Chess Club Updates
My chess kids are doing so well! Most have managed to have perfect attendance - we meet every Tuesday. Their first semester is over and they'll be on winter break soon. We've accomplished creation of three teams, Varsity, Junior Varsity and Practice Squad. This was intended primarily to divide them into manageable groups as well as get everyone on a level playing field. However, I've found that it has begun to drive them to want to play the stronger players.
Today my assistant coach told me that there are some among the Practice Squad who show remarkable chess thinking. For instance, we covered a 17 move "game" in the Caro-Kann, starting with 1. e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6. We were discussing the elements of attack and defense in chess. Seeing as 2... d5 is black's first attacking move, 3... dxe4 the second, and 4... Bf5 the third, they were very keen on grasping the realities of attack and defense. If you think about it, attack and defense are really the same things, although who is recieving the force determines if it is attack or defense. For instance, white's third move 3. Nc3 defends the e4 pawn, while it also attacks the e4 pawn once it becomes a black one. 4... Bf5 attacks the undefended knight and then 5. Ng3 returns the favor. After 5... Bg6 the board is relatively quiet, although the black bishop is technically attacking the c2 pawn.
Some of the players in practice squad would sometimes finish the coach's question before it was finished. "Now why does white play the knight backwards after...?" And one said, "because you were going to lose the knight if you kept it there." True! But, could you defend that knight on e4? Let's take a look.The truth is that, yes, you could defend the knight with various moves.
A) 5. Bd3 Qxd4 drops a pawn.
B) 5. Qd3 places herself in a pin.
C) 5. Qf3 blocks Ng1-f3
D) 5. Qe2 blocks the bishop on f1.
E) 5. f3 seems to provoke moves like ...e5 and others, as white has simultaneously weakened the kingside pawns and blocked f3 from the g1 knight.
Again these moves are possible,although they all seem to have drawbacks. The problems are two-fold - the d-pawn is under pressure by the black queen, and the e4 knight is hanging. These defensive moves either fail one or both of these conditions, so the conclusion is that defense is not an option for that e4 knight.
They understood this and ran with it.
Before today the Junior Varsity had managed to get only 3 draws out of 10 games. Today they got their first victory on Board 4!
The way our system works is this: If a varsity player loses, then they switch to the JV side of that board for the next match. But, before that match can take place a Practice Squad player may challenge the new JV player for the spot. In worst case that losing varsity player will be placed on the practice squad.
If a varsity player draws or wins then there is no change.
If a junior varsity player loses then they are also challenged by a practice squad player. Again a win for JV places them on the Varsity spot of the board they won. A draw retains their place on JV.
Thus the Varsity has gotten their first loss on a board and it is quite possible that next match could see another JV victory.
Still, Varsity won today's match 30-10, as it is customary in Wisconsin scholastic chess to play 40 point matches, 10 for board 1 and down to 6 for board 5. Yet the varsity team has been slowly losing its grip. The first day varsity won 35-5, with a draw on board 1. The second day varsity won 33.5-6.5 with draws on boards 4 and 5. This time Varsity won 30-10 with a JV win on board 4 and a draw on board 5!
Very exciting and already very promising for future games, especially when we set them up with interscholastic matches. I want them to play at least 2 of those matches before the season is over. One away and one at home. Then I plan on having 1 tournament for the club (to be a short 3 round tournament) and then 1 tournament where we invite other schools to ours and be hosts.
Nevertheless they are excited and they seem to learn daily. Perhaps this will demonstrate.
Varsity wins 35 - 5, where JV drew board 1.
Varsity wins 33.5 - 6.5, where JV drew boards 4 and 5.
Varsity wins 30 - 10, where JV won board 4 and drew board 5.
There is a weakness on the lower boards! So in three games the JV has managed to increase their score everytime. Is the Varsity grip slipping? Are the wrong players on varsity? Are there secret tacticians on the practice squad? Yes, there are. One thing I didn't consider while making the three groups was that while JV and Varsity play their matches, the practice squad is slowly building up their tactics, openings and strategies (as basic as they are).
Please comment or question.