In my day, playing tennis, it was all about playing in a team with your friends and sometimes you ended up playing together for decades. Today’s tennis is all about individual tournaments and tennis has become largely an individual sport rather than a team sport. It’s a big problem because as soon as young players realise they won’t be the next Lleyton Hewitt they give up the sport. A great pity and a challenge for tennis organisers.
It’s pretty similar in chess. In my day club chess was very strong and you played in a four or five man team in inter-school and inter-club competitions. If you were very good you even got to play in the Olympiad, in your nation’s chess team, and I always enjoyed playing in these team events, and achieved some of my best results in them. So is mateship dead in chess? Is everyone out to do their best and their opponents are enemies, not friends?
I was at the RJ Shield tournament at Mt.Waverley yesterday and saw something to give you hope that mateship and chess are not incompatible. The two top seeds, Gavyn and Shawn were a class above the other entrants and were expected to fight it out for top spot. It was great therefore to arrive at the tournament to see Gavyn and Shawn messing about together and playing friendly games before the tournament started. They quickly despatched the other players and met in round 4 to decide who would finish in top spot. It was a close, hard fought game, which swapped off into an even pawn ending. At one point Gavyn blundered but Shawn responded instantly and missed his chance to win the game. Finally a blocked position was reached so the boys shook hands and happily wandered off together to report the result. They ended up sharing first place with 6.5 points out of 7 and left the event well pleased. At chess tournaments you can not only play well but you can also make friends and have a great time. That’s how it should be!
Next week I shall discuss Bobby Cheng’s quest for his GM title. Bobby is currently playing in a tournament in Batavia and leading with 4/4. For today’s puzzle have a look at the position below from his last game. Bobby found a winning line but it was not the best move! Can you do better? White to play.