Saturday, January 29, 2011

two positions

I am happy to tell you that IS 318 won the NYC Junior High Championship, and that Danny Feng tied for first with 5/5. I don't know more than that because I was at the simultaneous IS 318 tournament.

NY's mayor, Mike Bloomberg, announced the likelihood of more teacher layoffs next year.
from the NY Post:
Here are three scenarios of state budget cuts and how many teacher layoffs those cuts would translate into under the current “last in, first out” policy:

$500 million in cuts:
* 7,972 layoffs, or 11% of workforce

$750 million in cuts:
* 11,726 layoffs, or 16% of workforce

$1 billion in cuts:
* 15,265 layoffs, or 20% of workforce. (This would include everyone who has been hired in the last five years, i.e. me.)

* City financial plan also recommends eliminating 6,166 teaching positions
* Under doomsday scenario, Bloomberg said, city could lose 21,000 teachers through layoffs and attrition
* There are currently about 75,000 teachers

I don't know exactly how they get from 15,265 to 21,000, but wow either way. This would mean class sizes of 40 or 45. I need a larger room. The thing is, when classes get that big, it's not a small drop in learning. You have so many kids in the classroom that you spend all your time managing behavior, dealing with kids who knock each other's pieces over/kick each other and you spend no time on teaching. I'm getting used to the idea that it's never as bad as they say it's going to be, but there really isn't much left to cut.
anyhow, chess problems:
1. Brian Arthur was white here. What should he play?
2. He actually played 22. Rf3 Rxc2 23. Bxc2 Qa5! How should he continue here?

3. Carlos took on h2: 15...Bxh2 16. Kh1. What should he play next?
4. The game actually continued 16...Bd6 17. Nb5  Play for black?


1. Brian has mate in 6 with 22. Rxg7 Kxg7 23. Qg4+ Kh8 24. Qe4.

2. After 22. Rf3 Rxc2 23. Bxc2 Qa5, Brian found the only winning line, 24. Qxh6 gxh6 25. Bxf6+ Kg8 26. Rg3+ Qg5 27. Bxg5. Unfortunately, he had some trouble winning the piece up ending. :)

3. He should continue 16..Ng4! 17. Be1 Rxb2!

4. 17. Nb5 allows black to simply take the knight, 17...cxb5, as white's queen is then attacked.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

are you a digital strongman?

Greg Shahade, at the site of his latest top secret chess organizing project. He is practicing with a special new hand strengthening device that Greg believes has improved his blitz speed by an average of almost 0.04 seconds/move.

1. Edeli is white in the position above. Her opponent played 9...Bg4. What happens next?

2. Teraab was black in the above position, and his opponent advanced in the center with e4. Is this thematic or just bad?

3. Jorge (black) found a great move here, winning white's queen. What is it?

Danny, with the fist of determination.

1. A beautiful position reminiscent of a trap in the Fort Knox French (after 1, e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bd7 5. Nf3 Bc6 6. Bd3 Nf6? 7. Nxf6 Qxf6? 8. Bg5! Bxf3 9. Qd2!!). After 9... Bg4, it looks like the queen is trapped, but white can try 10. Bxf6, since 10... Qxf6 11. Qxg4 and 10...Bxf3 11. Bxd8 both leave white up a piece. However, black has the tricky move 10... Qd7! defending the bishop and keeping the white queen trapped. Now white cannot play 11. Qxd5 because of 11...Bxh2 and 12....Qxd5. White can try the startling 11. Bf5!, hoping for 11...Qxf5? 12. Qxf5 Bxf5 13. Bb2 (13. Bxg7). But black just continues calmly with 11...Bxf5 and after 12. Bxg7 Rg8 13. Bb2 Be4 wins for black, as does 12. Bb2 Bg4.

2. Teraab's opponent (Mario) could not play e4, because the rook on e1 will prove to be overloaded. For example, 8. e4 dxe4 9. dxe4 Nxe4 (9...Bxe4? 10. Nxe4 Qxd1 11. Nxf6+ and white is up a piece) 10. Nxe4 Qxd1 11. Rxd1 Bxe4 and black is up a pawn.  Compare this to a line we play against the pirc: 1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. Be2 c6 6. a4 0-0 7. 0-0 Nbd7 8. Bf4 Re8 9. h3 e5? 10. dxe5 dxe5 11. Nxe5 Nxe5 12. Qxd8 Rxd8 13. Bxe5.

3. Jorge played the beautiful double attack 1...Nb4, hitting the queen and threatening 2...Nxa2#. After the only move, 2. Qb3, Jorge continued 2...Nd3 3. Kb1 Nc5+.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

puzzles from the marshall and FDA tournaments

 1. In the above position, Kevin Marin blundered with 10. Ne5. How should Vaughn Soso (black) have responded?

2. Suggest an idea for Avery Jonas (white).

 3. James Black was black in this position against Vaughn Soso. The game continued 8...d5 9. Bd3. How did Black now win a piece?

 4. Kenneth Martin has gotten his bishop trapped. What should he (black) have done about it?

5. Here, Kenneth played 7...Bg4. What was he planning if white takes on b7?

 6. Should black (Vaughn) trade rooks?

 7. David Kim is white in this position, and he found a long forced mate. Try to see all the way until the end.

 Kenneth, Maya, and Kevin



1. a common trap in the French Fort Knox. Black wins a pawn with 10... Bxe5 11. dxe5 Qd5, forking g2 and e5,

2. We've been doing "improve a piece" exercises in class, so I was happy to find this great example! A nice idea for white here is Nc1-b3, pressuring the a5 pawn. Unfortunately, Avery was too hasty with 1. Ra6, allowing a fork with Bd3.

3. 9...e5 10. Ne2 d4!

4. Kenneth played 1...Ne8 2. Nxg6 fxg6 3. fxg6 h6, hoping to win the g6 pawn later. He ended up in more serious danger than he anticipated. he should have played 1...Bh5! 2. Bxh5 Nxh5 3, Qxh5 Bxh4 =

5. He had seen that 7...Na5 8. Qb4 e6! traps the queen. Kenneth has gained 180 points from his current published monthly supplement. three cheers for Kenneth!

6. The endgane is quite ok for black if he keeps both or one pair of rooks on the board. It's easy to give in the evil impulse to trade when you feel you are losing, as here, when Vaughn's decision to trade both pairs of rooks with 1... Rxd1 2. Rxd1 Rd8 3. Rxd8 Kxd8 4. Kf4 h6 5. g4!  (after which the white king invaded easily) led direcly to losing an (almost) even position.

7. David won with 23. Qh7+ Kf8 24. Qh8+ Ke7 25. Bh4+ g5 26. Rxf7+ Kxf7 27. Qh7+ Kf8 28. Bg6 Be8 29. Qh8+ Ke7 30. Qg7+ Bf7 31. Qxf7#. Bravo!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Teacher Data Reports

This is my new Sideshow Bob look. 

This is the Save the Date card Jonathan made for our wedding.

Let me say I'm shocked they are going to release these teacher data reports. I'm not opposed to it-- if a teacher is ineffective they shouldn't be in the classroom-- no doubt, but wow, it seems like a huge thing to do. Imagine if you could read the performance report for all the adults you interact with: your doctors, your garbageman, your accountant, your drycleaner, the cop who gives you a speeding ticket. Imagine the potential unintended consequences: parents calling nonstop to get their kid in the most effective teacher's class, teachers feeling economic pressure to get a low scoring kid taken out of their class and put in special ed, teachers with mortgages only teaching test prep all year long. It just makes me wonder if they've thought this through*.
       I like the idea of teachers being measured on what skills they have taught, but I'm not sure the English tests are good enough to do this (maybe math is).  I'm not sure that you can measure much about reading and writing from multiple choice tests, and the grading of the written portions is potentially very random: it's done in long, mind-numbing, paid-by-the-hour grading sessions, without much control for consistency or room for appeal. There are also too many ways to game the system. I know an English teacher, for example, who only gives his class boring 2.5 page biographical articles to read, because that's the most common genre on the state test. Or you could easily spend 6 months making them take practice test after practice test-- your students will hate you and reading by the time you're done, but they'll test really well.
      I will be told how effective I am in a meeting next Friday.

*While we are on the subject, how amazing was Cathy Black's comment, “Couldn’t we just have some birth control for a while?” during a meeting about overcrowded schools.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Free Chess Tournament for 1900 + Players!

 Come play in Chess in the Schools' Martin Luther King Day Tournament at the Frederick Douglass Academy. It's open to anyone in high school or under, or any adult rated over 1900. It's 9:30-3:30, and runs like clockwork. Details are below, email Shaun for more info.
Monday, January 17 · 9:30am - 4:00pm

LocationFrederick Douglass Academy HS, 2581 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. BLVD

Created By

More InfoThis will be a rated 4-round G/30 event for 1900 and above players. The event is FREE and will award the following prizes:

1st- $100
2nd - $50
3rd - $30
4th - $20

For more information, please email

Jimmy Quon Memorial

Metropolitan Chess will host a Grandmaster/International Master norm round robin tournament on January 19th to 23rd of 2011. The tournament is sponsored by California Market Center, Fashion Business, Inc,, Rock and Roll Gourmet, LawyerFy, and Betty Bottom Showroom.

This tournament is dedicated to Jimmy Quon, titled the Jimmy Quon Memorial, and will be held in Suite C998 of the California Market Center on 110 East 9th Street, Los Angeles 90079. The tournament is organized by Ankit Gupta, the chief arbiter is Randy Hough, and the deputy arbiter is Michael Belcher. The participants include: GM Dejan Bojkov (BUL), GM Melikset Khachiyan (USA), GM Mark Paragua (PHI), IM Zhanibek Amanov (KAZ), IM Timothy Taylor (USA), IM Mackenzie Molner (USA), IM Jacek Stopa (POL), IM-Elect Robby Adamson (USA), IM-Elect Daniel Naroditsky (USA), and NM Alessandro Steinfl (ITL). The FIDE average of the field is 2421, for a respectable category 7.

The tournament will be a 10 player round-robin (all play all), with rounds scheduled as follows – 19th: 7:00 PM, 20th: 11:00 AM & 5:00 PM, 21st: 11:00 AM & 5:00 PM, 22nd: 10:00 AM & 4:00 PM, 23rd: 9:00 AM & 3:00 PM. Spectators are welcome and encouraged to come to watch the games in person at the tournament site. There will be two master commentary days live on-site. These commentaries will also be viewable on

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Puzzles and Photos from PS 98


 1. Kevin Marin had the above position in round one. He's completely winning, of course, but what's the best move for white?

 2. Jorge was white in the above position. His opponent played 5...cxd4. Should Jorge recapture with the knight or the pawn?

3. Many moves later... white to move-- can Jorge take on a7?

 4. Xonatia took a poisoned pawn on b2. Where should her opponent have moved?

5. A few moves later, her opponent has just played the uncomfortable 13. Qe2+. How should she escape?

answers are below the photos

Markus and Alex

Carlos and Jorge
Zion and Haby

more photos here


1. Kevin should play 18. Qh5! White threatens 19. Bxh6 Qxf6 20. Bg5+. If 18... gxf6 19. Qxh6+ Kg8 20. Bxf6. 

2. Black can give white an isolated pawn by force; white gets to choose whether to keep all the pieces (6. exd4), trade a pair of knights (6. Nxd4 Nxd4 7. exd4), or trade the queens and a pair of knights (6. Nxd4 Nxd4 7. Qxd4 Qxd4 8. exd4). If you have an isolated pawn, you want to keep the pieces on the board, so it's best to take with the pawn immediately. 
3. No, Bxa7 loses the bishop to ...Kb7. 

4. 11. Nb5! threatens the Bd6 and to trap the queen with Rb1. 

5. Xonatia should block with 13...Ne5! since 14. Nxe5 Qxa1+ 15. Kd2 Bb4+ 16. Kd3 Bf5+ 17. Be4 Qc3 is checkmate.

I'm enjoying a new book called The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us by Christopher Chablis and Daniel Simon. They did a survey at the World Open a few years ago and found out that most chessplayers think they are underrated. 
watch this related video.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

great article about Ugandan chess player

"When I first saw chess, I thought, What could make all these kids so silent?" Phiona recalls. "Then I watched them play the game and get happy and excited, and I wanted a chance to be that happy."
ESPN article

Sunday, January 2, 2011

happy new year!

Happy New Year everyone! My resolutions are to
1. get more exercise (this is every year)
2. stop wasting so much time on the internet
3. not get stressed out about little things
4. blog more

I just got back from the US Chess School in LA. It was pretty fun-- I "chaperoned" Justus Williams and Will Fisher (I didn't really do anything other than walk with them to get food a couple times and check them into their hotel room.), and they are fun people. It was good to be forced to do chess again, but honestly, really concentrating felt a little pointless. (--just for me, where I'm at with chess. the kids enjoyed it immensely). I used the video function on my camera for the first time, which was good. Question to everyone: should I be filming the games from behind white's head? Is it annoying to see it sideways? any other complaints or things I should change?
 All my photos are up here.

I'm learning some new openings to teach the kids-- the Semi-Slav and the c3 Sicilian. Nice to learn new things-- it struck me that it's been a while.

I'm reading a great book: Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond. (He won a Pulitzer for his earlier book, Guns, Germs, and Steel, which was sort of the opposite of this one-- about how societies, especially Eurasian societies with better technology, succeed) Collapse profiles different civilizations, like Easter Island, or Norse Greenland, and looks at why they died out. In Diamond's eyes, there are five factors to consider in understanding any environmental collapse: the damage people inflict on the environment, climate change (Ice Ages, the cooling effects of volcano eruptions, global warming), hostile neighbors, decreased support by friendly neighbors, and how well a society is able to respond to changes and problems: some combination of societal values and efficacy of government. It's amazing to read about the dying days of a culture, when they turn to cannibalism (a big insult on Easter Island towards the end: "The flesh of your mother sticks between my teeth").

I need your help with a good USATE team name. I'm playing with Laura Ross, Abby Marshall, and Alanna Katz.

Galvin and I are thinking of starting a chess tutoring business, in which our high school aged alumni get some training in teaching and then give private lessons to local kids for $20/hour.The student teachers we are working with are rated 1800-2100, are reliable, good with kids, and have a structured teaching program (designed by me). If any parents out there are interested, email me (