Monday, May 28, 2012

Lim-sanity at the Amateur

Michael Lim and I drew our game in the last round of the U.S. Amateur Chess Championship, giving him clear first place, and me second place on tie-breaks (with 2009 champ Sandi Hutama, who took third).  The under-1800 winner was Steve Stoyko's student Fred Ivens, who had a perfect 6-0 score.  More on Fred and his participation in Steve's "game of the week" study sessions in a future post.  It was definitely a very enjoyable tournament, and I hope to play again in the future.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

U.S. Amateur Chess Championship

Black to play.

I am playing in the 68th Annual U.S. Amateur Chess Championship in Somerset this Memorial Day weekend.  It has been a very nice, quiet tournament so far, but I expect today it will get a bit busier as the two-day participants arrive.  I am playing well so far, beating two A-players in some overwhelming performances and am seated at Board 2.  But the real tests of any tournament come late on Day 2 and Day 3, when you are tired and just want to go home. Here was my second round game against a 1900 player (you can get the PGN here):

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Review of Isolani Strategy

Isolani Strategy greatly improves
 over its predecessor, Isolated Pawn.
My review of Isolani Strategy is posted today at ChessCafe.  Isolani Strategy has proven a very useful book for my own studies of the isolani pawn structure and I recommend it to others as a useful training manual, as the themes and ideas it illustrates occur often in practical play.  In my review, I discuss how it is a much revised and improved version of Isolated Pawn, which had a lot of problems, especially in its translation.    

Monday, May 21, 2012

Kavalek on U.S. Championship

Nakamura - Robson, US Championship 2012
White to play and win.

In "U.S. Chess Champ Hikaru Nakamura: I'll Have Another" at the Huffington Post, GM Lubomir Kavalek discusses the best games from the recently completed U.S. Championship, including the problem-like conclusion to Nakamura - Robson (see diagram).

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Nakamura Pulls Out Another 19th Century Opening to Win U.S. Chess Championship

GM Hikaru Nakamura opened the tournament with an Evans Gambit vs. GM Robert Hess and ended it with a Labourdonais-McDonnell Attack vs. GM Yasser Seirawan to win his third U.S. Chess Championship.  It seems Nakamura learned to take the opening seriously when Stripunsky used it against him in the 2010 championship tournament.  GM Igor Glek wrote an article about this old system in S.O.S. #8, which inspired me to take it up and write a couple articles about it myself, starting with "Reviving a Fascinating Anti-French."  I suspect Naka's game against Seirawan may soon be an "S.O.S. game of the month," which means a few hundred dollars to add to his $40K for winning the championship.  Ironically, he last won the U.S. Championship using a different S.O.S. suggestion in his final round victory over Josh Friedel.

In the U.S. Women's event, Krush took the tie-breaker over Zatonskih.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Irving Ellner Memorial, Round 5

Goeller - Sherer, Irving Ellner Memorial 2012
White to play after 16...Nf8.

In the fifth round of the Irving Ellner Memorial at the Kenilworth Chess Club, I played young Max Sherer, against whom I had prepared to play into the Wade Variation of the Advance French.  I have annotated the game online.  I really enjoyed the position I got out of the opening, and I may finally have found the ideal anti-French weapon in the Advance.  However, I still struggled to stay focused on the game and playing for a win.  The player I wrote about in "My Unsporting Attitude Problem" again created a scene in the tournament hall that encouraged me to accept a draw in what was definitely a position worth playing out.  Clearly I have to work on my attitude and focus before the U.S. Amateur Championship later this month.

Monday, May 14, 2012

U.S. Chess Championship Update

The U.S. Chess Championship at the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center has not disappointed, especially with Hikaru Nakamura pulling out all stops in some spectacular games.  The media coverage has also been impressive -- including video interviews with the players and extensive bios.  With live coverage from various sources, and videos following, I am practically experiencing chess media overload these days -- especially with the World Championship taking place at the same time.

U.S. Women's Chess Championship Interviews

For those following the U.S. Women's Chess Championship at the fabulous St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center, there are a series of interviews with the players available at YouTube.  For those who want to learn more, I recommend the excellent player bios.  They are really going all out this year in the media coverage.

The Closed Sicilian

There is an excellent series on "The Basic Principles of the Closed Sicilian" (1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 followed by 3.g3) by Hungarian IM Attila Turzo at  Probably for a limited time only, you can find this series at YouTube (see above).  Turzo recommends the system where you play Be3 followed typically by Qd2 and h2-h4-h5.  It is a very straightforward method of play and easy to learn.  His entire repertoire is quite well thought out.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

French Defense, Nimzovich Gambit

The Nimzovich Gambit in the French Defense
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.Nf3 cxd4 5.Bd3 Nc6 6.O-O
An interesting Nimzovich Gambit in the French Defense (PGN) was contested during the 4th round of the Irving Ellner Memorial at the Kenilworth Chess Club on Thursday night.  As I recently completed a casual correspondence game playing Black in this variation, I thought I would annotate this game and write up my analysis of the line.  Meanwhile, I won my own 4th round game against NM Mark Kernighan (which I have annotated), which came down to the final seconds, as always in Mark's games.  There are two rounds to go in the tournament, and I now have a good chance of winning the whole thing.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Kavalek on "Women in Chess"

Gaprindashvili - Blagidze, Georgia 1963
White to play.
Lubomir Kavalek's "Women in Chess: A Few Tales" at Huffington Post is worth a look, if only to see a fascinating win by Nona Gaprindashvili (see diagram above), featured here late last year for her "epic battles."

Friday, May 04, 2012

Anteater and Other Instructional Games

The game of “Anteater” is one I have used for a couple of years in teaching chess.  I wanted to post it online after seeing a similar game in a chess instruction book.  Additional fun games for teaching chess to groups of young people can be found at my blog.  These include "Magnetic Sumo Kings" and "Pawn Battle: Rules and Strategies."  I have also written a multi-part series on teaching chess to kids: see parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, along with "Mating Patterns: Bishop and Rook" and "More Bishop and Rook Mates." 

The game of “Anteater” pits the Queen against eight pawns plus two moves (or “tempi,” meaning units of time).  This game has a lot to teach us about the power of the Queen, the relative value of the pieces, and the trade-off between time and material.  

The set-up for the board is shown below:

  1. The pawns and the Queen move as in regular chess and begin on their normal starting squares.
  2. Black moves first and is given TWO moves to begin the game. After that, players take turns and make one move each turn.  (If you find that the anteater Queen keeps winning, experiment with giving Black THREE moves to start, which might actually be a winning advantage with best play by Black).
  3. If the Queen (the anteater) gobbles up all of the pawns, then White wins.
  4. If any one of the pawns (the ants) makes it safely to the other side of the board, without being captured, it becomes an anteater and Black wins.


  1. The ants need to work together and support each other, forming “pawn chains,” in order to help make it to the other side.
  2. Usually some ants need to be sacrificed to the anteater in order for a small team to advance quickly.
  3. The anteater can attack two pawns at a time in order to win one by force. We call this tactic a “fork,” since it’s “a two-pronged attack.”
  4. In the end, zugzwang (forcing the opponent to make a bad move) is a key tactic.