Monday, December 29, 2008

When you're in over your head, keep digging

Since my earlier post on USCF lawsuits has fallen off the page, I have reluctantly decided to add a new one. The latest in the series is a suit filed by the USCF in Illinois (the state in which the USCF is incorporated) seeking to remove Susan Polgar and Paul Truong from the Executive Board.

If you don't want to plow through the whole thing (for which I wouldn't blame you), the key paragraphs are 18-21 (alleging that Truong authored the so-called "Fake Sam Sloan" posts, and 50-53 (asserting that Polgar obtained illegal access to Randy Hough's e-mail account and published illegally obtained material). The first argument seems the weaker of the two, as it simply assumes that childish scribbling on the Internet justifies removal of an elected Board member. (We've had several oafs and buffoons on the Board in the past, and no one suggested removing them.) The second is more serious, as the charges, if proved, could carry jail time. While holding office from jail is an honored tradition in Boston, Chicago and New Jersey, it's one the USCF can probably do without.

What all this demonstrates is that neither side has any interest in compromise. Rather than seeking to reduce the tension, the majority faction on the Board has chosen to ramp it up. Of course, Polgar is equally at fault here (see the frivolous lawsuit she filed in Texas, not to mention the incredibly stupid move of naming attorney Karl Kronenberger as one of the defendants). But the majority faction, being in the stronger position, really ought to be the ones trying to make peace.

Update 1/4/08: There's an account of the latest lawsuit in the January 3 New York Times. Despite the source, it seems fair and balanced.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Steinitz - von Bardeleben, Hastings 1895

Steinitz was past his best in 1895, but as he himself put it, “I may be an old lion, but I can still bite someone’s hand off if he puts it in my mouth.” The choleric von Bardeleben left the room after move 25 and permitted his time to expire, whereupon Steinitz demonstrated to the onlookers a brilliant 10-move mating combination.

Steinitz - von Bardeleben
Hastings 1895


1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d4 exd4 6. cxd4 Bb4+ 7. Nc3 d5

A rare alternative to 7. ... Nxe4 8. 0-0, when Black may choose between 8. ... Nxc3 9. bxc3 d5 (9. ... Bxc3 10. Qbb3 has been known to favor White ince the time of Greco), and the speculative Moeller Attack, 8. ... Bxc3 9. d5, which remains unresolved after a century of analysis.

8. exd5 Nxd5 9. 0-0 Be6 10. Bg5 Be7 11. Bxd5 Bxd5 12. Nxd5 Qxd5 13. Bxe7 Nxe7

Black still hopes to connect his Rooks by castling, but he will be unable to shake off the pressure on the central files. A slightly better try was 13. ... Kxe7 14. Re1+ Kf8.

14. Re1 f6 15. Qe2 Qd7 16. Rac1 c6

Allowing a powerful pawn sacrifice. Better was 16. ... Kf7; if 17. Qxe7+ Qxe7 18. Rxe7+ Kxe7 19. Rxc7+, the outcome remains uncertain, though White surely has enough pawns for the Exchange.

17. d5!

A fine move -- the d5 square, which Black has been using for his pieces, will be occupied by a Black pawn, the d4 square made accessible to White, and the c-file opened.

17. ... cxd5 18. Nd4 Kf7 19. Ne6 Rhc8 20. Qg4 g6 21. Ng5+ Ke8


22. Rxe7+!

Of course the Rook cannot be captured by the Queen (22. ... Qxe7 23. Rxc8+), and 22. ... Kxe7 leads to 23. Re1+ Kd6 24. Qb4+ Kc7 25. Ne6+ Kb8 26. Qf4+. But after Black’s next move, every White piece is en prise, and mate is threatened on c1 ...

22. ... Kf8 23. Rf7+ Kg8 24. Rg7+ Kh8

No better is 24. ... Kf8 25. Nxh7+.

25. Rxh7+ 1-0

For as Steinitz immediately demonstrated, White wins after 25. ... Kg8 with 26. Rg7+ Kh8 27. Qh4+ Kxg7 28. Qh7+ Kf8 29. Qh8+ Ke7 30. Qg7+ Ke8 31. Qg8+ Ke7 32. Qf7+ Kd8 33. Qf8+ Qe8 34. Nf7+ Kd7 35. Qd6 mate.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

... a plague a' both your houses

On November 30, Susan Polgar distributed the following via the USCF BINFO system, in response to suggestions by Jim Eade and Harold Dondis that she ramp down the litigiousness.

Dear Jim and Mr. Dondis,

As I have said before, I pleaded with this board for MORE THAN 1 YEAR to leave me, my family, and my job alone. They refused. The USCF and each board member received a Cease and Desist letter from my attorney dated May 14, 2008 (which is many months before I filed the lawsuit). They ignored it. I even offered to end it prior to filing the lawsuit shortly before the Dallas Delegates Meeting. They ignored it again. Now the USCF is trying to go after me criminally.

What would you like me to do? What do you suggest? Do you think I enjoy being accused of being a child abuser, child molester, and a criminal? Do you think I enjoy having people calling the media and my employers to spread baseless and defamatory accusations? Do you think I enjoy having my kids, my friends, my family, and my employer read about all of these things on the Internet? Do you think I enjoy spending over $75,000 in legal fees from my own pocket to defend against absolute nonsense? Do you think I enjoy losing one business / sponsorship deal after another because of all the garbage on the Internet? And these are just some of the major damages I suffered so far.

It is not me who started this. I spent 35 years building my excellent reputation in chess and it took 1 year for the USCF to destroy it. If anyone can think of a way to resolve this amicably and to have my reputation fully restored then please feel free to suggest it. It is NOT me who want to prolong this. But as long as the USCF and its board members continue to go down this road, I have no choice but to defend myself and my family.

Instead of allowing me to bring U.S. chess and the USCF up another level, I had to waste more than a year with this nonsense. They left me with no choice. I will do everything possible to defend and protect myself, my family, and my job.

I offered the USCF and this board various ways to end this in each board meeting only to have my offers laughed at and ignored each time for more than one year. Unless the USCF backs off completely and leave me and my family alone, this cannot stop.

My offer to withdraw the lawsuit against the USCF still stands. All parties are welcome to contact my attorneys if they wish to settle and end this.

Best wishes,

Susan Polgar

The problem with all this is that the portions of her lawsuit which concern the USCF are utterly baseless. The USCF did not accuse her of being a child abuser or interfere with her sponsorship efforts. If Polgar objects to the USCF allowing others to criticize her, she should either lobby Congress to change the law, or move to a country that doesn’t have freedom of speech.

Conceivably Polgar might have a claim against some of the other named defendants. Brian Lafferty, Sam Sloan, and Jerry Hanken have certainly made defamatory statements about her, though whether she could win a libel case is another matter. But the inclusion of the USCF in her laundry list has no basis in fact – and even if it did, for her to sue the USCF while remaining on the Executive Board is simply unethical.

It is true that four of the EB members (and the ED) have harshly criticized Polgar’s husband Paul Truong, and sought (unsuccessfully) to mount a recall against him. I suspect that this is the real reason behind Polgar’s naming the USCF as a defendant. But, whether you agree with it or not, this was legitimate political discourse, and if you can’t take it, you have no business running for office.

This is not to say that I have much sympathy for the other side. They brought this on themselves, which is fine – and on us, which is not. The “Board majority,” led by Bill Goichberg, decided that they could use the “Fake Sam Sloan” controversy to lever Truong off the Board. At least some of them may have been acting out of sincere conviction that Truong’s actions (well, the actions of which he was accused) were unconscionable. Sincerity is overrated. They had an obligation as stewards of the USCF to consider what would happen if they failed. They did fail. Now we have live with it.

La Bourdonnais - McDonnell, 21st Match Game, 1834

Though La Bourdonnais led by a wide margin in their match -- really a series of six matches -- Alexander McDonnell was by no means an easy mark. Here is one of their many wild attacking games, with an amusing final position.

La Bourdonnais - McDonnell
21st Match Game, 1834


1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Bc5 3. Qe2 Nf6 4. d3 Nc6 5. c3 Ne7 6. f4 exf4

Ignoring the center; a modern player would have answered 6. ... d6.

7. d4 Bb6 8. Bxf4 d6 9. Bd3 Ng6 10. Be3 0-0 11. h3 Re8 12. Nd2 Qe7 13. 0-0-0 c5

Correctly striking back in the center, though in 1834 Black’s plan was probably limited to opening a file near the White King.

14. Kb1 cxd4 15. cxd4 a5 16. Ngf3 Bd7 17. g4 h6 18. Rdg1

More logical seems 18. Rdf1 followed by 19. Rhg1. As the game goes, the Rh1 never does very much.

18. ... a4 19. g5 hxg5 20. Bxg5 a3 21. b3 Bc6 22. Rg4 Ba5 23. h4 Bxd2 24. Nxd2 Ra5 25. h5 (Diagram)

25. ... Rxg5!

With this Exchange sacrifice Black takes control of the dark squares and obtains a strong initiative.

26. Rxg5 Nf4 27. Qf3 Nxd3 28. d5

White must lose material, for 28. Qxd3 Nxe4 25. Nxe4? Bxe4 wins the White Queen, and 29. Rgg1 Nf2 is not much better.

28. ... Nxd5 29. Rhg1 Nc3+ 30. Ka1 Bxe4 31. Rxg7+ Kh8 32. Qg3

Threatening mate with 33. Rxh7+, but Black’s attack is quicker.

32. ... Bg6 33. hxg6 Qe1+ 34. Rxe1?

The final blunder. After 34. Nb1 White retains drawing chances.

34. ... Rxe1+ 35. Qxe1 Nxe1 36. Rh7+ Kg8 37. gxf7+ Kxh7 38. f8=Q Nc2 mate.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Sadim Touch ...

... is the talent for turning gold into, ah, dross. FIDE has it in spades.

As you have no doubt read elsewhere, Armenia took first place in the recent Dresden Olympiad. The U.S., after a rocky start, took the bronze medal with a last-round upset of Ukraine. Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of it.

Immediately after his last-round loss to Gata Kamsky, Ukraine top board Vassily Ivanchuk was ordered to take a "random drug test." He was understandably not in the best of moods, and he refused and stormed off.

This brought into play the idiotic rules FIDE has adopted in the course of its long and pointless attempt to suck up to the IOC. Ivanchuk may face a two-year suspension (though he'll certainly be welcome in my tournaments). Even worse (though Ivanchuk might not agree) is that his team may be disqualified. If so, the teams that faced them would lose tiebreak points, and the U.S. would be knocked out of third place in favor of Hungary.

One can only hope that this absurdity will lead to the top players telling FIDE what to do with its Olympic pipedream. (Nothing printable.) There is some evidence that this may be happening. Will the players stand up for themselves this time? Or will another infusion of Ilyumzhinov's money buy their acquiescence? Only time will tell.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Lasker - Chigorin, Hastings 1895

Many of Mikhail Chigorin’s ideas were well ohead of his time, and were not fully appreciated for another half-century. It was his misfortune to be surpassed in his own era first by Steinitz and, later, Lasker. Here he shows the superiority of Knights over Bishops in a closed position.

Lasker – Chigorin
Hastings 1895

D07 QUEEN’S GAMBIT DECLINED, Chigorin’s Defense

1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Bg4 3. c4 Bxf3 4. gxf3 Nc6 5. Nc3 e6 6. e3 Bb4

By transposition, we have reached one of the main lines of Chigorin’s Defense (the usual move order is 1. d4 d5 2. c4 Nc6 3. Nf3 Bg4). Foreshadowing the ideas of Reti and Gruenfeld a generation later, Black pits rapid development and active piece play against White’s pawn center and two Bishops.

7. cxd5 Qxd5 8. Bd2 Bxc3 9. bxc3 Nge7 10. Rg1 Qh5 11. Qb3

Of course not 11. Rxg7? Ng6, trapping the Rook.

11. ... Nd8 12. Qb5+

Exchanging Queens reduces the danger to the uncastled White King, but the Black Knights will be very active.

12. ... Qxb5 13. Bxb5+ c6 14. Bd3 Ng6 15. f4 0-0 16. Ke2 Rc8 17. Rg3 c5 18. Rag1 c4

A surprising and strong idea. Black foregoes prressure on the center pawns to obtain a pawn majority on the Queenside and use of the light squares for his Knights.

19. Bc2 f5 20. Bc1 Rf7 21. Ba3 Rc6 22. Bc5 Ra6 23. a4 Nc6 24. Rb1 Rd7 25. Rgg1 Nge7 26. Rb2 Nd5 27. Kd2 Ra5

Threatening 28. ... Nxf4 followed by 29. ... Rxc5, which White meets by a counterattack on the b7 pawn.

28. Rgb1 b6 29. Ba3 g6 30. Rb5 Ra6 31. Bc1 Nd8 32. Ra1 Nf7 33. Rbb1 Nd6 34. f3 Nf7 35. Ra3 g5 36. Ke2 gxf4 37. e4 Nf6 38. Bxf4 Nh5 39. Be3 f4


An echo of the maneuver at move 18 — now Black will use his Knights on the dark squares (d6 or e5).

40. Bf2 Ra5 41. Rg1+ Kf8 42. Raa1 e5 43. Rab1 Ng7 44. Rb4 Rc7 45. Bb1

Apparently hoping to win the c4 pawn, but this fails tactically. White should maintain the position and await developments.

45. ... Ne6 46. Rd1 Ned8 47. Rd2 Nc6 48. Rb5

Not 48. Rxc4? Nd6, winning the Exchange. Perhaps White thought he could undermine the Black Knights, but Black strikes first.

48. ... Rxa4 49. dxe5 Nfxe5 50. Bh4 Rg7 51. Kf2 Rg6 52. Rdd5 Ra1 53. Bd8 Nd3+ 54. Bxd3

Neither 54. Ke2 (... Rg2+ 55. Kf1 Rb7) nor 54. Kf1 (... Ncb4 55. cxb4 Rxb1+ 56. Ke2 Rg2 mate) was any better.

54. ... cxd3 55. Rxd3 Rag1 56. Rf5+ Ke8 57. Bg5

Or 57. Rxf4 R6g2+ 58. Ke3 Re1 mate.

57. ... R6xg5, White resigns

Friday, November 21, 2008


There are some rules in which when you say it matters as much as what.

Touch-move: A claim that your opponent touched one piece but moved another must be made before you make another move (10J). In fact, it must be made “before deliberately touching a pieces” (i.e., touching a piece with the evident intention of moving it). Claiming after the game that your opponent violated the touch-move rule is a waste of time. The most you’re going to get, even if the TD believes you, is a warning to your opponent on the order of “You didn’t do anything wrong and I’ll be watching to make sure you don’t do it again.” Which won’t do you much good.

Winning on time: A surprising number of players do not understand this, perhaps because of the cancer growth of sudden death. In order to claim a win on time in a non-sudden death time control, a player must have a “reasonably complete” scoresheet, defined as one that has “no more than three missing or incomplete move pairs,” at the time the flag is called (13C7). Moves filled in after the flag fall do not count (13C3). It’s worth noting that you can’t get around this by waiting to call the flag until after you’ve filled in your scoresheet, since the opponent may “call his own flag” by pointing out to a TD (or spectator) that his flag is down and your scoresheet is incomplete.

Possibly a clearer way to explain the “reasonably complete” rule is this: the TD must be able to play through the game – without you standing there telling him what you scribble means – and reach a position that’s within three moves of what’s on the board, without any illegible or impossible moves earlier in the game.

The "FIDE time forfeit procedure" is another matter. If this is announced, a TD will watch all games in time pressure, count the moves, and forfeit a player who exceeds the time limit. This is used in many round-robin events, but USCF rules require that if it is used for any games, it must be used for all games without exception. For obvious reasons, very few people try to use it in large Swisses.

Draw? The “correct” way to offer a draw is to make your move, offer the draw, and press your clock. What happens if you don’t do it that way?

1) If you offer a draw while your opponent is thinking, he may accept the draw, decline the draw, make a move (which amounts to declining), or complain to the TD that you are distracting him. This is just bad manners.

2) If you offer a draw before making your move, your opponent may a) accept, b) decline, or c) ask to see your move before deciding. The offer cannot be withdrawn, period (14B3). Making an offer this way is unlikely to annoy the opponent, but it’s, well, dumb. If only because he could also say nothing and wait for you to either make a move or lose on time.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rosenthal – Steinitz, Vienna 1873

Steinitz began the era of scientific play, as his games and writings demonstrated that games were won or lost for objective reasons. Here he provides a (then startling) example of the proper use two Bishops against a Bishop and Knight.

Rosenthal – Steinitz
Vienna, 1873


1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Nf3 g6 4. d4 exd4 5. Nxd4 Bg7 6. Be3 Nge7 7. Bc4 d6 8. 0-0 0-0 9. f4 Na5 10. Bd3 d5 11. exd5 Nxd5 12. Nxd5 Qxd5 13. c3 Rd8 14. Qc2 Nc4 15. Bxc4 Qxc4 16. Qf2 c5 17. Nf3 b6

Black deprives the Knight of support squares in the center, and the Be3 “bites on granite.” Black has a clear advantage.

18. Ne5 Qe6 19. Qf3 Ba6 20. Rfe1 f6


If the Knight had a secure central square ... but it hasn’t, and it’s not going to get one.

21. Ng4 h5 22. Nf2 Qf7 23. f5 g5 24. Rad1 Bb7 25. Qg3 Rd5 26. Rxd5 Qxd5 27. Rd1

White can’t defend the f5 pawn with 27. Qh3 because of 27. ... g4.

27. ... Qxf5 28. Qc7 Bd5 29. b3 Re8 30. c4 Bf7 31. Bc1 Re2 32. Rf1 Qc2 33. Qg3 Qxa2, White resigns

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Matchego - Falkbeer, London 1869

In playing over these old games, it is best not to ask too many questions about the defender’s play — the gap between master and amateur was often enormous — but relax and enjoy the tragicomic plight of the White King, as he is driven across the board and mated with his pieces still at home.

Matchego – Falkbeer
London, 1869


1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 g5 4. h4 g4 5. Ne5 Nf6 6. Nc3

White’s set-up (known as the Kieseritsky Gambit) is acceptable — he can recover either the g5 or f5 pawn — but he should now play 6. d4, to answer 6. ... d6 with 7. Nd3.

6. ... d6 7. Nc4 Be7 8. d4 Nh5 9. Be2 Bxh4+ 10. Kd2 Qg5 11. Kd3 Nc6 12. a3 Bf2 13. Nd5 Bxd4 14. Nxc7+ Kd8 15. Nd5

The alternative 15. Nxa8 is no worse than the game, but it runs into something like 15. ... d5 16. exd5 Bf5+ 17. Kd2 f3+ 18. Ke1 f2+ 19. Kf1 Ng3 mate.

15. ... f5 16. Nxd6 fxe4+ 17. Kc4

Instead, 17. Kxe4 Ng3+ 18. Kd3 Qxd5 loses routinely.


17. ... Qxd5+! 18. Kxd5 Nf6+ 19. Kc4 Be6+ 20. Kb5 a6+ 21. Ka4 b5+ 22. Nxb5 axb5+ 23. Kxb5 Ra5+ 24. Kxc6 Bd5+ 25. Kd6 Ne8 mate

Monday, November 3, 2008

Los Angeles Open final

The 2008 Los Angeles Open, held at the LAX Hilton from October 31 to November 2, ended in a 4-way tie at 4-1 among GMs Rogelio Antonio and Melisket Khachiyan, IM Entico Sevillano, and master Jeol Banawa. Only Banawa suffered a defeat, losing to Antonio in round 2. In the Amateur (U2000) section, Bobby Hall took clear first with 4½-½. Both sections of the 40-player Halloween Scholastics produced perfect scores, with Ishan Bose-Pine taking the Open and Ankur Gupta the Reserve. Dan Alvira swept the Hexes with 3-0. Complete standings are available at

Gregg Small - IM Enrico Sevillano [A13]

Los Angeles Open, Los Angeles 2008

1.c4 e6 2.g3 d5 3.Bg2 Nf6 4.Nf3 dxc4 5.Qa4+ Bd7 6.Qxc4 Bc6 7.0–0 Nbd7 8.b3 Bd6 9.Bb2 0–0 10.d3 Bxf3 11.Bxf3 Ne5 12.Bxe5 Bxe5 13.Nc3 Nd5 14.Bxd5 exd5 15.Qc5 c6 16.Rac1 Qf6 17.Nb1 Rfe8 18.Qc2 Re6 19.Nd2 Rae8 20.e3 h5 21.d4 Bd6 22.h4 g5 23.hxg5 Qxg5 24.Nf3 Qg4 25.Nh4 Rf6 26.Rce1 Re4 27.Ng2 h4 28.Qe2 Qg6 29.gxh4 Rxh4 30.f4 Qg3 31.Rf3 Qh2+ 32.Kf2 Rg6 33.Rg1 Rhg4 34.Kf1 f5 35.Qc2 Qh5 36.Rf2 Rg3 37.Qe2 Qh2 38.Qd3 Qh3 39.Qc2 Rxe3 0–1

Barry Lazarus - David Minasyan [B45]

Los Angeles Open, Los Angeles 2008

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Ndb5 Bb4 7.Nd6+ Ke7 8.Nxc8+ Rxc8 9.Bd2 Re8 10.Bd3 Kf8 11.0–0 d5 12.exd5 exd5 13.Bf5 Rc7 14.Nb5 Rce7 15.c3 Bc5 16.Bf4 Re2 17.b4 Bb6 18.Nd6 R8e7 19.Nxb7 Bxf2+ 20.Rxf2 Re1+ 21.Qxe1 Rxe1+ 22.Rxe1 Qb6 23.Nc5 a5 24.Bd6+ 24...Kg8 25.Rfe2 g6 26.Bc2 axb4 27.Kh1 bxc3 28.Re8+ 1–0

Prize Winners

1st-4th: GM Rogelio Antonio, GM Melikset Khachiyan, IM Enrico Sevillano, Joel Banawa, 4-1; 5th: Gregg Small, 3½-1½; 1st-2nd U2200: Takashi Kurosaki, Yuliya Cardona, 3½-½; 3rd U2200: Tianyi He, Joshua Gutman, Giovanni Carreto, Richard Ding, Michael Brown, 3-2.

1st: Bobby Hall, 4½-½; 2nd-3rd: Barry Lazarus, Konstantin Kavutskiy, 4-1; 1st U1800: Ariel Gerardo, 4-1; 2nd U1800: Ernesto Soto, 3½-1½; 3rd U1800: Jeffrey Ding, Ryan Polsky, Bill Conrad, Anna Karapetyan, Ron Morris, 3-2; 1st U1600: Daniel Mousseri, 3-2; 2nd-3rd U1600: David Minasyan, Alvin Huang, Carla Naylor, Numa Abdul-Mujeeb, 2½-2½; U1400: Beverly Woolsey, Chadi Hamwi, Armen Sarkissian, 2-3; U1200: Michael Tornabane, Robert Bryan Martin, 1-4.

Scholastic Open
Ishan Bose-Pine, 5-0; 2nd: Kyle Huang, 4-1; 3rd-4th: Darren Leung, Albert Lu, 3½-1½; 5th: Happy Ullman, 3-2.

Scholastic Reserve
1st: Ankur Gupta, 5-0; 2nd-3rd: Hovanes Salvaryan, Benjamin Allins, 4-1; 4th-5th: Sridhar Madala, Jonathan Naylor, 3-2.
Hexes: Daniel Alvira, 3-0.

Photos: Last-round matchups featured Khachiyan-Sevillano on Board 1 (top) and Faber-Antonio on Board 2 (bottom).

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Los Angeles Open

Despite a disappointing turnout, the 2008 Los Angeles Open attracted a powerful field of two GMs and three IMs. After two rounds, the five were tied for first at 2-0. Complete standings will be available throughout the weekend at

GM Melikset Khachiyan - IM Andranik Matikozyan [B45]
Los Angeles Open (3), 01.11.2008
1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 e6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nf6 6.Ndb5 Bb4 7.a3 Bxc3+ 8.Nxc3 d5 9.exd5 exd5 10.Bd3 d4 11.Ne2 0–0 12.0–0 Qd5 13.Nf4 Qd6 14.Nh5 Nd5 15.Qf3 Re8 16.Bd2 Bd7 17.Rfe1 a6 18.Bc4 Be6 19.Re4 b5 20.Bd3 Nde7 21.Nxg7 Kxg7 22.Bh6+ 1–0

Friday, October 17, 2008

Anderssen - Dufresne, Berlin 1852

White sacrifices a piece to open the central files against the uncastled Black King, and despite his seemingly adequate development and counterattacking chances Black comes out a tempo short in one of the finest combinations on record, known as the “Evergreen Game.”

Anderssen – Dufresne
Berlin, 1852
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4

The Evans Gambit, in which White sacrifices a flank pawn for rapid development and a powerful center.

4. ... Bxb4 5. c3 Ba5 6. d4 exd4 7. 0-0 d3 8. Qb3 Qf6 9. e5 Qg6 10. Re1 Nge7 11. Ba3 b5

Black in turn gives back a pawn to complete his development, but White’s control of the center makes it difficult for Black to coordinate his forces.

12. Qxb5 Rb8 13. Qa4 Bb6 14. Nbd2 Bb7 15. Ne4 Qf5 16. Bxd3 Qh5 17. Nf6+

A temporary piece sacrifice to exploit the exposed position of the Black King. But this is not without risk, as Black now obtains an open g-file for counterplay.

17. ... gxf6 18. exf6 Rg8 19. Rad1!

Offering a second piece, and far stronger than the defensive 19. Be4.

19. ... Qxf3


20. Rxe7+ Nxe7

Black cannot escape with 20. ... Kd8, in view of 21. Rxd7+! Kc8 22. Rd8+ Kxd8 (or 22. ... Rxd8 23. gxf3) 23. Be2+, winning.

21. Qxd7+ Kxd7 22. Bf5+ Ke8 23. Bd7+ Kd8 24. Bxe7 mate

Monday, October 13, 2008

Westwood Fall Open

Turnout at the Westwood Fall Open (LACC, October 12) was a slightly disappointing 35. Top-rated IM Enrico Sevillano took clear first with 4.5 out of 5, followed stepson John Daniel Bryant with 4 and Joel Banawa (3.5). Juan Paul Rodriguez scored 4.5 to take clear first in the Reserve (U1800).

(Photos: The decisive last-round games on boards 1 and 2 – Sevillano faces Tatev Abrahamyan, while Bryant battles IM Andranik Matikozyan.)

Prize winners:

Open: 1st: IM Enrico Sevillano, 4.5/5; 2nd: John Daniel Bryant, 4; 3rd: Joel Banawa, 3.5; U2200: Show Kitagami, Garnik Baghdasaryan, 3; U2000: David Cody Oldham, Austin Hughes, 3.

Reserve: 1st: Juan Paul Rodriguez, 4.5/5; 2nd/U16000/U1400-unrated: Mitchell Jayson, Numen Adbul-Mujeeb, Shaunak P. Tivedi, 3.5; U1200: Jonah Blume-Kemkes, Yechiel Goldberger, 2.5.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Paulsen - Morphy, New York, 1857

Paul Morphy competed in only one tournament in his brief career, the First American Chess Congress in 1857. In the final round of this knock-out event, he defeated German master Louis Paulsen by a score of +5=2-1. In this game he demonstrates both his superior grasp of positional play — Black’s control of the center files makes a marked contrast to White’s flailing on the flanks — and his combinative ability, as he finishes the game with a startling Queen sacrifice.

Paulsen - Morphy
New York, 1857


1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bb5 Bc5 5. 0-0 0-0 6. Nxe5 Re8

Rather than permit the “fork trick” 6. ... Nxe5 7. d4, Black sacrifices a pawn for rapid development.

7. Nxc6 dxc6 8. Bc4 b5 9. Be2

The seemingly more logical 9. Bb3 fails to 9. ... Bg4 10. Qe1 (or 10. Ne2 Rxe4, winning the pinned Knight) 10. ... b4, and if 11. Na4 Rxe4 traps the White Queen.

9. ... Nxe4 10. Nxe4 Rxe4 11. Bf3 Re6 12. c3?

If White were able to follow up with d2-d4 this would be a good move, but it can’t be done. He should reconcile himself to the modest 12. d3.

12. ... Qd3! 13. b4 Bb6 14. a4 bxa4 15. Qxa4 Bd7 16. Ra2 Rae8

Threatens mate with 17. ... Qxf1+. White’s reply defends against this sacrifice, but allows another, which, however, Paulsen can hardly be blamed for missing. Relatively best was 17. Qd1.

17. Qa6


17. ... Qxf3! 18. gxf3

Morphy took twelve minutes to decide on 17. .. Qxf3, an unusually long time for him. Paulsen, a notoriously slow player, thought for over an hour before capturing the Queen.

18. ... Rg6+ 19. Kh1 Bh3 20. Rd1

Black threatened 20. ... Bg2+ 21. Kg1 Bxf3 mate, and 20. Rg1 fails to 20. ... Rxg1+ 21. Kxg1 Re1+. The key line, which Paulsen probably missed on move 17, is 20. Qd3 (hoping to return the Queen with Qxg6) 20. ... f5!, and White is helpless.

20. ... Bg2+ 21. Kg1 Bxf3+ 22. Kf1 Bg2+ 23. Kg1 Bh3+ 24. Kh1 Bxf2 25. Qf1 Bxf1 26. Rxf1 Re2 27. Ra1 Rh6 28. d4 Be3, White resigns

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Grünfeld – Alekhine, Carlsbad 1923

Another superb Alekhine combination, as he outplays opening theoretician Grünfeld in the middlegame.

Grünfeld – Alekhine
Carlsbad, 1923


1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bg5 Nbd7 6. e3 0-0 7. Rc1 c6 8. Qc2

Beginning the “battle for the tempo,” which was much the rage at the time. White wants to postpone Bf1-d3, in the hope that Black will run out of useful waiting moves and play ... d5xc4.

8. ... a6 9. a3 h6 10. Bh4 Re8 11. Bd3 dxc4

Who has gained more from the transaction? The Black Rook is at e8, where it may support ... e6-e5, while White has gained the move a2-a3. He tries to use the latter factor to mount a Kingside attack, transferring his Bishop to b1.

12. Bxc4 b5 13. Ba2 c5 14. Rd1 cxd4 15. Nxd4 Qb6 16. Bb1 Bb7

Black’s edge in development proves the critical factor. Alekhine had to foresee the defensive maneuver 17. Ndxb5 Qc6! (not 17. ... axb5 18. Rxd7, overloading the Nf6) 18. Nd4 Qxg2, and Black’s attack is faster.

17. 0-0 Rac8 18. Qd2 Ne5 19. Bxf6 Bxf6 20. Qc2 g6 21. Qe2 Nc4 22. Be4 Bg7 23. Bxb7 Qxb7 24. Rc1 e5 25. Nb3 e4 26. Nd4 Red8

Rudolph Spielmann once remarked that he could play combinations just as well as Alekhine. If only, he sighed wistfully, he could obtain the positions Alekhine did ...

27. Rfd1 Ne5 28. Na2 Nd3 29. Rxc8 Qxc8


30. f3 Rxd4 31. fxe4

Black wins after 31. exd4 Bd4+ 32. Kf1 Nf4 33. Qxe4 Qc4+ 34. Ke1 Nxg2+ 35. Kd2 Be3+. White hopes to escape with the text move, for now Black has two pieces en prise.

31. ... Nf4! 32. exf4 Qc4 33. Qxc4 Rxd1+ 34. Qf1 Bd4+, White resigns

Friday, September 12, 2008

Nut Cases

The USCF has been plagued by lawsuits lately. Most members don’t know or care much about it. Unfortunately, that means what information the members do receive tends to be biased and inaccurate. Discussing the matter is distasteful, but hiding it is not going to help matters.

There have been four lawsuits filed since last October, maybe five if you stretch a point. To take them in order:

1) In October 2007 Sam Sloan, a former USCF EB member and contumacious Internet troll, sued the USCF, the Board members individually, and a laundry list of people who had said mean things about him. He demanded $20,000,000 in damages and a re-run of the 2007 USCF election, with his enemies disqualified from running. His theory, to the extent one could follow his tendentious ramblings, seems to have been that a series of scurrilous Usenet posts by a “Fake Sam Sloan” had been made by Paul Truong, that their purpose was to keep Sloan from being re-elected in 2007, and that Bill Goichberg and the USCF had known about this and failed to stop it. Problems: Sloan’s accusation against Truong was one of dozens of charges he made, almost all false; Sloan finished a distant ninth out of ten in the election and never had any serious chance of winning; and, given the 1st Amendment, there was nothing the USCF could have done about the FSS posts if it had wanted to. The case was dismissed by Judge Denny Chin on August 28 (full text here). Dismissal was on procedural grounds – the case never belonged in Federal court in the first place – but while he did not reach the “merits” (using the term loosely) of Sloan’s claims, his comments (“(T)he complaint largely interweaves purported 'facts' with Sloan’s own subjective rantings and commentary and commentary about their alleged shortcomings. For the most part, these are simply personal, vindictive, and nonsensical attacks that do not belong in a pleading filed in a judicial proceeding.“) do not inspire confidence in Sloan’s prospects in state court.

2) A few months later, one Gordon Roy Parker, who operates a web page on how to seduce women under the name of Ray Gordon, filed another lawsuit. He had a slightly different theory: that Truong, Goichberg, Sloan, and the rest of the USCF had conspired to make those fake Usenet posts in order to defame Parker. Exactly why anyone would bother is hard to fathom, and was not explained in his prolix pleading. Parker, who hasn’t been a USCF member since 1996, is chiefly noted as a "serial and vexatious litigant." (He lost one case, against the University of Pennsylvania for not offering a clerk’s job, when he refused to show up for a court-ordered psych test.) This case too was dismissed, and although it was “without prejudice” – the judge wrote that “We grant Plaintiff leave to re-file his Complaint if he is able to cure the deficiencies“ – he wrote in addition “We also caution Plaintiff to review Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f) allowing a court to strike material from a pleading which is 'redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous.' A review of Plaintiff’s Complaint shows that he has alleged immaterial facts which are both scandalous and redundant in contravention of Rule 12(f)." Parker may pop out of his hole again, but he’s a nuisance, not a threat.

3) The next one was filed by the USCF, against “John Does 1-10.” In July, excerpts from e-mail correspondence among EB members, and between EB members and their attorney, Karl Kronenberger, began to appear on the Internet, notably on Susan Polgar’s chessdiscussion forum. Polgar used them as examples of how everyone was plotting against poor Paul. Since the only way the e-mails could have been obtained was through illegal access to EB members’ accounts (a Federal crime which can carry serious jail time), the USCF got nasty about it. Polgar and Truong have denied responsibility for the hacking, but have not offered a satisfactory explanation as to where they obtained the material (“We saw it somewhere on the Internet” won’t fly.) The USCF has not accused Polgar or Truong specifically, but is seeking to depose them, which would require them to testify under oath. Unlike the others, this suit actually has merit. Not coincidentally, was drafted and filed by a real attorney.

4) In response to “3,” Susan Polgar filed suit against the USCF, Sloan, the Board members other than herself and her husband, the USCF’s attorney, and another laundry list of enemies, demanding $25,000,000. (Probably wanted to keep ahead of the Sloans.) Her pleading alleged various torts, but no specific actions, and included a long and rather whiny complaint that those mean Americans had all been against her because she was a woman and a foreigner. Suing the organization of which she is an officer was probably not a good PR move. Naming attorney Karl Kronenberger as a defendant was not a good move, period. The case has been removed to Federal court, and is currently pending. (Text is here, as an appendix to the motion to remove.)

5) Sloan has filed a response to #4. It’s as rambling and prolix as most of his output. He apparently wants to file a cross-claim, for another $20,000,000, though his legal theory escapes me. Perhaps it’s buried in the verbiage. I doubt this is going anywhere, but I include it for completeness.

The law is supposed to be a shield. Every time someone files a frivolous or abusive lawsuit, respect for the law declines, and we’re all a bit less safe.

Update 9-23: Sloan is apparently attempting to appeal the dismissal of #1. His filing is (surprise!) tendentious drivel. He asserts that Bill Goichberg's house in New York does not exist (the people who have been there will be surprised), and that a federal criminal statute creates a private right of action (the judge will be surprised). The people who voted for this doofus in 2006 should be ashamed of themselves.

Update 9-27: The USCF's attorney has filed a motion to dismiss #4 on grounds of failure to state a cause for which relief may be granted, or, alternatively, to require a more definite statement of pleading.

Update 10-17: Polgar's attorney has filed a response to the motion to dismiss. The legal arguments are for the judge to decide. But merely filing such a lawsuit makes it extremely unlikely that I would vote for Polgar, Truong, or anyone they endorsed in any future election. Not that I have a lot of use for their opponents, either. "None of the above" is looking better and better.

Update 10-24: More news on Number 3, as Kronenberger Burgoyne filed an amended complaint naming two of the John Does.

Update 12/21/08: Gregory Alexander (one of the named "John Does") has filed a somewhat rambling motion to dismiss. I'm not going to comment on his legal arguments, but it's worth noting that his assertion "... the identical allegations are already being litigated in a lawsuit which was filed in state court in Lubbock, Texas" is simply false. Polgar's lawsuit has absolutely nothing to do with the charges of e-mail hacking against Alexander and Polgar, except perhaps in the area of motive.

Update 1/14/09: Litigious crank Gordon Roy Parker re-filed #2, and nearly all of it has now been dismissed "with predjudice" (meaning he can't waste any more of the court's time). The only part the judge allowed was a libel claim against Truong and Polgar for two specific statements. So, if Parker can demonstarte that Polgar and Truong have sufficient "connections" in Pennsylvania to be subject to its courts, and if he can prove that Truong and/or Polgar were responsible for the two Usenet posts, and if he can convince a jury that the statements would be taken by a rational observer as fact (rather than satire, opinion, or hyperbole in context), and, oh yes, if he manages to serve the defendants properly, he might have a case. Tort reform, anyone? At least it won't be the USCF's money being wasted.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Rating Pollution

How many unknown 2500 players are there floating around? One would be inclined to say none. One would be wrong.

Raymond Duque of Texas, currently rated 2559, has seen his rating creep up steadily since 2002. During this period, he faced exactly two opponents rated over 2200. Of course, he faced them multiple times. In four-player round-robins. Directed by Duque. One of them has played in exactly four tournaments, all directed by Duque. His current rating: 2504. He’s not on the FIDE list, and there is no evidence he has ever played before in the U.S. In some other tournaments, Duque out-rated his opponents by well over 1000 points.

Does all this prove that any of the tournaments were fixed? No. Suspicion is not proof. Do the results prove that Duque deserves a 2500 rating? Emphatically no. Do his actions prove that Duque should be relieved of his Senior TD status? In my opinion as an NTD, yes. Even if his honesty is assumed, his judgment is appalling.

The USCF has some safeguards in place against artificially lowering ratings – heavy-handed, but reasonably effective. Little attention has been given to the artificial inflation of ratings, perhaps because the benefits to the scofflaw are less obvious. It may be time for that to change. The only recent example was former EB member Robert Tanner (who, despite being forced to resign from the Board, got off far too easily in my opinion). Once is chance. Twice … is something the USCF should begin taking seriously.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Southern California Open

The 30th Annual Southern Cal Open, held at the Pasadena Hilton August 30-Speptemebr 1, hada good turnout of 147. Tying for first in the Open section were GM Melikset Khachiyan, IMs Enrico Sevillano and Andanik Matikozyan, and Tatev Abrhamyan, all with 5-1. Sevillano took the title and trophy on tiebreak, giving him two championship trophies in two weeks. In the Amateur (U1800) section, Gonzalo Alejandro Roberts Cervantes (the tall one in the photo) and Jeffrey Ding tied for first, with Cervantes winning the trophy. The Sunday SCO Scholastics drew 117, with Sean Manross winning the Open and Arissa Torres the Reserve. Click here for complete standings of all sections. The new Pasadena site was well-received, and we hope to return there again soon.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Video Interview: John Rowell

During round five of the 2008 SCCF State Championship, we interviewed John Rowell, a former State Championship participant who provided the playing site at his Century City law offices.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Total Recall

Here is an amusing and fairly accurate account of the recent USCF Delegates' Meeting from Elizabeth Vicary.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Adding and Subtracting

One of the intellectual movements in chess over the last fifteen years has been the attempt to transform sudden-death into an amazingly lifelike imitation of "real" chess, with repeated time controls. This has mostly involved the use of high-tech digital clocks. There are essentially three flavors.

1) "Time-delay," standard in the U.S. When the opponent stops his clock and starts yours, your clock does not begin ticking down for a specified number of seconds (typically five).

2) "Bronstein," named for the late GM who suggested it back in the early 1970s. (Also known as "non-cumulative addback.") When the opponent stops his clock and starts yours, a specified number of seconds is added to your time, to a maximum of the time you had when you started your last move. Example: You have 20 seconds left. You think for six seconds and make your move, leaving you with 14. When your opponent moves, your clock immediately jumps back to 19. Example 2: Same as before, except that you use only three seconds, leaving you with 17. When your opponent moves, your clock jumps back to 20 (not 22). Mathematically this is more or less identical to time delay, but it is less used, probably because it's harder to explain.

3) "Fischer," also known as "increment" or "cumulative addback." The standard adopted by FIDE, most often in the form of game in 90 with an extra 30 seconds for each move. It operates in the same manner as Bronstein, except that there is no limit to the amount of time you can accumulate. Make a lot of moves quickly, and you can easily go from one second to five minutes.

The "Fischer" mode has been fairly rare in the U.S., though it has been used for the U.S. Championship and for some title-norm round-robins. These operated quite well by simply using the FIDE rules. Recently, however, the USCF Rules Committee decided that we really, really needed new rules of our own. (The committee chairman is apparently a big fan of Fischer increment, and wants to encourage its adoption.) Most of the "new" rules voted on at the recent Delegates' Meeting were taken straight from the FIDE Handbook.

However, there is one oddity. What happens if both flags are down? Under FIDE procedure, this is very unlikely to arise, since the arbiter is supposed to watch the game and call the flag. That is probably not going to happen in American Swiss tournaments, so the Rules Committee chairman came up with a novel interpretation: Fischer increment is "not really" sudden death. Instead, once your original time is used up, it's "really" unlimited repeating time controls of 30 seconds/move. Thus, under the new USCF rule, if both flags are down, the game is not drawn (as it would be in sudden-death). Rather, the clocks must be reset with zero time plus 30 second addback for each player and the game continued. If you think resetting the clocks that way is going to be a pain, you're right.

A simple solution, until the next time the USCF tinkers with the rules: If you must use Fischer increment, announce in advace that you are using FIDE rules. If you don't have enough TDs to watch all the games, well, you probably shouldn't be using increment to begin with.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Video Interview: Cyrus Lakdawala

We interviewed IM Cyrus Lakdawala during the 2008 SCCF State Championship at the law offices of Cheong, Denove, Rowell in Century City.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Pillsbury-Tarrasch, Hastings 1895

In 1895 Harry Nelson Pillsbury traveled to Europe to compete in his first international tournament -- and he won, ahead of such luminaries as Lasker, Tarrasch and Chigorin. Though a frequent and successful tournament competitor over the next few years, he never succeeded in obtaining the match for the world championship he sought. His long illness and early death in 1906 deprived the world of one of its greatest players. Among his other contributions to the game, Pillsbury demonstrated the worth of the Queen’s Gambit in an era when anything other than 1. e4 e5 was often dismissed as “Irregular.”

Pillsbury – Tarrasch
Hastings 1895


1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Be7 5. Nf3 Nbd7 6. Rc1 0-0 7. e3 b6 8. cxd5 exd5 9. Bd3 Bb7 10. 0-0 c5 11. Re1 c4

At the time most masters thought that Black’s Queenside pawn majority should give him the advantage—given time, he will advanace his b- and c-pawns and create a passed pawn on the c-file. Pillsbury shows that White’s active pieces are of greater import.

12. Bb1 a6 13. Ne5 b5 14. f4 Re8 15. Qf3 Nf8 16. Ne2 Ne4 17. Bxe7 Rxe7 18. Bxe4 dxe4

White does not object to exchanges, for the Black Bb7 cannot easily participate in the defense of the Kingside.

19. Qg3 f6 20. Ng4 Kh8 21. f5 Qd7 22. Rf1 Rd8 23. Rf4 Qd6

White has steadily strengthened his position while Black temporized.

24. Qh4 Rde8 25. Nc3 Bd5 26. Nf2 Qc6 27. Rf1 b4 28. Ne2 Qa4

It seems that Black’s strategy has succeeded, for he must now obtain a passed pawn on the Queenside. But all the White pieces are poised for an attack on the Black King.
29. Ng4 Nd7

Not 29. ... Qxa2? 30. Nxf6! and wins.

30. R4f2 Kg8

And now if 30. ... Qxa2 31. Nf4 Bf7 32. Ng6+ Bxg6 33. fxg6 h6 34. Nxh6 gxh6 35. Qxh6+ Kg8 36. Rf5 wins.

31. Nc1 c3 32. b3 Qc6 33. h3 a5 34. Nh2 a4 35. g4 axb3 36. axb3 Ra8


37. g5! Ra3 38. Ng4 Bxb3 39. Rg2 Kh8 40. gxf6 gxf6 41. Nxb3 Rxb3 42. Nh6

Threatening 43. Rg8 mate.

42. ... Rg7 43. Rxg7 Kxg7 44. Qg3+! Kxh6

Forced, as 44. ... Kf8 45. Qg8+ picks off the Rook at b3.

45. Kh1!

A quiet but deadly move -- Black is helpless against the threat to close the mating net with 46. Rg1.

45. ... Qd5 46. Rg1 Qxf5 47. Qh4+ Qh5 48. Qf4+ Qg5 49. Rxg5 fxg5 50. Qd6+ Kh5 51. Qxd7 c2 52. Qxh7 mate

Monday, July 28, 2008

Westwood Summer Open final

Prize Winners:
Open: 1st: GM Melikset Khachiyan, 4.5-.5; 2nd-3rd: IM Andranik Matikozyan, Joel Banawa, 4-1; U2200: Vadim Kudryavtsev, 3.5-1.5; U2000: Austin Hughes, Daniel Alvira, 2-3.
Reserve: 1st: Naollin Olguin, 4.5-.5; 2nd: Wendell Salveroin, Jeffrey Ding, 4-1; U1600: Lauro Ancheta, Anna Karapetyan, 3.5-1.5; U1400: Shauraya Rai Jain, 3-2; U1200: Winston Chin Zeng, Shelley Anthoupoulos, David Khachiyan, 2-3.

Final standings

Photo: Andranik Matikozyan and Melikset Khachiyan plot their last-round strategy.

Joel Banawa - GM Melikset Khachiyan

Westwood Summer Open, Los Angeles 2008


1. d4 Nf6 2. Bg5 Ne4 3. Bf4 d5 4. f3 Nf6 5. e4 c6 6. Nc3 e6 7. Nge2 Be7 8. g3 0-0 9. Bg2 c5 10. exd5 exd5 11. Be3 Nc6 12. dxc5?! Re8 13. Kf1 Bf8 14. Bf2 b6 15. cxb6 axb6 16. Kg1 Bc5 17. Nd4? Nxd4 18. Bxd4


18. ... Re1! 19. Qxe1 Bxd4 20. Kf1 Ba6 21. Ne2 Ng4! 22. Qd2 Ne3+ 23. Kf2 Bc5 24. Nd4 Nxc2 25. Qxc2 Bxd4 26. Ke1 Qe7 27. Kd1 Re8 28. Qd2 Be2+ 29. Kc2 Qc5+ 30. Kb1 Qc4!, White Resigns

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Westwood Summer Open

Forty players are competing in the Westwood Summer Open at the Los Angeles Chess Club, led by GM Melikset Khachiyan and IMs Enrico Sevillano and Andranik Matikozyan. Standings will be posted throughout the day here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

McDonnell - La Bourdonnais, London 1834

The McDonnell-La Bourdonnais encounters marked the beginning of modern chess -- a set match of serious games, all of which were recorded and published. This was the Frenchman’s most famous win of the match (really a series of six matches, won by La Bourdonnais +45, =13, -27), in which we have the unusual spectacle of a swarm of pawns overcoming a Queen.

McDonnell - La Bourdonnais

62nd Match Game, 1834

B32 SICILIAN DEFENSE, La Bourdonnais Variation

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 e5 5. Nxc6

A positional error, strengthening Black’s central pawns, but such niceties were little known in the 1830s.

5. ... bxc6 6. Bc4 Nf6 7. Bg5 Be7 8. Qe2 d5 9. Bxf6 Bxf6 10. Bb3 0-0 11. 0-0 a5 12. exd5 cxd5 13. Rd1 d4 14. c4 Qb6 15. Bc2 Bb7 16. Nd2 Rae8 17. Ne4 Bd8 18. c5 Qc6 19. f3 Be7 20. Rac1 f5

Not 20. ... Bxc5? 21. Nxc5 Qxc5 22. Bxh7+. Black offers an Exchange sacrifice to get his central pawns moving.

21. Qc4+ Kh8 22. Ba4 Qh6 23. Bxe8 fxe4 24. c6 exf3 25. Rc2

And not 25. cxb7?, as 25. ... Qe2+ 26. Kh1 fxg2+ 27. Kxg2 Rf2+ would lead to mate.

25. ... Qe3+ 26. Kh1 Bc8 27. Bd7 f2

In turn threatening 28. ... Qe1+ 28. Qf1 Qxd1 30. Qxd1 f1=Q+.

28. Rf1 d3 29. Rc3 Bxd7 30. cxd7 e4 31. Qc8 Bd8 32. Qc4 Qe1 33. Rc1 d2 34. Qc5 Rg8 35. Rd1 e3 36. Qc3


36. … Qxd1 37. Rxd1 e2, White resigns

Monday, July 7, 2008

48th Pacific Southwest Open final

In a dramatic finish, IM Tim Taylor and master Gregg Small tied for first in the 2008 PSW with 5-1. Taylor held the draw against IM Enrico Sevillano, who trailed him by half a point, while Small upset IM Jack Peters on Board 2. Next at 4.5-1.5 were Sevillano, Joel Banawa, and Julian Landaw. In the Amateur section, Jose Eduardo swept the field with a perfect 6-0. Complete standings of all sections are available at the Western Chess web page.

Prize Winners

Open: 1st-2nd: IM Tim Taylor, Gregg Small, 5-1; 3rd-5th: IM Enrico Sevillano, Joel Banawa, Julian Landaw. 4½-1½; U2200: Sam Hamilton, Jeremy Stein, Takashi Kurosaki, Michael Yee, Matt Robertson, 4-2; U2000: 1st: Michael Brown, 4-2; 2nd-3rd: Bobby Hall, Konstantin Kavutskiy, Austin Hughes, 3½-2½.

Amateur: 1st: Alejandro Ruiz, 6-0; 2nd: Wendell Salveron, 5-1; 3rd: Naollin Olguin, 4½-1½; U1600: 1st: Anna Karapetyan, 3½-2½; 2nd-3rd: Henry Wang, Ryan Hughes, Daniel Gong, Zheng Zhu; Yash Pershad, Daniel Lin, David Minasyan, 3-3; U1400: Hariharan Ramachandran, Darren Chow, 3-3; U1200: Robert Bryan Martin, 1-5; Unrated: Theodore Zhenyu Gao, 2½-3½

Hexes: 1st: Richard Henderson, 3-0; 2nd-3rd: Jimmy Sweet, Aldrich Ong, 2-1.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

48th Annual Pacific Southwest Open, day 3

After five rounds, IM Tim Taylor leads the field with 4 1/2. While IMs Enrico Sevillano and Jack Peters battled to a draw on board 1 (see photo), Taylor ground out a win against "giant-killer" Michael Yee in the last game to finish. Taylor now faces Sevillano in the last round, while Peters, Joel Banawa, Julian Landaw and Gregg Small remain in contention at 4-1. Standings through round five are posted here.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

48th Annual Pacific Southwest Open, day 2

With all sections merged, four players are tied for the lead: IMs Enrico Sevillano, Tim Taylor and Jack Peters, and youthful Expert Michael Yee, who upset IM Andranik Matikozyan. In the Amateur section, Alejandro Ruiz holds the top spot with 4-0, but no less than eight players are within a point of the leader.

In the PSW Scholastics, both sections saw clear winners, as Dwayne Edwards scored 4 1/2 in the Open, while Gregory Kuhn turned in a perfect 5-0 in the Reserve. Complete standings of all sections are posted here.

Michael Yee - IM Andranik Matikozyan [E84]

48th Pacific Southwest Open (3), 05.07.2008

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 0-0 6.Be3 Nc6 7.Nge2 a6 8.Qd2 Rb8 9.0-0-0 b5 10.h4 Na5 11.Nf4 Nxc4 12.Bxc4 bxc4 13.h5 c6 14.g4 Qa5 15.g5 Nd7 16.Qh2 Re8 17.hxg6 hxg6 18.Qh7+ Kf8 19.Rh6 e5 20.Nxg6+ fxg6 21.Rxg6 Re7 22.f4 Rf7 23.f5 exd4 24.f6 Qb4


25.Rd2 dxc3 26.Rxg7 cxd2+ 27.Kd1 Nxf6 28.Qh8+ Ke7 29.gxf6+ Kxf6 30.Bg5+ Ke5 31.Rxf7+ Kxe4 32.Rf4+ Kd5 33.Qd4+ 1-0

Friday, July 4, 2008

48th Annual Pacific Southwest Open

The Pacific Southwest Open has begun at the LAX Hilton. 44 players have entered the 3-day schedule, led by IMs Tim Taylor and Jack Peters. They are expected to be joined tomorrow by 40-50 more, including IMs Enrico Sevillano and Andranik Matikozyan. Standings will be available throught the weekend here.

IM Tim Taylor – Matt Robertson [A03]
48th Pacific Southwest Open (1), 04.07.2008
1.f4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.0–0 0–0 6.d3 b5 7.e4 dxe4 8.Ng5 Bb7 9.Nc3 b4 10.Ncxe4 Nxe4 11.Nxe4 Qd4+ 12.Kh1 Qb6 13.f5 Nd7 14.Qe2 c5 15.a3 a5 16.axb4 axb4 17.Rxa8 Bxa8 18.Qf2 b3 19.c4 gxf5 20.Qxf5 Ne5 21.Bg5 f6 22.Be3 e6 23.Qh5 Bxe4 24.Bxe4 f5 25.Bh6 fxe4 26.Rxf8+ Bxf8 27.Bxf8 Kxf8 28.Qxe5 exd3 29.Qh8+ Ke7 30.Qxh7+ Kf6 31.Qxd3 Qb4 32.Kg2 Qe1 33.Qf1+ Qxf1+ 34.Kxf1 Ke5 35.h4 Ke4 36.Ke2 e5 37.h5 Kf5 38.g4+ Kg5 39.Ke3 1–0

Arkadiy Onikul – IM Jack Peters [E97]

48th Pacific Southwest Open (1), 04.07.2008
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Be2 0–0 6.Nf3 e5 7.0–0 Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.Nd2 c5 10.a3 Ne8 11.b4 f5 12.Qc2 f4 13.bxc5 dxc5 14.a4 a5 15.Rb1 b6 16.Nb5 Nd6 17.Rb3 Nf7 18.Bb2 Bd7 19.Bc3 Nc8 20.Qb2 h5 21.Rd1 Qf6 22.Qa1 Kh7 23.Nf3 Rd8 24.Nc7 Ra7 25.d6 Bc6 26.Nd5 Bxd5 27.Rxd5 Rxd6 28.Nxe5 Rxd5 29.Nxf7 Rd4 30.e5 Qxf7 31.Bxd4 cxd4 32.Qxd4 Rc7 33.Rb5 Qf5 34.Bd3 Rd7 0–1

Friday, June 20, 2008

Blackburne – Lipschütz, New York 1889

White allows his opponent to obtain two passed Queenside pawns in exchange for posting a Rook on the seventh rank. When the game was adjourned at move 31, Lipschütz and the spectators (Steinitz among them) were certain that Black must win. The combination initiated by White’s 32nd move brought a rude awakening.

Blackburne – Lipschütz
New York, 1889

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 b6 5. Bg5 Be7 6. e3 Bb7 7. Rc1 Nbd7 8. cxd5 exd5 9. Bd3 0-0 10. 0-0 Ne4

Black has completed his development without difficulty (White should have tried to exploit the weakened c6 square with some combination of Qa4, Bb5 and Ne5), and he now begins to take the initiative, occupying his outpost on e4.

11. Bf4 c5 12. Qe2 f5 13. Rfd1 c4 14. Bxe4 fxe4 15. Ne5 Nf6 16. g4 Qe8 17. Qf1 Bd6 18. h3 Rd8 19. Qg2 b5

Black has a space advantage and chances to create a passed pawn on the Queenside, so White must try to stir something up on the g-file.

20. Ne2 b4 21. Ng3 Nd7 22. Nxd7 Rxd7 23. Ne2 Bxf4 24. Nxf4 Rdf7 25. g5 Rf5 26. Kh1 a5 27. Rg1 Bc8 28. Qg3 Qa4 29. b3 cxb3 30. axb3 Qxb3 31. Rc7 a4 32. g6 h6 33. Rxg7+


Amazingly, White now has a winning attack. If 33. ... Kh8 34. Rh7+ Kg8 35. g7 Rg5 36. gxf8(Q)+ Kxf8 37. Ne6+ and wins.

33. ... Kxg7 34. Nh5+ Rxh5 35. Qc7+ Kf6 36. Qd6+, Black resigns

Thursday, June 12, 2008


On the USCF Forums, a player named James Schuyler asked,
In the USCF rules, there are examples of players getting portions of different prizes for which they are eligible, e.g. 1/4 each of 4 different prizes for which they tied.

In the National Open this year, I got 1/4 of the U2400 prize, but I was told that I was not entitled to (up to) 3/4 of the place prize for which I tied.

A) Is this really correct?
B) If so, how is this logical or fair?

To answer A), please know what you're talking about.

Answer: This is a common error. (Oddly, players rarely complain when they think they're receiving more prize money than they deserve.) There were 14 players tied for 9th-17th and top U2400, and top U2300, four of whom were U2400 and one U2300. In this case, you perform two calculations: a) add up all the prizes and divide them equally, and b) add up the class prizes only and divide them among the eligible class players. The class players get the larger of the two, which here meant a four-way split of the U2400 prize. (And the U2300 took his class prize clear.) They don't get that and a slice of the place prizes as well.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Shadow and Substance

The USCF has been unable to balance its budget for a while. There’s no secret about why; we’re spending more than we’re taking in. Obviously, there are two solutions: increase income or reduce expenses. Increasing income means either getting more members (yeah, plant that money tree) or raising dues (probably self-defeating). As for reducing expenses, well, everyone is in favor of cutting the other guy’s programs.

USCF President Bill Goichberg has come up with an elaborate plan which purports to do both. The basic idea is to create a two-tier membership system: one for $29 without a printed copy of Chess Life (though it is supposed to include an undefined “electronic format” version), and one for $42 pretty much the same as what we have now. There would be a similar bifurcation for junior members receiving Chess Life for Kids. All members would receive a slim quarterly “bulletin,” intended to “keep them in touch” and presumably to contain TLAs. All this will be discussed and voted upon at the Annual Meeting in Dallas this August.

So far, I’ve been disappointed by the quality of debate. Unfortunately, one of the loudest opponents has been the egregious Sam Sloan, and his arguments are so bad that they make the proposal look good – and perhaps undeservedly. Consider the following hysterical outbursts. (All caps in original; I’m not the one who’s shouting.)

“Please note that Regular Members NO LONGER RECEIVE CHESS LIFE MAGAZINE.

(True in the sense that the current proposal calls the $29 membership “Regular” and the $42 one “Premium.” Since the “Premium” is identical to what is now known as “Regular,” this is semantic twaddle.)


(Hardly sounds onerous. Some of them are dead, and the USCF really ought to check.)

“Now, even as I type this, they are sitting in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at a meeting in which they are contemplating the final destruction of the federation by stopping the publication of Chess Life magazine.”

(Aside from the fact that the EB can’t do any of this without a vote of the Delegates, it’s nonsense. Since memberships run for at least a year, and printing contracts run even longer, there would be no effect for at least two years even if everyone chose the no-printed-magazine option – which isn’t going to happen.)

Now, what are the real issues that ought to be addressed? I have three problems with the proposal:

1) Do the numbers really add up? Of course, if we get a lot of new members at the new rate, income will go up, but that’s the same kind of smoke and mirrors that got the USCF into the current mess. Let’s take the end cases. If no one takes the new rate – no effect. If everyone immediately takes it – the USCF would take a short-term hit, after which it would do very well if membership and tournament attendance remained the same. Neither of these is sufficiently likely to be worth considering. At some point in between, the cost of printing and mailing is supposed to go down more quickly than the income from the reduced membership rates. Where, and how fast? (If one person switches, you’re not going to be able to print one less magazine.) I’d like to see an analysis and graphs of this, by someone who understands the subject and has neither an axe to grind nor an ox to gore. That pretty much excludes all politicians.

2) The “electronic version” of Chess Life which the new membership class is supposed to receive is mentioned but not defined. This has been a problem with many of Bill’s past ideas – he’s much better at concept than implementation. Will it be a PDF version of the paper magazine? Easy for the editor, tough on bandwidth. (And murder on anyone still using dial-up.) Will it be encrypted? That’s what most e-book sellers do. Does the USCF know how? Will it be HTML versions of the magazine articles on line? That would increase the editor’s workload somewhat (an HTML page is not the same thing as a magazine page), and limiting access to members would be tricky to implement. (The current system, such as it is, involves sending a PIN number on the back of Chess Life.) This should be worked out in detail before debating whether to commit to it.

3) A more subtle objection is that the technology isn’t quite there yet. In another five years or so, when something like the Amazon Kindle is in common use, and you can have your magazine wirelessly transmitted to your tablet – maybe. If it’s tried now and fails, it’s going to be harder to try it again later, when it might have a better chance of success.