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Month: December 2014

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to everyone that has supported OffMyChess.com throughout the past year! 2014 was a very exciting first year for this site and 2015 promises to bring incredible things your way. From my family to yours, have a Safe and Merry Christmas as we stop to remember the birth of Jesus Christ and to reconnect with family, friends, and loved ones from around the world. See you in 2015!

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OMC Weekend Review (Volume 1, Issue 19)

I still have a hard time believing that we have already reached the end of 2014. Although it is hard to qualify the entire year in a single blog post, this edition of OMC Weekend Review will be the second to last post of 2014 here on OffMyChess.com. The final post of the year for the blog will appear on Christmas Day. I have enjoyed the many tournaments and games throughout the past year and I look forward to experiencing many more years of fine chess play from some of the world’s greatest players down to myself, who could be considered the world’s worst player. :)

So, grab a cup of coffee and join me as I present the final two annotated games of the year here on Off My Chess:

The first game I annotated was going perfectly and I was on track to win the game until an accidental mouse click doomed me. This was a terribly frustrating experience considering how well the game had been going. Look for the blender on move 40.

This subsequent live game has some excellent tactical principles as I was able to make use of some key exchanges to gain momentum and advantages on space.

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The Best of ChessBase Magazine #163

I have to admit that I have become somewhat of a ChessBase fanboy over the past few months. The first time I can remember using a ChessBase product was a copy of Fritz 8 that I purchased at Hastings Entertainment in Clovis, New Mexico. I was just starting to grow my interest in chess and decided to head out to the store and pick up a program to help me learn. Fritz 8, although long superseded by Fritz 9 to Deep Fritz 14, was a powerful engine that readily defeated me in every game I played. Suffice to say that I was not impressed with it because I was unfamiliar with chess engines, chess interfaces, UCI, PGN, and the full lexicon of digital chess language that I utilize today. I took note that Fritz was created by ChessBase and decided to steer clear for awhile.

My Growing Love for ChessBase

As time has moved on, I have come to recognize the wonderful contributions to preparation and exhibition that ChessBase has brought to the world of digital chess. One night, I intended to purchase a copy of Deep Fritz 14 to assist with analyzing my games, but accidentally added a copy of ChessBase 12 to my order as well. When I sought a refund for the other, the friendly folks at ChessBase contacted me to discuss my concerns with the program and ask if there was anything they could do help. I explained that it was a mistaken purchase, but they encouraged me to try it out first before I decided if I wanted to return it. Since then, ChessBase has been critical to my growth as a player and as a blogger. As I became more reliant on ChessBase for game storage and analysis, I decided to give ChessBase Magazine and try. What I found was a digital utopia of analysis and reporting that caused me to cancel my subscription to New in Chess.

It is no secret that I was ecstatic when I arrived home on Friday evening and found ChessBase Magazine #163 waiting in my mailbox. Each magazine comes in a distinctive color, with #163 (December 2014 to January 2015) being green and featuring Fabiano Caruana, who dominated in several Grand Prix tournaments and at the Sinquefield Cup earlier this year. The booklet that accompanies each edition of ChessBase Magazine is nice and has summaries and cross tables for each tournament, but the real meat of the publication is on the enclosed DVD. On a side note, there is a download only subscription option that includes all of the DVD content and a PDF file of the booklet.

ChessBase Magazine #163

As I said, the meat of ChessBase Magazine is on the DVD that comes with each issue. In CBM 163, there are 1,463 games included in ChessBase databases with many of them being presented with video commentary by grandmasters such as Karsten Müller, Daniel King, and others. In this day and age, it is easy to find commentary on top games by grandmasters on YouTube or other chess websites, but rarely will you find these games annotated and analyzed by grandmasters and provided with commentary and analysis for further study. In this edition, several tournaments from the FIDE Grand Prix are covered including Grand Prix Tashkent and Grand Prix Baku. Daniel King gives four video commentaries on games from Grand Prix Baku and many other games are annotated and included in the database. Here is an example of what comes in CBM 163:

Of course, the video lectures are my favorite part of ChessBase Magazine, but each edition includes a number of tactics and strategy puzzles for the reader to solve. These puzzles come straight from the grandmaster games reviewed in the magazine articles and the reader engages in responsive feedback with the video system within ChessBase. For example, in CBM 163, author Oliver Reeh focuses on exchanges in a series of tactical puzzles designed to fine-tune the reader’s interpretation of appropriate piece exchanges to gain advantage over their opponent.

Finally, there is an excellent collection of “tele-chess” correspondence games presented by Juan Morgado and Roberto Alvarez. The correspondence database contains over 10,000 games with 32 of them annotated for greater emphasis and study. ChessBase Magazine #163 continues a tradition of chess journalism excellence and I highly recommend it for chess players of all levels.

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Bobby Fischer Live – Avoid at All Cost!

As a kid, I can remember that Searching for Bobby Fischer was one of my first real introductions to the world of competitive chess. As I watched the film during our school’s chess club, I wondered throughout the film what most people already knew: Where is this Bobby Fischer guy? I knew that he was considered the greatest chess player of all time and that he had been missing for decades, but it was difficult at the time for me to realize the metaphorical elements of the movie’s title. These days, it seems as though many directors are jumping on the bandwagon to create movies and documentaries about the now-deceased recluse. Pawn Sacrifice debuted recently to decent reviews as well as the excellent HBO documentary Bobby Fischer Against the World, which arrived on the scene a few years ago.

As a huge Bobby Fischer fan, I have read as many books and articles that I could find on him and have digested countless minutia about his life, his personality, and his incredible chess games. However, I was surprised to find a movie on Amazon.com called Bobby Fischer Live, which appeared to be a biopic about his life from early childhood up to his escape from Japanese authorities to refuge in Iceland. Bobby Fischer Live stars Damian Chapa as Bobby and includes a cast of actors you may never recognize again.

When I played this movie on Friday night, I was excited to sit back and experience the life of Bobby Fischer. However, that joy immediately disintegrated into uncertainty and panic when within the first few seconds of the film, Bobby’s mother Regina is shown taking her newborn child to an Adaption Agency to give him away. I cannot remember the last time that I witnessed a spelling error in the opening credits of a film…even from low budget and independent local films. For me, this set the tone for the rest of the film because my obsessive-compulsive senses immediately peaked and I wanted to see what other problems existed in this film. I will not even get into the violations of chess law and the history of Bobby’s style that exist in this film, but I will say that he is shown constantly using the Queen’s pawn opening of 1.d4, which was not his preferred method of starting a game.


Re-creating Bobby’s famous introduction to the world.

Bobby Fischer Live is a word-for-word recreation of famous interviews, press conferences, and the memories of his closest friends and chess players. The scenes are recreated perhaps as best as they could be given the apparently low budget of the film, but the middle-aged Chapa certainly does not have the charisma or the physical presence to portray an accurate portrait of Bobby Fischer. It is obvious that Chapa is doing his best to project Fischer’s violent anti-semitism, but it falls way flat of the real thing. The scenes involving the 1972 World Chess Championship were so incredibly amateurish and appeared to have been shot in a cheesy hotel ballroom, where the two champions battled it out against each other at a borrowed kitchen table on the same level as the audience. Furthermore, Boris Spassky’s wig in those scenes were most likely borrowed from the closet of an Elvis impersonator. The director made a feeble attempt to show the hostility between Spassky and Moscow as he refused the Kremlin’s calls to abandon the match for the sake of his reputation, but the conflict lacks any substance or depth. As Bobby grows beyond the 1972 championship, his famous rant against the United States after the 9/11 attacks is re-created and there are some segments of the film that take place in a Japanese detention center as he awaits extradition to the United States for violation of the U.S. embargo on Yugoslavia in 1992.

Chess films tend to have a certain level of professionalism because the creators of these films understand that chess players can be very picky about the details, but I tend to allow a wide latitude for creative interpretation in books and film. Incorrect chess board setups and wrong moves permeate Hollywood films, but the level of amateur development in this film is disgraceful to chess and to the memory of Bobby Fischer. Watching this film feels like the director and the actors read a book about Bobby Fischer one time, decided he was interesting, and decided to make a movie. I have a hard time believing that anyone involved with this movie truly understood the depth of Bobby’s genius and his inner struggles, because there is no struggle, no substance, and no reason to watch this blundering piece of garbage.

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OMC Weekend Review (Volume 1, Issue 18)

I was super-stoked to come home on Friday evening and find ChessBase Magazine #163 in my mailbox! It was no time before I was down in front of my laptop watching the intro video and diving into the annotated games from the Baku tournament in the FIDE Grand Prix. If you have never checked out CBM, I highly recommend it for players of all ages. The DVD (or the download option) contains the free ChessBase reader, which allows you to read the magazine without having the full version of ChessBase.

This week, I have annotated two correspondence games in which I came out with heavy losses. Some general carelessness in the first game led to my downfall, while psychological elements played a factor in the second loss. In this first game, I was up against a 1265 player and there were several times throughout the game that I felt I would come out on top. However, those visions were short-lived and ultimately White managed to exploit my weaknesses and corner me.

This next game was difficult from the get-go. My opponent was listed as UNRATED on chess.com, but it quickly became apparent that he was playing more in the 1400-1700 ELO range. I made some significant blunders in this game and I feel that my sense of his higher ELO got the best of me. The blunders I made were tactically significant and each of them were things that I should have recognized easily, but alas I took the loss and present the game here for your enjoyment.

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Book Review – Pandolfini’s Ultimate Guide to Chess

Bruce Pandolfini is an American Grandmaster who came to prominence in the chess world during his analysis of the 1972 FIDE World Championship between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky. He has written dozens of chess books and is known in chess circles as a world-class instructor. Ben Kingsley played a modified version of him in Searching for Bobby Fischer, which was based on the life of chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin.

For amateur chess players around the world, there are a seemingly endless number of beginner books designed to help students learn the basics and gain some insight into tactics and strategy. Pandolfini’s Ultimate Guide to Chess is one of those rare gems that rises above the rest and gives the reader something truly extraordinary to partake: a series of chess sessions with Bruce himself. The book is structured like many other chess instructional texts with an introduction chapter to explain concepts such as basic moves, forks, pins, skewers, discovered checks, etc. Fortunately, the introduction does not last very long before Pandolfini dives into the meat of the lesson.

By far what sets this book apart from its competitors (aside from the quality chess instruction) is the dialog. The entire book is essentially a transcript from a series of chess lessons between Pandolfini and one of his students. As the games progress within the book, the student will pause to ask questions that are quite common inquiries for the budding amateur. Pandolfini will offer a (sometimes cheeky) response to the student and provide several options for how to proceed with the game. The reader can see the thought processes at work as the student evaluates each position and considers his next move.

I read this book on Amazon Kindle and the book had no significant issues such as poor diagrams or incorrect notation, which often plagues electronic updates of chess books. Some of the dialog seems pandering from Pandolfini, but the attempts at humor do not interfere with the chess dialog in a significant way. If you select this book as a guide for gaining insight into the basics of chess, I recommend setting aside a specific chess board to make moves and follow-along during the lessons. All of the lessons are designed around a single game played by Pandolfini and the student, so it helps to have a visual reference when examining alternative lines.

Pandolfini’s Ultimate Guide to Chess is an excellent addition to any established chess library or a perfect beginner’s book for a serious student looking to break into chess.

OffMyChess.com Rating: ♟ ♟ ♟ ♟

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OMC Weekend Review (Volume 1, Issue 17)

It has been a few days since I had the opportunity to sit down and write for the blog. Finals are this week and the family has been preparing for Christmas break. This has left little time for live chess, but I have played a few correspondence (turn-based) games on Chess.com and I decided to annotate one this weekend that has usurped my previous Best Win Ever as my new highest win ever (by 3 ELO points)!

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Annual San Antonio Turkey Shoot

As the rest of us were still digesting the leftovers from our Thanksgiving feasts, the men and women of the San Antonio Chess Club were finishing each other off in the club’s annual Turkey Shoot tournament at the Hornbeak Building in downtown. The event consisted of two sections: an Open Section with a $300 first prize and a Reserve Section (Under 1800 ELO) with a $200 first prize. Taking the crown home from this year’s tournament was CM James Rohrbaugh, who is currently ranked 66th in the State of Texas. Congratulations to all of this year’s players and winners.

USCF Cross-Table (Open Section)

Pair Player Name Points Round Round Round Round Round
1 JAMES VINCENT ROHRBAUGH 4.0 W 15 H W 3 W 5 D 2
2 ERNESTO L MALAZARTE 3.5 W 10 L 7 W 16 W 9 D 1
3 ANDREW I SMITH 3.5 W 8 D 4 L 1 W 12 W 7
4 ALEXANDER WLEZIEN 3.5 W 16 D 3 D 13 W 6 D 5
5 STEPHEN ANTHONY HOUGH 3.5 W 17 W 18 W 7 L 1 D 4
6 DUY MINH NGUYEN 3.0 D 19 D 9 W 21 L 4 W 8
7 KHOA MINH NGUYEN 3.0 W 20 W 2 L 5 W 13 L 3
8 JAKOB INFUEHR 2.5 L 3 W 22 D 10 W 18 L 6
9 MARK E MCCUE 2.5 W 22 D 6 H L 2 D 11
10 RITIK VERMA 2.5 L 2 W 11 D 8 D 15 H
11 DANIEL HUNG 2.5 H L 10 D 17 W 16 D 9
12 ROHIT CHOUDARY BANDI 2.5 L 18 W 15 D 14 L 3 W 20
13 OZGUR AKTUNC 2.0 H W 19 D 4 L 7 U
14 PHILIP R IRWIN 2.0 H D 21 D 12 U D 15
15 DANG MINH NGUYEN 2.0 L 1 L 12 W 22 D 10 D 14
16 DAVID A NIGHTINGALE JR 2.0 L 4 W 17 L 2 L 11 W 22
17 WILLIAM HOWARD MCNUTT 2.0 L 5 L 16 D 11 D 20 B
18 MARTIN GORDON 1.5 W 12 L 5 H L 8 U
19 COLLIN KHOI LE 1.5 D 6 L 13 W 20 U U
20 BARRET ODOM 1.5 L 7 B L 19 D 17 L 12
21 LUKE LOPEZ 1.0 H D 14 L 6 U U
22 CARLOS DANIEL DELEON 1.0 L 9 L 8 L 15 B L 16
23 ANTHONY E GORDON 1.0 B U U U U

USCF Cross-Table (Reserve Section)

Pair Player Name Points Round Round Round Round Round
1 ANH NHU NGUYEN 4.5 W 18 W 21 W 4 W 10 D 3
2 ALFREDO GARCIA 4.0 W 12 W 20 H D 5 W 8
3 BENJAMIN ROMO 4.0 W 23 W 11 D 8 W 17 D 1
4 BLAKE HERRERA 4.0 W 34 W 16 L 1 W 22 W 10
5 EDGAR MUNOZ 4.0 W 15 W 28 H D 2 W 13
6 ASM FARHAD 4.0 L 10 W 15 W 18 W 14 W 11
7 SANTHOSH NAIR MURALIDHARAN 3.5 D 9 W 37 W 27 L 8 W 16
8 WILLIAM RICHARD MILLS JR 3.5 W 35 W 27 D 3 W 7 L 2
9 GRANT M WESTON 3.5 D 7 W 13 L 10 W 21 W 19
10 SREENEVASH RAMESH 3.0 W 6 W 19 W 9 L 1 L 4
11 DAVID PACHECO III 3.0 W 24 L 3 W 25 W 26 L 6
12 JONATHAN REA 3.0 L 2 L 33 W 34 W 32 W 26
13 ANTONIO WILSON MIELES 3.0 W 32 L 9 W 33 W 19 L 5
14 ANDREW LUO 3.0 L 17 W 32 W 20 L 6 W 22
15 EVAN Z CHENAULT 3.0 L 5 L 6 W 35 X 27 W 20
16 JUAN CARRIZALES JR 2.5 W 29 L 4 H W 28 L 7
17 JAIME ESTRADA 2.5 W 14 W 22 H L 3 U
18 JAMES P ROBERTS 2.5 L 1 W 34 L 6 W 24 H
19 RAYMOND A GRILLO 2.0 W 25 L 10 W 31 L 13 L 9
20 LOUIS RIMPEL JR 2.0 W 33 L 2 L 14 W 25 L 15
21 ROSS EVAN JOHNSON 2.0 X 39 L 1 H L 9 D 27
22 ANTHONY E GORDON 2.0 B L 17 W 24 L 4 L 14
23 DONNEL ZHU 2.0 L 3 L 24 L 32 W 34 W 33
24 JAMES BULGER 2.0 L 11 W 23 L 22 L 18 W 32
25 ETHAN HUNTER PEREZ 2.0 L 19 W 29 L 11 L 20 W 35
26 HELEN HANQI LUO 2.0 L 28 B W 37 L 11 L 12
27 GUILLERMO M SALINAS 1.5 W 31 L 8 L 7 F 15 D 21
28 JAMES NIELSEN 1.5 W 26 L 5 H L 16 U
29 AARON CONNOR JOHNSON 1.5 L 16 L 25 H W 33 U
30 DANIEL HUNG 1.0 X 38 U U U U
31 HELEN UYEN LE 1.0 L 27 W 35 L 19 U U
32 ZHILING KANG 1.0 L 13 L 14 W 23 L 12 L 24
33 RYAN HEROD 1.0 L 20 W 12 L 13 L 29 L 23
34 JUSTIN HUNG 1.0 L 4 L 18 L 12 L 23 W 37
35 RONALD S ZHU 1.0 L 8 L 31 L 15 B L 25
36 LUKAS DANIEL JOHNSON 0.5 H U U U U
37 MARLA IRWIN 0.5 H L 7 L 26 U L 34
38 GURUPRASANNA MARIMUTHU 0.0 F 30 U U U U
39 KAITLYNN LEE MCNUTT 0.0 F 21 U U U U
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OMC Quarterly Review (Volume 1, Issue 2)

I am proud to announce that the second issue of OMC Quarterly Review has been published and is available for free download here on OffMyChess.com! This quarter’s issue features two of my annotated games as well as product reviews and articles covering Phiona Mutesi and the Sinquefield Cup in Saint Louis! Volume 1, Issue 2 is available as a free PDF file on the Quarterly Review page or by clicking the cover thumbnail on the sidebar.

In This Quarter’s Issue:

  • 2x annotated games from Chess.com.
  • From the blog…
    • Product Review – USCF Analysis Chess Set.
    • This Guy Named Fabiano.
    • Phiona Mutesi – The Queen of Katwe.
  • Quarterly Chess Statistics and Review.

The OffMyChess.com Yearbook 2014 will be available for download here on the site on January 1st, 2015 and will be the first publication product offered here in both PDF and Chessbase formats! Check back for more details as the end of the year approaches.

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