Saturday, October 22, 2016

Kasparov: Putin Trying to Elect Trump

Garry Kasparov thinks that Vladimir Putin is trying to elect Donald Trump.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Pix from Marshall October Under 2300

Last weekend, I snapped these photos during the tournament at the Marshall Chess Club.



Thursday, October 20, 2016

IM Nicolas Checa on PIX11

Take a look at this video, featuring international master Nicolas Checa.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Revised Fall 2016 Teaching Schedule

On Tuesdays, for AlphaBEST Explorations, I am teaching an after school enrichment class on chess at Wyoming School, not at Stonybrook School as previously reported.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Marshall October Under 2300 10/16/2016

On Sunday, I drew this game in the tournament at the Marshall Chess Club.

Round Four: French Defense, King's Indian Attack

Jim West (USCF 2200) -  Brian Arthur (USCF 2068), Marshall Chess Club 10/16/2016

1.e4 e6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.Ngf3 Nc6 5.g3 g6 6.Bg2 Bg7 7.O-O Nge7 8.Re1 O-O 9.e5 Qc7 10.Qe2 Nf5 11.c3 b6 12.Nf1 Re8 13.Bf4 Ba6 14.h4 Rad8

15.Qd2 b5 16.g4 Nfe7 17.d4 Na5 18.b3 Rc8 19.Rac1 Qb7 20.h5 Qd7 21.Bh6 Bh8 22.Ng3 Nb7 23.Qf4 cxd4 24.cxd4 Nc6 25.hxg6 fxg6 26.Bf1 Nbd8 27.a4 Qb7 28.axb5, draw.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Marshall October Under 2300 10/15/2016

On Saturday, I won this game in the tournament at the Marshall Chess Club.

Round Two: Sicilian Defense, King's Indian Attack

Jim West (USCF 2200) - Keith Espinosa (USCF 1846), Marshall Chess Club

1.e4 g6 2.Nf3 Bg7 3.g3 d6 4.Bg2 Nf6 5.d3 O-O 6.O-O c5 7.Nbd2 Nc6 8.a4 a6 9.Nc4 Bg4 10.a5 Nd7 11.h3 Bxf3 12.Bxf3 b5 13.axb6 Nxb6 14.e5 Qc7

15.exd6 exd6 16.c3 Ra7 17.Bg2 Rb8 18.Re1 Ne5 19.Na5 d5 20.Bf4 f6 21.d4 cxd4 22.cxd4 g5 23.Bxe5 fxe5 24.dxe5 Qc5 25.b4 Qb5 26.Rc1 Re8 27.Nc6 Rd7 28.Rc5 Qa4 29.Qxa4 Nxa4 30.Rxd5 Rxd5 31.Bxd5+ Kf8

32.e6 Rc8 33.e7+ Ke8 34.Na7 Rc7 35.Bf7+, Black resigns.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Trump: U.S. Has No Chess Grandmasters

Donald Trump says the United States has no chess grandmasters.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Pix from Sunday Game/45 10/9/2016

On Sunday, I took these pictures during the tournament at the Marshall Chess Club.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Pix from Saturday Game/60 10/8/2016

On Saturday, I photographed the players during the tournament at the Marshall Chess Club.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Kasparov Criticizes Trump on CNN

Watch Garry Kasparov criticize Donald Trump on CNN.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

My Games versus Prestia Brothers

Last weekend, I played against all three Prestia brothers at the Marshall Chess Club.

Round One: Owen Defense

Jim West (USCF 2200) - Frank Prestia (USCF 1723), Marshall Chess Club 10/8/2016

1.e4 e6 2.d4 b6 3.Bd3 Bb7 4.Nh3 c5 5.c3 cxd4 6.cxd4 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 Nf6 8.f3 O-O 9.O-O d6 10.Be3 Nbd7 11.Rc1 Qe7

12.a3 Bxc3 13.Rxc3 Rac8 14.Rxc8 Rxc8 15.Qd2 e5 16.Rc1 Rxc1+ 17.Qxc1 Qd8 18.Bb1 Qc8 19.Qxc8+ Bxc8 20.Ba2 h6 21.Nf2 Ba6 22.Nd1 Nb8 23.dxe5 dxe5 24.Nc3 Nc6 25.Nd5 Nxd5 26.Bxd5 Ne7

27.Ba2 Kf8 28.b4 Ke8 29.Kf2 f5 30.exf5 Nxf5 31.g4 Nxe3 32.Kxe3 Ke7 33.Bd5 Kd6 34.Ba8 Ke6 35.h4 Bc4 36.Ke4 Bb3 37.h5 Bc2+ 38.Ke3 Bb3 39.Bb7 Bd5 40.Bc8+ Kf6 41.a4 a5 42.bxa5 bxa5 43.Bd7 Ke7 44.Bb5 Kf6

45.Bd7 Bb7 46.Bf5 Bc6 47.Bc2 Ke6 48.Bb3+ Kf6 49.Bd1 Ke6 50.Bb3+ Kf6, draw.

          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

Round Two: Dutch Defense

Sebastian Prestia (USCF 1589) - Jim West (USCF 2200), Marshall Chess Club 10/8/2016

1.d4 f5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bg5 e6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.e3 b6 6.Be2 Bb7 7.h4 a5 8.h5 h6 9.Bh4 d6 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.Qd2 Qe7 12.Rh3 Na6 13.a3 O-O

14.g3 e5 15.d5 Nc5 16.Nh4 Bxh4 17.Rxh4 f4 18.exf4 exf4 19.Rxf4 Rxf4 20.Qxf4 Rf8 21.Qd4 Ba6 22.Qe3 Qf7 23.Kf1 Re8 24.Qf4 Bxe2+ 25.Nxe2 Qxh5 26.f3 Rf8 27.Qd4 Qxf3+ 28.Kg1 Qxe2 29.Rc1 Rf3

30.Qg4 Qf2+ 31.Kh1 Rxg3 32.Qc8+ Kh7 33.Qxc7 Qg2#.

          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

Round One: Owen Defense

Jim West (USCF 2200) - Paris Prestia (USCF 1796), Marshall Chess Club 10/9/2016

1.e4 e6 2.d4 b6 3.Bd3 Bb7 4.Nh3 c5 5.c3 Nf6 6.f3 Nc6 7.Be3 cxd4 8.cxd4 Be7 9.O-O Nb4 10.Nc3 Nxd3 11.Qxd3 O-O 12.Rac1 d6 13.Rfd1 Qd7

14.Nf4 Rfd8 15.d5 e5 16.Nfe2 Rac8 17.a4 Qe8 18.Ng3 Nd7 19.b4 g6 20.a5 bxa5 21.bxa5 Nc5 22.Qb5 Ba6 23.Qxe8+ Rxe8 24.Nce2 Nb3 25.Rxc8 Rxc8 26.Bxa7 Nxa5 27.Rc1 Rxc1+ 28.Nxc1, draw.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

"Newsday" Article on Prestia Brothers

Chess is king for the Prestia brothers

Wading through a sea of soccer balls, chessboards, model rockets, video games and toys in the playroom of their Lloyd Harbor home, the Prestia boys pondered a question: What do they want to be when they grow up?

“A paleontologist!” declared Sebastian, pronouncing the 14-letter word with impressive precision for a 6-year-old. “I like dinosaurs.”

“A physicist,” said Frankie, 8. “I love space.” 

“A surgeon and a lawyer,” said oldest brother Paris, 10. 

Rosanna, their mother, laughed at the precocious responses. “Doesn’t anyone want to be a grandmaster?” she asked. 

Paris looked up from the chessboard, where he was engaged in yet another impromptu match with one of his siblings. 

“Is that even a job?” he asked. 

An excellent question. 

“It can be,” said seven-time U.S. women’s champion and grandmaster Irina Krush of Brooklyn. Krush, , 32, is a chess player and coach and works with the Prestia boys — avid chess players who, at very young ages, have already achieved much in the so-called Game of Kings — at the famed Marshall Chess Club in Manhattan, which produced grandmaster Bobby Fischer. “Plenty of people who have become grandmasters moved on to do other things in other fields, like finance or computer programming,” she added. 

“Plenty” is a relative term, as only 86 Americans still living have attained the title of grandmaster, according to the U.S. Chess Federation. And although there are people who have achieved the title in their teens, becoming a grandmaster — often described as a sort of a “doctorate of chess” — is a product of long years of study and high performance in competitions. 

There are some in the chess world, including Krush, who think all three Prestia boys have what it takes to join those elite ranks, should they choose. Earlier this summer, Sebastian was ranked the No. 1 6-year-old player in the country by the federation (out of 1,746 players of that age ranked by U.S. Chess). Frankie was ranked ninth in his age group, and Paris is in the top 30 nationally. 

The rankings change monthly, based on tournament play, and as of September, Sebastian was ranked third in his age group; Frankie was 10th, and Paris was 53rd. 

“All three of them are very advanced for their age,” Krush said, although she believes that Sebastian may have the most potential, in part because as the youngest he has had the benefit of playing against older competitors (his two brothers) on a daily basis. “For him, the door is totally open,” Krush added. 

While the boys work hard at chess, they also seem to have inherited a talent for the game: Their father, Frank, was an accomplished player as an adolescent, although playing chess for him fulfilled a very different role than it does in the life of his sons, who see it as challenging fun. 

Frank Prestia, 45, grew up in Roslyn in the 1980s, the son of Italian immigrants. He played, he said, because he believed proficiency at the game could help shatter some stereotypes that he felt keenly as a teenager. 

“I didn’t have to be Vinnie Barbarino or the Fonz,” he said, referring to two notable Italian-American TV characters of the 1970s. “I could be someone intelligent.” 

The image of Italian youths as little more than leather-jacketed hoodlums or class clowns (a la John Travolta and Henry Winkler’s characters in “Welcome Back, Kotter” and “Happy Days,” respectively) was still a pervasive one at the time. Prestia’s chess-playing ability helped give him the confidence to overcome that. 

“Because I could beat the smartest kids in chess, I felt I could compete with them in academics as well,” he said. 

Which he did: Prestia went on to the State University of New York in Geneseo, becoming the first in his family to attend college. He majored in philosophy and while there, also raised money to start a chess club that is still active on the campus. He later graduated law school at St. John’s. He met wife Rosanna, who grew up in Boca Raton, Florida, in an early internet-era chat room in 1998. “We talked about Greek philosophers,” said Rosanna. 

Taking up the game 

When Paris was 7 and came home from school one day with a chess set, excited by the idea of knights and castles, his father explained to him the basics of the game, but was wary of further encouragement. 

“I didn’t want him to do it because I did it,” he said. “I didn’t want to pigeonhole him.” 

The boys seemed to love the game, however, and when at their insistence their father enrolled them in a local youth chess group, the Smithtown Chess Nuts, in early 2014, their talent was quickly recognized by club founder Harold Stenzel. 

“Those boys improved so quickly, they kind of outgrew me” and the Chess Nuts, Stenzel said. 

“He recommended to us that we bring Paris and Frankie to a chess tournament,” Frank Prestia said. “I was firmly against it, but Harold kept recommending it, and Paris and Frankie really wanted to play, and they convinced Rosanna.” 

The boys took more advanced lessons at the Long Island ChessMates centers in Stony Brook and Syosset, and this past January began studying with grandmasters Giorgi Kacheishvili and Krush at the Marshall Chess Club. Their class is on Monday evening. In addition, the boys — who attend the private Lloyd Harbor School, for students in grades 2-6 — practice the game daily. 

Things change, though, when a match looms: the evening before a competition is chess-free. “The night before, we just do what we want to do,” Paris said. “We try to relax. We play Ping-Pong, we watch movies and TV.” 

On the day of a match, the boys’ attention turns to mental preparation. “I’m thinking about what my opening is. And thinking about what [the opponent] might do,” Frankie said, adding that he has “played a bunch of people a bunch of times,” so he has some familiarity with opponents on the other side of the board and their style of play. 

Still, practice and studying are a must. “I like the studying,” Paris said. “It’s good to learn to get better.” 

“I don’t think it’s that fun,” Frankie retorts. “But if you don’t study and practice you don’t play, and that’s the most exciting part.” 

Victory has its place, too. 

“I like winning and getting trophies,” Sebastian said. “And seeing my rating going up.” 

And there’s one other thing: “I like solving puzzles in chess,” Sebastian said. 

According to Ohio State University research psychologist Joanne Ruthsatz, having three children in one family who are exceptional performers in the same discipline is “very uncommon.” Ruthsatz is co-author of a new book, “The Prodigy’s Cousin,” and while she agrees with Frank and Rosanna Prestia that showing their children the value of hard work and practice is important, ultimately, she said, talent wins out. 

“Do I think their practice helps?” said Ruthsatz, who has interviewed and studied dozens of prodigies in various fields. “Definitely. Do I think any child could do what they do in chess, even with millions of hours of practice? No. I wanted to be Barbra Streisand and I love to sing . . . but no way.” 

Jean Hoffman, executive director of the U.S. Chess Federation, the game’s national governing body, said the Prestias are among a growing number of outstanding young American players. 

“We’re seeing record-setting achievements by our young players,” she said. “Across the board, they’re getting younger, getting higher ratings at a young age.” 

Tournaments, trophies and time for tennis 

This past summer, the Prestias competed in more than a half dozen tournaments, from Windsor, Canada, to Nashville, Tennessee, as well as in local competitions. Though chess has been an important focus, their parents have also tried to make sure the siblings enjoyed some of the kind of summer activities many Long Island children their age would: This past summer, the boys also attended camp, took tennis lessons and went swimming and kayaking. 

Clearly, though, they enjoy the game. On a weekday afternoon in late August, Paris and Sebastian were eager to show off their skills as they faced off against each other over one of the many chessboards in their home. “I know how he plays,” said Paris, with the wisdom of the older brother, “so I’m doing a special thing against him.” 

What that “special thing” is — a gambit to trap the opponent’s king in a series of moves known as the Mating Net — might be difficult for nonplayers to even conceptualize. “Chess is not about thinking a couple moves ahead,” said their father, watching the boys play. “You have to be thinking seven or eight moves ahead.”

In the time it took Frank Prestia to explain this to a chess novice, Paris had snared his brother in the Net and the game was over. The boys’ excitement then shifted to showing off what they said is the best thing about chess. 

“Trophies!” they roar in unison. 

Here, they are indeed similar to most Long Island children, eager to add to the hardware accrued from soccer or flag football or Little League. And not unlike most siblings, they are competitive with each other as to who has the most, a debate that is settled on this day only by counting the trophies that cram the bookshelves in each of the boys’ rooms. For the record, as of late August, Paris has 35, Frankie has 26 and Sebastian has 22 — a deficit he attributes to the fact that “they’re older.” 

Rosanna Prestia said chess gives her sons “focus and discipline.” At that very moment, two of her children, already on to another game, get into a loud argument about who checkmated who first. “Hopefully,” she added with a grin. 

For those serious about chess 

Chess has a long history on Long Island, and among its enthusiasts is Harold Stenzel, president of the Nassau Chess Club, a group he said has been active since at least 1950. 

Stenzel, 63, of Sayville, took up competitive play after the widely publicized Bobby Fischer-Boris Spassky match in 1972. “It was on TV three days a week,” Stenzel recalled. 

The Nassau Chess Club meets Mondays in Mineola from 7 to 11:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, and also holds frequent tournaments. Stenzel said attendance averages 50 to 60 people of all ages. 

Neal Bellon of East Meadow is director of the Long Island Chess Club, the local affiliate of the U.S. Chess Federation, which he said has about 40 active members. Bellon, 44, began playing seriously 20 years ago. “I wanted to do more than just play at my kitchen table,” he said, noting that tournament play requires greater time and commitment. “That’s when I started playing competitively.” 

Lalit Balwani of Holtsville has made that leap to tournament play. Balwani, 39, grew up playing chess in his native India, then picked it up again when he introduced his daughter, then almost 6, to the game just over a year ago. Now he plays with the Long Island Chess Club. “It’s fun,” Balwani said. “For 1½ hours or so, you concentrate on this one thing. I think it does a lot of good for you.” 

The game also teaches humility, he said. “You get to play with all ages,” Balwani said as he recalled one of his first tournaments with the club. “I was playing a girl, she was 8 years old. And she beat me!” 


For parents and children interested in chess, visit, a website started by the Prestias that lists all scholastic chess classes and locations on Long Island, plus a calendar of local and regional tournaments.

— John Hanc