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.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Metrowest Chess Club Champions: Part I

GM Alexander Ivanov
2004 Club Champion

Born May 1st, 1956 in the city of Omsk in the former USSR, Alexander came to the United States in 1988 and, soon thereafter, set his roots in Newton Massachusetts with his wife WIM Esther Epstein.

Three years after his arrival to the US chess scene Alexander officially achieved his GM title as a representative of the United States and in 1995 he would obtain his first US Chess Championship title, although this title was jointly shared with GM Nick de Firmian and IM Patrick Wolff.

Alexander Ivanov is known for being a fantastic calculator and a loyal supporter of his favorite openings. He’s played the same sharp openings for his entire career, making him somewhat predictable but very dangerous. He knows his stuff so well that an opening error in his territory will be swiftly punished. 1

However, despite his opening knowledge, it is widely well known that he often gets into terrible time pressure. A fact I’ve recently witnessed in the third round of the 78th Massachusetts Open against FM Bill Kelleher. A leading cause to his time troubles lie within the personal eccentricities of this GM; Alex is obsessed with making the perfect move, even when his search doesn’t give him the best practical chance of winning. 1

When calculating many moves ahead, the actual board can be distracting to the Grand Master. Alex deals with this by staring up at the ceiling, as if in a trance. In between moves, he will get up from the board and pace about with hands folded, all while staring at the ceiling.

Alexander’s most recent accomplishment was awarded to him at the 78th Massachusetts Open, where he achieved his 9th Massachusetts Championship title.

During the mid-late 1990's and into the turn of the century, Alexander was a commonly-seen face at the Metrowest Chess Club during Tuesday night Swiss events. When the club entered into its new Club Championship format in 2004, Alexander was on the forefront of participating players to fight for the first Club Championship title.

Against fellow club players, like IM Igor Foygel and FM Charles Riordan, Alexander would go on to win the club’s first Championship event with a five game sweep. It is a feat that would not happen again until 2009.

Since winning the 2004 Club Championship title, Alexander would not be seen again at the club to defend his title. It is an oddity commensurate to the personality of Alexander Ivanov one would assume.

1. Source: http://main.uschess.org/content/view/64/203

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Resolutions Achieved: Doesn’t Stop Here

In my end of year blog for 2008, I had indicated as one of my New Year’s resolutions a desire to achieve a rating level that would classify me as a “Class B” player.

When I returned to chess last year, my rating hovered just above 1400 at 1405. Initially I wanted to gain 150 to 200 points within a year’s time, but as I continued to play and improve, I thought that 250 to 350 points by August of 2009 was a reasonable goal.

Well, as of the end of June, my resolution came to fruition. With a recent five game sweep to finish first place in the MCC Summer Solstice Swiss: U1600, I officially achieved a published rating of 1673.

I’m feeling good about my chess right now, and as a matter of confidence, I’m willing to say that I’ll be breaking through the 1700 barrier before end of summer. It’s time to set a higher bar, but without the idea of placing a finite rating as that bar. Rather, just continue to improve my game with due diligence and the rating points will come.