Friday, April 27, 2012

Bourne Again

Diving suit from The Bourne Identity (London Film Museum)

In this year's Paramount tournament, I was surprised to find myself as the bottom player in my 6-person section, the top section of 3.  Carey Theil is top dog at 2194, and I am 1804 -- rather more of a spread than I am used to, for this tournament.  The distribution of player ratings has typically landed me in the second section, where the range of players' ratings tended to be less pronounced. 

I lost my first two games, then had very much the downside of my adjourned third game.  That was perhaps not an unexpected surprise statistically given my bottom ranking in the section, but I found little comfort in that.  As a bit of relief, I watched a great action movie, The Bourne Identity, again.  I was surprised to notice that the main character, Jason Bourne, while ranting in frustration about his loss of memory, utters:

"I can set up a chessboard."

as he describes other things he can still do.  There is indeed a chessboard set up in the background (Set up correctly?  Hard to say.)

In my case, the script would be more like:

"I can set up a chessboard, but I can't remember to stop trapping my rook where it cannot escape attack by a bishop!"

Here's how I did it in game 3 against Ed Astrachan:

White to move

18 e3?? Ba6

And then again in game 4 against Larry Eldridge (Apparently I have a very low MTBF, Mean Time Between Failures, or perhaps that should be MMBB, Mean Moves Between Blunders):

Black to move

 10...Qe8?? 11 Bxc6! Bxc6 12 dxe5 dxe5 13 Bc5

In game 4, however, as a testament to the adage that "He who blunders last, blunders best.", Larry subsequently overlooked something distinctly more consequential, and I eventually had this winning position:

Black to move

At Dana Blogs Chess, I had recently read the Human reasoning versus computer reasoning post, discussing resultant piece activity associated with two different capture options.  That was still prominently in my mind, and it did not take me too long to decide on 26...fxe4 over 26...Bxe4, feeling that:
  • My dark-squared bishop would come to c5 and apply pressure down the diagonal to f2/g1
  • My light-squared bishop remaining on c6 would prevent entry of a rook on d7
  • My "straight pieces" along the f-file would add to the pressure on f2
  • ...e4-e3 would eventually unleash my light-squared bishop's pressure down to g2/h1
26...Bxe4, while still winning, would leave the f-file closed, and reduce my immediate attacking potential.  After various additional moves, we arrived at this position:

White to move

After 43 Qb1 my forward e-pawn did indeed get moving with 43...e3 ("I have foreseen it."  -Darth Sidious), and although pinning someone's queen to their king with your rook is always tempting, 44 Rf1 was soundly answered with 44...Bxg2+ 0-1.

Once I was past the Bourne Again stage, I lost the next two games, then drew the next two against the highest-rated folks.  I believe I'm now due for two wins.  What do you say, Larry?  Greg?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Grand Prix Standings Update

ONLY TWO DAYS LEFT until the second half of this exciting Grand Prix cycle begins. With that in mind, let's take a look at the leader board:

Chris Williams                 7.5
Eric Godin                       7

Emmanuel Mevs              8
Jesse Nicholas                 5.5

Natasha Christiansen       3.5
Greg Bodwin                   3
Howard Goldowsky        3
Harold Dondis                 3

Arthur Tang                     6
Mike Griffin                     6
Bowen Wang                   5.5
Nithin Kavi                      5.5
Jerry Williams                  5.5

Steven Stepak                 11
David Martin                   8

Alyssa Stachowkski         3
Matthew Ding                  2

Eddie Wei                       5
Akash Subedi                 3

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Chess Duels and Character Sets

As some folks (or at least Howard G., according to my recollection) mentioned here previously, Yasser Seirawan's Chess Duels is quite a fun read. I eventually bought the Kindle app e-book version, and particularly enjoyed the Fischer-Byrne-table-patzer and the Fischer-Quinteros-Rubinetti-lunch anecdotes. I seem to remember Howard mentioned one anecdote he found particularly entertaining, although it may not have been one of those (buy and read the book!).

Anyway, as I was reading I was surprised to see a location spelled differently from what I'd always seen it listed as:

I'm curious about the print version, if any blog readers have access to it. Is the missing ć printed (the location name should be Nikšić)? Or does the print version also have cut-off proper nouns, including our old friends Gligori and Ljubojevi?

For those interested in the underlying technicalities, I suspect the book was originally produced using the Microsoft Windows 1252 ("MSWIN1252") character set, which lacks the ć character, but does have the š character (Nikši). However, knowing that at least one other print book (the wonderful historical fantasy Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell) underwent mild changes on its way to being a Kindle e-book, I suppose there is a small chance that the original text of Chess Duels was somehow shoehorned into MSWIN1252 for the Kindle version.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

WereRihels of London! Ahooo!

Dear Boylston Chess Club,

After months of globe trotting, lab building, and flat finding, I was finally able to play my first European chess tournament.

To start off 'easy', I decided to play a one day quick chess event, 6 rounds of Game 30. Because of my US based rating, I was put into the Open section, with the 2nd section being roughly U2000. Why an estimate? It turns out the English use a very funny rating system, on a scale of roughly 1 to 300. To calculate from the FIDE rating, it is approxomately FIDE rating - 600 points, then divided by 8. That put me at 174, just over the 170 cutoff.

So, let's get right to the differences. First, these Game 30s don't count towards your regular rating here at all, which is a good thing, beause of difference #2-- for this event, I was the only player (about of about 75 people) with a digital clock. That means there is no increment and no delay. Have a great position but only 2 seconds left? Too bad.

Not for the faint (time trouble) hearted.

The second big difference is the number of rounds. We played 6(!) games today, with very little break in between. They had a modest sandwich/hot dog consession in the tournament site, but I was still going hungry most of the day.

The third big difference is that we didn't have to keep score, not even a little bit. US players of course are used to keeping score, even in the G30 matches.

The fourth difference was that they are still using pairing cards and doing all the pairings by hand! They were quick and on-time, however, and I didn't see any of that endless griping about the way the round should be paired, so typical in the US. Related to the lack of computers, they only update the English ratings twice a year, since they don't have the nice national rating computations like in the States.

OK-- on to my games!

In the first 3 rounds, I lost, mostly due to time pressure. In at least two of those games, I got so far behind on the clock that I had to go crazy, as without time delay, it was either mate or flag. In at least one of these games, having delay would have allowed me to save at least a draw, by trading down into an even ending.

Another more subtle difference-- the no writing moves down affected the cadence of the game for me. Normally, there is that little pause when either you or your opponent writes down their moves. Also, it lends an air of casualness, almost like playing blitz in Harvard Square. Crazy combination that will be great if it works? Why not, it is street chess! Except it isn't street chess.

After this return to chess debacle (against strong players in the Open section, true), I told myself I needed to get this time business under control. Playing much more rapidly, I got this promising position. White to play and win (ignore that arrow).

White wins with 1. Nxc7 Qxc7 2. d6 Qd8 3. dxe7+ Rxe7 4. Bc5 (a nice intermezzo) Re8 5. Bxb6 Qxb6 6. Qxd7 and White is up a piece.

After finding that combo, I felt I was on my way to improving my tournament, and I finished the last 3 games with 2.5 out of 3. Not too bad after a chess deep freeze.

Hope all is well in Boston!


Friday, April 13, 2012

April 10th Christiansen Simul Recap

And so, another simul was held at South Station, and once again, it was quite the scene. We at the Boylston love introducing new people to the world of tournament chess, and there's nothing like the rush hour crowds at South Station watching a three-time US champion play over two dozen people at once.
Once again, over 25 games were played, with new challengers coming in as games ended. GM Christiansen endured one loss and one draw, winning the rest of his games. The loss was to Nathan Smolensky, a very strange fellow who likes to refer to himself in the third person while writing blog posts. The draw?

Welcome back, Harold!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

South Station Simul with Larry C - April 10

Larry can play with two dolphins at the same time,
but can he play with 25 fish simultaneously?

GM Larry Christiansen
will take on 25 players simultaneously
at South Station on April 10, 5-7 PM.

There is no fee. A prize of free entry to a BCC tournament goes to anyone who beats Larry.
Nathan Smolensky posted a poem about the March simul earlier in the BCF blog indicating that the only winner was Jesse Nicholas. Jesse won a free entry to a BCC tournament. There were no draws. We did not keep track of the number of games, but many more than 25 were played - not all 25 boards were filled at one time, but new players replaced players who had finished their games. Also, some players played multiple games successively - one person played 5 games or so.

Come to South Station and try your luck. It's a great opportunity to face a three-times US Champion and face the attacking Larry C you have read in his terrific books and watched on ICC.

Larry is America's most prominent attacking player, and that's no bull.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Thursday Night Swiss Clarification

Just a quick note on the April Thursday Night Swiss - there was an error in the calendar saying that the first round of this month's tournament would be played on March 29th. The correct date for the first round is April 5th (all other rounds' dates are correct).
IF YOU PLAYED ON THE 29TH, THEN YOU HAVE ALREADY PLAYED YOUR FIRST ROUND GAME, AND YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE TOURNAMENT ON THE 5TH. These first rounds will be merged, and the tournament will resume as normal on the 12th.
Sorry for the confusion.