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3 Tips to Improve your Chess with GM Swapnil Dhopade

by Priyadarshan Banjan - 05/10/2016

India's Grandmaster No. 40 Swapnil Dhopade turns 26 today. He has had a fascinating journey from being a bawling toddler to a tournament-winning mean machine. Things were not rosy at all for the man from Amravati in Maharashtra. I mean, come on, have you even heard of Amravati?! Over the past one year, ChessBase India has collected a bucket load of exclusive material while covering the performances of Swapnil. We distil all the material and bring you a small and useful list-post where you will learn 3 tips to improve your chess with GM Swapnil Dhopade!

3 Tips to Improve your Chess with GM Swapnil Dhopade

Swapnil Dhopade was born on 5th October 1990 in Amravati, Maharashtra (have you even heard of this city?!). He became India's 40th grandmaster late last year. Swapnil has lived a life of struggle in his pursuit of excellence. And he has some useful tips with which you can improve your chess. But, first, let's wish him a happy birthday!

Happy Birthday, Swapnil! One-year-old toddler gets going.

And then, this was when he turned two!

Swapnil has had a fascinating journey from being a bawling toddler to a tournament-winning mean machine.

Are you ready to learn from Swapnil?  It does not mean all of us can become grandmasters, nor does it mean anything from the point of view of results. Swapnil believes that it all comes down to just one thing -- the game you are playing now. In chess, as in life, it is not about winning or results, but the game itself.


So, how do you become like GM Swapnil Dhopade?

1. Attitude: Focus on Playing, not on Ratings and Results

In February 2016, a few minutes after Swapnil convincingly won the IIFL Wealth Open, I took this short interview of him where Swapnil explained the key to his leap in chess strength. In the second round of the National-B 2015 tournament, Swapnil lost to a 1900 player. That is when he realized that he must change his attitude.

 Stuck somewhere in chess, or in life? Swapnil has it covered.

He was stuck at the 2400-2480 range for a long time, struggling to cope with the fear, anxiety and negative results. Then he changed his attitude. He focused on his play, and the game itself, and chose to ignore ratings and results completely. He has won 5 FIDE Rated Opens and 2 Team Championships for his Team Railways since then, all this in one year. Of course, he also became a grandmaster.


This 4-min-short interview was conducted in Hindi. 

You can skip directly to 1:58 to hear the relevant part. (Translation in gist above.) It does not matter what rating level we are in. We all can learn from Swapnil and change our attitudes!

2. Find the Best Squares for your Pieces!


It's Black (Swapnil) to play. What would be the move you would think of? Hint: think about the best squares for your pieces.

Not long after he became a grandmaster, Swapnil visited Sagar Shah's house for a couple of days of training and fun. Sagar took the opportunity to shoot this video where Swapnil explains to all the chessbasers at ChessBase India the art of positional play - find the best square for your pieces!

You can find the PGN of this game in the Downloads section below. 

So that is his secret! Improve your worst placed piece by finding the best square for them! Quite simple, yeah? Well, not really.

3. Study Model Players

Swapnil thinks that studying a model player deeply made him strong. He commented: When I was young I once went to IM Anup Deshmukh for coaching. He told me many important things and also gave me my first chess book – an Informator. He told me to study Karpov’s games to improve my positional understanding. I am not sure how much I understood back then, but his games had a great impact on me and my playing style.


I liked the way he slowly built an advantage and converted it into a full point without giving his opponents any chances. Studying his games in childhood also increased my liking for endgames – I would love to trade queens and go into endgames whenever possible. So I think that subconsciously I started imitating Karpov’s style.


Swapnil Dhopade-Tsekov (Notes by GM Swapnil Dhopade)

[Event "World Railways Chess Championship"]
[Site "St Petersburg"]
[Date "2016.07.06"]
[Round "3.1"]
[White "Dhopade, Swapnil"]
[Black "Tsekov"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D15"]
[WhiteElo "2500"]
[BlackElo "2198"]
[Annotator "Swapnil Dhopade"]
[PlyCount "75"]
[EventDate "2016.07.06"]
[EventCountry "RUS"]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e3 a6 5. Nf3 b5 6. b3 Bg4 7. Be2 Nbd7 8. h3 Bh5
9. g4 Bg6 10. Ne5 Nxe5 11. dxe5 Ne4 (11... Nd7 $5 {is an interesting
alternative.}) 12. Nxe4 Bxe4 13. f3 Bg6 14. cxd5 cxd5 15. a4 $1 {I was
following a nice positional game played by Topalov which I had seen earlier
this morning before the game.} b4 16. Bb2 e6 17. Qd4 $6 {this is a inaccuracy
as it allows black to play ...Bc2.} (17. Rc1 $142 Be7 (17... h5 18. Kd2 $5 Qh4
19. Bxa6 Rxa6 20. Qe2 Rb6 21. Rc8+ Ke7 22. Bd4 Rb7 23. Qa6 {1-0 (23) Votava,J
(2508)-Neuman,P (2499) Germany 2013}) 18. Qd4 {transposes.}) 17... Be7 (17...
Bc2 $142 {is a better choice.} 18. Bd1 Rc8 19. Rc1 Bc5 20. Qd2 Bxd1 21. Kxd1
O-O 22. Qd3 Qb6 23. Ke2 Rc6 24. Rc2 Rfc8 25. Rhc1 g6 26. f4 Be7 27. Bd4 Qb7 28.
Kd1 Kf8 29. Rxc6 Rxc6 30. Rxc6 Qxc6 31. Ba7 Ke8 32. Qd4 Kf8 33. Kd2 Ke8 34. Bb6
Qc8 35. Qd3 Qb7 36. a5 Qc8 37. f5 Qc3+ 38. Qxc3 bxc3+ 39. Kxc3 Kd7 40. f6 Bf8
41. b4 Kc6 42. Bd8 Kb5 43. Be7 Bh6 44. Kd3 Bg5 45. Ke2 Bh4 46. Bd6 Kc4 47. Kf1
Bg3 48. Ke2 Bh4 {1/2-1/2 (48) Harikrishna,P (2645)-Laznicka,V (2690)
Khanty-Mansiysk 2010}) 18. Rc1 O-O 19. O-O $14 {white has some pressure.} Qd7 (
19... a5 20. f4 Be4 21. Bd3 Bxd3 22. Qxd3 Qd7 23. Rc2 Rfc8 24. Rfc1 Rxc2 25.
Qxc2 g6 26. Bd4 Kf8 27. Kg2 Ke8 28. Kf3 Ra6 29. h4 Qb7 30. h5 Kd7 31. hxg6 hxg6
32. Rh1 Rc6 33. Qd3 Qa6 34. Qb5 Qxb5 35. axb5 Rc8 36. Rh7 Rf8 37. e4 dxe4+ 38.
Kxe4 Kc7 39. f5 gxf5+ 40. gxf5 exf5+ 41. Kxf5 Kd7 42. Ke4 Bg5 43. Kd5 Rd8 44.
Bb6 {1-0 (44) Topalov,V (2751)-Laznicka,V (2678) Eilat 2012}) 20. f4 Be4 21.
Bd3 Bxd3 22. Qxd3 $16 {the problem for black is that he is not in time to
exchange both the rooks on the c-file.} Qb7 23. Rc2 $1 Rfc8 24. Rfc1 {white
has a pressure down the c-file, the bishop has a strong post on d4 and whites
queen is well placed on d3 eyeing both the queenside and kingside.} Bd8 $6 25.
Bd4 Be7 26. Kf2 g6 27. Ke2 Kf8 28. h4 $1 Ke8 29. h5 Rxc2+ 30. Rxc2 Rc8 31. f5
exf5 32. gxf5 Rc6 $2 (32... gxf5 $142 {was essential to save the game.} 33.
Qxf5 Rxc2+ 34. Qxc2 h6 35. e6 $5 (35. Kd2 Qd7 $11) 35... fxe6 36. Qg6+ Kd7 37.
Qxh6 Qc7 $11) 33. e6 $1 $18 {and white succeeds in breaking blacks kingside.}
Bf8 34. exf7+ Kxf7 35. fxg6+ hxg6 36. hxg6+ Kg8 37. Rxc6 Qxc6 38. Qf5 1-0



Swapnil hails from Amravati in Maharashtra, which does not have much of a chess culture. The situation was worse back when Swapnil was developing as a young talent. "I think if you fall in love with chess and desire to improve, you always meet people who help you take your game to the next level." believes Swapnil.


Don't forget to wish Swapnil on his birthday!

Interview with Swapnil Dhopade Part 1 & Part 2

Download Games in PGN

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