Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Grob It While You Kann

Fans of my Caveman Caro-Kann (1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf4 4.h4) will want to check out NM Dana Mackenzie's series on the even more primitive advance with 4.g4!? discussed so far in two articles: Grob It While You Kann and More Madness in the Caro-Kann. I really like Dana's writing and his lectures (at ChessLecture.com). He knows how to make chess fun.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pics from Asbury Park Chess Fest

Jim Mullanaphy Signals "Attack!"

GM Maurice Ashley

As always, the 9th Annual Asbury Park Chess Fest, sponsored by Prevention First and brilliantly organized by Hal and Barbara Sprechman, proved to be a great success. My back was turned to the festivities for most of the event, as I was playing up to eight boards in the continuous multi-player simultaneous (with new players constantly rotating in to replace those who give up their chairs); but I caught glimpses of a brilliant staff in action and lots of kids having fun. If you have never before participated, I recommend keeping an eye out for next year's announcement and bringing the kids down to Asbury Park for the day.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

NJKOs Outwit Philadelphia Inventors

Ng - Wilson, USCL 2008
White to play.

The New Jersey Knockouts won their match Wednesday night 3-1 against the Philadelphia Inventors in Round 5 of US Chess League action. I have posted the games online with annotations. The NJKO are now tied for second place in the league and hold second in their division with a 3.5-1.5 record, behind only the 5-0 Queens Pioneers (against whom they suffered their only loss).

Original NJKO players GM Benjamin and IM Ippolito played safely to draws while the newer members of the team carried home full points to take the match. GM Boris Gulko proved his value again on Board 2, where he has played incredibly solid chess and seen both of his highly rated opponents simply crumble before him. And rising youngster Andrew Ng dominated his opponent in a nicely played MacCutcheon French, turning in the most attractive game of the night (see diagram above).

Next week they play the Baltimore Kingfishers, against whom they had success earlier this season.

Related links:

Friday, September 26, 2008

GM Kenneth Rogoff Profiled

American GM turned economist Kenneth Rogoff is profiled today in a story by Dylan Loeb McClain in the International Herald Tribune. Rogoff describes his role as an adviser to Republican presidential nominee John McCain and shares what he considers to be one of his best games, Rogoff - Smejkal, Biel 1976.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Panther Returns

FM Steve Stoyko and NM Bill Freeman at the
Kenilworth CC some time in the 1970s

Some may recall my three-part series on The Panther (which can arise by various move orders, including 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nf3 d6!? 4.Nc3 e5) in which I wrote about my search for New Jersey master Bill Freeman who first developed that system with his playing partner Steve Stoyko. Well, Bill has resurfaced, exchanging some emails with me over the summer.

As you can imagine, my first question for him was: do you have more games with the Panther? "Yes," he writes, "I have many, many games; and a large volume of analysis. This isn't in the attic. I have this on my bookshelf." He sent one of his better ones, with what he would sometimes call "The White Panther":

Freeman -- Michael Rohde, World Open 1983

It's a good game and worth a look.

Freeman - Rohde, World Open 1983
White to play.

Something very similar was used recently by Nakamura against GM Benjamin in the NJ vs. Seattle match, though that game actually started with 1.g3 and turned into more of a Vienna than a Panther. Freeman had quite a bit to say about his pet line: "1.Nc3 and 2.a3 just loses a move to reverse the colors. This isn't new, Ariel Mengarini did this (e.g. 1.e4 e5 2.a3 Nf6 3.Nc3 d5 4.exd5 Nxd5 5.Qh5 the reversed Scotch Game, Mengarini - Pavey, US Champ., New York 1954) and Adolf Anderssen (e.g. 1.a3 e5 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 d5 Anderssen - Morphy, Paris 1858) and others. For me it allowed the acceleration in the production of the same positions for study and research. Losing a move as White is something we're taught not to do. There are variations to be avoided where 2.a3 is definitely a weakness. So, to recommend this system without a multitude of caveats would be wrong. I think I only referred to this system as the Panther twice. I called it the Black or White Panther. But basically it's the same cat. Others might have called it by other names, some derogatory...."

Bill retired in 2005 with his wife, Deborah, after working for American Products Company in Union (a short distance from the Kenilworth Chess Club) and has two children: a son attending Montclair State University and a married daughter who "moved to Florida (where the highly endangered Florida panther can be found)." Since retiring, he has spent most of his time doing oil painting (some excellent work that I have seen) and writing poetry. Only now has his interests returned to chess, though he says he "won't start playing until 2009, the Lord willing." He went on to write:
I thought it was a good time to take a rest and go back to chess. It was like waking up from a coma after 20 years—not knowing at all what had taken place in theory or practice for the last 20 years or what was going on now. It's difficult to explain all the surprises. I decided to go back to square one. I think Emanuel Lasker did this at one point in his life. I study everyday using almost everything that has developed over the last 20 years. I started about a year ago, asking basic questions: What's the best first move for White? What is intrinsically and fundamentally the best reply to 1.d4, 1.Nf3, 1.c4, etc. These are the most difficult questions to answer. I'm building a repertoire for White and Black. So to answer the question: 'Do you have any interest in chess anymore?' the answer is: You bet.
I think it will only be a few months now and "the Panther" will return. No doubt we will see him at the NJ Open next year. And I hope we will see him at the club before then. Maybe now we will get to see more interesting games with that intriguing line of his.

Friday, September 19, 2008

NJ Knockouts Beat the Boston Blitz

Benjamin - Christiansen
White to play.

The New Jersey Knockouts had good luck in their match against the Boston Blitz in Round Four of US Chess League action on Wednesday night, September 17, 2008, winning 3-1. I have posted the games with annotations online.  

On Board One against New Jersey's Joel Benjamin, GM Larry Christiansen blundered a piece on move 8 (see diagram above) in a tricky line of the c3-Sicilian. On Board Two, Boston's Denys Shmelov rejected two draws to press an edge against Dean Ippolito, but then made a costly error that handed Black a dangerous initiative that Ippolito used to win the game. And Charles Riordan lost a messy game against NJ Champ Mac Molner on Board Three. The only clean win of the night was Marc Esserman's brilliant handling of the Smith-Morra Gambit against Jason Lian on Board Four -- a game that should warm the hearts of all gambiteers (no matter if they also feel loyalties to New Jersey!) It was a messy win, and less lopsided than the 3-1 score would indicate.  But a win is a win, especially against the powerful Boston Blitz.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Asbury Park Chess Fest 2008

Prevention First Presents Asbury Park New Jersey Chess Festival September 27 2008

The Asbury Park Chess Fest 2008 is on Saturday, September 27 in Asbury Park’s Convention Hall (5th Street and Ocean Avenue) from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.  I took my son last year and watched him play NM Scott Massey in a simul then took a nice walk on the beach with him.  This year I have registered to play myself.  It's a great event and worth supporting.  You can register online for the event in order to play and see GM Maurice Ashley.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Anti-Petroff Repertoire with d4

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 Nxe4 4.Bd3 d5
5.dxe5 Be7 6.O-O Nc6 7.Nc3

Today I offer up an interesting Anti-Petroff Repertoire with d4 focused on lines where White gets an attacking set-up with a pawn at e5. While it has been played at the highest levels, this is still a relatively unusual line and one that players as Black will not often see, since the 3.Nxe4 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe5 exchange is so standard at every level. In fact, a number of books on the Petroff give scarcely a chapter on 3.d4. And those that do discuss 3.d4 focus on the more traditional lines where White takes at e5 with the Knight (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 Nxe4 4.Bd3 d5 5.Nxe5). The positions where White takes at e5 with a pawn, however, are less symmetrical and more frequently give White kingside attacking chances.

I first became interested in this line after seeing some nice White wins after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 Nxe4 4.Bd3 d5 5.dxe5 Be7 6.O-O Nc6 7.Nc3! (see diagram above). I like this move a lot. White allows doubled pawns in exchange for getting rid of the centralized Knight, speeding development, and gaining open lines (note the half-open b-file) and added control of the center (especially the d4-square). It is an interesting trade-off and one that has proven somewhat favorable for White in practice, including in our featured game Kosteniuk - Pourkashiyan from the ongoing Women's World Championship tournament (where GM Kosteniuk is playing in the final).

I call this a "repertoire" because I do not offer complete coverage of 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4, focusing only on my recommendations where White tends to get a pawn at e5. The only place where I have erred on the side of inclusiveness is against Murey's surprising 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 Nxe4 4.Bd3 Nc6!? where White has a number of interesting options, though I do tend to prefer 5.Bxe4 d5 6.Bg5! Against the less common 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 exd4, White always has, of course, the option of transposing to my favorite Urusov Gambit (with 4.Bc4), but I also offer the interesting line 4.e5 Ne4 5.Qe2!? which sidesteps the extensive theory of 5.Qxd4 and tends to produce interesting attacking possibilities based on the pawn at e5. As always, I welcome reader input and improvements.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

NJKOs Let Seattle Escape with a Draw

Gulko - Tangborn
White to play

The New Jersey Knockouts let the Seattle Sluggers slip a headlock and escape with a draw in Round 3 of US Chess League action on Wednesday night, September 10, 2008. I have posted the games online with light annotations.  I think it can be argued that New Jersey had an edge on every board at some point and likely a decisive one on bottom board, where Jayson Lian walked into a three-fold repetition that sealed the match.  As it turned out, only GM Boris Gulko carried home a full point.

On Board One, GM Joel Benjamin appeared to have a solid game out of the opening -- an odd sort of Benko from GM Nakamura, which could also be described as a Vienna by transposition. Perhaps there were better ways for Black to pursue an edge early on, but a series of small inaccuracies by Benjamin let White gain a decisive space and then material advantage. On Board Two, Boris Gulko put on a truly superb seminar on how to pursue a positional advantage and squeeze your opponent off the board. This was the best game for New Jersey. NJ Champ Mackenzie Molner, meanwhile, gained a pawn advantage out of the opening but decided to surrender material to pursue an elusive kingside initiative which only netted a draw. Likely there was a better way for him to pursue the full point by just hanging onto the material edge. But the real heartbreaker had to be Lian's draw on Board 4, where he had a decisive material advantage and a pawn on the 7th. He just needed a little more time on the clock to get the point -- which is why he walked into the draw by repetition.

New Jersey showed that it has the power to hold its own with even a tough team. But they have to do more to get the full points. NJ returns to even, at 1.5-1.5 over the three rounds of play. Let's hope we can pull into the lead, where we belong, with some wins.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Games from the New Jersey Open

diagram 1
Dulany - Dell'orte 
White to play.

diagram 2
Ippolito - Rohde 
Black to play.

I have posted four of the better games form the New Jersey Open (see crosstables), including two from NJ Champion Mackenzie Molner and the two games that split the "best game" prize for the event (see diagrams above). My thanks to Fred Wilson (who was appointed to decide the best game prizes from the event) for sending me the scores.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

NJKOs Fall to Pioneers

Vovsha - Molner
White to play

Katz - Shen 
White to play

In a complete reversal of their success last week, the New Jersey Knockouts fell 1-3 to the Queens Pioneers in Round 2 of US Chess League action last night.  I have posted the games online with light annotations. GM Joel Benjamin had a fine win on Board One but the lower boards were thoroughly outplayed and eventually succumbed to blunders.  The diagrams above depict the winning moments in two of those games.  NJ Champion Mackenzie Molner, who has played some wonderful, crowd-pleasing games in recent years, got into a very passive position against Vovsha due to the weakness of his d6 square and lost rather quickly.  I don't think the Pirc suits his style.

Monday, September 01, 2008

U.S.-Russian Diplomacy as Monopoly vs. Chess

For the past two years, I have been following a series of stories that depict U.S. - Iranian diplomacy as the story of poker-playing Americans trying to out-bluff Iranian chessplayers (see Texas Hold'em and Chess and Diplomacy). Spengler of the Asia Times suggested recently that the growing U.S. conflict with Russia (especially since the invasion of Georgia) might be understood by recognizing that "Americans Play Monopoly, Russians Chess":  
What Americans understand by "war games" is exactly what occurs on the board of the Parker Brothers' pastime. The board game Monopoly is won by placing as many hotels as possible on squares of the playing board. Substitute military bases, and you have the sum of American strategic thinking.

America's idea of winning a strategic game is to accumulate the most chips on the board: bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, a pipeline in Georgia, a "moderate Muslim" government with a big North Atlantic Treaty Organization base in Kosovo, missile installations in Poland and the Czech Republic, and so forth. But this is not a strategy; it is only a game score.

Chess players think in terms of interaction of pieces: everything on the periphery combines to control the center of the board and prepare an eventual attack against the opponent's king. The Russians simply cannot absorb the fact that America has no strategic intentions: it simply adds up the value of the individual pieces on the board. It is as stupid as that.
As Spengler writes elsewhere:
A deadly miscommunication arises from this asymmetry. The Russians cannot believe that the Americans are as stupid as they look, and conclude that Washington wants to destroy them.
As Business New Europe's "Moscow Blog" suggested, expanding on Spengler's metaphor:
Washington may genuinely see the Czech/Poland-based anti-missile system... as simply another hotel and really has no aggressive intentions towards Russia. However, for the chess-playing Russians it was an incredibly aggressive move on the US's part, as it points directly at the king.
Whether or not chess thinking governs Russia's moves in the conflict, there is no question that the invasion of Georgia has impacted the world of chess.  As Dylan Loeb McClain reports in The New Yorks Times:
Nine of the 64 women who qualified for the women’s world championship, being held in the Russian city of Nalchik in the Caucasus, did not appear at the start of the tournament on Thursday in protest of the war. The nine, including six from Georgia, were disqualified.