Friday, May 28, 2010

A nasty trap

The Englund Gambit, 1...e5?!, is a very dubious opening, but it contains one very nasty little trap. I think almost every 1.d4 player falls into it at least once - hopefully only in a blitz game. White's first five moves are fine, arguably the strongest moves on the board. 6.Bc3?? also looks great, but loses horribly. After 6...Bb4!, White loses at least a piece, for example 7.Bxb4 Nxb4!, threatening both 8...Qxa1 and 8...Nxc2+. Instead of 6.Bc3??, correct is 6.Nc3! Bb4 (6...Nb4 7.Nd4 c6 8.a4! leaves Black's queen in trouble) 7.Rb1 Qa3 and now 8.Nd5 or 8.Rb3 Qa5 9.a3 leaves Black with a very difficult game.

22 Grandmasters at the Chicago Open!

I can't recall Michael Adams having played in Chicago before.

Check out the action in Wheeling.  Better yet, come out and play this weekend!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Harper Court

Hyde Park chess players, unite!  What good is urban redevelopment that doesn't include space for play?  The chess tables have been gone for eight years.

Chicago Open hotel rooms

Just got an email from Continental Chess updating information regarding this weekend's Chicago Open:
May 28-31, 29-31 or 30-31 at Westin North Shore Hotel, Wheeling, Illinois. Open 9 rounds, lower sections 7 rounds. $100,000 prize fund unconditionally guaranteed.

Late entry is available online until 2 hours before your first game, or at the hotel until an hour before your first game.

Hotel rooms at the $98 chess rate are still available, but not at the 800 number. The special phone number to use for these rooms is 847-777-6567.
 More information on the CCA website.   See you there! 

Lubomir Kavalek's new column

The famous GM and author was the longtime chess columnist for the Washington Post. He's now at The Huffington Post

His first column is a very nice overview of the U.S. Championship.  One hopes he won't be writing about the dangers of vaccination!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The most useful opening trap you've never seen

You won't see many GMs playing it, but both on the Internet and over the board a lot of players play a sort of closed Sicilian with Nc3, Bc4, Nf3, 0-0, d3, etc. Many years ago I discovered an opening trap with which I have caught literally dozens of players over the years. These include a high expert and two A-players in serious OTB games. The trap is little known and rarely published, although it is in Karsten Mueller and Rainer Knaak's excellent CD-ROM 1000 Chess Opening Traps, which ChessBase issued a few years ago. On (which has over 500,000 games), I found only a game in which White fell into the trap, but Black overlooked the winning move! Instead of 7...b6?, do you see what Black should play?

An opening trap

Here is an opening trap with which I have caught more than one opponent in Internet blitz games. White's sixth move is very plausible (correct is 6.Qe2+! Be7 7.Nd5 with approximate equality), but loses a piece.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Gata Kamsky is 2010 U.S. Champion

Yury Shulman found a nice tactic with 34.Rc5! and won a pawn with excellent chances to convert, but lost the thread of the game in a time scramble. Congratulations to Gata!

U.S. Championship Playoffs at 10 a.m.

Live coverage at

Black has draw odds.  The players bid for choice of color by giving up minutes: the low bidder gets choice of color (Black, I'd assume!) and the reduced minutes.  White gets 60 minutes.

This seems weird to me: another way to do it would be to have one player (chosen by coin toss) choose the reduced time for Black, then have the other player pick the color.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mark Ginsburg comments on Shulman-Kamsky

It's a fun game: you may want to hit the pause button and think when the tactics start....

USCF's new title norm system

Those of you who are U.S. Chess Federation members already know that you can access your updated rating via the Member Services Area.   For example, here's my rating history and a graph of my ups and downs.  If you're a rated member, you have one of these, too !  (Please don't look at my tournament history: too many embarrassing results lately!)

And here's my current rating.  But note the new line added to this report: "Highest Norms-Based Title Earned."  What the heck is this?

USCF is awarding new titles based on your peak performances.  To earn (say) a 2nd Category (Class B) norm, you have to score more than 1 game point better than a 1600 would expect to score in a tournament.  Not easy!  But not impossible, either.  

To get the title, you need to earn five norms!  That might take several years, but again, it's doable.  

The system isn't perfect: I've been playing tournament chess since 1967, I've been rated over 2000 (with brief dips below) since 1981.  However, the MSA norm calculation only goes back to 1991.  We old-timers can deal with this, but this is a great way for youngsters to measure their progress.  (Forget your bad events; strive to have more peak results!)

The "more" tab includes the "milestones report" that displays norm titles earned, as well as a link to a report on norms in progress.  If you're only one norm away from earning a title, you need to be playing this weekend!

Thanks to Mike Nolan and the USCF Ratings Committee for a fabulous job! 

Shulman-Kamsky drawn; playoffs tomorrow

Shulman sacked a pawn and burned tons of time; Kamsky was still comfortably in his Grünfeld preparation. White's sharp attack fizzles out into a rook ending. More to follow!

2010 Chicago Open: Last Day for Advance Entry!!

Enter today! Of course you can enter at the door, but you'll save $27 and a long wait in line later this week.

The Chicago Open is at the Westin North Shore in Northbrook: choose between two-day, three-day, or four-day sections if you're under 2100, or the five-day Open section for strong players and masochists under 2100 (like me).

Details are here!  The 2-day Under 1000 section is ideal for those new to tournament chess. 

Ashley & Shahade on yesterday's action

Great coverage!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Shulman beats Nakamura!!

It's Shulman-Kamsky tomorrow for the title!

Back rank mate practice

Nakamura-Shulman, 2010 U.S. Championship
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Black to play and win

Do these easy mating patterns have any practical application in grandmaster play?  Well, it helps to be able to spot the pattern many moves in advance.

Here's a somewhat more difficult version of the same problem.

Nakamura-Shulman, 2010 U.S. Championship
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Black to play and win efficiently

1...Nc6 does win for Black (why?), but it's not the fastest method. 

Nakamura-Shulman going on right now....

Follow the action at the live site!

2010 National Open in Las Vegas, June 11-13

This is the first year in a long long time that Chicago's Fred Gruenberg won't be running the show, but ex-Chicagoan Al Losoff will be carrying on the tradition.  Local GMs Dmitry Gurevich and Mesgen Amanov will be among the masters giving workshops and holding simuls; GM Susan Polgar, GM Varuzhan Akobian, and IM Irina Krush and several other top players will also be there.  (GM Arthur Bisguier, a really sweet fellow who's forgotten more about rook endings than the other players know, will be there, too.)

I hate Las Vegas; I love this tournament!  The venue is South Point; I don't know whether the $50 room rates are still available, but it couldn't hurt to ask.