Monday, November 30, 2009

it takes me a while, but I settle in

I played in the National Chess Congress this weekend. I scored 3.5/6 in the under 2200 section. It was my first big tournament since Amateur Team East. I had stopped going because I didn't want to see my ex-boyfriend, but really, what am I going to do, quit chess?

It was really fun: I had forgotten why I liked long away tournaments, where you get in a rhythm of just chess, all day: no email, no phone, no nonchess friends, no errands, no work, no computer. I really love that state when it feels like playing rather than work, you feel light and enjoy the long endgames because they are fun.

It takes me a little while to get used to sitting at the board again. I felt very antsy in the first rounds and got up every few moves. Then Saturday evening I was playing a caro against a 1900, when I thought I was being principled, but hung an exchange.

I was angry and entirely determined that I would not lose, that I would fight hard and trick this guy somehow, and I did, and then by the Sunday rounds I was content to sit still and let my face melt into my hands.

here are some puzzle moments from my games:

1) This is round four: Johnson Pau (white) just played the unfortunate retreat 28. Qd1. How did I win material?

2) Last round: I had just played the ambitious 12... a5. I'm desparate to do something on the queenside before he checkmates me. What tricky positional idea can white play to show why ...a5 is bad?

3) I'm 9.5/11 with the caro kann! How do I win here? (round 2 vs Philip Selis)

4) Kevin Mo was black against me here and simplified to a winning pawn ending. how?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Texas Bans Marriage

In 2005, Texas passed a constitutional amendment that reads,

"This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage."

They were trying to ban gay marriage, but seem to have gotten the wording a little off. read more

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

remember the murdered census worker?

Bill Sparkman, who was found hanged (hung?) from a tree with "FED" scrawled on his chest?
Turns out to be insurance fraud. I take it all back, Appalachia.

Monday, November 23, 2009

I play James after school.

I slacked off and didn't teach my beginner afterschool group today, and instead played a g/30 against James Black:
Black - Vicary
1. e4 c6
2. d4 d5
3. exd5 cxd5
4. c4 Nf6
5. Nc3 e6
6. Nf3 Be7
7. cxd5 Nxd5
8. Bd3 O-O
9. O-O Nc6
10. Re1 Bf6
11. Be4 Nce7
12. Qd3 h6
13. Ne5 James has a phenomenal memory. I showed him this once, quickly, a while ago, but so quickly I didn't remember it.
Unfortunately, I told him everything I know about the position. Here I tried 13...Bd7. I looked it up when I got him and have learned that I shoulod play 13... Nxc3 14. Qxc3 (It's bad for white to take with the pawn: 14. bxc3 Bxe5 15. dxe5 Qxd3 16. Bxd3 Bd7 and black has a much better structure) 14... Nf5 15. Be3 (D)

and here black plays some combination of a5-a4, Nxe3, and Qb6, semi-successfully:

15... a5 16. Rad1 Nxe3 (16... a4 and 16... Ra6 are also moves) 17. fxe3 Ra6 18. Rc1 Rd6 19. Qc5 b6 20. Qb5 Bd7 21. Nxd7 Rxd7 22. Rc6 Rd6 23. Rec1 Rxc6 24. Qxc6 e5 Malaniuk,V (2580)-Adams,M (2660)/Hastings 1995/
White won this game, but black is ok here.


15...Nxe3 16. Qxe3 Qb6 17. Rad1 Rd8 (Black can't take the pawn because the queen gets trapped: 17... Qxb2 18. Rb1 Qxa2 19. Ra1 Qb2 20. Reb1) 18. b3 Bd7 19. Qg3 Bc6. I guess next time I will play like this.

back to reality:

14. Qh3 Bc6
15. Be3

16. dxe5 Nxc3
17. Bxc6 bxc6 I should have taken with the knight, I was just scared he would checkmate me somehow and wanted to be able to play ....Nf5 next.

18. bxc3 Nf5
19. Bc5 Re8

20. g4? We discussed after the game how kids like to be wild and attack and make weaknesses, but adults are more calm and care about squares.
20... Ne7
21. Rad1 Qa5
22. Bxe7 Rxe7
23. Rd2 Rd8
24. Rd6 Red7
25. Red1

26. Rxd6 James should have taken with the pawn immediately, since then it's much easier to hold on to the d pawn with the rooks on.

26... Rxd6
27. exd6 Qd5
28. Qe3 Qxd6
29. Qxa7

30. Kg2 Qxg4+ He gets what he deserves for making pawn weaknesses.
31. Kf1 Qc4+
32. Kg1 Qxc3
33. a4

Here I had 3 minutes left, and I'm up 2 pawns, so I figured I must be better, but I couldn't understand how to stop white queening the pawn really easily/quickly. I moved around a bit, but eventually repeated and drew.
(1/2 - 1/2)
It turns out the right thing is to check a bit and push the c pawn, then try to win 4 vs 2:
33...c5 34. a5 Qe1+ 35. Kg2 Qe4+ 36. Kg1 c4 37. a6 c3 38. Qc5 Qg6+ 39. Kf1 Qb1+ 40. Kg2 c2 41. a7 c1=Q 42. Qxc1 Qxc1 43. a8=Q+ (D)

Is this winning? Easy? Hard? I have no idea.
update: James, Danny Feng and I have decided to have a Panov/ Caro study group and play training matches against each other (we all play the Panov for both sides) on Wednesday afternoons. I'm going to be awesome at the Panov soon.

hilarious bickering

"We will not be provoked. The insults bounce off us."

Above are the words of Colombian defense minister Gabriel Silva in response to Venezuela blowing up a couple of foot bridges between the countries.

Venezuela alleges the bridges were being used by drug traffickers. "Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez this month ordered his army to prepare for war after Colombia signed a military cooperation pact with Washington allowing U.S. troops greater access to its territory to run anti-narcotics surveillance flights."

In other news, Levi Johnston appears to have his own last name tattooed on his arm.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

the talented dumbass and the draw offer(s)

I had decided not to tell you this story, because it's unkind to make fun of children, but then Ron Young asked me to and this changed my mind. I guess I'm easily influenced.

Let me say three things quickly before I start:

1. The protagonist (we'll call him Vladimir) is an awesome kid, absolutely top notch, one of my all-time favorites.

2. I think the etiquette surrounding draw offers and chess rules in general is fairly nonobvious, especially to kids, in the sense that sometimes things are absolute and rigid (how to claim three move repetition, when you lose on time and when you don't, once you agree to checkmate the game is over no matter what) and sometimes they require you to make judgment calls, or think about your opponent's motivations, or have some chess experience (when to offer a draw, when you can claim no losing chances). So I think you have to cut kids some slack.

3. Even though I know that 2. is true, I'm more sensitive than average to annoying behavior from the opponent and will complain to the TD at the slightest provocation. (My favorite complaint story: I complained to a TD at the world open a few years ago that it was too cold and asked if they could turn the AC down. The TD put his arm around my shoulders and gave me a half-hug and said "You're just cold because you're female.")

It's 8:30 pm last Saturday, I'm sitting next to Vladimir in the downstairs tournament room of the Marshall. The other 10 kids I brought are upstairs playing blitz and bughouse, also running around and yelling, obviously disturbing the peace of the club somewhat, but having such a terrific time doing so that I can't bring myself to say anything.

Vlad's is the last game going-- he's down two pawns against an expert in a rook, knight, and opposite colored bishop ending. He's sitting motionless at the board, leaning diagonally over it, looking like one of those pointy nosed hunting dogs. I'm very proud of him for fighting so intensely, so I sit next to him to offer moral support and watch.

The knights are traded and Vlad wins one pawn back, now it's rook and opposite colored bishop, and Vlad is down a passed pawn. He offers a draw. His opponent ignores him. A few moves go by. His opponent shuffles the pieces around, trying different ways to infiltrate with his king. It's a complicated position, but Vladimir is defending well. Then, to my horror, Vlad offers another draw. His opponent doesn't flinch.

Maybe an hour later he offers the fourth draw. I'm cringing inside, but I can't decide which is worse: me interfering in their game by telling him to stop, or him continuing to annoy his opponent (who, showing superhuman restraint, does not react in any way). I'm having an energetic internal debate about this when the fifth draw offer comes.

This time Vladimir sticks his hand out across the board, almost directly in his opponent's face, whispers "DRAW" loudly and nervously, and leaves his hand there. I can't help myself, and hiss, "Vladimir, stop!"

To his enormous credit, Vlad draws the game twenty moves later. We have a good conversation on the train home about the rules and etiquette for offering draws and when offering a draw even makes sense. All is good.

The second day of the tournament was a beautiful sunny Sunday, I'm sitting out in the garden behind the Marshall in the afternoon, really enjoying myself, leisurely looking over kids' games with them. Last time I went inside to check on his position, Vladimir was down a pawn and worse against a 1900.

Around 3 pm, he comes out and excitedly announces his opponent agreed to a draw. I congratulate him and return to the game I had been going over.

Five seconds later, his livid opponent storms into the garden, red-faced and eyes-bulging, and says "You stuck out your hand when you were down a piece and one move away from checkmate! Obviously I thought you were resigning! If you don't want to resign, you have to continue the game."

Vladimir freezes, then turns slowly to me and replies, "I said 'Draw?' and he shook my hand. That ends the game. Those are the rules." His voice is very close to cracking. The opponent counters that if he said draw, he whispered it. Vladimir shrugs at this possibility.

Both of them look at me for a decision, and I can't help myself, I start laughing, and so do all the kids sitting with me. Vladimir pleads with me, "But those are the rules." I try to explain that I understand where he is coming from, but you can't trick your opponent into accepting a draw (even though, as he correctly points out, you kind of are allowed to trick him into incorrectly accepting that he has been checkmated).

Vladimir agrees to resign. I apologize to both his opponents. They are both very nice.
It's become a new joke in chess club: randomly, for no reason, you say "DRAAAAAAAAWWWWW?" and stick your hand in someone's face, and then everyone looks at Vladimir and laughs.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I am thankful that my students are good at chess.

Five 318 students tied for first in the open section of the CIS tournament at Frederick Douglas Academy today: Randy Rivera, Jehron Bryant, James Black, Myles Foster and Danny Feng. Rawn Prowell and Alexis Paredes tied for 6th-7th with 3.5/4.

This was on the teacher's desk in the classroom where I was analyzing games. Fewer FAILURES!

Super TD (and former 318 student) Marta Szulc

Quiz Positions

?? - Xonatia Lee
1. Can black play 13...e5?

Pobo Efekoro - Simon
2. Black played 11...exf4. What's wrong with this?

Otto Schatz - Vincent
3. Which is better: 7. Nc3 or 7. 0-0?

???- Vaughn Soso

4. It doesn't seem like white should be winning, but he is. white to move.

Malik Perry -- Sebastian Dabrowski

5. black to move

??- Pobo

6. black to move. the first move isn't that hard to guess, but the supporting variations are pretty.

Joel Ogunremi - Randy Contreras
7. Joel was expecting 18....0-0, but instead his opponent played 18.... f6. What's white's best response?

8. An endgame study from Joel Yoffie. white to move

(answers below photos)

Shawn Swindell

Vaughn Soso

Sebastian Dabrowski

Ronavia McMillian

Myles Foster

Kenneth Martin

Emmanuel Ogunremi and Matthew Kluska

Emmanuel is a very expressive child. He's also 1300! and 8!

David Kim

Danny Feng has won five straight Chess in the Schools tournaments with a perfect score (20-0). Today he won a completely totally laughably drawn opposite color bishop endgame through sheer force of will. Danny comes up to me after the last round and meets my eyes and says "twenty." It was awesome.

Jehron Bryant also went 4-0

Edgar Zambria

Anita Maksimiuk


1) 13... e5? loses to 14. dxe5 Bxe5 15. Nxe5 Rxe5 16. Qxe5 Qxe5 17. Rd8#

2) 11....exf4 loses because 12. Bxf4 attacks the queen and if it moves Qd4 then 13. Nb6 is checkmate:

3) 7. 0-0 is much better, since 7. Nc3 loses to 7...Nxc3 8. bxc3 Bxc4. White can't try to make in between moves, because 8. Qxd8 Rxd8 9. Bxe6? loses to 9... Rd1#!

4) Vaughn's opponent played 1. Rg6!

5) Sebastian played 17...Nxd4 18. cxd4 Qxd4+ 19. Kh1 Qxd3, winning two pawns.
6) Black should play 12... Nd3+ and now two variations:

13. Kf1 Qd4 threatens Qxf2# and Qxa1.
13. Ke2 Qd4 14. Bxb4 O-O-O (D)

black threatens 15... Qxf2#

If 15. Qf1 Nxb4 with two mate threats: 16... Qd3+ 17. Ke1 Nc2# and 16... Qe5+ 17. Be4 Qxe4#
Or if 15. Rf1 Nf4+ 16. Ke1 Qe5+ 17. Qe2 Qxe2+ 18. Bxe2 Nxg2#

7) 2... f6 3. exf6 Bxf6 4. Bc5 Qd7 5. Qh5+ g6 (5... Qf7 6. Rae1+) 6. Qe2+ *

8) 1. Nf4+ Rxf4 2. Bd7 and there is no way for the rook to get back to guard the pawn.

more photos

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

November Open quiz

318 students on their way to a tournament. Shawn Swindell is in the red jacket.
photo by Tom White for the NY Times.

1) Miguel sacked a pawn much earlier in the game for an initiative that proved lasting. Here, white tried to protect f2 by castling (30. 0-0). What's wrong with this?

2) Paulo Santana played 11...c5 here. How should Myles Foster have replied?

3) In the same game, Myles Foster played 19. Nf3. Could he have won a piece with 19. h3 instead?

4) same game. white to move. choose between 25. exf6, 25. e6, or 25. Be6.

5). James Black -- Danny Feng
James just played 15. Be3-d2. Can black take on d4?

6). Daniel Pressa -- Shawn Swindell
Which move is better, 1. Qc4 or 1. Bd4?

7) Danny Feng (black) has a bad position against Jaleel Zaroung. Here, he seriously considered trying to free himself with 20... e5. Should he have?

8. Coincidentally, James asked me to show him this line 10 minutes before the game. (1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 exd5 4. Bd3 Nc6 5. c3 Qc7). It's the same line I got against Yaacov Norowitz in our USCL game. Black gets an isolated pawn, but white has made some weird moves, lik3 f3. Black has a great move here that shows how weak the dark squares really are.


1) Miguel won with 30...Qxg3 31. fxg3 Rg2+ 32. Kh1 Rh2+ 33. Kg1 Rag2#

2) Myles could have won an exchange with 12. Bxf6 Bxf6 13. Be4
3) No, because of 19...Bh4, trapping the queen.

4) Myles gave away his attack with 25. exf6 Qxg3 26. hxg3 Rxg5 27. fxe7 Kxe7 28. cxd5 Bxd5
but he showed me a line he had been considering: 25. Be6+! Kxe6 26. Qh3+ Kf7 (D)

Here, Myles was looking at 27. Qh5+ Rg6 28. e6+ Kxe6 29. Qxg6 and thought it was winning for black, but it's not: 29...Qe5.
Instead, 27. Bxf6! is: it threatens 28. Qh7+ Ke8 29. Qxe7#, and this is not easy to stop: 27... Qc7 28. Bxe7+ Kxe7 29. Qh7+ Kd8 30. Qxg8+ Kd7 31. Rf7+ Ke6 32. Qg6+ Kxe5 33. Qf5+ Kd6 34. Qf6# for example.

25. e6 isn't anything special after 25...Ke8.

5) Yes, he can! Both players got this wrong, thinking that after 15... Qxd4 16. Bxb4 Qxf2+ 17. Kh1 that black was losing a piece, but they missed 17....Qb6! (D)

when black threatens both Qxb4 and Nf2+.

6) They both lose! Pressa played 1. Qc4 and Shawn took his queen after 1..Bh2+ 2. Kh1 Bxg2+ and 3...Qxc4, but he told me he had been hoping for 1. Bd4 Bh2+ 2. Kh1 Bd6, trapping the queen.

7) Danny saw that he would win white's central pawns after 21. Nxd5 Qe6 22. Ne3 exd4 23. Rxd4 Rxc5 24. Qxa7, but didn't trust the move and didn't play it. After the game Jaleel found the refutation: 21. Re1.

8) Ken Cohen -- James Black
13... Nh5!
Now if the bishop goes to:

a) g3 we just take it
b) e3 we play Ng4!!: 14. Be3 Ng4 15. fxg4 Bxh2+ (D)

16. Kf2 (16. Kh1? Ng3+ 17. Kxh2 Nxf1+ 18. Kg1 Nxe3) 16... Qg3+ 17. Ke2 Rae8 18. Rf3 Nf4+ 19. Kf1 Qxg2+ 20. Ke1 Bg3+ 21. Rxg3 Qxg3+ 22. Kf1 Qg2+ 23. Ke1 Rxe3+ 24. Qe2 Rxe2+ 25. Nxe2 Qxe2#)

c) g5 and we play Ng6, uncovering an attack on h2 and preparing to harass the bishop with ...h6: 14. Bg5 Ng6 15. h3 (15. g3? Bxg3) 15... h6 16. Be3 Bh2+ 17. Kh1 Ng3+)

d) If it takes the knight on e5, we recapture, and white has big problems on g3 and h2: 14... Bxe5 15. g3 Nxg3 16. hxg3 Bxd4+ 17. cxd4 Qxg3+ 18. Kh1 Rac8 (D)

black just plays Rc6-h6

White can try 15. Kh1 instead, since 15... Bxh2? loses to 16. f4 when the Nh5 and Bh2 are both hanging, but black can maintain a nice position by playing 15...Nf6 or developing a rook.