Archive for the ‘Chess Tactics’ Category

Glen Waverley Secondary Premiers

The Secondary State Finals were held on 2nd September at Brighton Grammar and I went along to watch.  It was a strong field but Glen Waverley Secondary had too much depth for rivals Brighton Grammar and Mazenod College and went away to score an impressive win.   The Guru lamented that it was the first time in many years that his old school, Melbourne High, has missed out on the top three places.

Many of the top games featured blitz finishes with both players having seconds to spare on the clock.  Top seed Jason Tang was in danger of losing on time at least twice but his opponent invariably walked into mate.

Take today’s puzzle for example.   Jason is Black against Allen Yu from Glen Waverley and is a rook to the good but has only 10 seconds left.  White should probably play 1.Rxd4 but instead tries 1.Kf2?   After 1…Rf8+ he again blunders with 2.Ke2? instead of 2…Kg3.   Put yourself in Jason’s shoes.  You must mate in the next few moves or lose on time.  Can you find the winning line?


[fen caption=”Play continued 1.Kf2? Rf8+ 2.Ke2? can you finish White off quickly?”]4r2k/4r1p1/p6p/1p6/3p4/1P1Rn2B/6PP/6K1 w – – 2 4[/fen]

Archive for the ‘Chess Tactics’ Category

John Purdy

John Purdy

John Purdy, RIP 1935 – 2011

Imagine the pressure.  Your father is the Australian Chess Champion.  Your grandfather was Australian Chess Champion.   Even your great-grandfather was a top chess player.

Despite this John Purdy decided to learn to play chess and by age 20 he too had climbed to the summit  of Australia chess.   He however had the advantage of seeing how his father struggled to earn a living as a professional chess player/journalist and so studied part-time to qualify as an accountant and then as a lawyer.  In 1980 he was appointed as a judge on the NSW Family Court, a position he held with distinction until his retirement in 2005.

I’m writing this from Sydney, having just attended Purdy’s funeral along with around 400 family, friends, chess-players and members of the legal profession.   It was a great send off for a very popular man who’s humanity, humour and self-depreciating character (despite all his achievements) were noted by all the speakers.   Ian Rogers summed up Purdy’s chess achievements and playing style and how he invariably attributed his wins more to good luck than good play so as to console his defeated opponents.

I had a very pleasant dinner with the Purdys after the Australian Open in January and it was great exchanging yarns with John and talking about the “good old days.”   He looked very well but, alas, has now been taken from us.

Today’s puzzle shows Purdy finishing off a young Stephen Solomon in the 1982 Australian Championships.   Can you spot his winning idea?

[fen caption=”Black to Play”]r1r3k1/2q2ppp/b2p1P2/3Pp1b1/1p4P1/1N4Q1/1PP2RBP/1K1R4 b – – 0 24[/fen]

Archive for the ‘Chess Tactics’ Category

I’m in mourning this week following the unexpected death of former Australian Chess Champion John Purdy who passed away suddenly last Saturday.   I’ll say a bit more about Purdy next week when I’ve had time to put together an appropriate tribute, but meanwhile I’ve been consoling myself by playing through some of the games on Chess Kids On-Line.

Just about everyone there (except me) is anonymous, but there are clearly some strong players playing.  The new leader “Check Norris” seems to only play 2 minute games and crushes everyone so he is clearly very good at speed chess.  There are a couple of players who only play 10 or 15 minute games (they are probably coaches or older players) and rarely lose.   Clearly to do well a chess player must play to his strengths and do what he is good at.   Positional players should try to simplify the game to suit their style, whereas my mate “Checkmate” is a wild attacking player who always goes straight for the King.   I saw him lose horribly to “Murraybeard” who went straight for a blocked position where there were no attacking chances, but then “J.Sidhu” wasn’t so canny and allowed “Checkmate” to attack.

They arrived at the following position with White (Checkmate) to play.   Can you spot how he finished his opponent off in spectacular fashion?

[fen caption=”White to Play”]r1b1q2k/p1pnbr2/1pn1p1QB/3pP3/3P4/2P2N2/PP2N1PP/R4RK1 w – – 1 16[/fen]

Archive for the ‘Chess Tactics’ Category

Does being good at chess help you in your chosen career?  Being good at analysing and problem solving can’t be all bad but many good chess players are, well, just good at chess.   On the other hand some have gone on to be successful in other fields.

I was listening to a political discussion on the radio the other day and one of the speakers was Professor Rod Tiffen, Professor of Political Science at Sydney University.   Rod Tiffen! (I thought to myself).  That must be the Rod Tiffen who was board two in my school chess team at Haileybury in the 1960s.    Last week I was listening to a another radio discussion about the economic crisis in the USA and their guest was a Professor of Economics at Harvard University named Ken Rogoff.   Ken Rogoff! (I thought to myself).   That must be the American junior who played in my World Junior Chess Championships in 1971 and finished in third place.

Yesterday I was reading the newspaper over breakfast and one of the main articles was about a famous Italian Renaissance painting by Correggio that the State Library had just purchased for $5.2m with funds donated by Andrew Sisson.  Andrew Sisson! (I thought to myself).  Isn’t he the boy who finished runner-up to me in the Victorian U/14 Championships in 1966 and subsequently played board one for Melbourne Grammar in the Interschool Competition?   Andrew, the paper reported, is an investment banker worth around $125m!

Perhaps chess has played a role in the success of these eminent people, so let’s knuckle down to today’s puzzle and see if you can follow in their footsteps.

[fen caption=”Black to Play”]8/4p1k1/3pPbp1/p6p/4KP2/1B4P1/P1R5/3r4 b – – 0 1[/fen]

Archive for the ‘Chess Tactics’ Category

If you want to be the best at anything then chances are that you will have many rivals who would like to be the best also.   How do you get to the top ahead of them?   Perhaps you are smarter than them but usually the one who makes it is the one who puts in the most effort.   To be better than your rivals you do that bit extra that they aren’t doing.

I remember many years ago when I was coaching a squad of promising Victorian Juniors I ask them all how many chess books they had.  Most had 10 or 12 but a little kid named Ian Rogers had 100!   You guessed it.   He made it to “grandmaster” and most of the others did not.

I was reminded of this last Saturday when I popped in to have a look at Chess Kids Australian Junior Squad which has a training session each Saturday from 10.30 am.   I was early, it was only 10.00 am, but I found William Maligin there already sitting at a computer solving chess problems.   “Yes” said David Cordover, “William always gets here an hour early to solve some chess tactics problems (on a site called Chess Tempo)”.    William has also started playing in adult week-end tournaments even though he’s only 9 years of age.

Here is one problem from “Chess Tempo” that William struggled to solve.   Can you do better?

[fen caption=”White to Play”]4b2Q/1p1nkp1N/p2rp2p/5P2/Pq6/3r4/6PP/2R2RK1 w – – 0 1[/fen]

Archive for the ‘Chess Tactics’ Category

Many years ago, when I was flying to Athens to play in the World Junior Chess Championships, guess which chess book I took to read on the plane.  I took “Rook Endings” by Smyslov and Levenfish, which was the most comprehensive book available on that subject.   Why Rook Endings?   Well rook endings are by far the most common form of endgame and if you could chose to be good at any part of chess, skill at rook endings would be the most useful to you.   Openings come and go, but rook endings will always be there!

Even endings with just R+P v R can be quite tricky.  We all know that if you are the side with just the R you must try to get your King in front of the pawn to stop it queening, but where do you put your rook?  There is a saying “rooks belong behind passed pawns” which is often the best spot, but sometimes you need to defend with your rook from the side or even from in front of the pawn.   If instead you go by the saying “rooks operate best from a distance” you can’t go too wrong.

What happens however if your King can’t get in front of the pawn?   Can you still draw?  Have a look at today’s puzzle and see how you go.  Can Black find a way to draw, even with his King cut-off, or will White still emerge victorious?

[fen caption=”White to Play”]3r4/8/8/8/k2P4/3K4/8/1R6 w – – 0 1[/fen]

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The Victorian Junior Chess Championships finished last week with IM James Morris dominating the U/18  section with 9/9 and Karl Zelesco doing like-wise in the U/12 with 7/7.   The time control was 75 minutes plus 30 seconds per move which is a fairly leisurely rate compared with the 15 minute games that most players play these days.  This should give players plenty of time to check their moves before they play them but, alas, many young players just rush their moves and suffer the consequences.

In today’s puzzle, Max Lee Chew is playing David Cannon in the U/18 section.   Max finished runner-up, a very good result, and in the position below he has already castled and has a lead in development.   However, it is Black to move.   Should he too rush to castle with 1…Bg7, or perhaps control a bit of the centre with 1…Nbd7 first, or just go for broke with 1…h5 and start an attack on White’s King.  The move chosen by Black turned out to be a blunder.  The puzzle is which move did he chose and why was it a blunder?

[fen caption=”Black to Play”]rn1qkb1r/pbp1pp1p/1p1p1np1/8/4P3/2N3P1/PPPPNPBP/R1BQ1RK1 b – – 0 1[/fen]

Archive for the ‘Chess Tactics’ Category

There are many aspects to becoming a good chess player.  Rudolph Spielmann, a famous attacking player at the start of the 20th century, once bemoaned that he could see combinations just as well as the world champion (Alekhine), the only trouble was that he didn’t have Alekhine’s ability to achieve the positions where the combinations were possible.

Spielmann perhaps under-rated his ability in this area as today’s position demonstrates.  The position is from one of his simultaneous games in 1912.   Spielmann is a pawn down but his pieces are all attacking whereas his opponent’s pieces are not co-ordinated.   Were I White I would look at 1.Ra7 Qe7 2.Qxc6+ which leads to a R ending where White has a very active R and is probably winning.  Perhaps Spielmann can do better?   Can you?

[fen caption=”White to Play”]1rk4r/1p3pp1/1Qpp3p/R3pP2/2P1P2q/8/2P3PP/1R5K w – – 0 1[/fen]

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Akiba Rubinstein was a shy man (that’s why you can’t see his full pic above) who was possibly the best player in the world just before World War 1 the onset of which prevented him from playing a match for the World Championship against Lasker.   His win against Rotiewi in 1907 is acclaimed for containing the best combination of all time, but Rubinstein’s fame rested largely on his ability in the endgame.   He seemed to have a unique understanding of endgames, particularly rook endings, and would often convert even endings into victories for Rubinstein.

Irving Chernev said “Rubinstein’s games flow along so smoothly and easily, and are so pleasant to play over, that one is apt to forget that they also offer valuable instruction” so I thought that today we would see what we can learn from a Rubinstein ending.  Let’s see if you have the same “feel” for endings that Rubinstein had.

Rubinstein is Black in the following position and his opponent plays 1.Qxb7+.  Now you have to choose between 1…Kf8, 1…Kg8 or 1…Kh6.   Which would you choose and why?

[fen caption=”White plays 1.Qxb7+ what does Black reply?”]8/1p4kp/1p3pn1/3Q4/6P1/2P2N1q/PP2K3/8 w KQkq – 0 1[/fen]