Archive for February, 2014

To start off the new coaching year I decided to check that my students understood about the four basic elements of chess.  “Basic Elements?”  What are they?   If you don’t know then it seems you are not alone.  Even my better students gave me a puzzled look when I asked them to list the four basic elements of chess.



Let’s suppose we are looking a a real battle between Napoleon and Wellington at the battle of Waterloo.  What factors may help to determine the outcome of the battle?  I’m thinking about such things as leadership, army size, terrain, mobility, etc.  Now let’s  convert this to chess.  The elements that I have in mind are material, time, space and King safety.  These should be covered in all your basic chess books and King safety is probably the most important one.  If your King is not safe you may soon be checkmated.  Material of course is good.  If your army is bigger than your opponent’s you will probably win, but only if you have been able to deploy and co-ordinate your army effectively.  This leads us to the element of “time.”  If I can get my pieces out into battle faster  (development) than my opponent then he will be out-numbered and I will probably win the battle.  That’s why we have gambit openings where one side sacrifices pawns (material) for development (time).  Finally we have “space” which often translates to “control of the centre.”  If I have more space it means that I can more easily move my pieces to where I want them whilst my opponent cannot do so as he is cramped.

For today’s puzzle I thought that I’d give you an example of the element “king safety” from the U/10 section of the RJ Shield Tournament last Sunday.  Have a look at the position below.  Clearly both Kings have lost their shield of defensive pawns and may be in trouble if attacked … but whose attack will get home first?  Your task is to tell me whose King is more unsafe and why.

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Archive for February, 2014

The Mind Moves Chess Club in Launceston is hosting a chess tournament for kids on March 22nd, 2014.

Great prizes and only $5 per child to enter!


Download the Mind Moves Tournament Flyer

Archive for February, 2014

Today I thought that I’d talk about sportsmanship in chess.  A few weeks ago there was a vigorous debate on Chess Chat (Australia’s Chess Forum) about whether or not players should resign in lost positions.  It was very noticeable in the recent Australian Championships that some players, and one very young player in particular, usually play on in totally lost positions and sometimes plays on even until checkmate.

This is OK for beginners as your opponent may be weak enough to fall for a stalemate or to not know how to checkmate you, but in the Australian Championships?  My view is that such behaviour is just insulting your opponent and wasting valuable energy that could better be used to prepare for your next game.  To my surprise the new Australian Champion, Max Illingworth, came out and said that he sometimes plays on in lost positions.  Maybe this is OK if your opponent is really old and likely to suffer a heart attack and die at the board but otherwise – it’s just really bad manners.  My view is that the stronger the player you are the earlier you resign when in a lost position (because you can see the inevitable coming).

Another behaviour which annoys me and which is practised by several young players is their habit of adjusting pieces and saying “adjust or j’adoube” when their opponent is thinking.  Most of the time the pieces do not need adjusting, it’s just a nervous habit that they have, and in any case it’s totally illegal!  You can only adjust pieces when your clock is running.

I could go on about other things such as loudly eating potato chips or green apples to distract your opponent, but perhaps I’d better stop now.

I have a new coaching group this term on Monday nights, our “Super Group” and I’ve been pondering on what sort of things to teach them.  I’ve been collecting a lot of games over the holidays where a stronger player beats a player one or two classes below themselves and I’m trying to identify just what it is that enabled the stronger player to prevail.  Are they better at finding tactics, at obtaining a favourable position from the opening or do they just have a higher level of understanding?

To illustrate this difference let’s have a look at a position from the game between Marko Grabovac (rating 1782) and Karl Zelesco (rating 2224).  For today’s “puzzle” see if you can find what move Marko should have played and then guess what move he actually played instead (which ended up in him eventually losing the game).

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Archive for February, 2014

The other major event that I need to report on from over the holidays is the Australian Junior Championships which were held in Sydney in mid-January. The winners were:

2014 Australian Junior Championship Title Holders:
Under 18 Open: Anton Smirnov (NSW)
Under 18 Girls: Shirley Gu (NSW)
Under 16 Open: George Carolin-Unkovich (WA)
Under 16 Girls: Zhi Lin Guo (VIC)
Under 14 Open: Rishi Dutta (NSW)
Under 14 Girls: Alanna Chew Lee (VIC) (def. Theresa Gu (NSW) 1.5-0.5 in the playoff)
Under 12 Open: Kerry Lin (NSW) (def. Haran Salasan (VIC) 1.5-0.5 in the playoff)
Under 12 Girls: Licia Yao (VIC)
Under 10 Open: Bobby Yu (VIC)
Under 10 Girls: Cassandra Lim (VIC)
Under 8 Open: Jay Landau (VIC) (def. Sebastian Bracks (NSW) 2-0 in the playoff)
Under 8 Girls: Ye Seul Ok (SA)

The Junior Championships always present a problem for our very top juniors who have just competed in the Australian Championships (Seniors).  Are they too strong to play in the Juniors and do they have anything to gain by playing?  Fortunately for the other players this year both Anton Smirnov and Karl Zelesco decided to play in both tournaments and try to win the Australian Junior title.

At the Australian Championships Anton played for the title in the last round but lost, thus allowing Karl to finish higher.  How would they go against each other in the Junior?  Clearly their game would decide the title.  This time Anton prevailed with some nice tactics.  See if you can pick his moves from the diagram below.

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Archive for February, 2014

JuditPolgar_2417931bThe Judit Polgar Rapid Chess Team Competition will be held on 2 March.
It will be a real Festival making CHESS more popular for the public! HELD AT THE HUNGARIAN  CENTRE you’ll have a first hand experience of  Hungarian hospitality. You can taste famous Hungarian GULASH  & LANGOS!
Cash prizes for Open Teams and win a Giant Chess Set for Under 14’s… you do need to play as a team!
Download the Registration form
All players get a Judit Polgar officially endorssed Certificate of participation