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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Year Was 1941

Actually 2403 people died
     On December 7, 1941 the United States entered World War II by declaring war on Japan following the attack on Pearl Harbor, but before that other things happened. 
     In January, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn in for his third term and aviator Charles Lindbergh testified before Congress and recommended that the United States negotiate a neutrality pact with Adolf Hitler. Also, in January, US Ambassador to Japan, Joseph Grew, passed on to Washington a rumor overheard at a diplomatic reception about a planned surprise attack upon Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. 
     Baseball fans across the nation witnessed Joe DiMaggio step up to the plate in 56 consecutive baseball games and hit safely to break a record that had stood since 1897 when Wee Willie Keeler hit safely in 45 consecutive games over the course of the 1896 and 97 seasons. And, Ted Williams managed to finish the season with an unparalleled .406 batting average; no player has hit .400 or better since. 
     A lot of famous people were born in 1941. On January 30th Dick Cheney, 46th Vice President of the United States from 2001 to 2009 was born. He served under “Dubya,” aka George W. Bush. Ol' Dick is probably best remembered for an incident that happened in February 11, 2006, when he accidently shot Harry Whittington, a 78-year-old Texas attorney, when they were participating in a quail hunt on a ranch in Riviera, Texas. 

     When he left office his approval rating, thanks to various nefarious activities, stood at a staggeringly low 13 percent. Cheney got rich by exploiting contacts with corrupt Arabs while drawing a public salary. He served as Chief Executive of Halliburton which donated to his campaign and got numerous lucrative contracts during the Bush Administration.  And, it was discovered to have overcharged the US for prior services rendered. 
    Martha Stewart, television personality and media entrepreneur was born on August 3rd. Martha avoided a loss of $45,673 by selling all 3,928 shares of her ImClone Systems stock on December 27, 2001, after receiving non-public information from her stock broker. In 2004, Martha was convicted of felony charges of conspiracy, obstruction of an agency proceeding, and making false statements to federal investigators, and was sentenced to serve a five-month term in a federal correctional facility and a two-year period of supervised release that included five months of electronic monitoring. I always thought she got a bum rap; prominent people, businessmen and politicians, have gotten away with far worse.  Did I mention Dick Cheney, for example?

     One of my favorite actors, Stacy Keach, was born on June 2nd. Keach has played mainly dramatic roles throughout his career, often in law enforcement or as a private detective. Who can forget his role as Mike Hammer, which he played in numerous stand-alone television films and at least three different television series throughout the 1980s and 1990s? 
     On the US chess scene, Al Horowitz was unable to play in the 1940 US championship because he was still recovering from injuries sustained in an automobile accident two months before the event. I posted on this incident HERE
     In 1941, Horowitz and Reshevsky played the first US championship match held since the Marshall - Edward Lasker match in 1923. The understanding was that the winner of the match would be US champion until the 1942 tournament. Originally planned as a fourteen-game match, two games were added to make it a match of sixteen games. 
     Game 1 was played at the apartment of Maurice Wertheim, president of the Manhattan Chess Club. The time control was 32 moves in 2 hours. For most of the remaining games, the time control was 40 moves in 2.5 hours, but a few games used the original time control of 32 moves in 2 hours. Games were held in a variety of locations. 
     Horowitz had recovered from the accident and within months had resumed his duties at Chess Review, the magazine he had founded seven years before. In those days the magazine was extremely popular, but not financially successful so Horowitz was always on tour trying to make ends meet. 
     Once described by US Master Sidney Bernstein as a super coffee house player, Horowitz had earned a reputation by winning the 1936 US Open and sharing first place with Isaac Kashdan in the Open in 1938. This gave the optimistic Horowitz the confidence that he could take down Reshevsky, so in late 1940, rather than wait for the next championship tournament which was two years away, he challenged Reshevsky to a match in the spring.
     Reshevsky had a plus score against Horowitz, but Horowitz had defeated Reshevsky in the 1936 championship, one of the few Americans to have defeated Reshevsky in any tournament in the previous five years. Of course, the prize fund was attractive to Reshevsky. Also, Alekhine was on the run from the war in Europe and it seemed possible that he would end up in the United Staes.  That meant that there was a possibility of a Reshevsky – Alekhine match. Reshevsky had never played a match, so Horowitz would be good practice.
     The match schedule was tight with seven different playing sites for the 16 games in three weeks. The first game was held at the penthouse home of Maurice Wertheim, a wealthy investment banker and publisher of the liberal monthly, The Nation
     Wertheim had just been elected president of the Manhattan Chess Club and he invited most of the city's leading players to witness the game. More than 150 players showed up! The first four games were drawn, but Reshevsky won the fifth when Horowitz botched the ending in a King's Indian Defense, the game given below. 
     The next three games were drawn. Then in the 9th game Horowitz lost a Pawn in a difficult position and got ground down in 82 moves, giving Reshevsky a two point lead. Another draw followed. 
     The 11th game was at the home of bookseller Albrecht Buschke and its start had to be delayed when Reshevsky showed up late. The time limit was adjusted to 32 moves in two hours rather than 40 in two and a half. 
     After 16 moves Horowitz had a promising position, but missed the best move and made a mistake which ended up giving Reshevsky a promising B vs. N ending.   To make matters worse, Horowitz forgot that the time limit had been changed and found himself with only five minutes left for nine moves. He made the time limit with seconds to spare and the game was adjourned at 1:45am! 
     Buschke then invited the players and and 50 or so guests to a buffet supper. After the supper Horowitz and Reshevsky, longtime friends, agreed to finish he game that night and it was resumed at 3:30am!! At 5:00am on move 42 Reshevsky threatened mate. Horowitz thought for 10 minutes, tapped the table, smiled and said "Very pretty, Sammy. I resign." When the match referee left he found his car had been stolen. 
     With almost no sleep, the contestants head to Queens, New York for their 12th game to be played in the afternoon and it turned out to be another marathon. A careless blunder in a K and P ending cost Horowitz the only winning position in the match and he ended up drawing. All the remaining games were also drawn giving Reshevsky a +3 -0 =13 victory. Three weeks later, he got married.

Monday, April 23, 2018

A Modern Rare Bird: double N-sac, K-hunt, mate

     The Phillips & Drew “'King's” Tournament held in London in 1980 was composed of some of the West's strongest players plus England's most promising players, including 14-year old prodigy Nigel Short. 
     It promised to be an exciting event and Harry Golombek waxed eloquent in describing the players: the dynamic energy of the “vice-champion” of the world, Korchnoi; the powerful play of Miles; the wonderful subtly of Andersson who Golombek described as “the wisest head on young shoulders I have ever met.” The intelligent solidity of former Soviet, then Dutch GM, Sosonko; the lively resourcefulness of Speelman; the elegant attacks of Gheorghiu; the explosive and fiery spirit of Ljubojevic; the sheer talent of Timman; the typical panache of Sax. 
      Neither Ljubojevic nor Sax quite lived up to expectations nor did the colorful Browne who only occasionally gave evidence of his tactical ability. Larsen also was only a shadow of himself and Stean only came alive in the last two rounds to strut his attacking style. Nunn suffered from a nasty cold throughout the whole tournament. And, Short, who had performed brilliantly at Hastings only a few months earlier, seemed to suffer the bad effects of his failure to force a win against Miles in the first round. 
     The tournament was conceived when a fellow named Len Harris was elected to the Greater London Council ans persuaded them to put up two weeks worth of lottery money towards the tournament which convinced the BCF to persuade stockbrokers Phillips and Drew to put up the rest of the money. 
     Not quite sure how to put on a first class GM tournament one of the organizers flew to Tilburg to see how it was done and in the process spoke to Karpov who agreed to play. However, the Soviet Chess Federation said they couldn't send anybody, but according to Karpov it had to do with the Soviet Union not liking the British attitude towards the situation in Afghanistan. That was unlikely though because Soviet players had recently participated in Lone Pine. 
     Soviet officials claimed they had too many team events scheduled, but they would try to get two players. By then their offer was refused because Korchnoi had agreed to play if his match with Petrosian was over. It had been hoped that Huebner would be able to play, but he couldn't because he was playing a match against Adorjan. Hort withdrew at the last moment claiming that he had to play in the West German league. 
     The distribution of the record breaking prize fund was somewhat unusual. First, all 14 players received prize money and second, there was a big difference between first prize and second. First was 3000 pounds and second dropped off to 1750. Some even suggested the rather novel idea that all the prize fund be distributed as appearance fees before the tournament and let the players just come and play. The hours of play were 1:15pm to 6:15pm, adjournments from 8:30 pm to 10:30pm and there were three rest days during to event. 
     From early on Miles and Korchnoi were in the lead, but by round 9 Andersson, Korchnoi and Sosonko were tied for first with 6 point while Miles was a half point back. 
     At the end of round 12 Andersson and Korchnoi had 8 points and Miles had come back to tie them while Sosonko's score stood at 7.5. 
     The last round promised to be exciting as Miles was paired against the tough Ljubojevic while Andersson was paired against Korchnoi. 
     Unfortunately for the many spectators (and the organizers) the last round was a farce. Even though Miles had a promising position out of the opening, he offered a draw at move 10 which was gladly accepted. Andersson and Korchnoi split the point at move 18. 
     That left Sosonko, who was paired against Stean, a shot at tying for first if he could win. He played aggressively in the center, but he had misjudged the situation and found himself with a weak d-Pawn which was lost at move 18. After that he could put no real resistance and resigned at move 31. The disappointing lack of fighting spirit by the the leaders left a three-way tie for first.

 1-3) Miles, Korchnoi and Andersson 8.5 
4-5) Sosonko and Speelman 7.5 
6-8) Timman, Gheorghiu and Ljubojevic 7.0 
9) Sax 6.5 
10-12) Stean, Browne and Larsen 5.5 
13) Nunn 4.5 
14) Short 2.0 

One of the more exciting games of the tournament happened in the second round.  The players: 
     Jonathan Speelman (October 2, 1956) is a GM, mathematician and chess writer. He won the British Championship in 1978, 1985 and 1986. He qualified for two Candidates Tournaments. In the 1989–1990 cycle he qualified by placing third in the 1987 Interzonal Subotica, Yugoslavia. After beating Yasser Seirawan in his first round 4–1, and Nigel Short in the second round 3.5-1.5 he lost to Jan Timman in the semi-final 3.5-4.5. In the next event he lost 4.5-5.5 in the first round to Short. He has written a number of books on chess.
     Michael Stean (September 4, 1953) is a GM, chess book author and tax accountant. He learned to play chess before the age of five, developed into promising junior winning the London under-14 and British under-16 titles. He was awarded the IM title in 1975 and the GM title in 1977. 
     In 1971, he placed third at a junior event in Norwich and in 1973, he won a tournament in Canterbury ahead of Adorjan which lead to speculation that he might become England's first GM. In 1973 at the World Junior Championship he finished third behind Alexander Beliavsky and Anthony Miles. Both Stean and Miles defeated Beliavsky, but couldn't match his score against the lesser players. He tied for first in the 1974 British Championship, but lost the play-off to George Botterill. 
     In 1977-78 and 1980-81 he served as one of Viktor Korchnoi's team of seconds for the world championship campaigns. Stean's role was mostly involved with opening preparation and he and Korchnoi became good friends.  There were some well-documented divisions in the camp, with fellow second Raymond Keene standing accused of treating his book writing and journalistic duties as his first priority. 
     Stean served for a while as the manager of Nigel Short. In 1982, at the age of 29 and in his prime, Stean retired from chess to become a tax accountant. Stean wrote two books, one on the Najdorf Sicilian and one titled Simple Chess which has become a classic. I reviewed this excellent book HERE.  
     The following game from round two was a game in which Speelman took some chances in the opening, got nothing, but Stean drifted into time pressure and as the storm clouds gathered, a double Knight sacrifice lead to a good old fashioned King hunt that culminated in mate.

Friday, April 20, 2018

If I Didn't Play Chess I'd Play...

the harmonica...

The Greatest Player in the World

     No doubt about it, it was Reuben Fine. At least he thought so. Author Sam Sloan, who knew Fine, could never figure out if he was joking or if he really believed it. Arnold Denker wrote that he always felt sorry for Fine, mentioning that he lied a lot. Nevertheless, Fine was a great player, at least for a brief period of time and some of his chess books were pretty good, too. 
     Of Basic Chess Endings, Fine said that if it wasn't in the book, then it wasn't known. In a 1984 interview, Fine stated that it took him three months to write the book which was published in 1941. 
     Needless to say, over the years, many errors were found and many of them were published in Larry Evans' Chess Life column. Over one hundred errors were found and a mimeographed list of them was printed by Paul L. Crane and Rev. David Chew. An 18-page booklet containing over 200 corrections was published by Samuel Louie in 1990 and 1993.
     Burt Hochberg finally convinced the publisher to create a new edition. Endgame expert Pal Benko, whose own copy of the book contained hand-written notes of almost all of the errors, did the revision. The revised edition was published in 2003. Of course, endgame tablebases have revealed some errors have not been corrected. 
     Even with the inevitable errors bound to be found in such a work, Larry Evans listed it in his "basic chess library" and World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik considered it the best book on the endgame. Yuri Averbakh (who wrote the five-volume Comprehensive Chess Endings and Chess Endings: Essential Knowledge) based his research on Fine's book. And, John Nunn, who wrote a review of Basic Chess Endings, both the original version and the revised edition, called it a classic. Nunn also added that Fine was at his best when he gave general descriptions and the book has been rightly praised for its instructional value. 
     Nunn added that while it was well worth reading, much of the material on Queen endings was seriously misleading because knowledge of those ending has greatly increased since Fine wrote the book. Benko's revision has been described as poor. Many positions are without diagrams and some positions have been removed and the chapter on Queen endings was not brought up to date. Benko also failed to correct many errors in the original book. No computer-checking of the analysis was done; Benko does not use computers. The layout has also been described as shabby. 
     I said all that to ask, how many modern Grandmasters could write such a great classic (without a computer, no less), which Basic Chess Endings is, in three months?! That is if it really took him three months...remember what Denker said. 
     Up until the early 1930s, Fine claimed he had never read a chess book, but then he discovered them. The only problem was he didn't think any of them were worth reading. Books by Marshall and Capablanca were too elementary and the tournament book of Saint Petersburg 1914 had too many errors in the notes. Fine wrote that at first he thought he was mistaken, but later discovered that many chess authors were just plain sloppy. 
     After Pasadena 1932, Fine began studying German chess literature; he thought they were the only books worth the effort. He especially praised Tarrasch's Three Hundred Games. After that, he turned to the Hypermoderns, especially Reti's Masters of the Chessboard and Nimzovich's My System. Fine especially praised Nimzovich for pointing out principles for handling closed and cramped positions. 
     Those books didn't help with practical play so then he turned to studying the games of Lasker, Capablanca and Alekhine. After that he became the greatest player in the world. 
     For all his braggadocio, according to Chessmetrics Fine was rated number one in the world six different months between the October 1940 rating list and the March 1941 rating list. And, his highest assigned rating was 2762 on the July 1941 rating list which placed him number two in world behind Botvinnik at 2786. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Moscow 1947

     The Chigorin Memorial in honor of Mikhail Chigorin (1850–1908), founder of the Soviet Chess School and one of the leading players of his day was first held in Saint Petersburg in 1909. 

    Later an international invitational memorial series was established; they were mainly played in the Black Sea resort Sochi (from 1963 to 1990). Prior to that irregular tournaments had been held in 1947, 1951, 1961, and 1972, played in diverse venues. When, in 1993, the venue returned to Saint Petersburg it had degenerated into an open tournament.
     In 1947 it was a given fact that the next World Champion was going to be Botvinnik. He had won the first major tournament to be held after World War II, Groningen in 1946, and he had turned in an excellent performance in the Soviet championship. So, for him, along with Paul Keres and Vasily Smyslov, the Chigorin Memorial held from November 25 to December 23 was to be their final appearance before the upcoming world championship tournament. Officially the tournament was limited to Slavic players, but by international standards it was still a very strong event. 

     Botvinnik, thanks to a series of wins from rounds 6-10, established a one point lead. Then after round 11 his lead was a comfortable 1.5 points, but a draw in round 12 cut it back to one point ahead of Keres and Kotov. 
     Then came the fateful 13th round. Botvinnik had white against the newcomer Pachman while Keres had black against Gligoric and Kotov had black against Bondarevsky. Naturally, that put Botvinnik in a good position to increase his lead. But disaster struck when Botvinnik committed a rare gross blunder that cost a piece. He played on but the issue was never in doubt. 
     Both Keres and Kotov faded while Botvinnik recovered in round 14 when he defeated Keres in a marathon 80-move game. In the final round with first place assured he took a 13-move GM draw against Trifunovic. Of the foreign masters, only Pachman (Czechoslovakia) and Trifunovic (Yugoslavia) managed to score more than 50 percent. 

1) Botvinnik 11.0 
2) Ragozin 10.5 
3-4) Boleslavsky and Smyslov 10.0 
5) Kotov 9.5 
6-7) Keres and Novotelnov 9.0 
8) Pachman 8.5 
9) Trifunovic 8.0 
10) Gligoric 7.5 
11) Bondarevsky 6.5 
12) Kholmov 5.5 
13) Kottnauer 5.0 
14-15) Plater and Sokolsky 4.0 
16) Tsvetkov 2.0 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Tartakower Almost Finished First

     Germans in Sudetenland started the German Chess Federation in Czechoslovakia in 1921. The new federation held congresses every year and at its first congress held in Teplitz-Schonau in 1922. 
     Fourteen players participated in the round robin event. Despite the absence of world champion Capablanca, Alekhine, former world champion Emanuel Lasker and such prominent players as Bogoljubow, Euwe and Nimzovich all the top players in the world were there. Bogoljubow had originally intended to play but withdrew at a late stage and was replaced by Friedrich Saemisch. 
     Some players, notably Tarrasch and Teichmann were past their peak. Where Rubinstein fit in was a question mark. His style placed him among the newer generation, but he had already notched up some important victories and was generally considered the best player in the world behind Lasker. 
     The time control was 2 hours for the first 30 moves, then 1 hour every 15 moves. Draws before move 45 could only be made in agreement with the tournament director. 
     For most of the tournament Spielmann and Tartakower were in the running, but with one round to go they were caught by Reti leaving all three with 8.5 points. A half point behind were Rubinstein and Gruenfeld, both of whom had only theoretical chances of reaching first because it was unlikely that Spielmann, Tartakower and Reti would lose their last round games. 
     Rubinstein's nerves worked against him when as black in a complicated position he blundered away a piece at move 47 against Kostic and lost. Reti was playing white against Gruenfeld and their key game ended in a draw following a complicated positional battle. 
     In Spielmann's game, after mutual blunders, he was lucky to get a draw against Wolf. It was Tartakower who had the best chance of winning in the last round because he was facing Teichmann, a master of the older generation whose best days were behind him. Besides, Tartakower had white. Their game turned out to be a thriller. 

1-2) Reti and Spielmann 9.0 
3-4) Tartakower and Gruenfeld 8.5 
5) Rubinstein 8.0 
6) Kostic 6.5
7) Teichmann 6.0 
8-10) Treybal, Wolf and Maroczy 5.5 
11-13) Tarrasch, Saemisch and Mieses 5.0 
14) Johner 4.0 

Reti suffered three losses: Wolf, Mieses and Johner 
Spielmann lost only to Reti, but had too many draws 
Tartakower lost three: Reti, Teichmann and Treybal 
Gruenfeld lost only to Spielmann, but he also had too many draws. 
Rubinstein also lost three: Reti, Tartakower and Kostic 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Euwe and Silly Blunders

     This one took place at Paignton in 1951.

1) Harry Golombek 6.5
2) Dr. Max Euwe 6.0
3) J.H. Donner 4.5
4-5) Leonard Barden and A.R.B. Thomas 3.0
6) Francis Kitto 2.5
7) R.M. Bruce 1.5
8) John B. Goodman 1.0

     Golombek's lone draw was against Donner. Euwe won all his games except against Golombek. Donner lost one game, to Euwe, and was held to draws by Golombek, Barden and Goodman.
     This was the very first Paignton congress which was to become a fixture in British chess. The venue was the Oldway Mansion which once belonged to the Singer family of sewing machine fame.
The Singers had a nice house

     IM Harry Golombek was assigned a rating of 2543, his highest ever, in 1951 by Chessmetrics ranking him 103rd in the world.  The 50-year old Euwe was assigned a rating of 2682 ranking him number 17 in the world.
    Euwe once said, “During my chess career, I have made quite a few oversights. In fact I have probably made more silly blunders than any other world champion.”
    While Euwe is often considered to be the weakest of the world champions, that implies that somehow he was lucky to win it, but that's not true. Euwe's great characteristic was logic and he believed in law and order on the board. His play was accurate and aggressive, but his attacks were different than, say, Tal's; Euwe's attacks were based on logic. But, as he admitted, his greatest weakness was a tendency to blunder.
     Writing in the tournament book of Nottingham, 1936 W H Watts wrote: Euwe is the essence of caution. To win the world's championship and to secure a place only half a point behind the winner on caution alone is impossible, there must be depth and imagination, but the outstanding impression to be gained from his games is caution and dogged perseverance.
     In his return match with Alekhine things went badly for Euwe after winning the first game; he ended up losing the match by five points. Various reasons have been put forward, but it's possible that one reason was that his second, Reuben Fine, fell ill with appendicitis and could not assist him.
    After this his teaching duties made it difficult for him to concentrate on tournaments and in the Dutch championship he could only play matches in the evening as he had teaching commitments through the day. Although received time off to play in other tournaments he had no time to prepare. 
    During the war he provided food for people through an underground charity organization. The after the war he won the London Tournament in 1946 and it looked like he might once again be a challenger for the world championship, but in in a few years it was clear that that was not going to be the case. The main reason was likely that chess took a back seat to his professional career.
    In 1954 Euwe became interested in data processing and was appointed as Professor of Cybernetics. In 1957 he visited the United States to study computer technology and while in the US he played two unofficial games against Bobby Fischer, winning one and drawing one.
     He was appointed director of The Netherlands Automatic Data Processing Research Centre in 1959. From 1961 to 1963, he was chairman of a committee set up by Euratom to examine the feasibility of programming computers to play chess. In 1964, he was appointed to a chair in an automatic information processing in Rotterdam University and later at Tilburg University from which he retired in 1971.
    From 1970 to 1978 Euwe was president of FIDE. While in that position he acted with great tact and skill as arbitrator of the Fischer - Spassky World Championship match. Euwe made huge efforts to ensure that the Fischer-Karpov match was played, but thanks to Fischer's obstinacy, his efforts failed.
     In the following game against Golombek, Euwe held a significant advantage until move 30 when he made a gross oversight and ended up losing.