MARTHA 1/2 GM 1/2

Grand Master Aleksandr Lenderman rated 2700+ faced WFM Martha Samadashvili rated 2000+ this 2016 at the Greater New Haven Winter Chess Tournament in Connecticut. In a remarkable game involving cunning, deep strategy and the tenacity of youth, Martha held her own against the NY GM to make a draw.

A week later, Martha faced a handful of students in a simultaneous chess exhibition to defeat all.

jan and feb 2016 martha simil 009jan and feb 2016 martha simil 003 (2)

The following interview was conducted after Martha’s simul by Robert Lupone, a Tony Award Nominated actor and Artistic Director.

Bob Lupone              Martha Chess Pix

Robert: Martha you are student at AAG, 6th grade. You are new at the school this year. How do you like your new school?

Martha: I like the Albany Academies very much. The kids here are smart and everyone is very nice. And the school really supports you in your achievements.

Robert: Do you have a favorite class?

Martha: I like all my teachers but I like History best as a subject. Learning about the past is so interesting. And I like Geography too. I won the GEOBee (Geographic Bee) this year and I might go to Middle School States. The GEOBee is a competition between all the schools in the state. I won the Middle School competition and became the School champion for our School and then I had to take a qualifying exam and if I pass I will go to the state championship.

Robert: You travel nationally and internationally for chess tournaments. Can you tell us where you have gone in the past few months?

Martha: I was in Greece in October. I was playing at the World Youth Championship and I tied for 4th place out of about 120 kids.

Robert: Wow, congratulations.

Martha: Thank you

Robert: You must spend a lot of time playing chess and analyzing chess games to improve your own playing. Can you tell us a bit about your routine? What does an average day look like for you?

Martha: I spend a lot of time on chess when I come home from school. First, when I come home from school I do my homework, and then after that I just do chess. I take lessons from a strong Grand Master, George Kacheishvili. He lives in New York City. So we either travel, on Sundays, to where he is, or we do lessons by Skype.

Robert: So, when you say you play chess after homework, how many hours of homework and of chess do you put in each day?

Martha: So after homework I play chess or study chess for probably 3 hours.

Robert: That is a lot of time. And as you get older you will be getting more homework. Do you ever end up going to bed at 1 in the morning because of all the work you do?

Martha: No not really. Well maybe sometimes.

Robert: Do you ever play your mom? Your dad?

Martha: Yes, sometimes my dad.

Robert: Does he ever get mad when you beat him at chess?

Martha: No, well, he does get upset a bit.

Robert: When did you decide to make chess such a big part of your life?

Martha: When I was seven, my Grandmother came from Georgia to the US and she decided to teach me to play chess. And at first she beat me easily but then she says she got the feeling that I really wasn’t playing as she would have expected that I was doing something special. So when I was 8 year old I was already going to the local chess tournaments organized by Make the Right Move. The first tournament I went to I won all my 4 games. I also used to go to the chess club at my old school and I would easily beat the teachers. And then we hired an International Master, Parmen Gelazonia, to be my coach. He helped me get from beginner to expert level in chess.

Robert: How long did that take?

Martha: About 3 years.

Robert: Do you have favorite players?

Martha: I like the World Champion Magnus Carlson. I also like former World Champions Garry Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov. I like the way they play and their style. I like the way they attack and how all their pieces are in harmony. I just love their games.

Robert: Has it been important to you to watch women chess players be successful?

Martha: I look at women chess players as role models, because they were once girls like me. So I want to be like them. And some of them are really good. They sometimes beat the men world champions. (Kosteniuk v. Carlsen)

Robert: Do you think there is a difference in how men and women play chess?

Martha: No. Chess is a game of equal rights. If your idea is a good one then it will win on the board. It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman.

Robert: How would you encourage someone who feels they are not good enough to be a chess player?

Martha: First of all to become a good chess player you need someone who guides you or coaches you. A good coach is someone who puts their time into you and teaches you everything he knows, the basics first and then little by little more complicated things. He should give homework weekly.

Robert: Does your coach give you homework?

Martha: Yes, he gives me homework every week. He explains chess strategy or positions and then he assigns something like looking at certain games between masters or playing certain positions from these games.

Robert: Do you play video-games?

Martha: No, I don’t play video-games.

Robert: Is Chess better than video-games?

Martha: I think so.

Robert: What is something chess teaches you that you think is an important skill?

Martha: With chess you really have to concentrate because if you lose your concentration you might make a bad move or miss something. People sometimes say that video-games also help you to concentrate but I think that with chess you have to be more unique and you have to find strategic solutions so it is a more thinking process than video games. It teaches you a better thinking process. I think that is valuable because it can help you with a lot of other things in life. Like when you take tests in school it is very valuable.

Robert: I am curious about the competitiveness of chess and how you handle it. For example, what do you do when you lose? How do you deal with that?

Martha: My coach teaches me not to get too upset about losing a game. You should just try to clear your mind, get a drink of water and try to stay calm and not dwell on the game you just lost. Because if you do chances are it will affect your playing in the next game and you won’t play as well. He also tells parents not to ask your child “why did you make that mistake?’  “What happened in your game?”. He tells parents to just ask the kid “did you learn something?”. And then you can go forward with a positive mindset.

Robert: That is very good advice. Is there any advice you can give to kids who want to try out chess but aren’t sure it’s the thing for them?

Martha: I would like everyone to try to play chess because it might help them in learning strategic thinking and concentration. They don’t have to be good but I think they should try it.

Robert: If each day was twice as long as it is what would you do with the added time?

(Here Martha pauses a bit and sits back in her seat)

Martha: I have to say…I wouldn’t study any more chess….. It gets a bit overwhelming. I would do other subjects like piano. I am really good at piano; I am currently at level 5 of 6. So piano is like my second main thing.

Robert: So do you also practice piano every day?

Martha: Yes, for one hour only.

Robert: So you do your homework for 2 hours a day, chess for 3 and piano for 1 hour? Wow. Your parents are too hard on you. You should talk to them.

(Here Martha gives a wry smile and the interviewer gets the impression she quite likes the way things are.)

Martha: Ok.

Robert: So what are you playing on the piano?

Martha: I am playing pieces by Chopin and Beethoven right now and some of the other great classics. I have an evaluation in March and I need to play two complicated pieces so I have to practice a lot.

Robert: When I was playing an instrument as a kid I went to these state assessments where you would get graded on your playing….

Martha: NYSSMA?

Robert: Yes, that’s it. Do you go to those?

Martha: Yes I do.

Robert: Does chess have the same kind of structure? A place you go to for an exam?

Martha: No not really. There is the US Chess Federation that gives you a rating based on your performance in tournaments. So you go to tournaments and play other people to get a rating.

Robert: So how often do you go to tournaments?

Martha: I go to a minimum of two tournaments a month. This month there aren’t that many tournaments so I am only playing in two in February. I went to one this past Sunday.

Robert: So you have to travel to them sometimes?

Martha: Yes, a lot of the time.

Robert: Well Martha, You work very hard at homework, chess and piano and you also have to travel to tournaments several times a month. And some of those tournaments are international ones as well. I am quite impressed. Thank you for taking the time to come and play our chess club. We really appreciate and enjoy having you here.

Martha: Thank you for having me.

jan and feb 2016 martha simil 012

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A Wrap Up From the WYCC, Girls Under 10

The World Youth Championships ended in Al Ain, U.E.A. as the year drew to a close. Here is one more game from that event and some observations.

Carissa Yip had the best finish of the US players in the Girls Under 10 section. She was in a three way tie for 2nd place at 8½ /11. By the smallest of margins her tie breaks placed her 4th , just out of the medals. Martha Samadashvili, with 7/11, placed 22nd overall. Sania Salonika of India won the section with 9/11.

The overall standings show the US did not have an outstanding result with just three medals in all sections; one each Gold, Silver and Bronze. In the Open Under 10 section the US players dominated. Awonder Liang took first with 10/11. He had first place before the last round was played. In second was David Peng at 9/11 along with Teclaf Pawel of Poland and Yu Kaifeng of China. David won the Silver medal on tie breaks.

The US Under 10 cohort, Girls and Open, seems to be a very talented group. That is very promising for the future. One more example of this group’s strength is every US participant in the Girls Under 10 category scored at least 50%. If not too many of this bunch do not lose interest and drift away from chess, we should see improved results over the next few years as they move up the age ladder.

Here is another game by Martha Samadashvili from the event. This is from the second round when Martha faced Carissa Yip. Ms. Yip is a USCF rated Expert (2017) and she is from Boston. She plays regularly at the strong Boylston Chess Club there. Keeping in mind these are two nine year olds, this game is quite interesting and good.

Yip, Carissa – Samadashvili, Martha [A26]
2013 World Youth Championship Al Ain, U.A.E, 20.12.2013

1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nc6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 d6 6.Nf3 Nge7 7.0–0 0–0 8.a3,..

Yip Sama 1

The first interesting point: The position is a reversed Sicilian Defense. When culling the database a number of GM games were found in the lines B25/B26, the Closed Sicilian – the same position but with the colors reversed. Expanding the search to include lesser titled players found quite a large number of games with the colors assigned as in today’s game. In other words, the game is right in the heart of theory. The Grandmasters, as Black, seem to prefer putting the Knight on f6 rather than e7.

A more common approach for White at this point is 8 Rb1, heeding Berliner’s advice: in Closed Games, if there nothing else pressing, prepare b2-b4 to seize some extra space The text has the same purpose, however it uses up a pawn move that may be useful in the endgame.

8…, f5!?

Neither the mighty Deep Rybka, nor the GM’s really like this move. Preferred are; 8…, h6; covering g5, and 8…, Bf4; planning .., Qd7; aiming to trade off White’s light squared Bishop.

9.Qc2!?,..

Allowing Black a chance to force some simplification with 9…, Nd4. Martha isn’t interested in heading for a draw so early in the game.

9…, a5 10.Bd2 Bd7 11.c5!?,..

Electing to begin a tactical struggle before completing development with 11 Rac1.

11…, Kh8?!

Yip Sama 2

Passing a chance to take the game into complications with 11…, d5!? After 11…, d5 12 Nxd5 Nxd5 13 Qc4 Nce7 14 e4 Bc6! 15 Bc3 Kh8 16 exd5 Bxe5 17 Qa4 Nc6; the game is about equal according to the computer, but I like Black. Her King maybe a bit exposed, however d3 is a long term worry for White, and Black has some superiority in the middle of the board.

The game move hands White the initiative. Martha may have been worried about a check by the Queen on b3 and the loss of the b-pawn. This is specious not so much because the line: 11…, dxc5 12 Qb3+ Kh8 13 Qxb7 Rb8 14 Qa6 Rxb2 15 Rab1, which is approximately equal. Of greater concern may be that the game spins off into a tactical morass. Take for example this line: 11…, dxc5 12 Qb3+ Kh8 13 Qxb7 c4!? 14 dxc4? Rb8 15 Qa6 Bc8; and Black wins the Queen for a minor piece and a pawn or two. It very well maybe the out-of-control nature of the positions after allowing the check from b3 just did not appeal to Martha. This occasion, early in the tournament, facing one of the leading US players in the Under 10 Girls category, maybe Martha was being prudent. The game was a chance to move up a step or two in the pecking order. Going into complications that would challenge even experienced players does look risky.

12.cxd6 cxd6 13.Qb3 Qc8?

This move persuades me Black is not seeing the situation on the Q-side as clearly as might be hoped. The text guards b7, but the b-pawn is very dangerous for White to take. For example, similar to the previous note: 13…, d5 14 Qxb7? Rb8 15 Qa6 Bc8; wins the Queen for a Rook this time.

This tactical defense of b7 should have permitted Black to take over the center with: 13…, d5 14 Bg5 e4; and the fight is warming up with decent chances for Black. The positions that come about will favor the better tactician.

14.Na4?,..

Making the obvious threat of a fork on b6. Yip could have maintained the usual advantage White expects to have with something more subtle such as 14 Nb5 Be6 15 Qa4 Qd7 16 Rac1. The small edge White enjoys is not very threatening to Black, but it is there.

14…, Be6 15.Qd1 Qd8 16.Ng5 Bg8

Black is equal or just a bit better now.

17.Rc1 Nd4 18.Nc3,..

Yip Sama 3

Not 18 Bxb2? Rb8 19 Bg2 Bb3 20 Qe1 Bxa4 21 Bxa5 Qe8; and the two pawns White has picked up for the piece are not yet advanced enough to constitute full compensation for the piece. I doubt these two pawns will push forward if Black is on her toes. With the extra piece being a Bishop it is unlikely White can overcome a blockade somewhere on the a and b-files.

18…, Bb3!?

This is a tempting bit of activity, but somewhat better is 18…, Nb3 19 Rc2 h6 20 Nf3 Qd7; and Black has increased her edge to where it is becoming significant.

19.Qe1 h6 20.Nf3 Nc2?!

At a guess, Martha perhaps thought Carissa might agree to a draw with 21 Qd1 Nd4 22 Qe1, etc.

21.Rxc2!?,..

The newly minted USCF Expert was not in the mood to grant her more lowly rated opponent a half-point, thus the sacrifice. The Exchange sacrifice is the only way to avoid a draw by repetition.

21…, Bxc2 22.Qc1 Bb3 23.Bxh6 Rc8

White has picked a pawn for the Exchange and weakened the Black King’s shelter. It is not quite enough compensation, although there is a lot of play left in the position.

24.Qd2 f4?

Yip sama 4

The young Expert’s judgment is rewarded. Strangely, even with Black’s Bishop on b3 watching the light squares on the a2-g8 diagonal, White can make threats on these squares. Black would be better served by 24…, Qd7; beginning to get major pieces off squares where a royal family forks can happen, and the move would add a guard to e6.

Both players are somewhat inaccurate over the next segment of the game. They are focused on tricks the White Knights can get up to. With the text Black wants to persuade White to exchange the dark squared Bishops. This is the second point of interest; this period of not quite correct play by both participants has its root causes in inexperience and tension. They are seeing the resolution of the contest in terms of tactics when more certainty is to be found in positional methods. It is common wisdom that youth revels in tactics. Give these two a few more games against tough opponents and they will begin to expand their choice of methods.

25.Bxg7+?,..

The wrong choice I think. Better seems to be 25 Bg5 Bf6 26 Bxf6 Rxf6 27 d4, taking the positional path of playing against the weakened Black pawns.

25…, Kxg7 26.Ng5?,..

Carissa is betting on the Knights dancing and forking tricks. Better here is 26 d4, attacking the chain of pawns and angling to open lines on the Black King.

26…, Rf5?

Yip Sama 5

Maybe time was getting short now. Black misses a chance at an upset here. Best is 26…, Nc6. Martha may have been concerned about White obstructing the a2-g8 diagonal with 27 Nd5, or 27 Bd5. Neither work because the Ng5 is loose. If 26…, Nc6 27 Bd5 Bxd5 28 Nxd5 Qxg5; leaves Black up a Rook for a single pawn, a winning advantage.

27.Nce4?,..

Ms. Yip must have been convinced she could dazzle her opponent with the dancing Knights. Much better is 27 Nf3, although after 27…, Rh5; Black still has some small edge.

27…, Rc2?

Yip sama 6

Slipping out of danger with 27…, Qb6; or 26…, Kh6; would have kept a comfortable plus for Black. The move played smacks of a time-trouble reaction shot.

28.Qxc2!,..

The theme of a fork on e6 is realized. If 28…, Bxc2 29 Ne6+, recovers the Queen. That is not so bad, the pieces are equal and Black is down only single pawn. The problem is the weakness of the Black b, d and e-pawns. A couple of them will fall leading to a fairly easy win for White.

28…, Qb6 29.Qc3 a4 30.Bh3 Rf8 31.Be6,..

Yip Sama 7

Suddenly the insoluble problem of the light squares is crystal clear. The threat of capturing on b3 followed by a Knight fork on e6 is very strong.

31…, d5 32.Qxe5+ Kh6 33.Nf7+ 1–0

Yip Sama 8

The Black King is in mortal danger. If 33…, Kh7 34 Neg5+ Kg8; and it is mate by 35 Qh8#, or 36 Nh6#. If 33…, Rxf7 34 Bxf7 Qd8 35 Qxf4+ Kg7 36 Nc5 Qc8 37 Ne6+, when Black must give up his Queen for the Knight to stave off mate.

The game was a mixture of good and bad parts. That is expected in the games of very young players. What is evident is they are bold players willing to take risks. With Ms. Yip and Ms. Samadashvili both living in the Northeastern quarter of the US, there are good chances they will bump into each other again in one of the big open tournaments or some scholastic event. I will keep an eye peeled for that to see their progress.

More soon.

A Holiday Tidbit from the World Youth

A holiday tidbit. Things are quiet this week and next on the Capital District chess scene. With the Christmas and New Years holidays falling midweek there is and will be no local action other than this coming Sunday at Saratoga. To fill in the gap, here is a game by Martha Samadashvili from the 2013 World Youth Championship. At this writing Martha has done well there; she has scored 5-3 after eight rounds and has been playing on the top 15 boards to this point in the event. Not at all bad for someone ranked 72nd at the beginning.

Right now the contingent from India is dominating the standings in the Girls Under 10 category with three out of the four players on the top two boards from the sub-continent.

The girls from the US have not done badly: Carissa Yip with 6 points is on board 6, Sanjana Vittal also with 6 points is on board 7, Shreya Manglam with 5 points is on board 20, Aasa Dommalapati with 4½ is on board 22, Alix Shondra also with 4½ is on board 28, and Chang Xu with 3½ is on board 50. With all of the players at boards in the top half of the pairings and all but one having plus scores, I’d say the US girls have done very well in this Championship.

In such events there is a big range of skill. It can not be forgotten these are very young players with limited experience. From round 7 here is a game where a young lady from Bolivia is over-matched against our local girl:

Condori, Ana Paula (Bolivia) – Samadashvili, Martha (USA) [B33]
World Youth Championship (Girls U10) Al Ain, UAE, 23.12.2013

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Nf3?,..

Not the best move, or even the second best here. Both 6 Ndb5, and 6 Nxc6, are better. This is the Pelikan/Sveshnikov Variation, a very technical line with specific move orders that are not very intuitive. White probably id not booked up on it.

6…, Bb4 7.Bd3 d5!?

Condori Sama 1

A move suggested by general principles; if Black can get in d7-d5 when she has a safe pawn on e5 in the Sicilian, then Black is doing fine, right? More accurate is 7…, Bxc3; inflicting pawn structure damage immediately. The wrecking the White Q-side pawns is the fundamental reason why the retreat of the Knight from d4 to f3 is a poor idea.

8.exd5 Nxd5 9.Bd2 Bxc3 10.Bxc3,..

Recapturing with the b-pawn is slightly better so as to retain the Bishop to defend c3, and to at least have the two Bishops as compensation for the broken pawns.

10…, Nxc3 11.bxc3 0–0

Black now has a permanent advantage; the better pawn structure and the weak c-pawns to target.

12.0–0 Qe7?!

Condori Sama 2

Getting the Queen off the back rank is a good thing, but e7 is not exactly the right square for the Lady, better c7. As good as she is, we have to remember Martha has limited experience as yet. Putting the Queen on e7 builds some potential tactical tricks into the position. With a straight forward technical exploitation of a positional advantage – weak and double c-pawns – as the most certain way to win, good technique says avoid tactics if you can.

13.Re1 Re8 14.Be4 f6?

Black is not seeing what is going on yet. Getting the Queen out of the way with 14…, Qc7; would go a long way towards defusing the landmine White is apparently building.

15.Qd3?,..

Condori Sama 3

White either did not realize what was available, or she thought to raise the stakes by going for more complications. Here the stroke 15 Nd4!, would have done much to justify the White play to this point. If 15…,exd4?? 16 Bd5+!, picks up winning material. If 15…, Nxd4 16 cxd4, repairs the doubled c-pawns leaving White with some advantage. Finally, if 15…, Bd7 16 Rb1 Rab8 17 Qd3 g6 18 Nxc6 bxc6 19 h3, and 19…, f5; is met with 20 Rxb8 Rxb8 21 Bxc6 Bxc6 22 Qc4+, when White has an extra pawn although it is not very robust. In this last line White can’t be said to have much of an edge, but she seems to be in no danger of losing.

15…, g6 16.Re3?,..

Even given a second bite at the apple, White does not recognize what is available. Here 16 Nd4, would not be quite so good as it was earlier, but the draw could be forced: 16 Nd4 Nd8 17 f4! exd4 18 Bxg6 Qxe1+ 19 Rxe1 Rxe1+ 20 Kf2 Re7 21 Bxh7+, and if Black captures the Bishop there is a perpetual check for White. If Black allows the Bishop to get away, White ends up with a Queen and three pawns versus two Rooks and a minor piece with plenty of fight left in the materially unbalanced position.

Evidently Black did not see the possibility either. Tactical alertness is an area where Martha will have to improve. Very likely she will do so quickly as she reviews her performance game by game.

16…, Be6 17.Ne1,..

The only alternative I could come up with was 17 Qb5, and it offers almost nothing for White. Black now goes forward with simple moves that take aim at the positional flaws in the White position.

17…, Red8 18.Qe2 Bd5 19.Bxd5+ Rxd5 20.Qc4 Rad8 21.Rd1 Qc5

Condori Sama 4

Nicely done. Either the Queens are traded or a pair of Rooks will come off the board. As long as Black has one Rook and her Knight, White will be hard put to hold all the pawns on the Q-side.

22.Qxc5 Rxc5 23.Rb1,..

In a bad situation White keeps material on. Rybka says 23 Rxd8+, is better. Either way Black has a big advantage.

23…, b6 24.Nf3 Ra5 25.Ra1 Ra3 26.Kf1 Rd5 27.c4 Rda5 28.Rxa3 Rxa3

White has been unable to do much to modify the fundamentals of the position. Black will pick off a pawn somewhere on the Q-side. The issue will then become trading off the rest of the pieces and winning the King and pawns endgame.

29.Ke2 Rc3 30.Nd2 Nd4+ 31.Kd1,..

Somewhat more resistance could be made with 31 Kf1. The text sets the White King and Rook in relation to each other that permit’s a forcing simplification.

31…, Rxc2 32.a4,..

Now the finish is simple to find.

32…, Rxd2+ 33.Kxd2 Nb3+ 34.Kc3 Nxa1 35.Kb2 Kf7 36.Kxa1 Ke6

The winning plan is now quite clear to a player of Martha’s strength: march the King to c5 to tie up the White King, make a passed e-pawn, and use the passed e-pawn to draw away the White King from the defense of c4, and finally, wrap things up with the collection of the c and a-pawns.

37.Kb2 Kd6 38.Kb3 Kc5 39.g3 f5 1-0

Condori Sama 5

It is now clear there is no stopping the creation of a passed e-pawn. The game went on for twenty more moves as White played almost to checkmate down a Queen. Other than mutual overlooking of the tricky shot around move 15/16, this was a well played game by two nine year olds. Given a couple of more year’s of experience and it will be no easy task to meet either Martha or Ana over the board, that is when they are all of eleven years old!

More soon.

135th NYS Championship – A New Talent

I’ve been around chess for many years. Every time a new young player comes along showing some talent it is a revelation. It wasn’t so long ago Hikaru Nakamura was one of the many youngsters at the NYS Championship. Now he is in the top ten of the world! This year’s NYS Championship has another kid that may well go far; Martha Samadashvili. She is nine years old, and it is much too early to say she will be as good as Naka, or even Schenectady’s own Deepak Aaron. But, this little girl has moxie. Labeling her a little girl is not to demean. She is in fact a small person and definitely looks her age. She does not however play small. Continue reading “135th NYS Championship – A New Talent”