Archive for March, 2018

I’ve recently been appointed Director of Coaching at the Chess Kids Academy and today was my first session with the students, and the last day of the first term.  I’ve been working hard organising a timetable and subjects for the lessons.

The Academy day starts at 8.30am when the students arrive and play 5 minute challenge games against the coaches.  I managed to win all my lightning games despite being a little out of practice.  We then moved on to our “chess topics” session in which we try to educate the students in some aspect of chess – like, ratings, titles, on-line chess, laws of chess, etc.   I did this presentation and chose to take about “chess titles” so I gave the students a history lesson as to how the title of “World Champion” had evolved over time and how titles such as “grandmaster” and “international master” came about.   We talked about the unofficial world champion Alexandre Deschapelles who lost a hand in the Napoleonic wars and was described as “the best liar in France” and about Alexander Alekhine, the only World Champion to die whilst holding the title.  He was killed by a sausage!   Then I told a story how I persuaded the President of FIDE to create the FM title for Max Fuller (FM = Fuller master) for people who were not of IM standard.  During the talk I asked the students “homework questions” and gave the first person to answer correctly a Lindt chocolate Easter bunny.   For example: “Name the player who has won more Australian Championships than anyone else yet he has never been the best player in Australia.”   This provoked a deathly silence then one wag blurted out “Michael Baron!”   Everyone else burst out laughing.   (The correct answer is Darryl Johansen).  Hopefully it was all a bit of fun for the kids and I got to eat the left-over chocolates!

We then corrected their homework from last week and moved off into the lesson topics with Julia taking one group and Kanan the other.   Julia for instance talked about “The tree of analysis” whilst Kanan was doing “Endgame Tactics”.

The students then broke for lunch.   Next term we are looking at taking them to a nearby park for their lunch break.   Outdoor chess?  After lunch there was a 15 minute puzzle session using 4 puzzles by famed chess columnist Leonard Barden. Then followed the afternoon practical session and this week we played transfer chess.    The winners were Liam and Atlas.   The tournament ended at 3.30 with the students either playing social chess or doing endgame puzzles until they were picked up.   All-in-all a fun day of chess.

Kanan and Julia giving a lesson at the Academy.


For today’s puzzle lets have a look at a spectacular finish to the game Kramnik v Aronian in the Candidates tournament currently in progress in Germany.  It is Black to play and blunder!

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Archive for March, 2018

The Australia Day long weekend is a popular date on the Australian chess calendar as on that date many of Australia’s top chess players head to Ballarat for the Ballarat Begonia Open.  The 52nd incarnation of this tournament!

This year the tournament boasted 4 grandmasters (Smirnov, Zhao, Ly and Johansen) plus IM’s Morris, Ikeda and Solomon heading a field of 131 players.  I stayed there for the whole week-end to support my students who were playing and I even found time to visit the begonias and take some beautiful pictures.

Ian Rogers doing the game commentary.

One of the best things about the tournament is that GM Ian Rogers is on hand to supply commentary on the games in progress and regale us with stories from the past and present.  His opening knowledge and memory is really astounding.

The finish to the tournament was spoiled a little when outright leader, James Morris, going into the last round ahead of a pack of 5 players, instead of being paired against GM Anton Smirnov, which would have been a great game to watch, was paired against the lowest player in that pairing group.   In the finish there were a couple of quick draws on the top boards and James and Anton ended up sharing first place on 6/7.   Each player took home $1875 for their efforts!   Ian explained to his audience how FIDE had adopted this bad pairing system some time ago and had not yet gotten around to changing it.

IM James Morris, = first with Anton Smirnov.

For today’s puzzle I have chosen a position from one of Zhao’s games.  The thing about good players is that they either analyse deeper than an average player or look at more candidate moves/ideas and this is one of the ways that they beat their opponents.  I was in the analysis room watching Zhao’s game and he made a quick move in time trouble and we all gasped as it appeared that he had made an obvious mistake.  A couple of moves later Zhao’s opponent resigned as the grandmaster had looked that little bit deeper than the rest of us and seen a cool winning tactic.  Let’s see if you can find it.  Black to play and win.

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Archive for March, 2018

What do you do when you are down on material and losing the game?   Some players stake everything on a tactical chance which doesn’t work but they hope their opponent may miss it.  If the opponent spots the tactic they are dead.   Others may tend to get dejected and resign themselves to losing …. going down without much of a fight.

The best approach of course is to dig in and try to make it as hard as possible for your opponent to finish you off.  After all, the longer the game goes the great the chance your opponent may miss something and let you back into the game.

In today’s puzzle Black is the exchange up for a pawn which should be enough for a win in this sort of endgame where the rook should dominate?   His problem?   He doesn’t have a passed pawn.   In addition White, who has a Knight, is trying to keep the position blocked.   Black tried placing his rook on the “c” file but White just blocked it with Nc4.   Now Black tried to infiltrate via the “e” file and White has blocked it with Ne5.  What is Black to do?   Perhaps, dear reader, you can help him?   Black to play and win.


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