Thursday, November 20, 2008


Flash Gordon was a very mediocre movie blending bad 70s with bad 80s. This title prompted my memory of the sound of Queen singing in high falsetto chorus "Flash! Fla-ash!"

A while back, I tried to emulate Rolf Wetzell's Chess Master At Any Age. I discussed it in this post. I even wrote a computer program in C# to help me make nice flashcards.

I've spent a couple days back at Chess Tempo. Since I've missed 20 of the last 50 problems (and my rating has plummeted), I decided to try to solidify the learning by making a flashcard of each missed problem.

Here is a pdf file of my efforts to date, generated by my chess flashcard program. Going over some of the older flashcards, I remembered a Python-inspired title that could lead to another Python-themed post. See if you can spot it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Activation Energy

There's a perfectionist self-disciplinarian that has been slowing down my rate of posting even though the ideas are starting to crop up. I have two master games, four endings, and a TPS report to blog about, but I have to psych myself up for the task of writing. Perhaps I'm making too big a deal about topical sentences, unifying themes, witty references, and kernels of utility for the reader. I've never been particularly prolific; this blog is the only writing I do. My recollection of essay tests in high school were that I would write as many words as other students. But I'd be unhappy with half the things I wrote, so that my pithy essays were covered in scratchouts. Thank goodness for today's backspace key.

One of my favorite books in senior English was James Joyce's Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. I hardly remember why, so I guess I'd better go back and read it. The nice thing about getting old is that stuff you enjoyed before can be novel again thanks to the wonders of memory loss. I think that what stood out about Portrait at the time was the free form. It was probably my introduction to stream of consciousness. Before that, my reading tastes were almost entirely Alfred Hitchcock's Three Investigators, a formulaic mystery series.

So in order to produce more quantity, I'm going to try for less quality (or what I thought was quality). Apologies in advance if it takes a while to find the right balance.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Legendary Black Beast Of Aargh

Many openings are named invoking animistic spirits: dragon, hippopotamus, elephant, polar bear, rat, etc. My second tournament game back from my six-month break was against ChargingKing. I decided to try to revive parts of my Sicilian repertoire and went for the Dragon despite knowing that his book knowledge might be as great as mine. Because of my opponent's theme of Python's knights, I decided to channel the Legendary Black Beast of Aaargh who shares many features of a dragon.

Unfortunately, my assessment of our book knowledge was about right. Fortunately, I was able to eke out a victory by swindling him out of a favorable middlegame and putting together an ending that wasn't really winning in all lines, but tricky enough to snooker the win.

So the game started off as a Classical Dragon but with White castling queenside. 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.Be2 O-O 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.O-O-O

Here endeth my book and probably his too. I began by considering Ng4 trying to win the two bishops which is in my style and what my opponent expected from some blitz games we had played. But I decided against that here since my Nf6 is one of my best defenders, while Be2 is often a nonparticipatory piece for White. I knew that one of the lines in the 9.O-O-O Dragon with 7.f3 instead of 7.Be2 was 9...d5, but I didn't know and couldn't figure out if Be2 made it worse or better. Finally, I settled on a seemingly innocuous plan to exchange on d4 and put my bishop on e6.

9...Nxd4 The ill-tempered Killer Rabbit takes out the first of Arthur's knights at the entrance to the Cave of Caerbannog. 10.Bxd4 The knights avenge their comrades with the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. Afterwards, my coach recommended 9...d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Nxd5 cxd5 13.Qxd5 Qc7, a standard idea in the regular 7.f3 dragon. 10...Be6 11.Kb1.

Here began some major floundering which demonstrates my ignorance of the Way of the Dragon. I came up with the lamo 11...a6. Hardly a pawn storm, more like a drifting fog. Without a weakness in White's king position, I had very little idea how to attack. My coach afterward recommended the plan of Qc7-Rfc8-Qa5. 12.h4 b5 13.f3 A moral victory in that I got my opponent to play this move after all. 13...b4 14.Nd5 Bxd5 15.exd5 a5.

I began to notice that my attack was going to fizzle. My main hope shifted toward confusing my opponent in his kingside attack. 16.g4 Having dispatched the Rabbit, the knights cautiously enter the Cave where they argue over the carved words of Joseph of Arimathea.

16...Nd7? Better was 16...a4 17.h5 b3 18.hxg6 bxa2+ 19.Kxa2 hxg6 +/-. Suddenly, the Legendary Black Beast of Aaargh appears 17.Bxg7 Kxg7 and eats Brother Maynard.

Some confused chasing around ensues.

18.Qd4+?! (Best was direct and effective 18.h5! Rh8 19.hxg6 hxg6 20.Qd4+ f6 21.Qe3!+- with a winning attack.) 18...f6?! 19.f4 Qb6 I sought refuge in the endgame. 20.Qe4

20...Rfe8 (I never considered 20...Nc5!? 21.Qxe7+ Kg8 22.Qe3 Rfe8 23.Qf2 b3! 24.cxb3 a4! 25.bxa4 Rxa4 +=) 21.h5 Nc5 More chasing around.

22.h6+? I told my opponent afterward that you never want to close lines of your attack. Here the Rh1 is now blocked out of the attack. He said he thought he could muster some kind of a checkmate with the pawn on h6. 22...Kf8 23.Qd4 Na5 Finally, I conjured up the transparent threat of Nc3+, so my opponent finally agreed to the trade of queens. 24.Qxb6 Nxb6

25.f5?! I mainly feared a quick Bb5-Bc6 cramping my pieces. Instead, my opponent obliged by making his bishop even worse and isolating his advanced h-pawn, soon to become a tasty snack for the Beast. 25...g5 26.Rhe1 Rec8 27.Rd4?! (last chance for Bb5) 27...Rc5! 28.Bf3= Now White's bishop is simply awful.

My plan was to post my knight on e5 and try to take control of c4 to exchange both rooks and win the good knight versus bad bishop endgame. By no means was my plan as inexorable as I had hoped. 28...Rac8 29.Re2 Nd7 30.Red2 Ne5

31.Bc1?! 31.Be2 stymies Black's plans. 31...Rc4 32.Be2 Rxd4 33.Rxd4 Nf7 White can't protect h6.

34.Rc4? Rxc4 35.Bxc4 Nxh6 36.Be2

I think I'll stop for now and discuss the endgame under a separate post. Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Once More Unto The Breach

It's been 171 days since my last tournament game and 52 days since my last post. Suddenly the Reno chess blogosphere has become a ghost town. Chess Boozer and Wahrheit have left town. Man of the West has deleted his blog and has also talked of riding into the sunset. Charging King and DrunknKnite have been rather inactive lately.

I spent mid-October weekend watching others do battle in the 26th Western States Open while keeping a safe distance. I bumped into and compared notes with another expert who pretty much retired from tournament chess because chess gives him a “stomachache”. I have been keeping busy with StarCraft, Facebook’s Word Twist, Sudoku, Scrabble, Fantasy Football, swimming, and piano. Yet, as I watched some games and saw many more in scoresheet form, I was yet again drawn by the sirens’ song from the 64-square island. The courage of stalwart warriors, the delicate plans dreamed and discarded, and the many plot twists before games get distilled into the three results reminded me of the good in chess.

On the plus side, Blue Devil Knight seems to have returned in limited fashion. And Dana Mackenzie highlighted this blog when he wrote of an endgame miracle in the Western States Open. Endgame Obsessions might actually be useful.

The title originates from a soliloquy in Shakespeare’s Henry the V in which the titular character rallies the English army to keep up its siege of the city of Hafleur. With trite sayings, I try to rally my war-weary bones to rejoin the endless siege in conquering chess.