Thursday, May 26, 2011

Do not violate the Opening Principles of Chess

Do not violate the Opening Principles of Chess
Susan Polgar
Avalanche Journal

Here are my power principles of chess, something which all beginners and novice players should follow:

1. Control the Center!

The center of the board includes the squares e4, d4, e5, and d5. When you start a game, place your pawns in the center to occupy and control as many of these squares as you can. Location, location, location!

2. Develop Your Pieces as Soon as Possible!

Get your Knights and Bishops out right away. This should be done before you try to checkmate your opponent, some time in the first 6 or 7 moves if possible.

3. Castle as Soon as Possible!

Castle at the very first chance you have in order to keep your king safe. Remember, you can’t win if your king isn’t safe and you get checkmated first. So don’t forget to castle! Then after you castle, connect your rooks by developing your queen.

4. Keep Your Pieces Protected!

Don't leave your pieces hanging without protection. Each and every piece you have is very valuable, so don't forget to protect them. Protecting means if your opponent can take your piece, then you can take your opponent's piece.

5. Have Fun and Win with Grace, Lose with Dignity!

This is my motto in chess. First and foremost, chess should be fun. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, it’s all part of the game. When you win, be a good sport and don’t trash talk or make fun of your opponent. When you lose, be an even better sport and not a sore loser. Shake hands and congratulate your opponent. This will go a long way toward making good friends.

Below is an example to demonstrate what can happen when one does not follow the above principles:

Tarrasch, Siegbert - Mieses, Jacques [C10]
Match Game 3, Berlin 1916

1.d4 e6 2.e4 d5 This is the French Defense.

3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Nf3 Ngf6 6.Bd3 Be7 7.0–0 Nxe4 8.Bxe4 Nf6 9.Bd3 So far, everything seems normal. In this position, Black should castle.

9...b6? This is a critical mistake by Black. One of the key opening rules of thumb is to castle as soon as possible (General Principle #5: Castle Early). Black will pay for this mistake. We shall see how White will take advantage of this.

10.Ne5! Black is facing serious problems. If Black develops the Bishop to b7, White will play Bb5+ and Black will lose the right to castle. Now, Black realizes his mistake and castles immediately. Unfortunately, it is a little too late. Let’s see how White takes advantage of this.

10...0–0 if 10...Bb7 11.Bb5+

11.Nc6 An excellent move! We shall see the purpose of this move shortly.

11...Qd6 if 11...Qd7 12.Qf3 Bb7 13.Nxe7+ Qxe7 14.Qxb7+-; 11...Qe8 This unusual move is probably the best response for Black. 12.Nxe7+ Qxe7 13.Qf3 Rb8 14.Qg3 White has a strong positional advantage with the pair of bishops and the queen aiming at Black's Kingside.

12.Qf3! Another excellent move! White is threatening a winning discovery (Discovered Attack) with Nxe7+ (uncovering the attack by the white queen on f3 against the undefended black rook at a8.)

12...Bd7 The only move. 12...Bb7 13.Nxe7+ Qxe7 14.Qxb7 and Black would be behind a piece.

13.Nxe7+ Why does White exchange a good, active knight for a bad black bishop? This is a very important question since you would not want to trade a good piece for a bad piece without a good reason. In this case, White sees a deadly pin potential in the next move. That is why he is willing to trade.

13...Qxe7 14.Bg5! Threatening 15.Qe4! Nxe4 16.Bxe7. Black has no way of getting out of this pin.

14...Rac8 15.Rfe1 Bringing another important piece into action! Remember, you would need to utilize all your pieces to achieve a winning attack. 15.Qe4 would be less accurate for White. 15...Nxe4 16.Bxe7 Rfe8 17.Bxe4 Rxe7 +=

15...Rfe8 if 15...c5 16.Qh3 h6 17.Bxh6 gxh6 (17...c4 18.Bxg7 Kxg7 19.Qg3+ Kh8 20.Qh4+ Kg7 21.Qg5+ Kh8 22.Qh6+ Kg8 23.Re5) 18.Qxh6 cxd4 19.Qg5+ (19.Re5? Rc5) 19...Kh8 20.Re4 and Black must give up his queen to avoid the mate.

16.Qh3! This move creates another threat. Because of the pin of the knight, the h7-pawn is now vulnerable. White combines pressure against the h7-pawn from the queen at h3 and the bishop at d3; meanwhile the white bishop at g5 threatens to trade off the only black piece protecting h7, the f6-knight.

16...Qd6? Black's position is very bad. This move just makes it even worse. 16...h6 17.Bxh6 gxh6 18.Qxh6 Qf8 19.Qxf6; 16...g6 17.Qh4 Kg7 18.Re4!; 16...e5 17.Bxf6 Bxh3 (17...Qxf6 18.Qxd7; 17...gxf6 18.Qxh7+ Kf8 19.Qh8#) 18.Bxe7 Rxe7 19.gxh3; 16...c5 17.Bxh7+ Kf8 18.Be4 Kg8

17.Bxf6 Eliminating the piece that protects the h7-pawn.

17...gxf6 18.Qh6! Black is hoping to create an escape for the king to f8 then e7. White wisely cuts the king off. This is another important move to learn. When you are on the offensive, do not let your opponent off the hook.

18...f5 if 18...Qxd4 19.Bxh7+ Kh8 20.Bg6+ Kg8 21.Qh7+ Kf8 22.Qxf7#

19.Re3 Bringing the rook into action and sacrificing the d4-pawn. In the meantime, Black's pieces are not coordinated to defend the king.

19...Qxd4 if 19...f6 20.Rg3+ Kf7 21.Qg7#; 19...Kh8 20.Rh3 Kg8 21.Rg3+

20.c3 Attacking the queen. The black queen will soon run out of squares to stay on from which it can continue to defend the g7 square. I prefer 20.Rg3+ a little more since it attacks the king immediately. 20...Kh8 Now I would play 21.c3 transposing to what would have happened in the game. 21...Qe5 22.f4 The queen now has no squares to move onto to continue defending g7.
Black resigns since the position is completely hopeless.



So what have we learned in this game?

1. Do not violate the Opening Principles of Chess. Make sure to castle as soon as possible; Black did not do so on move nine - and paid the price later on.

2. When you are attacking, make sure to utilize your pieces. By bringing the rook into the action, White created a winning attack.

Chess Summer Camp at Texas Tech University

July 11-15, 2011

Learn chess from world champion Susan Polgar and her team. Beginners to advanced K-12 players welcome. Campers will practice writing and computer skills. Sports and other activities offered.

* Commuter Plan: $295/week
Check-in Monday 8 am – 9 am. Camp hours are 9 am – 5:00 pm daily Monday – Thursday. Camp ends at 3pm on Friday. Lunch and snacks included.

* Residential Plan: $595/week
Arrive Sunday 7/10 between 6pm – 9pm. Dorm lodging and all meals are included, including dinner on Sunday through lunch on Friday.

Camp ends at 3pm on Friday. Residential plan is based on double occupancy. Grades 5 - 12 only. Very limited space!

Residential plan registration closes June 6, 2011.

See, email, or call (806) 742-7742.

Queen of the King's game

Queen of the King's game
by Nancy Ruhling
Originally published in Lifestyles Magazine in 2006

Grandmaster Susan Polgar settles herself into the folding chair on the makeshift podium, folds her arms demurely in front of her and trains her enormous coffee-brown eyes on the green and white chessboard before her. She lost the coin toss to her opponent, Hall of Famer Lev Alburt, so he, as white, will be making the first move in the 4th annual Chess-in-the-Parks Rapid Open in New York City's Central Park.

Polgar, the No. 1 ranked player in the United States and the No. 2 player in the world, earned her first checkmate when she was only 41/2 and since then has played against all the big names—Bobby Fischer, Boris Spassky, Garry Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov—but this is no ordinary game and this is certainly no ordinary venue.

As Polgar and Alburt make their moves, the results are bellowed out via microphone and 32 hyper grade-schoolers, posing as chessmen, mimic the players' maneuvers on a life-size chessboard beneath the park's angel-topped Bethesda Fountain. The object of this demonstration is not so much to win or lose but to show children how much fun the game of chess really can be.

As the clock ticks, the gray sky is spitting rain, the security guards are squealing into their squawkers, the live chess pieces are bopping up and down like Mexican jumping beans, the trumpeter is punctuating each move by playing a peppy phrase and the fans are calling out advice—“Take a bishop, why doesn't she take a bishop!” Then someone trips and tips over the empty chair next to Polgar. She doesn't so much as blink. Her rapt concentration wavers only once, when a little voice yells out a big shout of “Mommy! Mommy!” Reflexively, Polgar, the mother of two little sons, glances to the side.

An hour later, amid all the noise, nuisance and nonsense, the game ends: It's a tie. As the live chessmen boogie off the board, Polgar stands tall in her black stilettos and puts her hand on her forehead as if the motion alone will clear her mind and get her to concentrate on her next move, which is right into the crowd to greet all her fans.

“Chess is in many ways like life itself,” she says. “It's all condensed in a playful manner in a game format and it's extremely fascinating because first of all I'm in control of my own destiny, I'm in charge. You have to be responsible for your actions, you make a move, you had better think ahead about what's going to happen, not after it happens, because then it's too late. Chess teaches discipline from a very early age. It teaches you to have a plan and to plan ahead. If you do that, you'll be rewarded; if you break the rules, you will get punished—in life and in chess. You need to learn the rules to break the rules.”

Learning the game of chess, she says, gave her a head start on the game of life, and that's why she has been devoting her life to being an advocate and an ambassador for chess, all with the goal of making chess as all-American as Mom, apple pie and baseball. In addition to participating in events like the live chess game, she has established the Polgar Chess Center in Forest Hills, New York, where she teaches students and hosts major chess events, and has set up the Susan Polgar Foundation, a nonprofit organization to introduce the social, educational and competitive benefits to American youngsters, especially girls.

“Chess is very good to teach children because it's a very playful game,” she says. “Once you understand a little bit about chess, you can really see the beauty in it like in art or in music.”

It is that beauty that taught her to focus, to concentrate and to be disciplined enough to play and win, even when the odds were stacked against her. As a woman and a Jew growing up in Hungary, she faced discrimination on two levels. Chess was, and for the most part still is, a man's game, and it was she who was the first to break through the gender barrier. While her early wins made her a curiosity in her own country, they only brought her awards and acclaim, not acceptance. “The antisemitism was more subtle,” the 35-year-old Polgar says, adding that all of her grandparents are Holocaust survivors. “The woman problem was more open. Even though by 1984, when I was 15, I was the top-ranked woman in the world, my real breakthrough didn't come until 1988, when for the first time ever, my two younger sisters, Sofia and Judit, and I won the gold medal in the World Chess Olympiad for Hungary. This was the first time any country had ever won over the Soviets. The government started applauding us, and we became national heroes.”

The win made her the Michael Jordan of the chess world. Even today she is a household name in Hungary, and when she visits her homeland, fans stop her on the street and ask for her autograph. By the time her reputation was established, she was besting the male masters. “They were disappointed to lose,” she says, “but they weren't disappointed because I was a woman but simply because they lost.”

Polgar went on to win nine other Olympic medals, along with a slew of other honors, including being named Women's World Champion four times, that have allowed her to remain ranked among the top three female players for the last two decades. Her most recent victory took place in October 2004, when she and the U.S. team brought home America's first-ever medal for the women's competition—the silver—in the 36th World Chess Olympiad that was played in Calvia, Spain. In that competition, she further distinguished herself by bringing home two gold medals—one for best overall performance and one for the most points scored in the entire Women's Olympiad —and a silver for racking up the second-best percentage.

Since the birth of her sons—Tom is 5 and Leeam is 4—Polgar has devoted herself to promoting, not playing chess. Indeed, the 2004 Olympiad was her first international tournament in eight years.

“Now I concentrate on revolutionizing the game and bringing it to the next level of popularity,” she says.

(Sofia, who lives in Israel, stopped playing when she was ranked No. 6 in the world but still ranks in the top 20; Judit, who replaced Susan as No. 1, has been inactive recently because she had a baby.)

It was her father who taught Susan chess and it was she who got Judit and Sofia into the game. “He was a chess fan and wanted to have an opponent,” she says. “But he was never a professional player, and he never even owned a book on chess until we started playing together.”

Polgar, who was homeschooled, was introduced to the game at 4 and her first win, a perfect 10-0 score in the girls-under-11 championship in Budapest, turned her into a media sensation. By age 10, she was beating her father at his own game. By age 15, she was the No. 1 female player in the world.

When she was ready to enter college, Polgar could say “Checkmate!” in seven languages—Hungarian, English, German, Russian, Spanish, Hebrew and Esperanto—and decided to major in physical education and sports teaching, taking a special degree in chess at the Academy of Physical Sports and Education in Minsk, Belarussia.

Her victories and “firsts” have been steady throughout her career. The only world champion, male or female, to win the triple crown—rapid, blitz and traditional world championships—she also is the first woman to win the U.S. Open Blitz Championship; the first woman to win the Grandmaster of the Year Award; the first woman to break the gender barrier to earn the Men's Grandmaster title, and the first woman to qualify for the Men's World Championship.

The award-winning, best-selling author and columnist also is a three-time winner of the Chess Oscar.

What is Polgar's winning combination? There is a lot more to it than merely making the right moves at the right time, she says. Before the game even begins, Polgar does extensive study and research on her opponent's previous games and on overall strategies. “I have to set my mind so that I get the proper sleep. I have to be organized and really focused for the hours that it takes to play the game,” she says. “I also work on improving my endurance by going to the gym. It can take seven to eight hours for one game in top competitions, and it's very tense.”

Although chess is popular in Europe, in America it is considered intellectual, difficult and worst of all, boring. “It's not any of those things,” Polgar insists. “In Europe, you can make a living playing chess. In the United States, you can't. I hope to improve the image of chess and the life of professional players. I could teach you in an hour all the basics. You have to understand the rules and the logic. After that, it's all a matter of practice.”

To prove her point, she has written a number of books, including Teach Yourself Chess in 24 Hours and The World Champion's Guide to Chess, which will be published in March 2005.

Some 45 million people in the United States spend time moving black and white kings and queens from square to square on chessboards and some 200,000 children in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have learned to cheerfully declare “Checkmate,” but only a few schools teach it. “In Europe, there are over 30 countries that use it in the school curriculum,” Polgar says. “I'm trying to get U.S. schools to use chess as a tool nationwide. Unlike a lot of other sports like baseball and football, it's very affordable. You can buy a chess set for $10, and two people can play, and it can be used over and over for years.”

What's more, playing chess helps children develop critical thinking that is useful not only in the game but also in academics, social situations and life in general, she adds. “Test scores improved by 17.3% for students regularly engaged in chess classes, compared with only 4.6% for children participating in other forms of enriched activities,” Polgar notes. “Chess has been shown to develop decision-making, critical thinking, logical thinking, evaluating, planning, problem solving and perseverance skills. It improves concentration, memory, intuition and self-control and promotes independence, imagination and creativity. And it inspires self-motivation, self-esteem and self-confidence. And this is why I am working very hard to raise money for my foundation. I want to be able to help all children in America do better in school and life through chess.”

Indeed, Polgar dreams of making chess so popular that it competes with other sports, like tennis, baseball and football. “We hope to get many more colleges to start offering scholarships for chess,” she says. “And we are working to promote chess as a grassroots movement in some of the smaller cities.”

Once the potential of chess is understood, there will be an explosion of interest, Polgar says. “In terms of popularity, it's still in its infancy,” she maintains. “The whole boom in professional chess will create a whole chain reaction that can revolutionize the game and influence society in a positive way.”

That's why Polgar wants to put a chess piece in the hand of every child in America and to bring the game to life just as the Central Park demonstration did. As part of that effort, she is working on a concept for an educational and entertaining television show that would introduce children to chess.

“I found my first chess set when I was looking in the closet at home for a new toy,” Polgar relates. “I originally was attracted to the shape of the figures. Later, it was the logic that fascinated me and the challenge. When I won with my first perfect score, it gave me self-confidence. And I can see the difference in my own sons; they are more focused, they are more disciplined.”

As Polgar is leaving Central Park, yet another young awestruck fan approaches and asks for an autograph. While she's signing, another fan from across the courtyard points her out to a companion, and in an I-can't-believe-it-tone, exclaims, “Wow! That's Susan Polgar!”


Monday, May 23, 2011

Little Known Feminist

This article was actually published shortly before I moved to Texas to run Texas Tech SPICE

Susan Polgar: Little Known Feminist Icon

The woman I met two years ago at the Congress of Racial Equality's annual Martin Luther King gala certainly deserves to be a feminist icon. Yet when I checked the Web site of the National Organization for Women for anything on Susan Polgar, I found nothing. Instead, the Web site promptly spit back, "Do you mean Susan Pleasure?" Surely a woman who had broken the gender barrier time and time again and had developed a foundation for young girls that would improve their self-esteem and assuredness deserved some notice by this women's group. Alas, Ms. Polgar's achievements are in the male dominated world of chess — that great game of cerebral excellence and strategy — not politically correct issues.

On June 25 the city hosted the highest-rated round robin chess competition in America's history — the Mayor's Cup. In spite of Ms. Polgar's stellar record of four World Women's Championships, five Olympic gold medals, and Grandmaster status, the Hungarian-American mother from Queens went into this event under low expectations.

I asked her about the difficulty of the event. She said, "Before the event, I was unsure of my performance because it is incredibly hard to combine being the organizer of the event, a devoted chess mom, and being one of the players at the same time. This is a very big handicap. In addition, there was a lot of pressure being the only woman in the highest rated ever chess tournament in U.S. history. If I do well, it is a big boost for women's chess in America. However, there are many critics who were just waiting for me to fail so they can say that a woman has no business competing against top-level male players."

What little I know about the world of chess has been derived from headlines about the eccentricity of Bobby Fischer and feature films of other child prodigies. Historically, chess champions are also predominantly male Europeans. I also know that Ms. Polgar competed in other events playing simultaneous opponents and scored a spectacular win record (see How did she do, I asked? She told me, "I was the lowest rated player in this tournament. Many people said the odds of me winning this tournament is like the odds of winning the lottery. Many believed that I would finish in last place by a significant margin. I gave it my best shot and I was one half point away from winning the strongest tournament in U.S. history."

Ms. Polgar competed against Grandmaster Ildar Ibragimov, Grandmaster Alexander Stri and the reigning U.S.Champion Grandmaster Alexander Onischuk for the first time. She finished ahead of them both. Gata Kamsky, now ranked no. 1 U.S. male, won the competition.

Raise your hand if you've never heard of Ms. Polgar but have heard of Annika Sorenstam's failed attempt to qualify for the PGA tournament. Yet Ms. Polgar's demolishment of gender barriers in the last 25 years has actually reduced the chauvinism in chess competition.

Speaking of her battles, she said, "One of the most painful experiences was in 1986. I was the first woman in history to qualify for the ‘Men's' World Chess Championship but I wasn't allowed to compete. The official reason was I am a woman and no woman is allowed. Luckily by the end of that same year, because of my case, the International Chess Federation changed the rule by deleting the word ‘Men's' from the name of the event. Since then women, if they qualify, can compete for the overall world title. I have stood up for the rights of women chess players around the world in the past three decades and I will not give up until we have the same rights and conditions as our male counterparts."

Ms. Polgar started playing when she was just 4 years old and soon won the championship of Budapest in her native Hungary with a perfect score (10–0). She was a hyperactive child who discovered that chess enabled her to focus for hours. Why not chess instead of Ritalin, I asked? Susan agreed that chess is certainly more fun than medication and added, "I strongly believe that chess can help all children educationally and chess will give them many incredible benefits throughout their lives. This is even more important for girls as it can help enhance their self-confidence and self-esteem."

The women I truly admire are those who face enormous wrath for telling the truth, as Phyllis Chesler did when she spoke of the feminist hypocrisy ignoring the plight of battered Islamic women; and women like Susan Polgar who break down gender barriers without demanding that they be altered or lowered.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Dedicated Practice

Bonner County teen masters chess

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 10:00 am

SANDPOINT — Savanna Naccarato formulates her strategy and carries out her moves in a split second.

Across the table, her father Chris, no slouch at chess himself, struggles to keep up. The effort is mostly for show — within minutes, he’s prolonging a lost game.

“Are you sure you want to do that?” Savanna asks on his final move before checkmating him.

This wasn’t always the case. Only a few years ago, Savanna’s father was the one dolling out defeats.

“Dad got the chess set, but he didn’t have anyone to play,” she said. “We kept playing and playing with me getting more and more frustrated every time I lost.”

But instead of calling it quits, Savanna turned to dedicated practice. All that work paid off. Now 13 years old, Savanna trains under some of the nation’s most respected chess masters, and by their estimation, she is one of the best female players in the country.

Although she has obtained that status in only a few years, Savanna has put a lot of work into her game. And she started out small, training on computer programs. Before long, she entered her first tournament at age nine.

“I lost miserably, but I started looking at other people’s moves,” she said.

Around that time, she started becoming a formidable opponent for her father. The defeats in her early days of chess slowly reversed until Naccarato could no longer beat her. Savanna’s second attempt at a chess tournament landed her in fifth place.

“Every tournament has been a steady progression up,” Naccarato said. “She just started going and going and going, trying to take it to next level.”

When Naccarato realized that his daughter possessed an exceptional talent for the game, he began seeking coaches to help Savanna hone her skills. While she played against local chess enthusiasts, Naccarato eventually found Savanna mentors in some of the Northwest’s most accomplished masters.

Boise instructor Daniel Vellotti has had the most experience training her.

“Outside of my family, Savanna ranks in the top two most talented players I’ve ever worked with,” Vellotti, who estimates that he’s coached more than 10,500 students, said. “There is a list of the top 100 players in America, and I think she has a chance to break into that list very soon.”

When she first started training with him, Vellotti said that she was already a strong chess player.

“She had a good grasp of the fundamentals and was ready for the next step,” he said.

Vellotti also helped incentivize Savanna’s training by sending her small rewards for consistent practice and significant accomplishments.

“At one point, I sent her some ring pops and told her, ‘You can have these after you beat an opponent with a rating of 2,000 or higher,’” he said.

In a model that she would follow with other expert trainers, Savanna and Vellotti practiced primarily over the phone and Internet. Using chess computer programs, the two analyze various tactics and strategies while conversing over speaker phone.

“When she plays with masters, they see things that are completely lost on me,” Naccarato said. “It’s kind of like a joke that everyone gets except for you.”

As a player, Savanna is characterized by a notably aggressive style that relies on strategy to gut opponents later in the game.

“I always find myself attacking the king’s side,” she said. “I’ve been criticized for that because I’m not always thinking about my own king’s safety.”

She also has a remarkable capacity for forward-thinking — testing revealed that she planning between seven and 20 moves ahead at any given point of the game.

Seattle master John Graves, who has trained Savanna for three months, said her style was quite similar to his own. He’s even taught her some tricks to capitalize on her aggressive style.

“Savanna can basically take this as far as she wants to go,” Graves said. “If you love chess, there’s a spark that occurs as you learn new concepts, and she definitely has that spark.”

Savanna certainly seems keen on pursuing chess as far as it will take her. She practices constantly regardless of tournament scheduling. While she’s put a lot of hard work into her game, it helps that chess is also a great source of fun for her.

“The best thing about chess is that no game is the same,” she said. “Every move is a mystery.”

For being a nightmare on the chessboard, Savanna is remarkably understated. Quiet, well-spoken and humble, she eviscerates her opponents in the most pleasant way possible.

“She’s extremely polite and smiles, but then she rips you hard on the board,” said Naccarato, who hasn’t beaten his daughter in three years. “I know from experience.”

Outside of chess, Savanna is a normal young teenager. Whenever she collects prize money in chess tournaments, her first stop is J.C. Penney. The oldest of the three Naccarato kids, she’s had a strong influence on her siblings. Her 10-year-old brother Garrett has won four chess tournaments himself, while two-year-old Adaline already knows all her chess pieces.

Thus far, Savanna has won 19 trophies and four medals. In February, the Idaho Forest Group sponsored her at the 2011 Idaho Scholarship Girls Championship, where she ranked in a three-way tie for first place.

Although she isn’t even in high school yet, Savanna has big plans for her future.

“I’m hoping to use chess to get a scholarship so I can go to a good school,” she said.

Her ambitions don’t stop at education. Savanna hopes to become Idaho’s first female grandmaster, an outcome that her trainers said they can easily envision.

In the short term, however, Savanna has been invited to represent Idaho at the Susan Polgar National Invitational For Girls in Texas. The Naccaratos are hoping to secure sponsorship from a local business or organization to help with the traveling costs. As for her chances in the tournament, Savanna is keeping her expectations grounded.

“There will be girls there that have been playing much longer than I have,” she said. “Even if I win just one game, I’ll be pleased.”

And her instructors? They’re betting a little more ambitiously.

“I wouldn’t put it past her to beat all of them,” Vellotti said.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

One man against the chess world

'Bobby Fischer Against the World' Premieres 6/6 on HBO

Tuesday, May 17, 2011; Posted: 07:05 PM - by BWW News Desk

In 1958, 14-year-old Robert James "Bobby" Fischer stunned the chess world by becoming the youngest grandmaster in history, launching a career that would make him a legend. Over the next decade and a half, his breathtaking rise to the top of the game riveted the world and inspired an international chess phenomenon. Then, at the apex of his success, Fischer disappeared from the public eye.

The revealing documentary BOBBY FISCHER AGAINST THE WORLD, debuting MONDAY, JUNE 6 (9:00-10:45 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO, chronicles the chess master's meteoric rise, culminating in the historic 1972 match against Boris Spassky in Iceland, as well as his shocking withdrawal from competition and the paranoia that derailed his life. The film was a 2011 Sundance Film Festival selection.

Other HBO playdates: June 6 (4:25 a.m.), 9 (2:45 p.m.), 11 (12:30 p.m.), 14 (4:00 p.m., 12:30 a.m.) and 19 (2:45 p.m.)

HBO2 playdate: June 8 (9:00 p.m.)

Beginning with BOBBY FISCHER AGAINST THE WORLD, HBO Documentary Films presents another weekly series this summer, debuting a provocative new special every Monday through Aug. 15. Other June films include: "A Matter of Taste: Serving Up Paul Liebrandt" (June 13); "Sex Crimes Unit" (June 20); and "Hot Coffee" (June 27).

Directed by Liz Garbus (the Oscar(R)-nominated "The Farm: Angola, USA"; HBO's Emmy(R)-winning "Ghosts of Abu Ghraib"), BOBBY FISCHER AGAINST THE WORLD explores the complex life of the troubled genius whose charisma and talent spurred a worldwide fascination with the "game of kings." Fischer's evolution from childhood chess prodigy to global superstar, angry recluse and, finally, fugitive from the law is a spellbinding story of the making and unmaking of an American icon.

Raised in a modest Brooklyn apartment, he overcame an unconventional and difficult childhood, learning to play chess at age six. While his brilliant but distracted single mother, Regina, was pursuing her passion for Communist politics, the eight-year-old Fischer was regularly playing, and beating, more experienced adults.

"Chess is like my alter ego," Fischer once told a journalist. As he rose in the ranks of the game, his obsession with winning and lack of social finesse led others to call him a prima donna, eccentric, paranoid, even "the most arrogant man in the world," but no one could argue with his supremacy at the table.

Providing an unprecedented look at the man behind the headlines, the film weaves together news clips dating from the 1950s to the 2000s, photographs, letters - many never made public before - and exclusive interviews with friends, fans and colleagues. Interviewees include: chess champions Gary Kasparov, Susan Polgar, Larry Evans and Dr. Anthony Saidy; authors David Edmonds and Malcolm Gladwell; talk-show host Dick Cavett; Paul Marshall, Fischer's personal attorney; Harry Sneider, his trainer; and photojournalist Harry Benson, who was granted unfettered access to Fischer during his training for the 1972 championship, as well as during the competition. Garbus also draws on a wealth of archival footage, along with never-before-seen photographs by Benson, to create a searing portrait of a brilliant but elusive man whose life was shattered by obsession and mental instability.

BOBBY FISCHER AGAINST THE WORLD spotlights the thrilling 1972 world championship match between Fischer and Boris Spassky. Breaking down the historic tournament game by game, Garbus deftly highlights the parallels between the 21-game marathon and the tense geopolitics of the Cold War era, with the eccentric Brooklyn Boy facing the brilliant Soviet-sponsored grandmaster. Televised throughout the world, the competition was held in Reykjavik, Iceland and became a focal point of the U.S. and Soviet Cold War tensions, which at one point required the intervention of national security advisor Henry Kissinger. As Kissinger explains, "The Soviets had been winning these tournaments and I thought it would be good for America, for democracy, to have an American win."

Garbus also documents his later years, which were marked by disastrous choices and bizarre behavior. The reclusive Fischer's triumph over Spassky transformed him into the most famous man of his day, to his chagrin. In 1975, he refused to defend his championship against the young Anatoly Karpov, opting to forfeit rather than risk the public humiliation of a loss. He gave up competitive play at the height of his powers and withdrew from public life, occasionally appearing incognito at obscure chess clubs.

Fischer's laser-like focus, ability to anticipate multiple threats and drive to utterly dominate his opponents made him all but unbeatable. But the same qualities that made him a grandmaster poisoned his relationships, skewed his worldview and began to erase the fragile line between genius and madness. Unable to trust and unwilling to bend, Fischer became a fugitive from his own success.

Twenty years later, Fischer's return to professional chess for a rematch against Spassky in Sveti Stefan led to his indictment by the U.S. government for ignoring UN sanctions against Yugoslavia. After Sveti Stefan, he faced ten years in prison in his home country, and spent more than a decade evading arrest. The increasingly isolated, Jewish-born Fischer lashed out at perceived enemies in bizarre anti-Semitic and anti-American rants, driving away his few remaining friends. With his U.S. passport revoked, Iceland was the only country to offer sanctuary to the former superstar, now almost unrecognizable as the man whose early promise and dashing looks helped make chess the most popular board game in the world. In 2008, at age 64, Fischer died in Reykjavik, the site of his greatest triumph. But the legacy of his games remains today.

Two additional featurettes will be available on HBO On Demand.

"The Fight for Fischer's Estate" (seven minutes) tells the story of the many claims to Fischer's two-million-dollar estate, featuring exclusive interviews with Marilyn Young, his Filipino girlfriend, Jinky Young, her daughter, claimed to be Fischer's daughter by Marilyn Young, and Russell Targ, Fischer's American brother-in-law. Also included is archival interview footage of Miyoko Watai, the Japanese woman who claims to be Fischer's wife. Since Fischer's death in 2008, these parties have been fighting for control of the estate. Two years later, after battles in Icelandic courts, his exhumation and subsequent DNA tests finally laid the matter to rest.

"Chess History" (five minutes) explains the origins of the game, its infinite complexity and enduring popularity. The segment features a wealth of unusual archive footage, plus interviews with Garry Kasparov, a respected chess authority and one of the best players of all time; Susan Polgar, a four-time women's world champion and five-time Olympic champion, who provides a brief "lesson" on the various powers of the pieces and basic rules of the game; and noted chess authors David Shenk and David Edmonds.

BOBBY FISCHER AGAINST THE WORLD is directed by Liz Garbus; produced by Stanley Buchthal, Liz Garbus, Rory Kennedy, Matthew Justus; editors, Karen Schmeer & Michael Levine; director of photography, Robert Chappell; original score, Philip Sheppard; executive producers, Dan Cogan, Nick Fraser, Maja Hoffmann, Martin Pieper. For HBO: senior producer, Nancy Abraham; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Questions from parents and coaches

Questions from parents and coaches
May 19, 2011 - 3:56pm
Susan Polgar
Avalanche Journal

1. My son started learning chess about 6 months ago. He is still a novice player. What is the best way for him to improve at chess? (Mary from Atlanta, Ga.)

This is a very good question. One of the most important things to learn is middlegame tactics. Basic endgame is also very important. They are part of the foundation of chess.

What you can do is start with basic middlegame tactics such as: Checkmate in one, fork, pin, skewer, discovery, etc. Slowly increase the level of difficulties from one move to two moves, then three and so on.

In addition, what I recommend is to record the time it takes your son to solve each puzzle. Go back to the same puzzles 2-3 months later and see if he would be able to successfully solve the same puzzles faster than the first time. If he does, it shows that he is able to recognize the important positions and patterns.

The same thing can be done with endgames. Start with checkmate with King and Queen versus King, King and Rook versus King, King and two Rooks versus King, King and two Bishops versus King, etc. Be patient, work on one thing at the time. Don't expect him to be able to solve everything the first time. Make it fun and exciting. Reward him for job well done and give him the encouragement he needs if he makes mistakes. Good luck!

2. Is it good to allow young players to play a lot of Blitz? (Bill from Red Banks, N.J.)

Yes and no. Blitz is good but only with moderation. There are pluses and minuses when it comes to Blitz.

Some of the good things are they get to play more games and gain more experience. It also helps them to think and react quicker. Some of the bad things are they may follow the same bad habits in Blitz in regular games.

My recommendation is to keep blitz at around 25-30% of their chess activities.

3. What is the best age to teach children chess? (Jill from Chicago, Ill.)

This is a very commonly asked question. In my opinion, the best age is anywhere between 4-6 years old, depending on the child. Some kids are more mature faster and can start at 4. Some would be better off at 5 or 6. My children started to learn the rules of chess before they were 5. However, they were not really into chess until many months later.

No matter if it is 4, 5 or 6 years old, you have to make it fun, exciting and motivating for the children. That's the most important thing. If they do not enjoy it, they will not stay with chess.

4. My son is 7 years old. He is rated about 1,000. What is a good opening for him to learn? (Joaquin from Miami, Fla.)

I am not a big fan of spending too much time teaching openings to beginners and novices. In my opinion, one should not spend so much time learning openings until at least 1800 and above. I always try to focus more in middlegames and endgames. I would recommend choosing openings that do not require so much time memorizing the lines and new theories. Therefore, something like the King's Indian Attack or the Colle may be ideal.

5. Do you recommend Internet play? Which is a good Internet chess server? (Mike from Salt Lake City, Utah)

I do. I think the Internet can be very helpful. However, parents do need to make sure to monitor the environment. There are many good servers out there. Each has pluses and minuses. It comes down to personal preference.

Some of the well known servers include: ICC (, Play Chess (, FICS (, Chess (, Chess Cube (, etc.

6. I have two chess playing children at home. My wife and I do not play chess very well. Can chess software help my children? (Vinay from Toronto, Canada)

Absolutely! This is a great thing about chess in the 21st century. There are many chess software out there that can play 2600-3100 level. It is like having a grandmaster at home 24/7.

However, there are things you should be aware of. Chess programs do not understand certain chess position very well even though they are nearly flawless in tactics and combinations. Therefore, you may want to find a local, qualified coach when your children reach a certain level in chess.

7. Which chess software do you recommend? Fritz, Junior, Shredder, Tiger, Chessmaster, Rybka, Stockfish, or Houdini? (B. Castilla from Tampa, Fla.)

To be honest, you can hardly find the difference between them, especially for amateur or hobby chess players. They are all very strong. I think it is just a matter of preference. Chessmaster is just a small notch lower in strength but it compensates with cooler graphics. The strongest would be Houdini, Stockfish, and Rybka. Any of them can be great playing partners.

8. Can you recommend good books on chess tactics? (Anonymous from Brooklyn, N.Y.)

It actually depends on the level of the players. For beginners, I recommend World Champion's Guide to Chess. It has all the most important tactical motifs. The next one up would be Chess Tactics for Champions. I wrote both of these books based on my personal learning and teaching experience of over 30 years. They are also very affordable at only $17.95 each.

9. Should I enter my 6 year old daughter in an all-girls chess tournament? (Judith from Sacramento, Calif.)

Sure. If your daughter is not intimidated playing against boys her age or a little older, let her play in both: mixed tournaments and all-girls. If she has a confidence problem, start her out in all-girls event so she can feel more comfortable with the environment.

10. How do I start a scholastic chess club in my area? (Javier from N.M.)

This is a very good question. You can contact your school to see if you can have an after-school scholastic chess club. This is what many parents have done. It can be done at the cafeteria or library after school. Some parents started a scholastic chess club at a local café, restaurant or book store. If you need further help, you can send me a private email. I may be able to give you a hand with more ideas.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

SPICE Summer Camp

Special custom chess board by

Chess Summer Camp
July 11-15, 2011
Texas Tech University
Lubbock, Texas

Learn chess from world champion Susan Polgar and her team. Beginners to advanced K-12 players welcome.

Campers will practice writing and computer skills. Sports and other activities offered.

• Commuter Plan: $295/week

Check-in Monday 8am-9am. Camp hours are 9am-5:00pm daily Monday - Thursday. Camp ends at 3pm on Friday. Lunch and snacks included.

• Residential Plan: $595/week

Arrive Sunday 7/10 between 6pm - 9pm. Dorm lodging and all meals are included, including dinner on Sunday through lunch on Friday.

Camp ends at 3pm on Friday. Residential plan is based on double occupancy. Grades 5-12 only.

Very limited space!

Residential plan registration closes June 6, 2011.

See, email, or call (806) 742-7742.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Special Chess Giveaway

During the candidates' matches in Kazan, we are giving away thousands of dollars in chess stuff, courtesy from our global friends and partners. Here are just some of the prizes:

* 12 DVDs by (approximately $300)
* 10 Chess books by Russell Enterprises (approximately $200)
* 3 New In Chess intro subscriptions (5 issues - approximately $150)
* 4 6 month ICC memberships (approximately $160)
* 5 Special GLOS Boards by Glosgames (approximately $150)
* 1 12 month Polgar Chess University membership ($100)
* 3 2010 SPICE Cup hand signed posters (Onischuk, So, Almasi, Meier, Robson, Perelshteyn)
* 3 FREE entry to the 2011 Susan Polgar World Open for Boys and Girls (approximately $150)

and much more....

To take part in this chess giveaway promotion, all you have to do is visit and click the "like" button or follow my Twitter account

You can get all the up to date chess daily news and information on facebook by visiting and click the "like" button! You can also click the "like" button above.