Archive for February, 2013

Chess is meant to be a fun game where you engage in a battle of wits with your opponent, shake hands at the end of the game, then have a post-mortem to see if you could have played better.  Sounds pretty good?   Unfortunately this idyllic picture is often ruined by one thing … your opponent!  

Not all chess players are nice people. Some engage in tactics to put you off your game. These may include:

  • Loudly eating potato chips or a green apple when you are thinking;
  • Banging the clock;
  • Constantly “j’adoubing” the pieces;
  • Staring at you (Kasparov);
  • Kicking you under the table (Petrosian and Korchnoi);
  • Sweeping all the pieces onto the floor when they lose;
  • Refusing to shake your hand after the game;
  • Standing on a table and screaming out “why must I lose to this idiot” after they have resigned to you (Nimzowitsch)

In today’s puzzle, dear reader, we are playing such a person. What is our aim? Victory? No. We need more. What we want is a totally victory where our opponent is humiliated and shown to be completely powerless against our superior play.

You are White in the diagram below and you have a powerful discovered check coming up. There may be several ways to win, but today I want you to find the cruelest, most satisfying path to victory. Are you up to the task?

Archive for February, 2013

The latest issue of our newsletter “Knight Times” edited by IM Robert Jamieson is now available for download. With great articles, coaching tips, news and puzzles it will give you hours of chess education and entertainment:

– Private coaching tips

– Report on Australian Junior Championships

– When in doubt, Think!

– Build up to win

Download “Knight Times”

Archive for February, 2013

Chess has the reputation for being a boring game. Old men pondering over a chess board for hours on end before making their moves is an image of chess that may well have been true in the 19th century, but not today. Today we have chess clocks, chess computers and the internet so that you can play chess virtually anywhere, anytime, at whatever speed you like.

Indeed there are some players, like Check Norris at Chess Kids On-line, who never play games that are slower than 2 minutes per player. I guess that’s part of the modern day desire for activities to be short and snappy although there are still a few traditional players left. Some people still actually go to their chess club and play real, live opponents using a slow time control just like we all used to do back in the 1970’s before chess computers came along.

I was following one such game “live” on the internet a couple of night’s ago with Check Norris and it was so BORING! Young Anton Smernov was playing in the Norths Chess Club Championship and had reached a totally blocked position. As the higher rated player he naturally wanted to play on, hoping that his opponent would eventually blunder. By about 11.30 pm Check and I had had enough so we retired for the night with the position still blocked and nothing much happening. The players played on however and agreed to a draw at 1am after 135 moves. It turns out however that we had left too early as after midnight both players had a chance to win but missed their opportunities. No doubt they had been exhausted by their labours, but you dear reader, with a fresh mind, may be able to do better.
Let’s look at the position after 101…Rb8. Anton (White) may have a chance for a breakthrough with 102.b4! as 102…axb4 103.Rxb4 cxb4 allows 104.Rc6+ winning. How would you advise him? Should he seize the chance and play 102.b4 or not?

Archive for February, 2013

Would you like a draw? Most of the time, I wouldn’t. Sure, if a draw gets me a grandmaster norm or first prize in a tournament I’ll probably take it. It’s hard to risk risk your prize-money just for that extra half-point. On the other hand I like to play. Agree to a draw just because the position is even? I don’t think so.

That’s a very hard concept to have your students understand. Having the mental toughness to play on and risk losing is something you need to be a strong player. In Australia IM Stephen Solomon is the perfect example of that. He is confident that he can outplay most opponents in the ending and he is notorious for playing on in even (or worse) positions yet still managing to win.
I well remember one of my students agreeing to a draw in the Australian Junior because “he couldn’t see how to win”. “Why do you need to see how to win?” I berated him. “Just play!” He missed out on the title by half a point. A painful lesson in not accepting draws.

Perhaps the hardest sort of endgame in which to avoid a draw is queen endings. There are just so many checks available to your opponent it becomes virtually impossible to analyse accurately. In such situations I tell my students to just place your queen on a good square in the middle of the board then run around with your King and hope that he can find shelter from the checks.
This is the situation facing White in today’s puzzle. Can his King find shelter from the checks or should he just try to run over to his passed “c” pawn and hope for the best? White must choose between Kh2, Kh4 or Kg4. How would you advise him?

Archive for February, 2013

The exciting news here at Chess Kids at the moment is that IM James Morris is joining us as a Chess Kids Coach, particularly to service the growing market for private lessons. James of course is one of Australia’s most promising players, still aged just 18 years, who has an aggressive style of play. He recently drove up to Sydney overnight for the Australian Open Lightning Championships, arrived late so had to take 2 half point byes for the first two rounds yet still tied with Bobby Cheng for first place ahead of a strong field including GM Khenkin. James will be a great addition to the Chess Kids stable of coaches.

Speaking of chess coaching, I know in Australia that Chess Coaching is a competitive business, but there is one coaching organisation run by a slightly shadowy figure who is of little account in the Chess World, that seems to run along the lines of a religious cult. It tries to attract converts, then imposes harsh rules upon as to what they can and cannot do. They cannot play in certain events, their coaching is top secret and must not be observed by others and their players’ games at the Australia Junior for example must not be entered into Tornelo. Heaven forbid, other players may see their games! As to their coaching, there seems to be a blind focus on openings and tactics and even their top student at the moment is clearly all at sea when it come to playing positionally. Any coach can go through a player’s games with a computer these days and say “Fritz says you should have played this move” but can they explain why if they are not themselves a strong player?

I watched an interview of GM Kerkin the other day during his tour of Australia, in which he was asked what our top juniors needed to become really strong players. He replied: “You should have a real chess positional understanding. If you don’t understand the position, on tactics you can only come to a certain level. Without understanding what is going on on the board, what are the plans of the sides, its impossible.” I certainly agree with that. The sad part is that one of my students has apparently been “captured” by this cult and has gone over to the dark side. Needless-to-say his results at the Aus Junior were disappointing … possibly something to do with being forced to play new openings. Anyway, I hope he sees the light and can escape back to the world of normal chess coaching before its too late.

Meanwhile I’m focusing on how my students played at the Australian Junior. I came across an interesting tactic (miss by both players) in one of Ryan Kam’s games. Perhaps you can spot it. See diagram below.