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Friday, February 27, 2015

Morris Schapiro

    Morris Abraham Schapiro (1903 – 1996) was an American investment banker and chess master. His brother was art historian Meyer Schapiro.
     Born in Lithuania in 1903, he came to the United States in 1907. The family lived in Brownsville and Flatbush, Brooklyn where his father worked as a paper and cordage wholesaler, though he also wrote articles on philosophical subjects.
     Schapiro excelled in mathematics and Latin at school and at 16 he entered Columbia University on a Pulitzer Scholarship. He received an advanced degree from Columbia in engineering in 1925. He was a major donor to Columbia University including Schapiro Hall (a dormitory) and the Morris A. Schapiro Center for Engineering and Physical Science Research.
     In addition to his intellectual exploits, Schapiro also excelled in chess. He led the Columbia University chess team to four national championships. In New York, he took 3rd, behind Dawid Janowski and Roy T. Black in 1920, twice won Manhattan CC championship (1921 and 1922). Schapiro won a match against Oscar Chajes (7.5-5.5) in 1923. He finished 5th at Lake Hopatcong 1923 (American Chess Congress).  His career was before Elo ratings existed so he was never rated , but was one of several veteran players who, when the USCF first published rating lists, was awarded the title of Master Emeritus.
     Schapiro served as head of his own investment banking firm, M. A. Schapiro and Company. He established new business techniques for the banking industry and in the course of his career he led some of the banking industry's largest mergers: Chase Bank and the Bank of Manhattan in 1955, then Chemical Bank and New York Trust in 1959.
     "On both deals, Mr. Schapiro followed his traditional strategy. He recommended the two banks' stocks to affluent clients, then asked them to press the banks' managements to agree to a deal," the New York Times wrote in his obituary.
     His strategy caused some of Schapiro's rivals to label him ''the bank liquidator,'' a nickname that was more an honor than a jab. Although he arranged some of the largest business deals in the 1950's, Schapiro never received a fee for his services; instead, he took his profits from the exchange of stock. ''It must be remembered that the bank stockholder is not wedded to banking as a business,'' Schapiro said during a speech in 1949. ''His sole concern is with the value of his investment.''
     Schapiro married Alma Binion Cahn, a painter, who died in 1987 after 58 years of marriage. They had two children, Linda Schapiro Collins and Dr. Daniel Schapiro. His grandchildren include painter Jacob Collins. Schapiro died aged 93 at his New York City apartment in 1996, only a few months after his brother Meyer.
     While disliked (feared) by some bankers, he was extremely well liked by his colleagues. Once, while vacationing in Maine, Schapiro telephoned his office and spoke with everyone there.  Known for his small kindnesses, his 50 employees at his 2 firms received free lunches every day, a practice that is virtually unheard of along Wall Street...or anywhere else for that matter.
     Schapiro died at his apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan at the age of 93.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

King Hunts

     When a K loses the right to castle it's not always a sign that his army will lose the game. Besides the inability to castle, the K must also be exposed and vulnerable. Sometimes a K flees and escapes; sometimes it doesn't.
     The King hunt in this game was an exciting one. It was a tragedy that Caro's 34th move was of the kind that very few of us are likely to make...he ruined a fine effort against a very good player in a single move and lost almost at once. Who does that?!
     Seriously though, it's easy to sit at home with a couple of engines running and criticize the author and the players but we shouldn't be too hard on the players for the flurry of blunders at the end. It was late in the game and the position was a complicated one even for the engines. And, we have to remember that the author of the book didn't have a powerful engine available that would enable him to instantly spot tactics. The truth is, the author of The Art of Attack in Chess, Vladimir Vukovic, and the players, Mikahil Chigorin and Horatio Caro, were stronger than me or anybody else likely to read this post, so kudos to all of them: Vukovic for writing such a great book and Chigorin and Caro for their contributions to the game, including this exciting and unusual game.
     For a modern King hunt that succeeded check out GM Kavalek's article in the Huffington Post on the Riazantsev vs. Karjakin game that was so complicated even engines had a hard time determining the best move...that happens more often than you might think.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Dr. Erich W. Marchand

   When I was just getting into chess and started receiving Chess Life one name that kept popping up was that of Master Dr.Erich W. Marchand, a mathematician, from Rochester, New York. His name kept appearing far into my adulthood, too; he was around a long time.
     Marchand was born on July 07, 1914 and died on August 29, 1999 at the age of 85. He was a professor emeritus of mathematics at the University of Rochester and a pioneer in gradient index research. My understanding is that this has to do with the optical effects of materials and is important in the production of things like photocopiers. Sounds boring.
     A USCF Life Master, he amassed so many titles it's impossible to list them all. He was also involved in developing the U.S. Chess Federation's rating system and was also a columnist for Chess Life magazine for many years. He was the first inductee in the New York State Chess Hall of Fame and there is an annual tournament named after him in New York. It's unusual but this tournament was begun in his honor before his death so he had the privilege of actually playing in it.
     At one time he was also involved in correspondence chess and was president of Correspondence Chess League of America, he was a tournament organizer, an officer in USCF, President of the Rochester Chess Club, many times city and state champion, and at one time was the most active player in America. He was also the champion of Missouri prior to moving his family to Rochester, New York where he was State Champion several times. As a player he had a well deserved reputation as one of the best endgame players in America.
     Dr. Marchand left a legacy of integrity and a reputation for hard work in both chess and in his professional life.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Zemgalis Gem

     I have posted on Elmars Zemgalis before HERE. Zemgalis passed away at age 91 on December 8 last year; his Seattle Times obituary is HERE.
     Zemgalis was the last of many great, but not very well-known players, whose careers were interrupted by WW2.  Fortunately for the chess world, back in 2001 John Donaldson published Elmars Zemgalis: Grandmaster Without the Title, an excellent book with vintage photos, a biography and 190 annotated and unannotated games.

In the following game he defeats Ludwig Rellstab with a sudden, whirlwind attack. Rellstab (23 November 1904, Schöneberg, Berlin – 14 February 1983, Wedel) was a German player who won the German Chess Championship in 1942 and was awarded the International Master title in 1950. Rellstab came from a distinguished family of academics and musicians. His great grandfather, also named Ludwig Rellstab, was a well-known poet and music critic. His father Ludwig M. E. Rellstab was a professor of physics and electronics, who in 1914 became chief engineer at Siemens & Halske. His sister Annekäthe was a pianist.

Houdini 4 PRO (?) and Blck Mamba

     The ChessOK website offers free download of several very good engines HERE. At the top of the list I saw Houdini 4 PRO and Houdini 2! Houdini 4 PRO for free?! That's strange because when you go to the Houdini site the latest engine they have for sale is Houdini 4 PRO for about $68. The only free engine I see on the Houdini site is version 1.5.
     A few years back I purchased Houdini 2, but I was curious abut this Houdini 4 PRO that ChessOK is offering for free so I downloaded the .rar file, but didn't have anything to unzip it with. 
     I tried WinZip, but my Webroot anti-virus kept giving me warnings, so I was a little hesitant about unzipping and running WinZIP. After doing some reading up on it at the Webroot site, I think WinZIP is OK, but they didn't like it because it has a lot of invasive crap that, while annoying, is not really dangerous; that's why Webroot gives the warning. At least I think that's what the article was getting at. Anyway, somebody recommended a free program called 7-zip, so that's what I downloaded and installed to unzip Houdini 4 PRO.
     I was suspicious of this free Houdini 4 engine...how can it be free when everybody is selling it? ChessOK is a legit site...I've bought from them before and while I'm not a fan of some of their products, they do have excellent customer service.
     I ran match at 3 minutes per game pitting my Houdini 2 vs. Houdini 4 PRO downloaded from ChessOK. The result: Houdini 2 won with +6 -1 =2. If it's the real Houdini 4 PRO, how can that be? I decided to try a longer (15 minute) game. The result (I only ran one game) was a long, boring draw. Honestly, after the trouncing it took I am skeptical that this is the real Houdini 4 PRO engine.  In fact I think it performed so badly I deleted it.
     While on the subject of engines, a lot of players are looking for "human-like" play from engines. BlackMamba is a multi-core engine for Windows (32 and 64bit), Linux (32 and 64bit) and Android. The engine is very strong and supposedly was written to make (sound, as opposed to just giving away material, I guess) human-like sacrifices. I'm not sure how one tells human moves from computer moves in this situation, but below is a G10 Black Mamba vs Stockfish 6.  If anyone is looking for a human-like engine you may want to try out Black Mamba.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Kim Commons, Club Owner and (Former) Chess Star

    Kim Commons of California was a prominent IM on the US chess scene during the 1970's. He received a Bachelor's degree in physics from UCLA, but it appears he never worked in the field. Commons earned his Master title in 1968, Senior Master title 1973 and International Master title 1976. He served as a chess instructor at UCLA in 1972-1973.
     Commons was one of the most promising players in the US in the 1970’s and was good enough to be invited to participate in the US Championship but he gave up chess because he desired to, as he put it, “become a Grandmaster in real estate.” Apparently he succeeded because he eventually became a real estate broker in California.
     Since 2005 he's been in Arizona where he is President and CEO of Club Red in Mesa and he specializes in audio engineering, event planning, songwriting and advertising. Club Red boasts having over 600 free parking spaces, tour bus parking, twin theaters, good air conditioning, large professional stages, a full bar license, two levels, a green room for headliners and a professional staff. Article on Commons and the club: HERE.
     It's always great to see people successful, but you often wish they would have continued to play chess, too. Watch him maul Reshevsky in the 1974 US Championship in Chicago.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Tahl vs Keller, Zurich 1959

     In 1959 the Schachgesellschaft Zürich celebrated its 150th anniversary with a tournament. Besides Bobby Fischer, they invited Botvinnik, the world champion at the time, but he declined. It was probably a good thing because Mikhail Tahl took his place.
     Everybody knows Tahl, but his opponent in this game is largely unknown. Dieter Keller (born 19 July 1936) is a Swiss chess master who was Swiss Champion in 1958, 1960, 1961, and 1963. He played for Switzerland in three Olympiads with modest results (+9 -9 =17). He was awarded the International Master title in 1961 and his last FIDE rating is 2359; he has been inactive since 2003.
Dieter Keller
     In this tournament Keller beat Fischer in their game and the another highlight of the tournament was his spectacular loss to Tahl. What's fascinating about this game is that in his book The Life and Games of Mikhail Tahl, Tahl provided only a diagram and the last 20 moves of this game, writing, "I did not want to give a faulty analysis, and to work through it to the end is, I am afraid , hardly possible."
     Robert Huebner annotated it though. The first time his annotations were filled with errors and later Garry Kasparov copied Huebner's notes, mistakes and all. Huebner later corrected his notes; it took him 43 pages!  I'm just giving the highlights here but the complications are incredible. Tahl finally wrapped things up with his amazing 29th move.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Need Some Chess Sites to Browse?

Of course you do. So...here are the top 600 sites based on their Alexa rating. This Blog is #565...surprise!

Wolfgang Unzicker

      Born on June 26, 1925, Unzicker learned the game at the age of ten and when he visited the Chess Olympiad the following year he was hooked. He was born in Pirmasens, a small town in the province of Rhineland-Palatinate. His father (who had no love for Hitler) taught him how to play chess at age 10. His brother, Gerhard, four years older, was also a chess player but was killed near the end of World War II.
     Unzicker was a judge  by profession but played in top events with such success that Karpov, who recommended Unzicker's games for study, called him the 'world champion of amateurs'. Unzicker said, “I never had the desire to become a professional chess player – this seemed to be a risky proposition in the Western World. Also, I did not want to dedicate my entire life to chess” For many years he was legal advisor for the German Chess Association.
     In 1948 Fritz Sämisch and Unzicker were the first German players to obtain an invitation to play abroad...at Lucerne where Unzicker finished in first place. After the war, until around 1970, Unzicker was the strongest German player; he won the German championship seven times. He played in thirteen Olympiads and represented his country on the national team 400 times. He was awarded his GM title in 1954. Even in his old age Unzicker regularly played tournament chess with his team from the chess club “Tarrasch Munich”, competing in the “Oberliga” on board number one.  His style was, like another great German player, Siegbert Tarrasch, classical.
     His opinion of other players of his day, namely Keres, Korchnoi and Geller (with some reservations) was interesting.  He reckoned them as players who had what it takes to become world champion, but they never managed to succeed. He also considered Zukertort, Rubinstein, Tarrasch and Bronstein in the same way.
     Musician Gregor Piatigorsky, who organized two Piatigorsky Cups (1963 and 1966) said of Unzicker, “With his smart appearance, cleanly shaven and wearing a stylish suit, he was the perfect image of orderliness. The clicks of his heels revealed an unbending tradition and his eyes and laughter demonstrated the kindness of his heart. It was during these weeks that Unzicker gained the reputation of a person endowed with profound opinions and a powerful intellect. I enjoyed our conversations in German and wished that everybody could understand the feelings and thoughts of this friendly and cultivated man.”
     Unzicker had three sons who played chess: Alexander, Ferdinand who obtained a high of 2305 Elo and Stefan who played briefly, but then gave it up. The German version of Wikipedia says he was discharged from the Wehrmacht in 1944 after basic training because of a "weak heart." Because of his heart condition he avoided cigarettes, coffee, alcohol (only allowing himself an occasional drink) and exercised regularly. He passed away on April 20, 2006, at the age of 80, during a holiday trip to Portugal.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Captain's Perwago's Last Game

     The Russo-Japanese War (8 February 1904 – 5 September 1905) was the first great war of the 20th century. It grew out of rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and the Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea. The major theatres of operations were Southern Manchuria, specifically the area around the Liaodong Peninsula and Mukden; and the seas around Korea, Japan, and the Yellow Sea.
     Russia suffered numerous defeats at the hands of Japan and remained engaged in the war due in part to the will of the tsar, Nicholas II. After faring poorly early in the war, Nicholas II, convinced that Russia would ultimately obtain victory, chose to remain engaged in the war; at first, to await the outcomes of certain naval battles, and later on, upon realizing imminent defeat, to preserve the dignity of Russia. The war concluded with the Treaty of Portsmouth, mediated by U.S President Theodore Roosevelt.
     This game was played by two Russian soldiers in Manchuria on the eve of the Battle of Sha-ho. Captain P.N. Perwago, the winner, was a strong amateur who took a prize in the international Rice Gambit Tournament of the "Monde Illustre."
    Before the outbreak of the war he was in garrison at Piatigorsk in the Caucasus. In the fall of 1904 he had volunteered for service in Manchuria where he commanded a battalion of infantry in the Army Corps.
     Captain Perwago was killed in the assault on Putiloff Hill (see page 393 of link HERE for more on this battle) and his comrade-in-arm, Lieutentant Denn was seriously wounded. The loser sent the game to Simon Alapin with the attached note: "The furious attack of the Captain during the battle was equal to the present brilliant encounter."
     A word about Black's 3...Bb4: It had me snickering until I saw who has played it, besides Alapin, in the past: Herman Steiner, Mark Taimanov, Velimirovic (see my post dated February 16th), Johnny Hector (many times), Paul Motwani, Miguel Illescas Cordoba, and the strong Cuban-American master Blas Lugo. My database also had one game with this move played last year by some guy named Magnus Carlsen.  An interesting move; I can't wait to try it out!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Queen Pseudosacrifices Are Fun...

...even if they are not necessary to win the game. This game was fun to play. As for the opening, even though the line I selected holds no real danger for black, it's what I always play because there's not much theory on it and it does not lead to the kind of game black is expecting when he plays the Alekhine. Technically though I don't think my 28th move was a real sacrifice because I ended up getting a R, B and N for the Q.  Besides that, according to Stockfish 6 I was up by over 16 Pawns and the evaluation dropped to 8 Pawns after the "sacrifice" so technically it was not the best move.  Maybe not, but it was fun.

In Chess: Skills, Tactics, Techniques by Jonathan Arnott, he wrote, "A sacrifice involves giving up material in order to receive other benefits. If you give up your R knowing that you are going to win your opponent's Q two moves later, then it s part of a tactic - not much of a sacrifice if you are actually winning material." He points out that it is really a pseudosacrifice...it looks like a sacrifice but actually it is just part of winning material.  He points out it's quite common at the club level, so in his book, he elected to ignore those kinds of moves. Thinking about it, he's right.  When we average players make what we like to call a sacrifice, it usually isn't...it's what I did here; I traded my Q for a bunch of pieces.
     A real sacrifice is when a player gives up material because it helps his position. Sacrifices can be made for many reasons: prevent castling, destroy a P-formation, remove a dangerous piece, create an outpost, create a passed P, remove protection from the K, exchange into a drawn (or won) ending, launch an attack, etc. Arnott makes an important observation many players forget: Players can see a sacrifice that does not give sufficient compensation for the material given up and it's easy to forget that if you don't get enough compensation in return, your sacrifice should result in losing the game.