Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Deadly Isolani

Positions where White has an isolated pawn on d4 (IQP) arise in many openings, including the Queen's Gambit Accepted; Nimzo-Indian; Caro-Kann Defense, Panov-Botvinnik Variation; and Alapin Sicilian. In the game below, the IQP occurred in a Smith-Morra Gambit Declined, which transposed into an Alapin Sicilian. If Black wants to decline the Smith-Morra Gambit, 3...d5 is not the most effective way to do so; Black ends up in an Alapin Sicilian where he has exchanged on d4 prematurely. I recommend either accepting the gambit or playing 3...Nf6.

A lot of players are leery of taking on an IQP, fearing that it will be weak in an ending. However, as Tarrasch said, "Before the endgame, the gods have placed the middlegame." He also said, "He who fears an isolated queen's pawn should give up chess." The IQP supports a knight outpost on e5 and often results in a king-side attack for White.

Another advantage of the IQP is that a sudden liquidation of the center with d5 is sometimes dangerous for Black, as seen in the game below. Although Black's opening moves were very plausible, 12.d5! already left him tactically busted in view of his loose pieces on c6 and b4, and the unfortunate vis-à-vis of Black's queen and White's rook on the d-file. Houdini 3 gives Black's best line as 12...Na5 13.dxe6 (unleashing a discovered attack on the queen) Qe7 14.exf7+ Kh8. After 12...exd5 13.Nxd5 Nxd5 14.Bxd5, White threatened both 15.Bxc6 and 15.Bxf7+, winning Black's queen. Black tried to defend everything with 14...Qc7, but I unleashed a whirlwind attack on his king with 15.Qe4! Bb7 16.Ng5! g6 17.Qh4!, forcing the ugly 17...h5. Houdini says that I should have continued with 18.Qe4! (threatening Qxg6+) Kh8 (even worse is 18...Kg7 19.Bxf7! Rxf7? 20.Ne6+, winning the queen) 19.Bf4! (not 19.Bxc6? Qxc6! 20.Qxb4?? Qxg2#) Qe7 20.Bxc6, winning a piece. My 18.Bf4?! was less accurate, when Black could have played on with 18...Qe7. After 18...Bd6??, Black resigned before I could play 19.Bxd6 Qxd6 20.Bxf7+! Rxf7 21.Rxd6.

Memorial for Morris Giles at 11 a.m. today

Radcliff-Hunter Parish House
3800 S. Michigan Ave

11 a.m.

(thanks to Daaim Shabazz)

And stop by the Youth Chess Foundation of Chicago event at De La Salle (3434 S. Michigan) afterwards: the kids will be playing until 3 p.m.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Force multipliers

Hitting folks up for money doesn't come easily to most of us, and when it comes to "the ask," we board members of the Chicago Chess Center have a lot to learn.  But as I write, we've raised $6,920 (Keith Ammann's tally, which is within a few dollars of my own) in this fundraising campaign.  That's $6,920 more than we could have raised without your support. And we are only counting monies actually in hand or held by third parties: some generous people have made some significant pledges, and I know that with continued support from the community, we're going to get this done.

Counting birds in the hand only and including a 1/15/2013 check in the mail from Network for Good, we  have the following assets as of 6 p.m. (very unofficially):
  • $5,741.55 in our US Bank checking account
  • $1,114.50 sitting at Donate Now (net of processing fees: thank you to all those who chose to cover the 3% processing cost!)
  • $150.00 coming from
  • $50.00 in donated tournament prizes coming via ICA
There are some small January disbursements not yet picked up in this total and some small reimbursements (slightly higher than the January disbursements) receivable from board members' pledges.

The bottom line is that we have yet to spend one penny of the money we've raised from the public, and we even have a few dollars more.  The generosity of folks who would rather remain nameless have made this frugality possible.  But please allow me to drop the name of one person to whom the entire Chicago chess community owes decades of gratitude: our dear friend Les Bale.

And we don't intend to spend a penny of money we raise from the public on anything other than opening and operating the Chicago Chess Center. Speaking for myself, we owe you that duty!

Mail delivery in Chicago is much better than its reputation, but the odds are good that the checks you mail this evening (Chicago Chess Center NFP Inc., 230 W. Monroe, Suite 330, Chicago IL 60606) probably won't reach us by midnight tonight.  So please don't hesitate to email your pledges to us over the weekend.  The board meets this coming Tuesday: anything we receive (Web donations or email pledges) between now and 5 p.m. Tuesday will help us make our next move.

As CCC President Keith Ammann wrote earlier today, "The amount we raise in the next 12 hours will determine when we can secure a site, open our doors, and begin holding classes and tournamentsand how other supporters of Chicago chess will feel about giving. Will you help us open on our target date of May 1?"  I think we can still open by May 1st, but we can't do it alone.

We want to make affordable, quality chess instruction available to everyone from ambitious adults to disadvantaged youth. As we learn through competition, we want to bring weekly USCF-rated tournaments back to the city. We want to help the chess community grow so that existing organizations flourish. We want to promote chess education and chess culture. And we want everyone to have fun in the process.

Utopian? Probably. But I remember what a great place Jules Stein's Chicago Chess Center was in the 1980s: it was very real, and it was a wonderful Chicago institution.  After Jules passed away, so eventually did the center. Similarly, when "Papa Dee" died in the late 1990s (it seems like only yesterday that I spoke at his funeral), the Chicago Chess Club folded soon afterwards.

Crunch the numbers, folks. Chess education is a bargain, and it really shouldn't be hard to establish a new nonprofit chess center that will be here for the rest of our lives, and (we hope) remain for Chicagoans after we're gone. Please make your tax-deductible donation now.

Again, if your cash flow doesn't allow you to donate immediately, kindly consider making a pledge today in an amount that fits your budget.  Every dollar you donate is a vote for the future of the Chicago Chess Center. 

There are other ways to be a force multiplier. We need new members, fundraising rainmakers, informal advisors, well-wishers, and friends. Board development is crucial for a nonprofit startup: who knows, you might know the ideal person to be the next President of the Chicago Chess Center. Or you might even be that person.

I personally want to thank every one of you who has donated so far: your support has been humbling and gratifying.  We promise that we won't let you down!

Day 30

I'll keep this short: There are only a few hours left to help us reach our 30-day fundraising goal. Thanks to supporters like you, we've raised nearly $7,000 so far, but we've still got a long way to go. The amount we raise in the next 12 hours will determine when we can secure a site, open our doors, and begin holding classes and tournaments -- and how other supporters of Chicago chess will feel about giving. Will you help us open on our target date of May 1?

Your donation may be the one that puts us over the top, or it may help us reach an intermediate milestone -- one-half or even one-quarter of our $30,000 goal. Every step along the way matters. Please make your tax-deductible donation now.

Thank you for being a supporter of the Chicago Chess Center and for spreading the word about us to your friends.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Evanston 3 x 3 this Saturday: $5, such a deal

This is truly the best chess deal in Chicagoland. Play chess on the 19th: details here!

Game/65 with a 5-second delay is a reasonable approximation of "real chess," the competition is top-notch, and you'll be home for dinner.

North Shore Chess Center 2013 tournament schedule

Sevan Muradian has already listed many of the North Shore Chess Center's 2013 events (including several cool lectures from visiting grandmasters: Shablalov, Hungaski, Benjamin, de Firmian) on this webpage.

This Sunday, it's the 1st North Shore Chess Center Scholastic.  Please follow this link for the details.

US Amateur Team North and Illinois Blitz Championship

Take your Valentine to Schaumburg, romantic home of the Bundys, next month! Better idea, pay the requisite obeisance to your beloved beforehand—candlelight dinner on Thursday the 14th in order to play guilt-free for the next three days.  (Even if one is part of a "chess couple," someone has to stay home to watch the kids, no?  Or you could both be on the same team and alternate rounds....)

The U.S. Amateur Team North is February 15-17 at the Hyatt Regency Schaumburg. I played for Evanston in the 2012 event with the late Jon Burgess and the late Isaac Braswell.  Free advice: your friends won't be here forever, so find three or four friends, form a team, and spend time with them while you can.

The Illinois Blitz Championship will be on the evening of February 16th.

Hope to see you there!

DuPage County Championship

The winner: Avinash Rajendra
From our dept. of belated coverage....

The event was at Benedictine University in Lisle last December 30; details on ICA website. Congratulations to winner Avinash Rajendra, and to organizer Jeff DiOrio from drawing 72 players to the rated sections of this inaugural event, and a total 104 players!  Check out Elite Chess's Facebook page.

Happy birthday, Ben

We learn by chess the habit of not being discouraged by present bad appearances in the state of our affairs, the habit of hoping for a favorable change, and that of persevering in the search of resources. The game is so full of events, there is such a variety of turns in it, the fortune of it is so subject to sudden vicissitudes, and one so frequently, after contemplation, discovers the means of extricating one's self from a supposed insurmountable difficulty, that one is encouraged to continue the contest to the last. . . .
-- Benjamin Franklin, "The Morals of Chess"

Portrait of Benjamin Franklin by Joseph Duplessis

Today is the birthday of Benjamin Franklin: writer, publisher, scientist, statesman, revolutionary, philosopher -- and chess fanatic! As the Chicago Chess Center nears the end of our 30-day fundraising campaign, still well short of our $30,000 goal, it's an apt moment to reflect on Franklin's words about what we can learn from chess.

We know today that children in particular gain great benefit from chess, not only through the practice of logical thinking but also through the use of what are sometimes referred to as "soft skills" or "executive functions": the ability to sustain attention on a task, master their feelings and impulses, treat others with respect, manage conflicts, and connect study and practice with success. Franklin, from his own experience, made similar observations in his 1750 essay, noting that the study of chess teaches foresight, circumspection, caution and hopefulness. Everyone, not just young people, can enjoy more success in life by developing these traits.

In the pursuit of our mission to bring these benefits to the residents of our hometown, Chicago, we're staying mindful of Franklin's words ourselves. We're persevering in our search for the resources we need to open our doors and begin offering classes and events to the public this year. We're not losing heart or giving up. The mountain is high -- and we know that, with your help, we can reach the top.

Please donate now to help us open our doors by our target date of May 1.

In the course of his remarkable life, Franklin took part in the creation of a dazzling number of civic institutions, including the Union Fire Company, the Academy and College of Philadelphia (which later became the University of Pennsylvania), the American Philosophical Society, Pennsylvania Hospital, the Pennsylvania Militia and the U.S. Post Office. By donating now, you can do your part to establish a new civic institution here in Chicago -- the first urban, metropolitan chess club since the closure of the original Chicago Chess Center 22 years ago -- and restore Chicago to its place among great American chess cities.

Please join us in celebrating the life of this great chess player, and donate today.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Instant classic

Wow. Today, in round four of the Corus Steel supergrandmaster event in Wijk aan Zee, Vishy Anand just played an amazing game. He beat Levon Aronian with Black in only 23 moves with one of the most bizarre sacrificial attacks I've ever seen.

Unfortunately, Chess Flash seems to be down this morning.  But you can play through this brilliancy (trust me, it's worth the trouble!) and follow the other Round 4 games live at the official website.

Here's Anand's post-game commentary (thanks to Jeremy Kane for reminding me that the interviewer is an ex-Chicagoan, IM Jan van de Mortel!), in which Vishy notes that the attacking idea was cribbed from Rubinstein's immortal win against Rotlevi:


Daniel King offers his praise:

Monday, January 14, 2013

Number 1 bestseller

Just got an email from Rishi Sethi, who writes that the iPad version of Chess! Lessons from a Grandmaster is the top paid e-book in the Apple Store.  So if you have an iPad and you're a beginner (or you teach beginners), do yourself a favor and spend $9.99.

I recently used the print version to prep a class at Faraday Elementary. The tactical exercises are particularly well-chosen: not too routine, but not that hard!  Traditionalists can find a paper copy here.

Field report: TJWO, Round 4 (ouch)

In which I get rolled convincingly....