Archive for October, 2015

One of the hardest things about being an older chess coach is trying to remember the names of your students … but I have a clever strategy when I can’t remember a name …. I just call them “Daniel!”

This strategy works pretty well.   Let me explain.  On Monday I have a private lesson with Alistair (I can’t forget him because he is so gregarious) and Daniel Pob.  I call him “Good Daniel” as he is pretty strong for a 12 year-old.  After this lesson I have my super group of 4 to 6 kids.  There is one new boy whose name is something like “Etien” and then there is “Bad Daniel” so called because he is not as strong as “Good Daniel.”  Then of course there is “Sleepy Daniel” who keeps dosing off during my lessons and another new boy who I have named “New Daniel” as he only recently joined the group.  Missing yesterday were Gabbi, who was playing in the Primary School Finals, and “Late Daniel” who was so late this week that he forgot to turn up.  As you can see, the odds are on my side if I forget a student’s name and just call him “Daniel.”

After the lesson finished on Monday I was packing up when a mother and her 5-year-old son walked into the shop.  She explained that there were Russians who had only just arrived in Australia and she wanted chess lessons for her son who could not speak English.  I sat him down and played a couple of quick games using gestures to indicate my intentions and then I turned to the mother and asked her what her son’s name was.   She replied “Даниил” which of course is Russian for “Daniel!”

I do however have one student not named Daniel who is doing something rather exciting at the moment.   His name is Atlas and he is playing in the World U8 Youth Championships being played in Greece.  Actually I have another former student playing there as well in the 16U event but he is playing for Japan – Gary Lin.  Atlas has started off very well winning his first two games against higher-rated players from the USA and Canada.  Today he faces the highly ranked Indian representative.  If you are keen you can follow this tournament on the web and there are many interesting games to play through.


Atlas (left) about to start his round two game.


For today’s puzzle I’ve chosen a position from the tournament.  See if you can help Black in the diagram below decide whether or not to take on f3.


Archive for October, 2015

One of the hardest things to do in chess is to actually beat a higher ranked player.  I can look back to the early 1970s when I was playing against Max Fuller, Australia’s highest rated player.   I would get a drawn position and often lose.  I would get a winning position and only draw.

One of the problems involves psychology.  At the start of the game the pressure is on the higher rated player to beat you … but say he blunders and you are now winning.  Suddenly the roles are reversed.  You are expected to win.  The pressure is now on you.  Maybe you get a bit tentative or take a bit too long thinking.  The higher rated player switches to “swindle mode” and keeps setting traps for you.  Most times he will manage to swindle you.  If not you have passed the test and are on the way to becoming a stronger player.

This was the dilemma facing Aussie junior Justin Tan, already an IM and now taking a year off his studies in the quest for the grandmaster title.  In the last round of the Isle of Man Open last week Justin was paired against British GM Keith Arknell and after some good opening play found himself a clear pawn ahead in a position that he couldn’t lose … but could he win it?  The grandmaster had been just sitting tight on his position and placing his pieces on good squares.  The pressure was on Justin to find a way to crack Black’s defence.  Should he take a risk or play safe and probably only draw?   Have a look at the position below.  Black has just played Re2 threatening to regain his pawn deficit.  See if you come up with the same decision as Justin.

Archive for October, 2015

At last I am back from my three week holiday in Britain and can now resume my chess activities.

Actually I had a couple of “chess experiences” in Britain.  I attempted to visit the Edinburgh Chess Club which claims to be the second oldest chess club in existence (founded 1822) and has it’s own premises in the centre of Edinburgh.  I rocked up at 7.30 pm on Tuesday night (their club night) but the place was shut!  Not even a note on the door …. so I had wasted my time.  Perhaps the caretake was on holidays?

My next chess experience was at Hampton Court Palace when I was wandering through King William III suite of rooms when I notice a table with an inlaid chess board.  Nothing unusual about that except that it had a black square in the bottom right-hand corner!  I commented to the attendant that the chessboard was around the wrong way but she replied “it’s not a chess board”.  I presumed therefore that it may have been a draughts board, but when I googled “draughts” I found that their board was set up the same as ours – white square in bottom right-hand corner.  The mystery remains unsolved.

Anyway, now that I’m home I’ve been looking for new material for my lessons and have stumbled upon the “Isle of Man Open” which is being played in England at the moment.  There are two Australians playing, Justin Tan and Max Illingworth, so it has been interesting to follow the live games each night when I wake up at 2am.  My body you see is still on British time.

Last round Justin played a very strange game in which he had eight pawns to his opponent’s two pawns!  Unfortunately his opponent had a lot more minor pieces which soon closed in on Justin’s king for a checkmate.  Meanwhile Max had swapped into and endgame where he had B+P for R which can sometimes be hard for the opponent to win.  In the position below however his opponent, using precise calculation, found a way to win the game.  Your puzzle is to find his winning idea.