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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Nicolai Jasnogrodsky

     Nicolai Jasnogrodsky was born on August 6, 1859 in Lubny, Ukraine and died on April 23, 1914 in New York. Jasnogrodsky began his chess career sometime around 1885 in Vienna and shortly after that moved to England. 
     In international competition he tied for 4-5th at Amsterdam 1889 in the B tournament and the following year he was awarded the “Master” tilte in Amsterdam. In 1891 he was a regular at Simpson's-in-the-Strand and was making a name for himself because of his skill giving simultaneous displays and as a blindfold player. 
     He took part in several London tournaments in the early 1890s, his best result being a tie 4th-5th in 1891 and in 1893 he drew a match with Henry Bird 7.5-7.5. 
     On August 11, 1893 Jasnogrodsky arrived in the United States to play in the Columbian Chess Congress, but the tournament wasn't held because of insufficient funds and Jasnogrodsky ended up remaining in the U.S. 
     The World's Columbian Exposition was the official shortened name for the World's Fair: Columbian Exposition, also known as The Chicago World's Fair. It was held in 1893 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' arrival in the New World in 1492. The chess tournament was actually to be held in New York City though.
     The committee for the Congress met at the Manhattan Chess Club in mid-August, 1893 to make final arrangements for the tournament which was to begin in September. They had $2,800 in good subscriptions, but needed at least another $700. These amounts may not seem large, but in 1893 they would have had over $71,000 and another $18,000 was needed. 
    After careful consideration the committee decided that due to “the very threatening financial aspect of the country and the prospect of so much distress and want arising” that they would indefinitely postpone the tournament. Actually things were so bleak that they didn't bother to set any future meeting date. What they were referring to was The Panic of 1893, a serious economic depression in the United States that was caused by the overbuilding and shaky financing of railroads which resulted in a series of bank failures. 
     The failure of this tournament lead to what was known as the Impromptu Tournament which was held in New York City during early September to mid-October 1893. The final standing were: 

1) Lasker 13 
2) Albin 8.5 
3-5) Delmar, Lee and Showalter 8 
6) Hanham 7.5 
7) Pillsbury 7 
8) Taubenbhaus 6 
9-11) Pollock, Ryan and Schmidt 5 
12) Jasnogrodsky 4 
13) Olly 3.5 
14) Gossip 2.5 

    Remaining in the U.S., Jasnogrodsky won the New York State Championship in 1896 and tied for 10-11th at New York 1894. In 1895 he played a series of matches, losing to Eugene Delmar (1.5-5.5), but crushing an interesting fellow named Manuel Marquez Sterling by a score of 5-0. He also lost a match to David G. Baird by a score of 1-2. Apparently his play improved because in 1898 he drew a match with Frank J. Marshall (3.5-3.5) in New York City. According to the Chessmetrics site Jasnogrodsky's highest ever rating was 2492 in 1894 which ranked him number 64 in the world.
    He developed the Jasnogrodsky Defense against the Rice Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.h4 g4 5.Ne5 Nf6 6.Bc4 d5 7.exd5 Bd6 8.O-O Bxe5 9.Re1 Qe7 10.c3 Nh5). 
    Jasnogrodsky died at Montefiore Home, Hospital and Country Sanitarium for Chronic Diseases. He was buried in Union Field Cemetery for members of the New York City's Jewish community.
     The following game is an exercise in tactics that's worth setting up a board and trying to visualize all the possibilities. 

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