Category Archives: 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.


“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.


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.


Threatening Qh7 and 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.


Keeping the king in the center.


If 3.Qxe2 then 3…Qxc3 is winning


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

Rook on the Seventh

Seven is heaven for rooks. Because when a rook gets to the 7th rank the opponent’s vulnerable points are easily accessible. A rook on the 7th rank often helps win material or create a mating attack. It also often forces the opponent’s forces to take passive positions if he tries to defend what this rook is attacking.

How can someone fight against a rook on the 7th rank? Basically you don’t want to give it any targets; without targets the 7th rank doesn’t have particular significance. If you can’t do this then make sure that weak points are sufficiently defended. You might also try to exchange the rook on the 7th for one of your own rooks or if this is not possible then at least try to hamper it’s stability on the 7th.

Here are some entertaining examples from real games that demonstrate the power of a rook on the 7th rank:

Sergei Rublevsky against Pentala Harikrishna in 2006

Q: Black’s last move was Rb8-a8 with an idea of Rxa7 followed by Qa8. What did white miss?
A: Rook has denied leaving the 7th rank with queen sacrifice which led to heavy material surplus.

Game continued as follows:

1.Rxb7!! Qxa1 2.Rxa1

Further material loss can’t be avoided. Black resigned after few more moves.

Louis Paulsen against Samuel Rosenthal

Q: White had already the Rook on 7th rank. How would you make use of it?
A: White come up with the following idea:


This sets up crucial targets on the 7th rank for the rook.


1…dxc5 leads nowhere after Rxc7+ followed by Rxg7


With the same idea.


Black avoided the following variation: 2…dxc5 3.Rxc7+ Kb8 4.Rxg7+ Kc8 5. Rxg6 when further pawn loss can’t be avoided.


Black resigned after 4 more moves.

Ashvin Chauhan

Recognise the Pattern # 36 : A Drawing Mechanism with Rook and Knight

I have already discussed few checkmate patterns with rook and knight:
The corner Mate
The Anatasia Mate
The Arabian Mate
The Hook Mate

In this article, we will see a drawing mechanism with rook and knight. Here is the basic pattern:

This is just an educational example to illustrate the power of rook on d7 and knight on f6. Black has many threats at his disposal but White can save the day with Nf6+, which leads to perpetual check.

1.Nf6+ Kf8

If 1…Kh8 then 2.Rh7 is mate.

2.Nh7+ Kd8 3.Nf6+

Not only check, but it also protects the rook on d7.

Now let’s check few real game examples.

Mark Smideliusz (1838) against Csaba Bognar in 2008

Q: It seems that White is going to lose some material here because White’s rook and knight both are under attack. How should he proceed from here?
A: White can save the game with a stunning queen sacrifice:

1.Qxc5!! Qxc5

As Black’s queen has been deflected the knight is no longer a pinned piece and can therefore move.


The players agreed to draw the game after few more moves.

Diogo Henriques Alho against Luis Galego in 1993

Q: White is a pawn down and his knight is under attack. Black’s last move was …Rc8 and he might have been under the impression that the knight can’t be move because of …Bxf2+, but is this really so?
A: It turns out that this is an illusion as White can move his knight to e4 and can achieve the desired fortress on the next move.

1.Ne4 Rd3

If 1…Bxf2 2. Rxf2! Rxd7 3. Nf6 and 4.Nxd7 leaves White standing better.

2.Nf6+ leads to force draw.

Ashvin Chauhan

Wrong Exchanges

It has been a common observation at amateur level that they tend to exchange almost equal value pieces whilst playing against stronger opponent, with a draw in mind. Sometimes, they just move mechanically based on general rules. This in fact, gives masters an opportunity to demonstrate their technique. Here is an instructive example:

In the given position, Black exchanged his knight against White’s bishop and went for a bishop vs. knight endgame. At first this looks quite innocent and even a good idea because we have been told that a bishop is usually better than a knight in the endgame against knight. Secondly the position is not so closed, so Black might be able to open the position & can change the pawn structure. Lastly, Black could emerge with a passed pawn on either c- or d-file.

But taking the bishop on d3 is actually a mistake because it has nothing to attack. And White’s knight would become very active on c3, d4 or f4.

Interesting Exercise: Change the position of the bishop from e8 to d8 and analyse the position! This kind of imagination is helpful in learning chess.

Question: How would you recapture on d3?
Answer: Recapturing with king is dubious due to 1…c5!. For example 1…c5! 2. Nc1 Bb5+ 3.Kd2 Bc4 from where the bishop can be exchanged against the knight almost by force, while pawns on c5 and d5 guarantees Black a better game.

In the game Alekhine played cxd3! and now c5 is rather dubious idea (compare it with the previous line 1. Kxd3)

1.cxd3 c5?! 2.d4! c4

2…cxd4 is even worse because of 3. Kxd4 Kc6 and 4. Kc5 is winning.


The pawn can’t be taken because of Nf4

3…gxf5 4.h4!

Fixing a weakness, which is quite common in masters’ game!

Black tried to fight for next 20 moves but failed to change the outcome of the game.

Interesting Exercise: From here try to win the position against your friend or even an engine.

Ashvin Chauhan

Transforming An Advantage

Having a particular advantage is not always enough to win at chess. Sometimes you need to transform it into a different type of advantage in order to win. Here are some examples:

Relinquishing material for a decisive penetration

White has an outside passed pawn but that alone is not enough to win. But he can simply relinquish it by playing Kd6 in order to penetrate on the other side of the board with his king. This leads to simple win.

Lead in development transformed into strong attack (Morphy against Carl)

A lead in development is a dynamic advantage which evaporates with time if not used. Here Morphy had a lead in development which was quite usual with him! He had chosen to sacrifice a piece in order to convert his development advantage into a strong attack. On the other moving the bishop to d3 or e2 leads to satisfactory game for Black after 10…Nbd7. Here is the whole annotated game.

Transforming a queenside majority into a material advantage (Marshall against Capablanca)

It was Steinitz who considered a queenside majority an advantage due to its potential for creating an outside passed pawn. The example below shows Capablanca’s fine technique in transforming his queenside majority into a material advantage.

Ashvin Chauhan

The Passed Pawn Blockade

In general blockading is a very rich concept. Some opening systems are designed around the concept of blockading. For example in the Gruenfeld Exchange Variation one of Black’s strategies is to blockade a White passed d-pawn and simultaneously try to roll his queen side pawns forward. Meanwhile the following variation of the French Defense demonstrates the importance of blockade in order to limit the activity of the opponent’s pieces: 1. e4 e6 2. Nf3 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. d4 c5 6. dxc5 Nc6 7. Bf4 Bxc5 8. Bd3 f6 9. exf6 Nxf6 10. O-O O-O 11. Ne5 blockading the e5 square.

In this article, we will deal with blockade in relation to passed pawns only.

Q: Which piece is the best blockader of the passed pawn?

A: Usually a piece whose activity can’t be restricted by the passer is the best one, therefore knights and Bishops are good blockaders and in the endgame the king turns to be a very effective blockader. Though, it is not necessarily true every time.

Here is an instructive example that illustrates the blockade and how to fight against a blockading strategy.

Max Euwe against Herman Pilnik in 1950

Q: How would you proceed with the Black pieces?
A: In the game Black played 12…Nc4 with the idea of …Nd6 which not only improves knight’s placement but also blocks White’s passed pawn.

Q: How should White fight against Black’s strategy?
A: White strategy should be to roll the d-pawn down the board so the first step should be to remove the blockade on d6.

Here are two options:
A) 13.Nb5 which can be met by Nc7!.
B) 13. f4 this is bit deep idea of removing the blockade by rolling the pawn to e5.
One should check both ideas deeply before proceeding and they might also be played later on.

In the game, White played in another way:

13. b3?!

There is nothing wrong with this move but it does not address the key issue of how to advance White’s d-pawn.

13…Nd6 14.Be3 b6 15.Qd2 Re8 16.f4

The idea mentioned above.

16…Nc7 17.Rf2 exf4

In view of the strong hold on e5 that Black gets.

18.Bxf4 Ba6 19. Re1

19.Bxd6 is bad because of 19…Qxd6 20. Rc1 (20. Qf4 is blunder due to the pin along the long diagonal.) 20…Re7! (Vacating the e8 square for knight.)
21.Qf4 Ne8! with a strong blockade on d6 and strong hold on e5. Black has the upper hand here.


Again with a nice grip over e5 and d6 squares. Black stands better if not winning, here is the rest of the game in case you’re interested.

Ashvin Chuahan

The Passed Pawn – Underpromotion

Last week, we looked at the passed pawn in general. Promoting a passed pawn usually ends the game in favour of the promoter as it creates huge material imbalance if the pawn becomes a queen. But this is not always the case!

Sometimes underpromotion is necessary in order to checkmate the opponent king and to meet opponent’s resources such as counter promotion, checkmate threats, the threat of capturing the promoted piece and drawing tricks. Here are some enlightening examples:

1) Robert Fontaine against Maxime Vachier Lagrave in 2007:

Underpromotion to meet perpetual checks and checkmating the opponent king

Q: How would you proceed with Black pieces?
A: Black can checkmate the opponent king with series of forcing moves using underpromotion.

1… f1=N+!!

This is the only way to pocket the point, promoting the pawn into a queen leads only to a draw after Qxc7.

2.Kf4 Rh4+ 3.Kg5 Be3+!

Sacrificing the rook.

4.Kxh4 g5+
5.Kh5 Ng3+

White resigned in view of 6. Kg6 g4#.

2) Aron G Reshko against Oleg Kaminsky in 1972:
Underpromotion to avoid stalemate tricks

Q: What would you promote to on a8?
A: Promoting to a queen or rook fails to Qf7+!! due to stalemate tricks. In the game White promoted the pawn into a bishop and went on win after couple of moves.

3) Nakamura against Kramnik in 2012:
Underpromotion leaves Black without any counter chances.

Q: How would you proceed with the White pieces?
A: In the game White played 1.c8=N+, the only move to win the game because promoting pawn into queen can be met by exd1=Q+ whilst 1.Kxe2 can be met by f3+ followed by Bxc7. Black tried hard for next 18 moves but failed to save the day. Here are rest of the moves in case you’re interested.

62…Kf6 63.Kxe2 Ke5 64.Nb6 Kd4 65.Bg2 Be1 66.Nd5 Ke5 67.Nb4 Bh4 68.Nd3+ Kf5 69.Kxd2 Kg4 70.Ke2 Bf6 71.N1f2+ Kg3 72.Bf3 Bd8 73.Ne4+ Kh4 74.Ne5 Bc7 75.Ng6+ Kh3 76.Ne7 Bd8 77.Nf5 Bb6 78.Kf1 Kh2 79.Bg4 f3 80.Nh4 1–0

Ashvin Chauhan

The Passed Pawn

This article is aimed at beginners and pre-intermediate players only. Though, intermediate players may find it interesting.

The pawn, the smallest chess unit, increases its value if it advances to the other side of the board with proper support. This is because of its unique power to promote itself to any other piece except the king.

A pawn is a ‘passed pawn’ or ‘passer’ if it doesn’t having any obstruction from an enemy pawn on the same file or neighboring file. Various endgame and middle game themes are based around the passed pawn only. We will deal with those concepts later on.

Let’s consider the following position:

1) White’s ‘c’ and Black’s ‘c’ pawns are not passed pawns as they have frontal obstruction.
2) White’s ‘g’ and Black’s ‘h’ pawns are not passed pawns as they face obstruction from the neighboring file’s enemy pawns.
3) White’s ‘e’ and Black’s ‘a’ pawns are passed pawns.

The level of difficulty in producing and promoting a passer varies with the level playing strength. Sometimes it is easier whilst at other times it is harder and requires the use of various tactical motifs and combinations to achieve the objective. Here are some instructive examples:

Carl Schlechter against Julius Perlis in 1911

In the given position Black’s last move was 7…Bxb1.
Q: How would you evaluate Black’s last move? And how should White proceed here?
A: Black’s last move was a mistake. Now White can win a good pawn.

8. dxc6!!



Black is completely oblivious. He should have played 8…Nxc6 when White is pawn up yet far from winning. But now White can launch a splendid combination which wins on the spot.

9. Rxa7!!

This forces Black to give up his due to White’s powerful candidate on c6 and Black’s awkward knight on b8. But his next move forces him to resign after White’s reply.

9…Rxa7 10. c7

Black resigned as he can’t stop White’s pawn from being promoted.

Karjakin against Navara in 2009

In this position White already had passed pawns on the a- and b- files but they are not dangerous yet because of Black’s active rooks on the 7th rank.

Q: How can White win this position by force?

A: Karjakin played R5c2 which wins by force.

36. R5c2!!

White sacrificed his whole rook in order to make use of his pawn on b6.

36…Rdxc2 37. Rxc2 Rxc2

37…Rxa5 fails to b7 followed by Nd7+.

38. b7 Rb2 39. Nd7+ Ke8 40. Nb6

The point behind the combination. Black resigned.

Ashvin Chauhan