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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

GM Anthony Miles

British GM Anthony Miles passed away 10 years ago this month at the age of 46. He suffered from diabetes and died in his sleep of heart failure in 2001.


Miles was a controversial figure. Once, in the last round of a tournament Miles needed a draw for first place and his opponent was also willing to draw to secure a top place so they agreed to a draw without playing any moves. The arbiter decided to give both players a loss; both players claimed prearranged draws were commonplace so there was really no reason to actually play a fake game. The incident started big brouhaha in the British chess journals.

Miles also had disagreements with chess authorities and with his fellow English players, particularly GM Raymond Keene and Nigel Short. Miles made accusations regarding payments that Keene had received from the BCF for acting as his second in the 1985 Interzonal and became rather obsessed with the affair, eventually suffering a mental breakdown because of it. He was arrested in 1987 because he was under the belief that he had to speak to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher about the matter. He was subsequently hospitalized for two months.

In the November 2003, GM Nigel Short wrote in the Daily Telegraph, "Tony was insanely jealous of my success, and his inability to accept that he was no longer Britain's number one was an indication of, if not a trigger for, his descent into madness."

Miles was also noted for his acerbic wit and often attacked chess personalities in published articles. He attacked former World Champion Anatoly Karpov in an article entitled , “Has Karpov Lost His Marbles?” His review of NM Eric Shiller’s book Unorthodox Chess Openings consisted of just two words: "Utter crap".

In 1987-88 Miles spent a brief period in the US before moving to Germany, but he eventually returned home to Birmingham. He played in the 1988 US Championship and did rather poorly, winning only one game and finished 11th out of 12 with +1 -4 =6. I visited a couple rounds of that tournament and sat in on a couple of PM’s of Miles games and was rather surprised at how quiet he was, offering little in the way of comments as he played through the games with his opponents. OBITUARY

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Couple of Surprises

The other day I was poking around in the database of my games and stumbled on the game below.  The first surprise was when I noticed that I had actually returned to correspondence chess in 1999 after a long layoff…I thought it was 2004!  This game was played in 2004 in the finals of the CCLA open championship (started in 1999) where I finished in the top 10.  I don’t remember the exact place or who won it, but the strongest opponents I met were a couple of CC Masters; but none of the top rated CCLA players.  Most of them play in ICCF events.  My opponent in this game was rated around 2100 and the game was played using postcards.  The other surprise was that my opponent played the Beginners Opening which I have recently done a couple of posts on.  Since I lost a game against an ICCF Senior Master playing it and a 2100-rated player lost to me with it, it probably should not be played by anybody but beginners!


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Impressive Performance by HIARCS

Thanks (again) to Kirk who informs us that HIARCS found the winning plan in the Knaak-Geller position given below. Very impressive! For those that don’t know the 2nd World Chess Software Championship was held from November 24 to 26, 2011, at Tilburg University, in The Netherlands. One thing I noticed about this tournament was that everyone had to use the same hardware so that helped level the playing conditions.
The final standings:

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
P
1
4w½
2b1
bye
3w1
5b½
4b½
2w½
bye
3b½
5w1
2
bye
1w0
3b1
5w½
4b½
bye
1b½
3w1
5b1
4w½
5
3
5w½
4b1
2w0
1b0
bye
5b1
4w½
2b0
1w½
bye
4
1b½
3w0
5b0
bye
2w½
1w½
3b½
5w½
bye
2b½
3
5
3b½
bye
4w1
2b½
1w½
3w0
bye
4b½
2w0
1b0
3

I am not familiar with the HIARCS program but according to the Chessbase website it is famous for its human-like playing style and its ability to come up with the unexpected. Recent HIARCS versions are known for sharp attacking chess. More importantly they claim that HIARCS 12 has been enhanced through a new deeper search and evaluation of dynamic possibilities. They comment, “This new approach enables HIARCS to play interesting, distinctive aggressive chess while being sensitive to the needs of the position.” and its play has been improved in quiet positions because it is “more selective about the variations it explores to achieve a better understanding than previous versions leading to much stronger play.”

Actually, I’m not familiar with any of the engines in this event, BUT…the fact that HIARCS discovered 22.Bc2 and then followed it up with the correct plan of Bb3, Nf4 and Rbd1 really is quite impressive.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Chess Engines are Like Eye Glasses

Capablanca once wrote, “Chess books should be used as we use glasses: to assist the sight, although some players make use of them as though they conferred sight.”  The same thing could be said of chess engines.


The below position is from Knaak-Geller, Moscow, 1982 and was analyzed by CCGM Robin Smith in his book Modern Chess Analysis.  Smith’s book is badly outdated when it comes to engine analysis, but that doesn’t stop his “human” analysis from being instructive plus his general advice on how to properly analyze a position with an engine is still valid.  I enjoy setting up some of the positions from the book, published in 2004, and letting today’s engines give an opinion.

Smith examined the position below with Chess Tiger, Fritz, Junior, Shredder, Chessmaster, Rebel and Yace and all of them strongly favored White.  White appears to have a distinct advantage but no immediate win, but none of the programs found the correct move.  All of them preferred 22.h6 which looks quite logical and is a move many of us probably would have played.  Smith explained that after 22.h6 g4! White will have a harder time putting pressure on the black K because White’s h-Pawn actually shields Black’s K from attack.  Nimzovich’s principle that the threat is stronger than it execution applies here.  The White h-Pawn is actually restraining Black’s g-Pawn from advancing and thereby making it a permanent weakness. He ran some engine vs. engine tournaments from the position after 22.h6 g4! and Black scored decisively.
GM Mark Dvoretsky outlined the goals of Knaak’s long-term plan and pointed out that this position requires quiet maneuvering.  Dvoretsky wrote in Positional Play, “It is not immediately clear how White should best proceed…some of his pieces cannot take part in the (K-side attack.)  First he must consolidate.”
Dvoretsky then outlines the correct plan: White must regroup by placing his B on b3 from where it will also shield the b-Pawn from attack.  Then the b1R will defend the d4P.  The N will occupy the f4 square from where it also attacks d5 while also being closer to the Black K.  While this plan may not win outright, it puts a lot of pressure on Black to find the best defense.  In the game, Geller did not defend well and lost quickly.
I let Critter 1.2 64–bit, Fire 1.5 xTreme x64, Ivanhoe B47cBx64a and Houdini 1.5 examine the position for about 30 minutes just to see what they would suggest.
Critter 1.Rbc1 (0.65)
Fire: 1.Rbc1 (0.49)
Ivanhoe: 1.h6 (0.54)
Houdini: 1.Kg2 (0.51)

Note that all the evaluations are pretty close but Ivanhoe played the definitely inferior 1.h6.  Both Critter and Fire selected 1.Rbc1 then followed it up with the incorrect 3.h6.  Houdini didn’t do much better. It played a couple of pointless moves then played 3.h6.  You will also notice that after 3.h6 that all of the engines decided NOT to capture the h-Pawn except Houdini which chose the horrible defense 3…gxh6.

Another interesting thing is that in the final position Geller resigned, but according to Houdini the evaluation is only about 0.60 P’s in White’s favor and I tried several engines, but was unable to find a line that gave White even a full P advantage.  As has been said many times, when it comes to engine positional evaluations and a GM’s, always trust the GM.  I guess Geller knew he was thoroughly beaten despite what the engines say.

Naked Chess?!

I’ve never met Jennifer Shahade but have read some of her articles in Chess Life; she seems like a good writer, but this is ridiculous!  If this had happened in April I would have thought it was an April Fool’s joke.  Anyway, I think it’s a pathetic stunt, but I noticed that at least Shahade had enough sense not to to appear naked herself.



“The prize giving for the Euwe Memorial tournament took place in De Kring, a location already special on account of the many chess players and artists who made the club both famous and infamous. On Sunday evening the setting was even more special as visitors were immediately confronted upon entry with a chess performance by Jennifer Shahade of her creation of Naked Chess, this time as a simul against three chess playing, nude artists’ models.”  READ MORE

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Opening Advice for Correspondence Players

Gary Kasparov proposed what he called Advanced Chess back in1998 and, like it or not, this is the way CC is played at the master level these days. Even if you are playing at lower levels where engine use is not happening, you can still use these hints to get the most out of your engine analysis and increase your understanding.

If one's goal is to have fun or practice for OTB tournaments you may take a different approach, but if your goal is to win more games and improve results then it will be necessary to thoroughly research openings. You don’t necessarily have to do this before the game starts. You can wait until you know what options are available, but one thing you should avoid is just blindly wondering down an opening line only to find out too late that it has resulted in an inferior position. Know where you are headed before you start down the path.

In CC play at the master level it is necessary to know your openings and select them carefully.  Not playing at the master level?  Imitation is a good way to learn. Plus if you are playing at a lower level, opening study should produce even greater dividends. By opening study, I am NOT talking about memorizing reams of variations, but rather understanding the ideas behind them and resulting P-structures and tactics, etc. Of course one needs to know how to play the middle-game and endings, but all things being equal, an opening advantage gives you a head start in the effort to win the game.  Besides, in this day of engine use in CC play, starting at even a slight disadvantage can be disastrous!  This is far more true in CC play than in OTB play…unless you are a GM, of course.

One point…detailed openings study is NOT the best way to make yourself a better player, but it is necessary in CC play.  Deep theoretical study is not essential to play at a high level, but you DO need a really good database of high level games.  You cannot rely on the opening book that comes with Fritz or other engines.  I recommend putting together a database of correspondence game played by masters because then you know they are well-played and the openings have most likely been engine checked. 

When you select your opening line, look for wins by the highest rated players who played that line.  That puts the onus of finding an improvement on your opponent.

If you do not prepare much before the game starts you will have to do a lot of work during the opening because you will need to review all the games you can find, survey opening theory, and you may have to try and find new ideas yourself.

During the game note keeping is also essential. One thing you don’t want to do is spend time rediscovering moves.  Another thing I strongly advise against if you are playing on a site that allows using engines is that you DO NOT save the analysis then blindly follow it to the end!  Once you have selected your move, delete the subsequent moves and if you want, type in the analysis as a note.

Also, when entering your selected move on the server, ALWAYS double check to make sure the move you are making is actually the position on the board and not from a position you are analyzing!  I have both won and lost games because I was analyzing with a chess program, decided on my move then went to the actual position on the server and entered the move only to find out too late that the move was from a position I was analyzing and not the actual position.  That happened because I didn’t look and verify I had the position right.  I’ve done it, my opponents have done it and you will do it if you aren’t careful. I once beat a guy who outrated me by 200 points when I played e5 attacking his N on f6 and he didn’t play …Nd7.  Instead he played the move he would have played on the NEXT move…obviously he didn’t look at the position on the server.

Sound advice from veteran CC players is that you should always devote more time to your won positions than your lost ones. A mistake in a lost position won’t be a disaster but if you blunder in a won position, it will be very painful!

At the same time you should be aware of the difference between bad positions and lost ones. Be careful not to write off bad positions prematurely and fail to give them extra attention.  You should devote special attention at critical points in any position, even in lost positions.  In bad positions you should try to set hard problems for your opponent.  When you are really sure that the game is lost then resign! 

Don't be afraid to accept a draw in an equal position! Your thinking time is probably better spent on winning good positions and saving bad ones than on trying to find ways to win an equal one. One point worth making here is that you need to distinguish between truly drawn positions and positions that offer equal chances.

Endgame technique is very important, so don't underestimate tablebases. If used properly they can be very helpful.  They will help you decided whether or not to steer for an ending.

Remember, even with engines, understanding their peculiarities is important because you can’t rely solely on their output.  Human interaction, things like playing through their analysis, engine vs. engine matches from the given position, etc. are all necessary before selecting a move are vital, if time consuming techniques, that will bring better results than simply letting the engine think for a couple of minutes then playing whatever it suggests.  It’s also more challenging and fun which is why we play CC anyway!

In many cases even when using an engine it all comes down to who understands the position better, you or your opponent.

As one veteran CC player so poetically put it, all engines are useful when it comes to whispering cunning moves in your ear but it is completely up to you, whether you let your engine automatically play without your "help" or if playing centaur style, trying to create a plan and checking the moves with your chess engine. Right or wrong - it was my plan, you can say after your loss.

He offered another hint:  Rybka, for example, is sometimes very generous about sacrificing pawns and often it is correct with its evaluation BUT it also still suffers from a serious lack of endgame knowledge in some types of endgames, but not all.  You have to understand how engines evaluate positions!




Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Anthony Santasiere

Anthony Santasiere (9 December 1904 – 13 January 1977) was a high school mathematics teacher at the Angelo Patri School in the Bronx, New York. His hobbies included writing poetry, oil painting and playing the piano. Santasiere wrote extensively on chess in the magazine American Chess Bulletin and was the author of the book The Romantic King's Gambit. The chess opening Santasiere's Folly (1.Nf3 Nf6 2.b4) is named for him.



In 1923, Santasiere tied for 13th/14th place in Lake Hopatcong scoring only 2.5 – 10.5 but drew with Frank Marshall (1st) and David Janowsky (3rd). In 1924, he took third place, behind Marshall and Carlos Torre, in New York. In 1927, he tied for third/fourth in New York and tied for fourth through sixth place in the New York State Championship. Santasiere won the New York State Championship the following year. In 1929, he took third place, behind Herman Steiner and Jacob Bernstein, in the New York State Championship and tied for first the following year.

In the 1930’s he had moved up to the point that in 1931, he took seventh place in New York (Capablanca won) and tied for third/fourth in the New York State Championship which was won by Fred Reinfeld. In 1934, he tied for ninth/tenth in Syracuse (Samuel Reshevsky won). In 1935, he took seventh in the US Open and then in 1938, he played in the US Champiuonship and only tied for 10th/11th. In 1938, he took fifth in Boston.

At that time there were many strong tournaments being held in Ventnor City, New Jersey, a popular resort town. He shared first place with Shainswit in 1943, took second place, behind Reshevsky, at Boston 1944 (the US Open), and won at Peoria 1945 (the US Open). In September 1945, he played in the radio match US vs USSR on tenth board against David Bronstein and lost both games. In 1949, he took second, behind Albert Sandrin, in the US Open. He won a tournament in Italy in 1953.

Santasiere, the 12th of 13 children, grew up extremely poor and his education was paid for by a wealthy, elderly chess fan. In return for getting his education paid for Santasiere had to spend the summers at his benefactor’s estate. Arnold Denker verified that when he knew Santasiere in the 1970’s when they were both living in Florida, Santasiere was a homosexual and lived with his companion. Hmmm…maybe that explains how he got his free college education and the summers at the old man’s estate.

Santasiere was always chastising the great players for what he deemed to be cowardice in the openings. Ruy Lopez’ and Queen’s Gambits were almost always blasted. In his writings he advocated romantic openings and gambits, but he, himself, played stuff like the Reti. It prompted a dispute in writing with Larry Evans in mid-1961 and Evans, wrote, “His games are characterized by plodding, timidity and opening repetition. He enters even ‘romantic debuts’ such as the Vienna and King’s Gambit with reams of prepared analysis, strives constantly to keep the draw in hand and prevent complications from getting away from him over the board. Where are the glorious games which qualify Santasiere as the darling spokesman of romanticism?”

Denker gave an example of the time in the 1946 US Championship when Santasiere had the better position and Reshevsky had 2-1/2 minutes left for 23 moves. Santasiere offered, and Reshevsky accepted, the draw. Santasiere’s reasoning was that time was not a factor, but Reshevsky’s Queen endgame ability had to be respected, so a draw offer was, as he put it, common sense.

When Santasiere retired to Florida in the 1960’s he began playing again and for about two or three years won about every local tournament he entered. He developed heart problems and at the advice of his doctor, gave up tournament play.

There follows one of his better attacking games against Edmar Mednis. Santasiere’s opening was very risky and Mednis didn’t play the best and the result was a wild draw.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

David Janowsky



David Janowsky (25 May 1868,– 15 January 1927) was a leading Polish master and subsequent French citizen.

Born into a Polish family in Wolkowysk, Russian Empire (now Belarus), he settled in Paris around 1890 and began his professional chess career in 1894. He won tournaments in Monte Carlo 1901, Hanover 1902 and tied for first at Vienna 1902 and Barmen 1905. In 1915 he left Europe for the United States and spent the next nine years there before returning to Paris.

Janowski was devastating against the older masters such as Wilhelm Steinitz (+5−2), Mikhail Chigorin (+17−4=4) and Joseph Blackburne (+6−2=2). However, he had minus scores against newer players such as Siegbert Tarrasch (+5−9=3), Frank Marshall (+28−34=18), Akiba Rubinstein (+3−5), Geza Maroczy (+5−10=5) and Carl Schlechter (+13−20=13). He was outclassed by Emanuel Lasker (+4−25=7) and José Raúl Capablanca (+1−9=1), but scored respectably against Alexander Alekhine (+2−4=2).

Janowski played very quickly and was known as a sharp tactician who was devastating with the bishop pair. Capablanca annotated some Janowski games with great admiration, and said, "when in form [he] is one of the most feared opponents who can exist". Capablanca noted that Janowski's greatest weakness as a player was in the endgame, and Janowski reportedly told him, "I detest the endgame." American champion Frank Marshall remembered Janowski's talent and his stubbornness. In "Marshall's Best Games of Chess" he wrote that Janowski "could follow the wrong path with greater determination than any man I ever met!" Reuben Fine remembered Janowski as a player of considerable talent, but a "master of the alibi" with respect to his defeats. Fine said that his losses invariably occurred because it was too hot, or too cold, or the windows were open too far, or not far enough. He also noted that Janowski was sometimes unpopular with his colleagues because of his predilection for doggedly playing on even in an obviously lost position, hoping his opponent might blunder. Edward Lasker in his book Chess Secrets I Learned from the Masters recalled that Janowski was an inveterate but undisciplined gambler who would often lose all of his chess winnings at the roulette wheel.

Janowski played three matches against Emanuel Lasker: two friendly matches in 1909 (+2 -2 and +1 =2 -7) and one match for the world chess championship in 1910 (=3 -8). The longer 1909 match has sometimes been called a world championship match, but research by Edward Winter indicates that the title was not at stake.[2]

In July–August 1914, he was playing an international chess tournament, in Mannheim, Germany, with four wins, four draws and three losses (seventh place), when World War I broke out. Players at Mannheim representing countries now at war with Germany were interned. He, as well as Alekhine, was interned but released to Switzerland after a short internment. Then he moved to the United States, where he shared first place with Oscar Chajes, ahead of Capablanca, at New York 1916, won at Atlantic City 1921 (the eighth American Chess Congress) and took third place at Lake Hopatcong 1923 (the ninth ACC)

He died alone and penniless in France on 15 January 1927 of tuberculosis.

Most people are aware of Janowsky’s attacking reputation, but few can recall ever having seen a game he won.  However, it should be obvious from his biography that in his heyday he knew how to win tournaments.  The game featured in this post is another game he lost, but what a game it was!

This is the game that practically guaranteed Marshall a clear first place in the tournament at Cambridge Springs (Pennsylvania) in 1904. Won by Marshall ahead of Janowsky.  Janowsky finished ahead of Lasker, Marco, Showalter, Schlechter, Chigorin, among others.

In this game Marshall would have probably been content with just a draw, but Janowski had to have a win in order to have even a shot at first place.  What makes this game so exciting it that you see both players playing subtle positional moves in the opening and, also, playing a very difficult ending, proving that both of them knew more about chess than just attacking.  This game would repay careful study.

"A truly masterly game, abounding in exceedingly fine and instructive play -
which does credit to both players." - Siegbert Tarrasch