10 November 2016


Lesson of the Week

The after-school chess club that I run at a small private school in my city is divided into two groups--beginning and advanced. Acceptance into the advanced group requires participation in last year's scholastic tournaments or my permission. The beginning group includes children who want to learn chess and may begin knowing nothing about the game.

The lesson for both groups this week came from the same game, a blitz game that I played online Monday morning. For the beginning group, there was a lesson about trading into a pawn ending that was winning as well as basic rules concerning pawn promotion. For the advanced students, I focused on some elementary notions about imbalances. I drew their attention to a quote that I have on the wall in the club room.
[E]ach chess move begins in the head. If you attach importance to playing a good game of chess, you must first of all learn how to think properly.
Alexander Bangiev
Although this was a blitz game in which the players had minimal time for thinking, the positional ideas that are part of this week's lessons were part of my thought process during the game. Blitz games between strong class players offer excellent training materials for young children who are just beginning, as well as experienced tournament players with ratings up to 1200 Elo or even higher..

Internet Opponent (1814) -- Stripes,J (1891) [A46]
Live Chess Chess.com, 08.11.2016

Starting position for advanced students.

Black to move

Students come into the room, ask who has the move, and then start suggesting moves. I would not entertain move suggestions until the students could describe certain elements of the position. I wanted them to observe imbalances in the pawn structure, material, and space.

Both players have their rooks on half-open files. Black has a central and kingside pawn majority. White has a queenside majority. Black's king and rooks are prepared for action on the queenside and prevent most White activity there. White might be able to generate some play on the kingside.


My move was designed to restrain White's pawns and make White's bishop an impotent piece. I want to put all or most of my pawns on dark squares.

Stockfish favors 21...Rxd3, which I considered during the game. 22.cxd3 Rc3 Although the engine says this is the clearest winning line, I know that pure rook and pawn endings give the weaker side excellent drawing chances.


I suggested to the students that 22.f4 might be better as it does more to mobilize White's rook and helps restrain Black's central pawn advance.

22.Bxh7 does not help White's cause. 22...f5 attempts to trap the bishop. Play might proceed 23.g4 Rxc2 24.gxf5 Rc1 25.Kf1 Rxe1+ 26.Kxe1 Rc3 27.fxe6+ Kxe6 28.Kd2 Rxb3 29.Bc2 Rh3. I showed the students 22...f5, but not the rest of that line.

22...h6 23.Kf2 Kd6 24.Re2 e5 25.dxe5+ fxe5 26.Ke1 Re8 27.Kd2 Rc7 28.Bb5 Ree7

White to move


This move weakens b3, which Black now decides to go after with his king.

29.Bd3 might be better, as Black plans e5-e4.

29...Rc5 30.Kc3

30.cxd5 Rxd5+ 31.Kc3 Rd4


This move reveals stubborn adherence to a plan without reconsidering after the position has changed. The plan is sufficient, however.

30...d4+ is better.

31.Kd4 b6

I was afraid of dropping the rook on c5. However, 31...exf3 32.Rxe7 Kxe7 33.Kxc5 fxg2 wins easily.


32.f4 improved White's chances to hold on.


32...Rxe4+ is simpler 33.Rxe4 dxe4 34.Kxe4 Rh5 35.h3 Kc5 going after b3.


White might have fought more stubbornly with 33.Ke3 Rf5 34.Rb2 Kc5.

33...Rxe4+ 34.Kxe4 Rg5

White to move

Observe the success of Black's plan to render the bishop impotent. From here, Black's plan is now to gobble some pawns with the king and then exchange rook for bishop to reach an easily winning pawn ending.

35.g3 Kc5 36.Bd7 Kb4 37.Kf4 Kxb3 38.h4

38.Bb5 is met by 38...Rxb5 39.cxb5 Kxa4 with an easy ending.

38...Rc5 39.Be6 Kxa4

Black could have played 39...Rxc4+ 40.Bxc4+ Kxc4 41.g4 b5 42.axb5 Kxb5. However, this line requires a little bit of calculation.

40.g4 Kb4 41.g5 hxg5+ 42.hxg5

Starting position for beginner's lesson.

Black to move

We discussed the rules of pawn promotion and I answered questions like, "What do you use for a second queen?" Then focused the students' attention on the possibilities for creating a pawn race that Black could win easily.


My move is good enough and simple.

42...a4 is best 43.Bf5 a3 44.Bb1 Kb3.

43.Bxc4 Kxc4 44.Kf5 a4 45.Kg6 a3 46.Kxg7 a2 47.Kh7 a1Q 48.g6

Black to move 

Black's extra pawn makes it possible to give up the new queen for White's remaining pawn. Without Black's b-pawn, Black would still be winning in this position, but that is a lesson for another day.

48...b5 0–1

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