Sunday, February 28, 2010

318 wins NY State Junior High and Elementary Championships, 2nd in High School

IS 318 won the Junior HIgh and Elementary Championships and came 2nd in high school. Alexis Paredes, Joel Ogunremi, Pobo Efekoro, and Myles Foster tied for first in Junior High*. The light wasn't great in the playing rooms, so few good pictures, but below are Joel Ogunremi and Danny Feng.

update: some pictures of leaving Monday morning and the train:
James and Myles
Alexis and Rochelle, crushing everyone at bughouse

Randy and Danny

Azeez, David, Isaac and Matthew playing Ticket to Ride

David and Myles, in the hotel lobby

*with a kid from another school, who took first on tiebreaks. I'll update with his name when it's online.

wikipedia, unions, photos of girls

I'm in Saratoga Springs at the State Championship. It's midway through round 6 (the last round) and 318 was in the lead in elementary, junior high and high school.

quick funny story: I'm chatting with the kids before round four, and Joel is telling me about a game he won in an opening we had looked at together. Danny Feng is listening, and breaks in, "Oh yeah, Miss Vicary, I looked that line up and you're wrong about the move g4. White is supposed to play Ne4 instead." So I ask how he knows that, where he looked it up, and he says ...

....wikipedia. I died laughing.

Check out the UFT (teacher's union) website, especially the revolving banner photo at the top!

Some photos from yesterday's CIS tournament in Queens:





(more pictures here)

Friday, February 26, 2010

chessbase question

I have fritz 11 installed on my computer, but chessbase 9 doesn't see it/ I can't open it by going to add engine. What do I do?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

crazy politics

does anyone else feel like politics are getting weirder and weirder?

there was an article in the economist 2 weeks ago (I'm still catching up: they get delivered to school and I was away):

New dangers for the world economy
When the crisis started, governments helped save the world economy. Now they are the problem
Feb 11th 2010 From The Economist print edition

LAST year it was banks; this year it is countries. The economic crisis, which seemed to have eased off in the latter part of 2009, is once again in full swing as the threat of sovereign default looms.

oh my god.

on a higher sanity note, take a look at this senatorial candidate's website devoted to abolishing filibusters. I hadn't considered it before, but I think I agree with him. you guys?

I lose horribly and have already checked out of my room

"Sunday morning, praise the dawning
It's just a restless feeling by my side
Early dawning, sunday morning
It's just the wasted years so close behind"

Amateur Team East, Sunday morning, 9 am, round five, Philip Shin, a 1700 kid, a ruy lopez, the worral attack (5. Qe2). He played something like a marshall, and I took the pawn when I wasn't supposed to. Already it's annoying:

I'm scared of something like 16. Be3 Bd6 17. Qf3 Qh4 18. g3 Qh3 19. Qg2 Qh5 20. Nd2 Bh3, whatever, it's unpleasant.

So I think, ok, maybe 16. Bd2. This has the advantage of not allowing 16... Bd6 (I take on e8 and the bishop hangs). It's a little lame, but I screwed up so I deserve it, plus I'm up a pawn.

But then I think maybe 16. Bh6 is a little improvement, he's going to play probably 16...Bg6, and then 17. Bd2. Now he won't have moves like ...Bg4 or ...B(x)h3 later.

So I play 16. Bh6, my opponent makes one move, and I resigned. The worst thing is to lose quickly when you've already checked out.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

9 queens presentation

After Amateur Team, I went to Tucson to see my friend Jean Hoffman. It was really lovely getting out of New York and being in the sunshine. It rained one day and everyone there apologized to me. haha

Jean runs a non-profit, 9 Queens, that brings chess to "under-served populations" (women and low income kids). That might sound like a slightly confused mission, but it works out nicely in practice. The great thing about Jean, especially about working with Jean, is that everything she does professionally is quality. you know what I mean?

if you don't, here's a glimpse:

Women's World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk gives a simul for 9 Queens.

doesn't it look great? now that I think about it, I'm really lucky to work with so many competent people.

While I was in Arizona, I spent a day with Jean and chess instructor Andy Roth at an elementary school and gave a two hour workshop on teaching chess at a SACA (Southern Arizona Chess Association) tournament. I was super-flattered that they hosted me and that 22 adults came and listened to me for a couple hours. (my kids have to). My talk was mostly about the importance of a student-practice-centered curriculum, and how to use different chess puzzles and exercises to address specific learning problems. The text of the talk (I wrote it out, but then couldn't bring myself to actually read it) is here.

Jean and I made nice big binders for attendees, but for you here, a brief overview of the puzzles and what they are good for:

double whammys A huge thank you to Jeff Coakley*, for his permission to use his these puzzles from his forth-coming "orange book." (Winning Chess Puzzles For Kids, Volume 2!) If you don't already know this, I'm obsessed with Jeff Coakley's chess teaching books [Winning Chess Strategy for Kids (green), Winning Chess Puzzles for Kids (red) , Winning Chess Exercises for Kids (blue)].

I love double whammys particularly because they directly teach the most effective thinking strategy for anyone rated 100-1200: "If I go there and then there, it's checkmate!" (almost no one under 1000 ever defends anything)

White makes two consecutive moves. The first move cannot be check. The second move must be checkmate. I include four problems here, because I adore series of similar puzzles: I don't have to look like a fool scrambling to set up a new position, plus it demonstrates for kids that details are important in chess: small changes make big differences and they need to be careful.

white plays 1. Rxf6 and 2. Qxh7#

triple lloyds These are great for reinforcing checkmate and stalemate, and teaching mating patterns. I love that they ask students to find checkmate by thinking about what squares are controlled by white pieces, rather than by a trial and error search of checks.

Each triple lloyd asks three questions: where could the black king be so the position is
a) checkmate
b) stalemate
c) mate in 1.

I created the diagrams in chessbase, so I could not make a position without a king, although triple lloyds do not have the black ones. Please ignore the black king in the diagram.

Here, checkmate is a6, stalemate is a8, and mate in one is a4 (Qb4#)

Who's the goof?
These are great for getting kids to think broadly about chess and its possibilities and to troubleshoot for rules violations. For each position, you have to say why it is illegal.

The white king and queen are misplaced.

Series of similar mate-in-ones. These are stolen from an out-of-print Coakley mate in one booklet. Jeff was kind enough to send me a copy, and I fell so in love with it that I ordered 10 copies and gave them out as Christmas presents one year to my favorite Chess in the Schools instructors. They save me set-up time at the demo board and they make kids be careful and look at the details in a position. I often use them in my third checkmate lesson, "When you solve a checkmate, you can play." The basic idea is that a kid gets to move from the learning group to the playing area as soon as (s)he solves a checkmate. I start with harder checkmates and move to easier ones. This means that the kids who already understand have more playing time and the kids who are confused get more direct instruction. And that I know who is who.

The other thing that I talked about that I think is super-useful is teaching kids to solve double attack problems methodically, by first identifying enemy pieces that are either not defended or not well-defended**. A piece that is not well-defended is defended only as many times as it is attacked (so if it's attacked again, it's in take). This gives kids a short-list of targets (to which is added the king, of course), and then it's just a connect-the-dots puzzle. For example, in the following position:

The rook on a8 is not defended; the bishop on e7 and the pawn on h7 are not well defended. (attacked once, defended once). White wins with Qe4.
some pictures:
Jean and I

update! : Jeff Coakley's website:

*in fact, all of the puzzles are from Jeff's books. If you teach chess and you don't own them all, you're ridiculous and should order them immediately. Later, you will love me for this.

** I stole this idea from Miron Sher

Saturday, February 20, 2010

what type are you?

I'm universal.
What I love about it is how the guy and his hilarious acting fulfil exactly the function of a font: adding ornament /style/ form to meaning.
After you do the quiz, listen to the other fonts; I think they are fantastically beautiful.

Monday, February 15, 2010

last round at amateur team

I am going to show you hopefully all my games, but let's start with the last one, which I happily won. It's so important to win your last game.
Chen, Jasmine --Vicary, Elizabeth

1. Nf3 d5
2. g3 Nf6
3. Bg2 c6
4. d3 Bg4
5. c3 Nbd7
6. Nbd2 e5
7. Qc2 Bc5
8. e4 dxe4
9. dxe4 O-O
10. O-O Qe7

So I felt pretty good about the opening so far, meaning felt pretty good that I had remembered it correctly, and this queen move was the first thing I was unsure of. I had some memory of ...Qe7 and ...a5. Also I figured I should maybe keep c7 available for my bishop in case of b4 and Nc4. But maybe I'm wrong and it should go on c7.

11. Nc4 Rfd8
12. Be3

So I wanted to play ...b5, but I expect white will first take on c5, and then retreat the knight to e3. I definitely would prefer to recapture on c5 with the knight, so I am proud to have found the correct move order:

13. Bxf3 b5
14. Bxc5 Nxc5
15. Ne3 g6
16. Bg2

I decided here that white's bad light squared bishop means I should be playing on the queenside, because I will essentially (I hoped) be a piece up there. Also, my knght wasn't doing anything on f6. Also, white probably played Bg2 to play f4 next, and I intended to meet this with ...f6.

17. f4 f6
18. f5 g5
19. Rad1 Nb6
20. b3 a5
I'm not exactly sure what's I'm planning to do on the queenside, I just figured I'd figure it out when I got there.

21. Qe2

and I think that attitude is fine, because 21... b4 seems to be almost as good: 22. cxb4 (22. c4 a4) 22... axb4.

22. b4 Nb7
23. h4

I had thought Qe2 was intending Qh5-h6 and Ng4, which I didn't really care so much about. After all, what's she going to attack me with besides the queen and the knight?
So 23. h4 surprised me, probably it shouldn't have, but I thought it wasn't very good, maybe it's even bad. Isn't g3 going to be weaker than h7??

24. Qg4+ Kh8
25. Qxh4 Rg8
26. Ng4 Rg5

I was kinda pleased with my position here. I know I am going to get attacked, and in general I often underestimate the danger to my king, so I was a little worried, but I felt like I had a lot of moves to improve my position, and that cheered me up. Nothing like having things to do to keep you happy, you know? I wanted to play: Rag8(-g7), Nc4, Nb7-d6 (-e8 if needed), and either Qa7-e3/f2 or Qf7-g8 (after Ra8-g8-g7).

27. Bf3 Rag8
28. Rf2 Nc4
29. Re1 Nbd6
30. Rh2 R8g7
31. Kg2
Find the winning move for black!
two of my favorite former students: Shawn Martinez and Angel Lopez, playing in the last round on board one. how proud I was!

answer: 31... Nd2!! 32. Be2 N2xe4
I didn't play that (I had decided much earlier never to take the e4 pawn and did not revisit my decision), but instead played

31... Ne8
32. Rh3 Qa7
33. Rd1

find the win for black!! (this time I did too)

33... Rxg4! 34. Qh5 Ne3+
35. Kh2 Nxd1
36. Bxg4

now there are a few wins here. Simply 36... Nd6 is great and after 37. Bxd1, 37... Qf2+ and 38...Nxe4. I played a more checky one:

37. Kh1 Qe1+

Now I have to be careful, because white has some tricks too. For example, if I play something careless like 37... Qf1+ 38. Kh2 Nf2?? 39. Qxe8+ Rg8 40. Rxh7+! Kxh7 41. Qh5+ Kg7 42.
Qg6+ Kf8 and I am losing!!

38. Kg2 Qd2+
39. Kg1 Qe3+
40. Kh2 Nf2

and my point here is that after Rxh7 and Qh5, I will have Qh6, trading queens.
41. Rh4 Nxg4+
42. Rxg4 Qe2+
43. Kh3 Qxg4+
44. Qxg4 Rxg4
45. Kxg4 Kg7
46. Kf3 Kh6
(in fact, she played until checkmate)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

amateur team east: round 3 photos

I'm 2-1 at Amateur Team East; I think my team is too. It's nice here. The chess is a little weird; I'm trying to get into it, but it's hard to make yourself concentrate when you don't know the person's rating and they are using descriptive notation. My big goal this tournament is to not eat at the hotel restaurant. Instead, I am living on peanut butter sandwiches and grapes.

some pictures of students, former students, friends and teammates: (more here)

Marta Szulc

Ana Izoria
Darrian Robinson

Justus Williams, Jehron Bryant, Nigel Bryant, Joshua Colas in back

Nigel Bryant

John Galvin

Alexis Paredes