Friday, April 30, 2010

great book

I'm really enjoying this book, A Course in Chess Tactics. It's similar to a lot of other tactics books: chapters on all the usual topics: pin, deflection, perpetual check, etc., (plus some unusual ones: f7: weak by presumption, attacking the fianchetto, the vunerable rook's pawn) but I'm a sucker for books with pretty positions:

white to move, from Knight Fork

white to move, from Clearance


knight fork puzzle

1.Qf5+ Kxf5 2.Ne7+ Rxe7 3.Ne3+ Kf6 4.Nxd5+ Kf5 5.Nxe7+ Kf6 6.Nxg8+ Kf5

7.Ne7+ Kf6 8.Nd5+ Kf5 9.g4#


1.Rxh7+ Kxh7 2.Qh5+ Kg7 3.Qh6+ Kxh6 4.f5+ Rg5 [4...Kg7 5.f6+ Kf8 6.Bh6+ Rg7 7.fxg7+ Ke8 8.Nf6+ Ke7 9.Rd7#; 4...Kh7 5.Rh4+ Kg7 6.Bh6+] 5.Rh4+ Kg7 6.f6+ Kf8 7.Rh8+ Rg8 8.Bh6+ Ke8 9.Rxg8+ Kd7
10.Nb6+ Kc7 11.Rc8+ Kxb6 12.Be3+ c5

13.Bxc5+ Ka6 14.Ra8#

Happy Friday!!!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

do it for science

Dear Friends,

My name is Alex Steger. I conducting a psychological study of chess players as a research project, and I would like to invite you to participate.

I am a research assistant at the Neuropsychology Clinic of Louisiana. I am conducting this study through the NCLA to investigate correlations between emotional stress and performance during a chess game.

In this study, you will play a game of chess and write down how you felt during your thinking time. There are 10 feeling words you will rate on a scale of 1 to 5. You will record your response after playing your move. The games will be played online at the Internet Chess Club (unrated) and the time control will be 45 45 (G/45 with a 45 second increment). You will then submit your game and responses to be analyzed as part of the study.

Additionally, you will take a personality test with 325 questions, which we estimate will take about an hour to complete. Some optional demographic information is collected as well; however, if you do not feel comfortable answering the demographic questions, then you may omit them.

The information you provide will help further research in psychology and chess. All games and questionnaires will be kept confidential by the researcher (Alex Steger), and the data will be reported anonymously. Personally identifying information will be destroyed at the conclusion of the study.

For participating, you will receive 1) the results of your personality test, 2) an analysis of your chess game, and 3) a $10 gift card to These will be mailed at the conclusion of the study.

If you are interested in participating, please submit your information using the sign up form on this site. You will then receive a packet containing all of the necessary materials, including a postage-paid response envelope.

More information here. If you have any questions, please email:
Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best Regards,
Alex Steger

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I win a nice game

Vicary, Elizabeth (2082)- Roberts, Peter (2050)
Banker's League g/75
April 22, 2010

1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 e6
3. b3 I play 3. Bb5 against 2....Nc6 and 2...d6, but obviously can't here. 3. b3 makes extra sense against 2...e6 because black's ideal set up involves pawns on e5-d6-c5, but playing ...e6-e5 will cost another tempo.
3... a6
4. Bb2 d6
5. g3 Nd7
6. Bg2 Qc7
7. O-O Ngf6
8. Qe2 Be7

I've been very non-commital thus far, but if my opponent is going to be this wussy, I felt I should at least play d4.

9. d4 cxd4
10. Nxd4 O-O
11. c4 Rb8
12. Nc3 Re8
13. Kh1 Qc5
14. Rad1 b6

find a good move for white

So here I spent a bit of time, because I felt like black had played some silly moves (what's Qc5? and Rb8 struck me as awkward too), but I also felt like he was about to finish development and if he did that I would have missed my chance to punish him. I knew I ought to open the position, because my pieces are more actively placed, so I started looking at 15. e5. It has some ideas of following up with Nc6 and winning the exchange, although I have to be careful if I give up my light squared bishop for his rook because he might get a dangerous queen and bishop battery!

15.e5 Nxe5
16. f4 Neg4

If I play 17. Nc6 here, he can either play 17... Rb7 and if 18. Nxe7 Rbxe7, or 17...Bb7 18. Nxb8 Bxg2 19. K/Qxg2 Ne3, winning back the exchange. Attacking his queen with 17. Na4 or 17. b4 doesn't make much sense-- I don't want my knight on a4 and playing b4 will make c4 weak, plus he will just play 17...Qh5, which threatens checkmate.

17. h3 Nh6
18. Nc6 Rb7

Computer wants to sac the exchange 18... Bb7 19. Nxb8 Nf5 20. Kh2 Bxg2 21. Qxg2 Rxb8 and it thinks black has compensation because of the weakness on e3 and the possibility of activity after ...b5.

19. g4! I was happy to find this pretty move -- it threatens to fork the knights and to trap the queen with Na4 or b4.


what should white do?

The simple 20. Nxe7+ Rbxe7 21. g5 doesn't work because of 21... Nf5. So the best is the straightforward

20. cxd5 exd5
21. Nxd5 Qxc6

I thought if black took back, 21... Nxd5, then I would too: 22. Bxd5 and my position looks so nice: I love my pieces, I'm threatening 23. Qe5, and black can hardly move.

how does white win?

22. Nxe7+ Rbxe7
23. Qxe7 Rxe7

The more critical line is 23... Qxg2+ 24. Kxg2 Rxe7 25. Rd8+ Re8

(analysis diagram)

26. Bxf6! removing his rook's defender and creating my own!

back to the game...

24. Bxc6 Nd7

25. Ba3

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

a nice analytical moment from girls nationals

Mariah McGreen had the following position as white against Isabel Gellert

What should she have played?

thoughts on girls, high school nationals

I'm so glad I took the day off today. I really had nothing pleasant left inside. I value my downalonenothingtime a lot, and I've spent something like 26 of the last 30 days with the kids and the other four days moving. Now I'm sitting on my deck in the sunshine drinking tea and eating banana oatmeal. much much much better.

The weekend was very strange: less pressure than junior high nationals (somehow 19 kids is less than 19/55 of the stress of 55) although I feel like I worked a lot also. Going back and forth between the games of 2000s and 500s is disorienting.

After junior high nationals I was pretty annoyed at how lackadaisically most of the girls played. So on Thursday and Friday I divided them into two groups of four and made each group sit through two 2-hour opening review sessions. Which for half of them was learn-your-openings-for-the-first-time sessions. I just couldn't bear to sit through any more advanced caro kanns with the light squared bishop behind the e6 pawn, or any double e pawn four knights games. This way they would have no excuse.

The first day and a half was generally pretty bad. I was on a complete rampage, going over every game and being a huge bitch all the time: saying things like "THAT IS COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE!!!" to 11 year olds for hanging pieces or nto having a reason for a move. I said some amazing things to kids, including "You can count to two, right? Then you should have seen that!!" and "If you are not going to pay more attention, you should quit chess, because you are wasting everyone's time." I also put girls on "room arrest" (you can't leave you room) for playing too quickly.

By the end of round three I was starting to feel like an abusive jerk and, since it apparently wasn't helping, was about to give up, and be fake nice instead. but then in round four everyone took over an hour and started playing well. And I really believe that's why we seem to win girls nationals sections pretty easily every year: most people won't tell teenage girls (especially the together, articulate ones) that they are lazy and the quality of their work is unacceptable. and sometimes kids need to hear that, or they have no reason to step up. I do think I'm fortunate to be a public school teacher and not a private coach: it's much harder to be that tough with someone who is paying you. I was very happy to see them improve visibly over the course of the tournament: several of them I acquired a new respect for as chessplayers.

It was quite amazing that Rochelle won the under 18. Anna Matlin was the top seed going in, and so Rochelle and I had started preparing for her Saturday morning, thinking we had time and they wouldn't play until Sunday. But we had only just done some basic stuff, and they were paired that night. I haven't seen the game yet, but I understand Rochelle salvaged a draw in Anna's time trouble despite being down a piece for much of the game. of course, you can't blame someone for being lucky.

On Sunday Rochelle just had to beat a 1300 and a 1400 in the last two rounds, while Anna had to beat Alexandra Botez, an 1800, and the mysterious Danni Chen. This seems to have been Danni's first USCF rated event, but her provisional rating is 2068 (!!). Anna lost on time to Chen in the last round, (no idea what the game or final position was like) which allowed Rochelle to win with 5/6 and better tiebreaks.

So maybe she got a little fortunate with the pairings (although she played Botez in round 2 and the talented Margaret Hua in round three) and Anna's recurrant time trouble, but Rochelle also played some tough practical chess. The scholarship make a huge difference in her life: I hear that a lot of the people who win the Girls Nationals scholarship don't end up using it, but she will.

It was basically the greatest moment of my life Saturday night when we were in first in high school team standings. I actually stayed up later just to enjoy it some more. I knew it couldn't last: we would get super hard pairings on Sunday and three of them are eleven, but it was a huge thrill to see.

pretty good for sixth grade: James Black places 22nd in the High School Championship

I was proud of them for coming fifth. They played some nice games.

I asked one kid what happened in his last round game and he said, "I didn't feel like playing so I wasn't concentrating and made a lot of mistakes." At first I was interested in figuring out how bad he felt about this, because it seemed ambiguous from his delivery, but then I started thinking I was impressed with the kid's self-awareness.

my plan for the rest of the afternoon: take a nap, watch an episode of House, and go for an exploratory bike ride.

Monday, April 19, 2010

High School and Girls Results

Congrats to Rochelle Ballantyne on winning the 18 and Under section of Girls Nationals and a full four year scholarship to UTD.

IS 318 finished 5th in the high school open and won the girls 12 and under and girls 14 and under sections. Congrats to James Black for finishing 22nd and Jehron Bryant 35th (both tied for 15th-46th) and Pobo Efekoro for winning 3rd 1800-1899. I have a lot to say about both tournaments, so more tomorrow.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

high school nationals, beginning of round 5

exciting news: we've been in second place all day at high school nationals!

Nigel played well!

James Black, filmmaker.

Anita, Yuxin, Maya and Mariah just learned the caro-kann, giuoco piano, tarrasch french, and grand prix attack.

opening cram session 2: Lequasiah, Ronavia, Zanea

Isaac and Zanea

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I guess it was ok

I got back from Junior High Nationals in Minneapolis last night. I feel braindead and spaced out today. I was on the first flight, which arrived at Newark at 5:10 and at school at 6. I flipped a coin with Pete Kelly to see who was going to wait with the unpickedup kids. I won (heads) and he waited for an hour and a half outside the school for some tardy grandmother. I would have freaked out.

So the under sections performed pretty badly. Some kids played ok, but they were nothing like the under kids of the past. Last year we had Danny Feng, David Kim, Aleem Awan, in the under 750, and those kids are now all 1600-1900. The kids this year just aren't (for the most part) as serious. I got frustrated looking at the games. I found myself saying things like "How many times is your piece attacked? How many times is it defended?," or "Did you think about capturing the free pawn?" It's hard for me to say any of those sentences more than a couple times to a kid before I start to feel like they aren't paying enough attention and I get annoyed.

We won the K-8 and came third in the K-9. The K-8 was easy: not too many other strong teams (they moved to the K-9) and we had a 4.5 point lead going into the last round. The K-9 was a bit of a heartbreaker. We had a one point lead going into the last round and needed only one win in any of 8 games to tie for first and win on tiebreaks. every single kid lost.

Isaac came into the team room and yelled "I won!!! ... ... sike!" I was so deflated, I didn't even yell at him, the way I normally would. I just said "That's not funny. Never do that again," in a numb monotone.

I haven't seen all the losing games, but the ones I have were pretty lame. And the scale of the chokage is so incredible. I feel disappointed with the results, but I also feel stupid and super-negative for feeling that way. We won nationals and I am disappointed. What's wrong with me?

There were definitely some big bright spots. I didn't see the best players' games (Greg Shahade volunteers his time to help me at nationals, and he works with the top 10-12 kids), but I hear they played well, especially Nigel, Alexis and Justus. Alexis went 6-0 and won clear second in the K-8. Jermaine Cooper had a breakthrough tournament in terms of game quality; every round I was looking forward to him coming back and showing me his game. Anita played very long, careful games, as did Aleem.

Next year I need to do a better job with the beginners.

Next weekend: high school and girls' nationals in Columbus, Ohio.

here are some pictures: (more here)

Alexis, Justus, Jehron, Pobo

Miguel, Pobo, Aleem, Alexis

James, Shawn

D'Andrea, Kamil, Joel, Warren, Jakob, Jermaine

James Ovando plays Alexis; Jermaine, Lukasz, and Aleem watch


James Black

Jorge Quiroz

Azeez Alade playing David Adelberg

James B, Isaac, James O, Azeez, Joel, D'Andrea,

Isaac, Joel, Nigel, Randy

Friday, April 9, 2010

"This is the worst part of the trip"

... "actually, going home is the worst"
--Shawn S.

Everyone must do two tactics sheets on Thursday:

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

nationals arrival, domestic bliss

We arrived in Minneapolis yesterday with 55 (out of 57) kids (one failed Spanish and another overslept). We always leave a day early, partly so that we can show the kids a little bit of America outside NYC, but mostly because when you are traveling with such an enormous group, you are screwed if some weather problem forces the cancellation of your flight. If there are 10 of you, they rebook you, no problem, but it's much harder if there are 55 people who have a round to make the next morning.

The first day usually sucks, because we always have morning flights and have to meet at the school at some ridiculous time (3:30 am), and then all day I'm in "NO STOP IT"mode, so by midmorning I feel like a huge bitch and I start to think maybe I'm in the wrong job. It's just that you spend your whole time watching to make sure nobody swings anything over their heads and brains a little old lady in the next seat, or wanders off, or leaves their trash scattered everywhere, or forgets his shoes/belt/brain at security, and everything that comes out of my mouth is stressed-out criticism, yelled over the noise of 55 kids and TSA announcements. Also the kids are very excited and behave like lunatics on plane fuel.

I have a trick I developed over the years that I employ called "15 more minutes." Any time a kid asks me how much longer something is, I say "15 more minutes." It doesn't matter if we are already there or we are 5 hours away. By the time they are in 7th grade, they've realized what's up and never ask me again.

Things will be much better today. They'll play the blitz and bughouse, and I'll hole myself away in my room doing tactics sessions with 3-6 kids at a time. I will praise them and feel like a human being who deserves to live again. Also I slept 13 hours last night and feel like a shiny new person.

The hotel here is nice and there seem to be many places to eat. Gym is $11, which is insane, especially since I have a gym in my own building!! I love my new apartment and living with boyfriend. He made me lasanga the night before I left and packed some for me on the plane. It caused TSA officials to search my bag, but probably out of jealousy.

Here are some more photos of my apartment and domestic bliss:

hot fruity breakfast every morning on the sunny balcony!

kitchen, with new blue wall and talented cooking man
outside, roof, rug.

office, studio room

bedroom, one red wall

bedroom, seen from the other side

I have a walk-in closet!