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“Robert, Robert!”  Checkmate exclaimed.  “I think I’ve played a really good game!  Can you play through it and tell me what you think?”  I played through the game up to the diagrammed position and play continued 1.b4 b6 2.a4 Kb7 3.a5 Kc7 4.a6 b5 5.Qf2 Kb8 6.Nxf6 Qxf6 7.Rxf7 Qxf2 8.Rxf2 and White won the time scramble.

“Checkmate” I replied.  “You had a good win but I think that you missed something just before the rook ending.”

Today’s puzzle is what did the players miss?

[fen caption=”White to Play”]8/ppk1qp1R/2pp1br1/4pQ1N/2P1P3/1P6/PP6/1K6 w KQkq – 0 1[/fen]

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Last Friday I was up in Mildura trying to play tennis and I took the opportunity to drop in on the Sunraisia Chess Club on Friday night to give a lecture.  My topic was “what it takes to be a good chessplayer” and to illustrate the point I showed the position in the diagram which was from an on-line game between “MasterTan” and “The Magician from Riga”.

I often hop on-line to the play.chesskids site and go through the games to see if there is any good material for Jammo’s puzzles.  I was quickly playing through the above game (without making any attempt to analyse) and play continued 1.b3 Rc3 2.Bd2 Rc7 3.e5 Nd7 4.f4 and Black eventually won.   Did you notice anything funny about these moves?   After 4.f4 my brain stopped me and said “hang on!  I think one of the players may have missed a chance.”   I went back and analysed the moves again and my brain was right!   You see, part of becoming a good player is to build up a database of positions in your brain so that “pattern recognition” enables you to find good moves that you may otherwise have missed.  Even in my poor old brain must have retained some of these “patterns” that can be recognised even when I’m not making a conscious attempt to do so.

Today’s puzzle then is can your brain do as well and discover what the players missed?

[fen caption=”What did the players miss?”]3q1rk1/5pbp/p3pnp1/1p1p4/2rNP3/4BP2/PPP3PP/2RQ1RK1 w KQkq – 0 11[/fen]

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Which part of the game do you think that the majority of players study the most?  Openings, Middle-Games or Endgames?   The answer is “Openings!”  There are far more books on chess openings than any other part of the game and I guess it’s nice to be able to memorise the latest opening theory.   When I was playing competitively I tried to concentrate on always playing the same opening variations (that I knew moderately well) so that I could focus on something much more important.   Endgames!

Yes folks, being good at Rook Endgames (for example) will get you far more points than being an openings expert who then gets outplayed for the rest of the game.

If you’d like to try your hand at a little endgame to see how your endgame skills hold up then have a look at the position below.   White is a Bishop for pawn ahead but Black has a dangerous passed pawn on b2.  Who will win?

[fen caption=”White to Play – who will win?”]8/8/2k5/B7/8/r6p/1p5P/1R5K b KQkq – 0 1[/fen]

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Congratulations to Evan Inavolu and Joseph Wong who are the latest Chess Kids Junior Masters.  They were presented with their certificates at the State Primary Schools Finals on 25th October.

To become a Junior Master a player must achieve a rating of their age x 100 + 100.

Evan, aged 8, is rated 976 and Joseph, aged 11, is rated 1338.   Well done boys!

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This week I attended the Primary and Middle School State Finals of the Chess Kids Interschool Competition held at Monash University.   It was a great day with over 400 players competing and a very high standard of play.  I was supervising the top boards in Middle School Competition where Scotch, Brighton and Mazenod were battling hard for top spot.

The critical game saw Brighton’s top player Issac Ng paired against Scotch’s top player Nicholas Liu.  Issac got off to a great start and was a rook ahead but Nicholas won back a piece and then the exchange and a very even rook ending was reached.   Nicholas offered a draw, but with the title in the balance Issac bravely played on and they reached the following position where Issac (White) has just played d5 in response to Black’s f5.  Nicholas must now choose between 1…exd, 1..fxe or 1…Kf6 but surely the result must be a draw???   Nicholas played a line which gave one of the players a chance to make a blunder and sure enough he did!   But was it White or Black?  Can you spot the trap that he fell for.  The State title hinges on your decision!

[fen caption=”Should Black play 1…exd, 1…fxe or 1…Kf6?”]3r4/5p1p/4p1k1/3P1p2/4P3/4K3/3R2PP/8 b KQkq – 0 1[/fen]

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When you get older you want an easy life and analysing chess variations isn’t much fun.  A nice simple position with a clear line of play that doesn’t require too much thinking would be ideal.  A messy position with lots of promising tactics – captures and checks everywhere sounds like hard work!   That’s why I need your help today.   Have a look at the position below.   I’m Black and my opponent has just played h3 attacking my B on g4 but I can move my N on f3 with discovered check and even double check.  Looks promising but there are just too many possibilities for my poor brain to cope with.  Worse still, a friend has just told me that he thinks that I have two ways to mate in three moves and has challenged me to find both!   Can you help me?

[fen caption=”Black to Play and Mate in 3 moves (2 ways!)”]2kr1b1r/pp3ppp/2p5/2n5/P1N1p1b1/2N1PnPP/1P2KP2/R4B1R b KQkq – 0 1[/fen]

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Have you ever thought how we compare with chess players of past eras?  How would the current World Champion, Anand, have gone against players from the 19th century such as Morphy and Anderssen?  Surely today we are much better than our predecessors?  We can run faster, jump higher and we live longer.  We must be much smarter as we have invented computers an flown to the moon.

The other day I was reading the war diary of my great uncle who was killed in World War 1.   He was just an ordinary guy but I was surprised to find that he was clearly more literate than I and must have had a very good education.   Are we really better than those who have gone before us?

Let’s put it to the test.  I’d like to take you back to the year 1619 when the Italian chess player Gioachino Greco reached the following position as White.  He didn’t have a computer to help him but he wrapped up the game very nicely in three moves.  Can you do as well?

[fen caption=”White to Play and Win”]r1b3nr/pppk2qp/1bnp4/4p1BQ/2BPP3/2P5/PP3PPP/RN3RK1 w KQkq – 0 1[/fen]

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I logged onto the Chess Kids Live Games site a few days ago.  It was early in the morning an there was only me and “Luigi 3.0” rated 922 on-line so I invited him to have a quick game.

Luigi had White and went straight for the kill with 1.e4 c5 2.Bc4 Nc6 3.Qh5 threatening mate on f7.  (See diagram)  Fortunately I noticed the threat as I always follow my own coaching advice and ask “what is he threatening” as soon as my opponent has made his move.   I therefore played 3…e6 and was stunned when my opponent replied 4.Qxf7+.   Unfortunately for Luigi it wasn’t mate and my reply 4…Kxf7 left me with a won game.   After a few seconds of stunned silence Luigi texted me “Opps!  I meant to move backwards rather than forwards!”   “Alas”, I thought.  A mistake common to many juniors who try to attack when the position does not justify an attack.  Had Luigi retreated instead of attacking he may not have won the game, but at least he would have avoiding the embarrassment of me writing this article about him!

[fen caption=”White to Play]r1bqkbnr/pp1p1ppp/2n1p3/2p4Q/2B1P3/8/PPPP1PPP/RNB1K1NR w KQkq – 0 4[/fen]

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Imagine this scene.   It’s the 2010 Chess Olympiad  at Khanty-Mansiysk (Siberia) and the last round is nearly finished.   Everyone is hanging around waiting for the prize-giving to start but one game is still going. Grandmaster Darryl Johansen 2420 (Australia) is trying to grind down Charles Campbell (unrated, Nigeria) to give his team a 4-0 clean sweep in the vital last round.

It has come down to a Knight ending with Darryl having an extra pawn but he has just sacrificed the pawn to achieve the following position with Black (Johansen) to play his 127th move.

Today’s puzzle his did Johansen win the game or did Campbell find a tricky way to draw?  How do you think play continued?

[fen caption=”Black to play – what result?]8/8/8/5n2/4p1p1/4P3/4kP1K/7N b KQkq – 0 1[/fen]