Wednesday, November 25, 2015

My first good result in a PCC Swiss tournament. I beat two lower-rated players and drew with two higher-rated players. (I was lucky not to have to play the Master or the Expert.) Here are the two draws. In each of these games I blundered in the opening, but recovered to achieve the draw.

Surak-chessart, Round 3, Veresof Opening, A45

1 d4 Nf6 2 Nc3

The Veresof Opening, which already hands the advantage to black.


Gives black a healthy 5.6% advantage. 2...d5 and 2...c6 also retain black's advantage in the unenterprising opening white has played.

3 dc

Black's advantage is now at 5.7%.


3...e6 is played slightly more often. My advantage is now at 7.2%. I have always been loathe to develop my queen so soon, but in recent weeks I have been studying openings in which one player does this. Oddly, I prematurely developed my queen in both this game and the next one, an experiment which I am not likely to repeat!

4 Nf3 Qxc5 5 e4 d6 6 Be2 g6

Only game in the 365chess database continued 7. O-O Bg7 8. Be3 Qa5 9. Nd4 O-O 10. Nb3 Qc7 11. f4 Nc6 12. Kh1 Be6 13. Qe1 Na5 14. Nxa5 Qxa5 15. Bd3 Rfc8 16. f5 Bc4 17. Qh4 Bxd3 18. cxd3 Qb4 19. Rab1 d5 20. a3 Qa5 21. e5 Nd7 22. d4 Re8 23. Bh6 Bh8 24. fxg6 hxg6 25. Qf4 f5 26. Qg5 1-0

7 Be3 Qc7 8 0-0 Bg7 9  Bd4 0-0 Bg7 9 Bd4

Here I should have asked myself, "Why did he make that move?" Had I asked myself this basic question, I would have readily seen his follow up.

0-0 10 BxN BxB

10...ef loses the d-pawn immediately to 11 Nb5.

11 Nd5 Qd8 12 NxB+ ef 13 Qd2 Qe7 14 Rfe1 Nc6

Snatching the e-pwn just looked too dangerous. The computer agrees.

15 Rad1 Rd8 16 Bb5 Bg4 17 BxN bc 18 Re3 BxN 19 RxB d5 20 Rd3 Qxe4

This "win" of a pawn is only temporary.

21 Rd4 Qe7 22 c4 Re8

The computer thinks 22...Rd6 gives me an advantage.

23 cd cd 24 Rxd5 Qe2 25 QxQ RxQ 26 R5d2 R8d8

A double rook ending is now in full swing.

27 Kf1 R2e7 28 Rd8 RxR 29 RxR+ Kg7 30 Rd2 f5 31 Re2 Rc7 32 Ke1 Kf6 33 Kd1 g5 34 b3 h5 35 Rc2 Rd7+ 36 Kc1 Ke5 37 Re2+ Kf4 38 Rd2 Rc7+ 39 Rc2 Rd7 40 b4 Ke4 41 a4 Rb7?

I could have equalized completely with 41...Rd4!

42 Rb2 Ke3 43 b5 Kc3? (43...Kc4!=)

44 a5 Kc4 45 b6 Kc5 46 Rc2+ Kb5 47 Rc7 Ka6 48 Rc5 drawn by agreement

White was quite low on time and offered the draw. After the game the top players pointed out that white has an easy win by trading rooks and then going after black's king-side pawns with his king.

Witt-chessart, rd.2, Catalan

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 g3 d5 4 Bg2 dc 5 Qa4+?

5 Nf3 is much better. A sample game runs 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 d5 4. Bg2 dxc4 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. Qa4 Bb4+ 7. Bd2 Nd5 8. Bxb4 Nxb4 9. O-O Rb8 10. Nc3 a6 11. Ne5 O-O 12. Nxc6 Nxc6 13. Bxc6 bxc6 14. Qxc4 Qd6 15. Ne4 Qd5 16. Qxd5 exd5 17. Nc5 Rxb2 18. e3 Bf5 19. f3 a5 20. g4 Bg6 21. Rf2 Rfb8 22. Raf1 f6 23. Kg2 Kf7 24. Kg3 Ke7 25. Rxb2 Rxb2 26. Rf2 Rb1 27. Rg2 h5 28. h3 Bf7 29. h4 hxg4 30. Kxg4 g6 31. a4 Re1 32. Kf4 Rh1 33. Kg3 Re1 34. Kf4 Rh1 35. Kg3 Re1 36. Kf2 Rh1 37. Rg1 Rxh4 38. Rb1 Rh2+ 39. Kg3 Re2 40. Rb7 Kd6 41. Rb3 g5 42. Nb7+ Kd7 43. Nxa5 c5 44. dxc5 d4 45. Rd3 Rxe3 46. Rxd4+ Kc8 47. Nc6 Be8 48. Kf2 Re6 49. Rd8+ Kb7 50. Nd4 Re5 51. a5 Ka6 52. Ra8+ Kb7 53. Rd8 Ka6 54. Ra8+ Kb7 55. Rd8 Ka6 1/2-1/2

Another game runs (from 22nd move)  22. Re1 f6 23. Kg2 h5 24. gxh5 Bxh5 25. Nd3 Rxf2+ 26. Kxf2 a4 27. e4 dxe4 28. fxe4 a3 29. Ke3 Bf7 30. Re2 Rb1 31. Rc2 Ra1 32. Nc1 f5 33. exf5 Bd5 34. Rc3 Rb1 35. Nd3 Rb2 36. Rxa3 Rxh2 37. Ra8+ Kh7 38. Nf4 Rxa2 39. Rxa2 Bxa2 40. Ke4 Kh6 41. Ke5 Kg5 42. Nh3+ Kg4 43. Nf2+ Kf3 44. Ne4 Kg4 1/2-1/2

5...Nbd7 6 Qxc4 Nb6

I can't find any games with this move, but it seems to be good for black.

7 Qc2?

7 Qd3 seems better, though it still looks awkward.

Qxd4 8 Qxc7 Nfd5 9 Qc2 Nb4 10 Qe4

Had black played the other knight to d5 on move 8, I would not have this defense.

10...QxQ 11 BxQ f5 12 a3 PxB 13 PxN Bxb4+ 14 Bd2 BxB+

The computer thinks 14...Bc5 gives black a 1.95 edge.

15 NxB e3

Black could not save his pawn, so he gives it to me under advantageous conditions.

16 fe Nd5 17 Kf6 Nf6 18 h3 Bd7 19 Ngf3 Ke7 20 Rhc1 Rhc8 21 Ne5 RxR 22 RxR Kd6 23 Ndf3 a6 24 NxB KxB 25 Ne5+ Kd6 26 Nf7+ Kd7 27 Ne5+ drawn

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Some French Games with 4 Ne2

C15 main line.   1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Ne2 de 5 a3 BxN (5…Be7 is slightly preferred to this move) 6 NxB Nc6 (almost universally preferred to the alternatives) 7 Bb5 Ne7 8 Bg5 f6 9 Be3 0-0 10 Qd2 f5 11 0-0-0 a6 (11…Nd5 has much greater success, but 11…a6 is slightly preferred by Black players) 12 BxN NxB 13 f3 ef 14 gf e5 15 d5 Ne7 and now there are several moves for white, but overall black, who still has his extra pawn, scores well.

chessart-harvos, 10-25-14   1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Ne2 c5 (only one data-base game with this move !) 5. a3 (the  move the computers recommend) Bxc3+ 6. Nxc3 Nc6 (computers do not mention this move) 7. Bb5 (comp. gives 7 dc with a healthy 1.59 plus for white) cxd4 8. Qxd4 Qf6 9. Qxf6 Nxf6 10. exd5 Nxd5 11. Nxd5 exd5 12. Bf4 O-O 13. O-O a6 14. Bxc6 bxc6 15. Rfe1 Bf5 16. c3 Rfe8 17. Rad1 Re6 18. Kf1 Rae8 19. Rxe6 Rxe6 20. Re1??

A horrible blunder. 20 f3 is roughly equal, though I have the better chances due to my better pawn structure. But look at 20 c4! He can't take the pawn due to the back rank mate, and neither can he effectively guard it. So, it looks like I can win the pawn and, time permitting, I should be able to grind him down.

 Bd3+ {White resigns} 0-1

chessart-Juntsu, 9-24-14   1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Ne2 dxe4 5. a3 Be7 6. Nxe4 Nf6 7. N2g3 ( 7 Qd3 is played equally often) O-O 8. c3 Bd7 (8...Nbd7 is usual; 8…Bd7 is not played at all) 9. Bd3 Bc6 10. Qe2 Nbd7 11. Bg5 h6 12. Bxf6 Nxf6 13. O-O b6 14. Rfe1 Bb7 15. Rad1 c6 16. Nxf6+ Bxf6 17. Qe4 g6 18. Nh5 Qe7 19. Re3 c5 20. Qg4 Bg7 21. Rg3 g5 22. h4 f5 23. Qe2 Qf7 24. hxg5 hxg5 25. Rxg5 Kh7 26. Rxg7+ Kh8 27. Rxf7 Rxf7 28. Nf4 Bd5 29. Qh5+ Kg8 30. Re1 Rg7 31. Nxd5 exd5 32. Bxf5 Rf8 33. Be6+ {Black resigns} 1-0

chessart-daskapitallesen, 9-24-14   1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Ne2 dxe4 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. Nxc3 f5 7. f3 exf3 8. Qxf3 Qxd4 (8…Nf6 is the only move played here. Taking the second pawn is considered too risky) 9. Be3 Qd7 (9…Qg4 is usual, but this move is an alternative) 10. Bd3 (computer gives 10 Bc4) Nf6 11. O-O-O Qc6?? 12. Bb5 {Black resigns} 1-0

chessart-coleman, 9-23-14   1. d4 e6 2. e4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Ne2 dxe4 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. Nxc3 Nf6 7. Bg5 h6 8. Bxf6 Qxf6 9. Nxe4 Qg6 (9...Qe7 is usually played, though the computer gives this move as about equal to Qe7) 10. Qf3 (10 Ng3 is the given move, so we leave the book) Nc6 11. c3 e5 12. d5 Bg4 13. Qd3 Ne7 14. Ng3 Qxd3 15. Bxd3 Nxd5 16. Be4 c6 17. f3 Be6 18. O-O-O O-O-O 19. Rd2 Ne3 20. Re2 Nc4 21. Rhe1 g6 22. Bc2 f5 23. Bb3 Bd5 24. Bxc4 Bxc4 25. Rxe5 Bb3 26. Re7 Rhf8 27. Ne2 g5 28. Nd4 Bd5 29. Ne6 Bxe6 30. R1xe6 h5 31. h3 g4 32. fxg4 fxg4 33. hxg4 hxg4 34. Rg6 Rf1+ 35. Kc2 Rf2+ 36. Kb3 Rd7 37. Rxd7 Kxd7 38. Rxg4 Ke6 39. Rg7 b5 40. g4 a5 41. g5 c5 42. Rg8 Kd5 43. g6 a4+ 44. Ka2 Rg2 45. g7 Kc4 46. Rh8 Rxg7 47. Rh4+ Kd3 48. Rh3+ Kc2 49. Rh5 Rc7 50. Rh2+ Kc1 51. Rh8 b4 52. cxb4 cxb4 53. axb4 Rc4 54. Rb8 Kc2 55. Ka3 Re4 56. b5 Re3+ 57. Kxa4 Kxb2 58. Ka5 Ra3+ 59. Kb6 Rb3 60. Kc7 Kc3 61. b6 Rb5 62. b7 Kb4 63. Rh8 Rc5+ 64. Kd6 {Black forfeits on time} 1-0

chessart-Battler, 10-19-14    1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Ne2 c5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. Nxc3 Nf6 7. dxc5 Nxe4 (already out of the database's book) 8. Nxe4 dxe4 9. Qxd8+ Kxd8 10. Bf4 Nc6 11. O-O-O+ Ke8 12. Bc4 Bd7 13. Rhe1 f5 14. Rd2 e5 15. Red1 Rd8 16. Bg5 Ne7 17. Bb5 h6 18. Bxe7 Kxe7 19. Rxd7+ Rxd7 20. Rxd7+ Ke6 21. Rxb7 g5 22. Rxa7 Rc8 23. Bc4+ Kf6 24. Rf7+ Kg6 25. Re7 Rxc5 26. b3 f4 27. Kd2 g4 28. Ke2 h5 29. Re6+ Kg5 30. Re8 f3+ 31. gxf3 exf3+ 32. Ke3 Kh4 33. Rh8 e4 34. Re8 Kh3 35. Rxe4 Kxh2 36. a4 Kg2 37. Re8 Rg5 38. Rh8 g3 39. fxg3 Rg4 40. Rxh5 Rxg3 41. Rf5 f2+ 42. Ke2 Rc3 43. Rxf2+ Kg3 44. Kd2 Rxc2+ 45. Kxc2 Kxf2 46. a5 Ke3 47. a6 Kd4 48. a7 Ke5 49. a8=Q Kf4 50. Qd5 Ke3 51. Kc3 Kf2 52. Qe5 Kg2 53. Kd3 Kf2 54. Qf5+ {Black forfeits on time}1-0

chessart-JavaMeister, 9-23-14    1. d4 e6 2. e4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Ne2 dxe4 5. a3 Be7 6. Nxe4 Nf6 7. N2g3 Nc6 8. c3 Bd7 9. Bd3 O-O 10. O-O Re8 11. Qf3 Rb8 12. Bg5 Nxe4 13. Bxe7 Nd2 14. Qh5 g6 15. Bxd8 gxh5 16. Bxc7 Rbc8 17. Rfd1 Nb3 18. Nxh5 Rxc7 19. Nf6+ Kg7 20. Nxe8+ Bxe8 21. Rab1 Nca5 22. Bc2 b5 23. Rd3 f6 24. Re1 Re7 25. d5 e5 26. d6 Rd7 27. Rg3+ Kh8 28. Rh3 Kg8 29. f4 Bg6 30. Bxg6 hxg6 31. fxe5 fxe5 32. Rxe5 Rxd6 33. Re7 Nc6 34. Rc7 Nc5 35. Rhh7 Ne6 36. Rb7 a6 37. h3 Nc5 38. Rbc7 Ne4 39. Rcg7+ Kf8 40. Rd7 Rxd7 41. Rxd7 Ne5 42. Ra7 Nc4 43. Rxa6 Kf7 44. Kf1 Nxb2 45. Rb6 Nxc3 46. Ke1 Nc4 47. Ra6 Na4 48. Ke2 Nxa3 49. Kd2 Nc4+ 50. Kc1 Kg7 51. Kb1 Kh6 52. Ra8 Kg5 53. Kc2 Ne3+ 54. Kb3 Nd5 55. Rb8 Nc5+ 56. Kb2 Nc7 57. Rc8 N5e6 58. Kb3 Kh4 59. Kb4 Kg3 60. Rg8 g5 61. Rg6 Kh4 62. Rg8 Kg3 63. Rg6 Kf4 64. Rg8 Kf5 65. g3 Kf6 66. h4 Kf5 67. hxg5 Kg4 68. g6 Kg5 69. g7 Kg6 70. Rc8 Kxg7 71. Kc3 Kf6 72. Kb4 Kf5 73. Rb8 Kg4 74. Rxb5 Nxb5 75. Kxb5 Kxg3 {Game drawn because neither player has mating material} 1/2-1/2

chessart-Orpheus, 10-17-14   1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Ne2 dxe4 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. Nxc3 f5 7. f3 Nf6 8. fxe4 fxe4 9. Bg5 O-O 10. Bxf6 Qxf6 11. Nxe4 Qf5 12. Bd3 Qf4 13. Rf1 Qxh2 14. Rxf8+ Kxf8 15. Qf3+ Kg8 16. O-O-O Qh6+ 17. Kb1 Nc6 18. Rf1 {Black disconnected and forfeits} 1-0

chessart-fabioff, 10-22-14   1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Ne2 dxe4 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. Nxc3 f5 7. f3 exf3 8. Qxf3 Ne7 9. Bc4 O-O 10. O-O c6 11. Bg5 h6 12. Bh4 g5 13. Bf2 b5 14. Ba2 Nd5 15. Rae1 Nxc3 16. Qxc3 Qf6 17. Re5 Re8 18. Rfe1 Kf7 19. Qd3 Na6 20. Rxf5 Qxf5 21. Qxf5+ Kg7 22. Qe5+ Kg6 23. c3 Nc7 24. Bb1+ Kf7 25. Re3 Nd5 26. Rf3+ Ke7 27. Qg7+ Kd8 28. Bg6 Re7 29. Rf8+ Kd7 30. Qxh6 Bb7 31. Rxa8 Bxa8 32. Qxg5 Bb7 33. Bh4 a5 34. Qe5 c5 35. Bxe7 Nxe7 36. Bh5 cxd4 37. Qxb5+ Bc6 38. Qd3 Nd5 39. Qxd4 Kc7 40. Bg4 Kd6 41. Qh8 Nf4 42. Qd8+ Ke5 43. Qc7+ Kd5 44.
Bf3+ Kc5 45. Qxc6# {Black checkmated} 1-0

chessart-colombier, 10-23-14   1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Ne2 Nf6 5. Bg5 h6 ( is preferred here by 3-1) 6. Bxf6 Qxf6 7. e5? (This hands black the advantage; 7 a3 is equal) Qe7 8. a3 Ba5 9. b4 Bb6 10. Na4 Nc6 11. Nc5 O-O 12. Ng3 a5 13. c3 axb4 14. axb4 Rxa1 15. Qxa1 Bxc5 16. bxc5 Bd7 17. Bd3 b6 18. cxb6 cxb6 19. Qb2 Rb8 20. O-O Na5 21. Rb1 Nc4 22. Bxc4 dxc4 23. Qb4 Qxb4 24. Rxb4 b5 25. Ne4 Kf8 26. Nd6 Ke7 27. f4 Bc6 28. Kf2 Ra8 29. Rb2 Ra5 30. g3 g5 31. fxg5 hxg5 32. h4 gxh4 33. gxh4 f6 34. Ke3 fxe5 35. dxe5 Kf8 36. Kd4 Kg7 37. Kc5 Be8 38. Nxe8+ {Black resigns} 1-0

chessart-Knallbonbob, 1-11-15   1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Ne2 dxe4 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. Nxc3 Nf6 7. Bg5 c5? (This hands white a huge advantage) 8. Bxf6? (8 dc and I have that huge advantage) Qxf6 9. dxc5 Qe5 10. Bb5+ Bd7 11. O-O a6 12. Be2 O-O 13. Re1 f5 14. Qd6 Qxd6 15. cxd6 Bc6 16. f3 exf3 17. Bxf3 Bxf3 18. gxf3 Kf7 19. Rad1 Nd7 20. f4 Rac8 21. Rd2 Rc4 22. Ne2 Rfc8 23. c3 Re4 24. Kf2 Rd8 25. Kf3 Nc5 26. Red1 Rd7 27. Ng3 Ra4 28. Rd4 Rxd4 29. Rxd4 g6 30. h4 Kf6 31. Rd2 e5 32. fxe5+ Kxe5 33. b4 Na4 34. c4 Rxd6 35. Re2+ Kf6 36. c5 Rd3+ 37. Re3 Rxe3+ 38. Kxe3 Ke5 39. Ne2 h6 40. Nd4 g5 41. Nf3+ Kf6 42. hxg5+ hxg5 43. Nd2 Nc3 44. Kf3 Nd5 45. Nc4 g4+ 46. Kg3 Kg5 47. Nd6 f4+ {White forfeits on time} 0-1

The Trompovsky Attack

1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5

I am surprised to learn that this is the third-most popular move here for white.


This is black's best move, based on success rates in the 365chess database. White has weakened his dark squares on the queen-side with his second move, and 2...c5 immediately takes action against those dark squares.

3 Bxf6

Played about half the time, this is what black has to get used to, the idea that he allows his king-side pawns to be messed up right off the bat. But he has compensation! Besides 3 Bxf6, the other main move is 3 d5. A sample game is Bouaziz-Labib(2000), which continued 3...Qb6 4. Nc3 Qxb2 5. Bd2 Qb6 6. e4 d6 7. f4 e6 8. Rb1 Qc7 9. Bb5+ Bd7 10. dxe6 fxe6 11. Bc4 Be7 12. Nf3 Nc6 13. O-O Nxe4 14. Nxe4 d5 15. Bxd5 exd5 16. Nc3 Be6 17. Ng5 Bxg5 18. Nb5 Qd7 19. Qh5+ g6 20. Qxg5 O-O 21. c4 Bf5 22. Rbe1 d4 23. h3 a6 24. Na3 Rae8 25. g4 Bd3 26. Rxe8 Rxe8 27. Rf2 b6 28. f5 Qe7 29. f6 Qf7 30. Qf4 Re6 31. g5 Ne5 32. Qg3 Be4 33. Bf4 Nd3 0-1


Most often played, although 3...exf6 does almost as well.

4 d5

The only move which allows white to retain an advantage.


Here is the point of black's play. He hits the weakened pawn on b2.

5 Qc1

5 Qc1 is the overwhelmingly favorite move here. 5 Nd2 led to an odd game in Muhren-Eriwch(2000), in which black plays 5...Qxb2, giving up his queen for sufficient material compensation:  1. d4 Nf6 2. Bg5 c5 3. Bxf6 gxf6 4. d5 Qb6 5. Nd2 Qxb2 6. e4 Bh6 7. Ngf3 d6 8. Rb1 Qxa2 9. Bb5+ Nd7 10. Nc4 a6 11. Ra1 axb5 12. Rxa2 Rxa2 13. Qb1 Ra4 14. Ncd2 Rb4 15. Qa2 Ne5 16. Ke2 O-O 17. Rb1 Ra4 18. Qb3 Rb4 19. Qa2 Ra4 20. Qb3 Nxf3 21. gxf3 Rd4 22. Rg1+ Kh8 23. Nf1 Bd7 24. Ne3 b4 25. Rd1 Bb5+ 26. c4 Bxe3 27. cxb5 Rxd1 28. Qxd1 Bf4 29. Qa4 Bxh2 30. b6 Be5 31. Kd3 Rg8 32. Kc4 Rg1 33. Qa8+ Kg7 34. Qxb7 Rc1+ 35. Kd3 b3 36. Qd7 h5 37. b7 b2 38. b8=Q c4+ 39. Ke2 b1=Q 40. Qxb1 Rxb1 41. Qh3 Rb2+ 42. Kf1 c3 43. Qxh5 Bf4 44. Qg4+ Bg5 0-1


This inhibits white's e2-e4, and also opens up the long diagonal for the black king's bishop.

 6. c4 Bg7 7. Nc3 d6 8. e3 Nd7 9. Qc2 Nf6 10. Bd3 Bd7

Black can ignore the white threat on the f5-pawn, since 11 Bxf5 Bxf5 12 Qxf5 Qxb2 wins for black.

11. Nge2 e6 12. O-O h5 13. dxe6 fxe6 14. Nf4 Bh6 15. Rfd1 O-O-O 16. Ng6 Rh7 17. e4 fxe4 18. Nxe4 Rf7 19. a4 Nxe4 20. Bxe4 Bg7 21. Rd2 Bd4 22. Nh4 Bc6 23. Nf3 Rg8 24. Nxd4 cxd4 25. b4 Rg4 26. Re1 Rfg7 27. g3 h4 28. Kg2 Rxe4 29. Rxe4 Rg4 30. f3 Bxe4 31. fxe4 hxg3 32. hxg3 Qxb4 33. Rxd4 Qc5 34. Qd3 Kc7 35. Qd1 Rg5 36. Qd3 Qe5 37. c5 Rxg3+!

Black wins a pawn and simplifies to a queen-and-pawn endgame. Even though white's remaining pawns are isolated and weak, it still takes black 42 more moves to nail down the win, an indication of how tough queen-and-pawn endgames are to win.

 38. Qxg3 Qxd4 39. cxd6+ Qxd6 40. Qg7+

Naturally white will do all he can to avoid the trade of queens, while black will try to force a queen trade.

Kc6 41. Qc3+ Qc5 42. Qb3 Qg5+ 43. Kf3 Qh5+ 44. Kg3 Qe5+ 45. Kf3 Qh5+ 46. Kg3 Qe5+ 47. Kf3 b6 48. Qc4+ Kb7 49. Qb4 Qh5+ 50. Kg3 Qe5+ 51. Kf3 Qh5+ 52. Kg3 Qc5 53. Qb3 Qe5+ 54. Kf3 Ka6 55. Qb4 Qc5 56. Qb3 Qh5+ 57. Kf4 e5+ 58. Kg3 Qg5+ 59. Kf2 Qf4+ 60. Kg1 Qc1+ 61. Kg2 Qc6 62. Kf3 Ka5 63. Qd5+ Qc5 64. Kg4 Kxa4 65. Qd7+ b5 66. Qd1+ Ka5 67. Qd8+ Kb4 68. Qd2+ Qc3 69. Qd6+ Ka5 70. Qd8+ Ka4 71. Qd1+ Ka3 72. Qd6+ b4 73. Qa6+ Kb2 74. Qxa7 Qd4 75. Qh7 b3 76. Kf5 Kc3 77. Qh3+ Kb4 78. Qf1 b2 79. Qa6 Qd7+ 0-1  Dal Borgo-Geirnaert(2008)

Sunday, November 8, 2015

May G60 Swiss at Portland Chess Club

A much better tournament for me than the last Swiss, but I still lost six rating points. In the first two rounds I played three combinations with the theme of the overworked piece, and, oddly enough, the "overworked piece" in each case was the opponent's king! Then in the third round, I got a good position against a Master, but frittered it away as he ground me down in a rook-and-pawn endgame. In the fourth round, I blundered in the opening and miraculously held on to get the draw.

Aaron Probst(1484) - chessart (1895), Rd. 1, Sicilian Alapin's, B22

1 e4 c5 2 c3 d5

For years I struggled against the Alapin's (2 c3). Recently I finally overcame my innate laziness and did some study, discovering that 2...d5 meet's white's unenterprising opening quite effectively.

3 ed Qxd5 4 Nf3 Bg4

This illustrates an advantage of 2...d5. My queen bishop develops as opposed to being hemmed in (as after an early ...e6).

5 h3?

This allows the doubling of white's f-pawns, a huge positional mistake.

5...BxN 6 QxB QxQ 7 PxQ Nf6 8 d4 cd 9 cd Nc6 10 Bb5 e6 11 Bg5 e6 11 Bg5 Be7 12 Nc3 0-0 13 Bxc6 bc 14 Ne4 Nd5 15 BxB NxB 16 Rg1 Kh8?

An embarrassingly bad move. My brain told me it was bad, but somehow my hand was able to overrule by brain!

17 0-0-0 Rad8 18 Nc5 Nf5 19 Nb3 Rd5 20 Rd3 Rfd8 21 Rgd1 e5 22 Re1NxP? (c5!) 23 NxN RxN 24 RxR PxR 25 Re7!

 Had I played 16...g6 instead of 16...Kh8?, this move would not have been so troublesome.

a5 26 Rc7 g6 27 Rxc6 Rd5 28 Kd2 Rh5 29 Rd6 Rxh3 30 Ke2 Rh4 31 Rd5 a4 32 Ra5 h5 33 Kd3 (33Rxa4?? d3+) Rf4 34 Rxa4 RxP+ 35 Ke2 Rf4 36 R 8+ Kg7 37 Rd8 h4 38 Kf1 h3 39 a4 h2 40 Kg2 Rxf2+! 41 Kh1 Rxb2 42 Rxd4 Ra2 43 Rh4 f5 44 RxP RxP

Trading rooks on h2 loses, as my king is too far away to stop his a-pawn.Now, however, the win is straightforward, with my connected passed pawns on the f and g files.

45 Rb2 Kh6 46 Kg2 Kg5 47 Rb5 Kg4 48 Rb6 g5 49 Rb5 Ra2+ 50 Kf1 f4 51 Kg1 Kh4 52 Rf5 Kg4 53 Rb5 f3 54 Kf1 Kf4 55 Rc5 g4 56 Rc1

His rook has to go the the first rank for defense, as I am threatening 56...Ra1+ 57 Kf2 g3#. And 56 Rc4+ does not help, as after 56...Kg3 he still must play Rc1.

g3 57 Rb1 Kg4 58 Kg1 Kh3 59 Rf1 f2+ 60 RxP RxR 61 Kh1 Rf1#  0-1

chessart(1895) - Robert Bowden(943), Rd. 2

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 NxP

I have never before faced this move, but a database shows my response is best.

4 NxP Bc5 5 Bc4 Ne6 6 0-0 Nf6 7 Nc3 c6 8 Qe2 Bb4 9 Rd1 Qa5 10 Nf3 BxN 11 PxB Qxc3 12 Rb1 Qa5 13 Ba2 Qc5 14 Bb4 Nf4??

This just plain drops a piece.

15BxQ NxQ+ 16 BxN Nxe4 17 Bd4 0-0 18 Bd3 f5 19 Re1 d5 20 Re2 h6 21 Rbe1 g5 22 Nd2 Rf7 23 f3 NxN 24 RxN Bd7 25 R2e2 b6 26 Re7 RxR?

This move gives me control of my 7th rank. Instead, 26...Rd8 would maintain the battle for control of this rank. After the move played, black is lost.

27 RxR Rd8 28 Rg7+ Kf8 29 Rh7 c5 30 Rh8+ Ke7 31 Bf6+! KxB 32 RxR Ke6 33 Bxf5+

Interesting that this is the same combination I executed two moves earlier!

33...KxB 34 RxB  And black finally resigned on move 50.  1-0

William Schill II(2235) - chessart(1895), Rd. 3, Sicilian Dragon, B76

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 g6 6 Be3 Bg7 7 f3 0-0 8 Qd2 Nc6 9 g4

I was well-prepared for this move, having studied it after facing it two weeks earlier in the Portland Chess Club's May blitz tournament. My conclusion is that it is playable, but not as enterprising as the other white lines against the Dragon, 9 0-0-0 and 9 Bc4, both of which are played much more often than 9 g4.

9...Nxd4 10 Bxd4 Be6 11 0-0-0 Qa5 12 Kb1

Usual is 12 a3 Rab8 13 h4 b5 14 h5 b4 15 Nb1.

12...Rfc8 13 a3 Rab8 14 Bxf6 Bxf6 15 Nd5 Qxd2 16 Nxf6+ Kg7! 17 Nh5+

This move was the source of some controversy after the game. Some preferred 15 Rxd2 Kxf6 for white. I disagree, as I would have been perfectly happy with my king on f6. He would then be safe from attack, as well as being well-positioned to take an active part in the coming endgame. Oddly enough, a database I consulted shows 17 Ne8+ as scoring best for white among the three alternatives.

17...gxh5 18 Rxd2 hxg4 19 fxg4

Here we see the problem with 17 Nh5+. White's King-side pawns are very weak.


19...Bxg4?? 20 Rg1 loses a piece.

20 h3 Rh1 21 Be2 Ke5 22 Re1 Rbg8 23 Rd3 Bc4?

The start of a flawed plan to exchange Bishops. This is wrong because black's bishop is far superior to white's. After the bishop trade, black's advantage has evaporated.

24 Rc3 Bxe2 25 Rxe2 Rc8 26 Rf3 f6 27 Rf5+ Ke6 28 Rh5 Rc5 29 Rh6 Kf7 30 Kc1 Kg7 31 Rh4 Kg6 32 Kd2 Rhc8 33 c3 h5 34 Rg2 hxg4 35 Rhxg4 Rg5 36 e5!

The exclam for this move is given for its ingenuity and surprise value, not because it confers any advantage on white. If black responds correctly with 36...dxe5, he maintains equality. After my move, however, black drifts into an inferior position.

RxR? 37 RxR+ Kf5 38 ed ed 39 Rg7 Rh8 40 Rxb7 Rxh3 41 Rxa7 Rh2+ 42 Kc1 Ke4 43 Re7+ Kd3 44 Kb1

Preventing the threatened 44...Ra1#.

d5 45 Rf7 Rf2 46 a4 Kc4 47 Rb7

Otherwise 47...Kb3 would give me the double threat of 48...Rf1# and 48...Kxa4,

Kc5 48 Ka2 Kc6 49 Rf7 Kb6 50 Ka3 Rf3 51 b3 Rxc3 52 RxP+ Ka5?

I was convinced that passive defense was hopeless, hence this odd-looking move. My opponent's face showed a combination of a grin and a grimace as he studied the position. Ultimately, he came up with the idea of putting me in zugzwang.

 53 Rd6 Rd3 54 Rc6 d4 55 Rd6

And here is the dreaded zugzwang. My rook is doing double duty, guarding the d-pawn on the file, as well preventing mate on the rank. Since passing was not an option, I elect to give up my pawn rather than my king! However, the position is now hopeless for black.

Rh3 56 RxP Kb6 57 Rd5 Rh4 58 Rb5+ Ka6 59 Rg5 Rf4 60 Rg3 Kb6 61 b4 Rh4 62 Kb3 Ka6 63 Rg6+ Kb7 64 a5 Ka7 65 b5 Kb7 66 Rg7+ Kb8 67 a6 Ka8 68 Re7 Rg4 69 b6 Rg8 70 Kc4 Rh8 71 Kd5 Rh5+ 72 Kd6 Rh6+ 73 Kc7 Re6 74 b7+ Black resigns  1-0

chessart(1895) - Roland Eagles(1742), Rd. 4

1 e4 c5 2 d4 e6 3 d5 Nf6 4 f3? Nxe4 5 fe Qh4+ 6 Kd2 Qf4+ 7 7 Kc3 Qxe4 8 de fe 9 a3 Nc6 10 Nf3 Be7 11 Bd3 Bf6+ 12 Kd2 Qg4 13 Qe2 0-0 14 Nc3 d5 15 h3 Qg3 16 b3 Nd4 17 NxN PxN 18 Na2 Bg5+ 19 Kd1 Rf2 20 Qh5 Bxc1 21 KxB g6 22 Qh6 Bd7 23 Kb7? c5? (missing 23...QxB!) 24 Raf1 Raf8 25 RxR RxR 26 Rf1 e4 27 RxR QxR 28 Qg5 PxB 29 Qd8+ Kg7 30 QxB+ Kh6 31 Qg4 QxP+ 32 Ka1 Qe2 33 Qh4+ Kg7 34 QxP+ Kh6 35 Qh4+

I'm glad Roland didn't play 35...Qh5, offering to trade queens. As tired as I was from the long day, I might have blundered and traded queens, or moved my queen to the wrong square. Had the queen trade occurred, white is probably lost, even though he has the only piece on the board!

Kg7 36 Qd4+ Draw agreed 1/2-1/2

After the game Roland and  I had an enjoyable analysis session. We were both in good spirits. Roland was happy for drawing a higher-rated player, and I was happy for drawing after getting such a horrible position early on. And I think we both were happy that the long day of chess had finally ended.  For me, it was a day in which I played a total of 220 moves!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

An Appreciation of Renata Adler

Renata Adler's collection of nonfiction essays and articles, called "After the Tall Timber", was published earlier this year. After reading this wonderful book, I can only say that Adler is a national treasure, and her writings should be read and reread for their brilliant insight into public affairs.

I cannot begin to summarize all of the 21 essays that appear in this book, so I will delve into just a few of them. Adler's thoroughness is in full evidence in her article on the Starr report, which led up to the Clinton impeachment. She observes that the report "is, in many ways, an utterly preposterous document: inaccurate, mindless, biased, disorganized, unprofessional, and corrupt." She then continues by backing up this assertion with an exquisitely detailed account of the many flaws in the Starr report.

From reading the entire report, Adler says that to call Monica Lewinsky a stalker is a gross understatement. Even after Clinton told her the "affair" was over and had her transferred to a job at the Pentagon, she continued stalking him. She phoned and paged Clinton's secretary at all hours of the day and night, and once stood outside the White House screaming for an hour and a half.

Linda Tripp, the woman who befriended Lewinsky and began taping their conversations, comes in for severe criticism. She was horribly evasive in her Grand Jury testimony, and flat-out lied about her contacts with the special prosecutor's office. (She says the first contact was in 1998, when an FBI report, ignored by the Starr report but uncovered by Adler through an FOIA request, shows that she first contacted that office in 1994 to relay concerns about the death of Vincent Foster.)

Tripp set up Lewinsky to be delivered to the prosecutors for interrogation on January 16, 1998. The president's deposition was due to be taken the next day, and the prosecutors, who still had nothing on Clinton despite years of work and many millions of dollars spent, hoped to gain evidence that Clinton had induced Lewinsky to lie on an affidavit she was submitting. (All of this pertained to the Paula Jones lawsuit, which the Supreme Court allowed to go forward during Clinton's presidency, in one of the worst decisions it has ever made.)

A bunch of prosecutors and FBI agents took Lewinsky to a hotel room and interrogated her for eleven hours, illegally denying her a chance to call either her lawyer or her parents. They repeatedly threatened her with perjury charges if she didn't cooperate, even though at the time they didn't even know what was in her affidavit, as it was in transit (they merely assumed she had lied in it). They wanted her to visit the president wearing a wire, to try to get him to incriminate himself, but she refused.

After Adler's article on the Starr report was published in Vanity Fair in December, 1998, a worker at the special prosecutor's office wrote to the magazine to dispute the facts in the article. Adler responded with another six pages in which she documented the truth of her factual assertions.

At the beginning of 2000, Adler published a book which rocked the literary/publishing world, describing how badly the "New Yorker" magazine had gone downhill. In this book she described being asked to review a book by Judge John Sirica, and declining this request. She wrote that her reason for declining was that she had noticed "astonishing discrepancies and revelations" in the book.

In her book about the "New Yorker", Adler wrote one sentence about Sirica, a sentence which was to become famous in all of the attacks upon her which followed. That sentence was this: "Contrary to his reputation as a hero, Sirica was in fact a corrupt, incompetent, and dishonest figure, with a close connection to Senator Joseph McCarthy and clear ties to organized crime". That was it, no more discussion of, or reference to, the judge who had become famous during the Watergate era.

Sirica's son wrote to the publisher and demanded a retraction. The New York Times published no less than eight pieces attacking her for this sentence. Adler then began writing her response, which documented her assertions in great detail, most of the material coming directly from Sirica's autobiography. This five-page "afterword" was published in due course, but not, of course, in the New York Times, which never retracted its unwarranted criticism of her. Adler says if a name had been misspelled, they would have published a correction, but the paper never publishes a correction when there is a substantive error in its reporting.

The title for the book comes from Mary McCarthy's phrase "the last of the tall timber". Adler looks at the sorry state of journalism today and concludes that the "tall timber" is now all gone, hence the book's title. What has replaced it is "the phenomenon of celebrity". There are two factors which Adler feels have led to where journalism finds itself today. One is the use of the byline, which had led to reporters seeing themselves as celebrities. Adler says there is very little hard news anymore; rather, a news story is more like the reporter's review of what happened yesterday, rather than an unbiased account of it. Adler writes that "There is no longer any vestige or pretense, on the part of the print journalist, of any professional commitment to uninflected coverage of the news".

The other factor is the use of the anonymous source. Many times these anonymous sources are government officials, and getting stories in this fashion has become a substitute for the good, old-fashioned legwork that used to be the hallmark of good journalism.

Much as I admire Adler's work, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that many of her conclusions are a result of inferences drawn from the known facts. An example of where her inferences have turned out to be wrong is her assertion that Watergate's "Deep Throat" cannot possibly be an actual human being, but rather must be, at best, some sort of composite. In 2005 former FBI Associate Director Mark Felt was revealed as being Deep Throat. It is to Adler's credit that she did not excise this portion of that particular essay from her new book, which just came out this year.

Of course TV has influenced the situation tremendously in luring print reporters toward celebrityhood. Print reporters see TV reporters becoming famous, and in today's world print reporters appear daily on network shows, happy to have the celebrityhood which these appearances represent bestowed upon them.

Print reporters thus have become reviewers more than reporters. And reviewers have become caricatures of themselves, as she meticulously documents in her savage review of Pauline Kael's movie review books. Like this writer, Adler had always enjoyed Kael's weekly reviews in the "New Yorker", but when faced with the task of reading a whole book of them and then having to review the book in a responsible way for "The New York Review of Books", she realized that Kael had gone off the deep end in many ways.

Adler discusses many of Kael's rhetorical conceits. The one which resonated the most with me is Kael's repeated use of the second person, when she really means the first person, as in "You are caught up emotionally and flung about the room", when she means "I was caught up emotionally and flung about the room".

Adler's piece on Kael is probably her most controversial work. However, it would be a shame if that piece overshadows all the great reporting she has done in so many areas--the Selma civil rights march, the six-day war, Watergate, the state of journalism today, the Starr Report, the Supreme Court's ridiculous decision in Bush vs. Gore, and many others.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

An Interesting Smith-Morra Game

chessart(1618) – Kemosabe (1695), 6-7-15

1 e4 c5 2 d4 cd 3 c3 dc 4 Nxc3 d6 5 Bc4 a6 6 Nf3

Whenever black delays playing ...e6, there is always the question of whether he can effectively play ...Bg4. Here, …Bg4 is not yet a threat, because of Bxf7+, followed by Ng5+ and QxB.


If black tries 6…Nf6, to prepare …Bg4, then 8 e5! is quite strong, almost winning. If black tries 6…Nc6, then perhaps I need to play 7 h3 to stop …Bg4.                                              

7 0-0 Nc6 8 Qe2 Be7 9 Rd1 Qc7 10 Bf4 Qb8

There is no need for him to play this move now, as I don’t yet have a rook on the c-file. The 365chess database only shows one game with this move, compared to 70 for 10…Nf6 and 57 for …Ne5.

11 Rac1 Bd7 12 a3 Ne5 13 Ba2 NxN+ 14 QxN Nf6 15 Rd2 0-0 16 Rcd1 e5 17 Bg5 Bg4

This wins the exchange for black. What is so amazing about this game is that I still win in a few more moves, despite being the exchange and a pawn down!

18 Qe3 BxR 19 RxB Rd8 20 BxN BxB 21 Nd5!

An incredible dilemma has arisen for black. He cannot prevent me from doubling his f-pawns.

21…Rf8 22 NxN+ gf 23 Qh6 Qd8

Black has nothing better. If 23…Kh8, I simply play 24 Qxf6+, chasing the king back to g8, and then Rd1-d3-g3 ends the game.

24 Rd3

This simple rook lift decides the game. Rarely has the king-side win been easier or faster after the doubling of black’s f-pawns.

24…Kh8 25 Rh3 Black resigns 1-0

Sunday, October 25, 2015

My Top 50 (or so) Movies

                                                           First 10

Casablanca (1942, Michael Curtiz)
Nothing I can say could add to what has already been said about this classic film, so I will quote Roger Ebert comparing this film to the next one: "The Third Man" is like the exhausted aftermath of "Casablanca." Both have heroes who are American exiles, awash in a world of treachery and black market intrigue. Both heroes love a woman battered by the war. But "Casablanca" is bathed in the hope of victory, while "The Third Man" already reflects the Cold War years of paranoia, betrayal and the Bomb. The hero doesn't get the girl in either movie--but in "Casablanca," Ilsa stays with the resistance leader to help in his fight, while in "The Third Man" Anna remains loyal to a rat.

The Third Man (1949, Carol Reed)
Roger Ebert captures the appeal of this great movie the best: "Of all the movies I have seen, this one most completely embodies the romance of going to the movies. I saw it first on a rainy day in a tiny, smoke-filled cinema on the Left Bank in Paris. It told a story of existential loss and betrayal. It was weary and knowing, and its glorious style was an act of defiance against the corrupt world it pictured. Seeing it, I realized how many Hollywood movies were like the pulp Westerns that Holly Martins wrote: naive formulas supplying happy endings for passive consumption."

Anatomy of a Murder (1959, Otto Preminger)
The site "Picturing Justice" aptly calls this the best pure trial movie ever made. The setting of Michigan's Upper Peninsula adds to the magical allure of this great film. Jimmie Stewart is perfect as a small-town lawyer taking on a big case. The courtroom back-and-forth between Stewart and the big-time lawyer from the Attorney General's office, played by George C. Scott, is wonderful to watch. I especially like the way the film doesn't show the closing arguments, but rather skips to Stewart and his secretary, the wonderfully sardonic Eve Arden, hanging out in his trailer waiting for the jury verdict to come back. It perfectly captures what happens after a case goes to the jury, and all you can do as an attorney is sit around and wait helplessly for the result.

The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather 2 (1974) (Francis Ford Coppola)
I don't know where to place #2 so I'm lumping them together. Critics tend to praise #2 as superior, but I totally reject this. #1 is superior in at least 3 respects: 1) Marlon Brando is far more appealing than Al Pacino as a leading character; 2) New York is far superior to Nevada as a setting for a mafia movie; and 3) #2 has confusing plot elements as to the involvement of Hyman Roth, while #1 is easy to follow. The best parts of #2 are the flashbacks to the young Vito Corleone as he becomes the Godfather in New York's Little Italy, but unfortunately that is not the main part of the movie.

Bull Durham (1988, Ron Shelton)

Perfectly captures the grind of minor league baseball. You don't have to like baseball to like this great movie. The irony for me is that I don't like Kevin Costner at all, but he was lucky to get this great part. The part was supposed to go to Kurt Russell, but when Shelton went to cast the film, Russell was in Europe and couldn't be reached. Hence, the part went to the no-talent-bum Costner. A special aspect of this film is that men can enjoy it as a great baseball story, and women can enjoy it as a great love story.

Annie Savoy's narration at the start of the film says it all:  " I believe in the Church of Baseball. I've tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones. I've worshiped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I heard that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn't work out between us. The Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer metaphysics to theology. You see, there's no guilt in baseball, and it's never boring... which makes it like sex. There's never been a ballplayer slept with me who didn't have the best year of his career. Making love is like hitting a baseball: you just gotta relax and concentrate. Besides, I'd never sleep with a player hitting under .250... not unless he had a lot of RBI's or was a great glove man up the middle. You see, there's a certain amount of life wisdom I give these boys. I can expand their minds. Sometimes when I've got a ballplayer alone, I'll just read Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman to him, and the guys are so sweet, they always stay and listen. 'Course, a guy'll listen to anything if he thinks it's foreplay. I make them feel confident, and they make me feel safe, and pretty. 'Course, what I give them lasts a lifetime; what they give me lasts 142 games. Sometimes it seems like a bad trade. But bad trades are part of baseball - now who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, for God's sake? It's a long season and you gotta trust it. I've tried 'em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball."

In one of the most famous scenes, the whole infield gathers around the mound during a game. The manager sends Larry, his assistant coach, out to the mound to find out what's going on. Larry says,
"Excuse me, but what the hell's going on out here?" Crash responds, "Well, Nuke's scared because his eyelids are jammed and his old man's here. We need a live rooster to take the curse off Jose's glove and nobody seems to know what to get Millie and Jimmy for their wedding present. We're dealing with a lot of shit here." Larry responds, "Okay, well, uh... candlesticks always make a nice gift, and uh, maybe you could find out where she's registered and maybe a place-setting or maybe a silverware pattern."

What I recently found out from a Sports Illustrated article is that the script had Larry saying "OK, I thought there was a problem." After doing it that way a few times, director Ron Shelton said to the actor, "OK, do one for yourself." The actor, Robert Wuhl, had called his wife a week before asking advice about a wedding present for a friend of his, and she said "Candlesticks always make a nice gift; or find out where they're registered and perhaps a nice place setting."

The true beauty of this great film is that it is one of the few sports films to tell the story from the viewpoint of the players themselves. All the others take the point of view of the fans, and the story invariably leads up to a dramatic point in the final (championship) game. This one describes life in the minor leagues as experienced by the players.

Goodfellas (1990, Martin Scorsese)
Great work of art by the great Scorsese. A huge blunder was made by the Academy in giving the best picture Oscar for 1990 to "Dances with Wolves".

A Few Good Men (1992, Rob Reiner)

The second-best trial movie ever made, after "Anatomy of a Murder". The performances are uniformly exceptional. A statement made by Colonel Jessep, played by Jack Nicholson, illustrates the tensions at work in this film. Jessep testifies that "Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives." Dick Cheney used the same language in justifying the Bush administration's use of torture, that it "saved lives". Cheney and Col. Jessup were made for each other. Col. Jessup was arrested and court-martialed. Unfortunately, we are still waiting for Cheney and Bush to pay for their misdeeds.

To be mentioned here is another good court-martial movie, "Breaker Morant", which tells the true story of three Australian soldiers who were convicted of atrocities during the Boer War and were executed, even though they were following orders. The higher-ups made a deliberate decision to scapegoat these three, while denying that the orders came from the officers in charge, because the British Lord in charge was trying to reach a peace treaty and didn't want the incident to derail those peace talks.

To complete the court-martial trilogy, we have "The Conspirator", about the trial and execution of Mary Surratt for the Lincoln assassination. I have long felt that this was one of the worst injustices in American history, and this film bears that out. As in "Breaker Morant", the person in charge here, Secretary of War Stanton, wanted there to be peace between North and South, and Mary Surratt had to be sacrificed in order to preserve the tenuous peace which existed at the time. The officers who served as the judges and jury in the court-martial actually voted for leniency for her, but Stanton ordered them to reconsider and vote for execution, so firm was his resolve for a favorable outcome to this court-martial.

Of course, the whole idea of using a court-martial was dubious from the start, as the war was over and Mary was a civilian. The injustice inherent in the court martial process is fully displayed here, as there was no due process, no jury of one's peers, none of the protections we take for granted in the non-military criminal court system. Still, her determined lawyer obtained a writ of habeas corpus from a federal judge to stop her execution and award her a new trial in a non-military court. However, President Johnson canceled the writ and ordered the execution to proceed, continuing the pathetic tradition started during the war by Lincoln, who suspended the writ and imprisoned 12,000 alleged "Southern conspirators" without trial or charges. Mary was hanged with the others.

The only conclusion to be drawn from these two real-life stories is that "military justice" is as much of an oxymoron as "military intelligence". The true purpose of a court-martial has nothing to do with justice, and everything to do with maintaining order and discipline within the ranks.

The filmmakers of "a Few Good Men" should be commended for not giving in to the temptation to have something romantic happen between the Tom Cruise and Demi Moore characters. Had they done so, it would have been perfectly plausible as Demi Moore gains increasing respect for Tom Cruise during the film, due to Cruise's casting aside his original nonchalant attitude towards the case and eventually giving the case his full attention and energy. The filmmakers rightly realized that such an affair would not advance the storyline; so, they kept their "eye on the ball", and simply told the story, and what a wonderful story it is.

I can't help but think of other films with a similarly deft hand on the part of the filmmakers. There is "Norma Rae", in which the small-town union activist, played by Sally Field, practically propositions the big-city activist, but he (and the filmmakers) chose to "keep their eye on the ball". Very similar is "A Time to Kill", in which the Sandra Bullock character practically propositions the local lawyer, but he declines. In "Brannigan", John Wayne visits London on a case, and he and his local driver develop a close relationship, but again, the filmmakers show a deft hand in keeping it at the level of friendship, which here makes sense in light of the age difference.

A film which completely explodes with incompetence is "Absence of Malice", in which the filmmakers do have something romantic happen between the Paul Newman and Sally Field characters. The filmmakers poke fun at the improbability of this with an exchange, in which Sally Field says, "I'm 33 years old, I don't need romancing", and Paul Newman responds, "Well I'm 58, and I do." Besides the age difference, this romance makes little sense in light of the fact that the irresponsible reporting by the Sally Field character has wrecked Newman's business, plus has caused the suicide of Newman's good friend.

Field of Dreams (1989, Phil Alden Robinson)

A film I have watched a lot with my kids (especially Lisa), and it is just as magical today as it was the first time I saw it. The famous "People will come" speech by James Earl Jones is probably the most famous one from this film, but my favorite is when Ray Kinsella visits Moonlight Graham, and asks him if he didn't maybe have some regrets. Moonlight says: "Well, you know I never got to bat in the major leagues. I would have liked to have had that chance. Just once. To stare down a big league pitcher. To stare him down, and just as he goes into his windup, wink. Make him think you know something he doesn't. That's what I wish for. Chance to squint at a sky so blue that it hurts your eyes just to look at it. To feel the tingling in your arm as you connect with the ball. To run the bases - stretch a double into a triple, and flop face-first into third, wrap your arms around the bag. That's my wish, Ray Kinsella. That's my wish. And is there enough magic out there in the moonlight to make this dream come true?"

A bit later Moonlight muses poignantly that " You know we just don't recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they're happening. Back then I thought, well, there'll be other days. I didn't realize that that was the only day."

Groundhog Day (1995, Harold Ramis)
Another film which I learned to enjoy watching with my kids, and it remains a favorite of mine.

No Country for Old Men (2007, Coen brothers)
Several times I happened upon this film on TV at one stage or another of it, and I was always mesmerized by what was on the screen, even though I had no idea initially what the movie was or what the plot was. Any film this mesmerizing must be included in the top 10. In the same vein as this film is "The Getaway" (1972, Sam Peckinpah), which I also like though perhaps wouldn't be included in the top 50 solely on its own steam.

                                                                   Second 10
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935, Frank Lloyd), The Caine Mutiny (1954, Edawad Dmytryk), and Billy Budd (1962, Peter Ustinov)

I love ships, and I love the law, and when you combine the two it makes for great movies. The question naturally arises as how close to the actual events the 1935 "Mutiny of the Bounty" was. First, we  need to understand that the movie was based on a novel, not on the actual events. The novel was a fictionalized account which distorts the actual events.

Fortunately, since 1935 there have been a number of serious attempts to describe what actually happened.  The two books I have read are both meticulously researched, with a level of detail that at times borders on the tedious. As for the broad themes, the film depicts Bligh as a cruel taskmaster who flogs his men for no good reason. The statistics show that Bligh actually flogged his men much less than other captains of the time. A second broad theme from the movie is that the mutineers wanted to return to Tahiti, where they had lived a hedonistic lifestyle during their six-month stay there just before the mutiny. Again, there is no verification of this in the historical record.

So, what actually happened? What actually happened is that Bligh was a verbally abusive captain who constantly berated his men, threatening them with all sorts of punishment. He was like a parent who constantly berates and threatens his children, without ever following through and administering disciplinary action designed to correct the bad behavior. Fletcher Christian simply got to the point that he couldn't take it anymore. His statement, "I am in hell these past two weeks", is repeated over and over by the accounts that are available (journals plus detailed testimony at the later court-martial). As a result of his feeling like he was in hell, Christian planned to take a raft during the night and set out for a nearby island. However, he was talked out of it by some of the crew, who promised their support for a broader-based action. So, in the early morning they burst into Bligh's quarters and took him prisoner, setting him on a boat with provisions, though no arms.

Bligh always insisted that the mutiny must have been well planned and choreographed by the mutineers. However, the evidence shows otherwise; there was virtually no planning, and it was strictly a spontaneous "play it by ear" endeavor. It took all morning to get Bligh and the other 17 crew members loyal to him onto the boat and set off, so disorganized was the process.

One persistent researcher uncovered a letter that the second-in-command (Christian's counterpart) on Bligh's second voyage to Tahiti to gather breadfruit trees wrote to his brother describing the voyage. He goes on and on at great length to describe what a tyrant Bligh was, how he constantly berated the men and never praised them. This provides good historical support for the conclusions set out above. Further support is given by the fact that Bligh actually faced a second mutiny, some years later when he was serving as governor of New South Wales.

It is said that more people fail in their jobs because of not being able to get along with other people than fail because of inability to do the job adequately. This describes Bligh, who was an excellent seamen but had no people skills. It is said that the great Ted Williams, when he made an ill-fated attempt at managing, used to say to his hitters, “Can’t you see when the ball comes out of the pitcher’s hand that it's a curve ball”? Williams had Bligh’s shortcoming of expecting perfection in others, and also a lot of Bligh's shortcomings of arrogance and self-centeredness.

The Maltese Falcon (1941, John Huston)

Humphrey Bogart seems born to play the hard-boiled detective Sam spade, crested by Dashiel Hammet. When Joel Cairo says, "You always have a very smooth explanation...", Spade responds, "What do you want me to do, learn to stutter?"

At the end Bogart has a climactic scene with his co-star, in which he tells her, "You killed Miles and you're going over for it."  He goes on to say, "I hope they don't hang you, precious, by that sweet neck. Yes, angel, I'm gonna send you over. The chances are you'll get off with life. That means if you're a good girl, you'll be out in 20 years. I'll be waiting for you. If they hang you, I'll always remember you." He later explains his reasoning for turning her in: "When a man's partner is killed, he's supposed to do something about it. It doesn't make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you're supposed to do something about it. Then it happens we're in the detective business. Well, when one of your organization gets killed, it's bad business to let the killer get away with it, bad all around, bad for every detective everywhere."

"The Maltese Falcon" is noteworthy as the movie debut of Sydney Greenstreet, at age 62. Greenstreet had been a successful stage actor for 40 years, but this was his first film part. He acted in 23 more movies before retiring just 8 years later.

Inherit the Wind (1960, Stanley Kramer)
This is the third in my trilogy of great trial movies. I normally don’t like filmed theater, but this story works perfectly. Much of the dialogue is taken directly from the trial transcript of the Scopes Monkey Trial, including, I presume, this argument from the great defense attorney Clarence Darrow, played perfectly by Spencer Tracy: "I say that you cannot administer a wicked law impartially. You can only destroy, you can only punish. And I warn you, that a wicked law, like cholera, destroys every one it touches. Its upholders as well as its defiers.   Can't you understand that if you take a law like evolution and you make it a crime to teach it in the public schools, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools? And tomorrow you may make it a crime to read about it. And soon you may ban books and newspapers. And then you may turn Catholic against Protestant, and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the mind of man. If you can do one, you can do the other. Because fanaticism and ignorance is forever busy, and needs feeding. And soon, your Honor, with banners flying and with drums beating we'll be marching backward, BACKWARD, through the glorious ages of that Sixteenth Century when bigots burned the man who dared bring enlightenment and intelligence to the human mind!"

Cool Hand Luke (1967, Stuart Rosenberg)
I read recently that Paul Newman has an amazingly small number of lines in this film, something I had never thought about. But it is true, as most of the movie consists of the reactions of the people around him to Newman's "do your own thing" persona. George Kennedy won a well-deserved supporting actor Oscar as Dragline, and Strouther Martin is exceptional as the captain.

In the Heat of the Night (1967, Norman Jewison)

Patton (1970, Franklin Schaffner)

Superb performance by George C. Scott. This film is a good war story for those who like war, and a good anti-war film for those who abhor war. Thus, it serves as a sort of Rorschach test in that regard.

In an attempt to judge how factual "Patton" is, I undertook the following analysis:

 1. Near the start of the movie, Patton is depicted as orchestrating the re-assignment of General Bradley as his assistant in the North Africa campaign, so that he would no longer be "spying for Ike". Wikipedia agrees, saying "Patton had Bradley reassigned to his Corps Command as deputy commander. Thus began a long wartime association between the two diverse personalities." This complicated relationship is a major theme in the movie.

2. When Patton takes over the forces in North Africa in the movie, he instills discipline, which includes requiring everybody to wear steel helmets, even the doctors in the operating room. Wikipedia again agrees, saying "Patton required all personnel to wear steel helmets, even physicians in the operating wards, and required his troops to wear the unpopular lace-up leggings and neckties. A system of fines was introduced to ensure all personnel shaved daily and observed other uniform requirements. While these measures did not make Patton popular, they did tend to restore a sense of discipline and unit pride that may have been missing earlier."

3. Concerning the infamous "slapping incident", Wikipedia states that:
When General Eisenhower learned of the incident, he ordered Patton to make amends, after which, it was reported, "Patton's conduct then became as generous as it had been furious," and he apologized to the soldier "and to all those present at the time, "After the film Patton was released in 1970, Charles H. Kuhl recounted the story and said that Patton had slapped him across the face and then kicked him as he walked away. "After he left, they took me in and admitted me in the hospital, and found out I had malaria," Kuhl noted, adding that when Patton apologized personally (at Patton's headquarters) "He said he didn't know that I was as sick as I was." Kuhl, who later worked as a sweeper for Bendix Corporation in Mishawaka, Indiana, added that Patton was "a great general" and added that "I think at the time it happened, he was pretty well worn out himself." Kuhl died on January 24, 1971.

The film omits Patton's personal apology to the soldier, and presents him as half-heartedly apologizing to the entire army en masse, after being instructed to do so. Thus the film omits the fact that Patton on his own made some effort to make his amends.

4. After the slapping incident, the movie makes much of the Germans being mislead by Patton's deployment in non-combat areas. This seemed to me to be the most artificial of the movie's depictions. However, Wikipedia supports the movie depictions, saying that "During the 10 months Patton was relieved of duty, his prolonged stay in Sicily was interpreted by the Germans to be indicative of an upcoming invasion of southern France. Later, a stay in Cairo was interpreted as heralding an invasion through the Balkans. German intelligence misinterpreted what happened and made faulty plans as a result."

5. During the 1944 offensive into Europe the movie depicts Patton as ordering his chaplain to come up with a prayer for good weather. This seems pretty artificial; however, again the movie got it right. Wikipedia states that: Needing just one full day (24 hours) of good weather, Patton ordered the Third Army Chaplain, (COL) James O'Neill, to come up with a prayer beseeching God to grant this. The weather did clear soon after the prayer was recited, and Patton decorated O'Neill with the Bronze Star on the spot. Following this, he continued ahead with dealing with the German offensive and von Rundstedt.

The battle scenes and campaigns seem to be factual also, so overall I would say the film is much more factually accurate than many film biographies.

A passage from Patton's famous speech to his men, which mirrors closely the text of his actual speech: "Men, all this stuff you've heard about America not wanting to fight, wanting to stay out of the war, is a lot of horse dung. Americans traditionally love to fight. All real Americans love the sting of battle. When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, big league ball players, the toughest boxers. Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That's why Americans have never lost, and will never lose a war... because the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans." And again from the speech, this famous line: "Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country."

The movie ends with this poignant voice-over: "For over a thousand years, Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of a triumph - a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeters and musicians and strange animals from the conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conqueror rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children, robed in white, stood with him in the chariot, or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror, holding a golden crown, and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting."

Basic Instinct (1992, Paul Verhoeven)

One of the rare movies that has a woman as the center of power, and Sharon Stone pulls off the challenge to perfection. The famous interrogation scene is amazing to watch, as she dominates the five seasoned law enforcement men who are there to interrogate her. Watching the Wayne Knight character sweat, when the suspect is usually the one who should be sweating, is a real treat.

The honesty and directness of the Sharon Stone character is revealed early on, when the homicide detective Gus asks her, "How long were you dating  Johnny Boz?" Catherine: I wasn't dating him, I was fucking him." "Are you sorry he's dead?" "Yeah, I liked fucking him."

The honesty and genuineness of Catherine is so refreshing in this world in which lies, cover-ups, deceit, half-truths, euphemisms, innuendos, and diplomat-speak seem to be the order of the day. I have never been adept at "reading between the lines", but it seems that one must be good at this in order to get along in this screwy world, in which everyone seems to talk in code.

I still, after all this time, cannot figure out what we are supposed to believe happened between Catherine and Beth when they were at Berkeley together. And why was Detective Nielsen poking around in this old history a year before the events of the story? But maybe we're not supposed to know for sure. One of our failings as human beings is the need for certainty, an unfortunate trait in light of the fact that most of the world comes to us not in black and white, but rather in various shades of gray. A term a colleague of mine used to use years ago is "tolerance for ambiguity"; a few of us have a high tolerance, but most of us have way too low of a tolerance. Perhaps this movie is trying to teach us to have a higher tolerance for ambiguity.This movie exists in the vast universe between what we truly know and what we truly don't know.

In writing the above, it occurs to me that the oath we ask witnesses to take in this country is totally bogus. A witness must swear to "tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth". This is bogus because it assumes that one person can have "the whole truth", when we know that no one person can possibly have anything approaching the whole truth. It is well-known that ten people can view the same event and come up with ten different versions of what happened. We each have our own truth that is personal to us, but it's a stretch to try to universalize our own personal truths.I hope I get called to testify in a trial at some point. I can't wait to see the judge's expression when I say I cannot swear to tell "the whole truth"!

Other noteworthy films which have women at the center of power include "Thelma and Louise" and "Working Girl". Jodie Foster's "the Accused" also rates a mention, although I have no desire to see it again, due to the violent and brutal subject matter.

The Usual Suspects (1995, Bryan Singer)
Another gross blunder by the Academy, as the Oscar went to "Braveheart".

Jackie Brown (1997, Quentin Tarantino)
The performances of Samuel L. Jackson and Pam Grier are fabulous in this great suspense movie. But check out the performance of Don Cherry as the bail bondsman; he is so spot on that it is eerie. Great stuff, I could watch this movie over and over, as I have many times already.

Fargo (1996, Coen brothers)

About half-way through "Fargo" there is a scene where the police chief, played by Frances McDormand, has a luncheon meeting with an old high school classmate, a Chinese guy who claims his wife had died. One might wonder what in the heck this scene is doing in this film, as it has absolutely nothing to do with the plot. However, upon reflection it seems that this scene is in there as a link between the chief's first and second meetings with Jerry Lundegaard. She learns that things aren't always as they seem to be, finding out first that the Chinese guy's story was a pack of lies, and then in the second meeting finding out that Lundegaard is also hiding something.

Yet another Academy blunder, as "Fargo" lost out to "The English Patient" for best picture.

                                                                   Third 10
Becket (1964, Peter Glenville)

Wonderful film about the relationship between Thomas Becket and King Henry II in 12-century England. As the name suggests, we are asked to identify with the principled Becket, who sacrifices his life rather than submit to the King's request that felonious priests be tried in his civil court instead of in Becket's ecclesiastical court. The same phenomenon is seen in "a Man for All Seasons", where the title refers to Sir Thomas More, martyred by Henry VIII for not submitting to the crown.

But let us examine the consequences of Becket's position. With the autonomy which the Catholic Church has had since the 12th century, it has propagated all manner of evil against the people. The sex abuse scandals of the last 50 years are a good example of this. The church covered up the abuse, and never as far as I am aware were the felonious actions of an abusive priest ever reported to law enforcement. Not only that, but the guilty priests were most often transferred to other parishes, without telling the new parishioners about their past, so they were left free to continue to molest young boys.

The Penn state scandal of recent months is quite similar. Penn State seems to think itself immune to the laws and rules the rest of us must adhere to. In a very real way, Penn State. like the Catholic church, sees itself as above the law. This kind of attitude leads to the scandal of a coach being observed raping a 10-year-old boy in the shower, and nothing being done about it.

So, maybe we should reconsider viewing Becket and More as the great martyrs that history has painted them as.

The Great Waltz (1938, Julien Duvivier) and Amadeus (1984, Milos Forman)
I first saw "The Great Waltz" in a theater in Ann Arbor with my dad in the summer of 1962, and it instilled in me a life-long love of Strauss waltzes. The great thing about these two films is that they both show the artistic process, i.e., they depict music being created, rather than simply being biographies.

The oerformance of Louise Ranier in "The Great Waltz" is especially noteworthy and she deservedly won an Oscar for her stunningly winsome performance as Straquss's girlfriend and later as his wife. When Strauss gets good news about his composing, he embraces her and says "I don't knwo what I'd do withotu you". She replies, "I don't know what you're doing with me." Later, as he is getting ready to run off with his soprano singer, she appraoches the singer and, instead of complainign, gives her advice about how to take care of Strauss. The singer is so moved that she tells Strauss to stay with his wife.

Interesting that the waltz is described as not suitable for polite society, until this changed when Strauss's music had gotten accepted. (Similar would be some genres in the U.S., such as country, rap, disco, and jazz prior to the landmark Carnegie Hall concert in 1938.)

Duck Soup (1933, Leo McCarey)

To Have and Have Not (1944, Howard Hawks)

The Court Jester (1956, Melvin Frank)

The Graduate (1967, Mike Nichols)

Body Heat (1981, Lawrence Kasdan) and Double Indemnity (1944, Billy Wilder)

Both of these fine films have the theme of the man who falls for a married woman and then plots with her to get rid of her husband. Both have intricate plots, with interesting twists along the way. However, the relationships as portrayed are totally different. In "Body Heat" there is the hottest sex you will ever see on the screen, except for "Basic Instinct". The screen absolutely sizzles. In "Double Indemnity" the woman, played by Barbara Stanwyck, is so cold and distant that it seems unbelievable that the Fred MacMurray character could fall for her as he does. The great performance of Edward G. Robinson as the insurance investigator is the only thing that saves this film from mediocrity.

Bonnie and Clyde (1967, Arthur Penn) and Badlands (1974, Terrence Malick)

Two excellently crafted films about real-life man-woman tandem crime sprees. The execution of Bonnie and Clyde in Louisiana at the end of the film is true-to-life, and calls into question the law enforcement methods used here. Instead of capturing Clyde, they simply executed him. And Bonnie was not even wanted except for a minor misdemeanor, so her execution is totally inexcusable. This execution, on May 23, 1934, was the first of four in 1934 by law enforcement, mainly the FBI. There followed John Dillinger on July 22nd, Pretty Boy Floyd on October 22, and Baby Face Nelson on November 27th.

Charles Starkweather, the subject of "Badlands", was humanely captured in early 1958 and given the due process of a trial. This is a timely subject in light of recent US actions in summarily executing suspected terrorists instead of capturing them.

"Bonnie and Clyde" illustrates the principle that one should see a movie more than once before making a judgment about it. When it was first released, only one major newspaper critic (Roger Ebert) praised it, and it quickly closed. However, its reputation gradually grew and it was eventually re-released. Newsweek critic Joe Morgenstern famously retracted his original negative review, saying he had been mistaken. Critic Louis Menaud says that the release of "Bonnie and Clyde" was the moment the United States took over the creative dominance of film from France.

The Sting (1973, George Roy Hill), House of Games (1987, David Mamet), Matchstick Men (2003, Ridley Scott), and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988, Frank Oz), and Out of Time (2003, Carl Franklin)

These 5 fine films all depict elaborate con games. All have interesting twists and turns along the way, and are great fun to watch.

Beautiful Girls (1996) (Ted Demme), and Diner (1982, Barry Levinson)

Two great films, each depicting a group of young 20-something men who are trying to find their way in life.

                                                                  Fourth 10
Donnie Brasco (1997, Mike Newell), Prince of the City (1981, Sydney Lumet), The Departed (2006, Martin Scorsese)

All these films feature undercover cops and/or confidential informants. And what a murky, sleazy world this is. I tend to agree with Justice Douglas, who said that undercover cops have no place in a free society.

In "Donnie Brasco", an FBI agent infiltrates the New York underworld, primarily by befriending a mid-level guy played by Al Pacino. We see their friendship develop and all the moral ambiguities that present themselves to someone leading this sort of life. The guy's family life goes to pot, of course.

In the most telling scene in this film, the cop is in Miami working on a business venture there, when he meets with the other FBI folks in a makeshift headquarters set up in what appears to be a motel room. The "suits" are listening to wiretaps, and generally just pushing paper around, while the undercover guy, who is the only one doing real work, and certainly the only one doing dangerous work, just does not seem to fit in. He has taken on the personality of his alter ego, Donnie Brasco, and by this point he prefers the company of his friends who know him as Donnie Brasco.

The callousness of the FBI toward Donnie and his precarious situation is appalling. He is used as a piece of meat for their own ends, and this is troubling. The last scene is especially troubling, as the agent is presented with a plaque and a paltry $500 check. Hardly anyone is there except for his family, and it is obvious there is no real appreciation for what he has gone through.

In "Prince of the City" a cop who is disgusted with what he has to do in his undercover detective work decides to work with the federal authorities who are investigating police corruption. The real-life result, as mentioned in the bonus part of the DVD, is that 52 of the 70 members of New York's Special Investigations Unit (SIU), are indicted on criminal charges.

At the start the feds ask him if he has done anything improper, as he will be asked about this on the stand during cross-examination when he eventually has to testify. He mentions 3 things, but of course there are many more and the most telling scene in this film is a huge meeting in the Attorney General's office with all the prosecutors there giving their opinions to the AG on whether to seek perjury charges against the poor guy. Passions run high on both sides, and after hearing all sides the AG decides not to prosecute him. On the same day, ironically, the Judge in a Motion for a new trial against the highest-profile defendant, a crooked lawyer, denies the new trial request, which was based on all the false testimony of the detective, holding, correctly I think, that this testimony was a "collateral matter" and didn't affect the outcome of the case.

The SIU group is presented as basically a very dedicated group of cops, who do take some money and take some dope on occasion, but have also taken plenty of bad guys off the street. As in "Donnie Brasco", the feds are not presented in a very good light. The 2 prosecutors who worked most closely with the main character are decent guys, but some of the higher-ups are just pricks. In fact, a scene in "Prince of the City" which the audience applauded in the theater had one of the cops charging into the office of one particularly sleazy prosecutor and assaulting him. This cop, memorably played by the great Jerry Orbach, is presented as the only true hero in the film, as he is going to fight the charges rather than either cooperate with the feds in exchange for leniency, or commit suicide, which are the options chosen by all of the others.

These films present troubling pictures of the use of undercover informants in our society. Part of the problem here is that the types of "crimes" these guys usually work on should arguably not be crimes at all--things like use of dope, prostitution, and gambling. If we can get these things de-criminalized, that would go a long way to ridding our society of the stench of undercover informants.

The trial in the summer of 2013 of notorious Boston mobster Whitey Bulger revealed many sordid aspects of using undercover informants. (Bulger, by the way, is thought to be the model for the Jack Nicholson character in "The Departed".) To gain a conviction of the 83-year-old Bulger, the prosecution gave a get-out-of-jail free card to John Martorano, a confessed killer of 20 people. Similarly, Kevin Weeks, involved in five murders, also got a get-out-of-jail free card.

But this wasn't even the most sordid aspect of this whole mess. During his heyday, Bulger had been acting as an FBI informant, giving the FBI info on rival mob figures. The FBI ended up being so in bed with Bulger as to be a part of his criminal enterprises. In fact, it was an FBI man who tipped Bulger off that an indictment against him was imminent, causing him to skip town and remain in hiding for 16 years before finally being discovered living in California. All of these facts and many others were brought out at the trial, and one cannot help being sickened at the corruption in law enforcement caused by the use of undercover informants.

The Great Escape (1963) (John Sturges) and The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957, David Lean)

"The Great Escape" is based on Paul Brickhill's 1950 book describing the real-life escape attempt in 1944 from a German POW camp. Only in recent years did I learn this, although if I deep-down believed the adage that "truth is stranger than fiction", I no doubt would have suspected it right off. I also learned in recent years that Brickhill resisted efforts to make his story into a movie for many years, finally relenting only upon receiving satisfactory assurances that the depiction would accurately reflect what happened.

The plan was for 200 prisoners to escape, but the escape ran into some snags and only 76 actually escaped. Three of the 76 made their way to freedom, while the other 73 were captured. It is said that 5,000,000 Germans were involved in the effort to capture the escapees. Upon direct orders from Hitler, 50 of the 73 were executed, though not all at once as the film depicts.

"The Bridge on the River Kwai" also depicts a WW2 POW camp, this time a Japanese camp in the jungle near the Burma/Thailand border. The question of possible escape is settled early on in the film, when Colonel Nicholson, leader of the prisoners, tells his officers there will be no escape attempt, because any such attempt would be futile and possibly a violation of military law since they had been ordered to surrender by the Allied higher-ups. He then has this exchange with one of his officers:  "You mean, you intend to uphold the letter of the law, no matter what it costs?"  " Without law, Commander, there is no civilization."   "That's just my point; here, there is no civilization."  "Then we have the opportunity to introduce it."  This introduces the concepts of duty, honor, pride, and collaboration with the enemy which are explored in this complex film.  Nicholson takes charge of building a bridge for the Japanese captors, and does his best to build the best bridge possible, based on the idea that morale will be higher for his fellow prisoners if they are being productive, plus they will be treated better by their captors. And with Nicholson in charge of the building project, the prisoners get to see themselves as soldiers and not prisoners.

The film is based on a novel, which in turn is based on an actual Japanese POW camp. However, the blowing up of the bridge by an allied unit at the end is entirely fictional. In real life, two bridges were built,  a temporary wooden bridge and a permanent steel/concrete bridge, both of which were in use for two years until destroyed by Allied bombing. The steel bridge was rebuilt and is still in use today.

Many see this film as an anti-war film, because it depicts the madness of war. This view has been challenged quite forcefully in the book "War and Film in America". Here Richard A. Kallan argues that to truly be an anti-war film, a film must show that the outcome of the war being depicted does not benefit society, and must also show how the war could have been avoided peacefully. Kallan concludes that this film has "numerous barbed references to the madness, oddity, and irony of war, but it does not present any opposing framework to war. Instead, it remains primarily a study in military character and sensibility and how noble but flawed leaders behave at their best and at their worst in the heat of conflict."

A final note about David Lean, the director. Lean has been acclaimed for his epics, but this is the only one which interests me. And one of his last films, a complete debacle called "Ryan's Daughter", was just awful.

Stand by Me (1986, Rob Reiner) and When Harry Met Sally (1989, Rob Reiner)
Two great films by the great Rob Reiner.

Marty (1955, Delbert Mann)This has aptly been called the best "slice of life" movie ever made.

Touch of Evil (1958, Orson Welles)

This has aptly been called "the best 'B' movie ever made". Welles directs and acts in it as the sheriff of a Texas border town. Marlene Dietrich as an eccentric fortune-teller is marvelous. Charlton Heston is not too believable as a Mexican, but one can overlook this flaw, so good is the film as a whole.
The post-production saga of this film is quite interesting. Welles finished shooting and went back East, and the studio in his absence edited the film and even re-shot some of the scenes.

When Welles saw the result he was beside himself, as he had very clear ideas about how it should be edited. He wrote a 58-page handwritten memo containing instructions on how to edit the film. The studio ignored this and released the film with the studio edit. Years later this memo was discovered, and in 1998 some film-lovers got permission to re-edit the film following Welles' instructions as closely as possible. If you get the DVD it will probably have this new version; if it's 93 minutes it's the old, if 110 or so it's the new.

California Split (1974, Robert Altman)

Here is Altman at his free-wheeling, improvisational best. It is a tale of two small-time gamblers who hit a big winning streak. The style is completely captivating.

North by Northwest (1959, Alfred Hitchcock) and Charade (1963) (Stanley Donen)
Two films featuring the great Cary Grant.

10 (1979, Blake Edwards)
I once had a would-be girlfriend who thought "10" was sexist. Nothing could be further from the truth. Apparently she was unable to distinguish between depicting something and endorsing it. In fact, the film goes way overboard in trying to depict  Dudley Moore's chasing after the beautiful Bo Derek character as a complete failure.  It shows Moore coming back home and asking his girlfriend, played by a completely miscast Julie Andrews, to commit to their relationship. This rings completely hollow, as Julie Andrews doesn't have a sexy or appealing bone in her body.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie is  the one with Dudley Moore talking with the bartender at a bar at the Mexican resort he has followed Bo Derek to. The bartender is wonderfully played by Brian Dennehy, the same sort of understated brilliance that Don Cherry showed in "Jackie Brown".

Eight Men Out (1988) (John Sayles)
This move has grown on me over the years. Using jazz music and muted colors, the film captures perfectly the atmosphere of the 1919 era it depicts. The film is based on the great book of the same name by Eliot Asinof, who meticulously researched the 1919 Black Sox scandal and really set the record straight about what actually happened. The White Sox owner, Charles Comiskey, is depicted as pretty much of a caricature, but this seems to be true to history. He was a notorious skinflint who treated his players horribly, breaking promises to them at will. And the aides of the gambler Arnold Rothstein were not any better, betraying both Rothstein and the players they were supposed to be bribing. Really a horrible mess of a situation, but the film is exquisite in its depiction of it.

While the depiction of the 1919 Black Sox scandal is historically accurate, the true significance of the film cannot be understood without understanding the historical context. In a great article in "Total Baseball", Stephen S. Hall provides this historical context. Hall describes how the Black Sox scandal was merely the climax of "five decades of dubious collusion between players and gamblers".

The other theme here is the treacherous actions of the owners in ruthlessly imposing the odious "reserve clause" on the players, making them little more than indentured servants. Players had basically no rights, no redress for their grievances. It all coalesced in the Black Sox scandal of 1919.

The aftermath, as depicted in the movie, is probably the most pertinent part of the film. This part shows Comiskey meeting with his people, and being told that he needs to get out in front of the scandal, and make it look like he wants to clean up the game. So, he decides to join with his fellow owners in hiring Judge Kenesaw "Mountain" Landis to be commissioner, with total power to do what is in the best interest of the game. And Landis insisted on a lifetime contract, so that the owners could not, at their whim, remove him.

The other major post-Series scene shows a representative of Arnold Rothstein meeting with Comiskey, and pointing out that both of their interests require that the scandal should go away, i.e., the so-called "confessions" should disappear. At the subsequent trial, those confessions have in fact disappeared, and the players are found not guilty. The movie does not undertake to explain how these confessions have disappeared, but the book describes how the disappearnce was engineered by the high-powered Chicago lawyer hired by Comiskey and/or Rothstein.

The movie makes much of the disappearance of the written confessions, and implies that this disappearance was the reason for the "not guilty" verdicts. In actuality, nothing could be further from the truth. The book describes how the trial judge allowed the confessions into evidence, after hearing testimony from the judge before whom the confessions were signed.

What the reader needs to understand is that the ballplayers were not charge with throwing ballgames, as there was no crime under which that could be charged. Rather, they were charged with conspiracy to defraud Comiskey, and conspiracy to defraud the public. The defrauding of Comiskey was shown to be bogus when the defense introduced evidence showing that his receipts actually doubled from 1919 to 1920, hence he was not "defrauded" of anything. As far as defrauding the public, there was no evidence of any intent to defraud the public. The judge himself said that a conviction against the five players who did not confess and who had not talked directly with the gamblers could not stand, as there was no evidence that they ever participated in any "conspiracy".

Notwithstanding the "not guilty" verdict, Commissioner Landis banned all eight from any further association with major league baseball. The most serious injustice in this is the third baseman, Buck Weaver, played by John Cusack, who took no money and played his heart out to win the Series, but was in the room when the fix was being discussed by his fellow players and so was deemed to  be just as culpable. He is truly the moral center of the movie.

The Pianist (2002, Roman Polanski)
Have you ever heard a eulogy in which the minister did not know the deceased? I did, at the funeral of my then wife's grandfather, and it is truly a ridiculous experience. Well, this is what Stephen Spielberg's "message" moives seem like to me. He completely botches both "The Color Purple" and "Amistad", because he has no clue what he is doing.

Polanski, by stark contrast, knows what he is talking about when he made "The Pianist", as he experienced the Holocaust first-hand. The scene in which the father if ordered to walk in the gutter instead of on the sidewalk actually happened to Polanski's father. It is small moments like this that give a film authenticity, and distinguish the good films from the mediocre.

                                                   Fifth 10
Gorillas in the  Mist (1998, Michael Apted)
Sigourney Weaver completely immerses herself in the role of Dian Fossey. A must-see.

Kingdom of Heaven (2005, Ridley Scott)

Watched many times with my daughter, I recently learned that it is based on true events and actual characters. What sealed the deal concerning its inclusion in this list is a viewing with the historical commentary turned on. The comments came fast and furious, one every four seconds or so, and I learned more about the crusades during this viewing than in the rest of my life put together.

Mystic Pizza (1988, Donald Petrie), The Breakfast Club, and American Graffiti

Three great teenage “coming of age” tales. Traditionally such tales focused on boys, as in, for example, “Summer of ‘42”. “Mystic Pizza” focuses on three girls, and what a great treatment of this subject it is. The other two also include girls though there is somewhat more focus on the boys.

"Mystic Pizza" is noteworthy as the movie which made Julia Roberts a star. At the start she was simply one of the three girls, and did not even have top billing. But she really steals the show, and from then on she was on her way to becoming America’s top female star.

Pulp Fiction (1994) (Quentin Tarantino)

When I first saw "Pulp Fiction" years ago it didn't make much of an impression on me. For one thing, the movie is hard to follow, as there are 3 or 4 different stories (depending on how you count them) going on simultaneously. What's more, the movie jumps around in time as well as back and forth between the stories.

Because I like Jackie Brown so much, I decided to give Pulp Fiction another try. Now I understand it for the great movie it is. The stories do all come together in the end. This is one of those films, like "The Usual Suspects", that you can see 20 times and notice something different each time. In fact, even more so with Pulp Fiction.

As for the mystery of what is in the briefcase, we are never told and Tarantino says it is whatever the viewer wants it to be. This is in line with another quote from him, that "If a million different people see my movie, I hope they see a million different films."

A last thought: one of the supporting characters, Harvey Keitel, gives as good a performance as you will ever see in the movies. He is absolutely wonderful.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the movie:

Vincent: "I ain't saying it's right. But you're saying a foot massage don't mean nothing, and I'm saying it does. Now look, I've given a million ladies a million foot massages, and they all meant something. We act like they don't, but they do, and that's what's so cool about them. There's a sensuous thing going on where you don't talk about it, but you know it, she knows it, Marsellus knew it, and Antwan should have known better. I mean, that's his wife, man. He can't be expected to have a sense of humor about that. You know what I'm saying?"

Jules: "The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee." (Misquoting Ezekiel 25:17)

Captain Koons: "The way your dad looked at it, this watch was your birthright. He'd be damned if any slopes gonna put their greasy yellow hands on his boy's birthright, so he hid it, in the one place he knew he could hide something: his ass. Five long years, he wore this watch up his ass. Then when he died of dysentery, he gave me the watch. I hid this uncomfortable piece of metal up my ass for two years. Then, after seven years, I was sent home to my family. And now, little man, I give the watch to you."

Mia: "Don't you just love it when you come back from the bathroom and find your food waiting for you?"
Fabienne: "It's unfortunate what we find pleasing to the touch and pleasing to the eye is seldom the same." (Explaining why she thinks women's pot bellies are sexy.)

Ben-Hur (1959, William Wyler) and The Ten Commandments (1956, Cecil B. DeMille)

Chinatown (1974, Roman Polanski) and The Two Jakes (1990, Jack Nicholson)
Jack Nicholson reprises his private eye role in "Chinatown" 16 years later in "The Two Jakes", and the latter refers to the events of the former, making it a true sequel. I thought maybe the 16 years (1974-1990) was a record for the gap between a movie and its sequel, but I see that "The Hustler" and "The Color of Money" has it beat with a 25-year gap (1961-1986).

The Big Sleep (1946, Howard Hawks)
I usually prefer plot-based movies to mood-based movies, but The Big Sleep is an exception. The plot makes little sense, but we don't care because what is on the screen is so interesting.

The Shootist (1976, Don Siegel)

It is said that when it became known that John Wayne had agreed to play the lead in this film, many in Hollywood fought to get the supporting roles. And what a great supporting cast it is--Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard, Harry Morgan, Scatman Crothers, Jimmy Stewart, Richard Boone and Hugh O'Brien. All are great except for Harry Morgan, whose portrayal of the sheriff is silly and over-the-top.

The key concept is revealed early on when the Wayne character, who has cancer and has come to the town to die, tells the Bacall character, who runs the boarding house he is staying in, that Queen Victoria had died the right way--with dignity. And this is what Wayne sets out to do. The philosophy of the Wayne character is revealed in a great quote: " I won't be wronged. I won't be insulted. I won't be laid a-hand on. I don't do these things to other people, and I require the same from them."

The Fugitive (1993, Andrew Davis) and Witness (1985, Peter Weir)

I am no great fan of Harrison Ford, having been so put off by his juvenile and one-dimensional performances in the Star Wars series and in the Indiana Jones series. However, these two Harrison Ford movies are first-rate, thanks in part to Ford's solid performances, but due even more so to the great supporting performances of Tommy Lee Jones in "The Fugitive", and Kelly McGillis in "Witness".

Office Space (1999, Mike Judge), While You Were Sleeping (1995, John Turteltaub), Kissing a Fool (1998, Doug Ellin), High Fidelity (2000, Stephen Frears), "The Wedding Singer (1998, Frank Coraci), and "Mister Saturday Night" (1992, Billy Crystal).

These are not great works of art, but are so darn appealing and entertaining that they must be included. They cannot be called "guilty pleasures", since there is really nothing to feel guilty about in liking them, so I suppose they fall somewhere in the middle ground between works of art and guilty pleasures.