Sunday, March 30, 2008

Dateline: Skokie

Adam Strunk (left) of the Chicago Blaze with tournament organizer Sevan Muradian

The Holiday Inn in Skokie was the center of local chess action this weekend, combing tournaments for the Illinois Girls’ State Championship, the Susan Polgar girls qualifier, and the Arnold Denker meet to determine the top high school chess player in Illinois.

Your humble blogger was there, and so was that national chess power couple IM Irina Krush and GM Pascal Charbonneau. Pascal reviewed games with the Denker guys as Irina helped preside over the Polgar tournament while preparing to face Armenian women’s champion IM Lilit Mkrtchian this week.

Members of the Chicago Blaze were on hand, including Adam Strunk and Ilan Meerovich, who competed in the Denker tournament. IM Jan van de Mortel stopped in as well, and it was all copasetic, despite the fact that Irina and Pascal are part of the Blaze’s U.S. Chess League rivals, the New York Knights (she as the team’s manager; he as Board One).

It wasn’t all sweetness and light, however. I lost a game to Chessdad64 that I probably could have won, since I was up a piece at one point. Once again my weakness in middle-game tactics (and his tactical strength) got the better of me, and I blew my advantage. Worst of all, since I botched the recording of the game, I’ll never figure out where I went wrong. Hence don’t look for that game on Wacky Wednesday.

U.S. Women's Champion IM Irina Krush (center) presents trophies to Polgar competition winners Sonya Vohra and Victoria Bian. (Hat tip: Glenn)

GM Pascal Charbonneau (right) reviews a game with two Denker players. That's Kevin Velazquez in the foreground.

Local chess leaders Maret Thorpe and Chris Christmas explore the Exchange Variantion of the Ruy Lopez.

More from Glenn.

(Revised 03/31/08)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Frozen New York

This is brilliant.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Ray Fest!

More pictures here.

Your Moment of Zen V

54th & Kimbark (Chicago), March 15, 2008

Photo: Ms. Averill, Room 413

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Lawyers Ousted by Chess

In a development that must be unprecedented in the history of civilization, a law office in DeLand, Florida, is being razed to make way for—are you ready for this?—chess.

It’s true. I’ll pause for a moment so you can read that first incongruous, counter-intuitive sentence again and allow it to sink in. Apparently, the powerful and unscrupulous chess lobby in DeLand has thrown its full weight behind a plan to displace a poor, defenseless group of attorneys. It all sounds very Dickensian, doesn’t it? Money quote from the DeLand-Deltona Beacon:

“To make way for the controversial new Chess Park in Downtown DeLand, a former law office on the east side of the Volusia County Historic Courthouse is being demolished.”
Okay, so in truth it’s actually a former law office, presumably vacant, and no flesh-and-blood ambulance chasers are being tossed cruelly and unceremoniously onto the snowy streets of Florida. What a relief! But, really, people, they’re building a park for chess. Can you believe it? It makes me jealous. Here in Chicago, we spend half a billion dollars for Millennium Park and not a single chess table in the place. Then, Mr. Locke, who obligingly provides the unmet need, gets chased down the boulevard.

But I digress. The Beacon article doesn’t say why the park is “controversial,” though based on a report last year from Boylston, it appears the elders of the town are worried about people betting on chess. Chess and gambling? Has that ever happened? In any case, it’s reassuring to see that they’ll have security cameras in the park. A chess park is a natrual breeding ground for terrorist activity—a veritable threat to national security—and I’d shudder to think that people might be allowed to play blitz without Big Brother keeping an eye on things.

End of rant. I guess this post exhausts my sarcasm quota for the month. Apologies in advance to my many lawyer-friends.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Alekhine’s Imposter

Maybe you shouldn’t try to play his defense if you’re not him. Herewith a game I think is wacky enough for a Wednesday.

This was a blitz game (bullet, actually), and Black ran out of time. I wasn’t really happy, though, when my opponent flagged, since I was looking forward to playing 21. Bc6 and pinning Black’s queen.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Good Friday in Mexico

San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Chess Festival in Gary Today

Tate, Barclay, Ford to Appear

IM Emory Tate

This just in:

“Gary Public Library in Gary, Indiana today has a Chess Fest celebrating the Centennial of the Library.

“FIDE IM Emory Tate will be the featured guest. Come and play a simul with Tate today. Other guests include Bernard Parham I, Kayin Barclay and Sam Ford.

“The Chess Fest is scheduled from 11AM to 4PM. at 220 West 5th in downtown Gary.

“There is an exit on the Indiana Tollway at Broadway. Get off there and turn
right one block to Adams. Turn left on Adams and the Library is one block away!

“Be there for some good chess!”

More here.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Bring Out Your Dead

Your Slacker Friday Moment of Zen

Now this.

And if you're going to the Illinois K-8 State Championship, which begins tonight with blitz, here is your map.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Chess and the Presidency

Hat tip: Susan. On the surface, the candidates are discussing Iraq, health care, the economy, and immigration. But is this year’s election really about chess?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Missed It By That Much

Finally, as long promised, I give you a Wacky Wednesday game in which I am on the losing side. This one is a classic example of the WW genre, if it be understood as a game that ends suddenly and catastrophically because of a single bonheaded blunder that would be unforgivable in a rank beginner. Never mind the fact that I am a rank beginner and will be for life.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 Bc5 4.Nd3 Bb6 5.e5 Ne4 6.f3 Bf2+ 7.Nxf2 Nxf2 8.Kxf2

The game started out simply enough. Petroff’s Defense. Black attacks the weak f2 square but not very effectively. White king captures bishop and exchanges the ability to castle to go up a piece. A small sacrifice with better-than-ample compensation, I think. Then:

8. … Qh4+

Not a particularly threatening move, really. 9. g3 shoos the Black queen away and maybe even gains a tempo for White, though I’ll leave it to you real chess players to decide that. The game not only remains playable for White, but he may even have the advantage.

Ah, but alas, that move was not to be. When in the throes of a major brain cramp, extreme time pressure, or whatever affliction it is that can explain the next move, one falls back on the most elementary, formulaic, and generic chess wisdom. One hesitates to alter one’s pawn wall and longs instead to swaddle the sovereign within its warm-and-comfy confines. Hence the worst possible move in this position:

9. Kg1

As with our previous game on the Fried Liver Attack, sometimes all of those things you learned about where to put the king don’t apply. Sometimes to place him behind a phalanx of pawns is to entomb him there:

9. … Qd4# 0-1

No ecstacy here; only agony.

Monday, March 10, 2008

State Championship Here This Weekend

Ray Player to be Feted as Warren Scholar

The Illinois State K-8 Chess Championship will take place this weekend here in the Chicago area, and Sonam Ford, a member of the Ray School Chess Club, will be recognized along with a small group of outstanding players as a Warren Chess Scholar.

The Warren Scholars, who typically number about 25-30 statewide, are scholastic and junior players who are nationally ranked in their age groups. Ray’s Phillip Parker-Turner has been a Warren Scholar twice, and this year Sonam will follow in his footsteps by virtue of his 1245 rating, which should put him in the top 40 eight-year-olds in the United States when the U.S. Chess Federation issues its April supplement. Congratulations, Sonam, on an exceptional achievement.

Back to the state championship. It will be held in Glenview at the Park Center, 2400 Chestnut. I can’t be there to corral the Ray squad in the usual way, but all K-8 students are eligible, and I’d urge anyone who wants the thrill of playing in a state championship to go. The details are here, and the deadline for signing up is this Wednesday, March 12, so don’t delay. You have to be a member of the USCF, and the Ray School Chess Club will reimburse parents of any kids in the club who go there and sign up at the tournament. Enjoy.

Your Moment of Zen III

It’s cold and snowy in Chicago today. Maybe this will help.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The World is Flat

Well, maybe not all of it, but the part that is this chess set certainly is. Here's the skinny:

New Wave Chess & Checkers

New Wave Chess & Checkers is the world's lightest, simplest yet most tenacious game board.

This 8 3⁄4" square board is an inventive breakthrough in play on flat surfaces.

It allows flat game pieces to stand up on the board with a full 3-D effect.

The pieces can't be blown away or shaken out!The pieces move only when you want to move them. Another design innovation allows a checker piece to turn into a king simply by rotating it to show its crown.

New Wave Chess & Checkers is highly portable and can be played anywhere, indoors or outdoors.
What do you think? How would you like to play 5-minute blitz on this thing? What would Ovid make of the checker that morphs into a chess king?

Double click on the image to enlarge it and get a better look.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Here’s to Women

It’s International Women’s Day. Here’s our salute to the women of chess. Click of the screen to watch the slide show; click twice to enlarge it.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Is Hookah Chess the Next Big Thing?

As yet the signs are few and far between, but if you have a trend-spotter’s sense of what’s around the bend, you may be able to discern the early signs of a confluence between hookah lounges, which seem to be the rage these days, and chess, a tony and dignified form of leisure that some apparently see as consonant with upscale smoking.

As it was with steak joints and cigars a few years ago, there may be a marriage of convenience in the works between an emerging, popular trend angling for respectability and a marginally popular but age-old game with respectability to spare.

Among the evidence for this trend is a plan by the Chicago Chess Meetup Group to hold a meeting at a hookah bar tomorrow at noon.

Is this a real trend or a blip on the screen? Is it good for chess? Vote in our poll in the right-hand column.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Blaze Logo Unveiled

In one of the first steps toward making the Chicago Blaze a full part of the U.S. Chess League, Commissioner Greg Shahade today unveiled the team’s new logo on the league’s Web site. I think it’s gorgeous. The logo was created by Michael LeGrand and Dan Halka under Greg’s direction and with a lot of input from Blaze people here in Chicago. Many thanks for a great job. As the USCL site explains, the emblem represents the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and the surviving Water Tower on North Michigan Ave., whose structure conveniently happens to suggest a bunch of chess rooks.

The Chicago Blaze will be a new expansion team in the USCL, a league of professional chess teams from around the country. Until now the league has had no Chicago team, but the area’s top players have rallied around the Blaze and should make it a contender from day one. Details here and here, and stay tuned for more Blaze developments in the weeks and months ahead.

By the way, in case you hadn’t heard, Mrs. O’Leary’s cow has been all but totally exonerated and cleared of any culpability in starting the fire. Alas, however: justice delayed is justice denied, and the poor bovine is no longer here to enjoy the sweet satisfaction of getting her good name back.

Don’t Be a Quitter

Do as I say, kids, not as I do. I admit that I have resigned many a chess game sooner than I should have because I couldn’t (or simply didn’t want to) face the humiliation and discomfort of playing out a losing position. But that doesn’t mean you should. Every generation wants the next one to have it better than it did, and that’s what I want for you. So for this week’s Wacky Wednesday game, I’ve selected a mercifully short object lesson in why you shouldn’t quit a game until it is truly lost.

Here’s the game.

Black resigns after 11. Bxc3+.

Notice that with 9. Rd1 I contrive to set up a simple discovered check, which my worthy opponent obligingly walks right into. He (or she) takes my knight, and in recapturing with my bishop I also put the king in check with the rook.

Black then resigns. Why? Well, I can only imagine she (or he) thinks she’s about to lose a piece. She has to get out of check, and if she moves her king White captures the bishop on the next move (12. fxg4) and Black is down in material. Some people find the loss of a piece dispiriting and resign.

But it doesn’t have to be. Black can get out of check and pull his (or her) bishop to safety with the same move: 11. ... Bd7. He probably didnt see this move.

Here’s one possible continuation, courtesy of the Crafty chess engine: 12. Bc4 Ke7 13. Bxf7 Be6 14. Bxe6 Kxe6 15. 0-0 Rad8 16. Kf2 Rhf8 17. Kg3. White probably has a bit of an advantage, but the game is far from lost for Black.

Moral of the story: if you’re in a spot, especially some kind of double attack, look for a move that will deal with both threats. You won’t always find one, but sometimes you will.

Don’t forget to check in with Polly for more Wacky Wednesday action.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Obama on Education

He doesn’t mention chess by name, but clearly it’s implied in “a whole host of other things.” Obama wants a broad curriculum full of enrichment activities is how I read this; more evidence that he’s a chess guy. And the rest of what he says makes sense to me, too. What do you think?

Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan.

Happy Casimir Pulaski Day, especially to those who have the day off.

(revised Monday PM)