Category Archives: 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:

1.Bxd5

If 1.Bxe7 then N6xe7 2. Qb3 and castles

1…Bxd5

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

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.

27…Bxc4

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