Thursday, January 26, 2017

PRO Chess League: A Quick Update

For those of you who visit regularly, you probably have learned that Wednesdays are now dedicated to the PRO Chess League, an awesome online chess league which features 48 teams competing against each other in a "rapid chess" format for a $50,000 prize fund.  You may have heard of some of the players: Carlsen, Caruana, So, Nakamura, Vachier-Lagrave, etc.

Each dot represents a team in the PRO Chess League

North Carolina of course has its own team, the Carolina Cobras, which features many local players.  Aaron Balleisen is doing great weekly recaps of those match on this blog.  This week's Cobras (Emmanuel Carter, Josh Mu, Steve Wang, Peter Giannatos) defeated an extremely strong New Jersey team this week (GM Joel Benjamin, GM Alex Stripunsky, IM-elect Praveen Balakrishnan and IM Alex Katz) by a 10.5-5.5 margin!  Some of the pundit predictions had heavily favored NJ in this match, and I believe Peter may have an opinion or two on a particularly incorrect prediction...

Although I live in Charlotte, I am still the manager of the Atlanta Kings team, as I have been for the last 2 seasons, back when the league was the "US Chess League."  Our team has a couple free agents (GM Gadir Guseinov and GM Elshan Moradiabadi), but mostly local ATL players, including GM Alonso Zapata (who won our recent Southeastern FIDE Championship) and IM Daniel Gurevich.

We haven't had a great season so far (0.5/3), but we have had a couple highlights.  This week, our board 3, Richard Francisco, was nominated for both PRO Chess League's Game of the Week and Move of the Week (24.f6) for his nice game against GM Robert Hess below (annotations by Sam Copeland in's weekly league report).

Please vote for Richard in both polls if you have a twitter account - the winner each week receives $200 for game of the week and $100 for best move of the week.

Some fun things to look forward to during the rest of the season:

  • Wednesday matches every week on or
  • Peter plays his matches for the Cobras at CCCSA on Wednesday evenings, and I am often there in my managing duties for the Atlanta Kings, so please come by and watch the commentary on the big screen
  • Peter and I are thinking about perhaps doing "live" commentary for both the Atlanta and Carolina matches to support our local players - please stay tuned
  • Finally, there will be a big local rivalry in Week 6 - Wednesday February 15, between Carolina and Atlanta!  In previous years' US Chess League, Atlanta leads Carolina 2-1, but in the new rapid format of the PRO Chess League, I'm sure that Carolina will seek to even the score.  Watch and support our local teams!

--Grant Oen, Atlanta Kings Manager

Simple Chess: Endgames


I always hear that no one likes to study the endgames. Me? I prefer to study endgames, less pieces, less theory I need to stay up to date with unlike openings. The endgame is simple (read: complexly simple).

Just because I say it is simple does not mean that I make it simple in my games. In fact, the opposite is actually true. I will take you through some of my own endgames to show you why it is important to embrace this phase of the game.

As you can see these are three of my games that were either won or lost because of either my or my opponent's lack of endgame knowledge. It wasn't because of my openings that caused me to lose one game, almost draw a second game or win the final game. It was endgame knowledge or lack thereof. I hope that you now see the importance in studying the endgame. If so, below are some of the books I have used to increase my endgame knowledge.

Endgame Books I Have Used

  • Silman's Complete Endgame Course
  • Just The Facts
  • Amateur to IM
  • Capablanca's Best Chess Endings

This is my first attempt to mate with King and two Bishops versus a lone King. Since Tuesday night I have spent a lot of time working on my endgames by going through Parts 1 through 5 of Silman's Complete Endgame Course. The last material I covered was this mating technique. Playing these positions out against a computer or with a friend is a great way to make sure you understand the material. I did not have to consult the book or computer for help, as you can see, I did not play it the most accurately but I was able to get the job done. Now it will be a matter of mastering the technique.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Chess is a Gentleman's Game

Twenty-six players showed up to take part in the first round of Tuesday Night Action 30. This week's feature game between Gary Newson(2014) and Patrick McCartney(2131) is a King's Indian Defense, Petrosian Variation. After looking at this game, one would think a couple of gentlemen were playing. Each player appeared to have wanted to give the point away to the opponent, and yet neither side would take it! Black makes the first mistake, but then follows up with a tricky gambit of a pawn where White fails to take advantage of it, missing a very thin line that actually works for him. Black then gains the advantage, but it is hard to convert, and time starts becoming an issue. Black continues to make a series of non-fatal errors, each one getting bigger as his clock continues to diminish. Finally, Black cracks and blunders on the 46th move, but almost immediately after White has been given another opportunity to take the full point, he makes a silly error, and a draw was finally agreed. The game can be viewed below.

Meanwhile, on board two, Vishnu Vanapalli(1975) and Pradhy Kothapalli(1870) go at it, and while the latter proceeded to go up a pawn, he was unable to take advantage of it in a queen and pawn ending and they also declared peace. This allowed the bottom two boards to determine the leaders of the section after one round, and in this case, black dominated. Aditya Shivapooja(1767) took down Ali Shirzad(1695) while David Richards(1641) defeated William Clayton(1748).

In the lower section, there is an 8-way tie for the lead after one round as Marnzell Hand(1600) beat Carlos Zuniga(1497), Segun Kamara(1586) took down Andrew Jiang(1483), Carl McKern(1534) defeated Corey Frazier(1404), Julian Parker(1427) pulled the upset on Ervon Nichols(1571), Hassan Hashemloo(1307) ripped apart Debs Pedigo(1340), Monish Behera(1251) annihilated Aditya Vadakattu(1062), Aarush Chugh(1174) got the best of Rithvik Prakki(1193), and Richard Trela(1092) executed a premeditated assault on James Middlebrooks(1008). In the meantime, Sampath Kumar(1448) and Luke Harris(1585) declared peace.

To view all results, Click Here!

Reuben Fine - A comprehensive record of an American Chess Career 1929-1951.

Reuben Fine - A comprehensive record of an American Chess Career 1929-1951. Author Aidan Woodger, 2004, 400 pages. Publisher McFarland
A book review by Davide Nastasio
Every book begins with a dream, and in this case the dream of the author is quite interesting. He began to study chess seriously around 1980, and the hero he chose for his chess journey was Reuben Fine.

Fine was quite an interesting character. I was curious about him, because of a book he wrote a long time ago on chess psychology, Morphy, and Fischer.

GM Fine was also a fine author, who wrote many chess books.

But the only way to really know more about GM Fine, was through the best publisher on the market, regarding chess biographies, which is McFarland. If I'd be rich, I'd probably buy McFarland, just for giving the chance to more authors like Aidan Woodger, to make their dreams come true. While at the same time enriching myself with this astounding historical research, which helps me to journey in the past. Let's say it, some of these books are like a time machine, they let us explore the past, without actually moving from our comfortable chairs.
This book has 882 games played by Fine, and meticulously researched by the author, also thanks to the Library of Congress. Yes, the United States of America is clearly the best also for saving our American heritage, and past history.
Of course, I don't want to appear too nationalistic, also if the United States does merit praise for having great libraries, and a great chess community, but obviously a masterpiece, like this book, is born only through the collaboration of many individuals, in this case the author uses one page of the book to thank all who contributed, and they are definitely a lot!
But let's make comparison, since as a reviewer I could be biased in favor of McFarland, and their author. I just bought the new Chessbase Megabase 2017, it is a professional database, with nearly 7 million games, a product which is used by professionals, and amateurs like me for preparing against other players, the cost is around 160$. Such database, which I do consider a really good product, has only 514 games played by Fine! Can you imagine at what length the author went to collect 368 more games?
I'd like to show also the thickness of the annotations to the games, because clearly this book was the product of deep research, and of the highest scholarship, since the author even quotes multiple commentators inside the annotated games.

The annotations are good for their verbosity, often in professional chess magazines we just read symbols to evaluate the position, here instead phrases are used to explain the evaluation.
The author has consulted game collections, magazines, articles, journals, tournament books, in 13 different languages to compile this book.
In the book I've noticed, used few times, an old chess time control: "transit-rapid chess" which I didn't know. We could think it relates to blitz, like 3 minutes per game, but after searching through different sources I understood it was a complete different kind of chess. It was based on an allotted time per move, it could be 10 seconds, or 30 seconds. Of course a game could last 1 hour if reached the 50 moves, but at the same time, if one of the two players would go over the time limit per move on move tenth, he would lose.
It seems Fine was a chess speed demon, because he won multiple tournaments with this time control.

But if we dig deep in the book, around page 331, games 828 onward, we discover that Fine also gave a simul, against four players using rapid-transit time control, 10 seconds for him, and 30 seconds for the players against him. What's special will you ask? It was a rapid transit blindfold simul!

The book begins with a brief biography on Reuben Fine. Clearly he must have had a tough life. He was born in October 1914, the Great War, World War I, began in July of that tragic year, and would destroys countless lives, as well as the hope for a better future for millions and millions of people all around the globe.
Fine was likely too young to understand the 4 years of that terrible war, but he was left by the father when he was 2, and his chess career, around 1932, began in another terrible historical moment: the Great Depression.
When I read a biography I generally pay attention to what that player did in order to become good. I also relate to what other players say they did. One common feature the master level players all agree is about reading some chess classics. Notice how lucky we are today because most of chess books are translated in English. Fine for reading the famous Dreihundert Schachpartien written by Tarrasch (Three Hundred Chess games) had to learn German!

 Why do I mention such book? Because it is one of the books Fischer also mentioned, that taught him the principles of chess! Fischer, who also lived a poor life, read it at the library!
But of course, not only that book was in German, also the famous Nimzowitsch "Mein System," and Reti's "des schachbretts" were in German language, and Fine studied them too!
Now, let me try to explain who Fine was, making a brief outline of his chess career. He became passionate about playing chess around 1929, when he was 15. And by 1936, seven years later, he was able to defeat the great Keres with the Black pieces in tournament. Keres was a GM level player, and in that period was going to become a world champion contender.
This is their game:
[Event "Zandvoort"] [Site "Zandvoort NED"] [Date "1936.07.22"] [EventDate "1936.07.18"] [Round "4"] [Result "0-1"] [White "Paul Keres"] [Black "Reuben Fine"] [ECO "A09"] [WhiteElo "?"] [BlackElo "?"] [PlyCount "126"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. e3 Nf6 4. Bxc4 e6 5. O-O c5 6. b3 Nc6 7. Bb2 a6 8. a4 Be7 9. Ne5 Na5 10. d4 Nxc4 11. Nxc4 O-O 12. Nbd2 Bd7 13. Ne5 Be8 14. Rc1 cxd4 15. Bxd4 Nd7 16. Nxd7 Bxd7 17. Nc4 Rc8 18. Qf3 b5 19. Qg3 f6 20. Bb6 Qe8 21. Nd6 Bxd6 22. Qxd6 bxa4 23. bxa4 Bxa4 24. Bc5 Rf7 25. Ba3 Rd8 26. Qb6 h6 27. Rc5 Bb5 28. Rfc1 Rfd7 29. h3 Rb8 30. Qxb8 Qxb8 31. Rc8+ Qxc8 32. Rxc8+ Kh7 33. Bb4 h5 34. h4 e5 35. Kh2 Kg6 36. Kg3 Bd3 37. Rc6 Rb7 38. Bc3 Bb5 39. Rc8 Kf7 40. f3 Bd7 41. Ra8 Bb5 42. Rc8 Rd7 43. Kf2 Rd1 44. Rc7+ Kg8 45. g4 Rf1+ 46. Kg2 e4 47. fxe4 hxg4 48. e5 Rf3 49. exf6 gxf6 50. Kg1 Bf1 51. Rc6 Kf7 52. e4 g3 53. e5 fxe5 54. Bxe5 Bh3 55. Rc1 a5 56. Kh1 a4 57. Bd4 a3 58. Rc2 Rb3 59. h5 Rb1+ 60. Bg1 Rb2 61. Rc7+ Ke6 62. Bd4 Rb1+ 63. Bg1 a2 0-1

In chess, during a world match, there are the "seconds." Those players who help the world champion to defend the title, or the challenger to defeat the champion. Can you guess who was Euwe's second for defending the world championship against Alekhine?
Yes, it was a rhetorical question, since clearly the subject of this review is: Fine.
So, can you imagine how brilliant must have been this young guy, that in just 7 years, passed from unknown in the chess world, to be a world class player?

 I find the brief biography quite excellent in enlightening Fine's competitive life, and the connections and battles he played against the other top players of the period. Clearly the top tournament one should read on is AVRO 1938.

 In that tournament just for a tie-break Keres became the official world champion challenger. Fine made the same score Keres did, and he could have been the challenger. But here is the tragic part, which continues to reflect on the lives of these players: Keres issued the challenge to Alekhine, but World War II begins, and obviously chess is forgotten, for a war which will obliterate million of young lives. What happens once the war ends, still change the course of Fine's chess destiny. A new tournament is organized in order to designate the world champion: The Hague-Moscow 1948, but Fine declines to participate... and Botvinnik's wins, beginning the Soviet Union Chess supremacy, until Fischer!
However, I don't want to spoil all the surprises from the brief biography.
The bulk of the book is made by the Career History and Collected games. This part is better than the brief biography in outlining Fine's chess life. The games are really high quality, and Fine, had world events been different, could have been a world champion, no doubt. From a brief look at many of his games I noticed that Fine was a universal player, who would open with 1.e4 or 1.d4, and have a great opening repertoire. This could be appealing to any kind of player who wants to learn an opening repertoire, from one of the best chess players in history.
The games are well annotated, and that is nice. Fine played against all the top players in the world, many times. This makes the collection of games particularly important, for the quality of the games played.
But I'd like to show you why Fine could have been considered a world champion. Watch how he chops Botvinnik in just 31 moves:
[Event "AVRO"] [Site "The Netherlands"] [Date "1938.11.06"] [EventDate "1938.11.06"] [Round "1"] [Result "1-0"] [White "Reuben Fine"] [Black "Mikhail Botvinnik"] [ECO "C17"] [WhiteElo "?"] [BlackElo "?"] [PlyCount "61"] 1.e4 { Notes by Reuben Fine. *** Before this tournament I was known as a d4 player, hence my first move must have come as somewhat of a surprise to Botvinnik. } e6 {Botvinnik does not vary. Against e4 he almost invariably played the French, sometimes he tried the Sicilian.} 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.dxc5 {This is the prepared move. Unlike Euwe, I make it a rule not to anatlyze such lines too profoundly before the game because it is most essential to be able to meet whatever surprises come up over the board and not everything can be forseen.} Ne7 6.Nf3 Nbc6 7.Bd3 d4 {Accepts the complications. On 7...Bxc5 8.O-O, White's game is freer.} 8.a3 Ba5 9.b4 Nxb4 10.axb4 Bxb4 11.Bb5+ {Another possibility was O-O, but the move played was part of the prepared variation.} Nc6 {? The fatal error. Necessary was 11...Bd7} 12.Bxc6+ bxc6 13.Ra4 Bxc3+ 14.Bd2 {Suddenly Black discovers that he is lost. The Bishop is hopelessly shut in, and it is only a question of time before White's superior development make itself felt.} f6 {Desperately trying to free the bishop.} 15.O-O O-O 16.Bxc3 dxc3 17.Qe1 a5 18.Qxc3 Ba6 19.Rfa1 Bb5 20.Rd4 {! Black was hoping for 20.Rxa5 which would bring some freedom to the Black pieces.} Qe7 21.Rd6 a4 {To tie the rook down.} 22.Qe3 {! Threatens to win a pawn, but not in an obvious way.} Ra7 23.Nd2 {! The point: the poor Bishop will be driven away.} a3 {The pawn goes anyhow.} 24.c4 Ba4 25.exf6 Qxf6 26.Rxa3 Re8 27.h3 {After this quiet move, Black might as well resign.} Raa8 28.Nf3 Qb2 29.Ne5 Qb1+ 30.Kh2 Qf5 31.Qg3 {Too many threats. Black can't guard the 7th rank.--Fine (Black does not have a single move, and Rf3 is threatened. A combination of a splendid strategic idea with tactical subtleties.--Botvinnik)} 1-0

Of course in the book there are many more games worth studying.
The book continues with Career results tables, and finish with appendices, and bibliography.
I love this book, and thanks to this author I learned to appreciate this great player. Nowadays he is unknown, forgotten, but he is the one who shaped the like of Fischer and many other champions. In fact Fischer played few games against him, in order to progress to the next level! We can find the games played by Fischer against Fine inside this wonderful book.
What I really appreciate is that in order to make this book a reality, fifty people around the globe have collaborated in finding games, consulting libraries, exchanging tons of letters, and I keep the final product of years of their work and passion in my palm!
I also love the paper on which this book is printed. Heavy paper, not white, slightly yellow, better for reading.
If a chess player wants to give quality over quantity to his own chess library, this is definitely a book one must have!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Ouch! That's My Ego You're Hurting..

Blogger: NM Peter Giannatos

This article has been something I've been waiting to write for quite some time. As the Director/Founder of the Charlotte Chess Center as well as an avid chess player, I've experienced the interaction between some grumpy old men and young children over the chess board.

What is great about children is that they do not hold grudges against any adults. Whether their adult opponents slam a piece on the board, mumble curse words under their breath, or stare into their eyes as an intimidation tactic, kids realize that they are there to play chess. What matters to them is the moves that are being played and outcome of the game.

Over the years I've had to hear so many complaints from adults about playing children. My advice is: Focus on the moves, leave your EGO at home.

If you are a true chess enthusiast, the age, race, gender, etc. of the player sitting in front of you should mean nothing. True chess lovers appreciate the game based on moves that are played not whether they are getting smacked down by someone half their age.

There are some things that kids do over the board that could be a bit annoying, but what we have to realize as adults are that those things are not done intentionally. Some of those things could be:

  • Eating at the board
  • Frequently getting up
  • Fiddling with Pieces (Non-Intentional, Just ask them to Stop)
  • Not Resigning (Often taught not to resign; Life lessons at work!)
The only thing that would bother me, which is why we do not permit it at the CCCSA, is eating at the board. I am a firm believer that if you would like to enjoy a snack during your round, you should do so away from the board so it is not a distraction. Bringing a 5 course meal to the table is simply not professional and it is up to the tournament directors to distinguish those rules in advance. (Both adults and kids are guilty of this!)

Again, I can not stress enough that to serious chess players the most important beauty in chess comes in the form of the moves themselves. In this century children are becoming Grandmasters in their early teens on a regular basis. Chess is becoming more and more a young man's game. 

Children are more than capable of playing a high level game of chess and while it may bruise your ego to lose to a child, you might as well get used to it!

In 2016 I was relatively active on the US tournament circuit. Below are my games versus some of the top US Juniors:

The first game is from the 2016 World Open. I was paired with then the youngest master ever from the US (9 Years, 11 months), Maximillian Lu. My strategy against young(er) players is to play somewhat quickly and solid. Get into endgames where they have the most limited knowledge and often get a bit lazy. In the final position my opponent flagged in an equal position (night round, probably past bed time. Who said there aren't advantages to being an adult!?). He had been outplayed most of the game but I continually failed to put the nail in his tiny little coffin.

My second game is from the 2016 Eastern Chess Congress where I played the youngest expert in the history of US Chess (7 Years, 6 Months), Abhinav Mishra. He played a solid game and it took me hours to grind him down. Ultimately he failed to hold an ending where he was slightly worse.

GM Caruana and Mishra

When I observe the games above, I do not see a 9 year old or a 7 year old, I see a chess player. I am more concerned about the quality of moves that I play, and my capability of holding my own over the board. Is there any additional pressure of playing kids so young? Not at all, chess is a young man's game and that is not going to change. My advice: Beat them while you can!

I am very grateful to have started a Chess Center and Club that allows for chess players of all ages, races, genders, etc. a place to play chess. The Charlotte Chess Center is a place for all players and as long as I am alive I will be sure to keep it that way!

Until Next Time,
NM Peter Giannatos

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Reverse Angle 68 - a new record!

Author: Grant OenCCCSA Assistant Director

The 68th version of CCCSA's Reverse Angle tournament (3 rounds, G/90) was held on Saturday, January 21, 2017.

With 80 players, it was the largest RA in history - the previous record was RA 13 in 2009, which had 75 players.  It also seems to be the largest single day event in Charlotte Chess Center's history.  There was full use of the upstairs facilities, in addition to 6 boards downstairs in the chess center's library!  There was an increased prize fund of over $1,000 in four sections.

A packed house for Reverse Angle 68


The Top section boasted both quality and quantity, as it was the largest section with 25 players, led by NMs Daniel Cremisi (2322), Elias Oussedik (2249), and Klaus Pohl (2200).  There were many Experts and Class A players, including 2016 World Under-10 Girls Champion, Rochelle Wu (2094), pictured below.  Through the first round, there were no major upsets - the top seeds scored perfectly, except for Patrick McCartney's draw against Pradhyumna Kothapalli.

In the second round we started to see more interesting pairings.  Jay Goss (2094) drew Daniel Cremisi (2322) and Klaus Pohl (2200) won vs. Rochelle Wu (2094), the highest rated girl under 12 years old in the world (FIDE).  After taking a first round bye, Elias Oussedik (2249) defeated Pradhyumna Kothapalli (1876) in the quickest game of the second round.

Klaus Pohl - Rochelle Wu
After Round 2, only Klaus Pohl and Sijing Wu (2104) had 2/2 scores, leading to their third round match on board 1 in the final round.  Sijing Wu won that encounter, to receive the perfect 3/3 score, a new 2131 rating, and $200.  Daniel Cremisi, Elias Oussedik, Jay Goss, and Sulia Mason tied for second place with 2.5/3.


The U1800 section drew 21 players.  There were a few upsets in Round 1 - Andrew Lord (1399) defeated Jaiden Chuang (1643), Rahul Jakati (1454) defeated RJ Raynoe (1645), and Andrew Jiang (1455) won against Nishanth Singaraju (1700).  There were four perfect scores (2/2) going into the last round - Dwayne Tutt, Carson Cook, Danny Cropper, and Rahul Jakati.  In the end, Tutt and Cook came out on top with 3/3.


The U1400 section had 15 players.  In the U1400 section's first round, CCCSA regular Aarush Chugh (1189) defeated Walter High (1384) on the top board.  In February, Walter will be organizing the 4th Annual Ron Simpson Memorial Tournament in Burlington!

Allan Miller, Ian Macnair, and Aarush Chugh led the section with 2/2 going into Round 3.  Macnair and Chugh both won, leading to another tie for first.  They both also crossed 1300, with Macnair gaining 143 points, and Chugh gaining 177 points.  Not bad for 3 rounds!


19 players competed in the U1100 section.  William Merritt (798) drew Richard Trela (1050) in Round 1, when Trela accidentally promoted to a second queen, which immediately led to stalemate.  Joseph Bostic (743) won against Logan Gately (979) in the biggest upset of the first round.

Sampson Piermattei, Sai Pranav Swarna, Joshua Denton, and Jay Sundar were the four players on a perfect 2/2.  After the dust settled in round 3, Sampson Piermattei and Jay Sundar tied for first with 3/3.  Richard Trela, William Farmer, Sai Pranav Swarna, Joshua Denton, Akshay Rajagopal, and Robert Murray-Gramlich tied for third place with 2/3.


This massive tournament would have been even bigger if it weren't for space constraints - players are always encouraged to pre-register for events online, or email/call ahead to guarantee a spot.

The next Reverse Angle (RA 69) is on Saturday, February 18!  There are many other Saturday events planned, including scholastic events and a four-round, G/60 tournament on February 4.  Please see our 2017 Saturday Tournament Calendar.

- Grant

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Simple Chess: Dealing With Losses

Well the past 5 weeks have been rough. Out of five games, I only managed to win one of them. Of course, that can be demoralizing for some people. Yet, I'm not going to sit here and pretend that it doesn't frustrate me to no end. However, at the end of the day, the goal is to get better at chess, not to win all of my games.


But winning means a higher rating. And a higher rating means you are getting better at chess, right?

Well, to a certain extent, yes.

For me, it is about increasing my knowledge and my strength and that means my rating will take care of itself. These past few losses have earned me some great lessons that I would never have gotten if I won those games. I have been playing stronger players and those losses have resulted in four free lessons. I can't think of a better deal when it comes to chess lessons.

I challenge you this year to take your losses with stride and try to learn something from them. Don't just blame your openings, or claim that you were winning and missed a simple knight fork. Actually take the time to go over your games and truly figure out why you missed the win. I can pretty much guarantee that by doing this and objectively understanding why you lose your games will improve your chess more than anything else.

Week 2: Cobras Cruise to Victory

Week two of the PRO Chess League regular season pitted the Carolina Cobras against another young, locally-based team: the Columbus Cardinals. Fresh off a closer-than-expected defeat at the hands of the GM-laden Philadelphia Inventors, the Cobras looked to take advantage of a rare match-up without any titled FIDE players. A 12.5-3.5 blowout did not disappoint, as the Cobras once again vastly outperformed the panelist "expert" predictions.

"Carollina 6.5-9.5 Columbus - with young 'Christopher Columbus' leading the way."
-NM Alex King

"Very tight matchup. This comes down to boards 3 and 4, where I give Columbus the tiniest of edges."
-NM Pete Karagianis

This weeks lineup featured FM Robin Cunningham, NM Peter Giannatos, NM Emmanuel Carter, and myself. Robin and Peter each posted solid scores of 2/4 and 2.5/4 respectively, each giving up only one loss. On boards three and four, Emmanuel and I combined to go 8-0 against Columbus' four representatives, leading to the lopsided final margin.

Kicking off this week's game analysis is a tactical finish from my third round win over NM Christopher Shen. White appears to have a strong position structurally, but black's pieces have unexpected attacking potential.

NM Emmanuel Carter played several lively games in his Cobras debut. He consistently pressured his opponent on the clock, which proved extremely beneficial in the rapid time control. In the following game against WCM and NM Maggie Feng, Emmanuel found the thematic 23...h5! developing a strong initiative which ultimately led to victory.

FM Robin Cunningham made his first appearance for the Cobras against Columbus. He held slight advantages at various points in his first three games, but was unable to convert any into wins. Undoubtedly, the shorter time control makes a positional grind more difficult to execute. In his fourth round game, Robin launched a menacing kingside attack, which proved decisive after some inaccurate defense by his opponent.

For the second week in a row, NM Peter Giannatos delivered solid results for the Cobras, winning two games and saving a highly unlikely draw. In his game against Christopher Shen, Peter built up a nice position by combining queenside expansion with prophylactic defense on the kingside. After some awful blunders by his opponent, Peter efficiently brought home the full point.

My games this week definitely had their ups and downs, with a crazy second round time scramble against Vincent Baker signifying the undoubted low-point. I have always thought of myself as a more positional player, but this week afforded two rare opportunities to conduct middlegame mating attacks. In addition to the Shen game above, my first round also culminated in a forcing sequence.

I hope you enjoyed this week's recap as much as we all enjoyed winning by such a big margin! Next week's matchup is on Wednesday, January 25 against the New Jersey Knockouts. As always, you can catch the games live on, starting at 6:40pm.

Until next time,
LM Aaron Balleisen

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Adam and Eve

Twenty players showed up to participate in the final round of Tuesday Night Action 29

On the top board, this week's feature game is a Colle Zukertort played between Patrick McCartney(2117) and Aditya Shivapooja(1767). Black begins with a copycat approach to the game with the exception of his King's bishop, which he develops to a more passive square than White's counterpart, and then proceeds to trade all the knights off the board, which opens up his king to an attack by White. White then attempts to execute a double-bishop sacrifice, also known as Lasker's Combination. The first bishop, sacrificed on h7 with check, must be recaptured by the king. However, following a queen check, the second bishop sacrifices itself on g7. Now most are familiar with the story about Adam and Eve. They went into the garden, and ate the forbidden fruit. Black proceeds to do the same thing in this game. He takes the forbidden bishop, and proceeds to get checkmated eleven moves later. Patrick McCartney wins the top section as a result of this with 4 points.

Elsewhere in the top section, Michael Uwakwe(2046) grinded out a long one but ultimately came out on top against Pradhy Kothapalli(1878) while Vishu Vannapalli| (1983) quickly took down David Blackwelder(1691).

In the lower section, Daniel Boisvert(995) only needed a draw to sew up first place and he proceeded to rebound from his loss last week by taking down Hassan Hashemloo(1309) and finishing with 4 points and first place. Right behind him, Ali Shirzad(1660) took down Marnzell Hand(1600) to finish with 3 points. Other winners this week include David Richards(1641), Carlos Zuniga(1375), Andrew Jiang(1455), Carl McKern(1550), and Debs Pedigo(1339).

The final results of Tuesday Night Action 29 can be viewed here.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Meet CCCSA Blog Contributor: Grant Oen

Me and Peter at the World Chess Championship in New York, Nov 2016


I hope I am familiar to many of you as the Assistant Director of the Charlotte Chess Center, where I enjoy teaching many afterschool programs, directing weekend tournaments, and beating Patrick McCartney in blitz on Tuesday nights.  I’ve lived in Charlotte since I started working at CCCSA in September 2016.

Before that, I was a student at Emory University in Atlanta, where I ran tournaments under my own company, Southeast Chess.  I also serve on the board of the Castle Chess Camp, a very strong, non-profit chess camp in Atlanta every June which draws many campers from the Charlotte area – this camp was also where I first met Peter!  I am also an employee of the US Chess Federation since 2016, where I work as the federation’s FIDE Ratings, Titles, and Certifications manager.  Last year I became certified as a USCF Senior Tournament Director and FIDE National Arbiter.

I also spend most of my “free time” on chess.  I give private lessons as my schedule allows, spend many weeknights at the club playing blitz, follow most top chess events online, and download “The Week in Chess” every Monday to play through any games I’ve missed.  I have managed the Atlanta Kings chess team in the US Chess League and PRO Chess League since 2014 – we will be playing against the venomous-less Carolina Cobras on February 15!  I’ve also organized (remotely) a monthly scholastic chess tournament business in New Jersey since 2010.

I also play chess!

I’ve played in most of the big tournaments across the country, including events in 16 different states, and an international tournament in Montreal.  My first impressions of the Charlotte Chess Center were as a player in the first two Southeastern FIDE Championships, where I was very impressed with the club’s playing conditions.  I was not able to play in the most recent edition this past December, as I was the Tournament Director…

My rating is currently 2153, and though of course I’d like to improve it, my main goal for 2017 is to try to play lots of tournaments when I can, and to enjoy all the travel that I’m able to do as a chess professional.

Mostly, my blog going forward will be a recap of our Saturday tournaments and general CCCSA news.  Since we have not had a tournament in a while, I’d like to include the most entertaining game of my career – my former coach IM John Bartholomew has made a video about this game, and I gave a Tuesday night lecture on it.  For those who have not seen the game, it is more or less describes my results: even my most exciting games end in draws!

I remain,

Friday, January 13, 2017

José Raúl Capablanca: a chess biography

José Raúl Capablanca: a chess biography

Written by Miguel A. Sánchez. Published August 2015, 568 pp. ( - 800-253-2187)

I knew I made the right choice in getting this book for two quotes I read in the beginning, one quite profound by Botvinnik

"it is impossible to understand the world of chess, without looking at it with the eyes of Capablanca."
And the second quote, which I loved, for the reason that it dispelled the myth many amateurs have, mainly because they never study chess history. This myth is relative to Capablanca never studying chess, and being so good and talented. As we know from Kasparov, talent is studying chess 12 hours a day!

But the quote I want to mention comes from another great player of those long forgotten times Jacques Mieses, who said: "Capa practically gave all of his time to chess, from the fourth to the 22nd year of his life"

This would also explain the extreme, deep preparation Alekhine undertook in order to beat Capablanca, and detailed in the book: "On the road to the World Championship 1923-1927."
Let's return for a moment to Botvinnik's quote: "... looking at it with the eyes of Capablanca..." well let me show you what Botvinnik meant! While reviewing a Chessbase DVD on Capablanca,

 I met the following position, in the tactic training section:

This is the 9th game of the Match against Marshall. Capablanca played many times against Marshall, but I found this position quite important in showing how deep was Capablanca's thought.

Marshall just played 16.Ra4, and Capablanca continued with 16...c5; and Marshall pins the Pc5 with 17.Qa3, but there is a problem, now the White rook in A4 is trapped.

How can Black exploit it? How can Black find a way to win some material?

Please take your time, position the pieces on a chessboard, and think as long as you like.

I must admit that I didn't see the solution. I didn't see how to trap the Ra4. But Capablanca did, and here his original solution!

Capablanca plays 17...Bd7; but this is not the idea behind since White can block the attack to the Rook in A4 playing 18.Bb5,

can you see how Capablanca continued? The beautiful and aesthetically pleasing idea that Capablanca found in order to take advantage of the trapped Ra4?

He continued with 18...Bf5; leaving the D7-A4 diagonal for attacking on the F5-B1 diagonal.

Thanks to this move he won a vital tempo. But can you see what Black does after White plays 19.Rb2.

19...a6; 20.Be2,Bd7 and Black wins the exchange, because White cannot put anymore the light squares bishop in B5.

Now, if you saw all of this congratulations, you can see with Capablanca eyes. I didn't, and I was pleasantly surprised when I realized how deep Capablanca was.

Now let's return to review this great book.

In chapter 1, entitled: Havana the El Dorado of Chess, the author does an amazing job in outlining Cuba as a golden place for playing chess. He begins showing Morphy's games in Cuba, passing then to other players like Zukertort who sojourned on the island, and then of course the famous matches between Steinitz and Chigorin, in 1889 and 1892. This is an important background, because Capablanca the chess player didn't come out from a country which didn't play chess, but from a country which loved chess so much to guest two world championships. And then of course there would be the world championship of 1921, which would crown Capablanca. Practically it's impossible to create a champion out of a vacuum. This is confirmed always in the book at page 69, on the third chapter when Alekhine thoughts on Capablanca are paraphrased by GM Pomar from Spain: "Alexander Alekhine was justified in thinking that many years of chess promotion in Cuba, and in particular the Steinitz-Chigorin matches, had created an environment very conducive to the emergence of a first rate champion."  

Chapter 2 outlines the ancient past origins of Capablanca's family from Spain. A good work on genealogy, which must have been quite complicated to find, since we are speaking of the 1800, and all the wars between Spain, France, and other European imperialist powers, must have destroyed many records.

In chapter 3: "the boy prodigy," we can find what is considered the first game published, which was played by Capablanca when Capablanca was 4 years and 10 months old. It is a game Capablanca wins, but White gave him the advantage of the queen.

This chapter is quite interesting because portrays the first years of Capablanca playing chess, what were the conditions, or how his parents were afraid it would damage his health to play chess. Just this chapter contains 20 games played by Capablanca, many early pictures. Then pictures of the academic results by Capablanca, and the house where he lived.

Chapter 4 is Champion of the Americas.

This chapter begins to tell us the sad story of Marshall, whose career unfortunately coincided with the raise of two of the best players of all times, one is obviously the main character of this book: Capablanca, and the other, as you can imagine was Alekhine.

This is also part of what I call luck or fate in chess. There are some historical periods in which one could be the best, but there are two or three other stars who obfuscate, and destroy whatever one can achieve. In some case historical events, can be quite damaging. For example Alekhine was damaged by WWI and WWII. Lasker was definitely helped by WWI in keeping his reign for so long. Rubinstein is another name of a player, who was damaged by the Great War.

However, this chapter shows that by 1909, Capablanca was more famous in the Americas, and especially US, than Marshall was.

I'm briefly outlining most of the chapters, because I think the reader of the book shouldn't be spoiled all the surprises he can find in the book itself.

But if one can take something from this chapter, and is really fond of learning about Capablanca, then one should also read the book: My Chess Career, written by Capablanca. It's an out of print book, I found a copy for 88 cents! But the average price was around 3$. However the advantage of this book, compared to "my chess career" is the games are in algebraic, and in my opinion there are more annotations in this book, than in Capablanca's one.

Also in this chapter is mentioned the book written by Marshall: "My fifty years of chess" which I bought too, for writing another article, and it was more expensive, around 13$

Chapter 5: the prodigal son

The title of the chapter is pretty self-explanatory. Capablanca is now top of the chess world famous, and returns to Cuba, where they are waiting for him to celebrate. The chapter also shows a mature Capablanca playing against Corzo, the local champion. This is quite an interesting point, because one can compare the way Capablanca played 8 years before with now. In this sense the author makes this important comparison for those who don't have a database, and shows the most important games.

I'd like to show an example of annotated game from this chapter, to show the quality of the games, for those who are not interested only in the biographical work:

Chapter 6: the New Conquistador

The chapter begins describing the numerous simultaneous exhibitions Capablanca played in many different places: Paris, Frankfurt, Nuremberg, Munich, and shows some games played Buenos Aires. The chapter also discusses the correspondence relative to challenging the world champion Lasker, and the many tournaments Capablanca played and won, like the following one:

Chapter 7: In Morphy's footstep

I find most of these chapters of extreme interest both at human historical level, here for example, at the end of the chapter is described the beginning of WWI, and how Capablanca luckily escaped, taking a ship which will bring him back to the Americas. But also at historical chess level, what he had to do to become the challenger to the world champion. The chapter also shows the many games Capablanca played in that period.

The book continues with 11 more chapters. They are all fascinating.

Chapter 8, a king in waiting, also tell us about the romantic life of the gifted cuban!

Obviously chapter 9, on the world championship of 1921, and chapter 13, on the world championship of 1927, can be of interest also to chess players who don't like chess history.

Please note also how the author dig deep into different historical sources, and found even caricatures with Capablanca.

Chapter 13 "Smiling again," begins showing the tournament in Moscow 1936, where Capablanca beats Botvinnik, Lasker, Flohr and other strong players of that period!

By the way, I'd like to show the thoroughness of the author in his search upon Capablanca's life. For example, Capablanca traveled many times to Moscow: 1925, 1935, and 1936, but the FBI denied they ever investigated Capablanca. This can sound strange for us in this modern period, but also Fischer and his mother were investigated by the FBI, which had dossier, and agents actively following them.  

Appendix I shows Capablanca's ideas on four of his predecessors.

Appendix II can be interesting for those suffering of high blood pressure, because the neurologist which wrote such chapter, did a good work in exposing the problems of hypertension, and inserted a lot of images of the brain. Capablanca likely died of a massive hemorrhagic stroke.

In conclusion: I counted around 170 games in this book, making it a good book also for those who are more interested in games than a biography. However, the book is supreme for the biography section, because in the biography we can see the huge amount of research the author has done. Throughout the book is possible to find images of the period, satirical cartoons, quite ancient documents whose access is generally given only to scholars.

In the end the book shows the scholarly level with the indexes. There is an index for everything! Opponents, Openings, Images! This is quite important for me, because I write many articles during the year, and these professional indexes, help me find the material I'm looking for in the over 500 pages of this great book, in seconds!

Clearly this is the book an amateur interested in chess history wants to have in his own library. I'm quite proud of this volume, because I wanted to know more about Capablanca's life, and to have some of his games in book format, and this book satisfied both these desires.  

By the way, for those interested in Capablanca, McFarland also published another book, by the famous Chess Historian: Edward Winter: