Sunday, 24 February 2013

Northern Star Chess Squad - Day 2

Today was the second session of the Northern Star Chess Squad at Eltham High & once again I had a great time running the session! It was good to see a few new faces this week & once again the group managed to get through quite a bit of material in the 3 hours of the session!
This week we started with a puzzle - the winning move is Nc6-d8# but the other pieces - a black king, white king & white queen - are not on the board! The challenge is to find the place for the other pieces, so that the move Nc6-d8 is in fact checkmate! It's not that simple & the group were still trying to figure it out when everyone arrived, so the answer to the puzzle will remain a mystery until next week (unless you figure it out first)!

This week's board, with the daily outline, as well as the starting position for looking at bishops v knights. We managed to get through everything on the list this week!

The lesson proper started with another player profile - this week a slightly more famous Bobby than last week's profilee Bobby Cheng ... none other than former world champion GM Bobby Fischer of America! After an introduction to Bobby Fischer (and also some of the similarities between the Bobby's), I talked about the things that separated Fischer from his contemporaries - his tactical abilities being the obvious one, although the most significant difference in my opinion was his preparation, both in general terms (he was famous for getting hold of Russian chess magazine & studying them in great detail for example) and specific terms in regards to his opening preparation for games. We then looked at one of Fischer's most famous games - his demolition of Robert Byrne from the 1963 US Championships.

After looking at the Fischer game, the kids played their own games against one another, with some very hard-fought games, which all lasted over 40 moves!

The final session for the day looked at how to assess a position & the factors that should be considered. Following the examples of American IM Jeremy Silman, these are: Material, Development, Pieces, Pawn Structure, Space, Initiative & Control of key squares.
This was then used as a starting point to look in more detail at the classic battle of knights & bishops, with the advantages & disadvantages of these pieces being examined.

This theory was then put into practice by looking at a position (above) from the 1973 game between Hort & Ciocaltea, which featured an ending with two bishops against a bishop & knight. The kids were able to identify that the major advantages for white were in terms of space & pieces & were able to further restrict the black pieces, which in this position is a key to wining the game. Once the black pieces are restricted to the point where some are unable to move, the winning plan of attacking the a-pawn with the king & white-squared bishop is enough to ensure victory.
For myself, although the position itself is highly instructive, I find the game itself fascinating, particularly the transformation that the game takes between moves 24 & 31 to reach the game position - one wonders if black had his time over if he would have considered 31...Nf6, with the plan of Nf6-d7-c5, and whether that would have been enough to hold the game.

This week the homework continues on from the visualisation exercises covered in week 1 & looks at more examples of finding a safe path for a piece, as well as trapping pieces.

Once again I had a great time running the session & it has become the group I most look forward to teaching each week. The extra time of these sessions allows for greater depth of learning, as well as providing opportunities to learn about chess history & players, and allowing more time to get to know the kids quicker than a typical hour-long lesson would.

If anyone reading this is interested in attending the squad sessions, contact Pearl Yung at Northern Star Chess, or look at the Squad Page for more information.

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