Skirmishing : Exercises for the Chess Team II

May 21, 2014, 9:29 AM |

What's interesting about this diagram is that it demonstrates how easily a chess idea, like a tactic, can be shown to the student. When each student is given One Rook, and their kings must begin on e1 and e8, they must decide onto which starting square to place the rook. In any case, whether the rooks are on opposite files (a1 and h8) or the same files (a1 and a8, h1 and h8), the winner will be the first player, meaning it is their turn in this sense. So, with rooks on h1 and h8 the obvious move is to capture with 1. Rxh8+. Moves like 1. 0-0, Rg1, Rf1 are bad in this position, although they are technically sound. All of them prevent the other side from castling. If we place the black rook on  a8 this time we arrive at the same situation. The first to move wins. Black wins easily with 1... Ra1+. White wins easily with 1. Rh8+. While 1... 0-0-0 would be a strong move, it is wrong here. And that is the basic idea behind these random skirmises... I want them to learn to look for the important moves in their games, and not necessarily moves that they 'like' - meaning moves that have worked against other players, but which may not apply to the current game. To my surprise and joy they naturally gravitated to the strongest moves, either looking for a piece to capture or attack the king. Here is one example of a skirmish that they throughly enjoyed. The goal was to get a piece or pawn onto the enemy's back rank. The two sides were WHITE (1 bishop, 1 knight) BLACK (1 bishop, 2 pawns). It was white to move.

The different goals for the skirmishes mimic the needs of a given chess game, how they fluctuate and revolve around both obvious and subtle factors, like piece position, pawn structure, tactics, etc. The idea is to impress upon the students a flexible mind for chess by breaking the game down into smaller parts. The skirmishes are like a crap shoot. Sometimes the draw is too heavily in favor of one player, while others provide for some interesting battles. Still the students enjoy the fast-paced exercise, which is done by placing a single board on a small table with two chairs for the players. The rest of the students observe the game. The winner stays at the board, but must change colors. The next student in line takes the loser's place. And so on. You should see their faces when they hear "rook" or "Queen" called for the side. And the bustle that erupted when I called for "Queen vs. Two Rooks". AAAAHH OOOOOOHHHH.
Let's experiment with another skirmish. Pawn duo vs. Empty fianchetto. The side with the pawn duo has 2 Bishops. The side with the Empty fianchetto has 2 Knights.