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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ottis Dewey Whitman, Jr.

 Ottis (pronounced AH-tis) Dewey Whitman, Jr. (January 20, 1923 – June 19, 2013), known professionally as Slim Whitman, was an American country music and western music singer, songwriter and instrumentalist known for his yodeling abilities and his smooth high three octave range falsetto. In the 1950s he toured with Elvis Presley.
     Once known as America's Favorite Folk Singer, he was more popular throughout Europe, and in particular the United Kingdom. His 1955 hit single "Rose Marie" held the Guinness World Record for the longest time at number one on the UK Singles Chart for 36 years.
     Whitman was born in Tampa, Florida and growing up he liked the country music of Jimmie Rodgers and the songs of Gene Autry, but he did not embark on a musical career of his own until the end of World War II, after he had served in the South Pacific with the United States Navy. While in the Navy he entertained shipmates by singing, yodeling and playing the guitar.
     After the war he played weekly in a supermarket and was hired to perform on local radio stations. Colonel Tom Parker, who later managed Presley, heard him and helped him get a contract with RCA Victor Records. Whitman adopted the stage name Slim and began to appear on the radio show “Louisiana Hayride,” whose performers also included Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis.
     Whitman, a self-taught left-handed guitarist was right-handed, but he had lost almost all of the second finger on his left hand in an accident. He worked at a Tampa shipyard while developing a musical career, eventually performing with a band known as the Variety Rhythm Boys.  After signing with RCA Records, he was billed as "the cowboy singer Slim Whitman" and released his first single in 1948. He toured and sang at a variety of venues, including on the radio show Louisiana Hayride. A yodeler, Whitman avoided the "down on yer luck buried in booze" songs, preferring instead to sing laid-back romantic melodies about simple life and love. 
     Although he recorded many western tunes, love and romance songs figured prominently in his repertoire. In 1956 he became the first ever country music singer to perform at the London Palladium and soon after he was invited to join the Grand Ole Opry, and in 1957, along with other musical stars, he appeared in the film musical Jamboree. Despite this exposure, he never achieved the level of stardom in the United States that he did in Britain, where he had a number of other hits during the 1950s.
     After 1957 Whitman lived at his estate, Woodpecker Paradise, in Middleburg, a city located south of Orange Park, Florida, in Clay County. In 2009, Whitman's wife of 67 years, Alma Geraldine "Jerry" Crist Whitman died at the age of 84. She was a songwriter and embroiderer as well as the daughter of a church minister, A.D. Crist, founder of the Church of the Brethren. Whitman and his wife had a daughter, Sharron Beagle; and a son, Byron K. Whitman, who is also a performer and music producer who has released a number of recordings and who toured and recorded with his father on numerous occasions. Slim died of heart failure on June 19, 2013, at age 90, surrounded by family at Orange Park Medical Center in Orange Park, Florida. His home has recently been torn down.
     Whitman told The A.P. in 1991 that he wanted to be thought of as “a nice guy” and a good father. “I’d like people to remember me,” he said, “as having a good voice and a clean suit."  That alone made him unique among performers of today. 

Weinstein vs. Reshevsky

    In the 1958-59 US Championship Bobby Fischer was a not only a grandmaster, but also an international star and the talk of world chess. He had won the previous championship with an undefeated 8 wins and 5 draws, finishing a full 2 points ahead of Reshevsky.

     No one had repeated as as champion in the previous six tournaments and in this tournament virtually all of the top-scorers of the previous year were back plus Robert and Donald Byrne and Pal Benko were in the line up. Born in France to Hungarian parents, Benko had become one of the leading European juniors during the mid-50s and was making a name for himself. Benko had been involved in the 1956 Hungarian revolt but was later permitted to play first board on Hungary's team in the 1957 Student Olympiad in Iceland - where he promptly defected. He originally landed in Cleveland Ohio, but not for long. He got into a snit because Cleveland players would not support him financially, so he moved on to greener pastures.

     Most invitees were chosen because of their rating or because they held the grandmaster title but in the 1958-59 tournament the USCF also invited the U.S. Junior Champion 17-year-old Raymond Weinstein, Arthur Bisguier's cousin.
     In the end Fischer was again successful, taking an undefeated first with +6 -0 =5 while Reshevsky again had to settle for second with +5 -1 =5; his loss was to Fischer and it was a real debacle! Fischer played a new but untested line on the white side of the Sicilian that he had used earlier in the year to defeat Bent Larsen at the interzonal at Portoroz. In the same tournament against Oscar Panno, it hadn't been so successful, but Fischer had done his homework; Reshevsky hadn't. As usual Reshevsky wasn't up on theory and relied on his instinct. Also, the line had been analyzed in depth in a recent Russian magazine which, of course, Fischer was familiar with. Reshevsky wasn't and ended up losing miserably. Benko, who everybody thought might be a serious contender, failed badly finishing in 8th place with a +1 -4 =6 score. Weinstein shared last place with Edmar Mednis, scoring +0 -5 =6. Here is an interesting game from the tournament.

Me and Howard Staunton

Staunton was the most profound opening analyst of all time. He was more theorist than player, but nonetheless he was the strongest player of his day. Playing over his games, I discover that they are completely modern; where Morphy and Steinitz rejected the fianchetto, Staunton embraced it. In addition, he understood all of the positional concepts which modern players hold so dear, and thus - with Steinitz - must be considered the first modern player. - Bobby Fischer

     I was aware of Fischer's opinion a long time ago and, in fact, I knew about Staunton before Bobby Fischer ever mentioned him. But, here's a little secret: until yesterday I had NEVER played over a Staunton game.
     Apparently Fischer had a higher opinion of Staunton's play than some of his contemporaries. Thomas Beeby didn't like Staunton, claiming after he beat a couple of players Staunton gushed 'offensive flattery' because his real objective was to inflate himself. On the other hand, when he lost it was never because of his lack of skill but rather because of carelessness, inattention, fatigue or he got bored during the game or some such. Beeby claimed Staunton was so eaten up by self-conceit and his opinion of himself so exaggerated he could not be a safe guide as to the real ability f other players.
    From 1840 onwards he became a leading chess commentator, and won matches against top players of the 1840s. In 1847 he entered a career as a Shakespearean scholar. Ill health and his two writing careers led him to give up competitive chess after 1851. In 1858 attempts were made to organize a match between Staunton and Morphy, but they failed. It is often alleged that Staunton deliberately misled Morphy while trying to avoid the match, but some claimed he was simply afraid to play Morphy. Come to think of it, maybe Staunton and Fischer were kindred spirits and that's why Fischer liked Staunton so much. 
     I think Fischer lost a lot of skill in a hurry after he became world champion. His second match against Spassky for the "world championship" was a joke and nobody was really too interested in the games. By the way, I did a review on the fascinating book on this match by Nenad Nesh Stankovic HERE. I have to tell you, Mr. Stankovic handled Fischer better than I would have because even if I was being paid to babysit him, I could not have stomached Fischer's antics.
     I remember hearing one of Fischer's absolutely insane radio rants where he claimed the games from the first Karpov-Kasparov match were made up with the help of a computer because they played so well. Fischer simply did not understand the games...proof that in his absence chess had simply advanced to the point he didn't understand the games of the two best players in the world. That's why he tried to level the field by inventing a new version of the game.
     Back to Staunton...unlike most players of the day, he was not an all-out attacking player but he was known for accurate attacks when his preparations were complete. Here's one of his games I played through.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Lisa Lane

   Marianne Elizabeth Lane (born April 25, 1938), better known as Lisa Lane, met Philadelphia master Arnold Chertkof around 1957 or ‘58  at a coffeehouse they both frequented called the Artist's Hut.  Chertkof was a member of the Franklin-Mercantile Chess Club and took her to the club and eventually got the strong master Attilio Di Camillo to work with her.
     Her father was a skilled laborer who was more interested in horseracing than in his family and disappeared before she was two.  Her mother had a great deal of difficulty raising two children alone and Lisa and her sister spent much of their childhood boarding with different families and their grandmother.
     She was a good student but exhibited “strange behavior” at school and dropped out of high school, a year before graduating. A few years later she became a special student at Temple University trying to complete her high school curriculum while taking some college level courses.  During that time she was involved in an accident in which the car she was driving struck and killed an elderly pedestrian who stepped out in front of her.  She was never charged, but shortly after she dropped out of college and started hanging around coffee shops all night playing chess.
     Around that time she invested her savings with a partner and opened a bookstore that specialized in poetry; it soon went out of business.  It was after that she met Di Camillo and worked 8 to 12 hours a day on chess. She studied with Di Camillo mornings and played at the club all afternoon and evening then the next morning Di Camillo would go over the games and he would point out her mistakes.
     Lane, accompanied by Chertkof and Di Camillo, went to New York to visit the US Championship where she witnessed 14-year-old Bobby Fischer win the US championship. Inspired by Fischer, she won the Philadelphia women's championship a few months later and the following year in U.S. Amateur Championship, she captured the women’s championship.  Two years later, in 1959, she won the US Women's title.
     A few days after winning the championship she married Walter Rich, a Philadelphia designer whom she had met in a coffeehouse.  They were married less than two years and during that time she abandoned chess, but after their separation,  went into full-time training. 
     To support herself she started giving simuls and moved from Philadelphia to New York to prepare for the World Women's Candidates Tournament.  She practically became a recluse, living in a small apartment with minimal furniture, no television or radio, two cats and a lot of chess books.
     Lane, along with Gisela Gresser (former US women's champion), had been invited to participate in the women’s world championship to determine who would challenge Elizabeta Bykova.
     Her performance was poor.  The tournament was played in Vrnjacka Banja, Yugoslavia and her performance was disappointing.  She tied for 13th-14th place (out of 18) along with Gresser.
     At the end of 1961 she participated in the Hastings Reserve tournament and withdrew after scoring +0 -2 =1 with one adjournment.  She was, it was claimed, homesick and in love with her future husband, Neil Hickey. More likely it was her poor performance in Vrnjacka Banja and Hastings that made her decide to withdraw.  She said, "I don't care how well I play if I lose, I have to win."  In 1962 she married Hickey, editor-at-large of the Columbia Journalism Review.
     Her misfortune continued.  In 1964 she lost the US Women's Championship to Sonja Graf-Stevenson (who died the next year ). Then she came in 12th out of 18 in the next women’s candidate tournament but finished a half point ahead of Gresser.
     In 1964 Lane opened her own chess studio, the Queen's Pawn Chess Emporium, in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Chess lessons were given by Sonja Graf who at the tiem was United States women's champion. While in New York Lisa played at the Marshall Club or Rossolimo's Chess Studio.
     Finally, in 1966, she became co-US women's champion, sharing the title with Gisela Gresser.  Booby Fischer said of Lisa Lane, “Lisa, you might say, is the best of the American fish."  That was Booby...Lisa and her husband were friends of Fischer and assisted him in writing some chess articles; despite their friendship Fischer was still snide and condescending.   
     And so ended her chess career.  She and her husband opened a shop in Carmel, New York, called Amber Waves of Grain that specialized in vitamins, Yoga and meditation, etc. The store was later renamed Earth Love and was located in Pawling, New York.
     Jennifer Shahade in her book Chess Bitch, says Lane quit partly because she was annoyed with being identified as a chess player.  

     The following game features a nice back rank mate.


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Bobby Darin Chess Enthusiast

Darin vs. actor Jose Ferrer
    Bobby Darin (born Walden Robert Cassotto; May 14, 1936 – December 20, 1973) was an American singer, songwriter, and actor of film and television and chess enthusiast. He performed in a range of music genres, including pop, rock'n'roll, folk, and country.

     Throughout the 1960s, he was politically active and worked on Robert Kennedy's Democratic presidential campaign. He was present on the night of June 4/5, 1968, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles at the time of Kennedy's assassination.
     The same year, he discovered that he had been brought up by his grandparents, not his parents, and that the girl he had thought to be his sister was actually his mother. These events deeply affected Darin and sent him into a long period of seclusion. Although he made a successful television comeback, his health was beginning to fail, as he had always expected, following bouts of rheumatic fever in childhood. This knowledge of his vulnerability had always spurred him on to exploit his musical talent while still young. He died at age 37, following a heart operation in Los Angeles.
     His mother, Vanina Juliette 'Nina' Cassotto (born November 30, 1917), became pregnant in the summer of 1935 when she was 17. Presumably because of the scandalous nature of out-of-wedlock pregnancies in that era, Nina and her mother hatched a plan to pass the baby off as her parents' child and for Nina to be passed off as his older sister. Even until her death in 1983, Nina refused to reveal the identity of her son's biological father to anyone, especially to Darin himself.
     His maternal grandfather, Saverio Antonio 'Big Sam Curly' Cassotto was of Italian descent and a wannabe mobster who died in prison from pneumonia a year before Darin's birth. His maternal grandmother, Vivian Fern Walden who called herself Polly, was a vaudeville singer.
     Darin graduated from the prestigious Bronx High School of Science. He matriculated at Hunter College but soon dropped out in order to play nightclubs around the city. Darin's career took off with a songwriting partnership, formed in 1955 with fellow Bronx High School of Science student, Don Kirshner, and in 1956 his agent negotiated a contract with Decca Records. The songs recorded at Decca had very little success. He was introduced to singer Connie Francis, for whom he helped write several songs. They developed a romantic interest of which her father, who was not fond of Darin, did not approve, and the couple split up. At one point, Darin wanted to elope immediately and Connie said that not marrying Darin was the biggest mistake of her life.  His music career I too long to list here, but his success was enormous.
     Darin suffered from poor health his entire life. He was frail as an infant and, beginning at age eight, was stricken with recurring bouts of rheumatic fever that left him with a seriously weakened heart. In January 1971, he underwent his first heart surgery in an attempt to correct some of the heart damage he had lived with since childhood, where two artificial heart valves were implanted in his heart. He spent most of that year recovering from the surgery.  During the last few years of his life towards the end of his career, he often was administered oxygen after his performances on stage and screen.
     In 1973, after failing to take antibiotics to protect his heart before a dental visit, Darin developed an overwhelming systemic infection that further weakened his body and affected one of his heart valves. On December 11, he checked himself into Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for another round of open-heart surgery to repair the two artificial heart valves he had received in January 1971. On the evening of December 19, a five-man surgical team worked for over six hours to repair his damaged heart. Shortly after the surgery ended in the early morning hours of December 20, 1973, Darin died in the recovery room without regaining consciousness. He was 37 years old.
     There were no funeral arrangements; Darin's last wish in his will was that his body be donated to science for medical research. His remains were transferred to UCLA Medical Center shortly after his death. His last days had been filled with fear, anguish, hospital visits and mental dissociation. He had a fantastic memory, especially for people, but at the end he began repeating himself, resisting treatment, forgetting dates and speaking nonsense...jabberwocky as it was described. When he died there was no viewing and no proper mourning services.  Actor Jackie Cooper and his wife invited some of Darin's friends over to their house where guests watched a tape of Darin's last television show and got drunk. Darin's ex-wife Sandra Dee, their son and Darin's sister spent Christmas together and shared a meal of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Darin explains chess on his TV show
     Darin was an enthusiastic chess player and his television show included an occasional bizarre segment in which he would explain a chess move. He arranged with the United States Chess Federation to sponsor a grandmaster tournament, with the largest prize fund in history, but the event was canceled after his death.
     In 1973 plans were actually finalized for the first annual Bobby Darin International Chess Classic, to be conducted under the auspices of FIDE and the USCF. This all-Grandmaster event was to be held in Los Angeles, starting in late October and running for three and one-half weeks. The Darin Classic was to have the biggest purse, $25,000, in the history of tournament chess. That is about $133,000 in today's currency. Scaled gradually from $5,000 (about $26,000 today) first prize through $1,000 for tenth place (that was bigger than the first prize in many tournaments), distribution of the purse was considered especially attractive and equitable. Even last place won $300 ($1,600 today) and, of course, all of the players' travel and stay expenses are underwritten by the sponsor.

     Sixteen Grandmasters from ten countries were expected to compete. Darin expressed his delight at being able to sponsor a tournament of such high caliber and international standing. "Along with millions of other people, I had my personal interest in chess reawakened last year via the Fischer-Spassky Match. I have found my own involvement in the world of chess to be an extremely rewarding experience, and I hope that this tournament will add to the popularity of the game in this country as well as help to raise the dollar value of all tournament purses to a level more commensurate with the skill and accomplishments of the participants," Darin said.
     The Darin Classic was to be the first sixteen-man GM tournament ever held in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the greatest events in the history of chess. In all likelihood, Bobby Fischer's 1975 challenger for the World Championship was to be in the tournament, since the strongest players in the world were expected to compete. From the USA, five of the following were to be included: U.S. Champion Robert Byrne, Samuel Reshevsky, Pal Benko, Walter Brown, Larry Evans, Lubomir Kavalek, and William Lombardy. The USSR Chess Federation was invited to send two (possibly three) from the following list: Former World Champions Boris Spassky, Tigran Petrosian, Mikhail Tal, Vassily Smyslov; or Anatoly Karpov, the Soviet's strongest hope for the future.
     The five highest-rated players in the world from countries other than the USA and the USSR had been invited. They were Lajos Portisch of Hungary, Bent Larsen of Denmark, Vlastimil Hort of Czechoslovakia, Robert Huebner of Germany, and Svetozar Gligoric of Yugoslavia. Other possibilities include Ulf Anderson of Sweden, Ljubomir Ljubojevic of Yugoslavia, and Henrique Mecking of Brazil. Also invited were Walter Brown, Robert Huebner, and Anatoly Karpov who were the best young players of the day. Grandmaster Isaac Kashdan, International Referee, was to be Tournament Director.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Elephant Gambit

  1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d5 I don't know where they get these names...to me this was always the QP Counter Gambit, or the Englund Gambit. The general opinion has always been that black has no compensation, so the line is unsound. My feeling has always been why deliberately give your opponent the better position PLUS material; I have a hard enough time trying to win anyway without starting out with a disadvantage.
     But, I have gotten tired of engine play in correspondence and drawing most games so went back to Queen Alice only to discover that the site owner abandoned the site and it is crawling with spammers, hackers and people with multiple accounts. As a result, I came up with another idea for play on LSS. I decided to try out weird, offbeat openings just to see if they are really as bad as their reputation. 
     For example, I've tried the Urusov Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d4) and guess what? I am +1 -0 =4. I have also tried 1.a4 and 1...a5 which so far has not resulted in a lot of disasterous losses. The move usually results in positions very similar to some regular opening with the exception that I have thrown in a superfluous advance of the a-Pawn. This may result in getting a stragecially lost position against a GM, but so far it's held up well against engines which don't understand strategy, especially opening strategy, that well anyway. The Grob Attack (1.g4) has resulted in a plus score. The Milner-Barry Gambit (1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4) has held up well, too. The Sicilian Wing Gambit did not fare too well until I delayed it and played 3.b4.  For reasons I don't understand playing 2.Nf3 first seems to make an important difference.
     This is interesting because these openings are supposed to be bad and they may very well be, but the engines seem to have trouble refuting them which explains why the advice is to play grandmaster approved book moves and never trust the engines until move 15 or so. At least that's the theory if you're a top-rated CC player. The judgment of GM's is more reliable in the openings than engine evaluations. However, since I don't play GM's, it seems pretty obvious that as long as an opening does not have a clear refutation then just about any opening is OK to play even when my opponent is using an engine.
     Recently I've been giving the Elephant Gambit a whirl and so far nobody has blown be off the board! Tim Harding says it is one of the "grey area" gambits and he does not believe it should be sound, or even especially dangerous, but still White must be careful.  Here is a site with some old analysis...Rapporto di apertura
     One line I've recently been messing around with is 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d5 3.exd5 Bd6. This move is not in the Rybka2 opening book but it's in the Fritz 12 book. I do not have any analysis on this move but did refer to the Harding article where it's recommended. In one game white played 4.Qe2 The only Fritz 12 book move is 4.d4 and 4...e4 is the only 'human' move in the book but there are no recent examples by strong players.  Here's the position:

Black to move
     There may be some analysis or a database with games from this position somewhere, but I am unaware of such. The point is that already on move 4 we have reached a position where I could not locate any analysis or games and the engines were evaluating the position at nearly dead equal. Interesting! There appears to be plenty of room for experimenting here and the position seems to offer equality if you believe the engines. Maybe I will continue to experiment with even more silly stuff just to make playing with engines fun again. But what, you ask, are the effects of playing risky openings going to have on my rating?  Drew Carey sums it up:

Friday, December 26, 2014

Relative Playing Strengths of Players

   Back in 1998 NM Todd Bardwick did an article in Colorado chess (the US Championship was being held n Denver) and he wrote the following:   

"One of my curiosities was what is the relative strength of a grandmaster compared with a master, like myself. David Gliksman once told me that a 2200 master has a basic and underline basic understanding of what is going on. I can’t dispute that. On Saturday, November 16th, I got the honor of testing my abilities against the U.S. Champ (GM Joel Benjamin) in some blitz games. Basically, I was terminated. In all fairness, I psyched myself out after a game or two which didn't help at all. Joel sliced and diced me like I was a beginner. It was amazing to me the harmony in which his pieces danced around the board."

What I found interesting was GM Joel Benjamin's comments:

"After our games, we went to the bar for a pizza and I asked him about relative strengths of masters. He said that a 1700 rated player would probably have slightly better chances against a 2200 player than a 2200 player playing against a 2700. His reasoning was that a 2200 player can play erratically and his playing strength can fluctuate more than that of a GM. Then, I asked him how he would do against Kasparov. Joel responded that if he could get an opening edge against a GM of his strength, he would most likely win. However, in the same scenario, Kasparov would most likely draw or even beat him. Joel said that Kasparov would probably have to give him the white pieces, and draw odds for Joel to have a decent shot. For Joel to win a game against Kasparov, he said would be difficult."

Technical Articles:
Determining the Strength of Chess Players Based on Actual Play
The Relative Playing Strength of Chess Players: A Note

Peter H. Clarke

    It was with sadness that a couple of days ago I learned of the death of British FM Peter H. Clarke (18 Mar 1933 – 11 Dec 2014). Back in the 1960's chess books were hard to come by and I bought a lot of them from England and also subscribed to the British Chess Magazine and so a lot of British players, Clarke included, were well-known to me. Best remembered as biographer to Tahl and to Petrosian, in the late 1950s and early sixties he was the number two player in England behind Jonathan Penrose and ahead of CHO'D Alexander and Harry Golombek. Clarke was also a correspondence Grandmaster before engines ruined the title.
     At the British Championships he finished second on his first appearance and tied for second on five occasions, appearing, almost without a break for thirty years in a run that ended in 1982. He represented England in eight Olympiads, playing on top board in 1966. Clarke was the author of numerous chess books and he also translated many books into English. His Mikhail Tal’s Best Games of Chess, 1951 – 1960 was one of my early favorites. For his obituary in the British Chess Magazine see HERE
     His opponent in this game was Bernardo Wexler (April 1, 1925 – 1992), an Argentine master. Wexler was born to Jewish parents in Bucharest, Romania and they emigrated to Argentina when he was seven years old. His long and successful South American chess career began after World War II and he was awarded the IM title in 1959. The game ends in a flurry of errors on both sides, but that in no way detracts from Clarke's fine attack initiated at move 21. It's games like this that are typical of those played by your average master and not those near perfect ones you usually see in print.

Monday, December 22, 2014

J. Edward Bromberg

   I doubt anybody knows who Joseph Edward Bromberg (December 25, 1903 – December 6, 1951) was. He was a Hungarian-born American character actor in motion picture and stage productions dating mostly from the 1930s and 1940s. Born Josef Bromberger in Temeschburg (Temesvár), Austria-Hungary (now Timişoara, Romania), he was five years old when his family immigrated to the United States, settling in New York City.
     After graduating from Stuyvesant High School, he went to work to help pay for acting lessons. By virtue of his physique, the short, somewhat rotund actor was destined to play secondary roles. Bromberg made his stage debut at the Greenwich Village Playhouse and in 1926 made his first appearance in a Broadway play. Occasionally credited as Joseph Bromberg, he performed secondary roles in 35 Broadway productions and 53 motion pictures until 1951.
     For two decades, Bromberg was highly regarded in the New York theatrical world and was a founding member of the Civic Repertory Theatre (1928–1930) and of the Group Theatre (1931-1940). Bromberg made his screen debut in 1936, under contract to Twentieth Century-Fox playing a wide variety of roles, ranging from a ruthless New York newspaper editor to a despotic Arabian sheik.
     Although he spoke with no trace of an accent, he was often called upon to play immigrants of various nationalities. When Warner Oland, the actor who played Charlie Chan, died in 1938, Fox considered Bromberg as a suitable replacement, but the role ultimately went to Sidney Toler. Fox began loaning Bromberg to other studios in 1939 and finally dropped him from the roster in 1941. He kept working for various producers, including a stint at Universal Pictures in the mid-1940s.
     Then McCarthyism rose it's ugly head in the 1950s. McCarthyism was named after Senator Joe McCarthy from Wisconsin. Unfortunately McCarthy (born 1908) died in 1957...7 years too late; he had 7 years to do untold damage to numerous people's reputations by making accusations and accusing people of subversion or treason without any regard for evidence. Also included in is attacks on individuals were accusations, again without any proof, that they were homosexuals.

     Rightly or wrongly Bromberg got caught in McCarthy's dragnet. In 1951 the blacklisted Bromberg had found work in England, but died within the year of a heart attack while working in a London play. He was just a few weeks short of his forty-eighth birthday.
     In the book Naming Names Victor S. Navasky wrote that in 1951 Bromberg presented the Committee with a doctor's certificate describing his rheumatic heart condition and stating he had recently had an attack of congestive heart failure and so asked to be excused. Congressman Walter said he knew from experience, “that you can get doctors to make statements as to almost anything” and refused the request. Bromberg appeared on the stand but was under obvious physical distress.
     In 1952, Bromberg and seven other Group Theater members were named by Elia Kazan as Communist Party members in testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He was also named as a communist by film director Edward Dmytryk.
     Dmytryk was one of many filmmakers investigated for affiliation with and activities for the Communist Party or leftist organizations. Summoned to appear before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) in 1947, Dmytryk was one of the Hollywood Ten who refused to testify and were cited for contempt of Congress, serving jail terms. At first, Dmytryk fled to England where he made the neo-realistic movie, Give Us this Day (1949), a movie sympathetic to the working man based on the novel, Christ in Concrete. The movie, which was successful in Europe, was renamed Christ in Concrete in the United States and quickly suppressed. Dmytryk returned to the United States when his passport ran out and was soon arrested. After spending several months behind bars, Dmytryk decided to testify and identify persons whom he knew had been fellow members in the American Communist Party, as HUAC had demanded. On April 25, 1951, Dmytryk appeared before HUAC for the second time, answering all questions. He spoke of his own Party past: his brief membership in 1945, and named 26 former members of left-wing groups. He recounted his experiences of the period in his book, Odd Man Out: A Memoir of the Hollywood Ten (1996)  For more on The Hollywood Ten go to the History Channel website HERE.
     In the memorial service for Bromberg, actress Lee Grant was asked to give one of the eulogies and knowing the pressure exerted on Bromberg and the possible fallout, she still gave a moving eulogy. This eulogy was printed in Red Channels and as a result she was blacklisted in Hollywood until 1964.
     Bromberg also played chess.  In the December 1942 issue of Chess Review Bromberg wrote a letter to the editor (Al Horowitz) and said in part…”Alekhine, whose character and personal traits…has never emerged as an exemplar of 'gentlemanliness', but I have…been willing to overlook his foibles because of his real genius at the game. But since his recent conversion to the “new order” and his active support of same, I have not been able to abide the very sound of his name.”
     He went on to say, “I think Chess Review is to be taken to task for dignifying this Nazi by publishing his games… The game is only as great as its greatest exponents and to think that this man enjoys the title of champion, which was made possible for him by the very people he has turned against, is galling to say the least.”
     His conclusion: “I say let’s keep him and his games out of Chess Review…declare the world championship vacant and let’s give s decent, progressive representative of the democratic, anti-facist, United Nations a chance at it.”
     Chess Review’s answer stated in part. “Ordinarily political views of a chess master are his own concern. However, when the world’s chess champion attempts to sow dissention among other masters…his views and utterances cannot be ignored… all articles and news dispatches on this subject have emanated from Nazi-controlled sources and may be spurious…we are not convinced that suppression of Alekhine’s games is the proper treatment…”
     This touched off a debate in letters to the editor some of which follow:

Paul Little, editor of Musical Leader magazine, wrote “…I come across the same artistic problems…whether or not to eschew all art that is created by the enemy… chess is a universal language and brotherhood. His mind and …writings may be condemned…his games …examined…for their own sake.” “…games should be published as long as he doesn’t express his political views in the annotations.”

“As long as Alekhine’ games are brilliant…chessplayers will want to see his games…”

“We don’t care what Alekhine believes and we admire and want to read and study his games.”

Chess Author John J. Hannak wrote, “Perhaps it will interest you to hear authentic words of Alekhine, spoken by him just a week before he deserted to Hitler. I met him in April, 1941, in Lisbon and had several long talks with him. His very first exclamation …”What do you think of your friend Euwe? He now collaborates with the Nazis!” which is probably a lie. Then he went on, “But I, …love freedom and democracy and I hate racialism (sic)…I only know good chess players and bad ones.” Alekhine then went on to say he was ready to play “the Russian Bolshevist Botvinnik” or “the American Jew, Reshevsky” and does not ask for their genealogical tree. “…personal life …is a thing apart, but when…allegiance is given to Hitler…he becomes repugnant and damnable and deserves ostracism.”

“Regardless of his playing ability we cannot permit a man to be our world champion who…would belong in prison or an insane asylum, a man whose moral standards are so low that no man of character can sit with him…and play with him the royal game,”

In the January, 1943, issue Horowitz replied by stating about 70 percent of his readers wanted to see Alekhine’s games published and so he would continue to do so.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Kramnik on Smyslov

Smyslov is truth in chess! Smyslov plays correctly, truthfully and has a natural style. By the way, why do you think he lacks that aura of mystique like Tal or Capablanca? Because Smyslov is not an actor in chess, his play is neither artistic nor fascinating.
     I would recommend a study of Smyslov’s games to children who want to know how to play chess because he plays the game how it should be played: his style is the closest to some sort of ‘virtual truth’ in chess. He always tried to make the strongest move in each position.
     Smyslov has been underestimated. He mastered all elements of play. Smyslov was a brilliant endgame specialist, all in all his play resembled a smooth flow, like a song. When you look at his games, you have that light feeling as if his hand is making the moves all by itself while the man is making no effort at all – just like he was drinking coffee or reading a newspaper! This has the feel of Mozart’s light touch! No stress, no effort, everything is simple yet brilliant. I like this feature of Smyslov and I am fond of his games.
     I feel a bit sorry that Smyslov did not hold the title for a longer period because, in my view, he really is an outstanding chessplayer. He played in the Challengers Final when he was 63! This indicates the highest class. Chess players who adopt an intensive approach normally can’t maintain their position at the highest level at that age. Smyslov could, and it was not because of his energy, drive or character – he had a deep understanding of chess. Smyslov played differently than his predecessors. He was a master of positional play and surpassed his predecessors in this area. He was also good at opening preparation and tactics but no more than that.
     Smyslov did not have incredible conceptual ideas but he was very accurate and carried out his ideas ‘millimetre by millimetre’. Probably, he was the first chess player to reach the highest level of accuracy. To a certain extent, Smyslov was the pioneer of this style, which was later brilliantly developed by Karpov, i.e. the gradual mounting of positional pressure based on the most accurate calculation of short lines.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Lecture on Karpov

Youtube Lecture: Published on Dec 18, 2014 this lecture is part 9 of a 12 part series featuring the lives and notable games of the most prominent players of the 20th century. In this lecture, given December 17, 2014, at Center64 (www.center64.com), FM Warren Harper and Lucas Anderson present Anatoly Karpov. Lucas gives you information on Karpov's biography, including how he grew up far away from the centers of Russian power, but how his innate ability caught the eye of the Sports Committee and Mikhail Botvinnik. Lucas tells you Karpov's side of his famous rivalriy with Viktor Korchnoi and Garry Kasparov. Warren presents 3 notable games from Karpov, including his 1994 Immortal. Note:  It's 1 hour 41 minutes long!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Feel Free to Sing Along!

Bulgarian boxwood chess set
I play on my own for the first time
It's lacquered hard wood and it looks real good
But it's driving me out of my mind

Bulgarian Boxwood Chess Set
Was thirteen and six from the Chinese shop
I'd play you a game when it rained outside
And I never thought it would stop

You were the best girl I ever befriended
And I trusted that you were the one
But by the time that you won you considered it done
And the chess game and everything ended

You were the best girl I ever befriended...

Bulgarian Boxwood Chess Set
I play on my own for the last time
I'll throw it away then in thirty-two ways
I'll throw it away then in thirty-two ways
I'll throw it away then in thirty-two ways
And get myself a new bloody pastime

How Do You Pronounce That?

Is Queen Alice Going Down the Tubes?

   QA has long been the site I played on when I wanted to play CC without an engine, but I have not played there for a little over a year. When I returned a couple of weeks ago it looked like things have been running OK in that there does not seem to have been any issues with the server like they had in the past. A year or so ago the server went down and I had a couple of tournaments that got cancelled. It wasn't a big deal though.  Things happen. My only complaint about tournaments is that they are all double round events, so if you finish first you are obligated to play in another event which one may not always want to do.
     Upon returning I find that a few people have been bellyaching about engine users at the top, but that's everywhere. There's nothing that can be done, there are just too many of them so that even with mods they get overwhelmed and QA is a one-man show, so there are no mods. So what if the site has a couple of hundred engine users rated over 2500, I don't usually play them.
 It also looks to me like someone made a lot of duplicate accounts and either played a bunch of short games and/or no games at all and keeps spamming the forums with complaints about engine users.  Sounds like a disgruntled member who thinks he lost to an engine and so is retaliating by spamming the site. 
     For now I feel like giving up centaur chess and returning to regular 'human' play. There are several reasons for this. In top level CC draws are approaching 90 percent. It's not quite that bad for us slugs down in the trenches at LSS, but my record there is nearly 60 percent draws and the games are all pretty boring.
     Another reason is that the days are past, and have been for some time, when a human tinkering with engine output could improve the play; nowadays the engines are just too good. And finally, my quad core laptop just isn't powerful enough to compete with the dedicated machines costing several thousand dollars that a lot of people are using.
     So I returned to Queen Alice and challenged some guy rated about 2100 to a couple of open games at seven days a move...that was a joke...we played 7-plus moves a day! He resigned the first game a little early I thought.  In the second game we both had a Q and R, but even though I was up a Pawn a draw was the only logical outcome.
     Unfortunately there appears to be issues with the site. I always thought the site was Brazilian because there are so many players from there, but it's probably not. The site is run by a fellow named Miguel, a software engineer, photographer and filmmaker from Portland, Oregon though he is originally from Buenos Aires.
     Based on some recent forum comments Miguel seems to have abandoned the site and apparently it's pretty much running on its own! What's more, and this is the scary part, somebody seems to have hacked the owner's (Miguel's) personal account!!  That makes me think twice about playing there! Besides, if nobody is at the wheel, sooner or later, it's going to crash permanently.