Archive for the ‘Chess Tactics’ Category

My topic for today is books.  I have too many of them.   When you want to move house and downsize that’s a problem.  My solution has been to give half of them away.   “That must have been traumatic” grandmaster Ian Rogers commented, but it had to be done sometime.   The MV Anderson Chess Collection at the State Library of Victoria took 29 boxes, mainly foreign books and magazines, and were quite pleased as on looking into the first box she opened the librarian said “we haven’t got about 50% of these!”    The Melbourne Chess Club received 16 large plastic tubs of English language books (and two bookcases) which they are now selling off to chess players for $5 each.  Let’s hope they all end up in good homes.   Actually one of the coaches at Chess Kids said to me the other day “Robert, I bought this openings book from the Melbourne Chess Club and it’s got your signature in it!”  A collector’s item no doubt.

I’m still left with about 6 or 7 bookcases of my english language periodicals and my old and better books which I have kept.  I guess that in my old age sorting and cataloguing them will give me something to do.  Actually I found quite a few unexpected items as I was sorting through my collection.  One large box contained 1500 copies of the 1973 edition of the Laws of Chess …. no doubt one of my better purchases in the past.   I think Cecil Purdy bought 10,000 of them from China in the 1970’s so this must be my share from that lot!

The topic of “books” also arose at the first session of the Chess Academy in term 2 when James Morris was telling the class what he did to become a master and he noted that he just read heaps and heaps of chess books.   Strangely, since that time, a number of my students have asked me to lend them some books to read so perhaps books may yet come back into fashion.

So now we must move on to a puzzle.  Have a look at the position below from the game of one of my students from the recent RJ Shield in Ringwood.  He is doing well but next move blundered.  In my lessons I keep asking my students to identify the problem in the position then try to find a solution to the problem.  Of course there isn’t always a way out, but in this case there was but my student missed it.   Perhaps you can do better.   Just follow the notes one move at a time ….

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Archive for the ‘Chess Tactics’ Category

I’ve been busy lately gearing up for the opening of the Chess Kids Academy (Saturday) on 5th May which I’m really looking forward to.  Our topic for discussion is “How to become a chess master” and the panel of IM James Morris, IM Kanan Izzat and myself will describe what we had to do to become chess masters and then discuss what the students need to do to follow in our footsteps.

In general the junior who breaks through to become a master will be the one who is the keenest, who has worked the hardest and has done things that his rivals didn’t manage to do.  I have a few stories to illustrate this idea.  A few years ago when the Australian Junior Championships were held in Melbourne I had to give the opening speech.  I noted that we had about 300 of the keenest and best juniors in the country present at the championships and who amongst all of Australia’s juniors, I pondered, would go on to become our next master or even grandmaster.  Answer: none of those present!  Why?  Because our best two juniors were not here in Melbourne – one was in Auckland playing in the NZ Open and the other was in Brazil playing in an international junior event.  They had already progressed to the next stage and were doing more than theirs peers in Melbourne.  I can tell a similar story from the Australian Open way back in 1973.  There were about 100 players participating and in those days very few juniors played in adult events.  One player was having a bad tournament and was bemoaning to the Arbiter who said ” Don’t worry, next round I’ll pair you with a 12 year-old boy.”  The player walked away content in the knowledge that he had an easy game.  The boy’s name, by the way, was Ian Rogers and you can guess who won the game.

It’s a similar story this week as (now) grandmaster Anton Smirnov is in Thailand playing in the Bangkok Open against a strong field including GM Nigel Short who usually plays in this event.  With two rounds to play Anton was on board 1, half a point behind the surprise leader, 18 year-old FM Novendra Priasmoro from Indonesia.

FM Novendra Priasmoro




Let’s have a look at a position from their crucial game which can serve as the puzzle for today.

See if you choose the same move as Anton played.

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Archive for the ‘Chess Tactics’ Category

One of the interesting things about chess is the different playing styles of players.  Some players love attacking and analysing imaginative lines of play; others prefer a positional style and try to just outplay their opponents by accumulating small positional advantages; others love the endgame and will swap off into an equal endgame confident that they can outplay their opponent and some are perfectionists who always look for the best move then get into time trouble and usually play a few imperfect moves.

In tennis some of the best matches to watch are between players of different styles, for example a base-liner (Borg) against a serve-volleyer (McEnroe) and I guess it’s the same in chess.  I’ve just been watching and playing through the games of the 2018 Doeberl Cup and when I see a pairing Solomon v Ikeda for example the question arises will Ikeda get crushed in the endgame or will Solo fall victim to a vicious attack before he can swap off into his beloved endgame?  Come to think of it the same applies in my chess lessons.  You could clasify me as a positional “Boa Constrictor” sort of player so one of the most enjoyable lessons I have is with my student Amit who favours tactics and attacking.  The clash of ideas is always stimulating.  As we play through some games in our lesson Amit invariably is hitting me with attacking ideas whilst I am suggesting that he slows down and builds up a bit more before trying to attack.   A good chess player has to be able to handle all types of positions and to treat each position according to it’s needs rather than the player’s own preferences.

One strategy that I use with attacking players is to select an attacking game for our lesson then, at various stages throughout the game, I turn the board around and get the student to take the role of the defender.  There was an amusing incident in my last lesson with Amit when we had switched roles and I, as Black, was trying to find a winning attack whilst White was trying to hang on to his extra material and swap off pieces.  Have a look at the diagram with Black to play.  I played 1…Qa5+ 2.Qb4 Qa2 3.Qb2 Qa5+ 4.Qb4 then it happened.  “Scoresheet!” I cried at the top of my voice and people came running from everywhere to see what had happened.   [This cry harks back to my days at Monash University Chess Club where the club would be packed with players playing lightning chess and if anyone played a brilliant move they would scream “scoresheet!” so as to write the position down for posterity.  Everyone rushed over to admire the brilliant combination.]

So your puzzle for today, dear reader, is to see if you can spot the brilliant move that we had both missed.   I may be a positional player but, as they say in America, “even a blind squirrel may sometimes find an acorn.”

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Archive for the ‘Chess Tactics’ Category

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 the ‘Chess Tactics’ Category

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 the ‘Chess Tactics’ Category

This week has been a big chess week for me as the Victorian Youth Chess Championships have been on at Parkdale.

On Monday the U/7 Championships were played and won with 7/7 by the boy with the impressive named of Tiger Zhao.

The U/9 Championships were won by Liam Flanagan with 6/7 and one of my students, Gavyn Sanusi-Goh also scored 6/7 to win the U/11 title.  It was fun giving a lecture to the kids about Australia’s next grandmaster, Anton Smirnov, aged only 16 years, and showing one of Anton’s games where he crushes his opponent just by demonstrating a better understanding of where to place his pieces.

The great thing about this event is that we have 4 titled players (three IMs and one WGM) on hand to go over the kids’ games after they have finished playing.  Hopefully it’s a great learning experience for them and today also we have Kanan Izzat giving them a lecture at lunchtime.

Daniel, Gavyn and Alistair with their trophies.

All the players had the opportunity to go over their games with a coach and hopefully pick up some useful tips.   There were quite a few really interesting tactical games and the coaches were often able to point out tactical ideas that the players hadn’t considered.   I found a forced mate in 5 moves for Daniel Gusain, the U13 Champion, that he missed for example, and Kanan found a nice idea that Shawn Zillmann missed in the position below.  Black played Bf7 how should White reply ….. can you see it?

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Archive for the ‘Chess Tactics’ Category

My favourite website these days is which shows live games from many of the big international chess tournaments and is thus a great source of material for a chess coach.

It was great watching Kasparov briefly come out of retirement to play in the rapid/blitz event at St.Louis against many of the world’s best players.  One could say that he had a disappointing result in finishing third last but another way of looking at it was that he finished two points above Anand!

There were many huge blunders in the tournament, understandable with a fast time control, but I’ve been amazed at the number of good players who have walked into checkmate in some recent events.  I was playing through some games in the Spanish Teams Championship for instance (players rated around 2200+) and in one queen endgame White found his king on g2 in check from the opposing queen on the long diagonal.   He had a number of king moves available but chose Kh3 and was no doubt a little surprised when his opponent replied 1… Qh1 checkmate!   Similarly in another game White had castled kingside with a fianchettoed king-bishop and his opponent played 1… f3 attacking the bishop.  White retreated the bishop to the only safe square with Bh1 whereupon his very happy opponent was able to play Nh3 checkmate!

Later that evening, after seeing the above blunders, I was emailed a scoresheet from one of my students who had just won a game at the Croydon Chess Club.   I started playing through the game and my student entered a minor piece ending two passed pawns down.  “How did he end up winning” I pondered.  I soon found the answer.  His opponent had her King on f4 checked by Black’s pawn on g5 so she replied Kf5 whereupon my student was able to play Nd6 checkmate!   Perhaps blunders come in threes?

For today’s puzzle let me show you not so much a blunder as a very nice attacking sequence by White.   The game was played in the Chinese Chess League and White is a 2700+ GM.   Strangely the names of the players are X.Bu v Z.Xu.  Is that a record for the shortest named players in a chess game?  Anyway, see if you can find the attacking sequence of moves by White and, if you want to be super clever, find the killer move that he missed.

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Archive for the ‘Chess Tactics’ Category

Last weekend was the Queen’s Birthday long weekend so I spent a lot of my time visiting the Melbourne Chess Club in Fitzroy to watch the Vic Open Chess Championships.  The tournament has a big field of 92 players but unfortunately few of Victoria’s top players decided to play.   By contrast there were a lot of strong juniors playing, including some of my students, and a visiting WGM Julia Ryjanova who I had not seen play before.

The winner with 6.5/7 was IM Stephen Solomon, a former Victorian who has been living in Queensland for many years, followed by David Canon on 6/7.  Solo beat Ryjanova in the last round to secure top spot.  Strangely last Friday I went to Serpell Primary school for their weekly chess lesson only to find Ryjanova there (as a new Chess Kids Coach?) plus IM James Morris and myself.  Is this a record having 3 titled players coaching at one school?

It was fun watching the games at the Vic Open and a big thanks also to Thai Ly for posting a lot of the games on chess chat for people to play through.   One of my students has a bit of a problem at the moment in that he keeps agreeing to draws in won positions.  I received an email from his proud father to tell me that he had just drawn with an 1800 player by perpetual check after he had been losing the game early on.   I played through the scoresheet and, sure enough, instead of taking the perpetual check he had a winning line available instead!   This is the hard part about teaching chess …. trying to persuade your students that when they find a good move they should look for an even better one.  It’s must be a common fault as it happened twice also to Solo on top board in the Vic Open.  Perhaps you can do better.  Have a look at the diagram below.

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Archive for the ‘Chess Tactics’ Category

Today I feel like a bit of a rant.  On Sunday I went to the RJ Shield to watch my students play and record some of their games.   It was a good event with a stronger field than usual with Gavyn scoring 6.5/7 to secure first place from Shawn and Oliver on 5.5/7.

Gavyn (first) and Shawn (second) in the May RJ Shield.

And my rant?   WHY CAN’T PEOPLE SEE TACTICS?   Take the first round for example.  One board 1 Daniel is coasting along a piece ahead against a player rated 650 points below him when he makes a move that leaves a Rook en-prise with check.  Result….. Daniel loses.

Round 2 …. the number 3 seed, Shawn, is coasting along a piece up (but in time trouble) when he makes a move allowing mate in one move!   His opponent thinks.   He thinks some more.  Finally his hand hovers above his rook and he makes a rook move instead of Qxg2 mate!  Shawn is moving quickly, facing a probable loss on time, when his opponent makes a huge blunder allowing Shawn a back-rank mate in two moves.   Shawn ponders for a few seconds and instead plays QxQ+ allowing the game to continue with his opponent winning on time.

Even the tournament winner, Gavyn, was not immune to missing tactics.   Simple things like he can take a free rook on d1 with his queen (a good move) but an even better move is to first play Qe2+ forcing White’s King to the back rank and enabling Black to take the rook with check and keeping the initiative.   The tactics are all there but players are not stopping to look for them.   Gavyn won the event because he played carefully and did not make any big blunders (other than perhaps missing a few better tactics for himself).

In the final round I was recording the game between Daniel and Gaby where Daniel played the English opening and Gaby had a B on c5 and a B on e6 and a N on c6.  The obvious move for me was White playing d4 attacking the B on c5.   When the B moves White can play d5 skewering Black’s pieces on c6 and e6 and winning a piece for White.  Did the players notice this tactic?  Yes …. but only on the 4th opportunity White had to play this winning move.

Why all these blunders and missed opportunities?  To be a good player you have to be good at tactics and to find tactics you have to look for them.  Not some of the time … not only in attacking positions … but every single move.  Something I will clearly have to work on in my chess lessons.

One of the reasons that kids miss tactics of course is that they move too quickly.  Take the position in the diagram for example.  It’s a pawn ending so there shouldn’t be much to think about ….right?  Wrong!  The players blitzed out some moves and Black lost.  He could easily draw if he studied this position for a while to discover the drawing idea.  After the move he played White himself had a winning reply but he didn’t look for it and quickly went chasing pawns.  Perhaps, dear reader, you can do better?  First find the drawing move for Black.   Then find White’s winning move against the move that Black actually played.


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