Deep in the heart of Fitzroy there lives a very old, dowdy lady who has been a bit down on her luck lately. She is 143 years old and her name is the Melbourne Chess Club. A couple of months ago I received a phone call from Grant Szuveges, a member of the Melbourne Chess Club, seeking my support for his bid to become Club President and for his ideas to reform and rejuvenate the club.

Grant was successful in his bid to become Club President, and one of the first things that he did was to organise a raffle for the MCC Building fund. The raffle raised $2589 and the first prize was an hour’s chess coaching from eleven of Melbourne’s top chess players – Darryl Johansen, Guy West, Nick Speck, Grant Szuveges, Carl Gorka, Bill Jordan, Michael Baron, Marcus Raine, Leonid Sandler, Malcolm Pyke and Robert Jamieson.

Fortunately this prize was not won by some old chap who was never going to be a chess champion, but by a seven year old boy who lives in Glen Waverley and already is the Victorian Youth U/8 champion. His name is Isaac Zhao and his dad bought five raffle tickets at the Box Hill Chess Club one night. Isaac plays at Box Hill, goes to Wesley College, and plays in the RJ Shield tournaments. His Chess Kids rating is 875 (very good for a 7 year old) and he told me that he wants to become the best chess player in Australia.

I went to his house to do my hour’s coaching last Friday night and we had a good time. I used an old coaching technique where you show a position to the player and ask him if he’d like to play White or Black. Isaac decided that White was winning so he chose White. I then played a surprise move for Black (which he had not analysed) and Isaac decided that it was Black who was winning after-all. I offered to change sides with him and made a surprise move for White (which he had not analysed) and he decided that White was now winning. I offered to swap sides again and at this stage he was very suspicious and kept bursting into fits of giggles each time I tricked him. We did this a few more times until we had exhausted the possibilities of the position. The lesson of course was that it sometimes pays to look at “silly” moves and that if you are not happy with your analysis then you need to either look at more candidate moves or analyse deeper.

On the weekend Isaac was off to the MCC to receive lessons from Grant and Nick so he is indeed one lucky little boy. I hope that all this coaching inspires him to become a good chess player and to emulate his namesake, Zong-Yuan Zhao, the current Australian Chess Champion.