Saturday, August 23, 2008

Video Interview: John Rowell

During round five of the 2008 SCCF State Championship, we interviewed John Rowell, a former State Championship participant who provided the playing site at his Century City law offices.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Total Recall

Here is an amusing and fairly accurate account of the recent USCF Delegates' Meeting from Elizabeth Vicary.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Adding and Subtracting

One of the intellectual movements in chess over the last fifteen years has been the attempt to transform sudden-death into an amazingly lifelike imitation of "real" chess, with repeated time controls. This has mostly involved the use of high-tech digital clocks. There are essentially three flavors.

1) "Time-delay," standard in the U.S. When the opponent stops his clock and starts yours, your clock does not begin ticking down for a specified number of seconds (typically five).

2) "Bronstein," named for the late GM who suggested it back in the early 1970s. (Also known as "non-cumulative addback.") When the opponent stops his clock and starts yours, a specified number of seconds is added to your time, to a maximum of the time you had when you started your last move. Example: You have 20 seconds left. You think for six seconds and make your move, leaving you with 14. When your opponent moves, your clock immediately jumps back to 19. Example 2: Same as before, except that you use only three seconds, leaving you with 17. When your opponent moves, your clock jumps back to 20 (not 22). Mathematically this is more or less identical to time delay, but it is less used, probably because it's harder to explain.

3) "Fischer," also known as "increment" or "cumulative addback." The standard adopted by FIDE, most often in the form of game in 90 with an extra 30 seconds for each move. It operates in the same manner as Bronstein, except that there is no limit to the amount of time you can accumulate. Make a lot of moves quickly, and you can easily go from one second to five minutes.

The "Fischer" mode has been fairly rare in the U.S., though it has been used for the U.S. Championship and for some title-norm round-robins. These operated quite well by simply using the FIDE rules. Recently, however, the USCF Rules Committee decided that we really, really needed new rules of our own. (The committee chairman is apparently a big fan of Fischer increment, and wants to encourage its adoption.) Most of the "new" rules voted on at the recent Delegates' Meeting were taken straight from the FIDE Handbook.

However, there is one oddity. What happens if both flags are down? Under FIDE procedure, this is very unlikely to arise, since the arbiter is supposed to watch the game and call the flag. That is probably not going to happen in American Swiss tournaments, so the Rules Committee chairman came up with a novel interpretation: Fischer increment is "not really" sudden death. Instead, once your original time is used up, it's "really" unlimited repeating time controls of 30 seconds/move. Thus, under the new USCF rule, if both flags are down, the game is not drawn (as it would be in sudden-death). Rather, the clocks must be reset with zero time plus 30 second addback for each player and the game continued. If you think resetting the clocks that way is going to be a pain, you're right.

A simple solution, until the next time the USCF tinkers with the rules: If you must use Fischer increment, announce in advace that you are using FIDE rules. If you don't have enough TDs to watch all the games, well, you probably shouldn't be using increment to begin with.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Video Interview: Cyrus Lakdawala

We interviewed IM Cyrus Lakdawala during the 2008 SCCF State Championship at the law offices of Cheong, Denove, Rowell in Century City.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Pillsbury-Tarrasch, Hastings 1895

In 1895 Harry Nelson Pillsbury traveled to Europe to compete in his first international tournament -- and he won, ahead of such luminaries as Lasker, Tarrasch and Chigorin. Though a frequent and successful tournament competitor over the next few years, he never succeeded in obtaining the match for the world championship he sought. His long illness and early death in 1906 deprived the world of one of its greatest players. Among his other contributions to the game, Pillsbury demonstrated the worth of the Queen’s Gambit in an era when anything other than 1. e4 e5 was often dismissed as “Irregular.”

Pillsbury – Tarrasch
Hastings 1895


1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Be7 5. Nf3 Nbd7 6. Rc1 0-0 7. e3 b6 8. cxd5 exd5 9. Bd3 Bb7 10. 0-0 c5 11. Re1 c4

At the time most masters thought that Black’s Queenside pawn majority should give him the advantage—given time, he will advanace his b- and c-pawns and create a passed pawn on the c-file. Pillsbury shows that White’s active pieces are of greater import.

12. Bb1 a6 13. Ne5 b5 14. f4 Re8 15. Qf3 Nf8 16. Ne2 Ne4 17. Bxe7 Rxe7 18. Bxe4 dxe4

White does not object to exchanges, for the Black Bb7 cannot easily participate in the defense of the Kingside.

19. Qg3 f6 20. Ng4 Kh8 21. f5 Qd7 22. Rf1 Rd8 23. Rf4 Qd6

White has steadily strengthened his position while Black temporized.

24. Qh4 Rde8 25. Nc3 Bd5 26. Nf2 Qc6 27. Rf1 b4 28. Ne2 Qa4

It seems that Black’s strategy has succeeded, for he must now obtain a passed pawn on the Queenside. But all the White pieces are poised for an attack on the Black King.
29. Ng4 Nd7

Not 29. ... Qxa2? 30. Nxf6! and wins.

30. R4f2 Kg8

And now if 30. ... Qxa2 31. Nf4 Bf7 32. Ng6+ Bxg6 33. fxg6 h6 34. Nxh6 gxh6 35. Qxh6+ Kg8 36. Rf5 wins.

31. Nc1 c3 32. b3 Qc6 33. h3 a5 34. Nh2 a4 35. g4 axb3 36. axb3 Ra8


37. g5! Ra3 38. Ng4 Bxb3 39. Rg2 Kh8 40. gxf6 gxf6 41. Nxb3 Rxb3 42. Nh6

Threatening 43. Rg8 mate.

42. ... Rg7 43. Rxg7 Kxg7 44. Qg3+! Kxh6

Forced, as 44. ... Kf8 45. Qg8+ picks off the Rook at b3.

45. Kh1!

A quiet but deadly move -- Black is helpless against the threat to close the mating net with 46. Rg1.

45. ... Qd5 46. Rg1 Qxf5 47. Qh4+ Qh5 48. Qf4+ Qg5 49. Rxg5 fxg5 50. Qd6+ Kh5 51. Qxd7 c2 52. Qxh7 mate