Archive for the ‘Chess History’ Category

For Your Eyes Only: Games from the Albert Kapengut Files

March 23, 2011

Unearthed: Kapengut versus Dzindzihashvili

Recently I noticed that chess veteran Albert Kapengut has been playing for New Jersey (!)  in the US Chess League.  He has had a pretty good record to date. Albert was kind of enough to send me all of his encounters with Roman Dzindzihashvili from their junior years and beyond.  Enjoy!   In case you were wondering, he sent me the games after I commented on the USCL game Kapengut-Pasalic, supplying notes to my own game in a Sicilian offbeat variation (Ginsburg-Zaltsman, Lone Pine 1980).

Roman, of course, is a very strong Grandmaster who lives in the USA.  He was born in 1944. His Wikipedia entry reveals many interesting items: “Born in Tbilisi, Georgian SSR in the family of Georgian Jews, he earned the International Master title in 1970. He left the U.S.S.R. in 1976 for Israel, and earned the GM title in 1977. In 1979, Dzindzichashvili settled in the United States, and he won the Lone Pine tournament the next year. He led the U.S. Olympiad team in 1984.”  However it doesn’t discuss his affinities to backgammon and other games of chance!  Roman is one of many all-around gamesplayers in the world.  Karpov is another, enjoying the card game ‘bridge’ and other such diversions.

Roman, probably from the 1980′s

In the games that follow, Kapengut himself annotated lightly and sometimes I make a brief comment in italics.

The first game sees the two gladiators battling in the 1959 USSR Junior in Riga, Latvia!  Depending on the month, Roman was either 14 or 15 years old!

[Event "Riga USSR-jcht"]
[Date "1959.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Kapengut, Albert"]
[Black "Dzindzichashvili, R."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B76"]
[PlyCount "69"]
[EventDate "1959.??.??"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 d6 6. Be3 g6 7. f3 Bg7 8. Qd2
O-O 9. O-O-O

Wanting no part of any 9. Bc4 discussions.


The most principled.  9…Nxd4 10. Bxd4 Be6 is a more passive reaction.

10. exd5 Nxd5 11. Nxc6 bxc6 12. Bd4 e5 13. Bc5 Be6 14. Ne4 Re8

A topical Dragon still being debated in the 21st century!  In many lines, black leaves the rook on f8 (a standard exchange sacrifice) but white usually does not take it.

15. Ba6 Rb8 (15… Qc7 16. g4 (16. Kb1 Rab8 17. c4 Nf6 18. Qd6 Qa5 19. Nxf6+
Bxf6 20. Qxc6 e4 21. Bd4 Bxd4 22. Rxd4 exf3 23. Bb5 Bf5+ 24. Ka1 Re1+ 25. Rd1
Rxh1 26. Rxh1 f2 27. Qf3 Qe1+ 28. Qd1 Qxd1+ 29. Rxd1 Bd3 30. a4 f1=Q 31. Rxf1
Bxf1 32. g3 Rd8 {0-1 Ballarani,P-Barbieri,G/ITA corr ;CR97-88 1988}) 16… Red8
17. Qe1 Nf6 18. Rxd8+ Rxd8 19. g5 Nxe4 20. fxe4 Bf8 21. Bxf8 Kxf8 {
1/2-1/2 Keres,Paul-Averbakh,Yuri/Tbilisi ch-SU (??) 1959}) 16. g4 Rb6 (16…
Nf4 17. Qxd8 Rbxd8 18. Rxd8 Rxd8 19. Rd1 Bd5 20. Bf1 f5 21. gxf5 gxf5 22. Ng3
Ne6 23. c4 Nxc5 24. cxd5 cxd5 25. Nxf5 Bf6 26. Kb1 e4 27. Rxd5 Rxd5 28. Bc4
exf3 29. Bxd5+ Kf8 30. Bxf3 Na4 31. b4 Nc3+ 32. Kb2 Nb5+ 33. Kb3 Nd4+ {
1/2-1/2 Fiensch,G-Beckel,F/DDR Tch5 ;Horror 1981}) 17. Bc4 Rb8 18. h4 Nf4 19.
Qxd8 Rexd8 20. Bxe6 Nxe6 21. Bxa7 Ra8 22. Rxd8+ Rxd8 23. Rd1 Rxd1+ 24. Kxd1 Bf8
25. b3 f5 26. gxf5 gxf5 27. Ng3 Ng7 28. Bb8 f4 29. Ne4 Nf5 30. Bxe5 Nxh4 31.
Nf6+ Kg7 32. Nd7+ Kf7 33. Nxf8 Nxf3 34. Bd6 h5 35. Nd7 {…???} 1-0

Now we move to another Junior event, Moscow 1960!  Not sure why Event Type in the PGN says “Simul.”

[Event "USSR-jch"]
[Site "Moscow"]
[Date "1960.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Dzindzichashvili, R."]
[Black "Kapengut, Albert"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B01"]
[PlyCount "110"]
[EventDate "1960.??.??"]
[EventType "simul"]
[EventRounds "7"]
[EventCountry "RUS"]

1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qa5 4. d4 e5 5. Qe2 Nc6 6. dxe5 Bb4 7. Bd2 Bf5 8.
Qb5 O-O-O 9. Nf3 Bg4 10. Qxa5 Bxa5 11. O-O-O Bxf3 12. gxf3 Nxe5 13. Bh3+ Kb8
14. Bf4 Nc6 15. Rxd8+ Nxd8 16. Nd5 Nf6 17. Nxf6 gxf6 18. Rg1 Ne6 19. Bxe6 fxe6
20. Rg7 Kc8 21. b4 Bb6 22. c4 e5 23. Be3 Bxe3+ 24. fxe3 Rd8 25. Kc2 Rd7 26.
Rg8+ Rd8 27. Rg3 Rd7 28. c5 Kd8 29. h4 Ke7 30. h5 Ke6 31. h6 c6 32. Kc3 f5 33.
Kc4 f4 34. exf4 Rd4+ 35. Kb3 Rxf4 36. Kc3 Rf6 37. Kd3 Rxh6 38. Rg7 Rf6 39. Rxb7
Rxf3+ 40. Kc4 Rf4+ 41. Kb3 Rf7 42. Rb8 e4 43. Kc3 Rd7 44. Rg8 Kf7 45. Rg1 e3
46. a4 a6 47. Re1 Re7 48. b5 cxb5 49. axb5 axb5 50. Kb4 e2 51. Kxb5 Re4 52. c6
Ke6 53. c7 Kd7 54. Kb6 h5 55. Rc1 Kc8 0-1

The next game takes place in what appears to be a Byelorussia versus Georgia republic team match (Gruzia is Russian for Georgia).  Roman, of course, plays for Georgia.

[Event "Byelorussia-Gruzja"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1962.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Kapengut, Albert"]
[Black "Dzindzichashvili, R."]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B56"]
[PlyCount "102"]
[EventDate "1962.??.??"]
[EventType "team"]
[Source "Millennium 2000"]
[SourceDate "1999.01.01"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 d6 6. Be3 Ng4 7. Bb5 Nxe3 8.
fxe3 Bd7 9. O-O e6 10. Bxc6 bxc6

This is a very sharp variation.  I had a crazy game vs Vitaly Zaltsman at Lone Pine 1980 in this line.

11. Qf3 Qf6 12. Qe2 Qd8 13. Qf3 Qf6 14. Qe2 Qd8 15. e5 Be7 16. exd6 Bxd6 17. Rad1 O-O 18. Ne4 Bxh2+ 19. Kxh2 Qh4+ 20. Kg1 Qxe4 21. Rf4 Qe5 22. Nf3 Qc7 23. Qd3 Bc8 24. Rh4 h6 25. Kf2 Rb8 26. b3 Rb7 27. Rdh1 f6 28. Qg6 Qf7 29. Qg3 Kh7 30. Qf4 Qg6 31. Qc4 Rd8 32. g4 Rbd7 33. Rh5 Rd2+ 34. Nxd2 Rxd2+ 35. Kf3 Rxc2 36. Qb4 e5 37. R5h2 f5 38. Rxc2 fxg4+ 39. Kg3 Qxc2 40. Qd6 Qe4 41. Rxh6+ gxh6 42. Qe7+ Kg6 43. Qe8+ Kg5 44. Qd8+ Kh5 45. Qe8+ Qg6 46. Qxc8 Kg5 47. Qb8 Kf5 48. Qxa7 h5 49. Qd7+ Kg5 50. a4 h4+ 51. Kh2 Qc2+
Now we have yet another junior encounter,Moscow 1962.

[Event "USSR-jch"]
[Site "Moscow"]
[Date "1962.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Dzindzichashvili, R."]
[Black "Kapengut, Albert"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B39"]
[PlyCount "89"]
[EventDate "1962.??.??"]
[EventType "simul"]
[EventRounds "2"]
[EventCountry "RUS"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 g6 5. c4 Bg7 6. Be3 Nf6 7. Nc3 Ng4 (?!) 8. Qxg4 Nxd4 9. Qd1 Ne6

Former World Champ Petrosian liked this simplification but Portisch dealt with it convincingly in 1974 versus a lesser opponent and also Petrosian lost a stunning brilliancy to Bent Larsen in Santa Monica 1966, so we don’t see this much anymore.

10. Be2

Larsen played the accurate 10. Qd2! here.

Bxc3+ 11. bxc3 Qa5

The classical battle of the latent power of the bishop pair versus a deformed pawn structure has shaped up.

12. O-O d6 13. Qd5 Qxc3 14. Qb5+ Kf8 15. Rac1 Qg7 16. Rfd1 h5 17. c5 dxc5 18. Bxc5 Qf6 19. Ba3 Qg5 20. Rd5 Qh4 21. Bb2 f6 22. e5 a6 23. Qb6 Nf4 24. Rd8+ Kf7 25. Bc4+ Be6 26. Bxe6+ Nxe6 27. Rxa8 Rxa8 28. Qxb7 Re8 29. exf6 Qa4 30. fxe7 Rxe7 31. Qf3+ Qf4 32. Qb3 Qe4 33. h3 g5 34. Qc3 Qg6 35. Qf3+ Kg8 36. Qd5 Kh7 37. Re1 Qf7 38. Qe5 Kg6 39. Re3 Re8 40. Qd6 a5 41. Rf3 Rd8 42. Qb6 Qe7 43. Rf6+ Qxf6 44. Bxf6 Kxf6 45. Qxa5 1-0

Now we appear to be in an adult championship, Moscow 1963.

[Event "URS-chT"]
[Site "Moscow"]
[Date "1963.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Dzindzichashvili, R."]
[Black "Kapengut, Albert"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "A37"]
[PlyCount "67"]
[EventDate "1963.??.??"]
[EventType "team"]
[EventCountry "RUS"]
[Source "Inforchess"]
[SourceDate "2002.12.13"]

1. c4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 g6 (?!) 4. g3

4. e3! with the idea of d2-d4 is very effective versus black’s somewhat inaccurate first moves.

Bg7 5. Bg2 d6 6. O-O Bd7 7. e3 Nh6 8. d4 O-O 9. b3 Bg4 10. h3 cxd4 11. exd4 Bxf3 12. Bxf3 Nf5 13. Bxc6 bxc6 14. Ne2 d5 15. c5 e5 16. dxe5 Bxe5 17. Rb1 Qe7 18. Qc2 a5 19. Bf4 Bxf4 20. Nxf4 Nd4 21. Qd3 Qxc5 22. Rbc1 Qb6 23. Rfd1 Ne6 24. Qd2 a4 25. b4 a3 26. Re1 Ng5 27. Qe3 Qxb4 28. h4 Ne4 29. Rxc6 Rfd8 30. h5 Qd2 31. Nxd5 Qxd5 32. Qxe4 Qxe4 33. Rxe4
Rd2 34. h6 1/2-1/2

Going back to Riga for 1964 Junior action (light Chessbase notes by Kapengut):

[Event "USSR-jch Shakhmaty Riga /19-19]“]
[Site "Riga"]
[Date "1964.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Kapengut, Albert"]
[Black "Dzindzichashvili, R."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B44"]
[PlyCount "61"]
[EventDate "1964.??.??"]
[EventType "game"]
[EventCountry "LAT"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 e6 5. Nb5 d6 6. c4 a6?! (6…Nf6) 7. N5c3 Be7 8. Be2 Nf6 9. O-O O-O 10. Be3 b6 11. f3 Bb7 12. Na4 Nd7 13. Nbc3 Rc8 14. b3 Bg5!?  15. f4!  (15. Bxg5 Qxg5 16. Qxd6 Qe3+ 17. Rf2 Rfd8 with compensation)
15… Be7 16. Qe1 Nb4 17. Rc1 Nc5 18. Qd2 Qc7 19. Rfd1 Rfd8 20. Qe1 Nc6 21. Qf2 Ba8 22. a3 Nxb3!?  23. Bxb6 Nxc1 (23… Qd7 $2 24. Rb1 Nc5 25. Bxc5) 24. Bxc7 Nxe2+ 25. Qxe2 Rxc7 26. c5? (26. Qe3 Rb8 27. e5 with white edge) 26… Bb7 27. cxd6 Rxd6 28. e5!? (28. Rxd6 Bxd6 29. Qe3 Bxa3 30. Qb6 Rd7 31. Nc5 Bxc5+ 32. Qxc5 and white has a slight advantage)
28… Rxd1+? (28… Rd4!  29. Rxd4 Nxd4 30. Qb2 Nb5 31. Nxb5 axb5 32. Qxb5
Bxa3 with equal chances) 29. Qxd1 Na5 (29… Bxa3 30. Ne4!) 30. Qd4! Nc4 31. Qa7 (31… Rd7 32. Qb8+ Bf8 33. Nc5 and wins)


Now we move into the heavyweight division – USSR Championship, Krasnodar!  Roman would be 22 or 21 years old depending on the month.

[Event "USSR-ch"]
[Site "Krasnodar"]
[Date "1966.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Kapengut, Albert"]
[Black "Dzindzichashvili, R."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E93"]
[PlyCount "65"]
[EventDate "1966.??.??"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "6"]
[EventCountry "RUS"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 e5 7. d5 Nbd7 8. Bg5
h6 9. Bh4 g5 10. Bg3 Nh5

A very sharp variation in the Petrosian System of the King’s Indian Defense appears.

11. Nd2 Nf4

It is quite possible to take on g3 in these structures.

12. O-O f5 13. exf5 Nf6 14. Bxf4 exf4 15. g4 c5

Now Albert supplies a long theory interlude; with some of his own games mixed in.

(15… fxg3 16. fxg3 Qe7 (16… c5 17. Bd3 g4 18. Qe2 Bd7 19. Rae1 Qb6
20. Nde4 Nxe4 21. Qxe4 Rae8 22. Qxg4 Rxe1 23. Rxe1 Qxb2 24. Nb5 Bxb5 25. cxb5
Qd4+ 26. Qxd4 Bxd4+ 27. Kg2 Be5 28. Kh3 Kg7 29. Kh4 Kf6 30. Re4 Kf7 31. Ra4 Ra8
32. b6 a6 33. Rg4 Re8 34. Kh5 Bf6 35. Rg6 Re3 36. Bxa6 bxa6 37. b7 Re8 38. Rxh6
Rb8 39. g4 Rxb7 40. Rh7+ Bg7 41. g5 Rb8 {
0-1 Weise,D-Hottes,D/Bad Prymont 1961/EXT 2000 (41)}) (16… c6 17. Nb3 (17.
Qc2 Nd7 18. Nde4 Ne5 19. g4 h5 20. h3 hxg4 21. hxg4 Qb6+ 22. Kg2 Qd4 23. Rad1
Nxc4 24. Bxc4 Qxc4 25. b3 Qb4 26. a3 Qb6 27. f6 Bxg4 28. Nxg5 {
1-0 Kapengut,A-Zelkind,E/Minsk BSSR-ch 1978 (28)}) 17… Qb6+ 18. Kg2 Bd7 19.
g4 cxd5 20. Nxd5 Nxd5 21. Qxd5+ Kh8 22. Bf3 Rae8 23. Rae1 Bc6 24. Qd2 Bxf3+ 25.
Kxf3 Qa6 26. Rxe8 Rxe8 27. Re1 Qc6+ 28. Kf2 Rxe1 29. Qxe1 Be5 30. Nd2 Qb6+ 31.
Kf1 Qd4 32. Qe2 h5 33. gxh5 Qxb2 34. Ne4 Qc1+ 35. Kg2 Kh7 36. f6 Qf4 37. Qf3
Qxh2+ 38. Kf1 Bf4 39. f7 Kg7 40. Nxg5 Qxa2 41. Qxf4 {
1-0 Hort-Nemet,I/Vinkovci 1976 (41)}) (16… Re8 17. Qc2 Re5 18. Bd3 Ng4 19.
Nd1 c6 20. h3 Nf6 21. Nf3 Re7 22. g4 cxd5 23. cxd5 b6 24. Nc3 Bb7 25. Rae1 Rc8
26. Rxe7 Qxe7 27. Re1 Qc7 28. Qa4 Qc5+ 29. Kg2 Nxd5 30. Re8+ Rxe8 31. Qxe8+ Bf8
32. Qe6+ Kh8 33. Nxd5 Qxd5 34. Qf6+ Bg7 35. Qd8+ Kh7 36. Be2 Qe4 37. Kf1 Qe3
38. Qxd6 Bxf3 39. Bd3 Bf6 40. Qd7+ Kh8 41. Qc8+ Kg7 42. Qd7+ Qe7 43. Qc8 Bb7
44. Qc4 Qc5 45. Qb3 Qc1+ {
0-1 Byrne,S-Canfell,G/AUS-ch Melbourne 1991/EXT 91ch (45)})

17. Qc2 Bd7 18.
Rae1 Rae8 19. Qd3 g4 20. Nb3 Qe3+ 21. Qxe3 Rxe3 22. Nd1 Ree8 23. Bd3 Nh7 24.
Rxe8 Rxe8 25. Kg2 h5 26. Nd2 Re5 27. h3 c6 28. hxg4 hxg4 29. Rf4 cxd5 30. cxd5
Nf6 31. Nc3 Bh6 32. Nde4 Bxf4 33. Nxf6+ Kf7 34. Nxg4 Rxf5 35. Bxf5 Bxf5 36.
gxf4 Bxg4 37. Nb5 Ke7 38. Nxa7 Be2 39. Nc8+ Kd7 40. Nb6+ Kc7 41. Na4 Bc4 42.
Nc3 b5 43. b4 {1-0 Bazan,O-Behrensen,J/ARG-ch Buenos Aires 1960/MCD-ch (43).})
(15… h5 16. h3 Nd7 17. Nf3 Bxc3 18. bxc3 Qf6 19. Qd4 Qh6 20. Kg2 Rf7 21. Rae1
Nf6 22. Nd2 b6 23. Bf3 Bd7 24. Rh1 Raf8 25. Qd3 Bc8 26. Bd1 Qg7 27. Qd4 Re7 28.
Rxe7 Qxe7 29. Nf3 Qg7 30. Nd2 Re8 31. Bf3 Qe7 32. Rg1 h4 33. Bd1 Bd7 34. Nf3
Qg7 35. Re1 Rxe1 36. Nxe1 {1-0 Maedler,J-Starck,B/DDR-ch Magdeburg 1964 (36)})

16. Qc2 Nd7 17. h3 Ne5 18. Nf3 Bd7 19. Ne4 Qe7 20. Rfe1 a6 21. Rab1 b5 22. b4 cxb4 23. c5 dxc5 24. d6 Qf7 25. f6 Nxf3+ 26. Bxf3 Bh8 27. Nxc5 Bxf6 28. Bxa8 Rxa8 29. Nxd7 Qxd7 30. Qg6+ Qg7 31. Re8+ Rxe8 32. Qxe8+ Qf8 33. d7 1-0

Student Championships!

[Event "ch students"]
[Site "Odessa"]
[Date "1968.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Dzindzichashvili, R."]
[Black "Kapengut, Albert"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "E91"]
[PlyCount "40"]
[EventDate "1968.??.??"]
[EventType "simul"]
[EventRounds "13"]
[EventCountry "UKR"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 O-O 5. Be2 c5 6. Nf3 d6 7. O-O Na6

A rather dubious placement but apparently the opponents were not combative on this day.

8. d5 Nc7 9. Bf4 Bg4 10. h3 Bxf3 11. Bxf3 Rb8 12. a4 Nfe8 13. Qc2 e5 14. Bd2 b6 15.
Nb5 Rb7 16. b4 cxb4 17. Bxb4 a5 18. Bd2 Na6 19. Rab1 Bf6 20. Rb2 Bg5 1/2-1/2

Here, the Event name is a mystery, because if the date is right, Roman is 25 or 26 years old.  He has achieved a 2605 rating already, which was very high in those days.  Albert is doing well too at 2530.  Both players have shown steady improvement since their junior days.

[Event "URS-ch U18"]
[Site "Dubna"]
[Date "1970.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Kapengut, Albert"]
[Black "Dzindzichashvili, R."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C62"]
[WhiteElo "2605"]
[BlackElo "2530"]
[PlyCount "125"]
[EventDate "1970.??.??"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "15"]
[EventCountry "URS"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2000.11.22"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 d6 4. O-O Bd7 5. d4 exd4 6. Nxd4 g6 7. Nxc6 bxc6 8. Ba4 Bg7 9. Nd2 Ne7 10. Nc4 O-O 11. Bg5 h6 12. Be3 f5 13. Na5 fxe4 14. Nxc6 Bxc6 15. Bxc6 Nxc6 16. Qd5+ Rf7 17. Qxc6 Qe8 18. Qxe8+ Rxe8 19. Rab1 c6 20. Rfd1 d5
21. b4 Rd7 22. Bd4 Kf7 23. Rb3 Bxd4 24. Rxd4 Ke6 25. Re3 a5 26. a3 axb4 27. axb4 Kd6 28. f3 c5 29. bxc5+ Kxc5 30. c3 Rde7 31. fxe4 dxe4 32. Kf2 Re5 33. Rh3 Ra8 34. Ke3 Ra3 35. Kf4 Rg5 36. Rd2 Rf5+ 37. Kxe4 h5 38. Rhd3 Rf6 39. Rd5+ Kc6 40. c4 Re6+ 41. Re5 Rf6 42. Re8 Ra1 43. Rc8+ Kb7 44. Rc5 Re1+ 45. Kd4 Rf4+ 46. Kd3 Kb6 47. Rg5 Rf6 48. Rb2+ Kc6 49. c5 Rf5 50. Rb6+ Kxc5 51. Rbxg6 Rfe5 52. Rxe5+ Rxe5 53. Ra6 Kb5 54. Kd4 Rg5 55. Ra2 Kc6 56. Ke4 Kd6 57. Kf4 Rg4+ 58. Kf3 Rg5 59. Re2 Rg8 60. g3 Kd5 61. Kf4 Kd6 62. Kf5 Kd7 63. Re4 1-0

I would guess the next game is Russian Championship, 39th Edition?  A very long, drawn-on tournament if this is round 15!  The players ratings are quite a bit lower here.  Perhaps input error on this game or the prior game?

[Event "URS-ch39"]
[Site "Leningrad"]
[Date "1971.10.06"]
[Round "15"]
[White "Kapengut, Albert"]
[Black "Dzindzichashvili, R."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B42"]
[WhiteElo "2450"]
[BlackElo "2480"]
[PlyCount "119"]
[EventDate "1971.09.15"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Bd3 Nf6 6. O-O d6 7. b3 Be7 8. Bb2 O-O 9. c4 Bd7

A little slow and deliberate but not bad.

10. Qe2 Nc6 11. Nd2

These days, white usually captures on c6 himself in such situations.

Nxd4 12. Bxd4 Bc6 13. Rad1 (13. f4 d5 14. cxd5 exd5 15. e5 Ne4 16. f5 Re8 17. f6 Bf8 18. fxg7 Bxg7 19. Qh5 Rf8 20. Rf6 Bxf6 21. exf6 Kh8 22. Nf3 Bb5 23. Bxb5 axb5 24. Ne5 Nd6 25. Ng6+! Kg8 (25…fxg6 26. f7+ Qf6 27. Bxf6#) 26. Ne7+ Kh8 27. Qh6 {1-0 Fuller,M (2380)-Steedman,J (2200)/Chester 1979/MCD/[#0930]} (27. Qh6 Rg8 28. Qg7+! Rxg7 29. fxg7 mate))

13… e5 14. Bc3 Nd7 15. Bc2 b5 16. f4 b4 17. Bb2 a5 18. Nf3 Qc7 19. a4 exf4 20. Qd2 Ne5 21. Qxf4 Bf6 22. Kh1 Nxf3 23. Bxf6 Ne5 24. Qg3 Ng6 25. Bb2 Rad8 26. h4 Ne5 27. h5 f6 28. Rf4 h6 29. Rdf1 Qe7 30. Bd4 Be8 31. Bd1 Kh8 32. Rf5 Bf7 33. Qe3 Rc8 34. Qd2 Be6 35. R5f2 Nc6 36. Bb6 Ra8 37. Be2 Ne5 38. Rd1 Nf7 39. Qf4 Rfb8 40. Bd4 Ne5 41. Bf3 Nf7 42. Qg3 Re8 43. e5 dxe5 44. Bxa8 Rxa8 45. Bb6 f5 46. Rfd2 f4 47. Qg6 Rg8 48. Bxa5 Qh4+ 49. Kg1 Ng5 50. Bd8 Bg4 51. Bxg5 hxg5 52. h6 Qxh6 53. Qxh6+ gxh6 54. Ra1 e4 55. a5 e3 56.Rd6 Kg7 57. a6 f3 58. gxf3 Bxf3 59. Rd3 Re8 60. Re1 1-0

Now we go to Baku, the hometown of Garry Kasparov, 1972!  Roman is now 28 years old with a rating of 2500.  Kapengut is not far behind at 2485 and manages to draw the game.

[Event "URS-ch40"]
[Site "Baku"]
[Date "1972.11.19"]
[Round "3"]
[White "Dzindzichashvili, R."]
[Black "Kapengut, Albert"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "D02"]
[WhiteElo "2500"]
[BlackElo "2485"]
[PlyCount "45"]
[EventDate "1972.??.??"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "21"]
[EventCountry "AZE"]
[EventCategory "11"]
[Source "Inforchess"]
[SourceDate "2002.12.13"]

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 d5 3. Bg2 c5 4. O-O Nc6 5. d4 Bg4 6. Ne5 cxd4 7. Nxg4 Nxg4 8. e3 Nf6 9. exd4 e6 10. c3 Bd6 11. Qe2 O-O 12. Nd2 Qc7 13. Nb3 Rae8 14. Bg5 Nd7 15. Be3 Na5 16. Nd2 b5 17. b4 Nc4 18. Nxc4 Qxc4 19. Qxc4 bxc4 20. a4 a5 21.
Rfb1 Ra8 22. Bf3 Rfb8 23. Bd2 1/2-1/2

Good stuff!

The Fabulous 10′s: Some Humoristical Think-Quick Endgames

February 27, 2011

Either You Know It or You Don’t

In an ICC 5-minute blitz game I found myself battling LeopoldStotch.  This person’s profile says he is 9 years old, from Colorado, and the current rating of the child genius at least in ICC blitz is 2506!

Let’s pick up the action at the very end, where I have 12 seconds left and the nine year old, (typical for nine year olds), has more than a minute.  Blitz is the ultimate arbiter asking “Do You Know This Position?”  A person “inventing a solution” for the first time, i.e. muddling through, won’t win in the 12 seconds!

IM Aries2 – LeopoldStotch (2506)

White to move

Well, 1. Kb6?? stalemate does not suggest itself.    1. Rf7 Ba7  2. Kc6 B-somewhere doesn’t get anywhere either!  I found the key idea, a tempo loss,

1. Rg8 (or other rook moves along the 8th rank).  Black’s reply is forced:


Do you see the win now?    Escaping me in the time remaining was the very simple 2. Rg7+ Ka8 3. Kb6 B-somewhere 4. a7! nailing the black king in and preventing the bishop return to b8.  Even if the bishop can now check the white king, the white king finds haven on a6 and there no stalemates, so white wins.

This tempo loss motif finds its way into other endings where white has to break down a compact black formation.

One such position is discussed in Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual.







White to play


In a blitz or regular game sudden death finale, it really pays to know this, because otherwise one would run out of time!

The annoyance is that a player’s first tendency is to use the White King close up to mate the counterpart, but 1. Qa6? Rc7+ 2. Kb6 Rc6+! 3. Kxc6 is stalemate!  A typical blunder where the king and queen were just too close!

The win is quite elegant and not the most obvious.

1. Qe5+! Ka8 (or 1…Ka7, same thing) 2. Qa1+! (using the long-range power of the queen) 2…Kb8 3. Qa5! reaching the same position as our starting one except now it’s black to move.  It turns out black cannot keep his rook near the king, and it must move far away, where it is lost in a few moves due to the checks.  For example, 3…Rb1 (3…Rh7 4. Qe5+ Ka8 5. Qa1+! (this again!) 5…Kb8 (or 5…Ra7 6. Qh8 mate!) 6. Qb1+ is another excellent example of the queen’s range, picking up the rook) 4. Qd8+ Ka7 5. Qd4+ Ka8 6. Qh8+ Ka7 7. Qh7+ picking up the errant rook!

As Dvoretsky points out, Philidor introduced this study in 1777.  It demonstrates very well how the queen can make use of all the squares on the board. If I had seen it anytime between 1777 and 2009, I would have defeated IM Pruess in the Mesa International!  I could not figure out how to separate the K & R in a sudden death finale.

And never mind the time I could not defeat IM Danny Edelman at the Manhattan Chess Club in a Game/30 game, because I mistakenly believed in K&B&N versus lone king, the B&N *must* keep the opposing king penned to the last rank and shepherd it to the right corner.  That false idea kept me from executing the correct B&N mate, where the superior side *does* allow the lone king some breathing room while it is shepherded to the corner of the bishop’s color.  At least it was a moral victory of sorts since it was a good game before the botch (I recall I was white in a Winawer, but lost the game score.)  This game, of course, was a long time ago because the poor Manhattan Chess Club does not exist anymore.

Now I’m 0 for 3 in these things, but at least have started to collect the failures!


Try this agonizing puzzle from Dvoretsky’s excellent “Endgame Manual 2nd Edition”!

White to play and win.

A Real Head-Scratcher

The first moves are obvious: 1. b6 axb6 2. a6 Kb6Kc6  Now what?


Many readers are asking about 14-year-old GM Illya Nyzhnik (2530) from Ukraine (note: this is a Chessbase spelling, some people prefer Nyzhnyk which is cooler).  For example what does he look like?

Here he is.

The Nyzh

The Fabulous 10′s: Channeling A Vague Memory of a Friedel Game

February 10, 2011

A Familiar Schliemann

An ICC Blitz game in which I had to recall a miniature victory by White  where Josh Friedel beat Ray Kaufman convincingly in a Schliemann.   All I “knew” was that I had seen it via the USCL web page.  But, clearly, I had not (see below).

I tried to follow it!

IM Aries 2- GM Mandragoro  Schliemann

Before we start, a little about GM Mandragoro:

1: Account of GM Gerhard Schebler.Greetings from Duisburg Germany to everyone
2: No Takebacks please,i will never ask you too.
3: I am a chessteacher now for about 19 years and new students are always
wellcome :o)
4: I am still looking for a chessclub in France,Austria and maybe in your
country too.
5: Since i saw the film “Money as debt” i got interested in the biggest secret
called “capitalism”
6: No mass media is mentioning the biggest problem of our times.”exponential
7: “We can change”Obama said but can we change the system without seeing
another war?
8: Fur kleinere Einsichten :o)besucht bitte :Liebeangelamerkel de.Es lonht
9: There is much more truth inside of chess than in real life but maybe “we
can change”
10: When the nature strikes back we shouldnt ask why.Development doesnt always
mean progress !G.S.

Postscript Feb. 22, 2011 - curious about some reader comments, I ran Rybka 4 on this game and inserted some Rybka 4 evaluations.

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 f5 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. Qe2 fxe4 6. Nxe4 d5 7. Nxf6+
gxf6 8. d4 Bg7 9. dxe5 O-O 10. e6 Ne5 11. Bf4 c6 12. Nxe5!  (?! – Rybka 4)

A Good Idea!

This was the key idea I got from Friedel-R. Kaufman.  White hangs the bishop on b5 (ignoring the threat of Qa5+).  I do not see any reasonable continuation for black.  What has gone wrong?

Rybka 4 is not so optimistic.  It gives 12. Bd3! as the best move, +=, and this sacrifice leading to equality.  The unaesthetic variations backing up 12. Bd3! are not pleasing at all, whereas the enterprising text is great especially in blitz.  Caissic injustice?   So in conclusion this “key idea” I remembered from a prior game is only sufficient for a draw, if black is prepared.


13. Bxe5 cxb5 (!)  It turns out (see below) that Ray Kaufman captured on e5 here with the bishop, but black lost quickly in that game.  Clearly unplayable of course is 13…Qa5? 14. c3 Qxb5 15. Qg4! and wins.

Rybka 4 likes the text move 13…cxb5 and says black is equal here.

14. Bxg7 Kxg7 15. e7 Qa5+ 16. c3 Re8 17. O-O-O

Black’s king is just too exposed.  Something like this happened in the Friedel game. And after checking — indeed it did; the last (winning) move in the Friedel game was a rook lift!

Rybka 4 disagrees with all this.  It says both 17…Qc7 and 17…Qxa2 now are sufficient for equality!   Actually, it’s pretty clear that 17…Qc7! is a good move, since 18. Rhe1 (what else?) is met by 18…Qf4+ and now if 19. Kb1 Qe4+! gets the queens off and all danger disappears!

Qxa2 18. Qe5+ Kf7 19. Rhe1 b4 ? – Rybka 4

As a reader pointed out (see the Comments section), the ingenious 19..Qa1+! 20. Kc2 Qa4+ 21. Kb1 Qg4!! saves black (gives equal chances).  This is a very tough line for a human to find in blitz.

20. Rd4 (?!) {Black resigns} 1-0 As a curiosity, Rybka 4 gives 20. Rd3! as much stronger, although 20. Rd4 does win (takes longer).

I know a rook lift was employed too in the Friedel game.  OK enough vague memories, now I actually look up the Friedel game…

… … …

And … ta-dah!! Found it.  OK it wasn’t the USCL.  It was Foxwoods 2008!

[Event "Foxwoods Open"]
[Site "Connecticut"]
[Date "2008.03.21"]
[EventDate "2008.??.??"]
[Round "5"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "Joshua E Friedel"]
[Black "Raymond S Kaufman"]
[ECO "C63"]
[WhiteElo "2531"]
[BlackElo "2369"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 f5 4. Nc3 fxe4 5. Nxe4 Nf6 6. Qe2
d5 7. Nxf6+ gxf6 8. d4 Bg7 9. dxe5 O-O 10. e6 Ne5 11. Bf4 c6
12. Nxe5 fxe5 13. Bxe5 Bxe5 14. Qxe5 Qa5+ 15. c3 Qxb5 16. Qg5+
Kh8 17. e7 Re8 18. O-O-O Qc4 19. Qf6+ Kg8 20. Rhe1 Qxa2
21. Re5 1-0

This pair of games leaves me wondering about the Schliemann, it can’t be this bad for black, can it?

The Fabulous 00s: Italian French Theory in Iceland

January 25, 2011

Italian French Theory in Iceland

Hot off the Italian presses (in 2009): with my supplemental notes in italics.

La vittoria spettacolare di Vocaturo nel III turno:
MI Vocaturo Daniele (ITA, 2445) – GM Hillarp Persson, Tiger (SWE, 2586) [Megalovic]

2009 Rejkavik Open   French Defense, Winawer

1. e4 e6

MG note:  Hillarp Persson wrote an entire quirky book on the Modern Defense called “Tiger’s Modern”; in retrospect he should have used it here!

2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 c5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 Ne7 7. h4 Nbc6 8. h5 Qa5 9. Bd2 Bd7 10. h6

MG note:  It’s funny how the computer age gives us lines like this, where white spends three tempi on h-pawn advance  Such things would not occur to the old masters.  Usually the very same computer gives us an answer to such an impetuous plan, but Persson either did not know it or underestimated it.


For some bizarre reason, this move has been seen 28 times in ChessBase, with no examples of 10…g6 or 10…Rg8.  It is true the computer awards white a steady plus after 10…g6 11. Nf3.

11. Rb1 O-O-O

11…c4? 12. Rxb7 is terrible for black as in Vocaturo-Contin Bratto 2009 and white duly won easily.  However, the computer says 11…b6! and sees no edge for white!  As far as I know, 11…b6! has not been tested.  For example, 11…b6! 12. Rb5? Qa4! and black is winning.

12. Rb5 sin qui tutto come la Morozevich – Lputian 1-0 Sochi 2007

Critical Moment

Black now faces the most important decision in the game and Persson goes wrong, although it was impossible to see at this moment.

12.. Qxa3? Novità Lputian giocò Qa4

Indeed, Lputian’s 12…Qa4! looks like a safer and stronger response and it’s justified by a beautiful computer tactic.  First of all, if 13. Rxc5 b6! and black is better.  Morozevich played 12….Qa4! 13. Qb1 and now Lputian blundered badly with 13…Na5? 14. Rxc5+ and Morozevich went on to win a crisp game.

However the computer points out the startling novelty 13…Nxd4!! TN 14. cxd4 (forced) Bxb5 and now on either white capture on b5, black captures on d4 with at least equal chances and more if white is not careful.
Persson’s choice proves to be fundamentally too risky due to Vocaturo’s ingenious sacrificial answer.

13. Rxc5 a6 14. Qb1 Kc7 15. c4 b6 16. cxd5 sacrificando una torre!

16…bxc5 17. d6+ Kc8 18. Rh3 Qa4 19. Rb3 rinunciando a recuperare subito un cavallo! La partita è complicatissima tatticamente. Al momento Vocaturo ha sacrificato una torre in cambio di una posizione molto esposta del Re nero

So far the computer likes Persson’s defense although white can keep an edge with best play.  However, on the next move he makes a questionable decision.


The Italian press should have mentioned black’s alternative here. The cold-blooded computer contemplates 19…c4!? blocking things off.  Things don’t look good for white:  20. dxe7? cxb3 winning for black; 20. Rb7? Nd5! winning for black.  White can draw with 20. Rb2 Nd5 21. Ra2 Qb5 22. Rb2 and draws by repetition.  But stronger is the natural exchange sacrifice 20. Rc3! Qb4 21. Qxb4 Nxb4 22. dxe7 Rde8 23. Rxc4+ Nc6 24. Bb4 and white keeps a definite edge in the ending.

The tactical problem refuting a plausible defense is 20. Rc3! Nd5? 21. Rxc4 Qb5 22. Rb4! double attack and win.

Note 19…Nf5? is crushed by 20. Rb6!.

20.dxc5 la posizione esposta del Re nero e la posizione infelice della donna legata dalla difesa del pa6 sembrano dare un ampio compenso al bianco

20..Rdg8 Per tentare di mettere in gioco la torre sulla colonna g e dare una casa di fuga al Re. Il nero ha solo 9′ più incremento per giocare 19 mosse. Vocaturo 50′

20…Qe4+? 21. Be2 and black has no followup.

21.c4! Nde7 offrendo all’avversario il cavallo, che comunque era perso, in modo da deviare il fastidioso pe6

22.Ne2! rifiutando l’offerta e mettendo in gioco l’ultimo pezzo che non giocava!

Not sure what the Italian press is excited about; the crude 22. dxe7 won trivially.


Relatively best was 22…Rg5 but after 23. dxe7 white wins easily.

23.Nc3 Qxc5 24.Ne4

Black could have and should have resigned.  His king is dead.

Qxe5 25.dxe7 Nxe7 Rybka segnala matto in 10. obiettivamente non facile da vedere. Comunque anche Bxa6+ è vincente

26. Rb8+! non per Vocaturo

Starting an embarrassing mate in 10 sequence.  Black plays on!

26…Qxb8 27.Bxa6+ Kc7 28. Ba5+ Kc6 29. Qc2+ Kd5 30. Qd3+ Ke5 31. Bc3+ Kf5 32. Nd6+ Kg5 33.Qg3+ Kh5 34. Be2+ Rg4 35. Qxg4++ Hillarp Person gioca fino a prendere matto: per rendere omaggio alla grandissima prestazione di Vocaturo? Quel che è certo è che Daniele ha giocato una partita spettacolare!

The Happy Winner


Moving on to the present day, what the heck is going on in France? The French federation accusing its own players?  Quoi?????


Je conteste totalement les accusations de tricherie de la Fédération Française d’ Echecs. Cette procédure disciplinaire est en réalité liée au fait que j’ai soutenu lors des Olympiades,l’actuel président de la FIDE en opposition avec l ‘actuelle direction de la Fédération Française des Echecs. Le président de la FIDE est d’ ailleurs diffamé sur le blog de Jean-Claude Moingt, lequel prétend qu ‘il a bénéficié de procurations fictives.

De plus, j’ ai fait état lors de conversations privées, lesquelles ont été répétées, d’irrégularités comptables de la Fédération Française (des précisions seront données ultérieurement), lesquelles ont déclenché la colère du président.

J’ai demandé à mon avocat, Me Charles Morel, d’ engager une action en justice en dommages et intérêts contre la Fédération Française pour avoir de façon injustifiée cité mon nom dans un communiqué, repris sur tous les sites français et étrangers, ainsi que dans la presse internationale.

Sébastien Feller

Translation (by Albert Silver):


I completely deny the cheating accusations by the French Chess Federation. This disciplinary procedure is in fact related to my support, during the Olympiads, of the current FIDE president as opposed to the current administration of the French Chess Federation. The FIDE president is furthermore defamed in the blog of Jean-Claude Moingt (NdT: president of the FFE) who claims that he benefited from dummy proxies.

Furthermore, I mentioned in private conversations, which were repeated, of accounting irregularities by the French Federation (specifics will be provided at a later date) which angered the president.

I have requested my lawyer, Mr. Charles Morel, to initiate legal action for damages against the French Federation for having unjustifiably cited my name in a statement, republished by all the French and foreign sites, as well as the international press..

Best regards,
Sébastien Feller

For Your Viewing Pleasure

Unrelated to Chess.

The Fabulous 10′s: Berkeley Chess International 2011

January 13, 2011

Return to Forever

It was a treat to go back to UC Berkeley for the January International organized by David Pruess and Arun Sharma.  I taught at the UC Berkeley SIMS School (now called the i-school) in the spring of 1999 and in the fall of 1998 I was a post-doctoral researcher at the UC Berkeley Haas School.

Le Roy and Cedar, an intersection near the chess site (a Harry Potteresque abandoned schoolhouse)

Super Happy Lucky Cat

The chess was a bit of a tough slog.

In Round 1 I failed to spot a nice win in an ending.  Actually I was simply worse (losing, really) in the early middlegame then white went wrong.

Manvelyan,Hayk (2158) – Ginsburg,Mark (2393) [B25]
Berkeley op Berkeley (1), 02.01.2011   Sicilian Closed

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 d6 6.f4 e6 7.Nf3 Nge7 8.0-0 0-0 9.Rb1 Rb8 10.Bd2 b5 11.a3 Nd4 12.Ne2 Nxf3+ 13.Bxf3 d5 14.c3 dxe4 15.dxe4 Qd3 16.Be1 Rd8 17.Bf2 c4

A rather crazy “gambit” but what can I do?  I played aggressively on move 15 then had no real followup.

18.Bxa7 Bb7 19.Qxd3 cxd3 20.Nd4 Rbc8 21.Nxb5??

Inexperience.  An experienced player would spot 21. e5! crushing black who suddenly has no play at all and is down material.

e5! Now black has irritating counterplay.  White’s bad reaction leads him into a lost game!

22.fxe5? Nc6 23.Bb6? Nxe5! An obvious exchange sacrifice.

24.Bxd8 Rxd8 25.Bg2 Nc4 26.Rfd1 Ne3 27.Rd2 f5!

Suddenly black is just winning!

28.Re1 Nxg2 29.Rxg2 fxe4 30.Nd4 Rxd4 31.cxd4 Bxd4+ 32.Kf1 e3 33.Rge2 dxe2+? Here for some reason I never saw 33…Ba6! winning, a very nice geometrical motif.

34.Kxe2 Ba6+ 35.Kf3 e2 36.b3 Kf7 37.Rxe2 Bxe2+ 38.Kxe2 Ke6 39.Kf3 Kf5 40.b4 h5 41.h3

Black made it harder on himself but the next move is a real lemon handing a square over that his own king needs.  Correct and rather elementary is 41…Bb2 42. a4 Bc3 43. b5 Ba5 and black will win in fairly short order.

g5?? 42.g4+ hxg4+ 43.hxg4+ Ke5 44.a4 Bc3 45.b5 Ba5 46.Ke3 Now black cannot establish a zugzwang.

Bd8 47.Kd3 Kf4 48.Kc4 Kxg4 49.Kc5 Kf3 50.b6 g4 51.a5 g3 52.Kc6 g2 53.b7 1/2-1/2

Round 2 was a bye to recuperate from this ordeal.  Round 3 was not much more inspiring:

Ginsburg,Mark (2393) – Kavutskiy,Konstantin (2170) [D34]
Berkeley op Berkeley (3), 03.01.2011

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.b3 Be7 5.Bg2 c5 6.0-0 Nc6 7.cxd5 exd5 8.d4 0-0 9.dxc5 Bxc5 10.Bb2 Bg4 11.Nc3 a6 12.Rc1 Re8 13.e3 Ba7 14.Ne2 Qe7 15.h3 Bf5 16.Ned4 Nxd4 17.Bxd4 Bxd4 18.Qxd4 Be4 19.Qb6

White has a pleasant game but black should not lose if he stays solid.

Rac8 20.Nd4 Bxg2 21.Kxg2 h5 22.Rfd1 Qd7 23.Ne2 h4?

A terrible move but white is not in good enough form to score the full point after this gift.

24.gxh4! Did black underestimate this?


White should seek improvements now because he is better.

25.Qa5 Rec6 26.Rxc6 Qxc6 27.Rc1 Qd7 28.Rxc8+ Qxc8 29.Qc3 Qf5 30.Ng3 Qe6 31.Qd4 Ne4 32.Nxe4 dxe4

After this trade white has very little as he soon realized.

33.Qd8+ Kh7 34.Qg5 Kg8 35.h5 Kh7 36.Kg3 Qd6+ 37.Qf4 Qe6! The drawing motif is simply to keep the white king at bay.

38.h4 b5 39.Qg5 Qd6+ 40.Kg2 Qe6 41.Qf4 Qd5 42.Kg3 Qe6 43.b4 Kh8 44.a3 Kh7 45.Qg5 Qd6+ 46.Kg2 Qe6 1/2-1/2

A 7th round where I messed up the opening badly but struggled back to draw with plenty of help from white.

Collins,Sam (2436) – Ginsburg,Mark (2393) [B07]
Berkeley op Berkeley (7), 05.01.2011   Sicilian 2. c3

1.e4 c5 2.c3 d6

2…Nf6! as in a precise game Sevillano-De Firmian (drawn) must be more accurate.

3.d4 Nf6 4.Bd3 cxd4 5.cxd4 g6 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.h3 0-0 8.Nf3 Nc6 9.0-0 Nh5 10.Be2 e5 11.dxe5 dxe5 12.Qxd8 Rxd8 13.Bg5!

This is just unpleasant for black!

f6 14.Bc4+ Kh8 15.Be3 Nf4 16.Rfd1 Be6 17.Bd5 Bxd5 18.exd5 Na5 19.g3 Nh5 20.b3 Rd7 21.Rac1 Bf8

Black’s position is horrible.


22. Nb5! looks completely crushing.

Ba3 23.Rb1 Kg7 24.b4 Nc4 25.Nc5 Rf7 26.Ne6+ Kg8 27.Bh6 a5

Black shows some signs of life.

28.bxa5 Rxa5 29.g4 Nf4 30.Nxf4 exf4 31.Bxf4 Bd6 32.Rbc1 Bxf4 33.Rxc4 Bd6 34.Rd2 Rf8 35.Re4 Kf7 36.Rb2 Rb8 37.Rd2 Rd8 38.Kg2 Rda8 39.Ree2 Bf4 40.Rd4 Bd6 41.Re6 Rd8 42.g5 f5 43.a4 Kg8 44.Ne5 Bxe5 45.Rxe5 b5 46.axb5 Rxb5 47.Re7 Rbxd5 48.Rh4 R5d7 49.Rhxh7 Rxe7 50.Rxe7 Rd4

Fortunately at this fast time control this is a simple draw.  White cannot construct any trick.

51.Kg3 Kf8 52.Rc7 Kg8 53.Ra7 Kf8 54.Rc7 Kg8 55.Rb7 Kf8 56.h4 Kg8 57.Ra7 Kf8 58.Rb7 Kg8 59.Rb5 Kg7 60.Ra5 Rc4 61.Ra7+ Kg8 62.Ra3 Kg7 63.Rd3 Rb4 64.Rd7+ Kg8 65.Re7 Rd4 66.Re5 Kg7 67.Re7+ Kg8 68.h5 gxh5 69.f4 h4+ 70.Kf3 h3 71.Kg3 Rd3+ 72.Kh2 Rf3 1/2-1/2

Some 8th round play vs. a rather passive French:

Ginsburg,Mark (2393) – Kuljasevic,Davorin (2545) [C13]
Berkeley op Berkeley (8), 06.01.2011   French Defense

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 dxe4?!

Black would be better off with the McCutcheon, an opening Kuljasevic has played in the past (4…Bb4!? 5. e5 h6).

5.Nxe4 Be7 6.Bxf6 Bxf6 7.Nf3 Nd7 8.Qe2!

An idea from GM Bologan’s autobiography.  I believe Bologan beat GM Bareev in this line.  My opponent after the game pointed out that Morozevich has tried another dangerous move here, 8. Qd3!? with a later idea of Neg5 and h2-h4.

0-0 9.0-0-0 Be7 10.Ne5 Nf6 11.Nxf6+ Bxf6

11….gxf6!? leads to an interesting position.  My intention was Ne5-c4!? with an idea of Nc4-e3 and a complex struggle in sight.

12.f4 Bd7 13.Qf3 Bc6 14.Nxc6 bxc6 15.Qxc6 Bxd4 16.c3

Here, 16. Qe4? Bxb2+ 17. Kxb2 Qxd1 18. Bd3 Rfb8+!  releases white’s mate threat and black wins.

Be3+ 17.Kc2 Qf6 18.g3 1/2-1/2

Actually white can and should play on.  He can play his B to d3 and launch a general kingside pawn storm, whereas black probably has to go for the passive retreat Be3-b6. White is somewhat better with no risk.

In the next to last round, a disaster!

Ginsburg,Mark (2393) – Evans,Bela (2262) [A13]
Berkeley op Berkeley (9), 07.01.2011    Catalan / Hedgehog Reversed

1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 e6 3.g3 dxc4 4.Qa4+ Nd7 5.Bg2 a6 6.Qxc4 c5 7.0-0 Ngf6 8.b3 b5 9.Qc2 Bb7 10.Bb2 Rc8 11.d3 Be7 12.Nbd2 0-0 13.Rac1 Qb6 14.Qb1 Rfd8 15.Rc2 Qa7 16.Rfc1 Qa8 17.a3 h6 18.Qa1 Bd5 19.Bc3!

White hits upon a strong idea.  Transfer the bishop to a5 and later play b3-b4 to chip away, in true Hedgehog style (colors reversed, of course).

Rb8 20.Ba5 Rdc8 21.e4 Bb7 22.h3 Qa7 23.b4 Re8 24.bxc5 Bxc5 25.Nb3 Be7 26.Nfd4 Qa8

At this point black’s position is in ruins.  The lights went out though and we had to relocate to the skittles room.  This change of venue somehow bewitched white who went completely wrong in mild time trouble.


27. Bc7 followed by Nba5 is crushing.

Bxc6 28.Rxc6

Of course this is great for white with the two bishops but black has some breathing space.

Rbc8 29.Rxc8 Rxc8 30.Bb4 Bd8 31.d4?

Why?  The d3/e4 pawn duo kept black’s minor pieces at bay.  White should simply have played slowly to make the time control.

Nb6 32.d5?

And this is just irrational. White, with less time, launches an “attack” without supporting forces.

exd5 33.e5 Ne4 34.Nd4 Nc4 35.Nf5 Qa7

Black hits f2.  White’s knight on f5 is optically nice but he has no support.

36.Bxe4 dxe4 37.Qb1 Qb7 38.Rxc4 Rxc4 39.Nd6 Qd5 40.Nxc4 Qxc4 41.Qd1 Bb6

Now black is just winning.   A very sad state of affairs considering the nice opening.

42.Qd6 Qe6 43.Qb8+ Kh7 44.Bd6 Bd4 45.Qb7 Qf5 0-1

Finally I scored a win in the last round.  I was fairly irritated from the previous round and wanted at least to get to 50%.

Shivaji,Shivkuma (2303) – Ginsburg,Mark (2393) [B07]
Berkeley op Berkeley (10), 08.01.2011  Modern Defense

1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.Bg5

I would prefer 4. Be3 guarding the sensitive d4 point.

c6 5.Qd2 b5 6.f4 Nf6 7.Bd3 b4 8.Nd1

This shouldn’t be a “scare” system for black but white is solid.

Qb6 9.c3 e5!?

Maybe too sharp.

10.fxe5 dxe5 11.Nf3 exd4 12.cxd4 Ba6

Not very impressive but black does have to develop.

13.0-0 Bxd3 14.Qxd3 0-0 15.Nf2 Nbd7 16.Kh1 Rac8 17.Nd2?!

There was no real reason for this passive regrouping.

Nh5 18.Nb3

And now although it looks rather schizophrenic white should have seriously considered 18. g4!?.

c5 19.Qh3 Qe6

I had not considered a strong alternative here, 19…Qb5.

20.Qxe6 fxe6 21.dxc5 Bxb2 22.Rad1 Ne5 23.Be7 Rf7 24.Bd6 Nc6 25.Ng4 Rxf1+ 26.Rxf1 a5 27.Nd2 Bg7 28.e5!

This position is very sharp and double-edged.   In time trouble white goes astray.

a4 29.Nf6+ Nxf6 30.exf6 Bf8 31.Ne4 h6 32.g4 Ra8 33.g5 h5 34.Rb1 e5 35.Nd2 Kf7 36.Nc4 Bxd6 37.cxd6 Rd8 38.Kg2 Ke6 39.Kf3 Kd5 40.Nb6+ Kxd6 41.Ke4

White notices that 41. Nxa4 Ra8 is hopeless and tries something else, but black has a winning ending in any event.

a3 42.Rd1+ Ke6 43.Nd5 b3!

Not a difficult tactic but nice.

44.axb3 a2 45.Nc7+ Kf7 46.Nd5 Nb4 47.Nxb4 Rxd1 48.Nxa2 Ke6

Now it’s just mop-up.

49.Nc3 Rd4+ 50.Ke3 Rh4 51.Ne4 Rh3+ 52.Kd2 Rxh2+ 53.Kd3 h4 54.Nc5+ Kd5 55.Ke3 Rh3+ 56.Ke2 e4 57.Nd7 Rf3 0-1

Questions of Modern and not so Modern Opening Theory

The following game was presented in GM Baburin’s daily online chess newsletter, Chess Today.  It caught my attention.

Conrad Holt – Lev Milman Nimzo Indian

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 0-0 5.e4 (?!)

Too soon, junior

I don’t see the motivation for this. Black has castled, white has not.  Black has a ready-made counterstrike in the center.  Even so, Irina Krush and others have played it; so it’s a good thing for black to know. I recently enjoyed GM Ivan Sokolov’s “Best Games” oeuvre.  He is a 4. Qc2 fanatic, and 5. e4 does not appear in his games!  I deduce that he believes 5. a3 is stronger!


For some bizarre reason, also (earlier, Round 2)  in this tournament, GM Magesh Panchanathan reacted here with the bad move 5…d6? conceding white a huge center.  Black, in some weird Caissic injustice, won that game with a combinational finish – of course white misplayed because he must have overjoyed to see the lemon 5….d6.

That game:

Holt,Conrad (2388) – Panchanathan,Magesh (2537) [E32]
Berkeley op Berkeley (2), 02.01.2011

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 0-0 5.e4 d6?  Why?

6.Bd3 Nc6 7.Nf3 e5 8.d5 Ne7 9.a3 Bxc3+ 10.Qxc3 a5  Black looks significantly worse here but white for some reason hurries to give away the bishop pair.

11.Bg5 Ne8 12.0-0 h6 13.Bxe7 Qxe7 14.b4 f5 15.Nd2 Qg5 16.c5 Nf6 17.exf5 Bxf5 18.Bxf5 Qxf5 19.bxa5 Kh8 20.cxd6 cxd6 21.Qb3 e4 22.Rae1 Rxa5 23.Nc4 Rc5 24.Nxd6 Qf4 25.Qg3 Qxg3 26.hxg3 Rxd5 27.Nxb7 Ra8 28.Re3 Ra7 29.Rb1 Rxb7!  Ut-oh 30.Rxb7 Rd1+ 31.Kh2 Ng4+ 32.Kh3 Nxf2+ 33.Kh4 Rh1# 0-1  Why did white play on to mate?

6.e5 Ne4 7.Bd3 c5 8.Nf3 cxd4 9.Nxd4 Nd7 10.Bf4 Qh4 (?) 11.g3 Qh3 12.0-0-0 Nxc3 13.bxc3 Ba3+ 14.Kb1 Nb6 15.Bf1 Qh5 16.Be2 Qh3 17.Nf3 Qf5 18.Bd3 Qh5 19.Ng5 h6 20.h4 Bd7 21.Bh7+ Kh8 22.Bg8! g6 23.Nxf7+ Kg7 24.g4 Qxg4 25.Rdg1 Qf5 26.Qxf5 exf5 27.Rxg6+!

A very nice mating combination.

27…Kxg6 28.h5+ Kg7 29.Rg1# 1-0

All very nice, but black’s 10th move looks insanely risky and totally impractical.  Why put the queen far afield when there is no need?  I had analyzed this variation some time ago, and white’s 5th move looks very loosening (that’s why GM Sokolov always prefers 5. a3).   All is well from black’s point of view after white’s 10th; his bishop is passively guarding a pawn on e5. The correct move is 10…Ndc5! and this looks dead equal.  I wrote in to Chess Today and got a response from GM Golubev that while 10…Qh4 may be viable due to some improvement, 10…Ndc5 is probably safer.  All of this was confirmed in this same tournament, (later game), as I found after writing in!  Here is the second game.  White didn’t need to lose the game, but still this indicates the correct treatment.

Conrad Holt – Daniel Rensch  Nimzo Indian
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 0-0 5.e4 (?!) d5! 6.e5 Ne4 7.Bd3 c5 8.Nf3 cxd4 9.Nxd4 Nd7 10.Bf4 Ndc5! 11.0-0 Nxd3 12.Qxd3 Bxc3 13.bxc3 b6

This looks completely equal!  White’s dangerous light square bishop (the one that killed Milman) has been removed.

14.cxd5 Qxd5

Note in passing that Black can afford to accept an isolated d-pawn here as white has weak pawns of his own.

15.Rfd1 Rd8 16.c4 Qb7 17.Qe3 Bd7 18.f3 Nc5 19.Bg5 Rdc8 20.Ne2 Ba4 21.Rd4 Nd7 22.Nc3 Bc6 23.h4 Qc7 24.Re1 h5 25.Rd6 Nf8 26.Red1 Bb7 27.R1d4 Qc5 28.Be7 Re8 29.Bxf8 Rxf8 30.Ne2 Qb4 31.Nf4 Qb1+ 32.Kh2 Qf5 33.Nd3 Rac8 34.Rf4 Qg6 35.c5 bxc5 36.Nxc5 Bd5 37.Ra4 Bxf3 38.Rd2 Bd5 39.Rxa7 Rc6 40.Nd7 Rc4 41.Qf2 Rd8 42.Nb6 Re4 43.Nxd5 exd5 44.Rd3 Qe6 45.Rf3 Qxe5+ 46.Kh3 Qe6+ 47.Kh2 Rf8 48.Ra5 Qe5+ 49.Kh3 Re1 50.Rf4 Qc3+ 0-1

GM Golubev was impressed by this coincidental find.

In another totally puzzling turn of events, black plays a bad Dragon line in the next game and the higher-rated white player strangely reacts badly and loses.  But it’s all well known to be good for white.  Go figure.

(233) Hess,Robert L (2572) – Kiewra,Keaton F (2337) [B76]
Berkeley op Berkeley (9), 07.01.2011   Sicilian Dragon

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.0-0-0 Nxd4?!

9…d5 is the only testing move.

10.Bxd4 Be6

This is not a good line for black.


Quite simple and good for white is 11. Nd5 Bxd5 12. exd5 Qc7 13. Kb1 with the idea of Rd1-c1, c2-c4, and a later h2-h4.  Black doesn’t have much play.  It cuts out all the play that actually happened in this game.  I totally tortured GM Kudrin (noted Dragon expert) with this in the early 1980s and it won some kind of stamp of approval as Kudrin adopted my treatment in his next tournament.

Qa5 12.Qg5

There is no need for this “fancy” reaction.  It’s quite impractical too since the line given above is a safe significant plus for white.

b5 13.h5 Rab8 14.hxg6 fxg6 15.Bd3 Bxa2

Now it’s just a Dragon mess and black winds up on top.

16.e5 dxe5 17.Bxe5 Bf7 18.Ne4 Nxe4 19.fxe4 b4 20.Qh4 h5 21.Bxg7 Kxg7 22.e5 Qa1+ 23.Kd2 Qxb2 24.Qg5 Rbd8 25.Rxh5 Rxd3+ 26.Kxd3 Qc3+ 27.Ke4 Qxc2+ 28.Ke3 Qc5+ 29.Ke4 Qc2+ 30.Ke3 Bc4 31.Qh6+ Kf7 32.Qf4+ Ke8 33.Rd8+ Kxd8 34.Qxf8+ Kd7 35.e6+ Bxe6 36.Ra5 Qc3+ 37.Kf2 Qd4+ 38.Kg3 b3 39.Qf3 Qd6+ 40.Qf4 Qxf4+ 41.Kxf4 Bf5 42.Rb5 Bc2 43.Ke3 Kc6 44.Rb8 Kc7 45.Rb4 a5 46.Rc4+ Kb6 47.Kd2 Kb5 48.Rc7 Kb4 49.Rb7+ Ka3 50.Kc3 a4 51.Rxe7 Ka2 52.Re2 b2 53.Rxc2 a3 54.Kd2 Kb1 55.Kc3 Ka1 0-1

To give some perspective on why Kiewra plays this bad line, he was probably emboldened by the successful result in this game.

[Event "USCL Arizona vs Dallas"]
[Site "Internet Chess Club"]
[Date "2009.09.30"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Adamson, Robby"]
[Black "Kiewra, Keaton"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B76"]
[WhiteElo "2354"]
[BlackElo "2365"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 Nf6 4. Nc3 cxd4 5. Nxd4 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 Nc6 8. Qd2 O-O 9. O-O-O Nxd4?! 10. Bxd4 Be6 11. Kb1 Qc7 12. Nd5 Bxd5 13. exd5

Pleasant for White!

Rfc8 14. Rc1! Correct, as in my Kudrin game.

Nd7? A rather serious miscue.  Black cannot stand this opening to the king at this moment.

15. Bxg7 Kxg7 16. h4 h5 17. g4 Nf6

Critical Moment

18. gxh5?  Nxh5 19. Bh3 Rh8 20. Bg4 Qc4 21. Rce1 Qf4 22. Qc3+ Qf6 23. Qc7 Nf4 24. Qxe7 Rae8 25. Qc7 Qxh4 26. Qc3+ Qf6 27. Rxh8 Rxe1+ 28. Qxe1 Kxh8 29. Bc8 b6 30. Qe4 Kg7 31. a3 Ng2 32. c4 Qf4 33. Qxf4 Nxf4 34. Kc2 Kf6 35. Kc3 Ke5 36. b4 f5 37. Bd7 g5 38. Bc8 Ng2 39. Kd3 Nh4 40. Ke2 f4 41. Ba6 Kd4 42. c5 bxc5 43. b5 c4 44. a4 Kxd5 45. Bc8 Kc5 46. Bd7 Kb4 47. Bc6 Nf5 48. Kd2 Ne3 49. a5 Kxa5 50. Kc3 Kb6 {White resigns} 0-1

As an exercise to the reader, identify the key improvement early on in the above US Chess League game where white could have reached a huge plus.  As a hint, it occurred at the “critical moment”. This improvement completely refutes black’s treatment.  White probably missed it due to the very fast USCL time control.

As a final piece of evidence, consider this 2008 USCL game.

Event “USCL Chicago vs Arizona”]
[Site "Internet Chess Club"]
[Date "2008.10.22"]
[Round "9"]
[White "Ginsburg, Mark"]
[Black "VandeMortel, Jan"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B76"]
[WhiteElo "2410"]
[BlackElo "2460"]
[PlyCount "93"]
[EventDate "2008.??.??"]
[TimeControl "3600+30"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 O-O 8. Qd2 Nc6 9. O-O-O Nxd4?! 10. Bxd4 Be6 11. Kb1

White can do Nd5 next.  11…Qa5?? 12. Nd5!

Qc7 12. Nd5 Bxd5 13. exd5

Starting Point

The familiar starting point.  I think this is just bad for black.

Rfc8 14. Rc1!

The key idea that bothered GM Kudrin so much he adopted it.

14…Qd7 Trying for some counterplay via …b7-b5.

15. g4 b5 16. c4

White needs to get his own queenside space and he remains much superior on the kingside.

Qb7 17. h4 bxc4 18. Bxc4 Rc7 19. b3!

This is the key idea to prepare Qb2 and continue an attack.

Rac8 20. Qb2 h5? Black makes a mistake under pressure.

21. gxh5 Nxh5 22. Bxg7 Nxg7 23. h5 Rxc4 24. Rxc4?

White misses the h5-h6 interpolation concluding the game right away.

Rxc4 25. bxc4 Qxb2+ 26. Kxb2 gxh5 27. Kb3 Kh7 28. Kb4 Kg6 29. Kb5 Nf5 30. Ka6 Ne3 31. Kxa7 Nxc4 32. a4 e6 33. Ka6 Kg5 34. Kb5 exd5 35. a5 Nxa5 36. Kxa5 h4 37. Kb4 Kf4 38. Rxh4+ Kxf3 39. Kc3 f5 40. Kd2 f4 41. Rh6 Kg2 42. Rg6+ Kf3 43. Rxd6 Ke4 44. Ke2 f3+ 45. Kf2 d4 46. Rd8 d3 47. Rd7 {Black resigns} 1-0

The Fabulous 80s: Richard Delaune!

December 25, 2010

International Master Richard Delaune (from Virginia) was a fixture in the Maryland/Virginia/DC tri-’state’ chess scene.  He also played in numerous World Opens.  For some reason “Chess Canada” referred to him as “R.K. Deliune” and nobody ever found out why.   Richard passed away at a relatively young age (so did his Virginia chess friend, Don Barr).

Richard's in the back row on the left, seated. 1990s? Maryland?

The photo above may have been taken by the recently deceased Bill Hook but I’m not sure.

He was often the last player to finish in a round; a hard-worker, strategically minded, contesting more often than not long endings.  I remember waiting for him at some Maryland tournament to finish so we could go and having to give up after hanging out at the tournament several hours.

I played Richard in the last round Maryland State Championship 1982. I won that game (catapulting ahead of him in the standings, previously he was a 100% record with 4 out of 4) to win the event with 4.5 out of 5) and drew him sometime later in another tournament (Lawrence Pfefferkorn Open?).  Those were the only two times we were to play.  I don’t know when he became an IM, exactly.

The 1982 encounter? : 

[Event "Md. St. Ch."]
[Site "College Park, MD"]
[Date "1982.??.??"]
[EventDate "?"]
[Round "5"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "Mark Ginsburg"]
[Black "R K Delaune"]
[ECO "E41"]
[WhiteElo "2389"]

1. d4 e6 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 c5 5. Bd3 O-O 6. Nge2 cxd4 7. exd4 d5 8. a3 dxc4 9. Bxc4 Be7 10. O-O a6 11. Ba2 Nc6
12. Qd3 b5 13. Rd1 Bb7 14. Qh3!

This is a dangerous setup that I had seen mentioned somewhere.  I think Petrosian had success with it.  The move d4-d5 is always in the air.
The immediate 14. d5 exd5 15. Nxd5 Nxd5 16. Bxd5 Bf6 does not look like much.
14... b4 14... Na5 seems more to the point.
15. axb4 Nxb4 16. Bb1 Rc8 17. Bf4!
A rather novel way to attack.  Bishop to e5, other forces gang up on g6.  It was motivated by black moving his N/c6 offside.

Position after 17. Bf4!

17...Qb6 18. Be5 g6 19. Qh4?!
As the game shows, 19. Nf4 right away is correct.
19...Qd8 20. Qh3 Qb6 21. Nf4! Nd7 22. Qh6 Nf6 23. Ra3!
The last reserve is brought up before the decisive action.

Time to act

24. Nxg6! fxg6 25. Bxg6 hxg6
26. Qxg6+ Kf8 27. Bxf6 Bxf6 28. Qxf6+ Ke8 29. Qh8+ Ke7 30. Qg7+ Ke8

(30... Kd6 31. d5! Nxd5 32. Ne4+ Kc6 33. Rc1+ Kb5 34. Nc3+ Nxc3 35. Rb3+ Ka5 36. Qxc3+! Rxc3 37. Ra1 mate)

31. Ne4! Qxd4 32. Qg8+ Ke7 33. Qg5+ Ke8 34. Rxd4 Rxd4 35. Qg6+ Ke7 36. Qg7+ Ke8 37. Nf6+ Kd8 38. h3 1-0

The author, New York City, 1983

The Fabulous 10′s: Russian Superfinal

December 22, 2010

Russian SuperFinal Puzzler

Here’s a puzzle for you in a competitively very important game that dropped Svidler out of the lead at the 2010 Russian Superfinals.

[Event "Russian Championship Superfinal"]
[Site "Moscow RUS"]
[Date "2010.12.20"]
[EventDate "2010.12.11"]
[Round "9"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "I Nepomniachtchi"]
[Black "P Svidler"]
[ECO "C45"]
[WhiteElo "2720"]
[BlackElo "2722"]
[PlyCount "78"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nxc6 bxc6 6. e5 Qe7 7. Qe2
Nd5 8. c4 Ba6 9. Nd2 g6 10. Nf3 Qb4+ 11. Kd1 Nb6 12. b3 Bg7 13. Qd2 Qe7 14.
Bb2 O-O 15. Kc2 c5 16. h4 d5 17. exd6 Qxd6 18. Bxg7 Qxd2+ 19. Nxd2 Kxg7 20.
Ne4 Nd7 21. Rd1 Bb7 22. Nc3 Nf6 23. f3 Rfe8 24. Bd3 a5 25. Rhe1 Bc6 26. Nb5
Rxe1 27. Rxe1 Re8 28. Rxe8 Nxe8 29. Kb2 Kh6(?!)

Time for the first pre-test.  Suggest a ‘better’ move for black here (GM Zagrebelny talked about it on ChessPro.Ru).   I put “better” on quotes because black can probably save himself on the next move too.   The move is very clever indeed.

30. Be2

See it?

Much of the game’s commentary revolved around Svidler’s bad opening choice; how dismal the ending was, etc. etc.  But precisely here he can save it!  Or, if he is not saving it, he is coming very close (it’s still not clear after analysis).

30…Ng7? 31. Ka3 Nf5 32. Ka4 Nxh4 33. Bf1 Nf5 34. Kxa5 Ne3 35. Nxc7 Nxf1 36. Kb6 Bd7 37. Nd5 Kg7 38. a4
Bc8 39. Ne7 1-0

Looks like a clean win for white, right? Wrong! Find the rather unintuitive but clear draw for black starting from the diagram position!  And, for full credit, find black’s improvement on move 29 also!

Thanks for GM Baburin and “Chess Today” daily newsletter for pointing out some of the intriguing save possiblities that Svidler missed and thanks to for discussing some of the other save lines.

The Fabulous 10′s: My Academic Life Rudely Interrupted

December 18, 2010

Here I am nestled in the tranquil academic setting of Arizona State University, using a private ASU email that has never seen the filth or decay of USCF politics, when this missive rudely shows up in my in-box.    Wait, before delving into this mess, you might want to delve into the other Nipsian mess first as background.

Newsflash: See below for an exciting new poll!

from Weng Ming
to [hundreds of chess people]
date Fri, Dec 17, 2010 at 12:39 AM
subject Rating abuse
hide details Dec 17 (1 day ago)

The following article presents evidence of recent instances of deliberate manipulation of the USCF rating system. While the activity may be technically legal, it strongly indicates that the current system of USCF ratings must be carefully revised and better policed to stop such blatant abuse.

Sound off in the blog You can post your thoughts with or without registering, if you prefer to do this discreetly.

A brief history of ratings abuse

Barely two years after Nicholas Nip’s rapid ratings rise which made him the youngest-ever NM in America, it would appear we have another young rising star of American chess. Kayden Troff, in three short weeks, has added more than 100 points to his standard rating, currently 2340. Like Nip before him, Troff achieved this spectacular rating gain without playing in a single regular tournament, relying instead on matches. While Nip was undoubtedly a talented young player, his match-inflated rating clearly did not reflect his true strength. As a result, after breaking the 2200 barrier, Nip participated in a single tournament, where he withdrew after his first loss, and he has since completely disappeared from the chess scene.

Similarly, the evidence should compel anyone to question whether Troff’s current rating reflects his true strength because the evidence strongly suggests deliberate manipulation of the current rating system. Therefore, the USCF ratings system has to be revised and better policed as soon as possible to stop such blatant abuse.


Why would anyone manipulate Troff’s rating? While the rating would not help him win any chess games, being #1 is key for fundraising. Of course, the #1 rating does not mean much unless others know about it. Based on an examination of Troff publicity, the Troffs understood that from the very beginning and went about the advertising and fundraising business like real pros. While local Utah papers provided an initial outlet, they lack the broad reach of the Internet. Thus there are currently at least six blogs that in different ways promote Kayden:

A number of these blogs, by the way, appear to be written by Kayden himself, and written very well.

Could it be that what we have here is a true talent, both a gifted chess player and a gifted writer? One would like to see some corroborating evidence. As anyone who met Kayden in person knows, he usually does not say much, and when he does… well, in his interview at the World Youth Kayden does not come across as particularly articulate and, rather embarrassingly, could not even remember the name of his coach, Armen Ambartsoumian. That did not stop Troff from using a picture featuring Armen embracing him at World Youth on his blog soliciting donations.

Kayden is clearly not an orator, but there is no real evidence his written English is any better. In his online chats with peers (other chess kids) Kayden has demonstrated neither the depth nor polished grammar nor complete syntax of the blogs. His two favorite phrases seem to be “Way cool” and “I am awesome”. Most of the more extensive discourse therein is actually quotes from his chess blogs. By the way, where does Kayden find all this time to maintain his blogs? A much likelier explanation is that the blogs are written by Kayden’s father (who does write very well) and knows a thing or two about chess, as can be seen at Another likely candidate is… well, did you know that Kayden Troff has a publicist? To the careful reader, fundraising suggests itself as the most likely motivation here.

For example, on July 26, 2010, Rex Sinquefeld’s Charitable Foundation announced the Chess Scouts Merit Badge

This did not go unnoticed, as Troff’s Facebook page shows:

August 4, 2010: “I read on the USCF site how they were going to work on creating the merit badge. They haven’t published the requirements yet or I’d definitely have to work on that one.

August 24, 2010: “Awesome!!! I’ve been wondering when they would come out with that article in Boy’s Life Scouting magazine.

August 26, 2010: “Boy’s Life was supposed to include my website address at and we were hopeful that with it’s wide circulation across the United States this might be a help to get some sponsorships, but that didn’t happen.

But more to the point: Whether or not Kayden is a writer, he must be an amazingly talented chess player, right? Let’s see. Did Kayden ever win any important adult tournaments? No. Scholastic national competitions? Not a single one. Did Troff win any international events? He did win the North American Youth Championship, where with the rating of 2174 FIDE Kayden was by far the highest rated in the tournament (the average rating of rated opponents was 1834)

In particular, Troff could not beat Jeevan Karamsetty (National Champion), rated 1894 FIDE at the time, despite a difference of almost 200 rating points.

Admittedly, Troff just got a silver medal at the last World Youth competition. As Kayden’s blog states, he is “number 2 in the world for his age with a record 1400 players from 87 countries! That sure sounds impressive. One clarification, however: 1400 is the total number of players in 12 sections, but why not put a good spin on numbers? Did Troff play excellent chess in Greece, worthy of his inflated rating? One could argue he did receive a lot of help from his opponents who blundered left and right. The silver medal looks impressive on its own, but even that achievement is tarnished in the context of what has been happening with his rating.

The supporters

So how did Troff get this rating of 2340—amazing for his age? Here are the facts, each one verifiable.

Let us start by introducing Damian Nash, the current Utah State Champion, a long-time supporter of Troff, and the chief TD in the majority of recent tournaments featuring Troff, in particular the last three matches which catapulted Troff’s rating well over 2300. Nash also controls the Utah Chess Association Chess Excellence Scholarship Fund

100% of which went to Troff in the past two years.

Next, there is the mysterious figure of Harold Stevens. Who is he? Troff’s blog explains: “His name is Harold Stevens and he is a homeless guy that lives in Moab.  Harold had been playing chess for many years, but hadn’t played any rated games until recently.  How was Harold discovered?  The people in Moab are always looking for more people to be in their chess club.  Harold hangs around town and his chess abilities were discovered.  Damian Nash who was the highest rated active player in Moab played Harold and figured out that he has some talent.  Damian later set up some tournaments to get Harold a rating.  Harold played 30+ standard games and had only one draw (all the others were wins) and ended with a 2348 rating once he came out of his provisional.

Apparently, Damian Nash finds a “homeless guy” with some chess skills and sets up tournaments (actually matches) for him to get an official rating. The only inaccuracy in Troff’s account is that Stevens actually got a rating of 2418

not 2348, which presented an obvious problem. A homeless guy from Moab got into the US Top 100 list, so the USCF adjusted his initial rating to 2325 based on 10 games, since Stevens does not have a FIDE rating and had not played any rated games until recently, thus avoiding a scandal on a grand scale. A careful examination shows that in three tournaments that established Stevens’ rating:

he lost just 0.5 points in 31 games. Who did Stevens beat? 1) The benefactor Nash (2012), 2) an old master from Colorado, Robert Fordon (2114 USCF), who has played a total of four tournaments since 2004, and 3) a handful of Utah chess players with USCF ratings ranging from 900 to 1450. Note that all three  “tournaments” are actually matches set up by TD Nash where Stevens was playing against the rest of the participants. By current USCF rules, Stevens’ 30 wins in a row would have netted him a USCF rating of approximately 2520(!) if USCF did not intervene. That would, in just two months, have landed Stevens at #47, just ahead of IM Mark Esserman, who worked for over 18 years to get to where he is right now.

This, of course, would not be the first time someone abused the system in a similar manner. In addition to Nicholas Nip, Robert Tanner also comes to mind. As Mark Ginsburg writes in his blog

Things can get really silly – for example a sponsoring relative might even be paying the ‘hurry-up offense’ match opponents. The incentives for abuse make for a lengthy list indeed. This sort of glaring abuse problem was actually exposed by Sam Sloan when he outed Robert Tanner’s fake matches, forcing Tanner’s ouster from the USCF Ethics (!!) committee. Tanner was trying to gain an NM title and claimed matches vs campfire buddies as legitimate games.

It is one thing that chess parents and local supporters are blatantly manipulating ratings to unfairly promote a talented chess kid. The apparent complicity of USCF personnel is more disturbing. Bill Hall does not need any introduction; he is the executive director of the USCF with the authority to assign any rating to any chess player in the US. Yet, Bill Hall is hardly an impartial spectator himself, as illustrated by his contributions to Troff’s fundraising campaign. Organizer Damian Nash’s ad in

reads: “Chess Lesson and Simultaneous Exhibition by US Chess Federation Executive Director, Bill Hall. A fundraising event to help send Utah’s Kayden Troff to the World Youth Champs in Greece. Mr. Hall, a USCF expert-level player will take on a large number of people simultaneously. A great chess opportunity for kids and beginning adults.” How many other chess kids benefit from such fundraising events, courtesy of USCF officials? Will he come down and likewise support your talented child?  The Troffs were understandably very grateful, as Kayden’s Facebook page shows: “Hey Damian, How about telling everyone about the fundraising event to help me get to the World Youth Championships that will feature Bill Hall the Executive Director of the USCF. I think it’s awesome that both you and Bill would do this for me!

Staying at the top

Now, at last, let’s come back to Troff’s meteoric rise in the past few weeks. Losing the #1 spot is bad for publicity. But in June 2010 Troff lost his #1 spot on the Quick ratings list to Luke Harmon-Vellotti. This did not escape the Troffs’ notice. On 07/08/2010 Kayden’s father writes in his blog

Both Kevin Wang and Luke Harmon-Velotti have been chasing Kayden for all this time and Luke finally bumped a few points ahead of Kayden when the August lists will be published.  We’ve been aware of this for a few weeks now, and I talked with Kayden about playing in a tournament or two to potentially continue his reign as the #1 Blitz player…” It did not take long to organize a set of matches, called “Youth Championship Warmup #1-4”:

which helped recapture the top spot for Troff, raising his USCF Quick rating by 86 points, to 2311, finishing with a perfect score of 19/19 against 3 other players, none of whom played each other in these matches. The opponents have certain desirable traits in common: Hans Morrow (USCF 2000) and Stephen Gordon (USCF 2100) are on their respective floors. The third opponent, Frank Flynn, barely played in any tournaments until the end of 2009 (right around the time Steven was recruited by Nash). During the first of the Warmup matches, Flynn’s Quick rating was 2101, his highest ever. Assuming all the opponents’ ratings reflected their actual strength, it would have been statistically impossible for Troff to emerge with a perfect score in 19 quick games.

Following these matches, Troff contentedly wrote on his Facebook page: “I recaptured my #1 place in the Quick under 13 and blew it out of the water by also being the #1 Quick under 16 and the #4 Quick under age 21 for the US.” On October 2, 2010 he brags: “I am #1 player on both the under 13 and the under 16 USCF lists-above IM Sam Shankland, NM Daniel Naroditsky, GM Ray Robson-guess they’re just gonna have to catch me now…” (We should correct Troff here, Naroditsky is an FM.) On November 22, 2010 Troff adds: “I was trying to catch GM Robert Hess’s blitz rating, but he just played a tournament that will put a little more distance between us.” Unlike Troff, the four referenced players have won multiple National Championships.

In October 2010, Kevin Wang overtook Troff in standard rating and Luke Harmon-Vellotti, Daniel Gurevich, and Justus Williams (all four are National Champions) nearly caught up with him. Furthermore, after his return from Greece, Troff dropped his standard rating from 2241 to 2234 in the Utah Closed tournament,

Allegedly, the Troffs could not let the #1 spot in the all-important standard top-list slip away, which brings us to the last three matches organized by Damian Nash: Utah Master Series #1-3:

All three featured a match format where Troff played a total of 15 games against three other players (Harold Stevens, Frank Flynn, and Damian Nash, whose USCF ratings are all in the range 2048-2258), while Troff’s opponents played a total of two games against each other.

In addition to being both organizer and points donor, Nash also wore the hat of the Chief TD. Thus he had the authority to designate these matches as tournaments. This designation skirts the USCF rules on computing the ratings using tournament rather than match rules. Primarily, tournament designations allow giving bonus rating points where they are not allowed in matches. You yourself can reflect on whether this was done deliberately. As a result, Troff’s standard rating was lifted to 2340, not only separating him from the other top 12-year-olds, but bringing it in line with the ratings of the slightly older David Adelberg, Alexander Ostrovsky (both National Champions), and Yian Liou who, unlike Troff, have proved in multiple legitimate tournaments that their ratings reflect their actual playing strength. Their tournament history, like every rated player’s, is a matter of public record.

Troff finished off these matches with a perfect 15/15 score, statistically impossible, assuming all the games were legitimate and the ratings actual. This amazing performance (Troff’s performance rating in the three matches was 2658, 2643, and 2623) looks highly suspicious even on its own merit, but especially if we compare it with Troff’s typical performances in regular tournaments. As a reference, let’s look at the results of the most recent national tournament, Southern California Open in September 2010,

which Troff, at the time rated 2242, finished with a 3.5/6 score, against players all rated lower than himself. Troff drew 2145, 2230, 2189, lost to 2029, and won against 1823 and 2002. The corresponding performance rating was 2140, exactly 200 points lower than Troff’s current standard rating. Other tournaments paint a similar picture. In the aforementioned local tournament, Utah Closed, Troff faced players rated 2011, 1898, 1867 and 1897P10, lost one game out of four, and finished with performance rating of 2113, behind both Damian Nash and Harold Stevens. These tournament performances leave little doubt regarding the validity of the results of those recent matches.


Every informed person knows that ratings are not an absolutely objective measure of chess strength. Yet, because there are no less subjective measures available to us, ratings are often handled as if they were absolutely objective: they are often the dominating or sole criterion for selection for honors and invitations that exclude all but the highest-rated players. Because ratings are so misused (through overemphasis) by those who have the power to grant honors, it is no surprise that enterprising persons will manipulate the ratings system to achieve an inflated rating in order to garner honors and invitations and promote fundraising. But what happens, then, to those who want to play fair and earn an honest rating? Are the leaders in American chess content to let nice guys finish last?

Do we want to kill the motivation of numerous other talented kids by making the competition so unfair? Do we want the future of chess in this country to succumb to corruption? You can remain silent and acquiesce, or speak up in protest and “Nip” this current abuse in the bud. Decide for yourself.

This, of course, was not the end.  IM Sam Shankland rose to the defense, writing:

From: Sam Shankland
To: [hundreds of chess people]
Sent: Fri, December 17, 2010 2:39:23 PM
Subject: Re: [Fwd: Rating abuse]

I’m not quite sure where to begin, so I’ll just jump right in. First of all, I have no idea who “Weng Ming” is, or how they have obtained the email addresses of so many prominent figures on the American Chess Scene. I have my suspicions that this may be a pseudonym for someone who is trying to hide behind the anonymity of the internet, but I definitely can’t be certain; that is just speculation. What is not speculation is that this Weng Ming is a complete scumbag. Through a school of thought entirely conceived by ignorance, this person has lowered himself/herself to the level of accusing a perfectly innocent 12 year old boy of being a conniving mind whose sole goal is to manipulate the USCF rating system to be in an undeserved #1 spot on the US Ratings list and thus attract sponsorship money. 

Weng states that “Similarly, the evidence should compel anyone to question whether Troff’s current rating reflects his true strength because the evidence strongly suggests deliberate manipulation of the current rating system.” Now let me ask, is the entire world conspiring on this one? Because the last time I checked, Kayden recently made a huge performance at the Boys u12 World Championship, taking clear second place with his only loss coming to the first place finisher and that loss was the result of an opening gone horribly wrong. When competing on the highest stage, where absolutely NO MANIPULATION IS POSSIBLE IN ANY WAY, he showed a very strong performance. In the United States, there are a wide range of different socio-economic classes, and many of them are represented in the world of elite scholastic chess. I do not know exactly what kind of financial situation Kayden’s family is in, but I do know that he has multiple siblings, all of which have extracurricular activities, and his parents do not seem to be particularly wealthy. As a result, it makes a lot of sense for Kayden and his family to seek sponsorship, and self-promotion through newspapers and the internet is a great way to achieve that. Moreover, Kayden is an excellent ambassador of chess to the outside world, constantly showing a smile, a good attitude, and always keeping it fun. There is no doubt in my mind that Kayden would be doing all the same things for his P.R. whether or not he happens to be #1 on the USCF rating list. However, his skills in P.R. are attacked by this Weng, as seen in the following: “As anyone who met Kayden in person knows, he usually does not say much, and when he does… well, in his interview at the World Youth“. I don’t think it’s possible to be any more off the mark. Kayden can occasionally be a little shy with new people, but anyone who has interacted with him more deeply than watching a 2 minute video clip knows that he is a very articulate speaker and a very energetic personality. Weng continues: “Kayden does not come across as particularly articulate and, rather embarrassingly, could not even remember the name of his coach, Armen Ambartsoumian.” As a matter of fact, Kayden did know the name of his coach. However, for a native English speaker to try to pronounce “Ambartsoumian” without having practiced before might lead to great confusion for the person conducting the interview, as well as be equally embarrassing in the eyes of those who can pronounce his name. Call it inarticulate if you will, I call it being culturally sensitive. Weng takes this one step further “Kayden is clearly not an orator, but there is no real evidence his written English is any better”. Well, how about his blogs, the ones that Weng states are “written very well”?

Self-promotion can be extremely helpful. My website,, has helped net me many opportunities as a teacher and player that I do not believe I would have otherwise profited from. In terms of the specific writing on it, it is not all mine. I wrote the original model, and then took suggestions from my friends and others who were kind enough to offer their advice. As a result, the general outlook is completely the same but some specific typos and other small issues here and there have been thus eliminated. Does this mean that I did not write it? Absolutely not, I refer to those words as my own. Yes, technically I had help from my friends, but would anybody care if Josh Friedel pointed out a few grammatical errors? No. Does he care that I don’t credit him with the writing? Of course not. I do not know exactly what Kayden’s writing process involves, but my guess is it is quite similar to mine, and that he writes it and then makes the occasional edit at the suggestion of an editor. Again, just like in my case, this does not mean in any way that they are not his own words. To compare his blogs to his instant messaging is beyond ridiculous. When talking with my friends, in person or online, I will often use informal diction and slang that I would never use when writing formally. It’s almost like two different languages, and anyone who has ever written a formal essay and had a normal conversation with a friend knows this to be the case.

Suggesting that Kayden has never won a major tournament is perhaps the ultimate display of ignorance. Does the World Championship for his age group not qualify as an “important tournament”? And who is this Weng Ming to decide what “blundering left and right” entails? Is his/her expertise so much greater than Kayden’s that they know exactly how and why he won all of his games? I personally think Kayden got lucky a couple of times at the World Youth. However, there is no question that to win a tournament of this caliber, one needs to be lucky IN ADDITION TO PLAYING EXTREMELY WELL. Let’s look at some other World Youth Champions. IM Steven Zierk just won the boys under 18 World Championship, and he was down to –3 in 4 separate games, all of them against players over 2400, and he did not lose a single one. Yet nobody is accusing him of just being lucky. I tied for first in the under-18 World Championship back in 2008, and to join the winner’s circle, I won the last game. However, I was incredibly lucky to win. I was on the worse end of a drawn ending against GM Le Quang Liem (2583 then, nearly 2700 now), but I managed to take advantage of an error. How come nobody accused me of just being lucky? This argument makes no sense whatsoever. Did Kayden get a little lucky? Perhaps, but not nearly as much as Zierk or I. Does that mean he did not play well enough for or deserve his silver medal? Absolutely not.

When it comes to matches, there is no doubt that they have helped Kayden’s rating. But this is not their purpose by any means. Nearly all of our country’s top young talents live in a chess Mecca, where decent tournaments are frequently organized. If anyone has a constructive suggestion as to how Kayden is to get over the board practice in West Jordan, Utah, within his budget, I’m sure he’d be happy to hear it. There is simply no other way for him to get practice in. In terms of “manipulating the system”, suppose, for the sake of argument that this is what Kayden is doing (which he is not). This is an issue to be taken up privately in a USCF board meeting, not by a trigger happy anonymous with a lack of gray matter emailing everyone they can think of. Continuing with this hypothetical situation, why not just look at FIDE ratings instead? Sorry to anyone who is jealous of Kayden’s place on the top rating lists, but the situation would remain the same: at 2217(+30), Kayden is nearly 100 points above his nearest competitors, and none of his matches were rated.

When it comes to addressing Kayden’s strength as a chessplayer, I believe I am as qualified as anyone. I have been working with him for the better part of a year now, and I have seen huge progress on his part. If one is to discuss match play, then consider this. About a week ago Kayden and I played a 3-game match on the ICC. I cannot publish the games because they contain integral moves to the opening repertoire that we are developing together, but I can say that the he made 2 draws and lost one game. Moreover, when one discusses “luck”, I was very lucky to hold a draw in one of the games, where he was pressing a better endgame for a very long time. A score of 1 from 3 (which easily would have been 1.5), against someone of my rating would indicate that 2350 USCF is a reasonable rating for them. But wait, what if my rating is inaccurate too and I’m not as strong? Well, luckily Weng thinks that I’ve proved myself, so he/she can’t question the legitimacy of this match without changing his/her already highly flimsy opinion. His/Her justification is that his results in matches do not reflect the same strength that his “typical” tournaments do. However, when one selects his worst tournament out of his last nine as a “typical” one, it’s very easy to construct such an argument. However, when looking deeper, it’s abundantly clear that this Weng has no idea what he/she is talking about.


In conclusion, I will send a message out to everyone who received the original email- you have absolutely no reason to take this Weng Ming seriously, and I suggest you send the email to your trash. Creating vicious and unwarranted insinuations against an innocent 12 year-old boy is not only morally suspect, but illegal.  As seen at, a site dedicated to informing the general public about our legal system, “What Are Defamation, Libel and Slander? Generally speaking, defamation is the issuance of a false statement about another person, which causes that person to suffer harm. Slander involves the making of defamatory statements by a transitory (non-fixed) representation, usually an oral (spoken) representation. Libel involves the making of defamatory statements in a printed or fixed medium, such as a magazine or newspaper” ( Depending on one’s perspective, this vicious personal attack could be viewed as Libel, Slander, or both. I would strongly suggest that this Weng Ming finds something better to do with his/her time than write nearly 3000 words of ill-conceived nonsense trying to discredit the achievements of an innocent boy. 

IM Sam Shankland



“Weng Ming” did adopt a scattershot approach (IM Shankland accurately defused many of his “Wing Shots”, but “Weng Ming” would have done better by focusing on one key issue that has policy merit – the notion of strategically planned matches as an easy means for rating gain. I think the controversy could have been circumvented if the USCF simply didn’t allow matches to boost junior ratings.   Instead of matches, have the combatants play in an all-play-all, i.e. a round robin and let them go at it.  Everyone can get in their over the board practice without the bad smell. Matches are too loose a forum and as the “Weng Ming” points out, the opponents in the matches can be perceived as too friendly.  There is no need to traverse this treacherous road.  More on this below.

A Little Quirk in USCF Ratings History – Claude Bloodgood!

The scenario described by “Weng Ming” reminds me of a famous case, Claude Bloodgood.  From inside Virginia Penitentiary he rose up to be well north of 2400, and received an elite invitation to the US Championship!
Only then was the USCF informed this was a fellow who built the rating up out of countless prison quads.  Therein lies the fundamental bias of acquiring a bunch of rating points from a non-standard source.  The USCF with great chagrin quickly withdrew the invitation.  Now, imagine if some youngster had access to Bloodgood during his top-20 USCF days!  A fountain of rating points. We don’t want to chance a shill in a match.  More generally, matches themselves should probably be banned too to avoid such shenanigans or appearances of shenanigans. If ban is too draconian, see below for some alternatives which defeat most of the obvious schemes.
Everyone would be better off simply playing in regular OTB tournaments, and letting the rating build naturally instead of worrying about a few taking non-standard avenues. There are some simple policy changes the USCF could enact to let everyone take the high road.

Now let’s see an executive summary of the ratings manipulation problem which can rear its head in matches and some simple solutions.

Abstracting the Problem

Unscrupulous individuals locate a shill, build up his rating, and put him into a match to provide “their man” with unlimited rating points (one can rebuild the shill’s rating arbitrarily time and again, thereby providing an unlimited fountain of rating points for the beneficiary.   A related problem:  instead of a shill, it’s easy to imagine a “friendly” – a match opponent who has been compensated and hence isn’t too keen on scoring points. All unhealthy scenarios but ones we can readily avoid.  Note even if the people involved are totally honest, the match format is just too loose and if one of the players in the match is scoreless then, well, we are back to the image problem.

Abstracting the Solution

Three simple solutions.
  • A) Ban Matches.  If this is too draconian for your taste, see (B) and (C).
  • A1) Ban Matches between U-14 and Adults.  I don’t think U-16 or U-18 would resort to this channel as much.  This allows us not to worry if the “Friendly” Adult opponent had been paid off by the kid’s camp.
  • B) Allow Matches but cap rating gain for each match to +10  :  makes it not worthwhile for the schemers to operate
  • C) Allow Matches, cap rating gain to +20, but then disallow matches between the same “combatants” for a period of 3 years.  Again, renders the scheme unappetizing.

The best thing:  it’s for the kid’s benefit!  One can and should progress naturally instead of short-cutting.  Counter-argument:  if a player is from a geographically challenged area… then?   Answer:  play in a Bloodgoodian Quad!  I submit that a Quad is infinitely better, image-wise, than a match!  Who needs the sniping – even the Friendly gets some heat.

Nagging Postscript

How on earth did my non-chess ASU email address find its way into this morass?

The Final Word:  Damian Nash Responds (also via ASU):

Dear US Chess Players and Promoters,

I apologize for intruding on your private mailbox.

Last week you received a letter from someone using the pseudonym “Weng Ming”.  That anonymous author accused 12-year-old Kayden Troff of Utah of playing in rated matches that were deliberately rigged to artificially inflate his rating.   According to his reasoning, I am the mastermind of the conspiracy.

Many readers simply deleted this email as a bitter attack from a disgruntled chess parent, and some have suggested the assault might not have originated in the United States.   In case you read the whole thing, and are questioning the veracity of Kayden’s recent tournament experience, this is a comprehensive rebuttal, based on first-hand accounts of all the events in question.

Who is the Accused?

Most of you don’t know me.  I am a 47-year old school teacher living in Moab, Utah.  I have played USCF tournaments for 32 years and organized and directed them for 20.  Everywhere I have taught, in California, Utah and Colorado, I have actively promoted chess, and I have passed my love of the game on to several hundred young people.

Regarding chess accomplishments, I am a USCF Senior level tournament director, with 128 events as Chief TD, mostly in Colorado and Utah, and 308 sections as Section Chief.   I was a 1900-level chess player for most of my career, with occasional jumps over the 2000 mark.   My rating is currently 2050 and climbing, due to a year of intense chess study in 2008-09 and the opportunity to play weekly games against a player much stronger than myself, Harold Stevens.  Due to an odd twist of luck, I am also the reigning Utah State champion after winning the Utah Closed tournament in November.

The school subjects I teach are science, math and psychology, at secondary and AP levels.   I have also spent many years teaching special classes for gifted and talented students.   The teams I have coached over the years have all done well, winning state chess titles in Utah and Colorado, the Academic Decathlon championships in Colorado, and two world titles at the NASA Space Settlement Design Competition.  I have been decorated as a “District Teacher of the Year,” and have written countless newspaper articles, usually related to the chess accomplishments of my students.

As part of all of my teaching assignments, I have chaired the school gifted and talented committee.  It has been my job, therefore, to identify students with unusual talents and help them receive appropriate services.   Over the years my students have gone on to attend virtually every one of the “Top 20” schools in America, many with fine scholarships.

So I am used to being around extraordinary talent, and the purpose of my career is to help accelerate talented kids along their chosen life paths.  But I have never encountered a measurable intellectual talent so far off the charts as Kayden’s with chess — with the single exception of watching Nakamura and Bhat play as youngsters in California in the mid 1990s.

Most important here is that I am a real human being with a real name, phone number and address.   I have earned an excellent reputation over the last 20 years as a chess organizer and director in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico.  My reputation is now on the line in a much wider court of popular opinion, so I am making a detailed defense.   I stand by my actions in the Utah Expert Series and Utah Master Series as correct.  They were not only perfectly legal and ethical, but they were the best available course of action to promote the best interests of chess.


As the tournament director for the events in question, I must accept full responsibility for any wrongdoing, though I believe there was none.   I have made a full disclosure to the USCF about my involvement in the events in question, and will accept whatever judgment they make on the situation, and any consequences it might involve.

The purpose of this letter is to try to correct the some of the negative PR and deeply suspicious feelings that this anonymous email and web blog have created toward an innocent child and his family.  Kayden is on a path to become one of America’s greatest players.  He has been in love with the game since his earliest memories, and finds it very pleasurable to study for 6 or 7 hours every day.  He and Rybka have been close friends since he was very young.

I fully admit that the Utah events in question, evidenced from the USCF member database, must seem odd to people who are unfamiliar with the real situation in Utah’s sparsely populated chess community.   The anonymous attacker insists that “odd” equates with “suspicious” which then immediately equates with “conspiracy to abuse the rating system.”   Unfortunately, many who received his initial email have followed his cherry-picked facts and incorrect assumptions to the false conclusion that the USCF rating system has been abused.  They start their own comments as if this conclusion were inescapably true.

If the reader has made it this far, I thank you for already demonstrating an open mind to different evidence and different interpretations of evidence.

The “odd” nature of the tournament cross tables in question is simply a product of the very odd situation in Utah chess in general, and nothing more.  It demonstrates the great difficulties that are involved in getting strong players together within a meager chess community.  It also illustrates the great measures that a young super-talent like Kayden and his family have to go through in order to find strong, face-to-face competition.

I also agree that “odd” describes the initial rating of Moab Chess Club member Harold Stevens.   That is also a product of an even more strange situation, where a 50-year old chess genius was unable to play anyone else outside the community of Moab (population 8,000), which is 2 hours away from the next larger city (Grand Junction, CO, pop. 50,000, with no active chess community).   More on this later.   Unfortunately, these two odd situations recently collided in the Moab Master Series tournaments, and the critics are relying on the line of reasoning that two odd situations, when they finally overlap in the same place at the same time, must signal a conspiracy.

What I have done in Utah was simply the most reasonable approach for a strange situation, explained in what follows.  For the record, although I volunteered literally hundreds of hours toward promoting chess in Utah over the past two years, I have never earned a penny for my role in the Expert Series or Master Series tournaments, and everyone who has participated in these tournaments knows this to be true.  There was no entry fee and no prizes, only the opportunity for high level (1800+ then 2100+) chess.   I also have never received any compensation from the Troff family.

Utah’s Sparse Chess Community

Several critics on the blog site have compared Kayden Troff to the young American superstars GM Robert Hess and GM Ray Robson.  This comparison turns out to be a useful introduction to the problem that Utah faces.   Here is a quick look at the in-state competition available to each of these three young players.

For GM Hess, 92 other USCF masters, 48 with FIDE titles:

For GM Robson, 28 other USCF masters, 13 with FIDE titles:

For NM Troff, exactly one other USCF master, with no FIDE title:

Ironically, Utah’s only other USCF master, Harold Stevens, was also called into question by the anonymous attacker.   More about his unusual situation below.   The point here is, who should a kid with a strength well over 2300 play in the state of Utah?   Even Harold Stevens is a 4 hour drive away from him!

What follows are answers to a specific objections raised by my anonymous attacker.

Tournaments or matches?

The anonymous blogger says the the Utah Master Series events should have been rated as a series of matches, not as a series of tournaments.  This is the one and only place where he might have a legitimate point. As the TD, I acted in good faith, and can vouch for legitimate, fighting chess in every result I reported.  I also advertised the events as double-round robin quads, so I reported it in as close to that format as I could.  But the bonus points could become a legitimate issue in the eyes of the USCF rules committee.

Understanding the history of this tournament series will help enlighten:

During 2009 I organized the “Utah Expert Series” tournaments with enormous effort, making repeated phone calls and emails to Utah’s top players, current and retired, trying to find days and times when they could assemble to compete. It was like herding cats.

The purpose of these competitions was to provide an opportunity for Utah’s strongest players to find serious, monthly competition.  There are only two regular events here each year with 1800+ sections:  The Utah Class (X/A) and the Utah Closed.   I freely admit that I was curious to see how well Kayden would do against the top talent, after he destroyed me at the 2008 Utah Open and very nearly won the tournament… at age 10.   As he started to win one tournament after the other, excitement built in the Utah community and his rating started climbing with it.

Unlike me, many Utah players are Mormon and won’t play on Sundays. Several other top players have strange work schedules and hours. Eventually, the most successful tournaments were set up in a format of multiple round times from Thursday afternoon through Sunday afternoon, and Utah’s top players would sign up for the times they could play, taking zero-point byes in the other rounds. There were no entry fees and no prizes, only an opportunity for high-level chess. So some players would compete two or three rounds, while others would compete six or seven.

Eventually, the events turned into double-round robins, for the convenience of the participants. About the same time, players’ complicated schedules required that some of the games were played at other times and places, like local chess clubs or people’s homes.  Throughout the Expert Series, players conducted themselves like true gentlemen, and there was only one dispute requiring a TD that was quickly resolved. (A young player made repeated draw offers).

The Expert Series continued into 2010, but without Kayden’s participation some of the competitive thrill disappeared, so they fizzled out into sporadic mini-matches over a period of approximately two weeks.  I assembled these mini-matches into “tournaments,” much the way many chess clubs have one-game-a-week “tournaments.” As always, no entry fee and no prizes, just chess for the love of it.

In May, 2010, Kayden came to Moab to meet Harold Stevens, and I conducted the final “Expert Series” tournament here. Kayden won four of his five games.  In October the whole Utah chess community eagerly followed Kayden’s progress at the World Championships.  Kayden’s dad contacted me from Greece and said that Kayden would like to play more strong players in November and December, after the Utah Closed, to fill a training need in their schedule. I said “sure,” despite my overly busy schedule.

So I sent out emails and Facebook invitations to the strongest active players in UT, CO, NM, AZ and ID for whom I had contact information, inviting them to play in a tournament or two in Moab. I promised that Kayden and Stevens would be there. But with no entry fee and no prizes, only the usual suspects from Utah responded.

Because I had advertised the tournaments as double round-robin quads, I felt obligated to report them to the USCF in that format. I am not certain that was the correct decision, as evidenced by the vehement response of this anonymous blogger, and several others who have responded in suit. It did add bonus points to Kayden’s phenomenal 15-0 results.

What I am absolutely certain of, is that every game I reported was played according to USCF rules, and played with the spirit of fighting chess. Beyond that, if I made an error in judgment about the reporting format, I apologize to all who take offense.

Troff family promotion of Kayden

The anonymous critic seems to be particularly bitter about the incredible effort the Troff family has made to promote Kayden’s ability to travel for chess.  I am very impressed with the Troff family’s ability to “fundraise like pros.” I have had no involvement with their publications, except that I have helped to update some of Kayden’s accomplishments on Wikipedia and I sent several press releases to news outlets when he had significant tournament results. The rest they do entirely on their own.

For the record, the Troffs have never paid me even a penny for any of my involvement in organizing, directing or publicizing chess tournaments.   I have done this volunteer effort for the love of the game, and in support of an extraordinarily gifted child.

Kayden Troff as a writer

The anonymous accuser suggests that Kayden has an intellectual deficiency, based on his inability to remember the name of his assigned coach for the world championships, whom he had just met:  GM Armen Ambartsoumian.

These remarks fall way under the mark of good taste, as the anonymous author hits a 12-year-old under the belt.

In the video interview he provides a link for, Kayden had just defeated a very strong young chess master from Turkey in a long and dangerous game, retaining his clear lead in the world championship tournament. He was obviously utterly exhausted, a fact which caught up with him the following day when he allowed his only loss of the tournament.

For those who actually know Kayden, he is initially a bit shy, but then comes across as extremely quick, warm-hearted and humorous.

The real shame of this kind of ad-hominem attack comes from the fact that Kayden consistently uses his writing skills and his visibility in the world to promote the game of chess, and he genuinely supports and encourages other kids to succeed. Anyone who has met him, or read his blogs at knows this about him.

Because I am a teacher, here is a quick quiz to the reader.   You just read the name of the coach assigned to Kayden a minute ago.  Can you remember it?   If not, then perhaps you can forgive Kayden for forgetting it when he was put on the spot, while in such a deep trance of chess logic.

Kayden’s accomplishments outside Utah

The anonymous critic carefully cherry-picks data to build a case that Kayden is not as strong a chess player as he appears to be, so his numerous accomplishments in Utah should be viewed as artificial attempts to pump up his rating.  Ironically, he discounts Kayden’s gold medal at the North American Championships in Mazatlan, because he gave up a last round draw to his much lower-rated team-mate Jeevan Kramsetty.

In truth, Kayden was dismayed to find himself paired with his US teammate in the final round. He needed only a draw to take clear first place, and quickly steered the game into safe waters where he offered a draw, to my dismay and his mother’s.  Apparently he saw this as the best outcome, not only for earning the gold, but also for the higher purpose of seeing his whole team succeed.

How bitterly ironic that his gracious “take one for the team” gesture, done in recognition of the larger importance of team and country, should later be rubbed in his face by an anonymous critic.

It is fair to ask why Kayden hasn’t won as many adult tournaments or national scholastic events as his peers.  The answer is really quite simple. Whenever he plays outside of Utah, he and his parents prefer for him to play in tournaments where he is at the lower end of the field. They correctly believe that it will help him improve more quickly.

Here are a couple of Kayden’s better results outside Utah that the anonymous blogger carefully omitted from his derogatory post:

Not to mention his greatest accomplishment so far, at the world championships!

In summary, Kayden was already performing over 2450 at several tournaments in 2009 and 2010, and then performed 2367 FIDE in 11 games at the world championships, against arguably the most under-rated players on the planet. Why is it so difficult to believe that his real playing strength might be well over his current USCF rating of 2340?

For strong players reading this, check out some of Troff’s games last year at the Copper State tournament:

Remember… he has already improved significantly since that time!   Recently, Garry Kasparov himself recognized Kayden’s extraordinary ability.  As I write, Kayden is training with him directly.   I only wish Kayden’s critics could see his talent so clearly.

UCA Chess Excellence Scholarship Fund

I quote my anonymous accuser:

“So how did Troff get this rating of 2340—amazing for his age? Here are the facts, each one verifiable.  Let us start by introducing Damian Nash, the current Utah State Champion, a long-time supporter of Troff, and the chief TD in the majority of recent tournaments featuring Troff, in particular the last three matches which catapulted Troff’s rating well over 2300. Nash also controls the Utah Chess Association Chess Excellence Scholarship Fund, 100% of which went to Troff in the past two years.”

I wasn’t even aware that this fund existed until the anonymous blogger brought it to my attention. It is administered by the UCA board, and I have not been a member of that board for many years.

According to Kayden’s mother, he has not received a penny from this fund.

Unfortunately for the anonymous blogger, his statement “Here are the facts, each one verifiable,” cuts both ways. Some of his “facts” are accurate, if carefully hand-selected from among contradictory facts. Others, like this one, are utterly contrived, based on false inference and a need to prove a grand conspiracy.

USCF Master Harold Stevens

“Next, there is the mysterious figure of Harold Stevens. Who is he?”

This is the second place where the anonymous blogger accuses me of unethically manipulating the USCF rating system. I freely admit that Stevens initial rating and lopsided results against weaker opponents appear very unusual. The anonymous blogger spins this unusual occurrence into evidence for his conspiracy theory.  So in reply, here is my first-hand account of what actually happened.

Harold Stevens appeared on the Utah Chess scene in October, 2009, at the age of 50, when he showed up at a the chess club in Moab, Utah (population 8,000). It became quickly apparent that he was a far superior player to the perennial Moab Champion, which is me. When challenged to his first USCF rated games, he won seven of eight at a quick time control (G/15).

Because I was the director of the Utah Closed (the official state championship), scheduled for the following month, I immediately wrote the Utah Chess Association, asking them if a very strong but unrated player could compete. The answer I received was that he could compete if he had a provisional rating above 1800, and suggested that there was still time to get him a provisional rating.

In order to comply, I quickly assembled all the rated players in Moab to have a shot at Stevens, in 2-game mini-matches at the Moab library.   We played as many games with each other as our schedules would allow, in the spirit of a real tournament for the Moab chess title.  But Harold, as the “new kid on the block,” with no other pressing engagements, spent day after day in the Moab library, knocking down one opponent after another.   Several of the Moab club players are severely under-rated and can play close to my level.  They had excellent games with him. Nobody expected that he would win all of his games, but he did, earning a provisional rating over 2400.

Unfortunately for Stevens, the parents of some Utah young players complained that it would be unfair to allow him to play in the Utah Championship event because his rating had not been officially published in the November supplement, as advertised in a pre-tournament flyer. The board conceded to their complaint, and Stevens was not allowed to play in the Utah Closed tournament.

The Moab club continued to play games against Stevens during the winter of 2010-11, and I invited the only other strong player in the area — Robert Fordon from Grand Junction, a former Colorado State Champion — to drive over and have a crack at him. Fordon finally held Stevens to a draw in their third game.

Meanwhile, the USCF received anonymous complaints about Steven’s extremely high rating, presumably from a Utah player. They conducted a full inquiry.  I knew that Stevens was much stronger than me, but when he received a 2504 rating after one of the December events, he and I both laughed because we thought it was ridiculous.

We discussed the situation in full openness with the USCF. The question they had was how to treat this unusual “outlier” while maintaining full integrity of the rating system. Stevens had not played a chess game in more than 20 years, but he gave the names of his former sparring partners, and the USCF researched his claims.  Apparently his blitz game had been almost on level with a few senior masters and IMs.  Their final decision was to assign him with a 2325/10 provisional rating, based on these reports. Then his 30-0-1 result in Moab lifted his rating as far as 2354.

Since that time, some of us have started to find his weaknesses, and we might also be “dumbing him down” by providing him too frequent club play against weaker opponents. Although it is obvious to anyone who has ever played him that Stevens is a strong chess master, it is also obvious that Kayden Troff is far stronger still, and belongs in another class entirely.

The Involvement of Bill Hall

The anonymous accuser draws the Executive Director of the USCF, Bill Hall, into his grand web of conspiracy.   The evidence?  While visiting Utah, Mr. Hall agreed to play a simultaneous exhibition and donate the proceeds to Kayden’s travel fund, because Kayden was already the designated US Representative for the 12/under section at the World Championships in Greece.
Here is the exact way that this event came about. Mr. Hall had planned to play in the 2010 National Open in Las Vegas. He noticed our ad for a nearby Quick tournament, Bughouse tournament, and especially a Chess960 (Fischer Random) tournament in Cedar City, Utah, in the days before the National Open. Because he is curious about Fischer Random, he wanted to play in the event, which fit into his busy schedule.   It also gave him an opportunity to meet members of the St. George Chess Club, which not long ago had been designated the US chess club of the year.

After he signed up to play, I realized as the organizer that the presence of a chess celebrity (The USCF Executive Director) was an opportunity for additional publicity. So I asked him if he would be willing to conduct a simul, with proceeds going to the Kayden Troff scholarship fund, as Kayden was the selected US representative for the World Championships in Greece.

In the interest of supporting youth chess and drawing more people to this little tournament, he agreed, and I changed the tournament publicity accordingly.  Unfortunately, the timing of his lesson and simul was not well-planned, when people were tired after a long day of chess. Only two players showed up, and both received a lesson. True to his word, Bill Hall donated all $20 to Kayden’s scholarship fund.

To my knowledge, that was the end of Mr. Hall’s special campaign for Kayden. Apparently, however, his willingness to help a kid play in the world championships was a cause for great concern for our anonymous poster.

Kayden’s rating drop

As evidence for his argument, Kayden’s accuser states, “after his return from Greece, Troff dropped his standard rating from 2241 to 2234 in the Utah Closed tournament.”

I was there to witness Kayden’s loss to his best Utah chess friend, Scott Treiman. Kayden was utterly exhausted from jet-lag, having just returned from Greece. His coach, Sam Shankland, advised him not to play. But with the Utah title on the line, he opted to go anyway.

Treiman has been playing Kayden since they were little kids, and probably knows Kayden’s few weaknesses better than anyone alive. As a 16-year-old expert who is rapidly climbing the charts, he played a brilliant second-round game and took advantage of Kayden’s tired oversights.

Instead of withdrawing from the tournament, as other kids might do once their shot at the trophy disappears, Kayden kept playing. Though exhausted, he still loves to play chess for the fun of it, and knows it is good to practice in any condition.

Ironically, I ended up winning the Utah title with a last round victory over a very exhausted Scott Treiman.  He tried the Caro Kann classical variation against me, an opening I have been studying for twice as many years as he has been alive.  He kept equality until the early endgame, when the fatigue finally caught up with him and he missed a saving move.

After the tournament, once Kayden had caught up on sleep, he came to Moab to see if he could prove himself as the best player in Utah, despite missing the 2010 title. He looked forward to playing me (the lucky Utah Champion) and Harold Stevens (at the time still rated #1 in Utah) in the Utah Master Series.   Frank Flynn also agreed to participate as the fourth in the quad, but then couldn’t make it to Moab so he played his games with Kayden in Salt Lake City.

Harold, Frank and I all prepared extensively for the tournaments.  But our preparation was to no avail. He destroyed all of us in our over-the-board encounters. We were shocked by the final results, but even more impressed. Stevens finally became a “believer,” as one critic called us sedulous Utahns, because he had never been so completely shut out before, not even by senior masters and IMs.


The anonymous attacker concludes his rant with the following quotation, which is well-written and raises many issues that I fully agree with:

“Every informed person knows that ratings are not an absolutely objective measure of chess strength. Yet, because there are no less subjective measures available to us, ratings are often handled as if they were absolutely objective: they are often the dominating or sole criterion for selection for honors and invitations that exclude all but the highest-rated players. Because ratings are so misused (through overemphasis) by those who have the power to grant honors, it is no surprise that enterprising persons will manipulate the ratings system to achieve an inflated rating in order to garner honors and invitations and promote fundraising. But what happens, then, to those who want to play fair and earn an honest rating? Are the leaders in American chess content to let nice guys finish last?”

The USCF rating system is clearly imperfect, and the addition of cash incentives to titles and positions on the lists invites corruption.  As he suggests, it is sad and true that in our culture, nice guys sometimes finish last. But in the case of Kayden and the recent USCF rating lists, extremely nice guys sometimes finish first.

What some critics describe as “premeditated and potential damage control” could just as easily be described as “an absolute commitment to the integrity of USCF rules,” which is ultimately the only way to defend against anonymous critics who feel no need to fight fairly.

It is my hope that maybe one day it will occur to these critics: “Wait… could it be possible?  Kayden IS the real thing. He really IS that good as they said he was. He really HAS studied chess 7 hours a day for almost half of his young life. He really DID win the silver medal in the world championships. The people in Utah really WERE just trying to give him a fair chance to prove himself. There really was NO conspiracy. It really WAS just a well-organized support effort involving a generous TD and committed parents.”

We will all see, in upcoming months, how well Kayden’s 2340 rating holds up when he plays several FIDE norm tournaments in California.    By the end of 2011, I expect to be fully vindicated by Kayden’s performances, and also expect his critics will be silenced.
2341 to 2340 in two weeks?

A few people in the blog have brought up the argument that Kayden’s rating gain of 100+ points in three tournaments is, in itself, a clear sign that somebody is manipulating his rating.  They point out that other US chess superstars, like GM Ray Robson and GM Robert Hess, took six or seven months to move from 2231 to 2340. Therefore, they argue, if these superstars took so long to cross this rating span, it is impossible that anyone else could have done it faster without cheating.

I responded to this argument in satire, suggesting that these critics didn’t understand statistics or the way that young players’ ratings tend to increase with plateaus and huge gains over short periods of time:
“Why pick the arbitrary numbers of 2231 to 2240? Let’s look at the REAL scandals, the ones that occur at the much higher rating levels, where rating points are even more difficult to earn.

GM Ray Robson went from 2446 to 2527 (81 points!) in just two weeks in September, 2008. This is clear proof that the Florida State Championships and the Miami Open were both rigged!

GM Robert Hess went from 2545 to 2671 (136 points!!) in just two months between 3/22/2009 and 5/17/2009. This must be undeniable proof that the events he played in were all episodes of scandalous USCF rating manipulation!

What are those nefarious events? The Spice Cup, The Super Nationals, the Foxwoods Open and the US Championship! It’s a conspiracy! All these organizers and directors must have worked together for the sole purpose of artificially inflating Mr. Hess’s rating!”

In truth, I have utmost respect for both GM Robson and GM Hess, and would never dream of challenging their ratings. They are absolutely brilliant players, with hard-earned ratings, just like NM Kayden Troff. It will be interesting for all of us to see if Troff can continue his meteoric rise and eventually reach their exquisite level of play.


Thank you for reading through this long and detailed defense.  I appreciate your willingness to hear the other side of the story.   I am learning, sadly, that most of the chess fans who read the initial email and then went to the blog website to comment apparently did so because they were completely convinced by the opening statement of the anonymous prosecution.  Kayden and I have therefore been found guilty in the court of public opinion without a right to a fair trial.   Suspicion equals guilt in that court and, incomprehensibly, my detailed attempts to set the record straight only prove that I am trying much too hard to hide something.

The USCF, I am confident, will give us a fair trial.  It is my hope that this report to you, made in the spirit of full transparency for the good of chess in America, will help diminish some of the false accusations and mean-spirited remarks that have entered into the public dialog about Kayden.   People can say whatever they want to about me, I am an adult, a TD with specific duties and rules to follow, and a fairly good chess player with an ego to match.   But please help stop the nasty attacks on a very nice kid who is a brilliant prodigy and a great hope for the future of chess in America.

Best regards,

Damian Nash

Moab, Utah

My Addendum:

I think the USCF populace was weary of Tanner-like ‘match’ shenanigans and the angst was heightened due to the introduced blog evidence of caring (a lot) about ratings and relative position vs. peers of said ratings.  The Case of the Misfiled Quad!  GM Caruana would be very happy.   I actually am very dubious about “Quick Ratings” (or caring about them) in general.

The Fabulous 80s: Victor Frias!

December 6, 2010

Victor Frias was a very jolly fellow who hailed from Chile.  He lived near me in Washington Heights (upper Manhattan) in New York City in the 1980s and often came over to play blitz vs. me, Jeremy Barth, and whoever else happened to be around.

An anecdote:  some guy standing outside the Marshall Chess Club asked Victor for a ride uptown as I was getting into his car.  “No!” Victor yelled as we drove away.  The guy asked “Why not?” and Victor said “You’re not my friend!”  A real straight shooter!

Another anecdote:  Victor is completely winning as black vs. 2600-rated GM Jan Smejkal in a NY Open up material plus the initiative in a fairly simple ending.  However, Victor’s diaper-wearing kid Pablo has run amok and Victor is distracted trying to round him up.   Play over the game if you are a sadist.  Check out the position after black 45, it was practically resignable for white.

Anyway the baby chasing takes its toll and somehow Victor even loses(?!!) and it’s a good lesson, don’t let a diaper-wearing kid anywhere near a GM encounter.

Another anecdote:  Victor taught me juicy swear words in Spanish including vulgar slang particular to Central America.   A group of us went to a nice Spanish-speaking restaurant in Washington Heights (unless it was ‘Victor’s’ - a Cuban Place on W 75th?).  I got drunk, used many of the words in a loud voice, and was booted.  I fell down between two cars parked outside. Much merriment ensued.

Here’s a photo.

Victor Frias (l.), John Fedorowicz

This photo looks like the sofa at Paige Stockley’s apartment on W 118th St.(?)  and Broadway near the Manhattan School of Music.

Victor often said after waking up from a nap that he was in a time warp because the people at any given party were always talking about exactly the same things years apart.

Victor died some years ago and readers can find my printed “Chess Life” obituary in a back issue.

Here is a crazy game I played versus Victor that made it into the obituary.

First, some background about the tournament. We often traveled to New England on a bus that left out of the Port Authority, W 178 St., NYC (near the GW Bridge).  Sometimes, when we were flush with money, we would rent a car.  Fitchburg, Leominster, Sturbridge, many Mirijanian tournaments!  Ilya Gurevich, a natural comic, called Mirijanian Marijuanian.  No doubt others did too.  This game was played in Fitchburg.   In the first round of this tournament a loud argument broke out between Frias, Mike Wilder, and me.  They wanted my rental car keys!  I was still playing!  I didn’t want to give it to them!  Frias said “Don’t be an asshole.”  I said “I’m still not giving you my keys.”  My beleagued opponent had to get the TD to get us to quiet down as we all actually started pushing and shoving near the board.  Bad sportsmanship!

[Event "Fitchburg, MA"]

[Date "1985.08.01"]
[Round "4"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "Victor Frias"]
[Black "Mark Ginsburg"]
[ECO "A43"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 c5 3. d5 g6 4. c4 d6 5. Nc3 Bg7 6. e4 O-O 7. h3 a6 8. a4 e6
9. Bd3 exd5 10. exd5

GM Vugar Gashimov has upheld black’s position numerous times after the currently more popular 10. cxd5 although GM Yermolinksy rates white’s position very highly in the book “The Road to Chess Improvement.”

10…Re8+ 11. Be3 Nh5 12. O-O Nd7 13. Qd2 f5 14. Rfe1 Ne5  

Black is good

I loved my position already!  Curiously, Victor as black achieved a nice Benoni structure in his Smejkal game referenced earlier in the article.

15. Nxe5 Bxe5 16. f4 Bg7 17. a5 Bd7 18. Kh2 Qh4 19. Kg1 Qg3 20. Qf2 Qxf2+
21. Kxf2 Bd4 22. Kf3 Nf6 23. Bd2 Rxe1 24. Rxe1 Re8

White really hasn’t done anything wrong so I think i was overoptimistic here.

 25. Rb1?!   This move, of course, is risky!

25…Ne4   Did white miss this one? I felt like I was crawling all over and should win! Especially with my “dynamic” next few moves!  On the other hand, white eliminates the black bishop on d4 and gets his queenside rolling, so he definitely has his resources.

26. Bc1 h6 27. Ne2 g5 28. Nxd4 cxd4 29. fxg5 hxg5 30. b4 Kf7   A very tense situation!


31. Rb2 Ba4 32. g4 Bd1+ 33. Kg2  All of black’s pieces are incredibly active but nothing is clear!

 33…f4 34. Kf1 Nc3

Still keeping the pressure on, or so I thought. Victor, though, was a very tough and resourceful defender.
35. h4  White had to do something!  Both sides were now low on time.

35…Bxg4 36. hxg5 Bh3+ 37. Kg1  White’s king toddles around avoiding 37. Kf2 Nd1+ forking the rook.  Amazingly, I could still not find a win.

 Re1+ 38. Kh2 Rxc1 39. Kxh3 Rd1 40. Bf5 d3 41. Kg2  White’s king darts back.  A very frustrating tableau for black with multiple advanced, threatening passed pawns and nothing clear.

Sharp Tableau

41… Kg7   This is not an impressive move. Looking at it now, 41…f3+!? comes to mind.  If 42. Kxf3 Rf1+ 43. Kg4 Rg1+ I’m not sure what is going on; maybe a perpetual check?  If 42. Kf2 Rh1 and 43. Kxf3 then transposes after 43…Rf1+.

42. Rf2 Ne2 43. Bg4 Rc1 44. Bxe2 dxe2 45. Rxe2 Rxc4  Now he starts playing really well in the rook ending!  I am sure I made inaccuracies in what follows and I get ground down!

46. Re6 Rxb4 47. Kf3 b6 48. axb6 Rxb6 49. Kxf4 a5 50. Kf5 Ra6 51. Re7+ Kg8 52. Kf6 Ra8 53. Re3 a4 54. Ra3 Ra6 55. g6 Ra8 56. Rh3 Ra7 57. Rc3 Ra8 58. g7 1-0

The wily Chilean International Master had completely turned the tables!  Such was life in the tough world of New England Swisses.

The Fabulous 10′s: When Scorpions Attack (Each Other)

November 13, 2010

Intra-Scorpion Matchups at the 2010 Arizona State Championship

When two Arizona Scorpions play OTB, it’s always a hard-fought encounter.

In Danny Rensch’s tournament the Copper State International (Mesa 2010) I sacked an exchange to reach what I thought was a promising attack with a well-cooperating queen and knight duo.  However, my opponent Robby Adamson had more resources than I thought, and went on to score a victory and a final IM norm!

Does somebody have that game score? I want to post it here.

More recently, the 2010 Arizona State closed championship is underway.  We’ve already had many Scorp/Scorp matchups.

Here’s an interesting encounter from Round 1.

AZ State Championship  Tucson, AZ  11/12/10  Round 1

David Adelberg (2277) – Mark Ginsburg (2446)  Modern Defense

1. d4 g6 2. c4 Bg7 3. Nf3 d6 4. Nc3 Bg4 Not a scare system, but Timman did use it to draw the solid Lajos Portisch in Wijk aan Zee, 1975 (an excellent tournament book by RHM Press covering that event!).

5. e3 c5 6. Be2 The plan for better or worse is 6. dxc5 Bxc3+!? 7. bxc3 dxc5.   I think Leonid Bass played Adelberg’s way against me in the 1980s.

6…cd 7. ed Nc6 8. d5 Bxf3 9. Bxf3 Ne5 10. Be2 White could castle and leave the B on f3 for the moment.


White deviates from Portisch's Recipe

11. f4!? Deviating from Portisch-Timman where white put a bishop rather passively on d2.  In that game, Timman’s queen got to d4 via b6 and black was very active, holding a draw comfortably.

11…Nd7 12. Be3 Nf5 13. Bf2 h5 Black cements his knight on f5 but is left with not that much to do.  White has to be a bit better.

14. O-O Bxc3 Not very inspiring.  15. bxc3 Nf6 16. Bd3 Qd7 I really didn’t like my game and offered a draw.  White thought for some time and declined; however his next few moves don’t meet the requirements of the position as Soviet chess analysts used to like to say.

17. Qc2 Now, or soon, I would as white play a rook to the b-file and then advance with a2-a4-a5.  White is better.

17…O-O 18. Rae1 Again, I would play a rook to the b-file.

18…Rfe8 19. Re2?! This is the most serious gaffe so far. The mechanical doubling on the e-file allows black’s next which gives black much needed breathing space.  White should have simply prevented the b5 break.

19….b5!  20. Rfe1 bxc4 21. Bxc4 Rec8! 22. Ba6? A big lemon.  Black is just better after the obvious sac in reply.

22…Nxd5 Of course.  23. Bxc8 Rxc8 And now it’s very hard for white to defend.  Black just stays compact and uses the Q & Knights combination to effectively attack, whereas white’s rooks completely lack coordination.

Very hard for white to hold on in practical play

24. Rc1 Nxf4 25. Re4 e5! This is strong because the black queen gains access to g5 (see 27th move for black).

26. Bg3 Ne6 It’s easy for black to play. The Bishop on g3 isn’t doing anything so black just grabs space and goes back on the attack in a few moves.

27. Qa4 Qe7! Going to g5.  A false trail would be to occupy the a8-g2 diagonal (although tempting) as the g5 square is much more productive.

28. Rc4 Rd8 Just staying out of the way in order to resume the attack momentarily.  29. Qa3 Qg5 The end is near now.  30. Qb2 h4 31. Be1 Nf4 And now it’s resignable; white loses back material with a two-pawn deficit.

The Two Knights Attack

I credit GM Yermolinsky with my coherent middle-game play.   Out of the many times I played him, in one specific game (I think in Las Vegas), he instructively time and again put his pieces where they coordinated and stayed compact.  He explained his thinking process as just that, staying compact.    My 25th through 28th moves were all exactly that – a compact formation that can uncoil and grab more space.

32. Qd2 Nothing else to do.   32…Nd3 and 32….Ne2+ were both threatened and white can’t stop both.  32…Ne2+ 33. Qxe2 Qxc1 34. Rc7 Rb8 It’s over.

35. Qd2 Rb1 36. Qxc1 Rxc1 37. Kf1 Rc2 38. Rxa7 Ne3+ 39. Kg1 Rxg2+ 40. Kh1 h3 Completing white’s king’s entombment.  41. a4 Ng4 42. a5 Rxh2+ 43. Kg1 Rg2+ 44. Kh1 Ra2 45 Kg1 h2+ and white finally resigned.


To Adelberg’s credit, he bounced back in Round 2 and in a sharp Sozin Najdorf as black, defeated fellow Scorp IM Aldama.

In other Scorp action, Levon Altounian won with a 2. c3 Sicilian vs NM Nick Thompson and when I left the playing hall tonight after drawing IM Altounian, NM Thompson was battling NM Adelberg.

After 4 rounds I was in the lead with 3.5 out of 4.  My nearest competitors were Altounian and Adelberg with 3 out of 4.  They were due to play in the last round and I had black against fellow Scorp, IM Dionysio Aldama.    I had just come off a very long game, eventually winning in a Sicilian Kan vs NM Nick Thompson.  Altounian wound up making a draw with white vs Adelberg’s solid Slav, so it turned out all I needed was a draw for clear first.  The problem, though, was that I achieved the most unpleasant of situations: a winning position in the opening!

Round 5 (final round)

IM Aldama – Ginsburg  Tricky Eugene Meyer Sicilian

1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 e6 3. f4 d5 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. Bb5 Nf6 6. Ne5 I think 6. e5 is much more common, but black will try the same trickery as the game (early disrupting c5-c4).

6….Qc7 7. Qe2 (7. Qf3!? is a move that occurred to me at the moment, pressuring d5, not sure if it’s anything real) 7….Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. Bxc6 bxc6 10. d3 c4!

Eugene Meyer move

As shown and played by Eugene Meyer.  Black achieves excellent dynamic play.

11. dxc4 Ba6 12. Bd2? A weak move.  White needs b2-b3.  12…Nd7 13. exd5 cxd5 14. Rfe1

After the game my opponent asked me what I would play on 14. Nxd7.  Can I take on c4, I inquired?  No!  14. Nxd7 Bxc4 15. Nxd5!! wins for white!  If I stopped to think here, I would find 14. Nxd7 Qxd7! and black has a great game.

14…Nxe5 15. dxe5 Qxc4?! Although black of course stands well now, there was no reason to pass up 15…Qb6+! 16. Kh1 Qxb2 17. Rac1 Bxc4.  I was worried that my pieces could not easily aid my king after, e.g, 18. Qg4, but of course that’s not a real attack.

16. Qxc4 Bxc4  17. Nd1 White needs to regroup his terribly placed pieces. 17…Rfc8 18. Be3 f6 An interesting moment. I also have 18…f5!? and I also have 18…Ba6!? just leaving the f-pawn alone for the moment. 

19. Bd4

Position after 19. Bd4

Here, I could play the “Dzindzihashvili bypass maneuver” with 19…f5!? with the idea of further space gains on the kingside, g7-g5, and so on.  White can do little. I am calling it this because I saw GM Roman do it once – offer a pawn exchange then craftily bypass the next move, ruling out en passant!  My chosen move is not bad either.

19…fxe5 20. Bxe5 Bc5+ 21. Ne3 White is barely holding on.  I started wondering about Rc8-f8-f1+ but that leads nowhere.

21…Ba6 22. c3 Bd3 At this point Adelberg looked solid (he in fact did hold the draw) so I offered a draw; I still thought black was better.  Aldama refused and played:

23. Rad1 Be4 24. b4 Well, white has to do something! 24…Bb6 25. a4

Position after 25. a4

25…a6? I played this inaccurate move quickly.  After the game Altounian pointed out the very strong and fairly obvious 25….a5! with the idea 26. b5 Rc4!.  Clearly my brain was not working too well after the prior rounds (some of them very long).    To make matters worse, Aldama was going off for quick rejuvenating smoke breaks quite often.  He was gaining energy!

26. a5 Ba7 27. h3 Rc4 At least I found this safety move -coupled with black’s next it *should* remove all danger!

28. Kh2 Bxe3 Of course this plan handing over the bishop pair was not required and perhaps even suspect, I was just afraid of any specter of N vs B endings.  But why give up the bishop pair like this?

29. Rxe3 Rf8 30. Rd4 Rf2! This rook never should have left the seventh rank!

31. Rg3 g6 How can black lose?   The problem was I started thinking about using both rooks to attack white’s king and win!

Position after 31....g6

32. Rg4 I had no idea what white was up to besides the Rgxe4 trick. I considered the safe 32…Rxd4 with a complete draw but decided just to bring the c-rook around to the f-file.  A bad practical decision!

32…Rc8 Not a bad move, but white now plays the shocking:

33. Rgxe4! The only chance to get out of the bind!  I completely fail to reorient.

33…dxe4 34. Rxe4 A transformation!  Black should now be paying attention to the majority and find the obvious 34…Rc2! defending and keeping the pawns at bay.  Needless to say, black is fine there.  Altounian’s computer said black is practially winning!  Instead I unfurled

34…Rf5?? An example of not thinking anymore.  I was luring white to play the incomprehensible 35. g4? then I play 35…Rf3!.  See the note to black’s 30th move!

He quickly played instead the unpleasant: 35. c4! and now white’s pawns are a huge headache.  I saw nothing better than the lame game continuation:

35…Kf7 36. b5 Ke7 37. b6 Rxe5 38. Rxe5 (38. b7? Rec5) 38…Rxc4 39. Rb5! Yes, I saw that one coming.  Not a nice turn of events with white very low on time but with moves like this available.  It now appears that white wins, barely, in the upcoming rook ending by one tempo.  Brutal!

Position after 39. Rb5!

39….Rc8 40. b7 Rb8 41 Rb6 Kd7 42. Kg3 e5 43. Kf3 Kc7 44. Ke4 Rxb7 Fortunately white loses by one tempo if he plays 45. Rxb7 here, at least that is what I calculated. I guess Aldama thought the same thing so he played 45. Rxa6 and now I found 45…Rb3! creating problems by going for the g3 square!   Drama continues!

Position after 45...Rb3!

A very interesting rook ending.  I think white played the right way now:  46. Rf6 (!) Rg3 47. Rf2 Kb7 48. Kxe5.

At this point black can go for the 48…g5 move to keep the rook on g3, but it appears he gets broken down by zugzwang:  white puts the rook on the a-file and keeps the white king close to the g5 pawn; black runs out of moves.  Similarly, 48…h5 and 49…h4 also lose to a zugzwang.  Black tried another option which also lost (barely).

48…Rg5+ 49. Kf6 Rxa5 50. Kg7 Rh5 This position is a little tricky!  51. Rf3! White aims for g2-g4 trapping the rook.

Position after 51. Rf3!

51…g5 Trying for a g5-g4 trick.

52. Rf6!   White has it all worked out. 52…g4 Last try!  53. hxg4 Rg5+ 54. Kxh7 Rxg4 55. Rg6 With a book win. G-pawns are surprisingly easy to win.

55…Rh4+ 56. Kg7 Kc7 57. g4 Kd7 58. g5 Ke7 59. Ra6 Rh1 60. Re1! and white won shortly.


Amazingly after I resigned I learned that I had won the tournament on tie-break (because in round 1 I defeated one of the co-winners).  Never before has this happened to me.

Wow.  Even so, it was a bitter pill to lose this game considering the opening!


I found a PDF file documenting prior Arizona State Championships. I don’t know who the author of that document is (the person that contributed the updates up to 2009). Curiously they omitted Angelina Belapovskaia who tied with me in 2004, I believe.   That tournament was played in Mesa, Arizona at one of Danny Rensch’s chess-house sites.    I was surprised to see I had tied for first apparently three times before (I thought it was twice before).  So now, apparently, I have tied for first four times!

In other personal State Championship historical news, in 1982, I won the Maryland version by defeating Richard Delaune in the last round.   This was actually a really good game that you can find on  In 1989, I tried to win the NY State in Albany NY (defeating IM Shirazi in a nice game that featured a highly unusual queen sac) but I believe some Grandmaster luminary took top honors that year.  All I can remember about Albany 1989 is visiting a jazz club where Grandmaster Larry C drummed on the table to express solidarity with the musicians.  I haven’t been that active, clearly, in trying to win state honors here and there.  I lived in New Jersey for a while but never tried that one.

Timeline Photos


Baby Mark in 1960 had not yet conceived of “state championships”.

Manhattan Chess Club, 1988

I won the Manhattan CC Championship (a now defunct club, located at the glamorous Carnegie Hall, 57th and 7th, NYC) twice in 1988 and 1990.  Sandwiched between these was my unsuccessful run at the NY State Championship in Albany 1989.


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