Archive for the ‘Chess News’ Category

The Fabulous 00s: USCL Week 9

October 23, 2008

Predictors Foiled by Wontons

The USCL predictors didn’t see the chameleon nature of the Scorpions in Week 9 – we came up hissing.

Ed Scimia wrote, “Chicago vs. Arizona: This is a huge match for the Blaze, while the Scorpions are only mathematically alive for a playoff spot. Much like Seattle, I think Chicago will come up big knowing they need the win. Prediction: Chicago 2.5, Arizona 1.5 ”¬† But a chess match is just four guys playing four games – no way for the squad to cross-energize itself with stunning coups. ūüėÄ

The Lime of the Bionic variety similarly went astray predicting Chicago 3 Arizona 1. Newcomer MatanP picked Chicago 2.5, and Ron Young hedges his with “probably” but went for Chicago 2.5 also.¬† Arun Sharma said, “Like previous matches, it’s clear who this match holds more meaning for given each team’s respective playoff hopes. Add to that the fact that Van de Mortel and Tate have both been playing quite well this season, and Ginsburg and Rensch have been struggling, I think this one’s easy to call. Chicago 3 ‚Äď 1.”¬†¬†¬† Indeed, on paper, it was easy to call. ¬† But we had an “X” factor!

What none of them knew was that our team ate a marvelous Chinese food meal before the game!¬† This boosted us (well, almost all of us) by adding 150 ELO points to each player.¬† Crab wontons, shrimp with orange peel, and other gourmet items normally only seen in World Championship matches.¬† It is absolutely critical to eat well (but not eat too much) before a match! I am not advocating here Feldsteinian eating-noisily-and-messily-at-the-board.¬† This “X” factor propelled us (well, three of us) into other-worldly Caissic strength.¬†¬† So the next time a Scimia or a Young or a Sharma or even a “MatanP” (who??) sits down and ponders, ponder this:¬† will we be nourished by crab wontons?

The matches themselves

Chicago vs Arizona

1. GM Nikola Mitkov (CHC) vs IM Rogelio Barcenilla (ARZ)  0-1
2. IM Mark Ginsburg (ARZ) vs IM Jan van de Mortel (CHC)  1-0

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 a whole other story.¬† I witnessed a game Josh Friedel-Warren Harper where white won fairly convincingly after 10. exd5 Nxd5 11. Nxc6 bxc6 12. Bd4 e5 13. Bc5. I don’t know the last word, though.

10.Bxd4¬† Be6¬† 11.Kb1¬† Qc7¬† 12.Nd5¬† Bxd5¬† 13.exd5¬† Rfc8¬† 14.Rc1¬† Qd7¬† 15.g4¬† b5¬† 16.c4 Black is theoretically OK after 16. g5.¬† 16. h4 is possible but after 16…Qb7 I only see 17. c4 transposing back to the game.

16…Qb7¬† 17.h4¬† bxc4¬† 18.Bxc4¬† Rc7 The daring 18…Nxd5!? looks to be playable.¬† After 19. Bxg7 Nb6! 20. Bxf7+ Kxf7 21. Bc3 the computer says, believe it or not, 21…Ke8!? to hit f3.¬† It’s hard to believe, but the king seems to be finding light square safety on d7.¬† On the other hand, 18…a5?! 19. h5! looks good for white.

19.b3?! Not very impressive.   The non-human 19. Qa5! is a good choice.  The direct 19. h5!? Rac8 20. Qd3 is also possible with very sharp play. If 20. Qd3 Qb4 21. a3 Qa4 22. Bb5! gives white a good ending.

19…Rac8 19…a5!? 20. h5 a4!? with a crazy position is thematic.

20.Qb2¬† h5? This is a game-ending mistake.¬† 20…a5! is correct.

21.gxh5  Nxh5  22.Bxg7  Nxg7  23.h5! Now white wins.

23…Rxc4 The point is 23…gxh5 24. Rhg1 (or 24. Rcg1) f6 25. Rxg7+! Kxg7 26. Rg1+ and white mates after 26…Kf7 27. Qg2.¬† White wins a piece and the game after the prosaic 26…Kh8 27. Qc1 e5 28. Qh6+ Rh7 29. Qxf6+ Rg7 30. Ba6!

24.Rxc4¬† Rxc4¬† 25.bxc4? White could have saved time and energy with 25. h6! Nh5 26. bxc4 Qxb2+ 27. Kxb2 Kh7 28. Re1! and it’s over.¬† I didn’t spot the nice 25. h6! at all.

25…Qxb2+¬† 26.Kxb2¬† gxh5¬† 27.Kb3 Going for the a-pawn is simple enough.¬† Black is not in time.

27… 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

3. IM Emory Tate (CHC) vs FM Daniel Rensch (ARZ)  1-0
4. NM Joel Johnson (ARZ) vs Ilan Meerovich (CHC)  1-0

were fairly interesting.  I will go over some of them in a day or two after I recover from the verdammt drive to and from Mesa, AZ.

Chess Dregs

For a jaw-dropping sleaze maneuver, see this non-profit’s victimization tale. It’s hard to believe people would behave like this (perhaps learned in a bad MBA program or the perpetrator is otherwise hard-up for cash?).¬† Symptomatic of society in general or just an aberrant small piece of poop dropped on Illinois Chess by a diseased seagull?

Corporate Chess and Bridge News

In merger talks certain to doom both companies, National Master Stephen Feinberg and his Cerberus private equity firm are trying to merge Chryster and GM. This ‘maneuver’ is another question mark following the question mark move of Cerberus acquiring Chryster in the first place (and a share of the toxic GMAC).¬†¬†¬†¬† And I cannot understand how bridge player Warren Spector avoided being on Anderson Cooper’s heavily watched video series “10 Most Wanted Culprits of the Collapse.” A young guy groomed to be the successor of the (now down-in-flames) Bear Stearns (with plenty of aloof energy) is more to blame than his sedentary bridge-playing boss, Jimmy Cayne.¬† Have you noticed a trend?¬† Chess and bridge are disasters in the corporate setting. ūüôā

Update: Chrysler Doomed – Checkmate

NEW YORK ( — Chrysler LLC plans to reduce its white-collar workforce by 25% by the end of the year, the company said in an announcement Friday.

The cuts, about 5,000 workers in total, will come from Chrysler’s salaried and supplemental workforce. Chrysler has about 18,500 white-collar workers.

Do Cerberus cronies suffer?   I think not.

As Peter M. De Lorenzo (author of “The United States of Toyota”) states,

“As I mentioned last week, the Cerberus infatuation with the auto biz is so done that they can‚Äôt wait to unload Chrysler, a humiliating admission from the self-proclaimed Masters of the Universe and an emphatic indictment of the formerly unimpeachable Cerberus brain trust/posse. That the automobile business is unlike any other in the world was completely lost on Cerberus managers. And the fact that they entered the fray at the exact wrong moment in history is indisputable. But more on that in a moment.”

At least chess gets some good PR here – masters of some sort of Universe.

The Fabulous 00s: The 2007 Arizona State Championship

January 29, 2008

In prior years, the Arizona State Championship was named the “Colonel Webb Memorial” and was a round-robin. In 2003 I tied for first with WGM Belapovskaya and in 2005 I tied for first with IM Nikolai Andrianov. I didn’t play in 2006.

The 2007 edition actually took place in January 2008 and was “housed” as the Tucson Open Swiss.

Here’s an interesting rook ending from the last round between two young Tucson Masters. Leo will be the manager of the new USCL team, the Arizona Scorpions. The situation was that white had 3 out of 4 going in (he had previously lost to IM Levon Altounian) and black had 3 1/2 out of 4 (he had drawn me and won the rest). I was playing Altounian on board 1 (actually, my game was already drawn and Levon and I finished with 4 out of 5) and this was taking place on board 2. So white needed to win for a share of first and black needed to hold a draw.

NM Leo Martinez – NM Vaishnav Aradhyula


White to move – What Result? Test your knowledge.

Well, it certainly looks good for white with his king closer to black’s passed a-pawn. Optically the a-pawn seems corralable. But are appearances deceiving? For example, 1. Kb3? Ke5 2. Ra1 Kd4! obviously won’t do the trick. Can white win it?

Time for the Quiz

Here are a series of questions to test your knowledge of rook endings.

Question 1. With best play for both sides, what is the correct result?

Question 2. In the game, white (a little short of time with 7 minutes in the sudden death; black had 26) played 1. f4. Is this the right move?

Question 3. After 1. f4, black played the natural 1…g5. What now is the correct result?

After 1. f4 g5 white continued with 2. hxg5+ hxg5 3. fxg5+

Question 4. Is the line played in (4) better, worse, or the same as 2. g3?

Question 5. Is the line played in (4) better, worse, or the same as 2. fxg5+ hxg5 3. h5?

Question 6. Is the line played in (4) better, worse, or the same as 2. hxg5+ hxg5 3. g3?

Question 7. Black played in the game, of course, 3….Kxg5. What is the correct result after 3….Kxg5? Give a sample line to back it up. The game saw a logical conclusion that I will post.

Answers and the game continuation will be posted Wednesday, January 30, 2008.


1. draw. Black will always have a weak pawn on the kingside to counterattack when white rounds up his far-flung a-pawn.

2. Yes. Any other move allows the black king to approach the c-pawn with a very easy draw.

3. It’s still a draw.

4. The same. Black can, for example, play …a2 and Ra3+.

5. Better. Only black can hope to win after that ridiculous continuation.

6. The same. It’s still totally drawn. Black can also draw by sacrificing his a-pawn to cut off the white king on the a-file, and simply bringing his King to c5, blockading white’s passed pawn. Then white can make no progress.

7. The game proceeded with the crystal clear 3…Kxg5 4. Kb3 a2 5. Ra1 Kg4 6. Rxa2 Rxa2 7. Kxa2 Kg3 8. c5 Kxg2 9. c6 f4 10. c7 f3 11. c8=Q f2 and agreed drawn, since an f-pawn and a King draw a queen if the superior side’s king is far away. At some moment, when white plays Qg3+ with the black king on g1 and the black pawn on f2, black simply plays ….Kh1! with the idea Qxf2 stalemate. This stalemate trick saves black when he has an f-pawn or an h-pawn.

Thus 1/2-1/2 and Aradhyula joins the author and Altounian as co-winners of the 2007 Arizona State Championship. Altounian narrowly won the “Modified Median” tiebreaks to take home the plaque.

Here are two of my games from the event.

M. Ginsburg РZhu, Round 1   English Opening, Closed Sicilian Reversed

1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 Bc5 4. Bg2 d6 5. e3! f5 6. Nge2 Bb6?  Black needed to move his a-pawn here.

7. d4 Nf6 8. b4!¬† This is the problem with black’s 6th move.

8…a5 9. b5 Ne7 10. dxe5 dxe5 11. Qxd8+ Kxd8 12. Ba3¬† It’s almost lost now for black; all the dynamism is gone from his game.

12…a4 13. O-O e4 14. c5 Ba7 15. f3¬† exf3 16. Bxf3 c6 17. Nd4¬† The game is notable for white’s refusal to give an obvious rook check on d1.

17…Bd7 18. bxc6 bxc6 19. Rab1 Kc7 20. Nxa4 Ned5 21. Bxd5!¬† White should have no preconceptions about keeping the light-squared “English” bishop.

21…Nxd5 22. Nxf5 Bxc5¬† Black’s break-out attempt leads to disaster.

23. Bxc5 Rxa4 24. Bd6+ Kd8 25. Nd4!  The attack is too strong.  More crude moves, such as 25. Nxg7, win too but the text is the nicest.

25…Rc4 26. Rf7 Rg8 27. Rb8+ Bc8 28. Ne6+ Ke8 29. Ra7¬† Or the flashier 29. Rfb7.¬† Either move forces mate.¬† Black resigns.


J. Cox РM. Ginsburg, Round 4    Sicilian Kan

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Bd3 Qb6 6. Nb3 Qc7 7. O-O Nf6 8. Qe2 d6 9. c4 Nbd7 10. Nc3 Be7 11. Bd2 Ne5¬† Playable is 11… b6 12. Rae1 Bb7 13. f4; black won a complex struggle in Gaertner,G (2305)-Zivanic,M (2451)/ INT 2005.

12. f4 Nxd3 13. Qxd3 b6 14. Rae1 Bb7 15. Nd4 O-O Black is all right.¬† He could also play 15…Nd7 first.

16. Kh1 Nd7 17. b3 Qc5¬† More normal is 17… Nc5 18. Qe2 Rac8 19. f5 Bf6 and chances are balanced.

18. Nf3 Rad8 19. Be3 Qh5¬† This extravagant queen maneuver is actually OK; it’s hard for white to do anything.

20. Qe2 b5!?¬† Sharp.¬† There is also 20… h6 waiting.

21. cxb5 axb5 22. g4?  White has to go for the ending after 22. Qxb5 Qxb5 23. Nxb5 Bxe4 24. Bb6 Rb8 25. Rxe4 Rxb6 26. a4 d5 27. Re2 Nc5 28. Rb1 and white is hanging on.

22… Qxg4¬† The a8-h1 diagonal is now an insoluble problem for white.

23. Qxb5 Ba8 24. Nd4 Nf6?!¬† Crushing is 24… Nc5 with the nice variation 25. Rg1 Qh5 26. Bf2 Rb8 27. Qe2 Qxe2 28. Rxe2 Rfc8! 29. Rg3 Bh4! 30. Rge3 Bf6 31. Rf3 Rb4! winning; all the black pieces are working to maximum effect.

25. Bd2 Rc8 26. Rg1 Qh5 27. Rg5?¬† Correct was 27. Qg5 Qg6 28. Qxg6 hxg6 29. h3 d5 30. e5 Ne4 31. Nxe4 dxe4 32. Be3 Rc3 and black has an edge but it’s not lost.

27… Nxe4 28. Nxe4¬† The amusing try 28. Rxg7+ Kxg7 29. Qxh5 is met by 29…Ng3 double check 30. Kg1 Nxh5.

28… Bxg5 29. Qxg5 Bxe4+ 30. Rxe4 Qd1+ 31. Be1 d5 32. f5 dxe4 I had a game once with IM Kamran Shirazi featuring a nice queen sac by me where white went for a mate and I took all his pieces in time.¬† The current game is similar.

33. f6 Qxe1+ 34. Kg2 g6 35. Qh6 Rc2+!¬† Deflection theme.¬† White gives up in view of 36. Nxc2 Qe2+ 37. Kg1 (37. Kg3 Qf3+ 38. Kh4 Qxf6+ 39. Kg3 Qf3+ 40. Kh4 f6! winning) 37… Qd1+ 38. Kg2 Qxc2+ 39. Kg1 Qd1+ 40. Kf2 Qf3+ 41. Ke1 Qxf6¬† destroying the mate threat.


The Fabulous 00s: The 2007 Miami International Open

October 5, 2007

When my good Word Press blog buddy FM Marcel Martinez (we cross-link, you see [wink wink]) told me about the First International Miami Chess Open, how could I resist? This event, organized by IM Blas Lugo, drew a host of good players: Mikhalevski, Becerra, Izoria, Shabalov, Nakamura, G. Hernandez, A. Zapata, and more.

The actual venue was a convention center next to the Sheraton hotel, itself close to the Miami airport. The venue had some quirks. First of all, cell phones went off all the time, and the people answering (usually kibitizers or players strolling around from lower sections) chose to answer in normal voices, not whispers! Secondly, sometimes the occasional mambo or Star Spangled Banner would erupt from an adjacent ballroom, and this happened in one amusing instance when Becerra and I had under 30 seconds in the not-for-the-faint-of-heart time control of G/90 + 30 second increment per move.

The games themselves were very interesting, and some were of high quality despite the constant rushing brought by the “gambling” time control. I gather this is a ‘normal’ time control now in FIDE events. It’s nuts! It ruins all complicated endings. And for what, to save a little time to go to Starbucks or the hotel bar?

Here are some of my efforts and I will also add some special games that I witnessed. By the way, you can find most of the games online at the Monroi site (but not the quicker schedule early games; only after the merge).

Snubbed by the Monroi Lady

The Monroi lady was busy running around taking pictures, but when I visited that weird site (replete with world clocks and electronic license tickets) I was surprised to see my games piloted by a faceless (photoless) individual whereas my opponent always had an actual, real, photo. I feel so left out and so anonymous, Monroi lady! I’m sorry I didn’t use your little box to record my games! Can we start again? Take my picture, Monroi lady (sniffle). Don’t leave me faceless, Monroi lady!

Let’s start with two smooth victories as White. In the first, I defuse a sharp junior by taking him out of his comfort zone – I steer the game into a Kramnikian bishop-pair torture structure.

IM M. Ginsburg – NM Corey Acor

G/90 + 30 sec increment per move

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d5 3. c4 e6 4. g3(!) My opponent astounded me after the game by relating that he was already improvising now. So the exclamation point for this fortuitous turn of events. Apparently he was most ready for 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e5!? – I’m usually a 1. c4 player and I wouldn’t enjoy seeing a Budapest on the board. Someone like IM Finegold, booked to gills versus the Budapest, would enjoy it very much.

4….c5 5. cxd5 Nxd5?! 5…..exd5, reaching a Tarrasch, is more reliable.

6. Bg2 Nc6 7. O-O Nf6 It is already difficult to suggest solid black continuations.

8. dxc5! White has no objection at all to reach a superior queenless middelgame.

8…Qxd1 9. Rxd1 Bxc5 10. a3 e5? Much too loose. White will be able to snipe at the center pawns effectively with the bishops. Black has to stay compact and hunker down.


11. Nc3 (0:18) Be6 (0:59) 12. b4 Bb6 13. e3! Extremely strong. White takes away key squares and resumes the harrassment of black’s center next.

13…Rc8 This optically good mechanical move (rook to semi open file) turns out to not help black at all so he might have wanted to castle here instead.

14. Bb2 O-O 15. Na4! (0:44) As simple as that, the position is now winning for white. A black ….Be6-b3 turns out to be a pseudo-threat. Black’s center is under intolerable pressure.

15…Bb3 Nothing else to do, but the text is insufficient. 15…Bc7 16. Nc5 is crushing – see a similar knight maneuver motif in my Glenn Bady game that immediately follows this one.

16. Nxb6 axb6 16…Bxd1 17. Nxc8 simply results in black losing a center pawn after the mass exchanges 17…Bxf3 18. Bxf3 Rxc8 19. Bxc6 – white wins easily.

17. Rdc1 (0:51) Nd7 (1:28) 18. Nd2! This maneuver is exceedingly strong. The knight travels to d6 via e4 and black is totally paralyzed. To make matters worse, he has virtually no time left. Not a pleasant situation.

18….Be6 19. Ne4 Rb8 (1:29) 20. Nd6 Nd8 21. Rc7 f6 As black, I might have given up here. In fact, yeah, I would have given up. It’s just no fun.

22. Rd1 f5 23. Bd5 Nf6 The rest is just black blitzing and white scooping up material as it is left en prise.

24. Bxe6 Nxe6 25. Re7 Ng5 26. Nxf5 Rf7 27. h4 Black had no time to think anymore.


27…Nh3+ 28. Kg2 Ng4 An amusing blitz tactic, but white has time left to figure out that 29. Kxh3?? is met by 29…Nxf2+. The knights get into an incredible tangle now, but the situation was mucho hopeless (do you like my Spanish?) of course.

29. Rxf7 Kxf7 30. f3 Ngf2 31. Rd2 g6 32. Nd6+ Ke6 33. Ne4 Once one pair of knights goes off, the other black knight is lost. Black recognized his plight and immediately resigned although he had built up a small bank of reserve time due to the 30 second per move increment.


Here’s a related effort versus Expert Glenn Bady (2137) from an earlier round. Readers will notice some common motifs.

IM Mark Ginsburg – Glenn Bady Miami Open 2007

1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3 Bc5 5.d3 d5? Highly suspect in conjunction with black’s previous move. 5…d6 is stronger, but the bishop is still exposed out on c5.
6.cxd5 Nxd5 7.Bg2 Nde7 White will be able to take advantage of this passive placement.

8.O-O O-O 9.Bd2 a6 10.Rc1 Ba7 11.a3 h6 12.b4 Bg4 13.Na4 The strange-looking 13. Be3!? is a try here and is a bit of a positional trap. If black takes on e3 (the wrong choice, strengthening white’s center), 13…Bxe3?! 14. fxe3 Nf5 15. Qd2 white can hope for some edge. Better is not taking and playing 13…Qd7 14. Bxa7 Rxa7 15. Na4 b6! keeping the knight out of c5. Play could continue 16. Re1 Bxf3! 17. Bxf3 a5! with excellent chances for full equality. Since most players would play to double white’s pawns with 13. Be3 Bxe3?!, this move is well worth considering.

13…Re8 14.Nc5 Qc8 15.a4 (?!) Things are looking very good, at least optically, for white. He is making progress on his agenda. However at this exact moment black has an interesting and hidden defense; therefore the careful 15. Re1 should have been considered nullifying the positional threat of Bg4-h3.


15…Rb8? A human move and a natural instinct to defend b7 without giving up the “lurking” bishop so carefully nestled away on a7. The computer finds an ingenious and dispassionate resource 15…Bxc5! 16. Rxc5 b6! 17. Rc4 Be6! driving the rook back. Then, after 18. Rc1 Bh3! 19. Qc2 Bxg2 20. Kxg2 b5! black can use the b7-g2 diagonal and he is close to equality. A really fantastic, anti-positional, counter-intuitive, and amazing computer variation to give black positional advantages of his own starting from a point where it looked like white was calling all the shots.

16.Re1! Getting back on the right course. This avoids the simplification threat ….Bg4-h3 and waits.

16…Ng6? I didn’t have long to wait. The text blunders a pawn. However, a move like 16…Qf5 leaves white on top as well. There simply isn’t anything meaningful to organize on the kingside and white is too active.

17.Nxa6! bxa6 18.Rxc6 Re6 19.Rc4 Rf6 20.Qc2 c6 21.Rc1 Bd7 Black’s position is a structural ruin.


22.Be1! I thought for a while and found this excellent regrouping which really winds the game up efficiently. This is important in crazy time controls like the one in Miami. White prepares Nf3-d2-e4 and black is helpless due to his numerous structural weaknesses. This unstoppable and very strong knight maneuver is very similar to the Acor game above (white moves 18 through 20). I only found this move after some cogitation; my original plan was 22. Be3?! but rushing to simplify, at the cost of some pawn structure disfigurement (although the pawns can be straightened, maybe, with a later d3-d4) is definitely second-best.

22… Qe8 23.Nd2 Ne7 24.Ne4 Rg6 25.Nc5 Bxc5 Once this bishop goes off the board, it’s smooth sailing for white.

26.Rxc5 Nd5? Makes it easier but of course black was losing anyway.

27.b5! axb5 28.axb5 Nf4 29.bxc6 Bg4 30.c7! Rc8 Forced. There’s no time to take a pawn: 30…Nxe2+ 31. Qxe2! Bxe2 32. cxb8=Q Qxb8 33. Rc8+ and white is up a piece.

31.f3 Bd7 32.gxf4 Bh3 33.Bg3! Bxg2 34.Rxe5! An effective zwischenzug. White remains a piece up.


Now here’s an interesting draw vs NM Marc Esserman – he was White in a topical Smith-Morra gambit.

NM Marc Esserman – IM Mark Ginsburg

Smith-Morra Gambit, Sicilian Defense

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.c3 dxc3 5.Nxc3 Nc6 6.Bc4 d6 7.O-O Nf6 8.Qe2 Be7 9.Rd1 e5

I don’t normally play this defense but it suddenly occurred to me to maybe use the d4 square later for my N on c6. I usually get the variation 1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3 Nc6 5. Bc4 d6 6. Nf3 a6!? and play that way. This is something new for me.¬† Philosophically, black has just handed over the d5 square but the f-rook is not ideally placed for white on d1. Black should be OK on the theory he hasn’t done anything really stupid yet.¬† “Book” lines bear this out.

10.Be3 O-O 11.Rac1  I am unable to determine how stupid or conversely playable 11. Bc5 is. In some minor games 11. Bc5 a6(!) occurred.

11…a6¬† Maybe this move is not so great. The immediate 11…Be6 looks sound.

12.b4!? An interesting¬†space gaining move. Black is getting squeezed a little.¬†¬†The obvious try¬†12. Nd5 can be met by 12…Nxd5 13. Bxd5 Bg4 or 13…Nb4 in both cases with a reasonable game.¬† Historical note: GM Nemet played the blunder 12. Nd5 Nxd5 13. Bxd5 Be6?? here which loses to 14. Bxc6 bxc6 15. Nxe5!; however his amateur opponent played 14. Rd2?? instead and lost, Caldelari-Nemet, Baden 1997. Again the odd move 12. Bc5 is possible; 12. Bc5 b6!? 13. Ba3 Rc8 with approximate equality.

A entirely different line is 12. a3!? – in a historical footnote, 12. a3 Bd7 13. b4 Rc8 14. Rd2 Ng4 15. Nd5 Nxe3 16. Qxe3 b5 17. Bb3 Bg4?? 18. Rdc2 and white won, Robert Shean-Peter Winston, US Open 1972.¬† Black missed the ingenious zwischenzug 17….Nd4!! 18. Rxc8 Nxf3 CHECK 19. Qxf3 Bxc8 with full equality. A rare¬†early Peter Winston game score that I found by blind¬†chance in ChessBase.¬†

12…Bg4¬† Consistent; reducing the defenders on d4.¬† 12…Be6 is oddly playable though: 13. Bxe6 fxe6 14. Ng5 Qd7 15. Na4 looks scary aiming for the hole on b6, but black has 15…Nd4! 16.¬†Bxd4 Qxa4 17. Bc3 Rfc8! (stopping Qc4) 18. Nxe6 a5!¬†with the point that 19. bxa5 is met by 19….Qxe4 and black is OK.¬† A good example of strange “long-distance” piece coordination.¬†

13.a3 Rc8 14.Bb3 h6 Playable is 14…Qe8 getting out of the way.¬† I was already planning my strange and not very good concept introduced by my 16th move.



An important moment.

15…Bxf3?!¬† Not the best.¬†¬† For no particularly good reason, I shied away from 15…Be6!? 16. Bxe6 fxe6 17. Qa2! because this move looked fearsome during the game. However, after the simple 17…Kf7! (not 17…Qd7? 18. Na4!) the try 18. Nh4 is met by the surprising 18…Ng4! – for example 19. Nf5 Nxe3 20. fxe3 Qd7 and black is somewhat better. Or, 19. Ng6!? Kxg6 20. hxg4 Kf7! and again black has some edge.¬† Another white move, 18. Na4, is met by the simple 18…Qe8 19. Nb6 Rd8 and nothing is apparent for white. Since black did not see this, he opts for the safer but weaker surrender of the¬†two bishops and keeps working to try to gain control of d4. An interesting but flawed¬†“secondary” defensive concept.¬† Another possibility, 15…Bh5!?, looked risky to me (in fact, it is risky to put the bishop offside after 16. g4 but let’s see….)¬†After 16. g4 Bg6 the situation is murky.¬†For example, the tactical white trick 17. Nh4 Bxe4 18. Nxe4 Nxe4 19. Ng6 gives black a chance to¬†sacrifice: 19…Ng5! 20. Nxf8 Qxf8 (or 20…Bxf8)¬†21. Kg2¬†(21. Bxg5? Bxg5 with Nd4 coming; black edge) 21…Ne6 with a complex game where white might be a little better but there’s still a whole game ahead.¬†

16.Qxf3 Nh7?! With some ideas of Bg5, trading off a key piece.¬† However it “ignores the obvious.”

17.Rc2!? Logical; preventing the trade.¬† However white had the primitive 17. Nd5! Bg5 18. Bb6! Qd7 19. Rc3! with huge pressure.¬†It’s not losing after 19…Nf6 20. Rcd3 Nxd5 21. Rxd5 Be7 22. a4!, but it’s no fun at all. (22….Nxb4 23. Rxe5 with a big edge).

17…Kh8?¬† Here I had the stronger 17…Bg5! and if 18. Bc5 dxc5! 19. Rxd8 Rcxd8 and white has to go through contortions to deal with Nd4. Black has good compensation for the queen.¬† An example variation is 20. Ne2 (20. Qg3 might be better; 20. Qg3 Nd4 21. Rb2 cxb4 22. axb4 Bf4 23. Qh4 Nxb3 24. Rxb3 Nf6 with approximate equality)¬†20…cxb4 21. Bd5? (21. axb4! Nf6! with a solid game; not 21…Nxb4? 22. Rc7 Nf6 23. Bxf7+! with an edge) 21…a5 22. Qb3 Nf6 23. Bxc6 bxc6 24. Rxc6 bxa3 and black is completely OK.¬† More importantly, I have good chances of getting the initiative in that position (25. Qxa3? Rd1+ 26. Kh2 Nxe4 is just bad; 25. Rc4 Rd2! is not that great either). It is very important when defending against a speculative gambit to seek an opportunity to counter-sacrifice and get aggressive.

18.Ne2 Qd7 19.Ng3 Nd4 Now this is the “panic” button, because white is amassing a fearsome attack. But it’s already bad for black; I missed a big chance on move 17.

20.Bxd4 Rxc2?¬† This is a blunder but 20…exd4 21. Qf5! is also horrible for black. For example, 21…Nf6 22. Rxc8 Qxc8 23. Qxc8 Rxc8 24. Bxf7 and white wins easily. I noticed¬†the text move¬†was a gross tactical oversight¬†the moment I took the rook – a common phenomenon.

21.Bxc2?¬† White thinks for a little bit and then plays this lemon. Both sides miss the obvious tactic 21. Bxe5! and white has a big edge. The variations are clear: 21…Rc6 22. Nf5 f6 (disgusting) 23.Qg3 Ng5 24. Bd4! and black,¬† a rook up, does not have the faintest hope of surviving. Moves like Bd5 and h4 are coming up.¬† Or, 21. Bxe5 f6 22. Bxd6! (the simple 22. Bc3 Rxc3 23. Qxc3 also wins for white) Bxd6 23. Bxc2 Ng5 24. Qd3 Rd8 25. Nf5 Nf7 26. e5! and white wins.¬† Or the tragicomic 21. Bxe5 Rc7 22. Nh5 f6 23. Nf4! Qe8 24. Bd4 Ng5 25. Qg4 and black has no hope of surviving.

21..exd4 22.Rxd4 Bf6 23.Rd3¬†¬†Be5¬† White still has uncomfortable pressure (as would be the case with¬†23…Ng5).¬†¬†

24.Qe3 Qc7¬† The disgusting 24…Bxg3, going into total passivity, was relatively speaking one of the better moves.

25.Bb3 Rc8 I thought that this held up f2-f4, believing that 26. f4 Qc1+ won the pawn on f4.  Once again I make an elementary tactical oversight Рmaybe too much mambo in the next room over?

26.Ne2?¬† My thinking was flawed but once again white believes me.¬† 26. f4! is very strong: 26…Qc1+ 27. Qxc1 Rxc1+ 28. Kf2! and since 28…Bxf4? 29. Ne2! wins for white, black has a terrible game.¬† For example, 28…Bb2 29. Rxd6 and wins. Another losing line is 26. f4! Bb2 27. Nf5! Qc1+ 28. Qxc1 Rxc1+ 29. Kf2 Bxa3 30. Nxd6 and wins.

26…Nf6 27.g3? These pawn moves in front of white’s king are a concession.¬† 27. Rd2 with the idea of 27. Rc2 was much stronger. For example, 27. Rd2 d5?! 28. Rc2 Qd7 29. Rxc8+ Qxc8 30. f4 with a big edge.

27…¬†Bb2 28.a4 Qe7! 29.f3 d5! This active defensive sequence saves the day.

30.exd5 Qxb4 31.Qd2¬† It appeared that white was reaching for 31. d6?? but of course then 31…Qe1+ 32. Kg2 Re8! would just win. White retracted his hand and played the sensible move.

31…Qxd2 32.Rxd2 Be5 33.Kg2 Kg8 34.Rd3 Kf8 35.f4 Bd6 36.Kf3 g6? If black hurries with his N to c5, he can even play for a win in this drawish ending, given the crazy time control. For example, 36…Nd7 37. Nd4 Nc5 38. Re3 g6 and black can keep playing although objectively of course it is still level.

37. Nc3  With this knight arriving soon on e4, there is nothing left to play for.


A very interesting Smith-Morra theory game.¬† Further analysis is required on 15…Be6!? or 15…Bh5!?.

Sicilian Kan, 5. Bd3

June 17, 2007

My young opponent scared GM Korchnoi in the first round, almost scoring an upset win. The crafty veteran found a way to swindle a draw by reaching R vs R+f-pawn+h-pawn.

NM Gurbauzade – IM M. Ginsburg, National Open Las Vegas, NV, 2007. Round 3.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Bd3 Qb6!? A good idea to chase away the centralized white knight.

6. Nb3 6.c3 is seen sometimes but is not particularly scary. 6…Qc7 7. O-O Nf6 8. f4 d6 9. c4 Nbd7 10. Be3 b6 11. Nc3 Bb7 12. a4!? Nc5


13. Nxc5?! I would prefer the more consistent 13. a5. The text makes the pawn on a4 look a little silly.

13…bxc5 14. Qf3 Be7 15. Qg3 g6 16. h3 Rd8 17. Qf2 Nd7 18. Bc2 Bf6 19. Rad1 O-O 20. Rd3 Bg7 21. Rfd1 Nb8


Both sides are playing consistently. White has espied a weak black pawn on d6, and black sees a weak square to occupy on d4. The chances are balanced.

22. Qd2 Nc6 23. Rxd6 Nd4 24. Rxd8 Rxd8 25. Kh1 Bf6 Black has full compensation. 26. Bd3 Bc6 27. e5 Bh4 28. Bf2 Nf5 29. Qe1 Bxf2 30. Qxf2 Qb7 31. Bxf5 Rxd1+ 32. Nxd1 gxf5 33. Nc3 Qb4 34. Qh4!? An interesting try.


The game reaches a critical moment. White has many weak pawns and black is threatening to invade and attack the white king with the powerful Queen and unopposed bishop duo, but black has to worry about an open king and being temporarily a pawn down.

34…Qxb2? An incorrect decision in that the game ends in an immediate draw. As so often happens, positional considerations (removing the b2 support of white’s knight) are overshadowed by tactical ones. Much better would have been 34…Qxc4! restoring the material balance in a different way and there is no forced draw. The game would continue with black having some chances to press using his superior minor piece. There is no perpetual check in the position because the black king can get to f8, with the idea of interposition of the bishop on e8 if need be.

35. Qd8+ Kg7 36. Qf6+ Kf8 37. Nd5! This is the simple resource black missed. It’s a perpetual check now. 37…exd5 38. Qh8+ Ke7 39. Qf6+ 1/2-1/2.


There is no way for black’s king to escape the checks since 39…Kd7? 40. Qd6+ is not possible.

The Fabulous 70s, Overview and The Larsen Simul

June 15, 2007

One of the goals of the 70s installments is to provide “lost” game scores – games that never made it (until now) into electronic chess databases. In the installments that follow, I will provide plenty of these “lost” games versus titled players of all ilk. Including some who no longer walk the earth, such as Gruchacz, Burger,and other luminaries of yore.

You can replay the game collection here!  (new feature).

In 1974 GM Bent Larsen came to Thomas Circle in Washington DC to give a simul. Since I was from Bethesda, MD (a neighboring town), this was a good chance to get my dad to drive me in to play the affable Danish GM.

When I got to the playing hall, I noticed the boards were all set up so that his opponents would all have the black pieces. But I wanted to play white! In a rather bold “move”, I asked Bent if it would be OK if I got the white pieces. I don’t remember exactly what happened next, but I got my wish. Perhaps he alternated W and B on all the boards of the simul (which was probably in the 30-50 range) – that is the part I don’t know. The important thing is that I got to move first. What a nice guy!

Here is the game.

15 year old Mark Ginsburg (“A” Player) – GM Bent Larsen

Simul, Thomas Circle, Washington DC, 1974.

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d3 d6 6. O-O Bb6 7. Re1

Yes, I am playing lethargically, but I was afraid of blundering! 7…O-O 8. Bg5 h6 9. Bh4 Kh7?! This looks a little slow.

Black could have tried here 9…g5 10.Nxg5 (10.Bg3 Na5 11.Bb5 g4 12.Nh4 Nh5 13.b4 Nc6 14.Nd2 Qf6 15.Qe2 is about equal ) 10…hxg5 11.Bxg5 Kg7 12.Qf3 Rh8 13.Nd2 Be6 14.Bd5 Qe7 15.Nc4 and the game toddles on, but black is fine.

10.Nbd2 Now white has a small plus.


10…g5 10…Bg4 is playable with a likely response being 11. h3.

11.Bg3 Qe7?!

Again this looks a bit slow. Black can try 11…g4! 12.Nh4 Nh5 for example with sharp play.

12.Nf1 White has the interesting try 12.Bd5!? here as well.

12…Rg8 13.Ne3 h5? 14.h4! Ng4?

Larsen’s famous optimism leads to a disaster. The sacrificial idea introduced on moves 13 and 14 is simply unsound. He was probably just trying to kill people fast to get the simul over with. The most accurate annotation is to attach a single “??” to the combination of black’s 13th and 14th.

15.Nxg5+ Rxg5 16.Nd5! A witty zwischenzug! More than just gaining time, White eliminates the all-important black bishop on b6 as well. Black is thrown back and white remains up material in a clear position, i.e. no counter-play to worry about.


16Qd8 17.hxg5 Qxg5 18.Nxb6 axb6 19.Qc1! Qg6 20.Bh4 Bd7 21.Qg5!

White found the accurate sequence on moves 19 to 21 and now it will be smooth sailing without the queens on the board.

21…Qxg5 22.Bxg5

Now, although I had a hard time believing it, I was already completely winning! Now it became a nervous affair to see if I could get the job done.

22…Kg6 23.Bh4 Na5 24.Bd5 c6 25.Bb3 f5?! This makes it easier.

26.Be7 White sneaks behind to pick up a weak pawn.


Nothing helps. For example, 26…Nxb3 27.axb3 Rxa1 28.Rxa1 fxe4 29.dxe4 d5 30.f3 Ne3 31.Bd8 b5 32.Bb6 and it’s all over.

27.Bxd6 Kf6 28.Bd1 c5 29.Bc7 b5 30.Bb6 c4 31.d4 Nc6 32.f3

Using the youthful technique of relentless hounding of pawns, White has managed to set up a really pleasing pawn center! Now it is “even more winning” (even for a kid with no experience whatsoever playing strong players) and I manage to get the job done, with only a few shaky moments from here on out.

32…Nh6 33.d5 Ne7 34.Be2 h4 35.Kf2 Nf7 36.b3 h3 37.gxh3 Ng5 38.Bf1 Rh8 39.bxc4 bxc4 40.Bg2 Ng6 41.h4 Nh3+ 42.Bxh3 Bxh3 43.Rh1 Bd7 44.h5 Nf8 45.Bd8+ Kf7 46.Bc7 Kf6 47.Rag1 b5 48.Rb1 Rh7 49.Bd6 Rf7 50.Bxf8 Rxf8 51.h6 b4 52.cxb4 c3 53.h7 1-0


Black resigns. Quite a thrill for a little kid! For readers who don’t equate little and 6′ 4″, I didn’t really start growing until the following year. Bent recovered from this shock/horror to win handily the fairly strong Swiss that was held the same weekend. I will need reader help here – I know he defeated someone strong to win the event and I need the name of the event.

Aslak the Chatbot wants to return to ICC

June 11, 2007

Recently some ICC members asked me about ‘Aslak‘ the chatbot. Alsak was a Java chatbot that used Dr. Richard Wallace’s AIML as a ‘knowledge base’ to chat. AIML is a markup language and allows a chatbot to pattern match and come up with interesting responses. The original chatbot based on this platform was called ALICE. Aslak is based on AIML Program “D” (Java).

The ICC Aslak was very entertaining, telling jokes, giving lectures at intervals, and chatting at random 24×7. Programmers will enjoy its architecture: if it encountered a special phrase such as ‘joke’, it would pass-through to a special routine that fetched jokes from On non-special phrases, it would invoke its standard ALICE chat engine. In many respects, ALICE resembles the classic psychiatrist chat program ELIZA but many argue that ALICE is more human-like since it can randomize its responses. Here is an academic paper in PDF format describing its survey-giving capabilities.
At any rate, Aslak’s disk failed in 2004 and I saved its base distribution. However, Java has evolved since it crashed and it no longer compiles.

Therefore I need a Java helper to get Aslak back on its feet on ICC so it can chat, tell jokes, and give lectures (yes, entertain!) the way it used to in the time frame 2001-4. Any volunteers out there to revive Aslak?

Send a message to Aries2 on ICC if interested.

PS How did it get its name? This obscure Nordic name was suggested by ICC bon-vivant Quote.

PPS Here is a recent online conversation snippet between two award-winning chat programs, ALICE and Jabberwacky.

A: Do you dream?
J: Yes, I dream.
A: It goes without saying. Do you remember your dreams?
J: I remember them vividly.
A: What do you remember about it?
J: I think I shouldn’t flirt with a robot.

Update August 20, 2009

Aslak is back!    I got a new server with an updated Red Hat Enterprise Linux and got its code to compile.  So there is again on ICC, chatting and joking and giving lectures now and then.

Attacking the Hedgehog

June 11, 2007

Playing against the Hedgehog requires forthright planning – grabbing space and then doing something with it.

Let’s take a look.

National Open, Las Vegas, 2007. Round 1.

M. Ginsburg – S. Chiang

1. Nf3 c5 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3 d6?! This passive and unnatural move leads to an overly passive Hedgehog formation. 3…e6 is the usual way to reach a Hedgehog which we will deal with in a separate installment. Black also has 3…Nc6 and 3…d5 leading to entirely different types of positions.

4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 e6 6. e4 Be7 7. Be2 O-O 8. O-O By roundabout means, white has reached a favorable Maroczy Bind structure that would normally arise from 1. e4. 8…a6 9. Be3!

In this particular position, the white queen bishop is better on e3 than b2. The b-pawn can go to b4 in one move.

9….Qc7 10. f4 Nbd7 11. Rc1 b6

Now it’s important to find a direct plan that challenges black’s slow setup.

12. b4! Bb7 I learned this simple and strong method (f2-f4 and b2-b4 together) from GM Jaan Ehlvest, who used it with great strength vs me in a 2005 World Open G/30 encounter, where I was lucky to draw. Can you guess white’s next move?

13. f5!

This is the key move. By forcing the e-pawn to give way, white gains d5 for his knight and gains an overwhelming superiority.

13…exf5 14. Nd5! Everything with gain of time! 14… Nxd5 15. cxd5 Qd8 16. Nxf5 Re8 17. Bd4! f6?! (17…Ne5 was tougher but white still retains a big plus.)

And now we reach another important moment. White has an obvious edge with much better piece placement. In addition, he has already clearly forced some weaknesses but must keep momentum. Can you see the way to go forward? The right move leads to a quick win!

18. Bh5!

A very surprising motif that I remember the great Estonian GM Paul Keres used in Sicilians. The move really has the point of opening the march of the white queen from d1 to g4. Black must now succumb to further weaknesses and this spells disaster.

18….Rf8 (18…g6 19. Qg4 is clearly hopeless as the decisive sacrifice on g6 is unstoppable or a simple win via 19…g6 20. Nxe7+ and f6 falls.) 19. Qg4! Black could resign already but allows a nice finish.


Can you see the finish?

20. Qxg5+! Of course white could have won with 20. Nh6+ Kg7 (or Kh8) 21. Qxg5 exploiting the pin on the f6-pawn, but the text is more pleasing and mates faster.

20…fxg5 21. Nh6 mate.

This is not a pure mate, where every flight square is covered once and only once. Nonetheless, it’s nice.

A New Way to Look at Chess Openings

June 2, 2007

Wouldn’t it be nice to know the basics of all major chess openings in one web site? Yes, it would! That’s the project I am working on. Stay tuned for more details!