Thursday, April 26, 2007

Tango Tactics

Sherer - Goeller

I have posted some games featuring "Tango Tactics" arising out of the Black Knights Tango and related lines (including the Zurich Variation of the Nimzo-Indian). They make an excellent study aid for anyone trying to learn this line. You can also download the positions as a PDF file to print out and carry with you. In the positions above it is always Black to play and win, of course, by the quickest way possible. Additional games and puzzles are included in the links. For more info on the Tango, check out my 1...Nc6 bibliography.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Cute ICC Game

White to play and mate.

I played a cute game on ICC the other day -- a very satisfying attack, complete with a Queen sac finale. I think I used less than 90 seconds of my clock, too -- though I did have the advantage of my opponent's time....

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

IM Ken Regan Profiled

Dennis Monokroussos of The Chess Mind blog offers a very nice profile of IM Ken Regan, including some excellent annotated games. Likely many KCC old-timers remember Ken from his days playing in New Jersey, including in the old Raritan Valley Chess League. Like many players who remained amateurs (such as Tyler Cowen), Ken pursued academics and is a professor of computer science at SUNY Buffalo. I recommend you check out his web pages devoted to chess, especially on chess and computing.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Life Imitates Chess

There is an intriguing review of Garry Kasparov's How Life Imitates Chess in this week's Times Literary Supplement titled "Garry Kasparov's Deadly Game" by Daniel Johnson. In some ways it is less a review than a reading between the lines to find an explanation for Kasparov's most dramatic life decision: to give up chess for the dangerous game of Russian politics. With his recent arrest (he was released after a $38 fine) and with Putin's approval ratings in the 70 percent range (well over twice those of Bush and Blair), you have to wonder about his chances for success. Yet, as Johnson concludes his review: "this coded manifesto of a book is only the latest sign that his courage at the chessboard has not deserted him in the political arena."

Friday, April 13, 2007

CJA Awards

"The new and improved CJA Awards?" is the title of a recent post at the Boylstown Chess Club Weblog, which describes some of the changes to the annual awards from the Chess Journalists of America. Edward Winter once described the CJA as "a dazzlingly undemanding body with a track-record of dispensing hundreds of awards, often to self-nominees with no realistic hope of winning an accolade from elsewhere." To judge from the site awarded Best General Chess Website of 2004, which was the practically unreadable A.J.'s Chess Home Page (actually much improved over the past three years) you can see there is some validity to Winter's scathing remark.

The idea of an organization that recognizes the best in chess journalism is laudable, but the results have sometimes been laughable. As Winter suggests, self-nomination is at the root of the problem. You have to pay $15 to join CJA, which entitles you to one nomination, and then $8 per nomination thereafter. Obviously, the economics alone dictate that people join solely to nominate their own work. After all, why spend even $8 to nominate someone else's work, even if excellent-- especially when the writer of that piece might duplicate your effort, so that your money would merely enrich the CJA? You can see that the system has the insidious effect of making everyone more interested in their own recognition than the recognition of others--hence the inevitably insular nature of the CJA Awards. It's a vicious circle.

As Howard Goldowsky has argued for years, including in comments at the BCC Weblog, the CJA Awards should be run more like a literary prize where "any CJA member should be allowed to nominate multiple pieces of work for free, not just the one piece of work per entry fee, like the current rule" and have "nominations ... whittled to a shortlist...." As he goes on to say, until such changes are made, "winning a CJA award [will be] more like winning first place in the class C section rather than in the Open section." (You can read a more detailed presentation of Howard's views on page 7 of the June 2004 Chess Journalist).

The CJA awards are promoted in Chess Life as though they were central to helping to shape our judgment of American chess journalism, but the truth is they remain on the periphery of the field, of interest only to those who are themselves on the periphery of chess journalism -- especially that ever-growing legion of people, like myself, who keep amateur chess blogs. The bigger irony is that the CJA barely acknowledges the important work being done on the web by the very peripheral writers who seem to pay the most attention to the CJA awards.... Another vicious circle that needs fixing.

One reason for their failure to acknowledge the rise of chess blogs is that the CJA membership is still emerging from a print tradition and is still quite focused on print media. They have been late to embrace the web and still have only two main web categories ("Best General Chess Website" and "Best State Website"), though several categories are "web eligible."

As the BCC Weblog suggests, chess bloggers and webmasters really ought to make an effort this year to influence the future course of the organization by not only joining the organization but by putting up some good nominations in those "web eligible" categories. Like Howard Goldowsky, they should try to make change from within. And I would go so far as to suggest that they each also nominate someone laudable other than themselves. Think of it as your "free nominee" -- the one that comes with the $15 fee to join CJA.

I know that this year I intend to nominate ChessCafe for "Best General Chess Website," since they should probably receive the award for every year. Ironically, the site has never won. ChessCafe founder Hanon Russell did win the CJA's Chess Journalist of the Year prize in 2001, but his site has never been recognized -- likely because Russell has never seen a reason to bother entering. So my "free entry" (which comes with my $15 membership fee) will be as follows:

Category 14: Best General Chess Website

If more sites like ChessCafe win awards, maybe the CJA will gain sufficient legitimacy to make winning one of their awards worthwhile.... The only way to destroy a vicious circle is to reverse it.... Who knows: with some effort by the participants, maybe some day an award will actually mean something.

Truth be told, I mostly want to enter this year because I have lived to regret not entering the CJA Awards last year. Mostly, I would have welcomed the opportunity to gain more exposure for some of my better pieces, including chess analysis efforts like The Panther, The Apocalypse Attack, Morozevich-Mengarini Variation of the Albin Counter Gambit, and Mad Dog; chess history efforts such as my features on Lake Hopatcong 1926 (multiple pieces not yet collected); or my tournament report on the 2006 club championship. I'd hate to regret it again this year.

To be honest, then: nominating someone else is the only way I can stomach nominating myself.

Here are some of my better pieces of my own which I am considering nominating this year:

Category 10: Best Tournament Report
How 15-year-old Evan Ju Won the 2006 New Jersey Open

Category 16: Best Historical Article
Fischer - Castro, Havana 1966? Not!

Category 17: Best Interview
Interview with the Former "Youngest New Jersey Chess Champion," Tyler Cowen

Category 19: Best Review
Review of
The Immortal Game and Chess History

Category 20: Best Analysis
The Caveman Caro-Kann (analysis here)
The Werewolf (analysis here)
Two Knights Sicilian (also here and others, which I might combine)
Spanish Four Knights (also here)

Category 21: Best Instruction
Patterns of Error

Category 23: Special Recognition Award
"Given to an entry that does not comfortably fit into any of the other categories (e.g., crossword puzzle, article about math and chess, etc.)"
A Chess Tourist in New York City
Chess and Evolutionary Theory
Chess as a Safe House for Learning

I will have to cut down on that number to get the payment past my wife.

That is, unless there is anyone out there willing to foot the bill for one of them...

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Philidor Counter-Gambit Debate

Anyone who plays either side of The Philidor Counter-Gambit - or just anyone who likes to follow debates between chess bloggers - will want to read recent posts by Jim West (Jim West on Chess) and Dennis Monokroussos (The Chess Mind). Good stuff.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Caveman Blitz

White to play and winGoeller-Kernighan, Casual 5-minute
White to play and win.

My apologies to anyone who came to the club to participate in the Five Minute Tournament that was listed on our club calendar. I had not been attending regularly and was surprised to learn that the Kenilworth Chess Club Championship under-1800 event is still going on, and not expected to conclude until the end of the month, making a blitz event impossible. I will try to arrange a make-up event for early May, to coincide with the awards ceremony for the championship.
Meanwhile, there were lots of casual blitz games at the club last night.
I played an interesting game that featured an unusual treatment of the Caveman Caro-Kann by Black (and one not covered in my article). It was my only win in many tries against recent Westfield CC Blitz champion NM Mark Kernighan. The game began 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.h4 Qc8!? (not a completely new move, but Mark has a novel idea) 5.c4 dxc4!? 6.Bxc4 Be6!? Unfortunately for Mark, the Caveman lived up to its name and he ended up getting clobbered (see diagram above).

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Indian Naming Practices

As I've mentioned before, chess is a great vehicle for learning all sorts of things, including how to pronounce and spell rather unusual names (such as "Dzindzichashvili") . ChessBase has a piece today about Anand (based on a Rediff News article titled 'I am a very proud mother; he is a very nice boy'), which also links to an article they posted over three years back about naming practices in India and Russia. I recommend both, especially if you want to impress your friends at the chess club or win bar bets with fellow players....

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Rutgers Women's Basketball

The Rutgers University women's basketball team plays tonight in the NCAA championship game. It has generated a lot of excitement on campus, as you might imagine, and will probably get me seated in front of the ESPN at 8:30 p.m. tonight.

The news coverage of the game is already focusing on the two coaches, Vivian Stringer of Rutgers and Pat Summit of Tennessee, who are among the best in women's team sports. According to Stringer (and here is the chess angle):
"It probably is a chess match. She has her pieces, and I have my pieces, and we're trying to, at the right time, make the move. There will be moves and countermoves. ... Basketball is a game of chess. You just don't throw it out there randomly hoping and reacting. You hope to make a move and cause someone to else to react -- you look at the players you put in, and you consider what you need to do with that."
Read more online at the Scarlet Knights website.