Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Xtreme chess, James, Cancun

Jennifer, Daniel, and Greg's first installment of their tv pilot, Xtreme Chess Challenge, is up here:

(sorry it's so primitive with the lack of hyperlinks-- I'm without my laptop in Cancun, writing from Jonathan's iPad, and I guess he needs to update his browser.)

I have a few things to say:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

James Black, Jr. is looking for an Amateur Team East

He's 2275 in the January supplement (but 2297 up to date!). Let me know if you think he'd be a good fit on your team.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gingrich proposed death penalty for marijuana possession, also smoked

full story

Also, my dad just skyped me in great excitement to say he met Garry Kasparov at some scholastic tournament. (He's the volunteer chess coach at a local elementary school.) He said Garry was incredibly charming and went over two of his kids' games with great seriousness and the kids were ecstatic.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Xtreme Chess Championships

This Friday, at 7 pm, I'll be joining Greg and Jenn Shahade and Daniel Meirom, for the premier of their project, the Xtreme Chess Challenge, a made-for-tv knockout tournament of 8 of the top American juniors, including IS 318's own NM Justus Williams.

Watch the trailer on youtube or see the show's website. Come join us Friday to see the whole show!

Friday, December 9, 2011

the Incredible Isaac Barayev + vote for Brooklyn Castle

I am so happy to report that Isaac Barayev, who has been 1900 for about a year, just started taking lessons with the amazing Alex Stripunsky, and has gained 100 points in the last week and a half! He won the Marshall Thursday night action last night with a perfect 4-0 score, beating a 2340, 2330, 2160, and a 1900.
Bravo Isaac!

Also, James Black is now 2293(!!!)

Please vote for Brooklyn Castle on this indie film poll. Thank you.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I had an idea for a new unit.

It's going to be on how to make plans and find ideas. Kids will have an assignment to put a star next to any move in their scorebooks when they are just stumped for an idea, where they don't see a plan at all. And we will find ideas as a class. In between I will teach typical plans (?!). I will show you some of the best ones.
    I got a smartboard and I love it. Now I just sit in my comfy chair all day, behind my desk in a dark room; I get to play with some lights and force children to listen to me talk. It's awesome. If I need help, Fritz is right there. I don't have to remember what the position was before I tried to answer the kid's question. I go home feeling happy and relaxed.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

article in the Daily News and Google visit!

An article about IS 318's chess team in the NY Daily News.
We went to Google headquarters today! The kids played Google employees and had a tour of the offices. Everyone had a great time.

Maya watches Mariah


Yuxin and Haby try out the nap pod.

which is which?

James and John Galvin

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Donny's blog and Greg's tournament

My enigmatic and brilliant friend Donny is writing a new blog. I thought at first it was going to be about his return to the grindingly real world from virtual life in poker stars, but I'm no longer so sure of that.

Also, follow Greg Shahade's return to tournament chess! He's playing in the Chess Club of Saint Lous' GM Invitational. Watch here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

running on williamsburg bridge

I went running this morning over the Williamsburg Bridge, turns out to be very inspiring to run over a bridge towards the city, and took some photos with my iphone.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

grade nationals

 Brian, Jack, Marcus, Kevin, Tristan

 Dennys with Mr. Galvin and Maya

 Kenneth, Chris, Jack


Kenneth and Jack enjoy a post-tournament lesson from Matan      

        We came 1st in 8th grade, 2nd in 7th grade, and 5th in 6th grade. I was overall very disappointed in the quality of the kids' play, but it showed me that I need to spend much more time teaching middlegame planning. There were some fine exceptions, like Isaac who scored 5/7 and placed 8th, and some games of the 6th graders, who had moments of hard work and thoughtfulness.
       I talked to my classes today about Quinton Smith, the 11th grader who fell/jumped to his death at the tournament. He had been an honors student, interested in law, theater, tennis, and was in the choir. He was one of 2 kids representing his school, and he went 0-4 and jumped off the roof. I assume his tournament performance had something to do with his death: that he was used to being smart and successful and just couldn't take the frustration and pain of so much losing.
       We (my classes and I) had talked a few weeks ago about decision making, and specifically about what a mistake it is to make decisons when you're upset. The conversation started when we were looking at Tristan's game from this blog post, where he blundered, horribly and uncharacteristically, in the end because he'd been upset at his earlier mistakes.  We talked then about how frustration can lead you to make decisions quickly and can blind you, and that it's important to try to recognize when that's happening.
      I told the kids I wanted to revisit this idea today, in light of this tragedy. We talked about how when you feel emotion very strongly, whether that emotion is self-hatred, or anger, or frustration, that you can feel it so intensely that you want to act on it, you want to do something.
       But that one of the big lessons of chess is that being emotional makes your decision-making worse. That chess is like a training ground for making decisions in life, and for looking at how you make decisions and when you make mistakes and what causes them. And that they have to try to apply what they learn from chess to bigger choices: that when you feel angry and you want to curse someone out, or break up with someone, or quit the baseball team, or hit someone, smash something, kill yourself, that you have to at least give yourself time to calm down.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Masters of the Game, and Leaders by Example

A great article about James, Justus, and Josh, from the NY Times

Saturday, November 12, 2011

grade nationals, adderall shortage, Brooklyn Castle, Bunga Bunga Bunga vs 999

Let's start with grade nationals. We'll be missing James and Justus in 8th grade; they'll be at the World Youth (good luck!!). We'll have Isaac (1980), Kenneth (1800), Maya (1700) and Mariah (1580).  I don't see any other strong teams there, so I guess we're favorites. In 7th grade, Hunter is probably the slight favorite with 1879, 1688, 1580, 1428, but I like my kids there: Kevin (1719), Brian (1616), Marcus (1580, but up-to-date 1740), Jack (1394 but now 1525), and Carlos (1500).

I'm rooting for NEST-M in the 3rd and 4th grade sections. It's Matan's first year managing the program there, and he has good chances to win two national championships after 3 months.

What I'm really curious to see is if the nationwide shortage of adderal affects certain teams. I notice some usual contenders have an strangely low number of pre-entries. A flabbergasting 5% of children aged 6-12 take a stimulant (an amphetamine) to treat their ADHD. I suspect in the insanely competitive scholastic chess world it might be somewhat higher.

Katie and Brian will be there, showing Brooklyn Castle. I'm interested to see how people react to it. Release-wise, they are waiting to hear if it makes Sundance, whichh should be announced around thanksgiving.

I'm watching the republican debates avidly; they're like an ongoing reality show: exaggerated, typecast characters, scripted conversation pretending to be spontaneous (Does Perry ever respond to the question he was asked?), each episode having a character shine or crash and burn. I wish Jon Huntsman was just a little more articulate or Ron Paul was a little less crazy or Gary Johnson was invited.

Today's NPR show, "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" had a fun game called "Bunga Bunga Bunga or Nine Nine Nine," where you have to decide whether each quote was said by Silvio Berlusconi or Herman Cain

1. Here's what Cain or Berlusconi said when asked if he was faithful to his wife: "I am pretty often faithful."
2. Which of the two said this? "I have little hair because my brain is so big, it pushes the hair out."
3. Cain or Berlusconi says this a lot, this phrase about staying strong in hard times: "A poet once said 'life can be a challenge, life can seem impossible, but it's never easy when there's so much on the line.'" That sounds good but what makes it a significant quote is that the poem he's quoting was, in fact, the theme song to the Japanese animated film "Pokemon: The Movie 2000."

1. CHARLIE PIERCE: The problem is the sentiment is Berlusconi but the syntax is Cain.
SAGAL: Yeah.
PIERCE: So absent the accent, I'm going to say Berlusconi.
SAGAL: Berlusconi, well done, that's who it was. He's pretty often faithful. It's a good spin. That may be where Cain got the idea for his one in a thousand defense.

2. Of Berlusconi's many problems, this is one of the few he can blame on his brain.

3. It was Herman Cain. He became the first candidate since Gerald Ford to quote Pokemon in a presidential debate.

I'm reading Murakami's 1Q84 and Aravind Adiga's Last Man in Tower, and the New York Times, obsessively.

the date that most resembles corderoy, EVER

Do you know about the corderoy club? They love corderoy and have semi-annual meetings on Jan 11 and Nov 11, as these dates are the dates that most resemble corderoy. Imagine their excitement on 11|11|11*, the date that most resembles corderoy, EVER.

Black to move. Jack Wen is a genius.


*you have to write it like that (instead of with /) for obvious reasons

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

how my bulletin board is looking so far

thanks for the help and please keep the suggestions coming.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bobby Fischer - Greg Shahade, 1-0

Bobby Fischer posthumously defeats Greg Shahade in the NY Times "Sentence of the Week" competition in the NY Times:

Sentence of the Week, Pathos and Petulance Edition


Here are our candidates:

A. DeWitt brings to satire what Roberto BolaƱo’s “2666″ brought to the detective story: purity of means, ineffability of ends. (Garth Risk Hallberg on Helen Dewitt’s new novel, “Lightning Rods”)

B. I was no great fan of “Taxi Driver,” I found it a thesis statement shot from a spatter gun. (James Wolcott, “Lucking Out”)

C. Mr. Berlusconi pretended to fall asleep at one point, officials said, and afterward said he had never been held back a year at school. (Europe, keeping it classy)

D. Basically, unless you’re world champion, you feel like an idiot. (Chess master Greg Shahade, quoted in “Counterplay: an Anthropologist at the Chessboard”)

E. “Nothing soothes pain like the touch of a person.” (Bobby Fischer’s last words, quoted by Robert Desjarlais, “Counterplay”)

full article

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."