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Friday, July 31, 2015

Browsing the West Virginia Chess Bulletins

     While looking through some back issues of the Bulletin I came across the name of one Milton Q. Ellenby and that name rang a bell. I had seen it before in an old (I think) issue of Chess Review and I remembered Ellenby as having been from Ohio. 
     Ellenby was a frequent participant in Ohio and West Virginia tournaments during the war years, but very little about him turned up on a Google search. What I did find was that he was born on October 18, 1923 and passed away on Thursday, September 16, 2010 at the age of 86 in Skokie, Illinois. He was married to Helaine for over 53 years and had three sons: Alan, Martin and Miles. 
     Ellenby was an actuary and what is considered to be an “expert witness” as well as an author on the profession. An expert witness is a person who is permitted to testify at a trial because of special knowledge or proficiency in a particular field that is relevant to the case.
     It appears that he may have given up chess in favor of bridge because he participated in numerous World Team Championships for the game and there are frequent references to him and bridge in Google searches. 
     According to the October 1948 issue of the WV Chess Bulletin he had won the first Tri-State (West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania) Championship in 1945 at the age of 22 and in 1944 he had won the Ohio Junior Championship. At the time he was living in Dayton, Ohio. I was unable to locate any further information on him and didn't find any of his games either. 
      The Tri-State Championship was started in 1945 by Gene Collett, the WVCA Bulletin editor, Bill Byland, president of the Pennsylvania Chess Association and S. S. Keeney of the Ohio Chess Association. It was determined that the top two finishers in each state's championship would be invited to play for the Tri-State Championship. If one of the invited players could not participate, the state could find a replacement. The site of the event rotated among the three states. 
     Originally, the side events consisted of state matches, but full participation by all three states was hard to achieve. In 1949, a Junior event was started and in 1951, an Open Tournament was initiated and became part of the Tri-State festivities which were usually held on Veterans Day weekend. The Tri-State Junior Championship was a separate event until 1955. In 1955, there were not enough juniors to stage an event, so they were all entered in the Open Tournament. The highest finisher on the Open would then be declared the Junior Champion. 
     A list of the various champions is a Who's-Who of chess in the Tri-State area from 1945 to 1963. In the three tournaments one sees names like Milton Q. Ellenby, H. Landis Marks, Herman Hesse, Glen Hartleb, Saul Wachs, Tony Archipoff, Dr. Siegfried Werthammer, Charles Kalme, Charles Heising, Robert Bornholz, Jerry Fink, Richard Kause, Roger Johnson, Thomas Wozney, George Berry, Dr. Val Berzzarins, James Harkins and Lajos Szedlascek. Names from a bygone era that are mostly unknown even to modern players of the three states involved. 
     Here was an interesting little sidelight that happened in the 1947 championship played in Huntington: One player during the 1946 event had complained about the lack of chess clocks and proposed that the Association start a fund to buy clocks for the next championship. Officials investigated the possibility but discovered there were no clocks on the market! Their production had been discontinued during the war. 
    The solution was that several players made their own clocks and one produced by the brother of one of the players was said to actually resemble those sold commercially. And so, the 1948 tournament was the first state championship where clocks were used...an historic event!! 
     I did play over one interesting game from the preliminaries of the 1948 Charleston, West Virginia city championship that was annotated by Dr. Werthammer. His analysis was pretty good, but Komodo 8 and Stockfish 6 analysis showed that black's win was not so simple and white had some hidden resources. Isn't that always the case! I enjoyed playing over the game so I present it here.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Edith Baird...an Extraordinary Problemist

    Edith Elina Helen Baird (née Winter-Wood) (1859 – 1924) was a British problem composer who published under the name Mrs. William James Baird. She was the daughter of poet Thomas Winter Wood. In 1880 she married the Deputy Inspector-General W.J. Baird, MD, of the Royal Navy. She was also a good archer and dabbled in painting and poetry.
     She began playing chess at the age of 5 and in her career composed more than 2,000 problems. Her brothers, E.J. Winter Wood and Carslake W. Wood were also chess composers. 
     Her brother, E.J. Winter-Wood (1847 - 1920) was also taught to play chess by his father at the age of 8. By the time he was 11 he was playing, with Rook odds, against the strongest members of the Boulogne Chess Club and in 1868 became a member of the London Chess Club. He played in several tournaments and in blindfold simuls he drew two games against Lowenthal and one against Blackburne. In 1878 he joined the Croyden Chess Club and once in one of their tournaments scored 23-7. He also enjoyed success in many other club tournaments, correspondence chess and problem solving tournaments. Many of his problems appeared in leading publications of the day. 
     Her other brother, Carslake W. Wood (1849 - 1924), lived with his mother's brother, Major Sole of the 5th Militia of West York, in Torquay. While traveling Europe with the Soles, he also developed a taste for painting and on many occasions donated his paintings as prizes in chess tournaments. 
     As for Mrs. Baird, at the time, she was without rival in British ladies chess. Her first problem was composed at the age of 8 and was published in the Western Magazine and Portfolio. It was not deep or brilliant, but editors were attracted to her quaint notes that accompanied her submissions. One such note to the editor of Pictorial World read, “I like composing very much and do my problems all myself; in fact I would rather my mother never saw them, for she generally cooks them and that gives me a lot of trouble.” 
     She very quickly progressed and was soon producing problems that were described as being “exceedingly pretty” and which “displayed unmistakable aptitude for the intricacies of chess.” Her work 700 Chess Problems was published in 1902 and took her 14 years to complete. You can download an electronic copy of her book HERE.
     Mrs. Baird was described by Frederick Gittins in his book The Chess Bouquet as one of the marvels of the chess world. Gittins wrote: 

"A child of thirteen, with long sunny golden hair falling back from a fine and lofty forehead, thoughtful eyes, and all the shy grace of childhood, she has already, in some mysterious intuitive way, learned the secret of problem-composing, and, absolutely unaided, has produced upwards of seventy compositions which have excited the admiration of the most critical judges. Some of the first composers of the day have dedicated problems to her honour, editors of chess columns are continually asking her to contribute, and people have asked her for her autograph - one of the surest evidences of fame. Like a wise mother, however, Mrs. Baird seeks to keep her back rather than to press her forward, so she is now being kept mainly to her lessons and those natural pleasures of childhood to which even the most gifted boy or girl turns with joy. Like her mother, she writes verses quite charmingly and draws beautifully; but, with all her gifts, she remains a child and the happiest and mist industrious of schoolgirls. A childhood of such exceptional promise, and so wisely and affectionately guided and tended, can scarcely fail to lead up to a womanhood of rare fruition". 

Here is one of her problems. White to mate in four moves: 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Chess and Fish Oil, Ginkgo biloba, Fruit, Nuts...

Look at any tournament hall: It is filled with discarded candy wrappers, sugared sodas, and bags of salted snacks. If you are a culprit, are you missing out on a simple way of improving your tournament results? What's the secret...read the article 

How To Feed A Grandmaster

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Speaking of Engine Evaluations…

     This post is sort of related to the previous one and hopefully it will be helpful to anyone who uses an engine in an effort to improve their OTB play. Some people (Jeremy Silman, for example) suggest that engines are only good for tactics and that engines can't suggest plans, which is true. In a non-tactical situation strategy matters; you need a plan, even if it's nothing more than two or three moves that reposition a poorly placed piece. Also, if the position calls for you to attack on the K-side and you are fiddling around trying to attack on the other side, you are probably not going to be very successful. 
     This is a point I tried to make with some players who thought that by playing the K-Indian Attack they could just play the same moves with the same ideas against anything black played and thereby avoid learning any theory. My point was that it is necessary for white to vary his strategy depending on what setup black employs. Black can play various types of setups against the KIA: K-Indian, French, Sicilian, etc, etc and white will have to adjust his plan accordingly. So even when playing the KIA, some opening knowledge is required. Naturally, they didn't believe me...not even when I pointed out I wasn't the one saying it...it was a couple of different IM's and GM's in their KIA books. 
     The thing is, sometimes engines can't seem to suggest anything definite. They offer up a half a dozen moves with the evaluations all within a hair's breadth of each other, so what do you do then? Is the top choice always the best? This is where some knowledge of strategy helps. Increase an engine's number of lines to four or five, sometimes more, and you'll often see lines with very small (insignificant) differences in their evaluations. This is an indication that more than one line is playable in the position. 
     You will often see this if you play over GM games and notice that they do not have a high match up rate with engines, but are playing moves that are further down the list. Their moves are not bad, they are often just alternative ways to play and sometimes they may be even better that the engine's top moves. 
     The reason why even GM's can't beat engines OTB is because of tactical mistakes and humans DO miss a lot of tactics. Just play over any old game annotated in the pre-computer era and you will quite often see authors, even great ones, missing a tactic here and there. Take a gander at this position from one of my recent games where black has just played 15...Qc8-a6. 

     Komodo 8 was showing an evaluation under a quarter P and suggesting various R-moves which tells me it can't really come up with anything that actually favors either side. As a human, I want to attack on the K-side and to that end 16.f5 looks like a really swell move, but it has a tactical flaw based on black's last move. Put the Q on another square, say c7, and 16.f5 is then OK; black has adequate defenses, but white is at least doing something constructive. Of course, there's no doubt that OTB his chances would be much better than playing against a computer. 
     Another move that suggested itself was 16.g4, a move that wasn't in the top 5 choices, but when I made it and let the engine alone for 20 minutes, it didn't find anything wrong and the difference in its evaluations were negligible… the top move was evaluated at 0.06 and the next three at 0.00! A Shootout with Stockfish 6 resulted in white scoring +2 -0 =3. Whereas, after the rather pointless looking 16.Rfb1 white only scored +0 -2 =3 in a Shootout! So, I played 16.g4 and eventually won! 
    The point is, when an engine is suggesting several moves and they are all evaluated nearly the same, choose the ones that look logical to you and then analyze them. It may very well be that a move that is NOT in the top two or three lines the engine is suggesting might actually offer better winning chances. 

Komodo 9.1


 When I broke down and purchased Komodo 8 awhile back and began testing it on LSS my results initially improved a tad, but not enough that I felt the $60 spent on K8 was really worth it. 
     Now, in recent Rapid Events (10 Basic plus one day per move; no vacation days allowed) my results have been falling off. I don't just play the engine's top choice, but experiment with different moves, let the engine think for anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours and use both Stockfish 6 and Komodo 8 to arrive at a move. The result has been a +4 -6 =16 record in recent games. 
     The main thing I have noticed is that opponent's moves have often been “surprise” moves...one's that haven't been SF6 or K8's top choices. Also, many of my opponent's are repeats against whom I have a plus score but I notice their ratings are a little higher and they are beginning to even the score, so what's happening?! I suspect my engines are out of date. BTW, I am currently experimenting with the King's Indian and Modern Defense as black and fianchetto openings with white because I want to see if engines are still having trouble correctly evaluating those types of openings. 
     What's been happening is K8 and SF6 are showing evaluations indicating the positions are almost equal, plus or minus a quarter of a Pawn, but the evaluations slowly drift to my opponent's favor and I have ended up losing or drawing with some difficulty. In any case, the cause of my results falling off is, I think, most likely due to outdated engines. 
     Purchasing Komodo 9.1 may be the solution. Komodo 9.1 is about 15 Elo stronger than Komodo 9 according to the computer engine rating lists on IPON, CCRL & CEGT. The Komodo site says Komodo 9.1 is a substantial improvement over my Komodo 8 by about 65 points on a single core and 70 points on 4 cores. What does 70 Elo points mean? According to the site Winning Probabilities from ELO Ratings a 70 point advantage gives you about a 58-59 percent chance of winning. Another big advantage is that it has 'Persistent Hash' that allows you to save its analysis so you can come back later and resume analysis...like Aquarium's IdeA analysis. 
     Komodo 9.1 can be purchased with a one year subscription for $99.97. That gives you Komodo 9.1 plus all versions published within one year of your order. Also, you get all previous versions. Not sure why you would want old versions, but that's what they give you. You can get 9.1 by itself for $59.98 and just take your chances on new, improved versions coming out. Komodo 8 and Komodo 9 owners get a 20 percent discount on Komodo 9.1 if purchased from komodochess.com
     The thing is, I am not not willing to pay $60-100 just to win meaningless games on an obscure chess site and gain worthless rating points. We all know how meaningless CC ratings and titles are thanks to Komodo, Stockfish and Houdini. 
     That's not surprising though because when I first started playing CC over 50 years ago, CC ratings were meaningless then, too. So, even though it's an uphill struggle on LSS, I'll probably keep playing there just because it is enjoyable analyzing the positions and trying out some bizarre or obscure openings to see if they are better than their reputations. 
     I know my fate though. I've played a lot of old-timers who have had real ICCF titles before engines came along, but now they are rated 1900 because they don't have a $5000 dedicated chess computer with Komodo 9.1 running for days at a time on 64 cores.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Rise of Kasparov

     While looking through old issues of Chess Life and Review the other day I came across a couple of articles on Kasparov's first international success, Banja Luka, 1979. Banja Luka is the second largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the capital Sarajevo and is the largest city of the Republika Srpska. It is home of the University of Banja Luka. The city lies on the River Vrbas and is well known for being full of tree-lined avenues, boulevards, gardens, and parks. 

1 Kasparov 11.5 
2 Smejkal 9.5 
3-4 Andersson and Petrosian 9 
5 Adorjan 8.5 
6 Knezevic 8 
7-8 Matanovic and Browne 7.5 
9-10 Bukic and Marjanovic 7
11-13 Marovic, Garcia Gonzales andVukic 6.5 
14-15 Kurajica and Hernandez 6 
16 Sibarevic 4 

   Kasparov at the age of 15 (he celebrated his 16th birthday after round 1), who Botvinnik described as the most promising student he ever had, had recently finished in 9th place in the Soviet Championship arrived in Banja Luka without a title; in fact, he didn't even have an FIDE rating! There were 14 GM's in the field. After 10 rounds Kasparov had already made an IM title norm and after 12 rounds he was assured of first place and, then, after 13 rounds he had made a GM norm. 
     His performance rating was 2700. His performances in this event and previously finishing 9th with a performance rating of over 2500 in the Soviet Championship were being compared to Fischer's at that age, but some were wondering if it was the result of phenomenal skill or an incredible string of good luck. For others, his raw talent had been recognized as early as 10 and they thought he possessed unlimited potential. 
     In 1974 Kasparov, then known as Weinstein, had been attracting attention the Young Pioneer competitions. These were inter-city competitions consisting of five player teams of school children. At the age of 10 he was already a First Category player, or roughly the equivalent of a 2000 Elo rating. Candidate Master, about 2200, was the next step and the Master title corresponded to roughly 2400. Two years later he was considered too strong to compete in Young Pioneer events. In 1975 he took part in the USSR Junior Championship where he was the youngest player and scored a modest 5.5-3.5, then in 1976 he tied for first in the Georgian Championship. Winning on tie-breaks. It was after this tournament he changed his name to his mother's maiden name and enrolled in Botvinnik's school for young players. At this time his weakness was his impetuosity, but that was apparently eliminated at Botvinnik's school because in the 1976 Junior where he almost lost his last round game but managed to squeak put a draw to win the title and the following year scored an incredible 8.5-0.5. As a result he was seeded into the junior candidates tournament, an 8-player double round event to determine the candidate for the World Junior Championship where he finished second to Arthur Yusopov, who went on to take the title. 
     As a result of this tournament Botvinnik began analyzing with him and uncovered several basic flaws in his play: over fondness for long opening variations without a deeper understanding, a tendency to try and solve every problem by tactical means and his 'lack of objectivity.' By the spring of 1978 his rating was 2383, but, with his reverses, his results were hadn't been good enough to gain the IM title. That was solved when he was invited to the Sokolsky Memorial with its one GM and 3 IM's. He needed 9.5 points for the Master title. He scored an incredible 13-4, including a last round win over GM Lutikov, and so he was now a Soviet Master and was seeded into the elimination tournament to see who would qualify for the USSR Championship. He tied for fisrt with Igor Ivanov and better tie-breaks sent him into the Championship Final in Tibilisi. There he would face 16 GM's and one IM. Was he out of his league? 
     After six rounds with two wins and four draws he was tied for first with Tahl, but then disaster struck; +1 -3 =2. But, he recovered only to collapse in the last four rounds an ending up with an even score of 8.5-8.5, but that was good enough to earn him a place in the next year' final. 
GM Drazan Marovic
     That brings us to Banja Luka. It was thought a trip there accompanied by Petrosian would be good for him as it was thought Petrosian's influence would be a steadying factor; it was.
     One observation was that Kasparov did not get where he was by himself. It took program of strong competition and special training from Botvinnik who was the major factor in Kasparov's polishing his skills. But, there were others: Oleg Privorotsky, Alexei Nikitin and Alexander Byhovsky.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Kim Commons Has Passed Away

I posted on him back in February and was saddened to learn that on Tuesday, June 23 at the age of 63, he passed away after suffering a stroke the previous weekend. Phoenix New Times article

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Few Things You Probably Don't Know About Euwe

     Euwe spent his professional life as a professor of mathematics. What's not so well known is that he later became involved with Informatics, the forerunner of today’s Computer Science. 
     Here is Euwe's greeting at the foundation of the CSVN, the Dutch Computer Chess Federation:
   Who already thought about computer chess 50 years ago? Nobody of course, because the computer didn't yet exist. However, one already spoke about mechanized chess playing, and experienced positional players were compared to a playing chess machine, players stipulated on strictly logical grounds (that coincided with the nature of the proposition) and thereby no deep calculations or combinations was made. 
    However, the development in computer chess drove in a different direction! The computer appeared and from the first moment big interest on playing chess arose by this marvelous machines. The programs went however in that direction that the computer did not play as a playing chess machine, as we presented ourselves in that former days, but correctly as an ace in conducting deep calculations in all possible directions, a lot of millions per minute. 
    For the time of computer chess, much (too much) emphasis was steered on brutal force, brutal strength. Moreover, one tried as much as possible on well-known, attentive patterns in the programs. The combination of calculation and recognition in the long run will play chess, whether it yields to master strength is difficult to predict. It is certain, that raising interest on computer chess will bring us closer to a solution. The solution which the computer either crowns to world champion, recognizes as a strong, but unilaterally developed player. In this respect, the establishment of the computer chess association is very welcome. I wish all members success to study the possibilities of the computer and especially introducing methods which will lead to improvements and "humanization" of the programs. A letter published in the first issue of Computer Chess in February,1981. 

     During World War 2 Euwe served as the director of a chain store food company (Van Amerongen) which enabled him to organize the clandestine transport of food to the resistance movement in Amsterdam and for delivery to a hungry population. After the war he went back to his post as a mathematics professor. 

   During the World War 2 he did not take part in Nazi sponsored tournaments as a silent protest.. The Max Euwe Centrum is Amsterdam's chess museum. The museum features a permanent exhibition on the life of Euwe, a chess library, vast archives and chess computers. It is housed in the city's former House of Detention where Resistance leaders were held during World War II.

    In his delightful book, The Bobby Fischer I Knew, Denker gives some more insight about Euwe which he discovered during Euwe's visit to New York City in mid-1947. 
    First, Denker was surprised to find out that Euwe didn't drink beer. At the time, Denker's wife was in the hospital waiting to give birth to their son and Euwe showed up with flowers. Denker had never mentioned the fact that she was in the hospital and he never discovered how Euwe found out about it. 
    Euwe never discussed his heroism during the war, but Denker observed that Euwe had risked his life by his activities which included writing letters to Alekhine asking him to intercede on behalf of Salo Landau and Dr. Gerard Oskam. 
     Landau was a Polish Jew and when he was a boy, his family fled the Russians to Vienna and Landau was sent to friends in Rotterdam in the Netherlands; he remained there and for a number of years was second only to Euwe in The Netherlands. Then in September 1942, Landau tried to escape the Nazis by fleeing to Switzerland with his family, but they were caught on September 28 in Breda, near the border with Belgium and sent to Westerbork transit camp. He was sent to a concentration camp in Gräditz, Silesia in November 1943, where he died sometime between December 1943 and 31 March 1944 (probably March). His wife and young daughter, whose hiding place was betrayed, were sent to Auschwitz in September 1944, where they were gassed on October 12, 1944. 
     Gerard Cornelis Adrianus Oskam (12 April 1880, The Hague – 7 May 1952), a Dutch master, survived the war. Oskam was a lawyer by profession. He obtained his Master of Laws at the University of Amsterdam in 1906 and subsequently had a practice in Rotterdam.
     Denker also related how Hans Kmoch had told him his own story about Euwe. Kmoch's Jewish wife, Trudy, had constant nightmares about her interrogations and beatings from the Nazis during the war. Denker said that Kmoch had little money and his wife spent most of her time in bed and screaming. At the time, Denker's wife was working for the city's welfare system and as a result, was able to assist Kmoch in getting some part time assistance. It was at that time that Kmoch told Denker about how Euwe bribed officials and used his influence to keep Trudy out of the concentration camps during the war.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


     I have three favorite players, Alekhine, Botvinnik and Reshevky. I literally wore the covers off the books of their best games. Alekhine remains one of the greatest players who ever lived and many modern GM's have listed him as their favorite player. Even Garry Kasparov, another of the greatest players who ever lived, said that Alekhine's style was modern and he is considered to be one of the major influences in the "Russian" school of chess. Reuben Fine said his games are models of near perfect chess that everyone should study. Tartakower wrote, "...Alekhine plays the way that a world champion ought to play." 
     There was a lot of chess being played in the young Alekhine's home and his parents arranged for him to take lessons from Fedor Duz-Khotimirsky. Duz-K isn't exactly a household name among chess players these days, but when he arrived in Carlsbad in 1907, most experts predicted that he would do poorly...he didn't even have a title. He did get off to bad start, but ended up scoring 10-10 and tying with Frank Marshall for 11th place and becoming a recognized master. Not a bad achievement and he might have done better if it were not for “outside” factors. When the Soviet chess authorities sent him to Carlsbad, they didn't give him any pocket money and he was soon broke and practically starved. Chigorin and some of the other Russian masters noticed and helped him out financially. In his career he scored numerous victories over top flight players and earned the reputation as a brilliant and original player. No doubt his influence on Alekhine was considerable. 
     By the age of 10 Alekhine was also a correspondence chess but he was considered too young to be allowed membership in the local chess club and it wasn't until he was a teenager that he was accepted for membership. Things have changed, haven't they? It soon became apparent that he had enormous talent and within a year and a half he was good enough to win first prize with a score of 13–3 in a secondary tournament of the St. Petersburg Congress in 1909.
     World War I and the revolution in Russia interfered with his career and personal life. In 1914 he was leading the Manheim tournament when war broke out. Alekhine was interned, but later released, and ended up serving in the Russian medical corps. He suffered from shell shock. The term “shell shock” was coined during WWI. It was a reaction to the intensity of the bombardment and fighting that produced a helplessness that appeared as panic, being scared, an inability to reason, sleep, walk or talk. In World War II it was called “combat stress reaction.” 

     Some men suffering from shell shock were actually tried and some executed for desertion and cowardice and, while it was recognized that the stress of combat could cause men to break down, it was sometimes also seen as symptomatic of an underlying lack of character. 
     In U.S. military history there were two famous slapping incidents involving the colorful General George Patton. In August 1943 Patton caused a big brouhaha when he slapped two soldiers under his command during the Sicily Campaign. The soldiers were hospitalized for “battle fatigue,” something Patton didn't believe in. Patton slapped and berated them after discovering they were patients at evacuation hospitals and didn't have any apparent injuries. 
     Word of the incidents spread among troops and eventually Patton's superior, General Dwight Eisenhower heard about them and he compelled him to apologize. Patton's actions were initially suppressed in the news until journalist Drew Pearson publicized them. Eisenhower's superior, Army Chief of Staff George Marshall opted not to fire Patton as a commander. He was nonetheless sidelined from combat command for almost a year.
     Eisenhower was cagey. He took advantage of the predicament and used Patton as a decoy in Operation Fortitude by sending faulty intelligence to Nazi German agents that Patton was leading the Invasion of Europe. Patton eventually returned to combat command in mid-1944, but because of his brashness and impulsiveness his career was halted as former subordinates such as Omar Bradley became his superiors. 
     These days its called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and it can develop after a person is exposed to one or more traumatic events, such as major stress, sexual assault, terrorism, or other threats on a person's life. 

     What was I talking about? Oh, yeah, Alekhine's shell shock. He was hospitalized and was later moved to Odessa. 
     In 1927, Alekhine finally got a shot at the title and surprised everybody by defeating Capablanca. There was never a rematch because Alekhine set a whole bunch of obstacles in the way which ultimately prevented a rematch from happening. He also took great pains to make sure he and Capa never met in a tournament by demanding high appearance fees or anything else he could think of. The only exception was Nottingham, 1936. Alekhine must have regretted the decision though because Capa walloped him in their individual game and tied for first with another guy who was making a name for himself, Mikhail Botvinnik.
     Alekhine's combinations were incredible and his tactical ability was legendary. In one interview Alekhine claimed that tactical ability could not be taught...you were either born with it, or not. His writings were some of the best of their time even though some games were “fudged” and sometimes he embellished his ability to foresee the consequences of a move, often leaving the impression that he foresaw everything from beginning to end.
     Alekhine's personal life was full of turmoil; he lost two fortunes, saw great upheavals in war, a depression and all the while suffering from alcoholism. He was also accused of collaborating with the Nazi's during WWII and of writing anti-Semitic articles which after the war lead to him being almost universally shunned. 
     Arnold Denker described the early Alekhine as being impressive in his bearing and having the attitude of royalty, wearing suits with striped pants and shirt with old fashioned wing collars and...almost always wearing a corset to help maintain his ramrod straight appearance! 
     In the late 1920's to early 1930's though Alekhine began to degenerate. Denker described how Alekhine was bent on self-destruction, being very unhappy, drinking prodigiously and constantly smoking, all of which lead to his complete collapse so that by late 1944 he barely defeated Spanish master Ramon Rey Ardid in a match and was routinely losing to obscure Portuguese masters. 
     After the war a Dutch federation official wrote that Alekhine was a small-minded drunkard with a lust for money and his anti-Jewish articles resulted in him being described as a miserable collaborator and a mean profiteer that breathed lies. 
     When Alekhine was in the United States he was quite friendly with both Denker and Arthur Dake and treated them quite well. And, despite all his flaws, Denker seemed to like Alekhine. Former Chess Life editor Larry Parr described a meeting with Denker where tears came to Denker's eyes over the feeling of abandonment that Alekhine must have experienced when his invitation to the London Victory Tournament in 1946 was withdrawn because of his war record. He died alone in a hotel room in Estoril, Portugal on March 24th, 1946 at the age of 53.

Jeremy Silman's articles on Alekhine on Chessdotcom are excellent: Part 1 and Part 2 
You will also enjoy Kevin Spraggett's two articles on Alekhine's death: Part 1 and Part 2

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Double Bishop Sacrifice That Failed

      In the previous game we saw a classic example of the double B sacrifice and learned what it took to make it work. Remember, these are the conditions we are looking for:

1) One Rook must be immediately available

2) The victims pieces must be unable to support the defense

3) The K cannot escape via the f-files

4) Refusal of the second B sacrifice must have serious disadvantages

5) Material at the end of the combination must be favorable to the side making the sacrifices.

      In this game it didn't quite work for Joel Benjamin. I think the reason why it didn't was because he decided to check the black K with his R on the g-file instead of the h-file. This resulted in black being able to exchange his Q for the R on g3 which blocked Benjamin's other R from being quickly brought into play long the third rank which was, after ...Qxg3, obstructed by a Pawn.

     That said, it appears from the Shootouts that even had he played to deliver the R-check on the h-file, then point 5 comes into play. The material was, theoretically, favorable to him, but the balance was so delicate that the remainder of the game wold have been very difficult to play correctly.

     Note: In several instances I used the Fritz Shootout analysis mode, so perhaps for those that are unfamiliar with this, I should briefly explain how it works. Starting from any position it is a way to get the engine to play against itself.

     You can play the games using either blitz or long time controls or by using a third method, fixed depth which is the one I used. You set the number of ply the engine is to look ahead; I used 11 ply (5.5 moves) and the engine will then calculate moves out to 11 ply search depth, then make that move. Then it will calculate a reply for the other side to 11 ply and make the move.

     There is also a second ply setting; I used 19 ply (9.5 moves). What this means is in the first game, moves will be made after a 7-ply search. In the second game the engine will move after a 9-ply search, and so on until it finally makes its move after a 19-ply search. Thus a series of five games were played starting from the position with each successive game using a deeper search. When using this function even numbered plies are skipped because some older engines exhibit a form of tactical blindness at searches which are cut off after an even number of plies.

The Double Bishop Sacrifice

This sacrifice belongs to a class of combinations Euwe described as “break-up combinations.” By that he meant combinations where the King is exposed by the elimination of its protective P-cover, the g and h-Pawns.

Euwe lists five factors that need to be present for the double B sacrifice to work:

1) One Rook must be immediately available
2) The victims pieces must be unable to support the defense
3) The K cannot escape via the f-files
4) Refusal of the second B sacrifice must have serious disadvantages
5) Material at the end of the combination must be favorable to the side making the sacrifices.

In the following classic game Tarrasch caught Nimzovich totally off guard with the double B sacrifice and the game is instructive because we see all five of the criteria being met.