22 July 2008

Posers and Provocateurs

Of making books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
Ecclesiastes 12: 12

Some writers pump out books and articles as if writing is as easy as breathing. But not all these prolific writers put out good quality. It is well known in many circles, for example, that the great quantity of texts put out by Eric Schiller could use improvement in quality. His reputation is such that John Watson prefaced positive comments regarding a Schiller authored CD with the phrase, “At the risk of being controversial” (Chess CDs: Coming of Age?). Edward Winter’s criticism is more strident: he lists a Schiller text (written with Raymond Keene) among the “five worst chess books” (ChessBase News), and in “Copying” documents evidence of plagiarism in his books. Schiller’s The Big Book of Combinations (1994) not only originates almost in its entirety from The Encyclopedia of Chess Middlegames (1980), it reproduces errors from the original.

Bill Wall is another prolific writer whose work in chess history is nearly endemic in cyberspace. In the Endless Quiz at chess.com, for example, one of the top scorers has a mediocre percentage of correct answers, but has submitted a great many questions that appear to originate from Bill Wall’s Geocities site. Tryfon Gavriel asked about the accuracy of Wall’s “Correspondence (Postal) Chess” at The Correspondence Chess Message Board and received from Tim Harding the reply, “i would warn all readers that the byline on that page is not a guarantee of quality, rather the reverse in my opinion.”

Another category of “poser” might include the one book wonder, Michael de la Maza. His Rapid Chess Improvement (2002) is regularly stocked in bookstores, and has stimulated numerous clubs, blogs, and forum discussions. Jeremy Silman points out the grandiose nature of some of the claims of MDM (as he is often called in online forums), and notes that there is nothing new in MDM’s point that “tactical skill acquired by hard work will make you much stronger” (Review of Rapid Chess Improvement). It doesn’t take long looking at Michael de la Maza’s Member Details page at the USCF to notice a couple things. His claim that he started in the 1100s is misleading. His initial established rating was 1344, and he had some results that would suggest he might be stronger than that to start out. Many of his losses were to unrated or provisionally rated players that quickly rose into the B and C classes. De la Maza, for his part, rose quickly it would seem not only because he worked at chess an average of three hours per day, but because the level of his competition taught him many things. There’s no reason to believe he had acquired the bad habits that most adult players must correct in order to improve (the sort that online blitz reinforce, further hindering progress). Moreover, de la Maza no longer competes at chess—this fact alone should give pause to all those that wish to imitate his rise.

16 July 2008

Fifteen Minutes

Andy Warhol was quoted so often for his remark, "In the future everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes," that he offered multiple variations on the expression. He was reflecting on the transient nature of his own fame, not predicting that everyone will experience brief fading glory. My own sixty seconds of fame barely registered on the local level when I was featured last week in "Gambits Accepted Here" in the Arts section of the Inlander. The cause of this notoriety was my qualification for the City Championship, a four game match with FIDE Master David Sprenkle.

The match went only three games, and I lost. Sprenkle dominated me in the first game. With a 500+ point rating difference, I was expected to lose. During the two games on Saturday, however, I gave him a battle and earned a draw--my first with a master.

The Spokane Chess Club website has my annotations to two games, and these appeared in Northwest Chess.

Stripes,J (1738) - Sprenkle,D (2257) [A80]
Spokane City Championship, Spokane 2008

1.d4 f5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bg5 d5 4.Bxf6 exf6 5.e3 Be6 6.Bd3 Qd7 7.Qf3 Nc6 8.a3 Ne7 9.Nge2 Bf7 10.Nc1 g6 11.Nb3 b6 12.Qe2 Bh6 13.Nb1 0–0 14.0–0 Rfe8 15.c4 f4 16.Nc3 fxe3 17.fxe3 dxc4 18.Bxc4 Bxe3+ 19.Kh1 Nf5 20.Bxf7+ Qxf7 21.Qc2 Nxd4 22.Nxd4 Bxd4 23.Nb5 Be5 24.Rf3 c5 25.Rd1 Rad8 26.Rdf1 Re7 27.Nc3 Qc4 28.b3 Qe6 29.h3 f5 30.Nd1 Bd4 31.Nf2 Qe2 32.Qc1 Re3 33.Rxe3 Bxe3 34.Re1 Bxc1 35.Rxe2 Rd2 36.Rxd2 Bxd2 37.Nd3 Kf7 38.Kg1 Ke6 39.Kf2 Kd5 40.Ke2 Bh6 0–1

Sprenkle,D (2257) - Stripes,J (1738) [C02]
Spokane City Championship, Spokane 2008

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Nh6 6.dxc5 Bxc5 7.b4 Bb6 8.b5 Ne7 9.Bd3 Ng4 10.0–0 Ng6 11.Bxg6 fxg6 12.h3 Nh6 13.Bxh6 gxh6 14.Qd2 0–0 15.Qxh6 Bd7 16.Nd4 Bxd4 17.cxd4 Bxb5 18.Rc1 Qb6 19.Nc3 Bc4 20.Qe3 Rf5 21.Rab1 Qa6 22.a4 Raf8 23.f3 R5f7 24.Nb5 Bxb5 25.axb5 Qb6 26.Rc5 a6 27.Qd3 Ra8 28.bxa6 Qxa6 29.Qxa6 bxa6 30.Rb6 Re7 31.Ra5 Kf7 32.Raxa6 Rc8 33.Rc6 Rb8 34.Ra4 Rb2 35.Kh2 g5 36.Rc8 Rd2 37.Kg3 Kg7 38.Rca8 Kf7 39.R8a7 h5 40.h4 gxh4+ 41.Kxh4 Rxg2 42.Rxe7+ Kxe7 43.Ra7+ Kf8 44.Kxh5 Rg1 45.f4 Rg2 46.Rd7 Rg1 47.f5 exf5 48.Rxd5 Ke7 49.Rd6 Rg4 50.d5 Rg1 51.Rf6 Rd1 52.d6+ Kd7 53.Kg6 f4 54.Kf7 Re1 55.Rf5 f3 56.Kf6 f2 57.Rxf2 Re3 58.Kf5 Re1 59.Rf4 Re2 60.Ra4 Rf2+ 61.Ke4 Re2+ 62.Kf5 Rf2+ 63.Rf4 Re2 64.Ra4 Rf2+ 65.Ke4 Re2+ 66.Kf5 Re1 67.Ra7+ Kd8 68.Kf6 Rh1 69.Ke6 Rh6+ 70.Kd5 Rh1 71.Ra8+ 1–0

Stripes,J (1738) - Sprenkle,D (2257) [A80]
Spokane City Championship, Spokane 2008

1.d4 f5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bg5 d5 4.e3 e6 5.Bd3 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.0–0 Be7 8.dxc5 Bxc5 9.Na4 Be7 10.c4 0–0 11.Rc1 Ne4 12.Bxe7 Qxe7 13.Qb3 Na5 14.Qb5 Nxc4 15.Bxc4 dxc4 16.Rfd1 Qe8 17.Qxe8 Rxe8 18.Nd4 Bd7 19.Nc3 e5 20.Ndb5 Nxc3 21.Nxc3 Bc6 22.Nd5 Rac8 23.Kf1 Kf7 24.f3 Ke6 25.Nb4 b5 26.Rd2 a5 27.Nxc6 Rxc6 28.Rcd1 c3 29.bxc3 Rxc3 30.Rd6+ Kf7 31.R6d5 Rxe3 32.Rxb5 a4 33.Ra5 a3 34.Re1 Rc3 35.Kf2 Kf6 36.Re3 Rc2+ 37.Re2 ½–½