Random Posts

Friday, August 30, 2013

Windows 8

      When my laptop’s mother board crapped out Best Buy wanted $400-500 to fix it…that’s more than the computer was worth so it meant a new laptop. Of course you can’t find one without Windows 8 on it, so that’s what I had to get and let me tell you, I positively hate the start screen! Those big icons really are annoying. 
      In addition, Best Buy wanted $90 to salvage the files off the hard drive in the deceased laptop. Can you believe it? The solution was to download a free program that makes the Windows 8 start screen look like Windows 7. There are two (and probably more) free, easy to use programs you can download. See my post on free stuff HERE.
      The solution for the other problem of getting files off my old hard drive was solved by going to Office Max and spending $16 for an Iocell Network 2.5" SATA Enclosure. The device got a couple of crappy reviews on the Office Max website along with one 5-star review. For me, it works great with Windows 8 and I essentially have a 500GB flash drive.

Classic Bishop Sacrifice

Kindle edition.

      The Art of Attack in Chess by Vukovic remains one of the best chess books ever written. In Algebraic notation! This is THE book you want if you want to study attacking chess. Weak squares, sacrifices, castled position... it's all here. Vukovic expounds both the basic principles and the most complex forms of attack on the king. The book is all about tactics and while it’s true Vukovic didn’t have a powerful engine to double check his analysis, he gives examples that will serve you well when contemplating an attack on your opponent’s King.  That said, I’d recommend playing over the games using an engine because there are some errors in analysis.
      The Classic Bishop Sacrifice is always popular; I’ve seen it played many times on the internet, usually by lower rated player who seem to think it’s an automatic win; it’s not. Even when the conditions are right, exact play is often required by BOTH the attacker and defender. Here a quick synopsis of the conditions required for the sacrifice to have a chance to succeed.

1-White must have a Q, N and B
2-The light squared B must be able to reach h7
3-The N must be able to reach g5
4-The Q must be in reach of h5 (or in some cases, any square on the h-file)

1-Pawns on f7 and g7 (In some cases g7 may have a B instead of a P) and h7 (or the h-Pawn may be missing or, rarely, on h5)
2-Q on d8 and R on f8. Note: this indicates the sacrifice may be good but does not guarantee it.
3-Black’s N should not be able to reach f6 4-Neither his Q nor B should be able to occupy the h7-b1 diagonal.

These are the basic conditions. Please note that even when the above conditions are met, there is no guarantee that the sacrifice is correct. Modifying the position in the Kottnauer-Kotov game shows some conditions where, due to some minor detail, the sacrifice does NOT work.
In this position after 1.Bxh7+ Kxh7 2.Ng5+ Kg6 3.Qg4 f5 the Q does not have access to the h-file. In the following position, the sacrifice is also incorrect.

1.Bxh7+ Kxh7 2.Ng5+ Kg6 3.Qg4 f6 [3...f5 4.Qh3 Ne4 5.Qh7+ Kf6 6.Qh4 Nxg5 7.Bxg5+ Kf7 and white's 'attack' has fizzled out.] 4.Nxe6+ Kf7 5.Qxg7+ Kxe6 6.Re1+ Ne4 7.Be3 Qd8 and, again, the 'attack' is over.

Enjoy Kottnauer's brilliancies against Kotov and Pachman (in the notes).

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Judge Alexander B. Meek

    Meek (1814-1865) is best known in the chess world as the president of the first American Chess Congress, but he had a very colorful history outside of chess.  A resident of Nashville, Tennessee, Judge Meek was born in Columbia, South Carolina and spent much of his life as a resident of Alabama where he was a prominent supporter of slavery.
      Meek had a distinguished career as a public servant. He served as Attorney General of Alabama in 1836-37, and Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under U.S. President James K. Polk. He became Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives and is credited with leading the way for the passage of a bill guaranteeing Alabama students their first free public education. Today in his honor, there are A.B. Meek schools in Arley and Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Meek trained for law and finished first in his class at the University of Alabama in 1833 at the age of 19.
      He was gifted in many areas including journalism, history, poetry, and politics. He was part of a group of poets called the “Tuscaloosa Bards.” Meek fought in the Seminole War and his best known poem (2000 lines long!) celebrates the bravery of the Indian chief, Red Eagle. Meek was the one who prepared the tombstone for Red Eagle, also known William Weatherford. Another poem, The Mocking-Bird, was later set to music and became one of a series of songs known as Songs of the South.
      As an historian Meek wrote book on the history of the Southwest and detail how in 1817, some of Napoleon’s generals were given a land grant in rural Alabama, and formed a small French colony. Things didn’t work out too well for the colonists, who eventually returned to France.
      Many contemporaries apparently had a high regard for Meek. An article appearing in the Southern Literary Messenger, February 1856, read “Meek, whether known as Alexander, as A.B. or Judge, has been guilty of good things. If we try to hum a song, ten to one that his ‘Mocking Bird’ or his ‘Come to the South’ …Friendship, Fidelity, Truth and Love have also made him their eloquent mouth-piece, and exhibited him the friend of the benevolent, no less than of literary enterprises.” Sounds like a nice guy, but his position on slavery was a blot even if it was a commonly accepted view. 
      Meek’s defense of slavery was based on the view that it was beneficial because it “has generated, upon the part of our white inhabitants, a spirit of superiority and self-esteem, a certain aristocracy of feeling, and a proud chivalry of character, which do not elsewhere so generally exist,” and that among a thousand other advantages it was necessary, in order to free people to devote their lives to the higher intellectual arts.” Typical of such people; no thought for the slaves, just themselves.
      Meek didn’t just pay lip service to slavery. As a prominent southern politician he also played a role in national politics. At the Republican convention of 1860 Meek was a Democratic delegate and he was the one who read to the convention the “Alabama Platform,” which declared that the territories (not the states) must be open to slavery with slave-owners’ rights vigorously enforced. The rejection of this proposal caused the Southern delegates to walk out of the convention and the Democratic Party splitting into the northern and southern factions. Short version: This resulted in a rather convoluted political mess that ended up allowing Abraham Lincoln to win the Presidency. Meek campaigned hard nationally for his candidate (John Breckenridge) and as a result took support away from Lincoln’s main adversary Senator Stephan Douglas. Meek was also involved in many, many other political issues of his day both locally and nationally.
      As a friend of the Morphy family, Meek was able to help persuade Paul Morphy to play in the First American Chess Congress in 1857. Morphy twice sent telegrams to the congress organizers saying he would not be able to attend however Meek brought a good deal of pressure to bear upon Morphy’s family and finally Morphy accepted the invitation about two weeks before the congress was scheduled to begin. Reporter Miron Hazeltine wrote in the Macon Telegraph (May 2nd, 1867) that it was evident that ties of honor and friendship existed between them. He described Meek’s attitude towards Morphy as that of a father watching over his son.
      In the following game from the 1st American Congress Meek adopts an unusual opening and quickly gets the upper hand against his apparently much weaker opponent. I don’t know what the opening is, but looking at it for a few minutes with Stockfish 4 suggests it’s not an entirely bad one. It might be worth experimenting with for the adventurous.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Reshevsky's Luck

    #1 In the 1942 US Championship he lost on time to Arnold Denker, but when the TD, the eccentric L. Walter Stephens, came up and picked up the clock from the back and turned it around he forfeited Denker. Despite his error being pointed out to him by Denker and the spectators, Stephens refused to reverse his decision. Reshevsky’s comment was, “It’s not my decision.” The result was Reshevsky tied for first with Isaac Kashdan and went on to win the playoff match.

#2 In the AVRO 1938 tournament Reshevsky had two adjourned games to play; one was scheduled in the morning and one in the afternoon. His morning game ended earlier than expected so the TDs called Rueben Fine, his afternoon opponent, to come and finish their adjourned game. Fine protested saying he was asleep and had not looked at the position. Threatened with a forfeit, Fine consented to resume play immediately. Reshevsky had a won position, but blundered into a drawn position, but Fine overstepped the time limit and lost.

#3 In the last round of the 1940 US Championship Reshevsky needed only a draw against Fine to secure first place. Fine surprised him with the Giuoco Piano and Reshevsky played poorly, ending up with a lost position. With the US Championship in his grasp, Fine miscalculated and lost.

#4 At the 1953 Zurich tournament Laszlo Szabo missed a mate in two against Reshevsky and only drew.

      His success in escaping from bad positions and time pressure earned him the title of “Escape Artist” from the leading Soviet players of the day. Reshevsky, on many occasions, offered draws in lost positions and his reputation was such that his opponents accepted.  
      Reshevsky usually played to win in the endings and his will to win was phenomenal. One spectator reported watching Reshevsky at play and his face was red and the veins in his forehead were actually pulsating.
      His openings were generally terrible and as a result he had to defend inferior positions coming out of the opening. He would tenaciously defend and play on and on until his opponent blundered. Denker described playing him was like having a bulldog clamped to your leg. Reshevsky never studied theory and his play was generally lacking in intuition, but he calculated and calculated. That explains his frequent time pressure escapades. In the opening he was often forced to calculate what his opponents already knew.
      Reshevsky was often perceived as a positional player, but all the players ‘in the know’ attributed his success to his enormous ability to calculate tactics. At one time, one of his favorite openings as white was the QGD, Exchange Variation because the fixed P-formation allowed him to calculate very deeply. This was typical; one rarely saw wild positions in his games because his habit was to never allow the tension to remain in the position in the form of Pawn captures. The reason was because he played by calculating long variations and it is difficult to do that with any great accuracy if there are a lot of Pawn captures available. In many of those Exchange Variation games he made the win look easy so for a long while I played it, but never had the success he did. In fact, most of the games were drawn.
     A taciturn man, Reshevsky never had much to say and it’s doubtful he actually wrote the book of his best games (Reshevsky On Chess); rumor is Fred Reinfeld ghosted it for $100. NM Jim Schroeder once asked Reshevsky about several facts appearing the ‘autobiography’ and Reshevsky had no idea what Schroeder was talking about. I  played Reshevsky an ‘instructional’ correspondence game and he didn’t offer anything even close to instruction. He did tell me one move was questionable because it allowed him to play …Bf5. Apparently he was unaware that it had appeared in a recent game between a couple of first class GMs (Donner and Kavalek, if memory serves) at Wijk aan Zee. He said, “Thank you.” when I wished him Happy Hanukah and, finally, “I believe this game is a draw.” That was the extent of his instruction!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mike Valvo

    IM Michael Valvo (April 19, 1942 in Albany, New York – September 18, 2004 in Chanhassen, Minnesota) was, by 1962, one of the top blitz players in the United States. He won the 1963 U.S. Intercollegiate Championship.
      Valvo was a graduate of Columbia University. He spent much of his life working with computers and is best known for his job as commentator for the Kasparov versus Deep Blue Matches in 1996 and 1997, but he accomplished many things in a chess career going back to the late 1950s.
      Valvo learned the game from his father Frank, who was also a USCF master. Michael made quick progress and in 1964 was a member of the U.S. team that competed in the 11th Student Olympiad in Cracow, Poland, in 1964 along with Bill Lombardy, Raymond Weinstein, Charles Kalme, Bernard Zuckerman and Mitchell Sweig. The Americans finished in fourth place behind the USSR, Czechoslovakia and Hungary.
      He quit playing chess in 1969, but came back and earned a FIDE rating of 2530 in the late 1970s after an excellent performance in a NY Futurity. FIDE awarded him the IM title in 1980. By 1976, Valvo had essentially dropped out of tournament chess and his rating was no longer published in the USCF rating lists, until Bill Goichberg and Jose Cuchi invited him to a futurity tournament. Valvo did well and his rating rose to 2440. However, Professor Arpad Elo refused to award Valvo the rating because Elo had never heard of Valvo and suspected that the tournament had been rigged.
      This matter was debated at the 1978 FIDE Congress in Buenos Aires and FIDE voted to give Valvo his 2440 rating. Valvo quickly proved that he really was a 2440 strength player and earned the International Master title. Valvo never played in the U.S. Chess Championship, but made his mark in computer chess, which became his primary focus.
      At every World Computer Chess Championship from the early 1980s until his death, Valvo was the organizer, moderator, commentator or acted in some official capacity. He also played a two game play by email match against Deep Thought, winning both games.
      A respected opening theoretician Valvo played 1.e4 for much of his career before adding the English to his repertoire. He was a life-long fan of the Dragon and a early pioneer (1963) of a Benko-gambit. He tested many of his lines in correspondence chess throughout his career. Valvo was a co-author of a book on the 1990 Kasparov-Karpov match and was the technical editor of Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess along with Raymond Weinstein. He did the game annotations for the 1966/67 US Championship bulletin. Valvo died of a heart attack.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Nimzovich Miniature

It always amazes me how just the teeniest error can cause one’s game to unravel when playing against a Grandmaster. Of this game, which appears in 1000 Best Short Games of Chess, Chernev wrote, “…his sacrifice of the Queen looks like the act of a desperate man --- until the wily plot unfolds."

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Stoyko Test

    FM Steve Stoyko has recommended what is known as the 'Stoyko Test' as a sure way to improve. This method has been endorsed by NM Dan Heisman and others. The same idea was put forth many years ago by CJS Purdy and Kenneth Smith.
      The idea is to improve you visualization and evaluation capabilities. First find a middlegame position that appears 'rich' in ideas...read 'messy'.  Then using  a paper and pencil (or a pen...your choice) write down everything you can visualize from the position, including your evaluation. Actually, keeping these tests in a notebook is even better. 
     You should be spending about an hour on the position. Don't move the pieces!! When you are finished run your analysis through an engine and look for:
1-Moves you missed
2-Errors in visualization
3-Positions you evaluated wrong
4-Lines where you stopped analyzing too soon.  This is important because stopping too soon can result in serious errors in evaluation.

More information and some sample positions can be found at the Kenilworth Chess Club Website.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Stockfish 4

SF4 is now available for download HERE.
Here are the latest results from the latest IPON Rating list

Stockfish 4 64 - Houdini 3 STD (3071)
Stockfish 4 64 - Komodo CCT (3036)
Stockfish 4 64 - Critter 1.4a (2974)
Stockfish 4 64 - Deep Rybka 4.1 (2952)
Stockfish 4 64 - Gull 2.1 (2944)
Stockfish 4 64 - Chiron 1.5 (2844)
Stockfish 4 64 - Protector 1.5.0 (2837)
Stockfish 4 64 - Naum 4.2 (2832)
Stockfish 4 64 - Hannibal 1.3 (2820)
Stockfish 4 64 - HIARCS 14 WCSC 32b (2812)
Stockfish 4 64 - Deep Shredder 12 (2800)