Thursday, January 31, 2008

Is the United States Chess Federation in Trouble?

Is the United States Chess Federation in Trouble?

By Dylan Loeb McClain

A statement from a meeting about the finances of the United States Chess Federation was posted over the weekend on the federation’s Web forum by Bill Goichberg, the president of the federation. In the statement, Goichberg talked about the federation’s finances, saying they are not in good shape and the federation is projected to run a significant deficit (significant from the federation’s standpoint as it does not have much in the way of financial reserves and its revenues are about $3 million a year).

Full Story Here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Seven Circles (of HELL)

I have embarked on completion of the Seven Circles of Hell - the tactical marathon recommended by Michael de la Maza in "Rapid Chess Improvement". I do not possess CT-ART 3.0, so I am using a good old-fashioned paperback book to complete this hell race called "Sharpen Your Tactics" by Anatoly Lein and Boris Archangelsky.

The book is structured in a manner that the problems start off relatively simple with obvious 2-move mates and increase in difficulty to more complex tactical ideas. The number of problems in the book is 1125 - more than the 1000 that is necessary. They are also all positions taken for real games, yet another requirement met.

Why am I doing this?

If you saw my blitz play you'd not be asking me that question...

In any event, I am also doing the Chess Vision Drills as well. I marked a deck of cards a1 through h8 on one side and the square color on the other side for that drill, as well as doing the Forks and Skewers, Knight Flight, and Pawn Grab drills daily for a couple weeks. I just need the practice.

Future Event: The hotel is booked so I hope to see you at me next event - The Eastern CLass Championships in beautiful Sturbridge, Massachusetts.

[RANT ON]
I figure with McCain winning *as a republican* (excuse me, I think I threw up a little bit in my throat) in Florida, anything can happen...I best spend my money now, 'cuz if that nutjob gets in (or any OTHER Democrat, for that matter), they will be taking more and more from me to 'redestribute' across this great country...

God help us...socialism is alive and well in America.
[RANT OFF]

There. I feel better now. Better take my meds...

Interactive Chess TV - ChessVista

ChessVista News

DGT and UEP in Interactive Chess TV

30.01.2008 While Anand and Kramnik were playing their last serious game (Corus Chess 2008, round 13 on Sunday 27 January) before the World Chess Championship Match to be held in October 2008 in Bonn, DGT (Digital Game Technology) and UEP (Universal Event Promotion) have signed a declaration of intent to develop Interactive Chess TV. The signing and the celebration took place in Café De Moriaan, fifty meters from the Anand vs Kramnik fight, in Wijk aan Zee (Netherlands). The expected amount to invest is ranging from 250 thousand to 300 thousand euro. It is a first next step in bringing chess to the people. ‘We expect to attract a new group of chess public’. DGT and UEP want to broadcast the World Chess Championship Match via Interactive Chess TV. ‘We need a 5000+ audience who on Pay per View basis will be witness of this chess event’. Report by Frits Agterdenbos.

Full Article here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Corus Photos by Fred Lucas

At Chessbase there is a wonderful photo collection from Corus by Fred Lucas. Put some faces to those famous names in the international chess newsreel!

Enjoy!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Chinese Invade Gibraltar!

The Chinese have taken over the 6th Gibtelecom Chess Festival.

GM's Xiangzhi Bu (5.5/6) and Hao Wang (5/6) currently sit atop the leaderboard after 6 rounds in this strong event. American Hopeful GM Hikaru Nakamura, who lost in round 4 to IM Zong-Yuan Zhao, sits in 24th at 4/6.

Live games here.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

2008 Gibtelecom Chess Festival

2008 Gibtelecom Chess Festival

The 6th edition of Gibraltar's Gibtelecom Chess Festival takes place from 22-31 January 2008 at the Caleta Hotel, one of Gibraltar's best hotels. Live games can be seen here.

Several USA players are present, including GM Hikaru Nakamura, GM Varuzhan Akobian, IM Joseph Bradford, and FM Michael Langer in the Masters Section.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Perfect Tribute to Bobby Fischer

I find the following tribute to Robert James Fischer the single most relevent thing you could ever say about the man, given all the circumstances of his life, his mental illness, and his confrontation with self:

Tim Krabbé (Tim Krabbé's Open Chess Diary):

If chess is still played ten thousand years from now, Bobby Fischer will be the only player of our times who matters.

Gary Kasparov on Bobby Fischer

With the death of Bobby Fischer chess has lost one of its greatest figures. Fischer’s status as world champion and celebrity came from a charismatic and combative personality matched with unstoppable play. I recall thrilling over the games of his 1972 Reykjavik world championship match against Boris Spassky when I was nine years old. The American had his share of supporters in the USSR even then, and not only for his chess prowess. His outspokenness and individuality also earned him the quiet respect of many of my compatriots.

Fischer’s beautiful chess and his immortal games will stand forever as a central pillar in the history of our game. And the story of the Brooklynite iconoclast’s rise from prodigy to world champion has few peers for drama. Apart from a brief and peculiar reappearance in 1992, Bobby Fischer’s chess career ended in 1972. After conquering the chess Olympus he was unable to find a new target for his power and passion.

Fischer’s relentless energy exhausted everything it touched – the resources of the game itself, his opponents on and off the board, and, sadly, his own mind and body. While we can never entirely separate the deeds from the man, I would prefer to speak of his global achievements instead of his inner tragedies. It is with justice that he spent his final days in Iceland, the site of his greatest triumph. There he has always been loved and seen in the best possible way: as a chessplayer.

Garry Kasparov
Moscow – January 18, 2008

Monday, January 21, 2008

Strategic Planning - Knights and bases of Operation

Knights and Bases of Operation

Knights like to reside centrally, immune from attack by enemy pawns. A centrally placed knight protected from such attack could be considered as good as a Rook in many positions. In contrast, the poor positioning of a Knight can be an important detriment strategically as the well-placed Knight. Of course, poor-placed pieces naturally seek to improve their standing as soon as possible, but taking advantage of your opponent's misplaced knight is as important a strategic idea as finding squares for your own pieces.

Here the great Alekhine demostrates the strategic importance of centrally-placed Knights and the strategic detriment of poorly placed Knights:


Here alekhine proceeds to improve his Knight placement methodically with
15...Bxg3 16.hxg3 Ne7 17.b4 Qd7 18.Nc2 Ned5 19.Na3 b5 20.axb5 axb5 21.Qe2 c6 22.Nc2 Qf5 23.Rfc1 h6 24.Ra5 Rec8 25.Na1 Ng4 Diagram



And the end came swiftly:
26.Kf1 Re6 27.Rxb5 Rf6 28.Rcc5 Nxf2 29.Ke1 Nd3+ 30.Kd1 Qf1+ 31.Be1 Rf2! Diagram
0-1

This is a good example of contrast between well-placed and poorly managed Knights.

Strategic Planning - Minority Attack

Let's begin first with a definition of what a Minority Attack is. No - it is not Knights and Bishops ganging up on pawns, or Rooks beating a Bishop back to a1. A Minority Attack is when one side has less pawns on the wing in question and proceeds to advance those pawns in an effort to attack the opposing pawn majority. This is the basic idea behind the Minority Attack.

Classical Goals

From a purely classical point of view, the Minority Attack was somewhat nonexistent up until the 1920's where mechanical methods mostly decided what strategic ideas were possible in a position. Once the usefulness of the Minority Attack became evident, things changed for both sides. These things were, given the Minority Attack on the Queenside from White's perspective:


Weakness of c4, and sometimes e4

When White, the Minority, advances his b-pawn to b4, this leaves a distinctive hole on c4 begging for a Black Knight to come and perch. Black would then strive to: a) exchange the light-squared bishops, and b) attempt to place a Knight on c4 via b6 or d6 (or both). White would, of course, try to counter those plans. Black, by playing a6 to prevent b5, has some problems as well. It weakens the square b6 directly and c5 indirectly, given that if black proceeds with b6 (to strengthen c5), then the a6-pawn could come under assault. As is said, "All pawn moves create weaknesses".

Prevention of b4-b5 by black via b5; followed by the placement of a Knight on c4



This method of countering the Minority Attack has a very simple precept: b5 should not be played by Black until White has commited his b-pawn to b4. Black's main task in these positions is to occupy c4 with a Knight to block major-piece assaults on the c-file. White can attack with a Knight on e5 and an eventual e4 push, and a Bishop on f3 perhaps. You can clearly see here that the focus for White is the c6-pawn, the weakness Black created by playing b5. To say the least, this is a dangerous way to play, and Black must be sure he can defend all his weaknesses or obtains compensation in some order for this plan to materialize positively for him.

The transfer of the d5 pawn by black to e4 via a Knight exchange.




In this type of position, Black's new pawn formation somewhat cramps white on the kingside, offers attacking chances to Black, and gives him a nice outpost on d5 for a piece. On the other hand, Black relinquishes control of c4 - a vital point for him in the Minority Attack on the queenside. White will attempot the advance b4-b5, potentially obtaining a passed d-pawn after Black plays c6xb5. Obviously, Black will have his best chances with piece-play because of the pawn structure and the potential of a kingside attack, otherwise, White will make good on his advantage on the queenside advance. Pachman goes so far as to give piece combinations and who stands better, in a very general sense:

  • White: Q, 2R, N vs Black: Q, 2R, B (white squared); White has good chances
  • White: Q, 2R, N, B vs Black: Q, 2R, N, B (white squared); White has good chances
  • White: Q, 2R, N vs Black: Q, 2R, N; Black has better chances

I hope this little summary of the Minority Attack whets your appetite for strategic thinking. Being aware of basic strategic themes and how to handle them will take you a long way in finding the correct plan in a position. Often it becomes a matter of who 'knows' how to handle a strategic element in a game that can get the advantage over their opponent. Being aware of the ins and outs of the Minority Attack is important in that regard.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Robert James Fischer, Dead at 64

On January 18th, 2008, Robert James Fischer, the greatest Chessplayer and Grandmaster the world has ever known, passed away. He was 64.

In memoriam, I'd like to post some uTube videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jR7IWI4Rh1w
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ht-OqiuWVMk
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZedhMvtsiXI

Bobby's Chess was both a boon, in presence, and a bane, in absence, to the world. I am one of the thousands of young chess players in the early 70's to catch fire from this enigma of a man, a hero to me in my youth, living in a suburb of Boston. I keep those memories and do not allow them to mature past the early 70's into something diseased, as it were.

His chess will always be remembered by me, and nothing else.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Back from a 3-month Layoff

Hi all,

After a Chess Hiatus for 3 months, I hope to get back to contributing to this blog on a semi-regular basis. It's good to step away from the game for a short time to refresh oneself when needed, and I needed it after some grueling studying and some disappointing performances at the board.

I want to kick this off by asking readers/bloggers what methods they use to train with when they use a computer opponent like Fritz8 or something similar.

Comments Welcome!