Term 2 of the Northern Star Chess Squad started with a small but enthusiastic group of new faces to the group! The day started after a slight hiccup when I left my keys at home, so there was a slight delay while the keys arrived! Once underway, the group started with a look at Grandmaster Zong-Yuan Zhao, who is currently Australia's number 1 player. The thing for me that stands out about Zong-Yuan's play is his understanding of the positional side of chess, particularly in terms of compensation when there is a material imbalance. As a strong Grandmaster, he is able to play both tactically & strategically, although I suspect he tends to mostly favour strategic play when playing in Australia, as that is where he generally has the biggest advantage over his opposition.
The group looked at a recent game of Zong-Yuan's that highlighted this strength, with his game against former world title contender Nigel Short, from the Bankok Chess Club Open (which Zong-Yuan won against a tough field which featured over 20 GMs & more than 50 titled players!). After a quiet opening, Short launches a king-side attack, which Zong-Yuan responds to in a thematic way, counter-attacking in the centre. Zong-Yuan then goes on to sacrifice three pawn to ensure Short's king stays in the centre & his pieces remain tied down in the early middle game. Zong-Yuan then embarked on a number of favourable exchanges left him with a queen for two minor pieces & two pawns in an ending, which he was able to convert into a win.
After looking at the game, the students then played games, which will be analysed for next week's session.
The final session for the day looked at a variety of checkmating patterns, with the students attempting to find the checkmate in a variety of different positions. Many of these had a number of checkmating themes, which made move order critical in terms of successfully achieving checkmate!
In the above position, the checkmating pattern is an 'electric fence' rook checkmate, which comes about by playing 1.Qxa7+ Kxa7 2.Ra2#
In this example the theme is a variation on back rank mate, which comes about on the side of the board on this occasion after 1.Qxh7+ Kxh7 2.Rh3#
In this example the theme is removal of the defender, with checkmate coming about after 1.Nxh7+ Nxh7 2.Ng6#
The squad is a great learning environment for kids, as they are able to learn with others who share their passion & interest in chess. The small group sessions are generally more cost-effective than private coaching & the content and format offered is unique to Northern Star. If you are interested in having your child attend, please contact Pearl Yung at Northern Star Chess, or look on the squad webpage for more information.