Author Archives: AshvinC

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

Mr. Coach, I Don’t Know What To Do Next?

A common question, asked by post beginners after learning how to open the game, is what they should do next. Here I believe there are four most basic factors which can help you to find reasonable way to deal with the situation.

1) Look for tactics by eyeing for checks, captures and threats. Most of the beginners’ chess games feature missed tactical opportunities, and mainly due to double attacks and pins.

2) Mobility is perhaps the most basic and important concept ignored by beginners. If your pieces cover more squares in general they are more mobile. You can do it by centralizing them. Try to trade your passive pieces (less mobile ones) for your opponent’s active ones. I think that difficult concepts like space, open lines, outposts, piece improvement or even the pawn structure are based around mobility.

3) Find the target and attack. Finding a target is the most difficult thing for them and us as it has direct relation to our overall chess knowledge. It is also at the core of formulating a plan.

4) King safety is an area where there’s nothing new that I can add. The game ends with checkmate so do not try getting any kind of advantage by putting your king into danger.

Did I miss something? Please do comment here.

Ashvin Chauhan

Doubled Pawns

It is often believed by beginners that double pawns are bad, but this is far from the truth. Rather than adopt a simplistic view one should study when doubled pawns are favourable and unfavourable. Here are few typical situations in which the strength or weakness of doubled pawns is worth noting:

1. Doubled pawns on an open file can become a serious liability and will be difficult to handle.

2. Doubled pawns in endgames came out as serious weakness if they are a part of pawn majority as they can render that majority unable to produce passed pawn. In this case the your opponent has a virtual material advantage.

3. Doubled pawns in the center are often more useful than doubled pawns on the wings because the offer extra central control.

4. Doubled pawns offers an extra half open file to its owner which should be evaluated thoroughly.

5. Isolated doubled pawns are more weak than doubled pawns in chain.

6. Sometimes kingside doubled pawns are very useful in launching an attack against the opponent’s king. An example of this can be found in the Tartakower-Korchnoi Variation of the Caro-Kann, which goes 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Nxf6+ exf6. Black can often use the pawn on f6 as a battering ram with …f6-f5-f4-f3. Meanwhile his king will be safe because he still has the pawn on f7.

7. I have learned through experience that doubled pawns can be more disadvantageous in relation to pawn islands. The more pawn islands there are the weaker the double pawns.

Any more general observations in relation to doubled pawns are welcome here if you comment on this post.

Ashvin Chauhan

Recognising Mistakes

Student: I can win the game if I play well.

Me: That’s half true.

Chess is a game of mistakes! That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t press because when you’re playing well there are more chances that your opponent will make mistakes. Here are few interesting examples to test your skill to recognise the mistake.

Anand against Kramnik in 2001

Q: In the given position Anand played 24.bxc4. Is it a mistake?

Solution: Yes, it is mistake. Instead Anand should play Nxe6 followed by bxc4 with the better position, but after 24. bxc4 game was ended in 3 more moves.

24…Nxf4! 25. gxf4 g3!! 26.Nf1

The pawn can’t be taken because of Bc5, which wins the exchange.

26…gxf2+ 27.Kh2

If 27.Kxf2 then Bc5 is winning or if Kg2 then Rg8 followed by Bxc4 is winning.


White resigned as he was forced to give up the exchange.

Above was the case of tactical mistake which is relatively easy to recognise. Strategic mistakes can be much harder to see:

Anand against Aronian in 2009

Q: In this position Anand played 12. b3. Is it a mistake?

A: Yes it is, though it doesn’t lose any material directly and has nothing to do with opening preparation. But after 12…Nxd3 Black gets the bishop pair and an attack, so yes it is a mistake.

Here is the rest of the game in case you’re interested.

Ashvin Chauhan

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?


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:


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