Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Last Monday of 2016 Had Everything

Girls and guys play chess at LCCC.
 Ten players made it out on a really cold winter night.

We hosted our 2016 - 2017 Action Tournament - round 2.

We had casual chess played as an LCCC member came all the way from West Point to see the club members while visiting family. Hello Zade and thank you for your service!

We had three new members stop by the club; Aaron, Cole and Ty. Welcome all!

We had some chess lessons given to our newest and close to youngest members.

We had some game analysis, where several of us gathered around and tried to find the "best" move.

Just an overall fun night of chess action.

Now a reminder that the Chess Club will be closed for the next two Mondays. We return on January 9, 2017 with the continuation of Round 2.

Lets take a look at a game from a past tournament:

1. d4               e6
2. Bf4             f5
3. e3               Nf6
4. Nf3             Be7
5. c3               O-O
6. Bd3            d6
7. Qc2            Qe8
8. Nbd2           a5
9. Bc4             Kh8
10. Ng5           d5
11. Bd3           Ne4

Position after Black's 11th move

White should consider castling before starting trades in the center of the board.
Black should consider developing his queen side pieces as they will be needed soon.

12. h4             Qh5?
This move will lose a tempo (or waste a move). 12. ....c5 keeps the game even. 12. .....Bd7 is OK also.
According to the computer grandmaster Igor3000, White now has a two pawn advantage positionally (+2).

13. Be2           Qe8
See the lost move? Black is forced to retreat. White got move 12 for free.

14. Bxc7         Nxg5
15. hxg5         Bxg5
16. Nf3           Bf6
17. Bd3          Nc6
18. O-O-O      Bd7
19. g4             Rc8
20. Bd6          Be7
21. Be5?        .........  
This move allows Black to trade a "bad" knight for a "good" bishop, as the knight is doing very little and the White bishop is well placed. This would allow Black to ease the pressure he  feels on the dark squares. But, alas Black had more aggressive (but not as good) plans. (+1.3)

21. ........         Nb4
22. Qb1?!        .........

Position after White played 22. Qb1 ?!

This move looks natural (+.5), but White is losing ground. This is where computers - or most grandmasters - can simply out-calculate us mere mortals. White had; 22. gxf5, Nxc2 23. fxe6, h5 24. exd7, Qxd7 25. Rxh5, Kg8 26. Rg1, Rf6 27. Rxg7, Kxg7 28. Rxh7, Kg8 and White's advantage grows to (+4).

22. ..........        Nxd3?
Trading errors, although White has a better excuse as queen sacs are scary to even consider. 22. ...Bb5 would keep Black alive by adding pressure. The knight is safe because the pawn is pinned. This trade simply lowers Black's power on the queen side and gives White less to worry about. Chess addage here: "To take is a mistake". (+1.5)

23. Qxd3         b5?
Needed was 23. ......Bb5 as it restricts White's queen. Also better was 23. .... Kg8 to get out from the h1 White rook x-ray attack. (+3) Time pressure is making Black stumble along without a plan.

24. gxf5          exf5
25. Rdg1         Rg8??
The losing move. 25. ....Rf7 allows Black's queen a chance to help out on the g-file or it allows the King an escape square. Instead the queen is blocked and the king entombed.

26. Nh4?        ........
White had a faster win with 26. Qf1 as you follow it with 27. Rxh7+, Kxh7 28. Qh3+

26. ........         b4?
One last hope for Black was 26. ...... Bxh4.

27. Ng6+         Qxg6
28. Rxg6         bxc3
29. bxc3           Black Resigns

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Learning Chess at Forty-ish

Father - son chess is fun also!

Learning Chess at Forty
By Tom Vanderbuilt, From The Week, September 30, 2016
My 4-year-old daughter and I were deep in a game of checkers one day about three years ago when her eye drifted to a nearby table. There, a black-and-white board bristled with far more interesting figures, like horses and castles. "What's that?" she asked. "Chess," I replied. "Can we play?" she asked. I nodded absently.
There was just one problem: I didn't know how. I dimly remembered having learned the basic moves in elementary school, but it never stuck. This fact vaguely haunted me through my life; idle chessboards in hotel lobbies or puzzles in weekend newspaper supplements teased me like reproachful riddles.
And so I decided I would learn, if only so I could teach my daughter. The basic moves were easy enough to pick up. But it soon became apparent, however, that I had no concept of the larger strategy. The chess literature was dauntingly huge, and achingly specific, with several-hundred-page tomes devoted to unpacking single openings.
So, time-starved and not wanting to curse my daughter with my ill-formed knowledge, I hired a coach to teach us both.
It wasn't long before it struck me that chess seemed to be a game for the young. When my daughter began doing scholastic tournaments, I would chat up other parents and ask whether they played — usually the reply was an apologetic shrug and a smile. I would explain that I, too, was learning to play, and the resulting tone was cheerily patronizing: Good luck with that! Reading about an international tournament, I was struck by a suggestion that a grandmaster had passed his peak. He was in his 30s. We are used to athletes being talked about in this way. But a mind game like chess?
Although it scarcely occurred to me at the time, my daughter and I were embarking on a sort of cognitive experiment. We were two novices, attempting to learn a new skill, essentially beginning from the same point but separated by some four decades of life. I had been the expert to that point in her life — in knowing what words meant, or how to ride a bike — but now we were on a curiously equal footing. Or so I thought.
I began to regularly play online, do puzzles, and even leafed through books like Bent Larsen's Best Games. I seemed to be doing better with the game, if only because I was more serious about it. When we played, she would sometimes flag in her concentration, and to keep her spirits up, I would commit disastrous blunders. In the context of the larger chess world, I was a patzer — a hopelessly bumbling novice — but around my house, at least, I felt like a benevolently sage elder statesman.
And then my daughter began beating me.
The age question is hoary in chess. Indeed, one of the earliest discussions of the now universal player ranking system called the Elo rating (named for its inventor, Arpad Elo) was in a 1965 article in The Journal of Gerontology. Using his novel statistical analysis, Elo found that the peak age for master-level chess performance was around 36, with a slow, steady decline after that.
That was then. Today, chess is only getting younger. Neil Charness, a professor of psychology at Florida State University, has long studied the question of chess and performance. "Bobby Fischer became a grandmaster at age 15," he says. "Then Judit Polgar beat his record." And then Sergey Karjakin beat Polgar, by doing it in 2002 at age 12. "The record of the youngest age to achieve grandmaster status," Charness tells me, "keeps getting beat." Magnus Carlsen, the world's current top-ranked player, was the youngest player to reach No. 1, at age 19. Charness notes that "younger players are getting skilled faster than they used to," thanks, in part, to better tools and better feedback: Sophisticated computer engines, databases, the ability to play players of any level at any time of the day.
Chess — which has been dubbed the "fruit fly" of cognitive psychology — seems a tool that is purpose-built to show the deficits of an aging brain. The psychologist Timothy Salthouse has noted that cognitive tests on speed, reasoning, and memory show age-related declines that are "fairly large," "linear," and, most alarming to me, "clearly apparent before age 50." And there are clear consequences on the chessboard. In one study, Charness had players of a variety of skills try to assess when a check was threatened in a match. The more skilled the player, the quicker they were able to do this, as if it were a perceptual judgment, essentially by pattern recognition stored up from previous matches. But no matter what the skill level, the older a player was, the slower they were to spot the threat of a check.
As we get older, there is one thing at which we get worse: being a novice. Charness, in one study, had subjects of various ages learn a novel word-processing application; some were experienced with similar programs, others were novices. The older the novice, the longer it took them to learn. "If you're talking about two novices," Charness said, when I asked him about my daughter, me, and chess, "your daughter would probably pick things up about twice as fast as you could." My daughter is, in effect, learning chess like a first language, whereas I am learning it like a second language.
Her brain, like a chessboard at the beginning of a game, is still full of infinite possibility, bristling with countless synapses that have yet to be "pruned." As the neuroscientist Peter Huttenlocher noted in Brain Research, a 7-year-old, like my daughter is today, has a brain that is almost fully formed but has a "synaptic density" some 36 percent higher than the adult mean. She is, in a sense, still making sense of the world, and as she does, those synapses are closed — like emptying one's hard drive of little-used applications in order to help optimize overall performance.
What was happening in my brain-as-chessboard, by contrast, seemed more like a cagey, defensive middle-game battle, in which I was trying to hold on to pieces in the face of a closing denouement.
Denise Park, the director of research at the University of Texas Center for Vital Longevity, described what was happening to me in unsettling terms. "As you get older, you actually see clear degradation of the brain, even in healthy people. Your frontal cortex gets smaller, your hippocampus — the seat of the memory — shrinks." My brain volume is atrophying annually, my cortical thickness dropping some 0.5 percent a year.
It was my daughter's sense of effortlessness that got to me. Where I would carefully ponder the board, she would sweep in with lightning moves. Where I would carefully stick to the scripts I had been taught — "a knight on the rim is dim" — she seemed to be making things up. After what seemed a particularly disastrous move, I would try to play coach for a moment, and ask, "Are you sure that's what you want to do?" She would shrug. I would feel a momentary shiver of pity and frustration; "It's not sticking," I would think. And then she would deliver some punishing pin on the queen, or a deft back rank attack I had somehow overlooked.
I would sometimes wander into the room when Coach Simon was there, watching him present her with some puzzle on the board. I would struggle toward some solution, feeling smug, only to find I had completely botched it. My daughter, meanwhile, swiftly moved the right piece into position. He would shoot me a look, beaming at her precociousness.
I was proud, I was frustrated. There are surely fewer greater parental satisfactions than to see one's progeny doing well at something. But there is an altogether different feeling — a sobering slap of pathos, a vague sense of alarm that some genie has been let out of a bottle — when they exceed you on the same task.
When a person who still cannot always successfully tie her own shoes, who has yet to do long division, can beat me at the royal game. She was Deep Blue, and I was the human race, being slowly outmoded.
I resisted the idea that I was just too old. I was stubbornly proud, competitive, but also curious. Was it just age, or was my daughter an inherently better player?
I returned to the experts for reassurance. Park told me I was most likely at the peak of my cognitive power. For all my daughter's seemingly spritely processing power, I had higher-order capacities I could draw upon. "If you're younger, you can process information super-fast," she told me, "but you may not know what to do with that information as you process it."
There are, I learned, two forms of intelligence: "fluid" and "crystallized." Fluid intelligence is, basically, being able to think on one's feet, to solve new problems. Crystallized intelligence is what a person already knows — wisdom, memories, metacognition. Even if I was only learning chess for the first time, I had a lifetime of play behind me. Fluid intelligence is generally seen to favor the young, with the crystallized variety rewarded by age (though there are many exceptions). Old mathematicians doing their best work are as rare as young Supreme Court justices. Chess, especially at the top levels, can encompass both fluid and crystallized intelligence — one needs the firepower to quickly think through a novel position, but it also helps to draw upon a deep reservoir of past games (grandmasters like Carlsen can often identify a historical game with a glimpse at a single position).
Of course, my daughter, like most children her age, has not memorized a huge library of games; nor does she consciously think in terms of higher-level strategy. She seems to play with some brute instinct, pure fluid intelligence. As Daniel King, a London-based retired professional chess player who now analyzes and commentates chess matches, tells me, "Children just kind of go for it — that kind of confidence can be very disconcerting for the opponent."
When I asked Coach Simon about the differences he sees in trying to teach beginner children and beginner adults, he said, "Adults need to explain to themselves why they play what they play. Kids don't do that. It's like with languages. Beginner adults learn the rules of grammar and pronunciation, and use those to put sentences together. Little kids learn languages by talking."
Here was my opening. I would counter her fluidity with my storehouses of crystallized intelligence. I was probably never going to be as speedily instinctual as she was. But I could, I thought, go deeper. I could get strategic. I began to watch Daniel King's analysis of top-level matches on YouTube. I could simply put in more effort.
The house took on a war-room atmosphere. Then, months into her winning streak, I beat my daughter at chess twice in a row. Even if I had to work twice as hard to do it.
I learned that, as good as my daughter is at launching aggressive attacks, at almost clinically probing my weaknesses, she has a blind spot: what I am doing. She played, in those games, as if I were just some lower-level chess engine making haplessly random moves. Indeed, when I made my moves, her eyes would often drift elsewhere — as if what I was doing was almost inconsequential to the larger game. She failed to spot that my seemingly minor, unthreatening moves were all part of a larger strategic purpose. Against her onrushing fluidity, I was laying in a minefield of crystallized traps.
It was, in the end, a Pyrrhic victory. Not only has she since beaten me many times, but there was the look in her eyes as I checkmated her a second time. For whatever the games had taught me about brains young and old, about the different ways we learn and deploy our cognitive resources, they also taught me that the only thing harder than losing to your daughter in chess is winning against her.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Monday 121216 Snowed Out - Tourney Continues Next Week 121916

James Dean knew that chess is always cool.

Well, the weather closed the schools - which in turn closed our club meeting place. Such is winter in Michigan.

But we will press on next week with some hot tournament action and the usual casual games and lessons for beginners ......if you want them.

Here is an on-line Chess 960 game picked up after the castling options have been exhausted. White holds a slight lead according to Igor3000 of almost a full pawn (+.9).

But Black quickly more than  doubles White's advantage by not seeing a standard chess 'problem' of having an enemy rook x-raying your King thru a single pawn.

If you can't get your king out of the way (Black doesn't) then you better not "tax" that pawn with the added burden of protecting another pawn or square also (Black does) (+2.6). Ouch!

White to make move #15 (board correct but reversed)

15. axb3        f6?
16. e5!          dxe5
17. dxe5       Nd7
18. exf6        exf6
19. Bxf6       Nxf6
20. Rxf6       Rf7
21. Qg6        Qe5
Black has been able to fight back some as White wasted time not getting his other rook in the game (+1.3).

22. Rcf1        Rcc7
23. Qh6+       Kg8
24. Rg6+       Rg7
25. Rff6         Qe1+??
Black has been playing good defense until this move. He must of simply got tired of being the punching bag and decided to strike back. The only problem is that more defense with 25. ......Rcf7 was required as it challenges White's pressure.
This move for Black falls under the Bad Move category of "Worthless Checks". Black forces White to protect his king - not only stopping any later counter-play chances for himself, but leaving his own king less guarded (+9).

26. Bf1       Qe3+
27. Kg2      Qd2+
28. Rf2       Qd5+
29. Kg1      ........
Now Black has nothing.

29. .......       b5
30. Rd6       Nf7
31. Rxd5     Nxh6
32. Rd8+     Kh7
33. Bd3+     Rg6
34. Rf6        Rcg7?
The best was 34. .....Ng4 ...played now.

35. Rdd6       Ng4
36. Bxg6+     Black Resigns

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

2016 Action Tourney Continues - and an Action Game

Chess study is not only good for you .......but fun! (He is actually happy! Honest)
The Club hosted some hot tournament action on a cold Monday evening.

Here is a game for your viewing pleasure. It's a wild affair where things turn around quickly. Its a lesson in the fact that sometimes a safely castled king is more valuable than a pot of material.

1. e4          c5
2. Nf3        Nc6
3. c3          Nf6
4. e5          Nd5
5. d4          cxd4
6. cxd4      d6
7. Nc3       Nxc3
8. bxc3      Bg4
9. Bb5       Qa5
White to make move #10

(diagram 1)

The game at this point is fairly even with - according to Igor3000 - White holding a (+.4) of a pawn lead. 10. Qb3 holds this advantage, but both players appear to be in a 'battling' mood in this game. White's next move makes the game even with proper play by Black.

10. Qa4       Qxc3?
White grabs - again according to Igor3000 - a (+2.4) pawn lead. But we humans do not calculate 2 million moves a second and see 5 variations, 17 moves deep in 2 minutes to near perfection.

Black, according to what most humans will deduce, is about to destroy any hope White has in this game.
The best move for Black at this point - believe it or not - was 10. ....Qxa4 with equality.

11. Bd2        Qxa1+
12. Ke2        Bxf3??
Another blunder, although neither player sees it as one. As a matter of fact, Black's 12th move was the move White most feared when it was played because it took even more of his army off the board. However, Igor3000 says White is now UP (+6.3) pawns despite being down all this material! Black actually needed 12. .......Qb2 to stay only (+2.4) pawns down. Amazing!
Position after Black's 13th move.

Yes, chess is amazing. That is why we love this game.

13. Kxf3      Qxh1??
 (diagram 2)

The losing move. 13. .......Qb2 was still the only hope. Even though Black would still be down (+7.4) pawns!

White is actually contemplating resigning here. But, he thinks, what the heck. The queen move to a4 was designed to win a pawn, so lets at least win that.

14. Bxc6        Kd8

Now White says to himself.....
"What is Black so afraid of? Why didn't he just take the bishop? There has to be a reason."

That gets White to start thinking.
HINT: That is usually a good idea in a chess game.

Then White sees what Igor saw all along!

15. Ba5+          b6
16. Bxb6+       axb
17. Qxa8+       Kc7
18. Qb7+         Kd8
19. Qd7#

There are a couple lessons here.
1. Make sure is king is safe (castled and away from ALL the remaining enemy forces before burying your Queen in the corner of the board.
2. Think - no matter how bad your position looks! Sometimes miracles present themselves.
3. Never give up looking for a counter strike!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Six Players on a Cold 112816 Monday - But 2nd Chance Tourney Entry Monday

The best United States player and world's best blitz player - Hikaru Nakamura
It was a cold and rainy night and that probably dampened the turnout.
The tournament started with 6 entries with one pairing postponed due to some scheduling confilicts.

Thats ok - cause we roll with things like bad weather and scheduling issues at LCCC.

Looks like we should have more entries this coming Monday, so some tournament action will be held this coming week, along with our usual lessons and casual chess.

It also means on Dec 5, the 2nd round will begin with the entire tourney field all together.

Round 3 is Jan 9 and Round 4 is Jan 23, so this tournament is not an every week commitment.

Be sure to get to the Club by 6:30 this Monday to make sure you get a seat in this fun event. You don't want to miss it.

So here is an interesting endgame. Early notes are by an Expert (playing Black against another Expert) and an International Master - without the benefit of a computer. [Igor3000 will chime in].

White to move.

[The notes show what was played and how Black loses the game. Igor3000 has Black actually winning right now at -.30 of a pawn in a drawn endgame if played Igor-esque. But of course what makes chess so much fun is that humans are not Igor-esque.]

39. g4!          Kc5

The right move was 39. h4!! (advance the candidate). But the text is good enough. Here is the rest of the game.

[Both moves by White actually raise Black's advantage to (-.7). The correct move order was 39. Rb1+, Kxa7 40. h4! and Black's king is even farther away from the action and stuck on the a-file. This keeps Black's advantage small.

Black's 39th move was the fatal error (+1.3). Much better is 39. .......Rxa7, 40. Rxa7, Kxa7 and Black's pawn advantage will hold the fort (-.7) until their monarch can return. Instead White rolls to victory.]

40. h4           d5?   
[Black needed d4 here to give White a passed pawn to worry about. It appears Black has quit fighting and is just trading down to a lost endgame. (+3)]

41. Kd3        e5?
[Black needed 41. .......h6. Black is falling quickly. (+3.4)]

42. fxe5?        d4
[Better for White was 42. f5! (+4.7) and it's over. But Whites lead remained the same so there is still no hope for Black without a major error by his opponent.]

43. Ra2           h5?
[Another unforced error. This is too aggressive. 43. ........h6 was still needed and better. Now White has a (+6.6) lead.]

44. gxh5         gxh5
45. Ra1          Kb5
46. Kxd4        e6??
[Not that it matters at this point but 46. .......Rd8+ was required to activate the rook. (+17.7).]

47. Ke3          Kc4
48. Kf4          Kd3
49. Ra4         Resigns

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

LCCC Action Tourney Starts Nov 28, 2016; Casual Chess on Monday 112116

Karjakin leads the Champ 4.5 - 3.5 after eight rounds!
Hi Chess Fans,

There is a World Chess Championship going on in New York City, but you would not know it due to the lack of coverage by a media that would rather cover immature college students trying to look and feel important.

But, no fear. Search and you shall find.

Meanwhile, back at LCCC, we had six players for some casual chess on the Monday of Thanksgiving week. But we swing back into tournament action next week!

2016-2017 LCCC Action (30 minute per player / 5 sec delay optional) Tournament!
Free entry
1st round on November 28 at around 6:30pm. Registration by email or at club 6 - 6.30 pm.
The other rounds are scheduled for: December 12, January 9 and January 23.

So you see, this is not an every week commitment. It is - as always - an excellent opportunity to experience 'tournament style' chess, without a ton of pressure.

LCCC welcomes players of all strengths and will help you get better - before, during and after the games!
Stop on by and check it out

Now for a look at some sharp tactical chess.

Here is a game by the Russian grandmaster chess tactics giant - Mikhail Tal - before he was a grandmaster! Here he was simply a student playing in a simultaneous exhibition against Grandmaster Ratmir Kholmov in 1949, and GM Kholmov - with White - obviously underestimated his opponent.

Notes by GM Lev Alburt with help from the computer [Igor3000].

1. c4            e6
2. Nc3         d5
3. d4            c6
4. Nf3          Nf6
5. Bg5         dxc4
6. e4            b5
7. e5            h6
8. Bxf6       .........
The one good move here is 8. Bh4 [+.5]. Perhaps Kholmov, playing in a simil, did not want to get into the long, sharp line of the Botvinnik Variation. But now Black is a pawn up and White only has partial compensation [-.2].

8. ........       gxf6
9. exf6        Bb4?!
[Black needed 9. .....Qxf6 - here and not later - to keep the small advantage. Instead +.2]

10. Be2       Qxf6
11. O-O       Bxc3
12. bxc3      Nd7
13. a4          Bb7
14. Ne5?     ........
[GM Alburt, without the help of a computer called White's next move the error, but it was actually this move - #14 for White - that was the blunder. White needed 14. Rb1 to keep the game close to even. Now the tactics master, Tal can get to work. (-1)].

14. ........      Nxe5
15. dxe5      ..........

[ Lets see.....I am facing one of the strongest tactical chess players that has ever played the game of chess.

He has an open file (g-file) to place a rook on to stare at my king, a bishop and queen aimed right at my king, and another rook poised to take over the d-file and harass my queen.
What.......me worry?]

15. ........      Qxe5
16. Bf3        Rd8
17. Qc2       Rd3
18. axb5      Rxf3!
19. Rxa7     Qxb5
20. gxf3      Qg5+
21. Kh1       Rg8
White resigns

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Seven Players on Casual Chess Night 111416 - Action Tournament Date Decided

Magnus Carlsen is defending his World Title in New York City
It was a fun and laid back night of casual chess at LCCC.

We were hoping for an influx of new players tonight, but that did not materialize. Mr. Terry, our in house instructor, was ready and waiting. Oh well. We are here when new players want to stop by - to learn, train or play!

Players, our Action Tournament (30 minutes per player with optional 5 sec delay) will start after Thanksgiving on November 28, 2016 at around 6:30. Get to the club a 6pm to make sure you get a seat.

This is great tournament practice or a great way to get familiar with serious (semi-serious) chess. Be sure to get in the action.

Meanwhile, here is a battle from the 1998 Chicago Open between GM Gilberto Hernandez (W) and GM Nigel Davies (B) in the third round. Someone snatches a poison pawn which leads to a queen sacrifice.

Not any old queen sac where one side gets mated, but one where the game stays close to even with chances for both sides after the smoke clears. Enjoy.

Notes by GM John Fedorowicz prior to computer assistance. [Igor3000 helps with the computer analysis.]

Position after White's last move - 17. Bxc5

[The game is even at this point. Black to move.]

17. .......         dxc4!
Unexpected and powerful!

18. Rxd8       Rfxd8
19. Nd4?       .........

[Igor sees that 19. Nxc4 and White could play on after .......Bxc4 20. Bxb4, Rxb4 21. Qc7 = , instead (-.7) for Black.]

19. ........       Nxa2
20. Kb1        Nc3+
Now the Black pieces become hyperactive.

21. Ka1       Ncxe4!
22. fxe4       Nxe4
23. Qc7?      .........
[Igor3000 suggests 23. Qf3, Bd5 24. Bxa7 and Black's lead is about a pawn instead of (-2) two.

23. .......        Nxc5
24. Nc6??    ..........
What else? After 24. Nxe6, Nxe6 25. Qxc4, Rxb2 - I don't like White's survival chances.
[Igor3000 says that John's suggestion is better (-3.4) than the move played (-6.6), and White's chances are indeed bleak. But 24. Ndb5 keeps the game at a two pawn deficit for White. The end is near for White.]

24. .......       Bxb2+
25. Ka2        c3+
26. Kb1       Ne4
White resigns as the Black troops are swarming.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Ken T Wins the 2016 LCCC Rapid Tournament

Ken Tack in tournament action
Congratulations to our tournament director Ken Tack on his victory in our 2016 Rapid (15 min) Tournament.

Ken went undefeated (4 - 0) to win our annual Rapid tournament over 10 other participants.
Ken won this tournament last year also! Ken also won our speed tournament!
Ken's solid and common sense chess works well in speed chess.
congratulations Ken!

2nd - 3rd place - Mike N and Vince V
4th - 7th place - Gene M, Luke S, Jason M and Larry W
8th - 10th - Paul M, Roy M and Petro K

The next tournament up on the schedule is our Action Tournament (30 min per player - 5 sec delay optional). Our tournaments are usually free, but discussions are in the works to charge and small entry fee to give away small prized and/or get the tournament rated by the United States Chess Federation.

Stay tuned for details.

GM Veselin Topalov vs GM Anatoly Karpov - White to move

In the meantime, here is a puzzle for your enjoyment.

White to move and win.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Halloween Chess in 2016 - Tournament Pairings - and a Lesson from Capablanca

Some chess players go all out for Halloween.
It was a bit of a slow night at the chess club on Halloween Monday - 2016 as six players were in attendance. Now that is scary!

But some fun casual chess was had by all.

Here are the tournament pairings for Round 3 in our Rapid (Quick) Chess Tournament that starts back up this coming Monday. But never fear chess fans. There is always someone who was not in the tournament hanging around to play casual chess with you. So stop on by!

Round 3 - White listed first:

Board 1 - Jason M - Ken T
Board 2 - Gene M - Paul M
Board 3 - Luke S - Mike N
Board 4 - Roy M - Vince V
Board 5 - Larry W - Petro K

And now for a Jose Capablanca chess lesson (with our thanks to "Think Like a Grandmaster" - by Alexander Kotov). Igor3000 gives his computer 2-megabytes in [ brackets ].

Black to move after White's last move of 14. Q(a7)a6?
St. Petersburg Grandmaster Tournament - 1914

Nimzovich - Capablanca

 "White is a pawn up, but it is of no significance. Black's rooks will soon occupy the a and b-files and his bishop will cut the board in half. In just a few moves, Capablanca not only forces White into a hopeless position, but literally smashes the apparently safe position of White's queen-side pieces."

[Not an obvious error, but 14. f3 was best, and White remains only a (+.5) pawn ahead. As Kotov pointed out, Black has the positional advantage. By not protecting the e-pawn to free his knight from guard duty, the tables abruptly turn. Oh, the subtleties of Grandmaster chess - even in 1914!]

14. ........        Rfe8
15. Qd3         Qe6
16. f3            Nd7
17. Bd2?       .........
[White wants to activate his bishop and connect his rooks - all noble pursuits. But White's advantage is in his passed pawn on the a-file and the old adage of "passed pawns must be pushed" applies here. Black is up (-.4), which is all Capablanca needs to squeeze a win out of a position.]

17. ........       Ne5
18. Qe2        Nc4
19. Rab1      Ra8
20. a4           Nxd2?
[The great Capablanca missed 20. ......d5! growing his advantage to (-.7). This capture actually evens the game. Which brings us to another old adage - "to take is a mistake!"

21. Qxd2      Qc4
22. Rfd1?     Reb8
[Nimzovich wasted time as this rook does nothing on d1. Capa uses this tempo to re-gain the lead and momentum (-.9)]

23. Qe3       Rb4
"Capablanca is not prepared to exchange his positional pressure for a measly pawn. His aim is to destroy the enemy's queen-side."
[Nimzovich helps out with his next move. White needs 24. Rd3 to hold out. Instead,  Black will lead by two full pawns positionally.]

24. Qg5?      Bd4+
[Obvious follow-up move and good enough to win. But 24. ..........Rab8 - immediately was stronger (-3.5 rather than the text at -2).]

25. Kh1       Rab8
26. Rxd4?   .........
"There is no longer any defense against the threat of Bxc3 so Nimzovich gives up the exchange."
[26. Nb5 holds longer at (-2.4) instead of (-3.1)]

26. .......       Qxd4
27. Nd1       Rxa4
White resigns

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Rapid Tourney Off to a Quick Start on 102416 - Casual Chess on Holloween Night

The first two rounds of our 15minutes / game tournament are in the books.

The standings and 3rd round pairings will be out shortly.

Hope you enjoyed the fine article written by Dr. Morris below. If you have not read it yet, check it out!

Meanwhile, here is an interesting "knight dance" for you to witness:

Black to move #22

Igor3000 gives White a tiny edge. But that is a computer thinking 20 moves deep at 2 million moves a second.

As an average chess player, I prefer Black's position due to the space advantage and piece pressure on the White King's side of the board.

And is Black's "bad" dark squared bishop really that much worse than White's knight on c4?

22. ......         b5!?

Not bad but not in the spirit of the positional advantage just mentioned. 22. .....h5 looks like it might be worth a shot to add pressure to White's king side.

23. Na5         Ba8?
Black starts playing too passively - which in turn allows White to get more aggressive. (+1.7 pawn advantage now for White according to Igor3000). Now a White Knight wins the game single handed!

24. Nxb5        Ne8?
Better was 24. .......Rd7 25. Rxd7, Nxd7 26. Qd1. (+2.7)

25. Nxa7        Nd6
26. Nc4          Qe7
27. Nxd6        .........
White missed 27. Rxd6 for a faster win.

27. .......         Rxd6
28. Nb5         .........
White could have relaxed after 28. Nc8......and yes this is 6 straight knight moves.

28. .......        Rxd1
29. Qxd1      Bc6
30. Qd6        Qb7
31. Qxc5      Bf8
32. Qc4        Qa6
33. a4           Kg7
34. Qd4+     Kg8
35. b3          Bg7
36. Qd8+      Bf8
37. Nd4       Black resigns

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Pawn Structures 101 - Part I

by Dr. Jason Morris


I want to share with you all some tips that boosted my rating from USCF1800 to 2000. First, let me ask you about your chess games:
  • Do you get bad positions from the opening? (I did!)
  • Do you have trouble finding a plan in the middlegame? (Yep!)
  • Does it seem that your pieces don't work together as well as your opponent's? (This drove me crazy!)
  • Do you lose many of your endgames? (Very frustrating!)
Like I did, it could be that you are having trouble with your pawn play. By studying some basic pawn theory, I extracted much more value from my opening study. What to do in the middlegames became more clear in terms of which pawns to push and which to leave alone, and I became more vigilant about how my pawn moves affected possible endgames. I continue to refine and polish this aspect of my game. You can too!

Let's dive in!

A pawn structure, or just "structure", is the arrangement of pawns in a given position. There are many great books written about this topic, as well as many good articles. I will give some references at the end of this article. One of the best that I found was "Pawn Structure Chess" by GM Andy Soltis. IMHO the newest edition is not as good as the original; many of the examples have typos. If you can get past the atrocious terminology, "Pawn Power in Chess" by Hans Kmoch is a classic. I believe there is a jargon-free translation somewhere.

In this article, we will start by talking about pawn structures as they result from the opening. In fact, what I am going to advocate here is that you approach the study of any opening from the point of view of its pawn structure first. Once you have mastered all the basic themes and ideas of the structure, you will be able to understand and appreciate the opening's different variations.

Moving Pawns is a Trade-Off
The late great Bobby Fischer noted that you "have to give some squares to get some squares."
  • When you move pawns, more squares in your territory will be left unprotected. 
  • The squares that you "get" should be worth more than the ones you "give" potentially to your opponent. 
  • Your pieces should be positioned to defend the squares not covered by your pawns. 
  • Each opening can be categorized by the squares that it forsakes versus the ones it tries to acquire.
  • The relative value of any given piece is largely a function of how it coordinates with the given pawn structure. This is particularly true of bishops and knights.
If you learn these trade-offs for squares and how they affect the quality of your pieces, your playing strength will greatly improve -- guaranteed!

Don't Memorize Openings
I learned (the hard way!) that memorizing opening variations without first understanding an opening's pawn structure is a complete waste of time. When studying a new opening, the first thing I look at is the resulting pawn structure. This will tell you where the best squares for each piece should be. The opening structure forms a skeleton or framework for the middlegame. By understanding what features and actions a given structure provides, we can understand how to play the resulting middlegames (from both sides!). In fact, different openings can result in the same pawn structure. Masters use knowledge of pawn structures to determine what the best plans are for any given position.

Move Order Matters
The term transposition is used to describe the situation where one structure changes into another, particularly in the opening. Let's see how this works in the diagram below.

This position started from a French Defense (1. e4 e6), but after the moves 2. d4 c5 3. Nf3 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6, we have a Kan Variation of the Sicilian Defense. Had white opted for 3. d5, the structure would have been more favorable to white, so the order of the pawn moves matters. If black really wanted to play the Kan, he should use the order 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6, which avoids losing space in the center to white's d5 thrust.

Don't Fight the Structure
One of the most important lessons that I learned when I was USCF 1800 or so was not to fight the structure. By this I mean don't play pawn moves that are not strategically in accord with the structure. Doing so is a sure way to come to grief against a stronger player who will seize immediately on your errors. Unlike inferior piece moves which are often recoverable, bad pawn moves are irrevocable. Once made, they can permanently damage your game, often irreparably. Therefore, you should make only the minimum number of pawn moves to achieve your opening objectives of control of an equal portion of the center and to complete your piece development -- nothing more.

Opening Types vs. Pawn Structures

Chess openings fall into one of three main categories according to pawn structure:
  • Open games
  • Semi-open games
  • Closed games
In open game pawn structures, the four center squares (e4, d4, e5, d5) have a high probability of being completely cleared of pawns. This results in many open diagonals and files. Open games are characterized by the pawn structures that arise after 1. e4 e5, or more commonly "double king pawn" openings. These games tend to be very fast paced and tactical because pieces can come into contact with each other very quickly. Kings especially can fall under quick attack along open lines (diagonals, ranks, and files).

In closed game pawn structures, there is at least one pair of pawns facing each other in the center, usually but not always pawns at d4 and d5. Hence, games that begin 1. d4 d5 usually lead to closed positions where the center is blocked with pawns and there are few if any completely open files and diagonals. These games tend to be much slower paced, with more maneuvering.

Semi-open games result from asymmetrical replies to 1.e4, where the distribution of central pawns and half-open files becomes unbalanced. Examples of such openings are the ever popular Sicilian Defense (1. e4 c5), the Caro-Kan (1. e4 c6), and the Center Counter (Scandinavian) Defense (1 e4 d5). Such openings can result in opposite-side castling and pawn storms.

Pawn Structure Terminology

Here are some basic concepts about pawn structures. Mastering these will help you (a) evaluate positions to know who stands better and (b) to help you analyze and understand all chess openings.

Backward Pawn (weakness)
A pawn that cannot be protected by any other pawns.

In Diagram 1, the pawn on d6 is a backward pawn since it cannot be protected by any other black pawns. It is especially vulnerable to attack along the half-open d-file by white's rooks and queen.

Despite the weakness of d6, black is not without recourse here. For example, he has the moves b7-b5 to attack c4 and the moves g7-g6, f7-f5 to attack e4 and build a pawn center. Also, if black can maneuver a knight to d4, it will mask the d6 weakness. 
  • In general, avoid creating backward pawns in your position.  
  • Attack backward pawns in your opponent's position. 
Diagram 1. The classic backward d-pawn from the Sicilian Defense.
Isolated Pawn (weakness)
A pawn that has no pawns on either side.

In Diagram 2, white's d-pawn is isolated. This type of pawn needs constant protection. Whether or not this position is good or bad for white depends on whether or not the d-pawn can advance to d5 at some point. Also, the protected e5 square can be used as an outpost for white's pieces - usually a knight.
  • Avoid creating isolated pawns in your position.  
  • Attack isolated pawns in your opponent's position. 
Diagram 2. An isolated queen pawn (isolani) position.
Doubled Pawn (weakness)
Two pawns on the same file.

In Diagram 3, white has traded his white squared bishop for a knight on c6. Black followed the general principle of capturing towards the center with pawns, but this creates two weaknesses: the isolated a-pawn and the doubled c-pawns. Despite being so close, doubled pawns cannot protect each other.  In Diagram 3, white would like to play 1. dxe5 dxe5 because then black's two c-pawns would be isolated as well as doubled, making them easier to attack.

Recapturing on c6 with the d-pawn is black's preferred option in master play, but this too has pitfalls. See Diagram 8a.
  • Avoid getting doubled pawns if you can. 
  • If you cannot, then try to get some compensation for them (e.g. the pair of bishops, an open file, etc.)
Diagram 3. Doubled pawns from the RuyLopez - Exchange Variation.
Hole (weakness)
A square that cannot be protected by pawns.

In Diagram 4. black has captured a white knight at f3. White had to recapture with his g-pawn so that he did not lose his d-pawn. The result is that white has a serious hole on the f4 square. This is a perfect place for a black knight, from where it can attack e2, d3, g2, and h3 near white's king. Note that though white's f-pawns are doubled and his h-pawn is isolated, he often has the bishop pair and the half-open g-file for counterplay.
  • Avoid making holes in your pawn structure.  
  • Try to move your pieces into the holes in your opponent's pawn structure. 
Diagram 4. White has multiple pawn weaknesses.
Levers (strategic move)
Pawns that can move to attack stationary pawns on adjacent files.

In Diagram 5, arising from the King's Indian Defense, white's important lever is the move c4-c5 attacking d6. Black's lever is f7-f5 attacking e4. Note that the d6 pawn and the e4 pawn cannot avoid the lever actions because they are blocked by the d5 and e5 pawns, respectively.
  • Use lever moves to open lines and to disrupt your opponent's pawn structure, particularly around his king. 
  • Attack pawn chains at their base and head with lever moves.
Diagram 5. Levers in the KID.
Pawn Chain (strategic element)
A diagonal line of pawns that mutually protect each other.

In Diagram 6, the white pawns from b2 to e5 form a self-protecting chain.

Play on the side of the board in which your pawn chain "points" (i.e., where you have more space).  
Diagram 6. The classic French Defense pawn chain.
Base (strategic element)
The first pawn in a pawn chain.

Head (strategic element)
The last pawn in a pawn chain.

In Diagram 7, the pawn at e5 is the head of white's chain. 
In Diagram 7, the pawn at b2 is the base of white's chain.

This position arises from the French Defense. White has built a pawn chain driving into black's kingside. Black's counterplay depends on his levers c7-c5 and sometimes f7-f6. Black would like to play 1. .. cxd4 2. cxd4 and create a backward pawn on d4. Then he could attack it with a knight on c6 or a queen on b6.
  • Use levers to attack the base and head of pawn chains.
  • Be careful about creating holes when attacking head pawns.
Diagram 7. Action against pawn chains.
Passed Pawn (strategic advantage)
A pawn that cannot be stopped by enemy pawns.

Pawn structures should always be evaluated as to their potential to produce passed pawns. Diagram 8a comes from the Exchange Ruy Lopez. If play continues 1. .. exd4 2. Qxd4 Qxd4 3. Nxd4, then white's majority on the kingside will produce a passed pawn where as black's cannot due to the doubled c-pawn. This gives white a long-term strategic advantage. This advantage is counter-balanced in practice by black having the bishop pair.

In Diagram 8b, both white and black have passed pawns. Evaluate the position and give the result.

Diagram 8a. Pawn majorities.

Diagram 8b. White to play. What is the result?

Hanging Pawns (strategic element)
Connected pawns unopposed on adjacent open files.
  • Can be used for attack and to control central space.
  • Can (potentially) create a passed pawn.
  • Can come under attack along half-open files.
  • Lose strength when one pawn must move forward.
Diagram 8. Hanging pawns.


Chess openings should be studied from the point of view of the resulting pawn structure. If you understand the resulting structure in terms of its strengths and weaknesses, then you will understand how to play the resulting position, both as white and as black. The pawn structure dictates where the most effective squares are for your pieces and your opponents'.
  • Holes in your opponents pawn structure should be exploited by posting a piece on that square. The best piece to post is often a knight. 
  • Backward pawns on open files should be attacked by doubling and even tripling major pieces (rooks and queens) against them. 
  • Make pawn exchanges that isolate, double, or otherwise expose your opponents pawns to attack. 
  • Make piece exchanges that create pawn weaknesses in your opponent's camp. 
  • Whenever you make pawn moves, ask yourself "How does this impact my endgame? What squares am I getting and what squares am I weakening?" 
  • When you make pawn moves (particularly near your king), always consider how you will cover the resulting weakness(es) and anticipate how your opponent will respond. (e.g., what lines and diagonals am I opening? Am I creating invasion points for my opponent's pieces or targets for my opponent's pawn advances?)
Of course, there is much more to say about this topic :-) We'll save that for later articles. All comments and feedback welcome!



Thursday, October 20, 2016

Quick Tournament 10/24/16 - Free Entry! - Come Join the Fun!

GM Van Wely vs GM Van der Sterren - Black to move and win!

Two puzzles to really test your chess skills .....and an announcement about our Quick Tournament.

First off we had 12 players this week, and we welcomed a new member - Marcus W.

Good to see you here!

Lots of casual chess was played.

This was all in preparation for our Quick Tournament (15 min per player, with 5 second delay allowed), that starts Oct. 24.

Due to scheduling issues we had to change the date a couple times, but this time all systems are go!

We will play two rounds on Monday October 24 and the final two rounds November 7. We always try and skip a week to give players a break if they want it, but with Halloween being the Monday in between, it is even a better reason to separate the tournament by a week.

Look, you cannot beat two games of tournament chess fun in one night! Come join us. We open at 6pm and will try to get the tournament started by 6:45pm at the latest.

GM Van der Sterren vs GM Karpov - Black to move and win!

And now another puzzle.

GM Van der Sterren was the winner in one puzzle and the victim in the other.

Enjoy and we will see you next Monday at LCCC!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Quick Tournament in Two Weeks! - Nine Players on 101016

LCCC's John R. in some tournament action.
We had nine players for casual chess tonight - with the help of the free oatmeal cookies!

Open chess next week also.

Now about LCCC's next free  tournament action!

We will have a tournament starting that will feature 15 minute games with an optional 5 second delay.
We will play two rounds per night.

 So the tournament will run on October 24 and November 7 for four total rounds.
If by chance we have enough entries, we may have another round on November 14 to settle ties (i.e., multiple players 4 - 0).

This will be a fun event and plenty of chess action to make it worth your while to be here.

The Club opens at 6pm and we will try to get the tournament going no later than 6:45 pm.

That way the last round of the night can start by 7:30. Stop on by next Monday for practice and the following week to experience some friendly chess tournament action!

Now for a club game:

Scandinavian Defense
1. e4          c6
2. d4         d5
3. exd5      Qxd5
4. Nc3       Qa5
5. Bd2       Qc7
6. Qf3       Nf6
7. h3         e6
8. Bf4        Bd6
9. Bxd6      Qxd6
10. O-O-O        Nbd7
11. Bc4        Nb6
12. Bb3        a6
After Black's move  12. ......    a6

This last move by Black secures b5. Igor3000 has White's advantage margin grow from the (+.3) of a pawn.had before the game started, to (+.4) now.

13. Nge2       Nbd5
14.  Bxd5      cxd5
15. Qg3        Qxg3
White chooses the wrong plan. 15. g4 or Nf4 kept a slight advantage for White. Instead (EVEN).

16. Nxg3       b5
17. b3          Bd7
18. Rhe1       O-O
19. Kd2?        Rfc8
White heads in the wrong direction and out into the open. 19. Kb2 or a3 were better. Black takes a small lead (-.3 of a pawn).

20. Re3         Rc7
21. Rc1         Rac8
22. Nce2       h5!
23. f3!          a5?!
White stops any intrusion on e4. Black is indecisive as to if he is attacking on the King-side or the Queen-side. 23. .....h4 was consistent. Now the game is back to (EVEN).

24. c3?           h4!
Whites' move was much too passive. 24. h4 or Rc3 was required for equality. Now (-.5). Black threatens to win material, while gaining space.

25. Nf1         b4
26. Nh2?       Bb5
White is playing too passively. 26. Re5 is an interesting possibility. Now Black is up a full pawn (-1).

27. Nf4?         g5
Black is allowed to improve his position without having to use any moves of his own. Black keeps being allowed to hassle Whites' pieces to get them on better squares for free. (-2.2)

28. Nxe6?       fxe6
29. Ng4?          Nxg4
'If losing on the wing, attack in the center' is the old adage. White ignores that advice and insists on trading into a losing endgame.

30. fxg4         Rxc3
31. Rcxc3        Rxc3
32. Rxc3        bxc3
33. Kxc3         Bf1
White Resigns