Saturday, December 31, 2005
What's the winning idea?
When I visited FM Steve Stoyko the other day, we went over two of his games against GMs in the Classical King's Indian Defense with ...Na6, a line that suddenly interests me from both sides of the board as I begin to develop a d4 repertoire. Steve wanted to show me some of the ways White can build up his attack by capitalizing on his space advantage--which allows him to switch back and forth between queenside and kingside attacks. He also recommended that I look at the games of Sammy Reshevsky against the KID since he was one of the best for showing White's ideas. Steve's game against Sokolin is not only interesting for its opening play but also for the ending, which is practically a little puzzle (which he was unable to solve in time pressure and so had to settle for a draw against the GM).
I have always found the Black side of the Classical King's Indian rather easy to understand for Black. After all, the idea is to just go after White's King, as amateur player Jeff Otto nicely describes in "A Patzer's Progress," his story of learning to play the King's Indian Defense. Playing the White side requires a little more maturity, and it has taken me a few decades to acquire that. Some web articles that I have found helpful for thinking about the White side of the KID include the following:
King's Indian Defense: An Eternal Balance by Guillermo Rey
KID Fireworks, Part 1 by Andrew Martin
Feldman-Yuan, Australia 1999 annotated by John-Paul Wallace
2005 KENILWORTH CHESS CLUB YEAR IN REVIEW
Once again we have come to the end of a spirited year of chess. I hope it has been a very successful and productive year for each and every one of you. 2005 was a year of many positive changes for our club, now up and running for 33 years strong. It saw our membership grow to over 30 active members, our treasury maintain its healthy balance, and the first ever Kenilworth Chess Club website become reality.
There were many events that most veteran members of the club have come accustomed to such as our Club Championship, the East Coast Team Tournament held in Parsippany, the summer tournament, and our Fall Rated Tournament. It also saw some new activities to benefit our club as well. There were matches held against South Orange CC and also against the Roselle Chess Club. We also saw Scott Massey and Steve Stoyko hold reasonably priced lectures for our members before normal meeting times.
One of the more accomplished feats our club accomplished this year took place at the US Amateur tournament held in Parsippany during President’s Day weekend. Our club helped to sponsor two teams to compete in the tournament, and one of our teams received a prize for scoring 4 points out of six and having the highest score for a New Jersey team! I once again congratulate Scott Massey, Steve Stoyko, Mike Goeller, and Ed Allen for the wonderful accomplishment and for bringing some well deserved recognition to our club.
For the first time in 9 years, we also crowned a new Club Champion from our tournament that ended in mid April. Steve Stoyko dethroned Scott Massey by scoring 10 out of possible 11 points to take the championship. Also our new under 1800 champion, Joe Demetrick deserves recognition for scoring 6 points in a very difficult and competitive field. 12 players in total competed in our 15th annual championship, and we hope to add more to this year’s field.
The 2005 Summer Tournament was once again a raging success. 17 players from our club participated in the event, with prizes going out to Mark Kerrnighan, Greg Tomkovich and Devin Camenares for having the most points through out the 12 weeks. As always, Greg you have my thanks for doing a wonderful job in coordinating this event as always, and I hope to be able to play in this event next year.
As we prepare to conclude another successful and fun year of chess here in Kenilworth, I take a look at the horizon and see opportunities for us to grow even more in the future. I have always felt that this club has a wonderful group of members that all tend to be willing to help others in their goals. This is true whether it is a beginning player looking for advice on how to get better or whether it is a life master showing a B rated player where the mistakes were made in his last game. This gives us something that very few clubs out there have: a union of members whom day in and out look to make others better and also willing to take their time out to do this.
There are many people within this club that have gone above and beyond the “call of duty” to make our club prosper for yet another year. Each of our officers has, as always exceeded their duties in order to insure our club functions on a daily basis. Joe, I think you did a wonderful job as treasurer this year, and also provided additional help in making these team tournaments against West Orange and Roselle become a reality. Ari, as always, you have kept our minutes precise and helped keep us organized. Greg, as I have told you many a times, I feel you have helped me maintain my office and the duties with it, even when I am unable to appear at the club as infrequently as I am able to with my new job and location.
I also would like to thank our chess masters, Scott and Steve, for providing the lectures in order for us to all strive to become the good sound players we all wish to be. The cost of these lessons is minimal compared to the knowledge we have obtained from the time you have given us. I have special thanks to give to Mike Goeller. Mike, you took the idea of us having our first website, grabbed the bull by the horns and made it a reality. You also made it so that my end of the year address is only 2 pages instead of 10 as you have provided the results of all of our matches and tournaments! You certainly have given us access to an incredible tool for both current and hopefully future members to use to make our games that much better.
In closing I wish to thank each and every one of you for your support this past year. Due to our club growing so rapidly, some of you I have not even had the opportunity to meet and get to know, but I hope to remedy that in the near future. To each and every one of you, I wish for a safe and happy holiday season for you and your families and for also a more prosperous New Year.
President, The Kenilworth Chess Club
December 22, 2005
Thursday, December 29, 2005
I visited FM Steve Stoyko the other day and rummaged through his library, where I stumbled across Larry Evans's wonderful little book Trophy Chess: An Account of the Lessing Rosenwald Tournament, New York, 1954-1955 (New York: Scribners 1956). The tournament featured all of the pre-Fischer greats, including (in order of their finish) Sammy Reshevsky, Larry M. Evans, Art Bisguier, Donald Byrne, Jimmy Sherwin, and George Kramer in a double round-robin. Evans does a very nice job of annotating the 30 games.
Bisguier-Sherwin, New York 1955, which features a wonderful demonstration of why three pieces are often superior to a Queen, stood out from the rest. The opening, a Torre Attack, was also of interest and I have given detailed notes on that stage (which bears comparison to Torre Plays the Torre at Moscow 1925 and Torre-Saemisch, Moscow 1925). In the diagram above, the question is whether or not Black can get away with 5...Qxb2, and the answer to that question still seems rather important to the theory of this line. I think that the game gives a pretty good answer, so I am surprised not to have seen it discussed outside of Evans's marvelous little tournament book.
A note in passing: the Rosenwald Tournament, like a number of later events bearing that name, was made possible through the generosity of (to quote Evans's introduction) "a small, unselfish band of chess connoisseurs--like Alexander Bisno, Jose Calderon, Maurice Kasper, and Lessing Rosenwald" who had formed The American Chess Foundation to help advance the game in the U.S. I have not seen it argued by any chess historians, but I think there can be little doubt that the Rosenwald events helped create the environment that nurtured Bobby Fischer (witness D. Byrne - Fischer, New York 1956). It would be nice to see more done to cultivate that environment again through chess philanthropy and I will likely return to that subject in the context of discussing "chess as art" (rather than as sport), which I've been mulling since a previous post on why chess is not like poker.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
1) Goran Urosevic helpfully reports that the latest issue of "Chess Chronicle" is available for free download. Also available for free download is the Issue 11. You can find some more free issues online at Chessville or from the Chess Chronicle Website.
2) ChessBase has posted their annual Christmas Puzzles 2005. And you can always go through their entire collection of free tactical puzzles.
3) Mig Greengard's "Chess Ninja" site offers free sample issues: White Belt #19 and White Belt #36 or Black Belt #4 and Black Belt #42 (depending on your playing strength).
4) Get some sample issues of Chess Today from their website, including one with excellent annotations of Topalov-Anand, San Luis 2005. Some additional free sample issues can be found off of Ralph Marconi's website.
5) Get some free sample issues of TWIC Theory featuring some nifty articles by Andrew Martin.
6) As a special New in Chess and ICC joint promotion, you can get an excellent free book and 2 months of ICC membership by subscribing to New in Chess. Not exactly free, but it includes a gift!
7) A great article by GM Sergey Ivanov on the Dutch Gambit in the Queen's Gambit Declined (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 c5!?) feels like a free gift, though it is just standard fare for Chessville.
And, of course, you can always find lots of free chess content on the web or in the blogosphere. May these links rekindle the holiday spirit....
Monday, December 26, 2005
Related posts: Torre Plays the Torre at Moscow 1925, Moscow 1925 Lecture Notes, Torre-Saemisch, Moscow 1925, and Capablanca-Ilyin-Zhenevsky, Moscow 1925.
Sunday, December 25, 2005
We had an eventful night at the Kenilworth Chess Club. It began with our annual Holiday Party, featuring lots of pizza and other good stuff, including cookies and the traditional "chess puzzle cake" (see diagram above). The holiday decorations provided by the folks at the Rec Center (who hung wreaths during Steve Stoyko's last lecture!) helped create a festive atmosphere. Thanks to everyone who contributed to the feast.
Next came the annual business meeting, which had been postponed from the previous week because of low turnout due to icy road conditions. In his last act as outgoing Secretary, Ari Minkov has dutifully recorded the decisions made at the meeting, so I will only make a few notes (some of which repeat his own). I will also be posting Mike Stalling's report as outgoing president's, which was distributed as a printed document (once he sends me an electronic copy or I find time to retype it), which made a good summary of this year's events.
After Mike Stallings called the meeting to order and said a few words, Joe Demetrick gave his report as outgoing treasurer. Joe reported $771 in the treasury, a slight gain over last year despite numerous expenses. As Joe pointed out, our club benefits greatly from not having to pay rent to the community center, since Kenilworth continues to see us as a benefit to the community. And the few expenses we incurred were quite small. These included sponsorship of two teams for the U. S. Amateur Teams East ($125), trophies for the club championship (the cost of which exceded the entry fees last year by $50), equipment ($85), and the new website ($95). Planned expenses for the coming year include $95 for the website, a small amount for the purchase of scoresheets, new cabinet shelves, and $150 toward teams bearing the Kenilworth name at the U.S. Amateur Teams East in February. We agreed also to spend up to $50 beyond entry fees for the purchase of trophies for the Club Championship, if necessary.
After the treasurer's and president's report came the first item on the agenda (and one that always leads to much debate), which was the rules for the annual Club Championship. Ari sums these up well, though he does not give a date since none was decided upon. I will assume it will begin as it did last year at the second meeting of the year, which would be January 12, 2006. This year it will be broken into two sections, an Open section with players vying for the championship and an Under-1800 section with players vying for the Under-1800 title. The format will otherwise be the same as last year's event: a time control of Game-90, with 5-second-delay upon request. Trophies for Club Champion, second place, and third place, Under-1800, and Under-1500. The event will be Unrated. Entry Fee: $25, plus a $10 deposit toward excessive byes. Club membership ($15) required. Bye Policy: Two free byes, including excused absences for Holy Thursday and Passover (should this year's tournament run that long). After the two free byes, players are charged $5 for each additional bye up to four. More than four byes results in forfeit. Tournament Director: Geoff McAuliffe (TD) Sections: Open Section (for Club Championship) and Under-1800 (for under-1800 title). I will post whatever other details become available.
Elections were then held for the Club Officers for 2006. These are now as follows:
President: Joe Demetrick
Vice President: Greg Tomkovich
Treasurer: Geoff McAuliffe
Secretary: Michael Goeller
Tournament Director: Pete Cavaliere
Members-at-large: Mike Stallings, Mike Wojcio, Scott Massey, Bill Sokolosky, Pat Mazzillo, and Howard Osterman.
The remainder of the evening was open to free play, since there were not enough people interested in a Bughouse Tournament. We also had a showing, thanks to Bill Sokolosky, of the film FRESH (1994), a compelling (if violent and curse-filled) story of a young inner-city chessplayer swept up, along with his family and loved ones, in the drug trade who uses his stunning strategic and tactical abilities to turn the tables on the drug lords and rescue himself and his sister from their clutches (though not without some drastic sacrifices to achieve his "victory"). There was general agreement that the chess depicted in the film was quite good, though Scott Massey did catch one scene with reversed King and Queen. However, to the film's general quality there was mixed reaction. I found it quite well done and brilliantly plotted and acted. Some found it merely disturbing. As Bill pointed out, though, it's the type of film that you really need to see twice to fully appreciate--though some will not be able to make it through the first viewing due to its graphic content. All I can say is that it was definitely not "Knights of the South Bronx" and definitely not for children!
Solution to the Holiday Puzzle:
[FEN "2K3N1/8/6P1/2k5/5r1N/8/8/8 w - - 0 1"]
1. Nf6 Rf1 2. Nf3 Rxf3 3. g7 Rg3 4. Ne4+ 1-0
The recent game NM Mark Kernighan - NM James West, Hamilton CC Quads 2005, featured an interesting plan against the Classical Dutch after 1.d4 f5 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bg5!? This led to the exchange of dark squared Bishops, after which White adopted a Colle-like development (without the typical Colle problem of the dark-squared Bishop) with Nbd2, e3, Bd3, and Qe2 seeking to break with an early Pe4. Black stopped him with b6, Bb7, and Nf6-e4, when Mark came up with the interesting plan of Rg1!?, g4, and O-O-O with good play for White. To avoid the attack along the g-file, West castled queenside, but that proved no safe haven after Mark exchanged Bishops with Ba6 and Bxb7 and then developed a strong attack that utilized the weakened white squares around the Black King. The game ended with a nice mating attack. This is one of Mark's better games and worth a look, if only to see how Mark found the best way to attack the Black King in the diagram above...
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
I have written what is probably the most complete treatment of the Perreux Variation of the Two Knights Defense (not something I'm exactly proud to announce!) which occurs most commonly after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.Ng5!? The reason that my treatment is most extensive, of course, is that it is more a duffer's move than 4.Ng5. I think it's playable, as are all openings, below 2000-rating or at fast time controls, but it is not to be recommended for serious games. Black does need to know what he is doing to gain equality or even an edge, however, and most published analysis (which barely scratches the surface) will be almost no use to him. I only began analysing this line (which I myself had never played in a serious game) because it occured in almost all of the Two Knights games from the Dimock Theme Tournament of 1924 which I featured on my Urusov Gambit System site, and I wanted to create a coherent presentation built around the openings that occured in that tournament. It's not really something I recommend for White, but Black needs to know it.
In speed games, few of my opponents have any clue what they are doing and almost all play the difficult lines with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Nc6 5.Ng5 Ne5, where White gets lots of interesting play (though Black should be fine or even better here too with best play, as my analysis shows). As Pete Tamburro points out in his lecture, Black simply should not follow suit with White and waste time moving the same piece twice. Instead, he should break immediately in the center (the best way to meet a flank attack) with 5...d5! 6.exd5 and now best is the Queen check with 6...Qe7+! to which White really has only one good reply, which is 7.Kf1. This generally involves sacrificing a pawn for Black, but White's misplaced King alone is sufficient compensation. No one really played this way until the 1960s, so you know it is not something that's easy to discover on your own. But once you have a little analysis on it (and Pete does a good job of covering Black's best ideas) you should be able to embarrass White for trying it.
One critical line, in my current view, is 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Nc6 5.Ng5 d5 6.exd5 Qe7+ 7.Kf1 Ne5 8.Qxd4 h6! 9.Ne4 Nxc4 10.Nxf6+ Qxf6 11.Qxc4 Bd6 12.Qe2+! which occured in the game Szabo-Kostic, Ljubljana 1938, where Black had compensation for the pawn due to White's Kf1 but it was an interesting struggle. Pinski focuses on this line in his analysis but offers only the weakly contested game Bucan-Geller, Bad Woerishofen 1992, as evidence that Black is doing well, even though he liberally sprinkles "?" annotations on White's moves. I'm always disappointed with opening books that give weak games to make their points. Harding gives none of this in his analysis, preferring to focus on the even easier question of why 7.Qe2? is a mistake for White. As I say, you are not generally going to get much guidance on how to defeat these lines as Black, and even Pete Tamburro's lecture simply points you in the right direction. I hope my PGN file gives you more to go on.
In his lecture, Pete covers the lines, like the Perreux, that club and class players are likely to encounter from time to time, including 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Nc3 and the more 4.O-O Bc5 5.d4!? seeking transposition to the Max Lange by 5...exd4 6.e5. If only it were that easy to reach the Max Lange (no matter what Chris Baker will suggest)! I have looked at these lines as a way of side-stepping the annoying Anti-Lange lines, but have discovered that Black has pretty good play here, as Pete points out. I will likely discuss them at some point, since there is a lot of forgotten theory I have unearthed. One thing I'll note in passing, though, is that White even has trouble entering these lines after the Giuoco move order 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.O-O because of the "Lost Variation" 4...d6! with good play for Black, as Mark Morss discusses.
Harding sticks to the main lines that follow 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 including 5.O-O and 5.e5. As he writes, White's only good option is likely the Modern Variation with 5.e5, but there is still a lot Black needs to know about the 5.O-O lines, which have been analyzed deeply into the King and Pawn ending! In my PGN, I provide some interesting games (that I have not seen mentioned) of correspondence IM Max Zavanelli, who typically enters these variations via the Urusov Gambit move order 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.O-O. If you look closely through my Urusov analysis, you will see that Zavanelli is something of my "opening hero" in those lines, so I have immediate respect for his ideas. And he does seem to be the player who has found the most ideas for White in the deep ending line that follows 1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. O-O Nxe4 6. Re1 d5 7. Bxd5 Qxd5 8.Nc3 Qa5 9. Nxe4 Be6 10. Neg5 O-O-O 11. Nxe6 fxe6 12. Rxe6 Bd6 13. Bg5 Rde8 (you can always study instead 13...Rdf8!?) 14.Qe1, when all the heavy pieces generally get exchanged along the e-file leaving us in the ending before move 20. But what an ending! Analysis by Soltis suggested that White might be winning. Then analysis by Benko showed that White "struggles to draw." Now Zavanelli's games show that the verdict is still difficult to arrive at, though it is likely equal with best play by both sides. In any case, both sides need to know their stuff since a single slip can be fatal. If you like sharp endgame analysis, check out these games!
Harding simply dismisses these so-called Anti-Lange lines as equal "as is well-known from countless games," but you certainly need to know your stuff as Black to survive this ultra-sharp ending! But he does point us to some of the most important games with the line 8...Qh5! 9.Nxe4 Be6 10.Bg5 Bd6! including Friedel-Onischuk, USA ch, San Diego 2004, which I include in the PGN.
Too bad Black has such good play after 4...Nxe4! or we could steer things toward the Modern Horowitz Variation of the Max Lange and get the edge!
Finally, we arrive at the Modern Variation with 5.e5, which must be White's best by process of elimination. Harding does a good survey of the lines covered by Pinski (The Two Knights Defense) and Davies (Play 1.e4 e5!). There is so much more that has been and could be written on these lines and I may return to them in the future. In my PGN file, I offer only some games from Nakamura (who goes by "Smallville" on ICC, after Superman's home town), including his recent loss against the annoying move 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Bc4 Nf6 5. e5 d5 6. Bb5 Ne4 7. Nxd4 Bd7 8. Bxc6 bxc6 9. O-O Bc510. f3 Ng5 11. f4 Ne4 12. Be3 Qb8!? which is gaining popularity due to its favorable rating from Fritz and his silicon kin but has not been mentioned by any analysts I have read. Gary Lane covers the equally annoying 12...Rb8!? in his recent The Bishop's Opening Explained, but he is the only one to touch on this alternative treatment.
Enjoy the analysis. Recommendations and revisions are welcome in the comments section.
Monday, December 19, 2005
Please come early for an 8:00-sharp Business Meeting and elections. We will probably have the club open by 7:00 p.m. to set things up. And please note that members of the larger Kenilworth community are likely to attend during this day and we hope to make them as welcome as possible.
Friday, December 16, 2005
What most chessplayers want in a chess-tech book is, as the title of a classic text by Julio Kaplan put it, How to Get the Most from Your Chess Computer (RHM Press 1980). And the ideal text would really be something current and specific to the technology they are using, much like what David Noble offered in his book Master the Chessmaster (Hayden Books 1992). They want to learn how to use their computers to do opening analysis, to use chess databases, and to access chess materials using the internet. And they want advice on how to integrate computers into the ways they study chess to help them improve. The following books fit that bill, though none cover the whole range of technological issues that chessplayers might want to know about and all suffer from that unavoidable bane of technology: rapid obsolescence. All of these books are still useful to some extent, but they will not be useful for long.
1) Jacob Aagaard, John Emms, and Byron Jacobs, Chess Software User's Guide (Everyman Chess 2003)
If you are looking for a purely practical guide to using chessplaying and database programs to improve your game, and if you own ChessBase products (such as Fritz 6+ or ChessBase 6+), this is the book to buy. Each author takes on different chapters devoted to "Managing Databases," "Learning a New Opening," "Learning about Yourself...and Your Opponents," "Relating Openings to Middlegames and Endgames," "General Training," and "Special Computer Products." Even though I had extensive experience with ChessBase programs when I purchased it, I still learned a great deal – most importantly, I learned how to do things (such as compiling a database and checking for duplicates) the best way rather than simply the way that I had figured out on my own. Get your copy while it is still available and still relevant.
2) Lev Alburt and Al Lawrence, Playing Computer Chess: Getting The Most Out Of Your Game (Sterling 1998)
Written to be an introduction to chess computers for kids, beginners, and chess computer novices, this book seems designed as a gift to accompany a first chess computer for the beginner or developing player. It seems especially well-written for its intended audience. It is a bit dated in its focus on stand-alone devices given the rise of Fritz and others these days. For those of us with more chess or computer knowledge, however, it has very limited utility (except, perhaps, as a teaching tool).
3) Mark Crowther, Chess on the Net (Everyman 2001)
Written by the founder of The Week in Chess (TWIC)--source of current chess news and games--this survey of chess on the internet is certainly authoritative even if severely dated. I find this book most useful for remembering the recent history of chess on the net, since it captures that moment before the rise of Google, when ICC had just gone pay-only and “Kasparovchess.com” was still alive and dominant. Yes, that now seems a long time ago, but we are talking just five years! So there are uses for this book, not least of which is its extensive list of categorized links (which has not been completely supplanted by the numerous links sites on the web, where you can click your way through). Even if the listed links are broken there is always the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine to find what you missed, so the history of internet chess that this book documents is still alive for us today....
4) Sarah Hurst, Richard Palliser, and Graham Brown, Chess on the Web (Batsford 2000)
I had the first edition of this book, which I have since either given away or lost. It was very much out of date even when I read it, since it was written during the growth of the World Wide Web when there were still many unintegrated parts to it. I got the "new" edition when it first came out in 2000, and it had a big impact on my thinking about chess on the web. I was especially fascinated by the interviews it offers with webmasters and others who put up the first major chess websites, play sites, and forums. This "new" edition is also out of date (it’s simply impossible to keep current with the web through books). It was written when Mig Greengard was still best known for his association with the now-defunct Kasparovchess.com website and when newsgroups were not directly accessible on the web through any browser. So it was a different age. Unlike Crowther's book, which strives to be inclusive and therefore has a long list of links, this web survey offers relatively selective links to specific websites. Both suffer from the transformations of the past five years. Hurst et. al. have a better percentage of live links, but Crowther's larger number means that he is still ahead at the end despite his low percentage. It's difficult to say which approach is better for the longevity of a book about "chess on the web." In any event, such works rapidly turn into the history of chess on the web. In that regard, I like the interviews offered by this book, but I think Crowther has done a better job of surveying the entire scene. I notice that the edition sold by Amazon says "2003," yet I recently saw the 2000 edition at my local Barnes and Noble, so I am not sure if there may be a more updated version out there than the one I have.
5) Christian Kongsted, How to Use Computers to Improve Your Chess (Gambit 2003)
For a book whose title promises very practical advice on "using computers to improve your game," it spends an inordinate amount of time on the history, theory, and problems of chessplaying computers. In fact, over half of the book is devoted to what I'd consider more "theory" than "practice," including sections on "The Blind Spots of the Computer" and "How to Beat the Computer." These are important issues in some contexts and certainly it's necessary to know the theory in order to understand the practice. But I was hoping for more on "Computer Assisted Analysis" and got only 13 pages that are sometimes quite general (in order to avoid becoming too quickly obsolete). I have always managed to pick up a thing or two from any book I read on technology, and I found the most value in the sections on using programs such as Fritz to improve your opening, tactical, and endgame play. I especially like the idea of playing out "won" endings (such as K+N+5P v K+N+4P) against the computer to improve your technique and the positions he offers (complete with analysis of the best way) are helpful. All in all, this is still a very relevant and useful book for non-beginners. And because Kongsted is not tied to any particular product (i.e.: ChessBase), his advice is likely to be useful to a wide audience.
6) John Nunn. "Using a Computer." Chapter 5 of Secrets of Practical Chess (Gambit 1998), pp. 166-173.
This seems to be one of those add-on chapters recommended by the publisher rather than something integral to this otherwise quite first-rate book. Of course, we also have to remember that it was written before 1998, so that may explain some of its limitations. And, to his credit, Nunn keeps his advice useful and general enough so that every word in the chapter is still relevant today. The chapter covers three things especially well: compiling and using game databases for opening study, using the computer as a training partner, and developing opening novelties with the aid of a computer. The illustrative examples are quite well chosen and are cited by some of the other books here (which appeared later).
7) Bruce Pandolfini, Kasparov and Deep Blue: The Historic Chess Match Between Man and Machine (Fireside 1997)
There are a number of books and articles about the Kasparov-Deep Blue match and there is even an excellent film titled Game Over now available on DVD. But I have not seen such a useful book as the one Pandolfini wrote on the match and the games it produced. Recognizing that the world-wide coverage of this match in the press would likely increase the number of beginners buying chess books, Pandolfini wrote mostly for them with extensive move-by-move commentary on the games. Along the way he touches on many topics related to computer chess. Highly recommended for all levels.
8) Robert Pawlak, Chess Software Sourcebook (Treehaus 1999)
A useful if basic and dated introduction to purchasing and using various common computer programs.
9) Robin Smith, Modern Chess Analysis (Gambit 2004)
If you are a relatively advanced OTB or correspondence player interested in learning more about how best to use your chess computer to do opening or game analysis, this book is written expressly for you by one of the highest rated American correspondence players. It covers all the issues relevant to using your computer for deep analysis. In the final analysis, however, “chess analysis” is its only focus and so those interested in learning more about other practical uses of chess computers may wish to look elsewhere. But for advanced users, this is probably the best of the bunch and you are likely to learn something useful here.
10) Alex Yermolinsy, The Road to Chess Improvement (Gambit 2000)
In a very short end chapter titled "Let's Talk Computer Chess," the former U.S. Champ offers mostly a critique of chess compters followed by a discussion of some games he has won against the machines and how he did it. This seven page chapter is certainly not the reason to buy Yermo's otherwise excellent book, unless you just want to learn how to beat the damn things.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
What can be done?
I'm not sure I have the final answer, but I've decided to start pursuing these cases. You see, when it first happened to me I was more than a little angry and wrote a nasty letter that achieved some results. When it happened to me a few more times, I was certainly angry (who would not be? they are lazy scum, plain and simple) but I was too busy to do anything about it. Now that it has happened again, though, I am suddenly curious about how far I can go to pursue it and make it stop. I'm not really angry--anger never motivates me very well (which may be why I'm not a more competitive chessplayer). Instead, I am curious, and that is motivating. I guess that is why I like to do opening analysis -- to satisfy my curiosity. In this case, I want to know: "What can be done?"
The first time I was ripped off was by the French site Mjae in an article on the Urusov Gambit. Here is one of the original passages from my writing that they stole:
"The Urusov has been popular among attacking players for nearly 150 years. Adopted by Keidanski, Schlechter, Tartakower, Caro, and Mieses, the opening claimed victims among the best defenders of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including Steinitz and Lasker. By 1924 there was enough interest in the line that a thematic tournament was organized in New York featuring Marshall, Torre, and Santasiere (see the Dimock Theme Tournament web site for more details). More recently, correspondence players have explored the opening's many forcing lines, and Yakov Estrin (World Correspondence Champion from 1975 to 1980) published several monographs that carried the analysis into the middlegame. Estrin's analysis revealed, however, a possible equalizing method for Black (with Panov's 4....d5) and suggested that some of the deepest lines might end in equality with best play. With that the opening fell into disfavor at the highest levels of master competition, and today it is mostly seen in club play, where it racks up quick scores against inexperienced or unprepared opponents."
Here is the same passage translated into French on the Mjae website:
"Urusov a été populaire parmi les joueurs d'attaque pendant presque 150 ans. Adopté par Keidanski, Schlechter, Tartakower, Caro et Mieses, l'ouverture a fait beaucoup de victimes parmi les meilleurs défenseurs de la fin du 19ème et début du 20ème siècle, y compris Steinitz et Lasker. A partir de 1924 il y avait assez d'intérêt pour cette ligne de jeu que des tournois thématiques ont été organisés. Plus récemment, les joueurs par correspondance ont exploré pas mal de lignes forçées de l'ouverture, et Yakov Estrin (champion du monde par correspondance de 1975 à 1980) a édité plusieurs monographies qui ont porté l'analyse jusque dans le milieu de jeu. L'analyse d'Estrin indique, cependant, une méthode égalisante possible pour les Noirs (avec le 4...d5 de Panov) et suggère que certaines lignes les plus pointues pourraient finir par donner l'égalité aux Noirs. C'est ainsi que le gambit Urusov est tombé en désuétude au haut niveau, et aujourd'hui on ne le voit la plupart du temps que dans des parties de club. Cependant, il reste très pédagogique et les attaques brutales qui peuvent en découler, les schémas de mat, les sacrifices de qualité, de pièces, voire de Dame, vous apporteront bien plus que la simple étude d'une ouverture."
Even if you do not know any French, you can use your excellent pattern-recognition skills from years of chess study to understand the exact duplication perpetrated here. In this case I wrote them a letter and they agreed to acknowledge me on their site. Though I had asked them at least to give me author's credit, they simply provided a link to my materials. That satisfied me (I am too busy for more), since anyone who does any looking through both of our sites will recognize their theft. But it did increase my natural-born American hostility toward the French, I must confess....
I have since figured out some better ways of addressing the issue than simply writing to the culprits -- though that has to be a first step. Now, however, I write to the culprits by email and also to their service providers. You see, service providers tend to be honest and have policies about infringing other peoples' copyrights. So you can generally use them as your muscle.
The question remains, though, how do you find out where the pirated material is actually hosted? Ah... There are ways. And you can simply use the UNIX "whois" command if you know programming. But a rather simple one for those of us who don't is to use the detective tools available from the appropriately titled "SamSpade.org" website.
In the first search line at their tools menu, you simply enter the URL of the offending page and it will tell you the host. Take, for example, my recent discovery that my links pages from my Urusov Gambit website had been completely pirated (bad coding and all) by the Atticus Chess Club website. I entered their info into Sam Spade and got my first clue where I should be directing my complaints.
To his credit, I must say that the Atticus webmaster responded quickly to my email message about the problem and if you visit their links page you will see the notice that it is "currently being updated" (which may mean that they are working on one of their own or simply trying to hide their theft as much as possible -- we'll see). But to make sure that he did take action I also sent a message to his service provider who did look into the issue and alerted me to the fact that the offending page was no longer in place.
Score one for the writers of original chess material.
Any other suggestions would be most welcome. And if I uncover any other useful resources in this regard I will be sure to let you know.
Monday, December 12, 2005
Also of interest are several unannotated Colle games from the wonderful book "Colle Plays the Colle" by Adam Harvey that feature the set-ups that Steve discussed, including also where Black plays ...d5, ...Nbd7, ...c5, ...g6, and ...Bg7. If you play the Colle as White, by the way, Harvey's book is a must-have. I actually don't play it myself (though I do recommend it to my students), but the book is such a wonderful piece of historical opening research that I simply had to have it.
Last but not least, I have posted the annotated PGN file of the fascinating game Kupchik-Capablanca, Lake Hopatcong 1926 that features a Queen's Indian set-up against the Colle that takes an interesting turn toward a Dutch (with ...Ne4 and ...f5). The plan that Capablanca executes in this game is simply ingenious and must be studied closely to be appreciated. With the pawn formation locked in the center and his play on the queenside, the great Cuban champion begins pushing his pawns on the kingside in what first appears to be a weakening of his position there, inviting attack. But his plan is very deep, because these pawn moves are actually establishing a fortress there, and when Kupchik brings his army to that side (where it will not be able to break through), only then does Capa begin his decisive attack on the other flank. A great game to study.
I will be finishing my annotations this week and likely posting java applets of them. But for those who prefer the PGN files anyway, I thought I'd make them available now.
Friday, December 09, 2005
Thursday, December 08, 2005
The latest issue of The New Yorker magazine (December 12, 2005) features an article by Tom Mueller titled "Your Move: How Computer Chess Programs Are Changing the Game." As Mig points out, its information value for serious players is probably rather low. But for the general New Yorker readership, it does a good job of portraying the highest levels of computer chess (including the Hydra-Adams match) in an accurate, understandable, and interesting way. I think it's unfortunate, however, that those highest levels are all that gets portrayed in any public discussion of computer chess. The problem is that the general public can easily get the impression that chess is essentially "solved" (which it is not) or at least that there is not much point in pursuing it since computers are already so much better at it than we are. You might as well play poker, where people can at least still bluff their way to victory against the risk-averse silicon beasts. Moreover, by sticking to the story of the world's best computers we miss out on what to me seems the more interesting story of how readily available GM-strength chess computers have helped to popularize the game like never before.
The focus of Mueller's piece is the computer programmer and self-described average player Chrilly Donninger, who is best known as the man who developed Hydra (with the help of all-important Saudi funding, of course). He is an interesting character who reminds me of the other chess programmers I have met over the years. For one thing, he is much more interested in technology as a problem to be solved than he is in the people it might help. As Mueller tells us, in fact, "Doninger is no longer intrested in man-versus-machine matches" -- nor in any chess games played by those blunder-prone player of flesh and blood. Even the prospect of Kasparov vs. Hydra (the unlikely but exciting dream match-up for many chess fans) leaves him cold. He says: "I'm much more intersted in beating Shredder, Fritz, and the other programs... I learn more from those matches."
Personally, I find computer matches rather ludicrous. But maybe I just haven't been paying attention to them for a few years. Maybe computer vs. computer games are more interesting these days. I assume, however, that they are still more interesting for programmers than they are for chessplayers. We are looking for plans and ideas, counterplans and strategies. Computer chess doesn't really offer that.
It must be said, though, that Mueller has done an excellent job of portraying his subject. I especially enjoyed his clear discussion of the rise of brute force programming and of the issues GM-strength chess programs raise about the definition of intelligence. After reading the article, I feel more convinced than ever that, as philosopher Mark Greenberg is quoted as saying, "there's no reason in principle that a computer couldn't think, have beliefs and oher mental states, [and] be intelligent." We just have not quite reached that level of complexity yet. But we keep getting closer and closer and it is no longer a matter of "if" but "when."
Good articles on chess in major publications are always welcome for promoting the game. I simply wish I'd see more articles about the human side of the game than the "man versus machine" angle so dominant these days. Perhaps "man versus machine" is the new "Cold War" for which chess has become a metaphor. And there is some fun to these articles for the philosophically minded. It's just that I'm more interested in the smaller, local story. And if the story must be about computers, then I wish it would survey the larger world of chessplayers to see "how computers are changing the game."
The wide availability of GM-strength chess programs (some even freely downloadable from the internet) has made chess a more interesting and enjoyable activity for everyone. Chessplaying computer programs give anybody an instant opponent, coach and trainer, analysis partner, and chess-publishing assistant. Computers have raised the level of everyone's game at every level. And computers have transformed the game more generally. Today, anyone can go online and instantly play against someone else anywhere in the world. Or download recent games for analysis. Or gain access to articles about chess history or the latest theory. The list goes on. I'm rather more interested in how people are using computers than what the computers are off doing on their own. They are inevitably part of the game. I just wish the story were less how they are taking it over than how they are helping it grow.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
GM Gutman will apparently be citing (and very likely critiquing!) some of my analysis. They may publish my photograph and will send me a free issue (so I can show it around the club, of course). I may be the next Adrian Skelton, whose analysis of the Jackal Attack in the French appeared in the venerable New in Chess.... I owe it all to Pete Tamburro who introduced me to Horowitz's analysis.
Some of my analysis on the Urusov has been cited, including in the excellent book Danish Dynamite and in an article by Tim Harding. But this is the first recognition of my Kenilworth Chess Club articles, so I'm very proud to share the news here.
Gulko-Zvjaginsev,New York 1997.
NM Mark Kernighan recently played an interesting game with a rare line of the Nimzo-Indian: 1. d4 e6 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Bd2?! Perhaps the "?!" annotation is too harsh, but his opponent certainly got a lot of counterplay and had a number of ways to equalize early on. The game is worth playing over not only for its rare opening but also for its crazy middlegame and fine ending, which Mark conducted with his typically superb technique. I have tried to do a complete work-up on the opening, since it seems the type of thing that club players are bound to encounter from time to time. The diagram above is taken from one of the more interesting games with the line, Gulko-Zvjaginsev,New York 1997, with Black to play. The full game can be found in my notes to the Kernighan-Klemm game.
Monday, December 05, 2005
Friday, December 02, 2005
On Tuesday December 6th at 8:00 p.m., Arts and Entertainment Television (A&E) will air the chess docudrama "Knights of the South Bronx" starring Ted Danson, which looks like a well-made and inspiring film in the line of "Searching for Bobby Fischer." It tells the true story David MacEnulty, an English teacher (why do they always teach English?) who finds a way to help his students believe in their academic abilities through chess. I will have to add it to my growing list of "Chess in the Movies." I've already recommended it to my students.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Today I meet again with the 6- to 8-year-old chess students. They are a great bunch of kids and all very bright. Not having had experience with kids this age, though, I have to admit I was initially disappointed not to see more dramatic improvement in their play. I have to keep reminding myself that most just learned the moves a month or two ago, and most of them just learned how to read! So mastering chess is going to take a while.
To help keep track of their progress (and to make sure they can continue to improve after we've stopped meeting), I made sure to teach them algebraic chess notation at our last lesson. It was surprisingly easy thing for them -- surprising because everyone said that kids this age would have trouble with it. But all of them had played the game "Battleship" (where you have to name the rows and columns with letters and numbers), so they were quick studies. And almost all of them were able to write down their moves so that I could understand them.
When I compare their two best games (which both feature illegal moves) to my own earliest recorded games at age 13 -- when I was practically twice their age and had already read several chess books! -- I have a lot of hope! You can make the comparison yourself. They have years to get that good and better. I predict that within a year some could be better than I was at age thirteen.
The diagram above is taken from one of my best games as a 13-year-old, from a match I played with a friend of mine. I could have drawn but went for the win. We both recorded the moves. Our competition drove us to read books (I must have gone through everything by Horowitz, Chernev, and Reinfeld at my public library) and by the time we began attending a chess club we were already good players.
My students have a ways to go, as you'll see. But you have to start somewhere. The most important thing is that they are writing their moves down, which means they have a chance to correct their mistakes. And being able to write chess notation means that they are able to read it, which opens up the world of chess literature to them. When they enter fourth grade (the time when kids switch from learning to read to reading to learn), they will be ready to make huge strides. Our next lessons should do a lot to improve their performances. And these first recorded games will serve as a valuable benchmark to help measure that improvement.