A Funny Side of Chess
Chess is a grueling mental battle. Anyone who plays in the official rated tournaments
can attest to that. It is not that unlikely, that when one participates in a weekend Swiss (Friday - Sunday, 5 rounder), he or she can spend 25-30 hours
total at the chessboard.
To play successfully, you also need to put a strong effort during your preparation. Professional chess players spend 6-8 hrs each day. Non-professionals struggle to find the time to study while balancing their work and family obligations.
So basically, as soon as you leave the school, chess stops being a pure fun and becomes a stressful hobby.
|Everyone deals with the stress in their own way. I try my best to incorporate humor and fun in my personal training as well as in my sessions with my students. Even in my books (Chess Exam (2004) and Chess Exam: Tactics (2007)), I have special Take a Break sections, where readers can read some fun stuff.|
Over the last several of weeks, I've gotten several rather funny e-mails from different people - my friend, my
students, my business associate, and a reader of my book.
I'd like to share them with you.
The first one concerns a curious endgame I played on ICC a couple of month ago. I shared it with a couple of my friends and students. Then came e-mail from IM John Donaldson: Dear Igor, I know you work as an accountant (actually it is actuary) and chess coach but didn't realize you moonlighted as a mortician! You put your opponent in a tomb! John
Now, John is an AOL user, and one of the AOL features is that, unless you make an effort, it doesn't preserve the prior e-mail history. It took me a couple of minutes searching through old e-mails to realize that John was referring to that curious endgame. I was laughing very hard. See for yourself:
White to Move
|Lionheart - Lzikon (FM)
ICC, 24.03.2007 (G-3)
I am White in this 3 minute per game shootout. The Nd4 isn't pinned, so, in addition to simply winning the pawn on c6, White has other options. With clocks down to the last 30 seconds I found the following nice variation:
1.Nxe6 Rxd1+ 2.Bxd1 fxe6 3.h4 g5 4.h5 gxf4 5.exf4 Kf7 6.Bf3 c5 7.Bc6 (Diagram on the right.) Black's remaining pieces are permanently stuck in the 6-sqaure box f8-f7-h7-h8. The White K will win the battle on the Q-side. Black resigned a few moves later.
Black to Move
|Another e-mail came from the reader of my book who shared with me his concern about the question from one of the Take a Break sections from my original Chess Exam and Training Guide (2004) (see below left).|
My answer to this obviously humorous
puzzle basically was - Note that there is no requirement stated in the question that White wins, only that he
promotes the pawn into the Queen. Then, of course, White can advance the P on a7 and, with the Black K on b7,
could play Pa8Q+, fulfilling the requirement. While White would be losing the new Queen to Kxa8 with a Draw,
he would be winning the bet.
Apparently, not that easy. Here is what the reader wrote.
Dear Mr. Khmelnitsky
Well, today I found out that one should bet that there is no way to queen the pawn. You propose the solution 1.a7 Ka8, 2. Ka5 Kb7?? 3. a8=Q+ and white wins the bet.
However, there is a nice and
elegant way to stop your plan in its tracks. As soon as you play any first
move, I will RESIGN, and while you will win a drawn position, you will not
be able to queen your
I hope it was just a friendly wager and I thanked L.V. for letting me alert my readers. Be aware!
thereafter, I got a good news from my student J. Scott Burris, who
had a blast at the National Open in Las Vegas. He scored 5.5 / 6 in the Under 1600 section, got a Draw in
a simul with US Champion Alex Shabalov and managed to meet in person the great Victor Korchnoi.
Korchnoi, in the mean time, had a successful National Open too. He scored 5/6 tying for 2nd place behind Nakamura (5.5/6), had nice crowds at his books signing and ... managed to meet J. Scott Burris.
they had a
short conversation along these lines:
SB - Hello Mr. Korchnoi, I scored more points than your
Another student and friend attended the National Open and brought me an autographed copy of Korchnoi's book My Best Games (Olms). Thank you, Joe!
|Photo from J. Scott Burris (right)|
|A student and
was going on vacation with his family to the Dominican republic a couple
of weeks before the
World Open. He set for himself very high goals for this tournament and
was training very hard. Nigel asked my advice
on what chess books to take with him to the all-inclusive paradise. My recommendation
was to lighten up his work before the World Open and just relax and come
back fresh and ready to compete.
I also said that one thing he should consider was to solve some tactical puzzles to keep his mind sharp. A natural choice was my new book Chess Exam and Training Guide Tactics.
|Well, one week later, Nigel was
back looking happy and energetic. He told me it was great. He had a very
relaxing time in the paradise, except … when he read
my book! He said - "It was challenging!"
Here is an example - I am relaxing on the beach, enjoying the sun and the ocean, reading your book and generally doing well with the puzzles. Pretty much all like you recommended.
All of a sudden, when I feel good about my answer to one of your exam questions and expect full 5 points reward, I read - "If you didn't consider 5...Nc3, you loose 3 points!" I swear, I thought you were sitting next to me and we are having one of our training sessions. So I 'told' you - "This is not fair! I am on vacation!", put your book in my bag and went to the ocean.
|Note that Nigel scored a solid (+) score at the World Open, however, below his ambitious personal goal. Perhaps, he bailed out of our 'paradise session' too soon.|
Finally, last week I got a review copy of the new book with the appropriate title for chess humor - "Horse Laffs", written by Ralph J. Tykodi and the late Mr. Chess Humor himself - Eduard Guffeld (Thinkers' Press, Inc., Bob Long publisher)
A wife to her husband, a chess player:
- If you won't take out the garbage at once, I'll steal the King from your chess set.
- Well, are you satisfied with your son-in-law (or use friend,
|In conclusion, I want to share with you a quote from
Milunka Lazarevich's interview with Mikhail Tal in 1960, after winning the FIDE world
championship (This interview was included in the "Horse
Lazarevich: What was the secret of your training methods?
Tal: My trainer (Koblenz) told me a new joke before each game.
I wish you to find your own way to make chess a fun game it always meant to be! Enjoy the game and have a great success!
What do you think about this article? For comments send email or this
More on chess training (serious and enlightening)
Chess Exam and Training Guide (2004) $24.95 + shipping
Chess Exam and Training Guide: Tactics (2007) $19.95 + shipping
CE + CE Tactics (Special) - $39.95 - insured shipping in US is included
|Chess Training Services|
Copyrighted @ 2007 Igor Khmelnitsky. None of the contents can be used without permission!
Clip-art images are from www.Clip-Art.com
For comments or permission to reprint please send inquires via email or this form