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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Strongest Free Engine - Stockfish

      A lot of people are not too familiar with Martin Thoresen’s nTCEC site. The goal of the site is to provide viewers with a live broadcast of quality chess, played strictly between computer chess engines created by different programmers.
      Back in May Houdini won the final game in its match with Stockfish 3 in the Super Final, thereby winning the championship by a score of 25-23.
      What I liked about this event was the time limit; it wasn’t Blitz. The time control was 150 minutes + 60 seconds added per move for the whole game. If an engine lost on time, the result was not changed or the game replayed.
      So, if you are looking for the BEST FREE ENGINE at ‘normal’ time controls, it looks like it’s Stockfish. Download from Stockfish site HERE
      I have been experimenting with the modified version of Stockfish (version 270413) on Lechenicher SchachServer and have been quit pleased with the results. One thing I have noticed is that SF is considerably more optimistic (or pessimistic) that H2. But, so far based on my experiments on LSS, I have had much better results than when I was using the free version of Houdini, Critter and the earlier versions of Stockfish.

Top nTCEC Ratings:
Houdini 3 = 3156
Stockfish 250413 = 3102
Rybka 4.1 = 3099
Komodo 4534 = 3084
Critter 1.6a = 3073
Vitruvius 1.19 = 3064
Gull R375 = 3052
Equinox 1.65 = 3049
  Hiarcs 14 = 2984
Chiron 1.5 = 2983
Hannibal 200213 = 2942

Friday, June 28, 2013

Making Assumptions

    We do not realize how much our starting assumptions affect the way we go about looking for the move we want to make. This is most obvious when examining engine moves. Engines often do not meet our definition of what the best move is. But, that’s another subject.
      Making assumptions means believing things are a certain way based on little or no evidence. As much as we might like to avoid it, our move selection is often based on assumptions, justified or not. Most of us have learned by experience that assumptions can be dangerous…the tiniest mistake can land you in trouble.
      One common assumption of many lower rated players, based on some of the comments I frequently see on forums, is that because games are decided by tactics, every move has to be ‘tactical’ in nature. Some will even go so far as to make unsound sacrifices, or play just plain weak moves, on the assumption that playing ‘tactically’ is only right. They take a ‘things will work out’ approach. All I can do is quote Abraham Maslow: It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail. Some positions are not tactical in nature, and trying to force the position to yield something that isn’t there it not only a waste of time, it’s often bad.
      Assumptions are shortcuts that help us handle complex situations. They save us a lot of time and energy, but they can also lead to loss of the game. Sometimes we play moves based on a hunch. I remember Reshevsky commenting on a faulty move Denker played against him. After the game he asked Denker why he played it. Denker’s comment: It looked good. I’ve played more than one game where I assumed because my opponent wasn’t very highly rated, he wouldn’t find the best move. Sometimes with disastrous results. Also, when one gets older one finds calculating tends to cause the old brain to fog up and fatigue sits in. When that happens, there’s the tendency to play moves like Denker did…they look good.
      Sometimes we make educated guesses based on similar positions; these are assumptions that rely on past experiences. Then there are what they call ‘validated assumptions.’ These are based on our actual experience. This move resulted in a win in the exact same position in a previous game. We are assuming there are no improvements.
      Another problem for us chess players is that when we make a false assumption about a position and things start going down the sewer, it also affects us psychologically. Once you realize you were wrong, you get frustrated and start second guessing yourself. I remember Rossolimo complaining that he realized he had missed a win earlier in the game, then spent the rest of the game inveighing against his carelessness and ended up losing. Our whole train of thought can get off the tracks.
      In this game Henneberger won the second brilliancy prize. Really, I don’t see how a brilliancy prize was awarded, but Eliskases ended up losing because of incorrect assumptions. First, when he played 26.Bd5+ he assumed Black had to move his K which would have left White with an overwhelming attack and second, Black had to recapture in answer to 27.Bxf7+ The result was Eliskases threw away a position where he had good attacking chances, then threw away the draw. And, it all happened in the space of just a handful of moves.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Chess in the Marines

     While in the Marines, I had little time for chess. Mostly I read and reread Pachman’s Modern Chess Strategy and one other small paperback, the name of which escapes me…that was over 45 years ago! Anyway, I got back from chow one evening and was told there was some guy looking for me. He said he heard I was a chess player and was looking for a game.
      We met several times a week, swilled coffee and played offhand games.  This went on for a few months until I was discharged. Fortunately, I recorded some of them. He had never played in a tournament and didn’t have a rating, but he wasn’t bad…maybe 1500 or so. I won the vast majority of the games and thought they were pretty well played…that is until years later when I got and engine and put all my games in a database. It turned out most all of my games had major flaws…it was a painful experience!
      Here’s one of the better ones I played with “Mike” who went on to become, I think, a dentist.

Fischer Miniature

I recently came across a Kindle book by National Master Paul Powell for a book titled Bobby
Fischer 60 More Memorable Games for $3.99.

From the publisher’s blurb: Fresh look at Fischer's games Character illustrations of famous chess players Over 90 additional games from Fischer’s opponents Geared towards helping you think about chess not memorize it Concepts to challenge your perceptions Theory of “Diminishing and Increasing Values” Worth $3.99. 

Here’s a miniature by Fischer with notes based on Powell’s. Also, here’s a link to Lapiken. Lapiken was one of those journeyman masters who never got much recognition, but was a very strong player.

Seated at table L-R: Viesturs Seglins (Seattle, WA) and Ben Greenwald (Salt Lake City, UT). Spectators are L-R: Dr. Peter Lapiken (Missouls, MT) and Viktors Pupols (Seattle, WA). Photo was taken at the 1958 Idaho Open, won by Lapiken.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Intriguing Ending

I came across this position on the Oberlin College Facebook page and found it interesting.

White to move
The obvious 1.Rg1+ loses after 1...Ka2 2.Rg7 (2.Rg5 doesn't work now 2...hxg5 3.h6 b2 4.h7 b1Q 5.h8Q Qc2+ 6.Kg1 Qd1+ 7.Kf2 Qd2+ 8.Kf1 Qxf4+ and Black wins) 2...b2 3.Rxb7 b1Q 4.Rxb1 Kxb1 5.Kg1 Kc2 6.Kf2 Kd2 7.Kg2 Ke3 8.Kg3 Ke4 and White loses the f-Pawn.

1...b2 2.Rxf5 b1Q 3.Ra5+ Kb2 4.Rb5+ Kc2 5.Rxb1 Kxb1 6.f5 winning

2.h6 b2
White wins after 2...Ka2 3.h7 b2 4.h8Q b1Q 5.Qa8+ Kb2 6.Qxb7+ Ka2 7.Qxb1+ Kxb1 8.fxg5

3.h7 g4!
If 3...b1Q 4.h8Q+ Qb2+ 5.Qxb2+ Kxb2 6.fxg5 and the P queens. Now the winning technique is very instructive. 

4.h8Q Ka2 5.Qa8+ Kb3 6.Qxb7+ Kc2 7.Qc6+ Kd1 8.Qb5 Kc1 9.Qc5+ Kb1 10.Kg3 Ka1 11.Qa5+ Kb1 12.Qxf5+ Ka2 13.Kxg4 winning

What was interesting about this is, I was reminded of Alexander’s win against Bronstein at Hastings, 1953.  Don’t let the fact that the game is 120 moves long deter you from playing over it because it’s both interesting and instructive.

Some Intellectual Chess Thoughts from Don’t Shake the Baby

     On the internet you can play chess against other people. I don't really like chess or anything; it’s pretty boring, but I had this funny idea. 
      I thought I might obtain a computer chess game. One where you can play against your computer and it has different difficulty levels all the way up to the Duke of Chess. Anyway, so I'd get a high level chess program. Then I would find some chess league on the Internet and find some guy to play. Then I would start a game against the toughest level of the chess program and play my opponent's moves against the program, and then copy the moves of the program and use them against this guy. That way I could rise to the summit of online chess weirdos. That seems funny but it’s not worth it….
      Chess was invented by Milton Bradley in the 1970's; a lot of people think it was around for a lot longer, but it wasn't…Chess is often used as a metaphor for life. That comparison is completely mistaken….Chess is the intellectual equivalent of wrestling, totally boring to anyone but the 2 people involved and deeply homosexual. Visit site

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Falkbeer Counter Gambit

      The Falkbeer Counter Gambit (1. e4 e5 2. f4 d5) is an aggressive countergambit in which Black offers a P sacrifice. After 3. exd5 Black may reply with 3... exf4 or try the more modern 3....c6.
      A well known blunder in this opening is White's reply 3. fxe5??, which after 3... Qh4+, either loses material after 4. g3 Qxe4+ or severely exposes the White K to attack after 4. Ke2 Qxe4+ 5. Kf2 Bc5+.
      The opening is named after Austrian master Ernst Falkbeer, who played it in an 1851 game against Adolf Anderssen.

Old Main Line: 3....e4
In this variation, Black's compensation for the sacrificed pawn primarily consists of his lead in development, coupled with the exposure of White's King. For example: 4.d3 Nf6 5.Dxe4 Nxe4 6.Nf3 Bc5 (Black aims at the weak f2 square). At Maehrisch-Ostrau 1923, Rudolf Spielmann vs. Siegbert Tarrasch continued: 7.Qe2 Bf5 (this was condemned by the Handbuch des Schachspiels because of White's next, though Black had already got into difficulties in the game Réti- Breyer, Budapest 1917 where 7....f5 8.Nfd2 Bf2+ 9.Kd1 Qxd5 10.Nc3 was played) 8.g4?! (in retrospect, prudent was 8. Nc3) 8... 0-0! 9. gxf5 Re8 and Black has a tremendous position, as he is bound to regain material and White's positional deficiencies will remain.
     This line fell out of favor after WW2. Nimzovich Counter Gambit: 3...c6 This has become the most commonly played move after 3.exd5, with its most notable advocate being John Nunn. It is usually attributed to Aron Nimzowitsch, who successfully played it in Spielmann-Nimzowitsch, Munich 1906. However, Frank Marshall actually introduced the move to master play at Ostend 1905, defeating Richard Teichmann.
      Although Black won both of those games, 3...c6 languished in obscurity for many years. White can respond with 4.Qe2, despite the drastic defeat inflicted on Alekhine by Paul Johner at Carlsbad 1911, although 4.Nc3 exf4 is much more common. Theory has not reached a definitive verdict, but the resulting positions are believed to offer Black more chances than 3...e4.
      Jim West On Chess has a nice Blog article on the Falkbeer HERE

Modern Ratings

      According to an interesting Chessbase article dated Feb. 24, 2012 an oddity in the FIDE rating system allows some players to gain rating points quite easily. As I understand it, part of the problem has been a result of the FIDE giving everybody who participates in an FIDE rated event a rating. For example, if you are rated at least 1400 Elo, FIDE declares you have an 8% chance against the world number one.
      The article was a discussion by Jeff Sonas, statistician and creator of Chessmetrics, Ken Thompson, chess computer pioneer and GM John Nunn, mathematician.
      One example cited was the case of Chinese GM Li Chao whose rating went over 2700 after gaining 5.6 Elo points as a result of scoring 9 out of 9 at the 5th Colombo International Chess Festival 2012. Li Chao’s performance rating was actually 71 points below his then current rating and 6 of the eight rated opponents had ratings under 2000; one was even rated 1405.
      Jeff Sonas stated it was his understanding is that this rule was introduced for political reasons purportedly to give top players some incentive to play in open events. Sonas pointed out if someone strong were to play in lots of events with low-rated opponents and the rating administrators looked the other way, a strong player would likely be able to boost their own rating a bit. Does that sound a lot like Claude F. Bloodgood’s manipulation of the USCF rating system of years gone by?
      Ken Thompson felt that while it was possible, he observed “a player would have to spend lots of silly time pounding on weak players to gain points. He has to continually keep vigilance to accomplish this. One mistake and he will lose many times what he has slowly gained.” Well, that’s exactly what Bloodgood did. Also, Many years ago when masters were few and far between there was a local expert who, try as he might, could never break 2200; he got to 2199 a couple of times, but then would fall back to 2100-plus. His solution? He became a TD and held rinky-dink events nobody but under 1500’s or so played in. He would always manage to play a game as a “house man” which he always won and thus picked up a point or two. Eventually his rating hit a solid 2202 and he “retired” and advertised himself as a master.
      John Nunn advised, “ this rule was introduced to prevent players losing Elo points by winning a game. If one player in a tournament is rated far below the others, then including that player can lower the average rating of your opponents by so much that your expected score is increased by more than one point. Then beating that player will leave you worse off than if you had not played him at all. This is not just an academic situation. For very strong players it could easily happen in cases where, for example, a strong tournament includes a 'local player' who is much weaker than the others, or in Olympiads where your first round opponent was relatively weak.” As Nunn pointed out, boosting one’s rating like this could be very time consuming.
      In a related article dated back in 2009, Chessbase discussed rating inflation: ".A general improvement of chess skills? A larger number of players in the rating pool? The way the initial ratings are conducted? In this clearly written article statistician Jeff Sonas addresses these questions. Read Article
      A recent Chess Vibes articles asks the question, “Was Fischer’s 1972 rating more significant than Carlsen’s present rating?” Kasparov thinks the answer is yes. Read Article

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Albin Counter Gambit

     Maroczy, Marshall, Schlechter, Wolf, Mieses, Lasker, Tartakower used to play it, but that was way back then. What about recently? Spassky, Forintos, Mestel, Reprintsev are some of the stronger players who have used it. Also, GM Alexander Morozevich has used it with some success.
      The Albin Countergambit begins with 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e5 and the usual continuation is 3. dxe5 d4 In exchange for the gambit pawn, Black has a central wedge at d4 and gets some chances for an attack. Often White will try to return the pawn at an opportune moment to gain a positional advantage.
      The opening was originally played by Cavallotti against Salvioli at the Milan tournament of 1881, it takes its name from Adolf Albin who played it against Emmanuel Lasker at the 1893 New York international tournament.
      The Main Line is 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 d4 4.Nf3 Nc6 Not 4...c5 allowing 5.e3 because Black no longer has the bishop check and now White's primary options are 5.a3, 5.Nbd2, and 5.g3. White’s best try for an advantage is probably 5.g3 followed by Bg2 and Nbd2 when Black will often play …O-O-O: 5.g3 Be6 6.Nbd2 Qd7 7.Bg2 0-0-0 8.0-0 Bh3.
      White has to avoid the Lasker trap: 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 d4 4.e3? which is met by 4...Bb4+ 5.Bd2 dxe3
and now not 6.Bxb4?? because 6...exf2+ 7.Ke2 fxg1=N+ and Black wins.
      The Spassky Variation begins White plays 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 d4 4.e4 tries to take advantage of the fact that an e.p. capture must be made immediately.
      The Albin Counter-Gambit can take White by surprise. If White takes the e pawn, as he almost always does, the, 3…d4 creates an effective wedge and the threat of d3 can be worrisome to White. Black can take a very aggressive approach and play moves such as Be6 Qd7, Nc6 and castle queenside with the idea of going for White's king.
    In the following game Weaver Adams defeats Dr. Jose Broderman, former Cuban Champion in the 1948 Pan Am tournament.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Brain Metrix Knight Tour

This is a "brain game" you might enjoy.  The goal is to move the N to every square in the least possible moves; they claim a good score is 65 moves or less. The site keeps score of how many moves you have taken. Brain Metrix

They also have the eight Queens puzzle where you have to put eight Queens on the board in such a way that none of them is able to capture any other. 8 Q’s Puzzle

A Psychological Autopsy of Bobby Fischer

    I recently ran across an article about Fischer by somebody named Joseph G. Ponterotto on the Pacific Standard site dated December 14, 2010. A couple of comments strongly disagreed with the conclusions, but I will let the readers decide how they feel.

      “Chess player Bobby Fischer’s tortured life illustrates why promising young talents deserve better support programs…But others from that world — including a number of grandmasters who’d spent time with him — thought Fischer not just eccentric, but deeply troubled. At a tournament in Bulgaria four years later, U.S. grandmaster Robert Byrne suggested that Fischer see a psychiatrist, to which Fischer replied that “a psychiatrist ought to pay [me] for the privilege of working on [my] brain.” According to journalist Dylan Loeb McClain, Hungarian-born grandmaster Pal Benko commented, “I am not a psychiatrist, but it was obvious he was not normal. … I told him, ‘You are paranoid,’ and he said that ‘paranoids can be right.’” Read complete article HERE.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Paul Morphy’s House

Paul Morphy died in his Royal Street home in 1884. In 1891 his brothers and sisters sold the mansion and today it is Brennan's Restaurant.

Google Map Street View
      After Morphy returned to America in May 1859 he was intent on starting his law practice but his law career was disrupted in 1861 by the outbreak of the American Civil War. Morphy’s brother Edward joined the Confederate Army and his mother and sisters emigrated to Paris.
      Paul’s Civil War service is a gray area. He visited the Confederate capital of Richmond trying to obtain an appointment in the diplomatic service but  was unsuccessful. He then returned to New Orleans and was there when the city was captured by Federal forces. It has been rumored that at some point he was appointed to General P.G.T. Beauregard’s staff and was eventually seen at Manassas, Virginia.
     One reportedly reliable witness who was a resident of Richmond in 1861 said Morphy was an officer on Beauregard’s staff but other sources indicate Beauregard considered Morphy unqualified. Curiously, at this time General Beauregard owned the house where Morphy was born. Morphy's many contacts abroad were of considerable use to the South and he supposedly became both a spy and unofficial 'ambassador' to European diplomats and businessmen.
      New Orleans was captured in the spring of 1862 and in October Morphy escaped to Havana in a Spanish man-of-war, the Blasco de Garay. After remaining there for a brief time, he sailed for Cadiz and from there he travelled on to Paris by rail where, apart from visits to London and Liverpool, he remained until the spring of 1865. All records of Morphy's activities were supposedly stored in the basement of a sheet iron and tin store belonging to John R. Mountcastle and were destroyed by fire in August 1868.

Non-chess books on Morphy:

Weinstock – Vehre

As I mentioned in a recent post, I have been going through Bryce Avery’s Correspondence Chess in America and came across this interesting game. Solomon Weinstock was a participant in the 1944 US Championship and won the CCLA postal championship in 1992. He died in 2009 at the age of 84. John Vehre is a solid OTB/CC master who lives in Ohio; he has been inactive for a number of years.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Emmanuel Lasker, Philosopher

     Emmanuel Lasker studied mathematics and philosophy at the Universities of Berlin, Göttingen and Erlangen and gained the title of “Ph.D.” and for some years while living in England, he was an assistant lecturer at the Manchester Polytechnic.
       Most chess players are familiar with his chess, but few know of his philosophical writings or his work in mathematics. He was a brilliant mathematician; he worked with Emily Noether, often cited as the best female mathematician on number theory.
      In 1907 Lasker published Kampf which also found its way into English and was titled, Struggle.   
      Albert Einstein and Lasker became acquainted in later life. Einstein and Lasker argued about relativity and Lasker used to lecture that it was wrong; his belief was that no matter how fast you travelled, the idea that the observed speed of light was the same was ridiculous.       
      In the forward to The Life of a Chess Master by Dr. J. Hannak, Einstein wrote in the foreword to the English edition ". . . the chess playing of a master ties him to the game, fetters his mind and shapes it to a certain extent so that his internal freedom and ease, no matter how strong he is, must inevitably be affected. In our conversations and in the reading of his philosophical books, I always had that feeling. Of these books, The Philosophy of the Unattainable interested me the most; the book is not only very original, but it also affords a deep insight into Lasker's entire personality…To my mind, there was a tragic note in his personality, despite his fundamentally affirmative attitude towards life. The enormous psychological tension, without which nobody can be a chess master, was so deeply interwoven with chess that he could never entirely rid himself of the spirit of the game, even when he was occupied with philosophic and human problems…(I) came to know him well in the course of many walks in which we exchanged opinions about the most varied questions. It was a somewhat one-sided exchange, in which I received more that I gave. For it was usually more natural for this eminently productive man to shape his own thoughts than to busy himself with those of another."
      In Kampf, Lasker wrote: "Hope and Faith, such as we have stated it to be, perform a necessary and valuable function. When our life presents hardships, when we cannot master the difficulties, and doubts of our ability discourage us, hope tell us to do our best and to wait. When we are in the presence of immense forces and a sense of our insignificance assails us, faith whispers into our ear not to fear injustice. Hope and faith still beat when will and reason cannot overcome obstacles, and therefore doubt and anxiety make the heart tremble."
      Lasker believed that all men are born with hope, but true faith, which he believed is based on justice and not an end to itself, has to be developed. He also believed that when men have done their best, then they should exercise their faith and not fear.

Martin C. Stark

Published in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on February 21, 2011:

     Martin C. Stark, 98, of Bridgeville, formerly of Bethesda, MD, and a New York City native, was a 1933 graduate of Harvard College with a degree in civil engineering, passed comfortably in his sleep on February 17, surrounded by people who loved him.
     He worked in Washington, DC, for the former Capital Transit Company as traffic engineer and project manager, overseeing and implementing the facilitation of traffic flow along the major DC roadways by using aerial photographs and computer simulation to optimize the movement of buses and trolleys within the transit system. In 1956, Mr. Stark left the transit company to work for the former National Bureau of Standards in Washington (known today as the National Institute of Standards and Technology), as an operations research analyst, until he retired in 1973.
     He was a member of the Harvard champion chess team during his four years in Cambridge, later winning the annual Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC, championship from 1937-39. Other interests included playing the piano as well as duplicate tournament bridge, achieving the coveted rank of life master in 1984. Mr. Stark also loved word games and was an active participant - and winner - in nationally sponsored number contests.
     Mr. Stark spent his summers as a boy in the New York Finger Lakes Region on his beloved Keuka Lake, and his family vacationed there every year since the early 1950s. He continued to enjoy the lake well into his 90s. Mr. Stark was universally loved and cherished for his sweet and gentle disposition, his delightful sense of humor, and his quick wit. He was predeceased by his wife of 57 years, Elizabeth, in 2001. Survivors include a son, Douglas W. Stark, of Cecil; two daughters, Dr. Martha C. Stark of Boston, and Susan P. Stark of Rockville, MD, and a daughter-like friend, Jennifer J. Lagally, of Bethel Park. Memorial Service will be held later in Bethesda, MD.

     In the USA vs. USSR Radio match of 1945, Stark, along with several other players, was named as a reserve. Of the opening in this game, Santasiere wrote in his book (actually a 43 page pamphlet), "The Futuristic Chess Opening":

     With this book I am, at last, formally introducing to the chess world a (my) new opening. That it is an opening is certain; that it is new is doubtful, for, really, nothing can be new - we can only meditate anew on the old. And, this is what I have done. Now I am ready to pass on to you the story (down to its present-day chapter), of the opening which, post-dating Reti's system, must be termed the most "modern." The story will, of course, cover both theory and practice.     
     The history of this curious opening must almost entirely revolve around my many years' experience with it. Alekhine once opened a game with it. Tartakower at New York 1924 played 1. b4 vs. Maroczy and jocularly referred to it as the Orang-Outan Opening." The joke may be good, but the title is poor, for chess, like love, is serious. However 1. b4, which allows the immediate 1 . . .e5, is not really "my" opening, since I prefer to force Black [to] exert some effort to attain 1 . . .e5.     
     Is my system a "good" opening? That depends on what we mean by "good." Can it win games against masters? Certainly. You will find the proof here later. But, much more important than such a material consideration is the clear fact that it is rich spiritually by which I mean that it constitutes a challenge to the middle game abilities of both players; and further that it is romantic, by which I mean it leaves far behind the "safe and sound" chains of chess for the clean, laughing freedom of daredevil adventure.     
     To be reduced to the more prosaic mechanics of the mind, just what are the ideas behind this opening? For let no one imagine that it is the product of a disordered mind wedded to insanity. On the contrary, there are often deep waters where all seems shallow and stagnant.
     First, the opening invites the exchange of White's QNP for Black's QBP, then White will be left with a majority of pawns in the center; and it is my theory that such a majority is an advantage in the middle game.     
     Second, the opening invites the challenge . . .a5, to which White replies b5, with the result that Black's Queen is denied the c6 square, and Black's QNP and QRP are often weak; though White's pawns, too, are compromised! Just some fun!

Stark lost the following game due to miscalculating a tactic, but it must have been exciting to watch.