Friday, February 27, 2009

Some Days .....

are just not meant for playing chess.

I just finished this blitz game when my opponent ran out of time. A couple of moves before the end, we arrived at this position.

White had just played

1. Rc1

Now what is the quickest path to victory for Black?

I totally didn't see it and played another move instead (D'oh!)

What was it that I missed?

Answers can be found by highlighting between the brackets.

[The killer move was:
1..... Qc3!!
White has no defence as the Queen must be taken else it's mate in 1.
2. Qxc3 bxc3
and now White cannot stop mate in 2 by Black after
3.... Rb8+ and 4.... Ra1#]

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Learning To Swim

Swimming brings back a lot of memories for me.

When I was young (around 12), I was a morbidly obese kid (now, I'm just overweight :) ).

Anyway, my mum thought that it would be great for me to shed off those pounds by learning how to swim at my school. So there I was, enrolled in the beginners section, together with some of my classmates at a swimming club near the coast.

Straight away, I had problems learning how to swim. The thought of dunking my head in water for an extended period of time seemed very unnatural for me and I was frightened. This fear hindered my progress. Soon enough, by the end of 4 months, everyone in my swimming class had learnt how to swim, all except me.

I still don't know how to control my breathing. I looked at my classmates with a great deal of envy. My friends could do it. Why can't I?

The swimming instructor for my class had given up on me and just put me in the baby pool and left me there because I had fallen so behind as compared with my classmates. So he usually asked me to practise on my own instead which naturally got me nowhere.

Self-recriminations started pouring in and soon, I dreaded going to swimming classes. I started to skip a couple of lessons or feign illness when I could. I was miserable.

After a few lessons by myself, one of another group's instructors walked by. He was very puzzled. When he saw me splashing and struggling in water, he realised the problem was not that I was not learning. It was that my mind was subconsciously preventing me from what I wanted to achieve because of my innate fear. As a result, basic swimming techniques like learning how to control breathing, adopt proper strokes became uncoordinated.

The first thing he did was to instil confidence in me. He did this by constantly encouraging me to dunk my head beneath the water level and opening my eyes underwater. The idea was that I should learn to be in total control and not panic. If I know that I had absolute control of when to raise my head above the water level for air and when to lower my head to swim, my fear would disappear quickly and would not be a hindrance anymore.

The first couple of weeks was bad, he chided me when my fear took over but slowly and surely things improved. And my swimming strokes became more regulated and pretty soon, I knew how to swim.

6 months later, I finished my swimming class in that section. I subsequently took part in my school's swimming competition and won 3rd prize in my section. I was delighted and my teacher could not be any more happier.

And what has this to do with chess? Not much.

But what my swimming teacher taught me was that sometimes, all we need is a little confidence in ourselves in order to improve.

PS: And yes, I did manage to lose a lot of weight during that period.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Badly Out Of Form

I lost badly to Rex Simmonds (ACF rating: 1518) in the Norths Club Championships last week and lost the 2 rounds of Rapid at Ryde Eastwood against 1200 opponents on Wednesday.

In between the self-recriminations, I am starting to contemplate taking the foot off the pedal for chess and devote more of my time towards other activities instead.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've actually not been reading any chess material and rustiness has set in so much that I'm having persistent problems with remembering my opening repertoires and endgame knowledge.

This week, I'm facing Gordon Miller (he beat me last year at the Ford Memorial). Unfortunately, having to work weekends meant that I've not studied anything since then and will be totally unprepared.

Oh well. My works finishes at 7pm and I've to high-tailed to the club within the half-hour so that means rushing to grab a bite and finding parking space at the club.

I really need to sit down and reprioritise.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Saving Grace

Now a puzzle of a slightly different nature. I arrived at this position and my opponent is about to thrown in the towel. In a last ditch effort, Black plays

1. ..... Ng3+ (as shown)

Now which way should the White King head for safety?

Should White play

2. Kh2 or Kg1?


Answers can be found by highlighting the brackets.

As an added puzzle, if you ignore the fact that White King is in check - Let's say that the White King is on g1 and it's White to move. Can you find a way to checkmate the Black King?

The worse possible moment you can do in any game is to blunder:
2. Kg1?? Be3+
3. Kh2 Nf1+
4. Kh1 Ng3+ and Black escapes with a perpetual check and it's a draw

The answer is
2. Kh2
Nf1+ (2... Bf4 is impossible because of 3. Qe7#)
and now 3. Kg1 and the White King is safe.

Well done if you spotted that.

For the second part of the puzzle, the very nice little combination arrives after

2. Nc6+ Ke8 (only move)
3. Qb8+ Kd7 (3.. Bc8 4. Qxc8+ Bd8 etc. is an easy mate)
4. Nxe5# (very petite mate)