Archive for the ‘Chess Endgames’ Category

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.


Archive for the ‘Chess Endgames’ Category

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.

Archive for the ‘Chess Endgames’ Category

The first school term for 2018 is starting shortly and I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of chess lessons particularly as next week will see the opening of the Chess Kids Academy for 2018.  Unfortunately I’ll miss the first day, as I’m going to Brisbane to watch the Davis Cup tennis match against Germany, but over the holidays I have been working hard compiling material for the Academy students.

My special subject is “strategy” so I thought that today I’d say a few words on what sort of strategy you should adopt when playing a much higher rated opponent.  There are basically two options.  Firstly you could try to make the game a big mess, with lots of tactics, and hope that your opponent makes a mistake …. however it is much more likely that you will!   The second option is to play a really boring game, swapping off pieces when you can, and “threatening” your opponent with a draw.  If you do this well to beat you your higher-rated opponent will have to take risks to unbalance the position and beat you and there is a fair chance he could risk too much and you end up winning!

It was therefore very interesting last night when I was watching the live games from the first round of the Box Hill Autumn Cup as there, on board one, was one of my students, Shawn Zillmann,  playing against the top seed Carl Gorka, who is rated 900 points above him.  Shawn opted for the second strategy and took every opportunity to swap off pieces eventually reaching a bishop ending where Carl (playing White) had more space but the position looked drawn.  The thing that you need to understand about Bishop endings is that, in general, your strategy should be to put your pawns on the opposite colour to your bishop so that they can’t be attacked by the opponent’s bishop and also perhaps you can set up a blockade where (for instance) your bishop controls the dark squares and your pawns control the light squares.   Unfortunately Shawn hasn’t quite grasped this idea yet and put some of his pawns on the same colour as his Bishop but he did have the possibility of an outside passed pawn which gave him good counter-play, particularly if they swapped off into a king and pawn ending.

Carl, according to the script, pressed for the win but went astray and suddenly Shawn had an easily winning game with Bishop and 2 connected pawns against Bishop.  The story is not over though!  Good players are hard to beat and I can remember from my junior days so many times when I would achieve a drawn position against a strong player and still manage to lose, or achieve a won position and only draw.  Alas Shawn missed a couple of easy winning chances then pushed one of his pawns onto a black square and Carl seized his chance and set up a position where he would win one of the pawns.  This would leave Shawn with only one pawn, which was blockaded by Carl’s Bishop, so a draw looked inevitable and they shook hands and split the point.

Back at my place, watching on the internet, I was busy pulling out some of my few remaining hairs as my computer was saying that Shawn could still win!  It is, in fact, a very good lesson in problem solving and in finding the correct strategy.  I’ll show you the whole game below, but for today’s puzzle see if you can work out a winning plan for Black in the final position.

Archive for the ‘Chess Endgames’ Category

This week the theme of my chess lessons was “Blunders”.   As I sat at home last night watching the live games in the Box Hill Autumn Cup I was gifted several new examples to illustrate this topic.

On board 1 the top seed Eugene Schon was facing 3-times Australia Champion, Doug Hamilton, who, at age 75, still plays a pretty good game of chess.  They arrived at the following position with Black to play.

Meanwhile on board 2 Issac Zhao and Kris Chan had arrived at a really boring rook ending with rook and 4 pawns each and no passed pawns.  Surprisingly they did not agree to a draw but swapped of into a king and pawn ending with the higher rated Chan (Black) pressing for a win.  They arrived at the following position with both sides racing to queen first.  Eventually they realised that they both queened and so agreed to a draw.  Play through the moves and see if you can find what they missed!

On board 3 there was also an interesting game in which Luis Chan appeared to blunder a rook.  They played on and surprisingly White was able to hold a draw so the “blunder” turned out not to be so bad after all.   Chess is a strange game.

Archive for the ‘Chess Endgames’ Category

It’s an exciting time for chess spectators like me at the moment as we have several interesting International events in progress or coming up.

I’ve been following IM Anton Smirnov who is playing a few tournaments in Europe at the moment as a warm up for the big event, the 42nd Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan which starts in 38 days.  Australia is sending a young team to the Olympiad although I’m still disappointed that the Australian Champion, Victorian Bobby Cheng, was not selected as one of the players.

In progress at the moment is the World Youth U16 Chess Championships being held in Slovakia from 21-30 July.   In this case the Australian team is made up of almost all Victorians including Kris Chan, Luis Chan, David Cannon and Vishal Bhat and the boys had the thrill of being paired against Russia in the first round.  Representing your country overseas is one of the great thrills for any chess player and I’m reminded of when I played in the 1970 World Junior Championships in Athens when I too was paired against the Russian (grandmaster) in the first round.  The boys in Slovakia did a little better than me as they scored half a point from the four game match with David Cannon holding a draw.   So far the team has scored 0.5 v Russia, 1.5 v South Africa, 3 v Hong Kong and 3 v Scotland.

The good thing about a junior playing overseas is that it broadens their horizons and opens them to the world of international chess, not just the local Australian chess scene.   I can remember one Australian Junior Championships in Melbourne where most of the country’s best juniors had gathered to compete but, as I pointed out in my speech, the two very best players (Anton Smirnov and Karl Zelesco) were not there as they were overseas playing in adult open events.  It was pretty clear which of that year’s crop of talented players would go on to become top senior players also.

For today’s puzzle let’s have a look at a position from Kris Chan’s round 2 game against South Africa.  He is a pawn up in a double rook endgame with prospects of scoring the full point.  Unfortunately Kris missed an immediate win in the diagrammed position and went on to lose the game.   Can you do better?

Archive for the ‘Chess Endgames’ Category

My life these days is a never-ending search for interesting topics for my chess lessons and games or positions to illustrate the topic.  Most evenings I’m logged on to to go through the latest overseas games and chess is also a great source of historical games.

Last week for instance I decided to play through a few Lasker games, in particular I went through the Lasker v Marshall games as the previous week I used the famous “gold coin” game of Marshall in some of my lessons.  Of course Marshall was a great attacking player but a pretty average player in endgames and boring positions.  It was great to see how Lasker went all out to swap queens v Marshall and to get him into an endgame where he could be easily outplayed.   I showed such a game to one of my students yesterday and on several occasions we had to stop for a chuckle at the feeble attempts Marshall made to attack in a boring endgame.

The previous week I had done “tactics” and tried to demonstrate to students the need to be imaginative and to actually look for all the tactics in a position and then choose the best one.  After one lesson the students were playing their tournament game and I was moving around commenting on their play.  I stopped at one game where a player had just left his Bishop to be taken.  He did however have a tactic based on an overload theme so I commented “why are you sacrificing your Bishop?” to which he replied “Don’t worry … I have it all worked out!”  Sure enough his opponent fell for the trap (juniors love to take) and my player got a back rank checkmate at which point I butted in again and said “did you have it all worked out?  Sure, you saw a tactic but did you check for any tactics he may have in reply?”  Black in fact did have a good try in response … your mission is to find it and tell me if it works.  (See diagram below).

Next Wednesday night I’ve been asked to give another lecture to the Melbourne Chess Club novices group so I’ve been looking around for a suitable topic.   Last time I did “would you like a draw?”  and before that I did “How not to attack.”  This time I’ve chosen “Think Like a Grandmaster” which is in fact the title of my favourite chess book by the Russian GM Alexander Kotov.  I plan to use a very interesting game featuring old Russian GM Yuri Balashov outplaying a 2000 rated opponent which demonstrates the difference in understanding of the two players.

Archive for the ‘Chess Endgames’ Category

At last I am back from my three week holiday in Britain and can now resume my chess activities.

Actually I had a couple of “chess experiences” in Britain.  I attempted to visit the Edinburgh Chess Club which claims to be the second oldest chess club in existence (founded 1822) and has it’s own premises in the centre of Edinburgh.  I rocked up at 7.30 pm on Tuesday night (their club night) but the place was shut!  Not even a note on the door …. so I had wasted my time.  Perhaps the caretake was on holidays?

My next chess experience was at Hampton Court Palace when I was wandering through King William III suite of rooms when I notice a table with an inlaid chess board.  Nothing unusual about that except that it had a black square in the bottom right-hand corner!  I commented to the attendant that the chessboard was around the wrong way but she replied “it’s not a chess board”.  I presumed therefore that it may have been a draughts board, but when I googled “draughts” I found that their board was set up the same as ours – white square in bottom right-hand corner.  The mystery remains unsolved.

Anyway, now that I’m home I’ve been looking for new material for my lessons and have stumbled upon the “Isle of Man Open” which is being played in England at the moment.  There are two Australians playing, Justin Tan and Max Illingworth, so it has been interesting to follow the live games each night when I wake up at 2am.  My body you see is still on British time.

Last round Justin played a very strange game in which he had eight pawns to his opponent’s two pawns!  Unfortunately his opponent had a lot more minor pieces which soon closed in on Justin’s king for a checkmate.  Meanwhile Max had swapped into and endgame where he had B+P for R which can sometimes be hard for the opponent to win.  In the position below however his opponent, using precise calculation, found a way to win the game.  Your puzzle is to find his winning idea.

Archive for the ‘Chess Endgames’ Category

Sunday was a very exciting day at the Kids Unlimited Centre in Mt.Waverley.  Around 20 of our keenest young players turned up to the lecture by visiting Indian GM Ramesh.  I wasn’t there but was told that he spoke very well and emphasised the importance of thinking about king safety, then piece activity then material.  Sounds good to me.

I arrived a little later in the morning to watch his simul against the juniors which went a little over-time with 3 or 4 games unfinished.  The GM won all the completed games and of the remaining games only Sam Trewin seemed to be still in the game with a chance of a draw.

Thirty-six players arrived for the monthly RJ Shield and we ended up with a triple tie between Sam Trewin, Matthew Zillman and Daniel Poberovsky all on 6/7.  Sam was awarded the title on count-back.  I was busy trying to record some of the games of my students but caught a glimpse of the other boards as well.  There was a little Indian girl there who seemed to play quite well (I later found out that it was Ramesh’s daughter!) and it was amusing to watch her game with Elijah.  They were in a N+pawns ending when Elijah foolishly played f4 trapping his King on e5.  I was expecting the reply Nc6 mate (!) which was there for two moves but went unnoticed and Elijah stumbled on to victory.  Even the higher boards were not immune from such disasters.  In the big game between the top two seeds Sam was a pawn ahead in an ending against Matthew when he hastily moved his B from f6 to capture a N on c3.  Matthew did not recapture but instead chose Rd8 mate!  In the following round the boot was on the other foot when Matthew had Qc7 mate against Oliver but instead chose to capture a Bishop!  Thirty moves later he achieved the same result.


Matthew, GM Ramesh, Daniel and Sam.

For today’s puzzle I want to do something a little different and give you a “positional” puzzle from a game in Sunday’s RJ Shield.  It is a test.  Do you think like a junior or like a master?  Let me explain.  It recently dawned on me that some of my younger students basically have only one plan … to threaten something.  I’m trying to get them to think like a General in charge of the whole army whereas they a thinking like an individual soldier who is looking for someone to attack.  A master would look at the position below and ask himself where he wants his pieces so that he has the initiative and his opponent is tied down to defence.  He would then build up his position before landing the final blow on his opponent’s position.

So have a look at the diagram with White to play.  I give you the line actually played in the game and the line that I think a master would play.  Which did you pick?

Archive for the ‘Chess Endgames’ Category

The next couple of weeks should be quite exciting for Chess Kids.  Next Friday night my little “super group” is having their monthly meeting in which we have a puzzle competition then play a tournament game and I go over the games afterwards with the players.  It’s a good chance to compare yourself with your rivals.

Next Sunday of course is not only another RJ Shield in the afternoon but in the morning players have a chance to have a lesson with GM Ramesh from India followed by a simul against the grandmaster.  I always loved playing in simuls when I was a junior …. it should be great fun.  For those who are really serious about their chess the GM is also giving two 3 hour lessons on the Monday (two groups divided according to standard).  If you are interested in any of these activities details are on the Chess Kids website.

The following weekend is Easter and many chess players will be journeying to Canberra for the annual Doeberl Cup – Australia’s biggest and strongest Open Tournament.  It’s a good chance for Australian players to play against overseas grandmasters and I’m looking forward to following the live games on the internet.  At least two of my students, Atlas and Sam, will be playing so good luck to them.

In my lessons this week I decided to focus on Bishops.  I normally concentrate on rook endings, which are by far the most important, but after playing through a game where Chris Wallis disposed of a player rated 2172  I noticed that even a player of that standard did not realise that he should try to put his pawns on the opposite colour to his Bishop.  That’s the very first thing that you need to know about Bishops!

I plan to give my super group a Bishop ending puzzle on Friday which is similar to the puzzle that I have for you today (see diagram below).  To solve the puzzle, rather than just launching into analysis, there is a three phase method that you should use.  1. Identify White’s problem.  2.Identify a solution to that problem.  3.Work out whether or not you can bring about that solution.  Try using this method in the puzzle today and see if it helps.