Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Senior Chess: That's Old Timers, not Alzheimers.

Senior Chess: That's Old Timers not Alzheimer's

My right of passage occurred in 2003 when George Mirijanian approached me and asked if I would be interested in playing in the NEW ENGLAND SENIOR OPEN to be played in MANCHESTER, NH since I just hit that prestigious category. Coincidently, George (who won the event) and I met the first round and I was bamboozled with his Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, being mated very quickly. What was even more remarkable was that I won the Class B under prize and technically I'm still the Senior New England Class B Champ because the tournament hasn't been held since 2003.

Regardless of the prestige of being a SENIOR chess player, it comes with a lot of impedimenta. Impedimentum is the Latin word for baggage. Mother nature has it's ways of adding more and more baggage.

For instance, there comes a time when you have to get either bifocals or progressive lenses to be able to play chess and keep score at the same time. Until you experience this first hand you will not understand the tennis game neck bobbing required to swing your focal length from piece, to clock, to pencil to paper, back to board,..... thank god for digital clocks.

One time because of visual segmentation, and it's amazing it happened only once, I grabbed the wrong piece to move. This fingerfelter stunk up my good game a little bit and gave my opponent the compulsion to punish me. Funny thing was that that his response was so aggressive, that he threw the game away in what had become a kamikaze attack: Lemonade from the lemon.

You have to shout at some of us: 'I OFFER YOU A DRAW!' because we might not be able to hear the whispered "draw" offer. I know this is an inconvenience to my neighbors in the tournament hall, but I see no other way to handle this. One suggestion is perhaps the USCF could create a red bean bag like the NFL uses to appeal calls; to be handed to the opponent meaning draw offer. But maybe declines would increase the chances of assault and battery during a chess game. It's probably a bad idea.

Helen Keller, left, and her teacher Anne Sullivan play chess, in 1900.
Photo from the American Foundation for the Blind
Her play was unaffected by the aging process. More lemonade from lemons.

Slower reflexes in addition to focal length challenges make time scrambles against kids with catlike reflexes generate envy of days gone by when ...................

And even slower ambulation effects your chess because the biggest handicap is getting to and from the bathroom: Flowmax Factor.

I'm not napping, I've got you just where I want you. Yes another laimo French Defense. Just boring the crap out of you this game, waiting for you to spend all your time in the skittles room, or attack me out of the uncontrollable urge to get this game over with.

If you have any good comments because of you being, or playing against a senior player please comment.

Thank You, Mike Griffin 01/27/2009

Franklin K. Young Memorial

As Stephen Dann in the Worcester Telegram put it:

Pick of the week for open tourneys may well be Saturday’s Franklin K. Young Memorial at the Boylston Chess Club, 240B Elm St., in Somerville’s Davis Square. Young (1857-1931) authored a number of books on the military aspects of chess, some that were reprinted well after his death in Winthrop.


Who was Franklin K Young?

From our club point of view, he was an early player. Starting in the 1850s the Boston Young Men's Christian Union (YMCU) maintained a small room for chess; John F. Barry, Harry Nelson Pillsbury, C.F. Burille, Franklin K. Young and Walcott frequented it in the 1890s.

Young was a strong player, with wins against Steinitz, Zukertort, Pillsbury, and MacKenzie (see games at the site below.)


Stan Vaughan
Young is an interesting example. He had wins over World Champions Steinitz and Zukertort (twice), US Champion Pillsbury, and US Champion MacKenzie (twice). Here are three examples I have found of great games by Franklin Knowles Young. ...............................
He was also a member of the Order of the Mandarins of the Yellow Button.
The Order of the Mandarins of the Yellow Button In the second half of the 18th century, a group of chess players in the Boston area formed a somewhat informal, yet exclusive coterie called the Order of the Mandarins of the Yellow Button. What made this group exclusive was that in order to join, a prospective member must be an amateur chess player and must have beaten a recognized master, i.e. a professional international champion, in an even game of chess. Indeed, it wasn't an easy group to join. It was their custom to meet every Saturday afternoon for chess and spend Saturday evenings dining together, discussng chess. Supposedly, Mandarin points toward China where the Yellow Button was an insignia denoting rank in the Chinese civil service.The core members of this group included: Franklin Knowles Young, Constant Ferdinand Burille, F. H. Harlow, Dr. E.M. Harris, C. F. Howard, Major Otho.E. Michaelis, Gen. W. C. Paine, Dr. Horace Richardson, Charles B. Snow, Henry Nathan Stone, G.Preston Ware, jr. http://blog.chess.com/batgirl/the-order-of-the-mandarins-of-the-yellow-button


He was also an inventor:


YOUNG, Franklin Knowles, author, inventor; b. Boston, Oct. 21, 1857; ed. there;
inventor automatic breech-action for small arms and field artillery. Author: The Minor
Tactics of Chess; The Major Tactics of Chess; The Grand Tactics of Chess; Chess Strategetics, Illustrated; Napoleon's Campaigns. Address: Press Club, Boston.


He published the Chess Item a magazine about the Boston Chess scene at the turn of the century (and mentioned the Boylston Club) , though he was primarily a member of the Boston Chess Club.

He is also infamous for several early chess books on strategy and tactics from a curiously abstractly military point of view. We have several of his books in our BCF library, but you can download an ebook if you dare - Richard Shorman (below) says it could cost you hundreds of rating points.


Hayward Daily Review, Sunday, April 2, 1972 Chess by richard shorman WAR AND CHESS Franklin K. Young occupies a unique niche in the chess world because of his serious effort to reduce the royal game to a mathematically exact system formulated on the principles of military science. And though he received some recognition around the turn of the century from world champion Emanuel Lasker, who referred to one of his books as "replete with logic and common sense," today Young's work is invariable treated with ridicule and scorn. Indeed, taken out of context, his many abstract theorems do seem comically incomprehensible, e.g.: "Whenever a point of junction is the vertex of a mathematical figure formed by the union of the ligistic symbol of a pawn with an oblique, diagonal, horizontal, or vertical from the logistic symbol of any kindred piece; then the given combination of two kindred pieces wins any given adverse piece" ("The Major Tactics of Chess," Boston, 1898, pg. 147). Irrespective of his merits as an instructor, however, Franklin K. Young did possess deep insight into the nature of chess, as this abridged except from his "Chess Strategics" (Boston, 1900, pp. 3-6) illustrates:
He also wrote this endgame rule: "Whenever a pawn altitude is intersected by the periphery of an adverse Knight's octagon, then, if the pawn has not crossed the point intersection, the adverse Knight wins the given pawn."

A download of one of his books, The Grand Tactics of Chess, can be obtained here.
Chessville - Free Downloadable eBooks - electronic chess books

Read at your own risk…reading it could cost you several hundred rating points. As for what he meant by it. Who knows? I’m hoping somebody can tell me...


Another quote:


Always deploy so that the right oblique can be readily established in case the objective plane remains open or becomes permanently located on the centre or on the King's wing, or that the crochet aligned may readily be established if the objective plane becomes permanently located otherwise than at the extremity of the strategic front.- Franklin K. Young
The Major Tactics of Chess by Franklin Knowles Young

Monday Night Swiss -- February

The Monday Night Swiss for January concluded with a tie between Chris Chase and Lawyer Times. Congratulations.

There will be a February MNS, by popular demand. It was not originally scheduled but Chris Chase will TD it, beginning Feb 2.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Amateur Team East board one needed

Andrew's team (Stuart Finney, Andrew Wang, and Michelle Chen) is looking for a 4th player to make a team for the Amateur East. They are hoping for someone that can lead them at board 1.

Do you know if anyone from BCC is available? Please let the word out that they are looking.


Tiffany from Taiwan

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Chess Study: Shades of Mediocrity

Chess Study: Shades of Mediocrity

As a young man there was a time that I would try to be the best I could be at everything I did; from being a student, playing board games, sports, the social graces, to what have you. Then several decades ago, at a family reunion - an epiphany, I learned to revel in casting mediocrity: I decided that I was going to be a bad fresh water fisherman, to the consternation of my crazy brother in law. Subsequently this philosophy has crept into other areas of my life. Leisure time is for my enjoyment.

Also I think over time one's ambitions for success get tempered by the realization that one is stuck on one plateau or another of ability, with no probability of a DeLaMaza* bust out.

Chess is what I do for fun; an avocation of mine where I use a "higgily piggily" chaotic approach of sampling this that or the other thing; so I wouldn't call it study. Spending only enough time on any subject so it doesn't resemble anything like work. It's a fair to poor job, contrasting my methodologies with the way I do research in my real job. Occasionally I will work through a whole chess book, but I'm more apt to hunt and peck through a chess book, (as previously described by Ken Ho). Also I have found that I really like the ICC lectures by the likes of Larry Christiansen and Joel Benjamin that analyze a game in a fun way, typically using 30 to 50 minutes, and you are as passive as can be just watching; you don't even have to move the pieces, or turn any pages, or even point and click more than a few times.

So what's the best way for a guy like me to learn anything about chess? Probably by getting a chess coach; but coaches cost money, are critical, give homework, would want me to change my stylin way of playing; all painful stuff like that. And well I'm not having any of that for my recreation.

Above all else I love the competitiveness that OTB brings. I can no longer play basketball or football without serious consequences, but I can have a slugfest via chess. Personally, the pain of a loss is the best motivation for me to want to fix my play. While trying to be a sportsman and understanding that losses are part of the game, some losses go deep and stay around a long time. Frank Wang says that such feelings make chess important to you.

I try to review every loss and determine why I lost the game. I have a better chance in learning something and remembering the lesson when it contains an associated sting of pain. I first enter the game into my old version of ChessBase Light (ver 4) and then cut and paste my game score into Fritz (ver 6.5) and run it through Blunder Check which usually takes a dozen or so minutes to look for major tactical blunders. Then I play through the analysis. If the game is interesting I will ask for a deep analysis which I run through the night, so I can review it the next day. I may look up the theory in one of my chess books or try to find grandmaster games in a chess database with the position (or similar ones derived from the same line.) This methodology is a far greater improvement from the old days when the best you could do was maybe have a chess buddy to work with. Using the computer you catch more of what you missed tactically than ever before, although strategically a coach would lend more guidance than any computer could. And you can use Fritz as a lab/strawman and play against it. Probably this approach is myopic: there may be fundamentals unknown to me that if learned might be helpful.

BTW I keep ChessBase Light (ver 4) because it was free and it appears you have to pay for newer versions (maybe I'm wrong). Also there are free open source chess databases out there to store your gamesl. And if you don't have analytical software like Fritz buy the previous to current version for much less money than the latest and greatest. It will kick your butt anyways. You want to use it as an analysis tool.

What is your approach to chess study? What do you think the best approach? Do you know of any good software that is helpful? Please Comment. Thank You. Mike Griffin 01/21/2009

*Michael DeLaMaza's story on 400 points in 400 days.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/1857442695/ref=sib_dp_pt#reade r-link

Friday, January 16, 2009

Outside of a dog, a chess book is a tournament player's best friend.

Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. (with a tip of the cigar to Groucho Marx)

Recently in the Harvard Coop bookstore (where, in 2008, in my last, desperate days before the final round of the club's Weaver Adams tournament, I bought Andrew Greet's excellent Play the Ruy Lopez as part of an unsuccessful bid to beat Jon Lee in order to advance to the club championship's next qualification stage), I noticed Glenn Flear's interesting 2007 book Practical Endgame Play - beyond the basics. This 544 page work contains a huge collection of endgame or "nuckie" (NQE -- "Not Quite an Endgame") positions.

Now, I probably love endgames more than the typical chess player, but when I saw this ginormous book, which I later found described as "a brick" by an amazon.com reviewer, I couldn't help but think of two particular used books which I bought quite a number of years ago. One is a collection of Spassky's games, where a former owner had penciled in a check mark next to games that (s)he had presumably gone over. Total check marks? 3. One next to each of the first 3 out of 70 games. The second book is a collection of endgame positions, where a former owner had done the same kind of thing, placing a check mark next to each position diagram which (s)he had presumably gone over. Total check marks? 1. Right next to the first position diagram of 204. I laughed a bit to myself about the feeble efforts made by those previous owners, until I realized that to date I have probably only done about as well as they had. Not sure if I should punctuate that with :-( or ;-).

Anyway, with thoughts of spending many days primarily viewing the spine of Flear's book, I couldn't see paying the full price of $32.95, and I left the store.

My curiosity had been piqued, though. I looked for online reviews. In addition to some on Amazon, Jeremy Silman and John Donaldson felt "it would be best appreciated by players 2300 and above" (Silman's words, explicitly mentioning Donaldson's earlier review). Okay, from my 1700-ish rating, that was further disincentive to purchase.

But my curiosity was not yet dead (chess book curiosity can be like that). I found it selling on half.com for $9.95 in "like new" or better condition from two sellers. One of those was the Strand Book Store, which was also selling it at the same price through their own website. I remember visiting their NYC store years ago, where I recall noticing some overstock copies of Joe Gallagher's excellent The Saemisch King's Indian -- ah, if I could only recall chess theory as well...).

Well, it wasn't much of a struggle to persuade myself that a good view of the spine was worth $9.95. :-)

Actually, so far it looks like a great book if you enjoy endgames. Plus it's so huge it would be great for a desert island, though you probably wouldn't need a doorstop there....

A tidbit about half.com and http://www.strandbooks.com: Although the latter provides the count of how many copies of a book are in stock, within the Games subject they hadn't yet provided a way to search for just chess books. However, you can find that list through their shop on half.com.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Chess Do Over: Re-entry Revisited

Chess Do Over: Re-entry
In the summers of childhood we spent every day we could playing pickup baseball in the ball fields (or in the street) and tag football in the street. Ground rules were fluid: occasionally a situation would occur that would completely upset the game mid play: like a car plowing down the street interfering with your pass routs. Kids would shout "Do Over!","Do Over!" Stating that the play was busted and should be replayed.
We are coming to the second anniversary of the infamous BCF Reentry Incident where Alexander Paphitis reentered in the third round of a Thursday Night Swiss in order to avoid a bye, thus pushing the bye onto another player: Jason Rihel. Alexander could have warned the director a week earlier of his intent, or the day before, and the director was nice enough to call Alexander to warn him that he probably wouldn't be playing. Thus the player receiving the bye would be warned not to show up.
Subsequently the BCF Board made a bylaw stating that people could only enter one time per section of a BCF tournament. So you can only enter a BCF tournament once, unless there were multiple routes of entry into the tournament (something the BCF never does). Reentry is the brainchild of Bill Goichberg and was first invented when Continental Chess swiss tournaments were created, where you have multiple routes of entry of players in different sections having varying time controls that eventually merge into single event.
But people soon caught on that for a fee they could "re-enter" via another section after losing their first round in order to avoid the first round goose egg. This mechanism is simply a money maker for Bill Goichberg and using reentry isn't true sportsmanship in my opinion.
Could the Red Sox ask for a "Do over" in 2003 when Boston when manager Grady Little kept Pedro Martinez pitching? Some how it would cheapen the game. As I think the re-entry cheapens chess.
There was a huge response to the original blog article (below). And I was wondering if anyone has any additional stories or comments about people using reentry to better or change their outcome of a tournament?
Thank You.
Mike Griffin

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Legends of Chess: Edgar Colle

Saturday, January 17: BCC Legends of Chess: Edgar Colle 4SS; G/65. EF: $27, $17 to BCF members. Two sections: Open & U1800; Prizes: b/entries. Reg: 9:15 – 9:50. Rounds: 10, 12:40, 3:00, 5:10

Edgard Colle
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Edgard Colle (
Ghent, May 18, 1897Ghent, April 20, 1932) was a Belgian chess master, who pioneered the chess opening termed the Colle System.

The Colle System, 1. d4 d5, 2. Nf3 Nf6, 3. e3 followed by Bd3, c3, and Nbd2, is a form of reversed Semi-Slav opening. This system achieved the greatest use during the era from the late 1920s into the 1930s. Colle himself played the opening from 1925 until his death, scoring excellent results in major international tournaments (first in Amsterdam in 1926, ahead of Tartakower and future world champion Euwe; first in the tournament at Merano in 1926 ahead of Canal; and first in the tournament in Scarborough in 1930 (ahead of Maroczy and Rubinstein). Colle scored a number of notable successes with this opening, including a number of brilliancies (Colle - O'Hanlon, Nice 1930, featuring one of the best known example of a Greek gift sacrifice, is especially famous).

Because of its solid pawn structure, logical piece placement, and coherent strategic aims, this opening is often taught to new players as a safe and dependable way to reach a playable middlegame. Thus, the Colle System is frequently seen in amateur or scholastic tournaments, but it is not seen as often in professional play. This is often attributed to the fact that this system is safe but somewhat passive. According to modern opening theory, White can get a solid position but cannot force an edge against a well-prepared opponent.

The opening gained popularity, especially in the United States, through the efforts of Belgian/American grandmaster George Koltanowski who remained faithful to this system throughout his long career. He said he played it as a tribute to his friend Colle who died at a young age (in fact, it is sometimes referred to as the Colle-Koltanowski). The Colle System has been used in recent times by grandmasters Pia Cramling, Susan Polgar, and most notably Artur Yusupov, who prefers to play with b3 and a queenside fianchetto (this particular setup is known as the Colle-Zukertort).

Colle's playing career was hampered by ill health. He survived three difficult operations for a gastric ulcer and died after a fourth, at the age of 34.
Colle, standing 2nd left.

Edgar Colle was born in Gent, Belgium, in 1897. He won the Belgium championship in 1922, 1924 and 1926-1929. His international breakthrough was in Scheveningen 1923 before a.o. Euwe. In 1924, he came third in the unofficial Paris Olympiad.

1926 was perhaps his best year. He won in Amsterdam (before Tartakower and Euwe) and in Merano (before Spielmann, Tartakower, Yates.). Apart of these sucesses, he also managed to finish second in Weston Super Marne. Afterwards, he participated in many international tournaments. This resulted in a victory in Scarborough 1927, Hastings 1928/29, Scarborough 1930.

His health was not as good as his results; he survived three difficult operations, only to die as a result of the fourth. He is most known for the Colle-opening: 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.Bd3 c5.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Chain of Influences

Chain of Chess Influences.

As an undergrad at Westfield State College, having co-majored in Secondary Education, I was required to take a great many psychology courses. And in the early 70's, each doctor and psychology professor could describe in detail their lineage of teachers to themselves all the way from Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Behaviorists always somehow get back to John Watson or BF. Skinner.
I thought this was a really cool process, listening to each professor's narration emphasizing the trail of specific teachers that had the most influence on their personal thinking. Psychology being a "new" science, having each university teacher degreed in the field, so the "chain of influence" is unbroken and is easily recognizable.
To chess: Today if you are an OTB player you are the product of receiving parts of information about a 1,500 year old game from some sources. Because more than thirty preceding generations have been buried, knowledge of your particular "chain" has been buried. The lack of documentation still exists.
Nonetheless theories like the "six degrees of separation" or http://ibeatgarry.com/; with the attempt to measure how many steps a player is separated from beating Gary Kasparov; bring to mind that in time there will be the capability to recognize the connections with respect to games played and opponents faced. Although ibeatgarry.com is based on one limited chess database, I foresee a day when there will exist a superdatabase where all known will games exist and interesting facts harvested. So the chain of who in mankind influenced a chess player is not be formally documented.
Still I like to play with thoughts about the chain to Harry Lyman, my biggest influence on chess thinking. And Harry being so well connected was a node of wisdom gathering and disseminating huge amounts of information and getting people together - what Malcolm Gladwell calls "a connector" in The Tipping Point. Harry was a byproduct of the swashbucklers of Boston like Weaver Adams, Harlow Daly, of which John Curdo still personifies. An attitude that can be traced back to Harry Nelson Pillsbury. I call it Pre-Soviet American chess: before the coaches from the School of Botvinik came to Boston. Players were brawlers heralding tactics - not considering strategy the way most players do today.
So the connections of my chess background are much different than that of a 12 year old studying the game today.
Another way to look at this is to ask: who arrived on the chess scene self taught? Gladwell's new book Outliers would say that success in any area requires basic intelligence in combination with many other factors including luck. In the book he refers to successful chess players having had to study 10,000 hours.
How far back can you trace your chess lineage.
Excluding legend, do you know of any chess geniuses who were self taught or were very successful with little study or formal training? They in fact created their own chain of influence.
Please Comment Mike Griffin 01/07/2008

Monday, January 05, 2009

BCF profile for 2008

2008 profile

In Dec 2008 we had 164 members, and 4 more joined at the Herb Healy on Jan 1.

Throughout 2008 we have had 234 different people as members.

We had 33 masters (including GMs and IMs), playing or lecturing
including 20 who are current members, plus Denys Shmelov who joined on Jan 1.

Carey Theil earned the NM title this year.

We also had 40 experts and 60 players rated > 1000.

The BCF sponsored 164 distinct events,
some one day and many extending a month or more

324 different players played at least one game during 2008.

IM Dave Vigorito, NM Charles Riordan, and FM Chris Chase
are the BCC co-champions for 2008.

Dave Vigorito is also the BCF President for 2008-2009.

MNS for Jan 2009

The Monday Night Swiss started with a strong field. It's not too late to join with a 1/2 bye.

SwissSys Wall Chart. MNS January 2009

# Name/Rtng/ID Rd 1 Rd 2 Rd 3 Rd 4 Tot



11 Pendergast, William 1234

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Oh, Caissa! Oh, Karma?

I know that some people get mad when I post players' blunders. But I feel that this next one must be a rare one at the expert level.

This Saturday was the Boylston Chess Club's first quad of 2009. I decided to play and landed in the top quad. In my first games, I played some very tense and complex chess games against a master and a 2100+ expert. Up a piece in the first game, I avoided the dangerous positions and then promptly blundered away all my material in time trouble. In the second game, I had to sack a piece for 3 pawns to avoid getting steamrolled. With the computer evaluation swinging wildly with each move, I landed up 4 pawns and got my piece back. Then I missed a clever mate in two. For my opponent.

I felt that I was playing creatively in the middlegame against strong opponents, so when I was playing a 1900 in the last round, I felt I deserved a win in the final game. Oh, Caissa! Oh, Karma? My opponent allowed me to win a pawn on move 4. He had played this rather sheepishly, and I didn't suspect a thing. I abstractly felt karma was rewarding me for my earlier efforts.

White to win after 4....Nxe4??

I'm told Karpov once allowed 5.Qa4+ in this position..... no comfort after a tough chess day, even if true. Caissa has a healthy sense of humor. Har har!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Herb Healy Open House 2009

Herb Healy Open House 2009

52 players and many visitors welcomed the new year at the traditional Herb Healy Open House.
Bernardo Iglesias, Walter Driscoll, and William McLellan organized, registered, and TD'd the tournament. Mike Griffin and Bernardo provided a sumptious hot dog feast. Tony Cortizas and Bob Oresick documented the festivities. Thanks to all.

Denys Smelov (Champion of Massachusetts for 2008) started 2009 out right by winning the rated section with 4 of 4 points. [Denys also joined the club - welcome Denys and thanks.]

The considerable competition in the G/45 tournament included masters Marc Esserman, David Vigorito, Aung Lwin, Chris Williams, Lawyer Times, Eric Godin, and the freshly minted Carey Theil.

William Kelleher and Paul MacIntyre tied for first in the unrated section with 3.5.

Message from Tony Cortizas:

Here are some photos from the BCC Herb Healy Jan 1, 2009 Event.

Enjoy and Happy New Year to all.


And here are some photos from Bob - Happy New Year!