Monday, December 31, 2007
Saturday, December 29, 2007
The Anand film is a typical surface portrait of a "sports star," as befits India's latest national hero. He comes across as a very affable fellow and there are some amusing stories, including one where Anand relates a conversation he had with an older stranger on a train who asked him what he did for a living. When Anand told him he played chess, the man was at first incredulous, then tried to convince him that he should really consider a much more stable profession. "After all," he said, "it's not like you are Vishy Anand!"
Fasolo's film is more meditative than the Anand piece and tries to achieve more depth and more aesthetic engagement. It is in both English and Italian (with English subtitles), and mixes black and white and color footage. It opens and closes with a Borges poem about chess and in between mostly shows the talking heads of players reflecting on various topics, from how they learned the game (most from their fathers) to how they have all suffered from their losses. There are some nice moments, including a musical interlude which shows scenes from the Olympiad, amusing footage of Ivanchuk pulling at his bushy eyebrows throughout a game, and some discussion of women and chess. I would have liked to see more reflection on what it is like to be a professional player, but I predict we will see a film along those lines in the not too distant future. Meanwhile, Fasolo's effort is very much worth seeing, and you can download a high-quality MP4 version from the his website. (Hat tip to Alexandra Kosteniuk).
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Rebecca Knapp Adams's "The Art of the Game" (originally in the December issue of Art & Auction) offers a useful primer on collecting chess sets. A more complete chess collecting 101 article can be found at Ciaran Rochford's website. Those just out to browse, like myself, might enjoy a tour of The House of Staunton's Antique Chess Shoppe.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
John Moldovan, a.k.a. The Chess Coroner, carried the vote (though Howard received a significant percentage), making him our new club president. The other officers elected were: VP Greg Tomkovich, Treasurer and TD Geoff McAuliffe, Secretary Joe Renna, and Webmaster Mike Goeller.
The other important business of the evening was discussion of the Annual Club Championship, set to begin January 17. It was decided that, for the first time in many years, the event should be rated. Otherwise, the event will be the same as last year but with fewer trophies to make up for the rating fee.
I had to leave a little early to pick up a holiday visitor at the airport, but I was able to get in two 5-Minute games with NM Mark Kernighan. They were rather messy affairs but interesting, if only because in both of them Black's king steps out for a walk via d7.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Sunday, December 16, 2007
News, pictures, notes, and video regarding the final game of the match:
- Sergey Shipov live in Russian at the Tournament website (soon English)
- Peter Doggers at Chess Vibes
- Mig at The Daily Dirt
- Dylan Loeb McClain's Gambit weblog of The New York Times
- Chessdom on Kamsky's Victory
- Dennis Monokroussos at The Chess Mind
- Jennifer Shahade at USCF.org
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Kamsky won the second game of the match yesterday. That second game was a very interesting and closely-contested encounter that featured attacks and counter-attacks by both sides and will likely attract much high level commentary. Several sources have already provided extensive annotations to the game, and I will try to add others as they appear:
- Sergey Shipov live at the Tournament website
- Dorian Rogozenko at ChessBase
- Dennis Monokroussos at The Chess Mind
- Peter Doggers at Chess Vibes
- Malcolm Pein in the Telegraph
- Jennifer Shahade at USCF.org
Updated at 11:00 Sunday-- thanks for the corrections and additional links.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
September) site traffic is trending upward.
More detailed blog stats can be seen by clicking on "View My Stats" beneath the StatCounter icon near the bottom of the right-hand nav bar of this blog.
The Chess Coroner also tracks visitors through StatCounter, and John Moldovan reflected on his "Blog Stats" extensively in a September posting. No specific stats are kept for The Center Square or KCC Minutes blogs.
Overall, I think our site is doing great and is probably among the better chess portals on the web. Not bad for an annual investment of $130 or so. Whether or not the website is encouraging attendance or improving membership is tough to judge. My own feeling is that the site helps to stabilize membership but may even lower attendance, especially since members can learn so much about what's happening at the club without showing up. But I'll leave such speculation to others...
Sunday, December 09, 2007
A search for "chess" yields 7840 hits, but the vast majority list "no preview available," "snippet view" (meaning they are searchable but with limited access to the original text), or "limited preview." Only those books very much out of copyright are available in full text. These include Philidor's Chess Analyzed and The Elements of Chess, Staunton's Chess Player's Companion and Chess Praxis, Steinit'z Modern Chess Instructor, Bird's Chess History and Reminiscinces, Walker's Chess and Chess Players, and Edge's The Exploits and Trimphs...of Paul Morphy. As this brief list suggests, there are many joys for the chess historian or antiquary who now has easy access to texts he could previously have seen only by visiting the Special Collections of some inaccessible library. Those interested in free access to the latest opening theory will have to buy some books. But those interested in history and knowledge will find some occasional free treats, such as:
- James and Timbrell Pierce's book on The Pierce Gambit (1888) which analyzes their line in the Vienna opening 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 exf4 4.Nf3 g5 5.d4 g4 6.Bc4! etc.
- Franklin Knowles Young's The Major Tactics of Chess: A Treatise on Evolutions, which tries to analyze tactical themes using mathematical formulas.
- Elijah Williams's The Souvenir of the Bristol Chess Club which contains 100 games, many at odds.
- You can also browse the nearly 700 pages of the American Chess Magazine (1898 - PDF), which is like a window into chess of 110 years ago, complete with annotated games, reports, short stories, feature articles, problems, and other materials that have otherwise inaccessible. The out-of-copyright player portraits alone are a boon to internet chess publishers. You can also find a year each of The Chess Journal and British Chess Journal.
Among the books with limited preview, there are also some nice things. Dover Books editions will sometimes have quite extensive previews. These include:
- Zurich International Chess Tournament, 1953 by David Bronstein, which offers the full annotations of a number of games (all available at Chessgames.com for easy reference).
- Practical Chess Endings by Irving Chernev offers a number of examples (in English Descriptive).
- Rubinstein's Chess Masterpieces by Hans Kmoch, which includes his complete notes to Rotlewi-Rubinstein, Lodz 1907.
In the end, anyone who trolls through Google Books in search of chess will know that the concept's promise is much greater than what it currently delivers. I'll have to check back next year to see if they have managed to make any more progress toward that goal.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
You will find 5.Ba3!? mentioned in several books (including Lev Alburt's classic The Alekhine for the Tournament Player), but it is unlikely that your opponent has had to face it over the board. I know that almost everyone I play it against on ICC takes a very long pause at this point. White's idea is to inhibit Black's natural development: he will need some preparation to play ...c5 or ...e6. Play might return to normal Saemisch positions, but Black has to think on his own a bit and both sides have a lot of room for originality. The Saemisch Attack was a favorite of Mikhail Tal's, and his games with it sparked my interest many years ago, so I include some classic Tal attacks with it in my notes. Tal was not always successful with the Saemisch because he often played it a bit too speculatively, as in our first game (from the first round of the 1988 National Open against an Expert level opponent) and in a 1988 simul game against Swami Shankaranda I came across online (though the opening was hardly to blame in either case). If you like the Saemisch Attack and want to learn more, I know of a couple good resources. The best, in my view, is an article on Alekhine Defense Sidelines from Leonid's New Archive, which includes quite a few games in PGN format. Nigel Davies has also written about some of these lines in Gambiteer I (Everyman 2007), but his main focus is on Keres's preferred 3.Nc3 Nxc3 4.dxc3!? striving for speedy development rather than the central dominance that follows 4.bxc3. FM David Levin has some interesting analysis of the line 1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. Nc3 e6 4. Nxd5 exd5 5. Qf3 Nc6!? -- which I mention in my analysis.
I think the Saemisch Attack makes a good fit with other dark-square systems I have written about here, including The Grand Prix with a3, The Caveman Caro-Kann, The Apocalypse Attack, The Simplified Pirc, and The Paulsen Petroff. Taken together, these practically constitute a 1.e4 repertoire, to which I might some day add the French Wing Gambit (1.e4 e6 2.Nf3 d5 3.e5 c5 4.b4!? -- also discussed in Gambiteer I), and maybe some lines of the Giuoco Piano and Two Knights Defense. And, if you like dark square systems, you might be interested in the Stonewall Attack, which is practically a repertoire in itself.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Friday, November 30, 2007
-- Marshall McLuhan's "The Medium is the Message"
I recently discovered an excellent essay by Federico Garcia that has gotten me thinking about the history of chess amateurism and its implications for today. In his paper “Steinitz and the Inception of Modern Chess” (2003/2005), Garcia argues that the break between romantic and modern chess should be understood as marking the difference between amateur and professional play. He begins with a very interesting question: why is it that the Romantics so rarely defended (accepting every offered sacrifice, for instance), most evidently in games like the Evergreen or the Immortal? To this Garcia responds:
To find an answer we must turn back to the social conditions that influenced chess at the time—in fact, the answer is closely related to what has been said about professionalism. The ethics of the amateurism, that ethics which finds so offensive any material, ‘mundane,’ interest, is also the ethics of ‘what matters is competing, not winning.’ A passive defence, or a passive attack for that matter, would be seen as cowardice. If you are attacked, anything other than a counterattack is an offense to chess and to your opponent. It is a matter of fair play not to escape your opponent’s bright combination with fastidious stubbornness (should the occasion arise, look for an even brighter combination!) In Romantic times, “you either won gloriously, or you succumbed to a counterattack and lost gloriously.” At stake, amateur decorum required, was honor—fairly independent from victory or defeat. Now, what is decidedly not independent from the victory or defeat is the accorded prize for the winner. The establishment of chess as a profession, one of whose consequences is an upheaval in priorities (for, no matter what, money, when needed, will always be a higher priority than honor), is probably the major factor at play for the appearance of defensive play and technique. Again, the fact that Steinitz was the first to assume his professionalism helps explain why it should be he the first to develop the defence. For even if Zukertort and the rest were professionals (in the sense that they earned a living through chess), they were—tied to the received scale of values—still ashamed of it, and they would not pursue the ignoble business of not fighting with knightly disinterest.To look back at chess history through the lens of amateurism vs. professionalism is very compelling. Was it his amateurism that made Paul Morphy indulge in a sometimes unsound and tactical mode of play that causes some to devalue many of his games today? Was Mikhail Botvinnik's completely scientific approach to the game simply a natural expression of Soviet-era professionalism, and practically an extension of his work as an engineer? Was Frank Marshall's well-deserved reputation as a tactical swindler due to his occupying a liminal position, having absorbed the romantic ideals of the past but needing to make a living as a professional?
I am less interested in the answers to these historical questions than I am in thinking about the meaning of amateurism today, especially since I think we are entering a new era of chess amateurism, not just among players (since it seems very few U.S. players live as full time chess professionals) but most importantly among those who are promoting, writing about, and generally contributing to the game. This new form of chess amateurism, encouraged by the transformations of the internet, can only have a positive long-term effect on chess. After all, the word "amateur" (Latin root amat = "to love") is related to "amoré," and an amateur is one who participates for the love of it.
I am not sure I can say what effects it has had on the type of game played by the top players. In fact, I'm not even sure that's so important any more. This is the new age of the amateur, and the professionals are not necessarily setting the audience's agenda. For instance, very few try to keep up on "main line" theory anymore -- how could they? The amateur game is getting more interesting for amateurs (certainly more worth looking at and commenting on), and amateur participation in the game more important to its continued evolution.
Chess in the schools (though it certainly provides some professional opportunities for coaches) is one institutional mechanism that feeds the growing tide of amateurism by creating more educated chessplayers. Ann Hulbert develops this point in her essay "Chess Goes to School: How, and why, the game caught on among young Americans" (Slate, May 2, 2007), arguing that "chess has held onto a certain purity, along with its penury" and that's a good thing:
In an era when sports in the United States are a big business, as well as a fraught element of college admissions, chess offers kids in our overprogrammed youth culture a rare exposure to the real meaning and value of amateurism—the mastery of something for its own sake. Chess isn't going to earn anybody much of a living, but it can teach kids about learning....Chess is not only entering grade school, it is now becoming important at the college level as well, as described by recent articles: "Rah! Rah! Block That Rook!" in The American (regarding the recruiting practices at UTD and UMBC) and Dylan Loeb McClain's "Good Opening Can Be a Scholarship" (focused on academic chess scholarships at Texas Tech). Even
Chess is increasingly being sustained by amateur involvement on the internet, where Web 2.0 and user paticipation has made it possible for amateurs to play extensively, produce knowledge (chess blogs have proliferated beyond measure, and amateurs even produce quality videos), join online discussion forums, and generally help to sustain chess culture. Some suggest that "the cult of the amateur," by producing lots of free content, is making it more difficult for the professionals to sustain themselves. But personally I think the rise of amateurism simply means that the professionals will have to raise the bar for what they do if they want to distinguish themselves from the rest.
In the short term, more voices online will mean more noise. But in the long term, more voices mean more varied and original ideas. As Sir William Haley argued in an essay on "Amateurism" (American Scholar 1976), in defense of amateur writers:
Mankind has benefited immeasurably from the cross-fertilization of ideas. It is from amateurs, and these include specialists straying out of their own domain, that cross-fertilization comes. Cross-fertilization is a desirable end.As John Watson has argued, cross-fertilization is certainly a desirable end in chess theory. And while amateurs may not always unearth forgotten chess analysis or ideas, they will always enrich our cultural understanding of the game. You no longer have to be a professional chessplayer, after all, to write about chess, and amateur players have contributed a great deal
to cross-fertilizing and reframing our understanding chess in history and politics. Witness the work of Daniel Johnson, Paul Hoffman, and David Shenk, to name just a few amateur players who have nonetheless made very important contributions.
It's a mistake to think that the decline of professional chess in the U.S. suggests that the game itself is in decline. Nothing could be further from the truth. Perhaps the possibility of a lucrative professional U.S. chess circuit built from the top down basically "jumped the shark" in 2005 with the $500,000 HB Global Chess Challenge. There may be more top-down developments (such as the US Chess League's promise to pay top players) that make life a little easier for some professionals. But America's titled players make more from poker these days than they do from chess and that "Tournament for the Rest of Us," the US Amateur Team, will always be much bigger than all of them and more important to the longterm health of chess...and of professionals. It seems to me that to focus on professional players of the game in the U.S. is a mistake until we have built up the amateur base significantly. The places to focus our attention, then, are the amateur institutions: amateur tournaments, the schools, the web, and literature. If you focus on the amateur institutions, you will be very hopeful about the future....
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Sunday, November 25, 2007
- Sunday, December 9
- Saturday, January 12
- Sunday, January 20
- Saturday, February 2
- Sunday, February 17
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Sunday, November 18, 2007
When people have asked me what I like most about chess, I have said that chess is one of the few areas of human knowledge where you can actually arrive at the truth. You may never get to the truth, but at least you know you could. Paul Hoffman, whose book King's Gambit: A Son, a Father, and the World's Most Dangerous Game has been drawing well-deserved rave reviews, seems to have a similar interest in the game. But he approaches it from the opposite side of the coin: rather than seeking truth in chess, he seems obsessed with chasing out lies. That is the central theme of his book, which traces his own interest in the game and his obsession with the overly competitive liars who have played it (including his father) with a win-at-all-costs attitude. Hoffman's opinion piece in this weekend's Washington Post, "Winning by Rook or by Crook," gives you some sense of his concerns.
I recommend King's Gambit highly -- one of the best books I've read this year -- and if I had more time I would write a long and glowing review, complete with annotated games (for there are many referenced and described in the book), a lengthy discussion of Claude Bloodgood's 1.g4, and reflections on Hoffman's adventures in Tripoli. Not having the time, though, I thought I'd just post a little webliography devoted to Hoffman, which should give you some idea of his chess qualifications and access to fascinating figures. I also recommend that you check out his excellent website and chess blog, The PH Test (http://paulhoffman.wordpress.com/) where you can read an excerpt from the book.
A Selected Paul Hoffman Webliography
- "Postcards from Tripoli." ChessBase (June 28, 2004)
Shows many photos of the Stefanova simul. It seems that if any parts of Hoffman's own story take liberties with the truth, it is in his stories of his simul games.
- "Chess Queen: At 22, Jennifer Shahade Is the Strongest American Born Woman Chess Player Ever [sic]" Smithsonian Magazine (August 1, 2003) - also referenced by ChessBase, which issued a correction regarding the title's claim.
- "It's 6 a.m. and Your Opponent Is Garry Kasparov." ChessBase (April 7, 2003)
Discusses the author's simul game with Kasparov, which is deeply annotated online.
- "Retooling Machine and Man for the Next Big Chess Faceoff." The New York Times (January 21, 2003)
- "Chess Champion Faces off with New Computer." ChessBase (January 21, 2003)
- "Karpov Defeats an Old Rival in a Four-Game Rapid Chess Match." (December 21, 2002)
- "Castling in the Square: The Harvard Chess Club Battles the Clock and the Competition" (Harvard Magazine, November-December 2002)
- "'Brains in Bahrain': Man and Machine Call It Quits." Time (October 22, 2002)
- "'Brains in Bahrain': Kramnik Tries to Be a Viper." Time (October 15, 2002)
- "Of Pawns and Programs." Time (September 30, 2002)
- "The Pandolfini Defense." The New Yorker (June 4, 2001)
- "The Youngest Champ, the Dirtiest Game." The New York Times (October 7, 1990)
Profiles, Reviews and Interviews
- ChessBase. "King's Gambit and the Story-Teller Paul Hoffman." (October 8, 2007)
- Howard Goldowsky. "Hoffman's Gambit." Chess Life Online (October 1, 2007)
An interview, book review, and annotated game. Excellent.
- Michael Weinreb. "64 Squares." The New York Times (September 30, 2007)
Who better to review Hoffman's book?
- Paul Hoffman on the Leonard Lopate show (September 24, 2007)
- Marshal Zeringue. The Page 99 Test: Paul Hoffman's "King's Gambit." The Page 99 Test (September 20, 2007)
- Andy Soltis. "Accept 'Gambit' as a Good Read." (September 16, 2007)
- ChessBase "King's Gambit." (September 13, 2007)
- Martin Seeber. "King's Gambit: The Review." Chess Tales blog (September 14, 2007)
- Noah Davis. "So What Do You Do, Paul Hoffman?" Media Bistro (August 22, 2007)
- Mark Weeks. "Tales of Hoffman." Chess for All Ages Blog (August 5, 2007)An overly negative and picky review by the About.Chess webmaster which may have been the first to question whether Hoffman's story about the Larsen simul was truthful.
- Howard Goldowsky. "A Conversation with Paul Hoffman." ChessCafe (November 06, 2003) -- also referenced by ChessBase.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
- Freed by Chess, Cornered by D.C. Priorities (2003)
- Moten Educational Center School Chess Team Travels to Nashville (2003)
- School Uses Chess to Help Students (2003)
- Student Money Vanishes, But Few Are Punished (2007)
- Ex-Worker Charged with Stealing Donations to Student Club (2007)
- Ex-School Official Charged with Stealing Chess Club Funds (2007)
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Friday, November 09, 2007
Thursday, November 08, 2007
The Chess Coroner has been doing an excellent job of covering FM Steve Stoyko's lecture series on the French Defense, which continues tonight at the club. Part One dealt with early White deviations, including the Exchange and Advance Variations. Part Two focused on lines where Black plays an early ...dxe4 exchange (as recommended in Andy Soltis's The Fighting French). This seems to make a great companion to Steve's Lasker Defense Repertoire, not to mention his other lectures on the French in the past, as documented in Anti-Tarrasch, French Defense Repertoire: Winawer with 6...Ne7 and 7...O-O, and French Defense, Part Two: Winawer - Petrosian Variation.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Someone sent me the score to the little known gem Najdorf - Szapiro, Lodz 1928, which I will have to add to my collection of Bishop and Rook mates:
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Monday, November 05, 2007
The first-place finish and first IM norm of 13-year-old Ray Robson at the 6th North American FIDE Invitational in Chicago has led to widespread recognition of the youngster's Fischer-like talent. That recognition is well deserved. Robson played some great games, but none more impressive than his victory over closest tournament rival, IM David Vigorito, which I have annotated. This was probably Robson's most flawless performance in the event and an important contribution to opening theory--suggesting that Black has a bit more work ahead of him in this critical line of the Loewenthal Sicilian.
Those interested in finding out more about the tournament should check out the following articles (though there will likely be more news coverage in the coming week):
- The 6th North American FIDE Invitational concludes: Robson first, Vigorito second by Dennis Monokroussos
- 6th North American FIDE Invitational by Dennis Monokroussos
Analyzes some games, including Robson's fortunate victory over Muhammad.
- Todd Blogs from Chicago by Todd Andrews at USCF
Analyzes Andrews's early-round draw with tournament winner Robson.
- NACA FIDE tournament website
- Games at Monroi
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Shocking but utterly convincing, Love and Sex with Robots provides insights that are surprisingly relevant to our everyday interactions with technology. This is science brought to life, and Levy makes a compelling and titillating case that the entities we once deemed cold and mechanical will soon become the objects of real companionship and human desire. Anyone reading the book with an open mind will find a wealth of fascinating material on this important new direction of intimate relationships, a direction that, before long, will be regarded as perfectly normal.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
Friday, November 02, 2007
In Round 10 of US Chess League action, the New Jersey Knockouts fell to the New York Knights, putting an end to their season. New York will take the final playoff spot and New Jersey will have to wait until next year. As usual, I have annotated the games online.
Wins by Irina Krush and Jay Bonin on Boards 2 and 3 put New York in the driver's seat early, and despite Joel Benjamin's win on Board 1 there was not much realistic hope of a tied match, though Evan Ju played until the 50 move rule to test his opponent as much as possible in a drawn position. The game of the night was definitely Bonin's stunning victory over Mackenzie Molner with some flashy attacking play (see diagram above).
I guess we will have to root for New York to go all the way...
Other coverage of the final round of the season can be found online:
You can play through the games from the entire season, now concluded, with annotations at our website:
- Round 1, Tie with Queens Pioneers, 2-2
- Round 2, Tie with Tennessee Tempo, 2-2
- Round 3, Tie with Baltimore Kingfishers, 2-2
- Round 4, Loss to Queens Pioneers, 1.5-2.5
- Round 5, Win over New York Knights, 2.5-1.5
- Round 6, Win over Carolina Cobras, 2.5-1.5
- Round 7, Loss to Philadelphia Inventors, 1.5-2.5
- Round 8, Tie with Boston Blitz, 2-2
- Round 9, Tie with Baltimore Kingfishers, 2-2
- Round 10, Loss to New York Knights, 1.5-2.5
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
- Five Round Swiss Game/40
- Westfield Y, 220 Clark Street, Westfield N.J.
- $2000 Gtd: $650-$350-$250-$150-$100 U2200: $200 U2000 $150 U1800: $100
- Best game prize $50 (Judge Ernesto Labate)
- EF: $75, $60 by October 28th Reg: 9:30-11:30 a.m.
- Rds: 12:00,1:35,3:10,4:45,6:20 p.m.
- Early EF: Todd Lunna, 36 Maple Drive, Colts Neck, New Jersey 07722.
- Make checks payable to Westfield Chess Club please bring identification to enter the building. Todd Lunna 732-946-7379.
Friday, October 26, 2007
When New Jersey played Baltimore in Round 3, they were only able to draw due to a lucky break that turned a possible loss into a win for Dean Ippolito. This time it was Baltimore that got lucky, scoring wins in two games that seemed headed for an even result.
White was victorious in every game, even though all of the Black players were able to gain equality using rather unusual defenses. On Board 1, Benjamin reached his favored Ruy Lopez-like position out of the anti-Sicilian against Blehm and used it to gain enough of an edge to carry him through to victory in a very close game. On Board 2, Friedman used the Chigorin Defense to reach a very drawish position before he blundered badly and lost to Enkhbat's swift tactics. On Board 3, Molner played an interesting line against Kaufman's unusual Nimzo-French (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nc6!?) and ended up sacrificing a Bishop to gain an intuitive attack that eventually carried him to victory through some very complicated thickets. And on Board 4, Khodarkovsky seemed to gain easy equality with the Alekhine Defense only to lose to some very interesting endgame tactics by Battsetseg.
Other coverage of Round 9 action:
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Thursday, October 18, 2007
In last night's US Chess League action, The New Jersey Knockouts answered their critics and kept their playoff hopes alive by drawing the most highly ranked team in the league, the Boston Blitz. I have annotated the games and posted them online.
The best games of the night were the decisive ones. On Board 2, Jorge Sammour-Hasbun played an attractive tactical game using an underestimated line of the Scotch Gambit (beginning 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Nf3 Bb4+) against Dean Ippolito. Though Ippolito held onto the gambit pawn and made no obvious errors, Sammour was able to use his initiative to create a decisive attack that left him up the Exchange, which he was able to turn into a win despite evident time pressure. This game will certainly be a contender for game of the week. The loss for New Jersey on Board 2 was fortunately balanced by a win on Board 4 by the young Victor Shen in a wild game where both sides created second Queens. Shen has struggled against his usually more mature opponents, but this game showed him at his best.
The common criticism of the New Jersey Knockouts has been that their even record was achieved against the lowest ranked opponents in the League. They continued their even record, but they raised their level of respect considerably last night. Let's hope that the draw also raises their spirits so that they can make it to the playoffs.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Here are the match-ups:
- GM Joel Benjamin (2653) - GM Larry Christiansen (2663)
- IM Dean Ippolito (2447) - SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun (2558)
- NM Evan Ju (2268) - NM Denys Shmelov (2251)
- NM Victor Shen (2218) - NM Chris Williams (2175)
Sammour-Hasbun and Ippolito have only one match-up in the databases, where Ippolito played the opening poorly and then struggled to hold on in a complex double-rook ending. I imagine his opening preparation will be a little better this time, and I think the games on every board could go either way.
Follow the action on ICC or with the NJKO's "Real Time Blog" of the match. Other good sources include the Boston Blitz Blog, the BCC Weblog, US Chess League, and USCF.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Dylan Loeb McClain has done an excellent job of covering the story for The New York Times and in his Gambit weblog:
- Chess Group Officials Accused of Using Internet to Hurt Rivals
- Interview with the USCF President
- The Lawsuit Against Polgar and Truong, et. al.
- The Lawsuit Against Polgar and Truong, A Closer Look
Thursday, October 11, 2007
The Kings are set up opposite each other and the first to force his way across to the other side of the board wins (unless they reach a position where neither can make progress, in which case it's a draw). The idea of imagining the Kings as "magnetic" (of the same polarization) struck me as a good metaphor to help explain how they can influence each other even though they must remain one square apart. A puzzle position from Capablanca then helps show how the principle of the opposition can be used to win games.
Pawn Battle," is to create an active learning environment where kids pick up complex theoretical concepts by engaging with them directly in practice. Active learning has its limitations, but it does keep kids involved and having fun, especially in group lessons. Have you ever tried to lecture to a group of 8-year-olds? Good luck.
Another good game to get kids to try is "The Szen Position," which is especially effective for brining home the idea of "zugzwang"--though it's unlikely you will get kids to cement the lessons from their practice by playing over the detailed analysis of the position by Jon Speelman in EG 73.5 (July 1983): 185-190. My group of a dozen 8-year-olds seemed to enjoy playing with the Szen position last week. Will they really gain much from the experience without some study? Tough to say. But at least I have made a start and sparked their curiosity and engagement.
It would be nice if the kids I teach would use what they have learned so far to go study the ending some more on their own. But it takes a rare child (or especially committed parents) to do that. That's too bad, since there are so many excellent online resources for learning the endgame these days, especially in the ChessCafe Archives. I especially enjoyed the following articles, which reinforce the themes of "the opposition" and "zugzwang" I have emphasized so far:
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
I would like to take a moment to compliment the editors of Chess Life for producing one of the best issues I have seen (not to mention the sexiest-ever chess magazine cover photo!) and for putting all of this excellent content online for the entire chess community to enjoy. Bravo!
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Friday, October 05, 2007
The New Jersey Knockouts won their second match in a row on Wednesday night by defeating the Carolina Cobras 2.5-1.5 in Round 6 of US Chess League action thanks mostly to a brilliant victory by 15-year-old Expert Jayson Lian over a master on Board 4. I have annotated the games, all of which featured very interesting opening struggles. The most complex and interesting game of the night was Friedman - Zaikov, where Black played a very interesting gambit in a wild line of the Najdorf to which White responded with a gambit of his own -- giving up three pawns for a strong initiative. In the diagram above, could White have tried for more than the drawish ending he achieved after 26.Ng7+?
You can read more about the match at the NJ Knockouts blog. The victory places New Jersey a respectable 6th out of 12 in the US Chess League Quantitative Power Rankings.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
I am trying something a little different this year with the kids, since many didn’t even know the rules and all but three never had any formal instruction. Generally I start all my teaching to groups by getting the kids to play simplified games such as “Pawn Battle” and “Sumo Kings.” But this year, I’m trying to stick to a strict program where I introduce only a piece at a time and get them engaged with an activity with that piece (or in combination with any others we have discussed).
Usually, because the kids already know how the pieces move and are anxious to get to play with the full set (as they are used to doing), I generally have to give up on the strict progression method and just jump into full-blown play. One of the inevitable problems with full-blown play, though, is that the kids start to teach each other the game, so a lot can go wrong. If one kid doesn’t understand that there are three ways to get out of check (you don’t always have to move the King, of course!) then he can start spreading that mistaken idea to the rest of them as fast as a stomach flu. And if the kids have only a tenuous grasp of how en passant capturing works, they’ll be using their pawns to capture Knights, Bishops, and Rooks en passant and exercising that right in every mistaken situation conceivable. Besides getting the rules all muddled, they also start to learn bad strategy, like the inevitable plan of getting their Rooks out first or, for the somewhat more sophisticated, going for the three move mate every time. I’d prefer to have the chance to teach them some good ideas before letting them loose on each other.
So far the approach is working well. Whereas last year, I struggled to the bitter end to teach some less attentive 10-year-olds the meaning of “stalemate” and “en passant,” this year’s younger group already have mastered those ideas completely and even understand things my previous kids never got, such as “zugzwang,” “a pawn majority,” and “the passed pawn’s lust to expand” (OK, maybe I didn’t put the last one quite that way with them). And when one of the kids pulled off a masterful stalemate combination in Pawn Battle, I knew I was already making more rapid progress than I’ve ever seen before.
The handout helped a lot, and eventually I hope to have several like it, including one on “Kings and the Opposition” featuring “Sumo Kings,” “Queening a Pawn,” “The Szen Position,” and “King and Pawn Battle.” I’ve even decided to get them learning Rook endings by lesson four. I’ll tell you how that works out. But if I succeed, none of them will have my own nagging doubts about playing an endgame if they go on to take chess more seriously. As a friend once told me, winning an endgame is at least 50% attitude. If you believe you are a great endgame player, your chances of actually winning in the endgame go up tremendously, no matter what your actual skill level. I hope I can instill such confidence in these kids. And I think we are off to a great start.