Oct 22, 2010

USCF Election 2011

I will run again for election for the USCF Executive Board in 2011.  Three seats are open, each having a three-year term.  I'd like to begin the 2011 campaign by quoting two former USCF Presidents from the past couple of days:

Postby redman on Thu Oct 21, 2010 1:14

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Some may be surprised at the following.

I support enthusiastically Gary Walters in his bid for reelection to the Executive Board.

We were on completely opposite sides on the FIDE question in Irvine, but open and honest disagreement has never bothered me. Gary is exactly the kind of person we need on our EB.


Tim Redman

by CHESSDON on Fri Oct 22, 2010

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It seems to me we have some very good candidates including the three rollovers from the current board. One candidate I will definitely vote for and would like to see as a possible future president is Gary Walters!

Don Schultz

Oct 19, 2010

Resumption of Blog

Life's twists and turns have taken me away from this blog for the past 90 days.  I plan to return with a once- or twice-a-week posting(s) on November 1.  The focus will be more than ever on opening theory from the perspective of correspondence play.  I'm presently a 2420 ICCF-rated player, hopefully still on the rise.  I'm currently ranked 13th in the U.S. (October 2010 USCF correspondence chess top 100), and I'm the 2009 USCF Absolute co-champ.  I've played more than 300 correspondence games since 2007, and hopefully have something to write worth reading.  Best, -Gary

Jul 20, 2010

U.S. Junior Championship: King's Indian--Fianchetto Variation

Harper pulls off a major upset to deny Robson the U.S. Junior Championship.

Jul 17, 2010

US Junior Championship: Sicilian Taimanov

Hughes is holding his own until he apparenly miscalculates at move 26.  Also, take a close look at Robson's novelty at 15.f4.

U.S. Junior Championship: Dutch Defense--Staunton Gambit

I'm not a fan of the Dutch.  To date I've never failed to beat it in correspondence games.  If you're a fan, however, or a 1.d4 player looking for something new against the Dutch, consider the following game from the ongoing US Junior Championship.  It features the Staunton Gambit, which makes for interesting chess.

Jul 14, 2010

French 101: Exchange Variation

This game provides a nice introduction to the French Exchange Variation.  Black slowly outplays his opponent until disaster strikes at move 28. 

Jul 12, 2010

US Junior Championship: Sicilian Moscow Variation

After avoiding outright disaster in Round 1, Robson strikes back with the Black pieces in Round 2.  If you play the Sicilian Najdorf, you have to be prepared to deal with 3.Bb5+.  Here, Robson plays the "solid" choice, 3...Bd7, undoubtedly expecting to outplay his outweighed opponent in the long term.  Compare this game to G23, where Carlsen plays the less safe but more dynamic 3...Nd7.

US Women's Championship: Queen's Indian Krush

Krush gives Marinello a little endgame lesson.  After the exchange of Queens at move 28, the game is not won for Black, but the Bishop pair is vicious and the game is difficult for White, too difficult as it turns out.

Jul 11, 2010

King's Indian 101: Fianchetto Variation--7.b3

The usual move in the Fianchetto Variation is 7.Nc3, but here Beliavsky faces the rare 7.b3.  Black must keep a close watch against the queenside storm, as in many Fianchetto Variation games. 

Jul 10, 2010

King's Indian 101: Fianchetto Variation

The King's Indian Fianchetto Variation is reached by several move orders, but let's begin with the most straightforward. 

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.g3 d6 5.Bg2 O-O 6.O-O

Let's agree on this as the starting position for the KI Fianchetto Variation.  The Queen's Knight hasn't been committed yet, unlike the other KI mainlines, and the light-squared Bishop is coming in on the long diagonal, instead of to the usual e2 or d3.  White is likely going to push the e-pawn two squares as in other variations, but even that's in question.   This variation usually lacks the wholesale assault by Black on the White position due to the extra protection afforded by the Bishop, and the center will tend to be more fluid than in the other mainlines (it's more difficult for Black to focus an attack on the kingside when the center is not closed). 

Now White usually plays 6.O-O, but note that because the KI is a hypermodern opening Black is not tying White down to any particular move order. Black has several moves, with the principal being 6...Nbd7.  Others include 6...Nc6, c6, c5, a6, Bg4, Na6, and Bf5. 

6...Nbd7  The Knight is not ideally placed here, of course, but it's going to support Black's play into the center at e5.  In response, White has the major move 7.Nc3, the often-played 7.Qc2, and the minor moves 7.b3 (see G124) and 7.d5.  We'll look at Nc3 in the main, consider Qc2, and handle the other two moves in subsequent games. 

I.  7.Nc3 and now 7...e5 (diagram) is the best by theory.  Black's equalization in this position is still in the future, but he has no weaknesses.  White has the better grip on the center, and the Black Knight at d7, however necessary, is going to have to move again soon.

8.e4 White also plays 8.h3 here, but it has little independent significance.  Black now plays 8...c6 almost half the time and 8...exd4 a little over a quarter of the time.  The other two common moves are 8...Re8 and 8...a6.  After 8...c6, play may continue 9.h3 Qb6 10.Re1 exd4 11.Nxd4 Ne8 and Black is okay.  Continuing, 8.e4 c6 9.h3 (9.b3 Re8 10.h3 exd4) 9...Qb6 10.Re1 (diagram) 
10...exd4 11.Nxd4 Ne8 (11...Re8 12.Nc2 Nc5 =) 12.Nb3 a5 13.Be3 Qb4 14.a3 and White is slightly better (diagram) due to a space advantage and better coordinated pieces. 

II.  7.Qc2 e5 (the alternative is 7...c6 and it may be objectively as good 8.Rd1 Qc7 9.Nc3 e5 with a slight advantage to White) 8.Rd1 Re8 (8...Qe7 Nc3 9.c6 e4 10.exd4=) 9.Nc3 c6 10.e4 (10.b3 and now while 10...e4 has been the move of choice, this position deserves closer attention) 10...exd4 (10...Qe7 and look particularly at 11.b3 or d5) 11.Nxd4 (diagram) and Black is okay. 

Now a couple of games.

Jul 8, 2010

Pirc 101: Austrian Attack

Robson plays a nice game against Molner in the 5th round of the 38th World Open. The opening is the Austrian Pirc. The move to pay attention to is White's 9th, e5. The Rybka 4 Book (Jiri Dufek) gives 9.Qb5+, which has been the principal practice over the board.

Jul 3, 2010

French 101: Classical in Jermuk

Tatiana Kosinteva beats Hou Yifan in a French Classical in Jermuk, Armenia.  While the novelty in the game is 11.Nd1, which is dubious, the bigger flaw in the game is Black's plan to exchange the light-squared Bishops.  Black position is left stretched out of shape, and Kosinteva drives the point home.

Jul 1, 2010

July FIDE Rating List: Four Things

See the ChessBase story regarding Magnus' amazing attainment, which is now official.  Note several things about this all-time top ten list.  First, Carlsen's achievement at 19 is nothing short of amazing.  I anxiously wait to see just how much he will achieve.  Second, taken by itself, Fischer's inclusion on this list 38 years after reaching his peak rating is also amazing, but it is particularly so when one accounts for almost 40 years of inflation.  If memory serves, Fischer actually lost rating points by defeating World Champion Spassky.  Third, Kasparov's and Karpov's positions on the list are noteworthy because of the age of their ratings.  Karpov remains in the top ten despite the lapse of sixteen years and the attendant inflation, and Kasparov still holds the first position eleven years after his peak.  Neither Carlsen, nor anyone else, will likely bump him down anytime soon.  Finally, only one country has more than one player on this list.  Unsurprisingly, it is Russia with four.

Jun 30, 2010

Petroff 101: 5.Nc3; 7.Bf4 or 7.Be3--Five Boards to Compare

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 Oh no! 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.Nc3 Play 5.d4 to head for the mainlines.  5...Nxc3 6.dxc3 (diagram) 6.bxc3 is okay, but I think it is objectively inferior.  The idea is that White is going to play down the half-open d-file and often shove the kingside pawns northward. 6...Be7 Why this?  The Bishop is almost assuredly going to develop to the e7 square, while the queenside minor pieces can go to several squares.  In particular, Black will clarify the placement of one of the White Bishops, usually the dark-squared Bishop, before deciding whether to develop the Knight to d7 or c6.  Now White has two major options: 7.Be3 or 7.Bf4.  Which?  Let's look at five positions each of higher level games five moves later, after White's 12th.  Survey the positions and see if they help the choice based on your preferences.

After 7.Bf4 (five positions five moves later)

Jobava-Motlyev, 11th Karpov Poikovsky Rus 2010

Black is slightly better with the Bishop pair and potential for play down the b-file.  White wins the game.

Topalov-Gelfand, Amber Rapid 15th

The game is roughly equal.  Black will win the pawn back after the exchanges on d6 by forking the Rook and f-pawn via e4.  White wins the game.

Ivanchuk-Kosteniuk, Cap d'Agde CCAS Gp-A Rapid October 2008

The game is roughly equal after Nxe6.  White wins the game.

Kramnik-Nielsen, Dortmund 2005

White is slightly better after Be6 due to his space advantage.  White wins the game.

Rublevsky-Shirov, Rus ChT 2006

Black is slightly better, but not after 12...hxg5 13.hxg5 and Black has to immediately give back the piece with threats down the h-file abounding.  If 13...Be7, then 14.g4 and Black is lost.  Black wins the game.  On the updside of White's choices after Bf4 is that White is always on the watch for a kingside assault, but as the previous games show, the attack's not a foregone concluion.

After 7.Be3 (five positions five moves later)

Anand-Kramnik, Amber Blindfold14th. 

The game is equal.  White wins.

Ivanchuk-Wang Yue, Sofia MTel Masters 5th 2009

White is very slightly better.  Black wins the game.

Svidler-Kramnik, RUS Ch Superfinal 2005

Again, White is slightly better due to better coordinated pieces and a space advantage.  White wins the game.

Jakovenko-Volokitin, Rus-ChT Dagomys 2008

White is slightly better due to better better coordinated pieces and a space advantage.  Black wins. 

Bolgan-Charbonneau, Canadian op Edmonton 2005.

White is slightly better for the usual reasons and a kingside initiative.  White wins. 

King's Indian 101: Fianchetto Variation

The Fianchetto Variation of the King's Indian is a popular way to avoid the mainlines of the opening in which Black will conduct an all-out assault on the kingside.  There are many ways to arrive in the Fianchetto Variation, including as in the below game.

Jun 29, 2010

Fischer-Spassky: Chess Table for Sale

One of the three chess tables used by Fischer and Spassky in Reykjavik is reportedly being offered for sale. See the Gambit account of the sale here. Páll G. Jonsson apparently bought two of the tables following the 1972 match, and now at 77 wishes to sell one of them.

Johnsson states that the chairman of the Match Organizing Committee, Gudmundur G. Thorarinsson, can authenticate the table. 

Jun 28, 2010

1.d4 Sidetracks: Torre, London and Colle Systems, But Not Really

Bruzon takes the great Ivanchuk out of mainstream theory quickly, but to no good end.  White declines to go down a beaten path repeatedly until we reach the following position:

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2

A lot of known lines have been avoided to this point, but the game is at least now on the cusp of the Catalan.  ChessBase classifies this position with the Torre, London, and Colle systems, but it's none of these.  If you have a name for this, drop a comment.  Nevertheless, the position has been reached often, and Black's next odd-looking move can be described as an anti-Catalan: 4...b5  Perhaps the kid Carlsen has shown the old master a thing or two.  See the second game below.

Chess Engines: Which Are Legit?

The chess engine environment is rich and evolving.  The engines are obviously stronger than ever, and are still improving, both on the software and hardware fronts.  Much of the current debate, however, is less about strength and more about what's legitimate and what's not.  On the commercial front (read "for sale"), the leaders are Rybka (4), Fritiz (12), Shredder (12), and Hiarcs (13), with the Wikipedia list of such engines including:

Chess Genius, by Richard Lang of Mephisto fame
Chess Tiger
Fritz, Deep Fritz
The King - the engine of the commercial Chessmaster program
Loop (also the engine for Wii Chess)
Naum versions 2.1 and later
Rebel - (see also ProDeo)
Ruffian 2
Deep Sjeng

The controversy is not so much with these engines, but rather with the "free," "open source" engines that are cropping up.  There are many of these as well, led by what's known as the IPPOLIT family, including RobboLito, Igorrit, IvanHoe, FireBird and Fire.  Some have claimed that the IPPOLIT engines are nothing more than decompiled versions of Rybka that have been tweaked (for better or worse) and tossed onto the market.  Last I checked, the IPPOLIT authors were an anonymous group calling themselves the "Decembrists."  One could also add Strelka to this list and the name Yuri Osipov (a pseudonym?).  There's also an open source, free engine known as Stockfish (Tord Romstad (Norway), Marco Costalba (Italy) & Joona Kiiski (Finland)).  This last engine has substantial legitimacy in the fact that it's been accepted for rating by the CCRL.  The authors may have perfectly good reasons for why they would want to offer this engine at no charge.
I am currently running Rybka 4, Shredder12, Fritz 12, Deep Fritz 12, Firebird 1.2, and Stockfish 1.7.1 JA on my machines.  I'm not entirely comfortable with all of these engines, and I do believe that it is in all of our best interests to support only the legitimate (non-prirated) efforts.  I do not have the software skills to challenge any of the above programs, and I'll thus be looking to others to offer explanations of legitimacy or otherwise.  (Any such claims of illegitimacy have been weak to date, although certainly plausible.)  The reason behind the intellectual property protections afforded by patent, trademark, and copyright laws are obvious--to incentivize creativity.  Until the answers are clear or more clear, I will continue to purchase the leading commercial programs to support the progress of chess engines, but I will also explore and run my own tests on the engines being called into question. 

To the extent that any programmers are taking code from one of the commercial engines and quickly improving it in a pirated release, more issues are raised than just copyright protection. If the commercial programmers are withholding improvements, they may be entitled to the protections of the law, but they aren't necessarily going to get my undying support.

Jun 27, 2010

King's Indian 101: Classical Variation--9.Nd2

This King's Indian comes from the 17th Correspondence World Championship.  White scores with the third of the big three White responses to the Mar Del Plata Variation of the King's Indian: 9.Nd2.  The move may only be inferior to 9.Ne1 and 9.b4 in terms of the times it has been played.  Play is often across the entire board as in this game, and here, Black simply wasn't able to hit hard enough on the kingside.  The novelty in the game is at White's 20th. 

King's Tournament: King's Indian Classical with 7...Na6

The last round of the King's Tournament in Medias saw all three games end with a Black victory.  In the game Gelfand-Radjabov, Radjabov played 6...Na6 in the Classical Variation, a move he's only played once previously.  The notion behind this move is usually to avoid the body of theory after 6...e5 and 7...Nc6.  Radjabov likely knows this theory better than anyone, having played into the line more than 70 times, but even Radjabov is not above side-stepping an opponent's preparation.  Oftentimes 6...Na6 simply transposes to the more mainstream move order 6...e5 7.O-O Na6, and that's what happens here.  The verdict is out on 7...Na6 (which is this game by transposition), but the general thought is that White has additional options due to a lack of pressure on the White center.  Here, the novelty is 12...d3 and it would seem that White has won the opening phase, but it's never quite so simple....

Jun 24, 2010

King's Tournament: Schliemann!

This looked like a species of suicide: bringing out the Schliemann against Carlsen.  The Schliemann is theoretically dubious at best, and if you're going to mix it up, do you really want it to be against Carlsen?  Worked like a charm.  Carlsen played 4.Nc3, heading for the attendant complications, but Nisipeanu was obviously well prepared.  Carlsen can be forgiven for not leaning forward in anticipation of 3...f5.  Nisipeanu has played into a Ruy all of seven times, four of them in classical mainlines and three Berlins.  He's a Sicilian player.  Despite the early theoretical advantage enjoyed by White, the game is played well on both sides and goes nowhere particularly interesting.  The theory is worth some review if your're a Ruy player.

ICCF World Championship, 19th Finals: Sämisch KI

In this game, Whte accepts Blacks offer of a pawn (see 7.dxc5) and is ultimately punished for it.  White's 14th, however, is less than accurate. 

Jun 23, 2010

King's Indian: A Sämisch at the 2007 CC World Championship

Black doesn't win so often at the highest levels of CC.  The KI scores one here in the Sämisch Variation, again with White playing 7.Nge2.

Jun 22, 2010

King's Indian 101: Introduction Part IV--Sämisch Variation

Click here for Part I: Overview
Click here for Part II: Classical
Click here for Part III: Four Pawns Attack
Click here for Part V: Averbakh System

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3  introduces the Sämisch Variation.  White fortifies e4 and employs a flexible system, including that the King can be tucked away to either side of the board.  Should Black play an early c5, the opening will often look more like a Benoni than a KI.  The main choice by Black now is 5...O-O; Black may also play 5...c6, 5...Nbd7, 5...e5, 5...Nc6, and 5...a6.  In response to 5...O-O, White has a major move, 6.Be3, and two minor choices, 6.Bg5 and 6.Nge2 (see G111).  After 6.Be3, Black has no less than seven moves that have been played more than 1,000 times in Mega 2010.  Kasparov has played five of them.  For purposes of this introduction, let's reduce the numbers by looking at 2600+ players, with the winning percentage, as always, from White's persepective:

6...e5  22 Games  47.7%
6...c5 20 Games  45%
6...Nc6 7 Games  57.1%
6...Nd7 5 Games  70%
6...c6  3 Games  83.3%
6...a6  3 Games  83.3%
6...b6  1 Game  50%

So, it's 61 games, with more than two-thirds of those games involving one of two moves: 6...e5 or 6...c5, with those two moves showing a plus on the Black side.  Unless there be any mistake, the players of the White pieces in all of the above games were also above 2600.  The thrust of this intro is to identify some of the major lines of play, and, as always, the details of the opening will be drawn out through games. 

A.  6...e5 and now White has 7. d5 and 7.Nge2, with mainline play as follows:

 1.  7.d5 c6 8.Qd2 cxd5 9.cxd5 Nbd7     
 2.  7.Nge2 c6 8. Qd2 Nbd7 9.O-O-O a6 (see G113)

B.  6...c5 and now White has 7.Nge2, 7.dxc5, 7.d5

1.  7.Nge2 (keeps the tension) Nc6 8.d5 (8.Qd2) Ne5 9.Ng3 e6

2.  7.dxc5 dxc5 8.Qxd8 Rxd8 9.Bxc5 Nc6 and Black's compensation is indicated by that in over 700 games, White has a mere 47% win rate despite the extra pawn.  (See G114)

3.  7.d5 e6 8.Qd2 exd5 9.cxd5 a6

C.  6...Nc6 (Panno Variation) 7.Nge2 (7.d5?! Ne5!) a6 8.Qd2 Rb8