Archive for November, 2013

We are moving rapidly towards the holiday season and a well-earned break, but the year for Chess Kids finished last week with a big bang, not a whimper.

On Sunday 100 juniors contested the Tera-Finals and RJ Shield Finals with IM Ari Dale winning the $1000 Tera prize with 7/7 from Kris Chan, Gary Lin and Adam Kelly on 6/7. Rebecca Strickland won the RJ Shield Final with 5 points and, in a separate novice tournament of 35 players, Milan Haputhanthri won on count-back with 6/7.

If that was not exciting enough, many of the players returned on Monday and Tuesday to Melbourne University for the Chess Kids Nationals School Finals.  251 young chess players plus assorted parents, teachers, coaches and spectators filled the hall to create an impressive sight.  I was stuck upstairs in the analysis room most of the time, but had a great time going through the players’ games and giving them my normal interrogation. “Why did you do that move?”  “Did you instead consider Nxe3 mate?”  It was good helping kids from WA and Tas in particular who perhaps have few opportunities to be coached by titled players.  IM James Morris and most of the Chess Kids coaches were all there helping out.

Back in the main hall FM Luke Li was leading Melbourne High to a hard-fought victory in the Secondary Finals ahead of Glen Waverley Secondary.  In the Middle Years Competition Mazenod College edged out The Friends School whilst in the Primary Schools Event Mount View Primary, led by the Chan brothers, were clear victors.

I briefly watched a couple of Luke’s games – hard fought wins against Michael Chan and Zach Loh, and Michael was given special praise for his sportsmanship when in a desperate time scramble against Luke he pointed out that Luke had not stopped his clock.  A pity our Australian cricket team doesn’t display such good sportsmanship!

Luke Li v Zach Loh

Luke Li v Zach Loh

The best moment for me however was early in the last round as I was strolling down the aisle between the chess boards and I noticed my student, Ryan Kam, playing in the Primary Section.  Standing behind his opponent I glanced at the position and immediately noticed that Ryan had set a very sneaky trap for his opponent.  I stood transfixed as Ryan’s unsuspecting opponent made the obvious first move, then an unthinking reply.  Ryan’s eyes lit up as he reached out to play the killer move and I gave a “thumbs up sign” to Ryan’s dad who was watching from afar on the balcony.  By now Ryan’s fists were pumping the air – he had just played the best brevity of the tournament!

Would you, dear reader, like to relive our joy?  Ryan is White (to move).  Can you find Ryan’s next move, his opponents obvious reply, then the trap that Ryan set?  Enjoy!

Archive for November, 2013

India is in the chess news this week as the host of the World Chess Championship between Anand and Carlsen.  For someone of my vintage this is very strange.

Fifty years ago India was a chess back-water.  They had but one titled player, IM Manuel Aaron, who was good enough to beat Cecil Purdy to earn a place in the Interzonal, but was hardly a world class player.  Today of course things are a little different.

India has 34 grandmasters and the World Champion, Vishy Anand, is an Indian however by the time you read this the World Chess Champion may well be a Norwegian!  Poor Anand is playing Magnus Carlsen, the World’s highest rated player, in a best of 12 game match for the Championship.  He started OK with 4 draws but has subsequently lost 3 games and Carlsen is now only half-a-point away from becoming the World Chess Champion.

carlsen-anand-reutersThe match unfortunately can only be described as “underwhelming”.  The most boring Championship match in history?  Possibly.  The match started with two boring short draws then two slightly less boring long draws.  Anand is good at the openings but Carlsen is better in the endgame and he managed to outplay Anand in two long endings to take a strangle-hold on the match.  This meant that Carlsen could just draw his way to the title and sit on his lead – one of the reasons why FIDE used to have matches for first to win 6 games.   That format requires players to play for a win more so that the current best of 12 games format, although there was that famous Karpov v Kasparov match that went forever and was eventually abandoned at 5-3 with Karpov leading.

Fortunately game 9 of the current match was a bit interesting with Anand appearing to be close to having a winning attack whilst Carlsen plodded away on the queenside trying to queen his “b” pawn.   Perhaps you missed it and have not yet heard the result?  Then let me take you back to last night and see if you can do better than Anand.  Black is about to play 26…b2 and Anand is then contemplating 27.Rf4.  How would you advise him?

Archive for November, 2013

If you are a serious chess player you will, like me, be feeling a little sleep deprived this week .  The World Chess Championship match between Anand and Carlsen has started in India and of course I’ve been staying up late at night to watch the action.  Perhaps I should say to watch the lack of action as the first two games were short draws.  Anand had some chances for an advantage in the third game which however too was a (long) draw.  The fourth game last night was more exciting with Carlsen retaining a pawn advantage for most of the game but Anand’s pieces were more active and eventually he secured another draw.

game 4

Anand v Carlsen

The match itself is very short for a World Championship Match, consisting of only 12 games followed by a play-off if necessary.   The last time that there was such a short match was 1910 (Lasker v Schlechter)!   Bobby Fischer would certainly be turning in his grave at the thought of such a short match to decide chess’ ultimate title.  He insisted on the match being for the first player to win 10 games and when the World Chess Federation said “No” he resigned his title.

The match is being played in India so play starts about 8.30 pm Melbourne time, which isn’t too bad for watching.  I expect Carlsen to win comfortably but Anand has drawn the first four games and Carlsen must be getting nervous as the match is so short.  Lasker stipulated that Schlechter must win by a margin of 2 games to take the title but Anand has no such luxury.  Fast play-off matches are now the order of the day.

I too have been involved is some “fast” chess lately as Laurence Matheson has encouraged me to try my hand at Chess Tempo Blitz where you must try to solve chess puzzles quickly or your rating goes down even if you come up with the correct answer.   I get about 75% correct but it is so frustrating when you can’t find the solution.  Take the position in the diagram below for example.  There is a combination there, but it is a little unusual, so the “chess database” in my brain struggled to recognise a pattern.  Perhaps you can do better?

Archive for November, 2013

I hope you all had a nice break over the Melbourne Cup long weekend.  I managed to squeeze in some gardening but on Sunday I did something that I hadn’t done for about 20 years.  Yes, I visited the Melbourne Chess Club to see how my friend Sam Low was going in the “Melbourne Cup of Chess”.

Sam, a contemporary of the Chess Guru, has not played for some years and in the first round was pitted against the top seed IM Max Illingworth.  Needless to say he played the opening very solidly, swapping off a few pieces, and kept his nerve throughout an even middle game.  I was watching on-line at home to see Sam swap off to an easy draw with B + 5 pawns v N + 5 pawns when suddenly Sam had an inspiration!   He retreated his King from d6 to c8.  Where it was going a why I have no idea, but it gave Illingworth a chance and poor Sam ended up losing.

I arrived on Sunday to see him back in the main hall trying to pick up a point against some little boy.  I mingled with the other spectators, trying not to be put off by the smell of unwashed chess players, and was pleased to see that all the Club’s old photos were prominently displayed on the wall.  If you are nearly 150 years old it’s good to display your history.

At one stage I had to take refuge in the Club’s bookshop, as Hacche was threatening to talk to me, where I was delighted to find a number of old Australia Chess Magazines in boxes labelled “J.R.Johnstone Collection.”  These must be the book collection of a recently deceased member of the Monash University Chess Club (Ray Johnstone) that had somehow found its way to the MCC.

I returned to the inner sanctum briefly to watch the top few boards only to witness Solo trying to make a move with 1 second left on the clock and accidentally smashing half the pieces onto the floor!   His opponent, Luke Li, was having a good tournament and went on to win easily with 7.5/9.  Congrats to Luke who, like Bobby Cheng, hails from New Zealand originally.  I remember Luke from a couple of years ago when he led the Auckland Grammar team in the Chess Kids National Finals.

Bill Jordan was also having a good event along with junior Jack Puccini.    Jack won against IM Ari Dale, and in the last round he faced the tricky IM James Morris to reach the position in the diagram as White.   Admittedly his pawns aren’t great but all his pieces are well placed and he has Black on the defensive.  The only question is what to do now?  Perhaps Jack was tossing up between three candidate moves – (1.h4, 1.Qe3 and 1.Nb6).  Unfortunately he chose the worst of the three and resigned in a few more moves.  A disappointing end to his tournament.  Can you tell me which move he played and why it was a mistake?

Archive for November, 2013

Download PDF here

Another great issue of our newsletter has been produced by International Master Robert Jamieson. Tips, tricks, puzzles and articles to help you improve your chess.

  • Endgame strategy
  • Vic Youth report
  • Puzzles to solve

Feel free to share this with your friends and family!

Download PDF here

Archive for November, 2013

Today I was very naughty.   I didn’t go to the Chess Shop, as I usually do on Fridays, but instead did something that I have never done before.  I went to a concert.  A piano concert to be exact, at the South Melbourne Town Hall, along with about 60 other grey, wrinkly old locals who gathered for the event.

Music and I have nothing in common, so what accounts for this strange behaviour?  I went to support the pianist who is also a very good chess player.  Judging by the applause at the end of the concert he is also a pretty good pianist and his last piece of about 15 minutes seemed to be played entirely from memory.  “Bit like learning chess openings I guess” I thought to myself.

The history of chess is littered with the names of many brilliant people who have been good at chess but then gone on to become professors, Nobel prize-winners, scientists or even code-breakers during the war, like Golombek and Alexander, and some have been good at music.  After Russian GM Mark Taimanov lost a match 0-6 to Bobby Fischer he remarked “At least I still have my music!”  He was a concert pianist.  Perhaps young Laurence Matheson will follow in Taimanov’s footsteps?  If his recital today is anything to go by he is well on the way.  Now if only I could persuade him not to put his knight on h3 in the opening perhaps he could go on to match Taimanov in chess and become a grandmaster also?

Sam Trewin (right) playing his last round game.

Sam Trewin (right) playing his last round game.

Earlier in the week I dropped in to see the finish of the Middle Years State Finals in Cheltenham, which was won very convincingly by Glen Waverley Secondary College.  I only had time to record one game, of one of my students Sam Trewin, which Sam won very comfortably.  In the middle however he had a chance to finish off his opponent quickly with a pretty combination but, alas, he missed it.  For the last few weeks I have been trying to encourage my students to be more imaginative and to look at moves that the wouldn’t normally consider.  It’s a hard battle, as young minds don’t like considering different options, but I think that I’m making some progress.

Let’s see if you, dear reader, have the imagination to see what Sam missed.   It’s White to play.