Monday, January 28, 2013

Good Point On Opening Choices

GM Gregory Serper makes a strong case for 1. e4 as the best opening choice for young chess players. I usually like to let my students pick many of their own openings, but I tend to agree with Serper.

You can find his article here:

Personally, I played exclusively e4 until I was rated over 1800.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Opening Trap?

I renewed my expired Internet Chess Club subscription and played a few games today. In one game, I defeated a Grandmaster and former camp coach of mine by using an opening trap to win a pawn, a significant edge in the ensuing blitz craziness. On further reflection however, this "trap" doesn't necessarily lead to an advantage for white against proper defense. It seems that my sacrifice was a bluff and my esteemed opponent would have been OK if had just taken my bishop.

Before clicking through the game, see if you can calculate some of the key lines in the position below.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chess In NYC

I took a fun weekend vacation to New York last weekend and of course fit in a bit of chess along the way. My main chess goal of the trip was to stop by the Marshall Chess Club, which is probably the most prestigious chess club in the country and a former hang-out of a young Bobby Fischer. If any chess fan is visiting New York, I encourage them to stop by just to see the sites. They also seem to always have a tournament going on, although I didn't have time to participate. The highlight was probably that I was able to impress my travel companions by chatting with the star of the documentary "Brooklyn Castle." It was cool to meet Elizabeth Spiegel in person for the first time because she is perhaps the most accomplished chess coach in the country at the moment and had provided me with some career advice that led to me ending up in my current job.

The next day I played my only game of the weekend, a blitz game with someone in Union Square Park. There wasn't any money riding on the game, but it was still nice to win with a sacrificial tactic in the opening. As usual for a blitz game, the game the tactics were interesting, but sloppily played. The opening was imprecise by both sides and my sacrifice would have been more forcing one move earlier. Here's the part of the game I remember. The rest was just cleaning up with my extra piece.

Here's a picture from the start of that game. My face is barely visible behind my hat. This was also the first time in quite a while that I've used an analogue clock. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Hou's On First

OK, She's not in first place, but Hou Yifan, the 17 year old former Women's World Champion scored her first win of the ongoing Tata Steel tournament today. She pulled out an exchange up endgame with good technique. I thought her final few moves were particularly instructive. Can you find the winning plan for black in the diagram position? The game is available here:

This hasn't been the only good game of the event. My particular favorites are World Champion Anand's quick, sacrificial win against a 2800 player ( and Harikrishna's mating attack in a theoretical Sicilian ( And of course, this being a modern day chess tournament, Magnus Carlsen is leading ahead of all of these players.

I'm heading to New York for the long weekend. Not sure if I'll get a chance, but I'm hoping to stop by the Marshall Chess Club, perhaps the most famous chess clubs in the Country.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Inspired by the Classics Part II

One of the perks of chess teaching is that I get to familiarize myself with a lot of classic chess games and tactics. One of my favorite of these games is a Fischer brilliancy, most well known for the following position. I suggest trying to figure out what white should play here before clicking through to find the answer.

Did you play Fischer's move?

Black can't play 19... Bxf6 because of 20. e5, leading to a forced mate on h7.

Today, in one of my own games, I had a simpler version of Fischer's mating tactic. My International Master opponent's bishop was already on f6, which is what gave me the idea for the nice finish.

What would you play in the position below?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Pattern Recognition

I think that the ability to recognize known patterns in new positions is one of the most important skills in playing good chess. My talented first grade student showed me yesterday that she has this ability, even if she may have applied it in an inappropriate way. What would you play in the position below? Can you guess what she played?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Classic Finish

The following position came at the end of one of my typically messy blitz games. White's winning tactic is a good one to familiarize yourself with.

One of the most famous games to feature this tactic was played by a young Botvinik, many years before he became world champion. He won, but could have done so more easily. If white had played Bf1, black's attack would not have succeeded. However, black could have improved earlier and won with the same tactic as in the game.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Cool Video on the Pan Ams

Everyone is encouraged to check out the story on the recent Pan American College Team Championships. Their story comes with a video featuring some of my old team-members and opponents from Chicago.

I played this even three times. It would have been four, but I got snowed in one year and I couldn't make it.

One of the big stories of the event was the University of Illinois hanging with the top scholarship schools in the country and tying for first with 5/6. You can see some of their games at the always interesting Chicago Chess Blog (

PS: Happy New Year