Wednesday, September 30, 2009

NJKOs Play Chicago Blaze Tonight

The New Jersey Knockouts (4-0) play the Chicago Blaze (1-3) tonight at 8:00 p.m. in US Chess League action on ICC. Match previews are available from Joseph Criscuolo ("Knockouts Preparing to Dowse the Blaze") and Tom Panelas ("Next Up: Jersey"), the latter of whom has some questions about the uncanny resemblance between Blaze manager Glenn Panner and Knockouts first board GM Joel Benjamin. I am personally most curious to see the match-up of Cadet champ Andrew Ng vs. Junior Open champ Eric Rosen. It should be an interesting match.

Hitler vs. Lenin?

In "Based on Life or Fantasy, a Picture Goes to Auction" (The New York Times, September 30, 2009), Dylan Loeb McClain presents a balanced report on an etching meant to depict a chess match between Hitler and Lenin. Let readers and potential buyers be the judge of its authenticity. I just don't know who would want to own a picture of either man, let alone one that shows both. (See also items from ChessBase and from Edward Winter).

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Knightmare Chess

Knightmare Chess would make for an interesting gift or an amusing diversion during this season of Halloween. It is essentially a deck of cards to be used during chess to add an element of chance (or "chaos") to the game. Each card allows you to do something unusual, such as moving a pawn like a King in checkers (see card above). Though the original deck and its second edition are currently out of print (making one of my decks rather valuable I suppose), the second set of cards called Knightmare Chess 2 can be had for under $15. I am especially intrigued by the many "handicapping" possibilities that the game offers, since I frequently play for fun these days against beginners, and the cards do naturally create possibilities for less skilled players to win.

The game is essentially a translation of the French language card game "Tempete sur L'Echiquier" (or "tempest over the chessboard"), discussed recently by Robert Oresick at the BCC Weblog, which seems to be out of print. However, while the French cards try to convey a sense of fun and slapstick, the Knightmare cards create a more mysterious, medieval, and dark mood -- perhaps in emulation of Magic the Gathering. I have owned the game for many years and though I have only played it once or twice I have often used it as a class example in my game design class where it has often inspired students (see, for instance, "Lone Roll Poker" from my class). Recommended.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Chess and Self-Control

Chess Squared from Schools First on Vimeo.
I have been thinking about the effect of chess on self-control, especially as educators like myself have become more interested in self-control as a predictor of school success. In "Can the Right Kinds of Play Teach Self-Control" (New York Times Magazine, September 25 2009), Paul Tough writes about the new interest that programs for young people have in self-regulation:
The ability of young children to control their emotional and cognitive impulses, it turns out, is a remarkably strong indicator of both short-term and long-term success, academic and otherwise. In some studies, self-regulation skills have been shown to predict academic achievement more reliably than I.Q. tests. The problem is that just as we’re coming to understand the importance of self-regulation skills, those skills appear to be in short supply among young American children. In one recent national survey, 46 percent of kindergarten teachers said that at least half the kids in their classes had problems following directions. In another study, Head Start teachers reported that more than a quarter of their students exhibited serious self-control-related negative behaviors, like kicking or threatening other students, at least once a week. Walter Gilliam, a professor at Yale’s child-study center, estimates that each year, across the country, more than 5,000 children are expelled from pre-K programs because teachers feel unable to control them.

There is a popular belief that executive-function skills are fixed early on, a function of genes and parenting, and that other than medication, there’s not much that teachers and professionals can do to affect children’s impulsive behavior. In fact, though, there is growing evidence that the opposite is true, that executive-function skills are relatively malleable — quite possibly more malleable than I.Q., which is notoriously hard to increase over a sustained period. In laboratory studies, research psychologists have found that with executive function, practice helps; when children or adults repeatedly perform basic exercises in cognitive self-regulation, they get better at it. But when researchers try to take those experiments out of the lab and into the classroom, their success rate is much lower.
Tough goes on to describe a program being developed in some pre-schools that immerses kids in serious make-believe play activities to keep their attention focused and motivate engagement. It's an interesting idea, but you have to wonder if just getting kids to play games like chess could be as effective and readily available as a curricular addition.

Part of the recent interest in self-control stems from the rediscovery of Walter Mischel's famous "Marshmallow Test" (which is both documented and re-enacted on YouTube), discussed by Jonah Lehrer in his excellent article "Don't: The Secret to Self-Control" (The New Yorker, May 18, 2009). In this classic experiment, Mischel and his associates presented a series of individual pre-schoolers with a single marshmallow on a plate. Researchers then said they were going to leave the room briefly in order to get an entire plateful of marshmallows, which the children could have if they could avoid eating the first marshmallow until the researchers returned. As you might predict, most kids ate the marshmallow as soon as they were left alone, and quite a few ate it before the researcher even left the room. But what Mischel found is that some were able to distract themselves from eating it and succeed in delaying gratification. Later, and almost by accident, he discovered that the kids who could delay gratification were much more successful in school, and still later (as Lehrer documents) more successful in life. After all, if you can delay gratification (or learn to delay it), then you can accomplish a lot of things. Many studies have followed Mischel's and demonstrated just that.

Oh, The Temptation from Steve V on Vimeo.

The critical question with all issues of chess and self-control is whether or not self-control can be taught. And if it can be taught, can chess teach it? After all, you have to ask whether chess teaches self-control or whether kids with good self-control are able to succeed at chess and therefore stay involved with a chess curriculum. I certainly believe that chess teaches self-control, but it would be nice to have proof. It would also be useful to have ideas on the specific type of chess activities or chess instruction that will encourage self-control most of all. After all, my own experience of teaching chess to young kids is that it often resembles barely controlled chaos. But if you are going to have a chess program to encourage self-control, then maybe you need to emphasize certain aspects of the game and have policies that require self-control in the classroom.

In my initial research, I see promising signs. At the very least, many seem to agree that chess can teach self-control even if they are not pointing to conclusive proof of the matter. The New Jersey Legislature passed a law in the 1990s that allowed chess to be taught as part of the second grade curriculum because, in part, "When youngsters play chess they must call upon higher-order thinking skills, analyze actions and consequences, and visualize future possibilities" (quoted in "The Role of Chess in Modern Education" by Marcel Milat) -- which are skills important to self-control. After all, if you can think ahead, you are likely to wait for the plateful of marshmallows rather than eating the one in front of you.

The Chess-Squared Program in Australia (see video above) is clearly having a positive impact on students, and there is some suggestion that this is because of the ways that chess impacts self-control and engagement. Math teacher Steve Carroll has written some excellent posts about this at his blog, where he points to the work of Fernando Moreno, whose book, Teaching Life Skills through Chess: a Guide for Educators and Counselors, suggests that self-regulation, concentration and foresight are among the skills that chess imparts:
It is widely claimed chess is a game that engenders and encourages positive cognitive and attitudinal traits, also known as the affective domain, in those who embrace it. The attitudinal traits it encourages are; impulse control, improved concentration, resilience, managing feelings and deferment of gratification.

The skills in the cognitive domain it develops, amongst others, are; self talk, problem solving, forward thinking, anticipating consequences, meta-cognition and reflectivity...

It has been suggested students aren’t encouraged to think ahead at school. When students play chess they are encouraged to set clearly defined goals for themselves and choose strategic methods to achieve the desired outcomes. They then evaluate and compare results with their objectives, and evaluate the outcomes in terms of the strategies they adopted.

Chess is a game of prediction, calculation and pattern recognition. Predicting consequences and pattern recognition are key elements of mathematics and chess. In chess games players have to visualize and predict consequences. This is an area schools seldom teach students how to improve in.
Other programs (such as Chess for Success or a program in Kansas City) make similar claims, and these all make intuitive sense. I'd just like some hard evidence.

I hope to explore this topic further and welcome input. I am interested because I have begun working on a program at Rutgers where I have developed courses in writing, math and chess for the young people, and I think self-control should be an important part of the curriculum. I have started research and will likely put together a bibliography in these pages. There appears to be a lot of good material coming out, especially from Alexey Root, whose books I have begun reading. Reader suggestions for further reading are most welcome.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Two Knights Modern, 5.e5 Ng4

The last game of the Efimenko - Short match in Mukachevo, Ukraine (which Short drew to win the match 3.5-2.5), featured the rather rare line against the Two Knights Modern or Scotch Gambit 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Nf6 5.e5 Ng4! You can find it annotated by GM Klaus Bischoff at ChessBase and by Dennis Monokroussos at his blog, and I imagine it will draw more commentators over the coming weeks. This line is much better than its reputation and I should really take a closer look at it in these pages.

After 5...Ng4 (which is a move I have studied from both sides of the board), White has a choice between recovering the pawn with 6.Qe2 Qe7 (which generally turns into a complicated ending after Black breaks with ...f6 or ...d6 and queens are eventually exchanged) or sacrificing it with 6.O-O. I prefer 6.O-O myself, but Black then has quite a few ideas, most of which are barely discussed by theory, including 6....Bc5 (transposing to a line from the Max Lange that is better than its reputation) and 6....Be7!? (with many possible continuations, including the shocking 7.Bf4 g5!? 8.Bg3 h5!?), but the most common move is 6...d6. White then must play 7.exd6 and now Black has a choice between recapturing with the Bishop or the Queen. Theory approves the Bishop recapture 7.exd6 Bxd6 8.Re1+ when it is generally thought Black must play 8...Kf8, but I recently lost a Garden State Chess League game against NM Peter Radomskyj when he played the surprisingly good 8....Be7!? and proceded to dismantle me in an equalish ending. Meanwhile, theory frowns on the Queen recapture with 7.exd6 Qxd6 because the Queen is exposed on that square. But Short played 7...Qxd6 anyway and was fine after 8.Na3 a6 9.h3 Nh6! followed by ...Nf5, demonstrating pretty conclusively that theory really knows nothing about this line. Food for thought, and one reason I am not playing the Urusov Gambit much these days....

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Chessmen from Nuts and Bolts

The Make Magazine weblog points us to Julia Suits's pictures of a set of chessmen she and her kids created from hardware store nuts and bolts (and black spray paint). Fun.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Asbury Park Chess Fest 2009

The Asbury Park Chess Fest 2009 is on Saturday, September 26th in Asbury Park’s Convention Hall (5th Street and Ocean Avenue) from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. I will be among those giving a simul, as I was last year. This will be the 10th anniversary of this excellent event that does a lot to promote chess to young people. You can register online. See the website for more details.

Kasparov Wins Big in Valencia

Garry Kasparov won the series of fast play games against his arch-rival Anatoly Karpov by a final score of 9-3, "exactly as their ratings predicted" according to ChessBase (which has a nicely illustrated report -- as does ChessVibes). Dennis Monokroussos has annotated all of the blitz games (which Kasparov won 6-2) as well as the two remaining rapid games from the first two days of the match (which Kasparov won 3-1). See my previous post for additional links.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

NJKOs Squeak Past New York to Claim Top Spot in US Chess League with Perfect 4-0

GM Boris Gulko, immediately following his win.

The New Jersey Knockouts last night became the only US Chess League team with a perfect 4-0 record after they beat perennial rival New York 2.5-1.5 thanks to a difficult win by GM Boris Gulko. All the games were very tense, and time pressure played a role on every board. But the games were among the most interesting and hard fought this year, and the match could easily have been a draw. I have analyzed the games and posted them below (as well as a PGN file for download).

GM Joel Benjamin's game against GM Georgi Kacheishvili featured a fascinating line of the Caro Kann that begins 1.e4 c6 2.Ne2, which was analyzed by Ruben Felgaer in Secrets of Opening Surprises #8. Though the game ended in a hard fought draw, it was certainly a good advertisement for the opening as Benjamin had several winning chances which he missed in time pressure.

One of the most balanced and hard fought games of the night was between 62-year-old GM Boris Gulko and 26-year-old GM Pascal Charbonneau. Gulko has been perfect in USCL action, with a 5-0 record in his two years of play, but Charbonneau was his toughest challenge yet. Though Gulko gained a slight edge out of the opening, Charbonneau battled back with a pawn sacrifice that gave his knights the chance to attack behind enemy lines, eventually winning back the material and gaining a dangerous outside passed pawn. Gulko found a fascinating resource, exploiting back rank mating threats to force Charbonneau to surrender a piece. But the young Canadian GM fought on, trying to take advantage of potential stalemate possibilities due to his hemmed in King. And he should have been able to force a draw late in the game, but he overlooked that last chance in time pressure (see diagram below).

Charbonneau - Gulko, USCL 2009
White to Play and Draw

Gulko was evidently very happy after the game, and it was a well-deserved win despite the drawing opportunity he had allowed.

It was great to see FM Mackenzie Molner back in action for New Jersey, since his games have always been the most tactically deep and exciting. Molner, who has had success in poker of late, is not afraid to take risks and to enter very complex positions, and his game against NM Matt Herman was no exception. Molner had the advantage throughout, but he only kept his attack going with some aggressive play late in the game that allowed him to get every piece into the action. Though he started out well ahead on the clock, he ended the game in time pressure and even missed a mate in three (with 27. Ng6+ fxg6 28. Qf6+ Ke8 29. Qf8#). But he eventually put the game away with a nice Queen sacrifice that forced a Rook-up ending.

Though it had its share of errors, I think that will be a candidate for Game of the Week.

Anna Matlin played bottom board against Kenilworth Chess Club Champion Yaacov Norowitz, who is certainly unbeatable at that position. Yaacov has been playing a lot of chess recently and his current rating is 2349 USCF, which is tremendously better than the 2212 rating he had last year (and which is used for determining team averages). That's not to mention his ICC blitz rating, which hovers well over 3000. His blitz experience alone gives him a tremendous advantage in USCL play, where the Game-90 with 30 second increment inevitably puts players in time pressure. Norowitz used his favorite anti-KID system (which he described in a lecture on the Stonewall Attack at the KCC), but he seemed to be playing the clock more than the board throughout his game with Matlin, risking his advantage in order to put the onus on her to come up with a plan when she was already far behind on the clock. That strategy worked perfectly, and Matlin missed a chance to complicate the game and instead allowed Norowitz to exchange into a winning endgame which he played perfectly to the finish.

Though it was the toughest match so far this year, and could easily have been a draw, it was also a great demonstration of New Jersey's strength and character under pressure. As the only team at 4-0 after four weeks of play, the NJ Knockouts are doing everything right to guarantee a spot in the playoffs and a chance to claim the championship title.

Related Links

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Kasparov - Karpov, Valencia

The rapid game rematch between World Chess Champions and long rivals Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov is underway in Valencia, Spain. ChessBase's "Karpov - Kasparov: Match starts in Valencia today" has good photos, but ChessVibes's "Kasparov Crushes Karpov" has even better ones. Hans Ree has the best commentary in his recent "Kasparov as Lion Tamer" (from his Dutch Treat column at ChessCafe), where he compares it to "a tennis match between Björn Borg and John McEnroe" which fans of a certain generation will watch "with great interest, hoping to see some fine shots, but mainly to evoke old and cherished memories."

The fans did get to see at least one fine shot so far, which came in the second game (see diagram below).

Kasparov - Karpov, Game 2 in Valencia
White to Play and Win

You can follow the games live and after at's Kasparov - Karpov Rapid Match page, TWIC, ICC (with membership or free trial), or the official site. Next games start at 1 pm ET on September 23. And visit The Chess Mind, where Dennis Monokroussos is annotating the games, with good notes on the first two. Karpov blundered to end the first game with 24.Ne6?! (better 24.b4! unclear) -- possibly losing on time as he did so. But Kasparov's fine shot in the second game was hard to see coming.

Good commentary at Mig's blog (of course), at Dylan Loeb MacClain's Gambit blog (plus NY Times coverage), and from Macauley Peterson's Blog. And take your pick from a Google News search. The match is definitely sparking interest around the globe.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Chasing Fischer's Father

In today's Los Angeles Times, Peter Nicholas writes about "Chasing the King of Chess" -- or, more precisely, about tracking down the truth about Fischer's biological father, who was not Hans-Gerhardt Fischer (the Christian listed on his birth certificate) but Paul Felix Nemenyi (who was Jewish).

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Four Knights Redux

Dennis Monokroussos annotates Bacrot - Sargissian, Antwerp Belgium 2009 from the ongoing Inventi Chess 2009 tournament. The game features the Four Knights Anti-Rubinstein line 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 Nd4 5.Bc4!? Nxf3+ (better perhaps 5...c6!) 6.gxf3!? I previously annotated the game Najer - Ippolito, World Open 2007 which featured the same idea. As Monokroussos points out, the Four Knights was used in three out of five of the tournament's first round games. Perhaps it is making a comeback?

Previous pieces on the Spanish Four Knights include A Spanish Four Knights (C48) Bibliography, Sutovsky's Anti-Rubinstein 5.O-O!, The Spanish Four Knights, Part Two, and Review of Dangerous Weapons 1.e4 e5.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Kenilworth Chess Club Calendar Update

The Kenilworth Chess Club's Calendar for the remainder of 2009 has been updated on our site and at the KCC Minutes blog. Here are the highlights:
  • September 24 - SY FISH MEMORIAL RATED TOURNAMENT, Rounds 1 and 2. USCF-rated, G/30, 3-SS, EF: TBD.
  • October 1 - SY FISH MEMORIAL RATED TOURNAMENT, Rounds 3 and 4. USCF-rated, G/30, 3-SS, EF: TBD.
  • October 8 - Garden State Chess League Match -- Karpovs vs. Korchnois
  • October 29 - Lecture by NM Scott Massey on "How to Improve" ($5 for anyone).
 See also "To an Adult Chessplayer Who Wants to Improve" on our site.
  • November 5 - Kenilworth Quads #2 -- 1st Round. USCF Rated, G/60, 3-RR, EF $10, Prizes $30 to 1st in each quad.
  • November 12 -Kenilworth Quads #2 -- Round 2, G/60
  • November 19 - Kenilworth Quads, Round 3, G/60
  • November 26 - Closed for Thanksgiving Holiday.
  • December 10 - Annual Business Meeting.
  • December 17 - Annual Holiday Party
  • December 24 - Closed for Christmas Eve
  • December 31 -- New Year's Eve, club will be open only until 11:00 pm. Remember: no alcohol is allowed at the club.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Two Knights Defense, Fritz-Ulvestad Variation

Dennis Monokroussos has annotated the game Charbonneau - Schneider, USCL 2009 (Round 3) which featured the Fritz-Ulvestad Variation of the Two Knights Defense (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 b5 6.Bf1 Nd4 7.c3 Nxd5), with the continuation 8.cxd4!? (sidestepping the famous Estrin - Berliner game with 8.Ne4). I was thinking the Fritz/Ulvestad was due for a revival, especially after Hikaru Nakamura beat Josh Friedel's more standard gambit 5....Na5 to win the 2009 US Championship using Gunsberg's 6.Bb5+ c6 7.dxc6 bxc6 8.Bd3!? If the Fritz/Ulvestad bites the dust, what will Two Knights Defense players fall back on? This is still a very much contested territory, but White has been winning of late. For those who want to learn more about the Fritz/Ulvestad lines, some resources:

NJKOs Crush Cobras to Climb to 3-0

The New Jersey Knockouts beat the Carolina Cobras 3-1 last night in US Chess League action, moving to 3-0 for the season and topping their division. The only other team in the league that might get to 3-0 is the Miami Sharks, who play Thursday. You can read an excellent summary of the match by their new team blogger Joseph Criscuolo in a piece colorfully titled "New Jersey Kicks Carolina's Asp!"

As predicted, early wins were turned in by GM Boris Gulko and IM Dean Ippolito, playing boards 2 and 3; but the games were no romps in the park and definitely kept fans on the edge of their seats right to the end.

Gulko's game was really spectacular and definitely deserves to be considered for Game of the Week. Playing a Reversed Dragon variation, Gulko seized the initiative on the queenside with a GM Exchange sac and grabbed a pawn at b7 with his Queen. His opponent, Oleg Zaikov, then went into a long think and decided to win Gulko's queen with the tempting 30...Rb8 (better was the safe 30...Ra7), after which the GM had to sac the Queen for Bishop and Rook. However, this turned out to be a mistake by Zaikov, as Gulko's two Bishops swept the board and eventually gave him a decisive kingside attack which forced mate or the win of Black's Queen.

Dean Ippolito's victory over FM Ron Simpson seemed more assured early on when he won a pawn and then the Exchange after some questionable opening play by Simpson in an unusual line of the popular Nimzovich Variation of the Petroff. However, Simpson managed to get some interesting counterplay using his two Bishops and passed pawns on the queenside -- that is, until he blundered into a double pin on his Bishop at d4 and pawn at b4 which allowed Ippolito the surprising winning resource 32...c5! with decisive material gain.

On bottom board, young Arthur Shen turned in a very solid performance right up until move 35, when he blundered away his queen and the game in a curious case of "chess blindness."

I hope to take a closer look at Benjamin's game later in the week, since it features a line of the King's Indian that I happen to be studying at the moment. Ironically, the line was a favorite of the late Eduard Gufeld, about whom Benjamin has some choice words in his book American Grandmaster.

This is a great start to the season. Let's hope there will be lots to blog about right through the playoffs.

Monday, September 14, 2009

NJKO vs. Carolina Cobras Preview

The 2-0 NJ Knockouts take on the 0-2 Carolina Cobras in US Chess League action tonight at 7:00 p.m. on ICC. I have not been one for predictions in this blog. For a prediction, see the NJKO's team blog. But with three powerful players on the top three boards, I think the Jersey boys are leaving little to chance.

On second board, Boris Gulko was incredibly strong last year, intimidating his opponents into complete submission by move 20. It's hard to believe that this year will be any different and I look forward to another great lesson from the GM. And New Jersey Champ Ippolito playing third board? Fuhgeddaboudit. The only games with any surprise value are on first and fourth boards.

IM Jonathan Schroer and GM Joel Benjamin on top board are near contemporaries but have not played each other often. I only found two games in the databases, both won by Benjamin as white. Schroer has been very solid in the USCL on second board in previous years, but with Milman defecting to Queens he has one draw and one loss so far playing GMs. I expect a solid choice as White, so likely a Queen's Indian, especially since that's part of Schroer's repertoire and Benjamin had some interesting games with that opening in recent tournaments (against Kamsky, Peng, and Akobian). I think Benjamin should go more Bogo-Indian against Schroer, as in the game Schroer - Thinnsen, Los Angeles 1992. If he plays it safe, the question will be whether not Benjamin can grind out the win. Hopefully we will have two points on Board 2 and 3 before he has to worry about that and can settle for the draw. The only wild card factor is if he gets a speculative attack going as in his past games with the Queen's Indian. Then it could get interesting.

Rising expert Arthur Shen against NM Craig Jones on board four will also be interesting since the younger Shen is a relative unknown. His older brother Victor drew Jones last year in USCL action, and Arthur will be playing White. I'd love to see him pull out a draw.

You can bet I will be watching.

Friday, September 11, 2009

LEGO Star Wars Chess

Those three terms ("LEGO," "Star Wars," and "Chess"), strung together, form a powerful phrase for many a young boy. In fact, my six-year-old son started putting those three terms together about a year ago, and over the summer he worked on a little project of his own that he called by that very phrase. Then he realized he did not have nearly enough pieces to finish it, and that dad was not about to run out to the toy store and buy him the rest (especially after he had dismantled several expensive models that we spent hours working on in order to start his project). When he sees this picture, which I have not yet shown him, he is going to go through an emotional roller coaster. First he is going to be disappointed that someone beat him to the punch, then he is going to get excited about the prospect of buying it, and then he is going to be disappointed again to learn it is not yet for sale (thank God).

The set was designed by Brandon Griffith, who has lots more pictures of it at his Flickr page. According to the page, "This is a Star Wars: A New Hope Lego Chess set. It was built in April and May of 2009 and debuted at Star Wars Days at Legoland California." Pretty cool.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tal Playing Blindfold on YouTube

Special thanks to ChessBase (see "A genial genius at work – Tal blindfold simul in video" by Steve Giddins) for pointing us to and translating a surprising old Soviet video showing Mikhail Tal giving a blindfold simul exhibition. I say "surprising" because I had always thought (like many) that "In the former Soviet Union simultaneous blindfold chess exhibitions were banned, for they were decreed bad for your health!"

There seems to be a sudden interest in blindfold chess around the internet, perhaps following the success of the book Blindfold Chess: History, Psychology, Techniques, Champions, World Records and Important Games by Eliot Hearst and John Knott, which won the Fred Cramer Award for best book of 2009. Readers of "A History of the Kenilworth Chess Club" may recall that NM Scott Massey used to give exhibits at our club. Maybe it is time to revive the practice?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

NJKOs Beat Philly to Open Season 2-0

Swaminathan - Matlin
Black to Play and Win

Friedman - Bartell
Black to Play and Win

The New Jersey Knockouts racked up their second match victory in a row last night by beating the Philadelphia Inventors, 2.5-1.5. I have analyzed the games and posted them online (also see PGN file.)

All of the games were close and came down to some critical endgames, including two King and Pawn endings (see diagrams above). GM Joel Benjamin also played a nice minor piece ending to finish the night off and secure the win for Jersey. The big surprise of the night was Anna Matlin on bottom board who got the job done and won a critical game.

Related Links

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Ippolito and Bartell Win NJ Championship

IM Dean Ippolito and FM Tommy Bartell shared first place and champion honors yesterday at the New Jersey State Chess Championship in Somerset. (Update: According to Ken Thomas, though his USCF membership still says "NJ" Bartell now officially resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, therefore only Ippolito owns this year's title). Also tied for first was GM Michael Rohde of New York, who entered on the two-day schedule. The tournament was directed by Ken Thomas and Aaron Kiedes. It was a great event with lots of star power, not least because of so many entries from former state champions (who were able to enter the tournament for only $1 this year). Update: Final standings are now available online from the New Jersey State Chess Federation website and crosstable at the USCF.

Kenilworth Chess Club regular and past champion Steve Stoyko shared a nice game with me from Round 5 against former NJ champ Steve Pozarek (whom I first met at his peak in the early 80s when we all played regularly at the Westfield Chess Club). The game offers a nice example of the attacking potential of the Colle-Zukertort and is likely to appeal to fans of the "Zuke 'em" approach.

Related Links

Monday, September 07, 2009

Garry Kasparov Training Magnus Carlsen

News broke today that former World Champion Garry Kasparov, widely seen as the greatest chess player in history, has been training 18-year-old Magnus Carlsen, currently ranked #4 in the world and one of the most likely contenders for the world title. ChessBase quotes Espen Agdestein, who sums it up nicely: "This is the king training his crown prince." Here are some links, and I will add to them as more stories emerge.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

NJ State Chess Championship, Round One

I visited the New Jersey State Chess Championship yesterday, as Round One began. I wish I could return today to see who will be joining the field on the two-day schedule. Already it is looking like a very competitive event, with seven former state champions already playing and a number of other talented players.

dean ippolito nj championshipDean Ippolito on top board.

I was the first to tell IM Dean Ippolito that he had won USCL Game of the Week for his patient and flawless victory over GM Charbonneau, which concluded with a very instructive and rare K+2N vs. K+P ending. Dean says he wasn't thinking about "winning chances" as he played, he just focused on keeping up the pressure and saw no reason to settle for a draw.

sandi hutamaSandi Hutama, US Amateur Champion.

The list of New Jersey chess luminaries was too long to name, but included recent Cadet Champ Andrew Ng and US Amateur Champ Sandi Hutama (see above).

Among those I had gone to see was Max Zavanelli, who has only recently returned to over-the-board play. A correspondence Senior IM, Zavanelli is ranked among the top 20 US correspondence players by the US ICCF and has long served the ICCF in various capacities, including as president. He is also a major contributor to the theory of the Max Lange Attack and Urusov Gambit.

max zavanelli nj open 2009Max Zavanelli wearing his lucky hat.

I reminded Max how, when I had contacted him only a few years ago about the Urusov, he confessed that he had never heard it called by that name. He just thought of it as "an old Koltanowski line." Of course, it should probably be called the Zavanelli, since his games are among the most important in practically every line. I hope we will have a chance to continue our conversation about the theory of the line via email.

As always, Steve Stoyko was playing and ready to give his best efforts. Steve has the advantage of living very close to the event, so he can go home and relax between rounds. Let's hope that helps him through the long three day schedule.

steve stoyko nj championshipSteve Stoyko before Round One.

I also spoke with ace blogger Jim West, who got to play his favorite Philidor Counter-Gambit in the first round.

jim westJim West, ubiquitous blogger / player.

Jim says that he doesn't know any more if he blogs about playing chess or plays chess in order to blog. After I took his picture, he pulled out a camera and took mine -- posted on his blog, along with his second round victory in the Exchange Caro-Kann.

As always, Fred Wilson was at the tournament with his great collection of books, clocks, sets, and related items (including a mint condition copy of the classic game Foil.)

fred wilson nj championshipFred Wilson shows off his books.

I picked up a copy of Kasparov against the World, which recounts the former champ's experience ten years ago this summer playing against the world on the internet. As someone who followed the game closely at the time (though, like most, never voted on a move), I have been enjoying reliving that fascinating game and learning just how much effort it took on his part to win it. As always, Fred will be at the tournament for the duration, so there is still time to stop by and check out what he has.

nj open 2009 round one pairingsNo easy pairings in round one.

I will be posting links and updates in the next few days. And maybe I'll be able to get back to the event on Monday.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

NJKOs Shock NY Knights

Herman - Shen
Black to play and win

In the opening round of 2009 US Chess League action, the New Jersey Knockouts stunned the New York Knights, winning 2.5-1.5 despite being heavy ratings underdogs. I have analyzed the games and posted them online.

Recent US Cadet runner-up Victor Shen won a great game against USCL veteran Matthew Herman (see diagram above for the winning stroke). The other crucial victory was turned in by IM Dean Ippolito over GM Pascal Charbonneau in a brilliant positional squeeze that ended in a perfectly executed K+2N vs K+P ending. The diagram below is one worth playing against your computer to see if you can force mate as flawlessly as Ippolito did. (Update: After I posted this, the news came that Ippolito received his first "Game of the Week" award for this victory).

Ippolito - Charbonneau
A great position for computer practice.

The rest of the games went as predicted, with bullet-proof GM Joel Benjamin drawing his match and Arthur Shen (Victor's younger brother) losing to the much more experienced Kenilworth Chess Club Champion Yaacov Norowitz (playing for New York).

This is a great start to the season, especially since New York has spoiled the Knockout's playoff chances two years in a row. Let's hope the third year is the charm.

And don't forget: come out and see the best New Jersey players in action (including Ippolito, the Shen brothers, and recent Cadet champ Andrew Ng) at the New Jersey State Championship this weekend.

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