It’s been a long time, so I really ought to return to my series on Move Two!, a ‘second chess book’ for children which was originally written in 1992, with an updated and corrected edition in 1997.
At present it’s available for free download (there are some mistakes and typos, and it needs a lot more updating) but I hope at some point to do a complete rewrite.
Chapter 13 features what used to be our favourite opening in the Richmond Junior Chess Club morning group: the Danish Gambit. This starts 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Bc4 cxb2 5.Bxb2. Of course Black has ways to avoid this (3.. d5, for example, is fine for Black), but this position is great for young players. I’m a big believer in the idea that children should learn by playing tactical openings before being introduced to more subtle positional play. We start by asking our students to consider this position and ask whether they’d prefer to play White or Black. They will point out the first player’s raking bishops and lead in development and choose to lead the White army. Yes, I admit. White has a lot of advantages. But what advantages does Black have? They look at me blankly. Eventually I ask them to count the pawns and they tell me that Black is two pawns up. I explain that if Black manages to trade off all the pieces he’ll be able to win the ending with his two extra pawns. This will be easily comprehensible to children who are familiar with the SFW (Superior Force (usually) Wins) principle and who have studied pawn endings. This position is a great example of conflicting advantages. White has an advantage in position. Black has an advantage in material. White is trying to attack the black king. He has to act fast, before his adversary has the opportunity to complete his development. Black, meanwhile, has to get his pieces out fast and try to exchange off to reach an ending. Both players need to stick to their plan while calculating accurately. There’s no better opening for teaching attacking and defensive skills in open positions.
We present a short selection of quick white wins in the Danish Gambit, which can be used, like all games in the book, for a ‘find the next move’ lesson suitable either for classes or individuals. We also demonstrate how Black can, if he chooses, defuse the gambit by playing 4..d5.
The Danish Gambit can often lead to quick mating attacks, so the quiz in this chapter features ten more games starting with this and other similar openings in which White forces checkmate. As I wrote last week, checkmate training should be a vital part of every child’s chess education.
The Activities section features a second selection of chess variants: Snooker Chess (queens and bishops can bounce off the side), Cylinder Chess (imagine the board is a cylinder with the a- and h-files connected), Pocket Knight Chess (the players start with an extra knight which they can place on the board instead of making a move) and, not strictly speaking a variant, Blindfold Chess.
Masters of the Universe, the last section of each chapter, you may recall, follows the history of World Championship chess. The previous chapter brought us up to date as of the time of writing with an introduction to Garry Kasparov. Chapter 13 offers a brief history of the Women’s World Championship, starting with Vera Menchik, the first woman to make her mark in international chess, and taking us up to Xie Jun and Zsuzsa (Susan) Polgar in the 1990s.
Here are the two featured games.