Monday, December 31, 2007

Sicilicide or Suicide? Treger - Charbonneau, Marshall CC Ch. 2007

Sicilicide or Suicide?
1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nf3 g6 4.h4!?
I enjoyed seeing the games from the recent Marshall Chess Club Championship (see crosstable), some on ICC and most in the club's tournament bulletins (see Rounds 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 at the club's website). Dylan Loeb McClain discusses two of the GM games at his Gambit blog (see "Ehlvest Wins Marshall Chess Club Championship"), but it was actually the games of FM Effim Treger (also spelled "Yefim"), with their frequently amusing openings, that interested me most.
I have annotated the game Treger-Charbonneau, where Treger eventually drew by perpetual check against the GM after a wild ride.
The game features a line in the Two Knights Sicilian recommended by Nigel Davies in a Foxy video titled "Sicilicide" which goes 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nf3 g6 4.h4!? Whether it is really sicilicide or suicide is yet to be determined, but it sure looks like fun! Another idea in this line for the adventurous, by the way, is 4.a3!? (planning an eventual b4 push) which was discussed by Hikaru Nakamura in SOS 5 and featured in the game Ljubojevic-Miles, Tilburg 1985. It's nice to get out of book against the Sicilian!
You might enjoy checking out other games by Treger, if only to see the crazy ideas he cooks up in lines like the Apocalypse Attack (1.e4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Ne5!?) and Nakamura's Matrix (1.e4 e5 2.Qh5!?). Checking out some of Treger's past games online (see especially Moulin-Treger, Marshall CC 1995), I see a player who knows how to have fun in the opening, even if it sometimes gets him into trouble! But I like his attitude and his creative spirit, which I have always tried to achieve in my own approach to the game.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Documentary Portraits of Chess Professionals

It is common to see in-depth video portraits of sports stars and other celebrities, but only recently have I begun to notice similar quality productions about noted chess players. There was an interesting five-part Indian TV documentary about World Champion Viswanathan Anand recently featured at the ChessBase website. And today I watched the artistic 43-minute documentary "Chess Me Out" (in Flash, or view the Quicktime version) by Davide Fasolo featuring interviews with over a dozen chess professionals, including Lev Aronian, Anatoly Karpov, Alexandra Kosteniuk, Rusudan Goletiani, Elisabeth Paehtz, and Alex Wohl. Both are worth seeing and offer some insight into the life of the professional player.

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

USCL "Game of the Year" Top 20

Arun Sharma has posted a detailed article discussing all 20 competitors for the US Chess League's "Game of the Year" honors. The top game wins $1,000 (with additional prizes for 2nd-5th place finishers), so this is quite a significant "brilliancy prize." My favorite games on the list were Martinez-Zilberstein, Christiansen-Wolff, Bonin-Molner (annotated here), Molner-Arnold (annotated here), and Molner-Kaufman (annotated here).

The Art of the Game

These German ivory chessmen sold
for $299,100 at Christie's.

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

2007 Holiday Party

There were over 20 members in attendance for the annual Holiday Party (including NM Scott Massey, founding member Andy Wolman, and past president Mike Stallings), so we held the Annual Business Meeting as well, postponed from last time due to weather. Joe Demetrick, who did a great job this past year organizing inter-club team play and lectures, said that he did not wish to run again for president due to family and work commitments. Three candidates were nominated to take his place -- John Moldovan, Joe Renna, and Howard Osterman -- which necessitated the first secret ballot that I can recall in one of our elections.

Joe Demetrick and Greg Tomkovich
count the secret ballot for president.

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.

President John Moldovan

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.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Kamsky Wins World Cup, Joins World Championship Cycle

U.S. GM Gata Kamsky today won the FIDE World Cup by forcing a draw in game four of his championship match against GM Alexei Shirov. The win gives him the right to play Topalov in a 2008 semi-final match leading up to the 2009 World Championship against the winner of a Kramnik-Anand match. It's a great come-back for the 1990s star, who went undefeated in the entire tournament! Based on his play--and especially his deep opening preparation in these matches--I think he has a very good chance of going all the way.

News, pictures, notes, and video regarding the final game of the match:

Read more about the history of the World Chess Championship at Mark Weeks's site or in the latest Kibitzer column ("How Many World Champions?" - PDF) by Tim Harding.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Kamsky Leads Shirov 2-1

U.S. GM Gata Kamsky today drew the third game of his championship match against GM Alexei Shirov (now of Spain) in the FIDE World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. He has White in the final game (barring tie breaks). The winner of this match will play Topalov for the right to challenge for the 2009 World Championship against the winner of the expected Anand-Kramnik match.

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:

Updated at 11:00 Sunday-- thanks for the corrections and additional links.

Holiday Party Next Week

As predicted, the KCC Business Meeting was postponed due to inclement weather and will be held December 27th. Next week, December 20th, is the Annual Holiday Party (which has been a success for several years, including in 2005 and 2006).

Thursday, December 13, 2007

KCC Website Stats for 2007

I'm not sure that the Kenilworth Chess Club's Annual Business Meeting will be held tonight (even if The Chess Coroner is optimistic) given that the expected snow significantly lowers the likelihood of a quorum. But in case that meeting is held, I thought I'd issue a report on the state of the club's website, which has continued to grow in popularity, serving its function as a web portal for many chess fans.
We do not keep extensive web stats for the main Kenilworth site since I've never bothered to install a tracker (it's not like we are selling ads, after all). Our host gives us some useful stats -- though they are confined to page view traffic and do not tell you how many individuals visited the site. The following statistics reflect the state of things as of December 12, 2007. Since we have half of a month left to the year, our numbers will likely be 1/24th higher.
The website has continued to grow in popularity since I started it back in 2005. We have had 642,370 page views this year, as of this writing, which projects to about 670,000 for the year, or nearly double our numbers last year.

The monthly views as of December 12, 2007, suggest that (but for a dip around
September) site traffic is trending upward.

Daily views for November 2007 suggest wide fluctuations from day to day, with weekends showing low numbers and weekdays (especially Mondays and Wednesdays in my experience) seeing significantly higher numbers.

The Kenilworthian weblog tracks more information about its visitors. It has been ranked by Blogshares in the top ten of chess blogs for most of the year and rose as high as #6 recently. The blog accounts for only about 20% of the page views for our site as a whole, but is likely one of the main engines driving site traffic.

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

Google Books III

Jonathan V. Last's "Google and Its Enemies" (printer friendly) from last week's Weekly Standard made me realize that it has been a while since I had visited Google Books (see posts in January and May of last year). I think Google is moving toward a much friendlier user experience, but there seemed a lot less "free chess" there on my most recent visit than I had found on my first. Based on my experience, Google's enemies need hardly worry about their copyrights, and there is a lot of opportunity down the road for them to profit from wider exposure.

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:

Among the books with limited preview, there are also some nice things. Dover Books editions will sometimes have quite extensive previews. These include:

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

A Saemisch Surprise vs. the Alekhine Defense

I have posted a little article titled The Saemisch Surprise: Sideline the Alekhine Defense with 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.Nc3 Nxc3 4.bxc3 d5 5.Ba3!? It also discusses Black alternatives, offering a complete repertoire against the Alekhine for those looking for a surprise weapon.

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

French Defense Lecture 5

The Chess Coroner reports on FM Steve Stoyko's Lecture #5 on the French Tarrasch (java here and PGN here) this past Thursday. Great stuff. Will there be a Lecture #6?