Saturday, November 12, 2011

Stoking the starmaker machinery

Chicago Public School (CPS) chess master key to success of Chicago area professional chess team  

SKOKIE, IL, NOVEMBER 12, 2011:  Whitney Young Magnet High School sophomore Sam Schmakel has been the key that unlocked the success of Chicago’s professional chess team, the Chicago Blaze, which set a regular season best record of 8 wins, 1 draw, and 1 loss.

The Blaze entered its fourth season in 2011 with a roster that included wily veterans -- mostly Grandmasters and International Masters -- and energy filled youth players who have achieved much from a young age.

Schmakel, the best chess player ever in CPS and currently a student of Grandmaster Dmitry Gurevich, began playing chess during the summer between kindergarten and 1st grade.  He is a product of the chess program his mother Eileen began at Decatur Classical, a CPS Gifted Program. In short order, Schmakel began to dominate the local and national scene, winning 2 national championships and winning a key game in the 2010-2011 school year, to secure the Illinois State High School Team Championship for Whitney Young.

Schmakel, who earned his title of National Master only a few months ago, has been the linchpin of success for the Blaze. He was tapped during the summer months to become part of the team and has proven himself by being undefeated in his games thus far (5-0).

Largely due to his performance, the Blaze has won its way into the Divisional Championships to take place on Monday night November 14th at 8 p.m. Schmakel will play again that night as the Blaze try to win their first ever Divisional Championship.

The Chicago Blaze is a member of the United States Chess League (USCL), which oversees online matches among the nation’s top 16 teams.  Blaze team members gather each week during the season to play their matches at the North Shore Chess Center, located at 5500 W Touhy Ave Suite A in Skokie, IL. 

For more information on the Chicago Blaze visit or on Facebook at

Friday, November 11, 2011

Last call - Akobian seminar

Greetings from Mason, Ohio.  I may not be posting much this weekend....

Here's a cut-and-paste from tonight's email.  The North Shore Chess Center is at 5500 West Touhy Ave. in Skokie: looks like a great event!
2 sessions available - Saturday Nov 12 or Sunday Nov 13

Enjoy a 6 hour training session with one of the top Grandmasters in the United States - GM Varuzhan Akobian! GM Akobian helped the US team achieve a bronze medal twice in the 2006 and 2008 Chess Olympiads, and a Silver medal in the 2009 World Team Championships. In 2010 GM Akobian was tapped to become the trainer/coach for the US Men's Olympiad Team as well.

You can join GM Akobian in a 6 hour marathon lecture covering openings, middle game, and end-game. He will review popular opening lines, the ideas behind them and how to transition to the middle game along with middle game strategy, and what to do (and not to do) in the end-game. You'll be invited to ask questions and discuss the pro's and con's of variations, along with testing your inner-GM against this battled hardened veteran with on the spot puzzles and challenges.

The session will begin at 11:30am and continue until 5:30pm. After a 30 minute break, GM Akobian will perform a simul. Feel free to bring your personal chess boards if you want GM Akobian to autograph it for you also! Snacks and beverages will be available.

This session is $75 for members of the North Shore Chess Center and $100 for non-members if registered by Friday evening 9pm on Nov 11. Add an additional $20 at the door. Onsite registrations cannot be guaranteed for space!

Seating is limited to 30 people on a first registered basis.

Register online -

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Board 4: Xiong 0 - Schmakel 1

FM Jeffrey Xiong of Dallas is only 10 years old! Sam Schmakel may be the first to get his GM title, but I'd put my money on Jeffrey to win the World Championship first.

This Najdorf is a wonderful theoretical battle that does credit to both young players.  All of this has been played before until Sam's novelty 23...Na4!?

Board 3: Amanov 0 - Holt 1

Another fascinating game on Board 3. Mesgen's preparation in the Exchange Slav is deep, but Holt deals with the homecooking and wins a complex ending, avenging his Chicago Open defeat at Mesgen's hands.

Board 2: Sadorra 1 - Friedel 0

Respect to GM Julio Sadorra, who managed to squeeze our GM Josh Friedel from an unpromising-looking QGD Tartakower.

Chicago Blaze ties Dallas Destiny 2-2, advances in playoffs!

The Blaze came in with the best regular season record and only needed to tie Dallas on Monday night to make it to the semi-finals. A tie was all they could manage, but that was enough to advance!

Here's the Board 1, matchup GM Yury Shulman of the Blaze vs. GM Cristian Chirila:

White eliminated Black's "good" bishop on move 10, but Black's position is still fully playable. After move 36, it's easy to see that White wants to evacuate the king from the kingside in preparation for the breakthrough. So White moved the king from h1 to d4 in the middle game!

To me, phase 1 of White's redeployment (moves 36-60) wasn't so hard to understand, but I was really impressed by Yury's second reorganization (moves 60-66). Every available unit is needed for the attack, including the lowly h-pawn!

This was the last game to finish: Yury kept the draw comfortably in hand and patiently improved his position until it became clear that he would need to win for the Blaze to advance.  And win he did: congratuations, Grandmaster!

BOBBY FISCHER AGAINST THE WORLD: Chicago premiere, this Friday at Facets!

"All I want to do, ever, is just play chess." -Bobby Fischer
Bobby Fischer Against the World is a fascinating documentary that charts the turbulent life – from a childhood of isolation and neglect to young chess prodigy, world champion and subsequent madness and disgrace – of one of chess's undisputed masters. The World Championship of 1972, Fischer vs. Spassky, was replete with Cold War implications as a nation pinned its hopes on Fischer as the man to end Soviet dominance. As the center of media attention, Fischer was never equipped for a life in the spotlight and veteran filmmaker Liz Garbus (The Farm: Angola USA), exposes the disturbingly high price Fischer paid to achieve his legendary success as well as the resulting toll it took on his psyche. Fischer was a recluse for decades before resurfacing for a bizarre final chapter as a fugitive and rare archival footage alongside insightful interviews with those closest to him expand this captivating story of a mastermind's tumultuous rise — and fall.
Directed by Liz Garbus, U.S.A./UK/Iceland, 2010, 93 mins. In English and Russian with English subtitles
Showtimes: Fri., Nov. 11 at 7 & 9 pm Sat.-Sun., Nov. 12-13 at 3, 5, 7 & 9 pm Mon.-Thurs., Nov. 14-17 at 7 & 9 pm
Facets Multimedia is a Chicago treasure: it's at 1517 W. Fullerton Ave. Call 800.331.6197 for more info.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Stunning decoys

(And no, we're not talking about carved wooden mallard ducks.) One final tactical example from Yakov Neistadt's Improve Your Chess Tactics (New in Chess, 2011): buy this book!

The legendary Nona Gaprindashvili missed an amazing shot in her 1979 game from the Soviet Championship with Irina Levitina. I'll quote from Neistadt's explanation, but I'll leave out the amazing move she missed.
Levitina-Gaprindashvili, Tbilisi 1979
White to play has to stop mate on g2 somehow....

Neistadt writes:

"Black has just played her queen to f3, to threaten mate.  In reply to 1.Qc6 (or 1.Qxe5+ Bf6 2.Qe4 Rfe8, Gaprindashvili's original calculations had gone 1...e4 and after 2.Qxe4 the decoy sacrifice 2...Rge8 3.Nxe8+ Rxe8.  But when the white queen appeared on c6, she realized that at the end of this variation, White in her turn can attack the queen with 4.Nd4
Levitina-Gaprindashvili, Tbilisi 1979
Analysis after 4.Nd4: Black to play

(4...Rxe4 5.Nxf3), and Gaprindashvili was forced to abandon her original intention.  Instead of 1...e4 she played 1...Qf5 and soon lost.

However, [...]"

So what did Nona miss?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Stolen from Facebook

...specifically from Blaze manager Daniel Parmet's post.
Tonight in the first round of playoffs the Chicago Blaze takes on the Dallas Destiny! Tune in to ICC at 7pm CST to watch the fiery match! Board1: GM Yury Shulman fresh off his GOTW win! vs GM Cristian Chirilia Board2: GM Julio Sadorra vs GM Josh Friedel Board3: GM Mesgen Amanov vs IM Conrad Holt Board4: FM Jeffrey Xiong vs NM Sam Schmakel Blaze advances on a draw!
Or stop by the North Shore Chess Center!

The pin must win

With the absolute pin (pins?), all things are possible, as demonstrated by this puzzle from Yakov Neistadt's Improve Your Chess Tactics (New in Chess, 2011).

Parr-Wheatcroft, London 1938
White to play and win

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Of course you see the solution immediately....

...but can you imagine carelessly missing this shot (or, even worse, allowing it) in a tournament game?

White to play and win

Once again, this is from  Winning Chess Exercises For Kids, a fabulous workbook for advanced beginners!