The Laws of the Najdorf

My subscription to the best Chess magazine ever published in the history of the Royal Game, New In Chess, expired with the 2017/6 issue. Although I would like to renew financial conditions due to health issues, etc., are such that the decision was made for me. Living on a fixed income requires sacrifice. I had extra money after deciding to postpone dental work until spring and there were these two Chess books I’ve wanted to read for quite some time, Insanity, passion, and addiction: a year inside the chess world, by GM Danny Gormally, and Ivan’s Chess Journey: Games and Stories, by GM Ivan Sokolov. Greg Yanez of Chess4Less.com sent out an email announcing his Black Friday sale on Thursday evening and I was about to clear everything in order to listen to the weekly edition of Phenomenon Radio with Linda Moulton Howe (http://kgraradio.com/phenomenon-radio/) so I clicked on and examined all ninety pages of Chess items for sale, while listening to the program, ordering the above mentioned books and the new issue of New In Chess magazine because not only is it the best Chess magazine in the universe, but I am 67 and tomorrow is today. Alas, the issue contains book reviews by GM Matthew Sadler of two books on my wish list, The Rise and Fall of David Bronstein, by Genna Sosonko, and Guyla Breyer, by Jimmy Adams (published by New In Chess), both of which earned five, count’em, FIVE STARS! Two more books, or another subscription to the best Chess magazine in the universe? Oh well, I can take solace in that no matter how I choose to spend my money I cannot go wrong!

Before continuing, let me say that I met Greg at one of the National tournaments for children at the Hyatt in downtown Atlanta, Georgia some years ago. I purchased a stack of books while enjoying talking with Greg and the fellow with him, whose name I simply cannot recall. I spent most of my time while there in the book room, and returned the next day and did the same. The next year another group, USCF sales, had the book concession. I talked with Aviv Friedman, who was there to write an article for the USCF. I mentioned we had played a tournament game but he did not recall it. When told I answered his French with 2 Qe2 his face erupted in a big grin as he interjected, “And I played 2…e5!”
“You do remember it?” I asked. “No,” he said, “I always answer 2 Qe2 with 2…e5! Who won?” I told him he had won the game and that made him smile even more. “It is the only time anyone has ever played that move,” I said, “and I played 3 f4 because I had seen it recommended somewhere.”
Upon mentioning I had just returned from the book room he said, “Oh yeah? What did you think of it?”
When I replied, “Not much,” he said, “Really? Why is that?” Saying I had only purchased one book compared with a stack from Chess4Less the previous year, provoked another, “Really?”
“Yeah,” said I, “The place was moribund compared to last year. Man, that Chess4Less room was really hopping!” I said. Aviv responded, “Really?” Then some USCF official came up to Aviv and I took my leave, heading to the food court. Aviv did not mention this exchange in the article…

I sent my order that night and had it with the US Mail Monday at noon! I worked at the Oxford Bookstore on Peachtree road in the Buckhead section of Atlanta in the late 70’s-early 80’s, and at Oxford Too, a place for used and remaindered books and things like old magazines, later in the 80’s, and once managed a Mr. K’s bookstore on Peachtree road in the same area of town, before quitting to play Backgammon full time. I sold books and equipment with Thad Rogers on the road, and also at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center, aka, the House of Pain, so I know more than a little about selling Chess stuff, and I am here to tell you that one simply cannot go wrong dealing with Chess4Less!

The 2017/7 issue of NIC is a wonderful issue. I recall the Nashville Strangler’s wife telling me that when a new issue of NIC arrived she would tell her children, “We have lost daddy for a couple of days.” This issue is a prime example of why.

What I would like to share with you is the opening of the very first game in this magnificent magazine, the game between former World Chess Champion Vishy Anand and GM Anton Kovalyov from the World Cup. That is the tournament in which the latter knocked out the former, but was then “knocked out” by ECU President Zurab Azmaiparashvili when Zurab verbally accosted and abused the young GM from Canada, who is in college in the USA, only a few minutes before the next round was to begin. Anton left for the airport immediately. From what I read at Chessbase, the bombastic Zurab brings lotsa cash into Chess so he can abuse anyone at any time with impunity and without any kind of reprimand from FIDE. Proof that, “Money talks and bullshit walks.”

Viswanathan Anand (2794) vs Anton Kovalyov (2649)
Event: FIDE World Cup 2017
Site: Tbilisi GEO Date: 09/06/2017
Round: 2.1 Score: 0-1
ECO: B90 Sicilian, Najdorf, Adams attack

Notes by Anish Giri

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. h3 e5 7. Nb3 Be6 8. Be3 h5 (“This move is typical in the Najdorf, when White has a pawn of f3 and the knight on b3, stopping his pretty much only plan of g2-g4, or when White’s pawn is on h3 and the knight is on e2, hindering the g4/Ne2-g3 set-up and the natural development of the f1-bishop. With the knight on be and the pawn on h3, this move is poor. It is easy for White to prepare f4 in one go (which is more often than not his main plan in this variation anyway), and the pawn on h5 is a minor weakening of Black’s kingside pawn structure.”) 9 Be2 Nbd7 (Black’s set-up looks ‘normal’, but since it is not the 6 f3 variation but the 6 h3 variation and White gets f2-f4 in one go, Black is essentially a tempo down. You may get away with a tempo down in a Giuoco Piano, but not in a sharp Sicilian.”) 10 0-0?! (Vishy plays a little timidly, but he will get another chance to punish Black for not obeying the laws of the Najdorf later on. 10 f4! at once would have been stronger. Black has to deal with the threat of f4-f5, but neither allowing or stopping it will solve his issues: 10…Qc7!? 11 0-0 Be7 12 a4 and one doesn’t need to be Efim Petrovich Geller to see that things are not going well for Black here. To begin with, he can’t castle kingside so easily, since the h5-pawn is vulnerable.) 10…Rc8 11 Qd2 (Again, too timid. 11 f4!? was still strong. Vishy was satisfied to get a good version of the Karpov Variation in the 6 Be2 Najdorf, but the nature of that line is such that, bad version or good, the position is still perfectly playable for Black. White’s plans there are slow and manoeuvring.) 11…b5? (Another ‘normal-looking’ move that is completely out of context.)

Although I would like to give the complete game, including commentary, right out of New In Chess I must stop the comments here, because there are copyright laws and the last thing I need on my limited, fixed income is a lawyer breathing down my neck! I suggest you purchase this issue as it would truly be “cheap at twice the price.” Think of it this way…back in 1968 we would skip the awful lunch at our high school and drive to Mrs. Jackson’s, where we would obtain a meal consisting of a meat, three veggies, roll, iced tea, and dessert, all for only a buck. A meal like that will set you back ten dollars these daze, so an individual copy of the greatest Chess magazine in history will cost you about the same as that meal at Mrs. Jackson’s because that ten spot in your pocket has the purchasing power of that single dollar bill “back in the day.” If you purchase a subscription, you are making out like a bandit! I mean, where else can you obtain this kind of teaching for so little money? If you play the Najdorf, or play against it, you have just increased your understanding exponentially, and the magazine gives this to you each and every issue, plus so much more!

I will, though, provide the remaining moves of the game, sans comment, which can be found all over the internet: (This comes from 365chess.com)
9. Be2 Nbd7 10. O-O Rc8 11. Qd2 b5 12. Rfd1 Nb6 13. Bxb6 Qxb6 14. a4 b4 15. Nd5 Nxd5 16. exd5 Bd7 17. a5 Qb7 18. Qe3 Be7 19. Qb6 Qxb6 20. axb6 Rb8 21. Rxa6 Bd8 22. b7 Ke7 23. Nc5 dxc5 24. d6+ Kf6 25. Bf3 Kf5 26. Bd5 e4 27. Re1 Bf6 28. Bxe4+ Kg5 29. Ra5 Bxb2 30. Rxc5+ Kf6 31. Re3 g6 32. Rf3+ Ke6 33. Rd3 Rhd8 34. Ra5 f5 35. Bf3 Bc3 36. h4 Kf6 37. g3 f4 38. Be4 Bf5 39. Bxf5 gxf5 40. Rb5 Ke6 41. Kf1 Rd7 42. gxf4 Rbxb7 43. Re3+ Kf6 0-1

I went to the Chessbase Database, a fantastic FREE resource, (http://database.chessbase.com/js/apps/database/) and learned much: 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. h3 e5 7. Nb3 Be6 8. Be3 (Here Komodo prefers 8…Be7, expecting 9 Qf3 to which it will reply 9…0-0; Stockfish would play 8…Nc6, expecting 9 Qf3 Rc8) h5?! 9 Be2 (Stockfish plays 9 f4, while Houdini would play 9 Nd5) Nbd7 10 0-0?! (Stockfish would play an immediate 10 f4, but Komodo would play 10 0-0, as did Vishy, and after 10…Rc8 then play 11 f4)

This is the only other game (found at 365chess.com) with the line:

Ruifeng Li (2404) vs Guillermo Vazquez (2394)

Event: Spring Break UT GM
Site: Brownsville USA Date: 03/06/2015
Round: 1.3 Score: ½-½
ECO: B90 Sicilian, Najdorf, Byrne (English) attack

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 e5 7. Nb3 Be6 8. h3 h5 9. Be2 Nbd7 10. f4 g6 11. O-O exf4 12. Bxf4 Qb6+ 13. Qd4 Be7 14. Rad1 Qxd4+ 15. Nxd4 Ne5 16. Nf3 Nfd7 17. Nd5 Rc8 18. c3 Rc5 19. Be3 Rc8 20. Ng5 Bxd5 21. Rxd5 Nc5 22. Nf3 Ned7 23. e5 dxe5 24. Nxe5 Nxe5 25. Rxe5 Rc7 26. Bc4 Rh7 27. Bg5 f5 28. Bd5 Kf8 29. Bf4 Nd3 30. Re6 Nxf4 31. Rxf4 Bc5+ 32. Kf1 Rhd7 33. c4 1/2-1/2

The Najdorf was my favorite opening with Black “back in the day.” I won the 1976 Atlanta Championship using the Najdorf in the last round, when I was 4-0 while my opponent, Earle Morrison, was a half point back. I recall someone saying, “The Najdorf is not an opening. It is a SYSTEM,” but I can no longer recall by whom it was said…

Larry (Kaufman): “We have been seeing Komodo on its own, without a book, play the Najdorf Sicilian, which of course many people would say might be the best opening in chess for both sides.” (http://www.chessdom.com/interview-with-robert-houdart-mark-lefler-and-gm-larry-kaufman/)

While researching Chess quotes about the Najdorf I found this, which is right in line with one of the books sent by Greg:

Shock and Awe 1 – Destroying the Najdorf GM Danny Gormally
https://www.gingergm.com/blog/shock-and-awe-1-destroying-the-najdorf

GM Levon Aronian and his new bride, Arianne Caoili are pictured on the cover of NIC 2017/7 in wedding garb.

In the event you do not know what part GM Gormally plays in this story surf on over to Chessbase and read all about it: https://en.chessbase.com/post/party-time-at-the-che-olympiad

or, http://www.chessninja.com/dailydirt/2006/06/swing-of-things.htm; or, http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/chess-beauty-triggers-feud/2006/06/07/1149359787726.html

Or, BUY THE MAGAZINE!

Led Zeppelin – Thank You (The Wedding Song)

Dana Mackenzie’s Key Lime Pi Openings

The interweb is a wonderful thing because I enjoy reading chess, and other, blogs. Occasionally the “other” is contained in a chess blog.

The Legendary Georgia Ironman has recently been memorizing the digits of Pi.

Dana Mackenzie is “a national master, two-time former champion of North Carolina, and a regular lecturer at http://www.chesslecture.com.” He says, “Don’t let all of that stuff impress you, though. Deep down inside, I’m just an ordinary player. I don’t play chess for money or glory, just for the love of the game.” How can you not like a guy like this? His blog is dana blogs chess.

The title of his last post, dated March 14, 2015, was, Happy Pi Day… April 3? It begins, “Going off topic today!” Dana proves chess players do not live on chess alone…

This blog is mainly about chess, so I will leave Pi to Dana and the Ironman. Dana also writes about chess, except in “real life,” where he is a freelance science writer. You can read all about his scientific writing, and learn things such as his favorite writer, and poet, at: http://www.danamackenzie.com/blog/

Dana has written a most interesting three part Grading the Openings, which I wholeheartedly recommend. He begins Part One by setting the stage with, “Rob Weir, the statistician whom I mentioned in my last post, graciously shared with me a data base of the performance of all the openings, organized by ECO code. This allows us to create something that I’ve never quite seen before: a “report card” of all the chess openings. Which are best for White? Which are best for Black? Which are the most drawish? Which are the most or the least popular?”

Part two begins, “First of all, let me announce that my last post, Grading the Openings (Part One), unexpectedly turned into the biggest hit I’ve ever had on this blog. The blog had 1136 visitors yesterday, which is three times more than I have ever had in a single day (except during the 2012 World Championship match, when I was translating Sergei Shipov’s commentaries).”

In Part three I learned one of my favorite openings with White, the Closed Sicilian is one of “…the top five variations for Black.” Oh no, Mr. Bill! Unfortunately it gets worse because the line I play(ed) with 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. d3 d6 6. Be3, known as “B26,” is the second top scoring line for Black, with only the D01 (Richter-Veresov) scoring better for BLACK. Say it ain’t so, Joe…

I also learned, from one of the many comments, of the “Zombie Apocalypse Tournament, March 14 – 15, 2015.”
I kid you not. If the High Planes Drifter had known of this tournament I am certain he would have imitated the Nashville Strangler and driven all night in order to make it to the round on time at the Lory Student Center, CSU Campus Rooms, Grey Rock Room, on the CSU campus in Ft. Collins, Colorado, because David Vest loves all things Zombie! Bill Wall left the comment and let us know it was “Open to all USCF members and “Zombies.” I cannot make this up, folks. “First round starts at 10 AM but free pie will be served at 3/14/2015 at 9:26:53 AM following the sequence of pi. Shirley Herman has asked for Peach Pie ala mode and Philipp Ponomarev has asked for Key Lime Pie.”

Is this a great blog, or what?!

Apology to Thad Rogers

In my post dated November 28, 2014, I mistakenly wrote that Grant Oen is the, “owner of the Atlanta Kings.” I took this from the Southeast Chess website (http://www.southeastchess.com/atlanta-kings.html). Grant is the “Manager” of the Atlanta Kings. The impresario, L. Thad Rogers is the owner. My apologies to Thad. No slight was intended. I made a regretful mistake. Thad has tried for quite some time to bring a USCL team to Atlanta before succeeding.
For all of his foibles Thad has done much good for chess, not only in Georgia, but in the Southeast as well. In addition, I know Thad has helped many players throughout the years, and he has done it because he has a generous heart. One example will suffice to illustrate. Decades ago I was on a MARTA train heading to visit one of Thad’s tournaments when I encountered another chess player, called “Smokin’ Gun.” I nodded, Smokin’ Gun shot back a big grin and moved toward me. Upon mentioning I was headed to one of Thad’s tournaments and he asked, “You playing?”
“No, Smokin’ Gun, I said, I’m just going to visit. Why don’t you come with me?” He shook his head and said, “I can’t. I own Thad money.”
“What do you mean? Everyone has owed Thad money at one time or another. Come on by later if you can…Don’t dodge him…Tell him you haven’t forgotten about him, but circumstances are such that you can’t pay him back now, and he will be glad to see you..”
Hours later as I was about to leave, there was Smokin’ Gun, talking with Thad. On my way out the Gun grinned, saying, “It played out just like you said, man.”
Atlanta hosted the 1980 US Open because of Thad. When the Nashville Strangler hit it big at the World Open by winning the expert section, he made a point in the interview published in Chess Life to thank Thad for organizing all the tournaments in which he had played. FM Jerry Wheeler, along with LM Brian McCarthy, played so often some thought they lived in Atlanta. The same could be said for the “Little Hayseed,” Tom Waymouth, who took first in a “B” section of the World Open. Then there is Spencer Bledsoe, one of the Legendary Georgia Ironman’s students, who cut his teeth at the House of Pain before tying for first in an “A” section at the World Open. Spencer is best known for his part in the Survivor TV show. (http://survivor.wikia.com/wiki/Spencer_Bledsoe)
To top it off, FM Kazim Gulamali just played a match with IM Ron Burnett for the under 2500 money at the Millionaire Open. Ron, like the aforementioned Tennessee players, has played in as many of Thad’s tournaments as any Atlanta player. Kazim literally grew-up at the House. Together they brought $60,000 back South from Lost Wages!
Did I mentioned the time a former GCA President bankrupted the organization? Thad stepped in using his own money to keep the GCA solvent. I could go on and on, but why? Like everyone you know, or will ever know, Thad has entries on both the positive and negative side of the ledger, but he is one of the fortunate ones in which the positive outweighs the negative.
I know all of the above mentioned players, and the Legendary Ironman, will join me in saying, “Thank you, Thad, for all you have done for the Royal game.”

Magnus Force

I sit down to write today at two PM with the knowledge that 178 years ago at this time what has become known as “Pickett’s Charge” began at this hour. Although Maj. Gen. George Pickett was one of three Confederate generals who led the assault under Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, with Brig. Gen. J. Johnston Pettigrew, and Maj. Gen. Isaac R. Trimble being the other commanding Generals, Pickett has been the one who “took one for the team.” Because of books like the excellent, “Lost Triumph: Lee’s Real Plan at Gettysburg–and Why It Failed,” by Tom Carhart, we know no that the major reason for the defeat of the Confederate forces was due to the heroic action taken by General George Armstrong Custer.
The author posits that General Robert E. Lee of the Confederacy had a plan which included a cavalry force commanded by General J.E.B. Stuart to hit the Union forces from behind. “The reason this didn’t happen is attributable to the actions of two generals whose clash at Gettysburg changed everything, one Confederate and the other Union: James Ewell Brown (J.E.B., or Jeb) Stuart and George Armstrong Custer. Remembered in modern times only for one day in 1876 when he and his entire unit of more than two hundred men were killed by Sioux and Cheyenne Indians, Custer was one of the brightest stars in the Civil War, a fact that has been obscured by his death on the high plains. While Custer has been roundly condemned by generations of Americans who learned only that he cruelly punished innocent Native Americans, there is another Custer whose record at Gettysburg should at least be noted, for as I will show, it wa his raw personal courage alone that prevented a Confederate victory at Gettysburg and thus truly preserved the Union.”
What was at stake is best illustrated by this paragraph by Carhart:
“This would have meant the return of peace, for the basis of an armistice would have been the Confederacy’s freedom to exist as a separate state, a fact the Union would have been forced to recognize. And that-a triumphant victory over the Army of the Potomac that would have shattered it as the fighting force protecting the Union capital in Washington and an event that would have forced the Union to recognize and accept the Confederacy.”
When Custer met Stuart he was outnumbered by two to one, 2,000 to 6,000. General George Armstrong Custer refused to let Stuart come through him, and without a diversionary force in the rear of the Union battle line…the rest is history.
Of all the officers in the Union army, George Custer would have seemed to have been the least likely to have become a hero. He finished near the bottom in his class at West Point and may still hold the record for demerits given during his time at the institution. Yet when the battle raged, and when extraordinary fortitude was required, Custer had it in abundance. By allowing his much larger force to be thwarted by Custer, when what he needed to do was “pull his goalie,” JEB Stuart settled for a draw. It was obviously not JEB’s finest day.
What is the quality that allowed an officer considered mediocre by most to “rise to the occasion”? In the “Star Wars” movies one hears, “May the force be with you.” What, exactly, is this “force”?
While reading the essay, “Uncovering the Mysteries of the Knuckleball,” in the outstanding book, “The Hardball Times Annual 2014 (Volume 10)” by Dave Studenmund and Paul Swydan, I read, “For normal pitches, which are spinning rapidly, the aerodynamic force causing the movement is called the Magnus force. The strength of the Magnus force increases as the spin rate increases. The direction of the Magnus force is such as to deflect the ball in the direction that the front edge of the ball is turning, as seen by the batter.”
Being a chess player, after reading the above my thoughts turned to the World Human Champion of chess, Magnus Carlsen. He is, unquestionably the best human player, towering over the few contenders, who may now be thought of as “pretenders.” What is the ineffable quality that has brought Magnus to the top of the chess pyramid? I think of it as the “Magnus Force.”
The Nashville Strangler, FM Jerry Wheeler, related a story concerning IM Ron Burnett, who has two GM norms. When Ron was first beginning his chess career he had to face the strong player Richard Carpenter. Ron obviously relished his opportunity to battle his opponent, so the Strangler said, “You cannot beat Richard. He is too strong.” Ron beat Richard. Jerry said he knew then that Ron would be a titled player. Like Lenny Dykstra (see previous post), Ron could not wait for his chance.
What is it that allows a player of any game to rise above his competition? I believe it has a lot to do with the “will to win.” Magnus Carlsen obviously has a tremendous will to win. What seems to separate the best from the pretenders is a resolute “force” that will not allow them to “settle” for a drawn game, unless a full fight has been engaged.
Union General George McClellan has the reputation of a General reluctant to fight. From the book, “The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War” by Donald Stoker, one of the best books I have ever read on the War For Southern Independence, one finds, “McClellan’s friends and detractors have long searched for a key to deciphering his actions. Clausewitz offers one in his essay “On Military Genius.” “Intelligence alone is not courage; we often see that the most intelligent people are irresolute,” he wrote. “In short”, he continued, “we believe that determination proceeds from a special type of mind, from a strong rather than a brilliant one. We can give further proof of this interpretation by pointing to many examples of men who show great determination as junior officers, but lose it as they rise in rank. Conscious of the need to be decisive, they also recognize the risks entailed by a wrong decision; since they are unfamiliar with the problems now facing them, their mind loses its former incisiveness.” (from: Carl von Clausewitz, “On War”)