Archive for the ‘Famous Chess Players’ 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 ‘Famous Chess Players’ Category

 Term 2 of chess coaching is now underway and I am faced with the regular problem of what lessons to give to my students.  Of  course Chess Kids has a number of standard lessons available on-line for its coaches to access but I prefer to do my own thing.

Over the school holidays I have been following the chess tournaments in Australia and overseas in search of instructive positions/games for my lessons.  Over Easter James Morris, a former Chess Kids work experience student, put in the best performance of his life to win the Doeberl Cup in Canberra with a grandmaster performance rating.   Unfortunately James did not play enough foreign players to register his first GM norm but I’m sure that can’t be far away.  I have already shown one of James’ positions to my students where he manages to draw an inferior knight endgame against the Indian GM Gangly and there are a couple of his games that I shall use also.

We recently had a Chess Kids Coach Training session where it was stressed that each lesson should tell a story to entertain the students so I’ve been thinking about what stories I could tell.   For the first week of lessons I’ve decided to talk about memory in chess.   Do chess players have good memories?  A study in Holland in the 1930s suggested that the answer was “no” except for one area in which good chess players out-performed less-good chess players.   That area?   (Surprise!) turned out to be in remembering chess positions.  The explanation is simple … pattern recognition.   Good chess players can remember pieces in “blocks” whereas a beginner remembers them piece by piece.

Of course the ultimate test of a chess player’s memory is the ability to play blindfold chess.  In the 1700’s people were amazed when Philidor played 3 people simultaneously blindfolded but since then the world record for blindfold play has rapidly expanded.  My lesson will focus on the 1937 attempt by US Master George Koltanowski who played 35 players at once to set a new blindfold chess record.   Part of Kolty’s secret was that he had stuck a chessboard on the roof of his bedroom above his bed to help him remember the colour of each square and the pattern of the squares.

Perhaps you have a good memory for blindfold chess?   Let’s see.   Imagine that you are Kolty playing as White in the position below in his blindfold simul attempt.   Shut your eyes and work out you next move then compare it with what Kolty played.   He played a nice combination to win the game quickly  …. hope you can do as well.

Archive for the ‘Famous Chess Players’ Category

One of the hardest things to do in chess is to actually beat a higher ranked player.  I can look back to the early 1970s when I was playing against Max Fuller, Australia’s highest rated player.   I would get a drawn position and often lose.  I would get a winning position and only draw.

One of the problems involves psychology.  At the start of the game the pressure is on the higher rated player to beat you … but say he blunders and you are now winning.  Suddenly the roles are reversed.  You are expected to win.  The pressure is now on you.  Maybe you get a bit tentative or take a bit too long thinking.  The higher rated player switches to “swindle mode” and keeps setting traps for you.  Most times he will manage to swindle you.  If not you have passed the test and are on the way to becoming a stronger player.

This was the dilemma facing Aussie junior Justin Tan, already an IM and now taking a year off his studies in the quest for the grandmaster title.  In the last round of the Isle of Man Open last week Justin was paired against British GM Keith Arknell and after some good opening play found himself a clear pawn ahead in a position that he couldn’t lose … but could he win it?  The grandmaster had been just sitting tight on his position and placing his pieces on good squares.  The pressure was on Justin to find a way to crack Black’s defence.  Should he take a risk or play safe and probably only draw?   Have a look at the position below.  Black has just played Re2 threatening to regain his pawn deficit.  See if you come up with the same decision as Justin.

Archive for the ‘Famous Chess Players’ Category

This has been a hard couple of weeks for me.  Today is my father’s birthday but he passed away 9 days ago just shy of his 93rd birthday … so it has been a little hard thinking about chess.

Another blow came when I went to the chess centre in Mt.Waverley last night and Carl advised me that Australia’s first grandmaster, Walter Shawn Browne had passed away in Las Vegas aged only 65 years.  Browne had briefly played for Australia in the early 1970’s and I was his replacement on board one in our Olympiad team when he changed to the USA in 1974.  He had been a bit of a hero to players of my generation and went on to become one of the world’s top grandmasters, second only to Fischer in the USA in the 1970s.

I first met Browne at the Karl’s Lidums International in Adelaide in 1970-71 and witnessed first hand what a dynamic and competitive person he was.  After the tournament game each day he would take on all-comers at lightning for $1 per game in front of a huge crowd.  He gave a simul in Glen Waverley following the tournament along with West German GM Lothar Schmid.  I chose to play Schmid, reasoning that I would have many future opportunities to play Browne.  Alas they never came.  I should have spent a dollar in Adelaide and played him at blitz!

Despite these two losses life goes on and I’ll be using next week to prepare for the chess camp in Albury which starts on 7th July.  The theme is attacking so there should be plenty of material available for we coaches.   It must be said that I don’t particularly like attacking, and most players think that is the only available plan, but I guess that I can play along for the four days of the camp and pretend to be an attacker.

Speaking of attacking, it is important when attacking to try to prevent your opponent from getting any counter-play.  If you can keep him bottled-up and on the defensive the win should come easily, but sometimes even good players like Australian Champion Max Illingworth let their opponents escape.  The diagram below shows the end of a big game in the recent NSW Open where Max was crushing Anton Smirnov but let him escape.  Soon it was all down-hill for Max and Anton just had to find the best road to victory.  Sure enough Anton found a line which induced Max to resign in two more moves but he missed a very pretty mate in four moves!  Can you do better?

Archive for the ‘Famous Chess Players’ Category

Junior chess players are lucky these days.  There are so many tournaments that they can play in.  If they are good they can play also in adult (open) tournaments and they have coaches and computers to help them.  If they are very good they can even play overseas in the many World and Continental age group titles organised by the World Chess Federation (FIDE).

I was a bit stunned the other day to find that my youngest student, 7 year-old Atlas, was thinking of playing in the World Under 8 Championships in Greece later this year.  I too went to Greece to play in a World Junior Championship but I was 18 years old and that was the only junior title awarded by FIDE. Of course that  was a long time ago.  It’s strange to think that I failed to “discover” adult chess tournaments until I was no longer a junior and that my first adult event was the 1970 Victorian Open Championship.  The Vic. Open is still going strong and is coming up next month on the Queen’s Birthday Weekend.  I shall probably turn up to the Melbourne Chess Club to watch Atlas play in it!  He needs to practise games at a slow time control if he is going to Athens.

I can’t remember much about my first Vic. Open but I do remember playing against this old foreign guy with huge hands and a squeaky voice.  His name was Karlis Ozols and he had been Victorian Champion many times.  I’m pretty sure that I lost that game but I soon learnt to understand how Ozols played.  He liked blocked positions (playing the English Opening and the Dutch Defence) but he had a weakness.  He did not really understand about weak squares and would often end up with a very bad bishop on the same colour as his pawns.

In his day Ozols had played against some of the top players in the world, such as Keres, Flohr and Reshevsky and for today’s puzzle I have chosen a game between Ozols and Rueben Fine, the famous American grandmaster.  The full game is below but go to move 12 to see the puzzle.

Archive for the ‘Famous Chess Players’ Category

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.

Archive for the ‘Famous Chess Players’ Category

I had an unusual experience at the chess camp last week.   For the last lesson, rather than being the chess coach, I was the assistant coach to Smari, our new coach from Iceland.  We have a strange connection as, unbeknown to me, he is staying in student accommodation at my sister’s place!  She noticed the “Chess Kids” logo on his car and asked if he knew me.

Smari showed an interesting game from the Lasker v Tarrasch World Championship Match in 1909 where Lasker blundered a pawn and appeared to be in a bad position but all his pieces were grouped together with potential to change the course of the game.

Today’s puzzle is such a position also.  White is two pawns down but his four pieces are grouped menacingly in the centre of the board and must surely have potential to turn the tide.  The player of the White pieces was an unusual character called Ortvin Sarapu.  Sarapu was a minor master in Estonia at the end of the Second World War who decided to leave Europe in search of a better life.  He apparently researched all the countries in the world and settled on New Zealand as being the best place to migrate to.  A fortunate choice for NZ Chess as Sarapu became an IM and won the NZ Championship a record 20 times (surely a world record for a national championship).  He played a memorable game against Bobby Fischer at one Interzonal, which Sarapu claimed he should have drawn, and which was perhaps his favourite story, closely followed by many others!  He was an arrogant but entertaining man who I was fortunate to play 3 or 4 times.  I well remember our last game in an Australian Masters, where I optimistically declined a draw, only to have Sarapu offer a draw again shortly thereafter with the comment “you better take it as this is he last time I shall offer.”  I took the draw.


Ortvin Sarapu

So, for today’s puzzle let’s see if you can match Sarapu’s tactical ability.  It’s White to play and win.

Archive for the ‘Famous Chess Players’ Category

What do we have to look forward to in the chess world?   Australia has just announced its Olympiad Teams for the Chess Olympiad scheduled for Tromso in Norway from August 1st to 14th.   I’m thrilled that young FM Anton Smirnov has been selected as the no.5 played in Australia’s team, making him our youngest ever Olympian.  Regrettably it seems that Anton may not even get to push a pawn in the Olympiad however as there are rumours that the event may not go ahead because of funding problems.  It’s the ultimate thrill to play for your country so let’s hope that the problems can be sorted out.

I’m looking forward also to the Victorian Open Championship being played over the Queen’s birthday week-end in June at the Box Hill Chess Club.  I’m sure that quite of few of my students will be playing so that should be a good source of new games for coaching material.   Meanwhile the Victorian Championship are moving along towards the half-way mark and I’m predicting that IM James Morris will be the new champion.   He is off to a good start with 3.5/4.  The next round is at Noble Park CC on Saturday at 3pm so that will be a good opportunity to follow the live games.  Of course tonight the Box Hill Club Championship continues also, with 5 live games to watch, and I’m predicting that Luke Li will emerge as the club champion.  My student Gary continues to do well in the event, drawing with Eugene Schon last week after missing a chance to score the full point.  If only I could persuade him to spend less time analysing opening variations and to save his time for later in the game.

Another event coming up soon that I’m looking forward to is the annual Chess Kids camp at Phillip Island, from July 8 – 11.   This year the theme is “defending” whereas last year we looked at endgames.  “Defending” is not a topic that is often covered in chess lessons, as I’m sure that most players would prefer to attack rather than defend, however for every attacker there must be a defender so it’s still an important skill to have.  No doubt there will be lots of Petrosian games to use as material.  They used to say that World Champion Petrosian was so good at defending that he often anticipated his opponent’s threats and countered them even before the attacking idea had entered his opponent’s mind!

One defensive idea that sometimes comes into play late in the game is stalemate – snatching a draw from the jaws of defeat because you have no legal moves left and you are not in check.  Have a look at the position below for example.  White is clearly winning, but perhaps Black can secure a stalemate draw if he plays his cards right … perhaps not?  What is the result with best play?

Archive for the ‘Famous Chess Players’ Category

This week I have cause to be really happy as a chess coach as one of my students has just scored a fantastic win against a much higher rated opponent.

Australia has two really strong juniors aged under 16, FM Anton Smirnov from Sydney and Karl Zelesco from Melbourne, both rated ACF 2372.  Anton is aged 13 years and Karl must be about 15 years and these two are miles ahead of their junior rivals.  Both finished highly placed in the 2014 Australian (Adult) Championships and are good prospects to become a grandmaster in the years ahead.

My best student is of similar age to Anton and Karl, 14 year-old Gary Lin, and he has been making good progress lately including coming second on the ACF most improved rating list recently, but at a rating of 1859 he is still a long way behind the other two.  Gary plays a lot, is really keen and studies hard, and has reached a level where he can compete on equal terms with players around 2000 rating.   More often than not he gets a superior position against such players and meekly offers a draw, much to the annoyance of his coach!  It was therefore with great interest last Friday night that I logged onto the Box Hill Chess Club website to follow the live games with Gary up there on board one against Karl Zelesco in the Box Hill Club Championships.

It was a long and hard fought encounter.  First Karl was a little better, then Gary, then it swung back to even and so on.  Karl should have swapped off into a slightly better ending, but I don’t think Karl likes endings so he kept the pieces on.  Gary played 2 or 3 solid moves in a row, and I could not see how he could lose, although time trouble was approaching for both players.  I’m not sure if Gary may have offered a draw at any stage – but I hope not!  With a few minutes left he suddenly got a rush of blood and started throwing his queenside pawns at Karl.  Karl replied with a sneaky pin that forced a swap-off into a bishop ending where Karl had the much more active King.  It looked like Gary was in trouble as Karl’s King raced to gobble up the stray queenside pawns, but Gary had set a sneaky trap into which Karl obligingly fell!   Karl had to surrender his bishop for a passed pawn and Gary’s victory was no longer in doubt.

A nice scalp, but what does it mean for a young player to beat a much higher rated opponent?  Hopefully it demonstrates that you can beat good players and no longer have to be content with getting occasional draws off them.  If you have done it once you can do it again!  Confidence is a wonderful thing.

For today’s puzzle let’s look at a position where Gary didn’t chose the correct plan and gave Karl a chance for victory.  What would you play as Black in the diagram?  If you solve that, see if you can spot the trap that Karl fell into a couple of moves later.