Today I thought that I’d talk about sportsmanship in chess.  A few weeks ago there was a vigorous debate on Chess Chat (Australia’s Chess Forum) about whether or not players should resign in lost positions.  It was very noticeable in the recent Australian Championships that some players, and one very young player in particular, usually play on in totally lost positions and sometimes plays on even until checkmate.

This is OK for beginners as your opponent may be weak enough to fall for a stalemate or to not know how to checkmate you, but in the Australian Championships?  My view is that such behaviour is just insulting your opponent and wasting valuable energy that could better be used to prepare for your next game.  To my surprise the new Australian Champion, Max Illingworth, came out and said that he sometimes plays on in lost positions.  Maybe this is OK if your opponent is really old and likely to suffer a heart attack and die at the board but otherwise – it’s just really bad manners.  My view is that the stronger the player you are the earlier you resign when in a lost position (because you can see the inevitable coming).

Another behaviour which annoys me and which is practised by several young players is their habit of adjusting pieces and saying “adjust or j’adoube” when their opponent is thinking.  Most of the time the pieces do not need adjusting, it’s just a nervous habit that they have, and in any case it’s totally illegal!  You can only adjust pieces when your clock is running.

I could go on about other things such as loudly eating potato chips or green apples to distract your opponent, but perhaps I’d better stop now.

I have a new coaching group this term on Monday nights, our “Super Group” and I’ve been pondering on what sort of things to teach them.  I’ve been collecting a lot of games over the holidays where a stronger player beats a player one or two classes below themselves and I’m trying to identify just what it is that enabled the stronger player to prevail.  Are they better at finding tactics, at obtaining a favourable position from the opening or do they just have a higher level of understanding?

To illustrate this difference let’s have a look at a position from the game between Marko Grabovac (rating 1782) and Karl Zelesco (rating 2224).  For today’s “puzzle” see if you can find what move Marko should have played and then guess what move he actually played instead (which ended up in him eventually losing the game).

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