Archive for February, 2016

I’m very busy these days with a good range of private students and a few schools that I coach it.  What is the hardest job of a chess coach?   It’s probably trying to encourage your students to use their imaginations rather than just coasting along and playing the “obvious” move.

Chess is such a complicated game and there are so many possibilities that most of us are inclined to seek the easy way out and limit our analysis to a couple of routine moves.   He takes us…so we just take him back…nothing to think about there …. but what if we had a brilliant queen sacrifice available and we just failed to look at it because one doesn’t normally look at “silly” moves like losing your queen.   Most times we miss a good continuation either because we don’t look at that line at all or we reject it after a cursory glance.   To be an imaginative player we need to either look wider (more candidate moves) or deeper or both!  I’m constantly stressing to my students that chess is a battle of ideas and your job, if you want to win the game, is to find ideas that your opponent has missed.

I stumbled across a good example of this the other night when I was playing through some games in the Batavia Open which is on in Holland at the moment.   My interest in this event is sparked because of the participation of Australia’s Moulthun Ly who is spending some time in Europe in an effort to gain the grandmaster title.   I was playing through one of Moulthun’s games and he reached the diagrammed position as White.  His predicament of course is that Black has the powerful threat of 1…Ra1# so White’s options are limited.   Is he lost?   Can he get a draw?   Can he win?   What do you think?   Let me just say that one of the players missed a clever idea that would have won the game.   Perhaps you can do better?

Archive for February, 2016

Let me start off a new year of chess blogging with a confession.   When it comes to chess I am a terrible tease.

I think back to my uni days when I played lightning chess every lunchtime and one of my favourite opponents was Neil Davis.  Neil was an OK chess player, rated around 2000, but he did have a tendency to resign his games a bit early.  When this happened I would invariably say “Neil, I don’t think your position is so bad …would you like to swap sides and we can play on.”  We swapped sides then I outplayed him again and he resigned again … at which point I would repeat the procedure!  The fun was in seeing how many times you could fool poor Neil into resigning in the one game.

These days I don’t play much lightning chess so instead I have to content myself with teasing my chess students.  Yesterday when I rocked up to the chess shop for a private lesson the new receptionist, who had been there whilst I was giving a lesson the day before, commented “I thought you were very funny yesterday.”   Funny?  She was probably referring to the Russian accent I put on when I show my students a position from a grandmaster game and try to persuade them to resign or accept a draw as the case may be.  I see my main role as a chess coach as trying to teach my students how to think and to problem solve.  We always start lessons with a puzzle which often involves me in trying to trick them.  Indeed one of my students, little Atlas, has cottoned on to my scheme and when I set up the puzzle and explain what the task is instead of looking at the board he starts off by staring into my eyes.  I have a pretty good poker face however and rarely give him any clues.

You may be interested in an example?  Here is a position from the recent Australian Junior Championship …. a rook and pawn ending where White is a pawn ahead with a strong passed pawn and a more active King.  I tell my students that they are Black and that White has just offered them a draw after playing the move d5.  Do they accept or, if they play on, what move do they make?

Most either accept White’s kind offer or decide to play on if the see 1…Rc2 which looks OK for Black.  I then swap the board around so that they are playing White and tell them that I am playing Black now and have decided to decline the draw offer but play a different move.   I play my move (can you guess what it is) and then they make a move for White.  I then spring my trap and my poor, red-faced students have to resign and admit that they have missed my sneaky idea.  Sure, I may have teased them a bit but hopefully they have learnt to look for ideas on the chessboard and to adopt a philosophy of trying to out-think their opponent.