Saturday, April 21, 2012

A trap in the Ponziani

The Ponziani Opening (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c3) is an odd duck. No wonder it was a favorite of the Hungarian IM Andreas Dückstein. (Yeah, yeah, I know, his name isn't really pronounced like "duck.") It can lead to wild play after 3...d5 4.Qa4 or 3...f5!?, or a dull endgame after 3...Nf6 4.d4 Nxe4 5.d5 Ne7 (5...Nb8 is also OK, while 5...Bc5?! is another crazy line) 6.Nxe5 Ng6 7.Qd4 Qe7 8.Qxe4 Qxe5 9.Qxe5+ Nxe5. Here is a trap that those who defend double-king pawn openings should be aware of. Black's 6...d6? is a oft-seen blunder according to Dave Taylor and Keith Hayward in their book "Play the Ponziani," especially in blitz games. (Incidentally, I got the book today for only $5 at North Shore Chess Center's book/DVD sale. Check it out!) The pedestrian way to lose would have been 8...bxc6! 9.Nxc6 Qb6! 10.Nd4+ Kd8, when Taylor and Hayward observe that Black "has zero compensation for the pawn and his king is in trouble." Black went down in more picturesque fashion.

The John Wooden of chess

Elizabeth Spiegel is a teaching dynamo who is absolutely devoted to her students at Brooklyn's I.S. 318.  She says she isn't a genius, she just works hard.  Hard work is a form of genius....

She's in town this weekend with her students at the All-Girls National Championships at the Swissotel.  Last night, Keith Ammann and I had the pleasure of congratulating Elizabeth and trying to learn from the master.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Lawson House YMCA Floating Fundraiser June 12th

This looks like a fun way to start a summer evening.  Proceeds benefit Lawson House YMCA, which gives a home to the people who need it most, and creates a loving community for them.

"I.S. 318's Crowning Achievement"

This story is getting great national press: this time, it's the Wall Street Journal.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Illinois Chess Tour: Normal April Open

Make the trip to the Twin Cities this Saturday to play in the Normal April Open, an Illinois Chess Tour event!

The entry fee is only $20: cheap!  Want to save gas money?  Have fun and carpool by posting a note on the ICA Forum (or as a comment to this blog entry).

All Girls National Championship at the Swissotel

The event (organized by the Kasparov Chess Foundation, the USCF, and Renaissance Knights) begins tomorrow at 6 p.m and continues through the weekend.  You still have time to save $5 by registering today. It's open to all girls who are 18 or younger as of April 1, 2012.

 The Swissotel (at 323 E. Wacker) is a VERY COOL location for a national chess event!

Win free tickets to Fish Men at the Goodman: you have 57 minutes

Share your chess story for a chance to win!
In Teatro Vista's production of Fish Men by Cándido Tirado, every character has come to their love of chess in a different way.
Who taught you how to play, or what memories do you have about learning and playing the game of chess?

Enter your story for a chance to win two tickets to see Fish Men in Goodman's Owen Theatre!
Submit your story by 5pm April 19th! Three winners will be chosen April 20th.

Contest closes at 5 p.m., Facebook friends! Hat tip to Lou Ascherman.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dear MacArthur Foundation

Please give Elizabeth Spiegel a genius grant.  Now.

Story on the front page of today's New York Times.

Hat tip to Keith Ammann for the following clip from Rachel Maddow:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

"Fish Men" reviewed by Chris Jones

Claire and I saw Fish Men Sunday night.  Chris Jones reviews here.

The performers are very good, the premise is great, and the playwright, NM Cándido Tirado, captures the absurdist intensity of the blitz hustle.  Jones calls the play "thematically overstuffed," a fair complaint.  Maybe a better way of putting it is that there's one theme, man's inhumanity to man, and it's beaten into the ground.  (The e5 square has never been overprotected by a disciple of Nimzowitch to the extent this theme is overdetermined in Fish Men.)  And the dénouement (I'm trying to avoid spoilers) risks descent into the Harold-and-Maudlin.

But I think the political theme works well in Washington Square Park.  Jones is incorrect to argue that "this play is just too overloaded with weighty geo-political metaphors and personal secrets for this little section of the park to credibly hold, especially since all these traumas seem to come crashing down at once."  Talk to the immigrants you play chess with, and ask them how they came to be here in Chicago.  I don't want to give away any spoilers, but think of how much the ethnic cleansing of the Bosnian War affected the Chicago chess community.   The stories of the late Osman Palos and the recently deported Aleksandar Stamnov are tragic, and both stories could easily have been worked into this play.  The persecuted of all nations flee to American cities.  And when they get here, they play chess in the park.

Fish Men begins with the hustler Cash's discussion of a famous drawn game from the Kasparov-Anand match of 1995.  But the destruction of the site of that match on September 11, 2001, is never explicitly invoked, even though the World Trade Center was and is just a few blocks from Washington Square Park.  

Yeah, the play is overdetermined.  But yeah, people are repeatedly and needlessly cruel to other people.  I prefer the oblique critique to the direct, Dylan to Phil Ochs, Beckett to Tony Kushner.  The problem with an oblique message play is that your message can be misunderstood or lost.  Tirado doesn't have this problem.

Well worth seeing for all my complaints: if you're on the main floor, you'll be a well-placed kibitzer. At the intermission, a stagehand was setting up a Sicilian middlegame for Act II.  I left my seat to tell her that the same King's Gambit game (featuring ...Qh4+, ...Qxb2, and a decisive f5-f6 push) was used for two differenct scenes in Act I.  Mr. Memory (that's me) noticed this and found it mildly annoying.  Then Mr. Memory returned to what he thought was his seat and had to be told to move by a nice lady....

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Wait until next year...?

I met NM Ben Gershenov of New York last year; he's a very pleasant young man and a phenomenal talent.  Ben and NM Dipro Chakraborty of Arizona (½ point behind Ben's 6-.0) are playing on Board 1 of Nationals: winner takes the title.

Board 2 is all-Illinois!  FM Eric Rosen (an undefeated 5-1) and NM Sam Schmakel are likely playing for second place.  So no repeat championship for Eric: Sam will have two more tries.

Aakaash Meduri made a phenomenal recovery from a first-round loss and also sits on 5-1.

Coverage from CBS's Minneapolis affiliate

I guess this would be Mary Richards' station....

Thanks to Chess Life Online for the link.