Monday, December 27, 2010

more US Chess School photos

 Camp Organizer IM Greg Shahade

 Justus Williams

 Will Fisher and Kayden Troff
 Will Fisher
 Yian Liao

Michael Brown
for more photos click here or here

Photos from the US Chess School Day 1

instructor GM Melik Khachiyan

Will Fisher, Kostya Kavutskiy, Michael Bodek

Varun plays Greg
Aviv Friedman
Kayden Troff
Michael Brown

Samuel Sevian

more photos here

Friday, December 24, 2010

Patch, our new website, LA

There's a nice story about our chess team on Patch, a super-local AOL type new media website.

Thanks to Braden Bournival for helping us get a new website for the IS 318 team up and running. It's still being built -- we want to have individual pages for top players-- they design them themselves, choose the colors and the design, include their best game, best tactic, a recent win, favorite photo, maybe the page plays a theme song, then also a history of the team page, a program describing our alumni tutoring business, more content and photos, etc. -- but you can check it out here. Any suggestions for what else to add? Any links for easy ways to add playable boards?

I just put up a post about the most improved kids. I realized a few things when writing it. One is that the 8th graders don't improve much; there are a bunch of good reasons for that, but I still need to think about what I can do to help them more. later note: I went back to the post later, because it seemed like why shouldn't I use this as a teaching moment and so I use it to suggest (hopefully my kids read this) five concrete things a kid can do if she/he wants to improve.

I'm off to LA tomorrow with Justus (and Will Fisher, who is traveling with us) for a US Chess School with GM Melikset Khachiyan. I'm excited to look at chess-- I haven't seriously studied in a long time, and I'm hoping this coming week will reload my brain.

Jonathan left just now for a week in the Bahamas. It's strange to be alone in the house with nothing I have to do. Sunday is normally my only day off, but I always end up seeing my family or Jonathan's, or cleaning the house or preparing for the week, or something. The idea of 24 totally me hours is exciting and strange. I should probably clean the house.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Brooklyn Castle!

The Official Name of Chess Movie!!!
....out this spring

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Positions from the IS 318 Tournament

 1. Matan was playing in Atlantic City, so I looked at a couple of his kids' games. In this interesting endgame, Tawab missed a win. Where should white move?

 2. Austin (black) is seriously underdeveloped, and I was just explaining to him that this was why he lost the game, when he explained to me that he won.  However, his opponent could have forced a win here: how?

 3. Moshe (black) has a great idea here to activate his bishop and rook-- he didn't see it immediately, but won with it a few moves later. Where should black move?

Friday, December 17, 2010

318 Chess in the NY Times!

New York City Public School Repeats and Repeats as National Chess Champion

Winning chess championships has become a habit at Intermediate School 318 in Brooklyn. 

Last Sunday, for the second time in three years, I.S. 318, in Bedford-Stuyvesant, won the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade sections of the National Scholastic K-12 Championship in Florida. In 2008, the school, accomplished the same feat. Last year, I.S. 318 won the sixth- and seventh-grade championships, but finished second in the eighth-grade section to Canyon Vista Middle School in Austin, Tex. 

read the full article

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

a clean sweep, National Champion Azeez, city funds

IS 318 won the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade sections of Grade Nationals by 2, 2.5, and 2 points, respectively. In the last three years, we have won 8 of the 9 sections for which we are eligible. (We lost 8th grade last year by half a point.) Justus Williams came 2nd in 7th grade and Isaac Barayev came third.

We couldn't have done it without the help of Matan Prilleltensky, who volunteered his time and worked tirelessly all weekend, getting up early to help prepare kids and analyzing games until 10 at night. He's an amazing teacher: patient, supportive, and strong. In the words of 7th grader Kenneth Martin: "I like Matan because he makes me feel good about my ideas even when I'm wrong."

A second big thank you to Mitch Fitzko, our excellent CIS instructor, who teaches one day a week at 318 and analyzes games with us on Saturdays, and to the amazing GM Miron Sher, who gives a weekly masterclass for our highest rated students.

Finally, a third thank you to everyone who has donated money or books to our program. People's generosity towards kids they've never met is really moving to me. In particular, big thanks to Stuart Chagrin, who has funded numerous Marshall trips and paid for kids who couldn't afford their nationals contribution. 

Former IS 318 student Azeez Alade is Ninth Grade Co-Champion! Azeez started 318 in 7th grade with a rating of 960. Two years and three months later he is 1965! Azeez is a wonderful person-- always smiling, super polite, patient, funny and thoughtful. He's also a fantastic teacher -- he's tutored several of the younger kids at 318 and I recommend him highly. For the bargain price of $20/hour, you can hire him to come to your home and tutor your son or daughter in chess. You won't find better value for your money anywhere. Contact me if you're interested (

Remember last year when I was blacklisted? This year it was Galvin's turn. He's walking down the hall Sunday morning and Sophia Rohde, who runs some private schools in Manhattan (Columbia Grammar, etc), is walking the other direction. So Galvin nods to her and says good morning; she hisses back "city funds." Later in the day, Galvin is walking with Matan and passes her again. She says it again, "city funds." Matan was considering putting it in his Chess Life Online article, and so he asked her what she meant. She explained that she's a taxpayer and is angry that the school pays for part of the kids' expenses.

It's amazing to me not only that anyone could resent inner city kids for the "unfair benefits" the public school system bestows on them, but also that an adult would behave with such a lack of dignity. For what it's worth, our trip was funded by a walkathon the school held last spring, a private donor, and the kids selling boxes and boxes of fundraiser candy bars.

I lost the battery for my camera and didn't get another in time, so these pictures were taken on Jonathan's little point and shoot. (hence blurry)

Teraab Feaster and Markus Pond (1584, up from 1274 in October), who scored 4 and 5 points in the 6th grade section, doing tactics in the airport on the way to Florida.

Anthony Asseviro, the 3rd member of the 6th grade team.
Kenneth Martin and Yuxin Zhao
Rashawn Baldwin

Rashawn, Kevin and Otto

Danny Feng and David Kim at the awards ceremony

Positions from Grade Nationals

1. In round 4, Joel Ogunremi (1858) was black against Sarah Chiang (2074). Having played her some blitz, I thought she would go straight down the mainline Slav. Joel and I prepared this position after 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 Bf5 6. e3 e6 7. Bxc4 Bb4 8. O-O Nbd7 9. Qe2 O-O 10. e4 Bg6 11. Bd3 Bh5 12. e5 Nd5 13. Nxd5 cxd5 14. Qe3 Be7 15. Ng5 Bxg5 16. Qxg5 Qxg5 17. Bxg5
I told him a few ideas: trading the light squared bishops is good for black, and it's ok to recapture fxg6; the manuever Nd7-b8-c6 is often good to attack the weak d4 pawn, but probably after developing with Rac8; sometimes ...f6 makes sense. Then I said "I would start with Rac8, definitely."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Grade Nationals; James Black climbs towards 2200

James Black in an Endgame Clothing t shirt. 

I leave on Thursday for Grade Nationals in Orlando, FL, where IS 318 will attempt to defend our 6th and 7th grade titles, and improve on last year's 2nd place finish in 8th grade. Last year's Sixth Grade Champion James Black will attempt to defend his title also, although that section is super strong with 5 players over 2000: Justus Williams (2218), Josh Colas (2137), Michael Ainsworth (2034) and Isaac Barayev (2018). James, who is currently at 2173, is close to his goal of making 2200 and breaking the record (again) for youngest African American master. The title is presently held by IS 318's top board, Justus Williams, who recently broke the record by 3 years (15 yrs to 12 yrs).

Here is the IS 318 Grade Nationals contingent

6th grade
Markus Pond (1327 but currently 1550)
Tera Ab Feaster (1234)
Anthony Asseviro (1243) 

7th grade:
Justus Williams             2218
James Black                 2173
Isaac Barayev              2034
Vaughn Soso                1578
Kenneth Martin            1551
Alex Bradford             1484
Maya McGreen            1483
Matthew Kluska          1480
Mariah McGreen          1466
Rashawn Baldwin         1381
Kevin Dominguez         1363
Otto Schatz                 1320
Kamil Chmilewski         1273
Anita Maksimiuk          1269
Yuxin Zhuo                   1122

8th grade
Danny Feng                  1924
Joel Ogunremi             1864
David Kim                   1771
Rashawn Williams         1762
Randy Rivera                1735
Jermaine Cooper          1694
John Garcia                  1677
D'andrea Dey                1667 
Aleem Awan                1635
Rhoda Lynch                1618
Lukasz Fron                   1494

Follow our tournament progress this weekend here

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chess Camp and the Colle Z

     Mongoose Press recently sent me three volumes of a basic checkmate series called Chess Camp, and they are offering a free set to any chess teacher (!). The books are all mate in one problems, ranging from the very simple to the (relatively) complex, with a few nice thematic groupings along the way (checkmates grouped by opening, pairs of positions that look similar but have different answers, etc).There are obviously thousands of checkmate-practice books, but this set stands out for its physical qualities: the books look gorgeous, are hard bound but lightweight, the diagram font is very clear, diagrams have letters and numbers for notation, nice quality paper, and the book when opened is exactly the size of a standard sheet  (= easy to photocopy). The set would make really nice Christmas present for your niece/nephew who is just learning chess. If you're a chess teacher and would like a complementary set, email the publisher at

     I also just bought their latest on the Colle Zuckertort (The Zuckertort System: A Guide for White and Black by Grigory Bogdanovich). I really like some parts of this book, mostly the way it is organized by plans and how each chapter begins with a summary of each side's ideas. I learned, for example, a nice idea from the section on the Marshall Plan-- that when black sets up his pawns d5-e6-f5, white can try to play c4 and then e4 to break them down. The index of tactical methods and strategic themes is unusually specific and helpful: 30 examples of the battle for the e4 square, examples of knight sacrifices in general, or on pairs of squares (e6/e5, f7/f6/f5, g6/g5, h6/h7), examples where black castles long, "defending the c2 pawn with the move c2-c3," "black advances the e pawn e6-e5," all great things to index. I wish there was an index of moves, too, as the chapter names are intriguing but it's not easy to find a particular variation. Perhaps future editions could include the first 6-8 moves of each variation under the chapter title in the table of contents.
       I have a lot of kids who love the CZ (easy to learn, safe, and you get an attack most of the time), and there are a few lines that always give us problems, so I was interested to see what Bogdanovich would recommend. Against the annoying ...g6 + ....d5 set up, he gives a few games, but no real recommendations, except at the end where he says if you think your opponent is going to do this "perhaps you should switch to the Grunfeld." haha, thanks a lot.
      Overall, this is a pretty good book--its organization seems like both its greatest strength and biggest weakness. There aren't too many other decent books on the Colle Zuckertort (Palliser's Starting Out: D Pawn Attacks, and Summerscale's A Killer Opening Repertoire for White are the two I like), and Bogdanovich's is aimed at stronger players than these.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

chess problems from ps 11

 1. Austin Tang (445) is an enthusiastic, hard-working new 7th grade player. Where should he, white, have gone here?

 2. Kevin Marin had a breakthrough tournament today, winning 3/4 in fine style. This was the game he lost, making the critical wrong choice here. What is white's best /worst move?

Endgame Clothing's Black Friday Sale

they do nice things with a t shirt

Metropolitan Chess FIDE Invitational

A new series of six IM norm tournaments has begun at the Metropolitan Chess Club in LA. Read a midway report on the first event here. Players in the first event include Enrico Sevilliano and Tatev Abrahamyan.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

maybe they made an illegal move?!

Drop that bishop and come out with your hands up!
A squad of cops in bulletproof vests swooped into an upper Manhattan park and charged seven men with the "crime" of playing chess in an area off-limits to adults unaccompanied by kids -- even though no youngsters were there.
"Is chess really something that should be considered a threat to the neighborhood?" Inwood resident and mom Joanne Johnson wrote Mayor Bloomberg, the City Council and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly after the raid.

Read more:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

David Kim ties for first at the Marshall G/60 with GM Alex Lenderman!

 David Kim (1765, now 1877) went 4-0 yesterday to tie for first at the Marshall G/60, beating NMs Juan Sena and Leif Pressman. Nineteen IS 318 students played. Shawn Swindell and Ed Kopiecki shared the Under 2000 prize with 3/4, and Aleem Awan, Jermaine Cooper, Vaughn Soso, D'Andrea Dey, and Alex Bradford tied with 3 others for the Under 1700 prize.
 The talented 6th grader Brian Arthur (1225) is white here against the experienced and clever 8th grader Jermaine Cooper (1684). Black played the only move, 28....f6. What happens next?

Brian is black here against fellow 6th grader Carlos Tapia (1087). He blundered with 8...Ngf6. How should Carlos have taken advantage?

Mariah McGreen (1446) was black against Michael Mendez (1517). How does she avoid an immediate loss?

1) 1... f6 2. Qxh6+ gxh6 3. Bxf6+ Kh7 4. Rg7+ Kh8 5. Rg6+ Kh7  is a draw.
2) 9. c4! Qe6 (9... Qa5 10. Nd6+ Kd8 11. Nxb7+) 10. Nd4 Qe5 11. Nxf5 Qxf5 12. Nd6+
3) Black has two ways out:  16... Kg7 17. gxh5 Rh8 Now black threatens simply to take on h6, so: 18. h6+ Kg8 19. Nxe6 (19. h7+ Kg7 +/=) 19... Qd7 (not 19... fxe6?? 20. Qxe6+ Kf8 21. Qf6+ Ke8 22. Qxh8+) 20. Ng5 Qxh3 21. Nxh3 and white is better but it's far from over. There is also the strangely simple 16... Qd7, with the idea that 17. gxh5 Nf5 18. hxg6 fxg6 and the 7th rank is covered just fine.

Kevin M (925)

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Pledge of Chess

At my school, the kids have to say the Pledge of Allegiance every day. They don't have to, actually, but mostly they do. I have decided to copy this indoctrinational form of instruction and have created the Pledge of Chess, which my students now have to say every day. It is composed of all the things I say over and over again every Saturday when I'm looking at their games. It goes like this:

The Pledge of Chess
I will consider every check and every capture on every move!
I will never trade a bishop for a knight without a good reason!
I will not stop developing until my rooks are active!
I will make a special effort to consider pawn moves that change the pawn structure (like pawn breaks!)!
I will not trade pieces just because I can (I will have a good reason!)!
In d4-d5 structures, I will not put the knight in front of my c pawn!
I will not play Ng5 if ...h6 just makes me go back!
I will write my move down before I play it!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

photos and positions from children, thoughts about my game with Brad

 Kenneth Martin (1551), almost won the tournament, and was proud to finish 3rd (overheard on the train home: "I keep thinking my trophy is a single bar trophy, but then I reach down to feel the double bars...")

Teraab Feaster, 1234, who tied for first in the Intermediate (under 1500) section, watches Anita's game.

 Maya McGreen was disappointed in her result today, but she's playing 3 more tournaments in the next week: the Right Move (which her parents run) today, CIS's Columbus Day tournament Thursday, and the Marshall G/60 on Saturday.

Spike and Kevin joke around before their games. 


puzzles from student games

1. Shanniah is black. How could she have won a pawn?

2. She is white here, and this time she can win a piece.

3. Alex B is black against Ashanti M. What should he have played?

4. Michael Peguero was a star of the IS 318 chess team 3-5 years ago, when he went from 0 to 1900 in 2.5 years. Along the way, he won the national under 750 section and tied for 2nd in the k-8 open. He now works for the school on Saturdays, helping me go over student games. Michael comes from a family of 7 brothers, most of whom are named after archangels. His youngest brother, Ariel, is now in 6th grade and was black in the above position. How could he have won a piece?


1. 1... Nxd3+ 2. Qxd3 Bxf4
2. 15. Bxc6+ bxc6 16. Qh5+ and Qxg5
3. 1... Nxd4! 2. Qxd4 (2. Bxe7 Nxf3 3. Bxd8 Nxd2 4. Bxb6 Nxb6 5. Rxd2 Nc4 6. Re2 Kd7

Black has not won a pawn in this variation, but is much better because his central pawns are strong , while white's h pawn and queenside pawns are potentially weak. Black has a plan of doubling rooks on the h file to attack the pawns, and then playing ...f6 and ... g5 to force h5. After h5, black transfers his rooks to the f file and invades on f4: 7. b3 Nd6 8. h4 Rh6 9. f4 Rah8 10. Reh2 f6 11. Kd2 g5 12. fxg5 fxg5 13. h5 Rf8 14. Re1 Rf4 15. Rg2 g6 16. hxg6 Rxg6 17. a4 Rh6 18. Reg1 Rh4) 2... Bxg5+ 3. Nxg5 Qxg5+

4. ...Qa5+ wins the bishop

I keep thinking about two moments from my game against Braden Bournival, and how they are very typical examples of my chess weaknesses
This is the end of my knowledge of theory. I had a game with Bill Paschal 4 or 5 years ago that went 14...Qc8 and then I played either 15. Qf3 or 15. Qe4, I couldn't remember which, but it was the wrong move, whichever it was. That's why I played 15. Qc6+ after 14...Be7: because in comparison with my first game Brad hadn't prevented the check, and I went after the d pawn immediately because, I don't know, secretly I don't like being down a pawn?  I notice that I play inflexibly when I think there is a right idea in the position, my mind closes up and I let my (correct or incorrect) knowledge of a position trump thinking about it for myself.

I now move my queen four times in a row.  

Notice how nothing has changed in my position, but black has developed his bishop, got his king off the e file, and played ..f5. I'm expecting Brad to take the pawn on b2-- it's a very important pawn if I have any thought of playing an endgame, mostly because without it, the c pawn is so weak. 

But he doesn't, he plays 18...Rg8. 

Now, I absolutely 100% should play 19. Rb1 here, then 20. b3, then Rd1. But somehow, and I think being a chess teacher has made me more this way, in my head I'm in the midst of some narrative about how I'm playing boldly and vigorously, sacking a pawn on principle. I'm unwilling to play little, ugly, necessary moves out of egotism. I went on to lose insipidly.