National Master Evan Rabin’s College Essay about Winning the U.S Chess Championship Team East

By National Master Evan Rabin

This was my college essay that I wrote back in 2007, which helped me get accepted to Brandeis University

When I see myself on the May 2007 cover of Chess Life magazine, I feel a sense of stunning accomplishment. After thousands of matches and countless hours of practice, my tenacity was rewarded when I served as captain of the first place team at the 2007 U.S. Amateur Team East Chess Championship (USATE). This achievement served not only as a milestone of personal growth but also to motivate my decision to pursue a business career. Four years ago, I played in the USATE for the first time and had a hard time even finding a team. This year, I put together a team and led four other players. One came from as far as Tennessee and after a long weekend of competitive play we came home with first place honors.

In 2003 I entered high school without a clue of what I wanted to do in the future. My desire to imamprove myself motivated me to pursue a demanding International Baccaleureate (IB) curriculum with an elective in IB Business Higher Level. This rigorous course has opened my eyes to the methods companies use to achieve their objectives. It is one thing to learn such concepts in the classroom but to get a true sense of what they mean it is essential to apply them to real life problems. Therefore, when I began to think about this year’s USATE tournament, I decided to see if I could use these principles to develop a winning strategy.

First, I took on the recruitment process to form the best team possible. I began by initiating a research effort, looking at teams that had won the USATE in previous years. As companies perform reverse engineering to evaluate the strengths of their competitors, I conducted an analysis studying other top-rated teams.  This led to a conclusion that it was best to have four players with ratings close to 2200, the maximum allowed team average. I realized this would give us a competitive advantage over the many teams that focused their resources on players with extremely high ratings. That is because to meet the 2200 maximum average, their remaining boards would have to be rated significantly lower.

I carefully selected a team using this strategy, and made sure my teammates knew each other so they were able to cooperate and have high morale. One teammate suggested the team name “Beavis and Buttvinnik” incorporating the movie Beavis and Butthead and the 1950s world chess champion Mikhail Botvinnik.

Beavis and Butt-head titlecard.pngMikhail Botvinnik - Wikipedia

When we were nominated for “ best name prize,” our team spirit received a boost. Other teams also recognized us more, especially when we were fighting on the top boards for first place. This nomination showed me the importance of both a company’s name and brand equity. Our cooperation and spirit was noted during the last round when my teammate Nick came back to the boards with four cups of water for those of us who were still playing. A grandmaster saw this action and said, “Your team is a lot nicer than ours.”

Winning at the USATE was a high point in my life. It allowed me to see myself in the role of manager and showed me how much I can achieve when I apply myself. It also demonstrated how academic studies can be applied in a real life setting. The desire to learn more about business influenced me to take a college course in microeconomics at New York University last summer. This experience provided further depth to my understanding and gave me further insight into preparing for college.

Is Journalism a Chess Game?

By Henry Brier , Freelance Journalist

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When I noted chess’ most vivid application to life was one semester while I was an undergraduate in Western Massachusetts. Shortly after being hired as an associate news editor for the independent student newspaper, I was tasked to the administration beat.

One of the first encounters of note while covering the administration entailed the chancellor and my initial face-to-face meeting, almost immediately after which I viewed him as the king and campus as the board. His administration was populated by assorted power players with various levels of authority, vigilance and mobility, fulfilling stand-up roles akin to the back line of queen, bishops, knights and rooks. Lower level members of the staff served as the first line of defense, very closely resembling pawns.

My responsibility was to keep tabs on the administration amid ongoing happenings and then articulate those developments in cogent, informative print. Though I did not view myself as an opponent but, rather, a monitor of this modified game of the king, this task availed multiple opportunities for direct access to the chancellor and his crew, including forays deep into his life, times, office and home.

All of which begs the question: Who was the opponent?

Given a college campus is the heart of critical culture, the top administrator had no shortage of critics telling him how he should and should not do his job. But whether anyone wanted to sack him is another question.

Among the top critics was the then chair of the journalism department, with whom I was strolling one day between classes when suddenly another faculty member comes rushing over to share an excerpt about a recent move by the king. The chair whimsically smiles, gently shakes his head west-to-east, and compares the campus’ point man to ‘a monk in a cell’.

One day I was being seen at the campus health center. An avid reader of daily news, the attending physician recognized my name and when I told her I was responsible for covering the administration, the fixer-of-ills opined that the brass was ’top heavy’.

Journalists are trained to be critical (ergo the chair’s point of departure) though while in frequent contact with the campus’ top administrative official, I did not believe sharpening the talons would be beneficial for my purposes.

Also critical was the editorial/opinion page of the student newspaper and its editor, who turned down an overture from the campus’ top suite: publishing the king’s periodic submissions. The paper derided him in a piece titled ’The Chancellor’s New Hobby’. And whether that was a signed column or an unsigned editorial, I cannot recall.

Maybe that elusive opponent was from within. His was an unenviable job, rife with opportunity to commit forced and unforced errors, become tangled in weeds and immersed in pitfalls, manufacture up-and-coming doubters, and engage an abundant number of observers and critics.

Similarly, careless, forced and unforced errors abound in chess, a thinking man’s game that sharpens critical thought processing and forward-looking ideas, plans and strategy.

Henry Brier is a freelance journalist. He may be reached at hjsb20@gmail.com.

A Tribute to Scott Chaiet, Chess Teacher and Torah Student

Last week we lost one of the most enthusiastic chess players who ever exsisted, National Expert Scott Chaiet. A few weeks before the COVID-19 Pandemic began I was analyzing a game with Scott, our mutual friend Fedor Khrapatin and a few others late at night after a round of the United States Amateur Team East in Parsippany.

Scott Chaiet playing with his teamates (Fedor Khrapatin and Paul Song) at the Amateur Team East

He was so estatic about the game that I felt like he was sports commentator. He had a true passion for identiying beautiful combinations, art on the chess board.

Scott worked as an engineer for the Metropolitan Transit Authority for many years and recently retired. Over for the last few, he often told me he would soon retire and work part-time for Premier Chess. I told him “just tell me when and you will be hired.” Unfortunately, before he could do so, he shockingly had a heart attack and stroke and passed a few weeks later.

In addition to chess, Scott and I bonded over our common passion for torah study. Neither of us grew up wth observant Jewish families, who kept Shabbat or Kashrut. However, as adults, we both decided that we wanted to learn torah, Jewish laws, holidays, etc. in more detail. At the funeral, his rabbi spoke about how he started regularly going to morning services at the synagogue and asked to learn torah. It was due to him that the synagogue started offering a weekly class on Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of Our Fathers. Likewise, I learn a lot from many of mentors, including Rabbi Mark Wildes, Founder of Manhattan Jewish Experience, Rabbi Levi Welton and Rabbi Mendy Brukirer, Director of Outreach at Meor Manhattan.

Rabbi Levi Welton taught me how the Lubavitcher Rebbe compared a Jew to a pawn in chess.

The Rebbe playing with father.

A Jew naturally is of a lower status than Angels. However, when a Jew prays, he could rise his status above them. While a pawn is the lowest value piece (1 point), it could promote to a queen (9 points), above a bishop, or knight (3 points) or a rook (5 points). Scott was a certainly a pawn who promoted himself to live in heaven. While his body is no longer with us, his soul will live forever. Come celebrate his life in a memorial tournament on September 11, organized by Tyrell Harriott.

Short Losses by World Champions, Part 5

By Matthew Grinberg, Founder of Alamogordo Chess Club

This week we finish up with World Chess Champions Gary Kasparov, Vladimir Kramnik, Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen.

Deep Blue (computer) – Kasparov, Gary, 1:0, 1997

Caro-Kann Defense

 

Perhaps it is unfair to include this game in this series since Kasparov’s opponent was a computer.  But make no mistake, Kasparov took the match against Deep Blue very seriously.  It is also one of the most famous games ever played.  It put to rest the question of whether or not a computer program could beat the best human players.  This is also one of just two cases where the shortest loss by a World Champion happened while he was World Champion.

Anand, Viswanathan – Kramnik, Vladimir, 1:0, 5/19/2005

Petroff’s Defense

The future and current World Champions face off in a mega tournament in Bulgaria.  In addition to being one of only two games in this series where the winner and loser are both World Champions, this is also one of only two games in the series where the loser is the World Champion at the time of the game.

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d4 d5 6. Bd3 Nc6 7. O-O Be7 8. c4 Nb4 9. Be2 O-O 10. Nc3 Bf5 11. a3 Nxc3 12. bxc3 Nc6 13. Re1 Re8 14. cxd5 Qxd5 15. Bf4 Rac8 16. Qc1 A little off the beaten path.

[More common is 16. Bd3 Qd7 17. Rb1 Bxd3 18. Qxd3 b6  +0.16|d17 Rybka4]

Up to here this has been a solidly played game by both sides, but now Kramnik plays two bad moves in a row.

16… Na5!? How many times must it be said – even to World Champions – “Knight on the rim spells a trim.”

[16… Bf6 17. Qb2 Na5 18. Rad1 Qb3  +0.25|d18 Rybka4]

  1. c4! Anand sees that the three undefended pieces on the 5th rank are vulnerable and plays to exploit them.

17… Qe4?! Since it is so obvious that you shouldn’t put your queen on the line of attack of your opponents pieces, I can only conclude that Kramnik miscalculated.

[17… Qd8 18. Qc3  +0.53|d16 Rybka4 His position is a little disorganized, but at least it is safe.]

  1. Bd1 Qd3

[The only other move that saves the queen 18… Qc6 drops a piece for a pawn. 19. Re5 Nxc4 20. Rxf5  +2.43|d16 Rybka4]

  1. Re3! The zwischenzug that Kramnik apparently overlooked on his last three moves.

[Not 19. Re5 ? 19… Nxc4 20. Be2 Nxe5 21. Bxd3 Nxd3 22. Qd2 Nxf4 23. Qxf4  -0.37|d17 Rybka4]

19… Qxc4 20. Re5 Kramnik has to lose either the knight or the light square bishop.  He chooses to resign instead.

[20… Qxc1 21. Bxc1 g6 22. Rxa5 a6 23. Ne5 Rcd8 24. Bb3  +1.53|d5 Rybka4]

[1:0]

Zapata, Alonso – Anand, Viswanathan, 1:0, 1988

Petroff’s Defense

This game was played in a minor tournament twenty years before Anand won the World Chess Championship, but even so he was already a strong player.  His opponent is a Columbian grandmaster.

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. Nc3 Not the usual move, but perfectly good.

5… Bf5? At least Anand was aware that his knight was under attack.  Unfortunately this move falls short.

[5… Nxc3 6. dxc3 Be7 7. Bd3 Nd7 8. Be3 Nc5 9. Bxc5 dxc5 10. Qe2 O-O 11. O-O-O Bd6 12. Rhe1 Qf6 13. Kb1 Be6 14. Qe3 Rfe8 15. Qg5 Be7 16. Qg3 Bd6 17. Qg5 Be7 18. Qg3 Bd6 19. Qg5 1/2-1/2, Radjabov Teimour (AZE) 2756  – Topalov Veselin (BUL) 2813 , Nice  3/14/2009 It “Amber” (blindfold)]

 

 

  1. Qe2

[The only plausible defense to the threat to win the knight, 6… Qe7 , fails to 7. Nd5 Qd7 8. d3  +3.04|d5 Rybka4]

[1:0]

Pelletier, Yannick  – Carlsen, Magnus, 1:0, 7/24/2005

Nimzo-Indian Defense

Yes, even Carlsen has been known to have a bad day.

  1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 Classical Variation. A very solid system which is very popular these days. White avoids doubled pawns on the c-file, prepares to attack the bishop with a2-a3, and takes control over the important central e4-square. A drawback of this plan is White’s slow development.

4… d5 5. cxd5 c5 6. dxc5 Nxd5!? Certainly aggressive, but this has the drawback of leaving the queen bishop hemmed in.

[6… exd5 7. Bg5 h6 (7… Nc6 8. O-O-O Bxc3 9. Qxc3 d4 10. Qa3 h6 11. Bh4 g5 12. Bg3 Ne4 13. e3 f5 14. f3 Nxg3 15. hxg3 Be6 16. exd4 Qd5 17. Ne2 Qxa2 18. Qxa2 Bxa2 19. d5 Nb4 20. Nc3 Rc8 21. Rd4 a5 22. Rxb4 axb4 23. Nxa2 Rxc5 24. Kb1 Rxd5 25. Nxb4 Rd4 26. Nd3 Kf7 27. Kc2 Kg7 28. Be2 Re8 29. Kd2 Kf6 30. Ra1 Re7 31. Ra5 Kg6 1/2-1/2, Sumets Andrey (UKR) 2595  – Matnadze Ana (GEO) 2413 , Palma de Majorca 11/22/2009 It (open)) 8. Bh4 g5 9. Bg3 Ne4 10. e3 Qa5 11. Be5 O-O  +0.00|d16 Rybka4]

  1. Bd2 Bxc5 8. Nxd5 Qxd5 9. e4 Qd4 Again, this certainly is aggressive, but the trouble with making aggressive moves with your queen in the opening is that you leave it vulnerable to attack.

[Safer is 9… Qc6 10. Rc1 Bb6 11. Qb1 Qd7 12. Nf3 O-O 13. Be2 Nc6 14. O-O  +0.49|d13]

  1. O-O-O! White immediately takes advantage of the exposed queen.

10… Nd7 11. Bb5 O-O? Noooo!  Not only does the king need to stay on e8 to defend the knight, but the queen needs to get off of the d-file to get off the line of the rook.

[11… Qe5 12. Bc3 Qg5 13. Kb1 O-O 14. Nf3 Qe7  +0.56|d17 Rybka4]

  1. Bc3 Qxf2 13. Qxf2 Bxf2 14. Bxd7 Be3 15. Kc2 Rb8 Carlsen, down a knight for a pawn, resigned without waiting for a reply. [1:0]

How to Make Staying Inside Safe and Fun for Kids

By Amy Collett, Founder of Bizwell

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Having children home from school or daycare means finding ways to keep them entertained throughout the day. This can be a major challenge, especially for parents who are trying to work from home. Often, it feels like the only option is putting them in front of a screen. However, many parents feel guilt and worry that their little ones are not getting the stimulation they need to stay healthy.

Here are a few (mostly) screen-free ways to keep kids occupied throughout the day:

Learn Chess from Premier Chess

Have some messy fun with finger paint.

Build a pillow fort.

Do these science experiments with household items.

Teach them to cook.

Take advantage of the benefits of classical music by setting aside daily personal listening time.

Avoid boredom with these boredom busters for teens.

Let them enjoy some screen time.

Children can get restless and bored easily, but having a stock of great activities on hand keeps them (and you) sane. When your kiddos start getting stir crazy, turn to one of the fun items on this list and see if they have a fun time with it. Make a note for particularly successful games or activities to bring out again at a later date. Before you know it, you will have something to turn to anytime your kids need something to do!

 

The Gradual Return to Over the Board Chess

By CEO National Master Evan Rabin 

Evan Playing a Tournament in Kiryat Ono, Israel in August 2018

It has been  just over a year since all the schools around the country closed and 99% of our programming went virtual. In the beginning of the pandemic, my rabbi Mark Wildes, The Founder of Manhattan Jewish Experience, encouraged his students to use COVID-19 as an opportunity, not a problem. While, we could no longer meet in person, all the Manhattan Jewish Experience Fellow would still meet to learn each week via Zoom. Likewise, we converted most of corporate classes and school programs to virtual learning and we started offering public camps and group classes. We are continuing to do that as we are looking forward to our virtual summer camp, but we are excited to start offering COVID-19 safe in-person programming for the first time since February 2020! I personally have had both of my vaccines and most of our instructors have as well.

Here are the some of the in-person programs that we are excited about:

1) In-Person Quads in Central Park, May 8 

-Open to players of all skill levels

-Masks required.

-USCF Dual Rated

-$60 to 1st place in each quad

2)Spring Youth Beginner Class in Rego Park, May 6-June 24

Who: All Children Ages 5-10

Where: Work & Tot 96-18 63rd Dr 3rd floor, Rego Park, NY 11374

When: Thursdays from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM, May 6- June 24

3) 3rd Annual Make a Difference Teaching Chess in Africa Trip, July 11-18, 2021


In the heat of the pandemic last year we unfortunately had to cancel the 2020 trip, but we are looking forward to returning to partner with Make a Difference Now this July. We will be teaching at a young women’s technology center for six days and doing an optional safari. I look forward to training another team of high-school and college students and adults during this wonderful experience. Vaccines are a requirement in order to attend. Learn more about trip by listening to our podcast episode with Make a Difference Now Founder Theresa Grant.

While it is still important to keep COVID-19 safety top of mind, that does not need mean you need to stick at home. If done in a safe way, in-person events can be healthy. We will certainly still offer virtual classes forever, you can expect to see more Premier Chess in-person classes and tournaments as time goes on.

 

 

The Queen’s Gambit – Another Possible Inspiration

By Matthew Grinberg, Founder of Alamogordo Chess Club

As noted in a recent post, Diana Lanni has been suggested (by herself, among others) as a possible inspiration for Walter Tevis in writing The Queen’s Gambit.

Another teenage girl Baraka Shabazz, who was playing a strong game of chess around the same time, may have also been an inspiration for Tevis.

Here is a story about her from the Washington Post the title of which suggests this influence.

In 1981 at the age of 15 and the sixth rated female player in the US, she was invited to play in the first World Under-16 Girls’ Chess Tournament.  As noted in the Washington Post article, “In a field of 32 contestants from 18 countries, she won three games and drew four, sharing third-place honors with two others.”

At the time she was living in the Washington, DC area, and had gained considerable attention in the local chess community.  I lived in the area at the same time and in October, 1981 I was paired against her in a DC Chess League match.  Given her reputation, I was  apprehensive about playing her.  Early in the middle game I was in a constrained position and gave up a pawn to get my pieces active.  When it became apparent that I was going to win the pawn back with an even position, she offered a draw and I thankfully accepted.

In 1983 after a bad performance in the World Open, she unfortunately quit chess and never came back.

Here is an entertaining game she played in 1980.  Her opponent tries to blitz her off the board from the start, but ends up paying the price.  Her queen sacrifice at the end is great:

 Arne, Mike – Shabazz, Baraka, 0-1  

Berkeley Open  

Berkeley, California, 1980  

   Petroff’s Defense: Urusov Gambit

 

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. d4 This is a dynamic answer to Petroff’s Defense.

[The standard line is 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d4 d5 White has his normal opening advantage]

3… exd4!?

[More common is 3… Nxe4 4. Bd3 d5 5. Nxe5 Nd7 6. Nxd7 Bxd7 7. O-O Again White has his normal opening advantage]

  1. Bc4!? The Urusov Gambit – Until I looked at this game I had never heard of it.

[Better and leading to an advantage in development for White is 4. e5 Ne4 5. Qxd4 d5 6. exd6 Nxd6 7. Nc3]

4… Nxe4!? Shabazz accepts the gambit.

[4… Nc6 transposes to a common line of the Two Knights Defense. 5. e5 d5 6. Bb5 Ne4 7. Nxd4 Bd7=]

  1. Qxd4 Nf6 6. Bg5 Be7 7. Nc3 Nc6

[In the following game, Black makes a serious error on his last move. 7… c6 8. O-O-O d5 9. Rhe1 Be6 10. Qh4 Nbd7 11. Nd4 O-O 12. Rxe6 fxe6 13. Nxe6 Qe8 14. Nxf8 Qxf8 15. Bd3 Re8 16. Qh3 Qf7 17. Ne2 Nf8 18. Bd2 Bc5 19. Ng3 Ne4 20. Nf5 Nxf2 21. Qg3 Nxd3 22. Qxd3 Ng6 23. Rf1 Qc7 24. Bc3 Bf8 25. h4 Ne5 26. Qg3 Qb8?? (26… h5 keeps him in the game.) 27. Bxe5 1-0, Nikitin, Andrey (RUS) 2458 – Afonin, Sergey (RUS) 2195, St. Petersburg 2003 Tournament (open) “Petersburg’s Autumn”   If the game had continued, then he would have had to give up his queen to avoid checkmate. 27… Qxe5 28. Nh6 Kh8 29. Qxe5 Black cannot recapture]

  1. Qh4 d6 9. O-O-O Be6 10. Bxe6 fxe6 11. Rhe1 Qd7N

[This simultaneous game is the last game in my database that follows this line.  White’s nice trick at the end securs the draw. 11… Qc8 12. Ne4 e5 13. Nxf6 Bxf6 14. Bxf6 gxf6 15. Qxf6 Rf8 16. Qg7 Qd7 17. Qxd7 Kxd7 18. Nxe5 Nxe5 19. Rxe5 Rxf2 20. Rg5 Re8 21. Rg7 Kc6 22. Kb1 Ree2 23. Rc1 Rxg2 24. Rxh7 Rxh2 25. Rxh2 Rxh2 26. a4 Kc5 27. b3 c6 28. Kb2 d5 29. Rg1 d4 30. Rg3 a6 31. Rf3 b5 32. axb5 axb5 33. Kc1 Kb4 34. Rf4 c5 35. Kb2 Rd2 36. Rh4 Ka5 37. Kc1 Rg2 38. Rf4 Kb4 39. Kb2 Rd2 40. Rh4 c4 41. bxc4 bxc4 42. Rxd4! Rxd4 43. c3 1/2-1/2, Hausner, Ivan (CZE) 2434 – Satransky, Jaroslav (CZE) 2225, Rakovnik 2001 Simultaneous]

  1. Qc4 O-O-O 13. Rxe6 White wins back the pawn and still has more active pieces, but Black’s d-pawn against no center pawns for White gives her compensation 13… h6 14. Bf4 d5 15. Qe2 Bc5
  2. Rxf6?! He gives up an exchange for a pawn to break up Black’s position and launch an attack – it’s daring, but not sound. The game begins to go wacko and both players have a hard time finding their way in the complications.

[After 16. Bg3 Rhf8 17. Kb1 the game is equal]

16… gxf6 17. Nxd5 With threats on c7, f6 and b6 it looks like White’s sacrifice was good. 17… Bd6? This is the obvious way to stop the threats on c7 and b6, only giving up the pawn on f6.  But…

[Both players overlooked 17… Nd4! Now Black threatens to take the queen with check or take the undefended knight on d5. 18. Nxd4 Qxd5 Black still has an exchange for a pawn]

  1. Bxd6 cxd6

[Also playable is 18… Qxd6 19. Nb6 axb6 20. Rxd6 Rxd6 Black has two rooks for a queen and pawn, but the pawn structure gives White a small edge]

  1. Qc4 Kb8 20. Nxf6?! Winning the pawn with an attack on the queen is obvious, but it is premature.

[Black cannot correct the weakness in her pawn structure.  It is best for White to increase the pressure on Black and secure his own pawn structure before trying to cash in. 20. Nh4! Qe6 (Or 20… Qg7 21. Ne3 Ne7 22. Qe6 d5 23. Nhf5 Nxf5 24. Qxf5 Qg5 25. Rxd5=) 21. Qf4 h5 22. g3 Ne5 23. Nf5 Rhg8 24. Qe4 Rde8 25. f4 Nc6 26. Qxe6 Rxe6= The knights have a strangle hold on Black’s position and give him compensation for being down an exchange for a pawn]

20… Qg7 21. Ng4 Rhe8?!

[21… d5 gains some space since 22. Rxd5? (Better is 22. Qf4 Ka8 But Black is still better because, in the open position Black’s rooks are more active than White’s knights) 22… Rxd5 23. Qxd5 Qxg4 leaves Black up a rook for three pawns]

  1. Ne3 White’s position is now solid and Black can no longer play d5. 22… Qg6 23. Nd4 Ne5 24. Qb4 d5 She advances the d-pawn anyway. It works here, but it comes with some risk. 25. Ndf5!? He suckers Black into a bad move.

[But the solid 25. g3 may be better]

25… Rd7?! Shabazz overlooks the trick Arne has up his sleeve.

[25… Nc4! would hold the d-pawn with an equal position. 26. c3 (Not 26. Rxd5?? Rxd5 27. Nxd5 Qxg2! 28. Qxc4 Qg1 29. Kd2 Qxf2 30. Kc3 (30. Kd3 Qe2 31. Kc3 Rc8 Black wins) 30… Rc8 Black wins) 26… h5 27. g3 Qf7 28. Nxc4 dxc4 29. Nd4=]

  1. Rxd5! Rc7? Black now sees the problem with playing to win the knight on f5, but balks too soon.

[Even though it does not win the knight 26… Rxd5 it is still best. 27. Nxd5 Qc6 (27… Qxf5?? 28. Qd6 Ka8 29. Nc7 Kb8 30. Na6 Ka8 31. Qb8 Rxb8 32. Nc7#) 28. Qd4 Qc4 29. Qxc4 Nxc4 30. Nfe3 Nxe3 31. Nxe3 With three pawns for the exchange, White is better, but Black has chances]

  1. Qf4 Down three pawns for an exchange and with three of her pieces in the line of the White queen on the h2-b1 diagonal, Black is in serious trouble. 27… Qf6 28. Kb1? White thinks that he is getting his king out of harm’s way, but in fact he is setting himself up for disaster because of the potential for Black’s rook on e8 to get to e1. Shabazz pounces on the idea immediately! I have a suspicion that White was short of time since he misses a lot in the last 9 moves.

[28. Qxh6 Qxh6 29. Nxh6 Rh7 30. Nef5 With four pawns for an exchange, White should win]

28… Nc4! 29. Qd4!? Okay, but…

[The better way to stop the mate threat on b2 is 29. c3 which also stops back rank mate threats. 29… Qc6 30. a3 Rf8 31. Qxc4 Qxc4 32. Nxc4 Rxc4 White has a small edge;

  1. Nxc4?? Re1 30. Qc1 Rxc1 31. Kxc1 Rxc4 Black wins]

29… Nxe3! Now it is Black that suckers White into a bad move. 30. Qxf6? You would think a player would be wary when their opponent leaves her queen hanging.  But perhaps, as I suggested earlier, he was in time trouble.

[30. fxe3 Qxd4 31. Rxd4 Rf7 32. g4 h5 33. h3 hxg4 34. hxg4 Rh7 35. b3 White has three pawns for the exchange, but his isolated e and g-pawns give Black equality]

30… Nxd5! Capturing the rook, attacking the undefended queen and threatening mate in one.  White is forced to give up his queen for a rook, leaving him a rook down. 31. Qxh6 Re1 32. Qc1 Rxc1 33. Kxc1 Nf4 34. g4? This saves the g-pawn from immediate capture, but weakens his pawn structure.  If White had a chance to save the game, it is gone with this move.

[34. g3 also loses the f-pawn, but it keeps his remaining kingside pawns safe. 34… Nd3 35. Kd2 Nxf2 With three pawns for the rook, including two connected passed pawns, White has chance, but Black should still win]

34… Nd3 35. Kd2 Nxf2 Now because of the weakness created by his 34th move, he loses another pawn. 36. g5

[No better is 36. Ne3 Rg7 37. h3 Nxh3 leaving Black up a rook for two pawns anyway]

36… Ne4 White resigns. [0:1]

I think Mike Arne learned that he should not play for tactics against Baraka Shabazz.

 

Diana Lanni-Was She Inspiration for Beth Harmon?

By Matthew Grinberg, Founder of Alamogordo Chess Club

There has been a lot of talk recently about the possibility that Diana Lanni was Walter Tevis‘ inspiration for Beth Harmon in The Queen’s Gambit

This is what is known:

  1. Lanni and Tevis were both playing chess in the same circles in New York City in the 1970’s.
  2. Like Beth Harmon, Diana Lanni became intrigued with chess at a young age.
  3. Both had difficulties in their childhood.
  4. Both became chess masters at a young age and travelled to Europe to play.

In addition, Lanni had her greatest success as a player in the around 1980, when she twice played in the US Women’s Championship and was selected for the USA Women’s Team at the 1982 Olympiad.  This was at the same time Tevis was writing “The Queen’s Gambit,” which was published in 1983.

See  our podcast guest 2 time USA Women’s Champion, Jennifer Shahade’s interview with  Diana Lanni on the subject here.

All this inspired me to look up Lanni’s games from the 1982 Olympiad and annotate one.  In the following game Lanni goes for a blitzkrieg in the opening, then masterfully brings home the win in the resulting rook endgame:

Lanni, Diana (USA) – Maya De Alzate, Gloria (Columbia), 1-0  

Women’s Olympiad, Round 10  

Lucerne Switzerland, 10/1982  

Philidor’s Defense

  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d6 Philidor’s Defense – not very enterprising since it blocks Black’s king bishop, but solid. 3. d4 Nf6 4. dxe5 Nxe4 5. Bc4

[More common is 5. Qd5 Nc5 6. Bg5 Be7 7. exd6 Qxd6 8. Nc3 White’s pieces are more active]

5… c6 6. O-O Be7

[Again, more common is 6… d5 7. Bd3 Nc5 8. Be2=]

  1. Nbd2

[In the following game White plays for an attack on the kingside, like Diana Lanni, but it doesn’t work out so well. 7. e6?! fxe6 8. Re1 d5 9. Bd3 Nc5 10. Ne5 O-O 11. Bxh7? Kxh7 12. Qh5 Kg8 13. Re3 Rf5 14. Qh3 Bh4 15. g3 Bf6 16. Ng6 d4 17. Re1 Nba6 18. g4 Rd5 19. a3 Bd7 20. f4 Qe8 21. f5 e5 22. g5? Qxg6 23. fxg6 Bxh3 24. c4 Rd6 25. b4? Nd3 26. Rd1 Nxc1 0-1, Boshnakov, Simeon – Chuchelov, Vladimir (BEL) 2554, Teteven 1991 It (open)]

7… Nxd2 8. Bxd2 O-O?!

[It is better for Black to secure her center before deciding what to do with her king. 8… d5=]

  1. Re1?! But White misses her opportunity.

[With better development, White should open up the game. 9. exd6 Qxd6 10. Re1 Nd7 11. Bg5 Qxd1 12. Raxd1 White’s more active pieces give her the better game]

9… d5 Better late than never. 10. Bd3 She aims her bishop at h7 setting up the potential for the Greek Gift – 11. Bxh7+ Kxh7, 12. Ng5+ but right now the combination would not work because of 12… Bxg5, 13. Qh5+ Bh6. 10… Bg4 Though the pin on the knight looks good, by setting the bishop out there undefended, the Greek Gift becomes a more legitimate possibility.  Black correctly sees that the combination still doesn’t work and is trying to goad Lanni into playing it. 11. h3 White encourages the bishop to drop back to h5, so that if she plays the combination her queen will capture the bishop with check. 11… Bh5 12. Qe2! This subtle move sets up a position where the sacrifice is a real threat.

[The immediate sacrifice still doesn’t work 12. Bxh7? because after 12… Kxh7 13. Ng5 Kg6! The king defends the bishop!  White is down a bishop and her queen and knight are both hanging.  She has no good way to follow up the attack in spite of the exposed position of Black’s king]

12… Nd7

  1. Bxh7?! The Geek Gift – objectively not the best move, but very enterprising! Diana is confident she will overcome her opponent in the complications.

[A solid alternative is 13. b4 to restrain Black’s position]

13… Kxh7 14. Ng5 Bxg5

[Not 14… Kg6??? as in the note to White’s 12th move, because of 15. Qd3! This was the point of 12. Qe2. 15… f5 16. exf6 Kxf6 17. Re6#]

  1. Qxh5 Bh6 16. g4 Re8?! Black misses her chance to punish White for the premature sacrifice.

[What’s happening on the h-file is more important than what is happening on the e-file. 16… Rh8! 17. Qf5 (17. g5? g6 18. Qxh6 Kg8 White’s queen is trapped! 19. e6 Rxh6 20. exd7 Rxh3 21. Re8 Qxe8 22. dxe8=Q Rxe8 Black wins) 17… g6 18. Qxf7 Bg7 19. e6 Nc5 20. Bb4 Ne4 21. Kg2 Qf6 22. Qxf6 Nxf6 23. Rad1 Rae8 White does not have enough for being down a knight for two pawns]

  1. Bxh6 gxh6 18. Qxf7 Kh8 19. e6 Qf6? After this mistake, White just ends up with an extra pawn.

[Better is 19… Re7! 20. Qh5 Nc5 21. Qxh6 Rh7 22. Qf4 Qf8 23. Qe5 Qg7 24. Qxg7 Kxg7 25. Re3 Kf6 26. Rae1 Re7 27. b4 Nxe6 28. Re5 White is down a knight for two pawns, but her three connected passed pawns make the position unclear]

  1. Qxd7 Re7 21. Qd6 Rae8 22. Qe5!? Good enough to maintain the advantage…

[but 22. Re2! is even better. 22… Rxe6 23. Rae1!! Rxd6 24. Rxe8 Kg7 25. R1e7 Qf7 26. Rxf7 Kxf7 27. Ra8 Unlike in the game continuation, White ends up in a pawn up rook endgame with her rook deep in Black’s territory]

22… Kg7 23. f4 Qxe5 24. Rxe5 Rxe6 25. Rxe6 Rxe6 After all the complications that started with the Greek Gift on move 13, the dust has finally settled.  White has a pawn advantage and a protected passed pawn on f4.  Black has some chances because she has control of the only open file with his rook.  But Diana Lanni plays the endgame very methodically to bring home the point.

  1. Kf2 Re4 27. Kf3 Kf6 28. Rd1 a5 29. Rd3 Rc4!? She shouldn’t give up the open file. One of the most important principles in rook endgames, both on offense and defense, is to keep your rook active.

[29… Re1 30. Rb3 Rf1 31. Kg3 Rc1 32. Rxb7 Rxc2 In spite of White’s menacing kingside pawns, Black’s passed d-pawn gives her chances to hold]

  1. c3 Re4 31. Re3 Ra4

[Trading rooks would give White an easy win in the pawn endgame. 31… Rxe3? 32. Kxe3 c5 33. a4 White wins]

  1. a3 b5?! When you are down in material in the endgame, it is important to trade off pawns, but this line is too slow.

[32… d4 immediately forces an exchange and reactivates her rook. 33. cxd4 (Or 33. Rd3 dxc3 34. Rxc3 Rd4 Black has drawing chances) 33… Rxd4 Black has drawing chances]

Now it becomes a slow grind with Lanni using her extra pawn and superior rook to force the win. 33. h4 b4 34. f5 c5 35. axb4 axb4 36. Re6 Kg7 37. Rg6 Kh7 38. Rd6 bxc3 39. bxc3 Ra3 40. Rxd5 Rxc3 41. Kf4 Rh3? She hopes to induce White into taking the c-pawn, which would likely end in a draw.

[A better try is 41… Rc4 though White still wins after 42. Kf3 Rc3 43. Kf2 Rc2 44. Ke3 c4 45. g5]

  1. Rd7! Sorry!

[42. Rxc5? Rxh4 43. Kg3 Rh1 44. Rc7 Kg8 White will have a hard time making progress with both her king and her g-pawn exposed to attack from Black’s rook]

42… Kg8 43. h5 c4 44. f6 c3 45. Rc7 Rd3

  1. g5! This is much better than immediately advancing the king.

[46. Kf5?! Rd5 Though 47. Ke6 still wins. (47. Kg6?? Rg5 48. Kxh6 Rxg4 49. Rxc3 Kf7 Black should draw)]

46… hxg5 47. Kf5! Black sees the inevitable and resigns.  White’s king will use the Black g-pawn as a shield to drop his king into g6 for the final attack. […]

[47… Rd8 Black drops her rook back to stop the quick mate, but she can’t stop White from queening a pawn. 48. Kg6 Kh8 49. Rh7 Kg8 50. f7 Kf8 51. Rh8 Ke7 52. Rxd8 Kxd8 53. f8=Q White wins]

[1:0]

This was an intriguing game displaying quite different aspects of Lanni’s chess mastery.

 

 

Our Multi-Talented Team

Instructors, Friends, Family and Clients at our 2nd Annual Holiday Party in December 2019

We have 48 great instructors who teach students of all ages and skill levels in corporate, school, group and private settings. All of them have 3+ years of teaching experience and are rated tournament players. However, one that sets some apart is that they have other great projects/businesses that they are working on, in and outside of the chess world. Just like I support our many partners, it is important to recognize the work that our instructors do outside of teaching for us. Each instructor has different stories as they are in different parts of the country, are in different stages of their career, etc. Here are some of the great initiatives they are working on:

Director of Virtual Program Brian Wilmeth is a programmer. His company is currently working on a Nintendo Switch game called LightBulb and is designing apps for Preschool University.  It is also currently upgrading Sound Beginnings and Partners In Rhyme on the apple App Store. Previously, Brian has updated my father Keith Rabin’s foreign investor relations company KWRINTL’s site.

 Director of School Programs Phil Rosenberg has had his own Radio Show and currently operates his Youtube channel unphiltered with Phil Rosenberg. See my guest appearance on his Youtube channel about chess during the COVID-19 pandemic here:

Our recent podcast guest Jerald Times, University of Texas at Dallas’ Chess Educator of the Year and Jeopardy champion and game show host National Expert Jonathan Corbblah has also made an appearances:

Grandmaster Mark Paragua, who teaches our most advanced students,  is the leader of the Camarines in the Professional Chess Association of the Philippines and is the co-founder of NY Chess Academy.

Candidate Master Danilo Cuellar, who currently teaches our Adult Beginner class and a lot of private lessons, virtually and in-person in Rockland County and New Jersey, has his own Youtube channel Danilovich chess.

Westchester Instructor Nathan Resika is a semi-professional opera singer. I once with my grandmother Roberta and uncle Adam to hear him perform  in La Traviata. He sings the National Anthem and other songs at many of the over the board tournaments he plays, including the Amateur Team East; I look forward to hearing him again at a tournament one day; I am optimistic they will happen! Continental Chess Association did announce the World Open, Chicago Open and other events will happen over the board this year, and the U.S Open is slated to take place in New Jersey in August.

New York Instructor Gary Ryan has a Masters in Theology from Harvard University and does K-12 tutoring of all traditional subjects and religion, virtually and in-person.

Manhattan Instructor Jason Ciano is a professional bridge player and teaches quantitative reasoning, teamwork, confidence and more through the game.

Nashville, TN Instructor Alan Kantor has a medical billing company.

Brownsville, TX Instructor Ray Martinez is the founder of the nightly Talk Show Central RGV Style.

New Jersey Instructor Sean Finn is the manager of the Garden State Passers, which was been doing great commentary on major events, including the Amateur Team East.  He helped me prepare for my Amateur Team South and Amateur Team North commentaries.

What projects do your staff do outside of work?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evan Rabin Introduces The First All-Ivy League Chess Invitational

By Marty Katz, Founder of Connectors 360 

Evan Rabin, is a passionate exponent of chess and the Founder of Premier Chess, an organization that teaches chess to families and employees.

He was looking to demonstrate the fun of playing the game. He was convinced that chess is a great way for people to use their intellectual and creative juices particularly during the pandemic when so many people are constrained to their homes.

Marty Katz, a brand messaging consultant, Founder of Connectors 360, and member of the Columbia University Club of New York,  had an idea.

What if Evan could create the first All-Ivy League Chess Invitational Tournament?

This online chess tournament would include many non-Ivy League schools and would reach the large community of both players and non-players in the metro area. It would be open to anyone interested in chess.

The Columbia Club supported this idea and is now setting up on-going tournament play.  Evan will be joined by other chess masters who will lead the teaching and playing portions of the event.

The All-Ivy Chess Invitational has been embraced by both experienced and novice players as well as observers of all ages. See footage of the event here.