Friday, May 21, 2010

14th Annual USA Chess National Summer Chess Camp Tour

This national chess camp always gives young players a very professional day camp experience, and they do a good job teaching absolute beginners, advanced players, and the kids in between.

Three are three Illinois camps on their calendar
(Disclosure: under previous ownership, USA Chess was a client of mine.  I have no business association with the current owners.)

Best wishes to Eric Schiller

For many years, our friend Eric Schiller was one of Chicago's strongest masters and instructors; he now lives in Moss Beach, California.

1986 World Championship
Foreground left: PM Margaret Thatcher; Kasparov (head turned), Schiller (beard), Karpov

Eric organized the 1983 World Youth Team Championship at the University of Chicago, he's the author of more than one hundred (!) chess books, he was lord of the press room for two of the five Karpov-Kasparov matches, he was the chief arbiter for the Kasparov-Kramnik match, he edited the Illinois Chess Bulletin in the late 1980s, and (not least) he's the chess champion of Daily Kos.  En passant, Eric also holds a Ph.D. in linguistics and is a Phish groupie.

Michael Aigner informs us that Eric is in a San Mateo hospital recovering from a serious infection that led to the amputation of one foot.  

Eric, all of your Chicago Schachfreunde wish you a speedy recovery!

Cream of the crop for quad final

FM Mike Klein reports:

Saint Louis, May 20, 2010  – Four players have survived and advanced to the quad finals of the 2010 U.S. Championship, but the results of round seven do not tell the full story. Though a casual glance will show that the top three boards ended in draws, the uncompromising play brought the tournament to within a whisker of a large tiebreaker for the four-player round robin.

Board one was the first to finish, but the relatively peaceful draw between GM Yury Shulman and GM Alex Onischuk that qualified both for the quad did little to portend the action on the next two boards. “I had a little advantage, typical for a Queen’s Gambit Declined,” Shulman said.

GM Gata Kamsky, needing only a draw as White against GM Alex Shabalov to earn his spot, began shaking his head in disbelief when he overlooked the cunning defense 22…Bg6 at the end of a long variation. He had only considered 22…Kg8, which wins for White after 23. Qd5+. Though short on time, Kamsky gathered himself and found a way to capture several pawns whilst simultaneously weakening Shabalov’s king. “It was a pretty unpleasant scenario,” Kamsky said. “I was looking to minimize the damage.”

Kamsky then found what he called an “extremely strong defensive maneuver” – bringing his rook to the fourth rank to defend his king on the g-file. Black then ran low on time and after Shabalov whispered “draw,” Kamsky ran his clock down to 1:20 and agreed.

In the post-mortem, Kamsky rattled off a multitude of variations. In case of 16…b5, Kamsky prepared 17. Nfxe5 Nxe5 18. Nxe5 Qxe5 19. h4! with the dual threats of 20. Bxh5 and 20. Bf3. Shabalov nodded in quiet appreciation of the cute move.

The last qualifier for the finals would come down to board two. GM Larry Christiansen, a veteran of decades of championships, needed to win as he began the round one half point behind defending champion GM Hikaru Nakamura. Known for his attacking style, Christiansen built up a strong center and spatial advantage. “I was guardedly optimistic,” Christiansen said. Nakamura was not content playing passively and struck with the strange-looking thrust 8…g5. World Champion GM Viswanathan Anand, calling in from Spain live during the on-air commentary, questioned the move. “I’m not sure if Nakamura knows how to (play solidly),” Anand said. “But he doesn’t lack confidence, that’s for sure.”

As the game petered out into a pawn-up endgame for Christiansen, the crowd at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis gathered around the monitors. Players who generally left the club after their games stayed to see the result. GM Maurice Ashley, commentating on the game, saw Christiansen move his rook around to press for the win. “You’re going to sit here and you’re going to suffer young man,” Ashley said of Christiansen’s mindset. Eventually, too many pawns were traded and Nakamura held on to qualify.

“Basically I just forgot my preparation, but even so the result was pretty good,” Nakamura said. “I made some inexactitudes, as they say,” said Christiansen. “It’s kind of a letdown. The real tournament is over. It’s hard to get psyched up now.”

The four players advancing to the finals are also the top four seeds. They also all enter the event with five points. “Everyone is in even conditions,” Shulman said. “Whoever will have some luck on his side will win the tournament. I’m still considered the underdog.” Nakamura agreed and cited himself, Kamsky and Onischuk as having all the pressure.

The players now enter a rest day before the quad begins on Saturday. Shulman said he plans to attend a St. Louis Cardinals game, while Kamsky looked forward to the human chess match planned for the street outside the club. After rebuffing WGM Jennifer Shahade’s preference to see Kamsky as an f-pawn, the grandmaster said, “I prefer to be a knight because knights get to hop all over the place.”

Nakamura also planned to rest on Friday, at least from chess. “I think I’m probably going to go out and buy some furniture for my apartment,” he said. Nakamura moved to downtown St. Louis less than two weeks ago.

Six players entered the round with 3.5/6 and were mathematically alive, but their chances were dashed when Shabalov could not convert against Kamsky. The most disappointed was surely GM Alex Stripunsky, who would have qualified for the playoff as he beat GM Jesse Kraai. GM Alex Yermolinsky held a draw against GM Ben Finegold on board five. GM Robert Hess rebounded from several losses to take out struggling GM Varuzhan Akobian, who remains the highest-rated player in the country never to win the U.S. Championship, though he remains younger than most of the field.

In the tournament’s subplot of making grandmaster norms, IM Irina Krush is now within sight of her second norm. She took out GM Aleksandr Lenderman in round seven to get back to plus one. The two players share the same coach, but that did not prepare her for the opening. Krush said she was shocked to see Lenderman play the Grunfeld Defense. She is assured of a norm with one point in the final two games.

After tomorrow’s rest day, the top four players begin their three-round event on Saturday, while the rest of the field will play two more games starting on the same day.

“We deserve a little break,” Kamsky said, the relief evident.

US Championship Final Four: Kamsky, Nakamura, Onischuk, Shulman

Congratulations to GM Yury Shulman!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Northside Prep Chess Camp, June 28-July 2

Details here.

Jeff Caveney is a wonderful instructor who really cares about his students.

human cluster, part two

Great story!  If you're not a Topalov fan, you may even find it heart-warming.

You must read Part One (also linked yesterday) and Part Two (on ChessBase, too).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Nice U.S. Championship pictorial on ChessBase

Click here to check it out!

Photos by Chicago's own Betsy Dynako!

Round 5: A near miss for Dmitry

Dmitry Gurevich was probably winning this game, but Vinay Bhat defended well to halve the point....

Round 5, U.S. Championship: A brilliant draw

I think Shulman came very close to knocking off Nakamura brilliantly, but any commentary is far beyond my ability.  Pop some popcorn and enjoy the the fireworks that begin on move 16!

"Old Orchard hosts first chess tournament"

David Rubin knew me back when I had hair....

Story here!

Round 4: Another Shulman win

After beating Hess, Yury is now one of the leaders. He has White against Hikaru Nakamura: the game begins at 2 p.m. today.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Round 3: Shulman breaks through

Chicago Chess Meetup Group

Looks good: many of my friends are among the meetup group leaders! If you're looking for casual or serious play, check it out! 'Chess' from duc nguyen on Vimeo.

Kamsky vs. Nakamura at U.S. Chess Championship - 2 p.m. today

Follow all the action live, beginning 2 p.m. Central at!

Second Round Whittles Field of Perfection Down to Two 
By FM Mike Klein 
St. Louis, May 16, 2010 

Chess fans will not have to wait much longer for the strongest matchup of the 2010 U.S. Championship, as the top two seeds will face each other in round three. Both GM Hikaru Nakamura and GM Gata Kamsky, the first and second seeds of the tournament, won again today to push their totals to 2-0. They are the only players with perfect scores, and tomorrow Kamsky will have White.

Nakamura began gaining a useful spatial advantage against recent high-school graduate GM Robert Hess, who was last year’s Cinderella story at the championship. Hess claimed he had no idea what opening to prepare for. In the middlegame, Hess said he felt he could not stand by and allow the White f-pawn to advance. He began operations on the queenside with 15…b5, and Nakamura admitted to analyzing variations that included the move, but “somehow I overlooked …b5 itself,” adding, “it might be the best move as far as practical chances.” But in the end Hess’ open c-file was for naught and Nakamura used his queenside pawn phalanx to win the endgame.

Kamsky kept pace by coyly jettisoning his b-pawn for a nebulous initiative against GM Melikset Khachiyan. Kamsky said the pawn was not “poisoned” but he thought he had positional compensation. While Khachiyan had a chance to lock up the position, as many players would against a higher-rated opponent, he said he only came to St. Louis to play for wins. Kamsky agreed. “That’s why we play chess." he said. "We fight. We don’t just take the easy way out.”

Nakamura and Kamsky last played at the 2009 U.S. Championship, where they played an exciting 35-move draw that ended with a repetition of position. As GM Maurice Ashley explained in the commentary, this year is especially exciting since the duo might have to face each other twice, once in the Swiss and once in the quad finale, a la the two USA-Canada men’s ice hockey meetings at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

For the second day in a row, more than half of the games produced a winner. This time seven of the 12 games ended decisively. GM Alex Yermolinsky got his first point of the event by defeating rising star GM Ray Robson, who has started 0-2. This seemed to be a case of experience being more useful than young energy and calm nerves. Yermolinsky played a rare …d5 pawn thrust that he once used in a rapid game against elite player Michael Adams at a World Championship. Robson labored over the decision whether to accept the sacrifice, and when he did, all of his opponent’s pieces rushed into the attack. “I saw …Bxc2, and it didn’t look good (for me), but I didn’t know what else to do,” Robson said. “When people tell me White can just take the pawn and live to tell the tale, I’m not arguing,” Yermolinsky said. He said he guessed a person could use a computer to check the validity of the idea. “But I’ve got other things to do in life than check every variation with a computer.”

The round also featured a pair of throwback openings, as two Benonis and two King’s Indian Defenses delighted any chess fans that relish hypermodern opening systems and the 1990s. Kamsky’s victory was on the Black side of a King’s Indian, and GM Larry Christiansen also used the opening to hold GM Alexander Onischuk to a draw.

The Benoni did not fare as well. While GM Joel Benjamin drew GM Gregory Kaidanov as Black, GM Varuzhan Akobian as White swiftly checkmated GM Jesse Kraai. “Whenever you think you’re better and you’re not, you’re going to make some mistakes,” Kraai said. He said he was still bothered by his draw in round one against GM Alex Shabalov. Thinking he should have played on for a win, Kraai could not sleep well.

Onischuk, Christiansen and Akobian, all now with 1.5/2, are also joined by GM Jaan Ehlvest and IM Irina Krush, who drew to equal the score. Two other players have one win and one draw. Shabalov defeated GM Ben Finegold and GM Sergey Kudrin won against GM Vinay Bhat.

In other action, youngsters IM Sam Shankland and GM Aleksandr Lenderman battled down to king versus king before agreeing to peace, while GM Alex Stripunsky dispatched GM Dmitry Gurevich.

The 2010 U.S. Chess Championship is open to the public and will feature grandmaster commentary by GM Maurice Ashley and WGM Jennifer Shahade. Live Spectators can access the event by purchasing a membership to the CCSCSL, which costs just $5/month for students and $12/month for adults.

The championship quad finale will take place May 22-24 and will culminate with the $10,000 U.S. Championship Blitz Open at 8 p.m. on Monday, May 24, an event that will feature U.S. Championship competitors and some of the top players from across the country.

random blitz tactic

White to play and win material