Monday, October 27, 2008

Homo Erectus or Ugly Duckling?

IM Mark Ginsburg offers a "Soviet style" refutation of  the "Ugly Duckling" 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.g4, which Dana Mackenzie has analyzed in a series of articles (Part One and Part Two) as the Homo Erectus Variation.  It's nice to see the occasional blogger debate over opening analysis.  Reminds me of the long-running Monokroussos - West exchange on the Philidor Counter Gambit.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

NJKOs Drop Key Match to Miami

Benjamin - Becerra
Black to play after 28.Kg1?

Playing the Miami Sharks for second place in the Eastern Division in week #9 of US Chess League action, the NJ Knockouts blundered on three boards to lose 3-1 and put themselves in grave danger of not qualifying for the playoffs despite their promising start this season. I have posted the games online with annotations. The match was played on Wednesday night, October 22.

The most interesting game was definitely Benjamin - Becerra, which was also very difficult to judge, even in post mortem. Becerra got some excellent play for the Exchange in a rare Moller Defense against the Ruy Lopez, but it seemed that Benjamin had a few opportunities to gain an edge or at least hold equality -- including at the critical moment when Benjamin refused to yield Becerra a forced draw following 28.Nd3 and instead walked into a deadly attack by 28.Kg1? It may be that a draw was as bad as a loss by that point in the match, but it was an unusual slip for the former US Champ. Piece-dropping blunders on Boards 2 and 4 cinched the match. One bright light was NJ Champ Mackenzie Molner's brilliant conduct of a Rook ending on Board 3 to bring New Jersey its only point of the night.

New Jersey has to win or draw against New York next week to make the playoffs, when they will have an uphill battle to win the championship since their opponents will have draw odds.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

NM Scott Massey Lecture Tonight

NM Scott Massey will deliver his annual lecture tonight, this time on the subject of "Exchanging Pieces." The price of the lecture is $5. All of Scott's previous lectures have been well attended and well received, including those on Paul Keres (2006), King and Pawn Endings (2005), How to Analyze (2005), Moscow 1925 and the Origins of Soviet Chess (2005), and Bobby Fischer (2004).

Monday, October 20, 2008

West Orange vs. Kenilworth

Members of the Kenilworth CC Team

Members of the West Orange CC Team

The West Orange Chess Club visited the Kenilworth Chess Club on Thursday night for a friendly team match, which the home team won 6-4. The Chess Coroner did some "live" blogging during the event and has posted some of the games, and I have analyzed my own game against fellow Expert Crawford Daniels (see diagram below). Before the match started, there was some talk of organizing a club-based chess league, which was generally well received, though few would want to have to travel very far for the matches. Many of our members recall the successful Raritan Valley, North Jersey and Central Jersey Chess Leagues of the 70s-80s, which included club, college, and industrial teams meeting on a weekly basis. Someone should really put together a little history of the league and collect some of the games before it all fades from memory.

Goeller - Daniels
White to play.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Howard Stern Plays Chess

NN - Howard Stern
Black to play.

Howard Stern's fascination with chess is the focus of today's New York Times chess column by Dylan Loeb McClain ("Long a Player, Howard Stern Gets Serious About His Game"). I like when McClain discusses amateur games and players (as he did a few weeks ago when he covered astronaut Greg Chamitoff's match with Mission Control) and I am sure his readership connects to them more than they do to the games of the ongoing World Chess Championship with their incomprehensible maneuverings. Stern's games are actually pretty good, especially his cute ICC blitz miniature featuring the Budapest Counter-Gambit (see diagram above).

Anyone know Stern's ICC handle?

Friday, October 17, 2008

NJKOs Fall Back in Race for Playoffs

Benjamin - Milman
White to play.

The New Jersey Knockouts lost to Carolina on Monday night, reducing their chances for the playoffs considerably. I have posted the games online with some annotations. GM Joel Benjamin won a very nice game on Board One, which was practically a model for how White should play an isolani position. It also had a nice conclusion (see diagram above). But it was NJ Champ Molner's loss on Board Two that really decided the outcome of the match. After playing a brilliant opening and middlegame and gaining a piece advantage, Molner faltered just when he should have headed for the endgame with 32...Qd4! Instead, he kept the queens on in a complicated position and erred, likely in time pressure, turning a likely win into a loss. Our bottom boards were pretty well outplayed, and Carolina should have gained two points on Boards 3 and 4, but once Molner lost a draw was all they needed.

With the loss, New Jersey slips two games back of Queens in the standings and only has a shot at a Wild Card berth in the playoffs.

Monday, October 13, 2008

NJKO GMs Profiled

"Chairmen of the Board" is the title of a nice profile of New Jersey Knockouts teammates and fellow GMs Joel Benjamin and Boris Gulko in the Bergen County magazine 201 (from the North Jersey area code). Besides the news that GM Stripunsky recently moved to New Jersey, the most interesting quotes for me were the following:
“Actually, I have to say that my friends, we almost never play chess,” Benjamin admits. “I never play a casual game of chess. I don’t even really work out with a colleague anymore.”

Gulko echoes a similar sentiment. “I play in competitions,” he says. “Not much at home for pleasure.”
Makes you happy to be an amateur...

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Kramnik Interview

There is a good interview with Vladimir Kramnik at ChessBase in anticipation of the World Championship match of next week. See the official site for a count-down clock: 4 days, 15 hours, 24 minutes at this writing. Get psyched with YouTube Video.

NJKOs Miss Chance to Overtake Queens

Gulko - Vovsha
White to play.

The New Jersey Knockouts missed a great chance to overtake the Queens Pioneers on Monday night, October 6, in Week #7 of US Chess League action, when they only drew their match 2-2 despite having excellent winning chances in the two drawn games. I have posted the games online with notes.

On Board One, GM Joel Benjamin used his bulletproof Philidor Defense (as he did against Kudrin in Week #5) to gain at least equality. But late in the game, Alex Stripunsky faltered and gave Benjamin excellent winning chances in a very complex Queen ending. Perhaps expecting that Andrew Ng had an easy win, Benjamin played it safe and eventually allowed Stripunsky to escape with a draw by perpetual check. On Board Two, GM Boris Gulko continued to see his opponents crumble like feta cheese before him as he smashed Eli Vovsha's Pirc in one of the more interesting attacking games of the night (see diagram above, where Gulko began his assault). On Board Three, there was a great struggle between fellow IMs and MVP hopefuls Alex Lenderman and Dean Ippolito in an unusual Rossolimo Sicilian line. Lenderman eventually sacrificed a Rook for two Bishops to create what turned out to be a winning bind on the position, taking a full point in excellent style. And on Board Four, rising junior Ng missed several winning continuations in the endgame after playing some excellent positional chess in a Closed Giuoco.

In the long run, however, the match will likely make little difference in New Jersey's chances of winning the league title, since the two teams will probably meet again in the finals. Let's hope that the third time is the charm....

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Kasparov Interview at ChessCafe

Hanon Russell has an excellent interview with Garry Kasparov (permanent PDF) at ChessCafe today, where you will also find a positive review (permanent PDF) of Kasparov's latest book Garry Kasparov on Modern Chess, Part 2: Kasparov vs. Karpov 1975-1985 which analyzes every game between the two Ks. Russell seems to do an interview with Kasparov practically every year, and all can be found at the Skittles Room archive.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

NJ Knockouts Draw Kingfishers

Molner - R. Kaufman, USCL 2008
White to play.

The NJ Knockouts were lucky to tie 2-2 with the Baltimore Kingfishers on Wednesday, October 1, 2008, in Round 6 of US Chess League action. I have posted the games online, with my most extensive annotations so far this season. The Knockouts had beaten the Kingfishers in Round One 3-1, but this time they faced a much more determined team that probably should have won the match 3-1 but for an amazing turn of events on Board 2 late in the evening, when IM Ippolito managed to find a win in a likely loss after one mouse-slip by his opponent.

All of the games were of interest because they were played in complicated positions with continued interest to theory. I found a little extra time this weekend to do more detailed analysis of the games than I have been able to do thus far. I was inspired to do this, in part, by GM Joel Benjamin's excellent notes in his article "GM Joel on Knocking Out the Competition" at the USCF website, which brought home to me how much I was missing in these games in my cursory reviews.

The match was one of the most exciting so far and each game went down to the wire. On Board 1, Benjamin used the Panov Botvinnik Attack to get a classic isolani game against Erenburg, eventually gaining a great attack along the b1-h7 diagonal. Erenburg chose a fascinating strategy of marching his King out of the danger zone and through the middle of the board, after which Benjamin's Queen was out of position, giving Erenburg the chance to seize the initiative and win material. On Board 2, Enkhbat and Ippolito contested a known position in the Catalan where Black accepts a damaged structure in exchange for open lines and piece activity. Ippolito seemed to have gotten a good attack in exchange for a pawn, but Enkhbat seized the initiative with a series of strong moves and gained a winning endgame advantage. However, one mouse-slip changed the outcome of the game and the match. On Board 3, Molner and Ray Kaufman contested a well known position in the Steinitz French where Black sacrifices a piece for three pawns. Though Kaufman's rare move 13...O-O!? held some promising ideas, he did not succeed in making it work, leaving his King vulnerable to Molner's direct assault aided by the extra piece. And on Board 4, Shen used the standard Queen's Indian Hedgehog counter to Kahn's Torre Attack (which was actually the preferred method of defense as far back as Moscow 1925 when Torre first started using his line). Shen showed some excellent tactical thinking in this game and should have at least equalized, but he allowed Kahn to gain a favorable piece position to support his outside passed pawn, which Kahn brilliantly turned into a winning advantage.

It was a great match with some very good chess! And, despite the draw, the NJKO are still in title contention, especially with a loss by the previously undefeated Queens Pioneers. If they beat the Pioneers in their rematch tomorrow night on ICC, the NJKO could take the lead overall.

For additional coverage, check out:

Friday, October 03, 2008

Anand Interview

Der Spiegel did a wonderful interview with Chess World Champion Viswanathan Anand, which is translated and posted online at the ChessBase website. I found his reflections on the future of high level chess, given the impact of computers on the game, fascinating:
Ten years ago I said that 2010 would be the end, chess would be exhausted. But it is not true, chess will not die so quickly. There are still many rooms in the building which we have not yet entered. Will it happen in 2015? I don't think so. For every door the computers have closed they have opened a new one. ... Twenty years ago we were doing things that don't work today because of computers. We used to bluff our way through games, but today our opponents analyse them with a computer and recognize in a split second what we were up to. Computers do not fall for tricks. On the other hand we can undertake more complex preparation. In the past years there have been spectacular games that would not have been possible without computers. The possibility of playing certain moves would never have occurred to us. It is similar to astrophysics: their work may not be as romantic as in previous times, but they would never have progressed so far with paper and pencil.
Anand's championship match with Kramnik starts October 12 and will be held in the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany in Bonn.