Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

Christmas day is a great day for some friendly chess games with family.  I plan to play with all my kids and my wife.  Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Times-News Interviews Us

Chess Enthusiasts Passionate But Low Profile interviewed me, Desmond, Dylan, Erwin Kett, Barry Eacker and Norman Friedman in a lovely article about chess in the Magic Valley.

Here is an excerpt:
“People believe you have to be intelligent to play chess. No, you have to have a lot of common sense and eye for detail,” said Adam Porth, Desmond’s father and the organizer of the chess club at Wood River High School, where he teaches science. He said practice and the ability to recognize patterns is more important than IQ. “The more games you play, the better chess player you can become.”

2010 Western Idaho Open

2010 Western Idaho Open
Clouds, rain, and mist enveloped Boise on Saturday when I arrived at the AmeriTel Inn in the Boise Square on Saturday morning.  Chess tournaments always excite me no matter what the weather.  What kind of games will I be faced with?  Who am I going to play?  Will my games be respectable?  Did I forget anything I will need?  I came alone to this tournament, my kids wanted to go skiing and the high school students were busily preparing for senior project presentations on Monday.  Maybe I will be able to focus more on my games without any distractions?

There were familiar faces greeting me as I entered and I immediately set upon entering birthdays, addresses and e-mails of each player for the new data base.  As Secretary/Treasurer for the ICA, I have found little to do except enhance some of the record keeping for which there is none.  I also printed out some nice board numbers, so we don't have to write the number on a scrap of paper with a sharpie.  Thankfully, the TD already had some numbers printed.  Little things make events special.   I am surprised to find that no records other than who attended a tournament are kept by the organization.  For example, who is a member and who isn't?  I am still sitting on a check from the Southern Idaho Open as there is no address or record for one of the winners.  Nobody knows where to send it.  The tournaments sponsored by the ICA try to keep things simple for players and don't even have them formally sign any forms to participate, but this causes some problems.  Sometimes little things like printed out table numbers, table clothes, number one boards set apart from the rest, and very little house-keeping for players on tournament day add an air of importance for all the players.

Jeff Roland TD, Player, Webmaster Flash!
Jeff Roland is the TD and has become a foundation for the organization through his enthusiasm for Idaho Chess History,  and his "attention to the little details" provide players with trust and competitiveness.  I hope the players of Idaho appreciate his efforts to develop an ICA archive on the web.  He is also trying to post results of  the tournament on the web in real time and also play his games.  His enthusiasm certainly rubs off on those around him.  He is very disappointed that members of our high school group did not come, however, he has limited experience with the way teenagers and children operate.  Enthusiasm for chess is not necessarily "cool" at that age and so interest becomes whimsical and second to friends.  The talent is there but not the study or practice part of Bobby Fischer's revelations.

For the first round  I am paired with Scott Featherston.  He is wheel-chair bound and also has a record-taker, Jamie Lang, with him.  I have played Scott before and he is very solid in the opening and sometimes pulls out moves that surprise me.  It is interesting that I find my thoughts wandering during the game, wondering if Jamie sees something I don't.  Or maybe, does he think I made a move an idiot would make?  I have noticed that I sometimes try to make the best moves to not embarrass myself.  I still am not the most confident player at this level of play.

Kevin Patterson and Gary Hollingsworth
I did not play my best in Round 2 against an ISU college student Gary Hollingsworth.  Gary played a strong game, but I missed an opportunity to earn a piece and take the lead on move 10.  Can you identify what I should have done instead of 10. ..Bxh4?
Answer to move 10:   ..dxe4.  This would have then deflected the knight on f3 and won a piece.  Round 3 produced more drawn positions for everyone in the Reserve section, including me.  I was paired with Carmen Pemsler, a young player in 6th grade.  Her games have improved immensely, whereas I still have not learned to play children solidly.  I play risky and try to use board positions to educate or to determine if they can visualize the possibilities.  I see the right moves and strategies but fail to execute them.  I am too soft.  For example, what should move 8 be?


Answer to move 8:  exd4.  I knew that but I chose not to complete it to see if she would move her bishop.  On move 14, I chose c4 but knew b4 was better.  Suddenly, I was losing pawns and became worried about losing the game!  Don't underestimate your opponents, no matter what their age, gender, or abilities are.  Adding to my cheeky play during round 3, I continued to have fun.  I think tournaments should have cushioned chairs to undermine the juvenile tendencies of adults and kids alike.  Nothing is more distracting than some older gentlemen's flatuation on vinyl or leather chairs in a silent room of mental focus.  Of course, with the silence broken and people's heads turning to and fro, I can't help but turn to Kevin Patterson, who is sitting next to me playing Gary, and whisper, "I adjust."
"I adjust!"
As the day ends, I go Christmas shopping and wander around the stores in sort of a daze.  I am dog-tired and tend to stare at various items, straining to determine the appropriate gift for my niece.  All I see is chess boards!
"The silence can sound like thunder" Bob Dylan
Kevin and I are paired for Round 4 and as I walk into the tournament room, his evil eye is upon me.  "We have drawn once and you have beat me three times [in tournament play]," he says.  "Well I'm going to play the Caro-Kann if you open like you usually do," says I.  Later, he tells me that he spent the evening googling anti-Caro-Kann pages, knowing that was what I was going to do.  The game was almost a big whoops for me because I didn't know how to deal with 3. c4.  I proceeded to get myself in a lot of trouble on the queen-side of the board.  Just a note after 1.e4 c6 2. c4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. cxd5 don't ..Qxd5 and if you do, don't move Qd5 when the knight challenges you!  Fotunately, I was able to draw although I think Kevin could have promoted with a lot of effort.
Is there different way we should pair?
Going into Round 5, the Reserve section had  6 of 9 people vying for 1st place-all with 2.5 pts.!  I was paired with an unrated player that is new to chess and now coaches at-risk high school kids at Borah High School in Boise.  I raised a protest with the pairings as I was in the second place seat in the section and others with 2.5 pts. were paired with rated players.  If every game turned out the way it was supposed to, and I even won my last round game, I would end up in 4th or 5th place position!  As this did not seem right, I suggested repairing to better reflect the positions that each hold in the section.  Jeff refuted this and suggested that the swiss high-low pairings took precedence over ratings or rankings.  I was now on a mission to bring home a full point which I easily did.  Fortunately, the games did not turn out the way they could have and I ended up tying for first place with two others that I did not get to play, Deeban and Katie.  My overall result, no losses, 2 wins and 3 draws.
Katie covers her nose!
After a long day, I stopped at Waremart to get some household essentials and then continued through thick fog, ice, and a cloudy head the two-and-a-half hours to my mountain home in Bellevue.  That night I had a dream in black-and-white.  In the dream, I was trying to find my students so they could get on a bus for a field trip.  They disappeared to their lockers and never came back.  I was searching and stepped into the hallway in front of a herd of elephants.  The largest elephant (a bull) moved a chess piece with his trunk and continued to play me.  When he took my queen, I woke up.  Who was the bull elephant?  Did he win? or was it a draw?

Open Section
##PlayerTownRating12345ScorePrize
1Phil WeylandBoise1864W11W10W5L2W64$150.00
2Randall W. PellamBoise1934W14W15-H-W1D34$150.00
3Katherine Louise AbderhaldenBoise1731L6W16W9W13D2$37.50
4Paul M. JohnsonBoise1993L5W11-H-W7W9$37.50
5Caleb Paul KircherNampa1650W4W8L1L6W133
6Hugh S. MyersBoise1533W3D13-H-W5L13
7Caleb Patrick AbernathyBoise1512D8W18D13L4W153
8Jeffrey T. RolandBoise1724D7L5-H-W17W143
9Paul F. EdvalsonEagle1335D18W12L3W10L4
10Jim StarkBoise1611-X-L1D14L9W16
11Tom R. BoothBoise1567L1L4D16W18-B-
12John WatsonCaldwell1463-H-L9W18-N-W17
13Kurt P. DouglasBoise1693W16D6D7L3L52
14David Wayne StewartPayette1632L2W17D10D15L82
15John B. CarrVictor1755W17L2-H-D14L72
16Rickey D. WeathersBoise1510L13L3D11-B-L10
17Richard Robert AbderhaldenBoise1550L15L14-B-L8L121
18James H. McGarveyBoise1656D9L7L12L11-U-½




U1400 Reserve Section
##PlayerTownRating12345ScorePrize
1Deeban RamalingamBoise1204D4L5W7W8W6$75.00
2Adam PorthBellevue1255W8D6D5D4W9$75.00
3Katie Rae PattersonMeridian956-B-L4W9-H-W7$75.00
4Kevin R. PattersonMeridian1263D1W3D6D2D53
5Carmen PemslerBoise1122-H-W1D2D6D43
6Gary M. HollingsworthPocatello1215W9D2D4D5L1
7Jay L. SimonsonIdaho Falls657-H-L8L1W9L3
8Scott FeatherstonBoise803L2W7-H-L1-U-
9Michael HealyBoiseUnr.L6-B-L3L7L21

More news and results can be found at the Idaho Chess Association.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I won, I won, I won - a major award!

Mongoose Press The WINNER of the weekly contest is...


Well, we have received so many correct answers that we decided to give away two copies of the book this week. (Can't promise that it will ever happen again, don't count on it :)

So, the two winners are:

Adam Porth and Robert Morrison

Thanks for participating and congratulations to the winners. Stay tuned for the next question tomorrow.



It is Anatoly Karpov signing an autograph for Alexandra. (Little did he know that only in 12 years he will playing against her in a tournament!)


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

4-person chess variant

I don't know if I'd recommend this for Christmas!  The star in the middle makes it difficult to figure out how to move through it.  If anybody can share how, I'd appreciate it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Alzheimer's Avoids Chess Players like the Plague

PET scan showing a) distinguishing pieces and b) evaluating a capture
     A report filed in 2003, in the New England Journal of Medicine and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science showed that chess and other brain activities, like crosswords and reading, delays the onset of Alzheimer's Disease, dementia, and other mental illnesses (ABC).
     Alzheimer's Disease is a debilitating disease that affects the elderly and the families that need to care for them.  Pre-senility actually begins in the 40s and 50s and progresses to dementia and total senility, or helplessness (Princeton)
    Alzheimer's Disease is the leading mental illness in elderly and the number of cases is expected to rise sharply in the near future as baby-boomers approach retirement age between 60 - 70 years old. The need to prevent and treat the disease is a priority for medical scientists that will be caring for these people.  Currently, there are 5.3 million people with Alzheimer's Disease in the U.S. and 26 million worldwide.  By 2050, the number will quadruple and nearly 1 in 85 people will be affected (MSnbc).
Neuron affected by Alzheimer's
     Symptoms include memory loss that disrupts daily life, planning and problem solving challenges, time and place confusion, difficulty completing common or routine tasks, speech difficulties, misplacing items, social withdrawl, poor judgement and emotion/mood changes (Alzheimer's Association).  Brains of Alzheimer's patients have plaques and tangles, or a protein build-up between nerve cells and protein build-up inside nerve cells, respectivly (About.com).  Plaques and tangles tend to develop as people age, however, patients with Alzheimer's have many more than average.  


Scientists are at a loss as to what the actual cause is.  About.com reports that age, family history, diet, and lifestyle factors increase the risk.  Recently, Dr. Robert Friedlander, lead scientist of this report suggested television is also a risk factor among other passive brain activities!  Without a specific cause, therapy can only address the symptoms and also delay the onset.
      Chess seems like a treatment that works.  In fact, people over the age of 75 that partake in leisure activities that stimulate the brain were less likely to develop signs of dementia (Healthy Living).  Research shows that chess affects specific areas of the brain and the stimulation will shift with the problems that a chess player faces during the game.  And the game lends itself to a variety of complexities from various patterns to complex calculations that stimulate players' brains.  Dr. Friedlander says that people who don't exercise their gray matter stand a chance of losing brain power when they age.
Interview with Shenk on Chess and Alzheimer's (click to go to video)
     A five year study with 488 participants showed that involvement in at least 11 mind exercising activities per week versus a control group that engaged in 4 or less activities per week, delayed by 1.3 years (Dr. Charles B. Hall, PhD, author of the study and Saul R. Korep Department of Neurology professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine).  A further analysis demonstrated those that played only games reduced their risk by 75% and those that played musical instruments reduced theirs by 64%.   Crossword puzzle enthusiasts get a 38% lowered risk.  
     Scientists are still at a loss to determine the actual cause of Alzheimer's Disease but with nearly 100 million future Alzheimer's victims in development, we best start writing prescriptions for chess sets for Christmas.


Of course, you can support the WRHS Chess Club by purchasing one of ours and help us get to a national tournament.


From the June 19, 2003 New England Journal of Medicine:

Use It or Lose It — Do Effortful Mental Activities Protect against
Dementia?
Joseph T. Coyle, M.D.

Chess Magic Trick

Embedding is disabled on this video so a link is provided.  Derren Brown plays 9 top players including some grandmasters and wins half his games.  I am sure you will appreciate it.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evZmpsl3jI0&feature=grec_index