Monday, March 31, 2008


I absolutely cannot bear to spend any more class periods reviewing openings (nationals in 2 days) and I'm lazy, so tonight I'm thumbing through books for randomly interesting puzzles that I can mash together and call a "lesson." I came across four so beautiful that I felt the need to share with you guys. Weirdly, they were all on the same 2 pages of the book. Or maybe that's not so coincidental and I'm just in an easily impressed frame of mind.

M. Klyatskin 1924
white to move

Gulyayev 1940
white to move

Kasparov - Karpov New York 1994
black to move

Teichmann - Beratende Glasgow 1902
How can white bring his rook from e2 to g3?

1. Rb3! cb 2. g6! Qg8 (2...Qe8 3. Nh6) 3. Kc5 d6 4. Kd4 Ke8 5. f7+-
1. g7! f2 2. Be7 f1= Q 3. Bf6 Qf6 4. gh= Q!! Qh8 5. d4 +-

1... Ke7! 2. Rc1 Qc4=/-

1. Kh2 b5 2. Kg3 a5 3. Kh4 g6 4. Re3 (4. fg Qg5#) 4... Qg2 5. Rg3 Qf2 6. fg Qf4 7. Rg4 Qf2 8. Kh5 1:0

Novelty of the Century

After so many years in chess,when you think you have seen everything, it is still amazes you in a way you can never imagine. Small wonder that it was “Vassily,” who did it again, one of two most creative geniuses of modern chess. Just him and Morozevich.

[Event "Amber Rapid"]
[Site "Nice FRA"]
[Date "2008.03.18"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Ivanchuk, V."]
[Black "Karjakin, Sergey"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B87"]
[WhiteElo "2751"]
[BlackElo "2732"]
[PlyCount "97"]
[EventDate "2008.03.15"]

1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 d6
3. d4 cxd4
4. Nxd4 Nf6
5. Nc3 a6
6. Bc4

Fisher’s favorite method of treating Najdorf. Recently it was on a spike of popularity again, thanks mainly to the efforts of Rublevsky and Volokitin.

7. Bb3 b5

For years 7…b5 was considered the most reliable way of equalizing for black. The alternative 7…Nbd7 (7…Be7 8.g4 is way too passive for black) 8.Bg5! (much more aggressive than an old move 8.f4) Qa5 is now under heavy fire after both 9.Bxf6 Nxf6 10.0-0 (with the idea of f4-f5) or simple 9.Qd2, followed by 0-0-0.

8. Bg5 Be7
9. Qf3 Qc7
10. e5 Bb7
11. exd6 Bxd6
12. Qe3 Bc5
13. O-O-O Nc6

It was all well known and played before dozens of times with the verdict of semi forced draw.The latest example was Kogan – Sutovsky, Israel 2006 14.Bxf6 gxf6 15.Ne4 Bxd4 16.Rxd4 Nxd4 17.Nxf6+ Kf8 18.Qxd4 Rd8 19.Qh4 h6 20.c3 Qe5 21.Nh7+ Ke8 22.Nf6+ Kf8 23.Nh7+ etc.,draw!
What happens next in the featured game can only be compared to the feeling, when whatever you’re dropping to the ground, defies gravity and flies to the outer space.

14. Qxe6+!! fxe6
15. Nxe6

Gregory Kaidanov teaches that whatever happens on a chess board you should try to put in words, before proceeding to calculations and variations. So let’s do just this. "White sacrificed his queen (worth 9 pawns,by the way) for 2 pawns(!) then continues to play as if nothing happens (just making quiet moves)”

Same description,using Larry Christiansen’s method, will be looking much more laconic: “Sickening.”

15… Qe5

Facing the novelty of the century in a rapid game(!!), Karyakin makes a practical decision – to return the queen for a rook…….and forcedly ends up in a hopeless endgame!

Let’s try to figure out if there’s more than just a “shocking value” to 14.Qxe6.
First of all ,black cannot decline the offer by playing 14…Kf8. After 15.Bxf6 Bxd4 (15…Nxd4 16.Bxg7+ Kxg7 17.Qg4+ Kf8 18.Rxd4)16.Nd5! fxe6 (16…Bxf6 17.Qxf6)17.Nxc7 Bxf6 18.Nxe6 Ke8 19.Rhe1 Rb8 20. Nxg7+ Kf8 21.Ne6+ Ke8 22.Nd8+ Kf8 23.Nxb7 Rxb7 24.Re6 Bg5+ 25.f4 Nd8 26.fxg5 Nxe6 27.Bxe6 we getting our magical 3 pawns for the exchange with an easy winning position.

Then, since 15…Qe5 allows white to win a third pawn on g7 and therefore makes a queen sac for a knight in return kinda senseless, because white is already better materially – the only realistic possibility by black (and Fritz/Rybka confirms) is to sac queen back for a knight on e6 by playing 15…Qe7.

White has two ways to continue his spectacular play, the most obvious 16.Rhe1 and very interesting 16.Nd5. Incredibly black’s only defence after 16.Nd5 is “the answer in kind” 16…Nd4!! (the endgame after 16…Nxd5 17.Bxe7 Ncxe7 18.Nxc5 0-0-0 19.Rhe1 Bc6 20.Nxa6 Kb7 21.Nb4! Kb6 22.Nxc6 Kxc6 23.a4 is very bad for black). After 16…Nxd4!!,white avoids the danger after 17.Nxe7 Nxe6 18.Bxf6 Bxe7 19.Bxe7 Kxe7 20.Rhe1 Bc8 21.Rxe6 Bxe6 22.Re1 Rhe8 23.Rxe6+ Kd7 24.Rxe8 Rxe8 25.Kd2, but he certainly can’t win.

After 16.Rhe1 Qxe6(the only one) 17.Rxe6+ Ne7 18.Rde1 (less challenging is 18.Bxf6 gxf6 18.Bd5 Bxd5 20.Nxd5 Rd8!21.Nxe7 (white is also hardly in a danger of losing after 21.b4 or 21.Nxf6+) Kf7 22.Rde1 Rde8 23.Rxa6 Rxe7 24.Rxe7 Bxe7 25 Ra7 b4 26.Kd2 and draw is the most appropriate result), black has few choices, namely 18...Rd8, 18…0-0-0 and 18…Kd7. First two lead to a very pleasant endgame for white after 19.a4 b4 20.Bxf6 gxf6 21.Ne4 Bxe4 22.R1xe4. White is going to get third pawn for a piece and the question only remains if his technique would be enough for conversion. So it looks like 18…Kd7 is the only defensive option for black and white has a choice between repeating the position after 19.Rd1+ Ke8 20.Rde1 and continuing to play for a domination in the center of the board with 19.f3!?

16. Nxg7+ Kf8
17. Ne6+ Kf7
18. Rhe1 Qxe1
19. Nxc5+ Kg6
20. Rxe1 Kxg5
21. Nxb7 +-

Three pawns for the exchange is too much and Vassily finishes in style,using his impeccable technique.

21… Nd4
22. Nd6 Rhf8
23. f3 b4
24. Nce4+ Nxe4
25. Rxe4 Nxb3+
26. axb3 a5

27. Rg4+ Kf6
28. Ne4+ Ke5
29. Rh4 a4
30. bxa4 Rxa4
31. Nc5 Ra1+
32. Kd2 Rg8
33. g3 Rf1
34. Ke2 Rb1
35. Rxb4 Kd5
36. Ne4 Kc6
37. h4 Rh1
38. Rc4+ Kb6
39. b4 Rd8
40. Rc5 Ra8
41. c3 Ra2+
42. Ke3 Re1+
43. Kf4 Rf1
44. Rh5 Ra8
45. Rh6+ Kb5
46. Nd6+ Ka4
47. Rxh7 Kb3
48. Rc7 Rd8
49. Nf5 1-0


A great website about chess in New York City:

Friday, March 28, 2008

I Love Paddle Boats Too

Wed Mar 26, 5:01 PM ET
BERLIN - Petra the swan has a new home and so does her beloved swan-shaped paddleboat. In 2006, Petra, a black swan, became so attached to the boat — shaped like an outsized white swan — that she refused to leave its side at a lake near a zoo in the German city of Muenster.
Petra and her paddleboat were taken to the zoo.
Zoo officials finally parted bird and boat last week after Petra settled down with a real white swan and the boat was returned to the lake. But the romance was short-lived. The zoo says that, on Saturday, her new beau flew off and sought out the company of other black swans.
A zoo statement says that Petra "appears to feel lonely" and is swimming around in an agitated state. The solution? On Friday, she will be taken back to the nearby lake and her faithful paddleboat.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I've Always Been a Fan of the Hypotheticals

You know, cake or pie, movies or tv, pants or jeans, breakfast or dinner? Stupid college ice breakers. So last weekend I ask Alex and Darmen:
"If a magical fairy offered, would you trade 20 IQ points for 100 FIDE points?" The premise is that you are truly 20 points stupider overall, but 100 points stronger in actual playing strength-- it's not just an artificial, un-maintainable rating boost.

Their responses?
Alex: (a shrug of agreement) FIDE points are forever, but IQ is variable.
Darmen: Can I trade 150 FIDE points for 60 IQ?

My next question was 100 points for 1 leg, but no takers there ("Legs are important.")

India goes a step further-- "Would you rather be capable of creating life or DESTROYING it?"


Monday, March 24, 2008

Foxwoods Photos

This photo was part of a conversation. It went:

Darmen Sadvakasov: Did you know Kazakhstan ranks second in the world in terms of meat eating per person?

Me: Who's first?

Darmen yanks opens his jacket and shouts: WOLVES!!!!!!
Alex and I collapse to the floor in laughter.

Then we have a "fork" photo shoot. Darmen obstinately refuses to participate, citing safety concerns.

We compromise on the less dangerous "straw."

Jonathan Hilton is broadly enthusiastic. He is also very good at chess.

Dave is also for sale.

This is a ridiculous photo of Robert Hess in the mirror with the chess cartoon guy's display behind him. I know what you are thinking: how artsy.

Mrs. Hess and brother Peter Hess watch Robert's 8th round game. He drew, clinching a GM norm.

"Fork in Eye" -- from "fork" photoshoot described above.

More thoughts and a training exercise coming soon.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Pictures of Me

Please don't think I'm an enormous narcissist, but the nice Monroi ladies sent me a link to a photo album and invited me to make it public, so here you go

While you are there, check out the other photo albums they have-- much good stuff.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Beyond Even My Fantasies

look I'm on the Craigslist blog

The link above is no longer working, sorry. The story in question is related earlier in my blog, here. It was picked up and featured in the now-defunct Craig's List Blog.
If you are reading this, you almost certainly got here by googling 'hot girl.' Unfortunately for you, this is a blog about my life as a 33 year old chess teacher/player in NYC and about my friend's project, the US Chess League. And while I am reasonably attractive and fairly cheerful, I'm probably not the hot girl of your dreams. Sorry! There aren't a lot of hot women in chess, but you could try looking here. good luck to you.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

NY Scholastics, free chess books, Jules Verne

So I just got back from the NY State Scholastic Championships in Saratoga Springs last weekend. My school always goes a day early to these tournaments-- I've never been sure why exactly, but it means I have a couple days to give private lessons, which is a lot of fun and one of the few times I get to spend a chunk of individual time with the kids. I choose 4-5 kids a day and we spend a couple hours each doing tactics together or reading a chapter from Kasparov's Revolution in the 70s or Watson's Mastering the Chess Openings -- sections that are relevant to them. I somehow enjoy very much the feeling of studying with kids, when I'm not quite teaching them, but we are both trying to figure things out and learning together. Feels very democratic or egalitarian or something.

So we took 17 kids: 5 in the elementary, 8 in the junior high and 4 in the high school. We got 1st in junior high and 2nd in elementary and high school. The elementary kids had no chance since(with one exception) they played like little children, but the four eighth graders in the high school section were leading all tournament and lost two winning positions in the last round to let Murrow slip past and beat us by a point. I left most of the scoresheets at school, but here's Michael Peguero's win over expert Evan Rabin:

(5) Peguero,Michael - Rabin,Evan [B03]
State Scholastics, 16.03.2008
1.e4 Nf6
2.e5 Nd5
3.d4 d6
4.exd6 cxd6
5.c4 Nb6
6.d5 N8d7
7.Nc3 g6
8.Nf3 Bg7
9.Be2 0–0
10.0–0 Nc5
11.Be3 Bg4

12.Nd4 He'd like to play Bd4 but it loses a pawn: 12.Bd4? Bxf3 13.Bxf3 Nxc4
13.Qxe2 Rc8
14.Rac1 Qd7
15.Ncb5 This move was part of some weird, not-working plan to provoke a6 and then trap the Nc5 with b4, but it's not so bad since it does loosen up the black queenside.
16.Nc3 Nba4
17.Nxa4 Qxa4
18.b3 Qd7
19.Rcd1 Ra8
20.Rfe1 Rfe8
21.Qc2 b5
22.Nc6 bxc4
23.bxc4 Taking with the queen is probably better, since the pawn is much weaker on c4 than b3, plus the open c file might be useful.
24.Bg5 e6
25.Qe4 Nc5
26.Qf3 26...exd5
27.Ne7+ Kh8
28.Qxf7 Rf8
29.Qxd5 Qa4
30.Re3 Qe8
31.Qxd6 Qf7
32.Rf3 Qxc4
33.Rxf8+ 33.Rh3 threatening Nxg6 is even stronger
34.Rc1 Bc3
35.Nxg6+ hxg6
36.Qxf8+ Kh7
37.Qh6+ 1–0

I was somehow every impressed by this game-- it's nothing spectacular, but I liked how calmly Michael played; I liked that he was trying to provoke his opponent to play ...a6, I liked that he played the c rook to d1. I've really never taught a kid like him before-- he's just such a natural player, loves to study, never gets tired of chess, great memory, doesn't get nervous or upset by much.

Someone asked me approximately how good the kids were, and I kinda liked my answer, which went "There are about six of them who if I ask, 'what were you going to do if he took this and then took here and then went check,' they will always have some kind of answer for me. Maybe not a good answer, but they will have looked at the stuff they have to look at. Then there are maybe 5 of the 17 who could conceivably be back-rank checkmated in a tournament game. The rest are ... pretty ok?" We're taking 46 to Nationals... everything from Michael and Darrian who are basically as skilled as I am (I know more, definitely, but they are just as good at analyzing) to kids whose games I have to put on my fake-patient-teacher voice to go over. But in general I'm very fortunate-- the school has more than 40 kids over 1000 and I think 20 over 1300. So teaching them isn't boring.

But talking about my job is boring, right? What else do I have to tell you? Some excellent free chess books to download at I like the Modern Chess Self-Instructor ones especially.

Oh yeah, I realized that a position I had given from one of my games in a blog on the site was cooked:I recaptured with 26. bxc5, but claimed in the solution that 26. dxc5 was better-- the idea is that I put my knight on d4 and push my queenside pawns. Unfortunately, 26. dxc5 loses a pawn to 26... Nxe5, since 27.... Nf3 is threatened. Oooops.... I would have posted a comment on the USCF site, but somehow my browser doesn't let me.

So I was away for most of the weekend, and coming home I was reading the comments on the blog. (Maybe some readers were offended that I called y'all overpaid clowns?!) This led to some thoughts about what kinds of comments actually hurt my feelings as opposed to comments that seem like they should hurt but don't really. Until I start thinking they should. So first a story about children:

Maybe four years ago I was teaching at this elementary school and was walking the kids from from the cafeteria (snack time) upstairs to the classroom where we had chess club. One kid, we'll call him Zach, he's always very energetic, enthusiastic, aggressive, so he starts bawling hysterically. I've never seen him cry before but now he can't stop and he can't even speak. I ask him what's wrong and he just points accusingly at another kid (the best behaved, most mature kid ever) and howls in pain. So I say to Angel (the best behaved kid ever), "Hey, what did you do to Zach to make him so upset?" And Angel says "I didn't do anything to him. I just told him he wasn't really all that funny."

My point is that it's surprising what bothers people. But I could understand why Zach was upset-- if you're the class clown then you have a big stake in being funny. It's your whole schtick. And while I know I am "supposed" to feel bad when people write that I've had relationships with chessplayers before, I don't really get their point. Why does that make people so angry? And when I was reading the "Vicary is no Jules Verne" comment, I realized/remembered that the last "She's no..." pointed out my nonresemblance to Miss Hooters 2004. What are these people trying to say? I'm not a waitress with large breasts or a 19th century science fiction writer? Is this a serious insult, or somehow ... ironic? I get the sense that I'm missing something.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

portable wordprocessor a+

While I'm on the subject, I thought I would share an old Craigslist post that Greg and I and our friend Angela wrote several years ago:

Date: 2005-06-14 17:40:38
PostID: 78886459
Title: (casual encounters) Hot girl needs homeworkhelp - w4m

Heres what I want. A hot guy (Mexican preferred) to come over and do my homework. You will not be allowed in my apartment, you need to do it from outside on the front steps. I will not meet you or talk to you, I will simply slip you my homework, you will do it, and then return it to me without a word without once meeting me, seeing me or talking to me. portable wordprocessor a+. Get back to me quickly, thanks.

PS - Hope you are good at calculus
PSS - Im very hot, although you'll never know it

Of course we got more than fifty responses, one from a guy who claimed to be a college professor. Oh, those prank filled-days of youth.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Presidential Elections and the National Junior High

Don't think I'm going to relate the two because I'm not.

The problem I have with democracy as a system of government is that I have no idea what skill set makes for a good president. Maybe being an enormous policy wonk is by far the most important requirement; maybe's it's being good with people; maybe it's being a hard worker; maybe it's charisma; maybe it's about being able to amass power; maybe it's having had broad life experiences or a plethora of international diplomacy experience. How am I supposed to know??? And if I don't know, isn't voting just an exercise in absurdity?
While I'm going to vote for Obama, I have a sneaking suspicion that Ms. Clinton has exactly the right sort of personality to make an effective president.

subject change

So it looks like the team competition in the upcoming National Junior High is going to be insanely strong.
The K-9 open will have:
1. a team from Washington State with Michael Lee (2277), a 1991, a 1792 and a 1450,
2. half a Hunter team (probably a four 16-1800s) and
3. (rumor has it) Dalton with Parker Zhao (2225), Kassa Korley (2113) and who knows who else.

The K-8 open will have
1. the stronger half of the Hunter team with Alec Getz (2229), Aaron Landesman (1997) and at least a few 15-1600s,
2. Canyon Vista from Texas, with 8 1800s.
3. IS 318: 2 1900s and 7 more 16-1700s.

I've been going since 2000, and I can't remember a year that was half this strong or interesting. My school has won three of the last four years, and while the kids this year are easiest the best team I've ever coached, it seems we are very serious underdogs. Luckily I am also rooting for Mike Feinstein's students at Canyon Vista, and this raises my overall odds of being at least partially pleased with whatever outcome.
Mike was my very first chess coach, for 3 months when I was 11, until he moved to another state and became a lawyer. I have this vivid memory of sheets of yellow legal paper he would give me with chess advice like "5 things to do when down ....a pawn .... an exchange ... a piece." I read them over and over and over again for years. He's now moved to Texas and is back to teaching chess part time. It's strange to see him because he's really the only person I know who knew me when I was a kid.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Photos from Eastern Class / Testosterone

Darmen Sadvakasov

Darmen Sadvakasov
Jorge Sammour-Hasbun

Alex Shabalov and Braden Bournival

Braden Bournival thinks

Braden Bournival winks

Braden Bournival smiles

An idea occurs to Alex Shabalov

Alex is suspicious and frightened

Alex prepares on the smallest computer ever

Alex analyzes

I'm sick of writing stupid captions


I’m conscious that I may be type-casting myself as one of those people who thinks about gender constantly, but I had some thoughts on the subject this weekend that I’m prepared to share with you. It was towards the end of round four, when I realized I was very likely to lose. And I noticed that didn't bother me all that much, which made me both happy and sad. My normal response to internal conflict is to blame some outside person or factor, so I started thinking something like “Maybe there is no cognitive disparity between genders in chess; maybe men are just more aggressive and everything that comes with that: willingness to endure stress for longer periods of time, willingness to sacrifice happiness for achievement, willingness to invest emotional energy in games."
If that sounds ridiculous to you, let me turn your attention to Ilya Krasik's comment: "I play best against opponents when I hate them." Me, I just can't be bothered to work up any hatred.
And this in turn led me to the idea: maybe a woman preparing for a big tournament or match would increase her chances by taking testosterone supplements (not that this idea is either legal or healthy). But the chain of thought led me to Googling the topic, which uncovered a paper, “Testosterone and Chess Competition.” (Mazur, A. & Booth, A. & Dabbs, Jr., J.M. (1992) Testosterone and chess competition. Social Psychology Quarterly 55:70--77.) It’s not free, but you can download it for $14 at

Here are some exerpts:
The hormone testosterone (T) has a central role in recent theories about allocation of status
ranks during face-to-face competition. It has been methodologically convenient to test the
hypothesized T mechanism in physically taxing athletic contests, where results have been
supportive, although their generalizability to normal social competition is questionable.
Competition among chess players is a step closer to normal social competition because it
does not require physical struggle, and it is the arena for tests of the T mechanism which are
reported here. We find that winners of chess tournaments show higher T levels than do
losers. Also, in certain circumstances, competitors show rises in T before their games, as if
in preparation for the contests. These results generally support recent theories about the
role of T in the allocation of status ranks.

...We studied 16 male players as they competed along with nonsubject players in one or both of two chess tournaments. Their T was measured from saliva samples taken the day before, just before, and just after each round of each tournament....

...The 11 subjects in the regional meeting include two 16-year-olds who competed in the youth division. Four subjects, including one 16-year-old, won three or four rounds of the four-round tournament and are counted here as winners; the remaining seven subjects won zero to two rounds and are categorized as losers....

...For winners we found a prematch rise in T (from Time 1 to Time 2), as we hypothesized and as is consistent with prior research. A period comparison t-test of T2 minus T1 is nearly significant (p= .08, based on only three winners because T1 is missing for the fourth). Also as hypothesized, the winners' T rises above that of losers, significantly so on the morning of the day after the tournament (Time 7: p = .03, t-test). T1, measured in the morning of the day before the tournament, is surprisingly different for the eventual winners and losers. This difference is not only significant (p = .02, t-test) but remarkably consistent: All seven losers have higher T1 values than any of the winners (we discount one winner for whom T1 is missing). This is not an artifact of the normalization procedure because all of the losers' raw T1 scores (ranging from 11.0 to 12.4 ngldl) also are higher than those of winner; (ranging from 2.0 to 10.7 ngldl). It
is not clear which group, if either, departs from normal morning values. Nonetheless, in relative terms the eventual losers of the tournament had reliably high T the day before competing.

T was higher in winners than in losers after victories in both the regional and the city tournaments, confirming Gladue et al.'s (1989) finding that T is affected by nonphysical
as well as physical competitions. In the weeks-long city tournament, the effect occurred
primarily in the final weeks and in games where the players were closely matched, supporting the intuitively appealing conjecture by Salvador et al. (1987) that contestants must take their competition seriously if it is to affect their T levels. Our attempt to replicate the prematch rise
in T, which has been noted in physical competition, produced mixed results. There is
little indication of prematch rise in the city tournament. In the regional tournament,
however, which players regarded more seriously, we found a significant and consistent prematch rise among those players who went on to become winners, but not among players
who would become losers. The presence of the hypothesized prematch rise in the regional winners, and its absence in losers, is especially perplexing. The study design did not permit random assignment of subjects to conditions, and regional winners and losers probably differed in some nonrandom but unknown way. One might guess that the winners were better players than the losers, as is true in the city and most other tournaments, but our regional tournament included winners and losers of comparably high skill ratings. Our analysis of the
matchups in the tournament shows that the strong players who ultimately won had easier
opponents than the strong players who ultimately lost, a difference that these highranked
players should not have been able to anticipate on the day before the tournament.
In the Swiss system for setting matchups, two players of similar rank should not know
which one ultimately will face a tougher slate of opponents. Yet on the day before the
tournament, the ultimate losers had higher T than the ultimate winners, a result that is
difficult to explain in causal terms.
I should now wrap this up by drawing some concluion, but I got a nasty illness at the tournament
... I've been asleep for maybe 18 of the last 24 hours.... not really in a state to think much....
But if this entry isn't bloggy enough for you, try