Category Archives: Children’s Chess

The Davies Family Chess Project

My son Sam turns 14 today so I thought I’d devote today’s post to him and our ‘chess project’, which is a little more than 6 years old. I taught him the moves in March 2010 and he’s now well established in the tournament circuit. His new ECF grade will be around 146-147 (around 1800 Elo) and he’s probably a bit stronger than that already.

There are of course many kids who are ahead of him but I’m very proud of the way Sam is doing. He’s not one of those kids who are brilliant academically and succeed at chess (to a certain level) in passing. Instead it’s been a tough journey with a lot of hard knocks. Yet every time he’s had a setback Sam has bounced back to become a better player, which shows the sort of character and mental toughness that will help him in everything he does.

SamHeywood2016Many people have been curious about his progress and the kind of regimen we follow. From a chess perspective it’s essentially a bespoke version of my Tiger Chess syllabus which has a strong focus on core skills. The main differences with the way most juniors are taught are that he does not waste time on tricky, tactical openings and there are strong strategy and endgame components. He plays regularly in tournaments but never plays in junior events. So almost all his games are against experienced adult players.

He does quite a bit of work on chess but we go for quality over quantity. We probably do around 5-6 hours a week together when he’s got school, 9-10 when he’s on holiday. In addition to this he does an hour or two of tactical work per week on Chessity and goes through some of my Tiger Chess videos in some of his openings. He doesn’t play internet blitz but plays quite a few blitz games against me, almost always in selected openings.

What does the future hold? Well if he keeps up his current work rate he should be in Open tournaments next year and be around IM level in his late teens. Since taking up chess he’s grown in confidence, done a lot better at school and has a lot of friends and acquaintances at tournaments. So I’d say it’s going very well.

Nigel Davies

It’s All About Timing

One difference between beginners and advanced players is their use of time. Advanced players make a point of wasting little time while beginners tend to waste a great deal of time. When I say beginners waste time, I’m not trying to be critical of the chess novice. Part of being a beginner is having to learn the game from the beginning which means learning by trial and error, making mistakes. As the beginner improves, they make fewer mistakes and have fewer problems during their games. One of the problems beginners have has to do with time or tempo.

Tempo is the way in which we measure time in chess. In chess, tempo refers to a single move. You can lose tempo or gain tempo depending on what you do during your turn or move. For example, in the opening game, if you move the same piece over and over again and your opponent develops a new piece with each move, you fall behind in tempo. Sound confusing? Let’s review what you should and shouldn’t do during the opening and see how it effects tempo.

During the opening phase of the game, your job is to control the center with a pawn, develop your minor pieces towards the center of the board, develop a new piece with each move, castle your King to safety and connect your Rooks. That’s what you should do. What you shouldn’t do is make too many pawn moves, bring your Queen out early and move the same piece over and over again. These are the things you should and shouldn’t do. How does this relate to tempo?

We know the name of the game during the opening is control of the board’s center. Since White moves first, it’s like having a free turn so you’re one tempo or ahead of Black. This means, if you’re controlling the Black pieces, that you cannot waste time and have to catch up or at least not loose any further tempo. White shouldn’t waste time either, especially being ahead in tempo from the game’s start! Let’s look at an example of a beginner’s game in which White wastes time or tempo.

White starts off correctly with 1. e4 followed by Black playing 1…e6, signifying The French Defense. When given the chance to place two pawns on central squares, White should always take advantage of this opportunity. However, White chooses instead to play 2. Bc4, which turns out to be a dreadful move after Black plays 2…d5, attacking the Bishop on c4. Since the pawn is worth one point and the Bishop three points, White decides to play 3. exd5, capturing with the unit of least value. Now we see White’s first real loss of tempo after 3…exd5. The Black pawn is protected by his Queen and, because of the difference in material value, White has to move the Bishop employing 4. Bb5+, another bad move. Why is it a bad move? Because Black simply blocks the check with 4…c6, forcing the Bishop to move once more! The White Bishop has moved three times so far. Two of those Bishop moves can be considered a free turn or move for Black. White has lost two tempi, one for each of the additional moves the Bishop made. That means Black is now ahead in tempo. Every bad move leads to a loss of tempo! It gets worse!

After 5. Ba4, Black logically develops the King-side Knight to f6 (5…Nf6). White brings the Queen out early with 6. Qf3. Black counters with 6…Bg4, attacking the White Queen and winning another gain in tempo because the Queen has to move, 7. Qg3. Notice the Knight on f6 protects the Black Bishop attacking the White Queen. Piece coordination is a must! Black’s tempo is growing greatly! White’s last move is proof of why we don’t bring our Queen out early! With 7…Bd6, Blacks gets to develop yet another piece while White’s poor Queen has to run with 8. Qh4. White’s position is getting worse and worse while Black freely develops his forces to active squares. Black’s next move, 8…Qe7+ attacks the White King.

The White King is forced to move to f1 with 9. Kf1 which means his majesty is now stranded, unable to castle. With 9…0-0, Black safely tucks his King away. At this point White is so behind in tempo that recovering from this dreadful position is nothing but a pipe dream! White tries to push Black back with 10. h3, attacking the Bishop, but little can be done to stop Black from winning! Black brings his Rook to e8 with 10…Re8, creating a battering ram aimed down the e file. White’s tries to hold back the attack with 11. f3 and Black responds with 11…Ne4. White thinks, “ah ha, I can trade Queens and reduce the attacking forces with 12. Qxe7. Rather than trade Queens, Black checks the White King with 12…Ng3+ and the White King goes on the run with 13. Ke1. Black now plays 13…Rxe7+, employing good timing in capturing the White Queen, delivering check and setting up the soon to be checkmate! The poor White King shuffles over to d1 with 14. Kd1, running away from the attck and Black plays 14…Nxh1. White again, tries to reduce the number of potential attackers with 15. fxg4 and Black ends White’s suffering with 15…Nf2#!

The problem for White was a great loss of tempo. Each time White had to move the same piece over and over again allowed Black the opportunity to introduce a new piece into the game which led to a swarm of attackers White couldn’t deal with. If you want to avoid being hopelessly behind in tempo, you have think carefully about you moves. White should have played 2. d4 rather than 2. Bc4. White also paid the price in full by bringing the Queen out early. The Queen is an easy mark for minor pieces and sadly, Black was able to develop new minor pieces while pushing the Queen around.

There’s a reason for the opening principles, namely, they work! Had White employed sound principles and avoided what you shouldn’t do during the opening, he might have fared better. Next time you play a game of chess, keep the idea of tempo in mind and use the game’s principles as if your life depended on them. Your chess game certainly does. Here’s a game to enjoy until next week. These guys know their opening principles!

Hugh Patterson

Anti-Trap Teaching

Traps and tricks are extremely popular with junior chess players. The young beginner starts out learning Scholar’s Mate and, as their chess skills improve, so does the complexity of their traps. In a perfect world, I wouldn’t teach a single trap until a student had been working with me for at least a year, ensuring that principled play came before tricky play. However, if I held firm to this notion, my students would fall prey to the plethora of junior players who employ tricks and traps to gain an early advantage in their games. In the world of junior chess, tricks and traps are a reality. This is why I teach my students how to defend against tricks and traps rather than use them exclusively to win games. Here’s some of what I talk about in my anti-trap lecture:

No matter how cunning or complex a trick or trap, it will never stand up to smart principled play. Good, sound play will always put the kibosh on a trick or trap. However, the key to avoiding a trap is to see it coming. If you don’t see it coming, you’re might fall for it. All traps require a set up and that set up costs the player employing it something, be it tempo or the weakening of one’s opening position. Most junior level traps occur during the opening phase which means that while you’re setting up the trap, often making moves that don’t adhere to the opening principles, your opponent is gaining further control of the board’s center (employing opening principles). If your trap fails, you may not be able to recover. Let’s look at these ideas in more detail.

Opening traps are popular with junior players because if they work, they can thrown the opposition into positional disarray, giving the trapper enough of an advantage to win early on. Since most junior’s games are won or lost early on, traps are very popular. However, traps require setting up and setting up a trap often means making moves that go against sound opening principles. Let’s say you want to employ a trap that takes two moves to set up. This means that your opponent gets to make two developmental moves that strengthens his or her control of the board’s center while you make two moves that serve only to set your trap. If your trap fails, you end up with a weak position you may not be able to recover from. Principled play will always trump tricky play. Take Scholar’s Mate, for example.

This is the most popular trick employed by young beginners. It starts with the moves 1. e4…e5. Nothing in the way of tricks or traps up to this point. This is where I start my anti-trap teaching. I ask students what move White should make next. Of course, my more astute students reply “2. Nf3.” This is the type of move you’d expect from a young beginner who employs sound opening principles. I show them the next move actually played, 2. Bc4, and ask them what important square on Black’s side of the board is under fire? The answer is f7. I mention that this square is weak because it is only defended by the Black King. It’s here that our first clue regarding White’s intentions is unveiled. I have my students note that while The Bishop’s Opening is a real, non tricky, opening, there’s something amiss and they need to pay attention to white’s next move (anti-trap teaching). Black plays 2…c6 (Black could have played other stronger moves but we’re just using this as an example). White then plays 3. Qf3. I ask my students what piece should reside on f3 at the start of the game and they answer the King-side Knight. I then ask them how many pieces attack the weak f7 square and they answer two. I ask them, if White had an extra turn, what move would do the greatest damage (such as checkmate) and they answer Qxf7#. So White can deliver checkmate on his or her next turn. How do we stop it while making a solid developing move? My students respond 3…Nf6. We go through some additional examples of Scholar’s Mate from the viewpoint of the defender and discover that Black can repel White’s mating attempt while gaining a better position.

The point here is that my students first learn how to deal with such a premature attack rather than learning the attack itself as a weapon. This does two things. First, it teaches my students how to avoid falling victim to Scholar’s Mate and second, it shows them just how faulty such a mating attempt is (since Black ends up with the better position). This helps to reinforce the idea of using principled play rather than tricks and traps to win games. It should be noted that I am a student of tricks and traps and have nothing against them. However, I don’t employ them unless an opportunity falls into my lap that allows me to execute a trap with no essential damage to my position. Again, when the trick or trap fails, the person attempting to execute the positional chicanery ends up with a weaker position. Principled play should come before all else.

Being able to sniff out a trap is the key to avoiding them. In the case of Scholar’s Mate, the placement of the Queen on f3 instead of the King-side Knight was an important clue and if you want to avoid falling victim to traps, you have to be a good chess detective. This means that every move made by the opposition is a clue that, in the hands of a skilled detective, can spell out an opponent’s intentions. We use opening principles to help decipher our opponent’s moves and the true intentions of those moves. Let’s look at another example, the Costage Trap:

After 1. e4…e5, 2. Nf3…Nc6, 3. Bc4, it appears that we have the start of The Italian Opening or perhaps The Evan’s Gambit, depending on what move Black makes next. Black plays 3…Nd4! Let’s think about one of the things we don’t want to do during the opening, moving the same piece twice. My students know that we try to introduce a new piece with each move we make during the opening. Therefore, using principled play as our guide, a blaring siren should be raging in our skulls when this move is made. Why is black breaking an opening principle? The clueless beginner will see the undefended e5 pawn and think “that’s a hanging pawn I can capture free of charge” and captures it with 4. Nxe5. Then Black springs the trap with 4…Qg5, forking the Knight on e5 and the g2 pawn. White is now in a jam, either losing the Knight on e5 or, worse yet, the pawn on g2 which would lead to White having an un-castled King. General principles tell us never to capture a pawn or piece unless it helps our position. Opening principles tell us that there’s something fishy about Black moving the Queen-side Knight twice during the opening when the Knight in Question is perfectly safe. The game’s principles help provide us clues regarding potential tricks and traps.

I teach my students how to spot and defend against potential tricks and traps rather than how to use tricks and traps to win games. There’s a huge difference in that. My students, by seeing how easily they can defend their position against traps, discover the true weakness of this kind of play. While they know the traps as well as those who try to employ those traps against them, my students know the short comings of such short cutting.

Again, I enjoy tricks and traps and highly recommend Grandmaster Nigel Davies’ Chessbase DVD series Tricks and Traps in the Opening (all three volumes). Nigel covers some very sophisticated tricks and traps that don’t require taking a chance on your position in order to set a trap. Of course, with junior players, the tricks and traps are somewhat crude but there are a few that can give the uninitiated player major headaches. Nigel covers all level and manner of these tricks and traps and, most importantly, teaches you sound ways to deal with them. So the idea here is learning from an anti-trap perspective. Knowing how to deal with tricks and traps, using sound principled play, will take you a lot farther in your chess career than relying solely on tricks and traps to win games. Here’s a game to enjoy until next week. I don’t think you’d want to try Scholar’s Mate on either of these two players!

Hugh Patterson

The Dark Side

Competition is healthy and has fueled great advances in civilization. Competition drives economics. Competition, within reason, can be a healthy motivator that brings out the best in us because we have to work hard when competing. However, it can also bring out the worst in us. There’s a fine line to be walked when it comes to competition and, if you fall over the wrong side of that line, you’ll find yourself on the dark side, a place akin to the Twilight Zone!

I make reference to the landmark television series, the Twilight Zone, because in each episode we were afforded a glimpse into a skewed reality into which the story’s protagonist is haplessly thrown. In my story, we meet a young chess player who’s thrown into the world of competitive junior chess. Our young protagonist starts out as a chipper, charming young man who serves a model of compassion. However, he ends up becoming a victim of the side effects of competition. He truly got to experience the Twilight Zone first hand.

William, that’s what we’ll call our young man, was a former student of mine. He was shy and not one of the more popular kids at his school. He wasn’t athletic but he was extremely bright. However, he looked at being smart as a curse. He wanted what the guys who played on his school’s sports teams had, friends and popularity. He knew how to play chess and knew the school had a chess team which I coached. He came in one afternoon, signed up and fit right in. I was amazed at his ability to quickly pick up the concepts I taught him. William was also a gracious winner and even more gracious when he lost. The one thing I stress above all is good sportsmanship and he had it.

The young don’t know social boundaries and have to learn them the hard way, by trial and error. This means they might jump up and down screaming “Ha, I beat you” after winning a chess game. However, once you point out that this is not the way to embrace victory, they often heed your words and become more gracious. Sometimes, it takes being beaten themselves by a person exhibiting bad sportsmanship to drive home the concept. The point is, they eventually learn. Of course, if they refuse to behave properly, they’re off our team.

William, was a great sport. After several months of training he was off to his first tournament with the team. He won all but one of his games, taking first place and bringing the team to second place overall. Of course, I was happy because I had a team that was strong and worked well together. Then something started to happen.

William slowly started to become more aggressive, being a bit less gracious with each victory. I talked at length with him and his parents about his behavior, explaining that as his rating went up his opponents would become a much stronger. There would be a time when William would face a series of losses against stronger players and have to deal with those losses calmly. The parents felt William had such a strong record of wins and, since he had handled his losses well up to this point, that there wouldn’t be any problems in the near future (despite what I had seen and commented on). As a coach dealing with parents, you can only make a sound argument and hope the parents leave the decision making to you. After all, you’re the professional. Well, the parents let William do as he pleased because he was happy. After a few months, William’s parents decided their son would be better off playing tournaments on his own, “not having to act as sole strong player on our team.” There’s an old saying, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and William’s father, it turns out, was a really bad sport. The parents took William off the team, hired an International Master to train him and entered him in tournaments.

About six months later, I get a call from his new trainer who says “the kid has turned into a bloody little monster.” Of course, I really wanted to say “and how is this my problem” but refrained as that would make me a bad sport. It turned out that William was now so rude to his opponents that Tournament Directors were taking serious notice. I asked his new trainer if he had talked to the parents. He had and reported to me that the father would scream things like “I’m paying you good money to deal with this nonsense.” Somehow, I suspect I got the good end of the deal when I was taken out of the equation. Within months, William had been all but black listed from tournament play. He eventually gave up on chess. William gained personal power through chess but in the end absolute power corrupts absolutely.

I tell this cautionary tale because I see the dark side of competition on a regular basis in the junior chess arena. Again, competition is a good thing within reason. However, some individuals take it to an unhealthy extreme. I’d like to offer some advice for young players and their parents:

To you youngsters: Enjoy winning because it feels good. Your hard work has paid off. However, remember that your victory on the chessboard means your opponent is suffering emotionally from their loss. Losing doesn’t feel good and having to deal with an opponent who rubs victory directly in your face makes matters worse. When winning, think of your opponent’s feeling before your own. Offer them a handshake and thank them for a good game. People remember gracious winners in a far better light than winners who grandstand. Be the better person. Who knows, your opponent might end up becoming a good friend of yours (if you’re a good sport).

For parents: Don’t live vicariously through your child. I see this all the time. Just because you didn’t win the junior state chess championship in your youth doesn’t mean you get a second chance through your child. I’ve seen parents put so much pressure on their children to win that it takes away the love that child has for the game. I’ve also seen parents belittle their children in front of other children because the child’s performance wasn’t up to par. Children have feelings! It’s about enjoying the game.

You, as a parent, should also let your child develop their chess skills naturally. Your son or daughter is not going to be playing like Magnus Carlsen after six months of lessons. You’d be surprised at how many parents have completely unrealistic expectations regarding their children and chess. Here’s an easy one: If your child doesn’t want to take chess lessons, try something else. I have had students who have no interest in chess but attend classes because their parents want them enrolled. Listen to your children and let them pursue what interests them.

Teach them how to win graciously. As I mentioned earlier, children tend to discover social boundaries through trial and error. However, helping them along can make their social journey a lot easier. Remember it’s easier to develop good habits than it is to break bad habits. Teach them to love the game first and foremost. If they behave in an unsportsmanlike manner, explain to them why this isn’t the proper way to act. Ask them how they’d feel had they lost the game.

Lastly parents, how you act at a chess tournament influences your child and how her or she behaves. You are their ultimate role model. I’ve seen parents sink to all time lows in an effort to see their child win a tournament. This behavior ranges from trash talking other children and parents to using subtle hand signals to aid their child while playing which is also known as cheating. Be the better person. Chess should be enjoyed and loved, first and foremost. Speaking of enjoyment, here’s a game to ponder until next week.

Hugh Patterson

Practice Practice Practice

There’s an old joke in which one gentleman asks another gentleman, who just so happens to be carrying a violin case, how to get to Carnegie Hall (a famous New York City concert hall where only the best musicians in the world are invited to play). The gentlemen asking the question is running late and simply wants to get to the venue in time to see the show. The man with the violin case is a musician which explains his response, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Well, practice, practice, practice of course!” While this joke received it’s last dying gasp of laughter in the Catskill Mountain’s Borscht Belt sometime in the late 1950s, it serves as the basis for this week’s article.

If you want to be a serious magician, you have to become an apprentice to a master magician. When the apprenticeship starts, the first thing you’ll ask for is the secret to the one trick performed by the master that inspired you to enter into an apprenticeship with him in the first place. The master might, at some point, tell you the “secret” to the trick you love so much. You’ll then know how the seemingly impossible illusion or trick was executed. Does this mean you’ll be able to instantly perform such an amazing feat of illusion? Absolutely not. Not even close. Why? Because knowing the mechanics behind the illusion doesn’t mean you can successfully perform that illusion. The successful execution of a magician’s illusion requires not only knowing the underlying mechanics of the “trick” but something equally, if not more, important, the ability to execute the illusion in seamless manner. A seamless and perfectly timed illusion takes years of practice to master. So simply knowing how a magic trick is performed isn’t the same as being able to actually perform the trick itself. What separates knowing how to do a trick from performing the trick perfectly? Practice, and a lot of it to the point of near overkill. Right before I became a full time rock and roller I did street magic for tourists here in San Francisco (my skills were certainly passable enough to fill up my hat with tip money but Houdini I wasn’t), so I know a bit about practicing tricks to get them right.

This same idea applies to music as well. I started my musical career training as a classical pianist. You might ask, how I ended up becoming a guitar player in a rock and roll band, worse yet, a punk band? The answer is girls, girls and girls. Guitar players get more girls than piano players (no offense to you pianists out there). My classical training made playing guitar possible because I developed an ear for music, the ability to isolate individual notes when hearing them, meaning I could listen to a song and be able to play it note for note in a short period of time. I would put a record on the turntable, listen to it and pick out each note played by the band’s guitarist and know how to play the song in very short order. Brilliant right? After all, while I can read sheet music, I could bypass that step completely and listen to a recording six or seven times and play it note for note. Brilliant right? Wrong! Sure I could play the individual notes correctly but my playing was still sloppy and didn’t have the same feel as the guitarist playing on the recording. This occurred because I wasn’t skilled enough to make the notes blend into one another seamlessly. Of course, thirty years later, I can listen to a recording and do the same the same thing but with a huge difference. Because I have over thirty years of guitar playing under my belt, I’ve developed advanced skills that allow me to play those notes fluidly. How did this happen? Practice, practice and more practice. All the theory in the world will only take you so far. You can possess a huge body of music theory but unless you put that theory into practice, or playing, you’ll never be any good. Theory and reality are two completely different things. Theory is what you learn from books, reality is that moment when you realize that your books didn’t prepare you for the situation you often find yourself in. What holds true for magic and music also holds true for chess. You can only go so far with theory of any kind.

Of course, we have to study chess theory in order to improve. We have to read and play through chess books, watch instructional DVDs, playing through all the games presented in those DVDs, but none of this does us any good if we’re not applying this new found knowledge to the real world, playing chess against an opponent be it human being or obnoxious computer program that verbally quips at you with in a thick accent. I know plenty of players who are walking encyclopedias of chess theory but when pressed to apply their vast knowledge to an actual game of chess, what they know (memorized) greatly outweighs their ability to successfully apply it to the game! They can give you the moves of a specific chess opening and its numerous variations, but when they face a position in which an out of book move (one not covered in the book they read on that particular opening) is made, they tend to hit a brick wall regarding what to do. They’ve memorized a particular chess opening and its variations but haven’t spent enough time playing that opening against an opponent where non book moves are sometimes made.

Of course, most of us learn an opening by reading a book or by watching a DVD, but you have to physically play that opening for it to be any use to you. This is where “practice, practice, practice” come into play. What I mean by this is simple. Let’s say you learn the mainline of the Ruy Lopez by reading a book on this opening. You play through every example and every game in the book not five but six times. After all this, you have a pretty good idea of the opening’s basics. Prior to reading this book on the Ruy Lopez, you read a book on opening principles and understand the underlying mechanics of sound opening play. Now it’s time to get down to the hard part, applying your new found knowledge to real life play. It’s time for theory to meet reality. Here’s what I suggest as your next step; working out with the computer:

Set your computer’s chess program to a rating level that’s between 1400 and 1700 (for improving players, those who are just above beginners in experience). You don’t want to set the computer’s playing level too low because you’ll be facing opposition moves that are farcical at best. You want the computer to play like a human opponent which they don’t when their skill level is set too low. With the Ruy Lopez, a computer program set at a skill level or rating around 1500 will provide the corresponding moves needed to play this opening. You want to play practice games against your computer to prepare for over the board (OTB) games against real life humans! I suggest playing against the computer, employing the opening of your choice for at least a few months. Just make sure your program is playing at a high enough level to mimic realistic human play (if your computer responds to your 1. e4 with 1…a6, you need to set the program’s skill level a lot higher). Many chess software programs allow you to adjust the program’s playing style through the GUI (see the user manual, that 400 page book collecting dust somewhere in your house) so you can further refine your silicon opponent. Once you’ve played the computer for a few months (you can play for just a week but the longer you play the better), play a few practice games with a human opponent either with the same skill set or a slightly higher skill set. Play with the opening principles to guide you rather than making moves that only correspond to the opening you’re using. This helps deal with those out of book moves you’ll encounter.

Record all your games during this process and review them to check your progress. After you’re comfortable with your opening during these practice games, take your show on the road and play rated games. Practice!

This system (practice) can be used for every phase of the game, from middle game tactics to endgame positions. The point here is simple. You have to take what you learn (theory) and apply it to the real world (playing a game of chess) and to be successful, you have to practice, practice, practice. Here’s a game to enjoy until next week. I bet these gentlemen practiced a great deal early in their chess careers!

Hugh Patterson

Bruce Pandolfini

My last nine articles were about endgame play, specifically positional problems the novice chess player might face and, if they’re properly prepared, easily resolve. Chess is really about logical problem solving, except the problem changes with every move which is why chess is so interesting. Endgame play befuddles the beginner because they tend to have their games end well before an actual endgame starts. When they do reach a proper endgame, their lack of pawn and piece coordination combined with a limited ability to think ahead haunts them like an angry poltergeist!

There are plenty of endgame books and instructional DVDs available for the beginning or improving chess player. Unfortunately, the majority of them go far over the head of the beginner or improver. By this, I mean that they’re written for players who already have a knowledge of basic endgame principles. Since beginners have no real endgame knowledge, the information in such books is of very little use to them until they gain more theoretical (studying) and practical (playing) experience. Luckily for the beginning and improving player, we have Bruce Pandolfini. Let me tell you a little story about how learning chess used to be.

There was time a time, not so long ago (hold on to your seat kids, before the internet), when you learned how to improve at chess by either employing a chess teacher (which none of us could afford) or by getting a hold of chess books. You could try checking chess books out at your local library, but everyone else who couldn’t afford a chess teacher had that same thought, so you’d never find the chess book you were really looking for. This left you having to purchase chess books (books were once printed on actual paper). I would travel to Games of Berkeley ( a two hour bus and train ride from my house) and peruse their huge selection for hours. On a side note, I ended up working in their chess department years later. When looking through the plethora of books, I noticed that most of them were difficult to follow. However, there was one author whose words and descriptions of key ideas were crystal clear. That man’s name was (and still is) Bruce Pandolfini. Everything I learned about chess early on and most of what I teach today comes from Bruce’s books. Anyone who considers me a decent chess teacher has Bruce to thank for that!

Most instructional chess books give you a series of moves followed by a small diagram and more moves. Bruce used a larger diagram and employed a written paragraph containing the moves but with verbalized explanations in between each move which really helped solidify the key concepts being discussed. A series of moves and a diagram, with no explanation as to what’s going on with each move, leaving the beginner to figure it out, simply doesn’t work. Bruce was really the first person to clearly explain positional concepts, move by move, simply using words, something I use in my own teaching and writing! If anything in the last 170 plus articles I’ve written here has made sense to you, you have Bruce to thank for it (not me)!

In my series of endgame articles, I used positions directly from Pandolfini’s Endgame Course because it’s mandatory reading for my older students. Why is it mandatory reading for my students? Because the book clearly explains, using words, a large number of important endgame concepts. Notice, I say “using words?” This is because there’s a lack of verbiage in many chess books. It’s as if everything can be explained to the reader in a handful of moves and a diagram or two. In all fairness, advanced players can gain a great deal of knowledge from such books. However, the poor beginner gets hopelessly lost reading the same books and might just give up on the game, thinking it too complex. I teach chess full time and write this weekly column. I’m not a brilliant chess player. In fact I’m a student of the game and always will be. Thankfully, there’s a writer like Bruce out there. His decades of writing have helped me improve. Of course, there are other authors who use “words” to teach chess, but Bruce was the first to really make things clear, employing analogies from our everyday lives. I guarantee that you’ll not be scratching your head muttering “what the heck is this guy talking about” after reading any of his chess books. More likely, you’ll be crying out “hey I actually understood that!”

Let me say this about teaching chess, brilliant chess players don’t always make for brilliant teachers and brilliant educators don’t always make for brilliant chess teachers. Really good chess teachers need a rare combination of skills. You have to have a fair amount chess knowledge, know how to convey that knowledge (teach) and be a bit of an entertainer. If I had a saving grace it’s that I grew up on a stage in front of an audience. Because of this, I’m very comfortable in front of people but, more importantly, I have learned the art of entertaining an audience. I love chess to the point where I’ll put up with the most droll chess lectures. You know the type, the lectures that are akin to watching paint dry or grass grow! If you’re a teacher and you want people to get into chess, you have to get them excited about the game by being entertaining.

Bruce’s writing has a wit and charm that puts a smile on your face as you read it. He connects with you the reader on a personal level. So, not only do you learn the game by reading his books but are entertained as well. Everything I do as a chess teacher and coach is a direct result of reading his books. He truly is the Dean of American chess teaching. Here’s a little rock and roll tale from my youth:

I had a bunch of musicians over to my loft in the 1980’s for a party. We were all about to embark on tours so we decided to hang out for an evening before going our separate ways. I had a stack of Bruce’s books on my desk and a tournament chess set next to the stack. The musicians hanging out with me were hardcore touring musicians, the type you’d expect to have no interest in chess. As the night progressed into the wee hours of the following morning, I noticed three guys huddled over the chess set with one of Bruce’s books cracked open. I walked up and asked what they were doing. One of them answered that they were having an argument over an aspect of the game. They decided to settle the argument by pawing through one of Bruce’s books. They were so impressed that this man could explain the solution to their problem/argument in such a clear and simple way that they started looking other things up and became engrossed in Bruce’s explanations. While all had learned to play as children, their interest was suddenly renewed. Some thirty years later, all of them play chess while touring and in their spare time, thanks to Bruce. I still play chess with those three as well. Some thirty years ago, Bruce connected with three young men who would go on to become very well know musicians. If you can convert a hardcore rock and roller into a serious chess enthusiast, you know how to connect with your readers.

Bruce also came to my personal aid two years ago. I teach in 10-13 schools a week as well as working with at risk teens in jail by teaching them how to use chess to problem solve and make good decisions in life. Our only form of transportation, the Chessmobile, died and we were stranded. This lack of transportation left us in a dire situation that could have destroyed my chess program. Thanks to a donation from Bruce, we were able to get up and running again. HE saved my program and I am forever in his debt. Bruce is the best of chess people!

If I had to recommend any of Bruce’s books, I’d recommend them all hands down. Like a band that puts out that perfect first album (a CD for you youngsters that have no idea what an album is) in which every single song is brilliant, so is the body of Bruce’s chess writing. Not one bad or mediocre book, period. However, I’ll give you a few titles to consider, starting with Pandolfini’s Endgame Course.

This is the book that served as the inspiration for my last nine articles. It also serves as the instructional program I use for teaching endgame principles to my students. If you’re a beginner, you need to read this book (which contains actual words that make complete sense). If you’re an improving player, read this book!

Pandolfini’s Ultimate Guide to Chess is an excellent text book for the beginner wanting to learn the game from scratch. It uses the Socratic method, employing a dialogue between teacher and student, which is as close as you’ll get to sitting down with a live chess teacher, one that really knows how to teach. It’s like have Bruce at the board with you as you learn.

Chess Opening Traps and Zaps is a must for beginners interested in tricks and traps in the opening phase of the game. While I teach tricks and traps from the viewpoint of the person trying to avoid them, this is a good battlefield manual for beginners wanting to turn the tables on those chess Tricksters and Trapsters you’ll face from time to time (especially in the junior chess arena).

Chess Thinking is an excellent reference book that is really a dictionary of chess terms and concepts. It’s a must for anyone learning the game because it gives you the definition of every term and concept you’ll ever encounter in the world of chess. Again, it has great diagrams and verbal descriptions that clearly explain the ideas discussed. this was the book most heavily pawed through by the musicians mentioned above. Each owns a copy of this book and takes on tour to settle any backstage chess arguments.

Every Move Must Have a Purpose: Strategies from Chess for Business and Life is something I incorporate into my own teaching, life lessons learned on the chessboard. An excellent read, especially for those in the business world. A really fascinating approach to life, business and chess.

Like I said, all of Bruce’s books are brilliant. Read them all and your game will greatly improve. I want to thank you Bruce for all you’ve done for me. I am a chess teacher thanks to you! Here’s a game to enjoy until next week!

Hugh Patterson

Activity Cards

If you’ve ever taught in primary school chess clubs you’ll be aware of the problem – or at least one of the problems.

Two kids finish a game with, say, 10 minutes to go before the end of the session. They don’t have time for another game so they start chatting or interfering with other games which are still in progress. What do you get them to do?

Sometimes I’ll have some puzzle sheets with me. As most of the children in primary school clubs play to a very low standard these will need to be simple one-movers to give them the chance to get some of them right.

I’ve recently invested in a laminator which enables me to produce laminated activity sheets which I can take from school to school. There are lots of possible activity sheets you could produce. I’ve started with checkmate skill sheets, covering the basic checkmates: two rooks, king and queen, king and rook, two bishops and bishop + knight. There are also endgame challenges: these include king and 8 pawns each along with various positions where White has to exploit a material advantage. Then, mainly for less experienced players, there are Capture the Flag games: positions without kings where you win in one of three ways: a) you get a pawn to the end safely (capturing the flag), b) you take all your opponent’s pieces or c) you stalemate your opponent. The positions I use include 8 pawns each, queen against 8 pawns, rook against 5 pawns and bishop against 3 pawns. In each of these activities the players are expected to set the position up and play them out over the board.

Some of the more simple skills here are what children should really be doing before joining a chess club. Others are vital for children wishing to play competitive chess outside their school club.

There’s much else that could be done – and will be done when I get round to it. Simple chess variants, for example losing chess or Scotch chess (White plays 1 move, Black 2 moves, White 3 moves and so on). Simple problems or endgame studies for more advanced players. Puzzles such as the Knight’s Tour and the Eight Officers Puzzle (place eight men on the board so that none of them are on the same rank, file or diagonal). Opening cards with the first few moves of a popular opening variation. Puzzle sheets with several tactics or checkmate puzzles on them (perhaps with the answers on the back).

Already, after only the first week of using these, several children have asked me if they can take one of the cards home. The answer is ‘no’, but I guess I could have non-laminated copies of some of the activities available to hand out. I’ll also, at some point, make them available for download on one of my websites.

There are other ways in which they could be developed. I’m considering putting a difficulty rating on each card (for instance the two rooks checkmate might have a difficulty rating of 1 while the bishop and knight checkmate would be 9 or 10) so that children can find activities appropriate for their level. I could possibly use the back of each card to give further information, and, in the case of some of the endgame challenges, a sample game.

As always, the trick will be to get the parents involved. If children play chess at home with family members they could be doing these activities at home as well as just playing games.

If you’d like copies of what I’ve done so far, or have any ideas about how these cards could be developed further please feel free to contact me via one of my websites or on social media.

Richard James

The Importance of the Endgame Nine

It’s well enough and good to know some basic endgame ideas and concepts. It’s even better to employ them in your games! Beginners often spend hours practicing positions they learn via instructional books and DVDs. They memorize the specific patterns involved in common endgame checkmates and feel confident going into the endgame. Then they get hit with a position in which things get a bit sticky. The mating pattern they’ve mastered suddenly turns into a positional nightmare. They get into a position where they have a pawn one square away from promotion, a Rook and their King against a Rook and King. Piece of cake, right? It might be unless you find yourself in one of those sticky situations!

We’re going to look at one of those sticky situations that tend to throw the beginner’s winning position into the ashcan of defeat. The first point to consider regarding bad positions is the simple idea that you have to slowly and carefully work your way out of them. The beginner tends to see positions in very black and white terms. By this, I mean that beginners look only for big attacks or big advantages. They don’t think in terms of building up small advantages, slowly and methodically. If there’s no big attack to launch they’re at a loss as to what to do. In the endgame, they tend to look for moves that check the opposition King or push his majesty towards the edge or corner of the board. It’s all about the big moves for the beginner. Of course, this occurs because the beginner only knows the most basic of endgame play in which moves are very forcing.

When the beginner finds him or herself in a position in which there are no big moves they tend to try to force big moves which more often than not, leads to the loss of the very material needed to deliver mate. The key to these sticky positions is to play slowly and carefully, trying to gain that small advantage that will turn the tide.

Another point to consider here is the idea that whose turn it is often determines who comes out with the advantage. In chess, we call this Zugzwang. What this means is simple; the player who has to move is put at a disadvantage by having move. Since you can’t pass on making a move in chess, Zugzwang can be very powerful in the endgame! Again, since beginners look for big powerful moves, they don’t understand or appreciate the power of “waiting moves,” those moves that force their opponent into Zugzwang. Let’s take a look at a position that would send the beginning player into the flames of defeat, the positional ashcan, even though they’re up by a pawn and that pawn is one square away from promotion. That’s right, just a single square away from promoting into a Queen.

In the example below, our beginner (playing white) has a pawn on the seventh rank, a Rook and a King against a Rook and a King. It sounds like an easy win but take a look at the position below.

The major problem here is the black Rook on b1. The Rook keeps the white King from moving around the white pawn on a7 and allowing it to promote. The seasoned player will look at this position know exactly what to do. However, the beginner will try all sorts of crazy maneuvers with the h8 Rook, big attack thinking, and fail at all of them. I had roughly 50 beginners play through this position as white and only three of my beginning students found the correct first move. It should be noted that those three students were the students that did extra homework (yes, my chess students do homework regardless of student and parent complaints – I run a dictatorship rather than a democracy) and paid close attention to my lessons. So what is the correct first move? Believe it or not, a “in your face” challenge!

The first move has to be 1. Rb8 which says to black “either trade Rooks, in which case I’ll promote my pawn, or move your Rook.” The key point here is that white will never get King out from behind the a7 pawn unless the Black Rook is moved off of the b1 square. From black’s viewpoint, losing his or her Rook is going to leave them in a losing position, so the Rook moves with 1…Rc1. Why move the black Rook to c1? Black knows that the white King is going to make a run for the b file so he or she wants to keep the Rook close to the action. Moving the black Rook to d1 would allow a dreadful skewer by white (R. d8+). You should always consider your opponent’s best response to your move. If you’re playing the white pieces and you see that the Black Rook has decided to remain in the game rather than trading himself for the white Rook, you have to ask yourself “if I’m going to make a run for the b file with my King, what is black’s best response?”

White plays 2. Kb7, making a break for freedom. You have to play slowly and methodically during sticky endgame positions, always considering your opponent’s best response to your move. What is blacks best response on move two? To check the white King with 2…Rb1+. It’s here that beginners often fumble, returning to the King’s starting square, a8. The correct response is 3. Kc8. While this may seem counter intuitive, we’ll see that there’s a good reason for this move. That reason is that the white King is now out of his pawn’s way and is also protecting his Rook. Black checks with 3…Rc1+. White moves his King in opposition to the black King with 4. Kd8 and black counters with 4…Rh1.

This position must be handled with care because if white plays incorrectly he or she will be the one mated! If black had a free turn, the Rook on h1 would move to h8 and it would be game over. While this might look like a precarious position for white, white has a good response in 5. Rb6+! What makes this move good is that simple fact that it forces the black King off of the sixth rank, ending black’s attempt at mate. Black will move his King to a square that attacks the white Rook with 5…Kc5. What does white do with the Rook? How about serving up a nasty sacrifice that, if black accepts the seemingly free Rook, will lead to an even nastier skewer that wins the black Rook on h1. Take a close look at the next move.

Rather than moving the Rook to a safe square on the sixth rank, white plays 6. Rc6+. The beginner playing black might think the Rook is hanging without protection, free for the taking. However, if black takes the the seemingly free Rook, white promotes the a7 pawn into a Queen on a8, checks the black King (a skewer) and after the black King moves out of check, wins the Rook on h1! This is why black plays 6…Kb5.

White plays 7. Rc8, being keenly aware that black will check with 7…Rh8, which he does. No worries after 8. Kc7 and 8…Rh7+. This check proves to be pointless because white plays 9. Kb8 and the black Rook can’t check the white King. Why? Because it would take two moves to get the Rook to b6 in order to check. It will take white one move to promote the pawn! Black can do nothing to stop white from promoting the a7 pawn except for trading itself for the a7 pawn which would be a losing move.

The key to this type of position is to play with a cool head, slowly and carefully. The winning move here was challenging the black Rook with white’s own Rook, forcing it off the b file. Endgame play is first learned from book and DVD examples. We practice these endgame positions until we know them. However, we must always remember that there will be those sticky endgame positions in which a solution may require slowly working our way through the position. Keep a cool head, play for the small positional advantages and you’ll come out a winner. While it’s necessary to study endgame principles remember this, theory works best in textbooks and doesn’t always pan out in the real world where the rubber meets the road (as my favorite chemistry professor used to say). Here’s a game to enjoy until next week!

Hugh Patterson

Nine Eventful Moves

Here’s a question for all teachers.

When teaching, do you prefer to present your pupils with high level material, expecting them to fill in the gaps for themselves and make rapid improvement? Or do you prefer to present them with material which is at or slightly above their level, to reinforce what they already know and perhaps teach them one new skill.

Most chess teachers seem to prefer the first method, but, especially when working with younger and less experienced players, I prefer the second method. Showing lower level players a master game will, as often as not, leave them confused, giving them information which they are unable to contextualise.

Which is why I spent 30 years collecting games played at Richmond Junior Club, with the intention of producing coaching materials based on what actually happens in kids’ games.

One thing I noticed was how many games are decided by opening tactics, with the same patterns repeated over and over again. This is why I included a lot of opening tactics in my book Move Two!.

Consider this game, played the other day at Richmond Junior Club between two players of about 1000 (Elo) strength.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nf6

Black decided to try out a new opening, the Petroff Defence, but it transpired that he only knew the first two moves. In another game the same afternoon, played between two stronger (about 1500-1600 Elo) players, White tried 1. e4 c5 2. c3 but again only seemed to know the first two moves, being surprised that Black, who had seen the move before and knew what to do, replied 2… d5. He replied with the not very impressive 3. e5, when Black, instead of playing Bf5, leading to what you might consider either an advance French with the queen’s bishop outside the box or an advance Caro-Kann with an extra tempo, chose 3… e6, leading to an advance French which neither player seemed to know very much about. White seemed even more surprised when I explained that 2… d5 should be met by 3. exd5 Qxd5 4. d4.

As an aside, I consider the Petroff to be a reasonable choice for Black at this level as long as you know how to meet the tactics on the e-file. It requires a lot less knowledge of theory than 2… Nc6. The disadvantage is that it can easily lead to rather dull positions.

3. Nxe5 Nxe4

Now it’s clear that Black hadn’t made any attempt to study the Petroff. White, on the other hand, had learnt the Copycat Trap so knew what to do next. In future, Black will prefer the main line: 3… d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4.

4. Qe2

Most kids at this level know this, and when I demonstrated the game to a relatively small group (most of the club were at the UK Chess Challenge Megafinals) the following week, there were only a few who were unaware of what to do.

4… Ng5

Rather surprisingly, Black, a fairly experienced player, was still blind to what was going to happen next. One or two strong players have chosen this line, with 4… Qe7, as a surprise weapon, but as far as I can see Black’s going to be a pawn down with not a lot to show for it.

5. Nc6+

White was very well aware of what she should do next and gleefully pocketed the black queen.

5… Be7
6. Nxd8 Kxd8

White was ahead by a queen for a knight and just had to be careful. Her next move was absolutely fine.

7. d4 Re8

A black rook has appeared menacingly on the e-file, glaring at White’s royal couple. Alarm bells are ringing. Red lights are flashing. What should White do? Most of the audience the following week suggested 8. Be3, which looks extremely sensible to me, blocking the e-file and giving White time to get her king into safety by castling. 8. Nc3, intending to meet a discovered check with Be3, is also excellent. White saw that her queen was in danger and moved it out of the way, oblivious to the fact that the king was now exposed to a fatal double check.

8. Qd3 Bb4+

This time it was Black who knew exactly what to do, recognising the pattern of the familiar ‘Morphy’ rook and bishop mate.

9. Kd1 Re1#

And sadly, White was still a queen up, but a king down. All that in just nine moves.

Here’s what you might learn from this game:

  • If you want to try out a new opening you need to do more than learn the first two moves.
  • If your opponent plays the Petroff, play 3. Nxe5 and hope they fall for the Copycat Trap.
  • If you want to play the Petroff with Black remember to play 3. Nxe5 d6 followed by Nxe4 if the knight retreats (and be ready to play Qe7 in reply to Qe2).
  • Learn about how to place your line pieces (queen, rooks, bishops) in line with more valuable enemy pieces, understanding that if your piece is in the way you can play a discovered attack/check, while if your opponent’s piece is in the way it will be pinned.
  • Learn to understand and recognise (and see coming a long way off) discovered checks.
  • Learn about the idea of using discovered checks to win material (and being aware that the piece making the discovery will be, as long as it’s not next door to the enemy king, be immune from capture).
  • Learn about double checks – “the atom bomb of the chessboard” – and understand that a double check has to be met by a king move.
  • Learn the rook and bishop mating pattern – look at it in different contexts, for example Morphy v Aristocratic Allies.
  • Look at every check you could play – and look at every check your opponent could play in reply to your intended move.

Nine important lessons in just nine eventful moves. Cheap at half the price. And also just the sort of game I’d use for a very low level ‘How Good is Your Chess’ lesson.

Richard James

The Importance Of The Endgame Eight

Do you know when we start our preparation for the endgame? It’s a question I asked my students, both beginners and advanced alike last week. I received a plethora of answers but not one student gave me the answer I was looking for. To their shock, I told them that endgame preparation starts with move one! It may sound absurd, but think about it this way: What we have left on the board going into the endgame is a direct result of our actions during the opening and middle-game.

The opening is truly the foundation for the rest of your game. We position our pawns and pieces on squares that maximize our control of the board, specifically the center. We increase the activity of our material so we can start employing tactics and sound exchanges during the middle-game. Our goal is to enter the endgame with either more material or better placed material than our opponent. Having more material means just that, having a Queen, Rook and King versus a Rook and King. Better placed material means having a well positioned pawn majority and active King versus an equal number of poorly placed pawns and an inactive King.

Beginners have a tendency to not think about the endgame early on, rather playing for fast checkmates via big all or nothing attacks. If they can’t win employing the all or nothing brute force method, they end up with randomly placed pawns and pieces scattered about the board when the endgame arrives. If they’re playing an opponent with greater experience, that opponent will be able to use coordinated material to deliver mate or promote a pawn which will lead to mate. Therefore, we should consider the endgame from the start of the opening! Often in the endgames of the improving player, it’s all about the pawn.

Pawns really are the soul of chess! In the opening they initially control the board’s center. During the middle-game they can defend against opposition attacks. Because they are worth far less than the pieces in terms of relative value, pawns are a great deterrent when it comes to the opposition moving pieces to your side of the board. However, thinking solely in these terms can leave you in a terrible position going into the endgame. You always have to think about pawn structure, which I’ve discussed in earlier articles, every time you move a pawn. More specifically, you have to think about maintaining some pawns for use in the endgame, namely pawns that can work with one another by employing a sound pawn structure. By this (in the most basic of terms), I mean pawns that have fellow pawns on adjacent files to support them. In my chess classes, we start every game with the endgame in mind.

What I have my beginners do it to keep pawn moves to a minimum during the opening. The pawns that should be moved are only those that can control central squares. A beginner might think this means he or she could move the c, d, e and f pawns since each controls a central square. However, before taking on such a position with four pawns remember this, the more pawns you have lined up on the fourth (for white) or fifth (for black) ranks, the harder they’ll be to defend. You’ll have to use pieces to defend them and that limits the piece’s activity or scope. Two pawns should be your maximum in most opening positions. Always think about the endgame with each and every move you make. I teach my students to always connect their pawns which creates pawn chains. Pawn chains help keep your pawns protected and intact for the endgame. Lastly, I have my students always compare pawn majorities on the King-side and Queen-side.

Going into the middle-game, if you have a three to two pawn majority, you having three pawns and your opponent having two, on the Queen-side for example, try to maintain this majority. This can be a huge advantage in the endgame. If you have a passed pawn, one with no opposition pawns on adjacent files, and a Rook doing nothing to contribute to the game, put that rook behind the passed pawn. Always think about a potential endgame situation!

During the middle-game, beginners look for quick tactical strikes that involve pieces. Try punching holes in the opposition’s pawn structure instead, playing with the endgame in mind. If you cripple your opponent’s pawn structure, they’ll have a harder time in the endgame due to scattered and unsupported pawns.

When we castle, we generally have a neat row of pawns in front of our King. Beginners tend not to think of these pawns as valuable targets because they’re protected by the King (in the case of King-side castling). Removing one of those pawns (especially the g and h pawns) leaves the King exposed. Look for ways to break through that wall of pawns exposing the opposition King to attack!

Speaking of the King. Get your King into the endgame and waste no time doing it! Leaving your King dormant for just a move or two during the start of the endgame while your opponent activates his King immediately can lead to disaster. The King is often the best Sheppard for herding pawns to their promotion square. During the opening and middle-game, your King needs to be guarded, but this shouldn’t stop you from looking at your pawn structure as well as your opponent’s pawn structure and envisioning where you’d want your King to be. Always think towards the endgame.

During the middle-game, I have my students look at the board and ask themselves what remaining material will work best in the endgame. If they have a Rook, two Bishops and a Knight, they’ll consider which pieces would deliver mate with the least complications. In this case, the Rook and two Bishops would be the easiest for my students to use so they need to keep those pieces safe. Of course, you always want to try to hang on to most of your material but you have to engage in exchanges when playing chess if you hope to get anywhere. Therefore, use the piece least valuable to your endgame plans for the exchange. On the flip-side, I have students look at the opposition’s material and ask, which of opposition’s material would work best for their opponents to deliver mate. Those pieces then become their targets. Remember, in chess there are always two plans, yours and those of your opponent!

I highly recommend Bruce Pandolfini’s Endgame Course as critical reading for the endgame beginner. I use it as the core of my endgame training for beginners. The examples are clear and concise and the book covers all those “problem” endgame positions that crop up. Too often, the beginner with a bit of endgame knowledge will be derailed because he or she faces one of those “problem” positions. Bruce’s excellent text will keep you from getting caught in an awkward positional situation. I’ll be covering s few seemingly complicated Rook and pawn endgame positions in my next and last series of endgame articles. Until then, here’s a game to enjoy until next week!

Hugh Patterson