Random Posts

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Openings That Don’t Work

     Over the years I’ve tried a few openings that no matter what never seemed to work as advertised. First it was the Stonewall Attack. I read a book by Horowitz and Reinfeld that showed how easy it was to play and, as demonstrated in the book, simply smash your opponent. It was appealing because the patterns were so simple. It never worked like they showed in the book and after losing enough games I finally learned my lesson: don’t play it.
     Another was the QGD Exchange Variation. Reshevsky played it frequently and he made winning look so easy. It was appealing because the patterns were so simple. It never worked like they showed in the book and after losing enough games, I finally learned my lesson: don’t play it. I just couldn't play like Reshevsky.
     Then there was the Budapest Gambit. It was what GM Robert Byrne called a twilight defense…not bad, but not good. I played it a lot but ended up putting a lot of effort into getting P back and not having any real attack to show for it. Things just didn’t work out for me like they did when Bisguier played it. I finally learned my lesson: don’t play it.
     Finally there was the Samisch Attack against the King’s Indian. It looked like the perfect way to meet the King’s Indian. I saw guys like Botvinnik, Tahl, Spassky and other famous GM’s play it and Fischer lost five games against it and so avoided it whenever he could. All white has to do is castle queenside and attack on the K-side by pushing g- and h-pawns. It never worked out as planned. In fact, in a recent game on LSS using engines I managed to lose a game. Apparently I still haven’t learned my lesson on this opening.
     I could name some other stuff that never worked out like they were supposed to…the Caro-Kann and Rubinstein French, for example. They were supposed to be simple and easy to play…they weren’t.
     On the bright side, one opening that did work quite well was the Torre Attack. I learned the patterns against all the different possible black setups (Sicilian-type, French-type, etc) and was happy with my results. The problem is that playing the same thing all the time got pretty boring and since I’m not playing serious OTB and when it comes to correspondence chess, nobody cares what your rating is and even playing for the CCLA, ICCF or LSS where you use your real name, you’re still, for all practical purposes, anonymous anyway and ratings don't matter.  Can anybody name the top 5 correspondence players on any of these sites, or for that matter, who is the world correspondence champion?  You play correspondence chess strictly for your own amusement.
     My solution has been to experiment with backwater openings and defenses on LSS lately. I’ve tried the Alekhine Defense (4 draws), QGD Chigorin Defense (1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6) which has yielded two draws, 1.a4 which resulted in +1 –0 =2. I’ve also tried 1…a5 against 1.e4 and lost but drew against 1.d4. The rather odd approach against the Slav Defense worked out well and resulted in a win: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 d5 4.e3 e6 5.Nf3 Nbd7 6.Qc2 Bd6 7.g4

     And, as mentioned in previous posts, the Urusov Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d4) has been surprisingly successful even against engines! +1 -0 =1 and in two current games I stand at least equal.
     Here's a nifty little Tartakower game using the Urusov.  You have to kind of feel sorry for Steiner because he lost on a tactical blunder from a better position. There were a bunch of Steiners:   Herman, Lajos, Endre. There were also a Dr. Conrad Steiner and a Dr. Konrad Styner, but for our purposes they don't count.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Shirov - Sveshnikov Match

     On Sunday, September 28 a friendly rapid match between Alexei Shirov and Evgeny Sveshnikov was concluded in Riga. The time control was 50 moves per game plus 10 seconds per move. All six games were the Sicilian Defense, two of them the Sveshnikov.   Unfortunately the match came 20 years too late. A match between the two had been discussed over twenty years ago, but unfortunately it never came to fruition.
     At 42 Shirov is rated 2701 placing him at number 45 on the FIDE rating list while the 64 year-old Sveshnikov is currently rated 2502 which puts him at number 752 on the ranking list of active players. So it’s not surprising that Sveshnikov took a beating scoring only a half point in six games. Still, the games themselves were exciting despite both players being past their prime. Shirov was always the stronger of the two and being a 'senior citizen' didn't help Sveshnikov despite his fighting spirit. A 2010 interview with Sveshnikov can be read at Chessdom.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Komodo 8 Engine

    You can download the multi-processor version 5.1 for free on their site, but I have recently purchased Komodo 8 to use in my games at LSS. According to their website the Komodo engine has the approval of GM Boris Avrukh who says he is “going to test Komodo in my future work, especially in very positional play…” and GM Roman Dzindzichashvili who said its analysis produced “absolutely flawless positional chess…” I am skeptical of statements like this which are actually advertising and we all know about advertisements and testimonials, so before spending $60 I researched what other independent reviewers had to say before spending my money. People sometimes accuse me of being a tightwad, but that's not true; I am thrifty. Here's a synopsis of what I found.
     What is important is the differences between Houdini, Komodo and Stockfish. One major difference is their search and evaluation functions. According to Larry Kaufman the differences are:
Komodo is best at evaluating middlegame positions accurately once the tactics are resolved.
Stockfish is best in the endgame and in seeing very deep tactics.
Houdini is the best at blitz and at seeing tactics quickly.
Rybka is obsolete.
Fritz is too far below these top engines to be useful.

     Another important observation by Kaufman is that Houdini and Stockfish overvalue the queen. This something I have suspected for a while because I have reached positions where I have had the opportunity to reach positions involving a Q against two Rooks that have been evaluated equal or favoring the Q, but my feeling was that the evaluation was possibly not correct so I always avoided those positions. Of course, not being a GM, I could have been wrong but that was my feeling. Also, according to Kaufman, Komodo is the best choice for playing the opening when out of book early.
     Stockfish is aggressive in its pruning of the analysis tree so its search is deep but narrow and this is supposed to be advantageous in some tactical positions and the endgame. Houdini is a very strong and fast in tactical positions. Its numerical value is also somewhat different than other engines in that they are supposed to be calculated to give predictable results. A one Pawn advantage gives a 80% chance of winning at blitz time control. A two Pawn advantage will win 95% of the time, and a three Pawn advantage 99% of the time. With a half a Pawn advantage the chances are about 50-50. This is important to know when it comes to correspondence chess because 1) you aren’t playing at blitz time controls and 2) tactical situations are rare; long positional games and endings are the norm.
     Because Komodo is the most accurate in positional evaluations (according to Kaufman), it makes sense that it would be a valuable addition to the correspondence player's arsenal. Assuming, that is, that you are playing on a site that allows their use. 
     Komodo’s numerical evaluations are close to Houdini’s. Stockfish’s evaluations are usually quite high and as a rule of thumb you should use about 2/3 of SF’s score to get a reasonable comparison. I suspect that one reason for Komodo’s more accurate evaluation is that Kaufman is a GM and when it comes to engine evaluations vs. a GM’s evaluation, I always go with the GM. In analyzing games in books you will often see statements claiming one side has a positionally won game or some such and the engine will be showing it equal. If a world champion says one side is positionally won then it’s probably so. Komodo is a little slower than Stockfish and Houdini so it will need longer analysis time, but in correspondence play that is not an issue.
     When it comes to answering the question as to which engine is best for use on LSS, well, it will depend. I will be testing Komodo out in a new tournament. I plan to use Komodo after leaving the book and in the middlegame and Stockfish 5 in the ending with Houdini 2 as the kibitzer.
     Will it outperform Stockfish 5? Maybe, maybe not because these days I am prone to trying out various gambits in CC play rather than super-solid stuff like the Catalan, Nimzo-Indian and other highly theoretical lines the heavy weights of Advanced Chess play. I have been experimenting with non-mainline openings and defenses lately. Stuff like the Urusov Gambit, Evans Gambit, Sicilian Wing Gambit Deferred, QGD Chigorin Defense, Ruy Lopez Bird Defense and such. At my level even with engines this stuff seems playable.
     Komodo is compatible with Chessbase 8 through 12, Fritz 8 through 14, Aquarium and Chess Assistant 10 through 14 (I am not sure about some of the free GUI's like SCID) and is available in download versions for Windows, Linux, Mac and Android.  Remember...you are purchasing the engine only; you have to use your own GUI.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Formerly Secret Files on CHO’D Alexander…

...by Milner-Barry is available from the National Security Agency’s public records.

Record 1
Record 2

Wikipedia Article on Alexander

Advanced Chess aka Server Play As It Is Played These Days...

…and how it’s done.

     I was recently reading a post on a chess engine blog which sent me to a page that gave hints on using a chess engine in server play. Much to my surprise it turned out to be a link to the CCLA server page but they do NOT allow engine use. I assume that it was there because the CCLA is affiliated with the ICCF which DOES allow engine use. In any case there was much of interest in the advice and I am giving only the highlights here. If you want to read the entire article you can do so on the CCLA Server page.
     To begin with, hardware and software specs that are used by top level “Advanced Chess” players are a secret…they won’t tell anybody how they do it, but it is known that the more powerful the computer the better. If you just want to dabble in engine assisted chess and don’t care about your rating a cheap computer will be OK, but be prepared to lose a lot and/or get stuck at low level because your computer isn’t packing the gear to take you any further.
     You are going to need a machine capable of analyzing to about 40 ply, a dual-quad core processor, a 64-bit version of Windows and at least 8, preferably 16, gigs of memory. After running all this stuff for 8 hours or so, you will have generated a lot of heat so you have to know the maximum operating temperature of your machine and better yet, have it alarmed. Houdini 4 Pro, for example, can use 32 threads (16 cores) and 256 gigs of hash, but to get a machine at that level will cost you a bundle of cash. You can use your laptop, but don’t expect much.
     For starters you must first configure the number of cores, hash size, endgame tablebases support and select the proper use of opening books. For Infinite Analysis configure maximum hash. That means that if your PC has 2048 MB RAM, then your maximum hash size is 1024 MB. For matches between engines it depends on what time control they play. Note: if you are conducting a Shootout in Fritz at 5 minutes per game then 128MB is enough because reading a large hash file while playing blitz is counter-productive. Engines are not good with openings or opening-related positions and it’s not a good idea to rely on the evaluation of positions up to about the 15th move.
     It is better to analyze on one core for two hours than two cores for one hour. Adding a second core doesn't mean you add another 100 per cent to your analysis power. It means you add about 75 per cent to your previous 100. And these percentages diminish with every core you add because of the fact that the cores work in parallel and can often try to work simultaneously on the analysis lines. So, for analysis it's better to have one powerful core than two weaker ones. The exception would be if you are using Aquarium IDeA; you need more cores even if they are weaker.
     Theoretically, the infinite analysis is better when using one powerful core for two days (with maximum hash) than using two cores for one day only. How long you allow your engine to examine a position depends. There is a horizon that engines can't pass, because of the pruning. i.e. they tend not to change their evaluations even if they spot something many plies from the root.
     Concerning those sites that run engine vs. engine tournaments and establish engine ratings: First, remember that these engines only play against each other and so the strongest engine will win most of the time and just keep piling up points. Further, these engines are tuned specifically to compete in these tournaments, usually at blitz speed, so an engine that tops the list may not necessarily be the best for correspondence chess.
     In Advanced Chess you can never, ever get in a hurry. One important thing is to never second guess the engine. That may have been possible in the old days, but not anymore (we are speaking of high level chess here). When an engine suggests two or three moves that are all evaluated about equally, there are some things you can try to ferret out the best move, but when all else fails, only then can you use your brain to choose the best move. Very rarely though will you reach a truly even position. When this happens the best thing to do is exit the multiple variation mode and analyze the top equally evaluated moves one at a time in the Infinite Analysis mode. In fact, this is good advice for all moves. If a move’s evaluation drops when you switch to single line mode, go back and do some more analysis. Sometimes the top rated move will not change no matter how many plies deep you go. One study of four popular engines found this to be the case 85 percent of the time, but at the top level of Advanced Chess that other 15 percent will kill you because when those guys play, 30 ply is not state of the art.
     I have a Toshiba Satellite L855 running Windows 8, 2.50 GHz processor with 4.0 GB of RAM and a 64-bit operating system. I use Fritz 12 GUI, Stockfish 5, Houdini 2 and Critter 1.6 engines. For most of my analysis I use the Infinite Analysis mode and let the engines run from 10-15 minutes and with an occasional position, 4 or 5 hours. I joined Lechenicher SchachServer in 2008 at my CCLA rating of circa 2060, but wasn’t aware that they allowed engines so only scored +0 -4 =2 in my first tournament and lost a gob of rating points. When I realized they allowed engines I was using Fritz 5, only upgrading a couple of years ago, which lead to somewhat better results. To date my record there is only a +11 with 57 percent of the games drawn and a rating that has not varied significantly for a couple of years.
     Short version: unless you want to invest a lot of money and spend just about all your waking time fiddling with your games, don’t bother playing correspondence chess unless it’s on a site that does not allow engine use. Even then, if you get up around 2200 all bets are off. If you just enjoy piddling around with different openings and various engines then Advanced Chess can be enjoyable…just don’t expect to gain a lot rating points. But, it can be fun doing like I did in a recent tournament. Knowing most guys are using pretty much the same equipment I am and many are playing a lot of games simultaneously so don’t let their engines analyze for a long time, I prepared some analysis in the crappy old Urusov gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d4) and was rewarded with a win and a draw! Who knows? I may research the Urusov deeper and try it again. Or maybe even seek out some other obscure gambit.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Underrated Champion

     Vasily Smyslov (prounounced Smi-sloff with the ‘Smi’ as in Smith). Smyslov is an underappreciated player. Truechess ran a test a few years back where for 24 hours a day for 15 months (from February 2007 through May 2008), 12 computing threads (on three Intel quad-core Q6600 computers running at 3.0 GHz) analyzed the games of the World Champions. Entire playing careers were analyzed -- for example, 69,084 positions from 2318 games were analyzed for Smyslov. Rybka [version 2.3.2a], the strongest chess program available at the time, and a modified version of Crafty program [version 20.14] were used in the project. In a ranking of Champions based on their best 15-year period where blunders per thousand moves (among other things) were measured, it was found that Smyslov was ranked second behind Capablanca.
     Unfortunately for Smyslov, there always seemed to be at least one player better (or luckier) than him: Bronstein, Botvinnik, Tal, Fischer, Kasparov. As for style, Smyslov belongs to the “Classical School.” He developed many opening systems, like Capablanca he preferred to keep the middlegame simple and depend on his endgame expertise. Smyslov is known as a perfect endgame player.
     Smyslov saw himself primarily as an artist who didn't just aim for victory, but also for an something he called the truth. Or, to use his phrase, "the triumph of logic". To Smyslov chess was an art and it appealed to his artistic tastes as did his career as an opera singer. He once wrote that he most admired a musical ideal that reflected "strict beauty and harmony, spontaneity and elegance, the faultless intuition of the artist, the absolute mastery of technique and therefore complete independence from it." He felt the same way about chess describing himself as "a staunch supporter of classical clarity of thought."
     His father was a very strong chess player with an excellent library and by studying his father's books he was well-grounded in the thinking and play of all the great masters. Tarrasch's writings influenced Smyslov and helped him to understand and evaluate the importance of Steinitz’ theories. At the same time he also absorbed the ideas of the hypermoderns, particularly his favorite, Nimzovich. As a result he became a well-round player and all this helped him to become a very strong player by his early teens.
     Smyslov wrote, "I traced the evolution of chess thought and repeated its basic steps in my own development and became convinced that any player with high ambitions should follow such a path."
     When Smyslov began his career in the mid-1930s everyone understood Steinitz and players were beginning to expand into new directions. The hypermoderns and Capablanca and Alekhine, and others had changed players’ minds as to what was playable.
     At the same time the “Soviet School" lead by Botvinnik had also begun to emerge. The Soviet school was characterized by deep opening research, analysis and an aggressive approach whether playing white or black. They used terms like “scientific” and “concrete” a lot in their writings.
     Smyslov became junior champion of the USSR in 1938 and was already considered by many to be a rising star. Unfortunately World War 2 intervened before he could test his skills internationally. During the war years, Smyslov's results in strong Soviet tournaments led him to emerge as number 2 behind Botvinnik in the Soviet Union.
     In the first major post-war tournament at Groningen in 1946 Smyslov finished 3rd behind Botvinnik and Max Euwe. This was an important event for Smyslov because it lead to his securing an invitation to the five-player World Championship tournament in 1948. He finished second behind Botvinnik and ahead of Keres, Reshevsky and Euwe. In that event Smyslov displayed his mastery of dynamic modern openings and had many innovations. In general his play was clear, harmonious and showed a lot of technique.
     In the post-war Soviet Union many strong players developed and resulted in Smyslov’s results being eclipsed by new, younger talent; like David Bronstein and Paul Keres. After 1948, FIDE introduced a new three-year World Championship qualification cycle involving regional zonal events, an interzonal and a final candidates' tournament. In the first one Smyslov was placed third behind the joint winners of the Budapest candidates in 1950, David Bronstein and Isaac Boleslavsky. Bronstein won the tie-break play-off match and then faced Botvinnik for the World Championship. There is a lot of debate over whether Bronstein was forced to throw the match, but evidence would seem to indicate that he was.
     In any case, Smyslov believed he could win the World Championship and worked hard on widening and deepening his openings, paid attention to his physical fitness and with the coming of the next cycle at Zurich in 1953, he scored an impressive 18-10, winning by a two point margin and losing only one game. Bronstein, Keres and Reshevsky shared 2nd place. David Bronstein credited Smyslov’s success to his "iron persistence and logic ... extraordinary will to win ... and ability to combine the consistent realization of an idea with precise tactical calculation." Bronstein likened Smyslov to Capablanca.
     It took Smyslov two World Championship challenges to dethrone Botvinnik. In 1954 the match ended in a 12-12 draw, with Botvinnik retaining his title. After this failed attempt Smyslov went back to work to strengthen his game.
     In that first match Botvinnik caught Smyslov off guard in the openings and as a result, after the first four games the score stood 3.5-0.5 in favor of Botvinnik. The fact that Smyslov managed to even up the score is indicative of not only his ability but his will to win.
     Smyslov continued to play well after the match. In 1955 he shared 1st place with Geller in the USSR Championshipfinishing a half-point ahead of Botvinnik whom he defeated in their individual game. In 1956 he finished 1st in the Amsterdam Candidates' tournament, qualifying for his second World Championship challenge. Later in 1956, Smyslov shared 1st with Botvinnik in the Alekhine Memorial in Moscow. Then in their second World Championship match in 1957 Smyslov succeeded in dethroning Botvinnik in a very hard fought match, winning 12.5 – 9.5.  Botvinnik exercised his right to a return match and in 1958 won his title back.
     Although Smyslov scored consistently good results following the loss of his title, even reaching a Candidates' final match against Garry Kasparov in 1984 he was no longer a serious contender. His active career lasted to the turn of the century.
     In a big surprise, in his late sixties Smyslov unexpectedly qualified for yet another Candidates' series in 1982 by finishing second in the Las Palmas Interzonal. In 1983 the 62-year-old Smyslov defeated Zoltan Ribli in London by a score of 6.5 – 4.5 and then in the quarter-final match against Robert Hübner he tied the score at 7–7. In a weird tie break, the spin of a roulette wheel Hubner advanced. His final Candidates' appearance was the Montpellier 1985 tournament, where he did not advance. In 1991 Smyslov won the inaugural World Senior Chess Championship.
     He retired from competitive play after the 2001 Klompendans Veterans vs. Ladies Tournament in Amsterdam. Some of the matches were adjourned early as draws due to the 80-year-old grandmaster's failing eyesight. Smyslov died of heart failure in hospital in Moscow on the morning of 27 March 2010, three days after his 89th birthday.
     In the following game watch him crush Botvinnik in a near-miniature.

Exciting Server Game

     I played a 15 minute game online last night that was a lot of fun. After I played 35.f5 my opponent very graciously complimented me on having played a good game. I was expecting him to resign especially when he took a few minutes, but he finally discovered the clever 35…Nf4 which left me with only a marginal advantage. That was when it was my turn to take a couple of minutes to try and come up with a reasonable continuation because I just couldn’t believe there was nothing more in the position. I also started imagining threats on the first rank that might enable him to salvage the game. At the last second, I noticed that his K and Q were placed in such a position that a N fork was possible. What made the move 36.Nc1 hard to spot was the fact that it was a backward move and we are used to seeing forward moves. You’ll also notice I missed quite a few tactical shots which shouldn’t surprise anybody.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tunnel Vision

   Chess Reddit had an interesting question. “I tend to get tunnel vision in chess. Is there a thing I can do to prevent this?”
     Apparently it was not clear what the guy was asking. Was the problem getting fixated on his plans and ignoring what his opponent was doing or did he mean fixating on one sector of the board and simply not seeing the rest of it?
     Excluding the medical problem of tunnel vision, it is described as a tendency to focus on a single concern, while neglecting or ignoring other important priorities. In his book The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People author Stephen Covey describes four quadrants of priorities. He says people tend to spend too much time in urgent but unimportant priorities when they really should spend more effort on not urgent but important priorities.
     In chess terms we do like I did in my first tournament in three and a half years when I was in the military. During that time I never set up a chessboard, but had read through Pachman’s Modern Chess Strategy "blindfolded"a number of times. In my first round game I got fixated on establishing a N outpost to the point that even though my strategy was successful, I neglected to notice my opponent had set up a mating attack on the K-side. 
     Then there is another type of tunnel vision as illustrated from a tournament game I'll never forget because it taught me a valuable lesson. I saw that by playing my Q to g4 I could get a strong attack against my opponent’s K. After successfully working out the variations, I played Qg4 only to be shocked when the guy played …Bc8xQ. The latter scenario could have been easily avoided had I looked around the board before making my move. Instead I was concentrating on a small sector around his K.  
     This type of tunnel vision is an easy fix. After your opponent moves and before you move visually scan the ranks, files and diagonals. Sometimes it’s surprising what you see.
     The other problem, ignoring your opponent’s plans is a little more difficult to fix. We seem to have a bad habit of neglecting what our opponent is doing and sometimes even if we don’t, we suffer sensory overload where we tend to reduce the amount of information our brain is receiving; we shut out potentially critical information.
     You have to stay flexible and be willing to change plans if your opponent thwarts your original intentions. Masters tend to do that a lot more than average players. They first look for ways their plan can be refuted. The rest of us usually figure our opponent is going to make moves that ether fall in with our plans or he will ignore our plans altogether. The result is we get fixated like I did on getting the N to a strong outpost to the point we ignore everything else. It helps to do things like asking what HIS plans are, what his last move threatened, how has it changed the position, looking at checks, captures, Pawn breaks and ‘unplayable’ moves, etc, etc. Maybe this following 9-page pamphlet titled The ABCDE Methodology A method for listing and choosing candidate chess moves will help.

Asztalos Memorial, Gyula 1965

     While browsing through Chess is My Life by Korchnoi the other day I came across his mention of Gyula, 1965. I say ‘mention’ because that’s all it was; he noted it was a ‘success’ and said nothing more. I remember this tournament being reported in Chess Review with also with only a brief mention, but it should have gotten more attention because of Korchnoi’s remarkable feat…he scored 14 wins and ONE draw. Korchnoi was not a happy man after the tournament because he failed to make a perfect score, claiming his opponent was lucky! All the games can be found at 365chess.
     There is a great tribute to Korchnoi on Chess Diagonals, but as far as I know there no tribute to Lengyel on the Internet.  However, you can read about him HERE.
     The standings were:
1)Korchnoi 14.5
2-3) Lengyel and Honfi 9.0
4-5) Csom and Haag 8.5
6-7) Flesch and Kolarov
8-10) Kluger, Borisenko and Gasztnyi
11) Florian 6.5
12-14) Pirc, Sliwa and Gunsberger
15) Forintos
16) Paoli

Here’s his game against Lengyel who’s solid play never gave Korchnoi a chance at winning. In fact, I did not even find a point where he could have safely complicated things in order to create winning chances.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Adapting Chess to Life (?!)

    The Jewish Press has podcast by GM Michael Adams in which he talks about life as a professional chess player and explains how the thinking used in playing chess can be adapted to other parts of life.

Here’s a short article in Newser - Inside the Big-Money World of College Chess

Chess in 1959

     In 1959 I started playing correspondence chess. I was 14 years old and had been playing chess for a couple years and it would be another two years before I entered my first tournament, the State Junior Championship, where I drew my first round game against a Class A player and eventually scored +1 -2 =2 for a 1667 rating.
     The big news was the 1959 Candidates Tournament which was hosted by three cities in Yugoslavia. The first 14 rounds were played in Bled, rounds 15-21 in Zagreb, and rounds 22-28 in Belgrade. This event would select the next challenger to world champion Mikhail Botvinnik, who had just recaptured his title in the Botvinnik - Smyslov World Championship Rematch (1958).
     Mikhail Tahl, Svetozar Gligorić, Pal Benko, Tigran Petrosian, Friðrik Ólafsson and Bobby Fischer qualified from the Portoroz Interzonal. Vasily Smyslov and Paul Keres were seeded directly into the candidates tournament on the strength of their 1-2 finish in the previous Amsterdam Candidates (1956). Harry Golombek was arbiter.
     The players would meet each other four times, twice in Bled and once in both Zagreb and Belgrade. In Bled, the players stayed at the Grand Hotel Toplice, the site of Alexander Alekhine's historic triumph in Bled (1931).
     Mikhail Tahl had just had his appendix removed less than two weeks earlier, but FIDE insisted he make it in time for the tournament. Bobby Fischer, who complained after his first game with Tal that whenever he "rose from the board... he'd begin talking to the other Soviet players, and they enjoyed whispering about their or others' positions."
     Pal Benko later revealed that due to his "demanding" job in a US brokerage firm, he "didn't prepare at all" for the event, although he reckoned "I did reasonably well."
     During the second cycle, shortly after the beginning of round 8, Golombek remarked to Fischer on how many Caro Kanns the Soviets had been playing. Bobby replied "they are all just chicken; they just don't want to face B-QB4 against the Sicilian."
     One of few bright spots for Friðrik Ólafsson was his win over Petrosian. Their adjourned game was finished on a balcony overlooking Zagreb's Republic Square, where a giant demonstration board had been erected: "A crowd of... 5,000 assembled to watch. Olafsson won to... great acclamations... When he tried to go back to the hotel... the crowd insisted on carrying him on their shoulders."
     As the final cycle began in the 2,000 seat Belgrade Trade Union House. The hometown favorite, Yugoslavian grandmaster Gligorić, had played a disappointing tournament until he beat Smyslov in round 26 in just eighteen moves. As Golombek later described the scene, "There came a full-throated roar from over 2,000 (spectators)... and it was quite impossible for the other players to continue their games. So I hurriedly asked Gligorić and Smyslov to vacate the stage at once."
     With one round to go, Tal only needed a half point against Benko to win the tournament. Benko showed up wearing dark sunglasses, "fearing- or pretending to fear the hypnotic power of Tal's eyes." Unfazed, Tahl easily forced an early draw by perpetual check to emerge victorious over Keres and all the rest. He had earned the right to face Mikhail Botvinnik in the Tahl - Botvinnik World Championship Match (1960).

The 1959 Women's World Chess Championship was won by Elisabeth Bykova, who successfully defended her title in a match against challenger Kira Zvorykina.

The 60th US Open Championship was held at the Sheraton - Fontenelle Hotel in Omaha, Nebraska from July 20 - August 1, 1959. It was directed by George Koltanowski. Brooklyn's Raymond Weinstein's smashing last round victory over Pal Benko gave first place to Weinstein’s cousin, Arthur Bisguier. Winners:    
1st - Arthur Bisguier - 10             
2nd - Pal Benko - 9.5             
3rd - Raymond Weinstein - 9.5           
4-5th - Eliot Hearst and Hans Berliner - 9

The US Junior Championship was held July 13-18th at the Hotel Rome in Omaha and had 40 entrants. Scores:             
1st - Robin Ault - 7             
2nd - Gilbert Ramirez - 7             
3rd - Larry Gilden - 6.5             
4th - Ray. Weinstein - 6.5             
5th - Walter Harris - 6

A total of $2,225 in prize money was distributed at a banquet following the final round. Trophies were awarded to Arthur Bisguier, Robin Ault, for the highest score made by a USCF rated Expert, Walter Harris, for the highest score made by a Class A player, to Donald Seifert, for the highest score made by a Class B player, to Sonja Graf Stevenson, for the Woman's Open Championship.

     One interesting incident involved a strong player who had lost a number of games in the early rounds on the time limit. The reason remained a mystery for some rounds until Koltanowski took an interest. It appeared that the player who was losing on time was using his own clock and carried it around with him constantly and even refused to let anyone else handle it. The time limit was 50 moves in 2.5 hours but this player was in time pressure in only half that time. It turned out that one of the clocks was defective and the clock’s owner had been sitting on the defective side of his clock in every game. 

Howlin’ Wolf put out this album on Chess Records:

Friday, September 19, 2014

McFarland Publishing Chess Books

Disclaimer: I have NO financial interest in their books.

I received a catalog of chess books by McFarland Publishing in the mail today and can highly recommend their books. I have a couple and am impressed with the quality, but be aware that they are pricey. For example, Alekhine’s Best Games 1902-1946 by Skinner and Verhoeven which contains 2,543 games will cost you $125; I don’t think there are any notes, just game scores with diagrams. Prices are generally in the $45 range!  Looking through the catalog I could have spent about $500.

There are books with biographies and annotated games on the great, near great and obscure players:  Botvinnik, Nimzovich, Capablanca, Victorian players, Emil Kemeny, Kashdan, Arthur Kaufmann, W.H.K. Pollack, Adolf Albin, Julius Finn, Amos Burn, James Mason, Albert Hodges, James A. Leonard, Walter Penn Shipley, Steinitz, Frank Marshall, Thomas Frere, Reshevsky, Reuben Fine and more.  Next year they will be publishing books on Samuel Lipschutz, Vera Menchick and Ignaz Kolisch.

McFarland is a publisher of academic and nonfiction books ranging from history, military history, sports, literature, etc. Check them out at McFarland Publishing.  If you live in Europe, Australia, Asia or Africa you can check them out at Eurospanbookstore.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Good Story on the 2014 Sinquefield Cup

The online magazine Slate has an interesting article on this recently concluded event HERE. While you’re at it check out the article No More Kings: Magnus Carlsen is the world’s best chess player, but he shouldn’t be the world champion.

Anatoly Lein

Grandmaster Anatoly Lein was a world-class competitor and a popular writer. He was born March 28, 1931 in Leningrad and for many years has been an American citizen. He was awarded the International Master title in 1964 and the Grandmaster title in 1968.

     He was the USSR Armed Forces Champion in 1962 and Russian Champion in 1963. He finished equal first at Moscow 1970, and won the 1971 Moscow championship after a play-off. He placed first at Cienfuegos 1972, first at Novi Sad 1972, first at Novi Sad 1973, and equal first at Grand Manan 1984.
     In 1976 Lein emigrated to the United States and played on the U.S. team in the 1978 Olympiad.
     After immigrating to the United States, he represented the U.S. in several major national and international tournaments, finishing equal first at the U.S. Open and the World Open in 1976 and representing the U.S. at the 1978 Olympiad. Lein was New Jersey champion from 1992 through 1994.
     In his prime, Lein was capable of beating anyone in the world. Among his victims were two World Champions, Mikhail Tal and Vassily Smyslov. He also scored wins against such world class Grandmasters as David Bronstein, Lev Polugaevsky, Leonid Stein, and Mark Taimanov.
     In the 1970s Lein was a feared competitor in US Swiss tournaments (along with his compatriot ex-patriot GM Leonid Shamkovich). Lein had an imposing presence and was a burly fellow who looked like a weight lifter. During those days, before giving up the habit, he was a chain smoker and I remember seeing him at a tournament standing with his hands clasped behind his back and repeatedly tapping the lighted end of his cigarette with his index finger. These days Lein is retired and lives in a Cleveland, Ohio suburb but still gives lessons.