What were you doing in chess when you were 11 years old? I was playing a bit in my lunchtimes at primary school on a outdoor seat in the playground using a cheap red and white plastic set. One of the Knights was broken so I plugged its head into a piece of cork so that it could stand up. It would be another 3 years before I would play in my first chess tournament and another 7 years before I was brave enough to play in an adult event.

Today things are a little different. Go onto the World Chess Federation website and you will see an article on the worlds highest rated 11-year-old chess player. (Click here) He is an Australian! Little Anton Smirnov, rated 2160, has just astounded everyone by winning the Australasian Masters in Melbourne on count-back from IM James Morris and FM Bobby Cheng, both of whom he defeated in their individual game! He could have won the event outright, and scored an IM norm, had he been able to beat his dad (IM Vladimir Smirnov) in the last round, but they had a draw. Clearly Anton’s Xmas present this year will be a copy of Murray Chandler’s book “How to Beat Your Dad at Chess!”

It will be interesting to follow Anton’s progress over the Summer – let’s hope that he continues to improve and becomes a grandmaster.

May I take this opportunity to wish everyone a very happy Christmas. I hope that Santa brings you a nice chess book or chess app for your iPad. I’m hoping to get “Chessbase” for my iPad which I thought wasn’t available for Macs but maybe Santa can find a Mac version for me.

For last week’s puzzle I showed you how Anton defeated James Morris. For our last puzzle before Xmas I’ve selected a pretty little endgame composition by Kasparian, a famous Russian problem composer. I hope you like it. Black to play. It looks like White’s extra queen will be too strong but Black has a couple of tricks up his sleeve. Black to play …. what result.

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