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Friday, January 14, 2022

Gordon Crown

     While browsing through a 1947 issue of Chess Review the other day I came across the name of British player Gordon Crown. I never heard of him so was curious as to who he was. It turned out Crown was a player of great promise who died just a few months after the issue was published. 
     Gordon Thomas Crown (June 20, 1929 - November 17,1947, 18 years old) was born in Liverpool, England. He learned to play chess at the age of nine and soon became a strong...real strong...player! 
     Noted for his exceptional knowledge of openings and understanding of the ending, he also had deep positional insight and excellent tactical ability. Add to that concentration, tenacity and determination to win and he was clearly Grandmaster material! Leonard Barden speculated that had he lived, Crown would have become a strong Grandmaster in the likes of Keres or Gligoric...a ringing endorsement! 
     He won the Lancashire Junior Championship three times in a row, was 2nd at the British Boys Championship in 1946 and in the 1946-47 Hastings Christmas Congress, at the age of 17, he won the Premier Reserves Group B. In 1947 he won 3rd prize in the British Championship and in September of that year he played 4th board for Britain in the match against Russia and scored a win and a loss against Alexander Kotov. That's pretty impressive since Chessmetrics puts Kotov's rating on the December, 1947 list at 2714 ranking him ninth in the world. 
     In September 1947, the 18-year-old Crown, who was a diabetic, complained of a stomach ache and was rushed to hospital where it was discovered that he was suffering from appendicitis and peritonitis; he died during the operation.

Gordon Crown - Alexander Kotov

Result: 1-0

Site: Great Britain-Soviet Union Radio Match

Date: 1947.09.21

[...] 1.e4 c5 2.♘c3 At the time Smyslov was making use of the Closed Variation in which white usually fianchettos the B and plans to slowly build up on the K-side. 2...♘c6 3.g3 g6 4.♗g2 ♗g7 5.d3 e6 6.♗e3 b6 Instead of the usual 6... d6. This rare sideline offers black little. Interesting is 6...Nd4
6...♘d4 Now white should play 7.Qd2 or 7.Nce2, but not... 7.♗xd4 cxd4 8.♘ce2 ♕b6 and black stands well.
7.♘ge2 Intending 8.d4 which would be quite good. 7...♘f6 Preventing 7.d4 (7...♗b7 8.d4 cxd4 9.♘xd4 ♘ge7 10.♘db5 O-O 11.♘d6) 8.h3 Preventing the attack on his B and agains threatening to play d4.
8.d4 is not good because after 8...♘g4 white has to either lose time retreating his B or allow it to be exchanged.
8...♗a6 This renders does not prevent d4, but renders it ineffective.. 9.♕d2
9.d4 cxd4 10.♘xd4 O-O Another good option would be 10...Ne5 11.♘xc6 dxc6 12.♕xd8 ♖fxd8 Equals.
9...d5 Safer was 9...Rc8 10.exd5 ♘xd5 11.♗g5 White prepares to sacrifice his b-Pawn.
11.♗h6 With this move white keeps the advantage a small advantage. 11...O-O 12.h4 ♗xh6 13.♕xh6 ♘e5 14.♘xd5 exd5 15.O-O-O white has some attacking chances on the K-side, but black has good defensive possibilities. In Shootouts white scored +1 -0 =4.
11.♘xd5 is also satisfactory. 11...exd5 12.♗h6 ♗xh6 (12...♗xb2 13.♖b1 ♗e5 14.♘f4 ♗xf4 15.♕xf4 is good for white.) 13.♕xh6 ♕d6 White is slightly better after he castles on either side.
11...♕d7 12.♘xd5 This is wrong; it gives black just a smidgen of an advantage. Correct was 12.Bh6 immediately. 12...exd5 13.♗h6 ♗xb2
13...O-O Declining the P is not bad at all. 14.♗xg7 ♔xg7 15.O-O-O d4 and there is no way for white to make any serious advances.
14.♖b1 ♗e5 15.O-O d4 While this move doesn't lose or anything, black could have gotten the edge by playing 15... O-O-O
15...O-O-O 16.♘f4 ♗xf4 17.♕xf4 d4 18.♕f6 ♗b7 19.♖fe1 ♖he8 and black is slightly better.
16.♖fe1 Not bad, but not th best either.
16.♘f4 ♗b7 17.♖fe1 O-O-O 18.♘d5 and here black's best line is 18...♘b4 19.♘xb4 ♗xg2 20.♔xg2 ♖de8 (20...cxb4 21.♖xe5 White is a piece up.) 21.♕g5 ♕b7+ 22.♔g1 f6 23.♕g4+ f5 24.♕d1 cxb4 25.♖xb4 Chances are about even.
16...O-O-O 17.♘f4 ♖he8 This move allows white to gain the initiative.
17...♗xf4 18.♕xf4 f5 19.♖e2 ♖de8 20.♖be1 ♗b7 Black's K is safe in he still has the extra P so he enjoys the advantage.
18.♘d5 ♕d6 19.♘xb6+ axb6 20.♖xb6 ♗b7 21.♖eb1 ♖e7 A fascinating position. It's odd, but this turns out to be the wrong R! He needed to play 21...Rd7 and then use the other R on the 6th rsnk with ...Re6.
21...♖d7 22.♕c1 ♖e6 23.♕a3 Now we will see why the setup of the Rs matters. 23...♗xg3
23...♕e7 also leads to an interesting sequence. 24.♗f8 ♕xf8 25.♗xc6 ♖xc6 26.♖xb7 ♖xb7 27.♕a8+ ♖b8 28.♕xc6+ ♗c7 29.♖e1 ♔d8 30.a4 ♖b6 31.♕a8+ ♖b8 and white has to take the draw with 32.♕d5+ etc.
24.fxg3 ♕xg3 25.♕xc5 ♖c7 26.♕g5 ♖e1+ 27.♖xe1 ♕xe1+ 28.♔h2 ♘d8 29.♗xb7+ ♘xb7 with a likely draw!
22.♗g5 keeps the advantage. 22...f6 23.♗h6 g5 24.h4 white is somewhat better.
22...♖dd7 Logical as it defends the B, but after this white starts calling the tune and doesn't stop until Kotov resigns.
22...♖de8 23.♔h2 ♕f6 24.f4 ♗c7 25.♖xb7 ♕d6 26.♕a3 ♖e2 27.♕a6 ♘b4 The best continuation is 28.♖xc7+ ♔xc7 29.♕b7+ ♔d8 30.a3 ♖xc2 31.axb4 ♖ee2 32.♖g1 cxb4 with an unclear position, but in Shootouts white only scored +1 -0 =4, so black has excellent drawing chances.
23.♗f8 23.f4 was even more forceful because it stops any black shenanigans beginning with sacrificing his B on g3. 23...♖c7
23...♗xg3 This is black's last chance at salvaging the game. 24.♗xe7 ♖xe7 25.♕h6
25.fxg3 ♕xg3 26.♕d1 ♘b4 27.♖xb7 ♖xb7 28.♕e2 and there is no way for white to win.
25...♗h2+ 26.♔f1 f6 27.♕d2 and white is better and in hootouts scored +3 -0 =2
24.♕a3 Again. 24.f4 was good, but no matter. White is winning 24...♕e6
24...♗xg3 no longer has any punch. 25.♗xe7 ♗h2+ 26.♔h1 ♖xe7 27.♖xb7 ♖xb7 28.♕a6 ♘d8 29.♗xb7+ and wins.
25.♗xe7 ♕xe7 The rest is simply mopping up. 26.♕a4 ♘d8 27.♕b5 h5 28.a4 h4 29.gxh4 (29.♖e1 hxg3 30.f4 was also good.) 29...♗d6 30.a5 ♕d7 31.a6 ♕xb5 32.axb7+ ♔b8 33.♖1xb5 ♗f4 34.♖a6 ♘xb7 35.♖ab6 Kotov resigned because either the N or the R is lost.
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Thursday, January 13, 2022

A Brilliancy Prize by Weaver Adams

     Brilliancy Prizes are throwback to the Romantic Era. According to the Oxford Companion to Chess, the first beauty prize in was awarded in 1876 to Henry Bird for his win against James Mason at “The Clipper Free Centennial Tourney” that was held in New York to commemorate the centenary celebrations of the United States Declaration of Independence. 
     I am not sure how the brilliancy would hold up under the scrutiny of Stockfish, but does it really matter? I read that back in 1925 some Russian professor named A. Smirnov wrote that the importance of the underlying soundness of the game (was by then) deemed essential and flawed play, imaginative though it might be, no longer (passed) muster. 
     Reti wrote that tactics represented the triumph of mind over matter. The combination, the sacrifice, the unexpected move imbue the wooden pieces with sparkle, almost make them come to life. 
    Emanuel Lasker once wrote in an annotation that one Bishop smiled while the other Bishop laughed. Reuben Fine added that unless there was a tactical sequence, it was silly to invoke such human attributes. 
     Because the sacrifice is prized so highly, it used to be customary to offer special awards for them. Like postal play, engines have pretty much thrown cold water on them. 
     What are the requirements for the brilliancy prize in this day of Stockfish and Dragon by Komodo? A brilliant game still has to contain a sacrifice, preferably one that's not obvious, and it should be pleasing to the eye. The catch is that it has to be sound as shown by an engine. In spite of all that, tactics by players like Nezhmetdinov, Spielmann, Alekhine, Keres, Tal and others are still fun to play over, sound or not.
     Weaver Adams, playing his usual spectacular chess, won the brilliancy prize at Ventnor City in 1943, but more about that anon. 
     Anthony Santasiere and George Shainswit, then serving in the Army Medical Corps, shared first at the fifth annual Ventnor City Invitational Tournament held on the Municipal Pier of the New Jersey resort from July 5th to 11th. New England Champ Weaver Adams finished a close third. 

     As mentioned in the previous post, Santasiere, at the time the Marshall Chess Club Champion, was a staunch advocate of brilliant, sacrificial play in word if not in deed. In his tournament he achieved success by avoiding losses rather than by winning games; he scored wins from Shainswit and Adams and drew the rest. Shainswit's loss to Santasiere cost him first place. At the time Shainswit had a reputation as a technician and being a drawing master, but in this tournament he surprised everybody by playing forceful chess, 
     Although his home was in Massachusetts, at the time Weaver Adams was living in New York doing engineering work at a war plant. He made history in this Ventnor tournament when he abandoned his beloved Bishop Opening which he had been playing for years and switched to the Vienna Game which he now claimed to win by force. 
     Adams was a somewhat odd fellow. No matter what was happening on the board, he always appeared calm and unperturbed and if his position became difficult he would just lean back in his chair with nonchalance. 
     Often, while seated at the board he seldom looked at or even seemed aware of his opponent and frequently turned his chair at a right angle to it and when not gazing at the board, he stared out of the window for a long time. On occasion this unnerved opponents who sometimes complained to the TD about it. 
     Adams played his own way, using his own published analysis, often to his detriment. When he finished next to last at Hastings in 1950 it was in no small part to his having armed his opponents with advance knowledge of his best lines.
     Because of his dogmatism and his style, Adams was just as likely to be on the winning or losing end of a brilliancy prize game. At this Ventnor tournament he won the brilliancy prize for his win over Walter Suesman, but he also was on the receiving end of the best played game award which went to Martin Stark for his sparkling win over Adams!

Weaver Adams - Walter Suesman

Result: 1-0

Site: Ventnor City

Date: 1943.07.05


[...] 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.♘c3 dxe4 At this point this exchange is pretty much compulsory if black is to avoid any disadvantage. The only other feasible try is the rarely seen 3...g6
3...g6 4.♘f3 ♗g7 5.h3 Here black has tried 5...Nh6, 5...Nf6 and 5...dxe4, but white seems to do well against all of them.
4.♘xe4 ♗f5 Fine thought this move is too passive and that black should play 4...Nf6. These days theory prefers the text move. Another reasonable try is 4...Nbd7 5.♘g3 ♗g6 6.h4 Almost automatic. The purpose of this move is to weaken the position of black's K-side by forcing 6...h6 6...h6 7.♘f3 ♘d7 8.h5 White may omit this move if he wishes, 8...♗h7 9.♗d3 ♗xd3 10.♕xd3 e6 11.♗f4 More usual is 11 B-Q2. White .Q-B2, but is Wants compelled to prevent transpose back to the normal line next move. White 11...♕a5+ 12.♗d2 ♕c7 13.O-O-O ♘gf6 14.c4 O-O-O 15.♗c3 Up to this point the game has For followed accepted book lines Black, whose position is cramped, the problem is one of suitable exchanges in order to liberate him self:for White, the idea is to keep things complicated. If possible, he will try to occupy e5 with a N. 15...♘g4 Reuben Fine correctly stated that this sortie does irreparable harm to black's position because it attacks before his development is complete. He recommended 15...c5 to get rid of white's d-Pawn.
15...♗e7 16.♕e2 ♖he8 17.♘e5 ♘xe5 18.dxe5 ♘d7 white is slightly better. Carballo,F-Fenoglio,V/ Argentina 1938
15...♕b6 might be worth a try. 16.♕e2 ♗b4 17.♗xb4 ♕xb4 18.a3 Gomez Esteban,J (2478)-Burmakin,V (2627)/Benasque 2009. White is slightly better, but white was unable to demonstrate a win.
15...c5 16.♔b1 cxd4 17.♘xd4 with a slight advantage as black's position remains cramped.
16.♕e2 ♗d6 17.♘e4 ♗f4+ 18.♔b1 f5 With a cramped position and little prospects of an attack, black makes a desperate effort to free himself. Adams energetically refutes black's play. 19.♘ed2
19.♘h4 was also good. 19...♖he8 (19...fxe4 20.♕xg4 ♘f6 21.♕xe6+ with a clear advantage.) 20.g3 ♗d6 21.♘xd6+ ♕xd6 22.♘g6 and white is considerably better.
19...e5 Opening up the position can only be in white's favor. Best was hunkering down with 19... Rhe8 20.dxe5 ♘gxe5 21.♘d4 Also acceptable was 21.g3 21...♖he8 22.♘2b3 ♘b6 23.c5
23.♘c5 also packed a punch. 23...♘exc4 24.♘ce6 Interesting. Black's Q, R and B are forked, but white's N is pinned. Here's how Stockfish worked things out. 24...♕d6 25.♕f3 ♘d5 26.♘xd8 ♖xd8 27.♘b3 White has A r vs a N+P, but more than that, a winning position. 27...♕e6 28.♗xg7 ♕f7 29.♗c3 ♗g5 30.♖he1 All this is probably a bit difficult for a human to work out especially OTB.
23...♘d5 24.♗a5 This great move is the introduction to the conclusion.
24.♘xf5 This prosaic alternative is less clear. 24...♘xc3+ 25.bxc3 ♘d7 26.♕c2 ♗e5
24...b6 25.♘xf5 A pretty move. 25...bxa5 In the auto-annotation in Fritz 12, Stockfiah slapped two question marks on this because 25...Kb8 was evaluated at about a P better.
25...♔b8 26.♘d6 ♖e7 27.♘f5 ♖ee8 28.g3 ♘d7 29.♕a6 ♗e5 30.f4 ♗f6 31.cxb6 axb6 32.♖xd5 cxd5 33.♖c1 ♕b7 34.♕xb7+ ♔xb7 35.♘d6+ and wins.
26.♘d6+ In any case white still wins in pretty fashion. 26...♖xd6
26...♔d7 is no escape. 27.♕e4 ♖e6 28.♖xd5 cxd5 29.♕xf4 Mo matter what black tries his K is fatally exposed. 29...♖xd6 30.cxd6 ♕xd6 31.♖c1 ♖f8 32.♕e3 d4 33.♘xd4 ♕d5 34.♖e1 wins.
27.cxd6 ♕xd6 28.g3 ♕c7 Hoping to get a N planted in the center in exchange for his Ps, but he is sadly disappointed, 29.♖xd5 After this Suesman resigned. (29.♖xd5 cxd5 30.gxf4 and it's obvious black's position is hopeless.)
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Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Santasiere Attacks Without Queens

     Robert Willman won the 1950 New York State championship in one of the strongest fields ever to have competed for the title up to that time. 
     One point behind and tied for second and third places were Anthony Santasiere and Jack Soudakof. Fourth place went to Dr. Walter Cruz, champion of Brazil in 1940 and 1938, who was in the U.S. doing medical research work at a hospital in Rochester, New York. 
     Almost nothing is known about Robert Willman except that prior to winning this tournament he had tied for first place with with Abraham Kupchik in the 1932 Manhattan Chess Club Championship, but lost the playoff. He won the club championship outright the following year. Also in 1933, he played a match against Albert C. Simonson and won by a score of 5.5-4.5. Willman was one of the reserve players for the US in their 1945 radio match against the USSR. 
     A Chess Review article on the tournament stated that Willman was born in New York City, was resident all his life, and made his living as an insurance claim agent. He held two college degrees: an A.B, from the City College of New York and an A.M. from Columbia University. 
     He was born on January 3, 1908 and according to chess historian Jeremy Gaige, Willman changed his name to Williams and died on December 30, 1978. 
     The following game, which was played in the Championship which held at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York between Blumin and Santasiere, is an example of carrying out a deadly attack without Queens. 

     Boris Blumin (January 11, 1908 - February 16, 1998), a Canadian-American master. Born in Russia, he emigrated to Canada, where he played in several Canadian championships. He was Canadian champion twice, winning at Toronto 1936 and Quebec 1937. He was a five-time winner of the Montreal City Championship (1933–1939). In August 1939, he moved to New York City. 
     Anthony E.Santasiere (December 9,1904 - January 13, 1977) was a master and chess writer, who also wrote extensively on non-chess topics. He won the 1945 U.S. Open, four New York State championships, and six Marshall Chess Club championships. He also competed in four U.S. Championships, with his best finish being a tie for third in 1946. 
     Santasiere was born and raised in New York City, the 12th of 13 children, and grew up in extreme poverty. He graduated from City College with a degree in mathematics. His studies there were financed by Alrick Man, a wealthy chess enthusiast who had served as president of the Marshall Chess Club. Following graduation, beginning in 1927, Santasiere taught mathematics at the Angelo Patri Middle School in the Bronx, and held that position until he retired to south Florida in 1965.

Boris Blumin - Anthony Santasiere

Result: 0-1

Site: NY State Champ., Hamilton

Date: 1940

Gruenfeld Defense

[...] 1.d4 ♘f6 2.c4 g6 3.♘c3 d5 4.♕b3 Santasiere was critical of this move thinking it to be premature. In my database it is rarely played, but white wins 40 percent of the games while black scores about 25 percent of the time. 4...dxc4 5.♕xc4 ♗e6 6.♕a4+ Usual is 6.Qb5+ 6...♕d7 Trading Qs instead of playing 6...Bd7 or 6...c6. In the 1970s, Santasiere got into a written feud with Larry Evans after Evans showed disdain for Santasiere's hypocrisy for "talking like a tiger and playing like a Tigran (Petrosian)" But, Evans did admit Santasiere had the heart of a Romantic even if he didn't have the games to back it up. Still, Santasiere had a lot of tournament success, so he must have done something right. Here, trading Qs is typical of his style...hardly Romantic, but watch what follows!
6...♗d7 7.♕b3 c5 8.d5 b5 9.♘xb5 ♗xb5 10.♕xb5+ ♘bd7 is equal. Nakamura,H (2814)-Caruana,F (2808)/US Chp, Saint Louis 2015
7.♕xd7+ ♘bxd7 8.e4 Black has a cramped position 8...♘b6
8...c6 9.♗f4 ♗g7 10.♗d3 O-O 11.♘ge2 ♖fd8 12.♖d1 a5 13.O-O b5 14.d5 cxd5 15.exd5 ♗xd5 16.♗xb5 e6 is about equal and the game was soon agreed drawn. Stark,M-Santasiere,A/Ventnor City 1945
9.f4 is an intersting alternative. 9...♗g7 10.♘f3 O-O 11.h3 with a good game.
9...c6 10.♘f3 So far Santasiere has played quite passively and Blumin is completing his development and building up a stong center so Santasiere decides to launch an immediate, if somewhat unconventional, counterattack. 10...♘h5 Black threatens to win material: Nh5xf4 11.♗e5 f6 12.♗c7 White traps black's K in the center, but he is unable to take advantage of it. 12...♗h6 13.♗e2 Now it's white's turn to get a tad passive and as a result black gets the initiative.
13.d5 is better. After 13...cxd5 14.♗xb6 axb6 15.exd5 white is slightly better.
13...♘f4 14.♗xf4 ♗xf4 Now white should try either 15.O-O or 15.b4 and black's advantage would be minimal. 15.b3 This stops the annoying ...Nc4, but Santasiere was critical of it because 15.b3 creates a target by weakening the Q-side, the consequences of which are worse than if he had allowed ...Nc4
15.O-O Black should probably now play 15...O-O-O, but let's take a look at the ...Nc4 idea. 15...♗c4
15...♘c4 is very bad for black. To wit... 16.d5 cxd5 17.exd5 ♗g4 18.♗xc4 winning the N.
16.♗xc4 ♘xc4 17.g3 ♘d2 18.♘xd2 ♗xd2 19.♖fd1 ♗xc3 20.bxc3 is equal.
15...♔f7 16.O-O ♖hd8 17.♖ad1 Sanatsiere was highly critical of Blumin's plan to advance the f-Pawn (which is why he preferred keeping a R on f1) claiming the plan was too slow. 17.Rab1 planning the advance of the b-Pawn was a better idea although black still retains the initiative. 17...a5 Intending on weakening white's Q-side Ps. 18.♘e1 ♗c7 19.f4 a4 20.f5 This idea has proven insufficient as black now stands better. Santasiere was correct. 20...gxf5 21.exf5 ♗d5 22.♘xd5 This plausible move is wrong because now black gets an even larger advantage.
22.b4 closing the Q-side keeps black's advantage to a minimum. 22...e5 23.fxe6+ ♗xe6 24.♗h5+ ♔g7 with a minimal advantage.
22...♘xd5 23.♖f3 Santasiere wrote that Blumin was under the impression that he had the initiative. Actually, black's position is much better.
23.♗c4 was what Santasiere expected, but after his intended 23...b5 black retains the much better chances. 23...b5 24.♗xd5+ ♖xd5 25.♘c2 ♖ad8 with the better ending.
23...axb3 24.axb3 ♖a2 Now the consequences of white's faulty 15.b3 are clear. Black has invaded on the Q-side and has established a practically won position. 25.♖f2 Threatening Bh5+ picking off the R, but it leads to a quick end. He could have avoided immediate disaster with 25.Bd3, but black still has the much better position. 25...♔g7 26.♗c4 Plausible, but a gross blunder.
26.♖d3 This is better, but it would not save the game 26...♗f4 27.♗d1 ♖xf2 28.♔xf2 ♘b4 29.♖c3 ♖xd4 with a won ending.
26.♖d3 otherwise it's curtains at once 26...♗f4 27.♗d1 ♗xh2+ 28.♔f1 ♖xf2+ 29.♔xf2−⁠+
26...♗xh2+ Winning immediately, so Blumin ends his misery. 27.♔f1 ♘e3# Impressive play by Santasiere.
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