Sunday, December 30, 2007

Catching up on some reading

With the holiday weekend I was finally able to finish some of the books I had started. The chess book that was finished this weekend was Garry Kasparov's How Life Imitates Chess. I am curious to hear how others view this book, as I enjoyed it. The book impressed with its eloquence (probably Mig speaking), and surprisingly the great amount of humility that Kasparov relates his stories with.

Since the last chess related book that I head read was Josh Waitzkin's Art of Learning, it was easy to see that both do a lot with the theme of personal growth coming from the way crisis situations are handled.

I was debating about picking up Paul Hoffman's book, or just going with some light entertainment style reading like Andy Roddick Beat Me with a Frying Pan. Anyone have book suggestions?


Friday, December 28, 2007

Match Play (or everybody likes a throwdown)

When I was an up and coming player at the Orland Park Chess club, matches were commonplace. It was how we resolved disputes, put an end to smacktalk, and occasionally entertained ourselves. I know we were not alone in enjoying this, just turn on the food channel and there is a good chance you could run into Iron Chef, or Bobby Flay's Throwdown which are all about decisive resolution by showing who was better that day.

In the internet age, great numbers of paper tigers have been created throwing words at their screen with nothing to back them up. For instance, earlier today on the IL Chess forum two very strong players, who are both pretty nice guys too were bickering back and forth as they often seem to, and I thought wow it would be so much better to watch them decide this over the board. Sometimes these matches don't end up as you were hoping for as in the case of the classic grudge match between Bill Brock and Sam Sloan (though that is a pretty strange story in its own right).

Maybe players don't realize that they can still play rated matches, or it could just be the demise of the chess clubs, but these are also tremendous training tools. It is after all a good enough method to determine a world champion.

Perhaps it would be interesting to put together a match play tournament which would be a knockout style event. That would actually be a really interesting way to determine the Denker rep.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Blaze has started!

A few posts ago, I mentioned that there were some exciting things yet to be announced in IL Chess for 2008. Well, today it was made official that Chicago will be getting a new franchise in the US Chess league, and our team name is the Blaze.

So far we have commitments to play from GM Dmitry Gurevich, IM Angelo Young, FM Mehmed Pasalic, Ilan Meerovich, and Adam Strunk. We will be filling out our roster in the coming weeks. For those that are unfamiliar with the league. The season consists of a weekly 4 board match with an average rating cap of 2400. There are 10 matches in the regular season with the top 4 teams from the division reaching the playoffs.

These games will be broadcast live, and if you want to watch in person, our home venue will be Angelo Young's Touch Move Chess Center. The team manager will be Glenn Panner, PR manager will be Tom Panelas, and the techno-geek will be Sevan Muradian helping make sure our moves transmit.

It is my sincere hope that this will be a common interest here in the state with local players and even school programs following the results and the team. As much as we sometimes don't get along so well with each other, if there is one thing most Chicago sports fans can agree on, we like New York teams even less. I will be blogging about the team with great frequency. Coverage will also be found on the US Chess league site, The Knights of Castle Kimbark blog, and likely at the 64 square journal, which all have links on this blog. Feel free to fire away with any questions or suggestions about the team, I will be glad to reply.



Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Season for Giving

It was mentioned to me by a friend of mine that there is a posting on the USCF forums that GM Gata Kamsky has asked USCF for support in preparation for his match against Topalov. That really posed a great question, is that the type of activity that USCF should be committing resources to in order to promote chess in this country?

It is important to note that since we have not seen the letter and therefore don't really know what he was asking for. If he was asking for support to raise sponsorship and awareness, that really is something USCF should do. If he was asking for help getting seconds, again this is something USCF should help with. If he is looking for money, then I am not quite so sure. Any amount USCF gave him would need to be tied into him promoting chess in the US. I also would want an idea of how much he was looking for and how it would be used. After all, he just won 120K for winning the world cup, and how much more for even just playing the match.

I realize that many people were critical of the USCF for not helping Fischer more in the 70's, though Fischer probably didn't make it easy for USCF to support him other than donating some duct tape to go over his mouth. Kamsky, I would guess to be much more reasonable. It will be interesting to see this story develop over the next few weeks.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Steven Tennant, I am calling you out

Last weekend, I was relaxing after my Orland Scholastic with my good friend Theo Poulos and NM Dr. Steven Tennant. To those of you that don't know Steve, let me give you a quick rundown.

Steve is an amazingly talented player who was a state champion in the 70's, who even has a few GM scalps to his credit. He hasn't played that often for many years due to a grudge that he holds with the ICA, which for everyone's sanity I won't recap here. Steve is brilliant to a fault, the fault being that he can be very rigid in his ideas and doesn't play well with others. Still I feel loyalty to Steve as every week in the mid to late 80's he would show up every week at the Orland Chess club mercilessly whupping us, and was very responsible for turning many of us teenage punks into experts or masters.

Well, Theo was predicting my return to tournament play in 2008 and that I would gain the roughly 95 rating points to get my long awaited master title. Steve matter of factly stated, "I doubt it". When I inquired as to why that was he explained that "if you don't make master by age 22, you won't ever do it". While he is correct that the difficulty level goes way up, due more to real life stresses and less time for study, it is not such an oddity for a player to make master after the age of 22.

So the thing to do in order to prove Steve wrong would be to play a match against him. So even though Steve has a lifetime record of greater than 90% against me, I say, "Bring it!" I am challenging him to a match for sometime in 2008. I plan on hopefully updating this story when Steve accepts my challenge, and announcing the date when it becomes available.

Time to start training.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

I can rest now

This weekend I directed my final two tournaments for the year. Yesterday we drew nearly 50 players for the 2nd month in a row at the Orland scholastic including a couple of new teams. We also held a Christmas raffle for the players with chess items donated by Mikhail Korenman, Frank Swindell, and myself. Hopefully we will see our numbers increase up to 70-80 players in 2008.

Today I directed at the Kumbaya festival of chess events which actually had 3 different events. First up was the puzzle solving contest, which I highly recommend running. Scott Drier had the only perfect score of 18/18 puzzles of mate in 1s, 2s and 3s. What was so interesting about the event is that I have never heard any scholastic chess event this quiet at the players were concentrating very hard on the puzzles. I wasn't sure how well these events would work until being shown the contest by Susan Polgar and Paul Truong, I believe it in now. The other two events were a blitz tournament, and a bughouse tournament. For bughouse I always let the kids come up with their own team names to see what they can come up with, todays were pretty straight forward, nothing that interesting. The fun part of that event was watching the how well the few teams that were made up of siblings do so well.

My next event will be when Karpov comes here to Chicago, January 11-13.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Illinois Chess 2008

I have to say that as I prepare to direct my last couple of events for the year that I am really looking forward to what is happening in Illinois chess for 2008.

Before I get into that, a couple quick notes, I have added a couple more links including one for the blog of my good friend Betsy Dynako. Saturday we run our final Orland Scholastic of the year, and we are anticipating 50+ players again, which is outstanding for the Southern Suburbs.

Now what is so exciting about 2008 in IL Chess? Where do I start? I suppose the beginning of the year is a good enough place. In the first couple of weeks, Chicago will be hosing Anatoly Karpov as part of Mikhail Korenman's International Chess Convention. Rumor has it Nigel Short may also be in town at that time. Kind of a shame that we couldn't plan a rapid event or some matches with Shulman and Onischuk (who is apparently close to moving here) in town at the same time.

Also nice to see is the invitations for the Denker qualifier, this year all 12 invitees are over 2000, which I can't remember happening before. Shows that we are progressing quite nicely at the top scholastic levels. On that note, Andi Rosen who heads up the Warren Program which is a wonderful program designed to help talented juniors get to the elite status, is going to start organizing monthly adult vs. junior training tournaments to further that improvement.

Sevan Muradian is planning on his IM/GM norm events getting to nearly monthly status, which when considering Ray Robson just received his 1st IM norm here, (and his last one this past week in Texas), these events are important. I will be announcing the dates and format of the Colias just after the new year too.

All in all, it is really nice to be ending the year on such a high note. In the coming weeks there will be even more exciting announcements, which I am not yet able to discuss to set interest in the chess community ablaze.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Back from Houston

It is pretty late, so here is just a brief rundown. Plenty of weirdness, that I will enjoy recapping the K12 maybe tomorrow. In the meanwhile:

Event staff for a wonderfully run event.
1332 scholastic chessplayers that generally gave it all they had.
Texas volunteers, and locals who were amazingly friendly.

Hotel Foodservice. No excuse for knowing when there will be a lunch rush and still being unprepared.
Scholastic Council (hopefully I don't get blacklisted for that). Repeat after me, Parent's do not belong on the playing floor! It affects the quality of the tournament when TDs are unable to be on the floor for rulings because a parent or coach has to know that instant why their son's opponent left to go to the bathroom, and why I am not following them to verify they aren't cheating.

More tomorrow.


Monday, December 3, 2007

'Tis the season for Sportsmanship

Ask any TD who has worked large events, and they will be quick to tell you a story. Many of us sit around and swap stories at Nationals. Since I am leaving in a couple of days to head down to Houston, I thought I might share a few.

At my very first National K-12 event, within a couple of rounds I was party to some strange things. A player smacking another player upside the head. When I got to the board, and asked for an explanation, the player explained that her neighbor had given her opponent a good move. Naturally I had to issue warnings to both the smacker and smackee.

Later in that event, an interesting thing happened, after a round a player came in with a complaint. He had been offered a pack of Pokemon cards in exchange for resigning in a position he was winning, but the opponent never delivered. Interestingly, when we asked what remedy he was seeking, the boy just wanted us to force the opponent to give up the cards. When we called the other boy in with his father, the boy confessed to what happened. The father seemed stunned, and said "I have no idea where he gets that from". Ken Sloan, who was the chief TD of the section, asked if the father issues rewards for his son winning. The father said that he gives his son 2 packs of Pokemon cards for every win. We no longer wondered where it came from. Did I mention that both of these events happened in the Kindergarten section?

I realize that these are important events, but urge parents and coaches not to put too much of an emphasis on the child's results, it does take its toll on them. If I have time this week, I will share a few more stories along those lines.

Bad sportsmanship is completely unnecessary, and oftentimes is learned from adults (which we don't like to admit). There is a group that is the self proclaimed "premier chess organization" in Illinois, they teach chess at quite a few schools, yet on their website have a link to an essay entitled "How to Annoy Your Opponent". This treasure chest of wisdom advises players to talk or cough loudly during your opponents moves, start rumors about your opponent, and other drivel that I do not wish to pollute my site with. To be completely fair, it appears to be a really lame attempt at a satire, but still has no place to be linked to by scholastic players.

So I head to Texas, where my hopes are high because I also have seen remarkable acts of kindness and compassion between players previously there at Nationals. I would rather discuss those.