Saturday, February 23, 2013

A trap in the Sicilian, O'Kelly Variation

The O'Kelly Variation of the Sicilian Defense, 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 a6, is an offbeat line that sets a bit of a trap at move 2! White's natural response, and easily the most popular move in the databases, is 3.d4?! That move, however, gives Black an easy game, and a 58% score, after 3...cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5! Then, 6.Nf5?! is met by 6...d5!; 6.Nf3 and 6.Nb3 by 6...Bb4!; and 6.Nde2 by 6...Bc5, in each case with equality or better for Black.

It can get considerably worse than that, as seen in the game below. After 6.Nf3 Bb4 7.Bd3, Black played the thematic break 7...d5! White responded with 8.exd5?, presumably expecting 8...Nxd5. Instead, he was shocked by 8...e4!, winning a piece.
White's best response to the O'Kelly is 3.c3! Then Black usually plays 3...d5, transposing to an Alapin Sicilian where the move ...a6 is not very useful. In my opinion, this makes the O'Kelly not worth playing against players rated, say, 2000 and above. But some players stronger than I disagree. IM Irina Krush has played the O'Kelly many times against high-level opposition - though she's struggled when her opponents have found 3.c3! (she scored 1-2 against that move in the three games I found). Incidentally, 3.c3 d5 4.exd5 Nf6!? 5.c4 e6 is an interesting gambit that scores about 50% for Black. But White can decline the gambit with 5.d4, when Black has nothing better than 5...Qxd5, reaching the same inferior Alapin Sicilian line.

I should mention that 3.c3 e6 4.d4 d5 is also possible (and perhaps objectively best), reaching a French-type position where Black scores over 47% (as opposed to less than 42% with the more common 3...d5). But most Sicilian players aren't happy playing the French.

Denker Qualifer: First Round Games

"Cinderella overslept" (but not really)

So what happened to Adarsh Jayakumar in round 6 at Reykjavik? Ouch.

Adarsh corrects the above blog entry via Facebook and remains philosophical.
So I wasn't planning on commenting on what happened but then I saw this posted by the organizers: First of all, yes I did miss my round and forfeit to GM Stelios. However, I did not oversleep, I was busy preparing and thought the round was at 4:30 instead of 1. Fortunately, I still have enough rounds to get a norm, my performance rating is at 2430, and I "lost" to a 2560 as black. Could be worse!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Non-teenager wins chess game in Iceland

People over thirty, even people with children of their own, can play chess, too!

Another local yokel, Grandmaster and 2008 U.S. Champion Yury Shulman, also has a 4-1 score in Reykjavik. Here's the game he played today:

Good preparation

Adarsh was playing on a high enough board that I could follow part of the game live at The Week in Chess. And he won!

"Whitney Young chess team celebrates state title"

Story in the Chicago Tribune.

Sam Schmakel, left, a junior and four-time national chess champion, and Phuc Hoang, also a junior, hold the trophy as the chess team at Whitney Young Magnet High School is honored as state champions this year. (Nancy Stone, Chicago Tribune)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mille felicitazioni!

Stolen from Tom Panelas on Facebook (and you are already a member of the Chicago Area Chess  Facebook group, no?)
Congratulations to Marco Codenotti of Pisa, Italy, who reports that he’s just earned his IM title. Marco is a former Chicagoan, Hyde Parker, and student at William H. Ray Elementary School. His father told me a few years ago that Ray was the place where Marco started getting serious about chess. He played for the school in the 2005 CPS elementary school championships at Lane Tech, at least one or two of Mike Cardinale’s YCFC tournaments, and possibly one of Zack Fishman's Navy Pier events, though I’m not sure about the latter. He also did Wayne Smith’s summer chess camp at Kennicott Park in Kenwood. Marco is 15 or 16, which means he’s certainly on track to make GM in due course.

 International Master Marco Codenotti of Chicago Pisa

Tom had blogged about Marco as early as 2007.

Congratulations to Marco and his family!  (Well, we still have the Leaning Tower Y....)

Denker preview: Robert Moskwa

Pattie Zinski and the Illinois Chess Association's Warren Junior Program are organizing three events at the North Shore Chess Center this weekend, thanks to the generosity of Sevan Muradian. The Denker, Girls', and Barber qualifiers determine Illinois representatives to the respective national events.

Vince Hart joined a new firm this week, so he may not be available to do an encore performance of his masterful broadcast of last year's event.  (On the other hand, Vince hasn't completely ruled it out!)

Vince's protégé Robert Moskwa will be returning to the Denker Qualifier this year, and looks to be in good form, based on his performance this past weekend. NM Tenzing Shaw is one of the toughest players in Illinois to beat.

Adarsh in Iceland, Round 4

A draw with Black against Turkish Grandmaster Baris Esen is a perfectly acceptable result for the IM-norm hunter.  (Realistically, Adarsh may have little hope in this event even though he's currently +1 against GMs: he's played two players below 1800, and he even dropped half a point.)  But the quality of play is what counts....

The Slav Triangle morphs into the QGD Exchange, and White gets nowhere.

Today's game score courtesy of The Week in Chess.

YCFC at Northside: Karafiol takes Advanced section

There were no perfect scores in the Advanced section, but Jonah Karafiol (Skinner North) took clear first with 4½-½.

Here are the top finishers in this 38-player section (if the font is too small for you to read, click on the image below to enlarge):

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

YCFC: Sell, Ninofranco win Novice 7-8

Nick Sell (Blaine) and Russell Ninofranco (Waters) each had a perfect 5-0 in the Novice 7-8 section of Saturday's Youth Chess Foundation of Chicago event at Northside Prep. 

Top finishers from this 66-player section are below:

YCFC: Valle and Pitter tie for top Novice 5-6

Jesse Valle (Kanoon) and Tayhe Pitter (Beasley) shared the top spot 4½-½ in the Novice 5-6 section after a final round draw; Valle took the trophy on tiebreaks.

Edgebrook took top team in this section.

YCFC: Joey Buklis wins Novice 3-4

There were 109 (!) players in the Novice 3-4 section.  Joey Buklis (Bell)  and Miles Lokken (Decatur) tied for first with perfect 5-0 scores; Joey won the blitz playoff.

Hat tip to two other players undefeated in regular play, Alexander Ursu (Bell) and Joseph Garza (Gallistel), each with 4½-½.

Congratulations to all the top finishers below!

Lennin Bravo wins YCFC K-2 Novice at Northside

Well over 300 players came to Northside Prep last weekend to play in the Youth Chess Foundation of Chicago's event.  How many students were there?  Hey, I'm a blogger, not a reporter: count the noses yourself :-)

Here are the top finishers in the 58-player Novice K-2 section (click on the image to see the names without squinting...)

Lennin Bravo of Burbank took clear first with 5-0; his teammate Danny Del Liano took clear 2nd with 4½-½.

Postcard from Reykjavik

Adarsh Jayakumar is currently playing in Iceland at the Reykjavik Open, where he just landed a Very Big Fish.  Today's victim, the Bosnian-Dutch GM Ivan Sokolov, won the Yugoslav Championship once and the Dutch Championship twice, and is the reigning World Open champion!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Evanston Chess $5 Swiss on Saturday, March 2

Hot off the email press, another edition of the best deal in Chicagoland.

Levy Senior Center, 300 Dodge Ave., Evanston, IL 60202

Evanston Chess Presents:
March 2, 2013, 9:00am-5:00pm
Tri-Level, 4SS G/40 delay 5

Three Sections, USCF Dual Rated
Our guest master will be NM Frederick Rhine

Section Gold: 1700 and over
Section Silver: 1200 - 1699
Section Bronze: Under 1200 and Unrated

1600 - 1699 may play up to Gold.
1100 - 1199 may play up to Silver.
Published USCF Regular Rating determines eligibility.
Unrated players may be placed up at TD discretion.

Please pre-register if you plan to attend.

Our space is limited and we will cap attendance at 56 players. Priority will be given to players who pre-register by email to before 7 p.m. on March 1 and arrive at the tournament before 9:20 a.m. on March 2. Thanks for your understanding and support.
From time to time Evanston Chess pays one or more titled players to play in our events. We usually do not pair them against each other. Even if they should lose (it does happen) we may pair them with the highest score groups.

Four rounds. Digital clocks are required and will be set to G/40 plus 5 seconds delay. Accelerated or decelerated pairings at TD discretion. Sections may be combined at TD discretion.

Registration from 9:00 to 9:30 AM. Players must check in by 9:30 am; players who arrive late will receive a half-point bye for the first round. First Round 9:45 am, last round over roughly 5:00 pm. No Lunch Break: We need to be finished by 5:00 PM, so there will be no extra time between rounds for lunch. You may take one half-point bye in any round but the last.

Entry fee is $5, please pay cash (no checks) at the door. Masters and Experts play free.

Pre-registration is encouraged: Help us start on time. Send name, USCF number, and telephone number to

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

Bring clocks. -- Wheelchair accessible. No Smoking.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Illini Schmakelers win U.S. Amateur Team North

Congratulations to The Illini Schmakelers (in board order: FM Eric Rosen, NM Sam Schmakel, Michael Auger, and Akshay Indusekar), who won the 2013 U.S. Amateur Team North title this past weekend in Schaumburg with a team score of 4½-½ and 16 game points out of a possible 20.

Taking second on tiebreaks was another local team, Touch Move Chess Center: Mating Specialists (IM Angelo Young, FM Albert Chow, Florentino Inumerable, and Robert Loncarevic), who scored 4½ match points and 14 game points.

Many heavy hitters came to this amateur event. The average team ratings must be under 2200, but one can allocate power between boards in any fashion one pleases. This year, the balanced strategy did well.

Inscrutably, the best team name was awarded to "We Always Need a 4th," which is neither amusing nor groanworthy.

Final team standings are here; look for the ratings and individual performances soon.  Update: here are the individual performances on MSA.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Illinois Blitz Championships

Saturday's Illinois Blitz Championship was unusually strong, as it was held in conjunction with the U.S. Amateur Team North in Schaumburg.  Let's hope this tradition continues!  Hungarian Grandmaster Denés Boros, a student at Webster University in St. Louis, won the Illinois Blitz Championship with an impressive 9-1 score.

NM Gopal Menon and NM Sam Schmakel tied for second with 8-2; as Illinois residents, they share the 2013 blitz title.

Israeli GM Anatoly Bykhovsky and our own GM Dmitry Gurevich tied for fourth with 7½ points; FM Eric Rosen, FM Albert Chow, NM Erik Santarius of Wisconsin, NM Pete Karagianis, George Li (still 12 years old?), and Aakaash Meduri tied for sixth with 7-3.

Notable results: Gopal shut out Brazilian GM Andre Diamant 2-0.  (But that's not really notable to those of us who have played Gopal.)  And eight-year-old Aydin Turgut shut out IM Angelo Young 2-0 in the first round!  Not sure whether I was jaded or gullible: the A. Turgut-Young result was a forfeit.  (Thanks to Gopal Menon.)

Full crosstables at