What Would Daisy Do?

by admin on November 18, 2017

Recently I had a kibitzer for one of my chess games against the computer.

helping out small

As we all know, man versus computer is an uneven battle. But a little bit of canine assistance can even up the odds!

Daisy and Dana — Shredder (2220)

1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 d4 3. d4 d6 4. f4 Bf5 5. Bd3! …

This is my home preparation against Alekhine’s Defense. I call it the “three pawns” variation: White pushes the f-pawn but not the c-pawn. It sets a really fascinating trap, which I used once to defeat IM Jake Kleiman. (I gave a ChessLecture on that game a few years ago.) What makes this trap so effective against a high-rated player is that it’s several moves deep. The higher-rated player will think that he is being really clever, playing a four-move combination to win a pawn, little realizing that this is exactly what the lower-rated player wants him to do.

5. … Bxd3 6. Qxd3 de 7. fe Nb4 8. Qe2 …

Also very interesting is 8. Qe4, “falling into Black’s trap.” After 8. … Qxd4! White of course does not play 9. Qxd4?? Nc2+ but instead plays 9. Qxb7! However, the insanity that follows is difficult to calculate. I prefer the text move because it has a clear strategic plan behind it: sacrificing a pawn for rapid development and pressure on Black’s kingside.

me daisy 1Position after 8. Qe2. Black to move.

FEN: rn1qkb1r/ppp1pppp/8/4P3/1n1P4/8/PPP1Q1PP/RNB1K1NR b KQkq – 0 8

8. … Qxd4

Black is morally obliged to take the pawn; otherwise he would have to admit that the knight sortie to b4 was just a waste of time.

9. Nf3 Qc5

This is where Kleiman played 9. … Qg4?! against me and went down to a rapid defeat. The text move seems like the most principled answer, putting pressure on c2 and preventing me from castling.

The trap initiated with 5. Bd3 doesn’t lead to a forced win or even a forced advantage; it simply forces Black to make a lot of difficult decisions, while White has an easy initiative. In practical chess, playing against a human, I would take White’s position any day of the week. Against a computer, of course, it’s not quite so easy.

10. Nc3 e6 11. a3 Nd5 12. Ne4 …

One of the first decision points for White. Rybka slightly prefers 12. Nxd5, with two points: 12. … Qxd5 will allow White to castle easily, while 12. … ed will allow 13. e6! with quick pressure against Black’s king.

Nevertheless, 12. Ne4 is also a very playable move, and I think that for a human player it’s a little bit more intuitive; as the attacker, White would prefer to avoid exchanges.

12. … Qc6 13. c4 Nb6 14. b3 Na6 15. Bg5? …

Rybka says 15. Nd4 Qd7 16. Bb2 with full compensation for the pawn. The text move attempts to prevent Black from castling queenside, but the trouble is that the bishop can be chased away.

15. … h6 16. Bh4 Nc5 17. Ned2 Qd7 18. O-O Qd3?

Because Shredder’s rating is set at 2220, not full strength (2600), it will make an occasional inaccuracy. This move is a very human-like mistake. Black has two key moves, … Qd3 and … g5, but Shredder makes them in the wrong order. After 18. … g5! Black would stand better, because sacrificing on g5 would be unsound for White.

19. Qf2 g5 20. Nxg5! …

Now the sacrifice is completely sound: 20. … hg? 21. Qxf7+ leads to mate very quickly. But Shredder came up with a remarkable resource:

20. … f5!

me daisy 2Position after 20. … f5. White to move.

FEN: r3kb1r/ppp5/1n2p2p/2n1PpN1/2P4B/PP1q4/3N1QPP/R4RK1 w kq f6 0 21

This is computer chess at its best (or worst): It comes up with moves that most humans would not even look at. At this point, it was time to call in the canine reinforcements!

Actually, what I did was take a time-out. I’ve written about this before: when I play the computer, I allow myself one chance per game to stop the clock and analyze the position on a board. I call it “Matrix chess,” because I’m like Neo in the Matrix movies, who can stop time to defeat his computer adversaries. But I can only do it once a game; that makes it a challenge to find the right high-leverage moment.

So I stopped my clock and set up a chessboard. When Daisy saw me hunched over the chessboard, she seized her opportunity to jump up on her favorite spot: my back!

So what would you play in the position above: A) exf6 (yes, it’s legal!), B) Nf3, or C) Nh3?

I was very pleased that Daisy and I not only found a good move, but we predicted the actual game variation up to move 29. Truly a successful collaboration!

First, (A) is bad. After 21. ef? now Black can take the knight without getting checkmated. After 21. … hg! 22. f7+ Kd7! (not 22. … Kd8 or … Ke7, when 23. Qf6+ wins) I was exceedingly surprised to find out that White has no good way to take advantage of Black’s seemingly exposed king. For instance, if 23. Bxg5 Bd6 24. Nf3 Qf5 and what next? Black’s pieces are all active and there are no obvious breakthroughs for White — and Black’s B and R are eyeing the h2 pawn with hostile intent.

(B) is the move I played, and you’ll see my analysis shortly.

(C) is actually the move that Rybka thinks is best! I very nearly played it. For instance, Daisy and I liked White’s position in lines such as 21. Nh3 Nxb3 22. Nf4 Qxd2? 23. Qf3! h5 24. Qxb3 Bc5+ 25. Kh1. This is the position that you see in the photograph! Black can finally castle if he wants, but he’s not likely to live very long.

Unfortunately, Black had a resource that Daisy and I couldn’t find any good answer to: 21. Nh3 Nxb3 22. Nf4 Bc5! Amazingly, Black comes out ahead in all variations, for instance 23. Nxd3 Bxf2+ 24. Rxf2 Nxa1. White can trap the knight in the corner with 25. Ne1, but it takes too long to bring the rook to a square where it can attack the knight, and meanwhile Black can rescue it with … a5, … a4, … Nb3.

This was such a bummer that Daisy and I gave up on 21. Nh3 altogether. But in fact, Rybka says that White gets a comfortable advantage after 21. Nh3! Nxb3 22. Nxb3 Qxb3 23. Nf4 Qxc4. I think that we underestimated this because we saw White sacrificing two pawns for nebulous counterplay. But actually, Rybka says it’s overwhelming after 24. Rc1 Qb3 25. Qe2!, threatening Qh5+. There are too many leaks in Black’s position, he can’t cover them all.

There’s a great lesson here, which is that if you’ve sacrificed a pawn for some counterplay, you can often get overwhelming counterplay by sacrificing a second pawn. Daisy and I were not quite ambitious enough.

However, in variation (B) we found a really nice, concrete line that leads to advantage for White, so I don’t consider our move to be a mistake.

21. Ngf3 Nxb3?

Too greedy. According to Rybka, Black should hold White to a slight advantage with 21. … Rg8.

22. Nxb3 Qxb3 23. Qg3! …

Now Black cannot stop the queen from invading the heart of the Black position.

23. … Bc5+ 24. Kh1 Kd7 25. Rad1+ Kc8

A key point that Daisy and I had to foresee is that 25. … Kc6? would allow White to win a queen with 26. Nd4+. Loose pieces drop off!

26. Qg7 Re8 27. Qf7 Qa4

Black’s moves are all forced.

28. Qxe6+! …

Once Daisy and I found this move, we were sold on 21. Ngf3. Of course Black cannot accept the queen sacrifice because 28. … Rxe6? 29. Rd8 is mate.

28. … Kb8 29. Qxf5 …

At this point Daisy and I stopped our analysis because we thought White’s advantage was clear. True, but winning this position is by no means routine or easy! In fact, the thing I’m proudest of in this game is that I continued to find strong moves without help from my faithful canine companion (and without time-outs).

29. … Nxc4 30. Rd7 Nb6

I was quite surprised here that Black didn’t continue to press forward with the knight fork, 30. … Ne3, and instead played the purely defensive retreat 30. … Nb6. Usually Shredder prefers sharp, aggressive play even when it shouldn’t. But here I think that it realized White’s attack is just too strong after 30. … Ne3 31. Qf7 Rc8 32. Bd8! For example, if 32. … Nxf1 33. Rxc7! is the coup de grace. Nice stuff! I’m not sure if I would have found this last move.

me daisy 3Position after 30. … Nb6. White to move.

FEN: rk2r3/pppR4/1n5p/2b1PQ2/q6B/P4N2/6PP/5R1K w – - 0 31

Having forced Shredder into a rare passive move, I thought it was time to press my advantage.

31. e6! …

Again a sac that Shredder can’t take, because after 31. … Nxd7 32. ed the pawn will queen. Probably 31. Rh7 would have been okay too, but I thought it was important to put maximum pressure on Black in order to keep Shredder’s defenses disorganized.

31. … Qc4 32. Rfd1! …

Should I go to d1 or e1? It was a choice that I made on intuitive grounds. After 32. Re1 I was uneasy about the pin on the e-pawn. It turned out that I was right: 32. Re1? Nxd7! 33. ed Rxe1+ 34. Nxe1 Qxh4! (a move I didn’t see!) miraculously stops the pawn from queening and threatens mate. I’m glad that I trusted my gut and put the rook on d1 instead.

32. … a6

me daisy 4Position after 32. … a6. White to move.

FEN: rk2r3/1ppR4/pn2P2p/2b2Q2/2q4B/P4N2/6PP/3R3K w – - 0 33

Now on Rd8+ Black’s king can escape to a7, and after that White’s advantage may start to evaporate. How can we keep that from happening?

(Space in case you want to think about it.)

33. Rxc7! …

This is what you’re looking for on a chessboard, a sense of flow. One move naturally leading to another: Rd7, e6, Rxc7. The main point is that 33. … Kxc7 34. Bg3+ gives Black a disastrous choice between 34. … Kc6 Ne5+ losing the queen and 34. … Kc8 35. e7+ losing the king.

Even so, the computer isn’t done yet. It’s tough to outplay a tactical monster in a tactical position, and Shredder makes me work for the point.

33. … Qb3 34. Rb1 …

Even though this means giving up the attack, I thought that the choice was justified because I would have a winning endgame. I can’t let the position stay tactical forever — if I do, eventually the machine will find something that I’ll miss.

There were only two flaws with my thinking. One is that the endgame was not as routine as I hoped. The second is that the position does stay tactical forever!

34. … Qxb1+ 35. Qxb1 Kxc7 36. Qc2! …

me daisy 5Position after 36. Qc2. Black to move.

FEN: r3r3/1pk5/pn2P2p/2b5/7B/P4N2/2Q3PP/7K b – - 0 36

This was the move that sold me on 34. Rb1. Amazingly, the only Black piece that can defend the bishop is the king, and I felt certain that with enough checks I could pry the king away. Again, my gut was correct, although the machine as usual made it harder than I thought it would be.

36. … Kd6 37. Bg3+ Kd5 38. Qf5+ Kc4 39. Ne5+ Kb3 40. Qd3+ Kb2 41. Qd2+ Kb3 42. Qd1+ …

Finally! Every king move allows a fork that wins the bishop. However, Shredder does manage to snag two pawns as compensation.

42. … Kxa3 43. Qc1+ Kb3 44. Qxc5 Rxe6

Yes, White is completely winning — Rybka gives me a +5-pawn advantage. However, over the board I didn’t know this, and the win was still looking anything but routine. With all my pawns gone except the forgotten soldiers at g2 and h2, I’m not going to win any pawn races. Basically I have to play for either a checkmate or a major win of material. Fortunately, the queen, bishop and knight are an extremely effective attacking force and Black’s king is far from the rest of his army. For those reasons the position more or less played itself from here.

45. Nd3 a5 46. Be5 Rc6 47. Qb5+ Kc2 48. Ne1+ Black resigns.

The cutest finish is 48. … Kd2 (or d1) 49. Qd3+ Kxe1 50. Bg3 mate. If Black plays 49. … Kc1 instead, either 50. Bc3 (my move) or 50. Bd6 (Rybka’s move) force Black to shed material to avoid checkmate.

What a fun game this was! We had an innovative opening; an exciting middlegame with a pawn sac, a knight sac, an exchange sac, a rook sac, and a queen sac (although Black had to decline most of the sacrifices); and a complex endgame culminating in a king hunt and a checkmate. I hope you enjoyed it as much as Daisy did!

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A Ghost Named George

by admin on November 13, 2017

The Kolty Chess Club, a San Jose-area club where a lot of my friends play, recently completed its club championship, which ended in very dramatic fashion. Going into the last round, Henry Wang, a 15-year-old Expert who is surely headed for Master and beyond, had put in a dominating performance. He had scored 5½ points in 6 rounds. Behind him were Juande Perea and Ted Biyiasis at 5 points, but Wang had already beaten Perea and Biyiasis was taking a half-point bye in the last round.

So there was no one left for Wang to play except Mike Splane, the five-time champion and reigning champion of the club. Mike had been out of contention for a long time, having lost to lower-rated players in rounds 2 and 3, but he had won three in a row to improve to 4 points.

Note that Wang only needed a draw to win the club championship, because he would surely have better tiebreaks than Juande.

When the time came for their game, Mike wasn’t there! He’s almost never late, so this was already odd, but then his clock kept ticking … 30 minutes, 40 minutes. Finally he raced into the meeting room, 45 minutes late, and sat down to play. He explained later that he had run out of gas (for the first time in his life) and had to walk a mile to a gas station and back. (In the version of the story told on the Kolty Club website, a mysterious stranger gave him a ride. The stranger was named George and had a license plate beginning K-O-L-…)

It was Halloween, after all. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide whether Mike caught a ride from a ghost, a la Big Joe and Phantom 309. But in this game, it does seem as if something supernatural was on his side…

Mike Splane — Henry Wang

1. Nf3 Nf3 2. g3 b6 3. Bg2 Bb7 4. O-O e6 5. d3 d5 6. Nbd2 Be7 7. b3 c5 8. Bb2 Nc6 9. e4 de 10. de O-O 11. Re1 Qc7 12. h4 …

It’s psychologically very strange to play someone who has almost forfeited a game by showing up nearly an hour late. On the one hand you feel a lot of pressure to win, because you almost were winning. On the other hand, there is no way to directly convert that clock advantage into a chess advantage.

As for Mike, he said that his intention was to “play a dozen moves and offer him a draw.” And in fact, that’s what he did. Wang, to his very great credit, refused the offer. If he was going to win the club championship, he was going to do it by beating the five-time champion, not by taking a draw offer before the fighting really began. But this, too, might have put some pressure on Wang; when you turn down a draw, you then feel as if you have to justify doing so.

12. … Rfd8 13. e5 Nd5 14. a3 b5 15. Bf1! …

Mike liked this repositioning of the bishop and I do, too.

15. … a6 16. Bd3 Nb6 17. Qe2 Rb8

Mike says that Wang took so long on his last two moves that they were almost even on time! The position indeed looks very dangerous for Black, as all of his pieces are in a clump on the queenside, while his kingside is defended only by a solitary bishop. When Mike showed this game at his chess party last week, I think that everyone who hadn’t seen it expected that it would end with a powerful kingside attack for White.

But that’s not what happened. Somehow or other the young upstart managed to distract White’s attention from the kingside. It starts with a very nice positional pawn sacrifice.

18. Qe4 g6 19. Qg4 c4!

splane wang 1Position after 19. … c4! White to move.

FEN: 1r1r2k1/1bq1bp1p/pnn1p1p1/1p2P3/2p3QP/PP1B1NP1/1BPN1P2/R3R1K1 w – - 0 20

When you see moves like this, you know you’re not dealing with just any ordinary 15-year-old. With 19. … c4, Black is trying to take control over the narrative, to make it be about his pieces and not Mike’s. If Mike accepts the pawn with 20. bc, then Black gets terrific compensation after 20. … Na4 21. Bd4 Nxd4 22. Nxd4 bc 23. Nxc4 Nc3! Already Black has a serious threat to sacrifice the exchange on d4 and play … Qc6, threatening mate on the long diagonal. Though White can defend this, he is forced to retreat, and the position will become one where Black’s pieces control the board and dictate the action.

So Mike turns down the offer and tries to keep the initiative on side. But his young opponent will not be denied.

20. Be4 b4!

Great stuff.

21. ab Bxb4

Threatening … c3.

22. c3 Bf8 23. h5 Bg7 24. hg hg 25. b4! …

Time for another diagram.

splane wang 2Position after 25. b4. Black to play.

FEN: 1r1r2k1/1bq2pb1/pnn1p1p1/4P3/1Pp1B1Q1/2P2NP1/1B1N1P2/R3R1K1 b – - 0 25

On one hand, this move is easy to understand. White wants to keep the queenside closed, because that is where Black’s pieces are massed. But on the other hand, Mike is giving away a pawn. In reality he had committed himself to sacrificing the e5-pawn as soon as he played 22. c3.

Mike’s comment on this move at the chess party was totally characteristic of him. Why did he play this move? “I’m winning the endgame!” he said.

On the one hand, this is totally nuts. Black has lots of chances after this to equalize or even stand better. On the other hand, it’s so Mike. Remember the Mike Splane question: “How am I going to win this game?” He asks it in almost every game, whether his position is better or worse. Here, how he is going to win the game is very simple. He’s going to win Black’s two weak queenside pawns, at c4 and a6, and then he’s going to run his connected passers to paydirt.

The deeper lesson here is that the “objective evaluation” or “computer evaluation” doesn’t always matter in a contest between humans. If you have a plan and your opponent doesn’t, you’re winning.

Also it doesn’t hurt to have a ghost named George helping you!

25. … Nxe5 26. Nxe5 Bxe5 27. Nf3 Bg7?!

My immediate reaction, when Mike showed us this game, was that this was an inaccuracy. Black should play 27. … Bf6. We have all been conditioned by experience to put the bishop on g7, because we have seen so many thousands of fianchettoed bishops. By contrast, the bishop on f6 looks a little bit loose and strange. But you have to play the concrete position in front of you. The point of 27. … Bf6 is to throw a monkey wrench into White’s plans on the kingside. If 28. Ng5 Black can play 28. … Bxg5 29. Qxg5 Bxe4 30. Rxe4 Rd5 31. Qh6 Rh5 with advantage, according to Rybka.

28. Ng5 Bxe4 29. Rxe4! …

splane wang 3Position after 29. Rxe4. Black to move.

FEN: 1r1r2k1/2q2pb1/pn2p1p1/6N1/1Pp1R1Q1/2P3P1/1B3P2/R5K1 b – - 0 29

As Mike said, he would be thrilled if Black forked the queen and rook! After 29. … f5? 30. Qh4 fe (or 30. … Bf6 31. Rxe6) 31. Qh7+ Kf8 32. Nxe6+ wins.

This is the point at which, if I were playing Black, I would say “Oh-oh.” There are so many weak spots in Black’s position, and they all seem to have pawns on them: a6, c4, e6, f7, g6. Black could play 29. … Ra8, but it’s a cheerless defensive move. Rybka likes 29. … Bf6 best in spite of the loss of tempo, but Black is scarcely likely to play that after turning it down a move earlier. I think that the move Wang chose is right on principle. He’s a pawn up, and he has an opportunity to give the pawn back to create more activity for his pieces.

29. … Nd5!

I’m so impressed with Wang’s play, even though he lost this game. By the way, if you’re counting, this is the third positional pawn sacrifice of the game. Players rated 2000 and below should really pay attention to this game, because this is the sort of move that class-A players and below almost never play. Of course, class-A players are perfectly able to play pawn sacrifices, but only when they can calculate their way to the end. Here it’s not calculation but positional judgement that says, “I’m going to suffer if I don’t give back the pawn.”

30. Rxc4 Qe5 31. Re4 Nf6

At Mike’s chess party some people thought that 31. … Qf5 was a better try, but actually it’s worse. After 32. Qh4 (You didn’t really think White would settle for the queen trade, did you?) Nf6 33. Rf4 or 32. Qh4 Nxc3 33. Bxc3 Bxc3 34. Rf4 Black will have his work cut out for him to salvage a draw.

32. Rxe5 Nxg4 33. Re2 Rdc8?!

No one at the chess party made any comment at all about this move — like 27. … Bg7, it’s the sort of automatic move that doesn’t raise any red flags. I mean, what could be more natural than putting both rooks Benko Gambit-style on the files where White has “hanging pawns”?

It was only when the computer voiced its strong preference for 33. … Rb6! that I started looking more carefully at this move. With 33. … Rc8 you are taking a rook that is already in a perfect, active position and spending a tempo to move it to a less active position. That might sound surprising to you because the rook looks active on c8. But you have to consider the concrete position. White’s plan is to move his knight to e4 and then c5, and at that point Black’s so-called active rook will be biting on granite. Anyway, in general, you should always question how “active” a rook really is when it’s in front of a passed pawn. Repeat after me: rooks belong behind passed pawns.

A line that really shows the difference between 33. … Rb6 and 33. … Rc8 arises if White tries to play the same way he did in the game: 33. … Rb6 34. Ne4 Ne5 35. Nc5 Nc4! For 13 moves the bishop on b2 has been the secret Achilles’ heel in White’s position, and now it starts to hurt. White cannot grab the pawn with 36. Rxa6?? because he loses a whole bishop after 36. … Rd1+ 37. Kg2 Rxa6 38. Nxa6 Rb1. Now you see why a rook behind the passed pawn is better than a pseudo-active rook in front of it!

34. Ne4 Rc6 35. Nc5 Ra8

After playing actively for so long, Black has finally been forced into passive defense. Kudos to Mike (and his ghostly companion) for having the foresight to see that this would happen! However, objectively, Black is not lost yet.

36. f4 Nf6 37. c4 a5 38. Bd4 …

At the party, Mike thought this was a mistake and he should have played 38. Bc3, winning. However, the computer shows that is not correct. After 38. Bc3 Ng4 (also possible in the game) 39. Bxg7 Kxg7 40. R2a2 it looks for a moment as if White is going to win the a-pawn outright, but after the simple sidestep 40. … Rb8! White’s pawns collapse. Better would be something like 40. Ne4 Rxc4 41. ba, but I completely agree with Rybka that Black should be able to defend this.

38. … Rd8

Of course, 38. … Ng4 would draw as in the previous note.

39. b5 …

And here, after playing excellent chess for so many moves, the 15-year-old wunderkind finally cracks.

splane wang 4Position after 39. b5. Black to move.

FEN: 3r2k1/5pb1/2r1pnp1/pPN5/2PB1P2/6P1/4R3/R5K1 b – - 0 39

Here Black could have drawn the game and won the club championship with 39. … Nd5!

Perhaps he didn’t play this move because everything is en prise, but the threat of … Bxd4+ and … Bxa1 is so huge that White is forced into liquidating material. After 39. … Nd5 40. Bxg7 Rxc5 41. B moves Rxc4 Black should be able to draw. The knight on d5 is such a rock, and it keeps White from advancing his passed b-pawn. Note also that if White is careless, he could screw up. For instance, 39. … Nd5 40. Bf2? Rxc4 41. Bxc4 Bxa1 42. cd Rxd5 43. Rc2?? Rxc5! and Black wins.

Or maybe Wang simply thought he was winning after the move he played,

39. … Rxc5?? 40. Bxc5 Nd7?

Here 40. … Ne4 would put up a better fight, but White is still winning after 41. Rxe4 Bxa1 42. Bf2. The connected passers are too much.

41. Rd1 …

Did Wang really overlook this simple pin? I guess he must have. After this it’s hopeless for Black, and the game concluded 41. … Rc8 42. Rxd7 Rxc5 43. b6 Rxc4 44. b7 Rb4 45. Rd8+ Black resigns.

Although the end was a little bit disappointing, especially for young Mr. Wang, the rest of the game was really outstanding, master-level chess. The student should pay special attention to the positional pawn sacrifices and to the Mike Splane question: How am I going to win this game? Also, there are some good lessons about automatic moves — before you play moves like 27. … Bg7 and 33. … Rdc8, ask yourself what your pieces are doing on those squares.

The beneficiary of Mike’s inspired effort was Juande Perea, who defeated Paulo Santanna on board 2 and finished with a 6-1 record. Juande thus became the Kolty Club’s 2017 champion, his second time winning the title. As for Henry Wang, I’m sure that we will hear more from him in the future.




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Poochie the Chess Game

November 7, 2017

Last week, during the World Series, I read this hilarious article about the wonderful, wacky, crazy fifth game. This was the game when the Houston Astros fell behind, 4-0 and 7-4, and they were facing the best pitcher in baseball (Clayton Kershaw), yet somehow came back to win, 13-12. It was a game when impossible […]

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Playing Abroad, Part Two

November 3, 2017

Recently I wrote a post about my first experience playing a tournament abroad, back in 1978 in Russia. Coincidentally, I got together last weekend with some chess-playing friends, and tournaments abroad were one of our big topics of conversation. Mike Arne, a Life Master who has played almost no competitive chess since 1999, has recently […]

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Close But No Cigar

November 2, 2017

I’m sure that this will come as a surprise to no one: The Minnesota Blizzard won the fan vote for the Atlantic and Pacific Divisions of the PRO Chess League. The San Francisco Mechanics came in second and we will be the first alternate to take somebody’s place if one of the teams collapses. This […]

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Time to Vote! Plus, Highlights from Yesterday

October 29, 2017

The polls have opened to determine the final two participants in the 2018 PRO Chess League! According to commissioner Greg Shahade, there will be two concurrent polls, one on Twitter and one at chess.com, and the votes will be added to determine the winners. You have 72 hours to cast your vote. To read about […]

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Mechanics need your vote!

October 28, 2017

The PRO Chess League qualifier has concluded, and these were the standings for the Pacific Division. (It was a 15-round Swiss, with 4 players on each team, so the team scores given below are out of 60 possible points.) Chengdu Pandas — 36.5 Seattle Sluggers — 35 Australia Kangaroos — 34.5 New York Knights — […]

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PRO Chess League returns — will the Mechanics?

October 27, 2017

The great experiment known as the Professional Rapid Online Chess League is about to return to an Internet near you! The world-wide chess league debuted last January with 48 teams, and ultimately came down to a thrilling match between Wesley So’s St. Louis Arch Bishops and world champion Magnus Carlsen’s Norway Gnomes. Although Carlsen beat […]

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… And Out Popped a Mate

October 26, 2017

In 1978, I was an exchange student for a semester in what was then called the Soviet Union, studying Russian language at what was then called Leningrad State University in the city then known as Leningrad. One of my biggest goals for the semester was to participate in a chess tournament. I didn’t even know […]

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Chessboard Art

October 23, 2017

Last weekend Santa Cruz had an annual event called the Open Studios Art Tour, a chance for local artists to promote their work. It’s highly competitive (Santa Cruz has a lot of artists!) but this year one of my neighbors, Martha McNulty was selected to exhibit her work. I knew that she was an art […]

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