Chess Puzzle of the Week (102)

I was sorry to hear that the distinguished chess problemist (also a chess player, bridge player and bridge problemist) Don Smedley (1933-2020) died earlier this month.

Here’s a relatively simple but beautiful mate in 2 from a quick composing competition (3 Pr QCT WCCC Canterbury 1978), taken from the BCPS Centenary Review 1918-2018 by Barry Barnes and Michael McDowell.

Even if you don’t usually look at chess problems, do have a go at solving this.

Chess Puzzle of the Week (100): Solution

Last week I showed you this position from Chess Puzzles for Heroes, asking you whether 1… Qxf3 was a trick or a treat.

Here’s the answer, taken from the book:

1… Qxf3 is a GOOD MOVE (5 points). A beautiful queen sacrifice forcing mate. 2. gxf3 Bd4+ (you have to see this double check) and now 3. Kh2 Bg1+ 4. Kh1 Bxf3# (5 points) or 3. Kh1 Bxf3+ 4. Kh2 Bg1# (5 points) or 3. Kf1 when either 3… Bc4+ 4. Ke1 Rg1# or 3… Rg1+ 4. Ke2 Bc4# (5 points for either or both).

First up with the answer this time was food critic and West London chesser Andy Hayler: congratulations!

Please get in touch if you’re interested in more information about Chess Puzzles for Heroes or any other aspect of the Chess Heroes project.

Chess Puzzle of the Week (100)

I’m currently proofreading Chess Puzzles for Heroes, a puzzle book designed for players between about 1000 to 1500 strength.

The puzzles in this book are taken from my Richmond Junior Club database. The book is designed to teach and reinforce different thinking methods you might use when calculating tactics in your games.

Chapter 2, for example, Trick or Treat, presents you with a series of positions and a suggested move.

Very often you might see a tactical idea, such as a sacrifice, which looks good, but you have to stop and calculate to make sure it works. For each question you score points for correctly identifying the move as a trick (bad move) or a treat (good move) and further points for providing accurate analysis to support your view.

Here’s an example. It’s Black’s move. Is Qxf3 a Trick or a Treat?

Chess Puzzle of the Week (99): Solution

Last week’s puzzle was from Nijboer-Giri (Groningen 2008)

White could have won by blocking the g-file so that the queen can’t get back to defend g7: 35. Rg5!! hxg5 36. Qc7. Congrulations to Chris Baker for spotting this!

Instead, Nijboer played 35. Qd7, when Giri could have forced an immediate draw with 35… Qf1+ 36. Ka2 Qc4. He chose instead to set a trap: 35… Qg2!. Now White has several ways to draw (Rxe5 for example) but he was unfortunately seduced by 36. Rxh6?? Qg1+ 37. Ka2 Qxa7! when he had to resign because 38. Qxa7 would be met by Ra8.

All this and much more in the ECF Book of the Year, The Complete Chess Swindler by David Smerdon.

Survey Results

Perhaps not all of you know that, in a previous life, I worked in the Market Research industry. I was involved in data processing, not (unlike my last OTB opponent before lockdown, who is a real market researcher) on the research side, but I still developed an interest in surveys and their analysis.

So I decided to ask you all a few questions to help me decide if we can provide better online facilities until we can meet up in person again.

Many thanks to the 23 people who have answered our survey so far.

Here’s what I found out.

19 of you play online chess: 16 play on lichess and 11 on chess.com. Other platforms are not popular.

Preferred time limits are blitz (13) and rapid (11), with some interest in bullet and classical. There is no obviously strong pattern of stronger players favouring faster time limits.

Most of you (16) prefer playing with increments.

16 of you are interested in internal online tournaments (but it seems that most of those 16 don’t play in them very often if at all).

12 of you are interested in friendly international inter-club competitions – I’m slightly surprised this figure isn’t higher.

17 of you are interested in online matches against local clubs, 2 of whom would only play if the matches weren’t ECF graded. I understand this is currently being discussed by local leagues and await further information.

The preferred days for online chess are midweek evenings: Thursdays (15) and Wednesdays (14). There is little interest in playing at weekends.

There is quite a lot of interest in online talks by strong players (15), some interest in private lessons (10) and less interest in online simuls (5). Mike Healey has kindly offered to do an online talk: perhaps we could start there and see how it goes. We could also advertise online tuition by our stronger players (and also our GM/IM friends). These are certainly avenues we might want to consider further once we’re able to meet in person again.

8 of our respondents were stronger club players (1750-1999): there were 5 respondents in each of the other 3 categories, intermediate players, average club players and master strength players.

My conclusions:

  1. Continue the online sessions, on Thursday evenings until further notice. Perhaps choosing a faster time limit would attract more players.
  2. Ask Mike to set up an online lesson via Zoom.
  3. Keep in touch with local leagues about their plans for online competitions.
  4. Perhaps I should ask some more questions at some point, in particular about how we can get our less experienced and lower rated players more involved.

Chess Puzzle of the Week (98): Solution

This is from a game between Max Illingworth and Junta Ikeda (Sydney 2012), taken from David Smerdon’s new book The Complete Chess Swindler, which has just been voted ECF Book of the Year. (This would have been my second choice behind Willy Hendriks’ On the Origin of Good Moves, which wasn’t short-listed: one of the ECF judges didn’t share my opinion.)

White lost quickly after 56. e7?? Qd7+ 57. Kf6 Qd6+ 58. Kf5 Nh4#.

Instead he could have won with 56. Kg6!! Qh7+ 57. Kh5, or 56… Nh4+ 57. Kxh6, and, in both cases, his king is totally safe.

Buy the book – and the Hendriks book as well!