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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Review: Practical Endgame Play – Mastering the Basics

The best sellers seem to be books on openings, but most chess teachers advise becoming competent in endgame play before devoting too much time to opening strategies.

Practical Endgame Play is a bit lean when it comes to bare pawn endings, but excellent for the very common rook endings. My review is now online at ChessCafe; here is a brief snippet of the book taken from the author's coverage of rook endings in which White is a pawn up (specifically an a-pawn):

When the rook of the superior side is behind its passed pawn, the position is usually won. The winning method for White can be described via the following mini-plans, which constitute the correct way to achieve victory:

i. White will centralize his king, threatening to transfer it to the queenside and then advance the a-pawn in co-operation with the rook.

ii. The black king will have to prevent the above-mentioned plan by hurrying over to the queenside itself. This will, however, allow the white king to penetrate on the kingside.

iii. At the appropriate moment, the white rook will abandon the a-pawn and will move towards the kingside. The co-operating duo of king and rook will ensure material gain on the kingside in exchange for the loss of the a-pawn. From that point on, the win will be simple.

My review is also permanently archived here.


Friday, April 25, 2008

10th North American FIDE Invitational

WFM Alisa Melekhina is having an outstanding tournament, gaining at least a WGM norm, and possibly an IM norm. To see the games, click here.

Here is her 2nd round victory, in PGN format, so you can easily copy and paste into your chess engine:

[Event "10th North American FIDE Invitational"]
[Site "Chicago"]
[Date "2008.04.19"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Melekhina, Alisa"]
[Black "Amanov, Mesgen"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteELO "2208"]
[WhiteTitle "WFM"]
[BlackELO "2396"]
[BlackTitle "IM"]
[Source "MonRoi"]

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 d6 6.Be3 Nf6 7.h3 O-O 8.Nge2 Rb8 9.f4 Bd7 10.g4 b5 11.Ng3 b4 12.Nce2 Ne8 13.Qc1 Nd4 14.c3 bxc3 15.bxc3 Nxe2 16.Nxe2 Qa5 17.O-O Nc7 18.f5 Nb5 19.Bd2 Qa3 20.Qe1 Qa6 21.g5 Nc7 22.f6 exf6 23.gxf6 Bh8 24.c4 Rb2 25.Nc3 Bc6 26.a4 Ne6 27.Nb5 Nd4 28.Bc3 Ne2 29.Kh2 Nxc3 30.Qxc3 Re2 31.Rf3 Re8 32.Nc7 Qb6 33.Nxe8 Bxe8 34.Kg1 a5 35.h4 Bd7 36.Rg3 d5 37.Rf1 d4 38.Qc1 Bxa4 39.h5 Be8 40.hxg6 hxg6 41.Qg5 Qd6 42.Rh3 1-0


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Nicholas Nip on Live With Regis and Kelly

Courtesy of Michael Aigner at his fpawn blog, here is the video of 10-year-old national master Nicholas Nip making his appearance on the television program Live With Regis and Kelly:

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Major New Chess Club Coming to St. Louis

Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

It's been in the works for awhile now, and I'm told that the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis should be open sometime in June of this year. I drove by the other day and peeked inside - there's a lot of work left to do, but it's a big space (two or three stories) with parking next door.

The renovation and initial funding is coming from local businessman Rex Sinquefeld, who also maintains an intense interest in a variety of educational interests, including increasing state funding for the treatment of children with autism.

According to an article in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the building renovation costs will exceed $1,000,000, and Sinquefeld is quoted as saying that this club will be "physically the most beautiful" in the U.S. I've already sent in my charter membership and look forward to the opening of what should be an important new bastion of chess in the Midwest.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Another chess video site

This is one of the videos you can find at the ChesstheBlitzer site. I haven't thoroughly checked it out yet, but on first glance, it looks interesting, with links to a number of YouTube chess videos.


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Chess: The Universal Game

There are two things I find especially appealing about chess:

1) The nearly endless intellectual stimulation it offers, and

2) The fact that age, gender, physical size, financial status, and pretty much any other demographic indicators are relatively irrelevant to what one can attain in chess.

This isn't entirely true, of course, since some factors can offer some advantages, but by and large, the person who puts in the effort will succeed in chess, as in life.

A chess tournament, especially a scholastic chess tournament, may be one of the few places where so many disparate people can get together - men, women, boys, girls, whites, blacks, hispanics, Indians, Asians, Jews, Christians, Muslims, old, young, and people of all other races and religions - in a spirit of relative camaraderie.

In chess, we seem to have more than our share of oddballs, but we also have a good number of caring, intelligent high achievers. In my Scholastic Chess column at ChessCafe, I try to stress the many positive chess stories that remind me of why I was attracted to chess in the first place.

An interesting blog post appears at the Boylston Chess Club blog, entitled Chess and Bigotry. You don't have to agree entirely with the opinions expressed, but the post gave me pause for thought and is well worth your time to look at.


Scholastic Chess Column Online at ChessCafe

Gary and Ray Robson

Jonathan Hilton (center) with relatives

In our April Scholastic Chess column, we heard from Ray Robson's father from Iceland, where Ray earned his fourth(!) IM norm and indeed is now IM-elect Ray Robson. It seems that one of his previous norms was disallowed, so instead of complaining, Ray went out and just grabbed another norm. I've included one of his games from the tournament in this column.

Frequent Chess Life contributor Jonathan Hilton, all of 17 years old, provided a detailed interview describing his many chess and non-chess activities, and explains why he feels fortunate to have grown up far from the major chess centers.

My April column will remain at the ChessCafe homepage until next month. It is also permanently placed in the ChessCafe archives.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Nationals Are Coming, The Nationals Are Coming!

Elizabeth Vicary; Photo: Betsy Dynako

The spring national scholastic championships are just about here. The 2008 National Junior High School Championship takes place first, from April 4-6, in Dallas. On April 18-20, the 2008 National High School Championship is scheduled in Atlanta, while the 2008 National Elementary School Championship will be battled in Pittsburgh from May 9-11.

Elizabeth Vicary, one of America's top female players and coach of the strong and deep I.S. 318 team from Brooklyn, has written an excellent preview article at Chess Life Online. She analyzes the competition and presents her predictions for the top teams. More importantly, however, she gives us an inside look at how she prepares her own team.

Elizabeth explains how she works with her students to strengthen their basic opening strategies. Then she covers how she reviews a short game, having her students try to guess the next move. This is how she explains it:

"Here’s how it works:
1. I enter the mainline of the opening I want to review into Chessbase, and then search for wins of less than 22 moves. From this list, I choose one game in which the tactics are both simple and thematic.
2. We have a Guess-the-Moves competition.
a. The kids sit at individual boards, guessing, moving the pieces, and notating the moves as I call them out. I also reproduce the moves on a demo board. It’s important that the kids are physically moving the pieces, because people learn much better by actually doing things.
b. I make them guess probably ¾ of the moves after move 3. The first half of the game tests their opening knowledge, while the second half measures practical strength and tactical awareness. This “assessment” also serves as a tactics lesson, a lesson on opening themes, and a fun activity. Moreover, it allows me to identify and fix common misunderstandings in openings, since kids frequently ask “Do I get any points for move x?” and I get to explain why this idea makes sense or doesn’t.
c. I don’t always want them to know it’s a test, so I have a sneaky way of asking for results. I give a prize to the winner, who I identify by asking kids to raise their hands and keep them up until I name a score they did not reach. (e.g. Keep your hands up if you got 20 or more points.) They think I’m writing down the winners, while actually I’m making note of who scored especially badly. They have to sit through an extra review lesson in the following days."

Then Elizabeth goes on to share her psychological preparation for her young students, what she calls "Role-Playing the Crier, the Liar and the Cheater." Next, she advises six things to think about during the game - suggestions useful for players of all ages.

One of the wonderful things about the Internet is the wealth of useful information available. Vicary's article is one of those - I'm looking forward to her follow-up posts.


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