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.

Youth

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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