Archive for February, 2018

As a chess coach, what do you think is my biggest battle in trying to teach kids how to play better?  It’s to get them to stop analysing and rather to try to understand what is happening in the position and instead to look for ideas.

On seeing a position most children just launch into analysis.   “What can I threaten?” ….. “Do I have an attack?” and so on.   I had a class last Wednesday where I tried to explain to the students that if you are trying to solve a puzzle for example, there are in fact four things that you need to think about.

  1. What do I want to do?
  2. What does he want to do?
  3. What can he do to stop my plan?
  4. What can I do to stop his plan?

If you stop and first look at the ideas as above then that will clarify what is happening in the position and help you to refine/reduce the amount of anaysis that you have to do.   For instance if you want to queen a pawn and he does also, but his pawn is faster, then you can forget about attacking ideas and focus on how to stop him queening.

Chess, after all, is largely a battle to see ideas that your opponent may have missed.   An average player may reject moves because they appear to be bad (that move loses my queen!) but a better player will look a little deeper just in case there is something good there even if you do lose your queen.   Even simple ideas can sometimes elude us as most players are just coasting along looking at the obvious moves whereas a more imaginative player is looking at more candidate moves than his opponent.

The other night I was playing through some games on chess24.com and I stumbled across a nice example of one player totally missing an idea.  I bet he kicked himself after the game.

Have a look at the position below (Black to play) and see if you can find an idea for Black that just might work …. with a little help from your unimaginative opponent.

Archive for February, 2018

A couple of weeks ago I was at the Australian Junior Championships, along with many other chess coaches, and was chatting to Carl Gorka.  “Is Ian Rogers here” I enquired?  “Yes” Carl replied, “I’ve just been watching him coach some of his students …. it’s funny you know but Ian tells his students what they should have done whereas you ask them what they should have done.”

I’ve never really thought about this much but certainly my approach has always been rather than teach my students the solution to a puzzle I try to teach them how to solve the puzzle.  It’s like the old saying about giving a starving man a fish and you feed him for a day, but give him a fishing rod and you feed him for life.
The first thing you need to find the winning idea in a position is the correct attitude.  Your task is to out think your opponent …. to see an idea he hasn’t considered or to analyse deeper than he does.  If he does a sacrifice for instance your first thought should be “can I find a flaw in this sacrifice”?  Most people just launch into the analysis of a position but I encourage my students to first try to understand the position and the ideas that are there.   Often I get them to think backwards from their desired outcome, for instance I ask “How are you going to win?”   The answer might be “by checkmate”.  The next question then is “On which square shall you checkmate the King?”  After they tell me that I ask “And which piece is the most likely to give checkmate?”  So, as you can see, if they ask these questions their mind can better focus on precisely what they are trying to do.   Another handy question to ask is “where do you want your pieces?” so again I am encouraging them to think in general terms rather than just analysing.
Perhaps you would like to try this yourself?   Have a look at the position below – a rook ending where White has a extra pawn but Black has reasonable defensive chances (White to play).  The questions you could ask White are:
1. How are you going to win?  (e.g. checkmate, win Black’s rook or queen a pawn).
2. What is stopping you from achieving this type of win?
3. How can you remove the obstacles to this winning method?
Now see if you can find the best play for White.