Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hail to the Chief!

IM Richard Costigan (2287)

The Philadelphia Inventors won a key game Wednesday night against the Queens Pioneers. Winning the only decive game at the Franlin Mercantile Chess Club in Philadelphia was the club's President, Richard Costigan. It was enought to give Philly the win!

I know what you are all asking: "BlueEyedRook, please provide us the Class-E analysis that only your "special" chess-playing background can provide." Your wish is my command . . . . let's look at one of the key moves of the game.

Costigan's opponent has just played 30. Nd4 in what has – up to now – been a pretty even game. Unfortunately, this proves to be a costly mistake. Richardson, again, demonstrates his ruthlessness at exploiting the slightest of errors.

30 . . . Nxf3+ (see below) is decisive.

White must clearly retake the knight, but neither of his three options are favorable.

Option 1 -- 31. Qxf3 is the biggest of the losing moves as black can simply pile his pieces on the lower right hand side of the board (see diagram below showing how easy black's pieces, highlighted in red, can wreak havoc on white's kingside). This proves for some downright devastating continuations all starting with 31… Bxd4+.

Option 2 -- 31. gxf3 is better, but still a clear loser. 31… Bxd4+ not only regains the sacrificed knight at the expense of a white pawn, but it leaves white with not two, not three, but four isolated pawns. Add to this the gaping hole in front of white’s king, and this spells a clear advantage for black (see diagram below).

Option 3 -- 31. Nxf3, the move actually chosen, eliminates the 31. . . Bxd4+ option that plagued the other two contenders, but white’s position is no less better as black now has three of his pieces (highlighted in red in diagram below) looming down on the knight – which is only guarded by two pieces. 31. . . Rxd4 is inevitable and again white finds itself a pawn short and with a whole heck of a bunch of trouble staring down the kingside.

Costigan went on to decively win the game.

From a club-level perspective, I like to see moves like this. Each of the continuations after 30. Nd4 is simple to see and realize on its own, but it is Costigan's ability to recognize all three variations (and quickly -- that chess clock never stops ticking) that separates him from the rest of us -- mere mortals! Nice game!

Congratz to the Philly team on their fine win!

Monday, September 17, 2007

The USCL -- Assessing the Openings

It's Week Four of the USCL and already 72 chess games have come and past. With a universe of 72 games, it’s extremely difficult to analyze the openings statistically. However, even with 72 games, some interesting patterns are already emerging.

First of all, the black pieces are taking a pounding! Even the most average chess player knows that Black is traditionally disadvantaged – this perhaps is best demonstrated by the USCL’s MVP point system where players receive a full extra point if they win with the black pieces. Still, by the end of Week Three, Black has an exceptionally pathetic record. (See Chart Below).

Theories? Well, again the season is young and this could just be a deviation (again, 72 games is hardly a large sampling pool). But could it be something more subtle and distinct regarding USCL play? I wonder if, during a match, the players playing with black lay off a tad and play for the draw hoping that their teammates with white will gain the crucial wins to win the match. This may not be a good thing. As Bobby Fischer once said: "The turning point in my career came with the realization that Black should play to win instead of just steering for equality." Could the USCL format be promoting the exact opposite reaction for the black pieces – and to Black’s ultimate disadvantage?


The other interesting pattern is the dominance of the Sicilian Defense. (See Chart Below). Take 1. e4 (which was played the majority of the time). The Sicilian is the dominating response with 57% (again, using my Chessmaster 9000 database as a very imperfect measuring stick -- the average is 46.2%). The move that seems to be being "neglected" is 1... e5 (with the Chessmaster Average being 20.9%).

I thought, originally, that perhaps the Chessmaster database was skewing the results. Most notably is the fact that the database lists in its 500,000+ games several hundreds from the 18th and 19th centuries -- far before 1... c5 was even remotely fashionable. But, I took a look at 's "Over 1900" database (filled with games from their best ranked players in the site's relatively short history), and again it seems that in USCL play 1... c5 is enjoying a hefty dose of popularity at the expense of 1...e5 (Here, the Sicilian was played 44.0% of the time, while 1... e5 was played29.35% of the time).

As the season continues along, and as more games are finished, more accurate statistical assesments can be made. In the meantime though -- as a piece of worthless advice from a Class-E, patzer like myself -- I would advise the league players to pay extra-special attention to the Sicilian Defense. The way league-play is going -- chances are you will see it much more than usual.

(For those of you curious . . . . after 2. Nf3 variety quickly kicks in: 2… d6 was played 44.4% of the time; 2… e6 27.7%; and 2… Nc6 22.2% of the time.)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Day After . . . . .

Where to begin. . . .

Well, it’s official . . . I am full of absolute crap.

Pretty much everything I predicted for Wednesday night’s matchup between the Boston Blitz and Philadelphia Inventors proved to be wrong.

My biased/joking-prediction that Philadelphia would sweep Boston 4-0 proved to be slightly inaccurate. (Unless you realize that my prediction was made on “Opposite Day” and that I was actually secretly referring to Boston sweeping Philadelphia). (The Eagles are still going to the Super Bowl, right?).

My impartial/serious-prediction that there would be “roughly three to four draws” also proved to be dead-on wrong. Boston came out swinging. Even with black, they seemed to always be playing for the win.

The only thing I got right was that Wednesday night’s games wouldn’t be a “yawn-fest.” Unfortunately, it was Boston providing all the fireworks.

Is all lost?

Not even close. As Michael Shahade explained to me prior to Wednesday night’s matchup, Philadelphia will always do better when it’s the underdog. Philly and Boston will almost certainly meet again. Wednesday’s loss certainly puts Philly in the “underdog role” for winning the Eastern Conference. Hopefully, as Michael suggested, this is when Philly will be most dangerous. This is a tough loss for Philly, but I know they'll bounce back.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Boston vs. Philadelphia

Note: Internet postings are reporting that Boston has beaten Philly 3.5 to .5 That was some "wicked-cool" chess. (May this cartoon guy (left) continue to haunt your dreams, Boston!)


Tomorrow is Mrs. BlueEyedRook’s 30th Birthday. Rather than taking her out to that $200-plus Italian dinner tomorrow night, I asked if she’d rather accompany me to the Franklin Mercantile Chess Club to watch the Philadelphia Inventors battle the Boston Blitz. I got a very firm “no.”

Women? (I just don't get them.)

Thus, unfortunately, I won’t be able to do much posting tomorrow night after the games are all said and done. Instead, I can only offer my in-depth, action-packed, chess pictures. (When I left around 8:30PM things still looked pretty even. We'll see . . . .).

Philadelphia was using its lineup from last week (the same lineup it used to defeat the New York Knights).

NM "Faceless" Elvin Wilson (2240)

I finally got a clean facial shot of NM sensation Elvin Wilson. (Upon taking the shot, my camera was instantly seized by a series of black-suited men who scurried my camera away to an “undisclosed” secret government location. When I got the camera back, all that was left was this.).

GM Sergey Kudrin (2605) (right) & FM Michael Shahade (left)

Sitting at Table One again was GM Sergey Kudrin. In addition to dealing with annoying chess bloggers (i.e., me), Sergey had to deal with occasional taunts from several of the Philadelphia Inventors "alternates" on hand to harass. . . . errhhh…. root for their team.

IM Bryan Smith (2442)
IM Bryan Smith was back at his usual spot. No coffee this week . . . I suspect he hasn't slept since last week's cup. (Incidentally, Wawa is suing me for last week’s posting).

"Grandpa" Daniel Yeager (2313)

("This Blue-Eyed Rook guy is here every week... make him go away!!!!")

Yeager’s game started 15 minutes late. Not sure what the hold up was. Either a serious computer problem or his opponent was baffled with Daniel’s initial, unorthodox move: 1. d4!?.

IM Richard Costigan (2287), WGM Jennifer Shahade (2318)
& FM Michael Shahade

As mentioned there were several of the Philadelphia Inventors "alternates" on hand to watch the exciting match. Michael mentioned that "Jen" was coming and like an idiot, I automatically spurted out "The Chess Bitch?!" There was an awkward 5 second silence as I waited for Michael to bash my head in . . . he didn't. Guess he's use to it.

Jerome Works

The Inventors "Fifth Man" doing what he does every week . . . keeping everyone's games running smoothly.


Not sure who this guy is . . . apparently he plays chess and has a slight resemblance to Elvin Wilson.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Game Day, baby.... Game Day.

Give 'em Hell, Philly!

Much more talented and knowledgable people have weighed in on Wednesday night's slug-fest between Boston and Philadelphia. I think most people are giving Boston the edge . . . but I note these all seem to be Bostonians!!!

As the one Philly USCL blogger, I am personally predicting Philadelphia will win 4-0 in an amazing shutout, but as the picture, above, shows -- I am slightly biased. (Incidentally, the Eagles are also going to win the Superbowl, and the Phillies the Pennant).

I guess as a more impartial view, I supect Wednesday's game will focus on "conserative chess." No crazy antics, gambits or other ploys . . . I expect both teams will start up with conservative openings that proceed into equally conserative middle games. Both teams sit at the top of the Eastern Conference and are undefeated -- both know full well that they will probably face each other somewhere in the playoffs (at least if current predictions are accurate). Thus, I suspect Wednesday will largely be a "testing ground" as both teams size each other up and try to assess one another. I wouldn't be shocked if 3 or all 4 of the games draw.

Yawn fest Wednesday night? Hardly! As USCL games have shown, even the slightest error or miscalculations are costing players games and teams wins! As always, human/computer error (what better way to define "mouse slips"?!) will be a potential issue as lots of sweaty and shaky hands operate the computers during this tense and highly-anticipated Wednesday matchup.

As always, pictures are promised!

Looking forward to some awesome chess!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

An Undefeated Philadelphia Team?!

I am pretty new to Philadelphia… I keep hearing all this talk about some sport team called the “Philadelphia Eagles.” Apparently, they are pretty popular in this town.

Well. . . . I say forget those clowns – we got the “Philadelphia Inventors” – one of two US Chess League teams to remain undefeated! On Wednesday night they clobbered the New York Knights (so much so, that apparently half of the league insiders are already readjusting (i.e., flat-out revising!) their playoff predictions)! (Note: According to the USCL website poll, 24% of voters chose New York to win the trophy this year, while only 4% chose Philadelphia).

Theories are abound regarding the Inventors success and undefeated record. Obviously, having GM powerhouse Sergey Kudrin (2605) at “table one” is a key factor. Also, the Inventors seem to have something to prove after the debacle last year that kept them from the playoffs. (On a personal note, I have noticed that for the past two weekends the local networks have been playing all four of the Rocky movies. I am convinced no Philadelphia-based sports team can ever lose if that Rocky music is playing in the background somewhere – “It’s the eye of the tiger . . . .”).

GM Sergey Kudrin (2605)

Sitting at “table one” in the coveted “cushy seat” at the Franklin Mercantile chess club (this isn’t a clever euphuism – I think it’s the only chair in the chess club with some semblance of a cushion) was, once again, Sergey Kudrin. We needed him, too! Bearing down across from him (100 miles away in New York) was GM Pascal Charbonneau (2536). The game resulted in a draw.

IM Bryan Smith (2442)

Back in his usual spot was IM Bryan Smith. Again, Bryan’s chess playing is a wonderment to behold. Highlighted in the picture is a large cup of “Wawa Cofee.” For those of you unfamiliar with Wawa cofee (especially all my foreign readers) it is worthy of explanation. Technically the beverage does contain elements of coffee (or something that once was coffee), but it pretty much consists of 90% sugar and 10% some other “mystery fluid” (my personal guess is anti-freeze). Either way this stuff is potent (as in “you-will-not-be-getting-sleep-until-next-Thursday” potent)– and Bryan is sitting here drinking a large! (I doubt I would be able to see much less play chess after drinking a large cup of Wawa coffee). It didn’t seem to phase Bryan though – he scored a nice draw for the Inventors against the higher-ranked Irina Krush.

NM Elvin Wilson (2240)

I am told Elvin does have an actual face and one day (hopefully, sooner than later) I’ll get a picture of it. In the meantime – damn my poor photography skills – I can only offer this slightly improved (from last week) aerial shot. Elvin once again opted to forgo using the accompanying chess board and just used the computer screen – again, the only one doing so. Whatever his system – it works – he scored a big win for the Inventors.

Daniel Yeager (2313)

Daniel “ol’man” Yeager sat for his first game of the season on Wednesday night. I hadn’t met him yet so I walked in and made my introductions. Turns out, unbeknownst to me, his game had already started and when I walked in it was his turn to move. As if the moved pieces on his chessboard in front of me wasn’t enough of a clue, I stood there just yapping away for like three or four minutes. Well, he sat there patiently and politely – listening to my crap – as his time slowly slipped away. I finally realized what was going on and left. I thought that if he lost, I might be permanently banned from Chess League (at least the Philadelphia team). He didn’t though. He scored a huge upset win against a higher ranked player. Awesome -- I can still show my face at the games!

I plan to look at all the games during the next couple days and hopefully offer patzer-level analysis -- stay tuned!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Philadelphia Beats Miami in Week One

Well, the Philadelphia Inventors won their first game of the season this week with a win over the Miami Sharks. Three of the four games were draws, so all the attention turned to the Costigan/Roman match.

Costigan,R (2287) - MorenoRoman,A (2387) [B20]USCL Philadelphia vs Miami (1)

Black to Move

Well . . . as any chess player knows, chess is an evil, evil game. One simple move, can result in utter disaster. Unfortunately for black, he is about to be the latest victim. Costigan has just given check with his rook on d7 and (of course) now black must move his black king. The key question is where?

Black opts for 1… Ke8? and virtually throws away the game. Now, as a patzer myself… throwing away a game usually consists of hanging your queen or missing the obvious mate in two. Unfortunately, at this level of chess, “throwing away games” consists nothing more than one lost pawn. This is exactly what happens here.

Black’s line of thinking is far from egregious. After 1… Ke8. 2. Rxg7, he can still play 2… Rxf3+ (see diagram to left). This represents a “pawn for a pawn” exchange and initially doesn’t look all that bad. However, the damage is done. Costigan’s rook and king are in excellent position to snatch up the remaining black pawn. The only trick is that Costigan must be sure to guard his own g3 pawn – luckily the rook on the g-file is in excellent position to do just this.

3. Ke4 Ra3. 4. Kf4 Kf8. 5. Rg5
seals the poor black pawn’s fate. (See diagram below)

Black can delay the inevitable with a couple checks, but in the end the black pawn is lost and white has a winning two pawn advantage.

Returning to the original position, black’s better move was 1… Kf8 and forgoing the doomed pawn exchange.

After Note: Incidentally, I have been told that black's move 1... e8 was actually a mouse-slip. . . . ah, another joy of online chess!!!.