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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Abraham S. Kussman

     Kussman was born December 21, 1907 in Geneva, Switzerland. Exactly when he arrived in the United States is unknown, but he graduated from Morris High School in the Bronx, New York in 1925. 
     His father taught him how to play and he seemed to have a natural talent for the game. In 1924 he played fourth board for his high school team in the preliminaries of the Interborough High School Chess League and won six games in a row; in the finals he scored +1 -1 =1. 
     After graduating, he attended City College of New York (class of 1929) and played fourth board on the chess team. After joining the Manhattan Chess Club in 1926, the following year he won third prize in the Class B handicap tournament and in 1928 he finished third in the Class A tournament. 
     In 1928, while a college student, Kussman scored an excellent victory in the National Chess Federation's first Intercollegiate Championship. By 1930 he was participating in the Mahanttan club's Young Masters Tournaments which included the likes of Reuben Fine and Arthur Dake. 
     In 1928, the National Chess Federation was beginning to stand on its own and had become affiliated with FIDE, become involved in supporting trips to international tournaments by US Masters and in  1929 organized its own championship which was held at Bradley Beach, New Jersey. 
    The Intercollegiate was held at the Manhattan Chess Club and was directed by the legendary L. Walter Stephens. It was Stephens who was largely responsible for the tournament when he sent letters to colleges all over the country. 
    Arnold Denker didn't care much for L. Walter Stephens, depicting him as a rigid and humorless man who sucked the enjoyment out of everything. Denker also poked fun at Stephens penchant for wearing bightly colored suits. The younger players barely tolerated Stephens and frequently made vulgar jokes about him. His wife, Maude, was described as as a "tall pencil-thin lady with a weakness for flowered hats as lush and wild as any tropical forest." She served as secretary of the Manhattan Chess Club from 1942-1954, Her husband occupied that position had from 1924-1941 and Denker claimed they lorded over the club "as if it were the family plantation." Most likely Denker's dislike of Stephens stemmed from an incident at the 1942 US Championship when Stephens incorrectly forfeited Denker in his game against Reshevsky.  
     Despite the invitations sent out by Stephens the turnout for the Intercollegiate was quite small, but some of the best college players in the country played in the 7-player, double round event. The winner received a gold medal for his prize.  Quite different from today's prizes. The final standings were: 

1) Abraham Kussman (+8 -2 =2) 9.0-3.0 
2) D.G. Weiner (+8 -3 =1) 8.5-3.5 
3-5) T. Beyer (+5 -5 =2) 6.0-6.0 
3-5) D. Bronstein (+5 -5 =2) 6.0-6.0 
3-5) P. Schlesinger (+4 -4 =4) 6.0-6.0 
6) A.N. Towsen (+3 -8 =1) 3.5-8.5 
7) L. Ault (+2 -8 =2) 3.0-9.0 

   Leslie Ault was to later become a US Intercollegiate Champion and authored a couple of chess books. He was also the father of masters Leslie and Robin Ault. Graham Clayton gives a good account of Ault's career HERE
     Kussman's losses were to Weiner and Bronstein. Second place was taken by D.G. Weiner of the University of Pennsylvania who came within a whisker of winning except for a setback in the semi-final round. 
     With the exception of Kussman and Ault the other players faded into chess obscuity. Theodore Breyer of Columbia University class of 1931 was a recent high school graduate. For some time it seemed that he was destined to easily finish third, but then lost two games in a row (two games per day were played). A.N. Towsen of Albright College class of 1928 and Leslie Ault of Rutgers class of 1929 both lacked experience, but both helped themselves to a point and a half from Schlesinger who had won both of his games from Weiner. 
     Kussman died at the age of 67 on March 13, 1975. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Arturo Quiroga's Missed Brilliancy?!

     I doubt anybody has ever heard of Arturo Quiroga, but according to an article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle back in 1922, when a team of masters from the Manhattan Chess Club contested the first Pan-American cable match against a team from the Argentine Chess Club in Buenos Aires on April 23rd, Quiroga...well, you can read what the article said about the game for yourself.  More on this at the end of this post. 
     On the US end the Manhattan Chess Club's home was in the Hotel Sherman Square where a cable operator sat near the player and a teller would relay the moves which were then sent to main office from where they were cabled to far away Buenos Aires. 
     The match was terminated at two o'clock in the morning after fourteen and a half hours play and the time didn't include a break of an hour and a half for supper! Club officials in New York finally stepped in and proposed that the match be called to a halt even though only two games of the six board match had been completed. Those two games had been drawn. The four remaining game were all adjourned in complicated positions and they were to be sent to Capablanca who was the official adjudicator, but at the time he was in Paris. However, it was generally agreed that the New York team would be victorious by a final score of 4-2. 
     The only game in which the Manhattan team had even looked like losing was the Schroeder – Quiroga game which in the afternoon had been given up as lost, but fate intervened when Quiroga supposedly missed his chance. 
     The first game to actually reached a conclusion happened when Albert Marder agreed to a draw against Rolando Illa, ex-champion of Buenoes Aires after 26 moves. 
     The game between Oscar Chajes, former Manhattan club champion against Julio Lynch, regarded as the best player in Buenos Aires at the time was agreed drawn in 38 moves. 
     At second board Roy T. Black, former New York state champion was playing white against Benito Villegas. Black, who had traveled all the way from Syracuse, New York for the match, opened with the Ruy Lopez and succeeded in breaking up his opponent's K-side Pawns and at move 28 won one of them which gave him a decided advantage. 
     At board 4, Jacob Rosenthal, another former state champion, was playing Arnoldo Ellerman, a famous problem composer and one of the best players in Buenos Aires. For a long time they maneuvered cautiously behind their own lines and the outcome looked drawish. But, Rosenthal had two Bs against two Ns and thought that adjudication should result in his being awarded the point. At midnight Ellerman cabled that he had to stop play and Rosenthal agreed. 
     At board 6, Harold M. Phillips, president of the Intercollegiate Chess League met Belgrano Rawson's Caro-Kann with aggressive play and by advancing his h-Pawn had managed to break up Rawson's K-side. Their game was one of the two that continued all the way to two o'clock I n the morning.  Phillips had not yet managed to score the point, but it was believed he was very close to doing so. 
     After play had stopped Robert Raubitschek, chairman of the Manhattan's tournament committee that was in charge of the match, made an effort to come to an understanding with the captain of the Buenos Aires team to reach an agreement on the results of the unfinished games without sending them to Capablanca, but the Buenos Aires team was unwilling to accept the conclusions of the Manhattan team. It was expected that Capablanca's reply would take 4-5 weeks, but the Manhattan team was confident that they would win 4-2.
     Eventually a post card was received from Capablanca and he had awarded wins to Black and Phillips for Manhattan and Quiroga for Buenos Aires.  Capa singled out Phillips' game for his interesting and well-played game. 

Bd. 1) Chajes vs. Lynch drawn 
Bd. 2) Black vs. Villegas adjudicated as a win for Black 
Bd. 3) Marder vs. Illa drawn 
Bd. 4) Rosenthal vs. Ellerman adjudicated as a draw 
Bd. 5) Schroeder vs. Quiroga adjudicated as a win for Quiroga 
Bd. 6) Phillips vs. Rawson adjudicated as a win for Phillips 
Final score: Manhattan 3.5 Buenos Aires 2.5 
Buenos Aires had white on odd numbered boards 

     What's interesting is that everybody, including Capablanca, was wrong about the Schroeder vs. Quiroga game as analysis with Stockfish 9 shows. According to Stockfish, not only did Quiroga NOT have any advantage at move 19; he was actually lost as early as move 15. And, in a Shootout from the adjourned position at move 36 which Capablanca adjudicated as a win for black, all five games were drawn. 
    After playing over the game with Stockfish, I even went back and double checked the newspaper article just to confirm that I had it right. Indeed, in the Daily Eagle Helms had claimed that Quiroga missed an immortal brilliancy, but it never said how. And, in his published notes Schroeder not only never made any such claim, he didn't even comment on move 19. Conclusion: never believe everything you read in the paper.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Wayback Machine – Rzeschewski

      I came across the accompanying picture and couldn't resist posting it. In case you're wondering Rzeschewski is the short guy on the right! 
     Back on May 10, 1922, Sammy Rzeschewski, as Samuel Reshevsky was known in those days, returned to Providence, Rhode Island to give his second simultaneous exhibition sponsored by the Providence Chess Club at the Elk's Auditorium where he scored 16 wins and yielded two draws.  Those obtaining draws were L.H. Blount, the Providence champion, and S.L. Thompson of the Hospital Trust chess team. Sammy's score was an improvement on his previous year's record where he got nicked for four draws. 
     During a ten minute break Sammy sang two verses of America, Our Glorious Land which thrilled the audience and resulted in a prolonged applause. (I can't find a song by that title.) After the break he proceeded to hand out defeats to all but Blount and Thompson. 
     After the simul J.C. Cook, chairman of the entertainment committee of the chess club made a presentation of a gold metal to Sammy that was inscribed, “Samuel Rzeschewski, from the Providence Chess Club, May 10, 1922, in recognition of his genius in the field of chess and music.” Cook then gave a demonstration of the Knight's Tour and Blount played a blindfold game against a player named Harold Bonant. Rzeschewski spectated and threw in a few comments. Blount lost! 
    When he arrived in Providence, Rzeschewski paid his respects to the mayor which is when the picture was taken. He also met the President of Brown University, W.H.P. Faunce. While in town he stayed with Mr. Louis Shatkin, owner of a local manufacturing company. Mr. Shatkin also took Sammy on a spin around town in his automobile which left Sammy quite thrilled. Rzeschewski spent the night in Providence so he could sing the next day at an orphanage. As a boy, he loved singing as much as he loved chess. I don't know how he felt about either after reaching adulthood. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Is It Real Or Is It Fake?

     The most famous fake game is Alekhine's five-queen game that he published in My Best Games of Chess 1908-1923. The following game played in a weekend tournament in The Netherlands in 1983 between unknown players seems to be regarded by many as a composed game, but was it? 
     Analysis with Stockfish shows a lot of errors, so it could be a real game. Or, were the mistakes because amateur players composed it without aid of an engine which were only beginning to become a force to be reckoned with in 1983? 
     In 1982 BELLE won the 13th ACM computer championship held in Dallas, Texas and in 1983, the first chess microcomputer beat a master in tournament play. BELLE became the first chess computer to attain a master's rating when, in October, 1983, its USCF rating was 2203. 
The Jackalope, real or fake?

     Even if it was a composed game it doesn't really matter because it's a lot of fun to play over. As someone pointed out, we enjoy composed chess problems and endings all the time, so why not a composed game. 
     If it was composed and played in a tournament, was it cheating? Players agree to a draw beforehand all the time and 10-move GM draws are frowned upon, but accepted as normal. What's the difference between agreeing to a draw before the game and playing ten moves, or playing 48 moves? That brings up another point. If the game was composed, how many players do you know would be willing to take the losing side? 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Adele Rivero Belcher

    Adele Rivero Belcher (1908 - 1992) is somewhat of a mysterious woman. Born in Belgium, Rivero was the name of her first husband and little is known of her life before she came to the United States.
     She was born to Flemish parents in Antwerp and went to school in Belgium and France. She said that as a child because of illness and the war the family had to keep moving. As a result she had little time for normal childhood play; she had no use for dolls and she didn't particularly like the other kids. 
     She described herself as introspective and curious about everything and always analytical and believed life held a lot of adventure and she was always looking for it. She described the time when she was little that she decided to try and fly. “I remember that once, when I was quite small, I decided to fly by means of will power alone. I took the jump as the take-off. Which turned out quite disastrously.'' 
     A sober and mature little girl, she had absolutely no sense of fear. At the age seven years old when Antwerp was being bombed she absolutely refused to go down in the cellar. "I said to them, with a child's determination. 'If I die, I'm going to die in bed."  It wasn't until 1937 that she claimed to have acquired the rudiments of fear and that was when she witnessed a burglar entering an apartment. 
     After arriving in New York she worked as a stenographer (a job that involved taking shorthand) and first began attracting attention in 1934 when she tied for second place in the first women’s tournament that was organized by Caroline Marshall at the Marshall Chess Club. After the tournament she joined the Marshall Chess Club and began playing against male players. 
     In the Marshall Club Women’s tournament held in 1936, she scored a perfect 5-0 finishing ahead of Mary Bain and Mrs. B.W. McCready. Owing to the success of those two events the Marshall announced a tournament that was to determine the American woman's champion. 
     In 1936, Rivero stated, “More American women would take up chess if there was anything in it for them...The game needs a whale of a lot of publicity just as bridge had. At the present time there are very few American women who even play a passable game.” She also complained of the lack of funding for women's chess. 
     The first Women’s Chess Championship held by the American Chess Federation was won by Rivero in 1937 and the first National Chess Federation’s Women’s Championship was won by Mona May Karff in 1938. Following the merger of the two organizations, the United States Chess Federation held its first women’s chess championship in 1940, which was won by Rivero. 
     She agreed to defend her title in 1941 in a match against Mona May Karff who won the match. The day before the match against Karff she married Donald Belcher which may explain why she lost the match so badly. 
     Prior to the match with Karff, Chess Review described Rivero: “Slim, petite Adele Rivero...plays strong, conservative chess. Inclined to be nervous, she exercises remarkable control in important games, displays great powers of stamina and concentration, nurses small advantages into the end-game.” 
     Karff scored a decisive 5-1 win and Belcher's play was weak and contained a lot of outright blunders. After the match Horowitz wrote, "Mrs. Belcher...was nervous and self-conscious, made some incredible blunders, showed every sign of being badly out of practice. After losing four straight, she came to life in the fifth game, smartly out-played her opponent, put on a real show for her many admirers, only to lapse into defeat in the sixth and final game." They split the $197 prize money, which would amount to about $3,400 these days. 
     At some point she ended up in Vermont where she went down in the Vermont chess history books when she become the first woman to win the state championship. That was in 1954. She appears to have remained active in Vermont chess up until the early 1960s. She passed away at the age of 84 in Williston, Vermont and is buried in Barre, Vermont.
     I did a post on Belcher's opponent in this game HERE. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle has some columns mentioning Donald Belcher HERE and HERE. There is mention of the Belcher - Karff match HERE.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Prague 1946 – Ruined by the Soviets

Margarita Carmen Cansino
     Things were humming in Prague in 1946. After the War the Czechs looked favorably on the Russians who had liberated them. As a matter of fact, the Communist Party had a solid following dating back to the 1920s when Czechoslovakia was a democratic nation. 
     A “necktie party” was held for Karl Hermann Frank on May 22 when he was hanged before 5,000 spectators in the courtyard of the Pankrac Prison in Prague after being convicted of war crimes and the destruction of Lidice and Lezaky. WARNING: The link to Frank contains graphic content
     Eduard Benes, the postwar president, had signed a friendship treaty with the Soviets while working with the government-in-exile during 1943. By the beginning of 1946, there was no USSR military presence in the country, but the Communists were well-represented in the government. After a lot of political intrigue over the next couple of years Benes, by that time frail and sick, resigned in June, 1948 and passed away on September 3, 1948. 
     After the Communist took over, Czechoslovakia which until then had been the last democracy in Eastern Europe, was doomed to more than 40 long years of totalitarian rule which lasted until the Velvet Revolution in 1989. 
     Besides the political intrigue going on, in 1946, a lady who was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1918 as Margarita Carmen Cansino, the oldest child of two dancers, visited Prague and created a stir. By then she had become a popular Hollywood actress known as Rita Hayworth. 
     She had just starred in her first major dramatic role in the 1946 film, Gilda, which also starred Glenn Ford. 1946 was also the year of the first Karlovy Vary International Film Festival where she made an appearance at the world renowned spa town, and upon seeing the beauty of the Czech Republic, she decided to take in the sights of Prague. 
     The international chess scene was severely disrupted by World War II beginning with the 1939 Olympiad at Buenos Aires. Some teams and players withdrew and others remained in South America for the duration of the war. Also, Alekhine had died in the spring of 1946. 
     After the war ended, the FIDE conference in the summer of 1946 had to reestablish itself and had proposed a world championship tournament including five participants from the AVRO 1938 tournament: Mikhail Botvinnik, Paul Keres, Max Euwe, Samuel Reshevsky and Reuben Fine. 
     Along with those players would be Smyslov plus the winner of either Groningen (the first major postwar tournament. It was held in August and September) or Prague which was played in October of 1946. Prague was a memorial to Karel Treybal and Vera Menchik who both died during the war. 
     The possibility of advancing a player to a world championship tournament was only part of what the Prague organizers envisioned for the tournament. They had invited Botvinnik, Smyslov, Keres, Flohr, Bronstein, Euwe, Reshevsky, and Fine, but none of them played. Tartakower had accepted, but never arrived due to travel difficulties. Karel Opocensky was chosen to replace him. 
     Then on October 2, Moscow notified the organizers that the four-player Soviet players promised wouldn't be coming due to a conflict with the semifinals of their national championship. This unexpected last-minute cancellation threw the Prague tournament into chaos. It also weakened the prospects of the eventual winner, the Polish Miguel Najdorf who had remained in South America during the war, to be included in the FIDE World Championship Tournament scheduled for 1948. 
     Botvinnik won at Groningen and since he was already a candidate, the winner of Prague was presumed to get the open place, but chess politics interfered. In the end, when the Soviets pulled out of Prague, its strength was greatly reduced and so Najdorf's chances to participate in a world championship tournament went with it. 
     As for the tournament itself, Jan Foltys got off to a great start by scoring 4-0, but then after two draws, he suffered two defeats. Three draws in the final five rounds resulted in his only tying for fourth place with Svetozar Gligoric.
     Gligoric also got off to a blazing start, scoring 5.5-0.5 in six rounds, which included a win over Najdorf.  Then he too faded when he scored +1 -2 =4 in the remaining rounds. 
     Trifunovic started with two losses, to Stoltz and Foltys, but then went on a scoring binge, finishing with a +7 -0 =4. Stoltz scored +2 -2 =3, but finished up well by scoring +5 -0 =1. 
     Like Gligoric, Najdorf got off to a blazing start. He scored +6 -0 =1; his loss was to Gigoric. He continued his solid play and coasted to first with a draw against Stoltz with one round to go. 

1) Najdorf 10.5-1.5 
2-3) Stoltz and Trifunovic 9.0-3.0 
4-5) Gligoric and Foltys 8.5-3.5 
6) Golombek 6.5-5.5 
7-8) Pachman and Sajtar 6.0-6.0 
9-10) Katetov and Kottnauer 5.5-6.5 
11-12) Zita and Guimard 4.5-7.5 
13-14) Opocensky and Rohacek 3.5-8.5 

Note that this event is not to be confused with the Prague vs. Moscow match which was also played in 1946. The Moscow team consisted of Bronstein, Kotov, Smyslov, Alatortsev, Simagin, Lilienthal and Bondarevsky. The Prague team was made up of Zita, Opocensky, Katetov, Kottnauer, Sajtar and Pachman. 

     The Czech player Cenek Kottnauer (February 24, 1910 - February 14, 1996) emigrated to the United Kingdom in 1953. Frantisek Zita (November 29, 1909 – October 1, 1977) was born in Prague, then Austria-Hungary and was Czech (Bohemia and Moravia) champion in 1943. 
     The game is interesting because Zita launches an ill advised attack where in the end he wasn't attacking at all; he was just giving away pieces. It reminds me of some of my “attacks.” 

Monday, May 14, 2018

Walter Muir

     Walter Muir (1905 – December 29, 1999) was awarded the Correspondence International Master title in 1971. Muir, who began playing postal chess in 1925, was probably the most influential person in the development of correspondence chess and was a dominant figure in postal play on the national and international level for almost fifty years and he was recognized as the Dean of American Correspondence Chess. 
    It was Muir who lead the way for American players to get involved in international play with the ICCF and he served as the secretary of the ICCF for the US. Muir was the founder of the United States Postal Chess Union, the organization that provided access for international postal play for members of CCLA, United States Chess Federation, American Postal Chess Tournaments, Knights Of the Square Table and The Chess Connection. 
     The APCT was one of the leading US postal clubs for about 35 years and when the organizers of the club, Helen and Jim Warren, announced their retirement in 2005 the club went out of existence after the last tournaments were completed. 
     NOST (Knights of the Square Table) was founded in 1960 by Robert Lauzon and Jim France as a postal organization with aim was to play in a less competitive atmosphere, in which friendship and conversation were more emphasized than winning. Over time, members also began playing Chess variants as well as Shogi. The club also included Checkers and Go. NOST lasted 43 years, closing down its website in 2003. This was because its members had aged or died and because the internet had begun to supplant postal chess. 
     The Chess Connection was a significant group with many strong players and that featured high prize fund tournaments and they published an outstanding magazine. 
    Muir won the Canadian Correspondence Chess Association Champion nine times: 1928, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1939, 1942, was the British Overseas CC Champion twice and, champion of the Illinois CCA 16 times. He also won nine ICCF Master Tournaments, qualified seven times for ICCF World Championship second-round play, and played on four Olympiad teams for the United States. 
     Muir was the first US player to defeat a USSR player (Atjashev) in ICCF competition The Walter Muir Memorial Invitational Correspondence Chess Tournament is named in his honor, and is supported by both the ICCF USA. and the Canadian Correspondence Chess Association. 
     Both of his parents were Canadian citizens. His father was a meat company executive whose job moved him to many cities around the world and Walter was born in Brooklyn, New York. 
     He surveyed the right-of-way between Albany, New York and New York City for the New York Power and Light Company between 1931-1932, but spent most of his life in Salem and Roanoke, Virginia. He was employed by General Electric for 46 years. He was married to Dorothy Saunders Muir for 65 years. 
     The Dorothy S. and Walter Muir Memorial Fund Established through Muir's estate. The fund supports the Roanoke Valley Chess Club, where was the president for some time, the Fintel Library at Roanoke College and the Western Virginia Foundation for the Arts and Sciences. The annual Walter Muir Chess Tournament is held in his honor. 
     Muir makes mincemeat of his opponent, Frank Valvo, in the following game. Valvo was the father of Michel Valvo. Frank was a prominent correspondence player of his day and in the 1950s and 1960s he played in many OTB events in New York state. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

Grob Plays the Grob

     Stefan Bueckner, FIDE master and publisher of the magazine Kaissiber is famous for playing and advocating unusual and dubious openings such as the Englund Gambit and the Grob Attack and he said his score with the Grob in correspondence games is close to 90 percent. 
     IM Michael Basman is particularly known for frequently choosing bizarre or rarely played openings and he has published The Killer Grob. In his book Basman writes that 1.g4 ignores the firmly held dogma that one should open the game with a move by a center pawn, but, as he pointed out, the Grob has its own logic. He addressed the question, does the Grob work?
     GM Jonathan Levitt said that while moves like 1. e4 or 1.d4 hardly give white a winning advantage, the disadvantage of the Grob is that it hands black an equal game right from the start. 
     While Henri Grob (June, 1904 – July, 1974) was not a chess giant, he was no slouch. He was considered as a leading Swiss player from the 1930s to 1950s and was invited to many prestigious tournaments and was Swiss Champion in 1939 and 1951. Chessmetrics puts his highest rating at 2491 in 1934, placing his at number 79 in the world. And, he was serious about 1.g4. When he published his book Angriff g2–g4 in 1942, he wrote that the work was not meant for beginners. 
     Some interesting facts about Grob: Between 1946 and 1972, he played 3,614 correspondence games against readers of the Neue Z├╝rcher Zeitung, a leading Swiss newspaper scoring +2,703 -430 =481. Grob married nine (!!!) times. When asked if he were married he replied, "Almost always." 
Chantal Chaude de Silans vs Grob in 1951

     The opinion of those esteemed players is not without weight and it would seem that for those of us holding the lowly Patzer title, against our peers the Grob is not easy to meet. Our opponents are good enough to recognize that the move is nonsense and they often overreact thinking there must be an immediate refutation, but there isn't. As a result, careless play on black's part by ignoring white's pressure on the focal points of d5 and b7 can, if if black is unaware, easily result in his getting into trouble. 
     I have used the Grob successfully on many occasions, but my Chessbase Light Database shows white only scoring +63 -93 =37, or just 42 percent; not very encouraging. There's an interesting site on the Grob, The World of Grob's Attack, that is worth a visit if you're interested in playing this unusual opening. 
     Here is a Grob original: