Q&A with Coach Heisman Aug 22, 2014

| 4 | Other

When Fabiano Caruano was about 12, he and his father Lou, whom I knew casually, approached the TD booth to ask for a bye in one of the Continental Chess Association's big Philadelphia-based open events.

I was the fill-in TD and, although I knew how to operate the Swiss-Sys software, the lead TD had instructed me not to touch the computer. If anyone had a request, I was told to just write it on a piece of paper. So all I had to do was to write that Fabiano wanted a bye.

There was only one problem. Although I knew exactly who Fabiano was - after all, he had been the top-rated player his age almost every year - I was having a senior moment and could not recall his name so I could record it for the computer TD to later enter the bye! And I did not have the computer to fall-back upon and check the name.

I guess I should have faked it and said "OK" and let them walk away. But, being the diligent TD, I sheepishly admitted, "I know exactly who you are, but at the moment I can't recall your name?!"

Fabiano, being 12, was understandably not happy with the "ignorant" TD. He immediately gave me a look that said in no uncertain terms, "You dolt! How could you not know who I am? I am the top player my age in the US!" Lou was a little more understanding and just quietly said "Fabiano Caruana". At that point I felt about 3 inches tall and today, about a decade later, I have only made it back to about 7. You can see Fabiano's current 2800 rating and fight for World #2 on the Live Rating List. [Note on Sep 2: With Fabiano beating Topalov today, he will be up to 6-0 in the Sinquefield Cup! I guess my choosing to write about Fabiano right before this event was prescient! Smile]

I often suggest "Please do not ask questions on the show that they write entire books about - or at least chapters." It is difficult to give brief 2-minute answers to questions that are that wide.

Nevertheless, I still get quite of few of these "extended" questions. Tonight there were multiple questions about the Exchange Variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined and the resulting minority attack from the "Carlsbad" pawn structure.

I did a brief overview but, of course, couldn't do justice in covering this area in any detail. Therefore let me refer those interested to the acclaimed book (also in Q&A form!) Queen's Gambit Declined by Matthew Sadler - Chapter 7 to be precise. I think you'll find GM Sadler answers these questions better than I could, even if I devoted half the show to it.

"What's the best way to learn X?" (where X is endgames, openings, planning, pawn structure, evaluation...) The answer to most of these questions is the same! Hang out with good players and analyze games and positions with them. Discuss the issues. Let them correct your misconceptions and fill in the missing gaps in your knowledge. Play out positions against them to see what should be done. This was the #1 suggestion in My Top Tips for Chess Improvement. You can also check out the much more extensive A Guide to Chess Improvement book Smile.

"What's the best question you were ever asked on your show?" Why yours, of course Smile.

"When you move a long-range piece (Q,R,B), do you slide it along the path or lift it up and place it on the destination square?"

Must admit, I've never had this question before in any of my radio or TV shows! I think the answer is I almost always lift up my piece and place it on the square. But I do have a teaching concept with K&R vs K where I use what I call the "Slidey Rook" concept:

The next moves after the Slidey rook move are, of course, 1...Kh8 and 2.Rf1#

Program Note: The next show will be in three weeks, on Sept 12. After that we will start a new schedule with "Q&A with Coach Heisman" appearing only on the first Friday of each month. This column will continue after each show.

To replace the second show of the month, I will be starting a new column "Puzzles with a Point" on's The Master's Bulletin. The idea of the column will be to present puzzles that do more than just famialiarize you with a tactical pattern or show a beautiful endgame win. The purpose of the puzzle selected each month would be to illustrate some point about how the game is played, the rules, how player's think, highlights a certain type of error in thinking, etc. Give it a try and see if you find it instructive! Smile

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