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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Washington International

      The nine-round open Washington International event was  sponsored by the Maryland Chess Federation was played from July 28 – August 1 and was won by former U.S. champion Gata Kamsky who triumphed over a strong field. Kamsky was undefeated at 7-2 and won $5,000.
      The purpose of the tournament was to provide an opportunity for players to earn GM and IM norms. A minimum FIDE rating of 2100 was required to play. One nice touch was that breakfast was provided for the players each morning.
      Despite his top-seeded ranking, Kamsky entered the final round in a three-way tie with GMs Alex Onischuk and Timur Gareev but Onischuk and Gareev were only able to draw their games while Kamsky ground down GM Joel Benjamin in a complex 86-move minor-piece ending.   GM Alex Shabalov, whose hopes were hurt by a Round 6 loss to Gareev, defeated GM Mikheil Kekelidze of Georgia in the final round to grab a share of second at 6.5-2.5 along with Onischuk and Gareev.  Kamsky demonstrated a typical professional approach by drawing with some of his chief rivals while grinding out wins against lesser players using his experience and technique.
     I often enjoy playing over games where the heavyweights pummel the lesser lights.  While we all appreciate the achievement of those who reach 2200, when you compare their skill to guys like Kamsky…well, there is no comparison and it can be instructive to watch the technique GMs use to defeat an ordinary master. These games usually do not make it into print because the quality of play on the part of the loser is too low, but that is often what makes them instructive.
      In the following game from the first round Black chooses a lesser known side variation in the Winawer and from all appearances just handed Kamsky the game.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Chess, Physical Fitness and Nutrition

      Studies have shown a link between physical fitness and chess.  One study even recommended organizers of tournaments for children should make it possible for players to participate in some form of recreation in their free time and parents and coaches need to be made aware of the significance of regular physical exercises for health and high achievements.
       I can remember playing on one tournament in the mid-sixties at a venue without air conditioning on a day when it was 90 degrees and the humidity was at least as high.  Right after my game started my opponent pulled out a corncob pipe and lit up.  Between the heat and humidity and the awful pipe smoke I was lucky I didn’t puke.  Cigarettes, coffee and soda were the norm for players to use during games in those days.  Between rounds everybody choked down greasy hamburgers and milkshakes at the drug store lunch counter down the street because it was the only place close. Even today it’s not unusual to see GMs heading for the local bar after their games.  In fact one site where I played in a few tournaments had a bar downstairs and one master always drank an awful lot of beer between rounds and occasionally even during his games.  Of course the lunch counter did a booming business between rounds selling hamburgers (greasy ones, of course), soda, beer and coffee.  Fortunately one thing changed: smoking at the board wasn’t allowed so smokers had to step outside.
       More on the study. It advised attention should be paid to children’s fitness preparation, particularly to the exercises developing their strength. The study was supported by the University of Physical Education in Warsaw and European Chess Union which stated appropriate nutrition and physical activity are important factors which have crucial influence on growing kids and health maintenance in adults.  They also pointed out numerous studies have proven the strong relationship between an athletes’ dietary patterns and their physical fitness. No kidding.  Can you imagine Usain Bolt pigging out on ice cream?
      Obviously chess players do not demand high intensity muscle effort.  But whether you play chess or not, a sedentary lifestyle and improper eating may provoke the development of various diseases.  That’s all well known and common sense, but that’s what the study said.  However, the main purpose of the study was to assess effects of elements of lifestyle including physical activity and the dietary behaviors in young players.
       Like kids everywhere the young Polish players showed a lot of unhealthy eating practices, ate at irregular intervals and skipped breakfast.  Their diets were also low in intake of vegetables, fruits and milk.  They also ate a lot of sweets and fried food. As proof of the consequences of their habits, the study noticed that the older the kids got, the fatter they got.  Personally, I don’t think a study is required to determine all this.  The study also observed that most players spent their leisure time using a computer or watching TV.   
       The conclusion was that chess players make many nutritional mistakes, particularly during tournaments. Of course they do.  A weekend Swiss doesn’t allow much time for eating and most of eat poorly anyway.    
       One conclusion I found amusing was the fact that players’ food choices depended on texture, taste and appearance more than on nutritional value.  At the risk of repeating myself, no kidding.
       The research concluded that children must be taught how to eat properly because it will help them to enjoy a better quality of life. Doesn’t that apply to all of us?
       Some of the world’s best players have long recognized that good physical health and conditioning are critical to maximizing one’s results
       During his training for his 1972 match with Spassky Bobby Fischer trained with a gut named Harry Sneider who said of Fischer, “He really believed in a good preparation. He loved power-training with weights, he swam 45 minutes a day and he was a ‘world-champion’ walker. ... He also drank pints of carrot juice and ate a lot of salads. He took a sauna every day and a massage. That was his daily routine.”
       Fischer said, “Your body has to be in top condition. Your chess deteriorates as your body does. You can’t separate body from mind.” In fact when Fischer appeared on the talk-show hosted by Dick Cavett he was asked what he would have liked to become had he not excelled in chess. Fischer replied, “Something in sports.”
       I don’t enjoy swimming, don’t have a sauna and can’t talk the wife into a massage, but how many pints of carrot juice, and how many salads would it take to add a 100 points to my rating?  It’s getting close to my nap time so I’m going to go have that last piece of lemon meringue pie and a cup of coffee and think about this.




Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How Bobby Fischer (Briefly) Changed America

       This summer marks the anniversary of an extraordinary moment in U.S. history: the 1972 match in which the American genius Bobby Fischer defeated the Soviet wizard Boris Spassky for the chess championship of the world.
       The battle probably should have been just one more headline in an eventful three months that saw the Watergate burglary, the expulsion of the Soviet military from Egypt and the humiliating dismissal of vice presidential nominee ThomasEagleton from the Democratic ticket. Somehow the story of Fischer and Spassky and their epic match, which ended 40 years ago this month, captured our attention in a way that no struggle of intellect has since. Read more…

Friday, August 24, 2012

Newell Banks

       Newell William Banks (October 10, 1887 – February 17, 1977) was noted primarily as a checker player, but he was also a chess master of some ability. Banks learned chess from his father.  Banks played his first game of blindfold checkers at five years and six months at the Detroit Chess and Checker Club.
      In 1909 he defeated Hugh Henderson for the national checker championship. In 1947, at age 60, for 45 consecutive days (4 hours per day) Banks played 1387 blindfold checker games finishing with a record of +1331 -2 =54. He also set a new blindfold speed record playing 62 games in four hours, scoring +61 -0 =1. He averaged about one second per move.  By 1933, Banks held all speed records at blindfold and simultaneous checkers.
       In the Master's Invitational Tournament held in Chicago in 1926 Banks defeated Isaac Kashdan and Frank Marshall (reigning US Champion) and drew with former champion Jackson W. Showalter, the strong Chicago master Samuel Factor and Oscar Chajes. Chicago was won by Frank Marshall with 8.5 ahead of Maroczy and Torre at 8.0, and Jaffe and Kupchik on 7.5. The remainder of the field was Kashdan, Factor, Edward Lasker, A.J.Fink, Newell Banks, Oscar Chajes, Jackson Showalter, and Lewis J. Isaacs. Chicago was a watershed for Marshall; aside from Olympiads, he never again won a significant tournament.
       How did Banks think chess compared to checkers? In one of Banks comments appearing in A Chess Omnibus he stated that checkers is 80% memory and 20% intuition while chess is the opposite.
      Of the two games, which do I prefer? This is a question not to be answered lightly. Although as a checkers player I held the American championship for 25 years, whereas my best achievements at chess were probably my isolated victories over Marshall and Kashdan in one tournament, I have to admit that I get more enjoyment out of my chess. Mainly for its greater variety.

In 1947 Banks expressed more of his thoughts in Banks’ Blindfold Checker Masterpieces:
      In the course of 50 years of checkers and 45 years of chess, after a careful study of both games, I have reached the following conclusions…The end play in checkers is more subtle than chess, for while the moves are more restricted, the timing is, nevertheless, more profound. ... The overwhelming beauty in chess lies in the opening and the middle game, both of which fields, in my opinion, are unquestionably far superior to those in checkers.

      Banks also believed a beginner could learn to play a fairly competent amateur game of chess in one-third the time it would take to learn checkers. He went on to explain that this didn’t mean checkers is the more difficult game but that since checkers has been analyzed at least five times more thoroughly than chess, the beginner at checkers is called upon to absorb a formidable amount of material. It also means that checkers is a game of memory.
       As a youngster Banks claimed he learned more about chess looking over Morphy’s games during about a six month period than he ever learned from any book he studied and recommended the study of Morphy’s game to beginners.  He felt Morphy’s games exposed the student to the principal of mobility and how to play open games.
       Banks never stressed endings because he felt most games were decided in the opening and middle game, and it was a rare occasion when a game is won by superlative endgame play.  He also believed checkers was of great value in improving a chess player’s sense of timing in the endgame. For that reason Banks advised serious students of either game to study both chess and checkers.
       He pointed out that in checkers you must move forward at all times and the slightest mistake is usually being fatal. In chess, on the other hand, if a minor error is made you can, in many cases, avoid disaster. Another point he stressed was that in checkers if you are one piece down in any normal position will lose but that is not always the case in chess.
       In 1953, his book, World’s Championship Checker Match American Style, was published and the biographical notes stated Banks traveled over 1,000,000 miles and played about 600,000 checkers and chess games. During this time he played over 80,000 blindfold checker games.
       Banks died in 1977 at age ninety.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bobby Fischer’s Correspondence Career

      If you didn’t know he had one, neither did I until I came into possession of the out of print The Unknown Bobby Fischer by Donaldson and Tangborn.  I love this book! Published in 1999 the book chapters describe his career: The Early Years, 1956-The Big One, 1957-The Big Breakthrough, 1960-1965, Fischer’s 1965 Transcontinental Tour, Articles 70s Simuls-Blitz, Fischer’s Originality-Analysis-Suggestions-Interviews plus 24 photos.  If you can find this book used don't hesitate...buy it!
      Bobby's career as a correspondence player is a bit of a mystery. His mentor, John W. Collins, who was a strong postal master and wrote a correspondence chess column for Chess Review, writes in My Seven Chess Prodigies: Bobby never played correspondence chess. Probably the pace was too slow and the dramatic personal confrontation, which is such a large part of the excitement of the game, was lacking. Consulting books while the game was in progress would not be his idea of legitimate chess either. In fact, very few grandmasters, and potential grandmasters, with the notable exception of Paul Keres in his formative years, have cottoned to correspondence chess. This is in contrast to its popularity with experts and lower-rated players who delight in it. Possibly the difference of appeal is due to the reasons just mentioned, to preference for public or private competition, or to causes which are psychological in nature.
Here’s the real story from The Unknown Bobby Fischer:

      Actually, Bobby did play in at least one correspondence tournament. The reason Collins didn't know about it is because he first met Bobby on Memorial Day Weekend in 1 956.  By then Bobby's short-lived postal career appears to have either finished or been winding down.
      The first indication that Bobby played correspondence chess appears in Legend on the Road. There, on page 12, Donald P. Reithel, who played Bobby during his 1964 simul tour, writes: In 1955 I played Bobby in postal chess - a prize tourney in Chess Review. I remember him as a typical American kid: Brooklyn Dodger fan, somewhat opinionated about school and somewhat desirous to exchange ideas and thoughts. He printed his name in lower case letters, "bobby fischer." He didn't finish the event because he was starting to play over-the-board tournaments.

In a later communication, Reithal added:  A. W. Conger was one of my opponents in [a] Chess Review Prize Tourney . . . [a player named Fisher played in 54-P 38-100] . . . That is the event Bobby Fischer competed in . .
      For myself, I discarded many of my early tournament results and no longer have my scorepads covering that period of time. I did have several of Bobby's cards, but they too were tossed out in Spring cleanups. What was interesting about them was that Bobby had notes on all of them covering various subjects.
       Our individual game was a King's Indian Defense (I was White) and the game lasted 1 2- 1 5 moves when he wrote me that he was withdrawing from the tourney to pursue a lengthy cross-country trip and series of over-the-board tournaments, which, he said, was his entry toward capturing the world chess title - build skills, gain exposure, make results and earn a reputation. A year or two later he won the U.S. Championship for the first time and he was true to his word.
       I did not find his comments to be egotistic, but rather showing youthful optimism and self confidence as to his talent and ability. We shared considerable note exchanges, as I was only a teen myself and I think he related to that, as we had similar interests outside of just chess. I recall responding to his direct statement that he intended to win the world championship and return it to the USA, advising him to complete his education which he would need to handle his affairs during his adulthood.
      His response was that I sounded just like his sister and teachers. His follow-up card listed only the moves. But then he responded in a more friendly way to my comments about his note . . .
       In all, I found him to be a rather lonesome kid who was trying to find himself and purpose. He no doubt caught the chess bug early and it was a burning fire inside him. Who exactly contributed toward his maturity, I cannot say.
       He told me he studying the Bible and I wrote that he might find Rev. Rice and Herbert W. Armstrong and Garner Ted Armstrong's religious broadcasts informative, which he apparently checked out, as he later became interested in the latter's Worldwide Church of God.
       . . . I found him to be a nice, normal kid with a lot of dedication to chess, but also having interests that all kids seem to share. He was a Dodger fan and I a Yankee fan. Maybe that it is why we hit it off. Anyway, I followed his career and was most pleased that his youthful dream was fulfilled.

      AI Horowitz's Chess Review was one of the major organizers of correspondence tournaments in the 1950s. The record is spotty, but it appears Bobby played in a Prize Tourney section during 1955 and 1 956. The May 1955 issue of Chess Review, on page
159, lists an R. Fischer under new postalites, assigning him a Class B (1200) rating. The piece mentions that newcomers to postal chess are "rated" on their estimated ability with Class A running from 1300 on up.  Class B was from 1000-1298. Note that the postal ratings were about 500-600 points lower than over-the-board USCF ratings at the time.
       Postal ratings appeared in Chess Review approximately twice a year. The August 1955 issue (p. 252) lists a B. Fischer at 1198. Later he drops to 1082 in March 1 956. The August 1956 issue again lists him at 1082 which suggests that he was no longer active.
       The following game is the only correspondence effort of Bobby's that we have discovered.  A.W Conger of Pennsylvania was rated 1274 in the August 1955 issue of Chess Review. It first appeared in Zugzwang, the newsletter of the King of Prussia Chess Club which is located in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, just west of Philadelphia.
       Fischer resigned on move 12 after dropping a Pawn, but engine analysis shows his game was still playable but despite what the engine says, it would have been difficult and we know Fischer did not like passive positions.  It’s just a guess, but I suspect he resigned in disgust, being ruled by his emotions rather than hard analysis.

Richard Ling

      I recently bemoaned the fact that there is a paucity of information available about Ohio Chess players but in the process discovered a Blog that gave a tribute to this great Ohio player of the past.  I found it, of all places, on a sports Blog maintained by Expert David Friedman who is an eight-time champion of the Dayton Chess Club. In addition to blogging about the sports world Friedman has a large collection of interesting blogs on Fischer and chess in general.  Please check it out!  Mr. Friedman’s post about Ling can be read in its entirety HERE.
       Ling won the championship of the Dayton Chess Club the most times: Five titles between 1961 and 1973, including three straight from 1965-67. Ling claimed his final DCC title by beating Robert Lytle in a playoff match after they tied for first place in the tournament.
       Ling, who was the Ohio co-champion in 1962 and was known for three things: 1) A remarkable ability to rattle off moves quickly during severe time pressure; 2) an uncanny knack for saving bad positions (often while rattling off moves quickly during severe time pressure); 3) being a gentleman at all times.
       Friedman wrote of Ling, “I very much enjoyed competing against Ling and then analyzing with him after the games. He never once acted like my questions were stupid or bothersome. At first I was no match for him but eventually I was able to give him a decent game; inevitably, he would get into time pressure, I would move too fast and he would win.”
       “Ling never talked about why he always got into time pressure or how he so frequently managed to completely outplay his opponents once he got there. Several players frankly told me that the likelihood of ever running Ling out of time was very remote—and this was before the days of Chronos clocks and five second time delay. If you have a good position, don’t even look at the clock, they implored; play the best move that you can find and let him worry about your move and his dwindling time. Of course, they were right but this kind of advice falls into the “easier said than done” category, particularly for a young player who tended to play too fast anyway.”
       “Sadly, on December 11, 1989, he and his wife were killed in a car accident. The DCC Championship trophy was renamed the Richard Ling Memorial Trophy in his honor.”  
      In 1961 I played in my first tournament, the Ohio Junior Championship, which was being held at the same time as the Region 5 Championship in Dayton and I well-remember Ling.  At some point in the tournament Ling, who seemed very mannerly and polite, actually spoke to me when he said hello.  OK, so it wasn't a big deal, but at that time I had never met any real chessplayers and to actually have an Expert acknowledge my presence by saying, "Hello, how are you?" was a pretty big deal!  The fact that I still remember the incident 50 years later just shows you that sometimes a smile and a friendly word will go a long way.

Here is Ling’s game against GM Larry Christiansen from a 1980 simul in Dayton.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Chess Cafe Needs Your Donation

      The really excellent site Chess Café which includes NM Dan Heisman’s Novice Nook (some of the best instruction around) plus tons of other fascinating and useful chess material is asking for donations to, well…let them explain:
      To create a freely accessible online chess curriculum that focuses on using chess as a tool for teaching problem solving and critical thinking skills. A curriculum that can be used in classrooms, home-schooling, libraries, institutions, etc. with complete course work, exercises, and activities available to print out as worksheets and lessons. One that gives someone with little or no chess knowledge the means and materials to run a successful chess program. Along with a freely accessible online playing interface that offers real-time play, correspondence play, and various training features. Be sure to checkout our contributor rewards!  View request.

      They are accepting donations in the amount of $25, $65, $150, $300, $500 and $1000 in an effort to raise $65,000 to accomplish the task. They will also supply you with a gift of set and board, etc. depending on the size of your gift. I’m not sure why they need $65,000 for this project unless they are planning on paying GMs et al to put together the material and/or need to pay for a website and/or server.
      This is a great site that has been around a long time and I am sure their request for donations for this project is legitimate but what if I donated $1000 and they end up short of their goal?  Have I ended up paying $1000 for a folding chess table, wooden set w/box for a project that’s stillborn, or what? 
      One thing I have always noticed about requests for donations relating to chess for any reason…I have rarely, if ever, seen any masters or GMs donating anything.  It always seems to be us average players.  Why is that?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Albert Sandrin

Albert Sandrin (1923-2004)

      Probably Sandrin’s best tournament results were first prize ($35) at the Illinois State Tournament in 1944 and winning the U.S. Open in Omaha in 1949.
      Sandrin learned chess from his uncle who taught him and his brother, Angelo, how to play. Well, they were “sort of” taught how to play. Sandrin told how they made up their own rules and it wasn’t until a few years that he and his brother got serious and borrowed some books from the library and learned how chess was really played. Shortly after that they both began playing in local tournaments where both Sandrins became regulars on the Chicago chess scene for many years. Throughout most of his career Sandrin maintained a solid master rating.
      Sandrin’s vision was damaged in August, 1929 when, while playing outside the family home on Chicago's south side, the bored six year old stared directly into the sun for a long period of time. His eyesight deteriorated very slowly over the following years. In 1952 he entered the Marshall School for the Blind and studied piano tuning. After learning how to tune pianos, he advertised in the telephone book for customers and soon found himself tuning pianos all over the Chicago area. He was totally blind by 1968. Sandrin played a small part in US airline history when he was a passenger aboard the first PanAm 747 flight from Chicago to London on April 26, 1970.
      In the US Open in 1965, one player described how Sandrin would sit at the board with a female companion sitting beside him and when it was time to make his move, he would announce it and then move the piece. His companion would then write down the move.
      Another player described his meeting with Sandrin in another US Open during the 1980s and was surprised to see that Sandrin did not use a special set designed for blind players but used their regular set. He was shocked at the beginning of the game to see Sandrin use his little fingers to locate the edge of the board then pick up a Pawn and move it right where he wanted it. This guy explained that he thought that because Sandrin was blind, a good plan would be to complicate the game as much as possible, figuring Sandrin was bound to make a mistake. It turned out Sandrin avoided all the traps and simplified into a won ending.

A good collection of his games can be found HERE  and a nice photo HERE.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Worthy of the GM Title?

      The oldest player ever to receive the GM title was Enrico Paoli (1908-2005) of Italy who was awarded title in 1996 at the age of 88.  Five other players were awarded the title after the age of 80:  Jacques Mieses (1865-1954) of Germany appeared on the first list of GMs in 1950 at 85 years, George Koltanowski (1903-2000) of USA got his title in 1988 at 85, Vladimir Makogonov (1904-1993) of Azerbaijan in 1987 at 83, Mario Monticelli (1902-1995) of Italy in 1985 at 83 years and Esteban Canal (1896-1981) of Peru got it in 1977 at 81.
      Does awarding the title in recognition for past feats, awarding the title for life, after a player has died or for political reasons make sense?
      For example, US player Arthur Dake who was once one of the US’s top players and a very strong one at that, tied for first with Rubinstein and Yates in Antwerp in 1931 and for 3-5 place in a small event won by Alekhine in Pasadena the following year. In 1934/35 he also tied for first with Fine and Kashdan in Mexico City.  Beyond that he only registered some modest successes in US Championships in the 1930’s before dropping out of chess until the Lone Pine events in the 1970’s.
       In 1985 FIDE awarded Golombek an emeritus GM title despite the fact that during the best five year period of his career he only maintained an average estimated rating of around 2450.
       Arnold Denker (February 20, 1914 – January 2, 2005) became an IM in 1950 (the year the title was first awarded) and in 1981 FIDE made him an honorary GM. I think at the time Denker was one of the US representatives to FIDE…sounds political to me.  While Denker was a fine player with a few big name scalps to his credit and was also the winner of one US Championship, he was never a GM caliber player.  BTW, the year Denker won the US Championship, Reshevsky wasn’t playing.  Reuben Fine did participate and as the second best player in the US it was expected he would win but Denker, playing in the tournament of his life, defeated Fine and won the title.
       Back in 1998 Nigel Short wrote a letter to the editor of Inside Chess complaining that the title should only be awarded to the best players in the world and that too many having the title were too low rated to warrant the title.  Short actually proposed that anybody with the GM title who dropped below 2450 two rating lists in a row should get busted back to IM.  In reply GM Andrew Soltis complained that life is tough for old GMs and yanking their title would be an injustice.  Soltis also opined that the title represents accomplishments and not necessarily current statussomething like having a PhD or MD degree.
       There was a discrepancy from the very beginning with the awarding of the GM title. According to Frank Marshall in My 50 Years of Chess (actually the book was ghosted by Fred Reinfeld) in the St. Petersburg 1914 tournament (Corrected year thanks to reader Paul Gottlieb) the title "Grandmaster" was conferred by Russian Tsar Nichols II to the five finalist: Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Tarrasch and Marshall.   Players who didn’t make the cut were Ossip Bernstein, Rubinstein, Nimzovich, Blackburne, Janowski and Gunsburg.  It seems that at least two of this group were probably better than Marshall but didn’t get the title. 
      The first known use of the term “Grandmaster” was in an 1838 issue of was an English weekly sporting paper named Bell’s Life in which one William Lewis was referred to as a GM.  William Lewis (1787–1870) was an English player and author best known for the Lewis Countergambit (1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Bc5 3.c3 d5).  Lewis himself had referred ro Philidor as a GM.
      In the 1907 Ostend tournament the term Grandmaster (Großmeister in German) was also used. The tournament was divided into two sections: the Championship Tournament and the Masters' Tournament. The Championship section was for players who had previously won an international tournament and was won by Tarrasch over Schlechter, Janowski, Marshall, Burn and Chigorin.  Later the San Sebastion tournament of 1912 won by Rubinstein ahead of Nimzovich and Speilmann was also designated a GM tournament.
      Anyway, just looking at the names of the old-timers who were designated GMs reveals names like Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Tarrasch, Marshall, Rubinstein, Nimzovich, Schlechter etc.  I am not trying to belittle the talent of today’s title holders because they have accomplished a lot and their chess playing abilities are huge but somehow a lot of the people who have reveived “honorary” or “emeritus” titles, or for that matter, some who have obtained the title legitimately under the rules of today just don’t seem to measure up to those “originals.”

From the 1949 US Open

Here’s a knock down drag out fight between a couple of masters from the 1949 US Open played in Omaha, Nebraska which was won by Albert Sandrin ahead of Anthony Santasiere and Larry Evans. Giles A. Koelsche withdrew after 6 rounds with a score of +3 -2 =1 while Schaffer withdrew after 9 rounds with a +4 -2 =3 result.  I have been unable to verify the spelling of the last name of “Schaffer” and it seems I remember having seen it spelled a couple different ways.  In any case he used to play in the early years in tournaments in Pennsylvania as well as Ohio.  In the mid-1960s when I lived in Toledo, Ohio, Dr. Joseph I. Schaffer was a very popular master associated with the University of Toledo.

Prominent Ohio Chess Players

      I recently searched Google for a list of past Ohio chess champions and couldn’t find one!  I was hoping to find something like they have in North Carolina and Missouri and probably other states that have a “Hall of Fame” list that includes brief biographies of past champions and prominent players.  Even the Ohio Chess Association does not have a list of past champions.  This Blog has a post on Saul Wachs  who was a very strong master in his day but almost all of the information I gathered on him came from non-chess sites!  I was interested in finding out some information on players like James Schroeder and discovered the following:  The Man Who Was Once Somebody and A Chronicle of James Schroeder.
      However a search of prominent Ohio players of the past like Jerry Fink, Lajos Szedlacksek, Tom Lajcik, Richard Kause, Tom Wozney, Ross Sprague, Dr. Joseph I. Schaeffer, Robert H. Burns and others didn’t turn up much.  Little or nothing seems to be available on these players and in many cases even their games are not available. That’s disappointing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sidney N. Bernstein

      Sidney Bernstein (13 July 1911, New York City – 30 January 1992, New York City) had two different phases to his career. After being a serious player in his youth he stopped playing for ten years and then came back with the idea of playing just for fun.
      Bernstein had an impressive record in US tournaments:
Tie for 2nd-4th in Marshall Chess Club Championship at New York 1930/31
Tie for 6-7th in New York State Chess Championship at Rome 1931
He played board two, behind Reuben Fine, on the victorious CCNY team in the 1931-32 Intercollegiate championships.
11th in the American Chess Federation Congress (U.S. Open) at Philadelphia 1936 Participanted in eight U.S. Chess Championship events (1936, 1938, 1940, 1951, 1954, 1957, 1959 and 1961).
Played three times in Ventnor City, sharing 1st in 1940,tied for 5-7 in 1941, and tied for 3rd-6th in 1942.
He tied for 1st with Reinfeld in Manhattan Chess Club Championship at New York 1942 and took 8th in Manhattan CC in 1955.   Over the course of his career Bernstein played Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Rubinstein in simultaneous displays and scored many wins against Denker, Marshall, Mednis and Reshevsky in tournament play.
      His career was well chronicled in his book Combat: My 50 Years at the Chessboard, but unfortunately he did not write much else about chess. In the late 1930s he coedited with Fred Reinfeld a book on Kemeri 1937 and in 1947 the two collaborated on a revision of James Mason’s The Art of Chess.
      Combat: My 50 Years at the Chessboard is unusual in that he kept annotations to a minimum under the assumption his readers were not novices. However, in complicated positions he did supply detailed notes. Also rather odd was Bernstein’s omission of diagrams.  The reason? He thought they wasted space and encouraged readers to skim! Another oddity was hyphens between moves were omitted. It has long been a questions as to who wrote the book Reshevsky On Chess.  Reshevsky claimed he wrote it, but others suspected it was ghost written by Fred Reinfeld.  I once read somewhere that the fee was $100 which would be about $1500 in today’s currency.  BTW, Reinfeld also ghost wrote Frank Marshall’s My Fifty Years of Chess.

      In writing to Edward Winter, Bernstein related how he and Reinfeld eventually had a falling out when Bernstein was working for Reinfeld in the 1950s as an analyst. Reinfeld began complaining about Bernstein’s work.  Without telling her husband, Bernstein’s wife wrote Reinfeld a nasty letter and that ended their friendhip. Reinfeld was not a particularly pleasant man himself and he also had a falling out that ended his friendship with I.A. Horowitz.
      Bernstein, who had many opening innovations, wrote of the King's Indian …over many years I’ve come to feel that even the world’s greatest players (Karpov included) misplay the white side of the King’s Indian by an early e4. This blocks the fianchettoed bishop (as Black will certainly play …e5), allows a “hole” at d4 and forfeits the option of using the square e4 as a transfer spot (for example, my last move). I’ve always kept the e-pawn at home with the option of e3 if needed – and have scored numerous wins in that fashion. (Source: Edward Winter’s Chess Notes)
      Bernstein never contributed to the USCF’s Chess Life: “…mediocre bureaucrats” and “…those USCF morons” pretty much summed up his opinion.