Archive for June, 2014

This is a sad day for me.  Not only is my footy team being thrashed as I write this, but my best student is playing his last game in Australia (at Box Hill CC) before his family moves to Japan next week.


Gary Lin

Gary Lin has worked really hard over the last year or two to improve his chess, having a private lesson with me once a week, and has improved his rating from around 1300 to 1859. His recent results have included a few good scalps, such as Karl Zelesco, which I reported on in an earlier blog post and he may well become a very good player if he keeps working hard.  It will however be very hard if he is now based in Japan as they play Go rather than much International Chess.

That said, I think the current Chess Champion of Japan is Junta Ikeda from the Australian Capital Territory, and I guess you can always play on-line chess these days.  I’ve suggested that Gary contact Junta for a chat to see what cross-board chess he can play in Japan.  I can’t actually think of any Japanese chess players, with one exception!  In the 1975 Zonal in Melbourne there was a Japanese player, Hoshino, who was probably the first Japanese player to play overseas.  He was the bottom seed and won only one game … against the top seed, grandmaster Torre from the Philippines!  I had to beat him in the last round to secure the IM title so that’s why I remember him.

Anyway, I’m sure that everyone at Chess Kids wishes Gary well for his time in Japan and hopefully he will be back in Australia in a few year’s time.  Meanwhile I now have to find a new potential chess champion to coach.  Perhaps I shall find one at the chess camp at Philip Island in a couple of weeks time?  The theme of the camp is defence, so today I’ve chosen a REALLY hard chess puzzle where White can draw if he finds the correct defence.  If you can solve it you may be the new student that I’m looking for!  Perhaps I should give you one little hint?  If you can’t work it out through analysis then think about an end result which draws and work your way back from there.   Good luck.

Archive for June, 2014

View and download now: Knight Times MAY 2014

This issue is all about CHOICES. Choosing a plan, choosing your move… how do you make sure your choice is the right one?

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Archive for June, 2014

Today I’d like to say a few words about being a practical chess player.  I go through my students’ tournament games and so often they fall short of how I’d like them to play by being distracted from the main goal of winning their game.

For instance one student loves openings and studies heaps of opening theory, so of course when his opponent plays a move that he is not prepared for he “panics” and doesn’t know what to do …. frightened that he might end up making a “non-book” move.  “So what?” is my usual retort to him … “just play good moves based on your understanding of what you are trying to do in that opening.”  “Book moves” are only moves that people have played before, and, to quote Alekhine when a spectator suggested he had played a “non-book” move, Alekhine replied, “Sir, I am the book!”

Players who love opening theory often end up spending too much time on that part of the game and end up in time trouble – a poor strategy for a practical player.  Who cares if you have played the opening perfectly if you end up blundering on move 39 because of time trouble?  My philosophy was similar to Karpov’s – just play a good move quickly and get on with it, rather than spending heaps of time looking for a “great” move in every position.

Another common failing is players agreeing to a draw when either they have a winning/better position, or a position where they can hardly lose but the opponent has chances to go wrong.  Fighting spirit!  That’s what we need more of.  To be a strong player you need the confidence to play on in even positions and to learn how to grind out wins against lesser opponents.

Another failing of my students is that they don’t always take the surest/safest way to victory.  A classic example is today’s puzzle. My student, playing Black, has a winning attack and has been chasing White’s King around the board trying to checkmate it.  In the diagrammed position he in fact has a very nice way to win the game, but there are a number of promising moves and he ends up making a tactical mistake and choosing a line that does not win.   A few moves earlier he could have just played a simple move that won material, left White’s King out in the open and left White with no counter-play.  Instead he went for the line that looked like it should win but contained more variations and hence gave him a chance to go wrong in pursuing the attack.

So my advice to all my students is “don’t play for perfection, be a practical player and play safe, simple chess that minimises your chances of going wrong.”

Let’s see if you can do better than Black in the position below.  So far none of my students have found the winning line, so I hope that you can do better and solve the puzzle.

Archive for June, 2014

I’m exhausted!   I’ve just spent the last hour in depth chatting with David and Carl about what we are going to teach at the Chess Kids Chess Camp on Philip Island in July.  The topic is “Defence.”  Not perhaps the usual main-stream chess topic, and when I searched through my library for books on defence in chess I struggled to find any!  There are two or three books that I found on-line but I don’t have copies.  In desperation I’ve grabbed a book of Petrosian’s best games to read over lunch in the hope that that may have some material I can use.

After we got chatting however I soon realised that there were a heap of things that could be taught under this topic.  Initially of course you have to get the kids to identify that they are being threatened/attacked.  The next step is to then learn techniques that you can use to prevent the attack from being successful.  Blocking the threat, exchanging pieces, moving in more defenders or counter-attacking in the centre are some ideas that spring to mind.  Beyond that there is “what to do when you are lost.”  Looking for chances to get a stalemate or a perpetual check or set up a fortress could come under this heading but generally just finding the line that survives for longest or gives your opponent the most chances to go wrong would be valuable skills to learn.  Many players just give up and perhaps stake everything on a last (obvious) threat in the hope that their opponent may miss it.

Another topic would be “swindling.”  Everybody loves a good swindle.  I can think of a few famous swindles where even top grandmasters fell for a surpass stalemate, so that could be a fun lesson as well.

For this week’s puzzle let me place you in the position of being White in the diagram below.  Clearly you are hopelessly lost being down three pawns for nothing.  “Resigns” is probably your best move but if you are good at defending perhaps you can find an idea to justify playing on?   Good luck.

Archive for June, 2014

 I’ve been thinking some more about how I can get my students to be more logical in their approach to choosing their moves.  That is not just playing any move that appeals, but looking at candidate moves and analysing variations to a conclusion.  If I can encourage them to use their imagination and not just look at/play the obvious moves then that would be a bonus also.

There is one nice puzzle that I have pinched from Chris Depasquale’s book “My 60 Memorable Columns” that illustrates very well the hidden depths in chess and how a “C grade” player may reach a conclusion after analysing 2 moves deep, whereas a “B grade” player will look further and find a good move 4 moves into the analysis.  This continues right up to where a grandmaster may analyse 7 moves deep to find the correct evaluation of that variation.  It’s a great puzzle!

Of course the best way to solve a chess puzzle is to use your pattern recognition skills to recall a similar theme that you have seen before that may lead you to the solution to the puzzle.   A large part of chess skill is in fact “pattern recognition” and you can develop this skill by reading lot of chess books, testing your tactics on such sites as “Chess Tempo” and playing heaps of lightning chess.  In today’s puzzle I cottoned onto the right idea straight away (pattern recognition) but it took me about a minute to work out how to bring about the pattern that I wanted to achieve.

In my lessons this week I’ve been trying to teach my students how to solve puzzles by using a technique whereby you ask yourself questions about the position based on what you would like to achieve.  The questions could be along the lines of “I want to get a draw so can I do this by a) perpetual check, b) insufficient mating material, c) setting up a blockade or d) stalemate?”  Based on these questions you may decide that your only chance to draw is by trying for a stalemate.  Now that your mind is focused on this goal you can ask “OK, on which square do I think I could be stalemated?”  If you can find a possible square then it only remains to work out how to achieve the stalemate.   Can you see the process I’m using?   Rather than starting from the original position and working forwards we look at the desired end position and work backwards.

Try using this technique on today’s puzzle and see if it helps you.   It’s White to play and draw.