Wednesday, February 29, 2012

If you putter, your game will sputter - IM Silman on Cross v Franke, a game from the Boylston's Thursday Night Swiss

Natasha C. brought this post to our attention. IM Silman discusses a Benoni played recently at a Boylston Thursday Night Swiss.

[btw, if you have checked it out lately, the venerable TNS in recent months has grown larger and stronger than it has been in years.]


If you putter, your game will sputter.

Submitted by IM Silman on Tue, 02/28/2012 at 11:02pm.


This is a game I’m quite proud of, even though I came away from it with a half point fewer than I should have.

With a USCF rating of 1984 and a recent peak at 2037, Ted is the strongest opponent by far whom I’ve ever achieved a draw against, and outcome aside, this is simply one of my best-played games.

I’ve only recently returned to tournament chess after abandoning it while in elementary school, so I’m still working my way up from my old rating of 778.

Although I’m therefore much stronger than my published rating, I feel that I typically play at about a 1650 level, which is quite a long way from Expert and makes this game a remarkable result.

I do feel like I’ve improved enough recently that I’m starting to discover my style, which I’d characterize as ‘tactical but conservative.’

I can literally calculate all day (even at the longest time controls, the clock is my nemesis), but I’ll always chose a solid positional move over a possible brilliancy whose soundness I’m not confident in, and I avoid getting into positions that are out of my depth, no matter if they’re out of my opponent’s depth as well.

I think all of these observations show through in this game.”

Ted Cross (1984) – Daniel Franke (1110), Somerville 2012

Read the detailed analysis and discussion of this game at:

with comments like these:
It’s clear that Franke is tactically astute. If he can add a bit more positional energy to his ability to calculate, and if he beats back his fear of enemy threats, he might find himself on a regular diet of baked/fried/boiled Expert (or Expert tartar, for those that like their meat fresh).

Franke: “With white’s light-squared bishop gone, my ...f6 sin is forgiven.”

Hey guy! I haven’t forgiven it! But I don’t look at your …f6 as just a bad move. Rather, I look at it as a misunderstanding about how to play chess. Meekly defending against perceived threats will ensure you never become the player you want to be. Refusing to bow to your opponent’s wishes will (faster than you imagine) change the way you look at chess, and propel you far ahead of the masses.


White was clearly having an off day. Or, as is common for players of all levels, he just wasn’t in tune with the nuts and bolts of this type of position. White needs to generate some activity, he needs targets (and hitting d6 by itself isn’t going to get the job done), and he needs to get his Rooks into the action. Thus, 22.a3 bxa3 23.Rxa3 Nc7 24.f3 Qxb2 25.Rb3 Qe5 26.Rb7 Rec8 27.Bf2 (heading for g3) and at least we’re having a bit of fun! That’s what active piece are – movable bundles of quivering fun. (None of that was forced, of course, but it does give you an inkling of what I’m trying to achieve.)


At this point Black needs to take a long look at the position and try and find the simplest, safest, and most deadly way to end the game. No need to be creative – keep it simple while simultaneously leading White to the slaughterhouse:


Now that you allowed him to block the pawn with his King, you need to have a deep think and find a way to follow the old, “simplest, safest, and most deadly way to end the game” formula. The fact is that in endgames, just puttering about will often allow your opponent to creep back into the game. You really need to hunker down at this final stage and look for the most incisive way to take home the point.


Yes, this is indeed winning. But you get two question marks because taking on c7 is a lazy decision that also creates a very bad mindset: you thought the game would win itself after this trade.


Franke: “Right after my opponent accepted my draw offer, I said to him, ‘I am probably going to shoot myself. I am going to get home, open up Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual, take one look at it, and then I am going
 to shoot myself in the head.’ IM Marc Esserman overhead this and looked at the position. After a single glance he said, ‘This is won.’ Then he sat down for five minutes pondering how he was going to back up that assertion. This made me feel a lot better!” 1/2-1/2.


London Calling

After years of playing 1 c4, I finally traveled to the birthplace of the English Opening.

In the Tower of London (where the Beefeater guide at one point joked that we'd be heading off in such-and-such a direction), I happened upon the following image on an interior wall:

The artist rendered the board properly, all the way down to White's horrendous position with a blockaded pawn on a6 and multiple Black forces descending upon his king on g1. Ah, if only the folks who installed the immovable stone chess tables and chairs in front of the Somerville Library's Highland Avenue location had had such an eye for detail, they wouldn't have put a dark square at h1.

I made it to the London Chess Centre's well-stocked physical store, where I picked up a few items:

Dave Vigorito's new book on the Sicilian Dragon was displayed prominently:

I also caught up with our club's former President and First Lady, shown here standing next to the Lewis Chessmen in the British Museum.

Again the board is set up correctly. Here, White is up a pawn (okay, okay, it's the only pawn on the board).

£ for £, a pleasant trip across the pawned!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Amateur Team East

I am pleased to report that the

BU Terriers

won the

"Top College"

prize at this year's amateur team east.

NM Andrew Wang
Steve Chen
Lino Fabiani
Ben Burkholder

As you know Andrew is a long-time member of the Boylston Chess Club.

The Boston University team won 4 of 6 points.


Al Lawrence gives a good account of the tournament at

Here are some photos of the many Boston, Boylston, and BU players
in Parsipanny.

More below:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Continental Amateur Chess Championship

Continental Amateur Chess Championship

Hyatt Harborside Hotel, Boston MA Jan 6-8 2012.

I got some photos during round 4. These are players from the BCC who I photographed there.

Steve Stepak

View more of Steve's photos at the site below:


An Elementary Chess Problem

Can you solve this problem?

The White King has been knocked off the board. To find the solution, you must place it back on the board on its correct square.

There is only one correct square, and when the King returns to the board it will be a legal position.

I was shown this wonderful position by chess player and friend Colin Dougherty in Tallahassee, Florida. I meditated on it for a week, but was unable to solve it.

I eventually came to the conclusion that it is not solvable, but I was wrong. In fact, there is a very elemental solution. There are no tricks.

I have also shown this problem to five other strong masters, including two players that are rated over 2450. None of these masters were able to find the solution. However, Boylston Chess Federation board member Dan Schmidt solved the problem in less than five minutes. So far, he is the only person to solve it.

If you can solve it, you can join Dan and achieve a small piece of chess immortality. If you can't, then you can join me and the other masters who failed!

Good luck. :)

Monday, February 06, 2012

Irving Yaffe passed away on Wednesday night February 1, 2012

Photo: Steve Stepak

Irving Yaffe passed away on Wednesday night February 1, 2012 at the Fenno House in Quincy because of pneumonia. Age 91

Irving was captain of the Boylston Chess Team and Mass Chess Team in the 50’s and 60’s. Irving was most known in recent times for catering the Herb Healy tournament

[Irving Jaffee, long-time patron of the Boylston Chess Club, prepares the food for the 1990 New Year's Open House. Photo: Stepak]

and being President of the Quincy Chess Club.

Irving was born in Lithuania in 1920 and his family took their savings and rushed Irving to Boston, while the rest of Irving’s family disappeared in the Holocaust.

Seeking vengeance, Irving joined the army and participated in DDay. As a member of the Patton’s 3rd army Irving was involved in the 100 +, 30 miles a day, famous forced march in winter to rescue Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge.

No other army in history has ever covered more territory in such little time.

Irving was wounded in the battle while sitting in a foxhole, having been hit on the head by a huge chunk of ice. For the next couple of years Irving spent time in hospitals randomly passing out. Slowly his condition improved.

Back home in Boston Irving resumed his chess playing and was a mainstay at the old Boylston Chess Club.

Irving was involved in organizing state scholastic tournaments.

During his life, Irving met Fidel Castro at a tournament at Harvard, where Castro was a student.

And Irving met Osama Bin Laden while working as a security guard at Forsythe Clinic.

Irving felt his greatest game was a draw against Master Bernard “Zuckerbook” Zuckerman.

I have a 45 minute interview with Irving that has many more stories. I will try and get it on the BCF web.

Chess gave Irving great joy in a life full of personal setbacks and Irving gave back to the game volunteering his time in many ways.

Do you have any Irving Yaffe stories?

Please comment.

Thank You.

Mike Griffin


How to Cook a Pawn

Okay, who knows the position?
White to move, answer below

At the recent Portsmouth Open, I lost a game to Kira Storm, a game in which I fell to a very pleasing combination (about which I wrote in my event report, which should appear in the next Chess Horizons magazine).  Our postmortem suggested that I might have scraped a draw even after that combo, but my fall was of Chevy Chase caliber.

I have a longstanding aversion to doing computer analysis of games -- maybe because it seems too dry and tedious.  I also have a longtime little-moving rating -- I wonder if there's any connection?  Anyway, somewhat out of my normal routine, I recently did some such analysis of certain junctures in the Storm game.  I was impressed to discover a tactical idea lurking in an unplayed variation, a type of tactic which I have traditionally (and often over-optimistically) trusted my chess powers to reveal.

However, I was even more excited to feel a bit of a connection to the above position after the computer revealed something we had both missed:

Kira Storm -  Ken Ho
15 January 2012
After 16 Nf3-e5:

My plan was to exchange pieces and increase the pressure on White's d-pawn.

16...Nf4 17 Qe3 Bxe4 18 Qxe4??


What can I say, one good massive oversight deserves another.  Kira would have preferred 18 Qxf4 had he seen what was possible, and I of course would have preferred to have played 18...Qxd4! (winning White's d-pawn) instead of the text, since 19 Qxd4 is answered by 19...Ne2+ and 20...Nxd4.  I'll probably never get another chance to play such a move ever again (sniff)....

The position at the top of this blog entry is Alekhine-Euwe, World Championship 1937 (16).  Neither player noticed 27 Qh8+!  (Euwe had just played 26...Bd7-c6) Kxh8 28 Nxf7+ and 29 Nxe5; the game was eventually drawn after 27 a3??.

Seeing how the computer program chess analysis was able to wake me up to some tactics that I totally overlooked brought home the point that it can seriously help reinforce the book-learning to which I've been contentedly clinging for years.  From here forward I will be rather more interested in taking the Silicon Beast for a postmortem stroll.  Time will tell whether my rating moves upward in tandem. to cook a pawn?

Under low pressure.  When it's ready, stick a fork in it.