Monday, February 23, 2009

Photos from Amateur Team East 2009

Anne Marie Charbonneau

Alex Lenderman and Abby Marshall, bughouse partners

Greg Braylovskiy

(Anne Marie and) Evan Rosenberg

Chris Williams having a tough evening at the bughouse tournament. Later, I had this dream that someone was in my room, yelling "we can hang out here, she's asleep."

Evan eating a strawberry

Evan and Pascal look at chess

Angel Lopez

Abby, Pascal, Marc Esserman

Hilariously, this is what my opponent laid out on the board at the beginning of round 3 Sunday morning. He was very nice when I asked if he would mind eating it somewhere else.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Robson = Big Genius

In the last 3 rounds at Aeroflot, he's beaten Van Wely, GM Dmitry Bocharov (2647), and Var Akobian.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

am team east game 4: I choose happiness

Malinskiy,David - Vicary,Elizabeth [B33]
Amateur Team East (4), 19.02.2009

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.Nd5 Be7 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.c3 Bg5 12.Nc2 Rb8 13.a4 bxa4 14.Ncb4 Bd7

Ok, so I thought during the game that this was all theory.

15.Bxa6 Nxb4

oh my goodness me, what a huge shocker, this is a normal move! Anand has played it. I was convinced in the game that my opponent had dementia, he was this very old Russian guy, and it looked so weird plus why should I think this guy keeps up on Sveshnikov theory? wow I am very surprised. some people will do anything for a passed pawn.



I guess this move is "too early"? Everyone else goes Bc6, but then white sacks on a4 and starts pushing the b pawn, and black vainly attempts to get play going on the kingside before failing and suffering for eternity, so I don't really know why I shouldn't be trying for "early," probably because it doesn't work out so well. [17...Bc6 18.Rxa4 Bxa4 19.Qxa4 Qe8 20.Qxe8 Rfxe8 21.b5 is Anand -Van Wely Corus 2006. It's so depressing. So, I know I've been saying this for along time now, but I'm going to give up the sveshnikov. It just doesn't make me happy. I feel guilty all the time, I lose constantly, even when my opponent does nothing, I still get not very good positions. Maybe I'm just not smart enough to play it, but I'm ok with that. I just want a nice simple strategic position. I don't want to work so hard anymore. Dave told me to play the caro kann, and that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to be so much happier.

Also my kids play it (some of them) so it will be professionally useful.

18.exf5 Rxf5
19.Bd3 Rf8
20.Ra3 Qe8

I wanted to play ...e4 and ...Qe5, although the e4 pawn is supersoft. I also kinda wanetd to overprotect a4 and maybe play Bd8-b6 and stop Qd1–h5. But I don't know. I don't know what I'm doing, honestly.

21.Qe2 g6

Here I got this was some weird, probably irrational fear of Bc4 and having to move my king to the h file and some imaginary mating tactics on h7, and I thought my king would be better placed on g7, but that might be wrong plus it costs a lot of time.

22.Bc4 Kg7
23.Rd1 Bd8
24.Rad3 Bc6
25.Qd2 Bxd5

26... Bb6
27.Rf1 Bd4 [27...Rf4!]
28.Rxd6 Qe7

I expected this: 29.Rxd4 exd4 30.Qxd4+ Qf6 31.Qxf6+ Rxf6 and thought it was pretty good for me. I still think so, if he plays 32.b5 Rf4 I win a pawn right away 33.Be2 Re4 34.Bd3 Rd4 35.Be2 Rd2 36.Bc4 Rxb2. And otherwise I just take the pawn.


29...Qxb4 30.Rc7+ Kh8 31.Qh6 seemed like I should avoid it.

30.Rc7 Qxc7

I felt I should be a tiny bit better here because my bishop has a target and his does not. For really no reason I felt quite confident at this moment that I would win this game in high style.


31...Qa7 I'm sure I looked at this move, but now I can't remember why I didn't play it. Kinda stupid not to, since his b2 pawn should be weaker than my a4 pawn.

32.Qxa4 Rxb2
33.Qa6 Qe7 [33...Qc5 34.Qe6 I felt this might be called "losing control."]
34.Qe6 Qf8

At this point I was outside talking to Lenderman in that area you aren't supoposed to stand and talk in and he was describing his game and I was getting excited, convincing myself that I might be completely winning, since he has no way to defend the f pawn.

35.Qd7+ Kh8
36.Qf7 I had not seen that way.
37.Bxf7 e4
38.Bd5 oh well. ½–½

perhaps a shift in soft tissue body symmetry?

Ovulatory cycle effects on tip earnings by lap dancers: economic evidence for human estrus?
Geoffrey Miller, a, , Joshua M. Tybura and Brent D. Jordana

Evolution and Human BehaviorVolume 28, Issue 6, November 2007, Pages 375-381

To see whether estrus was really “lost” during human evolution (as researchers often claim), we examined ovulatory cycle effects on tip earnings by professional lap dancers working in gentlemen's clubs. Eighteen dancers recorded their menstrual periods, work shifts, and tip earnings for 60 days on a study web site. A mixed-model analysis of 296 work shifts (representing about 5300 lap dances) showed an interaction between cycle phase and hormonal contraception use. Normally cycling participants earned about US$335 per 5-h shift during estrus, US$260 per shift during the luteal phase, and US$185 per shift during menstruation. By contrast, participants using contraceptive pills showed no estrous earnings peak. These results constitute the first direct economic evidence for the existence and importance of estrus in contemporary human females, in a real-world work setting. These results have clear implications for human evolution, sexuality, and economics.

very interesting stuff, plus I learned a lot about the world of gentleman's clubs.

from background:
Club patrons will often “sample” several different dancers with one lap dance each before picking one for a more expensive multisong bout of dancing. Thus, patrons can assess the relative attractiveness of different women through intimate verbal, visual, tactile, and olfactory interaction, and those attractiveness judgments can directly influence women's tip earnings, through the number of 3-min dances that patrons request from each dancer. In these ways, estrous attractiveness effects on lap-dancer earnings in gentlemen's clubs may be stronger than in other kinds of psychology research that use photo ratings (e.g., Haselton et al., 2007) or other kinds of sex work (e.g., visual pornography, phone sex) that give fewer fertility cues across fewer modalities.

from discussion:
We found strong ovulatory cycle effects on tip earnings, moderated by whether the participants were normally cycling. All women made less money during their menstrual periods, whether they were on the pill or not. However, the normally cycling women made much more money during estrus (about US$354 per shift)—about US$90 more than during the luteal phase and about US$170 more than during the menstrual phase. Estrous women made about US$70 per hour, luteal women made about US$50 per hour, and menstruating women made about US$35 per hour. By contrast, the pill users had no midcycle peak in tip earnings. As in other previous research, the pill eliminates peak-fertility effects on the female body and behavior by putting the body in a state of hormonal pseudopregnancy (e.g., [Gangestad et al., 2004], [Gangestad et al., 2005] and [Macrae et al., 2002]). This also results in pill users making only US$193 per shift compared to normally cycling women making US$276 per shift—a loss of more than US$80 per shift.

This is the first direct economic evidence for the existence of estrus in contemporary human females.

A final limitation is that our study did not identify the precise proximal mechanisms that influence tip earnings. These might include the previously documented shifts in body scent, facial attractiveness, soft-tissue body symmetry, waist-to-hip ratio, and verbal creativity and fluency—or they might include shifts in other phenotypic cues that have not yet been studied. We can, however, exclude some possible mediators based on previous exotic dancer research. Tip earnings are unlikely to be influenced by cycle shifts in stage-dance moves, clothing, or initial conversational content because these cues just do not vary much for professional dancers ([Barton, 2006] and Beasley, 2003 J. Beasley, Lapdancer, PowerHouse Books, New York (2003).[Beasley, 2003]). The tip earnings pattern in Fig. 1 is similar to the pattern of estradiol levels across the cycle (with a main estrous peak and a secondary midluteal peak); hence, it is plausible that estradiol levels might mediate the tip-earning effects.

Perhaps, most importantly, from an evolutionary viewpoint, further research could clarify whether women have evolved special adaptations to signal estrus through such cues—or whether the cues are “leaking” to sexually discriminating men as unselected side effects of cycle physiology. Distinguishing between estrous “signals” and “leaked cues” may be difficult in practice because estrous females (seeking extra-pair copulations with good-gene males) and extra-pair males (offering good genes) may have shared interests in female fertility signals being “conspiratorial whispers” that are accurate but inconspicuous (Pagel, 1994). In serially monogamous species such as ours, women's estrous signals may have evolved an extra degree of plausible deniability and tactical flexibility to maximize women's ability to attract high-quality extra-pair partners just before ovulation, while minimizing the primary partner's mate guarding and sexual jealousy. For these reasons, we suspect that human estrous cues are likely to be very flexible and stealthy—subtle behavioral signals that fly below the radar of conscious intention or perception, adaptively hugging the cost–benefit contours of opportunistic infidelity.

When Chess Bitch came out, Rowson's NIC review of it made a point something like 'feminists shouldn't shy away from a discussion of the effects of menstruation on chess because people do talk/think about it, and better to have a reasonable discussion*.' It seems like this should be pretty easy to look at, if you have a dozen female players who have regular cycles and are willing to tell you about them and let you compare to their rating history. (I tried looking at my own before writing this, but despite playing ten reasonably long tournaments this year, it seems like I didn't have my period at any of them. what a shame. )

Let me just add, I think you might see no effect at all on performance, i.e. I'm not suggesting it's a terribly important study, just a relatively easy one to do, at least non-rigorously. (Certainly one should expect to see far far less of an effect than you would see in a stripclub.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

am team east, rd 5: no rossilimo but a pseudo-zwischenzug

Vicary,Elizabeth - Pena,Joel [B22]
Amateur Team East, 17.02.2009

1.e4 c5
2.Nf3 g6

I was too lazy to prepare anything against this move, which is very stupid because Perelshteyn's very good and very, very popular book, Chess Openings for Black, Explained, recommends it. I know c3 and d4 are both moves, and I figured c3 was a better choice against a kid.

3.c3 Bg7
4.d4 cxd4

5...d5 is a much better move. I learned this because I looked this position up for one of my kids last month. Other than knowing that, I'm kinda on my own here. I don't play this exact structure for either side, so I don't have any pre-formed plan, and I was trying to puzzle out things like where the bishops go and the queen and what, if anything, I'm going to try to do, later.


I felt like my d4 pawn might be a little vunerable and so I'm preventing Bg4. I also suspect the Bc8 might be jobless.

7.Nc3 0–0
Am I playing for space on the center and the queenside? maybe I am?!
9.Be2 I felt insecure about putting it on c4.
10.0–0 Rc8

Now, I feel like this position looks like a very typical position, like your world's most average middlegame position, but aren't I already better? I felt I was.

12.b3 b5 Now I did something very stupid. I felt like I deserved to be better, so I thought that a break in the center ought to work. And for some reason, I calculated the line 13. e5 b4 14. Nb5 Ne4 15. Qxb4 and I thought, super, I'm up a pawn. 14...Nd5 never even crossed my mind.

13.e5 I should just play 13.Bd3 b4 14.Ne2+/=.

where should my knight go?
My original intention was to play Nb5, but I got scared it was going to get trapped. Here's a sample line: 14.Nb5 Nd5 15.exd6 Qb6 16.dxe7 (I missed this good idea : 16.Nc7! Nxe3 17.fxe3 Qxd6 18.Na6=) 16...Rfe8 17.a4 a6;
I completely missed that I could even consider taking on f6: 14.exf6 bxc3 15.fxe7 Qxe7 16.Qe1:

analysis diagram: guess what rybka thinks?
I assumed this must suck for me, but the computer seems to think white's just winning the c3 pawn and calls it –0.24. a long, strange forced line: 16...Qd8 17.Rc1 Qc7 18.Ba6 Nb7 19.Bc4 Qa5 20.Qxc3 Qxc3 21.Rxc3 d5 22.Bxd5 Rxc3 23.Bxb7 -/=

but back to reality, I actually played...
14.Nd1 Nd5
I felt that I needed to exchange some pieces, and of course I was hoping for the cheapo 15...Bxh6 16.Qxh6 Nc3 17.Ng5
16.Bxg7 Kxg7
17.Ne3 d5
I knew I probably shouldn't do this, that the trade isn't quite favorable, but I just couldn't think of what else to do.

19.hxg4 Qb6
Oh god, why do I have such a miserable positon against a kid? also, he's the kid on the sled on the cover of this month's chess life for kids. and I know I did it to myself with the godawful e5 b4 stupidity. I have no idea whta to do here or how to not lose my d pawn basically immediately, so I figured I would manufacture fake threats on the kingside.

20.g3 Nc6
21.Bd1 Nb5
22.Kg2 h6
23.Rh1 Rh8
This was a total bluff. I played it knowing ...hxg5 is very good for him, but gambling that he would feel that closing the position was safer.

25.Rh4 now I defend my pawn, gleeful.
26.Be2 Nca7 Now I started preparing e6 and Ne5
27.Re1 Rc6
28.Bd3 Nc3
29.Rf4 Nc8
30.Bb1 Na7
31.Bd3 Nc8

He offered me a draw here, but I have a rule not to take draws from children.
32.Bc2 So now I "triangulate," because I want his knight on a7 when I play e6. If it's on c8, then black can defend f7 with Nd6.
33.e6 Rxe6
34.Ne5 Rxe5

35.dxe5 At the time, I thought this capture was obvious, as it unisolates my d pawn, and if 35. Rxe5 Nc6 looks annoying, but I missed how strong 36.Rxf7+ Kxf7 37.Qf4+ Kg7 38.Re6 is.
36.a3 Nc6
37.axb4 axb4
38.Qd3 Ne7
39.Ra1 Nf5
40.Qa6 Qxa6
41.Rxa6 Ne2 I have no idea why he didn't defend his b pawn.
42.Rxb4 h4

43.Bxf5 hxg3 He wants to throw thismove in to weaken my pawns (44.fxg3? gxf5), but that's not really how zwischenzugs work
44.Bh3 gxf2
45.Kxf2 Rxh3
46.Kxe2 Rg3
47.Ra7 [47.Rb7 Rxg5 48.Rxe6] 47...Rxg5
48.Rf4 Rxe5+
49.Kf2 Rf5
50.Rxf5 gxf5
51.b4 Kf6
52.b5 Ke5
53.b6 f6
54.b7 actually he played to mate, but I'm too lazy to input the rest 1–0

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

us am team round 3: Bb5 sicilian, 2: A players, 0

(226) Vicary,Elizabeth (2105) - Ciulla,Steve (1836) [B31]
Amateur Team East, 15.02.2009
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6 4.Bxc6

I spent some time deciding between this move and 4.0–0 because I had been looking at this fun gambit line that goes 4...Bg7 5.c3 Nf6 6.Qa4 0–0 7.d4

cxd4 8.cxd4 Nxe4 9.d5 Nc5 10.Qa3 Qb6 11.Nc3 Nd4 12.Nxd4 Bxd4 13.Bh6. But then I remembered that I also wanted to play another idea in the modern 4. Bxc6 line.
5.d3 Bg7
White plays this move before Nc3, because after white commits the Nb1, the pin with Bg4 becomes more annoying, since it can no longer be met by Nbd2.
7.Nc3 0–0
8.Be3 b6
9... Be6
This is a good example of the kind of position where lower rated players are unlikely to know or figure out the positional ideas. Black usually plays ...e5* here, or sometimes ever earlier, delaying castling, followed or preceded by rerouting the knight Nf6-d7-f8-e6-d4. If black doesn't know to do this, it isn't so easy to come up with a plan at all.
You know what black players often do? If they find e5, they often continue by playing for ... f5, but this is tricky, because white's going to take, I think, and then if you recapture with a piece, white overprotects e4 and sticks a piece there and it's positionally winning maybe? but if you recapture with the pawn, sometimes your king is not so safe and your position starts to feel a bit airy? I don't know that's true-- I didn't learn it somewhere, it's just what I think.
My intention after 9...e5 had been to try a new plan with a3 and b4.
*White can't really take on e5: 10.Nxe5 Nxe4 11.Nxf7 Nxd2 12.Nxd8 Nf3+ 13.gxf3 Rxd8
10.Ng5 Maybe I don't want to take the bishop, maybe it has no useful role, but at the time I thought this made sense, since I might want to take it, plus I'm preparing f4.
a few hours later: the more I think about it, maybe I don't like 10. Ng5, because I think I really don't want to exchange any pieces really-- I should just keep them all on and watch him muddle around hopelessly, spacelessly.
11.0–0 Rfd8
Of course, I could take on e6, but the bishop's not going anywhere, and by refraining from taking I'm tying the queen down to defending.
I was very surprised to see this disgusting move. Does he not understand that I'm preparing f5? Does he think he's attacking me? Why do people do this kind of thing to themselves?
I couldn't decide here. Ne2 is interesting, but maybe then c4 will be extra trouble, since I've left my e pawn loose. Qe2 gets out of the pin on the d file and touches the h5 pawn... but I felt it wasn't the perfect square for the queen.
14.f5 gxf5
15.Nxe6 fxe6
I had expected 15...Qxe6 16.Rxf5 I figured this would be good, because I have space, no weaknesses, and lots of ways to improve my position.
16.Rf3 Rd7?
Black should try 16...c4 17.Raf1 cxd3 18.cxd3 Qd7 19.exf5 exf5 20.Rxf5 Qxd3 21.Qe1 fritz says +/= but doesn't it look more dangerous for black?]
17.exf5 e5 look at his bishop
18.Rg3 Kf7
19... Qh8
19...Nxe4 20.dxe4 is positionally awful for him because his bishop is so locked in, but I can also throw in 20.Qxh5+! Kg8 21.dxe4
20.Ng5+ Ke8
21.Ne6 Bh6
22.Bxh6 Qxh6
23.Rg6 Qh8
24.Qxe5 1–0

amateur team east, round 1: I'm off to a vigorous start!

Vicary,Elizabeth (2100) - Batezel,Cliff (1700) [B52]
Amateur Team East, 14.02.2009
1.e4 c5

2.Nf3 d6
3.Bb5+ Bd7
4.Bxd7+ Qxd7
5.0–0 Nc6
6.c3 Nf6

So this is a theoretical pawn sac, it's a pretty fun line, and since it was round one, I was feeling cheerful and optimistic. All tournament, in fact, I was feeling great apppreciation for Dave Vigorito, who basically created a beautiful opening repertoire for me that gives me positions where my opponents have to know some specific, practically unguessable OTB positional knowledge of plans, and it turns out that no one under 2000 ever has that knowledge. It's very nice-- it means that lower rated players --and especially kids -- don't play that well against me.
7...cxd4 Doesn't this seem like a weird reaction? If you are black and going to take a sacrificed pawn, why would you open the position first? But it gets played against me more often than the straight up 7...Nxe4.
8.cxd4 Nxe4 Black can also decline the pawn with 8...d5 9.e5 Ne4 10.Ne1 (white's trying to trap the knight with f3) h6 11.f3 Ng5.
9.d5 Ne5
The alternative is 10.Nxe5 but after 10...dxe5 11.Re1 Nd6 12.Rxe5 it's somehow supposed to be not so great for white.
11.Qxf3 Nf6

Now, in all the games I saw, the knight went to a3, but the c pawns were still on the board, so it couldn't go to c3. I figured Nc3 was probably an improvement, but from a3 the knight can also go to c4, which pressures d6, which might become weak after black plays e6 or e5, which he might have to in order to develop the bishop (since ...g6 hangs the Nf6). Also a knight on c4 pressures b6, which might become weak if black is forced to play a6 to defend the a pawn (after, say Be3). But I felt it was ridiculous and monkey-like to play Na3.
12.Bg5 is the theoretical move with the c pawns still on the board, but I played it in a previous game and the guy answered 12...Qg4 and I had to trade queens into an ending that's a tiny bit better, maybe,but I couldn't win it before and didn't want to bore myself in the first round.
So here I was kind of searching for a good move. I'm reluctant to play Bf4 or Be3-- they both seemed too commital before I knew how black was going to extradite himself from the tangle, since blocking either the e or f files allows black to play e6 or Qf5 or Qg4. I expected black to castle queenside (maybe kingside, but that would be at least funny to watch) so I briefly considered something like Qd3, which moves that direction, but I felt it's important to keep the queen on the Nf6 to maintain pressure.
I figure he's likely to castle queenside, so I prepare a5, or Nb5, or Ra3.
It looks like h3 has been played here, I guess to stop Qg4.
14.dxe6 fxe6
15.Nb5 this threatens Rxe6 and Nc7+
If 15...a6 16.Rxe6+ Qxe6 17.Nc7+; I was expecting 15...Kf7 16.Bf4 Be7 17.Bxd6 Bxd6 18.Rad1.
Now this was super-commital, and, I felt, a ballsy, move to make, because I'm basically saying I'm going to take on e5 no matter what black does.
But now I had second thoughts. I wasn't worried about 16...a6 17.Bxe5 dxe5 18.Rxe5+ Be7 19.Rd1 -- I figured this would be, at minimum, fun, although Fritz calls it equal after 19... Qc6.
My original intention was 17.Bxe5 dxe5 18.Rad1 Qc6 19.Qxc6+ bxc6 20.Nc7+ Kf7 21.Nxa8 Rxa8 22.Rxe5 but then I took a closer look at this position and decided it sucks. Am I even better? I'm worse?! Why am I going into this?
But now his position has no coherancy and everything is just weak.
17...0–0 18.Bxe5;
17...exf4 18.Rxd6 Qc8 19.Rde6 threatening Nd6 and Rxe7
18.Qg3 0–0
19.Bxh6 taking on d6 is also possible, but why take the weak pawn when you can take the pawn in front of the king
I could trade queens here --20.Qxg4 Nxg4 21.Be3 (I missed 21.Rxe4 Nxf2 22.Rxe7 Nxd1 --actually I got to this position in my head and didn't realize I could take on g7 and thought oh I'm down an exchange. 23.Rxg7+ Kh8 24.Nxd6+-) 21...Nxe3 22.Rxe3 I figured I would win one of his pawns here, and thus the endgame should be very good, but since is king isn't safe, I wanted to keep queens on.
21. Be3 It's nice to not have weaknesses.
21...a6? maybe my opponent gave up now. He should at least defend his d pawn with ... Qh5. or something.
22.Nc7 Rad8
23.Nxd5 Nxd5
24.Rxd5 Kh8 [If 24...Qe6 25.Rb5 gets out of the pin]
25.h3 Qg6
26.Qxb7 Rxd5
27.Qxd5 Re8
28.Rc1 Rd8
29.Qc4 Kh7
30.b4 Rb8
31.b5 axb5
32.axb5 Kh8
33.b6 Bd8
34.b7 34...Qa6 [34...Rxb7 35.Qc8+-; 34...Qd6 35.Qxe4 was my plan, althought fritzy wants to play Qf7 more. who cares, right?]
35.Qxa6 1–0
camera update: the hotel is mailing it to me and pictures will be forthcoming.
question: does anyone know an easy way to get the nice replayable chess boards on my blog?

Monday, February 16, 2009

It is nice. I do not want to talk about it.

Bravo to chessdom for this hilarious liveblog of the opening ceremony of Kamsky-Topolov. I love Kamsky's totally I'mgoingtobeasboringasIpossiblycaninthepressconferenceand-Idon'tcarewhatyouthink atttude in the following quotes:

Now the questions from the media starts, and of course, the first question is to Gata Kamsky, "Why was your arrival to Bulgaria so secret?". Kamsky replied that it was not a secret, it was according to the organization, and for him it is normal.

The Bulgarian National Radio asks, "The greater number of matches played is an advantage?". Topalov replied that it does not matter, nor matters the system - weather KO, round robin, or a match. As an example Topalov gave Vishy Anand who has won the title in different formats. Kamsky agreed with Topalov on the subject.

Now, obviously, he is only agreeing because this is an absolutely ridiculous thing to say and a staggering hilarious place to say it. The system of determining the world champion doesn't matter? The two potential world championship challengers don't care either way what the format is?? They don't think it makes any difference? But I prefer to think that Kamsky agreed for fun, because he recognized how aesthetically absurd it is.

Question from Novinar newspaper, "What does Kamsky think about the condition in the playing hall?", Kamsky replied that the venue is nice and that there is nothing more to comment.
Asked (again) if he likes the venue he answered, "It is nice, I do not want to talk about it."

Another amusing moment:
16:00 In an interview for a local news agency Silvio Danailov stated one more time that there is no such thing as home advantage in chess. He said, "What do you think, people will enter and start shouting? There will be nothing like this. This is chess."

In more personal news, I just got back from the amateur team east, where I played, for a change--I usually bring about 30 kids and go over their games, which is beautiful because I get my expenses paid and some money, and I look at that huge roomful of people all working so hard, so stressed out, and I think, "I am not working as hard as them, in fact I am very relaxed, and I am the only one getting paid! Even though we are basically doing the same thing! Hurray!"

But I played this year because of educational budget cuts, and I got 5/6, albeit playing down every round. But it was really fun to win a lot. I love winning. And I was winning the drawn games too. I'm going to post them all soon. (I am. I can because I have the week off. although guess what I'm doing with it? I'm working Wednesday Friday and Saturday. but I'm also analyzing my games because that's also important. and I'm going to the gym every day, but especially tomorrow because a good start is key.)

I would post some photos, because I took some nice ones for you, but I lost my camera. I'm thinking it might reappear.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Interview with 9Queens Founder and ChessPark/WuChess GM Jean Hoffman

Jean with RZA

EV: So let’s start with you. Can you give our readers the short version of who you are, where you are, what you do, and your relationship to chess, Chesspark, and the Wu Tang?

JH: I am a former scholastic chess player turned chess enthusiast/teacher. After college, I taught chess for three years in New York City before going back to school to get my master's in education. A little over a year ago, I moved back to my hometown Tucson, Arizona and founded the chess nonprofit
9 Queens with Jennifer Shahade. In September, I started working as the general manager of and - an online chess and hip-hop community co-founded by RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan.

EV: Those seem like very different jobs: running a nonprofit teaching organization and a hip-hop themed chess server?

JH: I see a lot of overlap between the mission of 9 Queens and goals of Chesspark/Wuchess. I mean there are obvious differences between working for a nonprofit vs. a for-profit venture, between teaching in public schools vs. managing an online community. But Chesspark, WuChess and 9 Queens are all organizations that working to popularize chess beyond its current population. 9 Queens extends the benefits of chess to low-income youth and women and girls through chess education. Chesspark and WuChess make online accessible and appealing to nontraditional chess players. When I tell people about either organization I often find myself talking about "giving chess a makeover."

EV: How is Chesspark different from ICC? What are the coolest things you can do?

JH: I think of Chesspark as the Facebook of online chess. Chesspark combines the features of social networking sites like Facebook or Myspace with the chatting capacities of AIM. Chesspark makes online chess fun and accessible to everyone, not just serious chess players. Chesspark has a modern and easy to understand user-interface. You don't need to download anything in order to play on there. And it is really easy to chat with friends or people you are playing games with, or engage in group chat with multiple people.

Take a look at this link, it’s the official Chesspark page for the New York team in Chesspark’s College Chess League. Anyone can make their Chesspark profile look like this, or make a group page like this.

EV says: That’s fantastic, and awesome that it’s Shawn and Angel (two of my former students!)

JH: I know - I love that slideshow. I'm proud of it. This type of thing is so easy to do on Chesspark. And I think it’s what chess needs.

EV: How else is Chesspark/Wuchess trying to promote chess / help its image / attract new players?

JH: We attract new players by promoting different images of chess and by depicting a new generation of chessplayers. Whether it's RZA as a spokesperson for WuChess, or the players from the Chesspark College Association, Chesspark and WuChess show that chess can be fun, exciting and cool. In our press releases for the Chesspark College Association, we have been describing the CCA as the NCAA of chess. It's similar to what the USCL has been doing by treating chess leagues like a sport, but we want to take it one step further. The CCA makes it possible for anyone to watch the matches live, for free, even if they have never watched an online chess match before.

EV: So let’s talk about your college league. How’s it gone so far?

JH: Great. I have been blown away by how excited and enthusiastic the college players have been about the CCA. I remember the first person I pitched the league to was FM Elliott Liu from Stanford. I was really nervous, trying to explain the concept for the league and the benefits of Chesspark. But as soon as I stopped talking he said "I have been waiting for this. I will do whatever I can to help out and am so excited about this type of chess league." Since then we've convinced five teams from around the country to participate. It’s been really rewarding working with all these younger chess players who also see the need and have the desire to change the image of chess in the US.

EV: Could you briefly describe the format and the teams?

JH: It is a round robin tourney with matches twice a week (usually on Sunday and Wednesday). Two teams of four players face off against each other. The time control is game 30, with 2 second delay between moves. All matches start at 6 pm PST.

EV: Do you need a Chesspark account to watch games?

JH: People interested in watching just have to create a free account. Then they can play on Chesspark for free and watch all the matches live for free. There are also PRO memberships available that have other advantages - like the opportunity to chat with players after the CCA matches and go over the games.

EV: So the teams you have are Arizona, Stanford, UTD-B, Miami, and New York? Who's winning so far?

JH: UTB beat Miami on Wed, 3-1 with NM Ernesto Alvarez beating IM Dan Fernandez in an
exciting match.
Stanford beat Arizona 3-1 on Thursday. On Sunday, Arizona beat New York 3-1 but NM Mac Molner from NYU ended the match with 12 seconds left on his clock and this
really cool win against NM Leo Martinez. The teams are really strong, and so far the matches have been really competitive.

EV: Can new teams join? What are your goals for expansion?

JH: New teams are welcome to join the CCA for future tournaments and events. I am hoping to have at least two more tournaments in 2009, including a team blitz tournament and an individual blitz tournament.

EV: Are you thinking about doing an online high school or grade school league?

JH: Yes I am. Glad you brought that up. I was really influenced by the advice that you and Greg Shahade gave me a couple weeks ago when we were discussing the CCA. Greg brought up how there is currently no online high school or scholastic chess league. He said if Chesspark could create one, it would fill a need and activate a lot of scholastic coaches and teams to get involved in online leagues. We are working on creating a scholastic team league next fall as well.

EV: I know I talk a lot to other coaches about organizing online matches, but it never actually happens. If schools wanted to play a match over Chesspark right now, could they do that?

JH: Sure. If two schools wanted to organize a match online they could set up free accounts and host a match. But we also offer reduced PRO memberships, club rates and scholarships for schools that want to have PRO accounts for their teams.

CCA Match Schedule
Watch your favorite college chess players face off in a round robin, game 30, online tournament. All matches are played live on Chesspark. Don’t miss out on the excitement. Create your free or PRO account today!

Feb 4, 6pm PST UTB vs Miami
Feb 5, 6pm PST Stanford vs Arizona
Feb 8, 6pm PST Arizona vs NYU/BMCC
Feb 11, 6pm PST Stanford vs UTB
Feb 17, 6pm PST NYU/BMCC vs Stanford
Feb 18, 6pm PST Arizona vs UTB
Feb 22, 6pm PST Stanford vs Miami
Feb 24, 6pm PST NYU/BMCC vs UTB
Feb 28, 6pm PST Arizona vs Miami
Mar 4, 6pm PST NYU/BMCC vs Miami

Friday, February 6, 2009

war against terror / depression

from the NY Times:

Army Data Show Rise in Number of Suicides

The number of soldiers who committed suicide in January could reach 24, a count that would be the highest monthly total since the Army began tabulating suicides in 1980.

The latest Army figures, released Thursday, show seven confirmed suicides last month, with another 17 deaths still being investigated. The Army has said the vast majority of suspicious deaths typically turn out to be suicide.

24 suicides in one month seems like a lot to me.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

City Championships

Shawn and Rashawn


* won the k-6 section (although Hunter and Horace Mann didn't show up, so it wasn't the fight it could have been),

*came second to hunter in the k-8. the truth is that we have no chance again them at nationals if they all show up and play in our section. but they might not all show up, or they might try to win the k-9 or k-12 (it's supernationals this year, meaning the k-5, k-6, k-8, k-9, and k-12 are all held simultaneously). still, it's kinda depressing to know that it might become apparent that we have no chance to win. not that i have to win, i'm really not hypercompetitive, maybe I'll be bummed out for a couple days, but that's all. still, it would depress me to think throughout March that there was no chance. (2 days later: Actually, I forgot that Getz and Landesmann are 9th graders, so nevermind!)

*came third in the high school behind the super-strong Stuyvescent (3 2000s? 1 1900?) and Hunter.