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Hone your chess skills with the beast during this lockdown period

by Satanick Mukhuty - 18/05/2020

The coronavirus has well-nigh brought the whole world to a stand still, but for chess players this is a crucial time to work hard and improve on their game. ChessBase India is accordingly hosting some great instructive shows with top Indian players during these lockdown times. And recently our guest was none other than the beast, Grandmaster and India no.4 Adhiban Baskaran. In a long conversation with IM Sagar Shah which lasted almost ninety minutes, Adhiban analysed games, solved positions, and also answered questions from fans. The whole show was published earlier as a series of three separate videos on the ChessBase India YouTube channel, in this article we present you a gist of the entire thing.  

Hopes of ordinary life activities resuming their normal course continue to dwindle as the nation enters Lockdown 4.0 in its incessant fight against the cataclysmic covid19 pandemic. But call it silver lining if you will, while the rest of the world languishes in home confinement, the chess players who usually struggle with their bustling schedule have found the much needed time during this troubled period to work on their concepts and fine-tune their skills. Accordingly, we at ChessBase India are also striving to regularly bring valuable chess content on our various online platforms with the sole aim of helping our followers to improve at chess from their homes.


IM Sagar Shah recently recorded a special show with India no.4 Adhiban Baskaran called "The Beast Unleashed" and this was published in the form of three separate videos on our YouTube channel. Thus, to make learning easier, in this article we provide you the crux of these three instructive sessions with the one and only beast of Indian chess!

Adhiban in action in the World Cup 2013 | Photo: Wikipedia  

Going down the memory lane...

The show begins with Adhiban analysing one of his memorable games against - well guess who, the interviewer himself - IM Sagar Shah. This was from an U20 National Championship in Chennai from eleven years ago, and Sagar reveals during the conversation that psychologically he was already nervous facing Adhiban in this game.

Sagar Shah, the CEO of ChessBase India, is no doubt a very strong player, but how did he fare against the up-and-coming Adhiban back in day? Well, we will soon find out!

Sagar was White in this game and he began with the queen's pawn opening, Adhiban responded by opting the Nimzo-Indian defense which used to be his usual repertoire against 1.d4 back then.


Sagar Shah - Adhiban Baskaran, National Junior Championship 2009 

When you think of attacking chess against 1.d4 you generally think of the King's Indian or the Grunfeld, but Adhiban rightly shows in this game that aggression is mostly a matter of mindset rather than the choice of opening. As we will see, this encounter flared up pretty quickly from what seemed like a calm Nimzo-Queen's Indian position.

Before White got the chance to bring his b2 bishop into play, Adhiban made sure to strike the center with 11...e5, this was already a very ambitious way of playing.

Black solidified his pawn on e4 seizing some crucial space in the center. Sagar's main plan in this position was 14.Qe2 with the idea of Ba2 followed by c4 and d5, but for some reason he chose 14.Bb5 in the game and was not particularly happy about it.

Adhiban brought all his pieces to activity, 19...Nd5 blockaded the d4 pawn and was meant as the first step of a very positional plan with ...Na5 and ...b5 that he had in mind. But the game however was meant to follow an entirely different course! 

White pushed 20.a3-a4 to hinder Black's expansion on the queenside but this forced Black to strike up a completely different plan ... Can you guess how Adhiban continued? Hint: It's exactly the kind of move that the beast would play!

Yes, I hope you spotted it! Adhiban simply went ahead with 20...Re6, switching the play over to the kingside and all sorts of dangerous ideas with ...Rg6 followed by ...Bxh3 were in the air now!

22.Ba3 was the first major slip on Sagar's part and this allowed...

...the powerful 22...Bxh3! (Did you guess it?)

Things fell apart for White quickly from here. Obviously 23.gxh3 wasn't great in view of 23...Qf5 where Black crashes in through f2. Sagar chose 23.Nxe4 instead and this actually gave him one last chance to save the day (see the annotation below) but he failed to capitalize on it and was crushed in just 30 moves.

This is how the final position looked after Adhiban managed to strip the white king naked with his bishop kamikaze on g2. Yes, White can't avoid checkmate, and what's interesting is that Black's knight on c6 too joined the foray at very the last moment. The full annotated game is presented below for you to peruse.
Oh and yes, don't miss Sagar and Adhiban analyse the game in this video!

Now Adhiban in the hot seat!

Once Adhiban was done showing Sagar's humiliating loss against him to the viewers, it was time for Sagar to return the favour! | Photo: David Llada

Thus, the second part of the show begins with Sagar testing Adhiban with some really tricky positions. The beast however, in his usual candid self, takes on the challenge graciously. In my view this is the most instructive part of the show where you get to see first hand how a top Grandmaster like Adhiban navigates his way through different complications on board. I will present just two positions here which I personally enjoyed very much, you can check out the rest in the video of the full session below. 


Leonid Yudasin - Vladimir Kramnik 1994

It is White to move and he has two promising passers on the queenside. Can you find the only way to bring the full point home? Adhiban actually slumped on this one and couldn't find the right way, see if you can do better! The detailed solution is given below.

Timofeev Artyom - Lugovoi Aleksei 2005

Sagar mentions that this position is taken from Jacob Aagaard's popular text Practical Chess Defense. It is Black's turn here, White's pieces are all over the black king but surprisingly there's a subtle resource that can save the day. Unlike the first position, Adhiban was able to nail this quite easily, can you do the same? The solution is given below but hey, don't look at it right away!

And of course, do watch this full video to match your wits against the beast!

Adhiban answers questions

In the final part of the show, Adhiban answers some of the questions that the followers of ChessBase India had in mind for him. The questions asked were about everything from chess improvement in general to psychology to the prospect of Firouzja becoming the next big thing in the chess world and more. Below are the books that Adhiban recommended to all improving chess players:

Artur Yusupov's "Build up your chess" series was Adhiban's first recommendation. You can check out all three parts of this series on the ChessBase India online shop.

The Dvoretsky book series was obviously the next in line. The classic texts by the legendary trainer and writer Mark Dvoretsky are perhaps something that everyone, from the beginner to the advanced level player, uses in the chess world.  

Previously we saw a position from this excellent book - Practical Chess Defence - by Jacob Aagaard. No wonder Adhiban made sure to mention the Aagaard series too which for, good reasons, has become quite the rage with players these days. Check out the book Practical Chess Defence here.
Finally. check out full Q&A session with Adhiban in this video.

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