Archive for July, 2014

I had an interesting time at the RJ Shield last Sunday with 68 players plus parents just about filling the Tucker Rd. Primary School to capacity.  There were 9 of my students playing so I was rushing around like a headless chook trying to record their games on my iPad so as to have some new coaching material for this week’s lessons.

The over 10’s section was won by Jody Middleton with a perfect score of 7/7.  She was lucky in one game (against Shawn Zillman) having to resort to winning on time in a slightly worse position, but otherwise towelled up all the boys.  How did my students go I hear you asking?  Well, it would probably be fair to say (with one exception) they moved very fast!  Why spend 15 minutes on a game when you can blitz out moves in 5 minutes?  Saves all that tedious time that you are meant to spend thinking.   And when they were not moving quickly they were probably illegally “j’adoubing” their pieces on their opponent’s time.  A very bad habit that they must have picked up watching Karl Zelesco.

Perhaps the highlight of the event was the “Find the Grandmaster Move Challenge” where three players found the correct (very strange) move and I awarded the prize to 10 year-old Sam Entwisle who demonstrated the best follow-up variation.


Sam Entwisle plays the winning move…

I’ve come to the conclusion that it is one of the hardest things in the world to try to make juniors think … to consider several candidate moves rather than just the first move that takes their fancy.  I watched top seed Daniel Pob get his Bishop forked in a simple ending.  I watched runner-up Alistair blitz out a piece swap only to then realise that his opponent’s queen was threatening both mate and his rook (in an obvious double attack).  But there is hope.  There was one player there who paced himself, and when he was in trouble he stopped and tried to think of a solution.  He played a strong field and didn’t end up having a particularly good event, but I have no doubt that of the 68 players there on Sunday Shawn Zillman will end up being the best chess player if he keeps at it.

Perhaps you too have the capacity to analyse different alternatives?  Let’s test you with the position below.  Q v R positions can be hard to win if the side with the rook can set up a blockade, but perhaps White has a simple winning method in the diagram.  Good luck…..

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Archive for July, 2014

I had an unusual experience at the chess camp last week.   For the last lesson, rather than being the chess coach, I was the assistant coach to Smari, our new coach from Iceland.  We have a strange connection as, unbeknown to me, he is staying in student accommodation at my sister’s place!  She noticed the “Chess Kids” logo on his car and asked if he knew me.

Smari showed an interesting game from the Lasker v Tarrasch World Championship Match in 1909 where Lasker blundered a pawn and appeared to be in a bad position but all his pieces were grouped together with potential to change the course of the game.

Today’s puzzle is such a position also.  White is two pawns down but his four pieces are grouped menacingly in the centre of the board and must surely have potential to turn the tide.  The player of the White pieces was an unusual character called Ortvin Sarapu.  Sarapu was a minor master in Estonia at the end of the Second World War who decided to leave Europe in search of a better life.  He apparently researched all the countries in the world and settled on New Zealand as being the best place to migrate to.  A fortunate choice for NZ Chess as Sarapu became an IM and won the NZ Championship a record 20 times (surely a world record for a national championship).  He played a memorable game against Bobby Fischer at one Interzonal, which Sarapu claimed he should have drawn, and which was perhaps his favourite story, closely followed by many others!  He was an arrogant but entertaining man who I was fortunate to play 3 or 4 times.  I well remember our last game in an Australian Masters, where I optimistically declined a draw, only to have Sarapu offer a draw again shortly thereafter with the comment “you better take it as this is he last time I shall offer.”  I took the draw.


Ortvin Sarapu

So, for today’s puzzle let’s see if you can match Sarapu’s tactical ability.  It’s White to play and win.

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Archive for July, 2014

I’m a bit late doing this week’s blog as last week was our 4-day chess camp at Philip Island from Tuesday to Friday.   It was cold, sometimes wet, but good fun for the kids who visited a wildlife park, went ten-pin bowling, had a go at archery, rope climbing, a giant swing and even a little bit of chess.

Actually, quite a lot of chess with the programme including five one and a half hour lessons, a seven round teams tournament and a lightning tournament (which included the coaches).  It was good fun going over the games with the players after each round of the teams tournament, with a number of interesting/amusing positions to look at.   I particularly liked the game between Callum and Elijah where Callum was winning easily with two rooks to one but his rook was attacked by Elijah’s King.  The spectators all saw 1.Rxf3 mate for Callum but he decided instead to play 1.Rd3.  Elijah’s response was 1…Rh5 mate!  Talk about a poor choice!   You can tell the kids to “look at all checks and captures” but to make them actually do it in a real game is not so easy.

From my point of view however the most fun was trying to solve chess puzzles set by some of the coaches.   Frank is always good for a puzzle but the hardest puzzle came from Alan Yu whose nickname used to be “Magician from Riga” but after his effort on the rope climbing he now has the new nickname of “wobble man”.   Frank, Luke and I spent a long time trying to solve the puzzle, a 4 move checkmate, and I got the first two moves fairly quickly but was stumped by the next move.  I’d love to show it here but it’s probably too hard.   Instead I’ll give you something a little easier – an endgame where White has the problem of stopping Black’s passed pawn, whereas Black’s bishop can easily stop White’s passed pawn … or can it?  That’s your task today.


The teams event at the chess camp.


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Archive for July, 2014

School Holidays!   What to do?  If it wasn’t for Wimbledon being on the TV and the Chess Camp coming up next week I might be bored.  As it was, I spent much of the day preparing for the camp … buying some thick socks, a warm scarf and a new jacket for example …. Philip Island can be cold at this time of year.

Then of course having lunch in my favourite cafe I was the epitome of the modern chess player.  Head downcast staring intently at my iPad … first catching up with the news on Chess Chat then a quick game against Shredder to fine tune my chess skills.  I may have to play some lightning chess at the camp against Luke Li or Allen Yu who are coming along as assistant coaches.  Of course, that done, I completed my preparation by pulling out a bound volume of the British Chess Magazine and starting to read.  Why buy new chess books when I have so many old ones is my latest theory and I’ve now worked my way back to the 1947 volume.

Actually there is some good stuff there … for instance Britain played a radio match against Australia over 10 boards and won 7-3.  Names familiar to me like Purdy and Koshnitsky were in the Australian team but our only win came on board 1!  Yes, out top player, the Hungarian immigrant IM Lajos Steiner who had settled in Sydney before the war, was still a class above the best British players.  Actually, come to think of it, I never met Steiner even though he lived until 1975, which is a bit of a pity as I’m sure he would have had many great chess stories to tell from when he was an active player in the 1930s and played many of the world’s top players.  He was an unusual combination of chess player, engineer and boxer!

And of course whilst reading my book I had my eyes open for any good material on the chess camp theme of “defence.”  Found a couple of useful games and a nice puzzle which I’d like to show you now.  It took me a few goes to get the answer but if you just keep saying to yourself “it has to be this move….” you will probably find the solution.   Good luck.

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Archive for July, 2014

Nine year old Oliver Pridmore was interviewed on ABC Hobart Radio yesterday in a series they were running on Child Champions. Oliver of course is a chess champion and has represented Tasmania in two National Championships plus does very well with his school team.

Here is the interview – we have to say, he conducted himself very well!