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Monday, December 31, 2012

Fischer’s Perfect Score - 1963/64 US Championship

      Larry Evans once said Fischer’s weakness was overconfidence, stating that it "sometimes causes him to forget his opponents are also capable of finding good moves." Fischer’s first loss in a US Championship to Edmar Mednis had happened in the previous year’s tournament.  Evans wrote that “Fischer plays about 50 per cent stronger with White than with Black” adding "It is hard to remember when he last lost with White."  But that’s exactly what happened in a long French Defense where Fischer had White. The game had been adjourned and Mednis gradually gained the better position by the second adjournment.  Mednis said he was determined not to let Fischer get away and spent all his free time analyzing the adjourned position.  It paid off because Fischer resigned on move 73 for his first loss in four championships.
      As a result of that defeat Fischer arrived at this championship determined not to let it happen again.  This tournament was a strong one with only William Lombardy missing from the top rated players. Fischer’s rating going in was FIDE 2702.  For comparison, the other’s best ratings (either FIDE or national) were: Reshevsky 2621, Benko 2582, Evans 2602, and Robert Byrne 2550, Saidy 2490, Weinstein 2488, Bisguier 2499, Addison 2445, Mednis 2473, Donald Byrne 2634 and Steinmeyer 2425.  Those ratings may not seem too high by today’s standards, but at the time most garden variety GMs were rated 2500-2600 with a few actually below that, so it did have some pretty strong masters playing.  Based on ratings though, Fischer was still in a class by himself and was expected to win the event, but what was not expected was the way he did it.
       Fischer had been studying the game for five or six hours a day according to friends and was well prepared in the openings. Fischer surprised Evans by playing the Bishop's Gambit.  Coming out of the opening Evans thought he was doing OK; in fact as late a move 31 Evans thought he stood better but ended up resigning on move 35. Fischer also got his revenge on Edmar Mednis and Robert Byrne, who, according to Larry Evans, had been a dark horse to win. These wins were particularly satisfying because in addition to defeating Mednis, he got his first ever wins against Evans and Byrne.
      His win over Byrne was spectacular.  It was played in a private room with the moves being telephoned to the analysis room where the game was analyzed by IM James Sherwin and GM Nicolas Rossolimo.  When Fischer played his move 18, Rossolimo thought the move was absolutely incomprehensible; some even thought the wrong move had been telephoned in.  When Fischer played his move 21, Rossolimo exclaimed, "I don't understand this at all. Fischer has nothing at all for his piece."  Sherwin wasn’t so sure and they kept waiting for Byrne’s move, but it didn’t come.  Finally Byrne walked in and announced he had resigned and then proceeded to show everyone what they had been missing and that mate was unavoidable.
       After Reshevsky blundered and lost in Round 5, Fischer met one of the country’s top correspondence masters and very strong OTB player, Robert Steinmeyer of St. Louis. Steinmeyer found his N trapped at move 17 and resigned.
      After the break for Christmas, Fischer defeated William Addison and his score stood at 7-0. With four rounds to go it was becoming clear that Fischer was going to win, but the question was, “Would it be with a perfect score?”  Spectators began filling up the Henry Hudson ballroom every round to watch Fischer.
       Fischer defeated Raymond Weinstein on time but had a winning position anyway and he was now at 8-0. The next day Fischer had Black against Donald Byrne and after the game was over, he stood at 9-0. Then he defeated Pal Benko.  Benko had come to the US in 1956 as a result of the Hungarian Revolt, landing first in Cleveland, Ohio, but when Cleveland players refused to subsidize his chess career by hiring him as manager of the Cleveland Chess Center, he moved on and began making a living by winning Swiss tournament after tournament. Fischer overwhelmed Benko.  Fischer had an opportunity to sacrifice his queen on move 13 but didn’t.  The reason, according to Fischer, was because there was only one brilliancy prize in the tournament and he had already clinched it for the Robert Byrne game. After Benko resigned Fischer’s score was 10-0 with one game to go.
      Fischer was not only winning, but was making it look easy. In every game he was ahead on time - often an hour. His last round game with Black against Dr. Anthony Saidy was probably his most difficult. It was a positional battle with a nearly symmetrical position.  During the game Larry Evans ran into Saidy away from the board and told him, "Good. Show him we're not all children."
       A few days earlier Fischer hadn’t endeared himself to his fellow competitors when he announced that he would win the tournament with a perfect score.  As a result of Fischer’s prognostication, Saidy badly hoped to win and ruin things for him.
       At adjournment, after 43 moves, Saidy had lost the initiative but still had good drawing chances in an ending where he had K+B+5Ps vs. Fischer’s K+N+4Ps. Saidy’s extra P was meaningless because he was going to lose it leaving him with an obstructed B.  Saidy thought for 45 minutes, considering several defenses, but missed the drawing line and sealed a blunder.  At the resumption of play when the sealed move was revealed, Fischer smiled; he knew he was going 11-0.

Note: Several years ago I did a 36-page pdf booklet with all the games. You can download it HERE.  The games are ‘annoFritzed’ with, if I remember correctly, Fritz 5.32 at 6 seconds per move so the annotations aren’t all that great, but all the games are there which is what’s important.






Play the Elephant Gambit!

In 1988 this gambit got its international name from The Elephant Gambit by Jensen, Purser and Pape.  Shortly after publication of the book, the authors organized the Elephant Gambit World Tournament (correspondence) which was won by Ernst Rasmussen, an expert, from Washington State.

Recommended book:

      The opening itself dates back to the time of Staunton.  Black ignores the attack on his e-Pawn and immediately tries to seize the initiative.  While the resulting positions are quite sharp, it's generally considered unsound because if White plays accurately Black does not get sufficient compensation for his scarificed P.  But, of course we all know that often White won't play accurately (at least at the level most of us play at) with the result that Black's chances are excellent;  at least they are if he is a good tactician.  If your tactics stink, I'd avoid it.
      Just for fun, I tried it recently in a Blitz game which I played with zero knowledge of any analysis; the result was that I was left a P down but managed to draw anyway.  Things quickly got a little too messy for my taste, but after Qs were traded things settled down; it wasn’t so bad if you don’t mind being a P down with no compensation.

Anon - Tartajubow
Blitz 10m
[Houdini 1.5 x64 (10s)]
[C40: Latvian Gambit]
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d5 3.exd5 e4 4.Qe2 Nf6 5.d3 Qxd5 [5...Be7 6.dxe4 0–0 7.Nc3 Re8 8.Bd2 b5 9.Qxb5 Na6 10.Nd4 Nxe4 11.Nxe4 Bf6 12.Ne6 fxe6 13.Nxf6+ gxf6 14.0–0–0 exd5 15.Bc3 c5 1–0 (15) Kotronias,V (2590)-Pandavos,P (2360) Peristeri 1993] 6.Nbd2 Be7N [6...Nc6 7.Nxe4 (7.dxe4 Qh5 8.Qb5 Bc5 9.Nb3 (9.e5 Nd7 10.e6 fxe6 11.Nb3 a6 12.Qc4 Be7 13.Be2 Nb6 14.Qe4 Qf5 15.Qxf5 exf5 16.0–0 0–0 17.Bf4 Nd5 18.Bc4 Be6 19.Bg5 Bf7 20.Rad1 Rad8 21.Bxe7 Ndxe7 22.Bxf7+ Kxf7 23.Ng5+ Kg8 Unzicker,W (2525)-Heuer,V (2200) Tallinn 1977 1–0 (39)) 9...Nxe4 10.Be3 Bb4+ 11.c3 Qxb5 12.Bxb5 Bd6 13.Na5 a6 14.Bxc6+ bxc6 15.Nxc6 Bd7 16.Na5 Rb8 17.Nc4 Be7 18.0–0–0 Be6 19.Na5 Bxa2 20.Nc6 Ra8 21.Rhe1 Bd6 Aveskulov,V (2532)-Kalinichev,A (2403) Tula 2008 1–0 (49)) 7...Be6 ½–½ (7) Seeman,T (2422)-Kalinitschew,A Tallinn 2006] 7.dxe4 Qc6 8.e5 Nd5 9.Nb3 0–0 10.c3 Bg4 [10...Rd8 11.h4=] 11.Qe4 f5?! [11...Qd7 12.Bc4 Nb6 13.Bd3± (13.Qxb7? Nxc4 14.Nbd4 c6 15.Qxd7 Nxd7–+) ] 12.exf6 [12.Qc4 Qd7 Black has to keep the Qs on if he has any hope of counterplay. 13.Be2±] 12...Nxf6 13.Qxc6 [13.Qxe7? Re8; 13.Bc4+! Kh8 14.Qe2] 13...Nxc6 [13...bxc6 14.Bc4+ Kh8 15.Ng5±] and the game was eventually drawn.
One of the leading exponents of the EG is Philip Corbin, an FM from Barbados.  In the following game he uses it to defeat the much higher rated IM Tadej Sakelsek of Slovenia.


Friday, December 28, 2012

Magnus Carlsen

      One of Carlsen’s (b. 1990) great strengths is his broad opening repertoire.  These days at Carlsen’s level, the modern player has to know everything, like a computer. At 16, Carlsen had by then already been a GM for a couple of years, played in his first FIDE World Cup tournament, and achieved 60th place in the world rankings.
      By then it was by clear that Carlsen was a greatly gifted player with a wide range of skills. Carlsen grew in the new chess computer age and the question was would he ever become the world’s number one player. According to Norwegian GM Agdestein, Carlsen tried to know everything, like a computer.
      Carlsen was brought up in a family and coaching environment that acted both as a support for the development of his chess skills and as a protection against any undue pressures that might threaten to disturb normal schooling and family life.  Carlsen's grew up in a disciplined but enjoyable chess-playing environment. This balance was achieved through a regime of light coaching that aimed primarily at facilitating his ability to develop his own skills and regular play in many tournaments.
      In a New in Chess interview immediately after his son had become the world's youngest grandmaster, Magnus's father, Henrik, said, "Everything has gone quicker than we expected ... so far Magnus has enjoyed everything he has done [and] I'd hate to see him lose that joy [in the game]." In the same New in Chess interview Magnus said, "I like open positions with small tactics in them ... threatening and threatening, when I have the initiative ... maybe sacrifice some pawns."
       In March 2004, at the very strong Aeroflot Open, in Moscow Kasparov's former coach, Alexander Nikitin, expressed the view that Carlsen's promise, at 13, could only be compared to that of a young Kasparov. Agdestein commented on Carlsen’s exceptional memory. "Magnus's memory is incredible." After a training session in 2004, Peter Heine Nielsen observed that Carlsen didn't take notes; he just remembered things.
      Carlsen progressed well after gaining the GM title, but he still had a lot of work before he reached the very top level. His rating was high enough to obtain an invitation to the 2004 knock-out world championship, but he was no match for one of the favorites, Levon Aronian, and lost to him in the first round. His result, in the B Group, at Wijk aan Zee 2005, was good but far from outstanding.  However, Carlsen was still only 14 years-old.
      His results began to improve from about the middle of 2005 and by the end of the year he finished 10th in the knock-out World Cup event. This result gained him a qualification place in the next round of world championship Candidates' matches and a 2625 FIDE rating.
      In 2006, no less an authority than Viktor Korchnoi, in an article in New in Chess on the new generation, placed Carlsen, Nakamura and a player named Pentala Harikrishna as among the most promising.  Korchnoi was looking for players with a boundless love of chess as an art, an effort to play in an unconventional manner ... searching for and finding fresh, brilliant ideas and creativity (as opposed to what he described as computer and hack work.  Korchnoi rated Carlsen's "fighting personality" the highest.
      According to Jan Timman, in 2008, in New in Chess, "Carlsen is a strikingly all-round player [who] plays many different types of games and seems to feel at home in all of them."
       Despite Korchnoi’s railing against computers, it has been observed that part of Carlsen’s success is because he is a child of the computer age. He has absorbed a tremendous amount of information that older players couldn't hope to match without the aid of computers.  Anand believes computers do not mean the end for creativity and gifted players like Carlsen (and Anand, himself) play in ways that make them different. Jan  Timman said he thinks Carlsen is at his best in technical positions but at the same time he exhibits deep insight, brilliant tactical ability and demonstrates total commitment and passion.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

QGD, Symmetrical Defense

     I was checking offbeat defenses to 1.d4 and was looking at the Symmetrical Defense (1.d4 d5 2.c4 c5), also known as the Austrian Defense.  It was analyzed as far back as 1604 but was studied by the Austrian players Hans Haberditz, Hans Muller and Ernst Gruenfeld.  Today most theoreticians think White’s advantage is too great and the best Black has is a draw.  Of course it can transpose into the Tarrasch variation if White wants. 
      White usually plays 3.cxd5 when it is not advisable for Black to play 3...Qxd5 because White gets a big lead in development. Instead, Black should play 3...Nf6 intending to recapture on d5 with his knight. White should be able to maintain the advantage with either 4.Nf3 or 4.e4 though.
     One of the games I came across was this amusing Spielmann debacle.  Rudolf Spielmann (5 May 1883, Vienna – 20 August 1942, Stockholm) is well known. 
     His opponent is lesser known. Hans Fahrni (1 October 1874, Prague– 28 May 1939, Ostermundigen) was a Swiss master.  In 1892 he was joint Swiss chess champion.  His best results were:   1909, first ahead of Tartakower, Alapin and Spielmann in a Munich quadrangular tournament and first place in 1911 at San Remo.
      He played several matches. In 1907, he lost to Spielmann (+3 –5 =2); in 1908, he drew with Alekhine (+1 –1 =1) in Munich. In 1908, he won against Salwe (+3 –1 =1) in Prague. In 1910, he lost to Spielmann (+3 –4 =4) in Munich. In 1912, he won against von Bardeleben.  In 1914, he drew with Leonhardt (+1 –1 =0). In 1916, he drew with Selesnev (+2 –2 =2) in Tiberg. In 1917, he lost to Teichmann (+0 –2 =2) in Zurich.
      In 1916 he began suffering from psychosis…a generic term for a mental state often described as involving a "loss of contact with reality.”  He was hospitalized but after his release, he had a relapse.
      In this game Spielmann plays a horrible continuation and Fahrni mops up the floor with him.

Wendell John Lutes

      Lutes is an American bibliophile and chess openings editor.  Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on 2 January 1938 he contracted Osgood-Schlatter's Disease at age eight and during his long convalescence his grandfather taught him how to play chess.
      Lutes was a Neurological Respiratory Therapist by profession but is best known by chess players as, the way Lutes put it, a student of the "Apostle of Aggression", the late Weaver W. Adams of East Orange, New Jersey, and later S.A. Popel during the late 1950s.  Lutes was known for his exploration of openings of questionable repute.
     His best OTB rating was 2245 after winning the 1961 Indiana Championship and the 1966 Pennsylvania State Open Championship.  Lutes also won the Indianapolis City Championship many times, the Columbus, Ohio Championship, and the Springfield, Illinois Championship. While studying at the Mayo Clinic in 1979 and 1980 Lutes gave up OTB chess and only rarely returned due to his job requirements.
      Lutes authored nine books on the openings which are of the rather romantic variety and are better played OTB than in correspondence play. Lutes became known worldwide for his exhaustive research in chess and his two best known books are Compendium of the King's Gambit and Petroff Defense: Cochrane Gambit.
      About 15 or 20 years ago I entered a correspondence tournament with the CCLA and was pleased to find Lutes among my opponents.  Unfortunately, after a few moves he sent me a post card saying that due to health reasons he was unable to continue.
     The following game is typical of Lutes uncompromising style.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Saturday, December 22, 2012

How Did Masters Get There?

      I recently saw a discussion where they question was asked of titled players exactly what they did to reach 2200.  The answers were interesting.
      Most people on chess forums recommend studying tactics, a scant few say positional play, some endings and just about all ‘class’ players study openings. Most of the people giving this advice are class players themselves. A few years ago there was one popular poster on a forum who gave all kinds of advice on how to improve; anybody (including well respected authors and master players) who disagreed with him was frankly told they did not know what they were talking about. He did succeed in getting his rating from about 1400 to the low 1700s, but when he could no longer play in lower sections and started meeting 1700-1800s he dropped back to 1500 or so.  After bouncing back and forth for a year, he announced he was quitting chess and was never heard from again.  So much for his advice.  Two years of following his own advice got him a hundred points, but he enjoyed two years of fame as the guru of the 1400s on the site.  So, what did the masters themselves say?
      WGM Natalia Pogonina said evaluate your games (by solving tests or with a coach) and find the weakest spot. Eliminate it, then proceed to the next one. This scheme works for anyone, no matter how high or low the level.  This is similar to advice given by Botvinnik in 100 Selected Games.  One thing I have noticed is that many very strong players aren’t very good at explaining what they know.  Somehow they seem to have subconsciously absorbed the information and their advancement was simply too rapid for them to consciously know exactly how they did it.  As one person pointed out, learning is different from understanding. 
       One big issue was the value of books by popular author Jeremy Silman; most people will say his books are very good, but…Silman's books make you feel like you understand the concepts he is teaching, but it is applying those concepts that is the hard part.  Many years ago while in the military I read and reread Pachman’s Modern Chess Strategy and felt I understood the concepts he taught.  In my first tournament game after my discharge, I got into a position where I tried to apply the old Bishops vs. Knights concept and things were progressing quite well.  I managed to block the center and had a good outpost for my Knight against his bad Bishop.  All according to my understanding of the concept…but the problem was my opponent had engineered a mating attack against my King.
      Silman’s books have long been on the best seller lists and many people give the advice to read them. However, one National Master commented that he had never heard another master make the claim that they read Silman's books and became a master.  In his opinion the books by the old classical authors are just as effective.  This master observed that Silman’s most famous book, How to Reassess Your Chess,  is just sales hype although he did admit that is is probably good enough to get some players to 2000.  Of course most players would be more than happy to get to 2000-plus!! He said that he never heard a master say they loved Silman’s books.
      In order to get to 2200, this master  said he played through 3 unannotated games a day for 10 years, solved tactical exercises too numerous to counts, read dozens of chess books.  This method has been advocated by both CJS Purdy and Kenneth Smith.
      Another National Master advised selecting openings that allow you to reach the types of middlegames where you understand the ideas.  He wrote that he jumped from the 1600s to the 1800s after he learned some openings and started applying the middlegame patterns that came from them. He advanced from the 1800s to master after he learned openings that suited his playing strengths.  He didn’t say so, but this sounds like Pogonina’s advice that you have to identify your weaknesses and work to eliminate them.  I think this process would require absorbing a lot of knowledge on all phases of the game.
      After reading the replies from 2200-rated players it seems no one method worked for all of them, but the general drift I got was that there was no one particular book that was the magic bullet.  They all seem to have absorbed information from various sources and then learned how to apply what they knew.  It’s the latter part, applying what you know, that is the hard part and, apparently, the most difficult thing to teach.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Another Pet Peeve

       This is another non-chess post, but it really sticks in my craw the way local television news channels sensationalize news.
       When I tune in to the local news I want to hear news not about American Idol, or whatever other stupid ‘reality’ television show that appears on the local network.  I don’t care who wins Americal Idol or the X-Factor.  These are television programs for entertainment purposes...not news. These ‘news’ events and sensationalized stories don't belong on the local evening news.  I understand that often there’s not much going on locally so reporters have to report juicy stories and because they are in competition with other stations in the same city, the juicier the better.
       Sensational headlines are chosen in order to catch people’s attention so they are going over the top with every story to make you watch them and not their rivals. This doesn’t seem very professional to me.
       Then there is the weather. Every time there is a storm approaching, the media blows it way out of proportion and sends people scurrying to the stores for milk, bread, batteries, plywood, and generators. This is dangerous. After a while people become numb to the warnings and start ignoring them.
       Years ago I had a private pilot’s license and the FAA Flight Service Stations got to the point that when you called them for a weather briefing, if conditions were expected to be anything less than absolutely perfect, they ended the briefing with the recommendation that if you were not flying by instruments, don’t make the trip.  Most pilots ignored them.
       I really dislike those talking heads that pop up before the evening news and yell, “Snow is coming!  How much will we get?  I’ll tell you at 11:00.”  Come 11 o’clock, after a lot of teasing, you finally get some weather person telling you they are expecting a half an inch in the snow belt. 

       For the last couple of days our local weather people have been constantly babbling about a winter storm approaching complete with big headlines on their website “WINTER WEATHER IN AREA” and “WINTER STORM WARNING.”  I have to tell you, it is pretty crappy out there as I write this.  There is a big blob of snowy weather that when seen on radar appears to be centered right over my house and covers most of the NE United States. 

      The way they were talking, it sounded like the wind was going to be bad enough to blow the hair off a dog. It is a little windy, but not enough to damage anything unless you consider it messed up my hair pretty bad when I was pumping gas this morning to be damage.  It’s 35 degrees with a light, wet snow.  It’s supposed to clear out by tomorrow morning.  Sure, it’s a crappy day, but in this part of the country where we are near lake Erie this situation hardly rates as a big snow or bitter cold. 
     They like to play into people’s fears and that upsets me.

A New "World Champion"

      The new 2010 Lechenicher SchachServer “World Champion” is LSS Senior Master Alex Bubir from Ukraine.  He won the title on Sonneborn-Berger tie breaks over LSS Email Master François Caire of Canada.  In this event Bubir scored +3 -1 =6 plus picked up an additional 4 points on forfeit.
       Bubir finished second in the 2005 tournament and his son Sergei won the 2008 finals. Caire seems to have actually had better results, scoring +4 -1 =6 (plus 3 forfeit win), but lost his individual game to Bubir.
       Bubir’s ICCF rating is 2553; he does not appear to have an FIDE rating.

1-2 Alex Bubir (2457) 10.0
1-2 Francois Caire (2475) 10.0
3-5 Atilla Mesaros (2501 9.0
3-5 Hermann Hartl (2483) 9.0
3-5 Sergei Bubir (2471) 9.0
6-7 Ulrich Haug (2411) 8.5
6-7 Vladimir Tasic (2574) 8.5
8 Peter Duas (2421) 8.0
9-12 Peter Schuster (2407) 7.5
9-12 Bjoern Holzhauer (2225) 7.5
9-12 Juan Contreras (2309) 7.5
9-12 Gordon Evans (2235) 7.5
Three players withdrew so I have not listed their 'results.'

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

An Interesting Position

As White I reached this position on chessdotcom; Black to play.

      Obviously Black is threatened with the capture of his f-Pawn and my h-Pawn could be a threat, so what should he do?
       Black panicked and played 38…Nxe5? and after 39.dxe5 Rxc3+ 40.Kd2 Rc2+ 41.Kd1 Rc4 42.Rxf7+ he eventually lost.  However, there was no need to panic.  I won’t go into a lot of analysis, but engine analysis shows that 38...Rh2 going after the h-Pawn straightway leads to a win for White as does both 38...Ke8 and 38...Rxc3.  Still, after any of these moves the road to victory seems an arduous one and I’m not sure I would have found the way.
       What was interesting was the defense 38...Bf5! Everyone who thinks I would have found 39.Rxf5! raise your hand….What?...Nobody?  You are right; I would have played 39.Bg7 and after 39…Rxc3 40.Kd2 Ra3 41.h6 Ra2+ 42.Kc3 Ra3+ it’s only a draw.

The best line runs: 39.Rxf5! exf5 40.Kxd3 Rh2 41.Nh7 Rh3+ 42.Kd2 Rxh5 43.Bg5+ f6 44.Bxf6+ Kf7 45.Ng5+

      And now, according to the engines, White has an easy win.  Maybe if you’re rated high enough, but for me it looks like White has a difficult technical win.
      I don’t have a moral to this but just thought it was an interesting position.

Meet the Modern Correpondence Master...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Processing Power

 When chess engines first appeared on the scene, they were terrible. The first dedicated chess computer I had back in the late 1970s was “Boris.” The computer ran on an 8-bit microprocessor with only 2.5 KiB ROM and and 256 byte RAM. It cost me a princely sum: $300. In today’s dollars that was a little over $1000…hey, I had a good paying job and wasn’t married, so I spent money on anything that struck my fancy…Boris, cars, flying airplanes…traveling all over the East Coast playing in chess tournaments, etc. Boris was an amazing piece of equipment that played at the 1200-1400 level. I still have the wooden box it was housed in sitting on the dresser to hold my wallet, keys, watch etc.
       By the 1990s humans and computers were rivals. IBM’s Deep Blue thumped reigning world champion Kasparov and things kept getting better, or worse, depending on your point of view. These days GMs (and a lot of lower-rated players) use engines utilize the processing power of today’s powerful, and much cheaper, computers to help them prepare.
      In the early days engines did not give very good analysis, but they were really good for the compilation of databases. It was nice not having to keep scoresheets in shoeboxes and not having to keep track of correspondence games on postal chess recorder albums. In the early days some people were actually advertising in Chess Life that they would research openings and compile a database then mail it to you on a floppy disk...for a small fee, of course.
      These day’s databases are key to preparing for tournament play and there are endgame databases that contain analyses of endgame positions and optimal moves in each possible position. Engines are also used by strong players to search for opening ideas. Personally, I don’t know that this is any worse than in the old days when top level players had a gaggle of GM assistants doing the same thing, except today the whole process is a lot faster. Some players, even average players, are deeply into technology while others abhor their use.
      Some players even have gone so far as to build their own computers designed to handle chess-playing programs. Today’s top players, mostly very young, are products of the digital age and for them they tend to be comfortable with using high-tech aids to help them prepare and hone their skills. It apparently works well; just look at how strong 10-12 year olds are these days.
      Top IMs and GMs start weeks or months before a tournament and once they know who their opponents are going to be they start gathering information from the databases about the openings those players like to use. Then they begin analyzing openings commonly used by their opponents with the hope of finding a novelty. They try to predict all the possible moves and eventually come up with a report on what to expect. Usually they’ll also use their laptop to connect via Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) to their computer back home. And that’s not all: some even have backup laptops that run engines and database in case of Internet outages. What this means, at least at the very top level, is that the GM must memorize 500-1000 moves. Guys like Nakamura can then recite all that stuff back without looking at the board. Memorizing all that stuff proves that most of us will never be a GM; most of us can’t even remember our favorite opening more than a very few moves deep.
      Of course, controversy over whether the use of computers constitutes “cheating” or makes players lazy or somehow destroys the game is still around; probably always will be. But the fact remains that today’s players are better because of computers and they’re achieving more at a younger age. Fischer was considered an anomaly when he earned the GM title at 15. Today, if you aren’t a GM by the age of 14 or 15, you probably won’t be. I remember my first ever tournament...the state junior championship where, at age 15, I was one of the youngest participants! Talent will always matter, but technology is helping talented players learn faster and better.
      Still, I’m not sure I like it. Ignorance was bliss.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Want a Good Chuckle?


   What can I say about this game?

N Outpost on d6

I hate games like this because the winner makes it look so easy!  Reshevsky just plops his N down on d6 and the rest looks simple…just a couple of Q-moves that gave him play on both sides and the point drops in his lap.  Why don’t my games ever do as smoothly?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Fischer's First US Championship

       It was assumed that Fischer would at some point reach grandmaster but would he become better than his Evans, Robert and Donald Byrne or Bisguier?  Or how would he stack up against his contemporaries: William Lombardy and Raymond Weinstein? Few people thought he would be that good.
       1956 had seen his introduction to top level competition in the 3rd Lessing Rosenwald Invitational in New York. In that event Fischer lost four games; three of them badly. The following summer Fischer drew Bisguier, who had mauled him in the Rosenwald, and thereby nosed out Bisguier the defending U.S. Open and U.S. Invitational champion, for the U.S. Open title. Interestingly, Fischer won the next 13 games in a row against Bisguier.
      1957 was the 100th anniversary of the First American Congress, and like Paul Morphy, Fischer was to become the dominating champion. Every year there had been doubts as to whether there would be a championship that year. Financial crises and poor organization were the causes. The USCF only had 2000 members, so money was scarce.
      Fortunately a small group of wealthy men, collectively known as the American Chess Foundation kept the three year championship cycle going. They promised they would choose the best players for small, topflight events and finance them. As a result three strong Rosenwald invitational tournaments and three Matches were held.
      Reshevsky won two of the tournaments, finishing third in the other behind Evans and Bisguier, and defeating Lombardy, Bisguier and Donald Byrne in the matches. It was obvious from these events that Reshevsky was far superior to everyone else: He never lost more than one game in each event.
      Somewhat reluctantly the USCF agreed to let the fourth Rosenwald be designated as the 10th U.S. championship. This was especially fortunate because the tournament also served as a FIDE zonal where the first two finishers would qualify.
      Fischer had played a lot during 1956 and 1957 giving simultaneous exhibitions, and winning the 1957 U.S. Open and losing a two-game match to former world champion Max Euwe but nobody expected him to do well in the Rosenwald. Bisguier declared Reshevsky was favorite and almost everyone agreed with him. Evans was also considered a contender as were Lombardy and Robert Byrne. Unfortunately Byrne declined his invitation.
      Fischer started out this championship with a crushing defeat of Arthur Feuerstein, a 22-year-old computer programmer in the first round.  Then he narrowly escape defeat against Herbert Seidman, then battled Reshevsky to a draw. Two points out of three was not a bad start, but then things changed.
      He defeated Sidney Bernstein and Arthur Bisguier and was a half point behind Reshevsky with a score of 4-1. There followed a game that could have gone either way against Hans Berliner but ended in a draw. But then came a whirlwind of victories: James T. Sherwin, George Kramer Edmar Mednis William Lombardy Attilio DiCamillo all went down in defeat.
     During Fischer's streak Reshevsky had been defeated by Sherwin and so was trailing Fischer by a half point. To win the tournament Reshevsky needed a last-round win over William Lombardy, who was battling for third behind Sherwin.
     Fischer had White Abe Turner. Turner was an old blitz partner of Fischer and nobody expected Fischer to put much effort into the game. In the last round Fischer did what everyone expected he would and something would never do again in his career: he drew with Turner in 18 moves! After the game he went to the analysis room and played 5-minute games.
     What his draw with Turner meant was that a Reshevsky win would mean a tie for first place while any other result would give Fischer a clear first. Fortunately for Fischer Lombardy played such a great game against Reshevsky that he won the brilliancy prize and so Fischer was the champion.
     At that time in his career, Fischer did not have the ego he was soon to develop. When asked, “Does this make you the best player in the United States?” Fischer replied, "No, one tournament doesn't mean much," he said. "Maybe Reshevsky .... "

Final Standings:  1. Fischer 10.5 2. Reshevsky 9.5 3. Sherwin 9.0 4. Lombardy 7.5 5. Berliner 7.0 6-8. Denker 6.5 6-8. Feuerstein 6.5 6-8. Mednis 6.5 9. Seidman 6.0 10-11. Bernstein 5.0 10-11. Bisguier 5.0 12-13. DiCamillo 4.5 12-13. Turner 4.5 14. Kramer 3.0

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Albert C. Simonson

      Albert Simonson (26 December 1914, New York City – 16 November 1965, San Juan, Puerto Rico.) was one of the strongest American players of the 1930s, and was part of the American team which won the gold medals at the 1933 Chess Olympics.
Denker, Mrs. Kashdan, Kashdan, Simonson, Marshall and Fine

       Albert Charles (Buddy) Simonson was born into a wealthy family. His father Leo was a successful wigmaker to the Manhattan  rich, the theatre and movie businesses. His mother Irene was from the family that owned the Illinois Watch Case Co. in Elgin, Illinois. 
      Simonson showed tremendous skill soon after learning the game. At New York 1933, he scored 7/10 to tie for 2nd-3rd places, behind Reuben Fine.  This earned him selection to the United States Olympic team at age 18. In the Olympiad at Folkestone 1933 he played first reserve board and scored 3/6, as the Americans won the team gold medals. Simonson's teammates were Fine, Kashdan, Dake and Marshall.
      In the 17th Championship of the Marshall Chess Club, 1933–34, Simonson scored 7/11 to finish 6th. In the 1935 U.S. Open at Milwaukee, Wisconsin he scored 5.5/10 to tie for 4th-6th places.
      In the first modern US Championship in 1936 Simonson placed second with 11/15, behind Reshevsky. He scored 11/16 in the 1938 United States Championship at New York, to finish third, behind Reshevsky and Fine. In the United States Championship of 1940, again at New York, he tied for 4th-5th places, with 10/16, behind Reshevsky, Fine, and Isaac Kashdan. However, in the 1951 U.S. Championship in New York, Simonson finished tied for 11th-12th, with only 3.5/11. His total in four U.S. Championships was 35.5/58, for 61.2 per cent.
      Simonson was ranked sixth in the country on the first official rating list issued in 1950. Simonson was a pioneer in the direct mail business field. He served with the Army during World War II, attaining the rank of Sergeant. Simonson was very skilled at indoor card and board games, but had a serious gambling problem. He was married three times, and fathered three children.
      And so ends Wikipedia’s bare bones account of this colorful figure in American chess about whom so little is known.  Arnold Denker sheds a little more light on the real Simonson in his chapter on the man he called A Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze in the delightful The Bobby Fischer I Knew.

“Albert C. ‘Buddy’ Simonson burst onto the New York chess scene like a meteor and then disappeared almost as quickly.  But during his short stay, he won many honors as a player, as a problemist and as a member of the victorious US team at the Folkestone Olympiad.  The high point of his career occurred in 1936, where only a final round defeat prevented him from winning the first modern US Championship.  After that setback, his interest in chess seemed to wane.  He did well enough in the 1938 and 1940 championships, but his comeback attempt in the 1951 fixture ended catastrophically, when he shared 10th – 12th places.”  Denker went on to fill in some of the details and ends the chapter on Simonson describing himself sitting at Simonson’s funeral in the All Souls Unitarian church in New York City thinking, “What a waste.”

      Physically, Denker described Simonson as a young man as tall and shy, always with the slicked-back hair style men wore in the 1930s, well-cut clothes accompanied by an umbrella draped over his arm.   
      According to Denker, if Simonson had chosen a career in chess, there was no telling how far he could have gone.  Unfortunately, like many young men who were handed a fortune and never compelled to work, he had no appreciation of it and piddled it all away.  Simonson had a restless nature that caused him to jump from one thing to another without ever really accomplishing anything.  He became bored with chess and took up pinochle, bridge, gin, poker and backgammon, always willing to gamble on the outcome and always with the very best player he could locate; he nearly always lost. 
      $429,000.  In 1933, at age 19, that is the equivalent of how much Simonson collected for his first annuity that had been left to him by Grandpa Elgin.  Actually it was $25,000, but $25,000 went a lot further in those days.  He was to receive many of these annuities but always, after paying off gambling debts, there was little left.  Denker described how on occasions loan sharks had threatened to break his legs and how Simonson often sold off ‘futurities’ on his annuities for as little a $0.25 on the dollar. Simonson also had a habit of pulling practical jokes on people and that sometimes made him enemies.
      By the late 1930s he needed money and founded a direct mailing business that turned out to be quite successful.  This prompted him to get married, but more gambling debts soon caused his wife to leave him.  After WW2 broke out Simonson was drafted and, as Sergeant Simonson, ended up in England.  After the war he married an English woman, but that marriage did not last long and when it ended he returned to the US where he married a third time, also short-lived. 
      Always a chain smoker, his health declined as his emphysema worsened and while on a trip to San Juan in mid-November, 1955, shortly after his 51st birthday, he passed away.    As Denker said, what a waste.