Category Archives: 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

Knight Against A Rook’s Pawn

Usually a knight alone can hold against a passed pawn without the help of the king, but the rook pawn is an exception. The problem is that the knight can’t move to the other side of the pawn when attacked by the enemy king. To make the life simpler here is the rule:

In order to defend against a passed rook’s pawn the knight has to occupy any square in front of the pawn except the queening square. If the knight can’t get to this square then the help of the king is needed.

Here are a few interesting examples:

Vishay Anand against MVL in 2016, London Chess Classic

Q: Although it’s not a pure knight against rook pawn ending White can make it artificially. How would you play with White pieces?

A: In the game Vishy played Bf3 and now Black’s rook can’t use the d- or e- file and has no defence against Bxb7.
1.Bf3!! Rxc2

What else?

2.Bxb7

Black resigned in view of Nxb7 then a6, and Black can’t pawn being promoted. Meanwhile Nxa5 doesn’t require any explanation.

Kim Pilgaard (2432) against Alejandro Moreno (2509) in 2013 – White to move

In the game, White played Ne2 with the idea of Nc1 and Na2, occupying the square in front of the pawn. But he fails to save the game because of 1…Kd2 preventing Nc1.
Q: Can you save the game for White?
A: Yes, like this:

1.Ke1!

Preventing Kd2 and preparing Ne2 to c1. Let’s check the options available to Black.

a) 1…Kc3, 2. Kd1 then Ne2-c1 when the knight is supported by the king.
b) 1…Kc2, 2. Nd4+ Kc2 3. Ne2 a3, 4.Nd4+ Kc1, 5.Ke2 to d3 in order to support knight on c2 and the game is a draw
c) 1…a3 2.Ne2 Kc2 transposes into option b.

Ashvin Chauhan

The Squeeze

Every win brings us joy! Some of us are delighted by crushing our opponents with sacrifices and tactical shots, but others, like me, like to squeeze.

A squeeze is a way of exploiting a bind by gradually building up pressure on the opponent’s position. As new threats are created the opponent’s pieces are too overworked and passive to be able to cope with them all.

The key to this process is to deprive the opponent of counter play and then attack different targets which become impossible to defend simultaneously. The skill to do this can’t be achieved by just solving puzzles, instead it’s better to study the games of masters like Jose Raul Capablanca, Tigran Petrosian, Vladimir Kramnik and the current World Champion Magnus Carlsen. When you see how it’s done enough you should be able to mimic their approach.

Here are a couple of examples:

Game 1: Capablanca against Ragozin in 1935

In this game Capablanca played all over the board. First he gets space by playing 10. d5 and then slowly spreads his influence to both wings. Finally he attacks the opponent’s king whilst his own king was quite safer in the middle of the board. Really an interesting gem!

Game 2: Petrosian against Fischer in 1959

In this game Petrosian first breaks Black’s queenside starting with 17. c6. Fischer tries for counter play on the kingside but there was never really much hope. The rest is a matter of Petrosian’s python technique.

Ashvin Chauhan

Making Chess Popular

In India cricket is extremely popular and the best rewarded sport compared to other sports. And when I look at some other countries, I must admit that India seems like a good model to follow as far as motivating sports professionals, and this includes chess players. Financial support and a good environment is provided from an early age.

Let’s talk about professionals and the financial stability needed to motivate them. Vishy Anand is one of our national heroes but almost all IMs and GMs are highly respected and financially stable. You can’t expect them to spend their valuable time developing chess across society if they are not making enough bucks. In India you can even find many players around 2000 rating with permanent government jobs, and they are given special privileges to play chess regularly. They have been selected based on their chess talent, and of course there are some quotas assigned for this. But at least this provides some motivation to work on chess rather than put it aside for academic studies.

Let’s talk about kids and the good environment and financial support they receive. If a kid performing well at city or district level they will be backed financially by the government. In my city there are many students who are getting financial support every month. This even motivates their parents too. Of course there are some selection criteria to meet. Even last year Gujarat state chess association had hired two Russian trainers to coach them.

This does seem to be a lot better than many other countries and perhaps explains why India is producing so many good players.

Ashvin Chauhan

Indirect Ways Of Winning Material

Checkmate ends the game, but a game is more often won by winning material directly or indirectly. A direct win of material is very simple to explain, you make a profitable capture or exchange. The indirect method involves cutting the opponent’s pieces off from the main battle field, having a superiority of force there or locking down a piece temporary or forever. In a nutshell one can say that indirect methods deal with reducing the quality of opponent’s pieces or increasing quality of your own pieces. Here is an instructive & famous example:

William Winter against Capablanca in 1912


Q: White’s last move, Nd5, was a mistake. How can you build a winning position because of this mistake?
A: As follows:

1…g5!

The beginning of the end.

2.Nxf6

If 2. Nxg5 then 2…Nxd5 wins a piece or if 2. Bg3 then 2…Nxd5 3. exd5 Bg4 followed by f6 leaves White’s dark square bishop with no future. Please note that the bishop pinning the knight on f6 is quite a common theme and you can find a detailed explanation of its effect on the center and the future of the bishop in My System by Aaron Nimzowitsch.

2…Qxf6 3.Bg3 – Bg4

Now White can’t avoid doubled pawns on the f- file and White’s dark square bishop can’t come to life without sacrificing a pawn.

4.h3

If 4.h4 then 4…Bxf3 5. Qxf3 Qxf3 6. gxf3 f6 with same result discussed below.

4…Bxf3 5.Qxf3 Qxf3 6.gxf3 f6

Now the bishop can’t be unlocked without sacrificing a pawn. In the game White choose not to sacrifice and Black attacked the queenside with his extra piece. Black won after 15 more moves.

Here is the whole game in case you’re interested.:

Ashvin Chauhan

Creativity In Endgames

A general assumption about the endgame is that it is boring and merely technique. But this is far from the truth. The reason behind the belief is that people tend not to find any action while studying endgames. It might be similar to mathematics where one plus one is two but not 100%. Similarly to the middle game you must be creative and imaginative in order to play better in the endgame.

Here are two beautiful and creative endgames which are having instructive values too:

Emanuel Lasker Vs. Edward Lasker in 1924: White to Move

This one is a very famous endgame played between the two Laskers where Emanuel Lasker managed to save the game despite being an exchange and a pawn down. In order to save a day you must have to win the b3 pawn even at the cost of White’s two pawns, but it is really difficult as Black can hold the b3 pawn. So Lasker came up with a really creative idea of creating a fortress with knight and king against king, pawn and rook. He played:

1.g7 Ke6 2.g8=Q Rxg8 3.Kc4 Rg3

3…Rb8 doesn’t change the outcome, for example 4.f5 Kxf5 5.Kc3 Ke4 6.Nc Kd5 7.Nd2 b2 8.Nb1 Ke4 9.Kc2 Kd4 and 10.Nd2 after which Black’s king can’t penetrate and the rook can’t leave the b file. Therefore the game would be a draw.

4.Na4 Kf5 5.Kb4 Kxf4 6. Nb2

Again a fortress! The rook can’t leave the third rank as Black’s king can’t support the pawn. White tried to win for some more moves but was soon force to agree to a draw.

Kasparov Vs. Timman in 2000: Black to Move

Black last move was c4, mainly relying on Rxc4 Rxb5 when fight is on. Instead this happened:

1.Kxc4!!

A surprise; Black had thought that Kxc4 is not possible because of d3, winning.

1…d3 2.Kxd5!! d2 3.g4+!

The point. Black resigned in view of 3…Kxg4 4. Rc4+ followed by Rd4.

Ashvin Chauhan