Category Archives: Ashvin Chauhan

The Karpovian Style

The Karpovian style is often regarded as being dry chess. But many, including me, find it very exciting. Magnus Carlsen’s playing style is similar to Karpov’s apart from testing super grandmasters in very even positions! Here are some of Karpov’s most instructive games which can take your game to the next level:

Karpov vs Kasparov 1985, Wordl Chess Championship
This is one of the best games when you talk about art of maneuvering & one of very few occasions when you find Kasparov in such a helpless situation. In this game Kasparov had full control over the only open file (the c-file) but failed to find any entry square on which to penetrate:

Karpov vs Topalov, 1994
Karpov is known for his dry & positional chess, but this is perhaps the best discovery combination! Starting from move number 30:

Karpov vs Lautier, 1992
This is one of my favourites. In this game, Black’s light square bishop was never able to contribute anything to his majesty. Black lost without making any obvious mistake.

Ashvin Chauhan

Basic Ideas & Strategy : The Benko Gambit

I’m not a big fan of gambits in general but the Benko Gambit is one of a few that I do like. Black is not aiming for an immediate attack for his sacrificed pawn but rather long term positional pressure against White’s queen side. Here are some brief guidelines on how to play Black:

1. Black gets long term initiative on “a” & “b” files by placing rooks on those files, especially against pawn on b2.

2. Black’s bishop on g7 adds more pressure to the queenside by striking down the h8-a1 diagonal.

3. At the same time Black’s kingside pawn structure is very solid.

Here is a typical Benko Gambit game in which the mighty Mikhail Gurevich is beaten by Sang Cao:

4. One other plan to note is that when the light square bishops are exchanged a Black knight can reach d3 or c4 via g4-e5-d3 (c4) or d7-e5-d3, which is a typical plan in Benko gambit.

Here is the game featuring this theme between Evgeny Bareev and Garry Kasparov at Linares in 1994. As with the previous game it featured a classical time control:

5. Black has two important levers in …f7-f5 & …e7-e6, which can help break up White’s centre and even lead to an attack on White’s king.

Here is an example of this from a game played between Gelfand and Carlsen in 2011, this time with a rapid time control:

One word of warning: If White can achieve the e4-e5 lever, he would be having nice prospects in the center & the kingside, so always be vigilant.

The Benko Gambit is relatively easy to play for beginners & intermediate players because of the limited number of plans, and even help you to understand the positional play. So I heartily recommend it.

Ashvin Chauhan

Lev Polugaevsky : A Hero for Many Hard Workers

To be honest I was not particularly aware of Lev Polugaevsky until I came across his game against Eugene Torre, where he demonstrated his hard-work and creativity.

This is a really inspiring illustration to show that skills can be cultivated with the hard-work and dedication. Nowadays it might be easy to prepare like this with the aid of computers, but this game was played in 1981 when chess programs did not exist. His book Grandmaster Preparation is considered to be the one of the best chess books of all time by many Grandmasters.

Those who can not afford coaching due to financial constraints may find this presentation by GM Alejandro Ramirez very useful. He comments on some of Polugaevsky’s best games including these:

Lev Polugaevsky vs Mikhail Tal, USSR Championship 1969
Yehuda Gruenfeld vs Polgaevsky, Riga Interzonal 1979,
Polugaevsky vs Eugenio Torre, 1981
Polugaevsky vs Boris Gulko, 1975.

Ashvin Chauhan

Hanging Pawns

Hanging pawns are the pawn duo on half open files, usually on c & d file. This pawn formation may arises from many openings, especially Queen’s gambit declined; Tartakower system. As they are on half open files, fundamentally they’re weak and owner of the hanging pawns has to occupy his pieces to defend them. The same time, they can become an asset and real headache for the opponent if you can manage to roll it.

How to play with it:
– You must roll it to release the energy of the pieces behind it or to create strong passed pawn.
– If you can’t roll it then try to prevent your opponent from creating strong blockade against it.
– If you can’t do any of the above then you must seek counter play along adjacent files (b & e file). sometimes even at the cost of pawn.

In the following example, we will see how David Janowski pushes his d pawn to release the energy of his dark square Bishop which ultimately proved decisive factor of the game.

How to play against it:
Creating strong blockade is the ideal strategy and to do so you must force your opponent to move one of his pawns that creates the hole, can be used to create strong blockade with your knight or the Bishop. Here is the famous game played between Fischer and Spassky during their world championship match.

Ashvin Chauhan

A Lesson from Spielmann vs. Rubinstein, 1909

Usually instructive endgames attract me more than brilliant combinations and sacrifices. After White’s last move R1c2, we have this position on the board:

Black to play:

Q: Which is better 38…Rxa3 or 38…Rxc2?

A: 38…Rxa3 temporarily wins a pawn but allows enough counter play on 7th rank or against the pawn on d6. In fact the d6 pawn can not be defended so Rxa3 is basically just an exchange of pawns. Looking more closely at the position, the d6 pawn can be protected by Ke7 whilst White’s scattered pawns remains permanently weak. So here Rxc2 is much better choice and in fact winning. White’s rook has to occupy a passive position to defend the weaknesses on a3 and d4 and Black’s king will have a free hand.

The game went as follows:

38…Rxc2 39.Rxc3 Ra8 40.Rc3

Here White can’t generate active play with 40.Rc6 because of 40…Ke7 41.Rc7+ and now 41…Ke8! when the ook has to retreat to c3 and we will have a similar sort of position to the one reached in the actual game. The rest, as they say, is a matter of technique.

Ashvin Chauhan

Fischer vs Taimanov, 1971: An Interesting and Instructive Endgame

Today, I was going through some games and I found a very interesting and instructive position from the game played between Bobby Fischer and Mark Taimanov in 1971. There is nothing better than studying such games to improve your chess.

Position after move no 42. White to Play

Q :In this position Fischer played Rd3. What are the reasons behind exchanging the rooks?

A: When there are pawns on both sides of the board then the bishop is better, but here it is not clear. The position is not open and both sides lack good pawn levers. Here a concrete evaluation is necessary to justify the rook exchanges. I believe the reasons here are quite different than simply knight vs. Bishop end-game.

1) The position of the Black knight is very poor; it is very difficult to find good square for the knight from where it can attack White’s pawns.
2) Black’s king side pawns are on light squares and Black can’t liquidate those pawns.
3) Key factor: While Black’s knight is busy defending the king side there are quite good chances that White king will find his way to march to a6.

Fischer reached to the desired position after few more moves with brilliant bishop maneuver. It is really interesting. Here are the moves:

43. Rd3 Kc7 44. Rxd6 Kxd6 45. Kd3 Ne7 46. Be8 Kd5 47. Bf7+ Kd6 48. Kc4 Kc6 49. Be8+ Kb7 50. Kb5 Nc8 51. Bc6+ Kc7 52. Bd5 Ne7 53. Bf7 Kb7 54. Bb3 Ka7 55. Bd1 Kb7 56. Bf3+ Kc7 57. Ka6 Ng8 58. Bd5 Ne7 59. Bc4 Nc6 60. Bf7 Ne7 61. Be8 Kd8

And now it’s time for some action. Here Fischer sacrificed the bishop to win the queenside pawns and Black resigned quite soon.

Ashvin Chauhan

Acting and Reacting

This position is taken from a game of mine that was played in recent tournament. What do you think about the position?

Black to play:

Here are some thoughts:
1) Black’s dark square bishop is absent so Black has some permanent weaknesses.
2) White’s beautiful dark square bishop on f6 will help arrange a checkmate if Black does not do something very soon, for instance by Rh4xh7.
3) On the other hand Black is relying on the counter play against the g2 square via the 2nd rank and h1-a8 diagonal.

Sometimes you get positions where you can’t just defend, if you do so you will lose. Here with 4 minutes on the clock, I played 1…h6 and lost very quickly as there is no defense to Rh4 and Rxh6. For example, Rxd3 then Rxh6!! No way to save checkmate on h8.

So did Black miss something? He forgot to act and realize the need to create his own threats very quicly. Here in fact Black stands better but instead of 1…h6, the best move is 1…Rxd3!, and it works because White still needs three moves to checkmate whereas Black needs only two. So White has to exchange the queens and here are no good alternatives, for example 2. Qg5 h6 or 2. Qg4 Rd2 3. Rg1 and now Rc8 will win for Black.

Accordingly White has to play 2. Rf2 (either) Rxg3 3. Rxb2 and now Black can play his rook to a safe square on the 3rd rank, and despite there being opposite colour bishops on the board the more active rook and bishop guarantees him a good game.

How many of you have lost games because of reacting instead of acting? Probably quite a few.

Ashvin Chauhan

How Beginners Can Avoid Opening Traps

The best way to play against traps is to know them, but that is not possible every time. The second best way is to check the consequences when you have been offered some bait and check the variations in details. This requires good calculation skills and beginners or kids might not have this. Don’t worry as there is one more way to avoid them, and that is to use soft reasoning.

First of all, most of the opening tricks and traps are based on the key opening principle of fast development. For example Legal’s mate involves a queen sacrifice (the bait) and White checkmates with three minor pieces against Black’s only developed piece, the light square bishop on d1. My point is that even if you are not able to calculate thoroughly you can use this sort of soft reasoning to avoid such pitfalls.

Here is an example from real game of mine. My opponent was a 2100+ rated player and had the White pieces.

1. e4 d5
2. exd5 Nf6
3. d4 Nxd5
4. c4 Nb4 ?!

By playing Nb4 on move no 4. I invited White to win a piece with 5. Qa4+ Nac6 6.d5. This is a very cunning trap and my opponent played a3 instead, which is the best move and gained a good center. Later on I asked him whether the trap was known to him and to my surprise he didn’t know it, but he simply rejected the trap based on following reasoning:

White’s only developed piece would be the queen compared to two knights (knights on b4 and c6 after Qa4+) and if he tries to win a piece with pawn to d5 Black can develop a third piece. So he simply rejected Qa4 and smelled something was not right.

Ashvin Chauhan

How to Analyse Chess Games

We all know that analyzing our chess game is very important for making progress. But how exactly should this be done?

1. Analysing Other Peoples’ Games: Do this just with a board, pieces, pen and paper. Of course you can use chess programs but I am a bit old fashioned about this. When you physically move pieces on the board rather than a computer screen you work much more effectively; this can’t be explained, you need to try it! Go through the games, write down your thoughts and compare it with notes anyone else made on the same game. Making your own notes is hugely preferable to just reading the notes of others because you become actively involved. If you don’t have books than you can search for the same game on YouTube & the web.

2. Analysing Your Own Games: This is the most crucial and a hard task to do well. In this case you already know your thoughts and ideas behind the moves or plans, so the question is where you might get a second opinion. The best is to go through the games with your coach or a player who is stronger than you or at least equal to you. And believe me; you will definitely learn a lot. But not everyone is so lucky to have a chess coach or a good or a strong chess friend. So here I am going to tell you the most reasonable & effective way to analyse your own game.

A) Tactical Analysis: This is something you get easily on where you can import any game in PGN format and it gives you ready made analysis. In this case you are supposed to focus on mistakes and blunders rather than any inaccuracies.

B) Member Clinic: This is available to full members, all you need to do is to send the games to Nigel and He will analyse few selected games.

C) Ask someone to analyse your game on YouTube: There are many good you-tubers who are ready to analyse your games and publish them on YouTube.

Do you have any better idea? Do let me know!

Ashvin Chauhan

Rating and Psychology in Chess

Chess is more of a psychological battle than a battle on the board, in particular when facing higher or lower rated opponents. If I talk about myself, I much prefer endgames especially against lower rated players and won’t hesitate to go into endgame even with equal pawns or opposite color bishops. This is because I believe that lower rated players tend to be weak in endgames and so far this strategy worked for me the majority of times. Most people adopt a different approach when playing against lower rated players and take more risks compared to how they would play against higher rated players. They will also go for more pieces exchanges against higher rated players. A person who overcomes this mindset is likely to perform better which is why coaches tell their student to play their natural game. Eperience shows, more or less, that this works.

Here is a game of mine against one of my friends, a much higher rated player. We both had full points after 4 rounds so whoever wons would become the champion. We reached to following position after 22 moves and it is Black to move.

The first move came to my mind was …Nd5 (psychology works) and exchange down into a position in which White doesn’t have a clear win but he does have a very active position. As we know each other very well, my opponent was hoping for this because I prefer endgames. But I decided to reject this move.

The second move came to my mind was more ambitious, placing the rook on open file (Rad8), but then I was very worried about the f6 and d6 squares. So finally played …f6! which was a necessary exchange.

22. …f6 23. exf6 Qxf6 24. b4 Rad8 25. Ne4 Qf5 26. Nc5 Rf7 27. Rce1 Nd5 28. Ne6! Re8?!

Much better was …Rd6.

29. g4?!

Better was Ng7!, a difficult move to see, and that was the reason Rd6 was much better than Re8.

In this position …Qf6 might be Ok for Black but I choose …Qxe6!. At that time my evaluation was that the rook and knight would hold White’s queen.

30. Rxe6 Rxe6
31. f5 Re3
32. Qg2 g5
33. Rf3!

And now I realised that my evaluation was incorrect because I can’t generate significant threats with the rook and knight whereas his queen will be much active. Luckily the exchange of rooks was not compulsory and soon we had a repetition of moves and game was ended in a draw.

So basically you can perform better if you can overcome this psychological issue of wanting to exchange pieces against higher rated players. It can be hard to do but seems easy when you actually do it.

Ashvin Chauhan