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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Tragic End of Arthur Reynolds

     The Queen's Gambit Declined semi-Slav, Meran, Reynolds' variation which runs 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. Bd3 a6 9. e4 c5 10. d5 is named after the British player Arthur Reynolds. Now, you might think Reynolds was an obscure amateur laboring away in his study analyzing this opening before finally coming up with the variation that bears his name, but you'd be wrong. 
     Back in 1931 Arthur Reynolds, then 21 years old, took part in the Major Reserves section of the British championship where he finished in a respectable tie for 3rd-5th. In 1933 he was on second board for the Warwickshire team battling in the Midland Union Championship where he defeated Gerald Abrahams in the decisive game.
     Born April 30, 1910 in Solihull, England, he attended Solihull School where he was captain of both the football (soccer) and boxing teams and was on the hockey and cricket teams. Following graduation from the Solihull Grammar School he became active in local tournaments. After finishing school he was living in Birmingham where he was employed by a department store. He got married in 1935. 
     In 1936 he participated in the annual BCF Congress held in Nottingham where he played in Section B of the Major Open Tournament. This was a strong event with players like Vera Menchik, B.H. Wood, J. Cukierman, Karl Opocensky and Gerald Abrahams. This event was a big success as he tied for lst with Cukierman with 8.5 points. He defeated Opocensky, Abrahams, Watts, Collins, Mallison and Cukierman in their individual game. 
     That result earned him an invitation to play in the Hastings Premier Tournament which started on December 28, 1936 but he had to decline, presumably because the department store would not give him the time off. 
     However, in April 1937 an invitation to another international tournament arrived and this time he was able to participate; it was the Ostend Tournament of 1937 where Keres, Dunkelblum, List, Fine, Grob, Dyner, Landau, and Tartakower were playing. 
     Reynolds lost to List, Grob, Koltanowski, Landau and Keres then drew with Dunkelblum and Dyner. Then in round 8 he met one of the world's best players of the day, Reuben Fine. Reynolds, in last place, defeated Fine which caused Fine to have to share first place with Grob and Keres. The result prompted Fred Reinfeld to write in his book British Chess Masters, Past and Present, “Although Reynolds came last in his only international tournament, he demonstrated convincingly that his failure was due to a lack of experience rather than to lack of ability. At all events, he had the consolation of defeating one of the world’s great masters.” 
     In the summer of 1938 he received an invitation to play in the BCF Congress. Aitken, Alexander, Golombek, Lenton, Mallison, Milner-Barry, Parr, Sergeant, Menchik, Thomas and Tylor made it one of the strongest in many years; it was also the first time a woman took part. He got off to a bad start, +0 -4 =3, but rebounded with wins over Mallison and Vera Menchik. 
     He again played in the Congress in 1939 and his play had improved to the point that he finished fourth. It was this year that he contributed to theory of the Meran Defense by publishing an an article in Chess magazine titled Meran Defense Crack Exposed.
     Unfortunately his steady progress coincided with Hitler's emergence and Reynolds volunteered for the Royal Air Force and ended up in Singapore. When it fell to the Japanese in February of 1942, Reynolds became a POW and fell ill while in captivity. 
     In 1943 the Japanese decided to ship the sick to Java and a total of 640 men, including a number of sick Japanese were taken on board the passenger-cargo ship Suez Maru. In two holds, 422 sick British and 127 sick Dutch prisoners, including up to twenty stretcher cases, were accommodated. The Japanese patients filled the other two holds. 
     Escorted by a minesweeper, the Suez Maru set sail from Port Amboin and while entering the Java Sea it was torpedoed by the American submarine USS Bonefish commanded by Commander Tom Hogan. 
     The Bonefish was on her second patrol of the war when it intercepted the two Japanese ships. Bonefish made a submerged approach and launched four torpedoes. Two of the four struck the Suez Maru under her main mast and it went down rapidly by the stern. The minesweeper escort raced for Bonefish, but the submarine went deep and evaded the barrage of depth charges that followed. The skipper of the Bonefish had no way of knowing that the Sue Maru was carrying British and Dutch POWs. 
     As the Suez Maru started to sink water poured into the holds and hundreds drowned, but many managed to escape and swim away from the sinking ship. The Japanese mine sweeper picked up the Japanese survivors, leaving between 200 and 250 men in the water. At 2:30 in the afternoon the minesweeper, under orders from Captain Kawano, began ramming rafts and lifeboats and opened fire on the prisoners in the water with a machine gun and rifles, killing them all. Captain Kawano then departed for Jakarta. 
     Sixty-nine Japanese had died during the attack, 93 Japanese soldiers and 205 Japanese sick patients were rescued by the Japanese. Of the British and Dutch prisoners, there was reported to be one survivor, a British soldier anmed Kenneth Thomas, who was picked up twenty-four hours later by the Australian minesweeper HMAS Ballarat, but this has not been confirmed.
     Arthur Reynolds was among the British prisoners who perished that dreadful day.  Suez Maru Roll of Honor

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Philip Geffe aka Philip Woliston

     Philip Reinhold Gefe was born on October 22, 1920 in Napa, California, the son of Eugene Carl and Mary Rebecca (Woliston) Geffe and was raised by his mother in Seattle, Washington. He took on his mother's maiden name, Woliston when he started school. 
     While in high school he joined the Seattle Chess Club and became friends with Olaf Ulvestad who became his mentor. His progress was rapid. Gefe claimed that he rose to be the second best player in the Seattle club, presumably behind Ulvestad, within four months. At the age of 16 he defeated the nine time Washington State Champion, Leonard Sheets (November 2, 1904-February, 1980, 75 years old), in a match +5-3=1. 
     A short time later he and his mother moved to Los Angeles where he won the city championship with a perfect 11-0 score. His next achievement was winning the California State Championship with a 7-1 score ahead of the likes of Harry Borochow, Herman Steiner and George Koltanowski. 
     According to an article appearing in the San Bernadino (California) newspaper dated November 24, 1939 Woliston, 19, of Los Angeles defeated Edward Kovacs, formerly of Vienna, in the finals after 10 days of play. Woliston succeeded Brorochow of Los Angeles, who had held the state title since 1930; his only loss in the tournament was to Borochow.
     Reshevsky included his victory over Woliston in the 1940 US Championship in his book of best games. Woliston was invited to play based on his winning the California championship. After arriving in New York City, he visited all the local chess clubs and in one instance managed to draw Reuben Fine in a 10 seconds a move game and was narrowly defeated by Reshevsky in another. 
     This tournament was the last to bring Reuben Fine, Samuel Reshevsky and Isaac Kashdan together and you can read the account of this exciting tournament HERE. In the 1940 event Fine came close to winning the US Championship.  He was half point behind Reshevsky when they met in the last round. Fine established a winning position, but then blundered in on move 27. Speaking of the game, Reshevsky commented, “A miracle happened.” The game ended in a draw and the result was enough to discourage Fine so that he never entered another US championship when Reshevsky was playing. Woliston remembered, "When it was over, Fine looked crushed and almost ready to cry." 
     Woliston finished next to last with a score of +2 -12 =2. His wins were over David Polland and tailender George Littman. He drew with Fred Reinfeld and Milton Hanauer. 
     There was an article in the Reno (Nevada) Evening Gazette on February 11,1975 describing a meeting of the Staunton Chess Club in which members were challenged by a chess computer. The computer was badly beaten. The article mentions that Phil Geffe, a "chess master new to Reno and an engineer at Lynch", was behind the special meeting of the club. Of the two games the machine won, Geffe said one was a defeat of two humans alternating moves. According to Geffe the humans did not have a coherent plan and the machine took advantage of them. Both of the computer's wins were achieved in the "slow" mode. The program could be adjusted to move in a few seconds or allowed several minutes per move. Geffe said computer chess programs play at a rating of about 1500. 
     Professionally he was known as Philip R. Geffe, an electrical engineer and consultant. In 1962 he published a book, Simplified Modern Filter Design. Geffe was a member of the Fellow Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. During his career he was Chief filter engineer Triad Transformer Corporation, Venice, California, 1952-1956. Director engineering at Hycor, Inc., Sylmar, 1957-1960. Senior staff engineer at Axel Electronics Inc., Jamaica, New York, 1962-1965. Fellow engineer at Westinghouse Electric Corporation, Baltimore, 1965-1974. Staff engineer Lynch Communication Systems, Inc., Reno, 1974-1980, Scientific-Atlanta, Inc., Atlanta, 1980-1985, KandL Microwave, Inc., Salisbury, Maryland, 1985-1987. He began working as an independent consultant in 1988 and became Senior Engineer at the PULSE division of Technitrol in San Diego in 1997 and worked again as a consultant from 2001 to 2003. He retired in 2003 at the age of 83. 
     Of course, you're curious to know how Philip Woliston became Philip Gefe for the second time. After the attack on Pearl Harbor he enlisted in the Merchant Marines and became a radio officer. In order to join the Merchant Marines he was required to present his birth certificate to enlist and so he became Philip R. Geffe. 
     After the war he got married and raised three children and did not return to tournament chess until 1965. Geffe said that when he went to work for Westinghouse Defense and Space Center in Baltimore, Maryland his boss and the fellow that hired him, a Russian immigrant, were chess players and they played chess at his interview. 
     After that, he began playing off and on and won the Maryland State title in the late 1960's and in 1970 he won the Nevada State Championship. As far as I have been able to determine, Gefe is still with us and lives in California. 
     Even though Woliston did not do well in the 1940 US Championship, I was impressed by his positional crush of Polland in the following game. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Amazing Stuart Wagman

Wagman in  1965
He played a really nice move, but it has nothing to do with the game we're playing. - Stuart Wagman 

     The five highest-rated 80-year-olds in history according to chessmetrics.com were Samuel Reshevsky, Vassily Smyslov, Svetozar Gligoric, Antonio Medina, and Stuart Wagman. 
     FM Stuart Wagman (May 14, 1919 - Saturday, November 24, 2007) was an American who lived his last 51 years in Livorno, Italy with his wife, Sylvia. 
     For many years Wagman and Oscar Shapiro toured Europe and the United States playing chess.  Shapiro was born in Boston, Massachusetts on March 18, 1909.  He became a National Master at the age of 74 and died on January 1, 2002 at the age of 92. In 1939, he won the Massachusetts State Championship and won the Washington, D.C. Championship several times. In 1951, he won the Virginia Open.
     Wagman was born in New York City on May 14, 1919 graduated from high school in 1934 and entered CCNY that year, but never graduated. He worked several years for a public accounting firm in Washington, DC, where his family had moved, before entering government service in 1941. He worked briefly as an accountant for the US Army Corps of Engineers before going into the Army in 1942 during World War II. A veteran of the Battle of the Bulge, he was discharged in 1945 and rejoined the Corps of Engineers. His assignments were mostly in Europe and his final assignment, which lasted 20 years, was in Italy. When he retired in 1976 at the age of 57 he continued to live in Livorno. 
      In 1947 he scored 7-1 in the New England Championship, but it wasn't good enough to win; first place went to a Yale freshman named Robert Byrne who scored 7.5-0.5. That was Wagman's last tournament for 17 years! His next event was the 1965 Reggio Emilia international tournament. He would not have been invited to play in that event had it not been for a local master from Pizza, Dr. Pier Luigi Beggi, who persuaded the organizer, Dr. Enrico Paoli, to invite him. His 5.5-5.5 put him in 7th place. He continued to play in several of the Reggio Emilia tournaments up until 1989. His last event was the 2005 World Senior Championship at the age of 87, making him the second-oldest participant at the event; his score of 6.0-5.0 put him in a three-way tie with William Hook and Eduard Zelkind for the best performance among US players. His play was uncompromising and he loved sharp, romantic openings. Andy Soltis claimed that Wagman was also an expert on the Dragon Sicilian. 
     Here is his win against Dr. Enrico Paoli from the 1972 Reggio Emilia tournament. Paoli (January 13, 1908 – December 15, 2005) was an Italian IM. Born in Trieste, Italy, he learned chess when he was nine years old. He was winner of International Tournaments of Vienna (1951) and Imperia (1959) and won his last Italian Championship at age 60. Paoli missed receiving the GM title by only half a point at a tournament in 1969, but was awarded the honorary title in 1996.

Saturday, May 27, 2017


     I have played the Dutch only four times in correspondence play, scoring three wins and one draw against players rated 1900-2300. It's never been my favorite though, which is kind of odd considering one of my early heroes, Botvinnik, played it.
     If you play the Dutch you have to be alert to the Anti-Dutch systems and one of the most popular is the tricky 1 d4 f5 2 Bg5. I've used this move against the Dutch a few times and it is true that black has to be extremely careful when facing it because many players have fallen victim to a miniature! When meeting 2.Bg5 it's recommended that French and Stonewall players should play 1…e6, Leningrad players should use 2…g6. While the risky line 2…h6 3.Bh4 g5 4.e4 is playable, I think black should avoid it because it's the move that often gets black into trouble. 
     In a couple of recent correspondence games where I played the Dutch, I am toying with playing a Benko Gambit-like move, an early ...b5. Before actually playing it, I subjected the diagrammed position to a deep position and infinite analysis using Komodo 10. After letting Komodo work on the position for a few hours, here's the resulting analysis. Clearly, white stands better, but I am willing to try it anyway...except against one opponent in particular; he is an ICCF SIM! It might be worth a try in blitz, or maybe even in a tournament game if you are feeling adventurous.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Dr. Karl Burger

     Burger, a medical doctor, was born January 22, 1933 and died on April 1, 2000 at the age of 67 after a long illness while living in Augusta, Georgia.  He was an International Master with two GM norms. 
     During 1949-53, Columbia University's chess team won the National Intercollegiate Championship when this biennial event was held in 1950 and 1952. The team consisted of James Sherwin, Eliot Hearst, Francis Mechner and Karl Burger plus two reserves. Everybody has heard the term “cheapo” being used to describe a move which threatens something so obvious that only an idiot would fall for it, and he does. Burger invented the term. 
     A wealthy doctor, Burger played chess in over 20 countries and 47 of the 50 states, winning the 1993 Georgia State championship. He participated in only one US Championship and that was in 1969 where finished last with 4 draws and 7 losses. 
     According to Sam Sloan, Burger gained a good many rating points in open tournaments back in the days before there were class events and accelerated pairings were not yet used. He would enter a Swiss event and in the first round be paired against a low rated player whom he was sure to beat, gain a couple of rating points, and then drop out. 
     Sloan also described an alleged scandal involving Burger. He sponsored a tournament in 1980 to which he donated the prize money. A number of strong masters were playing and Burger scored a brilliant win in almost every game and tied for first.  The result lead to speculation that the games had been rigged and his opponents had been bribed. Burger defeated GMs Lev Alburt, Roman Dzindzichashvili, Edmar Mednis and Leonid Shamkovich. Sloan claimed he examined the games and found nothing out of the ordinary and concluded that Burger just had a good tournament. 
     Burger was one of Bobby Fischer's early coaches at the Manhattan Chess Club. Like Fischer, Burger grew up in Brooklyn, New York in the 1950s and it was at the Manhattan Chess Club where he first met Fischer who was ten years his junior. When Fischer showed up at the club he always had salami sandwiches that he would eat while taking lessons from Burger. Food was prohibited at the club, but they made an exception for Fischer.  The board ended up covered with debris from Fischer's salami sandwiches which Burger found disgusting and as a result he developed a “very great hatred of salami." 
     After obtaining his medical degree Burger worked as a physician and lived with his parents. His father died in 1967 while aboard a cruise ship bound for Bermuda. Then when his mother died in 1978 only Dr. Burger and their maid were left. The maid, who had been with the family over 30 years, moved to Georgia because the climate was warmer and she had relatives there; Burger went with her and she continued to work for him until she died of cancer in 1996.  After that, Burger lived a monk-like existence generally avoiding neighbors, but he did offer chess lessons out of his home and played chess on the internet.
     Suffering complications from diabetes, he had a stroke and lost the feeling in his right hand and foot and very rarely left the house. 
     The following game, real tactical melee, was played in the 1953 US Open held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The tournament was won by Donald Byrne who finished half point ahead of Max Pavey. Horowitz tied for third with Nicolas Rossolimo, James Sherwin, Frank Anderson of Canada, Eliot Hearst and James Cross. Burger was next in line, tying for places 9-12 with Curt Brasket, Miroslav Turiansky and Joseph Shaffer. In reporting the game results in his Chess Review, the Picture Chess Magazine, Horowitz might have reported the result of this one as “Burger blasts Horowitz” or “Burger hammers Horowitz” or “Burger bamboozles Horowitz” or some such.  It was much more colorful than simply listing the results as Burger 1 - Horowitz 0.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Stunning Sacrificial Attack by Horowitz

     A couple of years ago I did a post on the book Point Count Chess by Horowitz and Mott-Smith and today wanted to look at a game that appeared in the book. I mentioned in the previous post that I had doubts Reshevsky really wrote the forward. Reshevsky claimed he wrote all his books, but rumor has it they were ghosted, mostly by Fred Reinfeld. National Master James Schroeder told of one incident where he questioned Reshevsky about something he (Reshevsky) had written in one of his books and Schroeder said Reshevsky had no idea what he was talking about. The incident lead Schroeder to believe Reshevsky had never even seen the book. But I am getting off the subject. 
     The big question is will this system work. I think it's probably on a par with the piece value beginners learn where, for example, a Queen is worth nine points and a Rook is worth five. They may know that if they have a Q vs. a R they have a four point advantage, but do they know how to take advantage of it in order to win? As I stated in the earlier post, by calling your attention to the different positional factors it will help you recognize the strengths and weaknesses of the position and so the system has some value. 
     In the following game we'll take a look at Horowitz' game against a master from the 1930s to the 1950s. Horowitz gives some pretty flimsy notes as they relate to applying the point count system, but what I really enjoyed was Horowitz' brilliant tactical play after Martin played 23...Kg7. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Brilliancy Prize by Boris Siff

     Boris Siff (May 6, 1911 – April 11,1998 in San Jose, California at the age of 86) was an interesting character whose main distinction was that he became a USCF Senior Master (over 2400) for the first time at the age of 72. 
     After a tournament in 1984 at the age of 72 Siff, suffering from leukemia, was having a meal with friends in a restaurant when he was taken by to the hospital where the doctor advised him that he should remain hospitalized, but he refused and returned to the tournament the next day. It should also be mentioned that Siff had open heart surgery a few months earlier and his spleen had been removed shortly before this tournament. 
     Aided by a couple of shots of cognac he defeated then Senior Master (later IM) Elliot Winslow to win the tournament. It was this event where he scored wins over two Experts (2000-2199), two National Masters (Fritzinger and Michael Tomey), Winslow and GM Peter Biyiasas that earned him the Senior Master rating. Unfortunately his rating dropped to 2399 (one point below the SM title) before his rating was published. At the time of his death his rating stood at 2266. 
     The only child of Russian emigrant parents, Siff was originally from the Bronx, New York City.  He received a four year scholarship to one of New York's finest private schools and joined the Empire City Chess Club in the Bronx. Arnold Denker wrote about Siff in My Best Chess Games 1929-1976 that Siff had a very enterprising style and was very original in his approach to the opening.  Denker added that when it came to openings Siff was "far ahead of the times.” Denker also wrote that, probably due to the demands of work, he completely disappeared from tournament play. Denker also believed had Siff continued tournament play in a few years he “would have contributed a great deal to the theory of the openings." 
     Siff, who retired as a machinist in 1976, faded into obscurity after his successes in winning the championships of Boston, New England and Florida in the 1950s. Before moving to California, Siff was the 1956 Massachusetts champion and in 1958 he tied for first with John Curdo and Orest Popovych. 
     At the end of his life Siff, who never married, was barely eking out an existence. One reason was that for many years he gambled on card games. At the insistence of a couple of friends he eventually gave up that vice and returned to his first vice, chess.
     The following game won Siff the brilliancy prize. His opponent was Dennis Fritzinger, the 1970/71 California State Champion. Fritzinger played in several Lone Pine Tournaments in the 1970s and was a contributor, along with Jude Acers, to the book Grandmaster Chess: The Book of the Louis D. Statham Lone Pine Masters-Plus Tournament 1975 by Robert E. Burger. The game is interesting because after black's seemingly innocuous 18th move a flurry of tactics followed.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Baden-Baden 1870

     This event was the first international tournament in Germany and the first to be interrupted by a war (the Franco-Prussian war).  Play was 20 moves per hour and the players had the option of using chess clocks or timing their games the old fashioned way by using hourglasses. 
     This was probably the strongest tournament ever held up until that time. The tournament lasted from July 18th to August 4th and consisted of ten masters playing a double round robin.
     The day after the tournament began, on July 19th, France declared war on Prussia and the southern German states, including the Grand Duchy of Baden, took the side of Prussia and its North German allies. At the outbreak of the war there was much discussion between the players as to whether or not the tournament should continue. The reason was because Baden-Baden is not far from the French border and there was a real possibility that the town could be occupied by the French. In the end the players opted to continue although according to press reports the atmosphere was tense. 
     After the fourth round, as a reservist officer Adolf Stern was called to active duty. He had only played four games, losing two on time (to Steinitz and Minckwitz), winning one (against Minckwitz) and drawing one (to Steinitz). His 14 forfeited games were counted as wins for his opponents. 
     The finish of Baden-Baden in August was near the end of hostilities. At one time artillery fire could be heard in Baden-Baden from a distance of 18 miles. 
     The French town of Sedan, near the Belgian border, was the decisive battle of the war and it began on the morning of September 1, 1870. The battle continued until 4:15 PM, when Napoleon, who had just arrived in Sedan, took command. Recognizing the hopelessness of the situation, he ordered the white flag to be hoisted. Terms of surrender were negotiated during the night and on the following day Napoleon, together with 83,000 troops, surrendered to the Germans. Sedan lies 234 miles from Baden-Baden and Stern, who participated in the battle, sent a post card on September 4th saying, "Emperor Napoleon has been mated." 
     The two main rivals were Anderssen and Steinitz. Anderssen created a minor sensation when he defeated Steinitz in both of their games but then lost both games against Gustav Neumann. 
     After ten rounds Neumann was leading Anderssen and Blackburne by a half point followed by Steinitz a point behind first. Then Neumann faded, losing two games to Steinitz and one each to Rosenthal and de Vere. 
     Meanwhile Steinitz had come alive, scoring 5.5 points in seven rounds and going into the last round was half point behind the leader Anderssen. In the last round Steintz' opponent was de Vere against whom he could only draw. 
     Anderssen was paired against Louis Paulsen who had been having a poor tournament, but was still one of the best players in the world at the time. It was his last round win against Paulsen that gave Anderssen first place and it was a real slugfest! 
     Ludek Pachman wrote some truly great books, especially on tactics and strategy, but when he annotated this game in the entertaining Decisive Games in Chess History he did a really poor job. His brief notes were primarily based on the result and he ignored almost all the possibilities for both sides to the point that his notes were pretty much useless. A fairly common trait in many of those old books! 

1) Anderssen 13.0 
2) Steinitz 12.5 
3-4) Neumann and Blackburne 12.0 
5) Paulsen 9.5 
6-7) De Vere and Winawer 8.5 
8-9) Rosenthal and Minckwitz 7.0 
10) Stern 1.5