A Pandolfini Master Class In the May 2012 issue, “Chess Educator

Of The Year: Bruce Pandolfini,” author Dr. Alexey Root, WIM gave two training posi- tions that Pandolfini sometimes uses. Chess Life added solutions, but unfortunately ours were incomplete and did not get to the heart of the matter. A number of readers wrote in about this, and given the amount of interest in these solutions we invited Pandolfini to provide a full explanation:

Restating what I said in my talk at the

University of Texas at Dallas, I like to present examples in series, as do many other teachers, even good ones. Two posi- tions I’ve often shown are those included in Alexey’s Root article. Let’s call them Problem 1 and Problem 2.

-+-+k+-+ +-+-+-+- -+-+K+-+ +-+-+-+- -+-+-+-+ +-+-+-+- -+-+Q+-+ +-+-+-+-

Problem 1

-+-+k+-+ +-+-+-+- -+-+K+-+ +-+-+-+- -+-+-+-+ +-+-+-+- -+-+R+-+ +-+-+-+-

Problem 2 We can see that the two positions are

not unrelated. They involve the same squares except that in the second position a rook replaces a queen. In both positions it is White to move and mate. In the first example, White mates in two moves. In the second example, White mates in three moves. The two setups allow me to draw nice distinctions between the two types of major pieces, the queen and the rook. They also enable me to play with the

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class for didactic purposes. When it goes well, it tends to go very well. Yes, some- times it doesn’t go at all. In Problem 1, White mates in two moves

by playing any of three different first moves: 1. Qe5, 1. Qb2, or 1. Qh2. Usu- ally, in presenting this problem, after saying that White mates in two moves, I ask a question. The question is never: Do you know how White mates in two moves? Rather, it always takes the form: Do you know how to solve a problem like this? Invariably, students will give me the answer to mate in two, as if I had posed the first question, not the second. Once I’ve implied it doesn’t appear that anyone has actually listened to what I’ve said, after a chortle of recognition emerges from the class, I will move ahead to what I think is the proper approach. I will try to impart the idea that in positions where the defender has very few options it makes sense to visualize where the defender must go before deciding on the attacker’s initial move. Getting explicit for Problem 1, if it were

Black’s turn (it’s not, but I tell the class to pretend it is, as if they were really ana- lyzing), Black must play either 1. ... Kf8 or 1. ... Kd8. Thus, White can set up the mate by attacking both b8 and h8 with the same starting move (say 1. Qe5; the moves 1. Qb2 and 1. Qh2 also work, but are not usually shown right away; not until the class has apparently missed finding them). From e5, for instance, the white queen would be able to mate by moving along the appropriate diagonal to the correct mating square on the back rank (again, either to b8 or h8). In other words, the answer is conve-

niently gotten by working backward—by looking ahead to exploit the possible resulting situations. In the end, it’s the problem-solving technique of redacting backward (or pretending it’s the other player’s move). I’d like students to take away more than any particular answer (naturally, no matter how many particu- lar answers there are, I’d like students to find them as well). As for problem 2, where White mates in

three moves, I might introduce it with a teaser. That is, I might say that in all my teachings no one has ever given me the answer I’ve wanted. This, of course, is not exactly true in content. Some stu- dents, to be sure, have come up with the general answer, though, more than likely,

they may not have expressed it most inclusively. Trying to be the first one “ever” to sat-

isfy my request, individual students raise their hands or shout out superficially impulsive recommendations. They might try, for example, 1. Kd6+, whereupon, after showing them why it doesn’t work, I will then make it clear that the same kind of escape possibilities arise from 1. Kf6+. This essentially tells the class that the answer does not begin with a king move.

Eventually, one or more students will

find, let’s say, 1. Rd2. After showing the group that such a try indeed works, I will then come back with something like: Oh, so that’s the answer to this prob- lem, right? As the class puppet-like nods and bobs agreement, I will then continue the chess play with: “I guess 1. Rf2” (or some other reasonable move) “doesn’t work here, does it?” After a few moments at least some of the students will realize my suggested answer also does the job. Summarizing (but really leading them

on for their own good), I will then say something like: So there are two answers to this problem, right? This time they don’t necessarily jiggle so robotically, and, sure enough, someone will soon find another set of answers. This playful exchanging goes back and forth until the group jointly unearths a whole bunch of reasonable answers. Nevertheless, the answers are still likely

to be particular rather than general. As specific answers stack up, I’ll inject another question: Can you find a rook move that doesn’t work? Somebody’s going to have an insight at this point. Somebody always does. Nonetheless, it’s unlikely we’ll hear the answer expressed in the most general way. Finally, amid groans and chuckles, I’ll put the problem to rest by telling the students to close their eyes, imagine moving the rook, and they can’t be wrong. Or, simply, “any legal rook move mates in three moves.” My lessons are full of that kind of stuff.

I’m not claiming any of it works. Only that it works for me and, hopefully, for my students. I even have fun. What’s more, students seem to have fun, too.

See Pandolfini explain these problems on www.YouTube.com; search for “Chess Now episode 41,” and advance to about the 19- minute mark.

Chess Life — July 2012 7

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