Saturday, May 10, 2014

Support Your Local Chess Club

There are a number of ways that people can get something out of chess, but to me, the best way is still the good old fashioned Chess Club. It's a place where you can meet people with a shared interest, watch and emulate more experienced players and learn to compete, and generally gain more information about the game. I believe that the advent of internet chess caused chess clubs to suffer as players found it easier and more convenient to play at home. This is unfortunate, as dwindling numbers of players at clubs, and less clubs, means that it is harder to find a social outlet for chess players to interact and express themselves.

In Melbourne, it appears to me that the trend is beginning to shift back in favour of clubs a little. The 2 main clubs, Box Hill and Melbourne have retained reasonable numbers for their events, and seem to be providing their members exactly what they want. The newer Noble Park Chess Club has grown to a reasonable size and seems to be attracting members of all ages and levels of experience, and the club must now be considered approaching the 2 biggest clubs in size and quality. There are also a number of clubs that are less central which are also providing a good service to the nearby communities, but there is always room for more.

Young and not so young, all are welcome at Glen Eira Chess Club

Over the past year, I've been working hard alongside my friend and work colleague, David Cordover to establish a chess club in our own neighbourhood. I live about 5 km from David and we set up a chess club near to our homes in nearby Carnegie. We'd found that many of the kids we'd taught were ready to join an adult chess club, but many weren't prepared to travel too far to do so. So while we have pushed kids towards the 3 clubs already mentioned, as well as others nearest to their homes, the kids near where we lived needed a place to play. As such we established Glen Eira Chess Club which started small, and has remained essentially a friendly, local, chess hang out. We meet on Friday evenings and for an hour the club is open to juniors and perhaps some adults who are just beginning the game, and then from 7 pm we run the adult club. So far, this has entailed a mixture of long play events and some less competitive evenings where we've played blitz, or just social games. As a founding member I might be biased, but I really enjoy the vibe of the club. While we encourage people to participate in events, there is no pressure to do so.

Tonight we started our second tournament of the year, a 7 round swiss with 3 qualifying places for our end of year club championship which promises a $1000 first prize. With 1 International Master already qualified from the first event, we expect the 9 player championship round robin to be a great event at the end of the year. For me, it is great just to play, and possibly to give something back to the chess community. I can remember as a kid going to local chess clubs and getting beaten by the adults who would then help me improve my game through analysis of the game. That was how I improved, taking those lessons on board. And I feel it my obligation, and in fact the obligation of all players to give back to the game to the next generation what we got out of it.

Tonight I was playing a young student of mine, Aaron, who is probably way better than I was at his age. However, the game turned on something that I remember learning about when I was quite young, an absolute pin.

I was black and a just a pawn up. Aaron had skilfully worked his way through the tricks that I put to him and could have thought about setting up drawing chances if it weren't for the fact that his rook is pinned. My next move was to add more pressure to the pinned piece with 1..Rd8. While white is currently stuck, black has the chance to improve his endgame chances by creating a passed pawn on the king side, and/or improving his king. In the meantime, should white eventually get out of the pin by playing e4 and Ke3 for example (that was what Aaron chose to do to remove the pin) then black always has the choice of exchanging all the pieces and leaving a pawn endgame where he is a pawn ahead which should be a win. This was the way the game went.

I have to say that for the first round of a swiss tournament there were a number of close fought games, including mine! A number of players took byes, including some of the higher rated players, so next week's second round should be interesting.

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