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Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Lesson on Square Control From Bisguier

     GM Arthur Bisguier (born October 8, 1929), besides being a popular GM, is a chess promoter and writer who has won two U.S. Junior Championships (1948, 1949), three U.S. Open titles (1950, 1956, 1959), and the 1954 US Championship title. He played for the United States in five chess Olympiad and in two Interzonal tournaments (1955, 1962). In 2005,the United States Chess Federation proclaimed him "Dean of American Chess". 
Few people realize just how good Bisguier actually was in his heyday. He collected the scalps of just about all the leading players of his day. Larry Evans called him a player with more natural talent than Fischer!
     So, why weren't his tournament results better? Probably Al Horowitz pinpointed the reason when he wrote of Bisguier that he “is a sparkling stylist. His forte is tactics, and he is a foe of stodgy chess. Often he will get an attack going after the first few moves in an opening. His op­ponent, stunned by the impact of an early blow, is demoral­ized and must scurry for a semblance of defense. The as­sault, meanwhile, mounts fu­riously, and it is all over be­fore the bewildered victim can say check.” 
     Another reason was that Bisguier always preferred opening variations that were somewhat off the beaten track, hoping to always take his opponents out of their preparation.
     Yet another reason was probably his reputation as a party animal. I remember that before the start of the 1975 US Championship in Oberlin, Ohio several of us were standing around talking to Bisguier and William Lombardy when Bisguier suddenly asked a couple of guys where the nearest liquor store was. They explained to him that because of Oberlin College, the venue, it was a “dry” town, meaning the sale of alcohol was prohibited and the nearest liquor store was several miles away in a neighboring town. Bisguier promptly pulled out his wallet and handed them a twenty dollar bill and instructed them to go and buy him a fifth of Jack Daniels. 

Bisguier on Aging: 
A current USCF Expert and former 2397 rated player named Lonnie Kwartler was honored in the latest issue of Chess Life. What's interesting is that he grew up 14 years later on the same street in The Bronx as Bisguier. It's interesting that Bisguier's cousin and later Kwartler's cousin owned the same butcher shop. Kwartler played on the same team as Bisguier in some amateur team championships and says Bisguier gave him some advice on aging and chess: You no longer go to a tournament to win it, but just to do something nice. 
     Kwartler added that it's still chess and whatever there was about it that first appealed to us is still there. 
     Bisguier's opponent in this game was IM Kamran Shirazi (born 21 November 1952).  Born in Tehran, he has represented Iran, the United States, and France. He moved to the United States in the late 1970s and quickly became one of the most active players in the country, winning many tournaments, including the Southern California Open (five times), the World Open (tied for first in 1983), the National Open (tied for first in 1985), and the Memorial Day Classic (tied for first in 1986). 

     He was known for playing strange and unorthodox openings. Shirazi's rating rose rapidly and he became one of the highest rated players in the US. However, when invited to play in the 1984 U.S. Chess Championship, Shirazi managed only one draw from 17 games, finishing last. In that championship, Shirazi also achieved the dubious distinction of losing the shortest decisive game in the history of the U.S. Championship: his game as White against John Peters, which went 1.e4 c5 2.b4 cxb4 3.a3 d5 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.axb4?? Qe5+ 0-1.
     He subsequently made an appearance in the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer. He is introduced as "Grandmaster Shirazi" but he is actually an IM, currently rated 2399. He has lived in France for several years and changed his FIDE federation from the US to France in 2006. 
     In this game Bisguier played the Grand Prix Attack and somehow Shirazi seemed to never have had a chance as Bisuier first grabbed space and shut out Shirazi's KB then went to work on the Q-side making c5 a focal point that remained dominant for the rest of the game. That's how GM's do it...they make chess look simple.


  1. I am Lonnie Kwartler, the player mentioned knowing Arthur Bisguier. I met him in the early sixties and knew him better since the early eighties. I am an original life master and a life master the new way. So, my rating is never expert. The description "USCF Expert" may be derived from my FIDE rating, which is now below 2200 (it was 2265).

  2. Thanks for your clarification and congratulations on the Life Master accomplishment. Also congrats on the 2397 rating. There was a time when a rating that high was held in awe because masters were rare. We had a 2202 player enter a tournament once and it was the talk of the tournament.