Category Archives: Ashvin Chauhan

Pawn Mass

A few days ago I was watching a game played between Neiksans (2567) and Geir Sune (2453). On move number 20 white sacrificed his bishop for 2 pawns on a6. After a long thought I came to the conclusion that white wanted to create a pawn mass on the ‘b’ and ‘c’ files. Then on move 28 Black played …Rb8 and white rejected the exchange of rooks and played Rxf7. At first glance it looks dubious to exchange the last major and active piece, but White had very logical reasons for not exchanging the rook.

So why did White not exchange the rook?
1) It is last major piece on the board.
2) The rook is very active on 7th rank and has targets.

Eventually game was ended in a draw after 64 moves.

I was watching this game on Playchess and doing a ‘guess the move’ exercise (this is exciting and fun while doing it with a live game). I toyed with the idea of playing Rxb8 on move 29 with following considerations:
1) Black Knight on g3 is awkwardly placed so you can get tempo with e4 after Rxb8.
2) With the e4 lever you can create a strong pawn mass.
3) Black’s Rook is not participating in the main battle area.

Out of curiosity I checked my analysis with Fritz, where the engine didn’t like my moves at first, but after few moves it liked White’s position. I will not publish my analysis here as I want readers to do it on their own.

Lessons Learned

1) Like any tactical shot, the strength of a pawn mass must be analysed thoroughly.
2) A pawn mass is very powerful if it creates space for you and cramps opponent position, creates a mating net or the opponent has difficulty in bringing his pieces or additional piece into the action because of it.

This lesson is based on my experience; spend some more time on a move which looks dubious and illogical at first glance. Often you will find the logic in it after further study.

Ashvin Chauhan


Be Rational

In order to play good chess you need to be rational at each and every moment of a game. A slight compromise can cause a lot of damage. What I mean by this will become clear with the following examples and discussion:

This is my game against GM Thipsay Praveen M. During the game I was comfortable until move 29. On move 30 I played …c4 and realised that now his rook will be active on the ‘b’ file and that puts pressure on me, even though it was not bad move. I then lost the game in the next five moves.

After the tournament, while analysing my games, I came to the conclusion that if he was not GM, I wouldn’t have made the mistakes I did. It happens with most chess players that rather playing the positions we are people! Here I was playing against a much higher rated player but similar things can happen when you are playing much lower rated player, consequently underestimating his strength.

Here is the example in whichI was playing a lower rated player. I could have won with a6 but rejected this idea because during last few moves he had created some play on king-side. The main reason for losing this game was that I had responded to the threats which I should not.

The lesson to be learned is to be rational and play the positions rather than the person sitting opposite you. On each and every move the position changes and you should play it rationally. Don’t be influenced by an opponent’s rating or play.

Ashvin Chauhan


Keeping Kids Interested In Chess

When teaching kids how the pieces move they can get bored if we only use puzzles. They are eager to start playing but this is pointless when they don’t know how the pieces move. The solution is to introduce different games rather than a full chess game which will serve the purpose of playing and learning together. Here are some examples which you can introduce after explaining that particular piece movement and capture.

1. Pawn Game: Both players have just pawns. The winner is the one who promotes a pawn first. As a coach you can also explain the concept of support and the numbers of attackers against the numbers of defenders.

2. Tom & Jerry Game:This is the game which kids like the most. The queen is the Tom and the pawns are the jerrys and order to win a game Tom has to capture every Jerry while the Jerrys’ goal is to reach on the other side of the board. Here the coach must teach kids a double attack with the queen.

3. Pawns vs. Pieces (Other than Queen or King): Usually I prefer that the number of pawns has the same as value of the piece.

Rook vs Pawns: The rules are the same as tom and Jerry game but as a coach you should explained them when to attack pawns from front, rear and side.

Knight vs Pawns or Bishop vs Pawns: Before the game coach must teach kids some patterns to stop pawns using bishop or knight. For example white’s pawns are on a6, b5 and c4 then bishop should be on g1-a7 diagonal.

4. Trapping the Knight: This one is quite interesting, the winner is the player who takes fewer moves to capture the knight. Usually we start with queen vs. knight and then progress on to rook and bishop vs. knight.

5. The Knight Tour: This is a tough game where knight has to visit each square of the board but once only.

The main purpose of these games is to keep chess interesting.

Ashvin Chauhan


Game Analysis, Its Outcomes And Improvement

People should analyse their games in order to improve at chess. But how should they go about this? First and foremost you must have good record of your game. What I mean by a good record is that you should write down ideas behind each move shortly after finishing the game.

Blunder checks and tactical oversights are best done with a computer program, which can help a lot. Once you know what you have missed tactically what else can you do? Here I have an idea. Categorize your games according to opening and generate tactical puzzles using your games. This can be done with Fritz. Soon you will notice any pattern of error in a particular opening and practicing those puzzles repeatedly will help you much more than solving tactical puzzles from a book.

Levers: Master play is based on pawn structure so it is wise to analyse which pawn levers you and your opponent missed in the relation of piece placement and time. I think this is essential in developing middle game play and positional play.

Compare your ideas with those of a stronger player or coach. For example you prefer to play Rfe8 in order to bring rook into action but your coach want you to play Rfe8 in order to bring Nf6-d7-f8 to protect your king. The moves are the same but with different reasoning behind them. This will help you understand the position better and the logic behind the move played.

Ashvin Chauhan


Working on Combinative Skills

Perhaps the best way to improve combinative skill in practice is to focus on checks, captures and threats on each move whether it’s your move or the opponent’s. This is very easy to read but very hard to put into practice.

The reasons can be different, either poor training or just being too involved with a plan. And if that doesn’t happen, we might have different world champion!

Here is an example taken from one of Artur Yusupov’s books:

Yusupov rejected the move
hg6 – Rxg6
and played Bf4 and game was ended in a draw.

Yet as he himself explained, after Rxg6 he missed Qxg6 (a capture)- fxg6 and now f7, a threat which can’t be met.

For kids and amateurs I can see that poor training is the main cause; most coaches just recommend good tactical books for furnishing enough information on tactical motifs. But I prefer to be with kids while they are solving combinations of tactical exercises and continue hammering home the idea to look for checks, captures and threats on each move.

Another reason is poor chess vision, and the best way to improve in this area to play blindfold games with your partner or coach or to solve exercises without sight of the board.

Ashvin Chauhan


Avoiding Time Trouble

“Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them.”
– Albert Einstein

If I talk about myself, I never face time trouble except in ‘blitz’ chess because of my habits, both good and bad. So I thought I’d share what I think are my good habits along with observations from the tournament hall of bad ones. Plus those I am trying to overcome:

1. Many of us have the habit of thinking only when our clock is ticking and relaxing in the opponent’s time. Sometimes it is good to take a break, though it is not always necessary.

2. Calculating the same variation again and again is something I have seen a lot. It often occurs when someone is not able to visualize the board properly and it often results in time trouble.

3. Taking too much time in opening can lead to time trouble. Of course if there is something new you should think about it, but when the moves are familiar to you it’s better to play more quickly and save time for critical moments.

4. Trying to see every detail in calculating can also lead to time trouble. There’s no need to calculate everything to the end, it is not possible for humans. It’s better to end your calculation when you feel position is comfortable for you.

5. Don’t try to force a position that’s not ready. In a simple position you can’t find a forced win over the board. You can do it at home with hours of analysis. Over the board you should coordinate your quality of move and time so play the optimal move rather than one that is necessarily the best.

Ashvin Chauhan


Teaching Kids How To Trap Pieces

When teaching kids how to trap an opponent’s pieces, and not get their own trapped, I start with a very simple example:

Here White is able to win the pawn it is fixed on d5; in other words the pawn is not mobile. The same can be applied to a piece, and here is the most common example:

The knight is less mobile than other pieces and so it is very easy to trap it like this. To promote better understanding we ask kids to play a game where one has only knight and the other has a queen, the winner being the one who can trap the knight in the least number of moves. In a nut shell, if you can hamper or restrict opponent piece mobility there are more chances that you can win that piece.

A common way to trap a piece is by shutting it in with an obstructing piece. This often happens in practice, here’s an example with Black to move:

Here it would be a mistake to capture the g2 pawn because of Bg3, and white will win a rook on his next move. Of course I am not including any points like trapping the opponent’s bishop inside his pawn chain as it is not relevant when you first teach kids. It is very hard to trap a queen but this position often arises while playing against the French Defence.

Though I am not winning the queen here I am creating such threats that I can win some material. Capturing pawn on b2/b7 is also known as poisoned pawn variation in some openings.

Ashvin Chauhan


Identify The Key Defender

Identifying the key defender can be a very useful technique, particularly when you are in attack. For example in this position (taken from The Encyclopedia Of Chess Combinations):

Here the queen sacrifice on f3 look very promising (it is often good to start your calculation with forcing moves as your opponent won’t get time to execute his plans) because it opens the g- file and increases the scope of bishop (f1-a6 diagonal) and knight. Then I calculate ….Qxf3, gxf3 Rg8+, Nxg8 Rxg8+ and notice that he can return the queen by playing Qg4. Even after Kf1 Ba6+ he can return the material. So I rejected that variation and looked around for something else, and note that Black has to do something as otherwise his own position is critical.

However we can conclude that the queen is the key defender if I want to play Qxf3.

With this in mind I looked position again and tried to see what happen if queen was not on the d-file or the h3-c8 diagonal. Now it is crystal clear you can deflect the queen by playing …Rxe7!, again this is a forcing move. It is also wise to see whether your opponent has a good intermediate check before executing this kind of sacrifice.

Now you know how to try to solve such positions.

Ashvin Chauhan


Keep Your Chess Interesting

Have you been ever become bored while working at chess or playing? To be honest I have done so quite often and many times I have fallen asleep while doing some chess. Part of the problem is that my whole day involves chess and chess alone, whether it’s coaching or preparation. That in turn has affected my playing skills quite badly, so I have developed some rules about what one should avoid.

Stop playing mechanical chess: This happens when you think that you are 100% familiar with the positions you play and believe that how are you playing them is the only way to go! In order to overcome this habit I started to play some unorthodox chess openings. You can try 960 chess too. This is quite interesting as you don’t get familiar positions and you start to play chess again!

Unplug yourself from routine: This applies to any field, not only chess. One should take regular breaks and rest from anything in which you find yourself becoming too routine. Some organisations even offer paid holidays so their employees can balance their personal life and work, keeping them focused and effective while at work. If you are not, you started losing interest in the activity you most like.

Apart from that you can use music or inspirational quotes while working at chess. This helps you in keeping focused even if you are training too much.

Ashvin Chauhan


Playing Better Rook Endgames

You can learn technical rook endgames using any good endgame book, but what I am going to share is based on my experience and little reading. If you deploy following points while playing rook endgame it will definitely help you.

An active rook is your hero: Rooks love to attack in the endgame. Here are two simple examples which will help you to understand what I mean by that.:

With these examples I am not claiming that an active rook will always secure you a win or draw a pawn down, but it will definitely provide you better chances to win or defend in worse conditions.

In order to keep your rook active you should know the Tarrasch Rule which is to place rooks behind the passed pawn, whether it is your passed pawn or your opponent’s.

Cutting off the enemy king: This can happen a lot in practice and often decides games (a very useful tool to obtain lucena position!)

In this position Rd1!! is a forced win for White and no other move will do. Here the Black king is cut off by a file, and if you want to check how effective a rook is when it cuts off enemy king along a rank, please study the Philidor position.

Rook works well when weaknesses are fixed rather than mobile, something I have learned by studying Capablanca’s rook endgames. And in order to target those weaknesses you must have an entry point into the enemy camp. You can do that by working hard!!

Ashvin Chauhan