Tuesday, August 7, 2018


Am I a workaholic? It's a question I often ask myself and it relates to the fact that my job and hobby are related. I teach chess (and some other subjects that aren't on the curriculum as well) and I play chess to a reasonable level. In my spare time, I study chess, sometimes to help my game, but often just for fun, or to search for material that will benefit students. In fact, I am sat in a cafe now, working on chess teaching materials while writing this blog post (the coffee is pure hedonism!)

From here, I go to a class where I am trying to teach some chess ideas using the Olympiad as a theme. This will hopefully add to the kids cultural knowledge of the game, and get them excited about an event that they can follow if they like. Finding appropriate material from Olympiads isn't difficult, but making it exciting and flowing from week to week can be challenging. I have been trying to teach my students about central pawn walls, and spheres of influence. Pawns on e4 and f4 suggest White has developed space on the king side, while pawns on c4 and d4, on the queen side. This should determine the nature of play, taking into account that we should attack where we are strongest (obviously, depending on circumstances).

Black has built an impressive centre, but White has a huge lead in development. The game continued 9.Rxh7! Kf7 10.Bxg6+!! Kxg6 11.Nxe5+!! and with White's queen coming to h5, Black is busted. A central pawn wall needs piece support. This game won a special beauty prize from the first chess Olympiad, Palau-Te Kolste London 1927
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Yates-Naegeli London 1927
Also from the first Olympiad is this position. Here, both sides are fully developed, and White's central wall has piece support. White undoubtedly is strongest on the king side, so that is where he should be thinking of developing an attack. Central pawn walls want to be pushed, and that is what happened here, White engaging the enemy camp. 14.e5 Nd5?! Natural, but wrong. I always think that if the natural move isn't best, then things are difficult. The knight wants to go to the centre, but 14..Ne8 was probably better, defending g7. 15.Nxd5 [15.Nf5! was a strong blow] 15..exd5 16.Nxc6 bxc6 17.Bd4

White's dark squared bishop follows the pawn wall as it advances. When White's pawns eventually disappear, they should clear the way for White's pieces to smash through. It is almost like the line of scrimmage in American Football, or a rugby scrum, trying to barge forward to gain a little space so that the star players are that little bit closer to the goal line. Here, White's bishop eyes g7, threatening exd6 with the double threat of mate and winning a queen. 17..Bf8 defending g7. And now the pawn wall advances again 18.f5!, and it wants to move on again to f6 compromising Black's defence.

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This game reminds me of one of my favourite games that demonstrates the power of pawn walls.

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Steinitz never had the chance to play an Olympiad, but this game is just too good not to show on the theme!

A World Champion who did play was Capablanca, and he is Black in this position. Following the theme, Capablanca played 19..f5, building a wall on the side of the board where he is strongest. White definitely has strength on the queen side, which Capablanca rightly ignores. White, no doubt fearing Capablanca's reputation tried to halt Black's king side advance with 20.f4, but this was the wrong plan, and only creates weaknesses on the side of the board where Black is strongest. Capablanca brilliantly refuted this move. Continuing with queen side play, with 20.Rxa8 Rxa8 21.Ra1 was probably best. We should attack where we are strongest!
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When teaching kids, it is important to repeat messages, hence similar types of feature keep cropping up to help cement ideas in their heads. The theme is developed, and thus knowledge of it becomes fuller. And then there are other aspects to the games, interesting tactics, great attacks, and ideas.

1 comment:

  1. Nice.
    I used that first game at the recent camp with one of the middle groups. They had a ball looking for the mating attack