Monday, 24 February 2014

Northern Star Chess Squad

The Northern Star Chess Squad began again for the year last Sunday, with a small but enthusiastic group.
The group began with some tactical exercises:

The first was this one - can you spot the forced checkmate?
Solution in white ...
1. Qg5+ Kg8 2. Nf7+ Qxf7 3. Qd8+ Qg8 4. Qf6+ Qg7 5. Qxg7#

The next position is about finding the correct capture for black ... what would you do? Rxe6, Qxe6 or Qxh4?
Again, solutions are in white:
1... Rxe6 loses after 2. b6+ Kxb6 (2... Kb8 3. Rh8+ Qe8 4. Rxe8+ Rxe8 5. Qxe8#) 3. Rh6 with a counter-pin that wins at least a queen for rook.
1... Qxe6 is the correct capture. Although white still retains an edge in the endgame because of the h-pawn, it is much better than the alternatives & black retains drawing (and even winning) chances.
1... Qxh4 loses after 2.Qxc5 when the pin on the b6 rook is decisive. If 2... Qd8 then 3. Qxb6+ Qxb6 4. Rxb6 Kxb6 & the black king is outside the square of the h3 pawn, so white will promote. 

Following this, the group played some games which I will analyse during the week.

With an odd number, I played one of the students & the game began as follows (I was playing white):

1.e4 d5 2.exd5 h5 3.d4 Bg4 4.f3 Bf5 5.c4 ... you might notice the similarities to the Portuguese Variation of the Centre Counter (with 2... Nf6 the usual continuation rather than 2... h5 as in this game). I suggested he look at an excellent lecture that GM David Smerdon gave at Melbourne Chess Club recently, where he looked at a number of games that featured the Portuguese Variation (one of his pet lines). You can watch it here:

 I particularly liked his analysis & explanations of the game Wang-Damaso 1996, which was quickly over as follows: Wang,Zili (2540) - Damaso,Rui (2415) [B01] POR-CHN Macau (7) 1996
1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6 3.d4 Bg4 4.f3 Bf5 5.c4 e6 6.dxe6 Nc6 7.Be3 Bb4+ 8.Nc3 Qe7 9.d5 0–0–0 10.Qa4 Nxd5 11.cxd5 Qh4+ 12.Kd1 Rxd5+ 13.Nxd5 Qe1#  0–1

To finish off, the group looked at the following game by Emanuel Lasker:
Lasker,Emanuel - Henneberger,Walter [E21] Zuerich Zuerich, 1934
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nf3 Bxc3+ 5.bxc3 d6 6.g3 0–0 7.Bg2 Qe7 8.Ba3 Nbd7 9.Nd2 e5 10.0–0 Re8 11.e3 c5 12.Rb1 Nb6 13.dxc5 dxc5 14.Rb5 Bd7 15.Bxc5 Qe6 16.Rb4 Bc6 17.Bxb6 Bxg2 18.Kxg2 axb6 19.Qc2 Red8 20.f3 Rd6 21.Rf2 Rad8 22.Ne4 Nxe4 23.Qxe4 Qd7 24.Rbb2 f6 25.c5 bxc5 26.Rxb7 Qe6 27.g4 Rd3 28.c4 g6 29.Rb8 Kg7 30.Rxd8 Rxd8 31.Rb2 Kh6 32.Kg3 Rd1 33.h4 Rg1+ 34.Kh2 Rd1 35.Kg3 Rg1+ 36.Rg2 f5 37.Qd5 Rxg2+ 38.Kxg2 Qa6 39.Qg8 Qxa2+ 40.Kh3 Qa7 41.Qf8+  1–0

In particular the following position with black to move was the critical starting point for our analysis:
The starting point for analysis was the pawn structure arising out of the Nimzo-Indian Defence. White's doubled pawns are a weakness, but are not easy to attack in the short term. White has a semi-open b-file in return for the doubled pawns, while black is trying to put all their central pawns on black squares so as to not block in their bishop, while also trying to close the position (ie: try to induce white to play d4-d5). This would reduce the importance of the time element & make the weaknesses permanent with less piece play in return & be advantageous for black. In all of this, c5 is a critical square & black allows a timely capture on c5 which hands the advantage to white, which is something that is not relinquished for the remainder of the game. The good thing about the game from a teaching perspective is that there is a clear logic behind the vast majority of moves for both players, which is good for explaining thinking patterns & decision-making to kids.

If you wish to attend future sessions, please see the details on the Northern Star Chess website. They are running for most Sunday afternoons for the remainder of the school term.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Chess Victoria Age Group Rapid Championship

This was a new event on the Victorian chess calendar for 2014 & featured individual tournaments for children born in the same year playing in a 7 round tournament with a time limit of 15 minutes per player for the game. The event was held at Glen Waverley Secondary College, who are not only one of the stronger chess schools in the state, but are happy to support chess by providing the venue for the event! The event was the result of efforts of NY Wong, who came up with the idea (although he may have 'borrowed' it from elsewhere) as well as being the main organiser of the tournament. As a testament to the quality of work put in by NY, the tournament attracted around 150 entries in its first year, with players from 5 to 17 years of age!
The 14-17 year old boys division was won by Zachary Loh on tiebreak from Jack Puccini, with Karl Zelesco in third place, which should give you some idea of the quality of the field. The 13-17 year old girls event was won by Rebecca Strickland ahead of  Alanna Chew Lee & Zhi Lin Guo.  
Full results of all tournaments are now on the Chess Victoria website.
I was the chief arbiter for the event & although it was a little tricky to run from an administrative perspective (running 13 tournaments across 3 computers & 1 [later 2] printer was a challenge!), I think the event ran fairly smoothly, with very few issues & kids who were all keen to play.
Hopefully it is a good sign for both the quality & quantity of school & junior chess in Victoria in 2014 ... and hopefully the event can continue to grow & become a regular feature on the Victorian chess scene!
NY Wong, tournament organiser
Tournament hall before the tournament started 

 Tournament underway with a room full of keen chess players!

 Trophies for the top 3 placegetters in each age group

Close up view of the excellent trophies on offer!

Saturday, 1 February 2014

A Grand Plan

Some regular readers of this blog may have noticed some changes in the tabs at the top of the blog, with two new tabs appearing - Victorian Chess Festival & Chess Festival Plan.
This is a rather bold plan I have tried to put together, at least at an idea stage, for a Chess Festival in Victoria, which might hopefully be able to go ahead in late 2016 & early 2017.
Ideally, I'd like to see such a chess festival approach the quality of an event like Wijk Aan Zee, London or Gibraltar, although obviously that is a standard to work towards rather than something that can obviously be matched or bettered on its first attempt.

I'm hoping that the idea will generate plenty of comment in the chess community - but please leave feedback about the idea - on this page, or the idea or plan pages themselves.

Of course the best for of feedback is constructive criticism ... what you think works, what you think doesn't work, but most importantly how you would improve the ideas already put forward.