Archive for March, 2013

This week must surely be the best time of year for we armchair chess enthusiasts who like to follow what is happening in the wide world of chess.  As I write these lines I’m following the Doeberl Cup live games on another screen.   There have been some great Australian results so far.  IM Stephen Solomon used his renown endgame skill to defeat two of the overseas grandmasters; Victorian junior Jusitin Tan scored his first win against a grandmaster and young Anton Smirnov has been playing like a GM himself to be on 4.5/6 against some strong opponents.  In round 3 Bobby Cheng went close to beating the top seed, GM Chao Li but ended up drawing.   I’m still trying to work out why he didn’t win.

Of course when the Doeberl Cup players are asleep in bed preparing for their next round we true fanatics are still on the internet following the Cadidates Tournament in London where the live games start after mid-night.  It looked like Magnus Carlsen, the world’s highest rated player, was coasting to a comfortable tournament victory as his main rival, Lev Aronian, suddenly lost form.  The world was shocked therefore when in round 12, Carlsen playing white against the tail-ender Ivanchuk, found himself in a losing rook endgame a pawn down.

He fought tenaciously as I watched to see if the world’s best playing could save himself by some clever  ruse.  He swapped off into an ending with R+2p v R which is normally a win (see diagram).  I studied the position and it was not clear how Ivanchuk could make progress.  Carlsen has the “e” pawn blocked and if Black runs his “h”pawn Carlsen can move his King over and capture it.  He should then have enough time to get his King back in front of the “e” pawn – the key to drawing such endings.

For today’s puzzle, dear reader, you must place yourself in Ivanchuk’s position.  Can you find a line that break’s down Carlen’s defence, scores you a victory and throws the chess world into chaos!

Archive for March, 2013

Magnus Carlsen – tournament favourite.

If you a real chess enthusiast then, at the moment, you should be following the Candidates Tournament which is on in London until 2nd April. This is a double round event between the eight best players in the world, not counting World Champion Vishy Anand, who defends his title against the winner.

Most people are barracking for Magnus Carlsen, the Norwegian prodigy and highest rated player of all time, to win the event and finally have a crack at the World Championship.  His main rival is the Armenian grandmaster, Lev Aronian, ranked #2 in the world, who currently shares the lead in the tournament with Carlsen.  Unfortunately the games start about 1am in the morning, Australian time, so it’s a bit hard to follow them live, but you can replay them each morning when I get up. Nothing like a few good games of chess to start the day!

I’ve been encouraging my students to follow the games as it’s very instructive not only to play over top games, but to see how the players strive to win their games.  At that level you need not only a good imagination to find lines which will challenge your opponent, but also the courage to take risks and set your opponents problems that they may struggle to overcome.   A classic example was the round 3 game between Ivanchuk and Aronian (see diagram).  Ivanchuk (White) is a pawn ahead but his King is caught in the centre and he needs a couple of moves to consolidate.  Unfortunately for Ivanchuk he is in big time trouble.  What should Aronian do in such circumstances?  Play the “best” move?   Not necessarily.  An unexpected move, which sets your opponent problems, is often a better alternative.  So, dear reader, for today’s puzzle, your task is not to find the “best” move but to see if you can match the imagination and courage of the Armenian grandmaster and find the move that he played in this situation.  It stumped most of my students so I hope that you can do better.

Archive for March, 2013

Inside the “pig pen” at Ballarat

Last weekend I visited Ballarat to check out the Begonia Open Chess Tournament which was won convincingly by IM James Morris. I had thought that James was just a very talented “street fighter” who tried for tactics and outplayed his opponents, but it’s noticeable that he now can play well positionally when required, and so is a very tough opponent for most players.

Here are some of the positions/games that I found most interesting.

Dr.Stewart Booth, my junior rival from the 1960s, has been playing in Ballarat for many years and can still pull off a nice combination if given the opportunity.

Li v Solomon

I was following Solo v Li, where Stephen had given up a pawn for not much, but didn’t seem concerned. He went on to demonstrate that a good B is worth a bad R any day. A nice game.

Solo played another nice game against Zach Loh where he launched a deep queen sacrifice combination on move 20 to win the game. See if you can find it and analyse it to a conclusion.

Chris Wallis had a good tournament with a little help from a “drunken Bishop”. Somehow I don’t think that this is the way the Kings Indian Defence is meant to be played.

First place came down to Morris v Wallis with Black just needing a draw to clinch first place. James tried hard to attack on the Kingside whilst Chris tried hard to swap off. In time pressure Chris blundered and James was the tournament victor.

Hope you enjoyed the games. Ballarat is always a fun tournament. Particularly when the air-conditioning is working.

IM Robert Jamieson

Archive for March, 2013

“King” James at Ballarat

Last Sunday in the sweltering 37 degree heat I was sitting in a cafe in Ballarat having lunch and reading my chess book “Cabbage Heads and Chess Kings” by Bruce Hayden. A very appropriate title as I’d come to watch the Ballarat Begonia Open which certainly contained one chess king (or should that be Caesar?) IM James Morris who scored an impressive 6.5/7 to take the $1500 first prize.

I strolled around watching the games and concluded that the appellation “cabbage heads” was certainly appropriate for some of James’ rivals. Playing through one game I burst out in laughter after a mere 12 moves! You see I’ve been having this debate with one of my chess friends about about where to place your Knights. Me, being a traditional chap, try to move my knights towards the centre whereas my friend sometimes deploys them on the side of the board on h3 or h6 (if he’s Black). Apparently this is the latest fashion and some GMs even do it. Why they do it I have no idea. The cause of my laughter was one of James’ opponents, playing Black against the English, had adopted the Botvinnik system (which I use myself) which involves Black placing his Ns on c6 and e7 with pawns on c5, d6 and e5. The only trouble was that this player had played N-h6-f5-e7 rather than the immediate Ne7 so that after 12 moves he had achieved the position that I get after 10 moves. He had (in effect) given James two free moves!

Worse was yet to come. I observed a player from Queensland, apparently now ranked in the top 10 in Australia, as Black against Chris Wallis, trying to play the Kings Indian Defence. After watching a few moves I could only conclude that his dark squared bishop must have been drunk! He played 3.Bg7 (as you do in the Kings Indian) but followed it up with 10.Bf8, 11.Be7, 13.Bf6 (the full circle!) then 16.Bxg5 swapping it off for a Knight. The reason for this profound manoeuvre escaped me, but he was duly slaughtered by Wallis for playing like a “cabbage head”.

I tell all my students in the opening to “move each piece only once and place it on the best square.” Perhaps even some of Australia’s better players would do well to take note of this advice.

Between rounds I returned to reading my little chess book and noted the following very cute puzzle from a game between two Swedish players. It’s quite hard, so if you can solve it you are truly a “Chess King”. Good luck.

Archive for March, 2013

This year you’re sure to meet our very own Princess Mary. She’s a State Level player, tournament director and chess coach from the USA and just LOVES her chess. We think her enthusiasm is going to be infectious!

 Here you see her in control of a very exciting game at the Darebin Zone Interschool Championships. Finley Dale was losing early on and fought back hard to end up winning in an exciting R + P ending, and winning the tournament with 7/7. Rowan should have kept his rook more active if he wanted to win the game – a good lesson for all of us!

Welcome aboard Mary and I’m sure everyone looks forward to meeting you at an interschool tournament or having a lesson with you soon!

Archive for March, 2013

This has been an interesting week at Chess Kids – we’ve been playing “musical coaches”.
When the music stopped IM James Morris found that he was taking a lesson with my Thursday “Super Squad” – a group of our 4 or 5 best young players who have 1.5 hours training every Thursday. We invited Gal Dekel, who had just won the February RJ Shield, to come along for a try-out with the “supers”. James showed them some queen sacrifice combinations, up to 10 moves deep, which tested most of the group. James is very good at tactics so this was probably a welcome change from my lessons where I focus more on planning and positional play. I think it’s good for young players to be exposed to a variety of coaches and different ideas and styles to help them become a more complete player.

For my part, when the music stopped I found I was coaching Carl’s Tuesday afternoon group which is the feeder group for our supers. Carl has done a great job putting together a group of 8 young players of similar standard, all rated around 800-1000, and the kids were very keen and attentive. It’s the best environment for young players if you can get a small group together to compete against each other, study together, learn off each other and play together at tournaments.

Chess Kids has just announced details of our annual chess camp which will be held on July 2-5 at Philip Island this year and will focus on endgames. Both James and myself will be coaching at the camp and it will be a great opportunity for our better kids to improve their skills.

Meanwhile, dear reader, if you want to improve your own skills I have a neat little puzzle for you today. It’s very easy to solve puzzles that involve the “normal” themes (forks, pins, double attacks, discovered checks, etc.) which are very familiar to us all, but today’s puzzle is a little different. See how you go. Black to play and win.

Archive for March, 2013

Last Saturday I popped into the Hungarian Club in Knox to watch the Victorian Team Rapid Play Championships. The big attraction was that this event had a very strong field with 7 teams of 4 players and so there was going to be some good chess.

The event ended in a tie between the Noble Park Knights and The Melbourne Kings on 22 points. The leading four players, all scoring 6.5/7, were Guy West, Ari Dale, Karl Zelesco and Dom Dragicevic.

James vs Bobby

My main interest was the top board clashes and I was fortunate enough to recorded the big game between IM James Morris and FM Bobby Cheng, two of Australia’s top young players. It started off with a boring opening but then James won a couple of pawns on the Kingside. Bobby however did not panic as he had a majority of pieces on the queenside where he was counter-attacking. He played a couple of nice tactics to regain the two pawns then, with time trouble approaching, James dropped a piece and soon resigned. I thought the game was a good example of how piece play and co-ordinating your pieces is perhaps the most important skill in chess.

Here is the game for you to enjoy.

Archive for March, 2013

To analyse or not to analyse, that is the question. I had a interesting lesson with the Chess Kids Super Group yesterday. We were looking at a game between a 2700 grandmaster and a 2050 player who was trying very hard to set up a solid position and not lose. He even ended up just moving his King backwards and forwards as if to say “Come and get me!”

Our squad had to guess the moves of the grandmaster and work out a way to overcome the solid defence of their opponent. At the start our guesses did not go well. Some of the kids were trying to attack! Some were analysing variations and could not make up their minds. In the end I had to scream out “Stop attacking!” “Stop analysing!” Just find a little move that improves your position and wait. That’s what I like to do. You can move quickly, just improve your position a little bit, and take your time. Eventually they got the hang of it and started to pick the moves of the grandmaster who controlled an open file but otherwise the position was pretty level. In this sort of game you win not by analysing, but by coming up with an idea. An idea that improves your position and places your opponent under pressure. Eventually he will collapse.

Let me show you how this works by means of today’s puzzle. You can try to solve the puzzle by analysing variations or you can try to solve it by coming up with an idea. See which works best for you.