Archive for August, 2015

Most chess players like playing through games between top players but there is one sort of game that, as a chess coach, I find more interesting.   For me a game between a strong player and a weaker player (usually a junior) holds great fascination as it may serve to demonstrate the difference in understanding between the two players.  For instance a game between GM Zhao (Australia’s top player) and FM Zelesco (one of our better juniors) often serves up good chess lesson material for me.

How does the GM beat his lower rated opponent?  Can he analyse deeper or does he see more ideas in the position or is it just that he is better in endgames/pawn play/or planning perhaps?  This is why one of the best ways a young player can improve is to play against a stronger opponent and then go through the game with his coach to see why he lost.  I use this method with all my students and try to introduce them to such concepts as “pawn play”, “waiting moves”, “preserving your options” and “building up” and so on.

It’s very rewarding as a chess coach to see your students improve and begin to make their mark in senior chess.  I had a good student a couple of years ago named Gary Lin who was rapidly improving but then his family moved to Japan so I lost him as a student.  It was pleasing however to see Gary’s Facebook post the other day where he won the Japanese Junior Championship and  is doing well also in their senior chess.    I have a few promising (although much younger) students at the moment so it will be interesting to see how much they too can improve in the next few years.  To do that they need to play against adults as much as possible and there is a good opportunity to do that in a couple of weeks at the “Best in the West” weekender in Altona.   Hopefully I shall get the chance to drop in on the tournament and watch them play.

Meanwhile perhaps we can work on your own chess “understanding”.   Have a look at the position below and see if you can correctly guess what move the grandmaster played.   Needless to say he came up with an idea that most players would not even think of.

Archive for August, 2015

I had some good news today.  One of my students, Atlas Ballieu, has been selected as Australia’s primary representative in the Under 8 Division of the World Youth and Cadet Championships to be held in Greece from 24 October to 6 November.

Atlas Ballieu

Atlas Ballieu

Atlas is the Australian U/8 Chess Champion and the funny thing is that he will be following in my footsteps as 44 years ago I was Australia’s representative at the World Junior Championships in Greece.  This means that I shall be able to pass on a few useful tips to Atlas such as how to say “please”, “thank you” and “strawberry ice-cream” in Greek!  Australia will be sending a large team to the event with players selected for each of the various age-groups and there will be coaching from such players as GM Ian Rogers and GM Ftacnik from the Czech Republic.  It should be a great experience!

It was a little different in my time as rather than hundreds of players in various age-groups we only had one age-group (under 21) and from memory there were only about 41 players.  I came 17th, which was the best result by Australia at that time, and got to play a number of strong players.  My first round was actually very scary as I found myself on board one against the top seed, Russian grandmaster Rafael Vaganian.  I put up a reasonable fight until he did a sneaky knight sacrifice (Nd5) which broke down my defence.

You would imagine that Greece would be a very nice venue for a chess tournament with opportunities to see all the sights and ancient relics.  Unfortunately I missed out on the tour to the Acropolis as on that day I was finishing a very long adjourned rook endgame against the British player, Robert Bellin.  Fortunately I managed to outplay him from an inferior position – he took too many risks in trying to win as, no doubt, the thought of drawing with a mere Australian was not a pleasant prospect for him.

These days Australia is not quite such a chess backwater and we have even had some success in these Would Youth Championships.   Back in 2012 Bobby Cheng played a great tournament to snatch the 12U title and become our first cross-board World title holder.  He had a few hic-cups along the way and he needs your help in the position below which looks bad for White.  What should Bobby play?

Archive for August, 2015

A couple of weeks ago I observed the top games at the RJ Shield and one thing is very obvious to me – players are not paying enough attention to what their opponents can do and sometimes they are even missing opportunities for themselves.  What can be done to correct this failing?

It is a failing of both vision (the ability to see candidate moves) and analysis (the ability to analyse lines of play to a conclusion) so I’ve been searching for a way for my students to improve this area of their game.  My solution is “Progressive (snowball) chess.”  This is a variation of chess where White has one move then Black has two move then White has three moves etc.  If you give a check your move sequence ends.  For some time I’ve been playing a couple of games of progressive chess with one of my students particularly as a means of thinking defensively.   When we first started he only thought of attacking and would find himself checkmated after only a few moves but he has been slowly getting the hang of it and now our games often go to seven or eight moves.   A couple of times I’ve realised that I’m in trouble and my student could win the game but fortunately for me he missed the winning line.

We had a very interesting game this week.  One of the strategies of progressive chess is to move your king out and give it lots of escape squares so that it avoids checkmate.  In our game I finished my moves with a King march to f3 and said “I’m going to be a bit daring … maybe you can get me in checkmate.”  My student thought hard over the position below but I had set a few sneaky traps.  For instance I had locked his Queen in as …Qxf6 is check and would end his move.  My student made his moves but did not deliver mate in six moves so my turn came and I found a mate in seven moves to win the game.   We then went back to the position in the diagram too see if he could have done better by finding a mate in six.  Perhaps you can help him and find a mate in six moves for Black.