Category Archives: Ashvin Chauhan

Some Ways To Improve At Pattern Recognition

An enormous amount of research has been done on chess players’ selective thinking (humans don’t need to calculate each and every move) and as a result we are now in the era where computers can beat humans. Along with this they have researched how experts play in familiar positions as well as random positions (see Chess Players’ Thinking: A Cognitive Psychological Approach) and concluded that they are better at pattern recognition and recalling known position types. These days this is common knowledge, and it’s also important to note that such experts are not as good at other activities as the are in chess. This means that they are not born geniuses, they have worked hard to gain their expertise.

How can we improve at pattern recognition? Well I spent couple of hours surfing the internet but didn’t get any satisfactory answers, but when I thought deeply about it the answers were just in front of me.

Repeating the same material: This can sound weird but the more you see, the more you remember and the more you do the better you understand. Here is the example from real life; one of my friends is very good at mating combination and his tactics rating has crossed 2500 whilst his actual rating is not good. He told me that he has been through Laszlo Polgar’s book, 5334 Problems, Combinations and Games, 5-6 times. While writing this I remember my primary school days when, as a punishment, I was told to write particular lessons for 5 or 10 times, but afterwards I was not able forget it for a longer period of time :).

Discussions: Discussing any kind of positions with your friends (even if he is weaker than you) will create more chances to recognise it for a longer period of time rather than doing it alone. I can’t give any proof of this but it is 100% true in my case.

Triggers, incidents and stories: This one can be very useful while teaching kids and adults also benefit from it. For example, while discussing a game with Nigel told me that even if you prove that this is the best move on the board he still didn’t like it (I had captured an opponent’s piece with f-pawn rather than the h-pawn). From that day, whenever I came across a similar kind of position, I am able to recognise it very easily.

Get proper sleep: Although this is not directly linked it has a significant effect on your working memory which you use for recalling positions. A few weeks ago I visited the doctor because I was forgetting very important things quite frequently, including my marriage date, and he advised me to get more sleep. For further information you can look at this article.

Ashvin Chauhan


Counter Attack For KIDS

We all know that counter attack is an effective technique to defend, but most beginners coaches ignore it at an early stage as they believe that this concept is hard for kids to learn. Here my opinion is different and I believe that you can teach the concept of counter attack with the help of simple words and meaningful examples. The only requirement is that kids are aware of the absolute value of the pieces and are able to identify direct threats. In this case I define direct threats not as complex tactics, but things like a rook attacking unprotected knight.

Again while teaching kids we should use simple terminology and my definition for counter attack for kids is this: “When you have been attacked, rather than saving your piece you can attack one of your opponent’s pieces of the same or higher value.”

Here are some simple examples which can make the point very clear to students:

You can save knight by moving away but there is another way in that you can attack his bishop. Kids actually love this because they prefer attack to defence, and when they learn this I have seen some delight on their faces.

It is also necessary to show them examples where counter attack won’t work!! Otherwise your student may counter attack his opponent’s king when he is in check!

In this example you can counter attack with your knight by playing it on b5 or b1 but the problem is that you are a attacking piece of lower value and as a result you will lose 2 points. Here is a nice video by an IM on our counter attack theme.

Ashvin Chauhan


The Role Of Parents

For kids, I must say that a parent’s role is more important than that of the coaches. I will try to explain what they should and shouldn’t do. I am not going to name any names, but whatever I am writing is what I have observed very closely.

Sometimes kids like to play chess when it is new to them but later on they don’t like it. Here a parent’s role is to create interest with some reasonable efforts, without using any kind of force. For example you should allow them to win against you and add some stories while playing or explaining something. Once a kid is showing more interest in chess, and he is passionate about it, then it is time to introduce a chess coach and provide then necessary training.

Don’t put pressure on: It can often be seen that when two friends learn chess together, with almost equal talent, one performs better in a tournament than the other. In this case the one who is doing worse needs motivation, and at that time they are not ready to face anger or pressure as then they will lose interest in chess. And interest is key element for his or her chess improvement.

Spend time with them – if possible be with your kid while he or she is participating in any event. They simply need you as they will feel more comfortable than being alone. As your kid grows, they also need space, otherwise what is advantageous for them can create negative effects also. This can be seen more in Asian countries than Western ones.

Monitor their progress – perhaps you are the best one to judge your kid’s progress. Give feedback to his/her coaches from time to time whether it is positive or negative.
God can’t take care of every one so he created parents!

Ashvin Chauhan


Aravindh Chithambaram, A New Hope For India In Chess

Nowadays in India chess is becoming more and more popular thanks to Vishy Anand. It was a very sad moment for Indian chess lovers when Anand lost to Carlsen, but now there is a new Indian hope in Aravindh (we Indians believe in hope, which is a yey cultural difference compared to the West).

Arvindh was born in November 1999. He got his first Elo rating of 1821 in September 2009 and has since gained more than 550 Elo points within the span of 4 years. He won the 2013 Chennai Grandmaster Open last November by defeating four GMs and an IM, with a performance rating of 2728. Here is his rating chart:

Arvindh Graph

In addition to his hard work there are some other factors which have contributed a lot towards the success of the young Indian star. For example his coach, RB Ramesh, coaches him for free. His school do not charge any tuition fee, ONGC has extended him a scholarship. And above all his mother worked as an insurance agent to run the household after his father died when he was three years old.

He requires some funds to play in European tournament, in order to contribute please visit Indiegogo page.

Here my point is Arvindh was lucky enough to get all necessary aid at the right time, but what about others? I feel that there are so many kids who have exceptional talent for chess or in other sports or activities, but have failed to show their talent to the World because of poverty. And when we talk about the popularity of chess, we have to find some ways to discover those exceptional talents and give them an opportunity to flower.

Ashvin Chauhan


Something On Coaching

What seems easy for us can be much more difficult for kids. So if you are able to break the learning process down into small blocks they will able to grasp it quickly and effectively.

Recently I joined another school as a chess coach. Our topic today was to teach them the basic two rooks checkmate or staircase mate.

My teaching method is a series of questions and answers because it increases participation and breaks the process down:

First Step

So I start with the question; which leg you move first while walking, the front one or the back one?
The majority answered that it is the front one, but afterwards they realised that the back one is the right answer.

Immediately after this I show them the position below and explain that rook on a1 is your back leg and the one on b2 is your front leg. I then ask them which they would move first and remind them they need to walk rather than jump!

In this way I have succeeded in teaching them what the staircase mate is, but there are two parts still remaining:
- What to do when you are attacked by the king (it is not wise to include this in the first step as the chances for getting confused are greater)?
- Rotating the position so that it occurse along the files instead of the ranks.

Second Step

In the first step I deliberately kept my king away from the rooks. With the following position I ask them if it is not now possible to move the rook to a3 as otherwise the king can capture your rook on b2. So in this position it is important to remember to move to the right side if you are on left and vice versa.

Once again the students understood everything.

Third Step: Mate Along the Files

If you associate certain concepts with triggers there are better chances to remember it for a long time. So using a recent movie example (Dhoom 3 in India, where the hero played by Amir Khan walks on the wall of the high-rise buildings) I asked them howto move your rooks like Amir Khan walks.
(Little jokes/fun can do big jobs)

I felt that was the best lesson I have ever given because I got close to a 100% participation and managef to create a huge amount of interest.

Ashvin Chauhan


Visionary Thinking and Improvement

Many of us do daily tactical exercises to polish our tactical skill, but how many of us get such positions in a game? On top of that, how many of us try to achieve those positions and successfully reach them? I think very few amateurs get those positions in a real game.

What is the difference? Well I believe that chess legends not only have chess knowledge but they are also visionary thinkers. They first set out to achieve a particular position and then they go for kill.

How you can improve your visionary thinking in chess? I will try to answer to this question in the following discussion.

First and the foremost thing is pattern recognition as you know what to aim for. And after reading some articles and thought about the matter, I have list including some chess and non-chess techniques to improve your visionary skill.

Read more fiction:– At first I ignored this technique but then realize that it actually works. Even if you watch some kind of fictional movie and I have observed that many people are under the affect of particular movie or book for several days and they start seeing daily things with fresh eyes. Though the effect remains for a limited time span it does have an influence.

Be flexible:– Actually rigidness badly affects your visionary skills. I have observed that people with a lot of experience become rigid at some time as they believe that some work can be done by some ways only and they stop themselves to think that there may be some other ways around. For example Microsoft failed to see that even mobile can compete the computers.

Emotional stability:– Emotionally stable people can become much more innovative compared to emotional unstable ones. Here Yoga, meditation or similar activities can help a lot.

Take up an art:– Arts such as painting, writing or even singing can develop a person generally. Though they are not directly related to chess you can start seeing the same thing with different eyes.

Ashvin Chauhan


Improving At Chess Coaching

Rather than improving as a player, a critical question for me is how to improve as a chess coach. I feel that if you have a group of chess coaches who enjoy healthy competition, you can improve by sharing your experiences. So I am going to share something which might be useful to you.

I have recently started coaching in another school which is planning to teach chess to each and every student. To be honest more than 70% of the kids are not at all interested in chess as it’s no longer a game but rather an academic subject. How would you tackle them? They demand special care so I consulted my one of my friend who is not connected with chess but he is a good teacher, so good in fact that he can interest kids in boring subjects. He told me that for kids to be interested in particular subject but they must be interested in you!

I followed his rule for few days and started few discussions which are irrelevant to chess but interesting. I told them few jokes and they got interested in learning from me. So indirectly I got increased attention from the kids and found that I was also enjoying the sessions.

Having got their interest the next task is to teach them. This was more difficult than I expected as now they were more interested in fun. Here I applied another strategy that is to repeat three golden rules for starting a game in every class. The results are that some them are now know how to start the game.

Another experience taught me that as chess coach you must polish your tactical skills otherwise it passes the wrong impression to your students, especially when you are teaching a group. But that’s another story.

Ashvin Chauhan


Rules Are Good But Most Of Them Have Exceptions

For playing better chess there are some general rules and beliefs about what we should and should not do; for example rook endings with a rook pawn is a draw, we should not move our pieces twice in the opening, opposite color bishop endgames are always draw and so on.. Most amateurs follow these rules blindly while experts tend to be more interested in the exceptions.

What I want to say is that you can evaluate or judge positions on general grounds but you shouldn’t set them in stone. It’s important to always look for exceptions, and this in turn can set you apart from your opponents.

Here are a few examples from experts’ games:

Rule: Pawn Weakness and Bishop Inside the Pawn Chain

This game was played between David Janowski and the legendary Jose Raul Capablanca in 1916. Capablanca had doubled pawns on the b- file, and it is worth seeing how he covered his weakness by moving his light squared bishop inside the pawn chain and then used the weak b-pawns to establish a nice outpost on c4:

Rule: Opposite Colour Bishop Endings Are Drawn

It may be true in most cases but still you can study the endgame technician’s games and grab some ideas which provide exceptions. In this game, Capablanca choose an opposite coloured bishop endgame and went on win:

It is also worth seeing the world championship match played between Topalov and Anand in 2010.

Rook Endings With A Rook’s Pawn

We normally believe that in rook endgames the position is drawish if the stronger side has an extra rook’s pawn. But if you study the Vancura position and drawing zone given by Peter Romanovsky in 1950, you can still find the way to win. Here is an example:

Ashvin Chauhan


Nothing Is Free: Using Limited Resources.

You might have heard this while playing chess which is equally related to business and life. Success is depends on how you balance your resources. For example, devoting most of your time to chess development means you are sacrificing your personal life somewhere. While in business, allocating more budget for one department means you take it from another. The reason is that we all have limited resources.

How should your allocate or distribute your resources in order to get success? Well, as a management fellow, I could say that you need to use your resources optimally.

What are the resources in chess? I have already written article on it. Today I am going to talk how you can use all your resources, so what are the factors that need to be considered here?

Prioritizing your tasks and choosing the right resources are a key element. Sometimes you have an advantage on the queenside but the opponent’s pieces are on the kingside, ready to attack. Then your priority must be king safety and you should therefore bring your resources to the kingside. On the other hand sometimes you will see that if you succeed in attacking queenside first, your opponent won’t be able to launch an attack on the other side of the board.

For more understanding here is an example:

Here you can see that white’s pieces are directed towards the Black’s king so Black’s priority should be king safety. Now you are having mainly two resources
1. Transfer your pieces to kingside
2. Generate counter play on queenside before White’s kingside attack

What you choose is matter of testing, experience and knowledge.

Another important parameter could be the focus on one direction, a common cause behind failure in life, business and chess. Frequently changing books, coaches or openings can lead nowhere, it’s much better to follow a single direction so as to master one particular area. Follow a good source of information with full focus and you will definitely get results. Following the same example, I had chosen counter attack, but then if I changed my mind later on then the chances of success became minimal. Previously I was very much afraid of White’s attack in this position, then Nigel gave me 2 moves free and asked me to show if White has any real attack and if the king is not sufficiently defended. From that day my results from this position improved a lot.

Ashvin Chauhan


Considerations And Thoughts On Improving At Chess

Chess is considered to be a most logical and analytical game, yet most amateurs do not approach it in a logical manner. That includes me.

I have seen so many mature club players who spend many hours playing or studying chess in order to improve, but the end results are quite miserable. I am not saying that we should not try to improve at chess, just that we have to pay attention to certain considerations.

Age:– Chess is a game that you can learn at any age but it is far more difficult to improve as you get older. I agree that exceptions are always there but those are few in number. For example one should not dream of being World Champion after starting to play chess at, say, 30.

Sometimes chess is just an addiction – I have observed many chess amateurs forever buying lots of books and playing many games at clubs or on the internet. With time it will become their addiction rather than a passion, and it waste’s time, money and family life.

If you are feeling that you are young enough and can spend many years on the game then my thoughts may be useful to you:

Get a coach and invest some serious time. In India we say ‘Guru Vina Gyan Nahi’. You can’t get any knowledge without a mentor and then you should give him or her enough time to help you as chess is game in which it takes years to improve. Believe in your coach and do what they say (thanks Nigel, for being my mentor).

Be realistic. Chess teaches us to play according to the position and not how your fancy takes you. And you can’t expect to gain huge amounts of Elo rating after just reading one or two books.

Though experts have already given too many thoughts on improving at chess it’s easy to miss the wood for the trees. I believe if you have clarity of mind, and focus on the above parameters, then improvement is a matter of time.

Ashvin Chauhan