Archive for the ‘Chess Tactics’ Category

What makes a good puzzle?   I think it is the element of surprise.   You study the position for ages but can’t find a winning move then you look up the solution and go “Wow!”   ‘Why didn’t I see that?”   That’s why I don’t like easy puzzles.  It’s no fun if you can find the solution quickly …. and you don’t learn anything.

Leonard Barden had a great puzzle the other day in the “Evening Standard Newspaper” where he asked the reader to find mate in 1 move.   Should be easy, but like most readers I couldn’t find it.   Then he said “set up the position on a chessboard” and the trick became apparent.   In fact there were 9 mates in one as Black had 9 pawns in the position and every time you took away an extra pawn there was a different mate.  A great trick!

I can’t match that, but the other day I was playing through a Fischer game on my iPad over lunch and I came across the “Wow” factor.   Fischer made a great move that stopped his opponent Pal Benko in his tracks.

For today’s puzzle, let’s say you are Benko and you are considering either 1…Qe5, 1…Qd6 or 1…Qc8.  One of these moves is a big blunder that allowed Fischer to unleash his combination.  Which move did Benko play and what was Fischer’s surprise reply?

[fen caption="Black to Play"]3r2k1/6Pn/p4pQ1/1pq2P2/2p1Bp1P/2P2P2/PP6/6RK b KQkq – 0 1[/fen]

Archive for the ‘Chess Tactics’ Category

I’ve recently been reading a book “Endgame” by Frank Brady about “the Spectacular rise and fall of Bobby Fischer” which is a fascinating account of Fischer’s progression from chess prodigy and World Champion to paranoid recluse living in Iceland.  I thought it would be nice for today’s puzzle to have a Fischer combination but, whilst trolling the internet for a suitable puzzle, I stumbled across a fascinating Fischer story.

Apparently back in 2006 there was a chess match being televised  live in Iceland (which is a chess-mad country) and the players reached the following position.  In time trouble Black touched his King and started to play 1…Kg8 but then realised that 2.Qxg7 was mate so instead he played 1…Qd7.  Unfortunately for him the arbiter was watching and enforced the touch move rule so White played 2.Qxg7# and won the game.

At this point a viewer rang in to the TV station and suggested that Black had missed a spectacular win.  The viewer was chess recluse Bobby Fischer, probably the greatest player of all-time.  Today’s puzzle is can you spot the move that Bobby suggested (fairly easy) and after White’s best reply what is Black’s killer second move (quite hard)?

[fen caption="Black to Play"]8/2p3rk/2q1pQ1p/4pN2/3br3/7P/5PP1/5RK1 b – - 0 1[/fen]

Archive for the ‘Chess Tactics’ Category

Chess, along with Maths and Music, is one of the few activities that produces prodigies.  The history of chess has a number of examples of diminutive children in short pants playing against experienced masters and winning, or even playing simuls against a number of adults at the same time to demonstrate their prowess.

Here in Australia we have been thrilled with the exploits of Bobby Cheng, who won the World 12U Championship in 2009 and is now often beating some of our leading adult players, but Bobby may now have a rival prodigy!   11 year-old Karl Zelesco, a small, pale little boy with piercing eyes who plays at the Box Hill Chess Club (and anywhere else he can) has been showing great promise and the other night actually defeated former Australian Champion, International Master Guy West, in the Melbourne Chess Club Championships.

Imagine that you a seated next to Karl in the big game.   You have a strong passed pawn in the position (see diagram) but can you find the win against your experienced opponent.  It’s your move.   Good luck!

[fen caption="White to Play"]3r1bk1/p2P3p/p1b1p1p1/2N2p2/8/1N6/PP4PP/3R3K w – - 2 30[/fen]

Archive for the ‘Chess Tactics’ Category

One of the skills needed to be a good chess player is to understand your strengths and weaknesses as well as those of your opponent.  IM James Morris has just had a very successful tournament at Ballarat scoring 6.5/7, and he won the tournament by aiming for complicated positions where he could demonstrate his tactical flair whilst his opponents only became more confused.

I followed with interest his game as White against Lee Jones and when James’ 25th move (25.Ng7) came up on the screen I could only presume that it was a clerical error!   True, it was a blunder, but it resulted in a messy position that suited James and eventually the players arrived at the position in the diagram with Black to move.

[fen caption="Find the mistakes"]3kr3/pR6/3r4/7p/8/7P/P5P1/5R1K b – - 0 42[/fen]

Play continued 42…Ra6 43.Rff7 Rxa2.  In this sequence of moves White had missed a winning opportunity and Black had made a big blunder.   Today’s puzzle is what was Black’s blunder and what was the opportunity that White missed?

Archive for the ‘Chess Tactics’ Category

Some things it seem are better with age.  Red wine springs to mind.   And perhaps chess ratings!   I’ve just received an email suggesting that I look at the new (revised) Australian Chess Federation ratings which apparently list me as the highest rated Victorian.   Seeing that I haven’t played a rated tournament game in many years this is a great effort.   Who says the ACF Ratings Officer isn’t doing a great job!   (Answer: just about everyone!)

My mission these days is not to improve my own rating but to help others improve theirs.   Last night, for instance, I was giving an on-line lesson to a boy in Brisbane on the topic of tactics.   I had some really tough puzzles for him and he actually solved some of them, with just a couple of hints from me.   Today I’m off to a school in Brighton for their lunch-time chess lesson so I thought that I’d give them a tactical puzzle also.   See how you go with it.   The solution is quite pretty but you need a bit of imagination to find the winning move.

[fen caption="White to play and win"]rnbk1b1r/ppqpnQ1p/4p1p1/2p1N1B1/4N3/8/PPP2PPP/R3KB1R w KQ – 6 11[/fen]

Archive for the ‘Chess Tactics’ Category

How do you improve quickly?   I’ve just started on-line coaching with a promising junior in Queensland and my advice to him was to work on his tactics.   Specifically get one of those “1001 Checkmate” books and go through every puzzle.   Mark the ones that you don’t solve then go back and do those ones again until you can solve them.   That way you will get the various tactical patterns into your memory bank and hopefully your brain will recognise the patterns when they come up in your own games.

I then showed him one of my old games against Doug Hamilton which ended up in the diagrammed position with White to play.   White is a pawn ahead and trying to attack but Black has just played Nc6 attacking White’s “d” pawn.   How should White proceed?  I also suggested to my student that he “examine all checks and captures” if he thought that there may be a tactic around, but try as he could he couldn’t find a clear winning line for White.   Can you do better?   That’s today’s puzzle.

[fen caption="White to Play"]6k1/p2bp1q1/1pn5/3pP1PQ/3P2N1/1P1B4/P7/6K1 w – - 3 32[/fen]

Archive for the ‘Chess Tactics’ Category

One of my students yesterday told me that he was playing in a big tournament the next day and asked what advice would I give him.    ”That’s easy” I replied, “All your games will be decided by blunders so you need a system of moving and checking that will help you to avoid mistakes.”

My system goes like this.

1. Your opponent has just moved so you ask yourself “what is he threatening?”

2. You decide on your candidate moves, analyse each one in turn, then chose the best move.

3. If you think there may be some tactics around you look at all checks and captures.

4. Before you make the move you have decided on, you quickly check for possible replies that you may have missed.

5. You make your move!

If you use this system hopefully you will reduce the number of mistakes that you make and you may even spot surprise tactics that you may otherwise have missed.  Try using this system in the position below.  It’s Black’s move and he has 3 candidate moves, 1…gxf+, 1…gxh, and 1…Rxh2.   Today’s puzzle is which one would you chose and why?

[fen caption="Black to Play"]rnbqkb1r/pp2ppp1/2p5/4B3/3P4/6p1/PPP2PPP/R2QKBNR b KQkq – 1 8[/fen]

Archive for the ‘Chess Tactics’ Category

IM Greg Hjorth sadly passed away from a heart attack in Melbourne in January this year aged 47 years.

He rose to prominence in the 1980 Australian Championship, finishing runner-up to Ian Rogers, was Commonwealth Champion in 1983 and represented Australia in two Olympiads in 1984 and 1986.  Unfortunately for chess he decided to concentrate on a career in Maths and was a Professor of Maths at both UCLA in the USA and Melbourne University.

I remember Greg as a very talented, fresh-faced young kid who was a vegetarian, went around in bare feet and wouldn’t hurt a fly.  It is a tragedy that he has been taken from us so early.

Greg had a number of victories to his credit over prominent players, such as Tony Miles, but even though he lost, I rather like his game against Kasparov from the 1980 World Junior Championships in Dortmund.  Greg has just sacrificed the exchange for a pawn and he now has a dominating B on d5 and threatens to play 1…Qc2.   Is future World Champion Gary Kasparov in big trouble, or can you find a way for him to turn the tables and win?   That is today’s puzzle.

[fen caption="White to Play"]6k1/ppr2ppp/8/3bP2Q/q1pP1R2/2P3P1/7P/5RK1 w – - 0 22[/fen]

Archive for the ‘Chess Tactics’ Category

One of the qualities of a good chess player is imagination.   Everyone examines the obvious candidate moves and generally picks one of them to play.   Imaginative players also look at “silly” and “obviously bad” moves that the rest of us would dismiss out-of-hand.  They look beyond the obvious and occasionally find something beautiful and surprising.

Have a look at the position in the diagram for instance (Black to play).   If this was a lightning game I would immediately smash out 1…Bxe5+ 2.Kh1 Bxh3! and expect a quick win – but I am a practical player, not a a seeker after beauty.   Someone like Doug Hamilton, who always strove to find the very best move, would perhaps find a continuation that was a lot more artistic and could induce White to immediately resign.

Today’s puzzle is therefore to find the most beautiful finish to the game.

If you are into chess puzzles then have a look at Leonard Barden’s daily puzzle in one of the English papers at—

[fen caption="Black to Play"]r1b2rk1/ppp2ppp/8/3pP3/B2b4/2N4P/PPPP1qPK/R1BQ4 b – - 1 13[/fen]