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Friday, July 7, 2017

Match: Sal Matera vs. George Kramer

Matera - a recent photo
     Salvatore Matera (February 5, 1951) was one of those promising young players of the 1970s who gave up chess for a successful business career. 
     Matera was an early member of the famous “Hawthorne Chess Club,” which used to meet in John Collins’ Brooklyn apartment on Hawthorne Street. The long held belief is Collins was Fischer's teacher and coach, but his first coach was actually Carmine Nigro
     Collins' apartment was frequently a hang out for, besides Fischer, William Lombardy, Robert Byrne, Donald Byrne, Raymond Weinstein, Salvatore Matera and Lewis Cohen. Mostly what they did there was eat cakes, pies and cookies, play skittles, analyze together and maybe look at a few openings. 
     Lombardy wrote, “Collins was not in any way capable of teaching me, the Byrne Brothers, Raymond Weinstein, let alone Bobby Fischer. All had entered his home in friendship and were already superior masters, far past the ability of Collins to impart anything but trivial knowledge...I cannot imagine even today that anyone could consider that Collins had the strength of knowledge to coach the champion that Bobby already was by the time he reached Collins apartment! Somehow the myth of Collins' professional skills persists. Back then because Collins was in a wheelchair, I did not desire to burst his bubble... [but that] with my misplaced sympathy for Collins gone, I attempt to correct and inform.” I have no idea why Lombardy called his sympathy for Collins “misplaced.” I met Lombardy back in the mid-1970s and he was gregarious and always willing to chat and pose for photos with admirers. But, it seems in these latter days he is disillusioned and bitter...just my opinion. 
      In a 1986 interview for Chess Life, Collins said that when Fischer first came to his apartment in the summer of 1956 Collins was studying a position in one of his correspondence games and Fischer quickly pointed out possibilities that Collins had not seen and he was not surprised when Fischer won the 1957-58 US Championship. 
     Matera was US Junior Champion in 1967 and was awarded the IM title in 1976. In 1980 he played in an 11-player international tournament in New York. That event was won by GM Murray Chandler and IM Dr. Karl Burger, whose tie with Chandler was a surprise. They finished ahead of guys like Dzindzichashvili, Shamkovich, Mednis, Ermenkov, Keene and Alburt. Matera tied for places 9-10 with Alburt with a score of 4-6. The last tournament that I could locate that he played in was a Blitz/Knockout in New York in 1993 that was won by Anand. Matera, rated 2420, was eliminated in the first round when he lost two games to Anand. 
     Today Matera, a Columbia University of New York graduate, is retired from his career as a Senior Technology Manager of Risk Management where he was involved in front-office and back office financial services applications. During his business career he managed successful development and deployment of applications running on various hardware platforms, operating systems, software platforms and databases. 
     On the US chess scene in the late 1960s and 1970s Matera was an extremely promising young master. His record in the 1974 World Student Team Olympiad at Teeside, England was outstanding. There he impressively defeated GM Gyula Sax, a top Hungarian player of the day, and Yuri Balashov, a strong Soviet GM. He also was impressive in 1975 appearance in an international tournaments at Birmingham. There he tied with Anthony Miles and Jonathan Mestel for second place behind Milan Matulovic. Matera was also in the 1977 US championship; it was his only appearance in that event. In that tournament he scored +2 -3 =8 to tie with Larry Christiansen for eighth place (out of 14). He also participated in a number of the old Lone Pine Tournaments. 
     In late 1973 Matera, the 22‐year‐old Marshall Chess Club champion, played a match against the veteran George Kramer, the Manhattan Chess Club champion, for the Thomas Emory Cup and an all expenses‐paid entry into an international tournament. 
     Thomas Emory and Col. John D. Mathas were the co-founding fathers of the US Armed Forces Chess Championship. They joined forces in 1958-1959 to create what would later become the US Armed Forces Chess Championship. They faced an uphill struggle from Pentagon leadership and the Department of Defense who dealt with them at arms length. Government officials continually waffled between lukewarm support and none at all. Eventually, Emory passed away leaving Colonel Mathias with the sole task of selling the championship to the DoD. Ultimately, he succeeded in getting the DoD endorsement from 1961-1967 but then they backed away again. In the end Mathas got a stomach ulcer from struggling with the DoD and he would later stop fighting with them because of failing health. 
     Back to the match...it was scheduled for four games, but Matera clinched the match victory and along with the cup and trip and a $1,000 prize after scoring 2.5-0.5. Kramer had to console himself with a $600 prize. 
     The match was not an auspicious beginning of a comeback for the 44‐year‐old Kramer, who had neglected chess for chemistry in the peak of his career.   Kramer (May 15, 1929) won the 1951-52 Manhattan Chess Club championship and the state of New Jersey championship in 1964, 1967 and 1969. 
     Matera, on the other hand, showed a superior grasp of opening play, obtaining clear positional advantages out of his English Opening in the first game and against the King's Indian Defense in the third. Although his technical execution was a bit shaky in the first game, there was no wasted motion in his end‐game play in the final game, given here. 

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