ECU ChessPlus First Rank Newsletter 34 - April 2020 

Chess in the time of Corona

First Rank is a (usually) fortnightly term-time newsletter for everyone interested in chess for education. In this newsletter, we take up the thread again with themes that are relevant in these Corona times, in particular, the move online. Of course, you will find our usual subjects: an anecdote, a chess puzzle and the training course calendar.
The European Chess Union has devised a series of digital activities during April and May. You can find more details in the calendar below.

The Growth of Online Chess

Now some weeks into the pandemic, the chess world has commendably geared up to reach isolated people through numerous initiatives  The number of people playing chess online has exploded. The online platforms are struggling to bring servers onstream.  Webinars and online courses are burgeoning. Chess is being played and taught using WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Twitch, Webex and a host of other communication modes, sometimes in combination. 

The European Chess Union has announced the two-month online programme above. The physical courses have been transformed into digital courses. There are capacity-building webinars for federations and chess coaches. There are many online promotions and talk shows. For example, Jesper Hall has organised a series of masterclasses by leading grandmasters. Currently in Swedish, these will soon in launched in English. Etienne Mensch in Strasbourg has devised an instructive and entertaining banter format in which junior teams play each other whilst their trainers offer a commentary (link).

There is a new European Online Championship played exclusively on You can download the ECU magazine as PDF here.

Forthcoming First Rank newsletters will continue to focus on how chess is being used digitally.

John Foley


A New Way of Teaching

For many teachers, the coronavirus has completely upset their sometimes ingrained way of teaching, but they are not the only one to be confused. The learners and even parents need to adapt and if not… it can lead to funny situations as in this skit from Foil Arms and Hog. 

Chess: playing platforms

Computer phobics probably won't know where to start and we must admit that there is a lot of choice. So let's get some things straight because choosing a platform is a bit like choosing a car. That choice is mainly determined by financial, ecological, social and emotional considerations, but in the first place it is important to consider what you want to do with the car (or, in our case, the chess platform).

The only thing that seems important to us is having the right language, the ease of use and the possibilities offered by the platform. We invite you to explore the most important ones. Normally, membership is free, either during a period or always, but only for the basic features. Nowadays many platforms are offering special deals to sign up.

Lichess is notable for being a free and open-source online chess server. You can even embed it in your own website. It has worked out a lot of features for chess teachers and coaches and you can easily create your own online chess club. There is a chat facility which can be switched off for safety.

Lichess is designed for kids with attractive graphics and structured exercises. Parents will be happy that children are learning chess rather than playing some other computer games.
Probably, the internet's biggest chess community. You can play live chess at various time controls or correspondence-style games with days per move. 
This site offers a lot of training material such as video series and ebooks. It is a great favourite during big tournaments because you can follow the tournament through the live stream and get comments directly from grandmasters. is run by ChessBase, the makers of the most popular chess database software. There are fewer strong players, but the site is fully integrated with the ChessBase software and other ChessBase programs such as Fritz.

Internet Chess Club (ICC) -
ICC was, for a long time, the premier chess playing site. If you wanted to play against International Masters and Grandmasters, ICC was by far the best choice. Probably because it was one of the first to ask for a paid membership, it has been overtaken in recent years by its rivals, but in the meantime, it offers a lot of training material and videos as well.

Anecdote of the Week
Chess by hairstyle

Does your hair have anything to do with your playing ability?  The blitz at the Moscow Chess Club called Blondes v Brunettes is a fun event for ladies although there are no signs that the concept will catch on elsewhere. There was a precursor event at the Manhattan Chess Club in New York in 1891. The Club carried out a 'very representative' study into the relationship between chess and baldness. A match over 25 games was organised between a team of bald-headed men and a team of men who still had some hair. Chess master Samuel Lipschütz played along with the hairy men.

Salomon Lipschütz

A man drawn to play Lipschütz promised the Club a crate of champagne if his team won. With few pieces left, the man tendered his resignation, but Lipschütz refused to accept it, instead guiding the game to a position where his opponent was forced to deliver mate with his last remaining pawn. The bald-heads claimed the win and they also claimed a game Lipschütz won against the visiting Norwegian Mr Dahl because Lipschütz had not recorded the moves. The bald-headed team won by 14-11. The New-York Tribune reported the full-haired determination, that before the next contest, Lipschütz would be shaved and made to play his tricks on the other side. (source: Davies: Samuel Lipschütz, McFarland, p. 190-191)

Put the Black King in Quarantine

We all know it is better for everyone to be confined at home. In the following puzzle, the black king has unwisely left home to go for a walk to the middle of the park. Afraid of being infected, the white king asked his soldiers to put the black king in quarantine. Checkmate is immediately possible (by 1.Ng5#) but the soldiers do not want to get too close. So the task is to force the black king to lock himself up in his house. Clue:  the walls of the black house are built from pawns.

White plays and mates in ten moves
(after first confining the Black king in his home)

ECU Education Calendar 2020

ECU101 Online School Chess Teacher Training Courses

15-17 April ITALIAN – with Alessandro Dominici, Jesper Hall, Sebastiano Paulesu, PierLuigi Piscopo and Lexi Ortega. By invitation from Alfiere Bianco srl. Recognised by the Italian Chess Federation. Special price during COVID period.                                                      
16-18 April GERMAN – with Boris Bruhn                                  
For German Chess Federation                                  
21-22 April ENGLISH – with Jesper Hall                                    
Concessionary places (30 seats) and title fee for Female participants and Entrants from Small Nations and Islands*                                    
24-26 April GERMAN – with Boris Bruhn 
For Austrian Chess Federation                                   
23-24 May ENGLISH – with Jesper Hall                                    
Concessionary places (30 seats) and title fee for Female participants and Entrants from Small Nations and Islands*                                  
Now until
30 May
SPANISH – with Pep Suárez
Online course. First 5 women free. 
Special course price during Covid period.                       
More information

WEBINAR 16th April
How to teach chess on the internet: Webinar for chess coaches 
Very few places left.                                                       Register

Puzzle Answer

Put the Black King in Quarantine
This problem from Jänisch (1850) is called Tamerlan's Cage named after Tamerlan (or Tamburlaine), the Mongol conqueror (Timur the Lame) who brought the triumphs of the Ottomans under Sultan Bayazid to an end at the battle of Ankara (1402) where he won a crushing victory. Timur imprisoned the Sultan in an iron cage to be carried around and displayed "until the end of his days".

The chess problem by Jänisch portrays how the black king, representing the Sultan, is shut up in a cage in constant, immediate (i.e. the threat of mate on the move) danger of his life, before losing it to suffocation.  White could mate immediately with 1.Ng5#, but that is not the goal. The goal is to mate in exactly 10 moves and have a smothered mate.
1. f3+ gxf3 2. exd3+ cxd3 3. Bf5+ exf5 4. Rd4+ cxd4 5. a8=B+ Bd5 6. Re6+ dxe6 7. Bxd5+ exd5 8. Nf6+ gxf6 9. Qe5+ fxe5 .
and only now: 10. Ng5#

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