This school term is nearly at an end and I’m looking forward to the holidays and the Chess Kids Camp which this year will be held over 4 days in Alexandra in central Victoria.   The theme of the camp is “tactics” so recently I’ve been on the look-out for interesting tactical puzzles that I can use at the camp.

I was hoping to get a number of examples from the Victorian Open Championship live games over the recent long weekend but, alas, there were no live games for that event so instead I journeyed into Fitzroy on Sunday and Monday to see how my students were going in the tournament and perhaps find a few puzzles.   First to oblige was Alistair who insisted on showing me one of his endgames where he said he pulled off a neat swindle.  Have a look at the diagram below and see if you can find Alistair’s trick.

Next was my student Sam who started to show me his games.  He seemed a bit reluctant to show me one scoresheet and commented “I nearly lost to a five-year-old girl!”  Of course this was a red rag to a bull and I insisted on having a look at the game noting also that his opponent was rated 1250 points below him!   His young opponent was moving really quickly against Sam’s Sicilian defence and on move 14, with barely a second’s thought, sacrificed her Queen.  Sam, probably in shock, got bogged down in analysing the many possibilities and responded with a bad move which should have instantly lost the game.  Fortunately for Sam she missed the killer and instead swapped off to enter an endgame an exchange ahead.  Sam was able to hold his position together and eventually his young opponent blundered and Sam escaped with a lucky victory.

Such is the importance of tactics!   Most chess games are decided by blunders and if you are better than your opponent at seeing tactical possibilities then you will win most of your games.  In my day we used to go through all those puzzle books “1001 ways to checkmate” etc. but these days it is a lot easier.   Just go onto Chess Tempo or any similar sites to find an unlimited number of puzzles to test yourself with.  A big part of chess skill is simply pattern recognition so your aim should be to build up the data base in your  head of chess positions and themes.

Now, look at the diagram below and see if you can spot Alistair’s tactic….

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