Posts Tagged ‘United States chess’

An American in Tromso

August 12, 2014

Sam Shankland is sensational in his Chess Olympiad debut.


After eight rounds against a difficult international field, Grandmaster Sam Shankland of the United States remains undefeated in Tromso, Norway. Those of us from the United States and especially California couldn’t be prouder of our representative at the 41st Chess Olympiad. Below is my personal favorite from Sam’s play and I invite you to enjoy the game while raising a glass to the United States of America’s newest international chess star.


Sam Shankland has a lot to smile about. (photo from:

Sam Shankland has a lot to smile about these days. (photo from:


[Event “41’st Chess Olympiad”]

[Site “Tromso, Norway”]

[Date “2014.8.8”]

[Round “6”]

[White “Guillermo Vazquez”]

[Black “Samuel Shankland”]

[Result “0-1”]

[Eco “B12”]

[Annotator “Chris Torres”]


{[ CARO-KANN,B12]} 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.h4 {Guillermo Vazquez chooses a very aggressive line as white. The idea is to add to his control on the kingside while creating threats against Shankland’s Bishop on f5. Many amateur players have allowed white to trap their bishop with pawn advances to g4, h5, and f3.}

The position after 4. h4

The position after 4. h4


h5 {Of course, there is nothing amateur about GM Sam Shankland’s chess and he chooses the best line to avoid white’s plans.}

5.Bg5 {This early bishop move gives black a nice target on “b7.” Nc3 is a fine alternative here and can be seen in the game below:}

( 5.Nc3 e6 6.Bd3 Bxd3 7.Qxd3 Qb6 8.Bg5 Qa6 9.Qd2 c5 10.Nf3 cxd4

11.Ne2 Nd7 12.O-O Ne7 13.Nexd4 Nc6 14.a4 Nxd4 15.Nxd4 Qb6 16.a5

Qa6 17.c4 Qxc4 18.Rfc1 Qb4 19.Qc2 Nc5 20.a6 Nxa6 21.Rxa6 Qxd4

22.Qc7 Bb4 23.Rxe6+ fxe6 24.Qxg7 Rf8 {…1-0, Zelcic Robert (CRO) 2564  – Bartels Hans A (NED) 2297 , Caorle 1993 It (open)})

Qb6 {Sam Shankland develops with a threat and grabs the initiative. So much for trying to play a peaceful Caro-Kann.}

6.Bd3 {!?} {Guillermo Vazquez is willing to pay the price of a pawn on “b2” or “d4” in order to gain a strong attack. In a sense, he is allowing Sam Shankland to pick his own poison.}

The position after 6. Bd3

The position after 6. Bd3


Qxd4 {Sam chooses the pesto rather than the hemlock.}

( 6…Bxd3 {was Alexei Shirov’s choice in a nice victory over Anand.}

7.Qxd3 Qa6 8.Qf3 e6 9.Ne2 c5 10.c3 Nc6 11.Nd2 Nge7 12.Nb3 cxd4

13.cxd4 Nf5 14.O-O Be7 15.Bxe7 Ncxe7 16.g3 b6 17.Nf4 g6 18.Nh3

O-O 19.Qf4 Qe2 20.Rfd1 Rac8 21.Rd2 Qg4 22.Qxg4 hxg4 23.Ng5 a5

24.f3 Rc4 25.Kf2 Rfc8 26.fxg4 {…0-1, Shirov Alexei (ESP) 2713  – Anand Viswanathan (IND) 2817 , Leon  6/ 5/2011 Match “Leon Masters”}) ( 6…Qxb2 7.Bxf5 Qxa1 8.e6 {Is probably what Guillermo Vazquez was hoping for.})

7.Nf3 {Vazquez develops with a threat and is still hoping Shankland plays Qxb2.}

Qg4 {Sam Shankland avoids his opponent’s plans while simultaneously placing the queen in a very dangerous position for white.}

( 7…Qxb2 8.Bxf5 Qxa1 9.e6 Nh6 10.exf7+ Kxf7 11.Bc8 Na6 12.Bh3

e5 13.O-O Bd6 14.Nfd2 Ng4 15.Bxg4 hxg4 16.Qxg4 Nc5 17.Nb3 Qxa2

18.Qf5+ Kg8 19.Nc3 Qa6 20.Nxc5 Bxc5 21.Qe6+ Kh7 22.h5 Qc4 23.h6

Rhg8 24.Qf5+ Kh8 25.Qh3 g6 26.Bf6+ Kh7 27.Qd7+ {…1-0, Kislinsky Alexey (UKR) 2495  – Krutul Piotr (POL) 1854 , Warsaw 12/16/2006 Ch Europe (active)})

The position after 7... Qg4

The position after 7… Qg4



8.O-O {White’s best move is to castle into danger. Below is fine example of strong play for black had white chosen to play Nc3 instead.}

( 8.Nc3 e6 9.O-O Nd7 10.Bxf5 Qxf5 11.Re1 Be7 12.Nd4 Qg4 13.Qd2

Bc5 14.Nb3 Be7 15.Nd4 Bxg5 16.hxg5 h4 17.f3 Qh5 18.Rad1 Ne7 19.Ne4

O-O 20.Nf2 a6 21.b4 Qh7 22.Ng4 Nf5 23.c4 Rfd8 24.c5 a5 25.bxa5

Nxd4 26.Qxd4 Rxa5 27.Re2 Rxc5 {…0-1, Malykh Yuriy A (RUS) 2140  – Airapetian Gor (RUS) 2451 , Lipetsk  3/28/2010 Ch Region})

Bxd3 {Sam decides to exchange the bishop which lacks scope for his opponent’s most active piece.}

( 8…e6 9.Be2 Qb4 10.c4 Ne7 11.Nc3 dxc4 12.Nd2 b5 13.a4 Nd7 14.axb5 cxb5 15.Nxb5 Nd5 16.Nxc4 Be7 17.Nbd6+ {1-0, Robson Ray (USA) 2466 – Rowley Robert (USA) 2234, Tulsa (USA) 2008.03.30})

9.Qxd3 {Vazquez recaptures while developing rather than attempting to restablish a pawn on “d4” by playing cxd3.}

e6 {Sam Shankland creates a standard Caro-Kann pawn structure in route to playing Be7.}

10.Nbd2 {The knight is better placed here rather than on “c3” because white will want to have the ability to move his c-pawn soon.}

Be7 {Shankland is a solid pawn up but will have to defend accurately in order to achieve victory against Vazquez’s dynamic style.}

11.c4 {Guillermo Vazquez is a very bold chess player.}

The position after 11. c4

The position after 11. c4


11… Bxg5

12.Nxg5 Ne7

13.Qb3 {The real reason behind “11. c4.”}

b6 {Shankland is playing very accurately when it counts the most.}

The position after 13... b6

The position after 13… b6


14.cxd5 cxd5

15.Rac1 Nbc6 {Sam’s defensive skills are exceptional.}

16.f4 {Vazquez is striking furiously on all sides of the board.}

The position after 16. f4

The position after 16. f4


Rc8 {Shankland is performing perfectly under heavy fire.}

17.Qd3 Nf5

18.Ndf3 O-O {Sam Shankland has survived unscathed! Unfortunately for Guillermo Vazquez, his brute-force attacking style has left plenty of holes in his position.}

The position after 18... 0-0

The position after 18… 0-0


19.Nh2 Qg3 {At this point, trading queens is no longer an option for white.}



The position after 20. Qd1

The position after 20. Qd1


20… Nxe5 {!} {Now it is Shankland’s turn to attack.}

21.Rxc8 {if} ( 21.fxe5 {then} Qe3+ 22.Rf2 Rxc1 {!} )

Rxc8 22.fxe5 {There are alternatives for white but they would just elongate the misery.}

Qe3+ {!} {Now Vazquez can either drop a queen, get checkmated or resign. He chooses the latter.}









It’s a Great Time to Play Correspondence Chess in the United States

June 3, 2012

The United States is truly becoming one of the greatest countries in the world of correspondence chess. Our Olympiad team has made the world finals in every Correspondence Chess Olympiad from the thirteenth to the eighteenth in 2012. Since the year 2000, the ICCF has awarded 80 international titles to correspondence chess players living in the United States. Our country is perhaps the only nation to have two ICCF affiliates. One of these affiliates is the Correspondence Chess League of America which has been running rated correspondence chess tournaments since 1897. The other affiliate is the United States Chess Federation which operates its competitions under the guidance of the correspondence director Alex Dunne.

The U.S.C.F. recently opened its own online correspondence chess server and now offers correspondence chess by mail, email and chess server. Alex Dunne does an outstanding of creating playing opportunities that fit the needs of all levels of chess players. Alex also masterfully covers all of the events in his monthly column humorously titled the “Check is in The Mail.” The June 2012 edition of Chess Life magazine even featured correspondence chess master Abe Wilson on its cover.  The USCF is making it very clear that it supports correspondence chess and is doing everything possible for its players.

I strongly encourage those thinking of trying their hand at correspondence chess to consider joining the USCF’s Golden Knights Championship. The Golden Knights is the United States’ Open Correspondence Chess Championship and is a great way for over the board players to get their feet wet in a large pool of strong correspondence players. Below is a game from the finals of the 2006 Golden Knights Chess Championship. I hope it inspires some of my readers to give USCF correspondence chess a try.

For ease of reading, copy the text below and paste it into your favorite chess program.

[Event “2006 Golden Knights Finals”]

[Site “correspondence”]

[Date “2011.01.??”]

[Organization “USCF”]

[White “Torres, Chris F.”]

[Black “Walker, Barry Wood”]

[Result “1-0”]

[WhiteElo “2315”]

[BlackElo “2232”]

[ECO “B01”]

[Opening “Scandinavian”]

[Variation “2…Qxd5, Main Line, 8.Qe2”]

[PlyCount “51”]

1. e4 d5 {Barry Walker chooses the Scandinavian Defense.} 2. exd5 Qxd5 {The other choice for black here is to not capture the pawn but develop the knight to f6 instead.} 3. Nc3 {Develop with threats.} Qa5 {The overwhelming favorite choice among strong players. On a5, the queen will remain active and pin the c3 knight if white chooses to play d4.} 4. d4 {I have access to over 29,000 games where white decided to control the center with this move.} Nf6 {Black has two pieces developed. White has a pawn in the center and one pinned piece in the game.} 5. Nf3 {Once again, I adhere to classical principles and develop a piece.} c6 {Often times, the Scandinavian player ends up with a Caro–Kann (1 e4 c6) pawn structure (pawns on c6 and e6).} 6. Bc4 {Now I have three pieces developed and a pawn in the center.} Bf5 {Black is keeping up on development.} 7. Bd2 {The most logical move. Now my knight is no longer pinned and I have a discovered attack on my opponent’s queen.} e6 {Now black really does have a Caro–Kann style structure.} 8. Ne4 {Supposedly, this is just an alternative to Nd5 with the same basic ideas. However, I use this to start an attack I have been waiting to try in a high-level game.} Qd8 {This is black’s second favorite choice behind Qc7.} 9. Ng3 {The main line here is Nxf6+. White can reach that position by playing 8 Nd5 as well. I have discovered some new attacking resources for white following 9 Ng3.} Bg6 {If black plays Bg4 then white should play c3.} 10. h4 {White wins 74% of the time with this aggressive move.} h6 {This creates the escape square of h7 for the bishop but creates a small weakness for white to attack.} 11. Ne5 {White wins 94% of the time he plays this move.} Bh7 {This is forced.} (11. .. Be7 12. Nxg6 fxg6 13. Qe2 Qd6 14. O-O-O Nbd7 15. Bxe6 {and black is in serious trouble.}) 12. Qe2 Qc7 (12. .. Be7 13. Nxf7 Kxf7 14. Qxe6+ Ke8 15. Nf5 Qd7 16. Nxg7+ {Objectively speaking black is doing all right. However, white is having all the fun.}) 13. Bf4 {This is a new move. Before this game 13 0-0-0 was played twice with one win and one draw. 13 Bf4 is an improvement.} Nd5 {This or Qe7 are the best choices for black.} 14. Nh5 {This is strong tobasco.. The bishop on f4 is now defended which means that my knight on e5 is no longer pinned. Also, now the Ne5 can move and reveal an attack on my opponent’s queen. The knight on h4 is threatening two checks and adds to the complexity of black’s problems.} Nxf4 {The obvious choice to render white’s attack impotent. The only problem is that it doesn’t.} 15. Nxf4 Bd6 {Now black is starting to look ok.} 16. Nxf7 {Bam! Looks can be deceiving.} Qxf7 (16. .. Kxf7 17. Nxe6 Qe7 18. Rh3 {and black is in hot water.}) 17. Nxe6 Qf6 {Qe7 is an improvement. White would castle queenside and still be in the driver’s seat.} 18. Rh3 Nd7 {Black could have tried the exciting 13 … b5.} 19. Rf3 Qxh4 20. O-O-O {The white king is perfectly safe. The black king… not so much.} Nb6 21. Bb3 {Allowing my opponent to trade pieces would weaken my attack.} Qe7 {This defensive manoeuvre takes away my discovered check.} 22. Re1 {But sets up other ideas.} Kd7 {This move nearly saved black’s game.} 23. Rf7 {A good chess player must analyze all checks, captures and threats. Without forcing myself to do this I would have missed this killer tactical combination.} Qxf7 {Pretty much forced.} 24. Nc5+ {The purpose of 23 Rf7 is revealed.} Bxc5 25. Bxf7 Bd6 26. Qg4+ {Barry Walker has had enough and resigned here. Hats off to my friend for a hard-fought game} *

United States G/60 National Chess Championship

October 1, 2011

The Bay Area will be hosting the U.S. G/60 Chess Championship on October First, 2011. It is a rare pleasure to have a U.S.C.F. National Championship located in Northern California and many of my students look forward to this extra opportunity to add to their credentials. Tomorrow, I will report live from the Santa Clara Convention Center with a special emphasis on Northern California’s best chess juniors.

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