Monday, February 27, 2006

Round 7 of the KCC Championship


White to play and win.


White to play and win.

I have posted the games from Round 7 of the 2006 Kenilworth Chess Club Championship. The highlight of the night was the marquee match-up between FM Steve Stoyko and NM Scott Massey. Though the game ended in 20-move draw, I think that members of the club who followed Steve's 1.d4 d5 Black Repertoire lectures will learn a lot here about Lasker's Defense to the Queen's Gambit. I finally won a game after a bad tournament, and did it against the French Defense of all things. Moldovan continued his winning ways against Wojcio (see diagram above), picking up the Exchange early in the game and side-stepping a number of tricks to pick up the full point. And Mazzillo quickly won a piece against Davis (see the first diagram above) with the same basic combination used by Pelican against Gadgil in Round 4. Read the blog guys! ;-)

Friday, February 24, 2006

Milekhina - Stoyko, US Teams East 2006


Black to play and win material.

Last night, before and after play in Round 7 of the Kenilworth Chess Club Championship, FM Steve Stoyko entertained us with his games from the U.S. Amateur Teams East this past weekend. He began with his last round victory over a young Ukranian player who has a lot of potential once she learns not to "play for a draw" against a higher rated player, since that is a notoriously bad way to achieve a draw (especially if you are playing Steve).


Stoyko showing his game.

"The Lazy Detective"


What is Black's best move?
a) 14....Ndb4
b) 14...Bg4
c) 14...b6
d) 14...Nf4

"I have the impression that most players, myself included, rarely 'think things through' as much as they should. We usually prefer to jump to conclusions...."

Thus begins the chapter on "The Lazy Detective" in Jonathan Rowson's Chess for Zebras, in which he shows how chessplayers often make the same mistakes as bad crime scene investigators, who pin the blame and then try to make it stick rather than thoroughly investigating the evidence and allowing it to reveal leads and ideas that can be pieced together. After all, piecing things together and really understanding how they connect is difficult work. It's much easier to jump to conclusions and then try to validate those conclusions by choosing only the evidence that supports your case.

In my first round game at the U.S. Amateur Teams East, I think I made the mistake of the lazy detective. Confronted with the position in the diagram above, which I recognized to be a critical juncture in the game, I decided upon a move and then convinced myself that it was the right one rather than trying to piece together the ideas in the position, develop a list of "likely suspects," and do a thorough analysis of the possibilities. The move I chose was not a blunder, but it did allow him to equalize if he had played precisely (which, fortunately for me, he did not). Meanwhile, there was a much better move that pulled together all of the best ideas in the position into an ultimately winning solution. Can you find it?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Round 6 of the KCC Championship


Black to play and win.

I have posted the games from Round 6 of the 2006 Kenilworth Chess Club Championship. FM Steve Stoyko avenged his loss to Mike Wojcio from last year's tournament by playing a precise and devastating system against Mike's favorite Benoni Wall. I think Steve used less than ten minutes for the entire game. My own game was something of an embarrassment and continues my tendency toward opening slips. As Mark pointed out, we had basically the same line in the Summer Tournament, where I got a clear edge out of the opening, so he expected me to know what I was doing.... And John Moldovan continued his strong performance in the championship with a victory over Ari Minkov (see diagram above), after having offered Ari a draw at one point. Moldovan thus challenges the idea that those offering draws are at most risk of losing... The tournament continues this evening and next week.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Queen's Gambit Coincidence


Black to play and win after 21.Ref1?

Steve Stoyko showed me one of his better games from this past weekend's U.S. Amateur Team East while we were waiting for the last round to begin. We became so engrossed in discussing the game, which began 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5 Be7 6.e3 c6 7.Bd3 O-O 8.Nge2?! (an inaccuracy), that we ended up a little late for the round and had to hustle to our seats. As I sat down at Board 4 next to our Board 3, NM Scott Massey (who had Black), I could hardly repress my laughter: Scott's opponent had just played 8.Nge2?! as Steve's had the night before.... Clearly this called for a little article on "A Common Error in the Queen's Gambit, Exchange Variation, with 8.Nge2?!" and I was very pleased when Scott finished his game so nicely (see diagram above), which made it really worth showing....

You can read more about this line in Lecture #4 of Steve's 1.d4 d5 Black Repertoire series from this past summer (which would have benefitted both his and Scott's opponents).

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

U.S. Amateur Teams East, 2006


Kenilworth A players FM Steve Stoyko (foreground
right) and NM Scott Massey (background left).


Kenilworth B: (l-r) Mikhail Kruglyak, Ray Massey,
Joe Demetrick, and Greg Tomkovich

I played on the Kenilworth A team this President's Day weekend at the U.S. Amateur Teams East in Parsippany, New Jersey. I had arranged an alternate in case my wife went into labor (we are expecting our second child within the next three weeks) and was glad to have him fill in for me on Sunday -- not because my wife gave birth (thank God - I have so much to do around the house!) but because my son Joe had a terrible stomach flu and required constant care. I felt bad enough being gone from home two out of three days, but my 3.5/4 points helped the team, which scored a respectable 4.5/6 -- the same score that last year secured us the Best New Jersey Team title. I was also fortunate to have my alternate play on the tougher Sunday rounds, when he lost two tough games. Better him than me is my only thought... And the extra day of rest made it a more enjoyable experience all around, I have to admit, since the three-day tournament usually tends to wipe me out by the end.

As a Glenn Budzinski's classic ChessCafe essay, "Tournament Chess for the Rest of Us," puts it, if you can play in only one tournament per year due to family commitments, then this is the one to play in. I don't think I can add much to what Budzinski writes, except to note that a team tournament naturally promotes camaraderie and it's always a pleasure to see old friends, since anyone who plays chess in New Jersey tends to play or at least stop by. I also enjoy browsing through Fred Wilson's book table, which for me is the highlight of any East Coast tournament I attend since I never have time to get into New York to visit his shop any more. And seeing lots of kids enjoying the game brings back some of that childhood wonder that got you hooked in the first place.

The busy weekend has left me with lots of work to catch up on, but I will be posting a few things in the coming days, including the better games from our team, games from Round 6 of the Kenilworth Chess Club Championship, further notes on The Panther, and my typically eclectic commentary on all things chess-related. I hope to say a few things about the Linares tournament, too, especially after the stunning Svidler victory over Topalov in Round One.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Urusov Gambit Novelty


White to play and win after 14...Rf8.

I played a game on ICC the other day in which my opponent essayed a complete novelty in the Urusov Gambit: 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.Qxd4 f5!? I tried my best to refute it over the board, but it was not easy in a bullet game (game in one with 7 second increment). Fortunately, he gave me a chance and I took it (see diagram above). Afterward, I looked through my website and through every database available (including online ones) and could not find a single game with the move. Analysis with Fritz leaves me unsatisfied, though White clearly has ideas and at the very least recovers the gambit pawn easily enough. But finding a way to an advantage is still a question and the line is full of more tricks for Black than I would expect. It looks bad to open up the a2-g8 diagonal, but if Black can get in ...c6 and ...d5 he is easily winning. If there are any Urusov fans reading, I am open to ideas and will add some analysis to my site in the coming week (which will be my first update in almost a year).

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Panther (Part Two)


In the first part of The Panther saga, I told the story of how I was introduced to this off-beat opening, which I have since added to my repertoire. Today I offer up a recent game of my own against a 2300+ player as I take my first steps toward mastering it. And it is a difficult opening to master, involving lots of positional finesses that previous master practice does little to reveal.

But while it can be difficult to play, it is not difficult to get. The nice thing about The Panther is that it can arise in a number of ways and so can be a very versatile defense against 1.d4, 1. Nf3, and even 1.c4. Here is a random sampling of opening moves from the PGN file I am putting together on the line:

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 Nc6 3. Nf3 d6 4. Nc3 e5
1. d4 Nc6 2. Nf3 d6 3. c4 e5 4. Nc3 Nf6
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 d6 3. Nc3 e5 4. Nf3 Nc6
1. d4 d6 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. c4 e5 4. Nc3 Nf6
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 d6 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. Nc3 e5
1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 d6 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. d4 Nf6
1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. d4 d6
1.c4 d6 2.d4 e5 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.Nc3 Nf6
1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 Nc6 3. d4 d6 4. Nc3 e5
1.Nf3 Nc6 2.d4 d6 3.c4 e5 4.Nc3 Nf6

Of course, there are as many as 64 ways of reaching a position eight-ply deep, and probably all of them have occured at one time or another. The first two lines, however, seem most relevant to me since The Panther offers a way of contolling the game in the Bogoljubow (1.d4 Nc6) and Black Knights Tango (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 Nc6) when White plays an early Nf3 to inhibit Black's typical ...e5 pawn push. In A Complete Defense for Black, which recommends 1...Nc6 against all White openings, Keene and Jacobs propose meeting 1.d4 Nc6 2.Nf3 with 2...d5 transposing to some of the less sharp lines of the Chigorin Defense. And in their respective books on The Tango, Palliser and Orlov both recommend 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nf3 e6 transposing to lines of the Bogo- or Nimzo-Indian. With ...d6, Black takes an independent path and basically gets the position he wants.

That's not to say The Panther is always fun to play. As I learned in my recent game with Steve Stoyko in the Kenilworth Chess Club Championship, there are a number of lines for White that try to put Black into a positional squeeze, especially with early pawn advances to g3 and h4 to limit the scope of Black's Knights at g6 and f6 and to prevent him from using the g5 square (with ...h6, ...Nh7, and ...Bg5 for example). Not only is there relatively little in the databases to go on against this White approach, what little there is often features positional mistakes by Black, especially when he pushes his pawn to h5 to meet White's pawn advance to h4. This is generally not a good idea, since it surrenders control over critical kingside squares and makes a future advance by ...f5 very weakening.

Fortunately, there are other ways of learning the positional concepts of The Panther in the absence of specific master practice.

As Steve pointed out to me after our game, The Panther position after 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d6 3.c4 Nc6 4.Nc3 e5 5.d5 Ne7 6.e4 Ng6...


The Panther, Closed Variation

...bears a lot of similarities to positions in the Czech Benoni that arises after 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 e5 4. Nc3 d6 5. e4 Be7 6. Nf3 Nbd7 7. Be2 Nf8 8. O-O Ng6:


The Czech Benoni

And this position (and related once from the same opening) is much better known and can offer a lot of insight into Black's plans. I will cover some of the similarities in a future post, but for now here is some analysis of an amateur game with this line where Black gets to have lots of fun, in an article titled "Flight of the Stealth Chess Bomber." Of course, White's play (especially his vacilating Nc3-e2-c3) helped Black a lot. But it does show what these positions can achieve, especially once White's queenside play is contained (as it is more easily in the Czech Benoni due to the early ...c5 advance).

To be continued.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Photos from the 2006 KCC Championship


TD Geoff McAuliffe gets a score from Bob Pelican.


Moldovan draws Kernighan in Round 2.


Some games from Round 2.


Games from Round 4.


Post-mortem of Massey - Kernighan, Round 5.

Here are some photos from the ongoing 2006 Kenilworth Chess Club Championship. I have begun putting together a mini-site for the tournament, but due to work commitments it may not be up until it's over. Games from Round 1, Round 2, Round 3, Round 4, and Round 5 are available online.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Two Knights French Revisited


White to play and win after 12...f6.

As the diagram above suggests, the game Weise - Flach, Hessen 2000 led to some interesting queenless middlegame tactics. The game was also interesting for its opening, which usually arises via the Two Knights French (1.e4 e6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3), a line I've discussed on this site before. This game and the accompanying analysis practically refute the seemingly equalizing line 3...dxe4 4.Nxe4 c5!? to which White can reply 5.d4! cxd4 6.Qxd4! Qxd4 7.Nxd4 forcing a highly advantageous ending with greater mobility and development.

That's not to say I'm a big fan of this line. In fact, after the trouble I had proving more than equality for White in my 4th Round game against Moldovan (who chose the simple 3...d4! advance), I've decided to find a different anti-French weapon. What, exactly, I'm not sure, but I do need something before the U.S. Amateur Teams this I'm open to suggestions. And since I've decided to shelve the Two Knights French (at least for now), I thought I'd share some pieces of my repertoire with those who choose to persevere with it. It is not a bad line, after all, it's just that Black has a few roads to equality with which I've grown weary....

Monday, February 13, 2006

Round 5 of the KCC Championship


Massey - Kernighan
Black to play and win after 38.Rc4??


Pelican - Mann
White to play and win after 27...Be6.


Stoyko - Goeller
White to play and win after 22...f5.

The games from Round 5 of the 2006 Kenilworth Chess Club Championship are posted (also available in PGN). Both Scott Massey and myself continue to have some disappointing results, which I'm sure has Steve worried about our chances for the U.S. Amateur Teams East this coming weekend. I will be analyzing my own game with Steve as part of my series on "The Panther" in coming days. The last diagram above gives you some idea how that one went... It wasn't because of the opening, though Steve likely chose the most challenging way of meeting it.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Panther (Part One)


During my game with Tomkovich in the second round of the Kenilworth Chess Club Chapionship, in which I played the Black Knights Tango (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 Nc6), FM Steve Stoyko pulled me aside to say, "After your game, remind me to show you a line I think you'll like. I call it 'The Panther.'" I was intrigued and wondered why I hadn't heard of this before, since a Black line with such a cool name would definitely be for me.

It turns out that Steve used to play my favorite Nimzovich / Bogoljubow / Kevitz lines himself for several years during the early 1970s ("until Keene's book on The Modern became available here" as he dated it). Along with his analysis partner NM Bill Freeman, he had explored a number of lines involving 1...Nc6 for Black against all White first moves. "The Panther" was one of them.


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

Considered by theory to be part of the Old Indian system, The Panther (as Stoyko and Freeman played it) typically began 1.d4 Nc6 2.Nf3 d6 3.c4 e5 4.Nc3 Nf6!? (played in this move order Black also has options like 4...g6, 4...Bg4, or even 4...f5). I immediately saw the appeal of this idea, since I like the dark-square positions where Black gets an early ...e5 and I am comfortable in the Classical King's Indian (with 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 e5 6.Be2 Nc6 7.d5 Ne7) to which The Panther could obviously transpose. When White prevents Black from getting in an early ....e5 by playing Nf3, I have typically been transposing into the Chigorin (e.g.: 1.d4 Nc6 2.Nf3 d5) or lines recommended by the Tango authors.

Steve asked, "Take this Tango crap, for instance. How do you meet 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nf3?"

"Well, you try to transpose to the Bogo-Indian or to the Zurich Variation of the Nimzo-Indian with 3...e6 followed by Bb4 and later d6 and e5." Steve frowned. Obviously he did not think much of that.

"And if he plays Kasparov's 4.a3?"

"Then you play a sort of King's Indian set-up with ...d6 and ...g6, as Bologan has shown," I answered to another frown and furrowed brow.

"Why let him dictate everything?" he asked. "With The Panther, you get the structure you want and there is nothing he can do about it. You could even play it 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nf3 d6! and if 4.Nc3 e5 you have The Panther."

"What about 5.dxe5?" an observer asked.

"How is that any different from 1.d4 d6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 dxe5 4.Qxd8+ Kxd8? As countless Grandmaster games have shown, this endgame is fine for Black." I recalled a little article by Joel Benjamin on those moves titled "Life without Queens" (Chess Life, June 1996) that had convinced me of exactly that point. Black has a good pawn in the center at e5 and White's c4 advance can present Black a target and some weakened dark squares. Soon after our conversation, I played a game on ICC that demonstrated that pretty conclusively. And, as Steve put it, "countless Grandmaster games" (including Akbarinia - Ermenkov, Dubai 2001) have shown the same. The endgame is at least equal for Black and not without play.

Steve showed us some ideas that are part of the most common line where White advances the d-pawn after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nf3 d6 4.Nc3 e5 5.d5 Ne7, including the theme of playing an important ...h6 advance that will sometimes aid the maneuver ...Nh7 and ...Bg5, exchanging the dark squared Bishop or gaining some piece activity on the kingside. (More on these lines in the next installment).

I was intrigued but still unsure that the line was for me. After all, Black's game was a bit cramped and required a degree of finesse that I do not yet possess. A few days later, though, I found myself looking for games in the databases. There were not many good ones to be found, though I noticed that IM Vytautus Slapikas played the Panther much the way Steve had described it, as demonstrated by his games. I presume it was an independent discovery on his part since it would be tough to imagine him seeing any analysis or games from us New Jersey folks. There was also not much in my library, at least on first glance, and what there was usually classed The Panther as a variation of the Old Indian--a name not likely to encourage followers. In Richard Palliser's Tango: A Dynamic Answer to 1.d4, there is only brief mention of the lines with ...d6 against White's Nf3. After 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nf3, Palliser gives 3...e6 as the main line and notes in passing that Black "can also opt for a kind of Old Indian with 3...d6. However, here the knight is committed to c6 a little early, and 4.Nc3 (4.d5!? Ne5 5.Nxe5 dxe5 6.g3 should also grant White the edge) 4...e5 5.g3! slightly favors White. Black might well wish that his knight was still on b8 so that it could come to the more useful c5-square (after ...exd4 and ...Nbd7) as he lacks counterplay against White's space advantage with it on c6" (p. 82).

Georgi Orlov's The Black Knight's Tango offers a bit more, noting that the Panther "transposes into a kind of Old Indian" with which "there is very little practical experience." The theory that he offers presumes that Black wishes to transpose to lines of the King's Indian Defense with a White Nf3 (including the Classial KID and the Fianchetto lines), so he gives very little treatment of lines where Black plays the true Panther, which he clearly considers inferior. However, Orlov does take the time to show how Black need not worry about an early d5 advance by White in the Tango move order. In the "Bozo-Indian" move order that Freeman and Stoyko preferred, with 1.d4 Nc6 2.Nf3 d6, White can cause a lot of trouble with 3.d5! Now Black either has to transpose to more traditional Modern or Old Indian lines (essentially a tempo down, as Palliser points out) by 3...Nb8 followed eventually by ...Nbd7 or play the somewhat risky 3...Ne5!? which is more complicated than I can follow, as demonstrated in the game Buscher - Philipps, Correspondence 1994. In the Tango move order with 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nf3 d6, Black can play the Knight forward on the d5 advance since, after 4.d5 Ne5! 6.Nxe5 dxe5, White's annoying Bb5+ is blocked by his pawn at c4 and Black has time to develop his dark-squared Bishop to c5 or b4 after Pe6. (I will take a closer look at these lines in future installments).

Not finding much in my sources, I gave Steve a call and asked if he had anything written down or any old games he could loan me. He said he didn't have anything that wasn't in his head. "I threw all that stuff out years ago," he said.

"You didn't keep a notebook for analysis? You don't have a single game with the line? Not even one game score?" I asked incredulously.

"No. On principle I don't hang onto my games once I'm done learning from them. You know, if I have a loss I review it to see where I went wrong. But if I win and win well, I carry that with me so there is no need to have the game scores. I usually throw them out. You see, philosophically I'm opposed to living in the past and getting all nostalgic over past success. That tends to stand in the way of future success," Steve said.

I knew what Steve said fit well with his sportsman's view of the game, where anything you did not carry with you to the scene of battle was pretty much beside the point, and if you did not retain your games in your head or abstract from them all the things that made up your chess intuition, then you were not likely to benefit from them later. For me, though --coming to chess more as a scholar than a player-- it seemed like something of a collective loss. I mean, here was a man who played an average of 100 master games a year for well over thirty years, and only a few survive in odd places like the Atlantic Chess News, The Dogs of War, or Popovich's book on Ukranian players in the U.S. And it wasn't just him. When you think about the hundreds of masters whose games vanish before they can be stored in our collective memories -- never to make it into the books or databases -- it seems as though we all had some collective leak that needs plugging.

For the rest of the week, I collected database games and did my research. Eventually, I discovered that the line received some significant treatment in Igor Berdichevsky's book on the 1...Nc6 lines and in the Convekta CD he did with Kalinin. But I still felt that something was missing if I did not have Steve and Bill's games. Steve had suggested that I try to track Bill down ("he lives somewhere in New Jersey" he said "but I lost touch with him years ago"). I had some contact with him when he had helped me put together my Urusov Gambit analysis for publication in The Castled King, precursor to the Atlantic Chess News (as I mention in the Acknowledgments on my site). I still remember his wonderful, calligraphic handwriting, with which he recorded things back then, before the widespread use of computers. I imagined a box of his hand-printed notes and old game scores stored away in his attic, gathering dust, not just on the Panther but on a number of other interesting lines he had analyzed and about which he had written in The Castled King and ACN. And when he passed away, I could see that box going rather easily into the dumpster, if it had not made its way there already. Steve gave me the impression that Bill had largely given up chess last they spoke, so he may have already let all those things go. But, unlike Steve, he was the type of guy to hang onto the past, so I could believe he still had it. And if he no longer played the game, I don't see why he wouldn't mind letting me have a look...

I know it was irrational and the odds were against it, but I suddenly had to save that box before it went into the trash!

I remembered how I had gone on a similarly quixotic quest years ago, when I tried to track down the games from the Dimock Theme Tournament of 1924 (of which only half survive), thinking all along that somebody somewhere must have had all the game scores at one point, that Edward Dimock himself must have kept them, at least, or Hermann Helms or the players, but all had since passed on and their possessions had been scattered to the winds. Maybe I could rescue some similarly interesting treasure before it disappeared... It was a crazy thought, I know. But it seemed worth a try. What was there to lose?

I did a little research. It turns out that there are well over a dozen William Freemans in the state and countless others throughout the U.S., many of whom do not have a listed phone number. So, unless a club member or a reader can help me out, I may be stymied in that search. And it may no longer be so critical after all...

I had done my little computer search for Bill just a few hours before going to the club the Thursday following my first hearing about The Panther. I arrived early and noticed that the club cabinet looked different. I remembered that several of our members had gotten together to install additional shelves and to repaint and repair it. I had even taken a picture of some of them in action.


Cleaning the club cabinet.

I walked over to the closet and saw a stack of old copies of the Atlantic Chess News which were among the many interesting things that they had put into order in their cleaning. Picking up the first in the pile, it occured to me that Bill used to write opening articles for that publication. "Maybe he had put something together on The Panther" I thought to myself. I opened the page, and what should I find?


To be continued...

GM James Plaskett on "Millionaire"

GM James Plaskett tells his suspenseful story of appearing on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" in Britain at the ChessBase news site. It is really worth a read, especially if you have ever considered trying out for the show yourself, as I have. When the first million dollar winner on the U.S. version of the show was a Rutgers grad, my wife began suggesting that I give it a go. In fact, to this day she still nudges me from time to time, especially after I get a string of Jeopardy questions right, that I should try one of these things before senility sets in. I think I'll have to get her to read Plaskett's story of his six-year, tension-packed ordeal, after which she'll probably let it drop....

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Stoyko - Weeramantry, NJ International 1987


Stoyko - Weeramantry
White to play and win after 24...Nxg7.

Among the cool things that I found in the recently renovated Kenilworth Chess Club closet was a stack of the old Atlantic Chess News. The ACN was a high-quality state publication back in the 1980s under the editorship of Glenn Petersen. And to judge from the New Jersey chess news it reported (in issues that sometimes ran to 24 pages or more), there was a lot of high quality chess being played in those "good old days." In the mid-eighties, in fact, there were even several international tournaments held here so that local players could qualify for FM and IM norms. Such events used to be more common throughout the U.S., and it is good to see them being revived to some extent in Chicago.

The game Stoyko - Weeramantry, New Jersey International 1987 was one of the more interesting games played in the 1987 tournament and featured our club champion at his best. It also featured Stoyko's favorite Botvinnik Attack in the English, with which he had great success during this period. In the diagram above it is Stoyko to play and finish things quickly. It's surprising how little Black can do to save himself despite being up a full four pawns! The solution can be found in the game, which is also available to download in PGN format.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

"The New Era of Chess Publishing"

...or so Robert Pearson terms it at his promising new chess blog where he discusses some new self-published books. Of course, he should mention as well himself and most other chess bloggers, who are using the most immediate (and least expensive, for both readers and writers) mode of publishing to share their ideas on the game. The sudden user-friendliness of blogging and desktop publishing have certainly sparked a revolution.

Of course, people have been using the web to share their chess ideas for quite a while. I have read a number of excellent forum postings over the years, especially at my favorite forum, Openings for Amateurs, monitored by Pete Tamburro (who shares a lot of his own analysis there). The old forum (where I once read a great posting by "Schliemann Mann," for instance, on the Scandinavian) has also been a vehicle for amateur analysis, though it gets tons of spam nowadays. Blogs seem to be supplanting forums to a large extent as the main vehicle for amateur analysis.

I have not read many self-published or amateur-authored chess books, but those I have read I have enjoyed. Several self-published books I own in second editions that became mainstream successes, such as Ariel Mengarini's Predicament in Two Dimensions, James West's Dynamic Philidor Counter-Gambit, and the Hatch's Dogs of War. One of my favorite self published works (which the author sent me personally years back) is by Adrian Skelton, whose analysis of the Jackal Attack in the French Defense even appeared in New in Chess. So there is some quality self-published stuff out there. And you have to ask yourself, which is better: a ten-year "labor of love" by an expert chess analyst like Mr. Skelton or a weekend job for pay by a GM? Consider that the GM may not want to tell his readers (some of whom may be future opponents) everything he knows about certain lines or that the success of his work may require him to make exaggerated claims ("the Blackmar Diemer Gambit is deadly!") and you start to realize that some amateur analysis may sometimes be more honest. And we certainly know that lots of GM analysis has been refuted... How many of you have found errors in the books you read? I know I have--especially if the book was written before the widespread use of chess computers or databases. Though amateur judgments may be less trustworthy than GMs, sometimes amateur ideas are just as good.

So welcome to Mr. Pearson, whose blog I have added to the long list of "amateur chess writing" that I read regularly....

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Round 4 of the KCC Championship


Pelican - Gadgil
White to play and win after 5...Bc5?


Black to play and at least draw after 29.Re6?!


Massey - Minkov
Black to play and win after 25.Nxa6?


Massey - Minkov
White to play and win after 38...Kd6.


Massey - Minkov
White to play and win after 42...Rc7.


Kernighan - Tomkovich
Black to play and gain a
winning attack after 29.Qb1.

The games from Round 4 of the Kenilworth Chess Club Championship featured many missed opportunities, some (as in Massey-Minkov, Kernighan-Tomkovich, or Selling-Davis) where players rated 300 or more points lower could have won or drawn. In some cases, such as the miniature Pelican-Gadgil, there was a second chance and the opportunity did not get away. In others, such as the time-pressure-flawed game Massey-Minkov, both sides missed chances and eventually agreed a fitting draw. The missed "solutions" can be found exclusively in the notes to these games, which you can also download in PGN format.

In my own game against John Moldovan, which he annotated for our site, I made a few errors but was generally outplayed. John is an excellent player who has done very well in this tournament. In the three previous rounds, he held equality until late in the game against FM Steve Stoyko, achieved a draw against NM Mark Kernighan, and should have won (but lost) against NM Scott Massey. I expect John will play an increasingly important role at our club and it is good to see him succeed, even if it has to be at my expense!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Chess in the Movies, Part Two

Hat tip to The Closet Grandmaster for pointing us to an amusing chess movie trivia article in today's Rocky Mountain News ("Your move: match your chess, movie knowledge"). The article reminded me of my correspondence with Chess in the Movies author Bob Basalla of a few weeks back. You may remember that I reviewed Basalla's wonderful book shortly after Thanksgiving (when you are likely thinking about holiday gifts). I remembered it as an overall positive review (certainly with a "buy" recommendation attached), but upon re-reading it does come across as more negative than I had intended. And when I read it again, thinking now of Mr. Basalla reading it too, I feel like the worst sort of critic. Hey, this guy did an amazing amount of work and all I can do is criticize? (Same goes for Edward Winter, whose fact-faulting review preceded mine).

Mr. Basalla wrote to address some of my specific points, and I told him I'd print his remarks. I have to admit I was in error in a few places, especially in suggesting he should see more of these films himself (turns out he had seen the vast majority). Before I quote at length from our e-mail exchange, let me just say that his book is a unique and wonderful labor of love that deserves readers. And if you are into chess and the movies, this is certainly a must-have book (as I said before).... Here is what he writes:


Dear Mr. Goeller,

Thank you for reviewing Chess in the Movies on the Kenilworth Chess Club website. As the author of said tome I would like to make some comments. It is repeatedly said in the review that I admitted that I had not seen most of the movies listed in the book. That is incorrect. On the top of page 405 in a stat sheet listing I reveal that I had actually directly seen 82% of the films in the book! That's first hand knowledge, not second. And as I explained in the introduction, I made a deliberate decision not to reference where I got every last snippet of information, fearing that the resulting book would be so clogged with notes as to be unreadable,
thus ruining my attempt to entertain the reader. Any movie where I secured significant info from one source I mentioned it in the review. ... In the end this was just one guy in Ohio writing a virtual encyclopedia by himself. It may not be perfect but I don't think I can be accused of being lazy. And as you noted, my book may stimulate additional interest and writings on the topic of cinematic chess, and I hope I played a constructive role in opening up the discussion. If so, one major goal of the project is achieved. Thank you, and have fun with Chess in the Movies!

Bob Basalla, author of Chess in the Movies

Dear Bob --
Thanks for the note. Rereading my review, I see that it comes off as a bit negative, which I did not intend. My ciriticism was framed as things you can correct for the second edition! I certainly think it was a superhuman effort on your part and one that readers would enjoy and should support. I also missed your stat sheet reference. I merely got the impression that you had not seen many films based on some of the reviews themselves. Yes, I don't think you can be accused of "being lazy." A big book like that is a superhuman effort! ...

Best wishes,

Dear Michael,

Thanks for responding promptly to my response. At some point I had to stop researching and writing and have the book published. There are always new good chess movies coming out on the horizon that will not appear (Stay, Autumn 2005, and Knights of the South Bronx, A & E cable movie, December 2005 come immediately to mind), and more will arrive each year afterward. Books remain static snap shots of a point in time.

The publishing process lasted (even though of a "vanity" variety) from 11/04 to Labor Day weekend '05. Some last minute items were added in to keep it more current but there was no way to do wholesale additions and changes or it would never get done. Fish or cut bait, you know? And obviously I knew there would be some older good ones that would escape my attention (I missed The Great Escape, for example. Can you believe it?) Much of the (minor actually) criticism ofthe book comes via omissions that people thought I should have found. Many of these were from Europe, but when the film never makes US shores, and reviews on the Internet do not mention the chess moment, how in heaven's name was I to find them? [Edward] Winter found a few actual factual mistakes, but so far those have been few. Remember, I had to vett and proof this monster volume practically alone, and if you've ever tried to proof your own writings you know what a nightmare that can be. So when I read your review repeatedly calling me on not bothering to see most of these movies directlyI felt I had to correct the mistaken impression. I hope I did so in a not too antagonistic manner.

I consider Chess in the Movies a first approximation on the subject. If the response is good, maybe I will come out with a corrected and expanded second edition some years hence. Unless I almost sell out the books I have this is a not for profit enterprise--good thing I have a gig as a full time dentist! Perhaps a website is also in the future if I can get one of my computer adept friends (I, alas, am not, particularly) to help me.

One minor secret I'll reveal: Section 15 of the index, entitled Rumor Mill, lists movies that may contain chess. In actuality they all do, they just didn't come in soon enough for me to write them in! Hope this helps you see where I'm coming from. And to answer your other question, yes, if you'd like you may reprint all or part of my response on your blog, and any of the above message you deem worthy of note as well.


Friday, February 03, 2006

Treasure Trove


LaFrese - Zrinsack, Queens Open 1974
White to play and win.

Some of our members -- including Bob Pelican, Bill Sokolosky, Howard Osterman, and Leon Hrebinka -- were good enough to clean, organize, and repaint the Kenilworth Chess Club's storage closet at the Rec Center. In the process they unearthed a small treasure trove of old chess magazines and newsletters, including some wonderful old copies of the Atlantic Chess News with fascinating opening analysis and games by our members. There are several exciting things in that collection and I will definitely be discussing some in these pages. For now, just a diagram from a July 1979 copy of Chess Life and Review (p. 409), from the game LaFrese - Zrinsack, Queens Open 1974. Quite a position, of which Mr. LaFrese writes: "After a sharp opening and middlegame, followed by a vicious time scramble, things looked pretty grim for me. My opponent's QRP appeared unstoppable.... I took one last look and prepared to resign." What did he do instead?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Puzzlers from Round 3


Massey - Moldovan
White to play and win after 29...Qxe5?


Mazzillo - Mann
Black to play and win after 31.Red1?


Stoyko - Minkov
Black to play and win at least a pawn.


Kernighan - Wojcio
White to play and "retain his booty."


Selling - Demetrick
Black to play and win a pawn after 15.Nd4?!


Selling - Demetrick
Black to play and win after 40.Ke3

The games from Round 3 of the Kenilworth Chess Club Championship were often decided by a critical tempo that won a pawn. In all but the first diagram above, your goal is to find a way to gain (or retain) a material advantage of only a pawn or two -- but sufficient to win the game. The "solutions" can be found in the games or our notes.