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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Final Wrap-Up Video from Betsy Dynako

Chess Life Online and Betsy Dynako present a nice video wrap-up of the 2008 U.S. Championship:


Monday, May 26, 2008

A Miniature from the 2008 Chicago Open

Iryna Zenyuk
Photo: Chess Life Online, Betsy Dynako

I noticed this at the Chess Life Online article by Jennifer Shahade and Betsy Dynako. In her seventh round game, Iryna Zenyuk appears to have lost the exchange, but her opponent overlooked the tactical shot that put a quick end to the game.


Ray Robson Makes it Look Too Easy

IM-elect Ray Robson didn't have one of his best showings at the just-completed Chicago Open, but take a look at his 7th round game against 2420-rated Mehmed Pasalic. He just makes it look so easy, gradually taking space and moves away from his opponent.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Review: Moral Victories

Moral Victories is subtitled “The Story of Savielly Tartakower,” but it is important to note that the author makes it clear that this is what is termed as a historical novel. Generally, this refers to a book based upon a real person, place or event, but not entirely faithful to a strictly accurate historical account.

As David Lovejoy explains in his Preface, “This historical novel takes as its basis the life of chess grandmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower… I have incorporated into this work every biographical fact of which I am aware, but where there appears to be no data I have invented incidents and characters, and occasionally used real personages whom Tartakower could have met, but probably did not. The historical liberties I have taken are indicated in the notes at the end of the book.”

Read the rest of the review at the ChessCafe book review homepage, or see it at its permanently archived location here.


Orrin Hudson Video

Kudos to Chess Life Online, which provided a link to a CBS video of Orrin Hudson and his "Be Someone" program.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

U.S. Championship Coverage

Chess Life Online has excellent daily coverage of the ongoing U.S. Championship tournament in Tulsa. You can also find round-by-round results, photos, videos and games at MonRoi.

At Chess Life Online, Betsy Dynako has been producing some brief videos showing nice shots of the players. Here's one:


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

May Scholastic Chess Column Online

National Champion Catalina Foothills H.S.

"2008 Spring Championships" is the title of my May Scholastic Chess column at ChessCafe. You can read a bit about both the Junior High School and the High School nationals, as well as the college "final four" event. We also hear from WFM Alisa Melekhina, who had a fabulous tournament at the 10th North American FIDE Invitational, earning IM, WGM and WIM norms.

WFM Alisa Melekhina, photo: Sevan Muradian


Great Start to the 2008 U.S. Championship

It was an interesting first day at the 2008 U.S. Chess Championship, both the men's and women's championships. You can find comprehensive coverage both at Chess Life Online and at MonRoi.

For example, take a look at the game Kaidanov-Friedel:


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Gross Chest Tournament

Something got lost in the translation in this headline that GM Susan Polgar posted at her blog. Also notice the picture - the black king and queen are positioned properly, but the white king and queen are reversed.

And here is the rest of the report:

2737.3 is the average ELO coefficient of the 6 participants of the 4th chest tournament ‘Mtel Masters', which starts in Sofia.

The Bulgarian capital gathers the chest elite as 4 of the competitors are among the TOP 11 of FIDE ranglist - Levon Aronian (Armenia), Teimour Radjabov (Azerbaijan) and Vasiliy Ivanchuk (Ukraine), who just an year ago was 2nd in the world.

Two Bulgarians will also take part in the tournament, the world famous Veselin Topalov and his secondary Ivan Cheparinov.

The Chinese Bu Siyandji also will take part in the competition.

‘Mtel Masters' is part of the chain ‘Grand Slam'. For the first time the chest parties will be played in a 10 tones ‘aquarium', intended to isolate the noise in the hall.


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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Pick Your Fantasy Team for the U.S. Men's and Women's Championships!

Info received from Chess Life Online ...

Effective immediately, the 2008 Fantasy Chess Competition, run by Chess Life Online, is now open for registration. Contestants enter 7-player teams (that must have a rating average of 2555 or below) from the Frank Berry U.S. Championship roster, and compete for prizes such as Monroi PCMs and extensions to their USCF memberships.

The contest makes watching the action very exciting for spectators, and we hope to get as many entries as possible. The U.S. Championship begins at 3:30 EST on May 13, so all entries must be received before then.

Here are the rules, as produced by Chess Life Online:

Breaking News: On May 6, GM Dmitry Gurevich replaced Jaan Ehlvest, who dropped out of the tournament for personal reasons. If you have Ehlvest on your fantasy team, you must go in and add a different player OR he will automatically be replaced by the new player. In the event that another player withdraws for unforeseen reason, the same policy will apply: you can still change your team up until May 13, 3:30 EST but if you fail to do so, the player will automatically be replaced at the discretion of the administrators.
In other recent news, Larry Kaufman is the new U.S. Senior Open Champion, while Esther Epstein will replace Rusudan Goletiani, who withdrew for personal reasons. Meanwhile, David Vigorito won the State Champion of Champions event to snag a spot. Since people seemed to really enjoy the contest we ran last year, we hope we can further entertain you with this year's contest.

Here is how it will work this year:

The basics
Once again this contest will be ABSOLUTELY FREE to compete in for any current USCF member. Starting the week of May 5, you can go the following link (bookmark it now!): and pick a seven-player team to compose your "Fantasy Team." The rating cap will be 2555, meaning that the average rating of your seven players must be at most 2555. At the end of this article, you can see the ratings that will be used for the purposes of the contest. Since the Men's and Women's Championship are being held concurrently, your team members can be picked from either Championship. You can even pick it to be seven of the ten women if you wish, but if you plan to do that, be sure to read the details below on how the women's ratings will be changed to make the contest fair.

We have better prizes than ever this year, including two brand new Monroi Personal Chess Managers! Just like last year there will be some tiebreaker questions to help us along should there be any ties. A new feature this year will be the existence of a "daily prize", a book (the full list of books will be announced soon), which will go to the team that has the most improvement from one day to the next. Hence if your team happens to be tanking, and you don't have a realistic chance at one of the main prizes -- don't fret, your team can always have a superb day to win you a daily prize. No one will ever be truly out of contention. The only restriction on the daily prizes will be that each competitor is only permitted to win at most one -- if someone is in place to win a second one, it will then go to the next person in line.

So without further ado (I know this after all is what you all were reading this article and waiting for) these are the main prizes for the contest:

1st Place: Monroi Personal Chess Manager + Board signed by the US Championship participants

2nd Place: Monroi Personal Chess Manager

3rd Place: 2 years extension to your USCF membership (3 years for Young Adult, Youth or Scholastic Members)

4th Place: 1 year extension to your USCF membership ( 2 years if you are a Young Adult, Youth or Scholastic Member)

5th Place: Signed copy of CLO columnist, GM Joel Benjamin's new book, American Grandmaster

Bonus Prize for U.S. Championship participants: U.S. Championship qualifiers are NOT ELIGIBLE for the above prizes. However, CLO is offering a bonus prize for the top U.S. Championship participant who also enters a fantasy team, $100. The only catch is that to redeem your prize, you will need to answer a short CLO survey about your choices, which will be published. This prize requires a minimum of 5 U.S. Championship entrees into the Fantasy League.

Scoring works the same way as last year; however many points a team member of yours scores in their respective tournament is how many points they contribute to your team. Once again, should there be a playoff required to decide the winner of either tournament, the winner of a playoff (in either Championship) will be counted as having scored 0.5 higher for the purposes of this contest.

Women's Rating Changes
The main difference between this year and last year will be a slight alteration to how the rating cap will work. Since the average rating in the Women's Championship is about 2275 while in the Men's it's about 2555, it clearly wouldn't be equitable to effectively treat the tournaments as though they had the same ratings (naturally IM Irina Krush at 2515 is favored to score the highest number of points in her tournament while a 2515 in the Men's tournament -- who would just be in the middle of the pack is naturally expected to score far less). As such, each woman will count as 278 points higher for the purposes of this contest. This change allows both tournaments to effectively have the same overall average rating and should thus give no special advantage to picking someone simply because they happen to be playing in one tournament rather than the other. Here is the list of confirmed players (remember, the Senior Open champ is yet to be added) and their ratings for the purposes of the fantasy competition:

Effective Ratings for Fantasy Chess 2008
Pick seven of the following players, making sure that their average effective ratings are equal to or under 2555.

Irina Krush 2793
Anna Zatonskih 2768
Alex Onischuk 2728
Alex Shabalov 2709
Gregory Kaidanov 2697
Yury Shulman 2676
Varuzhan Akobian 2666
Julio Becerra 2648
Alexander Ivanov 2628
Eugene Perelshteyn 2626
Boris Gulko 2623
Benjamin Finegold 2613
Katerine Rohonyan 2596
Dmitry Gurevich 2594
Sergey Kudrin 2588
Tatev Abrahamyan 2574
Jesse Kraai 2569
Alex Yermonlinsky 2568
Batchimeg Tuvshintugs 2565
Josh Friedel 2539
Tsaagan Battsetseg 2529
John Fedorowicz 2514
Dean Ippolito 2512
David Pruess 2497
Esther Epstein 2472
Iryna Zenyuk 2464
David Vigorito 2439
Daniel Ludwig 2429
Chouchanik Airapetian 2421
Courtney Jamison 2351
Michael Langer 2307
Sam Shankland 2299
Sergey Galant 2176

USCF employees and Organizers are free to enter a team for bragging rights, but they are not eligible for prizes. If you are a life member, you are free to "gift" your USCF Membership to a family member or friend.

So that's basically how it will work and feel free to let us know what you think!

Good luck to everyone who enters this contest once again this year. I hope that it can again provide a little extra competitive spice to everyone who's looking forward to the US Championship like I am!

CLO thanks Monroi for sponsoring the contest, Tim Wang for programming, and Arun Sharma for organizing. Please go to starting the week of May 5 to enter your team.


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Review: The Art of Bisguier: Selected Games 1961-2003

My latest review is online this week at ChessCafe, covering the delightful book The Art of Bisguier: Selected Games 1961-2003.

The review begins:

In The Art of Bisguier: Selected Games 1961-2003, there are one hundred of GM Arthur Bisguier’s annotated games from this period. But it is much more than a games collection; what really adds to the value of the book are the personal comments from the American grandmaster.

Prior to each game, Bisguier provides a little historical perspective to the tournament or his opponent. He then annotates not just with variations, but with insightful comments that explain why he played as he did, or why he accepted a draw in a position that seemed to still have some fight left to it.

Indeed, Bisguier's comments are enjoyable to review while playing over the games in this collection, and the many old photographs definitely add to the flavor of the book. Here are just a couple:

You can also find this review permanently archived here.


Saturday, May 03, 2008

Understanding the Lucena Position

This is a typical Lucena position. Let's address two questions right off the bat:

1) Who was Lucena?

2) Why is this position important to me?

Answer to #1: Luis Ramirez de Lucena was a Spanish author credited with discovering the secrets of the Lucena position, although it apparently does not appear in the book he published in 1497.

Answer to #2: Rook endings are very common, and a proper understanding of the Lucena position can turn a draw into a victory, or a loss into a draw. Jeremy Silman, in his Silman's Complete Endgame Course, calls the Lucena position "The Sacred Key to All Rook Endings" and Efstratios Grivas, in his Practical Endgame Play - mastering the basics, says it is "the most important theoretical position for the conversion of an extra pawn."

The bottom line: If you want to gain a basic understanding of endgame play, you must clearly understand the Lucena position. Don't be frightened off - it's not hard at all!

First, we need to specifically define the Lucena position. It consists of the following characteristics (with White having the pawn):

1) White has one rook and one pawn, and Black has one rook.
2) The white pawn is on the 7th rank, on any of files b through g (in other words, it's not a rook pawn).
3) The white king is directly in front of the pawn, on the 8th rank.
4) The black king is nearby, typically two files away.
5) The black rook is positioned on a file adjacent to the king and pawn.
6) The white rook is positioned on a file between the white king and the black king.

That's a lot of definitions, but glance again at the diagram at the top of this post - any analogous position is called a Lucena position.

Next questions: If White is to move, can he win? If Black is to move, can he draw?

The answer is that with correct play, White wins regardless of whose turn it is to move. Let's take a look how it's done. Here's the starting position again:

Let's say it is White to move. He begins with 1.Rf3+. The purpose of this move is to drive the black king one more file away from the white pawn. This will prove important later. In the main line, Black responds 1...Kg7. We'll examine other options later. We now have the following position:

The next move separates the Lucena understanders from the Lucena pretenders. White now moves 2.Rf4!. Why? In the words of Aron Nimzovitch in his classic My System, it is "bridge building" time. Mark Dvoretsky (Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual) shortens it to just "bridging." To me, it looks more like an offensive tackle preparing to block for his running back. You'll see what I mean in a minute.

Let's say Black answers with 2...Kg6. We now have the following:

Now it's time for the white king to move out so his pawn is free to queen. 3.Ke7. Black could now play 3...Rd1 so that he can respond to 4.d8/Q with 4...Rxd8, but then after 5.Kxd8, White has an easy king and rook vs. king ending. So instead, Black plays 3...Re1+ and the white king's march continues. 4.Kd6 Rd1+ and now we have:

5.Ke6 White must, of course, protect his pawn. 5...Re1+ 6.Kd5!. Can you see what's coming next? 6...Rd1+ brings us to this position:

And the bridge is built with 7.Rd4! . Black can no longer stop the pawn from queening. The white rook is the massive offensive tackle clearing the road for his spunky running back (the pawn at d7) to reach the endzone.

To understand why it was important to start with 1.Rf3+, moving the black king one more file away, let's play out the game a couple more moves: 7...Rxd4+ 8.Kxd4:

Black is now too far away to catch the pawn: 8...Kf7 9.d8/Q. And that was accomplished with that initial 1.Rf3+ move. If the black king was still only two files away, as in the starting position, he would be able to catch the pawn just as it promotes.

This is the basic Lucena pattern. You should get out a physical board and set and play it out until it is perfectly clear to you. Black does have some other options, but with correct play, White will still win.

For example, let's go back to the position after 1.Rf3+:

If Black tries to avoid being driven away with 1...Ke6, White simply plays 2.Ke8, and the black king blocks his own rook from giving check on e1, and either the white pawn will queen, or the black rook will have to sacrifice itself to prevent this from happening.

Instead, let's say Black answers 1.Rf3+ with 1...Kg6, so that after 2.Rf4, he attacks the white rook with 2...Kg5:

White can avoid the bridge building and simply play 3.Rf7, after which play might continue 3...Kg6 4.Ke8 Re1+:

White has to be careful here. He wins easily with 5.Re7, but if he instead plays 5.Kf8, he has to be careful for 5...Rh1:

White is still okay if he plays 6.Rg7+ Kf5 7.d8/Q, but if blunders with 6.d8/Q??, Black saves the day with 6...Rh8+:

See what has now happened: 7.Ke7 Rxd8 8.Kxd8 Kxf7 and the game is drawn!

Remember that in our definition of the Lucena position, we said that the white pawn could not be a rook pawn. In this case, if the white pawn is on the a-file or the h-file, Black can draw the game. Here is one of several YouTube videos explaining the Lucena position and why it is only a draw with a rook pawn:

And here is another YouTube Lucena video:

One more Lucena video still:

Chess Endgame Lesson: Lucena Position

Also available online is a good Wikipedia explanation as well as a nice Chessville presentation.

You can also find at least a little commentary in the following books:
  • Basic Chess Endings, diagram 307 in the original version
  • Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual, 2nd edition, p.143
  • My System (21st Century Edition), p.60
  • Practical Endgame Play - mastering the basics, p.50
  • Silman's Complete Endgame Course, p.121

With a little work, you can completely master the Lucena position. Then, when you're in one of those rook endgames and the pawns are vanishing, you'll know how to handle this kind of position. Furthermore, you'll know whether or not you want to steer into a Lucena position (depending on whether you're the one with the extra pawn!).

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