Archive for the ‘Analysis’ Category

Pete Tamburro, the chess columnist for the Newark Star Ledger highlighted one of Roger’s games from the World Senior Amateur tournament in 2009.


To see the solution, go to the following link:

Roger’s Combo


Checkmating with Einstein

Posted: January 25, 2013 in Analysis, chess

One thing that makes chess unique among other competitive pursuits is the opportunity for an amateur to play against very highly rated opponents. Baseball fans can only dream about playing against Derek Jeter  and amateur guitarists might fantasize about jamming with Eric Clapton, unless they decide to shell out a lot of money to participate in a fantasy camp. Even then, they are not really competing against the athlete or creating with the artist, it’s more of a summer camp for adults.

But in chess, you can have the pleasure of getting thrashed by a grandmaster or pummelled by an up and coming child prodigy for the regular price of playing in a tournament! And once in a while, if the stars are aligned correctly, an amateur may draw or defeat a higher rated player.

Over the course of the past 10 years, I have played a variety of opponents. When I was feeling brave, or in need of some more variety, I ventured into the city where the big boys play. Invariably, I’ve run into some highly rated opponents.

Below is  a short list of those who I’ve faced off against and (usually) lost to:

  • Yuri Lapshun (2500) – A game 60 tournament at the Marshall Chess Club. I normally try not to be intimidated by a rating, but when I saw 2500! I looked him up and found a Wikipedia article. It was pretty even for 15 moves or so, but I eventually paid the price for being too passive.
  • Mikhail Zlotnikov (2373)– Another first round match, this time at the International Chess Academy in New Jersey. We played a symmetrical English and he punished me severely after my ill-advised 11. …b6? (see diagram at right). What followed (12. Nd5 Qd8?? 13. Nf6 Bf6 14. Bc6 Rb8) wasn’t pretty!
  • Marc Tyler Arnold (2676) – I don’t remember this game very well as it was at the Marshall back in 2003. Marc was rated 2043 at the time and he beat me pretty easily. Today he is a top player with an extremely strong rating of 2626. He’s ranked 27th in the country by USCF rating and recently finished 3rd in the World Open tournament in Philadelphia
  • Joshua Colas (2362)– To be honest, when I played him in at the Marshall in December of 2007, he was a 9-year-old boy with a rating of 1605. However, even then I could see that he was a nice kid who knew how to play the game. In fact, I was at a major disadvantage and was able to get lucky by desperately lashing out to try to gain some counterplay. If it were today, he would have calmly finished me off, but back then, he blinked and I was able to counterattack and gain a victory. In the diagrammed position on the left, I had the black pieces and tried 36. … Bg3. Joshua chose to take the pawn on d4 with his queen instead of accepting the free Bishop. After Be5 the match turned into a dogfight and pawn race and I was able to pull out a victory as we were both under time pressure.

Regarding the title of this article – it was inspired by the book Moonwalking with Einstein, which has nothing to do with chess, but is a great book about the world memory championships and contains some excellent tips on how to remember long lists of items in sequence.

Unless you are a child prodigy, most of us have experienced the thrill of watching our ratings rise when you get on a hot streak and win a few matches in a row. Having a great tournament, or riding a hot streak for a month or two can be exciting, especially when you rise to another level and establish a ratings floor.

Conversely, sometimes we get our of sorts and go on a losing streak. Wins that seemed so easy become ever more difficult to obtain. People we used to beat suddenly rise up and surprise us with a tactical combination or a new opening that wasn’t previously in their repertoire. Worst of all, somehow it seems that you’ve forgotten all of the things you’ve learned along the way.

How can you learn to maximize the upward trends and minimize poor play? Here are eight things to think about:

  1. Always conduct a post-mortem on your past games: The best players always review the results of their games to find out where they could have played better. It’s important to take the time to review the game quietly by yourself or with a fellow chess player. If you have chess software at your disposal, use the analysis feature to evaluate the game. Lastly, find a chess database and lookup key positions from your game to see how strong players have handled similar situations.
  2. Never play when you are over-tired: If your sleepy and you can’t think straight, how can you expect to calculate variations or recognize a well-known trap? (You can’t and you won’t. Save yourself some misery by getting enough sleep before you matches.)
  3. Periodically review basic endgame tactics like the Lucena and Philidor positions (it’s surprising how often these things pop up when you least expect it): Nothing to add here, learn the basics, they will help you in the end.
  4. Remember to stay calm and focused: Play the board, not the opponent. Some people might disagree, but playing fast and loose trying to spring an obvious trap against a low rated player can backfire dramatically. Conversely, going into a shell and worrying how a higher rated player is going to crucify you will turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Play what you know and ask yourself, “What is the best move in this position?”
  5. Take an occasional sabbatical: Sometimes a two or three-week break from match play can provide a new perspective on things. Clear your mind from the bad patterns you have gotten into and come back with a fresh perspective.
  6. Don’t fall into old patterns: Speaking of patterns,  if you constantly get creamed by the Sicilian Defence, either learn how to play against it, or find a way to steer games in another direction. There are thousands opening variations to choose from, some are aggressive and some are more tactical. Find the style that you understand the best and stick with it.
  7. Don’t play too quickly: Every game is different. If you find you’re just “pushing wood” to get through the first 10 moves, then you are doing yourself a disservice. Many times an error occurs within the first few moves. But if you stop thinking, there is no chance to uncover an opportunity.
  8. Always look for tactics: Tactics appear in the most surprising places. Here’s an example from a match played in late November. The match has evolved into a positional battle and black has amassed more space. After 17 … Bc6 white was concerned about defending the d6 square but didn’t look for any tactical ideas so he played Nbd2 to shore up c4. But, he missed the tactical Nbd4 which wins a pawn (due to the hanging bishop on c6) and could eventually lead to some counterplay.

Remember, don’t get into a mental funk and cause yourself to go into a free fall. Remember to study, review your previous games, and make the best possible move you can think of in every situation. This will maximize your chances for victory and minimize losing streaks.

Chess and Baseball have one thing in common. Numbers and statistics are a large part of both pastimes. In past posts, we have talked about the value of diligent study. After you have studied numerous books and have developed a style of your own, you will find that there are still players who consistently beat you despite your best efforts.

The US Chess Federation has added new functionality to the Players and Rating section to help you chart your progress. The ratings history graph has been part of the site for a long time, but provides a quick overview of how your rating has evolved over time. This can be useful to see if you have reached a plateau or if you are steadily improving. If you are involved in an event where you know who your opponents are, you can check their history to see if they are on the rise or at their rating floor. Remember a rating only represents a point in time, it doesn’t show how people have performed over the past few months. The graphing feature will answer this question very quickly.

The new addition to the Rating section is the link to “Show Game Statistics”. The data provided can be very useful in evaluating your performance across a number of dimensions. Information is broken out for your entire career as well as for the past 12 months. Performance is mapped out across rating levels as well. This allows you to see if you consistently beat lower rated players or if you are more of a “slugger” who has built their rating by knocking off unsuspecting higher-rated players.

Best of all, you can click a few buttons and see you actual record against the top 30 people you play against most often. This will let you confirm who your biggest nemesis (or nemeses) are! Once you know that, it’s time to check your notes, find some tendencies, and hit the books again! Or save up and invest in the newest copy of Fritz!

Late last year, I posted an article on recommended chess books in my library.  I’m nothing if not perseverant, so I’m not too proud to admit that I’m still working my way through Dvorestky’s Endgame Manual.  It’s a great book, however the content is very complex.  So after about 14 months, I’ve only read about 50% of the material.

In case you are considering purchasing the book, I put together a short video demonstrating a unique way to solve the following endgame problem:

bishopWe have a new tournament starting on Wednesday the 14th.  After much deliberation, we’ve decided to call it the Suffern “Bishops of October” Swiss.

Of course, that’s not all, the website has been updated with a bunch of new content.  Look around for the following items:

  • A new post on where to find cool  chess t-shirts
  • A reader poll asking for your thoughts on where to build out the site
  • A link for another grandmaster site – Yuri Solodovnichenko (try to spell that with your eyes closed!)
  • New news regarding an uproar at the Calcutta Open
  • A new chess problem to solve in the Analysis/Games section

Hope you enjoy it … see you all on Wednesday.

In this second article regarding celebrity chess players, we will focus on Ben Franklin, Sting and Ray Charles.

Ben Franklin

ben_franklinThere is no doubt that Benjamin Frankin is the most famous “Renaissance Man” in American history.  Even though he only went to school until he was 10 years old, throughout his life he took pride in having a voracious appetite for learning and coming up with new ideas.

As noted in his Wikipedia article, he was an author, printer, scientist, politician and inventor.  His many achievements include the formation of the first public library back in 1731, the invention of bifocals, and formed the first fire department in Pennsylvania.

Born on January 17th, 1706 – he was the 15th child (out of 17!) and youngest male in the family.  As he grew into adulthood, he became interested in chess and was known to be an active player by 1733.

Unfortunately, no known transcripts of his games exist, but there is a record of an article “The Morals of Chess” published in the Columbian Magazine in December 1786.  In the article Franklin points out the many positive lessons that can be learned from chess such as calculation, planning, and caution – as we have all learned that hasty moves are often swiftly punished!

The article also scopes out a code of conduct, not unlike what is required at most USCF tournaments.  The main tenets are to respect your opponent and to focus on playing the game to the best of yoru ability.

The following link contains the full article: Link

(note: for some reason if the above link doesn’t work, try pasting the following in your browser …


A modern day punk rock /new wave icon, Sting has also fostered many interests outsidsting-policee of the world of music over the years.

Interestingly enough, he has played many games with Garry Kasparov over the years.  It turns out that he initially met him through a mutual friend.  Sting used to live next to Kasparov’s lawyer and was eventually introduced.

The transcript featured in this article comes from a simul of Kasparov vs. Sting and his bandmates from 2000 (not the Police).

The interesting thing to note from this game is that Sting does fine in the initial phase of the game, but never figures out what to do with his dark squared bishop.  He moves the bishop four times in the initial 15 moves of the game and it eventually becomes imprisoned behind its own pawns.

Sting-Kasparov7bg4The above position was reached after:

1. g3 Nf6 2. Bg2 e5 3. d3 Bc5 4. Nf3 d6 5. 0-0 0-0 6. c4 Nc6 7. Nc3 Bg4.

The game continued – note how Kasparov continues to improve his position and gain more and more space until Sting has no place to move his pieces:

8. h3 Bxf3 9. Bxf3 Qd7 10. Bg2 a6 11. e3 Bb4 12. Ne2 Rae8 13. a3 Bc5 14. Qc2 Re7 15. b4 Ba7 16. Nc3 Rfe8 17. Bd2 d5 18. cxd5 Nd8 19. e4 h6 20. Be3 b6 21. Ne2 Nb7 22. g4 Rc8 23. Ng3 Nd6 24. Qc6 Qxc6 25. dxc6 Rd8 26. a4 Nc8 27. Rfd1 Re6 28. b5 a5 29. Bf3 Red6 30. Be2 Nh7 31. h4 Ne7 32. Nf5 Nxf5 33. gxf5 f6 34. Ra3 Kh8 35. Rd2 Rg8 36. h5 Ng5
37. Kf1 Nh3 38. Bg4 Nf4? (see below)
At this point the position was already hopeless for Sting, but Kasparov now forces the win of additional material with:
39. d4 exd4?? 40. Bxf4 Rdd8 41. Ke2 Rge8 42. Kd3 Re7 43. Bd1 Rde8 44. f3 Rd8 45. Bb3 1-0

Ray Charles

Another muraycharles-chesssician with an inspirational life story, Ray Charles was not only a great blues singer and piano player but an avid chess player who could often be seen playing chess backstage or while traveling between gigs.

He was featured in a Chess Life article back in 2002 where Larry Evan interviewed him and also played a game with the blues legend.

The article described the special chessboard and pieces that can be used by the visually impaired.  The board is designed with the black squares raised the the white squares lowered.  Pieces have pegs on the bottom that can be inserted into any of the squares on the board.  The tops of the black and white pieces are shaped differently so that the visually impaired player can tell which pieces are which.

The game transcript is a rather vanilla version of the Four Knights game, but Charles puts up a good fight and resigns down a pawn in a Knight endgame. (To see the full transcript, go to the analysis/games  section of the website.)

Chess is a great game that provides enjoyment to professionals and amateurs from all walks of life.  Many people who take more than a causal interest in the game begin to learn the names of the great players – Fisher, Kasparov, Anand, Nakamura, Polgar and many others.

However it is also entertaining to learn that there are many celebrities out there who are also fascinated with the game.  In this post we will explore two examples, Humphrey Bogart and Howard Stern!

Humphrey Bogart was a lifelong chess enthusiast who used to hustle people for dimes and quarters in New York City parks and at Coney Island.  He insisted that a scene with him playing chess should be included in Casablanca.  Off screen, he was a certified USCF tournament director and actively participated in the Hollywood Chess Club.  He was supposedly a very strong player, probably expert class and was able to draw 6 time US Champ, GM Samuel Reshevesky during a simul.

The game below, which can be found in its entirety with some other transcripts of his games on is a contest between him and his wife Lauren Bacall.  The game starts off as a Ruy Lopez, then moves out of the book … 

 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 (above diagram) … g6 4. d3 d5 5. exd5 Qxd5 6. c4 Bb4+ 7. Nc3 Bxc3+ 8. bxc3 Qd6 9. a4 Bd7 10. Ba3 Qf6 11. Qe2 Nge7 (diagram). 

After 3. Bb5

At this point, Bogart secures the advantage, with a little help from his wife – 12. Bxe7 Qxe7 13. Bxc6 Bxc6 14. Nxe5 Bxg2 15. Rg1 Bh3  16. Rg3 Be6 17. d4 c6  18. d5 cxd5 19. cxd5 Bxd5 and Bogart went on to win a piece and the game.  The rest of the transcript is …  20. c4 Be6 21. Re3 f6 22. Nd3 Kf7 23. Nf4 Rae8 24. Nxe6 Qb4+ 25. Kf1 Re7 26. Re1 Rhe8 27. Nd8+ Kf8 28. Rxe7 Rxe7 29. Qxe7+ Qxe7 30.

After 11. ... Nge7

Rxe7 Kxe7 31. Nxb7 1-0








Howard Stern is best known as the polarizing radio figure who loves to push the boundaries of humor by discussing politically incorrect topics and/or conducting outrageous interviews.

It turns out, behind the scenes he is an avid chess player and student of the game!  Back in 2006, he began discussing his interest in chess on his radio show and even had Susan Polgar on for a serious interview.

In October 2008 the New York Times wrote a piece about his recent marriage to Beth Ostrosky and his obsession with chess.  The article mentions that he is a frequent player on the Internet Chess Club and has also worked with a chess coach in order to bring his rating up to about 1600.  A visit to his my space page lists chess as his 2nd most important interest (behind making love to his wife)!

The game below is one of two featured in the NY Times article.  In this game, he employs the offbeat Budapest Defense to dispatch with an unsuspecting opponent:

1. d4 Nf6  2. c4 e5 3. d5 Bc5 4. h3 (diagram)










and now tactics come into play after … Bf2! 5. Kf2 Ne4  6. Kf3 Qh4  7. g4 f5 8. gf Rf8  9. Ke3 Rf5  10. Nf3 Qf4  11. Kd3 Nf2 and white resigns.

Stay tuned for future articles on famous chess players.  If you are hungry for more, go to the Fun Stuff / Trivia page for a quiz on other chess playing celebrities.