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Friday, April 21, 2017

Maurice Fox

     Maurice Fox of Canada was born in the Ukraine on January 14, 1898 and died at the age of 90 years old on June 25, 1988. At the end of 1898 his family moved from Russia to London, England where he graduated from the University of London in 1921 with a degree in electrical engineering and emigrated to Montreal, Canada in 1923. He later moved to Peterborough, Ontario.
     The year 1924 saw him finishing second in the Canadian Championship, the first of many yet to come. He won the Canadian Championship eight times, tying him with Abe Yanofsky for the most Canadian titles. He was runner up three times. He was also a frequent competitor in several United States Opens. Fox won the Montreal City championship every year from 1927 through 1933, but did not play in it again until 1948. 
     Fox learned to play chess at the relatively late age of 13 while living in London and at the age of 15 he joined his school's chess club and won its championship and captained its team. Fox served in the British Army during World War I and after his discharge entered college.
     During his college years he played top board for the Leyton Chess Club and league matches scored wins over the likes of Sir George Thomas and several other of the leagues top players. During his time in England Fox played in a few tournaments, finishing second in the Major Open at Hastings in 1922. He also participated in an impromptu blitz tournament where he finished second behind Rubinstein. 
     After arriving in Canada is 1923 his engineering work and other interests curtailed his devoting much time to chess. His lack of study left him handicapped with a limited knowledge of opening theory. 
     In 1928 he played in an international tournament at Bradley Beach, New Jersey where he scored +4 -3 =2 and finished in fifth place. The tournament was won by Alekhine. At age 58, Fox beat 13-year-old Bobby Fischer in the 1956 Canadian Open Championship at Montreal.
     His opponent in this game was Reverend Howard Ohman (July 17, 1899 – February 25, 1968, 68 years old) of Omaha, Nebraska. Ohman was the state's leading player for several decades and won the Nebraska State Championship twenty five times!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Arnold Schottlander

     Arnold Schottlander (April 2, 1854 – September 9, 1909) was born in Münsterberg (now Ziebice), Silesia and was one of Adolf Anderssen's pupils. 
     Anderssen (July 6, 1818 – March 13, 1879 was considered to have been the world's leading player for much of the 1850s and 1860s.  He was quite soundly defeated by Paul Morphy who toured Europe in 1858, but Morphy retired from chess soon after and Anderssen was again considered the leading player. After his defeat by Steinitz in 1866, Anderssen became the most successful tournament player in Europe, winning over half the events he entered. 
     Anderssen was born in Breslau (now called Wrocław), in the Prussian Province of Silesia, in 1818. He lived there for most of his life, sharing a house with and supporting his widowed mother and his unmarried sister. Anderssen never married.  Anderssen lived a quiet, stable, responsible, respectable middle-class life. teaching mathematics, while his hobby and passion was playing chess. 
     Schottlaender, who was born into a well-known and prosperous family of Jewish industrialists, spent his childhood and early youth in Wrocław, Poland which was at that time one of the strongest chess centers of Prussia. His first public debut was in 1876 and was not particularly successful as he lost 0 to 5 in a friendly match against Fritz Riemann
    A year later in July 1877 he participated in an event in Leipzig to celebrate Andersen's 50th anniversary and his result there was not particularly successful either. But, in 1878 a Western-German Chess Federation congress was held in Frankfurt am Main. Schottlander took part in a secondary event, which he won, and so was awarded the title of master. It was also an important victory because by gaining the coveted master title, he also earned the right to play in the championships for the rest of his life. 
     The first congress of the German Chess Federation (DSB) took place in Leipzig in July 1879 and ended with Berthold Englisch's victory over Louis Paulsen with Schottlander sharing 8th-9th place. After that Schottlander was present for almost every DSB tournament, either as a player or as a patron. During these tournaments he would frequently make the rounds of all the games and make comments on them. Known for the brilliance and accuracy of his analysis and his sense of humor, Schottlander was always less concerned about his placement in a tournament than having fun and enjoying the game. 
     In 1893 Schottlander visited the United States and sent an official entry for the proposed Columbian Chess Congress that was to be held in New York City that year. Because the tournament was to coincide with the famous Columbian Exposition of 1893, a world’s fair held in Chicago, the tournament became widely known as the Columbian Chess Congress. Unfortunately, the tournament never took place mostly due to the Panic of 1893, so on August 31, 1893, when it was clear the tournament would not be held, Schottlander returned to Europe. Prior to returning home Schottlander had suffered an injury while visiting Niagara Falls and was still troubled by it a few weeks later which may prompted him to leave earlier than he initially planned.
     After returning from America, Schottländer continued to actively participate in the chess life of Wroclaw.  From time to time he participated in local tournaments and gave simultaneous. 
     Schottlaender was a wealthy man who, though crippled by polio, appeared at the cafe every afternoon where he would perch himself in the center of the U-shaped table on which there were almost always six or eight games in progress. From his vantage point Schottlaender, who was known for his wit, never played but criticized the games with good natured sarcastic remarks. On occasion though, he gave simultaneous exhibitions where he would take on some thirty opponents.
    His major results were: 

1879: 8-9th place at Leipzig 
1880: 9-10th at Wiesbaden 
1883: 12th at Nuremberg 
1885: 16th at Hamburg
1888: 5-6th at Leipzig 
1892: 11-13th at Dresden 

   He is buried in the Jewish cemetery of Breslau. The grave still stands with the symbolic chessboard and the engraving "His body was weak, his spirit strong". 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Edward Lasker: First International Tournament, the Evils of Drink and Women

     The summer of 1913 found the 28-year old Edward Lasker on vacation at a French seaside resort when he received a telegram that contained an invitation to play in the International Masters Tournament at Scheveningen in place of Nimzovich who had been forced to withdraw because of illness. Lasker was excited about the prospect because it was his chance to gain the master title officially by scoring one third of the possible points. 
     He rushed to the railroad station to get a train to Scheveningen in time for the tournament which was to start the following morning at 9am. There was only one train and it left at 2:10, but he arrived late and missed the train by a matter of minutes. He the raced to the docks to find a ship headed for Holland and discovered the only one available was going by way of Folkestone, England. And, from there he barely would have time to catch another ship to Holland and then a train which would put him in Scheveningen only one hour before the start of the tournament. 
     He managed to get to Folkestone twenty minutes before the boat for Holland sailed, but there was the matter of customs officials who wanted to go through his bags. After arguing briefly with the officials, he was allowed to proceed and reached his boat with only minutes to spare. 
     On arrival in Scheveningen a taxi driver took him to a hotel for breakfast where he unexpectedly ran into Janowski. After breakfast and a brief walk along the beach he arrived at the tournament somewhat refreshed and managed to defeat his first round opponent, one of the weaker players. Lasker also won his second round game, also against one of the Dutch players, but in the third round he faced Gyula Breyer, a brilliant young player from Hungary against whom he managed to draw. 
     His fourth round opponent, Dr. Adolf Olland, employed an unbooked variation of the Ruy Lopez, outplayed Lasker and won without much trouble. After this defeat Lasker vowed that for the rest of the tournament he would play aggressively, come what may. 
     Facing Mieses in the fifth round, he knew Mieses would play the Center Counter Game because he had scored many brilliant successes with it. However, Edward had seen a game in which Emanuel Lasker had scored a quick win by posting his N on e5 and pushing his K-side Ps. His hope was that Mieses, who was in the habit of playing 5...Bg4 in this line, would not know of the Emanuel Lasker game; in any case, Mieses avoided 5...Bg4 and lost a miniature. See the featured game below. After this game Mieses offered Lasker a bet that he would place higher in the tournament than Lasker. Lasker took the bet if for no other reason than Meises was playing under a twenty-five year age handicap. 
     The next two rounds were bad news. The Dutch player Rudolf Loman lost the exchange, but Lasker took his opponent too lightly and allowed the draw. Then in the seventh round Alekhine badly outplayed him in the early middlegame and won easily. 
     With the tournament half over, Lasker's score was only 4-3, but on the plus side, only three players had a better score, so he was not discouraged. Alekhine had won every game and he was closely followed by Janowski with 6.5 points and Frederick Yates with 6 points. Then came Dr. Olland, Fritz Englund and Lasker. 
     In the eighth round Lasker caught Yates in a prepared opening line which he had analyzed with Teichmann only a few months previously where they had discovered a promising positional sacrifice of a P. Lasker won when Yates, with only seconds left, blundered. After defeating Yates he had high hopes of finishing third; Alekhine and Janowski were too far ahead to catch. 
     He defeated Abraham Speyer who had been doing poorly and then had to face Janowski, against whom he had white. Lasker admitted that he was much too impressed by his famous opponent, played for a draw, and lost as badly as he had to Alekhine. The only difference was that against Janowski he butchered the ending instead of the middlegame. 
     In spite of this loss, he calculated that he still had a chance for third prize. Alekhine and Janowski had a big lead. Breyer and Yates were next with only a half point lead over Lasker and Olland. Lasker felt rather sure that he could beat his final opponents, so that his final score could be 9 points. As is often the case, fate had different plans. 
     Janowski lost to Yates giving Alekhine a one point lead. Meanwhile, in his game against te Koiste, Lasker tried to make something out of nothing in an effort to avoid a draw, lost a Pawn and had an awful time working up any kind of counterplay. The game was adjourned in an unclear position which could go either way. 
     In the next to last round he played Englund who misplayed the opening and lost a game for which Lasker received a brilliancy prize. After this game, Alekhine who had also won, was in high spirits and offered to take everybody to a night club who wanted to help him celebrate his assured victory. Naturally, Lasker accepted the invitation, feeling certain he would win his last round game and that he would have no difficulty in drawing his adjourned game with te Koiste. Several players declined Alekhine's invitation: te Koiste, Janowski, Olland and Yates. 
     Alekhine ordered champagne for everyone, including a number of French hostesses who saw to it that the bottles were emptied fast and replenished without delay. As the night wore on, Alekhine became happily intoxicated, and he refused to let the others leave. Lasker noticed that Alekhine insisted on dancing exclusively with a woman about twice is age and twice his circumference, although there were plenty of young girls around. At about four in the morning Mieses, who was the only one left outside of Alekhine and Lasker sneaked off. It was after 7am when the club finally closed and Lasker staggered back to his hotel. 
     At 9am he sat down to play his adjourned game and quickly lost both the game and any chance at third prize. At least that left him a few hours to sleep before his final round game, which he won, but his rivals for third place also won, leaving Lasker in fifth. It was good enough to allow him to be recognized as a master, plus he also learned a lesson that drink and women don't mix at a tournament. 
     In other final round news, Alekhine appeared late for his game and Janowski made short work of him, but all that did was narrow the difference between their scores down to a half a point. However, Janowski's victory convinced one Monsieur Nardus, his sponsor, that Janowski could really beat anybody in the world if he only half tried. It also meant that Janowski continued to receive a fair sized check from Nardus on the first of every month. Lasker commented that the money should have allowed Janowski to live quite comfortably, but within a week or two he was usually cleaned out because of his fondness for roulette.
     After the tournament Alekhine, Janowski, Nardus and Lasker decided to stay another week in Scheveningen, but a couple of days later Alekhine suddenly left for Paris and Janowski headed for the gambling casinos. When Lasker returned to England for a week, he received a telegram from Alekhine claiming he had been robbed in Paris and wanting to borrow fifty pounds. At the same time he informed Lasker that he had made arrangements to sponsor a short match of three games between them. Lasker sent the money and when he got to Paris he was informed by Janowski that Alekhine had shown up in Paris with one of the fat girls he had met in Scheveningen, but after a week she had disappeared. It made Lasker suspicious of the robbery story. He lost all three games of the match. 

1) Alekhine 11.5 
2) Janowski 11.0 
3) Olland 9.0 
4) Yates 8.5 
5) Lasker 8.0
6-7) te Kolste and Breyer 7.5 
8) Mieses 6.0 
9-10) Englund and Geus 5.5 
11) Loman 5.0 
12) Speijer 4.0 
13) Schelfhout 2.0 
14) Van Foreest 0.0

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Arthur Bisguier Is Gone

New York Times Obituary 

I am saddened by this. Bisguier has been around since I began playing chess decades ago. I met him at the US Championship in 1975 and found him to be most approachable and likable.  He was a real "people person."

Monday, April 17, 2017

Ragozin at Saltsjobaden 1948

   The FIDE system of Zonal and Interzonal tournaments was not yet firmly established so most participants in this event, the first Interzonal, were selected by ballot. The twenty participants competed in a round robin in Saltsjobaden from July 16 to August 15, 1948.
     The tournament was won by David Bronstein, followed by Laszlo Szabo, Isaak Boleslavsky (who did not move on to the Budapest Candidates due to illness), Alexander Kotov, Andor Lilienthal, Miguel Najdorf, Igor Bondarevsky, Salo Flohr and Gideon Stahlberg. These players were joined in Budapest by Vasily Smyslov and Paul Keres. 
     The United States was invited to send two players and it was assumed that Samuel Reshevsky and Reuben Fine would be selected, but the USCF decided to send the top two players from the 1946 US Championship. Fine didn't play in the 1946 championship because of his studies, nor was he interested in an invitation to Saltsjobaden. Reshevsky won the tournament 2.5 points ahead of Kashdan, so they were the qualifiers, but both ended up declining their invitation to advance. That left Arrnold Denker next in line, but he also declined. I.A. Horowitz was then selected, but he, too, declined. So, no American players were included in the Saltsjobaden Interzonal. Part of the problem with the American players was no doubt that either the players themselves or their federations were required to finance their own travel and accommodations. 
     Among the other qualifiers, Albrec O'Kelly and Eric Eliskases also withdrew.  Najdorf was the pre-tournament favorite at Saltsjobaden, however he was in bad form, losing a won ending in round 4 against Kotov and in the next round losing a brilliancy prize game to Lilienthal. 
     Szabo led for most of the tournament but in the final round lost to tailender Eric Lundin and allowed Bronstein to move ahead of him. 
     Born in St. Petersburg, Vyacheslav Ragozin's chess career first came to the fore with a series of excellent results in the 1930s. He received the coveted title of Soviet Master in 1930 when he defeated Ilyin-Zhenevsky in a match and was himself awarded the title of Soviet master. At that time, the only way one got the Master titled was to defeat a recognized Master in a match which, given the strength of Societ Masters in those days was no easy task. 
     At Moscow 1935, he won the best game prize for his victory against Lilienthal. At the very strong Moscow tournament of 1936, he beat Flohr and Lasker and came very close to defeating Capablanca, but the game ended in a draw thanks to Capa's resourceful play. At the 1939 Leningrad-Moscow tournament, he finished third equal, behind Flohr and Reshevsky. Success continued into the 1940s with first prize at Sverdlovsk in 1942 and a repeat triumph at the Leningrad Championship of 1945. In 1946, he finished outright first at Helsinki and beat Bondarevsky in a match. His greatest achievement in over-the-board chess then followed at the Chigorin Memorial (Moscow) tournament of 1947, where he placed second, a half-point behind Botvinnik, but notably ahead of such luminaries as Smyslov, Boleslavsky and Keres. 
     By the 1950s, he and most of his generation had been overtaken by the new wave of players emerging from the Soviet chess schools, but Ragozin continued participating in the Soviet Championships. From 1934-1956, he took played in eleven championships. He rarely played in tournaments after 1950, but in 1956 in the Marianske-Lazne Steinitz Memorial he finished second behind Filip, ahead of Flohr, Pachman, Ståhlberg and Wolfgang Uhlmann.
     He was awarded the GM title in 1950 and in 1951 he became an International Arbiter. From 1956–1958, his focused on correspondence chess and won the second ICCF World Correspondence Champion in 1959 with a score of +9 -1 =4. For that achievement he was awarded the CGM title. 
     Because of his creative play and analytical ability Botvinnink chose Ragozin as his sparring partner and they played many training matches. Ragozin's style was experimental and risky and he had a unique ability to sacrifice of Ps for the initiative. For that reason Botvinnik, who was attempting to put together a solid opening repertoire, found Ragozin a good partner against whom he could test his openings. 
     From 1946 to 1955, Ragozin edited the magazine Shakhmaty v SSSR. He was Vice-President of FIDE from 1950 through 1961. Throughout his chess career, Ragozin maintained his career ad a civil engineer. He died in Moscow while putting together a collection of his best games, which his friends completed for publication in 1964. 
     His opponent in this game is Igor Bondarevsky (May 12, 1913 in Rostov-on-the-Don, Russia – June 14, 1979 in Pyatigorsk, Soviet Union), an economist by profession, a Soviet GM in both over-the-board and correspondence chess, an International Arbiter, trainer, and chess author. Bondarevsky shared the 1940 Soviet title, and later coached World Champion Boris Spassky.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Fiji Chess

Manoj Kumar
     Quick...name some chess players from Fiji. Officially known as the Republic of Fiji, it is an island country in the South Pacific Ocean about 1,300 miles northeast of New Zealand's North Island. An archipelago of more than 330 islands, of which 110 are permanently inhabited, it consists of two major islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu; the capital Suva. Fiji has one of the most developed economies in the Pacific due to an abundance of forest, mineral, and fish resources and its main sources of foreign exchange are its tourist industry and sugar exports. 
     Chess has been played in Fiji for a long time, but it was the 1972 Fischer-Spassky match that sparked the popularity of chess in the country. In 1979 the Fiji Chess Federation was established. In 1986 the Federation sent its first team to the 27th Chess Olympiad in Dubai. The team was made up of Surjeet Singh, Damodara Naidu, Jaiwant Singh, Dr Virgilio De Asa and Dr Jasvinder Singh, with Surjeet Singh as the Captain. 
     A military coup in 1987 put restrictions on chess games on Sundays and by the end of the year, the president and treasurer had resigned due to work commitments. The leadership of the Federation passed onto Surjeet Singh, who reorganized the Fiji Chess Federation with the establishment of some new clubs and lessons were provided free of charge and efforts were made to promote chess through the media. 
     At the end of 1989, Surjeet Singh resigned as President to reside overseas, but other members stepped in and the Federation continued to function smoothly with teams being sent to most of the Chess Olympiads. 
     Manoj Kumar (born 1977) is a FIDE Candidate Master with a current rating of 1947, but judging from the following game, I think Kumar's current rating is a bit low; he's probably closer to a master at 2200. The title of Candidate Master (CM) was introduced in 2002 and in order to be awarded the title a rating of 2200 or more must be achieved. Candidate Master ranks below other FIDE titles, but above the WFM and WCM titles. 
     List of active players from Fiji can be found HERE

Monday, April 10, 2017

The New Houdini Chess Engine

     When Houdini 5 was released November 7, 2016, nearly 3 years after the previous version, it was advertised as being vastly improved to the tune of about 200 Elo stronger than previously. The main improvement was to its positional evaluation function. Then in November 15, 2016, Houdini 5.01 was released with minor bug fixes and improvements.
     There's also a Houdini Pro version that's intended for power users with high-end hardware. The Pro version supports up to 128 threads, 128 GB of hash memory, large memory pages, the use of Nalimov end game table bases and it is NUMA-aware. For most users the plain old Houdini 5.1 will be the engine of choice. 
     The redesigned evaluation function is supposed to take better take king safety and piece play into account which gives it a combination of an aggressive playing style plus sound positional and strategic understanding. Supposedly, when other engines see no way to make progress, or head for a draw, Houdini sometimes comes up hidden resources. The ads state that the preliminary release version of Houdini 5 won convincingly ahead of all other top programs in the recent “TCEC Season 9 Rapid” tournament, scoring 50 wins and 12 draws and the final release of Houdini 5 surpassed this performance by another 30 Elo points. I noticed this was a “rapid” tournament and some programmers tune their engines to perform well in these rapid events, but that's not what interests us. We want to know how good does the engine perform at slow setting and how does it do against Stockfish and Komodo? 
     On the IPON rating list games played at 5 minutes plus 3 seconds per move (mean game length is abou6 16 Minutes), Stockfish 8 (rated 3390) is still first. It's followed by Komodo 10.4 (3387) and Houdini 5.01 (3281) 
     On the CCRL 40/40 rating list Stockfish 8 is also rated number on at 3390. Houdini 5.01 is second at (3387) and Komodo 10.4 is third at 3383. 
     In head to head competition on CCLR, Stockfish holds the edge over Komodo, scoring +7 -4 =41 and against Houdini it has a more modest +14 -3 =123. Houdini 5.1 has the edge on Komodo 10.1 by a score of +8 -4 =40. 
     So, it appears that Stockfish 8 is still the best deal. Houdini 5.1 costs about $40 and the Pro version about $64. Komodo 10.1 costs about $60 and with the cost for the 3-5 updates per year is about $100. Stockfish 8 costs $0.00, and it seems like both Houdini and Komodo have a ways to go to catch up, especially since Stockfish is free. 
     Here is a game in which Stockfish defeated Houdini 5.01. Even to my amateurish eye it looks like Stockfish is still the better engine. 

Friday, April 7, 2017


Back in January I failed to mention the passing of Hans Berliner at the age of 87. 
New York Times Obituary 
ChessBase Tribute 
Carnegie-Mellon University Tribute 

Yet another cheating incident was uncovered at the Dubai Open last month, this time by a player rated 1764!

Borislav Ivanov got arrested for selling fake drivers licenses and fake university degrees.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Ratmir Kholmov

     Kholmov (May 13, 1925 – February 18, 2006 in Moscow) was not well known outside the Soviet Union, but inside the country he was known as a dangerous attacking player and at the same time a strong defensive player. In his career he collected the scalps of the likes of Keres, Tahl, Petrosian, Spassky, Fischer and Kasparov. 
     Kholmov learned the game at the age of 12 and by 14 he was the champion of Archangelsk. From 1960 to 1970 he was one of the strongest GMs in the Soviet Union, qualifying for the Soviet Championship seventeen times. 
     After moving to Moscow in 1967 his state pension amounted to $50 a month which wasn't enough to live on, so he supplemented his income playing chess in the clubs around Moscow. In an interview near the end of his life Kholmov stated he didn't care for the new, faster, FIDE time controls, but felt they benefited the older players because they didn't have to play for long hours which was very tiring. On the other hand, he believed rapid controls were bad because they spoiled the game. His best solution was to let players choose between what type of tournament they wanted to play in, rapid or long games. 
     During his career Kholmov won many international tournaments in Eastern Europe.  Kholmov made his international debut at Bucharest 1954 with a tied 3rd–4th place; Viktor Korchnoi won. Probably the best result of his career was when he tied for 1st–2nd with Smyslov at the Moscow International 1960. As a result he was awarded the GM title that same year.  He tied for the Soviet Championship in 1963, but lost the playoff between him, Boris Spassky and Leonid Stein.
     His biggest disappointment was the the Soviet Zonal tournament in Moscow in 1964, where he scored 6 -6 and finished in 4th place. Only the top three qualified for advancement to the Interzonal. His single appearance on the USSR team was when he played board ten at the European Team Championships in 1970 where he won the board gold medal with a score of +3 =3 −0. 
     In 2000 Kholmov tied for the World Senior Championship with Mark Taimanov, Janis Klovans and Alexander Chernikov.  Then he placed 2nd–4th in the same event in 2001, tying with Klovans and Vladimir Karasev. 
     Kholmov played competitive chess virtually right up until his death in early 2006 at age 80. He appeared in a Senior event in Dresden, 50 years after he won a tournament there.
     Kholmov came from a family that was politically suspect and because of that and other black marks on his record, for political reasons he was allowed to participate only in a few tournaments abroad, all of them in Socialist countries; he never got to play in a Western country until 1990 when he was 65 years old. 
     His father defected to the Communists during the Russian Civil War and joined the party in 1918 and then served in various government positions. In the late 1920s he was arrested and shipped off with other convicts to build the White Sea-Baltic Canal. Although many prisoners died horrible deaths, he managed to survive and made it home where he obtained another government job. But then in 1938 he was arrested again during the Great Purge, a political campaign from 1936 to 1938 which involved a large-scale purge of the Communist Party and government officials, repression of peasants and the Red Army leadership, and widespread police surveillance, suspicion of saboteurs, imprisonment, and executions. Nobody knows what happened to him...he was never heard from again. 
     Kholmov was a sailor in the merchant marines and spent World War Two in a Japanese prison camp after his ship was seized.