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.