This week I have cause to be really happy as a chess coach as one of my students has just scored a fantastic win against a much higher rated opponent.

Australia has two really strong juniors aged under 16, FM Anton Smirnov from Sydney and Karl Zelesco from Melbourne, both rated ACF 2372.  Anton is aged 13 years and Karl must be about 15 years and these two are miles ahead of their junior rivals.  Both finished highly placed in the 2014 Australian (Adult) Championships and are good prospects to become a grandmaster in the years ahead.

My best student is of similar age to Anton and Karl, 14 year-old Gary Lin, and he has been making good progress lately including coming second on the ACF most improved rating list recently, but at a rating of 1859 he is still a long way behind the other two.  Gary plays a lot, is really keen and studies hard, and has reached a level where he can compete on equal terms with players around 2000 rating.   More often than not he gets a superior position against such players and meekly offers a draw, much to the annoyance of his coach!  It was therefore with great interest last Friday night that I logged onto the Box Hill Chess Club website to follow the live games with Gary up there on board one against Karl Zelesco in the Box Hill Club Championships.

It was a long and hard fought encounter.  First Karl was a little better, then Gary, then it swung back to even and so on.  Karl should have swapped off into a slightly better ending, but I don’t think Karl likes endings so he kept the pieces on.  Gary played 2 or 3 solid moves in a row, and I could not see how he could lose, although time trouble was approaching for both players.  I’m not sure if Gary may have offered a draw at any stage – but I hope not!  With a few minutes left he suddenly got a rush of blood and started throwing his queenside pawns at Karl.  Karl replied with a sneaky pin that forced a swap-off into a bishop ending where Karl had the much more active King.  It looked like Gary was in trouble as Karl’s King raced to gobble up the stray queenside pawns, but Gary had set a sneaky trap into which Karl obligingly fell!   Karl had to surrender his bishop for a passed pawn and Gary’s victory was no longer in doubt.

A nice scalp, but what does it mean for a young player to beat a much higher rated opponent?  Hopefully it demonstrates that you can beat good players and no longer have to be content with getting occasional draws off them.  If you have done it once you can do it again!  Confidence is a wonderful thing.

For today’s puzzle let’s look at a position where Gary didn’t chose the correct plan and gave Karl a chance for victory.  What would you play as Black in the diagram?  If you solve that, see if you can spot the trap that Karl fell into a couple of moves later.

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