Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The First and the Old Place of the Boylston Chess Club

July 17 -- it was a Friday and I had just been having an early dinner in the Chinatown area with family and friends visiting from Costa Rica. Walking at the intersection of Washington St. and Beach St. - where not long ago this section of Boston was known as the "Combat Zone." Just around the corner was 48 Boylston St. - YMCU - and “the headquarters of the Boylston Chess Club” from the 1870’s to 1989.

I saw from a close distance a clear landscape now, where in the past, about 30 years ago, I can recall there were a movie house and other weird stores around.

[Editor's note: I found a photo of how it looked in 1899. rjo]

In from of me, I can distinguish the back of the old place where the BCC main playing room was - big, tall windows and the high lights decorating the big room, I can see it now as a flash from the past. That room never had AC and the heat in winter was very light.

There was always thunder coming down and shaking the ceiling from time to time from the third floor. [Editor's note: I have heard that the "thunder" was from wrestling lessons being given by "Killer Kowalski" from the old studio wrestling days. rjo]

The summers when the temperature reaches 75-80F, everyone used to sweat crazy and wear light clothes and in winter you needed to wear a jacket or sweater all the time when the temperature was getting 30-25F.

And now I believe there will be new buildings covering this zone and covering this present view,- I do not know if the small and closed alley will remain there too, to peek the wall.

I have a lot of memories from this old place that maybe in the future I can share with anyone who interested to know: little pieces of the past of the BCC.

Bernardo Iglesias

Chess and Vacations

Chess and Vacations

Greetings from Stinson Beach CA where my wife Pat and I are vacationing with our two boys.

For a dozen years (mid 80's thu the 90's) typically our vacations used to consist of loading up the pop-up trailer, strapping on the Old Town 17'4" canoe and trucking up to the northern part of Moosehead Lake ME. During those times I would choose a chess agenda and spend a couple of hours a day. Subject material could be end game improvement, a world championship match, or a famous tournament from the past. In the trailer I would pack my best set , board, along with several books.

My three kids are all good chess players and the solitude of the woods, having a limited choice of activities, guaranteed opportunities for chess games, as well as a myriad of card games. Some time in the mid eighties my daughter Melissa pulled of the upset of the last century by beating this old man. Victories by my kids were very rare. In fact my wife has said that I would pummel my grandmother into submission if I had the opportunity. I am simply passing on the philosophy my first coach great uncle Justin "Ducky" Power (a BCC member) had to be unmerciful at all times. BTW Melissa's real forte is in checkers.

As a college student in the early 70's in the summer, working at Fenway Park allowed me many Tuesdays to visit the old Boylston Chess Club and work with Harry Lyman to fine tune my game. Each fall I would return to Westfield State College and win board one on the chess team, only to lose it during the year to Dave 'Wiz" Copy. Then return again the next fall to reclaim it again.

As for this California trip we had to pack light and so the only chess book I brought was Lev Alburt's Chess Training Pocket Book: 300 Most Important Position & Ideas. The main plan being that I would borrow my wife's notebook to log into the ICC. But this is only a partially effective as we are roughing it in paradise and have such low bandwidth that high lag time precludes me from playing much. So you won't be seeing FENWAY1 on very often.

Nonetheless Stinson Beach, secluded on the west side of Mt Tamaplais, of which Muir Woods sits on the east side, consists of a series of coastal cottages where people have accounted for the relative coolness of the ocean breezes by using architecture and civil engineering to trap warmth in outside settings. So even with ambient temperatures in the high 50's low 60's you can sit in the sun in places that climb into the mid 80's if you want to. And the water temperatures are more like Nantasket Beach than Bar Harbor, so you can jump in without stopping your heart.

What are some of you summer chess rituals?
Please Comment.

Thank You.

Mike Griffin 07/29/2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

Reubens Landy round 3

Greg Kaden defeated Ben Goldberg in a tense game to move into sole possession of 1st place with 3.0.
Simon Warfield and Farzad Abdi are close behind at 2.5. Next week Greg plays Simon.
Farzad will play Zaroug Jaleel who has been improving very quickly in the last 6 months.
For more details, check the current crosstable at

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Reubens Landey round 2

Last evening we played round two of the Reubens Landey.

Ben Goldberg, Greg Kaden, and Daniel Leach emerged with 2 points each.

Farzad Abdi
and Simon Warfield played to a draw by repetition of position, and so now have 1.5 each, as do Ken Newman and Philip "there's gotta be a planet somewhere out there" Nutzman.

Natasha Christiansen joined the group, but unfortunately both Ken Ho and Jason Rihel had to withdraw because of other commitments.

As usual, the current crosstable is posted at

Sunday, July 19, 2009

My Great Pretentiousness (or, Damn the Pronoun Agreement, Full Speed Ahead!)

Thumbing through some of Kasparov's My Great Predecessors got me idly thinking about, even at my vastly inferior level of play, which of the World Champions I most resemble in terms of style. I'm sure they would all resemble such a remark.

Perhaps I should instead write about which of the World Champion's playing styles I most strongly identify with.

I can barely combine myself out of a wet paper bag, so out went Alekhine, Tal, Spassky, Fischer, Kasparov, and Anand. I have long greatly admired the endgame and other successes of Capablanca and Smyslov, but my style might be closest to Petrosian's (although after my savage attacking loss to him in the Reubens-Landey, I think I will never persuade Farzad Abdi of that).

Giving an opponent the torture treatment:

After the game, Dick grunted that it was just the kind of game he hates, where I dictated the pace and he was always defending. It's certainly pleasant to hear that your opponent felt they were under your thumb the whole game, but I was still miffed that I hadn't won, having labored under the mistaken impression that I'd had a meaningful edge for most of the game. One of Joe Shipman's (excellent) 1989 Chess Horizons opening analysis columns stated that 10...Bxe4 is equal, but I didn't know that at the time of the game. It would be great to have enough Petrosian-like python technique to be able to squeeze more points out of opponents (ah, Pars-s-seltongue).

In the recently completed Weaver Adams tournament, I had what might have been my most smoothly flowing Petrosian style win ever (sorry, John, but anyway we both made it to the Reubens-Landey). I dictated play all over the board, and in this game I did squeeze the point out.

If it is at all accurate that I align myself with Petrosian, Spassky being Mike Griffin's chess hero may partially explain why our chessboard battles to date have been full-blooded struggles, given the 2 slugfests those giants fought for the World Championship.

Does your play resemble that of any World Champion? Come join me in inciting World Champions, or their spirits, to resemble remarks about shared chess styles. Maybe we can get one of those who has passed on to rise up again -- Korchnoi may be looking for another spiritual opponent (although I doubt Petrosian would be his top choice!).

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Andrew Tichenor hits 2200 and becomes a National Master

In the May rating supplement Andrew Tichenor, who often plays at the club, achieved the 2200 rating which makes him a National Master. Congratulations.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Early Bird Rapid Quads, July 15, 2009

NM Chris Williams won his quad with 2 points. He defeated NM Carey Theil and Joshua Lee, losing to NM Lawyer Times.

Max Lu and Seth Lieberman won the 6-player small Swiss with 2.5 points; Robert Oresick, Daniel Bromberg, Anthony DiNosse and Eden Hochbaum rounded out the field.

As usual on the second installment of the bimonthly Early Bird Rapid Quads, Chris Chase directed with his undivided attention.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mass chess synergies in recording events and history

Mass chess synergies in recording events and history.

Recently in the Blog we copied the MACA release of the Somerville Open tournament. We got some comments implying that the BCF should not have ripped off MACA but written their own article. George Mirijanian gave us permission to copy the post and we felt that this was a well written article of the facts so why duplicate effort? Re-use what is good; it's the way of the green ethos, the lazy ethos as well.

Some suggest perhaps it would be nice if some BCF member hand crafted their own version of the Somerville Open but surprisingly most chess players like to spend their surplus time playing or studying chess?! And if such reporting was deemed a necessary requirement it would fall on the few BCF volunteers that already do so much. Regardless lately more BFC members have been writing for the blog and contributing quality/fun entries. I hope these guys continue to contribute.

I look at this "borrowing" from MACA as leveraging a good report of the facts of an event from George Mirijanian who was nice enough to write it. In fact perhaps there are other ways that BCF, MACA, and other organizations could work together sharing information and resources creating other synergies that enhance each other and therefore all of local chess. I think the MACA site has it’s audience and BCF has its audience, and while they may intersect they are also partially exclusive. So why not borrow from each other at times?

Hopefully soon Steve Dann, George Mirijanian, and myself are trying to start a Mass chess oral history archive. We missed Gus Gosselin but are hoping to catch the likes of Irving Yaffee before they pass. Also I'm thinking of trying to use our records and these guy's memories to create a Mass Chess history timeline.

The pool of chess volunteers is very limited, it would be nice if every chess player could find a way to contribute some time to chess and their beloved organizations. Even if it's 15 minutes a year to help move chairs and tables at the Herb Healy. Or even if it was 30 seconds to pick up after themselves. Take a look at the average chess day of Bernardo Iglesias: every tournament directed by him is an act of dedication to the game. And realize that every empty cup, piece of paper, un set chess set, has to be picked up and set up by someone and it's usually the director?! While it would take almost no time for an individual to pick up after themselves at the end of day there are many cumilative/multplactive tasks that add much time to the director before going home. Per Bob Oresick "Reduce Entropy."

Do you have any ideas about where these organizations could borrow, cooperate, and co contribute?

Please Comment

Thank You

Mike Griffin


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Reubens Landey off to a predictable start

The Reubens Landey has a field of 20 expert and A players. In the first round.

All the top ten ranked players defeated the ten bottom -- no draws; I found this rather remarkable given the rather restricted range of ratings.

You can view the crosstable at the BCF news page, posted by Alex, at

Friday, July 03, 2009

Reubens Landey 2009

As you can tell from the comments, this is a very special tournament - it is highly competitive for expert and A players under very good playing conditions - a slow time control, one game/ evening, and a five week event.

In reviewing our membership and playing list over the last year, I noticed that there are about 220 expert and A players who are eligible for this event. Please consider playing - starting tomorrow, Monday, July 13.

If you are rated 1800+ but U2200, you are invited to play in a terrific five round Swiss - the Reubens Landey.
It is a traditionally a very competitive yet friendly tournament. Only club members can enter, but if you aren't a member, this is the perfect excuse to join.
The 2009 Reubens Landey begins Monday, July 13. It is the second component of the club championship cycle. The winner becomes the BCC U2200 champion and moves into the club championship to compete against club masters.

Monday, July 13, 20, 27 August 3, 10: Reubens/Landey BCC Qualifier U2200 Championship 5SS; 40/90 G/20; Open to BCC members rated between 1800 and 2199; Entry fee: $20: Winner receives free entry into the BCF Championship beginning on 9/14. Registration: 6:15 to 6:55; Rounds: 7:PM

Simon Warfield won the 2008 BCC U2200 championship - the Reubens Landey with 4 of 5 points.. Ben Goldberg and Carey Theil tied for second with 3.5 of 5. Simon was invited into the 2008 BCC club championship to play against the club masters.

Tempete sur L'Echiquier redux

Paul MacIntyre writes:
Ken Ho mentioned “Storm over the Chessboard” at a recent chess event in Quebec, and I think what that means is the French game “Tempête sur L’Echiquier.” It’s a really intriguing and pretty wacky game that involves cards and the chessboard. In lieu of making a normal chess move, you can make use of a card which may give a piece special powers, allow you to swap positions of pieces, resurrect dead pieces, and quite a few other variations. The cards all have wonderfully silly art on them. Here’s what the box that the deck comes in looks like:

Here are some examples of the cards:

Translation: Your opponent wants to take one of your pieces, but this one defends itself! The attacked piece stays where it is, and it’s the attacking piece that is eliminated.

Translation: You move one of your pieces onto a square occupied by another of your pieces. These two pieces “fuse” into a new piece which from then on moves like either of the two original pieces, which stay together on the same square. The King may not fuse!

This card is particularly meant for players of “SuperGang,” an excellent game available at all good game stores. You choose one of your opponent’s pieces excluding the King and you place it on the edge of the table, then you move to a spot four meters away with a dart gun. If using three darts you are able to hit the piece, it is removed from the game. If not, the piece is put back where it came from.

You transform an opposing piece of your choice (except the King and the Queen) into a “neutral” piece. A neutral piece can be moved in turn by each of the players, and can take pieces belonging to both players.

I’ve never actually had the chance to play this game, as it requires having wacky French chess players around. This Quebec chess marathon seems like just the place, though.
Paul MacIntyre

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Mentally, the pieces are on two squares at once!

"When you come to the chessboard after a long break, the pieces tend to fall back to their original squares in your mind."

So said a player in the West Virginia Chess Bulletin, after annotating a game from his victorious run at the WV Championships that year (back in the 90's, kids). That observation stuck with me, but now, after my own six month break, I appreciate it even more. In my calculations, I'm finding I often have two of the same piece-- one on the square where I plan to move it and a ghost piece on the original square. (aside to Adam Yedidia, maybe ghost chess could be yet another new variant for you to invent-- every move leaves a ghost piece behind for a few moves...)

In my first tournament back, I managed to dispell those ghost pieces mid-calculation. That led to a few thought moments like, "Calculate, calculate, OK, now I'm better here, and DUH! my piece isn't there anymore, time to rethink." As long as it stays in your head, only precious time gets wasted.

In the G30 event I played Wednesday night, the ghost piece stayed on its square just a little too long:

In the following position, if Black challenges the open file with a rook, Black has achieved equality. The dark squared bishop will likely find freedom with Bf8. Black will grip the open file and redeploy the knights on the weak queenside squares.
After assessing Rfd8 as a fine move, I decided that it wouldn't hurt to throw in Be6 to b3 first, controlling the d1 square and soon the open file will forever be mine: In my mind, this looked great. In the quantum mechanics world, my piece might be called Schrodinger's Bishop-- both alive and dead at the same time, until the box gets opened with White's next move, the "impossible" Rd7!Poof! goes the ghost on e6, and ugliness ensues.

Ghosts are always creeping into my calculations, but rarely are they so vivid.


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

That guy really knows his chess clocks!

At the 1986 U.S. Open, I walked by as Larry Christiansen and his opponent (Kamran Shirazi, I think) were in a postmortem of their just-drawn game. According to my recollection, Shirazi had some extra pawns as compensation for some sort of piece deficit. Larry (who won the U.S. Open outright that year) appeared to be making the case that he had a better position, and looked up at Boris Spassky, who was standing to the side looking things over.

Boris apparently considered it a draw and, in response to Larry, waved his hands encouragingly over Shirazi's pawns, wafting them onward to a queening square. It was perhaps the following day when Joel Benjamin, who I think had been present for some analysis by Spassky (for the aforementioned game?), exclaimed with a playful smile, "That guy really knows his chess!"

Since 2008 I've played two opponents at the club who had the black Chronos GX Touch Chess Clock. In both games I was struck by how useful and elegant the clock was, and I finally decided I should buy one for the upcoming Reubens-Landey tournament to eliminate clock functionality issues from distracting me.

First, however, I looked back at my August 2008 And Time won't give me Time... blog entry, in which, although it was not my main topic, I touched on differences between digital clocks. For my intended purchase, I kept in mind a comment from Jason Rihel about the drawback of single time control clocks, and I also scanned the Internet (a Series of tubes) for other information to increase my confidence that that particular GX model was truly the right clock for me.

In the process I came to the shocking realization ("I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!") that, despite my claim in that blog entry and its ensuing comment trail that I understood the differences between time-delay / time-increment / Bronstein settings, I...didn't.

One of the things I turned up on that fabled Series of tubes was DG's Are time delay and time increment the same? entry on this very blog(!), from two years before my own post. At that time (December 2006), I wasn't yet a regular reader here. Just as he did for my later blog entry, Matt Phelps came to the fore, attempting to dispel confusion about digital chess clocks. After reading his comments there, I now really know the difference between time-delay, time-increment, and Bronstein.

"Matt Phelps? That guy really knows his chess clocks!"

Chess, Michael Jackson, Various Politicians, and UAC's

What drives a person to get in the position Michael Jackson got into?

Some social psychologists claim that we all have "UAC's" Underlying Automatic Commitments that are behaviors learned (many unconsciously) that can cause a person to act and decide in certain ways. Successful people and leaders that have battled their way up the competitive ladder are even more susceptible to behaving in a risky way as their experiences in gaining success and power sometimes provide a "king of my hill" mentality that blinds them from some seemingly obvious simple stupid self destructive behaviors. Granted addiction is the god of UAC's. Parallel to this is the common trait of many people to eschew medical care, this attitude toughens them up, until ultimately the quality and length of their lives gets diminished by a problem they take too long to deal with. Nonetheless, psychologists say many times people can't change until enlightened about, and worked thru, their hidden/uncontrollable dominant UAC's.

In chess we have certain biases and prejudices and usually revel in them. I know my outlook about chess was framed by my early coaches and teachers. Although upon my return to OTB chess I was enticed by the "Soviet/Botvinick approach" which I think instills in a player the drive to be disciplined to play the perfect game every time. But during the past two years I have really focused on how Harry Lyman wanted me to play, although stylistically to be questioned, it has lifted my strength to a place I have never been before and has been a lot of fun. I play the opponent and not the position, many times letting my gut override my brain. I'm willing to sacrifice to nick my opponent, have a brawl, and see what happens. Objectively this is all bad stuff. A situation occurred last Saturday in my game against Arthur Nugent:


Move 15. Bxe6??!! All in.............

Later David Vigorito told me. "Mike that was unsound as hell -- you should have lost!" From the tone of his voice you could tell he wasn't happy with me getting a half a point with junk like this. To that Arthur said "Harry would have played it the same way." Upon home analysis I feel I was delusional and lucky.

What are some of your UAC's of chess?

Please Comment Thank You Mike Griffin 07/01/2009

Mike Griffin,1 (1800) - Arthur Nugent,2 (2000) [B01]
BCF - Swiss #23,

1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qa5 4.Bc4 Nf6 5.d3 c6 6.Bf4 Bf5 7.Nf3 e6 8.Qe2 Bb4 9.Bd2 Nbd7 10.0-0 0-0 11.a3 Bxc3 12.Bxc3 Qc7 13.Nh4 Bg6 14.Nxg6 hxg6 15.Bxe6 Rfe8 16.Bxf7+ Kxf7 17.Qf3 Ne5 18.Qg3 Nd5 19.Rae1 Nxc3 20.bxc3 Re7 21.f4 Nd7 22.Rxe7+ Kxe7 23.Qxg6 Kf8 ½-½

Thank You and have a Happy Fourth

Mike Griffin