Archive for May, 2017

Today I feel like a bit of a rant.  On Sunday I went to the RJ Shield to watch my students play and record some of their games.   It was a good event with a stronger field than usual with Gavyn scoring 6.5/7 to secure first place from Shawn and Oliver on 5.5/7.

Gavyn (first) and Shawn (second) in the May RJ Shield.

And my rant?   WHY CAN’T PEOPLE SEE TACTICS?   Take the first round for example.  One board 1 Daniel is coasting along a piece ahead against a player rated 650 points below him when he makes a move that leaves a Rook en-prise with check.  Result….. Daniel loses.

Round 2 …. the number 3 seed, Shawn, is coasting along a piece up (but in time trouble) when he makes a move allowing mate in one move!   His opponent thinks.   He thinks some more.  Finally his hand hovers above his rook and he makes a rook move instead of Qxg2 mate!  Shawn is moving quickly, facing a probable loss on time, when his opponent makes a huge blunder allowing Shawn a back-rank mate in two moves.   Shawn ponders for a few seconds and instead plays QxQ+ allowing the game to continue with his opponent winning on time.

Even the tournament winner, Gavyn, was not immune to missing tactics.   Simple things like he can take a free rook on d1 with his queen (a good move) but an even better move is to first play Qe2+ forcing White’s King to the back rank and enabling Black to take the rook with check and keeping the initiative.   The tactics are all there but players are not stopping to look for them.   Gavyn won the event because he played carefully and did not make any big blunders (other than perhaps missing a few better tactics for himself).

In the final round I was recording the game between Daniel and Gaby where Daniel played the English opening and Gaby had a B on c5 and a B on e6 and a N on c6.  The obvious move for me was White playing d4 attacking the B on c5.   When the B moves White can play d5 skewering Black’s pieces on c6 and e6 and winning a piece for White.  Did the players notice this tactic?  Yes …. but only on the 4th opportunity White had to play this winning move.

Why all these blunders and missed opportunities?  To be a good player you have to be good at tactics and to find tactics you have to look for them.  Not some of the time … not only in attacking positions … but every single move.  Something I will clearly have to work on in my chess lessons.

One of the reasons that kids miss tactics of course is that they move too quickly.  Take the position in the diagram for example.  It’s a pawn ending so there shouldn’t be much to think about ….right?  Wrong!  The players blitzed out some moves and Black lost.  He could easily draw if he studied this position for a while to discover the drawing idea.  After the move he played White himself had a winning reply but he didn’t look for it and quickly went chasing pawns.  Perhaps, dear reader, you can do better?  First find the drawing move for Black.   Then find White’s winning move against the move that Black actually played.

 

Archive for May, 2017

I have a problem.  Actually it’s my students’ problem but it’s my job to help them solve it.   They “can’t see how to win.”   There have been three recent examples where my student is the exchange, or the exchange and a pawn, up for nothing yet they accept/offer a draw.  When quizzed as to why they just say “I couldn’t see how to win.”

Actually I have had this problem for many years.  My usual response is “why do you have to see how to win?   You can’t see how to win on move one of a game can you?   Just play!”  I can understand why you would agree to a draw in a situation where that wins you a prize or a title, but other than that agreeing to a draw in a position that is not a “dead draw” is just demonstrating a fear of losing ….. and good players are not afraid!  They are confident in their ability and they play on.  If they play badly, yes, they may lose but if they play well they may win and if both players play OK it could still be a draw.   So I’m trying to inculcate my students with the philosophy of NO DRAWS!   Declining a draw places your opponent under pressure and implies that you think you are the better player and you think you can still win.

Now lets return to solving my problem.  Look at the position below for example.  It’s from the Rookies Cup yesterday where Black, the exchange up for nothing, agreed to a draw.   It’s true, White has a solid position and well-placed pieces, but he doesn’t have any “play” and his drawing strategy is probably to just sit tight.  So the question is what can Black do to break through White’s position?   Exchanging Queens would give Black a clear advantage but to justify playing on Black doesn’t have to “break through” he just has to find a way to improve his position or place White under pressure.  My computer has one suggestion and I have another …. have a look at what you would do then play through the moves and see if we agree.

The other point to make of course is that most players don’t know how to just “sit tight” on a position but rather think that they have to be doing something (like attacking).   So if Black just plays on for a few moves an opportunity may come up.  What does Black have to lose?

 

Archive for May, 2017

Chess is all about thinking.  About being able to see an idea that your opponent has missed.  Of course we cannot analyse all the available moves, like a computer can, so we have to limit the number of candidate moves that we examine and also how deeply we analyse the variations.

I can remember when chess computers first came out and one way to try to beat them (particularly in an endgame) was to find a good move or idea beyond their analysis horizon and thus you could get an advantage.   Unfortunately most chess players are lazy.  They see a good move and they play it … looking for a better move, analysing a bit deeper or looking for new candidate moves is hard work.   A good chess player needs however to be constantly trying to out-think his opponent.  If the opponent does a sacrifice you look for a flaw in it.   If he has a plan you look for an idea to counter it or for a better plan for yourself.

It’s so easy to limit your analysis by rejecting obviously “silly” moves.   “If I go there he takes my queen” …. end of analysis.  But a good player says “Yes, I lose my queen, but do I have anything after he takes it?”

How to get juniors to think like that?  That’s a difficult task that I am still working on.  One method I use is to show them examples where there is a clever hidden idea that you may perhaps find …. if only you look for it!

I was playing through some tournament games on chess24.com the other day looking for such examples when I played through one of the games from the World Seniors Teams Championship.   White was the English grandmaster Dr.John Nunn, who I knew of, and he reached the following position.   He has a N but Blacks has 2 really strong passed pawns.  Nunn lost to a very pretty tactic.   Let’s look at that first.   Here is what happened.

My computer however thought that White had a better move which had good chances to hold the draw.  I looked at the move the computer was suggesting but it still looked hopeless for White.  “What is the idea” I pondered.   After about a minute’s hard thought I found it … a very nice idea which I think few players would find in a tournament game  ….. except of course you and me!