Thursday, August 31, 2006

Olimpiu G. Urcan

There is an interesting interview by Neil Brennen at Chessville with chess historian Olimpiu G. Urcan, whose articles on Julius Finn and Rudolph Sze have won the CJA Award for best historical articles of 2005 and 2006. Urcan discusses his interest in "marginal" and "amateur" chess players of the past, with whom he identifies to some extent, perhaps, due to the parallel position of chess historians today. As he says:

"Chess historians are marginals themselves, as a matter of fact maybe of the most unfortunate type. They live at the periphery of historical writing and, if that isn’t enough, at the periphery of the chess world. In spite of its very reduced audience, I think chess history writing has progressed greatly in the last 40 years. Not only in respect to the quantity of books written, but also in respect to a certain trend of producing superior works and establishing a clearer scientifically-based methodology of work. ... But my feeling is that, as long as it is not connected to serious academic circles, chess history writing will remain a hobby or an after-work preoccupation for most of these writers, since the majority of them realized that making it a business makes no or little financial sense. Their labors of love will still be published, but they will still be individual efforts bought only by the long-lasting chess collector, the most loyal reader, client, and, at times, patron of a chess historian."

Some additional articles by Olimpiu Urcan include:
UpdateOlimpiu Urcan himself wrote to add one item to the list:
Captain Vladimir Sournin:A Russian Chess Player's Exploits in America (September 1, 2006)
I take it that means my webliography is complete....

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

John Nunn Interview

The popular Dutch chess blog "Doggers Schaak" by Peter Doggers has a very interesting interview with John Nunn (in English, after the introduction), where the GM reflects on his life as a chess publisher. Worth a read. It is also reprinted in ChessBase.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Stoyko - Kernighan, Hamilton Quads 2006


White to play and win.

In the same quad that NM Mark Kernighan played his best game, he also lost an interesting one to Kenilworth Chess Club champion FM Steve Stoyko. Mark's comment on Stoyko - Kernighan, Hamilton Quads 2006 was that it seemed like a game of "catch and release," whereby Steve kept getting ready to reel him in but always missed the best line to the finish, leaving Mark wriggling on the hook. In the end, though, Steve netted the catch with a deadly zugzwang (see diagram above).

Monday, August 28, 2006

Benjamin Franklin's "Morals of Chess"

The Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary will be sponsoring a lecture by former U.S. Chess Federation President John McCrary titled "Franklin and the Morals of Chess" on Tuesday, September 12, 2006 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Benjamin Franklin Hall of the American Philosophical Society, 104 South Fifth Street, Philadelphia, PA. It is a free event, made possible through the generosity of the John Templeton Foundation. According to the press release, McCrary will speculate on Franklin's actual chess-playing abilities, discuss his acceptance of women as able chess players, and discuss his views on the "Turk"--which he saw in Paris. The lecture will be followed by a question and answer session, a chance to see Franklin's own chess set, and refreshments. For more information, call 215.545.3870, extension 112.

McCrary is the author of an essay titled "Chess and Benjamin Franklin-His Pioneering Contributions," which describes Franklin as an American chess pioneer who authored the first piece of writing on chess published in the United States: "The Morals of Chess" (The Columbian Magazine 1786). Bill Wall offers an interesting chronology on Benjamin Franklin and Chess for those interested in learning more on the subject. Hat tip to Goran.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Star-Ledger Profiles Pete Tamburro

CJA "Chess Journalist of the Year" Pete Tamburro, of Morristown, New Jersey, is nicely profiled in today's Newark Star-Ledger. The article, "A Winning Gambit for Star-Ledger Chess Columnist" by Claudia Perry, offers some details about Pete's life and his views on the benefits of chess for kids. The 59-year-old chess writer, organizer, and lecturer is an AP History teacher at the Frisch School in Paramus, where he also coaches the chess team (of course). He is currently finishing a three-volume lesson plan titled "Teaching Chess: Step-by-Step" for the Kasparov Chess Foundation, designed especially for promoting scholastic chess.

What the article does not emphasize is that Pete is a master of all chess media:

Best wishes to Pete on his most recent success.

Dracula Chess Moulds

dracula chess set

dracula chess set

Dracula Chess set moulds.
Looks like I can now realize my dream of a Dracula Chess playing set. If only I knew something about making pottery.... Those interested can buy via E-bay from "Moulds & More".

Saturday, August 26, 2006

West - Kernighan, Hamilton Quads 2006


Black to play and gain a winning position.


Black to play and win.

After playing over the game West - Kernighan, Hamilton Quads 2006, I'm sure you will agree that it was a spectacular victory for NM Mark Kernighan against one of his most frequent rivals in local tournaments, NM James R. West (of Philidor Counter-Gambit fame).

Over a year ago, I asked Mark to contribute a "best game" to our website, which he did rather reluctantly, admitting that all of his games seem to have flaws. I think Mark plays chess less for aesthetic pleasure than the joy of the struggle and often seems reluctant to have his games end (which may be why so many of them continue well into the endgame and down to the last minutes on the clock). So even his better games can be overly long and difficult to follow. The current game, however, is a different story. Though Mark does make an inaccuracy in the opening, the rest is flawless. And along the way he manages to find some very nice moves (see diagrams above).

This is a gem, and I'm sure he'll agree that it is his new "best game."

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Texas Hold 'em

Analyzing the troubled U.S. policy in the Middle East, a member of a British foreign policy think tank said today: "While the U.S. has been playing poker in the region, Iran has been playing chess. Iran is playing a longer, more clever game and has been far more successful at winning hearts and minds" (quoted in UPI and AP).

While chessplayers might see it as just the latest in a long line of statements contrasting chess to poker, the political dimension of the analysis struck a chord with me and reminded me of a great chapter in Jan Donner's The King titled "Poker Ideology." There he writes (pp. 138-139):

"The game of chess has never been held in great esteem by the North Americans. Their culture is steeped in deeply anti-intellectual tendencies. They pride themselves in having created the game of poker. It is their national game, springing from a tradition of westward expansion, of gun-slinging skirt chasers who slept with cows and horses. They distrust chess as a game of Central European immigrants with a homesick longing for clandestine conspiracies in quiet coffee houses. Their deepest conviction is that bluff and escalation will achieve more than scheming and patience (witness their foreign policy). "

Perhaps this tendency toward "bluff and escalation" has less to do with an American tendency than a Republican one--or so suggests Thomas B. Edsall in his essay "Ante Establishment" from The New Republic (August 28, 2006):

"Republicans are much less risk-averse than Democrats, and taking risks is crucial to poker. Howard Baker noted that Ronald Reagan's 1981 tax cut was a 'riverboat gamble.' The GOP has consistently demonstrated a willingness to risk high deficits, especially to cut taxes that fall on their biggest donors. The party advocating preemptive war is not likely to be cowed by a big bet. Democrats, conversely, are the party of risk-aversion--supportive of the safety net, opposed to new weapons systems, and sympathetic to protective trade policies. They are less able to tolerate the tension and uncertainty of a game in which a week's salary--or more--can be won or lost in a single hand."

Maybe the Democrats can wise up and learn some strategy....

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Grand Prix Attack, Explained

Chess Openings for White, Explained

After updating my Grand Prix Attack Bibliography last week, I decided to take a closer look at the coverage of that line in the recent Chess Openings for White, Explained: Winning with 1.e4 by Lev Alburt, Roman Dzindzichashvili, and Eugene Perelshteyn (CIRC 2006).

See my article "The Grand Prix Attack, Explained" for the results of that examination.

Some stronger players I know have criticized COWE, in part because it cannot compare with Pirc Alert! or Chess Openings for Black, Explained (see excerpt at ChessCafe) in the depth of its coverage. Of course, COWE is undertaking a much broader repertoire than those earlier works, so it will inevitably have to cut more corners. The repertoire it offers is also more geared toward those below ELO 2000 than either their earlier works (which even masters could rely upon) or other repertoire books, such as Larry Kaufmann's The Chess Advantage in Black and White, which is safer and more strategic. So stronger players may not find everything they'd want here. But the book is not written for masters.

The COWE repertoire is quite tactical and designed with club and class players in mind. It includes:
  • the Scotch Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 ),
  • the Two Knights Modern (4...Nf6 5.e5!),
  • Italian (4…Bc5 5.c3 Nf6 6.cxd4 Bb4+ 7.Bd2),
  • Petroff (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.Nc3),
  • Philidor (2…d6 3.d4),
  • Latvian (2…f5 3.Nxe5),
  • Elephant (2…d5 3.d4!?),
  • Sicilian Grand Prix Attack (1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4),
  • French Classical (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3),
  • Caro-Kann Exchange Variation (1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3),
  • Center Counter (standard lines after 1.e4 d5 2.exd5),
  • Pirc (1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf3 3.Nc3 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.h3),
  • and Alekhine Exchange Variation (1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.c4 Nb6 5.exd6).
Most of the recommended lines would be considered “Opening Short Cuts,” which avoid the bulk of theory (for those of us "with jobs to do and lawns to cut," as they write), except perhaps the principled Classical lines against the French, which are fairly main stream theory and therefore take up the largest portion of the book (140 pages).

Among the better short cuts, I rather like their recommendation against the Pirc, playing the Classical Two Knights lines with 5.h3 sometimes followed by an early a4, working to control the game and limit Black’s counterplay. That is not something I’d enjoy playing against as Black. And against the Caro-Kann, I rather like the Exchange Variation (though I usually play it as the Apocalypse Attack), which is one of the better opening short cuts out there. This chapter was excerpted at ChessCafe, BTW, but it appears to have been taken down and I cannot find it in their archives....

Overall, I think that the majority of chessplayers would enjoy this book and get a lot out of it. And, if you are like me, you will probably want to buy it if it touches upon any of the openings you play, since they do have quite a few novelties scattered throughout the text.

After taking a closer look at the Grand Prix Attack chapter, I can also say that their analysis is generally strong and they add some interesting ideas to standard theory. But I also had a few quibbles, especially about how the authors rely mostly on their own analysis with only rare citations of specific games. Though that might be more acceptable in this age of game databases, where anyone interested in games can easily compile them, we should remember that theory relies on games because they offer a sort of proof to back up evaluations. And too often, I think, the authors evaluate a line as better for White that has proven anything but better in practice. I point out several examples of this in my analysis, but the most disappointing example is their recommendation 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. f4 e6 4. Nf3 a6 5. g3 (transposing to the Closed Variation, though 5. d4 seems better) 5... d5 6. e5!? (the text has an amusing typo, giving this "?!" instead, which seems more accurate), when White has not faired too well, e.g.: 6... Nge7 7. Bg2 Nf5 8. Ne2 h5 9. c3 d4 10. d3 h4 11. Nfg1 c4 12. cxd4 cxd3 13. Qxd3 Nb4 14. Qb3 Nxd4 15. Nxd4 Qxd4 16. Be3 Nc2+ 17. Qxc2 Qxe3+ 18. Qe2 Bb4+ 19. Kf1 Qb6 20. Bf3 Bd7 21. Kg2 Rc8 22. Nh3 Bb5 23. Qe4 Bc6 24. Qe2 Bxf3+ 25. Kxf3 Rd8 26. Rad1 Qc6+ 27. Qe4 Qxe4+ 28. Kxe4 Rxd1 29. Rxd1 hxg3 0-1 Fegebank,F-Rahls,P/Germany 1991. If they had looked at the games in this line, they would find that Black has a decided edge--hardly proof that White is doing well.

I have not looked at the other chapters with anywhere near as much care. But those on lines I know well are more than adequate for the intended audience. And the overall presentation (with loads of diagrams and memory devices, just as with their earlier works) makes this a very valuable and usable book--and one of the few books of theory that you might actually read. So while I do find fault, I must emphasize that this is a book I strongly recommend.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Planned Hiatus

Reading The Chess Mind's post about "Closing Up Shop?" prompts me to mention that I am planning my own withdrawal (or semi-withdrawal, or maybe hiatus) from the chess blogosphere come September. Like chess itself, though, chess blogging can be so addictive that it is tough to imagine giving it up entirely -- just cutting way back for a while to work on some more important projects. But I have a few chess projects to clear up before I take a break (including a review of Chess Openings for White, Explained, with a close look at their Grand Prix Attack chapter, which should be up soon). And there are a couple of weeks left of summer....

Friday, August 18, 2006

Grand Prix Attack Bibliography (Updated)

My Grand Prix Attack Bibliography (posted in October 2, 2005) has attracted more traffic to my blog than any other post. So I imagine my readers would appreciate an update, especially since there are now several things to add and to correct.

The most important recent addition is Chess Openings for White Explained (see first item below), which offers some interesting ideas, especially on the important line beginning 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 g6 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. Bb5 Nd4 6. O-O Nxb5 7. Nxb5 d5 (which I hope to post on in the coming weeks, as part of a review of this book). Pete Tamburro, who is no friend to the Grand Prix (to judge by his posts at the excellent "Openings for Amateurs" message board), promises a review in a future Chess Life. Likely it will focus on their analysis of this line as well.

Other additions and corrections came from readers and from some recent online searches. I have also added several of my own pieces to the list to make them more available to readers. My series on the "Two Knights Sicilian" (Part One, Two, Three) may be of interest to those who only want to use the Grand Prix against 2...d6 and 2...g6 lines (as GM Joel Benjamin appears to do), and Paul Motwani's analysis of 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Bb5!? as a tricky way to enter the Grand Prix may also be of interest (see below).

As always, I welcome additions, corrections, and suggestions.

Alburt, Lev, Roman Dzindzichashvili, and Eugene Perelshteyn. Chess Openings for White Explained: Winning with 1.e4. Chess Information and Research Center 2006.
I doubt that Alburt contributed more than his name to the book, but listing him first does place this recent addition at the top of the list. The chapter on the Grand Prix Attack is one of the most lengthy. While some of the lines run quite deep, however, the authors do not consider many sidelines, though they do cover everything critical. Most of the recommendations will be familiar to anyone who has seen Dzindzi's DVD or Video on this line.

Bangiev, Alexander. White Repertoire 1.e4. Chessbase CD 2003.
Offers a completely coherent (if sometimes off-beat and risky) White repertoire with 1.e4 built around the Grand Prix Attack (generally with 1.e4 c5 2.f4). Lines include the Vienna with f4, 2.Nc3 versus the Alekhine, the Grand Pix against the Pirc (1.e4 d6 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.f4), and even a line involving an early f4 against the Scandinavian! Highly recommended for anyone who wants to build an off-beat repertoire around the Grand Prix or add some interesting weapons to the arsenal. The CD contains a large number of annotated games and text files plus databases.

Bauer, Randy. "Combining Attack and Defense." Jeremy Silman website.
Analyzes the game Kerkove-Bauer, South Dakota Governor's Cup 1996, a nice game for Black that began 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bc4 e6.

Boersma, Paul and Viswanathan Anand. “Sicilian Defense, Grand Prix Attack.” NIC Yearbook 39 (1996): 42-47.
Focuses on White’s successful use of Bc4 against an early …d6 by Black. Anand annotates his game with Gelfand from Wijk aan Zee 1996 and some other games from the White perspective.

ChessPublishing Forum. "When to Play the Grand Prix?" "French Set-up Against GPA." "GPA+Wing Gambit." "GPA Rehabilitated."

Davies, Nigel. “Beating the Grand Prix Attack.” The Chess Player’s Battle Manual. Batsford 2000. 94-114.
A bit more up-to-date and written for a more general audience than Gallagher’s Beating the Anti-Sicilians (see below) but covering much the same territory as that earlier book. Davies’s presentation is one of the most helpful for Black that I have seen and I highly recommend it, especially if you play the Dragon or Accelerated Dragon, since his …g6-focused recommendations fit well with those systems. Davies gives move-by-move commentary with analysis, which is ideal for class players.

Dzindzichashvili, Roman. Grand Prix and Reti Opening. Roman's Labs: Mastering Openings Series, Volume 23. Also in "Crushing Lines for White," Volume 33.

Edwards, Jon with Ron Henley. The Sicilian! An Overview. R&D 1993.
Covers only 1.e4 c5 2.f4 without 2.Nc3.

Emms, John. Starting Out: The Sicilian. Everyman 2002.
A brief overview of 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 lines.

Fogarasi, Norbert. "Story of My FIDE Rating."
Discusses the game Fogarasi-Farago 1999 that began 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. f4 e6 4. Nf3 d6 5. Bb5 Bd7 6. d3 Nf6 7. O-O Be7 8. Kh1.

Gallagher, Joe. “The Grand Prix Attack.” Beating the Anti-Sicilians. Batsford 1994. 27-42.
Gallagher's books are generally quite solid and this is no exception. He recommends the Tal Gambit (1.e4 c5 2.f4 d5! 3.exd5 Nf6) and then main lines with …g6 against 2.Nc3, including 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bc4 e6 6.f5 Nge7 or 5.Bb5 Nd4, offering games where Black wins. The analysis and games are good but a bit dated, not considering White’s best ideas. One reader notes "his coverage of 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bb5 Nd4 is rather light on alternatives to 6.Nxd4 -- which is clearly not White's best move in the position."

Goeller, Michael. Goeller-Wojcio, Kenilworth Chess Club Championship 2005.

_______. The Grand Prix with a3 (April 4, 2006)
Examines 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.a3!? with the idea of either 6.b4!? or 6.Bc4.

_______. Billy Colias Plays the Grand Prix Attack (July 10, 2006)
An introduction to the Grand Prix considered through the games of the late Midwest master who played both sides. Games feature interesting ideas in the Tal Gambit and the a3 lines.

_______. Baker -King, BCF 1997 (January 19, 2006)
Analysis of an interesting game that begins 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 d6 3. f4 Nc6 4. Nf3 g6 5. Bb5 Bd7 6. O-O Bg7 7. d3 a6 8. Bxc6 Bxc6 9. Kh1 Qd7 10. Qe1 Nh6 11. Bd2 f5 12. Nd5!

_______. Goeller-Kernighan, KCC Summer Tourney 2005 (June 24, 2005)
Annotated PGN text of a game beginning 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 g6 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. Bb5 Nd4 6. O-O Nxb5 7. Nxb5 d6 8.c4!?

_______. Goeller-Chieu, Kenilworth 2005
The game begins 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 e6 3. f4 a6 4. Nf3 Qc7 5. g3 transposing to a Closed Sicilian. Soon after this game, I began playing 3.Nf3! in answer to 2...e6.

Hodgson,Julian and Lawrence Day. Edited by Eric Schiller. The Grand Prix Attack: f4 against the Sicilian. Collier / Macmillan 1985.
A short book (under 100 pages) that had a big influence on the use of the line by top players during the late 80s and early 90s.

Ilic, Zoran. “Sicilian Defense Grand Prix Attack with f4 and Bb5.” Part One and Part Two. Inside Chess Online (available in the Web Archives)
This has got to be the best analysis anywhere in print of this important positional line in the Grand Prix, where White plays Bb5 with the intention of doubling Black's c-pawns rather than the more provocative Bc4 (which is questionable against most e6 lines for Black). Be sure to see both parts. It's a pleasure to find articles like this one free on the web or buried like treasure, as this one is, in the archives. I notice that many people find my bibliography through Google searches with the terms "zoran ilic grand prix," so I am not the only one who knows it is quality stuff.

Johansson, Thomas. Bryntse - Smith, corr. Sweden 1967.
Considers a game that reaches 1.e4 c5 2.f4 d5 3.Nf3!? dxe4 4.Ng5 (a Budapest Reversed with f4, now called the Bryntse Gambit) by transposition from 1.f4.

Kopec, Danny. Mastering the Sicilian. Batsford 2001.Discusses a few games with the Grand Prix from the Black perspective, focusing on lines with ...g6 in the games Pinter-Banas, Nove Zamsky 1999 and Braun-Blumenfeld, New York 1989.

Lane, Gary. The Grand Prix Attack: Attacking Lines with f4 Against the Sicilian. Batsford 1997. A useful reference book that lays out all of the lines in clear fashion. But it is really a data-dump of a book with lots of unanalyzed games and variations.

_______. Opening Lanes #60
Offers a number of games with the Grand Prix Attack, focused mainly on the question of when White can play Bc4 and when not.

_______. Opening Lanes #65
Discusses the famous Saidy-Fischer encounter that many take as the inspiration for the Grand Prix Attack.

_______. Opening Lanes #06: Grand Prix Crash
Discusses the sharp 1.e4 c5 2.f4 e5!?

Langeweg, Kick with GM notes. “Grand Prix Attack.” NIC Yearbook 25 (1992)

_______. “Grand Prix Attack.” NIC Yearbook 31 (1994)
Focuses on …e6 lines.

_______, notes by Morozevich. “Grand Prix Attack.” NIC Yearbook 60 (2001)
Focuses on ...g6 lines.

McGrew, Tim. Wysocki-Davidovich, Michigan Action Championship 2003.
Offers nice evidence for amateurs of why the Tal Gambit declined with 1.e4 c5 2.f4 d5 3.e5?! is a bad idea.

Michel, David. Turner-Dowling, Ohio Open 2003
The game transposes from a Grand Prix to a Closed Sicilian in response to Black's ...a6, ...b5, ...Bb7 defense.

Monokroussos, Dennis. The Karpov-Fischer Hoax. Dennis M's Chess Site.
Analyzes the famous Saidy-Fischer game which may have inspired the Grand Prix.

Motwani, Paul. Chess Under the Microscope. Batsford 1998. 99-111.
Covers some Grand Prix lines and offers fascinating analysis of a game beginning 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Bb5!? as a method of stearing toward the Grand Prix or Rossolimo, depending upon Black's response. I am always inspired by Motwani's books and this is no exception.

Muhammad, Stephen. Is the Grand Prix Attack Busted? The Chess Drum.
Analyzes Tiviakov - Kasparov, Wijk aan Zee 2001 which began 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 d6 3. f4 g6 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. Bc4 Nc6 6. O-O e6 7. d3 Nge7 8. Qe1.

Plaskett, James. Sicilian Grand Prix Attack. Everyman 2000.
Plaskett’s complete game format has both strengths and weaknesses. The chief weakness is that it allows the analyst to skip many lines or give them scanty coverage. The advantage in the case of Plaskett is that he looks at some interesting and innovative games that might not typically make it into theory. Overall, this book is less complete than Gary Lane’s but sometimes more helpful in offering explanations.

Raetzky, Alexander. Meeting 1.e4. Everyman 2002.
Raetzky's builds a Sicilian repertoire around the Four Knights, often with an early ...e6 and ...d5, so his 2...e6 French set-up against the Grand Prix makes a lot of sense. This is a great "first Sicilian" book and a solid repertoire that will likely encourage your opponents to transpose to other lines.

Regis, David. Playing f4 against the Sicilian: Grand Prix Attack
From the Exeter Chess Club site, this article makes for a good introduction to this system for beginners and club players.

Ree, Hans. "Menashe." Chess Café Archive. January 2005.
Discusses a game by the late Menash Godberg featuring a successful use of Bc4 and a3 in the Grand Prix.

Rogozenko, Dorian. Anti-Sicilians: A Guide for Black. Gambit 2003.
The latest anti-anti-Sicilian entry, which discusses ...g6 lines and ways Black can make ...d6 work.

Rohde, Michael. The Grand Prix Attack. Kid
Analyzes the game Weeramantry-Rohde, Boston 1995 where Black employed the challenging system 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 a6 3.f4 b5 4.Nf3 Bb7, which basically forces White into a standard Closed or Open Sicilian.

Scherbakov, Ruslan. “Nakamura’s Obscure Sicilian.” NIC Yearbook 74 (2005)

Schiller, Eric. White to Play 1.e4 and Win. Chess Digest 1992.
Recommends the Grand Prix against both the Sicilian and the Pirc (1.e4 d6 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.f4!?). Schiller’s analysis cannot be trusted, but he constructs a useful repertoire.

Silman, Jeremy. Tal Gambit Declined.
Message: 1.e4 c5 2.f4 d5! 3.e5?!? is not a good idea.

_______. Winning with the Sicilian Defense: A Complete RepertoireAgainst 1 e4 (Revised 2nd Edition). ChessDigest 1998.
Recommends the Tal Gambit against 2.f4 and ...g6 lines against 2.Nc3.

Smith, Ken. Grand Prix Attack: Attacking the Sicilian Defense with 2 f4. 2nd edition. Chess Digest 1995.
Out of print, rare, and completely worthless. Simply contains lots of games with relatively few notes and none worth reading.

Thomson, Eric. The Grand Prix Attack: Assets and Liabilities. Confessions of a Chess Novice blog (July 23, 2006)
A class-player's reflections on the pluses and minuses of his new favorite opening.

Vandivier, Don. Gadson-Jarosz 10th U.S.Amateur North 2003.
Amateur game begins 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bb5 Nd4 6.Bd3 e6 7.e5!?

Weeramantry, Sunil and Ed Eusebi. Best Lessons of a Chess Coach. David McKay / Random House 1994. 196-215. Offers very in-depth analysis of the game Weeramantry-Goldberg, New York 1991, which features an early …e6 by Black. Probably the most helpful piece for a beginner or class-player who wants to adopt the Grand Prix as White.

Yermolinsky, Alex. “The Once-Feared Grand Prix Attack Rings Hollow.” The Road to Chess Improvement. Gambit 2000. 113-126.
Yermolinsky’s supposed “refutation” amounts to recommending 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 e6 4.Nf3 Nge7 5.Bb5?! a6! (better 5.d4!) or 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bb5 Nd4 to avoid the annoying doubled pawns at c6. Overall, I like this book a lot and recommend it. If you play Scheveningen-like Sicilian systems with ...e6, this is a must-have book because other chapters cover that system.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sam Sloan

Susan Polgar's unsuccessful opposition (originated in July) to convicted felon Sam Sloan's election to the Executive Board of the United States Chess Federation has likely had the perverse effect of making many chessplayers curious about him. After all, most of us have known his name since the beginnings of chess on the internet. But how many have actually spent much time learning more than the name? Well, there is a lot you can learn online, though separating fact from fiction may be hard to do. To go by what is written about him at Wikipedia or ChessBase, he is like a character out of Damon Runyon. As a wind-bag and ubiquitous poster of web pages and forums, however, Sloan has done much to craft his own image, so it is hard to know for sure how much is true. Most articles I've seen appear to have Sloan himself as their source: from the profile of him as a New York City cab driver (the occupation of many a fictional character) to his Wikipedia profile (which could easily have been self-posted, as likely are his games, mostly wins, at He appears to be, upon close scrutiny, practically the embodiment of the American "confidence man" for the internet age. The great irony is that he was only elected because his own self-promotion has made his name more familiar to USCF voters than any other on the ballot, yet few had ever had the curiosity to learn more about the man behind the name. I hope GM Polgar's opposition has made USCF members just curious enough to take one hard look at Sam Sloan so that they will all be better prepared to reject him in the future.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Yaacov Norowitz, Google Video Star

Yaacov Norowitz blitz Washington Square Park

Yaacov Norowitz on video.

Blitz demon rabbi Yaacov Norowitz (YaacovN on ICC), whose visit to the Kenilworth Chess Club and lecture on the Stonewall Attack still attract quite a few visitors to our site, is probably one of the biggest chess stars at Google Videos, and probably as ubiquitous as those other excellent speed chess players, Alexander Kosteniuk and Victor Korchnoi. You can see several clips of him demonstrating his skills in Washington Square Park (also here) and at the World Open's blitz event in Philadelphia (also here).

I promise this is my last post about Google Video... It's out of my system now. Honest. :-)

"Chess Fever" Online

Among the chess-related videos I discovered at Google Video (mentioned here Saturday) was "Chess Fever" (Shakhmatnaya goryachka). The online version does not have English-language subtitles, but it's a silent film, after all, so it is fairly easy to understand by body language and gesture alone. We had an enjoyable showing of the short film at our club last year and several members have asked about it since. It's definitely worth seeing, especially with a group of chess players who will generate lots of fun commentary to make up for the lack of dialogue.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The New Chess Journalism?

Reading the posts of bloggers attending this year's U.S. Open Chess Championship has made me reflect a bit on blogging generally, and to observe that quite a few bloggers write only for themselves (as they would in keeping a diary), with little thought that they might attract a wider audience or serve the role of journalists communicating facts and perspectives to readers. As one U.S. Open chess blogger wrote in the comments area of my blog: "Thanks for linking to my blog. I never thought anyone other than friends and family would want to read it...."

That many chess bloggers write for a similarly circumscribed imagined community is borne out by the large number of CT-ART enthusiasts in the chess blogosphere, who don't appear the least concerned that most readers (outside of themselves and their small circle of La Maza enthusiasts) probably couldn't care less about their current percentages against the damn machine....

These observations are not mine alone. According to the Pew Internet's report on "Bloggers: A Portrait of the Internet's New Storytellers" (see PDF) released last month, over half of bloggers write mainly for themselves, with no regard for an audience, while only a third would call blogging a form of journalism (and many fewer actually act as though it were, by checking their facts or revising their prose). I wish I saw more of what I'd call "journalism" in the blogs I read.

As the U.S. Open chess bloggers demonstrated, there are quite a few readers out there who appreciate the nearly-immediate, first-hand perspectives that bloggers can offer. And with chess -- especially local chess -- receiving scant attention in the popular press, it seems that bloggers can do a lot to promote our game by stepping up to fill the void.

Of course, the best reporting always has the presence of the reporter. But it also tells the stories of other people, not that of the journalist alone. I'm not sure I can name more than a handful of chess bloggers who seem to have taken on that mission. Certainly The 64 Square Jungle. Maybe Sarah's Chess Journal (if we include history within the realm of journalism, which we should). Tough to say who else to add (myself included!) I think there is definitely room for more storytellers out there.

Chess players would welcome the most interesting stories from the world of chess, even if they had to be reported by "amateurs." Gens una sumus, after all. But they won't get those stories until chess bloggers start looking beyond their own experiences from time to time. Maybe more chess bloggers should ask themselves not "what do I feel like writing?" but "what stories do I know that are in need of telling?" The "internet's new storytellers" and their readers are going to get bored if too many of us just keep talking about ourselves all the time....

I think I'm going to try out some more journalistic writing in my blog in the coming year. Maybe more profiles of chessplayers, some interviews. We'll see where it leads. I hope others will be inspired to do the same.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Benjamin - Kaidanov, U.S. Open Chicago 2006


What is White's winning plan?
How might Black defend?

Before he lost last night to 15-year-old IM Emilio Cordova (featured here last week), GM Joel Benjamin played a stellar game against GM Gregory Kaidanov (see my notes to Benjamin - Kaidanov, US Open 2006) which appeared to put him into contention for the U.S. Open title. I watched most of this game live on the Internet Chess Club, where they not only broadcast the moves but also showed a portion of the game on a live video feed. Whereas Benjamin was always seated and working hard at the board, Kaidanov paced the floor almost continuously. Of course, the real action was on the board, and it was a fascinating game in all three of its stages: the opening (a Spanish with d3, in a line originated by Bronstein), the middlegame (with White attacking the kingside and Black defending), and the endgame (which was a textbook illustration of the Bishop's superiority over a Knight with pawns on both sides of the board).

You can find links to more U.S. Open Chess Championship news at my previous post about the tournament: U.S. Open Chess Bloggers.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Summer Tournament Update


Camenares - Matlin
Black to play and win.

Last week I wrote about summer tournament upsets scored by unrated Devin Camenares (who drew a master) and 10-year-old Anna Matlin (who beat an 1800 player). This week, it was Camenares - Matlin, which ended in a draw only because there was no way for Matlin to win an Exchange up with only 12 seconds and 5-second increment on the clock... The game was hard-fought all the way, but did reveal that these young players could both benefit from more opening study.

KCC Summer Tourney

The KCC Summer Tourney continues.....
Matlin and Camenares are upper-right, furthest from the camera.

Saturday Morning Cartoon

Hat tip to the Chess Maniac blog for showing the classic Betty Boop chess-themed cartoon short "Chess Nuts". It is very strange and fun. I'll have to search for "chess" at Google Videos myself some time and see what turns up.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Kenilworth Chess Club website

I have improved the home page of our website and will be doing some updating on inside pages as well. We have amassed an incredible amount of content and I want to make it more accessible to readers. I also have not updated our links pages in several months, so there is a lot to do... I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

U.S. Open Chess Bloggers


Michael Lee (2124) - IM Timothy Taylor
Black to play and win. Taylor missed it.


Michael Lee (2124) - IM Timothy Taylor
White to play and win. Lee found it.

In the absence of any worthwhile official website, we chess bloggers have had to step up to fill the void on U.S. Open news.... I have posted notes on two fantastic upsets from Round 4 (see diagrams above from one of them). And I have two notes on the New Jersey contingent: our own Mike Wojcio lost his first-round game (playing the five day schedule), but 14-year-old NJ master Evan Ju (featured here in May) is at 4.5/5 playing the nine day schedule (having taken a first-round half-point bye) which puts him near the top of the leader board.

Here are some other places you can look for U.S. Open Chess Championship reports:

Drew Groeger, "The Royal Game"
Discusses his own games and some of what's going on around him.

Ivan Wijetunge, "Getting to 2000"
Some games and commentary.

Heather Swan, "Heather Swan's Blog"
This candidate-A player has posted some good photos and game commentaries.

Brad Rosen, "64 Square Jungle"
The Chess Dad is on the scene...

Susan Polgar, "Susan Polgar Chess Blog"
Of course she is in Chicago, and count on the ubiquitous GM to let us know about everything she is doing chess-wise.

Jerry MacDonald, "Cast Out of Even"
Promises to bring his laptop and keep us posted, but so far has made only one small post on his first two losses....

Of course, the official site and standings page are worth a look. Next year, at the very least, they should link to blogs by participants and other commentators.

Please let me know in the "Comments" area of any other U.S. Open chess sites or blogs you find.

You can view games from the US Open online at the MonRoi site (tournament 219), which requires free registration and an acceptance of their terms (i.e.: be sure to click on the little link accepting their terms of use). Off of the main page, there are links to see photos from all the rounds. The rest of the site appears under construction.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Chess Cheaters in NY Times

Hat tip to Susan Polgar for excerpting and linking to a New York Times article out today titled "Cheating Accusations in Mental Sports, Too" (free registration required to view it today, or see basically the same article at the International Herald Tribune site) which discusses the recent World Open cheating scandal (also discussed at the USChess site and at various chess message boards).

Update: ChessBase has posted a story on the topic.

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Vinohrady Variation

I am not sure if Lubomir Kavalek's name for 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g4!? (which he analyzes in his Washington Post chess column today) will be adopted in Jeroen Boesch's Secrets of Opening Surprises volume 5 (where, Kavalek says, the line will likely be discussed). I rather prefer Andrew Martin's "My Hand Slipped!" as a description of that impudent advance. In any event, neither Martin nor Kavalek discuss the most challenging response, which must be 3...e6! (as mentioned in the ChessPublishing Forum), with the idea of 4.Bg2 (4.d3 d5 =) 4...h5! 5.gxh5 Nf6 etc. What do you suppose Boesch will recommend here?

U.S. Open Chess Championship

Some day the U.S. Open Chess Championship will have a nice website.... The 2006 pairings and results page leaves something to be desired. They could at least have something as good as last year (no longer online). But these complaints (here, here, and here) fall on deaf ears. In any event, I have seen no interesting games posted, but you can find some by typing "liblist USopen06" at ICC.

Update: I have posted a number of links to US Open news in a subsequent post titled "US Open Chess Bloggers."

A MacCutcheon French (C12) Webliography

The MacCutcheon French (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Bb4) is looking very nice these days for Black. The only problem is that White almost always sidesteps into the Steinitz Variation with 4.e5. Perhaps that is not too bad? A question for another time. In any event, here is a MacCutcheon webliography (no book sources this time!) which might be taken as a new installment in my French Defense Repertoire (which I've explored in one, two, three, four previous posts).

De Firmian - Nakamura, United States Championship 2006 by IM John Watson

DeFirmian - Akobian, Foxwoods 2006 by GM Varuzhan Akobian
Requires ICC membership. This is the type of lecture that makes ICC so great. A stunning game with even more stunning subvariations. Who would have thought to play ...a5! to keep the pawn at a4 on a White square?

Lanin – Skorchenko, Dagomys 2006 annotated by Lanin
A game from the Russian Club Championship.

Stellwagen -- Hao Wang, Istanbul 2005 annotated by Deen Hergott

Spraggett - Glek, Capelle-la Grande 1998 annotated by Hans Ree

Culkin - Booth, Yorkshire League 1998 annotated by Nigel Davies

Krush - P. Sloan Aravena, NY Masters 2002 annotated by Peter (Sloan) Aravena

Sarkar - Aravena, NY Masters 2002 annotated by Peter Aravena

Mueller - Blechar, CCLA 1998-1999 annotated by Mike Blechar

DeVault - Blechar, CCLA 1998-1999 annotated by the participants

Svidler - Short, KC Internet Grand Prix 2000 annotated by Konstantin Sakaev

Svidler - Short, KC Internet Grand Prix 2000 annotated by Konstantin Sakaev

Garrison - Fischvogt, Michigan Open 2005 annotated by Tim McGrew
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Bb4 5.e5 h6 6.exf6!?

Alekhine's Five Queen Game annotated by Tim Krabbe

Panov - Levenfish, Tbilisi 1937 annotated by Boris Schipkov
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Bb4 5. Nge2

Perlis - Nimzowitsch, San Sebastian 1912 annotated by Mieses and Lewitt

Pillsbury - Reggio, Monte Carlo 1902 annotated by Tim Harding

Leko - Radjabov, Linares 2003 annotated by Boris Schipkov

Lutz - Korchnoi, Essen 2002 annotated by Boris Schipkov

Additional resources sent to me by reader Phil Adams:

Nikiforov - Monin, Leningrad, 1975 annotated by IM Monin Nikolay
Lanin - Zhukov , St.Petersburg, 2002
Tomas-Tarrash, Karlovy Vary, 1923

Lutz-Korchnoi, Essen 2002 by Lutz and Kindermann

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Jessie Gilbert

I have tried to avoid discussing the tragic death of Jessie Gilbert, but with so much coverage it seems wrong to leave it out of my record of chess news. The following links include games:
Jonathan Speelman (August 6, 2006)
Nigel Short (August 3, 2006)

The fullest accounts of the story that I have seen were reported by Brian Haran (icCroydon), Jamie Doward and Dan McLaughlin (The Observer), Adam Fresco (TimesOnline), and Steven Swinford and Gareth Walsh (Sunday TimesOnline).

Update: ChessBase has posted a story, accompanied by some excellent links.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Summer Tourney Upsets


Black to play and draw.

The true test of developing players comes when they must defend against strong opposition. Will they crack under the strain? Will they play for cheap traps which might have worked for them before against weaker opponents? Or will they hang tough and defend carefully until the attacker slips up? In the games Kernighan-Camenares and Matlin-Moldovan from the Summer Tournament, we see two young players hanging tough against veterans and either drawing (as Camenares did, by forcing perpetual check in the diagram above) or winning (as Matlin did when Moldovan made a terrible blunder in time pressure while trying to force the game to a resolution). Chess is so complicated that such slips are almost inevitable, especially when you hang tough and stay sharp.

Skittles and Pizza

Mike Wojcio (foreground) plays his last warm-up game before the U.S. Open. To the left, the games Kernighan-Camenares and Matlin-Moldovan in progress.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Fischer - Castro, Havana 1966? Not!

Skittles and Pizza

Fischer-Castro, Havana 1966? Not exactly!

Anticipating the 40th Anniversary of the 17th Chess Olympiad in Havana, Cuba (October 23-November 20, 1966), I thought I'd try to learn more about the supposed offhand game that Bobby Fischer appears to have played with Fidel Castro. I say "supposed" and "appears" since the facts of the case (including news reports and photographic evidence) seem to suggest that Fischer was only doing some strong kibitzing in a game between Castro and Filiberto Terrazas and did not exactly play the Cuban leader "mano a mano." The evidence I have remains a bit ambiguous, however, and so I'd welcome more information or photographs to settle the matter conclusively (if Edward Winter, for instance, has not already figured this one out).

Let's start with the famous Fischer - Castro photo, which appeared in Chess Review. The caption to the photo reads as follows: "Fischer is apparently removing one of Premiere Castro's men in a friendly game. World Champion Petrosyan [sic] had drawn such a game with Castro. In background (with mustache and light tie) is Drimer, captain of the Roumanian Olympiad team." Then there is a second photo:

Skittles and Pizza

Fischer resigning?

Here the caption reads: "Surprise! Fischer concedes to Castro, and Petrosyan [sic] reaches to shake Fischer's hand."

The images and commentary suggest that both Petrosian and Fischer had done their best to appease Castro's ego by drawing or losing a game to the dictator. Indeed, the members of the Eastern bloc contingent seem to be thanking Fischer for playing along with their obsequious scheme. I had suggested as much myself in a previous post, which was based on my recollection of this caption and some subsequent writer's commentary (a source I cannot recall). But on closer inspection, I now think that view of the event is completely mistaken and probably some caption-writer's Cold War-inspired invention, which he never bothered to fact-check (note the word "apparently").

A different view of the incident is presented in the article "Bobby Fischer's Relationship with Cuba" by Miguel Ernesto Gomez Masjuan (Cuba Now No.23 - August 19, 2004) and reads as follows:

"During this tournament [the XVII World Chess Olympics--MG], sheer chance made Fischer and Cuban President Fidel Castro play against each other in an unusual chess game. Mexican Master Filiberto Terrazas wrote in an article published in Jaque Mate magazine (Havana, 1966) that it all started when he [Terrazas] and Fidel Castro sat down to play a match. Some minutes after the game began the Cuban leader received an important backup from Soviet chess player Tigran Petrosian. Then Terrazas asked Fischer, who was nearby, for help. / That’s how a game between the four began: Fidel Castro-Tigran Petrosian on one side (whites) and Filiberto Terrazas-Bobby Fischer on the other. In the end, whites won. / Testimonies of those times point out that Fischer talked for a while with the Cuban President and, before saying goodbye, gave him an autographed book." In Terrazas's account, the opening played in the consultation game was a French Defense, likely the Winawer (which he calls "Nimzowitsch") variation 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4.

Here is a photo that corroborates part of that story of the events. It shows Terrazas playing Castro with some of the same group of spectators as in the Fischer photo (including the woman in the flowered dress).

Terrazas-Castro, Havana 1966

The game Filiberto Terrazas vs Fidel Castro (Olympiad 1966) offered at clearly supports Terrazas's version (compare the picture above to the position at move 12 in the game). Also, a close look at the first picture above suggests that Petrosian is not reaching to shake Fischer's hand but that of Terrazas in the lighter-colored suit reaching below Fischer.

However, things remain a bit ambiguous if we compare the available photos of this event more closely. If you look carefully at the piece position in the photo of Fischer (see close-up below), it appears that he has just played 3.exf5 in a game that likely began 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 f5 3.exf5. It is also possible, if unlikely, that Castro is using the Black pieces but playing as White (which would fit somewhat with Terrazas's account), in which case the game began 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4! (with the White pieces playing as Black).

Skittles and Pizza

Fischer steps in to play either 3.exf5 or 2...exf4! [sic]

I rather like this second possibility, though it is sheer speculation, since it might explain the vigor of Fischer's kibitzing, seeing as he had written his famous article "A Bust to the King's Gambit" in 1961 and so his stance on accepting the gambit would have been well-known. In any event, this game is not the one between Terrazas and Castro given above, which began with Castro as Black accepting the King's Gambit, nor is it the consultation game that Terrazas describes, which was a French Defense.

The best explanation I can offer is that Terrazas and Castro played at least three games, with Fischer and Petrosian offering advice in two of them: a French Defense and a game where Castro appears to have played 1...e5 and 2...f5 as Black. That at least three games were played is also supported by an examination of a third photo of the event that depicts Petrosian's advice to Castro.

Skittles and Pizza

Petrosian helping Castro

A close look at this game shows that it is certainly not the King's Gambit game given above, nor (because Castro and Petrosian appear to be conducting the White pieces) the game depicted in the first photo where Fischer is White. It could, however, be the French Defense that Terrazas describes. Therefore, there must have been at least three games in the match, two of which involved Fischer's consultation.

Skittles and Pizza

Petrosian points to White's pieces.

Though I don't have all of the facts, it does appear that the commonly accepted view of this event in American sources is mistaken. Fischer did not purposely lose a game to Castro. Instead, he participated in what was likely two consultation games on the side of Terrazas against Castro and Petrosian. Seen in light of the Cold War (with the 1961 Bay of Pigs and 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis fresh in memory), the incident practically becomes a symbol of how the warring superpowers at that time struggled against each other in mediated fashion, using Cuba and other countries as surrogates in their contest for power.

I welcome further information or interpretation.

Update: Edward Winter kindly posted more pictures of Castro in Chess Notes #4502 at the 1966 Olympiad, though none related to the game with Fischer.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Same but Different

Greg Tomkovich leads the Summer Tournament with 7 points, with unrated Rutgers University student Devin Camenares and NM Mark Kernighan tied for second with 6 points each (pretty much how things went last year). Devin has put several stronger players to the test, including 1774-rated John Moldovan, who carelessly dropped a pawn in the opening and was unable to stop Devin from converting his material advantage.

Though summer is usually more sparsely attended (with members taking vacations or catching up on household chores), we have had some good crowds of late, including several strong players (such as NJ State Champion Tom Bartell). If only we could get the masters and experts to talk more about chess than the politics of oil in the Middle East... I'll have to bring the electronic demo board next time to help us focus.

Skittles and Pizza

"The gang's all here." Clockwise from left: FM Tom Bartell, Daniel Smith (2100+), Pat Mazzillo, NM Scott Massey, FM Steve Stoyko, NM Mark Kernighan, Steve Anderson (2100+), and Brian Meinders.

KCC Summer Tourney

The KCC Summer Tourney in the main room.
Hey, isn't that Mike Wojcio in the golf hat
playing the same bad opening he lost with last week
against club president Joe Demetrick?