Teaching Chess

Imagine yourself sitting behind the white pieces as your student begins showing a recently played game for review. He calls out, “e4” and you move the pawn in front of the King two squares. He then moves the pawn in front of his King one square, known as the French defense. You then move the pawn in front of your Queen two squares to the d4 square as he nods before doing the same with his d-pawn. You wait, because there are several alternatives here, until he says, “Nd2.” This makes it the Tarrasch variation in plain English, called that because Sigbert preferred it.

In ECO language it is the C03 French, Tarrasch variation. You make the move on the board and your student moves the pawn in front of the King’s Rook, one square.

What happens next depends entirely on the student, and past experience. For example, say the person who just pushed his Rook pawn to h6 was someone you have known for decades, with the moniker Mulfish. You may ask, “What the hell kinda move is that?!”

Or maybe it’s the recalcitrant middle school kid from Garry Kasparov’s hometown who has to be home schooled after pulling the fire alarm in school, who is only sitting at the board because he is being home schooled and must be here, like it or not. You look at his glazed eyes and say, “Figures,” as he takes another breath while disinterestedly continuing to stare out the window.

But if your student is a young child, boy or girl, you must be more circumspect, and say something as sweetly as possible under the circumstances, like, “Why did you play that move?” Tears may still well up in their little eyes even though you have been as sweet as pie, and they may even begin to cry…If the student is a young boy you can channel your former football coach and shout, “Suck it up, buttercup!” But if it is a girl you know there is absolutely nothing you can say, so you remain silent while wondering how the path of life led you to where you are at this moment in time…

Now if the student happens to be an adult, say about thirty years of age, give or take, and an attorney at a prominent law firm, it would be possible to inquire as to why he made that particular move. And if he said, “To prevent his Bishop from coming to g5.” You could FLARE UP and scream, “But the Knight that just moved to d2 is blocking the Bishop from moving, you IDIOT!” But then you realize that is not possible because the reason the lawyer is sitting across from you instead of another teacher is because a former coach FLARED UP on the poor guy and asked you to give this lesson, and you could use the money, if for nothing else, some alcoholic beverage(s) after the lesson to ease the pain of teaching…Then you reflect on a former adult student who was attending college when bitten by the Chess bug, as was yours truly, who, when seeing him again a decade later and asking why he had stopped playing Chess, answered bitterly, “I lost my wife; I lost my life; all to become a class ‘B’ player!” And you wished you had not asked the question…Then you think about his wife, one of the loveliest women your eyes have ever seen, who became a stewardess…and you know this because she told you when you ran into her a few years later. In addition, after asking about your former student, she told you about the divorce, while also sweetly saying, “I’m not seeing anyone,” and you remember thinking, “THANK YOU, GOD!” even though you’re agnostic…
Then the current student adds, “World Champion Magnus Carlsen plays the move,” which immediately brings you back to reality and you say, “Well now, Bunky, at least you had a reason.”

What? You thought teaching Chess was easy?

What prompted this was a recent game from round five of the First Saturday June IM 2021, between Koppany Geher (2291) and Adam Szeberenyi (2373).

  1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 h6 (The CBDB shows this having been played in 495 games. 365Chess shows 353 games. The CBDB shows these moves having been played more often: 3…c5 (12883); Nf6 (11743); dxe4; (3099) Be7; (4461) Nc6; (2719) a6 (1998). 356Chess even shows 3…b6 having been played more frequently than 3…h6. There is a reason.) 4. Ngf3 Nf6 5. e5 (SF 040021 at depth 35 plays this, but SF 13 @depth 40 plays 5 Bd3) 5…Nfd7 6. c4 (SF 13 @D54 plays 6 Bd3, but SF 051020 @D56 would play 6 Be2, which has only been attempted in 3 games. SF 13 @D48 shows 6 c3, which has been played in 11 games) 6…c5 (Komodo plays this move but SF prefers 6…dxc4) 7. Bd3 (SF plays 7 cxd5) 7…dxc4 (Komodo would play 7…Nc6, a TN) 8. Nxc4 cxd4 (Although one Komodo program plays the game move, another, and Stockfish, would play 8…Nc6) 9. O-O Nc6 10. Be4 (SF & Houdini play 10 Bf4) 10…Nc5 SF & Komodo both play 10…Nb6) 11. Bxc6+ bxc6 12. Qxd4 Qxd4 13. Nxd4 Ba6 14. b3 Rc8 15. Rd1 Bxc4 16. bxc4 Nd7 17. Bf4 g5 18. Bg3 Bg7 19. Re1 O-O 20. h3 Rfd8 21. Nb3 Nf8 22. Rad1 Ng6 23. Rd6 Bf8 24. Rd4 Rxd4 25. Nxd4 Bg7 26. Kf1 a6 27. Re4 Ne7 28. Bh2 Rb8 29. Nb3 Rb4 30. Nc5 a5 31. a3 Rb1+ 32. Re1 Rb2 33. Re2 Rb1+ 34. Re1 Rb2 35. Re2 Rb8 36. Re3 Ng6 37. Nd7 Rb1+ 38. Ke2 Rc1 39. c5 h5 40. g4 h4 41. Kf3 Nf8 42. Nf6+ Bxf6 43. exf6 Nd7 44. Bd6 Nxf6 45. Rb3 Nd7 46. Rb7 Nxc5 47. Ra7 Rc3+ 48. Ke2 f6 49. Be7 Ne4 50. f3 Ng3+ 51. Kf2 Rc2+ 52. Kg1 Kf7 53. Bd6+ Kg6 54. Rxa5 Ne2+ 55. Kf1 Nd4 56. Rc5 Rd2 57. f4 gxf4 58. Bxf4 Rd3 59. Bc1 Nb3 0-1

Melkumyan, Hrant (2633) vs Carlsen, Magnus (2840)
Event: World Blitz 2016
Site: Doha QAT Date: 12/29/2016
Round: 6.1
ECO: C03 French, Tarrasch

1.d4 e6 2.e4 d5 3.Nd2 h6 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.O-O cxd4 8.cxd4 dxe4 9.Nxe4 Be7 10.Re1 O-O 11.Be3 Nd5 12.a3 b6 13.Rc1 Bb7 14.Bb1 Rc8 15.Qd3 f5 16.Nc3 Bf6 17.Ba2 Nce7 18.Bd2 Qd7 19.Ne5 Bxe5 20.Rxe5 Rf6 21.Rce1 Ng6 22.Nxd5 Bxd5 23.Bxd5 Nxe5 24.dxe5 Rf7 25.Bc4 Rxc4 26.Qxc4 Qxd2 27.Rf1 Re7 28.b4 Kf7 29.g3 Rd7 30.Rc1 Qb2 31.Qc6 Re7 32.Qc3 Qe2 33.Re1 Qb5 34.Rd1 Qe2 35.Re1 Qa2 36.Rd1 Qe2 37.Re1 Qh5 38.Qc6 Qg4 39.Kg2 Qd4 40.Re3 Rd7 41.h4 Ke7 42.Qf3 Rc7 43.Qh5 Qd5+ 44.Qf3 Qd4 45.Qa8 Kf7 46.Qf3 Rc2 47.Qh5+ Kf8 48.Qf3 Kg8 49.Re2 Rc3 50.Re3 Rxe3 51.Qxe3 Qxe3 52.fxe3 Kf7 53.Kf3 Kg6 54.e4 fxe4+ 55.Kxe4 Kh5 56.Kf3 b5 57.Kf4 g6 58.Kf3 g5 59.hxg5 hxg5 60.Kf2 Kg4 61.Kg2 Kf5 0-1

Adams, Michael (2734) vs Short, Nigel D (2698)
Event: 3rd London Chess Classic
Site: London ENG Date: 12/06/2011
Round: 4
ECO: C03 French, Tarrasch

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 h6 4.Bd3 c5 5.dxc5 Bxc5 6.Ngf3 Nc6 7.O-O Nge7 8.Qe2 O-O 9.Nb3 Bb6 10.c3 dxe4 11.Qxe4 Ng6 12.Bc4 Kh8 13.Qc2 Nce5 14.Nxe5 Nxe5 15.Be2 Qh4 16.g3 Qh3 17.Be3 Bxe3 18.fxe3 Ng4 19.Bxg4 Qxg4 20.Rad1 f6 21.Nd4 e5 22.Nf5 Be6 23.e4 Rfd8 24.Ne3 Qg6 25.Kg2 b5 26.b3 a5 27.c4 bxc4 28.bxc4 Qh5 29.h4 Bd7 30.Rf2 Bc6 31.Nd5 Rab8 32.Qe2 Qg6 33.Qf3 Rd7 34.Kh2 Rdb7 35.Rdd2 a4 36.Qe3 Bd7 37.Qf3 Bg4 38.Qe3 Be6 39.Qf3 Rb1 40.Ne3 Rc1 41.Rd6 Qf7 42.Rfd2 Rbb1 43.g4 Kh7 44.h5 Rc3 45.Kg2 Rxe3 46.Qxe3 Bxg4 47.Rb6 Ra1 48.Qc3 Re1 49.Rf2 Rxe4 50.c5 Bxh5 51.Rb4 Bg6 52.Kh2 Qe6 53.Rg2 Bf5 54.Rb7 Bg4 55.Rf2 f5 56.Rb4 Rxb4 57.Qxb4 e4 58.Qd4 e3 59.Rf1 Qxa2+ 60.Kg3 Qe2 61.Qf4 Qd2 62.Qe5 e2 63.Rg1 h5 64.c6 f4+ 65.Kh4 Qd8+ 66.Qg5 Qxg5+ 67.Kxg5 f3 68.c7 f2 69.Rxg4 f1=Q 70.c8=Q Qf6+ 71.Kxh5 Qh6# 0-1

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