Thursday, May 3, 2012

Recalling a chess miracle

I happened upon the game below on, to which I had submitted it some time ago. It was played in 1978, at a tournament I directed at Jules Stein's Chicago Chess Center, then at 2666 N. Halsted in Chicago. It was, and remains, the biggest upset I have ever seen or even heard of - over 1,000 rating points! White was Mario Spinosa, a junior with a published rating of 1272. Black was Ove Kroll of Denmark, a strong master who was a graduate student in mathematics at the University of Chicago, rated 2315. Ove was one of the strongest players in Chicago, and became a Senior Master a few months later.

The USCF had a big problem with its ratings program at the time, and ratings were lagging several months behind reality. Mario was improving rapidly, and his actual rating was more like 1600. He was particularly strong tactically, as this game well illustrates. He became a master about five years later.

The game features a sharp line of the Nimzowitsch Defense (1.e4 Nc6) that was supposed to be good for Black, namely 2.d4 d5 (2...e5!, favored by Miles and Bisguier, actually gives Black a plus score in the databases, which is why 2.Nf3! is White's most popular move) 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.Nf3 Bg4 5.Nc3!? (5.Be2 is probably stronger, and scores well for White) Bxf3 6.Nxd5 Bxd1 7.Nxc7+. White will be up the exchange, but can he save the beast on a8? The late Hugh Myers in his book The Nimzovich Defense (1973), p. 15, wrote "I believe that 5...BxN! refutes 6.N-B3?. But it is not the simplest thing in the world; some memorizing is required." (For you young whippersnappers who don't know what these strange letters mean, those were the olden days of descriptive notation.) Theory consisted mainly of two amusing miniatures won by Black. Kiss-Barcza, Debrecen 1934 went 7...Kd7?! 8.Nxa8 Bxc2 9.Bf4? (9.d5! Nb4 10.Bb5+ or 9...Nd4 10.Be3! is correct) e5 10.dxe5 Bb4+ 11.Ke2? Nge7 12.e6+ fxe6 13.Nc7 Nd4+ 14. Ke3 Nef5#. Black mated even more quickly in Bildhauer-Janny, Sopron 1927: 7...Kd8! (avoiding a later Bb5+ by White) 8.Nxa8 Bxc2 9.Bf4 Nxd4 10.Nc7 e5! 11.Bxe5 Bb4#!

After Mario played 9.Bf4 (à la Bildhauer, though he had just stumbled into this line and unlike Kroll knew nothing of the theory), Kroll thought a long time and finally rejected 9...Nxd4, perhaps because of 10.Be5 Nc6 11.Bc7+, a line not given by Myers, nor by T. Kapitaniak in Nimzovich Defence (1982), p. 33, but which the engines say is winning for White. Instead, he tried 9...e5!?, trying to gain time to develop his pieces and trap the knight. Myers says that move "is playable," while Kapitaniak simply gives "9...e5!-+" without further elaboration. But as the further course of the game showed, things are much more complicated than that. Kroll's pieces became extremely active, and he could have given perpetual check with 22...Ne2+. But who settles for a draw against a player rated 1,000 points lower? Instead he played 22...Nxh1?!, ironically trapping his own knight in the corner. Mario finally extricated his knight with 26.Nc7 and 27.Ne6!, and wound up the game with a pretty mate of Kroll's king, marooned on a1. It's odd how important the a8, h1, and a1 corners were in this game.

Karpov in Chicago: Jim Egerton interviews

Great interview by Jim on the ICA website!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Niles North Chess Team Day: May 7th in Skokie

Niles North High School won the  Illinois High School State Chess Championship this past February. This was their second state championship  in three years. Next week, the High School and the Village of Skokie will be honoring the coaches and team.

On Monday May 7, 2012, Niles North High School will celebrate the chess team's accomplishments and unveil a prominent banner facing the  Edens expressway. Later on May 7th ( 8:00 p.m), at the Skokie Village Board Meeting, the Mayor George Van Dusen will be reading a proclamation honoring the coaching staff and team.  

Chicago Chess Blog has scooped its competition by obtaining an exclusive advance copy of this proclamation:
WHEREAS, the Niles North High School Chess Team won all seven of its matches and captured the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) 2012 State Chess Championship crown at the state tournament held February 10th and 11th, 2012 in Peoria, Illinois; and

WHEREAS, Junior, David Paykin, demonstrated exemplary skill, tenacity, and fighting spirit by winning his crucial sixth round match in a momentous come from behind victory which kept the Team's title hopes alive, and ultimately lead to the Team securing the championship title; and
WHEREAS, the Niles North Chess Team finished in 5'h place at the United StatesFederation (USCF) National K-12 Championship Tournament held April 12 through 15, 2012, held in Minneapolis, Minnesota; and
WHEREAS, Senior, Eric Rosen, finished in second place, individually, at the National K-12 Championship and forther, along with his partner, Matthew Dahl of Edina, Minnesota, captured the National Bughouse Championship in a sanctioned side event competition; and
WHEREAS, Chess Team Coach, Harry Kyriazes, is recognized as one of the premier high school coaches in the United States and the State of Illinois having coached the Chess Team since 1999, and guided the Niles North Chess Team to state championship titles in 2006, 2010, and 2012, as well as four second place finishes, and two third place finishes at state championship tournaments during his tenure as coach; and
WHEREAS, Coach Kyriazes, and fellow coaches Heather Ingraham, and Mases Hagopian, are recognized for their unique and innovative approaches in providing a nurturing training environment where the qualities of teamwork, mutual respect, camaraderie, and leadership development are held in the highest regard; and
WHEREAS, Niles Township High School District 219 has supported the chess program over the years, and in so doing has furthered its mission to improve the academic achievement of every student by offering programs such that every student may achieve his or her optimal potential; and
WHEREAS, Niles North High School has unveiled a prominent banner on today's date recognizing the accomplishments and congratulating the 2012 Niles North State Champion Chess Team, and that said banner will be displayed on the west side of the Niles North building and visible to all motorists who travel the 1-94 Interstate.
NOW, THEREFORE, L GEORGE VAN DUSEN, Mayor of the Village of Skokie, do hereby proclaim May 7, 2012 as
in the Village of Skokie and congratulate the members and coaching staff of the Niles North Chess Team on their many accomplishments, and wish each team member the very best in his future endeavors.
Congratulations to Niles North! 

"Open Letter on Ilyumzhinov's Visit to Chicago"

USCF Executive Director Bill Hall speaks on behalf of USCF.

That's enough inside baseball for now.

Another game for the ages

OK, not really. My opponent, the celebrated NN, played the "Clarendon Court Defense," 1.d4 c5 2.d5 f5!?, so named by its originator, the British GM Jonathan Levitt, who lived in a building by that name. I responded with the Staunton Gambit-like 3.e4!? fxe4 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.g4, vaguely recalling the game Seirawan-Mamedyarov, World Team Championship 2011. Here, IM Gary Lane recommends 5...g6!?, when Matros-Ehlvest, Stockholm 1998 continued 6.g5 Nh5 7.Nxe4 d6 8.Ng3 Nxg3 9.hxg3 Nd7 10.Nh3 Qb6 11.f4 Qb4+ 12.Kf2 (12.c3?? 12...Qe4+) 12...Qd4+ 13.Be3? Qxb2 14.a4 Bg7 15.Rb1 Qa2 16.Ng1 Nb6 and Black won shortly. Much weaker is 5...d6?, when Feingold-R. Benjamin, Missouri Invitational 2011 concluded 6.g5 Bg4 7.Bb5+! Kf7 (7...Nbd7? 8.Be2! Bxe2 9.Qxe2 and Black cannot move his hanging knight on account of Qh5+ and mate next) 8.Be2! Bxe2 9.Qxe2 Ne8 10.g6+ hxg6 11.Nxe4 Nc7 12.Ng5+ Kg8 13.Ne6 Nxe6 14.Qxe6+ Kh7 15.Qh3+ Kg8 16.Qe6+ Kh7 17.Nf3 Qd7 18.Ng5+ Kh6 19.Qe4 Kh5 20.Ne6 1-0.

NN, like Mamedyarov, played the natural 5...h6. Here, Seirawan played 6.h3 and won in just 29 moves; in Asensio Linan (2276)-Hernandez Funes (2144), Barbera del Valles 2007, White played the amazing 6.Nxe4?! Nxe4 7.Bd3 and won after 7...Qb6 8.Nf3 Ng5 9.Ne5 d6 10.Nc4 Qc7 11.h4 Nf7 12.Bg6 e6 13.Qe2 Qc7 14.Rh3 b5 15.Rf3 Kd8 16.Rxf7, but surely 7...Qa5+ improves? Instead, I responded 6.Bg2, and now 6...Qb6 was played in Conquest (2540)-Becerra Rivero (2530) Cienfuegos 1996, which continued 7. Nge2 d6 8.h3 g5 9.Nxe4 Nxe4 10.Bxe4 Qb4+ 11.Nc3 Bg7 12.Bd2 Qxb2 13.Rb1 Qa3 14.Rb3 Qa6 15.Nb5 Kd8 16.Qe2 b6 17.O-O Nd7 18.a4 Ne5 19.a5 bxa5 20.Ra3 a4 21.c4 Rb8 22.Rb1 Bd7 23.Bc2 Qc8 24.Ba5+ Ke8 25.Rf1 Rf8 26.Bg6+! and White won. Our game continued instead 6...d6 7.Nxe4 Nbd7 (7...Nxg4) 8.Qe2 (threatening 9.Nxd6#) Nxe4 9.Bxe4 Ne5 10.Nf3, and now my opponent fell for 10...Bxg4? My 11.Nxe5! won material in light of 11...Bxe2? 12.Bg6#, a cousin of Légal's Mate. Black struggled on with 11...Qa5+, but resigned after six more moves.

Soundness never tasted so good

In this blitz game, I blundered a pawn with 8.Nf3?, but mated my opponent off the board after he thoughtfully gave up his fianchettoed bishop with 16...Bxe5? In the final position, Black resigned in light of 24...fxg6 (24...Kh8 25.Bb1#) 25.Qh4+ Kg8 26.Qh8+ Kf7 27.Qg7+ Ke8 28.Qe7#.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Noted without comment

I used to wonder why GM Larry Evans stopped writing about chess and became obsessed with chess politics.

President of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) Kirsan Ilyumzhinov (left) 
and President of Syria Bachar Assad

From FIDE's website:
The 1st President of Kalmykia, President of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) Kirsan Ilyumzhinov visited Syria on 28-29 April 2012. As Mr. Ilyumzhinov noted, on the 29th April he had a three-hour talk with the President of Syria Bachar Assad in Damascus. Mr. Assad underlined during the discussion, that he tasked the Syrian Ministry of Education to sign an Agreement to join the "Chess in Schools" project with the World Chess Federation. Mr. Ilyumzhinov informed the "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" that "in early June, as a dedication to the International Day of Children, we are planning to organize the first international youth chess tournament, where young players of Arab countries, will participate, in Damascus". The FIDE President did not exclude the possibility that Mr. Assad might participate in the opening of the youth chess event. According to Mr. Ilyumzhinov, "The Syrian President plays chess very well - since his studies in London".
[....] During the discussion the Syrian President informed Mr. Ilyumzhinov of his intention to invite H.H. the Dalai Lama to Syria on an official visit. Ilyumzhinov said: "President Assad said that on the Syrian territory there is one of the most ancient Buddhist temples erected about two thousand years ago. He would like to invite H.H. Dalai Lama to sanctify this temple".
With Qaddafi, June 2011
With Saddam Hussein, 1998

With Max von Sydow, 1957
 Back to chess shortly!