Chess Puzzle of the Week (199)

I was going to show you something else, but this morning someone posted this beautiful problem on Facebook. Many leading coaches now see solving both endgame studies and problems of this nature as an invaluable part of your chess training.

White to play and mate in 2 moves, against any black defence.

This was composed about 100 years ago by Comins Mansfield, one of Britain’s – and the world’s – greatest ever problemists and published in the Morning Post in April 1923. It was dedicated to Mrs Edith Elina Helen Baird, herself a distinguished problemist.

To appreciate this problem fully you have to spot the set play (what would happen if it was Black’s move) as well as finding the solution.

Good luck – and do get in touch if you think you’ve cracked it.

Chess Puzzle of the Week (198): Solution

This was the puzzle I set on Monday, which came from the game Eames – Donaldson, from the recent British Championships. With White to move, I asked you how you would continue. What did you manage to discover about this position?

Concerned about the threat of Qd1+, Richmond Junior Club coach Bob Eames, a dangerous tactician, traded queens into a level ending.

He’d missed what I hope you found: 32. Qa8+ Kc7 33. Qc8+! (perhaps not that easy to spot) 33… Rxc8 34. bxc8Q+ Kxc8 35. Nb6+, regaining the queen and leaving him the exchange ahead with a comfortable endgame victory in sight.

The good news for Bob was that his opponent later went wrong in the rook ending (see move 45 below), so he was still able to win the game.

Stand by for another puzzle on Monday. In future I’ll be publishing puzzles (usually) on Mondays and solutions (usually) on Fridays.

Here’s the complete game, with commentary by Stockfish. Click on any move for a pop-up window.

75 years on

Some very exciting news yesterday. The Richmond Herald up to 1950 is now available online (via subscription sites). This will enable me to put together the history of Richmond Chess Club up to that date.

I’ll be posting a lot more here, but this, from 75 years ago, 14 June 1947, is topical

Coincidentally, next Monday, 5 September, Richmond are again travelling to Kingston for a megamatch, but this time only over 16 boards. As we now have 70 members, we could perhaps have got close to 36 had we wanted.

The match takes place at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston from 7:30 and I hope to be there to watch. We’re using the match mostly as the chance to give some of our newer members a taste of competitive chess, and believe Kingston are doing very much the same.

There’s a lot more to be said about this article. I’ll post more later.

You might want to know who won this match. I haven’t, as yet, been able to find out. I’ve looked at the Herald for the two subsequent weeks, but there’s no further mention.

If you’re interested in the history of chess in this area, and, occasionally, beyond, check out my Minor Pieces on British Chess News.

Richard James

Chess Puzzle of the Week (198)

A slightly easier question for you this time, to get you into shape for the new season. Solving tactics puzzles should be an important part of your training regime if you’re keen to improve your chess.

All you have to do is to find the best plan for White (to move) in this position.

Although this should be rather less challenging than the last few puzzles I’ve set, a strong tactician failed to find the right answer over the board.

All will be revealed next week. But if you think you’ve found the correct solution do get in touch to let me know (rather than posting your answer online).

Good luck, and I hope to see you soon!

Chess Puzzle of the Week (197): Solution

Last week’s puzzle came from a game between Will Taylor and Peter Finn, played in last month’s Kingston Invitational Tournament.

Will is a rook ahead but is faced with the dangerous threat of Qd1+, with mate to follow. The winning move here is 30. Nd4!!, blocking the d-file with an otherwise useless piece, and buying time for Qg5 followed by Q(x)e5+.

Alas, in the game he played the creative but inadequate queen sacrifice 30. Qf3?, when Peter found the only winning move, 30… Qd8! (everything else loses) 31. Qe2 Nxe4! and wins.

A remarkable position, I think. Did you manage to analyse it correctly?

Here’s the complete game. Click on any move for a pop-up window.

Chess for Schools

My new book Chess for Schools has finally hit the shops today. You can buy it direct from the publishers here. If you enter the code SUMMER30 at checkout you can, at least at the moment, claim a 30% discount.

If you have any contacts at local schools, through your children or for any other reason, do let them know. I’d be happy to visit them to explain my ideas in person if they’re interested.

I’ll be posting more about my ideas elsewhere, but I’ll give you a very brief introduction here.

Many of you will know that I’ve been teaching and promoting children’s chess for 50 years. My views are very different to those of most people involved in junior chess in this country.

I propose a three-pronged approach:

  1. Promote simple strategy games based on subsets of chess in primary schools
  2. Promote chess for primary school age children within the community through external clubs
  3. Promote chess proactively in secondary schools

There are two takeouts for this for Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club, and, in general, for all chess clubs.

  1. We should be running a volunteer-led family club for children and parents where members can relax, enjoy themselves and make new friends, while having access to professionally written coaching materials. (We now have a safeguarding policy in place and are currently in the process of appointing Safeguarding Officers.)
  2. We should be forging links with secondary schools in the state sector within Richmond upon Thames and perhaps our wider catchment area: perhaps helping them run internal competitions and offering free membership to the winners.

As the Junior Chess Officer at Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club this is my responsibility, but I need others to get involved.

If you have some spare time and have DBS clearance please let me know if you can help!

Richard James

Best Game Prize

Some great news: Otto Weidner, one of our growing band of teenage stars, has won a Best Game Prize for the game below played in a Surrey Centenary League match between Kingston B and Richmond.

I think his annotations are rather over-critical! He gives himself lots of question marks but no exclamation marks! Click on any move for a pop-up window.

Many chess teachers (from Botvinnik onwards) believe that annotating your own games is the best way to improve – something I’ll be discussing in my next book review.

If you’ve played any interesting games recently (I’m sure you have) it would be great if you could annotate them and send them to me for publication here.

Chess Puzzle of the Week (197)

In this wonderfully chaotic position White is a full rook up but is faced with some scary threats. He decided to offer his queen by playing Qf3 here.

I have two questions for you:

  1. Was this his best move, and, if not, what would you prefer instead?
  2. How should Black reply to Qf3?

I’ll tell you when, where and by whom this game was played next week. At least one of my readers will undoubtedly recognise it.

If you haven’t seen the position before and have any views as to the answers to my questions, do please get in touch.

Chess Puzzle of the Week (196): Solution

Last time I left you with a defensive puzzle. I asked you to find Black’s best defence in this position.

This position comes from the game between Edgard Colle and José Aguilera Bernabé, played at Barcelona in 1929, which I took from a wonderful article on Colle written by my online friend Neil Blackburn (simaginfan on chess.com) which you can read here. While you’re there it’s well worth reading his many other articles as well.

White had sacrificed two pieces for a quick and dangerous attack. Black wasn’t able to find a defence, trying 17… Nf6 and resigning a few moves later. It’s not so easy (I very rarely set you easy puzzles) but there was a defence.

The move is 17… Rf5 when White will continue 18. Bxf5 exf5, at which point he has two tries.

19. Rae1 Nf8! 20. Re8 Qxd4+ 21. Kh1 g6! 22. Qxg6+ Qg7 Qxg7+ Kxg7

and:

19. Rxf5 Ne5! 20. Rf4 Bg4! 21. Rxg4 Nxg4 22. Qxg4

when Black is holding on: Stockfish considers Black to have an advantage in both variations.

Here’s the complete game. Click on any move for a pop-up board.

If you found Rf5 and analysed both critical lines you have great defensive skills. Learning to defend well is just as important as learning to attack well – but learning to attack has to come first.

Chess Puzzle of the Week (196)

The Colle System is one of the simplest of all openings to learn, and, against casual play you’ll sometimes get the opportunity to whip up a dangerous kingside attack very quickly.

This week’s puzzle, which arose from this opening, is a great test of your defensive skills. It’s Black to play: I’ll tell you who the players were next week.

White’s sacrificed two knights here and is now threatening mate.

How would you defend here? How do you foresee play developing over the next few moves. Look at all White’s attacking tries. Do you think White’s winning? Can Black bale out for equality? Or could he meet all the threats and come out on top?

Do let me know what you think!