Sunday, August 28, 2011

.....And Now For Something Completely Different

This Tuesday at the Boylston Chess Club, we will have our first ever Chess 960 tournament. What is Chess 960, you ask? Chess 960, also called Fischer Random and a variety of other names, is a chess variant in which the pieces (not including pawns) are set up in random arragements along the 1st and 8th ranks, with white mirroring black. For more details, you can check out more about the game on the wikipedia article at

It is an exciting game which encourages creative and tactical thinking, and is known to strengthen traditional chess play. Entry fee will be $5 for members, $10 for non-members, and about 60% of the entry should go to prizes. The format will be five rounds of G/15, pending turnout. Registration begins at 6:15 P.M, and ends at 7:00. After that, we will have a brief overview of the rules followed by the tournament itself, which should be over before 10:00. We hope you will join us for this exciting event!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

NOTE: Nor'easters vs Blitz moved to Wednesday 7PM

Please be aware that the Blitz-Nor'easters match is now on Wednesday,8/31 at 7PM. Come to the Boylston Chess Club for live coverage of all the action.

Sorry for the late date change, but the Blitz asked for a hurricane related delay.


I played a near brilliancy in the 8th round of the Metropolitan International in Los Angeles last week.

Alex Cherniack - Michael Brown [D29]
Metropolitan International (8), 21.08.2011

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 a6 6.0-0 c5 7.Bb3 Nbd7 8.Nc3 b5 9.Qe2 Bb7 10.Rd1 Qb8 11.d5 exd5 12.Nxd5 Nxd5 13.Bxd5 Bxd5 14.Rxd5 Qb7 15.e4 Be7 16.Bg5 Nb6 17.Rd3 0-0 18.e5 Bxg5 19.Nxg5 Qe7

Here 20. f4 f6 21. Nf3 fxe5 22. fxe5 looked boring, so I started calculating 20. Nxh7. My thought processes went like this.

The first thing I looked at was if Black moved the Rook away with 20...Rfe8. I would play 21. Re1 of course and attempts to trap the Knight wouldn't work: 21...f6 22. Nxf6+ gxf6 23.Rg3+ Kf8 24.Qh5 followed by 25.Qh6+, or 21...Qh4 22.Nf6+! (even better than 22.Rh3) 22...gxf6 23.Rg3+ Kf8 24.Rh3 Qg5 25.Rh8+ Kg7 (25...Ke7 26.exf6+) 26.Rxe8 Rxe8 27.exf6+.

Black has to take the Knight. I then proceeded to calculate the forcing sequence that began with 20...Kxh7 21.Qh5+ Kg8 22.Rh3 f6.

I needed to find an effective follow up. It was reassuring to know that I had at least a draw with 23.Qh7+ Kf7 24.Qh5+ Kg8 (24...Ke6 25.exf6 Qxf6 26.Qxc5 looked suicidal for Black: 26...Kd7 27.Rd1+ and during my calculations it seemed something had to give with three heavy pieces on the open files <27...Ke8 28.Qh5+ Rf7 29.Re3+ and Black has to surrender the Queen with 29...Qe7 because of 29...Re7 30.Qh8 mate>) 25.Qh7+.

Then I realized that Black could also create a luft with 22...f5, which would let Black play 24...Ke6 in the above variation. Advancing the pawn that far though meant that it could be picked off with 23.Qh7+ Kf7 24.Qf5+ Kg8, but I didn't see how the King could be flushed out of the pocket to my advantage. I looked a little further, and then saw it: 25.Qh7+ Kf7 26.Rf3+ Ke8 (or 26...Ke6) 27.Qg6+ and 28.Qxb6 wins back the piece with extra pawns.

Lastly I had to find a win after 22...f6, but 23.exf6 Rxf6 24.Qh8+ Kf7 25.Qh5+ Kg8 wasn't getting me anywhere. I really wanted to plug the f7 escape square pushing the pawn to e6. 23.Re1 was the only move I considered, and it didn't prove to be a fortuitous choice. I saw bringing my last piece into the attack with the threat 24.e6, and if 23...fxe5 24.Rxe5, and Black has no good square for the Queen. 24...Qf6 25.Qh7+ Kf7 26.Rf3 wins the Queen; 24..Qd6 25.Qh7+ Kf7 26.Rf3+ forces 26...Qf6 winning the Queen; and if 26...Qxe5 27.Qxe5 Rae8, then 28.Qc3 covers the back rank.

So as far as I could see 20.Nxh7 should win. I opened my eyes and saw that I had 10 minutes left on the clock, which wasn't so bad because the tournament time control had a 30 second increment per move. The game continued as follows:

20.Nxh7 Kxh7 21.Qh5+ Kg8 22.Rh3 f6 23.Re1 Qe6!

Ugh, the Queen can block the pawn (sometimes the hardest moves to foresee in a position are the least complicated). I looked hard at 24.Ree3, but then Black had 24...f5 - this time the pawn is defended by the Queen, and the e-file is blocked. During the game I thought that if I don't force a perpetual soon Black will be the only one playing for a win.

I can still play on here though with 25.f4, and if 25..Nd5? then 26.Reg3 gives White a winning attack after 27.Qh8+. Black would have to play 25...Qh6 26.Qxh6 gxh6 27.Rxh6 Nd5 28.Rg3+ Ke8 29.Rh7+ Ke8 30.Rgg7 c4, and while I do have compensation for the piece in the form of two pawns and both Rooks on the seventh rank, this is not the sort of position I've been known to play well with 5 minutes left on the clock.

Therefore I bailed out with my previously calculated perpetual check.

24.Qh7+ Kf7 25.Qh5+ Kg8

Not 25...Ke7? 26.exf6+ losing the Queen.

26.Qh7+ Kf7 27.Qh5+ ½-½

After the game my opponent told me that he also seriously considered playing 23...g5, which looks insanely dangerous, but neither of us could refute it at the board.

24.Qh8+ Kf7 25.Rh7+ Kg6 26.Rh6+ Kf5. All the good checks are gone and White's Queen is now under fire in the corner of the board: 27.Rxf6+ Rxf6 28.Qh3+ (or 28.Qh5 Rff8 29.g4+ Ke6 30.Qh6+ Kd7 31.Qxb6 Rfd8 32.e6+ Ke8 33.Qc6+ Kf8 34.Qf3+ Kg7 35.Re5 Rf8 36.Qc3 Kg8) Kg6 29.Qd3+ Kf7 30.Qh7+ Ke8 31.Qh5+ Kd7 32.Rd1+ Kc6 33.exf6 Qf6 – Black emerges unscathed with an extra piece.

As an epilogue, my opponent told me before the next round started that he ran the game through Rybka, and that I was totally winning.

Instead of 23.Re1, adding a centralized Rook to the attack on general principles, 23.Qh7+ Kf7 24.exf6! Qxf6 25.Rf3 would have won quickly. I was so fixated on using all my pieces (Qh5, Rh3, Re3, pawn on e6) that it never occurred to me two pieces on the edge of the board were enough in this position to put the game away.

And my opponent was right to play 23...Qe6. After 23...g5 24.Qh8+ Kf7, both of us overlooked 25.Qh7+! Ke8 26.Qg6+ Kd8 27.Rh7 Qe8 28.Rd1+ Kc8 29.Qg7, which cooks the King on the seventh rank.

What else can I say? Practice makes less imperfect.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Boston Blitz vs. NE Nor'easters, UPDATE: LIVE WEDNESDAY 7PM at Boylston Chess Club

UPDATE-- The Boston Blitz (I guess for some hurricane reason) had to move the match to this Wednesday 7PM.

Poster by Tony Cortizas, Jr.

WEDNESDAY, 8/31, 7PM -- The Boylston Chess Club will host the US Chess League NE Noreasters in their 2011 debut against the Boston Blitz. As last year, games will be projected on the club wall. We also expect many masters to be available to comment LIVE on the games in progress.

At the start of the evening, there will be a brief plaque presentation in honor of the 2010 USCL Championship team, the New England Nor'easters, as well as light drinks and snacks.

Stay tuned for details of the new rosters for both teams. See the club calendar for our complete 2011 NE Nor'easter schedule.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Grand Prix Update-- July 28th next event

The next Grand Prix is scheduled for Saturday, August 27th. Only $7.00 for members, and $10 for members, this is some of the cheapest rated chess in New England.

The Grand Prix now features new prizes! Instead of the 1 year free membership, $100 cash (both still options), winners of the U2400, U2200, U2000, U1800, U1600, U1400, and U1200 prizes can now choose to have several free entries at the Boylston Chess Club. If you are a club member, winners can choose to receive 8 free tournaments; non-members can choose to receive 5 free tournaments.

After the July Grand Prix tournament, the leaderboard is holding steady, but many players are within 1-2 points in many categories. There are still many months to go.

U2400 Avraam Pismennyy 9, Eric Godin, 8.5, Chris Chase 7.5
U2200 Tian Rossi 7.5, James Lung 5, Leonid Tkach 4.5
U2000 Jason Rihel 9.5, Harold Dondis 7, Terrance Fricker 6
U1800 Robert Holmgren 18, Mike Griffin 10.5, Mike Bohigian 9
U1600 Mark Neale 13.5, David Martin 12.5, Steve Stepak 12
U1400 Allen Wang 4, James Zhou 3.5, Eric Hu 3.5
U1200 Thomas Demartino 17.5, Arthur Tang 3.5, Ashok Ramadoss 3

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tuesday Blitz and Variants at the Boylston

Hello, everyone! I’m Nathan Smolensky, a new TD at the Boylston, and I just wanted to inform you all of some exciting events upcoming.
First, I’m happy to announce the return of Tuesday Night Blitz, starting this Tuesday, August 23rd, and every other Tuesday thereafter. The time control will be G/5 with no delay, and the format will be either double round-robin or double round-robin within sections of around six people each, depending on turnout. The event will start at 7:00 PM and should end no later than 10. Registration begins at 6:15. The entry fee is $5 for members, $10 for non-members, and there will be a prize amount equal to about $25 per six-person section.
Now, you might be wondering, if blitz is every other week, what’s going on the rest of the Tuesdays? That would be the other exciting new going-on, the introduction of chess variants to the Boylston. With these, we hope to provide a new offering for more casual players and those interested in experimenting with some twists on the game. The wackiness begins August 30th, with a Chess 960 tournament at 7:00. More details on that tournament, and on variants in general, will follow soon, so stay tuned!

When: Tue, August 23, 7pm – 10pm
Where: Boylston Chess Club (map)
Description: Players organized into 6-player sextad sections for double round-robin within each section, pending turnout
Time Control: 5 minutes for the entire game, no delay Entry fee $5 for Boylston Chess Foundation members, others $10
Prizes: $25 First place for each sextad
Registration: 6:15 to 6:55

Chess 960
When: Tue, August 30, 7pm – 10pm
Where: Boylston Chess Club
Description: Players organized into 6-player sextad sections for double round-robin within each section, pending turnout, for Chess 960 (AKA Fischer Random, Wild, etc.)
Time Control: 15 minutes for the entire game, no delay
Entry fee $5 for Boylston Chess Foundation members, others $10
Prizes: $25 First place for each sextad Registration: 6:15 to 6:55 |
For more on Chess 960, check out the Wikipedia entry

2011 BCC Picnic Photos

Here are some photos. Fun event. Thanks to BCC for organizing it and for the weather cooperating.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Peak Rating

Bishop vs Knight takes me to the summit

I'm afraid this game was not particularly remarkable except for raising my rating to 1800, a relative peak for the last 13 years. However, it does show some typical endgame ideas and techniques. The game is Ken Ho - Jesse Nicholas, from the recently concluded Reubens-Landey qualifier for the Boylston Chess Club championship. The two time controls were 40 moves/90 minutes, then 20 minutes for the rest of game.

After 40...h6 (concluding the first time control)

I think at this point I had about 30 minutes left for the rest of the game, and Jesse had perhaps about 50. Given the relative paucity of pieces on the board, I chose to invest a significant chunk of time before my next move to get a deeper feeling of my chances for a win, while reserving enough time for myself to minimize the chance of flagging.

I felt generally that if the minor pieces were exchanged, at worst I should draw. However, I also considered that I wouldn't have enough time to calculate a win by force in assorted king and pawn endings, if one actually existed.

I looked at 41 Kh5.  If 41 ... Ng8? 42 Bh7 will win Black's h6 pawn, with a likely win. Alternatively, if 41 ... Nf5 42 Bxf5 Kxf5 43 Kxh6 Kf6 and White wins with his extra pawn and the power of zugzwang, e.g., 44 e4 a6 45 h5, when Black must give way.  So I concluded that Black would play 41 ... Kg7 with a draw by repetition. The White king would dance between g4 and h5, the Black king between f6 and g7.

41 Kh5 Kg7 42 Kg4 Kf6 43 Kh5 I offered a draw with this move, which was declined.

43 ... Kg7 44 Kg4

Here Jesse took some time on his next move. Since he had declined my earlier draw offer, I prepared to claim one myself by 3-time repetition, and I was reviewing the position to make sure such a claim would be valid. Naturally, I expected 44...Kf6, whereupon I intended to stop the clock and indicate that I would play 45 Kh5.
(I just looked it up, and apparently the correct procedure is to first write down your move [to which you are committed, if your claim is denied], then stop the clock and make your claim. Hi, Matt!  :-)  )

However, Jesse quite unexpectedly played:

44 ... Ng6??

Black has yielded the f5 entry square to White's king, which at best appears to lead to a most unfavorable exchange of White's h-pawn for Black's e-pawn.

45 Kf5 Nxh4+ 46 Kxe5

The White bishop is already covering all of the Black knight's possible squares.

46 ... Ng6+

If 47 Bxg6 Kxg6 48 Kd6. If Black's king doesn't move from g6, White's e-pawn will queen with check even though it will queen one move later than Black's h-pawn will. In such a case, I expected that I should either be able to win the queen with a skewer check OR exchange queens down on h1 with Black's king recapturing, in either case winning easily.

However, I think I felt that line might have somewhat more murky considerations if Black moves his king on his 48th move, as I would have expected Jesse to do. So I considered that I had a more straightforward win by staying in a bishop vs knight ending. White enjoys the traditional bishop advantage: long distance control of both wings.

General considerations: Avoid hanging game-losing material, choose my king's squares to avoid damaging knight forks. More concretely: queen my a-pawn, or force the knight to sacrifice itself for it, while my bishop guards my remaining e-pawn and prevents Black's h-pawn from queening (the bishop can sacrifice itself to do so, if needed).

47 Kd6 Nf4 48 e3 Ne2 49 Kc6 Nc3 50 Bf3

The bishop again controls many of the Black knight's possible squares.

50 ... Kf6 51 Kb7 1-0

Well, now that I'm at 1800 again (well, on September 1st, anyway), I'm ready for next year's Reubens-Landey....

Did you know Botvinnik defeated Capablanca in a simul at age 14?

100th birth Anniversary of Mikhail Botvinnik

Aug 17, 2011 18:02 Moscow Time
Mikhail Botvinnik. Photo: RIA Novosti
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Today the world chess community is celebrating today the 100th birth anniversary of Mikhail Botvinnik, who is regarded as one of the most prominent chess players in the world. No. 6 in the world history of chess and the first chess champion of the now-defunct Soviet Union, he was also a seven-time champion of the USSR in the period between the 30s and the 50s. Mikhail Botvinnik was a real patriarch of Soviet chess, who remained unparalleled for a very long time, a well-known Grand chess master and a chess theoretician, Yevgeny Vasyukov, says:

"All chess players admired him and did their utmost to adopt his experience in the field of chess. Each of us, representatives of the older generation, carried part of Botvinnik in our hearts. Mikhail Botvinnik is a very significant figure in the world of chess. He added much to the art of chess, including his training methods, practical work, regime of chess training, and of course, aspirations in chess. It is very difficult to find words to express what he did for the art of chess. All chess players, to a certain extent, are his disciples."

Mikhail Botvinnik won his first chess “fight” at the age of 14. Almost without any difficulty he defeated the then champion of the world Jose Raul Capablanca from Cuba in a simultaneous display.

By the way, it is exactly that match that brought him fame and strengthened the priority of the Soviet chess school. Two years later he became the youngest chess master in the former Soviet Union and made a successful debut at the USSR Chess Championship.

Jose Raul Capablanca, Emanuel Lasker, Wilhelm Steinitz, Mahgilis Eive, David Bronshtein, and Mikhail Tal - the prominent chess players of the world – were Botvinnik’s rivals at different times. And he defeated all of them. It is very hard to say which was the best of Botvinnik’s chess games. Actually, all his games are part of the chess history.

Botvinnik always invented something new. And he played more than 1000 games. All of them are known for their deep strategic plans, unexpected tactical strikes and initiative moving. Besides, Botvinnik was the first to pay paramount attention to chess theory, to work out an original plan of chess training and to create his own training methods which can be of help in achieving tangible results during competitions. Today many books of Mikhail Botvinnik on chess theory, and also on energetics and cybernetics, have been published not only in Russian but also in English, Hungarian, Danish, German, French, Swedish, and some other languages.

Charles Drafts Memorial, Sat Aug 20

Mark your chess calendar:

Charles Drafts Memorial,

Sat Aug 20, 2011

19th Charles Drafts Memorial

This is a great tournament for several reasons:
  • guaranteed prize fund,
  • good turn-out,
  • competitive level, and
  • an event honoring a truly remarkable man.

Please consider playing.

The event will be directed by Bernardo Iglesias and the prize fund is guaranteed by Walter Driscoll as he has done for 18 years to remember his friend Charlie Drafts.

You may not know that Walter is a chess traveler [having competed in Hungry and visited Fischer's home and grave in Iceland before he was exhumed], an actor, and a stand-up comedian.

Walter Driscoll has for 18 years honored and remembered his friend Charles Drafts by helping sponsor a tournament for which he personally guarantees the prize fund.

Charles Drafts

by David Glickman

[republishing of a previous post]

This Saturday the ... Annual Charles Drafts Open is being held at the Boylston Chess Club. Charles died several years ago and so for newer members of the club and the broader readership of the weblog I thought it might be worthwhile to briefly review his story.

Charles was a disabled, double-amputee living in the housing projects in Mission Hill. He loved to play chess but his condition made it difficult for him to come to a club or attend tournaments. At some point in time he contacted the BCC to see if any players would be willing to come to his apartment to play. Over the years several heeded the call, but in particular club member Walter Driscoll was a frequent visitor. I believe Walter was also the driving force behind the Charles Drafts Open. At the beginning and for many years, the tournament was held at Charles' building in Mission Hill so that at least one time a year Charles would have an opportunity to play in a "traditional" chess tournament. Since his death, the tournament has continued at the club as a memorial event.

The introduction of internet chess was obviously a boon to Charles and he was an active player on the ICC. It was, in fact, in the middle of a chess game on the ICC in 1996 when the event occurred which thrust Charles into momentary international prominence:

BOSTON -- A disabled man who became ill while logged on to an Internet chess site reached out to fellow players from around the world for emergency assistance.

Charles Drafts, a double amputee who types using a stick in his mouth, was playing chess in cyberspace Saturday on the multi-use World Wide Web site where 159 others also were logged on.

Suddenly, he sent out this message: "i'm having physical illness problems and need help."

"He was starting to have some really bad feelings, shortness of breath and dizziness, and he typed in a message to all our members," said Daniel Sleator, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University near Pittsburgh who founded the Internet Chess Club.

"It took a little while to know whether it was serious or not because there's an awful lot of kidding and bantering that goes on," Mr. Sleator said. "At first, I think some people were thinking it was a joke. But others realized it was a serious thing and started getting the information right away."

Mr. Drafts managed to type in his address.... while several users tried to find out what symptoms Drafts was suffering, Andy McFarland of Owensboro, Kentucky, was calling Boston's emergency medical services on his second phone line. "When he finally got through, he told dispatchers where he was calling from and explained the situation," Howland relates. 'I think I lost them for just a second,' McFarland said. 'It's not something they get every day.'"

...firefighters rushed to Draft's home, but no one answered the door. They called McFarland back to verify the address. McFarland told the wire service, "The last thing I heard them say was, `We're going in,' and they hung up." ...a short while later Boston firefighters broke down his door to get inside. They rushed the 48-year-old man to Beth Israel Hospital, where he was listed in stable condition ..., suffering from an undisclosed ailment.

About 20 minutes later, a Boston dispatcher called to tell McFarland that they had found Drafts inside and that he had needed help.

[This text is a re-gifting of David Glickman's 2005 post.]

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Encounters with the Great & Near Great??

This last Monday my Mom died. No, I'm not trying to get more sympathy, but that's the reason no one has seen me this week. I've been in central NY.

Yesterday (Saturday), the family went to Syracuse for an outing after we'd done everything else during the week. At one point we ended up at the "Destiny USA" mall. Downstairs in that mall is a game store, a local gamestore as far as I can tell.

It's huge!! We're talking 7-9 times bigger than Pandemonium Games in Cambridge, MA. It was the largest game store I had ever seen. In Syracuse!

* * *

So they had a couple of chess sets out, actually for demo purposes. As I entered the store I re-set them up (they'd been set up incorrectly) and put out the first 5 moves of the Ruy Lopez.

About a half hour later when my 12 year old nephew, Ethan, came in to see the place along with his friend Devan these older kids start playing on the board I'd set up. They were about 19 or so. We wander over.

They sucked. No, I mean it, they really sucked. And that's an important element of this story.

The game started out:

1. Na3 g6
2. b3 d6

At this point the Black kid (piece color. Both of these kids where White) switches his King and Queen. I said, "No, no. It was right before. Remember 'Queen always on her color.'" The kid accepts my correction and the game continues.

The White kid says, "Yea, I suck at this. It's in my blood, but I suck at it."

"It's in your blood?" I ask.

"Yea," says the kid. "My Great Uncle was one of the greatest chess players who ever lived."

"Who?" I asked, thinking I'm not sure Fisher's sister had any kids, buddy.

Without missing a beat the kid says, "Capablanca"

"Wait," I said. "Your Great Uncle was José Capablanca?"

"Yea." He looks up at his friend playing Black. "No one sees me as Cuban," he said.

"You are Cuban," his friend replied.

"Yea, I know that!"

I turned to Ethan, my nephew who was watching this and said, "This kid's Great Uncle was World Chess Champion in the 1920s!"

A few moves later Capablanca's Great Nephew was checkmated by his friend in a badly played Scholar's Mate.

* * *

So, was the kid joshing me? Well, my issue with that is that he played so badly that I just can't believe he'd know any details of Capablanca and his history if he wasn't related to him. He certainly wasn't any sort of a chess player. Is it possible? I know Capablanca had at least two children by his first wife, but I don't know what siblings, if any, he had.

Just interesting to think about.

-Doc Kinne
BCC Member. USCF #12186200

Looking for an informal chess partner

We are looking for a chessplayer willing to play some informal chess games with an elderly gentleman in Brookline. The meeting times would be negotiable, but the person would have to go to Brookline.

Please e-mail the Boylston Chess Club if you are interested in helping this fellow pawn-pusher.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Coming to the Picnic on August 21st? Please let us know.

1st Annual Boylston Chess Club Summer Picnic
FREE! (Member's Only)

DATE: Sunday, August 21
TIME: Noon to 4:00 PM
WHERE: Danehy Park, Cambridge

CHESS: Free Simul by SM Charles Riordan & Lots of blitz!

NON-CHESS: Outdoor games/frisbee. The park is very pet friendly!

PARKING: Park at Lot off Sherman St. Also parking available via access road behind the Fresh Pond Cinemas. Also a 15-20 minute walk from the Red Line Alewife station.

We will have access to grills and will provide burgers and hot dogs, including vegan and vegetarian options.


Please RSVP so we can get a reasonable head count for food.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

EScorebooks? - Thoughts From an Aspiring Woodpusher

We all know that the Laws of Chess require you to record your games as you play them. How many of us keep those records?

I'm pretty proud at having, still, after more than 30 years, probably 90% of my tournament game records, and even some of my very early games before I became a tournament player in my teens. Its interesting to see these hand-written scores. You see not only my small progress as a teen, but almost as interestingly, historically in my mind, you see the change I made, early in my tournament career, when I switched from Descriptive Notation which I'd started out with in '78, to Algebreic Notation that I (and most people, I understand) use today.

But I'm contemplating a larger evolution today. All these games, about 200 of them now, are recorded, handwritten, in two notebooks. Historically I would take my game scores from the tournament, and reinscribe them into my notebook. They usually didn't look any better, really, but if I'd screwed up the score during the game at least this was cleaned up in my notebook. Of course sometimes I was lazy and didn't quite get around to it. So, this month as I got back into the game, I found (I knew I had them) about three tournaments worth of game scores I'd not put in the notebook. I set about inscribing them in so I could get ready to inscribe the games I'm playing now - my "modern" games. So, I was working at that point to get my notebook up to 1999. Then we'd be ready for the games of 2011!

I've been taking a look at chess database programs, specifically Scid, in order to keep track of things. I'd been handwriting my games for thirty years, but I saw that keeping games electronically, in databases, would enable me to do some very interesting queries and filtering. How many games had I won with 1. d4? 1.e4? In as much as I play recognized openings, what is my most played? My most successful? Additionally, keeping game scores electronically enables easy playback, right on the computer screen. No toting around even an analysis set. And, of course, the database can be coupled with a chess engine for analysis.

It sounds like its a great winning situation, doesn't? Well, if you talk to any Librarian or Archivist these days they're worried, I think, that future Librarians and Archivists will find a vast amount of records lost or unreadable starting from the last half of the last century. Computers of future eras may not be able to read old formats, etc. In some cases this has already happened! Archvists that I know tell me that no one knows what to do about this! I'm thinking hard if I want to put my records in a format that sometime in the future I may not be able to read. Eleven years ago when I last played I had the option to put my games in a Mac program called ExaChess. I didn't end up putting my games in this program. I still have it, but its an open question as I sit here if I have a computer capable of running the program!

As with anything else, perhaps, its your backup strategy that becomes important. In this case including a backup strategy that would print out the games I have in the database and put them in a file along with my handwritten games.

Do members of the club keep their scores for any reason, and if you do, how do you folks do it?

This is yet another thing that I didn't have to think about 30 years ago. :-)

-Doc Kinne
BCC Member, USCF #12186200

Monday, August 08, 2011

In Praise of the Machine? - Thoughts From an Aspiring Woodpusher...

Back in the early 80s I had, as a trainer, a Fidelity Chess Challenger 7 dedicated computer. A little bit of research seemed to show that it was rated, depending on the level, anywhere between 1100 and 1900. I figure 1100 was the 5 second response time and 1900 was the 24 hour response time. Tournament mode probably put the machine around 1350, and I think I can verify that based on the memory of my games with it vis-a-vis my rating at the time.

I think it could be agreed that one of the best ways to improve your chess is to play, and these days we have a wide range of options open to us.

From a machine perspective, its safe to say that the vast majority of commonly available programs out there can completely destroy a player like me, and I think that that may be true of most of us now. I was flabbergasted to see that some of these program's ratings were estimated to be above 3000. Wasn't 3000 supposed to be God's rating?

So, in installing chess engines on my computers, both for analysis as well as practice play, I wasn't all that worried about getting the "strongest engine." Oh, getting the strongest engine makes a lot of sense from an analysis perspective, I agree with that, but from a playing perspective, not so much, I thought. From a playing and practicing perspective it seems to me that you want stronger opposition, certainly, but you don't want opposition that you'll never win against. That gets discouraging. What I found interesting is that the chess engines I started trying - GNUChess, FairyMax V4.8, Scidlet V4.2.2 (Yes, I'm a Free Software Linux Geek. Moving on...) didn't seem to have "level" switches that I could see. There didn't seem to be an elegant way of hobbling the program. Everyone seemed to simply assume you'd want it playing at God strength all the time. Running the engines through Xboard, I managed to specify the depth level the engines would use. I found I could beat FairyMax at a depth level of 2, but am still working on a depth level of 3. Of course, these types of engines have a default depth level of 17, I think! FairyMax also had the advantage of not pegging my CPU.

What's your favorite program?

Computers, especially 30 years ago, were big practice deals because you could have an opponent anytime you wanted. These days another great option that is available is, of course, online play.

I'm divided when it comes to online play. Overwhelmingly my experience - and I can't claim much - is with FICS, the Free Internet Chess Server. I find most games online are played very, very quickly. I've never been a big speed chess player. OTB, it becomes a race to see if you can keep alive for longer than your opponent's flag stays up. Online you add issues of mouse clicks and lag into the mix. I've just not lept into it.

On the other hand, just like many things these days, I think a significant portion of the future of chess is online, and I'd love to see the US Chess community figure out a way of doing "official games" online. From what I understand, the USCF is trying to do this again. Their track record to date has not been good at this type of thing...and that discussion opens up whole 'nother can of worms, I'm sure!

What does everyone here use for online play, and what do you think are its best advantages?

Last, but certainly not least for members of the BCC, there is the option of challenging and practicing with your fellow club members! The value of this option cannot be discounted. Take advantage of it! Remember the Club is open Tuesday and Thursday afternoons for open house if you can make it. You may not find Bobby Fisher, but you'll probably find someone who can give you a challenging and enjoyable game.

-Doc Kinne
BCC Member, USCF #12186200

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Automatic Membership Email Update

In our effort to retain our members, the Boylston Chess Club has as of this week instituted an automatic e-mail notification of when your membership expires. If your membership expired sometime within the last year or so, you may have gotten an e-mail earlier this week.

The e-mailing program was written by me, Jason Rihel, and it depends on the accuracy of our records and the accuracy of my code. This means that there may be glitches in the coming days that, despite my many test runs, may have been missed. If you receive a renewal reminder and you think it is in error, please e-mail the club. This especially may have happened if you renewed recently and our record-keeping has not caught up, but we also may have made typos into our database.

Also, if you want to be sure to get a reminder when your membership expires, please e-mail us updated address information. Then humans will intervene over our computer overlords.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Doc Kinne's Story, Part III

Faster Than a Speeding Bullet...

Some things are different in this new 21st century world of chess!

We live in an age where everything must be done yesterday. In my day-to-day life as an astronomical technologist I contribute to such a situation, but its ramifications can still boggle my mind.

Part and parcel with me getting back into chess, and because the BCC really does need Tournament Directors (all the activity you see at the BCC really is on the backs of 2-3 TDs. While, obviously, they do a wonderful job, at one point they're going to get tired, or life will call them away to other things. We need to recruit and train the next generations of Directors and Organizers), I decided to renew my USCF Tournament Director certification. During the July $10 Open I introduced myself to Bernardo and offered to help out in the future.

Back in the 80s when I directed tournaments with Joe Ball (who is still, to this day, organizing and directing tournaments in central NY! Some of us truly get to be fixtures, and I don't just mean Viktor Korchnoi!), we paired tournaments with cards filled out for each player.

Remember these?

I still distinctly remember Joe laying out the cards for a round in score groups, quickly swap! swap!-ing them around to get the needed color allocations, filling out the pairings on a sheet by hand, and putting them on the wall for us. Afterwards Joe would fill out the tournament report by hand, mail it into the Federation, and a couple of months later the new rating would make itself known on our "Chess Life" mailing label.

Today, its all done by computer program.

I really didn't get to see the pairing process. The July $10 Open had just over 50 participants, which edged it into a Category C Tournament class. Bernardo had his hands full, and I didn't want to bother him.

However, when the tournament was over and most everyone had gone, I watched, and Bernardo explained, while he entered in the remaining data and sent the tournament to the Federation. The form was filled out online and sent over the wire. "That's it," Bernardo said. "That's all there is to it."

"You mean its rated? Now?" I said.

"Yes," he replied. I was somewhat flabbergasted. However, upon getting home, I got onto the USCF website and found my section of the tournament, and my new rating, right there!

It's an amazing world we live in. But I still want my flying car! And my Moonbase!

Moonbase Alpha

---Doc Kinne, USCF: 12186200

Simon Warfield is the 2011 BCF U2200 Champion

Simon Warfield won the 2011 Reubens Landey tournament, making him the U2200 BCF Champion. He had 4 of 4 points - he mated Ted Cross with about 2 seconds on his clock after he broke a very tense, seemingly drawn position in the rook and pawns endgame.

Simon has won the Reubens Landey and title in 2011, 2008, 2004, 2002, 2000.

His rating moved to 2192 after this tournament. He has come close to achieving master status over the years. Oddly, his highest rating - 2200 (P5) - came as his first rating after playing in the 1994 New England Masters as "unrated."

Congratulations Simon.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Doc Kinne's Story, Part II

Less Powerful Than (Any) Locomotive...

So, 30 July was my first competitive Chess Tournament in 11 years.

My score ended up being 0-4.

But really it was less horrible than it sounds. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

* * *

The July $10 Open was meant simply as a re-injection into competitive chess for me. I'd not overly prepared for it, so I didn't go in with any inflated expectations.

In round 1 I was against a 1571 rated player, 388 points higher than I am. Statistically I stood a 9% chance of winning against him.

I was proud of the game. At the end, both of our clocks had less than one minute remaining left. My opponent was impressed as well.

The 2nd round got away from me. Don't know really what happened yet, but at 1609 I had a 6.5% statistical chance of winning the game. It was more than just statistics this time, though. I didn't like how I played.

My third round opponent was rated 1474 giving me a 15% statistical chance of winning. I fought him down to a Rook-and-Pawn endgame. What killed me were two connected passed pawns on the a and b files, despite me being a pawn up in material. I was proud of this one as well.

The biggest disappointment, of course, was the 4th round. Playing a 1098 I had a 64% statistical chance of beating him. I overplayed a Queenside attack with a Knight that had forking chances against his Queenside Rook and Queen. He managed to squirm out of it, but it left him physically shaking. I wasn't able to recover and he gained an attack in the center that finally won him the game. Both of us remarked that the complications during our attacks overtaxed either of our abilities to comfortably calculate them.

I'm not disappointed. Thirty-three years ago, the beginnings of a wonderful sport for me started out with a 4 round Swiss where I also got a 0-4 score. This tournament was a reboot. Whose to say it won't go the same way this time as well.

--Doc Kinne, USCF: 12186200

BCC Members Picnic!

Please Plan to join us at the First Annual Boylston Chess Foundation Summer Picnic!

DATE: Sunday, August 21
TIME: Noon to 4:00 PM
WHERE: Danehy Park, Cambridge

View Larger Map

(The map shows walking directions from Alewife-- about a 15 minute walk)

CHESS: Free Simul by SM Charles Riordan & Lots of Blitz!
PARKING: Park at Lot off Sherman St. Also parking available via access road behind the Fresh Pond Cinemas. Also a 15-20 minute walk from the Red Line Alewife station

We will have access to grills and will provide burgers and hot dogs, including vegan options!


We will send out additional reminders, but please consider RSVPing so we can get a reasonable head count for food.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Doc Kinne's Story, Part I

I Was a Child Chess Player...

Hi Folks!

I'm Doc Kinne, one of the newest members of the Boylston Chess Club. I'm a member of what I think might be a pretty big group of middle-aged resurrected woodpushers. What I'd like to do is blog about my return to competitive chess every so often. As I write this right now, I'm a Class E player with my rating being the worst that its been since I started chess 33 years ago. The BCC July $10 Open on the 30th were the first rated games I'd played in almost exactly 11 years. I'll be writing about my tournaments, progress, and what I'm doing in order to try to improve my game, as well as some of the interesting differences I see between the chess world of the 1980s when I started and the new world I'm reintroducing myself to. I think that it could be perhaps inspiring to the other lower mid-class (rating-wise, that is!) folks trying to battle up, or at least semi-entertaining.

I started playing when I was 13 back in 1978. Burger King was giving out paper Chess/Checker sets to kids under 12 at that point. I'm a very small guy and at age 13 I looked like I was around 9. They gave me a set as a matter of course. I learned the rules on the way home, taught my Mom, and we played our first game that night. Due to several medical problems as a kid, I never really participated in sports (although I truly enjoy telling the truth that my High School letter is in, yes, basketball! I just never quite mention I was the team manager). Here, in chess, I saw something where size didn't matter.

I joined the United States Chess Federation and went to my first rated tournament later that year, a four round Swiss, the monthly Onondaga County Open in Syracuse, NY.

I was utterly slaughtered.

Interestingly enough at the same site a scholastic tournament was going on. As the day ended and I'd lost 0-4 my Dad came to pick me up. As we were leaving, the Tournament Director of the scholastic tournament, Joe Ball, came up to us and said, "Listen, he entered the wrong tournament. He's got some potential, I think. After every game that he lost he sat down and went over it, and then he tried again, all day. But he was outclassed. Have him come back next month to the scholastic tournament. He'll do better." He was right. I gained a friend and a mentor. Over the next five years I slowly climbed from a rating of 1215 to a high of 1419, about average for US tournament players of that day. At one point I won the Onondaga County Championship for my age group.

Joe taught me how to direct tournaments and I was his Assistant Director for a number of monthly tournaments.

Some of my best memories as a kid involve going into a "training week" before a tournament where I would play 1 game against the chess computer per day under tournament conditions (clocked, keeping score, etc). It's those sessions, I think, that inched my rating up.

What really harmed my progress as a player I could no longer get to tournaments, and I had other things to do. That continued after I got my first job, although I was active during 1992-1993. I competed in one Syracuse tournament in 1996. Then I was finally active again between August-November of 1999 where my rating crashed from 1262-1179, the lowest it had ever been. While in my last tournament I came in dead last, I was able to do interestingly well every once in a while, such as coming in 6th out of a field of 21 in the NYS Amateur Team Tournament in the Open Section in 1999, my second-to-last tournament. Why did I quit after a bad tournament after doing reasonably well in the NYS Amateur Team? I seem to remember a strong problem with getting beat by people smaller than I was. :-)

Although its been three years since Bobby Fisher left us (some may successfully argue he left us 36 years ago...) he's still bringing people to chess, myself included. Last month I found myself reading Brady's new book, Endgame and something sparked in me.

I found myself installing chess engines on my computers, rejoining the USCF after years, and yes, investigating the Boyslton Chess Club. I was amazed to find that BCC was about as active as the Marshall in NYC and had a wide range of members. I'd been used to one tournament a month in Syracuse. BCC seems to offer more than one per week at times!

So, is it possible for a busy, middle-aged boy to reclaim a measure of the glory he had as a high schooler? Come find out as I try to step back into a world I'd known years ago and see both how I've changed, how its changed, and how we might be able to meet in the middle.

--Doc Kinne, USCF: 12186200

Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 later this week.