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A school where the “cool kids” play chess!

Not only do the cool kids actually play chess, but now they get to have a movie made about them! The new documentary Brooklyn Castle is centered around a Brooklyn school’s championship chess team with over 20 National Championships to its credit.

A few years ago another movie was made about chess called Knights of the South Bronx. Ted Danson stars in the inspiring true story of an inner-city teacher who taught his students to be champions. Danson stars as English teacher David MacEnulty  (who wrote the software program Think Like a King) in this true story of heroism and inspiration. It depicts one man’s struggle to better the lives of underprivileged children from the South Bronx, and by teaching them he transforms their lives and the lives of thousands of other kids, their families, and their neighborhoods.

More details about the Brooklyn Castle documentary to follow!

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Fritz 13 ‘s “Let’s Check” Videos

Let’s imagine the realm of chess as a world of its own. How much of this world have we discovered already? Actually, no one can answer this question precisely. Probably less than we believe. We know some elementary endgames quite precisely, and some of them we can only evaluate correctly with the help of the computer. But analyzing with engines also altered the evaluation of certain openings significantly. Maybe we already know some continents – certain openings and variations – in the realm of chess. But maybe these are just islands? Are there still unexplored areas, white spots on the great map of chess openings? Presumably.

Hitherto everyone calculated for himself. Now we can all research together. What will we discover? Things are going to be exciting…with Fritz 13 Chess Playing Software.

See Fritz 13’s Let’s Check Videos here

Everyman E-book App for iPad

Have an iPAD? Now you can read Everyman chess e-books and enjoy the same interactivity as you do on your PC. Featuring a full iPad landscape and portrait support, search with autocomplete, support for zip files and full eBook store with inApp purchasing. When you launch your app you will see your book list, which will include the free chess book samples provided by Everyman. Your Book list is categorized into two sections:

1) Books which show eBooks customized by Everyman specifically for this app (including the samples)

2) PGN files which show any .pgn files you may have downloaded from the web or added from your hard drive

To get this great new app go click here

ChessCentral carries over 100 Everyman Chess E-Books. To browse the full line of e-books click here.

Play Chess Opening Gambits

If we play a chess opening gambit there’s no going back. The permanent loss of a pawn is serious and the deficit has to be made up in other ways – speedy development, open attacking lines, weakness in the enemy camp. The advantages of playing chess gambits are many, and the King’s Gambit, the Evans Gambit, the Benko Gambit or any number of chess opening pawn sacrifices are good ways to play chess. It’s fun to crunch somebody in nineteen moves!

A pair of chess opening gambits are responsible for many such quick wins, two mirror-image pawn sacrifices that are easy to learn and promise fast attacking development. Take a look at these diagrams:

Blackmar-Diemer Chess Opening

The Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, 1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.f3 exf3 5.Nxf3

Smith-Morra Chess Opening

Smith-Morra Chess Opening

The Smith-Morra Gambit, 1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3

It’s easy to see that we have the same type of chess position, the same structure – only in reverse! It should also be clear that both chess gambits can be learned together, since they rely on general principles rather that forced variations and share the same positional features. These two chess opening gambits are pure pawn sacrifices, with no hope of ever getting back our fallen foot soldier. Experience has shown, however, that White gets long term pressure based on rapid development and open central lines for the Rooks; in both “cousin” gambits this initiative can last into the endgame.

These related chess opening gambits, the Blackmar-Diemer and the Smith-Morra, are quite popular at the club level but not so much on the professional chess circuit. That works to our advantage, as much less “theory” exists about either gambit and so it’s easier to become a specialists in these two chess opening systems. Some Blackmar-Diemer chess software is available here and here , while Smith-Morra chess software can be found here and here. We might as well save study time and master two closely connected chess opening gambits at once!

Let the Trend be Your Friend

Young chess players who today live on the internet might be shocked to learn that personal computers were a rarity in the mid-1980s. At the beginning of that decade chess study consisted of countless hours pouring through stacks of books – you know, those bound paper objects that needed the page turned manually when you got to the lower right hand corner. And a physical chess board had to be set up on which the book moves were played.

Before you say, “Eww! Gross!” imagine TWO chess boards, one to play out the main line and one for the notes and variations. Yes children, that’s how grandpa learned the game and some of us (somehow) actually got good at chess before computers took over the world.

Fast forward to the 21st century. Is it an accident that more and more pre-teens are becoming chess Masters, or that 9-year-old Samuel Sevian recently earned his Master rating? If we assume that the human brain hasn’t changed much in thirty years the only explanation lies in electronic computerized chess study. Today’s chess player can literally see dozens of chess games in the time it took Bobby Fischer to play through a single game – and he could absorb a chess book very quickly indeed!

Humans adapt, and chess Luddites who disdain technology handicap themselves needlessly. Paper chess books will always be with us, but we suggest that “the trend is your friend” and that all chess players should at least try an electronic chess book.

Chess Openings for Beginners (Part 2)

If we follow the advice of Sigmund Tarrasch, then chess beginners and novice chess players are busy learning endgames first and middlegame ideas second. Simple chess endings to more complex examples, then middlegame strategy (pawn structure, weak squares, etc.) and tactics (chess combinations, Kingside attacks, etc.). On this foundation we can build our knowledge about chess openings – and for now we only want an opening “system”, a chess opening to get us safely past the first 12-15 moves.

To be fair, when Tarrasch finally introduces the opening phase of chess he provides a general survey, a little taste, of all the main chess openings. It’s okay to peek ahead and get a feel for what lies ahead, because someday we’ll adopt a few of these standard King’s Pawn or Queen’s Pawn chess openings as our own. But at this point in our career let’s find a simple and universal way to get through the opening of a chess game.

In fact, let’s save study time and find a true “stereotype”, a chess opening we can play with the White and Black pieces both. One obvious example is the King’s Indian:

Depending on what the opponent does we’ll advance our e-pawn or c-pawn two squares, staking a claim in the center. Move order is flexible, so we can play 1…g6 or 1…d6 (as Black) in answer to 1.e4 and still reach the diagrammed position; the Queen’s Knight can also be held back for deployment elsewhere. As White this layout is called the King’s Indian Attack, and as Black it’s the King’s Indian Defense or (after 1.e4) the Pirc/Modern complex, but they’re all clearly related.

Another “automatic” chess opening might be called the “Queen’s Indian” formation:

We can play Nf3, Be2, 0-0 and then push a pawn to c4 or d4 as our center play. Again we have a wide choice of follow-up plans, with a safe and solid position. Here White is playing the “Larsen Attack” and Black the “English Defense” but again the opening concepts have much in common.

It is interesting that both chess opening systems described above can lead to the “Hippopotamus Opening”, in which we redirect our King’s Knight to the e2-square:

We might plan a c-pawn push followed by Qc2, and we’re practically in the middlegame already.

Each of these chess opening “systems” pass muster – that is, we exit the opening quickly and in good order with either White or Black. It must be understood, however, that these chess openings are essentially counter-punching strategies; the enemy is free to grab the chess board’s center while we ponder how to strike back or die. This pleasure is paid for by creeping around on the first three ranks and not attacking or threatening anything. A sophisticated proposition, perhaps, for the beginner or novice at chess. But we are at least getting our chess pieces organized, and can trust to win the game with our superior new skills in middlegame chess strategy and endgame play.

The “universal” chess openings just described, playable for both White and Black, are certainly worth a look. No other plans of development fit the bill, although some chess openings come close. Bird’s Opening with 1.f4 is typical, and can be played with White or Black (the Dutch Defense) equally in all cases – except, that is, when we’re Black and White has played 1.e4 on his first move. Another near miss is 1.Nf3 and 1…Nf6 against anything, which we reject because 1.e4 Nf6 is Alekhine’s Defense and 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 leads to a crush of Grandmaster chess opening theory.

But there is another chess opening that can be played with White or Black, one that offers more piece activity than we’ve seen yet, and one that applies more directly to the “standard” openings we’ll want to learn later. Next time let’s examine ChessCentral’s favorite opening system for beginner and novice chess players!

Mining Chess Databases, Part 4

Let’s summarize: we now have the best possible Center Game chess database, but there’s no convenient way to sort through these 10 or 11 thousand chess games. To be clear, the assumption all along is that our game collection is in ChessBase format and that we’re using chess software like Fritz to manage these games. Other good software is available, of course, and it’s also quite possible to get as far as we’ve come without spending a dime. Free chess software is readily available; just get on the phone and call the Internet!

Returning to our 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Qxd4 Center Game chess database, we know from last time that an Openings Key is a good thing. Lest we miss any chance to exploit the mining metaphore, think of Openings Keys as mine cars on tracks, bringing your gold topside. We’re not going to cover transferring or copying keys from one database to another, or anything very technical at all – the Chess Exchange is available for hard core information of all kinds. It should be pointed out, however, that using Fritz (or the fancier ChessBase program) makes it possible to create an Openings Key from scratch.

That’s exactly what we should do, by the way. We want to know each crag, pocket and drift of our chess mine and building an Openings Key is excellent survey work. Once your key is in place, then you’ve graduated from a tin pan chess prospector to a full-fledged junior producer! Another short series on making your own custom Openings Key is in the offing, but for now let’s take a typical shortcut to jump start operations.

Any commercial chess database worth its salt is going to have a specialized Openings Key already installed. It happens that the Center Game Data Library is available, an unannotated collection costing $7.95 and featuring 3,664 games. Looking closely, we find that this chess database is about 10 years old, but even though we get plenty of chess games not in our brand new collection the main benefit is the chess Openings Key, with its 205 classification positions. This key can be expanded to suit individual needs, as we’ll see in a future series.

At this point, assuming you put your coins on the counter, it’s best to simply copy all the games from the chess database we’ve been creating into the commercial database just purchased. Then once more kill and delete the duplicate chess games, and we find ourselves left with a larger more complete chess database – and the games are sorted into 205 variations! By clicking the “Openings” tab in the Fritz database window we can begin to understand the structure of this old chess opening, what variations are most popular and so forth.

Stay tuned – after a short intermission we’ll backtrack and build our very own chess Openings Key.