Following his win this weekend at the 2013 World Open Championship in Arlington, Va., chess grand master Varuzhan Akobian traveled to Lindsborg this week to instruct a chess camp.
The Anatoly Karpov International School of Chess hosts an annual week-long camp for interested young players, and this is not the first time Akobian has instructed during this time. Above his successful playing, the 30-year-old said he enjoys teaching more and does it all over the country. Lindsborg, he said, is one of his favorite places to do so.
"I enjoy teaching because now I feel like when I'm teaching students, they right away learn a lot of things," he said. "I never had a teacher at my level. My teacher was a good player, but he wasn't a strong grand master like me. Now when I teach students, very quickly they learn things that would take them years to learn. Certain things you can't learn by reading books, you have to have somebody guide you."
Akobian, an Armenia native, has been playing the game for 25 years and learned first chess from his father.
He qualified to play in his first rated tournament at age 9. At age 14, be placed second at one of chess' most prestigious tournaments, the Kasparov Cup in Moscow, in which only the top two players from any country may participate.
He moved to the U.S. and earned FIDE's highest title, International Grandmaster at age 18. Several years later, he tied for third in a competition At that competition, he tied with World Champion Anatoly Karpov, after which the Lindsborg chess school is named.
In addition to many other matchups and awards, Akobian also has been the World Open Champion in 2002, 2004, 2007, and most recently in 2013.
"It feels good when you (are a) champion of (a) tournament like World Open," he said of the most recent accomplishment. "It's a very big tournament. You really have to play very well to win a tournament like that. You cannot get lucky, because every single game, you're playing a strong opponent."
But even the toughest games can be broken down into simple rules, he said. Those are the rules he explained at the Lindsborg chess camp:
1. Control the center four pieces of the board. This makes more squares available for the pieces to go to.
2. Develop minor pieces. These are the knights and bishops.
3. Get the king to safety. This is also called castling.
4. Finish piece development with major pieces, specifically the queen and rook. This is done by moving the queen forward and the rooks in from the sides of the board.
5. Attack. This is done by opening a center and activating pieces.
He also instructed the students to avoid the following:
Page 2 of 2 - - Traping knights on the side of the board, unless there is a good reason.
- Moving the same pieces more than once at the beginning of the game, unless there is a good reason.
- Bringing the queen out too early. This will cause the piece to be trapped.
"The things I (teach) I'm sure they've heard before, but not always they apply," he said. "So it's important to apply the basics first. All the steps we mentioned I think they forget a lot. This happens not only at that level, but at the very top level too."
During the camp, the students played blitz tournaments (fast-paced games), simultaneous exhibitions (one person playing multiple opponents at one time) and bug house games (involving four players on two teams and two boards).
Also participating with the young students were six college-age students from Russia, who have ties to the Lindsborg chess school.
"When they leave on Friday, they're going to have a lot more knowledge than when they came," Akobian said.
Anatoly Karpov International School of Chess instructor and manager Gabriel Purdy was glad to have the grand master back in Lindsborg.
"It's amazing. It's a great privilege to have someone that good coming here," he said. "You can't even imagine how wonderful they are at the game and how much people can learn from them."
Contact Jenae Pauls at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @PaulsSentinel