Category Archives: Ashvin Chauhan

Dealing With Crisis

Handling a crisis in business and over the chess board are quite different because of external factors, but there are also some unique similarities. Whether it is chess or business, we have to deal with three common elements. These are:

a) Threats
b) Element of surprise those are hidden counter threats
c) Short decision making time

In chess, these elements are sometimes favourable and sometimes not. How you deal with these elements is all about handling crisis. How to handle it? I will try to explain it with the following discussion:

You Must Be Cold Blooded!

By this I mean to say that you should handle the situation calmly in order to recognise all the available resources at your disposal and your opponent’s. If you mix-up emotions you will be nowhere. For example in the following position Nakamura is facing a critical situation as there are so many threats in the air. However he came out of it using the element of surprise, a move which wouldn’t occur to most people. A good annotation has been given on this position in Chessbase’s Megabase.

Changing the Position

Rather than suffering in a difficult position it makes sense to try and change something so as to set your opponent some problems. Creativity is a great asset in such situations.

For example, I once saw a game of Karpov’s where he was unable to save the isolated pawn, so he sacrificed it by playing it on d5 and in return gave his opponent an isolated pawn and saved the game. I tried to find that game but could not.

Keep Away From Mess

This mainly concerns time trouble, and it stands to reason we can avoid a crisis if we don’t complicate when in time trouble or get into time trouble in complex positions.

Ashvin Chauhan


Guidelines For Teaching Kids Endgames and Tactics

Once a student is familiar with piece movements, attacks, check and checkmate, my next topic is to teach him or her elementary mates. This was explained by Capablanca in his book Chess Fundamentals.

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

In my view tactics and endgames should be learned in parallel. For tactics it’s best to proceed step by step to develop tactical skills very gradually and effectively. I have had very good results with that. But for the endgame I referred to many books before finally choosing ‘GM RAM’. This seems very strange at first as there are just 256 dry positions to work out without even knowing who is to move! But once you go though the you realise that the first 58 endgame positions are really essential. I realised that 70% or more of my endgame knowledge is based around those 58 positions, and these cover the following topics:

– Key Square
– Rule of Square
– Opposition
– Shouldering
– Pawn breakthrough
– Essential Rook ending (Philidor and Lucena)
– Queen vs. Rook endgame
– Essential Queen endgames

These elements are all vital for practical endgame play. And as there is nothing ready-made it can actually actually inspire us to work through them in our own way.

There is a problem when a coach focuses on the endgame. A few of my students see the endgame as boring, insisting that I teach them more and more tactics, but the problem is that they can’t understand that they are not knowledgeable enough to decide what is good for them.

Accordingly I have not changed my way even at the cost of some students going elsewhere for lessons. Quality demands sacrifices.

Ashvin Chauhan


Blunder Or Sense Of Danger

For us a mistake which turn the table or decides the game is called a blunder, but for kids it’s nothing special. I have seen lots of kids win games with a single piece against a huge army. The reason is that a sense the danger has not been cultivated. We normally teach kids to check the square twice before moving and check what the opponent’s last move threatened. Without experience kids can’t do this instinctively.

For example, in the following position you will often see kids play a bishop to f5 with Black or f4 with White:

I have tried to find the cause and came up with following conclusions:

1. We coaches are not focusing on that area as we believe that, some skills come only with time.
2. If I tell the parents of my private students that they are playing very few games, they are not particularly bothered. They are much more interested in the by products of chess training than the game itself. They believe that chess is a tool that will help their kids develop their minds so they ask kids to learn chess even if they’re not very interested.

As a coach we can’t do much about the second factor except increase playing time during the class. But we should try to work on the first factor, that with proper attention we can reduce the amount of time in acquiring a sense of danger.

Normally I prepare very simple diagrams to explain how piece moves, attack and capture. Now I am going to add some diagrams where kids have to mark where his or her piece is not safe. You can start with very few pieces and gradually make it more complicated, for example:

Once he or she is doing reasonably well we should focus on his or her real game and should compose new positions from them which can be presented in the next class.

Ashvin Chauhan


Playing With A Material Imbalance

Recently I went through a book on the middle game where a nice explanation was given on material imbalance. I have distilled these down to a few of points which might be useful to readers.

When you give up some material what should be the compensation?

1. Strong attack on opponent’s king: This is well known and don’t need any explanation. Any kind of material sacrifice can be given if you are getting a mating attack.

2. When your pieces are nicely coordinated and on the other hand your opponents are not. Here is the game Spielmann vs. Moller where Spielmann had sacrificed a queen for two minor pieces:

3. If you have a lead in development and can force your opponent king to stay in the centre, you can give up some material. Here is a nice game of Paul Morphy, normally I use this game for explaining use of pin in practice but it applies here too:

4. You get a strong passed pawn or pawns and your opponent can’t create a real blockade. I really enjoyed the following game when I was preparing against the Sicilian in the past. Rauzer sacrificed a piece sacrifice just to play better endgame. A nice explanation is given by Garry Kasparov in his DVD Play the Najdorf using the game Bronstein against Najdorf:

Ashvin Chauhan


Structural Imbalance

You can get different kinds of pawn structure out of any opening, for example isolated pawns, pawn majorities & minorities on different sides. Today I will try to focus on how to play with a pawn majority & minority.

In earlier times a queenside majority was thought to be an advantage, but this is not true 100% in every stage of chess game. In the middle game a minority can be advanced against a majority in order to weaken opponent’s pawn structure and levering fully open a half open file. That is the reason that in the QGD Exchange Variation White normally attack on the queenside while Black attacks on the kingside. Of course if one of the files becomes fully open it is crucial to control the open file.

When we talk about the endgame then a queenside majority can be a winning advantage; with both kings castled on the short side it it can lead to a dangerous outside passed pawn. How should one play in such situations? Here we can learn a lot from classical games, and I present two examples:

Play With A Majority

Play With A Minority

Ashvin Chauhan


Methods Of Analyzing Alternatives

In chess & business you usually have to consider alternatives. How should one analyze them? Are there any methods? Well Alexander Kotov has already given one method with his tree of analysis, but this only works well when you can easily differentiate the outcomes. When there are similar kinds of outcomes this method doesn’t work.

In business this method called systematic analysis or, say, cost benefit analysis, but when outcomes are quite similar we must use intuitiion instead. Capablanca’s technique & Tal’s sacrifices are the best examples. Now comes the question of when to follow intuition and when to follow cost benefit analysis.

When outcomes are uncertain or similar and if you have to decide quickly you should go for intuition based decision. Why? Well here is the answer:

Intuition follows general principles: When you have two choices to capture on g3 with h pawn or f pawn. Almost all will go with hxg3. Why? Because experts say to do so and in practice it is almost always right. A complex case is when you exchange bishop against knight or vice versa, and here too the decision will usually be based on general principles. Why do you avoid keeping a piece hanging? Because all this knowledge & experience is already in your subconscious mind, so whatever decision you take in such situations there are more chances that you will be successful by taking intuitive decisions. To prove my argument, take a look at anyone’s blitz rating where almost all the decisions are taken based on intuition.

What should we be careful of when taking such decisions? A major factor is one’s emotional state and whether one has strong positive or negative feelings about something. For example it’s known that Janowsky loved the bishop pair.

How can we improve our intuition? Only with knowledge & experience. However if you want to do some serious work on it, you should do some research on programming your subconscious mind.

Ashvin Chauhan


Where to Place Your Pieces?

Recently I have observed that a few of my young students get confused when they face an opening other than 1. e4 e5 and it is not wise to teach them particular opening when you have just introduced opening principles. So I’ve come to the conclusion that when we teach opening principles we should focus the rapid development in detail in order to overcome this issue.

What points to be considered while we talk about rapid development? Well I mainly focus on those below:
1) Piece activity
2) Its mobility
3) Targets

Here I would like to mention that I just want to give them what they can digest. All the points are interrelated so I show them the two positions below on different boards and ask the following questions:

i) What is the total number of squares that piece is eyeing on after its development?

ii) How many squares are controlled in the opponent’s half?

iii) Is that piece targeting anything?

They will automatically understand that a bishop on c4 is much better than on e2.

Another point I want to emphasis when I talk about mobility is retreating as I have observed that their pieces get trapped because there is no retreating squares. Again I show them below two examples on different boards.

Here I talk about the different boards, the logic being that if they see two boards together they can save that data as a picture in their subconscious minds which is easy to recall. It is like comparing two similar looking images and finding the differences. No matter how difficult the topic is to grasp it can be presented in a way that can be understood.

Ashvin Chauhan


Optimum Use of Resourses: Game Study

Kids are have a better chance to improve at chess compared to to adult players. There are many reasons behind this but the most natural reason is that kids have a lot of time at their disposal compared to most adults, who have a limited amount of time because of their responsibilities. So what you’re doing during your limited time is vital.

So what should you focus on, the opening, middle game, endgame, tactics, positional play or strategy? Perhaps the best is to study masters’ games which serves all purposes. Here the key question is which games should be studied, and the best way to decide this is to find a coach who can analyse your games and define your playing style. Based on that you can choose a player and study his games. For example when I started taking lessons from Nigel I told him that I liked Garry Kasparov, but he advised me that my role model should be someone else as my strengths and weaknesses made Kasparov unsuitable. Afterwards I started to study Capablanca’s and Geller’s games, and the results have been quite positive for me. Another thing you should do is to select games which have been annotated by the player himself.

Another major benefit of game study is that it gives you a feel for position, a kind of intuition about what should be played. For example in this game it is easy to calculate out Qe2 and Nb5but the problem is in finding these moves in the first place:

So if you study these sorts of games you will find similar kinds of moves in such positions. Moreover it will become your second nature if you do it seriously.

Ashvin Chauhan


Calculation, Determination and Habits

When you read the title of this post you might think that I am going to talk about candidate moves, the tree of analysis or concrete variation. But actually that’s not true.

One day Nigel told me that human thinking appears disorganized, everyone has their own thinking style and it’s difficult to think in an organised way as if we are a machine! I must say that I agree. I believe that calculation skill is very closely related with your habits and that is not only related to chess but also to life. Some people tend to take risks whilst missing simple moves in their calculations and others who, like me, believe in the simple life, often miss complex or tactical moves during whilst calculating.

Another problem I’ve seen is that if you habitually move quickly it automatically means you will be calculating badly. I had previously tried a lot of things to overcome this habit but without success. But in my last tournament it seems that I finally did it.

The only thing that helped me was strong determination. Before the tournament what I did was quite interesting and might help you. I wrote down a few questions which, according to the experts, should be asked before making a move and added some my own based on my swot analysis (here you need a mentor). I also tried playing one game a day on the internet, not to directly work on my chess but just to make a habit of playing slowly and answering the questions before making a move.

What was the outcome? Well I can say that I didn’t achieve everything I was aiming for. Instead there was just a very slight improvement in my calculations, but even this was enough to pocket me 47 rating points! Accordingly I will keep doing the same exercise in order to achieve further improvement. And the moral of the story is the if you want over come your weaknesses you should create good habits, and these won’t come over night but rather by strong determination and hard work.

Ashvin Chauhan


Something from me (2)

Recently, I played in the National B tournament in India and got a 47 point rise in my rating. I experienced a few things that I would like to share with you. Hopefully it will you help you in improving your chess.

Keep your opponent under pressure:
We all know that chess is a game of mistakes, but nobody will make them for free. You have to provoke them. The more you put pressure on your opponent, the more chance there is that he will make mistakes. Here are the examples:

This is my game against a 1951 rated player (225 points higher rated than me) and we reached this position after move 37:

In this game I had caught a player who is 281 points higher rated than me.

So I came to the conclusion that if you generate small threats, your opponent will definitely come under pressure and be more likely to make mistakes.

Try to read your opponent’s mind: This is a very useful technique. In the following game I saw that my opponent wanted to win the game and he was very interested in not exchanging the queens. Using this fact I set a nasty trap and he falls into it. Chess is a war between two minds and board is only reflection of our thoughts. We reached the following position after move 27.

Ashvin Chauhan