Friday, August 3, 2012

"Tip the king"

Ted Cox on Ron's death.

Photos from Ron Washington memorial

Many people shared many decades of memories of Ron.  Attendees included a couple National Masters, a member of the 1969 World Champion Boston Celtics, and others who loved Ron and who miss him.

The last two people who saw Ron alive spoke: he was going in "for a dip" with everything but shoes on ("I'll dry out in a minute").  The gentleman who was in the water with him turned around to head back to shore, and Ron was gone. He and others tried to save Ron, but it was too late.

Sorry I couldn't stay for food and blitz...but here are a few photos.

Rest in peace, Ron.

Game-30 event at North Shore Chess Center (and blogger travel) tomorrow

Details here.

I won't be there, as I'm flying to Portland tomorrow morning and playing in my first U.S. Open in twenty-three years! (Let's see, I played in the 1974 Canadian Open (11 rounds, Montréal, Place Bonaventure), the 1979 U.S. Open (12 rounds, Chicago, Palmer House), and the 1989 U.S. Open (9 rounds, Rosemont, O'Hare Expo Center). So this is only the fourth one-game-per-day event I've played in 45 years of tournament chess.

 The host city is Vancouver, WA, within striking distance of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helen's, Multomnah Falls and the Columbia River Gorge, Powell's City of Books, and the dream of the 90s....

And yeah, I know I'm staying at a Hilton in the burbs, with the I-5 bridge between the chess players and Portlandia....

Ron Washington memorial at Chess Pavilion

No official word, but I believe that folks are doing something at the North Avenue Beach pavilion at 5 p.m. today.

Hope to see you there as we pay respects to Ron's memory.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Not my g-g-generation, but maybe yours

And not strictly speaking a chess post, but hey, it came up in the Google feed, and even this geezer knows who GZA is (if only via Dave Chappelle and Jim Jarmusch). 

Click here to find out more!

From Consequence of Sound:
This fall, GZA will embark on “The 64 Squares Tour” (named after his affinity for chess)....
GZA's knight's tour of the USA lands on the Chicago square at Metro this September 19th. Hmm, maybe the Piatigorsky Cup will be replaced by the Wu-Tang Clan Cup.

Brooklyn Castle at Siskel Center August 26th and August 30th

The chess documentary Brooklyn Castle (about the junior high students who, after this film was made, won the National High School Championship) is a featured film in the Black Harvest Film Festival 2012.  Read more about it in Time Out Chicago.

The Gene Siskel Film Center is at 164 N. State Street: call (312) 846-2800 for info.

Illinois Open in Oak Brook this Labor Day weekend!

Grandmasters Gurevich and Mitkov are among the preregistrants: action begins one month from today!

Sept 1-3. 2012 Illinois Open State Championship. 6R-SS. Open Section (40/90 SD/30 + 30/sec incr). Reserve and Booster Sections (G/90 + 30/sec incr). Doubletree Hotel 1909 Spring Road Oak Brook, IL 60523 - Phone 630-472-6000. $8500 Guaranteed + $250 Isaac Braswell Fighting Chess Award in Open Section

3 sections: Open, Reserve (U1800), Booster (U1400). Prizes (non-IL players eligible for max 3rd place in Overall Prizes and 2nd place prize for rating bracket prizes: Open - Overall: $1600-1000-300, (2399-2200): $350-275-200; (2199-2100): $250-200; (2099-2000): $200-100; (1999-1900): $200-100; (1899-1800): $200-100; Reserve (U1800) - Overall: $750-450-225; (1699-1600): $250-200-150; (1599-150): $150-100; (1499-1400): $150-100; Booster (U1400) - Overall: $250-125-75; (1299-1200) - $100-50; (1199-1100): $100-50. Open & Reserve FIDE Rated. Free Entry for IL FIDE titled players (WFM & above). 

EF: $64 by 08/04/2012, $96 by 08/18/2012, $128 thereafter and on-site. No checks at site, credit cards ok. Online registration preferred. No phone entries. Re-entry: $60 with 1/2 pt in first two rds only. Rd 6 bye must committ by end of Rd 2 otherwise zero pt. Players in contention for prizes must play final rd or have 1/2 pt bye committed to by the end of Rd 2 otherwise ineligible for prizes. Special Rules for Playing Up: $10 more if 150 pts or less from cut off of section, $25 more if 151-300 pts from cut-off, $50 more if 301+ pts from cut-off (Example: 1620 wants to play in open, 180 pts from cut-off, pay $25 more to play up).NOTE: Playing up fee paid in cash at the door - players will be registered in their normal rating section unless you come to the TD room to request playing up. 

Schedule: 10am and 4pm each day. Mailed entries: North American Chess Association 4957 Oakton Street Suite 113 Skokie IL 60077. All mailed entries must be received by 8/24/2012. Questions: No Phone Calls. Advance entries and online registration at:

Hotel: $91/night + tax. Ask for Chess Rate. 

Boards, Sets, Clocks Provided. Must use organizer provided equipment. Chess vendor onsite. August Rating Supplement. Special Workshops: Chess in Education plus TD/Rules Workshop. 1-day Scholastic Event. For registration on the 1-day scholastic event please visit

USCF and ICA mbrshp required for main event.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Thinking: Fast and Slow

I'm about two-thirds through the audiobook version of Daniel Kahneman's Thinking: Fast and Slow.  This book is a useful corrective to Malcolm Gladwell's recent bestsellers Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking and Outliers: The Story of Success. Kahneman doesn't deny the usefulness of intuition, but argues that intuition has its limits, even for experts.  (For example, even the most experienced pediatrician assessing a newborn's health may be better off relying on the routine of the Apgar score than a subjective evaluation, even though that subjective evaluation is itself generally very accurate.)

Outliers popularized the 10,000-hour rule: years of deliberate practice in chess (or guitar, or corporate taxation, or...) will allow one to develop an expert's intution.  Kahneman (a behavioral psycholgist, winner of the Nobel Prize in economics) doesn't discount the usefulness of the grandmaster's intuition, but in summarizing his body of research for a popular audience, he argues that such intutition is a type of "fast thinking" that is wrong far more often than experts care to admit. Chess is a concrete game, and software engines have repeatedly proved the value of colorless algorithms over romantic intuition. (Botvinnik's highest praise for his archrival was—I paraphrase— "Smyslov had a very strong algorithm in the 1950s.")

But humans play chess with a clock, and in human-vs.-human play, we don't have time to figure everything out. (We try to do that in the post-mortem, and then at home, and after that we feed our analysis to the computer to check our results.)  So the intuition of a Capablanca, Kramnik, or Carlsen is a very good thing for human players to have.

How to translate these insights into studying chess and teaching chess? Algorithms are essential in pawn endings, but knowing general principles about the outside passed pawn, protected passed pawn, and the opposition are pretty darn important, too.  And knowing the general principles of rook endings (defending king belongs on the short side, checking distance, recognizing the preconditions for a successful frontal defense) is important, but sometimes you gotta calculate, too.

Thinking: Fast and Slow is strongly recommended reading for folks in business and the social sciences. It might even be tangentially useful to chess players, though I'm not sure how....

"Chicago's Ron Washington, 1951-2012"

Daaim Shabazz remembers Ron (click to read) .

Ron in 2007; swiped from The Knights of Castle Kimbark

Monday, July 30, 2012

9-year-old beats Grandmaster in tournament play!

Awonder Liang and his brother Adream have been playing a "killer" tournament schedule this summer: the Chicago Open, the Philadelphia International, the World Open, and (right now) the Washington International.

Yesterday, Awonder defeated his first Grandmaster!  The current World 8-and-Under Champion defeated the former World Senior Champion, GM Larry Kaufman, in Round 3 of the Washington International.

Proud papa Will Liang writes:
Awonder has become the record holder for the youngest chess player in the United States to have beaten a Grand Master in a tournament game of chess. The new record Awonder has just established is 9 years 3 months and 20 days. The previous record was established by now super GM and world number 8th chess player Fabiana Caruana on September 28, 2002. Caruana's record was 10 years one month and 29 days. Awonder has broken Caruana's record by 10 months and 9 days.

The very next round, Awonder drew with three-time U.S. Champion Joel Benjamin in the kind of technical ending that GMs routinely win against experienced International Masters.

To assuage Grandmaster Kaufman's pain, buy his wonderful book The Kaufman Repertoire for Black and White: A Complete, Sound and User-friendly Chess Opening Repertoire.  It's a wonderful one-volume reference for ambitious tournament players with limited time to study. But you may want to consider 8...Ba6 against the Scotch.

Cloud Gate cityscape

The talented Anna Yakimenko reimagines the "Bean."

"Chess hustler of North Ave. Beach drowned in Lake Michigan"

7-18-06 Chess Pavilion on the Lakefront at North Avenue. Ron Washington (Left) and Daniel Jones (Right) enjoy an evening of warm weather and chess as citizens come out and play and take to the bike paths. Photo by Scott Stewart/Sun-Times
Photo and story (follow this link) copyright Chicago Sun-Times.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ron Washington: Gone but not forgotten

This impromptu memorial was set up at the Pavilion today:

And here are a few of Ron's friends who gathered to honor his memory today:
David Franklin, who sent these photos, writes, "Another, bigger, memorial will take place this coming Friday, August 3, 5 p.m. at the pavilion at North Avenue Beach." It's likely that there will be another memorial service on Saturday at Christian Funeral Home (3100 W. Irving Park), but that's only tentative...more tomorrow.

Chess in Lake Wobegon

Not that much to do with chess, but we could use a smile. Hat tip to Colleen Devlin.

Sad news

Updated 2:46 p.m.  it's confirmed that our friend Ron Washington drowned in Lake Michigan on Friday.
At 2 p.m., [North Avenue Beach] lifeguards attempted to rescue 61-year-old Ronald Washington, a former collegiate hoopster and self-described chess “hustler” who for years had been a fixture near the beach.
Washington, of the 100 block of West Maple Street, was fully clothed when a lifeguard pulled him from the water near 1400 N. Lake Shore Drive, according to police and park district spokespeople.
Washington was pronounced dead at 4:30 p.m. at Northwestern Hospital.
Earlier report (without Ron's name) on the WGNTV website.

Much more later: enjoy your summer day, but please enjoy it safely.