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How to Choose a Chess Move

How to Choose a Chess Move


Today I shall review Soltis’ book – How to Choose a Chess Move. Selecting a good chess move is a remarkably complex task. By the time we begin to take the game seriously, by reading books or playing in tournament, we’ve forgotten how extraordinarily difficult the process is.

We’ve forgotten because we take for granted various time – saving steps. Without those shortcuts, selecting one move from the dozens of possibilities would seem impossible.

What is the difference between a GM who selects the best candidate moves more often than not and players like you and me who seem to struggle in this aspect?

GM Andre Soltis has written a wonderful book – How to Choose a Chess Move that fills a void which seems to be neglected apart from Silman’s herculean efforts titled How to Reassess your Chess, The Amateur’s Mind, and Reassess your Chess Workbook.

Long ago, the Russian author Alexei Seutin wrote a book called Three Steps to Chess Mastery, that was somewhat ambiguous for me in my early stages of chess learning and training.

Soltis’ book is aimed at club level players who have mastered the basics of chess principles and are adept at solving simple chess tactics and mates.

It is organized into 11 Chapters offering incredibly nice insights on how GM’s think. This resource offers an incredible wealth of information and each chapter is worth its weight in gold!

If you have to have just one book for the next few months to read, I would  recommend How to Choose a Chess Move (Clicking this link would add this book to your Amazon cart. My only grouse is that it has only 240 pages, for a work of this importance in the field of chess literature.





76,132 Studies by Harold van der Heijden – A mind-boggling effort by the author that took him 3 years of hard work (in perfecting this version alone). The database is in PGN-format. Apart from the initial position and the solution (including sub-variations and analysis) these additional information is provided: the name(s) of the composer(s), the GBR-code which is an index code denoting the chess force in the initial position, place and date of the primary source (tourney, journal, magazine) and whether it is a win or a draw study.

This fourth version of Harold van der Heijden’s Endgame Study Database has more than eight thousand extra studies compared to the previous edition from 2005. Besides, the solutions of many studies have been corrected or updated based on reader feedback.

It is by far the most exhaustive collection of endgame studies available.

Regular chess software such as Fritz or ChessBase or even the free Tarrasch or Lucas Chess can be used to play out the positions.

However to find studies in the database by name, year, source, material balance, and numerous other criteria you may need to use SCID (free) or Chessbase (commercial).

John Nunn and Artur Yusupov believe that chess players can benefit a lot from endgame studies by trying to solve them daily. This trains both one’s essential skills in chess such as – calculation ability, planning, visualization and tactical performance in the endgame which also aids in the middle-game.

Dutch endgame study guru, Harold van der Heijden (above) celebrated his 50th birthday with a composing event, and the winner was the following spectacular effort, by the man many regard as the best study composer currently active in the world – John Nunn

This one is the best…
Try to solve this… And post your answers in the comment box!!

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His biography will be more interesting than some novels. Having learnt to play chess at 10, by the age of 12 he and his parents took the decision to go professional – and he set off to seek his fortune in Europe. He studied with one coach, then another, then a third, changing cities and countries and stunning everyone with his ability to work hard and his thirst for chess knowledge. He absorbed it all like a sponge. And he played, and played, and played… Most adults wouldn’t have withstood such a crazy tempo of life, but this guy thought nothing of it! “A lot of hard work…” Interview of Fabiano Caruana – from the heart.

And therefore few were surprised when he shot up by winning dozens of opens and children’s and team championships to appear before us as a “2700-player”, one afraid of no-one and ready to write a new page in chess history…

Caruana is a typical nihilist who wants to change the world. Will be manage? If Fabiano continues in the same spirit it can’t be ruled out that in a year or two we’ll be singing his praises and not those of Carlsen or Aronian. For now, however – let’s get acquainted.

Evgeny Atarov: Fabiano, do you remember the day you were introduced to chess and… do you regret at all today that you devoted yourself to this game?

Fabiano Caruana: I learned to play quite late, when I’d just finished primary school. At the time I was about 10 years old… It happened completely by accident. My mobile phone turned out to have chess on it, and I was curious what kind of a game it was – so I learned the rules. At first it was just a distraction, but I got so gripped by it that only two years later, when I was 12, I started my professional chess career.

Е.А.: A professional career at age 12?! Surely you’re exaggerating?

F.C.: No, by age 12 I was already working constantly and I began travelling to tournaments, so I don’t think it’s an exaggeration. It all happened quickly for me.

Е.А.: What else were you keen on in those years?

F.C.: As far as I recall I always did a lot of sport. Above all, that was squash, and also tennis. But that was all many, many years ago…

Е.А.: What was it that so attracted you to chess and made you choose it?

F.C.: It’s a very complex game. You can spend twenty years in a row studying it, but all the time you keep finding weaknesses in your play and constantly improving. I like to grow and learn new things… The more you learn the more you want to learn!

And if you take a close look at the strongest players it’s evident that among them are both players over 40 and very young guys… You can quickly achieve success in chess, but from some point onwards it becomes difficult to grow.

Е.А.: It used to be thought that chess teaches patience and you need to grow gradually!

F.C.: The appearance of computers has dramatically altered the situation. Now you can make progress quite quickly: on account of talent and constant study. But, after rising to a certain level, it becomes very, very hard to become stronger.

Е.А.: Do you feel the need to play and study constantly?

F.C.: Above all – to play! I can say that I get great pleasure from the feeling of rivalry. Training now involves a huge amount of work with computers, where you have to be the creative one. The machine is good at refuting, but you need to create yourself. What I like most is the process of playing, as my opponent and I are on a level playing field: he thinks up something, I think up something…

Е.А.: What goal do you set yourself when you sit down at the board: do you want to get pleasure from playing or to win a game and get a point on the score table?!

F.C.: For me chess is a struggle. Above all, I want to win. Of course I like it when I manage to create something special on the board: a beautiful idea or something it’ll be possible to look back on with pleasure…

Е.А.: In the USSR chess was considered a game that combined art, science and sport. And each of those areas had its adherents. Where do you fit into that?

F.C.: It’s hard for me to give a clear answer. Probably all of them together… Sometimes I have the urge to play creatively, I’m bursting with the desire to sacrifice something and attack. From time to time I think of myself as an investigator, particularly when I encounter something I don’t yet know. Then I sit down at the computer at home and analyse… But, of course, in most cases I’m a sportsman. The public demands results and wants to see you make the best move in any position. After all, it’s the sporting results that determine where you are in this world… I’m not hung up about the sporting side of our profession, but it has a serious influence on decision-making.

Е.А.: I haven’t followed chess life for a few years, but frankly I was amazed when I unexpectedly discovered an Italian chess player in the Top 100 list, and then higher and higher. I know Italians well – footballers, racing drivers, skiers and cyclists. But how has a chess player appeared and broken into the Top 10 in your absolutely non-chess country?

F.C.: I don’t have an answer. That’s probably also because I wasn’t born in Italy and I’m still only learning about my historical homeland. It should be noted, however, that there’s a real cult of sport in Italy, with many strong athletes in various sports.

Of course every boy in the country dreams of becoming a footballer. What about chess? I don’t even know… Perhaps it’s a turning point? Some kind of anomaly.

Е.А.: Before you there was a phenomenon in modern chess – Anand, who also grew into an outstanding player in a country without a serious chess tradition… What was it about you that made you decide to become a professional chess player at the age of 12?

F.C.: As I said before, at first I simply played for fun, but then I started to get better and better at it, and I thought: why not? I quickly became the best in my age group, and then I soon had more and more success.

Е.А.: What did your family think about your passion for chess?

F.C.: My parents would always have supported me whatever I did. For them the main thing was that their children were happy, and it wasn’t so important what exactly they did. They treated it normally when I said I wanted to be a chess player.

Е.А.: Do you have a big family?

F.C.: I’ve got a brother and sister, and they’re much older than me. My sister is 40, while my brother is even older. Each of them has their family, children…

Е.А.: Do any of them play chess?

F.C.: Only my father and brother, and just a little.

Е.А.: Have you ever played them?

F.C.: A couple of times, when I was still little. They weren’t desperately keen, and neither was I.

Е.А.: Nevertheless, many consider your father to be obsessed with his son’s career…

F.C.: I think that’s an exaggeration. My father really has done a lot for me and my development as a chess player, but I wouldn’t call him obsessed.

Е.А.: But isn’t travelling overseas for your career – first to Spain and then to Hungary – obsessive? You won’t find many such parents…

F.C.: My parents really wanted to help me fulfil my potential, and I’m grateful to them.

Е.А.: And what was your first step when you decided to become a chess professional?

F.C.: We realised that in order to succeed it was necessary to study a lot. At that point I didn’t fully understand what I needed. At first I tried to work on my own: using books and journals, and I spent many hours a day at the board.

I think that was a very important stage and I acquired the habit of working. Then I started to study with Bruce Pandolfini and Miron Sher – that was still in the States. Then I had a whole series of coaches, and I picked something up from each of them…

In the last two years I’ve been working closely and constantly with Vladimir Chuchelov. I’m very glad that I managed to persuade him to work with me and I hope we’ll work together for a long time to come. He’s a wonderful coach who knows a lot and is capable of inspiring you.

Read More about this wonderful interview

Reprogram your brain

Reprogram your brainThe common misconception is that blunders are just tactical errors. Tactics are involved, and better tactical vision will certainly help reduce the number of these blunders, but studying tactics is treating the symptoms and not the disease. Consider the errors you make in a game. How many of the critical errors (those that change the expected result of the game–win, lose or draw) were immediately obvious to you, and how many required some serious thought or computer assistance? If you had to think about why your move was bad, or why your opponent’s move worked, then the problem is related to some other facet of your game. However, if your error provokes an immediate “Oh No!”, then it wasn’t your tactics that were faulty but your thinking. So… Reprogram your brain – find what is the problem with your blunders.


  • shortly after you make your move you suddenly realize it was a blunder, or
  • your opponent makes an unexpected move whose strength is immediately obvious, or
  • your opponent makes a move that you didn’t consider, but it’s immediately obvious that you should have,

then your thinking process failed you, not your tactics.

So What’s the Solution?

How do I train this skill of near perfect thinking?

Ask yourself before moving – what your opponent can do and whether you can handle his threat. Many of us make a superficial attempt and select a move without going the full line.

As an example, consider bowling or basketball. One thing you train is to be able to consistently pull off a certain stroke or a push, such as hitting all 9 balls or putting the ball inside the basket 7-10 feet away from the basket. After practicing again, and again, and again, the “right” way to do it becomes programmed in your “sub-conscious memory” and you can just execute it with least thought.

The solution would appear to be to play more games at slow time controls and to really force yourself to play serious chess like a tournament, even when you play online.

Before you wonder what is “Sandwich” in chess terms let me tell you that it is a term for chess tactics wherein a chess piece (usually major) like the Rook or Queen getting caught between two enemy pawns and not free to move. Sandwich generally means to be inserted between two other things.


Means – to put (someone or something) in the space between two other things or people. Source: Merriam-Webster

In the schematic diagram below see how the Rook is trapped by a Pawn (that is defended of course).

To see how it can be used in our chess game let’s look at this position.

White to play (after Black played Rxb5).

Hint – Can the Rook be captured?

Explanation – The Rook is a very powerful piece. Like other pieces, it needs space to show its strength and stay out of trouble. The best is to keep the Rook on an open file and/or an open rank. When the Rook leaves the back rank in the middlegame, there is always a chance it will get stuck somewhere. One particular setup very troubling for the Rook is when it is stuck between the two Pawns, or, as I like to call it – ‘sandwiched’.

Solution – Almasi,Z (2717) – Robson,R (2562) (Hungary, 2010)

After 19…Rxb5

Over the last few moves both players exchanged some very heavy tactical blows. Finally, Black captured the N on b5, regaining the piece. Unfortunately, his R is about to get sandwiched.

20.Ne7+! (20.b4+-) Kh8 21.b4!+- White could have played this move right away, but decided to make a check first. He expects to win the Rb5 and avoid a possible …Rxd5.

Black resigned as after 21…Nd6 22.a4 Re8 23.Nf5 Nc4 24.Bc3. He loses a Rook for only a Pawn.


Now that you understood what a ‘sandwich’ in chess parlance is, try solving this and see how easy it is to think of entrapping the rook or doing something even bigger in case black tries something funny.

White to play:

Hint – once again I repeat – the Rook is a powerful piece, so always keep an eye on its mobility. When the space is limited, the Rook can get trapped or ‘sandwiched’.

Memorizing such chess patterns will help you to calculate easier and should improve your results.


pawn grabbing is a bad habit
Pawns in hand.

Pawn grabbing is a bad habit.

Whenever there is a tendency to grab pawns in your chess game think again. And here is the reason as to why.

At its heart, chess is a logical game: if your opponent repeatedly violates opening or middle-game principles (usually to attain a small material plus is not a good reason), he or she will have to face the repercussions in due course.

Usually, a player will neglect his development in favor of material gain like a pawn capture, because he sees no immediate tactical refutation. This stems from the fact that he assumes he will find a way to neutralize his opponent’s development initiative in due course.

Carlsen seems to prefer always taking a pawn, as long as there is no obvious loss – but he is not a normal player like us guys in the fishpond!. He even did it in game 5 vs Anand in November 2014.

But chess can be brutal on such acts of trespass. More so when the Queen is involved since Queen’s pawngrabbing adventures can cost valuable time. If you don’t know what you are doing just don’t do it. A point lost can never be regained. Years of hard work will be at risk if you are a professional player.

Have a look below.

Rozentalis – Minak 

This position arose after some moves in the Sicilian Rossolimo Variation. Black just grabbed a pawn at h4.

I request you to analyze this position and post your ideas, plans and suggestions in the comments area below.
For answer you have to see the video. Your ideas and plans are also welcome.

In closing remember that modern chess is not dogmatic; the rules are not written in stone. There are genuine cases when pawn grabbing is tactically justified (the Poisoned Pawn Variation of the Najdorf Defense comes to my mind).

But in the majority of cases it is wrong, and whenever your opponent does engage in such acts punish him or look for ways to do so.

supercharge your chess

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The Elephant Gambit is a rarely played chess opening beginning with the moves:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 d5!?

In this gambit, Black ignores the attack on his e-pawn and immediately tries to wrest the initiative from White. The main idea is that Black has sacrificed a pawn to gain a move and must obtain compensation for it. The resulting position can be sharp for White, and thus may be a good surprise opening for Black. It is generally considered unsound, because if White plays accurately Black does not get sufficient compensation for the sacrificed pawn.

There are few games which are interesting and you can use them to understand how Chess Dynamics work in the Elephant Gambit!

Source: Golden Chess

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At first sight, White’s chances are preferable. He has two bishops, and although the one at b2 is passive, it is free to come into play via c1.

Black’s pawn majority on the queen-side is ephemeral (the move b4 doesn’t give anything in particular), whereas White is ready for activity in the centre.

He can first strengthen his position by the advance of the h-pawn, but White’s main aim is the e5-e6 breakthrough.

This threat is highly unpleasant and it is not altogether clear how to combat it. Read More… (Goldenchess.in)

Four moves in - we are all blind

ALGORITHMS Four Moves In, We Are All Blind

Four yALGORITHMS Four Moves In We Are All Blindears in the making, a unique documentary on young blind chess players from India made by British filmmaker Ian McDonald and an Indian team to screen at the World Chess Championship in Chennai. Titled – ALGORITHMS Four Moves In, We Are All Blind – A Unique Documentary that is worth watching.

A film by Ian McDonald
India | 2012 | HDV | B&W | 96 mins
English, Hindi, Tamil, Odiya with English subtitles

produced by Geetha J.

The award-winning documentary Algorithms, directed by sports sociologist and documentarian Ian McDonald will be screened at the FIDE World Chess Championship 2013.

This one-off special screening presented by FIDE, AICF and TNSCA will be held at 4 pm on 21 Nov, 2013 at the Abbotsbury Ballroom (next to Media Centre), Hotel Hyatt Regency, the venue of the championship. Director Ian McDonald and Geetha J, the producer of the film will be present for the screening.

Algorithms (2012 / 96mins) is a feature documentary on young blind chess players from India. Filmed over three years from just before the World Junior Blind Chess Championship in Sweden in 2009 to just after the next championship in Greece in 2011, it follows three talented boys from different parts of India and a totally blind player turned pioneer who not only aims to situate India on a global stage but also wants all blind children to play chess.

The film, which has received critical acclaim and picked up awards at film festivals all over the world, is Ian’s first feature documentary and the first ever feature documentary on blind chess. Ian, who recently joined Newcastle University, UK, as a Lecturer in Film Practice, commented:

“The response to Algorithms has been amazing wherever it has screened. Audiences have been really taken with the subject matter, but most of all, it is the compelling characters in the film that seem to have captivated people. I am really looking forward to seeing what the audience in this chess championship make of the extraordinary young blind chess players of India!”

Screening is free to all but donations are welcome as all proceeds will go towards creating a high spec “Audio Narration” to make the film accessible to the blind and visually impaired community.

[button url=’#’ size=’small’ style=’coral’] About the Film: [/button]

In India, a group of boys dream of becoming Chess Masters, driven by a man with a vision. But this is no ordinary chess and these are no ordinary players. Algorithms is a documentary on the thriving but little known world of Blind Chess in India.

Filmed over three years from just before the World Junior Blind Chess Championship in Sweden in 2009 to just after the next championship in Greece in 2011, it follows three talented boys from different parts of India and a totally blind player turned pioneer who not only aims to situate India on a global stage but also wants all blind children to play chess.

Algorithms travels with the chess players to competitive tournaments and visits them in their home milieu where they reveal their struggles, anxieties and hopes. It moves through the algorithms of the blind chess world reminding the sighted of what it means to see. Going beyond sight and story, this observational sport doc with a difference elicits hidden realms of subjectivity. It allows for the tactile and thoughtful journey that explores foresight, sight and vision to continue long after the moving image ends.

Algorithms is the first ever feature documentary on Blind Chess.

[button url=’#’ size=’small’ style=’royal-blue’] THE CHESS PLAYERS:[/button]

charudatta Charudatta Jadhav from Mumbai is a champion player turned pioneer. He discovered the game of chess soon after he went blind in his teenage years. It gave him confidence and a purpose in life.  Convinced of the power of this game, he has dedicated his life to develop chess for the blind. A highly successful IT professional, Charu is a man of great drive and ambition, and he aims to situate India in  the top five countries for Blind Chess.



darpan Darpan Inani from Baroda is the most talented and highest ranked totally blind player in India. This idiosyncratic, confident and highly intelligent teenager is focussed on what he wants to achieve in  chess, and in life. Darpan possesses a wisdom that belies his young age. He is a topper in his sighted school and wants to be the first blind entrepreneur of India.




saikrishnaSaiKrishna S.T. from Chennai is the ambitious rising star of blind chess in India. He is fun-loving, gregarious and makes friends easily. But as a partially sighted boy faced with the possibility of going totally blind, there is a lot more steel to Sai’s character than at first appears. Sai studies in a blind school and is again a topper. He wants to be the first blind journalist of India.




AnantAnant Kumar Nayak from Bhubaneshwar is a promising new talent. He is a gentle boy with an endearing if slightly eccentric personality. With a strong sense of moral duty and responsibility, the totally blind Anant struggles to balance his commitment to chess and studies. Anant has come second in training exams for IAS and hopes to be a rare blind IAS officer of India.


[button url=’#’ size=’small’ style=’green’] Contact for film:[/button]

Ian McDonald
0044 7828637358
ian.interventions@gmail.com, info@algorithmsthedocumentary.com

Geetha J / AkamPuram:
0091 9447744864
geetha@akampuram.net, info@akampuram.net


Bishop vs Knight

Bishop vs Knight – Which is stronger?

All chess players have their own fancy presumptions regarding this. A large number of players are inclined towards the two Bishops compared to two Knights or a Bishop against a Knight. Even World Chess Champions like Fischer and Steinitz favored Bishops against Knights while Chigorin for a change prefered Knights against Bishops. Take your pick but look at the examples below to have an idea.

Below is the well known game between Max Harmonist and Siegbert Tarrasch in the Berlin variation of the Ruy Lopez where a large number of kibitzers and analysts including Nimzowitsch in his international book ‘My System‘ demonstrated this game as a poignant display of the dual Bishops.

And now it is time to witness the two Knight’s power against two Bishops, played between the great legends Emanuel Lasker vs Mikhail Chigorin.

This game is a fantastic show of knight blockade, one would say at move 14.Bd3 it was better for White (+-) according to Lasker but some inaccuracies and powerful domination by the Black Knights brought the point home.

When is a Bishop powerful or preferred?

When one must prefer a bishop is when the position is open and offers open diagonals or prospects of getting open diagonals.

When is a Knight powerful or preferred?

When one must prefer a knight: when the position is closed and the opponent’s Bishops are ‘biting the granite’.


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Training Positions

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76,132 Studies by Harold van der Heijden - A mind-boggling effort by the author that took him 3 years of hard work (in perfecting...