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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Fifty Years Ago

     At this time 50 years ago I was anxiously awaiting for Wednesday, July 19th to roll around. That's because I was a Navy Hospital Corpsman serving with the Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic and stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina with the Second Battalion, Second Marines.  That was the date I was to receive my release from active duty and return to civilian life. The actual discharge would have to wait two more years when my reserve duty time was completed. 
     It was exciting to think that I could also return to tournament chess. The only serious chess I had played was in a match that pitted North Carolina against Virginia. All I remember is that I played some guy rated in the mid-1900s and lost. There was also one tournament in Raliegh, North Carolina in 1966 or 1967, but I don't remember much about it except that Norman Whitaker showed up selling a book he had co-authored.  As it was to turn out, civilian life never allowed time for much tournament chess and so postal play became the norm. 
     The year 1967 saw some important tournaments. Some big ones were Mar del Plata, Maribor, Monte Carlo, Montevideo, Palma de Mallorca, the Soviet Championship, Venice, Winnipeg, Reggio Emila, Polancia Zdroj, Sarajevo, Skopje, Sochi, the Sousse Interzonal, the Capablanca Memorial, Hastings, and of course Fischer was the US champion again. 
     It was also the year that Fischer walked out of the Interzonal at Sousse, Tunisia. He had scored 8.5-1.5 and was in first place when things stuck a snag. His observance of the Worldwide Church of God's seventh-day Sabbath was honored by the organizers, but deprived Fischer of several rest days, which led to a scheduling dispute causing him to forfeit two games in protest and later withdraw. He thus eliminated himself from the 1969 World Championship cycle. Since Fischer had completed fewer than half of his scheduled games, all of his results were annulled. 
     The world champion was some guy known for conservative, cautious, and highly defensive play who did more to dampen his opponent's chances than make use of his own. He very rarely went on the offensive unless he felt his position was completely secure and usually won by waiting until his opponent made a mistake. His name was Tigran Petrosian. Thankfully, Boris Spassky ousted him, but we had to wait until 1969. 
     Down in North Carolina there was no state championship held in 1967, so the 1966 champion, David Steele, still reigned. Come to think of it, I played Steele in that tournament in Raliegh and remember how gracious he was in the post-mortem when we discussed my crushing defeat. Meanwhile, in Ohio Tom Wozney was the champ. 
     Here is one of my half dozen games that have survived over the last half century.
 

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