Tuesday, July 29, 2008

AND my cat pissed on my Chess gear

(we interrupt our regularly scheduled Hastings 1895 documentary for this rant)

My how the mighty have fallen. My goal to exceed the 1700 threshold was reached at the world open when I peaked to 1737. My goal to sustain the 1700's for more than a month was shattered this month at the club with a four game losing streak.

The good news is that almost everyone I played was higher rated except for the kid tonight. In all my games I reached a comfortable position out of the opening. One game I lost because I didn't see a stronger, more forcing move in an even position. Had I done that, I would have had a chance to win. Another I dropped a pawn in the middle game but blew my drawn R+P end game because I failed to exchange rooks ( forced) at the wrong time. Another, I managed to get a strong attack in the center...but failed to take into account King safety.
Tonight, after I meticulously reviewed my previous gaffs and challenged myself on not making the same mistakes with the previous games registered in my data base, I still messed up a perfectly good game. I had the opening won, noted with advanced development and complete control of the center. My opponent got greedy with a b-pawn grab with the queen while I used my bishops like boa AFTER getting my king to safety mind you ( I learned that). BUT I failed to underestimate my opponent's counter play as I tightened the noose on his queen. The exchange netted him 2 pieces and a rook for a queen... I totally misplayed it and after the dust settled he was developed and suckered a bishop off me.

Next month, as planned, I will still play up in the top section. Back when I was stuck in the lower mid section, I found it hard to advance because of the kids. Now that I am in the upper mid section, I am running into the same issues. I gained ground when I first did the leap of faith. Playing stronger opponent's has its merits if you don't mind losing. I'm used to it... it sucks but I try to look at it philosophically and the big picture perspective.

My game is improving, just not as good as the kids. It's tough keep up with those rascals. Some tournaments you're on a roll...others, well... sometimes the cat just pisses all over your stuff.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Joseph Henry Blackburne at Hastings 1895

Whisky clears my brain and improves my chessplay

Joseph Henry Blackburne was 52 at the time of Hastings and was notorious for his drinking prowess and the preceding quote was a claim he made while interviewed for a liquor industry publication. There is even a story that part of the prize fund at Hastings 1895 was paid in advance, and for Blackburne the "currency" was a case of Scotch. Mr. Blackburne finished the case of Scotch during the first six rounds. I couldn't find a second point of reference to back this up but it might explain some of the style of play in the first few rounds.

This post covers mostly his wins that earned him his tenth place finish. I collected these games at my games cache at chess.com for rounds 1,2,5,7,10 and 11 here while the rest of the games in rounds 12,14,18,20,21 are here. In round one he almost loses to Janowsky as black but in this position finds a way to capture his far advanced passer.

Blackburne was called "The Black Death" since he was known to fair well playing the black pieces. He was also a strong endgame tactician. The position is from round 1 after move 48.Bc6. Blackburne sees an opportunity to grab the pawn and finally make fruition of his pawn material advantage. He plays 48...Re6 49. Bf3 Rd6.

In the second round he loses to Mieses of all players. Mieses placed second to last with Blackburne being his only other win aside from Albin. It wasn't one of Blackburne's better games as the pieces themselves looked scattered and drunk. This almost supports the claim of the drunken master made earlier.

In several games to the lesser known players Balckburne, plays unorthodox openings! He seemed to be versatile in that sense and was always willing to mix things up. Against Schlechter in round 5 for instance he plays 1.d3! ( ends in a boring draw) and in round 7 against Albin, plays 1.e4 e5 2.Be2! which leads to a 122 move endgame battle where he carefully avoids threefold repetition by choreographing his rooks to swap places so as NOT to fall into threefold. Albin, finally cracks and messes up at move 87 and allows Blackburne to tighten the noose.

He wins against Amos Burn in round 10 with a move order variation of the French as white. 1.e4 e6 2.Nc3 d5 3. d4 ... truly showcasing his flare for style and ability to transpose into games he's comfortable with.

In round 11 as white against Von Bardeleben and Round 12 as Black against Teichmann, back to back rounds he seems to deliver back to back rook sacs in seemingly similar positions with colors reversed:

24, Rxd5! (Here on the left) and 48...Rxe4! on the right. In both cases he had material pawn advantages and without his opponent's bishop pair, he had a favorable endgame.

His wins against Vergani ( last place finisher) and Pollock in rounds 14 and 18 are not that spectacular. Against Vergani, the "Black death" plays a gambit and jumps ahead right away. With Pollock he plays the Philador's defense and wins a Knight versus Bishop endgame.

The Lasker game is the one to watch. Blackburne offers his knight on h2 which rips opens this young master's ( and third place finisher) king side.

20 ...Nxh2!
In the last round as white against Tinsley, he plays against the French with a rapid fire deployment of his pieces that allowed him a central break for the final point.
Joseph Henry Blackburne was inspired by Paul Morphy after playing in a blindfold simul against the late prodigy. A couple years later, he was performing his own blindfold exhibitions demonstrating his great memory agility. His peak performance was in mid to late 18880's where he place in first, second or third place in most events he participated in. At Hastings 1895, he was still a strong player but a little past his prime. I think, had he not taken the risks of playing the odd openings against his contemporaries, he might have scored better. Against his known stronger opponents, he demonstrated a more conservative approach.

He died in 1924 at the age of 82 and played chess almost to the end. It is estimated that Blackburne played 100,000 games in his career, more than any other professional chess-player.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Hastings 1895: Featured Player: Henry Bird Part 2

It is rumored at Bill Wall's website on famous people who play chess, that Larry Bird was a chess player. Further rumored at the Boston Globe, Larry's favorite opening was , of course, the Bird.

Henry Bird played this opening 4 times at the Hastings 1895 event and score +1 =2 -1. Which Isn't all that bad considering it's an opening designed to gain some control of the center but doesn't help the development at all. Henry Bird also played the Dutch a couple times as Black as seen last post and did rather well. It goes without saying that Mr. Bird liked the pawn structure and seemed to favor the king side attacking potential that arose from such positions.

The games for rounds 11-15 are here while the remaining 16-21 rounds are here as a reference to the rest of this post. He entered round 11 with 7 points and in the second half of the tournament only managed to gain 2 more points. His play is odd. He favors moves like Kf8 over castling in Round 11 against Mason, round 17 against Tarrasch ( where he really strays and plays an odd looking closed Sicilian where he was typically playing French Defenses) and in Round 20 against Gubsberg whom he finally won a game with this order of play. He wasn't completely off his rocker, he just chose to have this setup and open the h-file for the rook in his games. His younger opponents just seemed to know how to attack the uncastled King and rip open the center before Bird went "bowling" with the h-pawn.

He was an old dog not with too many new tricks in the second half of his games. He had a 115 move draw against Janowsky in Round 16 where in Move 87 he could have won as seen here:

Bird has white and had he advanced the b-pawn followed by Kb5 he would have had a won position. Instead, they were under time pressure and a rapid fire dance of the bishops followed when a position was reached for the third time a draw was called.

Pillsbury, who was the hero in the event had a most fascinating approach to Bird's lethal Evan's Gambit. He took on the challenge of f7:

Schiffer's comments on the game that the Pillsbury's handling of the gambit with Bd6 is taken from the days of Anderssen, Mayet and Keiseritzky. Which means, Pillsbury was well read on the masters of his time in preparation to this event. If there is one game to watch, its round 14 Bird vs Pillsbury.

Overall, it seemed Mr. Bird was passed his prime indeed as it showed up in his end game play and the fact that he seemed to be a predictable attacker that the new blood could adapt to. I still admire his play given his age and he still had a couple jabs at the young folks. His love for the game made this accountant a good contender none the less despite his 15th place finish in this event.

Next up will be Blackburne as I will cover the top 10 finishers in this event. The "Black death" finished 10th but was colorful in the spirit of his partying. Perhaps Blackburne is to Chessloser as Keiseritzky was to Blunderprone? Stay tuned ( if this doesn't bore you)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hastings 1895- Featured player: Henry Bird Part 1

Born on July 14, 1830, Henry Edward Bird was the oldest participant at this event in Hastings of 1895. Since his birthday is tomorrow and he is my cross over player from the London 1851 series I covered, I want to cover his games this week.

First, a little background is in order about this proper English Gentleman whose main occupation was that of an accountant. His passion for chess emerged following the London 1851 event. Where prior he was a regular at the St. George's club with the likes of Staunton and Williams. He was a talker and it has been said that he "lived for chess, and would play anybody anywhere, any time, under any conditions."

During the 44 years between these two events, his successes included a few first place finishes in London's British Chess Association events held at the Simpson's in 1889 and 1890. A writer of chess history, his book is available online here .

Despite being considered the " Grand Old Man of Chess" at the event, a titled he relished, he still managed to finish with 9 points out of 21 placing him 15th. In this post, I review his first 10 rounds which shows this old lion still has some teeth.

I posted the first five rounds here following the rounds 6-10 here . I ask for your patience in allowing these to load in chess.com. I provided my commentary along with the pointed annotations form the text " Hastings 1895, Grand International Chess Congress"

In round 1 as Black against Albin, he plays this brilliant move on 34 leaving his bishop on b7 hanging! The ensuing Kingside attack is too much for his opponent.

He draws the next couple of rounds against Walbrodt and von Bardelben in which both annotators remark less than stellar accomplishments by both parties. Bird had a remarkable opening and middlegame against Walbrodt but didn't follow through in the endgame.

In Round four against Blackburne, he plays a 71 move slug fest with no adjournment. The game swung in favor of either side at various points in the game starting with Blackburne's 13...g5! move beginning a nice combination. They approached an endgame where Bird had a material advantage with a pawn but due to the poor pawn structure had a hard time converting to a full point. Blackburne comes back as a tired Bird allows him to snatch up a couple pawns. But this old Lion still had some teeth as he created an outside passed pawn with threats. Both agreed to a draw.
Against Lasker in round 5 he fell into a queen trap as seen here on move 29 :

In round 6, with a mate threat on his heels, Marco saves his game with a three-fold repetition draw from Bird. Bird fires back in round 7 with a victory against Vergani by finding a very resourceful move in this complicated position netting a passed pawn:

White to move and win on move 27. Do you see it?

( 27. Nxe6)

Round 8 was the clash of the two ( older) titans, pitting Steinitz against Bird in an epoch battle. It appeared that Steinitz's time had passed had he been more aggressive with the white pieces. Bird was allowed to establish a knight on an advanced rank that rivaled a rook. If you are going to review only one game, this one is worth the merit.

Rounds 9 was a draw against Schlecter and Round 10, playing an Evans Gambit against the powerful Chigorin, Bird manages a threefold repetition to save a gambit gone flat. ( that's another game worth looking at).

After the first ten rounds, Henry Bird has scored 6 of the 9 points he will finish with in this event. Not a bad showing for a non-professional of the era.

In the second part, he Plays Pillsbury , Tarrasch, and Janowski along with some of the others. I'll let you digest these for a few days until I wrap up Bird in the next post.



Friday, July 11, 2008

Hastings 1895: an introduction

...and now, we return to our regularly scheduled program.

I've had the flux capacitor fully charged while I was in Philly and I set the time machine to the period of August 5 - September 2 of 1895 to the location of the seaside town of Hastings in East Sussex England. It was here the famous super tournament known as Hastings 1895 was played.

To set the period, electricity was starting to take hold in America with Westinghouse generators pumping out Tesla's AC versus Edison's DC since the late 1880's. This meant that lighting for the chess event's evening sessions may very well have been through electric means. For Chessloser, bicycle manufacturer Schwinn, was launched in Germany in this year. On the political front, France's President Casimir-Perier resigned in disgust on January 17 and was succeeded by FĂ©lix Faure. As the new government took office, the former premier Alexandre Ribot resumed his position as minister of finance, but after a financial scandal, he was forced into resignation once again.

Hasting's history can claim fame through its connection with the Norman conquest of England; and also because it became one of the medieval Cinque Ports. Hastings was, for centuries, an important fishing port; although much reduced, it has the largest beach-based fishing fleet in England. As with many other such places, the town became a watering place in the 1760s, and then, with the coming of the railway, a seaside resort.

In 1895, the Brassey Institute was place where the 22 participants battled for top prize of 150 British pounds. Players lodged in the Queen’s Hotel, except for Pillsbury. He explained: "I want to be quiet. I mean to win this tournament!"

Eighteen of the 22 players were pictured here:
(Standing: Albin, Schlechter, Janowski, Marco, Blackburne, Maroczy, Schiffers, Gunsberg, Burn, Tinsley. Seated: Vergani, Steinitz, Chigorin, Lasker, Pillsbury, Tarrasch, Mieses, Teichhmann. Missing: Henry Bird, Carl Walbrodt, Curt von Bardeleben,and James Mason,

In the rules of the event, the schedule included playing on Mondays-Wednesdays and Fridays and Saturdays. Thursdays were left for adjournments. The games began at 1PM in the afternoon, taking a two our break from 5-7PM. The games were to conclude by 10PM with no adjournment until 60 moves were reached in this round robin structure.

Time limits were 30 moves in two hours with subsequent time controls being 15 moves per hour. This led me to wonder what the the clocks may have looked like. I found the pictures below on the web of chess clocks of the 1890-1895 period.

My coverage of the games will begin on the next post. I decided to highlight a player per post covering the top half. Since Henry Edward Bird is the oldest of the contestants, at age 69, as well as being a young participant in the London 1851 event ( at the age of 25), I felt he'd be a good starting point to bridge the two events as I begin this summer series.
I hope you enjoy.
Editorial note: Bird is actually 65 in this event as he was only 21 at the London 1851 since his birthdate is July 14, 1830. I got age 69 from the Hastings 1895, centennial Edition as reported by the original Author, Horace F. Cheshire in the biography section of the book.

Monday, July 07, 2008

I made it over 1700!

Much to DK's precognition, I managed to win my last 4 games in a row to finish with a score of 5.5! The ratings aren't officially posted yet on USCF, But I do believe I picked up a few rating points to put me well over 1700! My highest rating yet!

This was a tough event. Its funny, even though I swore I wasn't going to get caught up in the money hype, I did end up at first thinking this was MY YEAR to win the section. The problem with that thought, was it was shared by perhaps 200 others who considered it THEIR year!

I played 8 games and won 5! Not too shabby in the U1800 section. I discovered that every time I played d4, Everyone played the King's Indian. After my first loss, I booked up to see where I was failing. Enough said. I came back fighting.

After the ninth round, I caught my third wind and ONCE AGAIN signed up for the blitz event. I played four of the double rounds before bagging it after a score of 3.5.

It was great to see all the fellow bloggers ( Chessloser, Likes Forests, Getting to 2000) and all the other neat people I met along the way.

I played some chess and had some fun.

My last video report is a short highlight of the old timers out there going out with their boots on...in particular, during the Blitz event. Truly an inspiration.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Last day

It's Sunday morning. I recovered 2 points yesterday now that the stress of the $20K is off the table. Paying the taxes on the winnings alone would have been horrible! I was able to play some chess yesterday and beat a couple of kids. Who knows what today has in store but this will be my last update until I return to Massachusetts.

This is for those who could not come to Philly. I leave you with this little fun video production of my perspective of the last few days:

Friday, July 04, 2008

I packed the wrong brain

OK, I'm near the half way point in the World open and I totally suck. I am recovering from 3 goose-eggs in a row. Yesterday's abysmal performance I could at least blame it on lack of sleep and mix up in schedules. I had to blitz last night's round because back in the may issue of Chess life, the evening rounds were posted for 7PM... but..NO... CCA had changed it and Chess life was screwed up. So 55 minutes into my time I had to make up for lost time. Blah.

So why do I suck today? I had a good night's sleep, I was up against someone 90 points lower rated than me... who, on a normal day I would have probably had him for lunch. My brain was like a processor running with no data cache, I was half asleep for the most part and my London system was a crock of luke warm boiled cabbage. Despite opening up my opponent's Kingside g-file after his fianchetto, I couldn't muster any attack. then the table turned, rather quickly as that same g-file was now a disadvantage and he came crashing down on me. I should have castled queen side... but at the moment... 0-0 looked right. "Should of, could of, would of," doesn't recover any of the rating points I am pissing away at the moment.

Man I suck. I HATE the way you think you finally hit your stride and think you start to get a grip on this game only to have the life forces sucked out of you because your brain turns to vegetable matter in hotel. Why is it, I am the only one who seems to suffer this and not my opponents? Grrrr... I'm taking a Bye tonight to recoup.

I pity the person tomorrow morning.

Great moments in sucking at chess... STAY TUNED!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

1-0 after 2 rounds

I lost the second round against the classical Dutch. I misplayed this with the wrong idea. I should have castled long here

and began a king side attack with pawns. Instead, I played 8. Ne5 going for the London e5 knight. Thematic is h3, 0-0-0, Rg1 and advancing the pawns.
On to round 3. I'll keep you all posted.

Blunderprone Presents: Prequil to Philly

First round complete. One victory 8 to go.

Met up with Chessloser and a couple other bloggers. Still haven't seen Likesforests yet.

Here is my Prequil to the trip done in blunderprone productions style: