I’m really quite disappointed.  Another month …. another RJ Shield.  Huge entry (78 players) …. new format with an 8 player masters section …. finished ahead of time …. so what’s my problem?   The problem is that I watched some of the chess!  Well, specifically endgames.

We held a chess camp on endgames not so long ago, yet one of our better players (whose initials are Daniel Pob) seemed to have forgotten the third rank defence in the ending with K+R defending against K+R+P.  If you need to know one thing in rook endings (after the need to get an active rook) it’s the third rank defence.

In a subsequent game the same player was in an ending with K+3P v K+3P with his King holding the opposition.  What did he do?  Force the opposing King back and invade his position?  No!  He retreated his King and agreed to a draw.

Not put off by this unfortunate turn of events I moved off to watch some of the younger players.  One of more students found himself in a very interesting rook ending which he should have won, but then he lost most of his pawns and he should have lost.  I studied the position and decided that with best play he could perhaps draw and sure enough they swapped off to White having K+P (on f6) with Black’s King blocking the pawn on f7.  A simple draw which every good junior should know.  You just play the King back to f8.  Moving to g8 or e8 loses.  My student studied the position.  After some time he played the drawing move Kf8.  I  sighed with relief and was about to move on but White had not given up and started to move his King around hoping for a blunder.  You can guess what happened.  Black inadvertently played Ke8 instead of Kf8 and suddenly he was lost.

Not deterred, I moved on to watch one of my Thursday squad play her next round game.  Strangely she too ended up in a R+P v R ending but this one was easy.  She had her King near the pawn and the opposing King was miles away on the side of the board.  There was however one small problem.   She was not sure what to do.  Pushing the pawn would have been a good option. Cutting off the opponent’s King with her rook was another.  Moving your rook back to protect your pawn and blocking the pawn with your King was not!  Whilst all this was happening White rushed his King back in front of the pawn and the game was drawn.

What does all this mean?  It means that this week I’m going to hammer all my students with rook ending theory using the examples from the RJ Shield.  It should be fun!

Meanwhile for this week’s puzzle let me show you a missed opportunity from one of the RJ Shield games.  In this position White played Be3 but missed a chance to win the game.  Can you help him?

Back on the evening of 15 September 1970 I went for a short drive.  It was my first time driving at night after having obtained my driver’s licence.  Where did I drive to?  The nearly Mt.Waverley Primary School, because I had received a notice advising us of the inaugural meeting of the “Mt. Waverley Primary School Parents and Teachers’ Chess Club.”  Six people turned up to play chess and, whilst I wasn’t a parent or a teacher, I was a chess player so I thought I should join the club.

Of course this little group went on to become the famous Waverley Chess Club, which was a training ground for some of Australia’s best juniors in the 1970s.  It could not however have flourished in a small classroom at the Primary School so the club moved to larger premises at the Mt.Waverley Tennis Club which could accommodate about 40 players.  Soon that became too small also so we moved to the Mt.Waverley Community Centre which had a playing room that accommodated about 60 players plus a separate analysis room.  Even better, after the chess had finished, we would order pizzas and move to the sports hall at the back to eat, chat and watch young Darryl Johansen play on the trampoline.

The point of all this reminiscing is that the Waverley Chess Club is restarting, courtesy of Chess Kids, in a building at the corner of Waverley Road and Huntingdale Road.  I popped in there for a look last week to test David’s claim that it could accommodate about 50 players.  The building is still being renovated but he is probably right.  There is a reasonable sized playing room, a kitchen, a separate smaller room (office) and a foyer.  It should be a good venue for a chess club.  Meanwhile, a bit further north, it seems that the very successful Box Hill Chess Club may be losing it’s venue after Xmas and have to find new premises.  One can only hope that something suitable comes up as it would be a tragedy if Box Hill went into decline because it no longer had suitable premises to run all the activities that it currently runs.  I guess they could always join Waverley…..

For this week’s puzzle see if you can find a way for White to win in the position below.

Evelyn Koshnitsky 1915-2014

Evelyn Koshnitsky 1915-2014

I’ve just heard the sad news that the “grand old lady” of Australian Chess, Evelyn Koshnitsky AO, BEM, has passed away quietly in her sleep in her nursing home in Sydney last Friday.

She was aged 99 years and 5 months, just short of the century, and spent most of her life promoting chess, particularly junior chess and womens’ chess.  With her husband, former Australian Chess Champion Gary Koshnitsky (who passed away in 1999 aged 91), she formed a formidable partnership which probably had no equal in world chess. Both Evelyn and Gary were Honorary Members of FIDE (the World Chess Federation), Life members of the ACF plus Evelyn was  awarded the Order of Australia, the British Empire Medal and other awards too numerous to mention.  Indeed a life well lived in service to chess.

Their two children, Peter and Nicholas, also played chess but not at the level of their parents, but to generations of keen young chess players Evelyn was like a friendly grandmother who wanted to help us in the pursuit of the game we all loved.

I’m sure that most chess players of my generation have their own stories to tell of the impact that Evelyn had on their chess development.  For me it started in 1967 when I played in my first Australian Junior Championships (and my first interstate tournament) as a shy 15 year-old boy.  The tournament was of course run by the Koshnitskys and, whilst I didn’t finish in the prize-list I did win a special encouragement award, “donated by Evelyn Koshintsky” for the best result of a player in the lower rated half – a beautiful little wooden pocket chess set which I still treasure.  Needless to say I was “encouraged” and four years later returned to Adelaide for my first adult national tournament the famous Karlis Lidums Australian Open Championship 1970-71 which, of course, was run by the Koshnitskys. It was, and still is, my favourite chess tournament.  It was the first time that a number of grandmasters had come to Australia to play and it really opened up Australian Chess to the world of international chess.  At the time I was just a promising junior but I performed well enough in the tournament to then be selected to represent Australia in the 1971 World Junior Championships in Athens, and my chess career, as it were, began to take off.  The Koshes went on to organise many more prestigious chess tournaments, including the 1988 World Junior Championships in Adelaide, and in so doing have provided countless opportunities and inspiration to young chess players such as myself.

When I moved into chess administration I very much wanted to in some small way repay Gary and Evelyn for the help that they had given me and so many others.   In 1982 I persuaded the ACF to introduce the “Koshnitsky” medal for service to chess administration and there was no doubt as to who would be awarded the first medal.  Evelyn Koshnitsky!   Both Evelyn and Gary were already Life Members of the ACF so in 1994, as ACF President, I was delighted to present them with a “distinguished service award.”   Some years later, I think it was in 2001, when the Australian Junior Championships came to Adelaide again Gary had passed away and many of the new juniors were perhaps too young to have remembered what Evelyn had done for Australian Chess.  I therefore came up with the idea of the ACF making a special award to Evelyn as “the most loved person in Australian Chess.”  To commemorate the occasion I arranged for a print of a large chess board and had most of the leading Australian chess players and officials each write some comments about Evelyn in one of the squares.  In the centre of the board was a colour photo of Gary and Evelyn and the board was then framed and presented to Evelyn at the closing ceremony of the Australian Junior.  I hope that Evelyn treasured this unique memento, but I have a confession to make.   I had a second copy made and it now hangs in pride of place in my lounge room!

The last time I saw Evelyn was a couple of years ago when I went to Sydney to visit the Australian Open and of course took the opportunity to see Evelyn in her nursing home.  We had a very nice chat, which I recorded for posterity, and I thanked her for all she had done for chess.   Her contribution however is best summed up by Gary Wastell in what he wrote on the chessboard that I presented to Evelyn in 2001.  It simply said “So many years, so many champions, but Evelyn, in so many ways you have been the champion of them all!”

May she rest in peace.

 

But life must go on, and you guys have a puzzle to solve.   I hope that you can do better than IM Gary Lane did last week in New Zealand.

Today I made a bad decision.  I could have gone to Noble Park to watch the last 3 rounds of the Noble Park Classic Chess Tournament, after all you never get injured watching chess.  Instead I decided to play in an old people’s tennis tournament at Frankston.  I won the tournament but came away hobbling and barely able to walk.  I’ll know better next time.

That’s not to say that you can’t get injured playing chess, but they are generally mental injuries, not physical ones.  Judging by the live on-line games from the tournament there will be a few players nursing mental injuries from the event.  Take Dusan Stojic.  He was the exchange up and crushing IM James Morris in round 5 but somehow James managed to escape with a draw.  Despite this set-back he went into the last round in the joint lead with James and faced tricky old IM Mirko Rujevic.  Dusan swapped off into an ending two pawns up for nothing with his opponent having no play.  He forced Mirko to sac his B for the two pawns and so Dusan had R+N+2p v R+2p.   An easy win but that was not the result …. Mirko swindled a draw.

The prize however for the most painful mental injury from the tournament must surely go to Bosko Mijatovic.  In the last round Bosko was a piece down and getting crushed by Victorian Champion IM Kanan Izzat, then the impossible happened!  Kanan made a huge blunder.   In the position below he should just play 31.h3 and he doesn’t have any problems.  Instead he played 31.Rg3?? and Bosko seized his chance with 31…Qd1+ 32.Kf2 Qe2+ 33.Kg1 and Kanan’s offer of a draw was accepted.  I wasn’t there but I’m wondering how long it took for someone to tell Bosko that he agreed to a draw in an easily winning position (mate in 12 according to my computer).  Can you do better?  What should Bosko have played?

Holiday Program Sept 22 – Oct 3

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Which is better, R+P or B+N? A tough question which one of my students asked me last Friday. I tried to explain that in the middle game the pieces were usually better, but in an endgame with open files and play on both sides of the board the rook would do OK.  Strangely that night I was watching a live game in the Box Hill Grades in which White put both his knights on the side of the board.  I tell my students that this is usually bad, but not everyone agrees with me.  The game then came down to the material imbalance of R+P v B+N.  Later that night I had the following conversation with one of my internet friends about the game (which was still in progress):

RJ: “You’ll be pleased to know that Max Chew Lee has his Ns on a3 and h3 tonight.”
Reply: “OK, good, seems to have done well for him.”
RJ: “The game is still in the balance.”
Reply: “Hardly, surely White is winning.”
RJ: “But will he win?”
Reply: “Hardly in the balance –  2 pieces much better than R+P.”
RJ” “Don’t see why.”

So, what happened?  Did the B+N triumph or did the R+P hang on for a draw?  And what of the knights on the side of the board? How did they go?  I’m afraid that to find out the answer to these intriguing questions you will have to play through the whole game.  But I can guarantee you one thing …. it’s a real knightmare!

Last Sunday I attended the Bentleigh RJ Shield Tournament which attracted an amazing 78 players for the two events.  The under 10 event was won by 7 year-old Atlas Baillieu with a perfect 7/7 – perhaps a name to watch in the future.  In the over 10 event Daniel Poberovsky scored 6.5/7 to win his first RJ Shield.

I watched as many of the leading games as I could, and recorded a few for my lessons, but even on the top board it was disappointing to see the number of blunders being made.  The key game between Daniel and Alistair saw Daniel blunder a piece (Alistair missed it), then Alistair blundered a piece which Daniel promptly blundered back, and the game was decided when Alistair missed a fork and Daniel won a free rook.   Whoever said that a game of chess is won by the player who makes “the second last blunder” was right on the mark.  Even my most promising student, Shawn Zillman, fell for two opening traps and lost a couple of games horribly.

This creates a problem for me.  How can I teach my students not to miss obvious tactics?  I tried a new idea yesterday.  I set up a position from one of the RJ Shield games in which White missed a mate in 1 move then numerous mates in 2 moves until he eventually stumbled upon a checkmate.  I decided to turn this into a “game” for my super squad who had to find the fastest forced mate in each position and then put up their hand.  If the got it right they scored a point but if they got it wrong they were out of the game.   I hoped that this would encourage them to make certain they had the correct answer (move) each time rather than just seeing something flashy and claiming that they had “solved it”.  It went reasonably well although by the end of the game there was only one player who had not been disqualified!

Let me give you an example of the sort of thing that players are missing at the RJ Shield, although this one is reasonably difficult.  White is a pawn ahead and Black’s King is open, but White’s two knights are attacked.  What should he play?  (Needless to say in the actual game White played something different but did manage to grind out a win in the end).

 I had a strange experience during one of my chess lessons last week.  My student, about 1300 strength, was showing me one of his games which ended up in a draw but which he perhaps should have won.  We got to the end of the game and I said, “can we go back a couple of moves and have a look at the position?”   We went back to a position where White had a discovered check (which won a piece) and in the game White played B(e8)x c6+ duly winning the piece.  “Did you consider any other moves in this position I asked?”  My student looked at the position for a few moments and suddenly realised that he had a slightly better move …. Bd7# checkmate!   Yes, he had overlooked mate in one.

Now, admittedly, perhaps I’m not the one to criticise as I too once missed mate in one move (against Doug Hamilton).  My excuse was that I found mate in 2 moves … so these things can happen to anyone.  It got me thinking though … perhaps my students need more training in problem solving, so this week I’ve been setting them a series of puzzles.  Pretty hard puzzles to be true, and not many students were able to solve them.

The key to problem solving is to ask yourself relevant questions about the position.  Such question as “which piece will give checkmate?” or “on which square will the King be checkmated?” or “how can I cover the King’s escape squares?”  Most puzzles should be solvable just by using logic and asking the right questions.

Let’s see if you can use logic to help an Olympiad arbiter solve a little problem.   The game has finished and the arbiter has the scoresheet but the players have forgotten to record the result.   The final position is as below?   Can you help the arbiter?   Was it a draw or a win for White?   Black to play.