Jon Speelman's Agony Column #13: 0x0D

by Jonathan Speelman
8/4/2016 – This week marks three months of this column as we hit the controversial number 13. Effectively naked when we play and responsible only to ourselves, chess players, like competitors in other fields, tend to have at least a tinge of superstition. Garry Kasparov, who was born on April 13th 1963, thinks of 13 as a lucky number but any triskaidekaphobes are invited instead to view this column in hex as number 0x0D. This week you will also be tested on some of the positions.

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Garry Kasparov, chosen by TIME as Person of the Year in 2003, was certainly not shy about his feelings on anything, including his penchant for the number 13

On to business and a pair of games sent by Steven Winer a FIDE Master  from a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. Steven, who is 35, learned chess at the age of five and enjoys a number of non chess strategy games. He and his wife Lisa are expecting a daughter in about a month.

Steven Winer generously sent a game of his own for the 'Agony' and one of a young pupil for the 'ecstasy' Steven teaches young players and says how impressed he is by the large number of very strong kids in the area. He very selflessly sent me "Agony"  for himself and "Ecstasy" for one of his pupils Bernie Xu, who is now eleven and has been co-champion twice in the Spiegel Cup (The Massachusets State Scholastic Chess Championship). Both games are violent Semi-Slavs.

In this fascinating but ultimately disappointing battle, Steven sacrificed very heavily to institute a violent attack. In his original email, he asked me: "I would be curious how you would approach something where you feel like you should sacrifice, but are not completely sure if it will work."

The answer has to be that you must trust your intuition, but also when necessary calculate as accurately as possible. In the heat of battle it's all too easy to get things wrong, but even if you lose sometimes as a result you have to stay true to yourself. Without your intuition - which after all is the conscious manifestation of a vast amount of internal processing using pattern recognition - you're fighting in the dark.

Steven Winer - Varun Krishnan

The following game is so complicated that there would surely have been serious mistakes even if it had been between two strong grandmasters. Given that it was contested by two ten-year-olds, it's tremendous by both.

Ten-year-old Bernie Xu came out the victor in this very complicated game

Berni Xu - Eddie Yi Ming Wei

Many thanks for your continuing emails, which are the life blood of this column. Please do send games - preferably a pair of "Agony" and "Ecstasy" but a single good game is also fine . The best format is either ChessBase .cbv or  .pgn as an attachment . I can also lift games in text format from the body of an email and paste them into the growing database.

About the author

Jon was born in 1956 and became a professional player in 1977 after graduating from Worcester College Oxford where he read mathematics. He became an IM in 1977 a GM in 1980 and was a member of the English Olympic team from 1980-2006.

Three times British Champion he played twice in the Candidates reaching the semi-final  (of what was then a knockout series of matches) in 1989 when he lost 4.5 - 3.5 to Jan Timman. He's twice been a second at the world championship for Nigel Short and then Viswanathan Anand against Garry Kasparov in London 1993 and New York 1995.

He's written for the Observer (weekly) since 1993 and The Independent since 1998. With its closure (going online but without Jon on board) he's expanding online activity and is also now offering online tuition.

He likes puzzles especially (cryptic) crosswords and killer sudokus.

If you'd like to lambast Jon or otherwise he can be contacted via his email

Jonathan Speelman, born in 1956, studied mathematics but became a professional chess player in 1977. He was a member of the English Olympic team from 1980–2006 and three times British Champion. He played twice in Candidates Tournaments, reaching the semi-final in 1989. He twice seconded a World Championship challenger: Nigel Short and then Viswanathan Anand against Garry Kasparov in London 1993 and New York 1995.


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