Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Vacation

Lots of good stuff to report, but it's Christmas Eve and I am thousands of miles from home with limited internet access--so for now, Merry Christmas and happy holidays and New Year's and all that. I just picked up Jeremy Silman's How to Reassess Your Chess (3d. ed) and I will be making this book the base for my ACIS plan.

Much more in a week or so!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Priceless Chess Training Video

Via Liz Vicary, who credits Jason Luchan, who I don't know...anyhow, only the creators of this priceless chess training video deserve the credit. And we get to see it for free. How cool is that Internet thingy?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

ACIS of Caissa: Maybe It's Not What to Study, It's Whether We Need to Study at All?

The ACIS (Adult Chess Improvement Seekers) seems to have really taken off, from its modest beginning in some comments at Chess Confessions, through its modest viral development by Blunder Prone (part II, part III), and a cascade of Seekers.

(Mr. Duval aka Blunder Prone has a list on the top of his sidebar. More are to follow, I'm sure)

A.C.I.S of Caissa (so far)

Now that we have a title, a mission, a movement, so to speak, I would like to present the theoretical underpinnings of ACIS as I understand them, to make it more than just another acronym. I don't speak for anyone else, but look forward to hearing from you, Dear Reader, regarding whether I've captured some thing of value here.

Much of the chess blogging by non-professionals is about improvement. Certainly, there are history blogs, Grandmaster blogs, club blogs, etc., but even these sometimes touch on improvement. Scrolling down the list of blogs I've chosen to link to on the sidebar, the majority of posts on a majority of the sites are about general or personal chess improvement. The original Knights de la Maza were, of course chiefly about improvement using a certain, defined method as defined in de la Maza's articles (Part I, Part II) and book.

Very few of these thousands of chess improvement posts seem to ask the questions:

Why do you need to improve? Why do you want to improve? And how, exactly, is this improvement to be defined?

Let's go back even farther. Let's go back to First Principles. Why the hell do we play chess at all? That's worth an essay in itself, and people have already written it: Concentration, competition, achievement, healthy struggle; given that we do play, why try so hard to improve? I've referred back to my posts about Dr. Kenneth Mark Colby many times and I'll do so again:

Why should a patzer seek to become a grandpatzer? Because of the aristos (Greek: Aristos = best). Life is more than ham sandwiches and beer. Humans strive, not just to survive, but to enhance the quality, the excellence, of survival. Striving for excellence in any endeavor, developing yourself to become your best at what you do, is rewarding and fulfilling to aspirations higher than happiness. Merely happy people, without artistic goals, vegetate in incomplete, hobbled and impoverished lives...A grandpatzer is a strong chessplayer, a threat to anyone (including himself) in a given game.

Very philosophical, no? There is however, another take, another approach that one could find just as legitimate, indeed, more practical:

"Anything worth doing, is worth doing badly."

---G. K. Chesterton

"Right now, I’m 1600-ish, the same as 10 years ago without putting effort into improvement. What would happen if I tried? Does the thought of “maybe there’s an Expert somewhere in here” motivate me enough to work?

More likely, the “I’m sufficiently skilled so most people can’t dismiss me; that’s good enough” win out (again)."

---Donnie, Liquid Egg Product

Let me state it this way: One could just play chess. In the days of yore, the olden days when there was smoking in chess clubs and all kind of dangerous stuff like that, quite a few people became experts or masters just by playing a lot of chess at a club with strong players. Reuben Fine, for example, had the best Americans of the 1920s and '30s New York chess clubs to school him, and played a great deal of blitz as a youngster. I believe he once wrote that he did very little formal study before reaching master level. So just as a base, using your chess time to play chess will bring you to certain level, your natural level of chess skill, so to speak.

After that, it gets murky.

"Improvement" is almost universally defined by us in the ACIS/chess blogging community as an improved rating, whether USCF, FIDE, ICC or other. Whether a higher rating is all we really should be striving for in our chess career is something well worth exploring, but I want to save that for another post. Let's accept that as given, for now. The big question (drum roll, please...)

Is studying chess really the best way to raise your rating???

I'm going to give you a few questions to ponder. Have you ever been kibbitzing a game and seen good moves that the players (sometimes much higher-rated than you) missed? Have you ever played a move in a (non-blitz) game and instantly seen, as soon as you took your hand off the piece, that it was a blunder? Have you ever seen a Grandmaster blunder? (if not, see my "Homer Nods" series). I'll wager a bundle you answered "Yes, yes and yes."

Have you ever asked yourself how these things are possible?

If you are a person who has played a reasonable amount of serious chess, "lost at least 500 games" as Capablanca is said to have formulated it, you already know enough about tactics to avoid major blunders, and to take tactical advantage of your opponents' mistakes. You already know that "Loose pieces drop off" and the pattern of a knight fork and a back-rank mate.

So, why do you, (and me too!) still make these kinds of mistakes, mistakes that are usually the main reason that our rating is static? Why can't we call up this knowledge on (almost) every move and avoid blunders and climb the ladder to the rating we so richly deserve? Why do tactical exercises, even thousands of them, sometimes help, but often in a very limited way--that is, why have some people done 10,000 or more of them and not become masters?

Questions, questions...these are questions for human performance psychology, rather than arguments about whether MDLM is the best study method. And like a good old-fashioned movie serial, for now I'll leave you hanging. In the next installment, we'll survey the field and see what we can glean that will help us ACISers out.

Until then, let us ROCK

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Diving Into ACIS: "I Would Like, If I May, To Take You On a Strange Journey"

Okay boys and girls, this is going to take a lot of not proceed any farther in this post unless you have an hour or two. Or take it in small bites, whatever, but I'm not going to put up the run-of-the mill fluff, this time.

First, in order to understand the title of this post, go watch the fabulous Blunderprone production Rocky Errant Picture Show.

Three years ago I published a little piece called The Crowley-Parsons-Heinlein-Hubbard-Cruise Connection. Please read Part I, Part II. At the time I wrote it, I had not yet seen this article--Whence Came the Stranger: Tracking the Megapattern of Stranger in a Strange Land. And this, about the author of that--"Adam Rostoker: Walking Between Worlds, Not of this World (any longer)."

Ain't the Internet a blast?

And by now, you may ask yourself, what's the point of these seemingly unconnected peregrinations? Quo vadis?

Well...Crowley was a chess player, apparently of master strength, but see at the link how a "mystical experience" put him off pursuit of serious chess. Heinlein certainly appreciated chess, as it appears in a number of his works, including the first move of a "blindfold" game between Captain King and Lazarus Long in Methuselah's Children (Lazarus plays 1. Nf3) and in Time Enough for Love where Lazarus plays his Grandfather and allows Grandpa to recapitulate an entire Steinitz brilliancy (Lazarus foregoes using a computer-generated improvement).

UPDATE 11/14/09: Francis W. Porretto, Proprietor of the great Eternity Road, points out:

"...including the first move of a "blindfold" game between Captain King and Lazarus Long in Methuselah's Children (Lazarus plays 1. Nf3)..."

Uh, no. The game was between Captain Rufus "Ruthless" King and Andrew Jackson Libby, Heinlein's mathematical genius. King, who had White, opened 1. e4; Libby answered 1...Nf6.

Unfortunately, we never learn how the game ended. However, an earlier paragraph notes that Libby had "long ago given up the game for lack of adequate competition," so we can guess.

(Thanks for the correction, Fran. My ed. had the day off...)

I am intensely interested in chess, also in "human potential," self-actualization, self-improvement and all of that jazz. As the ACIS begins to rise, Bold as Love and Wangalicious, I think my love is to concentrate on the mental aspects of chess and improvement, the qualities of mind and spirit that might make for chess success and life success, the joy that can be from more than just winning games.

More, soon. And now, let us ROCK:

Friday, November 06, 2009

Memorable Game 7: King Hunt! (Unfortunately Mine), RLP - R. Campbell 10.14.2000 0-1

My previous "Memorable Games" posted here were memorable for me in that they were some of my best games. This game is memorable because I forget a little thing called "development" and my whole king side stays at home for an entire game, just like in some of those 1850's clashes "Anderssen-NN" or "Morphy-Allies." Also, one of the few times in my career that my king made it out to the fifth rank with a bunch of pieces still on the board; hardly ever a good sign. Yes, I willl officially call it a King Hunt.

Ron Campbell, my opponent in this game, was a regular around the Anchorage chess scene in the early 2000s, and improved his rating into the high 1600s within a couple years of this game. At the 2002 Alaska State Championship I won a good game from him in the last round to tie for third, win the state Class B Championship and even, I recall, some fraction of a Grand Prix point. Unfortunately, I haven't located that game. This time, the fun is all Ron's as he reminds us (me) to DEVELOP the pieces, fool.

(show chess board)(hide chess board)

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

I Invent a Totally NEW Word - Please Make It Go Viral!!!

Over at Liquid Egg Product the Mascot has produced, directed and starred in a Halloween Holiday Classic. In the comments, I write:

Seriously dude, I know you’re loyal to Donnie and all but someone with your combination of churtful yet charming snark, slender physique, immunity to criticism, babe magnetism and tolerance for tasteless violence and gore would fit RIGHT IN with most of the Hollywood crowd.

Churtful? CHURTFUL??? I think I meant to say cheerful, then thought to change it to hurtful, and LOOK WHAT HAPPENED! Ma, I done a good thing!

Cheerful and hurtful. And snarky. Yes, that's Hollywood these days. And Washington. And Brussels, for our European readers. You pay for the privilege of going to the movies and finding out THEY are using YOUR money to insult your values and your beliefs, you pay 20-30-40-50+ percent of your income (how high does it go in Europe? About 25 in America right now, but just wait, my American friends, do you think with a $1 trillion ++ deficits year after year that will hold?) to politicians to tell you you're too stupid, you poor sap, to know what's good for you.

You pay, they play and churtfully enjoy the privileges (root-private laws) of being the elite.

Speaking of the elite, Liz Vicary has been on a tear lately, see people who hold views that contradict mine are stupid (part 2) which purports to show through some truly pseudo-scientific gobbledygook that atheists are (of course) more intelligent than all those God-believing idiots:

It just seems so bizarre to me that otherwise intelligent people can believe there is a man in the sky who controls things. And this leads them to kill each other, wake up early on Sunday mornings, wear funny necklaces, talk to themselves, and not do fun things like have sex and eat certain delicious foods.

There's a sophisticated argument. Since atheists like Hitler, Stalin and Mao never kill anyone, and since it's obvious, for example, that those religious types don't have sex, all that sort of thing would presumably end if people would just go atheist and bring about the peaceful, sleep-late-on-Sunday sex-filled paradise they so richly deserve.


But seeing as that was "part 2," let's go back a bit to part 1--have you ever thought that conservatives are all stupid? wherein Ms. Vicary consults some completely different pseudo-scientific gobbedygook purporting that "Conservatism and cognitive ability are negatively correlated." I'd like to quote more but do go read her post, which consists almost completely of the article's introduction. The commenters do a good job of questioning the premises, so I don't have to. Remember, if it doesn't pass the "smell test," check your premises.

The funny thing is that with E. Vicary you never know whether she really believes this stuff or she's just playing with the audience. Look at the blog URL...that's the secret of her success. She writes for Chess Life and gets in movies and stuff, and I toil away here, unpaid except for the warmth of my Dear Readers' comments. So, I must say, kudos to her. She's actually a Raven in disguise.

I do hope she was kidding about this one.

One of the commenters there is, coincidentally (really? - ed.), ChargingKing, who recently asked for some link love in regard to my previous post. Here it is, because Chris Harrington is an intersting person and writer, and we played some good games in the old days in Reno.

It's intrguing to me that he seems to be passionately appealing for moderation and middle ground in his comment: Doesn't it ever wear thin fighting and creating conflict? As a philosophical kind of guy I would think Chris would appreciate the Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis process as described (if not in exactly those terms) by Hegel. It is great conflicts that create great discoveries--just like in chess. Fighting and creating conflict are the chessplayer's bread and meat. Just, after it's over, let's all go have a beer, like those conflicting liberals and conservatives do (when we're not looking).

To bring this whole thing back around to the important point, I'm being CHURTFUL here, okay. Cheerfully hurtful. If you would be so kind as to go forth now and use it over and over and over, with full attribution and links to Robert Pearson's Chess Blog, I would be much obliged. I am hoping to see it show up in text messages all over the world by next week.

UPDATE: Churtful is in the Urban Dictionary as a variation of the verb churting "The act of being dull, boring, kind of grey, and specifically draining to the person that is having to listen to you." As you can see, this has nothing to do with my own brilliantly original coinage and we will speak of it no more.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Chess and Baseball: The Thinking Man's Games (?)

"Interchangeable Skills?"

You decide as Yankee's manager Joe Girardi talks about the two games.

Sorry no embed, permalink here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Memorable Game 6: My First Ever Half Point, W. Barr - RLP 01.06.82 1/2 - 1/2

Having played at the Reno Chess Club for a few months in the fall of 1981, I was persuaded to give the City Championship a try. It was quite an experience...I lost the first six games, then managed this exciting draw, lost three more to finish out the Championship qualifier, then went to a weekend tournament at Lake Tahoe and lost four more. One draw in 14 tournament games. To show how strong the competition was, my first published rating came in at 1198, which I've used in the header of the game below, though I wasn't rated at the time.

I will freely admit that I took about three months away from tournament play, and most chess of any kind, after this string of shellackings. A few of the guys at the club talked me back into coming, telling me I was actually pretty good, I was getting better and would start winning some. They were right! I did finally start to win a few games in the summer and the rest, as they say, was history.

Probably every player fondly remembers his or her first tournament point or half-point. Considering the amount of losses that were sandwiched around it, a very memorable game indeed!

William Barr was quite an old guy at the time of this game--I suppose well into his 70s. I think he got in a revenge victory on me sometime later. Good for him, hopefully I'll still be slugging it out in tournaments when I'm 75 or so.

Not a great game of chess, but considering I only make one real blunder, not too bad for a beginner.

(show chess board)(hide chess board)

Thursday, September 03, 2009

A Message of Hope

(NOTE: For the record, I did not write the copy below. It is one of those things passed along through the Tubes until the origin is hidden in the mists. All hele to whoever did put it together!)

I seldom pass along inspirational stuff, but this one got to me.
I believe, in these difficult and mean-spirited times in which we
live, there needs to be a message of Hope.

We can all use a single image that speaks to us of love, harmony,
peace and joy.

An image that suggests the universality of us all.

I have been sent that image, and I want to share it with you all.
All I ask that all of you take a moment to reflect on it.


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Memorable Game 5: My Biggest Upset and First Victory over a Class A

My previous "Memorable Games" have been from the period 1986-87 when I was already around Class B strength. The following game, played after about 18 months of serious tournament chess experience, was more of an upset in that my opponent was rated 601 points higher, and I don't think I had won against anyone over about 1600 before this.

LaRoy O'Doan was around the Expert level at his peak, and I played him just a couple of years ago in Reno, though of course 25 years later and after some health problems he wasn't as strong and I managed to win two more games with him.

In this game, I play quite well for someone so inexperienced; in fact, I don't think I could play it much better today!

(show chess board)(hide chess board)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Chess Geek Garret-Cave-Attic

Back in May Wang posted a couple of pictures of his Geek Cave; here I present my Geek Attic, or perhaps it's an old fashioned garret. Anyway, to get some of the solitude needed for serious chess study with a board, rather than a monitor, I cleared out a little space in the storage area of the condo loft. I then hauled a big-ass table up five flights of stairs and by a miracle of engineering genius, through the pint-sized door.

I share the space with my son's art studio.

A portion of the chess library.

On the board, a game I was playing over--the final position of a fifteen-move crushing of the late Darcy Robinson. To give Darcy credit, this was when he was still an "improving adult player." A few years later he defeated me 2.5-1.5 in another match, and made it to 1800 before he suddenly passed a few months ago.

In memoriam, I'll publish a win of his soon...for now, here's an Open Game where Black gets all the fun!

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Thursday, August 13, 2009


Cat at My Life's Work recently changed the look of her blog, and it reminded that this one has looked pretty much the same for a long time. I think we need some refreshing of the concept around here. While I work that, check out the very interesting writing at the link. I found that refreshing, too.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I've been working on a chess post, I really have, but it's not ready, and so today I simply present two images. Above, a photo of Juneau, Alaska I shot the other day.

Below, a photo of Elizabeth Vicary that she shot the other day. She, like me, feels the urge to write about things other than chess from time to time. Thus this post.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Memorable Game 4: I Defeat My First Expert, B. Brandt - RLP 05.13.87 0-1

I had defeated several USCF Class A players by the spring of 1987 and raised my rating to the low 1700s, but no Experts had fallen to my bad kung fu until this game. This was the same year my opponent won the Nevada State Championship, and even now Barry is still competing at the Reno Chess Club!

Admittedly, he plays the opening in "coffee house" style and I just take advantage, but I'm proud of my play. After I obtained a winning position I did make a couple of (?!) moves but fortunately they merely prolonged the game slightly.

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

Memorable Game 3: Update with Corrections

Bill Davis comments on my "Memorable Game 3" post:

Hi Robert, Good game as you deserved the win with your preparation. I'd have played out the game if I knew this would become your blog. I'd like to make a few corrections. No, I hadn't been drinking or something else. Also I had been a Master for two years at the time of the game. I do remember the disgust and frustration when I realized I had blundered away a pawn. I don't see the mate coming within ten moves as you stated. I saw a very difficult position and would probably drop the c-pawn too with your pressure. So leaving a mate on the board was my frustrated way of resigning. In hindsight I should have played on as now I have the experience of saving such games. Well done, hope you get the chance to beat another Master.

First, my sincere apologies to Bill for saying "[he] looked kind of distraught, or perhaps had been drinking or something...anyway, he didn't look happy to be there." I take his word that nothing unusual was going on except just one of those "moments" we've all experienced in chess.

Second, apologies for the inaccuracy on his achieving the USCF Master rating--I was going from memory there, as the USCF online records only go back to 1991.

When I said "I guess I was subconsciously giving him a chance to resign instead of getting mated inside of 10 moves, and he did" I was talking the position on the board after Bill's "resigning" by allowing mate. I think he's right, he should have played on; as I noted in the original post (you have to look at the ChessFlash game annotations there) White scored 46.5-4.5 from the position in the database, but Bill was and is a stronger player overall, and Black did manage two wins and a few draws after going down the pawn.

Thanks for commenting Bill, and again, apologies for the inaccuracies in my original account.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Some Thoughts on Blitz

Wormwood at the rarely updated but always thoughtful Burning Castles gets to 1506 on ICC at 5-minute Blitz and his observations on raising the rating at blitz chess are well worth waiting for:

F i n a l l y ! It's been over two years since I first crossed 1400 on ICC 5-minute, and even though the effort has been sporadic at best, it still took more than enough time. I've had these spells of blitz in which I decide to work on it properly, but they've seldom lasted for more than a couple of weeks at a time. Then 3-8 months of hiatus, and back on it. -It's always been hard to keep myself motivated to train blitz more, as slow chess has always gone so much better for me. Obviously you always much rather do things you're good at. Hopefully that'll change for the better now after reaching a basic level of not dropping everything in every game, so my strategic/positional strengths should also begin affecting the games. Still much to do on the basic technique though, and I'll also no doubt dive back under 1500 soon enough. Gotta just keep hammering.


Notice that he speaks of "working on it properly" and "training blitz," showing his approach is specific. It gets even more interesting:

So what worked and what didn't?

Well, for one, I must say that tactics never did anything for my blitz, even though it's always advertised as the holy grail of fast chess. It has benefited me hugely on correspondence chess and the ability of solving tactical puzzles, but my blitz never improved on bit before I begun playing blitz heavily. Although obviously you have to have some basic proficiency in tactics, you can't just expect to survive in blitz if you never drilled tactics. But it isn't the bottleneck, at least on the low levels.


Amazing! I think this is exactly opposite of what we would expect. And maybe other people have had different experiences. But Wormwood reports in a precise, rational manner that leads me to think he is giving us the straight dope. Now for the BIG surprise:

Slow games haven't had much effect either. It's the area I've always used most time since the beginning, analyzing positions for hours every day. The outcome has been that I'm great at seeing what I did wrong afterwards, but that's just too little too late. The ability to analyze slow games is just too, well, slow. The revelations must come instantly, without thinking, or otherwise you lose on time. -Perhaps the slow games will some day reach a critical number, so I'll have seen all the basic situations so many times that playing them correctly becomes instinctive, but after 4 years it still takes conscious thinking time. People who've played for decades are probably in a very different situation regarding all this.

That pretty much leaves openings. The unappreciated love of beginning players, on which the experienced players always tell you not to waste study time. -And in slow chess that's actually true. But in blitz... I don't think so anymore.

During the past year that I've finally focused on my openings properly, it's become obvious that my opening knowledge has been abysmal. The shallowness and uncertainty on even the things I thought I knew has been simply enormous. As the cliché goes, I'm only beginning to understand the extent of my ignorance. I now study openings every day, and it's paying dividends especially in blitz. I'm actually outplaying my opponents on book knowledge, and to top that I'm even understanding why their non-book moves are inferior. Of course that still happens mostly in the mainlines, and quite early at that, but it's a promising start. I'll continue on that vein and see where it'll get me.


So what's my take on all of this? My own highest blitz rating was 1442 on FICS in 2007 (which I assume to be roughly equivalent on ICC, though if you, the reader, have a different opinion I'd like to hear it). Right now I'm at 1316, and I have been as low as 1250 and as high as 1406 in the last few months. Part of the roller coaster for me is that I often play only late at night, when all of life's other tasks are done, and that's certainly not conducive to best play. But one takes what one can get.

I play quite a bit of 3 0 and the factors I've found at that speed that really help are 1) playing faster than I think I should, and; 2) something related to Wormwood's experience, playing openings I know, playing instantly while in my "book," and once in the middle game, doing what I call "watching the opponent's pieces," that is, keeping his stuff in my visual field between moves and not staring at my own men and thinking about what I want to do to him.

As for speed of play, Rolf Wetzell, whose book Chess Master at Any Age I've written about a number of times (have I actually followed his program? No, but that's another story...) had some very interesting thoughts on how fast one should play at various time controls. In sudden death, whether G/3 or G/120, he made the excellent point that one needs to have time to execute mate! He notes that many sudden death time-control games are played to mate or until someone's flag falls, thus you should plan on playing 60, 80 or even 100 moves in one of these games. I've made it my goal to get to move 60 before losing on time (or, hopefully winning on time or mating the opponent!) and this seems reasonable at 3/0, averaging 3 seconds per move. I can't play much faster and not throw stuff away left and right.

I also play 2/5 sometimes (5 seconds added per move made) and this seems to me to be almost a completely different game! With a 5-second increment I feel like I can grind out winning endings and there's often the chance to make a few quick moves and build some time for calculating how to finish a game off more precisely. Probably I should only play this time control, as I find it much less stressful, and conducive to pretty decent chess (sometimes). But always there is the Siren Song, the call of the adrenaline rush of 3 0...

I'm coming around to the view that blitz is an entirely legitimate field for experimentation in techniques for raising one's rating. There are some similarities with just "getting stronger at chess" in general, but based on Wromwood's report and my own experiences there seem to be significant differences, as well.

I would be very interersted in hearing in the comments any thoughts and/or experiences of readers on this subject of raising one's blitz rating.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Juneau Chess Players

This is what our little chess club here in Juneau, Alaska looks like, in the very interesting, glass-walled "fish bowl" room of the Public Library:

That's the cruise ship Amsterdam right out the window! And just opening his computer:

President Brian Bezenek. The guy who has kept the club going for some time. Thanks Brian!

Tom Rozek (left) and Russ McDowell, two of the regulars. These were taken two weeks ago, but last week several more people came by. This club is blowing up, dude!

I'm the reporter, so there's no picture of me. Reporters are supposed to stay out of the story. I'm old fashioned that way. I will report that last week Russ beat me three time running. That's only fair to note.

(Cross-posted at Juneau Chess Club)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Second Chess(Life)

Colonel Crockett of the very fine Chessvine points out that there's a social media site called Secondchess. Why have I never heard of it before? The Colonel sez:

SO ... what am I advocating?

A massive move toward that site! We need to not only keep it alive but make it thrive. It could rival other social media if people knew it existed. I'm asking people to get the word out. Start using it yourself, tell all your friends, post a link on facebook or other Social Media sites, offer prizes to club members who join the site. Whatever you have to do or are capable of doing! In order for chess to survive it must make this leap toward Social Media.

I signed up, and I encourage YOU to sign up and post a link on your blog. Also, I'm now on facebook. I have barely begun to explore the potential there for chess networking, but sheesh, I do have to make a living, raise a kid and actually play chess occasionally.

In other developments, Col. C also tries to somehow one-up my hottest chess photo of all time (see here) with his Cutest Chess Pic EVER. Hey, that's just some traffic bait! Meanwhile, Nether Letter Log offers up some candidates too, but the post title "Classic Chess Books" may not serve the traffic bait funtion all that well, sir!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Memorable Game 3: Strange Brew, I Beat a Master, A Shocking Discovery, etc. RLP - B. Davis 01.07.87 1-0

The only time I ever beat a USCF Master in a tournament game was strange brew indeed; I had been playing well in the previous weeks and was really looking forward to the game, but my opponent, Bill Davis, a 20-something guy who had passed 2200 a few months earlier, looked kind of distraught, or perhaps had been drinking or something...anyway, he didn't look happy to be there.

I had been studying the heck out of the Exchange Variation of the Queen's Gambit around this time, and his 7. ...b6 was a big surprise. It was a move that in similar situations had led to many brilliant victories by Pillsbury and Marshall back around the turn of the (20th) century. I knew it couldn't be good, so I buckled down and calculated the game line to the win of a pawn; except I guess he didn't want to lose that pawn...and allowed a mate in one. I was so shocked and even dismayed that I got up from the board instead of playing the mate, took a turn around the room to calm my nerves and when I came back he was gone, the clock stopped. I guess I was subconsciously giving him a chance to resign instead of getting mated inside of 10 moves, and he did.

I went on to defeat two USCF Experts (2000+) in the following months but this remains my only defeat of a Master. I've never felt any deep satisfaction with it, naturally. I think I need to go and get another...

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Choice Links

20 Undiscovered Island Gems - Not any more...

Cameron Diaz Wants a Bigger Butt - Yeah, sure...okay, can't resist; here is a further quote: "The planet needs a publicist. It's the planet, you know what I mean? She should be a star." No babe, the Sun is a star, the Earth is a planet, and not even a ----ing Hollywood publicist can change that little factoid.

The Other McCain (R. S., that is), explains How to Get a Million Hits on Your Blog in Less Than a Year. Kids, linkage is one key; another is Rule 5, that is, pictures of pretty girls. How important is this? Awhile back I noted that my link to the hottest chess photo of all time had already brought in over 12,000 visitors, and I didn't even show the hottie, just linked. Obviously I've been remiss in using these invaluable tips from the invaluable R. S. McCain, so here's a picture of...Cameron Diaz, of course.

Totally SFW, totally Rated G. I see no butt problems requiring surgery. We will see if a big traffic spike comes from this.

For a more, mmm, intellectual focus, try Kenneth Anderson's Law of War and Just War Theory Blog.

I think this is intellectual, and it's really, really, funny. The Conservatives Who Say F*ck. Warning: Strong Language. I hope you deduced that from the blog's title.

The author of Nether Letter Log, Aaron DeWesse, has seen the fnords. Have you? Also, Hot Sauce reviews! Also chess! Also, he signed up as a Follower of this blog. Have you?

My old friendly opponent Christpher Harrington closed his blog A King's Quest (still on sidebar--how lame am I at blog maintenance?) but has now begun the fine Humanity and Chess.

Choice no link: IM Mark Ginsburg hammers Dana Mackenzie for his horrible, terrible, fattening opening choices that might "get you killed as White" or whatever, just calls him "Dana M." without even linking to his blog. For this fairly serious violation of blogging convention and courtesy, I don't link to Ginsburg here. Now the cosmic scales are in balance. Or whatever.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Memorable Game 2: RLP - B. Zavodnik 07.04.86 1-0

The 1986 Pacific Southwest Open was one of my better tournaments, 3.5 - 1.5 and overall some decent quality games for my then-1678 rating. What I remember is that while my chess moves were pretty good, my chess gumption was excellent (if you have Rowson's Chess for Zebras there's a whole gumption chapter). I was willing to just sit there and play my best, as long as it took, and I seemed to be especially into the games and the tournament.

If I recall correctly this was one of those tournaments with an Open and an Under-1800 section. In Round 1 I defeated an unrated guy, and in Round 2 came up against Brian Zavodnik, a young guy near 1800 (I'm thinking teenager) who by 1991 was a USCF Master.

As you'll see, after 10 moves as White I already had a really bad position, but I still remember how I flashed on how Keres or Lasker or one of those guys would have handled it; Maximum Resistance! So I buckled down and after some inaccuracies by my opponent got back to pretty even, then blundered the Exchange. But for once I just played the position, with little or no thought about where we'd come from. And behold, he made some second-best moves, then apparently had a vision of a winning king-and-pawn ending that's...lost for Black.

Of course, despite all the gumption in the world, I could well have lost anyway. But overall, a very Memorable Game.

I think I've spent more time analyzing this one over the last few weeks than I've ever spent on any one game in my whole career, maybe six hours in total. So I hope the analysis is good. I certainly found plenty of mistakes by both players!

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Juneau Chess Club Blog

I have put up a new Juneau Chess Club blog. It's just bare bones right now, but I'll be doing upgrades, links, etc. Hopefully my fellow JCC members will want to blog there. It would be great if someday it could rival Streatham and Brixton, but that's an awfully high bar...

Anyway, go ring up the Site Meter, it's currently at 1.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Memorable Game 1: R. Gentil - RLP 02.26.86 0-1

Chesstiger asks in the comments to the previous post "to see a game of you against a higher ranked player just to see how well you can play if needed."

As I noted, a couple of weeks ago my chess archives arrived after almost seven months in storage. I was thinking about a game to post and remembered the one below, the memory of which has remained vivid during the 23 years since it was played. While I was higher rated at the time, Ron Gentil peaked at 1868 USCF in 1993, about 40 points higher than my own peak in 1990. I would add that I ran into Ron a few years ago at a tournament in Reno, and he is still, as always, a gracious gentleman.

While I was rated slightly higher at the time, ratings actually have no bearing at all on the charm this game has always had for me. Sure, the opponent made mistakes, but a creative idea followed up with what seem to be nothing but good moves, all the way to mate...

Enough of the self-flattery, here is the game:

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

RLP - B. Bezenek 05.16.09 1-0

I described the game in a previous post, but now that I had a chance to look closer I'm not happy at all with my play. I win, but the missed opportunities are embarrassing, at best. I whip up an interesting attack and just when I could put the hammer down and finish, a series of missed opportunities, easy two and three move tactics, allows him to nearly save the game. I obviously need to get back to work on my game!

Here you go, in all its glory:
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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

R. McDowell - RLP 05.16.09 0-1

My first game from Saturday, as referenced in the previous post. I played poorly until move 16, and pretty well after that. Better than the other way round!

Thanks so much to Glenn Wilson of Houston Chess for the cool pgn viewer, ChessFlash. Chris, give it a try!

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Double Good, Double Fun Weekend

I can truly say I "lived it up" this weekend. I unloaded 6,000 pounds or so of household goods from a shipping container into my new residence, thereby getting my chess books back after six months in storage, and also managed to play my first rated chess games since last July.

I'll spare you the details of the moving part, let's go to the chess!

On Saturday the Juneau Chess Club had its first rated tournament since I arrived back in town, and due to work schedules and probably the fact that it was a glorious sunny day (not all that common here in Southeast Alaska) there were just three of us, Brian Bezenek, Russ McDowell and me. Well, Brian and Russ are both experienced tournament players and our ratings are within a couple hundred points of each other, so it turned out to be a pretty good match up.

I managed to win both games and thus the tournament, but not without some difficulties. We had the public library conference room for five hours, so we played at G/40, which is a quick enough time control to produce plenty of twists and turns. In the first round Brian played his usual King's Indian Attack as White against Russ, and after Russ went f5-f4 and opened the f-line...Brian proceeded to dominate it, won material and with mate coming up and a minute or so left on Brian's clock Russ resigned.

In round 2 it was my turn to play Russ. I had many games with him after I first came to Alaska over 20 years ago, and it was great to play him again, but early on it looked like the result would not be good, at least for me. As White in the King's Indian he played an unusual move, 5. Bd2. I recalled seeing this at least once before but whatever I had learned from that game two years ago didn't prevent me from getting outplayed; Russ trussed me up like a chicken, won the Exchange and threatened to trap my queen. Plus, he was at least five minutes ahead on the clock. At these fast time controls though, you gotta just keep trying, and he finally made a mistake that lost a couple of pawns, I got a lot of counterplay and I ended up queening a pawn and checkmating him with a minute or so left on the clock.


In the third round I had White against Brian, and played into a Queen's Gambit where I castled 0-0-0 and pawn-stormed the king side. These types of positions always seem to be complex and nerve wracking, and this one was no execption. Brian defended pretty well and got three pawns for a piece while staving off the attack. Again, my opponenent was ahead a few minutes on the clock, but I forked the Exchange and emerged a rook to the good, and exected a two-rook stairstep checkmate with a minute or so left on my time.

Whew, again.

While it's nice to win, of course, I felt a little rusty and was definitely not playing "Real Chess" on each and every move. My game needs work; months of internet blitz and mostly casual club play have taken some of my edge off.

But's that's okay; it was just great to be back in action. Many thanks to Russ and Brian for showing up to play chess on a sunny day.

I'll post the games soon. Now that the great and powerful Glenn Wilson has made Chess Flash even easier, there's no excuse not to post every game for all the world to critique. And now that I have retrived from storage my box of game scores from the last couple of decades, readers are likely see one of my "best games" from the past here on occasion. I'll probably throw in some "worst games" for amusement, as well.

As TommyG would say, "Hope everyone had a great weekend!"

Monday, May 11, 2009

Alekhine's and Centre-Countre: Black in Charge

The excellent Wang writes about his (good) play in a recent tournament in a post with the delightful title Drunkn Monkey Kung-Fu Patzer Chess, and touches on his use of Alekhine's Defense (1. e4 Nf6). He plays it exclusively.

This set me to thinking about openings from the "amateur's" point of view. There are a million (okay, hyperbole) thousands of chess books and columns aimed at amateurs by professional masters that advise us not to spend much study time on openings until we reach 2000 or 2200 or 2299 or whatever on the ratings list. We should be spending almost all of our limited study time on tactics, say most, or on a mix of tactics studies and instructive annotated master games.

Long-time readers here (all one of them) may remember that the late, great Dr. Kenneth Mark Colby (Secrets of a Grandpatzer Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), recommended the opposite, indeed, recommended memorizing (horrors) main, main lines as a way to save clock time and mental energy in tournament play. As a borderline Grandpatzer who will likely never crack 2000, and thus supposedly never study openings for the rest of my days, I'll go with the Professor; there are real, tangible, practical benefits to doing an efficient amount of opening study, as long as you don't make openings your primary subject in chess.

Now, the Good Dr. Colby recommended the Dragon Sicilian and King's Indian Defense (KID) as the main part of the "Grandpatzer plays Black" repertoire, and as a King's Indian fanatic I (of course) heartily concur with the second half of the prescription. When it comes to meeting 1. e4 though, I think that Wang's Alekhine and my own favorite of the past few years, the Centre Countre (Scandinavian) 1. e4 d5 have some things going for them that you might want to consider.

One of the qualities these two have in common is that they are about the only openings out there that are forcing from move 1. Think about that. No matter your first move as White, Black has five or six decent replies, e.g. 1. d4 d5-Nf6-c6-e6-f5-g6. And if Black against 1. d4, White has five or six sytems against, for example, the King's Indian: the Be2 "Main Line," Four Pawns, Saemisch, Fianchetto, h3 variations...etc. We KID people have to think about all of these, and the same with the Nimzo-Indian, Slav, and so on.

But in the Scandinavian, and even more so, the Alekhine, it seems that White has only one really good reply, 1. e4 d5 2. exd5, and 1. e4 Nf6 2. e5, respectively. Most other second moves for White are considered to allow Black instant equality, for example 1. e4 Nf6 2. d3?!. After 1. e4 d5 2. d4 White goes into the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, but I don't remember getting this played against me more than once in scores of tournament and blitz encounters, and it's nothing to be afraid of, anyway. The Alekhine has the defensive 1. e4 Nf6 2. Nc3, and again Black has no problems equalizing.

For any deeper insight beyond move 2 you're going to have to go to another source, as I don't intend to analyse these openings here, just point out their unique utility for the enthusiastic amateur chess player. Use of either of these openings will usually allow you to meet 1. e4 pretty quickly and efficiently, without too much time or mental energy spent on the first few moves. You'll need all of that you can summon for the middlegame.

It's interesting to note that the reason these two are so forcing is the basic fact that after 1. e4 the e-pawn is unprotected, unlike the d-pawn after 1. d4. So is d4 "theoretically" a stronger move? In a sense, after e4 Black is "in charge" of determining the course of the game. Various chess writers have put it in these terms for over 100 years.

But Robert J. Fischer, a pretty fair player and theoretician, apparently disagreed...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Favorites (I)

In the comments to my last post, welcoming him back, Tommyg writes:

By the way I noticed in your profile under favorite music that you had AC/DC and Sinatra back to back! LOVE THAT!

That's one of the things I like about Tommyg, he gets it. So many people figure that if you like AC/DC you can like, say, Aerosmith, but you can't like, say, Beethoven.


I love Beethoven, especially the Ninth Symphony, especially the fourth movement, especially the part where the deep-voiced guy breaks into the German...a translation for ya:

Joy, beautiful spark of the gods,
Daughter of Elysium,
We enter fire imbibed,
Heavenly, thy sanctuary.

Be embraced, Millions!
This kiss for all the world!
Brothers!, above the starry canopy
A loving father must dwell.

I also love the music of the Rolling Stones, especially the album Some Girls, especially this song, especially this live version of this song at that moment, the best live version, given the circumstances, that will ever be:

Rolling Stones - When the whip comes down

Why? For the reason everyone loves certain art; it is sympathy...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tommyg is BACK!

Great news. If I recall, his previous blog was "Chess and Music" but he deleted it in one of those spurs of the moment. Now he's got The Prodigal Pawn up, especially analyzing games--his own and others:

I will concentrate mostly on analysis of games (mine and others) and on reviews of books and/or software. I will from time to time post about improvement concepts as I see them. I don't want to beat the improvement thing to death as I am only just improving and have no hardcore evidence as to what does or does not work. Be that as it may, I am an opinionated person, so I will share those opinions once in awhile. :)

Nice job here analyzing a Thompson-Morphy game.

Welcome back, Tommyg!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Calling Chessvine's Colonel Crockett

(For those readers less familiar with United States history, Davy Crockett is a famous figure of the American frontier. He was also a Congressman, but we won't hold that against him).

Nowadays Col. Crockett runs an excellent chess news and opinion blog, Yes kids, it's true, he secretly escaped from The Alamo and pursued a number of careers, sub rosa, before becoming a leading light of the online chess world.

Did I mention that he wrote a very flattering post about my piece on the Caro-Kann? That has, of course, nothing to do with this post; just coincidence, I'm sure. Then, in "What is Robert Pearson Doing Right?" he explains why this little blog is "well-placed search engine optimized." The funny thing is, it turns out I was optimizing without knowing it! Bloggers, I highly recommend you take the Colonel's recommendations seriously if you want to increase traffic.

Right now, if you Google "Robert Pearson" guess what the very top result is? This blog, beating out various artists, writers and diplomats who share that distinguished name. Is Google really, really smart, or really, really stupid? I guess I truly am optimized!

And by the way, why are you still here reading my drivel?

Hie thee over to as the other side of the pillow.