Tuesday, March 31, 2009

March Mateness!!

March came in like a lion with snow on March 1st. Though in my case it came in like a bear. Starting a month 0-4 is a bear. Fortunately it's going out like a lamb. It was in the 50s today, and in my last tournament of the month I scored 1.5 - 1.5 and picked up 17 rating points. It was a funny month. I played 32 games, and 5 of them ended in checkmate. Usually games played in open tournaments end before checkmate. Two checkmates that I executed were in games where a couple of stubborn opponents decided to play it out to checkmate despite being down a lot of material. One of the players was not a kid!

In the other checkmate games material was close to being even. None of the games were resignable when they came to their abrupt end. However the clock played a critical role in each of the games

Mate #1 Outsmarted by Mr. Smart

In February I had played this kid on a Thursday night. He was the kid who kept offering me a draw with a lot of material on the board. It never fails that when I give a kid a lecture about offering early draws to higher rated opponents that I end out having to play the kid again with a much different result. (Yes Dario and Giancarlo I'm talking about you guys!) Here it was three weeks later I'm playing Black again against this same kid. Once again he played the Grand Prix against my Sicilian. Unlike the last game, he didn't allow me to force the early queen trade. Instead of playing the queen to h4, he pushed g4 and then put his queen on g3. He got a very good attack going, but I defended well. We both had less then a minute when we reached this position.

He just played 36. Qe2. It's too bad I don't have that little arrow showing when I'm playing. Perhaps then I wouldn't make such moves like 36...Rf8?? I had 26 seconds left. Just maybe if I had used a few of those 26 seconds I would have found 36...Qd7. Fritz rates the position even after Qd7. Then if he offered a draw, I would take it. After I beat back the attack with 35...Rh8, I considered offering a draw. I think after our last game, I didn't want to offer the draw. He did not need any of his remaining 34 seconds to find 37. Qe6#

Here's the entire game.


Time Pressure Meltdown Mates #2 & #3

On Sunday I travelled out to Westfield, New Jersey to play in the Westfield Quads. My last visit there resulted in a Wacky Wednesday post where I actually was the recipient of an early gift. Two of my three opponents this weekend were in my quad last month too. There were no early gifts to be had this weekend. Instead almost every game was decided in the last few seconds of play.

In round 1 I reached this position after 48. Ne8.

Black is down a pawn, but with correct play might be able to hold a draw. Though after 48...Kg5 49. Rg7+ Kh4 50. Nxf6 Kxh3 Black has her hands full. However playing this line entails having the time to find it. Unfortunately I was Black, and I had been playing the last few moves with only 1 second left on my clock. I had just been making moves in order not to run out of time. My opponent had 25 seconds, so anything could happen. I had given a whole series of checks chasing his king to b7. Then I moved the rook from a7 to a1 to escape his king's attack on my rook. After he played 48. Ne8 I was not thinking about mate threats. I was concerned about his attacking my weak f pawn with the knight, followed by the rook coming to d6. I decided to defend the pawn with 48...Bh4??, overlooking 49. Rg7# A quasi-epaulet mate with pawns instead of rooks.

In round two I'm paired against Rodrigo Vinluan again. I played him in the second round the last time I was there. He was the one who made the exchange sacrifice where I ran out of time trying to figure out if I could accept it or not. In this game I was looking to get revenge. I actually won an exchange after losing a pawn early. Unfortunately like our last game I got way behind on the clock. He got a nasty attack, and was on the verge of winning back the exchange when we reached this position. Once again I only have 1 second left. Black just played 41...Bd5. This stops me from getting any perpetual check tries after 41...Nxd2 42. Qxd2 Qxa3 43. Qd8+ Kg7 44. Qf6+.

After having my one plan stuffed with his bishop move, I panicked here and played the horrendous move 42. Qg4?? Not only do I outright hang the rook, I hang it with mate. 42...Qxd2#. My best try here is 42. Qd3 but it's still going to be very difficult after 42...Qxe5 43. Rc2 Nxg3+ 44. Be2 Nf5.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Funny

This may be one of those "You had to be there" moments, but I found it very funny at the time. Monday night at the club I played one of the kids in the last round. Neither of us had a set out, so we used one of the club's sets that someone else had put out. Our club's sets are what I refer to as a mutt set. The pieces have come from a number of different sets, so the white pieces in particular tend to be 3 or 4 different shades of white. Mutt sets kind of annoy me. I like all the pieces to be the same color of white.

After a pawn trade early in the game I noticed that one of the black pawns was from those weighted plastic sets with the fat pawns. I said "j'adoube" and replaced it with the normal sized black pawn that had been captured. Several moves later I'm staring at the board and notice that my e pawn is smaller then all the other pawns. Again I say "j'adoube" and replace the little pawn with a normal sized pawn. I put it down next to the fat black pawn that I had replaced earlier. My opponent looks at the two pawns standing side by side, and says with the straightest face, "I'm down by half a pawn." I had to do everything I could not to burst out laughing. It was the way he said it, that just had me cracking up.

I guess you had to be there, but here's a picture of the pawns next to normal sized pawns.

Half pawn, pawn, pawn, fat pawn.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

TD Tales: Stuff I Can't Make Up

I directed a scholastic tournament this past weekend. The organizer thought it would be a smaller tournament then normal because the private schools are on spring break. Wrong! It's two weeks until Super Nationals so we got bombarded with 200 kids. Normally we have 150 to 175 kids. It was a good thing the private schools were on vacation otherwise we might have 250 kids. I'm not sure we could even handle that many kids. As it is we had to double up on a couple of tables in one section.

My main job at this tournament is to handle all the entries, do the pairings, and help out on the playing floor with disputes. Those are my official duties. Then there are the unofficial duties such as sharpening pencils, looking for blank score sheets, lost and found coordination, garbage collection, parent cop, etc. To do this job, one has to be able to multi-task. A help wanted ad might read something like this: Highly organized and energetic person needed to work in highly stressful environment. Must have computer skills, be able to do 5 things at once, and handle difficult situations on a continuing basis. Excellent interpersonal skills required. Salary. Ha!!

Who in their right mind would answer that ad? No such ad exists, but I answered the call a long time ago. Then again, who said I was in my right mind?

The bitching and moaning starts before the rounds even start. I get an entry for a kid who has an 850 rating and wants to play in the Championship section which is for players rated over 1000. If we have an odd number if the Championship we'll move the highest rated player from Reserve up to even up the number. This kid was not going to be the highest rated player by any means. His mom starts whining about how he wants to play higher rated competition, and that he should be allowed in the Championship section. The organizer said he could not move up. The mom is insisting that we move her son up, or she's withdrawing her son from the tournament. The organizer spoke to her and convinced her that he would get good competition in that section. We actually have an overlap. Championship is for players over 1000, but the Reserve is open to players under 1200. Some players rated in the 1100s would rather be near the top of the one section instead of the bottom of the other section. The mom finally agrees to leave her son in the Reserve section. He had his hands full in that section. He went 1-3.

The first dispute actually happened in the over 1400 section. This is a section where the players are all very experienced both in scholastic and non-scholastic events. The kids also tend to be older then the kids in the other sections. I probably be lucky if I went 2-1 in that section. I think this may have been one of the first disputes we've ever dealt with in this particular section. How do you rule?

One player had promoted a pawn. He reached for the queen, and the opponent picks it up and replaces the pawn with the queen. The problem is promoting to a queen causes stalemate. Now what? Does the promotion stand because the player was reaching for the queen, and the opponent "helpfully" put the queen on the board for the player? No. The rule reads as follows: "In the case of a legal promotion of a pawn, the move is determined with no possibility of change when the pawn has been removed from the chessboard and the player's hand has released the new appropriate piece on the promotion square, and completed when that player presses the clock." Player refers to the person making the move. There is no mention of the opponent placing the piece on the square.

The other rule regarding pawn promotion is in the touch-move section. It reads as follows: "Piece touched off the board. There is no penalty for touching a piece that is off the board. A player who advances a pawn to the last rank and then touches a piece off the board is not obligated to promote the pawn to the piece touched until the piece has been released on the promotion square."

Based on these two rules we ruled that the player did not have to promote to a queen. He could have picked up the queen put on the square, not taken his hand off, seen that it is stalemate and change his mind. We felt that the opponent placing the queen could be construed as trying to influence the opponent in his move choice. It's like the player who "hangs" a piece and gasps, hoping that the opponent will just grab it, and miss that it's a sacrifice leading to checkmate. The other TD gave the opponent a stern warning about influencing the player's move choice by doing the promotion for him.

In that same round I get called in to try to settle what square Black's bishop was on. They were arguing over whether it was on f3 or e2. It wasn't going to impact the game. Even Black said it doesn't matter. White then argued that it was a dark squared bishop and was on g3. Black said "You took my dark squared bishop earlier." I looked at the score sheet and sure enough Bxc3, Nxc3 had been played earlier. White continued to argue with me, but I said it's a light squared bishop. I'm not sure what white was trying to accomplish in getting it to be a dark squared bishop. Earlier in that same game the organizer who also helps with the directing ruled against White who was trying to claim touch-move on an accidental touch. Shortly after I made my ruling, the organizer had to make another on the same game.

That would not be the last problem we would have with the player playing white in that game. I will refer to him as player X. Just as I'm getting ready to pair round 4, player X and his father come up to me along with his third round opponent and his father. It seems player X posted the result as a win for himself. His opponent who I will call player Y, said he won. Both the fathers start talking at once. The first thing I said to both fathers was "Back off. I want to speak to the children about what happened." Player Y claimed his opponent resigned. Player X claimed his opponent lost on time. Player Y said his opponent knocked his king over. Player X said his king fell over when he went to stop the clock. Player Y then said that player X said "I resign." Player X denied saying it. A kid several boards away thought he heard player X say I resign, but wasn't totally positive about that. The only thing players X and Y could agree on was that Y was up 2 pawns. Both had stop keeping score. Player Y's Mon Roi had a position where he was ahead by a rook and several pawns, but he admitted that was not the final position, and that he was not that far ahead.

The organizer decided that the game should just be called a draw. Our best guess was that player X may indeed have resigned, and then tried to retract it when he noticed player Y's time ran out. We told both players they need to agree to a result before leaving the board. Too often in scholastic tournaments kids don't realize that what they think they agreed to is not what the opponent thinks. This game occurred in the over 1000 section where the players generally don't need a tournament director to verify a result. We also told player Y he needs to double check the pairing sheet to see if the correct result had been posted.

In round four we would have another issue with player X. I'm sitting at my computer trying to catch up with data entry. Anytime we get a player who's playing in this tournament series for the first time, we have to put in his address for our database. It's tedious work, and I usually don't get a chance to do it until most of the other sections are done. Several players from the Championship section come out to complain that there's a kid crying loudly and is disturbing everyone. At the same time player X comes out, and says his opponent touched a pawn. Mr. X tries to come into the room with his son. I told him to stay out.

The opponent of Player X is crying hysterically. I tell him to try to calm down, stop crying and tell me what happened. He tells me that he wanted to capture the rook that was attacking his queen, but that Player X was insisting that he touched his g pawn first, and had to move that. The opponent said he may have touched the f pawn while reaching for the queen, but did not touch the g pawn. Player X was insisting that his opponent touched the g pawn. I explained the rule about accidental contact. As I was explaining this, the organizer/TD comes in and says "I've already explained that to him. Make a decision and get on with it." I told player X that his opponent could make the queen move. After that we made sure that there was always a director in the room to watch what was happening on player X's board.

After the game was done, the mom of Player X's opponent thanked me for resolving the dispute and keeping an eye on the game. She told me that Mr. X went into the boys room with his son during the game. I was not aware of that. Other people told me they've heard the father yelling at his son in their native tongue. It's sad when a kid is subjected to that type of pressure and feels the need to cheat. This kid is in first grade. What kind of values is he learning if he's cheating? Is the father encouraging that type of behavior, or is the pressure of living up to his father's expectations causing him to resort to underhanded tactics?

Besides Player X's antics there were all the dumb little glitches that make my job harder. Usually in the first round we have to do some switching around of players because somebody didn't show up, somebody comes late and wants to play, or somebody is in the wrong section. The changes are written on the pairing sheet, and then I have to make the changes on the computer before I enter the results. In the case of no shows, I have to make sure I withdraw them from the tournament so that they don't get paired again in the next round. In one section I had forgotten to drop the no shows, so they got paired again. Fortunately there were only two of them, so I was able to pair the two opponents against each other.

In one section I had a kid listed as unrated, but he actually had a rating. I didn't find the rating at first because I couldn't read the parent's handwriting so I had the name misspelled. I found the rating and changed the players information. Since I had a lot of changes in that section, I decided to print another copy of the pairings so that I could put the changes on the copy and work from that. I don't know what happened, but when I printed the copy the pairings were completely different. I still don't know how that happened since it takes several steps to repair a round, and I don't recall doing that before printing. I had to take the original pairings and manually switch everything on the computer to match my first set of pairings.

Then there are the problems that occur when a result is entered wrong. Sometimes it's my fault, sometimes it's the players' fault. No matter whose fault it is, it means having to make changes to the pairings, and to the scores of the players involved. Sometimes it's an easy switch where you just have to go have the actual winner change opponents with the actual loser. Other times it gets more complicated because making the simple switch doesn't work for a variety of reasons. Either someone has already played the new opponent, or they go to same school as the new opponent. Then you have to bring another match up into the switch. For what ever reason it seemed like every round I had to make some sort of switch.

When I'm not sitting at the computer I'm often walking around the playing room, and watching the games. Sometimes I'm convinced that watching too many games where players are missing mates or hanging pieces messes up my own game. I often joked with other directors that watching players rated under 300 play, causes my strength to go down by 150 points. Below is one of the amusing moments I saw. The position isn't exactly right, but only the position of the rooks matter.

Black makes a move, and suddenly White stands up, pumps his fist and whispers "Yes!" What move could Black have made that made White so excited? Black to move and lose. This is not a repeat of my Thursday faux pas, though it would make a worthy addition to my collection of March Misses. Black played Rf8?? After White's mini celebration he played Rdg8#! Ouch that hurt. I don't know if the material was actually even or not, but that still hurts. I guess I'm not the only one to make horrifyingly stupid moves.

Just another day at the office.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

February Flubs and March Misses

I've had a bunch of crazy games lately where either my opponent or I have missed a crucial move, changing the course of the game. I'm afraid I was the one missing the crucial more often then not. However Caissa showed me some mercy in the midst of a miserable losing streak that went on for 10 games by allowing my opponents to give me some gifts, and rating points.

I love alliteration, which is why I come up with things like Tuesday Teaser, Wacky Wednesday ,Freaky Friday and Psycho Psunday. When trying to come up with a title for this post, it took me awhile to come up with a clean adjective or noun to go with February. As I mentioned in my NY State Scholastic Championships post, I had a lousy tournament that weekend. I ended the post by saying I wouldn't forget about it, but I'd move on. However a post like this one would not be complete without including some of the positions from that tournament.

Sad Saratoga

After my first round upset in the Under 1800, I switched to the Open section. I played a 2115 in round two. I was feeling pretty good about switching sections after reaching the following position.

Black just played 48...Bd5. I'm up a pawn, and I have two connected passed pawns on the queen side. My only problem is I have less then 30 seconds on my clock. Remembering the old saying "Passed pawns must be pushed!", I played 49. b4? I totally ignored his bishop move and made the pawn move immediately. Naturally he accepted my gift and played 49...Bxa2.

I'm now in a slightly worse position, but may be able to hold the draw. However in the position below I make another mistake. The position may not be exactly like this since neither of us were keeping score at this point.

He just played ...Bc4. I should retreat the knight to e1, but I think I played g3. What followed was ...Bxd3, Kxd3 Kxb4. After that I'm in a king and pawn ending down a pawn. He eventually picked off another pawn and traded down to 2 pawns and king versus king.

I was hoping things would go better in round three. It looked as though I was getting my wish, having won the exchange for a pawn on move 24. We reached the following position after 33...Bf6, 34. Ne3.

I was expecting the knight move, but thought 34...d4 would chase the knight and bring my passed pawn one square closer to the other side. What I didn't see was the in between move of 35. Bc4+ winning back the exchange after 35...Kg7 36. Bxb3 dxe3 37. Kxe3. I was hoping maybe I could hold on with the opposite color bishop ending, but he played it very nicely.

Here's the entire game.


Would Sunday be any better? 9:00 am is way too early to be playing chess as far as I'm concerned. Perhaps you can tell why I'm not a morning person when you look at this position. I continually tell my students, "If you leave the board for any reason always double check the position when you return." I left the board after playing 10. Be3. While I was out my opponent played 10...Nd7 to reach this position.

I looked at 10...Nd7 and thought to myself, "He's probably going to push f5." I wasn't overly concerned about that move so I castled. I didn't follow my own advice. What the heck, it's only the 11th move, what possibly to go wrong? 11. O-O? exd4! That's what could go wrong. Another case of do as I say, not as I do.

Marvelous Monday

How does one cure a losing streak that has gone on way too long? Go to the local club and play someone who she's beaten over 50 times. Though it would be unfair if I didn't mention that I've played him almost 100 times, and accompanying the 51 wins are, 30 losses and 15 draws. This game would make win #52. Every time we play I have to wonder which Silvio will show up? The one who has spent too much time watching first graders leave their queen en prise for 20 straight moves without the opponent noticing, or the one that comes up with clever tactics and takes advantage of my clock woes. We reached the following position after 10...Nc6.

I was expecting him to simply play 11. Bxc4, but instead he plays 11. d5? At first glance it looks like White is going to get pressure on the pinned knight after 11...exd5 12. Nxd5. But this is one of those classic positions where the player resolves the pin issue by taking with the piece behind the pinned piece. What White neglected and what I almost overlooked is Black can play 12...Qxd5. If he plays 13. Bxf6 I simply play 13...Qxd1+ 14. Rxd1 gxf6. I can live with doubled isolated f pawns for a knight. He chose to play 13. Qxd5 Nxd5 and I'm up a piece with my pawn structure intact.

In the third round of that tournament I would receive another gift. After White played 25. a3 I knew he was planning to play 26. b4 to drive my bishop off the open c file. I would play the quiet but potentially killing move of 25...Bg6. What is Black up to?

He plays 26. b4 anyway. "Must unblock c file for my rook!" 26...Bd4! "You can have the file my friend, but it's going to cost you." 27. Rc2?? Bxc2 0-1.

Now I'm on a two game winning streak, and actually pick up 31 rating points. Unfortunately I'm like the gift that keeps giving, so that Thursday night I would hang mate in a drawn position. That game has another story besides the mate, so I will save it for another post.

Messy Monday

This past Monday I played number two on my most played list. Alan and I have played 69 times. We're fairly close in our rivalry. I have 26 wins, 22 losses, and 21 draws. If it weren't for the missed opportunity in the position below it would 23 losses and 20 draws.

I made a mistake early and got my rook trapped so I gave up the exchange on move 17. He was attacking like crazy, and had a lot of pressure on the f2 square. I had warded off the attack for the time being, and very casually played 27. Ne5? After I let go of the piece I saw that I was going to lose the knight after 27...Ra5. That isn't even Black's best move in the position.

What is Black's really nasty move? Answer in the brackets [27... Rxf2 28. Kh1 Rxf1+ 29. Bxf1 Qe3 30.Kg2 Qf2+ 31. Kh3 Qxf1+]

Much to my relief he did not play either move. Instead he played 27...Rd2. 26 moves later he offers a draw after playing 53...Ke7 to reach this position. Note: I had wrong position earlier. This is the actual final position.

I have 6 seconds and he has 30 seconds. I gratefully accept the offer. It's difficult to see how Black can make progress even with lots of time on the clock.

Thick Thursday (Sick Sursday?)
I couldn't find an adjective that starts with th.

My final offering occurred in the last round of this past Thursday's "Ten Grand Prix Points Tonight!" It was a fitting finish to a totally weird night. It was night that would see me getting a stealth bye in round two. That's the bye that's not really a bye. I was paired down against the lowest rated player in the tournament, who after losing the first round to a player 600 points higher rated bursts into tears and drops out of the tournament. He neglects to tell Steve that he's quitting the tournament, so he's paired. His coach informs Steve that the kid left, so Steve found a house player to play me instead. I was perfectly happy to play the higher rated house player instead of some kid rated 1350. The funny thing is if he dropped out properly there would have been an odd number. Since everyone below me was taking a 1/2 point bye in the last round, I would have been in line to get the full point bye in this round.

I have a few questions for the kid's coach. 1) "What is this kid doing in this tournament if he can't take losing to someone 600 points higher rated?" 2) "Why did this kid enter this extremely strong tournament when he's only played in 3 non-scholastic tournaments that were limited to players rated under 1600?" 3) "Didn't you tell him he'd probably lose all of his games?" 4) "Are you nuts for sending such a kid to this tournament?"

End of my dumb coach rant.

Speaking of kids. I played two extremely polite kids in rounds one and three. They shook hands at the start and end of the game, asked me which side I wanted the clock, talked about the game afterwards, complimented me on my play, and wished me luck in the following round. Though I have to ask myself "What's wrong with this picture? I get beat by a 1550, and he tells me afterwards I played really well. How well could I have been playing if I lost to a 1550?" I'll give the kid credit. He played the ending much better then I did.

Last but not least. The position that tops all of the above positions. White has 3 seconds and plays Be5. Black has 1 second. Black to play and lose.

Black stops the clock, extends hand and says, Good game.

White: What are you doing?

Black: I resign.

White: Good game, but you could have played 1...Nxc5+ and it's a draw after 2. Qxc5 Qxd5+

Black: Arggggh!!!

Who says there's no luck in chess?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What Would You Do?

I played in a tournament recently. My second round opponent was a teenage kid. We both had won in the first round. It was a small tournament at a local club. The tournament director calls out the pairings, everyone finds their opponent, and finds a place to play. Often people leave their equipment set up, and just play in the same spot every round. Neither my opponent or I had used our own equipment in the first round. I took out my equipment and got all set up. My opponent comes and sits down at the board. Before I could even extend a hand and exchange the usual pre-game pleasantries, he says "Anytime you're ready.", and presses my clock. He doesn't even ask me if I'm ready to start. I was a little taken aback by his rudeness. Note: If you don't think this was rude then don't bother to read any further.

I was tempted to stop the clock and say "No I'm not ready. What about shaking hands and giving an appropriate greeting?" However since I had filled in all the information on my Mon Roi, and was ready to play I didn't say anything. I didn't feel like being confrontational before the game even started. I thought maybe this was his way of trying to psych me out, and I wasn't going to indulge him in his little mind game. I just made my first move and pressed his clock. I didn't give his behavior any more thought at the time, and played a very interesting game. We reached the position below:

Position after 38...Qg5

I played the very natural looking 39. Re1. Actually 39. Bd1 f5 40. Kh2 Rb8 41. Rf1 Qf6 42. Kh3 gives me some interesting play. My opponent played 39... f5. I had debated between 40. Qe3 and 40. Re5. After 40. Qe3? he played 40... fxg4. I was mentally kicking myself in the butt because I totally had overlooked the in between move of 41...gxf3+ if I play 41. Qxg5. I'm losing two pawns because of 40. Qe3. I'm thinking to myself I should have played Re5. The problem with the mental beat down is one is prone to making more stupid moves. The game continued 41. Bd1 Qxe3 42.Rxe3 Bxh5 43. Nxc6? I made this move way too fast. I thought I had found a way to get my material back. 43...Nxc6 44. Rxe8 I'm thinking that I've won the exchange, but I had forgotten about the bishop on h5. 44...Bxe8 0-1

I should note that 40. Re5 is not as good as I thought it was going to be. My best response is 40. Kh1 fxg4 41. Bxg4 Bxh5 42.Rg1 Rf8 43. Qxf8 Qh4+ 44. Kg2 Qxg4+ 45. Kh2 Qh4+

After he took my rook, I knocked my king over, said "Good game". I also said something about feeling stupid about forgetting about his bishop on h5. He just got up and walked away. I don't even remember if we shook hands before he walked away. I thought that was kind of rude. Usually after a game people exchange a few comments about the game, help clean up the set, go post the result together and perhaps if there is time, go analyze the game. Sometimes the player who loses doesn't want discuss the game, and may just leave after putting the pieces away. I can understand that. I sometimes have games where I just want to be left alone. However, I would never blow off the opponent, be disrespectful or a poor loser.

I couldn't help to wonder what he would do if he lost. I found out after round four. He was 3-0 going into the last round. He was paired against the highest rated player who had lost in round 2, and had a 2-1 score. If he draws or wins the last round he wins clear first. He loses the game to his 12 year old opponent. His opponent is a talkative young kid. The kid means no harm, but if the teenager is not willing to engage in conversation after he wins, one can imagine how he's going to act when he loses. He told his opponent to shut up, and called him a little faggot.

I didn't know about until it was mentioned to the tournament director after the last game had been completed. I told the director how he had behaved before and after our game. The director said he lacks interpersonal relationship skills. That's putting it mildly if you ask me. The director did say he was going to deal with him, and perhaps not allow him to play in the next tournament. Hopefully the tournament director will discuss this with him since he's a member of the host club.

I had mentioned my encounter with the kid to my husband while we were having dinner later. My husband doesn't play chess. In his opinion I should have stopped the clock at the start and said something. He felt I was letting inappropriate behavior slide by ignoring his lack of pre-game etiquette, and that I was doing him no favors by not saying something. The inner mentor/coach/teacher wanted to say something, but the chess player who doesn't want the opponent to know she's annoyed by him didn't want to say anything. I may not have even said anything to the tournament director, instead just chalking it up typical teenager nerdiness. But but when he called the kid that came with me a little faggot that was over the top, and I felt the matter needed to be adressed.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My Big Chess Project!

My husband is vacation this week, and has a bad case of spring cleaning fever. However when he gets like this, there are benefits for me. He went and bought some new bookcases for the living room and the bed room. I was able to move a bunch of books out of my office and rearrange my chess books. My chess books had been on about 4 or 5 different shelves in different book cases so it was hard to know what I had. I took every single chess book I owned and put them in piles by various categories. No, I am not doing the Blue Devil Knight farewell book review thing seen here and here. He did a fine job on that. No need to reinvent the wheel.

That really tall stack contained books with really basic stuff that I use to teach kids. You can tell where my book buying priorities has been lately. Though the book on the top of that pile is the first chess book I ever bought back in 1971. The books to the right of the tall pile are chess related fiction, biographies, books about and games of Fischer, and other not so serious chess stuff. The two piles to the left, are game collections and opening books. All the other piles are middle game, tactics, analysis, and other serious topics. Hidden in one of those piles are classics such as "Think Like a Grandmaster" (Kotov), "Last Lectures" (Capablanca), "Contemporary Approach to the Middle Game" (Suetin) and Art of The Middle Game" (Keres and Kotov). All of those books are in English Descriptive. I think those 4 books combined cost less then Silman's Endgame book. Book were cheap in the 70s.

The finished product!

After getting all the books arranged and shelved I found I only had 4 duplicate books, and two of the duplicates were given to me. I did discover I had two different editions of Silman's "The Amateur Mind". I also found some DVDs that I forgot I even owned. The next step of the project is to figure out which of these books I should actually take off the shelf and study!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fascinating Endgame

At the chess club Monday night one of the players showed me this really interesting endgame position he reached last Friday evening. He is Black in the position below.

He had 40 seconds left, and his opponent offered a draw, which he accepted. He couldn't find the win. An old endgame book he looked at, concluded it was a draw. The Nalimov (thank you Temposchlucker for the correct spelling!) tablebases say it a win for black with mate coming in 19 moves. I tried playing both sides of the position against Fritz 10. The best I did defending as White was last 15 moves before getting mated. Playing the Black side I couldn't get it done. In one line I stalemated White when Fritz sac'ed its' rook. Another line I repeated the position.

Tomorrow I will put up some of the different variations from both sides. In the meantime, have some fun with this and see if you can win as Black, or defend as White.

Fischer Symposium Update

In today's Wall Street Journal there is an article by Christopher Chabris about the Fischer Symposium at the Marshall Chess Club. The article can be read here. Chabris did an excellent job summarizing the discussions at the symposium.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

NY State Scholastic Championships: Hard To Be #1

Better late, then never. My report from last weekend's NY State Scholastic Championships.

The toughest place to be is number one in the section. People may just assume that one is going to win his section because he has the highest rating. There are even higher expectations if number one's rating is a hundred points higher then number two's rating. The recently concluded 2009 New York State Scholastic Championship was a case in point. In almost every single championship section the highest rated player was upset, and not necessarily by the eventual winner of the section. I even suffered the same fate in my attempt to repeat last year's win in the Saratoga Open Under 1800 section. More on that later.

What are ratings? Do the numbers really mean much? Why do all of us go a little crazy worrying about our rating, or our opponent's rating? There are frequently long discussions on the US Chess Federation forums about ratings. Lengthy debates ensue on whether more or less bonus points are needed, whether floors are inflationary or not, whether different methods should be used to calculate the ratings, and so on so forth. A lot of times I read these posts and my eyes glaze over because it's a bunch of math geeks talking and arguing amongst themselves. It's all geek to me.

In responding to someone who felt he should never lose rating points if he wins a tournament, Ken Sloan (member of USCF ratings committee) made the following response; Ratings are supposed to predict how many points you *will* score in a future event - not how many you *could* score if you tried as hard as possible. If you are in the habit of scoring 4.5/5.0 in your local Swiss because you would rather win without risk rather than take the time to actually win the last round game, then your rating should reflect that. A rating that predicted a 5.0/5.0 score would simply be incorrect. Again, ratings are about your actual demonstrated scoring. They are not about some abstract quality ("strength").

Though it was made response to a comment that has nothing to do with my post, it's an excellent summary of what ratings are about. In the USCF Official Rules it states "The basic theory of the USCF rating system is that the difference between the ratings of players is a guide to predicting the outcome of a contest between those two players." It's not a way to describe ability, although all of us are guilty of using them to talk about a player's ability. How many times have you heard, "He plays the opening like a 1900, but his middle game is more like a 1200 which is why his rating is only 1450."? If I look through the archives of this blog I may find that I've even written that very same thing. Guilty!!!!

Kid's ratings tend make the idea of "indicator of future performance" more of a crap shoot. Some kids are showing rapid improvement in such a way that their rating is lagging behind. Also kids have less games under their belt then an adult who has been playing for many years, so it may be hard to predict what a kid rated 1400 is going to do against a player rated 1800 who has been playing for a much longer time. If you go by the theory behind the system, then the 1800 should beat the 1400 almost 100% of the time. However in the real world of chess nothing is absolute. In the world of scholastic championships it's even more so.

In the Elementary Championship Kevin Rosenberg was the number one seed with his March rating of 1926. In reality his rating was over 2000. He's been on quite a roll recently with 4-1 and 3-1 scores at his last two tournaments at the Marshall Chess Club. In this tournament his closest competitors were rated mid to high 1800s. Anyone who has been following his progress just assumed that his roll would continue with a 6-0 sweep of the Elementary Championship section. Kevin's mom told me people had been coming up to her, and saying "Kevin had a lock on the Elementary Championship." As she correctly pointed out having the highest rating doesn't guarantee anything. In fact if anything it puts extra pressure on the number one player. It's like having a gigantic bulls eye one one's forehead. Everyone is aiming to get you.

Sure enough in round 5 he would lose to Michael Ainsworth of White Plains. Even though they live in the same area this would only be the 4th time they played each other. Up this point Kevin led 2.5 - 0.5. Beating #1 doesn't guarantee the player a free and easy shot to win the section. Anthony Cortese of Long Island would win against Michael in round 6 to win the Elementary section with 5.5 points. Anthony was ranked #11 at 1681.

In the Primary section Kadhir Pillai was a heavy favorite to win that section. At 1754 he out rated #2 by almost 250 points, and #3 by 350 points. Looking at the ratings of the top players in this section, I wouldn't even have been #1 amongst a group of single digit aged kids. In fact if last year's Primary champion opted to defend his title instead of playing in the Elementary section I wouldn't even be #2. I've never played Kadhir, but I lost to #2, Amir Moazami in December. The funny thing is until I saw him playing in the Primary section, I always thought he was in 4th or 5th grade. He's mature for his age, and looks older. Sometimes when I see kids playing adults at the Marshall or playing in over 1400 sections at scholastic tournaments I don't pay much attention to how old they are. So now I find out another 8 year old has picked me off. Zachery Tanenbaum beat Kadhir in round 5, and Amir in in round 6 to win the Primary section.

In the High School section the highest rated player was Alec Getz (2271) who won the gold medal at the 2008 Pan-Am Youth Championships and earned the FIDE Master title for that win. However being a master doesn't exempt one from falling victim of an upset. In round 5 Alec lost to James Hiltunen, rated 2099. In the 6th round James lost to Deepak Aaron. However Deepak was not the only player to finish 6-0. Darrian Robinson also finished with a perfect 6-0 score. They had a playoff to determine the High School state champion, and New York representative in the Denker Tournament of State High School Champions. Deepak won the Armegeddon playoff game.

Deepak Aaron

Darrian Robinson

Looking at the wall chart of the Junior High section it appeared the #1 player fell victim to the upset bug that had taken its' toll on the other top seeds. However Mate Marinkovic's 2117 rating was his Canadian rating. His USCF rating is actually mid 1700s, based on his 5-1 result at this tournament last year. Mate lost in round 3 to Steven Cardenas, rated 1647. Ben Gershenov, rated 2085 and his teammate Michael Bodek, rated 2025 tied for 1st with scores of 5.5. Ben won on tie breaks, repeating as NY State Junior High Champion. They did not play each other since both drew in round 5 leaving 4 players with 4.5 points going into round 6. Michael had won the 6th grade section at the National K-12 Championships last December, but opted to play with his teammates in the Junior High section. Ben and Michael's 1-2 finish helped their team win the Junior High Championship.

We are the champions!

The Elementary Novice, open to players rated under 800 was won by Charlie Mather, rated 721. In a section of relatively inexperienced players one can't really say that a 721 beating a 798 is an upset. However once again the player with the highest rating did not win the section.

The only section where the highest rated player won was the Primary K1. Brandon Nydick, rated 1213 scored a perfect 5-0. That section is 5 rounds played on one day. The other sections play 6 rounds over two days.

Saturday night there was a bughouse tournament with 26 teams entered. The Funnies, comprised of Pobo Efekora/Alexis Paredes from IS318 scored a perfect 6-0 to win the event.

Alexis Paredes & Pobo Efekora
NY State Bughouse Champions

I apologize for not having more pictures of the winners of various sections. I took most of my pictures in round 5 when I had a bye. At that point there hadn't been any upsets, or the game was over before I got there. Most of the pictures I took were of the pre-tournament favorites. I was able to get the high school winners since they were playing long games every round.

As for myself, I started in the Under 1800 section. I lost in round one to a 1457. After seeing that there were other 1600 - 1700s playing in the Open section, I switched. I had wanted to play up to begin with, but decided to see if I could repeat last year's feat. In some ways I felt I should have stuck it out in the Under 1800 section, but I didn't feel like playing 1000s to work my way back into contention. 5-1 would have won the section, but I'm not convinced I would have won my next five games. Judging from some of the mistakes I made in later rounds, I probably would have lost more games. Emotionally my head was not there. My focus was off, and that cost me. I had some interesting games in the Open section, but it just wasn't a good weekend for me. It was one of those tournaments I that I just as soon forget about. I won't forget it, but I will move on.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

International Symposium on Bobby Fischer - Day 2

Today was the second day of the Fischer Symposium. The schedule of presentations had changed quite a bit from what was originally supposed to be on the program. The piece on Fischer Random chess was dropped as was the discussion of the World Wide Church of God.

Dr. Brady started things off with another introduction and then read a piece he has written for a book to be done on the Piatigorsky Cup tournaments. The author of this upcoming book on the Piatigorsky Cup tournaments has asked various participants to write on the tournament from their point of view. The author asked Dr. Brady to "fill in" for Fischer, so to speak. The Piatigorsky Cup tournaments were sponsored by Jacqueline Piatigorsky, wife of the famous cellist Gregor Piatogorsky. She was also a very good chess player herself and ranked second among US women players at the time.

Dr. Brady spoke about how Fischer refused to play in the 1st Piatigorsky Cup because they refused his demand of a $2,000 appearance fee. They did not feel it was fair to give him so much when they were giving other players so much less. Fischer said "I add status to any tournament I attend." He would play in the in the 2nd Piatigorsky Cup in 1966. They gave all the players a $2,000 appearance fee. He did not ask for more. He was looking to be treated as a professional chess player. What was interesting about that tournament was that half way through it, Fischer was in last place. In the second half of the tournament he fought his way back, and at the end finished half a point behind the winner, Boris Spassky. Fischer felt he should have won the tournament and was distressed by his poor play early on.

Miro Reverby

Miro Reverby from Rhode Island spoke briefly on the My 61 Memorable Games hoax. He felt very strongly that it was a hoax. He mentioned about Larry Evan's attempt to meet the seller who had put it on eBay. He was disturbed by the fact that people have written reviews on the book, and claimed it really came from Fischer. Also it continues to show up on places like eBay and Craig's List.

Stephen Dann

Stephen Dann shared some interesting things that he found on a Bobby Fischer website. He mentioned that at the age of 13 Fischer won the US Junior Championship and had a rating of 1830 at the time. He made the observation about that rating would barely get him amongst the top 50 13 year olds today. As he correctly pointed out, such comparisons are aren't totally valid given the differences in the rating system back then and now. Also how many 13 year olds were playing chess back then?

Break in the action.
Can you find the two IMs in the picture?

Roz Katz and Stephen Dann

Several presenters were not able to attend so Dr. Brady read one of the papers and his wife Maxine read the other. Unfortunately without the actual authors there to discuss what they wrote it was difficult to appreciate the points they were trying to make.

Clea Benson & Peter Nicholas

The last presentation titled “Fischer and His Jewish Father”was given by Peter Nicholas and Clea Benson. Below are some of the highlights from their presentation. They have done extensive research on who was really Bobby Fischer's father. For the record Gerhardth Fischer is listed as Bobby's father. However from researching documents relating to his mother, Regina Wender Fischer it's quite apparent that his actual father was a Hungarian by the name of Paul Nemenyi. Below is a side by side comparision of Fischer and Nemenyi at similar ages. The resemblance is quite striking.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, Benson and Nicholas have obtained FBI files regarding Regina Fischer. Included amongst the various documents is proof that Paul Nemenyi paid child support for Fischer. There were also documents from the probate court after Nemenyi died, indicating that he had fathered Bobby out of wedlock. Also Regina Fischer signed a document denouncing any claim to Nemenyi's estate.

There were a lot of other interesting things they brought up from their research in Hungary. There is book about Fischer in Hungarian that has not been translated into English. In this book is an interview with a Hungarian woman chess master, Zita Rajcsanyi who was friends of Fischer. She was asked if Fischer had aknowldeged that Nemenyi was his father. She said yes.

Family tree of Nemenyi.

All in all it was a very interesting two days of discussing different aspects of Fischer's life. I certainly learned some new things about Fischer, and got to hear from people who knew him personally and others who have spent a lot of time following his chess career. In my previous post one reader made the following comment: My problem with this Bobby worship is that we seem to live in the past. He was a great player, but I would put Karpov ahead of him. Bobby simply did not play long enough in my opinion to warrant him as the best or even second best ever. It is a shame he didn't defend his title against Karpov, that would truly have been a match for the ages.

I don't think it's so much of us living in the past, but more curiosity about a man who had such a profound impact on chess in the United States. Anyone who played back in the 70s knows what I'm talking about. The topic of whether he was the greatest or not will be debated for many more years. Everyone has their opinion. It makes for great discussion. I think one thing everyone can agree on is that he played some beautiful games of chess through out his career.

Special thanks go to Dr. Frank Brady for organizing the event, and to the Marshall Chess Club Foundation for sponsoring it.

Friday, March 6, 2009

International Symposium on Bobby Fischer - Day 1

Today I went to the Marshall Chess Club to attend the Bobby Fischer Symposium. Dr. Frank Brady, President of the Marshall Chess Club and author of "Bobby Fischer: Profile of a Prodigy" put the symposium together. He had asked for papers to be submitted. Today's presentations were an interesting mix of chess theory, reminiscences of his youth, his impact on people personally, and some interesting stories about his last days.

Dr. Frank Brady

Dr. Brady started things off with an introduction and some brief comments about Fischer. He will be giving a longer presentation tomorrow on Still Searching for Bobby Fischer.

Dr. Glenn Statile

The first presentation was given by Dr. Glenn Statile and Prof. Thomas Kerr. Dr. Statile spoke, and the graphic presentation had been put together by Professor Kerr. His talk was on Fischer and the Marshall Attack line in the Ruy Lopez. Before he got into the meat of his talk, he told a joke. The graphic below was part of the story.

Boris and Igor were good friends and loved playing chess together. Igor died and went to heaven. Boris missed his games with Igor very much. One day Igor appears to him. Boris asks if there is chess in heaven . Igor says "Yes." Igor says goes on to say "I have good news and bad news."

"What is the good news?" Boris asks.

"All the great players are there, and we play every single day." Igor says.

"And the bad news?" Boris asks.

"You have Black against Bobby tomorrow."

From there Dr. Statile went into his talk about Fischer and the Marshall Attack. He kind of lost me since I haven't played the Ruy Lopez since college, and I'm not sure I would know the Marshall Attack if it came up and punched me in the face. However he showed some interesting analysis, and some fun graphics to accompany his lecture. Including this slide below when referring to the Orangutan.

Next to speak was Roz Katz of New Jersey. She shared a poem she wrote after Bobby Fischer died. This was her way of remembering him. When she sent it to various friends she was very surprised by some of the negative reactions she got to it.

Roz Katz reading her poem. Re-printed with her permission.

Remembering Robert J. Fischer

To every US Chess Player, “Bobby”
My father’s name, a common name – for a unique person
Imagine immortalizing “Bobby.”

He was born when I was three days old, March 9, 1943.
Others would conjecture, “How old is he now?” Not me, I always knew.

Bobby mania hit me in 1972: birthing babies and following Shelby; screaming at the little black and white screen with all the lines across.

We had a hundred friends in common and ran in concentric circles.

My friends in Iceland cherished and protected him.
Coping with his madness, even when it became impossible, and made him secure.
A job we couldn’t do. Many tried, but only the special Icelandics succeeded.
Bravo for them. I love them.

Even though I’m a Jew

Even though I’m American

I’m still a chess nut

And I know what he did for us, how proud we were, how joyful we were, how the glow spilled onto us all.

Crying for Bobby,

Chessically yours,

Rosalyn B. Katz

When I wrote my Bobby Fischer piece last year, I couldn't ignore some of the things he said over the years. However I try to think about him as the brilliant chess player, and what he contributed to the game. My post didn't generate lots of comments, but there were certainly many blog posts about Fischer, and many comments both positive and negative on the various blogs.

The next presenter was supposed to be Russell Targ, Bobby Fischer's brother-in-law. He's married to Fischer's sister. He could not make the trip from California, but Maxine Brady read his very interesting presentation “Return of the Bobby Snatchers”. This touched on the very mysterious and strange burial in Iceland. I found it very fascinating that he was buried in a Lutheran graveyard with a Catholic priest residing over the sparsely attended burial.

Maxine Brady reading Russell Targ's “Return of the Bobby Snatchers”

Asa Hoffman

The next presentation was by Asa Hoffman, who actually played a lot of blitz chess with Fischer back in the early 60s. He shared amusing anecdotes of Fischer playing blitz at the Manhattan Chess Club, and when too many people were hanging around he'd announce that he had go because there were too many "weakies" around. He didn't call lower rated players fish or patzers. They were weakies. Often Hoffman and Fischer would jump in a cab and go off somewhere to eat without the hordes of weakies following. Asa played Fischer in different places in New York City. Places like the New York Chess And Checkers club in Times Square, otherwise known as the "flea house".

Asa is a long time member of the New York City chess scene, so I found his Fischer stories quite compelling. Knowing Asa personally and knowing of the places that he talked about made the stories of Fischer's youth come alive. I think I first met Asa at the Manhattan Chess Club back in the 70s when I first came to New York. I've played Asa a number of times over the years. Since 1991 I'm 0-5 against him, but I'm pretty sure I played him more then that. I'd have to go through all my score books to find the other games that were played before 1991. In the movie "Searching For Bobby Fischer" the portrayal of him is not too kind. They make him out to be a bit of nut job.

Paul Albert
The last speaker was Paul Albert. He served on the board of the American Chess Foundation and donated money for brilliancy prizes at the US Championship, and US Women's Championship for many years. He was not on the original program, but wanted to share some of his thoughts and impressions of Fischer.

Here is tomorrow's list of presentations. I do believe some of this has been changed, but I'm not sure what. I guess I will find out when I return for day two.

1. “Fischer and Random Chess” William Harston
2. “Fischer and the Worldwide Church of God” from the Internet
3. “Fischer and Chess Education” Stephen Dann
4. “Explaining the Citizenship Failure of Fischer vs. Kasparov’s Success” Dr. Paul Wilhelm and Weston Wilhelm
5. “The Sociology of Bobby Fischer” John Barroso
6. “Fischer and His Jewish Father” Peter Nicholas and Clea Benson

I Am Still Amongst The Living

I was at the Westchester Chess Club last night. During Lent our meetings switch to Thursdays. No, I haven't given up the Thursday Four Rated Games Tonight! for Lent. However I did decide to play in our two week match tournament that was completed last night. One of the players in the match tournament is one of my regular readers. He's told me that he checks my blog every day. He was surprised I hadn't written anything for almost a week.

I'm still trying to sort out this past weekend, and I'm working on a post about the recently concluded New York State Scholastics. I was too overwhelmed during the weekend to do my live updates while the tournament was in progress. I was also having a bad case of writer's block. I think the writer's block goes hand in hand with the chess player's block. I'm on a serious losing streak at the moment. I finally have come up with my overall theme of the event, but I keep having to go back and forth between various websites as I look for results and other stuff.

If nothing else I will have some pictures from the Fischer Symposium being held at The Marshall Chess Club today and tomorrow. I will remember to put the memory card in this time!