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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Capablanca – Kostic Match

     This match, played in Havana in 1919, was supposed to go to the first to score 8 wins, draws not counting. Despite some success in earlier games against Capa, Kostic was expected to lose, but the consensus of opinion was that he would make Capa work hard to win and maybe even notch a couple of wins during the process. 
  The games were played from 2pm to 8pm. Adjournments would be played off on Mondays and Sundays would be a rest day. 
     It turned out that Capa won +5 -0 =0. Clearly Kostic was outclassed, but the excuse for his poor showing was that the climate and change of diet proved to be a combination he couldn't overcome. Upon arriving in Havana Kostic had been advised to wait until the following week to start play, but he declined. Play started on March 25th and ended on April 5th. 
     In the first game Kostic played the Petrov Defense and a long game was adjourned after 51 moves in a position that looked to be drawn, but Capa managed to win it in 86 moves. 
     In the second game Kostic played the Giuoco Piano listlessly, lost a P, and that was all Capa needed. Capa secured the win in 46 moves. 
     The third game, another Petrov Defense, followed Lasker–Pillsbury, St. Petersburg, 1909 and Capa found an improvement. Even so, things were fairly equal; Kostic maybe even stood a little better but he got overconfident and made some hasty moves. He overlooked a winning move and made a few more slips and eventually got outplayed by Capa in 48 moves.
     Kostic, with the score 3-0 against him and upset over the outcome of the third game, played 1.d4 in the fourth game and Capa displayed a waiting policy; he waited for Kostic to make a mistake and, failing to capitalize on any chances he may have had, that's exactly what Kostic did, even missing a draw at one point. The game went 53 moves. Score: Capa 4, Kostich 0. 
     The last game lasted only 15 moves when Kostisch resigned in a position that in reality was hardly lost.
     The Havana newspaper El Mundo reported that Kostic had not recovered from his recent illness and the rapid climate change which appeared to have much to do with his discomfiture. El Mundo also noted that Kostic seemed to have been the victim of a “psychological phenomenon, by virtue of which he contributes somewhat to his own defeat by regarding his opponent as invincible.” The paper also added that because Capa was at the height of his powers, a match with Lasker was proper. 
     The paper said that despite his defeat, Kostic was not disheartened and was well-liked by the Cuban people. Apparently not everybody felt that way though because the paper also added that there was considerable disappointment among the folks who footed the bill and put up a liberal prize fund. They had hoped for a better showing!!
     As for his defeat, a letter from Kostic appeared in the New York Evening Post that described how he had worried himself sick over the prospects of having to encounter one of the best players in the world under unfavorable conditions and playing Capa had been contrary to his own best judgment. 
     His conscience would not permit him to postpone the match after his arrival in Havana owing to the high cost of hotel bills and physician fees. He stated that he left New York without any real ambition to play Capa and realized that the odds were all against him. But, he had given his word that he would play and would not go back on it. 
     The climate, especially the air in the center of Havana, had an adverse affect and he suffered severe headaches upon arrival. He saw a doctor who gave him injections, but they did little good and the fees increased his nervousness. 
     The first game, during which he sat at the board for six hours trying not to jeopardize his position, took its toll and left him exhausted to the point that the next day after a sleepless night he forgot his right to take off a couple of days for rest. As for the second game, he meant to play the Ruy Lopez but realized he had accidentally played the Giuoco Piano, an opening he had never played before, instead! After that, the rest of the match was all downhill as he was completely demoralized. For the record you can view all five games of the match HERE.

Friday, May 29, 2015

A Lesson From Mikenas

     I've posted on the Stonewall Attack before and suddenly remembered seeing a game by Mikenas where he played the Stonewall which I had examined and added quite a few notes on the opening but never posted the game. The game is, like the Botvinnik game below, a good lesson on how to use an advantage in space and the superior mobility of one's pieces to squeeze out a win by taking advantage of the opponent's weak Pawns.

    In the above position white has just played 24.Rxe2. Mikenas' play in the remainder of the game is a superb example of how to play such positions.  I decided to leave the rather extensive opening notes just in case anyone is interested in the Stonewall.  Note: this game was played in the Olympiad, not the tournament that followed immediately after.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Lesson From Botvinnik

     One of the greatest games collections ever has to be Botvinnik's 100 Selected Games. It's one of the few chess books that I actually read thoroughly, even to the point that the cover fell off. The100 games were annotated by Botvinnik and were played before becoming World Champion in 1948. It includes games against Alekhine, Capablanca, Euwe, Keres, Reshevsky, Smyslov, and others. In it Botvinnik explains his theories, the development of Soviet chess, and he included six of his end game studies.

     In the following game (game 11 of his 1961 World Championship return match against Tahl) he demonstrates how to play with Rooks against Bishops of opposite colors. Just about everybody knows the rule of thumb that B of opposite color endings are almost always drawn. In many positions even an extra P isn't enough to win if B's of opposite colors are the only pieces on the board.
    But, the presence of R's usually makes a lot of difference and gives the superior side winning chances. If all four R's are on the board the game actually has more characteristics of a middlegame and so makes the R's more effective. The reason is because the more aggressive B can combine with the R's (or sometimes it's the Q) to attack some target or establish control over the squares of its own color. So, it can often win in positions that would otherwise be drawn if B's only would lead to a draw. This is what Botvinnik demonstrates in the following game.

Chessplayers Posing with Animals

I couldn't resist posting this. Edward Winter's post of some pictures of famous masters posing with animals!  HERE

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Milan Matulovic

     Matulovic, a Serbian GM born in Belgrade, was born on 10th June 1935 and passed away on 9 October 2013 after a long illness. He was one of the leading Yugoslav Grandmasters in 1960s and 1970s, national champion in 1965 and 1967 and winner of many international tournaments in. He became International Master in 1961 and Grandmaster in 1965.
     When Fischer qualified for the 1958 Interzonal at Portoroz, Yugoslavia, in order to get used to the venue and international chess, he arrived in Belgrade early and played a two-game match (both drawn) against Janosevich and then defeated a promising young Matulovich 2.5 -1.5 despite losing the first game.
     Matulovic participated in five Chess Olympiads (1964-1972), winning 2 silver and 2 bronze team medals, one gold and 2 silver individual medals. He also played in four European Team Championships (1961-1973), winning three silver medals. His best result was equal first with Gligorich, Ivkov and Polugaevsky at Skopje 1969 ahead of former World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik and Efim Geller. Although he played in many Interzonals he never advanced to the Candidates stage.
     In the 1970 "USSR versus Rest of the World" Matulovic played on 8th board against Botvinnik where he lost one game and drew three. There was controversy over this pairing as Matulovic as well known for his "Botvinnik complex" and his long history of poor results against Botvinnik. There were accusations that the Soviet team captain had placed Botvinnik on a lower board than his stature would warrant in order to take advantage of this. Of course, there was never any doubt that he was never in Botvinnik's class, so the controversy, in my opinion, was nothing mote than a tempest in a teapot.
     Controversy was nothing new to Matulovic though because he was known for playing out hopeless positions long after etiquette said he should have resigned. All that, as annoying as it was to his opponents, was minor when compared to the controversy surrounding the 1970 Interzonal at Palma de Mallorca where he was accused of throwing a game to Mark Taimanov in return for $400 bribe.  His loss allowed Taimanov to advance to the Candidates matches...not that it did Taimanov any good because he was defeated by Bobby Fischer 6–0.
     At the Sousse Interzonal in 1967 he played a losing move against Istvan Bilkek then took it back after saying "j'adoube." Bilek complained but the move was allowed to stand. This incident earned Matulović the nickname "J'adoubovic." It's been said that was neither the first nor last time he pulled that trick; rumor has it that he once did the same thing against none other than Bobby Fischer.

     In this position Bilek has just played 37...Qc-c6 and Matulovic answered with 38.Bf3? and before Bilek could play 39...Rxf3 Matulovic put the Bishop back and played 38.Kg1. Matulovic claimed he was adjusting the pieces. The game ended in a draw. After this incident, Matulovic was given the nickname "J'adoubovic".
     Matulovic was not the only player in the history of chess to throw games, take bribes or take back moves, so it's not clear why he has been vilified by the press and his peers for such conduct when the same shenanigans by stronger players than Matulovic have been ignored or glossed over.
     GM Nigel Short, aka Nasty Nigel, never known to mince words or exhibit good taste, said on Facebook on hearing the news about Matulovic's death, "They say only speak good of the dead. He's dead? Good!" Matulović was convicted of vehicular manslaughter and served nine months in prison for a car accident in which a woman was killed.
     The following game features a nice finish.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Point Count Chess by Horowitz and Mott-Smith

     This probably should go on my book review Blog, but I decided to put it here because it does have some interesting insights on the value of different positional factors you should consider when playing a game.
      I first read the book so far back I can't remember when it was, so when I ran across it in the library I couldn't resist taking a look at it. Then I discovered it was available as a free download on Google Drive HERE. I'd do that before I would pay anywhere from $26 to $121 on Amazon. If you find it in a used book store or a flea market and pay more than $2 for it you are robbed. You can also take a gander inside the book on Amazon HERE.
     Everybody knows Horowitz, but who was Geoffrey Mott-Smith?! He was a writer and cryptographer and the Mott-Smith trophy is awarded to the player who wins the most masterpoints at the American Contract Bridge League North American Bridge Championship. Mott-Smith (1902–1960) was co-chairman of the ACBL Laws Commission, editor of the ACBL Bridge Bulletin 1935–36, a contributor to The Bridge World, a writer and cryptographer. During World War II, Mott-Smith served as chief instructor for the OSS in the training of cryptographers and analysts. He wrote or co-wrote more than 29 books on games and served as games consultant for the Association of American Playing Card Manufacturers...now you know. 
     To begin with there is a foreword by Reshevsky in which he praises the system advocated in the book. It's just my opinion, but I doubt Reshevsky wrote the foreword; I think they paid him a $100 to use his name and wrote the foreword themselves...that's the way Reshevky operated. Chess Review magazine (published by Horowitz) called the book “a completely original concept in chess instruction.” 
     The authors purpose is to give a numerical value of different positional features that will help in determining the course of action. The claim is that by recognizing the points you can get an indication of the proper strategic plan.  You try to capitalize on plus points and eliminate or neutralize minus points and by totaling up the “net value” you can get some idea of how to continue. You can't evaluate a position by adding and subtracting points then comparing the totals to see which side stands better. OK, maybe in some ways that's the way engines operate, but we humans don't think like engines do. But, as I mentioned, there is some value in the book because it will teach you some valuable strategic concepts to look for.
     At the end are 14 annotated games with brief notes. It's rather weird that in the entire book in the diagrams the Knights are printed backwards. i.e. they are facing right instead of left. 
     Still, I don't think the book is a total bust. By calling your attention to the different positional factors it will help you recognize the strengths and weaknesses of the position. 

Here are the positional factors they used in applying the point count method:

Plus Points
Control of the center
Pawn on fourth v. pawn on third
Mobile pawn wing
Strong outpost station
Superior development
Greater space
Bishop v. knight
Half-open file
Control of useful open file
Rook(s) on the seventh rank
Passed pawn
Outside passed pawn
Protected passed pawn
Advanced pawn
Qualitative pawn majority
Advanced chain
Advanced salient
Better king position
Offside pawn majority

Minus Points

Backward pawn
Doubled pawn
Isolated pawn Hanging pawns
Hanging phalanx
Crippled majority wing

Weak-square complex
Compromised king-side
King held in center
Cramped position
Bad bishop

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Ventnor City 1941

    Ventnor City is a city in New Jersey and as of the 2010 United States Census, the city's population was 10,650. In the late 1930's and 1940's many invitational tournaments were held there and at one time or another most all of the strongest U.S. players participated in them.
     The third tournament ended in July, 1941 and was won by Jacob Levin of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Levin was born in Daugavpils, Latvia in 1904 but moved to the U.S. when he was only a year old. The last time he had been heard of was in 1939 when he was among the prize winners at Ventnor City, but then he had disappeared until the 1941 event. He was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. He had gotten married earlier in 1941 and decided to take a short vacation from his work as an attorney to participate in the 1941 event.
     Levin, who passed away on June 17, 1992, finished second behind Abe Yanofsky in 1942, tied for 5th–7th in 1943, and won again in 1944. He tied for 8th–9th in the U.S. Championship held in New York in 1942 and in the 1946 U.S. Championship, also held in New York, he finished 4th. Levin was also selected as a reserve member of the U.S. team in the ill-fated Radio Match with the Soviet Union in September 1945. Reserves didn't play; they were only available if the invited players were not available.  (You can download my pdf booklet on the match HERE.)
     Not much was expected of Levin seeing that he had been inactive for a couple of years, but to everyone's surprise he won the tournament, a very strong one, ahead of Fred Reinfeld. Reinfeld of the Marshall Chess Club was the only player to escape defeat. Albert Pinkus of the Manhattan Chess Club started off with three straight win but then only scored 0.5-3.5 and looked to out of the running, but wins in the last two rounds allowed him to tie Anthony Santasiere for 3rd and 4th. Sidney Bernstein, Ariel Mengarini and Weaver Adams had even scores to tie for 5th – 7th. Robert Durkin and Milton Hanauer took 8th-9th with 3.0-6.0 while the previous year's fourth place finisher, Jeremiah Donovan, failed to win a game and only drew four to finish last.
     In his book The Bobby Fischer I Knew Arnod Denker called Albert Pinkus (20 March 1903, New York - 4 February 1984, New York) “the Indiana Jones of chess” because in 1932 he embarked on a series of ten expeditions to the jungles of British Guiana and Venezuela to collect zoological and botanical specimens. In 1939, he returned to New York to work on Wall Street as a stockbroker and resumed his chess career.
     Sidney Bernstein (13 July 1911, New York City – 30 January 1992, New York City) was a strong master who was a frequent participant in area tournaments. He played in three of the Ventnor City tournaments: he tied for 1st in 1940, tied for 5th-7th in 1941 and tied for 3rd-6th in 1942. He tied for 1st with Reinfeld in Manhattan Chess Club Championship at New York 1942. He played in eight U.S. Championships: 1936, 1938, 1940, 1951, 1954, 1957, 1959 and 1961.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Another Tragic Loss to the Chess World

Georg Rotlevi (1889 – 1920) was a Polish master who defeated many famous players such as Schlechter, Nimzovich, Spielmann, Marshall, Bogoljubov, and Rubinstein. Rotlewi's chess career was brief because of a nervous disorder that forced him to give up serious chess. 
     In 1906 Rotlevi tied for 5-6th in Lodz and the following year he finished 3rd behind Rubinstein and Dawid Daniuszewski in a Lodz quadrangular. Also in 1907 he finished second behind Heilmann in Ostend and finished 6th in Lodz (the 5th Russian Championship). In 1908 he finished 4th in the Prague Hauptturnier preliminary and tied for 1st with Daniuszewski at Lodz 1909. At the All-Russian Amateur tournament at Saint Petersburg in 1909 he finished second behind Alekhine. 
     Rotlewi played two matches against Salwe, losing in 1909 (+5 –8 =5) and winning in 1910 (+3 –1 =6). In 1910, he tied for 1st with Rubinstein in Warsaw, and won in the Hamburg 1910 chess tournament which earned him the Master title. This also won him a spot in the Carlsbad 1911 tournament where he finished 4th. He then tied for 2nd-4th in Cologne and took 2nd in Munich. 
     He died in 1920 at the age of 31. Edward Lasker, in his delightful book, Chess Secrets I Learned from the Masters wrote, “One of the big surprises of the Carlsbad tournament was the showing made by the new master, Rotlevi. Because he had won the Hamburg Major Tournament the previous year, he was admitted to play in Carlsbad, but no one thought he would be anywhere near the prizewinners. To the amazement of the crowd, however, he defeated Marshall, Nimzovich, Schlechter, Spielmann and Tartakower, and he drew with Rubinstein. After sixteen rounds he was at the head of the field, together with Schlechter and Teichmann. When the twenty-third round was played, he was a point ahead of Rubinstein and Schlechter. In this round he faced Teichmann, and having the White pieces he had a fair chance to duplicate Capablanca's feat, winning the first great tournament in which he participated. The eyes of the whole chess world were riveted on this event...It appears that Rotlevi's loss to Teichmann, when he had the prize within his grasp, liberated a depression in his mind which probably would have come to the surface sooner or later. He was taken to a mental Sanitarium not very long after the tournament, and he has never been heard of since.” 
     While looking over some of his games I discovered the following gem played against Peter Romanovsky (29 July 1892, St Petersburg – 1 March 1964, Moscow), an IM, International Arbiter and author. 
    During the Siege of Leningrad in winter of 1941–42 a rescue party reached his home and found Romanovsky half-conscious from starvation and cold. The rest of his family had frozen to death. All the furniture in the house had been used for firewood. In 1954 the Soviets withdrew their application for Romanovsky to receive the GM title which had been based on his first place in the 1927 USSR championship. The anti-Stalinist Fedor Bohatirchuk had shared the title in 1927 but he was no longer recognized in the USSR as the result of his having defected to Canada. The USSR Chess Federation did not want to give the GM title to Bohatirchuk so they withdrew the application for Romanovsky as well. 
    Before his death, Romanovsky published two books on the middlegame which were translated into English: Chess Middlegames: Combinations and Chess Middlegames: Strategy

Friday, May 22, 2015

Reshevsky vs. Vasconcellos

Reshevsky in 1945
     For reasons I don't know, the Santasiere game in the previous post got me to wondering about a well-known game by Reshevsky...in the 1944 U.S. Open he went into the last round with first place already assured and when he sat down to play his opponent he said it was with the firm intention of enjoying himself. 
     The result was Reshevsky unleashed as uncharacteristic sacrificial attack that left his opponent overwhelmed. But...was it sound?! In The World's a Chessboard Reuben Fine handed black four question marks and Reshevsky got three exclamation marks; one wonders just how deserved all those marks for both sides were. 
     But, before we look at the game, I found some information on Vasconcellos at Chessgamesdotcom. There was some debate over exactly who Reshevsky's opponent in this game was. Was it Arnaldo or Fernando, two different guys? Or were they the same guy?! One poster said they were the same player but another poster said Arnaldo was born in 1912 while Fernando was born in 1919.  Writing in a Chessbase article Dennis Monokroussos says Reshevsky's opponent was a "young Brazilian" named Fernando.  The sources I checked indicate that it was Arnoldo. A search of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle has an article dated August 7, 1944 that confirms it was Arnoldo.

     There was also an article dated August 31st where a note in a game between Cass and Goldwater confirmed that Reshevsky's opponent was the Brazilian diplomat Arnoldo Vasconcellos.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Joaquim Durao

International Master Joaquim Manuel Durao (25 October 1930 - 21 May 2015) passed away today. He was Portuguese champion 13 times, represented Portugal in ten Olympiads and served as president of the Portuguese Chess Federation. Durao was also a member of the Executive Committee of FIDE for 14 years (1982-1996) and recently served as Vice-President. In addition, he received the Order of Merit from the President of Portugal in 2006. For a tribute visit Spraggett On Chess

Santasiere vs. Rasmussen

    While browsing the aforementioned Brooklyn Daily Eagle I ran across the following game played in the 1925 Metropolitan League Match between Anthony Sanatsiere (Marshall CC) against Charles Rasmussen (Staten Island CC). A comment was made in the article that Santasiere hoped to win a brilliancy prize with the game, but a careful analysis shows that his brilliancy was actually unsound because instead of keeping his winning advantage, his sacrifice should have lead to a draw at best. 
     Brilliancy prizes haven't been offered in a long time. Chess, as it's played today, is different; swashbuckling play belongs to the distant days of yesteryear. Besides, now anybody with an engine can tell instantly if a sacrifice is sound or not. Still, to me, something says Santasiere deserved a brilliancy prize for this game simply because of the concept plus he had the guts to play it even though he couldn't have analyzed it all out. Who cares if it was unsound?  It's fun to play over which is why most of us play chess anyway.