Tuesday, November 24, 2009

IM Marc Esserman Master Lecture on the Smith Morra Gambit

Boylston Chess Foundation

Master Lecture Series

IM Marc Esserman

Tuesday, December 8, 2009 7:00 PM

“My Best Games in the Smith-Morra Gambit”

Lecture: 7:00 pm

Entry fee: free for BCF members
$10 for non-members

If there is sufficient interest, IM Esserman will play a Smith Morra thematic simul –EF $5 for all.

Marc is an experienced chess teacher based in Somerville, MA, a member of the board of the Boylston Chess Foundation, and a recognized expert on the Smith-Morra Gambit. (See the October NYT’s article about one of Marc’s Smith Morra games by Dylan Loeb McLain reprinted below.) Recent achievements include:
  • 1st place in 2009 Eastern Class
  • 2nd place 2008 Continental Open Miami
  • 2008 Miami Open - tied 2-7

Club phone: 617-629-3933
Web: www.boylstonchessclub.org
BCF Blog: http://boylston-chess-club.blogspot.com/


An Often-Shunned Opening, for Good Reason

NYT Published: October 24, 2009

Some openings are perennially popular. Others are rarely used, particularly among elite players, and often for good reason. The unpopular openings can be broken down into three categories.

The Bad: the Grob (1 g4), the Latvian Gambit (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 f5) and the Sokolsky (1 b4) among them. They are risky and give opponents too many opportunities to seize the advantage.

The Ugly: Some openings are neglected not from any intrinsic failing, but because they are simply not faddish. In 1995, when Viswanathan Anand of India, the current world champion, played a title match against Garry Kasparov of Russia, he surprised his opponent with one of the Uglies, the Scandinavian (1 e4 d5). Though he lost the game, he got a good position out of the opening. But he has not played it since.

The Risky: They can offer a benefit because opposing players are often not well versed in their nuances. Usually, these openings are gambits, where a player sacrifices at least a pawn. But opponents who know how to handle them can obtain good positions. The Evans Gambit (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 b4), the Schliemann Defense (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 f5) and the Smith-Morra Gambit all fall into this category.

Of that group, the Smith-Morra is among the most respectable. By investing a pawn, White obtains a significant initiative. Black can defuse this advantage, but it takes patience.

The dangers of the Smith-Morra were illustrated in a United States Chess League game last month between Marc Esserman (who was awarded the international master title this week) and Tom Bartell, a master.

The Smith-Morra is a response to the Sicilian Defense. It is attractive because it is easy to find good squares for all of White’s pieces.

Bartell should have played his bishop to e6 earlier. By delaying that move with 11 ... Bd7, he wasted time. He created a weakness at b6 by playing 12 ... a6; 12 ... Rc8 would have been better.

He erred with 16 ... Nb8. He should have retreated his knight to a7, though his position is certainly ugly. Bartell’s slow development allowed Esserman to crash through with 17 Ne5.

Playing 19 ... Ne8 was not an option because 20 Bd5 wins Black’s rook.

Bartell would have put up more resistance by playing 20 ... Rd8 21 Rc5 Nbd7, when his pieces are developed. Instead, 20 ... Bf2 was an error, and Esserman pounced, beginning with 22 g4.

After that, it was a massacre, and Bartell resigned.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chess State of Mind

It was late Saturday afternoon at the BCF when in walks IM Joe Fang to watch the last 1/2 hour of chess. I turn to IM David Vigoritto and mentioned that by coincidence as I played through a game in an opening book a very theoretical Giuoco Piano of Fang vs Ivanov in New Hampshire.

To which David replies: "Oh yes, I know that game but all that was known at the time that game was played." He described the game in detail, practically cited the page the game was on. All of this from a player that doesn't play either side of a Giuoco!?

I play few 40/2 hr G/60 weekend tournaments anymore as they appear to be on the decline. I miss one interesting phenomenon that happens to those who toil all weekend within a slow time control tournament analyzing for hours at the board: by the last round of the tournament I am so much more lucid when compared to my state of mind when round one began. By late in a tournament, I can glance at a position and just know things that my typical rusty, mushy mind usually doesn't comprehend easily. A really cool experience. Two or three days of 8 to 10 hours per day of slow time control chess does wonders for my chess awareness and judgment. And when combined with the Swiss effect of you meeting players more and more equal to yourself as the tournament goes on, each game usually becomes a tougher and tougher, more fun, battle.

Being a chess weekend warrior, I dream of what it would be like to spend mountains of time with chess every day and have this incredible awareness all the time like IM's.

Folks like David Vigorito have such an all inclusive interest that they study games and openings even if very esoteric to their style, likes, and beliefs.

I would be a better player if I could afford to spend all my hours playing. But then I would need to find a hobby, maybe scrapbooking?!

I wonder what the likes of Larry Christiansen do for fun?

Please Comment

Thank You Mike Griffin



Saturday, November 14, 2009

Moves Not Found In Nature

In my last game from the recently concluded Hauptturnier, my opponent Rubén Portugués arrived a little late. I had arrived early enough to select a reasonably well-lit board, position each piece in the center of its square, and point knights facing forward, as is my habit.

As we started our game, Rubén gently pointed out that my king and queen were transposed. That was easily fixed, of course, and then I proceeded to find more normal ways to mess up my position and lose the game.
(Matt -- fortunately, it's difficult to place the board the wrong way at the club!)

Also quite recently, I was playing some time-odds blitz against "The Captain". The relevant features of the position are below, with it being my turn to move:

As White, I played 1...h7xg6 (!) and pressed the clock.

The Captain pushed his clock button back down and protested, "Wait, wait, what just happened?"

I believe I tried to push my clock button back down, but then realized I had gotten "a little ahead of myself" after pondering 1 Bxg6 hxg6 or 1 Nxg6 hxg6.

Subconsciously I must have figured that, since I was breaking the laws of chess anyway by making his move instead of mine, I might as well keep both my minor pieces. :-)

Despite that incident, I rarely play blitz, and even more rarely agree to it against people for whom I consider myself no match. Quite a number of years ago, our club's Fearless Leader, Dave Vigorito, persuaded me, kicking and screaming, to play such a game with him between rounds at some tournament.

Dave played a knight move like the following:

(Or however he moved his knight, it was not an L-shaped legal move.)

With my 20/400 sight of the board (a far cry from Dave's 2400 sight of the board), I had no idea anything strange had occurred. As I sat there pondering my response, he eventually took pity on me and asked, "You're not really going to let me do that, are you?"

According to my recollection, my response was "Do what?"

At the 1988 U.S. Open tournament here in Boston, I played a well-known local expert. I'll call him "Truly Forgotten" because his name sort of rhymes with that, although I suspect he will never be truly forgotten by me (nor perhaps, by many other folks).

I was getting crushed on the board. I was also in time trouble and frazzled, and while it was his turn to move, "Truly" decided to adjust one of his pieces without saying "Adjust" or "J'adoube".

With my aforementioned 20/400 sight of the board, I incorrectly thought he had made a move, so I hurriedly made another one and pressed my (still-down) clock. Can you believe the nerve of this guy? He protested that I had made two moves in a row! ;-)

Even that extra move wouldn't have helped me in that position, and "Truly" duly ground me down. I'm happy to say, though, that I scraped a draw from him two years later.

The October-December 2009 Chess Horizons reveals that local player N.N. is still turning in strong performances. With my squib-tastic eye, it is almost unimaginable that I could be anyone's nemesis, but I am oddly 3-0 against this particular fellow from our early 1990's games. In our first game, after 72 b4 h5 73 b5 h4 74 b6 h3 75 b7 Bc7, we arrived at this position:

A small crowd had been steadily growing around our board for the last several moves. I could tell that N.N. had forgotten something about chess, and I don't quite buy the Chinese saying:
which says that although the players may be confused about what's happening on the board, the spectators remain clear.

The next moves were 76 b8=Q Bxb8, after which N.N. confidently announced:
Stalemate, I can't move.
Unfortunately for him, 77 Kf8 and 77 Kh8 are indeed moves found in nature. I pointed out, "You can move." and he resigned immediately.

Chess is indeed a difficult game!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Chess and the BU Open

Chess and the BU Open

It was November 15 1997 and I decided to get back into playing tournament chess. Lifetime boomers have a membership ID beginning with "1001": the USCF offered it to members in the 70's for those who opted to pay twice as much for 10 years in a sustaining membership to convert to Life. So after 19 years away, raising a family, I walked into the Third Annual BU Open.

Bob Oresick and Alan Ong were seated in the basement of the BU student union, paid my entry fee as I showed them my 1590 rating on the label of my Chess Life.

Bob and Allan were more occupied in encouraging players to assist in setting up tables and chairs. So an array of folding tables, folding chairs, and pieces of plywood were crafted by custodians and players assembling the hall. I found myself moving a table with a BU facilities man, Benjamin Theodore, whom I worked with for 11 years previously in a company that had subsequently closed. Benjamin made it a point to work during the BU Open for the next 10 consecutive years in order to say hi to me and make sure things were ok. He retired from BU two years ago.


Few coat racks available, we piled our coats and bags on the side of the room. The fact I was a class C prize winner that day fueled my enthusiasm; and so warmed by the prize money, the 30 degree weather made no impression as I took the T home; not noticing that I forgot my coat.

That day would begin the revitalization of my chess career, become an annual tradition, and begin a friendship with Bob. Subsequent BU Opens have moved upstairs into a glass walled, pre-furnished room, overlooking the Charles River surrounded by the colorful autumnal leaves. When combined with the nearby food court, ton's of space for skittles, each game has their own separate table to play on; the BU Open has evolved to one of the best places to play chess. Another feature is that local students are attracted by a low entry fee and team prizes, So you are not stuck in dealing with the typical cast of characters but have an opportunity to play unknown strangers.

From it's humble beginnings the BU Open has grown into a special day in the chess year.

Thank You Bob Oresick and Alan Ong.

What are some of your experiences at the BU Open?

Please Comment.

Mike Griffin 11/09/2009

New views on the Lewis chessmen

Doubts cast on Chessmen origins

Lewis Chessmen
Calls have been made for the pieces to be returned to Lewis

New research has cast doubt on traditional theories about the historic Lewis Chessmen.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/11/10 10:38:48 GMT


The 93 pieces - currently split between museums in Edinburgh and London - were discovered on Lewis in 1831.

But the research suggests they may have been used in both chess and Hnefatafl - a similar game that was popular in medieval Scandinavia.

It also casts doubt on the traditional theory that the ivory pieces were lost or buried by a merchant.

The research was led by Dr David Caldwell of the National Museum of Scotland, who believes the Lewis chessmen were more likely to have belonged to a high-ranking person who lived on Lewis.

Dr Caldwell told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme that many of the pieces could have doubled for Hnefatafl, another conflict game which also pitted a king against pawns or warriors on the other side.

It is much more likely that the horde is in Lewis because it belonged to somebody who lived there rather than being abandoned by a merchant who was passing through
Dr David Caldwell
National Museum of Scotland

The ancient game has not survived into modern times.

For the first time, they also tried to work out which pieces were made by the same groups of craftsmen by measuring the chessmen's faces, looking at their clothing, and studying details of the workmanship.

Dr Caldwell added: "We certainly still believe the pieces are Scandinavian in origin, perhaps made in a workshop by several masters in a city like Trondheim.

"But one of the main things I think we are saying in our research is that it is much more likely that the horde is in Lewis because it belonged to somebody who lived there rather than being abandoned by a merchant who was passing through.

"To take a relatively easy example, there is a praise poem written in the middle of the 13th century to Angus Mor of Isla, and the poem says that he inherited his ivory chess pieces from his father Donald - that makes Angus the very first Macdonald, and the poem also makes him the king of Lewis.

"Now you of course you would be foolish to implicitly believe everything in a praise poem, but nevertheless it gives you some idea that we are dealing with a society in the west of Scotland - great leaders like Angus Mor, bishops, clan chiefs - who really valued playing chess and saw it as being one of their accomplishments."

He said that the analysis tried to recognise the work of different craftsmen, and home in on pieces which may be replacements for ones which had been broken or lost.

They used a forensic anthropologist, Caroline Wilkinson based at Dundee University, to do a photogrammetric analysis of the faces as they believed individual craftsmen would have given their faces different characteristics, just like a modern-day political cartoonists.

Plenty of mystery

Dr Caldwell said the chessmen suggested that there was a reasonable amount of wealth in the western Isles in the 13th century, perhaps because the medieval economy placed greater value on fairly barren land that could be used to raise cattle.

He added: "It was certainly leading men there, people who could make a lot of money either by raising cattle or frankly by going raiding - there was still in some ways a Viking way of life surviving into the 13th century."

Despite the extensive research, Dr Caldwell said he still believed there was plenty of mystery surrounding the chessmen.

"I would be very disappointed if we have written the last word on the - what I hope we have done is opened up the debate and shown it is possible, even with something very well known, to discover new things," he said.

The research will be published this week in the journal Medieval Archaeology.

Of the 93 pieces found, 82 are kept at the British Museum, with 11 held by the National Museum of Scotland.

Calls have been made for all of the pieces, which were made from walrus ivory and whales' teeth, to be returned to Lewis.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

BU Open 2009

The 15th annual BU Open 2009 was held on Saturday, Nov 7. It was a beautiful New England autumn day, which the glass windows of the BU student union backcourt venue allowed the players to enjoy.



91 players participated – I think a record turnout for a BU Open. It would have certainly been a new high, but after having pre-registered, several BU Open fans had to cancel because of illness – Barry Lai, Chris Chase, Harold Dondis, Marc Esserman, and Bill Kelleher.


One of the enjoyable features of the tournament is the number of people who return year after year – and the were new faces – several people playing in their first rated tournament and people new to the area. For example, WGM Anya Corke, who is from Hong Kong and a freshman student at Wellesley College, trekked in to spend the day in Boston.



This year IM Dave Vigorito won

. .

and WGM Anya Corke took second.


Congratulations to both.


Bellow is a summary of the results. Bernardo Iglesias, who did an admirable job as usual, had the tournament rated by Sat evening, so you can visit USCF for the complete crosstable.


Note Bene: The BCF helped make the event possible by sponsoring it under its affiliation with the USCF. The BU chess club is grateful to the BCC for all its support to BU and to the greater Boston Chess community.


Tony Cortizas took some superb photos again and posted them in an album here.

I also shot some pictures – view them here.

Amici sumus,

Robert Oresick



Open Section

1st $350

IM David Vigorito (4)

2nd $125

WGM Anya Corke (3.5)

Top U2200 $100

NM Frank Wang (3) $50 and Jesse Nicholas (3) $50


U1900 Section

1st $100

Michael Raphael (4)

2nd $50

Mike Griffin (3.5) $25 and Richard Han (3.5) $25


U1600 Section

1st $100

Corey Tolbert (4) $75 and Travis Dover (4) $75

1st and 2nd prizes were combined and divided between the tied 1st place winners.

2nd $50

Brian Costello (3) $0, Benjamin Fein (3) $0, Eric Lawless (3) $0,

Austin Collins (3)$0 , Siddhart Arun (3) $0, Matthew Lee (3) $0, Steve Wollkind (3) $0,

George Gram (3) $0, and Alexander Kurjatko (3) $0

1st and 2nd prizes were combined and divided between the tied 1st place winners.

Top U1200 $50

Sandeep Vadlamudi (2) $25 and Matthew Messer (2) $25

Allan Ong Top BU undergrad $50

Austin Collins (3)


Top College - Northeastern University

Corey Tolbert (4), Michael Raphael (4), Eric Lawless (3),

George Gram (3), Gregory Siciliano (1.5), and Tim Trubko (1)


Top High School - Newton

Richard Han (3.5), Jacob Fauman (1) and Lior Rozhansky (0)


Top Primary School - Newton Day School

Alex Fauman (2) and Charlie Fauman (3)

Note: only the top three scorers are counted for the team totals.

More on the City of Boston Championship

year City of Boston Champion (GBO)

revised with the additions by Iglesias and Lappin
2009 SM Denys Shmelov
2008 FM William Kelleher
2007 WIM Ester Epstein
2006 NM Avraam Pismenny, FM John Curdo
2005 NM Avraam Pismenny, Leonid Tkach
2004 NM Avraam Pismenny
2003 IM Igor Foygel, FM John Curdo, Jack Stolerman, Patrick Sciacca
2002 FM Charles Riordan
2001 Henry "Hal" Terrie
2000 IM Igor Foygel
1999 GM Alexander Ivanov, IM William Paschall, Mark LaRocca
1998 GM Sergey Kudrin
1997 FM John Curdo
1996 GM Alexander Ivanov, IM Jonathan Yedidia
1995 1995 GM Alexander Ivanov
1994 GM Alexander Ivanov
1993 FM Charles Hertan, FM Chris Chase, FM John Curdo, Nasser Abbasi
1992 IM Igor Foygel
1991 IM Jorge Zamora Jr.
1990 GM Alexander Ivanov, Bijan Haririan
1989 IM Vivek Rao
1988 GM Alexander Ivanov, NM Mark Ginsburg, NM Charles Hertan, Brian McCarthy
1987 NM Ilya Gurevich, FM John Curdo, Gary Nute
1986 Michael Wilder, NM Sandeep Joshi, NM Mark Ginsburg, NM Aki Kanamori
1985 NM Charles Hertan, NM Ilya Gurevich
1984 GM Arthur Bisguier
1983 FM John Curdo, David Glueck, and Boris Belopolsky
1982 IM Igor Ivanov, GM Roman Dzindzihashvili
1981 FM James Rizzitano
1980 FM John Curdo
1979 GM Lev Alburt, GM Arthur Bisguier
1978 FM John Curdo
1977 FM John Curdo
1976 NM Daniel Harrington
1975 Frank Thornally
1974 Allan Savage
1973 John Peters / Dan Harrington
1972 John Peters / William Robertie / Norman Weinstein
1971 FM John Curdo, IM Norman Weinstein, Imre Barlay [Note: In 1971 John Curdo was the first master to play a computer in a rated tournament (Greater Boston Open)]
1970 Dan Harrington
1969 Dan Harrington
1968 Dan Harrington
1948 Gerhard Katz, Charles Reams
1947 Harlow Daly
1946 Gerhard Katz
1945 Milton Kagan
1944 Weaver Adams
1943 Milton Kagan
1942 Gerhard Katz
1941 Gerhard Katz
1940 Oscar Shapiro
1939 Weaver Adams
1938 Weaver Adams
1937 Harlow Daly, Harry Lyman
1936 Sidney Coggan
1935 Weaver Adams
1934 Harlow Daly, the first winner of the GBO