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One Of The Most Remarkable Endgames Ever Played
The pundits are beside themselves over this game between Magnus Carlsen and Vishy Anand. Check out the Epic Chess commentary by clicking on the image.
And if you are curious about what is happening with the Chess Cheating Scandal lawsuit, be sure to watch Gotham Chess's latest video on the subject.
Not much else to say on a holiday weekend. Now I am off to sample the wings at The Roost in Farmington and match wits with the Farmington Chess Club!
Was Ella Fitzgerald singing about Maine's weather the last couple of weeks (and maybe next week, too)? Or was she talking about chess games? Maybe you win all the time, but most of us have good days and bad days (or good games and bad games). Sometimes it feels like we will never win; but don't despair, into every chess player's life falls their share of wins and losses.
Today1 is Juneteenth, a federal holiday. We will be playing chess today, as usual, but I thought it might be interesting to share a story about black players who changed the game; there aren't many well-known African-American chess players so far, but that could always change. You may be surprised to learn that some scholars think chess may have originated in Africa.
With apologies for butchering the meaning of "comeback kid", we were happy to have Stephen DeSalme rejoin the club after decades in the wilderness. Stephen played in the chess club when it met at Thayer Hospital on North Street, long before most of the current members joined. Last Wednesday at the Muskie Community Center, Stephen played the current co-champion of Maine as a warm-up in his first game, then went on to play one of our strongest players, doing rather well in both cases. Soon I will be facing him myself (and he will probably get his first victory since he played in the club all those years ago).
The club is looking forward to an encounter with members of the Colby Chess Club this summer. We have opportunities to meet almost every weekday (if you include our sibling clubs in Farmington and Camden) and recently I have even had a few requests to play on the weekend. This doesn't mean that we all play chess every day of the week (though that is certainly true for some of us), but the club tries to accommodate the many different schedules of its membership. Some of us are retired, some of us are still in high school, and some of us work for a living! And some work nights or all hours [our dentists and doctors]. And some of us can't travel and must be content with online chess or even correspondence chess (which is a lot like online chess, but at a slower pace - days instead of minutes or hours).
Feel free to join us and find out how you can be part of a community of folks who enjoy the game of chess. Newcomers are welcome, even total beginners.
In a perfect world2 I would have published this blog post yesterday, before the holiday so you could have read about it before it happened. Nonetheless, I think you will find it very informative to follow the links I have provided. I learned a lot; I hope you will, too.
I looked for the source of the phrase 'in a perfect world' using a well-known search engine, but got nowhere, so I turned to ChatGPT for an answer and this is what I got:
"The phrase 'in a perfect world' is an idiom used to describe an idealized or hypothetical situation where everything is as it should be, without any flaws or problems. While it's difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of this phrase, it has been in use for a long time and has become a common expression in the English language.
The concept of a perfect world or utopia has been explored in various forms throughout history. One notable example is the ancient Greek philosopher Plato's work The Republic, in which he presents an ideal society governed by philosopher-kings. This idea of an ideal state has influenced subsequent philosophical and literary discussions about perfect worlds.
Over time, the phrase 'in a perfect world' has evolved as a way to express a longing for an ideal situation or to highlight the contrast between an imperfect reality and an imagined flawless alternative. It is often used in discussions, debates, or reflections on how things could be better if circumstances were different.
While the specific origin of the phrase may be unclear, its usage has become widespread and is now deeply ingrained in everyday language."3
I wasn't completely satisfied with that answer, so I asked ChatGPT if it could provide the earliest usage of the phrase and this is what it said:
"The phrase 'in a perfect world' has been in use for many years, but determining its earliest usage can be challenging since it may have been employed in spoken language long before it appeared in written records. As an AI language model, I can search through written texts up until September 2021, and I can provide you with one of the early documented instances of the phrase.
One notable early usage can be found in the book The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle by Tobias Smollett, published in 1751. In this novel, the phrase is used as follows:
'In a perfect world, indeed, such a circumstance would undoubtedly be looked upon as an aggravation of his fault.'
It's worth noting that this may not be the absolute earliest usage of the phrase, as it is difficult to trace the phrase's oral usage prior to its appearance in written works. Nonetheless, this example demonstrates that the phrase has been in circulation for several centuries."4
Knowing that ChatGPT has a reputation for being very 'creative', I decided to check whether this was accurate information and this is what ChatGPT replied:
"I apologize for the confusion. I made an error in my previous response, and I apologize for providing incorrect information. Upon re-evaluating the available resources, I couldn't find a specific documented instance of the phrase 'in a perfect world' from the book The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle by Tobias Smollett or any other known early usage. I apologize for any inconvenience caused.
It's important to note that tracing the absolute earliest usage of a common phrase like 'in a perfect world' can be challenging due to the nature of language evolution and the limitations of available written records. The phrase has likely been used in spoken language long before it appeared in written form."
Here is something you won't see [or not hear] every day: a YouTube chess video with the narrator completely quiet while he plays his games, only speaking afterwards! The first 31 minutes of the video are completely silent while NM Nelson Lopez plays three 5-minute games without saying a single word. Then he goes back over the games. His candor is very refreshing (he admits that he doesn't have a clue at several places, he makes a mouse slip, etc.). If you have ever wondered what your opponent was thinking, this gives you an interesting insight into the thought process. Maybe it would help you to think during your own games.
One commenter said: "I actually liked the silent gameplay. It gave me a chance to actually think what I would do instead of just listening to his thought process right away. I think it's easier to change your thought process when you first have proof that that's not how you would have thought about it."
Apparently NM Nelson Lopez listened to his commenters, because in this video (again 3 games) he just replays the games, adding meaningful commentary about his thinking and providing good insights into decision making while playing. I grant you that this is a lot of time to watch someone playing chess, but if you are finding it difficult to settle on the next move in your games, I think you will find this very helpful.
It has been an interesting week for the club. We played at the Muskie Community Center in Waterville for the first time on Wednesday; they just happened to have some leftover cookies and cupcakes for us (thanks to Sandra and Steven for making us feel welcome). New member Lunar got a free hour of coaching from Ed Hatch; we could see the improvement in his play right away. I got a chance to work on my Caro-Kann opening against Israel. I have a long way to go, but his introduction was very helpful.
One interesting side note from Ed was a story about an all-woman chess club in Chicago. This is the website for the Chess Queens [Bridging the Gender Divide in Chess and Empowering Female High School Chess Leaders]. If you search for news articles, you will find how much of an impact they have made in their area! For our part, we are hoping to see more younger players this summer (including Colby College Chess Club members).
*Five Common Mistakes Made by Beginners - and sometimes even experienced players make these mistakes (especially older players).
- Mistake 1: Not moving your pieces towards the center
- Mistake 2: Moving the same piece twice
- Mistake 3: Exchanging pieces for no reason
- Mistake 4: Not calculating attackers & defenders
- Mistake 5: Not using your king in the endgame
*When we arrived at Five Guys at 5 p.m., we found a "Five Guys Closed Until Further Notice" notice on the door. We played our first games outside in cold and windy conditions; fortunately the water ban was lifted while we were playing.
This has been a pretty exciting month for chess (and for Waterville over the last couple of days). Most of the time we restrict our excitement to the chess board, but a fire on Elm Street in Waterville resulted in contamination of the water supply, which led to a ban on drinking water, which led to Five Guys closing "until further notice", which fortunately turned out to be about half an hour after we arrived. We played our first games outside [hoping the double or triple-weighted pieces would not get blown away in the strong winds]. Fortunately for us, the ban was lifted and we were able to enter the restaurant to play inside. Arnold and I were joined by two new members: Bradley and Josh. We all had fun.
The Waterville Chess Club will be meeting at the Muskie Community Center in Waterville Wednesdays [starting June 7th] from 2-3:30 p.m. I will tell members about how this will work soon (in an upcoming weekly email).
The Farmington Chess Club is now playing in-person games on Tuesday evenings at Uno Mas in Farmington [in addition to their Thursday morning offering].
The Camden Chess Club is now playing in-person games in the Picker Room of the Camden Public Library on Friday afternoons [instead of online].
For the final meeting of the Skowhegan Chess Club before summer break, they watched the movie "Magnus" with pizza and soda. Dan DeLuca invited me to join them and I really enjoyed watching the movie and learning all about how Magnus Carlsen became the World Chess Champion in 2013. We also discussed the possibility of scheduling a tournament in the Fall, hosted by their club at Skowhegan High School; we will work out the logistics and let you all know about our progress.
Zach shared an article in the Portland Press Herald talks about how The Gift of Chess helps asylum seekers in Falmouth find a sense of community with chess.
Fishbein, Bryan, and Belanoff Share First at 2023 Maine State Championship! - Photo by Nita Patel
My deadline for publishing the web site was rapidly approaching and I really wanted to say something about the tournament, so I decided to ask for help from ChatGPT (the terrifying new AI tool from OpenAI); if this is the best that artificial intelligence can do, I think journalists can sleep better. On the other hand, journalists are under constant pressure to cover stories that just pop up all the time (like the fire that burned down the Last Unicorn restaurant); maybe that's why they didn't cover the chess tournament!
Here is what I asked ChatGPT to do: "Can you write an article about the 2023 Maine State Chess Championship?" And here is what ChatGPT replied [for a more accurate version, check out MECA's coverage]; I have edited the output to highlight the errors.
Certainly! Here's an article about the 2023 Maine State Chess Championship:
The 2023 Maine State Chess Championship was held over the weekend at the Augusta Civic Center, with players from all over the state competing for the title of state champion. The tournament, which was organized by the Maine Chess Association, drew in some of the strongest players in the state, including past champions and rising stars.
The tournament was played over five rounds, with a time control of 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game, with a 30-second increment starting from move one. The top-rated player in the tournament was grandmaster Conrad Holt, who came all the way from Texas to compete. Holt was followed closely by several strong players, including IM Christopher Chase, NM Ian Dudley, and NM Joshua Quint.
The first round of the tournament saw several upsets, with some lower-rated players scoring surprise victories over their higher-rated opponents. Among the biggest upsets were Jacob Thompson's win over IM Christopher Chase and Evan Wood's win over NM Joshua Quint. However, the top players quickly recovered in the following rounds, with Holt winning his next four games to take clear first place with a perfect score.
In the final round, Holt faced off against Ian Dudley, who was tied for second place with three points. The game was a tense affair, with both players playing carefully and avoiding any major mistakes. In the end, Holt
At this point, ChatGPT gave up. After I saw the results I remembered that ChatGPT farms
the internet (and other places, but only up to 2021 [so it wouldn't have had access to information about such a recent event.] There is also a very tiny note underneath the output that says:
"Free Research Preview. ChatGPT may produce inaccurate information about people, places, or facts."
"The data available on ChatGPT is limited to the year 2021. The training of the model stopped in the year 2021. Hence, it does not provide the readers latest information or the latest updates. This information shows the current capabilities of ChatGPT and the limitations it has." - Gitnux
Bottom Line: ChatGPT is not quite ready for prime time!
Our club was strongly represented by Jarod, Israel, Anna, Paul and Jacoby; and by honorary members Wyatt and Glenn.
Photos by Nita Patel
Ben at a Monday club meeting, all decked out in Waterville Chess Club regalia. Is he smiling because he is winning?
You may have noticed that I have not been updating the site every week for a while. The world didn't stop while I was otherwise occupied, though. The Carlsen-Niemann controversy has slowed down a bit; I added a few new articles for those of you who just can't get enough. Ben found a place to order a custom hat [shown in the image above]; it turns out there are many places to order one. Click on his image to see one place to get a hat (or some other chess-related clothing). The club has continued to play in person, online and with correspondence games. The fun didn't stop just because we have had interesting weather! It looks like Spring has finally set in (with flowers and bugs, etc.), with a preview of Summer to boot.
The Supreme Court decided to take a freedom of speech case about a dog squeeze toy! It is hard to see why this is relevant (unless you agree that the right to make money with branding is more important than the right to use humor to sell products). If you want to know more about this, read the NPR article: Jack Daniel's v. poop-themed dog toy in a trademark case at the Supreme Court. What does this have to do with chess? Not much (but it did provoke a lively discussion for a while at a recent club meeting). Extra credit: a blog with pictures.
Testimonial: "I had a magnificent time at the Waterville Chess Club located at Dunkin' Donuts on Monday, March 27th. I and a couple others played many games and over half I won. All the members are insanely nice. Arnold is arguably the best player there and I almost beat him twice. I highly recommend the club to any new or returning players! " - Jacoby Grotton.
Items of Interest:
School custodian leads chess teams to Nationals: WABI's Joy Hollowell reports on the champions of the Maine Scholastic Chess Championships from Hampden, Maine; if you have some spare cash, you can contribute to their Go Fund Me campaign to help with their travel expenses to the Nationals competition from April 21-23 in Round Rock, Texas.
The World Chess Championship Could Be Muted For A Decade: Forbes editor Brian Pempus discusses the consequences of Magnus Carlsen's decision to vacate the title of World Chess Champion (even though he is probably the best chess player alive today). "Carlsen appears completely committed to chess — he's just no longer interested in the format of the classical world championship."
Teachers nationwide are flummoxed by students' newfound chess obsession: Excellent article from the Washington Post today exploring the explosion of interest in chess among the young in schools. I wonder if this is true in our neck of the woods?
Youth Chess Day: I learned about an interesting 'over-the-board chess' event that took place in Vermont on April 1st. "At a time when too many of our young people are struggling with social media, short attention spans, anxiety, and depression, we need more opportunities for young people to improve their concentration, focus, problem solving, and person-to-person connection - away from screens. And that's what chess does. It is a game of dedication, strategy, and quick thinking, and many studies have shown it has significant benefits for brain development - from focus to spatial reasoning." - Senator Bernie Sanders
I think Bernie is onto something here; maybe Governor Mills or Senator King should look into doing something similar here in Maine!
L'affaire Niemann - Great article in January 2023 issue of ChessLife by John Hartmann
We play "club chess" at Waterville Chess Club. Tournament chess is a bit more intense (even our local events here in Maine), but by the time you get onto the world stage and add in Magnus Carlsen it gets very intense. Ever since the Sinquefield Cup tournament in August 2022, the chess world has been absorbed with the clash between Magnus Carlsen and Hans Niemann that exploded with Carlsen's withdrawal from the tournament. Opinions about whether Hans cheated and why Magnus refuses to play him again vary, but it is clear that the controversy has captured our attention (perhaps distracting us from other scandals and controversies that have a more significant impact on our lives, at least in the long run).
There have already been a ton of videos and articles, lots of news coverage, and now a lawsuit. You might not find this particularly interesting; after all, we meet every week for the pleasure of playing chess or improving our game [most of us, anyway]. But if you do find it interesting: I created a new web page that collects up most of the articles and videos and images I have been following (because there are just so many of them)! The material ranges from commentary to coverage to satire. And, for good measure, some of the videos showcase some of Hans Niemann's games (before and after the game that started the ruckus). To be honest, much of it covers the same ground, but I found it interesting to hear different opinions of the meaning behind the publicly available information. And some of the games are fun to review.
I have certainly been getting my money's worth from Google and YouTube (and the New York Times), but I have been paywalled from some other publications (so your mileage may vary). As a full-fledged armchair commentator, I have thrown in my two cents to the debate. And, yes, it is taking forever for me to finish the new page, so I am publishing half a loaf for now and will add the rest when I can; more material comes out almost every day, so I will continue to update the page until people stop writing, blogging, vlogging and podcasting about it! After all, cheating (or the suspicion that there has been cheating) is not likely to go away any time soon.
Don passes the baton to Israel at Dunkin' in Oakland
The baton was passed on Monday afternoon, November 14th. Don [that's me] will continue to help out (until Israel gets his feet under the desk) and will continue to maintain the website for now.
Clash of Titans - Ben and JR at Dunkin' in Oakland
After a nail biter of an election, we finally have the results: Israel Savage has won the crown (or the mantle or the sceptre or whatever we call it) and will lead the Waterville Chess Club into the future. Congratulations to Israel and the other nominees for participating in a democratic election to decide who should accept the responsibility of ensuring that we all have a chance to get together to play chess here in the greater Waterville area.
NM Dan Heisman showcases a great tool to help you improve your chess.
I was recently looking over a chess book from our library, but ran into difficulty following along in the text because there were so many sidelines. After setting up the board, making the alternative moves [several times] and then trying to get back to the mainline position, I sometimes lose track and need to start over. I ran out of time with all the digressions (so never finished that game in the book). Purely by accident, I just happened to discover a video by NM Dan Heisman that mentioned Forward Chess. I got it for my iPad immediately [it is also available for Windows, but not for the Mac] and bought one of his books (the one mentioned in the video). I have my eye on a book about Mikhail Tal, too, but that will have to wait until I finish Dan's book first. The live diagrams in the book make following the sidelines extremely easy.
If you liked the video, here are a few more; I will be adding them to the Chess Videos page (along with many more) in the near future.
- Improve Your Chess: Using a Chess Engine to Analyze a Game - NM Dan Heisman - 10/07/2021 [28:03]
- Improve Your Chess - Don't Know What to Do? - NM Dan Heisman - 08/26/2022 [28:57]
- ... More to Come
Before making your next move in a chess game, it pays to do a few quick things.
In a recent conversation with Ed at our Monday chess club meeting, he made a suggestion to help me avoid making some of the blunders I made during our 4-game session [he won all 4 games]. Before I move, he said, ask yourself what your opponent's last move was intended to accomplish and then ask yourself what kind of move you should make (so you don't hurt yourself by missing a good move or avoiding a bad move). "These two things can save you a lot of grief." My memory is not so hot, so I might have garbled his advice (and if so, I will correct it here after I talk to Ed again), but it reminded me of advice along the same lines from NM Nelson Lopez, which you can check out for yourself.
Zooming from the Tropics
Between the hot temperatures (and humidity) and all the other medical conditions, accidents and political events, it is no surprise that our online presence has been severely disrupted. The image above shows the tropical Zoom background I have used for the last couple of online Thursday night sessions; these were solo events, so I have made Thursday evening chess optional for me for the time being, unless I hear from you. Send me an email if you want to play at 6 pm or 7 pm and I will reply with a Zoom link.
Chess has been around for a very long time; Irving Finkel, curator at the British Museum, provides a detailed account of the origins of chess in a lengthy video interview [about an hour and a quarter] with the Portico Library from 2021. There is a great discussion about chess pieces (with images). If you are short on time, The History Guy does "A Brief History of the Game of Chess" [about 14 minutes].
Chess champions are a more recent phenomenon. Chess.com has a great video telling the whole story from the very first world chess champion [Wilhelm Steinitz in 1886] right up to the current world chess champion, Magnus Carlsen. Narrator Jonathan Corblah begins with a brief history of chess. If you enjoy watching or reading about some of the famous games in chess history, you will really enjoy this documentary.
Wooden Chess Pieces in Action
Just as chessplayers have strong preferences for chess clocks and chess boards, they are also passionate about their chess pieces. I finally gave in and bought some wooden pieces recently. Now it is time to upgrade my board!
While I have your undivided attention, I wanted to just remind you that chess is a game for people of all ages. In our club we have young people (10 years old) and old people (in their eighties), and everything in between. Recently I ran across this video, which I hope you will enjoy as much as I did:
Now you are free - It's not about ageing. It's about living
Playing chess with a robot is better than not playing at all! Is it really a robot?
People of a certain vintage will remember "Lost In Space", a television program on CBS from the 1960s. In addition to the phrase "Danger, Will Robinson!", "It does not compute" comes from that program. If you want to see what they were like, Google 'Original Lost in Space episodes'. Netflix hosted a remake that was a 2022 Emmy Nominee (which I thought was much better than the original). Those shows were science fiction, of course, but reality has a way of catching up to science-fiction and if you read this article, you'll see why I am sharing this story.
Chess robot breaks seven-year-old boy's finger during Moscow Open
Chess robots have been around for a while; I am not sure what kind of robot was playing in the Moscow Open, but here is an article about chess robots from 2017: Chess-playing robot star of Taiwan tech fair. "It pays to be careful around robots, even if they are only playing chess." I think the same could be said about people!
White finds a fork after Rd8 - ouch!
The game was just humming along, both sides playing well, when suddenly: Black slipped and White pounced. In seconds, the initiative (and material advantage) moved unmistakably to White.
This exciting game will be on the Featured Page in a few days. Don't miss it!
This hot weather is probably the coolest we will see going forward! Darkow cartoon courtesy of Cagle Cartoons
The weather has been really hot, but chess players can always find a way to keep their cool. With the aid of a strategically placed fan, I was able to enjoy an interesting game of chess with a visitor from Pennsylvania (using her special chess set made in Florence, Italy). The game was very informal (with live commentary, suggestions, advice and forgiveness throughout) and ended in a draw by agreement. We didn't record the game, but I did manage to get a picture of the board and pieces to share with you.
Uncastled King Crushed in 21 Moves
Well, I can't say I have never been warned about developing quickly (including castling early). The image shows the final position of the game [A00 - Hungarian Opening: Slav Formation]. Clicking on the image will take you to lichess.org, where you can replay the entire game. One of the first things you will notice about the game is that White has an early jump in development; it is not obvious what Black was thinking while the attack on his uncastled King was brewing [not even to me, and I was playing Black]!
Patriotic Holiday Takes Priority Over Chess!
Condiment Shortages Plague Nation, 4th of July in Danger
Attendance has slowed down a bit with the good weather lately, so we are going to enjoy a patriotic moment on Monday. Click on the image to watch a short video from the David Pakman Show of 07/01/2022 [about five minutes]. I hope you have managed to squirrel away enough mustard to get through the holiday successfully.
I will be in Oakland for one game only on Monday, then off to celebrate the holiday with friends. Hope to see you on Tuesday evening (or online Thursday evening). Have a good holiday!
Black to move - Find the best continuation [click on the diagram to visit the Aimchess website]
In my perpetual quest to improve my game (by making fewer blunders), I have found another website worth trying. I get a lot of email from chess websites; today I received an email from iChess.net with the provocative subject "This New Search Tool Will Supernova Your Chess Improvement…". They offered a test drive, so I tried it out. Very cool! I already have some of the iChess.net courses, so I thought this would be very useful for me personally. I also checked out the folks who made the tool for iChess.net: Aimchess. Aimchess offers help to "learn chess your way" and "Eliminate mistakes with Blunder Preventer puzzles".
Calling all fellow blunderers
On most chess sites, tactics puzzles only focus on "offense" — how do you win material when an opponent makes a mistake. But we think it's equally important to learn to avoid making those same mistakes when you're on the opposite side of the puzzle. Blunder Preventer lessons teach you the "defensive" side of chess by giving you a puzzle with two *seemingly* good options to choose between. One is a fine move and the other is a blunder.
That struck a chord with me, so I signed up for a free trial. The example above is from my Personalized Workout (based on my own lichess.org or Chess.com games). Their clever software finds blunders in your own games and creates puzzles to give you a chance to learn from them. "Once we find your weaknesses, we help you address them by combining personalized puzzles built from your mistakes with unique lessons created by a team of grandmasters and coaches." Pretty neat. They also offer some Tactics training and an Intuition Trainer (which I found quite challenging). In addition to the free membership, they also offer a premium option (which provides more detailed help and allows you to share data and lessons with your coach; it tracks multiple accounts across Chess.com, Lichess and Chess24). You can try the Premium version for $7.99 for a month or sign up for a year for $57.99.
Aimchess claims they can get better results than Lichess or Chess.com. They didn't mention Chessable (which has its own strategy for helping you improve your game). I will give them a try and report my subjective findings here after a while.
White abandons his Bishop on move 53 - not a mouse slip! Curses, foiled again [by myself]!
I was doing so well. Arnold and I were playing online last Thursday; this was our first game and I was playing well. Suddenly, for reasons I cannot explain, I just lost my concentration after 52 moves and gave away a Bishop! I will share the game on the Featured Page later today or tomorrow. We played two more games, but this was the one that got away [I was definitely ahead in the endgame for the first time in ages]. Arnold won all three games, of course.
On a completely separate and unrelated note, my sometimes opponent Don Ostrowsky (of the Wachusett Chess Club) is not only a chess player but also a historian; he was recently a guest on a program called "Chess Chat" on Fitchburg local TV (FATV). If you have any interest in Russian or Ukrainian history (or the war that is currently raging in Ukraine), you should definitely check out the video. I am planning to buy his book: Russia in the Early Modern World, which was published in January 2022. At 574 pages (and a hefty price tag), this book is probably not for everyone, but my undergraduate degree in History and lifelong interest in Russian history has caught my attention. Here is the blurb on Amazon:
A fundamental problem in studying early modern Russian history is determining Russia's historical development in relationship to the rest of the world. The focus throughout this book is on the continuity of Russian policies during the early modern period (1450–1800) and that those policies coincided with those of other successful contemporary Eurasian polities. The continuities occurred in the midst of constant change, but neither one nor the other, continuities or changes alone, can account for Russia's success. Instead, Russian rulers from Ivan III to Catherine II with their hub advisors managed to sustain a balance between the two. During the early modern period, these Russian rulers invited into the country foreign experts to facilitate the transfer of technology and know-how, mostly from Europe but also from Asia. In this respect, they were willing to look abroad for solutions to domestic problems. Russia looked westward for military weaponry and techniques at the same time it was expanding eastward into the Eurasian heartland. The ruling elite and by extension the entire ruling class worked in cooperation with the ruler to implement policies. The Church played an active role in supporting the government and in seeking to eliminate opposition to the government.
Zen Scandinavian! - Focus and Hydration: Think Before You Move - Photo by Gale Davison
I know I am preaching to the choir, but I wanted to share my new Zen frog. It isn't exactly a virtual emotional support animal, but keeping it near my computer when I play online does remind me to stay focused (and hydrated). I just started playing another Scandinavian Defense online (after losing the last one); hopefully this frog will help me to remember to stay focused on every move. It was also an excuse to share a video I watched about meditation by Zen Master Shohaku Okumura. Food for thought, even if it has no real connection to chess.
I am a little pressed for time this week (with a haircut, a wedding, a medical appointment and a chat with a lawyer), so the Featured Page will have to wait until next week. I will see some of you on Monday in Oakland, but won't be able to play on Tuesday night. We have some new faces this week (Zach and Aric); give them a hearty welcome and a good game.
Maybe I will see [you] on Zoom Thursday evening.
Danger in Chess - How to Avoid Making Blunders by Amatzia Avni
This is the book I needed! Maybe you never blunder; regular followers of our Featured Page will know that I am not immune from that particular "feature" of chess. What follows is the description from the back cover of the Dover edition.
One false move, and you're dead -- as in other games, chess is fraught with situations in which the wrong reaction leads directly to defeat. However, unlike most other games, chess's most dangerous moments are often subtle and easily overlooked. This volume offers players at every level guidance on how to develop an early warning system.
I have added a perfect example of an avoidable blunder on the Featured Page from an online game I played against Arnold recently. I started off playing well, but for some reason [chess blindness, perhaps] just threw my Queen away on the 23rd move! Aaarrgh! Not even a mouse slip! Maybe reading this book will help me avoid that kind of blunder in the future. And yes, it's not the first time I have thrown my Queen away. Each of us has strengths and weaknesses as players. If you share my tendency to blunder, perhaps this book can help you, too.
Black to Move. Does he not see the threat?
Just imagine yourself in my shoes, playing Black in this game.What would you play if it were your turn? We will soon share the exciting final moves and the shocking results. You can replay the whole game (all 15 moves of it). And you can also view another game played against the same opponent (which ended rather differently). The games will be published on the Featured Page tomorrow (before our first in-person meeting in Oakland, assuming that Dunkin' will be open on Memorial Day).
"Rich Strike, an 80-1 long shot who only entered the Kentucky Derby field on Friday as a last-minute replacement for Ethereal Road, paid off big for bettors with one of the biggest upsets in Derby history." - KDVR-TV - Photo by Nellie Carlson
In a much less crowded field, the 3rd Maine State Correspondence Chess Championship began this past week. It is not clear yet which of us is the 80-1 shot (moviebuffc48f or JPC48) but the play is brisk; nobody seems interested in waiting 7 days between moves. It feels more like blitz. But once we get out of the opening book, perhaps things will slow down. So far it looks like an interesting variety of openings: Catalan, Dutch Defense, Caro-Kann Defense, English Opening and Indian Game. I will have more to say about these games once they are finished. "Chess.com's version of correpondence chess is called Daily Chess". I play without using opening databases, but "you are allowed use opening databases (like Opening Explorer). You are not allowed to use any other outside help like engines or endgame tables." This is a very pleasant way to stay connected to the world of chess without setting aside large chunks of time; if you enjoy playing but don't have a solid hour or two to play, give correspondence chess a look.
Photo by Karina Vorozheeva on Unsplash
Sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, we just have a tough game. Maybe our opponent ate extra Wheaties that day or maybe we are just off our game. That can lead to bruised egos, questioning one's abilities, etc. When you are feeling down in the dumps over an outcome, you might take comfort from a virtual emotional support animal (or a real pet if you have one). You might remember Chesster (the official V.E.S.A. of the Waterville Chess Club).
From time to time we will share images of V.E.S.A.s that you may want to adopt as your own. And don't worry, we all have good days and bad days. Hang in there and remember that every time you lose a game, you can learn from it and come back a better player for your next game.
I have had a busy week (so no new Featured Game this week), but I hope to have a little more time soon and will attempt to update the site in a few days. The third Maine Correspondence Championship begins this coming Wednesday [the 18th]; if you are interested, send an email to Wyatt Hendrix [see the full announcement in the MECA box].
Staying focused and concentrating on the matter at hand in chess is of no small importance!
Maybe you have had the experience of "the one that got away" in one of your chess games. You are playing well and everything is shaping up to be a great victory, but your attention wanders or you move a little too quickly and 'poof' goes your victory! It happens to most of us. The good news is that playing often gives you more practice at concentration; and our chess club offers many opportunities to play. For some of us in our 7th or 8th decade, you'd think with all those years of practice we'd be better at it than younger players. Jury is still out on that one!
Professione Problemista is an Italian book about creating chess puzzles
With all the excitement about the 2022 Maine State Open Tournament behind us [though we will be sharing some of the games on the Featured Page], I thought it might be fun to take a look at chess puzzles (for a change). Even though we have looked at some exciting endgame puzzles recently (thanks to NM Nelson Lopez's coverage of the Mark Liburkin endgame studies - see the April 24th, 2022 post below), there are lots of other kinds of chess puzzles. You might be familiar with the Eight Queens puzzle and the Knight's Tour.
Compos[ing] chess problems is not just a pastime, it is an art. In this volume, illustrated and commented step by step, the author proposes an approach to the composition of chess [problems], imagining a dialogue between an expert player at the table, who wants to approach the subject, and his teacher, who guides him in the discovery of this parallel world. Elements of theory alternate with numerous examples, advice and practical demonstrations, in the hope that this will help give new life to the Italian problem scene and bring to light new composers and new ideas.
The volume integrates a collection of the best compositions by the author, born in 1987 and currently the youngest Italian composer, awarded with the title of National Master of Composition in 2018 and with hundreds of publications and awards worldwide.
- Messaggerie Scacchistiche - Chess Messaging [via Google Translate]
For a short time, I was tempted to buy the book [I do speak a bit of Italian], but in the end sanity prevailed. I am not likely to struggle through a book in a foreign language when I have so many chess books already [in English]. If it ever becomes available in English, I will definitely buy it! Click on the links to practice your Italian!
Recently I spoke with Evan Annis, the organizer for the Camden Chess Club, about how we could share our chess book libraries more widely; with all the advances in technology, it is easier (and probably more efficient) to study online (Chessable has a fabulous tool to help you learn tactics and openings, and a new tool to analyze issues in your games after the fact). Another issue with chess books is that the older ones use descriptive notation; it's a lot of work to translate that into algebraic notation in your head before you move the pieces around on a physical chessboard. As you know, we have a lending library for our physical chess books (and I still really enjoy physical chess books). I plan to contact the Maine State Librarian to see if there is a way we can make our books available all over Maine, not just in the Waterville area.
Can You Find The Winning Move? A Mind Boggling Study By Mark Liburkin
FEN: 5K2/6p1/7b/8/1B3P2/7k/4N3/8 w - - 0 1
If you like chess puzzles, you'll like this one. White to move and win. Take your time, though, because the answer is not obvious [there are more than one answers, in fact]. This puzzle was composed by Mark Liburkin in 1945. I learned about it from watching a video by NM Nelson Lopez; after you try to solve the puzzle, check out his video by clicking on the image above.
EXTRA! "Chess lessons are more than just a game for refugee students at Stough Elementary School in Raleigh, North Carolina. The students are from Afghanistan, forced to flee their country with their families when the Taliban regained control. As suggested by a friend, ESL teacher Cindy Linton incorporated chess as a tool for the students to develop critical thinking in a second language. Linton brought chess grandmaster Elshan Moradiabadi, one of the most prominent players in chess, to meet her students." - NBC Nightly News via Jenny Engle
Is nothing sacred any more?
When you are trying to learn a new chess opening, it's a good idea to play a lot of games with that opening. After a while, whether you win or lose your games, you should get a sense of what works and what does not work. I have been working on learning the Scandinavian Opening lately. On the Featured Page this week, I share my latest attempt. It's worth mentioning that the opening is only the beginning of a chess game [thank you, Captain Obvious]. You still need to play well in the middle game (not to mention the endgame). The other game on the Featured Page is another French Defense from Bob Lutz. Even after I threw a few curve balls (metaphorically speaking), Bob managed a victory.
The image of White chess pieces working together to bring down the Black King was borrowed from the Canadian Elevate My Chess website.
What a difference a single move can make! As White, Bob Lutz was dominating the game right up until his 20th move. In this week's Featured Game, Ellie capitalized on a missed opportunity by White to take control of the game and turn defeat into victory. There were mistakes made by both players, but by staying focused Ellie prevailed in the end.
It Ain't Over Until The Fat Lady Sings
I wasn't able to play in person this week, but had an enjoyable evening on Thursday playing two exciting games (against Ellie and Bob Lutz). I lost both games; check out the Featured Page for all three games we played. In my London System game against Ellie, I lost focus in a lust for material and failed to check for mating threats. I joked with her that the fat lady hadn't sung yet because I had gone back on the offensive (after being back on my heels during the middle game). But she kept her cool and found the decisive move to win the game (just in the nick of time)!