Last Sunday I attended the Bentleigh RJ Shield Tournament which attracted an amazing 78 players for the two events.  The under 10 event was won by 7 year-old Atlas Baillieu with a perfect 7/7 – perhaps a name to watch in the future.  In the over 10 event Daniel Poberovsky scored 6.5/7 to win his first RJ Shield.

I watched as many of the leading games as I could, and recorded a few for my lessons, but even on the top board it was disappointing to see the number of blunders being made.  The key game between Daniel and Alistair saw Daniel blunder a piece (Alistair missed it), then Alistair blundered a piece which Daniel promptly blundered back, and the game was decided when Alistair missed a fork and Daniel won a free rook.   Whoever said that a game of chess is won by the player who makes “the second last blunder” was right on the mark.  Even my most promising student, Shawn Zillman, fell for two opening traps and lost a couple of games horribly.

This creates a problem for me.  How can I teach my students not to miss obvious tactics?  I tried a new idea yesterday.  I set up a position from one of the RJ Shield games in which White missed a mate in 1 move then numerous mates in 2 moves until he eventually stumbled upon a checkmate.  I decided to turn this into a “game” for my super squad who had to find the fastest forced mate in each position and then put up their hand.  If the got it right they scored a point but if they got it wrong they were out of the game.   I hoped that this would encourage them to make certain they had the correct answer (move) each time rather than just seeing something flashy and claiming that they had “solved it”.  It went reasonably well although by the end of the game there was only one player who had not been disqualified!

Let me give you an example of the sort of thing that players are missing at the RJ Shield, although this one is reasonably difficult.  White is a pawn ahead and Black’s King is open, but White’s two knights are attacked.  What should he play?  (Needless to say in the actual game White played something different but did manage to grind out a win in the end).

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