Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Left Hook Grand Prix Revisited

I have posted The Left Hook Grand Prix Revisited, analyzing two critical games that appear in Gaiwain Jones's recent Starting Out: Sicilian Grand Prix Attack (Everyman 2008). The Left Hook can be reached by a number of transpositions, but typically begins with 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.a3!? My favorite lines follow the gambit 5...e6 6.b4! But more critical seems to be 5...d6 6.Bc4 e6 7.O-O Nge7 8.d3 O-O 9.Qe1 (see diagram). Black's best is to break in the center with 9...d5! when White must decide between 10.Ba2 and 10.Bb3, which is a much more important decision than it would at first appear (which Jones does not acknowledge).
I don't mean to fault Jones's book, which I think is a great addition to the Starting Out series. As you would expect of a survey text for Class players, the book does not offer deep analysis. And like most opening books these days, it is really a repertoire book, so you are not going to get a wide range of ideas. All lines begin 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3, so the author can skip the Tal Gambit, but there is some variety within that -- including treatment of both Bc4 and Bb5 lines. Probably the greatest added value of the book is its discussion of 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Bb5!? but I was disappointed that after 3...Nd4 Jones only covers 4.Bc4 and not 4.Nf3!? (discussed by Chris Baker, following analysis by Paul Motwani). I did like some of his specific choices and think it is certainly a corrective (or important addition) to "Chess Openings for White, Explained," so it would be worth having if you have used that book previously to build your GP repertoire. I think that anyone below 2000 rating who is thinking of adding the GP to their repertoire would find it a useful starting point, so it is definitely well suited to the audience and purpose.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bird's Defense Bibliography (C61)

bird's defense
I have been meaning to put together a Bird's Defense Bibliography for over a year, and was finally inspired to do so by Dana Mackenzie's "Bird by Bird" series at his blog. I have myself been "flipping the Bird" at the Ruy Lopez since the 1980s, when I first saw the amazing game Anderssen - Lange, Breslau 1859. I like that Black typically gets to lord it over White in the center and have his share of fun, as some of my blitz games with the line show.

After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nd4 4.Nxd4 (considered the most critical test, though 4.Ba4 is a simple and solid approach) 4...exd4 5.O-O (theory's main line), Black has a wide range of choices. These include the "Historical" Bird line 5...Bc5 (my own preference and the one favored by current theory); the "Modern" 5...c6 (to be followed by either 6...Nf6 or an immediate 6...d5!? break); Blackburne's 5...g6 (which Mackenzie calls the "Red Bull" because it seems to provoke White to charge); and a variety of minor variants (including 5...Ne7 and the surprising 5...h5!? -- which was occasionally used by Bird himself and treated favorably by IM John Watson). The defense is such a "rare bird" among the chess elite that the consensus on how best to play it changes with practically every major GM encounter. What this means is that Bird's Defense remains a rich territory for opening exploration and innovation.

I have tried to organize the bibliography in reverse chronology, to show the development of theory. I have listed the few available web sources first since these are most likely to be used by readers. As always, I am happy to receive corrections or additions in the comments.

Web Resources

Mackenzie, Dana (2008). "Bird by Bird, Part 3A," "Bird by Bird, Part 2," and "Bird by Bird."
In a series of blog posts, the author and instructor discusses his Bird repertoire with illustrations from his games. He makes a good case for Blackburne's favorite 5...g6 in the main line and offers some fun and interesting illustrations of enterprising Black strategy.

Ruy Lopez, Bird's Defense at
There are only 432 games in the database, but the chessgames presentation provides easy access on the web. Those interested in more games would do well to check the main Game Collections and Databases.

Anderssen - Lange, Breslau 1859 at YouTube
Spanish language presentation on the classic Bird game.

Herb, Pascal (2006). La defense Bird de l'Espagnole at Andrei Sokolov's "Les Echecs en noir et blanc."
A free resource that gives a useful analytic overview of the Bird. But the latest game reference is 1987, so you know the original work is not as recent as the 2006 date would suggest.

Watson, John (2004). "Ruy Lopez, Bird Defense" at
A very interesting discussion by the noted opening theorist of Bird's 5...h5!? idea, in response to a reader's question. Watson thinks it is quite interesting and playable.

Basalla, Bob (2004?). Oldies but not Moldies (PDF) at Vivacity Chess Center
A move-by-move discussion of Anderssen - Lange, Breslau 1859, which is not the first to mention that Anderssen missed 10.Qe1! (1996) via ftp at the Pitt Archives
A zipped .pgn file of Ruy Lopez. Bird's Defense games to download via ftp.

Books and Articles
The following materials are listed in reversed chronological order to highlight changes in Bird theory. A more thorough treatment might include the classic opening manuals (Euwe and Keres) and ECO, and I may eventually add them.

Flear, Glenn (2008). "L'Oiseau." Dangerous Weapons, 1.e4 e5: Dazzle Your Opponents in the Open Games. Edited and written by John Emms, Glenn Flear, and Andrew Greet. Everyman Chess, pp. 85-102.
Flear's discussion of "L'Oiseau" (French for "bird") offers a contemporary and coherent repertoire built around the currently favored 5...Bc5 line. While Flear's earlier coverage of the line in Offbeat Spanish seemed a bit more encouraging for White, here he takes the Black side (as he himself has done quite often), offering interesting games and finding solutions to typical Black problems. One interesting line following 5...Bc5 is to play 6.d3 c6 7.Bc4 d5! 8.exd5 cxd5 9.Bb5+ Kf8!? when White's Bishop is poorly placed, Black's doubled pawns control all the central squares, and Black's King is safer at f8 than White's is in his castle.
The 5...Bc5 development scheme is not without its problems, and Flear does not ignore them. For example, 4.Nxd4 exd4 5.Bc4 prevents the normal development by 5...Bc5 due to 6.Bxf7+! and Qh5+. And there is no easy solution in 5...Nf6 due to 6.O-O d5 7.exd5 Nxd5 8.Qh5! with advantage to White. To solve this problem, Flear suggests 5...h5!? which keeps the Queen out of the critical h5 square so that Black can return to his preferred scheme of development by Bc5, c6, and d5. This is an interesting idea, which Bird himself employed on occasion. Flear also recommends meeting the difficult line 5.O-O Bc5 6.d3 c6 7.Ba4 (intending f4-f5) with 7...d6 8.f4 f5! to block White's f-pawn's advance. This scheme has worked in several games, even though the Black King may have to flee to the queenside.
Flear presents a very enterprising and coherent repertoire for Black. Among the games he examines are Fressinet - Fontaine, French Championship 2005; Short - Kupreichik, Hastings 1981-1982; Zulfugarli - Najer, 1999; Kalod - Jirka, Brno 2006; Morozevich - Najer, Moscow 1992; Benjamin - Flear, Hungary 1987; Hossain - Al Rakib Abdulla, Dhaka 2006; Davies - Lorenz, Berlin 1987; Huebner - Nunn, Brussels 1986; Beliavsky - Tseshkovsky, USSR 1986; Savon - Malaniuk, Warsaw 1992; Ljubojevic - Salov, Rotterdam 1989; Sigurjonnson - Kupreichik, Winnipeg 1986; Novik - Meister, USSR 1991; Aldama - Mamedyarov, Bled 2002; and Simacek - Jirka, Olomouc 2001. Even if you are not so taken with the 5...Bc5 lines, the Dangerous Weapons 1.e4 e5 book is worth having for its own sake (as I wrote in a review back in April).

Greet, Andrew (2007). Play the Ruy Lopez. Everyman Chess, 82-102.
In an interesting repertoire book built around the Worrall Attack (5.Qe2 in the main line Lopez), Greet covers sidelines like the Bird, offering basically the same repertoire as Karpov and Lane before him with 4.Nxd4 exd4 5.O-O Bc5 6.d3 c6 7.Ba4 Ne7?! 8.f4!

Lane, Gary (2005). "Rare Third Moves." The Ruy Lopez Explained. Sterling Publishing, 10-14.
Focusing on Horvath - Pamkilpel, Berlin 1997, Lane offers more detailed treatment than Karpov does of 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nd4 4.Nxd4 exd4 5.O-O Bc5 6.d3 c6 7.Ba4 Ne7?! 8.f4! with consideration of Black's other replies along the way.
Tait, Jonathan (2005). "William Mason BCCA Championship 2002/2003." Correspondence Chess #159-160 (Winter 2004-2005): 22-34.
In an article ostensibly about Keith McLaughlin's victory in the 2002/2003 British Correspondence Chess Association championship (and including a number of games besides McLaughlin's), editor Tait devotes 10 densely annotated pages analyzing McLaughlin's incredible success (+8 =7 -2 as Black) with the main "Modern" Bird line 5...c6 6.Bc4 Nf6. McLaughlin typically plays right into Matanovic - Gliksman 1967 with 7.Re1 d6 8.c3 Ng4 9.h3 Ne5 10.d3 Nxc4 11.dxc4 dxc3 12.Nxc3 Be7 13.Bf4 O-O and has actually won from this position as Black (+2 =3 in fact). This is essential reading for anyone who would like to revive the Modern line, which is much maligned in the rest of the literature (as Tait neatly reviews). No other lines of the Bird are covered, though Tait mentions the game M. Read - Skotorenko in Correspondence Chess #142 as showing "Black's troubles" in the 5...Bc5 line.
Kaufman, Larry (2004). The Chess Advantage in Black and White: Opening Moves of the Grandmasters. Random House, 38-39.
As part of his discussion of the Ruy Lopez for White (focusing the repertoire around the safe Exchange Variation), Kaufman gives only the second Kasparov - Khalifman, Moscow 2002 game to guide White play. He also mentions analysis by Emms arguing for a White edge after 5...Bc5 6.d3 c6 7.Ba4 d6 8.Bb3!

Khalifman, Alexander (2003). Opening for White According to Anand 1.e4, Volume 1. Chess Stars.
I have not seen this yet, but Khalifman's series is superb, so he likely offers a very thorough analysis from White's perspective on the Bird. From what I gather, one line he recommends is 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nd4 4.Nxd4 exd4 5.O-O Bc5 6.Bc4, threatening Bxf7+.

Shaw, John (2003). Starting Out: The Ruy Lopez. Everyman Chess.
Shaw practically ignores the Bird completely to devote pages to the Berlin and Schliemann.

Van der Tak, A. C. (2002). "Twice is once too often!" New in Chess Yearbook #64. 104-109.
The article's title describes how Alexander Khalifman twice used the Bird Variation as a surprise weapon against Garry Kasparov in their mini-match at the Grand Prix in Moscow 2002, choosing the very "Modern" line 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nd4 4.Nxd4 exd4 5.O-O c6 6.Bc4 d5!? 7.exd5 cxd5 8.Bb5 Bd7 9.Re1+ Ne7. In their first game, Kasparov used 10.a4 and Khalifman had no trouble equalizing, though the champion sacrificed the Exchange for attacking chances and tested him in a long queen ending. In their second game, though, Kasparov and his team came up with 10.c4!N which led to a Black debacle in 23 moves. Van der Tak examines these games and 15 others with the Modern 5...c6 line -- including ones where Black tries instead 6.Bc4 Nf6 (preferred by theory) and the unusual 6.Bc4 Ne7!? 7.Re1! (7.d3 d5!) Ng6!?

Flear, Glenn (2000). "Bird's Defence." Offbeat Spanish: Meeting the Spanish without 3...a6. Everyman, 94-108.
Flear offers more of a White perspective here, analyzing several games, most of which feature the 5...Bc5 line. In fact, Flear practically ignores all of Black's other main systems, which makes his coverage less than ideal for White preparation. Following Karpov (see below), he focuses on Kamsky - Ivanchuk, Tilburg 1990, though he also takes note of Novik - Meister, USSR 1991, which is ECO's main line, though he writes that "the whole set-up looks somehow artificial and White players should be able to find something." Other interesting games that receive mention include Dvoiris - Meister, Russia 1992; Geller - Klaman, Tblisi 1949; Reti - Spielmann, Budapest 1913-1914; and Romanishin - Malaniuk, Tblisi 1986.

Emms, John (1999). Easy Guide to the Ruy Lopez. Everyman.
I have not seen this book.

Taulbut, Shaun. (1996). Understanding the Spanish. Batsford, 136-137.
Like Lane (see below), Taulbut offers a safe and solid repertoire choice for White with 4.Ba4 and uses the game Short - Kupreichik, Hastings 1981-1982 as his sole illustration.

Karpov, Anatoly (1994). Winning with the Spanish. Trans. John Sugden. Batsford, 150-159.
The former champion offers careful analytic coverage favorable to White, focusing on the game Kamsky - Ivanchuk, Tilburg 1990, which helped to establish the line 5.O-O Bc5 6.d3 c6 7.Ba4 Ne7?! 8.f4! as a critical test for Black. Other games discussed include Oll - Guseinov, USSR 1989; Ljubojevic - Salov, Rotterdam 1989; Kindermann - Tatai, Budapest 1987; Kindermann - Lorenz, West Berlin 1987; Spassky - Barua, NY 1987; Blatny - Malaniuk, Warsaw 1989; and Romanishin - Balashov, Erevan 1986.

Rotariu, Gheorghe and Pietro Cimmino (1992). The Bird Variation in the Ruy Lopez. S1 Editrice SRL.
Before databases, books like this one were invaluable. And they are still useful for their attempt at comprehensive coverage, especially when newer opening books tend to offer a limited repertoire rather than an overview. Like the Leach pamphlet (see below), the book is very well organized and there are some useful notes, though most of the illustrative games receive no annotations whatsoever. It includes excellent indexes to variations and players and therefore makes a very useful reference tool.

Suetin, Alexei (1992). The Complete Spanish. Trans. Malcolm Gesthuysen. Batsford, pp. 45-50.
Suetin provides thorough analytic treatment of the main lines, focusing on 5...c6 and 5...Bc5. He favors 5...Bc5, which he says "appears to offer quite good prospects" for Black. The move 5...g6 is rejected based on the game Capablanca - Blackburne, St. Petersburg 1914 (rather than Tarrasch - Blackburne, St. Petersburg which is the focus of subsequent writers). The most recent game citation is 1989. Chief game examples include Dvoiris - Balashov, USSR 1986; Anand - Tseshkovsky, Calcutta 1986; and Beliavsky - Tsechkovsky, USSR 1986.

Lane, Gary (1992). The Ruy Lopez for the Tournament Player. Batsford, 215-221.
Lane says the Bird is quite sound and suggests White try "to seek a small edge" with the practical 4.Ba4, using the games Mokry - Agdestein, Gausdal 1987 and Georgiev - Hector, Haifa 1989 to illustrate. He also offers the games Short - Ivanchuk, Linares 1989 and Zaichik - Kupreichik, Leningrad 1989 to illustrate the 4.Nxd4 exd4 main line.

Yudovich, Mikhail (1986). Spanish without ...a6. Trans. Eric Schiller. Collier Books, pp. 60-70.
Yudovich offers complete analytic coverage with a generally positive assessment of Black's chances, especially in the 5...c6 line with an early d5. He is less persuaded by 5...g6 or 5...Bc5, though he thinks even here White only gets the "slight edge" that is his destiny.

Haag, Russ (1986). "Theoretical Novelties: Cracking Bird's Defense to the Ruy Lopez." Chess International, July - August, p. 6.
In a packed, one-page article focused on the line 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nd4 4.Nxd4 exd4 5.O-O c6 6.Bc4 Nf6 7.Re1 d6 8.c3 Ng4 9.h3 Ne5 10.d3 Nxc4 11.dxc4 dxc3 12.Nxc3 Be7 13.Bf4 O-O 14.Qd3! Be6 15.Rad1 Re8 (with careful consideration of main alternatives along the way), correspondence master Haag considers two of his recent games from the White side which help to establish that White indeed has an advantage against this old main line.

Leach, Colin (1985). Ruy Lopez Bird's Defence. Caissa Books.
This 70-page pamphlet offers a complete analytic treatment, presenting about 150 lightly annotated games and some original analysis in 16 sections that cover all reasonable lines after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nd4. It gives about equal treatment to 4.Nxd4 exd4 5.O-O c6 and 5...Bc5. As with his pamphlet on the Bishop's Opening, Leach covers some lines neglected by later writers, has a complete player index, and organizes the material well. For the most part, though, the games it contains can probably be found in most databases and the original annotations discovered with a computer. It does offer some useful original analysis, however, of the tactical "Modern" lines in a way that expands on McCormick and Soltis and helps to put that line to rest.

Soltis, Andy and Gene H. McCormick (1981). Bird's Defense to the Ruy Lopez. McFarland.
Probably the best book-length treatment of the opening to date, featuring some ground-breaking historical research. This book is worth having for the 52-page introductory section featuring a biography ("The Genius of Henry Bird") and collection of Bird's games with the opening, given with historical introductions and some contemporary notes. The analysis, however, is limited by the number of games that were available in 1981. Where it is most valuable is in analyzing the tricky "Modern" line 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nd4 4.Nxd4 exd4 5.O-O c6 6.Bc4 Nf6 7.Re1 d6 8. c3 Ng4 9.h3 Ne5 10.Bf1 d3 11.f4 Qb6+, as in the game Ujtuman - Lein, Sochi 1965. While Schwarz cites analysis that seems to refute Black's play (pointing out 11.Re3! and 12.Kh2! as improvements), McCormick and Soltis provide some interesting ideas, including 11.Re3 g5!? and 12.Kh2 h5 13.fxe5 Bg4 14.hxg4 hxg4+ 15.Kg3 when 15...Qb8 appears to bolster Black's attack. However, as they discuss (and Schwarz had shown), White has a simple way of handling the position, as demonstrated in Matanovic - Gliksman, Kraljevo/Zagreb 1967, which continued 10.d3! Nxc4 11.dxc4 dxc3 12.Nxc3 Be7 13.Bf4 O-O 14.Qd3! (Schwarz mistakenly recommended 14.Qd2?! when Be6! 15.b3 Bf6! =) and White has a solid edge due to his pressure against the d6-pawn and possibilities of sacrificing a Knight at d5. Haag (see above) later was among those to prove White's positional advantage rather conclusively, and the entire variation disappeared from GM practice before a final verdict was ever rendered on the more tactical lines that follow 10.Bf1.

Schwarz, Rolf (1970). "Die Bird-Verteidigung." Spanisch II, Band 21. Verlag Das Schach Archiv of Hamburg, pp. 127-153.
This is a Classic German language opening series which covers a lot of territory. The Bird section is broken up into 13 mini-chapters on different variations, with 14 illustrative games (some of which supplement the analysis by discussing lines they do not cover). Schwarz focuses on and begins with the "Modern" 5.O-O c6 lines (which alone take up the first 8 sections). He then devotes a section each to 5...Ne7, 5...Bc5, 5...g6, 5.d3, and third move alternatives for White. Noted games include Ujtuman - Lein, Sochi 1965; Matulovic - Iliewski, Skopje 1968; Geller - Kholmov, USSR 1949; Suetin - Tolush, USSR 1950; Smyslov - Yudovich, Leningrad 1947; Smyslov - Lutikov, USSR 1960; and Michel - Rossetto, Mar del Plata 1947.
Gruenfeld, Ernst (1953). Taschenbuch der Eroffnung im Schach
According to Pete Tamburro, Gruenfeld cites v. Scheve-Spielmann, Ostend, 1907; Anderssen-Blackburne, Vienna, 1873; Fine in PCO; Boleslavski-Ravinski, Moscow, 1944; Smyslov-Aaltorzev, Moscow, 1946; and Geller-Kholmov, Moscow, 1949.

Please post additions or corrections in the comments section and I will add them.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

U.S. Men and Women Take Bronze at Chess Olympiad

The USCF website reports that both the U.S. men's and women's teams have taken bronze at the Chess Olympiad in Dresden.  ChessBase and Chessgames (separating men's and women's results) offer good links to the games.  

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Princeton Students Give Prison Simul

There was a good story (with video) in The Star Ledger yesterday about a chess simul by several Princeton University chess players at New Jersey State Prison in Trenton (which boasts of 75 players in its chess club). With only one master and an Expert, the Princeton team dropped quite a few games. Even their best player did not have an easy time of it:

David Wang, 19, of Canada, a molecular biology sophomore with a masters rating in chess, beat nine inmates simultaneously, although he nearly stumbled against convicted killer James Cooks. The 36-year-old inmate, who is serving a 32-year sentence, once had a promising start as a chess player growing up in Camden, playing on a middle school team.

"I had some trouble with him," Wang said, nodding at Cooks, who smiled back with pride. "They were all much better than I imagined - some incredibly inventive and interesting moves."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

IM Michael Basman

Clyde Nakamura has a nice profile today at of the "Unorthodox Chess Opening Hero" IM Michael Basman. It is accompanied by a zipped pgn file of Basman's games.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Chess in Art Resources

The excellent Streatham & Brixton Chess Club weblog today offers up a thorough bibliography of Chess in Art Resources, which concludes their wonderful series on the subject (see the index of posts on that topic and their collection of images with comments). The one major resource they overlook is Sarah Beth Cohen's excellent article on Chess: Romance, Love and Sex, which offers up a wonderful collection of erotic chess art mostly drawn from popular sources. I have also had a few posts on the topic, including one on "Marketing Chess as Art."

Thursday, November 06, 2008

GM Joel Benjamin Examines NJKO's Season

GM Joel Benjamin, first board and team captain for the New Jersey Knockouts chess team, examines their season in "New Jersey Knocked Out" at the USCF website.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Exchanging Pieces Lecture

Kenilworth Chess Club president John Moldovan has posted the games with analysis (and zipped pgn) from NM Scott Massey's lecture on "Exchanging Pieces." It features some great games and is worth a look.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

NJ Knockouts Lose to New York (Again)

Finding themselves in exactly the same position as they were in last year, with draw odds against a resurgent New York Knights team, the New Jersey Knockouts blew it again and lost in Week 10 of US Chess League action. They are out of the playoffs, despite their excellent start this season, and the New York team (which started 1-5) takes the final Wild Card spot.

I have annotated the games and posted them online. You can also compare last year's games.

The NJ loss feels to me like a sad end to a couple of weeks full of generally more happy conclusions, with Anand taking the World Chess Championship and the Phillies taking the World Series. With the Presidential election concluding on Tuesday, I expect to feel a bit at sea, with nothing much worth following online or in the media. Maybe it will be time to go on another hiatus...

Other news can be found at the USCL website and NJKO blog. For those interested, I have updated the Articles page of our site to give links to all the matches from this year.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Homo Erectus or Ugly Duckling?

IM Mark Ginsburg offers a "Soviet style" refutation of  the "Ugly Duckling" 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.g4, which Dana Mackenzie has analyzed in a series of articles (Part One and Part Two) as the Homo Erectus Variation.  It's nice to see the occasional blogger debate over opening analysis.  Reminds me of the long-running Monokroussos - West exchange on the Philidor Counter Gambit.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

NJKOs Drop Key Match to Miami

Benjamin - Becerra
Black to play after 28.Kg1?

Playing the Miami Sharks for second place in the Eastern Division in week #9 of US Chess League action, the NJ Knockouts blundered on three boards to lose 3-1 and put themselves in grave danger of not qualifying for the playoffs despite their promising start this season. I have posted the games online with annotations. The match was played on Wednesday night, October 22.

The most interesting game was definitely Benjamin - Becerra, which was also very difficult to judge, even in post mortem. Becerra got some excellent play for the Exchange in a rare Moller Defense against the Ruy Lopez, but it seemed that Benjamin had a few opportunities to gain an edge or at least hold equality -- including at the critical moment when Benjamin refused to yield Becerra a forced draw following 28.Nd3 and instead walked into a deadly attack by 28.Kg1? It may be that a draw was as bad as a loss by that point in the match, but it was an unusual slip for the former US Champ. Piece-dropping blunders on Boards 2 and 4 cinched the match. One bright light was NJ Champ Mackenzie Molner's brilliant conduct of a Rook ending on Board 3 to bring New Jersey its only point of the night.

New Jersey has to win or draw against New York next week to make the playoffs, when they will have an uphill battle to win the championship since their opponents will have draw odds.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

NM Scott Massey Lecture Tonight

NM Scott Massey will deliver his annual lecture tonight, this time on the subject of "Exchanging Pieces." The price of the lecture is $5. All of Scott's previous lectures have been well attended and well received, including those on Paul Keres (2006), King and Pawn Endings (2005), How to Analyze (2005), Moscow 1925 and the Origins of Soviet Chess (2005), and Bobby Fischer (2004).

Monday, October 20, 2008

West Orange vs. Kenilworth

Members of the Kenilworth CC Team

Members of the West Orange CC Team

The West Orange Chess Club visited the Kenilworth Chess Club on Thursday night for a friendly team match, which the home team won 6-4. The Chess Coroner did some "live" blogging during the event and has posted some of the games, and I have analyzed my own game against fellow Expert Crawford Daniels (see diagram below). Before the match started, there was some talk of organizing a club-based chess league, which was generally well received, though few would want to have to travel very far for the matches. Many of our members recall the successful Raritan Valley, North Jersey and Central Jersey Chess Leagues of the 70s-80s, which included club, college, and industrial teams meeting on a weekly basis. Someone should really put together a little history of the league and collect some of the games before it all fades from memory.

Goeller - Daniels
White to play.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Howard Stern Plays Chess

NN - Howard Stern
Black to play.

Howard Stern's fascination with chess is the focus of today's New York Times chess column by Dylan Loeb McClain ("Long a Player, Howard Stern Gets Serious About His Game"). I like when McClain discusses amateur games and players (as he did a few weeks ago when he covered astronaut Greg Chamitoff's match with Mission Control) and I am sure his readership connects to them more than they do to the games of the ongoing World Chess Championship with their incomprehensible maneuverings. Stern's games are actually pretty good, especially his cute ICC blitz miniature featuring the Budapest Counter-Gambit (see diagram above).

Anyone know Stern's ICC handle?

Friday, October 17, 2008

NJKOs Fall Back in Race for Playoffs

Benjamin - Milman
White to play.

The New Jersey Knockouts lost to Carolina on Monday night, reducing their chances for the playoffs considerably. I have posted the games online with some annotations. GM Joel Benjamin won a very nice game on Board One, which was practically a model for how White should play an isolani position. It also had a nice conclusion (see diagram above). But it was NJ Champ Molner's loss on Board Two that really decided the outcome of the match. After playing a brilliant opening and middlegame and gaining a piece advantage, Molner faltered just when he should have headed for the endgame with 32...Qd4! Instead, he kept the queens on in a complicated position and erred, likely in time pressure, turning a likely win into a loss. Our bottom boards were pretty well outplayed, and Carolina should have gained two points on Boards 3 and 4, but once Molner lost a draw was all they needed.

With the loss, New Jersey slips two games back of Queens in the standings and only has a shot at a Wild Card berth in the playoffs.

Monday, October 13, 2008

NJKO GMs Profiled

"Chairmen of the Board" is the title of a nice profile of New Jersey Knockouts teammates and fellow GMs Joel Benjamin and Boris Gulko in the Bergen County magazine 201 (from the North Jersey area code). Besides the news that GM Stripunsky recently moved to New Jersey, the most interesting quotes for me were the following:
“Actually, I have to say that my friends, we almost never play chess,” Benjamin admits. “I never play a casual game of chess. I don’t even really work out with a colleague anymore.”

Gulko echoes a similar sentiment. “I play in competitions,” he says. “Not much at home for pleasure.”
Makes you happy to be an amateur...

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Kramnik Interview

There is a good interview with Vladimir Kramnik at ChessBase in anticipation of the World Championship match of next week. See the official site for a count-down clock: 4 days, 15 hours, 24 minutes at this writing. Get psyched with YouTube Video.

NJKOs Miss Chance to Overtake Queens

Gulko - Vovsha
White to play.

The New Jersey Knockouts missed a great chance to overtake the Queens Pioneers on Monday night, October 6, in Week #7 of US Chess League action, when they only drew their match 2-2 despite having excellent winning chances in the two drawn games. I have posted the games online with notes.

On Board One, GM Joel Benjamin used his bulletproof Philidor Defense (as he did against Kudrin in Week #5) to gain at least equality. But late in the game, Alex Stripunsky faltered and gave Benjamin excellent winning chances in a very complex Queen ending. Perhaps expecting that Andrew Ng had an easy win, Benjamin played it safe and eventually allowed Stripunsky to escape with a draw by perpetual check. On Board Two, GM Boris Gulko continued to see his opponents crumble like feta cheese before him as he smashed Eli Vovsha's Pirc in one of the more interesting attacking games of the night (see diagram above, where Gulko began his assault). On Board Three, there was a great struggle between fellow IMs and MVP hopefuls Alex Lenderman and Dean Ippolito in an unusual Rossolimo Sicilian line. Lenderman eventually sacrificed a Rook for two Bishops to create what turned out to be a winning bind on the position, taking a full point in excellent style. And on Board Four, rising junior Ng missed several winning continuations in the endgame after playing some excellent positional chess in a Closed Giuoco.

In the long run, however, the match will likely make little difference in New Jersey's chances of winning the league title, since the two teams will probably meet again in the finals. Let's hope that the third time is the charm....

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Kasparov Interview at ChessCafe

Hanon Russell has an excellent interview with Garry Kasparov (permanent PDF) at ChessCafe today, where you will also find a positive review (permanent PDF) of Kasparov's latest book Garry Kasparov on Modern Chess, Part 2: Kasparov vs. Karpov 1975-1985 which analyzes every game between the two Ks. Russell seems to do an interview with Kasparov practically every year, and all can be found at the Skittles Room archive.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

NJ Knockouts Draw Kingfishers

Molner - R. Kaufman, USCL 2008
White to play.

The NJ Knockouts were lucky to tie 2-2 with the Baltimore Kingfishers on Wednesday, October 1, 2008, in Round 6 of US Chess League action. I have posted the games online, with my most extensive annotations so far this season. The Knockouts had beaten the Kingfishers in Round One 3-1, but this time they faced a much more determined team that probably should have won the match 3-1 but for an amazing turn of events on Board 2 late in the evening, when IM Ippolito managed to find a win in a likely loss after one mouse-slip by his opponent.

All of the games were of interest because they were played in complicated positions with continued interest to theory. I found a little extra time this weekend to do more detailed analysis of the games than I have been able to do thus far. I was inspired to do this, in part, by GM Joel Benjamin's excellent notes in his article "GM Joel on Knocking Out the Competition" at the USCF website, which brought home to me how much I was missing in these games in my cursory reviews.

The match was one of the most exciting so far and each game went down to the wire. On Board 1, Benjamin used the Panov Botvinnik Attack to get a classic isolani game against Erenburg, eventually gaining a great attack along the b1-h7 diagonal. Erenburg chose a fascinating strategy of marching his King out of the danger zone and through the middle of the board, after which Benjamin's Queen was out of position, giving Erenburg the chance to seize the initiative and win material. On Board 2, Enkhbat and Ippolito contested a known position in the Catalan where Black accepts a damaged structure in exchange for open lines and piece activity. Ippolito seemed to have gotten a good attack in exchange for a pawn, but Enkhbat seized the initiative with a series of strong moves and gained a winning endgame advantage. However, one mouse-slip changed the outcome of the game and the match. On Board 3, Molner and Ray Kaufman contested a well known position in the Steinitz French where Black sacrifices a piece for three pawns. Though Kaufman's rare move 13...O-O!? held some promising ideas, he did not succeed in making it work, leaving his King vulnerable to Molner's direct assault aided by the extra piece. And on Board 4, Shen used the standard Queen's Indian Hedgehog counter to Kahn's Torre Attack (which was actually the preferred method of defense as far back as Moscow 1925 when Torre first started using his line). Shen showed some excellent tactical thinking in this game and should have at least equalized, but he allowed Kahn to gain a favorable piece position to support his outside passed pawn, which Kahn brilliantly turned into a winning advantage.

It was a great match with some very good chess! And, despite the draw, the NJKO are still in title contention, especially with a loss by the previously undefeated Queens Pioneers. If they beat the Pioneers in their rematch tomorrow night on ICC, the NJKO could take the lead overall.

For additional coverage, check out:

Friday, October 03, 2008

Anand Interview

Der Spiegel did a wonderful interview with Chess World Champion Viswanathan Anand, which is translated and posted online at the ChessBase website. I found his reflections on the future of high level chess, given the impact of computers on the game, fascinating:
Ten years ago I said that 2010 would be the end, chess would be exhausted. But it is not true, chess will not die so quickly. There are still many rooms in the building which we have not yet entered. Will it happen in 2015? I don't think so. For every door the computers have closed they have opened a new one. ... Twenty years ago we were doing things that don't work today because of computers. We used to bluff our way through games, but today our opponents analyse them with a computer and recognize in a split second what we were up to. Computers do not fall for tricks. On the other hand we can undertake more complex preparation. In the past years there have been spectacular games that would not have been possible without computers. The possibility of playing certain moves would never have occurred to us. It is similar to astrophysics: their work may not be as romantic as in previous times, but they would never have progressed so far with paper and pencil.
Anand's championship match with Kramnik starts October 12 and will be held in the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany in Bonn.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Grob It While You Kann

Fans of my Caveman Caro-Kann (1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf4 4.h4) will want to check out NM Dana Mackenzie's series on the even more primitive advance with 4.g4!? discussed so far in two articles: Grob It While You Kann and More Madness in the Caro-Kann. I really like Dana's writing and his lectures (at He knows how to make chess fun.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pics from Asbury Park Chess Fest

Jim Mullanaphy Signals "Attack!"

GM Maurice Ashley

As always, the 9th Annual Asbury Park Chess Fest, sponsored by Prevention First and brilliantly organized by Hal and Barbara Sprechman, proved to be a great success. My back was turned to the festivities for most of the event, as I was playing up to eight boards in the continuous multi-player simultaneous (with new players constantly rotating in to replace those who give up their chairs); but I caught glimpses of a brilliant staff in action and lots of kids having fun. If you have never before participated, I recommend keeping an eye out for next year's announcement and bringing the kids down to Asbury Park for the day.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

NJKOs Outwit Philadelphia Inventors

Ng - Wilson, USCL 2008
White to play.

The New Jersey Knockouts won their match Wednesday night 3-1 against the Philadelphia Inventors in Round 5 of US Chess League action. I have posted the games online with annotations. The NJKO are now tied for second place in the league and hold second in their division with a 3.5-1.5 record, behind only the 5-0 Queens Pioneers (against whom they suffered their only loss).

Original NJKO players GM Benjamin and IM Ippolito played safely to draws while the newer members of the team carried home full points to take the match. GM Boris Gulko proved his value again on Board 2, where he has played incredibly solid chess and seen both of his highly rated opponents simply crumble before him. And rising youngster Andrew Ng dominated his opponent in a nicely played MacCutcheon French, turning in the most attractive game of the night (see diagram above).

Next week they play the Baltimore Kingfishers, against whom they had success earlier this season.

Related links:

Friday, September 26, 2008

GM Kenneth Rogoff Profiled

American GM turned economist Kenneth Rogoff is profiled today in a story by Dylan Loeb McClain in the International Herald Tribune. Rogoff describes his role as an adviser to Republican presidential nominee John McCain and shares what he considers to be one of his best games, Rogoff - Smejkal, Biel 1976.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Panther Returns

FM Steve Stoyko and NM Bill Freeman at the
Kenilworth CC some time in the 1970s

Some may recall my three-part series on The Panther (which can arise by various move orders, including 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nf3 d6!? 4.Nc3 e5) in which I wrote about my search for New Jersey master Bill Freeman who first developed that system with his playing partner Steve Stoyko. Well, Bill has resurfaced, exchanging some emails with me over the summer.

As you can imagine, my first question for him was: do you have more games with the Panther? "Yes," he writes, "I have many, many games; and a large volume of analysis. This isn't in the attic. I have this on my bookshelf." He sent one of his better ones, with what he would sometimes call "The White Panther":

Freeman -- Michael Rohde, World Open 1983

It's a good game and worth a look.

Freeman - Rohde, World Open 1983
White to play.

Something very similar was used recently by Nakamura against GM Benjamin in the NJ vs. Seattle match, though that game actually started with 1.g3 and turned into more of a Vienna than a Panther. Freeman had quite a bit to say about his pet line: "1.Nc3 and 2.a3 just loses a move to reverse the colors. This isn't new, Ariel Mengarini did this (e.g. 1.e4 e5 2.a3 Nf6 3.Nc3 d5 4.exd5 Nxd5 5.Qh5 the reversed Scotch Game, Mengarini - Pavey, US Champ., New York 1954) and Adolf Anderssen (e.g. 1.a3 e5 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 d5 Anderssen - Morphy, Paris 1858) and others. For me it allowed the acceleration in the production of the same positions for study and research. Losing a move as White is something we're taught not to do. There are variations to be avoided where 2.a3 is definitely a weakness. So, to recommend this system without a multitude of caveats would be wrong. I think I only referred to this system as the Panther twice. I called it the Black or White Panther. But basically it's the same cat. Others might have called it by other names, some derogatory...."

Bill retired in 2005 with his wife, Deborah, after working for American Products Company in Union (a short distance from the Kenilworth Chess Club) and has two children: a son attending Montclair State University and a married daughter who "moved to Florida (where the highly endangered Florida panther can be found)." Since retiring, he has spent most of his time doing oil painting (some excellent work that I have seen) and writing poetry. Only now has his interests returned to chess, though he says he "won't start playing until 2009, the Lord willing." He went on to write:
I thought it was a good time to take a rest and go back to chess. It was like waking up from a coma after 20 years—not knowing at all what had taken place in theory or practice for the last 20 years or what was going on now. It's difficult to explain all the surprises. I decided to go back to square one. I think Emanuel Lasker did this at one point in his life. I study everyday using almost everything that has developed over the last 20 years. I started about a year ago, asking basic questions: What's the best first move for White? What is intrinsically and fundamentally the best reply to 1.d4, 1.Nf3, 1.c4, etc. These are the most difficult questions to answer. I'm building a repertoire for White and Black. So to answer the question: 'Do you have any interest in chess anymore?' the answer is: You bet.
I think it will only be a few months now and "the Panther" will return. No doubt we will see him at the NJ Open next year. And I hope we will see him at the club before then. Maybe now we will get to see more interesting games with that intriguing line of his.

Friday, September 19, 2008

NJ Knockouts Beat the Boston Blitz

Benjamin - Christiansen
White to play.

The New Jersey Knockouts had good luck in their match against the Boston Blitz in Round Four of US Chess League action on Wednesday night, September 17, 2008, winning 3-1. I have posted the games with annotations online.  

On Board One against New Jersey's Joel Benjamin, GM Larry Christiansen blundered a piece on move 8 (see diagram above) in a tricky line of the c3-Sicilian. On Board Two, Boston's Denys Shmelov rejected two draws to press an edge against Dean Ippolito, but then made a costly error that handed Black a dangerous initiative that Ippolito used to win the game. And Charles Riordan lost a messy game against NJ Champ Mac Molner on Board Three. The only clean win of the night was Marc Esserman's brilliant handling of the Smith-Morra Gambit against Jason Lian on Board Four -- a game that should warm the hearts of all gambiteers (no matter if they also feel loyalties to New Jersey!) It was a messy win, and less lopsided than the 3-1 score would indicate.  But a win is a win, especially against the powerful Boston Blitz.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Asbury Park Chess Fest 2008

Prevention First Presents Asbury Park New Jersey Chess Festival September 27 2008

The Asbury Park Chess Fest 2008 is on Saturday, September 27 in Asbury Park’s Convention Hall (5th Street and Ocean Avenue) from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.  I took my son last year and watched him play NM Scott Massey in a simul then took a nice walk on the beach with him.  This year I have registered to play myself.  It's a great event and worth supporting.  You can register online for the event in order to play and see GM Maurice Ashley.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Anti-Petroff Repertoire with d4

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 Nxe4 4.Bd3 d5
5.dxe5 Be7 6.O-O Nc6 7.Nc3

Today I offer up an interesting Anti-Petroff Repertoire with d4 focused on lines where White gets an attacking set-up with a pawn at e5. While it has been played at the highest levels, this is still a relatively unusual line and one that players as Black will not often see, since the 3.Nxe4 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe5 exchange is so standard at every level. In fact, a number of books on the Petroff give scarcely a chapter on 3.d4. And those that do discuss 3.d4 focus on the more traditional lines where White takes at e5 with the Knight (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 Nxe4 4.Bd3 d5 5.Nxe5). The positions where White takes at e5 with a pawn, however, are less symmetrical and more frequently give White kingside attacking chances.

I first became interested in this line after seeing some nice White wins after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 Nxe4 4.Bd3 d5 5.dxe5 Be7 6.O-O Nc6 7.Nc3! (see diagram above). I like this move a lot. White allows doubled pawns in exchange for getting rid of the centralized Knight, speeding development, and gaining open lines (note the half-open b-file) and added control of the center (especially the d4-square). It is an interesting trade-off and one that has proven somewhat favorable for White in practice, including in our featured game Kosteniuk - Pourkashiyan from the ongoing Women's World Championship tournament (where GM Kosteniuk is playing in the final).

I call this a "repertoire" because I do not offer complete coverage of 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4, focusing only on my recommendations where White tends to get a pawn at e5. The only place where I have erred on the side of inclusiveness is against Murey's surprising 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 Nxe4 4.Bd3 Nc6!? where White has a number of interesting options, though I do tend to prefer 5.Bxe4 d5 6.Bg5! Against the less common 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 exd4, White always has, of course, the option of transposing to my favorite Urusov Gambit (with 4.Bc4), but I also offer the interesting line 4.e5 Ne4 5.Qe2!? which sidesteps the extensive theory of 5.Qxd4 and tends to produce interesting attacking possibilities based on the pawn at e5. As always, I welcome reader input and improvements.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

NJKOs Let Seattle Escape with a Draw

Gulko - Tangborn
White to play

The New Jersey Knockouts let the Seattle Sluggers slip a headlock and escape with a draw in Round 3 of US Chess League action on Wednesday night, September 10, 2008. I have posted the games online with light annotations.  I think it can be argued that New Jersey had an edge on every board at some point and likely a decisive one on bottom board, where Jayson Lian walked into a three-fold repetition that sealed the match.  As it turned out, only GM Boris Gulko carried home a full point.

On Board One, GM Joel Benjamin appeared to have a solid game out of the opening -- an odd sort of Benko from GM Nakamura, which could also be described as a Vienna by transposition. Perhaps there were better ways for Black to pursue an edge early on, but a series of small inaccuracies by Benjamin let White gain a decisive space and then material advantage. On Board Two, Boris Gulko put on a truly superb seminar on how to pursue a positional advantage and squeeze your opponent off the board. This was the best game for New Jersey. NJ Champ Mackenzie Molner, meanwhile, gained a pawn advantage out of the opening but decided to surrender material to pursue an elusive kingside initiative which only netted a draw. Likely there was a better way for him to pursue the full point by just hanging onto the material edge. But the real heartbreaker had to be Lian's draw on Board 4, where he had a decisive material advantage and a pawn on the 7th. He just needed a little more time on the clock to get the point -- which is why he walked into the draw by repetition.

New Jersey showed that it has the power to hold its own with even a tough team. But they have to do more to get the full points. NJ returns to even, at 1.5-1.5 over the three rounds of play. Let's hope we can pull into the lead, where we belong, with some wins.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Games from the New Jersey Open

diagram 1
Dulany - Dell'orte 
White to play.

diagram 2
Ippolito - Rohde 
Black to play.

I have posted four of the better games form the New Jersey Open (see crosstables), including two from NJ Champion Mackenzie Molner and the two games that split the "best game" prize for the event (see diagrams above). My thanks to Fred Wilson (who was appointed to decide the best game prizes from the event) for sending me the scores.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

NJKOs Fall to Pioneers

Vovsha - Molner
White to play

Katz - Shen 
White to play

In a complete reversal of their success last week, the New Jersey Knockouts fell 1-3 to the Queens Pioneers in Round 2 of US Chess League action last night.  I have posted the games online with light annotations. GM Joel Benjamin had a fine win on Board One but the lower boards were thoroughly outplayed and eventually succumbed to blunders.  The diagrams above depict the winning moments in two of those games.  NJ Champion Mackenzie Molner, who has played some wonderful, crowd-pleasing games in recent years, got into a very passive position against Vovsha due to the weakness of his d6 square and lost rather quickly.  I don't think the Pirc suits his style.

Monday, September 01, 2008

U.S.-Russian Diplomacy as Monopoly vs. Chess

For the past two years, I have been following a series of stories that depict U.S. - Iranian diplomacy as the story of poker-playing Americans trying to out-bluff Iranian chessplayers (see Texas Hold'em and Chess and Diplomacy). Spengler of the Asia Times suggested recently that the growing U.S. conflict with Russia (especially since the invasion of Georgia) might be understood by recognizing that "Americans Play Monopoly, Russians Chess":  
What Americans understand by "war games" is exactly what occurs on the board of the Parker Brothers' pastime. The board game Monopoly is won by placing as many hotels as possible on squares of the playing board. Substitute military bases, and you have the sum of American strategic thinking.

America's idea of winning a strategic game is to accumulate the most chips on the board: bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, a pipeline in Georgia, a "moderate Muslim" government with a big North Atlantic Treaty Organization base in Kosovo, missile installations in Poland and the Czech Republic, and so forth. But this is not a strategy; it is only a game score.

Chess players think in terms of interaction of pieces: everything on the periphery combines to control the center of the board and prepare an eventual attack against the opponent's king. The Russians simply cannot absorb the fact that America has no strategic intentions: it simply adds up the value of the individual pieces on the board. It is as stupid as that.
As Spengler writes elsewhere:
A deadly miscommunication arises from this asymmetry. The Russians cannot believe that the Americans are as stupid as they look, and conclude that Washington wants to destroy them.
As Business New Europe's "Moscow Blog" suggested, expanding on Spengler's metaphor:
Washington may genuinely see the Czech/Poland-based anti-missile system... as simply another hotel and really has no aggressive intentions towards Russia. However, for the chess-playing Russians it was an incredibly aggressive move on the US's part, as it points directly at the king.
Whether or not chess thinking governs Russia's moves in the conflict, there is no question that the invasion of Georgia has impacted the world of chess.  As Dylan Loeb McClain reports in The New Yorks Times:
Nine of the 64 women who qualified for the women’s world championship, being held in the Russian city of Nalchik in the Caucasus, did not appear at the start of the tournament on Thursday in protest of the war. The nine, including six from Georgia, were disqualified.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Photos from the NJ Championship

FM Steve Stoyko and NM Scott Massey
posing "for the blog"

I dropped by the NJ State Chess Championship on Saturday to snap some pictures.  Despite the fact that it was not advertised in Chess Life, the tournament appeared to be well attended.  Besides those playing, there were also a number stopping by to browse Fred Wilson's books and see their friends.  Scott Massey came by to analyze some games with his students and ran into Steve Stoyko, who was playing.  I got these Kenilworth regulars to pose for a picture, with both calling out "for the blog" in place of "cheese."

FM Tommy Bartell

FM Tommy Bartell was also playing, though he recently moved to Philadelphia where he has set up house and is looking forward to the birth of a son (his first child).  Tommy will be playing for the Philadelphia Inventors in the US Chess League this year.

Fred Wilson's book selection

I spent most of my time browsing Fred Wilson's book tables. As always, he had an excellent selection of books, vintage sets, and clocks and will be at the tournament through Monday.

Top boards included IM Dean Ippolito (top)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

62nd New Jersey State Chess Championship 2008

The 62nd New Jersey State Championship (a.k.a. the New Jersey Open) chess tournament will run this weekend.  There was no advertisement in Chess Life, but you can find the complete details at the New Jersey State Chess Federation website.  It will be held at the Somerset Ramada Inn, 60 Cottontail Lane, Somerset NJ, Exit 12 off I-287 (Weston Canal Road). Registration is 9-11 on Saturday for the three-day schedule and the first round starts at noon.  I will definitely visit, if only to see what goodies Fred Wilson has for sale.

Here are the complete details: In 4 Sections: Open, Gold (U1900), Silver (U1600) & Booster (U1300). In 2 playing schedules: 3-day (Sat, Sun & Mon) or 2-day (Sun & Mon only). All prizes guaranteed. Open: $500-400-300-200-200-150-150-100. Top Expert & Class A, $100. U1900: $500-300-200-100. Top class B $100. U1600: $500-300-200-100. Top class D, $100. U1300: $500-300- 200-100. Trophies: Top 3 each per section, NJ Champion, Expert, A, B, D, E & Unrated. Unrated may win first prize only in Top Section. EF: Open Section: at site $85. $40 Re-entry but can’t be NJ Champion. Lower 3 Sections: At site $80. $40 Re-entry. 3-day: Reg. Aug 30, 9am - 11am. Round times Sat. 12-7, Sun 11-6, Mon. 9-4. 2-day: Reg. Aug 31, 9am - 10:30am, Round #1-#3 (G/45) starts 11am then ASAP. Both schedules merge in round 4. Byes: 2 byes allowed. Hotel info: Somerset Ramada Inn Room rates $79 with free continental Breakfast (732) 560-9880. Info: Ken, or 908.763.6468 or signup online at Notice: Players and Spectators, no ear covering or cell phones attached to the ears. NS, No Chewing Tobacco, NC, W.

NJ Knockouts Smash Kingfishers

R. Kaufman - Molner, USCL 2008
Black to play.

The New Jersey Knockouts started their 2008 US Chess League season with a convincing win over the Baltinore Kingfishers, 3-1.  I have lightly annotated the best game of the match, which was Mackenzie Molner's impressive win over Raymond Kaufman (which could well compete for game of the week honors).  The sole loss was by Joel Benjamin on Board 1 to GM Sergey Erenburg, the recent winner of the NJ Futurity.

I do not have the time this year to annotate every game from the NJKO matches, but I will definitely be following them closely, especially now that GM Boris Gulko is on the team to fill in for GM Benjamin.  Given their strong start and their new roster, the NJKO could go all the way.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Steinitz - Sveshnikov Attack in the Giuoco Piano

steinitz sveshnikov attack

I have recently been experimenting with The Steinitz - Sveshnikov Attack as an important addition to my Urusov Gambit System. The line gives me a good response to early Black deviations, and I typically reach it after 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nc6 (or 2...Bc5 3.Nf3 Nc6) 3.Nf3 Bc5 (against 3...Nf6 I play the Modern Two Knights with 4.d4 exd4 5.e5!) 4.c3 (I also like 4.O-O!?) 4...Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.e5! I wish I had more time these days to offer you a long analysis, but I thought it was about time I published what I do have.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Urusov Update

Meijer - Van t' Hof
White to Play

I have posted a Urusov Gambit 2008 Update, where I analyze over ten games from the past year or so that began with 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d4. I was inspired to put this together by GM Boris Alterman's "Gambit Guide" video at ICC this week, which offers Part One of a series on the Urusov. In the first of two installments, he offers a review of basic and brutal Urusov tactics against typical Black mistakes. My only criticism is that he lets pass without comment the common move order problem 1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. Qxd4 Nf6 6. Bg5?! rather than the superior 6. Nc3! (discussed at my Urusov Gambit System website), which seems still relatively unknown among players.

While the Urusov is very popular at club level, it remains relatively under-represented in databases. So putting together a collection of recent games can be a bit tricky. Most games that you find that open with 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d4 either transpose immediately to the Two Knights Defense (with 3...Nc6!? 4.Nf3 or 3...exd4 4.Nf3 Nc6 etc.) or are too poorly contested by both sides to be worthy of attention. After scouring the globe (using Google and the ICC database anyway), I turned up ten interesting games. I'd be glad to have more and invite reader submissions.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Fun with the Left Hook Grand Prix

I am back from vacation and thought I'd begin by posting some of the blitz games I've played lately with the Left Hook Grand Prix (1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.a3!?)  It's a fun line, especially in blitz.  I should be back to posting more regularly now.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tal - Stoyko, Simultaneous Exhibit 1990

Tal - Stoyko 1990
Black to play.

Tal - Stoyko 1990
Black to play.

I have annoted the game Mikhail Tal - Steve Stoyko, Simultaneous Exhibit 1990. I was visiting with Steve when he found the game score after many years. "I sacced a piece against Tal," he said as he handed it to me. It was an impressive performance by both players and a very interesting game. In the two diagrammed positions, Stoyko plays combinations that do not win material but do improve his position significantly and help to create winning chances for Black.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Erenburg Wins 2nd NJ Futurity

Ippolito - Erenburg
Black to play

Twenty-five-year-old Israeli GM Sergey Erenburg won the 2nd NJ Futurity International with a score of 7.5/9, a full point ahead of his nearest competitor, GM Leonid Yudasin.  Erenburg drew all three of the other GMs in the event and beat everyone else.  I have analyzed his best game, against IM Dean Ippolito, which justly won the brilliancy prize donated by Pete Tamburro (see "Two Brilliancies from the 2nd NJ Futurity 2008").  Ippolito's Dean of Chess Academy hosted the tourney, which ran from July 7-11.  

Black plays a shocker in the diagram above, going on to win in scintillating style.  I have also analyzed the game Ju - Scekic, which featured the gambit 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 c6!?!  White played a bit too passively and was eventually overcome with a vigorous attack.  Scekic demonstrated an aggressive style in the event and his games are worth a look.

Erenburg also took clear first place at last year's NJ Futurity.  No norms were scored in either tournament.  I have posted the rest of the games online. You can also view the PGN file of all games from the NJSCF site or download the CBV from NJoyChess.

Related articles:

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Chess Helps Hostages

Hostages display the chess set that helped them survive.

ChessBase News reports that the rescued American hostages held by the FARC in the Columbian jungles told a CNN interviewer how chess helped them survive their harrowing ordeal.  One of the hostages took three months to carve a chess set by hand using a broken piece of machete, and the hundreds of hours that he and his fellow hostages spent playing the game helped them achieve a sense of freedom and escape that made it possible to survive.

Friday, July 11, 2008


There is an interesting article today in the New Jersey Jewish Standard titled "Chessidim" by Josh Lipowsky (USCF 1650) which details the important role that Jews have played in the history of chess.  An accompanying article by the same author discusses "Bobby Fischer: The Self-Hating Jewish Champion."

This is not the first time that the historical importance of Jewish chess players has been highlighted.  There have been a number of books (especially by Victor Keats), articles (see "Chess and Jews" by Edward Winter), and websites ("Jews in Chess") on the phenomenon.  A New York Times article a few years back ("Researchers Say Intelligence and Diseases May Be Linked in Ashkenazic Genes" -- see also ChessBase News) even suggested a genetic link, caused by the social marginalization of Ashkenazi Jews to"occupations that required more than usual mental agility."  Whatever the reason, there is no question that Jewish players have made important contributions to the game and Mr. Lipowsky's articles do a good job of detailing their history.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

NJ Futurity Broadcast at NJSCF

Scekic - Erenburg, NJ Futurity
Black to play and win

The New Jersey State Chess Federation website is posting a live broadcast of games from the NJ Futurity International, which features four GMs, four IMs, and the talented young players Evan Ju and Mackenzie Molner. It is being held at the Dean of Chess Academy.

Other coverage:
New Jersey Knockouts Blog
"New Jersey Futurity Starts" by Jennifer Shahade at USCF
Schedule posted at NJoyChess

Friday, July 04, 2008

More Second Chances

Sherer - Goeller
White to play

Isn't it always the case: we think we played a good game at the club in the evening, but by the next day the computer shows us what a mess it really was.  Lately, though, I have learned to see the errors in the course of a chess game more positively, as evidence that there are always second chances.  My game with young Max Sherer in the Kenilworth Chess Club's Summer Tourney offers another example of that.  After missing my best continuation, I tried for some back-rank tactics with 21...Rd1? (see diagram above), when White has a chance to turn the tables.  Fortunately, he missed it, giving me a second chance to win the game....

Friday, June 27, 2008

Chess and Second Chances

McAuliffe - Goeller
White to move after 14.Qe2 Qd7

Goeller - Kernighan
White to move after 22...h3

Goeller - Kernighan
White to move after 26...h2

I played a couple of games in the Kenilworth Chess Club's Summer Tournament, which I took the time to annotate for my own benefit and thought I'd share: see Goeller - Kernighan and McAuliffe - Goeller.  Both were played at Game 60 and have some error on both sides.  And both reached complicated tactical positions with lots of possibilities. Looking through these games, I was reminded of how you often have second chances in chess. You just have to be awake to claim them.

In his article "The Bobby Fischer That We Loved" in Chess Life, GM Larry Evans reprints an interview he did with Frank Brady in which he says: "I subscribe to a theory of the second resource. That is, no matter how bad your position, if it’s not totally lost, you will reach a point during the game where you will be presented with an opportunity to win or draw if you take advantage of it."  

Nowhere is that "second resource" more common than in amateur games, where you will typically get even a third or fourth resource before the end.  In his book Rapid Chess Improvement, Michael de la Maza suggests using a computer to construct "evaluation graphs" of your games so that you can see where you lost concentration or lost the thread.  I imagine the graphs for most amateur games would show quite a bit of fluctuation.

The diagrams above show three moments from my two games where second or third chances were missed.  

In the first diagram, which could have occured in the game had McAuliffe chosen the more natural 14.Qe2 rather than 14.Qc2, White has a hidden resource after my intended 14...Qd7.  Surprisingly, his best move would then be 15.Ng5! and if 15...h6 (which I had intended) then 16.Nde4! leads to advantageous simplifications for White.

In my game with Kernighan, I tossed away a pawn early in the game but fought back rather well into a complicated middlegame with mutual chances.  In the second diagram above, after 22...h3, I had the chance for a very strong attacking plan with 23.Qg4!! intending Qg7 (which Kernighan had seen).  If then 23... h2 24. Nxh2! Rxh2 25. Qg7 Ke7 (25... Qe7 26. Rb8) 26. Qf6+ Kd7 27. Nb6+ Rxb6 28. Qxd8+ Kxd8 29. Rxb6 is close to winning.  Best would likely be 23... Qe7 24. Rb8 Kd7 25. Rxc8!? Kxc8 26. Qg7  and White has the edge in a complicated game.

In the third diagram, after 26...h2, I missed my second second chance by playing the passive 27.Rh1? when I could have gone on the counter-attack with 27. Ra1!! as pointed out by a class C player after the game. Fritz says it basically forces a draw against best play by Black.  If 27...h1=Q? then White is actually winning after 28.Rxa2! And if 27... Rc7 28. Nxc8! Qxc8 29. Qf6! Rxg5 (29... h1=Q 30. Qg7 wins!) 30. Qxg5 Qb8 31. Rxf8+ Kxf8 32. Qh6+ Kg8 33. Qg5+ Kf8 34. Qh6+ Kg8 (34... Ke7 35. Qf6+) 35. Qg5+ forces a draw.   Relatively best may be 27... Rb7 when 28. Rh1  is about equal and a huge improvement over the game.

The 2008 Kenilworth Summer Tourney (or KST) continues every Thursday until the end of August and it is never too late to join.  Check out The Chess Coroner's blog for continuing coverage and games.  And be awake to your second chances.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Anand on the Indian Origins of Chess

"The March of Chess" from India

In a Time Magazine essay titled "The Indian Defense," reigning world chess champion Viswanathan Anand writes about how the origins of the game helped him to feel entitled to pursue the crown:
In 1991, at my first international tournament, in Reggio Emilia in northern Italy, a Russian grandmaster condescendingly told me I could at best be a coffee-house player because I had not been tutored in the Soviet school of chess, which then dominated the sport. With the arrogance of youth — I was 21 — I thought to myself, "But didn't we Indians invent chess? Why shouldn't I have my own route to the top of the sport?"  

It would take me 17 years to find that route, and along the way I've had hundreds of conversations about the origins of chess — with players, fans, officials, taxi drivers, barbers and who knows how many people who sat next to me on a plane.  I've heard the ownership of chess being claimed by Russians, Chinese, Ukrainians, Arabs, Iranians, Turks, Spaniards and Greeks. My own view is that the sport belongs to everybody who plays it, but the question of its origins is easy enough to answer: chess comes from India.
An interesting personal reflection and worth a look.  Hat tip: ChessBase News.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Urusov Gambit - The Tricky 3...Nxe4 4.dxe5 Line

A Tactically Charged Position
1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d4 Nxe4 4.dxe5

I continue my re-analysis of the Urusov Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d4) with a look at "The Tricky 3...Nxe4 4.dxe5 Line."  The position in the diagram above (with Black to move) is already very tactical.  The Knight is vulnerable at e4, giving White immediate threats, including 5.Qd5 forking f7 and the Knight at e4 and 5.Bxf7+ Kxf7 6.Qd5+ followed by Qxe4 winning a pawn and misplacing Black's King. But Black does have the move, and he has a number of attacking ideas of his own, including the f2-assaults 4...Bc5, 4...Qh4, and 4...Nxf2, none of which is effective against precise play.  Black's best move in the position is probably 4...c6, countering White's Qd5 threats and hoping to expand by 5...d5.  After 5.Qe2 Nc5 White keeps an edge but Black has chances.