Random Posts

Monday, January 30, 2023

Speaking of Blunders

     In the last game we saw how quickly and incisively an oversight can be exploited and it makes us ask, "Why do we blunder?" In some cases we do it even when the refutation is obvious. So, why did we overlook it? 
     Every player has, at some time or other, reflected on how it came about that after studying the position, both sitting there staring at it and seeing it in the mind's eye, he decided on a move and then sent a message to the hand to reach out and play the decided upon move only to realize that somehow the whole process went south and the hand played a different move. 
     Excitement, fatigue, nervousness, time pressure...all these are possible reasons, but there are others, too. Sometimes a player can become so deeply absorbed in a certain move that he overlooks something that is all too obvious to the onlookers...including his opponent. This is a case of chess tunnel vision. 
     Then there are times a player calculates everything accurately and as he reaches out his hand to move, he has a sudden odd notion or unpredictable change and decides on another move...one that may even be calamitous. 
     There have also been times where we have seen that a move is bad and so continued searching only to forget why the move is bad and end up playing it any way. 
     We have all asked ourselves why we made made a certain choice only to realize we don't actually know, but psychological science can offer some surprising insights. 
     One finding comes from a psychologist named Benjamin Libet back in the 1980s. He devised an experiment which was deceptively simple, but it has created a lot of debate. 
     Participants sat in a relaxed manner in front of a clock that had a small light revolving around the face. All they had to do was flex their finger whenever they felt the urge and remember the position of the light on the clock face when they experienced the initial urge to move their finger. 
     The experiment showed that the electrical activity in the brain built up well before people consciously intended to flex their finger and then did it. 
     What that means is unconscious mechanisms prepare us for any action we decide to take, but this all happens before we consciously experience intending to do something. The experiment suggests our unconscious rules all actions we take.
     Can we make good decisions without consciously thinking? One study examined whether the best choices were based on active thinking or not. The startling findings were that people often made better choices when not thinking at all. 
     The argument is that our unconscious processes are less constrained than conscious processes. Unconscious processes, such as intuition, function in ways that automatically and rapidly synthesize a wide range of complex information and this gives an advantage over thinking deliberately. Think of Grandmasters playing blitz of one minute games..they are surprisingly good...better than most of us are even with unlimited thinking time. 
     So, where do all these scientific observations leave us when it comes to avoiding blunders? I have no idea; I just thought it was interesting. 
    IM Nikolay Minev was born in Bulgaria November 8, 1931 and was the the country's champion in 1953, 1965, and 1966. Minev and his wife emigrated to the United States in the mid-1980s and settled in Seattle, Washington where he passed away on March 10, 2-17. He was also a noted author and one of his books, David Bronstein: Fifty Great Short Games, published in 1997 is well worth the $19 and change price tag. 
     Here's an example of what's in the book...it's a game Bronstein played against Ewfim Geller in Moscow in the 1961 USSR Championship. link to the crosstable HERE

A game that I liked (Fritz 17)

[Event "USSR Championship 1961"] [Site "Moscow URS"] [Date "1961.01.11"] [Round "?"] [White "David Bronstein"] [Black "Efim Geller"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E27"] [Annotator "Stockfish 15.1"] [PlyCount "39"] [EventDate "1961.??.??"] {Nimzo-Indian: Saemisch} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. a3 {In the Saemisch white gives up a tempo and concedes doubled c-Pawns to gain the Bishop pair.} Bxc3+ 5. bxc3 {Black has several possibilities, the most common of which is to blockade the doubled Pawns with 5....c5 then attack the P on c4 with ...b6, ... Ba6, ...Nc6–a5 and ...Rc8. In the meantime white establishes a powerful center which he hopes to use for an attack.} O-O 6. f3 {This seems to give white better results than the equally popular. 6.e3} d5 {Black reacts quickly to hinder 7.e4} 7. cxd5 exd5 8. e3 Bf5 9. Ne2 Nbd7 10. Nf4 c5 (10... Nb6 { was played in Koneru,H (2578)-Dzagnidze,N (2573) Monaco 2015, but it didn't turn out so well for black.} 11. Kf2 Rc8 12. g4 Bxg4 13. fxg4 Ne4+ 14. Kg1 Qh4 15. Qe2 c5 {Appearance to the contrary, thgis position favors white and she went on to win.}) 11. Bd3 {An interesting possibility was 11.g4} Bxd3 12. Qxd3 Re8 13. O-O Rc8 14. Rb1 Qa5 {This is, as one would expect from Geller, much more active than defending with 14...Nb6} (14... Nb6 $15) 15. Rxb7 {While there is nothing wrong with this, it is not without risk. The option was to forego taking the b-Pawn and playing 15.g4 at once.} Nb6 16. g4 {[%mdl 32]} h6 {Black should probably not have wasted a move trying to stop the advance of the g-Pawn and counterattacked with 16...c4} (16... c4 {This, however, leads to some very tricky play with an obscure outcome that would not be possible to calculate OTB!} 17. Qf5 h6 (17... Rb8 18. Rc7 Nc8 (18... Rec8 19. Re7 Na4 ( 19... Rf8 20. g5) 20. g5 {White is winning.}) 19. Rxc8 Rexc8 20. g5 Ne8 21. Nxd5 Qd8 22. e4 {with an excellent position.}) 18. h4 Qa6 19. Rxb6 Qxb6 20. g5 hxg5 21. hxg5 g6 22. Qxf6 Rc6 23. Nxd5 Rxf6 24. Nxf6+ Kh8 25. Nxe8 {with about equal chances.}) 17. h4 {[%mdl 2048] White is in control.} cxd4 ({Keeps fighting.} 17... c4 18. Qc2 (18. Qf5 {leads to the same murky results as in the previous note.} Qa6 19. Rxb6 Qxb6 20. g5 hxg5 21. hxg5 g6 22. Qxf6 Rc6 23. Nxd5 Rxf6 24. Nxf6+ Kh8 25. Nxe8) 18... Qa6 19. Rxb6 Qxb6 20. g5 hxg5 21. hxg5 Nh7 22. Nxd5 Qb3 23. Qg2 Rc6 24. e4) 18. g5 (18. exd4 {is less accurate.} Rxc3 19. Rxa7 Rxd3 20. Rxa5 Rxd4 {with equal chances.}) 18... dxe3 {This is the losing blunder, but who could have anticipated the finish?} (18... hxg5 { At this point I took a break for breakfast and let Stockfish 15.1 running. Upon return this was it's best line...} 19. hxg5 Nfd7 20. cxd4 Qa4 21. g6 fxg6 22. Qxg6 Qc2 23. a4 Qxg6+ 24. Nxg6 Rb8 25. Rxa7 Ra8 26. Rc7 Rxa4 27. Rf2 Rc4 28. Rc2 Rxc2 29. Rxc2 Nf6 30. Ne5 Nfd7 31. Nxd7 Nxd7 32. Kf2 {And white is a P up, but the previous play is engine play and the game's outcome is in doubt.}) 19. gxf6 {Black is already lost and there is no way of saving the game so it really is a moot point that Geller missed the fact that this move threatens mate.} Rxc3 (19... Qc5 20. Qg6 {Now this fails.} e2+ 21. Kg2 exf1=Q+ 22. Kxf1 Qf8 (22... fxg6 23. Rxg7+ Kh8 24. Nxg6#) 23. Qg3 Rxc3 {with equal chances.}) 20. Qg6 {[%mdl 512] An abrupt end. Geller resigned.} (20. Rxf7 {It's interesting that after this white also has a Q sacrifice that mates in 6!} Rc7 21. Rxc7 Nd7 22. Rxd7 Re4 23. Qxe4 dxe4 24. Rxg7+ Kf8 25. Ne6+ Ke8 26. Re7#) ( 20. Qg6 fxg6 21. Rxg7+ Kh8 22. Nxg6#) 1-0

Tickling the Funny Bone

     Miniatures are very short games (generally 25 moves or fewer) that end early because of a blunder or sharp tactics are involved. 
     The losses don't happen only to inexperienced players or in games in which one player is vastly superior to the other. Masters, even world-class masters, can fall victim. 
     In a 1993 game former world champion Anatoly Karpov blundered a piece on move 12 against Larry Christiansen and promptly resigned. In the 1984 US Championship IM Kamran Shirazi was playing White against IM John Peters and Shirazi blundered on move 5 (!) then resigned after Christiansen's reply because he was going to lose a Rook. 
     These short stories of the chessboard may tickle our funny bone, but they also can have value. Even though the games are short and may contain mistakes by the loser, in some cases we may admire the ability of the winner to set up a situation where the error is possible. In other cases the game is actually worthy of study. And almost all miniatures contain something interesting in the opening.
     The following game won a special beauty prize. After 8 moves black's position doesn't look too bad even though his K-side looks suspiciously weak. His 9th move looks like it establishes a nice Pawn center, but the trouble is white is better developed and black's K has remained in the center just one move too long. And so...WHAM! Just like that black loses almost instantly. 
     The winner Luis Lalau (September 11, 1896 - February 8, 1971, 74 years old) was born and died in Buenos Aires. He was awarded the IM title in 1965. In 1965 he was the South American Champion. 
     His opponent, Dutch Master Jan Willem te Kolste (September 11, 1874 - January 31, 1926, 61 years old) was born in Utrecht and passed away in The Hague. 

A game that I liked (Fritz 17)

[Event "London Olympiad Final"] [Site "London ENG"] [Date "1927.07.22"] [Round "?"] [White "Luis Palau"] [Black "Jan te Kolste"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A48"] [Annotator "Stockfish 15.1"] [PlyCount "31"] [EventDate "1927.07.18"] {QP Opening} 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. d4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Bf4 Nh5 {Either 4...Bg7 or 4... c6 are more precise.} 5. Be5 {Black either must allow a slight weakening of his K-side or exchange his B with 5...Bg7 with also leave him weak on the dark squares plus his N on g7 would hardly be in a good place.} f6 6. Bg3 Nxg3 7. hxg3 c6 (7... f5 {as in Winants,L (2560)-Hovhanisian,M (2502) Belgium 2015 is not too bad of a choice.} 8. Ne5 Bg7 9. f4 Be6 10. e3 Nd7 11. Be2 c6 12. Qd2 Qa5 {White is a smidgen better.}) 8. e3 (8. e4 {is more aggressive.} Bg7 9. Bd3 dxe4 10. Nxe4 {With a minimal advantage. Pushkov,N (2434)-Rmus,A (2359) Obrenovac 2004}) 8... Bg7 9. Bd3 {Black is blissfully unaware of the threat of Rxh7} e5 {This sets up a nice center, but black now falls victim to a brilliant sacrifice.} (9... O-O {leaves black with a solid position even though the Ps in front of his K look weak.} 10. Qd2 e5 {He can get away with this now...or can he? Practically just about any developing move would likely turn out better.} 11. dxe5 fxe5 12. e4 Qe8 {with a solid position.} 13. exd5 { Or 13.Be2} e4 14. Nxe4 cxd5 15. O-O-O dxe4 16. Rde1 exd3 (16... Bf5 17. Bc4+ Be6 18. Rxe4 Bxc4 19. Rxe8 Rxe8 {White is better.}) 17. Rxe8 Rxe8 18. Qxd3 Bf5 {and technically at least black has enough compensation for the Q}) 10. Rxh7 Kf7 (10... Rxh7 11. Bxg6+ Ke7 12. Bxh7 {and white is clearly better.}) (10... e4 {This is his best chance, but it leaves white with a winning position. Just one quick example...} 11. Rxg7 exd3 12. Qxd3 Bf5 13. e4 dxe4 14. Qc4 Qd6 15. Qf7+ Kd8 16. Nh4 Nd7 17. O-O-O Qf8 18. Qxf8+ Nxf8 19. Nxf5 gxf5 20. d5 c5 21. Rxb7) 11. Bxg6+ {Another surprise.} Kxg6 (11... Kf8 12. Rxh8+ Bxh8 13. Nh4 Qc7 14. Qh5 Bg7 15. Qh7 Be6 16. Bh5 Bf7 17. g4 {Material may be equal, but positionally white has a won game. Here's Stockfish's best line after 15 minutes...} Na6 18. Ne2 Bg8 19. Ng6+ Kf7 20. Nxe5+ Ke6 21. Qg6 Bh8 22. g5 Qh7 23. Nf4+ Ke7 24. Ng4 fxg5 25. Qxg5+ Kd6 26. O-O-O b5 27. Ng6 Kc7 28. Nxh8 Qxh8 29. Qe7+ Kb6 30. Ne5 Qh7 31. Qxh7 Bxh7 32. a3) 12. Nxe5+ {[%mdl 512] Another sacrifice. White mates in 7} fxe5 (12... Kxh7 {Holds out a bit longer.} 13. Qh5+ Kg8 14. Qf7+ Kh7 15. O-O-O Bh3 16. Rh1 Qd7 17. Nxd7 Kh6 18. f4 Nxd7 19. Rxh3#) 13. Qh5+ $1 Kf6 14. Qxe5+ Kf7 15. Qxg7+ {Some sources have black resigning here. Others have him getting mated next move.} Ke6 16. Qe5# { After his slip on move 9 black never had a ghost of a chance.} 1-0

Friday, January 27, 2023

Chess Players Are Special - Scientific Proof

     In September of 2021 Science Direct had an article titled "Ability and non-ability traits in chess skill" which you can read HERE

The highlights of the article are: 

* Amateur chess players scored higher in expressive suppression than the general population. Expressive suppression is a response-focused emotion regulation strategy. This strategy involves an individual voluntarily suppressing their outward emotional expressions. Read more 

* Amateur chess players scored lower in neuroticism than the general population. Neuroticism is the trait disposition to experience negative affects, including anger, anxiety, self‐consciousness, irritability, emotional instability and depression. Read more 

* Domain knowledge was a stronger predictor of chess skill than personality. Domain knowledge is knowledge of a specific, specialized discipline or field, in contrast to general (or domain-independent) knowledge. Read more 

* Extraversion and expressive suppression seem also important for chess performance. Extraversion is defined by the general tendency to experience positive emotions, as well as by traits such as sociable, lively, and active. Read more 

* Expressive suppression is an emotion regulation strategy that consists of top-down, conscious control of reflexive behavioral expression of emotion (e.g., stifling laughter or crying, or maintaining a neutral facial expression to hide emotion. Read more



Thursday, January 26, 2023

A Flawless Game by Felix Izeta Txabarri

     Yesterday's weather can only be described as "crappy" as a massive weather system that originated in the Texas Panhandle swept through the area bringing rain, sleet, snow, slush and ice. 
     It was a good day to browse and I eventually stopped in the year 1986. By my reckoning, 1986 wasn't that long ago, only 37 years, but a lot of readers won't have any idea what happened that year. 
     On January 28th, the Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated at 46,000 feet only 73 seconds after launching when O-ring seals in a joint in the shuttle's solid rocket booster failed. As a result all seven astronauts on board (Christa McAuliffe, Dick Scobee, Mike Smith, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik and Gregory Jarvis) died. 
Yesterday's weather

     In September 1988, a Federal judge dismissed two lawsuits seeking $3 billion from the shuttle maker Morton Thiokol Inc. by Roger Boisjoly, a former company engineer who warned against the ill-fated launch. This legal wrangling reminds me of the water contamination lawsuits involving the Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. If you are from the US and watched television for more than 10 minutes, you have seen the ads from the law firms trying to get in on the action.
     From the 1950s through February 1985 water on parts of the base was contaminated by perchloroethylene tetrachloroethylene. The source of the contamination was the waste disposal practices of ABC One-Hour Cleaners, an off-base dry cleaning firm. I had a lot of laundry done by the firm! 
     What's detestable about the whole thing is that Marine Corps officials were well aware that the drinking water contained dangerous levels (3,400 times safe levels) of toxic chemicals, but they failed to take any action for decades and reports by a private company were largely ignored. Instead, Camp Lejeune officials lied and told the EPA there were no environmental issues. 
     Besides the water issues, it's not generally known that in the 1970s the EPA called the base a "major polluter." The base dumped oil and industrial waste water in storm drains and potentially radioactive materials were buried, including carcasses of dogs used in testing. The base even located a day care in a former malaria control shop where pesticides were mixed and stored. 
     In the mid-1980s, as news of tainted water became public, Camp Lejeune's commanding general at the time, Lieutenant General Lewis H. Buehl III, told a bold-faced lie when he reassured residents of a base subdivision where Marine families lived that contaminants in the water were only "minute." 
     Buehl went on to become the number three ranking officer in the Marine Corps and died of a stroke at the age of 56 in 1988. 
     The nuclear reactor at Chernobyl exploded on April 26th and released radioactive material across much of Europe. The site remains a radioactive, but is considered safe for supervised, restricted tourism. 
     Halley's Comet reached the closest point to the Earth, during its second visit to the solar system in the 20th century. The comet is visible to the naked eye from Earth every 75–79 years. 
     Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (Mad Cow Disease) had everybody scared. The disease damages a cow’s central nervous system and makes their brains look spongy under a microscope. People can get a version of it called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease; it's fatal. There were no cases reported in the United States until December of 2003, but many Americans were scared to eat beef in 1986. 
     The Iran-Contra Affair (or Scandal) happened in the United States during the second term of President Ronald Reagan. Prodded by CIA Director William Casey and National Security Council Advisor, a former Marine Lieutenant Colonel named Oliver North, a secretly arranged arms-for-hostage deal was made with one of the US's bitterest enemies in the Middle East. Israel sold weapons from the US to Iran in exchange for the release of American hostages held by Hezbollah, Iran’s ally, in Lebanon. 
     North was granted limited immunity from prosecution in exchange for testifying before Congress about the scheme. He was initially convicted on three felony charges, but the convictions were reversed and all charges against him dismissed in 1991. 
     While under investigation, Casey was diagnosed with a brain tumor, resigned his post and passed away in May of 1987. 
     Amid all of that, who remembers the chess tournament in Novi Sad, a city in northern Serbia on the banks of the Danube River? Probably nobody, but that's where today's game was played. 
     There was a time when one knew the name of just about every Grandmaster in the world, but that has not been the case for a long time and the winner of today's game, Felix Izeta Txabarri (born in 1961)of Spain is one I never heard of; he was awarded the title in 1994. In the 1990s Txabarri was one of the leading Spanish players. 
     His opponent, Miroljub Lazic (born in 1966) is from Serbia. He was the U14 World champion in 1979 and Yugoslav champion in 1993. He was awarded the GM title in 1995.  
     It's a rare game...in Fritz 17s auto-analysis using Stockfish 15.1 the program assigns white a value of "Flawless" meaning that Txabarri's moves were almost a perfect match with the engine! 

A game that I liked (Fritz 17)

[Event "Novi Sad"] [Site "Novi Sad"] [Date "1986.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Felix Izeta Txabarri"] [Black "Miroljub Lazic"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E99"] [WhiteElo "2400"] [BlackElo "2380"] [Annotator "Stockfish/Komodo"] [PlyCount "57"] [EventDate "1986.??.??"] {King's Indian: Classical Main Line} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 O-O 5. Nf3 {[%mdl 32]} d6 6. Be2 e5 7. O-O Nc6 8. d5 Ne7 9. Ne1 Nd7 10. f3 f5 11. g4 { [%mdl 32]} Nf6 12. Nd3 c5 13. Rb1 (13. Rf2 Bd7 14. Rb1 {Vokac,M (2504) -Cvek,R (2405) Krnov 2000 gave white play on both sides of the board, but black's position is solid.}) (13. Be3 Kh8 14. Rb1 Neg8 15. b4 {as in Salej,J (2114) -Ramirez,C (2273) Bogota 2014 is another possibility.}) 13... Bd7 {In some games black has tried 13...f4, but releasing the tension has not worked out well.} 14. b4 cxb4 15. Rxb4 b5 {A better defense was the passive, but solid,15. ..b6} 16. g5 {Excellent! White has the initiative on both sides.} Nh5 17. Nxb5 Qb6+ 18. c5 dxc5 19. Be3 {[%mdl 32]} Bxb5 20. Bxc5 Qa5 21. Bxe7 Rf7 (21... fxe4 {Technically favors white, but practically things don't look quite so clear.} 22. fxe4 (22. Bxf8 {This favors black after} exd3 23. Bxd3 Bxd3 24. Qxd3 Bxf8 25. d6 Qxa2 ({is much less clear.} 25... Qxb4 26. Qd5+ Kh8 27. Qxa8 Qxd6 28. Qxa7) 26. Qc4+ Qxc4 27. Rxc4 Bxd6) 22... Bxd3 23. Bxd3 Nf4 24. Bc4 {Black's best move is} Kh8 25. Ra4 Qc7 26. Bxf8 Rxf8 {with a decisive advantage.}) ( 21... Bxd3 22. Bxd3 Nf4 23. Bc4 {is similar to the results after 21...fxe4}) 22. Qb3 {White is clearly winning.} Bxd3 23. Bxd3 {[%mdl 32]} Rxe7 24. d6+ Rf7 25. Bc4 Qc5+ 26. Kh1 Qxd6 27. Bxf7+ Kh8 28. Rd1 Qf8 29. exf5 {Black resigned in this hopeless position. Flawless play by Txabarri!} 1-0

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Ladies Chess Boxing

     Chess boxing is a sport that, as the name suggests, combines chess and boxing. The boxers/players alternate rounds of boxing and rapid chess until one of them wins in either discipline or when their opponent resigns. Players can win by knockout in boxing or by mate or time forfeit in the chess game. For a complete discussion of chess boxing you can check out the Wikipedia article HERE
     Last Christmas at the Seasons Beatings 2022 event held at The Dome in London, "Killer Queen" Marie Obegi of Lebanon took on "Kick Ass Baroness" Juliana Baron of Germany. The women's Welterweight title was up for grabs and it was quite a thriller! 

  A game that I liked (Fritz 17)

[Event "Seasons Beatings 2022, London"] [Site "The Dome, London, England"] [Date "2022.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Marie 'Killer Queen' Obegi"] [Black "Juliana 'Kick Ass Baroness' Ba"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D00"] [Annotator "Stockfish 15.1"] [PlyCount "50"] [EventDate "2022.??.??"] {QP Opening} 1. d4 d5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Bf4 {One would have expected the Torre Attack (3.Bg5), one of my favorites.} Nc6 {This is not good as white's next move demonstrates.} (3... c5 {eliminates any danger from 4.Nb5} 4. Nb5 Qa5+ 5. Nc3 cxd4 6. Qxd4 Nc6 {Threatening, after the Q retreats, 7...d4} 7. Qa4 Qxa4 8. Nxa4 e5 {with a considerable advantage.}) 4. Nb5 {Well played. This causes black considerable problems.} (4. e3 {is too passive.} e6 5. Nb5 {Now this move has lost its effectiveness.} Bd6 6. Bg5 O-O 7. Bd3 Re8 8. Bxf6 Qxf6 9. Nf3 {is about equal. Tran,Q (2528)-Tran,H (2556) Hanoi 2012}) 4... e5 5. dxe5 Ng4 { While this attacks the e-Pawn it leaves the N misplaced.} (5... Ne4 {fails to helps black. 1-0 (39)} 6. Qxd5 Qxd5 7. Nxc7+ Kd8 8. Nxd5 {is winning for white. }) (5... a6 {keeps the damage to a minimum.} 6. Nc3 Nh5 7. Nxd5 Be6 8. e4 Nxf4 9. Nxf4 Qe7 {is black best line.}) 6. e6 (6. Qxd5 {is even stronger. After} Qe7 7. Bg5 f6 8. exf6 gxf6 9. Bh4 {black's position leaves a lot to be desired.}) 6... Nge5 7. exf7+ (7. Bxe5 Nxe5 8. Qxd5 {is also very good.}) 7... Kxf7 8. Bxe5 Nxe5 9. e4 Bb4+ (9... c6 {was worth a try.} 10. Qh5+ Ng6 11. Nd4 Qd6 { and black is hanging on.}) 10. c3 Bc5 {[%mdl 32]} 11. Qxd5+ {Equally good was 11.Qh5+} Qxd5 12. exd5 c6 13. Nd6+ {[%mdl 8192] A gross blunder. Of course the correct move is 13.dxc6} Bxd6 14. O-O-O Rd8 15. f4 Ng4 {Black is clearly winning, but the finish is entertaining.} 16. Bc4 Bxf4+ {White's K gets caught in a fatal crossfire by the Bs.} 17. Kb1 Bf5+ 18. Ka1 Kf6 {This doesn't hurt anything, but 18...Ne3 was more to the point.} 19. Nh3 (19. Rf1 g5 20. h4 Ne3 { forks the R and B}) 19... Ne3 20. Nxf4 Nxc4 21. Nh5+ Kf7 22. Rhf1 Ne3 {[%mdl 32]} 23. Rxf5+ Nxf5 24. g4 Ne3 25. Rd2 Nxd5 {White lost on time.} 0-1

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Another Albin Counter Gambit

     By 1900, Germany became the largest economy in continental Europe and the third-largest in the world behind the United States and the British Empire. 
     The country was also having its problems. Riots broke out in January when miners went on strike. The Second Boer War was being fought between the British and two Boer Republics. 
     As a result, the German steamer Herzog was seized by the British warship HMS Thetis outside Delagoa Bay in East Africa, on suspicions that it was carrying supplies to Boer troops. After no supplies were found, the ship and its crew are released. 
     In China, the Boxer Rebellion (an attempt to drive all foreigners out of China) was taking place and when three Chinese Boxers got too close to the German legation, a young Chinese man was captured by the German guards. 
     The German minister, thrashed the young man with his cane and ordered the guards to continue the beating and the Chinese Foreign Ministry was told the prisoner would die. 
     Over the next few days, the foreign diplomats begin shooting at Chinese nationals that came near their headquarter. In the shootings, the German minister was, himself, killed as were a number of Chinese. 
US Marines in the Boxer Rebellion

     On June 21st, China declared war on Germany. By the end, several countries sent troops to China to end the siege of Peking (Beijing), including 49 officers and 1,151 enlisted US Marines. Peking was captured in August 1900, and after extensive discussions, the rebellion officially ended on September 7, 1901. 
     In the 1960s I was with the Marines aboard the USS Boxer (one of several Navy ships with that name), but name had nothing to do with the Boxer Rebellion. The ships were named after His Majesty's Brig Boxer which the US Navy captured off the coast of Portland, Maine in late 1813.
     In the midst of it all the German Chess Federation Congress, featuring several of the world's best players, was held in Munich from July 22nd to August 18th, 1900. 
     By round 4 the tournament had developed into a three-way race among Maroczy, Pillsbury and Schlechter and round 10 they were a full point ahead and remained there to the finish.

     To settle the tie the three were to play two games with each other, but after making an elementary oversight in a dead equal position and losing the his first game to Pillsbury, Maroczy withdrew claiming illness. 
     The format was then changed to a four-game match between Pillsbury and Schlechter. Schlechter won the first game, Pillsbury the second, then after two more draws it was determined tht they would share first. 
     The following short, sharp game is another Albin Countergambit. In this game Burn's score stood at 1-2 while Cohn was tied for the lead with 2.5 points. after this loss, he never recovered and was relegated to being an also ran.
     Amos Burn (1848-1925) was born in Hull, Yorkshire, which lies on England's east side about half way up the coast on the North Sea. He learned how to play chess at the age of 16 and became one of the country's leading player. In 1913, he became chess editor of The Field, a monthly sports magazine, a position he held until his death in 1925. Wilhelm Cohn (1859-1913) was born in Berlin and in the late 1800s and early 1900s had a few good tournament results. 


  A game that I liked (Fritz 17)

[Event "Munich"] [Site ""] [Date "1900.07.27"] [Round "?"] [White "Amos Burn"] [Black "Wilhelm Cohn"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D08"] [Annotator "Stockfish/Komodo"] [PlyCount "55"] [EventDate "1900.07.23"] {Albin Countergambit} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 d4 4. e4 {Today this is known as the Spassky Variation. The main line is 4.Nf3} Nc6 5. f4 Bc5 {This game was played in round 4. In round 8 Schlechter played the wild 5...g5 which was given a ! in the tournament book.} (5... g5 6. Bd3 gxf4 7. Bxf4 Nge7 8. Bg3 Ng6 9. Qh5 {This does not turn out well. Better was developing with 9.Nf3} Bb4+ 10. Ke2 {Burn,A-Schlechter,C Munich 1900. Blacj is better and eventually won.}) 6. a3 {Burn is preparing to advance his Q-side Ps in the hopes of exploiting the position of blacks B. It's interesting that he doesn't play it immediately though, preferring to complete his development first.} ({Relevant:} 6. Bd3 Nh6 7. Nf3 Ng4 8. h3 Ne3 9. Bxe3 dxe3 10. Nc3 {with equal chances. Janowski, D-Marshall,F New York 1899}) 6... a5 {Hindering the advance of white's b-Pawn.} (6... f5 {was a sharp possibility, but after} 7. exf5 Bxf5 8. b4 {white is in good shape.}) 7. Nf3 Bg4 (7... a4 {stopping b4 was a reasonable alternative.} 8. Bd3 Bg4 9. Nbd2 Nge7 {etc. But, here, too, white can still claim an opening advantage.}) 8. Bd3 {Cohn's next move has been criticized. It's is, in fact, a poor choice, but the alternatives of 8...Nge7 or 8...Bxf3 or even 8...g5 are not much better.} f6 9. exf6 Nxf6 10. h3 Bxf3 11. Qxf3 O-O 12. O-O Qe7 13. Nd2 {Burn has been in no hurry in rushing to the attack, having preferred to first develop his pieces.} Nd7 14. Qe2 (14. e5 {Looks good, but it's tactically faulty.} Ncxe5 15. Qd5+ Nf7 {Black has equalized.}) 14... Qh4 (14... g5 { For better or for worse this had to be played.} 15. g3 Kh8 16. Nf3 gxf4 17. gxf4 Rg8+ 18. Kh2 Bd6 19. Bd2 Rae8 20. Rae1 {White is clearly better, but there is no forced win.}) 15. e5 Rad8 16. Ne4 Bb6 17. Bd2 {White has finally completed his development by connecting his Rs and there is little black can do except try to defend as best as he can because counterattacking is out of the question.} Nc5 {No better was 17...a4} (17... a4 18. Ng5 g6 19. Ne6) 18. b4 {Finally!} axb4 19. axb4 Nxd3 20. Qxd3 Ra8 21. Rxa8 Rxa8 {All these exchanges have eliminated white threats like Ng5-e6, but they have not altered the fact that white is actually winning quite easily.} 22. c5 Ba7 23. Qc4+ Kh8 24. Ng5 h6 25. Nf7+ Kh7 26. f5 Re8 27. f6 gxf6 28. Ng5+ {A nice finishing touch. Cohn resigned.} (28. Ng5+ hxg5 29. Qf7+ Kh8 30. Qxf6+ Kh7 31. Qf7+ Kh8 32. Qxe8+ { mates in 3}) (28. Ng5+ fxg5 29. Qf7+ Kh8 30. Qxe8+ {mates in 3}) (28. Ng5+ Kg7 29. Qf7+ Kh8 30. Qh7#) 1-0

Monday, January 23, 2023

1920: The Year That Made the Decade Roar

     1920 was the year women gained the right to vote and the 18th Amendment to the Constitution prohibited alcohol in the United States. 
     It was the year President Woodrow Wilson was instrumental in establishing the League of Nations which the US didn't join 
     It was the year the First Lady, Edith Wilson, functioned as the de facto President of the United States. 
     While on the campaign trail pushing for the US to accept the League of Nations, President Wilson suffered a stroke that caused paralysis, partial blindness and brain damage. For the remainder of his term, a year and a half, he was an invalid at best and totally incapable of or performing the duties of the Presidency.
     The First Lady stepped in and controlled access to the President and made policy decisions on his behalf. When something needed to be written or signed, she wrapped her hand around his and scrawled the note or his signature. 
Madame President

     On September 16, 1920, the US suffered a terrorist attack when a horse drawn cart carrying a massive amount of explosives was detonated on the busiest corner of Wall Street. One eyewitness described the scene: “...two sheets of flame that seemed to envelop the whole width of Wall Street and as high as the 10th story of the tall buildings.” Thirty-eight people were killed and hundreds were injured. The perpetrators, who were never identified, were believed to have been Italian anarchists. 
     In the chess world the year started off with Capablanca and Lasker meeting at The Hague and signing an agreement to play a World Championship match in 1921. 
     Then in June, 1920, Lasker resigned his world championship title to Capablanca. But, then in August Lasker reconsidered after Capa's fans in Cuba $20,000. A broke Lasker accepted the challenge and in 1921 Capa, the Champion, retained the title when he defeated Lasker, the challenger, by a score of 9-5.
     Four players passed away in 1920: William Crane (1851-1920) the Australian champion in 1888 and 1897. The Polish Master Georg Rotlewi (1889-1920) died at the age of 31. And, Adolf Albin (1848-1920) the inventor of the defense used in the featured game died of tuberculosis in Vienna at the age of 71. Horatio Caro (1862-1920) died in London at the age of 58. 
     On November 3, 1920, 8-year-old Sammy Rzeschewski arrived in the United States with his father, a wealthy linen merchant from Lodz, Poland and the rest was history. 
     An important tournament was played at the Cafe Kerkau, in Berlin in December of 1920. It was won by the 20-year old Gyula Breyer of Budapest even though he suffered defeats at the hands of Tartakower and Mieses.
     Rudolf Spielmann's last place finish was blamed on the fact that he was greatly handicapped through being engaged in reporting and other work in connection with chess. 
     All the players, with the exception of Leonhardt and Saemisch, ha also taken part in August in a tournament in Gothenburg and in that event (won by Reti) Breyer only finished 9th out of 13. In this vent Reti was only fourth. 

A game that I liked (Fritz 17)

[Event "Berlin"] [Site ""] [Date "1920.12.06"] [Round "?"] [White "Siegbert Tarrasch"] [Black "Savielly Tartakower"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D08"] [Annotator "Stockfish 15.1"] [PlyCount "77"] [EventDate "1920.12.04"] {Albin Counter Gambit} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e5 {The Romanian master Alolf Albin introduced this defense against Emanuel Lasker at New York in 1893. It's aggressive: black gives up his Pawn on e5 so that his d-Pawn can advance to d4 where it is hoped it will be a thorn in white's side.} 3. dxe5 d4 4. Nf3 { The most popular approach.} (4. e3 Bb4+ 5. Bd2 dxe3 {With this move white falls into what is known as the Lasker Trap.} 6. Bxb4 (6. fxe3 {may look attractive, but the position is no more than equal.}) 6... exf2+ 7. Kxf2 Qxd1) (4. e4 {Is the Spassky variation.} Nc6 {The most promising continuation.} (4... dxe3 5. Bxe3 Qxd1+ (5... Bb4+ {this no longer works to black;s advantage.} 6. Nd2 {and white stands well.}) 6. Kxd1 {with equal chances.}) 5. f4 g5 {with interesting play.}) 4... c5 5. e3 Nc6 6. exd4 cxd4 7. Bd3 Nge7 8. Nbd2 { 8.O-O is also acceptable.} Bg4 {Better was 8...Ng6} 9. Qb3 Qc7 10. O-O O-O-O 11. Re1 Ng6 12. h3 Be6 13. Be4 (13. Bxg6 {Things get tricky after this, but it would have have been uncomfortable for black after} hxg6 14. Ng5 Qe7 (14... Rh5 15. Nxe6 fxe6 16. Nf3 Nxe5 17. Ng5 {is tricky, but white comes out better.} Ng4 18. Qg3 (18. hxg4 Qh2+ 19. Kf1 d3 {is winning for black.}) 18... Qxg3 19. fxg3 Bc5 20. Nxe6 (20. hxg4 d3+ 21. Be3 Rxg5 {favors black.}) 20... d3+ 21. Nxc5 Rxc5 22. Bd2 (22. hxg4 d2 23. Bxd2 Rxd2) 22... Nf6 23. Rac1 {White has the advantage.}) 15. Nde4) 13... Ngxe5 14. Nxe5 Qxe5 15. Nf3 Qc5 16. Bf4 Bd6 { At the time the game was played Amos Burn pointed out that the tempting 16... Bxc4 would have enabled white to win brilliantly.} (16... Bxc4 17. Qa4 ({ A flashy Q sac (temporary), but in reality, it's not quite as strong as 17.Qa4 } 17. Qxc4 Qxc4 18. Bf5+ Qe6 19. Rxe6 fxe6 20. Bxe6+ Rd7 21. Ne5 Nxe5 22. Bxe5 Kd8 23. Bxd7 Kxd7 24. Bxd4) 17... Bb5 18. Qd1 Bd6 19. Rc1 Qb4 20. Bd2 Qa4 21. b3 Qa6 22. a4 Bd3 23. Bxc6 bxc6 24. Nxd4 c5 25. b4 c4 26. Qf3 Kb8 27. Nc6+ Kc8 28. b5) 17. Bxc6 bxc6 18. Bxd6 {[%mdl 128]} Rxd6 19. Ne5 {Somewhat stronger would have been 19.Re5} Rhd8 {[%mdl 8192] Doubling Rs behind the passed d-Pawn is quite logical, but inferior to its immediate advance.} (19... d3 {is much tougher.} 20. Qa4 (20. Kh1 d2 21. Re2 f6 22. Nd3 Qxc4 {and black is winning.}) 20... d2 21. Re2 a5 (21... Rhd8 22. Rd1 Qb6 23. Qc2 {White is better.}) 22. Rd1 f6 23. b4 Qxb4 24. Qxb4 axb4 25. c5 Rd5 26. Nxc6 Rxc5 27. Nxb4 Kd7 28. Rexd2+ { and black can make white work hard for the win.}) 20. Qa4 {aiming for b4.} d3 21. b4 Qd4 22. Nxc6 (22. c5 {was a much harder blow according to the engines, but practically speaking Tarrasch's move is easier to play.} d2 (22... Rd5 23. Qa6+ Kc7 24. Qxa7+ Kc8 25. Nxc6) 23. Qa6+ Kb8 24. cxd6 dxe1=Q+ 25. Rxe1 Rxd6 26. Nxc6+ Rxc6 27. Qxc6 Qxb4 28. Rd1 Qb6 29. Qe8+ {with a technically won game. }) 22... Rxc6 23. Qxc6+ Kb8 24. c5 d2 25. Red1 Bf5 {[%mdl 8192]} (25... Bc4 { preventing white's next move would have been better. White would then have to regroup and work out a winning plan.} 26. Qf3 Qe5 27. Qe3 Qd4 {etc.} 28. Rab1) 26. Qb5+ Kc7 27. Qa5+ Kb8 28. b5 {[%mdl 32]} Bc2 29. b6 {White is clearly winning.} Rd7 (29... Bxd1 30. Qxa7+ Kc8 31. Qc7#) 30. bxa7+ Ka8 31. c6 Rd5 32. c7 {[%mdl 512]} Bf5 (32... Rxa5 33. c8=Q+ Kxa7 34. Qxc2 {and white is a R up.}) 33. c8=Q+ Bxc8 34. Qc7 Rb5 35. Qxc8+ {Black plays a few more moves on inertia.} Kxa7 36. a4 Rc5 37. Qg4 Qxa1 38. Rxa1 Rc1+ 39. Qd1 {Black resigned. A superb game by Tarrasch} 1-0

Friday, January 20, 2023

A Storm Over Black's King

     Yesterday was unusual with it being sunny and the temperature in the mid-50s. Then in the evening, just before dark, as we were leaving the restaurant we were treated to a cloud to cloud lightening show off to the west. 
     We made a quick stop for some groceries before heading home and on the way back to the car, when we were about 50 feet away, it was like a fire hose was turned on...wind blew the rain horizontally and stinging ice pellets the size of peas pelted us. It only lasted a few minutes before settling into a light drizzle. Later came winds that could have blown the hair off a dog. 
     It was a cold front in the form of an Alberta Clipper, a fast-moving low-pressure system that originates in Alberta, Canada just east of the Rocky Mountains. Clippers are major winter storms that take 2-3 days to track east-southeastward across southern Canada and the northern United States to the North Atlantic Ocean. 
     They are associated with cold, dry air masses and generate small-scale, short-lived weather events typically producing 3-6 inches of snow in a 3-6 hour period. However, they can precipitate sudden temperature drops and sharp winds leading to local blizzard conditions, especially when interacting with moisture from the Great Lakes. It's not supposed to be that bad today...just some light snow accumulation. 
     It's a good day to look over some games by Alexey Vyzmanavin (December 4, 1960 - January 6, 2000), a Soviet GM. To be honest I never heard of him, but there is a book of his games that is scheduled to be released in May: Speed Demon: The Fascinating Games and Tragic Life of Alexey Vyzhmanavin by Dmitry Kryakvin. 
     Vyzhmanavin learned to play at the rather late age of 14. His mother died early and his father was a street cleaner. Vyzmanavin was enrolled in a class at the Stadium of Young Pioneers taught by the famous trainer Luydmila Belavenets. 
     He honed his skills at the famous Sokolniki Park in Moscow, a gathering place for hustlers and blitz players. At the park, he would give himself 30 seconds on the clock while his opponents got 5 minutes. 
     He first gained attention as an unrated 20 year-old in the strong Moscow championship of 1981 where he finished in 6th place and earned a 2490 rating. Although there is no direct comparison, as a general idea, on the USCF rating list that rating would have placed him 28th and in the company of players like John Peters, Victor Frias, Jeremy Silman, Larry Kaufman and John Watsom. Larry Christiansen (2630) and James Tarjan (2623) were the top players.
     Vyzhmanavin won Soviet Armed Forces champion in 1987, a participant in several finals of the Soviet championship, the winner of the Chigorin Memorial in 1989 and a champion of RSFSR. He participated in the zonal tournaments of 1990 and 1993 and the Intel Grand Prix series in 1994-1995 in which he defeated the likes of Shirov and Korchnoi. His highest rating FIDE rating was 2620. 
     In 1996, his results quickly deteriorated considerably and by 1997 he had virtually stopped playing. He died in his apartment on January 6, 2000, officially of a heart attack, but his body was not discovered until some six days later. It had been reported that he had financial difficulties, drinking problems and that he was depressed following the breakdown of his marriage. 

     In the following game we see Vyzmanavin generated his own version of an Alberta Clipper that quickly took out black's King. 

A game that I liked (Fritz 17)

[Event "USSR Championship, Lvov"] [Site ""] [Date "1984.??.??"] [Round "9"] [White "Alexey Vyzmanavin"] [Black "Jaan Ehlvest"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A45"] [Annotator "Stockfish 15.1"] [PlyCount "69"] [EventDate "1984.??.??"] {Trompowsky Attack} 1. d4 Nf6 2. Bg5 {Though named after Brazilian champion Octavio Trompowsky (1897–1984) who played it in the 1930s and 1940s, the Czech master Karel Opocensk√Ĺ (1892–1975) also played it in the 1930s. White is prepared to exchange Bxf6 inflicting doubled Ps on black, but doing so is not a threat that should cause black any great alarm..} Ne4 {Of the three popular replies this is the least favorable. Black gets the best results with 2...d4 although 2...e6 is not too bad a choice.} 3. Bf4 c5 4. d5 Qb6 {White must now decide how to defend the b-Pawn and his B on f4 is also vulnerable.} 5. Bc1 {This is actually the best move even though is renders his 2nd move pointless. That said, white is at no disadvantage.} (5. Nf3 Qb4+ 6. Nbd2 Nxf2 7. Kxf2 Qxf4 {is good for black.}) (5. Nd2 Qxb2 6. Nxe4 Qb4+ 7. c3 Qxe4 8. e3 { is at least equal. 8...e5 is solid, but most interesting is} g5 9. Bxg5 Qe5 10. Nf3 Qxc3+ 11. Nd2 Qe5 {and white is best advised to repeat moves with 12.Nf3 Qc3+ etc}) (5. Nc3 Qxb2 6. Nxe4 Qb4+ {as after 5.Nd2}) 5... e6 6. f3 {White elects to drive out the annoying N.} Qa5+ 7. c3 {[%mdl 32]} Nf6 {Returning the tempo white lost with the retreat of his B.} 8. e4 d6 9. Bd2 Qb6 {Another tempo lost so white has a space advantage, but for his part, black can consider that he has equal chances.} 10. c4 {Offering the b-Pawn...an offer black should refuse and play 10...g6 and 11...Bg7} Qxb2 11. Nc3 Qb6 {Even though this wastes time, it's his best course.} (11... Nbd7 12. Rb1 Qa3 13. Nb5 {wins}) (11... Bd7 12. Rb1 Qa3 {and white has a nice choice between 13.Rxb7 or 13.f4}) 12. f4 {[%mdl 1024]} Nbd7 {While this inhibits e5, it's not black's best line of defense.} (12... e5 {This was tried in Szymanski,M (2327)-Ni,H (2369) Artek UKR 1999, but after} 13. f5 Qd8 14. Nf3 g6 15. Bd3 Be7 16. O-O { White is better although in the game he could not manage to score the point and eventually agreed to a draw,}) (12... g6 {is black's best defense.} 13. Nf3 Bg7 14. Bd3 O-O) 13. Nf3 {At least as good was 13.dxe6 first.} e5 14. f5 g6 15. Bd3 Qd8 16. O-O {This position is similar to the Szymanski-Ni game.} gxf5 { A surprising lapse from a player as strong as Ehlvest; white now gains the upper hand. Better would have been 16...Bg7. Ehlvest's K is going to get caught in the center...almost always a bad thing.} 17. exf5 h6 18. Kh1 Be7 19. Qc1 b5 {Realizing he is in danger Ehlvest, himself a dangerous attacking player, decides to mix things up tactically.} 20. Nxb5 (20. Bxh6 {is not so good because after} b4 21. Ne4 Nxe4 22. Bxe4 Nf6 23. Bg7 Rg8 24. Bxf6 Bxf6 { the position is roughly equal.}) 20... e4 21. Bf4 Qb6 {taking either piece fails.} (21... exf3 22. Nxd6+ Bxd6 23. Bxd6 fxg2+ 24. Kxg2 Nb6 25. Re1+ Kd7 26. Bxc5 {and black is in trouble.}) (21... exd3 22. Nxd6+ Kf8 (22... Bxd6 23. Bxd6 Nxd5 24. Re1+ Ne7 25. Bxe7) 23. Bxh6+ Rxh6 24. Qxh6+) 22. Rb1 {Excellent. Now the threat of Nxd6+ attacking the Q is too much for black to handle.} exf3 { The game is over no matter which piece black takes.} 23. Re1 (23. Nxd6+ { is much less strong. Black surrenders his Q with} Qxd6 24. Bxd6 fxg2+ 25. Kxg2 Bxd6 26. Qc3 Rg8+ {and, believe it or not, black has full compensation. Shootouts resulted in five draws.}) 23... fxg2+ 24. Kg1 {There is a storm brewing over black's K and his next move is an attempt to get out of the deadly pin on the e-file, but it's no use.} Kd8 25. Rxe7 {[%mdl 512]} Kxe7 { Interesting! The game is over, but black still has a chance! If white goes for a check with the B when he takes on d6 black gets the advantage.} 26. Nxd6 (26. Bxd6+ Qxd6 27. Nxd6 (27. Qe1+ Qe5 {and black is clearly winning.}) 27... Kxd6 { and black's position is actually the more promising.}) 26... Qa5 (26... Qxd6 { doesn't work now.} 27. Qe1+ (27. Bxd6+ Kxd6 {is, of course, favorable for black.}) 27... Ne5 28. Bxe5 Qa6 29. Bxf6+ Kxf6 30. Qc3+ {is winning easily.}) 27. Qe3+ Kf8 28. Re1 Kg7 {The K is running, but there's no hiding.} 29. Qg3+ Kh7 30. Re7 Rg8 31. Rxf7+ Kh8 32. Qh4 Rg4 {White now has a problem like finish. ..mate in 5.} 33. Rf8+ {[%mdl 512]} Nxf8 34. Qxf6+ Kh7 35. Qf7+ {Black resigned. Stockfish described white's play as "flawless."} 1-0

Thursday, January 19, 2023

You Could Get There By Bicycle

     Back in 1898, the main road on which all the travel between New York City and the state capital of Albany passed right by the ritzy Glen Tower Hotel in Dobbs Ferry. 
     As the report in the American Chess Magazine noted it was possible to reach the hotel, the tournament site, from the big city by bicycle! But, things were even better...besides the tournament room being very pleasant and airy...it had electric lights for the evening sessions! 
     If the notion that Dobbs Ferry could be reached by bicycle from New York seems odd, it must be remembered that the 1890s saw one of the biggest bicycle crazes of all time. It was driven by several significant developments in bicycles: most notable was the invention of the "safety bicycle" with its chain drive and a gear ratio that allowed smaller wheels without a loss of speed and the invention of the pneumatic bicycle tire. 
     In September of 1892 a Bicycle Railroad between Mount Holly, New Jersey and the H. B. Smith Manufacturing Company in Smithville, New Jersey was in operation during the Mount Holly fair and it saw 3,000 riders its first week. 
     In the year 1896, there was simultaneously an increase in bicycle popularity and a severe economic depression. Bicycles were one of the few areas of the economy where sales were growing; people were buying bicycles "whether they could afford them or not." 
     The resulting glut of bicycles resulted in a saturation of the market and a downward spiral of sales and prices and a lot of companies went out of business.
     It was during this bicycle craze that two astute businessmen in Dayton, Ohio opened a bicycle shop. 
     The shop's location was brilliant...the League of American Wheelmen held their twelfth annual meet in Dayton on July 4 and 5, 1892. The event drew thousands of bicyclists visiting the city to compete in thirteen different races for prizes worth up to $500. 
     The bicyclists were invited to tour the city and by far the most popular destination was the Central National Soldiers Home. When they visited the home's exquisitely landscaped grounds they had to pass by the Wright brothers' shop, the Wright Cycle Exchange. 
     As for the electric lights being worthy of mention, it must be remembered that in the 1890s fashionable hotels and homes were still being lit by candlelight and oil lamps. 
     In 1882, Thomas Edison helped form the Edison Electric Illuminating Company of New York which brought electric light to parts of Manhattan, but progress was slow. Most Americans still lit their homes with gas light and candles for another fifty years. It wasn't until 1925 that half of all homes in the US had electricity. 
     The tournament was arranged by the American Chess Magazine and was held during the Fourth of July holiday. Unfortunately, due to short notice the entry list was much smaller than had been hoped and some of the entrants were not especially strong as evidenced by the fact that some of the tailenders were given Pawn odds. 

     The pairings were done by the drawing of lots and in the fifth (last) round the bottom four players were not paired, leaving only three games to be played: Delmar beat Phillips, Zirn beat Behr while Koehler drew with Hanham. 
     James M. Hanham (1840-1923) was born in Woodville, Mississippi. He fought with the Union during the Civil War and was reached the rank of Major. After the Civil War, he moved to Manhattan. He is best known today for his popularization if the Hanham variation of the Philidor Defense. When he departed this life in Manhattan at age 83 he was the oldest Master in the United States. 
     His opponent was Harold M. Phillips (1894-1967, 92 years old). Phillips was born in Lithuania, but came to the US at an early age. He was a lawyer and served as president of the US Chess Federation from 1950-54. He also served New York chess in several capacities and was state champion and he was the director of the great New York International in 1924. 

A game that I liked (Fritz 17)

[Event "Dobbs Ferry, New York"] [Site ""] [Date "1898.07.02"] [Round "?"] [White "Harold M. Phillips"] [Black "James M. Hanham"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C41"] [Annotator "Stockfish 15.1"] [PlyCount "67"] [EventDate "1898.??.??"] {Philidor Defense} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d6 {Solid, but passive. Philidor's original idea was to challenge white's center with ...f5.} 3. d4 Nd7 {Intending to set up the mighty Hanham Variation (...Nd7, ...Be7 and ...c6). It was a favorite of Nimzovich. Black's idea is to maintain a Pawn on e5, analogously to what is seen in the closed lines of the Ruy Lopez.} 4. Bc4 c6 5. Bb3 (5. Ng5 Nh6 6. a4 exd4 7. O-O Ne5 8. Bb3 Be7 9. f4 {equals. Pavasovic,D (2502)-Oll,L (2630) Nova Gorica 1999}) 5... Be7 6. Be3 (6. O-O Ngf6 7. Re1 O-O 8. c4 c5 9. d5 {is equal. Nepali,B (2162)-Hamal,M (2086) Dahka BAN 2009}) 6... Ngf6 7. Nc3 O-O 8. Qd3 b5 {[%mdl 32]} 9. Ne2 (9. dxe5 {was a decent idea. After} Nxe5 10. Nxe5 dxe5 11. Qxd8 Rxd8 12. f3 {the position is completely equal.}) 9... a6 10. O-O {Not really bad, but it allows balck to seize the initiative with his next move. Therefore, 10.dxe5 with play similar to the last note was better.} c5 11. dxc5 dxc5 {More precise was 11...Nxc5} 12. c4 b4 13. Rfd1 Qc7 14. Ng3 $1 Nb6 15. Qe2 a5 16. Bc2 a4 17. b3 a3 {Black has managed to deprive himself of any Q-side chances and so has left himself with a lifeless position. Niow white could get a nice post fo his N with 18.Nf5} 18. Nh4 (18. Nf5 Bxf5 (18... g6 19. Nxe7+ { This trades off black's bad Bm but as compensation white gets control of the d-file.} Qxe7 20. Qd3 Nbd7 21. Qd6 Re8 22. Qxe7 Rxe7 23. Rd6) 19. exf5 Rae8 20. Nd2 e4 21. g4 {with K-side prospects.}) 18... g6 {Leaving the N out of position on h4.} 19. Bh6 Re8 20. h3 {[%mdl 32]} Ng4 {Flashy, but not the best.. .that honor goes to 20...Bb7 when black would have stood slightly better.} 21. hxg4 Bxh4 22. Nf1 {While this is by no means bad, white has missed a clever tactical shot.} (22. Nf5 gxf5 {Correct is the retreat 22...Be7} (22... Be7 23. Rd3 {followed by loading up heavy pieces on the d-file}) 23. gxf5 Kh8 24. Qh5 Qe7 (24... Be7 25. Qxf7 Rg8 26. f6 {wins}) 25. Rd3 Rg8 26. Rh3 Bxf2+ 27. Kxf2 Nd7 28. Rah1 {and black is facing disaster.}) 22... Re6 23. g5 f6 24. Qd2 Bxg5 25. Bxg5 fxg5 26. Qxg5 Bd7 27. Ne3 Rf8 28. Rd3 Nc8 29. Rad1 {After all the jockeying white is still clinging to a slight advantage.} Nd6 {[%mdl 8192] This is a major slip on black's part.} (29... Bc6 30. Nd5 Bxd5 31. exd5 Ref6 { followed by ...Ne6 and it will be difficult for white to make progress.}) 30. Nd5 {White is clearly winning now.} Qb8 31. Ne7+ Kg7 32. Nf5+ Rxf5 (32... Nxf5 33. exf5 Bc8 34. Rd7+ Bxd7 35. Rxd7+ Rf7 36. fxe6 {wins}) 33. exf5 Rf6 { This allows white a flashy finish, but there was nothing better.} 34. Rxd6 { [%mdl 512] Black resigned.} (34. Rxd6 Rxd6 35. Qe7+ Kh8 36. Rxd6 Bxf5 37. Rf6 { The game is over.}) 1-0

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Playing Around With Fritz' Easy Game Mode

     My laptop has several chess programs. My least favorite is Chess Assistant 18 (it's up to 23 now). I never really cared for the program. It's basically a database program and I find the interface unappealing and I think it's klutzy to use. 
     Chess OK Aquarium (2014 and 2020) have a nice interface and Aquarium is, by and large, a good program, but I don't care for its auto-analysis. 
     ChessBase 16 is an outstanding program, but it's overkill for my purposes. That leaves Fritz 17. I have been using Fritz since the days of version 6. I still have Fritz 12 on my laptop and it works fine with all the new engines. 
     Back in 2010 I was in the now defunct Office Max to buy some poster board and walking down the software aisle I happened to spot Fritz 12. I never would have expected to find such a specialized product in Office Max, especially at the low, low price of $19.95! At the time Deep Fritz 12 if purchased from the USCF sold for $119.95! 
     Fritz 17 has a number of features that I never use. One of them is the "Easy Game Mode" and that's because I do not like playing against computers. When playing against the program you can select your level, the choices being Beginner, Hobby Player, Club Player, Strong Club Player, Master Candidate and Grandmaster.
     This is a change from earlier versions of the program that offered friend and sparring settings that provided an opponent that could be beaten by a human. If I remember correctly, those modes played fairly strong, but made occasional blunders. 
     I was unable to determine which engine Fritz 17 uses in this mode, but I assume it is the Fritz 17 engine. By the way, on the CCLR 40/15 rating list the Fritz 17 engine is rated in the 55th bracket with a rating of 3190 and it's been crushed by all the major engines. Fritz 18 is rated in the 54th bracket with a rating of 3191 and it has not played any of the leading engines. 
     According to the Fritz Help for most users the “Club Player” setting should be suitable, but nowhere could I locate any indication of what Elo rating this setting might be. At this level they say "the program generally plays strong and natural moves, but every so often blends in tactically weaker moves." After your first few games "it will quickly become evident what the correct setting should be." 
     There is no time limit so you can think as long as you want and according to the instructions "the program adapts within the framework of the chosen level of play and on occasion plays weaker moves." 
     Additionally, the program offers you opportunities for help like hints and take backs. It also offers training by means of “Assisted Analysis” and calculation training. 
     According to the explanation in the Help, if in the Club Mode you are aiming for sharp tactical positions the program will "more and more frequently present you with the opportunity to exploit these to your advantage. As soon as a tactical opportunity is there for the human...the program announces this...and displays a hint...in the information window." Unlike the newer version mine does not estimate your Elo rating for the game. 
     The other night I couldn't sleep and was up at 3:00am and played a three games, all as white, in the Easy Game Mode. 
     The Club Player game was a Ruy Lopez Marshall Attack (!). A long time ago I played the Marshal as black and it's actually pretty easy to play against as white and the game followed book analysis for 17 (!) moves before the engine varied. In few more moves I was left with control of the e-file and black had a bad B. The result was a fairly easy positional win for me. 
     The Strong Club Player game was a Caro-Kann Panov-Botvinnik Attack. I left the book at move 9 and incurred a slight disadvantage, but the engine wasn't very aggressive and allowed me to equalize a few moves later. After a few more moves the engine got it's slight advantage back, but by the time we got to the R and P ending the game was a draw. 
      In the following game at the Master Candidate level I attempted to play a little bit more tactical, but no fireworks appeared. Instead, I was slowly outplayed. The main thing I noticed was that it does not play like a GM then make a silly mistake then return to full strength. It's moves actually look reasonable! 

     In the final analysis I think Fritz would make a good sparring partner, but it might take some experimenting to find the best level. 

A game that I liked (Fritz 17)

[Event "Test"] [Site "?"] [Date "2023.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Tartajubow"] [Black "Fritz Master Candidate"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A00"] [Annotator "Stockfish 15.1"] [PlyCount "68"] [EventDate "2023.??.??"] {Urusov Gambit} 1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nf3 {The Urusov Gambit. It has been popular among attacking players for nearly 150 years and has been adopted by players like Schlechter, Tartakower, Caro and Mieses,} Nc6 (4... Nxe4 5. Qxd4 {Black's Knight is attacked and will eventually need to retreat. The best move here is 5....Nf6, but many players think it is bad form to retreat to the same square from whence it came and will therefore look for alternatives. Black's other retreats are inferior because they interfere with development and allow the white Q to apply pressure to the P on g7. An interesting alternative, though, is 5....d5!?, where black tries to turn the tables with a countergambit to speed his development. White probably does best then to play 6.Bxd5 Nf6 7.Nc3!} Nf6 {For a long time 6.Bg5 was the standard move. After 6....Nc6 7.Qh4, black normally transposed to the standard line with 7....Be7 8.Nc3. But after 6.Bg5 it was discovered that black has several ways to make white miserable. Best therefore is 6.Nc3!} 6. Nc3 {The importance of developing the N before the B was discovered by Frank Marshall and Carlos Torre back in 1924. At this point black has tried 6...Nc6, 6...Be7 (Best), 6... c6 and 6...d5.}) 5. e5 {More popular is 5.O-O, but I prefer the text. In correspondence play my record with this move is +2 -0 =3. My opponents have tried both 5...Ng4 and 5..d5} Ne4 {But this is a move I have not faced before.} 6. O-O Be7 7. Re1 d5 8. exd6 Nxd6 {[%mdl 32]} 9. Bb3 Bg4 10. Bg5 {I get into trouble after this and it's probably the losing move.} (10. h3 Bxf3 11. Qxf3 O-O 12. Bf4 {is equal.}) 10... O-O 11. Bxe7 {According to Stockfish this is slightly better than 11.Bf4, but now I wish that's the move I had played!} Nxe7 12. Qxd4 Bxf3 13. gxf3 {It's a small thing, but the wrecked K-side Ps will probably be a real liability at some point in the future. I was quite surprised to discover that up to this point all this had been played before!} Ndf5 (13... Nef5 14. Qg4 Qf6 15. Nc3 c6 16. Ne4 Nxe4 17. fxe4 Nh6 18. Qg2 Qxb2 {Here, after 19.Rad1 white would have been at only a slight disadvantage. Boeykens,M (2245)-Klip,H (2295) BEL 1997}) 14. Qxd8 {The exchange of Qs only accentuates white's weak Ps. Better would have been 14.Qe4} Rfxd8 15. Nc3 Ng6 16. Rad1 Kf8 17. Bd5 (17. Kf1 {was necessary.} Nfh4 18. Re4 Rxd1+ 19. Nxd1 Rd8 20. Ne3 (20. Ke2 f5 21. Ra4 b5 22. Rb4 c5 {and the R is trapped.}) 20... Nxf3 21. Rb4 {offers some play, but not much.}) 17... c6 18. Be4 Nfh4 {I must admit that I failed to notice this resource. The threat is ...f4 and after the B retreats to d3 black wins with ...Nxf3+} 19. Rxd8+ {Again, reducing the material only accentuates white's dire predicament, but there was hardly anything better.} Rxd8 20. Rd1 Rxd1+ 21. Nxd1 {[%mdl 4096] I was hoping that the B vs the N would offset the P weakness, but the B has no scope and black's position is without weakness. Also, his K is just a tad better placed. It all adds up to, according to Stockfish, "Black is winning" ...by nearly 4 Ps I might add.} Nf4 22. Ne3 g6 {Inhibits Nf5.} 23. Nc4 f5 24. Bd3 Nxf3+ 25. Kh1 Ne1 {Snagging another P. It's surprising how active the Ns are.} 26. Na5 (26. Bf1 Nxc2 27. Na5 Nb4 28. a3 Nbd3 {White just can't win back one of those Q-side Ps! } 29. b4 (29. Nxb7 Nxb2 30. Na5 c5 {with a won ending.}) 29... c5 30. bxc5 Nxc5 ) 26... Nfxd3 {Black is clearly winning.} 27. cxd3 Nxd3 28. Nxb7 Nxf2+ { The N ending is lost for white.} 29. Kg2 Nd3 30. Nd8 Ne5 31. Ne6+ Ke7 32. Ng5 Nd3 33. b3 Nc1 34. Nxh7 a5 {White resigned. According to Stockfish black's play was "flawless." Hardly the description of most games played by a "Master Candidate."} 0-1

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

A Brilliancy by Judit Polgar

     The 1994 Sicilian Theme tournament in Buenos Aires was arranged to celebrate Lev Polugaevsky's 60th birthday and Polugayevsky himself was supposed to participate. 
     Polugayevsky (November 20, 1934 - August 30, 1995) was one of the strongest players in the world from the early 1960s until the late 1980s. At the time of the tournament, having undergone surgery, he was too ill to participate and he died of a brain tumor on August 30, 1995. 
     Over the board thematic tournaments have been rare although in the early part of the 20th century some thematic tournaments that featured gambits were played.
     In the following game Polgar unleashed an opening novelty and followed it up with some spectacular fireworks. Polgar spent only 48 minutes on the game and she won the prize for the most important opening innovation. The game also demonstrates an important tactical motif...when two Ns are hanging around an exposed K always look for a mate! 

A game that I liked (Fritz 17)

[Event "Sicilian Theme Tmt, Buenos Aires"] [Site ""] [Date "1994.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Alexey Shirov"] [Black "Judit Polgar"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B45"] [Annotator "Stockfish 15.1"] [PlyCount "58"] [EventDate "1994.??.??"] {Sicilian Defense} 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 {This is characteristic of the Taimanov Variation. Black intends to play in the center, but the move is also quite flexible.} 5. Nc3 {Avoiding the Maroczy Bind (5.c4) which is a horse of an entirely different color.} d6 {Played with the intention of reaching the Scheveningen Variation. It's a Taimanov after 5...Qc7 } 6. g4 {This is not the Keres Attack because black does not have a N on f6. The text move gained notoriety when Kasparov played it against Karpov in their 1985 World Championship match. Black's problem is finding a move that's better 6...Nf6} a6 {A high class waiting move. Black can now safely play ...Qc7 without worrying about being attacked by Nb5 and later playing ...b5 and ...Bb7 } 7. Be3 Nge7 8. Nb3 b5 9. f4 {For some time after this game 9.Qe2 was considered better, but now this move is back in style.} Bb7 10. Qf3 {While technically this may not be bad, practically speaking Po;gar's reply puts white in a difficult position.} (10. Qd2 {as in Sivuk,V (2552)-Tosic,M (2360) Chelyabinsk RUS 2019 is white's best move.} Nc8 {Better was 10...Na5} 11. O-O-O Be7 12. Qf2 Qc7 13. Bg2 Na5 14. Nxa5 Qxa5 15. e5 {with the advantage.}) 10... g5 {This dangerous looking move is aimed at attacking the dark squares and by offering a P black gets a good square for her N on e5.} (10... Na5 {shows what happens if black ignores what white is planning on the K-side.} 11. O-O-O Nxb3+ 12. axb3 Rc8 13. h4 Nc6 14. g5 Qa5 15. Kb1 Nb4 16. Bd4 d5 17. f5 {and white stands better although in Shirov,A (2740)-Kasparov,G (2805) Novgorod 1994, Kasparov manage to get a draw.}) 11. fxg5 Ne5 12. Qg2 {This move is necessary because the e-Pawn needs defended. If, say, 12.Qg3 then 12...b4 forces the d-Pawn's defender to retreat.} b4 (12... h5 {This appears to be an equally good alternative.} 13. gxh5 Nf5 14. Bf2 Qxg5 15. Na5 Qxh5 16. Nxb7 Nf3+ 17. Kd1 N3h4+ 18. Be2 Ne3+ 19. Bxe3 Nxg2 20. Bxh5 Nxe3+ 21. Ke2 Rxh5 22. Kxe3 Rb8 23. Nxd6+ Bxd6 {and Savchenko,B (2652)-Sharafiev,A (2439) Dagomys RUS 2010 ws eventually drawn.}) 13. Ne2 h5 {An incredibly interesting move, the idea of which is to open lines against white's K. Stockfish evaluates this position as offering equal chances, but it's very complex and obviously the onus of proving he can survive is on white.} 14. gxh5 {This is the move that gets white into trouble. The Ps look to be very dangerous, but Polgar's next move is yet another hyper-aggressive move.} (14. O-O-O {Fleeing to safety!} hxg4 15. Ng3) 14... Nf5 {Taking advantage of the pin on the e-Pawn, black places the other N on a strong square.} 15. Bf2 (15. exf5 {This Q sac was somewhat better, but OTB it's a very difficult decision to make.} Bxg2 16. Bxg2 Rc8 17. fxe6 fxe6 18. Nbd4 {but white does not seem to have quite sufficient compensation.}) 15... Qxg5 {Stunning! This move would not have been possible without 13...h5 luring the g-Pawn away. It also shows why white should not have played 13.gxf5} 16. Na5 {About as good as any. It looks like white is managing to habg on, but Polgar's next move shatters that illusion.} (16. Ng3 {runs into} Nh4 17. Qh3 Nhf3+ 18. Kd1 d5 {White can survive for long.}) (16. Qxg5 Nf3+ 17. Kd1 Nxg5 18. exf5 Bxh1 {and white's position is lost.}) 16... Ne3 17. Qg3 (17. Qxg5 Nf3#) ( 17. Bxe3 Qxe3 18. Nxb7 Nf3+ 19. Qxf3 (19. Kd1 Qd2#) 19... Qxf3) 17... Qxg3 18. Nxg3 Nxc2+ 19. Kd1 Nxa1 20. Nxb7 {How does black rescue the N stranded on a1?} b3 (20... Rc8 21. Bxa6 Rc2 22. Bb5+ Ke7 23. Be1 Rxb2 {also would win, but 20... b3 is simpler.}) 21. axb3 (21. a3 Nc2) 21... Nxb3 22. Kc2 Nc5 23. Nxc5 dxc5 { Black has a routine win.} 24. Be1 Nf3 25. Bc3 Nd4+ 26. Kd3 Bd6 27. Bg2 Be5 28. Kc4 Ke7 29. Ra1 Nc6 {White resigned.} 0-1