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Friday, August 26, 2016

Mary Rudge, Fogotten Lady Champion

     Mary Rudge (February 6, 1842 in Leominster, Great Britian–November 22, 1919 in London) was an English female master. 
     Her father was a surgeon and was reported to be fairly strong although he never played tournament chess.  He taught his oldest daughters to play and they in turn taught Mary. Even though she was a prominent lady player of her day, she lived a life of poverty and died almost forgotten. 
     Dr. Rudge died when Mary was 32 years old and she and her sister, both unmarried, went to live with their brother, also unmarried, who served as a curate (a member of the clergy who served as an assistant to a vicar), in Bristol. 
     After death of her father, Dr. Henry Rudge, she moved to Bristol where she started playing chess seriously.  She began playing chess in a correspondence tournament in 1872.  The first mention of her in over the board competition was in August 1874 when she played in the second class at the Meeting of the Counties’ Chess Association in Birmingham.  According to the Edo rating her highest rating was 2146 in 1883. 
     Rudge was the first woman to become a member of the Bristol Chess Club which did not allow women to join until 1872 and played board 6 for them in several matches. 
     By 1889 she was in dire financial straits and gave consent for the club to make a financial appeal on her behalf. As a result, she was befriended by Frideswide Rowland and her husband, Thomas, who was a chess journalist. Mary started alternating between living in Bristol and Ireland. 1889, possibly inspired by Mrs. Rowland, she composed and published a chess problem in the Clontarf Parochial Magazine and gave a simultaneous display, winning all six games. The result was she was soon being hailed as the best female player in the world.
     She was a winner of the first Women’s International Chess Congress, under the management of the Ladies' Chess Club of London in conjunction with the Women's Chess Club of New York. 
     The tournament was played at the Hotel Cecil, in the Masonic Hall, for six days, but the final rounds were decided at the Ideal Cafe, the headquarters of the Ladies' Chess Club in 1897. Her play was described as steady and tenacious and it was said she didn't seem to care so much about how to win, but rather how to make her opponent lose. She never took risks and never indulged in fireworks. Her preferred style was to win a Pawn or get a grip on the position then grind out the win. Rudge was 55 years-old and the oldest of the 20 players and had substantial experience playing chess at the time. She won the event with an overwhelming 18 wins and 1 draw. 
     Over the next years, she took part in various competitions, playing in Bristol and Dublin. In 1875 she lost a simultaneous exhibition game against Blackburne and in 1876 she was defeated by Zukertort in simul, but in 1898 she played against world champion Emanuel Lasker in a simultaneous display. Lasker was unable to finish all the games in the time available and Mary’s was one of those unfinished. He conceded defeat because he would be lost against best play. 
     The mid-to-late 1890s saw her health deteriorate and in 1900 her sister died leaving her on her own. In 1912 there was another appeal for funds. The Cork Weekly News published the following announcement by Mrs. Rowland: 

Miss Mary Rudge is the daughter of the late Dr Rudge, and after his death she resided with her brother, who kept a school, but since his decease she is quite unprovided for, her sisters are also dead, and she is without any income of any kind. She lived as companion with various ladies, and was for some years resident with Mrs Rowland, both at Clontarf and Kingstown. Whilst at Clontarf, she played in the Clontarf team in the Armstrong Cup matches, and proved a tough opponent, drawing with J. Howard Parnell and winning many a fine game. She was also engaged at the DBC to teach and play in the afternoons. At the Ladies’ International Congress, London, she took first prize (£60), making the fine score of 19½ in 20, the maximum. Miss Rudge held he Champion Cup of the Bristol Chess Club, prior to Messrs H.J. Cole and F.U. Beamish. Miss Rudge is now quite helpless from rheumatism and is seeking admission into a home or (if possible) the Dublin Hospital for Incurables. A fund is being collected for present expenses, pending her admission, and chessplayers are asked to help – either by influence or money. Donations may be sent to Mrs Rowland, 3 Loretto Terrace, Bray, Co. Wicklow, or to Mrs Talboys, 20 Southfield Park, Cotham, Bristol.

     In 1918 when her cousin died without a will she claimed to be sole next of kin, but another claimed to be the grandson of her cousin's uncle and appears to have won his case and Mary got nothing. 
     She moved to the British Home for Incurables, Streatham and died in Guy's Hospital, London, on November 22, 1919 at the age of 77. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Checking for Hidden Gems in Pruned Moves

     In engine assisted correspondence play it's never a good idea to play openings from engine books or human databases. Top rated correspondence players spend a ton of hours deeply researching openings and in order to be successful at that level they are limited to a very narrow choice of openings. And, once out of the opening, if one plays the engine's top choice every time one won't advance very far. You know the advice...blah, blah, blah. Boring, boring, boring! 
     As you also know, engines prune moves that they initially determine to be inferior, but sometimes pruned moves can contain a hidden resource. Here's how to discover some of those moves. 
     Use the engine to explore moves that look good to you. Unless you're rated north of 2500 they will probably not be very good, but not always. The other way is to look at moves the engine might have pruned. Here's how you do that. 
     Assuming your chess program allows it, you remove the engine's top choices and have it evaluate the remaining moves (except for obviously bad ones). This forces the engine to look at moves that it might have pruned. For example, in the position shown the top choices are 12.O-O-O, 12.f5 and 12.Bd3.

    In this case, using Chess Assistant I went to the Infinite Analysis command and marked the moves I wanted the to force the engine to analyze: 

     This forces the engine to look at moves that it might have rejected out of hand and sometimes it will find something it initially missed. 
     Another trick is after the engine has had time to analyze the position step forward several moves in the best line and then start moving backwards looking for alternate moves the engine may have pruned. 
     These two tricks will sometimes help in finding hidden resources. It will require some time, but it can be interesting tinkering with the position. 
     I sometimes have opponents with ICCF titles and when I get a move that does not show up as one of either Stockfish's or Komodo's top three moves it signals that the position requires extra attention. I used to assume that they were using superior hardware or had let their engines run overnight or some such. After learning of the above two tricks I realized what had happened...my engines probably missed something in the time I let them analyze and digging deeper into that particular position was necessary.  Happy mining for hidden gems!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Practical Advice on the Isolated d-Pawn

    Back in March I covered some basic strategy on the handling of the isolated d-Pawn and gave an instructive game between Szabo and van Seters.
     The following game is a gem where Bronstein scores a quick knockout with the isolated d-Pawn, but the important thing is the excellent practical advice that C.J.S. Purdy offers in his notes to the game where he explains how black went wrong.  Whether you play with or against this formation, Purdy's advice is worth remembering. 
     Bronstein needs no introduction, but his opponent, Bela Berger, is probably unknown unless you are Australian. Berger was born August 12, 1931 in Szombathely, Hungary. 
     He finished 5th in the Hungarian Championship at Budapest 1953 and in 1954 he played for Hungary "B" at fourth board in 1st Triennial Cup in Budapest. 
     After the failure of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, Berger moved to Australia, where he won the New South Wales state title in 1957 and 1961. 
     He played in the Australian Championship in 1958/59, finishing second with 11.5 points, behind Lajos Steiner who scored 12.5. Australian champion John Purdy, son of C.J.S. Purdy, was one of Australia's two representatives at the 1963 Pacific Zonal Championship in Jakarta. There was a quadrangular selection tournament in Melbourne for the second spot. Berger and Karlis Ozols tied for first; the selectors voted in favor of Berger 3-0. In Jakarta, he tied for first with Indonesia's Arovah Bachtiar on 5.5/8, and won the playoff 2-1 after 3 games. A fourth game was won by Bachtiar, but it had no bearing on the outcome, as the tiebreak system used favored Berger. As zonal champion, he became an International Master. 
     He went on to play in the 1964 Interzonal tournament in Amsterdam, with 18 grandmasters and 6 international masters, finishing 23rd out of 24. Berger tied for 7-8th in the Meralco Open in Manila in 1968. He died in December 2005 in Sydney, Australia. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Evans Gambit

Captain Evans
     The Evans Gambit isn't seen very often these days, but Reuben Fine said it poses a challenge for black because the two usual ways of defending (playing...d6 or returning the gambit Pawn) are more difficult to pull off than with other gambits. 
     In the Evans white offers a P to divert the black Bishop on c5 and if black accepts, white can play c3 and d4 gaining control of the center and open diagonals to play Ba3 or Qb3. This allows him to generate threats against f7 and prevents black from castling K-side. If Black declines then white gains space on the Q-side. 
     The gambit is named after Welsh sea captain William Davies Evans. Evans (January 27, 1790 – August 3, 1872) was a seafarer and inventor. He invented the tri-colored lighting on naval vessels designed to prevent collisions at night. For this invention he was awarded £1500 by the British government and a gold chronometer and £200 from the Tsar of Russia.
     Evans was most likely educated at Haverfordwest Grammar School. About the beginning of the century the family moved to Castle Pill, the name of an inlet of Milford Haven in Wales. He went to sea in 1804 at the age of 14 and served in the navy until the Napoleonic wars ended in 1815. He learned to play chess sometime around 1818 and was transferred to the postal department until 1819 where he served as captain of a mail ship named the Auckland which sailed between Milford Haven, Wales and Waterford, Ireland.  During this period he played a lot of chess with a well known player of the day, Lt. Harry Wilson. 
     As a chess player, Wilson was one of the last surviving veterans of a group of players between what has been called the Transition School which was a group of players between Philidor and de la Bourdonnais. Beside his chess career, Wilson, who was described as a man who never made and enemy and never lost a friend, served as an officer in the Royal Navy. He died in Spring Vale, Isle of Wight in 1851. 
     It was some time around 1824 Evans invented his gambit and in 1826 he created a sensation in the chess world by introducing his opening in a famous game in London when he defeated Alexander McDonnell, the strongest player that Ireland ever produced. 
     In January 1840 Evans retired on a pension and spent his time at London chess clubs and traveling abroad. He died on 3 August 1872 at 29, Rue Christine, Ostend, Belgium and is buried in the old cemetery in the town. The inscription on his gravestone reads: To the sacred memory of William Davies Evans, formerly Commander in the Post Office and Oriental Steam Services; Superintendent in the Royal Mail Steam Company, and inventor of the system of tri-coloured light for shipping. Also well known in the chess world as the author of the Evans’ Gambit.
     In 1832 the first analysis of the gambit was published in the Second Series of Progressive Lessons by William Lewis and the gambit became very popular shortly after that, being employed a number of times in the series of games between McDonnell and Louis de la Bourdonnais in 1834. Players such as Adolf Anderssen, Paul Morphy and Mikhail Chigorin subsequently took it up. Eventually however, Emanuel Lasker dealt a heavy blow to the opening with a modern defensive idea: returning the pawn under favorable circumstances. See GM Bryon Smith's article at Chessdotcom, The Evans Gambit: Modern Play 
     As a result of Lasker's innovation the opening was out of favor for much of the 20th century, although John Nunn and Jan Timman played some games with it in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and in the 1990s Garry Kasparov used it in a few of his games which prompted a brief revival of interest in it. 
     In the following game Evans wins brilliantly against McDonnell, but analysis with Stockfish shows that McDonnell missed a chance to save the game at move 16. Have engines finding flaws in the play of the great players of yesteryear resulted in a loss of respect for their play? Engines have made us all armchair Grandmasters, but they haven't helped us understand chess any better. All they have done is proved the old masters weren't perfect. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

What kind of chess player are you?

     Chess.com created a quiz where you can find out which chess style and which great player suits you the best. You just answer 20 quick questions and the quiz will tell about your game.  Take the quiz
     The quiz was written by IM Davis Pruess and IM Daniel Rensch when they were Chess.com co-directors of content and it's based on top-level chess analytics. 
     When Nakamura took the quiz in October 2015 he was classified as a technician like Vladimir Kramnik. He was no longer the "unpredictable chess barbarian" that he once was. IM Danny Rensch was surprised to find out he is a grinder like Anatoly Karpov. 
     According to the results I am a Mastermind. This type of player seeks to master both their own emotions and to impose their reality on the chessboard. A Mastermind always seeks the right move, and believes that attacking is the right way. Typically choosing sharp openings, Masterminds win with fantastically deep calculations, producing combinations which are deeply hidden in correctly built-up positions. Masterminds thrive in complicated positions, where their accurate calculating ability and iron nerves give them the advantage.

Recommended Openings White: Ruy Lopez and Queen's Gambit 
Black: Ruy Lopez and French Defense 

     The player I identify with is Alekhine who, according to the quiz, was a true Mastermind. One of the greatest attacking players ever, Alekhine could produce spectacular combinations from positions which seemed to promise no such thing. His calculation ability was phenomenal, and his combinations often included deadly and unexpected surprises at the end of a series of obvious moves: the famous "sting of the scorpion's tail". Most important was his ability to build up an attacking position and create complications without taking undue risks himself. 
     One time at a tournament I heard a local master say that I play like Fischer. We were all gathered around the pairing chart and I overheard my next opponent ask if anyone knew me and a local master said, "He plays like Fischer." My opponent asked, "What do you mean he plays like Fischer?" The master replied, "Not Bobby. He plays like the kid named Fischer in the under 1200 section." Have fun, take the quiz!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Barking Up the Wrong Tree

     I was just killing time browsing some old magazines when I discovered this game which has some really complicated tactics. It was played by a couple of amateurs in the 1952 Tri-State (Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania) Junior Championship and features an interesting and original French Defense.
     After an unusual variation of the French Defense there wasn't much going on, but a couple of early mistakes by both players reached a position where white couldn't resist the temptation to hunt down black's King, but he was barking up the wrong tree. 
     Both sides missed some truly amazing tactics and white's strategy paid off as he managed to come out the winner. It's hard to criticize the players because in a couple of positions even Stockfish took some time to sort things out. For amateur human players, the tactics were just too complicated. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Combinations are Born in the Brain

     So said Emanuel Lasker. Before a player can begin calculations he has to have something to calculate and where does this "something" come from? Ideas. An idea is suggestion about what to do that you imagine or picture in your mind. If it wasn't for ideas we would have to calculate like an engine and examine and evaluate every move. So, where do ideas come from?
     Dutch psychologist de Groot discovered that a key element is the master's ability to recognize patterns and when shown a position, they divide it up into recognizable patterns consisting of 4 of 5 chunks with features that are remembered from other games or positions. 
     How do you build up your storehouse of patterns?   David Bronstein wrote that most tactics are inspired by the recall of previous games that have been played over, so the obvious answer is to play over games...lots of them. Does it really help? Consider the following examples. 
     Lasker's double Bishop sacrifice against Bauer at Amsterdam 1889 is pretty well known and the Kuzmin's game against Sveshnikov, Moscow 1973 employs a similar idea. In fact, in the tournament at Tashkent 1989 the game Barsegian vs. Garafutdinov was almost identical to Kuzmin's except black varied moves a little bit at the end of the game. Then in St. Petersburg 1914, playing black against Nimzovich, Tarrasch pulled off a double B sacrifice, but the game was denied first brilliancy prize because the judges believed Tarrasch had just reworked the Lasker vs. Bauer game.  
     In the following to game fragments we see Bogoljubow playing a nice combination that makes you wonder where he got the idea from. It was was based on an idea from a famous Bird vs. Morphy game, London 1858. As Tahl once said, you don't have to reinvent the bicycle. Just be familiar with patterns.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Forgetting Where the Pieces Are

     As a companion to the last post, this one is about, well, forgetting where the pieces are when analyzing. Even a guy who calculated some of the most fantastic combinations ever, Mikhail Tahl, recalled how in his first serious match he rejected a line that left him a Rook ahead and instead analyzed a fantastic and beautiful tactical sequence which he finally decided to play. The problem? The whole idea was based on a move that was impossible. 
     In his 1951 match against Botvinnik, David Bronstein went into a variation he determined would win, but ended up losing the exchange and should have probably lost the game because he mentally made two moves in a row. Luckily for him, he eventually managed to draw. 
     At Hastings in 1961/62 Botvinnik spent a lot of time studying the position and then missed a win in an elementary ending when he mentally placed Gligoric's King on the wrong square.  The result was a wasted 100-plus move effort. 
     Tiger Lilov's Chess School has a brief 13 minute video titled Learn How to Calculate Successfully in which he offers some basic advice that may be helpful. 
     This game is from the fourth tournament in a series of six organized by the GMA from 1988 to 1989 as a World Cup and was held in Barcelona in the spring of 1989. This tournament was Kasparov's third consecutive victory in the World Cup. 

1-2) Kasparov and Ljubojevic 11-5 
3) Salov 10-6 
4) Korchnoi 9.5-6.5 
5-6) Huebner and Short 9-7 
7) Nikolic 8-8 
8-12) Vaganian,Yusupov, Ribli, Spassky and Beliavsky 7.5-8.5 
13) Speelman 7-9 
14-15) Hjartarson and Seirawan 6.5-9.5 
16-17) Illescas-Cordoba and Nogueiras 5.5-10.5 

     In the game presented here Iceland's GM Johann Hjartarson made a curious error on move 26. He saw the winning line but rejected it when he got three moves deep in his calculation. The reason? In his head he played an impossible move. Here is the position he visualized after making the illegal 28...cxb3 followed by 29.Qxc5 Qa5 and black has a winning position.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Counting Pieces in Your Head

    A few years ago I did a post called Counting Pieces where I noted that in his book The Inner Game of Chess-How to Calculate and Win Andy Soltis discussed the problems of keeping track of material in a complicated position, especially in situations that result in a material imbalance. 
     While playing through one of the games in the chapter on "Counting Out" where Soltis discusses the problems involved in counting pieces, especially those involving material imbalances, he didn't bother to analyze this game after move 21 because the remaining moves were not relevant to his theme. Also because the book was published back in 1994, I was curious to check the validity of his conclusions with Stockfish and Komodo. Whether he was exactly right isn't all that important because his general advice on dealing with such positions is excellent. 
     While it may be difficult for us amateurs to evaluate the effectiveness of the pieces on the board, counting them is no problem. The problem is that when calculating a sequence of moves where there are multiple captures, especially if the material in not even, it can be easy to lose count of who has what left!
     For example, in the game Capablanca vs. Alekhine, Nottingham 1936, even the great calculator Alekhine lost track of the pieces left on the board when he was calculating his 24th move, f4. He thought he was winning two exchanges, but he actually gave up three pieces for two Rs. 

     There are two basic ways of determining what pieces are left when mentally calculating a long variation: 
1) Review the sequence in your head and keep track of the pieces captured by each side along the way. 
2) Visualize the final position and count the pieces remaining. Either way, it's not always easy! 

     This game is not only interesting in itself, but it illustrates that counting the pieces can be difficult. It was made even more so in this game because after a flurry of tactics beginning with 16.Nd5 Onoprienko won Liberzon's Queen and when we win the other guy's Queen, that always seems like a good thing, but the resulting position was very difficult to evaluate even using Stockfish.  

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Fuster Fumbles Against Fischer

     Geza Fuster (February 19, 1910 in Budapest, Hungary – December 30, 1990 in Toronto, Canada) was a Hungarian-Canadian IM. Born in Budapest.  He won his first of many Budapest Championships in 1936 and during World War II he played in several strong tournaments with modest results. In 1941, although he only finished 11th out of 16 at Munich, he managed hold World Champion Alekhine to a draw. 
     He defected after the war. He planned to cross the border at East Berlin with Pal Benko. Fuster made it across the border, but Benko was apprehended and sent to prison for nearly three years. Fuster made it to Canada in 1953, settling in Toronto. Fuster won the Toronto City Championship in 1954,1955, 1956, 1962, 1969, and shared it in 1971. Fuster played in many Canadian championships and in 1955 he was Canadian Speed Champion. In 1957, he won the U.S. Speed Championship. He represented Canada in two Chess Olympiads in 1958 at Munich and in 1970 at Siegen. He was awarded the IM title in 1969, following his strong performance in the Closed Canadian Chess Championship. Fuster was a fixture at the YMCA Chess Club and later the Toronto Chess Club where he loved to play speed chess and was known for his willingness of offer advice and encouragement to young players. 
     The following game was played in the second round of the Portoroz Interzonal when Bobby Fischer was just 15 years old. This tournament was the fourth FIDE interzonal and the first one ever played outside of Sweden. It was a 21-player round robin, with the top six players qualifying for the Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade Candidates (1959) tournament, with the proviso that no more than four players from any one country could advance.
     The tournament was won by Tahl (+8 =11 -1), Gligoric was second with 13. Other qualifiers were: Benko and Petrosian with 12.5, and Fischer and Olafsson with 12. Fuster's score was a disappointing +1 -17 =2. 
     In round two he almost defeated Fischer. Unfortunately, in a promising position he headed down the wrong path with his 26th move and let Fischer escape just when it looked like things might going to fizzle out to a draw. Then disaster struck. His 32nd move was an outright blunder that lost the game. 
     Had Fuster managed to score the point chess history might have been different. Not for Fuster...he only scored 2 points out of 20 games and another point would still have left him in last place. As it was, Fischer made it to the Candidates by tying with Fridrik Olafsson at 12 points for places 5 and 6. Minus out a point if he had lost this game and a score of 11 points would have dropped him back to tie for 11-13 place with Oscar Panno and Dr. Miroslav Filip.