It’s great to be on school holidays but the work of a chess coach doesn’t stop.   I have to find new material for my lessons next term but fortunately the Victorian Youth Championships start tomorrow and run for 4 days so I should get plenty of material from the games played there.

Holidays are a great time to work on your chess skills by doing such things as trying to solve tactics puzzles and playing through the games of famous players.   When I was young I used to get the book “1001 Checkmates” and try to solve each problem.  Those that I couldn’t solve I marked in the book so that when I had finished the book I could go back and try to solve again the puzzles that I had failed on.  This was a good way of ensuring that the checkmating patterns remained in my memory bank.

As for playing through games it’s a good idea to pick a player that you like (in my case it was Karpov, Capablanca or Fischer) and to look up some of their better games (for instance on chess preferably with notes, then you try to guess your player’s next move.  When he makes a move that is different to your choice you can stop and try to work out his idea, or there may even be a note where the great player explains his thinking.

I was quite pleased when one of my students asked if I could give him some puzzles involving strategic play as opposed to tactics.  Tactics will help you to win most of your games but you can’t become a good player without understanding strategy as well.  Strategy involves understanding such concepts as “pawn play”, “strong and weak squares”, “building up on weaknesses” and so on.  I gave one of my students a couple of puzzles today involving some unusual strategic ideas such as “retreating” in order to place you piece on a better square eventually or just “passing” to see if your opponent wanted to unbalance the position.   He didn’t come up with the correct ideas but at least now he may have the concepts in his brain for use next time.

My other major source of chess material is the website which has live coverage of most of the world’s leading chess tournaments and is thus is an abundant source of interesting games and positions.  Here is such a position from a tournament played a few days ago.  It’s Black’s move and he is tossing up between 1…Qxg3 and 1…Rhg8.   How would you advise him?


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