25 August 2015


Several years ago, a high school sophomore who attended a school's satellite program showed up at at a high school chess club where I was the coach. He wanted to know whether he could join the club. He could and did.

Kevin Baker had an odd opening that he cherished, but that I did not think was very good. With a lot of effort, I convinced him to play conventional openings.* He became the Spokane High School Individual Champion and he led his team to the Spokane High School Team Championship.

He graduated and left town, moving first to Seattle and later to Los Angeles. He travels due to his work as a model. When in New York, he usually visits the Marshall Chess Club, where he learns from players a lot stronger than I am.

After graduation he resumed playing the offbeat opening that I discouraged years ago. He has beaten masters in tournaments with it. Sometimes on Chess.com he gives me the opportunity to reveal its weaknesses. I usually fail.

That's what every coach dreams about: being surpassed by his students.

Last night, just before I closed my iPad for the night, a blitz challenge came in from Kevin. He won the first three games. Then I evened the score. Then he won one, then I did. I won another, then lost. We kept trading wins and threw in a draw for good measure. The score for the night was even until he won the last two games.

This position arose in one of the games.

Black to move

30...Rb6 seems obvious, but maybe I was tired or maybe I was in time pressure or maybe I was trying to rush moves as a blitz strategy. In any case, I played:

30...h5 31. g4 Kh7

31...Rb6 still offered prospects for advantage.

32.gxh5 gxh5

32...g5 was Black's last hope.

33.Rxh5+ Kg6 34.Rff5 Rxf6

34...Rxe5 avoids immediate checkmate.

35.Rfg5# 1-0

*It may be worth noting that the first time I played what I have called the Danish Morra, I was playing chess with Kevin in a bowling alley. While one was knocking down pins, the other would make a move on a chess board. He knocked down a lot more pins that I did, but I won more chess games.

The Danish Morra begins: 1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Bc4 (this move, a feature of the Danish Gambit is not usually played in the Smith-Morra Gambit). 4...cxb2?! 5.Bb2. At least in casual games and blitz, White gets plenty of compensation for the two pawns.

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