Remembrance of Things Past

by admin on October 16, 2007

Five… four… three… two… one… We’re live!

Welcome to the debut of “dana blogs chess.” My first foray into the blogosphere will, I hope, be a mixture of chess journalism and personal experience. Please let me know in your comments what you enjoy and what you would like to see more of.

This weekend I played in my most highly anticipated tournament of the year — the Western States Open, in Reno, Nevada. This was the first anniversary of the greatest game of my chess career. For those of you who don’t know the story already, I’ll be glad to tell it again… as many times as you want to hear it!

Here’s the background. Five rounds into last year’s tournament, I had a 3-2 record, which was already good enough to make the tournament a success by my standards. So I felt no pressure going into the last round. I was paired against David Pruess, an International Master from San Francisco, who had recently won the Samford Fellowship awarded to the nation’s most promising young player each year.

Ordinarily Pruess would have been a heavy favorite — he was rated more than 300 points above me — but he made the mistake of playing into my home preparation. The line I played was a fantastic queen sacrifice on move six of the Sicilian Defense, which I had been perfecting for two years in games against the computer. But never before had I played it against a human. That’s because Black, after the first few moves 1. e4 c5 2. f4 d5 3. Nf3!? (already an innovation) de 4. Ng5 Nf6 5. Bc4, must have the courage or the foolhardiness to play 5. … Bg4?!, attacking the queen and courting disaster. (See diagram.)

When Pruess played this move, it took me about two milliseconds to snatch that bishop on g4. After 6. Qxg4!!? Nxg4 7. Bxf7+ Kd7 8. Be6+ Kc6 9. Bxg4, White has two pieces and a world of compensation for the sacrificed queen. I won’t go over the rest of the game here, but let me just say it was like a fairy tale come true. The game went exactly the way those practice games against the computer predicted it should. White’s pieces crawled all over the board, while Black’s queen remained tied up and unable to do anything. After thirty moves (!!) I won the queen back, and David resigned ten moves after that.

As amazing as the game was, its repercussions and the opportunities it led to were just as amazing:

  • First, I won the under-2300 prize in the tournament, which gave me my largest chess payday ever ($600).
  • Next, I wrote an article about the game for Chess Life (Sac Your Queen on Move Six!). It was my first published article in Chess Life in 27 years!
  • Third, Jesse Kraai (then an International Master, now a Grandmaster) was so smitten with the game that he called it “the greatest game in history.” (Just for the record, I do not agree with this.) He invited me to lecture about the game for That, in turn, has led to a regular gig for me. I record about two lectures a month for, as I’m sure you will read about quite often on this blog. It’s the first time I have ever made an income from chess, although the amount is just a pittance.

Thanks to Chess Life and, for the first time I have started noticing that a few people at chess tournaments actually know who I am. In the ferocious meritocracy of chess (as Elizabeth Vicary points out in this blog entry) it’s very difficult for anyone who is not a Grandmaster or International Master to attract any sort of attention.

The goddess Caissa giveth and the goddess taketh away. Over the last year she has given so abundantly that I do not feel worthy. So what would this year’s Western States Open hold in store?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Stan November 1, 2007 at 7:13 am

I’m a member of and I especially enjoy your lectures. You don’t have to be a GM to be a good teacher. GM’s, with some exceptions, it seems have forgotten the difficulties that an ordinary wood pusher like myself have. I would rather be taught by an 1800 who is good teacher than by a GM who can’t teach. You, Dana, are a good teacher.


admin November 1, 2007 at 8:33 am

Thanks, Stan! I’ll try to keep it up.


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