Today I thought that I’d talk about a problem that I’m having coaching young players.  Sometimes they come up with funny ideas!  For instance I may ask “why did you let him take your knight for free?” and the answer is “well he was threatening to give me doubled pawns.”  Now I don’t know about you but I’d take a free knight over doubled pawns any day.  This is happening quite often where the student either places too much emphasis on a possible problem (like doubled pawns) or comes up with a reason that is just not relevant in the current position.   For instance making your king safe by castling is usually a good idea but if we are in an ending with no threat of checkmate then maybe the King is better off in the centre.

At my Doncaster Gardens Primary School lesson last week I went so far as to tell my students to forget all about doubled pawns, isolated pawns, backward pawns and so on as there was only one really important thing chess players should be focusing on … namely their PIECES … putting them on good squares and having them co-operate was how you win chess games.

This sort of problem really struck home to me when I played through one of the play-off games at the recent Vic. Youth Chess Championships.  Both players had strange ideas.  They loved exchanging pieces at every opportunity even if the swap resulted in a slight advantage for the opponent (like he recaptures with a developing move).  I guess that captures are the first thing that young minds look at and you get the thrill of taking one of your opponent’s pieces.  When he couldn’t swap pieces one of the players had an even better plan.   He would check his opponent’s King.  King moves, then he tries to check it again.  I guess he was operating on the theory that if he checked enough times one of them may turn out to be checkmate!   My answer to this was to suggest a better strategy.   Instead of trying to check him to death, KILL HIS ARMY!   Take all his pieces then you can think about checks and checkmates.   This idea seemed to appeal to my student who repeated with gusto “KILL HIS ARMY!”

The other player had a different idea.  He is convinced that the King is an attacking piece.  He doesn’t castle.  He leaves his rooks at home in the corners and marches into the enemy camp with his lone King!  What a great idea.  After all, the first World Champion, Wilhelm Steinitz too thought that the King was “an attacking piece.”  It worked for Alexander the Great in his battle against the Persian King Darius so let’s see whether or not this idea worked in the Vic. Youth game that I was playing through.   Here is the position after 15…Rfe8+.  Your task is to play through the game to the end (and there is an amusing finish) then tell me what both players missed (which would have reversed the result).

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The answer is below (no peeking!).







Black missed 22…Rcd8! threatening 23…R(5)-d7 mate and also 23…Rcd7! with a similar result.  Looks like thinking ahead is a better idea than just checking!

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