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Month: November 2014

OMC Weekend Review (Volume 1, Issue 16)

Thanksgiving is now a memory and we turn our attention to the next big holiday, Christmas! I have to admit that I am not one to go all-out in celebrating Christmas, but there is a significant amount of nostalgia associated with the holiday that I enjoy. Furthermore, it is a wonderful time to indulge with the children and go back to a simpler time when the worst thing I had to worry about was my early bedtime. As Christmas approaches, my university studies are winding down for the end of the year. Seminary work typically ends in the middle of December and resumes in January, so there will (fortunately) be some extra time to complete the OMC Yearbook as well as finish some books I am reading and spend more time with the family.

In the world of chess, the Qatar Masters Series is dominating headlines this week and there are live streams available on a multitude of sites including Chessbase and Chess.com. For me, giving up blitz chess has been a godsend like nothing I could have ever imagined. I have been playing a series of correspondence (turn-based) chess games and have been playing well into the Class E and D categories! My best win came recently against a 1400 ELO player, which is something I never would have fathomed when I began this site earlier in the year.

Today I want to show you a correspondence game I played over about a week’s timespan. I am convinced that this game could have been finished much quicker than it was, but my opponent chose to wait for 20-22 of the 24 hours allowed for each move whenever he was placed in a precarious situation. This became more of an issue as we entered the final stages of the endgame. In the end, I think that this is an exceptional little game and demonstrates how far I really have come over the last few months in my knowledge and execution of chess theory and practice.

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Is Chess Losing Public Appeal?

Earlier today, GM Susan Polgar posted an interesting excerpt from a BBC News article that asks a very pointed question: Does anyone still care about chess? The article starts out with a recap of the global situation during the 1972 World Chess Championship in Reykjavik, Iceland between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky and it uses the subsequent Fischer Boom to paint a picture of a world obsessed with Bobby and chess. It is no secret that there was much more at stake in the 1972 championship match than the title of World Chess Champion. The United States and the Soviet Union were bitter enemies at that time and the world hinged constantly on the brink of nuclear annihilation. Bobby Fischer was a sudden enigma that emerged seemingly out of nowhere in the United States and was not shy about challenging the Soviet chess machine. Bobby’s eclectic personality combined with his almost superhuman ability to single-handedly bring down the Soviet Union’s chess dominance was captivating in a world desperately looking for a glimmer of hope for the future. The defeat of Boris Spassky in Iceland was not just a victory for Bobby, but for champions of a democratic way of life around the world.

Fast forward over forty years later and Magnus Carlsen, a young Norwegian chess prodigy has just retained the title of World Chess Champion after beating Vishy Anand in Sochi, Russia. This is where the article’s point comes into focus:

Carlsen first captured the crown from Anand only last year. But while Carlsen’s fortunes were followed in Norway by chess players and non-chess players alike, he is a less familiar figure outside the country. Coverage of his retention of the world title was scant in the British media, and it hardly helped that the denouement came on the same day that Lewis Hamilton’s secured the Formula One world drivers’ championship. In a recent episode of a British game show, Pointless, fewer people recognized Carlsen’s name than that of the 1972 champion – Bobby Fischer. This raises a puzzle. Why has the public profile of chess declined?

Although he does have some interesting personality quirks, Magnus Carlsen is not the charismatic and divisive chess personality that was Bobby Fischer. This is an unfortunate contemporary side-effect of Fischer’s victory because once he secured that victory and stopped the Soviets dead in their tracks, every chess champion after him would suffer the fate of comparison to him both in chessic competencies and personality characteristics. Magnus Carlsen is no different and the comparison of the young Norwegian to Bobby is unfair and, as far as the popularity of chess goes, is also unreasonable.

Chess has never been a mainstream sport, and it perhaps never will be. This is a realization that seems to be understood and accepted by chess players and enthusiasts all over the world. The World Championship was viewed by millions of people around the world on sites like Chessbase and Chess24. Scholastic chess events sponsored by the US Chess Federation and national federations are booming around the world. Chess has solidified itself into the psyche of world culture and has been the subject of many films such as Searching for Bobby Fischer, Brooklyn Castle, Queen to Play, Life of a King, Pawn Sacrifice and many others. In each of these instances, chess represents itself as a universal force that allows people to break down all social boundaries. Even today, I am blessed with the opportunity to play chess with a person from Iran or Germany on my computer here in the United States. When the game is on, it does not matter what religion I follow or what country I come from: the rules are the same. This is the appeal of chess. It is a challenge for the mind and can become an obsession of the soul.

It is true that chess may be losing some of its mainstream press appeal, such as the recent closer of the New York Times chess column, but chess has never relied on mainstream appeal to survive. Chess is a game that is played by lovers and rivals, kings and queens, the young, the elderly, the sick, and the dying. It is the universal appeal of chess and its effect on our lives that keeps it alive, not a syndicated television show or weekly sports update on ESPN. Chess is life in its simplest and most beautiful form.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States. It is the time of year when families gather together and eat mountains of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and other goodies while reminiscing about life. As the name of the holiday implies, thankfulness is a key element to the celebration. Thanksgiving is a time when we gather and give thanks to God for all of the blessings in our lives. Some of those blessings are more subtle than others, but all thankfulness is important. These days, it can seem as though there is an abundance of apathy and discord in the world, but thankfulness can help us to realize that we still have an abundance of things in life to be thankful for.

Even if you do not live in the United States, perhaps today is the day that you can begin your own day of thankfulness. Perhaps you live every day as a thankful person, but today could be the day that you share that thankfulness with another person. After all, it is good to share our thankfulness with others as it builds a positive environment around us and it encourages others to examine their lives and also to give thanks for the things God has blessed them with.

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Magnus Carlsen: The World Champion Reigns

Updated November 26, 2014 @ 1920 CST

Some of us in the chess world were hoping for an upset, but Magnus Carlsen secured a victory against Vishy Anand today and retained his title as World Chess Champion at the 2014 FIDE World Chess Championship in Sochi, Russia. The event, which spanned from November 7 to today, consisted of ten games in which Magnus won with a 6.5-4.5 score.

2014 World Chess Championship Cross-Table

# Name Rtg Perf G01 G02 G03 G04 G05 G06 G07 G08 G09 G10 G11 G12 Pts
1 Carlsen 2863 2832 ½ 1 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 6.5/11
2 Anand 2792 2798 ½ 0 1 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 4.5/11

Despite the loss, Anand put up a considerable struggle and certainly made Magnus work to retain his title. At times, Magnus has appeared unbeatable on the board, but his recent struggles have underlined his humanity and this is definitely a hard-fought championship title. For Anand, the most devastating part of this competition came in Game 6 when he he missed the now notorious 26…Nxe5! after Magnus’ blundering 26.Kd2. Both players missed their blunders and Anand especially missed an opportunity to turn the tables on the entire tournament.

Game 6 After 26.Kd2??

Safe to say that the Twitterverse lit up after this move with excitement over the Carlsen blunder, but was quickly enraged with Anand’s quick response that proved to be a fatal omen for the former champion.

A very relieved Magnus Carlsen.

Carlsen and Anand fought hard in the final game, playing a Ruy Lopez Berlin Defense variation that was very difficult for White to crack, initially. Most impressive was Anand’s 23…b5! pawn sacrifice to grab a significant amount of initiative halfway through the game. However, devastation followed on 27…Rb4??, which Stockfish and Deep Fritz 14 were screaming at during the match. Eventually, the sacrifice was not enough to hold off Carlsen and he secured his place as World Chess Champion for the next two years.

Game 11 after 23…b5!

For more in-depth coverage of the 2014 World Chess Championship and its aftermath, please visit Chessbase or Chess.com for news, views, and Grandmaster commentary on the games.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was on-hand for the closing ceremony in which FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov presented the champion with the traditional wreath and trophy. The closing ceremony was a very formal and exciting event for everyone involved, but perhaps the most exciting part of the ceremony was Kirsan’s announcement that the 2016 FIDE World Chess Championship would be held in the United States of America! There are already speculations about where this event would take place, such as the Saint Louis Chess Club or a venue in New York City. Unfortunately, distrust of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov runs deep within the international chess world, so many chess players and fans (myself included) will not be holding our breath until the first move is made in 2016’s championship match.

All 2014 World Chess Championship Games

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OMC Weekend Review (Volume 1, Issue 15)

The two biggest holidays of the year are upon us: Thanksgiving and Christmas. For those of us here in the Surber household, it means lots of food and family time remembering the things that we are grateful for in our lives. For this issue, I have chosen a single game to review from my recent expriments with correspondence chess. At one point in time I was playing six games at a time, but I have recently restricted myself to playing two at a time to better develop my concentration skills.

In other news…

  • The FIDE World Chess Championship continues in Sochi, Russia. As of today, Magnus Carlsen leads Vishy Anand by one point heading into the final two games of the match.
  • The Saint Louis Chess Club is hosting a unique tournament between GMs Nakamura and Aronian for a share of a $100,000 prize. The tournament includes four rounds of classical chess followed by 16 blitz games to determine the winner.
  • OMC Quarterly Review (Volume 1, Issue 2) will be available for free download on December 1st, 2014 here on the site.
  • OMC Yearbook 2014 will be available for free download on January 1st, 2015 here on the site.
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My Best Win…So Far

Being on the last leg of the semester and heading into the holidays left me little time to blog over the last few days. Fortunately, I have been able to keep up with the World Championship and despite the closing window of opportunity, I continue to cheer for Anand. However, this week brought me a semi-championship of my own in terms of my personal chess growth: my highest-rated win…ever.

Earlier this week, I beat a 1400 ELO rated player at 24hrs per move on Chess.com. This was an exceptional win and going back over the moves, it has become one of my personal favorite games I have ever played. Normally, I would wait for the weekend review to annotate this game, but I just could not wait!

Black could have continued to play, but his position was severely compromised. It was an important victory for me, especially considering my recent struggles. Check back Sunday for Weekend Review as I cover two more important 24 hour games!

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Reading List and Downloads Page Updates

I am very excited to announce some major updates to the Reading List and Downloads pages here at the blog!

The Reading List

My goal with the reading list is to offer reviews and purchase opportunities for every chess book I own and/or have read. When a book is added to the list that includes a collection of games, I typically will add a PGN and Chessbase data file for download. Yesterday, I added five new books to the collection:

  • Experts vs the Sicilian – by Jacob Agaard & John Shaw (editors)
  • The Game of Kings – by Michael Weinreb
  • The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played – Irving Chernev
    • Includes PGN/Chessbase data files.
  • The Queen of Katwe – Tim Crothers
    • Includes PGN/Chessbase data files.
  • The Teeth May Smile, But The Heart Does Not Forget – by Andrew Rice

The Teeth May Smile is the first non-chess book to make it on to the reading list and rightfully so. It had a profound impact on me and my perspective of what chess can do for people in dire situations. Check out the Reading List page for more information.

The Downloads Page

The downloads page has undergone radical transformation over the last few months and I am pleased to say that new databases and wallpapers are in-work almost regularly. This week, I was excited to finally finish a PGN and Chessbase collection for Experts vs the Sicilian by Jacob Agaard and John Shaw. This is one of my favorite opening books and I am excited to offer a chance for others that might have picked this book up to use Chessbase or your favorite PGN viewer to follow the moves. Additionally, I have added a new individual games archive for Phiona Mutesi of The Queen of Katwe fame. Check out the Downloads page for more information!

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Chess.com U1200 Tournament Update

It is with a sad heart that I announce that my participation in the Annual Chess.com U1200 tournament has come to an end. Until this evening, your host held 4th place with an opportunity to advance to the second round if I won the remaining two games of the round. The short answer is that I had to resign the two games for personal reasons. The demands of family life, school, and running this site were simply too much at the moment to continue pursuing an outcome in the tournament.

Final Standings for Chess.com U1200 Tournament Group #2

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Score Tie Break
1. RexIbnMadinat (1126) 1 1 _ _ 1 _ 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 11 53
2. YellowCakeInc (1304) 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 8 32
3. Mischa8 (884) _ _ 1 1 1 _ 1 1 _ _ _ _ 1 1 7 35
4. Yashaman (1200) _ 0 0 0 _ 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 7 24
5. AmishHacker (1161) 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 6 28
6. jrlanders (1070) 0 0 0 0 _ _ 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 5 14
7. Heleyson (1111) 0 0 0 0 _ _ 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 4 12
8. RevvedPatzer (1200) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Final Position for Remaining Games

RexIbnMadinat – AmishHacker 1-0
[fen]r1b1kb1r/pp2ppp1/3p1n1p/2P5/q4B2/5N2/P1PQ1PPP/R4RK1 b kq – 1 14[/fen]
AmishHacker – RexIbnMadinat 0-1
[fen]q3kb1r/2p2ppp/2p3b1/2PpN3/3P2P1/2P1PP2/7P/1rBQ1RK1 w k – 2 16[/fen]
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OffMyChess.com Updated for Mobile

Regular readers may have noticed some changes to the user interface here on the site as well as times when the site was simply unavailable. I have been working on retooling the interface and customizing some elements that were sorely neglected after the site launched in the summer. Chief among those is the replacement of the original pink color for the hyperlinks and title elements with a soothing green color, which is reminiscent of green chess tournament boards used in USCF tournaments around the country. The final elements were replaced with the new site color late this afternoon.

The next big project was to focus on the site’s usability on portable devices. Every day, more and more chess players are turning to tablets and smartphones for their fix and my desire for this site is to be right there in the middle of the mobile revolution. A major problem with WordPress sites is the sidebar where my information as well as links to important elements of the site are stored. These sidebars tend to cause design problems on mobile devices. Now, for anything less than the resolution of an iPad w/retina display will not display the sidebar in a vertical position:

iPad Air in vertical position without sidebar.

Turning an iPad horizontally will reveal the site’s main JavaScript slider as well as the full sidebar. Tables and PGN games have also been modified to adapt to mobile screens and should not cause problems for tablets with retina resolution or higher.

iPad Air in horizontal position with full sidebar.

Unfortunately, smartphones remain a challenge and are not yet fully compatible with the site. The sidebar and slider will not display on a smartphone regardless of its orientation. This is a function that I hope to add in the coming months.

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When Anand Strikes Back

Chess players can be a very strange group of people. We spend much of our time refining our ability to concentrate on a single chess game for hours on end while simultaenously calculating the multitude of variations that could occur. Meticulous calculation is often required to reach the pinnacle of chess mastery. In the case of the World Championship, which is currently being played in Sochi, Russia, chess commentators and kibitzers around the world were quick to jump on the apparent weaknesses of challenger Vishy Anand after he drew the first game against Magnus Carlsen and went on to lose the second game. That second loss only put him a mere 1 point behind the incumbent world champ, but it was enough to send Anand’s chances of winning the championship in a tailspin, according to the court of public chess opinion.

Vishy looks concerned, but not as defeated as commentary would have you believe.

Without a doubt, Magnus was solid in his first and second performances of the match. In my opinion, the fact that Vishy was able to get a draw out of the match was well played and he really stood no chance against the champ in the second round. However, chess is a science and art that stretches the boundaries of what we know and perceive about life. Understanding this, the chess world must not be so quick to count Vishy out just yet. He has a long way to go, but the road ahead is not an impossible one to travel.

Magnus Carlsen always looks confused…a psych tactic, maybe?

One thing I find curious about Magnus Carlsen is the expressions on his face. He often looks confused or disinterested in the match. He certainly has the skill to win, but sometimes it is painfully obvious that his heart is not into it. The photo above is a perfect example of how Magnus spends most of his games gazing at the board as if he is trying to figure out if he is playing chess or checkers.

In addition, check out this image:

An abandoned warehouse?

The match between Carlsen and Anand is for the title of World Champion of Chess, but the images of the playing venue eerily resemble an abandoned warehouse. The massive, open, and empty space is just…creepy. Plus, there are still fresh memories of the horror stories from journalists covering the Olympics in Sochi, so who knows what is going on behind the scenes in this match. Something tells me that Magnus and Co. are staying in Russia’s finest…which may be significantly less than he is used to. In any case, I wish both of them the best of luck in the coming matches.

NOTE: Due to time constraints and the prevalence of online coverage for this event, I will not provide regular updates unless something out of the ordinary occurs. A final coverage post will occur once the match has concluded and the World Champion is named.

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