Archive for the ‘Trivia’ Category

Here’s a question for new students of the game: “Can’t I just memorize all of the possible combinations over the first few moves? Then it will be easy to get off to a good start.”

Surprisingly, the answer is no!

new-york-new-yorkBefore we explain why this is the case, let’s discuss the real question. How do I know what a good move is, especially at the beginning of the game? The answer to that question is much simpler. If you are a new player and have a strong desire to get better, the first thing to do is play some games against better opponents. In a short time it will become apparent that some moves don’t work out so well. In fact, many times we learn more from losses than wins, because faulty strategies will be exposed very quickly against a good player.

Purchasing a book (or a DVD) on basic opening principles is a good next step. Some quick exploration will reveal simple tenets that all chess players learn. Fight for the center. Get your pieces developed quickly. Don’t move the same piece multiple times in the first few moves (unless you have a really good reason). Keep the king and queen safe. Think of a plan before making a move (“A bad plan is better than no plan at all!”). To learn more about suggested books, see our post from 9/18/2008 “Chess Library (thoughts on self-improvement)”.

Getting back to our original question, let’s discuss the permutations and combinations of the chess board. Believe it or not, there are over 9 million possible combinations of moves to arrive at positions after each player has had 3 turns. If we factor out transpositions which arrive at the same position, there are only 311,642 unique positions to remember!

To put the number 9 million into perspective, a person with an average stride taking 9 million steps, could walk round trip from New York to Miami twice and still have some steps left over. A person walking at a brisk pace of 3 miles per hour for 12 hours per day, would accomplish this feat in 125 days (or about four months).

That’s a lot of steps – and a lot of combinations to remember.

Who said this game was easy?Miami


Spring is in the air. Time to think of planning your summer vacation. If you’re a chess lover, perhaps you would like to combine a tour of historic Budapest with a game of chess.

If you visit the famous Budapest baths, you can do both.According to the Budapest travel site ( the hot springs that fuel the baths have been around for thousands of years, since the times of the Romans.


Posted: March 4, 2012 in chess, Trivia
Tags: ,

Hi everybody –

We don’t normally like to do a lot of self-promotion, but we just wanted to point out that in late February we passed a significant milestone – this blog surpassed 25,000 views!

Thanks for coming back to see content from time to time.

In the meantime, we’ll keep trying to build fun and interesting content related to the world of chess.

The last Suffern Tournament of 2010 is underway. As I was looking for a unique name for the tournament, I thought it would be interesting to look up famous birthdays for 11/17 and with apologies to Danny DeVito, I decided to honor Louis XVIII who was the last French monarch to die while reigning.

Since our last blog, my “email box” has been flooded with notices about various tournaments that will be held in the month of December. If you’re looking to play in a large event, you might want to pick from one of the following:

Atlantic City International

This event will have a $50,000 prize fund (based on 500 entries) and will be held in Atlantic City, NJ from 12/17 to 12/19. This is a 10 round tournament with an entry fee is $149. The big news for this tournament is that Gata Kamsky will be one of the players. He is also going to play a simul on the Thursday before the tournament starts. For more information visit

Empire City Open

If you’d prefer to stay a little closer to home, the Empire City Open will be held at The New Yorker Hotel from 12/26 to 12/28. This tournament has $10,000 in guaranteed prizes and a $98 entry fee for a 6 Round Swiss. To learn more, visit

Eastern Open

If you have plans to be in our nation’s capitol after the Christmas holiday, you can participate in the Eastern Open, which is being held from 12/27 to 12/30. This tournament will be an 8 Round Swiss with an entry fee of $100 to $125 depending on what section you play in. The prize fund will be $17,500 and GM Alex Lenderman will be giving a free lecture on 12/27 at 10:30 a.m. Additional information is available at

Related Articles

10,000 Hours

Posted: October 17, 2010 in Books, chess, Trivia
Tags: , , , ,

Many of you may have heard of Malcolm Gladwell. He’s the author of a number of NY Times best sellers such as Blink and The Tipping Point. One of his recent books – Outliers, published in late 2008 contained an in-depth analysis of what it is that makes certain people successful.

One of the most quoted sections of the book notes that successful musicians, artists, businessman, and others who excel in their fields have one thing in common. They have spent 10,000 or more hours honing their craft. This can be confirmed by looking at the biographies of many of the world’s great chess players. While most of us are lucky to carve out an hour or two on a good day to do a little studying on the latest theory, avid players are working at it five or more hours each and every day.

In the world of music, it’s a little known fact that the Beatles were not a highly regarded band during their early days in Liverpool.

But, from 1960 – 1962, they were given the opportunity to go to Hamburg, Germany and play in various nightclubs. In 1960, they stayed in Hamburg for four months and played seven days a week. Their schedule at the Indra Club

required them to play four hours per night on weekdays and six hours per night on weekends.

So, ultimately, talent may be important, but without a lot of hard work, it’s almost impossible to improve and reach your true potential.

Over the past 12 months or so the impression has been that our club has been adding a bunch of new members who are strong players. In order to double check that theory, I decided to go back and sample a couple of tournaments from each calendar year going back to 2007.

The data proves that we are indeed becoming a much stronger club. Not only are we attracting more players per event, but the average rating per player has risen dramatically. The 2007 Ides of March Swiss drew a field of 17 players with an average rating of 1596. The recently completed 90 Minute Mayhem tournament had 23 players with an average rating of 1848, fully 250 points higher than just a few years ago.

The other interesting fact is that many of our long time members have also been improving their games along the way. A number of members have been playing in events all around the tri-state area such as the annual Amateur East, as well as events at the Marshall and other local clubs such as the ICA and Bergen Chess Mates.

We can all be proud that our efforts to spread the word have been successful. If you’re reading this blog for the first time, be sure to tell your friends to come on out to Suffern to enjoy a good challenge.

One of the great things about Chess is that it has a rich history that has been faithfully chronicled for centuries. However, there are very few books that contain details about world record occurrences in chess.

In fact, as detailed in Edward Winter’s chess base article (link) the Chess section of the Guiness Book of World Records has become smaller and smaller over the years. In the article, he notes that in 1988 there were only 70 lines of text across 2 pages devoted to chess trivia. By 2007 there were only 2 entries having to do with chess, however there was plenty of space for oddball records such as “fastest carrot chopping” and the world’s “largest underpants”.

After doing a little research, we were able to uncover a few tidbits from Edward’s column and from Wikipedia’s article on Chess World Records (Wikipedia link). Some notable entries include:

  1. Longest Analysis: Garry Kasparov was the co-author of the book “Kasparov Against the World” which devotes 202 pages to the analysis of a single game.
  2. Slowest Correspondence Game: The ChessBase link above contains the complete transcript of a postal game between Karl Brenzinger and Francis Eugene Brenzinger that went on for 16 years. Apparently white blunders on move 46 due to impatience after waiting 7 months for Black’s 45th move!
  3. Longest Tournament Game: Per Wikipedia, the tournament game with the most moves occurred in 1989 between Nikolic and Arsovic. The game lasted 269 moves with a total time of 20 hours and 15 minutes. The game eventually ended in a draw. One reason for the length of the game was that FIDE had a special rule which required 100 moves (instead of 50) without a capture for endings involving Rook and Bishop vs. Rook. (Thankfully, that rule has since been modified).
  4. Longest Streak Without a Loss: Michael Tal went a full year – an incredible 95 tournament games without a loss from October 1973 to October 1974. Over that time period he amassed a record of 46 wins and 49 draws.

A couple of months ago we posted a column reviewing the size of the chess population in different parts of the country.  This article will touch on the chess community in two states – Wyoming and Connecticut.


According to the December 2009 rating supplement, only 2 players in the USCF are rated in the state!  Shawn Svare is listed as the high person on the totem pole with a rating of 1619.  Upon further investigation, I learned that Shawn’s membership expired in November of 2009, so that would leave only one rated player left in the state.

Somehow this doesn’t ring true.  Upon further investigation we learned that is the official site of the Wyoming Chess Association and the Cheyenne Chess Club.  The club meets on Monday and Thursday nights from 7 to 10 pm and attracts some cross border players from nearby Colorado.

That said, Cheyenne is not a major metropolis, but it is the largest city in the state of Wyoming with a population of 53,000!


The nearby state of Connecticut is only credited with 166 players in the same ratings supplement noted above.  Unlike Wyoming, there are a number of strong players in the state.  In fact, Sergey Kudrin, rated 2579 is ranked 27th on the current USCF rating list.

A quick look at his recent results shows that he tied for 1st place in the Philadelphia Open this year.  His score of 7.0 points in 9 rounds is impressive, considering that he only played in 7 rounds (with 2 byes) and had a record of 5-0-2.  Each of the other three players with 7 points did not have any byes.

The following match from shows a draw engineered vs. Joel Benjamin’s English Opening:

As we come to the end of the year, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the state of the US Chess Federation to see how popular the game of chess is across the nation.  So, being a marketing analyst by trade, I took a look at the numbers by downloading the December ’09 crosstable from the federation website (I knew this club director thing would come in handy one day).

So, I found out that there are 21,535 active members and that most of them come from a handful of states.  And of course NY has the most chess players, right?  To my surprise, I found out that TX has the most chess players!  But I was correct in guessing that most players come from a few states.  In fact, 48% of chess players come from just 5 states (which means 52% are in the remaining 45 states).

So what does this mean?  To be honest, I don’t know! 

I do feel that we are lucky to live in the Northeast where it is pretty easy to find a local club and you can play in a multiple tournaments in any given week.  To let you know how lucky you are, I did some research on chess in other states in the union.  For this article, we’ll take a peek at chess in HI and ND.  In the coming weeks, I’ll add new articles on other chess in other parts of the country.

Chess in Hawaii

Believe it or not, according to the December ratings supplement, there are only 11 rated players in Hawaii.  I found this hard to believe, so I looked up some local clubs and found that there are a handful of clubs in the area (across all of the islands).  Tournament results show that there are two top players out there – Corneliu Rubsamen and Robert Lau.

Robert Lau is a 9th grader with a master level rating of 2266.  Back in 2007, he won a gold medal in the North American Youth Championships in Aguascalientes, Mexico in the under 16 division.  He recently won the state championship, although for some reason, he did not face Corneliu in any of the rounds.

Corneilu Rubsamen is the head instructor at the Mililani Chess Club, located 17 miles Northwest of Honolulu.  He also has a master rating of 2263 and has a number of games featured in the database of  Based on the games I reviewed, he is a fan of the Scotch Game and has had some success with it.  The link below shows one of his games in the 2007 Hawaii Open in which he shreds the Sicillian Defence of his opponent.


Chess in North Dakota

You’d probably be surprised to find there are any players in North Dakota at all, but there are – 19 of them to be exact.  The top player in the ratings supplement is Mike Sailer – a 16 time North Dakota chess champion who likes to play in the North Dakota “Chessnuts” club.

The best part of this story is that the club meets at the downtown Fargo Subway restaurant!  They play on Friday nights from 8 pm to midnight and all ratings are based on Game 15 matches. 

So the next time you feel that your chess options are limited and that you can’t find friends, relatives, or neighbors who understand your passion for the game – remember it could be worse.  You could be living in North Dakota (not that there’s anything wrong with that)!!

updateThe site has been updated with a variety of new content for your enjoyment.  Feel free to explore the new posts in the news,  jokes, and trivia sections.

We also have added a new chess store “The Chess Zone” which is a local Haverstraw business that offers a wide variety of resonably priced merchandise on their website.  They are also the source of the new joke which was posted to the site today.

Lastly, we’d like to congratulate Roger Pedersen on having one of his games from the 2009 World Senior Amateur tournament featured in the Star-Ledger in the Chessmate column.  If anybody can find the link to this article (believe me, I tried) we would be happy to post it.