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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Vintage Tahl

The first strong tournament in Switzerland for a long time took place in Zurich in May and June 1959 and it had several of the world's leading players participating. Among them were Tahl, who a year later would defeat Botvinnik to become world champion, Fischer, Keres, Larsen. Unzicker, Barcza, Olafsson, and Donner. Things started well for the Swiss masters; Walther held Fischer to a draw in a B and P ending and Tahl lost to Edwin Bhend. Tahl was undaunted though and went on to win his next four games!

Final stndings: 
1) Tahl-11.5 
2) Gligoric- 11.0 
3-4) Keres - 10.5 
3-4) Fischer 
5-6) Larsen - 9.5 
5-6) Unzicker 
7) Barcza - 8.5 
8) Olafsson – 8.0 
9) Kupper – 7.0 
10-11) Donner 6.5 
10-11) Bhend 
12) Keller - 6.0 
13-14) Duckstein – 5.0 
13-14) Walther 
15-16) Blau - 2.5 
15-16) Nievergelt 

The following attacking game is vintage Tahl.
 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Resuming an Old Hobby

     Years ago I always watched Bob Ross' Joy of Painting on public television and was inspired to give it a try, but my pictures never turned out like his so I eventually abandoned the whole idea. Recently while accompanying my wife to the craft store, she suggested I take it up again, but I demurred. She ended up buying a $20 boxed watercolor set for me, so I was stuck. The first few paintings were something a six year old would be proud of, but now I'm doing paintings a 12 year old would be proud of, so I'm making progress. After practicing on landscapes (which don't seem to turn out well...they all look gobbed up) and animals, I naturally tried doing chess players: Reshevsky, Fine and Fischer were the first, but Botvinnik ended up completely unrecognizable...portraits are difficult, too!  Right now I'd estimate my painting Elo at about 800-900, but with the help of Youtube lessons maybe I can get to 1200!

A Lesson on Planning by Capablanca

     In the book The Search For Chess Perfection, there is a Purdy article titled The Play for Position After the Opening in which he observed that it's fairly easy to play a reasonably well-played opening, but playing a good middlegame is more difficult. Aside from playing good moves from memory, in its most elemental concept, the idea in the opening is always the same...development. But when development is complete, you have to figure out what to do next. This is called planning or positional play. Of course, at any time, on every move, you must be alert for a tactic because tactics accomplish more than positional play. Of course, we are talking about sound tactics. 
     Occasionally while playing on line I run into players who cannot tell the difference between tactics and blundering. Take the following position: 
 
White to move

     My 1600-rated opponent (white), instead of playing the logical 4.Nxe5, thought he was playing “tactical chess” when he played 4.Bf7+ which is not a tactic, it's an outright blunder. He was left with nothing but a N in play and you can't checkmate with just a N. 
     In the article Purdy stated his aim was not to show how the precise moves chosen by Capablanca could all be worked out by an average player, but simply to show how to think in such positions. Purdy makes the astute observation that if the student can learn to plan logically, he will avoid serious errors and recognize such errors when made by his opponent. He also adds that you should not become discouraged when you play a move that is not quite as good as the master's. The difference between moves often is very small and such nuances only matter at the GM level. The thing is to avoid moves that are really against the spirit of a position. The interesting thing about this game is that we see in Capa's play how the balance of power edges by almost imperceptible degrees in his favor.
     A plan will aim at one or more of the following four objectives and according to which side has the initiative. For example, if you have a strong initiative you do not need to bother with trying to remove your own weaknesses but rather to exploit the opponent’s. 

The four possible objectives: 
1. Exploiting enemy weakness(es)
2. Removing enemy strength(s) 
3. Removing your own weakness(es) 
4. Establishing your strength(s). 

In actual practice, planning is always simpler than this list would make it appear. 
 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Pawn Sacrifice, the movie

I saw this movie Saturday afternoon. 


Some reviews: 
Rotten Tomatoes 
New York Times 
Variety
Rolling Stone 
Tartajubow - This move was made, not with chess players in mind, but with general audiences. My wife, who knows nothing about chess and cares about it even less, went with me and enjoyed it. She was amazed at how wacko Fischer was, and that was despite the fact that only a tiny fraction of his idiosyncrasies were shown. Me? I wasn't that impressed. It touched briefly on his early childhood and his rise to prominence. The main feature was the match with Spassky and after that we saw some script on the screen that briefly gave highlights from his life after winning the world championship. Then, at the end. we saw some short clips (actual ones) of his arrival in Iceland. It appears non-players like it better than real players.  She gave it 4 stars.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Thrill a Minute!



This online Game 15 featuring a Q-sac and missed mates was a real thrill.
 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Fighting Game by Sam Shankland

     Grandmaster Sam Shankland (born October 1, 1991) is one of the US's most exciting players. He was California State champion in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012, Champion of State Champions in 2009, World Under-18 co-champion in 2008, US Junior Champion in 2010, and a gold medalist Chess Olympiad in 2014. His current FIDE rating is 2656.
     Starting at the age of 11 it took him eleven years to become the highest rated US-born player in the country since Bobby Fischer. These days though he is ranked #7 behind Nakamura, Caruana, So, Robson, Kamsky and Onischuk with a USCF rating of 2756. Like Fischer, he learned chess almost entirely on his own. 
     Back in 2010 Shankland announced on his blog that he was quitting chess. He was angry with the system for achieving GM norms that requires you to not only score the required number of points in a tournament but you have to play a specified number of GM's and players from other countries. Specifically, it seems he played in a tournament in Philadelphia where only six GM's entered and he didn't get the pairings he needed. He also had a poor result which didn't help. One wonders what he would have done in the old days when, to get the GM norm, one had to be INVITED to play in international tournaments...open events didn't count. 
     Today's requirements explain why it's easier to earn a norm in Europe which is why Caruana moved to Italy a few years ago. Khalifman once bemoaned the fact that there is an inflation which has made it too easy to get a GM norm and as a result, the GM title is debased. You just can't please everybody. 
     While there does exist today a huge number of very strong players, a lot has to do with the sheer number of people playing chess. Thanks to the Fischer Boom, a lot more players are active today than ever before so, naturally, the number of strong players has taken a huge leap. Nevertheless, in the old days quality was a factor...if you were a GM, everybody knew it. These days, players nobody ever heard of have the title. Anyway, Shankland's comments stemmed from his youth and impulsiveness. Fortunately, his frustration subsided and he's still active today. Besides playing, he gives simuls ($500 plus $20 per board, lectures ($200 per hour) and online private lesson for $150 per hour. 
     Here's a game from the 2010 Olympiad...the one where he scored nine points out of ten and won the medal for top reserve player. The biggest complaint players had about this Olympiad was the bathroom facilities...they had to use outside toilets. At least it probably discouraged players from sneaking off to the toilet and using the chess apps on their cell phones! 
 

Articles on Bobby Fischer

Christine Toomey, an award-winning journalist and author who covered foreign affairs for The Sunday Times has an old (2008) article titled Bobby Fischer’s Final Maneuver posted on her website. It's worth taking a few minutes to read.

From Financial Review...Would chess champion Bobby Fischer have made it today? by Grandmaster Kenneth Rogoff. Rogoff is an economist and Professor of Economics at Harvard University. Rogoff takes a look at the new movie Pawn Sacrifice and gives his opinion on whether Fischer would have made it in the age of the Internet.

Would Bobby Fischer have become a world chess champion if he had been involved in long-term individual psychotherapy, family therapy and special support services and, possibly, been prescribed a psychotropic medication? A Psychological Autopsy of Bobby Fischer by Joseph G. Ponterotto appearing in a 2010 Pacific Standard article.

In his day, he was the best chess player in the world, maybe the best the world had ever seen. For fans of the game, the tragedy is that his day passed all too quickly. And for the last 30-odd years of his life, Bobby Fischer was the chess world's mad uncle, an embarrassment to be apologized for, belittled or ignored...article in the Wall Street Journal.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Dangers of Conditional Moves in Correspondence Chess

     Before the Internet, chess was played with postal cards. In fact, some players still prefer it that way so, while rare, it's still around. Occasionally to speed up play players would send what are technically known technically as “conditional moves.” The rule is “Conditional moves are binding if the recipient accepts the continuations. The game must then follow the indicated continuation or any part accepted in sequence.” 
    Conditional moves are still played even in this electronic age. For example, Premium Members on LSS can send them. The opponent can't see them, but if he makes the expected move the reply is sent instantly. For a more complete discussion of conditional see Chessdotcom HERE
     In the old days one occasion when you might get “if” moves were in the opening. Modern Chess Openings was THE opening book that everybody used and quite often in games appearing in magazines, the MCO page and column was actually listed. So, when it became clear which MCO column the players were following one might send a series of “if” moves to the end of the line. 
    “If” moves were also common in case of a forced move. The thing is, sometimes players were wrong...the reply was not forced, or in the case of a series of if moves, a player could miss something. For example: 


    It could be that black had better moves on moves 29, 30 or 31 OR, one of white's moves was a blunder. I rarely used if moves for that reason...it was just too easy to overlook something. That's what happened in this old postal game. I had a strong attack but misplayed it and ended up a piece down with a lost position. My opponent saw what he thought was a crusher and sent me some if moves that were designed to lure me into his trap. I played along because I saw the refutation; he probably would have seen it too if he hadn't been in such a hurry to spring it and started sending me “if” moves! 
 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Chess Prodigy Discovered at Boys High School

     So read the headline in an article appearing in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Sunday January 27, 1907. I came across it while searching for “child prodigy.” Later real prodigies were widely covered, Sammy Reshevsky (Rzeschewski as he was then known) and a little girl named Celia Niemark from Youngstown, Ohio. See the excellent post about her by Batgirl at Chessdotdom HERE
     These days, it would be unusual to speak of a “prodigy” who was in high school, but in 1907 the accomplishments of Franklin Russell attracted attention. Russell was frequently mentioned in later Brooklyn Daily Eagle articles, but only in passing in regards to club activity and he never lived up to his promise. Apparently that was because he devoted his time to other activities and his profession as a lawyer. Here is an excerpt from the article:

     Considerable attention is being attracted by Franklin Russell, a Boys' High School student, who is proving himself a wonder at chess. Brooklyn from time to time produces splendid players at the old Arabian pastime and there are no better known players today than F. J. Marshall ans W. E. Napier. They are both products of this borough. Marshall is still in his prime at the game and there are many who well remember his start. He was a member of the Young Men's Christian Association several years ago and many boys, now grown into manhood, can recollect then Marshall firs tackled chess at the Central Branch, on Fulton Street. For a while he was easy, but within a month or two he had thoroughly grasped the game and he was famous and played on the American team against Great Britain. His rise was probably the most rapid of any of the better known players. 
     The new star is Franklin Russell, who is president of the Boys High School Chess Club now, and always plays the first board for the Marcy Avenue school in any match. In three years playing for the school he has only been beaten once, and his victories are almost numberless...He is now in his teens, so may be expected to branch out as he grows older. Some of his achievements have already made the old timers sit up and notice. His latest feat was to play the team of the Townsend Harris Hall and best them while blindfolded...
     On another occasion Russell played simultaneously against 23 players of the Commercial High School and that included three professors and he triumphed in all of the games. Through the efforts of Russell and some of the other good Boys High School players at chess, the school has the enviable record of having lost but one match in four years...Quite recently Russell played fourteen boards simultaneously and won all of his games...
     Russell comes from a family that knows chess. His father is one of the well known members of the Brooklyn Chess Club and is a devotee of the game. He has an extensive chess library. He is not in sympathy with serious study of chess on the part of his son, but it is surmised that young Russell see a good deal of the library. Blindfold chess is of course hard study and the elder Mr. Russell does not encourage over indulgence.

     Russell went on to become champion of New York University by 1910. In June of 1917 he married Mildred Henry and they honeymooned in San Francisco. Prior to that he saw eight months action with the U.S. Army First Cavalry on the Mexican border and after his marriage he was expecting to go into training for a commission at Plattsburg, NY. Russell's accomplishments as listed in the PSI Upsilon Fraternity:
     By 1912 he was a Rhodes Scholar and playing top board for Oxford. After that he appears to have pretty much disappeared into a distinguished academic career in law and only dabbled in chess at clubs in New York City. Russell's father, Isaac Russell (1857-1931), was Chief Justice of Special Sessions and his brother, William M. Russell, was a also a chess player who made frequent contributions to the American Chess Bulletin
     As for all his boyhood accomplishments so highly praised in the newspaper, it's hard to determine just how good he really was because the strength of his opponents is unknown and none of his games were given. I could only locate one of his games and it was a very difficult one because of the material imbalance. See my post concerning two minor pieces vs. a Rook HERE
     His opponent, also from Brooklyn, captained the Cornell chess team and at one time held the championship of the King and Queens Chess League. Tolins was married in 1910 to Miss Miriam Silverman and they then resided in New Jersey. As late as 1937 he was still playing chess and was good enough to win a blitz tournament at his club and was serving as secretary for the Metropolitan Chess League. He went on to become businessman. 
     As amateurs do, both sides missed some tactics, but all in all, the game wasn't badly played. I just wish there were some more evidence in the form of games or tournament reports, etc. that would indicate just how good Russell really was. But a prodigy? No, I don't think so.
 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Mother-Daughter Women Grandmasters

     While surfing the Internet I discovered that the Maria Albulet Memorial tournament which started on September 10in Braila, Romania ends today. Official Site
 
Maria AlbuleŇ£
    Maria AlbuleŇ£ (June 16, 1932 in Braila - January 17, 2005 in Ploiesti) was a Romanian player who was also known as Maria Pogorevici. Dr. Maria Albulet-Pogorevici was a pediatrician and was awarded the WGM title in 1985. In the 1950s, she was one of Romania's leading players and won the women's championship in1951, 1955 and 1956. She finished second in 1953 and 1972 and tied for third in 1958. She was also a strong correspondence player and participated in the first correspondence Olympiad for women.

     Albulet's last Elo rating was 2100, however in her day world class male GM's were around 2500. She took part in the Women's World Candidates' Championship held in Plovdiv in 1959, but her finish was a disappointing tie for 12-13 (out of 15) with Elfriede Rinder of West Germany. Since 2008, in her hometown of Braila, a Memorial Tournament has been held in honor. 
 
Marina Makropoulou
    Her daughter, Marina Makropoulou is a Greek WGM (awarded in 1985), but was born in Romania. Makropoulou was Greek Women Champion in 1990, 1994, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2007. She has participant in thirteen Women's Olympiads since 1982 including one with Romania (1982) where she was awarded a team silver medal and an individual bronze medal for the third best performance at board 2. She also participated in the 1982 Women's Interzonal where she finished 7th. She is married to IM Georgios Makropoulos.

     The following exciting game was played by Makropoulou.