Sunday, October 30, 2011

photos and puzzles from ps 150

Stephen Yurgel

1. Patryck was black here against Yazmeen. What amazing tactic does he have?

2. Isaiah (black) hung his queen earlier, but he has a chance to trick his opponent here. What clever move could have have played?
3. Vincente (black) has two chances to win a piece here. How?

4. Later in the same game (vs. Devin), Vincente found a nice tactic. Where?

5. I was proud of myself to recognize an important positional moment here in Jack's game at the end of the day. It's not easy (at least for me) to go back and forth looking at beginner games and seeing lots and lots of simple tactics and doing huge amounts of talking, and then actually think about chess again when you look at a 1500's game. White to move.

6. Carlos (black) vs. Eriberto Guzman. Black forgot his opening lines and got a bad position, but he has one last chance to save himself. (kudos to Carlos and Eriberto for analyzing their game together afterwards and finding this great moment).

answers below pictures!

Farai Mandizha, Isaiah Lewis and Adam Dabrowski (winner of the non-rated beginner section!) (photo by Haby Diallo)


me, analyzing with Michael Yu
William (Michael's older brother)

me, analyzing with Isaiah (photo by Haby Diallo - I love her composition choice!)

1. Patryck can play 1... Nxe4, which wins a pawn because 2. dxe4 loess the queen to 2... Bxf2 3. Kxf2 Qxd1
2. Isaiah wished he had tried 1... Bxf2, which wins a pawn and the exchange if white plays 2. Kh1, but wins back the queen and equalizes in case of 2. Kxf2 Ng4+!

3. Either 1... Nxf3+ or 1... Nxd3+ wins the Bf4.

4. I found this funny: 1..Ng3 forks the rooks.

5. Black really wants to play c6-c5 and Bc6 to activate both bishops. White should try to stop this freeing advance and also to trade the dark-squared bishops to reach a good knight vs. bad bishop ending. The right move is 1. Nb3, with the idea of 2. Bc5, exchanging bishops.

6. 1... Rdxd6 threatens white's back rank, and after 2. Rxd6 Rxd6 3. Bb2 Rf6! wins the two bishops for the rook.

Friday, October 28, 2011

review of Brooklyn Castle

read a review of the upcoming documentary Brooklyn Castle:

Let's Play Chess With 'Brooklyn Castle'
Matty W. Kelley

Now, if you're anything like me, once you hear the word "documentary" you assume you're going to have "global warming" stuffed down your throat, or Michael Moore is going to creep out from under a rock and toss his politics in your face, but let's remember, there have been some great documentaries made over the years. Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine," Ken Burns' PBS documentary "Baseball," and VH1's ROCK-umentary on "Guns 'n Roses" were all fantastic and interesting movies. "Brooklyn Castle" is right up there with these.

Brooklyn Castle tells the story of five kids living in Brooklyn, that all go to the Intermediate School 318 (i.s.318). They all share the love of chess and they all have major obstacles to overcome throughout the film.

Pobo, a 12-year-old stud on the chess board, is the ring-leader. He's a politician in the making and even runs for school president (under the name "Pobama"). He takes the chess team under his wing and is the perfect picture of optimism.

Justus and Alexis (11 and 12, respectively) are prodigies. These two are at the top of their class when it comes to chess. Justus seems to not want the limelight. He seems shy to me, and I hope he may overcome that as he gets older because he may be the best player in the country at his age (maybe even older). Alexis is a calculating player who knows what he wants. He wants a better life for himself and his family and chess can get him an excellent education.

Rochelle, (13) is striving to be the first female, African-American master in chess history... Not an easy task.

And then there's Patrick... Patrick is a terrible chess player who I think even I could beat, and I've never even played chess! But I kid. To me Patrick is the most interesting boy in the film. He plays chess to help him focus more since he has ADHD... You can't help rooting for this kid. His personality is infectious, and when he finally wins his first match, you get a lump in your throat, you're so fired up for him.

read the full review at here

Anita - Tristan

Here's a quick quiz position from Anita's afterschool game vs. Tristan. White to move and win.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

chess positions from IS 318 tournament! also running and Greg

I saw a lot of very interesting chess games today.

1. Keith is black in the above position and lost after his opponent played 7. Bxf7+ Kxf7 8. Ng5 Ke7 9. Qxg4. What did he miss?

2. Yuxin was on the black side of this Panov, and her opponent just played 9. c5. What are some ideas for black in this position (and in general in panov positions where they play c4-c5)?

3. Anita was white here. Find an idea for her.

4. Jacob can take one b7 in three different ways. Which way is best?

5. In the above position, Edeli blundered with 5... Bf5. What's wrong with this natural-looking developing move?

6. Kevin was black in this caro kann and he's just played 5... h6, which prompted his opponent to sac on f7--6.Nxf7. Is Kevin in trouble, or is the sac just bad?

7. Tristan has just played 9. Qa4+. Black has five ways to block. Rank them from best to worst.

8. Later in the same game, a second Qa4 check was blocked with 13...b5. How should white respond?

9. and the game's conclusion: Tristan is in check and has four legal moves. Rank 40. Kh3, 40. Kg1, 10. Kh1, and 40. g3 in order from best to worst. 

 Tommy, Zanea, Stefek, Justin, Tristan


Kevin and Jorge 

 Mubassar and Vincente


 Shanniah, Joel, Mariah





1. Keith missed that after 8. Ng5, he can just take the knight: 8... Qxg5, since 9. Nxg5 allows 9... Bxd1 and black ends up ahead a piece for a pawn (the bishop that white incorrectly sacked on f7).

2. In some lines (usually the 5.. Nc6 lines), c4-c5 can be dangerous, especially when white can support it with b2-b4.
      Yuxin played 9... b6, which makes a lot of sense, trying to break down white's pawn structure and space advantage.
       Another great idea to know for black is Nf6-e4. The point is if 9...Ne4 10. Nxe4 dxe4 11. Bxe7 Qxe7, that the Nf3 has to move and Rfd8 is coming and black will win white's d pawn. If white doesn't take, then black just has a nice centralized knight.
      Playing e6-e5 is possible sometimes, but it's hard because it usualy hangs or seriously weakens d5.

3. White can double rooks on the a file and win the a5 pawn.

4. 22.Rexb7 and 22. Bxb7 are both good moves, but Jacob unfortunately chose the one that lost: after 22. Rbxb7, black wins the exchange with 22... Rd1+ 23. Kg2 Bd5+.

5. 5... Bf5 undefends b7 and allows the double attack 6. Qb3, hitting d5 and b7.

6. I was worried when I saw Kevin's position because he normally remembers everything I've ever told him, so if he gets caught in an opening trap, it's probably my fault. But Nxf7 is nothing here, and Kevin kept his cool and defended well: 6... Kxf7 7. Bc4 e6 8. 0-0 Bd6 9. Re1 Re8. Kevin told me afterwards that he was worried more about the variation 7. Ng5 Kg8 8. Bc4+ e6 9. Ng6 Rh7 10. Bd3, but we agreed that after 10... Bd6, black is really just fine. 

7. The worst is 9... Qd7, which loses the queen to 10. Bb5. 
9... b5 is just sacking a pawn for no reason.
Tristan's opponent played the bad move 9... Nfd7, which loses the bishop after 10. Nxe5 dxe5 11. Qxg4.
9... Ned7 is ok.
9... Bd7 gains a tempo on the queen and is therefore the best way to block.

8. Tristan correctly took on b5 with the knight: 14. Nxb5 axb5 15. Bxb5 Nd7 16. Bxd7 Ke7 (16... Qxd7 17. Qxa8).

9. After 37. g3 Qf2 38. Kh3, black has no more checks and white is up a piece and completely winning.
37. Kg1 and 37. Kh1 both allow either perpetual check (Qh4-f2-h4-f2), or if white interposes with Qh3, allow black to play e3-e2-e1.
Tragically, 37. Kh3 allowed 37... Qh4#.

In other news, I have begun running again with the very inspiring NHS Couch to 5K running podcasts, designed to motivate couch potatos who hate running. They are very good--like having a super-positive mtoivational coach with an English accent.  I've only just started, but I'm going to go 3 times a week before work with the dog.
Also, the New York Times celebrates Greg's chess comeback, grouping him with Morosevich and Kamsky as "(among) the world's best players."

Friday, October 21, 2011

know any good chess rules?

I'm making a bulletin board for my classroomm of useful "rules of thumb" in chess. For example:

  • Rooks love open files and the seventh rank.
  • Don't move the same piece twice in the opening until you've developed all your pieces (unless you have a really good reason!)
  • Capablanca's Rule: When you are up the exchange in an endgame, sometimes the easiest way to win is to sac the exchange back for a pawn.
  • In endgames, opposite colored bishops increase drawing chances. But in middlegames, they increase the winning chances of the attacking side.
  • When you are ahead material, exchange big pieces, but don't trade off all the pawns. When you are behind in material, trade pawns but not big pieces.
I'd love everyone's help in brainstorming as many rules as possible. They can be easy or advanced! Thank you!!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

nothing is really new except I moved

hello blog readers! I've moved. Jonathan and I bought a house. I never thought I would own a house. It's 5 minutes walk from school, part of my "never commute" life strategy. We are in the middle of painting, actually Jonathan is in the middle of painting and I am in the middle of unpacking. We have a marital strategy of dividing all household tasks into "his" and "mine" rather than sharing them-- eliminates any disagreements about whose turn it is and allows us to specialize-- working very well so far.

      The school year is going pretty well. Teaching takes so much energy, it's unbelievable. It's like you against their collective inertia. Also you vs their collective preference to forming meaningful social relationships through conversation rather than listen to you. and every year you start again, explaining why they shouldn't trade bishops for knights and how they should slow down and bring out their pieces and all the same things you've been saying for the last, wow, 13 years. I don't know how much longer I can do this.

      I'm intending to play chess again at thanksgiving. I hope I actually will. It's been months. I can tell I'm getting worse as an analyst because I'm not playing.
      I was happy to be mentioned in Steve Goldberg's latest chess cafe article, but thought it was pretty funny that his first criterion was
•How frequently is the blog updated? Daily is great, monthly is boring.
and he awarded me 2nd place anyway. good motivation, I guess.

Monday, October 3, 2011

IS 318 Fund Raising Drive-- please help!

Please help support IS 318's chess team. Our funding has been reduced every year for several years now, and it's at the point that we have to make really fundamental cuts. We won't be able to take many students to Nationals or go to many of the tournaments we regularly win/do well in (the Marshall, the NY State Championship, Girls Nationals, High School Nationals, Elementary Nationals).

87% of our students live below the poverty line, which is currrently $22,000 for a family of four. That's even harder to live on in New York City than in the rest of the country. The money you donate will give these kids educational experiences they would not otherwise be able to afford. Because we bring so many kids to tournament and I work on salary, your donated dollar is spent extremely efficiently and goes really far. For example:

  • $40 sponsors a student to play in a weekend Marshall tournament. Playing in the Marshall is the first introduction my students get to a time control slower than G/30, and it's an essential part of getting over 1800.
  • $133 ($70 hotel; $35 entry fee; $28 train) pays for a student to go to Amateur Team East, where they play 6 slow time control games against strong players and analyze them with me. It's the equivalent of 36 hours of serious chess training.
  • $160 ($70 hotel; $40 entry; $50 train) pays for a student to play in the State Championship in Saratoga Springs.
  • $500 pays for National Master James Black to play in the Liberty Bell Open. Playing in the open section of these top tournaments is an important training experience and one his family is unable to afford without help. 
  • $650 pays for a student to play in Junior High Nationals in San Diego. (flights to CA are pricy)
  • $1500 This is a pipe dream, but maybe someone would be excited to sponsor it. I'd like to organize a mini-US Chess School for the Young Black Masters Club (Justus Williams, Josh Colas, James Black, Jehron Bryant + Nigel Bryant), where they study intensively with GM Gregory Kaidanov for 2 days, 10 hours/day. The $1500 covers Kaidanov's expenses and payment, and is a generous discount on his normal fees.  If you sponsor this in full, you would be welcome to observe.
  • $5000 pays for 6 students (and two teacher coach/chaperones) to compete in the National High School Championship in Nashville, TN. Last year, IS 318 finished in 2nd place by half a point. We have kept our three highest rated players (they are in 8th grade this year) and we hope to make history by being the first junior high school to win the section.
  • $30,000 pays for 40 kids to play in Junior High Nationals.
Any donation amount is greatly appreciated. . You will receive thank you cards, photos, and games from the kids who benefit from your generosity. For large donations, the school will write you a tax receipt. Please contact me at for more info/ to donate. Thank you.

donation update!!

Many thanks to Jan Newton of and its blog, for her donation, which will pay the entry fees for IS 318's girls to play in Girls Nationals. (Her donation was not given specifically for this, it was given generally, but our Assistant Principal/ BudgetMaster John Galvin decided we would go to Girls Nationals to honor Jan's generosity. Thank you so much and know our girls are ecstatic!)

Many thanks to Marc Widmaier and an anonymous donor for their generosity!

Many thanks to an anonymous donor for sponsoring $500 of the $1500 needed for the Kaidanov mini-camp for the Young Black Masters Club. This sponsorship is contingent on getting the remaining $1000, so please consider giving if this idea interests you!