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.