These shoes are defective!

You recall the post Ugly Shoes (because Matt’s comment made you snort your coffee).

Well I bought me some California-crazy, car-drivers-please-don’t-run-over-me-at-night running shoes:


Yet here I am, heaviest I’ve ever been. What’s wrong with these shoes? You mean I have to actually GO RUNNING?!

Pure insanity

Another computer surprise here. Not part of my recent-game-analysis-improvement program. Just a historical scoresheet I threw into Stockfish out of curiosity.

The following game features the most ridiculous attack I ever played, and believe me, you will agree it’s ridiculous.

It’s all about move 22.

Slater (1854) – Foushee (1990), Louisville KY, Summer 1985.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Ba6 5. Qc2 d5 6. Ne5 c6 7. Bg2 Be7 8. O‑O O‑O 9. Rd1 Qc8 10. b3 Nbd7  11. Nd2 Bb7 12. Bb2 Rd8 13. Rac1 dxc4 14. Qxc4 c5 15. Ndf3 h6 16. dxc5 Nxc5

Backstory here. Short version: This was the tournament right after high school where I abruptly converted from mild-mannered to aggressive chess.

17. b4

Blech. Stockfish: 17.Rxd8+ Qxd8 18.Nxf7 is pretty much winning. See if you can see why. Did not occur to me at the board. After playing this 17.b4 stinkbomb, white has holes all over the queenside and is worse.

17…Rxd1+ 18. Rxd1 Bd5

Hm, my position is disintegrating, I thought.


19. Qh4 Na4 20. Rc1 Qa6 21. Rc7

Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 9.31.15 PM


Now this is where it gets really interesting.

Stockfish after white’s 21st move: -1.60  (21…Qxe2 is best here.)


Stockfish after black’s 21st move: +6. A seven-pawn swing. Ouch.

Incredibly, what follows after this error IS ALL CORRECT and winning for white.

22. Nxf7!!

Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 9.31.49 PM

22…Nxb2 23. Nxh6+ gxh6 24. Qxh6 Bxc7 25. Ng5 Resigns.

Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 9.32.10 PM

The indignity is that white wins back ALL the material and THEN mates:

25… Rf8 26. Bxd5 exd5 27. Qg6+ Kh8 28. Ne6 Rg8 29. Qxf6+ Kh7 30. Qf7+ Kh6 31. Qxg8 Be5 32. Nf8 Qd3 33. exd3 Bg7 34. Qh7+ Kg5 35. Qg6#

Like I said. Pure insanity.

Never in the last 30 years did I once imagine Nxf7 was actually sound.

While I was away, Scott Adams (Dilbert) justified this blog and indeed my entire professional approach

If you aren’t the best at any one thing, learn about as many things as you can.

I’m a poor artist. Through brute force I brought myself up to mediocre. I’ve never taken a writing class, but I can write okay. If I have a party at my house, I’m not the funniest person in the room, but I’m a little bit funny, I can write a little bit, I can draw a little bit, and you put those three together and you’ve got Dilbert, a fairly powerful force.

I agree with his view, so it must be correct. (That’s how logic works, no?)

Postmortem versus GM Khachiyan

[Result “1-0”]
[Round “1”]
[Event “Golden State Open 2013”]
[Black “Slater”]
[Site “Concord, CA”]
[White “GM Melikset Khachiyan”]

1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. d4 d6 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. c4 Nb6 6. e6 fxe6 7. Nc3 g6 8. h4 Bg7 9. h5 e5 10. d5 Nd4 11. hxg6 hxg6 12. Rxh8+ Bxh8 13. Bd3 c5 14. dxc6 bxc6 15. c5 dxc5 16. Bxg6+ Kd7 17. Ne4 Kc7

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 8.01.54 AM

Weird openings lead to weird positions. White’s pawn sac and Black’s basic setup are all book, although I haven’t seen White’s c5 push specifically. Looks great, though, right? Black’s up a pawn but all his pawns stink and his king’s on the lam. On the other hand, Black has one good piece on d4.

My general sense at this point in the game was that my position is pretty bad.

Here Stockfish calls it -.44 i.e. Black is maybe half a pawn better. And it suggests that White get rid of that one good piece w/ Nxd4. Not 18.Nxc5 Qd6 forking knight and Bg6.

Not sure this is a super computer-friendly position, but it is interesting that Stockfish doesn’t say the GM is better (yet). And it increases Black’s advantage to about -.6 after White’s choice.

18. Bg5 c4

Afterwards Khachiyan, who wasn’t too keen on this line for Black overall, said 18…Bf6 was very interesting. Didn’t really consider giving it up for a knight; didn’t know what to do but in the absence of a specific threat by White, why not put the c-pawn on a protected square. Stockfish gives 18…Qg8, which I considered probably because it’s thematic in this line, then 19.Nh4 Bf6.

I think my mindset and approach to the position were just too passive because I was uncomfortable and psyched out. Specifically I couldn’t seem to get my king settled so I could improve my other pieces,. Tsk tsk. Two moves later, White’s the one Stockfish likes by a half pawn.

19. Rc1 Kb8 20. Nxd4 exd4 21. Qh5 a6 22. Qh2+ Ka7 23. Qh7 Be6 24. Bxe7

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 8.03.26 AM

But wait wait. The evaluation keeps changing move by move. Stockfish says 24.Bxe7 and 25.a4 are both bad choices, and after 25…Be5 it shows Black ahead at -1.4! I, however, thought I was pretty much dead in the water at this point. Plus running out of time already.

24…Qc7 25. a4 a5 26. Qh4 d3 27. Bf6 Bxf6 28. Qxf6 Bd5 29. Kd2 Rb8 30. Rh1 1-0

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 8.04.15 AM

Even in the final position – I didn’t record whether I flagged or resigned – Stockfish gives Black a big advantage! I suppose Black’s d3 pawn creates more immediate danger than White’s beautiful but distant kingside passers. And, you know, a4 and b2 are weakish too.

Is Stockfish just badly wrong? Can the GM understand White’s long-term advantages in this weird position in a way that Stockfish (running for a few minutes on a Macbook Air) can’t?

So, my team of estimable seconds and coaches <g>, what do you propose I learn from such an annotation exercise?

I think I need to figure out why I didn’t give 18…Bf6 serious consideration. If it’s exchanged, Black’s pawns get straightened out. There’s some common sense to the move. GM Khachiyen liked it. Stupid when I think about it more – the Ne4 is strong and the Bh8 is just staring at my own e-pawn.

Maybe I’m overestimating the bishop pair in general. Something to test as I go through more games.

A chess piece for Intel, and some leftover facts

Working, or intending to work, on a computer-aided look at my first game in California. I got fed to the lions: GM Melikset Khachiyan (who was one of Levon Aronian’s coaches at one time). But Stockfish says not all was as it appeared….

In the meantime, while I’m trying to spin up the flywheel….

I got to write a chess article for work, on behalf of Intel’s digital magazine IQ.

How technology changed a 1,500-year-old game

It’s very much intended for the non-chess audience, but since I got to interview GM Sam Shankland, GM Maurice Ashley, and Dr. Kenneth W. Regan (world’s leading authority on computer cheating), I learned a ton and heard some nuggets that were new to me. Some of which are in the article, and some of which aren’t.


Shankland estimates he evaluates or calculates 150 positions per minute. Wow! I had never heard any similar estimate to benchmark against, but subsequently found an IBM article that said Kasparov in his prime did 3/second, or 180/minute. So Shankland’s # seems plausible.

– Regan is absolutely fascinating. (In my prep work I discovered Howard G’s excellent cover story from Chess Life magazine with tons of detail about cheating detection. Great stuff, Howard!) Regan answered questions I threw out, thinking ‘NOBODY knows this stuff’.

When does the first non-book move (well technically non-previously-played move) occur on average in GM games? Regan says it’s around move 12. He’s looking at data here, not speculating. That’s quite a bit earlier than I imagined.

This is more of an estimate based on watching Stockfish evaluations: Regan says about 20% of GM game outcomes are determined, more or less, by superior preparation. A big percentage even at the GM level are determined by a “blunder” but the definition of a blunder is a bit subjective. Regan talked me through a recent Kramnik win as an example. Classic “pressure chess” leading up to a fatal mistake — do you classify that as a blunder, or something else? (Have lost which game– will figure out and post link. Update: aha. It was against Nepo, not Meier.)

– And Mr. Millionaire Chess Ashley is just fun to talk to, about everything but especially the minute-but-material differences between the top 10 and the next 90. A money quote (not in the article), about Magnus Carlsen’s memory:

Mangus is a freak. Kasparov was ridiculous [as well]. Magnus reads everything and remembers absolutely everything, including random stuff that’s so obscure, it’s like, why do even you care? Even I’m not that into chess! And I’m a grandmaster!

The third age

I think I will blog again here, and see what happens. Many an excellent conversation in the comments in years (strangely) gone by.

Almost exactly two years since i last posted.

It took us a long time to buy a house in California, and I changed not only jobs but professions—sort of. I’m sure I’ll belabor that point later.

But anyway buying a house was a sort of endpoint to the moving process. Now I’m going to do some stuff I enjoy.

Like playing chess.

I’m 48, way way way way past any reasonable expectation of improvement. And yet, why not try? Trying keeps the brain alive (I hope).

Here’s what I mean by “the third age”. Until the year 2000, my play was tactical and free of corrupting influences like opening, positional, or endgame knowledge.

My rating cratered (from 2150 to 1950), so I reworked my entire game. Developed an opening repertoire. Studied Shereshevsky. Tried to learn to put the pieces on good squares. That was the second age. Hit an all-time high of 2173, which might have more to do with changes in the rating system, but I’m going to pretend it was all about the hard work.

Here’s my last shot: I’m going to enter the computer age.

This month I downloaded Stockfish and SCID PC vs Mac. I’m going to database all my games, working backwards, and then annotate them. Just like Howard Goldowsky said. (This has already provided some incredible revelations, such as: This rook sac WAS SOUND!!!!! And I even played it correctly for several moves thereafter.)

Matt, Greg K, Blunderprone, Donnie, DK, Howard, Harvey—you left so many awesome comments here in the past. If you’re around, I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

…and moved across the country

As of 7/3, I live just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Cool foggy mornings, mostly warm bright afternoons. Beautiful vistas every which way you look – mountains, hills, valleys, ocean, beaches, bay, sailboats, city. Lemon trees and wild (well, suburban-wild) deer next door, avocado and fig and plum trees in the backyard, cypress and redwood and eucalyptus and sycamore trees in the neighborhood. Huge farmers’ market Sunday and Thursday in San Raphael, about 10 minutes away.

Staying with a generous friend until we move into an apartment at the end of the month. Downsizing quite a bit, happily. Working east coast hours, which I like. Walking more and driving less. Been here three weeks and still haven’t had to refill my gas tank.

Leaned on the kindness of friends quite a lot in the moving process, and we are very, very grateful.

Will post some pictures soon. So much to explore!

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