Archive for November, 2016

“Is this the most boring World Chess Championship match ever?” I asked fellow Chess Kids coach Carl Gorka.  “What about Karpov and Kasparov?” was his reply.  “They had a lot of draws.”  True, but Karpov was 5-0 up when the draws started so at least they had 5 games that had a result.   So far Carlsen and Karjakin have played 6 rather boring draws in their best of 12 game match in New York.  Compare that with “the good old days” – Steinitz v Anderssen 1866 where they played 14 games (8-6 to Steinitz) with NO DRAWS!  Of course in those days the spectators didn’t have all the computer analysis and video commentary that we have but at least they had exciting games.

Last Sunday, seeking refuge from the uneventful World Championship match, I ventured to Box Hill Chess Club to watch the Rookies tournament where some of my students were playing.  Indeed it was very pleasing as the last round commenced to see three of my students all on 5/6 and in contention for a prize.  On top board was Ethan Hooi (who I coach at Doncaster Gardens) playing Regan Cowley who won the game and thus the tournament with 7/7.  Fellow Doncaster Gardens student Eva was on board 3 and she drew her game to finish on 5.5/7.  A fine result.  The most interesting game however was on board 2 where the top seed John Nemeth, an imposing figure, faced one of my students from Serpell Primary, little Gavyn Sanusi-Goh rated a mere 1255 points below John.  They had infact played in the previous Rookies Tournament where Gavyn had given John a run for his money, so before the game John commented “Let’s see how much you have improved.”  He didn’t have to wait long to find out as Gavyn quickly won the exchange and later a second exchange to have 2 rooks plus queen v 2 bishops plus queen in the endgame.  A big crowd gathered around, sensing a upset, and with Gavyn having only 2 minutes left on his clock anything could have happened.  Gavyn, calmly returned one exchange to simplify the position then, after a bit of uncertainty, found a winning line to defeat his much higher rated opponent and secure outright second place in the tournament.   Not bad for an 8 year-old!

I watched some of my other students’ games at the tournament and witnessed a couple of very poor decisions, such as walking into mate in 3 moves in a drawn rook ending.  Even Ethan allowed his opponent a bank rank checkmate in an unclear position.  Why do players blunder?  I think it is because we make our moves based on both our analysis and our understanding of what we should be doing.  Sometimes we just forget to analyse, or get lazy, and make a move, because it looks right, without analysing to check that the move is safe.

Let me give you a little test.  Have a look at the rook ending below.  White is trying to draw and it’s his move.  You can analyse or use your judgement to choose a move … or both!  It’s quite hard and in the game White got it wrong.  Good luck.

Archive for November, 2016

It occurred to me the other day that it is 50 years since my first national chess tournament, the Australian Junior Championship in Adelaide in 1967, so I’ve written an article for “50 Moves Magazine” talking about the changes in Australian chess during that time.

So far as juniors are concerned there have been a number of changes.  Perhaps the most important is that these days all the better juniors have a chess coach whilst in my time there was no coaching and we had to learn from books.  Juniors also start playing at a much younger age.  I learnt the moves when I was 11 and my first tournament was when I was 14 years of age.  Today, when I drop in on a tournament at Box Hill there are children as young as 5 or 6 years playing and some of them are very good!

The third difference is the vastly increased number of tournaments available today that juniors can play in.  I have one student whose playing schedule this week is as follows:

Sunday: Tournament game at Herzl Chess Club.

Monday: Tournament game at Melbourne Chess Club in the evening.

Tuesday: Chess Kids Primary State Finals.

Wednesday: Chess Kids Middle Years State Finals.

Thursday: Northern Star Interschool Finals.

Thursday evening: Tournament game at Croydon Chess Club.

Friday: Tournament game at Box Hill Chess Club.

Sunday: Rookies tournament at Box Hill Chess Club.

That’s 4 tournament games and 28 allegro games in one week!

I was fortunate in that I went to a school which had a chess club open every lunchtime so I played each day at school.  Once a week we would have an Interschool game (run by the Victorian Junior Chess League) and in the April holidays there was the Victorian Junior and in the September holidays the Victorian Open Junior.  If you were in the top half dozen juniors in your state in January you could play in the Australian Junior Championships.   I knew that there were senior chess tournaments but no-one ever told me that juniors could play in them!

Of course all this coaching and these playing opportunities at an early age should be producing a lot of excellent chess players, and perhaps that is indeed happening.  Australia recently gained two more grandmasters in Max Illingworth and Moulthun Ly and Anton Smirnov and Justin Tan are also closing in on the GM title.  The famous British chess columnist, Leonard Barden, pondered the other day as to whether, perhaps in 5 years or so, Australia will be a greater chess power than England which has very few talented young players coming through.   Barden himself, along with Bob Wade and Harry Golombek, was one of the main drivers of the British chess boom of the 1970s which produced their first grandmaster in Tony Miles and then other great players like Nigel Short and Michael Adams.  Short and Adams are still the mainstay of the British chess team even though they well past their best.

For today’s puzzle I present a game played between two promising juniors in the Box Hill Open last Friday.  The game ended in a draw but for much of the game White was better the Black missed an immediate tactical win.  Can you find what he missed?