More Kominkan Chess!

On the first Saturday in April I took my chess set up to Koi-Ue Kominkan to introduce my English class to the game.

I had already talked to the class on a previous occasion about the big impression that Gerald Abrahams’ book, “Chess” (part of the Teach Yourself Books series), made on me as a boy – how it opened up a whole world of learning and culture and did so in prose such as I had never read before. Sentences such as,

The history of the development of Chess is the history of development in Chess.


In the language of the Persian poet the purpose of the Chess player is to “mate and slay.”


We have seen that the Endgame is the beginning of Chess.

This time, I spent half an hour going through the rules of the game, comparing it to and distinguishing it from Shogi. Once that was accomplished I challenged the students to a game.

This game lasted longer than the game of chess I played with the students at Ajina-Dai Kominkan two weeks ago. That was probably because there were fewer students and we were all able to stand around the board so the students had a much more direct involvement with every move in the game.

I was white this time and started with P-K4. The class answered with an inspired P-QB3, the Caro-Kann defence, which, according to The Penguin Book of Chess Openings, “has the reputation of being one of Black’s soundest defences to 1 P-K4.”

The key phrase is, of course, “has the reputation…” as the author, W. R. Hartston, is quick to qualify the “soundness” of the defence by pointing out that it is “only at the cost of of conceding advantage in space to White”.

Our game didn’t take the Caro Kann any further than P-QB3 as you can see if you compare the photo of our game after seven moves with this screen shot of the Karo Cann after six moves:

Caro Kann
1. P-K4 P-QB3, 2 P-Q4 P-Q4, 3 N-QB3 P x P, 4 Kt x P B-B4, 5 Kt-Kt3 B-Kt3, 6 P-KR4 P-KR3

Instead of playing 2 P-Q4 White brought out the King’s Knight and Bishop – answering the Caro Kann with something like the Giuoco Piano…

The White Queen’s Pawn advanced to Q5 and there was a Pawn exchange on the Queen’s side, which allowed the White Queen to steal the black Queen’s Pawn and prevent the King from castling. The White Queen also stole the Pawn on QB3, but that allowed the class to launch a Bishop and Knight combination against White’s castled King’s Rook’s pawn. You can see the Knight is already on KKt5.

Eventually, White managed to achieve Checkmate with a Queen, Rook and Knight combination but the class had done well for complete beginners who’d only just been taught the basic rules in their second language.