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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Snots At The Chess Board

    Away from the board Robert J. Fischer may have been a real snot, but when his opponent's sat down to play him, they knew his behavior would be impeccable. The same can't be said for everybody. 
     I remember the 1975 US Championship where Reshevsky kept rattling gum wrappers and coughing when it was his opponent's (Milan Vukcevich) turn to move. As for Vukcevich, he got a chuckle out of Reshevsky's antics. Then there was Reshevsky's attempt to hinder Benko from punching the clock by holding the button down with his finger when Benko got into time trouble in their last round game. Not to be flustered, Benko used simple physics...the force generated by his moving fist easily overcame the pressure exerted by Reshevsky's tiny finger.
     Famous incidents of bad behavior at the board are former world champion Alekhine resigning against Ernst Grunfeld at Vienna in 1922 and throwing his King across the room. A Canadian IM urinating on the board at a local tournament. In 1981 John Fedorowicz and Andras Adorján got into a fistfight at the Edward Lasker Memorial in New York. Fedorowicz was upset that Adorján beat him when Adorján was drawing all his earlier games.
    In 2003, Kasparov lost to Radjabov and preferred to walk away and let his time expire rather than speak the dreaded words, “I resign.” When Radjabov was awarded the brilliancy prize, Kasparov pulled a Kanye West when he walked up on the stage, grabbed the microphone, and launched a 10 minute tirade saying the award was a public insult and humiliation because Radjabov was completely lost in the game. 
     Or Korchnoi walking away without out a word when he lost to Irina Krush at Gibraltar in 2007. Then later seeing her analyzing the game told her, “It’s good to know theory, but you should learn how to play chess as well.” Sometimes it's just the refusal to shake hands at the start of the game.
     There were a couple of incidents at the 1969 California Championship which was won by USCF Master Donald Blohm. The Hong Kong flu struck before the tournament began. The 1968 flu pandemic which broke out in 1968 and 1969 killed an estimated one million people worldwide. Because it originated in Hong Kong, the pandemic was called the Hong Kong flu...makes sense. The flu prevented Charles Henin, Tibor Weinberger, George Hunnex and Rex Wilcox from playing. John Blackstone got sick, but managed to finish.
     Going into the last round Blohm only needed a half point to clench first, but things were more complicated for his opponent Ray Schutt. If Schutt won he'd finish first. If he drew he'd be tied for second. If he lost he'd be tied for third.
     Blohm played 1.e4. Not knowing Blohm's intentions, Schutt didn't move, but asked Blohm if he was playing for a draw. Blohm then claimed the question was, in effect, a draw offer which he accepted and the TD upheld his claim. The rule had long been that any time you asked your opponent what his intentions were, it constituted a draw offer. But, it didn't end there. After the TD's decision Schutt played 1...g6 and then wrote a letter of protest to the president of the California Chess Federation, Isaac Kashdan, the Executive Director of the USCF, Ed Edmondson, and to the chairmen of the Northern and Southern California tournament committees plus the players in the tournament. His protest was overruled and Blohm was State Champ on a technicality, not a win over the board.
     There was another incident involving Schutt. In his game against Jude Acers, Schutt was a Pawn down, but still had some play when they reached adjournment. Schutt recorded his move, placed in in the envelope and stopped his clock. Acers claimed the procedure was illegal because the envelope was not sealed and so the move had not been completed when the clock was stopped. When the TD arrived Acers claimed the game, but the TD ruled Schutt should be penalized 20 minutes on his clock, not forfeited. In a snit, Acers refused to play the game out at resumption and was forfeited. Apparently Acers went home after that because he was forfeited in the remaining two rounds. In addition to the game forfeits, Acers also forfeited his sixth place prize money.
     Raymond W. Schutt was born in 1944 and grew up in Hayward, California. Graduating from high school in 1962, he studied math and received Bachelors and Masters degrees from San Jose State University after which he had a career in the aerospace industry. Never more than a journeyman Master, Schutt had a life-long passion for chess and became one of the strongest players in the area, playing in the California State Closed Championship several times in the late 1960s. His grandest achievement was becoming US Senior Open Champion in 1995 when he defeated GM Eduard Gufeld 2-0 in a blitz playoff for the title. He was also an accomplished correspondence player. He passed away in Boulder City, Nevada in 2007.

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