Saturday, December 24, 2011

Magnus Carlsen interview

Evgeny Atarov interviewed Magnus for my favorite Russian site, You'll find an English translation of highlights on WhyChess. Interesting stuff!

27th North American Masters begins Monday!

Come watch our local masters in search of international title norms.  GM Mesgen Amanov, IM Angelo Young, and IM Arjun Vishnuvardhan face of against local stars Kumar, Aung Thant Zin, Rosen, Jayakumar, Chow, Waller, Wolf, Shankar, and Magness!  (But please don't ask me to explain the Schiller System format.)

Rounds are at 1 and 6 p.m. this Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday;  there's one game on Friday at 1 p.m.  All action is at the North Shore Chess Center in Skokie.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Ron Paul on Bobby Fischer

Not the greatest topic for the holiday season, but it's timely.

Noted without comment (see "Spassky vs. Who?" on the pdf).  The reader is invited to draw his or her own conclusions.  The site is hosted by The New Republic.  Context here and here.  (Watching the Garbus documentary wouldn't hurt, either.)

2012 Illinois Tour kicks off with Tim Just's Winter Open XXVIII

See you January 7-8 in Oak Brook!  The prize fund is $4,175 based on 125 players (50% guaranteed).

Details here!

Enter by January 4th to save money!

There's also the 2012 Winter Scholastic on January 7th.

Liz Garbus's Bobby Fischer documentary now on YouTube

Via ChessCafe, which I really don't link to as often as this excellent site deserves.  (This is not a permalink.)

Well worth 87 minutes of your time.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Another great chess app for iPad / iPhone

e+Chess is a chess book reader that comes with one free title, Capablanca's Chess Fundamentals. (This is the same book I started to excerpt on this blog and will get around to finishing someday: it's out of copyright.) As you might imagine, displaying both the text of a chess book and an interactive chess board is a bit much on an iPhone, but it's legible in landscape mode.

Here's a screen capture from my iPhone: I touch "1.f5" on the left side (the text of the book), and the move is made on the board. And I can shuffle the pieces investigating my own variations (as long as the moves are legal). Cool.

Here's a screen capture from my iPad: as you can see, there's a lot more room on the larger screen.

Silman's Complete Endgame Course is available in this format for $17.99. You're much more likely to study the iPad version than the paperback! But unless you absolutely love your iPhone, I wouldn't buy the book to read on the tiny platform: just too darn small. But that's not the fault of this great app.  There are even nuggets of Silman's wisdom sprinkled through the text as audio files.    To be clear, e+Chess falls far short of the true multimedia available through ChessBase, but this is a promising start.

There's also a Valeri Beim book on middlegame strategy available in this format (Beim is one of my favorite authors, but I'm not familiar with this book), and a few oddball titles.  It remains to be seen how popular this format becomes (e+Chess could go the way of Betamax).  And the serious player is more likely to get more utility from ChessBase or PGN formats.  But ease of consumption is a strong counterargument: the platform looks very promising to me!

If you own an iPad and you want to join Vince Hart in studying Silman's Complete Endgame Course (an excellent book for anyone from complete beginning to aspiring master), you can't go wrong downloading e+Chess.  If you own an iPhone, download it anyway, if only to read a free interactive copy of Chess Fundamentals, one of the greatest chess books ever written.  But I wouldn't spend money on content unless you're buying for the iPad.

White to play 

As long as we're on this page, here's a famous passage.  Capa writes, "In the above position White can't win by 1.f5.  Black's best answer would be 1...g6, draws.  (The student should work this out.)"  Your thoughts, students?

Capablanca shoulda been a physicist

From Wikipedia: "According to Capablanca, he learned the rules of the game at the age of four by watching his father play, pointed out an illegal move by his father, and then beat his father twice."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Checking distance in K,R & P vs. K & R

After some embarrassing play at the Illinois Class, I have decided to take another run at getting basic endgame theory straight in my head.  Since I figure an expert should know Philidor and Lucena, I'm starting with King, Rook and Pawn vs. King and Rook.  My resources in this endeavor are Fundamental Chess Endings by Muller & Lamprecht, Batsford Chess Endings by Speelman, Tisdal & Wade, Comprehensive Chess Endings by Averbakh, Silman's Complete Endgame Course by some guy whose name I don't remember, and the 5-piece tablebase in ChessBase 8.

Here is a position from Batsford Chess Endings (p. 334) which I have looked at in the past.  1...Re1 is the only move that saves the draw for Black, and the reason given by BCE is "This move stops the e-pawn's advance after Ra8+ Kf7."

Here's the kind of position I might find myself playing as White in a tournament with my time running low.  I vaguely recall the position from BCE so I am somewhat encouraged when my opponent plays 1...Rg1+.  I'm not sure it's a blunder, but I'm pretty sure that 1...Rf1 would have drawn.

After 2.Kf6 Kg8 3.Ra8+ Kh7 4.Kf7, I am once again encouraged when my opponent plays 4...Rc1 because I know that checking distance is important and that his rook would be better off on the b-file.  So I play 5.f6 Rc7+ 6.Ke6 Rc6+ 7.Ke7 Rc7+ 8.Kd6.

Then my opponent suddenly scoots off with 8...Rb7! and I am left wondering whether I missed something or whether I never really had anything in the first place.  If I am lucky, I still hold the draw.  If not, my time runs out while I'm trying to figure out what happened.

So let's go back to the first position where 1...Re1 is necessary according to BCE because it "stops the e-pawn's advance."  This reason now strikes me as just plain wrong.  The tablebase tells me that the Black can draw even if the pawn advances to e7.  The reason 1...Re1 draws isn't because it stops the pawn from advancing.  The reason is that it forces White to bring his rook to e8 which allows the Black rook to take the a-file!  2.Ke6 Kf8 3.Ra8+ Kg7 4.Re8 Ra1!  1...Rd1+? loses to 2.Ke6 Kf8 3.Ra8+ Kg7 4.Ke7 Rb1 5.e6 Rb7+ 6.Kd6 Rb6+ 7. Kd7 Rb7+ 8.Kc6 when the Black rook can't scoot away.  BCE's comment that "the rook is misplaced on d1" isn't particularly instructive either.

The example in the second diagram actually comes from Fundamental Chess Endings rather than one of my games.  It gives 1...Rf1 as best but says. "1...Rg1+ is less accurate as White can penetrate further . . . although this still isn't sufficient to win."  I think that sentence would be much better if it ended with "because the Black rook still has adequate checking distance on the side."  It's not that BCE, FCE, and CCE don't mention checking distance frequently, it's that they don't cite it as the reason for a move when it plainly seems to be.

I would be very happy if anyone else would like share their experiences trying to learn these types of endings.  I feel like being able to articulate a better explanation for a move than I find in any of my books is itself a real step forward.  Of course, the test will come the next time I have to play one of these positions in a game.

Monday, December 19, 2011

More games from the Illinois Class

Opinions are like, er, belly buttons: everybody's got one.  More annotations here!  Your corrections and comments are always welcome.

Look for another batch later this week!