Elroy N. Mess
Labels: local news
A frequently updated blog for the Kenilworth Chess Club
Labels: local news
Labels: opening analysis
Like heavyweight championship bouts, matches for the world chess championship have a way of taking on political meaning. Bobby Fischer’s psychodramatic match with Boris Spassky in Iceland, thirty-five years ago, was a Cold War epic (of a particularly neurotic type). In the popular press, it was not enough to say that Spassky failed to contend with Fischer’s brilliant and unpredictable openings; more comprehensibly, it was a triumph of American ingenuity over a sclerotic Soviet bureaucracy.
In 1984, when Kasparov made his first bid for the world title, the political drama was purely Soviet. The regime was in its last year before perestroika. Konstantin Chernenko, a career apparatchik, directed the imperium from his sickroom. His senescence was a symbol of the regime. The market stalls and store shelves were bare. The technological age had arrived—but not in the Soviet Union. Karpov, the world champion, was an exemplar of the Brezhnev-Andropov-Chernenko “era of stagnation,” an obedient member of the nomenklatura. As a player, he was a defensive artist, whose style, like Kutuzov’s in war, was to absorb and smother attacks and then destroy his confounded opponent. Like Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, he was a living symbol of official Soviet achievement.
Kasparov represented a new generation. At twenty-one, he was ironic, full of barely disguised disdain for the regime. He was a member of the Communist Party until 1990—his chess ambitions required it—but no one saw him as subservient. Rather, he was cast, in his challenge to Karpov, as a champion of the young and of the outsiders. His chess style was swift, imaginative, daring—sometimes to the point of recklessness. Karpov painted academic still-lifes; Kasparov was an Abstract Expressionist.
Sounds like a New York Post headline... The New Jersey Knockouts, who had been undefeated through three rounds of US Chess League action, lost a return match to the Queens Pioneers last night after their first two boards, GM Joel Benjamin and IM Zlotnikov, went down to defeat. I have annotated the games and posted them online. In previous matches, New Jersey had been holding their own on the strength of their top boards and the occasional luck of their bottom boards. But in last night's match, the roles were reversed, with the bottom two boards, young masters Molner and Ju, coming through with 1.5 out of 2 points while the top two were blanked.
The heartbreaking part of the night was that both Benjamin and Zlotnikov had chances to at least hold their games. Benjamin probably could have equalized against Stripunsky's early novelty in the Taimanov Sicilian by playing 11...d5! but instead went pawn hunting with 11...Nxd4 12.Bxd4 e5 13.Be3 Nxe4?! creating a whole series of problems for himself that led to his King being stuck in the center of the board and subject to attack. Stripunsky, out for revenge after losing to Benjamin in their previous match, was relentless in his pursuit of Black's King and finally capitalized on its situation with a nice concluding combination (see diagram above). Zlotnikov, meanwhile, chose neither his favorite English with 1.c4 nor my recommended 1.e4 (in order to play against Vovsha's favorite Scandinavian Defense) but instead 1.Nf3, which he has favored of late, leading to a rather stale-looking Reti system where Black had greater control of space. However, Zlotnikov secured excellent chances in the middlegame and missed at least one chance for a very clear advantage. But he missed his chances, let his initiative slip away, lost a pawn to a nice Knight fork, and finally blundered the Exchange to prompt his resignation. If we had drawn either of these games, we would have at least maintained our unbeaten record.
The bright spot of the night was last year's New Jersey State Champion and Cadet Champion Evan Ju's performance on bottom board, where he redeemed his lucky draw against Queens in the first round with a very careful and masterly performance. Ju was able to repel his younger opponent's unsound attack and gain a winning material advantage for the endgame, which he promptly converted to a win by a nice concluding combination (see diagram above).
More coverage of the match (if you can stomach it) can be found at the following links:
Labels: chess tourism
When one plays with Morphy the sensation is as queer as the first electric shock, or first love, or chloroform, or any entirely novel experience. As you sit down at the board opposite him, a certain sheepishness steals over you, and you cannot rid yourself of an old fable in which a lion's skin plays a part. Then you are sure you have the advantage; you seem to be secure--you get a rook--you are ahead two pieces, three!! Gently, as if wafted by a zephyr, the pieces glide about the board; and presently as you are about to win the game a soft voice in your ear kindly insinuates, Mate! You are speechless. Again and again you try; again and again you are sure you must win; again and again your prodigal antagonist leaves his pieces at your mercy; but his moves are as the steps of Fate. Then you are charmed all along, so bewitchingly are you beheaded: one had rather be run through by Bayard, you know, than spared by a pretender. On the whole, I could only remember the Oriental anecdote of one who was taken to the banks of the Euphrates, where by a princely host he was led about the magnificent gardens and bowers, then asked if anything could be more beautiful. "Yes," he replied, "the chess-play of El-Zuli." So having lately sailed down the Hudson, having explored Staten Island, Hoboken, Fort Hamilton, and all the glorious retreats about New York, I shall say for ever that one thing is more beautiful than them all--the chess-play of Paul Morphy.
Labels: chess history
I have posted the games from last night's match between the New Jersey Knockouts and Baltimore Kingfishers. My predictions of yesterday turned out to be fairly accurate. Benjamin, as Black, did gain a slight endgame edge over Blehm and made him suffer a bit before admitting that the game was a draw. Ippolito had a tough time against Enkhbat, who had a clear advantage until he allowed Ippolito to get the outside passed pawn that decided the game (see diagram above). This was the "lucky break of the week" for New Jersey. On Board 3, Shen went down badly to his much more experienced opponent. And Lunna's brilliant draw on Board 4 (see above) proved critical in securing a tie result at 2-2.
After this third drawn match in a row, though, we might consider changing the name to "Even Stevens."
Other USCL Coverage:
The social stigma surrounding chess hits women particularly hard. Only four percent of chess players are female; when I asked girls who still play chess the reason for this lack of participation, all of them cited the social stigma surrounding chess. Girls are more confined by stereotypes than boys, something I still struggle with....
Labels: chess and literature
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