“Beware the knight, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!”
(a liberal retelling of Jabberwocky)
Before continuing with my Greatest Hits, I’ll take a little detour into Greatest Flops.
r5k1/pp5p/2p3p1/3n4/2NP4/1P6/P5PP/4R1K1 b - - 0 24)
The above position was reached in my game against GM Bu Xiangzhi (he had the white pieces), at the first US-China Chess Summit match in 2001. The match was a 4-round team event, with a men’s team, a women’s team, and a junior team.
I was on Board 1 for the junior team, with Dmitry Schneider on Board 2 and Hikaru Nakamura as the reserve. The Chinese junior team had Bu on Board 1 (already a 2560 GM at the age of 16 – a great achievement now, an even bigger deal back then), with Ni Hua on Board 2 and Wang Yue as the reserve.
This was the first game of the match, and so far, things had gone quite well for me. I had neutralized Bu’s opening quite easily and reached the pretty equal endgame above. If Black now plays the simple 24…Rd8 (if 25.Na5, 25…Rb8 is enough), he has no real troubles. With the powerful knight on d5 and the rook on the 8th rank, White can never make any real headway, and if he takes his pieces offsides, then Black might bring his king up without worrying about any annoying knight forks. It also makes complete sense to bring the rook into the game.
Unfortunately, I completely lost my head and proceeded to play the endgame like a child.
I read this quote on Dennis Monokroussos’s blog about a week ago, and found it an interesting way to break things down:
“I divide chess players into six categories. The first ones are the killers. Players who, figuratively speaking, are trying to kill their opponent. The second type is that of the fighters. They try to win with all means, but it’s not necessary to kill. The third type are the sportsmen. For them chess is a sport like any other kind of sport. Number four are the ‘players’ or gamblers. Karpov, for instance, is a typical player. He wants to play any game. These four all have very strong motivation. Then we have two more, number five the artists, for whom not only the result is important, and number six the explorers.”
Yuri Averbakh was the speaker, and is one in a long line of people trying to classify chess players in one way or another. Terms like aggressive, solid, dynamic, and positional seem to float around all the time, while more recently, Lars Bo Hansen introduced the idea of four types of chess players based on how they think at the board: activists, reflectors, theorists and pragmatics.
I was never quite sure where I fit into Hansen’s paradigm, and I’m not sure where I fit into Averbakh’s system either … Maybe I should crowdsource my label?
With no recent games, I figured I’d fill in some of the blanks with older games. Hopefully I can find enough games to keep this “series” going …
Back in 2000, I beat my first FIDE 2600+ opponent at the Koltanowski Memorial in San Francisco. I had started out pretty well at the event: I drew in the first round with black against GM Shulman (where I had the better of the draw), followed by 2.5/3 against non-GM opponents. In round 5, I was paired with Ehlvest. At the time, he was about 2630 FIDE and in the top 50 in the world (not his peak as a top-5 player by rating, but still, I’d take either one!).
I had played Ehlvest earlier in the year, also as Black, and he managed to engineer a miraculous escape in my time pressure:
1r4kr/2q2p2/5Pp1/p2p3P/1P2np1Q/5N2/2P4P/R5RK b - - 0 35)
I was tempted with a little tactic to win White’s queen, and played 35…Ng3+?. If 36.Rxg3, then White is just down an exchange with no compensation after 36…fxg3, while 36.Kg2 Rxh5 37.Qg4 Qxc2+ leads to checkmate.
The US Championship started yesterday, and since I’ve gotten into the prognostication business, I might as well continue.
One round is already in the books, but I made some predictions a couple weeks ago (I’m on the record elsewhere!), so I’ll post them here: Kamsky and Shulman from Group A, and Onischuk and Christiansen from Group B, with Onischuk winning the title in the end.
The highest rated player in the country is not playing, which should open up the field a bit. Given that Nakamura lives in St Louis and seems to be sponsored by the Chess Center there, I’m chalking it up as another reason to think Kasparov is working with him. He does have a couple super-tournaments lined up in the next few months, though, so he can try to build on his Wijk aan Zee success.