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September 17, 2016

Saturday Afternoon Chess/Open Thread 09-17-2016 [OregonMuse]

Egyptian Chess Players.jpg
Egyptian Chess Players
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1865

Good afternoon morons and moronettes, and welcome to the Saturday Afternoon Chess/Open Thread, the only AoSHQ thread with content specifically for all of us chess nerds who pay homage in the temple of Caïssa, goddess of the chessboard. And, for those of you who aren't nerdly enough for chess, you can use this thread to talk about checkers, or other games, or politics, or whatever you wish, only please try to keep it civil. Nobody wants to get into a food fight on a Saturday afternoon.

This week's pic is a lovely painting, but I'm going to have to throw a yellow flag for unwarranted anachronisms:

1) Pharaonic Egypt had no game of chess.
2) Nor were game boards or tables checkered. I'm almost positive that was a medieval European innovation.
3) The "board" size in this painting appears to be either 10x10 or 10X9. Those aren't standard dimensions for any known form of chess, except perhaps for some recently-invented variant


3) Whatever table game Nefertiti and her bros are playing doesn't appear to be chess. All the pieces look identical. Draughts, maybe?

You can click on the pic for a larger version to see the details better.

‘Hindsight is the most precious gift ever vouchsafed to chess players. Next to that is the foresight of the spectator. Then follows the keenness of vision of the annotator.’

--Lasker's Chess Magazine, December, 1904

Another U.S. Gold Medal - In the Chess Olympiad!

U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A!

The U.S. “Dream Team” came through in the clutch to claim the first American gold medal in 40 years at the 42nd Olympiad that concluded Tuesday in Baku, Azerbaijan.

With a 2½-1½ win over Canada in the 11th and final round, the U.S. (9-0-2) edged out Ukraine (10-0-1) on tiebreaks to take the top prize. Top board GM Fabiano Caruana, who did not lose a game in Baku while playing against top-notch competition, led the way with a victory over veteran GM Evgeny Bareev.

Caruana joined with fellow world top ten GMs Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So to head the most powerful U.S. team in decades. GMs Samuel Shankland and Ray Robson also contributed key points in the two-week biennial event.

We kicked they butt. Actually, no, we didn't. The U.S. was actually tied with Ukraine at the end, but then the byzantine collection of tie-breaking rules that makes the NFL'a look like a child's toy were applied, and that put the U.S. on top by some tiny fraction, so hooray for us.

The Last time the U.S. won a gold medal in the Chess Olympiad was 1976, but that was because it was held in Israel and a large number of countries, including the Soviet Union, the usual favorite, boycotted the event.

Problem 1 - Black To Play (185)

You can ignore the numbers in parentheses at the end of the title on each problem. Those have to do with the bookkeeping system I'm devising to guard against posting a repeat problem.

Hint: Black can mate in 2

20160917 - Problem 1.jpg
3rr2k/p1pq2pp/bp3p2/3B3R/P4P2/1PK1bQ2/1BP3PP/R7 b - - 0 1

Problem 2 - White To Play (199)

Hint: White mates in 4

20160917 - Problem 2.jpg
r1q4k/p5pp/2p2n2/1pb5/5N1Q/P7/1P3PPP/1B3RK1 w - - 0 1

Recommended Book

I mentioned Birth of the Chess Queen: A History by Marilyn Yalom a couple of weeks ago. It's a history of chess that

...examines the five centuries between the chess queen's timid emergence in the early days of the Holy Roman Empire to her elevation during the reign of Isabel of Castile. Marilyn Yalom, inspired by a handful of surviving medieval chess queens, traces their origin and spread from Spain, Italy, and Germany to France, England, Scandinavia, and Russia. In a lively and engaging historical investigation, Yalom draws parallels between the rise of the chess queen and the ascent of female sovereigns in Europe, presenting a layered, fascinating history of medieval courts and internal struggles for power.

When I first heard about this book a few years ago, I thought "oh great, more 'grrl powah!' crap". But I read the sample chapter and it wasn't too bad, so I bought it and it's actually quite a good chess history. Ms. Yalom did good work surveying the books (and poetry) about chess written in medieval times, and tracing the geographic dispersal of the rule changes. Yes, there's sometimes a distinct whiff of 'grrl powah!' but it's easy to ignore. The book is certainly not a feminist tract. In fact, Yalom's main thesis, that the changes made to chess rules, the transformation of the 'vizier' piece to the queen, and giving the queen extraordinary powers of movement, was due to the emergence of several powerful medieval queens, is one that I don't care about one way or another. In order to defend her argument, Yalom has to go into all kinds of chess history, and that's I found fascinating about it.

The Kindle edition has been priced at $1.99 for awhile now, so those of you who are interested in chess history can pick it up for cheap.

By the way, if you're interested at all in chess history, then I heartily recommend the Chess Notes web site. It's run by a guy named Edward Winter and the breadth and depth of his material is simply incredible. I have to be careful when I visit his site because I can easily spend 2-3 hours poking around and finding fascinating anecdotes, photos, scans of original newspaper and book pages, etc. It's a veritable treasure trove of chess history.

Problem 3 - White To Play (211)

Hint: White wins material

A couple of you were a little annoyed the last time I posted a problem like this, but this position is from an actual game (no, not a famous one).

20160917 - Problem 3.jpg
3k1r2/p1p3p1/5n2/2b1p1p1/4P3/2P2N2/Pr3PPP/R3K2R w KQ - 0 1

Chess Variant - Capablanca Chess

It's hard to believe, but by the early 1800s, people were starting to complain that chess was "played out" that is, we pretty much have learned most, if not all, of what there is to know about the game, so it's going to get boring, especially at the master level. When Captain William Davies Evans introduced his innovation (what is now known as the Evans Gambit) in the 1820, it was hailed as "a gift of the gods to a languishing chess world." Really. In the 2nd decade of the *nineteenth* century, they thought the game of chess was "languishing".

But they took it and ran with it. In his book My 60 Memorable Games, Bobby Fischer remarked that the Evans Gambit had been "analyzed to death" by the 1890s.

And remember that the hypermodern revolt had yet to emerge over the horizon.

The great Cuban champion José Raúl Capablanca was also afraid that chess was deteriorating into an endless series of draws. His solution was to introduce a new chess variant, with a larger board and more pieces. Capablanca Chess is played on a 10x8 board (10 files, 8 rows) and has two new pieces, the Chancellor, which combines powers of a rook and a knight, and the Archbishop, which combines powers of a bishop and a knight.

So, it's the same setup as chess with the addition of a couple of knights on steroids.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I am not inclined to even try this variant. Here is my opinion, with which you can take, along with $3.50, down to your local Starbucks and buy yourself a cup of coffee: chess as it has developed is a finely-balanced system in which it is difficult to make small changes in the initial conditions that don't result in huge differences being seen as the logic of the new rules is played through. It's like a mathematical equation where an infinitesimally small change in x makes a huge change in the value of y.

It's like baseball, another fine-tuned system. What would baseball look like if they took away a base and the infield was a triangle instead of a diamond? Or what if, when you were hit by a pitch, you were declared out? That would fundamentally change the game of baseball. In fact, you wouldn't have baseball, you'd have something completely different.

Capablanca played his variant against several strong players, including Edward Lasker, who liked it. William Winter, the British champion, on the other hand, thought that there were too many strong pieces, making the minor pieces less relevant. I can see this. The temptation would be to commence offensive operations with the queen and the two super-knight pieces with maybe the rooks added in later, but ordinary bishops and knights simply aren't strong enough pieces to compete in such an environment, so there would be a tendency to trade them off early so the big guns can come out to fight.

Adding two more strong pieces upsets the finely-tuned balance of chess, and plus, I'm having a hard enough time figuring out how to correctly use the pieces we have now, let alone two more with strange new powers.

So that's my story, and I'm sticking with it.

Problem 4 - White To Play (35)

Hint: White mates in 5

20160917 - Problem 4.jpg
1k1r4/pp5p/7p/1N1p1pq1/P2N3b/2P4P/1P2Qn2/R3RK2 w - - 0 1

Youngest Ever

Read it and weep:

Abhimanyu Mishra from New Jersey became the youngest ever expert at the age of seven years, six months and 22 days, beating Awonder Liang’s record by almost six months, who became an expert and eight years and seven days.

Abhimanyu broke the 2000 barrier at a quad in Hamilton, NJ and gained some more rating points at the New Jersey Open over Labor Day weekend.

Mishra's current rating, as of today, is 1972, so he must've lost some games since Labor Day. Still, this is a remarkable achievement for one so young. He's playing at a level that I can only dream of.

Endgame of the Week (18)

What can White do here? Win? Draw? How best to proceed?

20160917 - Endgame.jpg
8/8/8/1k5P/8/5p2/4p3/5K2 w - - 0 1


Solutions Update

Problem 1 - Black To Play


There are 3 responses by White, but none can enable him to escape checkmate on the next move:

2.Bxc6 Bd2#

2.Bc4 Bd2#

2.Kb4 Qc5#

Problem 2 - White To Play

This one is pretty straightforward:

1.Qxh7+ Nxh7
2.Ng6+ Kg8
3.Ba2+ Qe6

Problem 3 - White To Play


I hope that White's king and rooks being on their home squares suggested to you that castling was still legal. The complaint I got the last time I did this when I posted a problem with a solution that involved these "conditional" chess moves was "how are we supposed to know if castling (or en passant capturing) is legal in this position?" There are a couple of answers to this: the first is that the castling options in any position I post is contained in the FEN string underneath each diagram, which is human-readable, and not all that difficult to learn. The second, and in my view, better, way, is to forget about the FEN description and assume that the move is legal, and go for it. If that enables you to come up with a solution that satisfies the problem's parameters, then congratulations, you've solved it. If that wasn't my intended solution, that's my problem, not yours. You've solved the problem under the conditions I set out, so you can give me a Bronx cheer. Because what that means is that you've 'cooked' the problem, which I think is even better than solving it.

2.Kxb2 NOM NOM NOM free rook so tasty.

As I said, this is from an actual game. The Latvian book of chess problems I poached it from lists it as "Tenk - Egrt, 1930", which tells us not one damn thing. My guess is that it was probably played at some small, now-forgotten tournament in Riga.

Problem 4 - White To Play

1.Qe5+ Ka8 (1...Kc8? would be disastrous. 2.Qc7#)
2.Nc7+ Kb8
3.Na6+ Ka8 (again, if 3...Kc8 then 4.Qc7#)
4.Qb8+ Rxb8

Heh. Look at that. It's our old friend the smothered mate once again!

Endgame of the Week

First things first. White needs to keep Black from moving his king over to help advance his passed pawns.

1.Ke1 Kc4
2.Kd2 Kd4

Now it's safe to advance.


But Black has one trick left up his sleeve. He can give up one of his pawns to bring his king over and protect the other.

4.Kxe1 Ke3
5.h7 f2+
6.Kf1 Kf3

Nice try, but it comes up short.

7.h8=Q Ke3
8.Qe5+ and wins

There are some positions where a King + one advanced pawn can force a draw against King + Queen. This is not one of them.


Note: that cryptic line of letters and numbers you see underneath each board diagram is a representation of the position in what is known as "Forsyth-Edwards Notation", or F.E.N. It's actually readable by humans. Most computer applications nowadays can read FEN, so those of you who may want to study the position, you can copy the line of FEN and paste into your chess app and it should automatically recreate the position on its display board. Or, Windows users can just "triple click" on it and the entire line will be highlighted so you can copy and past it into your chess app.


So that about wraps it up for this week. Chess thread tips, suggestions, bribes, rumors, threats, and insults may be sent to my yahoo address: OregonMuse little-a-in-a-circle yahoo dott com.

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