50 Years of Chess: Year 21B

by admin on January 23, 2021

In my last post, I gave up on trying to pick a “best game” from 1992 because there are three high-quality, or at least high-interest games that I wanted to show you. Today, I’ll show you my favorite single move ever. A few years ago, I picked it as “My Best Move” for the Chess Life column of the same name. In 2012 I wrote in this blog, “perhaps I will write a post here about it some day … but not now.” After eight years, I think it’s time for me finally to live up to that promise!

In my Chess Life column I didn’t show the whole game, but in fact the whole thing is just as fun as the surprise twist at the end. My opponent in this game was John Hayes, one of the most creative players in central Ohio. Hayes gets things off to an unconventional start with his moves 1. … Nc6 (which actually was his bread and butter) and the even more outlandish 6. … Kf7. Then I did something you should never do against someone who plays eccentric moves in the opening — I started throwing the crazy right back at him. The game continued to be full of wild complications and questionable decisions right up to move 20, when out of the blue something happened that made everything crystal clear. Enjoy playing over a chess game from another planet!

Dana Mackenzie — John Hayes, 1992 Columbus Invitational Championship

1. d4 Nc6

At the time I thought that this was a “crazy” opening that no serious player would venture. However, with time I have changed my mind, mostly because I have played against several computer programs that liked this move and I have never been able to get a serious advantage against them. I now think that it is a perfectly respectable and playable move.

2. e4 d5 3. e5 f6!?

Again, I probably had too emotional a reaction to this move. It’s almost as if Black is taunting me: “Come and get me!” But according to the computer, which has no emotions, this move is every bit as good as the move I expected, 3. … Bf5. If White tries to take advantage of the weakened kingside with 4. Bd3, it could blow up in his face: 4. … Nxd4 5. Qh5+ g6 6. Bxg6 hg 7. Qxh8 Nxc2+ 8. Kd1 Qd7!! This is the stunning move found by Fritz, which evaluates the position at +2 pawns for Black. The more obvious 8. … Nxa8 is not as good. After 8. … Qd7!! 9. Kxc2 Qg4! Black gets both his queen and bishop into the attack, with murderous effect.

I don’t know whether this is established theory or whether Hayes knew about this move 8. … Qd7. I certainly think he must have had a prepared line, because 1. … Nc6 was his regular opening, and that’s why I avoided 4. Bd3.

4. Bb5 Bf5 5. Ne2 e6 6. Nf4 Kf7!?

Position after 6. … Kf7. White to move.

FEN: r2q1bnr/ppp2kpp/2n1pp2/1B1pPb2/3P1N2/8/PPP2PPP/RNBQK2R w KQ – 0 7

Black defends e6 and unpins his knight. Quite logical, if you don’t care about king safety! A calm alternative would have been 6. … Qd7.

7. Bxc6 bc 8. g4!? …

Wow, what can I say about this move? First of all, it is the computer’s top choice, so it can’t be too bad. But I think it was the product of a flawed thinking process, and that is bad.

First, I think that my move was impulsive. I thought that Black’s sixth move had “gone too far,” and so I should release my attack dogs in the direction of his king. But I failed to consider adequately how much this move would expose my own king.

Second, my move was based on a tactical misconception. My original plan was to answer 8. … Be4 with 9. f3? Only after making this move did I realize that 9. f3 fxe5 10. exf4? is pretty bad for White after 10. … Qh4+! Typically, I had forgotten to consider this in-between move. If White plays 10. h4 instead to keep the queen out, then 10. … Bxc2! is a nice desperado move, where Black gives up the bishop for the knight on f4 but does it in such a way that the f-file remains closed.

Third, my move was strategically questionable. I’ve written before about the need to stay flexible in the opening. Black has made some very committing moves. The best way to take advantage of this is not to make premature, committing moves myself, but to play flexibly. With a simple developing move like 8. Nd2 I would retain the threat of playing g2-g4 when it is a little bit stronger. And if Black takes time to prevent that move with, say, 8. … h5, that’s fine too because I have made a developing move and he hasn’t.

Finally, my move was psychologically questionable. By playing 8. g4 I have agreed to play my opponent’s kind of game. Fortunately, a John Hayes kind of game is not all that different from a Dana Mackenzie kind of game, so I did okay. In fact, I won! But still, the fact remains that my opponent was trying to provoke me, and I let myself be provoked.

8. … Be4 9. O-O! …

Fortunately I realized in time that 9. f3 was not good, and played a much better move.

9. …fe 10. de Qh4 11. Nc3 h5

Threatening to open the h-file and checkmate me on h2!

12. Nxh5? …

In this position I needed to realize that Black’s attack was more bark than bite. I should go ahead and eliminate an attacker with 12. Nxe4!, and then on the inevitable 12. … hg I can shut down his attack with the amazing 13. h3! If Black takes his piece back with 13. … de, then White gets an instant counterattack with 14. Qd7+. Black is forced to retreat with 14. … Qe7, and then 15. Qxc6 followed by 16. Qxe4 picks up a couple of dangling pawns and leaves White in a very comfortable position. If Black doesn’t take his piece back, then White will have time either to rescue it with Ng3 or Ng5 or else play Qxg4 and trade queens.

Can you spot the problem with 12. Nxh5?

Position after 12. Nxh5. Black to move.

FEN: r4bnr/p1p2kp1/2p1p3/3pP2N/4b1Pq/2N5/PPP2P1P/R1BQ1RK1 b – – 0 12

Actually there are three problems with 12. Nxh5, but two are more general in nature and one is a specific tactic. The first general problem is that the knight is pinned; any move and I get checkmated on h2. This means I have to be careful not to move the knight. The second general problem is that my counterplay with Nxe4 de Qd7+, which stopped Black’s attack in its tracks in the above variations, now is not so threatening because I no longer have the knight on f4 attacking the e6 pawn.

The specific problem, according to Fritz, is that Black can draw immediately with a nice double-desperado sacrifice: 12. … Bxc2! 13. Qxc2 Rxh5! 14. gh. If White had declined either of the sacs I would just be a pawn down. Now I’m a rook up, but Black has a perpetual with 14. … Qg4+ 15. Kh1 Qf3+. This particular perpetual check (the “Qg4-Qf3 perpetual”) is a very common theme, by the way — a good way to salvage half a point out of attacks that aren’t quite strong enough to lead to checkmate.

That being said, the move that Hayes chose was also fine, and probably better from the human point of view. The computer sees that Black has nothing better than equality, so it prefers the more forcing line that draws immediately. The human realizes that there is still a long game ahead, with plenty of chances for each side. I don’t think that Hayes had any inclination to “play for a draw” at this point, and even if he had seen the double-desperado sacrifice I don’t think he would have played it.

12. … g6 13. f3 …

Perfectly timed.

13. … Bc5+ 14. Kh1 gh?

This innocent move was Black’s undoing. Because Black’s bishop is trapped, Hayes may have thought that he had to take my knight, in order to keep the material balance. But what he really has to do is keep the f-file closed. Therefore a much better move was 14. … Bf5! Now a curious situation arises where neither side wants to take the other player’s piece. I don’t want to play 15. gf because it lets Black take over the h-file after 15. … Rxh5. Likewise, Black doesn’t want to take my knight, say with 15. Qe2 gh?, because it closes the h-file and interferes with his own attack. A very unique position, with two pieces en prise and yet both of them at least slightly poisoned.

15. fg+ Kg7 16. g5 …

An obvious move, but a very key point! As mentioned in the previous comment, by capturing on h5 with the pawn Black has closed the very same file (the h-file) that he has tried so hard to open. This move makes sure that the h-file stays closed. Also, it will turn out to be very important that the g-pawn cuts off the only diagonal that Black’s queen can use to retreat.

16. … Ne7 17. Rf4! …

I am very proud to say that from this point I saw how the game was going to end. The winning move on move 20 was not accidental, but deliberately set up by my moves on 17-19.

17. … Qh3

Forced, because 17. … Qxg5? would lose the queen after 18. Rf7+.

18. Na4! Bb6?

Black’s last chance to escape the winning combination was to play 18. … Bb4! But White still has a tremendous position after 19. a3 Ba5 20. Nc5! with pressure on e6. For example, 20. … Bb6 21. Qd3! Qxd3 22. Nxe6+ is a strong in-between move. Black has to play 22. … Kg8 because 22. … Kg6? 23. Rf6+ Kh7 24. Rf7+ Kg6 25. Rg7 is mate! Who would have thought that White’s chaotic pawn structure would be so strong?

19. Nxb6 ab

Position after 19. … ab. White to move.

FEN: r6r/2p1n1k1/1pp1p3/3pP1Pp/4PR2/7q/PPP4P/R1BQ3K w – – 0 20

And here it is, the position where I played my favorite winning move ever.

Aside from that, it is one of the most paradoxical positions I have ever seen. It doesn’t even look as if Black is in trouble, yet he loses by force. White has not even touched any of his queenside pieces; his only developed piece is the rather weirdly placed rook on f4. Black’s king is out of trouble, his queen is active, his rooks have (or will have) nice lines, his knight is coming to g6, and his king is safe. White is a pawn up, but with his crippled pawn structure that probably won’t last for long. I’m sure that Hayes felt very optimistic here.

Okay, now I’m going to start giving hints. In spite of everything I just said, the most important thing about this position is that Black’s queen is trapped. If only I could attack it, I would win it. Unfortunately, because of my terrible lack of development, it takes me four full moves to attack his queen: Bd2, Qe2, Rf1, Rf3. That is more than enough time for Black to send a rescue party to her aid.

Unless… unless there is a somewhat less conventional route to attacking the queen. A route that starts with this move:

20. a4!! …

As I mentioned in the introduction, computers find this move instantly. It’s the only winning move; according to Fritz, the evaluation is +5 pawns for White if he finds it, 0.00 if he doesn’t.

Yet for humans, this move is hard to find. We have been brainwashed to develop our pieces, move our rooks to the center, and above all not to move our a-pawn two squares and develop the rook behind it.

This move also continues the paradoxes that I mentioned in my last comment. White wins the game on the kingside by making the most innocuous possible move on the queenside, a2-a4. White is happy that he doesn’t have any pieces developed, because that is why his rook, after coming to a3, will be able to move clear across the board and take the queen on h3. In any normal game, there would be a bunch of pieces in the way. (That, by the way, was the point of my maneuver Nc3-a4xb6. Not to win the bishop for the knight, but to get my knight out of the rook’s way.)

You can have your brilliant queen sacrifices, your zugzwangs, your immortal checkmates. I’m glad to claim this humble pawn push as my best move ever.

Black does have a way to sort of fight on, winning two rooks for the queen, but his position is too disorganized and his king still too vulnerable.

20. … Ng6 21. Ra3 Nxf4 22. Rxh3 Nxh3 23. Qf3 Rxa4

Folding up the tent. Black’s position is hopeless anyway, because the knight falls and White’s queen has so many great targets (especially e6). After the text move, I can switch my focus from winning the knight to winning the king.

24. Qf6+ Kg8 25. g6 Rh7 26. gh+ Kxh7 27. Qf7+ Kh8 28. Qxh5+ resigns

I like the way that White’s bishop on c1 has stayed there the whole game, playing a video game while the battle rages around it.

Lessons:

  1. You have been brainwashed. Rooks can develop to a3. Kings don’t have to castle. Bishops can stay on their home squares forever. You do not need to develop your pieces.
  2. Just kidding!
  3. Meet reckless moves with flexible moves; meet undisguised threats with disguised threats.
  4. Don’t be afraid to call your opponent’s bluff. If you think his attack is more bark than bite, then ignore his threats and create your own threats.
  5. The Qf3+-Qg4+ perpetual check (for Black; Qf6+-Qg5+ for White) is a common way to bail out into a draw if you’ve played an attack that isn’t strong enough to checkmate.
  6. Positions with trapped pieces are among the hardest to evaluate. In these positions especially, every tempo is important, and a single tempo can make the difference between winning and drawing, or losing.
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50 Years of Chess: Year 21A

by admin on January 16, 2021

As we move to 1992 in my retrospective look at my chess career, I face a dilemma. In 1990 and 1991 I had trouble finding any good games to show you, but in 1992 I have the opposite problem — too many good games. There’s one that, in my notebook, I call a “keepsake.” There’s another one that I lectured about for ChessLecture, and wrote about in Chess Life for the column “My Best Move.” And finally, there is my first win against an International Master. How do I choose among these?

Answer: I don’t. Because I had a couple of years with no games (1980 and 1981), I think it’s fair to make up the shortfall by showing you three games from 1992.

I’ll start with the “keepsake” game. It came in the last round of the Columbus Open, a tournament I did pretty well in. I lost to the winner of the tournament, a Russian emigre named Boris Men, and won my other four games against lower-rated players. “It’s not so easy to win four straight games against people who aren’t a whole lot weaker than you,” I wrote in my diary.

Although I won’t show you my game against Boris Men, I’d like to digress for a moment and tell you his story. He appeared absolutely out of nowhere in 1990 or maybe early 1991, winning tons of tournaments in Ohio and a few in surrounding states. One of his pet openings was the Albin Counter Gambit, which he played in our game. His USCF rating got over 2600, and he was invited to play in the 1992 U.S. Invitational Championship, which took place in Colorado about six months after my game with him.

It’s not often that you have a player in the U.S. Championship whom no one knows anything about. But according to the account I read in Chess Life, the other players quickly figured him out. It turns out that Boris Men was once a strong junior player in the Soviet Union, but then chose a different career (perhaps because he wasn’t quite at the elite level). I think he was possibly a doctor. But when he emigrated to the U.S., he couldn’t get a job at first and fell back on chess to make a living. He had not played competitively in years and years, so all of his openings (except the Albin Counter Gambit) were the latest in Soviet theory — from the 1950s. Once the other players in the U.S. Championship realized this, all they had to do was look up the refutations of those variations that had been discovered in the 1960s. Boris’s goose was cooked. He went 5-10, finishing second to last. He did win games against Roman Dzindzichashvili and Walter Browne, and drew against players like Boris Gulko and Yasser Seirawan, so it’s not as if he was completely overmatched. But he never played in a national-level tournament again.

After my one tournament game against him, I found Men to be soft-spoken and polite. I had gone a little bit berserk, playing a piece sac that wasn’t quite sound, but he kindly said that I had him worried for a little while.

Now let me turn to my “keepsake” game. In the last round of the Columbus Open, I played against an expert named Ken Martin, whom I know nothing about except that he was from Connecticut. This game is not at all complex, but I think that Nimzovich would be proud of it. It beautifully illustrates the the themes of restraint and blockade, and in the final position Black’s pieces are almost comically helpless. It might make a good game for teaching.

Dana Mackenzie — Ken Martin, 6/21/1992

1. d4 f5 2. e4 …

I have always played the Staunton Gambit against the Dutch Defense. Modern Chess Openings, which was my reference at the time, said that it is “without doubt sound as gambits go.” But in a way, its soundness is also its Achilles heel. Black only gets in trouble if he tries to hang onto the pawn. If he gives it back, he can equalize pretty easily.

2. … fe 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Nc6

This is the standard, equalizing book line. The knight is actually heading to f7! A very common beginner’s mistake is 4. … d5?, which loses the pawn back to 5. Bxf6 ef 6. Qh5+ g6 7. Qxd5, with a very pleasant position for White. (If Black trades queens, White will win another pawn.)

5. d5 Ne5 6. Qd4 Nf7 7. Bxf6 ef 8. O-O-O!? …

Position after 8. O-O-O. Black to move.

FEN: r1bqkb1r/pppp1npp/5p2/3P4/3Qp3/2N5/PPP2PPP/2KR1BNR b kq – 0 8

This is as far as I knew the theory; I was now on my own. My idea with 8. O-O-O was to try to lure my opponent into defending with 8. … f5, which I thought would loosen his position up. Nevertheless, the computer says that that is what Black should do, and after 9. f3 Be7 10. fe Bf6! Black is okay because White has trouble finding a comfortable square for his queen.

8. … Bd6

You can’t really call this a blunder. And yet — everything that went wrong for Black in this game stems from this move. On d6, the bishop interferes with the development of Black’s queenside pieces, which eventually get completely severed from the rest of Black’s army.

9. Qxe4+ Qe7 10. Re1 …

I was doing my best to keep Black from castling, but maybe he doesn’t have to! After 10. … Qxe4 11. Rxe4+ Kf8! Black continues with … b6 and … Bb7 and … Re8, with a very compact and solid position. I think that a more “conventional” developing move like 10. Bd3 or 10. Nf3 might have been better.

Fortunately, Black makes a worse mistake — actually two moves in a row that just give away two tempi.

10. … Ne5?! 11. Nh3 Ng6 12. Bd3 Qxe4 13. Nxe4 Be5

Position after 13. … Be6. White to move.

FEN: r1b1k2r/pppp2pp/5pn1/3Pb3/4N3/3B3N/PPP2PPP/2K1R2R w kq – 0 14

One of my quirks — I’m not sure whether it is a weakness or a strength — is that I’ve always been fascinated by the challenge of queenless middlegames. How do you build an attack without a queen? Maybe I should write a book called “No Queens? No Problem.”

In this position, White has an enormous advantage in time. I’ve completed my development and castled, while Black’s queenside is still completely undeveloped and his king is still in the center of the board. However, translating this advantage into concrete threats is not so easy. As noted before, I don’t have a queen to attack with. And Black has no real weaknesses, except perhaps the a2-g8 diagonal, but he’s getting ready to close that diagonal on the next move with … d6.

That is the motivation behind my next move. It sweeps open the a2-g8 diagonal, while blockading Black’s d-pawn and forcing Black to find some other way of getting the queenside pieces out.

14. d6! …

It’s interesting that the computer comes up with a different good move here: 14. f4! The point is that 14. … Nxf4 15. Nxf6+! exploits the pin along the e-file. I think that I completely overlooked this possibility; at any rate, I didn’t mention it in my notes to the game (which were written before the computer era). The move I played is just as good, but played with a different philosophy. The move 14. f4! is in the Alekhine style, seeking to take advantage of White’s lead in development with tactics. The move 14. d6! is in the Nimzovich style, seeking to blockade the opponent and interfere with the communication between his pieces. As you’ll see, it worked extremely well, although I did have a little bit of help from my opponent.

Also, let me say that the fact that White had two good plans, which were quite different from each other, is not a huge surprise because Black has fallen so far behind in tempi.

14. … O-O 15. Bc4+? …

This move, surprisingly, is a mistake. I never realized it until today, when I had my computer look at the game. In retrospect, it’s so obvious. The move I really want to play is 15. g3, to follow it up with 16. f4. There is absolutely no reason to play this “spite check” first, and a good reason not to play it, which you’ll see in a second.

15. … Kh8 16. g3 b5!

A nice, alert move by my opponent. White of course doesn’t want to take on b5, which would give Black an instant attack after … Rb8. The problems with 15. Bc4+ were: 1) it put my bishop on a square where Black could attack it with a gain of tempo. 2) It weakened my control over e4.

17. Bd5 c6 18. Bb3 a5 19. a3 a4 20. Ba2 Bb7?

Until this move, Black was doing pretty well. I would not have played 19. … a4, because it gains nothing and commits Black to an inflexible pawn formation. Even so, Black would still have a perfectly playable game after 20. … Bd4.

It’s ironic, after I criticized Black earlier for developing too slowly, that I’m going to criticize him here for developing the light-squared bishop too quickly. His mistake was comparable to my mistake on move 15. In any position, you should ask yourself, “What does my opponent want to do?” It was really clear to me, at least, that White would love to sink his knight on c5 and blockade Black’s queenside pawns. So Black had to anticipate this and prevent it, while he still could, with 20. … Bd4. This also makes sense from the point of view that Black’s bishop is not really useful on e5 any more. White’s pawn on d6 will be solid after Rd1, which is probably coming next move. So Black should look for greener pastures for his dark-squared bishop — again, while the opportunity lasts. Because it’s not going to last much longer.

From what I’ve just said, my response is probably obvious.

21. Nc5! …

Position after 21. Nc5. Black to move.

FEN: r4r1k/1b1p2pp/2pP1pn1/1pN1b3/p7/P5PN/BPP2P1P/2K1R2R b – – 0 21

I stick to my Nimzovichian strategy of blockade, blockade, blockade. Of course Black cannot play 21. … Bxd6?? 22. Nxb7 because the bishop has no place to move to that would keep White’s knight trapped.

However, Black can and should play 21. … Bd4! In my notes (again, written before the computer age) I devoted reams of analysis to 21. … Bd4 22. Nxb7 Rfb8?! Now White’s knight is trapped, but Black has trouble actually winning it because of his back-rank weakness after 23. Re4 Bb6 24. R1e1. The only move where I couldn’t find a forced win for White was 24. … Nf8!, but White has a nice positional advantage after 25. Nf4 Rxb7 26. Nd3, with ideas of bringing a rook to e7.

However, it’s all moot because the computer found an improvement for Black: 21. … Bd4 22. Nxb7 Ra7! Now after 23. Re4 Bb6 24. R1e1 there are no mate threats, and Black can calmly play 24. … Rxb7 with equality.

However, my opponent was not a computer but a human expert. He saw his bishop hanging on b7 and his pawn hanging on d7, and thought there was only one solution.

21. … Bc8??

After this move Black’s position is absolutely dead. The rest of the game is basically a mathematical proof of that fact. Of course, my favorite subject is math, so I quite enjoy the rest of the game — even though it is extremely one-sided.

22. Rd1 …

Threatening to win the bishop with f2-f4, so Black’s move is forced.

22. … f5 23. Ng5 …

On h3, this was White’s worst piece. Now it becomes one of his best! In fact, it’s the piece that eventually delivers checkmate.

23. … h6 24. Nf7+ Kh7 25. h4 Bf6

Black would like to exchange off my knight with … Ne5, but of course I don’t want to allow that.

26. f4 …

Prophylaxis, another important Nimzovichian concept.

26. … h5 27. Ng5+ Kh6 28. Rhe1 Nh8

This knight will never emerge.

Position after 28. … Nh8. White to move.

FEN: r1b2r1n/3p2p1/2pP1b1k/1pN2pNp/p4P1P/P5P1/BPP5/2KRR3 w – – 0 29

Black’s position is a sorry sight indeed. The bishop and knight stuck on the back rank. Rooks unconnected. In fact, his whole army has fallen into two camps, the queenside and the kingside, and neither one can do the slightest thing to help the other.

It’s super-tempting here to play the exchange sacrifice 29. Re7, and the computer in fact says that it’s sound. But I thought: Why bother? Three are no risks to me at all in this position. I can just take my time, play some more prophylactic moves, and get all of my pieces ready for the final breakthrough.

29. c3 …

Prophylaxis. Shutting down … b5-b4 (although maybe Black should play this anyway), and also preventing … Bd4 so that I can double my rooks on the e-file.

29. … g6 30. Re3 Kg7 31. R1e1 Ra7

And now, with everything in place, we can proceed with the final combination. The fact that it’s an exchange sac is irrelevant; the important thing is that it removes Black’s only effective defender, the bishop. All of Black’s other pieces are like ghosts. They’re there on the board, but have no ability to affect the action.

32. Re7+! Bxe7 33. Rxe7+ Kf6 34. Nh7 mate

Yes, he did indeed play all the way to checkmate.

Lessons:

  1. Blockade.
  2. Prophylaxis. See what your opponent wants to do (even before he does!), and keep him from doing it.
  3. You can play a mating attack without queens.
  4. Beware of “automatic moves.” My one bad move this game, on move 15, was a check that I played automatically, without really thinking about the consequences. A more common kind of mistake is automatic captures (or automatic recaptures), but automatic checks fall into the same category. If the check doesn’t actually gain you anything, there’s no need to play it.
  5. Be alert for “opportunity moves” — moves that you’ll only get one chance to make, like d5-d6 and Ne4-c5 for White and … Be5-d4 for Black in this game. (Black actually had two chances for that move, but he could have saved himself some grief by playing it the first time.)
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50 Years of Chess: Year 20

January 5, 2021

My second year in Ohio was a great time in my life, but not such a great time for my chess. Some of the good things: Kay and I had bought our first house, which was an easy one-mile walk from my office on campus. She was absorbed in sprucing the place up, repainting it, […]

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50 Years of Chess: Year 19

January 1, 2021

Welcome to 2021! One of my resolutions is to somehow, some way, play chess against live, human, in-person opponents before the end of the year. Of course, that depends to a considerable extent on factors I can’t control — the progress of the epidemic and the vaccine — so perhaps I should consider it more […]

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Jessica Lauser, U.S. Champion

December 24, 2020

Two days ago I hinted at a piece of good news that I had to keep secret for the time being. I can now reveal what it is. This morning, the New York Times published my article about Jessica Lauser, the U.S. Blind Chess Champion. For people who like print, the article is also scheduled […]

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Short break, plus other news

December 20, 2020

For all the people following my “50 Years of Chess” series, I’m going to take a short, two-week hiatus for the holidays. One reason for the break is that I’ve come up to 1990, which is going to be a challenge because my records for that year are a mess. Until I got married in […]

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50 Years of Chess: Year 18

December 19, 2020

The last year of the 1980s was a time of transition for me: from single to married, and from North Carolina, where I had lived very happily for six years, to Ohio. As I mentioned in my last post, I had fallen in love in 1988 and proposed to Kay at the end of the […]

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50 Years of Chess: Year 17

December 13, 2020

In choosing a game to show you from 1988, I have a problem. My biggest tournament success that year was the Georgia Congress, which I won with a 5-0 score, my first-ever win in an open tournament and indeed my first time ever with a 5-0 score in any tournament (even when I played in […]

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50 Years of Chess: Limits to Growth

December 9, 2020

I have two fantasies about what happens when we die. My first fantasy is that we get to have three questions answered about our lives. We get unimpeachable, God’s-eye view answers to three things that we could never find out when we were alive. Maybe it would be a cosmic question like, “Is there other […]

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50 Years of Chess: Year 16

December 7, 2020

The year 1987 was one when everything started coming together for me in chess. Even now, going over my games and results from that year, it’s gratifying to see the years and years of effort at improvement starting to bear fruit. Of course, there was plenty more for me to work on. In chess, there […]

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