Archive for August, 2014

 I had a strange experience during one of my chess lessons last week.  My student, about 1300 strength, was showing me one of his games which ended up in a draw but which he perhaps should have won.  We got to the end of the game and I said, “can we go back a couple of moves and have a look at the position?”   We went back to a position where White had a discovered check (which won a piece) and in the game White played B(e8)x c6+ duly winning the piece.  “Did you consider any other moves in this position I asked?”  My student looked at the position for a few moments and suddenly realised that he had a slightly better move …. Bd7# checkmate!   Yes, he had overlooked mate in one.

Now, admittedly, perhaps I’m not the one to criticise as I too once missed mate in one move (against Doug Hamilton).  My excuse was that I found mate in 2 moves … so these things can happen to anyone.  It got me thinking though … perhaps my students need more training in problem solving, so this week I’ve been setting them a series of puzzles.  Pretty hard puzzles to be true, and not many students were able to solve them.

The key to problem solving is to ask yourself relevant questions about the position.  Such question as “which piece will give checkmate?” or “on which square will the King be checkmated?” or “how can I cover the King’s escape squares?”  Most puzzles should be solvable just by using logic and asking the right questions.

Let’s see if you can use logic to help an Olympiad arbiter solve a little problem.   The game has finished and the arbiter has the scoresheet but the players have forgotten to record the result.   The final position is as below?   Can you help the arbiter?   Was it a draw or a win for White?   Black to play.


Archive for August, 2014

The 2014 Tromso  Chess Olympiad is over with Russia winning the Women’s Olympiad and, very surprisingly, China emerging victorious in the Open Olympiad.  They have certainly come a long way since China first entered an international teams event at Auckland in 1977.  I played their top player then and he was only rated about 2400 – now their team has 2700 and 2600 rated grandmasters who lost only one game in the entire event!   Perhaps there is an argument that communism produces good chess players?

Australia did very well, finishing in 31st place (seeded 60th) tying with countries such as England, Norway and Germany.  Actually we drew 2-2 with Germany in the last round thanks to a fine win by Australian Champion Max Illingworth however our team hero was 13-year-old Anton Smirnov.   Anton was undefeated on 7.5/9 and gained 44 rating points which sees him closing in on the 2400 target to allow him to qualify for the IM title.  He was a bit lucky in one game but comfortably drew with his two grandmaster opponents, including his 2612 German opponent in the crucial last round.  Congratulations to Anton and all the team.  If they all keep improving Australia will have a very strong team next time, particularly if our best player Zhao is available to play also.

The Olympiad of course provides a feast of games, both good and bad, which are all still available to view on the Olympiad website, so we chess coaches  have heaps of new material for our students.  Last week I showed my “super squad” a few positions form the Olympiad and I have another fist full for them today.  There is however one position which stands out to me as a great puzzle.  It’s hard, very hard, and if any readers can work out the solution I shall be very impressed.  It was too hard for Max Illingworth who achieved the diagrammed position (as Black) below.  Max has a piece and two pawns (including a strong passed pawn) for a rook and has been on the verge of winning for about 20 moves.  Unfortunately he just can’t seem to get his pieces co-ordinated in the right places to break down White’s defences.  Perhaps you can help him?  Black to play and win!

Archive for August, 2014

There are two exciting things happening in Australian chess at the moment.

One of course is the Chess Olympiad which is in progress as I write in Tromso, Norway.  This event is fantastic for armchair chess followers like myself as you can follow all the games live including such details as time taken on each move and computer analysis of the best 3 moves in each position.  The Australian Team had the thrill of playing defending champions, Armenia, in the second round, losing 1-3.  Our top board, David Smerdon, was the hero of that match in drawing with world #2, Lev Aronian.

Meanwhile, on board 4, young Anton Smirnov, has been doing well also and is working on getting his rating to 2400 so that he can qualify for the IM title.  I’ve been using one of his nice wins in my lessons this week.  He had a particularly fine win against the Danish Champion the week before in an Olympiad warm-up event to achieve his third IM norm.

The other exciting event is the launching of a new chess magazine named “50 Moves”.   Strange name, and a “different” magazine in that it is only available electronically.  Alas, it seems that the days of printed magazines are numbered.  I’ve enjoyed reading and collecting chess magazines all my life, and it must be said that “50 Moves” is a large magazine, very attractively presented with articles by some very eminent Australian players.  It’s a good read for only $8 per issue.  Alas, being shocking pedant, I proof-read the magazine and found a number of corrections, including several wrong diagrams, but such trivial things are easily fixed next time.  Actually it should be virtually impossible to get a diagram wrong these days – it only takes a second or two to extract one from your chess programme.  In Cecil Purdy’s day diagrams were an expensive edition to a chess magazine and had to be set up using letterpress in a printer’s “block.”  In my day it took me 20 minutes to do a diagram by cutting out each piece and pasting it on the appropriate square.  Later there was letraset, which was like transfers where you used a pencil to rub the pieces onto the diagram.  Things are so easy now, but you can still put diagrams in the wrong place or use the wrong diagram!

Please treat yourself to a subscription.  Perhaps I can encourage you with a nice puzzle from the magazine?