Thursday, January 10, 2013

Chess on my mind

Today it was a privilege to be at an informal training session for some Victorian kids alongside IM Robert Jamieson. Robert is a demanding coach who gets the kids to think outside the box, stretching their imagination and vision on the chessboard. The material he uses is always excellent, and the questions he poses push the kids to the limit of their ability. Today we were looking at some games from the current tournament, the Australian Open Championship. Here's a couple of positions he tortured the kids with today:

What would you play as black here? Most of the kids opted for castles, as did IM Ly in the game. Unfortunately, a quick check for all checks and captures reveals that after 10..0-0 11.Nxd5! wins at least a pawn

Fast forward to this position. The question the kids had to answer was how did IM Andrew Brown cause black to resign in 2 moves? Getting kids to visualise is important, especially seeing more than one possibility in a variation. 18.Rc1 seems the obvious try but how will the bishop be trapped after 18..Bb2? So other tries were given, such as 18.Rb1 and 18.Ra2. But it came down to the mainline, so what can white do after 18..Bb2? The first thought was 19.Rc8, though this doesn't achieve anything. Finally someone saw 19.Rc6 which wins time by attacking the queen. Black resigned rather than move his queen and lose his bishop after 20.Qb3.

Robert also talked about the game Li-Zhao which he told the kids was one of his favourite games in the event so far. This was an unbelievably tough game in the Noteboom opening where white tried every trick in the book to unseat his GM opponent. In the end black came through but Zhao must have been pretty happy to win this game in the end.

We then started watching the live games introducing the kids to kibitzing techniques. Though we didn't have time to see the conclusion of the games, the result of the day was certainly 15 year old FM Bobby Cheng's victory over GM Igor Khenkin. This leaves Bobby in clear first which hopefully he can maintain till the end of the tournament.

Of course, running workshops with great players can only fuel ones own interest in the game. So I would like to give a big thanks to the inspirational Robert Jamieson. I came home today, picked up a chess book and drove to the bay! I'm eagerly looking forward to Wijk aan Zee starting at the weekend, where 3 World class round robins are taking place, all with interesting fields. For Australian fans, Ari and Finlay Dale are competing at Wijk in lower sections and will no doubt have some great stories to bring back to Australia. Then next week I'll be flying to the Gold Coast to coach at the Australian Junior Championships.

Looking into the future a little, I have to decide whether to play in the Melbourne Chess Club Championship. It is always one of my favourite events of the year, but it is very tiring for me, finishing late on Monday nights when I have an early start on Tuesday. I'll probably leave the decision until I'm in the Gold Coast! By the way, it is a pretty exciting time at the MCC. IA Gary Bekker has organised a Women's International that starts this weekend, the traditional Australia Day Weekender will take place over the last weekend in January, while GM Igor Khenkin is going to be at the club after the conclusion of the Australian Open!

Easter is fairly early this year, but that probably won't stop me from going to Canberra to play in Doeberl. This tournament should start just before the finish of the Candidates tournament in London in March. This will give us a challenger to Anand for a World Championship match in November! What an exciting year for chess, my head is absolutely spinning! And I won't even get started on the amount of tweets I'm picking up about cheating in chess, though I will say that Mig Greengard's opinion that cheating in chess is a small problem while promotion of the game in its educational and sporting forms is a bigger problem that needs tackling is one I subscribe to.

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