Friday, October 19, 2012

October Chicago Chess Player is out

“The Final Round” By Patrice Connelly
Boo!  New issue is here.  It's the first issue of the season, so basically a roster update.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A trap in the Vienna Game

If Black plays symmetrically against the Vienna Game (1.e4 e5 2.Nc3) with 2...Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5, White can set a nice trap with the primitive 4.Qg4! threatening 5.Qxg7. This is surprisingly awkward for Black to meet: 4...Bf8 is obviously unattractive, 4...g6 is weakening, and no one wants to move their king with 4...Kf8 (ugly, but perhaps best). The most plausible move, and indeed Black's most common move, is 4...Qf6?, meeting queen move with queen move and counterattacking the pawn on f2. However, White gets a large advantage with the shocking 5.Nd5!, threatening both 6.Nxf6+ and 6.Nxc7+. Since the queen can't defend g7 and c7 at the same time, and 5...Bxf2+? would be met by 6.Kf1!, winning material, 5...Qxf2+ is forced.

After White's also forced reply 6.Kd1, White's king is surprisingly safe, while Black's is in trouble. White again threatens both 7.Qxg7 and 7.Nxc7+. 6...g6!?, hoping for counterplay with 7.Nxc7+ Kd8 8.Nxa8 d5! threatening White's queen and bishop simultaneously, is met by 7.Nh3! Qd4 8.d3 (threatening 9.c3, trapping the queen) Bb6 (8...d6 9.Qf3) 9.Qf3 (threatening 10.Nxb6 axb6 11.Qxf7+ Kd8 12.Qf8#) d6 10.c3 Qc5 11.b4, winning material, as in Emms-Hawkworth, where future grandmaster Emms upset his higher-rated opponent:
Instead, Black usually tries to meet both of White's threats with 7...Kf8. Then 8.Nh3 forces 8...Qd4 (8...d6? 9.Nxf2 Bxg4+ 10.Nxg4 wins a piece), when 9.d3 threatens to trap the queen with 10.c3. The following games well illustrate White's possibilities:

All-Grade in West Chicago on October 27th

The site is the Benjamin School in West Chicago (the western suburb, not to be confused with the west side of the city).  Tournament info on the ICA website.

So how do kids from the city make it all the way to West Chicago? Jerry Neugarten writes:

Most of you know that the Illinois All Grade Championship is coming up on Saturday, Oct. 27th at the Benjamin School in West Chicago.  Because public transportation to the location is limited, ICA has allocated funds to run free buses from Whitney Young Magnet High School in Chicago's west loop  (221 S. Laflin, near the Eisenhower Expressway) to Benjamin that morning, returning in the afternoon.  Family members can travel with their kids. We are prepared to run up to four buses, accommodating close to 200 riders.

The flyer for the event is attached.  As you'll see, the fee for the tournament goes up on Oct. 12th.  USCF membership is separate.  If kids are not presently USCF members, the least expensive USCF memberships (for 3 months) run from $8 to $15 depending on age.    
The bus ride is approximately 45 minutes.  Buses will leave at 7 a.m., and return at staggered intervals during the afternoon as they fill.

Email me the names of anyone wishing seats, along with a contact email address (coach or parent).  Sign-ups will be on a first-come, first served basis

Procedure to minimize no-shows: In the past, when offerings have been free, we've experienced a large number of no shows.  As a result, if there is a waiting list for these bus seats, this is the procedure we'll follow:  On the Monday morning before the tournament (i.e. Monday Oct. 22), we'll compare the names of those who have requested seats against the names of those who have registered for the event in advance, which will appear at  Where "bus kids" do not appear on the registration list, their seats (and those for family members) will be given to those on the waiting list.  The exception is if I hear from unregistered kids no later than 9 am Monday, by email, that the child will still be registering by the tournament deadline (Friday Oct. 26th at 8 pm).

Let me know if you have any questions.

Jerry Neugarten
Chair, ICA Youth Committee

$10 plus-score open this weekend in River North

Based in Mexico City, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) has a strong tradition of supporting chess. The university has an on-campus chess center offering courses in recreational and competitive chess, and in 2010 it hosted an international chess festival that featured simultaneous exhibitions by Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov. The university's goal is "that all of UNAM plays chess and that every plantel [college within the university] has a teacher," says Astrid Martín del Campo, president of the University Chess Association at UNAM. "This way, the seedbed will grow."

Here in Chicago, UNAM has a satellite campus in River North, where it has formed a chess club as an extension of the university's mission of support for chess. The club meets on the first floor of the UNAM Chicago building, 350 W. Erie St. in River North, Wednesdays from 6 to 8:30 PM.

Recently, Hector Hernandez of the Knight Moves Chess Club in Pilsen introduced me to Arturo Castro, a great guy who holds the cumbersome title of Cultural, Business Development and Special Projects Coordinator at UNAM Chicago. Castro told me about UNAM's relationship with chess and about his campus's chess club, and he offered his building as a site for a tournament. It's a nice building, so I said yes.

This Saturday, Oct. 20, I'm directing a four-round plus-score open at UNAM Chicago. Time control is G/45 + d5, with rounds at 10 AM and 12:15, 2 and 3:45 PM. Entry fee is $10; prize schedule is $55 for a final score of 4.0, $35 for 3.5, $20 for 3.0 and $10 for 2.5. UNAM is also offering certificates for one free and one half-price Spanish language or Mexican culture course, which will be given away in a door prize drawing. UNAM Chicago chess instructor and USCF Expert Honorius Constantin will be on hand to provide postgame analysis. Registration is from 9 to 9:45 AM. Sets will be provided; bring clocks.

There is one catch (pāce suburbanites): Parking in the area is not good. On-street parking is governed by the deplorable LAZ pay boxes, and the private lot around the corner at Sedgwick and Huron costs about what you'd expect (though carpooling and splitting the cost may be a reasonable option). Better you know this now than arrive and be surprised and frustrated. On the flip side, the campus is an easy five-minute walk from the Chicago/Franklin station on the Brown Line, and there are plenty of lunch options within walking distance.

The weather forecast for Saturday is partly sunny, with a high near 57. I love fall in Chicago.

A trap in the Vienna Gambit (II)

In the Vienna Gambit, after 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.f4 d5! (rather than 3...Nc6? or 3...exf4?, which I looked at previously), play usually continues 4.fxe5 Nxe4. Then 5.d3!? (the second most common move, behind 5.Nf3), tempts Black to play 5...Qh4+ 6.g3 Nxg3. At first blush, this looks very attractive, winning a pawn, further weakening White's king position, and attacking White's rook. Appearances are deceiving: White's counterattack is stronger. After 7.Nf3 Qh5 8.Nxd5! (threatening Nxc7+), Black will be in trouble whether he tries to save his rook, or takes White's rook, allowing White to win his.

The first alternative was seen in Perez Pietronave-Campagnoni, 1996, where Black tried 8...Na6. White chased Black's queen around, beginning with 9.Nf4!, and won Black's knight on g3. Bruce Pandolfini in Chess Openings: Traps and Zaps gives a similar line after 8...Kd8. Note that in either case (8...Na6 or 8...Kd8) if Black responds to 9.Nf4 with 9...Qg4, White wins the queen with 10.Bh3!
The second alternative was seen in Sax-Petran, 1973, where Black played 8...Bg4 (the immediate 8...Nxh1 9.Nxc7+ scores even worse for Black) 9.Bg2 Nxh1. After the dust settled White was left in an endgame a piece up.
The moral of the story: resist temptation with 5...Nxc3! 6.bxc3 and now the most common move, 6...d4, or better yet 6...Be7 7.Nf3 O-O 8.d4 f6, which scores very well for Black.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A new way to lose

In my video "Sicilian Defense: The Most Useful Trap You've Never Seen," I explained in my delightfully nasal voice that White in the Sicilian can drop a piece to d5-d4 in at least five different ways. My opponent today found a sixth. Yes, 29...Qxd4+ and mate next was an improvement.

A trap in the Vienna Gambit (I)

The Vienna Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.f4) was popular around the turn of the 20th century, but is rarely seen today. As such, it has the potential to surprise Black. By far Black's best response is 3...d5! One plausible but horrible response is 3...Nc6?, when 4.fxe5 Nxe5 5.d4 5...Nc6 (or 5...Ng6) 6.e5 gives White a position like the Halloween Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nxe5?! Nxe5 5.d4) without sacrificing a piece.

Another lemon is 3...exf4?, à la the King's Gambit Accepted. This is a different opening! 4.e5 is very strong for White, whether Black plays the immediate 4...Ng8 or 4...Qe7 5.Qe2 Ng8. Here are a couple of illustrative disasters:

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mail from USCF Executive Director Bill Hall

Just found the following in my inbox.  For those of you who aren't USCF members, it's a great time to join


USCF Online Newsletter October 2012 - A Message from the Executive Director

Dear Fellow USCF Member,


Over the years I have had many conversations with chess players talking about what it takes to grow chess in the United States. While chess is played casually by millions, one of the biggest obstacles has been making the competitive sport more broadly known as well as promoting the many societal benefits of the game. Well there are some significant tools to help change this perception and USCF is trying to support each of these endeavors plus a few more we'll be telling you about soon.

First up is a new book from Scribner released this past week, The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess and One Extraordinary Girl's Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster. This is a moving story by sports writer Tim Crothers of a young girl in the slums of Uganda who learns chess and finds it a tool that helps her dream of, and achieve, grand successes beyond the subsistence life she has known. This is a book for chess players to give to their friends and family members and to encourage everyone to read, especially young women. Look for coverage in November's Chess Life.

Getting more players introduced to and active in chess starts in our nation's schools. The new Harcourt book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character by noted education writer Paul Tough puts school chess into the broader discussion of character education being just as important for success as high test scores. Many educators are already reading this book; if you want to keep current in what the discussion is, we recommend picking this up, reading it and making sure it is in the hands of every influencer in education you know.

Finally, the most important tool is the film Brooklyn Castle as many folks are more engaged by seeing than reading about something. As you probably already know, Brooklyn Castle follows the successes and challenges of IS 318 in Brooklyn, NY, the most successful middle school chess team in the nation. While working to excel at the chess board, the students and teachers face another major hurdle as cutbacks to after school programs threaten the very existence of their program. It's an inspiring story of what it takes to be a champion, on the chess board, and in life.

Brooklyn Castle is a major resource for the chess community and we urge you to support it; go see the film when it comes to your city (Opens in New York followed by Los Angeles and then many other cities during November). Bring a group. Brooklyn Castle shows the many faces of chess in our schools, shows the importance of tournament play and demonstrates why chess deserves funding. If you are an educator, a parent or a player, there is something for everyone in this film.

Its first screenings begin this weekend in New York City where the USCF has made arrangements for a chess community Sneak Peek screening the night before the film opens to the general public. This screening will take place THURSDAY, OCTOBER 18 AT 7 PM at The Walter Reade Theater in Lincoln Center, 70 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York 10023. Click Here to get your tickets or paste this link into your browser:

Organized chess in America is a fairly small community. We need to demonstrate that we are small but powerful if we truly want to grow. It's great to buy the latest chess book or magazine, but supporting those projects that make chess real to the broad community will be the way we get greater media, corporate and education system support for our sport.

Thank you once again for your time to read this and for your participation in USCF.

Bill Hall Signature.jpg

Bill Hall, Executive Director

P.S. To view the October issue of Chess Life online, click here.
Or you can download the October issue of Chess Life here.
To view the October issue of Chess Life for Kids online, click here.
Or you can download the October issue of Chess Life for Kids here.

Midwest Class results: GMs Shulman & Mitkov tie for first

Results here!  And the post-event ratings are already up on MSA.

It's procrastinators' tax deadline day: more when I catch my breath.

Student Leaves Teacher in the Dust

After 1st Board Robert Moskwa upped his rating to 2017 over my 2011 two weeks ago, I decided that I had to play in the Midwest Class last weekend in order to see if I could put myself back ahead. For a brief moment Friday night, I had some hope when Robert only managed a draw in the first round with 2137 rated Vijay Raghavan while I beat 2134 rated Robert O'Donnell. Had we stopped then, I would have had the edge by a couple of points. Alas, we played Saturday and I lost twice while Robert won twice. On Sunday, I managed to redeem myself with a couple of wins while Robert picked up a win and a draw.

End result: Robert Moskwa goes 4-1 to tie for 1st in the Expert Section and ups his rating to 2048; Vincent Hart goes 3-2 to tie for 8th and ups his rating to 2016.

Interesting side note for those those of us who get frustrated losing to the youngsters. Ninety-seven year old (That's right 97!) Erik Karklins went 3.5-1.5 to tie for 3rd beating Matthew Stevens 11, Alex Bian 12, and Troy Zimmerman 16.