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Monday, January 27, 2020

Krakow/Warsaw 1941


   Hans Frank (May 23, 1900 – October 16, 1946) was a German politician and lawyer who served as head of the General Government in Poland during the Second World War; he was known as “the Butcher of Poland.” 
     Frank, a pretty decent player himself and owner of an extensive chess library, used his position to promote the game. On November 3, 1940 he organized a chess congress in Krakow and six months later set up a chess school under Bogoljubow and Alekhine. 
     As soon as Joseph Goebbels (1897 – 1945), Germany’s Reich Minister, heard of Frank’s chess activities he disapproved because Frank was pursuing a policy “which is anything but that sanctioned by the Reich.” Frank had ordered the setting up of a chess seminar in Krakow under Polish management which Goebbels deemed unimportant. He added that “Frank sometimes gives the impression of being half mad. Some of the incidents that have been reported to me concerning his work are simply dreadful.” 
Frank and Goebbels

     After the war Frank was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg trials, was sentenced to death and in October 1946 he was guest at an Allied “necktie party.” As for Goebbels, after Hitler’s suicide on April 30, 1945, Goebbels became Chancellor of Germany for one day before he and his wife committed suicide after poisoning their six children. 
     In 1939 Alekhine and many other players were surprised by the outbreak of World War II during the Chess Olympiad 1939 in Buenos Aires. A lot of players stayed in South America, but Alekhine returned to his wife Grace Wishaar and joined the French Army in its fight against Nazi Germany. 
     After the French surrendered he first went to the zone occupied by the Vichy French but later collaborated with the occupying German forces. After the war he justified his collaboration by claiming that otherwise he and his wife would have been sent to a concentration camp. 
     In 1941, Alekhine published his anti-Semitic material about Jewish and Aryan chess.  According to his friend, the Portuguese player Francisco Lupi, Alekhine was approached by the Nazis who asked him to write some propaganda material which appeared in a German newspaper in March, 1941. Lupi asked his readers what would they have done in a situation where “death and despair was everywhere and life had very little value"?  Would his readers have said “No.” and watched their wife “take a headshot before you also get blown away, or you can write some gibberish and live to fight another day.” 
     It’s not well known, but during the Munich tournament in 1942 which was held for the Axis-controlled championship of Europe, Alekhine wrote in a French newspaper that the tournament stressed "the leading role played by new Europe and marks the end of the , to say the least, inopportune interference of America in the European chess question.” 
     One of the tournaments organized by Frank was Krakow/Warsaw in October of 1941. 

1-2) Alexander Alekhine and Paul Schmidt 8.5 
3) Efim Bogoljubow 7.5 
4) Klaus Junge 7.0 
5) Josef Lokvenc 5.5 
6) Teodor Regedzinski 5.0 
7-9) Eduard Hahn, Georg Kieninger and Max Bluemich 4.5 
10) Paul Mross 3.5 
11-12) Carl Carls and Heinz Nowarra 3.5  

     Paul Schmidt (August, 1916 – August, 1984) was an Estonian player, writer and chemist who is virtually unknown today, but appears to have been far stronger than one might suspect. 
    Chessmetrics assigns him a rating high of 2696 in 1943 and that put him at number 9 in the world. He last appears on Chessmetrics list in 1952 with a rating of 2522 ranking him number 137th in the world. 
     Among his many successes, in 1935, Schmidt won, ahead of Paul Keres, at Tallinn and in 1936, he drew a match against Keres (+3 –3 =1). In 1936, he won the Estonian Championship. In 1937, he won Estonia's first-ever international tournament at Parnu, ahead of two world title contenders, Salo Flohr and Keres. 
     Schmidt emigrated from Estonia to Germany in the autumn of 1939 and in 1940, he took 2nd, behind Georg Kieninger, in the German Championship. In August 1941, he tied for 1st with Klaus Junge in the German Championship and won the play-off match +3 –0 =1. Both during and after the war Schmidt’s success continued and in 1950 he was awarded the IM title. 
     In 1951, he earned a PhD in chemistry from Heidelberg University, and moved to Canada, then to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he took a job as a professor. Later he and his wife Eva moved Allentown, Pennsylvania, where he worked for Bell Telephone Laboratories and made co  electro-chemistry and anodic oxidation of silicon, was expert in neutron activation analysis, and published many papers, till his retirement in 1982. He continued playing occasional games and regularly visited Reuben Fine in New York. 
    His opponent in this game is the virtually unknown German Master Heinz Nowarra (1897–1945). Nowarra played in many Berlin Championships in the late 1930s and during World War II, he played in several tournaments in General Government (occupied central Poland), usually finishing around the middle of the tournament. Nowarra took also part in correspondence tournaments. In December 1944, his game against Klaus Junge had to be interrupted when Junge left for the front. Ludek Pachman wrote that Nowarra. Like Junge, probably died in the final days of World War II, but nobody really knows.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Dabblers, Obsessives, Hackers and Masters

 
I am a hacker
   There is a library around the corner from our house and occasionally I pay it a visit. For years they’ve been advertising a chess club that meets on Wednesday afternoon at 4pm, but nobody goes. I think it was one of the librarian’s ideas several years ago and they never took down the signs or took it off the website. I showed up for the first meeting and there was only one pre-teen girl there and nobody from the library staff.


     They only have two or three chess books, but I go to browse and occasionally check out a biography or history book. One book that got browsed the other day was not really something I would be interested in actually reading, but it did catch my attention. It was Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment by George Leonard.
     The book says the author draws on Zen philosophy and his expertise in the martial art of aikido to show how the process of mastery can help us attain a higher level of excellence and a deeper sense of satisfaction and fulfillment in our daily lives. 
     I am definitely not interested in Zen and am somewhat confused. When I looked it up one source said it’s not a philosophy or a religion. Instead Zen tries to free the mind from the slavery of words and the constriction of logic. Zen in its essence is the art of seeing into the nature of one's own being, and it points the way from bondage to freedom. Zen is meditation. Not something that interests me in the least. 
     But what was interesting was the author discussed something all chess players experience...hitting a plateau where we get stuck and fail to make any further progress. 
     Leonard believes we are conditioned to experience success without experiencing a lot of effort, delays and setbacks and when that doesn’t happen the excitement wears off and with it the interest. Then we look for a quick-fix.
     Leonard also discussed a problem that the nation faces. Namely, for a long time now our prosperity is built on a huge deficit and trillions of dollars worth of debt, both as a nation and as individuals. Failure to deal with the deficit goes along with easy credit and the continuing encouragement of individual consumption at the expense of saving and longer term goals. He suggests that our time might be running out. But that’s another subject. 
     In the book Leonard described the attitudes we have towards attempting to master any new skill or challenge and he seems to have hit the nail on the head when it comes to chess players. 

The Dabbler 
They approach a new sport, hobby, job opportunity or relationship with enthusiasm, but lose interest once initial progress slows or a setback is encountered. They start a lot of new things, but once they hit a wall or plateau they move on.  
The Obsessive 
They are strongly goal-oriented and results-focused and pursues mastery with intensity and dogged persistence, making rapid initial progress. When setbacks are encountered, they redouble their effort and push forward without mercy. But because this cannot be sustained, ultimately they burnout. 
The Hacker 
They have a laid back approach to learning new things and are content to stay on the plateau indefinitely as they remain satisfied in their comfort zone. They avoid getting frustrated and dabble at improvement, but are unwilling to invest in any real effort and hard work. As a result they never progress. 

     Leonard believed mastery is not about reaching perfection, but comes from maintaining a particular mindset as you move along the path of improvement in building your skills or overcoming challenges in any endeavor. 
     Learning any new skill involves brief spurts of progress, each of which is followed by a slight decline to a plateau somewhat higher than before. You have to practice diligently, striving to hone your skills and to attain new levels of competence. But while doing so you also have to be willing to spend most of your time on a plateau and keep practicing even when you seem to be getting nowhere. This can be frustrating, but if you are serious, you have to accept plateaus and learn to love training or practice for its own sake. 
     Leonard described the keys to mastery: Instruction, Practice, Surrender and Intentionality. By surrendering he meant you have to accept plateaus and set backs and intentionality is a complicated philosophy in itself, but here I would simply describe it as a sense of purpose. 
     Me? I am a Hacker. 

Chess Progress article on Chessbase
Ten reasons why adults fail to improve at chess article at The Chess World. This is actually an ad for a chess course, but the reasons are valid.
Five way adults learn differently than children. Article from Learnkit.
How Adults Learn is an article from Child and Youth Care.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Pillsbury Razzle Dazzled

     An opening generally known as the Irish Gambit, Chicago Gambit or Razzle Dazzle is, as has been pointed out in a few forums, a terrible opening. Why sac a piece for a Pawn for only 2 tempos of development? The center will be countered rather easily. Never play it! That’s what they say. 
     One poster stated he thought it would be useful in blitz games as a surprise, but he would never play it in a long game. Another person wanted to know why people search for gimmicks to win games instead of relying on good old-fashioned hard work and playing decent lines, adding that the opening is a joke and white will lose if black plays properly. Another boasted that if you play it against him you’ll lose. 
     The opening begins 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nxe5. An apocryphal tale is told of the anonymous inventor of the gambit. On his deathbed, when asked what subtle idea lay behind the gambit, his last words were reportedly: "I hadn't seen the king's pawn was defended." 
     In Chicago in 1899, Dr. D. T. Phillips, a leading Chicago player of the day, played it against Pillsbury during the latter’s simultaneous display against 27 chess players and 10 checkers players. His chess score was +20 -2 =5 and his score at checkers was +7 -1 =2. 
     Dr. Phillips had white because Pillsbury conceded white on some of the boards. When Dr. Phillips played 3.Nxe5 it left both spectators and Pillsbury astounded. As was reported in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the gambit was “not altogether new nor sound and which has been variously dubbed the Irish, Chicago and Razzle Dazzle Gambit.” I am calling it the Irish Gambit because, as can be seen from the article, that name pre-dates the Chicago game. 

   The Razzle Dazzle was applied in the dispatches describing the game in which it was also stated that it was a new gambit involving the sacrifice of a Queen for a Pawn (sic!). Nobody believed the report and all it did was “emphasize the guileless innocence of the reporter who furnished this remarkable piece of news, for the possibility of the successful sacrifice of a Queen at so early a stage is too absurd for belief.” 
     The opening caught the great Pillsbury by surprise and before he knew it his King was under attack by all of white’s pieces. All of Pillsbury’s pieces were balled up around his King and technically there wasn’t any way for white to breakthrough and administer the coup de grace, plus there was still the matter of black’s material advantage. Still, Pillsbury’s position was pretty cramped and as Tarrasch wrote, a cramped position contains the seeds of defeat. 
     The Eagle article observed, the sacrifice “carries with it excellent opportunities for attack which, however, avail only against weaker players as a rule.” I have played this opening a few times in online ten minute games and have had decent success and not all of the players have appeared to be “weak.” The fact is, black has to be careful he doesn’t get overwhelmed!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

This Just In...

     While Stockfish development versions are released fairly often, Version 11 is now out. Version 11 is claimed to be 50 points stronger than the last version and 150 points stronger than the version which lost a match to AlphaZero two years ago. 
     Developers estimate that on four cores Stockfish 11 could give 1 to 1000 time odds to the world champion at classical time controls and they would be equally matched. Download…

Radojcic Whips Warren


   The North Central Open began in 1954 as an unofficial regional championship of the USCF and was one of the strongest opens in the nation. It was won several time by Wiiliam Martz and after his death it was known for many years as the William Martz Memorial. In 1957 the event was won by Bobby Fischer. 
     The 1964 Open was played at the luxurious Plankinton House Hotel in Milwaukee and was a seven‐round Swiss in which 108 players, including one GM and 15 Masters, participated. 
     Miro Radojcic won the event on tiebreaks with a score of 6-1. His score was equaled by Robert Byrne of Indianapolis and by the Chicago Masters Albert Sandrin and Edward Formanek. Three other Chicago Masters tied at 5.5-1.5: Paul Tautvaisas, Vasa Kostic and Richard Verber. Edmar Mednis of New York topped a group scoring 5‐2 while former two time winner Curt Brasket of Minneapolis finished just below the prize winners. 
     Miroslav Radojcic (August 24, 1920 - January 14, 2000, 79 years old) was a Yugoslav National Master and USCF Master, but was probably more famous as one of Yugoslavia's most renowned political journalists for the paper Politika. During the 1960s he worked out of the United Nations in New York as Politika's foreign correspondent to the US, and later in the 1970s he was assigned the same post for London. He also contributed a long-running column for Chess Life called Observation Point. 
Radojcic

     Back in 1967, terrible tempered Bobby Fischer walked out of the Interzonal in Sousse, Tunisia then re-entered only to walk out again. He fought with the officials, complained about the lights, objected to the noise, threatened to smash a news photographer's camera and, so far as his chess was concerned, he beat almost everybody; he was +7 -0 =3 when he left for good. 
     On the eve of his departure Fischer told an interviewer, “I’m leaving these patzers to fight against each other for the right to play against another patzer."  Details…  
     In his Observation Point column of February, 1968, Radojcic more or less took Fischer’s side. He wrote that as Fischer’s friend, he sensed Fischer was haunted by feelings that amounted almost to a persecution mania and at the same time that his behavior was at times childish and illogical, insulting and undignified.” 
     Radojcic looked at Fischer’s behavior like a “wise theatrical director might”...stars are all a bit “silly” and the “the bigger the star, the greater the right to be silly.” 
     In Radojcic’s opinion the TD and tournament committee should have shown a little more leniency and used a little more diplomacy. He thought the actions of the officials only strengthened Fischer’s impression that everybody was being malicious wanted him to leave. 
     Radojcic pointed out that there were some other complaints about the tournament and the TD acted in a petty manner when he refused to move Fischer’s table to a location where the light was more to Fischer’s liking. They were playing in a vast room where there was a lot of empty space and in his game against Miguel Cuellar of Columbia both of them actually picked up their table and carried it to a different location. 
     The year 1964 was a good one for Radojcic...besides winning the North Central Open he finished in 2nd place in the US Open in Boston with Robert Byrne and James T. Sherwin behind Pal Benko and he won the Florida Open.
     Radoicic style was described as smooth and uncluttered with imaginative strategy fortified by eclectic tactics that lead to positions where the fluidity of the pieces brought about about surprising denouements. 
     His opponent in the following game was James E. Warren of Lombard, Illinois, who passed away on December 12, 2014, at the age of 81. Warren worked for Western Electric (later AT&T Technologies) until a 1989 heart attack forced him to take an early retirement. 
     Warren was known for his contribution to Illinois chess as a player, organizer, patron and volunteer is. His wife Helen was a co-founder of the Illinois Chess Association. 
     As a USCF Expert, Warren was a prominent player in the Chicago Industrial Chess League back in the days when having a 2000+ rating was a big deal; masters were rare birds and GMs were mythical people living in far away places...you hardly ever saw one. Warren played Bobby Fischer twice on his 1964 simultaneous tour; they drew on March 22 and again on May 20, 1964.
     After Professor Arpad Elo created his rating system, Warren was instrumental in its 1960 implementation by the USCF where he served as Rating Statistician, wrote a computer program for calculating ratings, and he suggested to Professor Elo that the Harkness System's classifications of Master, Expert, Class A, Class B, Class C should be included. It wasn’t until 1970, the Elo system was adopted by FIDE.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Adventures of Pal Benko


   I was never a fan of Pal Benko’s games because I thought they were boring and neither have I ever been into chess problems so didn’t appreciate either his problems or endgame compositions. But, Benko the man lead a fascinating life in his 91 years! 
     If you can find it at a reasonable price Pal Benko: My Life, Games, and Compositions is fascinating reading...I can’t imagine anybody paying the ridiculous $109.50 I saw it advertised for on Amazon though!
     Pal Benko (July 15, 1928 – August 26, 2019) was born at Amiens in northern France to Hungarian parents who returned to Budapest shortly after his birth and that’s where he grew up. In 1938, at the age of nine Benko learned chess from his father, who owned a machine parts factory. His first chess book was a collection of Capablanca's chess games, written by Ferenc Chalupetzk and Laszlo Toth. 
     In 1940, Benko started taking chess seriously and in 1941 he became interested in chess problems and began composing them. Owing to a lot of chess activity in Hungary, Benko’s progress was rapid. In 1943, he was leading in his first local tournament when it was canceled because most of the players began getting drafted into the Hungarian Army. 
     December 1943 saw Benko's father arrested by the Hungarian government and sentenced to hard labor for refusing to join the Hungarian Army. Hungary was on the side of the Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan. 
     While waging war against the Soviet Union, Hungary engaged in armistice negotiations with the United States and the United Kingdom and when Hitler discovered this betrayal, in March 1944, German forces occupied Hungary and Prime Minister Miklos Kallay was deposed and soon mass deportations of Jews to German death camps in occupied Poland began. Benko’s father was released from prison in March because he Nazis mistakenly thought he was locked up for being pro-Nazi. 
     In July 1944, Pal Benko was drafted in the Hungarian army and was ordered to the front. He deserted but was later caught by the Russians, but managed to escape and make it back to Budapest only to find his apartment bombed out and his father and brother gone. 
     In December 1944, the Soviet army besieged Budapest in a 50-day-long siege in which over 50,000 people were killed. The Soviets considered Benko’s father and older brother POWs and in January 1945, shipped them to Russia as slave laborers. 
     In June 1945, Benko played, and won, his first major chess tournament in Budapest and with it the title of Hungarian Master. The following month his mother died at the age of 41 leaving him alone to care his little sister. In late 1945, he moved to Szeged, Hungary and his father was let out of the Soviet prison and soon defected to the United States. 
     In 1947, Benko majored in economics at the University of Economic. After the war he competed in a number of international tournaments and in March of 1952, while playing in a team match in Goerlitz, East Germany when he and his friend, Geza Fuster (1910-1990), were thinking of defecting to the West. 
     To do that they had to reach the American embassy in West Berlin. They went East Berlin where Fuster, who later settled in Canada, managed to run across the border. Benko was caught, arrested and taken to prison where he was accused of being an American spy. The Hungarian Secret Police thought that his correspondence game chess notation found in his letters and postcards was some kind of secret code. 
     In prison, he was sleep-deprived and tortured before being sent to a concentration camp without a trial. The year 1953 saw Benko starving in the concentration camp but after Stalin died authorities considered releasing him. The Hungarian president Imre Nagy gave amnesty to most prisoners in Hungary and Benko was released in October 1953. 
     A few years later in late October of 1956, the Hungarian Revolt began as a student protest which attracted thousands as they marched through Budapest to the Hungarian Parliament building, broadcasting on the streets using a van with loudspeakers. A student delegation entered the radio building to try to broadcast their demands, but got arrested. When protesters demanded the delegation be released they were fired upon by the State Security Police, known as the AVH (Allamvedelmi Hatosag, literally State Protection Authority). One student was killed and as the news spread, disorder and violence erupted throughout the city. 
     The revolt spread quickly and the government collapsed as thousands organized into militias to fight the AVH and Soviet troops. It was crazy...some local leaders and AVH members were lynched and former political prisoners were freed and armed. Radical workers seized control and demanded political change. 
     Imre Nagy’s new government disbanded the AVH and declared its intention to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact and establish free elections. By the end of October, fighting had almost stopped, and normality began to return. 
     Then in November the Soviets struck. A large Soviet force invaded Budapest and other regions of the country resulting in the deaths of over 2,500 Hungarians and 700 Soviet troops and 200,000 Hungarians fled as refugees. Mass arrests and denunciations continued and by January 1957, the new Soviet-installed government had suppressed all opposition. Pal Benko was part of the uprising, but he was never discovered. 
     In 1957, in Reykjavik, Benko was playing on board 1 for the Hungarian Olympic team and on July 26th he walked into the American embassy in Reykjavik and asked for asylum. The American embassy officials arranged a press conference for Benko to explain why he did not want to return to Hungary. 
     He was granted asylum, but had to wait on a preferential visa which he obtained on October 11, 1957 whereupon he flew to New York only to find out that Hungarian refugees were not allowed in the US as the refugee limit had reached. Fortunately, having been born in France, he was allowed in on a French passport. 
     Benko, who couldn’t speak a word of English and having only a few dollars in his pocket, ended up with his father in Cleveland, Ohio. He wanted to find employment as a club professional for one of several chess clubs that were in Cleveland at the time, but unlike in Europe, such a position didn’t exist and nobody would hire him. According to one person I talked to who knew Benko in those days, he left Cleveland in a huff and moved to New York City where he remained. 
     Visit Chessbase for what is described as one of the most elegant chess problems the article’s author has ever seen. It was composed by Benko when he was 15 and even Bobby Fischer couldn’t solve it in half an hour...see the PROBLEM.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Budapest Gambit Fajarowicz Variation


   At one time I had a fondness for the Budapest Gambit (1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e5) which GM Boris Avrukh called “almost respectable” and doubts there is a refutation. GM Robert Byrne wrote pretty much the same thing.
     Eventually I gave it up though because although I usually regained the P without much trouble, after that I was out of ideas and white always seemed much better. 
     Under the influence of GM Arthur Bisguier who occasionally played the Budapest, the Fajarowicz Variation (1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 Ne4 instead of 3...Ng5) was to be avoided. Bisguier based his opinion on a game he lost to Reshevsky in the 1954-55 Rosenwald tournament. 
     Bisguier wrote that Reshevsky’s 4.a3 refuted the Fajarowicz and so he gave it up. The term “refute” seems a bit strong. Although his game was pretty anemic from early on, the fatal blunder was 16...g4. 
     In any case, the Budapest wasn’t a good choice against Reshevsky as Arnold Denker discovered when he played it against him at Syracuse (New York) back in 1934 and got mated in 20 moves! 
     Rather than concentrating on regaining the sacrificed Pawn, in the Fajarowicz Variation black puts the emphasis active piece play, fighting for key squares and tactical tricks. But, most theoreticians are in agreement that with simple moves black's tactical possibilities and initiative can be neutralized. 
     Back in 1996, Tim Harding wrote a book, The Fighting Fajarowicz, in which he examined the variation, but at the end it has to be admitted that in practice the Fajarowicz just doesn’t work as well as you would hope. That said, unless white cooperates by not playing the main lines (4. Nf3 or 4. a3) black can often carryout his plans. Even if white plays the best 4th moves, he still has to be careful. Unless you’re playing Grandmasters the Fajarowicz is worth a try.

Friday, January 17, 2020

1958 Central Chess Club Championship

Cliburn
     In Moscow on April 13, 1958, which was during the Cold War, a tall, curly-haired 23-year old Texan pianist named Van Cliburn achieved worldwide recognition when he won the inaugural International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. 
     After a period of complete dissociation between the US and the USSR, as part of a movement toward a thaw in the Cold War, a group of 50 pianists from 19 countries, including a few from the United States, went to Moscow to participate in the International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition. 
     Harvey Lavan "Van" Cliburn Jr. (July 12, 1934 – February 27, 2013) had won an American competition at age 20, only to drift into an unremarkable career. But in Moscow when he played Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto and got a standing ovation lasting eight minutes the Soviet judges recognized his talent, but were unsure whether they could give the prize to an American. 
     As the story goes, the judges sought Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev's approval and when he asked if Cliburn was the best and after being assured that he was, Khrushchev replied, "Then give him the prize.” 
    Cliburn was given hero's welcome upon his arrival in New York with a ticker-tape parade and a declaration by the mayor. He continued to perform and record through the 1970s, but in 1978, after the deaths of his father and his manager, he began a hiatus from public life until 1987 when he performed at the White House for President Ronald Reagan and Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev. From then on, he continued to perform until his death. 
     Cliburn’s ticker-tape parade aside, back in the U.S. most most people weren’t into such highbrow stuff. They were watching junk on TV, mostly Westerns. The top Westerns were Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, Have Gun – Will Travel, The Rifleman, Maverick, Tales of Wells Fargo and The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp ...that’s 7 out of the top 10 TV programs! The other three were The Real McCoys, I've Got a Secret and The Danny Thomas Show. Seven more Westerns were included in the top 30 programs. 
     In 1958 a handful of USCF members knew that on January 8, Bobby Fischer, at age 14 years and 9 months won the 1957/58 U.S. Championship and Zonal with 8 wins, 5 draws and no losses. Reshevsky finished second. When Fischer appeared on the popular I've Got a Secret he received a little wider recognition,  but was quickly forgotten about by the general public.
     Another promising player was Raymond Weinstein who won the US Junior championship in Homestead, Florida. He went on to infamy. 
     Also in 1958, in a chess world with only a handful of GMs, the unheralded Canadian IM Frank Anderson (1928-1980) scored 84 percent before his final round game in the Olympiad in Munich, West Germany. Anderson was unable to play the final round game due to illness and so missed the GM title. The tragedy was that even if he had played and lost he would have played the requisite number of games and gotten the title. 
     Also taking place in 1958 was the Interzonal at Portoroz. It was a 21-player event with the top six players qualifying for the 1959 Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade Candidates tournament, with the proviso that no more than four players from any one country could advance. Tal, Gligoric, Benko, Petrosian, Fischer and Olafsson qualified. Smyslov and Keres were seeded in. 
     Amid all that, in Moscow the Championship of The Central Chess Club was held. In the past the club has, and still does, serve not only as a base of operations for many great players but a repository filled with trophies, paintings, antique sets, and other memorabilia depicting both past and present eras of chess. Even Bobby Fischer visited the club in 1958 when he was a 15-year-old prodigy and there’s a picture of him hanging in the club. 

     In 1958, Moscow’s Central Chess Club Championship has a hard fought affair in which Yuri Vasilichuk (born in the Ukraine on February 06, 1929, died 2012 at the age of 83) won in spite of losing two games, including his game against the runner up. 
     Vasilchuk played successfully in three Soviet Junior Championships: 1945 (tied for places 1-3 with Tigran Petrosian and A.Reshko), 1946 (2nd place behind Petrosian) and 1947 (6th place).
     In those days the Soviets had a gaggle of players that were extremely strong, but with so many players in the master pool, they went almost unnoticed. The fact that the strong IM Alexander Konstaninolpolsky finished so poorly in the club championship is indicative of how tough life as a chess master was. 

Final Standings:

     One of the more interesting games from the championship was the following one between a couple of unknowns. Nikolay Golovko was born May 4, 1917 and died at the age of 70 on January 5, 1988. Beyond that I could find nothing on him or his opponent.


Thursday, January 16, 2020

Hastings 1934-35


   Back in the old days the annual Christmas tournaments at Hastings were always a big attraction and the 1934-35 was one of the greatest and most exciting of all time. 
     While searching for information on the tournament, I discovered some other Hastings goings on that were of interest. From Hastings 3,871 miles away as the crow flies in another Hastings, this one in Michigan, the Hastings Mystery Theater, a cable TV show that comes on every Thursday and Friday at 7:00 pm and is hosted by Randall Schaefer, features murder mystery movies from the 1930's and 1940's. The host introduces the movies as well as gives interesting movie facts and background on the movie and the actors. You might find the movie Crosby Case, a crime /mystery /thriller from 1934, interesting. Former lovers get together to clear themselves when the police suspect them of murder. With the selling and using illegal drugs driving the plot, a Doctor Crosby is found dead. You can watch the full movie HERE
Miss England 1934
     Returning to Hastings, England, earlier in the year the city hosted the Miss Europe contest which saw the participation of both Miss Russia 1934, Yekaterina Antonova and her runner-up, Miss Siberia, Nadezhda Fomenko. Russian women continued to participate in these contests until 1939 when the outbreak of war brought the pageants to a halt. You can watch the opening ceremony HERE
     The 1934-35 Hastings tournament featured former World Champion Capablanca, future champions Euwe and Botvinnik, championship contender Flohr and the brilliant young Hungarian, Lilienthal. But, the hero of the tournament was the legendary Sir George Thomas who in rounds two and three had defeated Capablanca and Botvinnik before losing to Euwe in round four.
     Going into the last round (round 9) the leaders were Thomas (6.5), Euwe (6.0), Flohr (5.5), Capablanca (5.0), Botvinnik and Lilienthal (4.5) followed by the rest of the British contingent: Michell (3.0), Menchik (2.5), P.S. Milner-Barry (1.5) and Norman (1.0) 
     In the last round Thomas was paired with Reginald Michell and a friendly draw allowing Thomas at least a tie for first seemed in order. However, Thomas went all out and played for a win and in doing so lost. 
     In those days Salo Flohr was not the guy he was to become, who when asked “Draw?” automatically accepted. Even though he had black and played the Caro-Kann, Milner-Barry was no match for the great Flohr whose win in 31 moves put him in a tie for first with Thomas. 
     Meanwhile, Max Euwe was playing black against tailender George Norman whom he was expected to beat and thus finish a clear first. It turned out to be the last game to finish (42 moves) before the prize ceremony. The Dutch and English press claimed that Euwe didn't try too hard to win in order to not upset the organizers. Others claimed that Euwe made a sporting gesture by offering a draw and settling for a first-place tie with Thomas and Flohr. It’s claimed that Euwe had the advantage when he offered the draw, but did he, and if so, how much? Here’s the position: 

     I let Stockfish ponder on this position while I went to make a cup of coffee and when I returned about 10 minutes later its evaluation was 0.84 in black’s favor, but with the engine’s inflated evaluations it’s probably closer to half that. Additionally, I ran a Shootout with the result that black scored 3 wins, lost one and drew one. 
     Here’s what I think. Euwe was on the verge of defeating Alekhine for the world championship while Norman was only a garden variety master and if they had played out the game, I am pretty sure Euwe would have won. But, it was probably time to adjourn the game and in deference to time constraints and schedules (whether of the organizers, other players or his own) Euwe offered the draw. 
     Here is Thomas’ second round win over the might Capablanca as explained by FIDE CM Tryfon Gavriel, aka Kingscrusher, YouTube presenter and webmaster of Chessworld.net, the excellent online chess server.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Portuguese Opening

     During the past several days I have been playing a lot of 10 minute games on the Internet, mostly experimenting with any weird, unusual opening that I could think of. Two seem to have worked out surprisingly well: 

1) Latvian Gambit (or Greco Counter Gambit as I knew it way back when)1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 f5 
2) Portuguese Opening 1. e4 e5 2. Bb5 
     
     IM Andrew Martin actually did a Foxy DVD on the Portuguese and the hype says you can “look forward to the wicked Portuguese Gambit or a super-charged King’s Gambit position. A shock opening that is eminently playable...” 
     Graham Burgess says it’s an opening that looks like a Ruy Lopez except white forgot to play 2.Nf3...it’s not as bad or nonsensical as it appears and black must proceed carefully. 

Based on the scant theory available there are three basic lines: 
Main Line: 2…c6 3.Ba4 
Portuguese Gambit: 2…Nf6 3.d4!? 
Other: 2…a6, 2…Nc6, 2…Qg5 and 2…Bc5 

     The idea is that by delaying Nf3, white leaves the f-pawn free to move and retains the possibility of playing f2–f4. The trade-off is that white's lack of pressure on e5 leaves Black with a freer hand. Blah...blah...blah. That’s theoretical stuff that perhaps nobody but GMs care about, but then a GM would never play the Portuguese. 
     Whenever I’ve played it online my opponents seem to get flummoxed. I don’t know why it is but many of them seem to think that there must be an immediate, crushing refutation (there isn’t) and the refutation requires violating sound opening principles and strategy. Some of them also seem to think that an opponent who plays such a silly move as 2.Bb5 is also going to be a pushover and fall for crude, sloppy tactical refutations. All the wrong reactions. 
     While I’ve had pretty good luck with the Portuguese, it’s been mostly because of...good luck! All it takes is a look at Chess Tempo's report  on the opening to see that in the long run white does not do well if black plays 2...c6 or 2...Nf6. It’s fun, but play it at your own risk!


Tuesday, January 14, 2020

No Chess Today!


Just enjoy some music
Mumford and Sons are a British folk rock band formed in 2007. 
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros is an American folk rock band formed in Los Angeles, California, in 2007. 
Old Crow Medicine Show is an Americana string band based in Nashville, Tennessee, that has been recording since 1998.

Monday, January 13, 2020

The Enigmatic Rudolph Pokorny

     After his 1909 match victory over Marshall, Capablanca received two challenges. One from Akiba Rubinstein and the other from Rudolph Pokorny who was supposedly the champion of Mexico. 
     Rudolph Pokorny is not to be confused with Amos Pokorny (March, 1890 – August 18, 1949), a well known Czech master. Rudolph (or Rudolf) Pokorny was born in 1880 in Tischnowitz (now Tisnov), Moravia, an historical region in the east of the Czech Republic. Nobody knows when or where he died. 
     Supposedly after moving to the United States he was a manager of the hair-dressing parlors of Rudolph Pokorny and Company. Louis Uedemann, a master from Chicago and twice US Open Champion, reported that Pokorny had been a resident of that city some years prior to 1909 and was well known to area players. 
     At some point Pokorny ended up in Mexico. In July 1909, it was reported that before Capablanca sailed for Havana he announced that he had received a challenge from Pokorny, the new chess champion of Mexico, who wanted to play a match in Brooklyn in October consisting of 15 games for a purse of $500. 
     The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported an incredulous story on July 16, 1909 that Pokorny had acquired the title of Mexican Champion by winning a recent tournament in which he scored 52 wins and 4 losses!!! The article added that, “This is a record which marks him as a player with ability far above average.” 
     The August 27th edition added that a letter had been received from Pokorny in which “the Mexican Champion” stated that he was prepared to play under the conditions of the Capa-Marshall match and that he would not insist on the novel condition that drawn games would count as a win for black. Also, in about a week he would be able to name the exact time he would be in New York for the match. 
     The September 5, 1909 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that the previous day Capa had sailed from Havana for New York to play the match and the general consensus was that it was going to be a “walkover” for Capa. After that the Daily Eagle made no further mention of Pokorny. 
     Pokorny never showed up for the match. The American Chess Bulletin reported that according to Pokorny he had been in an accident and the magazine also admitted that, “... it seems the title of (Mexican) Champion has been applied to him erroneously.” 


     Pokorny explained why he couldn't play: “Prior to my accident, which occurred of late, I had different intentions to those acquired since. Contemplating and analyzing carefully the careers of great champions of the noble game, I arrive at an absurd conclusion, which has as a result an astonishing resolution. It is the abandoning of the game for good. Morphy retired from it for similar motives to mine, with the difference only that he did so too late, whereas I am doing so not too early.” 
     The American Chess Bulletin called Pokorny “a genuine maniac, who often said something and then took back his words...” They also admitted that in none of the letters they received from him did he ever refer to himself as the Mexican champion. 
     Chess Weekly referred to Capa’s proposed opponent as “some great Mexican player named Pokorny” who was unknown to them, but so many things were happening that based on The American Chess Bulletin, they took it for granted that Pokorny was "a great player." 
     In a later article Chess Weekly again bashed the American Chess Bulletin by pointing out that the title of Mexican Champion was “...gratuitously bestowed on Mr. Pokorny by the American Chess Bulletin (and) was purely an effort on the part of the editors to give fictitious value to an insignificant news item. This faking of news has naturally called forth an indignant protest from members of the Mexican club at which Pokorny played, and has compelled the Bulletin to the humiliating admission that Pokorny had never in any way made claim to the title of Chess Champion of Mexico, but that the editors themselves had constructed the title out of their imagination...” 
     Chess Weekly concluded the affair looked like a “barefaced swindle on the American chess public.” For complete details see Edward Winter’s article on the fiasco HERE.
     Apparently Pokorny ended up back in the United States because he took part in two Manhattan Chess Club Championships: 1920 (6th place) and 1921 (11th place). Here’s a game he lost to Roy T. Black