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Friday, January 27, 2017

1992 US Championship - Another Controversy and More Excitement

Igor Ivanov in 2005
     There was another controversy in this event involving Gata and Rustam Kamsky even though Gata wasn't playing. The event was held in Durango, Colorado at the Red Lion Inn, now permanently closed. 
     The tournament was originally scheduled for September but was rescheduled twice to accommodate Kamsky who was the defending champion. See my post on the previous championship tournament HERE.     After accepting his invitation, the Kamskys, taking a lesson from Bobby Fischer and a few other great players of the past, requested a $5,000 appearance fee, which the USCF refused to pay, so Kamsky withdrew. 
     That left the USCF with playing dates they didn't like, but because this tournament counted as a zonal and Software Toolworks was a sponsor, it was likely that most of the top players would accept their invitations. The previous tournament had been a knockout format, but FIDE had wisely precluded such a format as a qualifier in their rules. Most players and chess fans thought the idea of a knockout tournament stunk anyway especially because draws meant speed chess to break ties. 
     The tournament itself started with its share of surprises: Stuart Rachels, in a winning position, lost to Walter Browne on time. The 43-year-old Browne, appearing in his 11th straight championship since 1978, banged the clock with his fist as he made his 38th move  which left Rachels visibly stunned.
     A 41-year-old mathematician from Cleveland, Ohio, Boris Men had emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1991. A 1962 issue of the magazine Chess in USSR had reported on two promising 11-year-olds who had competed in the Russian Federation Championship: Boris Men and Anatoly Karpov.   Men had abandoned chess to pursue his career in mathematics, but it was revived in Cleveland where he was working with Yermolinsky at the latter's Chess Academy. Men was rated 2500-plus with the USCF, but didn't have an FIDE rating and was something of an unknown.  He had a promising start: in the first two rounds he defeated Kamran Shirazi and Roman Dzhindzhikashvili.  But, after his good start Men was through as he won only one more game in the remaining 13 rounds.
     Kamran Shirazi was born in Tehran and moved to the United States in the late 1970s and quickly became one of the most active players in the country, winning many tournaments. Known for playing strange and unorthodox openings his rating rose rapidly and he became one of the highest rated players in the US. But in the 1984 US Championship he managed only one draw from 17 games, finishing last. In that championship, Shirazi also lost the shortest decisive game in the history of the US Championship against John Peters: 1.e4 c5 2.b4 (the Wing Gambit!) cxb4 3.a3 d5 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.axb4?? Qe5+ 0-1 as black picks off the a1 Rook. Shirazi appeared as himself in the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer where he was addressed as GM Shirazi although he was actually an IM. This tournament was almost as bad as the 1984 event for Shirazi as he only managed draws against D. Gurevich and Yermolinsky. In 2006 he moved to France and changed his FIDE affiliation to France. 
      Another surprise came from the 20-year-old Ilya Gurevich (no relation to Dimitry) who was the youngest player in the tournament. He started well but then fell away. 
     The low-rated 21-year-old Alex Sherzer was still an IM and after five rounds shared first place with John Fedorowicz, Boris Gulko and Patrick Wolff. 
     Aside from Sherzer, the 24-year-old Wolff was just about the only American-born player to rise to prominence since 1985. Wolff learned the moves at five and was playing in only his third championship and after eight rounds he was tied for second with Seirawan, Fedorowicz and Dimitry Gurevich, a full point behind Sherzer. Sherzer was unbeaten and had succeeded winning four in a row against Igor Ivanov, Browne, Yermolinsky and Rachels.
     In round nine Igor Ivanov was paired against Rachels who was taking a break from studies at Oxford University. They both played the middlegame badly and reached an unclear endgame when Ivanov fell asleep at the board. When he suddenly woke up and realized it was his move, he picked up his King, thinking it was his Queen, and made his move. Being forced to move his King, he ended up losing. Igor might as well not been invited to this tournament...he played a 7-move draw against Gurevich, nine moves against Men, A. Ivanov and Dzindzichashvili and a 13 mover against Yermolinsky. . 
     In the 13th round Sherzer defeated Men and guaranteed himelf a spot in the 1993 Interzonal.  Going into the last round things were tense. The key pairings were Fedorowicz vs. Sherzer, Gulko vs. Ilya Gurevich and Men vs. Wolff. 
     Gulko, who occasionally showed a lack of ambition, played a 32 move draw and when Wolff defeated Men, who appeared tired and had lost his last five games in a row, he moved into first as Fedorowicz defeated Sherzer causing Sherzer to slip into a tie for second with Gulko. 
     As a result of this tournament, Patrick Wolff, Boris Gulko, Alex Sherzer, Yasser Seirawan, and Dmitry Gurevich qualified for the 1994 Biel Interzonal. 

1) Wolff 10.5 
2-3) Gulko and Sherzer 10.0 
4-5) Seirawan and D. Gurevich 9.0 
6) Fedorowicz 8.5 
7-9) Yermolinsky, Benjamin and I. Gurevich 8.0 
10) Dzindzikashvili 7.5 
11-12) Browne and A. Ivanov 7.0 
13) Rachels 6.5 
14-15) I. Ivanov and Men 5.0 
16) Shirazi 1.0 

    The following game is Igor Ivanov's miniature loss to Joel Benjamin.  It's a good indication that he was probably wise to take all those short draws.  His problems in this tournament were likely related to the fact that he was an alcoholic who, according to Kevin Spraggett, would sometimes be found at local chess clubs under the table instead of sitting at it. As a result his strength began seriously declining in the mid-1980s. 
     Igor Ivanov (January 8, 1947 – November 17, 2005) was a Russian-born Canadian GM.  Born in Leningrad, he learned chess at age five and studied music intensively as a youth, specializing in piano, and was very talented.  He was orphaned at age 14 when his mother died; she had wanted him to become a concert pianist, but he preferred to concentrate on chess. 
     Ivanov studied Mathematics at Leningrad State University, but left before completing his degree. He represented Uzbekistan where he scored many tournament successes at a level just below the very top. 
     In 1980 he was a member of a Soviet delegation in the Capablanca Memorial tournament in Havana and on what was supposed to have been a direct flight home to Moscow, the Czech airliner had to make an emergency refueling stop in Gander, Newfoundland.  Ivanov ran from the plane with only what he was wearing and his pocket chess set with KGB agents giving chase. He managed to elude the agents and was granted political asylum in Canada. He settled in Montreal and enjoyed many success in Canadian events. 
     While remaining a Canadian citizen, Ivanov moved to the US in the early 1980s so he could participate in the Grand Prix tournaments, then being sponsored by Church's Fried Chicken. Roving all over the US, Ivanov played in every tournament he could, both great and small. He lived in Utah with his wife Elizabeth, a retired teacher who was at one time a distinguished player herself. He won the Utah Open and the Utah Championship every time he played and was finally awarded the GM title in 2005, the year he was diagnosed with cancer. The Professional Players' Health and Benefit Fund of the USCF helped him with financial support for his chemotherapy treatments. He died on November 17, 2005 in St. George, Utah. 
     St. George received the brunt of the fallout of above-ground nuclear testing in the Nevada Test Site northwest of Las Vegas in the early 1950s as winds routinely carried the fallout directly through the St. George and southern Utah area. Marked increases in cancer not limited to leukemia, lymphoma, thyroid cancer, breast cancer, melanoma, bone cancer, brain tumors, and gastrointestinal tract cancers were reported from the mid-1950s and still continue today. A 1962 United States Atomic Energy Commission report found that children living in St. George at the time of the fallout may have received high doses of radioiodine to the thyroid. 

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