Archive for September, 2013

These days I spend my time at chess tournaments as a spectator rather than a player, so I thought that I might say a few words about the joys of watching chess.  True, you don’t win many games as a spectator but the good news is that you don’t lose any either, and as every chess player knows the pain of a loss far outweighs the joy of winning.

As a spectator you get to follow a number of games, not just your own, and you get to watch the good players playing nice combinations and the bad players making blunders.   Spectators, rarely, if ever, blunder and of course if a player makes a silly mistake the spectator can point it out to him after the game and feel really superior.  The best sort of blunder is where both players miss something obvious which you, as the knowledgeable spectator, saw in a flash.

I can remember two embarrassing experiences from my playing days along these lines.  I think it was the 1974 Australian Lightning Championship where I was playing a game a against Adrian Rose (rated about 1900) and there was a big crowd gathered around the board.  I made my move, keeping my usually poker face expression and Rose quickly replied.  There was a bit of a murmur in the crowd but it was only after the game that I found out what all the spectators had seen but the players had not.  I had left my queen “en prise” and my opponent had also missed it.  No doubt he had not expected the Australian Champion to blunder his queen and so was not on the look out for such a move.  A lucky escape for me.

Worse still, at the Haifa Olympiad in 1976 I was playing as black against the Italian IM Tatai.  I played my favourite Pelikan variation of the Sicilian which I knew really well so Tatai and I were quickly knocking out the opening moves.  He had a knight on b5 so I played a3 to chase the knight back to c3 and we eventually had a draw.  Over dinner that night our team captain, Garry Koshnitsky, asked me what I would have played had Tatai played Qa4 instead of N back to c3?  I thought for a second and realised that if axb5 his queen could take my rook on a8 so I replied “probably Bd7” to which Kosh immediately blurted out “Nxd6 mate!”   It was true!   After Qa4 I was lost and could have resigned but we both missed it.

Now of course, as a non-player, the boot is on the other foot and so it was with some pleasure that I watched the games at the recent Novices tournament.  There was one game in particular that got down to a rook ending where White had rook and two pawns against lone rook.  It was a easy win as Black did not even have his King in front of the pawns, yet in time trouble anything can happen and a big crowd had gathered to watch the finish.

Have a look at the position and play through the moves.  Let’s see if you have what it takes to be a top spectator!


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Archive for September, 2013


The winning Melbourne High team
– 2013 Victorian State Champions.

Last week I attended the Chess Kids State Finals (Secondary) to watch some of our top young players fight it out to see which schools shall qualify for the Nationals in November.

What I saw was probably the strongest ever school team in Australia’s history!  Board 1 was IM Bobby Cheng, board 2 IM Ari Dale and board 3 FM Luke Li and none of them actually won the tournament!   Bobby got 9/9 but their board 4, Allen Yu, also scored 9/9 and beat Bobby on count-back!   Melbourne High scored 34.5/36 to win from Glen Waverley Secondary on on 25 points and Mazenod on 23 points.  The field was very representative of the whole of Victoria and included teams from Warrnambool, Mildura, Yarrawonga, Ballarat, etc. and I was able to record a number of the games on my iPad.

There was a funny moment in the prize-giving when the second placed Glen Waverley team was up on the stage receiving their medals.  David announced “and the good news is that only one of this team is going to Melbourne High next year!”  Melbourne High is apparently such a good chess school that it’s usual for several top junior chess players to transfer there from their own school.   Allen Yu is a former Glen Waverley student for example.


In lieu of a puzzle this week I’d like to show you Bobby’s game against Michael Chan (Glen Waverley no.1) which I’ve been using in my lessons this week.  I think it’s a great example of how a good player attacks.  He doesn’t lash out with everything or just attack with a lone knight as some juniors are wont to do.  He first secures a space advantage on the kingside then slowly builds up his forces until all his pieces are able to help in the attack.  Even then, realising that his opponent has nothing to do, he pauses for a move or two in case his opponent self-destructs first.  Only then does Bobby attack, sacrificing to get at his opponent’s King.  There is a quirky moment at the finish we can use a a puzzle for this week if you like.   Just play through to move 41.

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Archive for September, 2013

Are you the best chess player in your household?  Perhaps, if you are a junior, your father can beat you at chess?  If so you should buy a copy of Murray Chandler’s best selling book “How to Beat Your Dad at Chess.”  That may help.

My old friend Peter Parr, who passed away a couple of weeks ago, used to tell an amusing story about his chess-playing family in England.  Peter’s dad, Frank, was a very competent British Championship player as was his elder brother David.   Peter migrated to NSW and in 1968 defeated Cecil Purdy in a play-off for the NSW Championship.  He stated “I have gone from being the third best player in my household to being the best player in my state!”

Last Saturday I had a similar amusing incident whilst giving a private lesson to a chess-playing family in Glen Waverley.   The whole family was gathered around the board as we went through a game.  There was little Shawn, his sister Nicole (with her pet budgie “Tweetie” sitting on her shoulder), the older brother Matthew and their dad all examining the position.  I asked “what should White play here?”  Shawn suggested a move but it was wrong.  Nicole then Matthew tried also but they did not get the best move.   Their dad was still thinking when suddenly “Tweetie” flew off Nicole’s shoulder and landed on the chess board in front of me.  It made its way across the board through the black pieces until it got to the square d2 then, with its tail, it pushed White’ s pawn from d3 to d4.  Yes!   That was the move I was looking for.   “Clearly” I commented, Tweetie is the best chess player in this household!”  If you don’t believe me here is the photo to prove it.


Tweetie about to play d4!

Even if you are not the best player in your household you may be able to solve today’s puzzle.  It is from the Box Hill Grades tournament last Friday where Max Chew Lee (Black) had built up a strong attack against his higher-rated opponent, Jason Tang.  I showed this game to my on-line class last night and emphasised how the attacker should build up a position with more attacking pieces than there are defenders for his attack to be successful.  Three of the class found the solution.   Let’s hope you can too.   If you are stuck perhaps your pet budgie can help you!

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Archive for September, 2013

The 3 Golden Rules of chess strategy are:


Control the Centre

Develop your Pieces

Keep the King Safe


These are strategies that apply throughout the whole game, though they tend to be thought of as opening strategies. There are openings which can make the game more open, or more closed, and by trying these different ideas, we can see if we prefer positions where the centre has no pawns (Open Centre), or is blocked (Closed Centre). Games that start with both sides pushing their pawns into the centre 1. e4 e5 can often lead to fairly open centres, while the French Defence is an opening that can easily block the position up.



The French Opening 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 where white has advanced 3.e5 closing the centre. Do you know what strategy you should be using here? I tell you what, have a practice from this position and I’ll tell you the strategy for closed centres next week.

Last week’s puzzles were quite hard, as both had stalemate ideas which is one of the most difficult tactics to work out. We have to lose our pieces to save the game.

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