Monthly Archives: July 2014

2014 US Open: Rd 2, 3

After a decent night’s sleep – decent, not sufficient! – I awoke to breakfast with Nebraska’s brightest young female chess player and her mother.  I took a quick jaunt to the Whole Foods to find coffee filters for my Hario V60 pourover, visited the bookstore with Jacey and her family,  and meandered a bit after they left for shopping and their flight home.

(Pro tip: if ever you forget to bring your special V60 filters with you on a trip. you can jerry-rig Melitta #4s and still brew your delicious, non-hotel coffee.  Don’t say I never did anything for you.)

Let me say something first about the bookstore, run this year (as last) by Chess4Less and the Rochester Chess Center. These guys do a great job stocking books, equipment, and swag. They are on-site for hours and hours, answering questions, suffering fools gladly, and letting bloggers like me take pictures.  Lots of them are provided in a link below.

As part of my quest to preserve the game scores from this tournament, I also dropped by the Director’s Room. The Director’s Room is where pairings are done and where the gruntwork of running a big tournament like this takes place.  I was tickled to learn that USCF directors have named their computers after world champions.

After a quick bite to eat, I dropped by the Scholastic Chess Committee meeting at 2pm. There was a bit of a kertuffle in Dallas this year at the National Elementary School Championship, as a team from WA were admitted to a section for low rated played for which they were dramatically overqualified.  Their USCF ratings did not represent their actual strength, while their NWS ratings (local to the NW) did. Naturally, when they won the event, things got ugly. Chess parents are about as delightful as stage parents.

So there has been a push among certain verbose members of the USCF community to make radical changes to procedures for dealing with foreign rating systems.  As I am the Nebraska delegate to the USCF, I thought I should learn about this issue and thus attended the Scholastic meeting.

What a mistake.

The meeting was filled with petty, backbiting nonsense from some of the ‘leading’ players in American scholastic chess.  One eminent figure repeatedly whined that no one contacted him to access his vast knowledge at key moments. (Nevermind the fact that this eminent fellow is no longer on the the Council, etc.) Another started to shout – literally – because he had to have the last word when his alleged ‘facts’ were corrected by someone with first-hand knowledge of a specific matter.

I think institutional memory is invaluable, but man, the USCF needs some new blood in a desperate way.

I managed to grab a quick nap and eat before my round three game.  As I took a half-point bye for the afternoon game, I started with 0.5/2.  My opponent was a plucky 11 yr old from Florida, and I managed to defeat him without too much difficulty.

In other news, Jim Tarjan drew the top rated player as he continues his comeback to tournament chess, and John Watson won his game to take his score to 4/5.

As promised, here are about 60 pictures from Wednesday!

2014 US Open: Rd 1

I caught a 6:40am flight from Omaha to Chicago to Orlando, arriving in town at about 1:30pm.  I had hoped to sleep on the flight, as I awoke at about 5am and slept fitfully before that, but could only doze on the first leg and struck out on the second. I’d never considered it before, but there are a LOT of kids on fights to Orlando, and more than one decided that mid-flight was the time to sing us all the songs of their people.  Oy.

After picking up my car, I headed over to the playing site.  The Rosen Centre Hotel is a very big place, and there are two or three large convention type events going on at once.  Besides the chess, I have seen some kind of Harry Potter event, a meeting of the Tuskegee Airmen (wow!), and various parts of the Miss America Outstanding Teen pageant.  Chess players and beauty queens.  Gotta love America.

Between 3 and 7, when rd 1 began, I wandered around a bit and got the lay of the land.  The bookstore is impressive.  (More on that later.) The playing hall is tremendous. There are lots of kids playing bughouse and blitz everywhere you look. And ICC is on-site, handing out free memberships to players in the Denker, Barber, and NGIT. Some 20 year ICC members (ahem) might also have gotten themselves a six month extension after banter with the on-site rep…

My round one game was against a young expert from Cleveland, OH named Zane Eisen.  I think I was better after 15 moves, but got too ambitious and missed a shot around move 25.  My attempts at complicating were for naught, and Eisen collected the point after time control was made.  We had a good post-mortem, and Al Lawrence dropped by to say hello. Al, former Chess Life editor and a Lincoln native, is one of the good guys in American chess, and it’s always good to see him.

As I am playing in the six-day, I took byes in rounds two and six so as to minimize my having to play two games a day.  So today I had breakfast with Nebraska’s NGIT player Jacey Tran and her mom, made a quick run to Whole Foods for coffee filters, and met up again with the Trans in the bookstore.  Later I’ll take some pictures during rd 2 of the six-day and I’ll also begin the work of my US Open games project, about which more will be said in a later post.

US Open 2014: Preparation

Things may seem to have gone quiet here at Chess Book Reviews, but this is not the case.  Much has been afoot behind the scenes, most notably the drafting and submission of a longer-than-usual review to Chess Life on opening videos.  I’ve been watching a lot of video from a number of providers, including ICC, chess24.com, chesslecture.com, chess.com and Chessbase.  Combine that with a lovely trip to see family and friends, and it’s not hard to see why there have been relatively few reviews in recent weeks.

In three weeks time I make my second appearance at the US Open.  Attentive readers will recall that last year I ‘live-blogged’ my experience and games there, and it is my intention to do so again.  I began last year’s bloggery with a description of what I’d been doing to prepare.  I will do so again in this post.

My chess has been miserable this past year.  After an abysmal showing at the Nebraska State Closed Championship, I decided that I had to do something radical to improve my game.  That radical step was, in truth, six steps – the six steps of the Dutch Stappenmethode (available in the States at Chess Steps and in an Amazon storefront) program for learning chess.

I will give an in-depth description and review of the Steps in the near future, but for now, let me say that the idea of the Steps is to offer users a systematic course for learning and improving one’s chess.  It is designed for children – my wife, in fact, asked me why I was so busy with children’s workbooks at the start of my project – but I find it equally ideal for the adult self-learner.  I have been busy solving all of the puzzles, including those in the Plus books, since the spring, and am now in the midst of Step 4.  My idea was to finally learn the basic grammar of chess, seeing as I, like most Americans, had a rather slapdash chess education.  I think it’s helping, but it’s too early to know what the long-term benefits (if any) will be.

I will continue moving through the Steps as I prepare for the US Open, and I will also be looking at a couple of other books, namely Chess Training for Post-Beginners by Yaroslav Srokovski and Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual by Mark Dvoretsky.  Dvoretsky’s book is a classic, but Srokovski’s book is new, and it will also (not coincidentally) be half of the subject of a review in Chess Life by yours truly later this year.

I will also try to get some practice in, both in set endgame positions against the computer and in solving middlegame problems on a board.  The middlegame problems will come from Krasenkow’s new book Finding Chess Jewels: Improve your Imagination and Calculation.  The endgame positions will come from Dvoretsky and from Aagaard’s GM Prep: Endgame Play.

What about openings?  Openings are not such a big part of my preparation this year, and for a couple of reasons.  I did a lot of opening work for the Nebraska Closed, and I did just watch a lot of videos on the opening.  Mainly I hope to review what I already play and fill in gaps where needed.

So ‘tune in’ during the Open for daily updates, and watch the British Chess Magazine later this year for a report by this foreign correspondent on the event.  And stand by for some new reviews before the Open!