Critical moments – report from the European Youth Chess Championships

In life there are many critical moments when everything seems to turn on one decision at that particular instant in time. At other times the critical moment may not turn out to have such far-reaching consequences, but the wrong decision may still lead to some discomfort.

Yesterday (Saturday) was the rest day at the European Youth Chess Championships. Zoe and I spent the afternoon, with some of the other English girls and their parents, watching a spectacular show at the dolphinarium, visiting the decidedly unspectacular aquarium and wandering around an interesting small zoo.

Batumi Dolphinarium
Batumi Dolphinarium

We decided to walk back to the hotel via the beach and ended up getting completely drenched in a 15-minute downpour. The consequences were that we got back to the hotel dripping wet, so had to dry off and change clothes. Probably not life-changing, but a little uncomfortable for a while.

If we had more experience of this region, we may have noticed the indications in the colour of the sky and changes in the wind pattern. Based on this, we may have made a different decision and not faced the discomfort of getting soaked in the rain.

Many chess games can be much like that. A position may appear where some tactic could change the course of the game or at least allow one to avoid some discomfort. It may appear for one instant and then be gone again the next move. That is why practising regularly with tactics puzzles is so important, as it allows one an increased chance of recognising the signs over the board at the critical moment.

Below are positions from Zoe’s fifth and sixth round games. In each position there is a game-changing tactic which was only possible on that one move. Can you spot them?

Z. Varney (1741) vs F. Vangsgaard (1842), EYCC round 5 (Batumi, 23/10/14).


A drawish looking queen and pawn end game, but White to play at this one point (move 49) has a neat tactic which could have changed the course of the game.

M. Volha (1988) vs Z. Varney (1741), EYCC round 6 (Batumi, 24/10/14).


Black was induced into an ill-advised early attack by White’s passive opening play, and White has a raging counter-attack. But now is a critical moment, with Black to move, where a tactical defence could have saved the game.

Published by

Andrew Varney

Andrew is an ECF-accredited chess coach and very active in coaching juniors in the Oxfordshire area on a professional basis. He attends Cumnor Chess Club when he gets a chance to take a break from coaching on Thursday nights. One of the books he recommends to his students is ‘How to Beat Your Dad at Chess’ but his own children are definitely beyond the point of needing such a reference!

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