Sunday, December 30, 2007

Live from New York

NEW YORK CITY—Temperatures climbed into the upper 40s yesterday and brought players out in force to two notable outdoor chess spots in the Big Apple. Your humble blogger was there to witness the action.

MacDonald Park, Queens

* * *

Washington Square Park, Greenwich Village

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Big League Chess Comes to Chicago

USCL picks Windy City for expansion

It’s a great day for Chicago. IM Greg Shahade, commissioner of the United States Chess League (USCL), has announced today on the league’s Web site that the Chicago Blaze will be one of two new expansion teams to join the league next season. Big league chess has come to Chicago at last.

The USCL is a organization of competitive professional chess teams from across the country that play matches during a ten-week season that runs from late August to late October and is then followed by playoffs and a championship. The league currently has twelve teams from New York and Boston to Seattle and San Francisco but until now no team from Chicago. It’s the equivalent of Major League Baseball for chess, a fact that the league’s logo makes no attempt to disguise.

The difference, of course, is that USCL players aren’t pampered and over-paid celebrities; they’re just strong chess players who represent their cities for a little bit of money and a lot of civic pride. Their accessibility will make the Blaze a great opportunity to promote chess generally in Chicago.

The team roster includes GM Dmitry Gurevich, IM Angelo Young, FM Mehmed Pasalic, and young experts Adam Strunk and Ilan Meerovich. Glenn Panner, chess expert, tournament director, and organizer extraordinaire will be the team’s manager. The Blaze will play their matches on the Internet Chess Club from Angelo’s Touch Move Chess Center.

The Blaze is an initiative of the Illinois Chess Association, and thanks must go to ICA President Chris Merli for supporting the project, to ace blogger and chess dad Brad Rosen for proposing the arrangement, and to über-organizer Sevan Muradian for recruiting players and spearheading the discussions with the USCL that led to today’s announcement. There would be no Blaze without Sevan. Nor without Evanston chess mom and ICA activist Maret Thorpe, who came up with the team name, and chess mom Andi Rosen, whose ideas and outreach to players at crucial stages were, well . . . crucial.

I’m also proud and honored to be a part of the Blaze supporting cast (no, not as a player, heaven forbid), and I’m looking forward to working with all of these fine people to bring big-league chess to Chicago.

There’s more on Glenn’s blog, and Brad’s site will probably have something on it soon. There will be more in the weeks to come. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Touch Move Scholastic Chess Tournament

It’s been around for barely a year, but in that time IM Angelo Young’s Touch Move Chess Center on North Ashland has become the gathering point for Chicago’s top chess players. Now the top junior players will gather there as well, when the center holds its first scholastic chess championship on Saturday, January 5.

The tournament is open to all scholastic players (K-8) with ratings of 500 or better. The entry fee is $30, and it’s limited to 28 players.

There will be five trophies awarded, along with chess clocks and chess books for the winners. It appears that this will be a monthly event, leading up to a finale at the end of the year. It looks like a lot of fun, so I’d urge qualified players to come and play.

You can mail in a check or sign up online. Details here.

photo: Sevan Muradian

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Holiday Chess II

Play at McCormick Place next weekend

The very first post on this blog was about several Ray School kids who became Chicago Public School Chess All Stars by playing at the Mayor’s 2006 Holiday Sports Festival, held last year between Christmas and New Year’s. Well, here we are a year and 135 blog posts later, and whatayaknow it’s time for that blessed event again.

This year’s festival will again be held at McCormick Place, next weekend, December 28-30, from 10 AM to 4 PM.

If you’re one of those people who’s interested in things besides chess, you’ll find plenty to do. I couldn’t make it last year, and alas will have to miss it again this year, but I’ve heard it’s a lot of fun for both kids and adults, so if you’re looking for something fun to do next weekend, I encourage you to check it out. It’s free.

Details on the festival here; details on the chess tournament here. Call Renaissance Knights, organizers of the chess events, if you have any questions.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Could Be Worse, I Suppose

55%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Not bad, compared to some people, inluding one to who I owe a tip of the hat for directing me to this survey. Oy.

P.S. While you're at Boylston, check out their latest caption challenge. Where does he find these things?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Winning Streak

A Ray player takes first place again; Bell wins team competition at Gill Park

Sonam Ford took first place against a hundred other players on Saturday to give Ray School its second consecutive personal victory at a major citywide tournament.

By winning the Advanced section of the Youth Chess Foundation of Chicago’s meet at Gill Park, Sonam became the tournament’s overall champion, following in the footsteps of teammate Phillip Parker-Turner, who won the same honor a month ago at the YCFC’s previous meet.

The Bell Squad

However, just as Phillip suffered his only defeat of that day at the hands of Christopher Velazquez, Sonam also lost his fifth-round game on time to the Burbank Elementary School star after going 4.0/4 up to that point.

Ryan Toepfer of Decatur Classical School won the Intermediate division, and the Beginner’s section went to Ethan May of Bell. Both kids were playing in their first YCFC tournament. Ray second grader Allen Dai also won a trophy in the Intermediate section. Kenyon Edmond and Gonzalo Higuero represented the school in the Beginners group.

For the team trophy, which goes to the school with the top beginner’s section, it was a real donnybrook, only a few points separating the top four teams. Victory went to Bell Elementary, led by Coach Jim Altenbach, which was playing in its first YCFC tournament in several years. Bell inched out Burbank by a point, with Clinton and Disney close behind.

The foundation’s network is growing rapidly. Decatur and Darwin were the new arrivals at this tournament, and they followed closely on the heels of Fulton, Clinton, and Cook, which joined the league earlier this year.

YCFC's Saadiq Sajjaad and Disney Magnet School Coach Trevor Scott

Congratulations to the YCFC’s Mike Cardinale, John Lee, Saadiq Sajjaad, and their legions of volunteer helpers, for an excellent event. Next tournament: January 19 at Burbank Elementary School. Details to come.

Standings here. More photos here.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Gata Love It

American GM wins World Cup

It isn’t every day that an American chess player wins a major international title, but today is one of those days. Brooklyn-based Grandmaster Gata Kamsky, possibly the strongest player in the U.S., has just won the World Cup, beating GM Alex Shirov in the final round, in the Siberian town of Khanty-Mansiysk.

Kamsky defected to the U.S. from the Soviet Union in 1989. A few years later he dropped out of chess entirely to go to school, eventually completing a law degree. He returned to chess a few years ago, and many observers say he has returned to top playing form. His World Cup victory over a field with some of the top grandmasters in the world would seem to confirm that.

I don’t know much else about Kamsky, other than the fact that he and GM Nigel Short sometimes still quarrel over the events at a match they played in the ‘nineties in which Kamsky’s father apparently harassed Short.

More on the World Cup from Jennifer Shahade at the USCF site and at Chessbase. Kamsky’s bio here.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Wanna Play Karpov?

Looks like big doings next January 11 out in Barrington, home base of local GM Yury Shulman. Former World Champion Anatoly Karpov will be there, along with some other superstars, and someone, at least, is playing a simul to which the public is invited to enroll. I saw this on Susan Polgar's blog:

It's not entirely clear to me who's playing whom, but you can see a bigger copy of the flyer here, and there's more information at Yury's Web site.

Friday, December 07, 2007

CPS Lays Down the Rules

For any chess coaches who couldn’t make it to last week’s meetings of the Chicago Public Schools, here is the document they gave out. (I wasn’t there myself, so I owe a tip of the hat to Ray School’s PE teacher and sports coordinator, Ms. Perez, who kindly picked up a copy for me.)

The 2007 CPS championship tournament

Notice that there are a number of requirements they say you have to meet, and those requirements are cast in fairly inflexible language: failure to meet them “could” result in your kids being banned from the city championship. Whether or not they will enforce this, I don’t know; they have generally not done so in the past, at least not consistently, though I understand Whitney Young High School was prevented from playing in a major event last year for lack of one document.

Let me call a few things to your attention:

  • December 14 is the deadline for submitting your roster and Work Verification Form (details here). The roster goes to your Area Sports Manager (I think) and the Work Verification Form is filled out online, though you may be expected to submit a hard copy to the Area Manager as well. I’m not sure about that. Check with your Area Manager, and if you don’t know who that is call CPS Sports Administration at 773-553-3770.

  • There will be a mandatory “coaches clinic” at some point, the date and location of which are “to be announced.” Since these announcements are generally not well communicated many coaches will probably not hear about this one. I would urge anyone who hears about it to spread the word far and wide. Let’s share information as much as possible. You can post any information you get in the comments section of this post or on the online forum of the Illinois Chess Association.

  • The date of the city championship itself, which some of us were given to understand was scheduled firmly for March 8, 2008, is now “to be announced,” so I don’t know what’s up with that.

One clarification: The copy of the document I received was a third- or fourth-generation photocopy that I scanned and cleaned up a bit to produce the one I’ve posted here online. It may not look exactly like the original CPS piece, though the text should be the same.

Elementary School Sports Program (ESSP) / 2007-2008 Chess

Blunder and Win

Patzer vs. Patzer

Kids, take note: Just because you make mistakes, it doesn’t mean you lose. I made plenty of blunders and weak moves in this online blitz game (like not playing 11. Bxb7 - ?), but my opponent made more of them.

To err is human, so whenever you’re playing one you can expect some errors. When you make one yourself, just take a deep breath, move on, and wait for your adversary to make the next one. (Oh, yes, and don’t make any more of them yourself.)

Comments on the game welcome, though please don’t be too unkind.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Chess By Hypnosis

This thing (I don't know what else to call it) is supposed to improve your board vision. That is, if it doesn't make you dizzy first. If you have the patience, imagine a chess piece in the (moving) central white square. Red=rook movements; blue=bishops; yellow=knights. I think.

Actually, the first time I saw it I thought it was a flattened-out Rubik's Cube. (People of a certain age will remember what that was.)

The item shown here was created by a guy named Tom Brown, and you can go here for more.

Yes, it's a gimmick, and I'm using it to grab your attention. Give me a break; I have to do something to compete with BCC.

Hat tip: Streatham & Brixton—who else?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Chess Players Discover Hyde Park

The tournament room at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club was jammed yesterday, as about 85 kids from all over town came to play in the second chess tournament of the year by Chess Education Partners.

That’s up from 48 players a month earlier and about half that at the first CEP tournament in the neighborhood last June. It looks like the world has discovered this excellent series of chess meets and is beating a path to Hyde Park.

The funny thing is, not many Ray School kids are coming. Allen Dai, Phillip Parker-Turner, and Andy Margulis were the sole Castle Kimbark standard bearers this time. Allen finished second in a field of 13 in the Grades 2-3 division, and Phillip took third place out of 24 players in Grades 4-5. I assume they both got trophies, though, alas, I couldn’t be there for the ceremony at the end. For the same reason I don’t know which schools won the various team competitions. Sorry. The offical crosstable is here.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Jacques Barzun Turns 100

This has nothing to do with chess, but today Jacques Barzun, an historian and critic whose work I enjoy and admire, is one hundred years old, and I just want to mark the occasion here. My colleague Bob McHenry has a fitting paean to the professor here.

Chances are you've never even heard of Barzun, but he was an intimate of people you have heard of, such as Auden and Trilling, and he was one of the great men of letters of the 20th century. The 21st, too, come to think of it. Was and is. And as if to prove that there's a blog for everything you can imagine, there's even one for Barzun's birthday. If you indeed have never heard of Barzun, I recommend the recent article about him in The New Yorker.

Kasparov Released

Former chess world champion Garry Kasprov has been released from jail, apparently unharmed, after serving the five-day sentence meted out to him by a Moscow court in a spurious trial earlier in the week. Kasparov was arrested and sentenced for leading a demonstration against the Russian government. Details from The Other Russia and Mig.

In an odd twist, former world champion Anatoly Karpov, Kasparov's longtime rival and personal nemesis, tried to visit Garry in jail but was turned away. It was a welcome gesture from Karpov, who as far as I know supports the Putin government.

Too bad he didn't get in. Mig speculates that since Kasparov had a chess set with him in his cell, the two could have played the greatest game of jailhouse chess of all time.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

CPS Coaches Meetings Next Week

Attention all elementary school chess coaches in the Chicago Public Schools: The annual mandatory meetings for coaches have apparently been scheduled for next week. Unlike previous years, though, when there was one citywide meeting for everyone, this year there will be more than one—how many, I don’t know.

For Areas 10-18, where my school is located, the meeting will be next Monday, December 3, at 3:30 PM. Having received no notice through my school or any other means, I called the CPS Sports Administration Department today and got this flyer from Mr. Stephen Wilkins. This is all the information I have. If you’re not in Areas 10-18, I’d suggest you e-mail Mr. Wilkins or call Sports Administration at (773) 553-3770.

Update (11/29): Here is the flyer for the North Side Meeting, December 6.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Is the Internet Killing “Real” Chess?

From the northern suburbs of New York City, the epicenter of American chess, comes a cri de coeur from veteran tournament player Polly Wright, who laments the decline of two local chess clubs in her area. According to Polly, the culprit is the Internet, which has made it so easy to play online that fewer people are venturing out to chess clubs.

It’s not the first time the Internet has been linked to the downfall of over-the-board (OTB) chess. Glenn Panner sees the trend here in the Chicago area, Jack Le Moine raised the issue in a forum on Susan Polgar’s blog, and someone named The Parrot claimed as long ago as 2004 that the Net had killed adult OTB chess. Two summers ago I chatted with some of the regulars at the North Avenue Chess Pavilion about this. These were players who had been going there for years, and some of them were convinced that the Internet was hurting attendance at the popular lakefront chess venue.

Polly’s ambivalence is palpable. “The Internet sucks!” she says, then adding: “Not really. I love the Internet, but at the same time I hate what has happened to local chess clubs that have lost players to Internet chess.”

I too have mixed feelings. The Internet is a great boon to chess. It enables anyone with online access to play anytime of the day or night, something that would have been impossible in the past. I play at several Web sites, and I enjoy it.

Yet as seems to happen with so many technologies that improve our lives in certain respects, the Internet also “bites back,” as it were, triggering unintended adverse consequences that make things worse in other respects. The problem isn’t limited to chess: We humans are simply better at developing new technologies than we are at controlling those technologies and making sure they serve our conscious and considered human needs. No one wants the Internet to hurt traditional chess, yet it may be doing just that, and our prospects for reversing the trend don’t look good at the moment.

What do you think? Feel free to leave comments below.

Postscript I. I haven’t been following the World Youth Chess Championships in Turkey, where a number of American kids are competing and holding their own. Fortunately, Chessdad64 is covering it, so I don’t have to.

Postscript II: The whole world is watching as Garry Kasparov remains in custody in Moscow. In an unusual twist that has his wife and mother extremely worried, his jailers have not allowed anyone to visit him.

“Of course we are very worried, especially after hearing the police at the court say they had been ordered in advance to arrest Garry specifically,” Dasha Kasparova, Garry’s wife, told The Other Russia. “Who knows what they have planned for him? And why can’t we visit him? We are asking everyone to get this story out and to let Putin know that the world is watching and that he will be responsible if any further harm comes to Garry.”

To paraphrase Tom Lehrer: Garry’s family gets worried, I get worried. See our previous post about how to contact the Russian consulate in New York to lodge a protest. The Other Russia and Mig Greengard’s blog seem to be the places to go for updates.

tournament photo: johhnyscars via flickr

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Kasparov Jailed Again

For at least the second time this year, former world chess champion Garry Kasparov has been arrested in Moscow for leading a protest against the government of the Vladimir Putin.

After his April arrest, Kasparov was fined and released. This time he was sentenced to five days in jail. The Associated Press has details and photos. The video clip below is from an earlier protest at which Kasparov spoke.

Since retiring from competitive chess in 2005, Kasparov has stepped up his opposition to the Putin regime. As a leader of the dissident group The Other Russia, Garry is running against Putin for the Russian presidency, and although he has no chance of winning the government apparently regards him as a serious enough threat to harrass him continually.

You can protest Garry’s arrest by writing to the Russian consulate, calling them at (212) 348-0926, or sending snail mail to 9 East 91st Street, New York, NY 10128.

Aunt Mary's Greek Cookie Recipe

1 cup butter – softened (2 sticks)
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda


  1. Mix together butter, eggs, sugar, and vanilla.
  2. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
  3. Slowly pour the powder ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix together until the dough is very stiff.
  4. Put the dough on a large cutting board and knead well.
  5. Refrigerate dough for 2 hours.
  6. Make twists and put on cookie sheets (ungreased).
  7. Bake on pre-heated 350-degree oven for 15 minutes.

Makes about 50-55 cookies.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Classy Chess

A tournament for the rest of us

Think you’re not good enough to play in a real chess tournament? Think again. The “2007 Illinois Class Championships” take place on December 1 at Oakton Community College, and if you know the difference between a rook and a bishop there’s a place in it for you.

They’re called the “class” championships because you play only other players in your U.S. Chess Federation ratings class. Is your rating 1113? You’re in Class E, and you won’t play anyone over 1200. Rated only 983? You’ve got a real shot at the Class F championship. That’s right: the championship! Yes, I’m talking about you. (Correction, 11/25/07: See Sevan’s comment below for qualification.)

Win or lose, though, you’ll face players with whom you’re well matched all day long, players who will challenge you but won’t crush you like an aluminum can. And if you have no rating and you’re not a member of the USCF, what better time to join and find out where you belong on the ratings chart?

Go here for details and here to sign up.

Oh, by the way: you don’t have to be a patzer to play in Illinois Class Championships. Strong players are welcome, too. They just have to play in a higher division. So there. Mediocrity does have its rewards.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

In the Magic Kingdom

Host school Disney triumphs in YCFC opener, as Ray kids shine in all divisions

Walt Disney Magnet School on North Marine Drive yesterday hosted the long-awaited season opener of the Youth Chess Foundation of Chicago. The tournament saw outstanding performances by both new and veteran players.

Tournament results are here and more photos are here.

Top Ray players

The Disney Team

Some of the highlights:

Four Ray players won trophies at the event, including fourth grader Phillip Parker-Turner, who was the tournament’s top player overall, finishing first in the Advanced division.

Tournament host Disney Magnet School, under Coach Trevor Scott, won the team competition (Beginner division), continuing a surge the up-and-coming program began at the end of last season.

Ray’s Sonam Ford, playing his first tournament in the Advanced group, won a trophy for coming in third in that category. Finishing second, between Phillip and Sonam, was Burbank Elementary star Christopher Velazquez, who handed Phillip his only defeat of the day.

Allen Dai, a Ray second grader, finished second in the Intermediate division with an outstanding 5.0/6, losing first place to Lab School’s Arthur Chang only on statistical tiebreaks. Disney’s Delvin Hajdarevic, who came in third, also scored 5.0/6.

Fifth grader Andy Margulis of Ray finished fifth in the 80-player beginner division, which was won by Cook School’s Nyshya Pollard, who was playing in her first YCFC tournament. Since it was Andy’s third top-ten finish, he will advance to Intermediate at the next tournament, as will Nyshya automatically for coming in first.

Two Ray students, Joshua Anderson and Zion Richardson, played in their first tournament. They joined returning veterans Kaytlyn James, Lauren James, and George Vassilatos. All together, nine Ray kids played in the tournament.

Two new schools, Cook and Clinton, joined the league for the first time, and Fulton School, under Coach Eric Santos, returned after having made its first YCFC appearance last spring.

Unsolved chess mystery: Powerhouse Burbank Elementary, 21 strong, came with its normally huge contingent of players, yet I didn’t see one of their signature blue shirts all day. Is being inconspicuous part of Burbank’s new strategy?

Congratulations to the YCFC’s Mike Cardinale, John Lee, Saadiq Sajjaad, and their legions of volunteer helpers, for an excellent season opener. Next tournament: December 15, at a location to be announced. Watch this space for details.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Former CPS Chess Chief Hospitalized

Tom Larson, the former chess coordinator for the Chicago Public Schools who presided over several tournaments attended by Ray School chess kids, is serious ill, according to a report by Illinois Chess Association President Chris Merli posted on the organization’s online forum.

According to a communiqué Chris received from Tom’s brother, Tom is in the surgical intensive care unit of a hospital in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, close to where he now lives. Details here.

I join Chris and other chess people in Chicago in hoping Tom rallies quickly and recovers.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Finding Bobby Fischer?

Ray Robson’s Chicago Triumph

After his stunning victory over a field of strong, seasoned, adult masters recently, it’s tempting to conclude that young Ray Robson is the Next Big Thing in American chess. Only days after his 13th birthday, the fresh-faced kid from Florida finished first in the 6th North American FIDE Invitational with an outstanding 7.0/9, a half a point ahead of second-place finisher IM David Vigorito, who was in the lead until the last two rounds.

Enroute to victory, Ray beat three International Masters and three FIDE Masters and suffered only one defeat in nine rounds. He earned his first IM norm and seems on track to gain that distinguished title while he is still absurdly young.

What are we to make of Ray’s outsized success? Strong scholastic chess players are hardly a rarity; they’re actually quite plentiful, as a matter of fact. The writer and critic George Steiner observed years ago that children are often superior to their elders in three intellectual pursuits: music, mathematics, and chess.

Yet even in this era of teenage masters, when prodigies are everywhere, Ray Robson stands out. He seems even better than his best cohorts, climbing the ratings and title ladder faster than anyone else. Seeing this encourages us to hope that we have indeed found the next Bobby Fischer, that home-grown chess genius who will once again bring respect for American chess from the rest of the world and respect for chess itself from the rest of America. And it may be so; let’s just remember that such an expectation is a lot of pressure to put on a kid who isn’t even in high school.

David Vigorito

Mehmed Pasalic

Ray Robson’s triumph two weeks ago should not overshadow the other players who struggled mightily and did well at the Chicago FIDE tournament against a tough, competitive field. David Vigorito played superbly. (He has also just won the Boylston Chess Club championship.) So did local FM Mehmed Pasalic, who finished third (5.5/9) and FM Todd Andrews of Tennessee, who came in fourth (5.0/9) and reported lavishly on the event at the U.S. Chess Federation blog.

Todd Andrews

Judging from all the national attention the tournament got, I’d say Chicago chess was also a big winner in the event, and for that Sevan Muradian of the North American Chess Association should get a big hand, for putting on the kind of FIDE-affiliated events that can be found almost nowhere in the U.S. (And I’m sure Sevan wouldn’t mind if I mentioned the tournament’s in-kind sponsors, Cajun Chess and the, both of which donated equipment.)

Of course, kudos to IM Angelo Young for hosting the event at Touch Move Chess Center. The center only opened a year ago, but it’s hard to imagine how we ever got along without it.

photos: Sevan Muradian

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Karpov to Headline Education Seminar

Several Chicago chess educators will get together to hold a seminar on “Chess in Education” on Sunday, January 13 in Oak Brook, Ill. Teachers, parents, and coaches are all welcome, and teachers who attend will get professional-development credits.

Former World Champion Anatoly Karpov

Ths cost is $40 for the three-hour session at the Double Tree Hotel, the hallowed venue of many a recent chess struggle.

In schools around the country chess is rapidly moving beyond its traditional role as an extra-curricular activity and increasingly becoming part of the curriculum. One reason for the trend is the voluminous research showing that chess can help teach math and other subjects while promoting cognitive skills and cultivating virtues such as patience. You’ll hear the whole story from Dr. Mikhail Korenman of Chess for Peace and IntECS, John Buky of Chicago’s Chess Academy, and the U.S. Chess Federation’s scholastic chess director Jerry Nash.

Did I mention that former chess World Champion Anatoly Karpov will be there? I’m not kidding: read the flyer to find out about that and how to sign up.

The seminar is part of a larger weekend confab on scholastic chess that Dr. Korenman is holding. Details here. It looks big.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A Novel Defense

I just finished reading Paul Hoffman’s excellent book King’s Gambit. In it he interviews GM Nigel Short, touching on Short’s 1993 defeat by Garry Kasparov for the world championship. Hoffman reports that unlike many grandmasters, who make noise and carry on at the chess board in attempts to unnerve their opponents during games, Short’s over-the-board behavior is always professional and respectful.

But has Paul seen this?

(Hat tip: Streatham & Brixton)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Pas de Deux

How many Ray School students does it take to change a light bulb? I don’t know, but it only takes two to win a team trophy in a major citywide chess tournament. That’s what happened today in the first tournament of the year at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club put on by Chess Education Partners.

Despite the surprisingly low turnout from Ray for a tournament in our own front yard, fifth-grader Andy Margulis and fourth-grader Phillip Parker-Turner combined to give our school a first-place finish in the Grades 4-5 team competition. Fresh from his triumph dowstate yesterday, Noah Weeks-Brittan of the Chicago Latin School finished first in the individual competition in that division.

More pictures here. Thanks to the efficiency of Tournament Director IM Jan Vander Mortel, the individual results are already available from the U.S. Chess Federation here. Here are the team results for the event, which drew almost 50 kids from around the city and suburbs.

Grades K-1
1. Western Avenue
2. Flossmoor

Grades 2-3
1. Chicago Latin
2. Near North Montessori
3. Andrew Jackson

Grades 4-5
1. Ray School
2. Sacred Heart
3. Dewey Elementary

Grades 6-8
1. Cook

And afterwards, they played Bughouse:

Thanks to Jan, Chess Education Partners President Zack Fishman, and Peter Cassel of the Neighborhood Club. Next tournament in Hyde Park: December 2.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Phillip Scores Big Downstate

The FIDE invitational on the North Side isn’t the only chess tournament going on this weekend. Today, down in Bloomington-Normal, Ray School fourth grader Phillip Parker-Turner finished in a tie for 2nd place (4th place officially on tiebreaks) in the Illinois All-Grade Championship, posting four victories in five games. Congratulations to Noah Weeks-Brittan of the Chicago Latin School, whose perfect 5.0/5 landed him in first place in the 4th-grade field of 51 competitors. Allen Guo, Jyotsna Bitra, and several others also finished the meet with 4.0/5.

I understand the Bloomington-Normal area is a hotbed of chess and that organizers like Illinois Chess Association President Chris Merli, tournament director of today’s event, really know how to do it right. If you ever get a chance to play down there I urge you to go.

Robson Beats Vigorito

Thirteen-year-old FM Ray Robson, the fair-haired boy of the 6th North American FIDE Invitational, today beat previously undefeated IM David Vigorito, the only player who was ahead of him in the strong master tournament taking place in Chicago. With one round left in the meet, which concludes with games beginning at 4:00 this afternoon, Robson is now in the lead with 6.5/8 and is on track to win an International Master norm. Vigorito trails Robson by half a point heading into the last round.

The freewheeling Robson-Vigorito Sicilian game is here. Go here to see the other games or to watch the last round live later this afternoon. The latest standings are here.

Photo: Sevan Muradian

Friday, November 02, 2007

Chicago’s FIDE Meet: A Player’s View

“I never had a chance against Young and he ground me down.”

FM Todd Andrews

As the 6th North American FIDE Invitational heads into its final three rounds, player Todd Andrews, a FIDE Master and member of the Tennessee Tempo of the U.S. Chess League, has today provided his personal perspective on the tournament at the USCF site. His lengthy blog post includes a rich lode of commentary and game annotations.

Todd Andrews

Last night tournament favorite Ray Robson got back on the winning track after a round-five setback by beating Dale Haessel, and Illinois state champ IM Angelo Young defeated IM Stephen Muhammad, who played the Dutch Defense. (Side note to Chessdad64: Twas the Blackburne Variation. My seconds have confirmed it.) It was perhaps the most interesting game of the night. Standings here, games here.

Tonight’s main event: Robson vs. Young, 6:30 at Touch Move Chess Center, 5639 N. Ashland.

Minor Quibble: Should it be the Tennessee Tempi? There are six players on the team.

photo: Sevan Muradian (I think!)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Chess Basics: Two Knights Redux

A few weeks ago we showed you the Two Knights Defense with Igor and Gleb. That clip gave you a good overview, but with the first tournament of the year coming up this weekend, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to study it a bit more deeply, since it’s one of the most popular openings in scholastic chess. This video from Evanston's Matt Pullin will help. You know the drill: click twice on the screen to watch. Go over it as many times as you need.

Also, if you’re playing in Sunday's tournament, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to review Scholar’s Mate.

Fairy Tale Ends. For a few days there it looked as if 13-year-old IM Ray Robson might have an undefeated tournament, but it was not to be. He dropped his first game in the 6th North American FIDE Invitational tournament last night to FM Igor Tsyganov. Ray is still in second place, however, and can still earn an IM norm. In other action, Chicago FM Albert Chow won an interesting game against WIM Ludmila Mokriak. It’s been an exciting tournament, and we’re barely over the hump, with four rounds remaining in the nine-round meet. Games here. Play resumes tonight at Touch Move Chess Center.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hurricane Ray Strikes Again

Young Florida master claims another local victim

Thirteen-year-old FM Ray “The Florida Hurricane” Robson has ripped the roof off the game of another Chicago chess master at the 6th North American FIDE Invitational, beating FM Mehmed Pasalic last night. Ray, who drove a wedge down the center of the board with the black pieces, playing the Queen’s Gambit Declined, is undefeated in the tournament’s first four rounds.

The excitement now mounts as Friday night approaches, when Ray will have the white pieces against Illinois state champion IM Angelo Young. The pressure!

Chessdad64, who I’m delighted to report is blogging once again, has the whole story, along with some background on this young pheenom. Go here to see the game.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Robson Wins Again

Young Ray Robson, the Florida chess master who’s playing in a high-level FIDE tournament here in Chicago, won again last night, this time claiming local FM and former Illinois champ Albert Chow as his victim. See the game here.

Since I wasn’t there at the Touch Move Chess Center to see it happen, I’ll let organizer Sevan Muradian give you the play-by-play for the tournament’s Round 3:

“The first to lay claim to victory was FM Ray Robson, who played a spectacular game against local veteran FM Albert Chow. In backroom analysis it appears (or at least it was my understanding) that Ray's preparation was inspired by the Ivanchuk-Leko rapid match.

“IM's Vigorito and Muhammad played a long game (they were last to finish) with IM Vigorito emerging victorious. A great and highly educational game.

“The Music City Master, FM Todd Andrews, scored his first full point against the Kansas Tornado, WIM Ludamila Mokriak. FM Andrews rebounded over a disappointing day 1 start.

“FM Mehmed Pasalic scored a full point against Canadian DaleHaessel. Two center connected passed pawns and pieces bearing down on Haessel's kingside made it a difficult game for Dale. But he carried on and fought a good fight showing the type of spirit any organizer can hope for.

“The only drawn game came from IM Angelo Young and FM Igor Tsyganov. It was a topsy turvy game with the advantage shifting from one side to the other. Alas the ravenous beast of time caught up with both of them and they agreed to a

“I said it before and I'll say it again. This is definitely the type of tournament an organizer can ask for. Fighting spirit, decisive games, and great people.”

Susan’s got it covered, too. Vigorito, Pasalic, Robson are tied for the lead after the third round with 2.5 each. Current standings here. Go here to play through the games. Round 4 tonight at 6:30.

Monday, October 29, 2007

FIDE Tournament Under Way Here

Top masters compete for norms at North Side club

Most of the major tournaments affiliated with the World Chess Federation (French acronym: FIDE) take place abroad, but thanks to Sevan Muradian and his North American Chess Association, we do get to see FIDE-rated events here in Chicago. The latest is the 6th North American FIDE Invitational, which got started yesterday at IM Angelo Young’s Touch Move Chess Center and runs through next weekend.

The tournament brings to town several very strong players from around the country and around the world who will mix it up with top local masters. Some players are looking to win “norms” that will help them earn FIDE titles, so the high stakes should make it a pretty exciting tournament. IM David Vigorito, FM Mehmed Pasalic, and FM Ray Robson are tied for the lead after two rounds. Ray, who turns 13 this year, beat IM Stephen Muhammad in the second round with the Black pieces. Keep an eye on this kid!

The next round starts tonight at 6:30 at Touch Move, 5639 North Ashland. Fans are welcome, and admission is $5 if you're not a club member. If you can’t make it to the club, you can follow all the action live at the MonRoi site. More information here and here.

In other news, congratulations to Evanston Chess for the 23-player turnout they got for Saturday's tournament. It was their biggest yet, I think. Kudos to Matthew Pullin for winning.

Update: Chicago's FIDE tournament is attracting national attention from former U.S. Women's Champion Jennifer Shahade, who is writing about it on the USCF Web site.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Sound Familiar?

This should strike a responsive chord with parents

Hat tip: Ms. Averill

Friday, October 26, 2007

Evanston Chess Tournament Tomorrow

Adult chess club on North Shore holds “economy open”

I almost forgot to tell everyone that the Evanston Chess Club, which is rapidly becoming one of the great chess success stories in the Chicago area, will hold its third (or fourth?) “economy open” tomorrow, with registration beginning at 9:00 a.m. With an entry fee of $5.00, it’s the cheapest chess tournament you’re likely to find. It’s unrated, and I have it on good authority that the people are very nice.

Though it only started last February, Evanston Chess is rapidly becoming the area headquarters for friendly and relaxed adult chess. Details on tomorrow’s tournament here.

Also make a note of their next blitz tournament, on November 17. (But note as well that Ray kids will be playing in a tournament at Disney School that day.)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Chessdude, Belatedly

He lives here in the Chicago area, he’s one of the most promising young chess players in the country, his parents are friends of mine, and this very cool tribute his mother produced is one of the most popular chess videos on the Internet.

And yet I’ve never posted it here, even though it’s been out there for the better part of a year. Sure, the family dog gets publicity here, but somehow the brilliant chess kid has fallen through the cracks. Why? What’s taken me so long to show you what everyone else in the world saw months ago?

I could give senility as my excuse, but I have to be careful how often I go back to that particular well. So forget the excuses. Here it is, the early and brilliant chess career of Eric Rosen, a.k.a. Chessdude64, submitted to you belatedly but nevertheless in full. As usual, click twice on the screen to play the video. And see how many grandmasters you can spot in the show.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Upcoming Tournaments

Two upcoming scholastic tournaments for Ray School Chess Club members:

Sunday, November 4
Hyde Park Neighborhood Club, 5480 S. Kenwood Avenue, Chicago. Check in begins at 8:00 a.m. Round 1 begins at 9:00. Entry fee: $20 + U.S. Chess Federation membership required. Register at Chess Education Partners.

Saturday, November 17
Disney Elementary School, 4140 N. Marine Drive, Chicago. Sponsored by the Youth Chess Foundation of Chicago. Check in 9:00 – 9:30. First round at 10:00. Free of charge.

Please let us know if your child would like to play in either tournament.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sevan at the Reti

I suppose I should issue a bad-pun alert before posting a headline like that, but be that as it may, here’s an interesting game from Sunday’s simul at the Illinois Chess Association banquet. IM Angelo Young played all diners, taking the Black pieces in every game, and in this one he and Sevan Muradian agreed to a draw after move 33. To the best of my knowledge it was the only draw of the afternoon; Angelo beat everyone else. Comments or annotations, anyone?

Sevan during Sunday’s game

Chess viewer by

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Elite Meet to Eat, Bleat, Compete

Young plays all comers in ICA banquet simul

Some of the most important people in Illinois chess, the movers and shakers who really make things go, got together Sunday afternoon for the annual Illinois Chess Association banquet.

I was there, too, since you didn’t have to be important to attend, just pay your twenty bucks and be a member of ICA. They didn’t even ask my rating, thank goodness.

ICA Treasurer Carl Dolson, President Chris Merli, famed chess blogger Brad Rosen, and ICA honcha Maret Thorpe

Over great Middle Eastern food we talked chess and played chess. After lunch and conversation Illinois state champion Angelo Young held a “simul”—a simultaneous exhibition, in which he played everyone at once. Despite the generally high caliber of the talent on hand—I counted no fewer than four expert-rated players in the group—Angelo, an International Master, beat almost everybody easily. Only Sevan Muradian got a draw.

State chess champ Angelo Young analyzes a position during the simul

It was my first ICA banquet, and I had a great time. The organization seems to be in the hands of smart and committed people. (Sane ones, too, which is no mean feat in the chess world.) Thanks to Angelo (and his mom) not only for his dazzling play but for hosting the event at his Touch Move Chess Center; to Sevan, ICA webmaster and owner of the North American Chess Association, who organized it; and to the guys from downstate who drove long distances to attend.

Sevan Muradian, Bill Brock, and Glenn Panner ponder their positions during the simul

Friday, October 19, 2007

Searching for Jonathan Poe

In the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer, you may recall, the main character, Josh Waitzkin, has a rival for the national chess championship: a brooding, solitary kid named Jonathan Poe. Jonathan is so single-minded about chess that he doesn’t even go to school; he spends all his time playing and studying the game under the grinding tutelage of a glib and supercilious coach, a Svengali for whom Jonathan is less a human being than a lump of clay to be molded and shaped into a champion whose triumph, the coach apparently believes, will redound to his own good fortune as much as to Jonathan’s.

It’s a disturbing image, but it’s not a Hollywood fabrication: there really was such a kid in Josh’s life. His real name was Jeff Sarwer. In the book on which the movie was based Josh’s father Fred Waitzkin had this to say about Jeff:

“Little Jeff studied and played chess from morning until night. He was
insatiable about the game, happy when he was moving pieces and restless when
there was no opponent to crush. ‘Kill, kill, kill,’ he sometimes said with
an impish grin as he launched his attacks.”

Apart from the fact that the coach was actually Jeff’s father, “an undiagnosed manic depressive,” the story of Jonathan/Jeff as told in the movie is mostly true. Jeff and his sister Julia, who was also a chess prodigy, had a bizarre childhood, and thanks to the eagle eye of Michael Goeller at the Kenilworthian, we now know about their Web site, which describes their lives today and their efforts to recover.

There was at least one other fact on which the film diverged from reality. Josh didn’t actually win that big game at the end of the movie; it ended in a draw. Here it is:

The best way to see the game, though, is here, with Michael Goeller’s annotations. Batgirl adds some intriguing information about Jeff’s recent comeback over at

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Carnival II

With Jack Le Moine feeling under the weather, Samurai Chess has stepped up and pulled together the second Chess Blog Carnival. Check it out; it's quite a read.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Two Knights Defense

The Two Knights Defense is one of the most popular and playable openings for scholastic players, and here Igor and Gleb give you a nice primer on it. What I like about this video is that the guys don't encourage you to memorize lines; they show you the ideas, how each line works, and where some of the traps and blunders lie. Watch as many times as you like to learn the basics, then move on to books and other sources to learn the opening more deeply. For example, the variation where White sacrifices his knight to bring the Black king out into the open where it is then attacked by the White queen is called the Fried Liver Attack, and it gets very complicated and interesting after the last move shown here, where the White queen forks the Black king and knight.

Click twice on the screen to watch the video.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Get Well, Mr. Fineberg

Tom Finberg, founder of the South Side’s Tuley Park Chess Club and a giant in the world of Chicago chess for many decades, is hospitalized tonight. I don’t know the nature of Tom’s illness or how serious it is, but I understand from his daughter Carol Fineberg Metzger that he is alert and welcomes phone calls and cards. On Saturday Tom will have a procedure that will probably make him groggy, so if you’d like to call it might be best to wait at least till Sunday:

South Shore Hospital
8012 S Crandon Ave.
Chicago, IL 60617

Tom is in Room 301-1. More information on the Illinois Chess Association forum.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Zsuzsa on Zwischenzug

America’s top chess celebrity shows you the moves

Here in the U.S. most people call her Susan, but back in her native Hungary the grandmaster and four-time women’s world champion is known as Zsuzsa Polgar.

Whatever name she goes by, though, Ms. Polgar is certainly on a roll. She’s just been elected chairman of the U.S. Chess Federation, she has the top chess blog in the galaxy, and she is the most famous chess personality in the country.

It’s a delicious paradox, is it not, that in a game dominated by men, America’s top chess celebrity is a woman?

As popular as she is, Susan does have her critics, of course. Some people think she’s too self-promoting, and others don’t like her because . . . well, they don’t really say; they just don’t. Such is the nature of fame, nez-pah?

Despite everything, however, Susan and her husband/second/business partner/sidekick FM Paul Truong together manage to sustain a veritable putty factory of chess “content,” as it is called today, churning out columns, blog posts, puzzles and events, etc. They’re everywhere.

One of the many places Susan’s writing regularly appears is in Chess Life for Kids, the magazine for junior members of the USCF. In the most recent issue she focuses on zwischenzug, that wonderful tactic involving surprising “in between” moves that interrupt a sequence of seemingly natural captures and recaptures to win material for the attacker. Though she avoids using the tongue-torturing German word itself in this particular article—an act of mercy, perhaps, given that her audience is kids—this is clearly the tactic she is talking about. Here’s a sample.

It's Black to move. The White knight has just captured on c6, and you might expect Black to recapture with the b-pawn: 1. … bxc6. But no. Here’s the sequence:

1. … Qxc3! 2. Qxe2 Qxc6.

And Black wins a piece.

Want to see more? Join the U.S. Chess Federation and get Chess Life for Kids six times a year, with Susan’s column and a lot more.

So, what's next: Zsuzsa on zugzwang? Stay tuned.