At the Top of the Year 2011

At the Top of the Year 2011

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As you probably could have guessed, I write my articles some days in advance of when they are published. I noticed that this article would be my last in 2011, so I wanted to do a farewell article to 2011. At the moment I am visiting Alaska, where I grew up, for the first time in four years. Here are some pictures I took on the winter solstice, December 21st:






By the way, these pictures were taken around 3:30 PM - which is about when the sun goes down in the darkest times of winter in Anchorage.

I haven’t had any year yet in my life where I have travelled so much as 2011. From the beautiful architecture and cobblestone streets of Prague, to the sunny hills of Bulgaria, the incredible greenness of the Balkans, the fantastic terrain of the Italian Alps – finally back to the crumbling but majestic buildings of Philadelphia. Most of these travels were related to chess. That's one of the advantages to being a professional, or at least devoted, chess player - the opportunity to see the world.

Now let’s see some chess compositions that I hope can evoke – if you are a true chess player – the same aesthetic appreciation as the physical world. I hope you enjoy!


That basic and perfect final position, completely forced from the beginning, reminds me of the best short stories, which seem like they should have already been written ages before they were.

At the end of the next one we see White playing a king and pawn ending, and Black playing a queen ending! But - surprise - the side with the pawns wins.


It's a rare position where the only way to win is to promote to a bishop...


In the next one, White's pieces are separated and apparantly powerless against the powerful queen on an open board. But they coordinate amazingly.

Finally, here is a relatively simple one. But it is not so easy to solve, and requires some creative thinking. I once showed it to GM Anatoly Lein, formerly one of the top players in the world, and he solved it immediately. But I showed it to some other strong players, including some IMs, and they couldn't solve it without considerable hints. Now you try to solve it:


I hope 2012 makes all your chess dreams (and other dreams) come true!

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