Wednesday, October 31, 2007

An Instructive Mistake

My Red Hot Pawn rating is now at 1741, the highest I've achieved--but let's give Luck it's due in the equation...

I'm playing Black in the diagram, and to make it a little more of a visualization exercise we'll give a few moves:

25. Be4 Bb3 26. Rb1 and now Black to play and win.

(Don't look in the comments before you get the answer!)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Reno Rapidplay 10.24.07 1.5/4

At the Reno Chess Club Quickplay Championship (G/29) last Thursday I scored +1 -2 =1 but in general had a blast playing at a fast time control--a couple of very interesting positions came up that I'll share with you after I get my last round game from the Western States Open posted. I see that my Quick Rating dropped from 1531 to 1504, which for some reason doesn't bother me too much. My regular "tournament" rating is what I'm focused on at this point.

Ernie Hong (Soapstone) has a game of his posted from the event, with his usual excellent annotations. I note that in the round prior I had Ernie (2009) in big trouble; I was a piece ahead and he played Bxh2+, when taking it would have led to an even bigger advantage for me, but I saw a "phantom" combination for him, played Kh1 and as it turned out that turned into a killing attack for him. Well, that's life in G/29, or The Fast Lane.

(NOTE: I see that the link to my rating just goes to the "find player page." Just type in 12374580 if you're interested in my checkered ratings history.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


(UPDATE 10/25/07--How could I forget Reno Chess Club bloggers A King's Quest and Soapstone's Studio? Sorry, guys. Also, some linkage to Douglas L. Stewart, a Mississippi Expert who's been kind enough to comment on my games.)

It's been too long since I updated the links on this site--lots of good blogs out there that need to be added, a few that changed or disappeared, so I've added:

Rook Van Winkle, Scholastic Chess Gateway, Steve Learns Chess, Getting to 2000, Liquid Egg Product, Out of the Ether, Samurai Chess, Chess, Goddess and Everything, Castling Queenside, Jack Le Moine, and ChessUSA.

In order not to let the list get too long I've deleted a few blogs that had disappeared or hadn't posted in a long time. Hungarian Knight, where are you?

I'm adding a small non-chess section of things that readers might find of interest, as well:

Mythology, What Jeff Killed, Motivator (Create Poster), and Robert A. Heinlein Bio.

If you have a chess blog, or a blog that sometimes gets into chess and you're not listed, please post a comment and I'll add you to the ranks.

Homer Nods (V) NOT

"Even the worthy Homer sometimes nods."

--Horace, Ars Poetica

Interesting story--as I've written elsewhere, "Me, me, me is Dull, dull, dull," so I was going to get away from MY games, MY tournaments, etc. for a bit, with a Homer Nods post (the fifth in our series of great chess players playing chess very, very badly...).

The June 18, 2007 Chessville Weekly had this "Position of the Week":

White to move and win

We join Chandler-Hebden (both 2500+ GMs) at the 2000 British Championship. Chandler plays 40. Rxh7+ and according to the "solution at the bottom of the page":

1/2 - 1/2 Draw???? Why not 40...Kxh7 41.Rh4+ Qh6 42.f6+ Nd3 43.Qg7 mate? Ask Chandler...

Well, Chandler wasn't around and I was about to use this for "Homer Nods" when I began to get suspicious; originally I thought that perhaps Chandler had 2 seconds on the clock, didn't keep score and didn't know he'd made the time control, or some such explanation. But...Grandmasters of the stature of Murray Chandler would normally be able to execute this mate even in two seconds. I thought a little research was in order,'s a report on the "Game of the Day" by IM Andrew Martin (scroll towards bottom) ending with these words:

40. Rxh7+!! It's a forced mate now: 40...Kxh7 41.Rh4+ Qh6 42.f6+ Nd3 43.Qg7# 1-0

And so, Homer didn't nod! By the way, does Rxh7+ really deserve !! in your opinion? It certainly jumped out at me when I saw the position. It was the steady build-up the previous 20 moves that made the game of the day.

Anyway, glad I did my homework and didn't piss off Murray Chandler!

(Later--I also wonder how the Chessville writer got it so wrong; I'm guessing it's in a database somewhere as 1/2-1/2. The game isn't at out there have it in their ChessBase or whatnot?)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Western States Open, Game 3 (Rd. 5)

Another win, in one of the oddest openings I've ever played against. For the second game in a row I don't make any really bad moves--in computer evaluation terms, maybe a few second- or third-best moves that drop me from +1.50 to +0.75 or something like that, but no +1.0 to -2.0 types. Hmm, maybe 33. Bxh8?! dropped from +8 to +4 or something like that. Anyway, it's encouraging to figure that against B-players you just need to avoid the really bad stuff, try your best on every move and you'll usually get some opportunities somewhere along the way. Less so against A and Expert but we'll try to build from here...

[Event "Western States Open (B)"]
[Site "Reno, NV"]
[Date "2007.10.14"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Pearson, Robert"]
[Black "Oca Homer, Nicolas"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "1607"]
[BlackElo "1681"]
[ECO "A40"]
[Annotator "RLP"]

1. d4 h6 2. e4 a6 3. Nc3 e6 4. a3 d6 5. Nf3 Qd7 6. Bd3 f6 7. Be3 Qf7 8. Qe2 c6 9. e5 { So far I haven't commented on his unusual opening because...I don't know what to say! I'm sure White has a big edge but where to attack? 0-0 and a queenside advance is probably a fine idea, but I thought capturing on e5 here would be terrible for him, and if he closes the center I have a plan. } f5 10. h4 d5 11. h5 Be7 12. g4 Bd8 { This fits right in with the rest of his moves so far... } 13. Nh4 { 13. gxf5 exf5 with a bind is better. Why relieve his congested position, even if it's the "good" bishop being exchanged? } Bxh4 14. Rxh4 Ne7 15. gxf5 exf5 16. O-O-O Be6 17. Rg1 Nd7 18. Qf3 { ?! White is gradually frittering away his advantage. This move was supposed to be followed up by Rf4, if I recall, but that doesn't lead anywhere. I found it hard to get a handle on the position around here. } O-O-O 19. Qe2 g5 { ? Better Kb8. Opening lines helps me more than him. } 20. hxg6 Nxg6 21. Rxh6 Rxh6 22. Bxh6 Rh8 23. Bd2 c5 { ? opening more lines for ME. But I didn't calculate the line 24. Bxa6 cxd5 25. Nb5 Kb8 26. Bxb7! and White has a winning attack. Instead... } 24. dxc5 { ?! } Nxc5 25. Qe3 Nxd3+ 26. cxd3 Kb8 27. Kb1 { ?! 27. Qb6 is right but this was supposed to be 'prophylactic.' At least it doesn't spoil the position. } f4 28. Qb6 Qf5 29. Ka1 Nxe5 { He spent 26 minutes here, and during that time I calculated a lot myself and concluded that taking the pawn was bad. So naturally I was happy to see this, but maybe it's not as bad as I thought. } 30. Qd6+ Ka8 31. Nxd5 Bf7 { ? The real stinker. He had to play Bxd5. } 32. Bc3 { ! Killing. } Nf3 { I suppose Bxd5 is "better" in some sense, but pretty horrible. } 33. Bxh8 { ?! More accurate is Nc7+. Now Qxd5 would leave White up a lot of material anyway, but the check should have been played! However... } Nxg1 { ? } 34. Qd8+ { and mates. Black resigned. } 1-0

If I May Respectfully Disagree...

The Kenilworthian has some thoughts on the October Chess Life:

I would like to take a moment to compliment the editors of Chess Life for producing one of the best issues I have seen (not to mention the sexiest-ever chess magazine cover photo!) and for putting all of this excellent content online for the entire chess community to enjoy. Bravo!

Well, I will say that Chess Life is pretty good these days--much better than a few years ago. However, Chris Bird's piece on the U.S. Women's Championship starts out with a paragraph in need of serious editorial attention:

Standing in the playing room was a young lady with rosy, shining cheeks, a glowing smile and a joyful look on her face. It was a refreshing sight given that over the previous five days, her look had been more determined: very serious with the fate of the world seemingly resting on her shoulders. Her head was usually buried in a book when she wasn’t playing chess, staying out of the limelight and just generally minding her own business.


As for the "the sexiest-ever chess magazine cover photo(!)," I find Ms. Krush to be an attractive young woman in a semi- sexy pose; however, her white-knuckled death grip on the King brings some rather unpleasant "Freudian" thoughts to my mind.

You be the judge.

Monday, October 22, 2007

chessloser and Me

As I noted a week ago in my first report on the Western States Open:

I got to spend some supremely enjoyable time with chessloser and his lovely and talented wife, which was a much finer experience than the chess playing itself.

Indeed. Let me just expand a little on that; tournament chess players are a dynamic, interesting, self-selected and sometimes prickly bunch. In the cauldron of intense intellectual competition all of the player's flaws and strengths are revealed, and always there's a special kind of camaraderie between those who step up, throw their hat in the ring and put their ego on the line in the glaring light of public chess play.

Now into this arena steps chessloser (he only uses CAPS on select occasions). He and his wife are indeed dynamic, in the original sense of the word; they do things, have been to many places and gotten involved in shaping the world in the kind of ways most of us only read about. And now, after years of intensity, on the front lines of the action in a World-historical sense, they are entering a new phase of life, one that includes for him an entry into tournament chess as an adult. A difficult thing, but having observed him and his wife firsthand I wouldn't be surprised at all to see chessloser move rapidly up the ratings chart--seldom does one find such a combination of self-discipline, humor and energy in one person.

In the big picture chess is a small, but enjoyable and significant part of life; outside of chess, I'll tell you wholeheartedly that chessloser and his wife would be the first people I would hope were around if the shit hit the fan, the rubber met the road, if things got serious. If they'd have my back, I'd have theirs.

My personal endorsements don't come any stronger.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

I Hope This is a Trend

Another Reno Chess Club member starts chess blogging! Expert Ernest Hong, Reno Club Secretary and webmaster, joins the conversation as "Soapstone" at Soapstone's Studio. Apparently his Western States Open experience was good enough to keep him playing chess, which is excellent news.

Welcome aboard, Soapstone!

Western States Open, Game 2 (Rd. 4)

I'm pretty proud of this game; after pre-tournament stresses and strains and a loss on Saturday morning I should have been tired, but instead I felt...resolved. My concentration during the game was quite good, and for the last 12-14 moves I was just glued to the board, not seeing or hearing much else that was going on. Not a brilliant game, but important to me; it made me remember that I really do know how to play good chess...

[Event "Western States Open (B)"]
[Site "Reno, NV"]
[Date "2007.10.13"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Barrett, Gordon"]
[Black "Pearson, Robert"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "1700"]
[BlackElo "1607"]
[ECO "A00"]
[Annotator "RLP"]

1. g4 d5 2. Bg2 e5 3. h3 Be6 { Admittedly, I'm out of "book" on Move 3. I wanted to keep flexibility with my c-pawn and knight locations, so this seemed good. } 4. c4 c6 5. cxd5 cxd5 6. Nc3 Nc6 7. d3 { I don't really know exactly what White's up to in the Grob--I'm just playing sensible moves for my side. Qa4 looks a bit more dynamic for White here. } Bb4 8. Bd2 Nge7 9. Nf3 Ng6 10. a3 Bxc3 11. bxc3 Nf4 { ?! Now I think Qe7 was better, covering b7 and e5 (indirectly) and leaving more options open. } 12. Bxf4 exf4 13. Qa4 Qf6 { This attack was the idea, but it doesn't amount to much } 14. Rc1 O-O 15. O-O a6 16. Qc2 Rac8 17. Qd2 g5 { ?! Not horrible, but it's rushing things--looking at things with fresh eyes now, Black could play on the queenside with b5, Na5 with a slight edge. } 18. e3 fxe3 19. fxe3 Qe7 20. e4 h6 21. Nh2 { ? I didn't think this was good during the game, and it looks even worse now. exd4 gives White a nice mobile pawn duo and open lines for his pieces. } dxe4 22. Bxe4 Rcd8 { ?! It's not that I didn't see the a-pawn hanging, but I thought the two tempi needed weren't worth it. Qxa3-d6 is actually a safe extra pawn, since White can't do anything serious in the meantime (maybe Nf3 would be best!). } 23. Qb2 Bd5 24. Rce1 Bxe4 25. Rxe4 Qc7 26. d4 Na5 27. Qd2 { ? Better is 27. Qb4 Nc4 28. Re2 Rfe8 29. Rxe8 Rxe8 with a small plus for Black. } Nc4 28. Qf2 Rde8 { ?! Remember the a-pawn? Again, it could be taken safely. } 29. Rfe1 Rxe4 30. Rxe4 { He offered a draw, saying "You're a little short of time." I have 17 minutes for 11 moves, but I liked my position and there was something about the offer, like it was a favor due to my time pressure, that made we want to play some moves. } Qc6 31. Re7 Nxa3 { Better late than never? } 32. Qb2 { ? Nf3 Qxc6 33. Rxb7 had to offer better chances than this. } Nb5 { ! Okay, maybe an exclam is too much but I'm enjoying myself now! Something is going to drop. } 33. c4 Qxc4 34. Nf3 Qd5 35. Qf2 f5 { ! There are safer moves like Rd8, but I give myself credit for playing this, which is also good, and more importantly I thought it was best, so I played it! } 36. Re5 Qd7 37. Qe3 fxg4 38. Nxg5 { Honestly, I didn't see this coming but I had 5:30 left for three moves and I just took my time and relaxed. An interesting note--I didn't even think about how good my position was at this point; I was in the zone, just playing moves. } Qxd4 { ! Simple but effective! Looks like Black gets an ending four pawns up. } 0-1

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Western States Open, Game 1 (Rd.3)

As noted below, I was just glad to be in the tournament, having missed the first day with work, family illness etc. Remarkably, I see that I spent 8 minutes on 25. ... Bf6?? (I keep track of the time used on each move for both players. I recommend it). Thankfully, this was the darkness before the dawn!

[Event "Western States Open (B)"]
[Site "Reno, NV"]
[Date "2007.10.13"]
[Round "3"]
[White "Brennan, Tim"]
[Black "Pearson, Robert"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "1711"]
[BlackElo "1607"]
[ECO "B01"]
[Annotator "RLP"]

1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Nf6 3. d4 Nxd5 4. c4 Nb6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Be3 g6?! { Better is Bf5 } 7. h3 Bg7 8. Nf3 O-O 9. Be2 e5 10. d5 Ne7 11. Qd2 Nf5 12. O-O { 0-0-0 looks like it would give good attacking chances--Black isn't in position to attack as quickly as White. } Nxe3 13. fxe3 Qe7 14. Kh1 Bd7 { The game is about equal here. } 15. e4 a6 { f5 is the plan--why not do it now? } 16. Rad1 Rad8 17. Qe3 Nc8?! 18. c5 f5 19. Bc4 Kh8 20. Rd2 f4 21. Qf2 g5 { This doesn't lose, but it shows that Black is a little too optimistic. Maybe Bf3. } 22. d6 cxd6 23. Nd5 Qe8 24. Nxg5 Qg6? { cxd5 is still okay for Black. the text move may not lose, but it's based on a faulty tactical idea. } 25. Qh4 Bf6?? { Bh6 offers holding chances, but this loses on the spot--I missed the bishop covering f7. } 26. Nxf6 Rxf6 27. Nf7+ Rxf7 28. Bxf7 Qxf7 29. Qxd8+ Kg7 30. cxd6 Bb5 { Well, I guess it doesn't matter too much but this is pretty silly. } 31. Rc1 f3 32. Rc7 1-0

Chess for Humans

A long time ago I promised myself that I'd post all my tournament games here as a learning tool, and I have with more or less success--sometimes with extensive comments, sometimes not. After my modest but satisfying success at the recent Sands Regency Western States Open I'm happy to do so for those games, but prior to getting into that I'd like to get a couple of items and opinions out there.

First, a hearty "thank you!" to Douglas L. Stewart, a USCF Expert from Mississippi who has been kind enough to play through some of my games and make excellent comments--without my ever having asked. I don't know Mr. Stewart personally, but I sure appreciate the notes he's posted in the comments (for example, here).

Next, a little bit about "mental attitude," "psychology" or whatever your preferred term is, and its relation to chess results. In my previous posts about the Western States I noted that "I didn't get too high or too low, really did a pretty good job of just playing chess, not worrying too much about who was better, what might have happened earlier in the game, etc." Basically, in the games I won I just hung around doing the best I could, not regretting any mistakes from earlier in the game and was rewarded when my opponents allowed me some opportunities that I capitalized on.

This hasn't always been my strong point; in earlier years I used to get a real adrenalin overload when I thought I was winning, especially against much higher-rated players. I also tended to get down on myself when I made a mistake, a tendency which seems to me to be very common among all classes of players, and which keeps anyone subject to it from achieving their full potential. We all know, intellectually, that chess is just too hard for anyone not to make mistakes, and plenty of them, during a game, yet so many of us have a tough time really feeling that, and just looking at the position in front of us and doing the best we can, regardless of how we got there.

During this tournament I did a pretty good job of just playing the position--and I also noticed that there were more and longer periods during the games when the rest of the tournament room, and the world, sort of faded away, and all I saw was the board in front of me. I spent less time looking at the demo boards from the Open section, and the games next to me, as well. I think these were all helpful in doing my best.

Last week I'd posted something about Jonathon Rowson's Chess for Zebras, but mainly in relation to his discussion of knowledge v. skill. Blue Devil Knight asked in the comments there, reasonably enough:

Incidentally, I haven't read much specific about that book. People say "Oh, man it rocks," say something about knowledge versus skill, and then I haven't seen much else. Is it more than just a cheerleading section for adults to go and actually play?

Well BDK, at this point I'll say "yes!" Reading the sections on meaning-making, myths and "falsifying" your plans and ideas by trying to find the best ways for your opponent to stop them all had a positive effect on my play in this tournament, I feel. Maybe I'm just high from my reasonably good result, but I think that Rowson's book(s) and working on the mental aspects of your game is also a "practical" method to improve your OTB play.

Don't throw out your tactics books and CDs, though!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Western States Open Complete Results

For anyone that's interested in the Western States, where chessloser, I and 339 others chessed it up over last weekend, the full results are now posted at the tournament web site.

Of note, Reno player Kevin Gafni won the "A" section. You can read about Eric Shoemaker's tournament here at his blog, Pale Rider.

On a personal note, I see that my rating went from 1611 to 1649, which is great, but I also see that if I would have played on and won my game in the last round I would have gotten into a tie for 6th to 14th place in Class B and won some $, I'm not sure, maybe 60-70. Fortune does favor the bold.

On the other hand, I think it was the right decision for me at the time, I wasn't really after any money in this tournament, and as a matter of fact I'm working up a big post on money and chess. It will cause untold controversy that will ripple across the chess world, resulting in both fulsome praise and threats of bodily harm.

Well, it would be cool if it had that much impact, anyway.

New Reno Chess Blogger

Great news--another Reno Chess Club player joins the blogosphere!

Chris Harrington is now on A King's Quest; his first two posts are about his games at the Western States Open in Reno last weekend.

Go Chris! We look forward to reading more.

An Hilarious Position

Black to move slowly and quietly ground into dust as his king and bishop can never escape their prison cell.

From IM Igor Khmelnitsky's column in Chessville Weekly--you might want to sign up for their free, and enjoyable, email!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Chess Blog Carnival II

It seems that Jack Le Moine is ill so the excellent Samurai Pawn stepped in and posted the latest Carnival. Thanks, Samuarai, and Jack, get well soon!

Monday, October 15, 2007

My Western States Open: An Epic Struggle for the Ages

Hey, when you have your own blog you get to pick the titles!

Perhaps it wasn't quite that dramatic, but as a matter of fact all the plans I had made regarding scheduling, preparing, having some relaxation between rounds, etc. basically went completely by the boards, I barely made it into the tournament, had to takes byes in Rounds 1 and 2, got swatted like a bug in Round 3; and yet, and the time Round 6 ended I'd scored wins in Round 4 and 5 and an honorable draw in Round 6, made an 1800 performance for the tournament and picked up about 40 rating points to get to around 1650.

And, I got to spend some supremely enjoyable time with chessloser and his lovely and talented wife, which was a much finer experience than the chess playing itself. The series of mishaps and emergencies that almost caused me to miss the tournament probably deserve their own post--chessloser and wife definitely deserve their own post. These will follow, but right now I'll just briefly report on the games in my own inimitable "narrative" fashion--I'll annotate and post them separately, as well. Hell, the next six posts will probably be about the tournament--anyway:

Game 1 (Round 3)--I show up not as rested or prepared as I would like, but happy that I got to play at all. The opponent is a young guy sporting a 1711 rating; as White, he plays 1. e4, I go Center-Counter, he gets a strong pawn center but I think I'm okay, then on move 22 he shows good tactical skill, plays d6 to divert me, blows open the kingside and I resign on move 32.

One thing I noticed about this tournament that was very good, though, is that I didn't get too high or too low, really did a pretty good job of just playing chess, not worrying too much about who was better, what might have happened earlier in the game, etc. So:

Game 2 (Round 4)--I play Black again, against a senior citizen from Vegas rated 1700. He plays 1. g4 (and as it turns out, all my opening knowledge is basically useless for the rest of the tournament). I think he has an edge around move 20, at move 30 he offers a draw even though I'm a little low on time (17 minutes for 11 moves), I sense some weakness, refuse, and I outplay him, go two pawns ahead, then on move 38 he tries a desperation trap, I play a cute move to avoid it and he resigns.

Game 3 (Round 5)--Middle-aged guy from Oakland (1681) shows up 10 minutes late looking a little bleary, I have White, go 1. d4 and his first 8 moves are...(wait for it)...h6, a6, e6, d6, Qd7, f6, Qf7, c6; I know this is a "Hippo" or some damned thing, I do my best not to go nuts, and he somehow wiggles around to an acceptable if slightly inferior position with both sides castled 0-0-0, I have some pressure, on move 29 he thinks for 26 minutes and plays a move that I thought was bad--it was, six moves later he's looking at mate in 2--resigns.

Game 4 (Round 6)--Slightly younger guy from Texas (1753), I'm Black for the third time in four games, he avoids my King's Indian Defense and plays the "Barry Attack," I respond sensibly and don't get intimidated by his kingside pawn storm, arrange to block things permanently there. He offers a draw on move 25, any advantage I have is microscopic, so to finish a very good tournament for me--draw agreed.

Enough for now, more to come.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Chess for Zebras (Also, the Nature of the Universe)

"The great end of life is not Knowledge but Action."
T. H. Huxley

I saw the quote above in the book The Anthropic Cosmological Principal, which has nothing directly to do with chess, but is merely the greatest book I have ever read on the history and nature of the Universe, why intelligence exists, the meaning and purpose of life, etc. Y'know, the important stuff, besides chess...

Anyway, I hope everyone who reads this will order up a copy, but right now I want to talk briefly about a different book, J. Rowson's Chess for Zebras, which arrived in my mailbox at the same time as The Anthropic Cosmological Principle and which I recently completed "reading" (I haven't played through all the games yet).

The point is, Rowson says something almost exactly like Huxley in regard to chess improvement, something that almost every reader here has heard and discussed at some point; that many players have a good deal of knowledge about chess but considerably less skill (action) during games. There is a much else in his book worth talking about, but this seems to me the kernel of true importance in actually achieving better results as an adult. There is almost certainly some pseudo-knowledge that is probably hurting your, and my, performance during play, statements in our heads such as:

"Doubled pawns are weak"

"I'm an attacking player"

"I have a big advantage and should win (so I won't even look at lines that are equal)"

ad infinitum. These are the gaps in our thinking, the blind spots and the defects or whatever name you want to give them, that prevent us from seeing certain moves and ideas , that we actually have knowledge of somewhere in our chess learning history.

I believe that it may be possible to improve your results without learning anything new at all, just by becoming more aware, more open to different possibilities, more objective about the position. How to train for this is something Rowson begins to examine, and something I'm looking into for myself.

For more, here's a review and some links by the excellent Michael Goeller of The Kenilworthian.

This will probably be my last post before the big Western States Open beginning Friday. I'll try to post some results and games during the tournament, if time permits. But since I'm meeting up with chessloser and his idea of the right thing to do between games is "Party like rock stars!" I'm not sure about the in-tournament posts...

The Strength of Players Past and Present

dk at the always fascinating Chess Improvement has a post that quotes extensively from this John Watson review where Watson quotes extensively from John Nunn's Chess Puzzle Book to the effect that, well, the Old Masters (as in Nunn's analysis of Karlsbad 1911) were pretty weak players.

Did you follow that?

Okay, here is a key quote so that you don't have to:

"In order to be more specific about Karlsbad, take one player: Hugo Süchting (1874-1916). At Karlsbad he scored 11.5/13.5 or 'minus 2', as they say these days - a perfectly respectable score. Having played over all his games at Karlsbad I think that I can confidently state that his playing strength was not greater than Elo 2100 (BCF 187) - and that was on a good day and with a following wind. Here are a couple of examples of his play:"...

[Watson: You have to get the book to see these examples of Süchting's horrendous mistakes and misunderstandings. Nunn also has talks about more positions, and then includes a section of 30 Karlsbad "puzzles", representing all of the players. The positional mistakes by the top players are particularly telling.]

"How, then, did Süchting manage to score 11.5 points in such company? Well, he did have a couple of slices of luck - Duz- Khotimirsky overstepped the time limit while two pawns up in a completely winning rook ending and Alapin agreed a draw in a position where he could win a piece straight away. However, there were some games where Süchting might have hoped for more; he certainly had Levenfish on the ropes (see puzzle 184), and he agreed a draw in the following position against E. Cohn:" [Diagram follows] "It is hard to understand this decision, as with a clear extra pawn Black certainly has very good winning chances and could proceed without the slightest element of risk."...

"Returning then to the question as to how Süchting scored 11.5 points, the answer is simply that the other players were not much better. If we assume Süchting as 2100, then his score implies an average rating for the tournament of 2129 - it would not even be assigned a category today. Based on the above, readers will not be surprised when I say that my general impression of the play at Karlsbad was quite poor, but the main flaws did not show up in the areas I expected..."

And here is my comment over at Chess Improvement:


(Watson, asked for it, but you're getting it dk!)

Of course the players are a lot better today; it would be ridiculous to think that they shouldn't be. Are the football players of today better than those of 1927--no doubt, they're bigger, faster and more skilled, because they've built upon the experience of players and coaches and trainers, year after year, every year, for 80 years!

Chess has gone through the same process, as how could it not? Botvinnk and Fine studied Lasker deeply, took what they could use and improved on it; Fischer studied them, and Kasparov studied him, and so on...this is the nature of any human endeavor, math or science, running a mile, etc. Isaac Newton referred to it as having "stood on the shoulders of giants." Computers have accelerated this improvement process, as well.

One more point, it is not a matter of "ratings," which only measure results. Alekhine was indeed a 2700+ player, whatever his score might be against Kramnik if you transported him through time.

To sum up, let me put it this way--instead of silly statements about brushing up on openings, I say that if you took 5-year-old Morphy or Capablanca, time traveled them to today and gave them a computer and a trainer they would be GMs at 13-14 and fighting Kramnik or Anand for the championship at 21-25.

Anyone disagree?

I usually don't turn comments into separate posts but in this case the subject really interests me, and it really chaps me a bit when guys get down on chess in the old days by comparing it to current standards. Jim Thorpe wouldn't last a game in today's NFL but so frickin' what? He kicked ass, and will be remembered as a Great, forever, just as will Rubinstein and Lasker.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Pearson-David Parreira 10.04.07 Game Score

(Previous report on this game here)

White: Robert Pearson (1607)
Black: David Parreira (1370)
Reno CC Swiss 10.04.07
30/90, G/60
Symmetrical QGD

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c5 3. cxd5 Qxd5 4. e3 cxd4 5. Nc3 Qd8 6. exd4 Nf6 7. Nf3 g6 8. Bc4 Bg7 9. 0-0 0-0 10. Bg5 Nbd7 11. Re1 Nb6 12. Bb3 Qc7 13. Rc1 Qd8 14. Qd2 a6 15. Na4 Nxa4 16. Bxa4 b5 17. Bb3 Bb7 18. Rc3 Qd6 19. Bf4 Qd8 20. Rc7 Bxf3 21. gxf3 Nd5 22. Bxd5 Qxd5 23. R1xe7 Qxa2 24. Be5 Qd5 25. Bxg7 Kxg7 26. Qf4 a5 27. Rcd7 Qb3 28. d5 Kh8 29. Qf6+ Kg8 30. Rxf7 Qd1+ 31. Kg2 Qxf3+ 32. Kxf3 Rxf7 33. Qxf7+ Kh8 34. Qg7 1-0

Just paste in the pgn viewer to enjoy--for whatever reason I once again can't get it to work in the Chess Publisher; I've really got to look into some improved viewer I can embed in the post for ease of use...

Brief impressions: Chesslab has exactly two games with the position after White's fifth move--one from 1851. In both cases Black didn't retreat all the way back; in fact this is the first game I can remember, ever, where the opponent went back Qd8 three times.

15. Na4? is the only move I consider to be really weak on my part, and after an 11-minute think, too. 15. h3 waiting, ought to be better. My move just develops his game.

I was fortunate that he played 27. ... Qb3? instead of Qc4. During the game I thought it would take a long time to tack around and try to break up his kingside, but once the queen was cut off it was all over.

Now as soon as I can I'll have a real look at the game and find more of my mistakes...

Anyway, rating advanced four big points as a result of this tournament(!) to 1611. At least it was in the right direction. Now, the Western States Open this weekend and 5 games against B-players to test my progress!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Pearson-David Parreira 10.04.07 1-0

Just a few minutes to note that I was back to serious tournament play last evening against David Parreira (1370) and mated him on move 34 after he played the symmetrical QGD (1. d5 d5 2. c4 c5) against me. I think I've only seen it once before in serious play; I reacted sensibly, got an edge, played one second-rate move that gave away most of my advantage, and in a heavy-piece position with queen and two rooks each he made one mistake and I cut off his queen from defending his king, leading to mate.

A reasonable effort--I'll be gone for a couple of days but I'll post the moves for criticism as soon as I can.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Mexico City 2007 v. AVRO 1938

Some interesting comparisons between the recent World Championship tournament and the "AVRO" tournament in the Netherlands (various cities) back in 1938 which was originally supposed to be a "Candidates" tournament, but by the time it took place apparently wasn't, at least officially.

Anyway, both tournaments featured eight of the world's very best in a double-round robin format (56 games total), so I thought it would be interesting to make a few comparisons:

Mexico 2007
AVRO 1938

Decisive Games:


Percent Draws:


Winning Score:

8.5 (tie)

Lowest Score:


Spread, 1st to 8th:


Spread, 1st to 7th


Some interesting parallels; I think some of the chess proletariat were complaining about the draws back then, too. In both cases, there are no easy games, that's for sure.

Kasparov to Take On Putin

Not strictly chess, but hey, it's my blog...

Max Boot comments on the strategic background:

It is easy to be cynical about the motives of most politicians. But it is hard, if not impossible, to think of any self-interest that Kasparov has in doing what he is doing. He is truly a hero. I only hope he does not become a martyr.

Me, too, though I don't think that Putin is stupid enough to make him one.

Monday, October 01, 2007

A Little Follow-on

My previous post on Ratings Snobs, "Different Games" and Piles of Horse Dung succeeded in starting some stimulating discussion, and for that I am grateful. Today, a brief expansion of a couple of points:

1) Publishing my IQ and my estimated rating at "life" (2300) were both given in a spirit of humor and humility--hmmm, if I'm so smart why am I a mid-level bureaucrat with 1607 USCF rating :)--but Loomis summed up what I was trying to get at very nicely:

The problem is that chess players often try to carry what they've earned on the chess board to the rest of life. When chess players are together, for some reason their ratings impact every social interaction, chess related or not. That to me is bizarre.

Well and succinctly said!

I guess I could also sum it up by saying having a 2200 rating doesn't make you a Master of Life, nor does it make your opinion on who ought to be the next President of the U.S. or any other political or social issue worth more than that of a person rated 1200.

2) I got on Mig Greengard for writing:

I've often said that elite chess is a very different game from amateur chess

but meant the critique mainly for the terminology ("a very different game"). To expand, the difference at the very top (say 2700+ or -; there's no bright line) is that the opponent isn't going to make very many mistakes (though few games will be "perfect"), and so obtaining some advantage as White, or equality as Black, is a lot more important than at lower levels. Even at the 2500-2600 level a GM is going to get more opportunities in most games, with either color, to redress the balance after an inaccuracy or two. So in a tournament like Mexico City openings are more important than for the rest of us, agreed. But the terminology employed seems designed to separate these guys as some kind of demigods or something--us chess proletarians just don't understand what's going on, y'know. But if that's really true, why should the rest of us waste our time looking at the games, buying these guys' books or supporting Superduper-GM chess in any way, when we could be spending it on our tactics exercises and studying our own games? I'm just sayin', that's where the "different game" logic leads.

Anyway, heartiest congratulation to Anand, World Champion. Better get those openings ready for Kramnik...