Friday, May 29, 2009

Sandi Hutama Wins US Amateur East

There is an article at the USCF website by Steve Ferrero about Sandi Hutama taking the 66th annual US Amateur Championship East title in Somerset, NJ. The crosstable is also up and shows how Hutama dominated the field with 5.5 out of 6. Jim West has posted a selection of Steve's excellent photos from the event (note to Jim: fix the blog template; scrolling is a pain.) Diamondback also has shots of the prize winners. A record 220 players participated in this Heritage Event.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bobby Fischer on Film

ChessBase points us to two trailers on YouTube for new films about the late Bobby Fischer: Me and Bobby Fischer (see above) and Bobby Fischer Live (embedding disabled). The first is a disturbing but very interesting documentary focused on Fischer's life after his arrest in Japan and extradition to Iceland. The second is an even more disturbing -- for chessplayers anyway -- docudrama about Fischer's life that focuses on the roots of his dementia in childhood. Each tries to extend the story of the 1972 World Championship match in different directions, forward and back in time, to the endgame and the opening. My impression is that the documentary "Me and Bobby Fischer" holds some promise of adding new dimensions to the Fischer saga by depicting his time in Iceland, which is not captured by previous documentaries that I know. But I think that the morbidly melodramatic "Bobby Fischer Live" will simply drive chessplayers bonkers with inaccuracies and chessic blunders. Any chess player will see several problems in the trailer alone, beginning with the scene showing a teenage Fischer (already a rising master cum IM) reading Tarrasch's The Game of Chess -- while having to use a board no less!

Ultimately, I don't think the rather chaotic and incomprehensible story of Fischer's opening days and sad endgame can ever be as interesting as the perfectly structured real-life story of Fischer's middlegame full of miraculous triumph and mystery -- his rise to 1972 stardom and Garbo-like disappearance -- a story that is beautifully, mythicaly, and touchingly narrated in young Josh's voice in the black and white archival vignettes of Searching for Bobby Fischer (much of which is on YouTube), so that one wishes someone would just string those moments together as a stand-alone video. That's why I had been excited to hear that the book Bobby Fischer Goes to War, which offers a very well dramatized and well researched account of the events surrounding the 1972 match, was optioned by Universal Pictures, and that they had hired director Kevin MacDonald (Last King of Scotland) to film it. But the latest reports suggest that the project has been shelved due to the economic crisis.

Among the best Fischer films I have seen are "The Mad Genius of Bobby Fischer" (portions of which can be viewed on YouTube) and the excellent British documentary "Fischer vs. Spassky" (all of which appears to be available on YouTube). Both do a fairly good job of telling the story of the 1972 match through archival footage and interviews with figures of the time, including the very likable Boris Spassky. But it would be nice to see Fischer's story get the full Hollywood treatment.

There is some hope that Madman Genius: Bobby Fischer Found, to be directed by Liz Garbus for HBO, will offer something along these lines. According to the website:
Madman Genius will chronicle the bizarre and tragic life of an American hero turned outlaw, chess champion Bobby Fischer. Fischer's rise and fall echoed the demise of the Cold War World Order; without the black and white of the chessboard reflected in the 'real' world, Fischer, arguably the greatest chess player of all time, went insane. Novelistic in its story-telling, the film will chronicle the spectacular rise and fall of an American icon.
Fischer's story continues to fascinate us and I am sure that there will be a string of future films about him. However, it appears we will still have to wait for this incredible true story to receive the cinematic rendering that it deserves.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

2009 CJA Awards

I suddenly remembered today that June 1 is the postmark deadline for submissions to the Chess Journalists of America's annual awards. This year they have simplified the "best blog" category by simply inviting all websites and then they will sort them based on genre:
9. Best Chess Website: Open to news sites, “blogs,” state websites, and so on. Special award given to the best example of each type of website.
I'll be entering a few of my favorite blogs, so let me know if you plan on submitting yourself.

Monday, May 25, 2009

World Chess News

You will have to check out "World Chess News," hosted by three lovely Swedish sisters, and ask yourself how you could have missed it for the five years it has been airing! Of course, only the past six episodes have been available in both Swedish and English, but previous episodes have English subtitles. The banter is no more silly than standard news programs and the most recent episode (#252), which features coverage of Nakamura's US Championship victory, is very professionally produced. I also recommend their "Opening School" episodes, which cover the type of openings of interest to club players.

According to their website, the program (which airs on Swedish TV and the internet) is completely produced by a single family: "The WCN team consists of five siblings from Stockholm, Sweden, currently in the ages between 21 and 14. Adriana, Antonia and Amelia Krzymowska (21-17) and Alfred and Albert Krzymowski (16 and 14) created the idea and concept of the show. / Seizing the opportunities of their generation; with advanced computers, the Internet and digital cameras, they learned all of the technical and editorial aspects of producing a news show, and have done that ever since (They write the scripts, set the lights, adjust the sound, record the shows, edit the material, air and market WCN)." This impressive achievement predicts great future success for all of them! Because you are likely curious, Alfred has a 2069 ELO and Adriana an 1860 ELO.

Hat tip to Pete Tamburro.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

US Amateur East

Max Sherer plays Anna Matlin in Round One

Yesterday I dropped by the US Amateur East tournament at the Somerset Ramada, mostly to visit with my chess friends and to see what Fred Wilson had on offer. I was pleased to see that the event has gotten some good coverage at the USCF site, with an article and photos by Atlantic Chess News editor Steve Ferrero. I tell myself every year that I should be playing in the Amateur, and I think I'll make the commitment to play next year. But I have been quite busy of late and so had promised the wife and kids to take off some days around the Memorial Day holiday.

I picked up a couple interesting books from Fred, including a surprising little pamphlet in the "Grandmaster Profiles" series offering 64 games of Joel Benjamin. It seemed like a bargain at $3, but it's a typically slap-dash Eric Schiller production, so Fred had priced it right. Fred's table will be set up for the entire event, so you have through Memorial Day to drop by.

Fred shows off his excellent book for kids.

As always, a great selection from Fred.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Review of "SOS #10"

I have made no secret in these pages that I am a big fan of the "Secrets of Opening Surprises" series from New in Chess, edited by Jeroen Bosch. I own every volume and expect I'll be adding many more to my collection in the years to come. Its short article format has a strong appeal, since it allows you with relatively little effort to pick up an unusual opening line to try out in blitz or in a critical game situation. Only Everyman's "Dangerous Weapons" series comes close to offering such an interesting collection of offbeat opening lines. But even Everyman doesn't offer such a variety of authors and openings. I recently picked up "SOS #10" and thought it was about time I wrote a review.

Recent SOS volumes have featured 17 articles, and this one is no exception. Here are its contents:
  1. Jeroen Bosch, "The SOS Files" (offering recent games with lines discussed in previous editions), pp. 8-21
  2. Dorian Rogozenco, "The Blumenfeld Gambit" (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c5 4.d5 b5 5.Bg5 b4), pp. 22-28.
  3. Jeroen Bosch, "The Lewis Gambit" (1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Bc5 3.d4), pp. 29-33.
  4. Dimitri Reinderman, "The Retreat Variation" (1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Ng8), pp. 34-40.
  5. Adrian Mikhalchishin, "Steinitz’s Anti-French" (1.e4 e6 2.e5), pp. 41-43.
  6. Arthur Kogan, "Slav: the Bellon-Murey Variation" (1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.c4 c6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 a5), pp. 44-53.
  7. Jeroen Bosch, "Slav: a Marshall Gambit of Sorts" (1.d4 d5 2.c3 e6 3.Nc3 c6 4.e4 Bb4 5.Bd2), pp. 54-59
  8. Alexander Finkel, "Queen’s Fianchetto in the Alekhine" (1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.c4 Nb6 4.b3), pp. 60-65.
  9. Igor Lysyj, "Grünfeld Indian: Kruppa Variation" (1.d4 d5 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Bg5), pp. 66-72.
  10. Igor Khenkin, "SOS in a Flexible Caro-Kann" (1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e5 Ne4), pp. 73-78.
  11. Sergey Tiviakov, "Queen’s Indian: Double Fianchetto" (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.a3 Bb7 5.Nc3 g6), pp. 79-88.
  12. Adrian Mikhalchishin, "Sicilian: Romanishin Variation" (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d5 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.c4), pp. 89-92.
  13. Jeroen Bosch, "Modern Provocation" (1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 Nc6), pp. 93-99.
  14. David Navara, "Tricky Line vs the Slav" (1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 e6 5.Qd3), pp. 100-115.
  15. Alexander Finkel, "Taking Chances in the Volga" (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb4 e6), pp. 116-122.
  16. Or Cohen, "Petroff for Beginners" (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 Nxe4), pp. 123-134.
  17. Jeroen Bosch, "Winning Ugly in the Tarrasch" (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.Bg6 f6), pp. 135-143.
Of course, as with most opening manuals, only a portion of the chapters have much relevance to my own repertoire. But I find that where it is relevant, it is usually very relevant indeed.

I was especially pleased to see Bosch's article on the surprisingly good Lewis Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Bc5 3.d4!?) which fits perfectly with my interest in the revived Max Lange Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.O-O Nf6 5.d4 Bxd4 6.Nxd4 Nxd4 7.f4 d6 8.fxe5 dxe5 9.Bg5). In my view, the Lewis Gambit is playable precisely because it offers some tricky transpositions, chiefly to the Max Lange Gambit itself following 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Bc5 3.d4 Bxd4 4.Nf3 Nc6 (probably best as 4...Nf6 5.Nxd4 exd4 6.e5! d5 7.Bb5+ favors White, while 4...Qf6?! was convincingly refuted in Cochrane - Staunton, London 1841) 5.Nxd4 Nxd4 6.O-O and it's not clear that Black can avoid getting into known lines. Meanwhile, I think White can also transpose to familiar territory following 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Bc5 3.d4 exd4 with 4.Nf3!? (4.Bxf7+ is Bosch's only recommendation) when 4...Nc6 5.c3 transposes to the Scotch Gambit or Giuoco Piano while 4...Nf6 gives us a line from the Urusov Gambit which is quite good for White after 5.e5. A perfect fit with my repertoire! And very little effort to adopt.

I also appreciate that Bosch offers a long aside regarding MacDonnell's 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Bc5 3.b4!? Bxb4 4.c3 which I have analyzed at some length as part of my Bishop's Opening site. I had concluded that White generally does best to transpose to the Evans Gambit after 4...Be7 5.Nf3! or 4...Bc5 5.Nf3! while using the opportunity to get into some fascinating gambit territory following 4...Ba5 5.f4! In my view, the only reason to play 3.b4!? is if you want to transpose to the Evans Gambit while side-stepping the more difficult 4...Ba5 lines; otherwise you might as well play 3.Nf3 when the natural 3...Nc6 4.b4!? gets you where you want to go anyway. Here I have to say I am a little disappointed with Bosch's discussion, which adds only two recent games (Heil - Podolnyy and Kurenkov - Tishin) to my analysis from seven years ago. In fact, he even makes an error in suggesting that White can reach the Evans Gambit via 4...Bc5 5.d4!? exd4 6.Nf3?! when I show that 6...Nf6! throws a monkey wrench in that plan. Similarly, White cannot reach standard Evans lines after 4...Ba5 5.Nf3?! due to 5...Nf6! 6.d4 0-0 7.0-0 d6 8.Ba3 Nxe4 9.dxe5 Nxc3 10.Qd3 Nxb1 11.Raxb1 Nc6 12.exd6 cxd6 13.Bxd6 Re8 =+ Paulsen--Asbeck, Dusseldorf 1863. I think Bosch would have been aided by a little more research here (or just a look at my analysis, which any Google search would have turned up). Nevertheless, I do appreciate that he offered this little extra idea for fans of the Evans Gambit.

The next chapter by Dimitri Reinderman on "The Retreat Variation" (1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Ng8!?) went well beyond an article I had written that called this line The Brooklyn Defense. In the key recent game Kotronias - Sandipan, Gausdal 2008, White improved on the Gruchacz - Benjamin game of my article with 8.Ng5!? Qd7 9.Qe2 e5 10.d5! (I gave only 10.dxe5 dxe5 as playable for Black) 10...Nf6 11.Bg2 when Black had real problems to solve. Reinderman suggests that Black try 11...c6!? to weaken White's grip on e6 or to develop interesting counterplay following 12.c4 cxd5 13.cxd5 Na6! heading for the weak d3 square. He also does not sidestep the toughest line: 1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Ng8 3. d4 d6 4. Nf3 Bg4 5. h3 Bh5 6. g4 Bg6 7. e6 fxe6 8. Bc4! when Black's position starts to look ugly to me. However, Reinderman convinces me that Black might survive following 8...Bf7N 9. Ng5 d5 10. Bb5+! c6 though I still prefer White after 11.Bd3 or 11. Nxf7!? Kxf7 12. Bd3.

The annoying line with 8.Bc4! is the main reason I had looked closely at 3....d5!? --which Reinderman dismisses. As he notes, 3...d5 simply does not compare well to the Advance Variation of the Caro-Kann that arises after 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Be3. He writes: "The same position would arrive after 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Ng8 3.d4 d5 4.Be3 Bf5 (what else?), but then with a pawn on c7 and White to move! Surely this must be good for White. Therefore in this article I will stick with 3...d6" (34). I'm still not convinced that 3...d5 is not playable, and the recent game Bajt - Guid, Murska Sobota 2008 suggests Black can hold his own here, even with some highly unusual play.

Looking through the lines on offer in "SOS #10" you would be convinced of the modern theory that playing by principle is not as correct as assessing specific positions. This is especially the case with Steinitz's Anti-French 1.e4 e6 2.e5, which is exactly the kind of move we are apt to reject "on principle." But White reaches some interesting positions, and at least avoids those annoying closed French lines, forcing play instead toward more semi-open channels that might not be to Black's liking. Similarly, you would not expect Black to do so well after 1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3 Nf6! 4.e5 Ne4!? (author Igor Khenkin also suggests 4...Ng8!?) when White is hard pressed to find an advantage. I had similar trouble meeting 1. e4 c6 2. Nc3 d5 3. Nf3 d4 4. Ne2 c5 5. Ng3 (perhaps 5. c3!?) 5...Nc6 6. Bc4 Nf6! (see Goeller - Brandreth, USATE 2009), and Khenkin's article combined with my own experience is putting me off the Two Knights Caro-Kann lately. Finally, there is a wonderful article on the "Petroff for Beginners," focusing on the popular line at club level 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe4 Nxe5!?/?! which is one of those lines that is "supposed to be refuted" but is not quite so "refuted" as it should be, as I discussed in my article on the "Symmetrical Petroff."

All in all, another wonderful volume from Jeroen Bosch -- and I've only touched on the small portion that interested me most.

Chess in Film, Set to Music

The YouTube "chess in film" compilation videos of Lucio Etruscas, which have received prominent notice from ChessBase and The New York Times, are definitely worth a look. If nothing else they present a high speed trivia challenge to the chess in film enthusiast -- though it would be nice to have a filmography for each, and ChessBase will probably succeed in compiling that. Perhaps Bob Basala, author of Chess in the Movies, could help (see my reviews and discussion here, here and here).

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hikaru Nakamura Wins 2009 US Championship

Position after 8.Bd3!?

I have annotated Nakamura - Friedel, US Championship 2009, where GM Hikaru Nakamura used a 19th Century variation of the Two Knights Defense to win the crucial last round game that secured him the championship.

The surprising 8.Bd3, which blocks the d-pawn, was first played by Isidor Gunsberg but recently revived by Daniel Stellwagen, who presented an article on it in "Secrets of Opening Surprises, Volume #9." Nakamura played a nearly flawless game with the line, ending in a neat little move that traps Black's queen nearly in the middle of the board (see diagram below). Not only did this near-miniature secure Nakamura sole possession of the $40,000 first prize, but also (I predict) will bring him $275 more in the "SOS competition," for the best game played with a variation written about in Secrets of Opening Surprises!

White to play and win.

There are lots of great resources online for those interested in learning more about the US Chess Championship or this final round game. Here are some links worth exploring:

Monday, May 04, 2009

Ten Popular Chess Blogs

The Kenilworthian is included in a list of "Ten Popular Chess Blogs" from Looks like I'm just hanging in there at #10. I will have to post more often...

Hat tip to Jim West (who is #6).