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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Barden vs. Rossolimo at Hastings 1950

Barden today
   The Hastings International Chess Congress is an annual event which takes place in Hastings, England at the end of the year. The main event is the Hastings Premier, which was traditionally a 10 to 16 player round-robin. Alongside the main event there is the Challengers Section, which is open to all players. The winner of the challengers earns an invitation in the following year's Premier. 

     The most celebrated of these is Hastings 1895, which featured two world champions and nearly all of the world's best players and was won by Pillsbury. Every World Champion before Garry Kasparov except Bobby Fischer played at Hastings. Vera Menchik (then of Czechoslovakia), who at the time was the Women's World Champion, was the first woman to play in the Premier section, participating in seven tournaments from 1929-30 through 1936-37.
     In 1963-64 Nona Gaprindashvili (USSR) won the Challengers section when she also was Women's World Champion, earning a spot in the next years Premier. In the 1964-65 Premier she scored 5/9 to place fifth, beating all of the British masters in the tournament. 
     The great days of the Hastings congress are long past. There was a time when the legends of chess felt honored to be invited while the English masters could boast some memorable giant-killing. In 1934-35 Sir George Thomas, who had been the the world's best badminton player, beat world champions Capablanca and Botvinnik in successive rounds and in 1953-54 C.H.O'D. Alexander won a 120-move queen ending against David Bronstein. These days the tournament is only a shadow of what is was in the old days. 
     The featured game here is from the 1950-51 event and was included in Irving Chernev's book, The Greatest Chess Games Ever Played

1-Unzicker 7.0 
2-3-Rossolimo 6.5 
2-3-O'Kelly 6.5 
4-6-Thomas 4.5 
4-6-Castaldi 4.5
4-6-Golombek 4.5 
7-Penrose 4.5 
8-Barden 3.0 
9-Adams 2.5 
10-Phillips 1.5 

     This tournament was the unsuccessful international debut of American Master Weaver Adams. Larry Evans wrote, “Adams' tournament results were damaged by his dogmatism. Playing under the self-inflicted handicap of arming his opponents with advance knowledge of his 'best' lines, he felt honor-bound to steer straight into them even though his adversary invariably had a cook up his sleeve. By the time Weaver found a refutation and published it, another player found a different cook and so on ad infinitum.” This helped explain Adams' poor result. 
     Here's an interesting fact about Barden: he played Mieses in his Hastings debut back in the 50s; Mieses played Paulsen in 1889; Paulsen was a contempory of Morphy. As Barden remarked, he is a link back to Morphy!
     After moving to the U.S. Rossolimo’s Chess Studio was at the corner of Sullivan and Bleeker Streets in Greenwich Village and sometime in the mid-1960's I visited the club and was the only one there, so I asked to play a game. He replied, "I can't play for nothing.” So, I asked him his fee and he told me $20. That sounds reasonable today, but in the mid-60's it had the same buying power that $150 does today, so on my military pay, $20 was a whopping amount. But I figured it was probably the only chance I'd ever get to play a GM, which in those days were more like mythical people that you only read about in books and Rossolimo was a legendary character so I put up the money. 
     The game score disappeared long ago, but I was playing white and we were using a regulation set and board. The opening was the Leningrad Variation of the Nimzo-Indian and after 15 or so moves I had a decent position. Suddenly, Rossolimo walked over to a display shelf and picked up a board that appeared to be made out of blue butterfly wings under glass and placed it on the end of the table right where there was a big patch of sunlight.  He then started grabbing the pieces off our board and setting them up on the new one. I asked him what he was doing and he replied, “I want to play on this board.” I think he set the position up correctly, but with the sun shining off the board and being somewhat discombobulated by the whole incident, I lost quickly. Had he not made the switch, I would have lost but it might have taken longer. It was weird. 
     In this game Rossolimo's strategy is to exchange pieces in order to eliminate Barden's undeveloped B which left Barden with a bad B vs. Rossolimo's strong N. As a result Rossolimo was able to build up a strong attack, won a P and then simplified into a P-ending. Very instructive. This is the type of game where the winner makes chess look easy!

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