Archive for January, 2013

It’s been a tough week. Trying to follow both the Australian Open Tennis and the Australian Junior Championships at the same time is hard work. What’s worse, people give you funny looks when you’re sitting in Rod Laver Arena with your iPad on your lap and a chess game on the screen! These days I think you have to be able to multi-task so it didn’t bother me too much.

What did bother me was playing through some of the games and seeing the blunders that some players come up with. In the last round one of my students decided to play a move which allowed mate in one immediately. I’ve been raving on all last year about playing carefully and checking your moves before you make them … apparently to little effect. The only redeeming feature was that the beneficiary of this free checkmate, his opponent, was another of my students, so I guess you can say that I broke even on the game.

On a more positive note I was very pleased with how well Gary Lin played in the U/14s. He finished on 6.5/9 (his target score before the event) and lost only one game in an event that had a number of players of 1600-1700 standard.

Even more impressive was one of my former students, Nicole Chin, who often plays at Chess Kids On-Line and is now the Australian Girls Chess Champion scoring 8/9 to blitz her opposition. A few year’s ago Nicole was pretty poor at tactics and invariably lost many of her games on time. She has however worked hard to overcome these weaknesses and is now starting to see the benefits. Her younger sister Chloe also played and had a good result so Nikki will be under pressure to keep improving.

Let’s have a look at Nikki’s last round game for today’s puzzle. It starts off (see diagram) where Black to play sees that she can take a free pawn on a2. Does she stop for a second before making the move to check for White’s reply in case she has missed something? Does the thought cross her mind that perhaps this is not a blunder but a trap? On what I’ve seen of many of the other games, I doubt it. It’s a free pawn! TAKE! Now normally the secret of a good problem is to have a surprise first move. In this case however the first move is obvious. The hard part is for you to help Nikki win as quickly as possible – she has forced mate in 8 after 1…Qxa2. But, you need also to find Black’s best defensive ideas and I want you to mate in the prettiest way. That might be a hard task because you have to find what I consider the prettiest line – if you think some other line is prettier then you have not solved the problem.

Archive for January, 2013

Schmid (right) at the Fischer v Spassky match.

Have you ever played a grandmaster?  Ever beaten a grandmaster?  Surely playing against one of the world’s elite chess players is a big thrill for a young player and, if you are obsessed with chess as I was when I was young, then the chance to play such a player is something not to be missed.   In 1967 GM Averbach toured Australia and I was one of the lucky juniors who got to play him in a simul when he came to Melbourne.   A few years later in 1971 I played in a simul against Portisch and remember how he castled queenside against my Kings Indian Defence then calmly moved his King to b1, opened the “c” file and crushed me on the queenside.   I was impressed with how solidly he played.

A few years later I even got to play in a simul against former World Champion, Max Euwe, who visited Australia in 1973 I think it was.  I was a pretty strong senior by then and was helping the two juniors sitting beside me in the simul. Jordan on the left and Bartnik on the right.  Should have paid more attention to my game.  They both won.  I lost.

Last night German GM Igor Khenkin (2659 rating) gave a simul at the Box Hill Chess Club.   I haven’t heard the results yet, but I persuaded one of my keen students, Gary Lin, to play against the GM so it will be interesting to see how he went.

Of course giving a simul is a significant handicap to the simul giver as they have maybe 5 seconds per move whereas the participants have 2 or 3 minutes to think before the GM arrives back at their board.   Never-the-less it is rare for the GM to lose a game at these exhibitions and a victory against them is something to be cherished.   It is with some pride therefore that I show you my first ever win against a GM (albeit in a simul) when I played the German GM Lothar Schmid in the Glen Shopping Centre in 1971.   Schmid was umpire of the famous Fischer v Spassky match and owns the largest private library of chess books in the world.  The strange thing about the game was that Schmid had two queens!  He was trying hard to find a way to break my defence and commented in his thick German accent “It’s not zo easy mit de two queens, yah?”  We arrived at the following position with Black to play.  I was hoping that if my queen could keep defending f7 White may not be able to break-through, but with only seconds for each move I got lucky and the grandmaster missed a tactic.  Your puzzle today is to find Black’s next move, which gives White a chance to go wrong, and how Black responds to White’s erroneous reply.

Archive for January, 2013

“It has to be one of the most dominant performances I’ve ever seen in Australian Chess.”

So said Check Norris on Chess Kids Live last night.  He may have been talking about his 7/7 in the Box Hill Rookies yesterday, but more probably he was referring to Bobby Cheng’s outstanding performance in winning the 2013 Australian Open Championship.  Bobby scored 9.5/11 (including a half point bye in rd 1) to out-distance 3 grandmasters and most of Australia’s top players.

Equal second on 8.5 were GM Zhao, IM ly and IM Illingworth with visiting GM Igor Khenkin (FIDE 2659) languishing back on 7.5 points.  To complete his triumph Bobby tied with IM James Morris on 9.5/11 in the lightning then won the play-off 2-0.

A month ago, before the Australian Masters, I blogged that it was about time Bobby kicked on and became an IM. Looks like I was one tournament too early.  Hopefully this great result, his second IM norm, will spur him on to work hard on his chess and become a grandmaster.

The hallmark of his play seemed to be accurate analysis.  His game v the German GM was a typical example.  He almost had a mating net set up and everyone on-line was trying to suggest the winning move.  I think we came up with 4 different candidates but Bobby played a strange move that we hadn’t looked at which appeared to lose a rook. “Has he blundered?” I thought, so I quickly set it up on my computer which proclaimed that Bobby had mate in 5 moves!  Well done Bobby!

I’d been keeping a close eye on the games from the Open to find a suitable puzzle for your enjoyment and was watching the game Ikeda v Brown whilst discussing it with Check Norris.  It looked like Ikeda must have a win somewhere, but it was complicated.  Suddenly an idea hit me and I exclaimed “I think I’ve got my puzzle!” Fortunately Ikeda played my line and it worked perfectly with a very nice move at the end.  It was only then that I realised I’d overlooked something really obvious, but fortunately it didn’t matter.  See how you go with it.  White to play and win.

Archive for January, 2013

Archive for January, 2013

I’ve just returned from a small chess adventure in the baking heat and winding roads of Sydney.

Evelyn Koshnitsky

First stop was Cabramatta to visit Evelyn Koshnitsky, aged 95 years or so (she can’t remember) in her nursing home. Evelyn has done more for Australian chess than any other living person, and it was great chatting with her for 40 minutes about her memories of tournaments and players past. My favourite tournament is still the 1971 Karlis Lidums International which Evelyn organised in Adelaide. It was Australia’s first big tournament (with 5 grandmasters playing) and I’m sure inspired a lot of Australian players.

Next stop was Greenwich to visit Felicity Purdy, wife of John Purdy who passed away last year. They have a lovely home overlooking the habour. It was nice chatting with Felicity as, whilst we have only met on a couple of occasions, we both have known the major figures in Australian Chess over the past 45 years and we swapped anecdotes about our experiences. I was taken to the Greenwich Baths, where John has a seat named in his honour, and behind which is Cecil Purdy’s old home where the Greenwich Chess Club used to meet. Felicity showed me a lovely silver pocket chess set which was presented to Spenser Crakanthorp (John’s grandfather) in 1905 when he won the Australian Championship. Then on to his library to see if I’d like any of his chess books. There were about 10 shelves of books which I eagerly examined and selected about 30 or so which took my fancy. To my surprise one turned out to be a Philidor book from 1762 – 250 years old, and now my oldest book. I’ve offered it to the State Library of Victoria if they want it.

Unfortunately such a book would be of no interest to juniors. Indeed, I’m trying hard to foster a love of reading chess books amongst my students, but it’s an uphill battle. I’ve lent Jason Chew Purdy’s “The Search for Chess Perfection” and he says that he’s enjoying the history part at the start of the book so maybe there is hope after all.

So now we come to the problem of which puzzle to offer today? I’ve had a request for a Jordan puzzle. The only problem is that Bill doesn’t often do combinations these days. I can however offer a Jorden combination. It’s Black to play and win. Perhaps it’s not forced but it’s a pretty variation by Jorden, a very talented Dutch Junior.