Sunday, June 28, 2009

Those madcap Québécois

I never played in the masochistic all-night Monadnock Marathon chess tournaments once held in New Hampshire, but it seems the madness continues in Québec.

If I am reading the French write-up ("Le 25 heures d'échecs") correctly, starting this coming Saturday (July 4th) there will be 25 hours straight of chess activities, starting at 1 pm, punctuated by dinner, breakfast, and lunch breaks ("game analysis"). (Those wild enough to play should arrive by noon with 50 Canadian dollars.)

Between the eminently appropriate hours of 5 am and 7:30 am, the scheduled activity appears to be "Storm over the chessboard" -- whoever "loses," wins. I imagine that means you throw your king and other pieces at your opponent in a violent attempt to get your opponent to checkmate you. Now THAT game might not be good for your chess....

Anyone whose "French language rating" is higher than mine (Adam? Nicholas?), please jump right in and correct me.

Lawyer Times and Eric Strickland win in the Boylston's Swiss #23

On Saturday, June 27, Lawyer Times (3.5) won in the Open Section (n = 14) of the BCF Swiss #23, including a victory over Dave Vigorito.

Carey Theil and Mika Brattain tied for 2nd with 3.0 each.

Eric Strickland drove down from Brattleboro, VT and won all of his games for a clear 1st in the 10 player U1800 section.

Daniel Bromberg scored 3.0 and took 2nd. His loss was due to a blunder, much to the consternation of Marc Esserman, his teacher, who was just as upset that Daniel was playing in the under section.

In a strategy you don't see every day, Jesse's King led his Rook and Queen on a valiant but ultimately fatal charge down Zaroug's e-file.

Robert Oresick was the TD.

David Vigorito Gets Married

IM David Vigorito, Boylston Chess Club President, recently married Heather Kroll and honeymooned in Italy.

For a take on chess and marriage inspired by this marriage, check out Dana MacKenzie's blog. For the MACA announcement, click here. IM Mark Ginsburg has some photos of the wedding on his blog here. Other photos can be found here and on their wedding page here.

Congrats from all of us at the Boylston Chess Weblog.
Kroll-Vigorito chess piece cake.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Satisfactory Return

Hello everyone,

As I posted this week, this weekend I played in my first tournament in six months. I played in the Open section of the Swiss, as #4 on the wallchart and finished with 2 wins against A players with White and 2 losses with black against a master and an IM. I am pleased; all the games were hard fought, I managed my time well, and I didn't have too terrible tactical blindness, save for a time pressure one against IM Vigorito in Round 2 (OK, OK, I did almost hang my queen to a one mover).

My game against master Carey Theil in Round 3 was a curious one, in which I made a deep stratego-tactical oversight that led to an unpleasant position. Plus, I missed a single late-game chance to fight for a draw.

Theil-Rihel, 2009

1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 g6 3. e4 d6 4.g3 Bg7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. Nge2 e5 7. d3 Nc6 8. h3 Bd7 9. Be3 Qc8 10.Qd2 a6

Funny: Up to now, we are both following a single game in my database, Valkesalmi- Computer MChess Pro 5.0, from 1996. I'd better be careful following those computer moves or someone will think I'm cheating! In the original game, White played Rc1, and eventually lost. Carey tried a different idea.

11. Bh6 Rb8 12. Nd5 Nxd5 13. exd5 Nd4!?

An important decision. Yes, Black will be sacking the pawn on d4, but I figured I could get away with this because to win the pawn, White's king will have to stay in the center of the board where he will be quite exposed. White is having difficulty castling kingside, and queenside castling at least looks optically dangerous with Black already gunning on that side of the board. That is illusory, though, for White can quickly put pressure on Black's king. One line goes 14. Nxd4 exd4 15. O-O-O c5 16. h4 and now Black must be careful- 16...Bxh6 17. Qxh6 f6 (a clever way to prevent h5, because then g5 and Black's king is quite safe). 18. Rde1 Rf7 19. Qf4 Qc7 and white is slightly better, but Black is holding everything together.

Carey takes the pawn. As he said after the game, "A pawn is a pawn." 14. Nxd4 exd4 15. Bxg7 Re8+ 16. Kf1 Kxg7 17. Qf4 hits the pawn on d4.
I saw all this and thought Black's lines will open quickly now. One thing I didn't realize was important enough-- Black's dark squares are very weak. This turns out to be critical.

17... c6 The start of a long-range plan that turns out to fail. White's command of the dark squares AND the white squares in the center gives him enough time to move the king to a safe square and keep black out of the position.

18. Qxd4+ Kg8 (f6 had to be considered) 19. Re1 Rxe1 20. Kxe1 cxd5 (b5 looks like a better try; the text just forces white to make good squares for his king) 21. Bxd5 Bc6 22. Kf1 b5 23. Kg2! bxc4 24. dxc4 Bxd5+ 25. cxd5

Oops. Here I thought I was about to get my pawn back and penetrate White's 2nd rank. This was a position I had in mind when I played c6 on move 17, and only now, in the end, do I see a fatal flaw. If 25. Qc2 Re1! and my back rank is too weak. 26. Qxb2?? 27. Re8+ wins the queen. This suggests that 18... f6 would have been better than Kg8 as well.

I now burn a lot of clock to find some kind of active defence.

25...Qe8 26. Rc1 a5 27. Rc7 Rb4 28. Qf6

And here, late in the game, I miss my best chance to force a rook and pawn endgame that I might be able to hold with 28...Qe4+ 29. Kh2 Qf5! and now white has to trade queens and give up some important pawns. For example, 30. Qxf5 gxf5 31. b3 Rd4 32. Kg2 Rxd5 33. Ra7 and now black has a good chance to hold the draw. Or 30. Rxf7 Qxf6 31. Rxf6 Rxb2 32. Kg2 Rxa2 33. Rxd6 Kf7 Rd7+ Kf6 and again, Black has at least practical chances.
But I played 28...Rb6. So much for my active defence. 29. Re7 Qf8 30. Rd7 Rb8 31. b3 Qe8 32 Re7 Qf8 33.Qxd6 Rd8 34. Qe5 Rxd5 35. Qxd5 Qxe7 36. Qxa5 Qe4+ 37. Kh2 Qc2 I hit upon the idea of attacking the f-pawn way too late 38. Qa7 h5 39. h4 f6 40. Qd4 Kg7 41. a4 Qxb3 42. a5 and some more moves were played but is soon becomes clear that Black can't stop the a-pawn.

Clearly, in the critical positions, I made some bad evals and under-analyzed critical lines like f6 and b5. Still, considering my other games as well, I must be happy with my play after six months of rust.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Six-Month Hiatus, What Will Happen?

Hello everyone,

Although I have been managing the blog from a distance, I stopped playing tournaments back in January to focus on my science.

Three grant applications and a submitted paper later, I am ready to frequent the club again. This is my first blog entry about my return and my current chess perspective.

Six months is not very long compared to Mike Griffenesque breaks from the game, but this was quite an intense scientific period for me: within the past month, I had a 30 page grant, a 60 page grant, and a 75 page paper to submit. If accepted, the paper will be condensed to 3 pages of a science magazine, with the rest of it hidden away in what is called "supplemental online material." Depressing in a way, but that is the current state of science publication -- more is expected, but less is shown up front.
Many will remember my last tournament result. Some chess friends remind me weekly about it (you know who you are). After two creative and very fun games against masters, I uncorked this scorcher:
Black, an expert, crushes himself with Nxe4??.

Let me say for the record that I had planned to take this break BEFORE the event. Looking back, that decision was fortuitous-- instead of replaying the tournament 100000000 times in my head that week, my decision to take a break lent a cosmic-comic air to the result.
Even so, six months later, I am ready to return and clean that one from my synapses.

I'd like to share two thoughts at the outset:

1) We all know skills erode without practice, and, if that last game of mine is any evidence, some of us don't have many skills to erode. To keep up, I have been doing my daily chess tactical problems. I am currently using Anatoly Lein's "Sharpen Your Tactics!" which I found in a used bookstore (support local bookstores!).

I love this tactics book. No text, just problems. The problems get hard at the half-way point. I am nearing problem number 1000, and now they are difficult enough that I can only do 1-2 a day.

2) I have also been sneaking short lunch breaks at Harvard Square, where blitz chess rules, and the hustlers are pretty decent chessplayers. I am no good at blitz, but I did discover one useful fact: There are certain openings in which I don't understand the plans, the pawn structure, or anything. I would lose dozens of games in these openings, and all the gawkers and kibbitzers were more than happy to point out my opening errors. So, in preparation for my return, I have borrowed from Harvard library several opening books on each of these and am going over my nightly master games. I dislike opening books and those endless variations that start on move 4, but I think if I stick to the main games/main lines and get a feel for the plans, I can improve a lot.

Up next, a weekend event, then the Ruebens-Landy.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Congratulations to the new International Master Marc Esserman

Congratulations International Master Marc Esserman on your IM title!

Photo: Tony Cortizas

On June 19th, in the second round BCF board member Marc Esserman defeated GM Zbyneil Hracek at the 2nd Annual Marshall Chess Club New York International at the world-famous Marshall Chess Club in New York City.
Marc already had 3 IM norms, with the third one being earned in Berkeley 2008. A final requirement for the IM title, Marc needed to get his Fide rating over 2400 and he reached that milestone after his round 2 game with Hracek. Since a rating requirement for a title may be achieved at any point during a tournament so even if Marc finishes under Fide 2400, he has still fulfilled the IM rating requirement.
And Markc did it with a Smith Morra gambit an opening that Esserman has used with great success, and one of my favorites as well. Harry Lyman recommended that I use it in the early 70's and I have come back to e4 and playing the Smith Morra against c5 again. You have a lot of play for the pawn and many people decline taking the pawn, as did GM Hracek against Marc.
Marc Esserman 2441 GM Zbyneil Hracek 2664
1. e4 c5
2. d4 cxd4
3. c3 d3
4. Bxd3 g6
5. c4 Bg7
6. Nf3 d6
7. h3 Nf6
8. O-O O-O
9. Nc3 Nbd7
10. Be3 b6
11. Rc1 Bb7
12. Bb1 a6
13. Qe2 Re8
14. Rfd1 Qb8
15. b3 Nc5
16. Nd2 e6
17. b4 Ncd7
18. Nb3 Rc8
19. f4 Qc7
20. Qe1 Re8
21. Qf2 Rac8
22. Bd3 h5
23. Nd2 Rb8
24. Nf3 Ba8
25. Rf1 Qd8
26. f5 exf5
27. exf5 Bxf3
28. Qxf3 Ne5
29. Qd1 d5
30. cxd5 Nxd5
31. Nxd5 Qxd5
32. fxg6 fxg6
33. Bc4 Qxc4
34. Rxc4 Nxc4
35. Bf4 Rbc8
36. Qd7 Kh7
37. Bg5 Ne5
38. Qb7 Rc6
39. Bf6 Rxf6
40. Rxf6 Kh6
41. Rd6 h4
42. Qe4 Kh5
43. Rd5 Bf6
44. Qf4 1-0
Another interesting note is that BCF member Andrew Wang is also playing in this tournament.

Thank You
Mike Griffin

Frank Frazier wins the 2009 Weaver Adams with 4.0

Frank Frazier, with 4 points, won the 1st place honors in the 2009 Weaver Adams.

His name will be taped on the Weaver Adams Lager trophy, designed by Mike Griffin.

Ken Ho, Jon Lee, and John Hardin, all with 3.0, tied for 2nd, so all four move onto the Reubens Landey, which starts July 13.

The Reubens Landey is the next stage in the championship cycle, for those who are rated 1800 to 2199, the winner of which wins entry into the championship.
Congratulations to all and thanks to all 16 who competed this year.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Chess and Colors

Chess and Colors

It's hard to believe that chess games began with either white or black moving first until standardization with white in the late 1800's. Something inside of me would hurt if I saw the first move something like 1.e7-e5?! Or the King and Queen on the wrong sides of the board at move one. And there has been the ongoing discussion of what impact having the first move (white) gives a player. Weaver Adams in "White to Move and Win" contended that e4 was a forced win for white [see editor's note below] and later Hans Berliner in "The System" said that 1.d4 was a forced win for white although he had difficulty in demonstrating many aspects of this belief.

In a February 2008 essay I jokingly said: "The game of chess has been solved - it's just that we humans don't realize it." Platonists among you get the joke, chess players don't think it is that funny.

Yet most people contend, as was noted in the comments of that essay, that accurate play on both sides will result in a draw. Still at the highest levels about 37% of the time white seems to win, 36% draw, and black wins 26% of the time. And the weaker the players the less effect colors matter. Gary Kasparov said it took a little longer for him to win with Black than White. But it appears that at the IM/GM level color makes a bigger difference and the players realize it as computer generated parings and colors of strong players seems to be the biggest source of contention to directors of tournaments. The fact that Alexander Ivanov had white twice the last day of the Mass Open gave him favorable tailwinds to help him win as State Champ (albeit he won in an impressive 23 moves in both cases- more from theoretical one upmanship, yet color was a factor).

Zen chess players among you will say that white is at a disadvantage moving first: the best first move in chess is the second move. A lot them play the French Defense.

There was a time when people thought that Grandmaster chess would end up with every game drawing and the game of chess would dry up. "Random" versions of the game and giving something besides 1/2 for draw have been proposed, although not very strongly accepted. The introduction of computers I think actually has enhanced play and enables players an easier way "to shop" for specific variations. Every year you see more and more computer contrived openings: more of these openings appear to me to be more and more bizarro. For example, Bill Kelleher's Mass Open White Sicilian ALapin had d4 unmoved for so long, while Bill's opponent moved an early g5 to poke at the F3 knight, insanity erupted with black having a mangled pawn structure, all of this seemingly so non-intuitive to mere humans. Between rounds players nestled by the outlets in the skittles room in order to plug in their laptops.
I was a fly on the wall and watched IM Mark Esserman fast forward thru Grunfeld variations one of which an hour later became reality. Do you feel the introduction of the use of computers in chess preparation effects this white advantage? Does it create the chance of more draws, or creation of more unbalanced positions?

Please Comment
Thank You
Mike Griffin


(born Apr-28-1901, died Jan-06-1963) United States of America

[what is this?]
Weaver Warren Adams was born on April 28, 1901 in Dedham, Massachusetts. An American chess master, he participated in the U.S. Championship in 1936, 1940, 1944, 1946 and 1948. He won the Massachusetts State Championship in 1937, 1938, 1941 and 1945. In 1939, he wrote a book entitled "White to Play and Win." After publication he played in the U.S. Open at Dallas. He did not win a single game as White (3 losses and 1 draw) and won all his games (4 games) as Black! Weaver Adams won the 49th U.S. Open, held in Baltimore, in 1948. He also wrote "Simple Chess", "How to Play Chess", and "Absolute Chess." He passed away in Cedar Grove, New Jersey in 1963.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

from MACA Chess News

06/13/2009: RI expert Benjamin Goldberg wins BCF Somerville Open

Benjamin Goldberg, an expert from Cumberland, Rhode Island, scored 3.5-0.5 to win the BCF Somerville Open, held Saturday, June 13, at the Boylston Chess Club in Somerville, Mass.

Tying for 2nd-3rd place with 3-1 tallies were FIDE master Christopher Chase of Somerville and Class A contestant George Zogbi of Arlington, Mass.

Niccolo Hilgendorf, a Class C player from New Hampshire who was the 2004 New Mexico K-3 scholastic state co-champion, chalked up a 3-1 score to win first place in the Under 1800 section.

Tying for 2nd-5th place with 2.5-1.5 results were Daniel Pascetta of South Glastonbury, Connecticut, Robert Oresick of Norton, Mass., Ryan Ottaviano of Allston, Mass., and Samuel Thompson, the last of whom shared the 2004 New Mexico K-3 scholastic state championship title with section winner Hilgendorf.

The two-section Boylston Chess Foundation-sponsored tournament drew 28 players and was directed by Bernardo Iglesias of Stoughton, Mass., assisted by Mike Griffin of Quincy, Mass.

George Mirijanian
Publications Coordinator

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Changes at the BCF

Last evening the bi-monthly Board of Directors meeting occurred. Biggest news was the resignation earlier in the day of the Vice President Kent Leung. Per the BCF rules, Natasha Christiansen was elected Vice President for the remainder of the year.

Mike Griffin

Chess Archives and Records Management

Chess Archives and Records Management

At the Mass Open George Mirijamian and I got into an interesting conversation about Chess Archives. Historically chess organizations do a poor job of record keeping for posterity. In fact, I find that the BCF bound collection of past Chess Horizons is probably the best source of Mass chess history around. But old state and club history is difficult to obtain. Example: there existed a slight controversy as to who was the Mass Open Champ of 1964 & 1965 for some time because of sketchy record keeping.

We both feel that many times the few records of existing or former chess clubs are on shelves in a person's house and end up getting thrown out when the holder of those records passes away and the family does not recognize the importance of them. There is probably much information that would be useful to chess fans but never gets turned back into circulation. The sanest thing to do if the records can't be returned to the original organization is to donate them to the Cleveland Public Library which has the largest chess library in the world called The White Collection. At least there they will be well taken care of, cataloged and accessible to the public.

Several years ago Paul MacIntyre made a redundant offsite repository (his house) of critical BCF records, like legal and tax records, in case of fire at the BCF. Recently at a BCF board meeting the same subject came up because Bob Oresick was trying to find more former BCC champions and mentioned that there are very few old records around. Paul MacIntyre related how he was excluded from going back to try and retrieve some old files that were left behind in a separate room of the BCF following the move from Clarendon street to Elm Street. BCF is in possession of some records about the Rhode Island chess club from the 1960's.

The Quincy Chess club had to dissolve it's assets when it moved to the Atria assisted living at 4 Seaport Drive because the Atria would not provide a location to put a steel cabinet for storage of their stuff. Over 50 years old, the Quincy chess club had almost no records, not even a list of the club champs, only some photographs of past members. BTW these are now possessed by Irving Yaffee, who I believe currently is 86 at this time. Everything else: clocks, books, sets, were divided up among members with the thinking at least they are being used somewhere in the promotion of chess instead of being cooped up in someone's basement rusting.

One positive thing: clubs & state associations can have are web sites and blogs. Now here are living documents developed to meet current daily needs that can become historical records of the on going life of an organization. Over time you are building quite an asset, a record of daily chess life.

Also you have people like Tony Cortizas who's photo journalism creates images of players that can be viewed years later. In fact a photographer like Tony possesses his own private library that has 1000'nds of more photographs than were ever produced in the past when developed film and processing made photography more expensive and time intensive. I should also add Bob Oresick and Steve Stepak as possessors of huge personal photo archives as well. I hope these gentleman make arrangements for their archives to be maintained beyond their days.

And it would be fantastic if some of these unknown, "lost", archives of players 30+ years ago popped up because of this essay. Do you have, or know of any chess archives?

Please Comment.

Thank You

Mike Griffin.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Chess and Sandbagging

Chess and Sandbagging

"You Sandbagger!" [Tony Cortizas to Mike Griffin at the 2009 Mass Open]

Check my tournament history and judge for yourself if you think I was sandbagging or not. I deny the accusation and let my record speak for itself. But what is sandbagging in chess?

sandbag definition d:
to conceal or misrepresent one's true position, potential, or intent especially in order to take advantage of

intransitive verb : to hide the truth about oneself so as to gain an advantage over another

Players who are unable to win in the open section of a tournament having to beat all comers sometimes engineer a way to play in a lower section in order to increase their chances dramatically to win prize money. Action to intentionally lower ones rating in order to qualify, or misrepresent ones true strength is called sandbagging. The term is also used in pool, golf, poker, probably any gambling game. In chess there are three basic ways to sandbag:

1. "Play UP" in tournaments: Most swiss tournaments allow players to play in the section higher than their ratings qualifies them for. So a player playing "UP" will probably face opponents 80% of the time higher rated than they are and thus probably lose more games, thus probably losing more rating points than they would if they played in their natural section. Although some statisticians in the crowd might claim that the rating system will compensate for the variance in probabilities to win or lose in such cases; my feeling is that a class section in a tournament is a closed population which would skew the probability for people playing up, thus increasing the probably of them losing points. Rating point loss in order to drop into a lower section in a high prize tournament in the future. Also coaches sometimes want their students to play up in order to face a better quality of chess for developmental reasons.

2. Throw chess games: Lose on purpose. I very rarely have seen a player play in such a way that I had the suspicion they intentionally threw a game. Except in the early 70's when only one player comes to mind. A BCC player who's rating hovered around 2000 but was the strongest 2000 I had ever seen. Yet I witnessed this person lose several times to 1600 players?! Interesting enough I asked a strong Mass Open player if they had ever seen what they thought was a thrown chess game for sandbagging. He was pretty sure he had seen it. And It's more than rumored that in the 1951 World Chess Championship David Bronstein threw games to Mikhail Botvinnik in order to protect his imprisoned father. Sandbagging to keep dad alive. Leon Trotsky's last name was really Bronstein BTW.

3. Misrepresent ones self either by A. using the false ID of a weaker player or B. registering in a foreign country that has a different governing body, perhaps being so outrageous as to even claim one is unrated.

A. To George Mirijamian this is his biggest fear as a director: as there is no rule to require a player to show ID when registering. So a player could steal an identity, although if that person misrepresents themselves and collects winnings they are committing fraud. George feels there is nothing to preclude a stranger to go to a remote part of the country and do this. And you don't even have to be a member of the USCF!?

B. I have witnessed several cases of people with eastern block accents claim they have no FIDE rating, or understate their FIDE rating. Several years back, at a Continental Chess Tournament in Woburn, the class B section had a 2000+ FIDE rated player enter and play several rounds before being discovered. And although the person's games later were forfeited, the mere fact the guy competed in the section messed up the outcome of that section big time. A variant of this is to rejoin the USCF with a slightly different name and start over again where not known.

There was a fourth way that I consider ok, in the old days: a local Boston chess player could travel out to the then "boonies" of Western Mass to play say in the Palmer Open and know that their rating relative to the locals was deflated because the Boston population of players would have stronger players within their common playing group, thus be deflated when compared to a distant population pool. Except for New Yorkers in those days. And New Yorkers traveling up to a tournament, say in Sturbridge MA, would have an advantage over a Boston player because of the same phenomenon. But today with the internet, better and more books, instruction materials everywhere, and good coaches, this geographical effect is no longer significant. When the future world champ Magnus Carlsen can come from Norway having only one soccer playing grandmaster Simen Agdestein as his coach, it indicates that globalization has extended to chess wisdom.

And the classic gambling in speed chess: smart players will sandbag by just winning enough on the plus side to keep the weaker player thinking they could have a win if they only had a break. I was warned by my great uncle and BCC member Justin "Ducky" Power to look out if when gambling and your mental state is: "If I only had a little break cash in, get up, and walk away, as you are being hustled. In the 70's teenager Jim Rizzitano was an artist at this winning lunch money regularly while playing at the Boston Chess Studio on Newbury Street.

Do you think you've seen players throw games.

What do you think about sandbagging?

Please Comment. Thank You

Mike Griffin