Here’s a question for new students of the game: “Can’t I just memorize the first few moves that I need to make? Then it will be easy to get off to a good start.”

Surprisingly, the answer is no!

new-york-new-yorkBefore why this is the case, let’s discuss the real question. How do I know what a good move is, especially at the beginning of the game? The answer to that question is much simpler. If you are a new player and have a strong desire to get better, the first thing to do is play some games against better opponents. In a short time it will become apparent that some moves don’t work out so well. In fact, many times we learn more from losses than wins, because faulty strategies will be exposed very quickly against a good player.

Purchasing a book (or a DVD) on basic opening principles is a good next step. Some quick exploration will reveal simple tenets that all chess players learn. Fight for the center. Get your pieces developed quickly. Don’t move the same piece multiple times in the first few moves (unless you have a really good reason). Keep the king and queen safe. Think of a plan before making a move (“A bad plan is better than no plan at all!”). To learn more about suggested books, see our post from 9/18/2008 “Chess Library (thoughts on self-improvement)”.

Getting back to our original question. There are over 9 million combinations of moves after each player has had 3 turns. If we factor out transpositions which arrive at the same position, there are only 311,642 unique positions to remember!

To put the number 9 million into perspective, a person with an average stride taking 9 million steps, could walk round trip from New York to Miami twice and still have some steps left over. A person walking at a brisk pace of 3 miles per hour for 12 hours per day, would accomplish this feat in 125 days (or about four months).

That’s a lot of steps – and a lot of combinations to remember.

Who said this game was easy?Miami

karpov2After over five years in Suffern, we’ve been informed that none other than Anatoly Karpov is an avid reader of our chess blog! Even more surprising, he recently contacted us to find out how he could help us boost our membership.

We explained to him that unlike other clubs in the tri-state area, we do not have deep pockets and would be unable to provide him with an appearance fee, first class airline travel, a chauffeured limousine, or even a bag of pretzels.

We told him we could provide our undying gratitude, a number of players willing to participate in a simul, and a rapt audience to listen to a chess lecture. Or if that’s not possible, we offered to wash his car for him and have club members on call to work as his full-time butler the next time he’s in town.

Luckily, the former world champion has a big heart and after discussions with his seconds (and thirds) we were told that he would find a way to help us out once he has some spare time. Why? Because he wants to do for Suffern what he did for Lindsborg, Kansas! (you know – the site of the Anatoly Karpov International School of Chess).

As one might imagine, Anatoly has a busy schedule, he just got back from Australia after participating in the Just Owners of Koalas Event. He told us that there are many events in Russia (and Crimea) that allow club players to build their ratings, for example the Just Orphaned Kamchatkan’s Extravaganza.

He was very kind and gregarious and provided insight into the way a Grandmaster thinks by offering the following advice that is applicable to both novices and experts:

  • Always remember to bring two pencils to every match, just in case one breakskarpov-kasparov
  • Prepare for your opponents as if your life depended on it
  • Remember to move your knights first, unless you have a really good reason to do otherwise
  • Invest in good chess software, or find a good expert player for chess lessons
  • Losing isn’t so bad, it’s better than a poke in the eye, or a horde of Cossacks
  • Follow your heart, it will show you the right path
  • Only attack after efficiently evaluating an advantageous position, or if you just need to get home early
  • Often prepare for defense, sometimes an opponent may surprise you
  • Love your enemies, they don’t mean to be mean (they were just born that way)

Unfortunately, in the end, we couldn’t work out terms for a simul or a personal appearance. So, instead Anatoly agreed to observe one of our tournaments and give a virtual lecture via Skype. However, because his schedule is so busy, he has agreed to do the broadcast on June 31st of 2015. He might also have a double-booked appointment to visit the Russian space station, but he has assured us that he can do the Skype lecture from orbit if necessary.

What a great guy!

(oh, and happy April Fool’s day!)

The Fool

We just completed Round 3 of the Suffern Snow Cone Swiss. Some people think chess is easy, but the photos from tonight’s matches say otherwise. We are always looking for new members. If you want to test your mettle, come on out to the Leo Lydon house and join the action.



To see more photos, go to our events page.

borisaltermanOne of the long running features on the ICC website is Boris Alterman’s Gambit Guide, a series of videos on sharp chess openings (for both white and black).

We recently learned that Boris has his very own WordPress site which contains useful information for the improving chess player.

A summary of blog post categories can be accessed on the left side of the blog.

Categories include:

  • Coaching Tips
  • Computer Chess
  • Principles of Play
  • Openings

On the negative side, the vast majority of blog posts are from 2008 (with a few newer posts from 2010 and 2011). It’s likely that Boris has been more occupied with updating his lecture series on the ICC and has less time to maintain this blog.

In any case, it’s certainly worth a visit. You can check it out by clicking the following link: Boris Alterman Website

Short a Handshake

Posted: February 7, 2014 in chess, Grandmasters
Tags: , ,

We recently came across the following video on You Tube while researching ideas for new blog posts.

Is seems that back on January 22, 2008 Nigel Short was scheduled to play Ivan Cheparinov of Bulgaria at the famous Wijk aan Zee tournament. As the match was set to begin, Short attempts to make the traditional handshake and is twice refused by Cheparinov!

Nigel Short vs. Ivan Cheparinov:

After the incident, Short spoke to the tournament director and his opponent was disqualified from the match. Supposedly, Cheparinov was upset with Short about alleged comments he made about Cheparinov and the Bulgarian team in the past.

In a final twist, Cheparinov appealed the decision and was given a second opportunity to play the match if he provided a written apology:

Dear All,

I accept the decision of the Appeal Committee and on the name of chess, the chess fans and showing respect to the opinion of my colleagues would like to state the following:

I apologize officially to Mr. Short, to the Organizing Committee and the sponsors of Corus chess tournament.

I am ready to play the game today at 13’ 30 and will shake hands with Mr. Short according to the decision of the Appeal Committee.

Best regards,
 Ivan Cheparinov

It all sounds a bit surreal, but a full accounting of the incident can be found on the chessbase website at the following link  (

Justice prevailed in the actual match, as Short was able to convert an endgame advantage to a win. After the match, the press interviewed him, and he provided this memorable quote:

‘There is a God.   And he is not Bulgarian!’

No Chess Tonight 2/5/14

Posted: February 5, 2014 in chess
Tags: , , ,


Due to today’s snow (and ice) storm, we are cancelling this week’s matches.

See you all next week.

The last chess pun lifted from


Maybe this will inspire a sequel to the Book of Mormon Broadway musical.

Just think of it. Singing Grandmasters battle it out over the chess board. There will be international intrigue, murder, music, and lots of silence as they contemplate their moves!

Maybe it’s not such a good idea after all.

2014-sochi-winter-olympic-medalWe recently completed another year of activity in Suffern.

Hard to believe, but the end of 2013 marked our 7th full year since we moved to Suffern.

For those who like to keep a record of such things, our first event since moving from Montvale was held in December of 2006.

Another fun exercise we enjoy, is reviewing the past year’s results and giving a shout out to those with notable accomplishments. We don’t have the funds to give out Olympic Medals, so hopefully a couple of lines in the blog will be sufficient!

  • Club Champion:  George Grasser - we held a total of 10 events in 2013. George won or tied for first in 7 of the 10 events.
  • Other Champions: George Mendez, Roger Pedersen, Ken Reyes, Louis Winokur each of the “other” champions won (or tied) one event each.
  • Most Active: Roger Pedersen only played in a few events at our club, but played in over 60 tournaments over the course of 2013. In the end, he played 189 matches in 2013 and had a .622 winning percentage.
  • Best Winning Percentage: This one wasn’t even close. George Grasser had a great year, playing a total of 95 matches and had an impressive .732 winning percentage.
  • Largest Rating Increase: A few club members showed great improvement in 2013 with large ratings jumps from January to December. Louis Winokur started the year rated 1699, but had a strong second half, improving to 1854 – an increase of 155 points. Former regular, Lazar Vilotijevic continued his rise towards master level, by improving from 1947 to 2101 – a jump of 147 points. Finally, Saul Cohen also rose through the ranks, improving from 1580 to 1723 – a rise of 143 points.

Thanks to everybody who came to play in 2013. Special thanks to Gerry Freel for continuing to be our main Tournament Director and doing the pairings week in and week out.

If you’re reading this for the first time, come on down to the Leo Lydon house and have some fun. We’re always looking for new players to participate.

Another visual joke

Posted: December 10, 2013 in chess

Nihilist ChessHere’s another visual joke, courtesy of to

What else can we say about it?



Congratulations to Magnus Carlsen – the new champ!

Here’s a video direct from the Chennai World Championship Website. Take a trip behind the scenes to see what the playing area was like.

One interesting tidbit, each player had their own fridge for snacks!

The Players Area: