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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Success for Shira Chess Challenge for Charity

Hello dear Chess Supporters and Lovers!

Jan Newton sent me an email a couple days ago to summarize the success obtained during the Charity Event she is supporting via The Goddesschess Blog.

She writes:

First of all - THANK YOU SO MUCH - to:

GM Susan Polgar for her encouragement in undertaking this "quest" and the publicity she provided to us at the Susan Polgar Chess Daily News and Information blog., for giving us front-page publicity on its website the day before our match began, and their private kind words of support and encouragement.

Current Women's World Chess Champion GM Alexandra Kosteniuk for her kind words and the publicity she provided to us at her

Chessville - who began it all with an article published on June 23, 2009 from sometimes columnist JanXena :)

Kelly Atkins a/k/a Chessdaddy (whom I met eons ago at the message board now affiliated with Chessville), who volunteered to be my coach, despite knowing what a difficult femme I am - kiss my foot, Chessdaddy! He tried hard to whip me into shape, and I resisted every step of the way :) Despite his own fully-booked family and work schedule, he found time somehow to teach me some good stuff, and I found his analysis of Game 2 invaluable - not in preparing for Game 3, but in providing a template for patterns in my own play. I'm going to study that game a lot more.

Laura and Dan Sherman of Your Chess Coach, who spent a lot of hours with me via email and on the telephone giving me pointers on how to play and analysis of two of my prior "practice" games from I cannot tell you how much I learned from that time on the telephone with Dan, wow! Dan, I was even able to use "c3" in my game today - and it worked just as you said it would :) Unfortunately, I blew the game, but not because of that move. Laura, thanks for that sweet supporting shoulder to cry on!

Don McLean, my long-suffering fiance. He's not keen on playing chess - and neither had I been until I cooked up this Chess Challenge for Charity with Shira a few months ago. Mr. Don indulged me and while he was here a few weeks ago for my 58th birthday (we were going to Las Vegas to celebrate with our friends) he willingly played four games to help me with my training. Two here at the house, and one each to and from Las Vegas. I love you with all my heart, mon homme, and I'm soooo glad I won that game at 35,000 feet flying back from Las Vegas :)

Phil Innes and Rob Mitchell. Your enthusiasm at the beginning of this "project" was invigorating and inspirational. Rob, thanks for the practice games :)

Shira, I hate you! LOL! I hate you so much I donated $100 to your Cause at Facebook. I hope this will spur some donations.

Interest in the Chess Challenge for Charity was high. Traffic at this blog where I did daily updates on the Challenge games increased substantially over average. Thank you all for your support!

Donations to Shira's Foundation are 100% tax deductible to qualifying taxpayers and the Foundation accepts donations in cash and in kind - that is, if you have a working in good order laptop you'd like to donate, you can contact Shira at the Foundation for further information. If your laptop is accepted by the Foundation, you get to write off its value as a charitable deduction.

Shira and I are very sorry that our plan for playing "live" games did not work out. Neither of us realized that the live play interface at is a "beta" model still a work in progress, prone to malfunctions. Oy! We are sorry that anyone who wanted to follow along with our play was not able to do so while we were playing them. You missed all of our sparkling repartee :)

A summary of the action over the past several days:

Game 1

Update for Game 2 – Technical Difficulties

Game 2

Game 3

In tribute to Chessdaddy's hard work on my behalf, I post his analysis of my Game 2:

Event "Online Chess"] [Site "Chess. com"] [Date "2009. 09. 06"] [Round "1"] [White "JanXena"] [Black "shirae"] [Result "0–1"] [WhiteElo "979"] [BlackElo "1421"] No time control we played in real time but without clocks game lasted about hours] [Termination "shirae won by resignation"] 1.d4 d6 2.e4 e5 3.Be3 Not a blunder by any means, but it is fundamentally wrong as it is way too passive & defensive instead of using White's advantage of having the first move to maintain the initiative and create threats. Be3 just gives Black equality and hands the initiative to her. Nf3 or dxe5 were better. 3...Be7 4.Nf3 Bg4 5.d5 [5.dxe5 Bxf3 (5...dxe5 6.Qxd8+ Bxd8 7.Nxe5 and you've won a pawn, have a big lead in development and a much better position.) 6.Qxf3 dxe5 with a nice lead in development.] 5...f5 6.h3 Bxf3 7.Qxf3 f4 8.Bd2 you're still in good shape here, but your dark-squared bishop has been pushed back to an ineffective square and will have a hard time getting active - on reason putting it on e3 wasn't so hot. OTOH, Black has gained some space and pushed the bishop away, but has really opened up her kingside 8...Nf6 9.Bd3 Again, not a blunder, but putting a piece on a square where it's ineffective and unlikely to have any scope. Remember, the opening is not just about developing pieces, but developing them to effective squares, anticipating what they'll be able to do from those squares, developing them to work with the rest of your pieces, etc. It's also about creating threats and causing your opponent problems she must address that compromise her position. If you really want to castle short and needed to get that bishop out of the way in order to do so, putting it on e2 to back up the queen, have access to the more open d1–h5 diagonal, and not be staring into the back of one of your blocked center pawns would've been better.Here, you needed to do some planning and assess the future of the game. With Black being very open on the kingside, she likely won't (or at least shouldn't) castle to that side. Also, with Black having penetrated to f4 with a supported pawn, you are gonna need to bust that up or suffer a very cramped position and be vulnerable to attack if you castle there. A rule of thumb is to attack in the direction your center pawns are pointing, meaning Black is probably going to have better attacking chances on the kingside and you on the queenside. Since Black is gonna need to castle long and you are gonna be vulnerable on the kingside, you should too, and all this means that if you both castle long, you should have the better attacking chances against your opponent's king. This also means you can afford to play g3 in the near future and start busting up Black's advanced pawns on the kingside. Moves like Nc3, Rg1, or g3 were better than Bd3. This is a good position to learn how to evaluate and assess and plan correctly. 9...Nbd7 10.Nc3 0–0 11.0–0–0 Very good! You obviously realized you would be vulnerable after 0–0. With opposite side castling, a pawn storm is almost always in order. It gets very nasty and the first one who push their pawns into the opponent's king's position and open it up usually wins. Time is VERY important here and you must make every move count. 11...c6 This is a great position to stop and assess the strengths & weaknesses of both sides, then make a plan for how to make the most of your strengths and take advantage of your opponent's weaknesses. Doing this well isn't as easy to learn as tactics, but it's not all that hard either. ALL plans MUST be based on objective analysis of the position, not on what you just WANT to do.Here, you have a very solid, secure castled king, the bishop pair, more space on the queenside, and an opportunity to launch a pawn storm on the kingside. Your weakness is that your bishops have very little range or scope, and your knight doesn't have a good advanced square to go to. A very helpful rule of thumb is that when you have bishops, open the position... usually by forcing pawn swaps in and around the center. If you have knights, or your opponent has the bishop pair, keep the position blocked and closed. You can almost put an automatic 1 in the win column in this position by simply pushing pawns in the center and on the kingside to open the position up.Shira's king is castled, but the position around him is a little loose. Her only bishop is bad (on the same color squares as her center pawns, meaning it doesn't have much scope), her knights don't have many good squares to go to, and she's behind in development.The plan for you here should be to immediately play g3, bust up Black's advanced K-side pawns, open lines for your rooks to attack down the g and/or h files, and push any remaining pawns on the K-side to attack Black's castled king. This will also open up the c1–h6 diagonal for your bishop; after you remove Black's f4 pawn you can play f4 to remove her e5 pawn then advance your own e-pawn to open the diagonal for your light squared bishop, or maybe have to reposition it to e2. Also you may need to play Ne2 to bring the knight over to the kingside to put extra pressure on f4 and g3 and perhaps on to directly assisting in the kingside attack. In a nutshell, open up lines on the kingside, throw your kingside pawns at Black's king, and throw all your pieces at him also. 12.Bc4 Unnecessary and not helpful. You're responding to Shira's threats instead of taking the initiative. You don't want to recapture here with your bishop anyway, as that gives up the bishop pair unnecessarily. Let her capture then retake with your knight or e-pawn. Best was to ignore the threat since it didn't really hurt you at all, and play g3, forcing Shira to respond to you, then follow the plan of opening up the center & K-side and flooding it with your pieces in a direct attack. 12...b5 13.dxc6+ Not a huge blunder, but a mistake nonetheless. It doesn't lose material, but it gives up your bishop (and the bishop pair, and opens up attacking lines for Black against your king. Much better was preserving your bishop and keeping the Q-side closed with Bb3. It's these little subtle things that make the difference in a good position that's easy to win from, and a hard-to-defend bad position where you become overwhelmed with problems. This move took you from having a very solid position with a decent advantage, to a position that was just about dead even, but with some potential problems. 13...bxc4 14.cxd7 Qxd7 15.g3 fxg3 16.Qxg3 Nh5 17.Qg2 Qg4 here forces a Q trade, removing most of Black's attacking chances, making you much safer and pretty much assuring you of a draw. Not necessarily better than Qg2, but would have given you an almost certain draw. 17...Rab8 18.Rdg1 Not a losing move, but I think you failed to anticipate Black's direct attack on your king and take steps to defend. Moving your king to b1 to bring your bishop to c1 in order to defend b2 was good. b3 will work, but it will also weaken the area around your king, though you should still be able to fight off and attack. 18...Bh4 19.Bh6 Looks good at first glance, but doesn't work due to Black's threats at f2 and his solid defense of g7. Easy to see why you'd play this though and it's not easy to calculate this accurately and see if it works or not. [19.Qg4 Black either has to give up the attack by trading queens, or play Qb7 and take a pawn or two and run your king around while letting you get a free piece, leaving you with a nice advantage.] 19...Rxf2 20.Qxg7+ [20.Qg4 was your only decent move here. Everything else loses the queen. Even with Qg4, you're still in some trouble, though not really lost... just down a pawn and under some pressure.] 20...Nxg7 21.Be3 [21.Rxg7+ MUCH better. You get a Q & N for a R & B. Still leaves you a pawn & rook down, but...] 21...Rf7 22.Rg2 Rbf8 23.Rhh2 Kh8 24.Kb1 Rf1+ 25.Bc1 Re1 All in all, you played MUCH better than expected. Shira by NO means ran over you. In fact, you had the advantage throughout most of the game and played well with no big mistakes until a small miscalculation near the end. Until then, all your mistakes were very small, minor things that are easily corrected. Although you lost this game, you have a LOT to be proud of and you played quite well. 0–1

Thanks, Chessdaddy :)

Posted by Alexandra Kosteniuk
Women's World Chess Champion

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  • At September 10, 2009 at 8:03 PM , Blogger Jan said...

    Hi Alexandra,

    Again, thank you so much for your support for this very worthy cause. I have no doubt that your twitter about the Shira Chess Challenge and also the readership here of your post before the "match" generated a lot of interest.

    Shira and I achieved our main goal, which was to raise awareness of her charity and, indeed, the incredible need that exists for programs like this. Viewers at the Goddesschess blog set a new record!

    Shira has informed me that for her 2010 season, she is going to work exclusively in the USA! (Shira works for six months at her "day job" and devotes six months to the Foundation work.)

    Thanks so much again, from me and Goddesschess, and Shira Evans.

    Jan Newton


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