Month: August 2014

OMC Weekly (Volume 1, Issue 5)

NOTICE: This will be my last post until September. My family and I are moving to San Antonio, Texas, and I will have intermittent internet (and chess) access. Once on the ground and settled, I will begin the process of joining the Texas Chess Association and the San Antonio Chess Club. will resume normal operations in mid-to-late September.

This past weekend afforded me the opportunity to sit down across the board for the first time with a former tournament player. My brother-in-law Scott and I played two quick games during a family visit and suffice to say that I was more than a little unprepared for what was coming my way. I lost both games, but gained some valuable insight into opening theory and learned a few things that should help me in my quest to improve my skill set and my rating.

We played the second game immediately after the first. This time, Scott revealed an opening secret of his to me, which allowed us to play a more classical game than the first.

Tromsø 2014 Wrap-Up

It always seems that whenever there is a big chess event going on in the world, I find myself out and about with limited (or no) internet access or time to sit down and follow it as well as I would like. This has been the case throughout the entire length of the 2014 Chess Olympiad in Tromsø. I have managed to check up on the standings and look at commentary, but I was unable to follow some of the more prestigious games, such as Magnus Carlsen’s games or the live streaming of the FIDE presidential election. Congratulations to Russia and China for taking home the gold, as if we expected anything else from this competition.

Final Tromsø Standings (Top 10)

Rank Team (W / L / D) Points
1 China (CHN) 8 / 3 / 0 19 / 422.5 / 31.5
2 Hungary (HUN) 7 / 3 / 1 17 / 372.0 / 29.0
3 India (IND) 7 / 3 / 1 17 / 371.5 / 30.5
4 Russia (RUS) 7 / 3 / 1 17 / 352.0 / 28.5
5 Azerbaijan (AZE) 7 / 3 / 1 17 / 345.0 / 28.0
6 Ukraine (UKR) 6 / 4 / 1 16 / 377.5 / 29.0
7 Cuba (CUB) 7 / 2 / 2 16 / 361.0 / 29.5
8 Armenia (ARM) 6 / 4 / 1 16 / 350.5 / 28.5
9 Israel (ISR) 7 / 2 / 2 16 / 348.0 / 28.0
10 Spain (ESP) 7 / 2 / 2 16 / 334.0 / 28.0

Now, the most celebrated international chess event of the year is over and as the teams begin returning to their home countries, those of us who have the privilege of growing up in the database generation have thousands of new games to replay and analyze courtesy of some of the greatest chess talent in the world! Obviously, I was cheering for Team USA, and they managed an impressive finish in XX position, but it was not enough to secure a top spot in the competition. However, they did have some fantastic games.

Team USA Games Archives

Of course, no Olympiad would be complete without games from the World Champions! Magnus Carlsen struggled a bit at times throughout the tournament and even suffered a devastating loss, but managed to regain his form rather quickly.

Tromsø 2014 – Magnus Carlsen Games

Tromsø 2014 Games – Hou Yifan

And last, but definitely not least: the FIDE presidential results. Sometimes I wonder if I was the only person surprised to see Kirsan Iluyminov re-elected as FIDE president, but it happened by a margin of 110-61. It seems to me that each year, despite increasing public outcry against him, his vote tally continues to climb. Perhaps someone should remind him that extraterrestrials are not allowed to vote or maybe someone whose last name starts with a letter other than K should run against him.

FIDE President for Life – ET approves!

Until next time…

Robin Williams and the Way of Things

You might be wondering why a post about Robin Williams is appearing here on a chess blog. There are several reasons, the least of which being that my main theology and personal blog will not debut until later this year. Additionally, OMC is not just a chess blog. As the subtitle indicates, this is a place for science, art, and the philosophy of the game. While there is no evidence that Robin Williams was a prolific chess player, his art did have a profound effect on millions of people around the world. If anyone doubts that, the prevalence of tributes in the mainstream media and across the various social networks should be enough to make you a believer. The volume of material being created and distributed in Robin’s honor made me somewhat hesitant to even mention it on my Facebook or Twitter feeds, but an unfortunate pattern of information flow and public reaction to the news of his suicide makes me believe that now is the right time to say this…

For anyone that has ever followed the public reaction to the death of a popular figure will note that reactions typically come in stages, which I have divided into a wholly unscientific and opinionated table of facts:

# Stage Details Length
1 Devastation Feelings of complete loss and hopelessness. Lack of understanding with very few answers. Much outpouring of sympathy and compassion. 1-3 Days
2 Confusion Loss and hopelessness turn into a search for answers. Public interest begins to shift toward finding a solution to problems. 3-5 Days
3 Absolution Social media begins relentless campaign to encourage others to seek help for related problems. Vigilante mental health referrals abound. 5-7 Days
4 Accusation This stage can appear at any point, but it typically appears after people have had time to digest news of the cause, method, and reasoning for the person’s death. 7+ Days
5 Continuation Most people forget and move on to the next tragedy in their lives. 7+ Days

As of this writing, most people have moved into the Absolution stage of development where images of Robin Williams tattooed with the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline are beginning to permeate throughout social media. The postings were harmless enough at first and I do not doubt the sincere desire to help others on behalf of the people who post photos and messages. However, the growing disillusionment with tributes and encouragement for other people battling depression and contemplating suicide underlines a deeper problem in the social fabric of our time. Namely, the ubiquitous insinuations that it is inappropriate to show grief or overwhelming compassion for one person without creating a deficiency in the life of another.

Robin Williams vs. Christopher Walken – Any argument you have about anything is invalid.

Unfortunately, I have watched as retorts to Robin Williams’ tributes have turned from compassion and support to questions and comments such as, Why is HE getting so much attention? and What about all of the other people out there battling with depression? In today’s world, we are obsessed with equality and fairness to an extent that borders on madness. We are discouraged from eating meat because animals deserve equal treatment afforded to humans. We are discouraged from saying or doing things that offend others because all people deserve the right to experience life in the most comfortable and unchallenging way possible. Some people would argue that Judit Polgar or Gary Kasparov do not have the right to carry thte title of Grandmaster because there are people out there that could never be as good at chess as they are. Or, perhaps worse, that I should be given the rank of Grandmaster as a way of being fair and not ostracizing anyone from the chess community. The reality is that I will never be as good as Judit or Gary and I live my life with that knowledge without any problems because their accomplishments give me reasons to hope and dream. However, we are discouraged from showing fear, grief, or devastation over the loss of someone whose art caused us so much joy simply because he is the victim of the same illness that affects countless millions of people around the world. The absurdity of it all is mind boggling.

I think it is very important for us to consider the man across the street or the co-worker battling with depression and suicidal ideations when we discuss actors like Robin Williams. Does Robin deserve more attention and grieving than the man across the street or our co-workers? I would say without a doubt: yes, because he has had much more of an impact on my own life than the guy across the street. I grew up watching and enjoying the art that Robin Williams contributed to the world. He was a fortunate man whose ability to assume the identities of so many fascinating people and bring them into the comfort of our living rooms earns him a special place in our hearts. I think that dismissing his death is a disservice to him and others like him whose existence has such a positive influence on the lives of so many others.

Sometimes it is necessary to call a spade a spade. Fear is the dominant force in our society and that is through no one’s fault but our own. We wallow in the fear that somebody, somewhere is lonely, sad, or underrepresented by those in power. In our backwards, polarized society we have come to see the only people that need love and support are the sick, poor, and marginalized. If love and compassion come with prerequisites, then how can we ever know if we are truly loving the right people the right way? I think that the fear of showing grief over the death of a man like Robin Williams is rooted in the fact that we really do not care about anyone. I think that our society has forgotten how to love unless it has an attached agenda or individual benefit. Even social causes and the Church itself are guilty of placing love only where it benefits them, and this is nothing short of the heart of evil. If we truly loved the man across the street or the co-worker struggling with depression the same way that we loved our idols on television, radio, and the internet, then it would rid society of its ability to soak us in anxiety, fear, and guilt.

Robin Williams taught many of us how to laugh, cry, and how to truly be scared. In passing, he has also taught us to sit back and not only analyze the value that we place on our own lives but also the lives of those around us. Only when we learn that love, in the truest sense that God has placed in the capacity of our hearts, is not tied to a social agenda, job, or societal status. Love is for all, and when we love all in the way God has taught us, then there is freedom from fear and guilt forever.

The Best Things in Life

An old saying tells us that the best things in life are free. Those people that devote themselves to the tireless pursuit of monetary fortunes can rationalize countless arguments against that phrase, but I believe that it remains true. My case in point is a parting gift I was given late last week by my co-workers before my family packs up and moves to our new home. Knowing my love of chess and wishing to give me something that was personalized and would fit into my personal tastes.

Their answer was nothing short of brilliant: a customized StratoChess set. The board is signed in paint pen by the members of my old work center and the writings range from farewell and we will miss you to inside jokes. The set was originally presented to me with my co-worker’s faces pasted on each of the pieces, but the photos would not stay on, so I removed them for the photo shoot and plan to replace them at a later time.

StratoChess is a variant I have never played and I will probably do a full review of the board itself and the game at a later time. However, for the purposes of this particular set, it is one of the most incredible gifts I have received in my career and I look forward to including it in my collection as my wife and I begin an exciting new chapter in our lives.

I will always be grateful for the people I worked with here in Ohio. My wife and I have made many lifelong friends and we look forward to returning home after our temporary move. This chess set is another incentive for us to return to Ohio where the people have changed our lives and we have been blessed by the grace of God to return the favor on and off the board.

OMC Weekly (Volume 1, Issue 4)

Welcome to OMC Weekly (formerly My Chess Week), where I write about my weekly exploits across the chess board and give perspectives on chess in my own life and around the world. I am on the road this week, so I am posting this from a region with limited internet access and limited time to full annotate this week’s games. This has been a very exciting week in the world of chess as the 2014 Chess Olympiad in Tromsø has been raging with some of the greatest chess talent in the world! I spent much of my week following the games and cheering for the United States Chess Team in its various matches, so I did not get to play nearly as much online chess as I normally would play.

I played five correspondence chess games this week and had two wins. The first game I want to examine was an exceptional game played against a player with a 1300 ELO.

No game provided more frustration this week than the one below. This is where my blitz rating reached its floor of 692 this week before bouncing back up slightly. I am back to studying tactical puzzles this week…I have a long way to go.

Instead of going through the second correspondence game, I figured that I would simply post the final position and ask my readers to consider how they would proceed from this position.

There were many more blitz victories this week than last week, which was a welcome change. Next week’s OMC Weekly will be the last post for awhile (details to come).

In other news, the August issue of Chess Life and 2014/#5 issue of New In Chess is out and should be coming to a mailbox near you. The August issue of Chess Life has post game analysis from the 2014 U.S. Championship in Saint Louis and one of the worst magazine cover photos you will probably ever see. It is free to download in PDF format for US Chess Federation members. 2014/#5 of New In Chess features Grandmaster analysis from Hou Yifan and Magnus Carlsen and is available in print and online editions.

I plan to post an addendum to this entry later in the week. My wife and I are currently visiting family out of state and I am excited about the opportunity to play and post the results of a long overdue match between myself and my brother-in-law, Scott Russell, who describes himself as an “old tournament player.” What out, Scott! Whether you win or lose, you will be immortalized here on the pages of Off My Chess.

The Best of iOS Chess

Finding a decent chess app can be about as painful as pulling teeth. Even in the highly curated world of Apple’s App Store, the prevalence of junk chess apps is impossible to ignore. Most, if not all of these programs do not have enough reviews to earn a star rating in the store, so it is difficult for the average browser to pick a chess program that is suitable for their needs. To help my readers in finding the best iOS chess programs out there, I have compiled a list of the top five chess apps that I use on a daily basis for playing, studying, and following chess games around the world.

Name: Chess
Price: Free (w/in-app purchases)
App Store Rating: ♟ ♟ ♟ ♟ ♟
Download Size: 22.3MB (Download)

Chess is the official app for, which is one of the largest chess social networks and gaming sites in the world. It includes access to live chess in a variety of formats including bullet, blitz, and standard with a multitude of different time controls. The correspondence chess system is also accessible through the app as well as the Tactics Trainer and hundreds of Grandmaster video lessons.

The app is very easy to use and although it may not be as polished as some of the other apps out there, it is definitely one of the more functional programs. Having a premium membership unlocks the app’s full potential by allowing unlimited tactical problems and access to unlimited videos.

Name: Chess24
Price: Free (w/in-app purchases)
App Store Rating: Unrated
Download Size: 40.6MB (Download)

The official app for Chess24 is very similar in functionality to that of the app. It integrates nicely with the Chess24 system and provides access to live games including blitz and standard. It has an eloquent interface and the site is well known for broadcasting some of the largest chess events in the world. The app provides the user, with or without an account, access to many of these events in realtime.

As with the app, Chess24 contains premium features that are only available for site members. However, the basic functions of the app remain intact with or without a membership. This app is great for people looking to diversify their online chess playing field.

Name: Chessbase Online
Price: $4.99
App Store Rating: ♟ ♟ ♙ ♙ ♙
Download Size: 34.5MB (Download)

This is the official app from Chessbase, the makers of the popular database software and the Fritz engine. I wish that I had rave reviews to give about this application, but aside from its ability to import and view PGN files, this app leaves me craving more. The Chessbase Online app touts itself as an online database viewer and it does have some great functionality and an ability to open PGN files from other iOS programs, but its design and overall usability feels clunky.

The only thing I use Chessbase Online for is to view PGN files because, even with its clunky user interface, it is still the best PGN file viewer I have found so far. Email me if anyone finds a better PGN solution for iOS than the Chessbase app and it will most likely earn this spot on the list.

Name: Chess Score Pad
Price: $6.99
App Store Rating: ♟ ♟ ♟ ♟ ♙
Download Size: 3.1MB (Download)

I recently wrote an article on this site about the importance of finding the proper notation tool. Some people prefer written notation while others (myself included) prefer electronic scoresheets. In that article, I reviewed the PlyCounter, but also mentioned some additional mobile options for chess notation. I did not mention Chess Score Pad simply because was not awarded certification from the USCF. However, this application is perfect for annotating friendly chess games. There is also a Tournament Edition of this application that is a little more expensive and includes some extra features such as the requirement for the application to be run in Airplane mode.

Name: Shredder for iOS
Price: $3.99
App Store Rating: ♟ ♟ ♟ ♟ ♙
Download Size: 23MB (Download)

The final entry on this list is one of the strongest chess engines that you can get for the iOS platform. The official Shredder chess app has been tearing up players on iPhone and iPad for years now and although its user interface has not been updated in quite some time, it remains an attractive program for one-on-one iOS chess play. I especially enjoy the complete functionality that the app offers, which includes the ability to email complete PGN databases for inclusion in my Chessbase system and analysis in other programs. In addition to these functions, Shredder also includes basic engine analysis options to help a player improve his or her game.

This list is definitely not all-inclusive as some may have noticed that I ignored the Internet Chess Club, but certainly have no harsh feelings about their app. The most important thing to consider when searching on iOS or Android for a chess app is to understand what you are looking for. If you want an app that allows realtime play with others in a competitive or learning environment, then, Chess24, PlayChess, ICC, and others will certainly quench your thirst. If you want a database system, the best options are still on desktop computers, but Chessbase Online and other apps are in hot pursuit.

OMC Weekly (Volume 1, Issue 3)

Welcome to OMC Weekly (formerly My Chess Week), where I write about my weekly exploits across the chess board! I was relieved to see my online ELO becoming much more balanced this week and hovering around the 1000 range. Certainly I remain a beginning player, but I have now improved from an ELO of 600 to 1000 in just a few months.

This week, I would like to examine two games played against a 900 rated player on Have you ever played a game online where you could feel the frustration coming from the other player? The first game was filled with emotions and although I have been known (quite frequently) to lash out after losing a game, I could feel the frustration coming off of 913 during this game, especially when he requested a rematch without hesitation.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how the psychological effects of losing can have consequences for other chess games. This is apparent in 913 from the previous game, whose ELO following our previous game dropped to 817.

And finally, some news from the international scene. It was announced last week that Pawn Sacrifice, the upcoming biopic about the 1972 match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky will get its world premier at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival! The film stars Tobey MaGuire as Bobby and Liev Schrieber as Boris. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find much on the web about the movie, but I hope that following its premier that it receives more attention at the box office in the United States than Life of a King did. Unfortunately, Searching for Bobby Fischer did poorly at the box office although it was responsible for a temporary resurgence of chess interest in the country. Hopefully studios will see the promise in a movie like Pawn Sacrifice and give it a larger opening and run than more recent forays into the world of chess film.

How to Follow Tromsø 2014

The 2014 Chess Olympiad is officially underway in the beautiful city of Tromsø, Norway. Magnus Carlsen and the world’s greatest chess players have gathered together to participate in one of the largest and most prestigious chess events in the world. Unfortunately, most of us (including me) live nowhere near Norway, so we rely on the experts at the various chess sites across the internet to give us our fix of what only a very few people get to experience. To help my readers follow the events with ease, I have compiled a list of places you can go to experience the games, the players, and the sociocultural aspects of the event. This list is not all-inclusive.

Live Commentary and Games

Chess24 – This is the official home of the 2014 Chess Olympiad. Visit this site for live commentary, game broadcasts, and photo galleries of the players and playing venue. – Articles, news, and live game broadcasts. – Live game broadcasts and video/audio commentary from Chessbase.

Social Media

Facebook – Official 2014 Chess Olympiad Facebook page.

Twitter – Official 2014 Chess Olympiad Twitter feed.

Instagram – Official 2014 Chess Olympiad Instagram page. Contains various images from behind the scenes and the cultural influence of the Olympiad on Norway.

As I mentioned in the post introduction, this list is not all inclusive. I will do my best to post game collections and commentary at the end of every week, but our move is coming up soon and I might have to preempt some of those updates until September. Good luck to all the tournament participants!

UPDATE (2-Aug-14) – Round 1 is Finished!

Although only 13 of the 30 major players participated in this round, it was an exceptional day of high stakes chess! Check out the results from all the games below.

More Games and Wallpaper

The Downloads section of the blog is something that I am very excited about. It started out as a simple way to consolidate the PGN and Chessbase database files I was creating for different chess books and publications, but it is slowly morphing into something different altogether. This week I am proud to announce that versions of the OMC wallpaper collection are now available for iPhone 5, iPad (retina), Macbook Air, and the 21″ iMac, with more wallpaper being prepped for launch in the near future.

Additionally, the complete games of Bobby Fischer (PGN | CBH), Emanuel Lasker (PGN | CBH), and Paul Morphy (PGN | CBH) are now available in the Games Collection section at the bottom of the downloads page. Each of these files are available in PGN or Chessbase format and are perfect for exploring the history of some of the game’s greatest players.

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