Schmakel-Felecan, Skokie 2011

14-year-old Sam Schmakel already has two national titles to his credit.  This modest young man, a freshman at Chicago's Whitney Young High School, is acutely aware of how much he has to learn.  He realizes that there was a degree of luck in his recent win over IM Florin Felecan, allowing him to tie for first with Felecan in last month's 1st North American Amateur Open, held at the North Shore Chess Center in Skokie.  Felecan escaped from an inferior position to fully equalize, then sacrified two pawns to go for the kill and Schmakel's centralized queen.  (Did I mention that Florin had two bishops and Sam had two knights in this wild middlegame?)

Enjoy this wonderful fighting game!

Schmakel,Sam (2079) – Felecan,Florin (2415) [B06]

1st North American Amateur Open

Round 5, February 2, 2011

Annotations by Sam Schmakel and Bill Brock [RR].

I was honored to play both Florin Felecan and Jon Burgess in this event, and I appreciate titled and higher-rated players putting their rating and reputation on the line to play lower-rated players.

1.e4 d6 2.d4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.Be3

[4.f4 is another major line]

4...a6 5.Qd2 b5 6.f3 Nd7 7.h4

[Or 7.Nh3 Bb7 8.Be2 c5 9.Nf2 cxd4 10.Bxd4 Ngf6]

7...h5 8.Nh3 Ngf6 9.0–0–0 Nb6 10.Ng5 e6 11.Be2 Bb7

White to play

Here it finally dawned on me that his intention was to castle queenside after I pushed my pawns.

12.a3 Qd7 13.Qe1 d5 14.e5 Ng8 15.g4 Nc4 16.Bxc4 bxc4 17.Qg3 Rb8

White to play


Read more ...

Taking It up a Level

(It's been our pleasure at the Evanston Chess Club to play a couple of simuls against NM Jon Burgess. The simuls were a lot of fun, but the games we played left some of us asking, "How can I play better chess against stronger players?"  So we asked Jon to talk to us about how to improve our games and be more effective when we play up. The following lecture was given on February 22, 2011, and features three games in which David beats Goliath. Thanks to NM Burgess for providing his materials for publication on the ICA Chess Blog. — Maret Thorpe)

Before the games here is a list of things not to do when it comes to playing a stronger player

Don’ts and Do’s

Don’t change you’re opening because the opponent is stronger than you. Play your normal opening.

Don’t sit down at the board and think you have no chance. If you do you might as well resign at move one.

Don’t over analyze your opponent's rating or who they are. Ratings are just numbers and everyone can have a bad day.

Do believe you can beat anyone no matter what strength you are.

Don’t simplify the game for the sake of it. Stronger players love when weaker players trade down all the pieces because they are stronger in the endgame.

Do play the board not the person.

Don’t doubt yourself when you see a good move. Play it even strong players don’t see everything and often make mistakes.

You must want to win more than your opponent. You must have the hunger to destroy as opposed to saying "if I make it to move 30 I will be satisfied." Or "if I get a draw that’s great." No, you sit down and play to win.

Stronger players love when weaker players play for a draw. Why? Because the stronger player knows that the weaker player is playing for a draw and can use that against them.

Stronger players win because weaker players are scared of them.

The first game is from the 2004 Chicago Open. I played GM Yury Shulman who did become US Champion. The game was sharp and full of tactics. I played the board and not the player. If you respect the person you’re playing you will lose the game. I knew to win this game I didn’t have to simply win I had to destroy my opponents position and win his King.

Burgess,J (2215) - Shulman,Y (2616) [C44]
Chicago Open (1), 05.2004, Open Section

1.e4 e6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.Ngf3 Nc6 5.g3 e5 6.Bg2 dxe4 7.dxe4 b6 8.Qe2 Bc5 9.Nb3 Bd6 10.0-0 a5 11.Rd1 Ba6 12.c4 a4 13.Nbd2 Nd7 14.Nf1 Nc5 15.Ne3

  • White has many active pieces
  • White Rook on D1 is strong
  • Black Bishop on D6 is pinned
  • White is castled Black isn’t
  • White has strong Knight squares to go to D5 and F5

15...0-0 16.Nf5 Ne6 17.Be3 Now bxb6 is threatened followed by Rxd6!

  • White has a strong Knight on F5
  • White threatens Bxb6
  • White may someday start a Kingside attack
  • All of Whites pieces have an important role

17...Qb8 18.Ng5 Nxg5 19.Bxg5 f6 Now the hardest move of the game is hard to see how white can continue an attack here with few attacking pieces in play! 20.Bh6 If gxh6 then am sure Qg4 check then Kf7 Qg7 check if Ke6 then Bh3! or if Ke8 then still Bh3 with threats of Nxd6 followed by mate on d7!

  • White has offered Black a free Bishop on H6 however then the White Queen will come to G4 attacking the Black King
  • The Black pieces are very cramped with the Queen on B8 and Rook still on A8

20...Rf7 21.Qg4 Bf8 22.Bxg7 Now if Bxg7 then Nh6 check Kf8 then Nxf7 Kxf7 Rd7 check Ne7 Rxe7 check Kxe7 and Qxg7 ! 22...h5 23.Qg6 Now Nh6 mate is threatened and black is in all kinds of trouble. 23...Rxg7 24.Nxg7 Bxg7 25.Rd7 Qf8 Now how does white continue the attack considering black has his bishop defended nicely by the Queen? 26.Bh3 Threats are Be6 check and Qh5 mate or Bf5 and Qh7 mate! 26...Nd4 Now what for white? The Nd4 covers E6 and f5 squares and holds blacks position together.


  • White has to work out how to remove the Black Knight on D4 since it defends many important squares like E6 and F5
  • The White pieces Queen and Rook are very threatening on the Black Kingside and if White can get a Bishop on E6 or F5 the game will be over

27.Rd1 Now the threat is R1xD4 removing the defender then Be6 check and Qh5 mate again! 27...f5 28.R1xd4 exd4 29.Bxf5 Qf6 The only move that saves Black for now but here comes the kill moves! 30.Qh7+ Kf8 31.Be6 A diversion move diverting the Queen now the important thing is if Qxe6 then Qxg7 check then Ke8 and Black gets away with it !


Read more ...

Chess Confessions

The famous story goes that Nimzowitsch, playing in a speed tournament against Sämisch, blundered away a perfectly good game.  Nimzo then stood on his chair and screamed, "Why must I lose to this idiot?"  

Unlike Nimzowitsch, I know that I'm not a chess genius, and I usually feel like screaming, "Why must I be the idiot who loses to other people?"  And loses deservedly, I might add.  

But, like most patzers, I hope to improve my play someday.  My peak USCF rating was 2172, 28 points short of the NM title, and that was more than twenty years ago.  It's been well over a decade since I last touched 2100, and these kids today know so much more than I knew at their age. But hope springs eternal....

I suggested to Maret Thorpe that I annotate every one of my USCF games until I get sick of the exercise.  This necessarily means that I'll be annotating some bad games (which are often good games spoiled by one really bad move).  I ask you indulgence: these are a patzer's notes, not a master's.  If I don't understand something in my own game, please let me know!

In the first round of the Tim Just Winter Open, I played Charles Swan of Whitney Young High School.  I was vaguely aware of Swan's play (and I had had the pleasure of meeting his father at the All Grade Championships in November).  I sized him up: looks like a Rastafarian, but has a mature, solid style.  OK, two can play this game, I thought: I'll bore him to death.  In other words, grind out a technical ending.  This is one low-risk way that experts deal with Class A players, especially with the Black pieces.  Even if the ending is objectively drawn, I shouldn't lose.

Read more ...

Even my good games are bad....

Matthias Pfau has a demanding career and a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old at home.  Somehow Matthias also finds time to hold down first board for Citadel Group in the Chicago Industrial Chess League.  In the AMA Rogue Squadron's 4-2 victory over Citadel Wednesday night, yours truly got lucky.  I won quickly even though I'd forgotten the theory and Matthias understood the opening much better than I did!

The game itself has its amusing moments, but isn't otherwise anything special.  The variations after 9...Qh4+ are fascinating, however,