Archive for the ‘New York Knights’ Category

Deadest Draw But Knights Finally Rally

October 4, 2007

It doesn’t get any more drawish in chess than two lone kings. This is the position in which Hikaru Nakamura, playing Board 1 for the New York Knights, finally agreed to a cessation of hostilities with grandmaster Gregory Serper of the Seattle Sluggers. They could have called it quits earlier, but the feisty Nakamura, fresh from a satisfying first-place finish in this past weekend’s Miami Open, always tries to squeeze the juice out of any position even when there is not a drop of juice to be had.

The funny thing about the final position is that it is impossible to lose, even for someone entirely new to the game. You could draw this, dear reader, even if you don’t know how to play chess. So feel good about yourself for being able to hold your own in this position against the hottest and most aggressive young player on the U.S. chess scene.

Last night, the New York Knights finally won their first match in the U.S. Chess League. They whupped Seattle 3-1, with international masters Irina Krush and Jay Bonin scoring easy wins and Irina Zenyuk joining Hikaru in drawing.

The Knightmare Continues

September 18, 2007

Last night, the New York Knightsa powerhouse team on paperstruggled again and couldn’t extricate themselves from their calamitous four-round slump in the U.S. Chess League. They lamely drew with the Boston Blitz. Hikaru Nakamura, the most exciting young player in American chess, couldn’t score a win in his second appearance as a Knight on Board One. At least the nineteen-year-old phenom didn’t lose, as he did last week. But his position against Boston’s Larry Christiansen looked dicey for awhile and Hikaru’s teammates were afraid that he was going down.

Hikaru’s numerous fans on the Internet love his aggression but they are waiting for him to temper it with strategic vision. There was disapproving chatter about why he made most of his moves so incredibly fast as if he were playing bullet (one-minute chess). One grandmaster who was observing the game said, “Hikaru plays at the speed of light and wonders why he almost loses. I think he’ll get less cocky if he continues to do badly.”

Manager Irina Krush was in Gmunden, Austria, yesterday for a women’s blitz tournament that’s being staged concurrently with the World Senior Open. (Originally the women players were supposed to participate in a wear-what-you-want fashion show for the entertainment of the geriatric men, but fortunately someone scuttled that sexist idea.) With Irina away, the job of motivating the New York Knights fell on her husband and assistant manager Pascal Charbonneau.

When I interviewed Pascal for King’s Gambit, we spoke at length about how hard it was for them to play in a tournament together and both do well. If he’s doing well and she’s not, he can’t just channel all his energy into continuing his winning ways, but also must try to buck her upand vice versa, if she’s doing well and he’s not.

Team play together is a bit different because there is a week between rounds and thus more time to recover from a brutal loss. I was struck, though, by how in the first round they made nearly consecutive blunders, as if they were wired too much into each other’s play. Last night, for whatever reason, Pascal seemed to be able to focus fully on his game against his old college chess teammate, fellow grandmaster Eugene Perelshtyen. “I was not happy to give up all my pawns in the endgame,” Pascal told me, but he succeeded in weaving a satisfying, Internet-crowd-pleasing mating net.


Nakamura is Flamed on Eve of Chess Match

September 17, 2007

There is a rich tradition in coffeehouse chess of trash talking. In blitz games, in particular, chess hustlers often verbally harass their opponents in mid-play to distract them and soften them up for the kill. Chess lore is also full of sore losers’ flaming adversaries whom they perceive as clueless. (Even a monkey pecking at a typewriter can occasionally pound out a sonnet worthy of Shakespeare.) After one such defeat, the great Aron Nimzowitsch (1886-1935) is said to have climbed up on the chessboard, dropped to his knees, and shouted to the heavens, “Oh Lord, why did I have to lose to this idiot?”

The tradition of verbal abuse at the chessboard is alive and well, especially on the Web. Hikaru Nakamura, the top board on the New York Knights and an omnipresent Internet devotee, used to like to tell opponents “Bend!” and “Resign and spare yourself further humiliation.”

Hikaru is paired tonight in the U.S. Chess League against the Boston Blitz’s Larry Christiansen. Yesterday, Hikaru was online at the Internet Chess Club observing the moves of a game from the World Championship in Mexico City. Larry, or at least someone using his account, was online too and decided to get foul with Hikaru:

LarryC-BOS(GM) kibitzes: when i beat u
LarryC-BOS(GM) kibitzes: im a be like
LarryC-BOS(GM) kibitzes: bend over
LarryC-BOS(GM) kibitzes: and ill even come if u want as drunk as i am now
LarryC-BOS(GM) kibitzes: lol

Nakamura, who was apparently watching football as well as the World Championship, played it cool and did not respond. Just as well because it turned out that the sophomoric kibitzer wasn’t Christiansen, my sources say, but someone impersonating him (a Boston Blitz teammate, perhaps?) who had access to his user name and password.

My memoir King’s Gambit: A Son, a Father, and the World’s Most Dangerous Game is full of amusing examples of players’ misbehaving. The book has been out less than a week, and is still available at a special introductory rate at Amazon of 34% off.

Never Underestimate the Power of a Sleeping Knight

September 11, 2007

home-350.jpgJay Bonin napped during his game but still managed to win. In fact, the New York Knights seemed to be winning at one point on all four boards in their U.S. Chess League match last night against the San Francisco Mechanics, but choked on two of the boards and tied the match. The Knights at least got on the scoreboard, and jubilant New Yorkers were dancing in the street. (Perhaps a few New Yorkers were also celebrating because my book King’s Gambit was finally published.) For a team that looks almost invincible on paper, it is astonishing that, in the first three rounds this season, they have yet to win a match.

Manager Irina Krush fielded Hikaru Nakamura on Board One, in his debut performance in the U.S. Chess League. The nineteen-year-old resident of White Plains is one of the most exciting chess talents in the countryat the age of ten, he was the country’s youngest chess master ever and at 15, he became a grandmaster at an earlier age than Bobby Fischer.

His games are always real crowd pleasers. Although the time control for the game was 75 minutes per side plus a bonus 30 seconds for each move played, Hikaru acted like the game was bullet chess, an absurdly fast version of chess in which each side has only a minute for the whole game. Hikaru moved instantly much of the time, and at one point his opponent was down to only a couple of minutes on his clock while Hikaru still had 71 minutes. And yet Hikaru amazingly went down to defeat because he didn’t take any of his time to think: he blundered away a promising position and then had to give up too much material to fend off a mating attack. During the losing endgame, he shook his head in total disgust with himself and banged his temple with one of the Black pawns.

Matt Herman also lost, on Board 4. But Irina checkmated her adversary on Board Two, and Jay Bonin would have mated his opponent on Board Three except that his opponent wanted to avoid the ignominy of an actual mate and resigned just before.

Last week’s loss can be chalked up to gorgonzola; Nakamura’s loss this week can be ascribed to overconfidence gleaned from playing with a patzer just before the match.

When I arrived at the Marshall Chess Club for the match, I was greeted by a cute casting director who asked me if I wanted to audition for a television commercial that involved chess. She revealed nothing about the ad except that she needed to cast two people, an older man and a younger one, who’d play chess together. “Ah,” I joked, “I can solve half your problem. Now you have to find the older man.”

Before I had my screen test, she auditioned Hikaru. She decided to videotape him playing blitz and asked me to be his sparring partner. I quickly butchered the White side of a Sicilian Najdorf, but luckily she needed only 30 seconds of videotape and canceled the game in the middle before I could fully embarrass myself any further.

“The Yin of the Nerd in Lockstep with the Yang of the Jock”

September 7, 2007

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The secret is out. The New Jersey Knockouts have discovered why the New York Knights have had an incredibly dismal start in the U.S. Chess League. The Knockouts blog noted that there is something wrong with the photo (above) of 15-year-old Robert Hess (the Knight’s third board) that appeared in the laudatory profile of him in the New York Daily News. (I believe the News reporter was going for a Pulitzer, or the position of Poet Laureate, when he wrote of Hess: “the yin of the nerd in lockstep with the yang of the jock.”) What’s wrong, of course, is the position of the board: the White square does not belong in the left-hand corner.

OK, it’s a common mistake in movies and even public spaces. (In King’s Gambit, I describe how Au Bon Pain cemented chess tables into the ground in Harvard Square with the boards positioned incorrectly.) The difference here is that the prop master was an international chess master.

So this weekend, in preparation for Monday’s big match against San Francisco, Knights manager and task master Irina Krush is foregoing the Gorgonzola and putting her team through grinding, back-to-basic drills.

“Now, Hikaru, practice putting the queen on its own color… Very good, Hikaru. Now remember what Nimzowitsch said: ‘Keep the queen at home until at least the third move.’ I want to see nice classical development. No c3 on move two.  Yes, you got it, knights before bishops.”

“When you castle, Pascal, my dear, it’s always the king that moves two squares.”

“Now, Robert, a pawn can move two squares only on its first move. And can you lose the football helmet during the game? Remember we’re playing over the Internet. Your teammates, not the opponents, are the only ones who are going to be distracted by your headgear.”

“Brilliant, Elizabeth, you set up all eight pawns correctly!”

“Jay, the knight’s the only piece that can jump.”

“Matt, very good, you got itthe knights start next to the rooks.”

New York Knights Off Suicide Watch

September 5, 2007

Thankfully, the New York Knights are off suicide watch following their big choke against the Baltimore Kingfishers last week in the U.S. Chess League. Manager Irina Krush is still keeping superstar Hikaru Nakamura on the bench. She is putting forward the following lineup tonight against the Philadelphia Inventors:

New York Knights     Philadelphia Inventors
GM Pascal Charbonneau: 2532     GM Sergey Kudrin: 2599
IM Irina Krush: 2442     IM Bryan Smith: 2446
IM Robet Hess: 2457     NM Daniel Yeager: 2247
Matthew Herman: 2172     NM Elvin Wilson: 2240
Avg Rating: 2401
    Avg Rating: 2383

Game time is 7:30 PM, and the moves can be observed in real time at the Internet Chess Club or live at New York’s Marshall Chess Club and Philadelphia’s Franklin Mercantile Chess Club. I plan to go to the Marshall.

Kingfishers Clobber Knights: I Should Eat Crow

August 30, 2007

Wimpy logo or not, the Baltimore Kingfishers tragically defeated my New York Knights 3-1 in the first round of the United States Chess League. Pascal Charbonneau and Irina Krush were both winning in their respective games but threw it all away.

It is a very sad day in the Big Apple, but New Yorkers are used to bouncing back. I remember when the city was on the verge of bankruptcy in 1975 and President Gerald Ford refused to help (which occasioned the famous Daily News headline: “Ford to City: Drop Dead”). Well, we survived when Washington turned its back on us. And we will survive the indignity perpetrated last night by Baltimore.

After 34 moves, Irina had reached this promising position as White against her avian foe.

One of the joys of watching top-level games on the Internet Chess Club is that you never know who may drop by and kibitz. Last night, I and the other woodpushers who were watching Irina’s game online were treated to unexpected commentary by the legendary Gata Kamsky, the No. 1 ranked player in the United States. Gata said that she had a “strong advantage” in the position above and suggested a quiet continuation. But Irina surprised him (‘Nice,” he said, approvingly) with the forceful pawn push f5.

Now if Black is so greedy as to grab the f-pawn, he has no defense against the sly Bishop shift Bh5

and Irina shoving her e-pawn (after Black, say, moves his king):

The e-pawn is now immune to capture by the Black f-pawn because then her bishop will capture the opposing cleric.

But none of this after f5 was to be. Black did not grab the f-pawn bait, and although White continued to enjoy a strong game, the wily kingfisher eventually swindled her.

New York Knights Ready to Rip Baltimore

August 29, 2007

New York KnightsBaltimore KingfishersToday, at 7:15 PM, my home chess team, the New York Knights, will square off in the opening week of the U.S. Chess League against the Baltimore Kingfishers. The games can be watched in real time on the Internet Chess Club or live at the world famous Marshall Chess Club in New York’s Greenwich Village. Knight’s manager (and Board Two player) Irina Krush is confident: “My strategy is to win,” she told me. “I think we have an advantage on every board except maybe Board Three, and there it’s pretty even.” Each team fields four players.

I think, though, that Irina is being coy and not disclosing the real reason the Knights have a clear advantage. It’s because they have a vastly superior logo (above left). The Knights’ logo is elegant, with its heraldic shield and horse (although the horse itself has an indifferent expression and could look tougher). But the bird in Baltimore’s logo is the wimpiest kingfisher I’ve ever seen. It looks like a delicate humming bird in search of nectar. Where’s the noble tuft on the kingfisher’s head? And why doesn’t it have a fish in its mouth?

New York will also win because its Board One (Pascal Charbonneau) just qualified for a Green Card on Monday and will want to do his adopted American city proud.

(And now please excuse the shameless plug, but I have a child to feed: revealing profiles of Irina Krush and hubby Pascal can be found in my new book King’s Gambit: A Son, a Father, and the World’s Most Dangerous Game, which is available at amazon for an inviting 34 percent discount!)

Here’s tonight’s lineup:

Baltimore Kingfishers     New York Knights
FM Tegshsuren Enkhbat: 2411     GM Pascal Charbonneau: 2532
IM Larry Kaufman: 2375     IM Irina Krush: 2442
WGM Katerina Rohonyan: 2329     IM Jay Bonin: 2340
WIM Tsaagan Battsetseg: 2234     FM Marc Arnold: 2316
Avg Rating: 2337
    Avg Rating: 2408

New York Knights Are Looking Bright

August 8, 2007

photo of the 2006 New York Knights by John Fernandez

U.S. Chess League Commissioner Greg Shahade has announced that Hikaru Nakamura is joining the New York Knights for the 2007 season. Hikaru has an uncompromising, go-for-broke playing style that makes his games a real treat for the crowd. He even trots out openings (like bringing his queen out on the second move of a double-king-pawn opening) that would get him laughed out of the local chess club if it weren’t for the fact that he is the second-highest rated player in the country.

The above photo is of the 2006 New York Knights; from left to right are two-time Canadian Champion Pascal Charbonneau, two-time U.S. Women’s Champion Irina Krush, two-time U.S. Women’s Champion Jennifer Shahade, Matthew Herman, and Robert Hess.