Monday, June 4, 2012

Spassky Photo

I finally got around to framing my Spassky photos and autograph from the 2005 Western Open. I have been meaning to find a frame for some time and I envisioned three openings with the Fischer/Spassky photo on top, the autographed place card in the middle and the photo of Boris and I on the bottom. I found a four opening frame and therefore decided to put in both pictures from the event.

On the office wall
I'm pleased with the result. The Walmart frame was $5 and the prints were $.88. While the pre-formatted matting wasn't perfect (couldn't avoid catching some of the black outline around the place card) it certainly is more then sufficient for a quick and cheap DIY project. Considering I had put it off for over 6 years, it was about time to get 'er done.

The event was in October of 2005.
The bottom photo is the one I prefer, showing the two books that GM Spassky autographed for me at the event: "Spassky's 100 Best Games" and "Bobby Fischer Goes to War." Here's a closer look.

Me with the 10th World Chess Champion!
The Fischer-Spassky match in '72 marked the start of my interest in chess and has provided me with a very pleasant lifelong hobby. I really enjoyed the chance to meet GM Boris Spassky at the Reno event. The Q&A session was very nice and the autograph session was smoothly run.  Hopefully this momento will provide moments of happiness for years to come.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Village Elementary Simul

Starting Lecture

I was invited to perform a simul against 24 members of the Georgetown Village Elementary school chess club on April 30th. The club started just a few months ago and most of the players were new to chess. I started with a short talk describing how to enter your first USCF rated tournament and some upcoming scholastic events in the Austin area. The chess club members were eager to play and I believe everyone enjoyed the event. It took just about three hours to finish the simul with the final two boards lasting around 70 moves.

Always assume the person in the hat is a ringer!
Except for one player who had to leave early, almost all of the games ended in checkmate.

There was a variety of skill levels and several games were interesting and close. I blundered a couple of times but was only down material unintentionally in one game but lucky for me my opponent allowed a bishop fork of his rook and king leaving me up a piece instead of down the exchange.

Last Players Standing
 The chess club presented me an wonderful photo of the club members as a thank you gift. I truly enjoyed the opportunity to visit the club and would look forward to any future events.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I'm Back, But Not Better Than Ever

It's been a long tough slog since my last post. I think I got to the point of a little burn-out regarding chess. I let several months of Chess Life issues stack up and didn't seem to do much more then show up at the club events often with dull dread.

The last six weeks have been a revival period however. I managed to catch up on about seven issues of Chess Life bringing me current on the March issue. I finished "Chess Secrets: The Giants of Chess Strategy" and feel the chess energy flowing back. I highly recommend this book to anyone under 2000. I feel like I was able to incorporate several of the themes discussed in a few of my recent wins. My rating has slumped from 1861 down to 1772 during the last six months but I feel better about my play going forward. I've had about 4 especially costly (i.e upset) losses during that time. A couple due to time or time pressure, a couple due to tactical mistakes. Although most recently I won one that I shouldn't have but we tend to remember the ones that got away.

I have great plans of chess activity for the coming spring and summer. I would like to try to play in slower time control events and plan to attend the US Senior Open in Houston in July. If possible using the Austin Chess Club Summer Open as a warm up for the Senior. I would also like to play more often in our local events but life often gets in the way. Hopefully the stars will align in my favor regarding availability for these events.

Still debating on the large events such as the Chicago Open, National Open or US Open. Unless I hit the lotto, that much time off isn't likely. As always, may you play well!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Illinois Class

I managed to finish "Win with the London System" over the 4th of July weekend and made it about a third of the way into "Play the London System" before leaving for Chicago to play in the Illinois Class July 15-17th.

I decided to play the 3 day schedule so that the time control for all games would be 40/2 Game/60. My first game Friday night was against another 1800 player and see sawed back and forth. In the waning seconds of the first time control I saw the win and mate (or his loss of queen) and as I reached out to play my move he called time. I should know better than to get into time trouble but seeing as how I had just won my previous Wednesday's club game from a losing postion due to my opponent's time trouble it's just another example of "chess fate."

I didn't sleep well that night playing over the winning combination time and time again in my head. It never changed. I play Rf2 forcing his queen off the second rank. The queen has to retreat to the first rank to cover bank rank mate. I play h3xg2 check forcing his king on h1 to g1. I then play Rf1 double check from the Queen on d4 and rook on f1 forcing Kxg2 when RxQ leaves me a Queen up with mate to follow shortly.

My 2nd round game found me paired up against a 1940 player who had also lost in the first round. I played the London against his King's Indian and sacked a rook on h5 for knight and pawn. I threw another bishop into the fire for a dangerous attack down the h file. All my pieces were in play with his a8 rook sitting idle. However his defense held and I was just down material. Off to an 0-2 start. At that point being out of the running I signed up for byes in rounds 3 and 5 spending some quality time with my parents and friends. I played a 1700 player in round 4 Sunday morning and drew making me .5-2.5 for actual games played although this only cost me 27 rating points.

My third round opponent is halfway down the aisle in the orange shirt next to the standing man in the blue.

I hope to analyze my games from this event. I'm disappointed to have fared so poorly against like rated competition. I definitely want to play some more slower time control class events to see if I truly belong in the "A" ranks.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

New Books Arrived!

I received Play the London and Chess Blueprints today. On first glance, I'm very pleased with these selections. As usual I've read and played through the introductions in both. Both authors claim to aim for the club player (1400-2000)although the author of Chess Blueprints perhaps has slightly unrealistic hopes that the club player will spend an hour a day per puzzle working out all the details before reviewing the solution.

I'm hoping to report back after the holiday weekend on my progress in these books.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Books, Books and a ratings bump.

Studying and playing has kept me away from posting. I have picked up a number of books lately including Win with the London System, Grandmaster Chess Strategy, Sacking the Citadel, Analyse your Chess, Scandinavian Defense: The Dynamic 3...Qd6, Judith Polgar The Princess of Chess, Calculate like a Grandmaster, The Modern Scandinavian, and currently winging their way to me now Play the London System and Chess Blueprints.

As usual, I've skimmed the first 10-15 pages of most of these and put them in the stack. A couple of exceptions are Win with the London System where I'm 100+ pages in, and Sacking the Citadel which I received most recently and I'm 45+ pages in.

I'm current on Chess Life magazine through the June issue.

I've managed to play in several one day events in addition to the club swisses and I've coaxed my rating up to 1856.

I'll try to go into more detail and make shorter, more frequent posts.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Book review: Improve Your Chess at any Age

Improve your Chess at any Age authored by Andres D. Hortillosa

I recently found this book at half-priced books for eight bucks and decided to give it a shot. The reviews on Amazon were split with either 5 stars or 1 star so it seems to be a love it or hate it type of book. I bought the book on February 17th and finished it on February 26th covering the 172 pages in 10 days which is fast for me. I found the author's style to be engaging and enjoyed the stories and the games. The major complaint in other reviews seemed to revolve around the fact that the author is merely a "club" player and that his system must not work because he himself has not shown significant ratings improvement over the last several years.

If I had bought the book based on the title and paid full price I might feel like it was a poor value especially if I expected a cure-all to my chess. Having plateaued at roughly 1700 give or take 100 points over the last 30 years I felt a certain sympatico for what the author was going through and trying to convey to the reader.  The system is nothing more then a multistep thought process (a reminder, if you will) to try to eliminate blunders and/or recognize opportunities. It really falls into the nothing new under the sun category for me with his steps laid out as follows:

1. Reconnaissance of the position to gather key data elements.
2. Search for specific threats.
3. Rank the severity of the threats.
4. Focus your responses against the threat with the highest degree of harm if ignored or not prevented.
5. Search for candidate moves.
6. Execute the move in your head.
7. Conduct a post reconnaissance of the position after the move is mentally executed.
8. If post-recon yields a problem repeat steps 5-7 until a safe/correct move is found.

He then covers a variety of his games or game fragements from recent events to call attention to specific examples of his system. I didn't necessarily find any of this convincing but enjoyed seeing someone who is a regular "Joe" discuss the day-to-day concerns of the amateur tournament player.

I certainly didn't feel it was a waste of time and probably picked up a few hints and tips along the way. Overall it was an enjoyable way to spend an hour or so a day going through book and the games. The games themselves are annotated mainly in prose with breezy analysis that is easy to work through. You won't get lost in the tree of having to play through three branches and six sub-branches of detailed analysis after every move. It was also nice to be able to correctly "pick" the upcoming moves of the games (even the mistakes!?)versus some of the grandmaster games where I don't have a clue as to why the move was chosen. If you can find this book in the bargain bin give it a whirl!