Skirmishing III - A Two Hour Tour

May 26, 2014, 8:08 AM |

This week when my students come back from break they will enjoy a nice round of skirmishing. As practice lasts two hours, they will be skirmishing for two hours. However, it will be a little different this time. In previous sessions there were multiple goals involved (first to get the king to the sweet center, or core... first to get a piece to the enemy's back rank, and so on). This time I believe it's a better idea to just have them 'play it out'. Seeing as they have been improving beyond my expectations, I feel it's time to let them fly. 

For the purposes of the skirmishing I changed the piece's values slightly to benefit the students. As they are still beginners I want them to get used to the pressure that often comes with difficult games. Whether the opponent plays a venemous gambit in the opening, performs a combination in the middle game, or plays 'tricky' moves in the endgame, I want these students to be able to handle pressure and think clearly. Thus I came up with the following piece value scale and rules for skirmishing. Think of the popular boardgame Battleship mixed with a crap shoot. We experienced chess players know all about playing losing positions, and we often play BETTER when we are lost, as we throw hope out the window and summon all our chess abilities to fight back.

Traditional Piece Value Scale

Queen = 9, King = 3.5, Rook = 5, Bishop = 3.5, Knight = 3, Pawn = 1

Skirmishing Piece Value Scale

Queen = 10, King = 4, Rook = 5, Bishop = 3, Knight = 2, Pawn = 1

The rules are now simpler and more appealing. 

1) Each student will draw a number from the bag, and each number corresponds to a different 'set' of pieces. For example, #14 may be Two Rooks and One Pawn, and #27 may be Two Knights and Two Bishops. The values go 11 and 10 respectively, close enough. 

2) When opponents have selected their sets, a large piece of cardboard will separate the two territories of the board so that they may place the pieces as they wish. Then once the pieces are set I will reveal the board to both players. If there exists some problem like both kings in check, or pawns on 1st rank, or what have you, we will have to reorder the pieces again. 

3) The player who chooses their number first will move second. Winner will keep his seat at the board, but will switch colors so that the next opponent has a fair shot. And thus the winner will choose his set first. 

4) The goal is to deliver checkmate or win by resignation.

As they do not like to resign, which I praise, this means that most games will be drawn out, as they still require checkmating practice.

Here is an example of what could happen. Let's say the match-up is One Rook and One Knight vs. Two Bishops and One Pawn.

So the rules are very straight forward and they allow for the fairest version of this skirmishing exercise. Neither side is allowed to place their pieces in the enemie's territory and the way the players rotate ensures the activity involves everyone. In this particular draw of the pieces White looks better. Black placed his king a little to the side, as White's King sits nicely in the center. The white knight is ready to fork the black king and bishop, winning a pawn. The white rook is also poised to pin the bishop via Rh1-h6. It also appears that Black has a chance to skewer a white piece, with the move Bd7-c6+, and after a move like Nd5+ for white, the game gets tough for Black. 

I hope that you can use these ideas with your chess students or even your friends and teammates. It's a wonderful way to sharpen skills, create tactics and learn chess. What do you think?