Nov 29, 2009

Semi-Slav 101: Moscow--Olita Rause

Olita Rause is the strongest woman correspondence chess player in the world. To boot, she's one of the world's top ten correspondence chess players. Her opponent here is the current number two player in the world. This game introduces the Moscow variation of the Semi-Slav, the most staid of the 5.Bg5 lines. Also see Magnus Carlsen's CBM 131 annotation of his game with Topalov from the 2009 MTel Masters.

French 101: Rubinstein--Karjakin over Navara

Karjakin plays very accurately to defeat Navara's French Rubinstein. If you're going to play 3.Nc3, you have to be prepared for several mainlines, including in particular the Winawer, the Classical, and the Rubinstein. (And note that Tarrasch players (3.Nd2) have to be equally prepared for the Rubinstein.) You'll also need to look at several minor lines, including 3...Nc6, 3...c6, 3...c5, 3...Be7, and 3...h6. We'll take a look at each here with time.

Rybka 4 and Aquarium 2010

Rybka 4 will not be released with Convetka's "Aquarium 2010" as far as I can tell from a confusing array of ads and posts. For awhile it appeared the new Rybka would be out in early December, but now Vas Rajlich says:

"I've decided after all that we'll stick with KISS for the next set of Rybka releases. Rybka 4 will be released and sold when she is ready. Detailed information will be available at that time. Remote Rybka hosting will begin when that is ready. Further information will be available at that time. We'll follow some sort of soft launch protocol. I'd like to apologize to the guys at Convekta for changing my mind about several major things at the last minute, and to wish them luck with their upcoming Aquarium release...."

Vas [11/22/2009]

The Aquarium 2010 GUI appears to still be available with download releases starting tomorrow (accompanied by Rybka 3 or 2.3.2a, depending on which of the following options you choose). See this link for a brief description of the differences between the two options for purchase. If there are other options for purchase that you know about, please drop a comment.

I recommend both the Chessbase GUI and the Aquarium GUI. There are times when I want to use Aquarium's IDeA, which is a great feature (although it needs additional development for serious analysts, which may have been addressed), but there are other times when I want the clean lines of Chessbase (best seen now in the Fritz 12 GUI) and, as well, there are times when I want to use the Monte Carlo feature offered by Chesbase, which is now available in the Fritz 12 GUI (but only in conjunction with Rybka 3). If you're a Chessbase user, the cartoonish nature of Aquarium will take some getting used to, although I haven't seen Aquarium 2010 yet. If you don't want to go to the expense of both GUIs, then decide which feature means more to you: IDeA or Monte Carlo.

Nov 28, 2009

Nakamura downs Carlsen to win BNbank Blitz in Norway

Nakamura has won the BNbank Blitz tournament in Norway, defeating Magnus Carlsen--newly crowned World Blitz Champion--by the score of 3-1. The loss to Carlsen in the first game of the finals was the only game Nakamura failed to win in the tournment. Following the first round loss, Nakamura swept Carlsen in the next three rounds to take first. Nakamura is arguably one of the most formidable speed players in the history of the game. Hopefully, bigger things await him. The BNbank Blitz official site, here. The USCF coverage is here. Nakamura gives his own account of this tournament very well on his blog.

No Joy for Kamsky at World Cup

Kamsky couldn't turn a victory today against Wesley So with the Black pieces. There'll be a new World Cup champion for 2009.

French 101: Classical--Kamsky loses with White against So

Gata Kamsky will have his work cut out for himself at the World Cup today, after dropping the first game against Wesley So with the White pieces. So is something of a French specialist.

Nov 27, 2009

Semi-Slav 101: Anti-Moscow Gambit--Jason Bokar

The question is sometimes asked whether correspondence players need to prepare openings. The answer is yes and no. Under the standard ICCF time control of 10 in 50 it is possible to prepare just about any opening while play is ongoing. Nevertheless, there's no substitute for being intimately familar with an opening's nuances. Guiding the game into promising opening lines is more critical in correspondence than in OTB.

Jason Bokar is one of America's few correspondence Grandmasters. He demonstrates why in this game. Jason is playing in the final of the 24th Correspondence World Championship. Crosstable.

Nov 25, 2009

Semi-Slav 101: 6.Qc2--Inarkiev down at the World Cup

Every game has a novelty. It's more common that they're mediocre or bad, than worthy of being called the next TN, even at the GM level. Annotations assisted by Rybka 3.

Nov 24, 2009

Kamsky drops Zhou Weiqi with Chebanenko

Kamsky wins with the a6 Slav after Zhou Weiqi (Joe Way-Chee) loses his way on the edge of the draw. As defending champion, Kamsky has proven himself tough in these mini-matches.

A Scotch for Morozevich, please!

Morozevich is a chess treasure, but playing the same novelty two weeks apart is questionable. He survives Laznicka's opening preparation, which may in fact have been minimal, but succumbs after finally taking the repeated offer of the exchange. Annotations assisted by Rybka 3 and Fritz 12.

Openings of Interest

In selecting games to take a look at here, I typically explore for games involving openings in which I have a current interest. Here's what the repertoire looks like at the moment.

As Black, against 1.e4, I'm playing the Najdorf and Sveshnikov (as far as White will cooperate), and I obviously have to chase down a bunch of Anti-Sicilians. Those I worry about most are the Rossolimo and Moscow (the 3.Bb5 complex), the c3 Sicilian, and the various versions of the Grand Prix. I see all three of these with some routine even in correspondence chess.

As Black, against 1.d4, I've been one of those die-hard Semi-Slav players. My sense is that the Semi-Slav is less popular in correspndence chess than in OTB, but I'll take a look statistically soon. The general notion is that if you want to unbalance the game, you have to play 1...Nf6. I won't argue. I've played more than a few games in the Meran, the Moscow, the Anti-Moscow, and what I call the Bayonet (the Shabalov-Shirov Gambit). I've even trotted out a Botvinnik variation, although I don't recommend it in correspondence. I will play the Budapest OTB, and I've played the King's Indian, Nimzo, and Gruenfeld.

I usually play 1...e5 against the English.

As White, I play most mainline openings in correspondence, led by the Scotch, Ruy Lopez, all manner of 1.d4, and an occasional 1.c4. I will play the Bishops Opening and Center Game OTB (and once in a great while in correspondence). I have opened several times with 1.Nf3, but usually with an eye toward transposition. I will play the Advance against the Caro-Kann (and I've played more than a few Panov-Botvinnik Attacks), the Open Sicilians, both 3.Nc3 and the Tarrasch against the French (and even an occasional Schlechter (3.Bd3)), classically as far as possible against the Pirc-Modern, and just about anything against the Alekhine's, including the Glek Four Knights, the Scotch Four Knights, the Modern, and the Chase.

So, these are the openings I'll be taking a look at most of the time. I haven't closed the door on much.

Nov 23, 2009

Women's Chess Titles

Jennifer Shahade has raised the issue recently of whether we need women's titles. It's a good question. The WSJ featured an article on the subject, quoting Jennifer, and I also note that ChessVibes and ChessBase tied into the issue. Opinions on the question are unsurprisingly all over the map. Here's how I see it in a nutshell:

1. The argument for reverse discrimination (or affirmative action, or "benign discrimination") is that it attempts to speed up the repair of the long term bad effects of prejudice. The theory (almost indisputable) is that societal forces have acted differently on men and women in many endeavors, leaving men over-represented in areas we tend to think of as important (e.g., math, sciences, and other higher order intellectual pursuits such as chess). By changing the otherwise natural results in favor of the class discriminated against--women--we believe we can speed up getting the playing field back to level, as well as directly affording opportunities to some who would have had the opportunities but for the discrimination. Sounds complicated. It is.

2. The argument against reverse discrimination is that it's still discrimination. Calling it "benign" discrimination doesn't help much. Its ill effects are felt by both those who aren't eligible for the special treatment because they're of the wrong gender, and also by women who although benefitted by the reverse discrimination find their accomplishment diminished. Are you a GM or a WGM? To paraphrase a well-known jurist, if you want to stop discrimination, stop discriminating.

My take. I want to hear much further from two groups: (1) those who have studied the supposed effects of the action or inaction proposed by the two sides, and (2) women. I'm undecided, but if we're going to err, let's do so on the side of the titles for now. This isn't like Bakke, where one takes an admission to medical school away from the better qualified applicant (referring to the U.S. Supreme Court case involving the University of California), but rather women's titles are almost entirely affirmative (and not at the expense of others), and thus if they come at a price, it's largely to women themselves. Let's ensure that the titles aren't making a contribution in the balance right now before eliminating them, a day that we should all look forward to. Once they're gone, it's likely they're gone for good. When women begin to decline the "W" titles with a "no thanks" in significant numbers and press on toward the GM and IM titles, we'll have a further clue.

Nov 22, 2009

Ray Robson and the other Marshall Gambit

Ray Robson is one of my favorite players. So I was disappointed to see him eliminated in the first round of the World Cup. He's a tactical whiz, but in this game once the tactics quiet down, he continually finds the second best moves while Jobava finds the best moves. Robson is slowly ground down. This game also presents a bit of the diehard Semi-Slav player's problem in getting to the Semi-Slav against 1.c4. One can play 1...c6 and be prepared for the Panov-Botvinnik variation of the Caro-Kann or play 1...e6 and face, among other things, the Marshall Gambit or Queens Gambit Exchange. The annotations are assisted by Rybka 3.

Support for Executive Board Candidacy

I announced my candidacy for the USCF Executive Board on the USCF Issues Forum on November 12. I have been a regular reader and poster on that Forum since May 2008. The below excerpts appear in the Forum.

Joe Lux: "You have a long trail of posts on the forum to your credit. I will be proud to collect signatures for your campaign, as you asked. We can certainly use a lawyer on the EB. If you can spend a fraction of your time that you put towards correspondence chess, you will be an active Board member."

Brian Lafferty: "You have my vote."

Bill Brock: "Very impressive and very sensible. You would be an excellent addition to the Board."

Rob Sturgeon: "You have my vote also."

T.P. Griffin: "Agreed. Thanks for stepping up! (Both here, and in Kuwait.) Good luck."

Bill Goichberg: "I look forward to having you join our Board."

Ben Bentrup: "I always love your posts for being down-to-earth, impartial, logical, and helpful. You've done a great job trying to deflate a tense situation. I, too, would be happy to vote for you."

Brian Mottershead: "Not the first time I've agreed with Bill Goichberg, nor probably the last, but when Bill and I can easily agree on something, it means we have a sure winner."

Mike Murray: "I'm climbing on the bandwagon. You have my vote."

Harry Payne: "You can count on my vote, and any support I can give. I will start calling members in Oklahoma, and the surrounding states as soon as it is official. Thank you for your, efforts and willingness to volunteer. Also, your voice and correspondence chess experience needs a place in the Government of the USCF. Good Luck, Just my take on it."

Mark Nibbelin: "Grayson, great candidate statement, a very refreshing change."The "game" begins with the rank and file player who plays in weekend events. These players (for the most part you and me) are critical to raising chess to its highest potential, which certainly includes developing young players who will enjoy the game beyond their school years, and affording the most talented players the opportunity to play full time with minimal distraction. We must present to all a professional, reasonable, and capable leadership if we are to advance chess in the United States and tap into resources, yes, including money, that will allow chess to be viewed as the intellectual pursuit that it is. We don't always have to agree with one another, but we do need to work together to advance the game."We have a ways to go - good luck."

Tim Redman: "I agree that Grayson seems to be a very good candidate."

The Top 20 rated U.S. players in the International Correspondence Chess Federation

1. GM Timm, John C. 68 2642
2. GM Zilberberg, Alik Samulovich 138 2613
3. GM Fleetwood, Daniel M. 249 2578
4. GM Bokar, Dr. Jason 286 2576
5. SM Murray, Tim 79 2567
6. IM duCret, René P. 116 2549
7. GM Duliba, Dr. Edward P. 326 2548
8. SM Ham, Stephen E. 99 2535
9. SM Edwards, Jon 160 2525
10. SM Sergel, Christopher T. 118 2520
11. SM Kubach, Gary L. 220 2511
12. SM Weisskohl, Jerry 140 2511
13. SM Jones, Stephen L. 97 2505
14. SM Parnas, Dr. Anatole 71 2503
15. Schmidt, Randy 38 2501
16. IM Holzmueller, Keith 76 2500
17. SM Ostriker, Jon 108 2493
18. GM Palciauskas, Vytas Victor 218 2488
19. SM Zavanelli, Prof. Max E. 179 2483
20. SM Millstone, Dr. Michael 213 2479

The ICCF is to the USCF for correspondence chess as FIDE is to the USCF for over the board chess. Anyone who is a member of the USCF can play international correspondence chess through the ICCF. ICCF awards the titles of Grandmaster, Senior Master, and International Master. If you want to give it a try and can't figure out how to get started, drop a comment here.

Nov 21, 2009

Meeting the English Attack with 6...Ng4

Rather than enter into one of the most analyzed variations of the English Attack versus the Najdorf with 6...e5, many players, including Super GMs, have opted for the completely different game that results from 6...Ng4. There is room for a tremendous amount of original analysis in this variation. See the below game where Carlsen just a few days ago brought out 6...Ng4 against Leko. The annotations are mine, with assistance from Rybka 3.

2009 USCF Absolute--Correspondence Chess

These are the standings of the 2009 USCF Absolute, the USCF's top level correspondence chess tournament, as of today with 9 games remaining. It's a four-player race for first, with David Sogin having the highest potential score. The number in parentheses after each player's score indicates the number of unfinished games. Crosstable.

1 Walters 2158 7.5 (1)
2 SM Brandhorst 2293 7 (0)
3 Ballow 7 (0)
4 Wilson 6.5 (2)
5 O'Hare 2369 6.5 (2)
6 Sogin 2287 6 (3)
7 Anderson 2281 6 (1)
8 Van Enk 2301 5.5 (1)
9 IM Miettinen 2291 5.5 (1)
10 Greene 2295 5.5 (0)
11 Rhodes 3 (0)
12 Poole 2.5 (1)
13 Shipman 2219 0.5 (6)

Nov 20, 2009

7.Qf3 vs. the Najdorf

Modern databases make zooming in on the novelty presented in every game possible. Here, 7.Qf3 is not a novelty by a long shot, but it is probably underplayed. White wins the opening if not the game. Annotations by Fritz 12 and Rybka 3.

18th USCCC Final

US Correspondence Chess Championship 18th Final
Start Date: December 1, 2009
TD Schakel, Corky

1 USA 510747 IM Boucher, William 2448
2 USA 510552 IM Myers, David R. 2424
3 USA 511296 Biedermann, Thomas 2416
4 USA 513931 Hill, Grayling V. 2378
5 USA 514439 Walters, Gary 2365
6 USA 514476 Ballow, John 2355
7 USA 511587 Sogin, David 2324
8 USA 511155 Ingersol, Harry 2298
9 USA 514327 Cruz, Humberto M. 2288
10 USA 514434 Van Enk, Steven 2287
11 USA 514230 Herrera, Alex 2275
12 USA 511026 Jones, Kenneth E. 2271
13 USA 514324 Wilson, Abe L. 2200
14 USA 514584 Coryell, Ken 2200P
15 USA 511061 SM Brandhorst, Wesley T. 2199

Nov 19, 2009

A Correspondence Sveshnikov

I play various Sicilians against 1.e4. The Sveshnikov holds up well in CC. The game below is from board 8 in the currently running North Atlantic Team Tourney VI. Move 18...f4 is shown by Fritz as the end of theory and you won't find it in Mega 2009, but it has been played in one prior correspondence chess game. This is to my knowledge, though, the first successful effort by black. The annotations below, excepting the earlier game reference, are entirely by Fritz 12.

Nov 18, 2009

The Lawsuits

I have posted extensively on many facets of the Lawsuits on the USCF Issues Forum. My position has been and is pretty clear. I support the USCF and its co-defendants in these actions. I find no merit to the cases that have been filed against the USCF. It goes without saying that the USCF cannot afford this litigation. Unfortunately, the USCF can neither afford not to defend itself vigorously.

I think that these Lawsuits are amenable to settlement, and any settlement should be made taking into account economics, the likelihood of sucess on the merits, and the likelihood of collecting should the litigation be played out to a victory in the end. There is risk in all litigation, and the USCF should be risk averse. I do not believe that we should or need to worry about the reputation of the USCF or any party related to the USCF in these actions, as I think the filings against the USCF are obviously without substance. In short, the USCF's and its allies' good names are intact, and we do not need to spend USCF dollars further proving so. In settling the cases, however, we do not need to make any concessions to those who've sued the Federation. There's no need to apologize and no need to pay $1. If given, it is likely both of these concessions would be used against the USCF for years to come.

I am aware that some want to play the cases out for the sake of justice and to recover the USCF's expenses. These two points should resonate in some degree with just about everyone. Nevertheless, my view is that playing the cases out is not necessary, entails risk, and may mean spending money that will not be recovered. I want the USCF's dollars to go toward furthering chess. We're an NFP organization. We should not be afraid to defend ourselves, but scorched earth litigation is not what we do.

I believe that the bringing of a lawsuit by a former member of the USCF EB was a monumental mistake, and that the course that has been run by the USCF has been a good and decent one. The resolve of the USCF has been demonstrated, and the EB elected most recently appears ready and able to move forward with the business of chess. I think that the conclusion of the cases should be left in the hands of our present leadership and the USCF's attorneys. Anyone who has a view on how the cases should be concluded should make his or her opinion known. I know that many in a leadership position read the Issues Forum on the USCF's website.

[My comments above do not apply to the Book & Equipment (B&E) dispute. There's not sufficient publicly available information for me to make a meaningful comment.]

Nov 11, 2009

USCF Special Election for Executive Board 2010

I am running for one of the two open seats on the USCF's Executive Board in the 2010 Special Election. Below is an introductory statement (500 words), and I will post here from time to time on issues that I think are important, as well as on issues of interest to others.

I began playing USCF chess in junior high school in Columbus, Ohio in 1969 and became swept up in Fischer's run to the World Championship. I played throughout high school, tying for first in the Central Ohio School Chess Association (COSCA) championship as a senior (2nd on tie breaks), and playing for the first-seeded team in the state championship. Following high school, I began a military career that took me away from organized chess for years. Although I played casually, and even returned to rated chess during two more quiet stateside military assignments, it was only upon departing the military that I was able to return to chess with a renewed passion. I am currently, in my own words, one of the country's more devout correspondence players. In addition, I use the majority of my vacation time to play in OTB tournaments. Over the past three years, I've played in California (twice), Connecticut, Florida, New York, and Ohio. During this time I have played approximately 120 USCF correspondence games and a similar number of games in the ICCF. I've almost completed the 2009 USCF Absolute tournament, and I'm one of 15 finalists in the 18th United States Correspondence Chess Championship. I have lived in New York, Georgia, Colorado, Kansas, Texas, Missouri, and Ohio, as well as in Germany. I have a B.A. from Auburn University in English literature, a Masters from the School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and a law degree from Cornell Law School. I was awarded the Silver Star as an infantry company commander during DESERT STORM in Kuwait. For the past decade I have lived in Cleveland, Ohio where I work as a civil litigator focusing on complex commercial cases. I became drawn deeply into USCF issues off the chessboard upon learning that an Executive Board member had sued the USCF. This appeared so fundamentally detrimental to the USCF that I began reviewing the various cases, and engaging in discussions (as "Grayson") on a wide variety of subjects in the USCF's Issues Forum.

What can I bring to the USCF? I bring a passion for the game. The game must come before personal viewpoints, political power, and pecuniary interests. The "game" begins with the rank and file player who plays in weekend events. These players (for the most part you and me) are critical to raising chess to its highest potential, which certainly includes developing young players who will enjoy the game beyond their school years, and affording the most talented players the opportunity to play full time with minimal distraction. We must present to all a professional, reasonable, and capable leadership if we are to advance chess in the United States and tap into resources, yes, including money, that will allow chess to be viewed as the intellectual pursuit that it is. We don't always have to agree with one another, but we do need to work together to advance the game. I think I can help.

Gary L. Walters