Chess party wrap-up

by admin on April 25, 2010

Gjon Feinstein’s chess party yesterday went very well. We had the whole Student Activities Center at Cabrillo College to ourselves. Eleven of the twelve invitees were able to make it — besides Gjon and me, there were Yves Tan, Cailen Melville, Thadeus Frei (all names you have read here before), Ron Barr, Ira Pohl, Mike Splane, Dan Burkhard, Dave Bergerin, and Greg somebody (I apologize, I didn’t catch his last hame). One of Gjon’s ideas was to invite some “old-timers” who were active in Santa Cruz chess in the past but have not been so active lately. Ira hasn’t played in a tournament since 1999; he is waiting until he hits retirement, but he doesn’t know exactly when that might be. Mike was a roommate of Gjon back in the early 1990s; he is a national master and plays pretty often in San Jose. Dan Burkhard is a strong expert-strength player who was a regular participant in the five Santa Cruz Cups that ran from 2003 to 2008. Dave, Greg, and Ron are players who are more in the D/C/B range, I think (I’m not sure what their official ratings are, or if they even have them). Yves is the faculty advisor for the Cabrillo College chess club and is knocking on the door of expert.

A funny thing about the party was that Gjon didn’t really think about what we would do for dinner. (I was there from 2:00 to 9:00, and it was still going when I left.) Those of us who were hungry ordered out for pizza, and that worked out fine. I just thought I would mention this because if my wife were organizing a party, food is the first thing that she would think about. It just goes to show that chess players are not like ordinary people. Give us a good game to analyze, and everything else recedes into the background!

So the really interesting thing, to me, was seeing the games that people brought, and the different interpretations of a “best-played loss.” Ron showed a recent game where his opponent unsoundly sacrificed a piece for two pawns but he couldn’t find the right way to consolidate. Mike showed an absolutely berserk game that, as one person said, looked like “Venutian chess.” Actually, I would say that it was chess from the Planet Grob. Don’t blame Mike, it was his opponent who played the Grob. But on second thought, maybe you should blame Mike, because he usually plays a calm positional system against the Grob, but in this game he decided what the hell, why not mix it up tactically?

Then I showed my game described in a previous post, and finally Dan showed his. His interpretation of “best-played loss” was a game where he really made a GM opponent have to earn the victory. His opponent was Alexander Ivanov, who played White against Dan’s French Defense. I thought it was a beautiful example of a grandmaster applying a positional squeeze; Ivanov probed here and probed there and gradually encircled Dan. But from Dan’s point of view it was a great game because he never made anything you could identify as a blunder or as “the losing move.” Dan prides himself on strategic play and seems to view tactics as a necessary evil, so I think that what he liked about the game was that he forced the grandmaster to beat him with strategy rather than tactics.

Finally, Gjon decided against showing his best loss because it’s a game he had showed to most of us on previous occasions (a game where he was beating IM Jack Peters but lost on time). Instead he showed us the second game he brought, which showed a single plan carried out to a victory.

I’ll probably show some positions from both Dan’s and Mike’s games in a later blog post.

As for my presentation, I was very satisfied with how it went. Actually, in the opening phase I had to compete with the pizza, which arrived around move ten and caused a certain amount of distraction. But by the time we got to the crucial part of the game, people had eaten and brains were functioning again. The position after Black’s 21st move (reprinted for your convenience below)

stumped everyone, just as I expected. (Gjon had already read the solution in my blog, so he kept mum.) Thadeus suggested 22. Rxf5+, the move I played. No one could come up with anything else that worked. Moves like 22. g4 and 22. b4 were suggested, but 22. … Qc6 seemed to be an adequate answer to the first and 22. … Rh8 a more than adequate answer to the second. I told them that the right move “really comes out of left field,” which Gjon (who knew the answer) thought was a pretty amusing hint. Finally we went over why 22. Rxf5+ doesn’t work, and I pointed out that the key point was that after 22. gf Qxf5+ 23. Kg8 Nd5 Black does not have to take on d5. Then we went back to the original position, and finally Mike said, “Oh! It’s so obvious!” From the way he said it, I knew that he had the right idea. But everyone else said, “What’s obvious?” and then I showed them that playing 22. Nd5!! first gives White a big advantage. Because Black has to take!

I think that what makes this move difficult so see, psychologically, is that we are so used to sacrifices in which the sacrificing piece takes something — for example, 22. Rxf5+. It is much rarer to play a sac where you just stick your piece out there on an empty square, naked and undefended.

Anyway, everyone really seemed to like that game, so I was pleased.

As for the second game that I brought, there wasn’t time to show it, but I think that is just as well because I am planning to do a ChessLecture on it instead. It will be an excellent example for my series on “Practical Rook Endgames.” I am again indebted to Gjon, because it is a game from 1989 that I had completely forgotten, and if he had not organized this party I would never have had a reason to rediscover it.

We also played a little bit of tandem chess, again with the emphasis on analysis after the game. All in all, I think that the party lived up to Gjon’s ideal, which was not to just fry our brains by playing umpteen games of speed chess, but instead to really try to learn something.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sorcerer88 April 25, 2010 at 1:47 pm

seems like a fun and worthwile gathering, a good idea of Feinstein’s.


Chessperado April 25, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Awesome! you should post all the games from the party.


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