Friday, December 31, 2010

New Tables Added for 2011 Illinois Kick-Off

Thanks to everyone who has RSVP'd in advance for the 2011 Illinois Kick-Off. Thanks to this advance notification, and some swift negotiating, I have been able to arrange for some more space for Sunday. We'll be able to accommodate all-comers (within reason!).

Just to be on the safe side, I do recommend dropping me a note with name and USCF ID # (and grade level for juniors), but if you happen to pick up a hitchhiker or two en route, and they play chess, chances are we'll be able to accommodate them as well. (Make sure they know how to take notation and are aware of en passant capturing!)

None of this would be possible without our incredible host, Julie, at Borders Books. So thank you yet again. Drive safely and I'm really looking forward to Sunday (especially when the Packers redeem themselves against the Bears -- updates available at tournament).

Friday, December 17, 2010

2011 Illinois Kick-off RSVPs Coming Due

One week from this posting, advanced registration ends for the first USCF-rated tournament to be held in Illinois in 2011. Please drop an email to or leave a note with this posting. Details on the January 2nd tournament are available on this site (look to the upper right of this page!).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ten Brave The Winter Elements

Despite winter storm warnings and winds exceeding 40 mph, ten daring souls made it to Borders Dec. 14 for an afternoon of competitive chess.

I was saddened that folks from downstate had to turn around due to white out conditions on Illinois 51. Similar troubles beset an Elgin-based member who encountered challenges on Plank Road (thanks for the text message, glad you are safe!).

Nonethless, we were able to get in three rounds of 30-minute time control games, with Phil J. (of Elgin) and Bill R. (of DeKalb) taking top honors with 2.5/3.  Darin L. (of Sugar Grove) took a clear third with 2.0/3.

In order to accommodate a few non-USCF members and due to other late arrivals, the group elected to keep the tournament "off the books" so to speak. Results were not submitted to the USCF; no entry fees were collected. Nonetheless, Julie and the gang at Borders provided some wonderful gift bags and Phil, Bill and Darin walked away with some yummy hot cocoa and tasty chocolates. Other prizes were saved for our next event, January 2nd  (HAVE YOU SENT IN YOUR RSVP, YET? SEE ABOVE!).

So thanks Al, Brian, Cliff, Don R. and Nathan (along with his siblings!) for coming out on this blustery December day! I know I won't soon forget it (and I'm sure Nathan won't soon forget dropping his queen under time pressure or the squandered opportunity to call a fallen flag -- There's always next time!).

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Weather Update for Sunday -- It's a Go!

Today's tourney is ON as scheduled. Winter storm warnings be damned, we're going through with this thing and we'll be at Borders, but I understand if the forecasts are intimidating to those of you who like to castle on your fourth move. No guts, no glory, right? If you can make it, we'll be glad to have you play today! Safe travels. GAME ON!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cornfield Challenge II This Sunday!

It's that time of month again as the DeKalb Chess Club hosts another USCF-rated tournament this Sunday, December 12, at Borders Books in DeKalb.

With an ever-growing turnout for our Open Play sessions, it's time to see if anyone is capable of repeating as champion in one of our local tournaments. To date we've had three different individuals take top honors in our open Sunday tournaments. Who will be next?

With holiday season upon us, our valued-host Borders has more merchandise out for public browsing so we are a little pressed for tables. No more than 24 players can be accommodated. Due to these space limitations, it's highly encouraged to RSVP to reserve your place in the tournament pool by dropping an email to or posting a comment below. Otherwise, it's first come, first served.

Again, registration is from 11:15 to 11:45am. Play will begin at noon with everyone playing four rounds. Subsequent rounds are tabbed for 1:30, 3:00 and 4:30pm. Hopefully, the time control allows chess combatants enough time to think strategically while allowing for sufficient variety over the course of the afternoon.

Bear fans will be provided updates during the latter part of the afternoon as the Patriots invade Soldier Field. We're keeping a slot in the tournament open for Tom Brady in case he wishes to engage in a real game. Other NFL scores available upon request.

Updated Weather: Despite the forecast for some light snow for Sunday, we remain optimistic that the tournament should be readily accessible. For out of towners, Borders is located on Illinois Route 23 which is cleared rapidly by local crews (and chess-appreciating elves). Compared to Monday's forecast temperature in the single digits, Sunday's expected high in the teens will be downright balmy! Besides, Borders' cafe offers some of the most delicious hot chocolate this side of the Rockies.

All in all, it should be a perfect day to remain inside with us, pushing a little wood (or plastic) rather than fighting the Christmas shoppers at a crowded mall or conducting snowball fights with your neighbors. Chess is so much more civilized!

See post above for weather-related alterations.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Did you know that rocker Sting played chess?

Among the best concerts I attended in my misspent youth was an awesome jam session with the three-man band, The Police. Front man Sting (real name: Gordon Sumner) has gone on to a successful solo career. He's also achieved some interesting acting credits including a small but memorable part in one of my favorite movies, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

But who knew he was also a chess player?

Thanks to our friends at Chess Network, here's the proof, a really insightful analysis of a game where Sting tried to hang in there against the legendary Garry Kasparov.

Comments are appreciated -- and anyone is welcome to submit their own links to other interesting material or their own analysis. Again, I repeat the offer: anyone who analyzes a game played in a DeKalb Chess Club event is welcome to submit it for a discounted admission to their next tournament!

So next time you hear the intonations "Every Breath You Take, I'll Be Watching You" you can imagine it deals with chess board vigilance even if it actually had a more ominous inspiration. And when your king is feeling threatened by surrounding pressures, don't be afraid to start humming, "Don't Stand So Close To Me".

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Club Member Andrew Wang Wins Elgin Tournament!

Our congratulations go out to NIU Mathematics Graduate Student, Andrew Wang (pictured below in action at an earlier DeKalb tournament). Andrew demolished the top-rated "Alpha" quad with a perfect 3.0 score. I caught his third round win, and it included one of the prettiest knight-for-pawn sacrifices you'll ever see. The decisive combination was a thing of beauty!

Andrew's knight takes pawn, and his young opponent captured back with his own knight, thinking he'd been given a gift. Andrew exchanges on, capturing that knight with a rook which is readily captured back by his opponent's rook. Did Andrew really just sack a knight and a rook for a measly pawn and a knight? Never fear, our intrepid math whiz maneuvers his queen to a back rank check leading to the rook recapture and a sweet fork where either a bishop or knight would have been next to fall. When his opponent went on the attack instead, Andrew finished him off with a stylish mating net. That, folks, is how chess is played!

(Allow a momentary digression: We then retreated to the skittles room to watch the Fighting Illini turn the purple and white various shades of black and blue at Wrigley Field. Obvious background: Andrew attended Northwestern while I matriculated downstate to the U of I. How can a mere mortal gain 300 yards rushing in a single football game? And it was all running in one direction!).

Elsewhere in the Elgin tournament, club member Cliff Adams managed a tie for fourth in his Delta section of 7 players. Frequent DeKalb-tournament attendee Gary Sargent grabbed a piece of second place prize money in that same section.

Bob Cairone of the McHenry Area Chess Club runs a terrific tournament, and I've learned a lot about TD'ing from him. Elgin tournaments are held the third Saturday of every month on the top floor of the Holiday Inn just off Route 31, north of I-90.  The next tournament there, December 18th, will feature Swiss pairings. Let's all come out and support this wonderful event so that it remains viable on a monthly basis!

Thanks, Bob, for all you do for chess in Northern Illinois, and congratulations again to Andrew!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chess Author Larry Evans Passes

Growing up there was no shortage of chess books in my house. Among the titles which helped guide my chess education were several by Larry Evans. Sadly, the five-time US Champion has passed away due to surgical complications.

Chicago Tribune Obituary for Larry Evans (written by an LA Times reporter)

Evan's editing of "Modern Chess Openings" was a staple in my library and I had recently ordered a collection of his writings, "This Crazy World of Chess" as a potential prize for a future tournament. Now, I think I'll keep it for myself.

I'd probably made each of his "10 Most Common Chess Mistakes" multiple times. His "What's the Best Move" and "Chess Endgame Quiz" are humbling reminders of how much I have yet to learn.

In an age when Texas Hold 'Em poker books have cannibalized most bookstores' "Games and Humor" sections, shelf space previously allocated to chess books, Evan's books had real staying power.

That's why our Borders' casual play games are so important: to remind folks of the importance of chess. You don't see many No-Limit poker games at our local Borders, do you? Take that, Howard Lederer! (a chess whiz turned poker superstar).

As someone who tries to impart chess wisdom from time to time, I'm appreciative of Mr. Evans' efforts at chess scholarship. His contributions to chess literature -- and the chess world -- were significant.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Freestrom Prevails At November Tournament

DeKalb Chess Club phenom James Freestrom, of Sycamore, defended home turf November 14 by winning the "Cornfield Challenge" with a perfect score of 4. James is the first club member to win one of our open tournaments outright!

Newcomer Scott Kolb, of Somonauk, took a clear second with a 3.0 score.

Three players, including DeKalb Club members Bill Feldman and Mark Peterson along with newcomer Adam Ford, tied for third with 2.5 scores.

An incredible 5-way tie for sixth place was testimony to the ferocity of the competition. But all five players received physical prizes, assuring that the pledge of "prizes galore" was fulfilled! Even honorary club member Alex was awarded a copy Murray Chandler's excellent book "How to Beat Your Dad at Chess" after dropping his fourth round game to his pops, Barry. (Study that tome and you'll get 'em next time, Alex!).

Thanks to the support of Borders and the creative efforts of yours truly, more than 225% of the entry fees were returned in prizes and gift certificates. (Thanks, Dan and Julie for those incredibly awesome gift bags!).

We even managed to get a little Daily Chronicle coverage (11/15, page 3) profiling club member Don Reyes and young Alex, but it will probably archive shortly so I'm not including a link. (By the way, I told the reporter that the USCF sanctions 500,000 individual GAMES a year, but the article stated EVENTS. Not my fault!).

Fourteen competitors battled this one out and we hope to see our little experiment in the cornfields keep growing at our next tournament, December 12. The 4-round Swiss will have similar parameters to this past tournament, details elsewhere on this site.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Calendar of Northern Illinois Regional Open Rated Tournaments November 2010 through January 2011

I have created a handy calendar of the regional chess tournaments scheduled in northern Illinois from November of 2010 through January 2011. Included are the Evanston, Elgin, and Freeport tournaments, along with the DeKalb tournaments and a few others.

Feel free to print it out and post the schedule on your refrigerator, your own website, your car door, your forehead.

Of course, I welcome corrections or additions through email at Feedback welcome.

Shift-Click to initiate the download in a new window:  Event Calendar

Friday, October 29, 2010

No Halloween Tournament

Due to an inability to assure proper USCF tournament conditions at our usual location, we will NOT be holding a tournament on Halloween (October 31). There just wasn't enough control over the tournament environment in terms of noise and the potential for interruptions.

I apologize for any confusion. We will be holding our next tournament Sunday, November 14 at the DeKalb Borders location. More news to follow.

Friday, October 15, 2010

An Excellent Analysis of a Classic Game

In hopes of attracting more regular referral to this site, I'll be posting links to good chess material here. Here's a very well done 15 minute video of a very instructive Queen Pawn Opening:

Any DeKalb Chess Club members or entrants in our tournaments who find good material are encouraged to send me a link with a short write up of why you liked it.

Fantastic Offer:  Also, I'd like to encourage anyone who has analyzed one of their own games occurring in a DeKalb Club event to share that insightful analysis with us. Don't be shy, pass it to Rybka or Fritz and let a silicon engine find that decisive seventeen-move sequence that somehow eluded you over the board with your opponent breathing down your neck and the clock ticking away (or is that the other way around?). I'll be glad to post your write up (or video) on this site and you'll even get a $1 off your next tournament entry (sorry, only one discount per tournament).

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

News from our friends to the southeast at Lincoln-Way West High School, New Lenox

Our next tournament is October 9 (2010): Lincoln-Way West's National Chess Day Open.
Lincoln-Way West High School, 21701 S. Gougar Road, New Lenox, IL 60451. Enter by the main entrance.
Three sections: 3-SS G/60 USCF rated open section; 3-SS G/60 ICCA rated High School section; 4-SS G/40 non-rated Elementary & Junior High section. 

EF: With a pre-registration e-mail before or on Thursday October 7, and on-site registration between 8:00 and 8:30 on Saturday, $5 (with a purchase of USCF membership, the entry fee is free); else $10 (with a purchase of USCF membership, $5). 

For students, the pre-registration e-mail should contain your name, grade, school, and which section you wish to play in (and USCF ID# if you have one); for adults, it should contain your name and USCF ID# (if you have one). 

Awards: medals will be awarded to all 1st place ties. 

Info: Onsite concessions will be available.

Questions: Contact stevencraigmiller at

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

Exciting chess fashion accessory...

Chess Merkin on display at Middlewest Fest
No self-respecting chess player should leave home without their very own chess-piece merkin. Available through the wife of DeKalb Chess Club member Daniel Cruz and her business partner, this is only one of the fabulous and creative merkin designs they've crafted.

Merkins have a centuries' old history that is absolutely fascinating. They makes a wonderful gift certain to be appreciated by any chess-minded recipient. If you're looking for an edge in your next tournament, and you're short on time to absorb chess theory, this may be the distinctive solution that will set you apart from your opponents.

Monday, September 6, 2010

New Poster Debuts

Everywhere we look in today's world, we are barraged with messages. Which ones we heed and which we ignore, well, that's a science paralleling the complexity of a chess game.

To keep up with the Joneses, DeKalb Chess Club has commissioned a portfolio of posters designed to entice new blood to open play, held twice a week at Borders. Without further ado, the latest in a continuing series debuts below:

Sunday, August 29, 2010

For the first time since 2000...

... a regular-rated USCF-sanctioned tournament was held today in DeKalb, Illinois!

With the wacky name of "Last Sunday in the Cornfields" the tournament was a seeming success with no injuries and no fatalities, other than a few fallen kings.

A dozen players spent a perfectly lovely Sunday afternoon pushing pawns and other pieces in strategic fashion.

In a dramatic upset, whiz kid Steven Do, a precocious sixth-grader, managed to pull out the top spot with 3.5 out of four possible points. Andrew Wang, the top-rated member of DeKalb Chess Club took second (3.0/4) thanks to a complex and super secret tie-breaking algorithm, eclipsing the DeKalb club's youngest member, Nathanael Kozinski (3.0/4). Nathan managed to deny Steven's quest for perfection with an opening round draw.

Thanks to the support of Julie at Borders and other local merchants, more than 100% of all entry fees were returned in chess materials and gift certificates. We hope to repeat this ROI September 26 with Last Sunday in the Cornfields II!

Note: Most likely the time control for that event will be changed to three rounds of Game 40.

A huge thanks to Keith Ammann of Route 20 Chess Club for saving the day when my laptop decided to respect the Sunday sabbath. (Until today, I had thought it was a Jewish laptop with a Saturday sabbath. I guess I should have checked the religious setting under Windows).

And we'd also like to repeat our thanks to Borders and its wonderful staff for their hospitality. Those mid-tournament snacks really hit the spot!