Friday, November 30, 2007

The Toolbox

My code for Personal Chess Trainer was in my inbox when I got home from work yesterday! I gleefully fired up PCT, registered it, reinstalled it (everyone with PCT knows what I mean, from my reading :P), fired it up again and...fiddled with the options.

Unfortunately (for my chess, at least) my daily evening looks like this:

5pm through 6pm is for helping my daughter with homework and starting to cook
6pm through 7pm is for eating, dishes and cleaning
7pm through 9-10pm is for whatever the hell my wife says its for!
9-10pm through whenever I pass out is for chess and stuff

On days when my wife goes to around 9pm, I get a G30 in, some Novice Nook or puzzles and Google up 'chess babes in lingerie'. Last night when she was up till almost 11...By the time I got PCT going, I was wobbling in my chair taking 3 second naps between puzzles trying to complete a 45 puzzle series of Mate in Ones twice, since PCT makes you solve each problem two times. I kept thinking that I had to be getting close to the turn and coming down the repeats soon, but it felt like it never happened.

As my eyes fluttered, I started making moves on automatic and the only miss I had was moving the wrong rook the first time through. By 11:15, 90 puzzles down, I was toasted and fell into bed.

I have to break it to the wife that no later than 10pm, every night, I'm gonna go play with myself for at least an hour and she's neither invited nor allowed to interrupt. There's no way I can make progress if I'm not awake enough to understand what I'm doing.

A new sidebar block:

The Toolbox
Novice Nook

I hope to add Chernev's Logical Chess to that at Xmas. The Toolbox will basically be my current reading/study list. I need to get some annotated master games on there, as well. Any recommendations for Morphy and other early players?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Won't be running into GM Onischuk this weekend

Cause he's, you Russia playing some game called 'chess'.

But I still need to get my butt out to a real chess club, so I'll get down to the Fells Point club at some point. Somebody there should know if he ever graces mere chess mortals with his presence.

Monday, November 26, 2007

PGN Viewer Test

So...I just killed some more time seeking out a decent, low maintenance, easy to use integrated PGN Viewer. I'm hoping a body or two will take a peek at the earlier post 'Sometimes winning feels like you heart will explode' and compare loading times of the 'Read More' to the integrated game after the jump here:

Does the viewer take too long? How's it look?

ADD: Duh. I should say, clearly, that its Chess Publisher's viewer.

A Maryland?

Tooling around, I stumbled on the Top 100 players in Maryland over at Baltimore Chess. Not recognizing the name at #1, Alexander Onischuk, and seeing he's so far above #2 (144 points) I Google him.

Dude's the 36th highest rated player in the world!

I know UMBC has a solid chess team, and I've casually followed them in the USCL, but I had no idea we had such a powerhouse in my backyard.

From USCF: Since 1997, Alexander has worked on chess together with the 12th World Champion Anatoly Karpov being his second in many matches and tournaments. Over the last seven years, Alexander has invariably remained in the top 50 in the World. He immigrated to the US in 2001 and currently lives in Baltimore.

Shut. Up. He's been Karpov's second?

I so have to get down to the Fells Point Chess Club and find out if he hangs out there, if he plays in any clubs or whatever. I'd loved to get blasted away by a GM OTB. I imagine the experience to be invigorating.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Burning the midnight oil

Whew! Got the banner completed! Please pop over to the ZOtherOne's gallery and take a look at his work. I can't say enough how thrilled I am that he let me use his picture.

I spent a good while scouring Deviant Art for the perfect image. His captured the sense of journey, fear, excitement, hopes and dreams that most of are moved by when we play chess.

The board in the picture belonged to his grandfather. My grandfather is probably the reason I keep coming back to chess as I get older. As a kid, we played a game and I stuck a Knight on f6, a Bishop on g7 and castled short. He called it an Indian defense, said it was good and that he had to work to beat me.

I'm sure he handled me better than he let on, but his words have stuck with me.

I haven't seen my grandfather in about ten years. My grandparents divorced and the family as a whole split for a little while. Deep down, part of the reason I play is the hope that I'll run into him. He was always ahead of the curve with computers. He set me up with a couple of chess games over a modem when I was a kid, so maybe he's on FICS. Maybe he's gonna be at the Baltimore Open in January.

A few years ago my mother gave me his first edition copy of Rueben Fine's Chess the Easy Way. She'd had it in a box of things she took from his farm before it was sold after the divorce. I never really looked at it- its in descriptive, after all!- until recently when I started to miss him.

He taught me about a lot more than chess- computers, electricity, radio signals, weather, deer tracking, that you don't have to hold everything inside. I just want another game with him, to show him I've learned and gotten better. I hope he'd be proud of me.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Improvements and Concessions

Yay for a day off!

-I got the post previews to work- if anyone has any issues, let me know. The 'Read More' link may appear on posts without more content, which is a limitation of Blogger, I think. They have a tutorial, of sorts, on how to make previews work, but leave it "as an exercise for the reader" to figure out how to make 'Read More' go away when there is no more. Huh.

-I added a lot of blogs and sites to the sidebar. Right now, I'm just going to deal with some links wrapping. I don't want to force side to side scrolling for people who don't have a 1024x768 or higher display. Maybe in the future.

-I'm linking blogs by blog title, not blogger name. I've seen both ways on other blogs, sometimes a mix of both and I'm gonna try to be consistent this way. If I ever expand the sidebar, I'll add blogger names to the links if they'll fit.

Hopefully I'll update this later today with more done.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Blog To-Do

Things I want to do with the blog:

*Hack the HTML enough to make the sidebar wider (or choose an alternate layout, but I kinda like this one) because links are getting wrapped and messy looking
*Figure out how to post just a preview of my posts, making the front page easier to read
-Once the layout is squared away, I've got an awesome picture create a nice banner/header with
*Explore PGN viewers for blogging, as well as Chessup's diagram creator (if it'll save my color settings, then I'll make the board look nicer and more fitting for the color scheme)
-Get the other 10 or so blogs I'm reading daily added to my sidebar and fill out the non-blog site list
-Add a box or section to the sidebar with my FICS handle (gorckat) and info
-Tags or no-tags? Better to decide on that now, rather than going back and tagging 100+ posts down the road!

*Any recommendations for stuff marked "*" would be appreciated. No need to reinvent too many wheels!

Feature Ideas I've got cookin':

-Interviews with random people. (This'll be a tricky one- I'm touched with a dose of Social Anxiety Disorder. Basically, I function very well with people when we stay in the roles the current social situation demands- waiter/diner, cashier/shopper, chess father/chess coach at a tournament. Asking people to be interviewed will push me out of the nest in a big way.)
-Chess pictures. I did some digging at Deviant Art to find the picture for my banner (the photographer was very gracious in giving me their permission to use it and their gallery will be linked as soon as I have it ready!) and want to link some of them, as well as taking my own casual pictures. I have several in mind involving one of my cats...
-Live blogging a major chess game. It could be fun to liveblog a game being shown elsewhere as an exercise in evaluation and commentary.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Sometimes winning feels like your heart will explode

Wow. I really need to read some of that "Don't get to high on your wins" stuff because I am jazzed right now! Maybe it's because I haven't played since missing Mate in Two. Right now I feel like I can play chess.

Here's the game with off the cuff commentary and Crafty analysis (some of the diagrams have the White to move when its not- oops!):

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6

That's about all I know of the Spanish!

4. Bc4 Bc5

Hey- this is like the Italian Game!

5. O-O Nf6 6. d3 O-O 7. Re1 d5 8.
exd5 Nxd5 9. Nxe5 Nxe5 10. Rxe5

I spent about 3 minutes considering 10. ... Bxf2+ before deciding my opponent wouldn't play 11. Kxf2 allowing 11. ... Qf6+ winning the Rook. (Crafty liked Bxf2+, but with moves I hadn't considered! Need to look at that later...)

10. ... c6 11. d4 Bb6 12. c3 Bc7 13. Re1 Qd6

I've decided to gun for the Kingside with everything I've got. After forcing his Rook back, I realized he still hasn't activated 4 pieces. you'd almost think I dropped that pawn in exchange for the activity!

14. g3 Bh3 15. Bf1 Bxf1

Sweet! I get to exchange what was my worst piece for his best!

16. Rxf1 Rfe8 17. c4 Nf6

Sure- make me go to the Kingside.

18. Bf4 Qd7

Given how the game ended, I'm sure he wished he'd exchanged Bishops at this point. instead, he 'forces' me to centralize my Knight and score what I consider a badass finish.

19. Bg5 Ne4 20. Be3 Qh3
21. Nd2

21. ...Nxg3 22. Qf3 Ne2+ {Letto resigns} 0-1

I can't believe I found this win (even after Crafty tells me Nxg3 wasn't all that I thought it was :D)! I watched a few videos yesterday on the Grand Prix Attack, a system I'm thinking of using in conjunction with the Scotch Game, and reading the unmarked half of my Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess so I can only assume my brain was primed for assault and mate!

Here's the game in raw PGN:

[Event "rated standard match"]
[Site "Free Internet Chess Server"]
[Date "2007.11.17"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Letto"]
[Black "gorckat"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "1658E"]
[BlackElo "1475P"]
[ECO "C60"]
[TimeControl "G/30"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Bc4 Bc5 5. O-O Nf6 6. d3 O-O 7. Re1 d5 8.
exd5 Nxd5 9. Nxe5 Nxe5 10. Rxe5 c6 11. d4 Bb6 12. c3 Bc7 13. Re1 Qd6 14. g3
Bh3 15. Bf1 Bxf1 16. Rxf1 Rfe8 17. c4 Nf6 18. Bf4 Qd7 19. Bg5 Ne4 20. Be3 Qh3
21. Nd2 Nxg3 22. Qf3 Ne2+ {Letto resigns} 0-1

I just let Crafty take a hack at it. Crafty never went over one pawn either way until 22. Qf3. Here's what he gave at that point: 22. hxg3 Rxe3 23. Nf3 Re7 24. Re1 Rae8 25. Rxe7 Rxe7 26. d5 a5 27. dxc6 bxc6 with a pretty even game, slight edge to Black.

At no point had I considered Qh5 by White which came up in several of Crafty's lines. If I had seen it and decided to make my moves anyway, then fine. Its a glaring weakness of mine- failing to consider all my opponent's moves. I can probably work on it better in G60, but it gets so hard to find two hours when I have the energy for it.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Fischer missed a mate in one! Or did he?

This makes me feel not so bad missing that mate in two earlier this week:

Fischer's note with the puzzle's solution says he missed this posibility but won anyway. I Googled for the actual continuation but didn't find the game. What I did find was a game with a similar position and it looks more like Bobby missed a mate in 3.

41. Kf1 e4 42. Bf2+ Kh3 (Kh2 ends the same) 43. Rh7#

I had gone back to Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess because I was thinking it might be a good book to put in my daughter's hands (easily portable, has puzzles which she likes doing). Unfortunately, I used a pen to write the solutions for the first half of the book right on the diagrams.

Guess I'll have to buy it as a stocking stuffer for her.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Interview with a young chess player

For kicks, to practice interviewing (since I do hope to be an occasional journalist here) and to get my daughter involved with something creative on the web, I am presenting a brief interview with her:

How long have you been playing chess?

A couple months. My dad taught me.

Is he any good?

Yeah, but I beat him sometimes.

Straight-up or did you get help beating him?

A little of both.

What's your best chess memory?

Beating my dad for the first time.

Do you study or practice regularly?

I do worksheets and my dad and I play each other.

Tell me about your first tournament.

I didn't win, but I got a trophy for the highest rated Unrated. I played the highest rated player and lasted a really long time. She can beat kids older than her in a snap.

What do you like about chess?

I'm not sure. I just enjoy it. I think it's fascinating and fun.

What do you think you need to do to get better?

I'm not really sure. Maybe practice more with my dad.

Anything else?

Bishops or Knights?


You don't have a favorite?


1. e4 or 1. d4?



I just think its the best move. I just stick to it.

The greatest American player and former World Champion, Robert Fischer, once said, "Best by test: e4!" What do you think of that?

I don't know. Just...what?

He was saying the best move to start the game was e4.


(Both of us laugh)

Is there anything else you want to say about chess?


Thanks for your time.

Sure. No problem!

She's tickled at that thought of somebody actually reading this. At some point she'll post as a guest contributor, once she thinks of something to say :)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Skimming around a few blogs this morning, I was reminded of the reason most people play chess: it evokes emotions.

I love attacking. I love the feeling before a game that I'm going to crush my opponent. I love when I'm on the ropes feeling that I'm not going to give in and that my comeback will break my opponent's spirit for weeks to come. I like the camraderie of looking at a position with others in the hopes of understanding it.

I hate the things I do that put me on the ropes. I hate losing.

The loves are the reason to play. The hates are the reason to get better.

I've always been a competitive person, sometimes to a fault. My wife won't play chess since I obliterated her during the games we played as I was teaching her ten years ago. I almost did the same thing to my daughter before my wife talked some sense into me and I eased up. We played a few games talking every move over and my daughter won a few: hooked.

Probably the biggest reason I play is the beauty and elegance that can come forth in a position. Working through Lazlo Polgar's Chess: 5334 Problems, Combinations and Games has given me a few "Wow!" moments where I just marvel at the solution.

Someday I'll make my own moment OTB.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Proof I need more time on tactics

I got the first move, but missed the second. It was about 11:30 pm last night, but still- this is basic!

I need to get a routine down where I look at tactics and forced mates for at least 20 minutes a day, each.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


I've dabbled in several blogs that have gone nowhere, but lately the idea of a chess-centric one has taken root. I've enjoyed writing since high school where I 'became' a poet (aren't we all born that way?) but have not found the outlet I need to get creative and keep writing consistently since then.

Several things have spurred me to write about chess:

1) I taught my 8-year old to play over the summer
2) I started playing again after several years away
3) I haven't found any blogs about chess in Maryland

So here's what I've got on tap to get things going in the coming weeks and months:

-Last night my wife suggested a day-trip to the battlefields at Gettysburg or maybe Luray Caverns. Almost immediately I had the idea that whichever place we go, I should take my chess set and get a picture of me playing chess there...because that'd be kinda cool...I think :)
-I'm trying to consistently work an improvement plan and am looking to play in my first tournament December 8th and then the Baltimore Open in January (I'd estimate myself around 1100 USCF, perhaps? I'm about 1450 on FICS)
-My daughter played in her first tournament a couple weekends ago and wouldn't commit to playing another until I after I promised to help her get better

Welcome to my Chess Adventures!