Monday, September 17

Grandmaster RR This Weekend @ Mechanics

This weekend, the Mechanics' Institute hosts one of the highest rated fields in its storied history.  Here's the catch: the Grandmasters will play at a rapid time control.  Read below how chess director IM John Donaldson described it in his newsletter on May 1.

GM Shankland
Thanks to the generosity of Tibor Weinberger, the Mechanics’ Institute will be holding the Third Imre Konig Memorial on September 22-23. The event, which commemorates the 20th anniversary of the death of International Master Konig, the first top rate player to reside in San Francisco, will be held as a seven-player round-robin, featuring a rapid chess time control of Game in 25 minutes, with a 15-second increment from move one. 
The invited players consist of the top six rated players from the Bay Area, led by Grandmaster Sam Shankland (who by now is nearly 2600 FIDE and top 10 in the country). The last player, Grandmaster Emil Anka of Hungary, pays respect to Konig’s ancestry as an international cosmopolitan who was born in the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Kula, in today’s Serbia. 
  • GM Sam Shankland (2597 FIDE)
  • GM Jesse Kraai (2514)
  • GM Vinay Bhat (2511)
  • GM Nick deFirmian (2510)
  • IM Daniel Naroditsky (2483) 
  • GM Walter Browne (2449)
  • GM Emil Anka (2382)
    GM Anka

IM Naroditsky
Konig studied in Vienna and improved his game in its chess cafe milieu, being particularly influenced by Richard Reti. Like the Czech, he earned a reputation as a fine author with his Chess from Morphy to Botvinnik: A Century of Chess Evolution serving as a useful instructional guide to several generations of chess players.
Konig was not only a fine writer, but also an excellent player, who twice represented Yugoslavia in Chess Olympiads. He is fondly remembered by Mechanics’ old-timers for his Old World courtliness and generosity of spirit in sharing his chess wisdom. The Mechanics’ Institute is honored to pay tribute to his memory.

The games will be broadcast on the live server, from 10 to 6 on Saturday and 10 to 4 on Sunday.  Each participant plays six rounds and gets a single bye.

Wednesday, September 5

Coach Magnus in New York

The highest rated Bronx Bomber?
The top rated chess player in the World spent the end of August in New York City, teaching and playing blitz at a Chess NYC camp, while seeing the city and meeting other prominent players.  After one lecture, he answered some serious questions.  Here is one particularly great reply.

What advice would Magnus Carlsen give to a beginner?
Just have fun, play games, a lot if you want, read chess books. That’s the way I went about it in those years. It was never really a system. I worked from the age of nine with a trainer once a week but I would also just sit at home with the board and some chess books. And I think it’s a healthy approach not to study the openings too much. I think studying the openings is useful but getting an understanding of the game, learning tactics is more important. And the way I did it back in those days is that I read books on some openings, not necessarily the entire book but some things that interested me. Then the next week I’d go to a tournament and try it out and see how it goes.
Read the full article and more interesting Q & A at  Don't forget to view the exclusive video embedded (1:48).  For another perspective, including many colorful photos (three copied here), browse the popular chess media website ChessVibes.
Ken Rogoff, renowned economist and Grandmaster, plays blitz with Magnus Carlsen.

Tuesday, September 4

Youth Movement Continues for SF Mechanics

The 8th season of the US Chess League kicks off this week, with Eastern conference teams facing off tonight and the West playing on Wednesday.  For the San Francisco Mechanics, the new year rekindles a quest for a second league Championship, after the successful campaign in 2006.  Ten weekly matches, played on both ICC and this year, will lead up to the Playoffs in November.  As always, the team's home base is the 4th floor at the Mechanics' Institute.

Youth has served the club well over the years, and a precocious trio of preteen masters will have opposing managers cursing about the Bay's waters being Juiced.  Have they not learned over the years?  At the same time, don't count out a pair of successful prodigies manning the top boards--GM Vinay Bhat and IM Daniel Naroditsky--nor the wily engineer GM Jesse Kraai.  With five adults and five juniors on the team roster, I expect captain IM John Donaldson to maintain a steady hand and field age-balanced lineups, two adults to keep two rambunctious kittens in check.

The Mechanics will use the January 2012 rating list.  The four players chosen each week must be rated 2400.75 or less in average.  The +/- number shows any rating change from January to current, including the Labor Day weekend. 
  1. GM Vinay Bhat 2555
  2. GM Jesse Kraai 2567
  3. IM Daniel Naroditsky 2546 (-2)
  4. IM Dmitry Zilberstein 2472 (-5)
  5. IM John Donaldson 2402 (+6)
  6. FM Yian Liou 2354 (+78)
  7. SM Sam Sevian 2299 (+147)
  8. FM Andy Lee 2273 (+18)
  9. NM Cameron Wheeler 2154 (+86)
  10. NM Kesav Viswanadha 2134 (+72)  
The first week's lineup of Bhat - Kraai - Sevian - Wheeler seems typical for this year.  Not many teams can match the 2452 average rating while staying below the 2400.75 cap.  The roster appears quite flexible; Naroditsky can substitute for either GM while Liou/Sevian and Wheeler/Viswanadha are both almost interchangeable.  And when the team needs to draw upon more experience, Zilberstein and Lee can drive home the even numbered boards.

Good luck to the San Francisco Mechanics!  Check the US Chess League website for weekly lineups as well as the club's regular season schedule.  To kick off the 2012 season, the local guys dance with the Cobras of Carolina on Wednesday, beginning at 5:30pm Pacific.  Games will be on ICC for Mondays (and tonight) and on for Wednesdays.  I believe the moves are relayed back and forth between servers.  However, each site plans independent live (and exciting) multimedia coverage.

Random question: How soon will the USCL include a player rated 2000+ and born after the inaugural season began in September 2005?