Friday, December 17, 2010

Prospect's Best Season Ever (I think)

On Tuesday Prospect beat Hoffman Estates 38.5-29.5 to finish the regular season 7-2, which is it's best record ever if memory serves me correctly.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Wrong Colored Bishop and Rook Pawn

The Rule of the Square is absolutely essential endgame knowledge, but there are many other handy tricks that are worth knowing as well. One of them is the problem of the wrong colored bishop and rook pawn.

This position is a dead draw because White cannot force the Black king out of the corner. In endings with a bishop and an a-pawn or h-pawn, if the bishop moves on the same color as the queening square, the game is an easy win. If the queen moves on the opposite color, it is a draw (assuming that the defending king can reach the corner).

This can be an important drawing resource. A player who is down by a piece and a pawn may be able to draw if he can arrange the right exchanges. A player who is down by two pawns may sometimes achieve a draw by sacrificing his last piece for a pawn.

This was the position that Mike Momsen had against Fremd's Meyyappan Ramu on 5th Board. If Black grabs the pawn with 46...Qxb4, his drawing chances increase significantly because White has the wrong colored bishop for the h-pawn. If Black can manage to trade any one of his four remaining pawn for the White g-pawn, a queen trade would lead to a dead draw. Instead, Black played 46...Qe5+ and continued to put up stiff resistance leading White to eventually make a generous draw offer which Black happily accepted.

Defending an Inferior Position

One thing that pleased me greatly was the way that Mike Monsen on 5th Board and Nick Martin on 4th Board hung tough while down material. Too often, players who fall behind look for cheap traps to turn the game around quickly. When the trap doesn't work, their position falls apart quickly. Mike and Nick did it the right way. They maintained solid pawn structures and avoided giving their opponents any easy targets.

Defending an inferior position can be dreary work, but the goal is a simple one, stop your opponent from making progress on his next move. If you can do this for several moves, your opponent may start to wonder whether his advantage is as big as he thought it was or he may start to feel like his advantage is slipping away. He may start playing for a draw instead of a win or he may take unnecessary risks and blunder. For Mike it was the former. For Nick it was the latter.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Rule of the Square

Prospect moved to 6-2 yesterday without a hard fought win over Fremd which was much closer than the 57-11 score indicated. After an hour an a half of play, each team had one win, Prospect was in trouble on two boards, and the other four boards were tense games that could have gone either way.

A vital question in any king and pawn ending is whether a king can catch a pawn before it queens. Of course it is possible to simply calculate out the moves, but the quickest way to figure it out is to apply the Rule of the Square. Take the distance from the pawn to the end of the board and draw an imaginary square extending towards the defending king. If the king can move into the square on his move, he can catch the pawn. If he cannot move into the square, he cannot catch it.

On 3rd Board, Fremd's Mihir Awati reached this position as Black with seven seconds left on his clock against Caleb Royce. The Rule of the Square would have told him that his king would have reached the White pawn before it queened, but he was unable to calculate out the moves quickly enough and he lost on time. It was a very tough loss as Mihir had played very well in time pressure for many moves to reach this position. On the other hand Caleb had also missed a chance to win using the Rule of the Square a couple moves earlier with twelve minutes left on his clock.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I'm Still an Expert...Barely

Last weekend I played in a three-day, nine-round event at the North Shore Chess Center. After the first two days, I had 1 win, 2 losses, and 3 draws and I was confident that when the tournament was over my rating would dip below 2000 for the first time since 2006. It's only a number, but it is fun to be able to say that I am an "expert" chess player. As fate would have it, having resigned myself to being a Class A player again, I won all three games on the last day of the event to finish with 4 wins, 2 losses, and 3 draws and a rating of 2006.

I really have to work on my endgames. Twice I offered draws in positions where I held a material advantage because I was unable to figure out a plan to win. In the first round, I reached the following position against Aakaash Meduri, a junior at Hinsdale Central with a rating of 2010.

I was fairly low on time at this point and I could not figure out how to convert my material advantage into a win. I cannot win the b-pawn and if I bring my rook over to capture the g-pawn, Black can simply play ...Bxh3. I thought there should be some way to make progress, but I could not figure out how. It appears to me now that my goal is to try to reach a position where after I play Rxg5, I can follow up Black's ...Bxh3 with Rg7 so that rook attacks the b-pawn and prevents Black from protecting it with Bg2. How I go about accomplishing this isn't entirely clear to me. In the game, I played 55.h4 gxh4 56.Kxh4 and offered a draw.

I also accepted a draw in the following position against Paul Seet.

At the board, I couldn't decide whether Black's passed pawns offset his material deficit and exposed king so I accepted the draw when Paul offered it. I'm still not sure about the position.

If I am going to remain an Expert, I am going to have to improve my endgame technique.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Some Endgame Lessons

Prospect split with the Groves last week, losing a tough match to undefeated Buffalo Grove 42.5-25.5 on Tuesday and beating Elk Grove on Thursday 56.5-11.5. With some better endgame play, the Buffalo Grove match could have been much closer.

Endgame Lesson #1: King and Rook v. King and Pawn

The following position (more or less) occurred on 4th Board with Nick Martin playing white against Buffalo Grove's Matt Wiewel.

This should be a fairly easy win for White. Black will be compelled to give up his for White's d-pawn and White's king and rook should be able to round up the remaining Black pawns easily. However, it is possible to go wrong, so it is worthwhile considering an even more basic position.

The only way for White to win here is with 1.Rb5 cutting off the Black king from supporting the pawn. 1...f3 2.Rb3 f2 3.Rf3 f1=Q 4.Rxf1 and hopefully White knows how to mate with a king and rook. It is vital that White cut off the Black king immediately because the game is drawn if Black's king and pawn are another square farther down the board.

Now 1.Rb4 doesn't do the trick. After 1...f2, White is forced to play 2.Rb1 Kb4 3. Rf1 Kb3 and the game is drawn because White will be forced to trade his rook for the Black pawn.

Returning to the position from Martin-Wiewel, the easiest way for White to avoid a position where his rook might have trouble coping with the Black king and pawns is to get the White king into the action. Unfortunately, White tried to win the game without his king. 1.Ke8?! Heading the wrong direction. After 1.Ke6 Ra8 2.d8=Q Rxd8 3.Rxd8, the White king would have been two squares closer to the action than it was in the game after 1...Ra8+ 2.d8=Q Rxd8+ 3. Kxd8 Kf6. Still if White gets his king moving the win should be fairly easy. 4.Rf2?! Still on the wrong track. 4...Kf5 5.h3??. This was White's last chance, he still could have won with 5.Ke7 g4 6. Kd6 f3 7.Kd5 Kf4 8. Kd4 g3 9.hxg3+ Kxg3 10.Kf3. Now the win is no longer there after 5...g4 6.hxg4 Kxg4

The White king is too far away. The rook is a wonderfully powerful piece, but it cannot handle the combined king and pawn by itself. If it cannot cut off the king before the pawn has advanced too far, the rook must have the king's help to cope.

Endgame Lesson #2: Defending Rook and Pawns v. Rook and Pawns.

There is an old aphorism in chess that goes "All rook endings are drawn." This is obviously not true, but rook endings often offer unexpected drawing possibilities. Before considering the ending that arose between Michael Monsen and Matt Wiewel on 5th Board in the Buffalo Grove match, let's start with another basic position.

This position is drawn as long as White toggles his king between g2 and h2 because the Black rook is stuck in front of its own pawn. If White plays 1.Kg3, Black wins with 1...Rg1+ 2.Kf2 a1=Q. If White plays 1.Kf2, Black wins with 1...Rh2 2.Rxa2 Rh2+ 3.Kg3 Rxa2. However, after 1.Kh2, the Black rook cannot escape without dropping the pawn. If Black tries to bring his king over to help, the White rook will check it away.

Black has an extra pawn, but as in the previous diagram, his rook is defending the pawn from in front and the Black king is in no position to relieve the rook of its defensive chores. White panicked with 43.Rd3?? and was helpless against Black's extra pawn after the exchange of rooks . However, if White could have gotten his rook behind Black's passed pawn, I think he should have had pretty good drawing chances. 43. Rd5! looks very solid. After 45...a4 Ra5, it is hard to see how Black is going to improve his position as his king is tied to the defense of the f-pawn and the rook is tied to the a-pawn. If Black should try to bring his king over to support the a-pawn, White can bring his king over to defend and leave the rook to defend pawns on the other side.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Queen and Pawn Ending

Which player has the better chances in the following position?

While having an extra pawn is usually preferable, when the only pieces on the board are the queens, a single pawn that is far advanced can be worth more than several pawns that are not if the advanced pawn cannot be blockaded by the opponent's king. In Patel v. Monsen, the players agreed to a draw after 44...Qg7 45.Qf4+. While a draw was not an unreasonable result, had the match still been in doubt, it would have been reasonable for Black to have played for a win.

The problem for White is that the only way to stop the Black pawn from advancing is by keeping the Black king in check. As a result, he does not have the time he needs to advance his own pawns. The problem for Black is that his king is in the of a wide open board and White has lots and lots of checking opportunities. Nevertheless, White has to careful not to deliver a check that can be blocked with a counter-check or with a pin that will force the exchange of queens. For example, after 44...Ke7, 45.Qe4+ would be met with 45...Qe6 forcing the queens of the board. Black may be able to use this possibility to leave White without a good check for a move or two which is all Black needs to advance the pawn.

One possibility after 44...Ke7 is 45.Qg5+ Qf6 46.Qc5+ Qd6 47.Qg5+ Kf7 48.Qf5+ Qf6 49. Qh7+ Qf8.
White now has no checks and he must try to prevent the pawn from advancing with 50. Qb1. Black then can prepare the advance with 50...Qf7 when Black can force the queens off the board after either 51.Qc8+ Qe8+ or 51. Qc5+ Qe7+. After 51.Kd2 a2 52.Qa1 Qf2+ 53.Kd3 Qxh2, Black has reestablished material equality, but he is going to be subjected to another avalanche of checks. Whether Black can actually force the pawn home is far from clear, nevertheless, there will be plenty of chances for White to go wrong and the winning chances definitely lie with Black.

Two things to remember in endings with queens and pawns on both sides:

(1) Having the most pawns is not as important as having the most advanced pawn.

(2) Even though the board looks wide open, don't assume that perpetual check is inevitable. It is often possible to leave your opponent without any good checks.

Prospect moves to 4-1

Losing 49-19, Prospect discovered last week that even with the graduation of expert Zach Kasiurak, Barrington is not a team to be taken lightly. However, it rebounded yesterday with a 53-15 win over Conant. Next week brings the groves of the buffalo and elk.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Prospect Moves to 3-0

Prospect avenged last year's loss to Schaumburg by a score of 48-20. From a coach's standpoint, I think the match produced a number of teachable moments.

Wehmeir v. Royce, 3rd Board

There are many positions in which a passed h-pawn or a-pawn is less desirable than a central pawn, but this is not one of them. Knights have a very difficult time handling pawns on the edge of the board by themselves because the opposing king is capable of controlling the squares that the knight needs. Consider the following position:

White has a substantial material advantage, but the game is only a draw, If White had a bishop, the win would be easy because the bishop could control a square in front of the Black pawn from a distance, but the knight can only control the squares in front of the pawn from squares that the Black king can reach in one move. After 1.Nc1+ Kb2, the White knight can not reach any of the defensive squares it needs, so White must play 2.Nd3+ when either b4 or c1 will be available to the knight. It may like Black can even make some progress with 2...Kc2 3.Nb4+ Kb3 4.Nd3, but if Black tries to advance the pawn with 4...a2??, White has 5.Na1+ forking the king and pawn. If Black had a central pawn, the White knight could find a square that the Black king could not reach in a single move, but with the a-pawn White will never get the chance to advance his own pawns.

In Wehmeir v. Royce, White's a-pawn is not so far advanced as to make the game a draw because Black has time to bring his king over to help. However, if Black makes the mistake of leaving his knight to stop the a-pawn alone while using his king to attack the pawns on the other side of the board, Black could find himself in the kind of position we saw in the first diagram. White's best chance here is 31.Kc3! Ne6 32.Kc4.

Instead White played 31.c3? Nc5 which merely drove the Black knight where it wanted to go. Even worse the pawn on c3 prevents the White king from getting up to where it can support the advance of the a-pawn. If 32.Kb3 Na5+ and Black controls all the squares that the White king needs to advance.

Hanley v. Dixit, 5th Board

Every tactic is founded on the idea of forcing your opponent to do two things at the same time in the hopes that only one of the threats can be met. However, no matter how dangerous an opponent’s threats might be, they can be ignored if a more dangerous counter-threat can be found. Even if one of your opponent’s threats is checkmate on the next move, he must deal with a check to his king before he can deliver the final blow.

In Hanley v. Dixit , on Black’s 8th his double attack threatened two pieces and White dealt with one of the threats by delivering check. However, on Black’s 10th and 18th moves, his double attack threatened a piece and a checkmate. On both those occasions, White failed to find the check that would have allowed him to escape unscathed.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Prospect Beats Rolling Meadows

In its second match of the year, Prospect beat Rolling Meadows 45-23. On 2nd Board, Arun Nair lost a tough game to Rolling Meadows' Anthony Leone as a result of failing to show proper respect for his opponent's passed pawn.

In this position, Black could simply swap his d-pawn for White's passed d-pawn with 22...Qxb4 23.Bxd5. Even stronger is to round it up with 22...Rb8 23.Qd2 Qxb4 24.Qxb4 Rxb4, although White still can still capture the d-pawn due to Black's vulnerability on the 8th rank, 25.Bxd5 Nxd5 26.Rd1 Rb5 27.e4. Instead, Arun played 22...e4? in hopes of picking up the b-pawn without giving up one of his own. Unfortunately, White played 23.b5! and Black has missed his chance. To complicate matters, Black has weakened his d-pawn and restricted his knight's mobility.

I am very impressed by White's last few moves. I frequently see inexperienced players advance a passed pawn too quickly, but Anthony has improved the position of his pieces so that they can support the pawn when it does advance deep into enemy territory. Black's has a couple reasonable choices here. He can try to maintain the blockade with 30...Rb8 or he can exchange queens with 30....Qxc6. The latter choice allows the pawn to advance, but it removes the pawn's strongest supporter and offers Black the chance to bring his king over to aid in the defense.

Arun is a naturally aggressive player, however, and was unable to adjust himself to the defensive task of blocking the pawn. He chose to keep his queen with 30...Qd8?, but this allowed the pawn to get another square closer to promotion with 31.b6. The game had a few more twists and turns, but White was eventually able to promote the b-pawn because Black kept trying to find ways to win rather than ways to draw.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Season Opener (2)

Monson v. Morgan 5th Board

Freshman Mike Monson’s game against Palatine’s Adam Morgan is perhaps the best played game on 5th Board that I have ever seen. Mike outplayed Adam in the opening to win a pawn, but Adam didn’t panic. Rather than take risky chances to turn the game around, he simply found strong moves that made Mike’s job as difficult as possible. Eventually, Mike’s inability to find a way forward led him to make his fatal mistake.

As often as not, when the advantage shifts from one player to the other on 5th Board, it is because one of them has blundered away material through some gross tactical oversight. What made this game so interesting is how the momentum changed as the result of subtle strategic points.

Diagram 1.

Here White saw the chance to win a second pawn and played 18.e5. Black cannot play 18…dxe5?? due to 19. Qxd8. The strategic error here is being too eager to convert a positional advantage into a material one (or in this case a bigger material one). At present, Black's pieces are all tangled up defending the weak pawn on d6. His knight is stuck on e8 which traps the rook on f8. White could activate his other rook with 18.Rhe1 or expand on the kingside with 18.h4 and Black would be hard pressed to respond. Unfortunately, 18.e5 was also a tactical mistake due to 18...Qg5+ 19. Kb1 Qxe5. After 20.Qxe5 dxe5 21.Bxb7, Mike is still up a pawn, but Black's pieces are no longer tied down to defending the glaring weakness on d6.

I cannot be too hard on Mike here. Even masters have a hard time deciding when to convert a positional advantage into a material advantage. Too early and the weaker side’s position is unnecessarily eased. Too late and the opportunity may slip away.

Diagram 2.

Here White played 26.a3 in order to create a sheltered spot for his king. The strategic problem here is the failure to make a transition from middle game to end game. In the endgame, the danger of a sudden checkmate is much less and the king becomes a powerful piece. White should be trying to activate and centralize his king, rather than protect it. Just as important, White's a, b, and c-pawns are only opposed by Black's a-pawn. They are much more valuable advancing as offensive units than they are as defensive units shielding the king. 26.c4 would get White's passed pawn moving as well as providing the White king a route towards the center.

Diagram 3.

Here White missed a chance to take firm control of the position with 29.Bd5. After 29...Re7 30.c4, Black has to figure out both how he is going to stop White's pawn as well as how he is going to extricate his knight. Instead, White played 29.Re2, but after 29…Rd7, the Black knight is more firmly established. I think White’s problem here is that the Black knight on d2 looks much more dangerous than it really is. White becomes fixated on ejecting it when he would be better off ignoring and advancing his own pawns. I have to admit though, that the knight looked pretty dangerous to me as I watched from the sidelines (although 29.Bd5 looked good).

I think this is a point that White might have recognized with a few minutes thought, but in a sixty minute game, a player has to allocate such long “thinks”. Sometimes it is obvious that a game has reached a crucial point where extra time is warranted, but it is hard to identify any particular feature in this position that might have suggested to White that an extra investment of time might pay dividends.

Diagram 4.

Here White played 31.c3, which really isn’t a bad move if his plan is to bring the bishop to c2 where it can target the Black pawns. However, since Mike’s plan was to bring his king over to oust the knight, 31.b3 would have been better.

Diagram 5.

Adam has given a very good demonstration of how to play when behind. Too often the player who is down tries to turn the game around quickly. Playing solid defense is preferable. Every move in which you can prevent your opponent from making progress is a victory in itself, especially if you can improve your own position. The cumulative effect of such moves is to cause your opponent to question whether his position is as good as he thought it was and whether he can actually figure out how to win it. This can create a feeling of panic that leads to mistakes.

Compare this position to the second Diagram. In seven moves, Black has created two very dangerous looking central pawns and White seems to have made no progress at all. Interestingly, White is still in good shape. If he simply brings his king over with 34.Kb2, he will have sufficient defensive capacity to stop the Black pawns and he can start advancing his own. However, feeling the game slipping away, White lashed out with 34.f3?? whereupon his position quickly fell apart.

When the advantage switches from one player to another on 5th Board, it is usually because one of the players has lost material through some unprovoked tactical oversight. This game is fascinating in the way the momentum shifted as the result of subtle strategic points. When the tactical oversight occurred, it was the result of Black's patient play over many moves.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Prospect Wins Season Opener

Prospect won their first match of the year against Palatine, 42-26. Prospect swept the top four boards and Palatine swept the bottom four. As I have in the past, I will try to analyze games from the matches that illustrate tactical and strategic points that I have seen arise regularly in high school games.

Medrano v. Gunawan 8th Board.

Games on the lowest boards are frequently decided by unprovoked blunders. One of the players overlooks the fact that his queen is under attack or fails to see that he is vulnerable to a back rank mate. Just as frequently, however, the blunder does not simply materialize out of this air. Often one of the players has achieved an advantage in space or development that that leaves his opponent without any good choices. When a player says "I lost because I missed a tactic on the 20th move," the truth is often that they lost because they failed to develop their pieces and fight for the center on the 5th to 15th moves.

Palatine junior Cyntia Madrano's win over Prospect freshman Adrian Gunawan is a good illustration of this principle. Cyntia took control of the center and developed her pieces actively. Playing in his first match, Adrian played somewhat passively and found himself in a cramped position with his pieces undeveloped. When Cyntia's attack came, Adrian overlooked some tactics, but none of his choices were very attractive.

Piotrowski v. Jian, 7th Board.

Nick Piotrowski's game against Harry Jian was decided by unprovoked blunders. Neither player had an advantage in either space or development, however, they overlooked tactics that should have been within their skill set. In such cases, the player to make the last mistake will be the loser and in this game it was Nick.

My best guess is that the blunders were mostly the result of the players playing to quickly. A player should not make his move on the board until he has taken the time to figure out his opponent's strongest response to the move he intends to play. If he is unsure of his opponent's best move, he should probably think some more. Sometimes of course, his opponent will come up with a tactic that he hadn't anticipated, but if he has taken the time to think about the position, that tactic is much more likely to become part of his own skill set in the future.

I hope that no one will take offense when I point out mistakes. Mistakes are part of the game and everyone makes them. I can assure every player in the conference that I can give examples of blunders in my own games that are just as bad as anything I have seen in the Mid-Suburban Conference. The primary difference is that I don't make them quite as frequently.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A New Season

The Prospect Chess Club had its first meeting today. Most of our top boards returned and several freshman came out. The Mid-Suburban League lost two of its toughest players to graduation with Zach Kasuriak of Barrington and Shiny Kaur of Palatine moving on to college. Matt Wilber of Buffalo Grove returns sporting a USCF rating of 2104 after the Illinois Open this weekend. I also played in the Illinois Open. It was my first tournament in almost two years and it showed.

One of the Prospect players today was experimenting with the Sicilian Defense, which gives me a chance to took talk about the Thematic Sicilian Exchange Sacrifice which happened to arise in my one game from the Illinois Open that gave me a brief flicker of hope for a decent result.

The Thematic Sicilian Exchange Sacrifice is ...Rxc3. It is most frequently scene in the Dragon Variation but it can arise in any of the Open Sicilians where White plays 2. Nf3 followed by 3.d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 and 5. Nc3. Here are a couple of typical examples from the Dragon Variation. The first arises after 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 Nc6 8. Qd2 O-O 9. Bc4 Bd7 10. O-O-O Qa5 11. Bb3 Rfc8 12. h4 Ne5 13. h5 Nxh5 14. g4 Nf6 15. Bh6 Bxh6 16. Qxh6 Rxc3:

By removing the knight on c3 after White castles has castled queenside, Black disrupts the White king's pawn cover and stops the White knight from joining the attack on the kingside with Nd5.

The second arises after 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be2 Bg7 7. O-O O-O 8. Kh1 a6 9. Nb3 Nbd7 10. a4 b6 11. f4 Bb7 12. Bf3 Rc8 13. Qe1 Re8 14. Qg3 Rxc3:

When White has castled kingside and played f4, the exchange sacrifice ruins the White pawn structure and weakens the e4 pawn.

Any player who is considering playing the Dragon variation must be ready to sacrifice the exchange on c3 at the drop of a hat. The sacrifice also arises in other Sicilian variations, just not as frequently. In my case, it came up in the Najdorf variation, however, as a former Dragon player, my instinct was to grab the chance when it came after

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 e5 7. Nb3 Be6 8. f3

Nbd7 9. Qd2 b5 10. g4 Nb6 11. Qf2 Nfd7 12. O-O-O Rc8 13. Kb1 Rxc3

As White has castled queenside, Black's compensation consists of the disruption of the White king's pawn cover as well as reducing White's control of the d5 square which is often one of Black's most vulnerable points in the Najdorf. In neither White's knight on b3 nor his light squared bishop have any convenient way to get into the action. On the other hand, unlike in the Dragon, Black's dark squared bishop is not bearing down on the White king on the long a1-h8 diagonal and Black needs to finish developing. White's best course of action in this position might well have been to simply continue his pawn storm on the kingside.

It often happens after players castle on opposite sides that each player launches an attack on the other's king. These can be very exciting games in which time is of the essence. The players often disdain to make defensive moves which might slow down their attack. In my game my opponent tried unsuccessfully to secure his own king's position and never gave me any threats to worry about.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

What Makes a Master is Memory

I dropped by Niles North High School today where Prospect went 2-2 in a team tournament losing to 2008 state champion Stevenson and 2006 state champion Niles North.

Also attending the tournament was Glenbrook which is coached by chess master Steve Szpisak. I had not seen seen Steve for several years and he struggled somewhat before coming up with my name when I said hello. I congratulated him on his memory to which he responded "Najdorf" and "Bogo-Indian." These were the openings in the two game we had played back in October 2002 and January 2003, both of which he had won pretty handily. I only vaguely recalled one of them, but when I got home and looked at my database, I was able to verify that he had remembered both of them correctly.

This brings to mind my victory over International Master Bob Gruchacz in a friendly 5-minute game back in 1981. Bob and I had become friends through work and after hitting a couple of bars one night we decided to play some chess at my apartment. In the first game, I managed to set a trap for him that was just a little more subtle than he thought I was capable of setting and he dropped a knight enabling me to win the game. After that, he began to concentrate and he slaughtered me in at least ten games in a row. It was so clear that I did not have a chance against him in chess that we only played backgammon after that.

Many years later (my guess would be 1998), I ran into Bob in the elevator with a mutual acquaintance. I happened to be carrying a chess book and the acquaintance asked me whether I knew about Bob's accomplishments in chess. I said I did and I told him the story about me getting lucky in that one game. What I found most interesting was the way that Bob grimaced when I told the story. Even after more than fifteen years, it still pissed him off that he had let his guard down enough that a patzer like me was able to beat him even if it was a casual game of blitz chess, and the fact that he had completely dominated me after that did not make him feel any better.