Friday, March 31, 2006

Amateur Team Playoffs

So the details are all finalized for the Amateur Team Playoffs. Our team will be playing the winning team from Midwest regional start at 10:00 am on Sunday. We have white on first board so I will be playing black. The whole thing will be taking place on ICC and there will be TDs at every playing site. At the same time South will be playing East also with white on first board. The winners of the two matches will play eachother starting at 3pm both times are Pacific time. A lot of luck is required in these events, not so much in strength of play, but coordination of strenght of play. Wish us luck!

A Lesson in Defense

I was doing some analysis and I reached the following position WHITE TO MOVE:

You probably need to stare at this position to figure out what's going on. Currently black has a serious threat of Bd6 winning on the spot. There are a few moves that come to mind to try to defend against it. Obviously white must move his f-rook, but only one square works, can you figure it out? Don't just stop at the first move, think of critical variations, even after the correct response (or incorrect responses) white still must find some tricky moves. I'll leave this to ponder for a couple of days. Your choice between Rfb1, Rfc1, Rfd1, and Rfe1.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Gambits: Part 2 -The Elephant Gambit

The Elephant Gambit:

So I had been kind of lazy about putting up a post and my friend Mike Zaloznyy a one time player of the Elephant Gambit suggested that I make it the next gambit in my series. Honestly, this gambit does not particularly impress me, but some of the ideas that occur within some variations are quite nice and I think it's an important opening to understand before I can later talk about the Marshall Gambit which also involved a d5 push that sacrifices a pawn. I hope you enjoy my analysis.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Gambits: Part 1 the Halloween Gambit

The Halloween Gambit:

I decided to start my series with a gambit that unlike traditional gambits which sacrifice pawns, starts out by sacrificing a whole piece. I think this gambit is particularly confrontational even at an early stage which makes it kind of exciting. Probably most players will see it and compare it to a gambit that doesn't have really any merit like the "Fred gambit" after 1. e4 f5 2. ef g6, but I think white has some obvious compensation that is likely just inadequate. This I didn't feel like going into too much detail, but I did give a sample line just to give a feel. You can check that out here.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Gambits: Part 0

I thought of an interesting idea for some posts and also for my chess development. My idea is to have a series going where I discuss a few more mainstream gambits that are quite common at the club level. I will also be throwing in some discussions of gambits that have seen some time in Super-GM games. I’ll also be discussing gambits that are mainlines such as the Chatard-Alekhine gambit against the classical French or the Marshall Gambits both against the semi-slav and on the black side of the Ruy Lopez. I don't know how many of these I'll get through before I'm tired of them, but if you have any suggestions on where I should start, I'm willing to listen.

So what's the point? Well, I think at high level chess quite often battles are fought just to get the initiative. While gambits for the most part artificially achieve this (by sacrificing one or more pawns), it's worth trying to figure out the differences between those gambits that are mainlines (i.e. Marshall Gambit) and those gambits that are rare in master games (i.e. Blackmar Diemer). I'm most curious in studying some key positions, not necessarily theoretical, where it seems that 1) the initiative is too small, 2) the initiative is in balance with the pawn or pawns, or 3) the initiative is enough to give an advantage despite being down material.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Board Visualization and Blindfold chess

I've been absent from posting for a couple of days now. I'm on break from school for a week so I'm trying to take a little break from almost everything in my life. There are two major tournaments going on, one of which is a blindfold/rapid tournament taking place is Monaco. I think blindfold chess is one of those things that a layperson might think of as some kind of circus trick. However I think a person's ability to calculate accurately and a person's ability to play blindfold. I feel the more I have forced myself to analyze in my head the more I've seen an improved accuracy in my calculations.

Even just thinking back to 8 months ago, I would much more often in my calculation think a piece was still on a square it had already moved from hence miscalculating the whole variation. I'll admit, I still sometimes have this problem, but I've gained experience and hence catch myself when I'm doing it most of the time. I can play a blindfold game with some of my friends even at blitz time control but quite often the game ends to blunders I would never make with a board in front of me. I realize my ability to visualize will improve over time, but I think it's important to realize the connection.

The question of course then becomes how to improve visualization. Just playing games of chess does this. There are also exercises that can be done to help improve visualization. One I would like to highly recommend is outlined in an article on Chess Café by NM Dan Heisman and can be found among his archives here, but unfortunately I forgot which article it is. They are all very good articles so you won’t waste your time looking through them. I’ve also seen suggested chess mazes to quickly be able to visualize the patterns which pieces move. One I personally do is when I’m reading a chess book or magazine quite often it will spit out many moves in a row without a diagram. Rather than succumb to the urge to grab a chessboard, I try to walk through the moves slowly and I try to get a clear picture of the position in my mind as I move through and try not to make more moves on the board until I do. A good way to test your visualization of a position is to ask questions about why some “obvious looking” moves weren’t played. If anybody else has some good ideas I would love to hear about them in the comments.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Octos Results

Well, I have a very successful tournament today. My first game I won a game against Danyul Lawrence (2037) where I got a little lucky his attack didn't work out. In the second game I was pair as white against Ilya Serpik (2311) who I actually had a 1-0 record against having black that game. This time I had white. I was clearly better out of the opening so he offered me a draw on move 10 and like a wuss, I accepted a draw since I was playing 200 points up and it was still far from a guaranteed win. Last round I was paired against a good friend Mike Zaloznyy who was in bad form this tournament and that bad form continued against me as he dropped a piece right out of the opening on the white side of a french exchange. To be fair, my position was already preferable, but it was still quite helpful.

After this tournament I'm expecting to gain between 16 and 19 points. I estimate I'll be 2128 after this tournament. 17 more points towards masterdom. Makes sense as I had a 2456!!!!! performance rating.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Chess Tournament

I have my first tournament since the creation of this blog. I'm playing in the Costa Mesa Octos this weekend. Normally I try to avoid one-day tournaments as I'm trying to train myself to take more time and faster time control tournaments can screw this up a bit. Also this is a bit of drive for a one-day tournament, but the tournament scene in Southern California has been suffering a little bit so there aren't as many two-day tournaments. A friend of mine made a little bit of an effort to get a few stronger players to come out to this event. Looks like there are going to be like 4 or 5 solid experts and a couple of masters. I'll post an update to track my results.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Pawn Endgame Solution

You might remember my earlier post about a pawn endgame I had in a recent tournament against a friend of mine. Well, I forgot about it for a few days and I still had to clean up my analysis, but finally it's up. I think it's a fairly principled position, but execution in these endgames can be tough. I missed my chance to win, hopefully you didn't miss it. Check out the solution here.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Chess, Poker, and Procrastination

So it seems quite a few chess players are busy these days playing poker. My friend NM Eugene Yanayt is on a poker cruise right now having qualified for it on party poker. I talked to him online today and he mentioned there were a couple of GMs in the tournament. Apparently Walter Browne and Jan Gustafsson a 2600 from Germany are on the cruise. I asked him to challenge them to a side game of blitz, but he said the only set on the ship was a big one by the hot tub where the pawns were just small bishops. I personally used to play a bit of poker myself. I gave it up because I was falling behind in school and didn't want to give up chess, but quite a few people seem to make the other choice.

Both of these activities can suck up a good deal of your time if you're not careful. I'm generally of the opinion that any time spent on chess cannot be a waste, but sometimes things get put off until the last minute that would be better done at an earlier time. However, some people ask me where in my busy schedule I find time to study as much chess as I do and the simple answer is procrastination. When I'm not doing my homework, essay, or exam, I can be studying chess. I think it's quite effective, a lot better use of time than my former marathons of staring at the wall.

Tactics vs. calculation

I think this is an interesting issue I don't appreciate often enough. Quite often I do endgame studies and tactical exercises. I find the latter quite easy and the former a bit more difficult. Tactical exercises have their own set of themes and endgame studies have their own set of themes, but tactics train real game situations whereas endgame studies are mostly just about calculation. I noticed in some of my games how easy it is when I have a strong positional bind to get confused while looking for tactics. For example, in the recent Amateur Team West tournament I arrived at the following position against a weak expert as black with my move:
So my opponent just play Nb1-a3 which really should have signaled something. I was kind of annoyed by this move but not too worried as his hole on c4 was already giving me a nice positional edge. However, had I spotted 1...Bxe2! I would have had both a material edge and a positional advantage. This really shouldn't be that hard for me to spot and I can't come up with any reasonable excuse for not seeing it. The bottom line is I need to be more aware of knockouts like this since I quite often develop a positional advantage but if I don't see shots like this I might throw away half points sometimes. Fortunately in this game I went on to get the full point, not without allowing a little bit of complication on the board though.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

New US Champions


Onischuk won the rapid games for the title and the extra $8,000. Both games were complicated: the first one ended in a drawn opposite color bishop endgame that fortunately Onischuk did not try to win on the delay. The second game was even more complicated than the first with a massive struggle on the board. Both sides missed key opportunities, it could have been much more interested to see this game at classical time controls as there were many missed moves, but both sides showed their strength in defending brilliantly even with little time on the clock. I have made some notes to the second decisive game here. Congratulations to the new US champion and I would like to congratulate Shulman and the rest of the field for their fighting spirit this year.

Zatonskih outplayed Goletiani in the rapid matches to become the new US Champion. I slept in a bit so I did not get a chance to see these games live, but both were exciting. After winning the first game as black Zatonskih put herself in a very good position to become the new champion. The second game was pretty sharp as well, but Zatonskih found a way to force a draw which would seal the championship and took it. Congratulations to the new champion.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

US Championship Round 9: Results

Round 9 brought a lot of excitement. There were quite a few players chasing norms and tough fights on the top boards. Nakamura looked like he was just worse against Onischuk then exploded with b5 with a dangerous looking attack. Onischuk showed his defensive genius and held on. Nakamura took his typical risks to push in but in the end the game was just a draw. Shulman looked like he was slightly worse out of the opening but seemed to have moves that looked like they would equalize. He didn't play them and soon found himself the victim of a huge initiative. Even after all this drama it will still be a Onischuk vs Shulman in the rapid playoffs. In the women’s group it ended up being Zatonskih vs Goletiani. All of these should be exciting.

There were quite a few norms achieved this year. Friedel made his 2nd GM norm, Tuvshintugs made a WGM norm despite losing her last four games in a row which just shows how impressive her first five rounds were, and Goletiani made an IM norm. Congratulations to all of these players for their impressive results. Between this result and the result from Friedel's last GM norm he should be pushing the 2500 mark soon.

So my predictions were pretty terrible today with a spectacular 1/6. Oh well, I guarantee you I won't be able to miss this many tomorrow. So the playoffs I think actually will favor Shulman. His rapid ability was shown to be pretty good in the World Cup so my money is on him to take it. This is definitely the underdog, but I like to root for the underdog. As for the women's playoff I think Zatonskih will take this. Goletiani is the defending champion but Zatonskih I think is a significantly stronger player and really just got unlucky last year by having tougher last round pairings allowing Goletiani and Abrahamyan to pass her while she played a tough GM in the last round.

Chess Club and US Champs all rolled into one

So the reason why I'm posting so late is because I had a bit to drink, went to chess club, had some more to drink, hung out with some friends for a while and just got home. I think when people think of "going to Caltech to play chess" they think of far more scholarly events than this pretends to be. Anyways, US Chess Championship updates.

The top boards in both sections drew. Nakamura won a strange game against Gurevich. Ibragimov beat Friedel very technically and Christiansen beat Perelshteyn. What does this mean as a whole? This means that going into the final rounds it is very likely that Onischuk and Shulman will be their respective group winners, I have no idea who is a better rapid chess player and am quite disappointed that I should care.

I'm too tired to round up the results completely, just look at them at the site, I've linked there, sorry, big one time slip.

So yesterday I had my very typical 3/6 although I should've been able to do much better. Oh well, solid mediocrity is worth something I think. Anyways, here's my predictions for tomorrow, my guess is that about 1/2 of them will be correct.

Group A:

GM Onischuk - GM Nakamura 1-0
I know this may sound like an absurd prediction being that Onischuk only needs a draw, but I could see Nakamura pushing WAAAAAAY to hard in a game like this. I know Nakamura is a great fighter, but sometimes discretion is the greater part of valor.

GM Akobian - GM Ibragimov 1/2
This is actually quite an important game, Ibragimov could potentially beat Onischuk on tiebreaks if he loses, but I think that this will be a very tough game for either side to win. Both players are doing well and I believe this will just peter out.

GM Stripunsky - GM Goldin 1-0
Stripunsky is pretty clutch if you can remember his last round victory in last year's US Championship. I may have doubted him at the beginning, but I really think this guy is incredibly tough to face in a practical game. He may play offbeat stuff, but it's all sound, just the not the most critical lines.

Group B:

GM Fishbein - GM Shulman 1/2-1/2
Since Shulman has played everyone remotely close in score to him he is now playing a point and a half down against a player who doesn't need to win as badly as he needs to not lose. I don't see any reason Shulman won't be able to draw this, he's clearly in great form.

GM Kamsky - GM Shabalov 1/2-1/2
I think this will be a very tense battle, but I think as both of these players sense that Board 1 is not going to be decisive they'll just take the GMs favorite results and enjoy a few drinks at the bar.

GM Yermolinsky - GM Christiansen 1/2-1/2
Okay, maybe it's absurd to predict 4 draws in the 6 most important games of the tournament, but I did so live with it. I think these two experienced players will both be playing fine chess, there might even be a good fight, but chess is probably a draw so this game might be too. Yea, I know these are lazy explanations, but I'm REALLY tired.

Good luck to all norm possible players in the last round, I don't know who is in contention, but that might show up tomorrow on the website hopefully. Goodnight.

Friday, March 10, 2006


My house (not a fraternity, but similar) has a tradition of going to the center of campus and drinking champagne at the end of every term which I just came back from. Tradition is something I'd like to talk about. The tradition of the US Championship used to be two round robins of which the winners would play a match. The format more recently changed to a 64 player format and a giant swiss. For financial reasons this was probably a good decision, but this year's event has problems that I believe completely outweigh any financial benefits that could've come from forcing a rapid playoff. Let us look at one example: Let's say Zatonskih won her group and a man won the other group. Zatonskih would then play the playoff for the overall championship, but due to the format if she lost that match she would not even be the women’s champion when potentially the girl that scored fewer points than her in the same group could hold the title. The fact that this is possible shows that there is a flaw in the current system beyond the fact that the title will be determined in rapid chess.
I realize having a rapid chess playoff is exciting for the fans, but this is a ridiculous system. This is equivalent to having the basketball playoffs played out normally until the finals, but then instead of the finals having a slam dunk contest to decide the championship. I realize that a lot of people would find this very entertaining but I think as a whole this would be bad for the sport and I think as a whole this format is bad for chess in the US.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

US Championship Round 7: Results / Round 8: Preview

Today had a lot of exciting games and lots of decisive results. Only 8 draws in 32 total games. The group leaders both won their respective games and now Onischuk and Shulman lead their groups by a full point both playing the only player within 1 point of them in round 8. This means that both have an opportunity to clinch 1st with wins (although 2 draws will do it also). Both of these leaders played convincingly in their victories.
In board 2 of group A Southern California player Varuzhan Akobian managed to win a lost rook and pawn endgame, now that's technique! Friedel beat Dlugy in a nice game to make amends for his loss yesterday which now puts him back into that group tied for 3rd. Nakamura is trying to continue his comeback with a win this round over GM De Firmian in typical Nakamura fashion. He got a bad position from the opening but continued to move quickly and put a lot of pressure on De Firmian who fell apart in time trouble.
Probably craziest game of the round was Kamsky's win over Novikov. It was a Bg5 Najdorf that got into an endgame where Kamsky was trying to make good with his Q+N vs Q+B. On move 41 Novikov sacrficed his bishop for a dangerous passed pawn and then won another pawn which was captured on move 44 in the process leaving him with a queen plus three pawns versus Kamsky's queen, knight, and 1 pawn. Kamsky couldn't trade queens under any condition to win and really pressed hard trying to win something delightful to see from Kamsky this tournament. So Kamsky was finally successful in breaking through, but he was going to have a problem due to the 50 move rule, but on move 92 Kamsky finally broke through with a move that would allow a queen trade on the following move into a winning queen endgame. It came down to one of the last possible moves for him to win.


Group A: Onsichuk(6), Akobian (5), 7 others (4.5)
womens: Goletiani(3.5), Baginskaite, Ross, Zenyuk (3)

Group B: Shulman (6), Kamsky (5), Novikov, Christiansen, Perelshteyn, Fishbein, Yermolinsky (4.5)

Exciting results this round, I managed to predict 3/6 results correct this round, but the ones I got wrong all ended under very strange circumstances just to tease me. Anyways my predictions for this round are:

Group A:

GM Akobian - GM Onischuk 1/2-1/2
I think stylistically Akobian will have a tough time against Onischuk just because Onischuk is the stronger player and their play is pretty similar. I really think this game has the possibility for all 3 results due to how important a win is for Akobian.

GM Nakamura - GM Gurevich 1-0
Nakamura played very well in his last game and I'm sure has gotten a lot of his confidence back so I expect him to be in proper form to beat Gurevich. I have warned myself not to doubt Gurevich in earlier rounds, but I think this result is my best prediction. However, I think the chance of Nakamura winning Group A are essentially nil. Since Onischuk has been leading the whole time even .5/2 in the last 2 rounds will probably seal him first on tiebreaks assuming he doesn't lose to Akobian. Of course if Onischuk does lose to Akobian then for Nakamura to win on tiebreaks would probably require none of the other 4.5s to finish with 6.5 which is possible, but would probably require a lot of luck as there is at least one more possible. But Nakamura is NOT mathematically eliminated just damn close.

GM Ibragimov - IM Friedel 0-1
This prediction is not based on my feeling that Friedel is better than Ibragimov more that it seemed in the last round that Ibragimov is getting tired over the course of a long event. This was probably the reason for his failure to convert in the last round of last year's US Championship and this year there were far fewer rest days. Josh has been fighting hard, it wouldn't be completely inconceivable to see a draw here, but I think he'll have a good shot for the full point.

Group B:

GM Shulman - GM Kamsky 1/2-1/2
I DO expect Kamsky to be pushing for the full point, but I think if Shulman were going to collapse it would've been last round. Kamsky has only one win with black so far and I expect this trend to continue. Shulman has especially strong interest in drawing here as it will likely lock up the group on tiebreaks.

GM Fishbein - GM Novikov 0-1
I can't imagine Novikov is happy with his loss last round and otherwise seems to be in good form. I think he'll come out in round 8 with a taste for blood. Let's also not forget that while Fishbein has the same score he doesn't have a single win against a player with a plus score and only one draw in that group.

GM Christiansen - IM Perelshteyn 1/2-1/2
I heard that for the first time in a few years Christiansen actually analyzed before this event which explains his results so far, but Perelshteyn's only loss is to Ivanov so his preparation is also looking pretty good. I expect Christiansen to fight hard, but in the end a draw is what I expect.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Round 6 Results / Round 7 Predictions

Unfortunately due to having a presentation and a biology assignment due tomorrow much like last night there will be no games again although I might cover some of the exciting ones in a later update who knows. Anyways for this round there were quite a few surprising results. For one Onischuk won from what looked like an inferior position. Kudrin then liquidated to a rook endgame where he was up a pawn, but in serious trouble. Onischuk showed his technique to convert for the full point. That coupled with a draw by Gurevich puts him back in clear first. Schneider also beat Friedel to join the tie for second place. On lower boards Nakamura continued his winning ways over Goletiani trying to mount a comeback and Elizabeth Vicary scored an impressive win over Igor Schneider.
In group B there weren't too many surprises at the top other than Novikov beating Shabalov very nicely to land in clear second place having already played Shulman. Going down to lower boards Abrahamyan beat Muhammad to join Zatonskih for second place for the women in group B. Tuvshintugs lost to Kamsky but due to her previous huge lead still is in clear first in the womens race.


Group A:
1st: Onischuk (5)
2nd: Gurevich, Schneider (4.5)
4th-7th: Ibragimov, Akobian, Stripunsky, de Firmian (4)

Womens: Goletiani (3), Vicary (2.5)

Group B:
1st: Shulman (5)
2nd: Novikov (4.5)
3rd-4th: Kamsky, Christiansen

Womens: Tuvshintugs(3.5), Zatoniskih, Abrahamyan (3)

So there are some close races with just three rounds remaining.

So my predictions fell to 2/6 today, but that's about what's expected. My overall record is 16/36. For tomorrow:
Group A:

GM Onischuk - IM Schneider 1-0
I think Onischuk will be pressing pretty hard to win this game against a less-experienced opponent knowing that there are quite a few people in hot pursuit of him. Onischuk does have white so he will probably aiming for a position where he can play for a win with little risk. The last two times these two players met it was a draw which I think just gives Onischuk that much more reason to try to prove something with a win.

GM Gurevich - GM Akobian 1/2-1/2
Both of these players have been doing well, but I expect a solid game where neither will have particularly great chances to win.

GM Stripunsky - GM Ibragimov 0-1
This will probably be some kind of KIA French where I expect Ibragimov will get a good chance to show his class. Ibragimov's preparation actually looks pretty good and his only loss was just a blunder which I don't think has reflected his overall form.

Group B:
GM Shulman - GM Kaidanov 1-0
Shulman is playing down 1.5 points in terms of tournament score which indicates to me that especially with white he will be in very good shape to try to win and maintain his lead. This is especially important due to the format of the tournament where he may wish to be able to take a draw in the later rounds to conserve his energy for a potential playoff.

GM Kamsky - GM Novikov 1/2-1/2
Kamsky has been playing peacefully since the first round except in the game where he has been playing 400 points down so I don't see why that trend should stop here. It's not impossible that he start to try to find more winning chances, but even a draw here will almost guarantee a game against Shulman next round which is really the game he needs to win to have a shot.

GM Gulko - GM Christiansen 1/2-1/2
If there were days off every three days this is where it would land so I expect some players to take a day off anyways. I expect a draw right around 30 moves as Christiansen has looked very solid so far anyways.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

US Champ Round 5: Recap / Round 6 predictions

This round had some fun upsets worth mentioning. Tuvshintugs scalped Becerra as black for her 3rd GM scalp of the tournament. Notice her only loss of the tournament is to Shulman who is in clear first, seems to be a breakout tournament for her. If she nets a few more point she'll be in good shape for a WGM norm or better. Friedel continued his undefeated streak by drawing from a better position against Stripunsky, I might take a look at that game later. Bercy's lost to Kudrin in a tough game, he was completely winning at some point, but then lost the game in time trouble, I might also take a look at that game. Nakamura won again showing he will be able to put pressure on the leaders if they keep drawing (although even if he ties his tiebreaks will be terrible).

This round did not see too much change among the leaders. The key difference was that with Shulman's win as black he also gained another half point on the field in group B. So here are the standings in the two groups:
Group A:
1st: Onischuk, Gurevich (4.0/5)
3rd: Schneider, De Firmian, Friedel, Kudrin (3.5/5)

Womens: Goletiani (3) with her trailiers having only 2 points

Group B:
1st: Shulman (4.5/5)
2nd: Novikov, Christiansen, Shabalov, Tuvshintugs(w) (3.5)

Womens: Tuvshintugs (obviously) with Zatonskih at 3 and other women at 2 or less.

Now let’s move onto my predictions. I realize this is all a little bit silly, but it does force me to look at a couple of games by these players which can't be bad. Yesterday I scored 3/6 again which I consider to be reasonable success (as once again, there are THREE results). This brings my overall record to 14/30; I hope to improve upon this today.

Group A:

GM Kudrin - GM Onischuk 1/2-1/2
So Kudrin can go into the Ruy Lopez and he can also play the Gioco Piano, my bet is on the latter but I imagine it will be a close call. I expect his preparation to be good since he's been playing this line for a while, but at the same time this line tends to be a little drawish and I don't expect Onischuk to push too hard as black, but again I could be wrong.

GM Gurevich - GM De Firmian 1-0
Gurervich is playing quite well, I am no longer going to doubt his play. De Firmian is also playing well, but seems to be having a little more trouble than Gurevich. He was likely dead lost last round against Schneider as black in a very popular line which suggests his preparation is not as good as it should be.

IM Schneider - IM Friedel 0-1
It's a little weird that these two both have the same color they had in round 5, but it's probably because one or both of them was forced not to alternate in a previous round. I'm not sure what type of Ruy Lopez Josh will pick. These two have an even record (1-1) against eachother, but Josh had black both times and they were 2 different lines of the Ruy Lopez and the one Josh won was the archangel so I wouldn't be surprised to see him go back to that. Either way while both of these young players have had good results Josh seems to be in significantly better form so I give the edge to him.

Group B:

GM Christiansen - GM Shulman 1/2-1/2
This is an interesting situation. Christiansen has white so it would seem ready for him to win again, but Shulman seems playing well. Christiansen has also been playing the Tarrasch against the French lately which is exactly the line Shulman played against last round. I think Christiansen plays these fairly modern lines with Ngf3 so I don't know what to expect and when in doubt I'll pick draw. I'm sorry for the copout, but I don't know what else to do. This is also an important game for Shulman as Christiansen is the only player tied for 2nd he hasn't played, if he can keep a half or full point lead with no direct matchups left against his followers he'll be in a really good position.

GM Novikov - GM Shabalov 0-1
Shabalov is actually having a pretty good tournament. His game against Shulman was pretty wild and unclear which was the only game he lost. I predict he will keep up his good play and win.

WFM Tuvshintugs - GM Kamsky 0-1
Kamsky may have draws in his last 4 games, but he is playing 450 points down. I realize Tuvshintugs is obviously playing well and I would like to see her continue, I still think Kamsky will win this, even as black.

Pawn Endgames

Pawn endgames occur pretty rarely in practice (2.87% of all games according to Fundamental Chess Endings by Müller and Lamprecht), however they are very important to study for two different reasons:

1) They are good positions to study to help to work on calculation (as I've heard from my coach and various other sources).
2) You might need to calculate them while making decisions as to whether or not the pawn endgame is good or at least okay in other endgames such as rook endgames (which occur in occur in 8.5% of all games) or rook + minor piece endgames (which occur in 15% of games).

Studying endgames is something I don't think I've done properly up until now. I think my judgment of such endgames is normally pretty good, but I find I have to work very hard while playing minor piece and pawn endgames. This is important as my play in complicated endgames and "queenless middlegames" is pretty good and I often rely on these as escapes when I start to get into trouble. So to start with I'm going to be working through Secrets of Pawn Endgames also by Müller and Lamprecht to both improve my pawn endgames and also work on my calculation. So as an introduction I decided to include a complicated position from one of my more recent tournaments where in the last round I was playing a friend and we reached the following position. White having just played b2-b3:
From Rocklin - Gutman

Black to move:
I'll leave this up for a day or two. Clearly black is better, but can he win this and if so, how?

You get what you pay for???

So I was reading some articles at Silman chess, it has a good selection of articles. Then I noticed something on their page.
You can click on the image to see the full-size.
The question is if someone clicks on the ad does Silman chess still have to pay for it and do they still get paid for the click-through?

Round 4 Games

Some annotated games as I promised.
I annotated Abrahamyan - Liu and Goletiani - Kraai (just to prove draws can be exciting).

Monday, March 06, 2006

US Champ Rd 4: Recap / Rd 5 predictions

Today’s round produced some strange results. If I get some time later tonight I will be sure to annotate some interesting games, feel free to leave comments if you have any suggestions for games. Right now I'm thinking Abrahamyan - Liu (mostly because of final fortress) and maybe Goletiani - Kraai to see if there was a win at the end, plus probably at least one more. As for the results here's a strange stat: Out of the 16 games in group A, 12 were decisive and 4 were drawn and this was the section with a clear leader. In group B however, there were only 4 decisive games and 12 drawn, but really most games seemed to be hard fought so nothing to complain over.
Some important games were Goldin-Gurevich where Gurevich will now be tied only with Onishuk for first. He'll have black again next round against Onishuk in a game that will likely be very important for determining the group A winner. Friedel and Schneider joined the group close behind in 3rd with their wins rounding out that pack with De Firmian.

In group B one of the few decisive results was also one of the most important ones. Shulman beat Shabalov on board 1 continuing to show the good form we saw at the World Cup. He has a very creative style with a classical base that is often a lot of fun to watch. He has black against Ivanov tomorrow so I won't be expecting another win out of him.

So first I'd like to point out that while I did score 3/6 again yesterday, this is not so bad considering there are 3 possible results in a game. This brings my overall record to 8/18, but hopefully I'll do better today. So here are my predictions:

Group A:

GM Onischuk - GM Gurevich 1-0

This is a rematch of these two players from last year's US Championship round 9 where Onischuk won convincingly. I don't see a repeat of Gurevich's 25 move loss from last year as looking at the game it looks like it was due to bad opening preparation. This is the type of mistake I doubt he'll let happen twice. However it seems Gurevich has been playing the Benko lately along with his usual weird Benoni's which a player like Onischuk might just make look like a matter of technique.

IM Schneider - GM De Firmian 0-1

Looking over some games I find myself fairly unimpressed with Schneider's preparation against the Najdorf whereas De Firmian is a known specialist in that line. It's possible Schneider will cook up something to get a nice advantage, but I have a feeling it won't be good enough especially if he plays the English attack.

GM Stripunsky - IM Friedel 1/2-1/2
Stripunsky played 1. c4 (he almost always plays 1. e4) against Friedel last time they played and it seemed to be specific preparation so I wouldn't be too surprised to even see an English opening again. Stripunsky seems to enjoy his delayed exchange variation, but I don't see him tricking Josh up. Good luck Josh, feel free to mess up my prediction with a win.

Group B:

GM Ivanov, A - GM Shulman 1/2 - 1/2
While in general I am amazed by Ivanov's preparation I am not particularly impressed with his preparation against the French and I think Shulman will get a good game, however as Ivanov plays a solid line I don't think Shulman should be able to win too easily either. This should be an important game for contention, a loss for Shulman would be bad but not disastrous so he might try to play for a win.

GM Novikov - GM Christiansen 1/2-1/2 [Yes, I realize I changed this, but if you read the comment this is obviously what I meant]
I think Christiansen has been pretty solid as black so far so I wouldn't be surprised to see him hold another one and get ready to give us another explosive game as white. I think Christiansen might get into a little bit of trouble, but he has shown his class by defending quite a few tough positions so far so I expect this to continue.

GM Yermolinsky - GM Kamsky 1/2 - 1/2
This has been feeling like a very reliable prediction for Kamsky so I don't see any reason to switch. The Yerminator will "be back" to win games in later rounds. Between the top 2 seeds of the tournament combine for a 50% score which is rather unimpressive.

Round 3 Games

I've added some notes to some of the round 3 games, they're kind of quick, but I think there is a particularly interesting idea in the De Firmian - Ibragimov for a very complicated, but probably still losing line to try to fight before he just hung mate at the end. I've annotated De Firmian - Ibragimov, Liu - Krivensev, and Tuvshingtugs - Kreiman which you can find here.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

US Championship Round 4: Preview

There are still quite a few round 3 games I'd like to get a chance to post, but with this being the last week of classes and finals being the week after I don't know how much time I'll have. I'll definitely mention some key games after each round in each section as I'll be following performances of players I know personally plus performances of players at the top of each section. Right now Onischuk is in clear first for Group A for the men and Baginskaite and Goletiani are tied after that. If Nakamura figures out what's wrong and starts winning some games Baginskaite should have good tiebreaks for her win today. In Group B we have a different story. There is a 5-way tie for first place with 2.5 between Shulman, Shabalov, Ivanov, Novikov, and Christiansen. There are a lot of young players on the heels of the leaders in both sections which might prove important with rounds 3-9 being played with no rest days.
So my score for yesterday was 2-4, I guess for once I picked too many draws wrong. Anyways here's my predictions for the top 3 boards in each section today:

Group A:

GM De Firmian - GM Onischuk 1/2-1/2
I think with a solid position as black Onischuk will have trouble winning. Honestly he was very resourceful to win today, but I think objectively the position should have been a draw before the piece sacrifice. I think if he can neutralize De Firmian and get a little bit of rest out of round 4 he would be quite happy. That being said, he is younger than De Firmian by quite a bit so I think he might have energy to push for a win if the opportunity arises.

GM Goldin - GM Gurevich 1-0
Gurevich plays too many openings I just don't trust. I think against a strong GM like Goldin handling the white pieces he will likely be in trouble. Plus, Goldin needs to win to stay within range of the leaders to have a chance later.

IM Friedel - IM Finegold 1-0
Okay, this might not be completely objective, but I get a feeling from Finegold's game that his form isn't perfect while I've felt like Friedel has actually had winning positions in all 3 of his games (I'm pretty sure that sacrifice wasn't completely sound today). I think with Friedel's good form and Finegold's relatively poor form this should be a good shot for Josh to win. So if I'm right about the move order it won't matter and they'll get a classical sicilian sozin variation (I think that's what it's called) which is actually a repeat from their matchup last year. Finegold actually has a really good record on the black side of this line so I wish Josh the best of luck putting a spot on it.

Group B:

GM Shulman - GM Shabalov 0-1
I think stylistically Shulman might be in trouble here so I expect Shabalov to win although I can't figure out what is tell me this. Call it ESP, I have no clue.

GM Ivanov - GM Novikov 1-0
Ivanov is a beast with white and he seems to have let Novikov off the hook in their last 2 encounters (one dating back to 1993), but I expect a fight in a very important game and Ivanov is just a monster against the Najdorf with his g3 line that has actually seen some popularity lately. I'm going to give the point to the man my friend called "the hardest worker at the board.. he's always checking theory on the board".

GM Kamsky - GM Christiansen 1/2-1/2
Seems like Kamsky is getting better winning chances with black than with white and it seems that Christiansen's preparation is good so I see no reason Kamsky should win, especially after he's let me down already twice.

Other games:
Abrahamyan, Tatev - Liu, Elliot 1/2-1/2
Both of these two are young Southern California players who probably have played eachother a few times. I'm not saying they're going to agree to a draw, but I don't think there will be that extra effort to beat a relatively familiar face.

Nakamura - Epstein 1-0
I'm just pulling for Nakamura to finally get some points on the board although we could see even more experimental openings this round, but that might not change anything.

US Championship Rd 3: Oh No! The King is Dead

Sometimes I report about things that are not news, however, the loss by Nakamura to bring his overall record to .5-2.5 is definitely news. I think this pretty much eliminates him from any reasonable shot at contention and I think a section winner will have AT LEAST 6.5 and his tiebreak will be horrible if he ties for this score. Congratulations to Baginskaite for her nice upset as for other significant games/results:
Benjamin - Friedel is a complicated endgame with Benjamin having sacrificed a piece for 3 pawns, hard to assess, black probably isn't losing, but hard to say. At the top Becerra drew Kamsky after Kamsky didn't play my recommended 2... e6 Sicilian and instead went for a Ruy Lopez in which Becerra played the same double edge line as in Benjamin - Friedel, but it eventually petered out to a draw. I was completely wrong in the Ibragimov game where De Firmian beat Ibragimov quite nicely, there were actually some complications I was looking at even in the end until Ibragimov just blundered mate with 37.. Qd6, but instead 37. Qc8 is a mess, it might look like just a clear loss for black, but that a-pawn is actually quite dangerous and I'm still not sure about the evaluations. I kept looking at lines with fritz and getting to a position with a +4 evaluation only to see it instantly change to -8, quite wild.

Quite a few other decisive games, especially on the bottom boards, but as we move further up the draws were much more prevalent. Don't accuse players of being too peaceful please it is just very hard to win at this level and sometimes a draw is the best you can do. Maybe the hometown hero Elliot Liu will get a crack at Nakamura next round after losing what looked like a good position against IM Stan Kriventsov. [Update: I am "cracked out" according to my friend Mike, it's quite clear Nakamura and Liu cannot play as they're in different groups. My bad.] Either way there were definitely a lot of fights this round even if not all of them ended in decisive games. Even the Gurevich - Dlugy game the commentators were accusing of being an early draw attempt ended with Gurevich getting his first win over a now more "experienced" Dlugy who is probably a little out of form but still good to see.

US Championship Round 3: Blood Bath

Well round 3 is now well under way with some early results already in. There are definitely some games worth checking out. Larry Christiansen prepared a known sacrifice against Wojtkiewicz with some improvement and blew him apart in 23 moves a nice victory for him. Kreiman lost to a very strong effort from Tuvshintugs who will be among the women leaders if not the woman leader at the end of this round. Vigorito has the following position against Federowicz:

It's quite double-edged, looks like black's queenside is going to collapse, but the number one question in these king's indian positions is "will white get mated?" Good luck Dave.

On other boards it looks like Milman neutralized fairly easily against Shabalov, Shabalov might have some minor lasting edge, but it looks like black should have sufficient resources to draw. One of the games that most surprised me was Benjamin - Friedel when Friedel did not play his pet Archangel and instead went for the modern main lines which Bejamin then deviated from with the rather topical 9. d4 instead of playing the more "normal" 9. h3. The position now on board is somewhat of a mess typical of this variation. Good luck Josh, if you win I don't mind blowing my prediction. Other top board news De Firmian Ibragimov seems to go somewhat like what I predicted. The position on the board is somewhat typical of the French line De Firmian plays; I'm kind of interested in this line as I'm a French player myself.

Nakamura apparantly not happy playing his g-pawn up in strange positions in his first two game decided to pull a 180 and go for his b-pawn this game after 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c5 4. cd cd 5. Qa4 b5!?. Nakamura's having a tough tournament so I won't be too hard on him for playing this speculative gambit, he is playing down, but I really think it's strange that he doesn't believe he can outplay an opponent this much weaker than him playing more solidly. I guess solid chess doesn't win as many fans, but I don't have an particular admiration for unsound play, but I'm not entirely against it either, but I'm not sure if this is preparation or just trying to have some fun with unsound stuff. It seems he's trying to play sidelines to avoid preparation, but players at his level should welcome main lines and maybe deviate at move 14, not move 4. Anyways, that's my feeling on the issue, maybe I'm wrong, but I feel that Nakamura's play is on a very high level, I don't think that much of his talent comes from innovation; in fact, I believe this has cost him quite a few points recently. I hope you enjoy what's been coming up so far.

US Championship Round 3 Preview

First of all, I'd like to point out that the US Championship blog entitled "Champ Blog" is now online, you can check that out here. It's really a lot of fun, I don't know if it'll be the same this year with people e-mailing in the comments, but the pictures and commentary tend to be very entertaining. On to other news, we're entering round 3 starting tomorrow with 4 perfect scores left in the tournament only 2 of which can possibly survive this round. Once again I'll be predicting the top 3 boards in each section while throwing my view in for a few other games.

Score so far: (3-3) although I was off by half a point in all my incorrect games.
My predictions:

Group A:

GM Onischuk - IM Gonzalez 1-0
My friend mentioned to me he thinks Onischuk is going to win the tournament, personally I think nobody has more than a 20% chance at this point. Looking at some games looks like this will be a Slav, not exactly clear to me what kind of position will arise. Last time they played it was a slightly off line in the Slav that I have played before after 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 dc which I actually believe is quite good for black but pretty tricky to play in practice. In their last encounter Onischuk won quickly, but I wouldn't expect him to repeat this line so eagerly as it looks like he could have had a bad position after 10 moves or so. Either way, I expect a top glass GM like Onischuk to come out on top with white.

GM De Firmian - GM Ibragimov 1/2 - 1/2
De Firmian plays a solid and rather ambitious line against the French with 7. Nf3, I don't expect Ibragimov to take any exceptional risk to play for a win, but in their last encounter it seemed he equalized quite easily so I won't be surprised if Ildar finds a way to win, I will be more surprised if somehow he finds a way to lose though.

IM Finegold - IM Schneider 0-1
While I'm not one to give too much weight to past games, Finegold is 0-2 against Schneider in two games with white. He seemed to have real trouble against the noteboom in their last encounter. Actually for this reason I wouldn't be too surprised if Finegold whipped out 1. e4, he has done it a few times although I don't know when he chooses it and it's pretty rare.

Group B:

GM Novikov - GM Shulman 1/2-1/2
In the games I've found between these two Shulman is 2.5-1.5, but three of these games have been as white and I don't think Novikov will be out for blood this round. I expect a draw right around move 30 when they're finally allowed to.

GM Becerra - GM Kamsky 0-1
I realize Kamsky has been rather peaceful in last year's US Championship and this one's so far. But I don't expect him to be too solid. I'm betting Kamsky will whip out a 2.. e6 Sicilian and receive a pretty double edged game. If he plays 1.. e5 he could get in trouble as he doesn't have the best record with that lately anyways.

GM Shabalov - FM Milman 1/2-1/2
Don't let his title confuse you, Milman has all the requirements for the IM title except having sent in his application, even has a GM norm under his belt. This guy is a beast and he has no fears facing anybody. Shabalov hasn't seemed to be in particularly good form lately whereas Milman just seems to get better and better. Expect a draw but possibilities for all 3 results.

Other predictions:
GM Benjamin - IM Friedel 1/2-1/2
Anybody paying attention here knows I'm a big fan of Josh's play, but I'm trying to be objective here. Even last round I predicted a win and there were certainly good opportunities for that. This round it will likely be an Archangel variation of the Ruy Lopez where Josh is somewhat of a specialist, but in recent games Benjamin has been avoiding the sharper lines. I expect a draw, but will be rooting for Friedel to win.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Double-edged fun / US Championship Games

So chess club was legendary last night. We went from 8pm to almost 2am and continued throughout the night to get quite drunk which is why I don't feel so well today, but drinking is always a doubled edged activity. I wanted to use this experience as a prelude into my thoughts on one of the games I predicted for this last round Kreiman - Novikov. I had definitely seen Kreiman play the pin variation of the Sicilian before (1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cd 4. Nd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Bb4) so I knew he was willing to play lines with weaker reputations for attacking chances. Actually, I was surprised he played Bg5 against the Najdorf, I intuitively took him for a player that would play Sozin-Fischer lines, but these still have the same kind of problems which is they require you to play incredibly accurate or you can easily be worse as white. So anyways, I thought I'd include the game here. I've also included some brief notes to Friedel - De Firmian.

The games are here.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Chess Club Time!

Now that the US Championship is done for the day, you should go to the #1 chess event going on in Southern California, also know as the Caltech Chess Club. If you're in the Pasadena area, feel free to stop by, there's no membership fee and always players of all levels to play with. Alright, that's my plug for the week anyways, I'm gonna grab a few beers and head down there.

US Ch Round 2 Mid-way results

Well, things have definitely changes on a few of those boards. Nakamura already drew with Kleiman, I believe their friends, but this was still a big result for Kleiman.

Elliot Liu is still undefeated through 2 rounds with another draw this round against Kaidanov. Two draws against 2 strong GMs, not bad Elliot, congrats. Friedel - De Firmian is also looking like it will be a draw, but Friedel is on the worse side of it now.

As a whole there have been a lot of draws this round and some early collapses. Kreiman collapsed exactly in the fashion I predicted as white. Played a sharp line in the Bg5 sicilian, it looked like Novikov might repeat moves and take a draw, but then he decided to play on and won quickly. Kamsky-Perelshteyn was a draw with Kamsky not playing too ambitiously as white. Muhammad drew again this round with black against Gulko, GMs not looking so unstoppable this tournament. Gonzalez actually beat Stripunsky despite my predictions of a draw so it looks like none of the top boards are getting easy matches which if this continues should prove for a very exciting championship.

US Championship Round 2: Mid-round Update

There are definitely some interesting games early in round 2 and also some games that look like they're going to be draws as soon as that's allowed. First let's look at the following position from Friedel - De Firmian
White to move:
Seems Josh has a solid advantage here, his position is quite natural, hopefully my prediction will hold true there. I was right about the opening too, although that's not really fair since De Firmian basically ONLY plays the Najdorf and Friedel ONLY plays 6. f4 against it, but someone could have prepared something new. I'm going to say this game is somewhere between += and +/-, but not +- yet. (see bottom for explanation of annotations)

The next game that caught my eye was Schneider - Benjamin where it looks like GM Joel Benjamin is already near winning in this position
White to move:
Looks like after Qd2 or Qe3 there is Nc4 and black will either take on g3 with check winning a pawn or take on b2 also winning a pawn. Kind of a weird game with black rushing up his h-pawn not worrying too much about his king in the center and just trying to activate his pieces with minimal development.

This might not be Nakamura's tournament, he already has the following position as black against Jake Kleiman:

Black to move:This position cannot be good for black. Don't worry about the doubled a-pawn, they're actually a common idea in this structure, they can be used to pry open some lines on the queenside, but white has much better central control and his pieces are clearly better. If the defending US Champion starts 0-2 it would be rather embarrassing for him, but this position while probably winning for white is not yet a forced win and Nakamura is a tough fighter, don't be surprised to see him turn things around. Either way, I'm always happy to see big upsets, they're inspiring for improving players like myself.

Annotations you might see me make and their meaning:
+- white is winning
+/- white is clearly better
+= white is slightly better
= the position is equal
=+ black is slightly better
-/+ black is clearly better
-+ black is winning
! strong move
!! amazing move
!? interesting move
?! dubious move
? bad move, clear mistake
?? blunder, huge mistake

US Championship Round 2

Starting with round 2 we won't see quite as many 200 point disparities. This round we'll be seeing closer pairings on the top boards, but a few wider pairings on the bottom of the tables, especially in Kleiman - Nakamura. So I'll be trying to predict the results of the top 3 boards in each section.

Section 1:

GM Ibragimov, I - GM Gurevich, D prediction: 1-0
I think Ibragimov is very tough with the white pieces, very solid, can play for += positions and really grind his opponents down. Also remember Ibragimov almost beat Nakamura in the final round of last year's US Championship and he's probably come back this year with better nerves.

GM Serper, G - GM Onichuk, A prediciton: 0-1
I realize that for the second game I'm also going with the favorite, but I really think Onichuk's preparation is something to be admired and he is an expert in almost every line he plays, it's quite likely Serper will just be outclassed.

IM Gonzales, R - GM Stripunsky, A prediction: 1/2 - 1/2
Gonzales plays a lot of off-beat systems as white. Not as off beat as 1. e4 e5 2. Qh5, but he plays the Vienna game and King's Indian attack systems which can be a little dry. Stripunsky is a really tricky player, but I've seen him have pretty inconsistant results. I believe his amazing result at last year's championship was somewhat of a fluke as we haven't seen these results from him eslewhere.

Section 2:

GM Kamsky, G - IM Perelshtein, E prediction: 1-0
This prediction is really a lot tougher than it might seem. I don't know how well prepared Kamsky is right now, even at the World Cup his openings felt like they lacked something and Perelshtein always seems to have good preparation. However, Kamsky is still a top player and is probably out for blood this year, my bets on him.

GM Wojtkiewicz, A - GM Shabalov, A prediction: 1/2-1/2
Shabalov likes to keep things very sharp, but Wojkiewicz can be quite tough to play for such a sharp player. My bet is the white pieces will give Wojo good chances to draw.

GM Kreiman, B - Novikov, I prediction: 0-1
Seems like Kreiman's hyper-agressive style won't work well on an experienced player like Novikov. I expect Novikov to calmly defend some early initiative and just be left with a better position to show his technique in.

Other predictions (won't count towards my overall record):
IM Friedel, J - GM De Firmian, N prediction: 1-0
This is not just because I am a big fan of Friedel's play, I actually have logic to back it up (although my logic was not what won him the Nakamura game). So in all likelihood it will be a Najdorf with 6. f4 which Josh has very good results in and De Firmian rather mixed. De Firmian even played this system quite a few times as white and the type of dynamic positions it yields I think give Friedel very good chances to win.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

US Championship Round 1 Wrap-Up

So round 1 is basically over, just IM Feingold pushing on a dead-draw against a strong junior player FM Bercys. Apparantly he's trying to get the Bent Larsen prize for fighting chess by pushing for a win past the point Bent Larsen would have. As for the games I saw Friedel on ICC and congratulated him on his victory which was predicted yesterday on this blog. There were a few upsets that didn't make it into my last post and I wanted to include those as well:
Zatonskih - Gulko 1/2-1/2 (although the final position is a win, so probably a relay error)
Ginsburg - Christiansen 1/2-1/2
Tuvshintugs - Fishbein 1-0 (probably 2nd biggest upset after Friedel over Nakamura)
Yermolinsky - Liu 1/2-1/2 (Liu put up a very stubborn defense)
Airapetian - Federowicz 1/2-1/2
[UPDATED: Feingold - Bercys 1/2-1/2 official]

Likely Feingold - Bercys will also be a draw, but this could play out for a while longer especially with that pawn on the board to reset 50 move rule. Hopefull this doesn't come down to a loss due to time trouble, that would really be a shame.

All in all there were 12 upsets out of 32 games which is quite an impressive number, shows there will be a lot of tough games this championship if already in the first round the results are this volitile. There might be an update later with some annotated games so stay tuned.

US Champs Rd 1: Early Results/Impressions (Updated)

There have already been a few games finished, most games are approaching time control so there should be a few more games done in the next 40 minutes or so.
Early "upsets":
Kaidanov - Kriventsov 1/2-1/2
Airapetian - Fedorowicz 1/2-1/2

Update: Some more upsets:
Lenderman - Goldin 1/2-1/2
Tate - Akobian 1-0
Muhammad - Ivanov 1/2-1/2
Schneider - Kudrin 1/2-1/2 (Not the full point I predicted, but still very nice)

Looks like Friedel worked his way through a minefield and now has 2 rooks for a queen and shouldn't do worse than draw here I don't know if he can live up to my prediction and win though. As for my other predictions looks like Sarkar might just be down a pawn, still a little unclear and I could be missing something, but my intuition tells me this isn't going well for him. Schneider - Kudrin is still to close to tell, it's not a particularly sharp position, but it could quickly become one. I probably won't make another update until the end of the round or early tomorrow. Hope you're enjoying these updates, should be some exciting games to analyze later.

[Also now definitely looking like a win for Friedel in the following position]

Black to move:

US Championships Round 1

Round 1 is about 90 minutes underway right now and I'm enjoying the coverage on ICC.
In Nakamura-Friedel, Nakamura surprised me with 1. Nf3, but Friedel avoided 1... Nc6 that has brought him good results lately. Now we have this messy position on the board:
A real mess, looks like the critical line is 16.. Be6 17. Rg7+ Qg7 18. Bg7 Kg7 and now either 19. Qd3 or Qb2+ preparing to castle queenside with a nasty looking attack. Friedel will be up material so this position is officially a mess, seems like both of these players would prefer whites position even if he's in trouble.

In the game Becerra-Vigorito Vigorito surprised me... on move 2! I knew he had been playing 1.. e5 on and off lately, but what I had never seen from him was 2.. Nf6 going into the Petroff defense. They entered some pretty old theory. Now we have this position:
which has been played in at least 4 games I've found. I think Nh3+ is pretty much forced here then there's some idea of Rae8, I don't know what Dave has up his sleeves, but could be looking good for him, still very complicated though. Anyways, I'll try to keep you posted with a later update.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

US Championships

For those of you who don't know, the US Championships are starting tomorrow. They are taking place in San Diego so I might even go down and visit for a day or two. There are quite a few players I am friendly with playing so it would be cool to see them in action in such a strong event. The tournament it has a strange format this year: the 64 player field is split up into two 32 player fields and after 9 rounds the winners of the two sections on tie-breaks will play each other in a two-game rapid playoff to determine the US Champion. Personally I think this format is horrible since it requires that the champion be decided on rapid games, but the organizers want a rapid finish since the games tend to be pretty exciting because rapid chess is pretty random.

The first round has some of the largest disparities of the tournament so not too many upsets are expected. There will of course be a few draw upsets where the lower rated player draws a higher rated player, but even this will be rare. Here are my predictions for full-point upsets:

So this is probably one of my weaker predictions. But I have a feeling Nakamura will get saucy and play the very dubious 1. e4 e5 2. Qh5?! when playing down against this tough theoretically well prepared player and I can't imagine Friedel knowing this pairing for over a week isn't prepared to outright refute it if Nakamura does venture. However, I also wouldn't be surprised if Nakamura avoided this discussion altogether and just played the normal 2. Nf3 or even started with 1. d4, who knows.

Sarkar - Schulman
Personally I like Schulman's play and he's coming off a very good result from the World Cup, but sometimes his preparation is for some rather passive lines and I think Sarkar is going to be looking to prove something in the first round with his determined stare down.

Schneider - Kudrin
Schneider is a young improving player with white in the first round. Honestly hard for me to give a good reason for this or my previous predictions, but I felt like predicting some good upsets.

US Amatuer Team West

I might as well start of by discussing my most recent tournament result here. I played on fourth board for my college team at US Amateur Team West. My freshman and sophomore year my school won titles at this even. Last year I had a chance to join the team due to the graduation of a good friend of mine. We were 4.5/5 and in clear first going into the last round and lost a tough match in the last round to a USC team led by IM Jack Peters to finish in a respectable, but still disappointing 3rd place.

This year we were back at amateurs with the exact same members as last year. Board 2 and I had both gained some rating points so we were barely below the maximum allowed average team rating. Our team average rating was 2197 with a maximum allowed rating of 2199.75. This year we played quite well and I was much happier with my performance this year (5.5/6) than I was with my performance last year (3/6). This year again our team was in clear first going into the last round, this time with a score of 5/5 with the next closest team at 4/5 due to some team draws in the previous round. It looked like as long as we didn't get demolished in the last round we would have good enough tie-breaks to win, but we didn't want to win this way, we wanted to get clear first, which meant a team draw or win would be good enough.

The last round started pretty well against a team named "Good Knight and Good Rook". Glancing at the boards it looked to me as if we had slightly better positions on boards 2 and 4 and were probably already equal on boards 1 and 2. My game was a real tactical mess where my opponent sacrificed what ended up being 2 rooks for a dangerous looking attack. I calmly defended, but missed two key opportunities to seal the win and instead allowed a perpetual check to draw. Based on my opponents rating this was still a fine result, but already by this point it was looking a little dangerous on boards 1 and 2, but it looked like our board was already playing for 2 results (draw and win) in a slightly better endgame. After a long struggle, our board 3 blundered and turned a probably won position into a lost position and soon resigned. We were down 1.5-.5 with 2 boards left that looked like we would be in trouble. Then the fates smiled upon us when board 2 for the opposing team blundered horribly in a winning position. Then we got to slowly watch as our board 1 tried to hold what looked like it might be a losing knight endgame. After hours of watching him play, his opponent finally had to concede the draw which left the match as a team draw good enough to seal clear first. It was over, Caltech has won its 3rd Amateur Team West title in four years, hopefully in a few weeks we'll be able to follow in similar fashion to those titles and win the amateur team playoffs.

P.S. I will be posting my rating change after each tournament I play in to track my progress. I might also make periodic posts when new rating lists come out because of the re-rates.

Rating Change: 2093 -> 2111


So I just got through initially setting up this blog. Right now my USCF rating is 2111, my goal is to make master and keep improving. I hope to document my quest here along with my thoughts on the chess world and some reports from recent events. Currently I'm a senior in college so while I am busy with my studies, I still make plenty of time for chess, I figured I'd publish some of my ideas out there and my thoughts on the state of chess. If you have something you'd like to see here, let me know, maybe I can do it. As for reaching my goal, I plan to go in to some detail of how I actually study and train for tournaments. I plan on putting up a little biography of my chess experience so far here sometime soon so if nothing else, you can look forward to that.