fine printHere at the Suffern Chess Club, we don’t like to surprise our members with hidden fees. That is why we always look to keep membership dues and tournament fees to a minimum. In the past, we haven’t charged a fee for tournaments. This year, the village is charging us a weekly fee to use the room at the Leo Lydon house.

As a result, we have decided to charge a fee for participating in our tournaments and eliminate our annual membership fee of $15 per year.

The new fee structure is as simple as it can be. At the start of a tournament, players can choose to pay either of the following fees:

  1. A $10 fee which covers all 5 rounds of the tournament OR
  2. A $3 weekly fee, which covers the current round

We think you’ll agree that the new price structure is still a great deal. All other clubs in the area have significantly higher annual memberships and entry fees. Our goal is to provide an enjoyable atmosphere to play rated tournament matches.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about the new policy.


2014 Recap

Posted: January 17, 2015 in chess, Club Info

binocularsHi everyone –

The beginning of a new year is a fun time to stop and review the year that has gone by and think about the year to come. Here at the Suffern Chess Club blog, we like to look back at highlights from our tournaments and achievements from our members.

We completed a total of 9 events in 2014 and are one week away from putting another tournament in the books (which will count as the first tournament of 2015). We started with a Winter Blast and ended the year with Bad Bishops.

This year’s club champion was George Grasser who won five events over the course of the year. Chris Zelenka and the recently newly active Danillo Cuellar each won two events. George Mendez was the other tournament winner.

George and Chris tied for the largest positive ratings swing (+124 points). Chris’ rating rose from 1771 at the beginning of the year to 1895 at the end of the year. George improved his rating from 1800 to 1924 by the end of the year.

Many of our players participate in multiple clubs and USCF events over the course of the year. George Grasser was our most active member, playing 129 matches in 2014. Neil Marcus was also very active, playing 78 matches in various tournaments.

We’re looking forward to an exciting 2015. All are welcome to come out to the Leo Lydon house in January to help us kick off the new year!

2014-2015-calendarRound 4 of the Bad Bishops Swiss will take place on December 17th. Thanks to everybody who has come out for our tournaments this year.

The club will not meet after this Wednesday since the next two Wednesdays fall on Christmas Eve (12/24) and New Year’s Eve (12/31).

In other news, starting in 2015 the town of Suffern will be charging us $25 per night for use of the Leo Lydon House. In order to keep our annual dues to a minimum, we will collect a $3 fee per person for each round of play in 2015. This will allow us to keep our club membership dues at $15 per year.

If we don’t see you at the club this week, enjoy the hiatus and have a happy and healthy Holiday season. The club will reconvene on January 7, 2015.

No Chess Tonight

Posted: November 26, 2014 in chess

Due to the snowy weather, we are postponing Round 2 of the “Suffern Good Knights Swiss” tournament.

In the meantime, have a happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the long weekend. We will see you again next Wednesday December 3.


Thanks to everybody for coming out to the Suffern Lightning Swiss in August. We’re in the midst of another exciting year in Suffern. As we head to the fall, we look forward to the return of existing members after their summer vacations and welcoming new members to the club.

Dirty -Rotten-Scoundrels-m01

This last post in our chess animal series covers the most reprehensible of creatures, the chess skunk (aka cheaters). In fact, fears about cheating have become more prevalent than ever. It is no surprise that the June 2014 Chess Life magazine featured and article that chronicled the efforts of Dr. Ken Regan to weed out chess cheaters, especially at the highest levels of competition.

There is little mystery as to why people cheat. Chess can be a difficult game to master. It takes years of study to become proficient at the different phases of the game. There is no question that some players are able to absorb information more quickly than others. Those that feel they have been left behind may give in to their baser impulses and decide it’s better to cheat and win, then to hardly win at all.

Many online chess sites monitor the games and revoke memberships of players who are suspected of cheating. The online publishes a list of handles of players who have been caught cheating in an effort to embarrass those who have no regards for the rules.

Another big motivation is the chance to win easy money by cheating at a major event. Many large events have sections for class players that offer top prizes of $5,000 to $10,000. As cell phones and other digital devices get more powerful, it is easier than ever to find a platform to access a strong chess engine.

Fortunately, the vast majority of chess players, enjoy going to their local club to test their abilities against fellow enthusiasts. Books are educational and playing on the internet can provide competition any time of day or night, but nothing can replace the experience of face to face competition. It is also interesting to observe the many different styles of play at the local club or regional tournament.

However, beware of players who exhibit suspicious behaviors, especially those that suddenly perform way above their recent rating level for no apparent reason.

Below are a few examples of chess cheaters at noted in various publications:

  • John Von Neumann (1993 World Open, Philadelphia, PA): A player entered the tournament under the alias “John Von Neumann” (which is the name of a famous Hungarian/American mathematician and physicist). The player achieved a strong 4.5 out of 9 in the open section of the tournament, including a draw against a GM, and qualified for an $800 prize. Needless to say, tournament directors were suspicious and asked him to solve a simple chess puzzle before he could claim his prize. He refused and left the premises, never to be seen again.
  • Sebastian Feller, Cyril Marzolo, Arnaud Hauchard (2010 Chess Olympiad): Feller, a 20-year-old French Grandmaster was the gold medal winner at an International event. As detailed in the NY Times and on the Chessbase website, Cyril Marzolo an international master, was inputting moves on his computer while watching the online broadcast of the matches. Marzolo would send a text message to the French coach, Arnaud Hauchard, who would then relay the moves to Feller. The plot was uncovered when the VP of the French chess federation happened to see a text on Marzolo’s phone from Hauchard stating “hurry up, send moves”. After further investigation, over 200 text messages were discovered and conspiracy was uncovered. Feller was banned for 3 years and was also required to perform 2 years of community service. Marzolo was banned for 5 years. The coach was given a lifetime ban as captain and coach of French Chess Federation.
  • Borislov Ivanov (2012 Zadar Open, 2013 Bladoevgrad Open, 2013 Navalmoral Open): Not content with cheating and and getting away with it, 26-year-old Borislav Ivanov posted questionable results in three separate tournaments over a short period of time. Though Ivanov is a strong 2300 player, he defeated four Grandmasters at the Zadar Open and two other Grandmasters in the Navalmoral Open. He was eventually searched and a suspicious device was found on his person. He was expelled from the tournament after Round 6. He was eventually suspended for four months by the Bulgarian Chess Federation. He has since retired and would have a hard time competing in any future tournaments without facing intense scrutiny.

The sad fact is, there is no real justification for cheating at chess. Some steroid users on the Tour de France or other professional sports often state that “everybody else was doing it” or that it just “enhanced my natural abilities”. None of these excuses make sense for chess. What would tournaments be like if everybody brought their own computer? Imagine the results of a major tournament where all players tie for the lead with 9 draws in nine rounds!

Let’s hope that monitoring for suspicious activities improves and that those who are tempted to cheat see the error of their ways.


 HAL playing chess

elephant_chessBangkok Chess Club

Continuing with our theme of animals and chess, this month’s topic is Elephant Chess. Where can one find both chess enthusiasts and Elephants? Why Thailand, of course! After we stumbled across this picture, we did some research and learned that the Bangkok Chess Club has been around for a number of years. They recently held the 14th annual Bangkok open which attracted 149 participants and 13 Grandmasters from around the world. This year’s champion was Francisco Vallejo Pons, a semi-retired Grandmaster who achieved a score of 7.5VallejoPons points in the nine-round tournament. Pons “retired” from competitive chess back in 2012, but has participated in a number of events since then. In fact, the most recent FIDE ratings list has him ranked at #51 in the world (15 spots ahead of Judit Polgar who is ranked #66). There is a nice write-up on the tournament and the champion at (article link). The Bangkok Chess Club website has not been updated since April of this year, but provides information on how to participate in club events. Surprisingly, the club doesn’t seem to have their own playing location. The website indicates that they play on Tuesday evenings at the Roadhouse Barbecue and on Friday evenings at the Queen Victoria Pub. The club has over 200 active players and does not charge a membership fee, although you can get some bonus points by buying pints at the pub!

Elephant Gambit

While we are on the subject of Elephants, we were surprised to learn that there is actually an Elephant Gambit in chess theory.

ElephantGambitThe position at right is initiated by Black after the moves:

  1. e4  e5
  2. Nf3 d5

The objective is to immediately strike back in the center, develop quickly, and gain the initiative. A look at the 2012 Big Database of 5 million games from ChessBase reveals close to 2,000 games featuring this gambit, many of them as recently as 2011.

What become readily apparent is that this opening leads to very sharp lines. But, if white navigates through the tricky tactics, he can come out on top. A quick look at 73 recent games shows an advantage for white of 33 wins, 23 losses, and 17 draws.

Some interesting continuations were …

3. de  Bd6 (soon followed by an aggressive f5 by black) OR

3. de   e4   4. Qe2  f5 OR

3. Ne5  Bd6  4. d4  de  5. Nc3  Be5 (where black forces an exchange of queens and takes away white’s right to castle).

This isn’t a recommended gambit, but it is tricky and something that can throw off an unsuspecting opponent. So, beware of the Elephant on the chess table, or you might get squashed!


Bird Opening

Posted: June 25, 2014 in chess
Tags: ,


Continuinbird01-ewg our theme of animals and chess, this month we will bring our attention to the bird opening …

Of course, if you are a student of the game, you might know that there really is a Bird opening. According to MCO14, the English master H.E. Bird (1830 – 1908) played this opening in his heyday during the latter part of the nineteenth century. There is a certain amount of surprise value in using this opening as few people come across it in practical play. Many players adopted it in the early part of the twentieth century including Tartakower, Nimzovich and Larsen.

On the plus side, the opening moves provide a unique pawn structure. The general goal is to achieve control of the dark squares. Here’s a sample miniature from July 22, 1873 in which Mr. Bird pecks apart Oscar Gelbfuhs a Moravian-Austrian chess master.


Bird_1f4Starting off with the characteristic 1. f4, the Bird opening attempts to control e5 with the pawn, which will shortly be supported by the knight move Nf3.

The game continued in the aggressive style of the time:

  • 1. … f5
  • 2. e4  fe
  • 3. de  ed
  • 4. Bd3 Nf6
  • 5. Nf3 e6
  • 6. Ng5 g6
  • 7.h4 Bh6
  • 8. h5

The position is a bit of a mess, but white has managed to aggressively strike out at the black king which is increasingly exposed. Although the white king is also exposed, the active position of the white pieces points to an advantage.

  • Bird_8h59. fg  Nd5
  • 10. hg Qe7
  • 11. Rh7 Rh7
  • 12. gh Qb4+ (trying for activity)
  • 13. Kf1 Qh4
  • 14. Bg6+ Ke7 (see diagram below)
  • 15. Qh5!  … And suddenly all is lost.


There is no way to prevent the h pawn from queening. Trying Qc4 fails after Bd3. The knight is too far away to get back in time. And the other black pieces have yet to be developed.




No Chess – Wednesday, June 4

Posted: June 3, 2014 in chess

The town of Suffern needs our room to handle an overflow of meetings on Wednesday June 4. Please pass this message along to anybody who was planning to attend this week’s matches.

What would happen if Bill Gates the mastermind behind Microsoft were to play world champion Magnus Carlsen in a chess match?

Carlsen & Gates

Does Bill Gates have a hidden talent that nobody knows about? Well, the two met back on January 23, 2014 as guests on the Norwegian TV show Skavlan. Gates played the white pieces and was given 2 minutes on his clock. Carlsen played black and was given 30 seconds on his clock.

Here’s what happened:

Of course the players were just goofing around and the audience was impressed with how quickly and easily Carlsen won the game. But a in spite of the dubious move 3.Bd3, which was a strange choice,


Gates was actually winning before he blundered away the game on the penultimate move 9. Ne5?? Which resulted in mate after Qh2#.


One possible continuation would have been … 9. Re1 Nd3 10. cd o-o-o.

Here’s the complete transcript.

1. e4 Nc6 2. Nf3 d5 3. Bd3 Nf6 4. ed Qd5 5. Nc3 Qh5 6. 0-0 Bg4 7. h3 Ne5?? 8. hg Ngf4 9. Ne5 Qh2#