Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Chess Players (1977)

I saw that The Chess Players (1977) was reviewed at The Streatham & Brixton Chess Blog, so I thought I'd mention it is available at Amazon on DVD or via instant video, where it can be rented for as cheaply as $2.99.  I watched it on my Kindle Fire over the summer.  It is a very interesting film by Indian director Satyajit Ray, in Urdu and English, with subtitles as necessary.  It portrays an important mid-19th century turning point toward British colonial rule, as the East Indian Company decided to exploit the decadence and weakness of the Indian elite (depicted as feasting, reciting poetry, smoking hookahs and, of course, playing chess) to begin installing their own government by invading an important province.  This larger political story is paralleled with the story of two elite men addicted to playing chess, to the point where they ignore the proper management of their households in order to escape into their game.  It's a fascinating commentary on the dangers of chess, and one that will definitely make you think a bit about why you spend so much time playing the game yourself...  Highly recommended.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Steve Ferrero, 1962-2013

Long time Atlantic Chess News editor, chess expert, and very active New Jersey chess player Steve Ferrero passed away suddenly on Tuesday of an apparent heart attack.  See posts by The Chess Coroner and Jim West for details.  The wake will be at the Vainieri Funeral Home on Friday, September 20th, from 2 – 4 and 7 – 9 p.m.  Prayers and funeral services will be held Saturday, September 21st, beginning at 9 a.m. at Vainieri’s:

Vainieri Funeral Home
5923 Kennedy Boulevard
North Bergen, NJ 07047
You can find some of Steve's games online at Chess-DBChess Tempo, and 365 chess.

UPDATE: Obituaries at USCF and The Jersey Journal.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The 67th Annual New Jersey Open

The Morristown Hyatt
The 67th Annual New Jersey Open chess championship will be played this weekend, from Saturday through Labor Day.  It is a wonderful "heritage" event that promises to be even more special this year due to its move to historic Morristown.  Located at the recently renovated and luxurious Morristown Hyatt, the tournament offers a wonderful location for players -- and for their companions as well, if they bring any.  I have often heard chessplayers complain that most tournaments are run like weekend gambling junkets rather than as potential tourism opportunities.  With the move to Morristown, the organizers offer you a real family vacation with many potential tourist destinations (see the excellent Morris County Visitor's Guide for details).  And, for the serious chessplayers and book lovers, Fred Wilson will be there with a great collection of books.  

Chess tables on The Green
And "chess tourists"" can take time to visit nearby Lake Hopatcong, site of the famous tournaments of 1923 and 1926, about which I have written a number of articles.

Players at Lake Hopatcong 1926 (clockwise): Capablanca boating with his family, Marshall at the wheel, Kupchick testing the summer fruit with the hotel staff, Ed. Lasker on the diving board, and Maroczy fiddling his violin.

If you have not entered already, best to register and pay at the site.  Here are the tournament details:

67th Annual New Jersey Open Championship
Headquarters Plaza Hyatt, 3 Headquarters Plaza, Morristown, NJ (973) 898-9100
In 4 sections, Open Section, Gold U1900, Silver U1600 and Booster U1300. 6SS Time Control: 40/2, SD/1.  With 3 day and 2 day schedules.  Prizes: Open:$500-$400-$300-$200-$100, Top Expert & A:  $100 and trophy.  Trophy to NJ Champion.  Gold Section $500-$300-$100.  Top B: $100 and trophy.  Prizes for Open and Gold sections guaranteed.  Silver U1600: $500-$300-$100. Top D: $100 and trophy.  Booster U1300: $500-$300-$100.  Top E & F $100 & trophy.  Prizes for Silver & Booster based on 35 entries in each section.  All sections get these trophies: Top 3, Top Senior over age 55, Top Under age 16, Top Under Age 13.  Unrated may win first place in Open section only.  EF Early $68 if paid by 8/27.  EF onsite is $80.  $50 for re-entry.  3 day reg at hotel: 9:00am-11:00am 8/31/2013.  2 Day reg at hotel: Sunday, 9/1/2013 9-10am.  Rounds: 3 day Saturday 12:00 & 6:30pm, Sunday 11am & 6pm, Monday 9am & 3:30pm.  Rounds 2 day:1-2-3(G/60) Sunday 10:30am & ASAP.  3 Day and 2 Day schedules merge in round 4.  Entries to Noreen Davisson, 6 Red Barn Lane, Randolph, NJ 07869.  Email:

Friday, June 14, 2013

KCC Summer Tourney, Round One

White to play and win.
It was a dark and very stormy night... and so only nine players signed up on the first day of the annual Kenilworth Chess Club Summer Tournament.  However, there is still plenty of time to join, and until we break 20 there will be open enrollment.  I played a quick game with Greg Tomkovich, who usually beats me on the clock with his speedy play.  I kept good pace with him, but in doing so ended up flirting too much with danger and granted him a nice shot (see diagram above and notes below).  Fortunately, still playing quickly, he missed it...  A fun game.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

KCC Summer Tournament Starts Thursday

The Kenilworth Chess Club's annual Summer Tournament starts tomorrow.  It is definitely one of the most fun events in the calendar, with lots of opportunities to meet and play the other members of the club.  The tournament was a big success last year with 22 participants.  I expect to play.  Here are the details:

  • Not rated
  • Entry Fee is $5.00.
  • The tournament will run from June 13 through August 29.
  • The time control is G/60. G/55;d5 is allowed if both players agree.
  • You may play anyone in the tournament. 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.

Friday, May 31, 2013

"The Machine" Coming to New York

Matt Charman's new play "The Machine" comes to New York's Park Avenue Armory, September 4-18, after its opening at the Manchester Festival on July 10th.  The play revisits the infamous 1997 Kasparov v. Deep Blue chess match (immortalized in the excellent documentary Game Over), which it depicts as a battle between the former world champion and IBM's Feng-Hsiung Hsu. The BBC's Tim Masters offers a useful preview in "The Machine: Stage Set for Kasparov v Deep Blue Chess Thriller."

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Norowitz Finishes in the Middle of the Field at the U.S. Chess Championship

IM-elect Yaacov Norowitz finished the U.S. Championship on Sunday with an even score of 4.5/9, placing him in the exact middle of the 24-man field.  Quite an accomplishment for his first U.S. Championship.  I have annotated his last two games of the tournament below, or you can download the PGN.  

GM Gata Kamsky won his tiebreak match with GM Alejandro Ramirez to take the Men's title, and IM Irina Krush took the Women's title by accepting a draw a pawn up in her last game.  There is good coverage at ChessBase with a report by FM Mike Klein, who also wrote articles at the USCF website on the Men's final and Women's final  Dana Mackenzie comments on the remarkable number of young players at the tournament in "Huge youth movement at the US Championship."

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Norowitz Batting .438 Heading into Final Round

Former Kenilworth Chess Club champion and IM-elect Yaacov Norowitz continued his solid play at the U.S. Chess Championship, drawing in the penultimate round against the young IM-elect Sam Sevian after holding a clear edge through much of the ending.  He stands at 3.5/8 going into the final round.  In Round 6, Yaacov had clear winning chances after gaining the Exchange against Varuzhan Akobian, but he had to settle for a draw after giving Black too much counter-play, which required him to give back the Exchange to gain a drawn Queen ending.  In Round 7, Yaacov got in trouble with his Larsen Caro-Kann (1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nf6 5. Nxf6 gxf6) against GM Sam Shankland.  That opening has accounted for both of his losses in the tournament.  Interestingly, he made no obvious errors after the opening.  So you have to wonder if he just needs a more solid main line as Black if he is going to succeed at this level.  I have annotated his games from Rounds 6 & 7 below, or you can download the PGN.

During the coverage today, we got a better view of just how Yaacov's "stickers" work (see photos below).  As discussed previously, the rules for observant Jews require no writing on the Sabbath, so the stickers (which Doc Lewis invented) are a rather original solution to the problem this presents.  I wonder if the late GM Sammy Reshevsky would have considered this possibility? Besides solving the problem faced by Orthodox Jews, the stickers might find other uses: Jen Shahade has suggested they would make for a fun way to teach youngsters how to record their games.

A close-up on Yaacov's stickers.

Yaacov's stickers to the left of him, scoresheet to the right.

In other news, GM Gata Kamsky only managed a draw against GM Timur Gareev, which means that everything will depend on the final round tomorrow.  Among those with a chance to win the tournament is GM Conrad Holt, a young college student playing in his first U.S. Championship.  In the Women's event, IM Irina Krush won against WGM Tatev Abrahamyan, her closest rival, and is guaranteed at least a part of first place even if she loses on Sunday.  During the live coverage, GM Yasser Seirawan pointed out that Abrahamyan missed a surprising resource late in the game when it looked like Krush was easily winning due to her powerful passed pawn at g2.  Can you find the move that both players missed?

Krush - Abrahamyan
White to play after 43...g2

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Norowitz Draws in Round 5

IM-elect Yaacov Norowitz continued his solid performance at the U.S. Chess Championship in St. Louis, drawing GM Gregory Kaidanov in Round 5 (see notes below or download PGN).  He is now at the center of the pack at 2.5/5. Today was a rest day.

In other news, GM Joel Benjamin drew GM Gata Kamsky to spoil the leader's chances of a "picket fence" performance and the $64,000 "Fischer" prize that would accompany it.  Kamsky still leads at 4.5/5 but GM Alexander Onischuk follows in close second place with 4/5 after beating GM Larry Christiansen in a nice technical performance.  Onischuk will have White against Kamsky when play resumes Thursday.  In the Women's event, IM Irina Krush kept up her perfect performance to lead the pack by a point.  If she finishes with a perfect score, people may ask why she does not get a special prize.

Monday, May 06, 2013

U.S. Chess Championship, Rounds 3 & 4

Finegold - Norowitz
Black to play and win.

In Round Three, Yaacov Norowitz played a safe game against GM Robert Hess, who himself did not try anything adventurous against Yaacov's Gurgenidze system.  Though the game featured some interesting tactical exchanges, it quickly petered out to a draw.  In Round Four, Yaacov won his first game of the tournament despite the fact that he had his second black in a row against GM Ben Finegold (whose Finegold Chess blog features some nice commentary on his tourney so far.)  Finegold missed a winning shot in their game with 28.Ne4!  As the commentators suggested, he must have looked at that move but then did not follow out the line long enough to see past the fork that follows 28...Qxc1+ 29.Rxc1 Rxc1+ 30.Kxc1 Nd3+ to find that White is winning after 31.Kb1 Nxf2 32.Nxd6 with Nxf7 in the offing (an interesting example of what Dan Heisman calls a "quiescence error.")  At move 40, playing with just the increment, Yaacov did not miss his own shot at victory, finding the crushing 40...Nxa3! (see diagram above).  I offer some notes below (or download the PGN).

After his win over Finegold, Yaacov was interviewed by GM Maurice Ashley, where he revealed the story of how he was able to play Round 2 on the Sabbath.  It turns out that the main problem for observant Jews about playing on the Sabbath is not the playing itself but the writing down of their moves, which the rules of chess strictly require of all players.  According to Yaacov, it was Dr. Richard Lewis who came up with the perfect solution: Yaacov could use stickers!  Though the practice has earned Yaacov the nickname "stickers" in St. Louis, it has made it possible for him to compete.

Yaacov describes his Round 4 victory.

Yaacov's presence in the tournament has added a lot of excitement for us fellow "Kenilworthians," but the tournament itself has been great, with incredibly good live coverage and many exciting games.  For me and many chess fans, the most anticipated game of the tournament may have been  Zatonskih - Krush from Round 3 of the Women's event.  In recent years, the match-ups between these two have generally determined the Women's Championship and a sometimes bitter rivalry has grown up between them, especially since their infamous 2008 armageddon match.  After all the build-up, the game did not disappoint, with a very sharply contested Mar del Plata King's Indian that ended with a piece sacrifice and "Krushing" attack by black.  

In the men's event, I was pulling for John Bryant this round, as I have been very impressed by the attacking style of his games in St. Louis (some readers might remember that I posted an article on his tactical play in the 2011 U.S. Junior).   However, in Round 4 Bryant lost after a bad opening to GM Larry Christiansen, who is hanging on to a tie for second place with old friend and longtime rival GM Joel Benjamin.  Interestingly, this is Christiansen's 25th championship and Benjamin's 26th!  Christiansen lost in Round 3 to GM Gata Kamsky, who, at 4/4, still has a shot at the $64K prize for anyone able to duplicate Fischer's famous 1964 sweep of the U.S. Championship.  Of course, to get there he will have to beat Benjamin when they play tomorrow -- and then the next GM after that, and then another, and another, and one more after that.  Hard to imagine it being possible.

The Live Coverage at the US Chess Champs site has been great, with super commentary from WGM Jennifer Shahade, GM Yasser Seirawan, and GM Maurice Ashley. I noticed today that The Week in Chess (TWIC) has a nice page devoted to the US Championships, which includes the best crosstable and PGN file. 

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Norowitz at the US Championship, Rounds 1 & 2

I have enjoyed watching the excellent live coverage of the U.S. Championship, though I generally end up playing through the games at (Men's and Women's).  There have been a number of hard fought contests, including Kaidanov - Holt (utter insanity), Gareev - Christiansen, Robson - BryantBenjamin - Hess (a Capablanca-esque endgame performance), Hess - FinegoldKamsky - Shabalov, and Baginskaite - Ni.  I have also been amused by the trapped pieces in Sammour Hasbun - Kaidanov and Abrahamyan - Baginskaite.  Of course, I have been following Yaacov Norowitz most closely, and while he was tortured by GM Larry Christiansen in the first round after an opening error, he bounced back to take control against GM Alex Stripunsky in the second and has a half point out of two, which is certainly not a bad start considering the caliber of competition he is up against.  Christiansen is, in fact, tied for the lead with Gata Kamsky and both seem to be playing great chess.  You can see my notes below, or download the PGN.

Friday, May 03, 2013

U.S. Chess Championship Begins

The U.S. Chess Championship begins at 2:00 EDT today, with Live Coverage available for free at the U.S. Chess Champs website.  Pairings for the men and for the women are posted online.  IM-elect Yaacov Norowitz has black in the first round against legendary GM Larry Christiansen.

Monday, April 29, 2013

"The Dark Knight System" Review

FM James Schuyler's The Dark Knight System: A Repertoire with 1....Nc6 (get the e-book at 
Everyman Chesshas been my constant companion for the past month or so and is definitely among my favorite opening books of recent years.  Schuyler presents a "New York approach to 1...Nc6," striving always for dark square pressure with a quick ...e5 or, if that is prevented, playing for a Pirc set-up with ...g6 and ...Bg7.  There is much to admire in his repertoire and I recommend it to anyone looking for an off-beat and easy to learn system as Black that is sure to befuddle your opponents while guaranteeing that you are always in the game even against the most prepared.  Schuyler's system is ultimately very solid and very coherent, with many innovative ideas that are clearly the product of his own analysis.   

I have already discussed Schuyler's extremely logical "dark square" system against the Scotch Gambit with 1.e4 Nc6 2.d4 e5 3.Nf3 exd4 4.Bc4 Nf6 5.e5 Ng4! in my article on "The Two Knights Anti-Modern," and I would suggest the book is worth having for his repertoire against the Scotch and Scotch Gambits alone as the specific lines he recommends have not been well analyzed in the literature.  For today, I have taken a close look at what I call "The Dark Knight's Zugzwang" which arises after 1.d4 Nc6 2.d5 Ne5 (Schuyler indirectly makes a good case for 2...Nb8!?) 3.e4 e6 (3...d6!? is a safer and more "dark-square focused" approach, as I discuss) 4.dxe6 fxe6 (4...dxe6 might eventually equalize but is hardly the type of thing you want to play) 5.Nc3!  (see diagram below).  

At this point Black has to be careful, and one book on these lines suggests that Black is almost in zugzwang because so many logical moves practically lose, including 5...Bc5?? 6.Qh5+ handing White a piece and 5...Bb4?! 6.Qd4! forking over the two Bishops and a big positional edge due to pressure on c7 and g7 after 6....Bxc3+ 7.Qxc3.  Schuyler recommends 5...b6 6.Nf3 Nf7, which is logical enough, but I am not a big fan of this so I explore several alternatives in my notes that actually seem a little more in keeping with his recommended "dark square" approach.  Overall, I think there are several good ways for Black to play, which is very encouraging since I had always thought that this position was probably the most critical for Black after 1.d4 Nc6.

The contents of the book are as follows:
  • Introduction 
  • Weak Colour Complex (ideas behind the "dark square" system)
  • Section One: 1 d4 Nc6 (unusual second moves for White) 
  • Ch. 1 - 2.Nf3 d6
  • Ch. 2 - 2.c4 e5 3.d5 Bb4+!?
  • Ch. 3 - 2.d5 Ne5
  • Section Two: 1 e4 Nc6 
  • Ch. 4 - 2.d4 e5
  • Ch. 5 - 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 g6
  • Ch. 6 - 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.d4 d6
  • Section Three: Others
  • Ch. 7 - 1.c4 Nc6 2.Nc3 e5 3.Nf3 (3.g3 f5) 3...f5
  • Ch.  8 - 1.Nf3 Nc6
  • Ch. 9 - Others 
  • Ch. 10 - Miscellaneous Topics
  • Illustrative Games (pages 134-212)
  • Indexes 
The overall concept of the system that Schuyler recommends is quite easy to grasp.  In general, if White allows it, Black should play a quick 2...e5, as after 1.d4 Nc6 2.c4 e5 or 1.e4 Nc6 2.d4 e5.  And if White discourages Black from playing 2...e5 with 2.Nf3 (as after 1.d4 Nc6 2.Nf3 or 1.e4 Nc6 2.Nf3 when 2...e5 would simply transpose to the Open Games), then Black should generally seek to transpose to Pirc lines with 2...d6, ...Nf6, ...g6 and ...Bg7, encouraging White to play d5 and thus weaken his dark squares.  This approach has been tried by the tricky Jens Fries Nielsen, but it was pioneered by Frederick D. Yates, a strong British player from 1910-1931 -- see Janowski - Yates, Marienbad 1925 and Kmoch - Yates, Hastings 1927-1928 for example, but there are a number of other games worth exploring (especially Alekhine - Yates, Karlsbad 1923) and I hope to return to the subject of Yates's opening ideas in the King's Indian and Pirc at a future date. 

By incorporating this Pirc approach, Schuyler has really simplified his 1...Nc6 repertoire, and in a section titled "Reducing the Workload - The Dark Knight for Dummies," he offers that readers could even simplify the repertoire further by adopting 1.d4 Nc6 2.d5 Nb8!? and Mestrovic's favorite 1.e4 Nc6 2.d4 d6!? - both of which should generally transpose to the "Yates system." 

Among Schuyler's more interesting recommendations is  2.c4 e5 3.d5 Bb4+!? (see here for sample games) which has not been much played and is therefore easier to learn than the complex and increasingly well explored possibilities of the Black Knights Tango after 3...Ne7 etc. -- though in Schuyler's system Black still gets to play the best lines of the Tango via the move order 1.e4 Nc6 2.d4 e5 3.d5 Ne7 4.c4?! Ng6.

I am constantly impressed by Schuyler's solid choices that adhere to the "dark square" concept and by the very logical and interesting repertoire he presents.  Because of his preference for sharp play on the dark squares, Schuyler eschews the rather standard transpositions to the Chigorin as recommended in Keene and Jacobs's classic A Complete Defense for Black and Christoph Wisnewski's Play 1...Nc6! -- the latter of which doubly sins against the dark square approach by recommending 1.e4 Nc6 2.d4 d5 lines as well as the direct approach to the Chigorin via 1.d4 d5 2.c4 (or 2.Nf3) 2...Nc6, which is not even true to his title.  Meanwhile, books like T. Kapitaniak's Nimzovich Defence, Harald Keilhack and Rainer Schlenker's 1...Nc6 aus allen Lagen, and Igor Berdichevsky's 1...Nc6 Modern Practice (as well as his 2005 Convekta CD Modern Chess Openings 1...Nc6!?) are very useful for reference and for exploring alternatives, but increasingly dated and a bit too unfocused for today's busy chess player.  So while I think there are many interesting ways of playing the 1...Nc6 system, I also think Schuyler has done a very good job of presenting a repertoire that works and is easy to learn.  He has also provided a useful selection of sample games (which make up almost half of the book) so that you can get a feel for common middlegame positions.

Highly recommended.