Saturday, October 6, 2012

Department of grrr...

Some not-nice people attacked the Illinois Chess Association website. Our hard-working President, Tom Sprandel, should have the site back up by October 10th: he's posting status reports here.

 Please bear with us!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Unrated Quick Quads @ Evanston CC tomorrow

Another email cut-and-paste:

Levy Senior Center, 300 Dodge Ave, Evanston, IL 60202
Evanston Chess Presents:
Oct. 6, 2012, 9:00am-1:00pm
Rapid, 3RR G/26+delay 3
Quads, Non-Rated

This is something different from our usual format.

"Quick quads" a format that allows players to fit in three games and still have Saturday afternoon free.

"Unrated" Have you never been USCF rated? Have you never played a tournament? Were you rated in the past, but haven't played a tournament in years? Want to road-test a new opening? This is your chance to test (or re-test) the waters of tournament play, without having to invest in joining USCF or renewing your membership. We will play in regular tournament conditions, and we will follow USCF rules.

Entry: $5 entry fee. As always, experts and masters are free. Results will be posted on the web site at after the end of the tournament.


Published USCF Regular Rating (or tournament director's estimate, if the player is not USCF-rated) determines player seeding. Players will be grouped into 4-player quads starting with the top-seeded player. If the bottom group has between 5 and 7 players, the bottom group will be paired as a Swiss section. No byes. Please come planning to play three rounds.

Three rounds. Digital clocks are required and will be set to G/26 plus 3 seconds delay. Some club clocks are available for use by players who do not own clocks. Sets are supplied.

Schedule: Registration from 9:00 to 9:30 am. Registration/sign-in for pre-registered players will close and quads will be formed at 9:30 a.m. sharp. First Round 9:45 am, rest of rounds ASAP (estimated ending time 12:30 p.m.).
No byes, no lunch break. Out of consideration for your quad-mates, please plan on playing all three rounds.
Send name, USCF number (if you have one), and telephone number to

Junior players (under fourteen years) rated USCF 900+ are welcome. Sorry, but we do not accept junior players rated under USCF 900. Must be accompanied by a parent throughout the event.

Bring clocks -- Wheelchair accessible -- No Smoking.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Mate me, maybe

So Carly Rae Jepsen is around musicians all day long and can't find chess competition?  She needs to hang out with better musicians: Philidor and Ray Charles are dead, but Flea, Sting, Bono, and RZA come to mind. As the previous examples suggest, having a talent and an ego big enough to assume one's name seems to help: Madonna has been known to push wood.

Both music and chess produce prodigies. Hmm.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I'll Take You There: Illinois Class Championships at Concordia University

Concordia University's Koehneke Community Center
Last year's Illinois Class Championships were held at the Orland Park Cultural Center, an attractive location with a lot of pluses. But for me, at least, it had one severe drawback: I couldn't get there except by bumming a ride. The nearest transit access was a Metra station a mile away, on a route that doesn't serve Orland Park on Saturdays until 1:30 in the afternoon and has no service at all on Sundays.

Life can be tough for the car-free chess player in Chicago; suburban organizers often don't take us into account. At all. So when I was asked to take over the organization of this year's Illinois Class Championships, I decided to make it a priority to find a location that would be easily reachable by transit-dependent city dwellers as well as suburban and downstate motorists. I found that location in River Forest's Concordia University. Just outside the city, it's close enough to make a transit commute feasible, yet it also offers free garage parking.

Despite its streetcar-suburb location, Concordia is still a hike from the nearest 'L' or Metra station. So I'm conducting an experiment: From 9 to 9:50 AM on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 17 and 18, Illinois Class players and their guests will be able to hop a free shuttle van from the Harlem Green Line station in Oak Park, which sits adjacent to the Oak Park Metra station, to the Concordia campus. The van will leave the train station every 10 minutes. If you're a transit-dependent city resident, like me, I hope this will give you one more reason to attend the Illinois Chess Association's "other championship," which also happens to be the final event in this year's Illinois Chess Tour. (If your pride prevents you from accepting a handout -- or if you find yourself running late -- you can still get to Concordia from the Harlem 'L'/Oak Park Metra station via the 307 Harlem Pace bus.)

Another difference this year is that the event has been moved back to the weekend before Thanksgiving, to coincide with the ICA's annual meeting. The meeting will take place at the event site on Saturday, Nov. 17, at 1:30 PM. It's an open meeting, and ICA members are encouraged to attend. In place of the traditional banquet, there will be a catered luncheon buffet, with service starting at 1. Place your order in advance, and we guarantee there'll be food left for you even if your round 1 game runs long.

As for the main event, the Master/Expert section offers $1,000 in guaranteed place prizes, plus $100 prizes for the top players rated under 2200 and under 2100. Early entry (before Nov. 3) is $50, and FIDE-titled players with Illinois residency who register early play free. (ICA membership is required for this state championship event.) NTD Wayne Clark will be the ringmaster, with help from the Evanston Chess Club's Maret Thorpe and the St. Charles Chess Club's Gary Janssen.

And for players just starting out in tournament chess, we're offering a side event that, in my opinion, this area doesn't see enough of: a rated beginners' open. This G/30 Swiss is open to players without ratings or with ratings under 1200; the one-day, five-round schedule is designed to move you as efficiently as possible toward ditching that provisional rating. Early entry for the RBO is just $25 before Nov. 3.

Visit to read all the details, and get your registration squared away: after Nov. 3, the entry fee goes up to $60 ($30 for the RBO), and it's $70 ($35 for the RBO) if you register onsite.

Jeremy Silman profile on

Here's a funny profile of the former Games Editor of the Illinois Chess Bulletin (thirty years or so seems like only yesterday).

A trap in the Rubinstein French

The Rubinstein French (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 (or 3.Nd2) dxe4) is a solid if somewhat passive line for Black. White is theoretically better because of his spatial advantage, but in practice this is not always so easy to prove. In my mind the following trap in the Rubinstein will always be associated with NM (and ICCM) Steve Tennant, who I saw pull it off in a tournament game about 35 years ago.

Unlike some other traps, such as the optically similar Caro-Kann trap 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Qe2?! (hoping for 5...Ngf6?? 6.Nd6#!), 6.Qe2 against the Rubinstein is a good move even if Black avoids the trap. White gets his queen off the back rank and prepares a future O-O-O. The move has been played by the likes of world #1 Magnus Carlsen (in the game below) and World Champion Viswanathan Anand. After the natural 6...Nxe4 7.Bxe4(!) Nf6?, White wins a pawn with 8.Bxb7! Bxb7 9.Qb5+. The databases show that the trap is very successful: in's database, the position after 7.Bxe4 was seen exactly 100 times. Black fell into the trap with 7...Nf6? 60% of the time! I was astonished to see that victims included chess legends GM Ratmir Kholmov and former Women's World Champion Nona Gaprindashvili!

Monday, October 1, 2012

A great game to lose

IM Angelo Young grinds nine-year-old FM Awonder Liang in a bishop ending. Better to get painful losses out of the way early!

Student Overtakes Coach

Cross posted at Prospect Chess.

I knew it would happen eventually and this weekend Robert Moskwa upped his rating to 2017 to overtake my 2011 by going 5-1 at the North Shore Chess Center G60 tournament including a final round win over 2086 rated 7th grader Alex Bian.  The turning point came in the following position.

Playing the White pieces, Alex made the perfectly understandable decision to give his king a little breathing room with 22.h3?!  Unfortunately, this gave Black the opportunity to take the intiative with 22...Rf2 whereupon White allowed Black to activate his bishop with tempo by 23.Qd3? Bf5.  Ten moves later, White found himself in the following untenable position.

Technically material is even, but Black's active pieces and connected passed pawns give him an overwhelming position.  The funny thing about bishops of opposite colors is that they are extremely drawish when there are no other pieces on the board, but when you add rooks, they can become a huge advantage for the player with the initiative, almost as if he was playing with an extra piece since he can attack on squares that his opponent cannot adequately defend.

The Poisoned b-pawn

Tarrasch wrote in his famous treatise The Game of Chess, "It is very dangerous to make a raid with the queen early on in the game. In particular, the capture of the queen's knight's pawn with the queen often brings its own revenge." Irving Chernev facetiously observed in his 1000 Best Short Games of Chess, "Alvin Cass used to say, “My grandmother, when she was a little girl, told me never to capture the queen knight pawn with my queen.'" The miniature Botvinnik-Spielmann, Moscow 1935 is one famous debacle by a great player who disregarded Cass's granny's advice.

Modern theory is less dogmatic, as evidenced by the popularity of the so-called Poisoned Pawn Variation in the Najdorf Sicilian (1.e4 c5 2.Nf2 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Qb6, intending 8.Qd2 Qxb2, a favorite of Bobby Fischer, and later played by the likes of Kasparov, Anand, and even Karpov. According to Larry Evans in New Ideas in Chess, James Sherwin, in capturing Bisguier's b-pawn in Bisguier-Sherwin, New York 1955, observed, "Why should I labor under antediluvian prejudices?" He won in 58 moves.

All of that said, one should not chase after the b-pawn without careful consideration. My opponent in this game joined the millions of players who've done so and later regretted it.

A note on the opening: 3...Qd6 in the Center Counter or Scandinavian Defense is a popular line these days. My 6.Ne5 was nothing special, and is usually met by 6...Nc6. After that, 7.Bf4!? Nxd4 (inferior is 7...Qxd4?! 8.Nxc6, especially if followed up with 8...Qxf4?? 9.Qd8# Mataoussi-Al Khelaifi, Women's Olympiad 2008) 8.Ng6!? Qe6+ 9.Ne5 Qb6 10.Nc4 Qe6+ 11.Ne5 Qd6 12.Ng6 Qe6+ 13.Ne5 led to an amusing draw by repetition in Smith-Serpek, New Zealand Championship 2000.

"Teacher overslept!" answers, part 1

I'm glad the strike ended relatively quickly: otherwise, I'd have been posting delinquent answers well into 2013.  These examples were lifted from Irving Chernev and ChessBase 2012.

Experienced players often resign against masters when they've lost a minor piece.  Beginners should keep playing until they understand why the position is hopelessly lost.

11) White to play

12) Black to play

13) White to play

14) White to play

15) Black to play

16) White to play

17) Black to play

Sometimes good counting skills are more important than brilliance: