Teaching Chess to Children and The Rasik Variation

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Teaching Chess to Children and The Rasik Variation


Ripper asked:

I would like to know what your suggestion is for Black when 1.e4 c5 2.Bc4 is played.

Dear Mr. Ripper,

This is one of those perfectly reasonable moves that every Sicilian player faces at some time or other. The first recorded game with 2.Bc4 was Bowdler - Philidor, London Blindfold Simultaneous 1783. Black responded with 2…e6, which has been the most popular reply, though 2…Nc6 and 2…d6 are also commonly seen.

My favorite response in the database was 2…f6 – no doubt, Black didn’t want his f-pawn to be taken so he moved it to safety. From the inception of 2.Bc4 to the present, 2…f6 was played only once (among thousands of games). That’s one too many.

Since any reasonable move is an adequate response to 2.Bc4, the choice really boils down to the system you usually play in the open Sicilian. Thus, if you answer 2.Nf3 with 2…e6, then 2…e6 is doubly logical – it might lead to positions you feel comfortable in, and it also blocks the Bishop, making it look rather silly and vulnerable on c4! If you’re a Dragon player and love sticking your dark-squared Bishop on g7, then 2…g6 now or later makes sense. And, if you simply want to be flexible (keeping the options of …g6 and …e6 open), then 2…Nc6 can’t be bad.

I feel 2…e6 is certainly the most logical reply. Suddenly Black threatens …d5 (punishing the early development of the Bishop) and White has to do something about this. Higher rated players tend to meet this threat with 3.Qe2, creating a pin along the e-file in case of …d5. The following sequence has been seen quite a few times:

1.e4 c5 2.Bc4 e6 3.Qe2 Nc6 4.c3

Keeping black’s Knight out of d4 and also giving the c4-Bishops a place to hide on c2. Now moves like 4…Be7 and 4…Nge7 are popular, since they block off that e-file pin and renew the idea of …d7-d5. Of course, if you’re a …Bg7 junkie, 4…g6 is beckoning, while 4…a6 also has its supporters.

Let’s look at two games, each featuring a different plan. First up, Black goes for …Bg7:

Y.Krasucki (2048) - R.Leitao (2598), Charleroi 2006

1.e4 c5 2.Bc4 e6 3.Qe2 Nc6 4.c3 g6 5.f4 Bg7 6.Bb3 Nge7 7.d3 d5 8.e5 f6 9.Nf3 fxe5 10.fxe5 O-O 11.Nbd2 Qc7 12.d4 cxd4 13.cxd4 Nf5 14.Qd3 Qb6 15.Nf1 Nfxd4 16.Be3 Nxf3+ 17.gxf3 Nxe5, 0-1. A good example of Black tearing down white’s center, but the enormous rating difference might have had something to do with the rather quick beat-down.


Next, Black plays for a quick …d5:

V.Rasik (2436) - I.Smirin (2664), Gyongyos 2003

1.e4 c5 2.Bc4 e6 3.Qe2 Nc6 4.c3 Be7 5.Bb3 d5 6.d3 Nf6 7.Nf3 O-O 8.O-O b5 9.Bg5 c4 10.dxc4 bxc4 11.Ba4 dxe4 12.Bxc6 exf3 13.Bxf3 Rb8 14.Bf4 Rb5 15.b4 Nd5 16.Bg3 Bf6 17.a4 Rxb4 18.cxb4 Bxa1 19.Qxc4 Bb7 20.Na3 Bc3 21.Rd1 Bxb4 22.Rxd5 Bxd5 23.Qxb4 a5 24.Qd6 Qxd6 25.Bxd6 Rc8 26.Kf1 Bb3 27.Ke2 Bxa4 28.Ke3 Bc6 29.Bxc6 Rxc6 30.Be7 f6 31.Kd4 Rc1 32.h4 Rf1 33.Ke3 Rd1 34.Nc4 a4 35.Nb2 Ra1 36.Nc4 Rb1 37.Kd3 Kf7 38.Ba3 Kg6 39.Bb2 Rxb2, 0-1.



It’s interesting to note that Rasik is perhaps the strongest supporter of 2.Bc4, and he’s played it in many games against very strong opposition. Perhaps we should give the old 2.Bc4 a name? How about “The Rasik Variation”?


Rambaldi23 asked:

I have a question regarding teaching chess. I’m very interested in giving students/beginners private lessons and originally felt it most appropriate to wait until I achieve an expert rating, but I really have the urge to teach now. Right now I’m in the 1700s USCF and my rating is on an upward spiral. I feel I can certainly help beginners/young kids with the basics, develop an opening repertoire, tactics, etc. In addition, I am a public school teacher by day so I have plenty of experience working with kids. My thinking is that once the student achieves a class C rating, the parent can decide if he/she should then study with someone higher rated.  

Do you feel it’s appropriate for me to take on young students/beginners interested in entering tournament chess (or hobbyists), or am I correct that it’s really not appropriate until I’m an expert? I value your input very much. There seems to be conflicting opinions on this.

Dear Rambaldi23,

Conflicting opinions? Well, there are always conflicting opinions among people that don’t have a clue, so try to discount those that couldn’t teach a dog to bark but love to speak, and strong players who love to put themselves on a pedestal.

If you look at the various scholastic programs, you’ll find that the vast majority of teachers are in the 1400 - 1700 range. And, that’s perfect for kids (rating wise).

When you want to teach children, there are a couple things that are far more important than a player’s rating:

* Do you have the patience to teach young children?

* Are you a natural born teacher, able to communicate in a simple, clear, and entertaining fashion?

* Do children feel comfortable around you?

It’s also important to understand one great truth: a high rating (expert, master, or even grandmaster) doesn’t mean a person can successfully share his knowledge. It doesn’t mean he can write. And it doesn’t mean he can teach. Teaching calls for a specific skill-set, and teaching children calls for a skill-set all its own!

I remember a gentleman in the San Francisco Bay Area who was “only” rated 1500, yet he taught chess for years at a junior college (he might still be at it!) and was widely respected as a very, very good teacher. Even players who were considerably higher rated than he was attended his classes. In fact, I attended one of his classes and was very impressed!

So, your thought about having to be an Expert before you teach is simply wrong. Trust me when I say that you already have the goods: experience with children, experience with teaching, and a solid 1700 rating. And lest I forget, it also seems that you have a passion for it – a real desire to share your love of chess with young people. Sounds to me like you’re a natural.

Get out there and teach! And don’t let anyone tell you differently!

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