Posts Tagged ‘chess’

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#


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

No Chess Tonight 2/5/14

Posted: February 5, 2014 in chess
Tags: , , ,


Due to today’s snow (and ice) storm, we are cancelling this week’s matches.

See you all next week.

2014-sochi-winter-olympic-medalWe recently completed another year of activity in Suffern.

Hard to believe, but the end of 2013 marked our 7th full year since we moved to Suffern.

For those who like to keep a record of such things, our first event since moving from Montvale was held in December of 2006.

Another fun exercise we enjoy, is reviewing the past year’s results and giving a shout out to those with notable accomplishments. We don’t have the funds to give out Olympic Medals, so hopefully a couple of lines in the blog will be sufficient!

  • Club Champion:  George Grasser – we held a total of 10 events in 2013. George won or tied for first in 7 of the 10 events.
  • Other Champions: George Mendez, Roger Pedersen, Ken Reyes, Louis Winokur each of the “other” champions won (or tied) one event each.
  • Most Active: Roger Pedersen only played in a few events at our club, but played in over 60 tournaments over the course of 2013. In the end, he played 189 matches in 2013 and had a .622 winning percentage.
  • Best Winning Percentage: This one wasn’t even close. George Grasser had a great year, playing a total of 95 matches and had an impressive .732 winning percentage.
  • Largest Rating Increase: A few club members showed great improvement in 2013 with large ratings jumps from January to December. Louis Winokur started the year rated 1699, but had a strong second half, improving to 1854 – an increase of 155 points. Former regular, Lazar Vilotijevic continued his rise towards master level, by improving from 1947 to 2101 – a jump of 147 points. Finally, Saul Cohen also rose through the ranks, improving from 1580 to 1723 – a rise of 143 points.

Thanks to everybody who came to play in 2013. Special thanks to Gerry Freel for continuing to be our main Tournament Director and doing the pairings week in and week out.

If you’re reading this for the first time, come on down to the Leo Lydon house and have some fun. We’re always looking for new players to participate.

We’ve posted many articles about the wonderful wacky world of chess over the years. Articles have covered a range of topics from celebrity chess players, chess t-shirts, strategy & tactics, trivia, and upcoming tournaments.

Ironically, the one aspect we haven’t covered is how to make an impression at your local chess club. Many new players have come to visit the club over the years and within a few minutes it becomes readily apparent if the new player will become a “regular” or just another person who is more in love with the idea of becoming a chess player instead of the reality of participating on a regular basis.

The following is a list of ways to make an impression at the local club:

How to make a bad impression

  • Slam pieces: Usually the transgression of younger players. Smashing your piece on a square doesn’t make the move any better. In fact, it usually indicate a level of insecurity. (It also annoys the heck out of other players in the club.)
  • Talk on your cell phone: In most tournaments, a ringing cell phone is cause for an immediate loss of half of the remaining time on your clock. A repeated offense can lead to disqualification. At the local club, the tournament director will probably let you off with a warning. To avoid any chance of a sanction, turn off your cell phone before the match.
  • Glare at your opponent: Most people come to the club to have a good time. If they are seasoned players, glaring at them will have no effect, except it might cause ill will and make it hard to have a friendly post-mortem after the match.
  • Talk during matches or while other matches are going on: We all have been guilty of this one at one time or another. Remember that others are playing matches and any side conversations should be held in another room. Talking directly to your opponent (unless you are offering a draw or saying “J’adoube“) to the point of distraction is not acceptable.
  • Repeatedly offer a draw in a losing position: It’s fine to offer a draw during a match. However, if you are in a lost position, it is incorrect to offer a draw after every move. There’s no shame in playing out a lost position to see if your opponent makes an error, or to try to figure out a stalemate opportunity. Repeated draw offers are another form of annoying your opponent. If done repeatedly, your opponent has the right to protest to the tournament director.
  • Tell people why you should have won the match: Hey, it may be true, but generally talk is cheap. Nobody wants to hear why they are an inferior player – especially after they just won the match! Better to hit the books and figure out how to win the next time around.
  • Snicker at moves being played in other matches: It’s fine to clown around when you are playing skittles, but laughing at other people’s moves is not very nice. Remember, everybody was a beginner once.

How to make a good impression

  • Wish your opponent good luck: Once of the nicest traditions in chess is the opening and closing handshake. It’s always nice to spread some positive energy by being polite.
  • Know the rules: It’s not a requirement to memorize the rulebook, but a basic understanding of tournament play will save a lot of headaches in the future. If you don’t know the meaning of “J’adoube (I adjust)”, en passant, or how to offer a draw – borrow a copy of the rulebook, or search the web to learn the basics.
  • Learn how to take notation: This can be intimidating for the beginning player, but knowing how to take notation is a requirement for tournament play. In addition, it provides you with a chance to claim a draw based on repetition or to challenge an illegal move. Most importantly, reviewing the moves at home after a match is one of the best ways to understand your mistakes and to find opportunities that you might have overlooked.
  • Be gracious in victory and humble in defeat: A general rule to live by and one of the best ways to make friends at the club.
  • Have fun: Hopefully that’s why you’ve come to the club in the first place. In a certain sense, it’s fun to crush your opponent with an amazing attack. But since most of us aren’t grandmasters, it’s important to learn to take the good with the bad. One of our favorite old expressions is “It’s better to have a bad day at the chess club than a great day at work” …

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.

We found this photo while doing a random search on Google images. You might think “this can’t be real” and you would be right! Of course it isn’t real. It is a clever gag inspired by a comic on

If you take another look, you can see the velcro on the pieces …

If you poke around the 60 minutes website, you will find that they posted a historic interview with Bobby Fischer on their site as a companion piece to the Magnus Carlsen interview.

I’m sure nobody noticed it at the time, but with 20/20 hindsight, this interview is pretty disturbing. It’s clear that Fischer is a great chess player, but other more ominous aspects of his personality are also apparent in this piece.

Let us know what you think …

Have you ever wanted to think like a grand master? Check out the following profile of Magnus Carlsen as he explains the thoughts going through his mind while he is interviewed by Bob Simon. The video contains an amazing demonstration of Carlsen playing 10 simultaneous blindfold games.

Strange Chess Sets

Posted: February 5, 2012 in chess, Chess Sets
Tags: ,

Shortly after the holiday season, our email inbox become flooded with post-holiday sales specials. While taking a tour around the internet chess stores, we came across some strange chess sets. So without further ado, here’s a short description of the sets and where to find them:


French Staunton Pieces

These wooden pieces are listed in the clearance section on It only takes a quick look to understand why – they are hideous (and cheap) looking. The bigger mystery is why they cost $34.95. It must be because of the fine craftmanship that went into the knight. Look at the intricate detail of the carving. An where else can you find such a nice dull finish?

Texas Chess Set

Not to be outdone, the folks at have a wide selection of novelty sets. To be fair, we all know that these types of sets are more for show. Oftentimes it’s nearly impossible to play a game with a novelty set, since it’s hard to distinguish between the different pieces. That being said, take a gander at the Texas Chess Set. Hey, it’s no French Staunton set, it’s priced to sell. For only $29.95 you can have one of your very own. Try and explain to your friends why the state flag is the rook and the steer is the knight (at least that’s what we think they are). It’s certainly obvious that the oil derrick is the bishop!

LED Chess Set

Here’s an item that really does look cool. The pieces are equipped with LED lights which are illuminated by the custom board. Of course, we cannot vouch for the quality of the set without seeing an actual model.

Looking at the photography and the accompanying YouTube video, it seems that the set looks the best when the room is dark. That’s great for the pieces, but could cause some issues if you need to get a good look at the board. On the other hand, it glows!

If you would like one of your very own, visit It can be yours for $55.00.

Chess Drinking Game

Here’s another unique item from the folks at On the positive side, the images of the pieces are clearly marked, so you won’t get the pieces mixed up. The negative is that the rules say, you have to do a shot for every piece that you capture! Unless you’re playing an old Russian who can hold his vodka, the best play may be to sacrifice material until your opponent gets plastered. By that time, nobody will care (or remember) who won or lost the game!

Believe it or not, this is the biggest value of the bunch. It only costs $29.95 for the set and board. However the board is only 9 5/8″ x 9 5/8″, so you won’t have to reach too far to find the next shot.