Sunday, June 26, 2011

Too Many Good Choices

Black to play: what are the best options?
I have annotated the game Tomkovich - Goeller, KCC Summer Tournament 2011, which illustrates the problem of having too many good choices, especially at Game-60 with no time delay.  In the diagrammed position above, it is Black to play after 7.c4?  What are the best options?  And how do you decide which to choose?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Peter Falk (1927 - 2011), Chess Fan

Peter Falk kibitzes with GM Yasser Seirawan
Peter Falk, best known for playing the disheveled Los Angeles detective "Columbo" on television, and less well known for playing chess, has died.  He was 83.  My mother will be very sad, as she loved Columbo.  Edward Winter has posted several pictures of Falk as a chess spectator (including the one above with a young Yasser Seirwan).  Obituaries are widely available, including in the New York Times.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Chess and Expert Perception

Sanjoy Mahajan's "What Chess Tells Us about the Value of Perception" at the ever-interesting Freakonomics blog discusses how GM chess intuition offers insight into the way truly gifted performers are able to grasp their subjects.  His main reference is a study of Kasparov's ability in simultaneous play, where researchers discovered surprisingly little loss of playing strength even at the high speeds of simul play: 

At 20 seconds per move, Kasparov mostly used his perception and judgment of chess positions rather than his ability to calculate chess variations (the “I take, he takes, I take, etc.” kind of thinking). Thus, simultaneous chess is a real-life laboratory for measuring the value of perception. How well did Kasparov play, in comparison to his normal strength when playing at the usual tournament rate of 3 minutes per move? His normal strength at the time was 2750 on the Elo scale of chess skill. (To give a feel for the Elo scale, a beginner would be rated about 1000, an average tournament player is rated about 1600, a master is rated at 2200 or above, and a grandmaster is usually above 2400.)
The amazing result: At the rapid “simul” pace, Kasparov performed at a rating of 2650: higher than all but half a dozen players in the world! In other words, most of his world-class expertise comes from how he sees and looks at the chess board, not from his calculation ability.
In many ways this explains the decision-making power of all experts and managers, who have a broad range of intuitive knowledge to draw upon to help them quickly analyze a situation and decide. 

Two Rook Sacs in the Caro Kann

White to play.
White to play.
I have annotated Two Rook Sacs in the Caro-Kann, where I examine two recent games I played in a series of online blitz at (my new favorite online play site).  I actually lost the majority of games to this opponent, but these two stood out because they were both well played and featured completely sound rook sacrifices against the Caro Kann.  In the first, I played the Two Knights Variation and stumbled into a very interesting rook sac idea (which I hope to have a chance to try again), and in the second I got a chance to use my knowledge of the Caveman Caro-Kann.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Chekhover Sicilian at the Summer Tourney

Chekhover Sicilian, White to play.
I stopped by the Kenilworth Chess Club on Thursday to enter the Summer Tournament.  I must say that Greg Tomkovich has done a wonderful job this year organizing the event, especially with the idea of having an under-1200 section, which has attracted a wider range of players to the club than we usually see, including many youngsters.  There were about 30 people in attendance, almost all participating in the tournament.  That's a far cry from the days long ago when Greg used to be the only person in attendance at the club during the slow summer months.  The crowd was a little too large, especially since we did not have our usual second room available due to a Recreation Department meeting there.  I probably benefitted from the attendance and the crowded conditions, as my opponent for the night, FM Steve Stoyko, seems to have been distracted by spectators at critical junctures in our game.  Steve said he's not sure he will play again, but with some of his students participating I doubt he will stick to his conviction.  After all, it is an unrated event and he has already paid his five dollars.

I have annotated the game Goeller - Stoyko, Kenilworth CC Summer Tournament 2011 not because I think it's one of my better games but because I think it exemplifies the problems faced by masters trying to win against weaker opposition from a very equal position.  I discussed a similar issue in my article "Winning with a Forced Draw in the Petroff," where Mangion played for a forced draw in the Petroff and NM Kernighan tried to escape the draw at his peril.  

In my game with FM Stoyko, we reached a familiar position from the Chekhover Variation of the Sicilian Defense (see above) which I had examined in "Notes on the Chekhover Sicilian."  In that article I had annotated a game of mine where I followed Vasiukov and played 11.Kb1 from the diagram.  As I indicate in my notes, Black has lots of ideas for counterplay, for example with 11...h6 12.Bh4 Qa5! (which seems clearer than Kasparov's 12...Re8).  Rather flummoxed to find a better continuation here over the board, I decided to take the coward's way out and pursue a draw with a line that theory frowns upon: 11.Bxf6?! Bxf6 12.Qxd6 and White temporarily wins a pawn.  Of course, Black gets lots of counterplay; however, it seemed to me that the game would simplify to a position I likely could hold by giving back the pawn.  That's more or less what happened, except Stoyko, not satisfied with a draw against me, over-reached.  And so I won my first game of the event, and my first game ever against Steve.

After the game Steve showed me that the new way of playing this line for White, developed by Judit Polgar, is to keep the Rook at h1.  So instead of playing 10.Rhe1 O-O reaching the diagrammed position, White plays 10.Qd3 with the idea of Nd4 and f4-f5.  Play typically goes 10.Qd3 O-O 11.Nd4 and now with the Rook on h1 White can meet a Black h6 with h4! inviting him to open the h-file.  I vaguely remembered seeing a video that laid out this idea and it is included below.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Chess Mates 1st Anniversary Tournament

Chess Mates 1st Anniversary Tournament is being held this coming Sunday.  I urge all area chess players to come out to support the tournament and those involved.  Here is the full information:
Sunday, June 19, 2011
  • G/45 Open   Grand Prix Points: 10   
  • 4-SS, Rds.: 12:30, 2:15, 4:00, 5:45 p.m.
  •  EF: $50, members $40. GMs Free - $50 deducted from prizes.
  • Guaranteed Prizes: 1st -$350, 2nd - $200.  Top U2400, U2200, U2000- $100.
  • Limit 2 byes, commit by 2:00 p.m.  Re-entry $25, counts half, no re-entry after 2nd round.
Chess Mates Chess Club is located at 1531 Irving Street, Rahway, N.J. 07065.  For more information, please visit their web site, email them, or call them at 732-499-0118.  See the official USCF TLA.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

2011 KCC Summer Tourney Opens Tonight

The Kenilworth Chess Club's fun, friendly, yet highly competitive Summer Tournament starts tomorrow night at 9:15 p.m. This year we will have 2 sections: Open and U1200.  Here are the rules :

  • Entry Fee is $5.00.
  • The tournament will run from June 9th through August 25th.
  • The event is not rated.
  • The time control is G/60.
  • G/55+5 (delay or increment) may be used if there is mutual agreement between paired players.
  • You may play anyone in your section. The first time you play an opponent, the lower rated player has white, in subsequent games against the same opponent you alternate colors.
  • You may not play the same opponent more than four times in the tournament.
  • You get one point for a win, one half point for a draw, and zero for a loss.
  • You may play as many or as few games as you like, but no more than two in one night. The more you play the more points you can win.
  • All games are to be played at the Kenilworth Chess Club during normal operating hours.
  • The winner is the person who has the most points at the end of the tournament.
  • The prizes are 60% for first place, 30% for second, and 10% for third.
  • Entries are accepted throughout the summer.

Past winners of this popular, unrated event include NM Scott Massey (2004), NM Mark Kernighan (2005), Greg Tomkovich (2006), John Moldovan (2008), Ian Mangion (2009) and Ari Minkov (2007, 2010).

Please remember that the Kenilworth CC will not have access to the Community Center until 9:15 p.m. tonight because a CPR class is being taught there.

Rounds 2-12 will begin at our usual starting time of 8:00 p.m.

I am going to try to participate this year, which I have not done since 2008 I think.  I am sure I will not attend enough to have a shot at winning, but it is a fun event and a great tradition that has helped to sustain the club through the slow summer months (when so many players go on vacation).  Here are some reflections from past tournaments in which I participated:

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Albin Revisited

Woolverton - Pritchard
Black to play.
I have annotated the game Woolverton - Pritchard, London 1959, which is exactly the type of game likely  to inspire people to try the Albin Counter-Gambit -- besides being a nice early example of my favorite 5...Nge7 variation (a line that is nicely covered in Nigel Davies's Gambiteer II).  

Monday, June 06, 2011

Shirov Goes Caveman vs Anand

Michelangelooo tells me there is now no doubt about who is the highest rated player to have tried the Caveman Caro-Kann: it is Alexei Shirov, who trotted out the once surprising rook sac yesterday in his match against World Champion Vishy Anand in Leon, Spain.  The game has been widely annotated on the web and shows that Anand had little trouble equalizing by declining White's sacrifice and offering an exchange of queens (following the method shown by Capablanca).  Shirov hardly did the opening justice (8.Qh3! was much better), but Anand played a very good game and won a convincing victory.