Thursday, August 28, 2008

Chess Tattoos

Okay, this is posted by the man who got it at, 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:


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.


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...


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.


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:


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.


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. 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#


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.