Friday, February 20, 2009

Kamsky - Topalov

Paul Hoffman's "Chess It Out!" at NPR offered an interesting commentary on Gata Kamsky's "Brain Freeze" in the second game of his match with Veselin Topolov for the right to challenge Anand:
Wednesday's game was morbidly dramatic, in the way NASCAR racing is when cars collide. Kamsky got strangely caught up in the boundlessness of chess and self-destructed. He suffered brain freeze and spent much too much time thinking in simple positions. The rules required him to make his first 40 moves in two hours, but he managed to play only 32 and forfeited — a very rare result in world-class chess.
Kamsky briefly pulled even at the halfway point, but Topalov soon took a commanding lead in the match and won it all with Game 7. Analysis of the seven games can be found online from various commentators:

Game 7
Topalov - Kamsky, 1-0 (French Defense, Tarrasch Variation C07)
Game 6
Kamsky - Topalov, 1/2-1/2 (Caro-Kann, Short Variation B12)
Game 5
Topalov - Kamsky, 1-0 (French Defense, Tarrasch C07)

Game 4
Kamsky - Topalov 1-0 (Ruy Lopez, Closed - C88)
Game 3
Topalov - Kamsky 1/2-1/2 (Gruenfeld - D81)
Game 2
Kamsky - Topalov 0-1 (Ruy Lopez, Berlin Variation - C65)
Game 1
Topalov - Kamsky 1/2-1/2 (Gruenfeld - D86-88)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

USATE 2009 Wrap-Up

Bartell - Stoyko, USATE 2009
A two-cups-of-coffee sort of game for Steve.

There are quite a few postings regarding the recently completed US Amateur Team East 2009, beginning with the prize results (at the NJSCF site). The top teams were:

Top Team (Dennis Barry Award): Palin Gambit: Give UP
2nd Place: Black's First Move - President Obama
3rd Place: UR Outrated: Give Up
4th Place: Quantum of Soltis
5th Place: 1. d4 (they also won best NJ team)

The tournament crosstable will probably be up around March 1, to judge from last year (there were over 1200 players, after all). Some reflections and games can be found online:

Chess by Dylan Loeb McClain in The International Herald Tribune
An article on USATE featuring an important game Rueda - Schoch from the last round, top board match-up between "Palin Gambit" (the winners) and "You Are Outrated." This article will likely appear in the Sunday NY Times as well.

Palin gambit Takes US Amateur Team East at USCF site
Gives the results and a java replay of the top board action from the final round, between Paul MacIntyre and GM Lawrence Kaufman.

USATE 2009 Photo Gallery by Jim West
A nice selection of photos, mostly of NJ area players and teams (one photo referenced above). He has also posted his games under USATE 2/16/09 and USATE 2/14/09.

Am Team East, Rd. 5 by Elizabeth Vicary
One of three posts that basically show WFM Vicary's interesting anti-Sicilian repertoire, including US Am Team Rd. 3: Rossolimo 2, A Players 0 and US am Team Rd 1 - I'm off to a vigorous start!

USATE - Days 2 & 3 by John Moldovan
The Chess Coroner offers post mortem analysis of his better games from the last two days. This is a follow-up to his USATE - Day 1 post.

Another Boston team wins at the AMATE by Robert Oresick of the BCC Weblog
A nice summary of the top board results from the event, along with photo gallery.

USATE - Back to Our Regular Programming by Polly Wright
The last of several blogs on the event, including "Breaking News: Palin Gambit Wins USATE 6-0," "USATE Rd 4 Photos," "USATE Rd. 3 - St. Valentine's Day Massacre Deferred," and "USATE Rds 1&2."

Hilton Blogs from the Amateur East by Jonathan Hilton
A report at the end of Day 2 at the USCF site.

Parsippany's Only Chess Club Band at YouTube
This plays very slowly on my computer, but it is nice to see video from the event. I saw some people shooting video of other parts of the festivities and am curious where that will appear.

For results at the concurrent team events in other parts of the country, see "My Girl Takes Amateur Team South" by Harvey Lerman, "ACA Beasts win US Amateur Team West" by Jerry Yee, "New year, same teams on top" by Jack Peters, "Standings - USATW" and "US Amateur Team North" at Getting to 2000 blog.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Day of the Jackal at USATE 2009

The Jackal Attack

We finished out the US Amateur Team East with two drawn matches and 4.5 points out of 6 (half a point behind the best New Jersey Team).

The most interesting game that I got to see was in Round 5, when French aficionado FM Steve Stoyko faced "The Jackal Attack" (1.e4 e6 2.Nf3 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.d4 c5 6.Bg5). I have posted Meredith-Stoyko, USATE 2009 along with some additional analysis I have done on the Jackal.

As a player of the Two Knights French myself, I have looked at the Jackal Attack and read Skelton's first edition (he has since issued an update). Anyone interested in learning more about this line can find a lot of analysis on the web, starting with Skelton's own website on "The Jackal Attack" (where you can purchase a copy of his self-published book) and several reviews: "Play of the Jackal," "The Jackal Attack and Other Stories," and "French Defense: Jackal Attack" (with java replay here). Perhaps the most incisive commentary, however, is to be found in Glenn Flear's review from New in Chess Yearbook #72 (btw: Skelton's original analysis appeared in NIC Yearbook #61) titled "The Way of the Jackal" (in PDF).

In the game, Steve walked into an Exchange sacrifice that started to look like a mammoth trap.

Mammoth Trap?
Black to play after 12.Bb5

However, as with all mammoth traps (see here and here for examples), it's hard to contain the beast. And Steve saw that he could escape the trap fairly easily by battering open the a-file with 12...a5! Instead, he played too quickly 12...O-O?! when White is able to force a draw after 13.O-O followed by Nc3 and (after the forced Qxb2) Rb1-b3-b1-b3 with perpetual threat on the Queen.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

USATE 2009 Update

I have never enjoyed the US Amateur Teams more than I have this year, and I think it shows in the two games I have played so far, which I have annotated and posted online. Playing only in the mornings, against lower-rated competition, and having White in every round certainly helps to keep your spirits up. I have also had the good fortune of only playing very friendly and interesting opponents.

In the first round, I had the pleasure of playing Dale Brandreth, the rare chess book seller, owner and publisher of Caissa Editions, and author or editor of numerous historical chess books (including The Unknown Capablanca.) We spoke about his recent struggle to complete the tournament book for Chicago 1926 based on the (often illegible) holographic game scores. I told him about my own efforts to track down game scores, including from the Dimock Theme Tournament of 1924 and Lake Hopatcong in 1923, and how several people had mentioned Dale himself as the best hope of making a complete collection of Dimock games. He was familiar with Dimock's own history and offered some ideas, but he held out little hope that I'd ever complete the set (though he did say there were probably untold boxes of unopened materials in the Cleveland Library that could contain just about anything). He also told me some terrible stories about how historical chess documents and game scores go missing, from wives happy to finally throw the stuff in the trash to families worried about incriminating documents simply burning everything.

Position after 6...Nf6!

Our game was an interesting struggle, where he played an innovative move against my Two Knights Caro-Kann to get easy equality. The game could have gone either way, but he failed to attack swiftly enough on the kingside, making it possible for me to win the game on the queenside in an opposite-side castling scenario. This was probably my best attacking game in a long time and I was quite proud of it, especially since even the computer had little to complain about.

After winning our first two matches, the Kenilworth A team made it behind the ropes to Board 9, where we met a team made up of players from the Holmdel Chess Club: Tommy Bartell, Tod Chasin, Brian Meinders, and Bill Potts. Someone remarked that it was the unofficial New Jersey team championship, and our teams certainly represented two of the strongest clubs in the state. The match started out on such friendly terms that no one was willing to start the clocks before everyone was seated--that is, until the chief TD came over and insisted.

I won my game after my opponent walked into a terrible line in the Left Hook Austrian Attack against the Pirc, where Black has literally no play and has to put up with continuous restraint and torture. In some ways, the game reminded me of one that former Kenilworth CC president Joe Demetrick played in a team match and which I annotated. However, despite my win we only drew the match, meaning that we were basically knocked out of contention for the title.

This year the favorite seems to be a team comprised of GM DeFirmian, GM Fedorowicz, and two of their young students. The two kids seem to know how to play chess (unlike a particular kid I encountered last year) -- and they likely play better than their ratings. So I think they have a good shot at winning the tournament.

I hope others will be posting their about their experiences and some of their better games and comments in the coming week.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

US Amateur Team East 2009

I have not been blogging much, in part because every hour I've devoted to chess lately has been spent preparing for the 2009 US Amateur Teams East this weekend in Parsippany, NJ. I have spent most of my time developing and refining a new opening repertoire, which is my most coherent to date. I am sure I will be filling these pages with my new ideas in the coming weeks, following USATE.

The Kenilworth Chess Club is sending several teams, and most of our members will be there, many playing on one of Mike Wojcio's numerous "Chessaholics" teams. As usual, I will be playing on the Kenilworth Chess Club's A team with FM Steve Stoyko, NM Scott Massey, NM Ed Allen, expert Bob Rose and myself as alternate. Last year we finished 5-1, losing only to the infamous "GGGg" team. This year I am trying to keep my expectations low to avoid a similar disappointment. After all, USATE is a chance to see old friends, browse the book shops, and play some serious chess in this "Tournament for the Rest of Us." Secretly, of course, I'm always in it to win it. Unfortunately, so are a lot of other people...

I expect to post about the event and expect others to as well -- perhaps at our new Kenilworth Kibitzer blog, which already has four registered members and more on the way. But I have not been able to turn up news or links regarding other people's preparations, with one exception: the USCF website promises several "blogs" from the event, and they have already posted Abby Marshall's reflections on getting mentally prepared: "Abby Psychs Up for Amateurs." The rising star felt down after some hard luck at the Liberty Bell Open, but she is ready for the weekend. Her best comment:
"If I had the choice of going 6-0 and my team does not get first or going 0-6 and getting first, I would choose the latter. Definitely. Rating points and pride can be won back; winning at Amateur Teams is priceless."
For more information and links about all four team events, check out Presidents Day Weekend: Four Amateur Team Championships from the US Chess Trust.

The Kenilworth Kibitzer

Welcome another web log to the chess blogosphere: the Kenilworth Kibitzer is now online and open to all members of the club who want an outlet for their chess-related commentary. I have posted a few questions there to help get us started, but I expect to be more of a kibitzer than a commentator in that space down the road.

As readers of the Kenilworth Chess Club History know, that was the name of our old monthly newsletter, which Mike Wojcio started in 1988 and which published off and on for over 15 years. I almost took that name for my own blog, but I was hoping Mike would pick up the blogging habit himself under that banner, and I didn't want Tim Harding of Chess Cafe's long-running "The Kibitzer" column to think I was swiping his moniker. Now the blog returns to the real meaning of "kibitzer," which is basically anyone, expert or tyro, with something to say about our game. If you want to post, let me or a club officer know and we will invite you. But anyone can go to listen in or add a comment to an existing post.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Obama as Chess Master

chessmaster obama
I knew that someone would eventually write a column like Bob Herbert's "The Chess Master" (The New York Times, February 9), presenting Barack Obama's rational political strategy as equivalent to brilliant chessplaying. Not surprisingly, Herbert is not the first to make the comparison: "Chessmaster Obama's Plan for a 60-Seat Super-Majority" is only one of many that I turn up with a quick Google search. It seems that there is a new game in town, and one that contrasts sharply with the primitive, bullying, dangerous, risk-taking, and self-centered gamesmanship of the previous administration, as I have commented on in "Texas Hold'em," "Chess and Diplomacy" and "US-Russian Diplomacy as Monopoly vs. Chess." I hope Obama's middlegame and endgame are as strong as his opening.