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