13 January 2016

Refuting a Beginner's Error

While running a youth chess tournament on Saturday, I played a short game with a young student. He opted for Damiano's Defense, a not uncommon beginner's error. Some of my students this week are gaining experience by playing both sides of the position after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f6?! (see "Opening Disaster: Damiano's Defense").

White to move

For the beginning students, I asked them to play from this position for several minutes. Then, I showed them my game from Saturday, as well as a few alternative variations. After the instruction, they played from this position again, taking turns as White.

3.Nxe5! fxe5??

Black is only a little worse after 3...Qe7, a move once played by Mikhail Chigorin in a match (1850-1908), the great Russian master. That game was the source for a lesson in December (see "Outplay Chigorin").

4.Qh5+ Ke7

Black's other legal move, here, does offer prospects for counterplay if White's play lacks vigor.

4...g6 5.Qxe5+ Qe7 6.Qxh8 Qxe4+ 7.Kd1 Ne7 and White is technically winning, but not without problems. This position is a good one to practice against the computer.

5.Qxe5+ Kf7 6.Bc4+ Kg6?

6...d5 allows the bishop to cover f5.

White to move


7.Qf5+ was the correct move.


7...d5 was still possible.

8.Qf5+ Kh6 9.d4+ g5 10.hxg5+ Kg7 11.Qf7#.

My beginning students need to learn to recognize immediate threats and two move tactics. Advanced students, too, may learn from this short game and from practice from the positions after Black's move two, White's third move, and the variation given after Black's better fourth move.

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