Archive for August, 2016

There is so much chess going on at the moment I hardly know where to start.  Of course I have been following Anton who is playing in Hungary as a final warm-up for the Olympiad.  Moulthun and Max are playing in Abu Dhabi with a similar idea in mind and Moulthun has been playing very solidly drawing with lots of 2600 rated grandmasters.  Indeed if he can win or draw his last round game tonight then he shall have achieved another grandmaster norm and secured his grandmaster title.  Max’s form on the other hand has been variable as compared with his rival for Olympiad selection, Bobby Cheng, who has just crushingly won the Victorian Championship scoring 8.5/9.  It’s very strange that Bobby, as Australian Champion, is not in the Australian Olympiad team but at least he is still young and his time will come.

Next week is the “Best in the West” tournament in Altona which I shall visit to watch some of my students play.  Last weekend they were all playing in the RJ Shield Tournament.   Daniel scored 7/7 to win at Carngie whilst Alistair matched that at the stronger Waverley event.   I went to Waverley to watch, having popped in briefly to the Doncaster event where some of my students from Serpell and Doncater Gardens were playing.   I try to record some of the games on my ipad so as to have new material for my school lessons and this time I got plenty!

Of course the hardest thing to make juniors do is to actually take their time and think!   One player was paired against the top seed, Alistair, in a very important game in which Alistair played the unusual 1.b3 opening.  Not knowing anying about this new opening Black, instead of stopping and thinking, blitzed out a few moves then stopped and noticed that he was a rook down with a lost game.   Pity.  Later I watched a endgame where the players reached a drawn King and pawn endgame but White had to be careful.   His plan was not to slow down and think but to just quickly move his king between d2 and e3.  Black did better.   He stopped, came up with a plan, lost a move with his King and brought about a winning position for himself (which White could have easily countered had he bother to think about it).

How do you try to get junior to change their habits and stop and think?  Last week I tried a new strategy by labelling certain moves as “junior moves” and I think it is beginning to sink in.   It allows me to watch the tournament games at my school lessons and if a player makes an unthinking move I can rush up and exclaim “Junior move!”

To get you thinking this week I have a cool position from one of Anton’s games in Europe.

Archive for August, 2016

Last week I visited the Melbourne Chess Club, one day shy of their 150th birthday, and gave a lecture to their Novice Group on the topic of “understanding tactics”.

I started off by showing them a “White to play and mate in 1 move” puzzle which no-one was able to solve!  The reason was simple …. it was not a “normal” chess position and had lots of pieces on the board and many possible mate in one moves.  Unfortunately people were not able to use their pattern recognition skills to help them solve the puzzle and that is why it was so hard.  If we want to be good at spotting tactics we need to build up the database of chess patterns in our brain by doing such things as solving chess puzzles.   I gave the group a sheet of back rank mate puzzles as an example of the sort of material they should be studying.  I can solve the 9 puzzles in 19 seconds which is pretty fast but some were very simple and others I was able to recognise from famous games that I had seen before.

I spend a lot of my spare time playing through games on chess24.com (live games) searching for puzzles of good games that I can use in my chess lessons.  If Australians are playing so much the better and we have several players playing overseas at the moment.  For today’s puzzle I want to show you the finish of one of Anton Smirnov’s games where he is playing against a WGM rated 140 points below him so Anton would be expecting to win.  Unfortunately he is down on material and his opponent is threatening to draw by triple repetition so what can Anton do?  To solve the puzzle you will need to understand pins and discovered checks.  This is also a great example of a skill which I try to teach my better students, namely the ability to find moves which give your opponent choices and thus the chance for them to go wrong.  Enjoy the puzzle….