Random Posts

Friday, February 28, 2014

Trounced by a 2300

Trounce is a transitive verb. Transitive verbs are action verbs that have an object to receive that action. Trounce means to defeat (someone or something) easily and thoroughly. In this case, the someone that was easily and thoroughly defeated was me. The game shows why some guys are rated 2300 and I’m not.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Harriet Worrall

    Her husband, Thomas Worrall, a strong amateur, is probably better known.  He had good results in 1850’s against some top players. Worrall was reported to have played 45 games against Howard Staunton, winning 22 and losing 23.  These were apparently odds games as Worrall played a match against Staunton at N odds which he won +8 -7 =0. Morphy played 15 games against Thomas Worrall and only scored +8 -7 =0.  Like her husband, Harriet (1836-1928) also played a few games at N odds against Morphy and managed to draw one.  Her husband, Thomas Herbert Worrall (1807-1878), whom she married in 1856, was a former British Army officer and in 1864, after serving as British Commissioner in Mexico as part of the British Mexican Legation moved to New York where he continued to play chess and serve as a public speaker about his experiences in Mexico.
     Harriet learned chess from her husband.  She was known as the country's strongest woman chess player. The Worrall’s lead a life of wealth and privilege but when her husband died in New York on September 6, 1878, Harriet at age 42 was left with little money. Most of her husband's money had been lost shortly before his death. Finding herself in modest circumstances she eventually ended up living in the house of a friend, one Arthur Cole and his family.
     As the years passed after her husband's death financial struggles wore her down and by the mid-1886 she was suffering from epileptic attacks, which were followed by what people who knew her described as "periods of mental depression and melancholia."
     About six and a half years before sailing to England to compete in the women's international tournament, she attempted suicide.  Just before Christmas 1890, while living in the house of Arthur Cole, on Sunday morning December 21, the Cole family was ready to have their breakfast but Harriet didn't come down.  They were not alarmed because that was not unusual.  But at about 11:00 a.m. groans were heard from her private room. Alarmed, Alfred Cole Jr. tried to open the door, only to find it locked. The boy then went outside and climbed through Worrall's window, and opened the door for his father.  Harriet was writhing in agony on the floor with a bottle of carbolic acid, a disinfectant, was found open on the table.
     Mr. Cole sent for a doctor who administered emetics and three days later Harriet was still struggling between life and death and the doctor estimated the poison must have been in her stomach for at least twenty minutes; all he could offer was a "possibility" of her recovery. Had she not been found for another half hour, she would have died.  This attempt likely was not a complete surprise as the  Coles had frequently heard her speak of suicide during moments of depression.
     The news regarding her attempted suicide traveled quickly to the chess community and two days before New Year's Eve, the following appeared in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle's chess column: "Mrs. Worrall, a noted woman chess player, who last week attempted suicide during a fit of mental despondency, is in a fair way to recover. Mrs. Worrall was a great admirer and friend of Captain Mackenzie." Captain Mackenzie had died in 1891 and the cause of his death was a matter of speculation.  The New York Times reported on April 27, 1890 that Mackenzie was suffering from tuberculosis, and on April 15, 1891, a day after his death, mentioned that the immediate cause of death was pneumonia, noting that his condition had worsened from a fever caught while visiting Havana. However, on April 29, 1891, The Sun carried a report by Dr. S. B. Minden, who had visited Mackenzie before his death, claiming that he had committed suicide by an overdose of morphine, which he had requested earlier to ease the pain from his tuberculosis, but Dr. Minden had refused. The coroner who had presided over Mackenzie's death dismissed this assertion as ridiculous, insisting that tuberculosis was the cause of death.
     Between January 1891 and mid-1894 Brooklyn's leading chess columns published nothing on her.  Harriet recovered slowly and mid-1894 she was back to chess and was sending solutions to problems given in newspaper columns. In early November of 1894 she visited the masters' tournament that started in New York where Steinitz was among the participants.
     She then began a match for the U.S. women’s championship with Nellie Showalter, the wife of Jackson W. Showalter and a very accomplished player in her own right. The match was for seven games, with twelve moves an hour. When Nellie Showalter was leading 3-1 with one draw, the match was interrupted on account of Nellie Showalter's illness and never resumed. Several accounts point out that because Worrall was a friend of Nellie Showalter she never claimed victory.
     On May 16, 1897 sixty-year old Harriet Worrall boarded a steamer and sailed for England as America's representative at the First Ladies' International Chess Tournament to be held in London that June and July.  The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that she was optimistic, saying anything less than a first or second prize would be a disappointment.
     The tournament (with Pillsbury acting as arbiter) resulted in Worrall finishing fourth with 13 points out of nineteen games behind Mary Rudge (18½), L. M. Fagan (15½) and Thorold (14). In early September 1897 she returned home disappointed in her performance believing she could have done better had she been more accustomed to playing with a time limit, keeping score and clocks.  She lost a great deal of time in her games simply because she often forgot to stop the clock. Also, eight hours' chess every day, with only a two hour break between games, was very hard on all the players.
     The players were a mixed group and it was confusing to her.  Hertzsch, the youngest, was 18 years old and could not speak a word of English. Lady Thomas was afflicted with a "nervous ailment" which caused her hands to shake constantly when she made her moves; her hair was white and she is nearly 70 years of age.  Muller Hartung of Germany, talked constantly while she was playing against Worrall and in garner conversation was unrestrained while the games were in progress.  Also, during the tournament, the heat was oppressive so that fans were kept running constantly.
     With few opportunities for serious matches or tournament play she made a habit of taking a board against any visiting master visited the Brooklyn Chess Club. There she had the opportunity to play many of them.  In 1894 she lost a game to Albert B. Hodges in a simultaneous exhibition and in she was one of 17 players who played Jackson W. Showalter in another simultaneous exhibition at the local club; she lost a King's Gambit.
     In 1895 she took part in a seven-board simultaneous given by Harry N. Pillsbury and lost. She met Pillsbury again when he gave a 14 board simultaneous to players in consultation at the Brooklyn Chess Club.  During that exhibition Harriet was in consultation with Walter Frère and they held Pillsbury to a draw.
     She also became involved with the British Ladies' Chess Club, curiously enough founded in New York, in 1894 and in 1895 Worrall was behind a "Junior Chess Club," an organization of young people affiliated with the Ladies' Chess Club.
     In 1896, when Jackson W. Showalter gave a fourteen-board exhibition at the Brooklyn Chess Club, Worrall occupied one of the three tables reserved for consultation games and she, again paired with Frère, defeated Showalter.  Later the same year, they lost a fourteen-board simultaneous display by John F. Barry.  Shortly after that she played a board, this time on her own, against Hermann Helms and scored a victory.  The Eagle reported that she was the strongest woman player in the city.
     In 1898 she played in a four-board blindfold simultaneous exhibition given by Albert B. Hodges at the Brooklyn Chess and the same year in consultation with Walter Frère, she took a board in Pillsbury's 27-board simultaneous and was defeated. Two weeks later, on December 17, 1898, when Dawid Janowsky visited the club Worrall and Frère managed a win.
     In 1899, Worrall helped to organize another ladies' chess congress, this time in the United States but nothing came of it  That same year she and defeated Steinitz in a simultaneous.  After that, chess news related to Harriet Worrall becomes scarce.
     She eventually reemerged and on Saturday, March 26, 1910, according to the Eagle of March 27, Worrall was one of the five women among the twenty-eight players, members of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Science, who faced the young Capablanca in simultaneous exhibition; she lost a Sicilian Defense.
     Harriet Worrall died of natural causes in New York at ninety-two, on November 23, 1928.


The first Ladies' International Chess Congress

Glamorous ladies of the congress
     …was played under the management of the Ladies' Chess Club, of London, was finished July 3, 1897.  The schedule was two rounds with one evening being devoted to the adjourned games.
     It was one of the most successful tournaments in the history of the game, no friction occurred, everything went on with the regularity of machinery and the Congress was a credit to the executive ability of the able match captain of the club, Mrs. Rhoda Bowles.
     Games were commenced at the Hotel Cecil, in the Masonic Hall, on June 23, hours of play being from 1 to 5 and 7 to 11 P. M. The hall had only been engaged for six days and the concluding rounds were played at the home of the club in the Ideal Cafe, Tottenham Court Road.
     During the tournament it was announced that M. Eschwege, father of one of the contestants, had offered four gold medals as consolation prizes for those below the money prize winners. The full scores and distribution of prizes were as follows :
1)   Miss Rudge, London ($300)
2) Signorina Fagan, Italy ($250)
3) Miss Thorold, London ($20o)
4) Mrs. Harriet Worrall, Brooklyn, NY, USA ($150)
5) Madame Marie Bonnefin, Belgium ($100)
6-7) Mrs. Barry, Ireland and Lady Thomas, London (divided $75)
8-9) Miss Watson and Miss Gooding
10-11) Mrs. Sidney and Miss Hooke
12) Miss Fox
13) Frau Hertzsch
14) Miss Eschwege
15) Frau Muller- Hartung
16) Madame De la Vigne
17) Miss Forbes-Sharp
18) Mrs. Stevenson
     The longest game of the tournament was 90 moves, and the shortest ended in a mate in 9 moves.
     The American Chess Magazine commented, “It is really the entry of women into chess club life. It is reasonable to expect that women will work reforms in chess clubs that they have in all other lines where they have gained the right to equal competition.”
     “Miss Mary Rudge, winner of the first prize, is a well-known London player, ranking in chess strength with the first class of the leading men's clubs. She is past middle age and has had a large experience in chess. Her record is very fine and stamps her as a steady player. She won first prize in a minor tournament at Clifton last year, and while considered one of the best players in this Congress she was not expected to make such a fine score.”
     “Mrs. Fagan, the Italian representative, winner of the second prize, is a sister of the well-known English amateur, Dr. Ballard. Miss Thorold is also of a chess family, her brother being the originator of the Thorold-Allgaier variations of the King's Gambit.  Mrs. Worrall is well known to American players and her victory will be a gratification to her friends. Lady Thomas is a middle-aged lady of matronly appearance; she won first prize in the ladies' section of the Hastings tournament in 1895. Miss Field is one of the younger players of the Congress, steady and with good judgment.”


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Pillsbury vs. Showalter Match 1897

    The match was played at the Hamilton Chess Club, Brooklyn, NY for a purse of $2000. That was an enormous sum for the day…about $54,000 in today’s dollars. The schedule and requirements to win were somewhat odd. Games were scheduled for 8 pm to 2 am Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, with exceptions made for the annual cable match with England and the State Association tournament. The time controls were 30/1 for the first two hours and 15/1 after that. If one player scored seven wins before his opponent scored six, the match would be ended. Otherwise, the winner would have to win ten games, with nine wins each being considered a drawn match.
     Prior to the match, Pillsbury was quoted as saying, "I was not seeking the match, and even if I should win I shall leave Showalter in possession of the title; I am not in search of any title but one." Pillsbury was hoping to challenge Lasker for the world championship, so, much like Capablanca years later, he was too preoccupied to care much about a national title. Showalter, the public and the press insisted his win made him US champion, so Pillsbury abided by his statement, "...I do not claim to be champion of anything. Whatever position is fairly awarded to me by others I will stand upon..."
     Pillsbury faced a critical point in the match at Game 14. Showalter had won Game 13, giving him a lead of 6 wins to 5. One more win would win the match for Showalter. In Game 14, Pillsbury again faced Showalter's Ponziani, which Pillsbury had struggled against and lost in Games 10 and 12. In a "must not lose" situation, Pillsbury scored a fine win with Black to even the score and push the match requirement to ten wins with a two-game lead. Showalter did not try the Ponziani again during the match.
     The match was hardly a convincing win for Pillsbury, as he had to win the last two games of the match to reach the required ten wins with a two-game margin. The players would play a return match the following year.

Final results:
Pillsbury = = 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 = 1 0 1 0 1 1     11½
Showalter = = 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 = 0 1 0 1 0 0 

     For the public, this match was the overshadowing event of the year. Pills-bury ranked among top 3 or 4 in the world, and he was considered by many to be Lasker's most formidable rival for the world championship.  Showalter was the recognized champion, having beaten everybody but Pillsbury. The challenge came from Showalter, who, like so many of his American brethren, did not realize how great a player Pillsbury was.  Pillsbury' s rise in the chess world had been meteoric. He became known to the chess public at large in 1893, and he at once proved himself to be one of the strongest players in the United States.  He won first prize in a tournament of the City Chess Club (Hodges second, Showalter third), but finished out of the money in another (Steinitz first, Albin second, Showalter third). He beat Showalter in the League match, Brooklyn vs. City Chess Club, but lost to him in the Buffalo tournament. Then came his triumph at Hastings. The St. Petersburg tournament, wherein he came out ahead of Lasker and Tchigorin in their personal encounter, proved that his victory at Hastings was no fluke, and his winning third prize at Nuremberg and Budapest dispelled all remaining doubts as to his mastery.
     Upon his return, the public hailed him as champion, but for while some of the other U.S. players claimed of having made even scores with Pillsbury. However, the fact was that none of them could have come near to duplicating Pillsbury’s success in Europe.  This was substantiated by the poor showing Showalter made in the international tournament at Nuremberg where he scored 5.5-10.5. 
      The match caused great excitement and surprise. Most players thought that Pillsbury would gain a speedy and overwhelming victory; a few believed that he would beat Showalter 7 to o, while more conservative guessers placed the score at 7 to 3, or 4.
     At first it looked as if these predictions would be fulfilled. The first game was drawn, but in the second game Pillsbury clearly out played Showalter, and although the latter escaped with a draw, it was a moral defeat.
      Then came three straight wins for Pillsbury, but in the next game he was a little too confident, and was beaten. The seventh and eighth also went to Showalter and the score was a tie!!
      Pillsbury once more obtained the lead in the ninth, but Showalter squared matters again in the tenth. Pillsbury reassumed the lead in the eleventh game, but two successive victories put Showalter ahead, the score being then 6 to 5, two draws.
      At this critical juncture Pillsbury won two and drew one. The next four games it was nip and tuck between them, each winning and losing alternately. The twentieth and twenty- first game went to Pillsbury, who won the match by 10 to 8, three drawn.
      The result was disappointing for Pillsbury' s admirers, especially for those who wanted to bring about a match between him and Lasker. Showalter was a "moral" victor as he very nearly held his own. Showalter proved he was a better player than he had been given credit for.
      The chess played in this match, as a rule, was of a high order. Pillsbury' s conduct of some of the games was a model while in others he proved rather venturesome and, contrary to his style, he often gave up a Pawn for a future attack. Showalter played with his pluck and ingenuity, exhibiting great resource on occasion.
     Showalter’s fondness for a K-side attack by Queen and Knight was noticeable. The most frequent opening was the Ruy Lopez, which Pillsbury adopted four times and Showalter five.
     The Queen's Gambit was adopted six times by Pillsbury. Showalter declined the Pawn and played lines similar to those in the Lasker against Steinitz in their first match but then switched to novelties that had been introduced by Teichman and Maroczy.
      On three occasions Showalter played the Ponziani and in the first two games Pillsbury tried experiments that were interesting but turned out to be detrimental. Showalter also tried the Stonewall twice.  There was a solitary Giuoco Piano which was won by Pillsbury.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Think Before You Resign!

I’m not an advocate of playing on in hopeless positions, but before resigning you should make sure your position really is lost and beyond hope! In the following position I had just played 10…Nf6xd5 and after a moment’s thought White resigned; he believed he was losing the N on g5.

Had he taken a little longer to consider the position he might have realized that after 11.exd5 Bxg5 12.Bxg5 Qxg5 13.f4 Qh6 14.fxe5 dxe5 that, while it’s true he’s down two P’s, his position is not totally hopeless…yet.

Even worse was the following position where I have just played 15.Nd4xc6 against an FIDE Master. He resigned thinking that after 15…bxc6 16.Qxc6+ he would be down a R, which is quite true and so resignation was in order. However a spectator immediately pointed out that after 15…Qc7 16.Nd4 he’s only down a P. True, his position isn’t very good, but it’s not yet time to resign.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Followup on Chess and Aging; also Learning and Calculating

     This is just some additional miscellaneous thoughts related to the previous post and some thoughts on the chess players' main  task, calculating variations.
     Two new studies suggest that aging may be kinder to chess champions and competitive Scrabble players. The first study, appearing in the June issue of Psychology and Aging by Florida State graduate student Roy Roring and Florida State psychologist Neil Charness, PhD, shows that top players' skills decline slower with age than those of less accomplished players. Another preliminary finding published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied found that Scrabble experts may also age more gracefully on some cognitive tasks (i.e. thinking, reasoning and remembering).
     That study, conducted by Claremont McKenna College psychologist Diane Halpern, PhD, and graduate student Jonathan Wai of Vanderbilt University, found that Scrabble playing taps cognitive skills that chess playing does not, including the need to speedily access verbal, visual-spatial and mathematic abilities. Both studies add to the growing literature on experts that psychologists hope will help them better understand how the mind works and ages.
     "By studying experts we can sometimes understand the scope and constraints on human cognition," says University of California, Davis psychologist Dean Keith Simonton, PhD, himself an expert on personal success. The chess study, for example, "applies state-of-the-art methods to a novel data source to answer an age-old question: Is aging more gentle or more cruel to the highly able?" he says.
     Using a database created by University of Newcastle, Australia of the ratings of 5,011 chess players over time, psychologist Robert W. Howard, PhD used a technique which allowed his team to examine players' skill development and analyze their trends. His analysis allowed him to observe how players grew over time and allowed him to see how different variables affected growth. He examined at which age chess players peak and how fast they decline after that. The study showed that competitive players top out around age 43 which is up to 10 years later than calculated by the study conducted in 1986 by Arpad Elo.
     Charness's finding supports mounting evidence for the theory that skills that rely on speed, such as sprinting and tennis, may peak earlier than skills where speed is less important, such as golf and chess. What's more, the best players showed the slowest rate of decline with age. Competitive Scrabble players may escape some of the ravages of aging as well, concludes Halpern. In several studies, she and Wai compared the cognitive skills of competitive Scrabble players (whose average age was 41) with those of a group of high-achieving college students with an average age of 19. The Scrabble players had better memory for shapes, words and letters as well as placement of words and letters on legitimate and transformed Scrabble boards. They also reacted more quickly on a task that required them to visualize what a piece of paper would look like after it was folded in a certain way. These results suggest that decades of intensive Scrabble playing may have positive effects on some cognitive abilities, say Halpern and Wai.
     This study's results also support researchers' findings in other expert domains. In particular, the study found that getting to expert level requires thousands of hours of practice over many years. In another study it was found that to build genius, your learning program must be based on high applicability of newly acquired skills and knowledge. If you memorize the whole phone book (i.e. a big set of facts), you won't be much closer to a genius mind and your problem solving ability will increase only slightly. To accomplish smart learning, you will need to constantly pay serious attention to what material you decide to study. You must avoid short term gratification at the cost of long-term learning. Some learning is fun and entertaining, but it has no real payoff. Your study must be made with an attempt to gain understanding. You cannot be guided just by the fun of learning but by your goals and needs. The term trivia excellently reflects the sort of knowledge we do not want to learn in the quest for genius. These are not-so-useful facts or rules of low applicability. 
     One interesting observation was that in the course of study, you may not be able to see or verbalize some rules but your brain will extract them in the course of practice. This helps explain why in many cases, strong players cannot explain how they visualize positions and come up with their moves; they just ‘know’ a move is good or bad.
     So, as chess players what should we study and how should we go about calculating? We all have problems calculating complicated positions. We can usually see a single line in considerable length but when the tree of variations becomes wide we find we can’t remember different positions and so our calculation’s suffers. The truth is it is not possible to calculate all variations in most middlegame positions. To do so is like the brute force method used by engines; we humans can’t do it.
     Move selection involves finding good moves, thinking ahead and judging the end position. Studies have shown that strong players instinctively choose stronger candidate moves than the rest of us. They don’t just stumble on good candidate moves; thier experience with similar situations (pattern recognition) and their knowledge suggests to them the right moves.
     When it comes to moving the pieces in your head there is only one thing you can do to improve this skill: practice! Another vital ability is the judgment of position. All your calculations, no matter how deeply you see into the position and how accurately you visualize it, are useless if your evaluation is wrong.
     One of the pieces of advice most often heard from strong players is that you should analyze master games. It has been suggested that many players don’t do this simply because most of the strategy, tactics and evaluations are beyond their comprehension. I would also suggest that another reason many players don't do it is because it is not fun. It involves giving up the short term gratification in order to gain understanding as mentioned above.  Gaining understanding usually involves thought and effort and many players are seeking an easy way to mastering the game. 
     For lower rated players it probably is best to avoid looking at master games with no textual explanations. There is no value in just looking at a ton of variations. We need things explained. It is always a good idea to cover up the next move and guess the next move. When I did this years ago I bought Informants and played over 600-1000 games and kept track of my score. It was dismal at first, under 20%, but after going over several hundred games it began improving…to over 70%.
     Pay attention to the opening principles and don't try to memorize variations. One thing I have noticed while playing a lot of online games is that even 1600’s violate opening principles with great frequency. When ‘anno-Fritzing’ my games afterwards more often than not it is my opponent who first deviates from book lines even when playing openings with which I am unfamiliar. It is also helpful to play over master games where the opening of your choice was played…pattern recognition.
     Go back over your games a week or two later. It’s surprising how much you will have missed on the first look! It’s OK to use an engine to look at tactical possibilities that were missed, but you won’t get much else out of using an engine to study games.
     When going over master games it’s probably best to stick to pre-1950s games and avoid contemporary games because the older games will be less esoteric and more clear cut. Some of my favorite game collections over the years have been: Tarrasch’e Best Games (Reinfeld), Reshevsky’s Best Games (Reshevsly), 100 Selected Games (Botvinnik), Zurich 1953 (both Bronstein’s and Najdorf’s book), Alekhine’s Best Games (vol. 3 by Alexander), My 60 Memorable Games (Fischer) and My 50 Years of Chess (Marshall)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Tips to Improve Your Chess…if you are over 28.

   As people age, they often experience memory loss, reduced concentration, and other cognitive problems. Diet and lifestyle, though, can improve cognitive performance and reverse some aspects of brain aging.
     According to brain-aging expert, Dr. Timothy Salthouse, cognitive capabilities usually peak at 22 and Salthouse finds that on average, by age 28, signs of cognitive decline begin to show up. By 38, signs of memory loss increase. Most people may not notice these declines until much later. 
     Paul McGlothin, president of Living the CR Way.com and instructor for cognitive improvement says "Science shows that people can get rid of the brain fog they experience as they get older."
     McGlothin recommends a doctor visit to check blood sugar levels and if it’s OK, then explore is blood sugar management. Research suggests that keeping blood glucose at healthful levels improves short-term intellectual performance and protects against age-related decline of critical parts of the brain that are important for memory and decision making. An exercise regimen can also help one relax and it improves concentration.
     Research has also found that high cholesterol levels in your 40's or younger increases the risk of dementia (a disorder of memory, thinking and behavior) which includes Alzheimer's disease.
     Dementia worsens over time, progressing from a mild to a moderate and finally to a severe stage. The mental capacities that decline include recent memory, the capacity to use and understand words, comprehension of what is going on around you and many other things. All this can cause confusion about time and place, who people are and about everyday objects we take for granted like a knife and fork. Other symptoms include being agitated and restless, walking aimlessly, wanting to escape, and wandering.
     The good news is we can take steps to prevent dementia. Professor Kaarin Anstey from the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia published her findings on the link between high cholesterol and dementia in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. Another study on dementia published by John Hopkins University found that obesity increased the risk of dementia by 80%. Other risk factors include heavy drinking and smoking, as well as high blood pressure in your 40's. So, to help prevent dementia maintain healthy levels of cholesterol and blood pressure, keep consumption of alcohol low and exercise. There’s another way, too.
     I Play OO Chess says, “Your life success is the direct result of what and how you think. The thought processes running incessantly in your brain are responsible for everything you manifest throughout life. So if you want to increase your success rate, the first place to start is to improve your mind. You need to redesign your brain. You have some rewiring to do."
     "Now the question is, how you may change your brain? In school they don’t teach you how to think and how to design your mind for a great brain. What they do instead is cramming young heads with information and testing their recall.”
     "As you strive to reshape your brain and become more effective and creative in your life, you need to tap into all those elements of mind that come into play: analysis, memory, intuition, creativity, fantasy, desire for results, goal-oriented thinking, etc. What design tool you need? What may be an ideal laboratory for you to redesign your mind?” The answer? Play chess!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Rooks and Minor Pieces

     Tahl decisively won his first match for the world championship with a score of 12.5 – 8.5. In my opinion these two matches were the most exciting I have ever witnessed because it was a clash of styles. The matches paired the strategist Botvinnik against the tactician Tahl. The truth is though that, as world champion caliber players, they were both good at all phases of the game and they bashed away at each other with all the weapons available regardless of their preferred style. Botvinnik played tactical chess when needed and Tahl played positional chess and endings when he had to.
     As you know, I have posted in the past that I have a healthy distrust of engines when evaluating positions with unbalanced material so found this position quite interesting.
     Generally speaking, if you have two minor pieces the essential elements are 1) coordinate your pieces against the Rook and 2) security. When playing with minor pieces against a Rook it is always good policy to pay particular attention to the general security of your position.
     Remember that the Rook is adept at picking off stray Pawns but in the absence of targets it loses a lot of its strength. By the way, this also applies to playing assorted minor pieces against a Queen. The Rook usually comes into its own in the ending and its value increases relative to the other pieces so that winning with two minor pieces against a Rook is often much harder than it would be in the middlegame.
     In the position below, Botvinnik has just made an oversight where he traded two N’s for a R and got into an ending that is an exception to the rule. The resulting ending illustrates the necessity of coordinating the minor pieces which Tahl did extremely well. Botvinnik’s Rook was unable to offer any resistance.

An Interesting Blog

     I discovered an interesting Blog last night while the wife was watching Olympic figure skating and spent quite a bit of time poking around in it and thought readers might also enjoy it. Ed Collins covers a plethora of stuff: Chess, Backgammon, Checkers, Poker, Blackjack, NFL Football plus other things he’s personally interested in. VISIT

A Knight vs. Pawns Ending

     I recently played an offhand game against an 1800 where my opponent had an endgame advantage consisting of 2B’s and an extra P vs. my B+N. When he gave up a piece for 2P’s it looked like his passed P’s would win, especially when we reached an ending where my lone N (and Pawns) faced his Pawn mass. Knight endings are tough though!

Here are some general rules for these endings:
1. Botvinnik's Rule: Knight Endings are Pawn Endings - The techniques that win in a Pawn ending (breakthroughs, zugzwang, outside pawns, etc.) also work in Knight endings.
2. If a Knight occupies any square in a Pawn's promotion path (except a corner square) it can stop the Pawn from promoting.
3. Knight endings are tactical in nature!! Keep an eye out for forks, checks, moves with more than one purpose, and sacrifices.
4. The King supports the Knight along a diagonal when they're one square distant and along a rank or file when they're two squares distant.
5. If there are Pawns on both wings, centralize your King and Knight to increase their mobility. Knights have trouble protecting the a and h files.
6. Knights should defend passed Pawns from behind, and blocked Pawns from in front.
7. Knight endings are drawn more often than Rook endings, but they require more precise play.
8. In N vs. 2 Pawns if the King is supporting the Pawns and the other King is far away the Knight’s task is impossible, but if the King is in front of the Pawns then the Knight can usually be sacrificed for them.
9. A Knight has trouble against disconnected Pawns. If the King can stop one Pawn the game is probably drawn, but otherwise the distance may be too much for the Knight to cover.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Man Who ALMOST Challenged Botvinnik

     Isaac Boleslavsky (June 9, 1919 Ukraine – February 15, 1977 Minsk) taught himself chess at age nine. In 1933, Boleslavsky became schoolboy champion of Dnipropetrovsk and three years later won third prize in the 1936 USSR All-Union Junior Championship, held in Leningrad.
     In 1938, at nineteen, he won the Ukrainian Championship; the following year he won the Ukraine SSR championship, qualified to play in the USSR Chess Championship at the age of 20, and gained his national chess master title. He earned a degree in philology at Sverdlovsk University.
     In 1940, Boleslavsky played in the 12th USSR championship final in Moscow. He won eight of his last ten games and tied for fifth/sixth place. At the end of 1940 he won the Ukrainian Championship for the third consecutive year. In March 1941, he took part in the match-tournament for the title of Absolute Champion of the USSR, finishing fourth of six participants. On the eve of the match-tournament, he had to pass an examination at the University, and his preparation for the chess event proved to be inadequate.
     In 1945 he took second place in the 14th USSR championship, behind Mikhail Botvinnik and was awarded the Grandmaster title in the USSR. He made his international debut on third board of the USSR–USA radio match. He drew his first game with Reuben Fine and defeated him in the second game, winning a prize for the best game of the match. Boleslavsky secured a clear advantage in the opening thanks to his superior pawn structure and won without allowing Fine much counterplay. The Soviets regarded Fine as possibly the strongest American player based on his international results in the pre-World War II era.
     In 1946, his daughter Tatiana was born; she later married David Bronstein. Boleslavsky and Bronstein had become friends in the late 1930s, and remained so throughout their lives. In 1946, Boleslavsky played abroad in an international tournament for the first time in Groningen and tied for sixth/seventh place. In 1950 Boleslavsky was awarded the title of International Grandmaster title from FIDE.
     Boleslavsky qualified from the first-ever Interzonal at Saltsjöbaden 1948 into the Candidates Tournament two years later in Budapest. In the Candidates tournament—the winner of which would play a Championship match against Botvinnik—Boleslavsky was the only undefeated player, and led for most of the tournament, but in the last round he was caught by Bronstein.
     From the start of the tournament Boleslavsky forged into the lead and by the end he was half point ahead of his closest rival, Bronstein. In the final round he played Gideon Stahlberg of Sweden who was having a poor tournament and so thought he could count on victory and a match with Botvinnik. Thinking Bronstein would be unable to win his last round game against Paul Keres, Boleslavsky made a quick draw with Stahlberg while Bronstein sacrificed a Pawn, developed a formidable attack and won. The result was a tie for first between Boleslavksy and Bronstein. Bronstein won a playoff in Moscow (+3 −2 =9).
     This turned out to be Boleslavsky's last chance as a serious contender for the world championship. In 1953, he participated in the Candidates' tournament in Zürich, but finished in 10th–11th places, and never qualified for subsequent world championship cycles.
     In 1951, Boleslavsky was Bronstein's second during his match with Botvinnik for the world championship, which wound up drawn after 24 games. In 1952, he scored 7 out of 8 at the Helsinki Olympiad. This was the only Olympiad he would play in his career, but he attended several others to provide support for the Soviet team. He won the Belarusian Championship in 1952 (joint) and 1964.
     In 1961, he played in his last USSR Championship final. He took first place at an international tournament in Debrecen. He was world champion Petrosian's assistant from 1963 to 1969.
     In 1968 he captained the USSR students' team, which won the World Championship at Ybbs. His last tournament appearance was in Minsk in 1971, at age 52. Boleslavsky was the chief trainer of the Soviet Chess Federation in the 1960s, and he remained until his death a very well respected analyst and chess writer, particularly in opening theory.
     He died in Minsk on February 15, 1977, at the age of 57, after falling on an icy sidewalk, fracturing his hip and contracting a fatal infection while in hospital.
     One of Boleslavsky's main contributions to opening theory is the Boleslavsky Variation in the Sicilian Defence (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Be2 e5). Boleslavsky, together with fellow Ukrainians Bronstein, Efim Geller, and Alexander Konstantinopolsky, beginning in the late 1930s, turned the King's Indian Defence from a suspect variation into one of the most popular defences today. Hans Kmoch in his book Pawn Power in Chess calls the King's Indian configuration of black pawns on c6 and d6 (especially if the d-pawn is on a semi-open file) "the Boleslavsky Wall".
     Boleslavsky’s play was distinguished by his extraordinary speed of play, often using less than an hour. His outstanding natural talent allowed him to retain in memory a very large number of games. A taciturn player, he was always a very dangerous opponent with first class opening preparation. He was admired for the depth of his strategic plans and the beauty of his sudden tactical attacking moves.
     Lev Polugaevsky said of him, "I am convinced that any player, even the very strongest, can and should learn from his games (especially the Sicilians!). As regards his depth of penetration into the mysteries of the Sicilian Defense, for both sides moreover, it is doubtful if anyone could compare with Boleslavsky. He had a virtuoso feeling for the dynamics of the opening, and always aimed for a complicated and double-edged struggle, although by nature he was one of the most modest grandmasters with whom I have had the pleasure of rubbing shoulders." A book of his best games, published in 1990, won the prize as the best chess book published in Great Britain that year.