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Nicholas Vettese

Player Profile: Nicholas Vettese (1956)

Nicholas Vettese

Dangerously close to an Expert rating (2000), Nicholas Vettese’s current CFC rating of 1956 makes him the top-rated player on the Canadian Under-10 list.

The great leap forward

Last July, Nicholas was rated only 1524 when he earned a modest 17th place at the 2013 Canadian Youth Chess Championship Under-10 in Ottawa. Since then, while some of his cohort appeared in newspaper articles as they prepared for the World Youth Chess Championship at the end of the year, he kept a relatively low profile, playing at local chess clubs and weekend tournaments – mostly in Toronto, but also in Aurora, Guelph, and Campbellville.

I like to play really sharp positions because there are a lot of options for me.

He didn’t win any big prizes playing in and around Toronto, but he racked up a lot of games. Over the whole year, he’s logged an impressive total of 165 rated games, and his rating has shot up over 700 points – from under 1200 at the beginning of January to over 1900 at the end of December.

With a rating gain of over 400 points since the CYCC in July, by December Nicholas had surpassed the players who were representing Canada in his age category at the WYCC – only two of whom broke into the top 50 at the event.

Canada’s 2013 WYCC Under-10 Open Team
Rohan Talukdar (placed 38th) 1678
Luke Pulfer (placed 46th) 1651
Thomas Guo 1688
Benito Surya 1570
Kai Richardson 1740
Adam Gaisinsky 1371
Ethan Low 1597
David Makarczyk 859
Henry Zhang 1319
Shawn Rodrigue-Lemieux 1550

Moreover, many of these players have now graduated to Under-12, where they’re competing with the likes of Sergey Noritsyn – rated 2127. Nicholas, who’s just turning 10 this year, still has another, “senior” year in U-10.

Chess whiz kids

His success this past year can be measured against players in his age group, but Nicholas plays a lot of games against players older than himself at Annex Chess Club, at Scarborough Chess Club, and in weekend tournaments. But he says it’s not a big deal to beat adults and older youths at chess because he doesn’t pay attention to the age of his opponent: “I don’t really think about beating adults and older kids. Almost every game I win, it’s the same to me.”

He’s not surprised, either, that young players like himself are better at chess than many adults. “I think it’s easier for kids to learn most things,” he says. “They are quicker and have better memories.”

I started playing CFC tournaments when I was eight.

Nicholas’ favourite players are Fischer and Carlsen: both were prodigies when they were young. American legend Bobby Fischer (the World Champion from 1972) won the US Championship at age 14 and became a grandmaster at age 15, setting a youngest-grandmaster record that stood for over 30 years – from 1958 to 1991. When it was finally broken by Judit Polgár, she was just one month younger than Fischer.

Norwegian Magnus Carlsen (Nicholas’ other favourite player) was 22 when he became World Champion last November, the second youngest Champion ever after Garry Kasparov. And he was just 13 when he became a GM, the then second youngest GM ever after Sergey Karjakin. Karjakin’s record – he was only 12 when he earned his title in 2002 – still stands today.

Fischer and Carlsen
a young Fischer and a young Carlsen

Nicholas’ attraction to Fischer and Carlsen is not just that they were World Champions and child prodigies; he likes the way they play. He likes Carlsen because he squeezes wins out of draw-like positions, and he likes Fischer because his positions are often unusual and unexpected .

Coaching and training

If kids are becoming stronger and stronger at younger and younger ages, what’s their secret? What does a young chess player like Nicholas do to train? People talk about the role of computers in chess, but Nicholas doesn’t seem to use computers very much. “I don’t know what a chess engine is,” he says.

One thing he does for sure is to play a lot. Besides the two nights a week he spends on the Toronto club scene – at Annex on Mondays and at Scarborough on Thursdays – he puts in about ten hours a week playing online on chess.com. And apart from that? “I read a little bit,” he says. “I don’t really do any other training.”

He does meet with a chess coach – Saša Kulić – once a week. Kulić lives in Toronto, but he’s originally from Sarajevo “where video games didn’t exist,” as he states on his chess teacher website. He says he tries to instill in his students not only a strong understanding of chess, but also an appreciation for “the beauty of the game.” And it’s Kulić who gave Nicholas his book on Bobby Fischer – Garry Kasparov on Fischer: My Great Predecessors, Part 4.

Kasparov on Fischer

From his teacher’s point of view, the secret to Nicholas’ success is that he is so passionate about the game. “He’s thinking about chess when he doesn’t seem to be working on it,” Kulić says. “And he’s not pushed or told to do it. He works on it when he wants to, and uses his own creativity.”

First moves in chess

We’ve had some great chess imports in Canada, but Nicholas is a home-grown Canadian chess talent. He started playing when he was six – through a Chess ’n Math lunch programme at his school – and he took to it immediately. “I liked chess right away after my mom signed me up for the lessons at school,” he says. “And I started playing CFC tournaments when I was eight.”

If Nicholas’ meteoric rise to the top of his age group, nationally, has happened somewhat “under the radar,” he’s still managed to pick up a trophy or two along the way. In our interview, Nicholas neglected to mention any chess accomplishments, but his mom is proud to point out that he won the 2013 CMA Ontario Chess Challenge for Grade 3 and, representing Ontario, went on to become Grade 3 Champion at the 2013 Canadian Chess Challenge in Ottawa last May – tying for first in the regular rounds and winning the playoffs.

Nicholas Vettese Canadian Chess Challenge 2013

Nicholas feels most confident in the opening and the endgame, but playing complex tactical middle-game positions is what he likes most about chess: “I like to play really sharp positions,” he says, “because there are a lot of options for me – and I also like a nice tactic that wins the game.”

I think it’s easier for kids to learn most things. They are quicker and have better memories.

Nicholas is more than just a chess superstar; he is also a well-rounded kid. He doesn’t just play chess, but also skis and hikes, plays basketball, and plays computer games. In fact, many of his friends at school don’t even know how good he is at chess. “I don’t know if they know that I play chess.” Chess is an important skill for kids to learn, Nicholas says, and he agrees it would be a good idea for chess to be a mandatory subject in school. “I think chess skills help me with math.”

What does the future hold?

As a short-term chess goal, Nicholas is currently working on a rather obscure but sometimes necessary ending skill: “I would like to remember the bishop, knight and king against king mate,” he says. An example of the piece coordination required for checkmate is shown below:

I think chess skills help me with math.

Will he rise to the top of Canadian chess in the next ten or fifteen years? One thing’s for sure. He’s a strong up-and-coming player at Annex Chess Club, and he’s off to a good start in 2014: Nicholas finished second in our New Year’s Blitz tournament.

For now, he’s still a local player: “I have never played chess outside of Canada,” he says. “My most interesting chess trip was the CYCC in Ottawa.” But he’s got high hopes: “Long term, I would like to become a grandmaster.”

Here’s one of his recent games. (It’s his Round-3 game from the Campbellville Open in November. Campbellville was probably his best tournament of 2013: Nicholas scored 3/5 in the top section, placing 6th and posting a performance rating of 2194.)

Featured Game: Nicholas Vettese (1811) vs. Wenlu Wu (1966)

Teresa Lee

Player Profile: Teresa Lee (907)

teresa lee

Teresa Lee learned the moves as a child, but started taking chess seriously only as an adult. “I started playing chess again a couple of years ago,” she says – this after quitting chess in grade 5. She represents a group we try to cater to at Annex Chess Club: people joining the club to become better chess players, even starting from scratch. But taking up chess later in life is not an easy row to hoe. It means devoting regular time to study, and putting up with losing many games to children, or “being schooled by a bunch of nine-year-old boys,” as Teresa puts it good-humouredly.

When I am playing a move that I think will trap my opponent or improve my position significantly, I physically feel cold and start shivering or I have trouble breathing. There are not too many things in life that will do that to me.

Will there be a wave of newcomers to chess in the days and years ahead? Some are predicting the new World Champion, Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, may do for the popularity of the game today what American Bobby Fischer did in the 1970s, inspiring a generation of North American players to take up chess. Magnus is a charismatic figure; on the board he’s known as a fighter who avoids theory, spurns draws, and plays for an edge by taking his opponent into murky terrain requiring very precise play. He is, in fact, Teresa’s favourite player (if the choice isn’t “too cliché”). You shouldn’t have to ask her why: “Isn’t it obvious?” she quips.

Fischer then, Carlsen now.
Fischer then, Carlsen now.

It is not Magnus Carlsen, though, who inspired Teresa to take up the game. She credits The Immortal Game by David Shenk for kindling her initial enthusiasm. The book, written for a popular audience, mixes the moves of the famous “immortal” game, played by Adolf Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritzky in 1851, with a (quite compelling, evidently) 1500-year history of chess itself. In Teresa’s words, it was “so inspiring that I decided to take up the game.”

On being a woman and learning as an adult

Chess is notoriously difficult to learn as an adult, at least if one expects to reach the top levels – some even say impossible, comparing it to becoming a world-class concert pianist. And yet there are many strong players who learned the game “later in life.” Martin Weteschnik (author of Understanding Chess Tactics) started at 25, and he’s a FIDE master, rated over 2300; Mikhail Chigorin started playing seriously at 24 (not having even learned the moves till age 16), and he played in World Championship matches.

immortal game

So why do kids have such an easy time, comparatively, learning chess? Some say their brains are different. But Teresa chalks it up mostly to available time: “Kids have so much more time to consistently devote to chess than adults. Most adults have to work and earn a living. I find the hardest thing about chess is playing often enough to improve. Playing once a week doesn’t help me improve.” Her “short term (now becoming long term) goal” is to reach a rating of 1600 (that of an average club player). “I feel like I’m improving although it is not apparent in my rating.” After eight tournaments, her CFC rating is currently 907.

Ultimately, chess is a game of war, which I think is inherently more appealing to boys than girls.

If Teresa is in the minority for getting into chess as an adult, she’s in another minority playing chess as a woman. Participation rates for women in chess tournaments are often 10% or less. (Our last tournament had 5 women participating, out of almost 70 players; the Hart House Holidays Open last weekend – even though Hart House Chess Club has a female president and a half-female executive – had 9 women registered, out of 150 players)

Some say it’s the game itself that is less attractive to women. Others say it’s the culture that has built up around tournament chess that is a barrier to female players. Teresa is in the former camp: “Ultimately, chess is a game of war, which I think is inherently more appealing to boys than girls. I try to raise my kids as gender neutral as possible – I don’t buy my son toy guns yet he manages to cut a gun out of his breakfast toast.”

Playing at Annex Chess Club and beyond

In terms of chess culture – at our club at least – Teresa describes us as “very welcoming and open.” She says all the people at Annex Chess Club are “amazing,” but our founder and current Chair of the Board, Ted Winick, she singles out for special mention: “Ted is one of the nicest people I have ever met.” Indeed it’s our friendly club that got her over the hump from a casual to a tournament player: “I played for a year in the casual section before mustering the courage to play in a tournament – I’m not sure I would have ever played in tournaments if the people at the club weren’t so friendly.” When she won her first tournament game against a 1200-rated player, it was “the peak of her chess career” – and she hasn’t looked back since.

The weekly Monday-night tournament game at Annex Chess Club is her “main chess event,” but she “squeezes in” a game here and there, wherever she can: “I play a little chess at lunch sometimes, and I started a chess club at my work to try to get my colleagues in the game. It’s amazing how many people are willing to play chess if you offer free pizza.”

Still, she admits that chess is not really a great social game: “When I play chess with my friends, we don’t end up talking a lot. There’s been a few times where I played chess with a friend at a party and ended up ignoring everyone else. The host was not very pleased with me.

Teresa Lee chess in NY

Teresa has even been on a “chess vacation” to New York City. She went with her friend, Anna, “to play chess in Washington Square Park. Every day we’d play chess against each other at breakfast, do a bit of shopping and then go to the chess park for a few hours.” It sounds like a great vacation, but she says Annex Chess Club remains her chess home: “It was pretty cool playing with the hustlers. I drew my first game which made me pretty happy. I prefer playing at the Annex Chess Club, though.”

There’s been a few times where I played chess with a friend at a party and ended up ignoring everyone else. The host was not very pleased with me.

Coaching and training

Teresa learned the game from her family: “My dad and my brothers were my first chess teachers” – but she continues, now, with a professional coach: “my friend Andrew Pastor, who sporadically comes to Annex Chess Club.”

She describes her playing style today as “methodical and conservative.” While hasn’t memorized many chess openings – “I’m not good at memorizing specific move orders and the proper response to each opening. It’s not the way I learn (and not the way my chess coach thinks I should learn)” – she prides herself on being an imaginative defender: “I think I play better defensively than offensively. I surprise myself with my imaginative moves when I am clearly losing but give up advantage quickly when I’m in the lead.”

On her road to becoming a better chess player, with the limited time available to her as she works full time and has two kids, Teresa makes sure at least to devote five minutes per day to chess tactics on chesstempo.com.

Her current chess book, which she’s just finished, is The Amateur’s Mind by Jeremy Silman. “Now I’m starting to go through specific chapters again where I am particularly weak.”

amateurs mind

Here’s one of her most memorable games, where she was winning, at a certain point, against a much higher-rated player.

Featured Game: Jean-Marc David (1397) vs. Teresa Lee (887)

Loving chess

Finally, here are Teresa Lee’s top three reasons to love chess.

  • Beauty and geometry: “Aesthetically, I think chess is beautiful. I would love to own a really nice, wood chess set one day. I love the feeling of a well carved, heavy chess piece in my hand and the way it slides across the board. I love the symmetry of the board.”
  • Symbolic richness: “I like how chess symbolizes and reflects life. I love that a pawn can become one of the most important pieces on the board. Or that a good opening or start in life is important, but is not the final determinant in the endgame. Or how easy it is to get lost in tactics and forget the long term strategy of the game. Or that a game well played can be more satisfying than winning. I see a lot of parallels in life and chess.”
  • Thrill of the game: “Mostly I love the challenge of the game. I find chess emotionally exhausting. When I am playing a move that I think will trap my opponent or improve my position significantly, I physically feel cold and start shivering or I have trouble breathing. There are not too many things in life that will do that to me.”

Rhys Goldstein

Player Profile: Rhys Goldstein (2038)

Rhys Goldstein
Rhys Goldstein

Rhys plays chess for the beauty of the game. Every chess player celebrates a good result against a strong opponent, but Rhys looks beyond ratings and results to the rigour and creativity behind the moves: “I am always hoping,” he says, “for a great game featuring inspiring ideas combined with impeccable logic.”

Rhys is delivering this week’s pre-tournament chess lecture at ACC: “Selected Double Piece Sacrifices,” Monday December 2, 6:50 to 7:20 pm.

Early days

Rhys first learned the game in Vancouver, where he grew up. As a curious seven-year-old, he was watching a child and an adult playing chess at a community centre. Seeing his interest, they called him over and taught him the basics. His parents then bought him his first chess set, and many of his early games were played at home with his father. While not a strong competitive player, Rhys’ father was a great teacher who tailored his games with his son to illustrate tactical and strategic themes: skewers, forks, mate with two rooks, etc. – things Rhys could use in his games against his friends.

inspiring ideas combined with impeccable logic

It was not until high school, however, that Rhys started playing regularly. He and his high-school chess club friends played almost every day: at lunch, after school, sometimes even in class (“passing a sheet of paper back and forth with a board drawn in pen and the pieces scribbled over top in pencil”). These high-school games led to lasting friendships. Indeed, the first person Rhys played at his high-school chess club – Rhys remembers his friend “fell for the four-move mate” in their first game – became the best man at his wedding.

Family life

The demands of family (Rhys and his wife have a young son) and professional life (Rhys investigates applications of architectural computer modelling for improved energy efficiency) haven’t kept Rhys away from chess. He still plays and lectures at Annex Chess Club. While his wife is “indifferent” to chess, he does play the occassional game with his one-year-old son, who likes “to smash through the king’s defenses with both hands.”


Just as every young hockey player dreams of playing in the NHL, every young chess player wants to become a grandmaster. Rhys, however, at 33, is old enough to have more modest goals: “It would be nice to get to 2200 [master level] one day, but I am not in any rush. For the time being, my goal is to slowly improve in the areas where I am weak, which include playing open positions, managing the clock, and not blundering so often!”

Chess at Annex Chess Club

Rhys likes a lot about the ACC, starting with its welcoming atmosphere. “Some clubs make you feel like an outsider when you first walk in the door. That’s not the case with the Annex Chess Club, where it’s easy to meet someone and start playing a casual game.” He is also impressed with the number of tournament players who come out regularly on Monday nights, with the range of playing strengths at the club, and (as a computer programmer) with the “terrific website.” Given the need for silence during tournament play, he thinks an online forum is an important place for ongoing conversations.

chess should be fun

Rhys not only plays at ACC; he is also one of our most regular lecturers. Like his father, he loves teaching chess: lecturing and writing articles, he says, “can be more rewarding than actually playing the game.”

In the end, the highest praise he gives ACC is personal and very simple. He credits the club for his own return to competitive chess after a decade-long hiatus: “The Annex Club is the reason I started playing chess again.”

Chess for fun

At ACC, where we promote chess for everyone,™ it’s music to our ears when we hear that we’ve brought a player to the game – or brought one back. On this point, however, Rhys might not subscribe to full ACC orthodoxy.

Should everyone play chess? We say yes, but Rhys is not out to convert the nonbelievers. “Maybe everyone should try chess once or twice in their life, but only those that enjoy it should keep playing.”

you must have the courage to play the move you think is best

Rhys’ first rule is that “chess should be fun,” but he admits it is not always fun, even for him: sometimes chess can become “more frustrating than entertaining.” When that happens, he takes a different tack in his games until he starts “learning new things and having fun again.”

For Rhys, also, there are limits to the educational value of chess. “The worst thing about chess is that, when you’re playing a game, you’re not really learning how to cooperate with other people. Team sports are a little better that way. At the moment I am playing both chess and soccer, and they complement each other well.”

Tips and advice

Apart from his advice that chess should be fun, and his suggestion to mix it with cooperative team activies, Rhys has two tips for the developing chess player. The first is to practise chess puzzles: “If your goal is to improve your rating as quickly as possible, then buy a book with hundreds of chess puzzles that you can solve in your head in less than one minute.”

With his second piece of advice, Rhys returns to the theme that chess is about the ideas behind the moves: “I agree with Capablanca that the beginner or average player must develop their imagination. According to the legendary world champion, this means you must attack when possible, and you must have the courage to play the move you think is best regardless of what other people might say. For inspiration, I recommend books of historical games annotated by passionate authors. The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played, by Irving Chernev, will do nicely.”

Here is a favorite game of his own:


John Wright

Player Profile: John Wright (2224)

John Wright

One of the great things about having a chess club in the heart of downtown Toronto is the diversity of players we attract. We have girls and boys learning chess in our classes, and others rapidly rising through the ranks of our tournaments. We have adults who are taking up the game for the first time. And of course we have a number of players who have been playing tournaments much longer. But there are always surprises; you never know who is going to appear on a Monday night.

From time to time, a strong player from a far-off corner of the country drops by. A few weeks ago, a foreign IM stopped in. One night at the pub, we met a video gamer who has played only online blitz and has a master rating. And then, a couple weeks ago, John Wright showed up.

For those who aren’t familiar with the history of Canadian chess, or who haven’t browsed the Who’s Who section of the new CFC website, let me fill you in. John Wright was a player on the tournament scene back in the early 1970s, among the likes of Bruce Amos, Lawrence Day, Vlad Dobrich, Geza Fuster, Jean Hébert, Jacques Labelle, Duncan Suttles, and Ivan Theodorovich. More importantly, he has spent almost his entire chess career exclusively in another world of chess, a world where he became an IM and where Canada took a bronze medal at the Olympiad.

Have you guessed which parallel chess universe I’m talking about? John Wright had a long and distinguished career in the upper echelons of Canadian … correspondence chess! Unfortunately, as John puts it: “computer chess programs started to get so strong, they rendered correspondence chess obsolete.” Thus, John’s career in the world of correspondence chess came to an end with the demise of the game itself, in the mid 1990s.

The world of correspondence chess – “finding the perfect move”

John sees correspondence chess and over-the-board chess as two different games, each catering to a different kind of player. In CC (correspondence chess), it’s not necessary “to worry about accurately calculating variations in [your] head.” Instead, “it’s important … to have a sound, solid style with good positional understanding.” Furthermore, CC play offers more “creative satisfaction” to a positional player: “you can delve deeply into positions to find the perfect move.”

OTB (over-the-board) chess, on the other hand, “stresses the competitive aspect more than the creative. There is more excitement and tension, but also a lower quality of play.” In CC “you have to be patient, disciplined and hardworking,” but in OTB chess “it’s more important to be psychologically strong – cool under pressure with a strong memory and speed of thought.”

Although John initially made the switch to CC because of health problems, he found it was a game he enjoyed more, one his style was more suited to, and one in which he was “relatively stronger.” John attained master level at OTB chess, but in correspondence he got his rating over 2500, earned his IM title several times over, and won an Olympiad medal for Canada.

How it all began

Born in 1951, John learned to play chess at age 12, and was “immediately fascinated by the game.” To give some historical context, 1964 was the year a 20-year-old Bobby Fischer, already an international grandmaster since age 15, won the US Championship – yet again, but this time with an unprecedented 11-0 record. To this day, Fischer is one of John’s favourite players, along with Capablanca, Rubinstein, Petrosian, and Karpov – the great positional players.

John recalls, in those early days, studying The Game of Chess by Harry Golombek, Chess Fundamentals by Capablanca, and Masters of the Chessboard by Réti. These books helped him to become a “pretty good” casual player. Then, at 16, his family moved from the small town of St. Marys to the city of London, Ontario, and he began to play in tournaments. By 18, he was London City Champion and his rating passed the 2000-threshold.

Chess was by no means his only game. In high school, John “loved all kinds of sports,” and won the South-western Ontario championship with his high-school volleyball team. He believes to this day that physical sports are “the perfect complementary activity to chess.” He is in good company in this belief. The great Mikhail Botvinnik, “who became a trainer of young chess talent after his retirement, felt that [physical sporting activity] was of critical importance – even essential.”

The height of John’s OTB career came in the years 1970 to 1972. He “did a little travelling” in those years, and played in tournaments on both sides of the Canada-US border, achieving a rating over 2200 in both countries. These tournaments included the 1970 Canadian Open, where he “beat Dobrich, drew with Day, Amos, and Labelle, and lost to W. Brown and Benks”; the 1970 Manhattan Open, where he “tied for first with Soltis and Brandts, with a score of 4½/5, and beat several experts and masters”; and the 1973 Toronto Closed, where he “came third, beating Day, Dobrich, Fuster, and Theodorovich.”

John Wright, 1973

The correspondence career

From the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, John had his impressive CC career. He was “always one of the top two or three-rated correspondence players in Canada” and he played four times on the Canadian Correspondence Olympiad team – including the bronze medal-winning team in the 11th ICCF Olympiad, 1992-1999.

Despite playing in a number of GM tournaments, and getting his rating over 2500, he “could never quite get the GM title.” Nevertheless, John is proud of a number of CC accomplishments, including an impressive 3.5/5 lifetime record against Jean Hébert – two wins and three draws, including a win when Hébert was the reigning Canadian OTB champ. John describes Hébert as “a most gracious opponent who praised my play highly on a number of occasions.”

White: Wright, John
Black: Hébert, Jean

1978 North American Invitational CC Championship III

E61 King’s Indian

How the chess world has changed in 40 years

John has finally come back to the world of OTB chess (“Nowadays if you played someone a correspondence game, you would only be playing their computer program”) but the OTB scene has changed a lot since the 1970s. For John, the biggest differences are the faster time controls (“For someone like me, it matters – I’m the type of player that needs all the time I can get!”) and the use of computer programs and databases.

You might think that John would be against computers, since they brought about the end of the game he loved, but in fact John sees them as a positive development: “I think overall they are a big plus.” Not only do they improve the game creatively by showing “all kinds of possibilities that you never would have suspected,” but they also facilitate the development of young players: “It’s due to their help that we see so many strong young players developing rapidly worldwide – I sure wish I’d had a computer program to play with when I was 12.”

The value of chess

I had to ask John, as someone who has been a serious chess player for almost fifty years, what he appreciates about the game. He spoke, first, of its value as mental training: he believes chess “has a lot of value in helping develop concentration, memory, general mental discipline, and good work habits.” But then he went on to discuss the pleasure of chess and the sense of accomplishment: “the most enjoyable aspect of chess is the sense of creative satisfaction from playing a good game.” Finally, he spoke of its social value: “it’s always good to meet others who share your love for the game.”

Nearly 60, John no longer wants to play “serious competitive chess,” but he has been wishing for a few years that he could find a local club where he can play chess for enjoyment. Going into round three of the ACC First Anniversary Swiss (he beat Joseph Bellissimo in round one and Wajdy Shebetah in round two) he is just hoping he can “still play a halfway decent game!”

John Wright’s 5 tips to improve your chess

  • Play as often as you can against strong players and afterwards analyze the games with the help of a computer.
  • Play over the games of great masters past and present – again analyzing them with the help of a computer.
  • Study good instructional books such as Chess Fundamentals by Capablanca, Modern Chess Strategy by Pachman, The Art of the Middlegame by Keres and Kotov, and The Art of Defense by Soltis
  • Buy books which contain hundreds of tactical quizzes (e.g., 1001 Winning Combinations by Reinfeld) and go over them again and again until you can solve them all quickly. That is what I did when I was 17 and my rating suddenly shot up rapidly.
  • Choose a few sound openings with both White and Black that suit your style and learn them thoroughly – go over them with the help of a computer.

.pgn for game

[Event “N.Am. Invitational CC Championship III”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “1978.??.??”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Wright, John”]
[Black “Hébert, Jean”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “E61”]
[Annotator “J.Wright”]
[PlyCount “113”]
[SourceDate “2011.09.27”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 ({I tried} 2… c5 3. Nf3 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 $5 {in a previous
CC encounter with John, but he also won that one brilliantly (JH).}) 3. Nc3 Bg7
4. Bg5 c5 {?! This would be more sensible after e2-e4 (JH).} 5. e3 O-O 6. Nf3
h6 7. Bh4 d6 8. Be2 g5 9. Bg3 g4 $2 {White has adopted a quiet but solid
opeing system agianst which Black can do little. With the text Black
impatiently seeks counter chances. The weakening of the K-side, however, is
not justified. As I learned from my games with John, he is at his best
exploiting positional weakness. This game is a fine example (JH).} 10. Nh4 cxd4
11. exd4 Qb6 12. Qd2 Nc6 {With my last four moves I expected to get good
central play due to White’s far-off N/h4 and B/g3. However, the “play” does
not amount to much while my K-side weakneess remains for a long time (JH).} 13.
d5 Nd4 14. Bd3 $1 e5 $2 {After this move Black is lost.} ({Better was} 14…
Nh5 {to prevent Bf4. From now until the end of the game Black plays the best
defence. However, the position cannot be saved.}) 15. dxe6 Bxe6 16. Bf4 $1 h5
17. O-O Ne8 18. Rae1 $1 Rc8 $1 {Black’s best chance.} ({If instead} 18… Qd8
19. Bg5 Qd7 20. Nd5 Bxd5 21. cxd5 Nf6 22. Bxf6 {and Qh6.}) 19. Bg5 Bxc4 ({If}
19… Nf6 20. Bxf6 {and Qh6}) ({or if} 19… f6 20. Be3 Bxc4 21. Bxc4+ {and b3}
) ({or} 19… Nc7 20. Bf6) 20. Bxc4 Rxc4 21. Be7 Nf6 22. Bxf8 Kxf8 23. Kh1 {
Preparing to open the game for his Rs (JH).} Qc6 24. f3 gxf3 25. Nxf3 Ne6 26.
Ng5 Nxg5 27. Qxg5 Rg4 28. Qd2 h4 29. Rf3 Nd7 30. h3 Rd4 31. Rd3 Rxd3 32. Qxd3
Ne5 33. Qe3 Ng6 34. Nd5 $1 Be5 {Black’s game looks almost tenable but, with an
exposed K and three isolated Ps, I had no illusions (JH).} 35. Qh6+ Ke8 36.
Nf6+ Ke7 37. Ng4 Qc2 38. Nxe5 dxe5 39. Qc1 Qf2 40. Rf1 Qb6 41. Qg5+ Ke8 42. Rc1
Kf8 ({If} 42… Qxb2 43. Rc8+ Kd7 44. Qf5+ {.}) 43. Qd2 Kg7 {Now that the
Black K is relatively safe White starts a Q-side attack! (JH).} 44. b4 $1 a6
45. a4 Qe6 46. Rc7 Nf4 47. a5 b6 48. b5 $1 bxa5 ({If} 48… axb5 49. a6 {.})
49. Rc6 Qe8 50. Qd6 axb5 51. Qf6+ Kg8 52. Rd6 Ne6 53. Qxh4 $1 ({If instead} 53.
Qxe5 {Black gets play with …} Qc8 {.}) 53… Qc8 54. Qg3+ Kf8 55. Qxe5 Qc1+
56. Kh2 b4 57. Ra6 {Black is defenceless against the threat of 58.Ra8+
followed by Ra7+ and Qh8+. A superb positional masterpiece for John and my
finest loss in the tournament (JH).} 1-0

Liza Orlova

Player Profile: Yelizaveta Orlova (2073) – 16 years old

Liza Orlova, 16

Yelizaveta Orlova is a 16-year-old chess player in Toronto, with a CFC rating of 2073. She works with the children’s programme at Annex Chess Club – and she’ll be giving the ACC chess lecture this Monday June 6, at 7:00 pm.

Liza knew how to play chess when she was four years old, but her chess career really started when she was nine. She used to watch her father playing chess online, and he promised that if she studied chess with him, he would take her to Kitchener to play a simultaneous exhibition against an IM (International Master).

Liza’s father, Sergiy Orlov, was a Candidate Master in Odessa, Ukraine, when he was her age. Her grandfather, too, was an IM in America.

At age nine, she’d had just a couple months of training with her father, when he took her to a simul in Kitchener – and Liza drew her game against the IM! That’s when she decided to play chess seriously. And she got off to a good start by placing second later that year among girls her age in the Canadian Youth Chess Championship.

Liza has a long list of chess accomplishments in the past seven years, including two of her proudest moments: tying for ninth place in the World Youth Chess Championship, at age 14; and playing with the Canadian Women’s Olympiad team in 2011, at age 16. She enjoys travelling the world and meeting serious chess players like herself: “It’s fun to go somewhere, where everyone is doing something you’re good at.”

She warns young players, or anybody just learning the game, not to try to learn by themselves: “It’s better for someone to be there for you, when you’re starting.” In her case, after studying with her father for only five months, she achieved a 1400 rating.

Liza Orlova, age 10

Although White is normally considered to have an advantage in chess, Liza prefers playing black. She explains, “Sure, White gets to play the first move, but Black gets to choose the opening.” For example, if White plays 1. e4, it’s Black who makes the game a Sicilian by playing 1…c5. “I know my openings better as Black,” she admits.

Liza recommends studying openings and tactics. Tactical play, she says, is her most important strength: “If you can see tactics against you, or see a tactic against your opponent, you are good.”

Her current chess goal is to raise her chess rating to 2130, and to play again on next year’s Canadian Olympiad team.

Check out Liza’s blog for updates on her chess career, or to register for private lessons.

Here is Liza’s first win from the 2011 Chess Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. She is playing black.

White: Joanitah Justine Butindo
Black: Yelizaveta Orlova (1917) CAN

2010.09.21 Chess Olympiad (Women) (1)
Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia

B32 Sicilian 4…Qb6