Thursday, June 27, 2013

We're headed to Kentucky

Tash and I left Idaho on Wednesday and are headed 2,000 miles east to Lexington, KY, where she will start working towards her Ph.D. in Gerontology at the University of Kentucky. We expect this to be a 3-year gig, more or less. We will be passing through Utah, Wyoming and Colorado today.

Click here for information about the program.

Photo of our new residence.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

10th Annual Susan Polgar Girls Invitational

Once again this year I have been given the privilege of directing the Susan Polgar Girls Invitational chess tournament in St. Louis, July 20-25, 2013.

Details and conditions are presented below:
Rules and Conditions for the 10th Annual Susan Polgar Foundation Girls' Invitational (SPGI)
July 20 – 25, 2013 at Webster University (St. Louis, Missouri)

THIS WILL BE THE STRONGEST AND BIGGEST SPGI EVER! More than 50 players have already registered with many more states to submit names shortly.

- Approximately $200,000 in chess scholarships, chess prizes, and iPad mini, etc. (Full tuition and fees scholarship to the top finisher! *)

- Webster University will provide complimentary room and meal accommodation on campus for qualifiers!

The annual Susan Polgar Girl’s Invitational, the most prestigious all-girls event in the United States, will be held at Webster University (St. Louis, Missouri).

• There will be an intense training session with Susan Polgar, followed by a 6 round (g/90+30) FIDE rated championship tournament.
• The traditional Blitz, Puzzle Solving, Bughouse events will stay the same as in previous years.
• There will be many chess prizes awarded, including iPad mini, and scholarships to Webster University.

Each state is allowed one representative to be nominated by June 1, 2013. Official representative alternates may be substituted no later than June 15. (Susan Polgar and/or the Polgar Committee may allow the host state to enter an additional qualified player.) Susan Polgar and/or the Polgar Committee may allow exceptions to the June 1 entry/alternate deadline. Should the state affiliate fail to respond to the notice for this tournament, Susan Polgar and/or the Polgar Committee may determine the candidate from that state.

Players must have been enrolled in a school (up to 12th grade) located in the state they represent, also of the year in which the tournament is held. Home-schooled students who are under the age of 19 on July 25th of the year in which the event is held or students who have never attended college on a full time basis prior to June 1 of the year in which the tournament is held, are eligible to represent the state in which they reside.

Exception: If a player graduates from high school early and is already attending college, she may still represent her state if nominated. This is the decision of each state affiliate.

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: The participants of the Susan Polgar Girl’s Invitational DO NOT have to be high school students. Any qualifier under the age of 19 (by July 25th of the year in which the tournament is held) is eligible!

Special invitation for this year only: All past participants of the SPNI and SPGI (Susan Polgar National Invitational/Susan Polgar Foundation Girls’ Invitational 2004-2012) are invited to participate in the 2013 SPGI. The idea is to have the past participants learn my method of training so they can go back home and share their knowledge with the younger players. However, registration MUST be made ASAP since space is limited. There will be mutual training sessions for all, however separate section & prizes for alumni participants over the age of 19.

Players are required to furnish the organizer an emergency phone number and the e-mail address of a parent/guardian.

There is no entry fee to participate in the 2013 SPGI; however, players are responsible for their own travel. For all state representatives, and qualifiers from the SPNO or SPWO, Webster University will provide complimentary room and meal accommodation on campus.

For alumni participants, wild card/special invites, coaches, parents, or other family members, inexpensive accommodations are available for housing and dining on Webster’s campus. Please note that all reservations and registrations MUST be made (and accommodation expenses prepaid) no later than June 25, 2013.

Prizes: Trophies / plaques will be awarded to the winners of the Susan Polgar Foundation Girl’s Invitational Puzzle Solving, Blitz, and the SPGI Championship. Co-champions are recognized in the case of a tie, with each champion receiving a Champion’s Plaque or Trophy. The Champion (or Co-Champions) will automatically be invited to defend her/their title (must meet age requirement).

Champion: Webster University scholarship (approximately $23,000+ per year x 4 years *) + iPad mini + Champion's Plaque / Trophy
2nd and 3rd place: Webster University scholarship (approximately $13,000+ per year x 4 years)
Top under 13: iPad mini
Top under 10: iPad mini

* The scholarship must be exercised no later than the Fall of 2016.

The New Polgar Committee’s goal is to have all 50 states (including two representatives for California, two for Texas, and two for Missouri) and the District of Columbia represented. We strongly encourage each state and the District of Columbia affiliate to hold a scholastic championship tournament to determine each state’s champion and representative. Failing this, rating criteria may be acceptable. A scholastic girls’ champion or the highest rated girls’ scholastic player in a state who has no state affiliate of the USCF should contact the Polgar Committee as soon as possible.

Susan Polgar and/or the Polgar Committee and its members may elect to award wild cards each year for the Susan Polgar Girl’s Invitational.

Special qualifying events: The Polgar Committee will award automatic qualifying spots to the reigning winners in each section of the annual Susan Polgar NO for Girls (New Orleans) and the Susan Polgar World Open for Girls (Chicago).

The new SPGI Chairperson is Martha Underwood (AZ).

NOTICE TO ALL STATE OFFICIALS: Please send the nomination from your state to the Polgar Committee (

Contact info: Polgar Committee (

The Susan Polgar Foundation can be contacted at 806-281-7424 or through

Webster University is located at 470 E. Lockwood Avenue Webster Groves, MO 63119

BIG THANKS to President Dr. Beth Stroble and Webster University for hosting and sponsoring this very prestigious event for girls!

* Scholarships may be upgraded but may not be stacked. For previous winners of partial scholarships, a maximum of $1,000 per year may be added to the previous scholarship.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

An afternoon chat with Yasser - Part II

GM Yasser Seirawan at last year's U.S. Open chess championship in Vancouver, WA.

Continued from Part I...


Robert Byrne had a whole repertoire of stories. He was a Candidates player and lost his Candidates' finals match to Spassky famously. Byrne knew so many people in the game of chess. Again, he was a man of great dignity with old world manners, just a genuine fellow with no pretense.

His chess style, I want to say, was quite universal. He could lead with e4 or d4 and he played a lot of different defenses as well, some of which carry his name. His Byrne Defense to the Samisch King’s Indian is still played at the very highest level.


As I understand it, according to Estravios Grivas in a survey published in New In Chess Yearbook #92 (2009), Robert Byrne developed a flexible approach where Black plays ...c6 and ...a6 in order to prepare a push with ...b5. Black's direct counter strike in the center is postponed so that the queen side advance can proceed quickly.

White can decide to halt Black's ...b5 break by playing 7.a4 at the cost of weakening the dark squares on the queenside. After 7...a5, Black has gained control over the b4 square, and will usually win the c5 square as well. If Black wants to transpose into the Byrne while avoiding the 7.Bd3 lines, the flexible 6...a6 can be played first. This way, Black retains the option of playing ...c5 or ...c6 depending on the circumstances.


I remember 1990 New York/Lyon in the fifth world championship match between Karpov and Kasparov when Kasparov as Black led off the match by playing the Byrne Variation of the King’s Indian Defense against the Samisch. That says it all right there, right?

Karpov,A (2730) - Kasparov,G (2800) [E81]
World Championship 35th-KK5 Lyon/New York (1), August 8, 1990
Samisch Kings Indian Defense, Byrne Variation

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 0–0 6.Be3 c6 7.Bd3 a6 8.Nge2 b5 9.0–0 Nbd7 10.Rc1 e5 11.a3 exd4 12.Nxd4 Bb7 13.cxb5 cxb5 14.Re1 Ne5 15.Bf1 Re8 16.Bf2 d5 17.exd5 Nxd5 18.Nxd5 Qxd5 19.a4 Bh6 20.Ra1 Nc4 21.axb5 axb5 22.Rxa8 Rxa8 23.Qb3 Bd3 Nd6 25.Qxd5 Bxd5 26.Nxb5 Nxb5 27.Bxb5 Bg7 28.b4 Bc3 29.Rd1 Bb3 30.Rb1 Ba2 ½–½

Byrne was also victimized by the famous game he lost to Bobby Fischer in the 1963/64 U.S.Championship where the assembled commentators all felt that Bobby had over reached.


I saw that Jude Acers in his recent blog called that game the “real Fischer Immortal game” in the U.S. Championship won by Fischer with a staggering 11-0. “Horowitz told me that he really had no time to realize Fischer was a knight down on the large wall demonstration chess board versus Mr.Byrne but heard Rossolimo murmer: What is happening? Fischer is losing the game."

According to Acers, “Chess historians will also remember that gentleman philosopher Mr. Byrne tumbled down the stairway to explain to the baffled crowd why he had just resigned the game…played years after his own brother contested the other Game of the Century."


It’s tough to be the victim of a brilliancy, but that game was very, very special. The attack against White’s king is like, how do you even conceive that White’s king is vulnerable. At what point does Bobby realize he can launch an attack and it’s good. What did White do that was so egregiously bad? A half tempo here and there and it was decisive.


Bobby used the tennis analogy that he was just hitting the ball over the net awaiting his opportunity. Acers quoted Fischer as follows: “I just tried to keep the game alive, trying to win with the black pieces against Byrne. It was partly analysis. I didn’t see everything and was just keeping the game alive.”

The U.S. championship that we speak of was played in New York City from December 15, 1963 to January 2, 1964. The game here was from round 3.

Byrne,R - Fischer,R [D71]
USA-ch New York (round 3), December 18, 1963

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 c6 4.Bg2 d5 5.cxd5 cxd5 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.e3 0–0 8.Nge2 Nc6 9.0–0 b6 10.b3 Ba6 11.Ba3

“After White's 11th move I should adjudicate his position as slightly superior, and at worst completely safe. To turn this into a mating position in eleven more moves is more witchcraft than chess! Quite honestly, I do not see the man who can stop Bobby at this time.” -- K.F. Kirby, South African Chess Quarterly

11...Re8 12.Qd2


“I was a bit worried about weakening my QP, but felt that the tremendous activity obtained by my minor pieces would permit White no time to exploit it. 12...e6 would probably lead to a draw.” -- Fischer


13.Rac1 exd4 (13...Rc8 14.Rfd1 e4 15.f3!) 14.exd4 Rc8 15.f3

13...Nxe5 14.Rfd1?

14.Rad1! 14...Ne4 a)14...Rc8 15.Nxd5 Nxd5 16.Bxd5 Bd3 17.Bg2 Rc2 18.Qxc2+-; b)14...Nd3 15.Qc2; c)14...Qd7 15.Qc2± Rac8 16.Qb1!; d)14...Qc7 15.Qc1! Ne4!? 16.Nxd5! Qxc1 17.Nxc1 Bxf1 18.Bxe4 Ba6 19.Ne7+ Kh8 20.Bxa8 Rxa8 21.f4±; e)14...Qc8! 15.Nxd5 (e)15.Rc1 Qd7! 16.Rcd1 Rad8; e)15.Bb2 Qf5; e)15.Qc1 Ne4 16.Nxd5 Bxe2 17.Bxe4 Kh8! 18.Qxc8 Raxc8 19.Ne7 Rc7 20.Rc1 Rd7 21.Rfe1 Bf3!–+) 15...Nxd5 16.Bxd5 Rd8 17.f4 Rxd5! 18.Qxd5 Bb7! 19.Qd8+ (e)19.Qd2 Qh3! 20.Nd4 Ng4 21.Rfe1 (e)21.Nc2 h5‚) 21...Nxe3!–+) 19...Qxd8 20.Rxd8+ Rxd8 21.fxe5 Bxe5; 15.Nxe4 dxe4 16.Bxe4 Qxd2 17.Rxd2 Nc4 18.Bxa8 Nxd2 19.Rd1 Nc4 20.bxc4 (20.Bc6! Averbakh,Y 20...Nxa3 21.Bxe8 Bxe2 22.Rd7+-) 20...Rxa8 × c4

“This is very much a case of the wrong rook. One can understand Byrne's desire to break the pin on the e2-knight, but this turns out to be less important than other considerations.” -- John Nunn

14...Nd3! 15.Qc2

15.Nd4 Ne4 16.Nxe4 dxe4 17.Bb2 Rc8; 15.Nf4 Ne4 16.Nxe4 dxe4 (16...Bxa1? 17.Nd6) 17.Rab1 Rc8 18.Nxd3 Bc3! 19.Qe2 Bxd3 20.Qg4 f5 21.Qh3 Bxb1! 22.Rxd8 Rexd8 23.Bf1 Rd1 24.Kg2 Bd3! 25.Bxd3 exd3–+; 15.f3 Bh6 16.f4 (16.Nf4? d4!) 16...Bg7!

15...Nxf2! 16.Kxf2 Ng4+ 17.Kg1 Nxe3 18.Qd2 Nxg2!

18...Nxd1 19.Rxd1=

19.Kxg2 d4! 20.Nxd4 Bb7+ 21.Kf1

21.Kg1 Bxd4+ 22.Qxd4 Re1+! 23.Kf2 Qxd4+ 24.Rxd4 Rxa1 25.Rd7 Rc8 26.Rxb7 (26.Bb2 Rh1) 26...Rxc3 27.Rb8+ Kg7 28.Bb2 Rxa2–+; 21.Kf2 Qd7! 22.Rac1 Qh3 23.Nf3 Bh6 24.Qd3 Be3+ 25.Qxe3 Rxe3 26.Kxe3 Re8+ 27.Kf2 Qf5!–+]

21...Qd7! 0–1

White resigned because of 22.Qf2 (22.Ndb5 Qh3+ 23.Kg1 Bh6–+) 22...Qh3+ 23.Kg1 Re1+!! 24.Rxe1 Bxd4–+


It’s still a phenomenal game, just remarkable. It really is.


Getting back to tennis, I heard the rumor somewhere along the line that Byrne’s favorite tennis sparring partner was you. Did you play a lot beyond Merano?


Yes, we were at a lot of U.S. Championship events together and played a lot of tennis during world championship match events and some opens here and there. All over, in fact. Mostly, he beat me by the way! Let’s just say that he was better and I was much worse. It seemed to me that Robert took his tennis quite seriously. I’m not trying to excuse my losses, not at all. I saw it as a means of getting some really good exercise.

I remember that Robert would come and he’d have this head band, and these wrist bands as well. He had some types of things on his knees. And after these tennis matches, he took off his various bands and squeezed them as hard as he could. He would look at his droplets of sweat. If it was really a lot of good droplets of sweat, he was really happy. I also believe that he took tennis lessons, but I can’t say exactly from whom. The reality was that Robert was very good at shots. He had very good control. He could put it deep in one corner and on the very next shot deep in the other corner and I would run baseline to baseline.

To be continued...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

An afternoon chat with Yasser - Part I

Quote of the day: "Lkhamsürengiin Myagmarsüren", he said. Not quite able to understand what he just heard, Bobby looked up and asked once more. "Lkhamsürengiin Myagmarsüren," his opponent repeated. This went on for a third time after which Bobby just shook his head and wrote A. Mongolian on his score sheet.

Chess Grandmaster Yasser Seirawan and Frank Niro at 2012 US Open in Vancouver, WA. Photo courtesy of Al Lawrence.

Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with American Grandmaster Yasser Seirawan, originally from Seattle. Yasser currently splits his time between the Netherlands and St. Louis, where he spends about a third of the year as temporary Grandmaster-in-residence at the St. Louis Chess Center and coach of the Lindenwood University chess team. Following is part one of my interview with him on May 21, 2013 in St. Louis.


Thank you, Yasser, for taking the time to meet with me here in St. Louis. I enjoyed the tennis court photo of you and Robert very much. Tell me, please, about your relationship over the years with Grandmaster Robert Byrne.


I met Robert for the first time I believe around 1980 when we played in a U.S. Championship together. And then I knew him very well during the 80s and 90s period. For example, the tennis picture you asked about was taken by Lars Grahn. They were published originally in the Swedish magazine, Schacknytt, which Lars published for about 20 years. Robert and I were playing tennis during the 1981 Karpov-Korchnoi match in Merano, Italy. Lars took a lot of photos and also added some things. There is one where my racket is fully extended, Byrne is close to the net, and the ball is landing behind me. And Lars has drawn these dots where the ball hits my racket and goes over my head. He did it very nicely.

Robert in those days, of course, was a columnist for The New York Times. He took his job extremely seriously. When he was on a deadline, he really focused. And when you think about his column and what he achieved, it is remarkable consistency. Take a thousand of these articles, from the first to the thousandth, just fantastic! I think today folks really don’t know how good he was at what he did. The Times, beyond the column that he had, would periodically give him space to write about the world championships that he was covering. So he wrote massive articles about Korchnoi-Karpov, Kasparov-Karpov, and all of those matches that he attended. It was a remarkable effort on his part for a very long period of time.

We had a really good relationship. I thought of him, in a way, as a very classical man, a man of great dignity, a cultured man. He was extremely well mannered. I remember, in 1995, we were at the Kasparov-Anand match in New York City in the twin towers, where the match was held. We were staying at the hotel at the very bottom of the towers, as were he and his wife. We had gone out to dinner. Our table was prepared, everything was really nice. But before we sat down, he went to his wife’s seat and pulled back her chair. It’s just nice, old world manners, nothing to do with sexism or political correctness or any of that nonsense. It was just the way he was raised and what he did, how gentlemen behaved. It made an impression so much so that I’m telling you about it now.

He was, as you know from your own experience with Robert, a great raconteur. It was very surprising because, in his column, he shied away from that. He wrote matter-of-factly: "this is what happened, and… white lost on time." But how white lost on time, and all the stories and the politics, he never got into that. When the gloves were off and he could tell stories, however, we would laugh so hard and have such good times! It’s a shame that the general public didn’t often get to see that side of him.

He told me lots of stories about Bobby Fischer, which I just loved. One, in particular, I really liked he was in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for the Petrosian match. It is game seven of the match, and Fischer has a slight 3.5-2.5 lead. The winner will play Boris Spassky for the world championship in 1972. At move 22 he surprised many GMs by forsaking his strong knight outpost to take an underperforming bishop.

Robert J Fischer – Tigran Petrosian [B42]

Candidates Match Buenos Aires ARG (round 7), October 19, 1971
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Bd3 Nc6 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.0–0 d5 8.c4 Nf6 9.cxd5 cxd5 10.exd5 exd5 11.Nc3 Be7 12.Qa4+ Qd7 13.Re1 Qxa4 14.Nxa4 Be6 15.Be3 0–0 16.Bc5 Rfe8 17.Bxe7 Rxe7 18.b4 Kf8 19.Nc5 Bc8 20.f3 Rea7 21.Re5 Bd7

Robert Bryne described the scene as follows: “White had a dominating knight on c5, and Petrosian had this stupid looking bishop on d7. And Bobby took the bishop.”


“In the media center, there was pandemonium,” Robert said. Grandmaster Miguel Najdorf was holding court, and he just started shouting: “My God, what an idiot! How could he give up this fantastic knight for the stupid bishop? He knows nothing, nothing about chess.” “The Soviets,” Byrne recalled, “were all smiling because they understood that Bobby had made an egregious strategic error.”

Everybody turned to Robert Byrne and asked his opinion. “I’m working on my story for the match and can’t answer right now,” he said. Later, when telling Yasser this story, he explained, “I knew Bobby Fischer very well and I knew how he played chess. Bobby loved his bishops and by capturing that bishop, in Bobby’s mind, he was just putting the nail into Tigran’s coffin. While I wasn’t sure it was a good move, I knew that Bobby was happy making that move and would do it 100 times out of 100.”

“Well, the game progressed and, as it progressed, everything was like a dream, a boa constrictor. Move after move after move Bobby’s position improved and Tigran’s got worse. The next thing you know, Bobby had two rooks doubled on the seventh, a dominating bishop, excellent king and Petrosian had to resign.”

22…Rxd7 23.Rc1 Rd6 24.Rc7 Nd7 25.Re2 g6 26.Kf2 h5 27.f4 h4 28.Kf3 f5 29.Ke3 d4+ 30.Kd2 Nb6 31.Ree7 Nd5 32.Rf7+ Ke8 33.Rb7 Nxf4 34.Bc4 1–0

“Grandmaster Suetin, who had been smiling, now had his jaw on the table,” Byrne said.

Suetin whispered, “Fischer just plays so simply!”

In 1966, at the Havana Olympiad, Bobby Fischer had a large and beautiful suite where all of the team members assembled after each round and Bobby would show his game. The U.S. team, which won the Silver medal, consisted of Fischer, Byrne, Benko, Evans, Addison and Rossolimo. Byrne said, “This was an incredible highlight. It was like watching a Mozart. He had these very big hands and the pieces just danced as they moved about the board. At one moment, Bobby showed a position he had reached against Svein Johannessen of Norway on Board 1 of their match. Bobby had the black pieces and his opponent had just moved his knight from d5 to f4 uncovering his protected bishop on g2 against Bobby’s queen.”

Johannessen, S - Fischer, R [A57]
Havana ol (Men) (round 7), 1966 {Inf. 2/51}
Position after 26.Nf4

Bobby said, “And now, and now, and now the pizza, (Bobby’s variation for the term patzer, referring to his opponent), the pizza played this move!” The next thing you know,” Byrne said, “Bobby is in a laughing fit and just can’t stop. Bobby starts laughing so hard that he falls of the chair and is back on the carpet hugging his midsection and laughing hilariously. In the meantime, the other guys on the team were scouring the board trying to understand what was wrong with the guy’s move. It looked on the surface like a reasonable move.”

Byrne said, “Yasser, it was the scariest thing I’ve ever been a part of. I’m analyzing with this chess genius and I don’t want him to think that I’m a pizza as well. But I can’t find what’s wrong with the move. Bobby is still laughing hilariously when I saw it…I got it…and, I made a move, then I started laughing with Bobby. Then the other guys saw why and, in turn, five guys started laughing in tandem. Bobby got up from the carpet and wiped his eyes and showed us the refutation.”

26…Rxf4! 27.Bxc6 Bd4+ 28.Kh2 Rf2+ 29.Kg1 Rxb2+

Byrne said, “There was a moment there that I was absolutely petrified, the dark side of analyzing a chess game with a genius.”

Once he realized that he was essentially forced to take Bobby's queen, after which he would be quickly checkmated, Johannessen resigned after 26…Rxf4!.

OK, one more quick Fischer story from Robert Byrne and we can move on. At one of the chess Olympiads, I'm not sure which, the United States was paired with the team from Mongolia. Bobby sat down and shook the hand of his opponent and politely asked his name.

"Lkhamsürengiin Myagmarsüren", he said. Not quite able to understand what he just heard, Bobby looked up and asked once more. "Lkhamsürengiin Myagmarsüren," his opponent repeated. This went on for a third time after which Bobby just shook his head and wrote A. Mongolian on his score sheet.

Byrne had a whole repertoire of stories. He was a candidates’ player and lost his candidates’ finals match to Spassky famously.

To be continued...

Yasser Seirawan, age 21 at the time, with Robert Byrne at the 1981 World Championship match between Anatoly Karpov and Viktor Korchnoi in Merano, Italy. Yasser was Korchnoi's second and Robert covered the match for The New York Times. Photo courtesy of Lars Grahn.