Category Archives: Articles

Consolidating a won game

The solution to last Monday’s problem is that White wins most cleanly with 1. Nc2!. The idea is that Rxa2 is met by 2. Qd8+ Qxd8 3. Rxd8+ Kg7 4. Na3

In this week’s problem, White has to find the cleanest method of establishing a won game.

At present, he has two pieces for a Rook, but his Knight is pinned and the Black Rook is active on the seventh rank.

How should White consolidate?

Steven Carr

Mikhail Osipov

At the end of Richmond Junior Club last Saturday I was analysing a game with one of our members. He’s typical of many of the children we see. He knows how to play a good game and wins most of his games at school but lacks the concentration and impulse control needed to avoid blundering every few moves so struggles at higher levels. His father and younger brother arrived to pick him up and settled down to watch the analysis. The young boy sat next to him and started taking some of the pieces off the board, much too his brother’s annoyance. I asked how old he was, and was told that he was three, nearly four. Well, I guess that’s what you’d expect from a three-year-old. I’m not sure that most kids of that age should be allowed anywhere near chess clubs. While they might be able to learn the names of the pieces and how to set the board up, by and large they’d be better off jumping puddles or making mud pies.

So what, then, should we make of three-year-old Mikhail Osipov, who recently appeared on a Russian TV talent show solving chess puzzles and playing against none other than Anatoly Karpov? Some of my Facebook friends considered putting such a young child on television to be bordering on child abuse (‘an obscenity’, according to one prominent chess blogger). Others, by contrast, could hardly contain their excitement at the sight of an amazing new prodigy and future world champion, seemingly having no reservations at all.

My view, as you might guess if you read last week’s column, is somewhere in between the two extremes. Should three-year-olds play chess at all? By and large, no, but I know parents who have successfully taught their three-year-olds to play. The vast majority, though, will, like the young boy I met the other day, be far too young even to master Noughts and Crosses. Should parents expose young children to this sort of publicity? It’s not something I’d do myself if I had children, but then I wouldn’t expose myself to that sort of publicity either. Yes, some child prodigies are spoiled brats with unpleasantly pushy parents, but others, probably the majority in the case of chess, are genuinely talented children whose parents are making sacrifices to help them succeed. As a chess teacher it’s not my business to be judgemental, at least in public, about how parents bring up their children as long as it doesn’t cross the line into child abuse. I have in the past refused to teach children who are clearly being pushed by their parents into doing something they don’t want to do and are not enjoying the lessons.

So what do we know about Misha Osipov? Can he actually play chess or is the whole thing just a fraud or a publicity stunt? No doubt he has an exceptional memory: he had probably memorised the answers to the puzzles and it’s possible the game against Karpov was at least partly staged. Apparently he holds the ‘2nd junior Russian grade’ in chess. I have a rough idea about what ‘2nd grade’ means but perhaps someone could enlighten me about what junior Russian grades are? Are they based on playing or just answering questions and solving puzzles? We’re told he enjoys playing chess online, but who knows whether or not he’s getting any help? He doesn’t seem to have an official rating, although there are several other three-year-olds on the Russian rating list, something I do find extremely disturbing. Even if a very small number of three-year-olds are ready to play a complete game of chess, I’d very much doubt whether they’re ready to take part in competitions.

I’m sorry if you feel I’m being rather indecisive on this, but I think it really depends on context. If you ask me whether Qh4 is a good move for Black that also depends on context. After 1. f3 e5 2. g4 it’s undoubtedly a good move, but after 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 it’s certainly not a good move. These things depend a lot on things like family dynamics, parental aims and cultural ethos. So, although I find it rather concerning in many ways I’d rather wait and see before commenting further. If I hear any significant future developments concerning young Mikhail I’ll keep you in touch.

I’d like to leave you with one last thought. I’ve just invested in a copy of Mozart 225, a collection of 200 CDs including every surviving note of music written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with many of his most important compositions in two contrasting recordings, along with two sumptuously produced hardback books and various other collectible items. If you lose pushy parents and child prodigies you lose Mozart as well as Capablanca. Of course you might also save the lives of, to take just one example, Lena Zavaroni. It’s not an easy ethical question: I guess the only answer, if there is one, is for parents to listen to their children and teachers to listen to their pupils.

Richard James

Hanging Piece Syndrome

One of the bigger problems every single beginner and many “improvers” face early in their chess careers is losing material due to hanging pieces. A hanging piece is one that’s not only unprotected but can be captured en prise or freely, meaning the hanging piece is captured without any loss of material to the player doing the capturing. Unlike an even exchange of material where one piece is exchanged for another piece of equal value, such as a Knight for a Bishop, capturing a hanging piece costs the attacker nothing! You capture the unprotected piece and the piece you used to capture it lives on to fight another battle.

Hanging a piece can have a devastating effect on your game. Of course, if you hang a pawn or minor piece as a beginner playing against another beginner, you may not face an immediate loss and even go on to win the game. However, if you lose your Queen because you brought her out early and left her unprotected, your ability to win will be greatly diminished. The Queen is a piece that most beginners can’t seem to live (or win a game) without (personally, I dislike the Queen).

Of course, the beginning chess player will hang pieces simply due to a lack of playing experience and board vision (the ability to closely examine the entire board/position). Therefore, the beginner shouldn’t be too hard on themselves when they hang a piece. However, they should start working on ways to avoid this problem and the best way to do this is by using training software that has program modules dealing with spotting hanging pieces. Peshka/ChessOK has a software program titled Easy Ways of Taking Pawns and Pieces. It has 5,800 problems that revolving around finding hanging pieces, categorized into groupings based on a specific piece (purchase the hard copy rather than downloading it because some players have had past problems with downloading from their site).

The goal is to find the hanging or undefended piece and capture it. While this program deals with opposition hanging pieces rather than your own hanging pieces, it gets you, the beginner, employing a technique that is critical to chess success, seeing the entire board by using Board Vision. Too often, beginners lose or hang pieces because they’re not looking at the entire board but where the immediate action is (such as the center during the opening). By not scanning the entire board, especially your opponent’s side, you’re apt to miss opposition pieces aimed at your unprotected material. Board vision takes time to develop but working with a software training program will help speed the process up.

When doing the software’s exercises, you’re forced to look at the entire board because often, the piece that’s hanging will be on one side of the board while the piece that can capture it is on the other side. Sometimes, you’ll be given a choice of two identical pieces to capture. You have to look closely because one of those pieces is protected, which means it’s not truly hanging while the other is free for the taking.

Of course, it’s another thing to avoid hanging pieces in an actual game of chess! It becomes more difficult because unlike the software’s problems, which are stagnant and set up, the arrangement your of pawns and pieces (as well as that of the opposition) will change with each move. This means you have have to constantly check the vulnerability of your material before considering making any move. You have to be patient (a lost art in our fast paced, technological world).

The idea of having to check every single pawn and piece on the board (both yours and your opponent’s) before each move seems like an absolutely daunting task to the beginner, which it is. However, with time, the beginner will do this automatically and systematically. You have to get in the habit of doing this which is the hardest hurdle to cross. To simplify this process and make it less maddening to execute, you have to follow some sort of logical, systematic order when examining your opponent’s material for threats.

Start with the pawns. Pawns have the lowest relative value which means they can easily push a piece of greater value back. Look at each opposition pawn and first, make sure it’s not attacking one of your pieces. Then see how many moves it will take for any opposition pawns to reach and attack your pieces. You’ll also want to know what opposition minor pieces will have access to the board if any pawns blocking those pieces in moves forward. In other words, “if my opponent moves the c pawn forward two squares, will a piece originally blocked by that pawn be able to attack one of my pieces.”

Next look at each opposition piece and trace its line of attack across the board, noting any places (squares) where enemy pieces intersect with your pieces. Obviously, if you find one of your pieces can be captured En Prise, you better move that piece or defend it. What happens if the piece being attacked (your piece) is already defended? First, determine the value of the attacking piece and compare it to the value of your piece. If your piece is worth more that the attacking piece, get your piece out of the line of fire! If the value of both pieces is even, you have to consider how the exchange will effect your position. For example, if trading minors with your opponent leads to you having doubled pawn or your opponent being able to launch a nasty attack, you may want to avoid the exchange.

As a beginner, you have to get good at discovering any hanging pieces before your opponent does. Again, there are various software programs and apps for this type of training. The advantage to the above mentioned program is the large number of problems your have to solve. The more you put into it, the better your results. I recommend that my students do the entire program twice. While the program does deal exclusively with opposition hanging pieces, it develops your ability to examine the entire board which means you’ll notice any potentially hanging pieces belonging to you. You’d be surprised at how quickly you start to see everything on the board once you start doing the exercises. You’ll be able to spot any pieces your opponent hangs automatically after putting some effort into it (doing the program’s problems). It should be noted that you should slowly work through the problems and see if you can find a good counter move for the opposition after you make the correct move that solves the puzzle. This will heighten your learning greatly. Here’s a game to enjoy until next week!

Hugh Patterson

The Comeback Trail, Part 3

In my previous article I looked at some broad categories of openings and why it makes sense to select some over others. This time I’ll look at another useful concept for those wanting to come back to the game, a chess version of the Zulu Principle.

The Zulu Principle was first espoused by the British financier and chess sponsor, Jim Slater. After seeing how his wife had acquired an exceptional knowledge of Zulus after reading a Reader’s Digest article on them, he started to apply the same concept to investing. By specializing in particular investments he could know more than almost everyone else about them.

This idea can be applied to chess openings. If you specialize in particular lines that nobody else really bothers with you can become a leading authority on them with relatively little effort. So instead of playing something like the popular Breyer Variation of the Ruy Lopez (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3
O-O 8.c3 d6 9.h3 and now 9…Nb8) why not consider something that nobody else touches? I’ve played 9…Be6 in a few games with pretty decent results and 9…Nd7 is another good move.

Black can also deviate much earlier on, for example with 5…d6 or 4…d6. Very few players pay much attention to these moves because they occur so infrequently, and this in turn gives someone who bucks the trend a Zulu Principle edge in knowledge.

Of course this is not what most players do, they just have to play the most fashionable lines. But with these being so topical there will be far more people who know them and know what to do, not to mention the fact that there’s far more to learn in fashionable lines.

So I think it makes sense to go slightly off the beaten track, but here I’d also like to issue a word of caution. Any openings that one chooses to play should follow sound principles and not just be different for the sake of it. This is partly because well principled openings will cultivate a player’s strategic understanding, especially if clear strategic themes are present. Those which lead to chaotic positions do not have this benefit.

Nigel Davies

Studying Old Games (Part 7)

Moving further back in time here’s a really ancient Ruy Lopez with Wilhelm Steinitz playing Black. Steinitz is generally regarded as being the founder of modern positional play as he codified many positional ideas and techniques that had previously been less formally stated and existed only as rules of thumb of the best players. This clarification enabled Steinitz to stand head and shoulders above his contemporaries and he was World Chess Champion for some 28 years.

In this game Steinitz provides us with a model example of how to use the bishop pair by taking space and depriving his opponent’s minor pieces of useful squares (for example 19…c5). When his pieces are clearly stronger than Black’s he is able to exchange off into a much simpler endgame:

Nigel Davies

Remembering Mark Taimanov

I was very sorry to hear about the recent death of Mark Taimanov, who I met and played several times. Having made it to 90, he was one of the last of the golden era of Soviet Chess players and I thought I’d share some personal reminiscences.

We first played in a tournament in Portugal in 1985. I saw one of his games from an earlier round against Jorges Guimaraes which went 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2 Nge7 7.O-O Nxd4 8.Qxd4 Nc6 9.Qd3 Nb4 after which Guemaraes quickly retreated his queen to d2. I was wondering why White couldn’t play 10.Qg3 after which 10…Nxc2 11.Bg5 f6 12.Bf4 gives White a strong attack for the sacrificed pawn, the tactical point being that 12…Nxa1 loses to 13.Bh5+ g6 14.Bxg6+ hxg6 15.Qxg6+ Ke7 16.e5 d5 17.Qxf6+ Kd7 18.Qxh8 Nc2 19.Qh7+ picking up the knight.

This led me to trying an open Sicilian in our game in this event, but Taimanov cannily sidestepped this with 6…Qc7 instead. When we made a draw I showed him 10.Qg3, which was a bit naive of me because maybe I’d have had another chance to spring it on him. After trying to defend his position he admitted that the situation was most unpleasant for Black and never repeated this line.

Interestingly it was Jim Plaskett who got to play 10.Qg3 in a game against Bill Hartston, and won in brilliant style. We hadn’t prepared it and I hadn’t shown him, Plaskett just found it over the board:

I played in several more tournaments with Taimanov and invited him to the Owen’s Corning tournament in Wrexham in 1997. Despite being 71 at the time he played in great style and took first place. And his game against John Donaldson showed his class, tying White’s rooks down in the endgame and then getting in with his king:

Besides being a great chess player Taimanov was also a concert pianist and he successfully managed to combine his careers in these two arts. I found this clip of him playing alongside his first wife on Youtube:

For those who’d like to know more there’s also a nice interview with Taimanov here. I’d just like to say that he was a real gentleman and it was a privilege to have met him.

Nigel Davies

Baffling Decisions (1)

Article written before game 12 of World Chess Championship from New York.

There is no doubt in my mind the chess World is watching with interest these days the World Chess Championship match from New York. It is of course much easier for North and South Americans given the time zone; still when you hear during the press conference after game 11 that over 200,000 people in Norway are also watching it closely, that is an impressive number! The experience of watching it online (live or afterwards) has improved a lot. Things are more refined, there are lots of sites to choose from, some being for pay and many others for free. On the vast majority of the sites, there is a chat area where people watching it live can interact during the game, as well as more chat areas where top Grand Masters are sharing their thoughts move by move; in the same time people can see engines running in the background and displaying evaluations of each position plus possible continuations.

Chess has been changed decisively by engines in my opinion. The sheer calculation power of any engine today can be overwhelming and in the same time misleading. The regular chat area is an interesting case on itself. There are lots of people who just post everything and anything, literally spamming and disturbing everyone else; in a way I see them like people in the stands at a match of any sort in a stadium: some cheer, others laugh and talk loud, some get drunk and fight, others watch it normally, probably what you would expect from a crowd. Looking at it this way the baffling decision to behave like this by anyone is disappointing. The next group of people is those who think they know a bit of chess and believe seeing the engines evaluations and choices makes them equal to the players involved. What is up with that, eh? Does seeing the evaluation and choices of an engine makes you all of a sudden equal or better than Magnus or Sergey? What’s up with spamming the chat area, repeating with strong conviction the engine choices shown or predicting the score over and over again because the evaluation displayed on your monitor has changed from 50-50 to 58-42 on one side or another? Do you really have any clue what is going on or what those percentages mean? One would expect chess, an intellectual activity for sure, to attract a more refined type of crowd in general. Yes, every Tom, Dick or Harry can learn alone how the pieces move and play online to their level; however just doing that should mean they are different from mindless hooligans who attend a sports event just to get drunk, fight and destroy to satisfy some primary urges. Why behave like that? Is it only because you are not present there live and could hide behind a monitor? Is this also the reason why the use of nicknames and false identities is so spread, IMO the Achile’s heel of this wonderful tool called the internet? I am just shaking my head and do not understand it at all.

For me the chess played by Magnus and Sergey is quite often hard to understand. The first thing coming to mind is the match strategy and closely related to it their opening choices. Have the top players today reached the point where one cannot play but what we see? OK, Kramnik chose the Berlin versus Kasparov and from that point on a lot of others have followed. To me this does a disservice to chess; nobody expects gambits all the time (most of them have been refuted or proven speculative and wrong by the engines anyway), but watching a Berlin defence game or the paint dry is sadly about the same… It is maybe not surprising with such options available to both players, the opening repertoire for the match on both sides is what we see. I never thought I would see Colle-Zukertort used at this high level like in game 8:

Is this all Magnus and his seconds can come up with as match strategy to get an edge on Sergey? It is understandable the World Champion wants to show he can play anything, anytime and against anybody; still to me this choice is baffling. I would venture saying Caissa was not impressed either and as the game went on she favoured Sergey all the way to victory; that opening choice almost ruined the match for Magnus.

It became quite apparent as the match went on, Magnus would try to surprise Sergey and then grind him down. Sergey on his part has shown incedible resilience in defending very difficult positions like in games 3 and 4. I still can’t believe Magnus did not win either one of them. GM Yasser Seirawan has a fantastic analysis of game 3 at Chessbase, while GM Dorian Rogozenko does a similar high level analysis of game 4 in the same place. It is possible those 2 games gave Sergey and his team confidence he can compete head to head with Magnus; in the same time it might have put him in a defensive frame of mind and what is a better display than the famous game 10 decisions by both? I simply could not believe my eyes when I saw live 19.Bxe6!? … (go and read GM Wesley So excellent analysis of it on Chessbase):

Lots has been written about it by players much better than me. All I have to say, the regular player would better stay away from such moves and choose the normal and strong 19.Nd2! … Yes, Magnus won the game in the end; however this is one of the baffling choices he made during the game. Soon after Sergey obliged by not playing 20… Nxf2:

Here it is possible Sergey’s defensive frame of mind did not help. The choice is clearly aggressive, looking bluntly to achieve maximum efficiency by getting a quick draw with 2 games to go and maintaining a 1 point lead. This feels like a glorious moment to take advantage of a huge opportunity. They say your brain wires itself differently based on how you think: you are a positive person, your brain is wired different than if you are a negative one; all you have to do is look back at different moments in your life and possibly you would agree. Sergey looks wired toward defending stubbornly to the last bullet.

What do we learn out of this? First of all even Magnus and Sergey are human. They make baffling decisions like any of us. Secondly both play at a different level than only a few. Judging their play based on engines evaluation and choices is ridiculous and teaches those who do it nothing. Challenge yourselves to behave accordingly and do your best to be open minded toward learning what is happening chesswise in that match. If you have any games and/ or positions you would like me to look at, please do not hesitate to let me know. I will gladly include them in my column for everyone’s benefit. Looking forward to your messages!

Valer Eugen Demian

Defense Wins Games

The solution to last Monday’s problem is that White does best to play 1. Qf3!

If Black swaps queens, the ending is easier for White to win. In the game, White won after 1… Qc1+ 2. Qf1 Qe3+ 3. Bf2 Qxa3 4. Bd4 with a winning attack.

In this week’s problem, White is a piece up, but he is faced with a vicious attack.

What is the best way for White to defend?

Steven Carr

A Nuanced View

I’m sure all politicians, whatever their views, will have a shared frustration that their opinions are frequently misunderstood, misinterpreted and oversimplified, and that others will often claim they hold views which are very different from their actual views.

This is going to happen whenever you put your views on any subject in writing. Those who have genuine knowledge and expertise in a subject will usually have pretty nuanced views, while those with less knowledge and expertise will be more likely to see things in black and white.

Jack and Jake are five years old. They’ve seen a chess set in a shop window and would like to learn the game. Should they do so or not? Jane and Joan, who enjoy playing chess in their school club, have been given entry forms for a junior tournament. Should they take part or not? Tim and Tom are learning some mini-chess games as part of the maths curriculum in their school. Should they play chess at home with their parents or not?

Here are my answers. Jack should learn chess, but Jake shouldn’t. Jane should play in the tournament but Joan shouldn’t. Tim should play with his parents at home, but Tom shouldn’t.

How come?

The reason is very simple. Children are different. Some children have a lot of potential chess ability, most children have a fairly average chess ability. Some children will find chess very difficult at any age. (Most of the latest research from the likes of Robert Plomin suggests that, despite what some might believe, IQ is more down to nature than nurture.) Parents are different as well. Some will be knowledgeable about chess, some won’t. Some will have the time and inclination to help their children, some won’t. Some will want their children to take chess seriously, some won’t. So it all depends. I’ll repeat that in capitals for anyone who doesn’t understand me: IT ALL DEPENDS!!

Jack is a precociously bright and mature boy. His parents are both proficient chess players and will be able to help him a lot at home. He will probably benefit from learning chess now and in a couple of years time he’ll be able to do well in junior tournaments. Jake is an averagely bright boy whose maturity, concentration and self-regulation skills are age-appropriate but no more than that. His parents are not chess players and are too busy to have time to learn the game properly. It would be great for Jake to start by playing some simpler strategy games and perhaps learn chess in a few years time.

Jane, like Jack, has chess playing parents. She has learnt a lot and wins most of her games at school. She’s also mature enough to understand that she’ll probably lose a few games in her first tournament. Joan has not yet reached the same level and she’d struggle against the stronger players she’d meet in a tournament. She really wouldn’t enjoy the experience, so would be well advised to wait a year or so, until she’s had more experience.

Tim’s parents, while not brilliant players, know enough to be able to help him with the basics. It would be really great for Tim to play chess at home. When he can beat them he’ll be able to join a chess club and perhaps have lessons with a private tutor. Tom’s parents think they’re good players, but they set the board up the wrong way round, think rooks are called castles, have never heard of the en passant rule, and start their games with 1. h4 2. Rh3. It might be helpful if they played mini-games with him, but if they tried to play complete games they’d put him off by passing on their own bad habits and misinformation about the game. It would be great if they could buy The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids, or perhaps talk to Tim’s parents. If parents are knowledgeable about chess they should certainly play with their kids, as long as they talk through what’s happening rather than just acting the competitive dad and taking all their pieces without explanation.

I’ll say it again. The right age for a child to learn chess might be anywhere between 3 and 13, or even not at all. It depends on all sorts of things: the child, how much the parents know about chess, how much time they have to help their children, the culture in which the child is being brought up.

My interpretation of educational theory as applied to chess (and if you disagree or interpret educational theory another way please feel free to let me know) is that typically developing children will be able to handle simple abstract logic from the age of about 7, and will be able to handle complex multi-dimensional abstract logic from the age of about 11. Some children will be able to handle both simple and complex logic much earlier, others much later, or not at all.

It seems reasonable to me that primary/elementary school education should be based on the typically developing child, while also providing opportunities for those whose development is advanced and support for those who are lagging behind. Bear in mind also that some children might excel in a particular domain at an early age but make little progress, while others might struggle at an early age but later excel. I excelled academically at an early age but struggled later, while I know a lot of people who struggled in their early years at school but went on to achieve academic success at a high level.

Observe, if you will, the Finnish education system, considered by many to be the best in the world. Children don’t start formal education in the three Rs until the age of 7. As these subjects involve logic this makes perfect sense to me. However, schools provide facilities and opportunities for younger children who wish to do so to read books and do sums. Many children take advantage of this, and will also be learning these subjects at home.

So if you want to put strategy games on a primary school curriculum (and whether or not you should do this is another matter entirely) you should probably be doing so using games requiring simple logic rather than complex logic: mini-chess rather than ‘big chess’. You should also provide facilities for younger children who are ready to play ‘big chess’, either through a school chess club or through working in conjunction with an external junior chess club.

Richard James

The Politics of Chess

Of course, many of you readers are expecting this to be an article regarding infighting within the world of professional chess. However, this assumption is actually farthest from the truth! This article came about thanks to the recent Presidential election here in the United States (or should I say un-united states). How, you may ask, can a political election possibly serve as the inspiration for a chess article? It has to do with the subject of civics, an area of study schools here have deemed unnecessary as a practical course. This has led to a generation that has no idea how Democracy works, let alone how to vote (sadly, many simply choose not to vote and then complain about the state of politics after the election). I decided, rather than taking up the art of violent protesting which serves no real purpose, to introduce my chess students to the world of civics and politics via the game of chess. Here’s the gist of my lessons regarding chess and civics/politics. This lesson is taught to older students only because young children would end up having nightmares and be sent to a therapist due to my harsh approach.

We start the lesson by defining key ideas such as voting, The Electoral College (who are more mysterious that the Free Masons) and diplomacy as well as the role of the President, Congress and the Senate. I ask students questions regarding the above concepts during the lessons to make sure they understand the subject matter. Then the narrative starts:

Chess is a war between two countries. Our two countries both see an opportunity to expand their global control and will do whatever it takes to achieve this goal. Sadly diplomacy has failed and our two countries, Blacklandia and Whitelandia have decided to face off on the battlefield. Both Congress and the Senate have voted for a declaration of war. This is a fight to the death. You are the President of your country and now must face the hard decisions the Commander and Chief deals with during times of war, namely the loss of life. You cannot avoid the loss of life in war so you must try to minimize it. This means that the pawns and pieces (soldiers) you send out onto the field of battle must be carefully deployed to minimize loss. Your fellow countrymen have voted you into office and their fate lies in your hands. Don’t let them down. At this point, we discuss the role of the military during times of war as well as how it effects the economy.

The battle starts when one side strikes the first blow. In the game, members of the Whitelandia army decide to attack first. As with all wars, it’s not the King that goes out onto the battle field but the lowly foot soldier, the pawn. The pawn comes from small towns scattered throughout the country and is at the bottom of the military food chain (and the economic food chain as well). However, just because the pawn is low man on the Totem Pole doesn’t mean he can’t do great things. The history of warfare is littered with exceptionally brave acts and won battles thanks to the pawn. Treat him with care and always have him work with his fellow pawns (pawn chains) and provide support for the more specialized warriors who we’ll meet next. Pawns are the first to walk onto the battlefield so respect their bravery.

As with all military forces, there are specialized units that can greatly effect the outcome of a battle, but only if they’re used correctly. During the early stages of a battle, the opening game, it is crucial that your troops are carefully placed. You job is to corner the enemy King who, at the start of a game, is on a central file. The most direct route to victory is through the center of the board during the opening. Therefore, you should develop your forces towards the four central squares (d4, d5, e4 and e5). You cannot waste time because the other side is trying to achieve the same goal. So who do we deploy? The minor pieces of course!

We don’t want to waste time because the citizens of your country want this war won quickly and with minimal loss of life (pawns and pieces). Thus, you should try to develop a new piece with each move, only launching an attack on the enemy King once you’ve achieved maximum development of your military forces. What happens if you don’t do this? You approval ratings go down and you become an unpopular President. We briefly discuss the Vietnam War and it’s affect on Presidential approval ratings at this point.

Of course, you have to keep your King safe, the King really being you the President because if you’re taken down, the war ends and you lose. Therefore, Castling early is a sound idea. Unlike our political leaders who never actually fight on the battlefield, the King gets his hands dirty in the endgame!

To minimize the loss of life, you don’t want to attempt an early attack against the enemy. If you do and that attack fails, your fellow countrymen will want to know why you behaved in such a risky manner, allowing other countrymen to die. Build up your control of the battlefield, trying to maximize the activity of your forces before attacking. Remember, wars are not won in a single battle. They are won through many smaller battles. In chess, these smaller battles are called tactical plays. A brief discussion of the American Civil War reinforces this point as well as the great cost of life that war causes. Once you’ve developed your forces, only then should you consider striking at the enemy.

This is where your specialized forces come into play. The name of the game here is tactics. If the battlefield is crowded with soldiers from both sides we can can use our Knights to reek havoc because Knights can jump over other pieces. They’re like the Air Force! If the field of battle is wide open we use our long distance artillery, the Bishops and Rooks. We briefly discuss the idea of supply lines, something all armies need to survive, using examples from World War Two. I also interject a dialog about the cost of war and how it effects the National economy. In chess, keeping an open supply line means pawns and pieces supporting one another. If your material is chaotically placed across the board, you forces may end up being captured. This means a loss of life and there go your approval ratings as Commander and Chief!

Only now should you consider bringing in your special forces, the Queen. The Queen is your special ops (operations) force. Unlike a real army in which there are many members of the Special Forces, you only have one Queen, so use her awesome and deadly power wisely. If you don’t, the enemy will use their forces to hunt her down!

Eventually the time to attack comes. Are your pieces aimed at the enemy King? Are your forces deployed to active squares? Are your pieces coordinated and your supply lines open? These are all questions every Commander and Chief asks themselves before launching that final assault needed to win the war. It’s here that you must be patient and careful, often having to make adjustments in your position to ensure success. If everything is in place, it’s time to strike and deliver checkmate!

The game of chess can be used to teach a number of external concepts and is an entertaining way to do so. I teach the above ideas regarding politics over a few classes so that students can really grasp and thoroughly understand the concepts being discussed. Of course, the Electoral College still remains a bit of mystery since people know more about the doings of the Free Masons than the rather mysterious Electoral College. It should be noted that there’s nothing educational about this college. Here’s a game played by two members of the Electoral College to enjoy until next week. Just kidding. Those guys don’t play chess, they mysteriously elect Presidents and leave the rest of us dumbfounded…

Hugh Patterson