Archive for the ‘New Hampshire’ Category

Sidelined for the NH Open

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

The NH Open is this weekend! Alas, this year the $42 entry fee for the New Hampshire Chess Championship (more if you pay at the door) hits the wallet too hard. I’m not used to this budgeting stuff! :P

The good news is I’ll be spending Sunday with my friend Scott, and we’ll be dropping in to the tournament site to catch the big match-ups during the final championship rounds.

And… he’s going to cook up some home-made vegan chili (starting with dried beans) for lunch at his place. Should be a fun day, and I think it’s supposed to finally stop raining and warm up around here. Woohoo!

I’ll see if any of the guys would be willing to send me a game or two for the blog after the event. <fingers crossed>


Chess New Year

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

First, I wish to welcome back to the blogging world, New Hampshire’s own Braden Bournival. He’s no longer restraining himself, however, by any means, to the topic of chess alone. As evidenced by his recent thoughts regarding the online dating world and reverse psychology.

I’d wanted to embed Weird Al Yankovic’s White and Nerdy here, but apparently his record company, in all its “wisdom” has decided it best to disallow this feature.

On the topic of the New Year, I’d be interested in hearing what chessic resolutions my readers have made for themselves in 2009. Any rating goals, study habits, etc.? Oh, and what was your favorite chess book of the last year? Please share in the comments, and I may follow suit.


Anatomy Of A 20–Minute Chess Think

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

Before I tell this story, I’d like to first congratulate new New Hampshirite, Patrick Sciacca, on his victory last weekend in our Amateur Championship. Now that he’s moved from Massachusetts, the spoils of such a performance are the title and bragging rights. Welcome to The Granite State. :)

As for me, I ended up with the third place trophy on tie-breaks and ALMOST enough to cover entry fee. This is the tale of our second round encounter. I call it

The Anatomy Of A 20-Minute Think
(aka “The One That Got Away”)


Dame, Erin (1943) – Sciacca, Patrick (2086) [B03]
NH Amateur 40/2, SD/1 (2), 01.11.2008

Ever stare at a position and just know, just feel it in your bones, that you have a killer shot, if you could only find it? Maybe you even know the exact move that ought to do it, nay, that HAS to do it, but the variations get murky the longer you look. Meanwhile, the clock ticks and your confidence erodes with each passing minute. It’s here you either give up on the move and chicken out or you ask yourself, WWTD (What Would Tal Do?) and play it anyway. Or, I suppose, there’s a third option, namely, pressing on, trying to work it all out to a nat’s bum and losing on time. Thankfully, I’m not prone to that last one, but I’ve been known to choose, if you can call it that, either of the other two. And, doesn’t it always seem you end up lamenting either decision? Such was the case on Saturday, November 1st, as I locked horns with the eventual winner at this year’s NH Amateur Championship. As always when the two of us sit down across the 64 squares, it was a highly tactical battle.

1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.c4 Nb6 5.f4 dxe5 6.fxe5 Nc6 7.Be3 Bf5 8.Nc3 Qd7 9.Nf3 e6 10.Be2 0–0–0 11.0–0 Bg4 12.c5

This was not a fun move to play, but there’s nothing wrong with it. Pat suggested 12.Ng5 as more testing, after which either 12…Bxe2 13.Qxe2 f6 or 12…Nxc4 13.Rxf7 Be7 are possible continuations.

12…Nd5 13.Nxd5 Qxd5 14.h3 Qe4N 15.Qb3

Pat thought this might be a new move, but the idea’s been played before, just after 14.b4 instead of 14.h3. Ironically, in the four games I found where my fourteenth move was played, only 14…Bh5 was tried. So, it was Pat’s move that gets the official novelty designation.

15…Nxd4 16.Nxd4 Bxe2 17.c6!

I had originally intended 17.Rf4 Qxe5 18.Nxe2 but this is better. 17.Nxe2? meets with 17…Rd3 and 17.Rxf7 immediately is too soon as the c-pawn would fall.

17…b6 18.Rxf7!??

18.Rf4 Qxe5 19.Nxe2 was still very good. Pat’s fallback plan was to seek the exchange of queens with 18…Qd3

18…Bc5








So, here it is, that fateful fork in the road. Up til now, I’d played well and felt good about my position. However, I must admit I had been surprised by …Bc5, which I’d completely overlooked. Apparently, without a pawn capture as bait, I didn’t see it as a square Black wanted to occupy. A little bit of chess blindness that did no harm on the board, but wasn’t good for me psychologically. If you’ve ever wondered what a Class-A player thinks about while deep in the tank (besides some stupid song repeating annoyingly ad nauseam), here are my thoughts, as near as I can reconstruct them. I invested a full third of my entire allotted time on the following blunder.

19.Nb5??

I first considered 19.Qxe6+! Kb8 and even saw 20.Rxc7! as the most natural continuation. Black can’t capture due to 21.Qf7+ mating. But, what if he doesn’t take? After all, it’s no longer check now that the queen has forced him over. Worse yet, he gets a free check of his own. That about ended the investigation of that move for me, minus a couple all-too-brief returns as I got desperate. We’ll come back to it in a little here because it’s the winning shot.

Next, I looked at 19.Nxe6 Bxe3+ (or 19…Qxe3+) and again didn’t like that zwischenzug (aka, intermezzo or in-between move). If I’d pursued it just a little further, I would’ve found an easy draw to keep in my back pocket in case of emergency. This is always a nice feeling when investing gobs of time into finding the winning lines. The perpetual check is unavoidable after 20.Kh1 Rd3 21.Rxc7+ Kb8 22.Rb7+ Kc8 (not 22…Ka8?? 23.Nc7 mate) 23.Rc7+ etc.. I wish I’d seen this line more clearly. For some reason, I only saw the Nc7 mate with my knight coming from b5.

With the attack no longer appearing as simple as I felt it should have been, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to force things with checks. For that reason, 19.Rxc7+? predominated my thinking. After it failed over and over, I then tried to at least make it draw by perpetual (neglecting the much simpler way just demonstrated). I got as far as 19…Kxc7 20.Nxe6+ Kxc6 21.Nxd8+ Rxd8 22.Bxc5 bxc5 23.Qe6+ Kb5 24.a4+ Ka5, when Black escapes then consolidates to victory.

Ultimately, I played the overly cute game move. The ideas are similar to 19.Nxe6, hitting c7, with the added benefit of adding another mate to the mix after, for example, 19…Qxe3+ 20.Kh1 Qxb3?? 21.Rxc7+ Kb8 22.Kc8 23.Na7 mate. It also looked to me as though 20…Bxb5 would fatally introduce my queen into Black’s territory. Needless to say, 21…Qd3 came as a rude awakening!

As promised, the winning lines, for the record, after 19.Qxe6+! Kb8 20.Rxc7! are

  1. 20…Kxc7?? 21.Qf7+

  2. 20…Qxe3+ 21.Kh1 Bxd4? 22.Rb7+ Ka8 23.Qf7 mates
  3. 20…Qxe3+ 21.Kh1 Qxd4 22.Qf7 Rhf8?? 23.Rc8+!
    and mate next move.
  4. 20…Bxd4 21.Qf7 Bxe3+ 22.Kh1 Qxc6 23.Rxc6 Rhf8
    24.Qc7+ Ka8 25.e6

    Lastly, Black’s best chance, an absurdly long endgame variation from Junior

  5. 20…Qxe3+ 21.Kh1 Qxd4 22.Qf7 Qd1+ 23.Rxd1 Rxd1+ 24.Kh2 Bg1+ 25.Kg3 Bf2+ 26.Kxf2 Rf1+ 27.Kxe2 Rxf7 28.Rxf7 Re8 29.Rxg7 Rxe5+ 30.Kd3 Rd5+ 31.Ke3 etc.

19…Qxe3+ 20.Kh1 Bxb5 21.Qxb5 Qd3 22.Qa4 a5 23.Rc1 Rd4 24.Rc3 Qb1+ 0–1

Would you like to download a PDF of this game? Here you go –> Anatomy Of A 20-Minute Think


Interview with GM Josh Friedel

Friday, July 11th, 2008

Have I got a treat for you! Only one week since the World Open in Philadelphia, I’ve obtained an exclusive interview with newly-titled Grandmaster Joshua Friedel, formerly of New Hampshire and now living in California to pursue Caissa’s rewards. The focus was on how to handle setbacks, both during and after they occur.

Enjoy this very candid peek inside a GM’s mind:



Thanks for agreeing to share your thoughts about the all too familiar subject (for most of us) of poor tournament results. In the recent World Open, you had a rocky start with a draw against an opponent rated almost 300 points below you, followed by a loss where the difference was slightly greater.

The 2nd game garnered the Monroi fan favorite “heart” for your opponent and was splashed on their News page as it was this young 11 year-old’s first win against a GM. Was it strange being on the other side of such an upset when not so long ago it was you who was the scalper? Feel free to say something too about the position at move 29. You were up a pawn and presumably something like …Qe6 would have kept the advantage.

Well, it certainly wasn’t pleasant. I already knew my play was shaky when I failed to win a killing position my first game, but I had no clue it was that bad yet. It turns out that after Rd1 it isn’t so easy to keep my advantage, though I’m certainly not worse. Of course it’s irrelevant, as had I seen Rxd4 worked there I wouldn’t have played my last few moves probably, as Re6 was my planned “antidote” defending my queen. It was an especially odd blunder for me, as I didn’t underestimate my opponent’s play, and in fact took the past several moves to prevent it! I remember being the scalper was always a good feeling, though if I won on a one-move blunder, it certainly dulled the elation a bit. Anyway, that’s a part of chess. Sometimes you accept gifts, and sometimes you give them.

In general, in Opens, is it harder or easier to play people rated much lower?

Playing people far lower-rated is never fun. It rarely helps improve your form, and in fact often makes it worse, as you can get away with a lot more poor thinking. However, I often like playing a warm-up round or two before I start facing stronger opposition. It’s all irrelevant though, of course. Beating lower-rated players is part of the game, and you just have to learn to do it.

You seemed to be working yourself back into the running though. Was there anything you do differently on these occasions? For example, maybe you try to take a mental break and just kick back, or maybe preparation becomes more of a factor since you start to see opponents about whom you know more?

It really varies for me. Often I try to experiment less in the openings, sticking to what I know mostly. This tournament was a bit of an exception though, as I decided to experiment a bit in the opening the next round against Critelli by playing something really out there. I’ve found the biggest danger, however, is the refusal to take risks. After a tough loss it is easy to curl up into a shell, and I really make sure I don’t do this.

In round 8, it looks like you went for the gusto, but the attack came up short. Was this a conscious decision you’d made prior to sitting down at the board in order to get into a money position?


Flip to see from Josh’s perspective.

No, I didn’t go into the rounds with plans of any sort. I find thinking about prizes and such in late rounds is death. You just have to play chess. It was just a very poor game by me, however, as I just failed to calculate things out accurately at all. I didn’t sacrifice to play for the win, though, I did it simply because I thought it was best. It turned out badly, but I still don’t regret having this attitude, I only regret calculating like I was on drugs.

After this game, you withdrew. I probably do this more than I should, but do you think it’s sometimes a good idea (to either save rating points when the writing’s on the wall or to not further hurt your self-confidence)? Or is it better to stick it out and play through it?

It really depends on the situation. I used to be totally against it, but now I’ve changed a bit. My default is always to play, but in certain occassions I’ll withdraw. If I’m sick I’ll withdraw often, or if I know I’m going to play way way down in the last round. In this case, I just was insanely tired that day, and considering the quality of my morning round it was clear to me playing another game would be quite unwise.

How do you recover? Do you tend to analyze your losses or put them out of mind?

For me, analyzing my losses is very important. It isn’t anything psychological really, it’s just I tend to learn so much from them. It would be silly to neglect doing it. Of course, with some losses it is rather painful, but often those are the ones that need it most.

In closing, with your year of support from the Samford Fellowship up, could you speak to your plans for the future, near and long-term? I know a couple years ago, you told your friends you wanted to give it a go and see if you could make a career out of chess. Does it feel possible and do you still want to?

Well, I have the Samford for another year, so I’m going to continue what I’ve been doing so far. My current plans include Edmonton at the end of July, NE Masters in August, and the Mind Game Olympics in China in October. As far as making a career out of chess, I certainly don’t feel like it’s any less possible, in fact I feel it is far more now that I’ve made GM. I’ve played through many bad tournaments, this one certainly will not change things, and considering the results of my previous three tournaments I’m still very optimistic about my future.

Thanks again! I really appreciate it, and I know my readers will too.



I hope he didn’t think I was suggesting he should pack it up over this one result. ;) No way!

I’m happy to hear Josh is finding chess to be a viable career path and is still intent on doing so. We can all look forward to many more exciting games.

Please join me in congratulating him on obtaining the highest title in the Royal Game and thanking him for his honest and open answers. Just leave your comments below.


NH’s Top 10 – April 2008

Monday, June 30th, 2008

New Hampshire’s Top Ten Chessplayers, as reported in the latest issue of the “NH Chess Journal,” based on the April 2008 rating list:

  1. GM Joshua Friedel 2531
  2. FM Braden Bournival 2393
  3. IM Joseph Fang 2373
  4. NM Hal Terrie 2200
  5. Christopher Belcher 2116
  6. Robert Cousins 2093
  7. Isaac Saidel-Goley 2070
  8. Sheriff Khater 2046
  9. Clay Bradley 2030
  10. Noah Belcher 1979

Where am I? 16th at 1926. However, my 2073 performance at the NH Open, from which I gained seventeen points, should help. And, since Josh doesn’t live in the state anymore, it’s only fair to reveal the 11th spot, who could rightly be considered #10: Parker Montgomery 1975.



Serious chess. Serious fun!