Wednesday, November 26, 2008

do you like ridiculous conspiracy theories and economic history? also Modernist poets?

Then you may be interested in this report, commissioned by poet Ezra Pound (?!) who was prevented from going to the Library of Congress because he was being held as a political prisoner in a mental hospital in D.C.(?!) It's about how some tycoons dreamed up the Federal Reserve System in some secret meetings on Jekyll's Island, Georgia in 1910. And how it's all one big scam, and they suck the wealth out of our hands.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Interview with IM Davorin Kuljasevic of the Dallas Destiny

EV: You've played a lot of great games in the USCL. Of this year's, which was your favorite?

DK: It must be the win against Becerra, cause he's obviously league’s MVP.

EV: Can you tell us a little about what you were thinking during the game?

DK: Well, I didn't have time to prepare for the game, because I just came back from Miami tournament, so I chose a peaceful line as white. Basically we had an isolated pawn middlegame where black should have enough play, but he traded too many pieces, in my opinion. And after that I achieved a kind of position which I really like, where he doesn't have much counterplay, and in such positions it's not so easy for him to defend. So I increased the advantage until I made the final blow Rxc4, and the rest was technique.

EV: I was looking at your games briefly before the interview, and the thing I noticed is that they are all long and have many distinct stages. Have you noticed this also?

DK: That's true. I rarely ever play games shorter than 30 moves, because I'm more of a technical player, playing for a progressively increasing advantage. My approach to chess is systematic and people often condemn me for that. I play the same way against 1500 and 2600.

EV: Really it’s because you are a technician? You don't think it's because you love chess very much and like to have games that have many different characters? A sort of quest for the epic?

DK: Yeah, more artistic, than functional, so I guess you're right in that sense. I guess chess reflects one's personality very well. I don't know if what I said made any sense.

EV: I understand what you are saying, that you are idealistic rather than pragmatic
in terms of playing the board and not the opponent, but it seems unusual to call yourself both artistic and technical?

DK: yes :) I took a personality type test in college, and it reflected these qualities, both artistic and technical, which is not such a common combination. Usually people are either / or. Guys are usually pragmatic; women more emotional.

EV: Do you do anything else creative besides chess?

DK: hm…. I play a lot of sports, which I think is creative in its own way.

EV: How? In a problem solving kind of way?

DK: First, if you play a variety of sports, then you can transfer skills from one sport to another, which is creativity in my opinion. And also because you have to come up with some unexpected moves to surprise your opponent, just like in chess.

EV: What sport that you play is most like chess?

DK: I'd say ping-pong

EV: Are you very good at sports?

DK: I'm very good only at soccer, but like to play all other sports: basketball, swimming, volleyball, you name it.

EV: In last year's interview, you described studying a lot of chess and taking business classes. Has either of those things changed?

DK: I'll be devoting much more time to finance than chess in the following months, cause I'm trying to land a job in the summer, so I have to focus on studying finance. I'll also be graduating in the summer.

EV: Does the financial crisis affect your plans then?

DK: Of course, unfortunately, but I hope I'll get a job. I'm in top 5% of my class, so I guess they'll appreciate that.

EV: What are the expectations like amongst graduating students?

DK: A lot of them already have jobs, surprisingly. But those who don't, they're just as inexperienced as me, so they don't know what to expect.

EV: Ok, back to chess! You seem to be one of the few people who regularly beats Vinay Bhat in the USCL. I think you are +2 =1 -0 against him in the USCL, plus you defeated him in the Miami Open. What's your secret?

DK: hahaha, I don't know, he's a tough player, but his serious problem is he's spending too much time that's not necessary at all. Even though he's good in time trouble, he's not playing his best in that phase, so that's where he makes greatest mistakes. Last year he played really well and achieved equality, but then he let himself into time pressure and made several mistakes. Same thing this year. The only clean game was in Miami; I just outplayed him there.

EV: What move did he think over that he really didn’t need to?

DK: I don't remember exactly, but it accumulates you know… every move you spend a few minutes too many and you’re in time trouble before you know it.

EV: Oh, I know. So if we assume Dallas plays its lineup from the semi-finals and Boston plays Christiansen-Sammour-Hasbun-Essserman-Krasik , how do you see the board by board match ups? Are there any must wins, for example?

DK: I only believe that Bayaraa is a clear favorite against Krasik. She plays really well, not just USCL. She's a level above Krasik, for sure. Other games are open.

EV: You weren't impressed with his defeat of Craig Jones?

DK: I'm impressed by Krasik's performance this year. Who wouldn't be? But I think Bayaraa is still a better player and that should show in the finals.

EV: Do you feel any special motivation against Sammour-Hasbun? Any expectations you can share with fans?

DK: Wait, is Craig Jones the guy from Carolina?

EV: yes

DK: Oh, that was a horrible game… but back to your question…. yeah, you know I'm really puzzled by this guy, Sammour.

EV: Why?

DK: He's a sort of enigma-- doesn't play chess for years then wins Dos Hermanas twice. And he has a very unpleasant style. He's a very challenging opponent.

EV: How would you describe his style?

DK: Active, he likes to play actively, but he's good at all other stages. I'm sure he'd be a GM in no time if he played in tournaments.

EV: Why do you use the word puzzled?

DK: He's unusual player. I have to admit that I didn't know what to expect when I was playing him last year. But we've played 2 games so far, so now I understand him better. That experience should help, should Boston put him on board 2

EV: That was a pretty amazing game you lost last year in the finals.

DK: Yeah, I lost the thread after I sacrificed a piece, and he rebounded. He knew how to take his chance.

EV: I noticed you had a particularly high score with white (+4 =1 -0). Is that why Dallas chose white on two and four?

DK: Because of Bayaara and me. Marko wasn't happy with that, because he had to play a ridiculous amount of games with black this year. But Marko is very confident.

EV: Why?

DK: If you see how fast he makes his moves, it's actually hilarious. He thinks for 15 seconds, which is quite bold if you're playing GMs on board 1. But he might have to spend some more time against Larry :)

EV: Is anyone on the team graduating this year? Are there any new players you are hoping or planning to get for next year?

DK: I don't know about any new players. This year we got a talented player from New Zealand. I project him to be a very good player

EV: What’s his name and how strong is he now?

DK: Puchen Wang, 2450. And yes, most people are graduating very soon: Drasko, John, Alejandro in the spring, me in the summer. Marko is doing his masters; Andrei's done; Magesh is also done. But no worry, we can still play USCL. We still have Jacek Stopa, Bercys, Wang, Zivanic, Zorigt, and Igor.

EV: You mentioned a tournament at UTD starting this week. What is it and who is playing?

DK: It's a traditional invitational tournament held every year. There will be 3 GMs: Becerra, Kudrin and Ramirez, and 7 IMs from UTD. I believe it's category 9

EV: Is there anything you would change about the USCL?

DK: More money! Make it a professional league, if possible. I know Greg is doing a great job with sponsors, but it would be great if teams could get funding of their own, like in Europe. And then have one playing venue, once a year. But that's European model.

EV: Ah, but why? Why get everyone together? Who cares? Spectators prefer ICC, and its so much easier.

DK: Yeah, you're right about that, but games can still be viewed online, even if they're played live.

EV: Clocks might not be accurate.

DK: That's a weak excuse.

EV: true.

DK: Most European leagues are set up that way, even Croatian.

EV: I saw you played in the Croatian league over the summer.

DK: wasn't very good. I missed my final norm in one move. I was completely winning and just blew it away and even lost in the end. So that was quite a punch in the face.

EV: Would you trade winning that game for actually taking a serious punch in the face?

DK: lol, yes! Absolutely

EV: Even if it broke your nose?

DK: I can grow a new one

EV: Nice. Last question. I would like you to tell me a story. It can be about anything.

DK: A funny one? I have one from my freshman year. It involves a banana peel.
I was hurrying to catch my class, history, and I was eating a banana. So when I came to the classroom, it was just about 7 pm, when my class was starting. But I couldn't figure out where to throw banana peel cause there was no trash around. So, I see women’s restroom, and I don't think, I just go in there and throw a banana in trash. No one was in there: so far so good. So as I exit the restroom, my history teacher comes down the hall, and he takes notice of me exiting the women's restroom and we stare at each other for a few seconds.

He was a pretty humorous guy, so he started teasing me about it big time. And of course he introduced me to the class as the banana boy. It was probably the biggest public embarrassment for me, but I thought the situation was pretty funny.

EV: That’s a very beautiful story. Thank you for your time.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Aravind Adiga is one of the 17 sexiest men alive!

"The literary world isn't exactly bursting with eye candy -- writers usually win us over with well-chosen words rather than hotness. But Adiga, now 34, scores both ways, an appealing mix of erudite and debonair, with his closely shorn hair and dark, dreamy eyes."

from Salon magazine. Aravind is an old friend of mine from college, and he won the Booker Prize for his first novel The White Tiger. It's really hilarious, although he claims it's not intended to be funny at all.

In other news, this is my classroom:

Friday, November 21, 2008

interview with me at BCC

There is an interview of me by Jason Rihel at the Boylston blog.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

somali pirates and an expert without a blood brain barrier

update: take this PIRATE QUIZ!! courtesy of that hard hitting news team at MSNBC (I scored an abysmal 20%)

So first of all.... how about those Somali pirates?!! Did you know they have hijacked thirty-six vessels this year alone? And last weekend they took a Saudi supertanker loaded with 100 million dollars worth of oil? I barely even remember what I did last weekend.

Check out the hilarious conversational style of this Newsweek piece:

What do the pirates do with their money?

The easy answer is they spend it. You see lots of brand-new pickup trucks and villas spreading all over the port of Eyl. There are brand-new hotels and restaurants catering to the pirates, a whole entertainment industry. There are lots of ways to spend your money—for example, they can also marry [an additional] new wife, which is allowed in Somalia:

he does it for love

when did Newsweek get so fluffy?

A Jon Stewart piece here.

photo: Fred Lucas

Chessbase reprints an interview with Levon Aronian, originally in Berliner Zeitung. I feel like people often make the mistake of treating someone who is an expert in one field as if they are an expert in others. The classic example is people talking about what Einstein thought about religion or central African politics when it shouldn't matter (since these subjects aren't physics). Or when reporters interview someone whose children were killed in some horrific way and they act as if this person has some special message to give us about the death penalty.

And this is my reaction to Aronian's comments: I just don't think he has any particular insight into the question of whether women can play chess. I definitely grant that he is an expert in the type of qualities needed in a chess player, but he doesn't have any specialized knowledge of cognitive sex differences or gender psychology or neurobiology. And I think you need that to have your opinion count for something. Or at least have coached some female players? Also, while he is obviously semi-famous and good looking and probably does well for himself, has he really had enough free time to get to know many women?

But it's a very interesting interview, and well worth reading. My favorite bit:

"Yes, I know there is a myth that chess is a very logical game. But chess is full of spontaneous decisions and determination. With chess you cannot even practice logical thinking."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

alice in wonderland

Alice's Chess Set
The pieces are translucent until they touch the squares.
read about it here. I just love everyone's obsession with making weird themed chess sets, despite the fact that no real chessplayer ever wants to play on them.

sets inappropriate for this blog

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"The Problem Is the Blood-Brain Barrier"

An Interview with Boylston Blogger Jason Rihel

EV: Let’s start with a few get-to-know-you questions. Tell us all about yourself: job, age, hobbies, family, involvement in chess...

JR: My job is, believe it or not, to watch zebrafish with video cameras. I try to see when they are sleeping, but also how they respond when we manipulate them.

EV: How many of them do you watch? And how much of the time are they sleeping? And do they dream?

JR: We can watch more than 1000 at a time. When they are young, they sleep quite a bit, mostly at night. They probably don't dream. Dreams happen when your brain starts firing in random patterns during REM sleep, and fish don't appear (as far as we know right now) to have anything similar to REM.

EV: Do you manipulate them when they are sleeping or awake and how? And why?

JR: We do lots of things when they are sleeping, mostly. For example, a good question is-- how do you know the fish are sleeping at all? They don't have eyelids... maybe they are just sitting, chilling with their bad selves, but are totally aware of the world at all time.

So, we look to see if their arousal threshold changes. For example, I can't wake up to my alarm clock. It goes off for a couple of minutes. But if it goes off when I am already awake-- damn, it is so loud! How could I not hear it when I was asleep?

When we are sleeping, we just aren't as aware of the world. And neither are the fishes. So, maybe, we'll flash a light on them, or touch them, and they don't respond as well.

EV: And you are trying to figure out if the people who just sit around all day, seemingly unmoving and unconscious, are really sleeping or just sitting there?

JR: Yes, some of the chess players who just sit there. Have you ever had a player fall asleep at the board?

EV: um, Jay Bonin maybe.

JR: Jay fell asleep on me, once, too! Sometimes Alexander Ivanov puts his hands over his face, but I think he is peeking through the cracks of his fingers.

Back to science-- we are trying to figure out how sleep works. It is one of the great mysteries-- Why do we sleep? And how do we sleep?

EV: Is it true that you can store up sleep and get behind on sleep?

JR: If you mean, let's sleep for like 24 hours and then go non-stop for three days?

EV: Like if I sleep 6 hours a night for a week, do I have a deficit of 7 x 2 = 14 hours?

JR: Actually, the math on sleep need is pretty confusing. I don't think we understand it. For example, some people just go and go without sleep, and their "sleep debt" doesn't build up too much. Other people have big problems with sleep loss. Also, it isn't as though you don't sleep for a whole night, then you need to make it all up. For example, if I stay up all night then go to bed normally the next day, I might only sleep an extra hour or two.

EV: It’s ridiculous to say fish don’t have any feelings, yes? I’m listening to the Nirvana song, “Something in the Way.”

JR: I can get into trouble here with the fish feelings…. Let me think how best to phrase it. Fish certainly have sensations. They can avoid painful stimuli. There is a long debate in the science community about what constitutes emotions and what constitutes a response to stimuli. One thing I can say is that the fish doesn't have some of the structures of the brain that process complex human emotions. For mammals, it gets harder to say they have no emotions, because they probably do.

Wonky, wonk. I can go on and on about fish, clearly.

EV: Do you eat much fish?

JR: I love sushi.

EV: Is there a big question you are working on right now in terms of sleep?

JR: Well, one thing we did recently was to check to see if what is known about sleep in humans works in fish. For example, humans have a peptide in their brain called hypocretin, and if they don't, they have narcolepsy. People with narcolepsy will fall asleep, often after a funny joke, or when they get too excited. Maybe you've seen My Own Private Idaho?

EV: yes

JR: Anyway, it means this peptide is involved in keeping us awake. And fish have the same peptide. And if you give the fish a lot of it, they are more awake. They become insomniacs.

EV: Given it to humans yet?

JR: No, but people have thought about this, of course. It makes mice insomniac, too. The problem is the Blood-brain barrier-- you can't just inject it. Right now we make the fish/mice transgenic.

EV: Transgenic= you change their genes?

JR: Yes, we change their genes.

EV: So how are you proposing to make it relevant to humans?

JR: I saw you had a post about the green cat (Mr. Green Genes, ed.). We make fish brains glow green, too.
Relevant to humans-- mostly, we think that the fish makes for a simple system to actually learn something about how it all works. Biologists do that kind of thing all the time. Sarah Palin might think fruit flies are a big waste of money, but almost all of modern medicine has been affected by great fly work. For example, the mouse has 10,000 of these hypocretin cells. The fish has 15-20. Simpler.

Speaking of Sarah Palin and your earlier question about my family…have you seen the fake interview Palin had with Sarkozy? When the radio station tricked her into talking with them?

EV: yeah, beautiful stuff

JR: Well. my wife wanted me to quote from that interview: "I have a hot wife, and she is very jealous that I am speaking with you today."

EV: My readers would very much like if you included a photo of her in the interview --they went crazy for Matan Prill's gf.

JR: Yes, I can send a picture. It isn't a lie. But you kind of need to know that Palin interview, or it sounds too bad.

BJ Richards, Jason's wife

EV: I like it; I'm setting a goal of out-objectifying Chessbase.
Right here: the most gratutious photos of attractive women of any chess website! USCL News and Gossip: the place to come for pictures of random chicks.
and who's this?? ... Magnus Carlsen's hot Danish half-cousin?? Or is it...

BJ Richards, Jason's wife

JR: My wife, her name is B.J., and she LOVES the Chessbase chessbabes…

EV: Agree or disagree: the East is a much more interesting division than the West.

JR: Ah. I think so, but I know more people in the East. There seems to be more bloggers devoted to the east and we have such colorful personalities.

EV: Agree or disagree: chess will steadily decline in popularity because the skill set it requires—the willingness to focus on one highly complex, anti-social thing for a long period of time-- is increasingly unimportant in the modern world.

JR: I agree with this. Here is what I dislike about chess-- so much is memory. My favorite games are starting to be the ones against players rated 1000. They do such BAD moves, but then I get to go all Morphy on them with little risk.

I used to think that I could brain my way through a chess game. But I have learned there is a limit to that. New games are already taking over people’s interest. My point is that it is daunting for new people to see that so much is known about chess, when they can be pioneers in new games.

EV: If you accept that chess is inherently on the down-turn, does that mean that trying to popularize chess is a pointless, futile battle?

JR: Probably. Interview over. Your question requires too much thinking now. It is a good one. In the end, all we do is futile, I guess. Fatalistic.

EV: Okay, we can move on to more formulaic questions. Tell me about your job at the BCC: what exactly are you in charge of, who else does the blog with you, how has it changed since Glickman stopped posting?

JR: My job at the BCC is such a non-job. I mostly took over from David Glickman, who took a (family forced?) leave from the Blog. I saw the blog as a way to promote our game and our club, so I wanted to keep it going. I recruited some other people so I don't have to be in charge of all the content. Mike Griffin, a long BCC member, and Bob Oresick, our Treasurer and longtime BCC member, have been very helpful. Master Alex Cherniack provides the best game comments, and check out his photo-essay on Aeroflot.

When the USCL started up this season, DG had been doing coverage of it, but that was jeopardized when he left. So I decided that I would run it again, after Greg S. kept asking for coverage, and other people in Boston said they liked it.

DG always thought the USCL was a great idea to keep our game alive, and I am pretty impressed with how much interest it generated.

EV: It seemed like you made some rather reasonable predictions and got taken to task for it, and then you went all out. Any thoughts on people's reactions?

JR: The reaction really surprised me. I thought I was being fair, but some people were offended by being told I thought they would lose.

I suppose I don't like being told I am going to lose, either, but the egos in chess always shock me. Win a game and half the post-mortem is about how that person was the one who really was winning until they made one careless move in time trouble or a meteor hit and distracted them. Lose a game, and you were worse from the opening.

I think this is related to why people were so mad that I was calling for wins and losses. But it shaped my style, too. I started to include references to Oujia Boards and other props to make it clear that I understand that I am only making predictions, not speaking perfect truths.

In a way, it has been one long goof on Ilya Krasik, who had the most vocal reaction. It is my way of saying, "Be cool, my brothers."

EV: Do you think in general that writing as opposed to speaking tends to mean people express more extreme emotions, possibly because they have time to think about it more, possibly because they don't have to actually face the person they are expressing emotion to?

JR: Well, in the sense that you don't have to be as willfully strong to say strong things on-line as opposed to in person.

EV: One of the things I've noticed and I like about these interviews on IM is that the slight delay of typing makes people's responses more thoughtful and more extended. I'm wondering if that idea can be generalized: internet conversations/ exchanges tend to be more thought-through (?) developed (?) than conversations?

JR: But wouldn’t you then expect less emotion and more thought on blog posts and blog comments, no?

EV: But I’m not suggesting emotion and thought are opposed; I think they are both heightened by time. People stew, plot, reread.

JR: Ah, maybe you find time to express that vague feeling. For instance, it is devastating if you are in person and you sputter something asinine like, "Yeah, well, ......, well..... shut up, poopy face!"

But if people really use the time to process more thought AND more emotion, how are so many of them still just variations on "well.... YOU shut up....well...."

EV: that's a good point.
This gets to a more general question about blogging I wanted to ask you: I’m interested in blogging partly as a general interest in genre and how it impacts meaning. For example, I’ve found that the casualness of blogging means that topics can be more diverse, thoughts don’t need to be in a digested, polished form, etc. It also maybe means that the tone of voice I write in tends to be lighter, “breezier.” Any thoughts about blogging as a genre, especially with regards to chess?

JR: In science, I have to follow such formulaic writing that blogging is a nice escape from that. I am really also just experimenting, in 1.5 hours or less, with my posts. It is a nice creative release.

Related to chess, I think that blogging is a nice promotional tool, and also there is a lack of really creative writing in chess that is both informative and funny/interesting/novel somehow.

EV: Which is your favorite, of the blog posts you’ve written? And also your favorite chess writing by other people, including books, magazines, blogs, genres, etc

JR: I liked that one where I hid the names of who I thought would win and lose in the typing. It was so lost on some people that another BCC blogger actually edited away all my typos before realizing what I had done.

My favorite chess writing. You know, this might sound like schmooze, but I really liked that piece that Shabalov did for Chess Life on the new MCO. Comparing Carlsen's games to MCO recommendations was inspired!

Best Lessons of a Chess Coach was well done, and I also really like Silman's books. I've gained 200 rating points or more from Silman.

I've been enjoying Mike Griffin's posts on the BCC. Lots of great BCC history that I like to learn about. Chess for me is as much about the people as it is about the game. Science is like that for me, as well. I almost like the stories about personalities as I do the science.

EV: Okay, let's talk a little about the Blitz. What's your relationship to the team? Are you friends with some of them? Do you go to watch the matches? How interested in the USCL are you?

JR: I love the USCL, and I keep tabs every week. I think Greg Shahade really had an inspired idea here, and finally we have a showcase for most of the best chess players in the US that we didn't really have.

As for the Blitz, I have long been friends with several members of the team. Marc Esserman was at my wedding. Charles Riordan and I have known each other for maybe 10 years now. I am cordial with many of the others. I may target Ilya a lot, but we have no problems, at least on my end. I don't go to the matches too often. I did once or twice, but mostly I watch on-line. By the way, I want to take credit for their success this year. Can I do that?

EV: Because you motivated them? Probably only if you share the laurels with me.

JR: I mean, look at Ilya. Ever since I started hounding him about his games, he has won every game! He might be close to a Board 4 MVP honors at this point.

EV: He has a tough game on Wednesday against Craig Jones. Any thoughts about the match up with Carolina?

JR: Yeah, I was going over the Carolina's Boards 3+4, and they are strong. That has been the tandem of their success. Get a draw out of Lev Milman or Board 2, win on 3 and 4.

I think Marc Esserman matches up well on Board 3. To me, that is where the match is decided this week. Board 1 and 2 are not to be underestimated, but let's say they split. That leaves a win on Board 3 really important, with draw odds favoring Carolina. I'm not worried about Ilya, this week, but this is probably his toughest opponent all year.

EV: Really? I would have thought Ilya is a serious underdog, and Boston has to hope to hold 2.5-0.5 on the top three?

JR: Well, in truth, this is probably true. But Ilya has been playing much better. Again, though, against not as strong opponents as Jones. I am worried about Milman winning on Board 1.

EV: Why specifically Milman?

JR: I was going over Milman's games this weekend, and he played some really good ones. I don't see him losing to Eugene Perelshteyn this week. Eugene is a good player, but I think his chess has leveled out. Milman is still getting a bit better, perhaps.

Don't get me wrong, stride for stride, Eugene is stronger. But Milman is playing at least at Eugene's level, from what I have seen.

Maybe my last comment is a paradox … but that's fine.

EV: Any thoughts on how Boston could improve? Suggestions for next year?

JR: One thing I wonder about is why Boston doesn't have a strong junior on Board 4. Wouldn't that be 1) a nice experience for them 2) a nice way to promote chess to kids?

I think Andrew Wang is a strong choice for Board 4. I also think Adam Yedidia could fill that role if he kept improving. But you know, he was showing me all the chess variants he invented, and all these interesting things about game theory. Maybe he is looking beyond chess. I hope so…. I hope so in the sense that I think chess is a gateway drug for more learning, not just for chess's sake.

make like a tree and...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Chess Lessons!

Grandmaster Alex Shabalov is down to give you chess lessons. He's having a special sale: lessons on skype/webcam/video-chat-type software are $50/ hour if you buy at least 8 hours a month, or $60/hour if you buy fewer. Email him at

Shin plays for Japanese Olympiad team, beats IM

Shin Uesugi is playing third board for Japan at the Olympiad. In round two, he beat IM Husein Nezad (2401, Qatar). He lost to GM Lupulescu (Rom, 2597) today, but is still 2-1.

Shinsaku Uesugi

part of the Japanese delegation (Shin, far left; Hikaru Nakamura, far right)

the scoreboard for round two

Feel free to leave Shin messages of encouragement and congratulations!

More Kid Pictures and Jon Stewart

When I woke up today, I watched Jon Stewart interview Bill O'Reilly on his show. (parts one and two here). It really made my whole day. I love that he is willing to stand up and say 'actually, Americans are not center-right, and they are not stupid, blood-thirsty voters motivated purely by fear. And the American tradition is the progression of individual freedoms-- gay marriage is the logical next step in that tradition.*' (Definitely watch until the end of part two, when we discover that in addition to not knowing the difference between a loofah and falafel, Bill O'Reilly doesn't know what a panda bear is.)

Below are more pictures of my students from the tournament today. (more here)

Myles, Shawn, Pobo

Joel, Juan



Lisa, Rebecca




Ashena, Pobo, Nicole

Randy with green popsicle

Pobo shows me his game

on the train going home

*not an exact quote

Thursday, November 13, 2008

blog hits and a new rating list

so two things today:

1. I get about 100 unique visitors a day, which seems pretty high to me. But I realized today that if you google "hot girl" in google images, the 'look I'm on the craigslist blog' photo comes up on page two, so I get about 10 visitors a day who are just hoping to see more of her. I also get about 5 who are drawn by the picture of Jolie and Banderas in the bathtub ("Original Sin.")

2. I thought I'd give you a rating update. Almost 6% of my school (pop 1500) are active USCF members. And look how much higher rated they all are compared to (less than) a month ago!

1. Alexis P 1848 (+ 162)
2. Rochelle B 1715 (- 59)
3. Daniel M 1706 (+19)
4. Pobo E 1687 (+112)
5. Orlando G 1661 (+74)
6. Myles F 1658 (+18)
7. Shawn S 1632 (+329)
8. Steven C 1627 (+7)
9. Mr. G 1521 (+18)
10. Miguel G 1512 (+28)
11. Randy R 1472 (+163)
12. Brittanie U 1434 (-46)
13. Amani E 1426 (-52)
14. Rawn P 1419 (+92)
15. Rashawn W 1413 (+132)
16. Jakob K 1408 (+47)
17. Kevin I 1388 (-2)
18. Ezequiel Q 1358 (+23)
19. John Paul G 1343 (-81)
20. Abadel P 1309 (+69)
21. Davon T 1299 (=)
22. Jose M 1282 (+40)
23. Azeez A 1273 (-50)
24. Sebastian D 1242 (+253)
25. Jacob M 1223 (+104)
26. Adolfo N 1222 (+223)
27. Ameer W 1204 (+246)
28. Rhoda L 1203 (+210)
29. Mr. M 1202 (=)
30. James O 1200 (+255)
31. Carlos A 1197 (+156)
32. Joel O 1170 (+318)
33. D’Andrea D 1159 (+93, but +856 since two months ago!!)
34. Mateusz C 1119 (-80)
35. Peter G 1109 (=)
36. Sekou P 1073 (+99)
37. Mitasha P 1046 (+51)
38. Talitha S 1038 (+53)
39. Alex C 1005 (=)
40. Sedrick N 998 (=)
41. Miguel V 975 (=)
42. Joel P 969 (=)
43. Jie Jing L 963 ( +22)
44. Chris C 942 (+461)
45. Joel de la C 909 (+421)
46. Juan C 909 (+126)
47. Cesar R 907 (+102)
48. Ezequiel A 904 (+134)
49. Daniel M 867 (+144)
50. Mateusz B 854 (=)
51. Lisa L 847 (+72)
52. Karen G 843 (+843)
53. Christian M 837 (-30)
54. Lovedeep S 837 (=)
55. Bilal H 814 (+123)
56. Patrick N 748 (=)
57. Carlos T 742 (+742)
58. Tony de la C 733 (-15)
59. Danny F 715 (+715)
60. Philip P 673 (+ 35)
61. Christopher F 667 (+101)
62. Richard W 657 ( -177)
63. Emmanuel O 654 (+80)
64. Nicole N 654 (-98)
65. Nydrah G 613 (+180)
66. Ivan P 569 (+569)
67. Myles B 557 (+70)
68. Aru B 552 (=)
69. Michael O 541 (+541)
70. Qi Yuan H 540 (+226)
71. Evelyn C 526 (+108)
72. Patrick J 503 (+503)
73. Roy G 501 (=)
74. Bo Xiang X 474 (+474)
75. Joel H 466 (+466)
76. Gabriela H 461 (+466)
77. Shondel N 439 (=)
78. Omar E 411 (+411)
79. Marlon F 392 (+392)
80. Luis T 392 (=)
81. Anthony O 379 (+379)
82. Aleem A 373 (+373)
83. Rebecca O 289 (+289)
84. Brian C
85. David K
86. Hector M
87. Giovanni Q

Ameer, Jacob, Jose, Amani

Sunday, November 9, 2008

My Weekend at the Marshall

waiting for the L train going home Sunday night: Myles, Alexis, JP

Myles, Rashawn, Azeez, JP
Rashawn, Azeez


Azeez, Rashawn



I took eight kids to play in the Marshall Amateur Team Tournament this weekend. I also played, at least on Saturday, with my friend Paul McCormick. On Sunday this extra kid showed up at school and I let him come along and take my place.

Guess who won the tournament? Alexis Paredes, 1725, who beat Darrian Robinson (1900) and some Russian expert (2033).

Interview With Seattle Slugger FM Slava Mikhailuk

EV: So I have to start with a question about your incredible pawn ending against Kuljasevic in the last round 2 years ago. What an amazing game! Can you tell me a little bit about what you were thinking when you were playing it? How much you saw at the time? When you thought you were winning? Anything like that?

SM: Yes, that was a memorable game. I knew I had to win to give our team a chance to advance. Throughout the endgame I remained optimistic about my position, and kept looking for options. I found the way to trade the bishops, and it was obvious that at least I had good winning chances.

I saw some lines which were published later, not all of them, of course, but I just kept looking and knew that my opponent was under more pressure now that all the sudden the position changed and instead of moving the bishop he had to calculate a complex position.

EV: Did you realize 65...Ke7 was better than 65...Kd7 at the time? did you see 68... Ke8? That's impossible to see at the time, right?

SM: I didn't see all the lines obviously, but during the few seconds I had for the move I didn't see a clear win after either one. I kept looking though.

EV: And of course the follow-up question is about your endgame with Ginsburg 2 weeks ago. Have you always had this talent for winning drawn endings? Any thoughts about the game? When did you think you would win?

SM: It's kind of similar. I remained optimistic about my position throughout the game. There was one moment (he played a3) when I thought I would be in trouble, but I think he misplayed it and I got an edge

EV: You didn’t answer the bit about whether you usually win drawn endgames. Are you very good at that?

SM: I win my share.

EV: But I think you win more than your share. Agree or disagree?

SM: Probably I win more endgames than lose.

EV: You seem like an extremely clutch player, someone who comes through in time of desperate need. How sad are you not to be playing in the semi-finals? Do you think you might play in the finals?
And the follow-up question is "Are you furious with the team for their endless ingratitude?"

SM: I won and lost a share of clutch games, so I am not sure if I am a "clutch" player.

EV: Won and lost? Ok. What games did you lose? I could only think of this year and 2006: big games.

SM: I have been playing chess for awhile. Wins are, of course, more memorable. It just adds more value to the win, if you manage. I enjoy playing under pressure.

EV: Name an important match in which you lost and it made the difference. I bet you can't.

SM: lol. Not in team tournaments

EV: I’m awesome. Okay, you were talking about being sad about not playing?

SM: I enjoy playing, and playoff are special, so yes, I am sad about not playing. However, it's a team tourney, and our manager selects the team.

EV: Did you guys talk about it?

SM: A bit. Eddie made a case for the line up, and we went with that

EV: Secretly, you hate him? Just blink twice. I know you must.

SM: lol. Seriously though, the line up is good

EV: Talk me through your expectations for Monday…board one: GM Julio Becerra 2640 – GM Hikaru Nakamura 2742?

SM: I afraid I won't be too original. Hikaru is higher rated, and one of the strongest players in the world. He should have an advantage

EV: You're hilarious. 2?: FM Bruci Lopez: 2486 GM Gregory Serper: 2592
That Lopez is crazy strong?

SM: Serper is better. Our top boards are one of the strongest if not the strongest in the league.

EV: Okay 3: Perea is a scary Cuban: Michael Lee is a little boy?

SM: Well, bottom boards have not done too well this season, but I expect that to change. Michael should be the difference maker.

EV: What is that code for?

SM: Michael could win.

EV: What's your over under?

SM: For this game? 45% to a win, 25% to draw but don't tell anyone


SM: I know


SM: ok

EV: You think Lee has a 45% chance of winning? You are insane.

SM: That's how I win those drawn positions.

EV: The relentless optimist?

SM: yes

EV: Okay , Matan Prilleltensky: 2116 Andy May: 2134-- the Jewish Cuban dude wins on name alone?

SM: I would give Andy a small edge, not as big as Michael

EV: So you guys crush Miami by what score?

SM: 2.5 : 1.5

EV: In the last couple years, you've been relatively inactive in OTB chess. How do you manage to do that and still be good?

SM: I teach chess. Most of my students are beginners, but there are several pretty strong kids, so I have to study to keep up with them.

EV: How strong are they?

SM: Currently my highest rated student is Dakota Dixon. His rating is about 1900. I hope he could join Sluggers within next few years.

EV: Nice. Can you tell us some general things about your life: your age, job, where you were born, how long you've lived in Seattle, who you live with, what else you do besides chess, your favorite book and movie?

SM: I am 37. Over the last 5 years I have been teaching chess full time. Before that, I worked at Microsoft for a few years. I moved to Seattle about 13 years ago. I am married. Have a 3-year old son. My favorite book/movie is Lord of the Rings.

EV: Who's your favorite character?

SM: Frodo.
I play poker a little. I like watching professional sports. My favorite is football nowadays. Before it was basketball, but I don't enjoy it much anymore.

EV: Why?

SM: I don't know. May be football is more like chess (turn-based)

EV: That's a great thing to say. Are you good friends with the rest of the Seattle team? Do you have any good team stories?

SM: I can't think of a good team story. Our team players are nice and friendly. We meet at the matches and support each other.

EV: Who's your favorite teammate?

SM: Serper. He is from former Soviet Union. I could relate to him more than to the other players.

EV: Where are you from?

SM: Russian Far East: Khabarovsk

EV: Let's talk about the news of the moment: Larry Kaufman winning the World Senior. How big of a deal do you think this is, and how big of a deal do you think people will make of it? Have you ever played Larry Kaufman, and if so what's your score against him? Also what chances would you give the you of 25 years from now in a 10 game match against the Larry Kaufman of today?

SM: It's a big deal for Larry to win the World Senior. We played once, and I won. That was quite a memorable game for me since it was one of the first games I played in the US against an IM. I was black and won a nice tactical game.

EV: You think he will get any credit for it?

SM: I don't know, but it's a big deal for him at least. He is the World Champion, and that's big. If I play him in the scenario you described, It would be a tough match since he is the world champion.

EV: but...?

SM: His rating now is, what, 2430? Same as mine NOW. They say it goes down with age... I have to pick him, 50-30-25.

EV: Wow! Ok, thank you, is there anything else you would you like to express to the USCL community?

SM: USCL is a great place for players like me to stay active and play competitive chess. Kudos to Greg and the sponsors for making this reality. I hope the league will flourish, and Seattle will become the champions.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Interview with Carolina Cobra Captain Craig Jones

EV: Probably I should start with a big congratulations! What a performance by Carolina all season. Did you guys see this coming, or are you as surprised as the rest of us?

CJ: I think we are pleasantly surprised, yes.

EV: Why do you think Carolina did so well?

CJ: In hindsight, I think Greg (Shahade) alluded to this. He said, "Carolina always has its A team ready.” The more I thought about that, the more it made sense. So for example, on paper a team can be very strong, but all that matters is who shows up. You are only as good as the team you field. If a strong team fields a weaker lineup, that’s their team. Their team isn’t the one that could have played. You are what you do, not what you could have been so to speak.

On the other hand, Carolina has Lev Milman, who I believe has played more USCL matches than anyone ever. He’s always available, always willing to play, always giving his best. I hear about other teams --this or that player isn’t there etc.—that’s part of their team. That, makes them what they are. The fact that Lev and Oleg play Every week is what we are.

EV: Tell me about Oleg. What's his story?

CJ: I am not sure what Oleg’s story is. ;-) I was the private coach to a couple Denker reps several years ago when Oleg was top dog in those events so I knew of him. I believe Oleg won the Denker as a 9th grader and then did it again-- I am not sure of this just recalling. I used to chat with his mom at those events etc. Oleg is from Oregon. Oleg is quiet, always polite, always reliable, he and Lev… ALWAYS there ... that’s so important. It would be interesting to look up but I would imagine he has to be the lowest rated 2nd board in the league. It’s not easy for him, but he has a great positive attitude.

EV: Carolina started 1-2, but then went +5 =2 -0 in the last seven games. Did something change mid-season?

CJ: No, nothing changed that I can think of … well … let me answer that a little…. chicken and egg....a change didn’t make us better, however, after a few weeks of not losing that would last 7 weeks, it seemed instead of always "how do we survive another week," it turned into “it felt like we won’t lose another.” That was gradual.

EV: Optimism took over?

CJ: Exactly, and we have it now. I think we feel now we are in every match and expect to do well, whereas before it was we hoped for the best. We have improved every year in team points, btw.

EV: As manager, how do you choose your lineups each week? How much is about player availability? Do you try to predict what roster your opponents will use?

CJ: Our lineups are easy: Lev always plays. After Lev, then it’s either Oleg or Jonathan Schroer, but Jonathan prefers to be an emergency backup, and Oleg is always available, so that’s another easy decision. I made sure Jonathan got 2 matches in so he was available for the playoffs. If we play Oleg, then it’s Ron and then me: all other lineups are weaker except if we play Jonathan, then Oleg or Ron (or even myself) could go on board 3, but usually we would go with Oleg because Ron has to get up at 6:30 am for work. Ron is always available, but doesn’t complain if he stays home and gets to go to bed on time. If Schroer plays, then we use Udayan Bapat.

EV: And how often did you play this superior Lev-Oleg-Ron-you lineup?

CJ: I believe we played that lineup 7 times. I am not sure that lineup is better than Schroer-Bapat. They are about dead even I think, so that’s a hard decision. It was very difficult for playoffs, very hard to figure out which one was better.

EV: Did you try to think about who NY would play?

CJ: Well, I did. I was fairly sure they would play Charbonneau...since he has been so reliable and active for New York for so long. On a side note I believe Lev Milman has played more matches than anyone in USCL history and Charbonneau can’t be far behind in that count so you have maybe the two most active players ever meeting one another. I expected Charbonneau--Krush--Braylovsky--Herman
They played Charb--Fed—Braylovksy -Zenyuk: 50 percent we guessed right..:-)

EV: So why did you choose the lineup you did against that expected team?

CJ: I don’t know. It was a coin toss more or less. I went with the lineup that had played the most and had the most experience I suppose. I don’t have a good answer.

EV: Next question: You beat Zenyuk with black this year, and lost to Herman with white in 2006, (although I think perhaps you were better and lost while over-pressing due to the team situation) Were you surprised the Knights are playing Zenyuk? Whom would you rather face?

CJ: I wanted to play Herman. Or maybe I just expected to play him I got that in my mind and so forth. All opponents are difficult for me. I think the idea of trying to do better versus Herman this time since I let the team down last time seemed like good motivation.

EV: Let's talk about the Carolina match up board by board. Where do you see your two points coming?

CJ: I like to think we have good chances to score on every board. To think we won’t score on every board is a wrong mindset..;-) And if you feel like you have chances on every board getting 2 points feels a lot easier. Also looking at this board or that board is too confusing once the clocks start everyone is trying their best on their own games and not thinking “OK we will win x board and draw Y board I just need a draw” that’s just unrealistic.

EV: No doubt, but are there must win boards for you? Or boards where you would be happy with a draw? Or is that question ignoring your answer? It probably it is…

CJ: No, I think we are GREAT everywhere. I feel we can score on every board or at least we will try our best. I had this discussion with a team member, and it was funny. We both sorta said at same time the best way to win isn’t to try to say win here draw there play for this or that you just try your best every board. I think micro managing pre-resulting is impossible. It would be interesting to see a record of that: how many times anyone’s "goal" before any match is compared to what happens...

EV: That would be the USCL prediction contest perhaps?
So if you beat NY, you'll advance to play either Boston or Queens. Who would you rather play? What do you think Carolina's chances are to beat NY? To win the East? To win the USCL? (You can not answer the last 2 questions there, if you prefer, but I’m curious who you would rather play)

CJ: That’s a great question….Boston or Queens?... hmm… I think Boston has just done great against us over the years and Queens we did well against this year ... so therefore..... I don’t… It’s hard to think that far ahead.

EV: Sure. Okay, let me ask a more short term question...Lev Milman is graduating next year. What will Carolina do without him? Do you have any new prospects? I heard a rumor that Daniel Ludwig might be going to Wake Forest?

CJ: Yes Lev leaving is horrible. He has a job lined up in finance—one of the lucky few I imagine-- I keep suggesting he go to B school or law school or something and "hide " for 2 more years-- his prospects would be better…of course I want him to stay… But he wants to get in the working world, maybe a little tired of college. That’s where his interests are at this point..
And yes, Daniel Ludwig informed me he would be coming to Wake Forest.

EV: That’s fantastic for you. Wake Forest is quite close to Durham i think?

CJ: Yes Daniel is great. He strikes me, always has, as someone stronger than his rating though maybe that has caught up I haven’t checked. Daniel will be like Lev, always outrated, but he is the kind who can take down anyone in a given game should be an exciting first board for us as it is now. Wake Forest is a little far, an hour+: I wish he was going to UNC or Duke just for the convenience factor.

EV: Any other new prospects?

CJ: well.. every year a place like Duke/UNC seems to get a strong player and sometimes you don’t even know they are around. A few years ago there was a GM at Duke I didn’t even know it!

EV: Who?

CJ: Well, I stumbled upon him by accident, I forget how that happened. He had been out of chess and just wasn’t ready to play at that time. Anatoly Volzhin. He was @ 2600fide so very strong.

EV: Never heard of him

CJ: lol… I hadn’t either. GM Marcin Kaminski knew him. I asked Marcin to contact him initially and he did. At a very large university, the chances of an international student who is a 2300+ level player is possible. Finding them isn’t always so easy, but I will try.

EV: Interesting. Is there anyone else you could pay to travel and play? Would you do that?

CJ: We are rather isolated. Too bad Charlotte wasn’t closer. If the players from Charlotte could be included, the team could be-- maybe not stronger on the high end-- but just deeper and solid.

EV: Who’s in Charlotte?

CJ: Andre Chumachenko..a 2450ish type player. He was on our lineup last year for use in emergencies and was willing. But he is a high school teacher ... it’s 2.5 hours ... matches can end as late as midnight. It’s just a lot to ask someone.
Chris Mabe, Mike Klein: I would love if they were on the team. They are great for chess and we would love to see them on the team; it’s just too far.

EV: Mike doesn’t play anymore though-- at all, no?

CJ: Well Mike hasn’t missed a Land of Sky in many years I think. So he plays at least 1 event per year.

Speaking of not playing, Oleg is basically completely out of chess, and Lev is except for summers. Oleg’s last rated even was December 07 ... Pan Ams, and only one other event in 07. So none this year, 2 in 07, 5 in 06. This is normal for many top scholastic players they go to college and leave the chess world behind.

EV: How do you think he manages to play well without rustiness?

CJ: It’s remarkable, to be honest. He just doesn’t play or study or practice at all as far as I know. We have looked at things online together before a match and I asked him what resources he had. Like database, fritz, opening books etc. He said he didn’t have anything or I think that’s what he said. He is completely in non chess mode as far as I can tell. Makes it even more impressive he is so reliable to always make matches and so forth. I think maybe certain styles, their “muscle memory is better” I’m not sure. For example if your strength/confidence comes from specific knowledge of opening lines and you leave chess for awhile and come back your not going to be very confident. If your strength lies in areas that are less sensitive to erosion of skills—whatever that maybe—than it may not be as important. Oleg works very hard in the matches. I realized once that sometimes during entire games that last 3+ hours, sometimes he never gets up ... almost never stops looking at his screen. He’s one of those..;-)

EV: You guys play on screens not boards?

CJ: Oleg and Lev use only their comps. I like a board.. Ron uses a board … Jonathan uses a board ... Udayan does it both ways..;-)

EV: ok, a team story maybe?

CJ: Hmm, well, without a doubt the most memorable event ever was the Bereolas affair if we can all it that.

EV: hahahha. I wasn’t going to bring it up, but of course it’s hilarious.

CJ: Now we just say things like "It’s a potential Bereolos situation," or "It’s the Bereolos effect.” The moment that happened is probably unlike anything I have ever experienced in chess which shows the potential fun of team events etc.

EV: Can you briefly describe the situation for readers who aren't up on their USCL history? Or I can, but I think people might like to get the Carolina perspective on the story.

CJ: We were playing TN in the final match of the season. We had to score 4-0 to make the playoffs. (At the time of the game for some reason some of us thought we just needed 3.5) Matthew Hoekstra was playing Peter Bereolos, a 2300+ player. We had 2 rooms so all of us are in one room while Matthew sat alone in the playing room with, I think, the TD, Brad Marts. The position was such that a 1000 level player would beat Anand-- I don’t think that’s an exaggeration. The simplest of King and pawn endings, make a queen and force checkmate. We were packing up to go home. I always of course stay to the end but sometimes players leave early but this was the last game of the last match everyone was there, waiting for Matthew to resign.
Lev was sitting at his laptop and he started grinning a little and said something like “Bereolos has 7 seconds left, what’s he doing” For the next 7 seconds we of course expected him to move, get his increment and quickly win. 6 –5—4—3—2 I recall looking at Lev’s laptop leaning over and just waiting for Bereolos to move to end the drama but he never did. It hit 0 and the magical “black wins” goes up on the screen.
I think that moment is the only time in my life that I actually jumped up and down screaming over a chess result! It was just unreal. I ran over to where Hoekstra was and he just sat there with the biggest smile you could imagine and said “What just happened?” He really didn't understand what was going on. I began to think it may have been one of those situations where he got disconnected and the clock kept going that happens occasionally but it wasn’t so.

Then, as I was walking back to our other room, the phone rang. It was a very upset Greg Shahade. He was stunned … he was beside himself: “what is going on? what happened?" In the emotion of the moment he felt the match should be replayed. I didn’t want to respond to such a thought so I just handed the phone to our TD, Brad Marts.

EV: Why exactly was Greg so upset? Not because he was upset for Philly? But because people would see the result as dubious?

CJ: Well, he was scared how it would look I suppose.

EV: Right. Of course the main way it looks is hilarious.

CJ: He said something “This is just off the wall, maybe we have to replay this." He was just very concerned. So I handed the phone to our TD -- whom the Commish should be talking to during matches-- not all these players and managers anyway. So our TD explained it very well. He said, “To suggest a replay of the event lends credibility to the idea that something wrong happened and clearly nothing wrong has happened. "

Greg accepted that logic and we quickly moved on.

EV: Nice, very cool and collected of you. Another team would have threatened to withdraw from the league. And then would have been fined.
CJ: Our team is great.. everyone is cooperative and supportive and friendly. I hear so many stories of teams having issues, and in 4 years we have never even had 1 issue I can recall. We just show up and play and have fun.

EV: Want to give a coaches award to an MVP besides Lev? I mean, obviously Lev, but want to single out anyone else?

CJ: Ron Simpson has been great this year. Ron Simpson LOVES chess. Ron is one of those wonderful guys who will sit with anyone and just analyze. Ron is a creative romantic type of player, always trying to create things on the chess board. He obviously is a strong master, but I think he is as interested in creating something attractive as much as he is in winning. A true chess artist. He is super positive ... always thinks he will win, no matter how bad his position might be. Maybe he always finds something good about it to work from .That’s a great attribute.

Ron is from NYC, went to CCNY, is married, lives in Raleigh, works for NOAH (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association), has 2 kids, his older son is a higher level HS basketball player: division one material apparently.

EV: So anything else you want to say?

CJ: The USCL is great. It’s good for American chess promotion, and so we need to see the big picture: it’s most important that the League does well. And so it seems that we should focus on big issues, and not get bogged down in negativity and petty politics of trivial things. And so it’s beneficial if we all work together for that purpose, and getting bogged down in some personal issue or this right or wrong hurts the league and further hurts whatever gripe any given person feels is important at a given time. In my lifetime there have been many sponsors of chess at different levels. At the highest levels Swift Bank, Bessel Kok, Intel and many others even in this country. Erik Anderssen is just one. They were generous, but chess players don’t seem to appreciate that those who write the check usually have the most say. In most other things, any other sport, the participants are always giving huge props to the sponsor, or those that make it happen. They are almost trained to do this it's so regular. But in chess? No. It doesn’t seem so anyway.
You have players telling the sponsors how things will be, and voila! The sponsors grow tired and stop.
So something like the USCL should be appreciated as best as we can. Think about what you say or do for a moment. Of course there are many issues to be improved, but not at the cost of hurting the league. Each year I have written a letter thanking Poker-Stars for their support of this league. I certainly hope every manager does this: it’s the absolute least we can do.

tired of election coverage?

How about some USCF lawsuit news?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Interview with Queens Pioneer IM Dmitri ("Sugar") Shneider

Elizabeth Vicary: You just got back from China. Tell us a story from your time there.

Dmitri Shneider: I have to say it was one of the most incredible tournaments I've ever been a part of. Being part of a team is always more fun than playing individually, and the competition was quite strong with the stakes being some of the highest that I’ve had the pleasure of competing for.
One moment really stands out in my mind though. It was in the playoffs, during the first round against Ukraine. I wasn’t even playing, which made it more intense, as I had to watch the games get down to the final minute, where every move was the difference between the win and a loss of the individual game, as well as, potentially, the match.

So I was watching Shaba's game against Korobov (top 100 GM), which was opposite-colored bishops with queens when he was up some pawns but his king was in constant danger. It was incredible how they both had less than a minute left and we're down 2-1, and Shaba just kept on pushing and pushing and pushing, opening up his king with g5, and then h4 (which looked crazy, but brilliant). And then white's king came to d6, and they both queened, and at some point they made moves with less than 5 seconds on the clock. I normally don't get too excited with regards to chess (when playing, there’s not that much time to get nervous as it’s necessary to focus on the board; while in all the team tourneys I’ve played in, it was never really that close or the stakes weren't that high)... and here its just going down to the wire, and Shaba's really just playing his heart out, and if he wins the match is tied, if he loses we're in quite a hole. And I’m like, he has to have mate, but he couldn’t find one, and they both get 2nd queens, and you have to figure something has to give... but unfortunately within a few moves everything was traded and a theoretical draw occurred with only the rook pawn and the wrong colored bishop against the lone king.

And it’s like wow, that was exciting. My heart was just beating the last 10 minutes of that match. Definitely wish there was more chess like that, and thinking well, everyday should be more like that. Definitely super impressed with Shaba there.

Elizabeth Vicary says: With his chess or his nerves or both?

Dmitri Shneider says: His nerves, his chess (I’m sure he had wins somewhere, but he just kept putting pressure, taking risks, but somehow staying alive), his whole demeanor as he gave it 100%, there was no holding back. That's why he's a world class player: he knew that there was only one result and he didn't give up until the position on the board made him.

Elizabeth Vicary says: How was the chess you played there? I understand you were the only American to win in the Armageddon final vs. Iran? Was that your best game?

Dmitri Shneider says: I played ok. I'm semi-retired now, as work doesn't give me much time to play often. I definitely made lots of mistakes, and my rustiness was evident. I played some good games, but the games I lost were horrible. I made moves and miscalculations that I never would have when I was playing regularly.... The game against Iran, I knew that I could beat that guy, and my mind was clear. I was in the zone. I don't think it was the highest quality game, but I put lots of pressure on him from the beginning, and I was more or less always in control, even with black; and I feel like I was just the better player that game... Whether it was my best game is hard to judge, as I made lots of mistakes the whole tournament. I did enjoy the finish against the Mexican player where I sacked the queen and it turns out he has to resign a few moves later.

Elizabeth Vicary says: So you graduated from UTD a year and a half ago with a degree in finance(?) What’s your life been like since you move back to New York? Job? Apartment? Social life?

Dmitri Shneider says: I have a B.S. in finance, and a minor in economics. I took some time off after I graduated to play some tourneys in Europe, as well as a few strong open/invitationals in US. I felt like I needed to get it all out of my system before going corporate (that and I had no idea what I wanted to do, so it gave me a little bit of time to figure it out).

NY is amazing... I love my apartment, and the Upper West Side. Central Park (especially now in the autumn) is the most beautiful thing in the world. I'm pretty lucky to be working at J.P. Morgan, (especially since it sometimes it feels that Wall St. is crashing down), but also because I work with some very smart and friendly people and have developed some great relationships within our analyst class.
Elizabeth Vicary says: What exactly do you do day-to-day at your job?

Dmitri Shneider says: I work for the Private Bank at J.P. Morgan, helping manage money for ultra high-net worth clients. I analyze data, a lot of it, follow the stock market, make sure that everything is running smoothly, so that our Portfolio Managers can do their job as best they can.

Elizabeth Vicary says: How much time do you spend at work? What do you do on weekends?

Dmitri Shneider says: My hours are pretty good for finance: I get in by 8am and leave by 6:30-7pm unless I have urgent things to finish up.

Social life is great. I mean how can it not be in NYC? On weekends, I try to do all the things I didn’t get a chance to during the week: i.e. going for a run in the park/ gym, laundry, groceries as well as just catching up with friends, going for brunch, catching an indie at Lincoln Center. Obviously the night life is awesome and now that it’s fall, its NY Giants and Entourage time…Weekends go by wayyyyyy too fast.

Elizabeth Vicary says: Do you see yourself returning to competitive chess in America?

Dmitri Shneider says: Well, I didn’t plan on returning anytime soon, but China has been an inspiration, so I'm hoping to try to qualify for the U.S. Championship. I’ll definitely play USATE as I’ve missed only twice since I was 10 years old.

Elizabeth Vicary says: Has it been announced how you can qualify for the US Champs?

Dmitri Shneider says: No, I’m still trying to figure that out.

Elizabeth Vicary: You mentioned that you played a lot post-college. Tell me about that.

Dmitri Shneider says: Post-college playing was great. I played incredibly well at Pardubice Open in the Czech Republic in the summer 2007 and missed a norm by half a point. I was in a really good spot-- had something like 6/7, and I was playing GM Potkin and he offered me a draw. And doing the calculations before the game, I knew that if I won, I’d make the norm immediately, and if I drew I’d probably play down with black and would have to win. But if I lost there was a chance I’d get too low of a player and would be out of the running. My position was better, so I had to play on, and in time pressure I blundered a pawn and lost. Sometimes, I second-guess that decision to decline... but if the position is better have to play on no matter what, so overall pretty sure I would do the same thing again.

Elizabeth Vicary says: If it was so great, then why had you decided (pre-China) not to return to competitive chess?

Dmitri Shneider says: I was super busy the whole year. There are so many things to do in NYC that chess kind of takes a backseat. However, after periods of rest, there’s always an urge to come back. Hopefully, U.S. Championship will be the event that gets me back into it.

Elizabeth Vicary says: How different is the experience of playing for Queens? How did you come to play for Queens instead of the NY Knights?

Dmitri Shneider says: Well, Dallas is a college team, and we played in the Student Union. So we'd have people always coming back and watching our games, somewhat distracting sometimes... and that’s why in our first year we didn't do as well as could have.

How I ended up on Queens originally, was that last year I was traveling post-grad but decided I wanted to play USCL very late and Alex was gracious enough to find a spot for me on the team, albeit as an alternate since it was past the submission deadline. So I played 2 games and won both, which felt great.

Queens is very professional, and I have to thank Alex Stripunsky for making sure everything is running smoothly. Strip treats the players very well, and the conditions are great, so if I was to play again, I'd play for Queens.

Elizabeth Vicary says: How exactly does he treat the players well?

Dmitri Shneider says: He's just very respectful, and if people want to play he tries to accommodate them as much as possible. I know some other managers don't quite have that same mentality.

Elizabeth Vicary says: Let’s discuss the upcoming USCL playoffs. If you were team manager, who would you play, both for Queens and for Boston? Who do you think would win this match, board by board?

Dmitri Shneider says: We have a few good lineups that we can use. I think Strip absolutely has to play, and then it’s either me, Eli or Alex with Ostrovskiy on 4.
For Boston, I’m not quite sure who they have besides Larry and Eugene (and I think Sammour plays for them), so I don’t know about their board 3+4. But I would think that board one is a close match and board 2 we're slight underdogs but we're favorite on 3 and slight underdogs on 4. So we'd need to hold 2 and 4, while maximizing on 3

Elizabeth Vicary says: one sec… possible lineups…
1st / 2nd: Two of Christiansen / Perelshteyn / Sammour-Hasbun
3rd: Esserman
4th: Krasik

1st: Christiansen / Perelshteyn / Sammour-Hasbun
2nd / 3rd: Two of Vigorito / Shmelov / Riordan / Esserman
4th: Krasik

1st: Christiansen / Perelshteyn / Sammour-Hasbun
2nd: Shmelov
3rd: Riordan
4th: Esserman

Dmitri Shneider says: Okay, well Larry and Eugene must play. I don’t see any other lineup giving us any trouble, and we should be the favorites against this one as well.

Elizabeth Vicary says: So let's say it's Larry - Alex, you- Eugene, Esserman – Vovsha/ Lenderman, Ostrovskiy- Krasik?

Dmitri Shneider says: If that occurred, I’d have to hold Eugene, and Vovsha has to beat Esserman and Ostrovskiy would need to hold Krasik… with Larry and Alex being a toss up. But we'd have white on 2 and 4. If we play our best, we have to be favorites here. And, of course, we have draw odds.

As an aside, Boston Blitz blogs are funny. They're kind of ridiculous… written in a very amateurish way.

Elizabeth Vicary says: The whole thing or something in particular? I must say I enjoy their videos.

Dmitri Shneider says: The whole thing is pretty ridiculous. I guess some people are insecure and need to talk themselves up to feel good.

Elizabeth Vicary says: Any response to Krasik’s recent words?

Dmitri Shneider says: I forget what he said, don't really keep that stuff in my memory, let me double check…

Elizabeth Vicary says: I believe he called you "not Karpov."

Dmitri Shneider says: Who is? Anyway, we'll see how much we learned our lesson next week.

Elizabeth Vicary says: Who would predict to win Carolina- NY? Miami – Seattle? San Fran- Dallas? The East? The West? The Finals?

Dmitri Shneider says: NY. Miami. Dallas (my upset pick) and Queens winning it all, obviously.

Elizabeth Vicary says: You think NY beats Carolina, even though Carolina dominated all season and NY just snuck in?

Dmitri Shneider says: I think NY has momentum, and now that they finally got their act together, they're just a very good team. Gotta go with the hot hand.

Elizabeth Vicary says: Okay, thanks a lot for the interview and good luck next Wednesday. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Dmitri Shneider says: Just that I'm glad Queens has given me an opportunity to stay in touch with the game, since I don't have much time to play. And that Greg Shahade is a genius for starting this whole enchilada and getting the country's best players involved. Pass da sugar.