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Friday, March 29, 2019

An Interview With Sammy Rzeszewski

     According to an article in the Sunday December 12, 1920 issue of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle the 8-1//2 year old Samuel Rzeszewski, Boy Chess Prodigy and Boxer who may become great, like other boys his age, enjoyed riding his bike, roller skating and other sports and was a woman-hater.
     Note: Was Reshevsky (he changed the spelling of his name about 1925) really eight years old at the time of the interview? Andy Soltis has claimed in Chess Life that Reshevsky told a number of people that he was actually born in 1909. In an interview with Hanon Russell the year before his death, however, Reshevsky stated that the 1911 date was accurate. For pronunciation of Rzeszewski click HERE
    Sammy had given his first American simultaneous exhibition witnessed by over 500 spectators on November 9, 1920, against 20 officers and cadets at the Military Academy at West Point. Dressed in a sailor suit, he won 19 games and drew one. As a result, he became an overnight sensation. A few weeks before the interview with the Eagle he was shown three difficult chess problems by Frank Marshall and he solved them all in 3 minutes and 25 seconds. Marshall gave him a gold medal.
The boarding house today
     Eagle columnist Ed Hughes wrote that he hadn’t been in the boy’s home for more than 15 minutes before he realized that while Sammy was a chess prodigy, in other areas he was just a regular kid. Hughes had an appointment with Sammy and his manager at ten in the morning, but added that evidently appointments meant nothing. When he arrived at 22 West 120th Street in Manhattan he was met by the proprietor of the strictly kosher boarding house and informed that Sammy was not out of bed yet. 

     While awaiting the arrival of Sammy, Hughes was informed that Sammy was not just a chess prodigy, but that he had a “sharp brain for most anything.” What had convinced the landlord was that when Sammy’s parents were inspecting the premises prior to renting the rooms, Sammy had told them, “Go no further. You won’t find a better bargain than these.” 
     The article explained that his parents were Orthodox Jews and quite strict and then gave readers some examples of their observance of and eating habits on the Sabbath. Sammy was even more strict than his parents which explains why they would not stay at the fashionable downtown hotels. Sammy positively refused to eat non-Kosher food. He studied the Talmud every day and was amazingly familiar with it. For example, the previous night a Jewish professor had given him a difficult problem that most of the adults could not answer, but to everyone’s amazement, Sammy gave the correct answer in about 30 seconds. 
     As is well known Reshevsky never played on the Sabbath. There was a brief article in the August 14, 1959 issue of the Jewish Press about an “incident” concerning a tournament at the Log Cabin Chess Club which was at the home of E. Forry Laucks
     According to Batgirl at Chess.com, the 1959 event was played in both Laucks’ home and the NY Chess Club and was to include the country’s top 10 players. The schedule included games on Friday night and Saturday, which meant Reshevsky couldn’t play. Laucks wouldn’t change the schedule, but at a player’s meeting it was decided to take a vote with the stipulation that any arrangements that allowed Reshevsky to play had to be unanimous. One player vetoed Sammy on “personal grounds.” 
     The players, in order of finish, were: Lombardy, Benko, Evans, Bisguier and R. Byrne, Kalme, Shipman, Cross, Mednis and Sherwin. It would be interesting to know who the dissenter was! 
     Frank Brady, Business Manager for the USCF, denied that there was any discrimination and said that “many of the players are Jewish.” While that was true, none were Orthodox
American Hebrew magazine 1920
     Back to the Jewish Press article: For his part Reshevsky was bitter and felt the schedule was a personal insult and pointed out that in all the years he had been playing, he was never faced with breaking the Sabbath, “not even in Russia.” Oddly, the Jewish Press concluded with the claim that Reshevsky became World Champion in 1935! 
     Now we return to the Eagle’s article. Like most boys his age, Sammy hated women and would not allow a woman to touch him if he could avoid it. As an example, while traveling in Europe a titled woman once offered him a diamond bracelet for a handshake and kiss. Sammy pointed to a friend and told the lady she could get the handshake and kiss for nothing from his friend. And, pointing to another friend, he told the lady he would pay her for them. 
     In another instance, one time he was riding his bike in front of his apartment when a woman jokingly tried to take it from him. Sammy let her have it and ran into the house very angry. When it was explained to him the woman was only joking, he replied, “I know that, but I don’t even want to joke with them (meaning women)!” The writer was also informed that Sammy was a “good little fighter” who could more than hold his own against the other boys in the neighborhood; in fact, they were afraid of him. 
     He wasn’t much on obedience to strangers, but always asked his parents about whether he could do even the smallest things because according to the Talmud, he was to honor his father and mother. He obeyed their commands instantly. 
     Sammy realized he was different from the other boys and insisted that he play with them without letting them know he was famous for his chess. He once asked the landlord’s son why he played with the other kids, “You can learn from me. They will teach you nothing.” 
     Finally at about 11am Sammy arrived to meet his interviewer; he was half dressed and wearing a large brown cap and first went into another room to get his daily lemon. At the time he didn’t understand English, but could speak Yiddish, French and German. The express purpose of the American tour was to obtain funds for his education as he had no schooling except private tutoring. 
     Sammy’s manager explained that he had recently beaten Morris Shapiro (1903-1996), youthful champion of the Manhattan Chess Club, and it was a very important game because the folks at the club were skeptical of Sammy’s abilities. Even Sammy realized it was important and had told his manager that for the first time he had achieved a notable victory. 
     It was mentioned that Sammy had two older brothers, one of which was in the Polish army, but they were not as gifted mentally. One genealogy website I checked listed the names of his parents and for siblings it showed “Brother of, private, private, private, private and private.” I take that to mean he had five siblings. Another site incorrectly states he had one brother. 
    The article also mentioned that while in Vienna a representative of the Emperor had informed Sammy's manager that His Majesty wanted to play a game and as a matter of tact, Sammy would have to let the Emperor win; he flatly refused. 
     Sammy’s goal was to become a professor in mathematics or some science, but first wanted to become World Champion. Even at that early date he thought he was ready to meet Lasker or Capablanca! 
     As interviewers often do, Sammy was asked what he thought of America and American women. His answer was, “I like America better than any country I’ve ever been in. It’s so big and open and the people are so lively. As chess players they are passably good. I won’t answer you about women. Don’t you know yourself?” Sammy’s manager told the interviewer that while he appeared indifferent to women he had recently heard him remark, “They are very beautiful here.” 
     At the time of the interview with Hughes, Sammy had shunned publicity and it had been nearly impossible for anyone to even get his autograph so Hughes was surprised when Sammy autographed his photo for the paper. 
     Here is Reshevsky’ game against Shapiro that convinced the Manhattan Chess Club members that the stories about Reshevsky’s prowess were true. 
     The 4th USCF rating list was published in March of 1952 and a list of Masters Emeritus was included. The title was conferred on players who performed at the master level prior to 1921. The players included Jacob Bernstein, Roy Black, Adolph Fink, Albert Fox, Herman Hahlbohm, Hermann Helms, Lewis Isaacs, Charles Jacobs, Abraham Kupchik, Edward Lasker, W.R. Lovegrove, William Napier, Frank E. Perkins, Harold Phillips, William Ruth, Morris Shapiro, Sydney Sharp, and I.S. Turover. 


Thursday, March 28, 2019

Double Rook Sacrifice

     I have done some posts on Grigory Levenfish (March 21, 1889 – February 9, 1961) before. 
Botvinnink's Early Rival 
Levenfish - Botvinnik Match 1937 
Evaluating a Position the Levenfish Way 

     I have his Selected Game and Memoirs, but it’s in Russian so I can’t read it, but am able to play over the games and variations. In describing Levenfish’s play in The Soviet School of Chess, Kotov and Yudovich wrote, “Levenfish’s style in the middlegame is universal. He has an excellent command of the methods of positional maneuvering and a keen grasp of strategy...His chief strong point however is tactics. A resourceful tactician, he plans complex and disguised combinations, foresees combinational attacks long ahead of time, sets ingenious traps and conceives combinational blows which at first glance appear impossible.” 
     Other terms used to describe his play include terms such as smashing attack, a stunning blow, a sledge hammer blow, etc. Who wouldn’t want to play over his games? Unfortunately no collection of his games exist in English. 
     So, when he met Alekhine in the following game, you know there will be fireworks. The event was a 1st Category tournament (modern day USCF Expert) in St. Petersburg, held in March-April 1912. Alekhine finished a half point ahead of Levenfish followed by Ilya Rabinovich and Peter Romanovsky who tied for 3rd and 4th. 
     The game is a classic double Rook sacrifice. Double Rook sacrifices are rare and in most cases they start with either ...Qxb2 by black or Qxb7 by white. In return for the two Rooks the attacker gains one or two tempos that the opponent spends capturing the Rooks and then is unable to get the Queen back to defend himself. In the meantime the extra tempo or two is all it takes to secure a winning attack. 
     The opening is a Schmid Benoni which is basically a normal Benoni where White hasn’t played c2-c4. In 1960 German GM Lothar Schmid, played it against world champion Mikhail Botvinnik. Alekhine didn’t think too highly of such defenses, but that was before hypermodern concepts were understood. As for the Schmid Benoni, in general it’s thought to be sound, but a bit better for white. 
     I am experimenting with the game viewer from Chess Pastebin. It’s just a web page that allows you to post games that you will then be able to share either on a web page or with a link. It’s been around since 2006 and the interface is nice. If readers have a preference for this one or the one from Caissa’s Web just make a comment.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Cleveland Plain Dealer International 1975

     In 1975 the Cleveland Plain Dealer sponsored a tournament held on the campus of Cleveland State University in Cleveland, Ohio that has long been forgotten. 
     About the only thing anybody remembers is the Bishop throwing incident involving Bernard Zuckerman and a spectator. Zuckerman kept asking a butthead spectator who was sitting near him and yapping away to be quiet and when he wouldn't, it was reported that Zuckerman threw a Bishop at the guy. I was there and, yes, it really happened, but to be honest “throw” is too strong a word. Zuckerman actually tossed it rather softly. The guy wouldn’t return the Bishop so the TD got a replacement. 
     Other things I remember: the chess clocks were the fairly new Heuer Champion clocks and they were very noisy when the button was pushed causing Andy Soltis to comment "They sound like a time bomb going off." Nineteen year old Larry Christiansen (born June 27, 1956,) who was to go on to win the US Championship in 1980, 1983, and 2002, was impressive. 
     And, there was an incident involving GM Jim Tarjan. I was watching a National Master explaining a position to a small group when Tarjan walked by on his way to the coffee machine. Tarjan stopped and looked at the board for a few seconds and moved on. On his way back the Master was asking, “What can black do?” Tarjan never said a word but he had seen more in those few brief seconds than the Master had in the several minutes he was explaining the position. Tarjan bashed out a few moves that refuted the Master’s analysis then returned to his game leaving the Master sitting there nonplussed. GMs see a lot in a short amount of time...amazing! 
     You will search in vain for information on this tournament which was won by Hungarian GM Istvan Csom (born June 2, 1940). My set of tournament bulletins has long disappeared. James R. Schroeder published a book on it back in 1975, but that’s about it. Even Chess365 only has a handful of games from the event and it’s not listed at all in Chessgames.com. 
     I can’t be sure of the order of finish (except for Csom), but the players were: Istvan Csom, Florian Gheorghiu, Predrag Ostojic, Miguel Quinteros, Julio Kaplan, Edmar Mednis, Leonid Shamkovich, Eugenio Torre, James Tarjan, Andrew Soltis, Bernard Zuckerman, Larry Christiansen, John Grefe and Peter Biyiasas. Personally, I figured Shamkovich would do better, but his performance was disappointing.  I was also pulling for Tarjan because I liked his aggressive style, but he, too, wasn't especially impressive.  Andy Soltis was a nice guy...very friendly.
     The opponents in following game were John Grefe and Edmar Mednis. John Grefe (September 6, 1947 - December 22, 2013) was an IM whose best result was a tie for first with Lubomir Kavalek in the 1973 US Championship. His style was exciting and he was, I think, of GM strength, but in those days the title was a lot harder to get. Chessmetrics assigns him a rating of 2655 in 1973. Other players in that grouping includes the likes of Borislav Ivkov, Laszlo Szabo, Mark Taimanov, Wolfgang Uhlmann, Zoltan Ribli and Fridrik Olafsson. The closest Grefe ever got to international tournaments was at the Lone Pine events in the 1970s. He died of liver cancer in San Francisco, California. 
Nehru suit
     Jeremy Silman told how when as a youngster he met Grefe and asked if he could show him one of his games. Grefe asked him, “Where’s your money?” He did the same thing at the US Championship in 1975.  He was watching a post mortem and was asked what he thought about the position. His answer was, “Show me some money.”  He was ignored. I once ran into Grefe on the streets of Chicago near one of the chess clubs where he was playing a match against someone, possibly Richard Verber (I can’t remember). I was somewhat taken aback by Grefe’s filthy all white Nehru suit. Grefe wasn’t a bad guy, he just believed he should get paid for his opinion and he lived like a vagabond, at one time worked picking apples and was a follower of an Indian guru. 
     Edmar Mednis (March 22, 1937 – February 13, 2002) was born in Latvia and was a popular and respected chess writer.  Mednis' family were refugees in 1944 during World War II. As displaced persons, Edmar and his two sisters, with parents Edvin and Marita Mednis, were permitted to emigrate to the United States in 1950. 
     Mednis was trained as a chemical engineer, then worked as a stockbroker, but became best known as a chess author. He wrote 26 chess books and hundreds of chess articles. Mednis finished second in the 1955 World Junior Championship behind Boris Spassky (the two drew their game) and was the first player to beat Bobby Fischer in a US Championship. He died of complications from pneumonia. 
     According to Robert Byrne, Mednis often provoked his opponents to countergambits such as the Two Knights Defense so that he could seize material and show off his considerable defensive skill. But against opponents who refused to take risks, Mednis wouldn’t either and preferred to develop logically and to sniff out positional weaknesses. 
     Suspicious of hectic, early attacks, he was convinced that solid, conservative preparation was necessary before launching aggression. With Black, Mednis distrusted loose or overextended P-formations and avoided them by setting up hedgehog P-formations confined to three ranks. Typical of this concept as black was his predilection for the Rauzer Sicilian. 
     A word about the following game...Robert Byrne’s annotations in the New York Times are in some places the direct opposite of Stockfish 10’s. So, who (or what) are you going to believe? Not being strong enough to know, I have included the opinion of both in the notes. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Brilliancy By Ufimtsev

     One of the chess books in my library is an old book by Irving Chernev titled The Russians Play Chess that was first published in 1947.  Chernev put together over 50 games by 40 prominent Soviet players of the period such as Botvinnik, Keres, Boleslavsky, Kotov, Flohr, Ragozin, Tolush and many others. 
     Chernev published the book after the American team was stunned by their crushing defeats at the hands of the Soviet team in 1945 and 1946. The U.S. team was made up of players like Reshevsky, Fine, Denker, Horowitz and Kashdan and so the Americans were surprised when the Soviet players won such crushing victories and everyone began asking asking why. 
     Little was known of many of the Soviet players, what made them so good and what their secret was so Chernev attempted to answer those questions...at least that what the introduction said, but the games are all too lightly annotated to seriously address the issue. His criteria for selecting the games was that they must represent a variety of Soviet masters, be modern (meaning games played from 1925 to 1946), be reasonably short (averaging 30 moves) and enjoyable with the accent on brilliancy.
     Chernev’s annotations aren’t very enlightening: his focus was on threats (often quite elementary) and why another move was bad. There is a diagram every few moves so it is possible to go through the games without setting up a board. Of course, many of his notes will be proven wrong by engines, but the games are quite enjoyable. 
     The following game was played in the semi-final of the 13th Soviet Championship in Omsk in 1944. The 13th Soviet Chess Championship, held in Moscow from May 21st to June 17th, 1944 was important because twelve of the Soviet Union's best players met. 
     The war had interrupted everybody’s career, especially Botvinnik’s who before the war was considered a good candidate to challenge Alekhine. And so with this championship and the next one Botvinnik wanted to show he still had the stuff to challenge Alekhine. 
     Andre Lilienthal, Vladimir Makogonov, Vladas Mikenas, and David Bronstein qualified from Baku. Alexander Kotov, Salomon Flohr, Gavriil Veresov, and Vladimir Alatortsev qualified from Moscow. Alexey Sokolsky, Abram Khavin, Isaac Boleslavsky, and Alexander Tolush qualified from Omsk. The five remaining spots went to invited players: Mikhail Botvinnik, Vasily Smyslov, Viacheslav Ragozin, Georgy Lisitsin and Grigory Ravinsky. 
     Botvinnik won easily with 12.5 points and finished 2.5 points ahead of Smylov even though he lost two games: to Alexander Tolush and David Bronstein. In case you’re wondering, Omsk is a city located in southwestern Siberia 1,389 miles from Moscow. Today it’s a major road and air hub and is served by a station on the Trans-Siberian Railway. It also has a port on the Irtysh River. 
     Isaac Boleslavsky (June 9, 1919 - February 15, 1977) was a GM and chess author. In the 1951 World Championship cycle he qualified from the 1948 Interzonal at Saltsjobaden for the Candidates Tournament two years later in Budapest.  In the Candidates tournament he was the only undefeated player, and led for most of the tournament, but in the last round he was caught by Bronstein, who later won a playoff in Moscow later that same year (+3−2=9). After that his results began to slip. In 1950 Chessmetrics ranks him as number 3 in the world with a high rating of 2760. 
     Anatoly Ufimtsev (May, 1914 – July, 2000) was, according to Chessmetrics, rated 2533 in 1945. He was born in Omsk. He was an economist by profession and lived most of his life in Kazakhstan. He won the Kazakhstan chess championship 11 times. Beginning in 1934, he contributed to the theory and practice of the Pirc and in the Soviet Union it is known as the Ufimtsev Defense.

     According to chess historians David Hooper and Kenneth Whyld, he was born Ufintsev, but when the secret police took his father away for execution in 1937 they recorded the name as Ufimtsev and it was deemed prudent to let that version stand. 
     The years 1936 to 1938 were the time of The Great Purge or the Great Terror, a campaign of political repression in the Soviet Union that involved a large-scale purge of the Communist Party, government officials, repression of wealthy landlords, the Red Army leadership, widespread police surveillance, suspicion of saboteurs, counter-revolutionaries, imprisonment and arbitrary executions. 
     Under Stalin, Nikolai Yezhov became the head of the Soviet secret police after he eliminated his predecessor by execution. Yezhov presided over the mass arrests and executions of the Great Purge, but he eventually fell from Stalin's favor and was himself arrested, confessed to a range of anti-Soviet activity, later claiming he was tortured into making them. 
     On February 4, 1940, Yezhov was shot in the basement of a small NKVD station in Moscow. The basement had a sloping floor so that it could be hosed down after executions. Ironically it had been built according to his own specifications. They avoided shooting him in the basement of the Lubyanka Prion in order to ensure total secrecy. His body was immediately cremated and his ashes dumped in a common grave at Moscow's Donskoi Cemetery. The execution remained secret and as late as 1948. Sometimes there is justice in life!
     In the following game the quiet Rubinstein Variation of the French Defense gives rise to a violent attack by Ufimtsev who offers a Q, R and N. In an attempt to avoid being the victim of a brilliancy Boleslavsky gives up his own Q, but can’t avoid disaster. What makes this game remarkable, besides Ufimtsev’s play is that at the time he was not even a Master, but only a First Category player (approximately Elo 2000-2125). 

Monday, March 25, 2019

Al Horowitz

     There was no such thing as a rating list back in old days, but thanks to Chessmetrics the strongest tournaments and matches of all time have been rated. In those days people just played and let others figure out how strong they were.
     In 1943 the top players in the world were Samuel Reshevsky, Alexander Alekhine, Mikhail Botvinnik, Max Euwe, Paul Keres, Vassily Smyslov, Gideon Stahlberg and Miguel Najdorf. The two players that rounded out the top 10 seem a little surprising: Paul Schmidt and Al Horowitz. 
     Paul Schmidt (1916 – 1984) was originally from Estonia, emigrated to Germany in the autumn of 1939. In 1951, he earned a PhD in chemistry from Heidelberg University, moved first to Canada and then to the United States, settling in Philadelphia, where he took a job as a professor. Later, he and his wife Eva moved to Allentown, Pennsylvania, where he made contributions to electrochemistry and anodic oxidation of silicon, was expert in neutron activation analysis, and published many papers, until his retirement in 1982. He continued playing occasional games of chess, regularly visiting Reuben Fine in New York. 
     Israel Albert Horowitz (November 15, 1907 – January 18, 1973) is better known but mostly as an author and the man behind Chess Review magazine. Little is known of his childhood, but he used to tell how rabbis frequently visited his home and would sit around debating the Talmud and nobody seems to know exactly when or how he learned to play chess. 

     If you look in Wikipedia you won’t find much information. It tells us Horowitz was the chess columnist for The New York Times, writing three columns a week for ten years. He was the owner and editor of Chess Review magazine from 1933 until it was bought out and taken over by the United States Chess Federation in 1969 and merged into Chess Life. 
     Chess Review was founded in 1933 as a partnership between Horowitz and Isaac Kashdan. Kashdan dropped out after just a few issues and Horowitz became sole owner. Before that, Horowitz had been a securities trader on Wall Street. He had been partners with chess masters Maurice Shapiro, Mickey Pauley, Albert Pinkus and Maurice Wertheim, but when the depression years struck and he couldn’t make a living he quit Wall Street and began hustling chess. According to Arnold Denker, Horowitz returned to chess on the theory that he could always win a quarter and that was enough to buy a meal. 
Today apples cost 10 times as much

     During the depression for those lucky enough to be working, the average wage was about $100 a month and a quarter was worth almost $5.00 these days.  I remember my dad, who was one of the lucky few to remain employed on the railroad during the Great Depression, telling me that he and my mother bought a house from the bank for $600.  The banker told them he had repossessed the house three times and didn't want to see it again.
     It was in 1933 that he got the idea for a chess magazine filed with interesting articles and photographs and Chess Review was born. To keep the magazine afloat Horowitz wrote a lot of books, mostly aimed at beginners, and toured the country, sometimes for months at a time, giving exhibitions and free simultaneous exhibitions in return for subscribers.  It was on one such tour in 1940 that he and Harold Morton were involved in a car accident in which Morton was killed and Horowitz seriously injured. 
     Denker described how Horowitz “burned the candle at both ends.” In a typical day he would put in a full day at Chess Review then pop in at the Marshall Chess Club around 7pm. At about 11pm he would be at the Manhattan Chess Club playing skittles. When the chess was over he would head to his favorite delicatessen for a hot dog and beans or a hot pastrami sandwich “to chase the one he ate for lunch” as Denker put it. After that, he go to bead around 4am. 

     A review of more than 7,000 clinical studies examining the connection between diet and health came to a stark conclusion that no one should eat processed meats. This includes bacon and hot dogs, cold cuts like pastrami, salami, ham and corned beef which are high in high-calorie saturated fat and bad for your heart. Add to this life style the fact that he smoked three packs of cigarettes a day and one wonder how he lived to be 65 years old. 
     He retired in 1969 after he sold Chess Review to the USCF and with the exception of correspondence chess, all vestiges of Chess Review disappeared.  His heath deteriorated rapidly after that and he left this world in 1973. 
     It’s said Reshevsky never studied chess or prepared for games, but I always found that hard to believe. His wife, Norma, said he did not have a chess set except for a small magnetic set that he might occasionally take out to look at a game and that he had no chess books in his library except the ones he wrote, or at least had his name on them. It’s believed his books were actually ghosted by Fred Reinfeld. 
     I know he did study openings early in his career and he prepared for his 1942 match with Kashdan. Also, in his book The Bobby Fischer I Knew, Denker gave a game between Horowitz and Reshevsky from a training match to prepare Reshevsky for the upcoming 1948 world championship tournament and as far as I know, it’s only known game from that match. But, clearly Reshevsky did, at least to some extent, occasionally prepare for matches and tournaments.  It seems one would need more than a pocket set to do that.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Thank You Phil Stamma!

     Philipp Stamma, a native of Aleppo, Ottoman Syria, later resident of England and France, was a pioneer of modern chess. His reputation rests largely on his authorship of the early chess book Essai sur le jeu des echecs (The Noble Game Of Chess) published 1737 in France. This book brought the Middle Eastern concept of the endgame to the attention of Europe and helped revive European interest in the study of the endgame.
     Stamma was a regular at Slaughter's Coffee House on St Martin's Lane in London. Its first landlord in 1692 was Thomas Slaughter. It was also known as The Coffee-house on the Pavement, as not all London streets were paved at that time. A second Slaughter's (New Slaughter's), was established on the same street about 1760, when the original establishment adopted the name of Old Slaughter's which existed for a few years until it was demolished to make way for a new street. 
     Old Slaughter’s was patronized by chess, draughts and whist players, artists, architects, painters, poets, sculptors. Foreigners such as Frenchmen were often there and it was visited by Philidor and Benjamin Franklin. 
Old Slaughter's

     Stamma was considered one of England's strongest players, but in 1747 he was defeated, crushed really, by Philidor. Stamma got to move first in every game and lost +1 -8 =1. But a draw was counted as a win for Stamma, so he actually lost 2-8. Philidor’s victory marked his ride to fame. 
     At least that’s the story. No games are available and the match is mentioned only by Philidor's biographers who frequently contradicted each other. It has been suggested that the reason for Stamma’s defeat was that he was used to playing by Arabic rules and only after his arrival to Europe got acquainted with the Western rules. 
     Phillip (Philippe, Philippo or Filipo) Stamma was born in Aleppo, Syria about 1705. His Arabic name was Fathallah, son of Safar, of the Shtamma clan. His family had Syrian Orthodox origins, but also ties to the Catholic church. Besides being a chess player he was an interpreter of oriental languages. After leaving the Ottoman Empire, he spent some time in Italy before arriving in France. He then moved to London some time between 1737 and 1739. He was appointed interpreter of oriental languages in 1739. He died in London around 1755.
     Besides introducing the concept of the endgame, Stamma’s book was important for another reason...it introduced Algebraic notation. He wrote: 

I have chosen to give the Directions for playing the Moves in a Kind of Short-hand, rather than in Words at length this leaves less Room for Mistakes...the Letters stand for the 8 Pieces, viz. "A" stands for the Queen's Rook, B for her Knight, C for her Bishop, and so on in Order as far as H, which stands for the King's Rook. P stands for Pawn. The Arithmetical Figures, with the Letters immediately preceding them, point out the Squares you are to play into. Thus P-E4 directs you to play the King's Pawn into the King's fourth Square. 

     Very few games played before the 1800's have been preserved because notation was simply too cumbersome...game were recorded in complete sentences:

Then the black king for his second draught brings forth his queene, and placest her in the third house, in front of his bishop's pawne." Or, "The bishop takes the bishop, checking.

     Stamma’s algebraic notation was almost identical to modern algebraic notation. However, he tried to make the notation completely international by using standard piece names as well as standard letters and numbers for the squares. Thus the pieces were named A through H. i.e. the a1 Rook was A, the b1 Knight was B, etc. His idea was that this way would result in a totally international notation. Today, figurine algebraic (with printed piece symbols instead of names) uses his idea. 
     After Philidor defeated Stamma, Philidor's French chess books were translated into English using descriptive notation because Philidor was more influential than Stamma, so his adoption of the chess notation became more popular. 
     Then, in 1817, when an edition of Philidor's works introduced a system of abbreviations into Philidor's ponderous notation. Those abbreviations, by the way, were introduced rather timidly with suitable apologies to the reader. Over the next few decades, more use of abbreviations occurred, and the descriptive notation of modern times slowly took shape. The evolution of the move Nf3: 

1614: The white king commands his owne knight into the third house before his owne bishop. 
1750: K. knight to His Bishop's 3d. 
1837: K.Kt. to B.third sq. 
1848: K.Kt. to B's 3rd. 
1859: K. Kt. to B. 3d. 
1874: K Kt to B3 
1889: KKt-B3 
1904: Kt-KB3 
1946: N-KB3 In the US the use of algebreic did not become popular until the 1970s and then only after much controversy. The magnanimous officials of the USCF prefer the use of algebraic notation but still permits descriptive notation.
     
     One interesting (and confusing) form of notation was the Rutherford code invented in 1880 by Sir William Watson Rutherford (1853–1927). At the time, the British Post Office did not allow digits or ciphers in telegrams, but they did allow Latin words. The system also allowed moves for two games to be transmitted at the same time. 
     The legal moves in the position were counted using a system until the move being made was reached. This was done for both games. The move number of the first game was multiplied by 60 and added to the move number of the second game. Leading zeros were added as necessary to give a four-digit number. The first two digits would be 00 through 39, which corresponded to a table of 40 Latin roots. The third digit corresponded to a list of 10 Latin prefixes and the last digit corresponded to a list of 10 Latin suffixes. The resulting word was transmitted. 
     If anybody understands this, please give an example!!!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

A Little Bit About Fritz Apscheneek

     This Latvian player had a lot of variations of his name: Fricis, Fritz and Franz (first name), ApÅ¡enieks and Apscheneek (last name), but let’s call him Fritz Apscheneek. 
     He was born in Tetele, Latvia on April 7, 1894. Tetele is about 25 miles from Riga where he died on April 25, 1941. 
     The occupation of Latvia by Nazi Germany was completed on July 10, 1941 by Germany's armed forces.  Anyone not racially acceptable or who opposed the German occupation, as well as those who had cooperated with the Soviet Union, were killed or sent to concentration camps. However, there is no evidence I am aware of that this situation applied to Apscheneek. 
     Apscheneek was one of Latvia's strongest players between the two World Wars. He took 2nd place in the World Amateur Championship in Paris in 1924 and won the Latvian championship in 1926, 1927, and 1934, and played in seven Olympiads. 
     In 1978 Prof. Arpad Elo published a book entitled The Rating of Chessplayers, Past and Present which contained the historical ratings of 476 players. Apscheneek is listed at 2430. Chessmetrics assigns him a high rating of 2571 in 1936 which ranked him number 51 in the world. 
     Apscheneek was a brilliant chess tactician and according to an Edward Winter article was noted for his extremely fast play. Supposedly at Kemeri, 1937 he used only about fifteen minutes for all his moves in his drawn game against Alekhine, who used over two hours. 
     The following win over Arthur Dake is a good example of Apscheneek’s aggressive style. Beginning in 1931, US teams won four consecutive Chess Olympiads: 1931, 1933, 1935, and 1937. Dake, who played in 1931–1935, was one of the major members along with Isaac Kashdan, Frank Marshall, Reuben Fine, I.A. Horowitz and Abraham Kupchik Dake won two individual medals: silver (1933) and gold (1935). In this game he was playing on third board and scored +5 –2 =7.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Fun With The Sicilian Wing Gambit Deferred


    Yesterday I spent a little time online playing 10 minute games and since I haven’t posted one of my games for a long time and I am pretty sure readers have been dying to see one, I thought the following game would delight everybody even though I shot myself in the foot.
     For my opening against the Sicilian I chose the Wing Gambit Deferred. The straight Wing Gambit (1.e4 c5 2.b4) is played with the idea of deflecting black's c-pawn, then dominating the center with an early d4. GM Joe Gallagher called it "a forgotten relic, hardly having set foot in a tournament hall since the days of Frank Marshall and Rudolph Spielmann. White sacrifices a pawn for...well, not a lot." Also, according to Gallagher, delaying b4 until the 3rd move is best when black plays 2...e6. 
     All that may be true, but it’s still a lot of fun to play. The Siderite blog has some interesting material on the gambit HERE and HERE
     In this game things were pretty even until move 13 when Stockfish took umbrage with my move for not hitting his B with 12.h6; I chose instead to play my R to the e-file...I was toying with the (bad) idea of opening the e-file with a N sacrifice on d5. But, black wasted some time with his Q and then placed his R on the rather useless square b8. And, just like that, my 13th move was justified!
     Black couldn’t take the N on d5 without losing the game. Not that it mattered because Stockfish says I was clearly winning no matter what he did. A few moves later SF says I should have played 19.e5 utilizing the pin on his d-Pawn, but being inspired, I sacrificed a B although to be honest, I didn’t see a forcing followup and that’s where I got into trouble. I finally spotted it, but it too too much time. 
     After my 22nd move I could have either mated or won a R, but there wasn’t really anything wrong with the move actually played which did neither. Stockfish was giving me an advantage of almost +2.50. 
     Not being able to find a good followup, although 24.e5 was screaming to be played, I decided to sacrifice another piece on e6. I played 25.e5, but it was too late...black compelled an exchange of Qs leaving me with a lost R and P ending.
    At move 42 I managed to get a passed P on the K-side and was hoping he would lose some time on the clock trying to determine if it presented any danger. It didn’t and he didn’t and after I played 48.Kxe6 he had a R on the second rank and Ps on the a- and b-file, the b-Pawn also being on the 2nd rank, not to mention Stockfish now points out that he had a mate in 21 moves. 
     I have long advocated studying K+P and R+P endings as being beneficial. As the late NM James Schroeder used to admonish, never stop studying the endgame. Back in the days when I actually studied chess, I was in the Chicago Chess Club one day and picked up a copy of Peter C. Griffiths’ The Endings in Modern Theory and Practice, took it home and actually studied it. I still have the book and it’s full of notes in the margins, especially in those two sections. Apparently the material came in handy because in the section on related squares there is a penciled note referring me to an ending I played in the state championship, but the game score has long since been lost.
     When we reached move 49 all black had to do was advance his a-Pawn and with my K cut off by his R the win was easy. But, he made a colossal blunder with 49...Rc2 which allowed my to approach and win the b-Pawn leaving an easy draw. Unfortunately I had only seconds left and my opponent a couple of minutes. My time expired in a dead drawn position. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Bobby Fischer Treasure Trove

     There is an interesting Facebook page called Bobby Fischer's True History that is a treasure trove of Fischer material. The "About" section says the purpose of the page is, "dispelling the HYPE and FICTION spread by the Media about Bobby Fischer's religion and politics." The author states, "The true story of what happened to my church brother, Bobby Fischer, who attended the Herbert W. Armstrong cult from 1962 into the 1970’s. The cult utilized terror and destructive mind control methods to maintain a hold over Bobby and other members of the Worldwide Church of God. I intend to educate people about the WCG, Armstrong and the personal aftermath of cult victims lives." 
     The page also contains a link to newspaper archives about Fischer that is quite interesting and the author has obviously spent a good deal of time putting all this together. You will also find posts about President Trump, Kasparov and others. Interesting stuff...some of which may be controversial depending on your views.

Jerry Fink

     Older readers will remember the days before the Fischer Boom when chess players were just a small community and membership in the U.S. Chess Federation doubled between 1972-1974. The USCF membership numbers: 
1940 - About 1,000 
1955 - 2,408 
1960 - 4,579 
1965 - 8,625 
1970 - 22,623 
1975 - 51,842 
1980 - 47,800 
1985 - 54,599 
1990 - 52,898 
1995 - 81,808 
2000 - 85,396 
2005 - 82,846 
2010 - 76,812 
2012 - 77,254 
    When my foray into tournament chess began in 1961, masters were rare, Experts (2000-2199) were highly vaunted and possessed crowing rights. Even players rated over 1900 were considered strong. 
     Weekend tournaments were all one section and usually the first round was a “gimme” point for players in the top half of the tournament. Larger tournaments boasted $100 for first and class prizes were often a book or a cheap trophy. My goal in such events was always to get a plus score; 3-2 was considered a success. Eventually I threw away my trophy collection because they weren’t engraved or anything and I could no longer remember when or where they were won. Besides, they collected a lot of dust. 

     One strong Expert/Master that I remember who was prominent in my home state of Ohio and later in my home away from home state, North Carolina, was Jerold Fink, a man of many accomplishments.
     Fink was born on July 16, 1941 in Dayton, Ohio and after high school attended Duke University in Durham, North Carolina where he received his Bachelor of Arts in 1963 and his Bachelor of Laws in 1966. 
     The first Dayton Chess Club Championship was played in late 1958 and its first champion with a score of five wins and a draw was the 17-year old Fink, then a high school senior. He had earlier tied for first place in the Ohio Junior Championship. At the time his rating was 1963. 
     In August, 1959, Fink again won the Dayton Junior Championship and finished third in the Ohio Championship behind Richard Kause and Ross Sprague. When the second Dayton CC Championship came around in 1959, Fink didn’t play because he was attending college in North Carolina. 
     In 1960 he was an Expert with a 2060 rating. In 1961, Fink won the Ohio Championship on tiebreaks over Saul Wachs and Thomas Lajcik. 
     While a college student in North Carolina in 1962 he won the state closed championship and in 1964, tied for first place with Dr. Albert Jenkins. Due to the tournament director losing the pairing cards, the 1964 event was not USCF rated! 
     After college Fink returned to Ohio, settled in Cincinnati, was admitted to the Ohio Bar in 1966 and began work as an Associate with a legal firm in which he became a Partner in 1973. Also, in 1973, he was appointed to the Board of Directors of a valve manufacturing company in Cincinnati. In addition, from 1974 to 1979, Fink was on the Board of a Cincinnati broadcasting company. 
     Fink continued to play chess and in the 1972 Ohio Championship he tied with Thomas Wozney, Ross Sprague and Richard Kause, with Wozney winning on tiebreaks. Fink had a Master rating of 2228. 
     The following year his rating had slipped to Expert at 2188 and he again lost the Ohio Championship on tiebreaks. This time to Robert H. Burns. Also tied for first were James Voelker, Thomas Wozney and Arthur Keske. 
     Professionally, Fink practiced tax law for more than 30 years as well as pension, profit sharing and employee benefits law. He designed the firm's master profit-sharing, pension, and 401(k) plans and wrote ERISA rules (employee retirement) used by hundreds of the firm’s clients. Fink established a reputation in the Cincinnati area as one of the leading ERISA experts. 
     He served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Cincinnati Bar Association and as chairman of the Bar Association's Taxation Section. He has also served as chairman of the Southwestern Ohio Tax Institute and as co-chairman of the special Bar Association Committee on drafting Hamilton County Property Division Rules for use by the Domestic Relations Court. He is included in The Best Lawyers in America. 
     In between his professional career and his chess exploits, Fink managed to serve as President Cincinnati Musical Festival Association in 1978-1979 and as a trustee for the Cincinnati Playhouse from 1976 to 1995. But wait! There’s more. Fink is also a prominent bridge player who co-authored American Forcing Minor System and Count Coded Leads and also Cincinnati Power Defense Carding.
     Unfortunately I was unable to uncover any of Fink’s games except a 12-mover in 500 Miniature Ruy Lopez’ by Bill Wall, but the game is hardly worth presenting,