It’s been two months since my last blog and I hope that you have put the holidays to good use and played lots of chess.  I haven’t been to any chess tournaments since Xmas, although I did pop in to the Box Hill Chess Club in January to have a look at their new venue.   It’s very nice!  But that’s not to say that I have been inactive.

I’ve followed all the major chess events on-line both with an eye to seeing how our up-coming juniors are playing and looking for interesting games or positions that I can use in my chess lessons for 2015.  Perhaps you would like a brief update?

Pre-Xmas the most exciting result was at the Australasian Masters, held at Box Hill, where Anton Smirnov played really well to give himself a chance of a grandmaster norm.   Unfortunately he lost his last round game against GM Papin and so just missed out.  The next event was the Australian Open in Sydney which boasted a very strong field led by super-GM Ni Hua from China who ended up crushing everyone and scoring 10.5/11.   The Australian Champion, Max Illingworth, tied for second way back on 8/11 and it was pleasing also to see Bobby Cheng playing again and showing glimpses of his best form.

Some unpatriotic Australians however did not play in Sydney but instead chose the NZ Open in Auckland.  One was leading junior Karl Zelesco who played well to finish =5th although (in my view) he has several gaps in his understanding of chess which are offset by his strength in tactics.  The tournament was most unusual (if not totally ridiculous) in that it resulted in no less than 10 players sharing the title of NZ Champion for 2015.  A good argument for a play-off or count-back system!

Following these events attention moved to Canberra where the Australian Junior Chess Championships were being held.  Unfortunately not many players from Chess Kids took part this year so I didn’t have many players to follow.  There was however some joy for me in the Australian U/8 Championships where Atlas Ballieu scored a dramatic come from behind victory to win the title with little Oliver Cordover also doing well to finish third.   I had spotted Atlas at an RJ Shield Tournament late in 2014 and sought to find out a bit more about him.  His dad told me that he had only been playing for a year and was being coached at Geelong Grammar by Anthony Hain who had inspired Atlas to become more interested in chess.  I gave Atlas one chess lesson before Xmas and lent him my Purdy book, which I give to all my better students to read.  Atlas does a lot of work on Chess Tempo, improving his tactics, and I’ve now signed up to give him a weekly lesson in 2015 so all you older juniors …. watch out for Atlas in 2015!

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Winners are grinners – Atlas Ballieu
(Aust. U/8 Chess Champion)

Now, what puzzle should I show you to start off the year?  Maybe we should take it slowly and I should show you an amusing finish rather than something that will challenge you too much.  The position below is from the Australian Junior where Tom Maguire (1768) finds himself in a drawn position against Oscar Hermann (1042).  What is the higher rated player to do?  Accept a draw or take a big risk and hope that he can swindle his opponent?  It’s Black to play and it looks like his plan is to just sit tight.  Let’s see what happened …..


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