Friday, August 28, 2009

Have a heart for Chess

I'm busy this week getting ready for the American Heart Association chess related Fundraiser taking place THIS SUNDAY AT 1PM AT THE BOYLSTON CHESS CLUB details here . I have been reviewing Petrosian's games at the Zurich 1953 and will follow up soon with a post to continue my series.

In light of Mike Griffins lead at the BCC blog on how many chess players have died from heart disease extracted from Bill Wall's page on the death of chess players, I thought I'd augment this list in true blunderprone fashion with pictures to most of the names mentioned. This will be on display at the Event. I hope you all can come.
This hobby of ours is a deadly sport. Take care.

•Johann Allgaier (1763-1823) - dropsy
•Adolf Anderssen (1818-1879) - heart attack
•Vladimir Bagirov (1936-2000) - heart attack while playing chess in Finland
•Joseph Blackburne (1841-1924) - heart attack
•Efim Bogoljubov (1889-1952) - suffered a heart attack after a simultaneous display
•Gyula Breyer (1893-1921) - heart disease
•A. Deschapelles (1780-1847) - hydropsy
•Max Euwe (1901-1981) - heart attack
•Aivars Gipslis (1937-2000) - stroke while playing chess in Berlin
•Eduard Gufeld (1936-2002) - stroke
•Paul Keres (1916-1975) - died of a heart attack returning home from a tournament in 1975.
•George Koltanowski (1903-2000) - heart failure at the age of 93
•Emanuel Lasker (1868-1941) - heart attack
•Frank Marshall (1877-1944) - died of a heart attack after leaving a chess tournament
•Edmar Mednis (1937-2002) - pneumonia and cardiac arrest
•Paul Morphy (1837-1884) - died of a stroke while taking a cold bath
•Miguel Najdorf (1910-1997) - heart attack
•Cecil Purdy (1906-1979) - died of a heart attack while playing chess
•Samuel Reshevsky (1911-1992) - heart attack
•Gideon Stahlberg (1908-1967) - heart attack during the 1967 Leningrad International tournament.
•Howard Staunton (1810-1874) - died of a heart attack while writing a chess book
•Johann Zukertort (1842-1888) - died of a stroke while playing chess at a London coffee-house

Monday, August 17, 2009

What the hell happened?

The best laid plans sometimes goes astray. This was the case in preparing and playing at this year’s Continental Open. Of the six rounds, I got to play only 4 and lost ALL FOUR rounds.

The Good:

John, from Endgame clothing Tee-shirts shipped me a shirt for me to debut at the event. I liked the “label-less” design making it an extremely comfortable tee around the neck. I felt like it rivaled the magical powers of the fabled three wolf moon shirt which seems to be reaching cult-lke status. I think we should start similar stories with these fine shirts from endgame clothing. They definitely made me feel all Caro-Kann like. Which leads me to my next good point, I got to play the 4…Nd7 variation of the mainline Caro-Kann ( more on this later). Chess serves a good diversion from life’s other stresses and believe me, despite losing all four games, I needed this diversion this weekend in particular.

Plus, I got to distribute flyers for the Fundraising Chess event. I also got another donation over the weekend. Thanks to all who have contributed to this good cause.

The Bad:

Our youngest child of teenage angst, decided to pick THIS weekend to act up in a way that I can’t get into here. All I will say is that instead of round 3 on Saturday morning, my wife and I were talking to the police and our anniversary plans for Monday were put on hold due to a sudden requirement to bring said child to Juvenile court. Things had been building up for the past couple weeks which took my energy away from preparing for this event. Why didn’t I just withdraw? Chess is my meditation. Because our daughter acted up in such an extreme way, we both needed a diversion to regroup before court on Monday. My wife, who is not all that found of these events, chose to come with me to decompress as we had the older siblings ( all in their 20’s) keeping watch on the troublemaker. Otherwise, there might have been blood shed had we not sought respite.

The Ugly:

I had a bye for the first round because of work schedules so I went into round 2 not so fresh. I was paired with some Asian kid fresh from soccer camp and god knows who which GM-class chess coach was funded by the parents for this event. He played the advanced against my CK. I actually had a strong center. All it took was one move and letting down my guard of checks and balances. Instead of double rooks on the c-file, I doubled on the f-file because that choice initially looked cool. As soon as I lifted my finger I saw the combination which ended up dropping a piece.

Round 3 I had to frantically contact Bill Goichberg for an emergency Bye. I made it to round 4 in a cloud, I had white, 1.d4 d5 2. c4 e5 I was already out of MY book and never prepared for this… yes … I know… it can be a fairly common response to QGD, but I never had encountered it before this time and had been playing d4 for quite some time. Instinct had me taking e5 3. dxe5 d4 4. e3 Bb4+ 5 Bd2 dxe3 6. Bxb4 exf2+ 7. Ke2 fxg1=N+ 8. Ke1 Qh4+ 9 g3 Qe4+ white resigns. He showed me several typical lines of this particularly sharp game. The problem was that I was dulled by all the external events. Thank you for the brutal lesson.
It gets worse. Round 5, what do I play against 1.b3? I try to channel my hypermodern ancestors, Alekhine, Reti and Tartakower. I decide to play to control the center, I come out of the opening with 2 pawns and it looks like I finally have a great game. But no, my mind was still clouded and I remove my defender of king side, the knight on f6. That’s all it took. He plants a queen on g3 and with the impending doom from his long range archer on b2 snatched defeat from jaws of victory.

Lastly, round 6, I get to play 4…Nd7 against some other poor soul having a bad tournament. He plays the more passive 5 Nf3 Ngf6 6.Ng3. I was prepared for the Ng5 and Bc4 lines which were sharper. This passive line allows me to set up normally like the mainline and I even got the c5 move in and had time to maneuver into position. But once I got all my players in place, I attempted to get complicated and started a dubious attack on his King side which lead to dropping a knight and the point.

I’m not freaking too badly over the HUGE LOSS OF RATINGS. The beauty of chess is that there’s always next time. Heck, if my rating drops enough maybe I can be a menace at the next event by playing in a lower section! I needed to take my mind off the other issues for a brief period of time, this was just what the doctor ordered. I think my rating will recover sooner than my child not being grounded.
I will return to the Zurich series in the next post covering Petrosian.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Blunderprone Presents: Have a heart for Chess!

It might save a life.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

In conjunction with the Boylston Chess Club, Blunderprone wishes you to join IM David Vigorito for a brief lecture with a Q&A followed by a Simultaneous Exhibition starting at 1PM at the Boylston Chess club (BCC). The proceeds will go to help the American Heart association.

Here’s Why:

Unfortunately, too many of us have a loved one affected by heart disease or stroke. To help stop this, George Duval ( aka Blunderprone) along with others in the chess community will be participating in this year's Start! Heart Walk on September 12, 2009 benefiting the American Heart Association. You can help raise funds and protect those you love by participating in something fun and chess related.

Fee: $20 for both BCC and Non-BCC members, remember this is a fundraiser. Make checks payable to American Heart Association.

Your contribution will make a difference in the fight against our nation's No. 1 and No. 3 killers: heart disease and stroke.

Where: Boylston Chess Club; 240 Elm St., Suite B9; Somerville, Massachusetts 02144
(617) 629-3933 SUNDAY FREE PARKING !
When: Sunday August 30, 2009 at 1PM
Registration: 12:00 – 12: 45.

“Blunderprone” promises to make this a fun event for all levels of expertise as he guarantees no one will lose any USCF rating points.
Bonus: You might actually be saving someone’s life.

If you can’t attend but wish to make a donation to the AHA’s heart walk, follow this link through George’s Blog at ( click on the thermometer on the right)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Evolutionary view of the Main-line Caro-Kann to the 4…Nd7

This essay is a brief cursory look at the evolutionary track of this relatively young Defense for black as explored by an amateur chess historian hack.

Max Weiss plays with Mikhail Chigorin

Pre-historic Caro-Kann
Looking back over a 100 years, I decided to dig into the history of who in their right minds would play the Caro-Kann. As the story goes, back in 1886 Horatio Caro printed an analysis that he and Marcus Kann did on the move order 1.e4 c6 and it’s merits. This came at a time when the swashbuckling era of the romantic age of chess was being tempered by the dawn of the classical era known more for it’s positional style. Steinitz was transitioning in this period from his aggressive attacking style to what some claimed as heresy with his new “weaker” positional style. At the time, the French defense was the solid alternative to a mirrored e-pawn game but that came with the “burden” of developing Black’s problem child, the Queen’s Bishop.

Doing some data-mining on earlier C-K games shows a Skotish Master John Cochrane to be one of the first to encounter this defense as white ( search in with Somacarana employing it in Calcutta. in 1856. One of these early games transposed to the Bird as King’s gambit was still in flavor back then. For the most part, white played an exchange variation with 2.Nf3

Winawer shows up in 1883 on the Black side and successfully beats Josef Noa in an early exchange variation that has Nf3 before Nc3. Max Weis in 1883 had the most success with 1…c6 in an early exchange variation with Bd3 played before Nf3. His draw against Paulsen, shows a stronger exchange variation with Nc3 played before Nf3 and resembles most of what we see today in the exchange variation with themes around going after the Bishop via Nh4 etc.

Dawn of the Caro-Kann:

In 1885, Marcus Kann beats Jacques Mieses with what appears to be a close resemblance to the modern advanced variation (1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 ). Mieses exchanges bishops on d3 and plays f4. Not having seen the translation of Die Bruederschaft, the publication where Horatio Caro published the analysis in 1856, I suspect this game along with the explorations of Max Weis and others was a frame of reference.

Steinitz makes no mention of this opening in his landmark book, The Modern Chess Instructor.

Oddly enough, in looking at the games of Horatio Caro, he didn’t play this opening all that much. The first occurrence of Horatio playing this is against Pillsbury in 1905. He employs the 4…Nf6 version and loses in a game that left his king in the center. In he same year, he plays the same variation and loses to Moritz Lewitt at the Berlin Championship in 1905 in round 6 of the match. You see a now classic maneuver of the white knight being allowed to capture the Bishop on h5 followed by Qa5 check and sliding over to capture the piece back. But he gets into trouble by leaving his queen vulnerable for a double attack. He comes back in round 8, he sticks to the same variation and wins with more cautious play. By round 12 he beats Lewitt with a variation now seen today in the main line 4….Bf5.

Mainline Caro- Kann with 4…Bf5 ( Tarrasch Talking the Caro-Kann)
By this time, Siegbert Tarrasch mentions this opening in his 1931 book, The Game of Chess ( available online at google books for free) as “…cannot be considered as theoretically correct since (1…c6) does nothing towards development. In actual practice, however, as recent experience has shown, it can quite well be played since it sets the first player the enormously difficult problem of maintaining and increasing his slight advantage from the opening, and in attempting to solve the problem it is very easy to go astray”
This doesn’t come as no surprise since his rivals, mainly the hypermoderns, were experimenting with this defense. Nimzovitch, Reti, and Tartakower all played this line in the 1910’s. It wasn’t until Jose Raul Capablanca came along and had some successes with this line that some wanted to call this the Capablanca Variation. It really was Flohr who popularized this defense in the 1930’s and 40’s.

The problem with the main line, 1.e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 , is that if White plays aggressively enough and goes after the Bishop, Black’s game is centered around trying to equalize. Central control is temporarily suspended as he must find a safe haven for the Bishop. White’s strongest lines are to go after the Bishop with the h-pawn and create further weaknesses in Black’s pawn structure. White must maintain constant pressure though as Black can recoil once given the initiative.

This led Flohr to explore new methods. Going back to old Nf6 lines drew him to 4… Nd7 to set up 5…Nf6. It was a means to keep the center active and allows similar piece set ups like the main line.

Moving to 4…Nd7

Smyslov, Petrosian and Flohr were all playing this line in the 1950’s and 60’s. It was at first considered a drawing line. White’s early successes found 5. Bc4 to be a strong line especially if followed up with 6Ng5 , castling long and opposite of Black’s kingside castle only to be followed by a pawn storm.
Enter, Anatoly Karpov, who took this project on and discovered the solid pawn structure for Black and no early h-pawn pushes from White lead to some better endgames for Black. It also opened up strong attacking lines with opposite side castling and piece sacrifices.

Recently, the sharpest line against the 4….Nd7 line is 5Ng5. The most important game is Gary Kasparov’s defeat against Deep Blue. 1.e4 c6, Normally a Sicilian player, Kasparov decided to play this closed line against the computer 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Ng5; Joel Benjamin was very helpful in fine tuning the algorithm for this project and programmed this sharp line.
This relatively recent innovation breaks one of the classic opening principles ("don't move the same piece twice in the opening"), but puts pressure on the weak f7 square. Kasparov had played this move himself as White at least three times earlier. 5...Ngf6 6.Bd3 e6 7.N1f3 h6??

A strange blunder by Kasparov, one of the most theoretically knowledgeable players in chess history. Did Kasparov get his opening moves mixed up, playing ...h6 a move too early? He argues that the played this because the computer played “materially” in earlier games. The normal 7...Bd6 8.Qe2 h6 9.Ne4 Nxe4 10.Qxe4 was played in Kasparov(!)-Kamsky, 1994 and Kasparov-Epishin, 1995, among other games. The upcoming sacrifice is well known to theory and Kasparov knew about it (in fact, there are some reports that he even wrote an article supporting 8.Nxe6 as a refutation). He didn’t know that Joel programmed it to play the next move without calculating.

8.Nxe6! The rest of this sad turn of events follows: 8...Qe7 9.0-0 fxe6 10.Bg6+ Kd8 11.Bf411...b512.a4 Bb7 13.Re1 Nd5 14.Bg3 Kc8 15.axb5 cxb5 16.Qd3 Bc6 17.Bf5
17...exf5 18.Rxe7 Bxe7 19.c4 Black Resigns

This wasn’t a deep dive by any means but I felt like sharing my evolutionay study in the mainline of this relatively young opening known as the Caro-Kann. I play the main line and now am eager to play the 4…Nd7 variation in an upcoming event.

Yes, I detail my repertoire liberally here on my blog. When I play you, I expect a good game now. You’d better be prepared, I want to learn this one!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

A midsummer’s night slump

Between vacations and sporatic Zurch 1953 coverage, my OTB chess experience has bled 50 points. This is in direct opposition of my goal to brake the 1800 USCF ratings barier by end of year. I am suspending reporting on the biographies of the last five players in this series ( Petrosian, Reshevsky, Keres, Bronstein and Smyslov) for the Month of August as I revamp my training regimen for a couple of upcoming events.

In looking at my most recent losses, these games took a bad turn based purely on calculation and tactical blunders. Since the MDLM days, I’ve really slacked off on the effort of studying tactics and it shows in my games. Which sucks, since I put a lot of effort over a year ago in this area before shifting to positional understand through studying historic game collections. At least I am understanding positional games a little better but I still miss fire when it comes to picking middle game targets. A bad plan is better than no plan… but sheesh, enough of the blood shed already. I need to be able to execute a good plan and not create weaknesses.

Short term goal and plan:

I am playing the Continental Open on August 14-16, which means I need to get my game back up to par.

Daily Tactics:
Oddly, endgames are a strong point for me ( must be the training I had from Jorge Samour-Hasbun still sticking well with me from almost 2 years ago) Since my problem happens earlier in the game with more pieces still on the board, I will tailor my problem set accordingly.
1) I am going to select a series of exercises from my own games.
2) I am going to augment this training set with selected problems after a review of “miniatures” of Master-level games in my repertoire database.

The above tactical training will consume 70% of my allocated chess study time since I need to convert these problems to 3D on a real board.

Opening RX:

1) My White pieces are kinder than the Black ones. Therefore, for White I will only fine tune my repertoire by review select games in the Zurich 1953 series for NI games since this is my weakest link.
2) Black: I’m not going to abandon the Caro-Kann at this point, but I am getting tired of the positional consolation with the main line Bf5 line. It’s time I try the 4…Nd7. Oddly, this is called the Petrosian-Smyslov variation but during Zurich 1953, neither played this line. This was popularized during the 1950’-60’s only later to have new life revived with Anatoly Karpov. For August, I will post on my studies of this again, drawing in the history stuff which helps me remember these lines in a deeper sense.

3) As for my Slav, I think it’s high time I embrace the Meran variation… as the there will be some similarities of the two. I hope to synergize. Again, future posts will included a historic study of these two openings in preparation. This will take up 20% of the chess study time as well.

I have my work cut out for me. I am somewhat familiar with these two variations but never dared debuted either at an event. The Continental will be the waters I set sail on this new journey.

Middle game:
Keep playing over whole games of those in my repertoire and annotate. ( this will be a part of opening study from above).

Final 10% of the time is allocated to games review of my practice at the club, ICC, and other practices.

After the event, I will post my games for all its warts and shame and glory.

I am also in the process of organizing a chess related fund raiser with a local IM to raise money for the American Heart Association’s up coming Heart Walk. Tentatively, this will be at the end of the month. Stay tuned for the announcement. So August is a busy month. I apologize for those readers eager to follow Zurich 1953. I promise to return in full force in September.

I am also looking into a new coach this fall. I liked Jorge but schedules are rough, I think I found another, who is well versed in my opening mess.