Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Chess at the Movies, the Return


Position from the film "Uncovered"
Black to play and win (too easy).

I saw that there is an excellent review today by Taylor Kingston at ChessCafe of Bob Basalla's Chess at the Movies. I wrote a review of it myself back in November 2005 and then posted a second time with Basalla's reply. I am glad to see it still getting press since it is an excellent book. And I think Kingston's review finds just the right tone, emphasizing the value of this volume for anyone who cares about movies and about chess while mentioning some of the minor issues inevitably to be found in a work of such large scope.

I thought I'd use this opportunity to mention one film that Basalla only touches upon lightly (and that at second hand): UNCOVERED (1994), where the position above (one of the few Basalla has not diagrammed) occurs in a painting and serves an important plot point. I saw it a few months back on DVD and thought it not bad (3 out of 5 stars perhaps). The film stars the lovely Kate Beckinsale as an art restorer who accidentally uncovers an inscription on an old painting of two chessplayers. The inscription and the story of the painting suggest a tangled murder and property plot going back generations, which might enhance the value of the painting and may impact its current ownership through inheritance. Aided by her adoptive father, she recruits the help of a handsome young chess hustler to decipher the position depicted on the board. For some reason they assume it must be White to move (perhaps because one figure in the painting appears to have just captured a White piece), and the supposed master says that White must play the insipid 1.Ra5?? (see diagram above, after White's move), when Black executes his threat of 1...g4+ (of course) and the Black Queen goes on a rampage, picking up White pieces left and right. In the film, each capture by the Queen predicts a murder and the chess hustler's analysis of the position becomes predictive of who will next fall victim to the mysterious killer.

As a student of gothic and mystery conventions (and of the typical inheritance plot at the heart of most gothic tales), I found UNCOVERED rather amusing if frequently disappointing. The film might be described as "The DaVinci Code" meets "Four Weddings and a Funeral," and the conflicting mix of gothic and comic at its heart seemed a structural problem to me. It has a frequently light tone and revolves around the lives of four people who form something of a constructed family (as frequently occurs in European comedies), and there is quite a bit of romance in the film (whose title may also refer to Ms. Beckinsale's frequent state of undress). But the dark undercurrents of the gothic property dispute and the murder-mystery story-line keep intruding until we get the ultimate confusion of the two at the film's climax when the seemingly friendly murderer is revealed.

I thought that the basic plot of the film was intriguing, though, and it made me interested in the novel The Flanders Panel upon which it is based (and which has been frequently recommended by a friend). As it is usually the case, I predict that the book will be better....

Kosteniuk - Stefanova, Turin 2006


Black to play and win.

I just saw a great game between Alexandra Kosteniuk and Antoaneta Stefanova, who must be the most attractive pairing today at the Turin Olympiad. But this was definitely a time where the spectators were more likely watching the board than ogling the players....

Kosteniuk - Stefanova
Turin Olympiad 31.05.2006
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Bc5 6.c3 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.d4 Bb6 9.a4 (Not 9.dxe5?! Nxe5 (of course 9...dxe5? 10.Qxd8+ Nxd8 11.Nxe5 Nxe4?! 12.Bd5 is good for White) 10.Nxe5 dxe5 11.Qxd8+ Kxd8 12.Bxf7 Rf8 13.Bd5 Nxd5 14.exd5 Bb7 which ends up better for Black) 9...Bb7 10.Re1 0–0 11.Bg5 h6 12.Bh4 Re8 13.d5 Na5 14.Ba2 c6 15.Nbd2 (Perhaps 15.Bxf6 Qxf6 16.axb5 axb5 17.Na3=, as now White must sacrifice a piece in unclear circumstances.) 15...g5! 16.Nxg5 hxg5 17.Bxg5 Kg7 18.b4 Nc4 19.Bxc4 (Perhaps better to preserve the Bishop with 19.Nxc4!? bxc4 20.dxc6 Bxc6 21.Bxc4 unclear) 19...bxc4 20.Nxc4 cxd5 21.exd5 Ba7 22.Qf3 (I focused my own analysis on 22.Ne3!? Qd7 (22...Bxe3? 23.Rxe3 Qc8 24.Rg3 looks good for White; 22...Bc8!? 23.Qf3 perhaps is tough to judge) 23.Qf3 Ng8 24.Nf5+ Kg6 (24...Kf8 25.Qh3) 25.g4 Kxg5 26.Qh3 which looks all unclear.) 22...Bxd5 23.Bxf6+ Qxf6 24.Qxd5 Bxf2+ 25.Kh1 Rh8! (Threatening Rxh2+ followed by Rh8+. Not 25...Bxe1?! 26.Rxe1 with some initiative for White.) 26.h3 Qf5 27.Rg1?? (Overlooking Stefanova's only reply -- but that reply wins for Black! White must play 27.Re3! Bxe3! 28.Nxe3 Rxh3+! 29.Kg1 (29.gxh3 Qxh3+ 30.Kg1 Qxe3+) 29...Rxe3 (likely better is 29...Qg5!) 30.Rf1 Qg6 31.Qxa8 Rxc3 32.Qxa6 which White might survive) 27...Bg3!! (and White cannot avoid mate beginning with ...Rxh3+ except by great material sacrifice and so resigned. Kosteniuk likely expected either 27...Bxg1? 28.Nxd6! and White is better or 27...Rxh3+?? 28.gxh3+ Bxg1 29.Rxg1+ Kh6 30.Qg2! which wins for White. A wonderful game by Stefanova. I wonder what the ratio of wins to losses between these frequent opponents stands at now?) 0-1

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Chess and Music

Victor Shen

Ari Minkov lecturing on Chess and Music

Ari Minkov gave a lecture last Thursday at the Kenilworth Chess Club on "Music and Chess" (which is the subject of an excellent online bibliography by John Greschak). His talk raised more questions than it answered, including what the relationship might be between musical Romanticism and the so-called "romantic" style of chess play (a question raised quite eloquently by Scott Massey during the talk). In the end, though, I don't think it is so easy to discuss "the musical elements of a chess game" except by stretching analogies, by which practically all the arts (including chess) could be said to be similar. Among the games that Ari looked at was that of Captain Smith vs. Philidor (London 1790), where Philidor's theories of pawn play are very much on display -- though the final combination (see diagram below) is conducted by the pieces. Philidor, as is well known, was a violinist and composer of the late 18th Century as well as one of the first chess writers of note. Is there a way of interpreting his game as illustrative of both musical and chess romanticism? Or of displaying some musical ideas? I have no answer, but perhaps the reader can supply one....


Black to play.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Victor Shen, 12-year-old Candidate Master

Victor Shen

Coach Scott Massey, Victor Shen, and Victor's
brother at last summer's KCC chess party.

Candidate Master Victor Shen, who recently turned 12, has been making steady progress of late, so that his coach, NM Scott Massey, expects him to break into master territory some time this year. At the club last night, Scott showed us two of Victor's recent games (played in Westfield Chess Club Action Quads) where he demonstrates his ability to create a mating attack even against a strong master such as Peter Radomskyj (see diagram below). We look forward to seeing more of Victor's games in the future.


Shen - Radomskyj
White to play.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

ChessCafe Articles

I couldn't find time to post this yesterday, but wanted to point to some interesting articles at ChessCafe:

1) Stefan Bücker's "Over the Horizons" article titled "A Knight on the Edge, Part One" takes up the controversial Sicilian with 2.Na3!? and is the best treatment of it I have seen yet. As is typical of Bücker's Kaissiber pieces, it also includes an excellent bibliography pointing to the most important analysis (though I might add that Dennis Monokroussos has made several posts on 2.Na3 at his Chess Mind blog). I imagine more players interested in the theory as Black than as White, but I must confess that I am myself intrigued now that I see it as a method of getting "The Clamp" set-up or even transposing to lines from the Advanced French where Na3-c2 supports d4. I am also pleased to see that this is only "Part One," which gives me something to look forward to next month...

2) Hans Ree's "Dutch Treat" discusses Jan Timman in Malmö, a topic I wrote about as "Jan Timman's Fighting Spirit." As a member of Timman's generation of players, however, Ree is better situated than I to reflect on the questions of chess strength and aging suggested by Timman's recent success. I expected Robert Byrne to have considered such things in discussing one of Timman's games recently in his New York Times column.

3) Steve Lopez's "ChessBase Cafe" on Fritz 9 Engine Displays demonstrates another advantage of Fritz 9 over Fritz 8 (which is always the point): more options when you right-click on a line that Fritz is considering in "Infinite Analysis" mode.... Though he's discussing Fritz 9, I think anyone who didn't know about the options available when you right click on a variation (a feature of earlier Fritzes) will learn something useful. I recommend the Archive of previous articles by Lopez (and occasionally Mig Greengard) as well.

4) Though it has been up for over a week, I just noticed that The Skittles Room offers a wonderful excerpt from Nikolay Minev's A Practical Guide to Rook Endings, which should do a lot to increase its sales. I don't find a permanent link in their Archives or Skittles Room archives, which suggests this is one to print out and save (unless you just want to buy the whole book, of course).

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Stonewall Attack

I have posted my notes on The Stonewall Attack from Yaacov Norowitz's lecture (described in my previous post). I have also posted a selection of Yaacov's ICC Games with the Stonewall (many more of which can be seen by typing "search YaacovN D00" at ICC). If you are interested in learning the "Norowitz Stonewall System," his ICC games are one of the best resources out there. I have also posted a few Supplemental Stonewall Games that feature two of the more challenging lines that Black can throw at you, as discussed by Andy Soltis in his excellent (and, unfortunately, out of print) book Stonewall Attack.

Personally, I had not given the Stonewall much thought since I was a kid and took it up briefly after reading I. A. Horowitz and Fred Reinfeld's How to Think Ahead in Chess, which may have been one of the earliest mass-market repertoire books (covering The Stonewall Attack, The Lasker's Defense to the QGD, and the Dragon Sicilian). I remember getting some killer kingside attacks with it until my opponents learned better and I moved on to the Urusov Gambit (thanks to Horowitz's Chess Openings Theory and Practice). But Yaacov's lecture made me think that this is a fully viable line, especially for speed chess where knowledge of typical middlegame positions and tactics can garner many wins (as YaacovN's 3280 ICC blitz rating will attest).

There has been almost no serious interest in the Stonewall since the turn of the last century, when it was adopted occasionally by the likes of Pillsbury (before he discovered his Pillsbury Attack in the Queen's Gambit). More recently, there was a brief blip of interest in the Stonewall as a surprisingly effective anti-computer weapon (as discussed most recently by Christian Kongsted in his book on chess computers). A web search turned up a couple of good articles at Chessville by Keith Hayward and David Surratt discussing Game One and Game Two of a 2001 Stonewall Attack theme match. And there is a 60-game zipped PGN file of Stonewall games you can download from the Pitt Archives.

The following puzzles are taken from games discussed in the lecture for those of you who like the challenge.

stonewall diagram

The Classical Stonewall Attack
White to play and win.

stonewall diagram

How can White force a draw?
How can he try for a win?

stonewall diagram

Norowitz-Topalov (ICC Blitz)
White to play and win.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Yaacov Norowitz Lecture

Yaacov Norowitz lecture

Yaacov Norowitz lecturing on the Stonewall.

Yaacov Norowitz lecture

Yaacov's game against GM Stripunsky.

Yaacov Norowitz lecture

Yaacov playing Ari Minkov at 5-1 time odds.

Yaacov Norwitz lecture

Yaacov playing Mike Wojcio at time odds.

NM Yaacov Norowitz, who sports a Super-GM blitz rating of 3280 on ICC (where he has the handle "YaacovN"), gave a wonderful lecture last night on his favorite Stonewall Attack to a captivated audience of over 20 at the Kenilworth Chess Club. His lecture focused on the critical lines of the Stonewall system (where White tries to set up his pawns in "wave" fashion at c3, d4, e3, and f4), the middle-game theme of dark / light square control, and the relative value of Bishop vs. Knight. After the lecture, he entertained the crowd by taking on several club members in succession at time odds of 5-to-1, winning every game handily, even against master opponents.

It was a pleasure for our older members to welcome back Yaacov to the club, where he had been a member during his youth (even winning the under-1800 championship in 1992-1993). Now engaged in rabbinical studies, Yaacov gives online and private lessons, simultaneous exhibitions, and entertains at chess "parties & simchas" according to his card. You can contact him at I can definitely say he is an excellent lecturer.

I will be posting a detailed analysis of the Stonewall games he discussed, which included one of his ICC victories over World Champion Topalov ("EttoreMajorana"). I think you will be very impressed by the games.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Reversed Dragon


Reversed Dragon

The Kenilworth Chess Club held a Theme Tournament on May 4, 2006, featuring the Reversed Dragon. All games were required to begin 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.g3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Nf3 Nc6. I have posted the seven games I have from the event with some light notes, along with a second page of Reversed Dragon Games (chosen quite subjectively and not fully representative, but all interesting). I think it was a great system for a theme event, since it definitely gave lots of chances for both sides. I also think the Reversed Dragon English would make a great system for anyone looking for a new opening--especially anyone who also plays the Accelerated Dragon as Black, since there are lots of similarities in the structures.

I had posted some useful links in advertising the event. And I notice that Pete Tamburro has done a great intro lecture on the line at ChessFM, where he also describes this as a great "opening for amateurs."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Jan Timman's Fighting Spirit


White to play and win.

GM Jan Timman's recent victory at the 14th Sigeman & Co. Chess Tournament in Malmo, Sweden, was due solely to his fighting spirit. Rarely did he have any advantage out of the opening, but he kept creating problems for his opponent deep into the game. And then, inevitably it seems, there was a slip and it gave Timman the only chance he needed to go for the win. His first round game against Berg (which I have annotated, along with one other game) is a case in point: to solve the problems that Timman created for him, Berg made a daring piece sacrifice to gain the initiative. With the tide turning in his opponent's favor, Timman correctly decided to force a draw by perpetual check. Berg, however, mistook his initiative for a winning attack and therefore avoided the draw, and that's the only opening that Timman needed. Demonstrating incredible technique in the endgame of R+N vs. R+2P, Timman finally gained the victory (see diagram above).

Related links:
On Mates and Ex-Mates by David R. Sands, The Washington Times (May 13, 2006)
Timman-Berg: A Study-like Conclusion by Dennis Monokroussos
Sigeman 2006 by Mig Greengard

Monday, May 15, 2006

Kamsky Loses to Topalov


Topalov to play after 41...Rf7

After a great string of victories at the MTel Super-GM tourney in Sofia, Bulgaria, U.S. GM Gata Kamsky lost today in Round 5 to World Champion Veselin Topalov. But what a great game by Topalov! You can download the PGN of all games through Round 5 from The Week in Chess website.

Anand and Kamsky are now tied for the lead, but based on Topalov's come-from-behind performances at other tournaments over the past year, I predict that this is the beginning of a "Topa Tear." It is great to see such great games from Kamsky, though, and I expect to see more great games in the second half. As usual, the best notes to games have been those of GM Mihail Marin for ChessBase, on Round 1, Round 2, and Round 3 . They also have a report and games from Round 4.

Kamsky's stunning 24-move Round 4 stunner over Svidler is annotated today by Lubomir Kavalek for the Washington Post (in what must be the most timely chess column in a U.S. newspaper). It is also annotated online by Jorge Luis Fernandez at the excellent Spanish-language InforChess website, where you can also find a game from Round 3 and Round 2. Now that I am hooked on this event, I will likely return with a list of annotated games at the end of it.

Return to Google Books

Anyone who was as excited as I was about the prospect of "Free Chess through Google Books" will want to read Wired co-founder Kevin Kelly's article "Scan this Book!" (New York Times Magazine, May 14, 2006) about the efforts of publishers to stop Google Books (and others) from making the giant treasure trove of out-of-print material available online. Though Kelly ultimately suggests that book publishers (working in concert to resist the inevitable and technologically-determined paradigm shift) will likely slow Google's dream of greater access for decades, along the way he presents an exciting prospect for anyone who cares about book knowledge, including us chess players.

The most exciting part of that prospect, as Kelly writes, is that "The static world of book knowledge [will] be transformed by the same elevation of relationships [witnessed on the interlinked web], as each page in a book discovers other pages and other books" (45). Readers will be able to create links of interrelated information, or very quickly to remix all knowledge on specific subjects. "Just as the music audience now juggles and reorders songs into new albums...the universal library will encourage the creation of virtual 'bookshelves' -- a collection of texts...that form a library shelf's worth of specialized information" (45). The prospect for chess theory is very exciting, since chess players will be able to create complete collections of everything ever written on a specific opening with about the same ease as they can now create a specialized .CBV or .PGN database of games that feature a specific variation. In the future, the restoration of lost variations will be done with the click of a mouse and some relatively easy editing.

But this dream vision of the future will be a long time coming. Besides the copyright issues that need to be resolved, there is also the sheer volume of unscanned works and the laborious process of converting them to digital form. As Kelly writes: "Nearly 100 percent of all contemporary recorded music has already been digitized, much of it by fans. About one-tenth of the 500,000 or so movies listed on the Internet Movie Database are now digitized on DVD. But because of copyright issues and the physical fact of the need to turn pages, the digitization of books has proceeded at a relative crawl. At most one book in 20 has moved from analog to digital. So far, the universal library is a library without many books" (44).

One further concern for chess players is that the libraries cooperating with Google are not necessarily those with the best chess collections. It occurs to me, therefore, that if we are going to create greater access to out-of-print chess books, then we might start by digitizing the ones we own that are likely out of copyright. I am contemplating doing my part. How about you?

Friday, May 12, 2006

A Year of The Kenilworthian

As parents often say at their child's first birthday, "It all went by so fast." A year ago today I made my first post as The Kenilworthian, in which I discussed the origin of that odd (if relatively unique) moniker, and now here we are 365 days and over 200 posts later.
I thought I'd use this one year anniversary to offer you some of my "greatest hits." Especially if you are a new reader of my blog, you may appreciate this selected list in six categories: Opening Analysis, Essays and Reviews, Annotated Games, News and Compiled Links, Bibliographies, and Instruction. You can access other pieces from the days before my blog via the Articles page of the KCC website. And games posted in the first three months of the blog, before I started posting them in web-viewable java-applet form, can be seen at the Kenilworth Chess Club Quarterly, Volume 1A and Volume 1B. I am as stunned as you might be at my productivity, especially considering that this represents less than half of my total output. I think it may be time to move on to other things....

Opening Analysis

Essays and Reviews

Chess Restoration and the Usable Past (March 30, 2006)
Marketing Chess as Art (April 25, 2006)
Fischer's Problematic Legacy (March 20, 2006)
The New Yorker's "Planet Kirsan" (April 20, 2006)
Celebrity Chess Showdown (April 4, 2006)
Dracula Chess (August 21, 2005)
Chess in the Movies (November 29, 2005)
Chess in the Movies, Part Two (February 6, 2006)
Chess for Zebras (January 12, 2006)
"The Lazy Detective" (February 24, 2006)
"The Mad Genius of Bobby Fischer" (April 14, 2006)
My Grandfather at Lake Hopatcong in the 1920s (July 10, 2005)
De la Maza's Rapid Chess Improvement (August 14, 2005)
A History of the Kenilworth Chess Club (June 9, 2005)
Two Pieces in The New York Times (November 27, 2005)
Chess Fever at Kenilworth (August 5, 2005)
Chess in Colour (August 10, 2005)
Hydra vs. Humanity (June 26, 2005)
First American Chess Congress, New York 1857 (August 30, 2005)
The Last American Chess Congress (July 21, 2005)
Lithograph of New York 1857 (September 3, 2005)
New Yorker Article on Computer Chess (December 8, 2005)
Internet Chess Piracy (December 13, 2005)

Annotated Games

Capablanca vs. Ed Lasker at Lake Hopatcong (March 20, 2006)
Maroczy at Lake Hopatcong (March 22, 2006)
Kupchik at Lake Hopatcong (March 27, 2006)
Return to Lake Hopatcong 1926 (March 15, 2006)
Capablanca-Ilyin Zhenevsky, Moscow 1925 (September 10, 2005)
Moscow 1925 Lecture Notes (October 7, 2005)
Spraggett - De La Villa, Dos Hermanas 2006 (April 5, 2006)
Topalov-Morozevich, Monte Carlo Rapid 2005 (October 11, 2005)
Baker-King, BCF 1996 (January 19, 2006)
Petrosian-Pachman, Bled 1961 (January 5, 2006)
Tukmakov-Nikolaevsky, USSR Ch. 1971 (September 5, 2005)
Bisguier-Sherwin, New York 1955 (December 29, 2005)
Korchnoi-Karpov, Baguio 1978 (October 31, 2005)
Lasker - Marshall, St. Petersburgh 1914 (January 10, 2006)
Volokitin-Nakamura, Lausanne 2005 (September 27, 2005)
Torre-Saemisch, Moscow 1925 (September 15, 2005)
Why give him what he wants? (March 13, 2006)
Grasso-Stoyko, KCC 2005 (November 27, 2005)
Stoyko-Weeramantry, NJ International 1987 (February 9, 2006)
Milekhina - Stoyko, US Amateur Teams 2006 (February 24, 2006)
Kernighan-Stoyko, Hackettstown 2005 (September 4, 2005)
Stoyko-Cole, NJ Open 2005 (September 4, 2005)
Stoyko's Viking Quad (August 6, 2005)
Pawn Steamroller (March 29, 2006)
Last Round of the KCC Championship (March 13, 2006)
Round 8 of the KCC Championship (March 8, 2006)
Round 7 of the KCC Championship (February 27, 2006)
Round 6 of the KCC Championship (February 23, 2006)
Round 5 of the KCC Championship (February 13, 2006)
Photos from the 2006 KCC Championship (February 15, 2006)
Round 4 of the KCC Championship (February 7, 2006)
Puzzlers from Round 3 (February 1, 2006)
Round 2 of the KCC Championship (January 22, 2006)
Round One Games from KCC Championship (January 16, 2006)
Hart-Selling, NJ Open u-1800 2005 (September 3, 2005)
Kernighan-West, Hamilton 2005 (December 25, 2005)
Bartell-Kernighan, Westfield 2005 (October 15, 2005)
Bady-Bartell, NJ Open 2005 (September 4, 2005)
Kernighan-Klemm, Mount Arlington 2005 (December 6, 2005)
D'Amore-Valvo, New York 1990 (October 23, 2005)
2nd Bergen Futurity IT 1985 (March 13, 2006)
Return to Moscow 1925 (December 26, 2005)
Horace Ransom Bigelow at Lake Hopatcong 1923 (July 19, 2005)
Radomskyj-Kernighan, KCC 2005 (September 24, 2005)
Susswein-Demetrick, KCC 2005 (September 26, 2005)
Meinders-Hart, KCC 2005 (September 24, 2005)

News and Compiled Links

Linares / Morelia, 2006 (March 13, 2006)
US Chess Championship (March 6, 2006)
USATE 2006 Info and Links (March 27, 2006)
US Amateur Teams Final (April 3, 2006)
US Amateur Teams East 2006 (February 21, 2006)
Christiansen-Wojtkiewicz, San Diego 2006 (March 21, 2006)
Recent Annotations and Analysis on the Web (April 12, 2006)
Topalov Tops Corus (January 26, 2006)
Annotated FIDE World Chess Championship (October 4, 2005)
Newspaper Columnists on the World Championship (October 9, 2005)
Recent Annotated Games (August 23, 2005)
Games from the Continental Open (August 20, 2005)
Annotated Games from Dortmund (August 10, 2005)

Bibliographies and Links

Urusoff / Urusov Gambit Bibliography (August 3, 2005)
Barry Attack Bibliography (November 23, 2005)
1...Nc6 Bibliography (August 23, 2005)
Albin Counter Gambit Bibliography (October 10, 2005)
Grand Prix Attack Bibliography (October 2, 2005)
King's Indian Attack Bibliography (October 24, 2005)
Some Queen's Gambit Declined Links (November 15, 2005)
Chess Links for Kids and Beginners (November 15, 2005)
Free Holiday Gifts (December 27, 2005)
Chess and Computers Bibliography (December 16, 2005)
United States Chess League (September 6, 2005)


Creating Chess Diagrams for Your Blog (August 22, 2005)
Adding Java Applets to Your Chess Site (September 8, 2005)
Teaching Chess to Kids (September 26, 2005)
Teaching Chess to Kids, Part II (October 7, 2005)
Teaching Chess to Kids, Part III (October 19, 2005)
Teaching Chess to Kids, Part IV (December 1, 2005)
How to View PGN Files (June 25, 2005)
Favicons (September 2, 2005)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006 on Chess Blogging

I thought I had noticed a slight up-tick in traffic at my blog of late, and it may be due to the recent addition of a Top Chess Blogs List at, where The Kenilworthian is currently listed second (which is quite an honor). Those interested in chess blogging generally should check out the new set of material that has been added at the Chess pages, which are maintained by Mark Weeks (who also maintains the excellent World Chess Championship website) and Sarah Beth Cohen (who has done some interesting work on Paul Morphy and other figures in chess history.) Hat tip to DG at the BCC Weblog.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Newspaper Article on NM Evan Ju


Black to play and win after 17.Kh2 in
Ashwath-Ju, WYCC Halkidiki 2003

There is an article in the Chester Observer-Tribune about 14-year-old New Jersey master Evan Ju. I know that young Evan has played several of our club members, and that he even posted a win over our club champion, Steve Stoyko, in the 2005 New Jersey Open, where the teenager finished in a tie for second place over a very strong field. I have posted two of his better games (including the scintillating attacking game Ashwath-Ju, from which the diagram above is taken) as a PGN file for you to download.

Update: See "How 15-year-old Evan Ju Won the 2006 NJ Open Chess Championship," which includes an analysis of all his games from the event.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Interesting Ending


Black to play after White's Ra2?

The position above occurred in the final game of our Thematic Tournament last night at the Kenilworth Chess Club between club president Joe Demetrick and newcomer Henry Charry. Joe was down to less than a minute on the clock at the time. It was a great lesson, if a painful one for Joe who had a draw until he offered the natural Rook trade. You are on your own for this one--even if you use Fritz, since the computer will likely be no help because the solution is beyond its horizon.

Trading Blunders


Black to play after 12.Nb5??


White to play after 22....Qf3??

Last night's Theme Tournament drew eight players at the Kenilworth Chess Club. All games had to begin with 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3 d5 5.cxd5 Nxd5. It was a well-chosen opening for a theme event, with lots of positional and tactical ideas and relatively equal chances for both sides. The sole winner of this two-game, Game-30 mini-tourney was expert Mauricio Camejo, whose two wins were over NM Mark Kernighan and myself.

Camejo and I were the only players to win in the first round and so were paired in the second. One of us was guaranteed first prize ($40) if our game was decisive. The unfamiliar opening, the time pressure of Game-30, and perhaps a bit of the desire to win led us to trade blunders (see diagrams above). Unfortunately for me, my blunder was the more decisive. I will likely post all of the games eventually, perhaps once I get some master commentary at the club next week (which, if we can persuade FM Steve Stoyko to come, might turn into a mini-lecture on this interesting line). For now, here is the PGN for those who want the solutions.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Mad Dog

Mad Dog

In my series on The Panther, I wrote about the power of animal names in helping us identify with our opening lines. "Animals are good to think with" after all, and Jonathan Rowson might point out that they are useful symbols for our own myths about ourselves as players. So we shouldn't be surprised that a regular critter craze seems to be stampeding across the land of chess publishing. Witness the success of Chess for Tigers, Chess for Zebras, The Hippopatomus Rises from the Swamp, and Tiger's Modern. Likely the publishers have taken a page from the wine industry, where marketers have learned (thanks mostly to the success of Yellow Tail Shiraz) that so-called "critter labels" have the power to move product. As a recent article by Rob Walker tells it, "According to ACNielsen, the market-research company, 438 viable table-wine brands have been introduced in the past three years, and 18 percent--nearly one in five--feature an animal on the label" ("Animal Pragmatism," New York Times Magazine, April 23, 2006, p. 30). ACNielsen's summary states: "'Combined with existing critter labels, sales of critter-branded wine have reached more than $600 million.'" Though chess probably doesn't sell as well as wine (no matter what Tarrasch says about it), I wouldn't be surprised to hear that chess critters are similarly successful at outpacing the rest of the herd.

Yet for all of their potential attraction for chess consumers, whose favorite product tends to be opening manuals, there are surprisingly few openings named for animals. In their amusing collection, The Complete Chess Addict, Mike Fox and Richard James offer up a list of "Chess Openings and Variations with Zoologial Names," yet they are stretching to make a dozen with Bird's Opening [sic], Orang-Utan, Dory Defense [sic], Dragon Variation, Pelikan Variation [sic], The Rat, The Hippopotamus, The Krazy Kat [sic], The Hedgehog, The Monkey's Bum, The Vulture, and The Pterodactyl. As you likely notice, at least three of these actually take their names from famous players (including Henry Bird, who lends his flighty patronym to the oddball 1.f4 and the Spanish with 3...Nd4). We obviously could use more openings named for animals and I wouldn't be surprised if I help to start a trend by talking about my new pet line, the Mad Dog (aka The Kholmov Variation of the Pirc Defense).

"Mad Dog" is GM Tiger Hillarp Persson's catch-all for anti-Pirc weapons with Bc4, which he says are mainly used by players who failed "to outgrow [their] infantile obsession with combining the queen and bishop towards f7." Like some rabid dog foaming at the mouth, they just want to kill you as quickly as possible, with no regard for their own safety. The particular "mad dog" line I want to look at typically begins 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Bc4 Bg7 5.Qe2 Nc6, when the move 6.e5!? creates some hair raising situations for both players.

M. Thomas, who wrote the last extended consideration of these lines from White's perspective, Pirc Defence: A Line for White (The Chess Player 1980), recommended this variation and was the first and last to explore its intricacies. As he wrote: "This system is ideal for club and tournament players because it is of a sharp tactical nature and weak opening play by Black is rapidly punished." What's more, while Black has at least one likely equalizing line, even with best play he must concede White a significant initiative or space advantage. A more recent consideration (and one that inspired the present article) was written by Stefan Kalhorn and Carsten Herrmann at their Schachblätter weblog in a piece titled "Pirc Anrempeln" (March 26, 2006). After I read that piece, I started a thread about the line at Pete Tamburro's excellent Openings for Amateurs forum, and (with a little book research) now have plenty to present on this nearly forgotten variation in need of restoration.

In this articles, I want to examine a line that has practically vanished from the opening manuals: 6...Nxd4!? White is now forced to sacrifice his Queen and at least a pawn for three minor pieces and the initiative following 7.exf6 Nxe2 8.fxg7 Rg8 9.Ngxe2. But that is hardly something to trouble the mad dog...

Videos on the Kholmov or Mad Dog Pirc (also named after Short by some)