Sunday, October 7, 2012

My Chess Class at Caldwell College

Here are recaps of my Saturday morning chess class, conducted by Columbia Academy, at Caldwell College.

In the September 22nd class, I explained how each piece moves and gave the value of each piece. A pawn is worth 1, a knight 3, a bishop 3 and a quarter, a rook 5, and a queen 9. The king is priceless. Those are the piece values at the start of the game. Your goal, as the game develops, is to increase the value of your own pieces, while at the same time decreasing the value of your opponent's pieces. The name for this process is positional chess. I also discussed tactics and strategy. Tactics are the weapons that you use to carry out your strategy. Planning ahead is strategy. On the demonstration board, I showed two games: the first by Paul Morphy as Black, illustrating tactics; the second by Bobby Fischer as White, illustrating strategy. 

In the September 29th class, I taught the King's Indian Attack for White and the King's Indian Defense for Black. At the demonstration board, I showed a game won by Bobby Fischer, using the King's Indian Attack and finishing with a brilliant queen sacrifice. Next Saturday, I will start teaching how to play the middlegame, now that students know how to make it past the opening without any disadvantage. If chess is a war game, then the middlegame is when the fighting takes place, usually near the center of the board. To play the middlegame successfully, a player must combine tactics with strategy. I will give examples of tactics involving pins, forks, double attacks, discovered checks, and more. In a future class, I will focus on strategic planning in the middlegame. 

The topic for the October 6th class was tactics, which are the weapons that you use to carry out your strategy. These include pins, forks, skewers, double attacks, and discovered checks. At the demonstration board, I showed a combination by Mikhail Tal involving three different tactics: double attack by the queen, pin by the rook, and fork by the knight. I pointed out how Tal's pieces cooperated with each other in this winning combination. Piece coordination is important in chess. In the next class, I will focus on strategy, which is planning for the future. Garry Kasparov and Magnus Carlsen can see as many as 15 moves ahead! For most chess players, 5 moves ahead is normal, as you aim for positions from which tactics flow naturally.