Monday, December 31, 2007

French Caffeine

The Streatham & Brixton Chess Club has started a series of posts on games where the Exchange Variation of the French Defense turns out not to be dry, dull, boring and sleep-inducing.

Here is my contribution -- a game with opposite side castling where White neglects to attack on the queenside, so Black has all the fun on the kingside.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Which USCL team is the most/least brilliant?

With the 20 best games (I mean, the 19 best, plus Bonin-Shmelov) from the 2007 US Chess League season lined up for the Game of the Year contest, I thought it might be interesting to see which teams are over and under-represented in the list. Here's what I found:

# of GOTY Candidate Games Won

4 - San Francisco
3 - Miami, New York
2 - Boston, Carolina, Dallas, New Jersey
1 - Philadelphia, Tennessee
0 - Baltimore, Queens, Seattle

# of GOTY Candidate Games Lost

3 - Boston, Dallas, San Francisco, Seattle
2 - New York
1 - Baltimore, Carolina, Miami, New Jersey, Queens, Tennessee
0 - Philadelphia

Of the 40 participants from the 20 games, 22 (or 55%) come from just four teams -- San Francisco, Boston, Dallas and New York. I wonder what the bias-conspiratorialists will make of that?
By the way, Arun Sharma has added his two cents to the Bonin-Shmelov controversy:
I must say that I was shocked when this game was picked as a Wildcard. Why? Well because I frankly didn’t think it deserved to be in the GOTY contest. And if it doesn’t deserve to be in the contest then why should it do well in it? Simple answer: it shouldn’t.
... and congratulations are in order for Chicago and Arizona, the two expansion teams for the 2008 season.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

New Year's Day at the BCC

Start your new year right at the annual Herb Healy Open House on New Year's day.

This is our Boylston Chess Club annual party and fund raiser.
  • If you will be up late celebrating on New Year's eve, not to worry - first round is 11:45.
  • If you don't feel like rated games in the rated section, play in the unrated section.
  • If game/30 is too quick for your taste, this year again the time control is changed to G/45.
  • If you are not a member of the BCF, no problem -- you do not need to be a BCF member to enjoy the tournament and food and fellowship, though it is a traditional time for many to join or rejoin.
Tuesday, January 1st: BCF Herb Healy Open House 4SS; G/45; 2 sections: Rated and Non-Rated; Entry fee: $25, $20 BCF members if received by 12/30, $5 extra on site. Registration: 10:45 to 11:40. Rounds: 11:45, 1:20, 3:00, 4:40. Free food and drink served all day long to tournament players. Send advance entries to: Herb Healy Open House, 240B Elm St. Suite B9 Somerville, MA 02144

Adapted from Bob Oresick's e-mail

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

In search of permalinks

In a post discussing a recent Chess Cafe article by Mark Dvoretsky, The Chessmill registers the following complaint:
I’d provide a link to it, but Hanon Russell doesn’t appear to believe in permalinks, so any link I’d provide here would break in short order, hence there’s no point in doing so...
While it is in fact a bit challenging to find the permanent links on The Chess Cafe site, they are there. Look in the archives section (there's a link at the bottom right on the front page). For example, a permalink to the Dvoretsky article in question can be found here.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Lithium calls it quits

It just got to a point where my enthusiasm was shot to hell and I just couldn't be bothered with it anymore....

I know some people can take a positive from their losses, but for me, well it just pisses me off. There's a dozen other pastimes out there I can excel in in only a few months of practise and I'd rather spend my rather limited time, patience and enjoyment on those than constantly bang my head against a brick wall that is the Australian chess scene.

Do I love Chess? my oath. On design and principle it's strategic gaming at the absolute pinnacle with a rich and fascinating history.

But if you want to learn to play to win, you better start before you grow pubic hair because it's one hell of a bloody competitive game and for a late bloomer like me, I'm way way too late to the game to hold my own against the top dogs.

So with regret and sadness I am withdrawing from the Knights. I was foolish to think that it would help me get a leg up on the competition but really, I was just fooling myself.
Read his complete post, "It's not cricket...".

Thursday, December 20, 2007

IM David Vigorito - Lecture and Simul at the BCC

IM David Vigorito, currently the Champion of Massachusetts and of the Boylston Chess Club, discussed two interesting recent games.

The audience of 17 - mostly BCC members who had free admission - enjoyed David's sophisticated and witty comments about a King's Indian game and a Sicilian he played with Paul MacIntyre in the BCC Championship. There were ample refreshments and a smaller than expected simul (6 intrepid souls.) All in all a delightful chess evening.

I thought it might be even higher

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Kids, Christmas and the BCC

We'll let them spend the holiday with their families, but beyond that the Boylston Chess Club has a week's worth of activities to keep the scholastic set out of trouble.

Sunday, December 23: Sunday Scholastic

4SS; Game/30. Sections: Under 8 years old, Under 11 years old, Under 14 years old; Entry fee: $15; $10 for BCF members; join at the tournament and get the member rate. Prizes: Trophies to top two in each section. Registration: 9:00-9:50 AM; Rounds: 10:00 – 11:00 – 12:30 – 1:30
Boylston School Break Chess Camp Series
December recess: 26th , 27th, 28th 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each day

This chess camp is for young chess players who already have a complete understanding of the rules of chess and desire to develop their abilities. With a combination of lecture, question & answer, and hands-on techniques, the instructors will cover:
  • Tactics
  • Strategy
  • Openings
  • Middlegames
  • Endgames
  • Problems
Students will develop their memory, critical thinking skills, sense of fairness, attention span, and have fun in the process.

The head instructor is Chess Master Jacob Rasin, an experienced coach who has been the coach of many of New England's best young players and has inspired them to many championships.

Who can join?: School-age children, K to 12, interested in getting better at chess from motivated beginner to intermediate.

How much does it cost?: Each camp is $60 for Boylston Chess Club members.

Reserve your place in the December Break camp by contacting Paul MacIntyre, President of the Boylston Chess Foundation at (781) 322-7936 or

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Can a game that didn't count be Game of the Year?

In a rather surprising decision, New York Knights IM Jay Bonin's win over NM Denys Shmelov of the Boston Blitz in the US Chess League Eastern Division Finals was selected as the 4th Wildcard entry into the Game of the Year selection process. The choice was made by Jonathan Hilton whose Game of the Week selections were often met with confusion during the regular season.

While I don't wish to diminish Bonin's effort, it is worth recalling that much of the game transpired after the Blitz had already clinched the match victory and Shmelov was forced to play out the ending with the rest of team and its fans celebrating around him. In addition, the original Rook and 3 pawns vs. Knight and Bishop ending was probably better for Denys. Kudos to Jay for outplaying his opponent, but hardly Game of the Year material in this observer's opinion.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Play chess under a watchful eye

The city of Deland, Florida has hired a contractor to begin development of Chess Park.
In keeping with its name, Chess Park will feature 10 tables with chessboard designs. There will also be a giant chessboard for playing giant chess, explained Alan Cajacob, the DeLand architect who designed the park.

"I understand that some of these giant chess parks have tournaments going on till the wee hours of the morning," Cajacob said.

There will be super-size game pieces — pawns, knights, rooks, bishops, queens and kings — that players may move about on the park's checkerboard surface....
Players will need to be careful not to wager on games, make illegal moves or knock the pieces off the board when they are about to lose, since all the action will be monitored.
...Chess Park will be equipped to record any lawlessness that occurs within its walls.

"I'll have security cameras in it," [Volusia County director of facilities services, Fred] Schwenck said.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Another Thank You

Thanks go out to Chad Kimball of for his generous contribution to the Boylston Chess Foundation. Donations like his help us continue introducing people to the joys of chess and keep one of America's oldest chess centers up and running.

Chad has made several articles on chess openings available to readers.

Thanks again.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A virtual chess book club

Takchess is about to kickoff an interesting internet-based community endeavor. He plans on reading Vukovic's Art of Attack in Chess and write notes about the book on his blog as he works through it. Ok, that in itself isn't so interesting, but this is: He's inviting all those in the chess blog community (readers and bloggers) to join him in the reading the book and participate in the discussion by leaving comments on the related posts on his blog. If it works, the result will be the electronic equivalent of a book study group. While readers can leave comments, bloggers could actually go one step further. They could post their thoughts on their own blogs and leave trackbacks to Takchess.
So, if Art of Attack is on your list of chess books to read, this might be just the impetus you need to pick up a copy, crack it open and join Takchess' virtual book club.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Computer chess to go

Here's a web application that allows you to play against Shredder using your iPhone (it works perfectly well in a regular browser as well). Use the menu button to choose your color, set the program's playing strength and takeback your move after Shredder shows you the folly of your play.

Hat Tip: Gila Chess Patzer

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Vigorito Lecture on December 19th

The Boylston Chess Club Master Lecture Series presents:

International Master David Vigorito

IM David Vigorito is the reigning Massachusetts State Champion and has been the state champion of New Hampshire and Nevada. David has won a number of tournaments in the US and Budapest. Last but not least, David won this year's Boylston Chess Club Championship by a margin of two full points over a field of masters. He will be speaking about some of his abundant recent victories.

When: Wednesday, December 19th. The lecture starts at 7:00 p.m.; the simultaneous exhibition starts at 8:30 p.m.

Where: The Boylston Chess Club

Admission: For BCC Members: Lecture - Free, Simul - $5; Non-members: Lecture - $5, Simul - $10

Other: The simultaneous exhibition will take place if 10 people or more are interested

Adapted from the event flyer

Monday, December 10, 2007

Boston Blitz All-Stars

Unlike 2006, the Blitz were well represented in this year's US Chess League All-Star Team selections. Obviously playing well is important, but this year's difference seems to be the fact that most of their games were concentrated among four players.

Board 1: Larry Christiansen - 3rd Team

Board 2: Jorge Sammour-Hasbun - 1st Team

Board 3: Denys Shmelov - 2nd Team

Board 4: Chris Williams - 2nd Team

In addition, Sammour-Hasbun received Rookie of the Year honors.
Due to the Boston Globe's standard chess article publishing delay, Harold Dondis' recap of the USCL finals finally came out today.
Chess Notes
By Harold Dondis and Patrick Wolff
Globe Correspondents

The US Chess League came to a climax in one event-filled evening that lasted until 2:30 in the morning. Dallas Destiny defeated the Boston Blitz in what must be called a most surprising finish. The two teams were matched in the first play-off as follows:

First board (Blitz v. Destiny): Larry Christiansen v. Drasko Boskovic; second board: Jorge Sammour-Hasbun v. Davorin Kuljasevic; third board: Denys Shmelov v. Jacek Stopa; fourth board: Chris Williams v. Bayaraa Zorigt. Christiansen, as Black, drew early when his opponent elected to play a repetition of moves. Sammour-Hasbun came up with a victory and Denys Shmelov drew against Stopa. Williams had the better position against Zorigt, but she gained material during time pressure, and the match was tied.

So the two teams went into the accelerated play-offs. The rules were that these would start with Board 4 and move to the top by elimination. A draw eliminated both players until only one player was left on a team. Boston Blitz seemed impregnable, with ICC champion Sammour-Hasbun and former US champion Christiansen on first board. Williams started off by avenging his defeat by Zorigt, but was eliminated by Stopa, who turned out to be a spoiler in the match. Stopa defeated Shmelov and then drew with Sammour-Hasbun, thus striking three Blitz players off the list. Christiansen was left alone to face Dallas' first two boards. Christiansen drew with Kuljasevic and then defeated him. He then moved on to Boskovic, but erred in the end game and Boskovic won. Thus did Dallas end Boston's long list of victories and became US Chess League champion. A remarkable win....

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Remembering Greg Hager

I didn't have a chance to meet Greg prior to his illness, but I did get to know him relatively well through over a decade of interactions at the Boylston Chess Club. What amazed me was how positive he always remained about life despite the serious medical challenges he faced. Every time I asked him how he was doing, I usually got the same answer, "I'm doing pretty well, thanks." Sometimes he would be away from the club for several weeks or months for a surgery, treatment or other hospitalization, but he never expressed any anger or resentment about his predicament. Instead, he'd show up one day and say "I was gone for awhile, but now I'm happy to be back playing chess with you guys again." Greg had plenty of reason to say NO to life, but he always said YES instead.

Over the years, as his playing ability deteriorated he inevitably lost many more games than he won. Yet, he never complained about his results. Instead, he set up the pieces for the next game and let loose with his swashbuckling, romantic style. Greg never saw a pawn that he didn't think was worth sacrificing. His "initiative at all costs" approach often threw a scare into higher rated opponents and sometimes netted him an upset win.

The last time I played Greg was during the 2006 Hauptturnier. This was the period of time when players would take the short ride over to his house in Somerville every week for their games. He sat up in bed and we played on a demonstration board hung on the wall. When the game was finished and I was heading out, his mother stopped me to offer her thanks to all the players who came by each week to play Greg. "You know" she said, "Greg really looks forward to his chess games each week. In fact, he just seems better on the days he knows he's going get to play." Greg loved chess and Caissa loved him in return.

God rest your soul, chess friend.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Carey Theil wins the 2007 Hauptturnier

While Carey will tell you that he got lucky in a couple of his games, the fact is he thoroughly dominated this year's 12-man field. Carey scored 10 out of 11, going undefeated and allowing only two draws. Further, he went 3-0 against the other experts in the field. Congratulations to Carey on an outstanding performance.

Second place went to David Glickman with 8.5, a game and a half behind the winner. Eddie Chisam secured third with 8.

Here are the final standings:

10.0 - Carey Theil (2031)

8.5 - David Glickman (2027)
8.0 - Eddie Chisam (2063)
7.0 - Ken Newman (1909)
6.0 - Joshua Haunstrup (1898)
6.0 - Ruben Portugues (1823)
5.5 - Alex Slive (2000)
5.0 - Jon Lee (1724)
4.0 - Walter Driscoll (1800)
4.0 - Frank Frazier (1600)
2.0 - Robert Oresick (1472)
0.0 - Ted Gorczyca (1380)

Click here for the final crosstable.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Blitz almost lose, almost win, and finally lose

Cancel the plans for the rolling rally. Don't bother waiting for another Chris Williams Riverdance. And forget about a celebratory Championship video (which probably isn't a bad thing, since several Championship spectators expressed their displeasure with the Eastern Division Championship version). They're holding the parties at UTD, while Bostonians are left to contemplate the reality that a single blitz game shattered their US Chess League Championship dreams.

The storyline is fairly well known by now. The Blitz appeared well on their way to defeat after GM Christiansen could achieve no more than a draw by repetition against Boskovic on Board 1 and things looked dire for the good guys on all three remaining boards. Sammour-Hasbun was fighting an uphill battle after Kuljasevic sacrificed a piece in a French Tarrasch; Shmelov's promising position had given away to a strong attack by Stopa against his King; and William's opponent, Zorigt, had secured an advanced passed pawn and nice piece outposts for the exchange.

However, it wasn't that long before the tables had turned completely. First, Shmelov managed to find a nifty resource to secure a drawn position. Next, Jorge finally coordinated his pieces, broke through and traded off to a won two pieces vs. a rook ending. Suddenly, the Blitz were just a draw away from the title and fortuitously, Williams' game had suddenly become eminently drawable. Yet it was not to be, as Chris blundered away his chances and allowed the Destiny to the tie match.

So, off they went to blitz tiebreaks. While there are certainly many paragraphs that could be written about the tiebreak games, in my view the USCL tiebreak system makes only the top board matchup relevant, by design....
I suppose an aside to explain this view is warranted, since I'm sure some will disagree with my supposition. While it is theoretically possible that a team's 1st board might be defeated by the 2nd or 3rd board of the other team, I suspect the actually probability of this is fairly low. Therefore, more often than not, it doesn't really matter what happens in the preliminary blitz games because eventually the 1st boards will face each other for the title. So far, this is how things have played out the two times tiebreaks have been used. It's only a guess on my part, but I'd bet that over the next several decades, this will be the case more than 9 out of ten times (we should only be lucky enough that the USCL shows enough longevity to generate such a large sample).
....In the game that mattered, GM Christiansen eschewed a draw and played on seeking winning chances. Instead, it was Larry who made the critical blunder and a minute later Boston's season was over. Some might claim that Christiansen's loss was attributable to the fact that he had to play three blitz games as opposed to his opponent's one. I find this highly unlikely. Larry may very well have been tired, but only because it was 2:00 am, not because he had to play an extra 30 minutes of chess.
You can find analysis of key positions from the match at Braden's blog and Arun offers his overall impressions. I thought I might try to get inside the heads the combatants themselves. While everything that follows is conjecture and speculation, there are two key moments which I'd like to explore.

First, why did Williams throw away his rook with 50.Rxf7? It doesn't take a master to see that there was no winning follow up to this sacrifice and Chris is more than strong enough to have realized this. Instead, I think he thought he had found a quick way to draw the game, only to realize after the sacrifice that his key move wasn't possible.

NM Williams - WFM Zorigt
After 49.Qd3

When he played 49.Qd3, not only was he offering to trade queens, but he also had setup the variation 50.Rxf7 Rxf7 51.f6+ Kg8 52.Qd8+ Kh7 (if Rf8 then 53. f7+) 53.Qd3+ with perpetual check. However, only after he sacrificed the rook did he realize that Black's 49th move, Qxa5, covered the d8 square. There was no check and no perpetual. Time pressure certainly played a role, but I think impatience was a factor also. Chris was looking for a quick way to bring the game to a close since the alternative was likely returning the exchange for the pawn on d2 and playing on for awhile to draw a slightly inferior but eminently drawable endgame.

Second, I've been pondering why Larry decided to risk it all in a totally equal position in the last blitz game when he could have simply taken a draw and tried for more in the next one. There are certainly plausible explanations like it was late and he just wanted to get things over with, or he thought he could outplay Boskovic in the ending, or he didn't think his chances of winning with Black in the next game were particularly high. While one or more of these may very well have been a factor, I think an off-board occurrence may well have influenced the final outcome the match.

GM Christiansen-IM Boskovic
after 31...Rd7

Larry certainly could have
considered taking a draw here

You may recall that there was an extra long delay before the last blitz game commenced. My understanding is that this was due to the fact that the UTD Student Center, where Dallas was playing, was being shut down for the night and the team needed to move to another location. While there had been no internet connection problems throughout the long match, there was one after Dallas moved to the new location, right in the middle of the final blitz game. Why did this matter? Because early on in the game, Larry had been using much more time than his opponent. At the time of the disconnection, he had only about two minutes left to his opponent's three and a half or so. I contend that if that deficit had remained the same, Larry would likely have acquiesced to a draw later on and played another game. Instead, because of the disconnection, he was given an extra 2 minutes. As a result, at the key moment (when he had to decide whether to take a draw or risk going for a win) he had a time advantage and this may very well have influenced his decision to play on. Maybe UTD Security should be given an assist for their role in securing Dallas' victory?

All speculation as I said before, but perhaps the players in question will shed some light on what was actually going through their minds.
I suppose my comments above on the tiebreak system might be viewed as a critique. While I actually don't mind the current system and found watching the tiebreaks to be very exciting, I do think there is at least one viable alternative which, among other things, would probably take less time. What about just switching colors and having the same players play each other again (1 vs 1, 2 vs 2, etc.) at a time control of G/10? If the match draws again, switch colors again and repeat at G/5. Keep going until one team wins. I think this makes sense and would likely take far fewer rounds.
So that's it for the 2007 season, except for post season awards and the USCL hot stove season. Dallas and Boston both had great seasons and played an exciting Championship match. The league itself also continued to make major strides forward and the USCL blogosphere had some significant growth as well. Where's it all going to be years from now? Beats me, but it's a good bet that things will be bigger and better in 2008.

BCC Weblog provides independent coverage of the United States Chess League. It is not affiliated with the USCL or the Boston Blitz.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Greg Hager died on Tuesday

Our chess friend Greg Hager died on Tuesday at his home in Somerville, where he had been cared for by his venerable mother and aunt.

For many years Greg had played chess at the BCC, been a member, and for some years, served as a board member.
Over the years as his illness progressed, his calculation and perceptive abilities declined, but not his fighting attitude - Greg always played an interesting game, full of attack and sacrifice.

After he became less and less mobile, he was unable to come to the club; we gave him a little token of appreciation which he kept on a bookcase.

Though confined, he still played in Monday night and Thursday night Swiss tournaments -- his opponents played him at his bedside at home, moving on a demo board he had arranged. His mother and aunt made tea and his dog Zeppo kept vigil.

His flag has dropped and we all miss him.

Rest in peace.


Gregory R. Hager
November 27, 2007

Gregory R. Hager, 58 of Somerville, died Tuesday at home after a long illness.

Born in Newton, NJ, he was raised in Rochester, New York and lived in Somerville for the past 10 years. Gregory was a Realtor, CRS and GRI with Charles Associates in Cambridge for 10 years. Formerly he was Chemist with the Seamen Company in Boston. Gregory attended Rochester Schools, Fordham University and the University of Maryland where he received his Masters Degree. He also was an avid reader and for many years was a member of the Boylston Chess Club in Somerville.

Cherished son of Angela M. (Dovi) Hager of Rochester, NY and Somerville and the late Robert E. Hager. Loving nephew of Anna Louise Huguenin of New York City. His faithful dog Zeppo. Also survived by many many loving friends. A funeral service will be conducted in the Dello Russo Funeral Home, 306 Main St., MEDFORD Saturday at 4 pm. Relatives and friends are respectfully invited to attend, and may visit with the family from 3 thru 4. Interment will be private. In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be sent in Gregory's name to the VNA of Middlesex East and Visiting Nurse Hospice, 607 North Ave., Suite 17, Wakefield, MA 01880.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Really? Are you sure?

From the Chess.FM coverage of the USCL Championship match:

"Some of the best women players in the US are women" - John Donaldson

From the Boston Blitz bulletin board

Elizabeth Vicary has done a nice job this week getting members of the Dallas Destiny to talk unguardedly about their opponents in tonight's US Chess League Championship match.

Dallas 3rd board IM Jacek Stopa on Ilya Krasik:
I have never heard of that guy. Frankly, I don’t really care about random people expressing their ridiculous opinions. I’m ok with whatever leaves that gentleman’s mouth.
Dallas 1st board IM Draks Boskovic on Ilya Krasik:
Well, I don’t really know who this person is (Ilya Krasik).... If four players like Ilya Krasik played against Dallas, they wouldn’t score more than ½ point. hahaha.
After slights like these, we can expect to see an extra special effort from Boston's head cheerleader tonight. No doubt he's warming up the Championship pom-poms as we speak.
I'd also like to thank Elizabeth for eliciting some positive press for BCC Weblog with her question about "top five chess-related websites."

Boston Blitz 1st board GM Larry Christiansen:
TWIC, Chesslab., ICC, Chessbase and BoylstonCC I get recent games, news, and local color. Chesslab is easy to use, TWIC has great timely info, Chessbase has it all and the Boylston blog keeps me informed on local issues. ICC is simply the best site out there.
USCL Commissioner IM Greg Shahade:
Hmmm,, (at least before they did the terrible makeover),,, (probably got the url wrong, but you know what I mean)
Let's hope Greg has us bookmarked since that url isn't going to help him find his way here.

BCC Weblog provides independent coverage of the United States Chess League. It is not affiliated with the USCL or the Boston Blitz.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Channeling Nixon

Ever wonder what actually goes on at a USCF Executive Board Meeting?

Sam Sloan has posted several snippets of audio from their recent meeting on November 3rd in Crossville, Tennessee. Of course, everyone knows that Sam is pursuing a political (and legal) agenda against the Federation, so there is no need to accept his interpretations of the events on the tapes. However, since you can listen to the raw material, feel free to generate your own opinions. By the way, in a couple of the clips you can hear the voice of blogger Jack Lemoine.

For those who are closely following Sloan's lawsuit against Polgar/Truong et. al., you might also be interested in this additional piece of audio of USCF Board Members being served summonses in the case.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Deciding not to cheat = good sportsmanship?

Dana Mackenzie posted a lengthy piece on John Donaldson and the USCL's San Francisco Mechanics. It is quite a good read, though I was taken aback by the following paragraph:
In fact, Bhat’s loss was a triumph of good sportsmanship. As shown in my previous post, in league competition Bhat plays his moves on a regular board and with a regular clock, then enters them into the computer. (At least until the time pressure gets too intense, then he switches to all-computer mode.) Against Lugo, Bhat played 23. Bd5 and then realized it was a bad move. However, according to Donaldson, because he had already made the move on his board "he felt honor bound to make that move on the computer."
I'm not sure what to make of this. The USCL rules clearly state that entering a different move into the computer than was made on the board is illegal:
A player may also play with a physical board at their side, as some players can concentrate better on an actual chessboard as opposed to playing directly at a computer. In this case the players would first make their move on the chessboard and then input it into the computer. The player is FORCED to make whatever move they made on the chessboard on the computer as well. If a TD sees that they have done otherwise then the player will be penalized.
Were this rule not in place, players would be able to use their physical boards to analyze the position prior to selecting a move to play on the computer -- a clear violation of the principles of OTB play.

So, when Mackenzie/Donaldson say that Bhat showed "good sportsmanship," what could they possibly mean? ...that Vinay considered the option of cheating, but chose not to because "he felt honor bound?" ...that the TD wasn't looking, so Vinay realized he could get away with playing another move, but didn't do so since he realized it would be wrong? Could they possibly mean to disparage Bhat's reputation in this way?

Isn't it more likely that Vinay played the inferior move on the computer because that's what the rules required and he never considered anything other than following them? That's what I'd like to believe. I'd also like to believe that playing by the rules is an expectation of all players in the league. Therefore, I don't think we need to be handing out good sportsmanship medals and badges of honor to those who do so.

Thirsty for Chess

Chessaholic describes how our favorite game can become a pervasive influence in one's life.

Friday, November 23, 2007

USCL Finals Set

We now have answers to some of our questions about the US Chess League Championship match:

Who will the Blitz be playing? The Dallas Destiny

When will it be? Wednesday, November 28th at 8:00 pm EST

How much will Blitz management be charging for those Harvard Astrophysics Center luxury box seats? We still haven't heard, but I bet there will be tickets available "for sale" at the door.
With seven of the eight players the same as in their team's previous playoff round, it's difficult to find any intrigue in the line-up decisions. Nevertheless, those stretching for a story might note that Boston could have put GM Perelshteyn on Board 2 without changing the rest of the lineup. While this would have increased the Blitz's rating advantage, I doubt anyone seriously contemplated sitting Jorge and his 2800+ USCL performance rating.
Here are the matchups (Boston has White on Boards 2 & 4):

GM Larry Christiansen: 2663 vs. IM Drasko Boskovic: 2532
SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun: 2558 vs. IM Davorin Kuljasevic: 2489
NM Denys Shmelov: 2251 vs. IM Jacek Stopa: 2414
NM Chris Williams: 2175 vs. WFM Bayaraa Zorigt: 2196

Although the average ratings of the two teams are close (Boston - 2412, Dallas - 2408), the Blitz probably have an edge on the top two boards, and possibly on Board 4 as well. In addition, with a GM up top, you have to like Boston's chances if the match goes to tiebreaks.

BCC Weblog provides independent coverage of the United States Chess League. It is not affiliated with the USCL or the Boston Blitz.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Can't say I saw this coming

Hard to believe, but apparently the Chess Blog Carnival is now a source of controversy.

In a recent post, Chess Tyro writes that the most recent addition of the Carnival ... "left a sour taste in my mouth and make[s] me question, perhaps unfairly, whether the coordinator’s original intention was really as noble as he made it out to be..."

He lists three major complaints:
  1. " internet money-making scheme that has a big fat zero relation to chess..." was included

  2. " editorial work [was] done..."

  3. The Carnival was "...posted in a newly created discussion forum known to be owned by a currently controversial chess personality that the coordinator seems to be closely associated with..."
While Chess Tyro thinks something nefarious is going on, I'm inclined to believe that most of this can be explained by lack of effort and attention to detail on the part of this month's Carnival editor. Although, in Jack's defense, it's not as if any of us offered to take on the task.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wamala gets 20-40 years

From "Wamala sentenced for repeated sexual assaults on girl" at the Nashua Telegraph:
A former Lowell (Mass.) High School math teacher and chess coach was sentenced Monday to 20-40 years in prison for repeatedly raping a young girl....

Prosecutors had urged an even stiffer sentence of 30-60 years in prison. Assistant County Attorney Patricia LaFrance recognized Wamala won't become eligible for parole unless he admits his guilt as part of the prison's sex-offender treatment program and thus may serve the maximum term, effectively a life sentence.

"If he chooses to step up and admit what he did, he has the chance to get out of prison before he dies," she said. "It's on him . . . the ball is in his hands."The victim, now 16, said though her life has improved since his arrest, Wamala had "ruined my life in a lot of different ways."

"There's nothing he can do to erase the past six years of my life. The damage is done," she said....

Wamala spoke at length before he was sentenced. Wamala said he agrees that a person found guilty of sexual assaults should be removed from society, but he said juries sometimes make mistakes and did so in his case.

Wamala said the girl had lied many times during her life, usually to cover up when she got into trouble. He spoke at length about instances when he said she lied about hitting another child in sixth grade, using a cell phone in school and sharing test answers with friends. Repeatedly, he remarked, "everything I have said can be verified by someone other than me."

"You have fooled people," he told her. "You know how to make yourself a victim, to appear as a victim."....

Friday, November 16, 2007

Ding! Dong!

Once the winds stopped swirling, all could see that Jorge's house had come crashing down upon the Canadian menace. Pascal was dead. Pascal was dead! After three years of tyranny, his reign of terror upon Blitzville had ended and Blitzkins everywhere piled into the streets and celebrated long into the night.

The game was a classic example of what Blitz fans had been seeing from Sammour-Hasbun all throughout the US Chess League regular season -- time pressure, complications, and an ability to outplay his opponent from a potentially inferior position when everything was on the line. Sixteen moves in, Jorge was already under ten minutes. Each time Pascal closed the gap by contemplating his move for an extended period, Jorge expanded his time disadvantage on the next several moves. It was as if Jorge was luring Pascal into a time scramble. "Come play my kind chess," he must have been thinking. And once both reached single digits on the clock, it was Jorge who found the necessary moves and Pascal who made the catastrophic blunder.

Others have pointed out Charbonneau's error and an improvement that he didn't find until the game was long over (check out posts by Adamson, Bournival and Hoffman). Instead, I'd like to look at something different -- the position after Pascal's 15th move.

SM Sammour-Hasbun - GM Charbonneau
After 15...f5

I don't know how many club players, like myself, would have looked past 16.Qxg7. It restores the material balance and looks potentially threatening in conjunction with a bishop check on h5. Yet, it turns out to be inferior to Jorge's move 16.c4. After 16.Qxg7 Qf6 17.Qxf6 Rxf6 18.c4 bxc3 19.bxc3 Black's superior minor pieces must confer him some advantage. Instead, Jorge realized that he had better long-term prospects on the Queenside by eschewing the g7-pawn. It is critical moments like these that highlight the chasm in understanding between the likes of Jorge and the rest of us.
Question: When is having a 2700 player on your team, not like having a 2700 player on your team?

Answer: When he doesn't take the team or the league seriously.

What other conclusion can be drawn from these remarkable comments that GM Nakamura made on the ICC after he drew his game with GM Christiansen:
"This isn't a real tournament"
"I'm not going to waste any of my d4 prep on this"
Now to be fair to Hikaru, even if he is being paid to play in the USCL (and I don't know that he is), it is a small pittance at best. As a world class player, it pales in comparison to the potential rewards of winning a critical game at a major international tournament or a big money swiss. Therefore, from a perspective of self interest, you can't really blame him for his attitude.

However, this raises serious concerns for the growth and development of the league. Surely the popularity of the USCL depends on recruiting the best players to play. Yet, how can fans and, more importantly, sponsors be expected to take the league seriously if the top players don't?
The Board 4 encounter between Williams and Zenyuk did turn out to be critical to the outcome of the match. However, it is not a game that will be enshrined in the USCL Hall of Fame. Even though I don't know a heck of a lot about the King's Indian, I immediately recognized that 7.Bd2 was, to be kind, somewhat unusual. And 14.Kf1 was, shall we say, not exactly classical. On the other hand, perhaps this was Chris' strategy all along since Iryna responded with two inferior moves in row (14...Bf5 and 15...Qd7) which left her with a lost position.

Braden Bournival rightly points out that William's technique in closing out the game was less than precise. While watching on the ICC, I don't know how many times I asked myself, "Why doesn't he just take the pawn on d6?" or ...

NM Williams - WFM Zenyuk
After 37...h6

... "what's wrong with 38.Ne6?"

Of course, Chris never put the full point at risk and did eventually close out the game and the match for Boston.
There's not much point in spending a lot of time on a game which didn't play a role in the final result, though I suppose it's worth noting that NM Shmelov suffered his first loss of season. I'm sure he'll be studying up on how not to lose better endgames prior to the Championship match.
Did I forget to mention that the Blitz defeated the New York Knights 2.5-1.5 to advance to the US Chess League finals? Ah yes, the USCL Championship match...

Who will they be playing? We're not sure yet.

When will it be? According to a note on the USCL homepage, there seems to be some uncertainty about that too.

Most importantly, how much will Blitz management be charging for those Harvard Astrophysics Center luxury box seats?

BCC Weblog provides independent coverage of the United States Chess League. It is not affiliated with the USCL or the Boston Blitz.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Charbonneau goes down!

Blitz are through to the US Chess League finals ... more later.

Consistency is...

I always get nervous about group think. Nevertheless, here is a round up of the USCL prognosticators' predictions for tonight's Boston Blitz-New York Knights playoff match.

Sparkling Moves

Here is a position from Round 3 of the 2007 BCC Championship with Black to move.

NM Wang-IM Vigorito
After 25.Bb2-c3

Highlight the space between the brackets for the continuation.

[Dave finished off Frank with 25...Re3!! The game concluded 26.d3 (if 26.dxe3 then 26...Rd1 wins) Rexd3 27.Ba5 (27.Bxd3 Rxd3 and Black still can't be stopped from playing Rd1) Rd1 28.Rxd1 cxd1=Q 0-1]

By the way, the final crosstable for the Championship is now available in the news section of the BCC website.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

More Globe coverage of the Boston Blitz

The Boston Blitz were again a topic of the Boston Globe's Chess Notes column (on Monday, November 12th). BCC Weblog received a mention as well. The article covers the regular season and was obviously submitted prior to the first round of the playoffs.
Chess Notes
By Harold Dondis and Patrick Wolff
Globe Correspondents

Chess has its heroes but they cannot parade through the streets of Boston to the acclaim of thousands. The Boston Blitz chess team does not claim to be a nation, like the Red Sox, but it has clinched the Eastern Division of the US Chess League. The Blitz does not have a Jonathan Papelbon to whiff ninth-inning batters and do a folk dance before a full stadium of fans. It doesn't have a Jacoby Gazellesbury to steal a base and win free Tacos for every person in the nation. However, it has its heroes who toil at the chessboard and come up with victories in live games on the Internet in front of a worldwide audience. Larry Christiansen and [Jorge] Sammour-Hasbun have nearly always held Board 1, facing the likes of Hikaru Nakamura and Alex Stripunsky, with no losses and with plus scores. Eugene Perelshteyn and Bill Kelleher have generally bulwarked second place, Denys Shmelov is Boston's third-place guy with no losses and a plus score. Fourth Board has been defended by Ilya Krasik and Chris Williams (who has a plus score).

Recall that the Boston Blitz won its Division last year but succumbed to New York in the playoffs. This year, New York has again qualified as a wild card. Jay Bonin came through with a critical win against the New Jersey Knockouts in the last round.

The schedule appears to be that the Philadelphia Inventors will play the New York Knights in Round 1. The winner will then face the Boston Blitz. In the West, the San Francisco Mechanics will play the Miami Sharks for the right to play the Dallas Destiny team. The winners of the two divisions will then face each other for the finals. [DG] in his Boylston Chess Blog has used a computer calculation to predict the winners, and he has [the] Boston Blitz on top, but like the computer printouts for global warming, we must wait and see actual results....
As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Board 4 matchup between the Knight's Iryna Zenyuk and the Blitz's Chris Williams could be the critical one tomorrow night. At USCL news & gossip, Liz Vicary got the two combatants to comment about each other.

Zenyuk on Williams:
I think Chris is very dangerous opponent. Looking at his games I see great determination from his side, he is an aggressive player, calculates very well, he is not afraid to go into sharp, double-edged play where the price of tempo can cost you a point. The first game we played was very sharp, at some point I thought I lost the thread of a game, after 21.Nd6 I thought I was just worse, my attack didn’t work and my king was bad. Then, after 21…Nb6 I found nice rook maneuver, of course giving up his bishop was a mistake but we were both in time pressure, so it was hard to find the best moves. I hope for a hard fought game on Wednesday! And btw the song about Chris is great!
Williams on Zenyuk:
Well in our last game I really just messed up at the end, I didn’t play my fav move of all time quite possibly, I had my mouse about to release it instead I like just gave her a bishop and was lost the move was Qe6 sacking the queen for 2 pieces some pawns and tremendous dirty potential specially with her time situation. Iryna is a very strong player shes original, solid, and methodical, my game with her will be a hard one im sure I just hope I will be able to keep a consistent mind set throught the entire game.
Apparently, punctuation is a lost art.

BCC Weblog provides independent coverage of the United States Chess League. It is not affiliated with the USCL or the Boston Blitz.

Monday, November 12, 2007

BU Open 2007 results

The 13th annual BU Open was held on Saturday, November 10 on a lovely day in the student union of Boston University. More than eighty players competed in what all agreed was a very pleasant venue – natural light from many windows, well-spaced tables and comfortable chairs, and a Starbucks a minute away in the food court (where one could grab pizza and burgers, sushi and salads, Chinese and turkey dinners between rounds.) TD Bernardo Iglesias of the Boylston Chess Foundation (under whose affiliation the tournament was rated) did his usual professional job. Of course, the tournament was sponsored by the Boston University Chess Club (Roza Eynullayeva and Barry Lai, co-presidents, Steven Abrahams, vice-president, Melvin Zhang, treasurer, and Richard Soohoo, secretary, and Robert Oresick, advisor.

This year a new prize, the Allan Ong prize for top undergraduate student, was added to honor Allan, who was the first president of the modern BU Chess Club and started the BU Open. After 14 years of living in Toronto and Boston, Allan returned to his native Manila in the Philippines.

The Open Section was won by Harvard freshman FM Teddy Coleman with 4 of 4 points.

Steven Abrahams, a BU freshman, won the U1900 section with 4 also. Teddy and Steven both tied for the 1st annual Allan Ong prize for the top undergraduate college student.

Travis Dover, a BU alum and former BU Chess Club president, won the U1600 section, also with a perfect 4.

Stuart Finney of the Barrington School had a very upsetting tournament. Stuart (1951) defeated NM Christopher Williams (2302; BU Open Champion of 2005), drew with NM Jacob Chudnovsky (2397; BU Open Champion in 1997, playing again for the first time in 10 years after a sojourn in California), and drew with LM Eric Godin (2200).

You can view crosstables and photos of the BU Open at


Open section:

1st FM Teddy Coleman (4.0; $300)

2nd NM Christopher Williams (3.0; $40) & NM Lawyer Times (3.0; $40)

Top U2200 WIM Esther Epstein (3.0; $40) & Dr. Aung Kyaw Lwin (3.0; $40)

U1900 section:

1st Steven Abrahams (4.0; $75)

2nd Kapil Chandran (3.5; $40)

U1600 section:

1st Travis Dover (4.0; $75)

2nd Soheil Saadat (3.5; $20) & Corey Tolbert (3.5; $20)

Top U1200 Akshay Saini (3.0; $40)

Allan Ong Top Undergrad:

FM Teddy Coleman (4.0) & Steven Abrahams (4.0)

Corey Tolbert (3.5; $50)

(Corey won the prize money because Teddy and Steven qualified for more lucrative prizes.)

Top CollegeNortheastern University

Artem Sharamet, Soheil Saadat, Corey Tolbert, Eric Lawless, Kent Leung

(Only the top three scores were counted.)

Top High School Newton North High School

Jesse Nicholas, Lior Rozhansky

Top Primary School - Clark

James Lung, Christine Lung, Timothy Lung

Friday, November 09, 2007

It's the Knights!

New York made it look easy, crushing Philadelphia 3.5-0.5 in Round 1 of the US Chess League playoffs. As a result, Boston will get to face their biggest rival in a match to determine who will represent the Eastern Division in the Championship finals.

In case you missed last year's playoffs, the Knights defeated the heavily favored Blitz in the same round and dashed Boston's Championship hopes. In case you missed the last three years, New York's probable Board 2 is a Blitz killer, no matter who from Boston he faces across the board. One has to imagine that Blitz fans were looking forward to any opponent other than the Knights.
Last year, a bit of controversy was created when then Knights' Manager Jen Shahade used a post here at BCC Weblog as bulletin board material to motivate her team for the playoff match with Boston. Well, that's not going to happen again this year. Why? Because...

The New York Knights are the best team in the US Chess League! The Knights are going to obliterate Boston! Start making plans for the Championship parade now!

Let's start at the top -- GM Nakamura, for the last month, he has only been the best chess player on the planet. Then on Board 2, it's the unbeatable Charbonnator. Boston could have both their GMs consult during the game and still they wouldn't be able to find a way to defeat him. We probably won't even see Irina Krush at the boards on Wednesday; but, if we do, remember that she was the key to last year's victory.
Down below, there's IM Bonin. Jay is an absolute legend. No, I take that back. He's a legend's legend. We don't know of such things up here in New England.* Finally, there's Iryna Zenyuk -- she's on fire (stay with me folks, we're talking chess playing here).

So New York fans, bask in the glory and await the inevitable destruction of the Blitz. Stop reading now and go pack your bags for a trip to the finals.
Alright, now that they've all left, let's get serious...

Unlike last year's playoff match, there isn't a whole lot of intrigue about what lineups the teams are going to use. It's hard to imagine that Krush will put herself in and have to exclude either Nakamura or Charbonneau. And while Arnold could substitute for Bonin and Herman for Zenyuk, I just don't see it happening. Therefore, unless there are availability issues, the New York lineup will likely be:

Board 1 - GM Nakamura
Board 2 - GM Charbonneau
Board 3 - IM Bonin
Board 4 - WFM Zenyuk

For Boston, the only possible question is Board 2 -- go with the two GMs or use Sammour-Hasbun instead. I think the numbers make this an easy decision. Jorge has arguably been the best relative performer on the team all season, while Eugene has been the worst. Jorge hasn't lost a game, while Eugene hasn't won one. GM Perelshteyn has had two shots at Charbonneau over the past two years and he is 0-2. SM Sammour-Hasbun did face one GM this season (Nakamura!) and came away with half a point.

As for the other boards, I see no reasonable argument for going away from the ones that got you this far. Therefore, barring availability constraints, I expect Boston to lineup like this:

Board 1 - GM Christiansen
Board 2 - SM Sammour-Hasbun
Board 3 - NM Shmelov
Board 4 - NM Williams
Let's take a look at the individual matchups.

Board 1 - It's hard not to give an edge to Nakamura, but LarryC has been unbeatable this season against a constant stream of GM competition, including Hikaru. I think Christiansen has a reasonable chance to hold the balance with Black.

Board 2 - Pascal gets the edge against any Blitz player until one of them beats him. However, don't be completely surprised if Jorge ends up being the hero of the night for Boston.

Board 3 - Shmelov has a psychological advantage going into this game. He and Bonin have faced each other twice this season, and Denys came away with a draw and a win.

Board 4 - Zenyuk defeated Williams with White earlier in the season, but in this game she'll have Black. This time you can expect Chris to play a move like 24...Qe6!?. Call me a homer if you wish, but I consider this game to be a push. However, a draw seems the least likely result. One of the two will probably score a (potentially decisive) full point.
How do the Blitz advance to the Championship match?

In my view, this match revolves around Board 4. If Williams can score a full point, then the Blitz have several reasonably straightforward paths to 2 points even if Jorge fails to breakthrough against Charbonneau. Shmelov could defeat Bonin or he and Larry could both draw. However, if Zenyuk wins then Jorge is going to have to do something on Board 2. The most likely winning scenario for Boston in that case would be two draws up top and a win for Denys on Board 3 -- certainly a trickier proposition overall.

Of course, I suppose Iryna and Chris could have the last laugh by agreeing to a draw on move 10. Otherwise, fans should focus on Board 4 Wednesday night as it is likely to be the pivotal game of the match.

By the way, if you run into any Knights players or fans before then, don't tell them this ... I'm looking for the Blitz to advance 2-2. Shhhhh!!
*Well, actually we do -- think John Curdo, for instance. There's no need to tell the New Yorkers, though.

BCC Weblog provides independent coverage of the United States Chess League. It is not affiliated with the USCL or the Boston Blitz.