Sunday, June 30, 2013

More About Endgames

Yesterday's endgame was interesting and showed how a winning position can be ruined by allowing your opponent to get counterplay. So I'm now beginning to trawl through the endgames and whittle them down to a manageable level, so that at our endgame camp the kids will have some decent quality examples to look at, demonstrating clear ideas. It means, however, that I have to leave some examples out.

Here was a painful lesson for me in my first major tournament in Australia, the 2005 Australian Masters. I played pretty well in the tournament scoring 5.5/9 for a 2370 performance, but started badly with a tough loss to German IM Peter Frohlich. Peter had ground me down from a Catalan, and I had defended dourly for most of the game. In the following diagram I had the brainwave of trading pawns being the best defence:
As black I played 1..a6? What did Peter play that made me resign? I'll tell you tomorrow :)

Edit: Peter came up with the well known theme 2.a5! ensuring that he would get an advanced passed pawn whatever I did. I did the best move and resigned! I will admit that while this is a well known endgame theme, to me it was totally new, showing that my endgame knowledge was seriously lacking.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Chess Endgame Camp

This week I will be heading off to Phillip Island along with a group of coaches and about 30 talented chess kids. The idea is to run a chess camp, and this year we have dedicated the endgame as the subject of the main body of lessons. Of course, there will be lots of games and activities, and it is a great chance for the kids to get to know each other better, as well as perhaps to meet some great coaches who they haven't met before. Foremost of the coaches going is IM Robert Jamieson and the kids should get a huge amount from his experience, especially as Robert enjoys nothing better than quiet positions and endgames.

As coaches we have been given certain areas to work on, and lecture topics cover. Personally I'll be giving 4 lectures on the following broad subjects:

- Rook Endgames
- Winning a won position
- Minor Piece endgames
- Pawn Endgames

While compiling material for the camp, there will probably be some material left over, so I'll be showing some endgames here that I've seen but decided to hold back. For example, what inspired me to come up with the subject 'winning a won position' was the following game I saw not long ago.

Now time could have been a factor, as it often is in the endgame, but when analysing a game we are free of the time constraint and must find the best move or plan. There may also have been a case of the player with black thinking that the game will win itself. This example goes to show that nothing could be further than the truth, and the phrase "the hardest thing is to win a won game" springs immediately to mind.

So how could you improve black's play and win this "won position"?

Glen Eira Chess Club

Last night was the final one for Glen Eira Chess Club at its first home, Tucker Road Primary School. It was great of the school to offer us a temporary accommodation while we were looking for a place where we could call home. So we will next be meeting in 3 weeks time at the new venue of Carnegie Library, again from 6 pm for Juniors and then from 7 pm for adults.

Local news coverage
Last night, as a fun way of seeing off the old venue, the juniors played a Transfer tournament (Bughouse to those of you in the USA) while after we had a blitz event which was won by David Beaumont (his son Fitzroy had been part of the winning Transfer team earlier, with Michael Gershenzon). David, who has just competed in the Victorian Championship, is looking forward to other strong local players coming to the club. IM James Morris lives close to Carnegie, and David relishes seeing James come along to challenge his blitz prowess! It was all played in a fun spirit and was an enjoyable evening.

The new venue, Carnegie Libaray will see us start a new initiative that seemed to appeal to those who were at the club last night. We intend to make the club specialise in round robin tournaments, so members get to play a group of players near their own standard. This might take a bit of time to sort itself out, but it is different from most clubs who are running large swiss events. We envisage running small round robin events with maybe 6 or 8 players, and having regular promotion and relegation between sections. The concept of running a club like this is fairly new to us, so we're still trying to decide on the exact format, but it should be exciting. There should still be time enough in the year to run a regular swiss system tournament, and at some stage in the future we would like to get a weekender on the map. But you have to walk before you run, so establishing the venue, and building a membership is the first priority. As Carnegie Library is close to train and tram stops, and close to main freeways (Monash and Princes) it is a perfect place for players to come to.

David's: blitz winner Beaumont (right), sits next to club founder Cordover

Queen Victoria Market

It's my first day off for 2 weeks so I deserve a decent lie in and a lazy day. However, life is too short so I was up and out the house before 6.30 am and heading to the Vic Market to stock up on some treats. Getting up early and heading to the Vic Market has become a habit for me on my first day off. The lure of the great foods on offer in the Deli and Meat markets is too big a temptation, and it was all I could do to restrain myself today. (I'll be back there next week so didn't need to go mad today)

It was a bit eerie at 7 am when I arrived at the market. There were few people about, even some of the stalls hadn't set up yet, and there was a mist hung over the city that had yet to clear. So after parking I headed straight to the Deli and meat markets. I have no interest in the main covered market, or the fruit and veg parts, though I walk through the organic section of the market to check out the goods. No, it is the deli that really captures my imagination bringing flavours from around the world. The stalls in the deli offer great cheeses, cold meats, butter, breads, cakes, salads, pasta and much more. I limited myself to some Warrnambool salted butter, Cheshire Cheese, Cambozola and a strong Cheddar, though it took an enormous amount of will power to drag myself past the expensive, but excellent, French deli stall which specialise in cheeses and pates.

The deli Market

The best for butter
It was then through to the fish and meat section which is truly excellent, with great quality food and an amazing selection. The one thing that I have noticed in Australia, compared to the UK where I was born, is that fish is expensive. There is a great variety in the Vic Market from basics such as snapper or whiting, to chunky fish such as swordfish or tuna, there are barramundi or ocean trout and loads of crustaceans such as prawns and crabs. I was lucky enough to find ocean cod which is rare in Australia, and according to the guy I bought it from, a winter fish caught when the seas are colder. As for meat, it really is a hard choice as everything looks so good. The red meats are great value, and can be brought cheaper in bulk, while the chicken is, I think, a touch pricy. There are also meats prepared to be cooked in certain ways, and I bought a mini lamb roast stuffed with sun-dried tomato and pistachio.
The entrance to the fish and meat market
All told, it took me about 45 minutes from getting out my car to getting back in it, and that was only because I was gaping every now and then at the delicious looking foods. As the first hour of parking is free, I was also lucky to get away without paying for that. A successful start to my 2 week holiday period and the joy of some good food to come over the next few days!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Support Your Local Chess Club

It's really interesting looking at why we do the things we do. I mean, once a week I go to a chess club to play chess. What motivates me to do that? What is the primary factor that makes me do this? Is it just that I like playing chess? Is there a social element that drives me, or a competitive one? Will there be a combination of reasons and their priority shifts over time? I would like to think that the primary factor in taking me to the club each week is to play a game that I like, though I'm not certain this is the primary motivation for all players, and I'm not always sure that it is my primary motivation at times.

Of course, discovering the secret of why people do things is the key to success in any field. I would never have believed that a group of middle aged women would pay someone to shout at them, intimidating them to run round a block, but I've just walked past exactly this phenomenon. Specifically, I am interested in how a new chess club can motivate people to come through the doors on a weekly basis. So far, at Glen Eira Chess Club we have enrolled a solid group of about 20-30 players who regularly turn out on a Friday night to play chess. There is a junior chess club running form 6-7 pm which is then followed by a senior club which runs through till 9.30-10 pm. We were rather taken back at how easy it was to just set up and get an initial surge of interest, but now comes the hard task of building upon this, keeping the club relevant to the local community and to the chess community.

The larger chess clubs in Melbourne offer cash prizes for their tournaments, and have large entry fees which pay for this. I have never been motivated by cash prizes, or any prizes for that matter, and play chess in clubs because I want to. The thought of getting my name on an honour board of a chess club is reward enough for me. Also, I have an issue with giving out cash prizes to juniors, though I accept that if they are playing in an adult tournament they should be treated in the same way as the adults. So we have agreed that we will try to run a club with no cash prizes for it's tournaments (we may run a weekender, or an open with prizes). I have also noticed that chess in Melbourne is driven by rated, tournament chess. The clubs produce calendars where almost every week is dedicated to participation in an event. There are few social nights, and little friendly chess played at clubs. And without a regular chess league in the city (The Victorian Teams Championship seems to have disappeared off the annual calendar) club cameraderie is generally low. I guess if the only reason one is going out is to compete in a tournament, rather than to socialise with like minded friends, then if there is no tournament a player might as well stay at home and play chess online.
All ages at Glen Eira Chess Club
So what would motivate me to go to a chess club once a week? Well a combination of a good set of people, some tournaments throughout the year, and a lively dialogue between the members about chess, a sharing of information and ideas. Am I really that different from others in that respect?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Blink and you can miss it

It seems that the past month has flown past for me, and I can barely credit what has happened with chess. From a personal point of view, the chess club that I helped to start has been a great success, but more of that in a future post. I have nearly finished my term's worth of coaching, and am preparing for an endgame camp that we are running in the holiday period. This is very exciting for me, as the challenge of teaching endgames has always been appealing to me, and seeing how weak young players usually are in this department of their game, we are hoping that the camp will pay big dividends in the rising strength of our group of young players. Personally, I haven't played any tournament chess, but I am hoping to get to a few tournaments in the second half of the year.

Nevertheless, chess has been happening and Melbourne is as active as ever. The Victorian Championship has just finished with a convincing victory for teenager, Bobby Cheng. There is still a round to go, but Bobby cannot be caught with a score of 9/10. Next come 2 more young guns, Ari Dale and Justin Tan who are on 6.5 which shows that the new generation have found their place among the elite of Victorian chess. There is also a Reserves event taking place and this is being headed, not surprisingly, by Pano Skiotis. Pano's rating makes him eligible for the Championship so I'm not sure why is playing in the Reserves event. He is currently 1 point clear of young MCC player Jack Puccini, and I'm not sure what will happen if Pano wins the event as the winner qualifies to play in the 2014 Championship, though Pano shouldn't really be playing in the Reserves, so perhaps that part of the prize will go to the next player?

While I now am dedicated to making the new club in Glen Eira a success, I still like to follow the events at the Melbourne Chess Club. Currently, the City of Melbourne Open is reaching the business end of the tournament Mirko Rujevic has the tournament wrapped up with a round to spare. Malcolm Pyke and Bosko Mijatovic are his closest rivals on an otherwise excellent score of 6/8, but this is still too far behind Mirko's 7.5/8. I'm sure that there are a number of happy players with their performances, but the name that stands out for me is Daniel Dobos who has scored 4.5/8 despite being the second lowest rated player in the tournament.

The MCC also had an unsavoury moment with the banning of ex-President, David Beaumont. I am not sure about all the details of this incident, but I have seen David who is very unhappy about the whole episode and who feels he has been unfairly treated. Of course, the banning of anyone from a small organisation such as the Melbourne Chess Club is not to be taken lightly. The MCC committee followed a rigorous procedure, and the eventual decision was held at an EGM. I'm still unsure of what David did to warrant the ban, or what he was officially banned for but it would appear that he will not be playing at the MCC again.

This weekend sees the start of the Victorian Junior Championship, held at Canterbury Chess Club. As a coach I have urged my students to play, and hope to see them achieve their potential.

First Post in a Month

Well, it's been over a month since I last posted anything, and the only excuse I have is that I've been incredibly busy, working up to 70 hour weeks, and have felt too tired in my spare time to blog, or have had other priorities. To be honest, when I read that sentence, I feel it's pretty lame. A wise man once told me that to best utilise my time, I should break it down into small segments and try to achieve something within each segment. So, if you say to yourself you are going to do A, then B, and finally C, in a day, the chances are that with some other commitments, some prevarication and some natural human laziness, C will be pushed aside to be completed the next day. However, the next day comes with it's own set of tasks, so C may be pushed back to D on the next day and so on, until it is a forgotten to do task that simply slips away. Now, if instead of trying to do 3 things in a day, 3 hours are chosen during the day to achieve something, then it is probable that all 3 things will get done (assuming they are no more than an hour's worth of work each), and it is even possible that the necessary tasks are achieved within the first 2 hours, leaving the third on to do something else. Even better, is to split the time further into 30 minute or 15 minute segments. This would mean that quick tasks, such as writing an email,don't take a whole hour. So I have decided that during my busy schedule I need to prioritise my time in a more effective way, splitting it into 15 partitions where I can attribute time to getting this blog back on track.

Cool, that was one 15 minute segment successfully utilised!

Of course a lot has happened in the past month in the chess world and while I've tried to follow the exploits of the top players, I've found it difficult in the current work climate. The thing that really got me excited was that this blog has had a heap of viewers recently, and as I haven't been writing I wasn't sure why. Well, it seems that this blog comes up near the top of the google search engine for "chess blog" which surprised me, and then I found that top blogger, GM Kevin Spraggett, had linked to me on his excellent blog (note this has recently changed from blogger to wordpress. I hope Kevin gets along well with wordpress as I had trouble finding a chess viewer that worked well with wordpress which is why I changed to blogger). So I suppose I have to start producing some new content to keep these new readers happy.

I will ask my chess readers to be tolerant with me for the next couple of months, as I will then be going on holiday to the USA with my wife, and if I spend some time on this blog sharing my excitement of the upcoming roadtrip then please just go with it, and indulge me. I've also joined Goodreads which is great for finding ideas for spending some relaxing 15 minute sessions losing oneself in a good book. I'm currently about two thirds of the way through "Oscar and Lucinda" by Peter Carey, and I would have to recommend it to all my Australian friends (and all readers as it is a beautifully crafted novel) as it addresses some fundamental issues endemic to Australian society.

Wow, another 15 minutes well spent :)

I guess I should sign off now, and spend the next 15 minutes that I have spare improving my time management skills, so that I can fit more into the day.