Brooklyn Castle – A Movie Review

This is a fun documentary to watch! Brooklyn Castle tells the story of the IS 318 Chess team from New York, and their ascent to chess dominance despite overwhelming economic setbacks. Having coached a national championship team, I was able to relate to this movie easily, as this documentary depicts the raw emotions of teenage players while undergoing tremendous pressure to perform. IS 318 symbolizes what chess teams should be at schools nationwide. Their top players are all rated nearly 2000, and in total, the team has over 40 members. If you’ve ever been on a competitive chess team, I’d highly recommend this documentary!

“Watchworthy” Chess Channels on Youtube

For most kids my age, Youtube is a place to relearn chemistry for tomorrow’s test, or kick back and watch stand–up comedy, music videos, or sports highlights. But did you know that there are some pretty good chess channels worth subscribing to on Youtube? Here are a couple of my recommendations.

1. Valeri Lilov

Lilov is an International Master from Bulgaria, and posts a fair number of videos on openings. I like his videos because they are more focused towards teaching thematic ideas rather that showing theory. While his videos are aimed to players rated about 1400, there are a couple gems in his video collection for both higher and lower rated players. You can find his channel at

2. Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

On this channel, the St. Louis Chess Center posts videos of past lectures hosted at their center. Averaging about half an hour each, masters often featured are GM Akobian, GM Finegold, and GM Yasser Seirwan. The St. Louis Chess Center also hosted the US Chess Championships this past year, so highlights and analysis for each round of both the men’s and the women’s section are posted on their channel.

3. ChessNetwork

This channel is aimed more towards entry level players, so its great for kids! There are a couple advanced level videos on their channel, but not nearly as many as the St. Louis Chess Club Channel. The reason I like this channel is that if there is a specific pattern you must know, this is a good first stop. ChessNetwork has good videos on bishop and knight mates, rook against bishop mates, etc.


This channel is a bit more laid back, and focuses more on the ongoing of major tournaments around the world. Popular videos on their channel include “Bullet Brawls” and “Hack Attack” with IM Thomas Rendle. If you are looking for more instructional content from, you should consider getting a Diamond membership (totally worth it) and watch videos on their site.

Hope that’s enough videos to get you started!

Feel like I missed something? Feel free to comment below!

Think Like Kasparov!

Kasparov's Immortal

This position is from the famous game, Kasparov – Topalov during the 1999 Wijk aan Zee. If you love tactics, chances are you know this one, but if not, this is a good puzzle to try and solve. Topalov just played 23… Qd6. How does White win?


24.Rxd4 cxd4 25. Re7 Kb6 26. Qxd4 Kxa5 27. b4 Ka4 28. Qc3 Qxd5

29. Ra7 Bb7 30. Rxb7 Qc4 31. Qxf6 Kxa3 32. Qxa6 Kxb4 33. c3 Kxc3

34. Qa1 Kd2 35. Qb2 Kd1 36. Bf1 Rd2 37. Rd7 Rxd7 38. Bxc4 bxc4 39. Qxh8 Rd3

40. Qa8 c3 41. Qa4 Ke1 42. f4 f5 43. Kc1 Rd2 44. Qa7 1–0

Pretty crazy, right? Kasparov insists he saw the entire variation from his initial calculation on move 24, but a lot of critics doubt he saw the entire 20 moves. What do you think?

Feel like I missed something? Feel free to comment below!

The Fun and Games of Paul Morphy

There aren’t too many well known 19th Century chess players, but despite that, every chess player has heard of Paul Morphy (above left). Morphy was a tactics aficionado and continuously demonstrated his skill set each and every game. By studying Morphy, one can learn the importance of taking advantage of an opponents weaknesses, rather than opting for passive play.

Here is a game Morphy played in 1858 against Duke Carl in Paris. The 17 move game has been dubbed “Night of the Opera” by chess

Morphy v. Duke Carl (Paris, 1858)

1.e4 e5

2.Nf3 Not a exactly brilliant move here, but you should note that from this move on, every move but 9. Bg5 is a forcing move.

d6 3.d4 Bg4 4.dxe5 Bxf3 5.Qxf3 dxe5

6.Bc4 Duke Carl won’t fall for this one, but that’s not the point. Morphy is optimizing his pieces and forcing Black to respond rather passively.

Nf6 7.Qb3 Qe7

8.Nc3 Even this move forces black to respond. The b7 pawn is weak, and Nc3 stops both the potential check on b4 and the threat on the e4 pawn.

c6 9.Bg5

9…b5?? Opening the king up. Of course in the 19th century, there were no computers, so it was harder to develop a concrete understanding of positional play. Black needs to develop his pieces, that is his only chance.

10.Nxb5 cxb5 11.Bxb5+ Nbd7

12.O-O-O The most simple approach. Keeps the king safe while pressuring the d7 square with the rook. White is clearly better here.

Rd8 13.Rxd7 Rxd7 14.Rd1 Qe6 15.Bxd7+

15…Nxd7 If you like solving tactics, see if you can find the checkmate in 2 here.

16.Qb8+! A classic deflection idea.

Nxb8 17.Rd8# 1–0

A well played game by Morphy, but what can we learn from this game? White won not just because of active play, but because he was able to optimize his pieces. While development seems like a basic idea, in tournament play it is often overlooked in the late opening and middle game. Before you follow your impulse to attack, activate your pieces! On the other side of the board, Black did the exact opposite. With 9… b5??, Duke Carl has neglected development, and Morphy’s active play beat him into submission. Note that even in the final position, Black has failed to develop both the bishop on f8 and the rook on h8.

If you’ve studied Morphy, you know he loves playing piece odds. In this game against Charles Le Carpentier, Morphy played without his a1 rook, and found checkmate on move 13!

Morphy v. Le Carpentier (New Orleans, 1849)

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Bb4+ 5.c3 dxc3 6.O-O

6…cxb2 So far Black looks pretty good right? Up a rook, strong development, what could go wrong here?


7…Bf8 All the sudden, Black finds himself making this ugly move. While 7… Nf6 is the best move, he was probably scared of a e–pawn push, followed by the threat of Qb3.

8.e5! Morphy pushes the pawn anyways. Taking away f6 from the knight and cramping the position.

d6 9.Re1 dxe5 10.Nxe5

10…Qxd1?? This move is the losing move. Checkmate in 3 if you want to find it.

11.Bxf7+ Why keep the queen? This is Morphy we are talking about!


12.Ng6++! Morphy makes a brilliant move here, as he sets up the mating net. This is the only move that works if White wants to win. Poor Le Carpentier doesn’t even know what’s coming.

Kxf7 13.Nxh8# 1–0

Another well played game by Morphy. While Morphy isn’t exactly the most positional player, he understood that development was just as important as material. This is why he was extremely successful with piece odds. In the final position of the second game, if you include the h8 rook that was captured for checkmate, Le Carpentier failed to develop five pieces. The value of those five pieces is far greater than that of the rook, so Morphy didn’t even need it.

Feel like I missed something? Feel free to comment below!

One Week From the World Open

One week from today, I’ll be leaving for the World Open to play in the 5 day U2000 section. As of right now, I’m the 21st seed in a section of 104 players, so I’m in the top fourth of the section (just barely!). I’m feeling pretty confident about the prospects of a strong finish, as this past weekend I finished 2.5/5 in the U2200 section of the Castle Chess Grand Prix in Atlanta, GA.

With just a week left before the World Open, here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Play one long game every day (G/30 or higher). Don’t obsess over results, just focus on calculation and tweak your openings if necessary.
  • With each day leading up to the World Open, go over one of your openings. Don’t spend more than an hour and avoid memorization. Just look for thematic ideas.
  • If you haven’t been studying, then its too late to stress out over tactics and opening theory. Remember, you’re playing chess because it is fun, not because it is a stressful burden.
  • Start going to bed at a reasonable time. Stay up late this week, and you’ll have a hard time getting sleep during the week of the World Open.
  • Spend at least 30 minutes on tactics everyday. You’re much more likely to win on a tactic than opening preparation.

Good luck if you are playing next week in the World Open!

Feel like I’m missing something? Feel free to comment below!

Quality Endgame Resource

My favorite endgame book has to be Van Perlo’s Endgame Tactics: A Comprehensive Guide to the Sunny Side of Chess Endings. I think I first read this book when I was rated about 1000, and even though I am nearly twice that now, I still love to look through it and review endgames ideas and techniques. The organization of this book is superb, and the way it groups positions helps teach/reinforce pattern recognition. In the first edition (the copy I own), Ger Van Perlo covers over 1000 positions, and if you work with the book correctly, then you will learn something new every time you open the book. There are some subtleties in each position, and as you become a stronger player, you will be able to pick up on these ideas. I’ve owned my copy for at least five years (probably more), and its a worthwhile read. I know that a second edition has been published recently (2013), and while I have never seen this book in person, if it is anything like the first edition, then it is a great buy.

Thoughts of GM Greg Serper

This past week, I spent my time studying at Castle Chess Camp in Atlanta, GA, working with many different grandmasters (Akobian, Panchanathan, Fedorowicz, etc). Of all the grandmasters I had a chance to to work with, I spent the most time with columnist Greg Serper. If you’ve ever met him, you know he loves analogies to compare chess to real life. Here are a couple things he said this week:

“If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for life.”

In order to become a strong chess player, you have to learn how to study. Playing blitz all the time and memorizing theory will not improve your game.

“You snooze, you lose”

There are two types of advantages in chess: dynamic and material. Dynamic advantages, or initiative, is derived from finding forcing moves throughout the game. If you fail to find enough forcing moves, it is hard to expect to win.

“There are only two goals to become a master: Calculation and common sense.”

Chess is 99% tactics, so calculation is never-ending. While opening theory and endgame knowledge is ideal, common sense is encompassing, and is important for decision making.

“There are only 4 reasons to take a draw.”

Only take a draw if you are losing, not feeling well, in time trouble, or guarantees a prize.

“If it looks too good to be true, then it probably isn’t”

If you think you’re opponent missed something, don’t assume he blundered, you could be missing something too.

“Don’t invent the wheel”

Use thematic ideas with each opening you play. A way to test your knowledge on your openings is to do an evaluator test. An evaluator test works like this: Imagine that you are in an elevator with another person. You have 30 seconds before the elevator reaches the top floor, and the guy asks you “What is that opening?”. If you can not explain that opening in 30 seconds, you don’t have the right to play that opening.

“If you attack your opponent 10 times, he will make a mistake on move 11.”

This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you need proof, look at any game of Morphy.

While I learned a lot from GM Serper, one of my favorite teachers this week was LM Richard Francisco. His thoughts on chess were a little different than most players:

“You only learn from winning. People tell you learn from losing to make you feel better.”

Its kind of true. Studying is how you learn from losing, not losing itself. A lot of players make the mistake of only going over the game once or twice, and then never looking at the game again.

“There are 4 types of positions”

1. One side is a little better and has to convert.

2. Positional themes of board control are present. This is where doing your homework can come in.

3. Chaos. Double–edged, high stakes positions.

4. Taking the initiative. If you want to win, you have to win now.

Chess involves taking these 4 positions and constantly deciding which approach to take to the game.

LM Francisco recommends 3 books for everyone 1800+ from the Aargard series Grandmaster Preparation. There are three books: Positional Play, Calculation, and Strategic Play. These books will address your understandings of each of the four positions in chess.