A Game of Chess at Ajina-dai Kominkan!

First problem: Where do the chessmen go?

Last Thursday I introduced my English class at the Ajina-dai community centre to the game of chess. Here in Japan the two most popular classical two-player board games are igo and shogi. Shogi is a variant of chess, played on a 9 x 9 board, with 20 pieces per player. One of the most important differences between chess and shogi is that in shogi, when you capture a piece you can later return it to the board as one of your own pieces.

Anyway, everybody has heard of chess in Japan, but not so many people are familiar with the rules so I thought it might be fun to talk about chess, show the class the board and the chessmen, teach the rules, teach the classic English notation (1. P-K4 P-Q4. 2. P x P etc) and then challenge the whole class to a game.

Fool’s Mate

I took the precaution of warning the class against the danger of Fool’s mate, of how to lose a game of chess in two moves. It was also a good challenge for the class to work out the answer:

1.P to KKt4P to K4
2. P to KB3Q to R5 Checkmate.
With twenty minutes left on the clock we started to play a game, teacher versus class, with students taking turns to move the white pieces and all pitching in with advice…

The opening move, 1. P to K4 couldn’t be faulted.

1. … P to K4.

However, White’s second move two was rather lame shuffle forward of the King’s Rook’s Pawn:

2. KRP to R3? Kt to KB3.

The state of play after two moves…

On the third move the class chose to bring out the Bishop:

3. B to Kt5.

Not a bad move, as it temporarily pins the Queen’s Pawn.

3. … P to B3. Driving off the Bish!

The class was a little dismayed to see the Bishop under attack, but worked out that he can safely retreat to R4 and then Kt3, a perfectly good square for a Bishop to occupy.

4. B to R4. P to QKt4

5. B to Kt3. B to B4.

6. Kt to QB3. P to Kt 5. Attacking the knight.

7. Kt to Kt1?

A hasty retreat. Kt to R4 or K1 would have been better.

7. … Kt x P. Teacher decided to nab the King’s Pawn while it was still available!

8. P to R3. B x P Ch.

9. K to B1. Q to B3.

10. P x P? Kt to Kt7 Checkmate.

The game finished very conveniently at a minute to twelve.

Contemplating White’s 3rd move…

Mr Morikawa, who was responsible for the tenth White move, threatened to bring a shogi set to the next class…