I have annotated the game MacKinnon - Friedel, Edmonton International Tournament 2009, where GM Josh Friedel continued his winning ways with the Two Knights Defense, Fritz-Ulvestad Variation (5....b5), to which he has returned since his loss to Nakamura with the more traditional 5...Na5 line. The line gave him an important point on his way to a tie for first in the Edmonton International Tournament earlier this month. His opponent was 16-year-old Canadian expert Keith MacKinnon of Saskatchewan, who commented on the game at his blog: "I didn't want to get slowly outplayed by a stronger opponent in my game against GM Josh Friedel, and so I tried to follow the game that Nakamura won against him at the US Championship this year. He played a slightly different line which I had looked at (but not nearly enough to play it against a GM in such a sharp position.) I lost quickly since my intuitive thirteenth move was actually a pretty big mistake." Actually, theory suggests that it was his 12th move that was the problem, and there followed a series of small errors that made Black's win look easy.
Eben Harrell's Time interview, "Magnus Carlsen: The 19-year-old King of Chess," is the latest evidence that Carlsen has the ability to generate media interest in the game. It is a very positive interview where the world number one says, "I'm not afraid the computer will find all the ideas and leave no room for imagination." Of course, the article also suggests that chess is still judged with suspicion in the media, as though it were responsible for Fischer's dementia (instead of being the reason Fischer remained somewhat sane as long as he did): Carlsen is also asked, "Do you fear that trying to master a game of near-infinite variation can make you insane?" The Time article even links to the 1972 article "Why They Play: The Psychology of Chess," which recalls the Freudian view of the game frequently cited back then. I think the Freudians would have a field day with Tiger Woods and golf, so it's rather a shame their mode of interpretation doesn't get wider play or parody today. For more thoughts on the Time piece, check out Mig Greengard's "Time for Magnus Carlsen."
Though a fan of both chess and table tennis, I hadn't much connected the two games until we discovered the new "ping pong" table at the Kenilworth Recreation Center during the chess club's Annual Holiday Party. You will often see sports analogized to chess, as though baseball, football, basketball, soccer, and practically every competitive endeavor with even a modicum of strategy was somehow akin to the royal game. But I think that trying to apply a chess analogy to team sports inevitably misses the mark, unless you are talking about the strategy used by coaches in shifting players and creating favorable match-ups. What makes chess so different from team sports, after all, is the importance of the individual in its play.
In sports like chess and table tennis, everything relies upon the individual player. Not surprisingly, therefore, tennis and and table tennis are among those individual sports that have always seemed most attractive to chess players. Many chess players were fans of tennis, including Capablanca, Ed Lasker, and Boris Spassky. Bobby Fischer swam and bowled alone. He also played table tennis.
Bobby Fischer playing table tennis.
Primo Levi has an interesting chapter in Other People's Trades (1989) titled "The Irritable Chess Players," where he suggests that chess players are akin to poets because of the autocratic nature of their work:
Poets, and anyone who ever exercises a creative and individual professions, have in common with chess players total responsibility for their actions. This happens rarely, or does not happen at all in other human activities, whether they be paid and serious or unpaid and playful. Perhaps it is not by chance that tennis players, for example, who play alone or at most in pairs, are more irascible and neurotic than soccer players or cyclists, who work in teams. … Whoever is on his own, without allies or intermediaries between himself and his work, has no excuses in the face of failure, and excuses are a precious analgesic. The actor can unload the blame of a failure on his director, or vice versa; someone who works in an industry feels his responsibility diluted in that of numerous colleagues, superiors and inferiors, and moreover contaminated by “contingency,” competition, and the whims of the market, and the unforeseen. Someone who teaches can blame the program, the dean, and of course the students. …But the person who decides to attack with the bishop, the point he considers weak in his opponent’s deployment, is alone, he has no accomplices, not even putative, and fully and singly answers for his decision, like the poet at his writing table faced by “the tiny verse" (144).
Bruce Schauble made a similar connection recently on his blog, which reminded me of Levi's essay:
What I like about chess: there are no excuses. There is no luck involved. Either you play well or you don't. If you screw up, it's on you. It's a very pure game in that respect.
As anyone who has missed a slam despite a perfect set-up can tell you, ping pong feels the same way. There are many other reasons why table tennis seems the most analogous to chess of all games.
Both chess and table tennis are played within the confines of a physical space that you can grasp completely within your field of vision. There is nothing hidden in either game. Yet, paradoxically, in order to play both successfully you need to grasp the image of the board or the table in your mind so that you actually have a feel for where the corners are. In chess we call this "board vision," and table tennis definitely has its "table vision." How else can a practiced player get the ball deep into the corner of the table with a mere flick of the wrist? The player knows exactly where that corner is in the same way good drivers know where their car bumpers are when they parallel park on a crowded city street. The dimensions are held within your mind and translated automatically to physical action.
Players exhibit some of the same stylistic tendencies in both games. My problems in table tennis are the same that I have in chess: I rely too much on my openings (or my serves) and too often try to attack without first gaining a position of strength on the board. As I played various opponents I started thinking that they had the same idiosyncrasies and stylistic approaches in both games. Mark Kernighan is a blocker and plays table tennis with the same rope-a-dope style that he brings to chess, laying back and passively returning until his opponent over-commits enough that he can "hit him where he ain't." And Yaacov Norowitz just plays both games incredibly fast....
Yaacov Norowitz Playing Ping Pong
There is also a historical connection between the two games, as they both benefitted enormously from 1970s Cold War events (1971's "ping pong diplomacy" and 1972's Fischer - Spassky match) that elevated their profile and status in the media and exposed the same generation of folks to both games. And members of that generation are the ones who inhabit our club.
Perhaps it is this last reason why I think we are going to be playing some more table tennis at the club in the years to come.
The London Chess Classic ended today with very well-contested draws by Magnus Carlsen (against Nigel Short, in a game played "to the kings") and Vladimir Kramnik (against Hikaru Nakamura) that kept Carlsen's one-point margin in place. Luke McShane was awarded the brilliancy prize for his innovative Round 5 victory over Nakamura using the King's Indian Defense with Na6. Carlsen's countryman, Norwegian GM Jon Ludvig Hammer, won the concurrent London FIDE Open a full point ahead of the field. And WIM Arianne Caoili won the London FIDE Women's Invitational by a point and a half over the rest of the field. You can find games from all of the events in the Downloads / PGN Games section of the official website, and you can easily find and play over main event games at Chessgames.com. I have found some of the games in the lower tournaments to be of great interest and may return to them in future posts.
I have put together a round-by-round webliography of articles analyzing the games from the main event. Long ago I got in the habit of looking at GM games using multiple sets of notes, finding that every commentator focuses on different questions in the game that are worth considering, and that opinions often diverge even where the same issues are considered. Edward Winter once very nicely explored the case of "Analytical Disaccord" surrounding the game Capablanca - Bogoljubow, Moscow 1925 which was only an extreme example of just how differently various annotators can see things. I hope readers find this collection of notes useful. I will add more as they become available and welcome links from readers.
With his performance in this tournament, Carlsen guarantees that he will keep his world number one ranking on the official FIDE ratings list, making him the youngest official number one player in history. Next up for the champ will be the Corus tournament in Wijk aan Zee (January 15 - 31).
One of the more interesting ideas that Norowitz discussed was that you could value the pieces according to how well they control light and dark squares, in which case the Bishop practically becomes the basic unit of value:
Bishop: $1,000 of its color -- the two Bishops and an unopposed Bishop (which he called "the Golden Bishop") would be more valuable.
Knight: $500 of light and $500 of dark, or about $1,000
Rook: $750 of light and $750 of dark, or about $1,500
Queen: $1,500 of light and $1,500 of dark, or about $3,000
It was definitely a fascinating lecture, which introduced a completely different paradigm than most people were used to for looking at chess positions.
Test yourself with the position below, which could have arisen in one of the games Norowitz discussed as the conclusion of White's light square strategy.
The triumph of light-square strategy
White to play and win
Kenilworth Chess Club Champion Yaacov Norowitz will lecture tonight on "Color Complexes" (a.k.a. "square strategy") at the club. Admission is $5. This topic was touched upon in his previous lecture (which was very well received) on the Stonewall Attack. I will be attending and recommend it to everyone.
For the fourth year running, the US Chess League final was decided by a blitz tie-breaker, which New York won over Miami in an amazing come-from behind finish.
The rules for the tie-breaker require a bottom-up elimination playoff at 5 minutes, 5 seconds. To paraphrase the rules: The fourth boards from each team play each other, with the loser eliminated and the winner then paired with Board Three of the opposing team. This process continues with the next higher board on each team continually replacing any player of their team who gets eliminated. If a game ends in a draw, both players are eliminated, except if a team is down to its Board One, in which case there is no elimination on a draw, instead colors reverse and the game is replayed until there is a decisive result. This process repeats itself until all four players from one team have been eliminated.
But Yaacov's forte is 3 minutes or less, and at 5:5 his opponents had too much time to think and he lost his next game to IM Alejandro Moreno Roman (Miami's board #3).
The rest of the match is very succinctly summarized at the USCL website:
Two players lost during regulation, GM Giorgi Kacheishvili and IM Alejandro Moreno Roman. In a stunning reversal of fortune, both of these players were heroes in the blitz tie-breaker. Moreno Roman knocked off everyone on New York's team except for Kacheishvili. Kacheishvili then turned around and did the exact same thing to Miami, finishing things off by defeating GM Julio Becerra with the black pieces. Congratulations to the New York Knights on becoming the 2009 USCL Champions!
Any "chess tourists" who might be visiting New York City this holiday season should take the famous chess tables in the Southwest corner of Washington Square Park (site of Waitzkin's epiphany and training and the Amp Can's triumph) off their list of places to stop. The chess tables were removed in early October when the overall park renovation moved to that quadrant. A KCC regular informs me that the place looks like a disaster zone, but a recent article he sent from Curbed, NY ("Teary Destructoporn: Washington Square Park Mounds, RIP") says that the removal is not permanent and "Games of skill will also return, and wits will be tested once again all along Washington Square South," likely by the summer. You can follow news of the reconstruction's progress at the Washington Square Park blog.
It has been hard to follow the FIDE World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk Siberia (see games at Chessgames.com), which seems like a chaotic awards show, with loads of great stars making only cameo appearances and very few memorable performances. That is until yesterday's Round 6 game between Sergey Karjakin and Boris Gelfand, which is very well annotated by Dennis Monokroussos. Karjakin resorted to a Giuoco Piano by a Bishop's Opening move order to sidestep the drawing power of the Petroff, but Gelfand had easy equality with a Two Knights set-up and an early d5 (a la Marshall). Then Karjakin ended up getting his head handed to him when he failed to play the standard 11.Qf3 inducing 11...Be6 and allowed Gelfand a neat Rook lift with 11....Ra6! (see diagram above) followed by Rg6 with attacking chances. You may be asking yourself (or you should) why not simply 12.Bxd5 Qxd5 13.Rxe7 winning a piece? Well, Black has a strong attack and at least a draw after 13...Rg6 (see Monokroussos's notes for details). A fascinating game right out of the opening, and probably right out of Gelfand's preparation.
Michael Goeller: It seems most chess players start to identify personally with the openings they play. How did you discover the Colle-Zukertort and why has that opening so appealed to you personally?
David Rudel: My love of the Colle is mostly Irving Chernev’s fault. I felt he made a good case for the Colle-Koltanowski in his Logical Chess: Move by Move book [see games here]. It seemed like a natural set-up. I always like the idea of playing Nbd2 anyway, and as a youth I never really understood what was so hot about pushing c4. Wouldn’t you rather push e4 instead? Perhaps my interest in symmetry was partially to blame (believe it or not, I actually refuse to wear dress shirts with a single pocket over one breast. Either no pockets or two pockets for me!)
The thing that made me switch over to the Colle-Zukertort was the “Boa-Constrictor-ness” of it. I like controlling the game completely, not allowing my opponent any counterplay. This aspect of my personality really came out when I played Magic: The Gathering, a collectible playing card game. I would create decks built on neutralizing and controlling my opponent and the game. The last thing I thought about was how I would actually kill my opponent. I would rather first make sure he couldn’t do what he wanted.
I think the Zukertort, where White allows Black plenty of space but creates a “pinch” in his position due to the immobility of his e6-pawn, really reflects my preferences in this regard. Even more important than this “pinch” is the denial of easy transformation in the center. As long as White keeps his c-pawn back, it is hard for Black to change the center in a way that allows quick counterplay.
People say that the Zukertort is not as tactical or attacking as other openings. In my view, the tactics and attacking just start a few moves later. ____________________
MG: What do you play as Black? Are there any other openings that seem to make a good fit with a Colle-Zukertort repertoire?
DR: People are often surprised to hear that I play the Semi-Slav and the Najdorf as Black. Or, at least I did up until very recently. Given how “quiet” and “positional” the Colle has a reputation for being, they find these options, especially the Najdorf, rather odd.
From my viewpoint, though, it is not a strange combination at all. First, the thing I love about the Colle is the control you have over the game and Black’s lack of dependable early counterplay. Obviously, there is no hope of having anything like that as Black. Thinking in those terms, sharp defenses that come with counterplay practically built in should be natural options.
The second reason these defenses make sense is the very practical point that if you play a low-time-burden opening for White (such as the Colle), you have more time to work on your Black opening, so picking an option that requires more work is feasible.
Recently, though, I have been attracted to an opening that I never, ever though I would want to play. Practically the last opening I would pick were I to have listed my options a decade ago. On some advice from a reader I picked up Tiger’s Modern. It is written in the same kind of laid-back style that I use, and people who thought Zuke ‘Em was tractable found Tiger’s book to be readable as well.
Anyway, after looking at his work, I decided his Modern had the same kind of system-like quality that the Colle has. I like the idea of natural, harmonious configurations, and he made a case for Black being able to set up his formation and then just “play chess” in many cases. I had thought about looking at the hedgehog for the same reason, but Tiger’s writing really won me over.
The London Chess Classic starts Tuesday, December 8th, and promises to be one of the most interesting tournaments of the year for chess fans in the Western hemisphere. Not only will the tournament website and related coverage be in English, but the event will feature such fan favorite players as world number one Magnus Carlsen, former world champion Vladimir Kramnik, U.S. champion Hikaru Nakamura, and resurgent British star Nigel Short (all of whom are playing in top form of late). The Daily Telegraph has been providing excellent coverage, including an interview today with 19-year-old Carlsen -- see "Magnus Carlsen: The Rise and Rise of Chess's Answer to Mozart" by Max Davidson. An earlier Davidson article, "London Chess Classic: The Chess Set Come to London," suggests that chess is regaining popularity in Britain, which once produced the strongest players in the West, including former championship challenger Short. Luke McShane and David Howell, who represent the next generation of rising British stars, will participate in the tournament as well, though they are likely to have a tough time against such strong opposition. I will be following the tournament closely and hope to post some articles about the event.
I have commented before on the way Barack Obama is portrayed as a "chess master" on the world political stage (see Obama as Chess Master and Obama as Chess Master, Part Two). Today GM Kevin Spraggett points us to a spate of images (to which we add one from yesterday's Daily Telegraph) that show Obama playing chess under nearly impossible conditions: against multiple opponents, as the clock winds down, his head nearly engulfed in smoke, and with the board stretching forth interminably before him. Yet in all of these images he retains his composure, even while performing a handstand. Do you think, maybe, we are expecting a little too much of him?
I have been reading the new "expanded" edition of Zuke 'Em, The Colle-Zukertort Revolutionized by David Rudel, whose work has interested me since I first heard about it over a year ago. As a practitioner and fan of amateur chess analysis, I recognized in Rudel a kindred spirit and admired (in the materials I saw on the web) the evident work he put into helping amateurs to understand the positional themes and patterns of this under-appreciated opening. I was also impressed by the amount of work that he had put into making his books and promoting them, with excellent websites (at zukertort.com, colle-system.com, and zuke-dukes.com -- the latter with a forum where players can share information, games, and ideas) and lots of online materials and videos (see the webliography at the end of this article for details). Now, finally reading his book, I am even more impressed by the quality of the work. His engaging "conversational" writing style, his focus on explaining themes and patterns rather than dumping a bunch of analysis on the page, and his excellent sense of design and presentation have been widely praised. But what impresses me most about Rudel's work is his desire to seek the best approach to playing the Colle-Zukertort and the way he uses the book format to teach it to others.
Rudel's quest for the "truth" about the Colle-Zukertort continues in the present edition, which breaks new ground for those who would understand the best way to play the opening. If you compare Rudel's repertoire to those of several other Colle-Zukertort books, you see right away that he has a lot of new ideas, many of the "why didn't anybody notice that before?" variety. His more interesting breakthroughs often involve adapting ideas from openings that reach similar positions to the Colle-Zukertort but with colors reversed. For example:
The book is both well-researched and full of innovative ideas. Rudel has done his homework, and the book offers a thorough bibliography of sources, suggesting that he left no stone unturned in seeking ideas. With so many books by professional players lacking any citation apparatus, it is nice to see a so-called "amateur" analyst being so careful. But while he has done good research, Rudel is not a follower of theory. In fact, he turns up so many interesting innovations because he actively searches for ideas to get White an edge instead of accepting "theory's verdict" of equality. After all, he plays the opening himself and he wants to anticipate problems before his opponents spring them on him. I was similarly driven in my analysis of the Urusov Gambit System, where I found published material blithely repeating the mistakes of previous writers or failing to pay attention to important problems in the opening. Doing that analysis made me recognize just how untrustworthy even the best players and analysts can occasionally be and how all players have to find their own path through theory, making their own decisions at each turn and trusting in themselves.
Rudel has not only done some innovative analysis, he has given a lot of thought to helping others understand what he has found. I am very impressed by his carefully structured presentation, which creates an excellent scaffolding for even developing players to master the ideas behind his system. Each chapter begins by setting forth the chief problem that White needs to solve in the line under discussion and the analysis and illustrative game that follow form a coherent piece with the idea of that chapter. Where specific lines call for deeper analysis, he has generally segregated that to the "Extra Analysis" chapter to keep from disrupting the flow of the presentation by focusing too much on specific details. And he concludes the book with a number of "Training" exercises keyed to each section and a set of diagrams to remind readers of the "New Ideas" that he has set forth in his book (especially useful for players who have studied and played the more traditional approaches).
Rudel's desire to teach his repertoire to others has led him to write two additional books of training materials that emerged from the original analysis he was doing on the Colle system. The Moment of Zuke: Critical Positions and Pivotal Decisions for Colle System Players focuses on the Colle more broadly and considers critical tactics and positional themes. Its seven modules (each consisting of "Lesson," "Exercises" and "Solutions" with explanations) are typical of his very orderly presentation and cover such critical Colle topics as how to deal with a Black Ne4, when it's safe to attack with g4, and when you can play the classic Bxh7 sacrifice -- or the double Bishop sacrifice. That last theme returns to make up a whole book in Bxh7: Master both sides of chess' most useful piece sacrifice in 5 easy lessons and 116 exercises which focuses exclusively on "The Greek Gift" (not only out of the Colle or Colle-Zukertort but a number of similar structures, including the French and other Queen Pawn openings). You can review some exercises from the book at his latest website, bishop-sacrifice.com. One of my favorite such sacs is Marshall - Stodie, Atlantic City 1920, but I could not find it in the book (an index of games and players would be a helpful addition to future editions.)
Returning to the new edition of Zuke 'Em, I think Rudel has made significant improvements upon earlier editions (one of which I actually found at my library for comparison). He has added some sample games with significant annotations and offered some alternative lines to match player styles. But the most salient and important improvement, as he acknowledges, is at the level of proofreading, and he has done an excellent job eliminating errors in grammar, chess moves, and diagrams. I found only one bad diagram (with a Bishop accidentally substituted for a pawn on page 291) and only one error in grammar ("With this in mind, I propose a line inviting Black to take a free move he wish [sic] he did not have" ). And I was looking for error. [Rudel credits proofreaders Graham Stevens and John Wright for the improvements.]
The Colle-Zukertort is not in itself a complete repertoire, and Rudel recommends that readers fill out the rest by following Aaron Summerscale's cult classic A Killer Chess Opening Repertoire, which is due to be re-released in "a new enlarged edition" updated by Sverre Johnsen some time in early Spring 2010. In the meantime, Richard Palliser's Starting Out: d-Pawn Attacks is not a bad substitute, covering part of Summerscale's repertoire in the Barry Attack, the 150 Attack, and the Colle-Zukertort, and only skipping coverage of the Benoni and the Dutch (which you can find material on elsewhere). And there are other 1.d4 Repertoire Books out there to tide you over until the "return of the king" (Summerscale) -- though you might look for Summerscale's video series produced by Foxy Videos and now available from various sources. For those looking for a parallel repertoire as Black, I'd recommend the Nimzo- and Queen's-Indian complex and the French Defense, in which case you might add Play the Nimzo-Indian, Play the Queen's Indian, and How to Play against 1.e4 (on the French) to fill up your chess opening bookshelf.
Selected Online Colle-Zukertort Resources
For those not yet convinced that the Colle-Zukertort is worth a go, here are some online resources to help you explore and learn more on your own before taking the plunge and buying Zuke 'Em.
_______, Yaacov Norowitz Lecture on the Stonewall Attack at the Kenilworth Chess Club website
Along with the Stonewall, discusses Norowitz's "Anti-KID Zukertort System" which involves playing a Zukertort system with the idea that dark squared Bishops will eventually get exchanged after 1. d4 Nf6 2. e3 g6 3. Nf3 Bg7 4. Be2 O-O 5. b3! d6 6. Bb2 Nbd7 7. O-O e5 8. dxe5 Ng4 9. c4 Ngxe5 10. Nxe5 etc.
_______, Barry Attack Bibliography at the Kenilworth Chess Club website
The Barry Attack is at the core of Summerscale's recommended d-pawn repertoire and is covered by Palliser's "Starting Out: d-pawn Attacks" also. I wrote this back in 2005, but helpful readers have left updates in the comments. I wrote another piece at the Kenilworth Kibitzer blog on the "Anti-Barry Attack."
_______, Four Keys for the Colle-Zukertort -- A Car for the Future at Chessville.com
A good place to start if you are considering giving the Colle-Zukertort a "test drive" is this article by Rudel, which begins with a bit of a sales pitch and then offers four ideas in the opening, including the difficulty Black has developing his queenside, White's extra kingside space, the crucial squares for various pieces, and the possibility of exchanging pawns in the center by dxc5 to unleash the dark square Bishop.
_______. Reviving the Colle-Zukertort Main Line at Chessville
Discusses how the idea of exchanging in the center and playing a6 in the Tartakower can be adapted for use in the Colle-Zukertort to revive the main line where White is often annoyed by Nb4 attacking the Bishop at d3. Offers quite a bit of useful analysis.
_______, The Phoenix Attack Quick-Start Guide at colle-system.com
An excellent introduction with video to Rudel's innovative approach to the regular Colle that turns it into a reverse Semi-Slav. There is also a good discussion of this idea at ChessVibes.
Colle - Grunfeld, Berlin 1926
Just a video replay without commentary of probably the only game on record where Edgar Colle actually played the Colle-Zukertort (which bears his name), here against a Queen's Indian hedgehog. Annotated in Tartakower's 500 Master Games.
I have posted analysis of what I call The Hybrid Zukertort Retort (1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.e3 e6 4.Bd3 c5 5.b3 Nbd7 6.O-O Bd6 7.Bb2 Qc7!?), which is a surprisingly playable Black system against the Colle-Zukertort. I analyzed the line after reading David Rudel's excellent Zuke 'Em: The Colle-Zukertort Revolutionized, which I will soon be reviewing. I discussed the analysis with Rudel himself, as I acknowledge in my notes, and he has agreed to an interview (which will be up later this week). Rudel maintains a great website on the Zukertort at www.zukertort.com which I recommend to you if you are looking for more information on his book or the system he recommends.
I took a close look at this line because it seemed a principled retort to the Zukertort, fighting White for control of the critical c4 and e5 squares. Rudel discusses this line in Chapter 11 and again in Chapter 12 of his book, calling it "the Hybrid Zukertort" because "Black combines the Classical line with the Bogolyubov by putting the Knight on d7 and the Bishop on d6" (231). I think the critical idea also involves playing Qc7 (which Rudel and most previous writers think is dubious) and delaying castling in order to gain a tempo for pushing forward in the center. With Qc7, Black simultaneously threatens two potentially equalizing pawn advances with c4 and e5. The c4 advance is actually not so critical (though it seems to gain enough space on the queenside to claim equality), but if Black can win control of e5 and play the e5 pawn push then he has basically dismantled the cornerstone of the Zukertort strategy. A couple of drawn GM games suggest that this method might squelch any White initiative and close analysis mostly supports that conclusion--though White has a few options to explore in search of an edge (especially in the lines following 8.Nbd2).
Less than two weeks ago, Magnus Carlsen won the World Blitz Championship at the Tal Memorial in Moscow. Yesterday he lost to Hikaru Nakamura, widely considered the best blitz player in the world (but who did not play in Moscow), in the final of the BNBank knockout blitz tournament in Oslo. So who's really the champ? Check out the Oslo Blitz page created by ChessBase to play over the games and watch them on video at the same time. And does blitz even matter? Read Bobby's Blitz Chess by Larry Parr (from the Internet Archives, which may be slow to load) for some historical perspective. Related Links
There is a wonderful lecture series by GM Ronen Har-Zvi at ICC on what he calls the "Pseudo-Steinitz Variation of the French," where Black plays 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Ne4!? to mess up White's plans, with one continuation being 5.Nce2!? f6!? (see for example Nijboer - Kujif, Wijk aan Zee 1991). FM Steve Stoyko was apparently inspired by Har-Zvi's lecture enough to try the same idea against the Two Knights French after 1.e4 e6 2.Nf3 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Ne4!? 5.Ne2 f6!? (see diagram above). I have annotated Milonovic - Stoyko, Hamilton Quads 2009 (or download the PGN) to explore this idea, which turns out to be much more interesting for Black than the result of the game would indicate.
“Any designer, any artist, any musician will tell you it’s always easy to add stuff,” [Black] said. “What’s really hard is to take away, to make it as simple as possible. That’s the challenge and that’s what made it so fun.”
For those looking for more of a challenge, there is a nice instruction set available online for making a "Birdbase Chess Set" (PDF) by Joseph Wu, who has also produced a YouTube video showing you how he can make it in 30 seconds (so long as you speed up the video tape!)
There is no joy in Jersey as the NJ Knockouts fell Wednesday night to their perennial rivals, the New York Knights, who have now been responsible for ending all three Knockouts seasons in the US Chess League. But with Kenilworth Chess Club champion Yaacov Norowitz playing for New York, our club will definitely be cheering on the Knights into their final match against the Miami Sharks (date to be announced).
Norowitz's win over Sean Finn on Board Four looked like a foregone conclusion early on, even before it ended in mate (see first diagram below for an easy puzzle). But the other games were sharply contested and, at least on Boards One and Two, could have gone either way. On Board One, GM Joel Benjamin struggled with time pressure in his game after GM Georgi Kacheishvili turned the tables on his "opening surprise" Fantasy Variation against the Caro-Kann (1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.f3!?) with the equally surprising 3...Qb6!? But Benjamin definitely had the advantage for most of the game and probably missed a winning blow at move thirty (see second diagram below for a challenge). On Board Two, IM Dean Ippolito also had the advantage out of the opening against GM Pascal Charbonneau in a wild line of the Rubinstein Variation against the Four Knights (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.Bb5 Nd4! 5.Bc4 Bc5!? 6.Nxe5 Qe7!) Ippolito sacrificed a piece for a dangerous attack, prompting Charbonneau to sacrifice his Queen for counterplay. Ippolito definitely missed at least one stronger continuation that would have gained a clear advantage for Black, but eventually Charbonneau used his initiative to gain a clear edge and even a material advantage. Though Ippolito missed a beautiful line that would have forced a draw by perpetual check (see last diagram below), he eventually got a draw anyway. Board Three saw Mackenzie Molner playing a wild line of the Najdorf that Matt Herman clearly knew better. Eventually, only Herman had any attacking chances, but with the win secure on Board Four he appears to have decided not to take any chances and to play for an easy draw, which Molner, short of time, eventually offered himself.
Norowitz - Finn White to play and mate in two.
Benjamin - Kacheishvili White to play and win.
Charbonneau - Ippolito Black to play and force a draw.
So the Jersey boys only have themselves to blame for the loss, especially considering that they had draw odds. Better luck next year. And "Go Norowitz and the Knights!" Let's hope they don't have to play on the Sabbath!