Archive for December, 2007

How to Play Chess: A Danish Delight

December 24, 2007

This instructional battle waged between two of the elite stars of chess, T. Petrosian (white) and Bent Larsen, the Dane, (black), provides a fine example of imbalance and fight between two distinct styles of chessplay.

1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 0-0 5.d4 Another approach for white here is 5.d3 keeping it in a type of English Opening. Now it appears to be a King’s Indian Defense.

5…d6 6.e3 c6 7.Nge2 a5 8.b3 Na6 9.0-0 e5 White pawn structure while solid is rather timid (e3) and black launches an immediate hit on the center.

10.Bb2 Re8 11.a3 Threatening b4. Do you see why this is possible?

11…Rb8 Removing the Rook from the a-file stops b4 and supports a possible b5 counteraction on the Q-wing.

12.h3 Typical Petrosian prophylactic defense keeping g4 taboo for any black piece taking up residence.

12…h5! Gaining square count and prevents a possible g4 opening the g3 sq for N occupation.

13.Qc2 Connecting the two Rooks and pressuring the w/sq diagonal.

13…Be6 14.Kh2 Qc7 15.Rac1 b5. Placing a Rook opposite the enemy Queen is almost always a good tactic. Black forces and pawn structure are dynamic and the imbalance reached should produce a tense struggle for the advantage.  Here the styles clash between Petrosian and Larsen in the nature of how they perceive position goals.

16.cxb5 cxb5 17.Qd1 Qe7 18.Nb1 Apparently following a long standing concept of Petrosian to reposition forces and mark time with the intention of simply improving his forces for the next phase. However, this is slow and he overlooks in the short term what black intends.

18…Bd7 19.Nd2 e4! Black shuts the door on central tension and most importantly makes white’s Bb2 bad and worse than that seen in the French Defense bad bishop scenerio. Now with inroads into the white territory he secures domination over the light squares and increases his spatial edge.

20.Nf4 d5 21.Qe2 Qd6 This sneaky little move has a sting to it. Can you visualize its purpose?

22.Rc2 Rec8 23.Rfc1 Rxc2 24.Rxc2 h4! Going full force into the guts of the enemy camp, an excellent example of my theory of square count strategy. Of course gxh5 Nh5 would be suicide and now you see the purpose behind Qd6.

25.Nf1 hxg3+ 26.fxg3 Creating 3-pawn islands thus weakening the white pawn structure.

26…b4 With the aim of curtailing Q-side activity by white.

27.a4 Rc8 28.Rxc8+ Bxc8 29.h4 Nc7 30.Bh3 Bxh3 31.Nxh3

What a horrible position Petrosian finds himself. The Bb2 is bad with little future; the N pair have little to do and the Q is virtually cut off from any aggressive opportunities. Black with his spatial edge can now maneuver his units to more aggressive posts without interference from white threats who can only sit and wait for the pending disaster to strike.

31…Bf8 32.Kg2 Qc6 33.Qd1 Bd6 34.Nf2 Ne6 35.Bc1 Ng7 36.Bd2 Nf5 Hitting d4,e3,g3,h4.

37.Kh3 Qc8 38.Kg2 Kg7 39.Nh1 Nh6 40.Be1 Qa6 41.Nf2 Nf5 42.Qd2 Bb8 43.Nd1 Ng4 44.Kg1 f6 45.Kg2 g5 46.Nf2 Ngh6 Exchanges would only aid the white defense.

47.hxg5 fxg5 48.Nd1 Kg6 49.Nh2 Kg5 50.Qc2 Bd6 51.Nf1 Kh5 52.Nh2 Kg5 53.Nf1 Kh5 54.Nh2 Kg5 White is in zugswang where each move only worsens his position as black continues to prepare the final breakthrough.

55.Nf1 Nh5 56.Bf2 Nf6 57.Be1 Nh5 58.Bf2 Qa8 59.Be1 Qh8 60.Qc6 Bxg3 61.Bxg3 Nhxg3 White Resigns. 0-1.

Lessons to learn: Beware of simply playing the opening with a positional sense of solidity. Here the desire to keep the diagonal open for the Bg2 prompted 6.e3 and, while solid, gave black an immediate opportunity to strike at the center and increase development leading to harmonious piece cooperation. Perhaps white might have tried dxe5 no matter what just to provide some freedom of movement for the Bb2 and try to create some open lines. Still, black was probably better prepared to handle the resulting position.

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How to Play Chess: Tickle Your Ribs With a Pair

December 22, 2007

Here are two unannotated games I played for you to study and practice writing your own analysis and comments to them. Save those review again after a few months practice and study to see if your thoughts are the same, similar or have changed.

                                Rochester Chess Center 1988

           White: Don Reithel             Black: Alex Leech, MD

                                      Opening: Ruy Lopez

1.e4  e5 2.Nf3  Nc6 3.Bb5  a6 4.Ba4  Nf6 5.0-0 b5 6.Bb3  Bb7 7.Re1 Bc5  8.c3 d6  9.d4  Bb6 10.a3  h6  11.Bc2  0-0 12.h3  Re8 13.d5  Ne7  14.Nbd2  c6  15.dxc6 Bxc6 16.Nf1 Qc7 17.Ng3 Qb7 18.Qxd6 Ng6 19.Qd3 Rad8 20.Qf1 Re7 21.Be3 Bc7 22.Nd2 Red7 23.Nb3 Bb6 24.Bxb6 Qxb6 25.Rad1 h5 26.Rxd7 Rxd7 27.Rd1 Rxd1 28.Qxd1 h4 29.Nf5 Bxe4 30.Bxe4 Nxe4 31.Ne3 Nf4 32.Nd2 Ng3 33.Qf3 Nge2+ 34. Kh2 Qd6 35.Ne4 Qd3 36.Ng5 g6 37.Qa8+ Kg7 38.Qb7 Qb1 39.Qxf7+ Kh6 40.Nf3 g5 41.Ng4checkmate.

Here, as black, I adopt what I called at the time The Rat.

                White: Raymond  R.      Black: Don Reithel

1.e4  g6 2.d4  Bg7  3.Nc3  d6  4.f4 Nf6  5.Nf3 0-0 6.e5 Nfd7 7.h4  c5 8.h5 cxd4 9.hxg6  dxc3 10.Rxh7 Nxe5 11.fxe5 fxg6 12.Ng5 Qb6 13.Bc4+ e6 14.Bxe6+ Bxe6 15.Rxg7+ Kxg7 16.Nxe6+ Kg8 17.Nxf8 Qg1+ 18.Ke2 Qxg2+ 19.Ke3 Nc6 20.Nxg6 Qxg6 21.Qxd6 Qg3+ 22.Ke4 Qg2+ 23.Ke3 Rf8 White resigns 0-1.

These two games should provide you with some practical application to develop your sense of feeling for positions. You must remember that when you play a game, no one is there to help you.

This lesson aim is to have you  put on your thinking cap!

How to Play Chess: Battle of Minds

December 22, 2007

When two commanders meet in a chess battle of minds, creative artistry is assured. Emmanuel Lasker called chess a struggle. Such a struggle unleashes in picture form on the board a movie graph of minds in conflict as well as unfolding the plans, various operations, strategies and tactics such minds are capable to produce.

The aesthetic beauty of chess has attracted mankind to its bosom enriching by its wide attraction various styles of devotees who through literary achievement passed down its many secrets. Still, it has eluded the vast audience of chess enthusiasts who are inspired to pursue such mysteries in effort to unlock them and solve a variety of puzzles it poses.

Perhaps the thought that chess is an intellectual pastime and those in the news media who are largely ignorant of its attraction will forever put the game in public limbo. The real thing that drives physical sports is the instantaneous gratification from rising spirits through shouting, clapping, jumping about, viewing the physical nature of a team or individual performance, yelling at officials–all requiring little or no thought. Conversely, chess requires quiet, patience, deliberation and thought. In a real sense the sportsmen are not the players but rather the chessmen that adorn the board in majestic beauty, symbolic violence and activity. This requires mental action of the players that go sight unseen to any but the most ardent chess lover. Hence, to enjoy chess, one must understand how to play and have some working knowledge of the game. Put yourself in the shoes of a non-chess person: Could you see yourself taking an interest in watching two players seated at a board with strange forms that are meaningless to you? That is the crux of the problem and difference between physical sports and chess matches.

There are millions of people who play at chess and only a tiny portion exhibit any interest in even trying to acquire skill for the game which I suggest is required to really enjoy play. Even fewer probably are truly interested in supporting organized chess. Many activities vie for the attention of Americans. Famous personages who enjoy chess need to sing praises of chess and endeavor to increase general interest by financial support. Corporate sponsored team play would help, too. This opportunity would extend beyond school years where school students eventually drift away to important scholastic studies.

Howard Staunton wrote that chess was never meant to be a profession. It may, he said, to a great extent strengthen the mind of the professional man (woman), but it must never become the object of one’s life. History has produced many chess stars. Those who pursued it as a profession either had to complement it with other employment or live in poverty often suffering mentally through indifferent treatment from performance of their practiced art. In more current times, the chess artist makes a living partially at least through coaching, teaching, writing and participation either for stakes or in tournaments.

There has been much debate on the values of chess in the school system. Youngsters taught chess at an early age seem to enjoy it and gain some benefit from it. It will be interesting to see how many pursue chess into adult life or if they treat it as just a fun game and school activity. Such programs in the former Soviet Union developed many hundreds of thousands into the chess ranks of the USSR. Hopefully such programs here will bode well for the future of chess in America. That will be left to the children to decide. The internet is one means to maintain that interest.

Let us return now to the early 1900s in American chess and I wish to feature a little known chess author and amateur player from New England, Franklin K. Young.

During and after the Morphy era chess clubs sprang up all over the USA. Two areas of chess power bases were located in Philadelphia, Pa. and Boston, Mass. as well as New York City. Out of the New England states emerged Mr. Young, a well-known amateur and devotee of the game. He was a brilliant aggressive player who could handle both attack and defense equally well. His game I present reminds me of the great Paul Morphy–rapid development, fighting for the initiative and strategic imbalance from opening moves to its conclusion. Several great stars came from this region and Young must be included for their many contributions to chess excellence.

White: H. Daly      Black: F. K. Young

Opening: Vienna Game

1.e4  e5  2.Nc3  Nf6  3.f4  d5  4.fxe5  Nxe4  5.Nf3  Here a variety of moves were common at this time period of the early 1900s. Paulsen liked 5.Qf3 and 5.d3 is another alternative.

5…Nc6 Setting a cunning invitation for white to strike the center which white falls into.

6.d4  Bb4 7.Bd2  Bg4 Achieving a type of white position with the black forces! Note the rapid deployment.

8.Bb5  Bxf3  9.Qxf3 Qh4+ 10.g3  Young thought 10.Kf1 to be better here.

10…Nxd2! A most calculated and sharp response. Now, on 11.gxh4 Nxf3+ and on 11.Kxd2 Qxd4+ both leading to a far superior position.  As white, what would you do here?

11.Qxd5 Hoping to find some relief by reacting in the center.

11…Qxd4 12.Bxc6+  bxc6  13.Qxc6+  Kf8! 14. Qxa8+ Ke7 What a delightfully illusionary delight! Now, if white had aimed for 15.Qxh8?? Bxc3 16.bxc3 Qe3+ 17.Kd1 Ne4! leads to a choice of mates.

15.Qc6  Qe3+ Oh, woes me! How often I speak of the dangers of having the King caught in the center files. While it is true that the black King is also in the center, it is black who has the attack.

16.Kd1  Rd8  17.Nd5+ Hope springs eternal! But in chess the reoccurrence of this coming Rook x Knight is seen again and again in chess battles.

17…Rxd5! 18.Qxd5 Young recognizes that both white Rooks are out of the game action and the Queen cannot come to the rescue of her majesty.

18…Ne4  19.c3  c6  20.Qd4  Qf3+  21.Kc2  Qe2+ 22.Kb1 Forced as 22.Kb3 Nc5+ 23.Kxb4 Qxb2+ or 23.Ka4 Qa6+ 24.Kxb4 Qa5+ 25.Kxc5  Qxb5 checkmate! Here again, notice the importance of squares in chess. The King’s movement was reduced to no place to hide. Also, on 22.Kc1 Bxc3 23.bxc3 c5! 24.Qd1 Qe3+.

22…Bxc3  23.bxc3  c5  24.Qd6+ Nxd6 25.exd6 Kxd6 26.a4   Kd5  27.Rc1  Qxh2  28.c4+  Kc6  29.Ra3  h5 Passed pawns need to be pushed.

30.Rd3  h4  31.Rcd1 hxg3  32.Rd6+ Kb7 33.Rd7+ Ka6 34.Rxf7  Qh7+ 35.Kb2  g2  36.Rd6+  Ka5  37.Rxa7+ Kb4 38.Rb7+ Kxc4  39.Rb3  g(Q) 40.Rc3+ Kb4 41.Rb3+ Ka5

White resigns. 0-1.

This game was featured in Franklin K. Young’s treatises serial books on chess: The Fieldbook of Chess Generalship. It was said of Young by the great Al Horowitz, editor of Chess Review, that reading his books on chess ruined his game! Well, apparently Horowitz did not comprehend the thinking of Young , produced an array of wonderful games and was well-known in New England. His books that were based on mathematical and military terminology were among the most brilliant masterpieces of writing on the game I’ve seen. Regrettably they were difficult to reach the average and even above talented players. Still, his concepts were valid and he should be remembered as one of the great exponents the game attracted to her bosom.

Kindred’s Special: The Fischer Revolution

December 22, 2007

THE FISCHER REVOLUTION brought a popularity to chess in the USA not previously experienced despite the contingent of great stars like Morphy, Marshall, Horowitz, Fine, Reshevsky, Kashdan, Dake, Denker, Evans, Lombardy, Kalme, and Bisguier among a host of rich talent in various creative undertakings that brought chess to the attention of the public. I say revolution in the sense that it was Fischer who revolted against the chess norm of the day and fought against the status quo of American thought. He was a rebel by nature, battling the norm of decades of playing under various adverse conditions in tournaments–low prize funds, poor tournament sites and conditions, and a general sense that chess was anything but a board game. Unlike others in America, he worked on his game at the expense of fully developing his potential combined with a career choice available through scholastic endeavor. From the time he was 12 years old he had dreams and a determined goal to someday win the world championship and wrest the chess dominance from the Soviet Union that existed in the world of chess since the 1948 Invitational that Mikhail Botvinnik won and hence was the successor to the the deceased Alekhine and return it to America.

The “boom” as it was called elevated the USCF from a turtle to a hare in terms of the vast and enormous growth of chess enthusiasts and tournaments. Even the general public that possessed little interest in chess saw in Bobby Fischer “A Knight in Shining Armor.” The cold war was still going and it was hailed as fight between America and the USSR in a sport that the USSR felt great pride in dominating. He was invited on “I’ve Got a Secret” TV show; he gave an interview and played a blitz game with the interviewer on TV; he contributed a chess column in Boy’s Life and also appeared on the cover of Life magazine with a story inside. It all ended with a smashing triumph over World Champion Boris Spassky.

All this time, psychologists and writers who never met him tried to discover what made Fischer tick. He was scrutinized like no other chess personage before or since. He was obviously out of the norm of the educated elite. Dare he follow his belief in self, talent and passion in pursuit of excellence in chess?!? A maddening situation for one so young to cope with.

USCF, as I said, started out like a turtle and ended like a hare in the fairy tale. From carefully planted seeds of grass root support, wise leaders, and forward-looking plans, it launched the new magazine Chess Life from a previously newspaper rag, a red ink lack luster future that gained immediate acceptance. A membership drive was launched. Col. Ed Edmondson, in order to raise cash quickly, introduced at the recommendation of a marketing group ignorant of chess, a Life Membership Plan of $100.00 which I challenged as being wholly inadequate long term. How he put it was basically this: the marketing group they paid a handsome fee to concluded that interest by chess players would be about 10 years so a dues of $10 ten times or paid once $100 would raise the needed funds.  What a ludicrous analysis and we paid the price. They were not chess enthusiasts! You guessed it. The Board approved it. I suspect that I was put on the watch list as a dissenter against chess progress.

The Fischer Boom changed the USCF from one of active energy to one of complacency in my opinion believing it could thrive simply by reaping the benefits Fischer’s victory brought. With vast new sums and sources of money flowing into its coffers, it spent lavishly with little regard to how it was spent or using sound planning, judgment, and decisions that the game is sometimes held to suggest by scholastics as: “Chess makes you smart!?”

USCF has become basically a socialistic dictatorship that frowns on independent competition for its book and equipment sales. Great service should maintain a lead over independent dealers. But this is a two-way street. On one hand, USCF has pocketed the vast chess public interested in tournament chess. Book stores like Barnes&Noble or Amazon expose chess literature more to the general public. It is estimated that millions play chess in America but yet USCF membership is less than 100,000. I doubt very much if such outlets would bother with chess literature if it was not profitable. Chess books at the Barnes&Noble I frequent see a fairly decent turnover. For the USCF member, the advantage of a small discount, support for the organizational goals do help to promote USCF programs. But negativity of leadership in this area of sales undercuts the purpose of its stated policy to promote chess.

For those not familiar with the United States Chess Federation (USCF), here is the stated USCF Mission:

“USCF is a not-for-profit membership organization devoted to extending the role of chess in American society. USCF promotes the study and knowledge of the game of chess, for its own sake as an art and enjoyment, but also as a means for the improvement of society….” Basically it goes on and on with a bit of double-talk essentially repeating and adding the magzine, tournaments, etc.

My personal feelings one might here ask of KindredSpirit what he considers chess to be exactly in fair appraisal from this amateur: “Chess is a game played on a board of sixty-four squares between two symbolic armies opposing each other, needing human control, utilizing the rules of conduct of the fight. It is commonly played between two opponents of either or mixed sex. It offers room for artistically geometric patterns with the goal to win by checkmating the enemy monarch or resignation of one, or to achieve a draw when no winning chance exists and by agreement. The battle itself unleashes, in picture form on the board, the symbolic power of the units as played out through creative ideas, plans, and tactics between the combatants.”

Chess makes you smart? I would rather state it differently and more realistically. The playing of chess or any game requiring mental calculation sharpens concentration, determination, pattern recognition, planning, judgment and decision making skills and to a lesser extent in daily routine of work and play. In that sense one might conclude that one who learns to play and study the game’s elements and participate in tournaments will benefit from an earlier exposure to the above adding to one’s maturity. Chess is a healthy and worthy addition to one’s life enjoyment but it should never be the source of total absorbtion at the expense of well rounded interests, study and relationships. Professionalism unless in the field of teaching, journalism or authoring books, is taboo in my view as a walk down the road of life.

Sadly I see children being rewarded with trophies for simply showing up to compete. That word compete to many in the education field in today’s society is turned on its head. You are simply not living up to the rules of society because competing and winning is being discriminating to the general attendance. It has been classified as such in this “politically correct” chess society as being “politically incorrect” where again we witness the continuing doubletalk.

What is the answer? Sooner perhaps than later, I would like to hope that scholastic chess competitions reward success to the victors but also that those losing are taught that losers become winners by attempting to improve, make less mistakes and enjoy the fight and struggle on the board as it was meant to be.

Winning money by gambling or through tournament success will never be the main attraction for the amateur who looks at the game as a challenge, enjoyment and chance to congregate with friends made over time across the board.

Book Review –5 years in the making

December 22, 2007

FIVE YEARS IN THE MAKING, this will live forever in the realm of rare gems we call the classics of chess literature. It is a tribute to the authors, and to those who added their insight into this enormous work. The title is new but will go down in historic chess literary works as a labor of love and devotion to sharing a memorable story and collection of games and compositions.

PAL BENKO–MY LIFE, GAMES AND COMPOSITIONS was a work in time and collaboration between GM Pal Benko and IM Jeremy Silman with an opening survey by IM John Watson and foreword by GM Susan Polgar. The title wastes no words in describing this book for indeed it represents every aspect of life and supremacy of artisic quality that the maestro of magic could create. 138 wonderful games covering the period from his youth before, during WWII and thereafter are deeply annotated with personal insight into the times they were played and the personalities of a generation of great chess artists with whom he did battle. Thrill to the experience of the trials, tribulations, defeats and triumphs of a life long journey climaxing in a joyful existence in one’s work that continues to this day.

The Contents is thorough; the tournament and match results, index of players and openings are all here. 667 pages make up this monumental work along with numerous photos.

The section on openings cover an array of systems favored and played over decades along with personal insights into many of them and his contributions to theory. IM John Watson assisted in this regard digging into the meat of it with his usual talent giving readers his own perspective as well as that of the author.

There is an enormous posting of diagrams featuring many of his brilliantly tantalizing compositions that feature examples of all of his creative masterpieces in different categories–letter problems, endgames, number move mates, helpmates, and puzzles to conclude the experiences of those who purchase this classic and study it from cover to cover.

I do not recommend books as a general rule, leaving it to more experienced reviewers. However, I do recommend this work that I can safely say right now is most inexpensive at the list price of $45.00.  Devotees will enjoy many hours of pleasure and grow with appreciation for the authors who devoted their years to achieve this work for the chess public. If you are looking to have a meaningful and complete chess library, this book has a rightful place to sit among the rare classics that came before and will come after. But it will also be a book removed from your shelf to view again and again providing wonderful entertainment. It will add to your historic perspective, enlighten you to many little known story facts about chess personalities crossing the path of GM Benko. In time you will come to find this artistic literary achievement a cherished and priceless possession.

Kindred’s Special: A Winter Knight’s Tale

December 4, 2007

     On rare occasions I have been enlightened by novel chess attitudes. Such was the case on a cold, dark night when I was trapped in the city due to a blizzard after coming from my club. I had decided to stay in an all-night cafe and found, upon entering, a group deeply engrossed in a chess game at one of the tables. A young man was soundly beating his opponent and, with almost every turn, making with jokes and side remarks to onlookers that I admit were humorous. The chatter brought to mind my visits to the Manhattan Club in New York where Al Horowitz and others would chatter with almost every move that brought laughter and glee from onlookers. The game abruptly ended with: “Checkmate patzer!” The loser stood up and said he had it for the night and was going home. That is when the winner noticed me, my USCF chess bag and exclaimed: “Hey guys, here is a chess player. Sit down and lets see how good you think you are.”

     Not wanting to leave my bag where it might get lost, I accepted but asked if we could use my own board and chessmen. As I removed the chess pieces, he saw the classic and beautiful Staunton set and readily agreed. So I took a white and black pawn in my hands shook them behind my back , held out my fists and let my opponent pick the color. It was black.

     I should note here that courtesy to my opponent, the kibitzers and my own modesty forbids me to give names and notation is recorded in the system used in the game for historical purposes.

       White: The Patzer           Black: NN

                            Ponziani Opening

      1.   P-K4  P-K4  2. N-KB3  N-QB3  3. P-B3  N-B3 4.P-Q3 “A real patzer move! Do you really know how to play this game? ”

The game continued: 4…. P-Q4  5. QN-Q2  PxP 6.PxP B-QB4 7.B-K2  O-O “You are recording a lost game.” Ah, he noticed my deliberation to record this for posterity in my score pad and now I responded with  8. P-KR3   B-K3   9. O-O P-QR4 10. P-QR4 Q-Q2  11. K-R2  Q-K2  12. Q-B2  KR-Q1 “Take a good look patzer because I’m coming to get you.”

     With that he snapped his fingers to get the attention of the waitress and ordered a coke and fries. I said nothing and moved 13. N-B4  B-N3  14. N-N5 I mentioned here that if he expected 14. NxB, it would leave the half-open QB file for his QR and the doubled pawns did not appear all that bad for him. At this point I remember a kibitzer noted that the KP could be captured. I simply said: “Poison.” Just then the coke and fries arrived and as he reached for one of those greasy devils after mounting a good deal of ketchup on them, I said: “You have to use a fork because I won’t permit you to touch my set with greasy hands.”

     He picked up his fork and replied: “I’ll finish this game, patzer, before I finish off the coke and fries.” So with this, he grabbed the bishop and played 14….BxN  15. BxB  R-KB1. One of the kibitzers injected here  that maybe the wrong Rook was moved. 16. Q-K2  P-KR3, 17. N-B3  I noted that the game looked pretty level and he quipped: “I can beat you patzer with half my brain put to bed. Here is a little something for you to think about.”

     17….N-R4? “You recorded a question mark!” I then said:  “That indeed I did, didn’t I.  Did you ever hear about a Knight on the rim?”  That little ploy is called generalship of the finest barb to unease my opponent and deflate his ego just a bit.

     18. P-KN3!! (Just to irritate him more.) QR-Q1 19. N-R4!! continuing to irritate I said nearly under my breath but so all could still hear, “Now! That is a Knight on the Rim.!”

     19….N-B5  20. Q-N4  I could not resist: “My Queenie enters the fray.” to which he continued quickly with 20..P-R4 21. Q-B5  QR-K1  The same onlooker prodded with “You move like a duffer. Where oh where doeth my Rook go?”

     22. BxN  PxB  23.N-N6 This made my opponent wiggle in his britches. I noted that his fries and coke were now in his belly and couldn’t resist advising him of the sins of eating fat and sugar so late at night while playing chess. I asked the waitress who also was now watching the game for a cup of coffee. Then I said: “A pin is mightier than the sword.!”

     “Amen” voiced the audience. With this he snatched up the Queen and played 23….QxP.  24. QxKRP “Oophs, there is a bit of a threat there. Watch it now.”

     “You stink in the opening but I confess you pose me a problem” and dejectedly played 24….PxPch  25. PxP “I always like to improve my opportunities to grow my square count.”

     “What are you talking about? What is this square count thing? This game isn’t over yet.” to which he slammed the Queen on his B7 square with “Check”.

      26. K-R1  Q-K5ch   27.  R-B3    QxN    28.  QxQ     N-K4   29. RxP    NxR “Clever play, patzer! If I took his Queen, he plays R-B5disch.”

       30.  R-KB1    K-R1   31.   B-Q3   N-N4  32.  Q-R5ch  K-N1 33. B-B4ch  N-K3  34. RxRch  KxR  35. Q-B5ch.

     “Patzer, I resign. I misjudged you by that idiotic opening. As a reward for your decisive play, let me pay your bill.”

     The snowfall had subsided and we heard the plows pass by. I thanked them for an interesting evening and chat, gave them a club card and invited them to visit. With my chess pieces and board safely in my chessbag, we departed with light talk and a request to explain sometime what I meant by square count.

     As I drove home, I could not help but envy that little group of friends who met at the all-night cafe once a month for good conversation, chess play, and humorous barbs. That they invited me to partake of their joy and friendly joust made me realize that not all the magic for the night was on the chessboard.

    

        

Kindred’s Special: A Christmas Ghostly Tale

December 2, 2007

New to the city and alone I decided to find a chess club to get a game or two and perhaps make some new acquaintances. The telephone book listed under Chess Clubs several and I chose the nearest to my apartment with the ad: “The smallest but friendliest to meet your every chess need.”

I found the club located on the second floor of an office building. It was heralded as “Open 24-hours every day of the year” so even though it was Christmas Eve, I found the club quarters open and indeed besides the elderly lady behind the counter that served as a small kitchen, a shelf holding several vintage chess clocks, a pot of coffee, donuts and fried cakes, I noticed one gentleman seated at a far table. After a brief introduction with the lady who acknowledged that she was the mother of the manager, I strolled over to the occupied table. He was an old man; I knew him. By that I mean old people tend to look similar. He sat, pointed towards the chair opposite, set up the chessmen, taking the white pieces for himself, and slowly advanced the King Pawn two squares. I played out my Knight to f6 that initiated the Alekhine Defense that I once coined “the desperado defense” in one of my editorial columns.

He lit up a cigar and took a long drag sending forth a smoke ring that bounced off the board, up my chest to my face.  I noticed him really for the first time. He looked like a bulldog–a lot of dog owners resemble their pet so I’ve been told. Maybe he owned a bulldog I mused. Then, too, I noticed his eyes. They were expressionless like “dead”–no sparkle or glint, in fact more like two raw eggs. His facial features were lifeless like his eyes. I thought to myself: “He sure would make a good poker player.”

The game lasted about 30 moves. He checkmated my king amid firing a barrage of smoke rings that left my mind reeling from nausea, watered eyes, and a sore throat. He said nothing, just sitting there looking at me with those sad, haunting eyes and deadpan expression. He got out a new cigar and as he lit up, I rose, excused myself and walked over to the old lady behind the counter.

I ordered a cup of coffee hopeful that it would revive me. I asked her who that gentleman was that I had just played. I said his appearance was strange, very anti-social, neither a real gentleman nor good sport, relating that his behavior at the board was really in bad taste.

Now under normal circumstances this story, this tale, would not be worth mentioning. I leave that to your judgment. All I know is I never revisited that small club. Why, you might ask? Well, as it turned out, when asking who the gentleman was that I had been playing, she replied: “Are you all right, sir? There has been no one here except you and I.”

When I gave her a description of the old man, she told me that an old gentleman that seemed to fit his mannerisms died last December 24th at that very table where you were seated.