Improve your chess with Tania Sachdev

by Sagar Shah
4/7/2014 – If you google her images you might mistake her for a Hollywood actress or a fashion model. And IM Tania Sachdev has taken part in some fairly extravagent shows. But her greatest talent is chess, and specifically chess teaching. Which makes her latest ChessBase DVD we predict a surefire bestseller. Is there a more pleasant way to study chess? Review by Sagar Shah.

Improve your chess with Tania Sachdev

Review by Sagar Shah

You might mistake her to be a fashion model or a H/Bollywood actress. After all her looks and dressing sense are so very classy. If you do happen to google Tania Sachdev, you are very likely to come across photos like these:

On the left is Tania on the ramp during the "Ashima and Leena Show" at the
Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week in New Delhi – see India Forums for more photos.

And this is a portrait, and – who can resist...

... another, shot by the incomparable Fred Lucas during the Tata Steel Tournament of 2012

For people who do not know her, it may come as a huge surprise that Tania is a chess player! After all you do not find such a charismatic character in this 64 squared game every day! And bear in mind, Tania is no ordinary chess player! She is not only a Woman Grandmaster (WGM) but also an International Master (IM) with a current Elo rating of 2427.

Her new chess DVD “Improve your chess with Tania Sachdev” opens with the lines: “Hi, I am Tania Sachdev, I am an International Master from India. I have been playing chess forever and I like it very much, clearly! And I hope you do too, because it’s quite a prerequisite to improving at chess!”

As with every chess player, Tania too has interests off the board. However, when it comes to playing a game of chess you can count on her 100% dedication and concentration.

I can vouch for this personally as I was her teammate when we played in the 1st Maharashtra Chess League in 2013. Extremely confident, she was always ready to face the strongest player of the opposing team and give her best. This self-confident approach has helped her to become not only U12 national champion, two times National Women Champion but also Asian Champion in 2008.

Tania second from right, with the author of these lines on the extreme left,
playing for Ahmednagar Checkers Team in the MCL

It is the dream of every sports player in India to receive the Arjuna Award from the Government of India. This Award is conferred upon sports players who have not only shown excellent performances at the international level but have also displayed qualities of leadership, sportsmanship and a sense of discipline.

Tania receiving the prestigious Arjuna Award from the hands of the
President of India, Pratibha Patil, in 2009

I do not need to give any more proof of Tania’s pedigree, but I think this last one is important. At the recently concluded World Chess Championship 2013 in Chennai, Tania was one of the official commentators.

Along with GM Susan Polgar, IM Lawrence Trent and GM R.B.Ramesh, Tania provided live commentary that was shown on television in India. Thus, in her own way Tania contributed to the popularisation of chess at the national and international level. Millions of Indians watched her commentary live. Tania was her confident self and gave her best shot at trying to explain the extremely complicated world championship games to the general public.

It comes as no surprise that when Tania went to Hamburg in 2013 to record a DVD, she showed absolutely no signs of butterflies or nervousness.

On the DVD there are 14 annotated games that Tania discusses with you. The range of opposition she covers is quite vast. While in one clip she shows her game against a weak opponent, rated just 1828, after a few clips she is engaged in a full-blooded fight against GM Moskalenko (2500) and GM Alonso Roselli (2550). Thus it’s not just some random wins that she is trying to show. The wins are against strong opposition.

Tania’s main focus in the DVD is on the middlegame. In my opinion Tania is a wonderful opening expert and I won’t be surprised if in the near future she might record a DVD on some opening for ChessBase, but here she limits herself to the second part of the game. As she says in the introduction, “Opening theory has become quite crucial nowadays, but after the opening is over and you have reached the position you wanted, it’s quite important to give a direction to your game or to form a plan. In this DVD I want to provide you with the tools to give direction to your middlegame play!” And truly she does have some excellent advice for the viewers.

The Indian Chess diva has a lot of ideas and advice for the people watching the DVD
Important topics covered in this DVD, amongst many others, are:

  • weakened pawn structures and how to take advantage of them
  • accumulating small advantages
  • how to play actively when your opponent plays without a plan
  • breaking in the centre when opponent is attacking on the flank
  • avoiding piece exchanges when you have more space
  • using small tactics to achieve strategic aims
  • making use of your opponent’s badly placed piece.

Many of us have heard of these concepts. However, when you watch the strategies live in action in the games of a strong player, they stick in your mind for a longer period of time. The selection of games is pretty decent, but more than that, Tania really makes a very dedicated effort to provide examples that are as instructive as possible.

It is quite common that many times, in order to explain strategic concepts, the chess teachers try to simplify matters by avoiding complicated variations and concrete analysis. When this happens, the games look more like fairy tales. You enjoy them a lot but you fail to grasp the essence of the struggle which is inherent in a game of chess. I saw no such shortcuts taken by Tania. Wherever concrete analysis and variations were required she jumped right into the middle of the complications and tried to explain them in the best way she could.

Take for example her game against the German legend Wolfgang Uhlmann.

[Event "Snowdrops and Old-hands"] [Site "Podebrady"] [Date "2012.12.08"] [Round "1.3"] [White "Sachdev, Tania"] [Black "Uhlmann, Wolfgang"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E80"] [WhiteElo "2400"] [BlackElo "2319"] [PlyCount "57"] [EventDate "2012.??.??"] [EventRounds "8"] [EventCountry "CZE"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f3 a6 6. Be3 O-O 7. Qd2 Nbd7 8. Nge2 c5 9. d5 Ne5 10. Ng3 e6 11. a4 Qa5 12. Be2 exd5 13. cxd5 Bd7 14. O-O Qb4 15. Rfc1 Rfc8 16. h3 Ne8 17. a5 f6 18. f4 Nf7 19. Qc2 b5 20. Ra3 {White threatens to trap the black queen with Na2. Black's move is practically forced and he played} f5 21. exf5 {This move is very strong. However the natural move which strikes us first is that why didn't Tania play e5 when the diagonal of the bishop would be closed and threatens Na2. But this is well explained by Tania in her annotations!} ({Now} 21. Na2 {is not possible due to} Qxb2) ({A natural doubt that came to my mind was: why not instead} 21. e5 {blocking the g7 bishop, and after} dxe5 {we will play} (21... Nxe5 22. fxe5 Bxe5 {when for a piece Black has decent compensation. However this is not as strong as 21...dxe5 }) 22. Na2 {The queen is trapped - however Black has the nice resource:} exf4 23. Nxb4 cxb4 24. Qb1 bxa3 {with a clear advantage to Black.}) 21... Bd4 22. Nd1 gxf5 23. Kh2 Bxe3 24. Nxe3 Ng7 25. Nexf5 Nxf5 26. Nxf5 Qxf4+ 27. Rg3+ Kh8 28. Qc3+ Qe5 29. Nxd6 1-0

I am sure that you will not find such analysis in a DVD aimed at only beginners or intermediate players. This DVD has the right mix of rules and advice, and concrete analysis to back them up.

The ten test positions that follow the main part of the DVD were truly wonderful. Seven of them are from Tania’s own games and the remaining three are from grandmaster praxis. I quite loved the interactive format that ChessBase has come up with. Take for example the following position between Tania Sachdev (2430) and Madina Davletbayeva (2180).

So it’s White’s (Tania’s) turn to play here. What happens usually is that the teacher on the DVD asks us to pause the video and have a think, and when we have the answer we must unpause the video and look further. However, here it’s completely different. The video clip comes to an end with Tania posing a question to the viewers. Above Tania’s image you read “Make a move on the board, White to move.”
I followed the instruction and had a think. After a few minutes I came up with the most natural move in the position, which is 12.Bf4. I made the move on the board.

[Event " Asian Nations Chess Cup Women"] [Site "?"] [Date "2012.05.18"] [Round "2"] [White "Sachdev, Tania"] [Black "Davletbayeva, Madina"] [Result "1-0"] [WhiteElo "2427"] [BlackElo "2251"] [PlyCount "115"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Bb7 5. Bg2 Be7 6. O-O O-O 7. Re1 d5 8. cxd5 exd5 9. Nc3 c5 10. dxc5 bxc5 11. Ne5 Nbd7 {"Make a move on the board, White to move."} 12. Nc4 ({I followed the instruction and had a think. After a few minutes I came up with the most natural move in the position, which is} 12. Bf4 {I made the move on the board. And as soon as I made my move, a clip appeared instantly with Tania saying, "This is a good move, but not the best." And then she explained to me the reasons why Bf4 was not the best option. Before the clip ends she motivates the viewers by saying, "You can do better! Have a go at it again!"}) ({Alright I said to myself, come on I can do better. I click on the "Try again" button and have a think. Suddenly I see White's idea and make the move} 12. Nc4 {Words of praise flow from Tania, telling me that I have done a great job and found the best move. She explains some of the salient features of this move and then poses further questions which have to be solved in a similar manner.}) ({Inquisitive, that I am, I go to original position and make the move} 12. Nxd7 {Of course it's not a great move but I wanted to see what happens next. And just as I had expected, another recorded clip explaining to me how after} Qxd7 {the black rooks are connected and Black has an excellent position.}) 12... Nb6 13. Na5 Qd7 14. Nxb7 Qxb7 15. e4 dxe4 16. Nxe4 Nfd5 17. Nc3 Rad8 18. Qb3 c4 19. Nxd5 Rxd5 20. Bxd5 Qxd5 21. Qc2 Bf6 22. Bd2 h6 23. Bc3 Bxc3 24. Qxc3 Na4 25. Qc2 Nc5 26. Rad1 Nd3 27. Re3 Qh5 28. Qe2 Qxe2 29. Rxe2 Rb8 30. Rc2 Rb4 31. a3 Ra4 32. b3 Rxa3 33. bxc4 Nc5 34. Kf1 Kf8 35. Ke2 Ke7 36. Rd5 Ra5 37. Rcd2 a6 38. f3 Ke6 39. Kf2 f6 40. g4 Nb3 41. Re2+ Kf7 42. Rxa5 Nxa5 43. c5 Nc6 44. Rd2 Ke7 45. Rd6 Ne5 46. Ke2 Nd7 47. Rd5 Ne5 48. f4 Nc6 49. Rd6 Nd8 50. Kd3 Ne6 51. Kc4 Nxf4 52. Rxa6 g5 53. Ra7+ Ke6 54. c6 h5 55. gxh5 Nxh5 56. Rh7 Nf4 57. c7 Nd5 58. c8=Q+ 1-0

Almost all the logical moves are recorded with some or the other advice. If you make a gross blunder like 12.Bg5, which hangs the knight on e5, then there is common clip which has been recorded which explains what exactly you should be looking for in the position and gives you a subtle hint.

All in all I think this is an excellent interactive way to learn from a tutor. It is as if Tania is ready to give her opinion to your every move. After solving just this one position (mind you, it contained many more questions) I was convinced of the quality of the material.

Conclusion

Overall I find this DVD to be excellently made. If I did have to find a flaw in it, I would say that the selection of the games could have been better. But Tania tries to do full justice by explaining the games she has selected in great detail. The dedication of the speaker is quite apparent. She clearly didn’t want to just create the DVD and get it over with. That is why the DVD has a run time of four hours 50 minutes, which is quite astounding. Its good value for money, folks, and if your rating is below 2300 I am sure there is something in there for you to learn. While writing this review I myself learnt quite a few things and I consider my time to be well spent!

Tania Sachdev, first Red Bull athlete for chess. Here some quotes from her Red Bull interview:

  • I can never forget my first [tournament] game. I think I was all of seven years old and the under eight championship was in Delhi. I was playing against a Delhi based boy. Forget about winning, I went to sleep on the board after about half an hour because he was taking so long to make his move. Finally I woke up and played… and won the game.

  • [My first international title] was on 19th August 1993 and the tournament was British Under Eight Chess Championship, being held in Norwich. I won the Under Eight title and it was a World Record (it still is in Limca Book of Records) as the youngest in the world to win an international title in any sport.

  • Studying literature in college and even afterwards has been a stress buster. I am really fond of reading so when I finish a game I love to read and sleep. During college, I would be at a tournament and read my Literature course books during my free time.

  • My current goal is to break into top 20 women players of the world and achieve a rating of 2500. I also want to complete my men's grandmaster title.

  • My mentors are many. But Judit Polgár, Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen really inspire me.


Improve your chess with Tania Sachdev

by Tania Sachdev

Fritz Trainer Middlegame
Delivery: Download or post
Video running time: 4 hours 50 min. (English)

Price: €27.90
€23.45 without VAT (for customers outside the EU), $32.17 (without VAT)

Order this DVD in the ChessBase Shop

Sample video


Sagar Shah is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant and would like to become the first CA+GM of India. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder of the ChessBase India website.
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Ryan Ortega Ryan Ortega 8/11/2016 03:08
Wow, so that's what perfect looks like....
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