Term four has now started in Victoria and chess is back in swing in the schools.   I’m excited as I have a new class starting next week – my first Primary School Class.   Frank Meerbach has built up a fantastic group of classes at Doncaster Gardens Primary School, which is one of the top chess schools in Victoria, and I’ve been given the chance to have a term with their top group of students.

It should be a new challenge for me trying to teach younger students how to become good players so I’ve been pondering what I should teach them.  I think I’ll start with my “chess memory challenge” where I set up the 32 pieces in a random (non-chess type) position and let the players study the position for 10 seconds.  They then have to set up as many pieces on their correct squares as they can.  It’s very difficult as there are no standard chess patterns for the kids to recognise.   I’m guessing that not many kids would get more than 7 or 8 pieces in the correct spots.  I then set up a second position, perhaps the opening position of the sicilian defence, and ask the kids to have a go at remembering that position.   Of course they all get it 100% right.   Hopefully that will demonstrate to them the part that memory plays in chess skill.

I think that I’ll then move on to talk about imagination in chess.  When it’s all said and done chess is just a battle to outsmart your opponent by seeing moves that he doesn’t look at or analysing a variation deeper than he does.  Today’s puzzle is a good example of chess imagination (from former World Champion Boris Spassky).  Black’s problem is that he can’t stop White from queening his “e” pawn whilst White’s problem is that Black appears to have a winning attack with 1…Rxh3+.  For White to win he needs to come up with something special.  Most chess players may look at “silly” moves but immediately reject them.   To become a better player they need to train themselves to look a bit deeper in case there is some nice idea in the position a couple of moves down the track.  I showed this position to my best student yesterday and he solved it pretty quickly even though he is not renown for his imagination.  Of course it’s a lot easier if you know that there is something there (as in a puzzle) whereas in a normal chess game most players are just coasting along and not looking for something special.

Let’s see if you can match Boris Spassky and pass the “imagination test.”   It’s White to play and win.  Good luck.

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