Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Premature Results

I know what this title has you thinking about and you will be disappointed! I was running some chess holiday programs this week and I noticed some kids giving in too easily. So it's back to the well known subjects of resignation and draws in chess.

Firstly I am now aware of a group of chess players who believe that resignation shouldn't be allowed. This play till the death lobby are taking things a bit far, but for beginners and juniors resigning denies many chances to earn draws, or even learn technique on how to win games that they, in turn, can use in their own games. At Chesskids we vehemently recommend our kids to play to the end. Here's an example of what can happen at junior level chess that occurred in one of my classes only today:

White would have been happy with a draw before the game began, but it was black that was playing for the draw now. The game continued 1.f5 Kh7 2.f6 Kg8 3.f7+ Kh7 [setting up a clever trap that his young opponent fell straight into]
The young player with the white pieces couldn't contain himself and without a second's thought promoted his pawn to a queen realising a moment later that he'd stalemated his opponent 4.f8=Q 1/2-1/2

I find it quite amazing that kids can find incredibly difficult tactical chances for themselves, but have great trouble in spotting what I consider simple stalemating tricks. I even wonder if most kids think about draws, or whether they are playing on in the hope of winning even with minuscule material? Anyway, after a tactics session where the kids were working on some easy and not so easy checkmate patterns, I showed a classic endgame with a stalemate theme.

This position is from the game Reshevsky-Geller Zurich Candidates 1953. I asked the kids what they thought black played here and I received Kg4, Ra5 (defending the pawn) Ra2+ but no one worked out what was actually played without some help. 1..Rf3+ is obvious once you realise that the rook cannot be taken because of stalemate, and that black is actually going to be happy with a draw here!

On the related (sort of) subject of premature draws we also encourage our kids not to agree to draws but to play on in level positions to try to win them. Hopefully this will give them invaluable endgame experience, and we try to explain to kids that losing these types of games is better for them than agreeing to draws. It certainly sweetens the bitter taste of defeat though how much I'm not sure! Anyway, one of the things I've been trying to undertake this week is analysing live games as they are happening. We've been lucky in Australia to currently have the Australian Open Championship with the live games starting at 1pm in the afternoon. It is great to introduce the kids to the country's top players and some local talents. They can relate to 15 year old Bobby Cheng and 12 year old Anton Smirnov while Grandmasters like Zong-Yuan Zhao and Darryl Johansen are promoted as favourites.

I was showing the live games on Monday to my group of young students but 2 of the 4 games finished as relatively quick draws and my students wondered why they'd agreed to draws. I have to admit, I had some trouble working it out myself so lets have a look at the positions.

This was the final position of the game Zhao-Cheng. It is a very interesting position and most of the kids were getting excited about Bobby's centre against Australia's number 1. When I pointed out his king might be a bit open they shrugged it off! (typical junior optimism!) However, they were generally disappointed that this game went no further.
Most of my juniors are a pretty patriotic lot and they were all cheering for Melbourne based GM Johansen. Here, as black against Yita Choong the kids were happy that they were supporting the guy who was a pawn up. As it is not possible to take on b7 with the bishop because of the forking Qb6+ it would appear that black will maintain his material advantage. I had real trouble explaining why this one might have ended in a draw here (as I don't fully understand myself!) and the kids seemed genuinely disappointed. I'd be interested to know what prompted the draw offers and their acceptance by the players themselves.

However, excitement was provided on the other 2 boards, and the kids seemed fascinated by Junta Ikeda's time trouble and they liked top rated German GM, IgorKhenkin's following move:
Black here played 19..Bxb2+ which was greeted with "He's lost his bishop! The top guy's gonna lose!" Then when they'd calmed down we worked out why he'd played his bishop to a square where it can just be taken. If 20.Kxb2 then 20..c3+ discovers an attack on the e2 bishop from black's Ba6. The kids had to admit that it was a pretty neat move. They still want an Aussie to win though!

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