Friday, February 29, 2008

Aeroflot Open (Part 2 of 3)
by Alex Cherniack

I would like to share with BCC members my games and impressions from the Aeroflot Open, a 9-round Swiss held in Moscow from February 13 to 23, 2008. I played in Section B with 134 players. I started well with 2 points out of 3, but then lost 5 games in row before salvaging a win in the last round – my report card is at When I was there, the exchange rate was 24 rubles to the dollar. I will split up the headings in these postings according to each individual day of my trip from February 12 to 23.


My opening preparation went well against my Round 4 opponent from Armenia. This game made me glad I had brought a laptop to Moscow. I knew Hambardzumian liked the Panno Attack against the Saemisch, and was able to research this line in depth before the game started. If only I had been able to remember the line to the very end...

Alex Cherniack (2277) - Yuri Hambardzumian (2378)

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f3 O-O 6. Be3 Nc6 7. Nge2 a6 8. Qd2 Rb8 9. Rc1 Bd7 10. Nd1 Re8 11. Nf2 b5?!

Theory currently frowns on this move. Better is the flexible 11…e6.

12. c5 dxc5 13. Rxc5 e5 14. d5 Ne7


This move isn’t bad, but it is far from the best. As I was saying, had I been able to remember everything in my preparation, I would have played the simple 15.Qc2 c6 (15…Rc8 16.Nd3) 16.dxc6 Nxc6 17.Rxc6 Bxc6 18.Qxc6 with a large advantage for White in Graf-Nunn, Germany 2003. For some reason I didn’t like 18…Qa5+ 19.Nc3 b4, but then 20.Qa4 holds everything together.

15…c6 16. d6 Nc8 17. Nb4 Re6 18. Nxc6 Bxc6 19. Rxc6 Rxd6 20. Rxd6 Nxd6 21. Nc3 Qc7 22. Bd3 Rd8 23. Qe2 b4?

Drops a pawn. I was expecting 23…Nc4 24.Bxc4 Qxc4 25.Qxc4 bxc4 26.Ke2 with a small endgame advantage for White.

24. Na4 Nb5 25. Bxb5 axb5 26. Qxb5 Rb8 27. Qe2?

The first of many inaccuracies. Better was 27.Qa6 protecting the Knight on a4.

27… Nh5 28. g3 f5 29. O-O?

I was so anxious to castle that I lost my extra pawn. After 29.exf5 (I rejected it because I didn’t want to open up the diagonal for the Bishop on g7) gxf5 and then 30.0-0, Black’s combination in the game costs him his pawn on e5.

29… f4 30. Bf2

30.gxf4 exf4 gives Black full compensation for the pawn.

30…fxg3 31. hxg3 Nxg3 32. Bxg3 Qa7+ 33. Kg2 Qxa4

I still have a small edge, but my opponent neutralizes it with accurate defense.

34.Qc4+ Kh8 35. Qd5 Re8 36. Rc1 Qa6 37. Rc2 Qf6 38. Qc6 Qe7

Allowing the Queens to come off would lead to a losing ending for Black because of the weak e pawn and White’s passed pawn on the queenside.

39. Rd2 Rf8 40. Rd7 Qg5 41.Qc7 Qf6

42. Rd3?

This loses. I had to bail out with a draw after 42.Rxg7 Qxf3+ (42…Qxg7? 43.Bxe5) 43.Kh2 Qe2+ 44.Kh3 Qh5+ 45.Kg2 Qf3+ 46.Kh2. I felt obliged to win, and grossly overestimated my chances.

42…h5 43. Qd7 Qg5 44. a4 bxa3 45. bxa3 h4 46. Qh3 Qxg3+

I was so fixated with counterpinning the pawn on h4 that I overlooked the Queen on g5 could take the Bishop too!

47. Qxg3 hxg3 48. Kxg3 Kh7 49. a4 Ra8 50. Ra3 Bf8 51. Ra2 Bd6 52. Kf2 Kg7 53. Ke2 Kf6 54. Kd3 Ra5 55. Kc4 Rc5+ 56. Kb3 Ra5 57. Rg2 Ra6 58. Ra2 Bc5 59. Kc4 Bd4 60. a5

Otherwise Black simply brings up his King with an easy win.

60…Bb6! 0-1

White’s pawns are wiped out after 61.Kb5 Rxa5+ 62.Ra5 Bxa5 63.Kxa5 Kg5.

I was really annoyed, so I bundled up and charged out in 2 degree Fahrenheit weather to cool off, and also to see the Kremlin’s main tourist attractions: The Church of the Assumption, The State Armory, and The State Diamond Fund, at 300, 350, and 500 rubles respectively.

All were very impressive, but I have no interior pictures to share because photography was not allowed inside. On the outside, my hands became really cold because I kept taking off my gloves to take pictures, and the Russian coming out of my mouth was garbled because my face was so numb. My state of annoyance subsiding 5 hours later, I returned to the hotel. At the hotel cafe I had a cup of coffee, where I sat next to Mark Dvoretsky and Artur Yusupov. I saw Dvoretsky often the next couple of days talking to his students.

Because I had changed rooms, I had to register all over again. I picked up my new registration form before going back to my room. The bitter cold left me especially tired; when I closed on eyes on the bed for what I thought a few minutes, I opened them 3 hours later. Then I really went to sleep.


I was woken up at 2:00 AM by fireworks going off at Izmailovsky park, then drifted off to sleep again. This night I dreamed that the elevator was broken, and the stairs down to the street were covered in loose change. Each time I bent down to pick up a coin, all the change disappeared.

I was beginning to feel my rating. I got my Queen trapped by my Russian opponent on move 17, and had to resign 10 moves later. Save for one mistake, my Queen was never in any real danger! I remember “feeling” that it was well placed on h4 (an intuition backed up by Rybka), but didn’t back up my idea with hard calculation.

Artem Benza (2333) - Alex Cherniack (2277)

1. e4 e6 2. Nf3 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Ne4 5. Ne2 Ng5 6. Nxg5 Qxg5 7. d4 Qh4

Despite the result, I don’t think this move is so bad - it hits the center laterally, and inhibits White from playing f4. Other games have continued 7…Qd8 or 7…Qe7.

8. Be3 c5 9. c3 Nc6 10. a3 Bd7 11. b4 cxd4 12. cxd4 a5 13. b5 Ne7 14. Ng3 f6 15. exf6 gxf6!?

Provocative but still playable. 15…Qxf6 16.Nh5 Qf7 17.Bd3 Ng6, followed by Bd6 and 0-0 is also good for Black.

16. Nh5


This move though is a real turkey. After 16…Kd8, 17.Bf4 fails to 17…Be8. If Black wants to be adventurous, I can even play 16…Kf7 17.Bf4 Rg8 18.h3 Rg5.

17. Bf4!

Of course. I had only seen 17.g3 Nxe3 18.gxh4 Nxd1 19.Nxf6+ Ke7 20.Nxd7 Kxd7 21.Kxd1 Bg7 regaining the pawn. The rest is carnage.

17…Nxd4 18. g3 Nc2+ 19. Kd2 Qxf4+ 20. gxf4 Nxa1 21. Nxf6+ Ke7 22. Nxd7 Kxd7 23. Qxa1 Rg8 24. Bh3 Bg7 25. Qe1 Rge8 26. Qe3 Rac8 27. Rc1 1-0

I lost my elevator pass the day before, and had to get a new one. It was amazing how many documents were necessary to keep on my person and locate at a moment's notice. At home all I really need is a driver’s license – here I had to have a passport, departure slip, registration form, elevator pass, hotel room key, and subway card to truly get around. The manager on duty had to record the transaction of giving me a new elevator pass in two different ledgers. As I was walking away, I noticed that it had the wrong room number. So he had to white-out and mark the correction in each of the two ledgers.

It was only when I left the manager’s office that it hit me that I had spoken nothing but Russian to the hotel staff to receive the new pass, and the staff understood me just fine.

I needed to do laundry soon, and studied the prices at the hotel laundrymat. They wanted 400 rubles to clean a pair of jeans, and 110 rubles for each pair of underwear… yup, I was glad I had brought the Woolite.

That afternoon I went to the Treyakov art gallery, the largest collection of Russian art in the world. After exiting the metro station, I saw a line outside of a building and immediately jumped onto the end of it. Within a minute 10 people were in back of me. When the line snaked close enough to the building, I knew that I had made the right choice.

Entering the gallery was aggravating. This being the weekend, there were already so many people inside that no one could enter until someone else left. Photography wasn't allowed inside. I had to wear slippers. I couldn't check my knapsack at the coat check, and was directed to the baggage check. The guy at the baggage check was on a 15 minute break. I had to show my ticket to the coat check woman, the baggage check guy, the guard at the entrance of the stairway to the exhibit, and finally to the woman at the top of the stairs who ripped my ticket.

Once in, however, I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibits. I saw portraits of Russian artists who have been on the covers of books and albums I have read and listened to for years: Pushkin (artist - Orest Kiprensky), Tolstoi (Ivan Kramskoy), Dostoevsky (V.G. Perov), and Mussorsky (Ilya Repin, whose unforgettable painting Ivan The Terrible and His Son Ivan on 16 November, 1581 was also there - whenever I'm in danger of truly blowing my stack, I think of Ivan The Terrible's look of horrified remorse in his eyes). The gallery also had a half dozen works from my favorite maritime painter Aivazovsky, and Trinity, a classic icon by Andrey Rublev.

When I returned to the hotel I decided that my New Balance cross-trainer sneakers with the azure blue shoelaces were what was giving me away as a rube foreigner:

So I chose to wear only my understated black New Balance postman shoes on the street for the remainder of my stay. Now the only non-verbal cue that gave me away was the Moscow guide book my sister gave me for Christmas.


I tried to get a good night’s sleep the night before, but the boxing match between Sergei Lyakovich and the gigantic Nikolai Valyuev appeared on TV at 11:30 PM, and after a few rounds I felt obliged to watch the fight to the end (Valyuev won by unanimous decision). So my dreams were still in the twilight zone. I saw an abusive schoolteacher beating up a third grader – I was about to give her a piece of my mind when the alarm clock went off. Later that day I saw Valyuev on a subway poster dressed as a Roman centurion endorsing Olympia vodka.

My opponent this round was Sergei Yuferov, a Russian IM whose games date back to the mid 1960’s. Against 1.d4 he played the King’s Indian Defence, the Grunfeld, the Nimzo Indian, and the Slav. It was impossible to prepare in depth against him, so I basically played through the main variations of my prepared lines against those openings, and was ready for anything.

Alex Cherniack (2277) - Sergei Yuferov (2390)

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 d6 3. Nf3 g6 4. g3 Bg7 5. Bg2 O-O

Yuferov was the only opponent at the Aeroflot tournament to take me out of book. My preparation at home only covered 5...Bf5.

6. O-O Nc6 7. Nc3 Rb8 8. b3 a6 9. Bb2 b5 10. Ne1 Bd7 11. cxb5 axb5 12. Nc2 b4 13. Nd5 Nxd5 14. Bxd5 Na5 15. Qd2 c5 16. Ne3 e6 17. Bg2?!

With 20-20 hindsight I should have played 17.Bf3. At the board I didn’t like the idea of the Knight on a5 coming back to c6 and hitting it from the d4 square. Concretely though, I could have always played 18.Nc4 and 19.e3.


Logical and strong. Black threatens a pawn with 18…cxd4 19.Bxd4 Bxd4 20.Qxd4 Bxe2, and also a durable positional advantage with 18…c4. After a long think, I chose what I hoped was the lesser of all evils.

18. d5 e5 19. Rac1 f5 20. Rc2 Qe7 21. Nc4 Nxc4 22. bxc4 Ba4 23. Rcc1 Ra8 24. Ra1 Ra7 25. a3 b3?!

This move leaves a static target on b3, and lets me back into the game. A better try for the advantage seems to be 25…bxa3 26.Rxa3 Rfa8 27.Rfa1 Bb3. My c4 pawn would have remained very weak.

26. e4 f4 27. f3 h5 28. Bh3 Bd7 29. Bxd7 Qxd7 30. Kg2 Bh6 31. Qc3 Qa4 32. Rfd1 Rb7 33. Rd3 Kh7 34. Rb1 Rfb8 35. Ra1 Bg5 36. h4

The position on the board is roughly equal, but not the situation on the clocks. Faced with an unfamiliar opening I ate up a lot of time, and had at this point 10 minutes left to Yuferov’s 50. I avoided blitz chess when preparing for this tournament, a decision I regret because I screwed up 3 good positions in my games when my clock fell below 5 minutes. With these time controls, it’s hard to tell which speed is best to use for training: slow for the opening/middlegames and fast for the endgames?

36…Bh6 37. g4 hxg4

Otherwise the position becomes totally locked up, and a draw is inevitable.

38. fxg4 Qd7 39. Kf3 Bf8 40. Rd2 Be7 41. Rh2 Bd8 42. Rg1 Kg7 43. Qc1 Ba5 44. Ke2 Rf8 45. Rh3 Qd8 46. Rgh1 Qc8 47. Kf3

I wanted to transfer the King to d3 and plant the Queen on f3, but I really didn’t like 47.Qg2 f3 48.Rxf3 Rxf3 49.Qxf3 Rf7 and 50…Rf4.

47…Rh8 48. R1h2 Kg8 49. Qg1 Bd8 50. Qg2 Rbh7


At this point I had 3 minutes left, with 30 second increments, for the rest of the game - my opponent still had over half an hour. Objectively I should have played 51.Qf2 and made fast waiting moves until Black tried something aggressive, but the same Charge of the Light Brigade madness from my last game spilled over into this one. This is not the sort of position to "wing it" in time pressure!

51..Qa6 52. Qg4

It’s too late for 52.Qe2 Bxg5.

52…Re7 53. h5

Like lemmings over a cliff.

53…Qxc4 54. hxg6

As far as I could see, Black only had checks on d3, e3, and c2, and would be forced to give perpetual check. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that 48.R1h2 had left the back rank unprotected…


…and we’re done here.


Three goddamn losses in a row. These are the times when a chessplayer screams silently: IS THERE ANYTHING I DO WELL?!

It was Monday, and all the museums were closed. Despite a blizzard outside, I stomped through a literary walking tour recommended by my guide book. It took me past statues and residences of Gogol, Gorky, Yesenin, Chekhov, Pushkin, Mayakovsky, and Bulgakov. I got a huge kick out of visiting Patriarch Pond, the setting of the first chapter of Bulgakov’s classic novel The Master And Margarita.

I know this chapter especially well, because for many years I have tried in fits and starts to read the novel in Russian, and must have tackled understanding the beginning at least 5 times. The scene at Patriarch Pond is actually quite lucid compared to the rest of the novel; the Devil appears as Woland the magician in 1930s Moscow by a bench at the pond, and talks with two characters, Berlioz and Ivan Bezdomniy. After talking to Woland, Berlioz is run over by a trolleybus (and then, I think, wakes up in Yalta, and is eventually executed by the Devil in a netherworld festival in the last third of the book), while Ivan Bezdomniy ends up being thrown into an insane asylum. Then the plot really becomes weird.

Back at the hotel the transplanted ChessBase on my laptop started whining that the serial number wasn’t valid, a problem that only became worse the next couple of days.

(To be continued)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Aeroflot Open (Part 1 of 3)
by Alex Cherniack

(Photo by Iryna Zenyuk)

I would like to share with BCC members my games and impressions from the Aeroflot Open, a 9-round Swiss held in Moscow from February 13 to 23, 2008. Since 2002, the Aeroflot airline company has offered a package deal that includes the entry fee, airline ticket and hotel room.

The tournament was held at the Gamma-Delta hotel of the Izmailovsky hotel complex, and had 4 sections: A1 (FIDE 2500 and above), A2 (2400-2500), B (2200-2400), and C (below 2200). I played in Section B, which had 134 players. I started well with 2 points out of 3, but then lost 5 games in row before salvaging a win in the last round – my report card is at . Despite the result, I learned a lot from my losses, and had a great opportunity to explore Moscow, a world class city.

I was mostly on my own. Out of a field of 457, the only Americans at this tournament were Josh Friedel and David Pruess in the A2 Section, Iryna Zenyuk, Anton Solovyov and me in the B Section, and Michael Gerstein in the C Section. I met all of them over the next 10 days except Solovyov. When I was there, the exchange rate was 24 rubles to the dollar.

I was very excited to play in this tournament, because the last times I had been in Russia were in 1990, 1986, and 1985, when the country was still the Soviet Union, and I was very curious to find out how the country had changed. I had studied Russian in college, but don’t have the chance to practice it often, and at first it was comically bad. However it turned out to be very useful – despite all the hotel and city signs being in Russian and English, few of the Muscovites I talked to spoke English fluently. The Russian that initially came out of my mouth automatically received broken English replies, but the longer I stayed the more replies in Russian I received.

The rounds in Section B started at 9:30 AM, and had Budapest First Saturday time controls: 90 minutes for the entire game, with 30 seconds added after every move. Most of my games ended at 1:00 PM, which still left plenty of time to see the sights of Moscow. I will split up headings in these postings according to each individual day of my trip from February 12 to 23.


I was scheduled to fly out of JFK airport on 8:20 that evening.

The organizing committee of the Aeroflot Open sucks at confirmation emails. I had to email them over a dozen times to make sure they had received my entry form, my entry fee (which is wired to a Swiss bank account), and my visa information in order to secure an invitation to enter Russia.

The process of receiving my airline ticket DROVE ME NUTS. They wouldn’t mail the ticket to me; I had to pick it up at either the Aeroflot office in Manhattan or at the airport. I chose the New York office. A week before I was scheduled to leave, I called the office to confirm that it was all right to pick up the ticket - they said they had no record of my name on any of the passenger lists. After a panicked email, the organizing committee replied 3 days later saying to call the office again, there should be no problem. I called the office again, and my name was now on the passenger list, but they said the ticket was not fully paid and would be canceled the day after tomorrow. Another antsy email exchange with the organizing committee; this time (2 days before I was supposed to leave) they sent me the confirmation code of the ticket purchase. I called the office again, and they said that I still had to pay taxes and airport fees at the office, but I could pick up the ticket. A breathed a sigh of relief, believing that everything was all set. Or so I thought.

On February 12 I woke up at home at 4:30 AM, took the first MBTA bus to Harvard Square, took the red line to South Station, and took the first Amtrak train to Penn Station at 6:05 AM, arriving in New York at 11:00 AM. To my great consternation, I couldn’t leave my bags at either a baggage check or a locker for security reasons, and had to lug my bags around New York for the rest of the day.

I went to Aeroflot’s office at Rockefeller Plaza to pick up my ticket, bringing with me all the emails to and from the organizing committee. The people at the office brusquely said that the ticket had been canceled due to lack of payment. I showed them my paperwork, and they disappeared behind the manager’s office, leaving me to sweat bullets. They reappeared 5 minutes later, and said the ticket had not been fully paid because of the taxes and airport fees. I said that I had no problem paying that, then they relented and issued me a new ticket – had that flight been full, I would have been SOL – and $220 dollars later at last I had a ticket to fly in and out of Moscow.

The flight didn’t leave for another 8 hours, so still schlepping my bags, I took a subway to Brooklyn to visit my 98 year old grandmother in a nursing home. 4 hours later I took the D line to Atlantic Avenue, transferred to the LIRR at Flatbush Avenue, and took the Air Train from Jamaica Station to the airport.

I ran into Iryna Zenyuk again at the airline terminal, having played her before in last year’s Foxwoods Open. Flight 316 had a lot of trouble getting out of JFK because of the weather; the boarding gate changed twice, the departure time was pushed back several times to 9:30 PM, and on the plane we were stuck on the runway an additional 90 minutes waiting for our turn to take off.

Finally, after 19 hours after waking up back home, I was on way to Moscow.


The flight was 11 hours with no intermediate stops, and half empty. I slept fitfully for 3 hours and 2 hours, and arrived in Moscow at 4:30 PM local time. Once through passport control and customs, Iryna and I were immediately besieged with taxi drivers offering to take us to the hotel. We had been promised to be picked up from the airport, but no one from the organizing committee showed up for 15 minutes, so we were about to negotiate the fare to the hotel with one of the taxi drivers when at last a man showed up with the Aeroflot Chess Open logo on a placard.

He deposited Iryna and me in the center of the airport and told us not to wander off, as he going to pick up more players from other arrival gates. After an hour, there were about 40 chessplayers from over 10 countries occupying three rows of benches, and we were herded onto a bus going towards the Gamma-Delta hotel complex.

The chessplayers got off the bus at the hotel, and were herded once again to a registration desk in the Delta hotel with only 2 people trying to do the work of 10. They had to verify our identification, check us off 3 lists, issue us hotel reservation numbers, and give us directions to our respective hotels (the Gamma or the Delta). They gave me a reservation number, directions to the Gamma hotel, and instructions to show up at the opening ceremony on the third floor at 6:30.

It was 6:15, I was very tired, and couldn’t make the cognitive leap that the Gamma and Delta were two distinctly different hotels, even though their lobbies, service desks, and elevators looked identical. (Even after a few days of staying there I made the mistake of trying to go up the elevator to my room in the wrong hotel.)

I wandered around the Delta hotel lobby and the cafes between the common areas for 15 minutes, until I said to hell with it, and went up to the opening ceremony will all my bags still in tow. At the ceremony I heard brief speeches by Anatoly Karpov and various tournament sponsors, then went back down to the first floor and finally found the service desk to the Gamma hotel around the corner.

It took me 10 minutes to get a clerk’s attention. Russians seem to view waiting behind others in short lines a quaint Anglo-Saxonism, and 5 people cut in front of me laterally. The clerk asked me for 10 rubles to pay for the state residential registration fee, and told me to pick up the registration form the following day. At this point the manager on duty came over and said that my room was scheduled for repair the day after tomorrow – I would have to register again when I changed rooms. I didn’t care, I so sick of carrying around my bags. The luggage dropped on the floor of my room with a thud, and I went back to the opening ceremony on the third floor.

The organizing committee had brought in dinner on 20 separate buffet tables, and a few cases of Moldavian wine. I ate to keep up my strength, and consumed my fill of the wine, which was delicious. I met Josh Friedel there, who was already in town having finished playing in the Moscow Open a few days before. I spent about an hour chatting with Josh and Iryna (who are good friends with each other), and left to wander around the hotel and figure out where the hell everything in the hotel really was.

I returned to my room at 9:00, and discovered why the room was scheduled for repair. The bedside lamps no working switches and the remote control for the TV didn’t work. But worst of all, none of the outlets had electricity. That made the laptop and voltage converter that I had brought with me useless for looking up my next round opponents with ChessBase.

I turned in, and was finally able to get to sleep at 1:00 in the morning.


I woke up tossing and turning 5 hours later, not yet on Moscow time. During my first few days there a strange brew fermented in my head. My brain was still trying to process a large swath of recently observed Russian culture quirks: the line-cutting, the general absence of the words “please,” “thank you,” “you’re welcome” and “excuse me” in everyday conversation, the way clerks ripped receipts the moment they handed them to me, and last but not least the Russian language itself. My native frame of mind (and the tongue inside of my mouth) was grinding with the gears of the Russian sentence structure, and I was struggling to transmit words to other people. Also, my toolkit was incomplete - the inability to use my laptop, if not fixed, was going to be a major inconvenience. I needed the laptop to look up opponents’ opening repertoires, but also to recharge my IPod (a psychic necessity) and back up pictures from my digital camera.

The hotel’s breakfast buffet was excellent - I ate there all 10 mornings of my stay - and wandered into my section’s tournament hall at 9:25 AM.

The organizers provided free bottled water, Pepsi, and iced (white, green, and black) tea, but you had to grab yours fast because they were soon all gone. My first round opponent was Mihail Rodin, a 2375 FIDE rated player from Russia.

Mihail Rodin (2375) – Alex Cherniack (2277)

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 a6 4. Ngf3 c5 5. dxc5 Bxc5 6. Bd3 Nc6 7. O-O Nf6 8. c3 O-O

My opening preparation at home was 8…dxe4 9.Nxe4 Nxe4 10.Bxe4 Qxd1 11.Rxd1 Ke7 12.Bf4, but I didn’t like this at the board and decided to improvise.

9. e5 Nd7?

The shortcomings of this reply are shown up by White's 13th move. Better was 9...Ng4.

10. Nb3 Be7 11. Re1 f6 12. exf6 Bxf6

With the idea of 13.Re6? Nde5. But White has something better.

13. Nbd4! e5

The alternative was 13…Nde5, but I didn’t like one bit the positional sacrifice 14.Nxe5 Nxe5 15.Rxe5 Bxe5 16.Bxh7+ Kxh7 17.Qh5+ Kg8 18.Qxe5 Qf6 19.Nf3.

14. Ne6 Qe7 15.Nxf8 Nxf8

Or 14...Qf8 15.Ng5 g6 16.Qb3. I was hoping that the mobile pawn center would be enough compensation for the exchange, but my opponent soon makes it very immobile.

16. c4! d4 17. Nd2! Qf7 18. Ne4 Be7 19. Bd2 h6 20. a3 Be6 21. Rc1 Nd7 22. b4 Nb6

My pieces are well placed, but the exchange is the exchange.

23. b5 axb5 24. cxb5 Nb8 25. Rc7 N8d7 26. Bb4 Bxb4 27. axb4 Nd5 28.Rxb7 Ra2 29. Re2 Bg4

This allows a pretty finish, but Black’s position is past saving.

30. Rxa2! Bxd1 31. Ra8+ Nf8 32. Rxf7 Kxf7 33. Bc4 1-0

For the rest of the tournament, next round pairings were posted by 3:00 PM at the latest. With a nonfunctional laptop, however, that was precious little help to me.

I decided to head out to Red Square.

The weather in Moscow was generally no worse than Boston. With long johns, a jacket, 2 layers of Gore-Tex, a hat, wool socks, and thick gloves, I was fine. I also had brought along a balaclava and a 4th layer of clothing, but I never needed to use them. Still disconnected and not fully caught up on sleep, I had a vague idea of finding a 110V/220V converter for my hotel room on Tverskaya Ulitsa. (I had no idea of knowing yet if the laptop was not working properly because of the outlet, or because of the voltage converter.)

I had no luck finding the converter, but I had an unforgettable cultural experience – the Moscow metro during rush hour. Oh my God, I was afraid of being trampled to death!

Whenever I stopped to get my bearings, I was in the way of hundreds. What a propulsive, broken-dam mass of people; crowds 10 wide funneled into escalators 2 wide, and those who found themselves in the left lane were gravitationally forced to walk, if not trot, all the steps of escalator. At first I didn’t understand why Muscovites were in such a hurry to race towards the next train when another arrived 60 seconds later. Then I realized that the next train was just as crowded, and they just wanted to get it over with by riding the riptide from point A to point B. The knapsack I wore on my back was really in the way, so I took it off and held it while I was on the packed train.

I went to Kitai-Gorod that night, but couldn’t find any Chinese restaurants, so I found a soup and salad place in that neighborhood that had English signs, ate there, and went back to my hotel room.


Today was unusual in the tournament schedule in that there were two rounds at 9:30 and 15:30.

I woke up at 3:00 AM replaying over and over in my mind an alternate continuation from my game yesterday (8…dxe4 9. Nxe4 Nxe4 10. Bxe4 Qxd1 11. Rxd1 Ke7 12. Bf4, instead of 8…0-0). Or was it the other way around?

No matter how many times I sliced and diced this position, White was just better.

I went back to sleep, and had a shallow, pounding dream in that every time I made a move from my game in round 1 I had to unpack, inventory the contents, and repack my suitcase.

I had a lot of loose cash on me, so just before the start of round 2 I went to the manager on duty and asked to put it in the safe. The manager wanted 100 rubles a day to store it there, so I politely declined and walked out.

I won my round 2 game against Erkin Gurbanzade from Azerbaijan, and evened the score:

Alex Cherniack (2277) - Erkin Gurbanzade (2192)

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f3 O-O 6. Be3 Nbd7 7. Nh3 c5 8. d5 Ne5 9. Nf2 Qa5 10. Be2 h5

Black is going to have to beat a retreat with the Knight, as 10…Qb4 11.a3 Qxb2? 12.Na4 loses the Queen.

11. h3 a6 12. f4 Ned7 13. a4 Re8 14. O-O e6 15. dxe6 Rxe6

Black’s position looks ugly, but I have been burned in many ugly positions before!

16. Qc2 Nb8

17. e5!

A positional necessity; otherwise Black brings the Knight back into game with Nc6-d4 with good play. This pawn sweep is thematic in Benoni structures and in King’s Indian positions where White takes on e6 and Black recaptures with the Bishop.


If 17…dxe5, then 18.f5! gxf5 19.Qxf5 (exploiting the pin on e6) Nc6 20. Nge4, exploiting the pin on f6.

18. Nfe4 Nc6 19. Nd5 dxe5 20. f5 gxf5 21. Rxf5 Rg6 22. Rxh5 Be6 23. Rf1

Black’s position is very difficult, if not lost.

23…Bxd5 24. cxd5 Nb4 25. Qc4

Less good is 25.Qxc5 Qxc5 26.Bxc5 Nxd5.

25…Nc7 26. d6 Ne6 27. Nxc5 Rc8 28.d7 Rc6 29. Nxe6 Rxc4 30. d8=Q+ Qxd8 31. Nxd8 Re4 32. Rf3 Nd5 33. Bd3 Rxe3 34.Rxe3 Nxe3 35. Bxg6 fxg6 36. Rg5 Nc4 37. b3 Nd2 38. Rxg6 Kh7 39. Rb6 e4 40. Ne6 Bh6 41. Kf2 e3+ 42. Ke2 Ne4 43. h4 Ng3+ 44. Ke1 Kg6 45. Ng5+ Kh5 46. Nf3 Bg7 47. Ng1 Bc3+ 48. Kd1 Kxh4 49. Ne2 Ba5 50. Rxb7

The pawn wasn’t going anywhere.


Right after this game I went to the service desk, and moved to my new hotel room. The new room was on a floor where half the rooms were being repaired, and for the rest of my stay I walked to and from my room on a corridor covered in drop cloths. I didn’t care, as this room had working electrical outlets, and I could finally prepare properly for my next opponent from Lithuania.

Emilis Pilectis (2364) - Alex Cherniack (2277)

1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. c4 e6 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. Bg5 dxc4 6. Qa4+ Nc6 7. e3?!

White is mixing ideas from 5.Bg5, 5.Qa4 and 5.a3, with dubious results. Better is 7.a3 Bxc3+ 8.bxc3 Qd5 9.Bxf6 gxf6 10.Qc2 f5 11.g3 with an unclear game.

7…Bd7 8.Qc2 b5 9. a3 Ba5 10. Ne5 Qc8 11. Bxf6 gxf6 12. Nxd7 Qxd7 13. O-O-O Ne7 14. Ne4 Nd5 15. b3 cxb3 16. Qxb3


Consistent with my previous moves was 16…Qc6+ 17.Kb1 Rb8 18.a4 a6 19.Rc1 Qb6, with a tense game where I have excellent chances of holding onto the extra pawn. I thought the resulting ending would be better for Black.

17. Qxd5 exd5 18. Nxf6+ Ke7 19. Nxd7 Kxd7 20. Kb2 Bc7

I saw this position as far back as move 13, and evaluated it as better for Black because of White's vulnerable King. This worked in the end, though not without help from my opponent - Black's King turned out to vulnerable as well.

21. Bd3 Bd6 22. Rc1 h6 23. e4 Rab8

I can’t defend the c6 pawn with Rc8 because of 24.Bf5+.

24. e5?

Now my decision is vindicated. Much better is 24.exd5 cxd5 25.Bf5+ Ke7 26.Rc6 Rfd8 27.h4, and all the winning chances are White’s.

24…Be7 25. Rc2 Rb6 26. Rhc1 Rhb8

This is what I envisioned over 10 moves ago. The advance of the a and b pawns will be very dangerous for White. His pawn on d4 is also weak.

27.f4 Ra6 28. Rc3 Rbb6 29. f5 Ra4?

I overlooked White’s counterplay. 29…b4 would have won immediately (30.axb4 Bxb4 31.Rb3 Ba3+).

30. f6

Not 30.Rxc6? Rxc6 31.Bb5 Ba3+.

30…Bf8 31. Bf5+ Kc7 32. Rg3

I saw what White was up to (33.Rg7). Fortunately I have an answer.

32…Rxd4 33. Rg7 Bxg7

Otherwise the passed e and f pawns are irresistible.

34. fxg7 Rb8 35. e6!

35.Bh7? Rg4 36.g8=Q Rgxg8 37.Bxg8 Rxg8 wins easily for Black.

35…fxe6 36. Bxe6 Kd6!

If it weren’t for this move my c pawn would be pinned on the 39th.

37. g8=Q Rxg8 38. Bxg8 Rg4 39. Bxd5

It’s hard to blame White for rejecting 39.Bh7 Rxg2+ 40.Rc2 Rxc2+ 41.Kxc2, since Black’s pawns look unstoppable. However the Rook ending is utterly hopeless.

39… Kxd5 40. g3 Re4 41. h4 Re2+ 42. Kc3 Re3+ 43. Kb4 Rxg3 44. Rc5+ Kd6 45. Rh5 Rg4+ 46. Kb3 Rg6 47. Kb4 Rf6 48. a4 Rf4+ 49. Kb3 Rxa4 50. Rxh6+ Kc5 51. Rh5+ Kb6 0-1

I didn’t step foot out of the hotel at all that day. Sad to say, this game was to be the high point of my tournament.

(To be continued)

Vijayawada girl draws miniature chessboard

Newindpress on Sunday
SOUTHERN NEWS - ANDHRA PRADESH Wednesday February 27 2008 07:36 IST

VIJAYAWADA: Nadipalli Geetika, a Biotechnology student of Loyola College, has drawn a 0.25 cm miniature chessboard to create a world record. A microscope is needed to see the chessboard.

Daughter of N Ravikumar and Rajani, both drawing teachers, Geetika is a painter. She has won as many as 50 prizes for her paintings. Her painting on conservation of water fetched Geetika Super Kid award. Speaking at a media conference after drawing the miniature chessboard here on Tuesday, Geetika said her aim was to create a world record in miniature drawings. Earlier, Geetalakshmi, a teacher of Nellore, drew chessboard of 0.4 cm and two boys of Tenali got the credit drawing 64 squares in 0.7 cm.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

9th annual Paramount

Next Monday the annual Paramount double round robin begins. Originated by former BCC President Bryan Clarke, it is a very interesting tournament in which you play in groups of six and play each opponent with both white and black pieces at a known date so you can prepare your approach.

Don’t be put off by the time control. This tournament may be the only one on the planet with adjournments. So, you won’t have to play till 1 am. At 11:00 at the latest, the game must be finished or adjourned, to be completed at another time by mutual consent.

This is Ken Ho's favorite (and usually only) tournament of the year - come try your luck against him.

Monday, March 3 – May 5: 9th Annual Paramount 10 Rounds, 2RR, Players divided into six player sections by rating; 40/120, G/50; with adjournment at 11 pm. Entry fee: $25, $20 to BCF members; Prizes: 50% EF Registration: 6:00 to 6:45 PM Rounds at 7 PM.

GM Larry Christiansen - Lecture and Simul at the BCC

Three time US Champion GM Larry Christiansen talked, in his lucid and humorous fashion, about some interesting games from the recent Corus tournament.

The presentation was rather high tech with a laptop and projection of chess base and a laser pointer, with which, as Ed Foye commented, we were able to locate d7.

At times it felt oddly like Mystery Science Theater 3000.

And some temptations were simply irresistable.

At 8:30 Larry did his cardio workout, walking briskly around the simul circuit.

Another great evening at the club. And thanks to Paul MacIntyre for organizing the event, buying refreshments, introducing Larry, hosting the evening, moving tables, cleaning up, etc.

Monday, February 25, 2008

"White To Move and Win" vs. "The System" vs. HAL2030

The game of chess has been solved - it's just that we humans don't realize it. Weaver Adams in 1939 wrote his famous tome and in 1999 Hans Berliner took a similar attempt, but neither book is definitive proof that chess has been solved.

Berliner was also an early researcher in computer chess programs. BCF matches between Boylston Chess homers Adams vs. Harry Lyman reinforced doubt.
But in 1997 Deep Blue's victory over Gary Kasparov was a wake up call to us humans that we are now the number two species on the planet. And it's just the beginning.
You object that species is the wrong word to use, but according to "The Singularity is Near" by Ray Kurzweil computer conciousness will definitely be merged by 2030 with human, if Moore's law continues to hold.

The human mind will be blended with computer: not requiring input devices like keyboard or mouse, but having cpu to mind bussing allowing thinking 1000's time faster than current human processing and seamlessly tapped into the internet as well.

Imagine all those chess databases immediately available. Talk about need for firewalls. Why can't I get ICC out of my head? I know you say this is hooey, but If you read the book you will be left with the understanding that Kurzweil is undeniably correct.

This merger will allow computers to learn and evolve to having capacities exceeding mankind, and reproduce independently of man; securing the planet in the event of nuclear war or bad chicken.
Using my mentalist skills, I have seen that in 2031 world chess champ of 20 years Magnus Carlsen age 49 lost his crown to human/borg Tony MilesII-HAl2030 score 7-0. Game one of Carlson vs. MilesII-Hal3020 opened: 1. f3, a5 2. Kf2, Ra6 and in 29 moves (the longest game of the match) the human/borg used only rook and knight in a blazing attack forcing Carlson to resign after using almost all of his allotted 5 hours, losing to MilesII-Hal3020 having used 45.0237 seconds. Members of the MilesII-Hal3020 team said that the new champ could have used even less time, except for the borg/human's tendency to get in the prone position when waiting for its turn to move.

In 2033 heroic human/non-borg-assisted Mohammed Ali III defeats Tony MilesII-HAl2030 under the newly revised E-FIDE.COM/New Jersey Boxing Commission Chess rules allowing for the random use of tasers while in the boxing-chess ring of play. Ali used his superior footwork and ring space to his advantage, while confusing the slower, often recumbent, Tony MilesII-HAl2030 with random shocks to the cpu and brisk combinations breaking up his network signal. Unfortunately because chess was solved earlier in July of 2032, and because every game now ends as a forced stalemate, winning with the taser/boxing strategy is all that now matters. The MilesII-Hal3020 team divulged their cyber partners are working on the next challenger which will be 100% computer named Bjorn Borg-Borg.
Will chess ever be solved? What rule changes will have to occur when human and computer consciousness merge?

Please comment. 02/25/2008

Mike Griffin

References (Highly recommended to read Singularity):

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Harvard wins the 2008 Northeastern Intercollegiate Championship at MIT

Today the Harvard chess team went to battle in the 2008 NortheasternIntercollegiate Championship at MIT and emerged victorious, edging top-seededColumbia by a half point.

Special Congratulations to freshman first-board TeddyColeman who was perfect (5/5), including wins with black over players rated 2499and 2420.

Congratulations also to Stephen Ho, who managed to turn a dubiousposition in the last round into a last-second win in order to bring us thevictory. Stephen finished with 3.5/5, the second highest score on the HarvardTeam....


(from the Harvard Chess Club email list)

Friday, February 22, 2008

GM Larry Christiansen Lecture and Simul Wed. 2/27!

Next week, three time US Champion GM Larry Christiansen will be discussing games from the 2008 Corus Wijk aan Zee at the Boylston Chess Club. A simul will follow the event, if we have at least 10 people.

Who: 3 time US Champion, Boston Blitz Board 1, Grandmaster Larry Christiansen

When: Feb 27th, 7:00 PM. A simul following lecture at 8:30 PM.

Where: Boylston Chess Club
240 Elm St. Suite B9
Somerville, MA

Cost: Boylston Club Members: FREE lecture; $5 simul
All others: $5 lecture, $10 simul

Don't miss this chance to hear and play Boston's premier chessplayer!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Amateur Team East 2008

The Amateur Team East in Parsippany, New Jersey, is my favorite tournament of the year, because it displays the enormous diversity of us who love the game.

Men and women, young and old, novices, patzers and International Grandmasters, US champions, every ethnicity, every fashion, hirsute and bald, strong athletes and visually or physically challenged, geeky or cool, .... What other sport has such a spectrum of humanity in a single tournament.

Two Boston University teams and many Boston and Boylston players competed. I posted some photos at

Pensive queens separated at birth?