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Friday, September 28, 2012

Difficult Position

I enjoyed GM Andy Soltis’ book, The Inner Game of Chess, How To Calculate And Win, a lot.  I’m not sure I learned anything, but I enjoyed playing over the positions.  Like all books published more than a few years ago, The Inner Game was published in 1994, a lot of the material was not checked with engines which means when tactics are being discussed, there will inevitably be errors.  However, just because an engine finds a resource the annotator may have missed, that doesn’t take away from the game.

The very first position in the book was from a game played in the 1993 championship of The Netherlands between GMs Jeroen Piket and Gennadi Sosonko.  Of the starting position Soltis wrote, “An amateur looking at this position will recognize the basic elements: White is attacking on the K-side, Black on the Q-side.  There are potentially weak white Ps at f3 and d5 and blacxk ones at e7 and h7.  White would love to occupy the holes at c6 and e6.  Black is looking forward to the endgame where his two Bs and outside passed P (…h5!) will be trumps.”
Soltis points out there is a lot to notice here, adding that the master sees more than the amateur and recognizes an idea for White…an attack on h7.  One method is 1.Rh3 and 2.Rdh1, but that would involve a sacrifice of White’s d-Pawn which Soltis says is unclear.  Soltis then adds, “He also sees another method of exploiting that idea and quickly calculates the basic winning line.”  I am disregarding a couple of obvious typos in the book here.
Curiously, none of the engines I checked the position with suggested 1.Rxh7.  They saw 1.Qe4 as slightly favoring White and any R moves, including the sacrifice, as drawing.
It’s a good thing engines weren’t involved in this game or we would have been deprived of Piket’s sacrifice.  Even if Sosonko’s play could have been improved upon, that doesn’t take anything away from the R sac.  Soltis’ analysis of the position was superficial, but you will almost always find a lot of holes in published analysis, especially if the games were played in the pre-strong engine days.  Piket’s sacrifice also makes the point that OTB and CC chess simply aren’t the same and GMs find resources that, even if they aren’t completely sound, make for interesting chess.
Before looking at the analysis, you might what to set up the position and record your own analysis because the position is in the section of the book on calculating.  Or you could let an engine analyze for a lot longer on a more powerful computer and find even more hidden resources for both sides; I don’t know, but it is an interesting position to study because there is a lot to calculate.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Entering the 2012 LSS Cup Tournament

Several years ago when I returned to CC after a long absence from chess I joined the CCLA and started out at 1800 but quickly reached a little over 2050.  That was when I decided to give server chess (instead of using post cards) a try and after playing on several sites discovered IECG where I was allowed to start at my CCLA rating.  It hadn’t been much fun starting at 1200 on most sites and beating near beginners.
My foray into server chess on IECG was a disaster because my first result was +0 -4 =2.  I attributed it to the fact that my European opponents were probably underrated by US standards. Halfway through the second tournament I realized my opponents were using engines and there were no rules on IECG prohibiting their use.  So I fired up my old Fritz 5.32.  It didn’t matter though because some of the games were so far gone that even an engine couldn’t salvage them.  The next tournament wasn’t a whole lot better. That was when I realized, after I had dropped even more rating points, that Fritz 5.32 just wasn’t good enough; a better engine was required.
Results improved with getting an updated engine, but not drastically.  Then I got Robin Smith’s by then badly outdated Modern Chess Analysis and discovered a lot of good advice on how to better make better use of engine analysis.  Things improved since then, but I probably will never get much beyond 2000 on LSS (formerly IECG) no matter what.

One reason is because I’m not good enough to steer the game into positions where engines don’t play well.  Another reason is because I usually can’t tell when an engine’s recommendation might be unreliable.

Then I read this, written by CC GM Arno Nickel:
“Real Freestyle experts use about four computers with different engines, and…never trust their own play if it is not accepted by at least one of their engines. That does not necessarily mean they are simply playing computer moves. They try to check the full information provided by the engines and they recognize the weaknesses and the strengths of their analysis tools.

They know when a king’s attack may come into consideration and when it’s a storm in a teacup. They know when a fortress can be built, even if the engines say they are losing. And they know when a pawn or the exchange can be sacrificed to seize the initiative or to achieve counterplay. But they will never decide such things without consulting their engines. That’s the main difference between real Freestyle experts and inexperienced grandmasters.”
So in order to be good at CC even where engine use is allowed you not only have to know all that stuff, you need four computers…or maybe one computer and run analysis (probably at least overnight) with four different engines.  But then if you do that and get four different suggestions and evaluations, how do you select the best move?  I guess you don’t; you just use your best judgment. Running a position four nights per game times six games requires patience.  I don’t have a lot of that; I prefer the CC Blitz version where games only last a few months because I’m in a hurry to see who wins.

Now, after playing mostly LSS’s version of Blitz (10 days basic plus one day per move, no vacations possible) for the last couple of years, I’m entering a major event at long time controls where I may end up playing not only beginners but titled (both CC and OTB) opponents and I have to take the games seriously.  Why am I doing this instead of playing the Blitz fun events?  Don’t know.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Arturo Pomar


Pomar was born September 1, 1931 in Palma de Mallorca and first came into international attention when, at the age of 13, he drew a game with world champion Alexander Alekhine at the Gijon international tournament in 1944.

Pomar vs. Alekhine

Of course by that time Alekhine was not the player that he had been, but still finished first:
1-Alekhine (7.5) 2-Antonio Medina (6.5) 3-V. Gonzalez 4-A.Rico (4.5) 5-Pomar (4) 6-7-M.Mampel and Areil Bonet (2.5) 8-L.Gallego

Pomar had won the championship of the Balearic Islands at the age of 11 and became a pupil of Alekhine. When he played his draw with Alekhine at Gijon he was the youngest player ever to draw with a reigning world champion. The game was a back and forth affair in which Pomar outplayed Alekhine in the ending but inexact play allowed Alekhine to draw. Alekhine had been recruited by Franco during WWII to tutor Pomar and during the war years Pomar had the opportunity to play Alekhine several times but always lost.

Pomar won the championship of Spain 7 times and represented his country in 12 Olympiads, but his best results were probably the international tournament in 1960 where tied for first with Portisch, Gligoric, and Donner.  In Torremolinos, 1961 he shared first with Gligoric. And at Palma de Mallorca 1966 where he finished second behind Tal.

In 1946 he played his first major tournament outside of Spain when he participated in London. There he lost to Tartakower, Steiner and Golombek, drew against Ossip Bernstein and defeated Lodewijk Prins. Pomar played in the 1954 US Open held in New Orleans sharing first place with Larry Evans but taking second on tie-breaks.

In the Stockholm Interzonal 1962 (won by Fischer) Pomar finished tied for 11-12 out of 23.  Actually not too bad considering he had no second and no support from his federation.  As a result, unlike the other players, he had to analyze his own adjourned games.  Despite this handicap, Pomar was among the leaders in the first five rounds but staying there proved too much.

Pomar made his living working for the Spanish postal service which led that churlish turd, Bobby Fischer, to say that no matter how well Pomar played that he would have to go back to selling stamps, calling him "the poor Spanish postman".

After Stockholm Pomar his play became less ambitious and in 1965 he suffered a nervous breakdown and a second one during the 1967 Dundee event from which he never fully recovered. He had been ranked in the top 50 in the world from 1959-1965.

Pomar was mostly a positional player but, like all GMs, he could mount a tactical attack if the position called for it. He was also a superb endgame player but had a very limited opening repertoire.  He was awarded the IM title in 1950 and the Grandmaster title in 1962.

In this game he defeats US master Hugh Meyers who was known for his self-published opening booklets in which he analyzed various offbeat openings and gambits.  I believe Meyers was representing Andorra in this Olympiad. For my article on the Budapest, click HERE, HERE and HERE.

Dr. Max Euwe

For the correct pronunciation of Euwe click HERE.
I’d always heard Euwe was the weakest of all the world champions but wondered, how could that be?  He defeated Alekhine.  Of course Alekhine was said to be drunk for a lot of the games in the first match, but he still played some pretty good chess.  Is it true what they said about Euwe? 
Arnold Denker didn’t think so.  Writing in The Bobby Fischer I knew and Other Stories Denker wrote, “The can be no doubt Dr. Euwe was in Alekhine’s league.  But more important than their overall lifetime score and conduct of individual game is a crucial fact that has never, so far as I know, been remarked upon.  As late as game 56 in the lifetime competition between Alekhine and Euwe, the score was dead even..  Only when Alekhine won game seven of their second match did he go ahead for keeps.”
Writing in My Great Predecessors, Vol. 2, Kasparov wrote that Euwe had “a splendid grasp of the nuances of the ancient game.”  Kasparov went on to detail how Euwe did a great deal of fruitful work on chess, deeply studying the problems of the transition from opening to middlegame and working on endgame theory.  Kasparov said Euwe’s strongest point was his combinative vision, writing, “As Alekhine keenly observed, he was able to refute incorrect combinations by his opponents, since by origin his chess talent was purely tactical. Alekhine wrote, “He (Euwe) is a tactician who has decided at any cost to make himself a good strategist.
In his games against Alekhine he worked out an opening repertoire that enabled him to neutralize Alekhine’s greater talent and adding to that, Euwe’s precise calculation ability, feeling for initiative and psychological stability, it is easy to see why he was able to challenge Alekhine.
Vasily Smyslov also had an opinion on Euwe.  Smyslov wrote, “Nothing accidental happens in life: whatever form Alekhine was in then a match against him could only be won by a master of the highest class. Euwe played better and he rightly became world champion.”
Euwe was inferior to Alekhine in motivation.  According to Sosonko, “The main cause of Euwe’s defeat was his internal mood: the title has been won, I have justified the hopes of those who believed in me, the barrier has been overcome, life continues…The prospect of constantly trying to demonstrate his superiority in chess, relegating all other aspects of his life to the background, did not appeal to Euwe at all; he lacked the necessary qualities, but perhaps also the deficiencies, to remain world champion for long.”
So, there you have it.  Denker, Kasparov, Smyslov and Sosonko all think Euwe was a great player worthy of his championship title.  I used to have Euwe’s book, From My Games, but his style seemed “dry and uninspired” to use Denker’s description of his play.  That happens sometimes.  Not too many people enjoyed Petrosian’s games even though he had the reputation at the time of being the hardest player in the world to defeat. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Speaking of Unusual Openings

      The first time I learned of chess I was home from school sick and was watching an old movie where two guys were playing chess in prison.  That prompted me to get down an encyclopedia and look up the game.  Intrigued by what I read, I drew the outline of the pieces as shown in the encyclopedia on the backs of some old Monopoly cards, cut them out and stuck gobs of modeling clay on the bottom then used an old red and black checkerboard.  The rules were learned from the encyclopedia. 
      Not long after that I discovered a schoolmate, named Dave, knew how to play and come summer I went to his house almost every day.  We played Whiffle ball. We each had three ‘invisible’ men and a complex set of ground rules.  e.g a ball that hit the old barn was a double, triple or home run depending on how high up it hit.  When we weren’t doing that, we played chess.  Dave had what I thought was a really beautiful set…an E.S. Lowe Renaissance set like this one, except his were red and white.
      On my twelfth or thirteenth birthday (can't remember which) we were on vacation and visiting my brother, who was in the military, in Puerto Rico and he got me a set just like Dave’s…it was so cool.  But I’m digressing.
      It was around that time I discovered there were chess books and chess openings.  I kept a notebook with openings in it...the first ones being the Evan’s Gambit and a couple of others I found in Hoyles Rules.
      I also began ‘inventing’ my own openings.  The first was what I called The Cross Opening because it resembled a cross.  I used to win a lot of games from Dave playing it!
1.d4 d5 2.e3 Nf6 3.Bd3 e6 4.Bd2
4.Ne2 Bd6 5.Ng3 b6 6.0–0 Bb7 7.f4 Nc6 8.c3 Qe7 9.a4 h5 10.Qf3 h4 11.Ne2 h3 12.g4 Rh4 13.g5 Ng4 14.Qg3 Qxg5 15.fxg5 Bxg3 16.hxg3 Rh8 17.Rf4 f5 18.gxf6 Nxf6 Amzorov,A (2146)-Vorobyova,A (1890) Novokuznetsk 2008 1–0
4...Be7 5.Nf3 0–0 6.0–0 Bd7 7.Nc3 Bc6 8.Qe2 Ne4 9.Bxe4 dxe4 10.Ne5 Bd5 11.h3 h6 12.Rfe1 Bd6 13.Nxd5 exd5 14.a3 Qe7 15.Bc3 Nc6 16.Nxc6 bxc6 17.Qa6 Qd7 18.Bd2 Rfb8 19.c4 Plej,T (1500)-Pozonec,M (1500) Rogaska Slatina 2009 1–0 (31)

      White’s position is not that bad. He can play 6.f4 with a kind of Stonewall or 6.Nf3 with a kind of Colle. Of course I didn’t know any of that.
My other invention turned out to be Alapin’s Opening:
1.e4 e5 2.Ne2 Nf6 3.d4?!
This is how I usually played it.

3.Ng3 Bc5 4.Bc4 d6 5.c3 Qe7 6.0–0 Nc6 7.d3 0–0 8.Nd2 Bb6 9.Nf3 Nd8 10.Nh4 g6 11.Bg5 Ne6 12.Qd2 Nxg5 13.Qxg5 Nd5 14.Qh6 Nf4 15.Ngf5 gxf5 16.exf5 Rd8 17.Rae1 Rd7 Taubenhaus,J-Hanham,J New York 1893 ½–½ (52)

3.Nbc3 Nc6 (3...Bb4 4.g3 d6 5.Bg2 0–0 6.0–0 b6 7.f4 Nbd7 8.d4 Bb7 9.dxe5 dxe5 10.a3 Bc5+ 11.Kh1 Ng4 12.Qe1 Ne3 13.Bxe3 Bxe3 14.Rd1 Re8 15.Bh3 Re7 16.fxe5 Qe8 17.Bxd7 Rxd7 18.Rxd7 Wasserman,L (1111)-Cheyne,A (1373) Winnipeg 2005 0–1 (39); 3...Bc5 4.d4 exd4 5.Na4 Bb4+ 6.c3 dxc3 7.bxc3 Be7 8.Ng3 d6 9.Bd3 Nc6 10.0–0 0–0 11.f4 Re8 12.Bb2 Bf8 13.Qd2 Ng4 14.Rf3 Bd7 15.c4 Ne7 16.Nc3 Ng6 17.Nd5 c6 18.h3 Nicolas-Pomar Salamanca,A Madrid 1943 0–1 (47)) 4.f4 d5 (4...exf4 5.d4 Bb4 6.d5 Nxe4 7.Bxf4 Bxc3+ 8.bxc3 Ne7 9.Qd4 Nf6 10.c4 d6 11.Ng3 Nf5 12.Nxf5 Bxf5 13.Be2 0–0 14.0–0 Qd7 15.Bd3 Bxd3 16.cxd3 Rfe8 17.h3 Nh5 18.g4 Nxf4 19.Rxf4 Alapin,S-Chigorin,M Vienna 1898 0–1 (43)) 5.fxe5 Nxe4 6.d4 Be7 7.Nxe4 dxe4 8.c3 f6 9.Nf4 Bf5 10.exf6 Bxf6 11.Qb3 Qd6 12.Qxb7 Rb8 13.Qa6 e3 14.Bxe3 0–0 15.Bc4+ Kh8 16.0–0 Rxb2 17.Bd5 Rb6 Kornev,A (2565)-Bakalarz,M (2408) Warsaw 2005 1–0

3...exd4 4.Nxd4 Nxe4 5.Qe2 Qe7 6.Nf5 Qe6 7.Nd4 Qe7 (0.00/12;)
3...Qe7 4.dxe5 Qxe5 5.Nbc3 Nxe4 6.Qd5 Qxd5 7.Nxd5 Na6 8.Nd4 c6 9.Bxa6 cxd5 10.Bd3 Bc5 11.c3 d6 12.f3 Nf6 13.0–0 0–0 14.Re1 Bxd4+ 15.cxd4 Bd7 (0.07/12)
3...d6 4.Nbc3 Be7 5.dxe5 dxe5 6.Qxd8+ Bxd8 7.Be3 Ng4 8.Bd2 Nc6 9.f3 Nf6 10.0–0–0 Be6 11.Be3 h6 12.Kb1 0–0 13.Nd5 Nxd5 14.exd5 (0.15/13)

4.f3 Nd6 5.dxe5 Nf5 6.Qd3 d6 7.exd6 Bxd6 8.Qe4+ Be7 9.Ng3 Nd6 10.Qf4 Nc6 11.Nc3 0–0 12.Bd3 g5 13.Qe3 Re8 14.Nd5 (-0.22/16)
4.Nec3 Nxc3 5.Nxc3 exd4 6.Qxd4 Nc6 7.Qe4+ Qe7 8.Bd3 Qxe4+ 9.Bxe4 Bd6 10.Nb5 Be5 11.0–0 a6 12.Re1 0–0 13.Bxc6 dxc6 14.Rxe5 cxb5 15.Be3 (-0.28/16)
    Several years ago there was a kid on a forum that kept posting his new opening discoveries…they were pretty bad and everybody held him in derision, but I didn’t. I remember the thrill of inventing the Cross Opening and discovering Alapin’s Opening.


Yuri Dokhoian said it...

      I came across this in My Great Predecessors, Volume 2, where Kasparov wrote, “As my second, Yuri Dokhoian wittily expressed it, with the years each world champion begins to ‘calcify’ – in other words, to become inflexible and be transformed into a living monument. That is, he gradually ceases to add something new to chess and to grasp at the dominating tendency of its development. And sooner or later the inevitable retribution sets in since the young challenger, on the contrary, usually makes a step forward.
      Reminds me of Shirov’s comment about his meeting with Botvinnik where they discussed the Botvinnik Variation and how it was of no interest; according to Shirov, the old man was stuck on insisting a particular line was the best even though Shirov knew it had been considered inferior for years.

An Odd Opening and Missed Wins

      Both myself and my opponent missed wins in this game. Black is known for his eccentric openings…eccentric maybe, but not directly refutable! He defends playing these openings on the belief that if you understand how to play the game in the orthodox way, you can then play unorthodox moves. An earlier game we played began: 1.e4 e5 2.Qf3 (Not an unknown move; My DB has a couple of games with this move that were played by players with 2400+ OTB ratings.) Nc6 3.c3 Bc5 4.Ne2 Nf6 5.d3 d5 with the following position:

      Black’s advantage is small and this game was drawn also.  You will notice that in both games that despite my opponent’s unusual approach, his opening play was not totally without reason: he didn’t neglect development and followed general opening principles. Nor did he try any crazy sacrifices. (Note: This was a no engine event)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Critter 1.6

      A candidate to be the best analysis program is the latest version (version 1.6) of Critter created by Richard Vida.  It is free and very powerful; some think it may be best for endgame analysis. It’s certainly no scientific test and proves nothing, but I ran a 2-game 5-minutes match against Houdini 1.5 and Critter won both games so it seems it’s certainly worth further investigating its possibilities!  Download
      One test I think might be helpful in considering the strength of engines is how they perform in Fischer Random Chess because they are in no way influenced by book openings and Critter 1.6 does quite well. The results at Computerchess for the top 5 engines in FRC are: 1-Critter 2-Houdini 2.0 3-Stockfish 4-Rybka 4 5-Naum
      BTW, does anybody know what happened to Naum?!  The website simply shows a tombstone with the inscription “Game Over.”
      Check out the results of testing at Computerchess.

Friday, September 21, 2012

29 Chess Playing Executives

 From Business Insider: Games like bridge, poker and chess are great for business. These games all use methods that can be incorporated into the way you view and make business decisions. Chess in particular requires strategic decision-making, concentration, tactics, and evaluatio...While many chess masters play the game full time, we tracked some exceptional players who also excelled in business.   Read more…

Queen sac!

The names in this game probably won’t mean much to today’s players but they were very prominent in the 1960s and 1970s.
Dragoljub Minic (April 5, 1936, Titograd, Yigoslavia (now Podgorica, Montenegro) was a Yugoslav GM).

      He tied for first in the Yugoslav Championship in 1962 with GM Alexsandar Matanovic. His career was primarily in the 1960s and 1970s. He represented Yugoslavia many time in international tournaments and the chess Olympics. Minic also served as a second to both GM Svetozar Gligoric and Ljubomir Ljubojevic because of his great analytical ability. FIDE awarded him the IM title in 1964 and the Honorary Grandmaster title in 1991.
      Minic was found dead by friends in his Novi Sad apartment on April 9, 2005, after failing to respond to phone and intercom calls for several days. Doctors determined that he died of a heart attack approximately four days earlier, on his 69th birthday.

Albin Planinc (18 April 1944 – 20 December 2008) was a Slovenian GM.  He was born in Brise near Zagorje in what was the German occupied Slovenia.

     His earliest international success occurred was in the Vidmar Memorial in Ljubljana 1969 but the best result he ever achieved was when he shared first place with Petrosian at the IBM Amsterdam tournament in 1973 where he finished ahead of Kavalek, Spassky and Szabo.  Known for extremely imaginative chess, he was capable of spectacular results and often played brilliant attacking games but his play was always too erratic to enable him to make it to the very top levels.
      He was awarded the GM title in 1972, then became a chess trainer when the strain of playing tournament chess was contributing to his poor mental health. Planinc continued to suffer from severe depression for decades, spending the last years of his life at a mental institution in Ljubljana. In 1993, he changed his last name to Planinec.
      The opening in this game is the Archangelsk Variation which is one of the more aggressive, fighting variations against the Ruy Lopez.  The variation was developed in the early sixties by players from the north Russian town of Archangelsk and was intensively analyzed by players from Lvov - among them Mikhalchishin and Beliavsky and in the mid to late seventies gained great popularity for the first time.
      Black defines the position of this Queen's Bishop early on with 6...Bb7 in order to exert pressure against the opponent's center, in particular the point e4. White must decide whether he protects this pawn solidly with 7.d3 or goes for the unfathomable complications after 7.c3 Nxe4.  Another option is 7.Re1 Bc5 8.c3 d6 9.d4 Bb6, which is closely related to the Moller System. In this game White chooses another option with 7.d4.
      The game features bold, imaginative play and explodes when Planinc sacrifices his Q to create threats using his far advanced d-Pawn and when Minic went wrong it allowed Planinc a spectacular win.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Correspondence Openings

      Obviously with engines being heavily used in CC you can’t play the same lines you might use OTB because some are simply too risky and engines will see right through any ticks and traps. Most high level openings being used these days are super solid and endgames are not unusual. Be prepared to play long games! On most CC sites players are free to consult chess publications or literature in printed or electronic form.
      Stan Vaughn, a well-known correspondence chess player offers the advice that you should NOT take opening variations in opening manuals for granted. He recommends going to the end of the line, set up the position, then check it out on a computer first and try to choose lines that give you the best positions when reaching the middlegame.
      He recommends finding lines that are deceptive, which if you survive will give you, for example, a queenside pawn majority. Unfortunately such judgment is probaly beyond the ability of most of us. Vaughn points out engines do not see that in an endgame 50 moves down the line a pawn majority may give a winning advantage.
      Also, remember game databases are like museums in that they tell you what was popular in the past and many times improvements will have been found. This means a LOT of research, engine analysis and constantly updated opening books and databases are a must. Speaking from experience, a while back against a 25oo-rated CC player I entered a line in which the two year old game played between two highly rated CC players in my DB showed me having a significant advantage. After some 20 moves, in my analysis I found an improvement for Black that turned the tables and gave my opponent the advantage. Of course he found it, too, and I was left struggling for many moves and eventually lost the ending. Better research on my part would have avoided such a situation.
      The 7-part ChessBase Workshop series by Steve Lopez on correspondence chess gives a lot of information on correspondence chess and practical examples of opening analysis.  Lopez shows you how to interpret the information Chessbase is giving you. If you don’t have Chessbase you can download the free version from the site. Or, you can apply the principles to the opening book with whatever software you are using.
      One important point the author stresses is ChessBase isn't going to make decisions for you; it's not going to tell you what to play. That's not its purpose, and never was. ChessBase is simply an information storage and retrieval system.

Antique Chess Sets

Jon's Antique Chess Collection is a collection maintained online for the benefit of chess collectors around the world and nothing in the collection is for sale.  Interesting pictures of sets, clock and other chess items.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Gambit Chess Website

I really like this site.  VISIT

      The site apparently was designed to provide information on gambits and has not been updated in years, but…what I found interesting was all the e-books that are available for download. NOTE WELL: the books are contained in a file (with NO ANNOTATIONS) that are in chess books; the files are available in ChessBase format (.cbv) and in .pgn format.
      The books available by division are: Games, Players, General, Openings (both specific and general), Tactics and Strategy, Endgames and Game Collections. What I like about this is that if I want to play over the games contained in books like Botvinnik’s Championship Chess-Soviet Chess Championship 1941, Duz-Chotimirski’s The Best Games, or even an obscure book by US Master Jim Marifa, 1982 US Open at St. Paul, I can download them and play over them while analyzing with an engine. There is no color commentary from the authors so you have to supply that yourself.
      Of course this lack of commentary means a lot of the books on strategy, tactics and endings won’t be of much value because there is no explanation of the moves and positions. Personally, I’m not interested in that anyway because I enjoy playing over the games by famous players and from strong tournaments.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Donald MacMurray

      MacMurray’s father was an alcoholic who died when he drowned after falling off a pier.  His mother was a cleaning lady who lived in the slums of Hell’s Kitchen in New York City.  Despite the odds of such a background MacMurray possessed the highest IQ ever recorded up to the early 1930s, earned a BA degree from the University of Chicago in eight and a half months, and a law degree from Columbia in one year.  He was also a strong master.
       “Meckele” as he was generally known in New York chess circles was also an expert in languages and learned to speak Yiddish so he could frequent the Yiddish Theater. In 1935 to 1936 MacMurray completed his degrees from UC and Columbia, returned to New York and was married to his childhood girlfriend.
       During the mid-1930s he played in several Manhattan chess clubs championships, always scoring well. Among his victims were Isaac Kashdan and Arnold Denker. Before leaving for Chicago to partici­pate in the Western Chess Association Tournament Denker and MacMurray played a short warm-up match was drawn.  Other well-known master who went down in defeat against MacMurray were Weaver Adams and I.A. Horowitz. In the US Open Championship of 1937 he shared third place with George Treysman and then in 1938 he scored a remarkable 10.5/11 in the Consolation Master’s section of the US Open after having narrowly missed qualifying for the finals.
       In late summer in 1938, MacMurray was playing in the New York State Championship in Cazenovia when he began experiencing a worsening of nausea and stomach pains that were especially noticeable when he was laughing.  At one point MacMurray was having dinner with Arnold Denker and the pain was so bad he had to leave the table and at Denker’s request, another tournament participant, long time master Dr. Joseph Platz, examined MacMurray who discovered a cancer in his stomach the size of a grapefruit. Just three months later on December 2, 1938, MacMurray died at age 24.
       In this game MacMurray easily defeats veteran master Harold Morton of Providence, Rhode Island.  Morton was born on January 19, 1906 and won the championship of New England many times.  He won the Massachusetts Chess Championship in 1933, 1934, and 1935 and played in the 1936 US Chess Championship. On February 17, 1940, he died in a car accident in Iowa when he hit a truck. His passenger, I.A. Horowitz, survived. The two were giving simultaneous chess exhibitions throughout the country.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Stonewall Attack, Ware System

      Having recently done a book review on Andy Soltis’s Stonewall Attack I did something I very rarely do; I played a 4 min. + 2 sec. game against Fire 1.5 Xtreme on my computer in order to try out the Stonewall. 
      Instead of playing the usual opening move order, just messing around, I played 2.f4 like Preston Ware used to. For those that don’t know, Preston Ware, Jr. (August 12, 1821 – January 29, 1890) was a US player known mostly for unorthodox openings like the Ware Opening, 1.a4. 
      The engine selected a K-Indian setup against the unusual 2.f4 move and the best plan for White against this formation is to switch to a kind of Zukertort system by playing b3 and Bb2. The idea is that the dark-squared Bishops are likely to be exchanged at some point which will create weaknesses on Black's kingside. I decided to set up a regular Stonewall formation anyway just to see what would happen.  As it turned out, the engine was not able to gain any advantage and the result was a draw.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

An Old Botvinnik Minature

In ‘Strategy and Tactics in Chess’ Dr. Max Euwe gives this game (as a fragment) under the chapter Strategy: Special Principles where he discusses taking the initiative. The initiative is often mentioned in annotated games, but often it’s not understood how to actually use it.

According to Wikipedia the initiative in a position belongs to the player who can make threats that cannot be ignored. He thus puts his opponent in the position of having to use his moves by responding to threats rather than making his own.

Jeremy Silman in his book ‘How to Reassess Your Chess’ defines initiative as 1-when your opponent is defending and you are attacking or 2-where you are placing pressure on his position, then it is said that you have the initiative.

Mark Dvoretsky in ‘School of Chess Excellence 3 - Strategic Play’ defines initiative as imposing your will onto your opponent.

This miniature by Botvinnik is a good example.  When he played 10.g4 he was using the initiative to create threats against black’s King. I think the fact that none of the engines I tried in this position even considered it shows it to be a concept that humans seem to recognize but not engines in their cold blooded calculations.

If black had offered a better defense by 18…Nf6 then white’s prospects on the K-side would have been at a standstill.  In that case, unlike many players who would want to continue the attack, white would have used his initiative to switch operations to the other side of the board.  This little game is a good example of just how important the initiative can be.