Saturday, October 24, 2009

I Am Alive!

I just haven't felt like writing. I do have some interesting thoughts, but just can't sort them all out at the moment. I'm spending time with my sisters in Hilton Head, and enjoying the sunshine and the sound of the ocean outside our window. Maybe it will inspire me, but right now I need a break. So instead of words, pictures from my walk on the beach yesterday.

I egret to inform you, no chess today!

I'm ducking the issue.
Perhaps because my game is for the birds.
Maybe I'm nervous, and have butterflies.

That's it for now. I'm off to take another walk since I think my brother in law made off with the bike trail map that has all the combinations to the bike locks on it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Chess Blind as a Bat!

Week two of FIDE Thursdays at the Marshall I get paired against the dad of kids that used to play in my scholastic tournaments when they were in elementary school. Now those kids are in college. That makes me feel old. Either that or maybe I've been doing all of this for way too long!

This was a game that was mine for the taking, but I just wasn't seeing everything. The opening started as an English but transposed into a Maroczy Bind. Being an Accelerated Dragon player I'm used to seeing it from the Black side. I've had some success transposing into the White side of it from a symmetrical English. One way Black can play against the Maroczy is to play 7...Ng4 attacking White's bishop on e3. I don't play the line, but players have played it against me when I've had White. My opponent played 9...Ng4 which was a blunder. However I missed the simple win of a piece because I was analyzing a different move order. After 10. Bxg4 Bxg4 we reach this position.

I could have simply played 11. Nxc6 Bxd1 12. Nxd8 and I'm up a piece. I wasn't looking at that line. I was looking at 11. Qxg4 Nxd4. I decided to play 11. f3? My opponent wasn't through with trying to give me gifts. He spent 7 minutes on his next move, Instead of retreating his bishop he plays 11...Qb6? 12. Nd5 Qc5?? We reach the position below.

I spent a long time on this next move. Sometimes it's very easy to get fixated on a certain idea, but be blind to what other pieces are doing. I wanted to utilize a discovered attack on the queen, but I kept thinking that my bishop on e3 is not protected. I looked at 13. Nxc6 and if 13...Qxc6 14. Nxe7+ forking the king and queen. I think my problem was that I got ahead of myself in the analysis and saw my knight no longer guarding the bishop. I was forgetting that my knight on d6 isn't going anywhere until he responds to the threat of Bxc5. So to guard my bishop I played the discovered attack move of 13. Nf5. It wins material, but not as much as 13. Nxc6.

Here's the game in its entirety with the analysis of how it might go after 13. Nxc6.


I played too cautiously after winning material. I could have picked up another pawn or two and forced some more trades. Instead I took the wrong approach to trading down and my opponent found ways to avoid trades and hold on to his pawns. Then 3 hours into the game I had one of those total lapses in concentration and allowed him to get the exchange back. I wanted to just kick myself at that point. 7 moves later we agree to a draw. It's that point that he tells me that would have resigned if I played 13. Nxf6. In fact he admitted that he was contemplating resigning when I played 12. Nd5, figuring I saw 13. Nxc6, but he waited to see what I would play. Sigh. I hate when that happens, especially since I saw the move!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Time Pressure Fun and Games

Even with 75 minutes for each side, I still can find ways of getting into insane time pressure. Squeezed in between the Marshall FIDE Thursdays tournament, and the Westchester CC Fall Tournament was a make up game from the Westchester Chess Club summer round robin. My game was with Marty Tallan. Yes the same Marty that I had the crazy games with before and during the club championship. Unlike our first two games, I had White this time. However having White, and lots of time on the clock did not prevent me from doing something stupid like getting a piece trapped early. Despite myself, somehow I managed to steal a half point with 5 seconds left on my clock in this position.

PW-marty ending 091609.pgn

We both made mistakes in the time scramble, but I guess being a time pressure junkie gave me an edge in the game. Some people's idea of living dangerously involves jumping out of airplanes or diving off bridges attached to an elastic rope.

Insane person jumping off the Kawarau River Bridge.
(Not something I tried in New Zealand!)

I'd rather play and record 23 moves in 5 seconds, and live to tell about it. I kept notating to prove the threefold repetition.

Train Wreck - Part 1: Gum on the tracks!

When I entered the slow tournament at the Marshall I did not know what to expect. I certainly didn't expect to win a lot of games. I figured with a tournament minimum rating of 1600, there weren't going to be too many people lower rated then me. I hoped I could put up a decent fight against those much higher rated, and even beat a few people within a 100 points of me.

The first round I did put up a good fight until I panicked when his knight got deep into my territory. It's just not a good feeling when you're black and there's a white knight sitting on f6. Just like the night before I got into some gambit line that I really had no idea what I was doing. My opponent had a lot of play for the pawn, but I was holding my own. In game/30 I know that I can't agonize over the position, and in less then an hour it's going to be over with one way or another. I may succumb to an overwhelming attack or I may hold on for dear life and win or draw a wild ending with little time on the clock.

When both players have 2 hours each then it's a whole different story. There's time to work out the lines of attack, and defense. In playing with so much time, I needed to adjust my thought process and my attitude. In game/30 I may find a move, look at the possibilities briefly and then just make the move with the thought "I don't know what the hell is going on, but I don't have time to figure this out." Sometimes that works but more often then not, the move loses.

When I saw that he was threatening to stick his knight on f6, I retreated my queen to d8 with the idea of if 24. Nf6+ Rxf6 25. exf6 Qxf6. I had spent a good bit of time on 23...Qd8 debating whether or not the sacrifice was sound or even necessary. Then once he played Nf6+ I had decide whether I really wanted to go through with the exchange sacrifice. I debated a long time, and then chose not to do it at that point. A few moves later I did do it. It turns out if I was going to play Rxf6, I should have done it on move 26. Waiting a few moves changed the position too much, and then it was no good. Here's the game.


One of the problems with slow chess is if your opponent is being somewhat annoying, you have to deal with it longer. As I mentioned in yesterday's summary this particular opponent barely acknowledged my existence at the beginning or the end of the game. After I resigned, I made the comment to the effect of "Maybe the exchange sacrifice would have been better when you first played Nf6." Most opponents would acknowledge the remark, express an opinion on the offhand analysis, and if time permitted ask if I wanted to go over the game. He ignored me and went to analyse his friend's game. I think I even posted the result on the pairing sheet.

He chewed gum the entire game. This is my own personal opinion, but I think chewing gum in certain places is kind of rude and annoying. Would you chew gum during a church service, classical music concert, at a reception or other formal occasion? I think that chewing gum during a tournament game is not appropriate. Considering the less then congenial exchange at the beginning of the game, I didn't feel very comfortable asking him not to chew gum during the game. Maybe I felt he would not respond kindly to my request. I certainly didn't want to bring the tournament director into it if he had some negative reaction. It seemed like a petty thing to fuss about. My solution was to listen to classical music on my iPod and tune him out. I pulled my cap down low so that I could keep his face out of my line of vision. It's really annoying to look up and see your opponent making faces similar to what cows do when chewing their cud.

I guess I should ask myself "Why would I want to spend any more time with the guy?"

Friday, October 9, 2009

Train Wreck! The Slow Express Has Derailed!

Since the New York State Championship I have tried to play more slow chess, and ease up on the cracktion. Easier said then done. I have played in two tournaments with one game a week with time limits of G/75 and G/115 respectively. The Wednesday evening G/75 was at the Westchester Chess Club. The Thursday evening G/115 is at the Marshall Chess Club. Both tournaments have been exercises in frustration and at times futility. I've spent the last few weeks trying to write a post about the Marshall CC FIDE Thursdays tournament that I've been playing in lieu of "Four Rated Games Tonight!" There's one week left in the tournament, and it can't end soon enough for me. I came, I saw, I got conquered, and I've had enough.

Here's the short version:

First round
: I lose to an annoying guy who barely acknowledged my presence at the start of the game, chewed gum the entire game, barely acknowledges my resignation at the end of the game, and walks off to go analyze his friend's game without saying a thing to me about our game. Sheesh! We don't have to be best buddies, but what's wrong with a being a little sociable before or after a game? Isn't that part of the charm of live chess? Social interaction. I've more enlightening conversions with Fritz!

Second round: I see the winning move, but don't play it because I think my bishop is hanging with check if I play the move. It's not hanging and the combination I saw wins his queen. The game was a draw.

Third round: I lose a piece early, and I don't feel like playing out a lost game for another three hours. I resign, go upstairs, play the last 3 rounds of the "cracktion" tournament and lose 3 more games.

Fourth round: I get a bye since I have the low score and the low rating. Since I've traveled into NYC to play chess, I play in the "cracktion" tournament upstairs and go 0-4.

Fifth round: I play an old guy sitting on an 1800 floor that he got for winning over $1,000 tying for second in the under 1800 section at the 1986 New York Open. His score in this tournament consisted of a 1/2 point from a requested 1st round bye. 3.5 hours later he now has 1.5 points. On the bright side, it was an interesting game, and he's a very pleasant person.

Sixth round: TBA. It can't get any worse at this point. Actually it could. I could get paired against somebody who decides to not bother to show up, and not tell the director he isn't coming. One player had that happen to him in the fifth round. His opponent was a no-show. People like that piss the hell out of me. Just make a phone call so the director can pair accordingly. Instead one guy gets a bye because there's an odd number, and another player sits around watching his opponent's clock run down.

In the Wednesday slow tournament my results have been just as ugly, but at least it's only a 10 minute drive from my house to the club. I posted round one from that tournament in this post. More games from the various tournaments will follow.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Jerry Hanken (1934-2009) RIP

Last night I got home from a rough night at the Marshall. (Details at a later date.) As is my normal custom before going to bed, I checked my email and Facebook page. I was shocked to see various Facebook friends make reference to the passing of Jerry Hanken. I knew he had not been well when he missed his first US Open in decades this summer. He had played in 36 in a row, and 42 in total. However it felt strange to read his October Chess Life article about the World Open in the morning, and read of his passing that same night.

Jerry was passionate about chess. He loved to play. He loved the tournament scene. He loved the chess political scene. He loved chess people, and had a big heart. Despite knowing him for 35 years, I had no idea that he had performed in amateur productions of plays until reading the obit on the USCF website. I guess it shouldn't really surprise me, because he was just one of those energetic persons who could just overwhelm you with his outgoing personality. One did not have to see Jerry to know that he was around. His voice carried, and one would say "There's Jerry telling another one of his chess stories."

It was at my first US Open back in 1976 when I first met Jerry. It was not only my first US Open, but it was my first exposure to the US chess political scene, otherwise known as the Delegates Meeting. I was representing Vermont where I was attending college at the time. It would be the first time Vermont had been represented at the meeting. I don't remember what issues were being argued at the time. What I do remember was lots of very heated debates, and a very loud and often angry Jerry Hanken raising a point of personal privilege over some remark directed towards him. I remember at the time wondering to myself , "Who IS this guy, and what the heck is going on?" One thing about Jerry, he was never afraid to speak his mind.

I got to know Jerry better over subsequent US Opens, and under much calmer circumstances then the Delegates meeting. We spent a lot of time together at the 1978 US Open in Phoenix. Almost every night after our games were done, a group of us would go find some restaurant that stayed open past 11:00 pm. Jerry seemed to know where to find the good food and drink. I probably gained 10 pound during those two weeks in Phoenix. We had discussed plans of doing some sightseeing around the Phoenix area during the day. However when the daytime temperatures hit 100+ degrees everyday, sightseeing consisted of going to the movies or hanging out by the hotel pool.

Jerry loved the US Open and had formed a committee to try to bring back some of its glory from the earlier years. Attendance has been going down every year recently, and he wanted to come up with ideas to boost it back up. This year attendance did go back over 400 in Indianapolis. In the bulletins he wrote a column called Hanken's Corner. Sometimes it was rather mundane, at other times it had amusing stories and interesting pieces of US Open trivia.

In 2001 I played in my first US Open in 10 years. So who did I have to play in round one? You guessed it. Jerry Hanken. This was the first and last time we ever played. During our game he was furiously trying to write his "Hanken's Corner" for the first bulletin. He asked me if I would mind if he did so. I didn't mind, and perhaps it would give me a good chance for an upset if he was concentrating more on his writing more then the game itself.

Here are a couple of excerpts from that column.

"It starts again! Your Humble Reporter (henceforth known as YHR) is playing the first round of the 102nd US Open. This year we are in Framingham, Mass, near historic Boston..."

"For YHR this is landmark US Open, my 35th which is more then a third of those ever played. It's also my 29th in a row (2 behind Joel Benjamin's Uncle Marty, who has 31.) And of course, it will be - if successful - my 34th in a row with plus scores. [That streak would last until 2006.] (I know - I know - Art Bisguier has 46!)"

"As is tediously usual, this column will follow the Pilgrim's Progress of that immortal quest. Along with Ye Kindly Editor, Phil Smith (known hence forth as YKE) we will also make an attempt to amuse and entertain you Gentle Readers with anecdotes and wry stories from the tournament......" "PS. As I was writing this column at the board (with my opponent, Polly Wright's permission) I achieved a completely lost game. Not atypical for first round games for YHR. I lucked out and did win, however. Check out the game with notes by Art Bisguier, who forcefully demonstrated the win."

Here is the game with the original notes from Jerry and Art.


The last time I saw Jerry was at the 2008 US Open in Dallas. Despite a lack of mobility he managed to keep a very busy schedule of writing his columns, chairing a number of committee meetings, and playing chess. In my reports from last year's US Open I wrote about one our funny late night encounters.

I didn't always agree with Jerry, but he really had a heart of gold shared his passion for chess with anyone who would listen. You either loved him or hated him, but the US chess scene will be a little emptier without him around to share his wit and wisdom. Thanks Jerry for being a good friend all these years, and I guess I'll have to wait for the big chess tournament in the sky to get my rematch.

Receiving my 10 years of US Opens certificate from Jerry in 2006