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.

Tournament at Quad Club Saturday

I just noticed that Renaissance Knights is holding a chess tournament this Saturday at the University of Chicago’s Quadrangle Club, at 57th Street & University Ave. Alas, the early-bird registration deadline has passed, but you can still sign up for $30 if you’re interested. It’s an “open” tournament, which means there are no special sections for kids or lower-rated players, so I’d recommend this tournament mainly for the stronger Ray players. You can’t beat the location, though.

If you’re looking for a scholastic tournament this weekend, you can go out to Oakton Community College in Des Plaines for a Saturday match by North Shore Scholastic Chess.

The next tournament in Hyde Park will be on Sunday, November 4, at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club, sponsored by Chess Education Partners. Our friends at the Youth Chess Foundation of Chicago, which sponsors free tournaments, should also have an announcement soon about a November tournament, and I’ll let you know about that as soon as I do.