Friday 25 January 2008

The Hawk v RoW

Latest moves:


Lots of pressure on the pinned Knight on c3

11 Ne2

Still on giants shoulders! The game is following mainline theory. Does a novelty await either side somewhere along the line?

What should Black play now? Is there away to keep up the pressure?

Please vote in the usual ways!

Wednesday 23 January 2008

Definitely 'Not'!

Thank you to my friend Tanya Jones for bringing this to my attention:

I've never even been up before a judge. They are notoriously light sleepers.

Chess Reviews: 35

American Grandmaster
By GM Joel Benjamin
Everyman Chess

‘Hi, my name is Joel. I’m a forty-three year-old Pisces. I like sports, crossword puzzles, nature programs, and controlled mating attacks. Welcome to my story.’

This is a lot more than ‘just’ a collection of best games, it is a proper chess autobiography. Indeed, the game themselves are often secondary to the stories behind the tournaments and vignettes of friends of rivals. There are amusing and interesting anecdotes about a whole range of chess characters, including Kasparov, Korchnoi, Kamsky (or rather his infamous father), Gufeld and many others.

The ghost of Bobby Fischer stalks the history of American history (probably quite literally now) and even as Benjamin was making his mark as a junior he couldn’t escape the comparisons.

‘I think it was at the Manhattan C.C. where I first heard people speak of me as the ‘second Fischer’. The label did produce some backlash - one old lady said I was ‘‘not worthy of licking Fischer’s boots’’ '

He was heavily involved with the famous match between Deep Blue and Garry Kasparov and this is the subject of chapter 10, ’Blue Period’. Kasparov controversially hinted that there had been decisive human intervention in the second game; GM Benjamin calmly refutes the allegations. It’s great to be able to read - at last - the other side to this affair.

GM Benjamin’s chess career has been long and impressive. There are chapters on his record-breaking of 23 appearances in US Championships, his time at no less than six Olympiads and his participation in various World Championship cycles.

It’s a very honest account, with plenty of games (or snippets) being used to demonstrate frustrating failures over the board as well as more successful outings.

Just as in the lives of most chess player, sometimes it goes right….

Rowland v Benjamin
New York State Championship 1993
22 … Qh2!! 0-1

…and sometimes it doesn’t…

Gulko v Benjamin
US champoionsip 1995

6...Nc6?? 7 Bxc6+ bxc6 8 Bg5 Be7 9 Ne4 Nxe4 10 Qxh8+ 1-0 (62)

Real-life events feature prominently in the book too, such as the death of his father and the evacuation during the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

The book concludes with several very interesting chapters on topics such as coaching juniors and the ‘The Current State of Chess in America’.

There’s a lot packed into the 268 pages; a minor gripe be the lack of index of openings, especially as there some rare ideas in his games. For example, he played 1 e4 Nf6 2 e5 Ng8 as Black against a player well-known for his theoretical knowledge and risked 1 e4 d6 2 d4 Nf6 3 f3 e5 4 d5 Nxe4 against Gulko in an important US Championship game.

The latter line caught my eye as I have played it twice in local games and can confirm just how wild and risky it is!

I would definitely like to see a lot more books along the lines of ‘American Grandmaster’. In a market deluged by opening manuals they would make a very pleasant change.

I can thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the life of a chess player at the sharp end of his profession. The game annotations are usually light and anecdotal; it’s definitely a book one can really enjoy reading.

Play The English
By IM Craig Pritchett
Everyman Chess

The English Opening will never oust the big two (1 e4 and 1 d4) from the pinnacle of opening popularity but has been a useful weapon in the repertoires of many champions, past and present, all the way from Howard Staunton (hence the name ‘English’) to Vladimir Kramnik.

There are some notable local aficionados too. In particular, the current Cleveland co-champion, David Baillie, has remained loyal to 1 c4 throughout his chess life and has only rarely deviated.
The book presents a repertoire approach; the author admits that to provide coverage of all lines would be impossible for a normal page count.

The given lines cover the standard English Four Knight’s with 4 g3 and plans with an early d4 against other Black systems.

There is nothing against Black’s more unusual defences, such as 1...g6, 1…f5, 1…c6, 1…e6, 1...b6 etc and some of the more interesting lines are missing against the main lines too, such as the Flohr-Mikenas Attack 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e6 3 e4.

The first three chapters cover 1 c4 e5, starting with coverage of: 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 g3 Bb4 then other fourth move tries for Black (including 4...d5) and finally other Black tries after 1...e5 (mainly systems with an early …f5).

These chapters make up the majority of the book, taking 112 pages of the189 and the coverage is thorough.

The fascinating gambit line 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 g3 Bb4 5 Bg2 0-0 6 0-0 e4 7 Ng5 Bxc3 8 bxc3 Re8 9 f3 e3...
...receives detailed analysis. It s quite alarming to note that over years have passed since Karpov uncorked it against Kasparov in their 1987 World Championship Match!

Chapters 4-6 concern themselves with The Symmetrical English, The Hedgehog and finally the English-Indians, specifically where Black tries to engineer a transposition t a Grunfeld or Nimzo-Indian Defence. Some 1 c4 players are of course happy enough to allow such transpositions but at club level it often pays to keep the opening path on less charted territory; it’s amazing how quickly players can stumble once they are off their personal map.

The Symmetrical is countered by: 1 c4 c5 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 Nf3 Nf6 4 d4 cxd4 5 Nxd4 e6

... and now both 6 a3 6 g3 are put under the microscope.

The repertoire presented here is not a complete one and anybody taking up the English will need to supplement their reading with other works. For example, Black could meet 1 c4 with 1...e6 and 2…d5 and instantly take White away from the suggested repertoire.

However, what the book does cover, it covers well and the reader will be well equipped to meet 1 …e5 and 1 …c5.

For further details of Everyman books, pop along to:

Sunday 20 January 2008

The Hawk v RoW

Here are the latest moves in the worldwide correspodence game between Jonathan ('The Hawk') Hawkins and the Rest of the World...

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 exd5 6 Bg5 h6 7 Bh4 c5 8 dxc5 g5 9 Bg3

...and the move voted for by you, The Rest of the World, is:



...and The Hawk has replied with 10 e3

So now, Rest of the World, what would you like to play next for Black? Please vote in the usual way.

Friday 18 January 2008

Robert James Fischer R.I.P.

Further updates with doubtless follow, but the death of the former World Chess Champion has been reported.

He was 64. Kidney failure is the mooted cause of death.

Expect a news frenzy. Fischer's extraordinary, troubled life will certainly be back in the headlines over the next week.

Wednesday 16 January 2008

Superfluous Drosophila

Dave worked in the college lab. He was somewhat over qualified for his post as a lab assistant but lacked the confidence and drive to push himself into something more challenging. So he spent his days washing out test tubes, checking that gas taps were turned off properly, taking instructions from teachers who were much younger and less qualified than he was and generally avoiding getting into any sort of conversation with the college’s pupils.

With his bald head and glasses, he could have passed for any big company boss but had always been far too shy to rise above what he felt was his most comfortable station. He wasn’t completely bald, merely lacking growth on top. He would never be trendy, shaven bald because he didn’t have a clue what to ask for when he steeled himself for his half-term haircut. He knew the meek would eventually inherit the earth (provided nobody else wanted it at the time) but doubted it would happen in is lifetime.

His attitudes had changed a little bit since he first started working in the lab. He used to find the callous treatment and disposal of living creatures utterly abhorrent but had become hardened to the processes over the years. Bulls’ eyes, rats, frogs…he had handled them all (dead and alive), dissected them all, seen them mistreated by endless streams of so-called students, cleaned up the messes and disposed of all the bits and pieces.

Last Friday had seen him struggle to successfully dispose of a large number of dead mice. This week he had an extraordinary number of deceased drosophila to deal with. ‘Time flies like an arrow but fruit flies like a banana’ he used to joke to his colleagues but he didn’t bother anymore. Nobody ever really seemed interested in his occasional moments of levity these days.

As drosophila are very small, a huge number can be fitted easily into a small space. Dave had already carried the glass container to his car and was going to do something, that was (for him) quite rebellious (but not entirely unprecedented). He wasn’t going to bother with the proper disposal bins. It was dark as he left school and he knew a small patch of wasteland just around the corner from his home. Nobody would see or care if he just tipped out the contents of the container.

Nevertheless, he was having guilty feelings as he parked his car. He picked up the glass container and peered into it. Thousands of tiny, broken bodies. They were born and then they died, with very little in the way of time or experience in between. It used to bother him a lot more than it did now.

He was just about to upend the container when he saw something and stopped dead. Gripped by a fear of being caught out, he hastily abandoned his plan and returned his car. As the car swung around to leave the waste ground, the headlights seemed to linger for a few extra seconds on the sign that had shamed him into curtailing his nefarious activity.

There, picked out in dazzling brightness for the whole world to see, was the legend:

‘No Fly Tipping’

Three Solutions

The three chess problems presented in 'Socks!?'

...attracted considerable interest.

Here, to put some of you out of your misery, are the solutions.
1) There are 23 ways to give check to the Black King in three moves. You should be able work them out now!

2) 'White’s first move is 1 e4. Can you construct a game is which the final move is a Knight taking a Rook and delivering checkmate?'

1 e4 Nf6 2 f3 Nxe4 3 Qe2 Ng3 4 Qxe7+ Qxe7 5 Kf2
and now 5 ...Nxh1 mate

3) As already indicated in the 'comments', White can achieve a mate in four moves if the opponent promises to copy.

1 d4 d5 2 Qd3 Qd6 3 Qf5 Qf4 (or even 3 Qh3 Qh6) 4 Qxc8 mate would do just nicely.

A Problem Shared

I now have an answer to the query posted in response to UNCUT! 59

It would appear that my source (Batsford Chess Puzzles by Leonard Barden) wasn’t as accurate as I’d hoped when it came to the Napoleon chess problem. (I am temporarily separated from my comprehensive chess library so unfortunately didn't have access to other printed sources).

The problem itself flows nicely but the Napoleon angle was questioned by a reader.

Investigating the matter further, I was delighted to find a blog by the great Brian Stephenson: CHESS columnist and well-known chess problem enthusiast, event organiser etc. Brian used to travel all the way from Sheffield to Teesside to run problem competitions at my junior events and always provided excellent prizes. Many of our local juniors benefited from the competitions, improving their analytical skills and enjoying a different aspect of chess.

Brian also produced some wonderful chess books. Anyone who never picked up a copy of the sublime Hastings 1895 tournament book should do so at their earliest convenience.

With Brian’s help, my query found its way to Michael McDowell of the British Chess Problem Society and he replied thus:

''The Chess Cafe position is the "Napoleon's retreat from Moscow" problem (Moscow is a1 and Paris is h8). Both problems appear in the Russian book "Chess Mosaics" by V.M.Archakov. To double check I looked at "Chess problems in the 19th century" by the composer and problem historian Evgeny Umnov, and he agrees.''

Thank you, gentlemen, for your assistance in this matter.

Here are some links no problemist should be without:

Friday 11 January 2008

Ostende 1907

I am pleased to report that my five-page article about the 1907 Ostende chess tournament was published in this month's CHESS Magazine (January 2008).

You can order a copy here:

The Hawk v RoW: Updated

This is the current position in The Hawk v Rest of the World correspondence chess game.

The most recent moves were: 8....g5 9 Bg3

All readers are now invited to vote for the next Black move!

Saturday 5 January 2008

The Hawk Replies....

...with the critical move for this variation, 8 dxc5

Time for you, the Rest of the World, to vote for the next move. You can do so by either leaving a comment here or by following the instructions at:

The Hawk v Rest of the World

Move update!

1 d4 Nf6

2 c4 e6

3 Nc3 Bb4

4 Qc2 d5

5 cxd5 exd5

6 Bg5 h6

7 Bh4

...and now the majority of the Rest of the World has opted to play:

7 ...c5
Black wants to attack White's centre as soon as possible. Both sides need to be careful here as there is a lot of tension developing and the Knights look usefully placed but are pinned out of action for the time being.

Current position

What will The Hawk play now?

Wednesday 2 January 2008

UNCUT! Archive

The full set of updated UNCUT! articles is now available for your perusal.