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It has been a busy few weeks for the avid chess spectator.  Last week I was at the Vic. Youth Chess Championships to give a lecture and supply some after-the-game analysis.  

The tournament was won by the top seed, Kayson Wang with a perfect score but you would have to say that he was a little lucky.  It all came down to his game against the second seed, Alistair McCutcheon, and when I strolled over to see what was happening Alistair was a pawn up in a knight ending with 1 minute 45 seconds on his clock to Kayson’s 2 minutes 15 seconds.   Could Alistair win or would Kayson hold the draw?   Alistair though for about 20 seconds over an obvious pawn push (apparently he was analysing – something I try to avoid doing) and after a few more moves he had an easily winning position.  All he had to do was either play Nc5 winning a pawn for nothing or else play the obvious sacrifice Nxc3 which led to a winning pawn endgame for him.  I saw it.  The crowd saw it.  Alistair did not!   He was still busy analysing and managed to find a way to even lose the game in his time trouble!

At least this gave me a good subject for the game post-mortem …. are you analysing too much?   Strangely a few days later I was reading an on-line chess book just published by Bill Jordan in which he quoted some of Cecil Purdy’s advice ….. “It is better to look around rather than to look ahead.”   Yes … I too am a student of Purdy!

This advice applies equally well to the Chess Olympiad which finished last week.  Look at an example from Zhong Yuan-Zhao’s position below.   The Australian no.2 seems to have the better position and indeed he went on to win in another 10 moves.  His analysis was probably good … but if he had looked around a bit more he may have finished the game sooner.   What did Zhao miss?

Archive for the ‘News’ Category

School holidays are always a good time to try to improve your chess skills and the last week of the recent holidays gave the better students at Chess Kids an opportunity to compete in the Victorian Youth Championships held in Bulleen.  The wet and cold weather was no deterrent to chess players and a very good field assembled to contest the titles.  The U/15 was of particular interest where there were a number of strong players competing and it was not easy to pick a winner.

As it turned out the most hotly contested title was the U/9 age group where top seed Gavyn drew with Oliver and they both won their remaining games thus bringing about a play-off.   The first play-off was two 10 minute games.  Oliver won game one and looked set to take the title when Gavyn blundered his queen for two pieces in game two.  A counter queen blunder however allowed Gavyn to turn the tables and even the score.  The play-off then moved to two 5 minute games.  This time Gavyn won the first but blundered again and Oliver evened the score.  Thus it all came down to a sudden death game – Gavin had White and 6 minutes to Oliver’s 5 minutes but a drawn game would give Oliver the title.   The large crowd gathered around for the exciting climax and saw Oliver blunder a piece to give Gavin the title!   A great and exciting event.

In the main (U/15) event Daniel Poberovsky zoomed to a 4/4 lead on the first day but then lost all 3 games on the second day!  Amit took the lead after round 5 only to lose to Kayson who became joint leader with Isaac going into the last round.  In a thrilling final round Amit defeated Issac and Kayson was losing a rook endgame against Sam Trewin.  Sam lost the plot and blundered his rook only to see Kayson offer a draw in a winning position.  This left Amit with the U/15 title and Kayson with the U/13 title.


Congratulations to all the winners as follows:

U/15 Champion Amit Ben Harin 5.5 pts

U/13 Champion Kayson Wang 5.5 pts

U/11 Champion Shawn Zillmann 6.5 pts

U/9 Champion Gavyn Sanusi-Goh 6.5 pts

U/7 Champion Oliver Chen 7 pts


Amit Ben Harin Victorian Youth Chess Champion 2016

Amit Ben Harin Victorian Youth Chess Champion 2016

Here is the end of one of Amit’s games where he exploits his opponent’s blunder.


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If you have been living under a rock for the last few weeks you may have missed the big chess news that the 2016 Candidiates Tournament, to find a challenger for World Champion Magnus Carlsen, has finished and Sergey Karjakin from Russia will be the challenger.

Karjakin vs Caruana

Karjakin vs Caruana

It was a very exciting tournament with former World Champion Vishy Anand at one stage looking like he may get through again but with one round to play youth had hit the lead with Caruana and Karjakin tied for first place with Karjakin holding the advantage on count-back.  Caruana, playing Black, had to win his last round game against his rival to advance to the title match and they reached the position below.

The position looks pretty even … if anything I would prefer to be Black because of his centre control and better control of the dark squares … but chess is a game of ideas and here Karjakin came up with a great idea.  It does not win the game but it does unbalance the game and give his opponent a chance to go wrong.  This is a skill that many players do not understand.  In a chess tournament you are not playing a computer, you are playing a human and humans make mistakes if given the chance.  Sometimes you can do this by just marking time in an even position and your opponent (thinking that he has to attack) does something, overreaches and you win.  Of course at Candidates level the players are perfectly capable of sitting tight, particularly if all they need is a draw, but like most champion chess players Karjakin is not afraid and backs himself with a very bold idea even though all he needs is a draw.

Let’s see if you can come up with the same plan.  I’ll give you some hints.  First look for weaknesses in your opponent’s position … like b4, d6 and h5.  Can you build up on these weaknesses?   Can you activate your pieces?  Can you give your opponent an unclear choice of a number of replies so that he may go wrong?  What did White play in the position below?

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Dear Reader, I need your help.  Last week-end I went to watch some of my students at the “Best in the West” weekender and also the U11 Victorian Youth Chess Championships and I watched many of the live games on the internet from these events.  My problem?  How can you stop juniors from just making one move threats and playing for traps?

Let me give you an example.  My student is playing Black and has an easy win if he just completes his development.   Instead see what happens.

Another problem with juniors is to get them to stop taking.   Just because you can take a piece doesn’t mean that you should!  Taking (or recapturing) however is easy.   You don’t have to think.  They take you … you take them back …. what could be simpler?   Of course most times people have a reason for taking something.  Perhaps it is a sacrifice and they want you to recapture!  If someone does a sacrifice against you surely your first response should be one of suspicion.  Why are they sacrificing?  If I accept the sacrifice something terrible will happen to me?  I remember an anecdote about a Capablanca v Lasker game where Capablanca thought for a long time then did a sacrifice.  Lasker immediately declined the sacrifice with very little thought.   After the game he explained “if Capablanca offers a sacrifice it is bound to be sound so I declined it.”   Would that my students thought along similar lines.   For today’s puzzle let me show you a position from the Vic Youth Championships.   White is a piece ahead and has a won game.   Black therefore looked around for a way to get back into the game and found a sacrifice.  What was the sacrifice?  White of course accepted the sacrifice and immediately lost.  How did he lose and what should he have done instead?

Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Archive for the ‘News’ Category

The one thing that struck me the most at the last RJ Shield Tournament was the large number of oversights made by even the better players in the tournament.

One of my best students twice overlooked that his opponent was threatening mate in one and even the tournament winner, Terrence, missed that he could have mated on the move in one of his games.  Why are players missing these obvious moves?  Are they moving too quickly perhaps?   I tried suggesting to Callum that he would blunder less if he slowed down but in his next games he made an instantaneous move which lost a rook for nothing.  Oh well … at least I tried.

Of course everyone makes mistakes.  I can remember back to one game I was playing against Doug Hamilton and I could play Qg7 mate.  Unfortunately I missed it and instead delivered mate in two moves. So my problem now is how to persuade my students to slow down and not overlook tactics.  I decided to start with Callum and set a little trap!

Callum is in my On-Line group and we always start with a little puzzle.  This week the puzzle I presented was the diagram below and the task is to choose between the candidate moves 1.f6, 1.exg6+ and 1.Kf4.  The students selected their preferred move and Callum choose 1.Kf4.

He had fallen for my trap hook, line and sinker!   “And did you look at your opponent’s reply” I questioned, because Black can now play 1…Qb8 mate!!!!   I hope that Callum was suitably shamed and will take more care in choosing his moves in future.

Of course the ability to see mate in one should be very simple …. shouldn’t it?  Let me test you with the position below.   White to play and mate in one move.  Don’t take too long!

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Archive for the ‘News’ Category

I received an email the other day advising me that this year’s Chess Kids camp will be held at Wodonga from July 7 to 10.  Previous camps have been at Philip Island and Hobart so the change of venue should be good fun.

The theme for last year’s camp was “defending” so I was a little horrified to find out that this year’s theme will be “attacking”.  Why horrified?  Well I spend many of my chess coaching lessons trying to persuade my students not to attack … I’m more a “boa constrictor” sort of player and I only attack when the position demands it … not just because I want to.  Indeed last week I showed a game where Marcus Raine tried an unjustified attack in a game against Jason Tang and ended up losing horribly in 14 moves.

Never-the-less I have bitten the bullet and started finding material on the theme “attacking” and there is no shortage.  Chess players of course are all different and some are really imaginative and invariably try to attack in their games whilst others may prefer endgames or positional play perhaps.  In my time I can think of players like Alan Goldsmith and Eddy Levi who were greatly feared as attackers, so when playing them you always tried to swap off and keep the game quiet.  On one occasion I was playing Levi and was a solid pawn ahead with the opportunity to swap off into a double rook ending.  I wasn’t sure that I could win it so I kept the queens on but soon regretted it as Levi whipped up a ferocious attack.  I explained what had happened to Guy West after the game and how I it mistakenly decided not to swap off into an ending and he replied … “but surely you know that ALL endings are won against Levi!”  Often attacking players a very good at attacking but less good at other types of chess games.

The most important thing to remember in attacking as that the position has to justify an attack – for instance you have more attackers than defenders; there are weaknesses in the defence around the opposing King and ideally you have more space.  Very often I watch inexperienced players playing and they will play a move like Ng5 early in the game.  I ask them why they did that move and the reply comes back “I wanted to attack”.  I then have to explain how an attack by a single knight against a well defended King is unlikely to succeed.

I hope that you have a better understanding of “attacking” so let’s put you to the test in today’s puzzle.  Black to play and win.  Good luck.