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Monday, February 29, 2016

White To Play And Win

     A while back while playing over some games of the relatively unknown and “minor” master Weaver W. Adams, I discovered that there was more to his play than is generally recognized today. Adams (April 28, 1901 – January 6, 1963) greatest achievement was winning the U.S. Open Championship in 1948 where he came ahead of Isaac Kashdan, Olaf Ulvestad and George Kramer all of whom tied for second. The next group were Max Pavey, Robert Steinmeyer, Arthur Bisguier and Albert Pinkus, so the tournament was not a weak one. He played in the U.S. Championship five times. Internationally he was not very successful. He was unsuccessful at Hastings in 1950 where he finished ninth (out of 10), scoring +2 -6 =1. His two wins were over the last place finisher and Jonathan Penrose. Adams was handicapped because he always played exactly the opening lines he published in this books. 
Dallas 1940
     Adams books were: White to Play and Win, Simple Chess, How to Play Chess and Absolute Chess. When he published White to Play and Win in 1939 it created quite a sensation because Adams claimed he could prove that White has a win by force against any defense. Needless to say he could never prove it, but he knew the lines in his books well enough that against lesser players he was was nearly unbeatable. These first two books were revised and combined in 2007 with pictures and 34 games added plus introductions by Dr. Leroy W. Dubeck and Sam Sloan. On Amazon you can “Look Inside” and read a lot of the book. It's well worth looking inside because it's fascinating stuff even if there are a lot of pages missing.
    In this game we are going to take a look at a really complicated game where Adams was defeated by Harry Lyman using the Frankenstein-Dracula Variation against the Vienna Game although it can also be reached from the Bishop's Opening. The Frankenstein-Dracula Variation was given its name by Tim Harding in his 1976 book on the Vienna Game, in which he said that the bloodthirstiness of the character of play was such that "a game between Dracula and the Frankenstein Monster would not seem out of place." It's not the kind of opening you'll see top GMs but Ivanchuk once used it against Anand back in 1992; the result was a draw. 
     In return for his material, black has a good P-center and his Bs are well placed on the long diagonals. For his part, white will, as usual, tend to his Ks safety and hang on to his material and then, hopefully, after solidifying his position, launch a counterattack. 
 
Harry Lyman
    In the following game Adams' opponent is Harry (real name Henry) Lyman (June 15, 1915, died Sep-05, 199 at the age of 84) was the Dean of New England chess. He won the US Amateur Championship in 1957 with a perfect 6-0 score and was the New England Champion in 1965, 1968 and 1970. In 1988, he received the Meritorious Services Award from the U.S. Chess Federation. He was the uncle of Shelby Lyman. The game itself, lost by Adams, was really complicated, but it indicates his style and is a lot of fun to play over.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

TOP LEVEL Correspondence Play For Average Players…

...probably isn't possible. 

     Chessbase has a recent interview with Leonardo Ljubicic who is the 28th World Correspondence Champion in which he talks about his way to the title and reveals how he prepares for his games. He talks about his openings, what is important to play successful correspondence chess, explains how humans can use engines to play better than engines alone and he gives some insight about what humans can do that engines can't. 
     Ljubicic readily admits that it is impossible to achieve any great measure of success in correspondence play without engines and databases. That said, he claims that humans are still important in two areas: the choice of openings and steering the engine toward (or away) from certain types of positions. He observes that if you want to be successful in top correspondence chess you can only play certain openings because you simply cannot afford a single poor move. That's kind of unfortunate because it means tons of Najdorf Sicilians and Nimzo-Indians, etc. It's no use preparing sharp lines in questionable openings or variations...and that sounds like a never ending string of the same old openings with improvements coming ever deeper into the game.
     He also points out that one needs a good general chess knowledge (things like P-structures, good and bad Bs, etc.). In other words, it helps to be at least a master. The idea is, as he put it, if you have enough time and patience you can give the engine more and better suggestions than your opponent. This alone eliminates most of us from ever amounting to a hill of beans in the correspondence chess world. 

     He used to use Rybka exclusively, but 4 or 5 years ago switched to Stockfish after testing many engines. Today those two are his main ones. He also said he thinks it's important not to switch engines too much because you have to understand and recognize the strengths and weaknesses of the engines you use. A deep understanding the differences is something most of us average players can't do either.
     Ljubicic's climb to the world championship required patience and a lot of effort. The championship is played in cycles.  Every year a new cycle starts and finals are played every two years. The standard time control is 50 days for 10 moves. You have to slog through three preliminaries (Preliminaries, Semifinals, Candidates) before you reach the finals an on the average, it takes four to six years to qualify for a world championship final. In the Preliminaries opponents are typically 2300+ in CC and in the semi-finals they are over 2400. Of course, if you make it to the finals, you opponents are likely to be rated well over 2500. So, it requires a lot of patience even assuming you are good enough to get that far. Most of the guys who have won the championship either with or without engines don't come back for more.
     Ljubicic said it required all his free time and a serious investment in equipment. In his case he purchased an early version of a 4-core PC, acquired all sorts of opening books, databases, and the Nalimov five piece tablebases. He managed to win some CC tournaments and receive his GM title, but it took him five or six years of serious work. Reaching the finals required twice the time he usually took in a tournament. 
     When asked what he thought engines can't do he stated that they still misjudge positions. In his case, being an OTB rated 2200 player, he was in a position of having to evaluate the output of a much stronger engine. To that end, he emphasized how important knowing where an engine is strong, where it is weak, and which positions it plays well and which positions it does not like. Again, this does not sound like something a casual engine user can do. 
     He stated that you cannot let the engine do all the work and you have to “give it a position then leave the computer for a couple of hours, and when returning just check what the computer proposes. You will do much better if you watch the thinking process, to try to recognize and understand the strengths and weaknesses of the machine and to guide the analysis.” 
     Of course, anybody familiar with engines knows that very often two different engines suggest different moves and the score of the suggested moves can be very close. What do you do in those cases? Ljubicic suggests patience! Let the engine think some more and he suggested that because all top engines prune heavily, looking at the next best line is a good idea. Personally, I don't have the patience to let an engine run overnight examining two or three different moves.
     As for software he uses the ChessBase GUI, several databases, particularly the ICCF database, MegaDatabase and the Playchess games database to get new ideas. He does NOT use human games because they are “too unreliable.” Using these databases, he forms opening trees, but one thing he does not do is rely on statistics. For example, after the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 my old Fritz 12 opening book gives a table that looks like this:
     You should not rely on the win/loss percentages in selecting which line to play. What he does is analyze all variations carefully and then decides on his move after checking and preparing his analysis. As he said, in CC you cannot rely on an "if he doesn’t see it strategy."
     He also follows the latest in chess engine development and acknowledges that Komodo and Stockfish are the best, adding they have almost no weaknesses. Stockfish calculates variations fast, and excels in tactics and attacking, while Komodo is solid in style, and its positional play is second to none. They are very close in strength and are excellent choices for serious correspondence chess. 
     A lot of this interview may be an advertisement for Chessbase products, but I have no doubt that it IS the software he uses. He stated that the new highly hyped ChessBase features such as Cloud, LiveBook and Let’s Check are probably too “light” for top correspondence chess players, but when coupled with the Sampled Search feature in the new Fritz 15 they can offer insights and he considers the Sampled Search to be ”the biggest invention in computer chess ever.” To be honest, I'm not sure what a “sampled search” is or how you go about using it. 
This is how I play chess
     In any case, playing SERIOUS correspondence chess is not going to be possible for most of us.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Eddie Foy, West Virginia Powerhouse


    Back on May 2, 1995, 86 year old Eddie Foy, former champion of West Virginia, passed away after a long illness.  Pick up any chess magazine from West Virginia, Ohio or Pennsylvania from the 40s and 50s and Foy's name was likely mentioned in connection with a tournament success. In addition to his tournament play Foy was chess editor of both the Charleston Gazette and the Charleston Daily Mail for almost sixty years. 
     Foy served in the US Navy during WW2, survived a typhoon and was shipwrecked on the island of Iwo Jima. I don't have any details on this, but I suspect it was during the famous typhoons that severely damaged Adm. William Halsey's fleet late during the war. If you are not familiar with these events in which ships were battered by 50-60 foot waves and winds estimated at 150 miles per hour with gusts even higher, it's a fascinating story. USA Today article. US Navy History.    Typhoon of 1944 article.
     I was with the Marine detachment aboard the USS Boxer, a WW2 aircraft carrier, sometime during the mid-1960s when, on returning from the Caribbean to Norfolk, Virginia, we rode out the tail end of a hurricane that was moving up the East Coast, and I can tell you, it was a wild ride. I can only imagine what these typhoons must have been like...terror comes to mind. 
USS Boxer in 1966

     While stationed in the Pacific in 1944 Foy was careful to keep up his West Virginia Chess Federation dues.  He had met his wife, a Navy officer, during the war and he remembered to send her two one dollar bills with a note explaining the money was for his and another person's (a friend?) yearly dues. 
     Foy was an accountant and worked for the Charleston Transit Company and later a local hospital before retiring I n 1974. Foy won the state championship twice, in 1949 (tied with Dr. Siegfried Werthammer) and in 1951; that one was a four-way tie. He also won the Charleston City Championship many times. 
     Here is a win from the city championship where he went 9-0. Hurt, the defending champion, finished second with 7.5. In this game I can imagine the players putting a lot of thought into all jockeying of white's Ns and black's Q and the threat to black's Q-side Ps. It also shows that even Experts have a problem with spotting tactics. 
 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Oleg Skvortsov, Hero Organizer

     Oleg Skvortsov is a Russian businessman; you can read about him on the Bloomberg business site. He has sponsored a lot of tournaments in the last few years, but it's the time limits he uses that are innovative and he thinks tournaments that last longer than 7-8 days are gradually becoming obsolete.  With current classical time limits you lose spectator interest, the players get tired and the quality of the games, while high, makes for boring games.

     The recent tournament in Zurich had a time limit 40 minutes each for the game plus a 10 seconds per move increment. Skvortsov’s asserted this time control, referred to as a souped-up version of one-hour rapid games, should be a new classical format and eligible for the FIDE rating list. One critic wrote this time control “is to classical chess what McDonald’s is to classical cooking.” 
     Holding a tournament has always been an expensive proposition and fast time controls ease the budget pressures on organizers, but more importantly the nature of chess has changed, mostly because of the strength of engines. In a recent interview Kramnik agreed with me when he stated that the level of play is higher than 10-20 years ago. I say agrees with me because I have always asserted that each generation of players builds on the knowledge of previous generations and so Morphy was weaker than Capablanca who was weaker than… and so on. 
     Kramnik observed that Kasparov won a lot of games based on his preparation but those days are gone and in order to win at the highest levels you have to generate positions with extremely high tension in roughly equal positions and you win on account of correct psychological decisions. He said if you want to win you have to create sharp, ragged positions so that you give your opponent the chance to blunder. At the highest level producing a clean game – getting a big opening advantage and converting it to a win – is unrealistic in practice unless a GM is playing a much weaker opponent.  
     Sharp, ragged positions, chances to blunder...aren't those the qualities we admire in players like Tahl? Blunders aren't a problem...just play over the games of the old masters with any chess engine and you'll find plenty of them...that's what makes them great fun to play over. Compare analyzing one of those old games to a modern game played under classic time controls using Komodo or Stockfish and what are you likely to see? No engine suggestions for a better move for 20-30 moves and then an occasional improvement of 0.22.
     The top players are so good and the money so big nobody wants to risk losing and the long time limits lead to boring games. Attempts to combat it by specifying no draws before move 30 have never worked. The No Early Draw Rule implemented in the Open section of the Millionaire Chess Open was based on the concept that fans want to see real games. So what happened with big money at stake? In the last round Hikaru Nakamura and Luke McShane both cheated and said screw you to the fans and organizers and agreed to a draw after just 9 moves. And this was done even though they had signed off on those rules which was a requirement to play in the event. In other words, their promise to abide by the rules was worthless...but that's another matter. I'm against big prize money, but that's just me. When big money is at stake players, even Grandmasters, are not above cheating.
     Back in the old days time limits were introduced to to prohibit certain behavior on the part of players and for the benefit of spectators and organizers, so there is a precedent for making changes today. 
     Thanks to Skvortsov for making, or trying to make, chess among the world class players interesting again, even if it means forcing them to rush their play and blunder occasionally. It might even force them to investigate some openings that are currently a little shaky as they try to ferret out surprises that aren't 30 moves deep.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Pasadena 1932, A Forgotten Tournament

Dake beating Alekhine
     The little known Pasadena International Chess Tournament of 1932 ended in another tournament win for Alekhine. 
The field: 

     Alekhine, the world champion, arrived in Pasadena after a trip of over 8000 miles that took 15 days by ship and rail from Berne, Switzerland where he had just won a tournament. He only had one serious rival, Isaac Kashdan.
     At that time Isaac Kashdan was considered the best American player. He was the winner of the Manhattan Chess Club championship and had played first board on the victorious American team at the Olympiad held in Prague in 1931. Alekhine had actually named Kashdan as one of the most likely players to succeed him as World Champion. Unfortunately Kashdan had more important things to to like earning a living as an insurance salesman to support his family. In this tournament Kashdan's second place finish came as no surprise. As a sidebar, Kashdan had been invited to the tournament in Berne, but declined so that he could participant in Pasadena. To help finance his trip to Pasadena, Kashdan set off on a cross country exhibition tour that was designed to get him in Pasadena in time for the tournament. 
     At the age of 18 Reuben Fine was the youngest player, but he had impressed everyone with recent success in winning the championship of the Marshall Chess Club and the Western Open, the tournament that was to become the U.S. Open.  
     Samuel Reshevsky was a student at the University of Chicago. Herman Steiner, then of New York, had been a three-time member of the US Olympic Team. Arthur Dake of Portland, Oregon, the strongest player ever from the west coast, had won the Marshall Chess Club championship and had been on the winning team at Prague in 1931. Jacob Bernstein of New York was a prominent player in the state and had won the state championship several times. Fred Reinfeld was a student at the City College of New York, the current New York state champion and he had also won the Intercollegiate Chess League championship. Samuel D. Factor was champion of Chicago for many years and also was a recent winner of the Western Open. Adolph J. Fink was the strongest player in San Francisco and a former state champion. Harry Borochow of Los Angeles was the current California state champion. Captain Jose Araiza was a member of the Mexican army and was the champion of Mexico many times. 
     The tournament came about because organizers in California wanted to hold an international event and at the same time attract Alekhine as part of his world tour. It was claimed that Alekhine did tours because the money, hard to come by in the depression years, was good and they played to his ego...he got to do a lot of bunny bashing in the simuls and exhibition games. 
     Originally the organizers were going to include Capablanca because after Alekhine had wrested the title from Capa the two had evaded each other. In 1929 Alekhine accepted a challenge from Bogoljubow who was an easy mark, but avoided a return match with Capa. At the same time Nimzovich was considered a potential challenger, having won a very strong event ahead of Capa in Carlsbad 1929. So, they hoped to get Capa to play as a rival to Alekhine. 
     Capablanca apparently was willing to play, but Alekhine wrote a letter to the organizers saying that if Capa played he wanted an extra $2,000! Now, in 1932 that represented about $32,000 in today's dollars and that was a whopping amount in depression times. Alekhine was no doubt worried that if Capa finished ahead of him it would result in the chess world demanding a rematch which he was not anxious to allow. In the end, due to a lack of money on the part of the organizers, Capa was out and that left Kashdan as Alekhine's strongest opponent. Remember, Fine and Reshevsky were not yet quite at that level. 
     It was also hoped that Frank Marshall would be able to arrange his affairs so that he would also be able to participate, but in the end he was not able to play either. William E. Napier, then living in Brooklyn, New York was also considered a possible participant. In addition to Araiza four Mexican players were to be selected for the side event on the basis of their results in a Mexico City tournament. Another player, John Tippin of California, was also considered a likely participant, but he also ended up not playing.  All the American players were responsible for funding their own expenses and the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that a fund to which readers could contribute to help the players defray their expenses had been established by the tournament organizers.
     Herman Steiner lost his first round game but then scored 3 wins and two draws, but his finish was poor. Likewise, Reshevsky lost ground towards the end, most probably because he was worn out by having to play a lot of adjournments. Harry Borochow played steady chess and maintained an even score throughout the tournament. Bernstein was unsteady, losing three games early on, but then going through the last 8 rounds without a loss. Factor had a promising start, but then lost three games in a row towards the end. Fine's result was considered a disappointment.. Reinfeld started out well, collapsed in the middle, but recovered to finish well. Araiza had a poor tournament but did manage to scare Alekhine and did well in the last three rounds which included a win over Dake. Fink only managed to avoid complete disaster by scoring a point and a half in the last two rounds. 

Final standings: 

1) Alekine - 8.5 (one loss to Dake) 
2) Kashdan - 7.5 (one loss to Alekhine) 
3-5) Dake – 6.0 (one loss to Reshevsky) 
3-5) Reshevsky (losses to Alekhine, Kashdan, Borochow and Reinfeld) 
3-5) Steiner (losses to Alekhine, Kashdan and Munoz) 
6) Borochow - 5.5 
7-9) Bernstein - 5.0 
7-9) Factor 
7-9) Fine (losses to Reshevsky, Steiner and Borochow) 
10) Reinfeld - 5.0 
11) Araiza Munoz - 3.5 
12) Fink - 3.0 
  
     There was also a side event that was won by Reverend Howard Ohman of Omaha, the many time Nebraska champion and a woman's tournament. Lavieve Mae Hines won the event. Perhaps the fact that Ms Hines was personally coached by Alekhine helped.  A Google search turned up nothing on her except that she was born in 1930 and was from Los Angeles.  Dale Brandreth spent 30 years trying to locate all the games from this event for his book on the tournament as according to reviews, he included some biographical information on her.  She appears to have been one of the strongest female players of her day, but "retired" shortly after the event.   
     It appears that LaVieve Hines had beaten many strong men players and she had played Alekhine in a simul and and lost.  Her results in a second was another loss, but she played better.  Finally, in a third simul game Alekhine offered her a draw. It was reported that after that Alekhine spent some time at her and her mother's estate where he gave her opening advice and some instruction.  According to Brandreth's book, Hines was pursued by one Clif Sherwood, who was chess columnist for the LA Times from 1927 to 1933  Sherwood also pursued a young French woman named Gabrielle Andrieux and was unsuccessful.  When she refused to marrry him Sherwood murdered her then committed suicide.  An article on the murder appeared in the San Jose Evening News can be read HERE.
Sherwood

     Here is Dake's celebrated win over Alekhine where the world champion was never in the game. Dake had played steady as a rock for most of the event, winning 6 games and drawing two, but then ran into trouble when he lost two out of his next three games. Then he met Alekhine in the tenth round when Alekhine was already assured of first place. 
 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

A Bizarre Opening Position

     This game between Ron Thacker and Peter Cleghorn features a bizarre position that arose from the Falkbeer Counter Gambit. You'll enjoy watching the white K mosey to safety starting at move 11; the only problem was he took a misstep at move 13. 
     Ron Thacker (Jan 16, 1938-Dec 30, 2003, 65 years old) was 19 years old when he participated in the 1957 US Junior Championship and helped Bobby Fischer win the tournament by losing a game to him. Robert Pearson's Blog has an interesting story about Thacker. I notice Mr. Pearson wrote the article in 2007 and was unaware that Thacker had passed away a few years earlier. 
     Peter Cleghorn (born 1938), a strong master rated around 2400, was originally from California but he moved to Alaska and played very little after that. He played in many of the Lone Pine tournaments of the 1970s and collected wins from a lot of GMs.
 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Boris

     Boris was an early dedicated chess computer that appeared on the market in February 1978. It was designed and manufactured by Applied Concepts.  The name was likely chosen to honor Boris Spassky who had lost the World Championship in 1972 to Bobby Fischer.
     Boris (the computer, not the man) ran on a Fairchild F8 8-bit microprocessor with only 2.5 KiB ROM and 256 byte RAM. The programmer's name was David Lindsay. 
     If you remember, in 1968, after hearing artificial intelligence researchers John McCarthy and Donald Michie predict that a computer would defeat the world champion within ten years, IM David Levy made a famous bet with four AI experts for about £1,250 that no computer program would win a chess match against him within ten years. He wrote, “Clearly, I shall win my ... bet in 1978, and I would still win if the period were to be extended for another ten years. Prompted by the lack of conceptual progress over more than two decades, I am tempted to speculate that a computer program will not gain the title of International Master before the turn of the century and that the idea of an electronic world champion belongs only in the pages of a science fiction book.” 
     Levy won the bet ten years later when he won a match against Chess 4.7 in Toronto, 1978 and he won a second bet in 1984 against Cray Blitz.  After that he offered a prize for the first computer chess team that could beat him. He got crashed 0-4 by Deep Thought in 1989. 
     If I remember correctly, back in 1978 a British pound was about 1.92 US dollars, so the bet was for about $7-8,000 in today's currency. Do I have that right?! Anyway, it kind of reminded me about the time I bought a box of old Popular Science and Popular Mechanics magazines from the 1920s at the flea market. There was a letter to the editor from a university physics professor explaining why space travel simply was not, and never would be, possible. 
     I discovered Boris on sale in a bookstore in a local mall and the price, as I remember, was pretty hefty...around $200. That's around $700 today and so it's no wonder that when I told the sales clerk I'd take one that she was a little surprised. I remember her asking me if I was sure. In those days I was not married and had a lot of money to spend on foolishness, so the cost didn't matter. What was important was the contraption was a beauty and it played chess! 
     It came in a walnut box with a little folding board and pieces and you entered the moves on a keypad. It had an 8 character LED screen that displayed the move and random messages after you made a move: Would you like a draw?, Good move, I expected that, I missed that, etc. It could be set to think for any length of time. 
     It wasn't very strong and beating it presented little challenge. I'm guessing it was rated about 1000 or so. I do remember showing it to a local master who, like Levy, commented the thing was a piece of crap and it proved computers would never be any good at chess. No matter...it was a chess partner and living in a small butt crack town like I did, Boris was the only chess partner available. After Boris came Boris Master but it didn't play any better. 
     My next chess computer was the Radio Shack Chess Champion 2150, but I don't remember much about it except that it did NOT play at 2150. I also remember one of my correspondence opponents also had one. I know because against the Sicilian it always played 3.Bb5 and if you attacked the B with ...a6 it valued Bs more than Ns so always retreated the B back to e2. When he played Be2 I got suspicious, checked his moves out and was able to predict every one of them.  The guy was a "user" and his rating was only around 1600, so that's another reason why I know the 2150 part was inflated. I eventually sold it to a guy at the chess club for $20. 
     Boris is long gone, but I still have the box.   It was so nice that I ripped the guts out and kept the box. It sits on my dresser and holds keys and change and stuff.  Boris is King has all the details on the machine.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Reshevsky's Undefeated Streak in US Championships

 
Mr & Mrs Reshevsky in 1944
    After obtaining his college degree Reshevsky devoted himself to tournament play and between 1936 and 1942, he had a streak of 75 games without a loss in US Championship competition, scoring 43 wins and 32 draws.  But, as you will see, he had some incredible luck along the way. 

     Reshevsky won the first US Championship in 1936 after Frank Marshall retired and put his title up for grabs in a tournament rather than match play. In winning that event ahead of the surprising second place finisher, coffeehouse player Albert Simonson, where he had a disastrous start in the early rounds when he lost to I.A. Horowitz and Sidney Bernstein, Reshevsky recovered and in his final games scored 9 wins and one draw. He finished with a +10 -2 =3 score. 
      At the next championship in 1938 he was in a horse race with Reuben Fine. Fine's score was uneven; he won more games than anyone (11 wins), but also lost two games. He had surprising losses to Anthony Santasiere and Milton Hanauer. The loss to Hanauer was especially painful because Hanauer had a horrible position at move 20 but hung on and Fine misplayed the ending. One move by Fine would have forced the win of two Ps, but he miscalculated and handed over the initiative and ended up losing in 68 moves. In the end Reshevsky scored +10 -0 =6 to beat out Fine by a scant half point.
 
Kashdan & Fine playing Blitz in 1944
      The next event, in 1940, was another race between Reshevsky and Fine when their last round game decided the title. This year though it was a runaway for the duo. In the early rounds fourth place finisher Albert Pinkus, who was returning to chess for the first time in nearly decade, was playing well and Isaac Kashdan had developed an early lead and after 12 rounds he was ahead of Reshevsky. Fine was some distance back due to a loss to Abraham Kupchik. But, Reshevsky's luck held when in his game against Kashdan, the latter blundered badly and turned his draw into a loss. Kashdan was so unnerved that he lost the next round to Weaver Adams. In the meantime Fine had scored 10 wins and 5 draws and was a half point behind Reshevsky. When they met in the last round at one point Reshevsky was on the brink of defeat. But, Fine blundered badly on his 27th move and Reshevsky was able to grimly hang on for a draw. His luck had held again and he finished first with +10 -0 =6, half point ahead of F
ine.
Mrs. Kashdan, Isaac, Marshall, Horowitz and Mrs. Marshall

     Then in 1941 Al Horowitz, who was lucky to be alive because in February 1940 he had been on a national exhibition tour with his close friend and co-editor, Harold Morton, when in Iowa they were in a car accident and Morton was killed instantly while Horowitz was severely injured. Horowitz quickly bounced back and was confident he could beat Reshevsky in a match. Horowitz didn't want to wait for the next championship so he challenged Reshevsky to a match. Reshevsky accepted and the match was scheduled for seven different playing sites for 16 games in three weeks. Reshevsky later said the match became a matter of endurance more than ability. Reshevsky won +3 -0 =13.
     Next was the 1942 tournament. This one was a race between Reshevsky and Kashdan both of whom walked all over the rest of the field. They both scored 8.5 out of their first nine games! This was the event where tournament director L. Walter Stephens incorrectly forfeited Denker instead of Reshevsky who had overstepped the time limit and then refused to change his decision. 
Stephens


     The result was Reshevsky at +10 -0 =5 ended up tied with Kashdan (+11 -1 =3) for first place. The funny thing is that Reshevsky had yet another last round miracle when Horowitz managed to let a good game slip into a draw and leave a very disappointed Kashdan who had been watching the game and gradually saw his clear first slip into a tie with Reshevsky. As a result Reshevsky and Kashdan had to engage in a playoff match of 16 games. 
     The match was held at US Army camps for the benefit of the troops. At least this match was not nearly as hectic as the match with Horowitz had been and the games were hard fought. By this time Reshevsky had not lost in 74 straight US title games and he added to his streak in the first game with difficult win.
     Then in the second game Reshevsky's luck ran out. In a service club in Camp Upton, Yaphank, New York with a theatrical show going on near by and a noisy dance being held in an adjacent hall, Reshevsky got into his usual time trouble and had less than five minutes to make 20 moves and then at the end only 30 seconds for six moves.   His position deteriorated and he resigned after making the time control. When it was all over Reshevsky won the match handily 7.5 – 3.5, but his long undefeated streak had ended.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A (Reuben) Fine Attacking Game

He was a fine player. - Samuel Reshevsky (laughing)

     Reuben Fine chessplayer and psychoanalyst was born in New York City in 1914 and he died there 26 March 1993. 
     Fine gave up competitive chess in 1951 in order to concentrate on his profession and went on to become a leading writer, editor and finally elder statesman among American Freudian psychologists. 


Life Magazine photo
    In this photo of Fine he is shown with actress Bonnie Lenora "Jane" Nigh (25 February 1925 – 5 October 1993). She was discovered in 1944 while working in a defense plant and later signed a contract with Fox Studios. She married and divorced three times and had four children.  She died on October 5, 1993 of a stroke at the age of 68. According to his NY Times obituary Fine was married 5 times, but never to Ms Nigh. 
     After graduating from college at the age of 18, Fine become a professional player. He shared first prize in his first major international at Hastings in 1935-36 and over the next two years, he played in 13 tournaments, winning eight of them. But, his greatest success was in the AVRO tournament in Holland in 1938. This event had the top eight players in the world, was generally accepted as a contest to decide who had the best credentials to challenge Alekhine for the world championship. Fine shared first place with Paul Keres. 
     Fine later described himself as 'World Champion 1946-48' on the grounds that because of his AVRO results, he had best claim to the title between Alekhine's death in 1946 and The Hague/Moscow tournament. 
     Fine was considered a serious contender for the world championship and was invited to play in the 1948 The Hague/Moscow six player tournament to determine the world championship after Alekhine's death, but he declined, ostensibly for professional reasons claiming that he could not interrupt his studies. However, speculation was that he was suspicious that the three Soviet Union players would gang up on the outsiders in order to ensure one of them would win the tournament. He told Larry Evans that he didn't want to waste three months of his life watching the Russians throw games to each other. 
     Although Fine was successful in open tournaments he was never able win the US (Closed) Championship, usually placing behind Samuel Reshevsky. When Reshevsky was asked why Fine never won the US Championship he said, “Because I was playing.” In 1944 Reshevsky didn't participate and Fine was expected to finally win, but Arnnold Denker played the tournament of his life and defeated Fine in their individual game and so Denker won the championship with Fine finishing second a half point behind. Imagine scoring 78.1 percent in the US Championships yet never winning one!
     As a psychologist Fine was of the opinion that chess is an embodiment of the Oedipus Complex, with the father-figure King and powerful mother- figure Queen providing the elements for the player to enact fantasies about killing his father. The pieces are mostly phallic symbols and all players are latent homosexuals. According to him, that explained why, at least in his day, there were not a lot of strong women players. His opinions on the subject of homosexuality have cited in legal battles over, including the legislative battle over same-sex marriage in Hawaii. Though most of us non-psychologists might think Fine was irrational in his beliefs and find them amusing, he was one of the most rational chess players of his time with an attacking style. 
 
Report of the Commission on Sexual Orientation and the Law

     Today, Fine is an almost forgotten player and his games are rarely looked at, but he was good! He won all the seven US Championships he played in though in his day they were opens and the strength of his competition was not always of the highest caliber. He won 5 gold medals in three Olympiads and had a plus or even score with all the world champions he played. Fine wrote, “In my own mind I have always stressed accuracy above everything else; whatever happens then flows naturally out of the position.” Fine, who learned to play at the age of eight, was a regular at the Marshall Chess Club and he eventually became one of the best blitz players in the world, even holding his own in blitz against the world champion Alekhine.
     During WWII Fine wrote chess books, including his famous Basic Chess Endings, a book that has been considered one of the best works on the endgame (and one that's still worth owning) even though it was published more than 60 years ago. I remember reading that he claimed to have written the book in six months...an amazing feat that I doubt few players could accomplish today. He also wrote The Ideas Behind the Chess Openings, which, though badly dated, is still useful book for understanding the openings. The book is available for download from Chessdotcom HERE.
     Arnold Denker wrote that as a young man Fine was “terribly mixed up and a horrible liar” because “he had a screwed-up youth and never really overcame his strong feelings of inferiority. Thus the bragging. My fondness for him was more a feeling of sadness.” 
     It's a shame that Fine's games are not better known because of his clear, methodical style. In the following game he defeats Adolph Fink, an internationally known problem composer and a landmark figure in California chess. The game is atypical of Fine's scientific approach to the opening which is one strange Bird.