Archive for February, 2017

In my day, playing tennis, it was all about playing in a team with your friends and sometimes you ended up playing together for decades.  Today’s tennis is all about individual tournaments and tennis has become largely an individual sport rather than a team sport.  It’s a big problem because as soon as young players realise they won’t be the next Lleyton Hewitt they give up the sport.  A great pity and a challenge for tennis organisers.

It’s pretty similar in chess.  In my day club chess was very strong and you played in a four or five man team in inter-school and inter-club competitions.  If you were very good you even got to play in the Olympiad, in your nation’s chess team, and I always enjoyed playing in these team events, and achieved some of my best results in them.  So is mateship dead in chess?  Is everyone out to do their best and their opponents are enemies, not friends?

I was at the RJ Shield tournament at Mt.Waverley yesterday and saw something to give you hope that mateship and chess are not incompatible.  The two top seeds, Gavyn and Shawn were a class above the other entrants and were expected to fight it out for top spot.  It was great therefore to arrive at the tournament to see Gavyn and Shawn messing about together and playing friendly games before the tournament started.  They quickly despatched the other players and met in round 4 to decide who would finish in top spot.  It was a close, hard fought game, which swapped off into an even pawn ending.  At one point Gavyn blundered but Shawn responded instantly and missed his chance to win the game.  Finally a blocked position was reached so the boys shook hands and happily wandered off together to report the result.  They ended up sharing first place with 6.5 points out of 7 and left the event well pleased.  At chess tournaments you can not only play well but you can also make friends and have a great time.   That’s how it should be!

Gavyn and Shawn with their trophies.


Next week I shall discuss Bobby Cheng’s quest for his GM title.  Bobby is currently playing in a tournament in Batavia and leading with 4/4.  For today’s puzzle have a look at the position below from his last game.  Bobby found a winning line but it was not the best move!   Can you do better?  White to play.

Archive for February, 2017

This week the theme of my chess lessons was “Blunders”.   As I sat at home last night watching the live games in the Box Hill Autumn Cup I was gifted several new examples to illustrate this topic.

On board 1 the top seed Eugene Schon was facing 3-times Australia Champion, Doug Hamilton, who, at age 75, still plays a pretty good game of chess.  They arrived at the following position with Black to play.

Meanwhile on board 2 Issac Zhao and Kris Chan had arrived at a really boring rook ending with rook and 4 pawns each and no passed pawns.  Surprisingly they did not agree to a draw but swapped of into a king and pawn ending with the higher rated Chan (Black) pressing for a win.  They arrived at the following position with both sides racing to queen first.  Eventually they realised that they both queened and so agreed to a draw.  Play through the moves and see if you can find what they missed!

On board 3 there was also an interesting game in which Luis Chan appeared to blunder a rook.  They played on and surprisingly White was able to hold a draw so the “blunder” turned out not to be so bad after all.   Chess is a strange game.

Archive for February, 2017

School holidays are now over and I’m just getting back into the swing of chess lessons for term one.  There was a lot of chess played over the holidays and I went up to Brisbane for a week to catch the end of the Australian Open and the start of the Australian Junior Championships.  I had high hopes that some of my students would do well in the U/10 and U/12 championships but national events are always tough.  In the U/10 Championships for instance the Australian players, all rated around 1200 or lower, turned up to find a Vietnamese boy rated 1750 sitting up there on board one!   Apparently he had just moved to Sydney and was thus eligible to play.  Indeed he played to this rating and only dropped half a point, leaving the other players in his wake.

Victoria did quite well overall, in particular in the girls events where Myiesha Maunders won the U12 Girls and Eva Wang won the U18 Girls.  Eva is a very strong player, still only at Primary School, and I fully expect that in a few years she will be in the Australian Women’s Olympiad team.

There were several overseas grandmasters playing in Australia over the holidays but they by no means dominated our events.  Max Illingworth showed a welcome return to form to win the Australian Open Championship for example.  There were also a few interesting disputes, particularly in the Victorian Lightning Championships, which saw visiting GM Kasparov posting some unfavourable posts about Australia on his chess blog.  I doubt that he shall be invited back here again.

The biggest tournament of the holidays was over in New Zealand which held the Zonal Championships with the winner to go onto the World Cup and world championship qualification.  The leading Australians who played were Anton Smirnov, Max Illingworth, Gary Lane, Ari Dale and Karl Zelesco plus most of the top NZ players.  With one round to play Anton needed only a draw to secure first place but he faced a hard game against junior rival Karl Zelesco who was a point behind.  They played a very strange game with an even stranger finish.  For today’s puzzle perhaps you can help Anton to win the game.  Have a look at the diagram below.  Anton, playing White, is well up on material an a win seems to be just a formality.  All he has to do is find the best move here and Black can resign.  Alas, Anton chose the wrong move and Karl was able to get a draw with a very nice tactic.  Your job …find the best move for Anton and find the resource which saved the game for Karl.

Anton (centre) wins the Zonal.