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Monday, November 19, 2018

Surprise at the 1978 U.S. Open

     Not the U.S. Open tennis tournament although it was also a big event...big that is if you were a tennis fan. It was held in New York City and the excitement was intense. The persistent noise of La Guardia Airport jets and the rumble of nearby rail traffic seemed to mesh with the personality of Jimmy Connors as he defeated his opposite personality-wise, Bjorn Borg. 
     The U.S. Open chess tournament was equally exciting. The U.S. Open Chess Championship has been held annually since 1900. Originally it was the Western Open and was the championship of the Western Chess Association. Then in 1934 the Western Chess Association became the American Chess Federation and the tournament became the American Chess Federation congress. In 1939, that organization merged into the United States Chess Federation and became the U.S. Open. 
     The list of winners has been a Who's Who of U.S. with a few prominent foreigners thrown in. For example, Edward Lasker, Bora Kostic, Carlos Torre, Samuel Reshevsky, Reuben Fine, Israel A. Horowitz, Anthony Santasiere, Herman Steiner Isaac Kashdan, Weaver W. Adams, Arthur Bisguier, Larry Evans, Donald Byrne, Arturo Pomar, Nicolas Rossolimo, Bobby Fischer, Robert Byrne, Pal Benko, Antonio Medina, William Lombardy, Bent Larsen, Vlastimil Hort, Anatoly Lein, Florin Gheorghiu, Larry Christiansen, Roman Dzindzichashvili, Yasser Seirawan, Lev Alburt, Alexander Shabalov, Alex Yermolinsky, Aleksander Wojtkiewicz, Alexander Onischuk, Boris Gulko 
     In early years the tournament it consisted of small round robins with qualifying events. In 1946 the Swiss System was used for preliminary rounds and in 1947 it was a single section Swiss. For many years, the tournament had 12 or 13 rounds and lasted two weeks. After experimentation with various formats, in recent years it has usually been nine rounds. Sometimes the schedule could be brutal with several games a day until the sections merged in the later rounds. 
     Through the 1950s and 1960s, 180-190 players was the norm, then in Chicago 1963 there were 266 entries. In the 2000s, the fields were over 400 to 500 entries. In more recent years the entries have declined and the tournament has become less important and there has often been multiple ties for first with the ultimate winner decided by blitz playoffs. 
     One of the biggest surprises was in 1978 in Phoenix, Arizona when an unheralded 2307 rated master from Texas named Joseph Bradford (born November 1, 1959) was the winner. Today Bradford is an IM rated 2379, down from the low 2400s in the year 2000.He was the 2006 U.S. Senior Champion.
     Bradford worked for the Texas Department of Transportation and Ken Smith thought he had enough talent to be a GM if he worked full time at it, but he didn't and only became an IM after he retired from his job in 2007. 
     Bradford got his BA in economics from the University of Texas, Austin in 1978 and afterward decided to spend a few months perusing his first love, chess and it paid off when he won the U.S. Open; he scored nine wins and three draws. 
     Among his opponents were GMs Leonid Shamkovich, a recent immigrant from the Soviet Union by way of Israel and Jim Tarjan. Bradford's victory qualified him for the 1980 U.S. Championship. 
     The 1980 championship ended in a tie between Larry Christiansen, Larry Evans and Water Browne who finished a half point ahead of Yasser Seirawan and Leonid Shamkovich. Bradford ended up tied for places 8-12 (out of 13) with Pal Benko, Peter Biyiasas, Robert Byrne and John Peters; he scored +3 -5 =4, but had the distinction of handing Christiansen his only defeat. His other victims were Byrne and Peters. 
     Among Bradford's victims in the 1978 Open were John Peters, Dr. Ariel Mengarini, Jim Tarjan and Douglas Root (at the time a promising junior). He drew with GMs Leonid Shamkovich and in the last round, Andrew Soltis. His final score was 10.5-1.5.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Marshall Chess Club Championship 1937

     The Great Depression in the United States began in August 1929, when the United States economy first went into an economic recession that culminated with the Wall Street Crash in October 1929. It was the beginning of a decade of high unemployment, poverty, low profits, deflation, plunging farm incomes, and lost opportunities for economic growth as well as for personal advancement. The economy hit bottom in the winter of 1932–33, but things picked up a little with four years of growth until the Recession of 1937 brought back high levels of unemployment. 
     May 6 saw the Hindenburg disaster when the German airship Hindenburg bursts into flame when mooring to a mast in Lakehurst, New Jersey. On May 27 the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco opened to pedestrian traffic. The next day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt pushed a button in Washington, D.C. and opened the bridge up for vehicle traffic. Then, as bad as things were, there was a labor strike at US Steel in Chicago. 
     May was also the month the Marshall Chess Club held its championship which was won, fittingly, by Marshall himself. Theodore A. Dunst and Milton Hanauer, like Marshall, lost only one game and tied for 2nd and 3rd. Additionally, the Marshall club's women's champion was Adele Rivero followed by Mary Bain while Mrs. B.W. McCready and Mrs. William Slater tied for 3rd and 4th. 
     The Marshall, in Greenwich Village in New York City, is one of the oldest chess clubs in the United States. It was formed in 1915 by a group of players led by Frank Marshall. Over the years the club has had as members many of the country's best known players: Arthur Dake, Larry Evans, Reuben Fine, Bobby Fischer, Edmar Mednis, Fred Reinfeld, Anthony Santasiere, Herbert Seidman, James Sherwin, Albert Simonson, Andy Soltis. And, more recently Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura. 
     It has also had artist Marcel Duchamp, film director, screenwriter and producer Stanley Kubrick as members. In more recent times "shock jock" Howard Stern, a radio and television personality, producer, author, actor and photographer has been a member. 

1) F. Marshall 10.0-2.0 
2-3) T. Dunst and M. Hanauer 8.5-3.5 
4-5) F. Reinfield and A. Santasiere 8.0-4.0 
6-7) H. Sussman and K.O. Mott-Smith 5.5-6.5 
8) R. Smirka 5.0-7.0 
9-11) K. Darby, M. Green and D. Polland 4.5-7.5 
12) E. Martinson 3.5-8.5 
13) Hoffman 2.0-10.0 

     Several players in this event are well known and I have posted on Hanauer and Polland. Dr. Harold Sussman (September 15, 1911 - October 9 2004)) was from Brooklyn and had the distinction of being Bobby Fischer's dentist. Sussman said Fischer had a great set of teeth, but in the early 1980s they were full of fillings which he had removed because the KGB could bug them or use the metal to send damaging rays into his brain. 
    Can you really hear radio broadcasts in your fillings? If you can, then I suppose the Russians could have broadcast some kind of damaging rays or bugged Fischer through his fillings. Some people say you can receive radio broadcast through your teeth. Read David Guy's claim HERE and Lucille Ball once claimed she heard music in her mouth...HERE...or did she? HERE 
     K.O. Mott-Smith (1902 – 1960) was a writer and cryptographer and the Mott-Smith trophy is awarded to the player who wins the most masterpoints at the American Contract Bridge League North American Bridge Championship. Mott-Smith was on the ACBL Laws Commission, editor of their Bulletin and a contributor to The Bridge World. During World War II he was chief instructor for the OSS in the training of cryptographers and analysts. He wrote or co-wrote more than 29 books on games and served as games consultant for the Association of American Playing Card Manufacturers. 
     Rudolph Smirka was the 1927 New York State Champion. Matthew Green (December 28, 1915 – December 16, 2006) was born in Cleveland, Ohio and played in the U.S. Championship in 1940 and 1942. He won the state of New Jersey championship in 1957. 
    In the tournament Marshall defeated Mott-Smith in the game that decided the championship when he obtained a bind after winning a Pawn on the 23rd move after which Mott-Smith fought a losing battle. 
     Another important result in determining the standings was when Fred Reinfeld went down in defeat to Milton Hanauer. Reinfeld was one of the strongest chess players in the United States from the early 1930s to the early 1940s, after which he withdrew from competition. 
     When the USCF published its first rating list in 1950 there were nine classes and 2,306 rated players. The highest rated players were Reuben Fine, Samuel Reshevsky, Alexander Kevitz, Arthur Dake, Albert Simonson and Fred Reinfeld. However, as Reinfeld was no longer playing he was dropped from the next rating list. 
     Arnold Denker described Reinfeld's play as precise, positional and poisonous. Denker also reminded his readers that in the 1930s Reinfeld was the single American player who posted a plus score against Reshevsky with a score of +2 -0 =3. Denker describer him as "an expert squeezer, seldom losing a game and seldom winning one" adding that on days when he felt primed for a fight, he played some of the most exciting chess of the late 1930s and early 1940s.
     Playing over some of the games from the championship didn't turn up anything exciting. Marshall outclassed everybody and a couple of Reinfeld's games that I played over were boring; he scored a quick win over Dunst that looked like it might be interesting, but Dunst blundered away the game on move 18 and resigned in a few moves. Likewise, in his game against Martinson, who was white and played the Bird Opening, was equal (in another boring game) until a gross blunder at move 21 forced him to resign a few moves later. 
     In the following game Anthony Santasiere administers a smooth defeat to the unknown E. Martinson. Writing about Santasiere, Denker observed that Santasiere, who despised the play of Reshevsky, "had the chutzpah to say that the Queen's Gambit stank like a dead mackerel while himself playing the soporific Reti Opening.....Do as I say, not as I do was often his motto." And, Larry Evans asked where were the games that qualified Santasiere as the spokesman for Romanticism?

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Old, Weak Engines and Lists

     In the past I have posted on two good engines to practice against, ROCE and Cinnamon and both are still available for download. Download: ROCE Cinnamon
     Yesterday I tried out ROCE. On the CCLR 40/40 list ROCE (Roman's Own Chess Engine) is ranked in 374th place with a rating of 1825. I played it several 5 minute games and found out that you have to take this engine seriously! After bumping the time limit up to 10 minutes for two games I did better. In the first game I managed to establish a won position only to fall victim to a tactical trick and lose. The second game was a variation of the Sicilian with which I'm not familiar, got a bad position and eventually lost that game, too. 
     Even though I lost both 10 minute games, the engine was a challenge and was fun to play against. Unlike a lot of weak engines it does not make silly moves and it's mistakes are more subtle. 
     Then I came across one that sounded promising called Feuerstein that's named after US Master Arthur Feuerstein that was supposed to play human-like. I also discovered a warning that the engine contains malware. On one post it was claimed that the reason why some virus scanners find this engine suspicious is that packing an EXE means that the executable manipulates its own code at runtime, which is also a typical behavior of malware. Plus that, depending on whether the virus scanner knows the packer, it can be used to conceal the actual code, which is also typical for malware. In other words, it should be safe. But, I scanned it with Webroot and got the warning that it contained malware and rather than take any risks, I deleted the download.
     During my search I came across an interesting site called Computer Chess which claims to be a site where you can “discover hard-to-find information about how to download, set up, and run chess engines – both free and commercial – in various chess GUIs such as: Winboard, Arena, Chessbase, etc.” 

Main Sections of this site are:
Computer Chess Wiki - by and for computer chess enthusiasts 
Winboard and Chess Engines FAQ 
Tournaments - tournaments pages 
Engines – tons of downloads in alphabetical order 
Lists - about computer chess covering everything from engines, engine logos, tutorials, lists of clones, opening codes, endgame tablebases, list of older engines, some of which cannot be downloaded anywhere else, GUI list, online databases, and more...worth browsing.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Unknown (Alexei) Alekhine

     World Champion Alexander Alekhine's father, Alexander Ivanovich Alekhine (1856-1917) was a Marshal of the Nobility in the Voronezhsky region of Russia which lies roughly 300 miles south of Moscow. A Marshal of Nobility was an elected position in Russian local self-government prior to the Russian Revolution of 1917. His mother, Anisia Ivanovna Alekhina (1861-1915), was from a rich family of manufacturers. 
     Alexander was a wealthy landowner and member of the Duma, an assembly with advisory or legislative functions, who liked to gamble in Monaco where he is reputed to have lost 15 million rubles in one night. 
     On November 7, 1917, Russia's Bolshevik Revolution took place when forces led by Vladimir Lenin overthrew the provisional government.  Alexander was killed by the Bolesheviks and the family fortune was confiscated. 
     Alekhine (the World Champion) had a brother and sister. His sister, Varvara Alekhina (1889-1944), was a Russian film actress whose career ran from 1925 until 1932. Brother Alexei (1888-1939) was a very strong amateur player who once drew Pillsbury in a 22-board simultaneous exhibition and was a champion of Kharkov, a city in the Ukraine. 
     Alexander (World Champion) learned chess from his mother and it's believed Alexei, who was four years older, early on was the only coach he ever had. The two brothers were inseparable and family chess tournaments were common. Alexei also did a great deal in promoting the chess movement in Russia through his work as a chess journalist, writer and organizer. 
     Chess historian and author Victor Charushin wrote that beginning in 1902 Alexei took part in correspondence tournaments and the two brothers analyzed together. Soon Alexander was also entering correspondence tournaments. 
     As a member of the Moscow chess clubs Alexei managed to advance to a first category rating (around 2000 Elo). Alexei edited the chess journal Shakhmatny Vyestnik from 1913 until 1916. The two brothers last played together in the All-Russian Chess Olympiad in Moscow 1920 which was the first Soviet Championship. Alexander won the master group and Alexei finished third in the amateur tournament. 
     After that they went separate ways when Alexander met Annelise Ruegg, an older woman who was an activist in the workers’ movement, during her visit to Moscow. In order to advance his chess career he believed he had to leave Moscow and she was his ticket out. 
     Alexei did not reach a high enough level to play in strong tournaments, but living in Kharkov in the Ukraine he participated in local events and was the city champion. As an organizer he served as an Executive Board member of the Soviet Chess Federation and was Secretary of the Ukrainian Chess Federation. He was good enough to give numerous simultaneous exhibitions and lessons. He was also an editor of the first Soviet chess magazine Shakhmaty and edited a book on the Alekhine-Capablanca match. 
     Shortly after Capablanca was defeated, Alexander's links to Russia were severed for political reasons because of his social background even though he personally had little interest in politics. Alekhine was living in Paris for several years after he left Russia and the leadership of Soviet Sports had no reason to classify him as an enemy of the Revolution. 
     Things changes after he won the world championship. He was was a guest at a meeting held by the emigrant Russian Club in Paris and in his speech he stated that like the myth of Capablanca's invincibility, the myth of the invincibility of Bolshevism should be blown away.  As a result, Nikolai Krylenko, a high level Party leader and the president of the Soviet Chess Federation published an official memorandum stating they had “finished with citizen Alekhine. He is our enemy and henceforth we shall treat him solely as an enemy.” However, in The Soviet School of Chess by Kotov and Yudovich that was first published in Moscow in 1951, Alexander Alekhine was proclaimed to be “Russia's Greatest Player.” 
     Krylenko's pronouncement put Alexei in a difficult situation. In the Soviet Union at that time having a foreign sounding name, receiving a letter from abroad or having a family member in the West would get you a late night arrest and condemned as a spy. 
     Consequently, in order to avoid reprisals against himself, his family and his friends, newspapers in Russsia published a letter signed by Alexei in which he stated, “I reject every anti-Soviet pronouncement, irrespective from whom it originates, even if, as in this case, the speaker is my brother, let alone anyone else. I am finished with Alexander Alekhine forever.” 
     Hans Kmoch's story about Alexei can probably be considered spurious. Writing in a series of articles titled Grandmasters I Have Known, Kmoch said he met Alexei in Moscow during the tournament held there in 1925 and that he was murdered shortly afterwards in connection with a love affair. That seems unlikely given his date of death is 1939. 
     Almost none of Alexei's games survive. The following correspondence game was played in a tournament of the Schweizerische Schachzeitung (Swiss Chess Newspaper) in which he scored +16 =8 -0. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Great Yarmouth 1935

Great Yarmouth street party in 1935
     Great Yarmouth in England is a seaside town located at the mouth of the River Yare. The town has been a seaside resort since 1760, and was one of the great English seaside towns of the 19th century. The discovery of oil in the North Sea in the 1960s led to a flourishing oil rig supply industry and today it services offshore natural gas rigs. More recently, the development of renewable energy sources, especially offshore wind power, has created opportunities for further growth. 
     That is now, but in 1935 it had been a major fishing port for hundreds of years, depending mainly on herring, but its fishing industry suffered a steep decline in the second half of the 20th century and has now all but disappeared. My understanding is that what we call sardines here in the U.S. are actually small herring.  Sardines are gross, stinking, nasty little boogers that smell and taste like fish and I assume herring are even worse. My dad ate lots of sardines on crackers, so we always had a cupboard full of them.  What I remember was that in the days before plastic garbage bags people just dumped household waste "as is" into a garbage can and the old sardine cans stunk! Did you know sardine cans are a hot collectors' item?

    In 1935 Great Yarmouth was also the venue for a gala chess event. It opened with the Mayor and his wife and the mayor's assistants putting on a tea for 150 guests. The mayor and the president of the BCF made speeches and there was a musical program. 
     The tournaments included the British Championship that was won by William Winter a full point ahead of Sir George Thomas. Winter suffered his only defeat at the hands of Thomas in their individual game, but Thomas lost to Harry Golombek and T.H. Tyler and so only finished second. Places 3-5 were shared by Reginald Michell, Harry Golombek and Alfred Lenton. 
     The British Ladies Championship was a runaway romp for Mrs. Edith Michell who scored one draw (against second place finisher Mrs. E. Holloway) and won ten.  In addition there was a Major Open attended by foreign players plus six lesser events.
     Reshevsky graduated from the University of Chicago in 1934 with a degree in accounting and had shared the 1934 US Open title with Reuben Fine and then began his international career in 1935 with a trip to England where he won the Great Yarmouth Major Open.  From there he went on to finish first at Margate ahead of Capablanca whom he defeated in their individual game. 
     It was at Great Yarmouth where Reshevsky joined the Vera Menchik Club although it was through bad luck. He lost on time in a position where he was a P ahead and may have been able to squeeze out a win.  
     There was also a curious incident in the Major Open when the game between Sonja Graf, then representing Germany, and her compatriot Sammi Fajarowicz was adjourned. 
     The adjourned position was recorded incorrectly in the sealed envelope and neither player noticed the mistake when the game, which ended in a draw, was resumed from the wrong position. 
     In the meantime spectators who had been examining the correct position had found a dead win for Graf.  Under the rules she could have demanded a replay from the correct position but instead, she elected to abide by the drawn result already reached. 

     Reshevsky's family came from a long line of ultra-orthodox Jews, including famous Rabbis and Reshevsky himself was always unwavering when in came to observance of Jewish Law even in his youth. His father, Jakob, had even once turned down a cameo appearance by his son in a Charlie Chaplin movie on account of the fact that Hollywood was an immoral place. After the death of his father in 1944, Reshevsky became even more devout. 
     And so during the first week of the Great Yarmouth tournament before round six Reshevsky informed the tournament committee that although he could play the game, he could not record it as required by the rules. The result was a steward (or Shabbat goy, a non-Jew who performs certain types of work which Jewish religious law prohibits a Jew from doing on the Sabbath) was provided to write down the moves and punch the clock. As it turned out, the steward probably wasn't needed; Reshevsky defeated B.H. Wood in 28 moves. 

1) Reshevsky 10.0-1.0 
2) Seitz 8.5-2.5 
3) Menchik 7.0-4.0 
4-5) Conde and Fajarowicz 6.5-4.5 
6) Klein 5.5-5.5 
7-8) Graf and B.H. Wood 5.0-6.0 
9-10) Butcher and Prins 4.0-7.0 
11) Ivanoff 2.5-8.5 
12) Kitto 1.5-9.5 

     In the following game Reshevsky scores a quick win as he did in several games at Great Yarmouth.   His opponent was the virtually unknown English player Francis Ernest Appleyard Kitto (February 3, 1915 – November 28, 1964, 49 years old). 
Frank Kitto
     Kitto was born in London, attended King's College in Cambridge, and by 1936 and 1937 he was playing first board for the college team. In 1937, in the Worcester Centenary Congress he won the Premier Reserves section and at Hastings, 1937-38, he played in the Premier Reserves and tied for 4th place causing the BCM to comment that he was a very promising player. 
     His style was described by words like hair raising, brutal and savage. In the 1938 BCF Congress he shared 1st place in the Major Open B with Dr, Seitz, ahead of Koenig and the Irish Champion, J. J. O'Hanlon. As a result of this tournament he qualified for the Premier Section of the 1939 BCF Congress.
     Owing to looming threat of war the British Championship was not at stake, but the Premier consisted of twelve players. It was a good experience for the 24-year old Kitto in spite of his poor performance. When war was declared during the penultimate round Euwe and Landau returned home immediately and so missed the last round.  For Kitto, chess and a career were put on hold when he became a bomber pilot in the RAF. 
     After the war he enjoyed considerable success in local events, often demolishing stronger players. His last appearance appears to have been in the WECU Congress in 1963. He died the following year at the early age of 49. 
     Kitto was something of an oddball...he was a stocky figure with a ruddy complexion and dark curly hair, seemed unaffected by cold weather, rarely wore socks and never an overcoat. After the war he became a psychologist who took in and looked after disturbed children. One writer described visiting Kitto's ramshackle home to find a hobo sitting in the hallway. He was famous for arriving late for club team matches so he had to rush his play, almost always had to borrow a pencil to record his games which he never kept. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Would You Like An Open File With That?

     A while back I discovered and interesting game by C.J.S. Purdy in which he discussed open files and have been wanting to look at it in detail for quite some time. 
     In the introduction he wrote, “A single open file is a drawish thing...” That's because if there's just one open file the heavy pieces tend to get exchanged and any attempt to win the ensuing balanced minor piece ending is likely to be risky. Any small advantage one might have is not likely to be sufficient to overcome the inherent drawishness. You can see just how drawish a single open file can be in a King's Indian in the embedded game where even the mighty Samuel Reshevsky wasn't able to avoid the draw against a patzer named Tartajubow!!
     Purdy's advice was that player trying to win a game with one open file should try to open a second file, but he added the warning...bringing about a second Pawn exchange to open another file without damaging your position can be dangerous. Chess,com has a brief article by Natalia Pogonina HERE
     Purdy's notes to his game against Michael Woodhams in the 1967 Australian Championship are, as are all of Purdy's annotations, quite instructive. Of course, engines punched a few holes in his analysis, but it is the ideas he discussed that are important. 
     The 1967 Australian Championship was held in Brisbane and was won by Douglas G. Hamilton. Hamilton (born August 15, 1941) is an FM and Correspondence IM. He was also Australian Champion in1964-65 after winning a playoff and again in 1981-82. The 1967 Championship was a 34 player Swiss. Top finishers were: 
1) Douglas Hamilton 11.0-4.0 
2-3) Max Fuller and Michael Woodhams 10.0-5.0 
4-7) Gregory Koshnitsky, C.J.S. Purdy, William Geus and John Purdy 9.5-5.5 
8) Stanley Fell 9.0-6.0 
Games for Australian tournaments dating back to 1845 are archived at Ozbase

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Tribute To Eric Schiller

     Eric Schiller (March 20, 1955 – November 3, 2018) had an Elo rating of 2370 which made him a solid master. In addition, he was an International Arbiter and International Trainer, organized a few tournaments and reported on the Olympiads. He served as an arbiter at the FIDE World Championship 2000. Vladimir Kramnik and Garry Kasparov opted not to participate in the event, but they had both endorsed Schiller. As a chess developer, he wrote some of the reference manuals included in Chessmaster 5000 and he developed all the tutorials for Kasparov's Gambit. I well remember Kasparov's Gambit which was an underrated program that never sold well. In it Kasparov appeared on the screen and gave advice and comments during the game with a digitized voice.
     Schiller was born in New York City and graduated from the University of Chicago 1976, later teaching both there and at Wayne State University. In 1991, he earned his PhD in linguistics from the University of Chicago. After his undergraduate years, Schiller turned to music and founded a music group called the "Long Island Sound Ensemble" and studied conducting in Vienna, Salzburg and Hancock, Maine. 
     His PhD thesis was entitled "An autolexical account of subordinating serial verb phrase constructions". He was a published author in linguistics, specializing in Mon-Khmer languages. He was a co-founder of the Southeast Asian Linguistic Society and was an officer of the Chicago Linguistic Society. 
     He was probably best known as an author on a par with Fred Reinfeld for his output, but his books were much worse written that Reinfeld's who early in his career actually wrote some great books. Schiller's books were often criticized for thier slapdashery...they were riddled with spelling errors, typographical errors, factual errors and he was even accused of plagiarism. 
     In Kingpin magazine Anthony Miles reviewed Schiller's Unorthodox Chess Openings as "utter crap." While that may be true from a GM's perspective, it was written for average players and got 3 out of 5 stars in Amazon Reviews. I borrowed the book from the library and actually found it to be not "crap" but a reasonably good discussion of "crap" openings which can sometimes be fun to play. Carsten Hansen wrote of Schiller's book on the Frankenstein–Dracula Variation of the Vienna Game that it was "by far the worst book that I have ever seen." It also got 3 stars on the Amazon review. One reviewer gave it 4 stars and noted it "is primarily for entertainment, not so much analysis (there are only 30 or so very scant pages of opening analysis, followed by a poorly organized database dump of lightly annotated games. But for amusement purposes you won't be disappointed." 
     Highly respected International Master John L. Watson co-written three books with Schiller and considered some of Schiller's books to be well suited to its amateur audience. Of the books Watson co-authored he noted, "these books are explicitly aimed at the developing student, not the advanced player, and I think they both do a particularly good job of gently guiding an inexperienced player through a new opening...While Schiller probably deserves some of the criticism he gets, a consequence of writing too many books too quickly, he should also get credit when he does a good job." 
     International Master Jeremy Silman wrote of Watson and Schiller's The Big Book of Busts, "I am forced to swallow my bigoted view of Schiller's work (or does this just validate my opinion of Watson?) and admit that this is a great book." 
     Schiller won the Illinois Junior Championship in 1974 and played for the University of Chicago team several times at the Pan American Intercollegiate Team Championship. He was the Hawaii action and blitz champion for 1988/89. He was an organizer of the Hawaii International chess festivals 1994–98 including 1998 US Open and was California Champion in 1995.  
     Later that year, he appeared as a chess advisor for the rock band Phish on their "Chess Tour" where they played an ongoing game of two chess moves per tour stop and some band vs. audience partial games as part of their stage performance. 
     Since 2008, Schiller experienced some health setbacks including having his right hand and foot amputated due to complications from diabetes. Nonetheless, he remained active and ambulatory with the aid of a walker and taught chess at several elementary schools in and near Mountain View, California in affiliation with Bay Area Chess, where he lived in the last years of his life. He offered chess tutoring over the Internet via videoconferencing. He died on November 3, 2018 from complications of cardiovascular disease.