Archive for April, 2015

My battle to stop my chess students from doing pointless one move threats was going quite well this week.  We had our Friday night session before the RJ Shield on Sunday and the big game was Atlas v Shawn.  I was very pleased with how they both played with Atlas only making a pointless threat twice and Shawn placing his pieces well to eventually win a pawn and enter a queen a opposite bishop ending a pawn ahead.

Alas, I now have a new battle on my hands.  Shawn (as Black) had a passed “c” pawn which was hurtling down the board supported by his queen so Atlas played Qa1 pinning the c3 pawn against Shawn’s King on g7.   What should Shawn do?  Move his King out of the way then promote the pawn of course, however instead the general principles given to juniors kicked in.  “When you are winning swap off pieces” is something we tell all our students, but the hard part is when do they get good enough to ditch that idea and just play the best move?  Instead Shawn played Qb2 allowing a Queen swap and Atlas’ opposite coloured Bishop was able to stop the pawn with a simple draw.  Fortunately for Shawn he never-the-less won on time!

Now we move on to Sunday and the RJ Shield tournament.  I was recording Shawn’s games on my iPad and we came up against the same problem.  Shawn was a piece ahead in an endgame with Q+R+R+N v Q+R+R so what was Shawn’s plan to win the game?  Unfortunately it wasn’t to develop his worst placed piece (his a1 rook) and put it somewhere better, it was to use his Queen to chase around his opponent’s Queen offering a Queen swap.  “When you are ahead swap pieces!”  I think I have some serious re-programming to do.  Fortunately this time there was a happy ending and Shawn managed to eventually get his Queen swap for the cost of only a pawn or two and he won the game.

This problem occurs even with higher-rated players such as one student rated about 1500 who had a lesson on Friday with me.  We went through one of his recent tournament games where my student (as Black) in the diagram below was clearly better against an 1800 rated opponent.  All he has to do is find one sensible move in this position and the win should be very comfortable.  Instead what do you think his plan was?  Yes, you guessed it, to swap Queens because he was winning.  I do hope that you can do better.  What would you play in this position?


Archive for April, 2015

 I’m back into the swing of my chess lessons again now that term two has started but already I have problems.

I think that I have made a major discovery!  I was aware that some juniors had a plan of taking/swapping pieces whilst others had the plan of threatening things.  More advanced players tend to adopt the innovative plan of always trying to attack.  Masters don’t think that way.  For this week’s lessons therefore I’ve been showing an endgame between two of my students at the last RJ Shield and trying to demonstrate how a master would handle the position.  The master of course does not simply swap pieces or make one-move threats but rather tries to place his pieces on good squares, seize the initiative and tie his opponent down to defence.  He looks for targets to build up on and weak squares that his pieces can occupy.  I was demonstrating this to one of my students and showed him how White’s best plan was to move his N from g3 (where it wasn’t doing much) to the key central square of d4 where it was protected and attacking a weak black pawn on f5.  In fact it was the ideal square for a N in the middle of the board and from which it could not be removed.

On seeing the N arrive on d4 my student asked “but where is it going?”  It was then that the horrible realisation struck me … in his world pieces always had to be going somewhere and trying to attack things!  “It’s not going anywhere!” I retorted.  “It’s reached knight heaven on an outpost in the middle of the board from which it dominates the whole game.”  Dear oh dear.  It looks like he does not understand about static features in chess so next week I will have to focus on that in our lesson.  Actually it’s a common misunderstanding of many chess players that you always have to be doing something.  I remember many years ago I wrote an article “how to do nothing and do it well” which brings us to today’s puzzle.

It’s a game from the Bangkok Open (which is in progress at the moment) and it’s a pretty boring position.  White to move – what can he do?  Black isn’t threatening anything and it’s hard to improve his position.  Let us assume that White is tossing up between three candidate moves (all of which look pretty harmless) 1.Kb1, 1.Ka2 or 1.Qd3.    Unfortunately White chose the wrong one and resigned after Black’s reply.  Which move did he chose and what was the unexpected reply?

Archive for April, 2015

The last few days have been great fun watching the live games at the Doeberl Cup in Canberra, Australia’s strongest annual tournament.  Of course there were some good games to see and I especially like it when the generations clash, such as Johansen and Zhao v Smirnov or any of the younger players.  This time I think age was probably the victor with a rusty Johansen having an excellent result to finish in second place behind a Chinese grandmaster.  Chinese grandmasters always come first these days.

I must confess however I have even more fun watching some of the oversights and outright blunders that invariably happen in such a tournament.  In round one Bobby Cheng lost to some random Canberra junior (who played very well) and in the last round Anton found a neat tactic to steal a vital draw against Zhao … and there were many blunders in between!

Here are a few amusing positions from the Doeberl Cup for your enjoyment.