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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Western Open at Cedar Point, Ohio

Cedar Point today
    My guess is that none of the visitors to Cedar Point know, or care, that it was once the venue for the Western Open Chess Championship, the forerunner of the U.S. Open. 

     Cedar Point is a 364-acre amusement park located on a Lake Erie peninsula in Sandusky, Ohio. Opened in 1870, it is the second-oldest operating amusement park in the United States behind Lake Compounce, an amusement park located in Bristol and Southington, Connecticut that was opened in 1846 and is the oldest continuously-operating amusement park in the United States.
     Known as "America's Roller Coast", today the park features a world-record 72 rides, including 16 roller coasters – the second-most in the world behind Six Flags Magic Mountain. Other attractions near the park include a one-mile-long white-sand beach, an outdoor water park called Cedar Point Shores, an indoor water park called Castaway Bay, two marinas, and several nearby resorts.
     It is the only amusement park in the world with five roller coasters taller than 200 feet and is the only park with roller coasters in all four height classifications. Cedar Point also received the Golden Ticket Award for "Best Amusement Park in the World" from Amusement Today for 16 consecutive years from 1997-2013. It is the most visited seasonal amusement park in the United States with an estimated 3.6 million visitors in 2016.
Sea Swing amusement ride
    In the mid-19th century, the south shore region of Lake Erie was a popular vacation destination for the emerging middle class in the United States. The lake's islands, such as Kelleys Island and South Bass Island, were gaining a reputation for their freshwater bathing resorts and the Cedar Point peninsula was originally known for its fishing. Railroad and steamship travel supported an emerging tourism industry, and rapid development of the area began.

     In the 1860s during the American Civil War, housing for a battery of four field artillery pieces was constructed at the tip of the peninsula. It was used to defend a prison for Confederate soldiers on nearby Johnson's Island. Louis Zistel, a German immigrant, built two boats to transport the prisoners. In 1870, he began to ferry locals to the Cedar Point peninsula, which was regaining popularity as a summer picnic destination. Zistel opened a bathhouse on the north shore of the peninsula and the same year built a beer garden with a small dance floor. This marked the beginning of commercial tourism on Cedar Point.
Bathing beauty

     In 1882 eight new bathhouses, a dance hall and wooden walkways on the beach were built. They were a success and offering were expanded every year. In 1888 a two-story theater and concert hall with a bowling alley and photographer's studio were built.
     The first amusement ride was a water toboggan consisting of a ramp that launched riders into Lake Erie, opened in 1890. The first roller coaster opened in 1892 and stood 25 feet high and had a top speed of only 10 miles per hour. There were two tracks; one for the ride down and the other for the train to be hauled back to the top by the ride attendant. In 1897 the peninsula was transformed from a picnic ground into a nationally recognized amusement park and resort destination.
     The historic Hotel Breakers opened in 1905 as one of the largest hotels in the Midwest; it had 600 guest rooms and a cafe that could seat 400 guests. A new area of the park called "Amusement Circle" was designed in 1906 to link the pier to the beach. It was located southeast of the Coliseum, a large arena built the same year that featured a grand ballroom and other attractions. 
    Roller coasters grew as did other rides, but the peninsula was primarily marketed as a bathing resort complete with shows, exhibits, motion pictures, and other forms of entertainment and the park's rides were not emphasized. 
     And that's how it was when 14 players met at the Hotel Breakers for the Western Open in 1925. I am not sure how easy travel to Cedar Point was in those days. For example, if you traveled by car, you could purchase George F. Cram Company's Official Paved Road Atlas of the United States and it was only in 1925 that the numbering of Federal highways began. Commercial air travel was a long way off, so I am guessing the best way to Cedar Point was by train.
     Carlos Torre was planning to defend his title, but instead went back to Mexico where he gave a series of exhibitions. This tournament was also the first time that non-Western state players were encouraged to attend and the result was that the event was eventually to morph into the US Open.
     The tournament turned out to be a battle between two outsiders from New York, Abraham Kupchik and Charles Jaffe, against the “local” player Samuel Factor from Chicago. Another New Yorker, 22-year old Herman Steiner's name appears, but it wasn't until 4 years later when he tied for first in the New York State Championship and also in 1929 finished first in the Premier Reserves at Hastings that he became one of the country's top players. Steiner left New York for Los Angeles in 1932 and that pretty much put him out of the loop for serious play which centered in New York. Nevertheless, Steiner performed an important task in popularizing chess in the West, especially among the Hollywood set.
     Marvin Palmer, the Detroit powerhouse, had played in the Western several times since 1913 and not done especially well, but in this one he has one draw and seven wins; a pace that was too good to keep up in the last five rounds were he was to meet the other top players. Losses to Factor and Jaffe put and end to whatever hopes he had. 
     In the end Kupchik prevailed, thanks to defeating both of his main rivals and finishing with seven wins in a row.

1) Abraham Kupchik 11.5
2) Samuel Factor 11.0
3) Charles Jaffe 10.5
4) Marvin C Palmer 9.0
5) Irving Spero 8.5
6-7) Albert Margolis and Herman Steiner 8.0
8) John Winter 7.0
9) William Widmeyer 5.0
10) Marshall J. Maxfield 3.5 1
1-12) Andrew H. Palmi and Robert Scrivener 3.0
13) Robert S. Goerlich 2.5
14) Theodore Barron 0.5

     I have posted about “Uncle Bob” Scrivener HERE. Marshall J. Maxfield (April 18, 1897 – February 10, 1935, 37 years old) was Brooklyn Chess Club champion in 1925. He was a teacher at the Haaren Cooperative High School in Manhattan and formerly a member of the faculty of Pratt Institute, died of pneumonia at his home after a short illness.
     Maxfield, who was an electrical engineer, was born in California and was educated at the University of Southern California and Penn State College. He was for a while connected with the statistical department of the' New York Light and Power Company. He was a member of the Brooklyn Chess Club, Long Island Bridge League, Kings Highway Democrat Club, Andrew Jackson Club and the New York High School Teachers Association.
     He was survived by his wife, Macedonia, and his funseral was held in his home at 9:30am with a requiem mass at Our Lady Help of Christians R. C. Church; he is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery.
     Regarding the opening employed by Maxfield in this game, according to Wikipedia this exchange leads to simple and clear cut positions where white makes no effort to exploit the advantage of the first move, and has often chosen this line with expectation of an early draw, and indeed draws often occur if neither side breaks the symmetry.
     The article adds that despite the symmetrical P-structure, white cannot force a draw. To create genuine winning chances, white will often play c2–c4 at some stage to put pressure on Black's d5-pawn. Black can give white an Isolated d-Pawn by capturing on c4, but this gives white's pieces greater freedom, which may lead to attacking chances.
     If white avoids c2–c4 is not played the sides have two main piece setups: White may put his pieces on Nf3, Bd3, Bg5, Nc3, Qd2, or the QN can go to d2 and white can support the center with c3 and perhaps play Qb3. When the QN is on c3, the KN may go to e2 when the enemy B and N can be kept out of the key squares e4 and g4 by f3. When the N is on c3 in the first and last of the above strategies, white may choose either short or long castling. The positions are so symmetrical that the options and strategies are the same for both sides. Another way to unbalance the position is for either side is to castle on opposite sides.
          From the above explanation it should be clear that the exchange variation is not so simple as it might at first appear.

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