50 Years of Chess: Year 8

by admin on October 17, 2020

After spending three posts on 1978, a huge year in my chess life and my personal life, let’s move on to 1979. It was my last year of college (spring) and first year of graduate school (fall), and a very strange year. Coming back from Russia to America, I felt detached from my old life and I felt much older somehow. I now had a girlfriend in Leningrad who was inaccessible to me, except via letters that took three weeks to arrive. It was far from clear what was going to happen next on that front.

Meanwhile, on the academic front I finished college in fine style, graduating with Highest Honors (one of four in my class). I was admitted to all four graduate schools I applied to, thus carrying on an odd tradition. When I applied to college in 1975, I was accepted to all four schools. When I applied to graduate school in 1979, I was accepted to all four schools. And when I had a huge life change in 1996 and applied to graduate school again, I was once again accepted to all four schools I tried. So my lifetime record in school applications is 12-0! I have now retired undefeated from school applications. I will never try to extend my record.

Out of the four schools (Princeton, Harvard, MIT, and Caltech, if you must know), I picked Princeton, where I spent the next four years studying for a Ph.D. in math. It was a really, really humbling experience. I had classmates who had already published research as undergraduates. I had classmates who had finished in the top ten on the Putnam Exam, the national collegiate math competition. (My best finish was 58th.) I had classmates who came to Princeton knowing exactly which world-famous mathematician they wanted to study with. (I didn’t even know who the world-famous ones were, or why they were famous.)

For a variety of reasons, but mostly because I was working so hard, I gave up on tournament chess for a couple years at Princeton. But 1979 was not one of them! The summer of 1979 was the last of the old-style summer vacations for me, when I came home and stayed with my parents and worked at my summer job at Byrd Press. I got to play plenty of tournament chess, 4 tournaments and 22 games.

I fully expected that when I came back from Russia, I would quickly rise to expert rank. After all, I had just held my own in a 14-round Russian tournament where half my opponents were candidate masters (stronger than American experts) and half were category I players (stronger than American class A players). But the expected improvement didn’t happen. The holes in my game were still too huge. I still had no positional judgement and too many games that were decided by mad tactical shootouts or by time scrambles.

But when it worked, it was entertaining as hell. Here is one of the craziest games of my tournament career, and most likely the only game I ever won with a queen and bishop versus two queens. It’s also a game where my opponent totally outplayed me before falling into the Twilight Zone.

Eddie Gerdy — Dana Mackenzie, 6/16/1979

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5

As noted in my last post, this was the brief period in my life when I played the French Defense. As this game shows, I had no idea what I was doing.

3. Nc3 Bb4

The Winawer was de rigueur in those days, having been popularized by Viktor Korchnoi.

4. e5 c5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bc Qc7 7. Nf3 Ne7 8. a4 Nbc6 9. Be2 Bd7?

At some point, either here or the move before, Black is supposed to play … b6 to fortify the c-pawn and guard against Ba3. But I didn’t know that.

10. O-O O-O-O??

Position after 10. … O-O-O. White to move.

FEN: 2kr3r/ppqbnppp/2n1p3/2ppP3/P2P4/2P2N2/2P1BPPP/R1BQ1RK1 w – – 0 11

An absolutely horrible move that makes White’s Ba3 ten times more effective. You could tell my opponent knew it, too. For the next few moves he plays very powerfully.

11. Ba3 c4 12. a5! …

I like this move a lot. It threatens to trap Black’s queen. I’m just scrambling to survive.

12. … Be8 13. Qd2 f6 14. Bd6 Qd7

I think it’s likely that I would play 14. … Rxd6 today. With a slight material sacrifice, rook for bishop and pawn, Black would stop White’s initiative in its tracks. White has a couple of weak pawns, and the position is not a great one for White’s rooks because of the lack of open files. By contrast, 14. … Qd7 is the sort of move where you just close your eyes and hope you survive. Black’s congested, disorganized position is a mess.

15. Rfb1 Nf5 16. Bc5 Bh5

It’s very interesting to watch Black’s play in this game. My pieces gradually deploy on the kingside, where it seems as if I’m twenty tempi behind White’s queenside attack. White, for his part, plays like a stroke patient who has forgotten that the right-hand side of the board exists. From move 11 to 28, a span of 18 moves, every move he plays ends up on the left-hand side of the board. The funny thing is, the first 16 of them are actually perfectly good moves. It was just that sort of position.

17. a6! b6

No alternative. I saw the bishop sac coming, but everything else was worse.

18. Bxb6! ab 19. Rxb6 Bxf3

Position after 19. … Bxf3. White to move.

FEN: 2kr3r/3q2pp/PRn1pp2/3pPn2/2pP4/2P2b2/2PQBPPP/R5K1 w – – 0 20

Now White gets carried away just a little bit. He should just play 20. Bxf3, with a winning position. But that would require him to make a move on the kingside. He wants to win with only queenside moves.

20. Rb7? Qe8?

On 20. … Bxe2 21. Rxd7 Rxd7 22. Qxe2 Fritz evaluates the position as equal.

21. R1b1 Bxe2

Man, I keep taking all of his pieces on the kingside but he’s just not paying attention. And for good reason: he’s totally winning on the queenside.

22. Rb8+! Nxb8 23. a7 Qh5

The slow exodus of Black’s pieces to the kingside continues. The king is coming next. Can this possibly work?

24. axb8Q+ Kd7

At least I don’t have to think in this part of the game, I just have to run.

25. Rb7+! …

White isn’t holding anything back. And he doesn’t need to.

25. … Ke8 26. Qc7 Ra8!

On the list of sneaky moves I’ve played in my life, this one ranks pretty high. The computer now shows White with a mate in six. But no human alive would find it, because White has an easy way to win a rook that seems to leave him with a winning advantage.

Position after 26. … Ra8. White to play.

FEN: r3k2r/1RQ3pp/4pp2/3pPn1q/2pP4/2P5/2PQbPPP/6K1 w – – 0 27

I’ve already given you a huge hint: White to play and mate in six. Another hint is that Black can’t castle.

This is a truly problem-like position where you won’t find the answer by tactical thinking. Instead you have to think strategically. Most of Black’s pieces are rooted in place by mate threats. The knight can’t move. The queen can’t move, except to g6. The queen rook can’t leave the back rank. The king rook is irrelevant, and the bishop is irrelevant for defense. Because of this massive tie-down of Black’s pieces, White wins with the ridiculous quiet move 27. Qc1!!, threatening not only Qb2 but also the much more impressive 28. Qa3!!

If White had come up with this idea, I would very likely be presenting this as one of the best games ever played by an opponent of mine. But he tripped right at the finish line, playing what seems to be an obvious move — which actually costs him the victory.

27. Rb8+?? Rxb8 28. Qxb8+ Kf7 29. Qxh8 …

White’s first kingside move since move 11. It is a bad omen for him.

29. … Nh4

Position after 29. … Nh4. White to move.

FEN: 7Q/5kpp/4pp2/3pP2q/2pP3n/2P5/2PQbPPP/6K1 w – – 0 30

All of a sudden Black’s counterattack, which has been proceeding at a glacial pace, is starting to look quite menacing. The threat is 30. … Nf3+, with checkmate to follow. How can White save the game?

Some tries that don’t work: (A) 30. Kh1? Qg4! (B) 30. ef? Nf3+! (C) 30. Qf4? Ng6! This one has to be my favorite variation. I have never seen any other position in a tournament game where a knight was able to fork two queens.

The only move for White to save the game is 30. f3!, which creates luft for his king. For a long time, from 1979 until tonight, when I put the game on a computer, I thought that this was winning for White. But it turns out that Black has an absolutely stupendous drawing combination that only a computer could find. Here it is: 30. … Nxf3+! 31. gf Qxf3 32. Qe1. So far so good. But how can Black make any progress?

Answer: 32. … Bd3!! My jaw absolutely hit the floor when I saw this on the computer, and it hasn’t come up off the floor yet. The idea is to transfer the bishop to e4, where the mate threat on g2 is apparently too strong: White’s queen will have to leave the back rank to defend it, and then there will be some kind of perpetual check or worse. So White takes the bishop, 33. cd, but allegedly in spite of being a queen up, White cannot escape the checks after 33. … Qg4+. Basically White has no control over the light squares, and that is why Black can check forever.

I know I run the risk of exaggeration, but this is one of the most astounding computer finds I have seen. As a practical matter, 30. f3! would probably have won for White, because there is no way I would ever have found this idea.

Instead the game ends in another beautiful way.

30. Qe3? Nf3+! 31. gf? …

The last chance was to give up the queen for two pieces with 31. Qxf3, when White might have drawing chances.

Position after 31. gf. Black to move.

FEN: 7Q/5kpp/4pp2/3pP2q/2pP4/2P1QP2/2P1bP1P/6K1 b – – 0 31

There are some positions that make you ask, “How is this position even possible in a game between two good players attempting to make good moves?” This is one of them. How did White get two queens? How did Black’s bishop get to e2? Why hasn’t it been taken already?

Those questions are harder to answer than the other question, which is: How does Black win this position? The answer:

31. … Qg6+ 32. Kh1 Bf1!

The move my opponent must have missed. We have all seen checkmates on g2 a million times, but it always happened with the bishop on f3 or h3. Most of us have never seen it happen with the bishop on f1.

33. Qxg7+ Qxg7 34. White resigns

This game has to win some sort of prize, but I’m not sure what. Craziest Comeback Win? Best Game Ever By An Opponent Until He Made One Natural But Wrong Move? Most Ineffective Use of Two Queens? Slowest Mating Attack in History? Most Impertinent Knight? Most Ri-donk-ulous Computer Analysis?

How about “All of the Above”?

Lessons: There are no lessons from this game. I haven’t ever played any other games like it.

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50 Years of Chess: Year 7 (Part 3)

by admin on October 14, 2020

In my last post I wrote about the semester I spent in Russia in the winter of 1978. Even the people who lived in Leningrad said it was an brutally cold December. I experienced -25 degrees Fahrenheit (-32 degrees Celsius) for the first time in my life, and farther inland I believe the temperatures got down to -40 degrees. To go outside for more than five minutes with any skin exposed was to invite frostbite. I can still remember going to my friends’ apartment and having them put chicken grease on my nose (the most vulnerable part of my face), which they said would stop me from getting frostbite. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but anyway, I spent Christmas with a very shiny nose!

As I wrote last time, one of the highlights of the semester for me was the chance to play in a real Russian chess tournament, a quarterfinal section of the “Burevestnik” club championship. It started on October 20 and ended somewhat anticlimactically for me, with a forfeit win in the final round on December 26. I didn’t copy down the entire crosstable, but I did write down the final standings as well as my result against each player.

Place Name Score of Player My Result Against
1. Gellerstein 11.5-2.5 0
2-3. Kim 10.5-3.5 0
2-3. Mitrofanov 10.5-3.5 ½
4. Kiselev 9.5-4.5 ½
5. Trabski 9-5 1
6. Trubenkov 8.5-5.5 1
7-8. Mackenzie 7.5-6.5
7-8. Petrov 7.5-6.5 0
9. Shcherbakov 6-8 ½
10-12. Meiroyan 5-9 1
10-12. Petrochenko 5-9 1F
10-12. Yelpashev 5-9 0
13. Gladyshev 4.5-9.5 0
14. Bibik 3.5-10.5 1
15. Zakonov 2-12 1F

(1F = forfeit win. Ties listed in [English] alphabetical order.)

I mentioned last time that I had an awful lot of good luck in this tournament. But I did play a couple games I was proud of, particularly my win as Black against the #5 finisher, Trabski. It’s an incredibly complex game, and I feel as if I learned from this one game how to play rook endgames. Very useful knowledge for the rest of my chess career.

Trabski — Mackenzie, 11/20 – 12/1/1978

1. e4 e6 …

Yes, for a couple years I played the French Defense. It didn’t really suit my style, though, so eventually I went back to 1. … e5.

2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. Qg4?! …

I was completely unfamiliar with this variation, and I still don’t think it is very good. Since I didn’t know any theory, I just tried to play simple developing moves, and it worked pretty well.

4. … ed 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. Bd3 Qc7 7. Bf4 N8e7 8. O-O Ng6 9. Re1 Nxf4 10. Qxf4 f6! 11. Qh4? …

Although White’s position was already questionable, this move cannot be right. White completely yields the center in order to win a wing pawn.

11. … fe 12. Bxh7 …

A good time for our first diagram.

Position after 12. Bxh7. Black to move.

FEN: r1b1kb1r/ppq3pB/2n1p3/3pp3/3p3Q/5N2/PPP2PPP/RN2R1K1 b kq – 0 12

Here the computer says that Black’s best move is 12. … Qf7! My opponent was surely anticipating this, and his point was that after 13. Bg6! Rxh4 14. Nxh4 he wins back the queen and ends up with an exchange for the pawn. However, Fritz says, and I agree, that Black’s massive center gives me more than enough compensation.

However, I probably saw this “trap” and decided I’d better not fall into it. Instead I decided to head my king to what I saw as the safest part of the board. My reasoning was: With such a mass of pawns in the center, how could White ever get to my king if I just put him on d6?

12. … Kd7!? 13. N1d2 Be7 14. Qh5 Bf6 15. Rad1 Kd6!?

Another thing that appealed to me about this line was that the move … g5 is in the air. White has to strike hard to keep from just losing a bishop.

16. c4 Bd7

Actually, Black can play 16. … g5 here. In my notes to the game later, I wrote, “Black, unfortunately, can never win the White bishop. On 16. … g5 17. Qg6 Qe7 18. cd!” Well, this is a classic case of stopping the analysis way too soon. It’s still very unclear how White will hold after 18. … ed 19. Nxg5 Kc7 20. Ndf3 Bg4. In general, this is a position for madmen or computers.

Also, 16. … Qe7 was a calm option that might have been better than the game; Black opens up a route to safety for his king and keeps the threat of … g5 in the air.

17. Qg6 Be8 18. Qc2 g5?!

Now I think this move is already too weakening.

19. cd Qxh7?

This turns out to be bad, but the refutation is hard to see.

Position after 19. … Qxh7. White to move.

FEN: r3b2r/pp5q/2nkpb2/3Pp1p1/3p4/5N2/PPQN1PPP/3RR1K1 w – – 0 20

20. Qxh7? …

White misses the chance to play 20. Ne4+! Black has to retreat the king either to e7 or c7. If, for example, 20. … Kc7 than the computer says that 21. Qc5! (unpinning the knight) 21. … Be7 22. d6+! is winning. It would take unbelievable guts to play a line like this. Yes, White is getting back his piece but there are still issues like … g4 to deal with. As I said before, this is a position either for madmen or computers.

After the queen trade the position finally calms down a little bit and we get a position with approximate equality.

20. … Rxh7 21. dc Bxc6 22. Nc4+ Ke7 23. N4xe5 Bxe5 24. Nxe5 Rd8 25. Nxc6 …

Maybe White should have kept his knight, because it’s a very strong piece, but I can totally understand the inclination to trade knight for bishop while it’s still possible, and in the process make Black’s pawn structure even more discombobulated.

25. … bc

A position where none of Black’s five pawns are in contact with another! It would be really nice if White still had a knight — he could take them all in five moves. (Well, not really.)

I imagine that my opponent probably thought he had the advantage here, but actually I was able to heal my pawn formation pretty quickly. The pawn on d4 will soon be a protected passed pawn, and my centralized king is almost like an extra piece. So actually, maybe it’s not surprising that the position turns in Black’s favor in a few moves.

26. Re4 c5 27. R1e1 Rh6 28. Re5 R8h8!

Position after 28. … R8h8. White to move.

FEN: 7r/p3k3/4p2r/2p1R1p1/3p4/8/PP3PPP/4R1K1 w – – 0 29

I really like Black’s move, because it shows that even though White’s pawn formation is “weakness-free,” it’s just as open to attack as Black’s full-of-holes pawn formation. White can’t keep the h-file closed with 29. h3 because of 29. … g4! Meanwhile, Black doesn’t care about the fact that White is threatening two pawns because he can only take one of them!

One lesson I learned from this game is that in rook-and-pawn endgames, the optical strength of the pawn formation is not as big a deal as in other positions. Once the rooks start running rampage, every pawn on the board can become weak. Rook and pawn endgames are all about making dynamic threats and saving tempi, not about static advantages.

29. Rxc5 Rxh2 30. f3 Kf6?!

A slight inaccuracy. Black is helped more than harmed by a rook trade on e1.

31. R5e5?! Rh1+ 32. Kf2 Rxe1 33. Rxe1 e5 34. Ke2? …

After this move Black definitely gets winning chances. I really don’t know why White didn’t play the obvious 34. Rc1. He was in time pressure; perhaps that was the reason.

34. … Rh2?!

The computer really likes 34. … g4. I had not yet learned my lesson about dynamic play. Black is glad to give up a pawn if he can get his center pawns rolling.

35. Kf2 Rh7 36. Rc1 Rd7 37. Ke2 Ke6 38. Kd3 Kd5 39. b4 Rb7 40. a3 Kd6 41. Rc5 Rf7! 42. Ra5 (s) …

Position after 42. Ra5. Black to move.

FEN: 8/p4r2/3k4/R3p1p1/1P1p4/P2K1P2/6P1/8 b – – 0 42

I’ve gone over the last few moves without comment because I really wanted to get to this position, which was the adjourned position. For those who are too young to remember these things, in the days before sudden-death time controls, if a game went on too long you would adjourn the game. One player would be given an envelope and would seal his move inside an envelope, so the other player couldn’t see it. In this case White sealed his move (that’s what the “s” indicates), so I didn’t know that he had played 42. Ra5.

I had never played an adjourned game before this tournament, but I had two of them and did very well. Against Mitrofanov I saved a draw from a previously lost position, and against Trabski, as we’re going to see, I managed to win from a position that is objectively equal.

The day to complete adjourned games was set for December 1, so I had eleven full days to analyze this position. I estimate that I spent about ten hours on it, longer than I had ever analyzed a position in my life.

The computer (which, of course, we didn’t have back then) says that the position is equal, and it continues to say so for fourteen more moves. Undoubtedly it is correct. However, I still felt that I had real practical chances to win, because of my protected passed pawn on d4. The only way I could find to push for a win was to bring my king to the kingside and try to loosen up White’s pawn formation. Black’s dream is to turn the d- and e-pawns into connected passed pawns. I think that the reason I won this game is that I had a clear objective. White probably did not spend nearly as much time on the position and did not have a clear plan.

At the risk of repeating myself, a lesson I learned very strongly from this game is that R+P endgames are all about active rooks and dynamic play. Activity, activity, activity! You don’t win a R+P endgame by defending stuff. If you want to win, you have to push the pedal to the metal. Time is of the essence, and it is very often worth sacrificing a pawn to gain a tempo.

42. … Ke6

As noted above, my plan is to try to infiltrate the kingside.

43. Ra6+ Kf5 44. Rc6 …

White’s play is a little bit lackadaisical. One thing he should consider here is shutting my king out with 44. g3. I would probably have played 44. … g4, and then White again has a tough decision between 45. fg and 45. f4. In my hours of home analysis I couldn’t find a definite win for Black, and in fact the computer says that both of these moves draw. However, that’s only if both players find good moves! Actually I’d say it is a draw if White plays really well, a win for Black if he doesn’t.

44. … Kf4

First goal achieved!

45. Rc5 Re7 46. Rc2 …

Although the computer will tell you that the position is still a draw (“All rook endgames are drawn”), Black is making tangible progress. White is backing up instead of moving forward.

46. … Rg7 47. a4 g4!

The next step in the plan.

48. fg?! …

And again White cooperates. Better was 48. Rc8!, activating the rook and not allowing connected passed pawns.

48. … Rxg4

It’s time to burn the bridges behind me. The a-pawn is a goner, but the center pawns are ready to steamroller down the board.

49. Rf2+ Kg5 50. Rf7 Rg3+ 51. Kc4 Rc3+ 52. Kd5 Re3

Position after 52. … Re3. White to move.

I had gotten to positions like this in my adjournment analysis, and made the pleasant discovery (which I hadn’t known before) that a rook and two connected passed pawns are “self-propelling.” White cannot hope to stop them. He can only hope to outrace them.

53. Rxa7 d3 54. Kc4 e4 55. Rd7 Re2

Position after 55. … Re2. White to move.

FEN: 8/3R4/8/6k1/PPK1p3/3p4/4r1P1/8 w – – 0 56

A critical, in fact the decisive moment in the game. Which pawn should White push?

I think that the hard part, perhaps, is realizing that it even matters. My opponent may have thought that 56. a5 and 56. b5 were essentially they same. But one of them loses, and the other one draws. He had the bad luck to pick the one that loses.

56. b5? …

He should have played 56. a5! The main difference is that the winning technique used by Black in the game will not work here. If 56. a5 d2 57. a6 e3 58. a7 Re1 59. a8Q with an easy win for White. So Black has to try something different, but moves like 56. a5 Rc2+ or 56. a5 Kf6 peter out to a draw if White plays carefully. For example, Fritz says 56. a5 Rc2+ 57. Kb3 Kf6 58. a6 Rc8 59. a7 Ke6 60. Rd4 Ke5 with a draw by repetition. White’s rook cannot afford to leave the d-file, but Black can’t make any progress either because his rook is tied down to defending against the a-pawn.

56. … d2! 57. b6 e3 58. a5 …

White realizes too late that 58. b7 Re1 59. b8Q loses to 59. … Rc1+. If the king moves to the b-file, then Black snatches the queen with an x-ray check. The other option is 60. Kd5, where I wrote in my notes that “Black almost certainly has a win beginning with 60. … d1Q+ 61. Ke6 Qg4+ 62. Ke7 Qe4+ 63. Kd8 e2.” The computer agrees, except that it says 62. … Qh4! is even stronger.

58. … Re1 59. Rd5+ Kf6 60. a6 Rc1+ 61. Kb5 e2!

White’s connected passed pawns on the sixth rank are strong, but Black’s connected passed pawns on the seventh rank are even stronger.

62. a7 d1Q 63. Rc5 …

Throwing in the towel. But if 63. a8Q, then 63. … Qb3+ 64. Ka6 Ra1+ 65. Ra5 Rxa5+ 66. Kxa5 Qa3+ is also the end.

63. … Rxc5+ 64. Kxc5 e1Q

I can’t resist putting in one more diagram, because this position represents the perfect culmination of Black’s plan to created connected passed pawns. Both pawns eventually queened!

Position after 64. … e1Q. White to move.

FEN: 8/P7/1P3k2/2K5/8/8/6P1/3qq3 w – – 0 65

65. a8Q Qc3+ 66. Kb5 Q1d3+ 67. White resigns

If you look at moves 42-67 on a computer, you get the impression that basically nothing happened. The position was drawn until move 56, then White had a brain fart, pushed the wrong pawn and lost.

But if you look at my notes, I hope you’ll see that move 56 was just the last of several questionable decisions by White, each one of which left him standing on a narrower and narrower ledge of safety until it was basically a coin flip whether he would fall off. And I think you’ll see that Black had a clearly defined plan. Even if White could have stopped it with best play, it’s much better to have a plan than not to have one.

Lessons:

  1. In an unfamiliar opening, put your trust in good developing moves.
  2. Rook endgames are all about dynamic advantages, about making threats and forcing your opponent to defend. Active rooks are key. Whether you are ahead and trying to win, or behind and trying to draw, it is paramount to keep your rook active.
  3. In rook endgames, it is very often worth giving up a pawn to gain a tempo, or giving up a pawn to activate your rook.
  4. Static advantages like pawn structure are less important in rook endgames than in most other positions, because the positions are so dynamic and so likely to change.
  5. In a rook and pawn endgame, a rook and two connected passed pawns cannot be stopped unless the defender’s king is in front of the pawns. If they can’t be stopped, the defender’s only hope is to outrun them.
  6. The player who has a plan will often beat the player who does not have a plan, even if the position is “equal.” One way to form a plan is to identify sub-tasks that need to be accomplished in order to achieve your goal (win or draw).
  7. In a pawn race, although it’s usually good to be the first player to queen, you have to watch out for x-ray checks. (See, for example, the note to move 58 above.)
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50 Years of Chess, Year 7 (Part 2)

October 7, 2020

In the fall of 1978, I joined a group of 35 American students for a semester abroad in Leningrad, Russia. I had been studying the Russian language since my junior year of high school, and chess was one of the main reasons (at first). When I was at Phillips Academy, I wanted to start learning […]

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50 Years of Chess, Year 7 (Part 1)

October 3, 2020

When you put a call out to the universe, sometimes the universe answers! A couple weeks ago I mentioned that I did not have the scores of any of my games from 1976. But then I got an e-mail from an old friend I hadn’t heard from for many years: Macon Shibut, who was a […]

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Ageless Wonders

October 2, 2020

Chessbase had an interesting column yesterday about the ten highest-rated players of all time, in which they tracked down the exact games where they hit their rating peaks. It’s an interesting list, and I’ll give you the condensed version here (without the games). Player Peak Rating Achieved Against Year 1. Carlsen 2889 Nakamura 2014 2. […]

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Where Have We Seen This Before?

September 30, 2020

To: World From: Chess players Where have we seen this before? Refuses to play by previously agreed-upon rules. Driven by a persecution complex. Disdainful toward other people (“weakies”). Intolerant toward certain minorities. Demands complete loyalty from friends; one misstep and “you’re fired.”

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50 Years of Chess: Year 6

September 26, 2020

Today we’re going to have a bit of deja deja vu vu: a game that I’ve already annotated once in my blog. It is still one of my favorites, and much more interesting than the other two games I have kept from 1977. But I will do it with one ground rule: I’m going to […]

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50 Years of Chess: Year 5

September 20, 2020

Continuing our gallop through my personal chess history, we come to 1976. It was the year I turned eighteen — unfortunately, two days too late to vote in the Presidential election. It’s always been a little bit of a disappointment that the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, which gave 18-year-olds the right to vote, was no help to […]

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50 Years of Chess: Year 4

September 18, 2020

Time flies! We’re now up to 1975, which was the year of my graduation from prep school (Phillips Academy) and the start of my freshman year in college (Swarthmore College). Another major event during the year was my family’s move from Indianapolis, Indiana, to Richmond, Virginia. I think of 1975 also as the first year […]

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50 Years of Chess: Year 3

September 13, 2020

The year 1974 spread over my junior and senior years at prep school. As usual, I played no rated tournament chess during the school year, but managed to cram in four tournaments during the summer. It was again a good year for me, with a won-loss record of 16.5 – 9.5. Prizes were harder to […]

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