Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Return to Playing the Game

Its been well over 5 years since I last played the game of chess at a competitive level.  When I left the game, I was on the rise to higher class levels; class A being a goal I had set out for myself a long time ago.  In 2009, I climbed over 250 rating points in a 6 month span and was still climbing. 

My understanding of the game was becoming clearer, and seeing the board; analyzing tactics were improving tremendously. I had mastered most of my endgame principles that both class C and B players should know.  In reality, I was loving the game that much more, just before I pulled the plug and went on hiatus. When I left, my rating was just short of 1700.

Why the hiatus? Well, 2009 was a life changing year for me both professionally and physically. I had undergone major surgery, had an 7 month old boy, recently got married just the year before and was undergoing a change of occupation and focusing on running a new business.  Needless to say, life required me to make some choices and I had to devote my time elsewhere other than chess.

As of September 2014, I have returned to the game I love.  I remember a friend saying to me shortly after I left the game, "You don't play this game anymore", noting that I was intently watching the game he was playing; as I still visited the club at that time. Although his comment was rather slap-stick, it did sort of hit hard at the time, because he was right, I didn't play the game anymore, but I so much wanted to stay involved -- I just couldn't.

Now, coming back to the game 5 years later, I knew that I was going to lose quite a few games before I would start to have a feel for the game again and play with confidence.  My first dozen games were vicious; basically I could be playing against a "door stop" and lose!  I think I managed 2 wins and a draw from the first 12 games I played. I was losing games to 1300 and 1400 rated players; but the good news was I was losing those games in the later stages while having a superior position on the board. Simply put, I was missing moves on the board or hanging a piece that most seasoned chess players would see. Of course, the game that really turned me around was one where I basically got my ass handed to me in under 12 or 14 moves by a 1300+ rated player.  I guess you would call this my "bottom time"; my rating having suffered a loss of over a 130+ points by this time.

After that game, I started to hit the books again, tactics, openings, pawn structures, endgames and re-read Silman's Complete Endgame Course from cover to cover! I updated my chess software, analyzed old games and refined my opening repertoire. I even joined a private chess group -- Vortex Club, which is mostly comprised of higher rated players than myself with quicker time controls. The Vortex offers me the opportunity to see a greater variety of openings and react to them with tighter time constraints and tougher play. The Vortex is the sharpening stone to my blade!

As of this posting, I am currently winning over 70% of my games. My confidence has returned, my endgame technique is closer to where it was when I left the game 5 years ago, and I am no longer confused or finding it hard to evaluate the position at hand. My openings are getting stronger too! As of my last game, I just defeated the #1 seeded player in the U1700 Section.  Things are on the upswing, my rating is once again on the rise and I'm loving the game again. To my friend, yes...I do play the game and I'm back with a vengeance!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Hiatus From Chess

A while back I wrote about having the courtesy to notify my readers when I'll be taking a hiatus from blogging about chess.

Well, I guess better late than never; I will be on a hiatus from chess for a while. When I actively return...I will be blogging again.

Thanks for your support!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

MCC: Stanley Crowe Awards Ceremony

Since becoming a volunteer at the local chess club (Metrowest Chess Club), I've had the aspiration of bringing a little more history and tradition to the club's membership. As the "Awards/Tournament Director" I took it upon myself to research one of the club's annual tournaments called the Stanley Crowe Memorial which takes place every September.

Stanley Crowe loved the game of chess and faithfully attended the Framingham Chess Club (Metrowest Chess Club) since its inception up until the time of his passing. As a Class B player, he had collected a total of 14 club tournament wins over the course of approximately 10 years. What makes this even more extraordinary, was that this particular feat was done during a time when there was usually only one section to play in. With the likes of certain Masters, such as John Curdo always waiting in the wind to pick up another tournament victory, I'd say that's quite astonishing!

Moreover, what makes the 14 tournament wins even more uniquely special is this; over the 25+ years of the Metrowest Chess Club's history, only four(4) other club members have achieved 14 or more club tournament wins.

With accomplishments and numbers like this, I thought it appropriate to enrich the monthly event with an opening ceremony, honoring club members who have achieved the tournament milestone set by Stanley Crowe. With permission of the club's president and board of directors, I purchased a ceremonial perpetual plaque that will contain the names of those players reaching the 14 win milestone and the year they did it.

Last Tuesday night, that plaque was presented to the players of note and to the club membership with applause and gratitude. It made me feel good to do something worth while for others who love the game as much as I do; to see the smiles of those honored and the jovial appreciation offered by the membership during the presentation. Even more importantly, it feels good to etch into the club's history something a little more tangible and permanent for years to come. Congratulations to everyone who made this award possible and to the membership!

Stanley Crowe Achievement Award
In recognition of club players who have achieved 14 tournament wins.

Stanley Crowe

FM John Curdo

IM Igor Foygel

Neil Cousin

NM Denys Shmelov

Monday, September 14, 2009

2009 New England Open

This was my first regional tournament since March 2009, and my first chess rated event/game in over 35 days.

I contemplated for a week as to whether or not I'd play in the multiple day tournament or the 1-Day tournament. Usually, I prefer the multi-day tournament schedules and make a big-to-do about the event, but as I'm just recovering from a recent surgery and just now gaining my strength to play, I opted for the 1-Day event and played in the U1700 section.

When I arrived on Monday morning, the event was in full swing. The 2009 New England Open was directed by Alex Relyea assisted by his wife, Nita Patel and MACA officials. It was held at the Holiday Inn in Nashua New Hampshire -- a convenient location for most Massachusetts chess players. And, I must say that Alex did a fantastic job once again; the unfortunate understanding I have, however, is that Alex suffered a financial loss at this tournament, even though he collected over a 100 entry fees.

If these events are going to continue, a resolution needs to be found to ensure financial stability for the organizers of these tournaments. I know that people are screaming "Don't raise tournament fees!", but something needs to be done. The CCA has a very successful model with their events and their fees are tripled in comparison to the fees that local organizations charge for their events here in New England.

But I digress...congratulations Alex and team for a job well done! The 2009 New England Open had a vibrant appeal and you could feel the energy in the competition room as chess players sat quietly entwined with their thoughts...contemplating all sorts of combinations and various strategies to outwit their opponent!

As for me, well, I just wanted to get back to playing chess and aspired to having a good tournament; good as in playing .500 or better. I went into this event with one game at a time mentality, letting the chips fall as they may. Never did I imagine that I would go on to place 1st in this tournament; especially after going through the surgery I did and not playing any chess for over 30 days!

Now, naturally when the lowest tournament section is U1700, your field of players are going to include under 1300 rated players in your section. Being one of the higher rated players, I knew that my first round game would "probably" be an easy game. But, you never know with young kids; you know the ones...being coached by Gary Kasparov and are on their way to reaching class A status by end of year and you just happen to be in their way when they start out on such a trek.

This section had 26 participants for this one day event; rather impressive I'd say. In the first round I was Black and drew a young adolescent named Rohan Shankar with a rating of 1264. For a 1200 rated player, he played quite strong. The line played in this game was the Sicilian Najdorf and 48 moves later I had prevailed. Rohan did not have a very good tournament and went on to place 24th with a score: 0.5 - 3.0

In the second round I was due White and was paired against a young teen named Edward Li with a rating of 1524. Edward decided to play the French Defense...Damn! I can not stand this opening. I find it totally boring and uninspiring! As one who dislikes the French Defense, I naturally, of course, don't play into any of the French lines. Rather, I meet boring with boring and play the KIA against this lack-luster defense.

Black was behind this entire game and it was only a matter of time before I would overcome this useless defense. It did get down to an end game, but I had 3 pawns up and an active King. Black's King was MIA. 2-0

Edward went on to have a good tournament, placing 5th overall with a score of: 3.0 - 1.0

After the end of the second round, I was feeling pretty good about my play after taking a 30+ day hiatus from chess. My confidence was returning and the games I had played were solid wins. In round 3 I was due Black and got paired up against an older gentleman named David Raymond with a rating of 1535. David was having a strong tournament and had just knocked off the number one seed in our section in round 2.

For two strong players who had just played two great games in a row, I'd say that our game was a little careless. The line played in this game was the Closed Sicilian. Personally, I have not experienced a lot of games with this line, but enough to know what strategies to incorporate when playing out this particular version of the Sicilian.

Our game was pretty even up until move 22 where I decided to open it up a little with a pawn sacrifice. This is where the carelessness on my part begins; thinking that I had calculated correctly a knight pin, I over looked White's Queen playing a "check" move to escape the fork. Thus, I was down a Rook for a Bishop. But it did not stop there, I immediately followed up with a Knight move to an uprotected square and...whala...I was down a solid piece with no compensation.

At this point, I knew my game was lost, but I wanted to give David a run for his money. My pieces were active and better coordinated, so I just dug in and fought it out. Well, to my amazement, David entered the club of careless play and made a move where I was able to pin his rook and win the piece. Next thing I knew, our game was dead even again and, eventually, it played itself out to a draw. Whew...
2.5 - 0.5

In the final round, I was in the money and a shot to place 1st in our section. The only issue was, I would not be afforded the right to play the current one seed due to our color pairings. We were both due White and therefore, the pairings would work itself into way that I would not be able to control my own destiny.

In the final round I was White and drew Thomas Laaman with a rating of 1636. Thomas entered the tournament with a first round bye and he too, was in the money if he could knock me off this round.

This game was my best game of the tournament. I played the Evans Gambit against Thomas and after playing 6.Qb3, I knew I had the game in the bag. Just watching my opponent twist and turn with that uncomfortable feeling of being in uncharted waters was enough to satisfy my intuition, that my opponent was lost and unsure of his position.

The critical point in the game came at move 30. I had just played Qxh6 and my opponent played 30...Bg5? Can you see the winning tactic?

I played 31.Bg6+ where an eventual exchange led to winning a full piece and positional advantage. I went on to easliy win this game 8 moves later and finished the tournament at 3.5 - 0.5. As luck would have it, David Raymond, whom I played in round 3, forced a draw in his final round with the current one seed, Timothy Lung.

The Chess Gods had favored me greatly this day as I found myself sharing first place with Timothy and splitting the winnings at the tournament's conclusion.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

And now for something completely different...

For my readers, I will be away from blogging for the next few weeks as I undergo surgery this coming Tuesday to address a personal health issue.

I will return shortly upon my full recovery. Keep the chess board warm for me!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Taking The Steam Out Of The Najdorf

By far, the Najdorf is one of the most fierce defenses available to Black, catering to some of the sharpest lines ever to arise within the game of chess. It is a defense that allows Black to counter quickly and fight for a win.

Unlike the French and Caro-Kaan defenses, the Najdorf is an opening that rarely eludes to drawish play. However, there are lines that White can play to force a draw in the Najdorf quickly, as demonstrated by the newly minted 2009 US Champion Nakamura; but both sides must play accurately or suffer immediate reprisal from their opponent.

Nakamura, Hi (2710)
Ponomariov, R (2727)
[B96] Sicilian Najdorf
City of Culture GM(6), 2009.07.13
Result: 1/2-1/2

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Metrowest Chess Club Champions: Part II

IM Igor Foygel
2005 - 2006 Club Champion

Born in Kiev, USSR, Igor Foygel started playing chess at the age of 6. At the age of 10, his father bought him his first chess book to help broaden his appreciation of the game. Inspired by the book, Igor began to play serious chess at a local club. Five years later, at the age of 15, he became an Expert and went on to represent the Republic of Ukraine in national youth competitions and championships. 1

Eleven years later, Igor Foygel, with the help of the late GM Leonid Stein, would attain his first Master’s title in 1974. He soon, thereafter, immersed himself in the study of chess and began teaching the game as a professional; he had entered into the prime of his chess playing career. 1

During those years, his career had been highlighted by top placements in the Ukraine Championships, earning trips to the USSR Nationals Semifinals in 1979 and 1980. In the late eighties, he would finally get his chance to play in international tournaments throughout Eastern Europe with general success. 1

In 1991, Igor immigrated to the United States and continued playing chess, winning many open tournaments throughout New England. He earned his first Massachusetts Open Champion title in 1992 and would proceed to win four more Massachusetts Champion titles in years to follow, the most recent in 2005. In 2007, Igor had won his first New England Open Championship title. 1

By the end of 2003, Igor had competed in his second US Championship title match earning him his final norm for the title of International Master.

Igor has been a familiar face among fellow club players at the Metrowest Chess Club, routinely playing at the top boards in Open Section tournaments. His club attendance throughout the years has made him a faithful participant of club tournaments and activities. It is a quality that has earned him great respect by fellow club players due in part to the appreciation of his continued presence and availability.

In 2004, Igor had been granted an invitation to play in the club’s first Championship Event where he would go on to place second; his only loss came at the hands of the 1st place winner, GM Alexander Ivanov.

In 2005, Igor would again qualify for an invitation to the club’s Championship event. Playing within a strong field of candidates with the likes of the venerable FM John Curdo and the young rising star, NM Ilya Krasik, Igor would go on to finish 4.5/5 and win the Championship Title.

After earning his first Club Champion title, Igor would be invited to defend his title in 2006. Posting, once again, a score of 4.5/5, Igor admirably defended his title and remained Club Champion for 2006.

Today,IM Igor Foygel continues to faithfully attend the Metrowest Chess Club on Tuesday nights. Moreover, he continues to win a share of monthly events enabling him to qualify for the club's yearly Championship series. However, for personal reasons, he has simply declined to play in the club's most prestigious event, leaving it to others to battle it out for Club Champion.