Saturday, October 31, 2009

are you as good as an IS 318 player? take our quiz...

Danny Feng and Azeez Alade tied for first (4-0) at today's CIS tournament. Danny beat Alexis Paredes in the last round and won the blitz playoff against Azeez. Anita Maksimiuk, Richard Wu and Anthony Ovando won the junior high novice section (Anita took first on tiebreaks.) Jessy Ramirez won the unrated section. Rhoda Lynch came second in the reserse/intermediate section.

Puzzles from IS 318 players games:

1. Anita Maksimiuk - Kevin Budhu. Anita's queen is attacked. Where should it move and what happens next?


2. Alexander Bavalsky- Danny Feng

Black played 12... f5, which has the positional idea of controlling the light squares and continuing with Nd7-f6, gripping e4 and d5. Black also sets a trap.

a) Where should white move?
b) White actually played 13. Qd3, getting out of the pin on the e file. What should black play and what happens?


3. Danny Feng - Calvin Ky white to move.

Danny knows his openings very well: until his opponent's last move, 10... Nf7, he was still in "theory." How could he have won immediately here?

4. Alex ? - Matthew Kluska How should black defend the e pawn, 18... Re8 or 18... Bf6?


5. Sean - Alex Bradford black to move


6. Adelaide - Austin Tang Black castled here, but what's a better move?


7. Casey Jacobs - James Black
what to take? black to move

James, Danny, and Anthony (front to back)

8. Walid - Aru Banks black to move


9. ?? - Kevin Dominguez. black to move

10) Alexis Paredes - Danny Feng (rd. 4 board 1) Danny won the game, but missed an amazing idea here. black to move

more photos


Shaun Smith, tournament director

Jacob, Joel, Richard, James

Rashawn Baldwin

Azeez Alade

even more photos here


1) 1. Qg3! (1. Qe3 is also good, with the idea of 2. Ba3) 1... Bh5 (if 1... h5, 2. h3 isn't great because of 2... Nxe4, but 2. f6! gxf6 3. Ba3 is) 2. f6! Qxf6 3. Rxf6 +-

2) 12....f5! 13. Qd3 (13. Qf3 is best) 13... f4! 14. Ne4 this loses 2 pieces for a rook and pawn (14. Nc4! was the only saving move) 14... Rxe4 15. Qxe4 fxe3 16. fxe3

16... Nf6 17. Qf3 Qe7 18. Rae1 Ne4 and black won without problems.

3) 11. Nxf7!! Kxf7 12. Qf3+ Kg8 (12... Qf6 13. Qh5+) (12... Ke8 13. Re1+ Be7 14. Bg5) 13. Qd5+

4) The simplest and most efficient way to guard the pawn is ... Bf6. Matthew played 1... Rfe8 and quickly got a passive position. 2. Rac1 e6 3. Rc7 b6 4. Rfc1

Here, Matthew played ... b5 and went on to lose, slowly and painfully. But it's not too late: black can still activate with 4...e5! 5. dxe5 Bxe5 6. R7c2 (6. Rb7? Bxb2) 6... d4!

5) White threatens 7. Bxf7! Kxf7 8. Ne5+ K moves 9. Nxg4. Black should make a move that stops this, like 6... e6.

6) Instead of castling, Austin should have played 9...g4!! 10. Nd2 Qh4 with mate soon.

7) I was impressed with James' decision to take the bishop instead of the pawn. He eventually drew the game.

8) 6...Ng4! wins a pawn: white has nothing better than 7. Be3.

9) Kevin played 1... Nh4! 2. Kf1 Bd3+ 3. Re2 Qg2+ 4. Ke1 Nf3# (D)!

10) 11... Nd4!! 12. Nxd4 Qh4+ 13. g3

If 13. Ke2 Qxd4 with the threat of 14... Bg4+ 15. Ke1 Qd2#. If 14. Qc2, Qxe5 and black has a raging attack and two pawns. If 14. Rd1 Bg4+.

If 13. Kd1 Qxd4+ 14. Kc1 Qd2+ 15. Kb1 Bf5+ is checkmate soon

13... Qxd4 14. Qc2 Bf5 15. Qc1 Be4 16. Rg1 e2 -+

Friday, October 30, 2009

The I.S. 318 Chess Team: The Kings of Brooklyn Chess

Thirteen-year-old Miguel Garcia makes a move against an opponent, gets up to walk away for five minutes, only to come back, take one look at the board, and swipe his rook to capture his opponent’s pawn at 4-6. It’s an ice-cold move that brings to mind why, when speaking of the great athletes of professional team sports, so many references are made to “thinking like a chess player” — always a few moves ahead. Garcia has reason to be so self-assured, as he is one of the top players on the top team in the country: the defending national champions of I.S. 318 in Williamsburg.

read more in the Greenpoint Gazette

Thursday, October 29, 2009

have you ever thought that conservatives are all stupid?

you were right!
A paper, Conservativism and Cognitive Ability from the psychology journal Intelligence finds that

"Conservatism and cognitive ability are negatively correlated. The evidence is based on 1254 community college students and 1600 foreign students seeking entry to United States' universities. At the individual level of analysis, conservatism scores correlate negatively with SAT, Vocabulary, and Analogy test scores. At the national level of analysis, conservatism scores correlate negatively with measures of education (e.g., gross enrollment at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels) and performance on mathematics and reading assessments from the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) project. They also correlate with components of the Failed States Index and several other measures of economic and political development of nations. Conservatism scores have higher correlations with economic and political measures than estimated IQ scores.

1. Introduction
There has been an increased interest in the construct of conservatism. Recent evidence indicates that some existing stereotypes are not supported by the available data. For example, (Brooks, 2006) and (Brooks, 2008) reports that conservatives engage more than liberals in charitable activities and people on the political right are nearly twice as happy as those on the left. The work of Napier and Jost (2008) shows that conservatives tend to be happier than liberals because of their tendency to justify the current state of affairs and because they are less bothered by inequalities in the society. The focus of these investigators is on political conservatism — tendency to attach high importance to topics that are high on the agendas of right-wing political parties within a given society and, consequently, endorse these parties' candidates in elections. For example, a version of the USA Wilson–Patterson Conservatism Scale (WPC; see Wilson, 1973) used in a study reported by Bouchard et al. (2003) contained 28 items that asked participants to state how important topics such as abortion, property tax, gay rights, liberals and immigration are.1 In the studies reported in the main body of this paper, political conservatism was not examined directly. However, Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski, and Sulloway (2003) suggest that it is time to re-examine the links between political conservatism and a host of individual difference variables. A constellation of these individual difference variables may be called Conservative syndrome. Although an alternative label, psychological conservatism, may be more appropriate if one's aim is to contrast politics and psychology, the term syndrome appears to be adequate for a discourse within the field of psychology itself.

Jost et al.'s (2003) meta-analysis confirms that several psychological variables predict political conservatism. The list includes death anxiety; system instability; dogmatism; intolerance of ambiguity, low openness to experience, and uncertainty; need for order, closure, and negative integrative complexity; and fear of threat and loss of self-esteem. The theory of Jost et al. (2003) treats political conservatism as motivated cognition and builds on a large body of research accumulated since the end of World War II. One antecedent is the approach advocated by Wilson's (1973) dynamic theory that also saw conservatism as a motivated response to uncertainty. The threat or uncertainty may derive from fear of death, anarchy, foreigners, dissent, complexity, novelty, ambiguity, and social change. Responses to these sources of uncertainty include superstition, religious dogmatism, ethnocentrism, militarism, authoritarianism, punitiveness, conventionality, and rigid morality. Wilson postulated that political conservatism derives from genetic sources (anxiety proneness, stimulus aversion, low intelligence, and physical unattractiveness) as well as environmental influences (parental coldness, punitiveness, rigidity, inconsistency, and low social class). Jost et al. (2003) summarize their own position in the following way: “The core ideology of conservatism stresses resistance to change and justification of inequality and is motivated by needs that vary situationally and dispositionally to manage uncertainty and threat.” (p. 339).

In this paper, I examine the hypothesis that low cognitive ability may be related to conservative syndrome (or conservatism, for short) which, in turn, is defined in terms of measures of personality, social attitudes, values, and social norms. There are two ways to arrive at this assumption. First, we can assume that cognitive ability affects conservatism directly. Thus, the perceived threat may vary depending on cognitive level — sources of threat such as complexity, novelty, and ambiguity may be more threatening to those who score low as opposed to those who score high on cognitive tests. Second, we can postulate that there exists an independent process that influences both conservatism and cognitive functioning. A candidate for this role may be mental rigidity. My primary aim in this paper is to present evidence of correlation, not to test these two causal models. "

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pobama runs for President!

Check out the new blog about the making of the documentary about my chess team!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

more Saturday scholastic chess and photos

Yesterday's CIS tournament at IS 318 was won by Miguel Garcia, Danny Feng and Randy Rivera, who all scored 4/4. Miguel magically won a worse but completely drawn rook ending (rook and f and h pawns against rook and g and h pawns (!!?)) to win the blitz playoff. Here's his pretty round three victory over former 318 player Markel Brown:

Garcia,Miguel (1927) - Brown,Markel (1603) [D78]
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 0–0 5.0–0 d5 6.c4 Bf5

7.Nc3 Mitch Fitzko suggested white should take on d5 here, since black has maybe messed up a little not playing ...c6, and white can take advantage of black's omission to get an extra center pawn. I was really impressed by that comment.

7...c6 8.Bf4 Ne4 Why not move the other knight? Black's development problem starts here.

9.cxd5 Nxc3 10.bxc3 Qxd5 This recapture is the second mistake; it lets white have an extra pawn in the center, and Miguel exploits this instructively.

11.Ne5 After the game I liked 11.Nh4, getting the two bishops. Rybka agrees and suggests the line 11... Qd7 12.Nxf5 Qxf5 13.Qb3 b6 14.e4 Qh5 15.e5 with central space and queenside pressure.

11...Qa5 12.e4 Be6 13.d5 cxd5 14.exd5 Rd8

how should white deal with the threat to the d pawn?


15.Qb3 Miguel also looked at 15. c4 and the very interesting 15. dxe6!? He calculated it well: 15... Rxd1 16.exf7+ Kf8 17.Rfxd1

(analysis diagram)

Miguel had considered as his main line 17...Bxe5 18.Bxe5 (Rybka finds the improvement 18.Bh6+! Kxf7 19.Bxb7 Bxc3 20.Rac1 Nc6 21.Bxa8 Nd4 22.Kg2 and white's got an extra thing ±) 18...Qxe5 (18...Nc6!) 19.Bxb7±

(analysis diagram)
which Miguel correctly assessed as better for white but said he thought 17... Nc6 (from the previous diagram) might be less clear. he is right.

back to 15. Qb3: 15...Bxd5 16.Bxd5 Rxd5
white to move and win
white could play 17. Qxb7 now, and it's good, but black will respond 17... Bxe5 18. Bxe5 Rd8 19. Qxa8 Nd7 20. Q-- Nxe5 and be down an exchange. Miguel found an even better move ...

picture of Joel Ogunremi to hide the answer
17.Rad1! Rxd1 [17...e6 18.Qxb7 this is obviously very similar to just taking on b7 last move, but white has the useful move Rad1 in almost for free] 18.Qxf7+ Kh8 19.Qe8+ Bf8 20.Qxf8#





more photos

Friday, October 23, 2009

"sexy" photos with oversized chess pieces are creepy

the Breen sisters: Patricia, Karena, and Anne Marie

Would you believe there are also three world-class checkers-playing sisters? I found this out because I was curious about other male-dominated subcultures and how they market/promote/ imagine/depict female players.

Can I say I'm a little weirded out by the hyper-sexual photography of top female players with chess pieces? I'm not objecting to sexy pictures per se, although maybe it's a little unprofessional sometimes, but it's just so insanely silly with the chess pieces. Imagine if female checkers players were routinely photographed sucking on little round red disks. Or female rowers, rubbing themselves with oars. Or female microbiologists, posing in bikinis, pouting their lips, throwing around giant inflatable models of viruses.

really, could you be any less symbolically subtle?

Absolutely no disrespect is meant to any of the above women. I'm sure the poses were not their idea.

I figured I should add this one:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

a book, a video, an article, a concert, and a free kayaking trip

1. A video for a great children's chess book, Gary's Adventures in Chess Country.

2. An interesting article in Rolling Stone: Wall Street's Naked Swindle

3. The Marshall Chess Foundation Presents
“The King's Gambit”
A Musical/Chess Performance by Guido van der Werve, accompanied by a 9 piece string orchestra
Mr. van der Werve will perform his piece, using a specifically built chess table, which functions as a mechanical piano.When the chess pieces are moved, the piano will sound the crucial notes throughout the performance.
Mr. van der Werve’s works have been performed in such places asthe Tate Modern in London, MoMa in New York, andthe National Centre for Contemporary Art in Moscow.

Friday, November 13th, 2009
1st Performance: 7:00 PM
2nd Performance: 9:00 PM

Refreshments will be served
Event Fee: Members $8, non-members $10
Tickets can be purchased online at
Marshall Chess Club
23 West 10th Street
New York, NY 10011
Phone 212-477-3716 Fax 212-995-9281

4. I went impulse-kayaking tonight for free!! ("The NYC Downtown Boathouse is an all-volunteer organization that is dedicated to providing access to the Hudson River for everyone. The Boathouse is located in the Hudson River Park, and has a permit from the Hudson River Park Trust to operate in the park.All activities at the boathouse are completely free and are available to anyone from the general public. We provide all the equipment and the know-how. All we ask is that you know how to swim, wear a life jacket, abide by our rules, and sign our liability waiver.")

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Grade Nationals Predictions

A reader left a comment today asking who I thought the favorites are in the upcoming Grade Nationals. For me, it’s always fun to think about this, so what started as a comment-response has become a full fledged post.

Let’s start at the bottom:
The big question in the lower grades is how much it being in Texas will hurt the Florida teams and to what extent the recession will hurt New York. Here’s the basic story: almost all team firsts are won by schools in New York, Texas, or Florida (2007: NY 6, TX 4, FL 1; 2008 NY 7, TX 1, FL: 2). The tournament itself is held in Texas in odd-numbered years and Florida in even-numbered years. Texas teams are much less likely to travel, so they rarely score in even years. Florida kids do travel, but the Florida teams with the best chances are in the lower grades, which are the hardest to get to travel, and so they have some significant handicap in odd years.

Also, a lot the conspiracy-theory-minded East Coasters think the Texas kids have inflated ratings. It's fun to look at the results every year and see if it's true.

I'm sure the recession has hurt people everyone, but I suspect the tournament will show its greatest impact fell on the New York contingent. New York teams tend to be one of two types: either inner city public schools, which have traditionally paid for some or all of their students expenses, but will be much less able to this year because of significant citywide budget cuts, or private schools, the parents of which may have been especially hard hit by Wall Street layoffs.

Oak Hall (FL) always does well in kindergarten and first grade. I don’t follow the elementary grades so closely, but Hunter and Horace Mann are usually the teams to beat in 2-5. The NY Chess in the Schools programs seem much weaker to me this year: I doubt they will score in the elementary grades, though I’d be thrilled to be wrong.

I’ll spare you the false modesty in junior high school: I think 318 will win 6th and 7th, and they have a good chance at 8th grade. I'm sorry if it's obnoxious to say so.

The fifth grade was insanely competitive last year (5 teams within a half point of first going into the last round), but 318’s sixth grade team has Justus Williams (2128), James Black (1830), and Isaac Barayev (1785). (Top three scores in each grade count for the team score.)

Seventh grade is the “weakest” team, but it still has Shawn Swindell (1798), Danny Feng (1693), Rashawn Williams (1713), Joel Ogunremi (1603), Jakob Kobaljo (1596), JP Garcia (1498), Randy Rivera (1437), Aleem Awan (1416), and I’m forgetting someone maybe. I’m interested to see who wins the seventh grade individual this year—David Adelberg just broke master and will be the favorite if he plays, but there’s also Jarat Pamatmat (2184) and last year’s winner, Michael Bodek (2030).

Hunter could maybe win 8th if Alex Ostrovskiy (2153) goes, I think they also have Yuta Kakutani, who’s 1950, and a 1200. But 318 has Alexis Paredes (1934), Jehron and Nigel Bryant (1973, 1772), Miguel Garcia (1916), Pobo Efekoro (1796), Azeez Alade (1756), Rawn Prowell (1740), and Myles Foster (1693). It’s possible Canyon Vista in Austin has a fantastic 8th grade team also: George Qi and some more kids who were 18-1900 two years ago. They might easily be the favorites, the more I think about it.

Gilbert HS from Arizona won 9th grade two years ago and 10th grade last year, so they should be favorites in 11th this year. Bellaire High from Texas similarly won 10th two years ago and 11th last year, so probably they take 12th this year. Abby Marshall has to be the favorite in 12th grade after winning 11th grade last year and the Denker Tournament of High School Champions this summer.

Hard to say more than that before the pre entry deadlines have past. Maybe I'll do an update then. Any thoughts?

update: advance entries from CanyonVista:
Gr8 8 1988 Chang, Derek 12926166 1111 TX TXACVS
Gr8 8 1992 Chen, Steven 12946130 0812 TX TXACVS
Gr8 8 1726 Wang, Andy 13002173 0310 TX TXACVS
Gr8 8 1717 Xie, Kevin 13002036 1111 TX TXACVS

Eighth grade should be an exciting section!

Monday, October 19, 2009

the WSJ article about women's titles

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, "Abolish Women's Chess Titles," has been generating some discussion recently (Mig, Kosteniuk). I'm somehow convinced by both sides of the argument.

But here's my problem with the article: Barbara Jepson knows almost nothing about chess.

I know this because she contacted me in August to ask some background questions and get Irina Krush's email. I'm pretty sure the opinion she expresses is simply Irina's opinion. Jepson obviously contacted a number of other people, and got some good quotes/points from them, and I'm sure it's possible for a non chess player to form an opinion on the subject of women's titles, but somehow it feels like a weird kind of journalism. Just pick someone famous/knowledgable in the field, ask them for their thoughts on a subject, and then write an editorial? Or maybe it's done all the time?

speed dating

I went speed dating last night! It was awesome: it's held inside a huge bar, I had a little half-booth (I shared it with a volumptuous, late-twenties, Italian Jersey girl, named, somehow, Midori, who explained to me (and the last guy I spoke with, "Ragan D.") that she was a "very, very sexual person" and making her choices "solely on that basis."), anyway I had a half booth and every three minutes a bell would ring and a new guy would come over and talk to me. I met 31 men in 2 hours and 80% of them were interesting, attractive, socially skilled and between 25 and 40! I was very impressed!

Quite aside from any romantic interest, it's hilarious to see what people do with the 3 minutes. It's a bit like being a judge on American Idol, only they talk instead of sing*.

what they said
One or two had a prefab line, like "I'm so excited Halloween is coming up: it's my favorite holiday! What's your favorite holiday and why?" Obviously, I have considered this question before, and so could quickly (but casually, pretending to think for just a couple seconds) reply, "My favorites are the ones you don't have to do anything for: Martin Luther King Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day: the lazy person's holidays. I hate the expectation-heavy holidays: Halloween, Valentines Day, Christmas, etc." The guy grimaced, because he knew my response crushed his question, and right then I felt a lot like you feel when someone walks straight into a line you prepared for someone else years ago but still remember clearly.

A couple just came out with the facts ("hi, I'm Alan M, I'm a 32 year old dentist and I love to walk my dogs and travel!").

A lot asked me where I was from, which is for me a disturbing question, because in general what the person means is "why do you talk funny" and when I say "I was born in England" (a phrasing I arrived at after several years of practice: I'm not making any claims or taking any positions; I am neutrally stating a fact.), people often reply "No, but you don't have an English accent." Then sometimes I say "I moved around a lot as a kid," and sometimes I just stare at them angrily and shrug, because, really, why are they arguing with me about where I'm from? But I was nice to everyone last night.

I mostly used the "how was your weekend?" line, which I enjoyed (for a time). I think it's a very good opener, because it's

1) open-ended,
2) asks what they do in the time I am most interested in seeing them, and
3) made almost everyone immediately defensive because they did nothing this weekend.

After a while, I realized it's important to have several questions, because whatever you ask always gets asked back at you, and I got bored of talking about my weekend after the 20th time.

After each person you write yes or no on a card and then go home, log on to the website, and check off whomever you want to see again. You get sent their email address if they want to see you too. I said yes to about twelve people, but only got three matches, which honestly surprised me a lot, I assumed I would get a lot more, 8 or 10 maybe, but I guess it's good to expect to be liked?

One guy had a hilarious job: he illustrated a US Army comic book called Preventive Maintanance.

*but imagine if birds speed-dated.