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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Erich Eliskases

      Erich Eliskases (February 15, 1913 - February 2, 1997, Cordoba, Argentina) was a Grandmaster of the 1930s and 1940s, who represented Austria, Germany and Argentina. He was one of those players who, despite their achievements, fade from memory and eventually become nothing more than a footnote in chess history.

      Born in Innsbruck, Austro-Hungarian Empire, he learned chess at the age of 12 and at the age of 13 was refused membership in the 'lnnsbrucker Schachgesellschaft' because of his youth. At the age of 14, in 1927, Eliskases played his first tournament in the Schlechter Chess Club and shared first prize. One year later, at the age of 15, he took part in the Tyrolean Championship and scored a convincing victory (with 7 points out of 8 games). This won him the right to participate in the tournament for the Austrian Championship in 1929 and the result was he shared first place with Esra Glass and became the youngest player ever to win the Austrian championship.
      In 1931/32 while in college, he joined the Hietzing Chess Club and was challenged to an informal match by Ernst Grünfeld, who won the match by a narrow margin.  In college he studied business but after his results at the Olympiads of 1930, 1933 and 1935 he devoted his time to chess. He won the German national championship at Bad Oeynhausen in 1938 and 1939 and played under the German flag at the 1939 Buenos Aires Olympiad, during which WW2 began
     Among his best results were outright or ties for first place at Budapest 1934 (the Hungarian Championship), Linz 1934, Zurich 1935, Milan 1937, Noordwijk 1938 (his greatest success, ahead of Euwe and Keres), Krefeld 1938, Bad Harzburg 1939, Bad Elster 1939, Vienna 1939, São Paulo 1941, São Paulo 1947, Mar del Plata 1948, Punta del Este 1951 and Córdoba 1959. His victory in Noordwijk began a streak of eight consecutive tournaments in which he was undefeated. He won matches against Efim Bogoljubov (1939) and Rudolf Spielmann (three times in 1932, 1936 and 1937).
      Towards the end of the 1930s, along with Keres and Capablanca, Eliskases was regarded as a potential contender for a World Championship Match with. Indeed, Alekhine was in favor of a match with Eliskases, who had been Alekhine’s second during his second match against Euwe in 1937.
      After Austria's incorporation into the Third Reich, Eliskases seems to have come to the conclusion that his style of play was too cautious and he began take a more aggressive approach and he scored his greatest successes.
      It was after his success in Noordwijk in 1938 (first prize +6 =3 -0) that he won six strong tournaments: the German Championship at Bad Oeynhausen in 1938, Krefeld 1938, Bad Oeynhausen 1939 (the German Championship again), Bad Elster 1939, Bad Harzburg 1939 and the Vienna 'Wertungsturnier' of 1939. In the same year, he played a match against Efim Bogoljubow, winning with a score of +6 =11 -3.
      After these successes he was supported by the 'Grossdeutscher Schachbund' (GSB). Eliskases was flattered to play the part of the 'upright German', who it was felt was going to win recognition for the 'German style of fighting chess' and he began, for the rest of his life, to dedicate himself to the purity of the German language.
      Eliskases was described as a polite and pleasant person and the GSB had high hopes for him. Alekhine, in his anti-Semitic tract 'Jewish and Aryan Chess' (1941), referred to Eliskases as his most best successor writing, “…it would be of much greater service to the world chess community if, for example, Keres or Eliskases became the title holder. And if in fact the one or, the other should prove to be a better player, I would acknowledge this quite ungrudgingly. But who is the better of the two? To be sure, Keres has a truly attractive ´Morphy style´, Eliskases’ chess is much comprehensive, evoking the notion of a truly universal style of chess. Can it really be considered mere chance that Eliskases beat the Estonian grandmaster not only at Semmering in 1937 but also in Buenos Aires?”
      During the Olympiad of 1939 in Buenos Aires, where two Austrians (Eliskases on board 1 and Albert Becker) played in the German team, he along with many other players decided to stay in Argentina rather than return home. Brazilian authorities threatened to intern and expel him but some Brazilian players helped him avoid expulsion by hiring him as a chess teacher. Eventually he became a naturalized Argentine citizen and represented Argentina at the Olympiads of 1952, 1958, 1960 and 1964.
      Eliskases was also a strong correspondence player, scoring over 75 percent during his most active period. He started playing postal chess in 1928 and here took third place in the Dyckhoff Memorial Tournament of 1932, an unofficial world CC championship for postal chess.
      He was considered an expert in the endgame and Dutch GM Hans Ree observed that Eliskases was one of only four players (Keres, Reshevsky, and Euwe being the others) to beat both Capablanca and Fischer
      FIDE awarded Eliskases the title of International Master in 1950 and Grandmaster in 1952.  He was not named GM in the list of original titles awarded in1950, but in1952. It was also in 1952 that Bogoljubow was awarded the title. The reason for the late awarding of the title to Bogoljubow was because his political activities for the Nazi’s had been under scrutiny. As for Eliskases, he had never been under scrutiny and no accusations had ever been made against him, so the reason for the ‘late’ award is not known.
      After the war Eliskases, who had become an Argentine citizen, resumed his career but he was no longer among the world’s elite players. He played in many South American tournaments during the 1950’s to 1970’s with only fair results.

Rossetto, Pilnik, Laurens, Maderna, Eliskases, Najdorf and Bolbochan, 1952
He did win the the Zonal Tournament at Mar del Plata in 1951 but then finished in 10th place in the Interzonal Tournament at Saltsjöbaden in 1952. Prior to that, he won Mar del Plata in 1948 (+9 =8 -0), ahead of Gideon Stahlberg, Miguel Najdorf and Laszlo Szabo.
      In 1976, he retumed to his native Austria with his wife and son, intending to settle there, but after 6 months they returned to Argentina. The last years of his life were spent in Cordoba where he suffered from illness and depression.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Got $425

You can buy the original carbon copy of Alekhine's scoresheet from win his against Paul Schmidt played at Salzburg 1942.  HERE.  I wonder if my autograph of Dr. Max Euwe or my complete set of about 40 post cards from my correspondence game with Reshevsky would fetch any money on e-bay?!  Euwe wrote, "I wish you good luck with chess interest. Sincerely, Dr. M. Euwe"  Most of the Reshevsky cards are just signed, "Regards, Sam"  but a couple are signed, "Sam Reshevsky"

Rook Handling

      There’s R & P endings, exchange sacrifices, occupation of open files, occupation of the 7th rank, batteries and R-lifts. These heavy weight pieces are invaluable and you just have to love them.

      Everybody knows that before you undertake an attack, you’re supposed to complete your development, but CJS Purdy advised that before any middlegame schemes are devised, you should take a look at your Rooks. As he advised, it’s a good idea to make sure they are connected. Then look for a good file put them on. Even if there’s no open file, place them on files that are likely to become open. The idea is to get them into the position of maximum readiness. Purdy advised that as a general rule, it’s a wise player that restrains himself from a premature attack and readies his R’s for the future. Of course you’ll often see GM’s not following this advice, but it’s a good idea not to break it yourself unless there’s a good reason.
      In fact, R’s are so important that in his classic work, Modern Chess Strategy, Ludek Pachman wrote that the chapter on R’s was one of the most important in the whole book. He pointed out that of all the pieces, the R’s are the most difficult to bring into play and their development requires, among other things, carefully planned P-advances, well chosen exchanges and correct timing in castling. Correct handling of R’s demands a great understanding of the strategy. There’s that word that is so much hated by so many average players…strategy. But, if one would just make a brief study of R’s in action, just think of how much it would add to one’s understanding and sometimes all it takes to win a game is a little better understanding or a little more knowledge than your opponent has. Of course the same is true in others areas of life, too. But that’s got nothing to do with chess.
      One of the simplest methods of attacking the enemy K is to use R’s on open files. Often however, the way must be prepared by P-advances in order to open up vital files. In the following game, Pachman demonstrates this strategy. I’m not sure Pachman’s analysis is 100% correct because sometimes authors fudge a little bit and don’t comment on alternative moves because they want to illustrate their point. This is especially true in those opening books advocating inferior openings, especially gambits.
      If you really want to get into some analysis, maybe even punch holes in mine, I suggest this game is a good one starting with Black’s 22nd move!

Chess Aticles

I was visiting Chessdotcom and discovered a section containing their best articles. I found them quite interesting and would recommend checking them out. Just a some examples:
  • Mating Prerequisites – WGM Pogonina
  • Who Can You Trust? - IM Silman
  • Botvinnik’s Lrgacy – GM Serper
  • Torre Attack – NM Schiller


Monday, March 28, 2011

…Bf5 vs. the QG, again

I recently posted a game where Black played an early …Bf5 against the Queen’s Gambit and just realized I had played a CC game against it not too long ago where the results were even more disastrous for Black.  My advice…don’t play it.

Tahl - Bhend, Zurich 1959

      In celebration of the 150th anniversity of the founding of the Zurich Chess Club an international tournament was held at Zurich from May 19 to June 8, 1959. Ten foreign players, including 8GM’s, played against six of the top Swiss masters. Tal (+10 -2 =3) was first with 11.5, Gligoric second with 11, while Fischer and Keres tied for third; Bobby scoring +8=5-2.
      I remember a postal opponent from England sent me a tournament book containing all the (unannotated) games from the event which was quite a prize because such books were hard to come by in those days. One of the biggest surprises was Tahl's upset by the Swiss Master Edwin Bhend. The other was Fischer’s near loss to another Swiss master, Edgar Walther, but Fischer finally managed to hang on for a draw. That game appeared in Fischer’s
60 Memorable Games.
      Of the players in this game, Tahl needs no introduction, but Bhend is little known. Edwin Bhend (September 9, 1931) was awarded the IM title in 1960 and in the 50s, 60s and 70’s was on of the leading Swiss players.

Edwin Bhend - a recent photo
What makes this game interesting is a typical Tahl sacrifice on move 22, but his position went downhill rapidly when he played the uncharacteristic retreat 25.Bc2. Another thing I found interesting was several opportunities to reach positions similar to the one occurring in the analysis to Black’s 26th move:
      This position is evaluated by Houdini as being 3-1/3 P’s in Black’s favor. To me it looks like it’s “unclear” and therefore offers equal chances. I can only assume that Houdini is correct in this evaluation because despite the unbalanced material situation Bhend demonstrated good technique in forcing the win.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Fritz Baumbach

      Dr Friedrich (Fritz) Baumbach (born September 8, 1935 in Weimar, Germany) is a German CC Grandmaster. He was the World CC Champion from 1983 and 1989. He is also a strong OTB player having won the was also East German Championship in 1970.

      In the following game I have followed Baumbach’s notes. What makes the game interesting was comparing Baumbach’s notes to those of Houdini.
      In doing so I think it should be clear why, as previously stated, you can’t rely on any engine’s analysis when it comes to positional evaluations. Not that Houdini ever totally disagreed with Baumbach’s analysis; it’s just that he apparently judged White’s advantage to be greater than Houdini did. You can’t really put a lot of faith in Houdini’s analysis in this game anyway because I did not let it run for more than 30 seconds to a minute or two while looking over the game. This point is important because, as I’ve pointed out in previous posts, I doubt that the average engine user in server games ever lets his engine run more than that before playing its first choice. At Baumbach’s level that is not sufficient and there’s clearly a lot more to CC using engines than meets the average player’s eye.
      Another odd thing I noticed was at move 31 when Baumbach was talking about human moves vs. engine moves…it seems to me he may have gotten things backwards. Anyway, it’s curious that none of the engines I used selected 31.h6 immediately. Maybe if I had let them analyze a lot longer they might have, but I wasn’t that curious.
      I just thought it was interesting to compare a strong OTB/CC player’s opinions to a “down and dirty” look with engines. This game was played with post cards, not by e-mail or servers.
      Baumbach wrote a book, assisted by American author and CC GM Robin Smith and Swiss author and CC GM Rolf Knobel, about the World CC Champions. The games are deeply analyzed by the World Champions themselves as well as other strong players. Of course many of the games were pre-computer. The book is titled Who is Champion of Champions?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Slav Trap

      Meeting the Q-Gambit with 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 seems to be pretty popular these days. One idea is that Black can get his QB out quickly, but it needs to be played at the right time or Black faces difficulties as seen in this game. We’ve all seen horror stories involved when one side grabs the b-Pawn early in the opening, but in the variations in this game, I think White can get away with it because even though he’s a little behind in development, he’s got a P or two and Black’s K is exposed.

      Black played 3…Bf5 thinking it was OK on general principles… it develops a piece that’s normally is a problem in the QGD.

Lack of Progress

      Several years ago a player I know was determined to get his rating up from the low-mid 1400’s. His plan was to study tactics and play gambits. Every time I saw the guy he had a new book on a different gambit opening and was doing nothing but hundreds, perhaps thousands, of tactical puzzles.
      Every time he lost a few games he blamed it on the opening and decided he needed to change it. The result was a lot of offbeat, inferior openings where he had to find the best move in the position right from the start and one slip meant defeat. I could never figure out why he wanted to give his opponent the advantage from move one. As for the tactics, he was good at solving puzzles. The problem was he still missed them in his own games and lost more than a fair share due to gross blunders.
      My advice was to play solid mainline openings, throw in some study of strategy and endings and play over a lot of master games. When it comes to tactics my advice was that when studying them, look for the motif that makes them work.  If you see the motif, you will be alerted to the fact that there may be a tactic in the position. Actually, that wasn't my advice; it was CJS Purdy's. It went unheeded and I was told he knew what he was doing so I kept my mouth shut. 
      He read some of Jeremy Silman’s material but evidently missed what Silman said right in the preface of How to Reassess You Chess. Silman wrote about how average players lack understanding of the true purpose of the opening, have no knowledge of planning and thinking processes, no understanding of elementary endings and how all of these things are connected.
      After 2-3 years of frustration and painfully slow progress he did manage to get his rating up to the high 1600’s, but could no longer play in the low rated sections. The result was a flurry of losses that put him back to the low 1600’s and that’s where he stayed.
      About a year ago he devised a new plan to get his rating up. The new plan? Hit the tactics again and revamp his opening repertoire. That sounds familiar. Not surprisingly, it didn’t work. You can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results. He has since revised his plan. Now he’s revised his openings again but at least he has switched to…classical openings. He has also decided to forget about reading opening books except as references. He has also decided to…study endings and he bought a book of… master games with the intention of playing over them.
      Maybe this time he will make it to 1800 or 1900. I hope so. He deserves it after years of frustration because he neglected to study all facets of the game. I wanted to say I told you so, but won’t because I, myself, have received a lot of advice about things over the years and I ignored it only to discover too late that it was good advice and I should have listened. That’s youth for you…they have to make their own mistakes.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Oscar Chajes

Oscar Chajes (pronounced "HA-yes") was born on 14 December 1873. Some sources say he was born in the Ukraine while others list his birth place as Austria.

1909, won US Open
1911, 2nd in Chicago
1911, 3rd-4th in New York
1911, 23rd-26th in Karlsbad, but won brilliancy prizes for his victories over Tartakower and Perlis.
1913, 5th-6th in New York
1913, 4th-5th in New York
1913, 4th-5th in Havana
1913, 3rd in New York (Quadrangular)
1913, Lost match to David Janowsky in Havana (+0 −2 =1)
1914, 2nd-3rd in New York
1915, 3rd-4th in New York
1916, 3rd in New York (Rice Memorial
1917, Won New York State Championship
1918, 2nd, Rye Beach, N.Y.
1918, 4th in Manhattan Chess Club Championship
1918, Defeated David Janowsky in a match in New York (+7 −5 =10).
1919, 3rd in Troy, N.Y.
1920, Won New York
1920, 1st-2nd in New York
1923, 17th-18th in Karlovy Vary
1923, 7th-8th in Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey (9th American Chess Congress)
1923/24, won Manhattan Chess Club Championship
1926, 11th in Chicago
1926, 4th in New York.

Chajes was the last person to defeat Jose Capablanca, at New York 1916, prior to Capablanca's eight-year undefeated stretch from 1916 to 1924. Chajes died in New York City in 1928.
Here is an exciting game Chajes lost to Abraham Kupchik. In his delightful book, The Bobby Fischer I Knew, Arnold Denker described Kupchik as “The Frightened, Little Rabbit.” Denker wrote of him, Kupchik was a tiny, whisper of a man with the saddest eyes he had ever seen.” Denker wrote that if chess were nothing more than an analytical science then Kupchik would likely have made it into the big time. Described as a gentle man, known to club members as “Kuppele” or “Kup” he was, according to Denker, repulsed at the idea of attacking an opponent. With him, defensive chess was the name of the game. However, he was extremely effective at 10-second per move chess. Still, he tied for first with Frank Marshall at Lake Hopatcong in 1923 and finished second behind Capablanca at Lake Hopatcong in 1926, ahead of Maroczy and Marshall. In 1935 at the Warsaw Chess Olympics, playing 3rd board, Kupchik scored an impressive +6 -0 =8. It’s a little known fact that both players in this game were considered to receive invitations to the famous New York 1924 tournament but it was finally decided that neither of them would have added anything to the tournament except two extra rounds. Not quite true…Kupchik had a superior record to at least two of the participants.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Time Controls on Servers

      I am playing in an event on one server against 6 opponents. The event was started on December 30, 2010…almost 3 months ago. The time limit is 40 days for 10 moves, cumulative. That means your unused time accumulates. So far everybody has been playing quite fast and I’ve completed 4 games. Of the remaining two, one opponent moves almost every day and we’ve played 39 moves so we are moving right along.  The other remaining opponent has not played a move for 26 days and he still has 26 days left. That’s stupid. We aren’t playing for the world CC championship; we’re just a couple of…what was that GM Alex Yermolinsky called us? Tomato cans. We are a couple of tomato cans playing for fun.

      In another event started on October 1, 2010, I qualified for round two but have been waiting for two months for one game that has no bearing on the outcome of qualifiers to finish. These two guys are making a move about every two weeks and judging by the current game position, they will be playing for many months to come.
      If we were IM’s or GM’s trying to qualify for a top level CC event, I’d have no problem with it, but really! This is no fun and it’s been so long since I logged on to the one site, I nearly forgot my name and password. I wanted to tell them what Bobby Fischer once told an opponent in a simultaneous exhibition, “C’mon fella, move! This ain’t postal chess.” But then I remembered…it is.
      Maybe I'm just getting old, cranky and impatient.  Or, maybe I just don't enjoy this form of chess like I used to.  I don't know.

Strategy and Tactics

In his book, The Road to Chess Improvement, a book that should be a classic and required reading for every player rated from 1400-2100 who wants to improve his play, GM Alex Yermolinsky had some interesting things to say about strategy and tactics. He told about when he was a young player, one medium strength master named Slava Shishmarev talked about ‘spirited fighters’ and ‘spit and polishers.’
      Spirited fighters were players who would play any position and did a lot of calculating. They will often find themselves in bad positions because eof their unsound play but they keep on fighting until a seemingly random tactical opportunity presented itself.
      Spit and polishers, on the other hand, play solidly and value things like better P-structures and any other positional advantage. The classical works of Soviet players like Panov and Romanovsky and especially the patriarch of positional play among the Soviet players, Botvinnik, were constantly advocating ‘positional understanding’ at every turn.
      One of the greatest clashes between spirited fighters and spit and polishers in recent history were the two matches in the 1960’s between Botvinnik and Tahl. Yermolinsky said when he finally got around to playing over the games in those two matches he was surprised to find that despite the widely discussed difference between the two players, Tahl, the tactician, was well aware of positional principles and endgame theory. Botvinnik, the deep strategist, went for tactical solutions very often. In short, Yermolinsky didn’t see all that much difference between the two! Yermolinsky stated, “The truth is, a chess player’s main aim objective is to find good moves.” That observation really should not be surprising though because you don't get to be world champion without being good in all areas of the game.  Preference is another matter.

Here’s Yermolinsky’s glossary:
      Positional Play: Means nothing more than making moves based on positional principles such as development, centralizing, controlling open files, P-structure, etc. No calculation is required except for blunder checking.
      Tactics: Variations that are calculated. A tactic relates to the position on the board at the moment and continues as far as the moves are forced.
      Strategy: A long term thing. Creating and following plans. A strategic plan can be conducted by tactical means independent of the positional principles it was based on. It just does nopt happen very often which is why “strategic” and “positional” are often confused.
      Combinative Play: Consists of tactical operations linked with one another and may or may not involve a sacrifice.

Yermolinsky claims that of the many books written since WW2 a lot of them just repeat each other with the same boring lists of positional elements and hollow advice showing carefully selected games where chess heavyweights beat up on lesser skilled opponents.  His recommendation is to study the games from David Bronstein’s 1953 Zurich Candidates Tournament, and the collected games of Bobby Fischer and Bent Larsen. The value of studying these games is that’s where you learn pattern recognition and get to see how true masters apply strategy and tactics. Another book he recommends is John Watson’s Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy.
Yermolinsky wrote how GM Vladimir Malaniuk once told him that when you have the initiative, no deep calculation is required because the simple strategy of attacking your opponent’s pieces and creating threats on every move has a cumulative effect…sooner or later, something is going to give. GM Alex Wojtkiewicz described GM Judith Polgar’s play: She threatens your pieces, at first one by one; for a while you are able to defend, but then she attacks two at a time and defense is impossible. When Yermolinsky asked GM Alex Shabalov what criteria he used when he sends his games into wild tactical melees and Shabalov told him that his main concern is the number of ideas present in his position. If they are growing, it’s a good sign. If they are diminishing with every move he has overreached himself.
      In his early days, Yermolinsky believed risk had to be diminished because positional play should be enough to win but his results weren’t supporting that theory. At that time he was studying the games of one of the most boring players in the world at the time, GM Ulf Andersson. He eventually discovered that something very important was missing from his play. He began to study with GM Mark Tseitlin and realized that being dogmatic in your approach does not work. One has to be ready to use whatever approach works in a position. If it means trading Q’s and being prepared to play a hundred move endgame based on your Q-side P-majority or making a speculative sacrifice where the outcome is uncertain, then that’s what you have to do.
      Along these lines, he wrote that he began to realize that the loss of a Pawn was just another positional factor that must be taken into account along with a lot of other factors present. In short, I think the point that Yermolinksy was trying to make was that in order to improve you can’t be a one trick pony and confine your study to only one area like a lot of players try to do. You should try to do as NM Mark Buckley wrote in Practical Chess Analysis: becoming the all around player should be your goal.
Yermolinsky advocates a lot of hard work but the real value of the book is that he offers practical advice and gives you an insight on how to study. I've owned Bronstein's book and books of both Fischer's and Larsen's games and can say, even if you don't improve a single rating point, you will enjoy playing over the games.  Sometimes it's not about improving at all...it's just enjoying the games.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Botvinnik Variation

      The QGD, Semi-Slav, Botvinnik Variation is characterized by the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 c6 5.Bg5 dxc4 6.e4 b5 7.e5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Nxg5 hxg5 10.Bxg5. It became a favorite of players like Tahl, Bagirov, Polugayevsky, Shabalov, Shirov and Kamsky. In his book, Fire On Board, Shirov devotes an entire chapter to the defense and said, “To find the truth in this opening one needs to analyze certain lines very deeply and always make very cool assessments because many of the positions go against standard chess principles.”

One of the first chess books I owned was Botvinnik’s One Hundred Selected Games. It was one of the few books that I wore the cover off of (the other was Reshevsky's Best Games), and I remember the ease in which Botvinnik defeated Denker made quite an impression on me. Even today I can recommend Botvinnik’s book as being one of the best game collections available.

The USA vs. USSR radio chess match 1945 (download my pdf booklet on this match) was conducted September 1-4, 1945. The ten leading masters of the United States played the ten leading masters of the Soviet Union (except for Paul Keres) for chess supremacy. It was a two-game match between the teams. The time control was 40 moves in 2½ hours and 16 moves per hour after that. Moves were transmitted via radio and It took an average of 5 minutes to transmit a move.
      This result was met with astonishment around the chess world since the USA had won four straight Chess Olympiads from 1931 to 1937; however, the Soviet Union had not competed in those tournaments. The Soviet program for producing a new generation of masters, originated and supervised by Nikolai Krylenko from the early 1930s, clearly was paying dividends, and from 1945 onwards, Soviet players would dominate international chess for most of the rest of the 20th century. The radio match proved a watershed and a changing of the guard in the chess world
      The American team was comprised of players many of whom had been part of the pre-war, American-dominated Chess Olympiads. The Soviet team consisted of one of the strongest line-up of players one could imagine and  the new-comer, David Bronstein, played the lowly last board.
      Most important, the match introduced the powerful USSR chess machine to the world. The USSR won by a score of 15-1/2 to 4-1/2.

      The following players were reservists in the U.S. team, to be called on, in order: Alexander Kevitz, Robert Willman, Jacob Levin, George Shainswit, Weaver W. Adams, Edward Lasker, Fred Reinfeld, Edward S. Jackson, Jr., Samuel Factor, and Martin C. Stark. The Soviet reserves were: Alexander Konstantinopolsky, Vitaly Chekhover, Iosif Rudakovsky, and Peter Romanovsky.
      Botvinnik had recent experience in this line having won games against Lilienthal and Mikenas at the 1944 USSR Championship. Both had played 11 g3. It is not clear what Denker's idea was with 12 Be2? A summarization of the advantages of 12 g3 from Wells book The Complete Semi-Slav: The h-pawn is covered down the diagonal, the f4 square is guarded, the Bishop is not vulnerable to ..Ne5 at any stage, the g-file is neutralized and the Queen has access to h5." Kasparov recommended 14 Bf3 as an improvement over 14 a4?!..b4 15 Ne4..c5 which gave Black a tempo attacking the Knight. If 21 Be3 the 23..d2 wins.
      But, it must be remembered chess information traveled slowly in those days. It is likely that Denker was not familiar with those games. All other games played in this line before 1945 involved White playing Be2 and/or Qf3 so Denker, unaware that he was doing so, was playing outdated theory
      Subsequently this whole opening variation became known as the Botvinnik System, thanks to his success in this and other games. It must have all come as a great surprise to Denker, though Botvinnik had already played it in a training game with his sparring partner Ragozin and in another Moscow championship game. In his annotations to the present game, Botvinnik wrote: "You get the feeling that my opponent is a very long way from Moscow and that nobody in New York has warned Denker that you don't play this variation against Botvinnik."

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bad Advice

      In 1956, on a television quiz show called Twenty-One, a man named Harold Stemple, after winning $69,500 (in 1955 that was the equivalent of well over a half a million dollars today), suffered a scripted loss to a more popular contestant named Charles Van Doren. The latter’s name became synonymous with being a genius and it was only in 1958 that it became known the whole thing was a fraud and ultimately involved grand jury investigations, congressional investigations and the cancellation of TV games shows.

      I mention this because in a letter to Chess Review magazine written prior to the public learning of the fraud, it was suggested the Charles Van Doren be given the book Modern Chess Opening to memorize and thereby he would be able to challenge the Russian hegemony in chess.
      We laugh at the absurdity of the idea that memorizing MCO would make one strong chess player. Or do we?  In a recent forum it was asked how one memorizes openings. One answer was to play lots of blitz games and compare your games to the books afterward hoping some of it will stick in your memory.
      Some players are taking the approach of the guy who wanted to have Charles Van Doren memorize MCO. Masters are masters, not because they have better memories than the rest of us, but because they understand chess better. Also, since chess is about understanding, how are you supposed to learn anything unless you study it? How does rushing through anything help you understand it? Would this person suggest the best way to prepare for a  test in school would be to blitz through the material, take the test, then go back and see what answers you missed and if you do it enough times maybe someday you’ll get a 100 on the test?
      When I was learning how to factor binomials the process just escaped me until one day I did one problem, the same one, over and over again. Finally, after about a hundred times, the process involved in solving them finally dawned on me and the others were easy. Why do we try to make chess different?
      Take the following position from the Torre Attack after the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bg5 Be7 4.Nbd2 d5

      From this position White should develop his minor pieces: Ne5, Qf3, O-O and centralize his R’s. If Black plays …cxd4 then White should recapture with exd4. The “assault pattern” White is trying to achieve is Qh3, Re3, Qh4 and Rh3.
      On the other hand after if Black elects a K-Indian setup with 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Bg5 Bg7 4.Nbd2 d6

      Then White should play e4 at once then Pc3, place the f1B on e2, trade d4xe5, overprotect his e-Pawn, play Nc4, Bf1 and advance the Q-side P’s.

      Granted this is not a lot of information, but if you understand how to play these positions and have played over about a hundred master games with each setup, you will have a pretty good idea of how these positions should be played and when you check you play out against the “book” you’ll be surprised at how far you have followed it.  You follow this procedure with whatever opening you select.

What's the Best Chess Engine?

      That’s hard to say because it depends on what you are looking for. As reader Tommyg pointed out, for human-like play, Junior and Hiarcs are good. On the other hand, we saw in the post on Engine Positional Evaluations and Comparisons, some engines don’t make especially good positional evaluations under certain circumstances.
      An engine that is good in blitz play may not be the one you want to use in CC play or for analyzing games. My experience using engines in CC play is at Lechenicher SchachServer where engine us is allowed. My first tournaments there saw me using an old desk top computer and Fritz 5 and the results were not too good. In a recent (unfinished tournament) using Houdini I have much better results. So far I’m in first place with +2 -0 =2, but there’s still a long ways to go.
      The engines that rank the highest in engine tournaments are not necessarily the best engines to use for analysis or CC and the best way of determining which engines are best for CC analysis, or any analysis for that matter, is the infinite analysis function. When analyzing a position, I don’t want to let it run for hours. While analyzing any game, whether it’s when I’m playing over games from a book or analyzing a game on LSS, letting an engine run for a few minutes is sufficient for my purposes. I want an engine that will provide a reasonable evaluation in a short amount of time.
      One test I saw where free engines were tested in order to see which ones found the best move in the fastest amount of time were: Rybka 4, Critter, Stockfish, Houdini, Hannibal, Gull, Umko, Toga II 1.34, Toga II 1.4.5c, and Komodo. The tester tried Crafty but gave up on it because it was so slow in producing a result.
      It was a different story when it came to evaluations though. Houdini and Crafty (even though the tester gave up on waiting for it to make a final evaluation) were the most optimistic while Komodo, Stockfish, Protector were in the middle and the remaining engines were more conservative. The difference in evaluations was about 1.25 P’s which is actually quite considerable.
      So far in all the blitz tests I’ve conducted, Houdini has come out best and it’s the one I rely on. In a 6-game blitz match against Komodo, Houdini won +2 -1 =3. The most interesting game was one of the draws which reached the following position:
Houdini vs. Komodo
      I stopped the game here at move 81 because according to the Shredder endgame database the position is drawn. Houdini gave White a 1.02 P advantage though. In fact Houdini maintained it had about a one Pawn advantage throughout most of the game, but it was never able to force the win.  So, based on my experience, Houdini does tend to be overly optimistic in it evaluations.  Fritz 12 is more conservative but so far it has not done well in blitz matches against Houdini.  I’m really not sure what to make of this, but Houdini is my engine of choice for analysis and LSS play these days because it selects good moves fairly quickly despite its somewhat overoptimistic outlook.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bad Queen Sac

      I played the following game on Instant Chess last night and my opponent met 1.e4 with 1…a5. Apparently there is a near-master on ICC who plays this a lot but who knew that?! I thought I was playing a beginner but it soon became apparent that I was a bit too casual in thinking 1…a5 meant a quick win against a beginner.

      I sac’d my Q on move 5 with hardly a thought believing I’d get a quick mate if he took it, but his K took flight and eluded my pieces. Things became more difficult than I expected and it was only with some help later in the game that I managed to win.