Thursday, September 27, 2007

This Libretto Is Awesome

Just in case you don't check my blog's comment section as obssesively as I do, the last thread contained this gem:

The name of this blog
is Lizzy Knows All
And if you forget that
You're a Neanderthal
Don't post a word
Unless you sign your name
'Cause that only proves
You ain't got no game

If you diss her moves
I have to mention
Anybody can hide
Behind an engine
Or add a space
To his last name
His rating fame

The Royal Game
That's the thing
Think about girls
And she'll drop your king
I have to wonder
About Chris Williams
Maybe he don't dig
Her skinny limbs

Anonymous posting
Makes you a coward
Come back crawling
Like Paul or Howard
Drive-by insults
Are worse by half
Gonna be a jerk
At least make her laugh

At the office
they call her Miss
Luckily she finds this
But in the hood
It's WFM
You're just jealous
you ain't one of them

I have to sneer
and I have to scoff
When you say you've busted
Her Sveshnikov
Your refutation
Is unsound
She'll prove it to you
In the next round

You'll say you're sorry
She'll say who cares
Your bishop's on
The wrong colored squares
Your last day alive
You can't take advantage of
The hole on d5

Piece activity
Is where it's at
No point in
Denying that
Bring it on
She's drawing a line
When she plays 1...c5
You'll want to resign

But pretty soon some deeply bitter human being posts a response:

Anonymous said...
Rap sucks. And the fact that your probably a white nerd makes it even more disgusting. You make me want to vomit.
September 27, 2007 5:45 AM.

And then the counter-response:

Anonymous said...
"Rap sucks. And the fact that your [sic] probably a
white nerd makes it even more disgusting.
You make me want to vomit."

(1) I'm not white, I'm (as they say) Asian/Pacific Islander.
(2) It isn't rap, Bunky. It's opera. Here it is in the original Italian:

Il nome di questo blog è Lizzy Conosce Tutti
Se dimenticate questo
Siete un Neanderthal
Non scriva alcune parole
Senza vostra firma
Quello dimostrerebbe soltanto
che non conoscete il gioco.

Se non rispettate i suoi scacchi
Allora devo dire
Qualcuno può nascondersi
Dietro un calcolatore
O aggiunga uno spazio
Al suo nome
Per nascondere
La sua famaetc.

(3) Feeling a little queasy?
September 27, 2007 3:45 PM

What I love about the rebuttal is that it's so bizarrely unforeseeable, I feel like there is no possible response to it.

On an unrelated note, let's talk about the news.
My homepage is This is not because I like the site-- MSNBC is much better, and something like slate or nerve would be a lot more fun. But it came set that way and I've been too lazy to change it.

So today I see these three headlines:

Today's Picks
Bartender on trial for serving patron floor cleaner
24 fresh living rooms
Avoid raising a serial killer

Which brings me to my question: what's going on with the news these days? Who invented these stories and why are they in this order? I get the creepy sense that they are all meant to seem related, sort of like serving someone floor cleaner logically connects to fresh living rooms, and wouldn't people who want to read about fresh living rooms also appreciate advice on child-rearing? Presumably they are by now concerned that that their kids are at risk of becoming the kind of manical killer who serves customers floor cleaner?

The whole thing reminds me of a Simpsons' episode where Marge says "You know, Fox turned into a hard-core sex channel so gradually, I didn't even notice."

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I could beat their reporter

I have to object to the way my game against Chris Williams was characterized by Boston Blitz "Beat Reporter" Mark LaRocca. (With great suspicion, I notice that he does not have a USCF rating.)

"Black, WFM Elizabeth Vicary, has just played the poor 25…f4? She had some pressure with the pawn on f5 threatening bxc4 and piling up on the c-pawn combined with a build up on the kingside. But, after this, Chris quickly took over the game with 26.cxb5 axb5 27.Ne1! threatening to drive Black back, which he did very nicely after 27…Ng6 28.Nd3 Qc7 and White took control from there."

This is absolute drivel. 25... f4 is not a weak move. Positionally and strategically, it's great-- keeps the center closed, creates the long term threat of ...f3, gains space on the kingside, controls g3, stops Ne3, keeps the white e pawn on e4 where it makes the Bb1 bad, and clamps down on the dark squares. If later I want to pressure the e pawn, I can play...f5, but I really don't see that I will ever (in a middlegame) want to open the position. LaRocca makes it sound like I'm releasing my pressure on white's center and killing my opportunity to play on both sides of the board. But the real story is that white's the one pressuring my center, and I need to keep the position closed or else I have no chance of orchestrating a kingside attack.

Now, Mr. LaRocca is correct that 25... f4 is not the best move-- 25... bxc4 is. If you are just looking at the game with a computer engine, this is the simple conclusion you would quickly come to: bxc4 = good, f4 = bad. In reality, black very much wants to play both moves, the only question is whether she can achieve this, and if not, which move is more important to play first. To determine this you have to correctly assess the situation after 25....bxc4 26. b4 Qsomewhere 27. exf5. And if you feed this position to Fritz 10 and Rybka (I used 26... Qc7, the second best move and the one I had been calculating in the game), you'll find the first engine assesses it at 1.28 and the second at 0.26. So I think it's not unreasonable to claim the situation is murky and the evaluation is tricky. My point is that the review presents 25... f4 as a bad move, when really it's a good move but for strategically complex reasons it's the second best move.

In your face, Boston.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

I'm hiding in the bushes because I'm afraid of the c file

So I lost. I was sad to semi-ruin it for New York, but I enjoyed the game quite a lot and felt that I played reasonably, at least most of the time.

In fact, my sadness over losing didn't last long because Pascal's endgame was so incredible. He appeared absolutely calm and relaxed the entire time, and the combination of that and the fact that I had no idea how I would even start trying to win the position, made me feel like I was watching something amazing, something really far above anything I would ever be capable of.

A few days before the match I looked up my previous Sveshnikov games in Chessbase to try to imagine what Chris would see when he sat down to prepare. Out of six games, I only won one, and that's when I was white. OK, I played up mostly, but still, a record of +0 = 1 -4 isn't easy to rationalize. It occurred to me that I should switch to the accelerated dragon or something like that --something where if you make one mistake you aren't hopelessly, depressingly, strategically lost -- but the truth is that I should just learn to play better.

(173) Williams,Chris - Vicary,Elizabeth [B33]
USCL 17.09.2007

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bg5 a6 8.Na3 b5 9.Bxf6 gxf6 10.Nd5 f5 11.Bd3 Be6 12.0–0 Bxd5 13.exd5 Ne7 14.c3 Qd7

This move order is an idea of Rogozenko's, described in his excellent book The Sveshnikov Reloaded (page 294). More normal is [14...Bg7 15.Qh5 e4 16.Bc2 0–0 17.Rae1 (or 17.Rad1) ]. Chris played 15.Qh5 -- this is not supposed to be the most accurate response, because black can gain some time attacking the queen, either with Rg8-g6-h6 or sometimes Ng6-f4. I should mention that while this line with 14...Qd7 15. Qh5 looks better than normal for black, (and I think was for me in this game) the actual results at the top level are heavily skewed in white's favor. The basic plan for black here is Rg8-g6, Bg7, Ke8-f8-g8-h8 Rag8.

According to Rogozenko, instead of 15. Qh5, white should play on the queenside with [15.Nc2 Bg7 16.a4 Rogo gives 16...e4 here as the best move for black, but I think he's just following the one high level game played in the line. When I was preparing this I started looking at ways to delay ...e4, since I recently learned (after playing the Sveshnikov in blissful ignorance for maybe 10 years) that black actually doesn't want to play ths move. Generally she has to in the mainlines after Qh5 in order to blunt the light-squared white bishop, and ...e4 does have the advantage of freeing e5 for the black bishop or knight. But it also fixes the black pawn structure in an unpleasant way, facilitating white's undermining moves f3 and g4 and creating squares for the white knight on d4 and f4. Additionally, getting the bishop to move off the d file means the white queen defends the d5 pawn.

So I decided I wanted to castle here instead. (16...0–0 Now 17.Qh5 is no longer possible, because after 17...e4 18.Be2 the d pawn hangs: 18...Nxd5

This is happening because the white knight is already on c2. If it had been on a3 still, the bishop could have retreated to c2, and on Nxd5 recaptured Bxe4, owing to the pin on the fifth rank. Instead of 17. Qh5, white can play 17. Nb4 or maybe 17. axb5 first. Black will try to play a quick ...e4 and ...f4 (It's not the same at all to play ...e4 if you can follow with ....f4, because you can cover the light square weaknesses with .... f5), maybe ....f3, maybe ... Qf5, maybe ...Be5, Ng6-e5 or-h4. Alternately, if white takes on b5, sometimes black can play on the queenside with ...b4 and against the d5 pawn with Qb7. ) ]

15...Rg8 16.Rad1 Rg6 17.c4 e4 I hesitated a lot here. ... e4 is structurally commital, but I was too curious which way he would retreat the bishop. During the game I expected Be2, the consistent choice that keeps the pressure on b5 and forces me to defend or push it. I was reluctant to play ... b4, even though I guess it's the normal response to c4, because it pushes the a3 knight towards the center. ....Rb8 is tempting, but I had the idea that I would want this rook on the kingside and so didn't want to commit it unnecessarily. 18.Bb1 Bg7 19.Qe2

19...Rb8 [19...b4 20.Nc2 Bxb2 21.Nxb4 Be5 22.f4 I spent some time staring at this position in my head, but couldn't figure out how to evaluate it or what to do. Rybka's suggesting 22...Bc3 23.Nc2 Rb8 and I guess that is both obviously good and not very hard to see. ] 20.b3 I was surprised to see this; it's not a terrible move, but I can't see why white could possibly want to play it, other than to avoid losing a pawn. 20...Kf8 21.f3 Qa7+ 22.Kh1 Qc5 23.Nc2

23...Be5 My original intention, back on move 21, was to take on c4 here, but at the last moment I became really worried about 24. b4 [23...bxc4 24.b4 and now if I move the queen, my center collapses: 24...Qc7 (24...exf3 25.Qxf3 Qc7 Here Rybka is giving black –0.45; I guess I don't understand anything. If you get why black isn't worse, please leave me a comment and explain. I have nice pieces, sure I do, and I'm even up a pawn(!), but what am I going to do, win an endgame with my beautiful tight pawn structure?)

25.fxe4 fxe4 26.Qxe4 Rybka is claiming equality for black, but during the game I was scared of the open e and f files, plus I bet Fritz will say white is winning. Fritz always hates the Sveshnikov, so I avoid consulting it. ] 24.fxe4 Rh6 [24...Bxh2 I checked this-- would have been funny if it worked. 25.Kxh2 Rh6+ 26.Kg3 Rg6+ 27.Kf3 fxe4+ 28.Qxe4 but there's nothing] 25.h3 f4

[25...bxc4 I again considered taking on c4, which seems to be the best move, but I expected b4 and thought I'd lose c4 later and be down two pawns. 26.b4 Qc7 27.exf5 maybe that's just paranoia.] 26.cxb5 axb5 But now I get killed on the open c file. 27.Ne1 Ng6 28.Nd3 Qc7 29.Qg4 [29.Nxe5 Nxe5 30.Rxf4 This is the most obvious continuation, and I while I am down two pawns, my knight is just lovely and his bishop sucks a lot, so I figured maybe I could hold this... ] 29...Re8 30.Rc1 Qa7

I wanted to dream about Qe3. 31.Qg5 Rh4 32.Nxe5 Rxe5 33.Qf6 Qd7 [33...Qe3 I should have tried this. I rejected it for some reason, a reason I've forgotten the exact nature of, but not the right one. The truth is that 34.Rc8+ Re8 35.Rc3 is the only good line for white and I should have made him find it. After (35.Qxd6+ Kg7 the black king is totally safe. ) ] 34.Rf3 Reh5

Just a last try, threatening to sac on h3. 35.Kg1 [35.Rfc3? Rxh3+ 36.Rxh3 Rxh3+ 37.gxh3 Qxh3+ 38.Kg1 Qe3+ 39.Kg2 Qxc1] 35...Rh6 36.Rfc3 Kg8 37.Rc7 Nf8 38.Qg5+ 1–0
A nice game by Chris, who is awesome.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

the funniest thing ever

my four favorite lines:
1. "not to be sarcastic, but he's the opposite of Krasik"
2. the one that rhymes ghetto with fianchetto
3. "he puts the no in benoni"
4. "if you're up six pieces, beg Jesus for a draw"

Sunday, September 16, 2007

King's Gambit, writing, Polgar, rating snobbery, Rowson, fear

Let me start by saying Paul Hoffman’s new book, King’s Gambit, is well-written, entertaining, thoughtful and overall gets an enthusiastic two thumbs up from me. I’m going to criticize it in the rest of the review, but I want to be very clear up front that I’m enjoying it immensely and think you should buy it. What I really want to discuss are two ideas that have been bouncing around in my head lately, both of which are central to Paul 's book. Or at least central to my thoughts about Paul's book, and that's what counts, right? The first is the inescapable snobbery of the chess world—the way that your voice is only as authentic as your rating is high-- and the second is the degree to which chess journalism (in particular) is fighting a losing battle.

The most recent issue of New In Chess Magazine has a letter from a reader, David Wright of Sacramento, who takes Jonathan Rowson to task for his condescending review of Josh Waitzkin’s book The Art of Learning. While Rowson makes it clear that he essentially likes the book, his main point is that Josh can’t really be so good at learning or he would have made GM. David Wright’s point is that this attitude is more ungenerous than it is correct, and I think I agree. But it's also par for the course in the chess world: the belief that the higher your rating is, the more you have a right to an opinion. If you’re not at least a master, or in Josh’s case a grandmaster, then your experience is inauthentic and doesn’t really count. And you certainly shouldn’t have the arrogance to write a best-selling book.

I mention this NIC exchange because I had the exactly same reaction as Rowson on reading parts of King’s Gambit. Paul talks a fair amount of smack about his own experiences playing: about beating Rossilimo, being up a pawn against Stefanova (in a simul), giving Seirawan a run for his money (ditto), and almost winning the first blitz game he plays against Jenn Shahade (and notice that she didn’t really win in the end—he lost on time). My initial reaction was to condemn this as arrogant, to feel that Paul shouldn’t be bragging about how he’s outplayed all these world-class talents. But it’s not (in fact) arrogant, and it’s me who’s being snobbish and unfair. The man writes the book; the man gets to talk about his own experiences. Fair enough. And the more I thought about my own reaction, the more I started thinking that this particular snobbery is endemic to the chess world—just because we can instantly and accurately slot people into a rating hierarchy, we do. If you’ve ever been accosted by a stranger at a tournament who demands to know-- even before you’re introduced-- what your rating is, then you understand what I'm talking about.

And this brings me to my next point—journalistic distortion. Let me start by saying that in my experience it’s very difficult to write accurately and entertainingly about chess. I started covering tournaments for Chess Life and Chess Life Online about a year and a half ago, and I quickly found myself running out of things to say. The problem is that no one really cares about non-GMs, their games, their relationship to chess, their thoughts on opening theory, or their lives. But GMs, as a class, are not the most self-reflective people in the world. They don’t often say interesting, provocative, or quotable things, which creates a big problem in chess journalism and often leaves reporters grasping at straws.

Which brings me to my all time favorite example of grasping—the frequently cited statement in which Alex Shabalov claims to use 50-90% of his clock time in any given tournament game thinking about sex. This statement first appeared in an interview Jenn Shahade did with him in Curacao for Chess Life. She reprinted the statement in Chess Bitch, and it was (of course) widely quoted in the reviews of this book. Paul picks it up again in King’s Gambit. On the one hand, I understand—the statement is provocative, titillating, made by a top player, and useful in making a certain kind of argument. But Jenn and Paul choose to ignore an important fact: it’s very obviously a complete joke. I could offer support for this assertion—the setting of the interview (a tropical island in which alcohol is served in unlimited quantities for free), the observable fact that Alex calculates a great deal in his games and generally looks like he’s working hard at the board, etc-- but do I really need to? Is it even possible to think he’s serious? I feel like Jenn and Paul both know perfectly well that he’s kidding but simply can’t bring themselves to pass up such an great quoting opportunity. And that’s fine with me, just as long as they don't use quotes like these to make a serious argument about gender differences.

A small example of the same thing happened to me in Michael Weinreb’s Kings of New York, a book describing the accomplishments of some of my former students. While in general I’m a fan of Kings, I couldn’t help but stiffen while reading some of the descriptions of me. In a nutshell, I’m the dynamic but spiritually lost character who finds her true calling in teaching. And while this isn’t wholly inaccurate, I had to laugh occasionally-- in particular at a description of me teaching while wearing a sexy leather skirt. It’s a minor complaint, but I don’t own a leather skirt. And so I'm left feeling that the description is more about making my character cool and non-geeky than it is about me.

Let’s jump back to King’s Gambit. Recently in her blog, Susan Polgar mentions receiving the book, adding that she hasn’t yet had time to read it. An “anonymous blog reader” (why do they all sound suspiciously like the same person?) remarks that Hoffman’s book isn’t very nice to Susan and Paul Truong, and he's right. In chapter seven, “Female Counterplay,” Hoffman describes the 2004 Women’s Olympic team training sessions with Kasparov; Paul obviously took excellent notes because he’s able to reproduce much of the conversation exactly, and it’s fascinating reading. By far the funniest part is the desription of the software program advocated by trainer Michael Khordarkovsky: it claims to be able to advise women on the most suitable choice of opening for different stages of their menstrual cycle. Of course, this assertion begs a huge number of questions: Have there actually been any studies about how the menstrual cycle affects chess? What hard evidence exists about the relationship between established menstrual-related cognitive changes and chess openings? Who developed the program? Why?? Don’t Khordarkovsky, Truong, or Polgar feel like it’s inappropriate to invade women’s personal privacy, especially in the context of asking about “weakness”? If not, shouldn’t they?

(On a personal note to Mr. Khordarkovsky, two further questions of my own:
1. What if I don’t know more than one opening?
2. Could your program also bring me two Advil and some Kleenex, stroke my hair, and reassure me that I’m not fat and won’t die childless and alone?)

Of course, Hoffman has a field day mocking the idea and (if we’re being honest here) mocking Polgar/Truong in general. Paul writes with obvious incredulity about a Chess Cafe interview in which Truong details his childhood adventures as a Vietnamese chess champion and boat refugee. And in general, he comes across as reasonable, open-minded, rational, and convincing.

But then Hoffman throws in one last story, and it’s here that he loses me. In this final anecdote, he quotes Truong claiming to be a member of an exclusive hot pepper-eating club (“If normal people like us (meaning you—EV) tried the hot sauce,” Hoffman describes Truong saying, “we’d probably die.”) I’m sure the story as Hoffman relates it is factually correct, and it certainly works thematically with the rest of the chapter, contributing to the overall picture of Paul as a compulsive liar and show-off (or imaginative and entertaining story-teller, depending on how you see things).

But I also think it crosses a certain line of fairness. Myself, when I think back on all the stupid, arrogant, obnoxious, and sometimes totally untrue things I’ve said in casual conversation (let’s not even mention the thousands of examples I am happily incapable of remembering), I can only be happy that no one’s been taking notes. The bottom line is that you can make anyone look like a complete asshole by quoting casual remarks and adding a few ungenerous adverbs. And while I’m not saying Hoffman is right or wrong about Truong, I sure am glad he’s not writing about me.

Having said that, it's a great read, as is Kings of New York and Chess Bitch. Go order them all.

later note: I should add --because I think it's easy to get the wrong idea from this blog entry--that I personally have a fairly positive take on Polgar, Truong, and Khordarkovsky. By which I mean that I like them on a personal level, and I think they all do good things for chess. The above stuff seems like a choice of tactics to me, and while I quite possibly don't agree with all their actions, I don't feel like I can make too much of a judgment, not hvaing been there and all.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

US Champion Predicts Board Four of Upcoming Boston - NY Match

Hello blog readers! Sorry for the long delay in updating. I started teaching eighth grade English, and this has taken up an indescribable amount of my time. Plus I posted a little “funny” quiz on Sunday night, but in the cold light of the following morning I decided it was supremely stupid and had to be immediately taken down. I can’t tell you how afraid I seem to be of sounding unfunny. I can only compare it to my fear of death by falling.

Anyway…. Let’s first dispense with the title story. Here’s the conversation:

Elizabeth: Hey, do you think I’m going to win on Monday?
Alex: Sure, of course.
(long pause)
Alex: Who are you playing?
Elizabeth: I’m playing for the Knights. This week it's, errr, Boston, so I guess … black against Krasik or Chris Williams?
(I text Greg and find out my opponent is Williams).
Elizabeth: Williams. He's 23-something -- the kid I played the Sveshnikov against at the Continental.
Alex: Oh yeah, ok, that’s even better.
Elizabeth: (I think for a second and can’t figure this out.) Better than playing Krasik? Why better?
Alex: You won’t have to watch for Rxe4 every move?
If you aren't a diehard USCL fan, I should explain this one. Alex is making a joke about Krasik's victory in a flawed but gutsy and exciting Game of the Week from last season against NY Knight Boris Privman. For some reason, Greg "censored" one judging team's comments about the slugfest. The wildly amusing internet speculation that arose from this turned the game into a perpetual joke between us. See
for more.
Truthfully, I’ve always been horribly, painfully insecure about my chess abilities (yeah, I know, me and everyone else…), (I have to say, rereading this 8 hours later, I seem to be pretty down on myself these days?! ) but I have to say that some high profile games in the last year have done a great deal to allay this anxiety:
1. Panchanathan- Burnett, the second round game from last USCL season. If you missed it, take a look here:
By move 30, GM Panchanathan had a queen for 2 knights in what should have been an easy endgame. Then Burnett moved his knight to attack the queen, and Panchanathan just didn't move it. Just left it there.
2. Then came the Kramnik- Fritz mate in 1 comedy. I mentioned this blunder (in the context of “hasn’t it been a funny year?”) to Greg, and to my astonishment he disagreed vigorously:
“No! Cmon, Kramnik would *never* have made a mistake like that against a human.”
(I think, try to reason this one out for a minute and fail.)
“Huh? Why not?”
“Well, first of all, a human would never think to threaten mate in 1. And second of all, Kramnik would have seen it against a person.”

Readers: this kind of thing happens to me a lot. I don’t understand something and ask for further clarification but instead of clearing up my confusion the explanations only multiply it. Could Greg mean the computer “thought” Kramnik would fall for mate in 1? What would that even mean? Maybe the computer was “hoping” for something? Or maybe Greg’s saying that on some level that the blunder is understandable and therefore limited in circumstance?

I have no idea.

3. And now the latest Nakamura game. He didn't blunder like in the above games, but when he had 70+ minutes and was up a pawn against Vinay's 1.5 minutes, I thought the cat was firmly in the Knight's bag. Of course I’m rooting for New York and all its players; in addition to this hometown loyalty, I have a great deal of respect for Hikaru’s uncompromising nature. It's nice to be able to root for someone who is strong, plays a lot, never cheats and doesn't act like a terrified baby in the last round.

Of course, none of that stopped me laughing my ass off at his game. My friend Adia (who deserves a shout-out: she won the Atlantic Open Under 1200 section clear!) came over for dinner and we followed the action on icc. It makes me almost understand everyone else's love for televised sports.

And the bottom line is that it’s nice to know everyone else also screws up horribly and probably afterwards stays up all night wishing for a painful and private death.

So while I’m sad we have 0.5/3, the upside of this is that I feel much more relaxed about Monday’s match. What’s the worst that can happen?? I’m guessing it will be a Sveshnikov, and these positions always make me feel like I’m floating in deep space, away from the rest of civilization and rational thought.

In other news, my cats want in on the prediction game. Laugh now, doubters, but when Sixy and Doctor Sparky reveal themselves as reincarnations of the Delphi Oracles, you will be knocking down my door to apologize.

Today they’re insisting Moro will crush Svidler; Anand and Kramnik will draw like the boring gits they are; Grischuk edges Aronian in a hotly contested slugfest; and Leko-Gelfand ends peacefully. In the USCL, the felines take Queens over New Jersey, Baltimore over Philly, Dallas over Carolina, San Fran over Seattle, and Miami over Tennessee. They aren’t sure about the Monday NY- Boston match.

Non-chess life highlights: I went to a fantastic Interpol concert last night at Madison Square garden

. Cat Power opened; she has a (deserved) reputation for being disappointing live, and-- true to form --was only so-so. It’s hard to do a good concert in a large space when you’re best at dreamy spacey ballads. But Interpol was brilliant. I'm listening to their new album, Our Love to Admire, nonstop:

You can't hold it too tight,
These matters of security.
You don't have to be wound so tight,
Smoking on the balcony.
But it's like sleaze in the park.
You women, you have no self-control,
The angels remark outside,
You were known for insatiable needs.
I don't know a thing.

Last thing, before I go, a question for any computer brains out there: I have a VHS tape of the late Alex Wojt. giving a lesson on minor piece endings and I'd like to post it on this blog. Any thoughts on how to transfer from VHS to a post-able form, or on how large of a video file a blog will support? Thanks!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Greg Shahade's Reprehensibly Un-Commissioner-like Behavior

(Picture removed per Commissioner's request)

I am sorry to have to report that Greg Shahade, USCL Commissioner, recently violated his ethical obligation of impartiality by VISITING NEW YORK CITY, HOME OF THE KNIGHTS. For those trusting innocents who are thinking, "No, it can't be! That's not the saintly Greg Shahade I know!!" I'm sorry to say I have irrefutable photographic evidence (above). The first picture is him and his fabulous girlfriend Susan. If you haven't met Susan, try imagining a character, similar to a female Greg without the chess/poker* thing, but on Law and Order**.

In even more shocking news, it's rumored that Greg spent over 300 days visiting Philadelphia in the last year.***

*Except she does play Chinese poker (pictured).
**She's a public defender.
*** Also, my cat is a fire fighter.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Delaying What?

Below is an interview I did with Jaan for my Chess Life article on the Chicago Open last May. It got cut from the issue, ostensibly because I went way over my allocated word count. Or possibly for other reasons. But I think it's funny enough to deserve to see daylight, so here you are:

Interview with Jaan Ehlvest

EV: Tell me about the opening choice against Shulman. You always play this?

Jaan: What line do you want me to play? Chess is not so well-paid; I don't want to spend all day analyzing these lines. I don’t play like Wojt.; he knew even less than me. Ok, I am a little bit lazy with openings. I don't like to follow very modern lines because everyone is doing this. Actually I borrowed this line from Kamsky, from our game in 93 in Gronigen, which I lost. I also played it against Kasparov in 95 in a super-tournament in Horgen. But the Smyslov system, it’s good enough, and besides, no one plays the King’s Indian anymore. OK, Becerra, but against me he plays the Slav… OK, and Dmitry Gurevich, it’s true, so Dmitry knows how to make a draw in the King’s Indian with white, ok, so what?

Shulman is a very unpleasant opponent for me, because he knows his openings very well. Sometimes they are second-rate and he gets a worse position but he knows them very well. He likes to play forced lines, where he makes twenty moves in five minutes. He plays the King's Indian sometimes too, but the King's Indian is not so good right now. He plays the Vienna variation: 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 3. Nf3 dxc4 4. e4 Bb4 5. Bg5 c5. It's a typical line for Shulman, very sharp, all forced, not positional at all! Why didn't I play 1. e4? (pauses, thinks to himself) Hmm... oh yeah he plays the French, yeah.

Recently, I've had a lot of critics saying I should concentrate more during the game. But I'm usually very nervous, that's why I walk around. Chess is a horrible game. I mean, the game is very nice, but for a profession it's something else. It's not easy to concentrate, you know? If you try to over-concentrate, you can break down. It must be a balance. In American chess, concentration is not so important. Nearly all American players are patzers.

EV: Nearly all?

Jaan: The exceptions... Shabalov, Onischuk, Kamsky, Nakamura. But at some levels it is important to concentrate. Like in my game against Alekseev, in Moscow. I lost because he was concentrating better than me. But in the US Championship, I tried very hard. In my game against Nakamura, I over-concentrated. Sometimes you need to play more easy. Sometimes I play too hard. You get criticized when you do this, but you need to find the correct balance.
To find a good second is very hard. I can’t give advice to Shabalov, because he’s already a grown-up player. I should tell him to quit the Sveshnikov as fast as he can. It’s a horrible opening, positionally incorrect. If you are a weak chessplayer, like you, then it’s ok to play because there are forced lines and sometimes surrealistic positions. But if you are a very strong player like Shabalov, and you are playing Stripunsky why give him such an advantage? (Jaan refers to Stripunsky-Shabalov Foxwoods 2007--EV)

EV: So what happened in your game against Aveshkulov? You lost on time? I heard the position was repeated several times?

Jaan: My position was lost. We repeated three times, but I wasn’t writing the moves down. We didn’t even discuss the repetition. My head wasn’t functioning very well; I was tired from playing five games the day before.

You know what I hate the most in these tournaments? Delay! Delay is like a handicap for me. Delaying what?

EV- But even in Europe they have increment. Is it really so different?

Jaan—Of course! It’s vicey-versey! In delay, you have five seconds, if you have a crappy position, it’s enough time to find the only move. But it’s not enough time to come up with a plan. It gives more chances to the weaker player.

EV—I don’t really get the difference.

Jaan- Why don’t you understand? OK, here (shows me a position from a game he played that day in a G/30 against Sal Bercys: W Ke5 Be2 Be3 Pd5, c4, a3 B: Kd7 Bh3 Na4 Pc5, a6.) I have a minute; he has a few seconds. With increment white is winning, I can just repeat a few times, and build up 3 minutes, then find a plan. But delay is no help; I never will have more than five seconds. It’s black to move here. He can play 1… Nc3 2. Bd3 and go back with 2…Na4, because I can’t win the pawn with 3. Bc2 Nb2 4. Bb3 Bf1. In the game, he blundered with 1…Ke7. After this, when I take on c5 it’s check. If he hadn’t done this, I don’t know. The position must be winning, but with this time control I’m not so sure I can win it.

Increment is not allowed in America. It’s all Ivanov’s fault! Because he doesn’t like to lose on time! In my game with Aveskulov, there should have been an arbiter there to write down the moves, but they don’t want to do it. There are so many arbiters in American chess, but what are they doing? Never watching the games! (thinks) Actually with Aveshkulov we didn’t have delay. Or maybe we had. I didn’t notice.

EV-- What are your biggest problems in chess?

Jaan-- In general, I think my chess is ok, I only need to make some physical preparations: lose five pounds, play some tennis. OK, my main problem is time trouble. It’s a consequence of not knowing the opening so well. Also I’m afraid to make decisions. I should work on it, but look at Korchnoi, he’s a great player and was always in horrible time trouble.

But I will go to Pittsburgh, work it out with Shabalov, he will prepare me for the Continental. And I need to teach him some decent openings. Do you know why I’m so angry with the Sveshnikov? Because I can’t beat it. So he and I need to find some decent line against the Sveshnikov for white so I can beat people and he can quit it.

EV: You recently changed federations. Why’d you move to the US?

Jaan: If you want to play chess, you can only do it in the US.

EV: I thought the chess in Europe was very good?

Jaan: In Europe? What are you talking about? In Europe, if you want to make a living you have to beg these guys to play in the Bundesliga, the French league, the Dutch league etc.. But then you are not free, and I like to be free.

But what really happened was I met up with the late Wojo in late 2002 in Mexico, and he was bored, so in March 2003 I was like “Ok, I move to Baltimore.” But I was too slow to move, to take the necessary tests. And then this thing happened with Sherzer, and they made new rules for older guys like me. I was quite interested in doing an advanced degree in psychology, but I found out it was applied psychology, plus I would have to be there every day….However, there’s not much to do in Estonia…

EV-- So where are you based now?

Jaan—I’m a homeless chess player (laughs). I have some meetings in July, probably I’ll go to work in some other area, not chess. I want to play like Kamsky does: only in really good tournaments: the US Championship, the World Open, something else maybe, and at other times just work.