Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year, Corus is Coming...

And not a moment too soon.  Every super-tournament seems to have a few requisite
tomato cans, but the invited Dutch players at Corus tend to be either pretty strong
(Loek Van Wely used to be good, I swear, or young and on the rise like Smeets and
Stellwagen. I especially like Smeets' play. In any case, between the strong A-group
field and Caruana playing in the B-group, this should be another interesting edition
of Wijk an Zee. Here's the entire lineup from the A-group, cribbed from Chessninja.

Alexander Morozevich (RUS, #2) Elo: 2787 DOB: 1977
Vassily Ivanchuk (UKR, #3) Elo: 2786 DOB: 1969
Magnus Carlsen (NOR, #4) Elo: 2786 DOB: 1990
Levon Aronian (ARM, #7) Elo: 2757 DOB: 1982
Teimour Radjabov (AZE, #8) Elo: 2751 DOB: 1987
Wang Yue (CHN, #11) Elo: 2736 DOB: 1987
Michael Adams (ENG, #12) Elo: 2734 DOB: 1971
Sergei Movsesian (SVK, #13) Elo: 2732 DOB: 1978
Sergei Karjakin (UKR, #15) Elo: 2730 DOB: 1990
Gata Kamsky (USA, #16) Elo: 2729 DOB: 1974
Leinier Dominguez (CUB, #21) Elo: 2719 DOB: 1983
Loek van Wely (NLD) Elo: 2618 DOB: 1972
Daniel Stellwagen (NLD) Elo: 2605 DOB: 1987
Jan Smeets (NLD) Elo: 2604 DOB: 1985

So that's a pretty good field, much better IMO than the Grand Prix that just
finished in Elista. Seriously, how did FIDE dig up so many no-name 2700+ players
for that one? I would only consider Radjabov, Leko, and maybe Grischuk among the
world elite, ratings not withstanding. In any case, chess will resume soon here in
South Florida and I'll publish more games that no one will look at or comment on.
Ta.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Comment Allez Vous?

People are reading (based upon the hit counter) but not commenting, which is somewhat like people coming to your house and not talking to you. There's my hyperbole for the day. In any case, I turned the word verification off so it's easier to comment. If I get a lot of spam it'll go back on, but I'm not popular enough that I think that will be a problem. So comment, dammit.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ridiculous Chessbase Hyperbole, and Still Undefeated in Florida...

...for what that's worth. I've played two games, drew one and won the second. Both opponents lower rated than me. Feed me to a few Class A guys and I doubt I'll stay undefeated much longer. In any case, the second game was played at the Boca Raton Chess Club at Florida Atlantic University. I played a young (10-ish) Asian kid, which scared me a little since kids tend to by underrated. I played the Classical Sicilian, and I have to say that it was one of the best games I've played. He made a mistake on move 7, and I was able to squeeze him for the rest of the game. I was proud of myself, because I didn't let up mentally and I kept total control of the game the entire time. I gradually pushed his pieces back with various threats until he was too passive to generate counterplay, and when a tactical chance presented itself I took it and won.

This has to be the most egotistical post I've ever made, praising myself like this, but I promise if I keep playing good chess it will become less pronounced. It's just nice to see work paying off over the board. It's true that I outrated my opponent quite a bit, but what made me happy wasn't the winning, it was that I feel that for probably the first time ever I played 'real chess' (in the Dan Heisman sense) for an entire game. And if you don't know what 'real chess' is (as opposed to 'hope chess') and you're rated under 2000, then you should read this: http://www.chesscafe.com/text/real.txt . In any case, here's the game:

Yin-Rampley.pgn



So that was that. Very clean for me. In other news, Topalov won the Pearl Spring tournament with a performance of just under 2900 (2890). Chessbase asked the ludicrous question in their article (http://chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=5101) if Topalov was on his was to becoming the best ever. I can't tell you how absurd that is. While he is a great player, he's too streaky to ever be more than your 'normal' super GM. He's never won a world championship match (and in my opinion has never been world champ; Kasparov-> Kramnik -> Anand). Look at Fischer and Kasparov. Both were extremely consistent and showed long stretches in which they absolutely dominated everyone else. Kasparov was +55% =38% -7% in his career. Not only did he only lose 7% of his games (most of which were earlier in his career), but he won 55% of the time. That's sick considering the level of competition he was playing against. Fischer was +56% =28% -16%. Topalov is +36% =42% -22%. Not even close to the same league. For the record, Topalov's nemesis Kramnik is +38% =51% -11%. And he held the world title for 8 years. Capablanca was +51% =32% -17%. Laughable is too weak a word for Topalov as the best ever. The streakiest ever, maybe. Unbelievable.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

First Taste of South Florida Chess

I went to the South Florida Chess Club in Margate today. The format is g/90, one game a night each Wednesday for 4 weeks. It's a good system, since it allows you to focus on a single game. I wish the pairings were put up in advance, since eventually it'd be fun to prepare for specific opponents. In any case, I got to play John Haskell, who runs the Boca Raton Chess Club (which I also plan on going to). 2 good long games a week is enough competitive chess to keep improving, I think. In a sense it's better than weekend tourneys, since it's hard to fix things in your play between rounds during a weekender (not the case with weekly games), and the lessons learned are easy to forget by the time next month's tournament rolls around.

I have to say, going to a chess club made me feel much more relaxed and at home. Chess players are similar every place I've been. Contrary to the popular image of chess as a game populated by grouchy introverts, chess players are some of the most social and accepting people I've met. There are of course exceptions, but by and large a room full of chess players is room full of friends.

I've been here two weeks, and so far I've found good chess and Tai Chi, a good gym, and I'm starting to learn my way around. My neighbors have even quieted down, though I doubt it will last. In any case, here's the game:

Rampley-Haskell.pgn


So not a bad effort. I'm pretty good at openings and the early middlegame (perhaps because I've studied them so much?), but I tend to lose advantages going into the ending. Maybe I should play out better positions against Fritz to try and tighten up my technique. Incidentally, that's what I've always admired about GM chess: their technique. The way a player like Kramnik can maintain a minute advantage all the way through the middlegame and convert it into a win even against players as resourceful as Topalov or Leko is just amazing to me. I think if I could improve this part of my chess I'd reach my 2009 goal of 1800 pretty soon.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Chess Hunger is Returning...

So I've been playing a lot, working on chess more, and generally wanting to find some consistent way of getting back into chess. I'm having trouble getting responses from chess contacts on websites around here, so if anyone reading is in South Florida let me know.

Here's a cute little game I played recently on ICC. It's in my favorite line, the Botvinnik Semi Slav. I love this line so much that I've even thought about getting a license plate that reads SEMI SLV. Of course, only chess players would get it, and they would consider it nerdy even for chess. Everyone else would just think I was an indecisive gimp.

In any case, this game shows the value of knowing some theory, not because I knew the 'refutation' of my opponent's unusual line, but because I recognized that the line was unusual, knew it was a variation that didn't really permit a lot of deviation from the main lines, and thus knew to spend some time looking for a downside to his move. My reply wasn't perfect, but it wasn't so bad and did in fact highlight a weakness in his position that would not have been there had he played the theory move.

In other news, I'm healing well, learning my way around Florida, and starting to work out again. I've also found a pretty good Tai Chi teacher, which is nice. My neighbors are loud, though. I'm having a lot of trouble sleeping. I really don't care for the culture down here. People are loud and seem rather careless about the concerns of those around them. I miss the Midwest, where people are quiet and very careful about not offending those around them. It will be an adjustment. Seriously though, it's not 'cuturally insensitive' to expect that people will shut the hell up and turn down their music by midnight on a work night. In any case, here's the game.

TF-Peter9.pgn

Monday, December 8, 2008

Getting my Strength Back. Plus 'Starting Out: the Dutch' Reviewed

So it's been well over a month since my surgery, and I'm really just now starting to get my strength back. Did a little work with a Chen Tai Chi stylist, his approach was very different from the Yang style I'm somewhat proficient in (I'm probably about 1800 in Tai Chi). I might do more.

I'm only now regaining my chess strength too, and I've found that I've lost the ability to play good 3 minute chess. It's crazy, I know, but all those long games have made me fond of thinking about my moves, if you can believe it. I find myself getting good positions and losing on time every game. I know that the clock is an integral part of the game, especially at such fast time controls; this is not an excuse, merely a pattern I see emerging that makes it hard to play 3 minute. 5 is about the fastest I can go, and I prefer 5/3 or even 2/12 or straight 15. Eventually I might just stop playing quick chess altogether. I don't know. I like long games better now. Evolution of a chess player, I suppose.

I was going to post a 2/12 game I played on ICC, but upon reflection I realize that no one wants to look at the fast games of a Class B player. So instead, I'm going to give a brief review of a book I recently bought.

A little background: I hate the Dutch. I find it hard to play against, because there is no set plan that one can employ. It's very flexible for black (a good reason to play it if a draw won't do), and the battles tend towards the positional. It's the opposite of openings I like (such as the Najdorf), where I know exactly what I'm after and can develop my pieces freely with few initial worries about strategy. I've struggled with it since I started pushing the queen's pawn, and I figured it was time to try and learn the basics.

I found Starting Out: the Dutch (by Neil McDonald) to be a good basic text, though the coverage is tilted heavily towards black in all sections. McDonald makes a point of covering white's best lines, but in each case leaves the reader with the impression that they're not really all that challenging if black knows the proper response. I've never liked such statements, because they are universally true. If one assumes chess is a draw from the starting position (a bold assumption perhaps), then all openings are equal if black makes the correct replies for the whole game. I don't feel that McDonald really gives the second player a feeling of which white plans are hardest to counter, which are most flexible, etc. As a d4 player this makes it hard for me to take McDonald at his word that a particular line is strong for white, since he usually undermines his case right away.

Those few issues aside, I do think the book is a good introduction to the theory and strategy of the Dutch. I have changes a few lines that I play against various Dutch setups as a result of reading it, and I have changed the way I play some of my current repertoire as well. I think this book helped me to get a better understanding of how to play against the flexibility of the Dutch, as well as how much patience is required on white's part to make his space advantage count. Since you can get this book new from outside vendors on Amazon for something like $8, it's worth picking up if you are interested in playing or playing against the Dutch.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Finally in Florida

So I'm finally in Florida and will soon start looking for playing opportunities down here, though from what I've seen so far the chances to play in slow time control tournaments is limited. Back to ICC perhaps, though I've certainly been frustrated in the past with the tournaments held on the server.

Special thanks goes to all the guys in Indiana that I went to tournaments with. You all taught me a lot (easy to do, since you all outrated me by at least 150 points), and I hope to be back in the Midwest within a year or two so I'm sure we'll play chess and drink together again. It was always fun.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Old Guys Could Play Too

So I've been doing something that I often see GMs recommend (including Kramnik in an interview on his website, www.Kramnik.com ), but which I've never seen the point in doing. I'm going back and playing through the annotated games of strong GMs from back in the day. I'm actually finding it surpisingly helpful, and I'll explain why, as well as tell you why I haven't done it before.

I've always studied openings in the context of complete games. I thought that by studying complete games in the systems that interest me I'd come to understand the subtleties of piece placement and common strategic themes in those positions. This has been true in many cases, and I have several nice games to my credit where I was able to reach a theoretical middlegame position that I had studied (probably more than my opponent in some cases) thoroughly enough to know where my pieces should be, what I should be playing for, and how to cross up my opponent's plans. When such games arose, it was always a pleasure to be able to point to my studies and say "I knew move A was wrong when he made it because in the Leningrad Dutch black should do B and C in this position or else white responds D and dominates" or some such. I just assumed this was how chess was played, and that better players simply knew more such positions that me. I still don't think this view is completely without merit, but it's certainly not the whole answer to chess skill and it's very limiting as the heart of a chess learning program.

Since I study games based upon whether I played the opening or not, I mostly study the games of contemporary masters. Many systems that were popular in the 30s-60s are not played often anymore, and many positions moderns GMs play regularly would never occur in the games of Alekhine or Botvinnik. As a result, I simply never looked at their games .It's not that I doubted their strength, I just didn't see much point in looking at positions I never intended to play.

What changed my mind was playing through the best games of Svetozar Gligoric. He's not really a household name these days among chess players, but he was one of the best in the world from the late 40s through the 50s and 60s. I don't play many of the openings he played, but I am still finding his work extremely valuable, and here's why: his chess is more natural than the modern chess.

That's quite a statement, since todays players are certainly stronger than the best players of 50 years ago. The problem is, I think that modern GMs are so strong, know so much theory, and have so much of the game already worked out that it can be very hard to understand their moves. So much of what they play is based upon tactical justifications often found with the aid of computers that their moves have little strategic content, in the sense of making plans that might last for 5-6 moves. Certainly they target weak pawns and squares, work to improve the activity of their pieces and all that, but it can be very hard for a 1700 player like myself to see how their moves accomplish these aims. I loved watching the Anand-Kramnik match, but those games in the Meran were way over my head. I get this feeling studying some modern opening systems too. I get to a major theoretical splitting point and I have no idead why some options are better than others. I can't understand the position.

This is not the case with the old GMs. They didn't have computers, they relied more on long term strategy, and they often deviated early from theory because they wanted to execute a certain plan. So many times reading the Gligoric book he makes a comment like 'This move is not regarded as best by theory, but I wanted to play in such-and-such fashion and in that case the move is the best'. Perhaps I'd play better chess if I deviated earlier to start a plan that I actually conceived of myself and understood. Wouldn't it be better to know that your first 6 moves were good and that while the 7th may not be best, at least you know why you played it than to play 8 moves of theory and have a position you don't have a clue how to play?

The other thing is, people don't always (rarely, actually, in class events) give you the chance to play positions you know. I almost never deviate before my opponent. In some ways, I'm actually giving them an advantage because while I can go deeper in theory, they get to choose when to deviate and pick a plan that suits them. I'm almost never dictating play in my games out of the opening.

So I guess the moral of all this is that studying the games of strong players you can understand is probably more valuable than studying the games of strong players you don't understand, even if you may not play that exact system. And who knows? Some of those old opening systems aren't so weak in their own right...

Finally, I may be Getting Better

So for the past month I've been stuck in medical hell. It's a Kafkaesque place where people's true motives and feelings are hard to discern, events happen seemingly at random at all times of day and night, there is no regular progression of time, and you're confined to a small room and adjacent hallway from which you cannot leave, though the ramifications of trying to do so are never made clear. In fact, I may have been taking part in a more cerebral variation of the Stanford prison experiments. I wish I'd gotten to be a nurse instead of a patient.

I was back in the hospital here in Indy again this week, though thankfully they were finally able to get to the root of my post-surgical infection. Suffice it to say it was very rare and the drugs that treat it are very expensive. I am feeling weak still, but my mental clarity has returned after a month wandering the desert. I played the first halfway decent game since I got out of the hospital today, so I thought I'd post it as a return to blogging.

Post-Surgical Thrillness.pgn


Not a perfect game by any means, but it was fun. I'll be moving to Florida soon, so if you live in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area and a tall thin B-class guy in his 20s who knows a lot of theory starts showing up at your club, ask him if he has a chess blog.

One final note, congrats to Ben Inskeep on winning the U2100 section of the King's Island Open. I think I speak for everyone when I say "Give me some of your money to help pay my medical bills".

Seriously, congrats.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sick as a dog in Cleveland

I am now officially two weeks into my unexpectedly long stay at the Cleveland Clinic. Don't ever get your large intestine removed. I don't know when I'll play or analyze seriously again. I'm in a pretty bad way, but it's looking up. Still moving to FL at the end of the month...it's just too much. I hate hospitals.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Indiana State Championships Under Way

So, Garrett, Ben, and I are at the State champs in Logansport. Nate is also playing, though he's not staying with us. I'll give you a taste of my games. This one was from the second round. I'll post the rest later.

Rampley-Lewis.pgn


And there you have it. Certainly not error free, though not a horrible game. I'm using my time better, though I'm still not doing comprehensive safety checks every move. As usual, I did have a disappointing loss (in some ways the best of the three I've played), and I'll post that tomorrow.

Garrett is rolling the open section, 3-0. Took out GaterNation in the last round, like 4 non theoretical moves in a Dragon. Ben beat Jim Dean on time, after which Jim promptly withdrew. I would have too. Losing on time sucks ass, and I wouldn't have wanted to drive here from Ft Wayne three nights if I wasn't going to win any money. Funnily enough, the field is so weak that Dean probably still would have won 1st. I'll post more about this this coming week, maybe from the Cleveland Clinic. Wish me luck on the surgery.

Monday, October 6, 2008

I drew a WGM in 15 minute ICC chess. Huzzah.

I assume she was drunk. It was however one of my first successful theoretical outings against the English, against which I have recently learned some theory as I contemplate playing it from the white side.

Not much can be said about a 15 minute game. It wasn't perfect from either side, I should have won, here it is:

WGM Maryana-TovarischFoma.pgn


Standard Fritz annotations. The story of the game is that when I realized I was winning I went a little apeshit, since even in a 15 minute game being much better against a titled player is no small thing for me. I played the endgame (obviously) horribly, but so it goes. At least I drew.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Nate whooped me. Or perhaps wooped me. I'm not sure.

So Nate won 3 to 1. I should have drawn (or won) the last game, but I got tired (as I often do) and went in for a silly combo that Nate quickly found that flaw in, and I lost. The games won't be posted for 2 weeks, because I'm not going to get them up before my wedding.

In short, I lost the first game on the black side of a Shirov/Shabalov attack in the Semi-slav in like 15 moves. I won the second after a nice fight in a sort of pseudo Ragozin. The third I lost in a Benoni type position that I might have drawn, but I went in for what I the thought was a perpetual check with a rook hanging. It wasn't a perpetual, the rook fell, and I lost. The fourth was another pseudo-Ragozin that I was winning, but as I said I went in for a bad combo and lost.

It was a useful match for me. Good practice against a player still a class (both literally and figuratively) above me. I hope Nate enjoyed it too. I'll get those games up. Let's all wish Garrett some luck in Vegas. Break the bank, don't get your legs broken.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Saturday, Saturday, Saturday!

Saturday, starting at 9, Nate and I will be playing a match at the Fishers Library. The line is +0.5 on Nate, though that's being a little generous to me in my opinion. +1 to Nate is closer to the rating prediction, which are usually correct (Painfully so. I promise you, you're almost certainly not better than your rating).

I think the games will be 75/15 or some such. We may have to move to Starbucks since the library closes at 5:30, but in any case if you're interested come by.

In other news, I am being severed from my job, getting married, having my large intestine taken out, and then most likely moving to Florida. Really. In that order. It's a big Fall for me.

Monday, September 15, 2008

What's up with all this Parity?

I have a weakness for chess history. Partially this is because I get very bored at work and reading Wikipedia bios of Salo Flohr and Lev Psahkis is better than doing nothing, but mostly it's because I like the personalities that existed in chess when it was more of an art and less of a science. This is not a rip on current players, because they do what they have to to compete, but as we all know computers (primarily databases) have completely changed the way professionals prepare and play. I think the standard of play is a lot higher now at the highest echelons than it used to be, but I think the intense professionalization of high level chess also makes it hard for some of the unstable, interesting players who used to knock around just below the elite to make it. Tony Miles, for example, would probably have a hard time these days because he would have trouble putting in the study hours on a consistent basis, as well as playing mostly main line, deeply analyzed openings. It's just impossible to have pet systems that your opponents aren't prepared for anymore.

This brings me to my main point in this rambling post. What's up with all the parity these days? only 26 points separate Anand from Carlsen, #1-#6, on the July ratings list. The concentration of players at the top is pretty extreme even as you move down. You have to go down to #31 on the list to find someone (Hikaru Nakamura) 100 points weaker than #1 Anand. This is not normal for top level chess. The usual pattern is that a few elite players dominate everyone else. That was true from Steinitz through Kasparov.

For example, in the July 2000 list, Garry was #1 with a 2849 rating, and #2 was Anand with 2770. Now, we all know Garry was always head and shoulders above everyone (except Karpov in the mid 80s to early 90s), but even going down the list the parity isn't there in 2000. #6 Shirov is already 100 points weaker than #1 Garry with a 2749 rating. Again, Garry's a beast, but looking at #2 Anand, you have to go only to #21 Sergei Rublevsky to find someone 100 points lower than him. The distance between the top and the middle is even greater in the 80s, and increases each decade you go back. In the 30s, the bottom finishers in elite round robins would sometimes have zero points, or only a couple draws. That would never happen at Linares anymore. Even Al Modiahki did all right in the FIDE Grand Prix, and he was very much outrated by the field.

It will be interesting to see if anyone emerges in the next couple years and really starts creaming even the other top players. Carlsen is the obvious bet, and I could see it happening though I must say I don't think we'll ever see another run like Fischer had in the candidates. It may be a function of generation too, because many of the top 50 guys were born in the late 60s to early-mid 70s and may well start losing strength soon, at which time the younger generation might show more variety in strength. My personal opinion is that we won't see that happen, and that because of instant dissemination of chess information future generations will probably show more parity rather than less. There will always be iconoclasts like Morozevich, Ivanchuk, and Nakamura (not that he's in that league just yet, though I hope it comes soon), but I think we'll see less of that style of play and more dogma, especially concerning openings, in the years to come.

It's funny in a way, but some of the most intersting chess is actually produced a bit below the elite level, when players have more freedom in their opening choices since many of their opponents aren't professionals (at least not primarily playing pros, to say nothing of teaching). I think the chess played in big opens like Aeroflot actually looks a lot more like chess from the 60s and 70s than what's played by the big guys, and I rather like it that way. Here's to guys like Ivanchuk who will play anything, and guys like Shirov who will happily go into really irrational looking positions just for the hell of it. I hope chess doesn't pass them by.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

90/30?

Nate, I'll do 90/30 but Sunday I will be hung over since my bachelor party is Saturday night. How about Sunday in one week? We could even do 2 Saturday and 2 Sunday. I don't really care if we rate it or not. I'm down either way.

Match Challenge!

Nate, I challenge you to a match of 4 unrated games, G/60 5 sec increment.

For those of you who don't know, Nate is a solid 'A' player who will probably wipe the floor with me, thought he is out of practice. I'm interested to see the line on this one. Drew and Garrett are always doing hypothetical matchups, and I'm guessing that they'd have me scoring 1- 1.5. That's about what I'm expecting to do, assuming Nate agrees to it. I'll even add a prize fund of sorts, as if bragging rights aren't enough. If Nate beats me, I'll buy him a bottle of Crown Royal. Or whatever, if he doesn't like whiskey. If I win or draw the match (I have to give myself some handicap, I'm giving up 150 rating points), then Nate owes me that bottle of Crown. Does anyone know what the expected score of a 1700 player playing an 1850 player would be in a 4 game match?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Pain and Suffering at the Ohio Chess Congress

So the Ohio Chess Congress is finished. It still remains one of my favorite tournaments for its unique 3 day, 2 game a day format (it's always over Labor Day weekend). A lot of chess, but high quality.

This year, my section was 1700-2000. I played 4 players above 1900. In those games, I scored +0 =1 -3. It was brutal. I learned a very valuable lesson, though. If you don't check for tactics on every move, you'll probably lose. It's funny how such a seemingly obvious thing can escape your notice when you play 'B' and 'C' players, because they don't punish you. 'A' players punish you brutally. Each of the 3 games I lost I lost because of simple tactical oversights (well, one I got completely outplayed and was losing in any case). My only goal before the next tournament (IN state champs) is to realign my move selection thought process to constantly be wary of tactics. I think if I do that, I'll be okay.

Garrett made an interesting observation about my play, namely that I've learned chess in the reverse order from most players. I study a lot, but I've only played really serious (i.e. classical time control) tournaments for about a year, with some rapid play before that. I know a lot about openings, middle game structures, theoretical endings, etc, but I have very little actual playing experience. How many 'B' players do you think have studied 10x as much as they've played? My ratio is probably a lot higher than that, actually, because I am pretty studious. Garrett and Ben assured me that once my playing experience catches up that I'll probably get a quick ratings boost, and I can't wait for it to happen. Right now, I'm just trying to play better chess rather than worrying about increasing my knowledge base. Thought process dominates knowledge OTB, and that's where I'm focusing my efforts. In any case, here are all my games from the tournament save the last round, which I haven't analyzed yet (it was a pretty brutal and uninteresting loss anyway).

Round 1

Rampley-Morris.pgn


First round draws with 'A' players don't bother me too much, though I feel if I'd played more energetically I might have had winning chances. This proved to be the highlight of my tourney against 1900+ players.

Round 2

Porter-Rampley.pgn


This game sucked. So drawn. This one hurt me badly psychologically.

Round 3

Rampley-Kulkarni.pgn


I cannot believe I got a draw out of this one. Barely avoided ridicule for losing to a 16 year old girl. I deserved to lose.

Round 4

Wie-Rampley.pgn


My one success. I have to say, I was very pleased with how I played this game. Good energy, no dogmatism. I think I would have won even if he hadn't blundered.

Round 5

Rampley-Wolrath.pgn


I got outplayed every way you could get outplayed in this one. I won't add anything to the copious game notes, but suffice it to say that I'll be ready if I get this variation again.

The last round was another ignominious miniature defeat against a 1900+ player in an irregular Tromp type opening. I didn't have any gumption left after the Wolrath game. Bad chess, good lesson in both humility and the need to consider my opponent's checks, captures, and threats (thanks Dan Heisman) every move. By the way, if you've never read Novice Nook at Chesscafe.com, then do it right now. It's not really just for novices. All players should look at it, because Heisman is unparalleled at revealing useful information on practical play. Next tournament is the IN State Champs. I'll be happily married by then, which is a crazy thing. That tournament will hopefully also be the triumphant (unless he plays me) return of Nate to the Midwest Chess scene. Hopefully I can bounce back and win some good games. In other news, getting married on the 26th in San Diego, got a 730 on the GMAT (class average at Harvard Business School last year: 707), and having my large intestine taken out in Cleveland on October 29th. It's a busy fall.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Chess Tattoos

Okay, this is posted by the man who got it at chessloser.wordpress.com, but I just felt the need to pass it on. I wouldn't do this, but if it's not going to cost you a promotion then why the hell not?

I did once try to get Garrett to get a tattoo of Lev Polugaevsky, but he wouldn't do it. Then I tried to get Nate to get Mikhail Tal on his ass, but he didn't think it was such a great idea. Maybe it wasn't. Lots of things sound cooler than they really are outside of the Motel 6 in Dayton.

What about game scores? If I guy came up to me at a tournament and was like 'I have the Evergreen game tattooed on my ass', then I'd have to be a little impressed (as long as he didn't ask if I wanted to go see it in the bathroom). It wouldn't be that huge of a tattoo, unless you had this game:

arsovic_nikolic_1989.pgn


Yes, that is the longest official game ever, played when FIDE briefly suspended the 50 move rule. That would be like your whole back, leaving no room for that sweetass tat of Issac Boleslavsky I know you're planning.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Team4545 League round 4

So play continues in the Team 45/45 league on ICC. My fourth round game came after spending the day with my parents. My fiancee and I went down to Bloomington and saw Bottle Shock with them for my Mom's birthday. Good movie, reminded me of some great times in Napa. Having seen a movie about good American wine, we decided to get some good American wine. Half price wine, as it turned out. So we got some excellent Stag's Leap cab for like $50 when it normally retails for $100, and we also killed a decent bottle of Russian River Pinot. Then Bri drove us back to Indy, and we got back right before my game. I wasn't really drunk anymore, but I was really sleepy and little out of it. My only goal in the game was to play more prophylactically, taking my opponent's plans into account without fail (which is harder than you might think to do every move when you're not in the habit of doing so). I think I achieved that, even though I lost. It was the first time I'd played this line of the Sozin in a long game, and I definitely didn't understand the position very well. I'd never looked at it prior to this game. In any case, my opponent played the middle game well, I over pressed a little on the kingside and ended up with a very passive rook tied to the defense of an over-advanced pawn, and I lost.

Holzschlange-Caissapriest.pgn


Interestingly, that h-pawn advance is not unheard of by any means in this variation as I found out after the game. It's just usually not put under pressure because there's so much going on in the center. I really should have played ...d5 at some point, though as I pointed out in the notes I missed the tactical subtlety that keeps that move from restricting my b7 bishop. Isn't there some adage about meeting a wing attack with central action (that's a joke, I know Steinitz said it, please don't leave me a bunch of forum posts about Steinitz's laws)? Prophylaxis is good, but development is pretty important too. Especially in the opening. A good training game (which is what I think of these 45/45 games as), if I ever face this position for real OTB I think I'll handle it better.

Friday, August 22, 2008

I don't like your opening sir...

How rude would it be to offer a draw every time an opponent plays the London System? How about the Colle? I realize that these are not completely innocuous systems, but for some reason I just can't buy their right to exist. I know that's a silly viewpoint, but it seems like an affront against chess to me. Lets play an opening so that I don't have to think about the first 7 moves, can play it against anything, and have no diversity of strategic ideas. Just play checkers. It really annoys me in slow games, because I have to spend all this time just holding relatively even position with almost no imbalances. I play the sharpest systems can against these openings, but it still doesn't help much. I should add that I've never lost on the black side of one of these OTB, though I've certainly had many draws (and of course if I played someone much stronger than me in a Colle I'd probably still lose). Am I the only one who gets really dispirited when these openings hit the board? Am I way too concerned with my opponent's opening choices? Probably, but that doesn't undermine in any way the hatred I have for these systems.

I admit it; once, when I was really drunk late at night, I played the Colle-Zuckertort in 3-4 five minute ICC games, and I won them all. Now, I was playing like 200 points below my normal rating level since I had been playing inebriated for several hours, but that's no excuse. I'd like to state publicly that I'm sorry, I've learned from my mistakes, and from that point on I've only played main line openings. I hope you'll find it in your hearts to forgive me. Mea culpa, mea culpa, solus in vinum Colle.

Here's a game for your enjoyment of how I try to treat these systems. I wish they all went like this...

Bryant-Rampley.pgn

Monday, August 18, 2008

Team 4545 League is strange...

Another odd experience being slightly dissed in the ICC team 45/45 league. I couldn't play at any of my opponent's suggested times, and so we agreed to an unplayed draw. He didn't want to adjourn, and neither captain cared, so there you are. Yet he made a haughty comment about me not posting any replies, after I had already said I was going to be playing OTB Friday and Saturday. These people seem very conceited about their little league. I just want to play semi-serious long games online, but there are apparently strict unwritten etiquette rules that I'm violating, or else the league is full of rude people. I realize that's a generalization based upon only a few experiences, and certainly not every person I've dealt with has been discourteous (or overly legalistic, as I found the TDs to be), but a pattern never the less seems to be emerging. I'll have to think carefully about whether I want to sign up again.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Indiana Class Champs mostly completed!

So as usual, the tournament started well, then I got tired, which made me lazy, and I started playing poorly. Ben and Garrett also had bad third round games, both of which ended in losses due to time trouble, so we withdrew and went to see 'Stepbrothers', which sucked. In any case, I'm including my 1st and 2nd round games, which were of decent quality. The third round was a a Grunfeld that looked like it was played by two 7 year olds who needed naps. My opponent was much worse out of the opening, then in my impatience and fatigue I went into a significantly worse ending. Then I threw away the draw. On the upside, at least I wasn't hung over. Here are the games.

R1.pgn


Not a bad game at all, though I did have about a 150 point rating advantage. Only one major error, and even it was a few ply down the line. My goal this tournament was to play safely, not overextending due to impatience. I think this game was a good example of that style of play, with the possible exception of Ng5. Here's the 2nd round:

R2.pgn


Not as good of a game from my side, but my opponent was very slightly higher rated than me and this was the first time I'd gotten to play the Classical Sicilian in OTB chess. As I said, the last game isn't worth showing, it was such a comedy of errors. I won't come to this tournament again unless it's expanded to two days. It's too much chess and I can't keep my play up for 4 rounds (or even 3, frankly) of long time control chess. 2 long games/day. No more than that. It's just not worth the money or the frustration. By the way, aren't the Fritz verbal annotations strange? The one about the cat seems like a bad German translation to me, but who knows. Every country has its own weird sayings. What the hell does 'by and large' mean, anyway? What sort of sense would it make translated into German? I'll leave you with that thought.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Maybe I should just play quick chess...

Well, it's Friday night and I just won the reserve section of the Indiana state quick tournament. 4 games, 20/3, $70 first prize. Covers my entry fee with enough for a few beers. Here's the only game I could remember all the way through. It's an error filled Benoni but it has some cute tactical ideas. I hope you enjoy. Good luck to Nate, I hope you're doing well. Wish you were here. Maybe Kokomo's not so bad after all.

RampleyWycoffe.pgn


So many errors, as you would expect from a quick game, but fun and a good one for me to win.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Team 4545 league round 3 - Crazy Benoni

This was my 3rd game from the team 45-45 league. This game was infuriating, because I had several chances to put it away and I just played too fast, not looking at enough moves during the critical portions.

team4545 round 3.pgn


So you can see why I was so frustrated. This was a game I had plenty of chances to win or force a draw, but instead I lose. Am I that bad, or is this game just really that hard? Probably both.

Friday, August 8, 2008

IN State Class championships in beautiful Kokomo approaching

For those of you who don't know, the Indiana state class championships are coming up, to be held once again in Kokomo IN. That means that Garrett, Nate, maybe Drew, Ben, Quinn, and I will be making the godforsaken drive up 31 to Kokomo. If you've never taken this drive, then let me tell you that the only thing worse than this indescribably dull stretch of highway is the even duller stretch of highway that extends to South Bend. Thank God we're not holding the tournament there.

Which raises an interesting question: why Kokomo? It's not centrally located at all. And as it happens, Indiana does have a large, centrally located city where it might make more sense to hold the tournament. Yet our state tournaments are often in either Kokomo or, even more oddly, Logansport (this may just be because Logansport is the home of former ISCA honcho Gary Fox, whom we all thank for his hard and extremely thankless work in chess). Is this to accommodate the South Bend contingent? Or is it just cheaper?

In any case, I expect a sub par performance on my part, not least because the drive to Kokomo almost forces you to drink once you get there just to stave off crippling boredom. I think if I lived in Kokomo I'd have to be drunk all the time. Seriously, the main reason I'm not predicting a win is that the tournament is a 4 round, g/90 affair conducted in one day. For those of you a little slow in the math department, that's up to 12 hours of chess on a Saturday. That's a shit ton of chess in one day. I bet the average player loses between 100-200 points of effective strength between the first and last games. It's a grueling schedule.

And it's played at a UAW hall. Leaving aside the stale scent of despair the sits on this (or probably any) automakers union hall, the place is fairly pleasant to play in. There are swings outside for Maxx to frolic on, picnic tables for folks to sit on and watch Roger stalk geese, and a pleasant breeze that luckily leaves you upwind from Kokomo proper (just kidding. I really have no particular issue with Kokomo, other than having to take 31 to get there). It's no Sheraton conference center, but it's not bad for what you pay to enter.

So as you can probably tell I'm really looking forward to this one. Last year I locked my keys in my car and lost my last round game in like 11 moves (probably because I just returned from a wine junket in Napa), and just generally sucked ass. Let's hope that this year is a little more successful. I don't want to drive to Kokomo for nothing.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Team4545 League round 2

This is my second game from the Team4545 ICC league tournament. If you actually like seeing these games, leave a quick comment because they're a pain in the ass to post and I won't do it if no one takes the time to look at them. Thanks

White: frank001
Black: caissapriest
Result: 0-1

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bg5 e6 7. Qd2 a6 8.O-O-O Bd7 9. Kb1

9. f3 Be7 10. h4 h6 11. Be3 h5 is the main line with f3

9... b5?! playing a bit too much on autopilot.

9... h6 10. Be3 Ng4 11. f4 Nxe3 12. Qxe3 =

10. f3 Qb6


10... h6 11. Be3 Ne5 scores best, and is probably the best line 12. Bd3 Qc7 13. h4 (13. g4 b4 14.Nce2 d5=) 13... h5 14. f4 b4 15. fxe5 bxc3 16. exd6 Bxd6 17. Qxc3 Qxc3 18. bxc3 Ng4 19. Bg1 Ke7 20. Be2 Rhb8+ 21. Ka1 Ba3 22. Nb3 Bc6 23. Bxg4 hxg4 24. Bh2 Rd8 25. Rde1 f6 26. Bc7 Rdc8 27. Bb6 Rab8 28. Ba7 Rb5 29. Re3 Ba8 30. Rg3 Kf7 31. Rxg4 Rxc3 32. Rd1 Rb7 33. Bg1 Rxc2 34. Be3 e5 35. Rd8 Re2 36. Bd2 Rf2 37. Rxa8 Rf1+ 38. Bc1 Bxc1 39. Kb1 Ba3+ 40. Kc2 Rf2+ 41. Kd3 Rxa2 42. Na5 Rd7+ 43. Kc4 Be7 44. Rxa6 Rd4+ 0-1 Herrera,I (2450)-Rodriguez Cespedes,A (2555)/Matanzas 1997/CBM 057 ext

11. Be3 Qb7 12. Nxc6 Bxc6

The best recapture, supporting ...d5 at some point in the future

13. Qf2?!


This is a common move in the English attack against the Najdorf, but here it is not as good.

13. g4 Rc8 14. Bg2 b4 15. Ne2 e5 16. g5 Nd7 17. h4 Nb6 18. Qxb4 Bb5 19. Bxb6 Bxe2 20. Rd2 Bb5 21. Qa5 Be7 22. b3 Rc6 23. Be3 Bc4 24. Ka1 Be6 25. c4 1-0 Vasquez,R (2445)-Leon,R (2181)/Chile 2000/EXT 2001

13. Ne2 right away is possible, taking away the tempo I would gain by ...b4

13... b4 14. Ne2 Be7 15. h4

15. Qg3 was a move I was worried about. I was planning to sacrifice a pawn b3 (15...O-O 16. Bh6 Ne8 17. Nd4 a5 is Fritz's choice, with a slight initiative to black) 16. cxb3 (16. Qxg7 bxc2+ 17. Kxc2 Rg8 18. Qh6 Ba4+ 19. b3 Rg6 20. Qh3 Bd7 is assessed as equal by the computer, but I like black) 16... O-O 17. Bh6 Ne8 18. Nd4 Bd7 is about even, but white is definitely doing the pushing.

15...a5 16. g4 a4?!

16... b3 is even better right away 17. axb3 a4 18. g5 Nd7 19. Nd4 axb3 20. Nxb3 Ba4 21. Nd4 Nc5 -+ is Fritz's favorite line

17. h5?! way too slow

17. Nd4 is fine for white, though he's still a bit worse

17... b3 18. cxb3? axb3

18... Nxg4! 19. Qg1 Bxe4+ $3 20. fxe4 Qxe4+ 21. Ka1 Nxe3 is extremely strong, but I didn't see it. This is a problem I have: I see one line of a combination, and I don't take the time to look for a stronger, related continuation. I should definitely work on this.

I love the moment when you see a possible tactic if the opponent just makes natural moves, but I go insane waiting on them to play during that period of time. It's so nerve racking when you know that just proceeding with their plan could get them killed. I was pacing like crazy waiting for him to play, worrying about Nd4 or other moves that would spoil my potential combination.

19. a3? Nxe4!

19...Bxe4+ 20. fxe4 Qxe4+ 21. Ka1 Rxa3+ 22. bxa3 Qc2 23. Rd2 b2+ 24. Ka2 b1=Q# is an incredibly cool mating sequence that I didn't even begin to see.

20.fxe4? the sacrifice should not be accepted.

20. Qe1 Nc5 leaves black in control, but white has play and between players of our levels he's not really at that much of a disadvantage in such a sharp, open position.

20... Bxe4+ 21. Ka1 Bxh1 22. Nd4 Bc6

22... O-O was a move I looked at a lot, and would have been better. I was afraid of white's play on the kingside. I may have a few extra pawns, but that also means open lines and I was worried about them. 23. Bd3 Bd5

23. Rc1 Rc8?? Oh shit! White can equalize with a combination


24. g5?

Thank god for me he missed it. 24. Rxc6! Rxc6 25. Bb5 O-O 26. Bxc6 Qc7 and he's totally fine

24... Bd7 25. Rd1 d5?!

A very hard decision. I used over a third of my time on this move, and I erred. I should have castled. 25... O-O 26. h6 g6 was what I was worried about. I did not want to get mated in the corner. White has no immediate threats, I just hate positions like that and since I'm used to not castling in the Rauzer, it didn't bother me to leave the king in the center.

26. g6 hxg6 27. hxg6 f6

I thought for a long time here as well. I wanted to take it, or castle, but it just seemed to loose 27... Bf6 28. Bg5 fxg6 29. Bxf6 O-O would have been fine too

27... O-O 28. Bd3 fxg6 29. Qg2 Rf6 is a bit risky

28. Rd3 e5

Best. I can't retain the pawn, but this move is the strongest continuation. It opens lines and forces him to move the well centralized knight.

29. Rxb3 Qa8 30. Nb5 d4

This move scared me a little, because of the possibility of the sac on d4. I didn't have a ton of time left, and the complications could have been hard to deal with.

31. Bd2

31. Nxd4 exd4 32. Bxd4 Be6 33. Qe3 Qd5 34. Ka2 Rb8 wins for black

31... Be6 32. Rg3 Qc6

32... Rh1! is stronger

33. Qe1 Ra8?

A very bad mistake. He had the chance to create a lot of problems for me.

34.Ba5?

34. Bg2! Qc4 35. Nc7+ Qxc7 36. Bxa8 is a little loose for black, though he's still winning completely. Doesn't make it simple.

34... Rxa5!

That's that. I found a nice combo early, but gave my opponent a chance to equalize. Thankfully for me he missed it, and I didn't screw up. I love and hate games like this. Black has good chances, but it's so sharp you can't relax for a single move. Very stressful. Still, I'll take winning chances over a dry draw anytime. I did an okay job in this game of taking his checks, threats, and captures into account (Heisman), but clearly I missed a few. I guess I better get stronger.

35. Qxa5 Qc1#

0-1


Sunday, August 3, 2008

The False Dicotomy of Tactical vs Positional players

This is an interesting one, because you hear it all the time. What player hasn't described him or herself as a 'tactical' or 'positional' player? I've certainly done so (tactical, in my case) without really thinking about what it means.

What chess game isn't tactical and positional? These are really just levels of thinking about a position, aren't they? Positional considerations relate to longer term structural and strategic factors, and tactics are the way we execute the plans we form while thinking positionally. Every game, we do both.

What I think the description is trying to capture is whether a given player prefers closed or open positions. Think about it: usually d pawn openings are described as more positional and e pawn openings as tactical. But this is silly. Kasparov cut a swath of rampant attacking destruction opening with either pawn, and Karpov player very prophylactically when opening with the e pawn earlier in his career. What's more accurate (though still questionable) is that e pawn openings result in more open positions, while d pawn openings often create closed positions. Tactical and positional considerations are important in each, but he nature of the play is different.

Perhaps what we should ask rather than 'tactical or positional?' is 'open or closed positions?'. I for one have a strong preference for open positions with easy piece play, and I play closed positions pretty badly (the exception being the King's Indian, which I seem to do pretty well against for some reason). Still, I open primarily with 1.d4 and do just fine in the opening. I just make sure to play the most open lines. I'd be interested to know if anyone else thinks 'open or closed' describes style better than 'tactical or positional'.

Credit has to go to Garrett Smith for pointing out to me that this was really a rather non-critcally accepted false dichotomy.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Chess Explained: The Classical Sicilian, Reviewed

I bought this book at the same time as the Rizzitano book on the Taimanov, in an effort to figure out which of the two I wanted to play as I struggle to create a Sicilian based repertoire vs. 1.e4 (The Lopez just proved too much to deal with. I suck at closed positions, and the Open I found to be very hard to equalize in). Besides the format, common to all Chess Explained books, what both these titles had in common was quality.

I must admit I may be a little biased for two reasons. First off, I like the Classical Sicilian positions, especially the Kozul Suicide variation lines. They're sharp, open and fun. Secondly, I am a huge fan of Alex Yermolinsky's writing. He writes very frankly with no hint of pretense or attention to form (by this I mean the rather pedantic writing style that characterizes many chess books, seemingly drawn from the annotative style of the early masters like Nimzovitch). That being said, I think I can say that even judged purely on its own merits this opening manual is very solid.

The games are recent, high level, well annotated and explained, and cover the gamut of important positions in the Classical. That is hard to do, because many different systems with different feels can spring from the Classical starting position (Black knights on c6 and f6, pawn on d6, neither a6 or e5 yet played). I think the balance of material is about right, with special emphasis being given to the Rauzer as the most challenging line theoretically. One thing I like about the Classical is that even online and at class level, people (whether by accident or design) often play some of the sharper, more challenging lines. As such, the extra time spent on the Rauzer isn't wasted. Good explanation are also given of the Boleslavsky and English Attack positions, which are highly transpositional with one another, as well as some of rarer lines.

Yermo didn't significantly alter his writing style in switching from a personal games collection and chess history (Road to Chess Improvement, read it if you haven't) to crafting an opening survey, and I 'm happy that he didn't. His dry humor and good pacing, combined with frequent diagrams makes this book easy and fun to read even without a board. Overall, I highly recommend it.

In closing, I must say that for those above ~1600, the Chess Explained series provides a great bridge from the (generally, though there are exceptions) lower level Starting Out series by Everyman and the more advanced opening books published by all the major companies. The topics are more specific than the SO books, but the analysis is not so deep that single sub-variations dominate long chapters or even whole volumes. I'm very glad Gambit is producing this series, and I hope it sells well enough that they don't stop.

Open Comments!

I have opened the comments so you no longer need a google ID to post. Please keep it chess related, unless you happen to have a knowledge of Judo or Chicago blues in which case post whatever you want.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Are kids really that good at openings?

This post is in response to a forum comment, that kids are often good at openings and that if you can get through the opening and early middlegame that you have a good shot at winning (given similar ratings, of course). But are kids really that good at openings, or do they just learn a bunch of opening traps?

Having never played scholastic chess, I can't really answer that, but since I've played a lot of double king pawn openings against kids I do notice that they play a lot of romantic systems that contain a lot of pitfalls if you don't know the theory. But is this the same as knowing an opening?

For example, do kids generally understand the power of pawn breaks to increase piece activity, and what pawn breaks generally flow from which openings? Do they know on which part of the board a given opening will generally suggest they play? Do they understand the differences in the value of tempi in closed vs. open games? When I think about knowing openings, those are the sort of things I think of.

I guess the question is, are kids really educated about openings at a higher level than adults, or do they merely know more traps in the openings they play? I do see a difference, and I'm especially interested in the opinions of people who played or coach scholastic players.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The real advantage kids have in chess

Everyone knows little kids are the most dangerous chess opponents for class level adult players, barring only 'unrated' middle aged men from the former Soviet bloc.

But why are kids so dangerous? Two reasons:

They're never hung over and they usually don't feel pressure to beat adults in the same way we feel pressure to beat them.

If I quit drinking at chess tournaments, I bet I gain 50 points pretty fast. When I look at my results in rounds 4 and 5, I'm disgusted at the disparity with rounds 1 and 2. This could just be a function of playing the better players due to Swiss pairings, but I get paired up as often as down and if I'm going to upset you, it will be in rounds 1 or 2. The second day is murder. Still, I enjoy the social aspects of going to tournaments as much as the chess and I have no plans to change my habits. I doubt I am alone amongst childless (I'm 26) adults in my behavior at tournaments, especially those like me who usually room with friends who also like a drink.

As for their other advantage, if a kid loses to some adult who's been playing for years, it's usually not considered such a big deal, especially by their parents. I think this takes a lot of pressure off them in games against their elders. I for one feel a special imperative to beat anyone significantly younger than me, or at least anyone who can't legally drive. This is a silly feeling because ratings are obviously independent of age, but never the less I get very annoyed when elementary age kids beat me. Never mind my Finance and Psychology degrees, disregard that I play several instruments with performance proficiency, the 1420 on my SATs years ago, this little kid JUST TOTALLY OUTSMARTED ME AND IT PISSES ME OFF!

Little kids have none of these pressures.

So if you ever see me pacing, cursing at 2:00 on Sunday at some tournament, there's a good chance I just hung my queen to some third grade would-be prodigy after a night of pounding Sam Adams, and I'm not happy about it.

Did I mention that kids often play really off-beat but trappy lines? I've never really been caught out in one by a child, but I still hate playing against them because I'm usually not so familiar with the positions (I mostly study main lines).

And I really hate that sometimes, when you beat a kid badly or in an important game, they cry. I'm not heartless and it makes me feel awful, even though it's certainly just part of the game and I would never let them win. It's especially bad if I see their parents berate them later for losing (or for crying). It's just chess. They feel bad enough already.

A quick note on ICC manners

Since I'm posting my League4545 games, you will all soon know my ICC handle is Caissapriest. Since I have a proclivity to be outspoken online, a few quick notes on my views on ICC manners. First though, let me note that I am very frequently drunk when playing online, and so if I've ever said anything rude to you (especially if you have an automated thank you), then I apologize. Drunkenness is not an excuse (since it's certainly my choice to drink and play chess), I'm just saying don't take it too personally.

In any case, a few things about ICC manners

1. Rematch challenges are fine, but please don't give me any shit if I decline. Playing you once is not a tacit agreement to play you repeatedly. You have no idea why I'm not playing you again. Maybe my girlfriend needs something. Maybe my cat threw up. You don't know. It's not a big deal.

2. Talking shit unprovoked is very bad form. Talking shit when provoked, however, I view as not such a big deal. Provocation includes anything that would be rude over the board, including letting your time run out in a lost position when you have a lot left rather than resigning, playing on in terribly lost positions when there is a lot of time remaining, and so forth. If you're losing, just lose and be done with it. You're not going to swindle me with your knight and pawn when I have three queens or something, at least not when we both have 5-10 minutes left. It's just a waste of both our times.

3. Profanity is still unnecessary in the above cases, because you don't know anything about the person you're playing. When I say talk shit, I mean something along the lines of: "That's really rude to play on when you're totally lost, and I don't understand why anyone would play you more than once. I certainly won't" +noplay +cens. I wish I had a hotkey for this phrase. It's pretty mild as such things go, but it gets the point across.

4. I hate automated thank yous. If it's a really obnoxious one, then I might say something rude, especially drunk. I got censored for this once by ICC administration, probably rightly. The reason I hate them is because they're so fake and impersonal. They come up after truly good games, and after games where I hang my queen on move 8. It's like when you're on hold with AT&T and the automated voice tells you they value your call and then thanks you for your patience. They don't value your call, it wasn't a good game every time, and so I would prefer people reserve their thanks for games that are actually good enough that they feel inspired to reach out and type a real thanks.

That's my ICC rant. Please don't drop me a bunch of messages about what a dick I am. My censor list is big enough already.

Ugly, Ugly team4545 Game

So I've started playing in the ICC team4545 league, and I just played my first game, and I did not play it well. Here it is. It transposed into an Old Indian defense (which I know nothing about) and I was much worse right out of the opening. I played this game after spending two days at my best friend's wedding, and I had the worst hang over I've had in a year at least. I have to say, it didn't hurt my ability to calculate all that much, but it made me very impatient which definitely showed during the course of the game. Chess is not a physical game, but a deficiency in your physical condition can show up in so many ways in your play. I just didn't have the mindset to play slowly.

Caissapriest (1778)
GambitBandit (2118)
ICC 27.07.2008

1. d4 d6 2. c4

This was my first mistake. There are drawbacks to all white's responses now, and so 2. Nf3 is better, preventing e5. This is not a system I have ever taken seriously, but it scores very well for black in the database. Trading pawns and queens is optically appealing at first glance, but with the queens gone and both sides undeveloped black's loss of castling privileges just doesn't matter all that much.

...e5 3. e4
3. Nf3 e4 4. Ng5 Nf6 5. Nc3 Qe7 6. Qc2 Nc6 7. e3 Bf5 8. h4 h6 9. Nh3 g5 10. Nd5 Qd8 11. Bd2 Bg7 12. O-O-O Qd7 13. Be2 Nxd5 14. cxd5 Nxd4 15. exd4 e3 16. Bd3 Bxd3 17. Qxd3 exd2+ 18. Qxd2 O-O-O 19. hxg5 Qf5 20. Qc2 Qxd5 21. gxh6 Bxh6+ 22. Kb1 Qxg2 23. Qf5+ Kb8 24. Qxf7 Qe4+ 25. Ka1 Rdf8 26. Qd7 Rd8 27. Qb5 Bg7 28. Rhe1 Qf3 29. Ng5 Qxf2 30. Rf1 Qg2 31. Nf7 Rdf8 32. Nxh8 Rxh8 33. Rg1 Qf3 34. Rdf1 a6 35. Qg5 Bf8 36. Rh1
1-0 Lautier,J (2672)-Glek,I (2575)/Corsica 2005/EXT 2006

3... exd4 4. Qxd4 Nc6 5. Qd1


5. Qd2 g6 6. b3 Bg7 7. Bb2 Nf6 8. Nc3 is also an option



5... Nf6 6. Nc3 Be6
6... g6 this move right away is what I expected, and I think it gives white more trouble.

7. b3

7. Nf3 g6 8. h3 Bg7 9. Be3 O-O 10. Be2 Nd7 11. O-O Nb6 12 Nd5 Bxb2 13. Bg5 f6 14. Bh6 Marin is somewhat better in this position.


Bxa1 15. Bxf8 Kxf8 16. Qxa1 Kf7 17. Nd2 Nd7 18. f4 Ne7 19. Nf3 Bxd5 20. cxd5 c6 21. dxc6 bxc6 22. Bc4+ d5 23. Bb3 Nc5 24. e5 f5 25. Ng5+ Kg8 26. e6 Qb6 27. Kh2 Rf8 28. Nf7 Rxf7 29. exf7+ Kxf7 30. Qe5 Ne4 31. Bc2 Nd2 32. Re1 Nf3+

1/2-1/2 Sokolov,I (2630)-Marin,M (2525)/Debrecen 1992/EU-chT

7... g6 8. Bb2 Bg7

9. Bd3
9. Nf3 is a mistake, allowing Nxe4 10. Nxe4 Bxb2 with a huge advantage for black.

9. Qc2 came into consideration as well, but as I was way behind in development I wanted to get the kingside pieces out quickly. I didn't think I'd move the bishop to any place other than d3 anyway, though as it turns out Be2 might have been better in some lines ...O-O 10. O-O-O Nb4 11. Qe2

is all right for black, though it is a little more combative and might have been better.

9... O-O 10. Nge2
10. Nf3 is probably a better move, but I rejected it because I was planning to gain space with f3 or f4 (depending on the situation), and I felt that developing the knight here would
hinder those plans uneccesarily. ...Ng4 11. Qd2 Nce5 12. Nxe5 Bh6 13. Qc2 Nxe5
is about equal


10... Ne5
10... Ng4 is better for him 11. O-O Qh4 12. h3 Nge5 sees all black's pieces very active and white reduced to a slow unwinding

11. Bc2

11. f4 Nxd3+ 12. Qxd3 Nd7 came into consideration, but I wanted to
retain the bishop in connection with playing f5.

11... c6?!

This is slow, and d5 will be hard to play in any case. 11... Nfd7 12. h4 Ng4 13. Qd2 h5 14. Nf4 Bh6 15. O-O-O is pretty much equal

12. O-O
after screwing up the opening badly, I've managed to equalize.

...g5?!
I assume he was trying to prevent f4, and in fact I shouldn't have played it.


13. f4?? a very bad move. This was me lashing out, because I had grown very tired of my cramped position and awkward piece placement. A little more patience and I might have had real winning chances.13. Qd2 was the other thing I thought of and would have been an improvement. ...Ne8 14.Rad1 Ng6 15. Na4 Bxb2 16. Nxb2 sees white with a slight edge according to Fritz 10


13... Neg4
13... gxf4 14. Nxf4 Nfg4 15. Qd2 Qb6+ 16. Kh1 is similar to the game continuation

14. Qc1
14. e5 is the only move ...dxe5 15. Qxd8 Rfxd8 16. fxe5 Nh5 leaves black better, but white is not in as much trouble as in the game.

14... Qb6+!
I had totally missed this move when I played f4.


15. Kh1 Nf2+ 16. Rxf2 Qxf2 17. f5 Bd7 18. Qxg5 Kh8 19. Bd3?

This is very bad. 19. Rd1 Rg8 20. Qf4 Qxf4 21. Nxf4 Ne8 22. Na4 and black is not a whole lot better, though white has no winning chances against strong play.

19... Rg8 20. Rb1
Now the bishop and rook aren't hanging, but he plays an accurate move and any swindling chances I have vanish. 20. Nd1 Nxe4 21. Bxg7+ (21. Qxg7+ Rxg7 22. Bxg7+ Kxg7 23. Nxf2 Nxf2+ 24. Kg1 Nxd3 is even worse) 21... Rxg7 22. Nxf2 Nxf2+ 23. Kg1 Nh3+ is brutal for white

20... h6 21. Qd2 Ng4 22. Nd1 Qh4 23.h3 Ne5 24. Ne3 Bf6 Fritz gives him about a two pawn advantage, and I agree with it.

25. Bxe5 Bxe5 26. Ng4?? This was simply an oversight played quickly in frustration, though
I was cooked in any case.

Rxg4
Not a good game from me at all. I got confused in an unfamiliar opening and ended up in a position reminicent of a Maroczy bind, an opening I play very poorly. Hopefully my next 4545 league game will be better. 0-1

Thursday, July 24, 2008

'Chess Explained: The Taimanov Sicilian' Reviewed

As I noted in a previous post, I am starting to play the Sicilian again after spending the last year working on the open games. I am a little split as to whether to play the Taimanov or the Classical (Najdorf/Scheveningen, Dragon: too much theory even for me; Sveshnikov: a possibility, but I have worked so much on the white side that I feel a certain 'white pieces bias' towards it, even though it scores very well and is an excellent line; Kan: the diversity of white responses I find staggering; others: I don't really like offbeat variations). I have chosen to research the two concurrently to decide which I like better, and so I bought both Chess Explained volumes on the openings. I recently received the Taimanov book, and so far I have been impressed.

James Rizzitano has been a blessing to chess fans since he picked up the pieces (after a long hiatus) and the pen several years ago, and he's produced several fine works recently. I especially can recommend his book How to Beat 1.d4, which I used primarily for it's anti-main line Queen's Gambit section. He's a thorough writer who provides what is for me a good mix of analysis and explanation.

Chess Explained: The Taimanov Sicilian naturally contains more verbal explanation than analysis, though a quick check on Chessbase shows that the critical lines are covered. I like the way the information is broken up, and the recency of the games is a major plus. I find Gambit books in general to be easier to read than Everyman and Quality Chess, though let me be clear that all three of these publishers regularly produce quality works, and I own plenty of books from all three. I like the two column format, and the text is well sized to get a lot of information on the page (a gripe I sometimes have with Everyman) without being too hard to read (a problem that crops up from time to time in Quality Chess books, IMO). I still don't know if I'll play the Taimanov a lot, but between Chessbase and this book I doubt I'll need another resource for some time even if I adopt it as my main open Sicilian Defense. Overall, a good book.

Adventures in the Anti-Sicilians

I've recently started playing the Sicilian again, since I got really discouraged trying to find a good answer to the Lopez (especially the exchange variation; even though black is mostly ok I just don't like that sort of chess game, and at my Class B level I get it a lot more than anything else).

In any case, I've been analyzing positions that arise from the Alapin (2.c3) Sicilian, and I found an interesting one that arises from one of the main lines:



It's white's move, and it seems that white can win a pawn with Bxd5 exd5 Qxd5, but there are a number of interesting lines that arise following Nb4, so I think that black has sufficient compensation. I haven't Fritzed this position yet, I'm curious what the computer will think. The game (Rybenko-Ciuskyte 2004) continued 11.Bd3 f5 12.exf6 Nxf6 13.Qe2 Qa5, with black eventually winning after some nice tactical shots.

I have to admit a level of discouragement, as after the game I got on ICC and almost immediately played 2-3 games in the Alapin, and I think I lost each one. None reached the diagrammed position as white chose an early exchange on d5 entering a dual IQP position, which I haven't really analyzed all that much (though you'd think I'd know how to play an IQP considering how many I enter as white). Still, it was a little frustrating. I did win a pretty game in the exchange QGD earlier in the day against a much higher rated opponent, which felt nice as this is one of my favorite systems.

The next round of the Team4545 league starts this week, and I have a game on Sunday against a player ~300 points higher rated than me. I will post that game after I finish it. This should be fun.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Correspondence chess

What is the value anymore of corr chess? I don't ask this frivolously, as I've just finished my second corr tournament (+3 =2 -1, 2nd place) and am unsure as to whether I should start another one. They are fun in a sense, but there is no practical way to stop cheating and I can't help but feel in some of my games that I'm playing against a computer. As much as I like the analytical practice and the use of very sharp lines, it's very disheartening to think I may be playing Rybka. Since we have the anonymity of the internet, has anyone ever cheated at a corr game, and would you be willing to cop to it? I'm just trying to get a feel for how many people play fair.

Adventures in Chess

Welcome to Chessgasm, this blog will be devoted to my obsession with chess. Nothing has the power to elate and infuriate me like chess; I'm sure you can sympathize. The title of this blog is indicative of the emotional power chess has, though nothing the least bit racy will ever be posted (not even 'Chessbase' girls). In any case, this blog will contain my observations, trials, and tribulations as I try to reach expert before I get bored and quit. I intend to review books (I buy a lot of chess books), discuss my games (hopefully get comments from well meaning readers), and discuss the frustrations and joys of being a class player in the USCF.

Perhaps you noticed I said expert. Unlike many chess players, I don't really expect to be a master. I think I can reach expert within 5 years, which is about how long I expect to be really interested in chess (I tend to get bored with things after 5-6 years, I've found). Chess may prove an exception however... I can't ever get enough, especially ICC.

I don't have a system for improving. I study often, mostly analyzing early middlegame positions from openings I play. I used to do a lot of tactics, but once I got to about 1600 I found that they didn't really seem to help so much as they used to. I think studying openings is not as overrated as everyone says, and since everyone good spends a lot of time on it they should stop telling everyone below them to give it up. How else am I supposed to learn about positions? Positions come from specific openings, and usually the positional (and even tactical) motifs that recur repeatedly in games in those openings are defined very early by the initial moves each player makes. For example, you could say that the King's Indian defense is a terribly complicated and theoretical opening that class players shouldn't spend a lot of time learning the theory of. However, if I want to play the KID, I better learn that black usually strives for an f5 break, while white will often play for c5 and invasion on the open c-file. I should know that if white plays an early f3 and goes into the Samisch, then he may castle queenside and attack on the kingside and that my best response may well be a gambit. I should know that in some positions Na6 planning to come to c5 after a d5 push is a good way of playing. I should know that against some setups going into a Benoni type position with c5 may be best. These are all opening concepts which will define the strategies of both sides for the middlegame, and studying openings seems to the best way to learn about them. Whew. There's my rant for the day.