Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Santa Visits Coach Wilson

Ray School chess coach Lamarr Wilson exercises his mind with chess, but he gives his body a good workout as well with this contraption. I don't know who Tony Little is, but he must be very rich.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

True Guitar Hero

Your Julian Bream fix.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Basics for Tournament Players

This Saturday, the Youth Chess Foundation of Chicago will hold a scholastic chess tournament at Bell Elementary School, where they will introduce a new competition section for “novices,” kids who are playing in their very first tournament. The idea is to get novices playing other novices and avoid having some 8th-grade “Beginner” who’s played in ten tournaments but not yet advanced to Intermediate crush some kindergartener like an aluminum can and scare the latter away from chess competition forever.

Okay, so maybe the imagery is a bit over the top, but you get the idea. I think it’s a good one.

At least three Ray kids plan to play in the Novice section, and for them, as well as anyone else who needs a refresher on the basics for tournament play, we offer these aides for brushing up. The things your child should be prepared with are:

  • Scholar’s Mate. Know how to use it and how to avoid having it used on you. Go here and here for the details.
  • Basic Checkmates. The two main ones are rook & king vs. king and queen & king vs. king. These are basic techniques that are used to finish the kind of endgames that frequently come up. Once your child masters the techniques, winning these games is second nature.
  • Opening Guidelines. Go here for the most common openings.
  • Review GM Arthur Bisguier’s Ten Tips for Winning Chess.

Review these as well as you can with your kids before Saturday, and they should be ready. Now, as Bruce Pandolfini would say, go out there and be brilliant.

Lamarr Wilson's Geeky World

Here's what the Ray School chess coach does when he's not teaching the Royal Game to your kids.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Chess Leads to Crime

WDBJ reports:

"A Danville women is in jail, accused of robbing a man during a chess game. . . ."

Full story here.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Another Year for the Professor

Belated 101st birthday greetings to Jacques Barzun.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Everybody Loves Barack

This just in: Obama is Irish. No kidding. Kenya has claimed him as one of their own, but now they have competition. Everybody loves a winner.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Whose Adjourned Game?

I ran across this photo in my files of a game in progress. Trouble is, I don’t know whose game it is. I think it’s a skittles game I or someone else was playing against one of the kids in the Ray School Chess Club, and the game stopped because the next round was called and the players had to go play. I think it was Black to move.

Anyway, lest a perfectly good position go to waste, I had the computer finish the game. Here’s one possible continuation. Feel free to suggest another if you’d like.

3r1k2/Q3bppp/8/8/8/7q/2P2P1P/2R3K1 b - - 0 1

1... Bd6 2. Qe3 Qxh2+ 3. Kf1 Bf4 4. Qf3 Bxc1 5. c4 Re8 6. Qg2 Qh5 7. f3 Qh4 8.Qf2 Qh1+ 9. Qg1 Qxf3+ 10. Qf2 Qh1+ 11. Qg1 Qh3+ 12. Kf2 Be3+ 13. Ke1 Bg5+ 14.Qe3 Qxe3+ 15. Kf1 Qf4+ 16. Kg2 Re2+ 17. Kh3 Qh4# 0-1

Play through the whole continuation here. Black's mating attack strikes me as a bit sadistic, prolonged, and ostentatious. I mean, what would have been so bad about 9. ... Re1+ 10. Kxe1 Qxg1+? Maybe computers really can show off.

But I don't know much about chess. What do you think?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Great Thanksgiving Tradition

For people of a certain age, at any rate.

Go here for Part 2. Part 3 here. And a happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mate in 11

A Wacky Wednesday miniature. Who knew there was a Corn Stalk Defense?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Your Moment of Zen XII

Chicago, Illinois: 51st & Cornell
November 25, 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Phillip Beats a GM

Ray School star Phillip Parker-Turner (center) flanked by GM Antonio and IM Angelo Young

The scene was IM Angelo Young’s Touch Move Chess Center on North Ashland. And while the victory came on time in a simul, a win is a win. Ray’s Phillip Parker-Turner beat GM Rogelio (Joey) Antonio when the grandmaster’s flag fell in the G/30 game. Congratulations, Phillip! Another great milestone for one of Ray’s star players. More photos here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Trophy Kids

Phillip Parker-Turner gets taller every year, but so do the trophies he wins.

Congratulations to Ray's George Vassilatos for winning a trophy at November 8 Youth Chess Foundation of Chicago tournament at Burbank School, and to Phillip Parker-Turner for finishing in first place in the 5th-grade section of the Illinois All-Grade Championships.

More photos from the All-Grade here, courtesy of Phillip's dad.

Chess is War

Your moment of anti-Zen.

Inter-league Competition

Inmates at Princeton University played chess this week with the guys in the joint. UPI reports:

Students, prisoners face off in chess

TRENTON, N.J., Nov. 20 (UPI) -- The seventh chess tournament between Princeton University and the New Jersey State Prison saw a surprising number of prisoner victories, participants said.

The "Inmates and Ivy" chess tournament brought six Princeton students to the prison in Trenton to test their chess skills against a collection of convicted felons and thieves, The (Newark) New Jersey Star-Ledger reported Thursday.

Read more here. I guess it's not uncommon for college students to play prisoners in chess. They do it at Emory University, too.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

True Guitar Hero

Your Leo Kottke fix.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Your Kids Playing Chess

Coach Lamarr Wilson and chess dad Phillip Turner have captured the action at the Ray School Chess Club beautifully. Want to see more? Go to Lamarr's flickr photostream. And see the "Wilson Warriors" at Lamarr's blog.

GM Simul Saturday

This just in from IM Angelo Young. If you'd like to try your luck playing chess against a grandmaster in a simultaneous exhibition, here's your chance.

Simul with GM Rogelio (Joey) Antonio

Who: GM Rogelio Antonio (2585)

When: November 22, 2008 (Saturday 10am- 2pm)

What: Simultaneous Chess Exhibition

Where: Touch Move Chess Center

Location: 5639 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago IL 60660

Phone: 773-627-2759

Format: Limit to the first 30 participant (rotation)

Fee: $20

Free Drinks & Snacks. Reserve your seat now Please call TMCC or Email : TMchesscenter@hotmail.com

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Obama Palling Around with Chess Players?

More evidence has surfaced, beyond that already available, that Barack Obama’s administration will be the Chess Presidency. Friday’s New York Times confirmed that until the massive Secret Service security bubble closed in on him following his election, the president-elect got his hair cut at the Hyde Park Hair Salon, on Blackstone just north of 53rd Street. Those familiar with the neighborhood scene know that chess is played at that establishment, yet the obvious suspicion—that Obama may go to the salon to play chess—is never mentioned in the mainstream media. Why?

Considering that the Leader of the Free World can get his hair cut anywhere he wants, why does he go to this particular barbershop, if not to be around woodpushers? Is it just a coincidence that Obama patronized this salon? Are we to believe that the senator only went in for a trim and never once stopped to play a game of five-minute blitz? C’mon.

Let's face it: the 44th president likes chess.

You can understand why Obama has kept mum about his ties to chess. If his tenuous links to Billy Ayers were controversial during the campaign, imagine what would have happened had his connection to the Royal Game come to light. He would have been pilloried by the nation’s trogs, that's what. Just imagine: at the very moment he was being denounced as an elitist for his superior intelligence, Ivy League degrees, and impressive accomplishments, news of his affection for something as brainy as chess could have been the final nail in the coffin of his campaign. I can only assume it was a wish to keep his love of chess under wraps that led Obama to choose Joe Biden as his running mate rather than the obvious choice, Elizabeth Vicary.

By the way, if you want to reach Obama on his Blackberry, better do it soon.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

He Does It Again

Ray School chess star Phillip Parker-Turner, winner of countless tournaments and trophies over the past five years, won another one today, finishing first in the 5th-grade section of the Illinois All-Grade Chess Championships. Congratulations, Phillip, on another triumph.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

See Your Food—for Free

Click on the screen a few times to enlarge the slide show.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Take It Easy, But Take It

Rest in peace, Studs. And thank you for everything.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Blaze Bow to Queens Machine

The Chicago Blaze became the latest victims of the Queens Pioneers’ rolling juggernaut last night, falling to the formidable Forest Hills squad in their USCL match by a score of 3-1.

It was the worst defeat yet for Chicago and the first match in which no member of the Blaze won a game. The going was roughest on the top two boards, where FM Florin Felecan lost to strong GM Alex Stripunsky and IM Emory Tate became the latest notch in the belt of IM Alex Lenderman (pictured at left), the 19-year-old pheenom who has won all of seven of his games this season. Stripunsky and Lenderman are two of the reasons the Pioneers (6.5-1.5) are tied for the best record in the league. (See Elizabeth Vicary's interview with IM Lenderman here.)

For the Blaze, the only bright spots were boards three and four, where IM-elect Mehmed Pasalic and IM Angelo Young, both undefeated this year, drew their opponents.

You can’t win ‘em all, of course, and the defeat followed a few weeks of mostly solid performances for the new Blaze team, which had raised its record to 4-3 after last week. That record now falls back to an even .500, and we hang on dearly to our playoff hopes. The last two matches of the regular season, against Arizona and Dallas, will be decisive.

The Pioneers are an impressive team and deserve their success. To get where they are they have had to overcome obstacles, such as an undistinguished record last year, their first, and what has to be the most ill-conceived name and logo in the league. (Trust me, I was born and raised in New York City’s largest borough. Nothing about Queens even remotely suggests cowboys or pioneers or sunsets. None of it resonates. But when you’re winning, who cares?)

On the bright side, Blaze Manager Glenn Panner gave the team’s non-player personnel—all of whom very much need chess improvement—an enjoyable lesson in the Scotch Game using Charousek vs Von Popiel (Budapest, 1896) and Bruce Pandolfini’s Chess Life column on the game from August 2006 (USCF membership required).

Many thanks to Maret Thorpe for serving as tournament director last night for the second time this year. Here are the games:

  1. FM Florin Felecan (CHC) vs GM Alex Stripunsky (QNS) 0-1

2. IM Alex Lenderman (QNS) vs IM Emory Tate (CHC) 1-0

3. IM Mehmed Pasalic (CHC) vs NM Parker Zhao (QNS) 1/2-1/2

4. NM Michael Thaler (QNS) vs IM Angelo Young (CHC) 1/2-1/2

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Your Moment of Zen XI

Circle Pines Center
Delton, Michigan
October 11, 2008

Photo: Michael Panelas

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Blaze Slip Past Tennessee

We beat Tempo, just not as resoundingly as last time

Ilan Meerovich (above) made a triumphant return to the Blaze lineup. IM Jan Van De Mortel (below) beat FM Todd Andrews for the second time this year.

It was a different kind of match from the last time the two teams met, but the result that mattered was the same, as the Chicago Blaze defeated the Tennessee Tempo last night for the second time this season.

The Tempo, which had definitely retooled since the 4-0 drubbing they took at the hands of the Blaze in Week 3, this time inflicted some damage in the match, which ended 2.5-1.5 in Chicago’s favor.

Meerovich Returns
The evening saw the triumphant return to the Blaze lineup of Niles North High School chess star Ilan Meerovich, who beat FM Jerry Wheeler on Board 4, giving Ilan a 2-0 record on the season.

The other Blaze victory came from IM Jan Van De Mortel, who beat the Tempo’s FM Todd Andrews, just as he had in the first match. This time, however, Tennessee got in some licks. IM Ron Burnett avenged his earlier loss to Chicago’s GM Nikola Mitkov by beating him this time on Board 1; and FM Peter Bereolos, who lost to IM Angelo Young in the team’s previous encounter, this time managed to eke out a draw against IM-elect Mehmed Pasalic.

Playoff Picture Improves
The victory gives the Blaze a 4-3 record in seven matches and lifts the team over the .500 mark for the first time in its young history. It certainly boosts our playoff chances with three weeks left in the regular season, though just how much it helps will become clearer after the rest of the leagues plays on Wednesday night. More on this later.

Many thanks to Tom Sprandel of the Evanston Chess Club, who served as tournament director for last night’s match. Here are the games, by board number:

1. IM Ron Burnett (TEN) vs GM Nikola Mitkov (CHC) 1-0
IM Jan van de Mortel (CHC) vs FM Todd Andrews (TEN) 1-0
FM Peter Bereolos (TEN) vs Mehmed Pasalic (CHC) 1/2-1/2
Ilan Meerovich (CHC) vs FM Jerry Wheeler (TEN) 1-0

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Remembering Old Blue Eyes

Friday, September 26, 2008

Children's Book Fair Sunday

If you have kids, and anyone with a child in the Ray School Chess Club does, you may want to bring them to the annual 57th Street Children's Book Fair this coming Sunday afternoon. I think I've been to every one of these fairs for the past dozen years, and they're always a lot of fun. And if you have any connection to Ray School you won't have any trouble finding the event, since it's right there at the school.

Chess, alas, won't be part of the official program, though if I can find a way to wrangle some space on the side informally I may set up a few boards. Absent that there'll be plenty of music, dancing, story telling, costumed characters--and books. You're kids like books, don't they?

See the Web site for details. I'll see you there.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Blaze Beat Baltimore in Nail Biter

Blaze Manager Glenn Panner watches nervously in the early going as IMs Mehmed Pasalic and Emory Tate play their Baltimore opponents. All turned out well, however, as the team gave Glenn an excellent birthday present by beating the Kingfishers. photo: (c) Betsy Dynako

For the second week in a row IM Emory Tate posted the only game victory for the Chicago Blaze, but this time, thanks to draws on the other three boards, it was enough to secure the margin of victory, as the team won its match last night against the Baltimore Kingfishers 2.5-1.5.

On a night when Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen and Trustee Randy Roberts attended the games to show the town’s support for the Blaze, which plays at Skokie’s Holiday Inn, the four masters in the night's lineup took advantage of the political encouragement to finish the night without a loss.

One of the most exciting moments of the evening came at the very end, when all the other games were finished and IM Mehmed Pasalic of the Blaze, down a piece, executed an exciting and skillful endgame against FM Ray Kaufman to secure a draw in the game and seal the match victory for the Blaze. There was a lot on the line. A loss for Mehmed would have meant a drawn match, depriving the Blaze of the victory that now puts them in a four-way tie for third place in the U.S. Chess League’s Western Division and keeps our playoff hopes alive.

Here are the games by board number:

1. FM Tegshsuren Enkhbat (BAL) vs FM Florin Felecan (CHC) 1/2-1/2

IM Emory Tate (CHC) vs IM Larry Kaufman (BAL) 1-0

FM Ray Kaufman (BAL) vs IM Mehmed Pasalic (CHC) 1/2-1/2

IM Angelo Young (CHC) vs NM Aaron Kahn (BAL) 1/2-1/2

More later. For now, here’s what Mehmed’s endgame looked like.

Position after 54. ... Rf7

55.Bf4 Kc5 56.Kf3 b4 57.Ke4 Kc4 58.Be5 Re7 59.Rc1+ Kb3 60.Rc8 Ka2 61.Ra8+ Kb3 62.Kd5 Kc2 63.Ra2+ Kd3 64.Rb2 Rxe5+ 65.Kxe5 Kc3 66.Rh2 b3 67.Rh3+ Kc2 68.Kd4 b2 69.Rh2+ Kb3 70.Rxb2+ Kxb2 Game drawn because neither player has mating material 1/2-1/2

Once again, thanks to Betsy Dynako for serving as tournament director for the match.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Idaho Takes the Lead

Idaho? Yes, Idaho. While chess is taught in many schools across the country, the Gem State is trying to get every school kid in the state playing the game. AP has the story.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Seattle Power Lineup Nips Blaze

Well, you can’t win ‘em all. Last night, the Chicago Blaze went up against one of the strongest lineups a USCL team has brought to the boards this year and came up short, losing to the Seattle Sluggers 2.5-1.5.

The Sluggers, who had struggled in the early weeks of the season, put a lot on the line, with a lineup that included two grandmasters, including super-GM Hikaru Nakamura, the former U.S. chess champion. In one of the most anticipated games of the season, Nakamura, with the White pieces, outlasted Chicago’s GM Nikola Mitkov in the 70-move marathon.

IM Emory Tate (photo: Betsy Dynako)

Seattle’s other grandmaster, Gregory Serper, didn’t fare quite as well on the second board: he had to settle for a draw against IM Jan Van De Mortel of the Blaze, who played a tough and aggressive game against the higher-rated player. The game ended when both players ran out of mating material. (Actually, it went on for a bit even after that.)

The bright spot of the evening was IM Emory Tate, playing in his second match for the Blaze, who hung on to beat a tenacious NM Michael Lee. Emory thought he had a better position early in the game and said he was impressed with how long the youngster hung in there.

Emory does a postmortem with Adam Strunk

I only have eyes for chess. Eminent local chess personages Brad "Chessdad64" Rosen (left) and Larry Cohen cut up a bit during the match. The Blaze have fun even when they lose. Come and see sometime.

On Board 4, Adam Strunk of the Blaze lost two pawns to Seattle’s Andy May and wasn’t able to recover.

Here are the games.

1. GM Hikaru Nakamura (SEA) vs GM Nikola Mitkov (CHC) 1-0

2. IM Jan van de Mortel (CHC) vs GM Gregory Serper (SEA) 1/2-1/2

NM Michael Lee (SEA) vs IM Emory Tate (CHC) 0-1

Adam Strunk (CHC) vs Andy May (SEA) 0-1

Click here for Seattle’s take on the match. Thanks to NM Len Weber for flawless tournament direction last night.

Next up: the Blaze play the Baltimore Kingfishers a week from Wednesday.

[Cross-posted from Chicago Blaze blog]

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Wilson to Teach Chess at Ray

I’m delighted to announce that veteran Chicago scholastic chess coach Lamarr Wilson has joined the Ray School Chess Club and will be the club’s main chess teacher for the 2008-09 school year.

Lamarr is no stranger to Ray, having been a friend of the club for years. He used to be the coach at Joplin Elementary School and has been active in Chicago chess circles for a long time as a teacher and webmaster. Today he is the president of SchoolTech Consulting, Inc., where he advises and assists Chicago public schools on their technology needs. We’re thrilled that Lamarr has agreed to take over the teaching duties at Ray, following the departure of founding coach Emil Sidky.

Also, veteran Ray School chess mom Julie Vassilatos will manage the chess club meetings this year. Julie has been active in the club for the past three years and was one of the people most responsible for the success of the citywide chess tournament held at Ray in 2007. One of the things she plans is to have a special girls section of the chess club as part of an effort to attract more female players. Stay tuned for details.

Julie and Lamarr will, I trust, be ably assisted by other chess parents.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Blaze Sweep Tennessee

Windy City woodpushers get on the board with blowout against the Tempo

When Ron Burnett’s flag fell at about 11:00 last night, the din that went up in Patios A/B at the Holiday Inn Skokie was deafening. Despite the hurt it put on my ears, however, I was neither surprised nor irritated by the applause—from players, fans, managers, even the players’ parents—because it signaled that GM Nikola Mitkov, playing in his first game for the Chicago Blaze, had beaten IM Burnett of the Tennessee Tempo on the first board of this week’s U.S. Chess League match.

Of course, it meant much more than that. As the last game of the night to end, it meant not only that the Blaze had won the first match in the team’s brief history, but that they had done it in stunning fashion, sweeping all games against the Tempo to finish 4-0 on the night. It was the first sweep in the league this season.

Look at all those ones in the Blaze colunm

Moments before Nikola’s game ended, the Tempo’s John Bick resigned his game against Adam Strunk of the Blaze, in a hard-fought game that represented the most challenging matchup of the night for a Chicago player as measured by ratings difference. Earlier, the old pros, IMs Jan Van De Mortel and Angelo Young, disposed of their opponents, both in very exciting games. Here are the games. The Blaze players are in bold:

GM Nikola Mitkov vs. IM Ron Burnett 1-0

FM John Bick vs. Adam Strunk 0-1

Which game to choose as Blaze Game of the Week? Tough call. What do you think?

It was an exciting night, and it means that the Blaze have arrived and demonstrated that they belong in the USCL. We’ll try to have details and analysis in the next couple of days, but there’s not much time to celebrate: the Blaze have a short week and face the Seattle Sluggers on Monday night.
Once again: thanks to Betsy Dynako for first-rate tournament direction.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Right Palin for America

If I wasn't the first person to suggest Michael Palin as a better alternative to now-ubiquitous one from Alaska, I was certainly one of the first. I'm glad to see someone else has picked up the meme.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

"Houston, you have a problem: checkmate!"

Chess in Outer Space

How do you play chess in a low-gravity environment, where the pieces could simply float away? Parents who've taken their kids on long car trips face a similar challenge, but apparently the obvious solution, a magnet chess set, wasn't possible for NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff, so he used Velcro. Apparently finding no suitable opponents among his crew mates, he played correspondence chess with colleagues in the control center on the ground.

More from Dylan Loeb McClain in the New York Times.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Blaze Draw Against San Francisco

Blaze chief technology officer Sevan Muradian served as the official team glad-hander last night, congratulating the winning players: Mehmed Pasalic (top) and Angelo Young.

After beating the Dallas Destiny last week, the San Francisco Mechanics may have thought they’d make short work of the Chicago Blaze. But the Bay Area powerhouse, which some say is the strongest team in the U.S. Chess League after their defeat of the defending champions from Texas, were thwarted in their march to glory as the new team from the Windy City posted two victories last night to come away with a draw for the match.

Though the Mechanics’ blog spoke of compounding the Blaze’s misery after our opening-week loss to the Arizona Scorpions, the Blaze gave as good as they got from the Holiday Inn Skokie, as FM (IM-elect) Mehmed Pasalic beat FM Sam Shankland and FM Daniel Naroditsky fell to IM Angelo Young of the Blaze.

Mehmed, who is undefeated in the first two weeks of play, posted the first victory of the night. At that point it looked like it could be a big evening for the Blaze, but then FM Florin Felecan lost a hard-fought game to GM-elect Josh Friedel, and IM Emory Tate’s characteristically wild and wooly game with IM Vinay Bhat dropped into the San Francisco W column. It fell to Angelo to pull it out for the Blaze, and he did so masterfully, going up on time against Daniel Naroditsky and squeezing the California FIDE Master’s position. Naroditsky resigned at about 10:45 PM Chicago time.

Don’t get me wrong: the Blaze would have been thrilled with a victory for the night, but considering this was only our second match and we were again facing an opponent with an overall ratings advantage, most of the team was satisfied with the result.

Here are the games, in order of board number:

1. FM Florin Felecan (CHC) vs IM Josh Friedel (SF) 0-1
2. IM Vinay Bhat (SF) vs IM Emory Tate (CHC) 1-0
3. FM Mehmed Pasalic (CHC) vs FM Sam Shankland (SF) 1-0
4. FM Daniel Naroditsky (SF) vs IM Angelo Young (CHC) 0-1

We hope to have more later on—maybe some analysis later in the week. Please look at the games, leave your comments, and stay tuned. The Blaze are starting to set the league on fire.

P.S. Many thanks to Maret Thorpe for first-rate tournament direction last night.

Reposted from Chicago Blaze Chess blog. Photos by Chessdad64

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Wacky Wednesday Returns

I was up three pieces by move 12 of this G/5 game, and I had Black's queen by move 21. Why did it take me to move 34 to mate my opponent?

By the way, don't forget to follow the Chicago Blaze tonight and root for them against San Francisco.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Pin is Mightier Than the Sword

Black's knight can't recapture the queen, and so he or she resigns. Of course, that still doesn't excuse hanging the bishop with 5. Bc4.

Disclosure: I didn't invent the pun that heads this post. I saw it in a tactics book somewhere; I just can't recall which one.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Blaze Fall to Arizona in Season Opener

The Blaze lineup for its first match, from left: IM Jan Van De Mortel, IM Mehmed Pasalic, Ilan Meerovich, NM Jon Burgess

Jon Burgess and Tournament Director Betsy Dynako joke as Betsy collects the players' cell phones before the game.

Niles North High School star Ilan Meerovich overcame a 170-point ratings deficit against National Master Warren Harper last night to post the sole victory for the Chicago Blaze, as the Windy City's new chess team lost its first match, the U.S. Chess League season opener, to the Arizona Scorpions.

The score was 2.5-1.5, a perfectly respectable showing for the Blaze considering that Arizona enjoyed a ratings advantage on all fours boards. IM Mehmed Pasalic was the other Blaze player to get on the scoreboard, with a 70-move draw against Arizona IM Mark Ginsburg that went late into the night.

The key to victory for Ilan was a ferocious kingside attack that deconstructed Harper's Nimzo-Indian Defense, prompting the Arizona master to resign on move 25. See all the games here:

Thanks to the four Blaze players and also to Betsy Dynako for serving as tournament director. Next up: the Blaze face the San Franciso Mechanics on Wednesday, September 3, at 7:30 Central Time.

[Reposted from
Blaze blog.]

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Improvising Brain

According to research, the part of the brain that regulates behavior and performance goes dormant when a musician "lets go" and improvises. That same part of the brain is highly engaged when a musician is reading music or playing a memorized piece. Makes sense.

What about chess? Some players are highly analytical and deliberate; the playing style of others could reasonably be termed improvisational, no? Would the brain scan of, say, a sedulous postional player such as Botvinnik look different from that of an exciting tactician like Tal?

Hat tip: Britannica Blog

Monday, August 18, 2008

Great Chess Pix on Flickr

Lamarr Wilson, a longtime fixture on the scholastic chess scene in Chicago as a coach, blogger, webmaster, and, just as important, photographer, has posted hundreds of his pictures from years past on flickr. Lamarr's collection includes shots of Chicagoland's top young chess players; a few grownups, such as GM Dmitry Gurevich and IM Angelo Young; and, I'm delighted to see, the tournament we held at Ray School in cooperation with the Youth Chess Foundation of Chicago in March 2007.

If you're a chess blogger, coach, player, or parent, you'll want to check it out. Thanks for sharing these, Lamarr.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wacky Wednesday Returns

It's been awhile since I posted a Wacky Wednesday game, but this one begs to be published, since it exemplifies the genre so perfectly.

Kids: Don't play the way White did in this game (blocking a bishop check with the queen?!?!)

Barns for Barack

How the chess candidate plays in the heartland.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Death By Windmill

I’ve been reading lately about a chess tactic called “windmill,” a kind of discovered check that keeps repeating as the piece that moves picks off the opponent’s pieces while the opponent’s king is in check, then returns to the original position to start the process all over again. It can be devastating for the player on the receiving end.

Yasser Seirawan says it’s a rare tactic, and apparently so, because the two chess books in which I read about it, Yaz’s Winning Chess Tactics and Eric Schiller’s The Big Book of Chess, both use the same game to illustrate it: Carlos Torre vs. Emanuel Lasker, Moscow, 1925.

Here’s the key position. Material is even. Black has just played 24. … Qb5 to avoid the attack by the while knight on e3.

White plays 25. Bf6, offering Black a queen sacrifice, which he has little choice but to accept, since his queen is en prise. Queen takes queen, and then it’s 26. Rxg7+, to start the attack.

Watch the entire game below and see for yourself. When the combination is over Black is up three pawns. Lasker may have been a former world champion, but he probably didn’t feel like much of a champion that day.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Leader of the Pack

The fortunes of America's top chess players in this year's championship tournament are chronicled in the current issue of Chess Life magazine, and top billing goes to Barrington, Ill.-based GM Yury Shuman, who led the pack and brought the championship home to the Prairie State.

Yury, a member of the Chicago Blaze, had finished a close second at the championship meet two years ago. This year he arrived at the event in Tulsa knowing he had a good chance to win. He also knew he'd have to outplay reigning champion Alex Shabalov as well as former champs GMs Boris Gulko and Alexander Onischuk and other hungry competitors, like GM Sergey Kudrin, GM Varuzhan Akobian, IM Josh Friedel (who earned his final grandmaster norm in Tulsa), and Blaze teammate GM Dmitry Gurevich.

Here are two of Yury's most exciting games from the eight-round event. Check out the tripled-pawn situation he overcame in the endgame against IM David Preuss. And see why Chess Life Online used the word "carnage" to characterize Yury's seventh-round confrontation with GM Julio Becerra-Rivero.

[Cross-posted from Chicago Blaze Blog]

Monday, August 04, 2008

Your Next Car

If only, eh? Hat tip: Britannica Blog.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Chess in the Churchyard: Toronto

I can’t resist the bonhomie of street chess, so when I found myself in Toronto for the day last Thursday, I made sure to visit the one spot in town where I knew there to be a lively version of it generally in progress: the courtyard of the Metropolitan United Church, on Queen Street between Church and Bond.

The churchyard has four chess tables located a piously appropriate distance from and building’s entrance. Still, if you enter the church from the front you can’t avoid walking past the chess boards.

From about 3:30 in the afternoon on there were five or six games going on at any time, the woodpushers having appropriated not just the chess tables proper but some of the assorted picnic tables that also dot the yard. The scene was mostly male and slightly raucous though perfectly friendly. Five-minute blitz appeared to be the game of choice, though some clock-free games were under way. No money changed hands at the table where I played (won 1, lost 2).

I also stopped by the incredible plaza at Yonge and Dundas to see the irrepressible chess entertainer Raul, who holds court on the corner. He charges five dollars a game (“a donation, not gambling”). I didn’t have time for that. Maybe next visit.


Raul photo by Danielle Scott via flickr

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Watching the Storm Roll In

Washington, Connecticut
July 27, 2008

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

French Dip

Kids: When you weaken your kingside pawn structure, beware. Of course, it doesn't help to fall behind needlessly in material, either.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Your Moment of Zen XI

For those of you wondering why I have't gone out and bought my cats one of thise spiffy kitty playgrounds like the one Elizabeth Vicary has (scroll down in the post), it's really quite simple: I'm not sure they'll use it.

While Elizabeth's cats are obviously intelligent enough to know when something is intended for their use, I have no such confidence in Lyra (pictured here) and Yoda. They're always in the way, getting under foot, and appropriating houshold items that simply weren't meant for feline use. The root of the problem, I reluctantly conclude, is that they just aren't that smart. I know that must sound terribly insensitive and speciesist in these times of harmonic convergence, when all the creatures of the earth coexist on a basis of mutual respect, but there it is.

Feel free to provide captions to the above. The same prizes as always are on offer for the best.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Blowing It With One Bad Move

Kids: How many times have I admonished you about king safety? (No, I don't need an exact number; it's a rhetorical question.) And do you listen?

Okay, so maybe you do: good. But do I listen -- to my own advice? Not from the look of this game. I had the advantage throughout. I was turning up the pressure, controling space, and was up a rook to a pawn, but in my lust for material, and because I ignored my opponent's attack while pursuing my own plans, I enabled him/her to swoop down and mate me.

My big blunder was 30. g3, which made mate inevitable. Even after 29. ... Qh4, with Black's queen and knight bearing down on my king, Chessmaster scores the game at 6.62 -- a big lead for White.

The move I missed was 30.Qxf7, which would have protected the f2 square and pressured Black's king. Chessmaster's continuation: 30. ... Qxh2+ 31.Kf1 Qh1+ 32.Ke2 Nf6 33.Qe6 Qh5+ 34.f3 Qg6 35.Qf5 Qxf5 36.exf5 Nd5 37.Nb5 Nf4+ 38.Kf1 d5 39.Rb7.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Street Chess By the Bay

As I think I've said before, I'm a sucker for street chess. Here's an excerpt from a documentary on the game as it's played in San Francisco. Is that Market Street?

And, yes, money is changing hands. It happens.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Your Moment of Zen X

Feel free to provide the caption

Wacky Monday

Kids: Don't play the way Black did in this "miniature." Bad development and exposing your king encourages your opponent to attack early, generally with tragic results.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Blaze Heats Up

The Chicago Blaze, one of two new expansion teams in the United States Chess League (USCL), now has a Web site and a blog. (Yours truly will be one of the regular posters.) The team is getting ready for its first season, which begins on August 25 with a match against the Arizona Scorpions, the league’s other new team.

This week the Blaze issued an official press release with a preview of the what’s to come. The schedule is now posted online. Mark your calendars and plan to follow all the action throughout September, October, and into the November playoffs.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Vicary is conducting a poll on her blog to see who people think will win the USCL championship this year. You can vote for the team you think most likely to win.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Borders Slashes Business Hours

Hyde Park chess players squeezed again

The Borders bookstore on 53rd Street and Lake Park Ave., where Hyde Park chess players have found perhaps their warmest welcome since being unceremoniously ousted from Harper Court several years ago, has cut back its daily hours of operation, now closing every evening at 8:00. The store was previously open until 10:00 on weeknights and 11:00 on weekends.

The reason for the new hours wasn’t immediately clear, though there have been reports in the Chicago media that certain Borders stores, including the one in Hyde Park, might be slated for eventual closing as a result of a shift in the company’s corporate strategy. I have no recent information on this or whether the change of hours indicates anything about the store's eventual fate.

The new schedule does mean, however, that chess players, who play continuously in their cozy perch on the east end of the store’s second-floor café, will have their evening games cut short. The store has given refuge to a group of itinerant chess players who have been part of the Hyde Park scene for many years. Though they are mostly adult men, some star members of the Ray School Chess Club, including Phillip Parker-Turner and Sonam Ford, play there regulary.

In other developments, the storefront on 53rd between Greenwood and Ellis that was home to the former Hayden Market, which once provided a haven for chess players, is now empty. The establishment was taken over last year by new proprietors who immediately put an end to chess at the store. What exactly happened is a matter of some dispute, but if the new management thought that banishing chess was its key to success, they appear to have miscalculated.

Elsewhere, I have seen no chess at all this season outside the Starbucks on 53rd and Harper, where players gathered regularly in previous years, though the royal game is being played vigorously, weather permitting, at the two chess tables in Harold Washington Park, 53rd Street and Hyde Park Boulevard.

Monday, July 07, 2008

The People Have Spoken

Here are the results of our recent poll. I think it’s clear who people want for vice president.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Chess in the Park, Part II

“Chess is like ginger ale. No one thinks about bringing it, but people love it when someone remembers it.”
For the second year in a row, the truth of LEP’s prescient, profound, and prophetic observation has been proven true at the 4th of July celebration in Chicago’s Nichols Park. No one thought about chess, no one asked for it, but someone remembered it yesterday, and kids and adults were all over it like a cheap suit.

Please forgive the cliché; it’s a simile I enjoy too much to resist. More photos here.