Archive for June, 2015

This has been a hard couple of weeks for me.  Today is my father’s birthday but he passed away 9 days ago just shy of his 93rd birthday … so it has been a little hard thinking about chess.

Another blow came when I went to the chess centre in Mt.Waverley last night and Carl advised me that Australia’s first grandmaster, Walter Shawn Browne had passed away in Las Vegas aged only 65 years.  Browne had briefly played for Australia in the early 1970’s and I was his replacement on board one in our Olympiad team when he changed to the USA in 1974.  He had been a bit of a hero to players of my generation and went on to become one of the world’s top grandmasters, second only to Fischer in the USA in the 1970s.

I first met Browne at the Karl’s Lidums International in Adelaide in 1970-71 and witnessed first hand what a dynamic and competitive person he was.  After the tournament game each day he would take on all-comers at lightning for $1 per game in front of a huge crowd.  He gave a simul in Glen Waverley following the tournament along with West German GM Lothar Schmid.  I chose to play Schmid, reasoning that I would have many future opportunities to play Browne.  Alas they never came.  I should have spent a dollar in Adelaide and played him at blitz!

Despite these two losses life goes on and I’ll be using next week to prepare for the chess camp in Albury which starts on 7th July.  The theme is attacking so there should be plenty of material available for we coaches.   It must be said that I don’t particularly like attacking, and most players think that is the only available plan, but I guess that I can play along for the four days of the camp and pretend to be an attacker.

Speaking of attacking, it is important when attacking to try to prevent your opponent from getting any counter-play.  If you can keep him bottled-up and on the defensive the win should come easily, but sometimes even good players like Australian Champion Max Illingworth let their opponents escape.  The diagram below shows the end of a big game in the recent NSW Open where Max was crushing Anton Smirnov but let him escape.  Soon it was all down-hill for Max and Anton just had to find the best road to victory.  Sure enough Anton found a line which induced Max to resign in two more moves but he missed a very pretty mate in four moves!  Can you do better?

Archive for June, 2015

The one thing that struck me the most at the last RJ Shield Tournament was the large number of oversights made by even the better players in the tournament.

One of my best students twice overlooked that his opponent was threatening mate in one and even the tournament winner, Terrence, missed that he could have mated on the move in one of his games.  Why are players missing these obvious moves?  Are they moving too quickly perhaps?   I tried suggesting to Callum that he would blunder less if he slowed down but in his next games he made an instantaneous move which lost a rook for nothing.  Oh well … at least I tried.

Of course everyone makes mistakes.  I can remember back to one game I was playing against Doug Hamilton and I could play Qg7 mate.  Unfortunately I missed it and instead delivered mate in two moves. So my problem now is how to persuade my students to slow down and not overlook tactics.  I decided to start with Callum and set a little trap!

Callum is in my On-Line group and we always start with a little puzzle.  This week the puzzle I presented was the diagram below and the task is to choose between the candidate moves 1.f6, 1.exg6+ and 1.Kf4.  The students selected their preferred move and Callum choose 1.Kf4.

He had fallen for my trap hook, line and sinker!   “And did you look at your opponent’s reply” I questioned, because Black can now play 1…Qb8 mate!!!!   I hope that Callum was suitably shamed and will take more care in choosing his moves in future.

Of course the ability to see mate in one should be very simple …. shouldn’t it?  Let me test you with the position below.   White to play and mate in one move.  Don’t take too long!

Archive for June, 2015

To analyse or not to analyse …. that is the question!  Dear Reader, I have a problem.   Perhaps you can help me?

Last week I had a lesson with my best student (Ryan) and went went over one of his recent games where he lost to a 1600 rated player.  Ryan made a number of second best moves and when I asked him why he chose each of those moves rather than the better moves that were available he replied that he had analysed the moves and convinced himself that what he played was the best.  He was wrong … but why?  Most of the time the “best” move was a fairly obvious move based on what was happening in the position and no deep analysis was required.  In the end all I could do was to exclaim “stop analysing!”  When it is your turn to move (if its not a tactical position) a better approach is to look for an obvious good move (based on general principles) and make that your number one candidate move.  Then do a little bit of analysis (if you want) but you will probably come back and play the candidate move that you have previously selected.

Problem solved!   I then moved on to my lesson with my second best student, Sam, and we went through a game Zelesco v Grandmaster in which the GM had established a strong position with much better pieces and pawns.  Zelesco played Qe3 threatening an unprotected pawn on a7 and I asked Sam what he should play.  The seconds ticked by with no response so I eventually asked “what are you looking at …… I bet you are analysing!”  “Yes” replied Sam, “I’m looking at what happens if I play g4 or threaten his bishop with Nh4 … and so on.”   Then the awful truth dawned on me …. just like Ryan Sam was an “analyser.”  Threaten this, attack that, etc. was the order of the day.  I then had to explain to him that sometimes chess was a very simple game.  He attacks your pawn on a7.  After about 10 seconds thought you can just play ….b6 removing the threat and leaving your beautiful position intact.   No analysis required!

We now move on to Sunday and the RJ Shield tournament in Mt.Waverley.   We had a great roll-up of around 50 kids with most of my Doncaster Gardens class turning up to test themselves against new opponents.   I watched and recorded the games of some of my students and it soon became very clear that I had a new problem.   Blunders!  Everyone was blundering all over the place.   I suggested to one of my students (Callum) that perhaps he should slow down and check his moves and that would help to stop his blunders.  Of course he paid no attention to my suggestion and next round blundered a piece then a rook to one-move threats.    I moved on to watch one of my more promising students (Shawn) who is one of the few players who plays slowly and carefully and has a good grasp of what he should be doing in the game.  In one game he missed that his opponent could play QxR for a back-rank checkmate and then in another game where he was a piece up for nothing he missed that his opponent could play Qxg7 mate!   Clearly players in the RJ Shield need to analyse more so that they don’t miss obvious threats.

So I have a problem.  Some students analyse too much.   Some student don’t analyse enough.   What can I do?  Answer: show you a puzzle where you need both skills!   In the position below the grandmaster playing Black used his positional understanding to choose a good move whereas the computer analysed tactics to choose a different move.  Your task is to find both!