Archive for May, 2014

There was a very good turn-out to the RJ Shield on Sunday – 36 players in the over 10s and 31 in the under 10s, plus heaps of parents watching.

Chris Fu scored 6/7 to win the over 10s event whilst Dion Fernando and Kevin Bao also scored 6/7 in the under 10s with Dion winning on count-back.  A few of my students were participating but it was very frustrating as a coach to see the players just blitz out moves as though it was a 5 minute game, not a 15 minute game.  There was only one player, little Shawn Zillmann, who I was very pleased with as he took his time over each move and did not just play the first move that came to mind.  There were 3 or 4 occasions when I was watching his game and thinking “I hope he plays this move – but I doubt that he will see it” and to my surprise he did actually play the move that I was hoping for.   Contrast that with another player I was watching who had K+R+B v K+P but only had about 40 seconds to finish the game.  Instead of stopping to think for about 10 seconds, and seeing the forced mate in 3 moves that I had seen, he just blitzed out about 30 very quick moves and only managed to get a draw!  How on earth can I persuade young players to think rather than just move?

There was however one ray of hope as I showed the players the position for the “find the grandmaster move challenge”.  Each RJ Shield I select a position from a grandmaster game and we have a competition to see if the players can pick the move made by the grandmaster.  On this occasion  I chose a very famous game, but did not tell the players anything about the game other than it was a very famous move made by a very famous chess player.  After about an hour where the kids had been studying the position between their games, one boy came up to me and said “I think I know this position …. is it Byrne v Fischer 1956?”  Of course I was amazed that a young kid would have remembered the position and the details of the game and duly awarded him the prize for being the first to solve the “grandmaster move challenge.”  His name is Robin Neupane – perhaps we should remember that name?

Robin Neupane solves the "grandmaster move".

Robin Neupane solves the “grandmaster move”.


For today’s puzzle I want to show you an interesting position from one of my student’s games last week.  He was Black and ended up losing badly as he neglected to try to get counter-play with his passed “h” pawn.  We decided to play on for a few moves with me playing Black and trying to advance the “h” pawn as I had suggested.  After a few moves however White had successfully stopped my passed pawn and I was struggling for an idea (see diagram).

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Archive for May, 2014

What do we have to look forward to in the chess world?   Australia has just announced its Olympiad Teams for the Chess Olympiad scheduled for Tromso in Norway from August 1st to 14th.   I’m thrilled that young FM Anton Smirnov has been selected as the no.5 played in Australia’s team, making him our youngest ever Olympian.  Regrettably it seems that Anton may not even get to push a pawn in the Olympiad however as there are rumours that the event may not go ahead because of funding problems.  It’s the ultimate thrill to play for your country so let’s hope that the problems can be sorted out.

I’m looking forward also to the Victorian Open Championship being played over the Queen’s birthday week-end in June at the Box Hill Chess Club.  I’m sure that quite of few of my students will be playing so that should be a good source of new games for coaching material.   Meanwhile the Victorian Championship are moving along towards the half-way mark and I’m predicting that IM James Morris will be the new champion.   He is off to a good start with 3.5/4.  The next round is at Noble Park CC on Saturday at 3pm so that will be a good opportunity to follow the live games.  Of course tonight the Box Hill Club Championship continues also, with 5 live games to watch, and I’m predicting that Luke Li will emerge as the club champion.  My student Gary continues to do well in the event, drawing with Eugene Schon last week after missing a chance to score the full point.  If only I could persuade him to spend less time analysing opening variations and to save his time for later in the game.

Another event coming up soon that I’m looking forward to is the annual Chess Kids camp at Phillip Island, from July 8 – 11.   This year the theme is “defending” whereas last year we looked at endgames.  “Defending” is not a topic that is often covered in chess lessons, as I’m sure that most players would prefer to attack rather than defend, however for every attacker there must be a defender so it’s still an important skill to have.  No doubt there will be lots of Petrosian games to use as material.  They used to say that World Champion Petrosian was so good at defending that he often anticipated his opponent’s threats and countered them even before the attacking idea had entered his opponent’s mind!

One defensive idea that sometimes comes into play late in the game is stalemate – snatching a draw from the jaws of defeat because you have no legal moves left and you are not in check.  Have a look at the position below for example.  White is clearly winning, but perhaps Black can secure a stalemate draw if he plays his cards right … perhaps not?  What is the result with best play?

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Archive for May, 2014

In my chess lessons this week I’ve been focusing on using your imagination to find moves that your opponent may have missed.    That, after all, is how most chess games are decided.  Either you or your opponent miss something and allow their opponent to thereby get an advantage.  I’m sure we can all remember occasions when, just as our hand quits the piece to complete our move, we suddenly realise that we have left our Queen en-prise or allowed mate in one, etc.  

I still have nightmares about a game of inter-school chess 50 years ago when my opponent was about to blunder a piece and, as his hand quitted the piece by a couple of inches, I jumped for joy.  My leap however was premature as he promptly re-grabbed the piece and then claimed that he had never let go!   I lost the game, but since then I have tried to keep a poker face during play.

“Thinking” is not an easy message to get across to young minds.  I have a player in one of my coaching groups who seems unable to think more than one move deep.  He loves making moves that threaten something but doesn’t continue thinking to work out whether or not they are good threats.  When it is all boiled down chess is a game where you are trying to find a move that your opponent has missed.   You do that by either looking at more candidate moves than you opponent or by analysing a line deeper than your opponent.  If he stops thinking at move 3 but you press on and find a good move at move 5 of a variation then you will no doubt win the game.

How does a player develop his “imagination” and so find obscure moves that others may miss?  A simple thing that everyone can do is just to quickly “look at all checks and captures” just in case one of them turns out to be good.  Beyond that exercises such as doing lots of puzzles on “Chess Tempo” will help to build up the database of chess patterns in your brain so that you are more likely to recognise a combination that comes up in your game because you have seen something similar before.  The other idea is to just force yourself to analyse that extra move deeper.  Many players may look at a line but as soon as they see that next move their queen will be taken (for example) they stop and reject that variation.  There may be a killer move for them just one or two moves deeper, but they won’t find it because they have stopped analysing too early.

For today’s puzzle, which I think is really cute (although very hard), I am going to test your imagination and ability to analyse.

White appears to be in all sorts of trouble as he tries to stop Black from Queening the “c” pawn.  Can you help him to save the game?

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Archive for May, 2014

This week I have cause to be really happy as a chess coach as one of my students has just scored a fantastic win against a much higher rated opponent.

Australia has two really strong juniors aged under 16, FM Anton Smirnov from Sydney and Karl Zelesco from Melbourne, both rated ACF 2372.  Anton is aged 13 years and Karl must be about 15 years and these two are miles ahead of their junior rivals.  Both finished highly placed in the 2014 Australian (Adult) Championships and are good prospects to become a grandmaster in the years ahead.

My best student is of similar age to Anton and Karl, 14 year-old Gary Lin, and he has been making good progress lately including coming second on the ACF most improved rating list recently, but at a rating of 1859 he is still a long way behind the other two.  Gary plays a lot, is really keen and studies hard, and has reached a level where he can compete on equal terms with players around 2000 rating.   More often than not he gets a superior position against such players and meekly offers a draw, much to the annoyance of his coach!  It was therefore with great interest last Friday night that I logged onto the Box Hill Chess Club website to follow the live games with Gary up there on board one against Karl Zelesco in the Box Hill Club Championships.

It was a long and hard fought encounter.  First Karl was a little better, then Gary, then it swung back to even and so on.  Karl should have swapped off into a slightly better ending, but I don’t think Karl likes endings so he kept the pieces on.  Gary played 2 or 3 solid moves in a row, and I could not see how he could lose, although time trouble was approaching for both players.  I’m not sure if Gary may have offered a draw at any stage – but I hope not!  With a few minutes left he suddenly got a rush of blood and started throwing his queenside pawns at Karl.  Karl replied with a sneaky pin that forced a swap-off into a bishop ending where Karl had the much more active King.  It looked like Gary was in trouble as Karl’s King raced to gobble up the stray queenside pawns, but Gary had set a sneaky trap into which Karl obligingly fell!   Karl had to surrender his bishop for a passed pawn and Gary’s victory was no longer in doubt.

A nice scalp, but what does it mean for a young player to beat a much higher rated opponent?  Hopefully it demonstrates that you can beat good players and no longer have to be content with getting occasional draws off them.  If you have done it once you can do it again!  Confidence is a wonderful thing.

For today’s puzzle let’s look at a position where Gary didn’t chose the correct plan and gave Karl a chance for victory.  What would you play as Black in the diagram?  If you solve that, see if you can spot the trap that Karl fell into a couple of moves later.

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Archive for May, 2014

I’m still playing through some of the recent games from the Doeberl Cup and the Sydney International Open and I’ve been struck in particular by one game by grandmaster Darryl Johansen.

Darryl was playing White against fellow GM Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu and seemed to be coasting along a pawn ahead in a nice position where his opponent was not threatening anything.

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My question for my students, when I showed them this position, was what move would they make and what candidate moves did they look at?  Almost all of them wanted to threaten something – a knight, a pawn, Black’s King, although a few wanted to push a passed pawn.  They had analysed a few moves deep in making their final decision.  I think Darryl did a similar thing.  He decided to play Rd1 which attacked a knight and forced a brief tactical sequence.  Over the next few moves however the balance of the position changed.  Suddenly Black had an attacking knight on f4 and both his rooks came into the game by attacking the white Queen.  Meanwhile Darryl still had a rook out of play on a3 and a knight also away from the action on b5.  When Black brought his Queen into play on e5 it was all over.  Darryl’s King was attacked by too many Black pieces and was overwhelmed.

Why, I pondered to myself, had White lost from what appeared to be a better position?  My answer was that he had chosen his move based on analysis and had neglected the “big picture”.  I’m the exact opposite.  I don’t like to analyse as it’s too much like hard work for an old mind, so I try to make my moves based on what is happening in the position.  If Darryl had looked at the big picture he would have realised that his rook on a3 was totally out of play.  A simple move like Ra2, activating the rook, would have given White a better position with no risk involved.

So that was my message to my students today.  Don’t just analyse to chose your moves.  Look at the “big picture” as well.

Of course this does not always work.  Today we were looking at one of my student’s games and he was White in the following position.  He played 1.h3 – a handy little move which presumably did not require much thought.  The sort of move that I would probably make in such a position also.  However, he had missed a great chance to win the game immediately.  Alas, dear reader, sometimes one just has to analyse variations.  What had he missed?

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