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


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


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


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

Round 3


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


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


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, 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.