Saturday, 20 November 2010

Junior Club Week 8: Check! Your options.

If you find yourself in check there are three ways to get out of check: Move, Block or Capture.

In the below position black is in check.  He only has one option, to move, in this case to h7.

In the next position black is in check, but this time his only option is to block with his bishop.

To complete the three options we can see that black, in check again, must capture the rook to get out of check.

It's all so easy when there is only one option.  But what if all three options are available?  A lot of younger players when hearing check grab their king in panic.
When you find yourself in check don't panic Stop, Think, Evaluate and then Move (STEM).

Let us consider an example

We have just heard black announce check.  Step one Stop.  Do not touch your king.  Resist the urge to move your king as your first option.

In chess it is best if we consider all the best options we have.  We should do this for all moves, but sometimes there are so many options it can be confusing.  When we find ourselves in check things are simpler, we have to get out of check.  We know we have three options.  Take your time try and think of all the possibilities for each of the three ways to escape check.
What you should do is create a mental list, this is the thinking.

There are two different squares the king can move to

Try to say in your mind why this is good or bad.
Good, not many good points except we are out of check.
Bad, Remember week 7 A.C.K.S.?  The king in the centre is not safe.  The king is also blocking the bishop from activating.
Next move option is 1.Kd1
 Good: None
Bad: Again the king is not safe, but look at the black queen's X-ray vision.  Looks scary to me.

White can block with 1.c3

Good: The pawn blocks the check while attacking the bishop.  After the bishop moves white should be able to find time to castle his king to safety.
Bad: Forcing the bishop to move will probably result in 1...Bd6 where the bishop attacks the queen.

White does have 1.Qxb4

Good: We have got rid of the bishop.
Bad: Black's knight can capture the white queen.  we don't want to lose a queen for a bishop.
{Tip:- Even though the capture is silly it is still worth thinking about.  One of these days a capture will be the best move}

Now that the list is complete we have to try and weigh the options against each other.  Think of the good and bad points like weights on a set of scales.  Which ever option has the most good points is the move we choose.  This process is what chess players call evaluation.

We should have selected a move by now.  In the above example the block 1.c3 had the most good points, so won easily.

Remember when you hear check  Stop, Think, Evaluate and then Move.
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Sunday, 14 November 2010

Junior Club Week 7: Opening - First steps

At the start of the game both armies face each other eager to do battle.  
The first few moves are known as the opening.  There are many rules and guidelines to help us open a game of chess correctly.

This lesson introduces 3 very simple rules that help us to open a game correctly.  Perhaps you can remember them as A.C.K.S.  (say axe).

Activate – No army can win a battle if it lazes around at home.  The armies’ fighting units need to get into the battle.  In chess this relates to getting the knights and bishops out.  We should aim to get them all out, so try not to move a piece again once it has been moved.  Unless of course it is under attack, or your opponent has left a piece unguarded piece ready to take.
Centralise- The 4 central squares are the most important on the chess board.  
The reason is movement.  The player who controls these 4 squares the best can use them to move his pieces around the quickest.  Pieces should be moved towards the centre wherever possible.  
The very best way to control the centre is to move one of your pawns to a central square.  Try to move your pieces before pawns, but to get the bishops out you have to move a pawn, so might as well move a central pawn.

 King Safety – As the king is the most important piece we want to get him safe.  We are lucky as there is an easy way to do this by castling.  

Here are the first few moves of a game.  White is a player using the axe (ACKS) system, black is making it up.
  1. e4 - White allows his bishop to move and lands a pawn on one of the central squares.
1… h6 - Black has moved a pawn it doesn’t control the centre and it doesn’t allow a piece to activate.

  1. Nf3 - Activates a knight towards the centre.
2…a5 - Another pawn move!  It doesn’t control the centre, or allow piece activation. 

3. Bc4 – Activates the bishop which aims at one of the centre squares.  The bishop also points dangerously towards black’s king.  Once the king’s bishop and knight have moved the king can castle into safety.
3… e6 – Black’s third pawn move.  At least black clears a path for his king’s bishop so it can finally activate. 

 4. 0-0 – The white king finds safety and as a bonus the rook comes towards the centre.

4… Na6 – Hurray!  At last black activates a piece.  It would have been even better if the knight had activated towards the centre.

5. Nc3 – White’s queenside knight leaps into the battle, both active and central.
                        5… d6 – Yet another pawn move.

6. d4 – As white needs to active his queen’s bishop the d4 pawn needs to be moved.  With d4 we see the pawn opening a path for the bishop, but also occupying a central square (d4) and controlling another (e5).

6… Ne7 – Black activates a knight towards the centre.  Has black finally caught on?

7. Be3 – White’s last piece joins the battle.  The bishop supports the pawn on d4 which makes white’s centre even more powerful.

7…Ng6 – Black’s knight moves  a second time, it is best to move each piece only once unless there is a very good reason not to, such as it is under attack.

8. Re1 – All of white’s pieces are out, so he can start thinking about the rest of his opening.  Centralise the rooks and activate the queen are the next steps.  More on this later.

8… Nb4 – both of black’s knights have now moved twice.  This type of move looks tempting as the knight seems to threaten white's position, but really black’s knight can be easily chased back with 9.a3. 

White is better and can now plan an attack.

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Last week's puzzle was:

1.Bxc6! is the winning move.  
The bishop forks king and rook, but if the queen captures the cheeky bishop then 2.Qd8 is checkmate.
In this puzzle we had to combine different ideas (fork, removal of the guard and checkmate) to find the answer.  We will discuss this more later.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Junior Club Week 6: Removing the guard and deflection

Last week we looked at the overworked piece.
Removing the guard is a similar idea in that a piece's defender is removed, in this case taken to allow the second attacked piece, now undefended, to also be captured.

If you are attacking a defended piece look to see if you can remove its defender.

In the diagram below white has developed his pieces correctly, unfortunately in chess we have to be on guard for tricks at all times.  White's bishop on g5 is defended by the guard on f3.  Any ideas?

Did you spot 1....Bxf3, 2.Bxf3 Qxg4, see below.  Black wins a piece.

Sometimes an attacked piece is guarded by another piece, but that defending piece is also under attack, but by a higher valued piece.  Normally you would not take a knight(3) with a rook(5), but if this allows the second piece to be removed you will have gained material.  An example of these hard to spot removal of the guard cab be seen below.

After 1...Rxf3 2.gxf3 Rxg5, see below, black has gained material.

There is a third scenario when removing a guard.  Often we can not capture a defending piece, but we can move it from its defending square.  Take a look at the diagram below.

The black king is defending his queen.  A lazy move by white is queen takes queen, we must always look for the best move.  Remember "If you are attacking a defended piece look to see if you can remove its defender."  We can remove the guard using another powerful tactic called deflection.  Instead of capturing the guard we can drive it off.  Look at the diagram again after 1.Rg7+! the black king has a choice, capture the rook and neglect its guard duties, or hide, in this case on e8 leading to checkmate.

After 1...Kxg7 the black queen is undefended and 2.Qxe7+ wins the queen for a rook, see below.

With the introduction of deflection we have stepped up.  Our chess knowledge now contains enough tricks to play at a very high level.  Deflection can be very powerful especially combined with other ideas.

In the below position it is black to move.  Black is winning, but he needs to find a way to queen the pawn on b2.  Take a look.  Think which piece is guarding against 1...b1Q?  Can that piece be deflected?

Did you spot 1...Rc5+ 2.Rxc5 b1Q?  If you did you are progressing well...

Now its time for the weekly puzzle this week from "303 Tactical chess puzzles" Wilson & Alberston.
Try to find a deflection trick.  Be warned this solution combines different ideas.
I will publish the answer with my next post.  If you can't wait for then and can't find the answer email me 

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Last week's puzzle was: 

Black's pieces seem to protect each other, but the truth is they are all dependent on each other, which means they are all overworked.  White can demonstrate this with
1.Rxh7.  Black now has two choices
A. 1...Rxh7 2.Rxg8
B. 1...Rxg1 2.Rxh8 
In both cases black has lost a piece. 

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Junior Club Week 5: Overworked Piece

"No man can serve two masters."

This is also true on the chess board.  If a piece or a pawn has to defend two of its own pieces from attack then it is overworked (also known as overloaded), often this leads to the loss of one of those defended pieces.

In the following position it is black to move.  All of white's pieces are defended at least.  True, but the knight on d1 is defending both the bishop on b2 and knight on f2. The knight is overworked.  What would you play?

Did you spot rook takes bishop, or rook takes knight?  After white recaptures black's rook is able to take a second piece.

If you look back at the original position you might not have spotted rook takes bishop as a rook(5) is worth more that a bishop(3), but black also wins a knight(3) after white plays knight takes rook.  Therefore white has gained 6 points from his 5 point investment, but looks set to collect even more material.

Taking a lower valued piece is hard to spot sometimes, but always be on the lookout for pieces overworking.  If you spot an overworked piece take a second look at any captures you have, often you will  have to invest some material for a healthy return.

Take a look at the following position it is white to move.  First look for the black piece that is overworked.  Once identified you should be able to see a good move.

The rook on e8 is protecting the bishop on a8 and its rook partner on e3.
Did you spot rook takes bishop?  If the rook on e8 recaptures then the rook on e3 has no defender.

 A piece can also be at work protecting an important square, perhaps stopping a checkmate.  If that piece also has a job protecting another of its own pieces it is overworked.
Look at the following diagram.  It is white to move.

Black's rook on d8 is overworked.  It is protecting its partner on d7, but it is also protecting the e8 square, as if a white rook lands on e8 without getting taken it is checkmate.

We can now see that the amazing queen takes rook on d7 wins a rook.  As rook takes queen allows Re8 checkmate.  See below. 

The following is a position from one of my games, I am black and it is my move.
Can you spot the overworked piece?

Did you spot that the bishop has two jobs.  One to guard the knight on f1 and secondly to stop the rook getting to the e1 square.

I played 1.Qxf1+! (looks crazy to take a knight(3) and let the queen(9) be taken).  But after 1...Bxf1, 2.Re1 Check mate.

Here is a puzzle.  This week from "Winning Chess" Chernev and Reinfeld

Try to find the overworked piece and then the solution should come easily.
I will publish the answer with my next post.  If you can't wait for then and can't find the answer email me 

Contact me at 

  •  Spot any mistakes with this post, 
  •  Would like to help run Darlington Junior club 
  •  Want any advice on creating a junior club
  •  Have any coaching ideas
Last week's puzzle was: 

White to move.  First he has to create the possibility of a discovered check with 1.Bd1 black can then try:
A, to run with his king to 1...Kh5 (1...Kh4, 2.Rh3 checkmate), 2.Rf8+ Discovered check and wins the rook, or
B, to check with the rook by 1...Rxa2+, which looks like a good try but, 2.Rf2+ blocking black's check and discovering a check on black's king also wins the black rook next move.