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Monday, July 24, 2017

1951 World Championship

  David Bronstein was born on February 19, 1924 and was married three times, having a son by his first wife, Olga Ignatieva. His third wife was Tatiana Boleslavskaya, the daughter of Isaac Boleslavsky. Playing bold and intuitive chess, he was, from the end of World War II to the late 1950s, one of the top three players in the Soviet Union and among the five best in the world. 
     In 1951 Bronstein became the first to challenge Botvinnik who had won the title in 1948. The 24-game match was a seesaw affair between two who not only disliked each other, but had opposite styles. It ended in a 12-12 tie and Botvinnik retained the title. The outcome might have been different if Bronstein had not blundered in the sixth game when he had an easy draw or lost the 23rd game. 
     Ever since there was speculation that Bronstein was forced to lose so that Botvinnik, the favorite of the Soviet authorities, might retain the title. Bronstein denied it, saying he chose not to win.
     Bronstein would not have been acceptable champion to the Soviet government. Coming from a Jewish family and related to the Bolshevik revolutionary Leon Trotsky, the Bronsteins were viewed with suspicion by the Soviet authorities and on December 31, 1937 David's father, Iohonon Boruch Bronstein, was arrested as an "enemy of the people". His crime? Defending peasants against corrupt officials. He disappeared into a Gulag and was not seen again until freed seven years later because of ill-health. 
     By then the Bronstein family was living in Moscow but his father was still banned and could not live or work within the city limits. He obtained a job in a factory about 25 miles from Moscow but this was still classed as within the city limits, so he bribed the head of the local police to turn a blind eye. Dad Bronstein died in 1952. In 1955 Bronstein's mother received a letter informing her that the case against her husband was closed and that no crimes were ever committed by him.
     It was during his father's imprisonment that Bronstein established himself. Stalin had initiated his Five Year Plan for Chess with the aim of capturing the world championship from the the West. This aim was achieved in 1948 when Botvinnik won the world title in 1948, an achievement that was hailed as an example of the superiority of the Soviet system. The authorities became nervous when Bronstein became the challenger in 1951. 
     The openly anti-Semitic government found him undesirable and then there was his father's “criminal” past. Botvinnik, on the other hand, had been a perfect champion. He was a firm believer in the system, and had even sent a telegram of thanks to Stalin for providing him with inspiration after winning Nottingham, 1936. 
     In 1976, when Viktor Korchnoi defected, Bronstein was one of the few Soviet GMs who refused to sign a letter denouncing him. As punishment, Soviet officials suspended Bronstein’s monthly stipend, a wage paid to all top Soviet masters. He was also barred from competing in almost any elite tournament within the Soviet Union and from competing in the West; the ban was not lifted until the mod-1980s.
     His match with Botvinnik was tense and error-filled. In the sixth game, in a drawn position, Bronstein thought for 45 minutes before playing an appalling blunder that lost at once. In the ninth game, a complete miscalculation left Bronstein a rook behind for almost nothing, but he managed to escape with a draw. 
     After 22 games (out of the scheduled 24) Bronstein was ahead by on point and winning the title looked assured, but a loss and a draw in the last two games left the match tied and Botvinnik retained his title. 
     Many years later Bronstein wrote, "I have been asked many, many times if I was obliged to lose the 23rd game and if there was a conspiracy to stop me from taking Botvinnik's title...The only thing that I am prepared to say is that I was subjected to strong psychological pressure from various sources...I had reasons not to become the World Champion as in those times such a title meant that you were entering an official world of chess bureaucracy with many formal obligations. Such a position is not compatible with my character.”
     Bronstein claimed his goal was to show that his style of lay was just as good as Botvinnik's scientific approach. In later years he often said that he never missed holding the title of World Champion, which only lasts a few years anyway. What he regretted, he said, was not having the lifelong title of ex-World Champion. 
     In the future Bronstein kept running into the rule limiting the number of qualifiers from one nation and there was always too many countrymen ahead of him. As against Botvinnik, he also tended to cave in at the last moment. In the Interzonal at Portoroz, Yugoslavia, in 1958, a last-round defeat by the unheralded Filipino Rodolfo Tan Cardoso cost him a qualifying place and he finished in places 7-11, scoring +4 -1 =15. In the 1964 Interzonal at Amsterdam he lost to Bent Larsen. His is outstanding +10 -1 =12 was only good enough for sixth place behind Smyslov, Larsen, Spassky, Tahl and Stein. 
     In a post mortem with an English player at Hastings in 1975-76 his young opponent kept asking if he had analyzed various move to which Bronstein replied, "Young man, you do not analyze during a game; you analyze before a game and after a game. During the game, you just play." 
      Salo Flohr, who was Botvinnik’s second, recalled the adjournment of that famous 23rd game.  Flohr assumed Botvinnik had sealed the best move and spent the night analyzing the win. In the morning, Botvinnik asked Flohr to show the winning variation to his wife. Flohr was confused because Botvinnik's wife barely knew the moves. Flohr showed her the winning variations and when he went on the stage at the resumption of the game, Botvinnik told him, “You know, Salo, I sealed a different move.” 
     Flohr explained Botvinnik's strange behavior: Botvinnik expected the game to be drawn and he he was about to lose his title, but wanted his wife to think that he had a chance of winning the game. 
     Some have put forth the theory that if the match outcome was rigged then Botvinnik would have secretly (and illegally) gotten the authorities to allow him to change the inferior sealed move for the stronger one. The theory has also been put forth that Bronstein's first marriage was on the rocks and he was in love with another woman. As world champion, divorcing his first wife would have been out of the question. Also, he feared the publicity of being world champion might bring his father’s plight back to the attention of the authorities. 
      All very interesting, but there is Bronstein's famous comment to Bobby Fischer in 1960 at Mar del Plata when Fischer cried after losing a game to Spassky. Bronstein told Fischer, "Listen, they forced me to lose an entire match to Botvinnik, and I didn't cry." In a later interview Bronstein denied having said it, but eventually conceded that he may have uttered something of that nature. "Too much time has passed," he said.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Vladimir Makogonov

     Makogonov (August 27, 1904 – January 2, 1993) was from Azerbaijan and lived in Baku for most of his life.  He was awarded the IM title in 1950 and was awarded an honorary GM title in 1987. He retired from competitive play in the 1950s. 
     Makogonov never became well known outside the Soviet Union, but was highly respected in the country as a player and coach. He helped Smyslov prepare for his 1957 World Chess Championship match against Botvinnik, trained Vladimir Bagirov and on Botvinnik's recommendation, became one of Kasparov's first coaches. 
     He was one of the world's strongest players in the 1940s: Chessmetrics calculates his highest historical rating as 2735 in October 1945, and his highest historical world rank as fifth in July 1945. 
     His tournament results included a tie for third place at Leningrad–Moscow 1939, second place at Sverdlovsk 1943. In 1942, he defeated Salo Flohr in a twelve-game match held in Baku by a score of 7½–4½. He played on Board 9 in the 1945 USSR–USA radio match, beating Abraham Kupchik 1½–½. 
     As a player, Makogonov was noted for his positional style and he made several contributions to opening theory; the Makogonov Variation in the King's Indian, the Grünfeld and the Tartakower System in the QGD. 
     His debut in the USSR championship was in 1927 where, along with Botvinnik, he was awarded the title of Soviet Master. In 1943 he was awarded the Soviet Honored Master title.
     His best championship performances were: fourth in 1936, a tie for fourth in 1939 and a tie for fifth in 1944. 
     A math teacher by profession, Makogonov first made a name for himself in the trade union tournaments and city championships in Baku. He won the champion of Azerbaijan five times from 1947 to 1952 and played in eight USSR Championships between 1927 and 1947, his best result being fourth in 1937 and a tie for fourth place in 1939. 
     In the following game from the Leningrad/Moscow in 1939 he defeated Reshevsky in fine style. The tournament was organized on fairly short notice. The Soviet press referred to it as a training tournament and a preliminary to the regular Russian Championship. The first half was held in Leningrad and the second half was held in Moscow during the month of January. Salo Flohr's victory was a surprise as he had pretty much been written off as a top player after his last place finish at AVRO a few months before. It is believed that Panov may have withdrawn at some point. 

1) Flohr 12.0 
2) Reshevsky 10.5 
3-5) Lilienthal, Makogonov, Levenfish and Ragozin 10.0 
6-7) I. Rabinovichand Belavenets 9.5 
8-9) Alatortsev and Kan 9.0 
10) Konstantinopolsky 8.5 
11-12) Smyslov and Keres 8.0 
13) Goglidze 7.5 14) Tolush 7.0 
16) Romanovsky 6.0 
17) Bondarevsky 5.0 
18) Panov 3.5 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The USA vs Yugoslavia (Mystery) Radio Match of 1950

     The Yugoslav team defeated the US team in radio match that took place from February 11th-14th in 1950. That much is known for certain. 
     When I started looking for details on this match I found almost none. Apparently nobody wanted to talk about it. 
    In The Art of Bisguier, he sums up the highlights of each year and for 1950 he mentions that he won the US Open, tied for first with Tartakower at Southsea and that he was awarded the IM title that year. He also gave his win over Ivkov from the match, but makes no mention of the match itself.
     I found a New York Times snippet dated February 15, 1950 that read, “Defeated in the second round by the score of 4-3, after losing the first by 5-4, the United States team surrendered to Yugoslavia yesterday at six o'clock when their radio chess play ceased at this end, following four daily sessions at the Chanin Building,” 
     Another blurb stated that Denker defeated Rabar and Pinkus forfeited a game. Clearly, the game points given by the Times are incorrect as the scores don't add up. I also found a Sam Sloan reference in which he stated Yugoslavia won the match by 11.5-8.5. Sloan's score matches a January, 2016 article by Alexey Root in the University of Texas Dallas magazine Chess in which she mentions that Yugoslavia defeated the US by a score of 11.5-8.5. 
     I was unable to find any other details on this match, but did find the games in the OlympBase database then ran into a problem. The database shows the following:

11th-14th February, radio match: Yugoslavia-USA 11½-8½ (5½-4½, 6-4) 
Gligoric ½-½ Reshevsky ½-½ 
Pirc ½-½ Fine ½-½ 
Trifunovic ½-½ Horowitz ½-½ 
Rabar ½-0 Denker ½-1 
Vidmar jr 1-1 Ulvestad 0-0 
Puc ½-1 Dake ½-0 
Milic ½-½ Kevitz ½-½ 
Kostic ½-½ R.Byrne ½-½ 
Matanovic 1-1 Pinkus 0-0 
Ivkov 0-½ Bisguier 1-½ 

     According to the table Denker drew one and won one from Rabar and Pinkus lost two games to Matanovic. But, when I downloaded the games there were only 19 games in the database, not 20. According to the above table the round scores are: 
Rd.1 Yugoslavia 5½ US 4½ 
Rd.2 Yugoslavia 6 US 4 
     This agrees with the 11.5 points for Yugoslavia as given by Sloan and Root. In the games database there are two Matanovic vs. Pinkus games, both won by Matanovic, so the forfeit mentioned by the Times was undoubtedly a loss on time as their second game went 56 moves and at the end of the game Pinkus was dead lost. However, the database has only one game between Rabar and Denker and it was won by Rabar, not drawn as the table shows.
     Where is the missing game against Rabar that Denker won? If Rabar won the first game and Denker won the second, then the above table is wrong and the actual score of the match would be: 
Rd.1 Yugoslavia 6.0 US 4.0 
Rd.2 Yugoslavia 6.0 US 4.0 
     So Yugoslavia actually won by a score 12.0 – 8.0. 

     Probably the most interesting game was Matanovic's quick first round win over Pinkus who appears to have blundered when he resigned in a position where he still had plenty of play.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Maria Teresa Mora Iturralde

     The November 23, 1921 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle had an article titled Cuban Girl Chess Expert Holds Own With Champion. Her name was Maria Teresa Mora, a school girl from Havana. 
     Mora (October 15, 1902 – October 3, 1980) was playing a match against Jose Van der Gutch who had recently won a tournament at the Havana Chess Club. They had played five games at the time of the article and despite a poor start, Miss Mora had evened the score with each having 2.5 points. She drew the first game, but then lost the next two and it looked like she was going down in flames, but then she won the next two. 
     The match had created a lot of excitement and according to the article, the game given below, her second victory, was accompanied by much shouting and “bedlam was let loose” because she was everyone's favorite. Van der Gutch was a gentleman and very courteous towards his opponent, but gave her no breaks. The club's rooms were packed and calls were coming in from all over town with inquiries as to the progress of the games. Even the Capablanca-Lasker match had not created as much excitement. 
     The excitement the match generated was simply because the fact that a young teenage girl was meeting a “full grown gentleman” on equal terms...a rarity in those days because women had not yet distinguished themselves in chess. 
     Born in Havana, Mora, at the age of 14, was the only person known to have studied under Capablanca. She was also a gifted musician and received violin and mandolin lessons, giving a concert with them in 1921. 
     In 1922 she won the Dewar Cup of the Havana Chess Club, which at the time was considered equivalent to Cuban National Championship. She was the only woman to have ever won the Cuban championship and was Cuban Woman's Champion from 1938 until she retired from competitive play in 1960. 
     Capablanca wrote about the lessons in My Chess Career, but did not identify Mora:
 “There was in Havana a young girl of from 12 to 14 years of age who interested me a great deal. Not only was she intelligent and modest in every respect but, what is more to the point, she played chess quite well (I believe that today she probably is the strongest lady player in the world, though only 15 or 17 years old). I offered to give her a few lessons before I sailed. My offer was accepted, and I decided to teach her something of the openings and the middle-game along general principles and in accordance with certain theories which I had had in my mind for some time but which I had never expounded to anybody. In order to explain and teach my theories I had to study, so it came about that, for the first time in my life, I devoted some time to the working of the openings. I had the great satisfaction of finding that my ideas were, as far as I could see, quite correct. Thus it happened that I actually learned more myself than my pupil, though I hope that my young lady friend benefited by the dozen or so lessons that I gave her. It came about that I thus strengthened the weakest part of my game, the openings, and that I also was able to prove to my own satisfaction the great value of certain theories which I had evolved in my own mind.” 

     In December of 1921 Capablanca wrote a letter to the London Times in which he said, “I hope the committee (responsible for organizing London, 1922) will also consider a proposition which I have to make with regard to the Women’s Tournament, and that is that in some way they leave open the possibility of the participation in that tournament of the young Cuban girl, Senorita Maria Teresa Mora. The young lady is only some 17 years old, and yet I believe her to be the equal of any woman player. Her participation would add enormous interest to the tournament and would cost the committee nothing, as I would obtain here the necessary funds for her journey.” 

     She was a Women's World Championship Challenger at Buenos Aires in 1939 where she tied for seventh and eighth place (Vera Menchik won). This was her first appearance in this event because in order to participate a player's country had to be a member of FIDE and Cuba did not join until 1939. Out of 20 players she scored only 1.5 points against the top ten finishers, but rolled up 9.5 points against the bottom finishers. 
     She also participated in the 1949/50 event. Lyudmila Rudenko of the Soviet Union won convincingly, scoring +9 -1 =5. Her single loss was to 14th (out of 16) Mona May Karff of the US. Mora scored +4 -7 =4 to finish in a tie with Jozsa Langos of Hungary for tenth place. Mora did manage a draw with second place finisher Valentina Belova of the Soviet Union who was tied with Elisaveta Bykova also of the Soviet Union. Her finish was hurt by losses to the two last place players. She was awarded the Women's IM title in 1950. 
     The first time Mora appeared in the foreign press was in 1917 when the American Chess Bulletin published an article entitled Havana Has Another Prodigy. Although her exact age was unknown at the time, the article claimed that she was twelve years old and that she first learned how to play chess at the age of eight. Her father was not a chess player, but she had a brother, Albert, who would occasionally take her to the Club de Ajedrez. 
     On the occasion of the letter to the ACB, a correspondent named Edward Everett, a lawyer from Seattle, Washington and a fairly strong player, described how she had won the school championship of Cuba two years after learning how to play. In 1915 she won the Havana province scholar championship. Along with her brother she also received a prize given by the Good Companion Club of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to five Cuban players who could solve chess problems in the least time. Her exploits were mentioned in Havana newspapers and there had been appeals to the Havana City Council to make special provisions for her education. 
     At the urging of club members Everett played Mora and described her as being a player that did not induce fear when he saw her...she was frail, intellectual...a little lady in curls and a long, old-fashioned dress. After meeting her, Everett asked what odds she wanted and was amused when she declined. Everett played her seven games, winning but one while losing three and drawing three. He observed that she did not play skittles, but analyzed every move carefully and played with the “confidence of a veteran.” 
     Mora worked for the Ministry of Education and played first board on their chess team.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Problem Composers and Article 58

     Beginning in the 1920s all areas of Soviet culture began coming under control of the government, including chess. In 1932, the creation of the Artists’ Union brought not only artists and writers under government control, but chess also. For chess, it started with Alexander Ilyin-Zhenevsky in 1920 and Nikolai Krylenko in 1924. Under Stalin chess continued to be a major part of the cultural struggle and in 1930 a resolution by the All-Union Chess Section of the Supreme Council for Physical Culture proclaimed that there was a necessity for “the saturation of all chess activity with political content.” What that meant was that chess for just the fun of it was not to be allowed. Consequently, in late 1930 and early 1931, the All-Union Chess Section in Moscow conducted an audit of the activities of the Leningrad chess organization which was found to be badly deficient in nearly all areas. 
     What were the problems? There wasn't any list of organized players except for 4,000 rated players and those rated players weren't taking their political duties seriously. They were neglecting propaganda and political education. Chess activity in the army and navy was being conducted poorly, activity in the trade unions was unsatisfactory, work among school children was neglected and propaganda was not being disseminated. As a result, organizers were spurred into action and Ilyin-Zhenevsky was ordered to assume control of Leningrad chess. Even the chess magazine Shakhmatyi Listok was changes to Shakhmaty v SSSR (Chess in the USSR) because it was more politically correct. 
     Krylenko proclaimed at the 1931 All-Union Chess Congress that shock brigades of chess players had to be formed and a 5-year plan was developed with the aim of organizing one million players by the end of 1933. There was to be sixty percent from the workers, nineteen percent from students in higher education, fifteen percent from the collective farmers, and the remainder from the military and police organizations. Krylenko also harangued the delegates on the political significance of their work and defended laws punishing grain theft on the collective farms and the evils of missing work in factories. 
     By the end of 1932 the All-Union Chess Section pointed out there was still a problem in that chess on the collective farms was led poorly and a goal was set that there should be 148,000 collective farmers among organized chess players. To that end, Machine Tractor Stations which ensured government control over collective farms were used as handy tools to implement chess policies. In 1936 former world champion Emmanuel Lasker, then a Soviet citizen, gave exhibitions on the farms. The activity was slowed down by the War, but by 1950 the Soviets were able to hold a massive collective farm team tournament. 
      In this whole process, Soviet chess officials had singled out problemists for attack because many of their problems had appeared in foreign magazines. In 1930 Krylenko turned savagely on the problemists and their new organization, the All-Union Association of Chess Problem and Study Lovers. His complaint was that the group was illegal because it was not affiliated with his Chess Section and the leader and well known problemist Lazar Borisovich Zalkind was arrested and accused of complicity in a Menshevik plot.
     Krylenko handled the prosecution Zalkind himself. In March 1931, Zalkind was found guilty and sentenced to eight years in the labor camps. The All-Union Association of Chess Problem and Study Lovers was disbanded and replaced by the Central Composition Committee, a part of the Chess Section. Problemists were censured for past offenses such as submitting their compositions to Western publications and they were put on notice that this practice would be severely punished. 
     Nine foreign publications were designated as acceptable, but problemists submitting works to them had to make an application through the Composition Committee and they could not deal directly with any foreign publications. 
     Problemists were also advised that bourgeois themes should be avoided in favor of revolutionary themes. What did that mean?! Simply that compositions were required to have a close relationship to practical play and they were not to be fanciful. In the problem world that meant that one-, two- and three-move compositions were out because they tended to be fanciful while long, complicated problems that required multiple variations were in favor. Problems like helpmates, self-mates and fairy chess were officially disgraced. The construction of these fanciful problems was classified as formalism. 
     In early 1936 Shakhmaty v SSSR ran an article co-authored by Botvinnik and the journal’s editor Spokoinyi announcing a crusade against formalism in composition. The article argued that compositions weren't all that important and were useful only if they helped to develop practical play. Short version: chess problems of a fanciful nature were useless and so their existence could not be justified. 
     Botvinnik claimed that a “socially useful” composition had three distinctive features. First and most importantly, it should center on a practical theme...a situation that might occur in practical play. Second, the solution should be not be obvious, but difficult to figure out. Third, the idea should be expressed artistically. In the article Botvinnik charged many Soviet composers were engaging in all manner of decadent bourgeois themes which explained why they were publishing in the West, the home of the discredited concept of art-for-art’s-sake.  The problem with many composers was that formalism had become a nasty habit that too many of them refused to renounce. But now the government's patience was exhausted and Soviet composers had better shape up. 
     The director of the composition department of the chess magazine 64, Mikhail Barulin, ridiculed Botvinnik by arguing that chess competition and chess composition were completely different things. Chess problems had a long history and had every right to be considered as separate from competitive play; it was an art form in itself. 
     The official response, again co-authored by Botvinnik and Spokoinyi, was to remind him that the practice of art for its own sake had been denounced in all areas of Soviet culture, and chess had been a leader in that movement. Therefore, Barulin was guilty of provocation and if he really believed that composition of chess problems should enjoy immunity from serving the purposes of the Soviet state, then Barulin and other like-minded composers were good for nothing. In 1937 Krylenko and the Chess Section addressed the issue. Botvinnik was correct. 
      Article 58 of the Soviet penal code was enacted against numerous problem composers. Arvid Ivanovich Kubbel (1889-1938) was a Soviet problemist with an international reputation. In 1937 he became a victim of Article 58. A specialist in self-mates and help-mates, he became increasingly frustrated with his inability to have his compositions published. In frustration, he sent his compositions directly to the German chess magazine, Die Schwalbe. He was arrested in 1937 and was sentenced to ten years at labor without right to correspondence; he died on route to a Siberian prison camp. 
     Mikhail Platov (1883-1938) was the co-author (with his brother) of a composition published in 1910 that had been published numerous times in the Soviet press prior to 1937. The problem caught the eye of Lenin when it was republished in a German paper. In letter to his brother, Lenin commented on the problem which he described as a beautiful bit of work. Lenin's praise meant nothing. Platov was arrested in October 1937, the exact charges never being made public. There was no trial and Platov was sentenced under Article 58 to ten years in a labor camp. He survived only a few months in the camp, dying in early 1938. 
     Sergei Kaminer (1908-1937) was a problemist who once defeated Botvinnik in three consecutive games. Botvinnik was thirteen and Kaminer was sixteen at the time. There were no hard feelings and the boys became good friends. Thirteen years later during Botvinnik’s 1937 match with Levenfish in Moscow, a distraught Kaminer, by then a well-known problemist who specialized in helpmates, was afraid he was about to be arrested visited Botvinnik in his hotel room. He handed Botvinnik notebooks full of finished and unfinished compositions. Of course, Botvinnik balked at taking them, but Kaminer insisted because he was fearful that the notebooks, his life’s work, would be lost. Kaminer was indeed arrested a few days later and subsequently disappeared into the gulag. His notebooks? Botvinnik claimed he sent them Kaminer’s relatives, but somehow the books disappeared forever. 
     Pavel Neunyvako (1897-1940) was a hero of the Soviet Civil War who had learned to play chess while in the Red Army, but he was attracted composition and published a number of his studies in the 1920s, while rising in the Ukrainian Party organization. He became chairman of the All-Ukrainian Chess Section in 1933 and when the controversies over composition arose, he used his position to defend Ukrainian problemists. It got him arrested in 1938 and exiled to Alma-Ata, where he continued to compose. He was rearrested and shot in 1940. 
     What happened to Mikhail Barulin after he challenged Botvinnik? Nothing immediately and his home was a meeting place for problem composers.  According to Barulin’s daughter, one of the members was arrested in early 1941 and he reportedly told his interrogators that the circle was often the occasion for anti-Soviet jokes. One by one the members were arrested. Barulin was finally arrested in November 1941 and refused to sign a confession or denounce other problemists. He died in prison in 1943. 
     That rat Botvinnik never disavowed the 1936 article that began the purge of the problem composers, not even later when it would have been safe to do so. Instead, Botvinnik justified himself, claiming that he was only responsible for the parts dealing specifically with chess while his co-author had written the political stuff. As late as 1986 Botvinnik claimed the article’s criticism about chess problems seemed quite principled and reasonable. 
     Below is a problem by Arvid Kubbel published in Sovremenoye Slovo in 1917. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Time Norman T. Whitaker Beat Two Dead Horses

     If you ever read Arnold Denker's delightful The Bobby Fischer I Knew, you read about a few of the scams Whitaker pulled off and probably wondered how people could be so gullible. A smooth talker, he even scammed me once. Often guys like Whitaker are successful with their scams because they appeal to people's greed. In my case it was the promise of becoming a Master. But, how in the 1921 Western Open he managed to convince his opponent, the tournament officials and ten other players to let him replay a lost game is beyond belief. 
     In 1939, the USCF was created through the merger of the American Chess Federation and National Chess Federation. The American Chess Federation, formerly the Western Chess Association, had held an annual open championship since 1900 and after the merger that tournament became the US Open. 
     In 1921 the Western Chess Association held its tournament at the City Club of Cleveland at the Hotel Hollenden in Cleveland, Ohio. The Hollenden Hotel was a luxury hotel in downtown Cleveland that opened in 1885, was significantly upgraded in 1926 and demolished in 1962. During the hotel's existence, it contained 1,000 rooms, 100 private baths, a lavish interior, electric lights and fireproof construction. As Cleveland's most glamorous hotel of the time, it hosted industrialists, celebrities and politicians, including five US Presidents. 
     Edward Lasker, from Chicago, annexed the title for the fifth time. The Association's meeting and tournament was held in October and Lasker, who had been elected president of the Association the previous year, had returned from spending most of the summer in Europe only two weeks earlier. 
     The referee and tournament director was Charles E. Shive, a representative of the City Club and publisher of the Cleveland Chess Bulletin. There were 12 entries and it was determined that with Sunday as a rest day, they could squeeze in the 11 rounds. The players agreed to a time limit of 20 moves per hour with playing sessions from 9:00am to 1:00pm and 2:30pm to 6:30pm. On Tuesday and Friday there would only be the morning session.
     The games were played in a suite of rooms except for the first three days which were played in the City Club's lounge. During those three days play didn't start until 4:00pm. The reason they started late those first three days was because there was a special telegraph set up in the Club's lounge that brought news of baseball's World Series being played at the Polo Grounds in New York City. 
     The much-anticipated 1921 World Series featured John McGraw's New York Giants and the New York Yankees who were appearing in their first World Series. The Yankees were relying on Babe Ruth, who was coming off what was his best year ever statistically. But, because of an infected arm and a bad knee (which he wrenched in Game 5), Ruth played only part-time in the series and did not start the final game. 
     Facing elimination, Yankee manager Miller Huggins sent Ruth up as a pinch hitter for first baseman Wally Pipp in the bottom of the ninth. Nursing both elbow and knee injuries, Ruth had sat out this game and missed all of Games 6 and 7. The bases were empty and the Yankees still trailed by the lone run of the game scored by the Giants in the top of the first. A home run would tie the game and a hit or a walk would give the Yankees a chance. Ruth grounded out and shortly afterwards infielder Aaron Ward would make the final out of the Series, giving the Giants their first world championship since 1905. 
     Following the Series, Ruth and another player did some postseason barnstorming which was against the rules for Series participants at that time. Both were suspended for a number of games at the start of the 1922 season. Ruth filed a personal appeal with Commissioner Landis, who upheld their suspensions but agreed to rescind the rule to be effective the end of that season.

The final standing were: 
1) Edward Lasker (Chicago) 9.5 
2) Samuel Factor (Chicago) 9.0 
3) Harold Hahlbohm (Chicago) 8.5 
4) Norman T. Whitaker (Washington DC) 8.0 
5) Leon Stozenberg (Detroit) 7.5 
6) J.T. Beckner ( Winchester, Kentucky) 6.0 
7) W.L. Moorman (Lynchburg, Virginia) 4.0 
8-9) H. Hoffman and S.H. Shapiro (both of Cleveland) 3.5 
10-11) B.A. Czaikowski (Chicago) and Dr. Eliot E. Sterns (Cleveland) 2.5 
12) J.H. Norris (Hoopeston, Illimois) 1.5 
Shapiro forfeited his game against Beckner when he arrived late because of a misunderstanding on the starting time. 

     Lasker was undefeated and drew with Factor, Hahlbohm and Beckner. Factor lost only one game, to Whitaker, and drew with Lasker and Stolzenberg. Factor (1883-1949) was born in Lodz, Poland and after a number of success in Europe, which included a drawn mini-match with Richard Reti (+1 –1 =0), moved to the US in 1920 or 1921. This tournament was only his second since arriving in the US. He was the nephew of Max Factor, founder of the cosmetics giant Max Factor and Company. 
     Harold Halbohm was always a dangerous player, but in this tournament he found the time limit too fast and was in time trouble in several games. He drew Lasker, lost to Factor and Beckner and won the rest. 
     Norman T. Whitaker (1890-1975) was awarded the IM title in 1965 (after ten years of hounding authorities) based on his results decades earlier. At the time of this event he was already an established thief, con man and pedophile. He lost two games, to Lasker and Hahlbohm. His game against the latter was an exciting affair and involved an incident that was nothing short of astonishing. 
     Leon Stolzenberg (1895-1974) had been a medic in the hospital at Tarnopol in World War I. In the summer of 1916 Alekhine served in the Red Cross on the Austrian front and in September of that year he played five people in a blindfold display at a Russian military hospital at Tarnopol. That's where he allegedly played a famous blindfold game against an “M. Feldt.” Some historians have disputed this, claiming the game was actually against a Dr. Fischer. After moving to the US after the war, Stolzenberg became one of the leading national and international correspondence players. He won the Michigan state championship several times and won the US Open (at the time the Western Chess Association Tournament) in 1926 and 1928. This was his first tournament since moving to the US. He lost to Lasker, Hahlbohm and Whitaker, drew with Factor and defeated the others. 
     The time limit was found to be a bit too fast for some of the players and in the second round against Whitaker, Hahlbohm barely made the time limit, but Whitaker, who had lost to Lasker in the first round, didn't think so and tried to claim the win, but his claim was disallowed and he ended up losing the game. 
     Undismayed, Whitaker somehow managed to convince Hahlbohm that they should replay the game from move 21. The officials left the decision up to the other players who unanimously consented. And so the game was replayed and Hahlbohm again managed to win the complicated position. This time Whitaker manned-up and admitted he had been fairly beaten. In view of the fact that he lost his first two games, his final finish was impressive. 
     There was also a minor tournament with eight entries that was won by Dr. Joseph Furtos of Akron, Ohio with a perfect 7-0 score. Other players were the 80-year old George McClure of Youngstown, Ohio and Clevelanders A. Cohen, Lewis Garvin, J.S. Hosterman, Manuel Levine, A.S. Loeb and C.S. Williams. 
     It was shortly after the start of this tournament that Celia Niemark, the 17-year old daughter of a farmer in West Austintown near Youngstown, gave an abbreviated simultaneous exhibition against six opponents that was witnessed by most of the participants. 
     Here is the odd second round game, or should I say games, between Whitaker and Hahlbohm.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Did Chess Player William Wallace Murder His Wife?

Wallace being arrested
     The case of William Wallace has long been the subject of speculation and has generated many books, being regarded as a classic murder mystery and the case may never be solved.
     William Herbert Wallace (August 29, 1878 – February 26, 1933) was convicted in 1931 of the murder of his wife Julia in their home in Liverpool's Anfield district. His conviction was later overturned by the Court Of Criminal Appeal, the first instance in British legal history where an appeal had been allowed after re-examination of evidence. 
     Wallace worked for a large insurance company and was a good chess player who was active in various chess events. On the evening of Monday January 19, 1931 he went to a meeting of the Liverpool Central Chess Club to play a scheduled game. While there he was handed a message which had been received by phone at the club about 25 minutes before he arrived. The message requested that the next night, at exactly 7.30pm, he was to arrive at the given address to discuss insurance with a man who had given his name as “R.M. Qualtrough”. 
Julia Wallace
     The next night Wallace made his way by tram to the address located in Menlove Gardens East in the south of the city, intending to be on time for the requested meeting. After he arrived he discovered that there were Menlove Gardens North, South and West, but no East. Wallace made inquiries and spoke to a policeman, but no one was able to help him locate the address or knew of a Mr. Qualtrough. Whenever he inquired about directions witnesses claimed Wallace had made a big show of mentioning what time he was due to meet Mr. Qualtrough. Was it an attempt to make sure he had a watertight alibi, or was he simply flustered at not being able to keep his appointment on time? 
     After searching for about 45 minutes he returned home where his next door neighbors, who were going out for the evening, ran into Wallace in the alley; Wallace complained that he couldn't get into his home at either the front or the back. While they watched, Wallace tried the back door again, which now opened. Inside he found his wife Julia had been brutally beaten to death in their sitting room. There was blood all over the parlor, pools on the carpet and splashed on the walls and pictures. After discovering his wife's body, Wallace stepped outside and told the waiting neighbors, "Oh come and see, she's been killed. He also told them, "They've finished her, look at her brains." 
     Back in the kitchen, Wallace noticed the locked cupboard where he kept his insurance collection money had been forced open and the four pounds had been stolen. The house had not been ransacked and nothing else had been taken, including the money from Julia's handbag which was on the kitchen table. Was this a robbery that had turned to murder? 
     At this point the neighbor, Mr. Johnson, took charge and ordered his wife and Wallace to stay in the house and not to touch anything while he summoned the police and a doctor. The first police on the scene made a cursory search and it looked like someone had rifled around in the bedroom, but the rest of the house appeared undisturbed. 
     When John MacFall, a lecturer of Forensic Medicine at Liverpool University, was called in as the police's forensics expert, he determined, based on the stiffness of the body, that Julia had died at about45 minutes before Wallace returned home. Even in 1931 using rigor mortis alone to determine how long someone had been dead was out of date and MacFall would later change his mind on the time of death despite no other tests been conducted. 
     A more thorough search of the house, yard and surrounding area uncovered no trace of a murder weapon. The Wallace's cleaning lady told police that a fire poker and an iron bar from the parlor were missing. Were they the murder weapons? 
     Wallace, a cold, aloof man, and his wife were described as a strange couple; he was frequently ill with kidney problems and she was described as “fastidious and peculiar.” Their marriage was described as strained and lacking in feeling. 
     Police were suspicious about how Wallace claimed he couldn't get into his house, but had suddenly been able to do so when he neighbors appeared. They quickly established that the telephone booth used by “Qualtrough” to make the call to the chess club was situated just 400 yards from Wallace’s home. They also confirmed that the person in the club who took the call was quite certain it was not Wallace's voice on the phone. Nevertheless, the Police began to suspect that “Qualtrough” was in fact Wallace, or possibly someone he had paid to make the call. 
     They quickly became convinced that it would have been possible for Wallace to murder his wife and still have time to arrive and board his tram for his 7.30pm meeting. However, one witness, a milk delivery boy, claimed he had seen Julia Wallace alive minutes before her husband left to catch the tram. The police were convinced that the murder could have taken place in just minutes and they attempted to prove it by having a fit young detective go through the motions of the murder and then run all the way to the tram stop...something an ailing 52-year-old Wallace probably could not have accomplished. 
     As mentioned, the forensic expert had originally put the death at around 8 pm, but later changed it to just after 6.30 pm, although there was no evidence to prove it. Did he do it to conform to the police theory? 
     Examination of the crime scene had revealed that Julia Wallace’s attacker was likely to have been heavily covered in her blood, based on the brutal nature of the crime. Wallace’s suit, which he had been wearing on the night of the murder, was examined but no trace of blood was found and it determined that Wallace had little or no time to clean up and change clothes. The Police then theorized that a full length raincoat belonging to Mr. Wallace, which was inexplicably found under her body, had been used by a naked Wallace to shield himself from blood spatter. Examination of the bath and drains revealed that they had not been recently used and there was no trace of blood there either, apart from a single tiny clot in the toilet, the origin of which could not be established. 
     Nevertheless, Wallace was arrested and charged with his wife’s murder. Wallace strongly and consistently denied having anything to do with the crime. The evidence against him was purely circumstantial yet he was found guilty after only an hour’s deliberation and sentenced to hang. 
     In an unprecedented move in the UK at that time, the Court of Criminal Appeal reversed the verdict on the grounds that it was not supported by the evidence and Wallace was freed.
     After his release, Wallace returned to his job in insurance but public opinion was of the view that he had been guilty and had gotten away with it. As a result, many of his previous customers shunned him and he was subject to hate mail and threats. In the end, he had to move and take a clerical job at his employer’s head office. While still employed by the insurance company he died of uremia, an elevated level of waste compounds that are normally eliminated by the kidneys and pyelonephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys and renal pelvis caused by bacterial infection. No other person was ever charged with the murder and the case remains officially unsolved. 
     Since then, many new theories have developed. It has been suggested that Wallace was involved in the discovery of an insurance fraud cover up which implicated some of his coworkers. This led to Richard Parry, a 22-year-old insurance clerk who was also a suspect in the original inquiry. The theory is that he made a prank call to Wallace, sending him on a wild goose chase in retaliation against Wallace who had caught him tinkering with the books at the insurance company and resulted in his getting fired. If it was a prank call then this would lead to the conclusion that Wallace's wild goose chase was not for the purpose of establishing an alibi and Mrs. Wallace was murdered by a person unknown. 
     It has also been speculated that Wallace knew he didn’t have long to live and didn’t want to spend his last years with his wife and so persuaded someone to make that phone call which provided him with an alibi. He then blackmailed a man named Marsden to do the actual murder. You see, Marsden was about to marry into money and a very well-connected family and Wallace knew his wife had been paying Marsden for sex and used that blackmail him. Marsden’s name, despite being mentioned in a statement given to the police by Wallace, had been eliminated as a suspect in the original investigation. 
     No weapon, no suspects, no witnesses and the body found in a locked house; whoever had killed Julia appears to have pulled off the perfect crime.