Monday, July 28, 2014

Manhattan Open 2014

I scored 2/5 at the Manhattan Open 2014 edition at the Wyndham New Yorker Hotel. The highlight of the tournament was my miracle draw vs IM Jay Bonin in the first round. My score vs Jay is nothing to write home about to say the least. My only other memorable game was a gift draw vs the IM when I was about a 1500 player. ( He offered that draw to claim clear first. ) After the game, Jay was kind enough to sign my score sheet:
The game itself was quite interesting as I more or less gambitted the opening and was almost checkmated before move 20. The rest of the game was mostly about holding on for dear life and hoping for some defensive chances.
The tournament of course would not be complete without some opportunities for further study and improvement. Plenty of that was provided by my last round game vs Janak Awatramani. Thanks for the lesson kid. Now I gotta make heads or tails of it.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

My Take on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370

I have been riveted to CNN for the past two weeks trying to get every scrap of news on the missing Malaysian Airlines flight. This type of thing brings out the Sherlock Holmes in me and I've been developing my own theory of what may have happened.
As search after search for the missing flight turns up fruitless, I'm won over to the idea more and more that Malaysian Airlines flight 370 did not crash. Given that planes don't crash very often and that there's no shred of evidence that the plane crashed at all, I believe I'm justified in suggesting that the aircraft landed somewhere absent evidence to the contrary.
If the above is the case, then where did the plane land? It is unlikely to have landed very far from Malaysia. A Boeing 777 in Malaysian Airlines livery would be quite conspicuous outside Malaysia, but would not be out of place at all at any of Malaysia's larger airports. There's no better place to hide a Boeing 777 in Malaysian Airlines colors than in Kuala Lumpur's airport, or in one of Malaysia's other larger airports which regularly receives larger Malaysian Airlines aircraft.
How could the plane get there undetected? One possibility is that after MH370 dodged out of radar range, the pilot(s) switch the transponder to the transponder code of some special non-scheduled flight and then landed back at one of Malaysia's airports.
Why? Possibly to discredit the current government of Malaysia.
Where are the passengers? Ok, I admit this is the hard part. I don't have a good scenario other than that the passengers are in some way complicit in this plan. Finding the plane itself is the key to the mystery and some effort must be expended to verify that the plane in question is not in fact sitting on the tarmac or in a hangar somewhere in a Malaysian airport.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Rook Endgames

Today I'm the proud owner of a loss from a "dead drawn" Rook+3 vs Rook+2 with all pawns on one side endgame. As I don't want to be such an owner again, I have decided to investigate the details of drawing this endgame all the way down to the possible Rook+1 vs Rook positions. Actually I think I played the position correctly for quite a while but that's clearly not good enough. So here's the theory:
Quite amazingly I lost as White in this position.
This just goes to show that chess is not easy. It's hard to get a sense of how to continue this type of position for 20 moves or more from grandmaster games because ( except for Carlsen! ) GMs generally take a draw here.
I'm going to play this out vs a computer until I can convincingly hold the draw here as practice. I will post the result when I have it.

Now here's how I should have played that:

While I'm on the topic I'm going to investigate some of the key drawing ( and winning ) ideas in the Rook+1 vs Rook ending as well. As GM Melik Khatchiyan points out in his excellent rook endgame video set on, it's not enough to know the theory in these positions. It is important to actually play out the positions to get practice vs a computer or a training partner.

This position happened during the game. I don't have all the moves to the ending but I found myself in this marginal situation after trying to play too actively. This is clearly the wrong strategy in an inferior rook ending of this type. As it turns out, this position is still a draw with correct play. I almost worked out the key idea but not quite and I lost.

Here are some interesting theoretical rook and pawn positions with some typical lines

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Central Pawns as Compensation for Material

Sometimes pawn(s) are not needed as additional compensation for the positional justification of an exchange sacrifice apparently.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

English Opening Mikenas Line

I don't usually play into this line preferring to transpose to QGD lines. My main interest is in the pawn sacrifice that White often employs in these lines. Obtaining, maintaining and then extending compensation for a pawn is one of my joys within the joy that chess is to me.

Aronian-Kramnik 2011

Monday, February 3, 2014

GM Li Chao You Have a New Fan

This interview / game review by GM Li Chao of China is really refreshing. All strong players improved by studying their losses. It's rare to see a GM analyzing a game they lost and with such good humor. Kudos to you Li Chao, this author is now a fan. GM Li Chao Analysis

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Grandmaster vs Master

Round 1 of the Gibraltar tournament 2014 produced a few semi-miniatures when world class 2700+ GMs faced off vs some masters who would probably give me a tough game any day. I was particularly drawn to the King's Indian line played out between Tomashevsky and his opponent.
Note to self: Don't push ...f5 unless the resulting open g file is to my own advantage.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Slav Defense w/ Qc2

I watched 2 computers battle it out in a slav on ICC. About as perfect as play can get:

I have to say watching 2 computers play each other gets dull really fast. I saved this game mostly for the opening. On the other hand, this is a good lesson in how to make moves that keep the character of the position unchanged The last 10 moves or so is a case in point. This is definitely an area I need to improve at if I'm going to beat stronger opposition in fast time control games.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Areas for Improvement Revealed at the Liberty Bell Open

I played some sub-par chess at the Liberty Bell Open 2014. Plenty of learning experiences vs stronger opposition. I had a near miss vs. Sameer Mujumudar in the first round and it was all downhill from there. On the plus side I had a generally nice weekend with my girlfriend in Philly and I met more chess players and had the chance to say hello to some old friends I don't see too often. Also on the plus side, while the overall result was nothing to write about, I did obtain some interesting positions and insights into how I can improve my thought process at the board.
My round 1 near miss:

Truth be told, things didn't get better from there. I played into an interesting position for analysis in round 2. I feel I got a very playable game out of the opening with Juan Tica. I believe there's significant room for improvement in the middle game. I look forward to working on this game over the next few weeks.

I believe those two games are the foundation of many future successes for me even though I got no points out of the two games. There are many positives in those games and a few weaknesses to work on were revealed. Sameer and Juan, nice to meet you guys. Don't count on me being such a pushover next time! :)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Slav Defense Dutch Variation

First a little joke between Kasparov and Anand:
Bishops move backwards too
Karpov's handling:

Monday, January 13, 2014

English Opening

My blog post for analyzing english opening games.

Reversed Sicilan position. Knights over bishops. Exchange Sacrifice. Checkmate Polugaevsky-Gheorghiu 1972
The opening sequence:

Reversed Rossolimo. No Fianchetto. Karpov-Illescas 1994
Kasparov-Karpov 1987. Karpov won on the Black side of the English too! A double agent
Rapport Wins With Tempo Moves
An example of what a queenside pawn advance is designed to achieve. Here White invades on weak squares on the Black queenside. Queenside pawn advance strategy

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Botvinnik Semi-Slav ( Deferred )

My chess study for 2014 includes a heavy dose of opening theory and to prove to myself I can handle the theory I'm paddling right into the rough salty waters of the Botvinnik Semi-Slav. To ease myself into the rougher currents of the opening theory 30 moves deep I'm starting off in the calmer eddies of more rational queen pawn games. I would be pleased to start this journey back at the games of Alekhine and Capablanca except their opening theory has long since been surpassed. To be more current and yet to experience some of the history of this opening, I am starting my investigation of queen pawn games with game 6 of the Fischer Spassky match:
Fischer-Spassky WC Match(6) 1972
The first critical position just outside the opening is:

One year later in 1973 Geller won this attacking game with an improvement over Spassky's 14th move:
Timman-Geller 1973
So much for 14. Bb5. Well not quite. Certainly 14...Qb7 is a good response in reply defending the rook on a8 and preparing an advance of the queenside pawns with tempo. I tried this position with the Stockfish engine on ICC and the computer considers the position after 14...Qb7 to be equal. I'm encouraged by that prospect and I plan to spend some time understanding the nuances of this position. I can easily remember the opening sequence to this point because I can remember a few key waypoints. I also understand some of the subtleties of 2 of Black's possible replies to 14. Bb5 which of course is not a great move except perhaps for equality and a position I may understand better than my opponent.

Moving on to the Karpov era:
Karpov figures Spassky learned from the above games and dutifully deviates (and wins)
Karpov - Georgiev 1994
In both the games there's a critical decision by White to exchange bishop for knight on move 9 followed by clarifying the center leading to this position:
I tend to favor Black with the bishop pair here. Black also has some simple concepts such as ...Nd7 and ...c5. White on the other hand needs specific calculation to make anything work as careless opening of the position will favor Black. Getting the feel for this position will take more time and games.
The latest high level game with a win for White I can find is this game from 2009: Grischuk-Gelfand 2009
From this handful of games some patterns are emerging.
  • White seems to delay castling until play on the queenside becomes clear. To that end, White often plays b4 and the game revolves around whether Black can use the queenside majority or whether White can stymie play in that sector and begin play in the center and on the kingside.
  • White often ends up with an isolated pawn on d4 which can become a spearhead for a central advance or kingside attack.
  • White sometimes maneuvers Rfe1, Bf1

The other main Botvinnik deferred line is the Cambridge Springs variation of the QGD. This is quite tricky to face without some theoretical foundations. In may games on ICC i'm inadvertently landing in the pawn sacrifice lines without adequate preparation. The odd looking lines with Qd2 which hold on to the material just don't appeal to me. Here are some games I like in this line.
Kasparov-Smyslov 1984. A nice strategic win by Kasparov in a Qd2 line of the Cambridge Springs

Friday, January 10, 2014

Chess Training Plan for 2014

It's that new year's resolution time again! My chess training plan for 2013 was largely a success. I did improve my tactical play and I seem to be playing better minor piece endings. I plan to continue with endgame and tactical training in 2014 and to that I am looking to add opening play. My opening play is quite attrocious and I attribute some of my most memorable losses to poor opening play. ( See my previous post and my "brilliancy" vs Adam Weser. ) All that being said, memorizing openings is quite difficult for me. I have the distinct displeasure to report that I have faced incredibly strong opening play at tournaments from fairly low rated players who just moves later played much weaker moves. I attribute that to those players taking moves from something like Chessbase running on their phones or prompting from another much stronger player. While that's certainly one approach to playing better in the opening, I take no pleasure in such measures. My chess progress is something I value deeply and I will never cheapen that progress by such sportless tricks. Anyone engaging in such practices is just robbing himself or herself of any meaningful achievement. So the challenge is to find effective techniques to help me learn openings better. I'm trying some ideas and will have more to report on in a future post.