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.

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: . In any case, here's the game:


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 ( 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:


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.


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.