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Saturday, October 28, 2017

Zook the Book

    IM Bernard Zuckerman (born March 31, 1943 in Brooklyn, New York) competed in seven US Championships (1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1974, 1977 and 1978), his best result being a tie for fourth place with William Addison in 1965. He served as a member of the US team in the World Student Team Championships in 1964, 1967 and 1969. At Brooklyn College, Zuckerman was a prominent player, along with Raymond Weinstein, on its national champion college chess team.
     For more than forty years, Zuckerman was well-known authority on openings and according to Arthur Bisguier, his opening knowledge was second only to that of Bobby Fischer. Zuckerman, one of Fischer's close friends, was 22 days younger than Fischer and he often told Fischer that as soon as he got to be as old as him, he would be as strong as him, too.
     So profound was Zuckerman's opening knowledge that at the 1959 US Open in Omaha, Nebraska, Bisguier, who won the tournament, often asked Zuckerman, then only a Class B player, what opening to play and then followed his advice. Perhaps the only “hole” in Zuckerman's opening knowledge was the time Bisguier tried to surprise him by not playing one of his usual variations on the black side of a Ruy Lopez. According to Bisguier, Zuckerman disappeared for 45 minutes, but when he returned to the board he seemed pretty well booked up; it made Bisguier suspicious about what Zuckerman had been doing during that 45 minutes. At the 1967 Students Olympiad W.R. Hartson wrote that Zuckerman had been quite critical of some British analysis on the Sicilian Dragon and found his arrogance and general obnoxiousness quite amusing while most of the other English players found him unbearable at first but grew to like him as time passed.
     By 1964, Zuckerman, a very good blitz player, was strong enough to play in the US Championship. He would play about twelve to fifteen moves, get a clear advantage and then offer a draw which was usually accepted. Bisguier observed that he was a tough opponent to beat, but his weakness was that he never tried to “milk” good positions to their potential. Bisguier believed it was more a matter of temperament than lack of technique. Too many draws was also likely the reason he never got the GM title. His propensity to play a few good opening moves and then offer a draw ultimately resulted in his not receiving invitations to international tournaments. He pretty much abandoned chess in 1990.
      Zuckerman is also well remembered for an incident at the international tournament in Cleveland (Ohio) 1975 where he threw a Bishop at a noisy spectator. Zuckerman kept asking the guy, who was a real butthead, to be quiet and when he wouldn't, Zuckerman threw a Bishop at him. When the TD tried to retrieve the B, the spectator wouldn't return it.  I witnessed the incident and would describe the "throw" as more of a "toss."  The TD got a Bishop from another set and things returned to normal.  I remember that in this tournament the chess clocks were the fairly new Heuer Champion clocks and they were very noisy when the button was pushed.  When a spectator mentioned it to Andy Soltis his comment was, "They sound like a time bomb going off."
Heuer Champion chess clock

     The following game against Duncan Suttles was played in the 1965 US Championship and was one of the tournament's more exciting games. Bobby Fischer had skipped the 1964 Interzonal in a dispute over world championship procedures and had dropped from sight for all of 1964 and much of 1965, but he was back for this championship. His lack of sharpness, especially in tactical acuity, began to show up.
     In the first round his consecutive win streak was broken when he drew with William Addison, but the next day he beat Duncan Suttles, a San Francisco-born player who by then was planning to settle in Canada. Fischer then defeated Evans, Benko and Zuckerman. But then disaster struck when he made a simple oversight against Robert Byrne, only the second game Fischer had ever lost in a championship.
     The next day Reshevsky was out for revenge because in the 1963-64 event where Fischer went 11-0 he had swindled Reshevsky. As they began the game both players were cordial to each other for the first time since their aborted match four years before. Reshevsky scored a smashing victory when he won a Q for a R then played the ending flawlessly. The win caused Reshevsky to comment, the "myth of his invincibility has been shattered," adding that, "It can be safely predicted that future US championships will be even closer." Still, Fischer finished first by a full point. And, Reshevsky was wrong.  Fischer was to play in only one more to play in only more championship, in 1966, where he was undefeated and finished first by two points.

1) Fischer 8.5-2.5
2-3) R.Bryne and Reshevsky 7.5-3.5
4-5) Addison and Zuckerman 6.5-4.5
6) Rossolimo 6.0-5.0
7-9) Benko, Evans and Saidy 5.0-6.0
10-11) Bisguier and Burger 3.0-8.0
12) Suttles 2.5-8.5

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