This Sunday we have the Chess Kids Training Squad “Run Down” at Monash University where Carl and I are going to summarise what we have been trying to teach the kids in term one.   For my part I’ve been trying to stress the importance of playing carefully and when your opponent moves to always ask yourself “what are they threatening?”  When you have decided on your move, you must then have a quick look around for unexpected replies and check that your move is OK before you actually play it.   This should eliminate most of the blunders that decide games between juniors.

I’ve now played through all the games from the recent Ballarat Open weekender and it and seems that some of our leading senior players would have done well to follow the above advice!   IM James Morris was in an ending with R+B+2P v R+B+P where he was a little better but he forgot to ask “what is he threatening” when his opponent made his last move.  James made a natural looking rook move whereupon his opponent immediately pounced with Rh2 and James King was in a mating net.  He could easily have avoided mate had he seen it coming.

Similarly IM Leonid Sandler was coasting along a pawn ahead in an ending when his opponent left a N “en prise”.   Leonard decided to take the free N but forgot to asking himself “what will my opponent reply” (and look at all checks and captures in particular).  His opponent immediately jumped in with Qc8+ with forced mate in two moves.  Oh dear!   Even the great Stephen Solomon was not immune.   He was playing White in the position below and his opponent has just played 19…b4.   Should Solo play 20.Na4 or 20.Nb1 or something else?

[fen caption=”White to play?” ]3r1rk1/1b1Bbppp/p1p5/2q1p3/1p2P3/2NR4/PPP1QPPP/3R2K1 w – – 0 20[/fen]


Solo chose the obvious 20.Na4 but after 20…Qb5 there is a problem.  The N is en prise and also the B on d7 is en prise as the R on d3 is now pinned to the queen.  Looks like White must drop a piece so Solo tried 21.Qh5 Qxa4 22.Qxe5 Bf6 and Black won easily.  Had he checked 20.Na4 before playing it he would have chosen 20.Nb1 instead with an even game.

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