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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Download PDF Books

     PDF Drive is a free search engine for PDF files that claims to have over 48 million eBooks for you to download for free. No ads, no download limits. Also available is a PDF Drive Premium for $3.99/month or $29.99/year. Cancel anytime. As near as I can tell the advantages are faster download and they can be stored on a cloud so you can access them anytime. 
     PDF Drive is a free search engine that allows you to search, preview and download millions of PDF files into your devices. Their crawlers are constantly scanning the web to add PDF files to their database. In the case the PDF files are withdrawn from the web, then they are also immediately withdrawn from PDF Drive search results. In this way the PDF Drive library stays up-to-date, while continuously growing. In addition to the traditional search engines, PDF Drive has previews, cover photos, advanced filtering and very fast searching. 
     A quick search of chess books turned up a lot of them, fairly modern stuff, not those in public domain. One blogger claimed to have downloaded over 60 chess books. I didn't download any chess books, but did download a 400-plus page book on Eisenhower and espionage.
     My understanding of the legality of this is the pdf books can be downloaded for reading purposes, but you cannot print or distribute the downloaded copy.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Robert Byrne – Boris Spassky Match

     Robert E. Byrne (April 20, 1928 – April 12, 2013) was a GM, world championship contender and chess author. He won the US Championship in 1972, and was a World Championship Candidate in 1974. Byrne represented the United States nine times in Chess Olympiads from 1952 to 1976 and won seven medals. 
     Robert and his brother Donald belonged to a circle of New York players around John W. Collins, who was the mentor of talented players that included William Lombardy, Raymond Weinstein and Bobby Fischer.
     Byrne was a university professor for many years before becoming a chess professional in the early 1970s when he was in in his forties.  His transition from teaching philosophy at Indiana University to professional chess saw him playing his best chess ever. 
     The year 1972 was his best year in more ways than one. Byrne was a positional player and valued sound P-structures and was a stubborn defender who had mastered Nimzovich's prophylaxis method of play. But he sharpened his style, shed closed openings and became a dangerous 1.e4 player. He had an all-around understanding of the game as was evident in his writings. Here’s what he said about combinations: 

“The hardest facet of chess to grasp, not only for the beginner but also for the master, is combinations. Unlike strategy, which is describable in terms of abstract principles, combinations do not generally appear in repeatable patterns. It is quite true that developing an eye for combinations is as much a visual matter as learning the moves of the pieces. Combinations are complex sequences of elementary tactics, often branching out in many directions. Because they are so concrete, so germane to the specific positions in which they occur, they must be learned by example.” 

     In 1972 the New York Times appointed him as chess columnist, a position he held for the next 34 years. In 1972, before the Fischer Era started, he shared first place in the US Championship with Samuel Reshevsky and Lubosh Kavalek. He also covered the historical Spassky-Fischer match for Chess Life and Review and co-authored, with the Estonian GM Ivo Nei, a book on the match, Both Sides of the Chessboard
     A playoff between Byrne, Reshevsky and Kavalek was necessary because at the 1971 FIDE Congress in Vancouver FIDE had reduced the number of players from each Zonal and the US was allowed only one player at the 1973 Interzonals in Leningrad and Petropolis. 
     The playoff took place in Chicago in February, 1973 and Byrne finished first with a win and a draw against both of his opponents to score 3-1. Reshevsky defeated Kavalek by scoring a win and a draw to finish second. Thus, Byrne went to Leningrad and Reshevsky to Petropolis.  At the Leningrad Interzonal Byrne finished third behind Viktor Korchnoi and Anatoly Karpov and so qualified for the Candidates match against Boris Spassky in San Juan. 
     Byrne selected Kavalek to be his second. Bent Larsen predicted the match would be competitive, but Byrne admitted he did not play well, saying, "I was unable to live up to the prediction of my friend Larsen, and even now, I fail to explain to myself how everything turned out so bad.” 
     Spassky was quailfied as the ex-World Champion. The three other quarterfinals matches were Petrosian – Portisch, Korchnoi - Mecking and Karpov – Polugaevsky. The winner was to be the player who first won three games, or to the player in the lead after 16 games. If tied at 8-8, the matches would be decided by the drawing of lots. 
     Prior to their match Spassky and Byrne had played only two games before, in the 1969 San Juan tournament which was won by Spassky and in 1971 in Moscow which was a draw.
     When his match with Spassky started, Byrne at age 45 was a tall, balding, bespectacled scholar who had abandoned his academic career three years earlier to become a chess professional.
     Byrne had began playing seriously in high school in Brooklyn. He had graduated from Yale, married a girl from Vassar, fathered two children and was a teaching fellow at Indiana. He and his brother Donald, an English professor at Penn State, were regular contenders for the US championship, members of the US.Olympic team and both were US Open champions. 
     At Yale, Byrne's philosophy mentor had been Paul Weiss and Byrne's subject for his doctorate was the ontology of Paul Weiss, but why he never completed his dissertation is unknown.  His former wife (they were divorced in 1970 and Byrne later remarried) said chess interfered with the writing of his thesis and his grades were all A's except for the incomplete he got for not finishing the dissertation. Byrne was interested in the speculative side of metaphysics and taught courses in the history of philosophy and, briefly, a course in logic at Butler University. 
     Spassky arrived in San Juan on January 3rd accompanied by his wife, his second Igor Bondarevsky and a “technical director” named Boris Gromov. Byrne arrived a week later, accompanied by his wife, second Bernard Zuckerman and Lubomir Kavalek who served as ans unofficial second, delegation leader, and a member of the Appeals Committee of the match. 
     Both players were staying at the Racquet Club hotel which was near the airport and both complained about the aircraft noise and Bondarevsky feared how well Spassky would adapt to the climate in Puerto Rico. Nevertheless, they believed Spassky could whip Byrne anywhere, "be it the Sahara or Greenland." 
     The main organizer was Narciso Rabell-Mendez, Deputy-President of the FIDE. The official opening was 12 January12eth and was attended by FIDE President Max Euwe, and by members of the FIDE Bureau which at the time was holding a meeting. After the ceremony, the players visited the match venue, the Salon Theater of the Society of Engineers, Architects and Surveyors where they tried the chairs, checked out the chessset and table and tested the lights. Spassky found everything ideal and commented that the size of the Brazilian rosewood table was good and it had plenty of leg room, adding that he thought even Bobby Fischer would be glad to play on it. Byrne thought the pieces were a little shiny and the overhead lighting a little too dim. 
     The arbiter was Wilfried Dorazil. Dr. Dorazil was a leading chess organizer in Vienna who organized the first post-war tournament in Vienna in 1947.  He later organized the World Team Championships, Student Team Championships and the 1969 Zonal and many other major events..  He also served FIDE as an Arbiter, Qualification Committee president and member of the Central Committee.  He was assisted by Dr. Manuel Paniaguas who was also medical officer of the match. The winner would receive $3,500 (around $18,000 today) and the loser $1,500 (around $8,000 today). 
    Spassky was almost inconspicuous. He wore a white sport shirt, dark trousers, rough scuffed shoes and was deliberately casual as he peeled the cellophane off a pack of cigarettes before starting play and he took his time recording his moves. For him, unlike Fischer, chess was nothing to get excited about. In San Juan, he seemed less nervous than when he lost his title to Fischer, but at 8:30 each evening, after five hours of play, Byrne was chatty and relaxed while Spassky was quiet and looked pale. 

     Nobody had expected Byrne to be Spassky's opponent and in the first two games Byrne played well and the shock to Spassky was obvious. Even so, he adapted and proved to be as resourceful as ever.
     The first game began at 3:30 pm with more than 75 people watching in the auditorium and another 200 jammed a nearby room who viewed the game over closed-circuit television. Plus, another 50 could watch a monitor in the bar. IM Julio Kaplan analyzed the game for the spectators. 

The results of the games: 
Game 1: Byrne had white at the game was a Najdorf Sicilian. After ten minutes and on his sixth move Byrne played for a K-side attack, traded Qs on move 13, made a risky Q-side castle two moves later, and won a pawn on move 17. There was no question Byrne's attack was dangerous and that he had made careful pre-game preparations in the variation. The attack was a little risky and Spassky had counterplay by sacrificing the exchange on c3. Byrne got tied up trying to hang on to the extra P and ended up returning the exchange and the result was a draw. 
Game 2: As white, Spassky opened with 1.e4 and the opening was another Najdorf Sicilian. Spassky played patiently and at 8:05 p.m., after four hours and 35 minutes of play, on his 38th move, Byrne made what the experts called his worst blunder, a P-move that Spassky took immediate advantage of to launch a K-side attack. At adjournment everybody agreed the Byrne's position in the R and P ending was hopeless. After 32 more moves the next day, Spassky offered a draw and made a quick exit out a side door. 
Game 3: The most interesting of the match. Spassky had stopped smoking; his last cigarette was on move 60 of the adjourned game the day before. As a result, he was restless. At 4:12, after beginning a breakthrough on his 16th move, he ate a candy bar and while waiting for Byrne to play, he paced back and forth in front of the stage then sat on a sofa looking very forlorn. From the sofa he moved to a chair by the judge's table then resumed his pacing. Meanwhile, Byrne, who was smoking almost continuously, remained seated and periodically removed his glasses to polish them. Then on his 22nd move Spassky sacrificed his Q for two Bs and two Ps. After that his pacing was over as he sat at the board with his head in his hands. After a long series of neutral moves and meaningless checks the game was adjourned at move 40. At adjournment Spassky stopped his clock before sealing his move and their was a brief discussion of the rule violation, but it was easily resolved. After resumption the next day it took only 16 moves for Byrne to resign. 
Game 4: Byrne lost without offering much resistance. 
Game 5: Byrne complained he hadn't been sleeping and requested a time out. Dr. Paniaguas certified that the chain-smoking Byrne suffered from insomnia and granted him a two-day delay. It was expected that Byrne was going to be defeated anyway and before the game Byrne stated that while his chances were poor, he wasn't giving up. He played the Sicilian Keres Attack and the game was a hard-fought draw. 
Game 6: This marked the end. Spassky went for a Bishop ending in which Byrne had a bad B. The game was adjourned in a blocked position and Spassky a P up. He scored the point when the game was resumed the next day.  The final score: Spassky 4.5 - Byrne 1.5.
    The match caused Euwe to comment that it was unfortunate Byrne had met Spassky in the first round because he might have been able to handle some of the other qualifiers. Spassky went on to lose to Karpov in the Semifinals. In the next Interzonal in Biel in 1976, Byrne missed the qualifying spot by a half point.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Botvinnik – Averbach Training Match, 1957

     The year 1957 was a big one in Moscow. The Soviet Union launched the first space satellite Sputnik. The 6th World Festival of Youth and Students opened on July 28, 1957, in Moscow, Soviet Union. The festival attracted 34,000 people from 130 countries. This became possible after the bold political changes initiated by Nikita Khrushchev. It was the first World Festival of Youth and Students held in the Soviet Union, which was opening its doors for the first time to the world. 
     The Khrushchev reforms, known as Khrushchev's Thaw, resulted in some changes in the Soviet Union. Foreigners could come for a visit, and people were allowed to meet foreigners, albeit only in groups under supervision. 
     In the United States automobile tail fins were getting bigger and cars had more lights, bigger more powerful engines and an average car sold for $2,749. The continued growth of the use of credit was shown by the fact that 2/3 of all new cars were bought on credit. Gas cost 24 cents a gallon. 
     Television featured the debut of "Perry Mason" and "Maverick" while Rock and Roll was the popular music with "Little Richard" being one of the biggest stars.. The popular toys were Slinkys and Hula Hoops and the Frisbee was introduced. The average yearly wage was $4.550.00. Bacon was 60 cents a pound and eggs were 28 cents a dozen. 
     On the political scene South Vietnam was attacked by Viet Cong guerrillas and it wouldn't be long before the U.S. began to dabble in the situation. President Eisenhower sent troops to Arkansas to enforce anti-segregation laws. 
     Meanwhile in the chess world the big event was another World Championship match. The Zurich 1953 Candidates Tournament was won Vasily Smyslov who finished two points ahead of Bronstein earning him the right to challenge Botvinnik in Moscow in March of 1954. The 1954 match was marked by sharp swings in the lead. Botvinnik won three of the first four games, but then disaster struck and Smyslov scored four wins and 3 draws in the next seven games to take the lead 6-5. The Botvinnik struck back scoring four wins, a loss and a three draws making the score 10.5-8.5 in his favor. In the remaining four games Smyslov evened the score with two wins and three draws, but Botvinnik retained his title. 
     Going into the 14th game Botvinnik was leading 7-6, but when Smyslov won a brilliant game to tie the match, Botvinnik thought he smelled a rat. On their way out of the playing hall Botvinnik told his second Ilya Kan that Smyslov must have been tipped off about his opening preparation. Kan pointed out that Botvinnik had played that particular variation against the K-Indian before, so it was possible for Smyslov to have been prepared. Botvinnik insisted that Smyslov had played his moves too quickly. Kan jokingly asked Botvinnik if his maid could have passed along the information. Botvinnik didn't say anything, but that was the end of Kan's work as a second. 
     At the 1956 Amsterdam Candidates Tournament Vasily Smyslov finished first 1.5 points ahead of Keres and earned the right to challenge Botvinnik for a second time for a match to held in Moscow in March of 1957. In this match, which was won by Smyslov, and as he was to do in their 1958 rematch, Botvinnik didn't use a second because he didn't trust anybody.
     However, in preparation for his second match with Smyslov, Botvinnik wanted to play a 12-game match with Yuri Averbach to begin right after New Year's Day of 1957. Averbach caught a cold and so they only played 10 games and the 9th game, which had been adjourned, was never played off. Botvinnik led +3-2=4, but Averbach has slightly the better of it in the adjourned game so had winning chances. 
     Unlike most training matches, this one was an intense struggle that was marred by time trouble and some serious mistakes. Years later Averbach wondered if it had drained too much strength and energy from Botvinnik and influenced the result against Smyslov in their match a month later. The following game from their training match demonstrates the fighting qualities of both players. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Camels and Kents, Cigarettes of Champions

    Camel cigarettes were introduced by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco in 1913. Most current Camel cigarettes contain a blend of Turkish tobacco and Virginia tobacco. Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the city where R.J. Reynolds was founded, is nicknamed "Camel City" because of the brand's popularity.
     In 1913, R.J. Reynolds innovated the packaged cigarette. Prior to that cigarette smokers rolled their own. Reynolds worked to develop a more appealing flavor, creating the Camel cigarette, so named because it used Turkish tobacco in imitation of then-fashionable Egyptian cigarettes and within a year Reynolds had sold 425 million packs. 

     The original Camels had a milder taste than established brands. They were advance-promoted by a careful advertising campaign and another promotion was 'Old Joe', a circus camel driven through towns used to attract attention and distribute free cigarettes. The brand's slogan, used for decades, was "I'd walk a mile for a Camel!" 
     Its popularity peaked through the brand's use by famous personalities such as news broadcaster Edward R. Murrow, who use was so heavy that smoking a Camel no-filter became his trademark.  Frank Sinatra was buried with a bottle of Jack Daniels and a pack of Camels.
     Their ads also featured Frank Marshall in the April 28, 1934 issue of The Saturday Evening Post and Arnold Denker was also featured in ads after he won the US Championship in 1944. 

     In 1987, the company created "Joe Camel" as a mascot and by 1991, the American Medical Association published a report stating that 5- and 6-year olds could more easily recognize Joe Camel than Mickey Mouse, Fred Flintstone, Bugs Bunny or even Barbie. This led the AMA to ask Reynolds to terminate the Joe Camel campaign. The company refused, but further appeals followed in 1993 and 1994 and finally in 1997, the Joe Camel campaign was replaced with a campaign which appealed to the desires of its mid twenties target market. Camel paid millions of dollars to settle lawsuits accusing them of using Joe Camel to market smoking to children. 
     Few people are aware that Tal was not only a gifted chess player but a gifted pianist. Though never featured in Camel ads, Mikhail Tal was originally a Camel smoker. That was one of his vices. The others were women and alcohol. One of Tal's best friends told the story of how after he won a game, Tal would call different women and tell them he had won the game because he was thinking of them and his alcohol problems are well known.
      In The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal he described his efforts to quit smoking in 1960 when the Soviet team was on its way to Hamburg to play against the West German team. Geller and Tolush were smokers and Tal told them that if he asked for a cigarette they were to refuse to give him one. In his very first game against Lehmann, after Lehmann lit a cigar, Tal asked first Geller then Tolush for a cigarette, but honoring his request, they refused. Tal then went inot the bar and bought a pack of Camels. Later he switched to the filter tipped Kents. 
     Kent is currently owned and manufactured by Reynolds. The brand is named after Herbert Kent, a former executive at Lorillard Tobacco Company. Widely recognized by many as the first popular filtered cigarette, Kent was introduced by the Lorillard Tobacco Company in 1952 around the same time a series of articles entitled "cancer by the carton", published by Reader's Digest, scared American consumers into seeking out a filter brand at a time when most brands were filterless. 
     Viceroy was the first to introduce filters in 1936, but Kent heavily advertised its "famous micronite filter" and promised consumers the "greatest health protection in history". Sales of Kent skyrocketed, and it has been estimated that in Kent's first four years on the market, Lorillard sold some 13 billion Kent cigarettes. 
     Eventually it was discovered that the micronite filter contained compressed carcinogenic blue asbestos within the crimped crepe paper. It has been suspected that many cases of mesothelioma have been caused by smoking the original Kent cigarettes, and various lawsuits followed over the year causing Lorillard quietly change the filter material from asbestos to the more common cellulose acetate in mid 1956. 
     Kent grew until the late 1960s, then began a long, steady decline as more filtered cigarette brands promising even lower tar were introduced. In the 1970s, British American Tobacco bought the brand and started selling it outside of the U.S, eventually making it one of their most popular brands along with Dunhill, Lucky Strike, Pall Mall and Rothmans. In 2014, Reynolds offered to buy the Lorillard tobacco company for $27.4 billion and in 2015 the Kent brand became the property of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. 
     Between 1970 and 1990 Kent was the most demanded cigarette in Romania and in some cases they were used as payment or bribe. In the latter part of the 1990s Kents were no longer generally and officially were sold only in hard currency shops and on the black market. 
     Early in World War II Wake Island surrendered to the Japanese on December 24, 1941 and both soldiers and civilians became prisoners of war and were shipped to Woo Sung, China. There they were joined by the Marines who had guarded the American Embassy in China, including William Howard Chittenden who later authored several books, including one on his experiences, From China Marine to Jap POW
     While in prison camp Chittenden acquired a chess set which had a fascinating story attached to it. He bought the set from one of the 800 civilian POWs who pent his time carving chess sets. The set was selling the sets for 20 packs of cigarettes and Chittenden, a non-smoker, collected the 20 packs and purchased the pieces. 
    Samuel Reshevsky was also an inveterate smoker, but as many times as I saw him at US Championships I never paid any attention to what brand he preferred. Anybody know?
     Anand has been a little more discerning...at least no cigarettes!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Smyslov Struts His Stuff

     Vasily Smyslov (March 24, 1921 - March 27, 2010) had a race horse named after him. It was a thoroughbred gelding born in 1996 in New Zealand. It was Smyslov (the man, not the horse) who squashed a young Arthur Bisguier's dream of becoming world champion back in 1955 when he beat Bisguier 4-0 in the USA vs. USSR team match. 
     Smyslov was generally known for his positional style and his endgame expertise, but not everyone realizes that he was also a brilliant tactician. Many players have a disdain for simple positions that occur after the exchange of Qs or simplification, thinking that nothing of interest remains. But many times Smyslov showed this attitude to be wrong. 
     1938 was a dangerous time to be living in Russia.  There were three Moscow Trials held between 1936 and 1938 as part of Stalin's Great Purge. In the 1938, Moscow was the site of what came to be known as the "Trial of the Twenty-One." This was the third trial and it was held in March 1938, and included 21 defendants.  It is the most famous because of the people involved and the scope of charges which tied together all the loose ends from earlier trials.  The 21 defendants were alleged to belong to the so-called "Bloc of Rightists and Trotskyites."
     Several of them were alleged to have conspired to assassinate Lenin and Stalin numerous times and had successfully murdered Soviet writer Maxim Gorky by poison in 1936. The group also stood accused of espionage and it was claimed they plotted the overthrow the government in collusion with agents of the German and Japanese governments, among other preposterous charges. All the leading defendants were executed.

    When it was announced that the 17-year old Smyslov would be a participant in the 1938 Moscow city championship nobody paid any attention.  But, as the tournament progressed people began to take notice not so much because of his defeat of more experienced players, but because of his style. He demonstrated a good opening knowledge and played both tactical and positional games exploiting small advantages. He was a strict examiner and many opponents failed the test. Smyslov ended up tying for first with Sergey Belavenets and winning the Soviet Master title. Belavenets was killed in an action during World War II at Staraya, Russa. They were followed by Lilienthal, Vaksberg, Yeltsov, Panov, and Udovich. There were 18 players.
     From the very beginning of his career Smyslov demonstrated that even seemingly quiet positions can contain tactical possibilities. For that reason he became absorbed in composing endgame studies that closely resembled positions from actual play. 
    However, his talent was first and foremost in his tactical ability, but to compliment them he extensively studied strategy, technique as well as endgame play. And, it was this all around ability that lead him to become world champion even if his reign was a brief one. 
     Describing his approach to chess, Smyslov said, “The play of a master should always express a desire to combine a fundamental strategic plan with skillful utilization of tactical means in solving the problems facing him.” 
     We see Smyslov applying that approach in the following game played in the Chigorin Memorial held in Moscow in 1947. His opponent was Alexander Tsvetkov (October 7, 1914 - May 29, 1990), a Bulgarian IM who was Bulgarian Champion in 1938, 1940 (tied), 1945, 1948 (tied), 1950 and 1951. Tsvetkov represented Bulgaria in he Olympiads in 1936, 1939, 1954 and 1956. Chessmetrics assigns him a high rating of 2552 in 1956 which placed him at number 99 in the world. 

1) Botvinnik 11.0 
2) Ragozin 10.5 
3-4) Boleslavsky and Smyslov 10.0 
5) Kotov, Alexander 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) Sokolsky and Plater 4.0 
16) Tsvetkov 2.0

Friday, March 9, 2018

Andriy Slyusarchuk. What a character!

     Andriy Slyusarchuk was born May 10, 1971 and is a Ukrainian mnemonist (someone able to perform unusual feats of memory) who has claimed to be a general aviation pilot, a psychotherapist, Doctor of Science in medicine, a psychiatrist and a psychologist.  He also claimed to be a neurosurgeon and, in fact, actually performed brain surgery throughout the Ukraine in both city and government hospitals. 
     In his youth during the 1980s he was physically abused and sent to a psychiatric hospital where he was tied to a bed, given psychoactive drugs and injected with sulfozin. When the psychiatrists asked him which books he was reading, Slyusarchuk said that he was reading medical literature and works by Ivan Pavlov and Vladimir Lenin. He was sent to an institution for the mentally ill children. 
     Slyusarchuk was placed in a Soviet orphanage, where he was misunderstood by his teachers and encouraged to conform.  When he tried to retrieve his secondary-school certification to enter a higher educational institution, he was labeled mentally ill and punished. At age 11, Slyusarchuk ran away from the orphanage. 
     His resume is impressive and includes employment by a state Institute of Modern Technology and Management, National University of Construction and Architecture, National Medical Academy of Postgraduate Education, Romodanov Institute of Neurosurgery and Lviv Polytechnic as a professor. 
     He was employed by the government of the Ukraine as an adviser to Oleksandr Turchynov, a Ukrainian politician, screenwriter, Baptist minister and economist. In what was called the largest-scale fraud in Ukraine's 20 years of independence, he defrauded two Ukrainian presidents and was sentenced to eight years in prison. 
     He was hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital eight times between 1974 and 1987. His long rap sheet includes charges of medical malpractice. 
     In addition to his claims to have set records for memorizing large amounts of digital data, sequences of geometric figures, words and other information, Doctor Pi, as he was known, has claimed to have set several unverified world records by memorizing the numbers which make up pi, but a couple of journalists noted that at his public performances he was attended by a nearby assistant with a computer and the use of an earphone was possible. 
     His pi memorization feat involved memorizing one million digits of the figure pi. In 2008, it was up to two million and by 2009 he claimed to have set a record by memorizing the first 30 million decimal places of pi and by 2010, 200 million decimal places. These feats seem impossible just based on the length of time required to physically perform the tasks. In November 2011 he was charged with fraud and his records memorizing pi were canceled and removed from The Book of Records of Ukraine
     Slyusarchuk was known for his hypnotic skill; he claimed the ability to hypnotize people to feel no pain when burned. On a TV show, he hypnotized students of the L'viv University of Modern Technology into believing that the onions they ate were apples. 
     At some point Slyusarchuk became interested in chess and in April 2011, playing blindfold, he scored a win and a draw against Rybka in Kiev. Afterwards he claimed that he memorized 2,600 chess books in preparation for the feat. The internet-based chess newspaper Chess Today claimed Slyusarchuk’s numerous absurd statements showed his complete ignorance of chess, adding it was “quite unforgivable for a guy who has read, as is claimed, more than 2000 chess books within several months!" 
     For his part, Slyusarchuk stressed that it was not a chess event but a demonstration of memory. Sponsors bought him a powerful computer which played many engine versus engine games against another chess computer and he memorized the strategy. According to a friend, Slyusarchuk just recalled memorized games. 
     In a televised demonstration of memorizing chess positions he was criticized by invited observer GM Grigoriy Timoshenko who said that he was 99.9-percent sure that the performance was fake and a New York Times article called Slyusarchuk "an illusionist". Timoshenko called the performance a scam because Slyusarchuk had contact with his assistant in the room, had little knowledge of the rules of chess and could not always demonstrate the moves on the board. A few days after the exhibition Timoshenko received a call from the TV station and was told that the film would not be shown because Slyusarchuk had threatened legal action.
     In October 2011, the Lviv newspaper published its first article critical of Slyusarchuk accusing him of forgery and fraud and investigating him in subsequent articles. After the articles attracted widespread publicity Slyusarchuk denied the accusations in interviews, but in November 2011, the Ukrainian police detained him on suspicion of forgery and fraud. In early 2012, Slyusarchuk underwent a medical and psychiatric examination at the Lviv Oblast Psychiatric Hospital and was found partially sane and a psychiatrist was authorized to supervise and treat him in prison if and when needed. After receiving a second psychiatric examination in February 2014 he was sentenced to eight years in prison. 
     For analysis of one of his games against Rybka see the Youtube video HERE

Thursday, March 8, 2018

A Nostalgic Chess Book

     The other day while browsing the remnants of my once extensive chess library I came across an old book that brought back memories. 
     Quite a few years back I accompanied my parents from rural Ohio on a three day drive in a Studebaker Golden Hawk to Miami, Florida. Back in those days there wasn't any Interstate highways and while my dad drove, my mother navigated using a series of free road maps my dad picked up at the local gas station. 
the Golden Hawk

     Once arriving in Miami we spent the night in a motel and the next morning boarded a flight for our first ever plane ride. We were headed for San Juan. The plane was a twin engine propeller driven aircraft. In those days they left the cockpit door open and occasionally a passenger would stick their head in the door and look around the cockpit. When we returned home I remember my mother commenting that the plane ride was beautiful, but it wasn't something she would want to do again. 
     When we arrived in San Juan we stayed with my brother, a Chief Petty Officer in the Navy, who was stationed at the old Roosevelt Roads Naval Air Station. We stayed with him and his wife in his cramped quarters and a few things stand out in my memory. One was when he took me on a tour of the airfield and I got to climb all over a PBY airplane. Another highlight was having an evening meal in the Chief Petty Officers' club where we dined on something that was, up to that time, unknown to us; something called pizza. Unless you were from the big city you had never heard of it. Being used to plain old Southern cooking where most everything was fried in grease, my mother thought it was just “OK.” 
     I also remember my dad, who very rarely ever drank, buying a bottle of rum which was his sole souvenir. For a long time he showed it to people and bragged about how little it cost. When he died over 40 years later that bottle of rum was discovered unopened in his workshop tool cabinet. 
     The real highlight of the trip though was my 12th or 13th birthday (I can't remember which one it was!). We went into San Juan proper and my brother bought me a red and white Renaissance chess set. Today I wouldn't touch one, but in those days it was beautiful. I also got three chess books: How to Win Quickly and Attack and Counterattack by Fred Reinfeld and The Golden Treasury of Chess by Al Horowitz which was my favorite. 
Mine was red and white

     One reviewer gave The Golden Treasury of Chess two stars stating that it was outdated and had only light annotations. I am rather perplexed by the reviewer's attitude. When you by an old book that was first published in 1943 and reprinted in 1956, 1961, 1969 and 1971 exactly what do you expect?! Yes, many of the games have no notes or very light notes and not all have diagrams, so to enjoy them you will have to think a little bit; maybe the reviewer was too lazy to to that. Most readers' complaints were about the very sparse notes. 
     Here's a little secret about the book. The collection was originally published by Francis J. Wellmuth in 1943 and it was revised and printed many times by Horowitz and the latest 2009 edition has been further revised and printed by Sam Sloan. The size of the book and the games appearing in it have changed over the years. The book's history has been covered by Edward Winter in an article titled The Horowitz-Wellmuth Affair
     My copy is not the one I received in San Juan, it is the 1971 edition and it contains eight games by Fischer. But for me the book's charm is that it contains gems played by unknown, forgotten and dimly remembered players as well as the giants of bygone eras. 
     The other day I spent a little time playing through some of the games from the pre-Morphy period of the early to mid-1800s. The following game was what the book describes as, “One of the most magnificent chess masterpieces on record.” and states that, “Connoisseurs hold that the annals of Chess produce no higher flights of genius than the play of M'Donnell in this game.” Is that statement true? I'll let you judge for yourself. 
     The La Bourdonnais – McDonnell chess matches were a series of matches in 1834 between Louis-Charles Mahe de La Bourdonnais of France and Alexander McDonnell of Ireland. These matches confirmed La Bourdonnais as the leading player in the world. They are sometimes seen as having been unofficial World Championship matches. La Bourdonnais won the first, third, fourth and fifth matches; McDonnell won the second match, and the sixth was abandoned with McDonnell leading. Overall, the matches went to La Bourdonnais' with a score of +45 -27 =13. 
     The games were recorded by the club's elderly founder William Greenwood Walker, who remained by McDonnell's side for almost the entire duration of the match. Play generally began around noon, some of the games taking more than seven hours to complete. La Bourdonnais knew no English and McDonnell knew no French. It is said that the only word they exchanged was "check!” 
     After each game, McDonnell would return to his room exhausted, where he would spend hours pacing back and forth in a state of nervous agitation. Meanwhile La Bourdonnais would be downstairs regaling himself at the board. He would continue to play till long after midnight, smoking cigars, drinking punch and gambling. La Bourdonnais was an ebullient and garrulous individual. When winning, he grew talkative and affable; but when things went against him, he swore tolerably round oaths in a pretty audible voice. McDonnell was observed to be taciturn and imperturbable. Winning or losing, he betrayed little emotion at the table, a habit which seemingly unnerved his explosive opponent. 
     Harry Golombek evaluated the games and found them to generally be of low quality. There were some instances of brilliance, but the level of technique, especially in the endgame was low. In one game McDonnell had an endgame with a rook and two pawns versus a rook and did not know how to win. He lost his rook due to a blunder and lost the game. La Bourdonnais was not as bad as McDonnell in the endgame but he was weak in the opening. The games lacked any cohesive strategy. There were relatively few draws, but this was partly due to McDonnell's inaccurate defense, which caused him to lose games instead of draw them.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Cut From the Same Cloth

    My book on Rashid Nezhmetdinov, Super Nezh by Alex Pishkin, has an interesting commentary by the author. He wondered what would have happened had Nezhmetdinov (December 15, 1912 – June 3, 1974) been born 50 years later. Could he have played the same creative masterpieces for which he was famous?
     Pishkin speculates that had Nezhmetdinov been born in the 1960s he might have been recognized as having had enough talent to attend Botvinnik's chess school as did Kasparov. He might have had better playing conditions and coaching and access to chess literature. And there is no doubt he would have been recognized as a Grandmaster. But, it's unlikely he would have been the same player.
     Pishkin observed that today results are what matters and creativity and improvisation are absent. Ratings and money are what's important. According to Pishkin tournament organizers prefer packing their event with mediocre players with a high rating rather than Don Quixotes. 
    It's been that way for a long time. I can remember Nicolas Rossolimo complaining that even though he won many brilliancy and best-game prizes (which if memory serves included some 8 or so with Queen sacs), when he tried to publish a book of his best games publishers weren't interested because his rating was not that high and he didn't score points. I sort of understand decisions made by publisher's. Does anybody even buy game collections and tournament books anymore? And if they do, are they going to buy those of long forgotten players and tournaments? Do they want notes written by the players telling us what their reasoning was and what was going through their head, or do readers prefer sanitized computer generated notes that are examples of absolutely perfect chess?
     It's Pishkin's opinion that players like Nehmetdinov, Alexander Tolush, Vladimir Simagin and later Viktor Kupreichik wouldn't survive long in today's chess world. I am familiar with the others mentioned by Pishkin, but Viktor Kupreichik? I know nothing about him. 
     He was a Belarusian GM who was born in Minsk on July 3, 1949 and passed away in Minsk at the early age of 68 on May 22, 2017. Like some of those just mentioned his peak rating was “only” 2580 back in July 1981.

     Known for his fighting chess, he would often grab the early lead but then run out of steam and end up with a modest finish. In the 1979 and 1980 Soviet Championships he won his first five games and then collapsed finishing a modest 6th on both occasions.
     GM Alex Yermolinsky admitted that he was one of Kupreichik's fans from an early age. As Yermolinsky put it. “... the old, tired names of the likes of Geller, Smyslov, Korchnoi and Petrosian, did not excite me. I wanted a new wave of chess talent to come and sweep them away. I followed the games of Balashov, Sveshnikov, Timoschenko, Averkin, Gulko and Vaganian, and rooted for their success.” His description of Kupreichik's style was “swashbuckling” and added that they were “a breath of fresh air we all could use after feeling burned-out by the modern game that values the result and result alone.” Bent Larsen said Kupreichick was one of the best player ever and John Donaldson wrote that Kupreichik enjoyed the reputation as a caveman attacker. I never knew that about him.
     There is a paperback book authored by Gene McCormick that's advertised on Amazon titled The Games of Viktor Kupreichik. There are two used available. The price is $1,130.32 if you buy it from some place called Chris's Bargains and a seller named Moonlit City is asking $3,617.02. Supposedly both books are in good condition and both offer free shipping. Any takers?
     Playing over several of Kupreichik's games begs the question, how did it happen that I never noticed this guy's games?