Mechanics Institute Chess Room Newsletter #296

   A little knowledge withheld is a great advantage one should store for future use. That is the power of chess. It is a game of secrets in which one must show and never tell.

"Rules of the Game" (part of "The Joy Luck Club") by Amy Tan

Newsletter reader Max Burkett notes The USCF has a California member of 15 years named Aimee Tan who has never played in a tournament.

1) Mechanics' Institute Chess Club News
2) US finishes third in Turin
3) FIDE News
4) Northern California State Scholastic Championship by Michael Aigner
5) Memorial Day tournament in San Jose by Michael Aigner 
6) CalChess vs Australia scholastic internet match on July 15 by Michael Aigner

MI Chess Director John Donaldson will be in Turin as the US Men's Teams Captain and leaves for Europe next Monday. There will be no new MI Newsletters until June 7.

1) Mechanics' Institute Club News

IM Ricardo DeGuzman and NM Michael Aigner tied for first in the MI's annual Arthur Stamer Memorial held June 3-4. The two winners scored 5.5 from 6 to top the 58-player field. Teenage NM Drake Wang defeated veteran IM Walter Shipman in the final round to finish third at 5. Anthony Corrales and Alex Yermolinsky directed for the Mechanics'.

Albert Rich defeated fellow NM Russell Wong in the final round to take home the $400 first prize in the Spring Tuesday Night Marathon held March 28-May 16. Berkeley Expert Larry Snyder was second at 6.5, a half point behind the winner's score. Experience and youth were represented in the third place tie at 6-2 between FM Frank Thornally and rapidly improving young Expert Daniel Naroditsky.

The Summer Tuesday Night Marathon started last night with SM Craig Mar as the top seed. It is still possible to enter the eight round event with a half point bye for the first round.

2) US finishes third in Turin

The 20O6 Olympiad in Turin will be remembered for many things. First, and rightly so, will be the incredible performance of the small nation of Armenia. A strong contender at all team tournaments since achieving independence in the early 1990s, Armenia was a convincing winner with GM Levon Aronian defending the top board and Gabriel Sargissian taking home a point seemingly every match.It became apparent near round 10 that there would be no stopping the juggernaut from the Caucasus but what other teams were to medal was not determined until the final round. A very dangerous and erratic team Chinese that had lost four matches but beaten a team of 2600 players from Georgia 4-0(!) turned back the Netherlands to take home the silver medals while the US timed it's break from the peleton at just the right moment to beat a Magnus Carlsen lead Norwegian team 3.5-.5 and snatch the bronze medals.

A record breaking 150 teams in the Olympiad makes it impossible to cover the event in any comprehensive fashion so I will restrict myself to the impressions I gathered while serving as the US Team Captain for the seventh time, the first since 1996.

The US team of Gata Kamsky, Alex Onischuk, Hikaru Nakamura, Ildar Ibragimov, Gregory Kaidanov and Varuzhan Akobian did not enter the event in an optimal state. A combination of waiting to select the team until after the US Championship, delays in the USCF office, a last minute appeal for eligibility by GM Jaan Ehlvest (who recently changed his federation to the US), visa problems, funding issues and having to make travel arrangements less than a month before the event were not ideal preparations. While several other contending teams were holding formal training camps the US team improvised with some members getting together privately.

Ideally the US team would have arrived in Turin a few days early to adjust to their new surroundings and jet lag but this luxury has never been built into an US Olympiad budget and 2006 was not an exception. As is typical for US teams in this situation we started slowly with a 2.5-1.5 win over New Zealand. Our alertness was not helped by the fact that the accommodations in Turin could best be described as a cross between college dorm and youth hostel. Some readers might remember that some of the athletes in the Winter Olympics, who were housed in the same Village, complained about their accommodations. Well, it's all relative. We had the same Village, but minus the refrigerators, phones, televisions, DVD lounges, Calling Centers, laundry facilities and gyms that were taken out of the complex sometime in the past few months. Me, I would have just been happy with a table lamp and desk in the room plus a regular supply of hot water. FIDE officials ( the Verification Committee!?) said that the organizers had duped them by showing them the facility in February during the Winter Olympics and then changing the agreement. It sounds plausible but FIDE said the same thing about Mr. Touze the organizer of last years World Youth fiasco in Belfort. My impression, having seen the rooms and experienced the food arrangements where portion size was tightly controlled ( think Jenny Craig on steroids), was that the city of Turin was probably way over budget after the Winter Olympics and just didn't have the money to do things the way they might have liked. Certainly the many volunteers at the Olympiad did their best to make things run well as possible and one hates to write anything negative after their hard efforts.One question that was not resolved was whether the Turin organizers had to pay FIDE $300,000 for the right to organize the Olympiad. I consulted two influential FIDE insiders, Morton Sand of Norway and Ignatius Leong of Singapore, but received different answers. Sand said the Italians did pay the money and Leong that the fee requirement would first take effect in 2008 in Dresden.

The US followed up it's round one victory over New Zealand with a 3.5 -.5 win over Morocco, which led by GM Hamdouchi, had defeated second seeded India 3-1 in an opening round stunner. Gata, who had finished second in Sofia, joined us after round two. We had all thought he would want a rest for a few more rounds after battling 2750 opposition in Bulgaria for ten rounds, but this was not the case. The result was some strange color sequences as Alex started with five Whites and Gregory four Whites from five games as Gata, Hikaru, Ildar and Varuzhan did the heavy lifting with Black. This turned out to be a pretty successful strategy for two reasons. One being that Alex and Gregory were winning a lot and two that no one complained. On many teams captains pretty much have to alternate colors to keep players happy but for the US team in Turin the bottom line was what would bring us the most points.

The first free day was after round five and we used the remaining days before it to good effect knocking off the Philippines (2.5-1.5), Poland (3-1) and Georgia (2.5-1.5). The latter two victories looked to be against potential top ten finishing team as both countries players were all under 25 and around 2600. A word about the time control - it was the brutal FIDE special of Game in 90 minutes with a 30 second increment. This is not a time control for those with heart conditions and yes there were a lot of botched endgames in Turin. The organizers had initially listed the time control as 40/90 followed by G/30 with 30 seconds increment from move one, but Chief Arbiter Geurt Gijssen made it emphatically clear at the Captains Meeting that there would be no discussion of changing the time control. Interestingly he was much more flexible when it came to the question of whether to use accelerated pairings. For reasons never made completely clear this Olympiad was only 13 rounds instead of the usual 14 for only the second time in history. Missing the extra round the pairing committee decided to use accelerated pairings and raised the issue two months before the Olympiad with the FIDE Executive Board which rubber stamped the idea. Unfortunately no one bothered to notify the federations of FIDE and the announcement to modify the pairings was a bombshell at the Captains Meeting. Gijssen wisely took note of the strong sentiment against the modification that would have eliminated many of the David versus Goliath pairings that make the Olympiad that much more memorable for some of the smaller members of FIDE.

The first free day was the first opportunity to really see Turin. The Olympic Village was set in the blue-collar Lingotto district of Turin where Fiat once had a giant factory. While the area was not bad there wasn't that much to do in the neighborhood of high rise apartments. Accordingly many of the US team members took advantage of the opportunity to walk along the Po river for a few miles and check out the nice downtown. One couldn't help but wish the Village had been a little closer to civilization.

The second third of the event saw the US continuing a steady move toward the top tables. A victory over China by 2.5-1.5 was typical of the US team at this point in the event in - we were leaving a lot of half points in every match. Fortunately this situation was rectified the last few rounds when we became extremely opportunistic grabbing every draw and win in sight. Going 2-2 in round seven with Sweden was a bit of a disappointment but they turned out to be an over-achieving team in the end finishing in the top 20. The next day we bounced back with a good 3-1 victory over Denmark and seemed poised to advance to board one with one more match victory but the next two days, playing the Czechs and French, we went 2-2. Knowledgeable chess fans already are familiar with the name of David Navarra but also take note of Viktor Laznicka. These two youngsters carried the Czech team which played at the top almost the entire event. The 2-2 score with France was cause for celebration on the US team as we trailed .5-1.5 and seemingly were losing the two remaining games. Miracle number one came from Ildar who completely outplayed French 2600 Christian Bauer. Miracle number two came when Hikaru drew a two pawn down ending. That evening at a reception arranged by one of the team sponsors, the Internet Chess Club, the US was in good spirits.

Before the final three rounds there was one other free day but the US team couldn't relax entirely because we knew the Russian team would be our next opponent. Kramnik, Svidler, Grischuk, Morozevich, Bareev and Rublevsky were every ones pick to win going in but by the time we faced them they had lost several matches. Unfortunately for us, the chief cause of the troubles, Rublevsky, had been benched for the event after going 0-0-0. We would not get him in the lineup and the last US victory over Russia was twenty years before. Things were tense throughout with both teams probably able to say at some point in the match they were winning. In the end the US team did the job 2.5 - 1.5 with Hikaru beating Grischuk. Much of the tournament Hikaru had been around 50 percent, getting promising positions but never being able to put away his opponents. This match marked the end of the drought.

Going into the 12th round the US was just outside of the medals. One might have expected more as the team was one of only a handful ( France and Armenia the others) that had not lost a single match. Unfortunately there were so many strong teams we had not been able to separate ourselves. Facing the 6th seeded Israeli team (we were seeded 7th) our plan was to try to win the final two matches and hope for the best. Such was not to be as we lost 2.5-1.5. The one bright spot was Hikaru's tough win over the Israeli third board GM Sutovsky. That evening we anxiously awaited our last round pairing. Having lost in round 12 we had our backs to the wall but a big score in the final round could still make things right. Finally it was announced we would play Norway. One hesitates to call a team that can field four GMs,including a 15-year-old kid playing 2800 chess in the Olympiad, a good pairing but relatively speaking it was.

We knew we needed 3.5 from 4 but how to get the points. Clearly the Russian last round defeat of China in the last World Team Championship was cause for study and inspiration. There was no way to "order" up 3.5 points but the team felt that if we could get four complicated games from the opening there was cause for hope. That was actually what happened the next morning ( all games were played at 3pm except the last round which started at 10am). Several hours in Gata, playing White but with nothing in the position and being substantially down on the clock had to make a draw. Now we had to go three for three and that is exactly what happened with first Alex, then Hikaru and finally Varuzhan winning. Just scoring 3.5 was not enough. We also needed Israel to beat Russia or the Netherlands to beat China. Going in the latter seemed a better hope but in the end it was the Israeli's who stunned Russia 3-1 winning both bottom boards. This left us in a tie with Israel for third but the comfortable winner on tie breaks. The Israeli team was seemingly two teams in Turin. Ten rounds into the event they seemed destined for an uneventful placing having lost to the Czech Republic 3-1 and having drawn with Peru 2-2 despite Gelfand beating Granda, but the last three rounds they beat India, USA and Russia by 3-1, 2.5-1.5, and 3-1 - quite impressive but also indication they the first two thirds of the event they had not faced super strong opposition as their final tiebreak was not so good.

The US effort was a total team success. Unlike many of the other top teams we didn't have one massive star like the Chinese with Wang Yue scoring over 1/3 of his teams points. By rating performance our big three of Alex (our only undefeated player), Gata and Hikaru had performances from 2740 to around 2700. Gata was "only" plus one but faced brutally strong opposition on top board - enough so that he actually gained rating points. I am sure after playing ten rounds in Sofia and another ten in Turin in not much more than three weeks that he is sleeping well now! Having Gata not only gave us a first board like no other in recent US Olympiad history but also allowed all the other team members to drop down one notch.

Last Olympiad and in the World Team Championship Alex showed he is a fine first board but in Turin on board two was a steady point scorer and a threat to any board two in the event. Ditto for Hikaru on three. This was Hikaru's first Olympiad and it took him awhile to get used to things but once he did the results speak for themselves. He went 3-0 down he stretch numbering Grischuk and Sutovsky among his victims.

As mentioned before Ildar started with four Black's in his first five games but he never complained. His win over 2600 GM Kempinski in round 4 was one of the smoothest in the Olympiad but it was his defeat of Bauer in round 10 that might have been our most crucial victory in the event.

Gregory has been a standard bearer for US team for over a decade and is the only US player in his 40s still on the team. Two years before in Calvia Gregory was the top scorer for the team and here his "plus three": score and veteran leadership made him again a valuable contributor.

Last but certainly not least Varuzhan was another total team player. Each day we had only 4 spots to fill and six players to fill them with but Varuzhan would prepare for and show up for the matches as if he were playing every day. Varuzhan had not been in the lineup for three rounds before he played the final match but his teammates had total faith he would get the job done and he did!

I have written of my experiences as Captain of the US team but I would be remiss if I did not mention the excellent performance of our womens team of Anna Zatonskih, Irina Krush, Rusa Goletiani and the MI's Camille Baginskaite with Yury Shulman as Captain. Their fourth place finish was the second highest ever by a US team. They were always among the top countries and lost only one match to Ukraine. Good job!

Last and not least I would like to thank the sponsors of he US Olympiad teams that made our participation possible. The Kasparov Chess Foundation was the title sponsor with assistance from the United States Chess Federation, the Internet Chess Club and many individual donors. Thank you.

Final standings:
1. Armenia - 36
2. China - 34
3-4. USA, Israel - 33
5. Hungary - 32½
6-10. Ukraine, Russia, Bulgaria, France, Spain - 32
11-15. Czech Republic, Netherlands Uzbekistan, Georgia, Germany - 31
16-19. Cuba, Sweden, Moldova, England - 30½
20-29. Denmark, Poland, Greece, Slovenia, Azerbaijan, Croatia, Romania, Switzerland, Latvia, Australia - 30
30-35. India, Norway, Brazil, FYROM, Canada, Italy-A - 29½, etc.

Final standings Women:
1. Ukraine - 29½
2. Russia - 28
3. China - 27½
4-7. USA, Hungary, Georgia, Netherlands - 24½
8-10. Armenia, Slovenia, Czech Republic - 24
11. Germany - 23½
12-17. India, Bulgaria, Romania, Vietnam, Cuba, Latvia - 23
18-22. France, Greece, Poland, Belarus, Slovakia - 22½, etc.

Official site:

Live games:

Official results page:

3) FIDE News

First the good news. Congratulations to all who were awarded titles at the FIDE Congress. Boston's Eugene Perelshteyn who received the GM title and Duke University's Lev Millman ( IM title) were joined by a large number of players from California including Melik Khachiyan ( GM title), IM titles for Alan Stein, David Pruess and Rostislav Tsodikov and a Womens International Master title for Batchimeg Tuvshintugs. Tsodikov, who lives on the Peninsula, has not been active locally for a decade, but made norms the past two years in his native Ukraine. We hope to see him playing in the Bay Area in the near future. Dmitry Zilberstein is expected to receive his IM title in the three months.

The FIDE Election held during the Turin Olympiad was impossible for players to ignore as both sides actively sought their support. The US Olympiad team made it's feelings public as it wore orange ties to several matches - orange being the color of Bessel Kok's campaign. The US team also followed with interest the controversy regarding USCF Executive Board member Beatriz Marinello, the former President of the organization. Marinello who publicly defied the USCF position supporting Kok in the election (go to for the positions of both sides) was elected to a position on the FIDE Verification Committee after the Presidential Election. This is a position that is high up enough in the FIDE food chain that FIDE (bidders!?) pays the individual's travel expenses.

This removes at least one issue that had been raised - namely who was to pay for Ms. Marinello's travel expenses and others in her situation in the past and future, since she did not hold one of the two traditional USCF posts in FIDE - Zonal President or USCF Delegate to FIDE. The previous Olympiad in Calvia had created some hard feelings when a USCF Executive Board led by Marinello had paid Olympiad players two thirds of the fee they had received eight years previously citing the Federation's difficult financial situation. Marinello then took an expense paid trip to the Olympiad on the Federation's dime that culminated with an expensive political dinner for a large group that cost a couple of thousand dollars. The idea behind the dinner was to increase USCF influence in FIDE. Some previous Presidents had also exercised these privileges but not in a situation where the players honoraria was being cut.

Fortunately now the situation is crystal clear for the USCF. USCF FIDE Delegate Bill Kelleher now wears the additional hat of FIDE Executive Board member, a position that FIDE pays the travel costs for. Kelleher, who was elected in Turin with strong support from the South American delegation whose 2010 Olympiad bid he supported, replaces Steven Doyle, who had previously held a position on the FIDE EB. As Kelleher is in a high position the USCF can probably get by having Zonal President Robert Tanner attend meetings every Olympiad year, with no other paid travel responsibilities. Reducing FIDE governance costs to the minimum looks like a no-brainer as the USCF is straightening out its financial situation.

Below are three takes on the election.

Chess Fidelity - Chess: 1-0

by GM Alex Baburin from Chess Today (

It is now official - at the FIDE Congress in Turin Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and his team got re-elected by a large margin. I think that it was a really sad day for chess. Here are some of my predictions for the future:

* Corporate sponsors will stay clear of the sport run by the eccentric millionaire who believes that he was abducted by aliens

* Professional chess players will be offered 'contracts' in which they have only obligations and FIDE has all the rights

* The World Championship will be in a mess (think what is happening with the Candidate matches now)

* We will continue 'enjoying' the current time control I'd like to elaborate on the last point.At the ACP general meeting in Turin the ACP Board members were asked who was responsible in FIDE for the change of the time official control. The response was that while they could not be sure, it seemed that Mr Makropoulos was particularly keen on the new time control and was unwilling to listen to other opinions. I've seen this time control (1h 30 minutes plus 30 sec increment) at the last two Olympiads. It is clearly much more stressful for the players than the 'classical' one and it affects the quality of chess. It also deprives the players certain dignity, as after 2-3 hours the player could be chained to the board, unable to afford a trip to the bathroom. But, hey, it has brought us this huge media attention! So, if you are sick of watching chess on CNN all the time, I suggest you complain to the FIDE leaders! I am sure there will be many interesting articles on the FIDE elections coming out soon. A good start is the article by IM David Levy published by the ChessBase website. No doubt the prolific Yuri Vasiliev will also produce more valuable lessons on democracy for those numerous GMs who supported The Right Move and whom he so graciously called the "fifth column"!

Anyway, life will go on and people will surely continue playing chess. Let us hope that the opposition will prevail next time. Otherwise we will have to count on those friendly aliens to abduct Kirsan The Incredible again!

Mark Crowther of The Week in Chess on the FIDE Election

The FIDE elections were a disappointment for those of us who think that the organization is in desperate need of reform. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was re-elected by 96 votes to 54 (at least there was a genuine vote this time revealing in theory that a switch of 22 votes could oust the leadership, which is why in the past we had all this "we are one family" 100% votes once it became clear the challenger couldn't be elected). Its now 24 years since Florencio Campomanes took power and 11 since his anointed successor. Problems in the organization can't be blamed on anyone else but them. We are due a World Championship cycle which will culminate in 2007 and a further one to finish in 2010. FIDE will have a united world championship by the end of the year. There are no excuses. If two fully funded cycles don't take place, they have to resign or be removed. Surely even their supporters must agree that it is the absolute minimum they have to achieve.

Reflections on the Defeat of Bessel Kok

by Sam Sloan

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was re-elected by a vote of 96 to 54, with a record number of 150 nations voting.

This was not unexpected. In any election where Rwanda and Seychelles have the same number of votes as Germany and the USA, any candidate willing to cater to the whims of the non-chess playing countries will have the advantage.

Perhaps all is not lost. We can hope that this election will be a good wake-up call for Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. We can hope that he has learned that he cannot dismiss the concerns of the real chess-playing countries with an imperious wave of the hand. We can hope that he will abandon his arrogant management style, where he simply issues orders and leaves the meetings without allowing any opportunity for objection or dissent.

For example, by decree and without consulting anybody, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov set the time limits to be faster than any grandmaster felt comfortable playing. His arrogant attitude has been that he is the Decider who makes the rules. Will this continue?

It is to be recalled that in 1994 Campomanes won re-election in a highly irregular way. Yet one year later he was forced to step aside in Paris, which brought in Ilyumzhinov.

Perhaps something like that will happen again. Perhaps Ilyumzhinov will realize that it is useless to be a leader if he has no followers and so will allow some real chess players to run the World Chess Federation for a change.

It will be interesting to see what he does about the Beatriz Marinello issue. Clearly, Beatriz expects to be rewarded with an important position in FIDE in compensation for defecting from the USA and in bringing in the South American vote. It is to me noted that the margin of victory was 42 votes. That means that if 22 nations had switched their vote, Bessel Kok would have won. Beatriz can rightfully claim the she brought in 17 South American Spanish-speaking votes for Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. However, to appoint her to any position in FIDE would be a slap in the face for the USA and a violation of FIDE rules.

I am predicting that nothing will be given to Beatriz and she will leave the meetings empty-handed, but we shall see. The most famous turn-coat in history was Benedict Arnold, who became the Benedict Arnold of America. He defected from the American side during the Revolutionary War and went over to the British because of some petty dispute. He was the only military officer who won battles for both sides in the war. After the war, he went to England expecting to be given some high honor, whereas the Americans would have hung him. However, the British wanted nothing to do with a turn-coat and threw him out. Benedict Arnold lived out his life in Russia.

Will this be the fate of Beatriz Marinello, or will we see her for the next four years sitting with her smiling face on the dais next to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov?

4) Northern California State Scholastic Championship by Michael Aigner

31st CalChess State Scholastics

A total of 1300 young players plus their parents, siblings and coaches showed up at the San Jose convention center to play the game of kings on May 20 and 21. They played 5 or 6 games each, competing in 11 separate divisions based on age and skill level. Many won trophies and everyone learned from the experience. And a few have distinguished themselves to earn the title of state champion.

Congratulations to the following winners in the Varsity (Open) divisions of the CalChess State Scholastic Chess Championships. In case of a tie, the players below are listed in order of computer tiebreaks.

K-3: James Kwok with 5.0/5
K-6: Gregory Young with 5.5/6
K-8: Charles Sun and Davis Xu with 5.5/6
K-12: Daniel Schwarz and Drake Wang with 5.5/6

NM Daniel Schwarz defeated NM Drake Wang in a match on May 27 at the Mechanics' Institute by a score of 1.5-0.5, winning the first game with the black pieces. He will represent CalChess at the Denker Championship in August in Chicago. Louiza Livschitz was the undisputed top girl at the State Scholastics and will play in the Polgar Championship, also in August in Chicago.

A big thank you to Alan Kirshner for organizing a huge and yet successful tournament. His staff was led by chief tournament directors John McCumiskey and Richard Koepcke plus volunteer organizer Stephanie Blatt. However, this tournament would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of dozens of volunteers, some who worked for up to 14 hours on Saturday.

The full story, including photos of the winners and a PGN file with some games, is on the CalChess homepage

5) Memorial Day tournament in San Jose by Michael Aigner

Memorial Day tournament in San Jose

IM Ricardo DeGuzman won the 2nd California Classic on Memorial Day weekend in Cupertino. He finished with 3.5/4, yielding only a draw to second place finisher NM Albert Rich. 10th grader Rohan Sathe won the U2000 section and 3rd grader Yian Liou (rated only 1323) won the U1600 section, both with perfect 4-0 scores. 54 people played in the adult tournament and were joined on Saturday by about 130 kids. Jason Gurtovoy and Salman Azhar directed.

6) CalChess vs Australia scholastic internet match on July 15 by Michael Aigner

CalChess vs Australia scholastic internet match on July 15

I am currently recruiting scholastic players for the CalChess vs Australia internet match that will take place on July 15 at 5:00pm on the Internet Chess Club ( The CalChess team will consist of 12 players U12 and another 12 players U18. All players will play from their own homes (or any other location with internet access). For more details, check out the story posted on April 6.

I have 11 players so far, including Daniel Naroditsky, Nicholas Nip, Partha Vora, Ryan Ko, Samuel Bekker, Alex Grossman and Kevin Garbe. I am especially interested in recruiting some 1800+ rated players U18.

The CalChess team will consist of the top 12 interested players in each age group (including at least two girls) plus 2-3 alternates. The team will be chosen according to the June 2006 USCF rating list and CalChess top 20 list. Players will need to log into the Internet Chess Club (ICC) on that Saturday evening in July and play their games, presumably from their homes. Familiarity with ICC is a plus, but not a requirement. Participants who have never played chess on ICC before shall receive a short free membership prior to the match.

Interested? Please contact me (Michael Aigner) at or Michael Grossman at (remove the "NOSPAM" from the addressses). Provide your name, age, email, current USCF rating and ICC handle (if any). I am an ICC administrator and can answer questions in setting up the software. My handle on ICC is "fpawn".

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