e5-e6 here?
A: Yes, White can get a strong attack as follows:

1.e6 Bxe6 2.Rxe6!!

This creates strong hold on e5 for White’s knight which completely dominates the position.

2…fxe6 3.Ne5 Qb6

White would have a winning position against other moves too, for example 3…g6 4.Qf3 or 3…Qd6/b8 4.Bf4. These may have prolonged the fight but woudn’t change the outcome.

4.Qg4

Actually Qf3 was even better.

4…Rd8 5.Qxe6

And White went on win after few more moves.

Sacrifice to destroy pawn cover – Kramnik against Nigel Short in 1995 – White to Move


Q: Which piece wwould you sacrifice on e6?
A: The bishop of course because if 1.Nxe6 then 1…Qxh4 wins

1.Bxe6!! fxe6 2.Qxg6 Nxe5 3. Qh7 Kf8 4. Nf4

The position is totally lost so Black resigned.

Sacrifice to use lead in development –
Helgi Olafsson against Jonathan Levitt in 1990
– White to Move


Q: How would you proceed with the White pieces?
A: I would sacrifice on e6 as follows:

1.Rxe6

There is no way to decline the sacrifice. If the bishop moves then there is mate on e6 and if knight moves then the bishop is lost. Meanwhile f5 can be met by Ng5.

1…fxe6 2.Ng5!

The bishop on g2 can’t be taken because of the spectacular Qxe6+! leading to either a back rank mate or a smothered mate.

2…h6 3.Nxe4

Threatening 4.Nf6+. Note that 4.Bxe4 would be a mistake because of Nc6 when you still need a move to save the knight so you can’t win pawn on c5.

3…Nc6 4.Nxc5 Qc7 5.Nxd7! Rac8

5…Rxd7 is not possible because of 6.Qxe6+ Rf7 7.Bxc6 etc..

6.Qxe6+ Kh8 7.Be4 Ne7 8.Rd6

Stronger than Qxe7. Black resigned after 3 more moves.

Ashvin Chauhan

Thinking Outside The Box

Humans tend to form rules in order to make life easier, but these rules are not always true. Chess is not an exception here. To play better chess, we need to form some general rules. These sets of rules are called strategies and they can be applied to different phases of the game. Yet sometimes they are so imprinted that we forget that rules are just tools which don’t always apply.

Accordingly I am not advocating a complete ignorance of the rules but rather supporting rules by calculation (the primary skill). If you try to find the exceptions to the rules you might find the winning move (admittedly this is another general rule!). Here are some instructive examples:

Alekhine against Rubinstein in 1912 – Black to Move


There’s one rule that tells us to capture towards the center, though this does not apply in all cases. Here Rubinstein broke the rule and recaptured with the f pawn, and this turned out to be the move of the game:

15 fxg6!

Rubinstein correctly weighed the value of the open file against the rule to capture towards the center.

16.Nb3 g5 17.Be3 0-0 18.Nf3 Qd7

Here 18…Rxf3 was already an interesting choice after which 19.gxf3 Ne5 20.Qe2 Qd7 would reach a position similar to the game but with a different move order.

19.Qd2

“White pays insufficient attention to the scope of his opponent’s threats. A better course was 19.Nfd4 (19…Nxe5 20.Bxg5) seeking to establish equality.” (Tartakower)

19…Rxf3 ! 20.gxf3 Nxe5 21.Qe2

We reached to the position discussed above. The difference is that White could have prevented this on move 19.

21…Rf8

Black went on win after few more moves. Here are rest of the moves in case you’re interested.

22.Nd2 Ng6 23.Rfe1 Bd6 24.f4 Nexf4 25.Qf1 Nxh3+ 26.Kh1 g4 27.Qe2 Qf5 0-1

The next example has been taken from the Book “Inner game of Chess” by Soltis.

Christiansen against Shirov in 1991 – White to Move


Q: Here white played 1. h3 and game ended in draw after few more moves. What did White miss?
A: White missed 1.g3!! because it opens lines in front of his own king. And we have learned that we should not open lines in front of our own king whilst under attack.

1.g3!!

Threatening Qh7 and h4.

1…h4

2.hxg4 Qxh4 3.Bxg4

This is winning because 3…Qxg4 is not possible due to Be3.

Ashvin Chauhan

Back to Basics

A few days back I was watching a video on martial arts where the instructor was insisting on practicing the basic moves. He was also stating that the same approach can be applied to other sports too. I also agree with him and believe that chess is not an exception here. I personally improved a lot at tactics by going back to basics.

The question is, what are those basic moves or the fundamental positions that chess players should practice? There are some books claiming that they have given the most important positions to learn but I think the choice of book varies from person to person. Here are my preferences:

For tactics, I am very much fond of Bain’s Chess tactics for Students. I myself finished it about 10 times and my students are also getting good results by repeating it. For the endgame I prefer the positions given in Chapter 3 of GM Ram by Rashid Ziyatdinov, though you need a coach to go through these positions. For checkmate training I prefer the first 306 positions from Chess: 5334 Problems, Combinations and Games by Laszlo Polgar.

Though, I strongly believe that one should give priority to their coach’s words above all because I myself gained around 200-300 points elo gain in 2 years coaching from Nigel.

Ashvin Chauhan

A Lead In Development

A lead in development is an opening advantage which vanishes with time, so the side with this lead must act energetically. It is highly dependent on pawn structure as it has little or no importance in positions with a closed structure. On the other hand it can be hugely important in open positions. Often players sacrifice a pawn or pieces in order keep the opponent busy capturing the material. The best advise for the defence is not to be too greedy.

At beginners’ level you often don’t need to sacrifice the material to get a lead in development because they often make many pawn moves or move the same piece many times without good reason. This givesand gifts the same advantage to the opponent therefore beginners have been advised not to do so.

Here is an instructive example illustrating this theme:

Veselin Topalov against Vassily Ivanchuk in 1999

Here Black is a pawn down but he has lead in development. As I mentioned earlier the side with lead in development must react energetically, so how would you follow the same piece of advice?

1…Nd4! 2.Qb2

If 2.Qb1 then 2…Qxc3 2.Bd2 Nc2! is winning.

2…Nxe2!!

Keeping the king in the center.

3.Kxe2

If 3.Qxe2 then 3…Qxc3 is winning

3…Rfe8

Compare the positions. Black has mobilized all of his pieces which fully compensates him for the sacrificed piece. White resigned after a few more moves, here’s the finish in case you’re interested.
4. Qb4 Qh5+ 5. f3 f5 6. g4 Qh3 7. gxf5 Bxf5 8. Qc4+ Kh8 9. Re1 Rxe4+ 0-1

Ashvin Chauhan