ECU ChessPlus First Rank Newsletter 35 - April 2020 

ECU Education - Chess during Corona

First Rank is a fortnightly term-time newsletter for everyone interested in chess for education. In this issue, we take a quick look at Lichess which is becoming popular for playing and studying chess. Of course, you will find our usual subjects: an anecdote, a tactical exercise and the training course calendar.

Playing Chess after the Lockdown

Will this be the new way of playing chess after the lockdown? Will we still shake hands before a game? Time will tell...

Starting with Lichess

Is it necessary to register? No. Go to and play a game by clicking on 'play' and 'create a game'. But why wouldn't you register? It is free and when you are registered, you will be able to join teams and you won't play against 'Anonymous' each time. This 'Anonymous' can be a strong player but can also be a complete beginner. So, you avoid losing time by playing against much stronger or weaker opposition. A registered player, having played enough games, will get a rating and will be paired against someone of a similar level.

Which user name (also known as "handle") to chose?  For school purposes, it is best to choose your own name - when you give lessons, parents and pupils will immediately recognise you. Conversely, when pupils receive lessons, teachers will immediately know who they are. 

There is one reason to have an alternative handle - when you are playing competitive chess you may not want your opponent to look up your training games and analyse them when preparing for a game against you. Lichess allows more than one account (if you have more than one email address). When playing training games, you can use a creative user name, but for school, your own name maintains your identity. 

Anecdote of the Week

Time flies...


Before the days of Bobby Fischer, the main contenders for the USA title were Samuel Reshevsky and the lesser-known Jim Sherwin. During the USA Championship Sherwin was in excellent form and won all his games up to a certain point. Reshevsky was in serious danger of falling behind since he had settled for two draws in the early rounds. 

At that moment, he addressed Sherwin with the following words: ‘I see you are playing well. If you continue to do so, I will have to beat you.’

‘Oh, and what if I beat you?’

‘That can't happen in a thousand years’

Naturally, in the last round, Sherwin beat Reshevsky in their individual encounter. When they were signing the scoresheets, Sammy remarked: ‘ You know, master, time flies really fast.

James T. Sherwin (Source:

The first game in Bobby Fischer's book My 60 Memorable Games is against Sherwin who still plays chess in Bath in England.


Crisis times and emergencies accelerate changes.

I was told that English people used to treat each other very physically till the end of the 15th, beginning of the 16th century, when Erasmus stayed in England. Today's Englishman rather evokes the image of restraint... This change in behaviour has everything to do with the plague epidemic that erupted around that period. Today, we'll probably see the same phenomenon. There is a good chance that Spaniards and Italians will temper their physical interactions with each other. Distance could become the 'new normal' for the next generations.

In normal times, governments, companies and school boards would never have dared to use their country, company or school as a social experiment. In normal times it would not have occurred to a manager to have as many staff as possible working from home. In normal times, no university board would have considered taking classes and exams online... But these are not normal times. And probably, some of those experiments will become the 'new normal' for the next generations.

In normal times, the chess world would never make such a massive use of technology to spread chess. For the computer experts - and chess has many - at the national chess federations this is an enormous opportunity to show their talent and knowhow, either by taking initiatives themselves or by centralising the many private initiatives. For is it not now, in these lockdown times, that a chess federation can very efficiently fulfil its core tasks (promoting chess)? Never before has the demand for meaningful home activities been so great!

And here again, some online tournaments or online courses will become part of the 'new normal'.

In any case, I am glad that the ECU is not neglecting its task. The online initiatives (both tournaments and training) are numerous. The success is massive. For the ECU 101 course, 211 people have already obtained the certificate in April. And then we have not even counted the participants of the course organized on the initiative of the Austrian Chess Federation!

It even sounds a bit crazy, but while each country turns on itself to fight the coronacrisis, the chess world finds solutions in a further globalization. Thanks to computer science, thanks - above all - to the universality of our game. Or to put it in the words of the International Chess Federation: gens una sumus


Philippe Vukojevic
First Rank Newsletter Editor, ECU Education


How to Beat a Grandmaster?

In this section we show positions in which a grandmaster (or even a World Champion) made a 'little mistake'. Can you find a strong move and get the grandmaster on his knees?

Of course, this section has a double goal. Children with a lack of confidence, will be surprised to see that even they can beat a grandmaster and children who get frustrated more quickly by their blunders may perhaps put their mistakes in perspective more easily if they see that grandmasters too make the same kind of mistakes (albeit more rarely).

During the Candidates Match in 1956, Tigran Petrosian had completely outplayed his opponent David Bronstein who could only play his one active piece, the knight, from c6 to d4 and back, waiting for Petrosian's blow to come. Petrosian finally found a way to go for the win and he played 35.Ng5 to reach the following position. How should Black defend against the threat Ne6?

Black plays and wins

Petrosian v Bronstein, Leeuwarden 1956

ECU Education Calendar 2020

ECU101 Training Courses

The SMART Method to Teach Chess              €75

In Zoom
DATE                LANGUAGE           LEADER                      LINK
20-22 May           German                Boris Bruhn                Register
23-24 May           English                 Jesper Hall                 Register *

5-7 June              French                 Philippe Vukojevic      Register
8-24 June            Dutch                   Philippe Vukojevic      Register**
17-18 June          English                Jesper Hall                  Register
26-28 June          German               Boris Bruhn                 Register

16-17 July            English                Jesper Hall                 Register

* some FIDE-subsidised places remaining for women/members of small federations
** 8/10/15/22/24 June evening course (2-hour sessions)

Distance Learning
until 30 May           Spanish                Pep Suárez               Register

Other courses
6 June              Improving your calculations in chess  
                         Spanish                Pep Suárez                     Register
European Summer Camps
We are planning to run four 3-day online Summer Camps in English.

May 25-27    Under 12
May 28-30    Junior talents
June 26-28   Over 12
July  3-5        Girls

Save the date for your diaries.  Details will be published soon.


Out of the Box - Answer
One of the first pieces of advice for a novice gets is: Lookout! Concentrate! Be careful not to let your pieces be captured.
Petrosian was thinking so hard trying to find a way to make the Black position collapse that he didn't take care, he wasn't concentrating as he should have done. The result?

He didn't pay attention to the knight, which didn't jump from d4 to c6 this time, but to f5, where the White Queen was attacked. 

35...Nf5xQd6 and it is all over.

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