Wednesday, September 20, 2006

On Hiatus until 2007

I am now officially on hiatus. I will likely be back to blogging in 2007, perhaps with a brief visit later this year to post a few nearly-complete pieces (including an essay on chess history that grew out of a review of David Shenk's recent book) -- and just to keep people from forgetting me. Meanwhile, there is always The Chess Coroner, KCC Minutes, The Center Square, and the rest of the chess blogosphere to help keep you informed and entertained....

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Topalov - Kramnik World Championship Match Coverage (Updated)

The Chess Coroner

The Topalov - Kramnik World Championship unification match begins Saturday, September 23 at 7:00 a.m. EDT (3:00 p.m. Kalmykia time). There are several sources for live coverage and a few places you are likely to find breaking news and annotated games. Here is my viewer's guide, which I may need to update once the match begins.

Live Coverage

Topalov - Kramnik Match: World Championship 2006
You can see the live feed without commentary from the official site for free.

Susan Polgar Chess Blog by GM Susan Polgar
Susan Polgar is giving near-live commentary at her blog, while following the ICC webcast. Because this link has gotten popular, it can take a while to load.

FICS: Free Internet Chess Server
Free registration, for free online play and free live broadcast of the World Championship. Yeah, it's really free -- sort of like ICC used to be.

ICC: The Internet Chess Club
ICC offers a seven day free trial. Membership costs $59.95 per year or six months for $34.95. I originally joined ICC during the 2005 FIDE Championship in San Luis and have to say that their coverage of that event alone was worth the price of membership. ICC also offers other premium services, including rated online play and lectures and radio broadcasts from Chess.FM with live analysis by GM Dzindzichashvili.
You can get a 30-day free trial membership, or buy Fritz from ChessBase to get a bonus year membership. Membership is 29 Euros (the Playchess server is especially popular in Europe). They offer live coverage of the games with GM commentary by Yasser Seirawan.

Kramnik - Topalov World Championship Match from will provide live coverage to premium subscribers ($25 per year) but will also offer free links on their page for those who would otherwise be in the dark. Observers can comment in a running bulletin board thread.

World Chess Network
WCN will offer live coverage and professional commentary. Memberships range from $1.95 per month (or $19.95 per year) for Silver to $4.95 per month (or $49.95 per year) for Gold Membership. You can join for free and play live unrated games with occasional "Gold for a Day" promotions (which may or may not be available during the Championship).

Russian Chess
Promises "live GM's annotations of the games," but I do not see them delivering.

Breaking News

Topalov - Kramnik Match: World Championship 2006 News and FIDE's Main Page from FIDE
The main FIDE page offers news coverage and live games.

ChessBase News
ChessBase News will offer excellent coverage of the event and already has a good story (complete with a schedule and useful links). Annotated games by Mihail Marin, who is the best annotator around.

TWIC: The Week in Chess
Often offers commented games (with comments by Mark Crowther and notes by IM Malcolm Pein) and always has the PGN very quickly. They may also have a new look some time during the championship.

Google News
You can always search the latest news about the match through Google.

Annotated Games
The following sites often feature annotated games. They are listed in order of frequency of publication (though some may publish more frequently for this special event).

ChessBase News with annotations by Mihail Marin

TWIC: The Week in Chess with comments by Mark Crowther and notes by IM Malcolm Pein.

The Chess Mind blog by Dennis Monokroussos
One of the fastest annotators of the games.

The New York Times by Dylan Loeb McClain
There is excellent next-day coverage of the match, complete with annotated games and a report from Elista. But you need to register to read today's paper and past editions are for sale only.

Chess Pro with annotations from GM Sergey Shipov and Maxim Notkin

e3 e5 with annotations last year by K. Sakaev and V. Yemelin

Inforchess with annotations by IM Hector Leyva (and others)
An excellent Spanish-language site with annotated games and reports after each round, often a day later.

Doggers Schaak
Blog commentary on the games.

An Italian-language blog with excellent commentary.

The Daily Dirt Chess Blog by Mig Greengard
Chatty kibitzing and useful links to other commentary.

Susan Polgar Chess Blog by GM Susan Polgar

The Closet Grandmaster from Australia
TCG is a frequent blogger who covered the 2005 FIDE tournament very well.

Chess News and Events by Goran Urosevic
A blog that features frequent news updates and useful links, from the webmaster for World Chess Network.

Chess Piece by Bobby Ang at IndoChess

Daily Telegraph with Malcolm Pein

Washington Post Chess column by Ljubomir Kavalek (usually Mondays)

LA Times chess column by Jack Peters (usually Sundays)

British Chess Magazine, news editor John Saunders

The Chess Drum

Europe Echecs

Chess Siberia
One annotated game from GM Susan Polgar so far, but it was difficult to find and not advertised on their main page, so I have no clue what's going on. (subscription)
Video lectures for subscribers, with notes to the World Championship games soon after they are played. This looks like a very well run organization, but I have not yet tried subscribing myself.

Chess Today (subscription)
The daily chess newspaper offers analysis if you subscribe.

I will add any others I come across or which readers recommend. I also welcome corrections or additions to the information posted here.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Chess in San Francisco

Chess in the San Francisco Bay Area was recently updated. Ever since putting together my Chess Tourist in New York City list I've been trying to collect similar lists for other cities. I welcome links, lists, and suggestions.

Knightmare Repertoire

I have collected many repertoire books over the years and I enjoy seeing the way these guides try to create coherent systems out of the morass of opening theory we confront as chessplayers. Of course, I have never followed all of their recommendations, prefering to pick and choose to construct my own system, which is a project with no end. I think I have hit upon something rather original lately, which I like to call my "Knightmare Repertoire" due to its emphasis on early Knight development with Nc3 and Nf3 as White or Nc6 and Nf6 as Black. It is also so solid that it will give your opponents nightmares trying to beat you. I have never seen anyone suggest such a system (though Andrew Martin's "Repertoire Suggestions" at ChessPublishing come close), and so I thought I'd sketch it out for interested readers. I have also offered eight book suggestions (which I've tried to hone to the absolute minimum) and links to material from my own archives. To some extent, I set this repertoire forth as a guide for myself to know what future opening articles I might write upon my return to blogging in January....

White Repertoire
The basic scheme is to play 1.e4 followed by Nc3 and Nf3, with some exceptions.

Four Knights and Three Knights
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 (or 2.Nc3 first) 2...Nc6 (2...Nf6 3.Nc3!) 3.Nc3
A super-solid choice that has a lot to teach developing players. The great joy for me of this line is that it has encouraged me to rediscover the games of the late-19th and early 20th-century masters, from which I have a lot to learn.
An Unbeatable White Repertoire after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 by Larry Evans and Ken Smith
The Spanish Four Knights, Part Two
The Spanish Four Knights Bibliography
Sutovsky's Anti-Rubinstein 5.O-O

Two Knights Sicilian and Grand Prix Attack
1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 followed by either f4 or Nf3
The idea, as I explain in my articles on the Two Knights Sicilian, is to choose between 3.f4 or 3.Nf3 depending on what Black does. You can also consider the interesting line 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Bb5!? which keeps options open.
A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire by Chris Baker
Chess Openings for White, Explained by Alburt, Dzindzichashvili, and Perelshteyn
Two Knights Sicilian, Part Three
Two Knights Sicilian, Part Two
Two Knights Sicilian, Part One
Grand Prix Attack, Explained
Grand Prix Attack Bibliography (Updated)
Billy Colias and the Grand Prix Attack
Grand Prix Attack with a3

Caro-Kann Exchange Variation or Apocalypse Attack
1.e4 c6 2.d4 (or 2.Nf3!? d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Ne5!) 2...d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3
The Exchange Variation and the surprising Apocalypse version of the Exchange are quite solid and well-documented. I may in the future recommend instead Fischer's other favorite, the Two Knights (1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3!?), but there is not much good material on that line from the White perspective. Perhaps when I come back I'll write some articles....
Chess Openings for White, Explained
The Apocalypse Attack
Apocalypse Attack Update

Two Knights French
1.e4 e6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3
Seen as a Reversed Nimzovich or Reversed Tango, this line is very easy to play and leads to positions that are often unfamiliar for Black.
A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire
The Jackal Attack by Adrian Skelton
Notes on the French Two Knights
The Two Knights French Revisited

Pirc Two Knights
1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.h3
A super-solid line that is easy to learn.
Chess Openings for White, Explained

Center Counter / Scandinavian
1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 (2....Nf6 3.Nf3!) 3.Nc3 Qa5 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3
Simple development is sufficient to gain an edge. I have experimented with 2.Nc3!? but 2...dxe4 3.Nxe4 Qd5!? 4.Nc3 simply transposes back to main lines anyway, so what's the point?
A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire
Chess Openings for White, Explained

The Anti-Portuguese

Anti-Alekhine 2.Nc3
1.e4 Nf6 2.Nc3
A simple opening short-cut that may lead to the Four Knights on occasion.
A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire
Anti-Nimzovich 2.Nf3
1.e4 Nc6 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 Bg4 5.Bb5!?
A simple opening short-cut that may lead to the Four Knights on occasion.
A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire

Black Repertoire
The idea is to play Nc6, e5, and Nf6 in whatever order works. You can save effort by ignoring the Nimzovich Defense suggestion and focusing on the Open Games against 1.e4 and the Black Knights Tango against 1.d4, but the Nimzovich can add an interesting dimension to the repertoire.

Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6
You don't have to play the currently popular "Berlin Wall" when you adopt 3...Nf6 against the Spanish. Most of your opponents will play 4.d3(?!) anyway....
Offbeat Spanish by Glenn Flear
Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense Bibliography

Two Knights Defense
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6
This should be at the core of any Open Game repertoire for Black. Playing these lines as White on occasion can help you understand them better.
Play the Open Games as Black by John Emms
A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire
Chess Openings for White, ExplainedNotes on the Two Knights with d4
Two Knights Defense as Black
Two Knights Modern
Two Knights Anti-Modern

Four Knights, Rubinstein Variation
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 Nd4
Play the Open Games as Black by John Emms
Sutovsky's Anti-Rubinstein 5.O-O

1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bc4 Nc6 4.d3 Na5
I have also been experimenting with the line 1.e4 Nc6 2.Nc3 e5 3.f4 Bb4!? often followed by Nf6. Of course, John Emms's suggestions against the Vienna are also sufficient.
More Anti-Vienna
Vienna with Bc4 Busted?

Nimzovich with ...e5
1.e4 Nc6 2.d4 (2.Nf3 e5!) 2...e5
I have been playing a Nimzovich move-order as a way of entering the Open Game while avoiding a lot of junk -- though I find myself still playing against the King's Gambit from time to time after 1.e4 Nc6 2.f4 e5!? 3.Nf3 f5! (a line I will have to discuss here at some future date).
Modern Practice 1....Nc6!? by Igor Berdichevsky
The Kevitz System or 1...Nc6 Bibliography

Black Knights Tango and Bozo-Indian
1.d4 Nc6!? or
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 Nc6
Most people would be more comfortable with the Black Knights Tango, but I find 1.d4 Nc6!? tends to keep play in my territory. In any event, you are still playing for an early ...e5 if White allows it.
Modern Practice 1....Nc6!?
Tango: A Dynamic Answer to 1.d4 by Richard Palliser
The Kevitz System or 1...Nc6 Bibliography
The Panther
The Mestrovic Variation of the Nimzovich Defense

Reversed Dragon or Reversed Grand Prix
1.c4 e5 (or 1...Nc6 followed by ...e5)
English ...e5 by Alex Raetsky and Maxim Chetverik
Reversed Dragon

Selected BibliographyThere are lots of books I could recommend, but these eight volumes are more than sufficient given the wealth of other information on the web.

Alburt, Lev, Roman Dzindzichashvili, and Eugene Perelshteyn. Chess Openings for White, Explained (Chess Information and Research Center 2007).
Though expensive at nearly $30, this is an excellent and very recent book that offers lots of helpful guidance on the lines I recommend.

Baker, Chris. A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire (Everyman 1998)
An excellent repertoire book for non-masters, which was rightly criticized by some for dubiously recommending the Max Lange Attack and the crazy piece sac against the Petroff (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nxf7?!!). However, its better chapters fit very well with our more solid repertoire choices.

Berdichevsky, Igor. Modern Practice 1....Nc6!? (Russian Chess House 2004)
This is the most complete and current consideration of 1...Nc6 lines for Black. There is also a CD version of the book from Convekta if you prefer (though I like having both).

Emms, John. Play the Open Games as Black: What to do when White avoids the Ruy Lopez (Gambit 2000).
This is an absolute classic and indispensible for anyone who studies the Open Games as either Black or White. It does not cover the Ruy Lopez / Spanish however.

Evans, Larry and Ken Smith. An Unbeatable White Repertoire after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 (Chess Digest 1988).
Though there are a number of books on the Four Knights (see my bibliography), this is probably the best reference for non-masters seeking to construct a repertoire around this super-solid line. It is a bit dated, but theory has not advanced that rapidly in the Four Knights....

Flear, Glenn. Offbeat Spanish: Meeting the Spanish without 3...a6 (Everyman 2001)
This is the best treatment of the Berlin and related lines that I have seen in book format. You may find some other interesting ideas in here as well.

Palliser, Richard. Tango! A Dynamic Answer to 1.d4 (Everyman 2005)
You may actually find that the excellent articles by Joel Benjamin and the material in Berdichevsky's book is sufficient. But Palliser's book is recent and very good.

Raetsky, Alex and Maxim Chetverik. English ...e5 (Everyman 2003)
The best coverage I have seen of ...e5 lines against the English, which offer Black a lot of latitude.

Sveshnikov and Sveshnikov.  A Chess Opening Repertoire for Blitz and Rapid (New in Chess 2016).
Covers the Two Knights French and Caro-Kann.

These books are just old enough that you might be able to get many of them used....

Friday, September 15, 2006

Chess in Art (Schach in der Kunst)

Michael Goller's chess art

Sample of Michael Goller's Chess Art

I recently stumbled upon an interesting website devoted to "chess in art" that is worth a look. Among the artists featured is one who practically shares my name: Michael Goller. Maybe there is a chess gene in the Geller/Goeller/Goller lineage....

Traffic Spike


Kenilworthian Traffic, September 8th-12th

Ever wonder what sort of traffic the more popular blogs, such as "Marginal Revolution," get each day? Well, I got an idea when Tyler Cowen linked to my post about his fallen record in the NJ Open. My traffic spiked from an average of 140 unique visitors per day to over 2000 (almost all from his site, and almost all to that single post). And those are just the ones who followed his link. Other than the Daily Dirt, no chess blog gets anywhere near those numbers. And I'm not even talking Daily Kos type of numbers....

The lesson I draw? This chess blog stuff is a waste of time. Economics and politics is where the real action is.

See ya later.... ;-)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense Bibliography

Anticipating that The Berlin Defense to the Ruy Lopez (a.k.a. Spanish, with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6) might make its appearance in the upcoming World Championship match between Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov (both of whom have it in their repertoires as Black, though neither favors 1.e4 as White), I've put together a bibliography of web resources and recent publications. Of course, with such a popular line this is necessarily a first draft and I therefore welcome additions or corrections by readers.

Online Resources, Articles, and Annotated Games

Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense (C65) at

Martin, Andrew. Ruy Lopez, Old Steinitz
Offers a refutation of 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.O-O d6(?!)

Morss, Mark. The Classical Defense to the Spanish, Part One
Offers a great analysis of what might be termed "The Classical Berlin," 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Bc5.

James, Colin III. The Fishing Hook / Fishing Pole: RIP
A refutation of the author's audacious 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.O-O Ng5?! 5.h3 h5?!

Anand - Topalov, Leon 2006 annotated by IM V Saravanan

Nisipaneu - Topalov, Match Bucharest 2006 annotated by Mihail Marin (also here)

Nisipaneu - Topalov, Match Bucharest 2006 annotated by Mikhail Golybev (in Russian)

Svidler - Topalov, Linares 2006, annotated by Dennis Monokroussos at The Chess Mind blog

Svidler - Topalov, Linares 2006, annotated by Malcolm Pein at TWIC

Svidler - Topalov, Linares 2006, annotated by Maxim Notkin at ChessPro

Svidler - Topalov, Linares 2006, annotated by IM Alexander Alpert

Svidler - Topalov, Linares 2006 annotated by Isofaro at ChessVault

Polgar - Topalov, San Luis 2005 annotated by Bobby Ang

Shirov - Kramnik, Linares 1998 annotated by S. Ionov
In a consideration of Shirov's play, this nice win against the Berlin Wall is interesting.

Short - Gelfand, Brussels 1991 annotated by Yasser Seirawan
Trailing in the match, Gelfand pulls out the Berlin as a surprise weapon, but Short is prepared and wins a nice ending.

Winslow-Thornally, Tempe-Skopje Sister City Open 1974 annotated by Elliot Winslow
Also here -- beginning 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 a6.

Steinitz - Zukertort, World Championship Match 1886 annotated by Mark Weeks
Features Steinitz's favorite 4.O-O Nxe4 5.Re1 Nd6 6.Nxe5!? which was played several times in the matches of these two opponents.

Boris Kreiman - David Vigorito, Reno Western States Open 2004
On page 4 of the California Chess Journal.

Moritz Porges - Emanuel Lasker, Nuremburg 1896 annotated by A.J. Goldsby
The game continues 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Be7 6.Qe2 Nd6 7.Bxc6 bxc6 8.dxe5 Nb7

Harry Nelson Pillsbury - Jackson Whipps Showalter, New York Match Game No. 19, 1897 annotated by Neil Brennen
The game begins 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Be7 6.Qe2 Nd6 7.Bxc6 bxc6 8.dxe5 Nb7.

Ivanchuk - Kramnik, Wijk aan Zee 1991 annotated by Larry Evans
Features 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Nf6 4 d3 Bc5 5 c3 0-0 6 Bxc6 bxc6 7 Nxe5 d5

Radjabov - Topalov, Linares 2006 annotated by GM K. Sakaev

Petrosian, T.L.- Minasian, 66th ch-ARM Yerevan 2006 annotated by Bobby Ang
Starting 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0–0 Nxe4 5.Qe2 Ng5!?

O. Wiggers - L. R. Walden, PNCCA Grand National 1900, annotated by A. E. Swafield
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Be7 6.Re1 Nd6 7.dxe5 Nxb5 8.a4 d6

C. S. Howell - John Ford, PNCCA East vs West Match 1901, annotations by C. S. Howell
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.dxe5 Nxb5 7.a4 d6 8.e6 Bxe6

Blehm - Finegold Chicago FIDE 2006 annotated by Ben Finegold
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Bc5

Selected Recent Books and Articles

Almasi, Zoltan. "Rebuilding the Wall with Bc8-d7." New in Chess Yearbook 62 (2002)

_____. "Another Brick in the Wall, Part I." New in Chess Yearbook 63 (2002)

_____. "Another Brick in the Wall - Part II." New in Chess Yearbook 64 (2002)

Benko, Pal. "Instant Endgame. " Chess Life (January 2006): 48-49.
Looks at the endgames in two of Topalov's "Berlin Wall" games from San Luis.

Burgess, Graham. "Berlin with 4...Be7 and ...d6." 101 Chess Opening Surprises (Gambit 1998): 25-26.

Dautov, Rustem "Berlin Defense" New in Chess Yearbook 36 (1995)

Flear, Glenn. Offbeat Spanish. Everyman Chess 2000. 31-68.
Covers more alternate lines after 4.O-O than Kaufman does (see below), including the interesting 4.O-O Nxe4 5.d4 Be7 (where the wandering Knight typically ends up on b7) and 4.O-O Bc5 (The Classical Berlin), which are two interesting alternatives to the Berlin Wall. However, White side-lines receive little or no coverage (4.Qe2 is hardly mentioned), except the popular 4.d3 when he offers 4...d6 5.O-O g6.

_____. "The Berlin Wall Defence." New in Chess Yearbook 57 (2000)

Jonkman, Harmen "Berlin Defence 3...Nf6." New in Chess Yearbook 52 (1999)

_____. "The Westerinen Variation." New in Chess Yearbook 55 (2000)

Kaufman, Larry. The Chess Advantage in Black and White (Random House 2004): 247-281.
IM Kaufmann makes the Berlin the cornerstone of his 1.e4 e5 Black repertoire. The specific Berlin lines he recommends are fairly safe and include "The Berlin Wall" 4.O-O Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 9.Nc3 Ke8 etc.; 4.Qe2 Bc5 5.c3 O-O!? etc.; and 4.d3 Bc5 5.O-O d6.

Khalifman, Alexander. Opening for White According to Anand, Volume 1 (Chess Stars 2003) Considers major Black alternatives after 1.e4 e5 (including the Latvian, Philidor, Petroff) and Spanish lines without ...a6 (including, of course, the Berlin) all from the White perspective.

Llanos, Guillermo and Guillermo Soppe, "Steinitz Always Valid." New in Chess Yearbook 66 (2003)

Polgar, Susan. "Ruy Lopez - 'Berlin' Variations (C67)." Chess Life (January 2006): 36-37.

_______."Ruy Lopez - The Famous Berlin Endgame." Chess Life (February 2006): 28-29.
A two part article, the first devoted to White deviations the second to the "Berlin Wall" endgame.

Rodriguez, Amador "Berlin Defense" New in Chess Yearbook 24 (1992)

Shamkovic, Leonid. The Chess Terrorist's Handbook. Ed. Paul Hodges. American Chess Promotions 1995.
Discuses Shamkovich's pet line 4.O-O Nxe4 5.Re1 Nd6 6.Nxe5 Be7 7.Bd3!?

Van der Tak, A.C. "The Revival of an Old Line." New in Chess Yearbook 61 (2001)

Yudovich, Mikhail. Spanish without ...a6 (Batsford 1986).

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Chess Coroner

The Chess Coroner

Remember "Quincy"?

Welcome "The Chess Coroner," John Moldovan, to the blogosphere. As he writes in his introductory post, John is "a correspondence-chess expert (USCF 2120) and contributor to the Checkmate Chess Club site" for the Springfield Chess Club. He is also one of the most regular players at the Kenilworth Chess Club, where he finished fourth in both our Summer Tournament and 2006 Club Championship. He says that his blog will feature "post mortem analysis," though he will likely cover local chess news as well. I wish him the best and hope his posts fill the void during my hiatus this semester....

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

How 15-year-old Evan Ju Won the 2006 New Jersey Open Chess Championship


Tate - Ju, NJ Open 2006
Black to play and win.


Tate - Ju, NJ Open 2006
Black to play and win (again).

I have annotated Evan Ju's games from the 60th Annual New Jersey Open Chess Championship 2006, which he won this past Labor Day weekend at the surprising age of fifteen, making him the youngest champion in New Jersey history (surpassing Tyler Cowen in 1977 by about five months) and the first to hold both the NJ Junior and NJ Open titles. His games tell a story of a young player, only recently of master strength, who showed himself up to the challenge of New Jersey's best players, including some with international titles. They also show that master players do not go down easy. They have to be beaten in the opening, the middlegame, and the endgame. See Ju's struggle against FM Emory Tate (from which the diagrams above are taken) for a good illustration.

IM Jeremy Silman once wrote, "you always need some luck to win a [chess] tournament," to which Thomas Jefferson might have added, "the harder you work the more luck you'll have." There is no question that Evan was a little lucky in some of his games, but that he also worked very hard to make that luck. When he was not working at creating active winning plans, he was working hard at creating difficulties for his opponent. When all else fails, after all, you can always ask, "What move would I hate to face if I was him?"

A case in point is his game with 70-year-old FM Anatoly Volovich in Round 2, where Evan was forced into a difficult endgame a piece down. Though we do not have the complete score of this game, several sources tell me that Evan posed the one problem for his opponent that he'd least like to face (and which may be all chess players' nightmare scenario): he eliminated all of the pawns and forced Volovich to try to win with Bishop and Knight against lone King in time pressure! As Jon Edwards writes: "Even many chess experts and masters cringe at the thought of having to mate with only a King, Bishop, and Knight against a lone King," in part because "this checkmate is unforgiving. A single mistake can require that you start over." And since there are some scenarios where, even with perfect play, it could take 30 moves or more to complete the mate, starting over is a nightmare. Judit Polgar once used the same tactic against Ljubomir Ljubojevic, who took over 22 moves to complete the mate. No wonder you can find so many careful explanations for how to mate with B+N v K online, including at the Exeter Chess Club, Wikipedia, Mostly Chess Tactics Blog, and Michigan Chess Association.

Some might say Evan was lucky that Volovich had forgotten how to perform this mate (which, I think it is safe to say, the very experienced FM had never encountered in over 60 years of playing). But I think Evan made his luck by creating as many difficulties as possible and by using the clock to his advantage.

Chess is sport, after all. And it is a very difficult one at that. In few of his games did Evan play perfectly, but neither did his generally higher rated opponents. In several games, especially against FM Rodion Rubenchik (2312) in Round 3 and FM Tate (2447) in Round 5, the play became tactically wild and very murky. Both players struggled to find the right move, but it was Evan who emerged victorious. Sometimes you have to risk losing in order to win.

I hope you enjoy playing over Evan's games as much as I have enjoyed annotating them. I look forward to next year's event, where I hope Evan will be at the board to defend his title. I plan to be on hand to cover it.

Related posts:

Sunday, September 10, 2006

FM Steve Stoyko at the NJ Open


Black to play and win after 22.Nc5+?

This past Thursday at the Kenilworth Chess Club, FM Steve Stoyko showed us two of his better games from the recent New Jersey Open Championship (see crosstable here), which I have annotated at our website, based on Steve's own comments. The diagram above comes from his fourth round game with David Grasso.

Though a number of things change from year to year at the annual New Jersey Open Chess Championship (including the location, round times, and attendance), there is one thing you can count on: Steve Stoyko will not only play but he will compete closely for the top prize. Steve has been playing in the tournament since the late 1960s and has won the event twice, in 1973 and 1983. He has had the same score as the champion on at least five other occasions, losing his share of the title on tie-breaks. Having been the beneficiary of other tie-break situations, Steve is not bitter. But he remains unhappy about the 1988 championship, where he took clear second to IM Leonid Bass (who, as far as anyone knows, has never had a residence or driving license in New Jersey). Bass claimed to have recently moved to the state and was therefore given the title of New Jersey Champion. Apparently, he moved out of the state shortly thereafter, perhaps fearing Stoyko's wrath...

This year, Steve had another chance to tie for first, if he had only managed to win his last round game against defending champion Tom Bartell. Despite emerging from the opening with the slightly better chances, however, Steve could make no progress against Tom's careful play and agreed to split the point.

In a typical NJ Open irony for Steve, he shared the second-highest score with IM Dean Ippolito (at 4.5 each) but was given third place on tie-breaks. Such minor misfortunes only spur Steve on, however, and it's certain he will play again next year.

I will be posting the games from champion Evan D. Ju early this coming week, as soon as I finish annotating them.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Interview with the Former "Youngest New Jersey Chess Champion," Tyler Cowen

I know a chessplayer and brilliant college student who intends to pursue a doctorate in genetic research. I remember telling him, as we were driving together to a chess event, that there always comes a point of diminishing returns with chess, where you cease to add to your overall intellectual abilities and simply become thrall to the game. Players who realize this are able to achieve high ratings or lofty titles as young people before they abandoned the game to get on with their careers. Take, for example, the fascinating members of the victorious 1960 Student Team Championship (discussed here in June), almost all of whom went on to great professional success, with two becoming professors, one a medical doctor, and one a Catholic priest. Chess teaches you how to study and understand something very complex, and so it is a wonderful training ground for future academic work. There is always a danger, however, that you will become too immersed in the game itself and lose focus on the larger picture, or, worse, become like the fifth and final member of that 1960 student team who is currently confined to a mental institution for the criminally insane.

There are few better examples of chessplayers transitioning to more lucrative fields of study than NM Tyler Cowen, Ph.D., who has achieved success as a professor of economics at George Mason University and notoriety in the blogosphere for his “Marginal Revolution” weblog and "Tyler Cowen’s Ethnic Dining Guide." Busy as he is with his academic, intellectual, and gastronomic pursuits, Professor Cowen was completely unaware that he was, until last week, the youngest New Jersey Open Champion (winning the event in 1977 at 15 years and eight months). His achievement was superseded this past Labor Day weekend, when Evan Ju (who turned fifteen just this summer) became the youngest champion and the first to hold both the NJ Junior and NJ Open titles.

Asked how he felt about having his mark surpassed, Professor Cowen said, “I’m very happy for the kid who did it. He must be a much stronger player than I was when I won it, since the competition is a lot tougher and [chess] knowledge has progressed so much.”


Tyler Cowen

Today, Professor Cowen has no recollection of his 1977 victory in the New Jersey Open Championship and cannot even name a particular opponent he met in the event. “I was never impressed. I was smart enough to know it did not matter. To win one tournament doesn’t mean that much.” He added that to do well in a larger and stronger tournament would have meant a lot more than to win a relatively local event.

As a youngster, Professor Cowen played at the Westwood and Dumont Chess Clubs in Bergen County. As he improved, he played more often at the Manhattan and the Marshall, where the competition was stronger. By the time he was 16-years-old he was rated about 2350 (which would have put him on the same pace set by Bobby Fischer in the late 1950s).

Then he gave up the game.

“I realized I wasn’t going to become a professional. There are no benefits, no retirement. It was not the life I wanted to lead. And I fell in love with Economics.” As an economist, of course, he knows a lot about diminishing returns....

Though he confesses to keeping a set by his bed, which he uses “to think about chess ideas,” Professor Cowen says that chess probably takes very little time from his life these days. He does follow the major chess news events (he mentioned the 1992 Fischer-Spassky rematch, Deep Blue versus Kasparov, and the upcoming Kramnick – Topalov match), and he has read a few volumes of Kasparov’s Great Predecessors. But other than those few moments of chess reading, he has pretty much not thought about the game for nearly the past thirty years.

“Chess is all or nothing, like an addiction” he said. He looks back at players he knew growing up and wonders what more they might have done with their talents if they had spent less time at the board. Meanwhile, those who moved on were able to achieve great things. He points to GM Kenneth Rogoff, Ph.D., for example, who is a leading economist and former director of research at the International Monetary Fund.

Though he didn't say it himself, I think Professor Cowen would agree that young NM Evan Ju shouldn't quit his day job as a student. Few, if any, should follow the example of Bobby Fischer, who famously dropped out of high school to pursue chess full time. Young Evan should recognize that this period of great success in chess is something he will look back on as an interesting phase in his life, during which he learned to value himself as an intellectual and to recognize his potential to achieve great things in the world.

His predecessor wishes him all the best.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

"The Immortal Game" by David Shenk

There is a nice National Public Radio interview with David Shenk, author of the recently released The Immortal Game: A History of Chess, or How 32 Carved Pieces on a Board Illuminated Our Understanding of War, Art, Science and the Human Brain (available through Amazon at $17.16). This may be the most well-promoted chess history book in living memory, and I wish it great success, though I have not yet received my own review copy.... But I guess my blog doesn't generate the same readership as ABC News or The Chicago Sun Times. Bill Wall got his and has a very positive review. I'll tell you more once I read it.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

NJ Open Results

The 60th New Jersey Open Chess Championship was won by rising star NM Evan Ju (featured here in May), who drew IM Dean Ippolito in the last round to take the title. Second place was shared by Ippolito and FM Steve Stoyko (who drew in the last round with last year's champion, FM Tom Bartell, who was a half-point back). Ju, who turned fifteen this summer, has had some excellent results of late, including winning the NJ Junior Championship in May. He is the first player to hold both the NJ Junior and NJ Open titles at the same time. I hope to have some more games up later this week and invite contributions by any of the participants.

Update: I was contacted by Evan's parents, who corrected his age (which I mistakenly had as 16 rather than 15). Their message prompted me to research the past winners, and it appears that Evan is also the youngest NJ Champion in history. Bobby Fischer won the tournament at age 14, but as a New York resident he could not claim the title. A list of previous NJ Champions can be found at the NJSCF website. I hope to have more information in a future post, which may also include a game from the new champion.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

NJ Open Chess Tourney in Local Paper

The Home News Tribune of Central New Jersey ran an article in today's paper ("They're Making Their Moves: Top Chess Players Square Off at Tournament in Franklin" by David Stegon) about the New Jersey Open Chess Championship happening this weekend. Kenilworth Chess Club champion Steve Stoyko (who won it in 1973 and 1983) is prominently featured.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

New Jersey Open Chess Championship 2006


White to play and win.

The New Jersey Open Chess Championship began today at the Ramada Inn of Somerset (immediately off Exit 12 of Route 287 -- see map). Defending champion Tom Bartell won a nice ending in his first round game against expert David Cole (see diagram above from Bartell-Cole, NJ Open 2006) and seems relaxed enough to compete for his third straight title, having shared the title with NM Todd Lunna in 2004 and taken clear first last year.

Tom Bartell

Tom Bartell shortly after Round One.

The tournament continues through Monday evening and is worth a visit, if only to browse Fred Wilson's fantastic array of chess books, many used and at very reasonable prices. According to Fred, this is the best collection of books he has ever brought to a tournament.

Fred Wilson Chess Books

Fred Wilson selling chess books.

Several Kenilworth regulars are in action, including Steve Stoyko, Glen Hart, and Anna Matlin (seen here drawing her first round game).

Anna Matlin

Anna Matlin agrees a draw in Round One.
Play continues Sunday (with rounds at 12 noon and 7 p.m.) and Monday (with rounds at 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.) It is still possible to join the two-day schedule, with registration tomorrow from 9-10:30 a.m. and G45 rounds 1-3 beginning at 11:00 a.m. and the two schedules merging for Round 4 at 7 p.m. (which would make for a hectic day of chess). See the tournament announcement at the USCF website for more details.
Blog coverage of last year's event featured the games Bady-Bartell, NJ Open 2005 from Round Two along with Hart-Selling, NJ Open 2005 and (sorry David!) Stoyko - Cole, NJ Open 2005 from Round One.
Update: I have made a number of posts on the 2006 NJ Open, the last of which contains links to them all as well as the games of the champion, 15-year-old Evan Ju.