On the Road to Master

It is well known that I am a big fan of the play of local expert Phil Thomas, with a sharp edged tactical skill to complement his evolving positional sense. I have refrained from openly stating that he is a credit to the local chess community for fear of impairing his social life, but it is true, and he is strong enough to carry the weight of that baggage. His assistance in promoting chess at local gatherings has been exemplary, paying forward hours of his time to inspire local youth participation at all levels of chess activity. It is easy to root for his success.

Our local players often find rating improvement to be a challenge, as play amongst ourselves has a limited pool of rating points to draw upon, and our specialized knowledge in the specific strengths and weaknesses of our opponents prevents a breakout from the average rating of the club players, which is dominated by high A and low expert status. To move above the statistical mean of our “around 2000” world requires either an extraordinary local performance, or a road trip. This is the tale of Phil Thomas’s journey to the 2015 Boardwalk Open, held in Galloway, NJ.

Phil’s work schedule forced a first round bye, and the swiss gambit worked well for him, with 2 wins and a draw leaving him on the heels of the leaders. His final round game was against the NY expert Bisiriyu-Salam, an aggressive player who showed an admirable fighting spirit in the last round, playing for the prize.

Phil is now 2/3rds of the way through Expert, still seeking the title of Master. I hope to type in the moves of the game that puts him into that select class of chess players.

CDCL 2015: a biased, partisan point of view

Happy Independence Day, everyone!

It looks like it’s time for me to explain the story of the Schenectady A team in this year’s Capital District League, as rumor has it that the league season has concluded. Our team’s progress through the season wasn’t fully documented here before, so being the team captain, I thought I’d present our story for your entertainment. Some of the below will be redundant with posts from previous weeks, but I decided I’d cover it anyway in context.

Continue reading “CDCL 2015: a biased, partisan point of view”

Uncle Sam loses, but Thomas wins

Albany A defeated Uncle Sam 3-1 in a CDCL match on May 19. The results by board:
Board 1: Phil Thomas (US) beat Dean Howard (Alb)
Board 2: Jeremy Berman (Alb) beat Odanayo Ogundipe (US)
Board 3: Peter Henner (Alb) beat Sylvester Canty (US)
Board 4: Tim Wright beat (Alb) Elihue Hill (US)

Phil Thomas is one of the most improved adults on the local chess scene in recent years. His rating has improved the 1700’s to over 2000. Here is his excellent win on board 1 of our match last month. Click on any move to see a board and to play through the moves, including some of the variations.


As a sidebar to show how far Phil has come, here’s the first game we played.

Thanks again to Messrs. Mockler and Little for the new animated boards.

Target Fixation

The title of this post refers to a phenomena revealed during WWII, when a pilot would become so focused on his target that he would fly into it in his effort to destroy the target. The fighter pilot would follow his gaze during a strafing run so intently that he would fail to recover in time, crashing and burning into the target. This would be bad.

Our first example is my game against one of my favorite local players, Phil Thomas, who was representing the Uncle Sam team against the venerable Geezers. The opening play was questionable, and I would ask the reader to be gentle in their critique. I had just stumbled on an old tome by Andy Soltis on the Bird Larsen Attack, and had been eager to give it a try. Mr. Thomas applied a remedy which had been seen locally when Ronen Har-Zvi was here, and which led me to abandon the Bird’s opening for more stable and substantial openings.

I have promised Mr. Little that I will generate at least one post on my long held fascination with Bright Shiny Objects, BSO’s, so this second example shows another side of target fixation, where another good friend, Jon Lack, convinces himself that victory is assured. I will admit that I felt bad about publishing this game, but Jon appears to believe that there is no such thing as bad press, and has allowed me to offer this object lesson for the reader’s edification.

The draw by perpetual is at least of an amusing character, so perhaps the reader might find something to add to their repertoire.

A Flaming Arrow in His Hat!

The latest news from the League is that of another upset. Bill Townsend passed on to me this; the youthful RPI team defeated perennial powerhouse Albany A 3-1. Probably this ends the chances of the Albany team for first place in the CDCL this year. Also played was the match between Schenectady A and Albany B. No upset this time, but Continue reading “A Flaming Arrow in His Hat!”

The Thomas Howard Game and Some Theory

The clash on the top board of the Troy – Albany A match was fascinating. Phil Thomas is a very good Blitz player. His success at the slower time controls has been spotty at best until last year. A good result in the NYS Championship pushed his rating over the 1900 mark. On the right day he is dangerous to all of our local leading lights. Continue reading “The Thomas Howard Game and Some Theory”