Archive for the ‘History of Chess’ Category

It occurred to me the other day that it is 50 years since my first national chess tournament, the Australian Junior Championship in Adelaide in 1967, so I’ve written an article for “50 Moves Magazine” talking about the changes in Australian chess during that time.

So far as juniors are concerned there have been a number of changes.  Perhaps the most important is that these days all the better juniors have a chess coach whilst in my time there was no coaching and we had to learn from books.  Juniors also start playing at a much younger age.  I learnt the moves when I was 11 and my first tournament was when I was 14 years of age.  Today, when I drop in on a tournament at Box Hill there are children as young as 5 or 6 years playing and some of them are very good!

The third difference is the vastly increased number of tournaments available today that juniors can play in.  I have one student whose playing schedule this week is as follows:

Sunday: Tournament game at Herzl Chess Club.

Monday: Tournament game at Melbourne Chess Club in the evening.

Tuesday: Chess Kids Primary State Finals.

Wednesday: Chess Kids Middle Years State Finals.

Thursday: Northern Star Interschool Finals.

Thursday evening: Tournament game at Croydon Chess Club.

Friday: Tournament game at Box Hill Chess Club.

Sunday: Rookies tournament at Box Hill Chess Club.

That’s 4 tournament games and 28 allegro games in one week!

I was fortunate in that I went to a school which had a chess club open every lunchtime so I played each day at school.  Once a week we would have an Interschool game (run by the Victorian Junior Chess League) and in the April holidays there was the Victorian Junior and in the September holidays the Victorian Open Junior.  If you were in the top half dozen juniors in your state in January you could play in the Australian Junior Championships.   I knew that there were senior chess tournaments but no-one ever told me that juniors could play in them!

Of course all this coaching and these playing opportunities at an early age should be producing a lot of excellent chess players, and perhaps that is indeed happening.  Australia recently gained two more grandmasters in Max Illingworth and Moulthun Ly and Anton Smirnov and Justin Tan are also closing in on the GM title.  The famous British chess columnist, Leonard Barden, pondered the other day as to whether, perhaps in 5 years or so, Australia will be a greater chess power than England which has very few talented young players coming through.   Barden himself, along with Bob Wade and Harry Golombek, was one of the main drivers of the British chess boom of the 1970s which produced their first grandmaster in Tony Miles and then other great players like Nigel Short and Michael Adams.  Short and Adams are still the mainstay of the British chess team even though they well past their best.

For today’s puzzle I present a game played between two promising juniors in the Box Hill Open last Friday.  The game ended in a draw but for much of the game White was better the Black missed an immediate tactical win.  Can you find what he missed?

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Archive for the ‘History of Chess’ Category

Back on the evening of 15 September 1970 I went for a short drive.  It was my first time driving at night after having obtained my driver’s licence.  Where did I drive to?  The nearly Mt.Waverley Primary School, because I had received a notice advising us of the inaugural meeting of the “Mt. Waverley Primary School Parents and Teachers’ Chess Club.”  Six people turned up to play chess and, whilst I wasn’t a parent or a teacher, I was a chess player so I thought I should join the club.

Of course this little group went on to become the famous Waverley Chess Club, which was a training ground for some of Australia’s best juniors in the 1970s.  It could not however have flourished in a small classroom at the Primary School so the club moved to larger premises at the Mt.Waverley Tennis Club which could accommodate about 40 players.  Soon that became too small also so we moved to the Mt.Waverley Community Centre which had a playing room that accommodated about 60 players plus a separate analysis room.  Even better, after the chess had finished, we would order pizzas and move to the sports hall at the back to eat, chat and watch young Darryl Johansen play on the trampoline.

The point of all this reminiscing is that the Waverley Chess Club is restarting, courtesy of Chess Kids, in a building at the corner of Waverley Road and Huntingdale Road.  I popped in there for a look last week to test David’s claim that it could accommodate about 50 players.  The building is still being renovated but he is probably right.  There is a reasonable sized playing room, a kitchen, a separate smaller room (office) and a foyer.  It should be a good venue for a chess club.  Meanwhile, a bit further north, it seems that the very successful Box Hill Chess Club may be losing it’s venue after Xmas and have to find new premises.  One can only hope that something suitable comes up as it would be a tragedy if Box Hill went into decline because it no longer had suitable premises to run all the activities that it currently runs.  I guess they could always join Waverley…..

For this week’s puzzle see if you can find a way for White to win in the position below.

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Archive for the ‘History of Chess’ 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.

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Archive for the ‘History of Chess’ 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.

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Archive for the ‘History of Chess’ Category

School Holidays!   What to do?  If it wasn’t for Wimbledon being on the TV and the Chess Camp coming up next week I might be bored.  As it was, I spent much of the day preparing for the camp … buying some thick socks, a warm scarf and a new jacket for example …. Philip Island can be cold at this time of year.

Then of course having lunch in my favourite cafe I was the epitome of the modern chess player.  Head downcast staring intently at my iPad … first catching up with the news on Chess Chat then a quick game against Shredder to fine tune my chess skills.  I may have to play some lightning chess at the camp against Luke Li or Allen Yu who are coming along as assistant coaches.  Of course, that done, I completed my preparation by pulling out a bound volume of the British Chess Magazine and starting to read.  Why buy new chess books when I have so many old ones is my latest theory and I’ve now worked my way back to the 1947 volume.

Actually there is some good stuff there … for instance Britain played a radio match against Australia over 10 boards and won 7-3.  Names familiar to me like Purdy and Koshnitsky were in the Australian team but our only win came on board 1!  Yes, out top player, the Hungarian immigrant IM Lajos Steiner who had settled in Sydney before the war, was still a class above the best British players.  Actually, come to think of it, I never met Steiner even though he lived until 1975, which is a bit of a pity as I’m sure he would have had many great chess stories to tell from when he was an active player in the 1930s and played many of the world’s top players.  He was an unusual combination of chess player, engineer and boxer!

And of course whilst reading my book I had my eyes open for any good material on the chess camp theme of “defence.”  Found a couple of useful games and a nice puzzle which I’d like to show you now.  It took me a few goes to get the answer but if you just keep saying to yourself “it has to be this move….” you will probably find the solution.   Good luck.

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Archive for the ‘History of Chess’ 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?

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Archive for the ‘History of Chess’ Category

These days a chess grandmaster visiting Australia is not necessarily big news.  There are so many of them!  Australia even has four of its own.  However there are a few chess players whose visit to Australia would create media attention and one of them will be in Ballarat on Monday to present the prizes at the Ballarat Begonia Open Chess Tournament.  His name is Nigel Short, former chess prodigy and World Championship challenger in 1993.  Even more newsworthy is that his opponent in that 1993 match, former World Champion Garry Kasparov, will be visiting the Doeberl Cup in Canberra over Easter.

Kasparov is a candidate for the Presidency of FIDE (the World Chess Federation) and I guess he is touring the world lobbying for his election.  I was interested to read that Kasparov has recently taken out Croatian citizenship.  He is a strong opponent of Vladimir Putin in Russia so perhaps Russia is not a very safe place for him at the moment.

Back when I was a junior the visit of a grandmaster was a most unusual occurrence and I can remember being thrilled to play in a simul against Russia’s GM Yuri Averbach in 1967.  A few years later in 1970 Australia had it’s first really International Tournament which included 5 grandmasters.  The local Herald newspaper featured a huge picture of the Victorian Premier, Henry Bolte, on its front page with the 5 grandmasters led by Lajos Portish from Hungary.   Thereafter grandmaster visits became a little more frequent but some of course were special.  In 1972 former World Champion (and FIDE President) Max Euwe came to Australia and gave many simuls.  I remember playing him in a simul at the Melbourne Chess Club and helping juniors Jordan and Bartnik who were sitting on either side of me.  They won!   I lost.  (See photo below).


Max Euwe.

My chess hero Karpov also toured Australia giving simuls.  I don’t remember which year it was but I certainly regret not taking a board against him when he came to Melbourne.  I didn’t make that mistake when Boris Spassky came here in 1989 and I was very proud to hold the former World Champion to a draw.

I’m not sure whether or not Nigel Short will be giving any simuls whilst he is here in Australia, but if you are going to Ballarat on Monday it’s certainly a chance for a celebrity photo opportunity.   Short shot to fame in the late 1970s as a child prodigy.  He became the youngest ever British Champion, then the youngest IM ever then the world’s youngest GM.  He rose to become world number 3 at his peak but failed to become World Champion.

For today’s puzzle it is fitting that I show you Short’s only victory against Kasparov in their 1993 match.

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Archive for the ‘History of Chess’ Category

India is in the chess news this week as the host of the World Chess Championship between Anand and Carlsen.  For someone of my vintage this is very strange.

Fifty years ago India was a chess back-water.  They had but one titled player, IM Manuel Aaron, who was good enough to beat Cecil Purdy to earn a place in the Interzonal, but was hardly a world class player.  Today of course things are a little different.

India has 34 grandmasters and the World Champion, Vishy Anand, is an Indian however by the time you read this the World Chess Champion may well be a Norwegian!  Poor Anand is playing Magnus Carlsen, the World’s highest rated player, in a best of 12 game match for the Championship.  He started OK with 4 draws but has subsequently lost 3 games and Carlsen is now only half-a-point away from becoming the World Chess Champion.

carlsen-anand-reutersThe match unfortunately can only be described as “underwhelming”.  The most boring Championship match in history?  Possibly.  The match started with two boring short draws then two slightly less boring long draws.  Anand is good at the openings but Carlsen is better in the endgame and he managed to outplay Anand in two long endings to take a strangle-hold on the match.  This meant that Carlsen could just draw his way to the title and sit on his lead – one of the reasons why FIDE used to have matches for first to win 6 games.   That format requires players to play for a win more so that the current best of 12 games format, although there was that famous Karpov v Kasparov match that went forever and was eventually abandoned at 5-3 with Karpov leading.

Fortunately game 9 of the current match was a bit interesting with Anand appearing to be close to having a winning attack whilst Carlsen plodded away on the queenside trying to queen his “b” pawn.   Perhaps you missed it and have not yet heard the result?  Then let me take you back to last night and see if you can do better than Anand.  Black is about to play 26…b2 and Anand is then contemplating 27.Rf4.  How would you advise him?

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Archive for the ‘History of Chess’ Category

These days, as the years role by and my former chess friends and rivals pass away one by one, I find that I am increasingly living in the past.  I think back to years gone by and remember events and stories from chess tournaments that I played in when I was growing.  At lunchtime, when I’m dining in some local cafe, I find myself reading old magazines like the one I’m currently wading through – the 1975 volume of the “British Chess Magazine”.  No doubt these rekindled memories will come in handy when I have to give a speech at the next chess funeral that comes along.

I can even remember back to the good old days when I had to get up on the stage at the Vic. Youth Championships and comment live on the games in progress.   Of course I’m too old for that now, and so have passed on the baton to IM James Morris to do that sort of tedious work, but I did manage to pop in to this year’s Vic. Youth Championships for a few moments to see what was happening.  For an old chap like me it really was a glimpse into the future of chess.  I used to have to write my moves down on a scoresheet, then try to decipher them when I got home, but these days even little kids as young as 6 or 7 years can record their game perfectly using an iPad and their parents and coaches can follow the games live at home on the internet if they wish using something called “Tornelo”.   When I explained how this worked to one of my old friends his immediate response was “It’s illegal!  The rules of chess say that you have to use a scoresheet”.  I suggested that he was living in the past.   The kids didn’t care and in a few years time I’m sure that chess scoresheets will be a thing of the past, just like as the fountain pen became obsolete when someone invented the ball-point pen.

The event is even better for spectators who can follow all the games live on big TV screens in the analysis room and I saw a number of coaches and parents animatedly discussing the action.   Wouldn’t it be nice, I thought to myself, if they had something like this at the Australian Chess Championships, but it probably won’t happen.  Not all chess tournament organisers are as progressive as Chess Kids.


The large boards for spectators were popular…

My task now, after a short mid-afternoon nap, has been to play through my students’ games and see how they played.  What I found was a sorry tale of a lot of blunders and missed opportunities, sprinkled with an occasional good move.  I was pleased to see that Rebecca Strickland, who crushingly won the U/15 event, seems to have given up her boring King’s Indian Attack opening and is actually varying her opening repertoire!   Now if only I could encourage some of my students to do the same instead of playing the Giuoco Piano opening all the time.

Of course as I play through the games I try to ask myself “what would I play” in this position and compare that with the moves actually chosen.  Being very old however I don’t want to do a lot of analysis and so generally only look one move deep.  The following position is a typical example where Black has just played Nd6 and my student (White) now has to decide on his move.  As I examined the position I thought “Thank God, a nice simple endgame where White has a positional advantage because of Black’s isolated “d” pawn – surely White can win?”  Looking down the scoresheet I see that the game ended up being a draw so perhaps this would be a good lesson on positional play if I could find something better for White.  Perhaps, dear reader, you can help me?  Black’s idea is to play 1…Nc4 so my obvious first candidate is 1.b3.  Looks OK.  The again, I thought, maybe I should try to swap pieces so 1.Nc2 may be good.  Alternatively I could just improve my king position with 1.Kf2.  Unfortunately all this analysis tired my poor brain and around about now I dozed off again.

So, dear reader, please don’t wake me.   I need my beauty sleep, but perhaps whilst I am sleeping you can find White’s best move for me?  It would make an old man very happy!

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