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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

When Should You Sacrifice on f7?

     I saw a question on Reddit the other day where someone commented that there is a big difference between their online tactics server rating and their online game rating and they could not figure out why. The poster made the oft heard comment that they spent a lot of time on tactics and could usually find them when they knew one existed, but usually missed them in a real game. 
     For some reason a lot of players think just going over white (or black)-to-move-and-win problems over and over is tactics training. Authors, who are looking to sell their material, flood the market with books and CDs claiming that solving these exercises are the best approach to learning tactics. They don't work; if they did, players would not be making comments like the Reddit poster would they? 
     It is usually easy to solve puzzles where one is told one side is to play and it's mate in three moves because you KNOW what to look for and all you have to do is find a way to accomplish it.  I mean, they TELL you which side wins and in how many moves it can be done. Who tells you that during a game?! Just being able to find solutions does not equate to understanding. 
     IM John Watson advocates learning tactics by showing how the tactical situation came to exist. i.e. what gave rise to the tactical motif. Spielmann once commented that he could spot a combination as well as Alekhine, but he just couldn't get the positions Alekhine got. Trying to achieve that level of understanding is probably beyond the scope of most amateurs...we need a simpler approach. 
     C.J.S. Purdy gave some excellent advice on spotting tactics and I strongly recommend anything he wrote because he had an uncanny knack for explaining such things in a simple, understandable way. Another excellent book, though some of its analysis is flawed, is Vukovic's Art Of Attack In Chess. Vukovic's book is valuable because he discusses the preconditions necessary for an attack. That often involves positional considerations like control of the center, positioning of the pieces, weakening of the castled King's defenses, etc. Other factors in tactical situation include the art of calculation and the ability to make a correct evaluation of the ending position. 
     A method of spotting tactics is also helpful in limiting tactical blunders in our games. As Purdy recommended, before you make ANY move always check for tactical opportunities. There’s no point in strategic planning when there’s a winning combination in the position. The way you find tactics is not by looking at the position and trying various moves until you find something that works, or in the case of a lot of players, something that might work! See my post Tactics, the Pornography of Chess.
     At the beginning the f7 pawn is black's weakest spot and if you want to see how the attacks against f7 go, the Hanham variation of the Philidor Defense is a good place to start. For a quick discussion, see an excerpt from Join Edwards book, Teach Yourself Visually HERE and scroll down to Chapter 8. You will also want to check out my post Two Minor Pieces or Rook and Pawn...which to choose?!   The following miniature demonstrates some of the do's and don't of the sacrifice on f7 and serves as a reminder that if black allows white to play it, it's a minefield that requires the ability to calculate accurately and make an accurate assessment of the resulting positions. Not easy for a tactically challenged amateur!
     About the players: Sir Theodore H. Tylor (13 May 1900 – 23 October 1968) was a lawyer and strong international level player despite being nearly blind. In 1965, he was knighted for his service to organizations for the blind. He was Fellow and Tutor in Jurisprudence at Balliol College, Oxford for almost forty years. 
     Born in Bournville, Tylor learned to play chess at age seven. His skill increased while he attended Worcester College for the Blind from 1909 to 1918.  He studied at Oxford University beginning in 1918, and captained the Oxford University Chess Club. 
     Tylor received First-class Honors in Jurisprudence in 1922 and was made an honorary scholar of Balliol College.  The next year, he became a Bachelor of Civil Law and a lecturer at Balliol College. Called to the Bar by the Inner Temple with a certificate of honor, he was made a Fellow at Balliol College in 1928. 
     Tylor competed in twelve British Championships, finishing fourth in his first appearance in 1925.  His best result was in 1933, finishing second to Mir Sultan Khan. He tied for first at the 1929/30 Hastings Premier Reserves with George Koltanowski ahead of Salo Flohr, Josef Rejfir, Ludwig Rellstab, C.H.O'D. Alexander, Daniël Noteboom, and Milan Vidmar. 
     Tylor played in the top section, the Hastings Premier, nine times beginning in 1930/1. His best finish was 6th= in 1936/7. He was first reserve for the English team at the Hamburg 1930 Chess Olympiad. Tylor won the British Correspondence Chess Championship in 1932, 1933, and 1934. Although he finished 12th at great Nottingham 1936 tournament, he had the best score of the British participants. Tylor used a special set for the blind and a special device for counting the number of moves made. He also enjoyed bridge. He died in Oxford on 23 October 1968.  Read his interesting opinion on stalemate here.
     George Koltanowski (born Sep-17-1903, died Feb-05-2000 at the age of 96) was originally from Antwerp, Belgium. He was awarded the IM title in 1950, an honorary GM title in 1988 and became an International Arbiter in 1960. The USCF also gave him the title of "The Dean of American Chess". He was most famous as an exhibitor, writer, promoter and showman known for his exploits in simultaneous blindfold play. 
     His best tournament wins were: Antwerp 1932, Barcelona 1934 and Barcelona 1935. He was Belgian Champion in 1923, 1927, 1930 and 1936. 
     Koltanowski did not to return to Europe after the 1939 Olympiad in Argentina, which coincided with the outbreak of World War II. When the Nazis overran Belgium, several of his family members perished in the Holocaust. Koltanowski was in Guatemala at the time and was allowed to immigrate to the United States, due partly because a chess-playing consul in Cuba had been amazed by one of his exhibitions. 
     His last International appearances were playing for the US Olympiad team of 1952 and a match against Henri Grob in 1953. He was also President of the USCF from 1975 to 1978.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Half a Million

     This morning this blog, which was started back on March 8, 2010, reached 500,000 visitors when someone from Moscow arrived. 
     The original blog got hacked in February of 2010 and anyone visiting it was redirected to those pay per click shopping sites. When I contacted Blogger, I received a "no reply" e-mail saying they couldn't help and suggesting I delete the old blog and start a new one. I debated about starting another blog because, besides my brother, only a handful of people visited, but eventually decided to go ahead and start blogging again, never thinking it would attract so many visitors. 
     Most of the visitors, of which there were over 10,000 last month, are from the U.S. followed by the Ukraine, Spain, the United Kingdom, Russia and Germany. 
     Surprisingly, the two most popular posts weren't even about chess. One was about Michelina’s TV dinners (the stuffed pepper and the pepper steak) that were made back in 2011 (both the dinners and the post); they were horrible. The other, also in 2011, was a YouTube video of the Kudzu String Band performing...go figure! 
     The two most popular chess posts were on free pdf chess books and the other was about the strange adjudication policy of Lechenicher SchachServer. 
     According to Top Chess Websites which lists the top 600 chess sites sorted by popularity (based on alexa) this blog is rated around 400 which is not bad considering that most of the sites are actual web pages, not blogs, and many are by professional players. Also, there has been two confirmed visits by Grandmasters, neither of whom was Magnus Carlsen or Fabiano Caruana. 
     Thanks to everyone who has made this blog what I consider to be a success.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

More On SmarThink

     In the previous post I wrote, "Surprisingly, I found that SmarThink's selections did well in matching the GM's opening moves." That was in the Nisipeanu vs. Cornette game. 
     After that post I played an online game using the Grob Attack and because it's not heavily analyzed, I thought the game would be good to analyze with SmarThink, Stockfish 7 and Komodo 8, especially the opening, and compare the analysis just to see it there were any major differences. In all, I spent a couple of hours over the last couple of days looking at the game with all three engines and was kind of disappointed with the performance of SmarThink.
     One thing I noticed is that SmarThink is much slower than either Stockfish or Komodo and, even though in some positions it was analyzing deeply, it was not finding the best lines...this probably had something to do with its speed. On two occasions SmarThink, like I did, missed mates in 10 and 12 moves. Both of the other engines found them in seconds. Even after several minutes SmarThink was showing an evaluation of about 125.0, but still had not found a mate. 
     In any case, I was really looking for opening moves that the other two engines didn't put a high importance on, but SmarThink didn't seem to be up to par. Some of the "improvements" it suggested did not work out well when analyzed with the other two engines. 
     In the end, while I think this engine is very strong, it can't compare to either Stockfish or Komodo, but then what engine can? We'll still go with Komodo for opening analysis and positional play and Stockfish for tactics and endings. 
     That said, SmarThink is a good engine to practice against. I lost a bunch of 5-minute games to it, but it felt more like I was playing against a very strong human than when playing against the other two.  It was taking its time and several times I thought it was going to run out of time,  but then it started blitzing out some pretty strong moves. 
     Also, using SmarThink in the Fritz 12 training modes ("Friend" where the program automatically adjusts its level of play to match that of the opponent and the "Sparring" mode where the program plays a reasonably strong game, but at the same time makes tactical errors) did make it feel like I was actually facing a human. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

SmarThink Engine

     On the CCLR 40/40 rating list the SmarThink engine is rated way down at number 30 where it's tied with engines like Arasan 18.3, Naum 4.2, Gull 2, Rybka 2.2 and Komodo 1.3 at 2980. To be honest though, I don't think its rating should be that high because it's not played any of the top engines. But, that does not mean it may not be worth looking at.  Download it HERE.
     I came across the following game between Nisipeanu and Cornette in which white essayed a rarely played opening and I wanted to compare SmarThink's move selections against Komodo 8's because Komdo is supposed to be quite good in the opening phases. 
     Surprisingly, I found that SmarThink's selections did well in matching the GM's opening moves. For that reason I think it might be a good engine to use when looking for opening innovations.  Perhaps it has something to do with the way it incorporates  some ideas of Botvinnik's.  Of course, it's clearly weaker in the middle and end games. I ran a small 5-minute tournament using my expanded Fritz 12 Opening Book with the engines on a single core and set at 1024 Megabytes. The results, not unexpected, were: 

1) Komodo 8......x 1 1 1 = 3.0 
2) Stockfish.......0 x 1 1 = 2.0 
3) SmarThink...0 0 x 1 = 1.0 
4) Fritz 12.........0 0 0 x = 0.0 

     SmarThink, an UCI/WB compatible engine by Sergei S. Markoff with an aggressive attacking style and what makes it interesting is that it uses techniques in search and evaluation that includes, as mentioned, some ideas of Mikhail Botvinnik. SmarThink played some tournaments in Russia and was the Russian computer champion back in 2004. Only a single-processor version is available. 
     While outright blunders and forced wins are readily shown by engines, in many positions the best move may not be easy to determine. Some times it's impossible because there are so many plans and ideas that are equally good. As a result, engines are of little practical help in evaluating opening play due to the sheer number of possibilities, importance of long term strategy and lack of forcing tactics. 
     The best way to use an engine in the opening is to search for alternative moves that don't appear in the opening books. In situations without any tactics different engines may have different evaluations of the position and even today they often over-value material. Most opening innovations these days are often discovered with the help of an engine. SmarThink might be worth considering for this purpose. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

There Was A Fly In The Ointment

     In this online game from the other day I played a defense which as far as I know has no name. When my opponent rashly went after the P on g4 he allowed his N to get trapped and lost it for two Ps, but as compensation my K-side was totally wrecked. White was intent on setting up a Stonewall formation which was OK, but inexplicably advanced his P to f5 which severely limited his options and I was able to launch a strong attack against h2, but a few moves later made a poor decision to sacrifice my Q. 
     Just a couple of moves later white, in his haste, blundered away a R and I had 2Rs and a P vs. his Q. When he played 22.f6 I thought it was just desperation and instead of capturing with the B, took the P with a N, allowing him what appeared to be pointless checks. But, it was soon apparent that my opponent was more cunning than I had given him credit for because he had conjured up mating threats. Unfortunately, there was a fly in the ointment, namely 28...Nf2 mate. Despite all the mistakes, it was still a fun game. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Stasch Bashes Mr. Widmeyer

     In the following game Stasch Mlotkowski played the Latvian Gambit which still has those who firmly believe in it. It has a long history of diehard adherents, even a few correspondence players specialized in it, especially in the pre-engine days. 
     The unfortunate Mr. Widmeyer suffered miserably after he failed to give heed to his own King's safety when he neglected to castle at move 10. Then at move 13, he played the artificial 13.Kd2 which resulted in a lot of fiddling around trying to get the K to safe haven and at the same time get the rest of his pieces into play...a task that turned out to be just too much. 
     Finally, on move 26 he made a seemingly innocuous trade that left his K-side totally stripped of pieces that might have offered some counterplay. Throw in the fact that the rest of his pieces, blocked by their own K as a result of 13.Kd2, were all gummed up, and black was able to almost coast to victory. 
     The game was played in the 1904 Western Open Minor Tournament which was held in St.Louis, Missouri. The "Minor Tournament" consisted of 14 players who played two games a day and Mlotkowski dominated the event  He went undefeated, being held to draws only by Louis Uedemann and J. Sawyer. At home back in Philadelphia Mlotkowski was recognized as a strong player and this tournament gave him a national reputation. 

1) Mlotkowski 12-1 
2) Uedemann 9.5-3.5 
3) Schrader 8.5-4.5 
4-5) Daly and Kemeny 8-5 
6) Smith 7.5-5.5 
7-8) Sawyer and Shrader 7-6 
9) Widmeyer 6-7 
10) Wickersham 5-8 
11) Rundle 4.5-8.5 
12) Cowles 3.5-9.5 
13) Clark 2.5-10.5 
14) Terker 2-11 

Find the Best Move

I reached the following position in an online game the other day and found a nice win for white: 

Highlight for solution: 
22. Bxc7+ Kxc7 
If 22... Ka8 23. Nxf5 Qe8 24. e7 wins material 
22... Kc8 23. d6 Qf6 24. Bxd8 followed by 25.e7 
23. d6+ Black gave up 
If 23...Qxd6 (23... Kxd6 24. Ncb5+ Kc5 25. Re5+ Bd5 26. Qa3+ Kxc4 27. Qc3 mate) 24. Ndb5+ wins the Q.

Monday, May 23, 2016

He Doesn't Play This Silly Game Anymore

     According to a Chessdotcom poster that's what GM Peter Biyiasas told him about six years ago. That's too bad because Biyiasas was one of the game's more colorful GMs. FM Craig Mar wrote that he was blunt and to the point with everyone and sometimes (illegally) talked to his opponents during a game and was also known to shoo spectators away from his board. 
     In the late 1970’s Biyiasas was living in the San Francisco area and while pursuing a career in computer programming was a regular in the California tournament circuit. Back when Bobby Fischer was hiding out in California, in 1981 he lived with Biyiasas and his wife Ruth Haring at their apartment. Fischer arrived in March toting a suitcase full of clothes and vitamins and a large orange juice squeezer that he had bought in Mexico. Fischer stayed for two months, returned to Los Angeles in the summer, then came back in the fall to stay two more months. They swam, played pinball, bowled, went to movies, squeezed oranges and played baseball in Golden Gate Park. Fischer would catch fly balls and throw them back as hard as he could. 
     During that time Biyiasas and Fischer played some chess and Biyiasas once lost 17 straight speed games; Biyiasas said, "He was too good.  There was no use in playing him. It wasn't interesting...he wasn't taking any time to think. The most depressing thing about it is that I wasn't even getting out of the middle game to an endgame...he honestly believes there is no one for him to play, no one worthy of him. I played him, and I can attest to that. It's not interesting." 
     Biyiasas said Fischer exhibited eccentric behavior and was preoccupied with Jews, referring to them as "Yids," telling Biyiasas that one controlled the price of the world's gold, but he had been unable to determine exactly who it was.  
     Fischer had what he called Chinese brain pills (good for headaches) and Mexican rattlesnake pills (good for general health) and a suitcase full of vitamins and he invited Biyiasas to help himself to them. One day when Biyiasas tried to open the suitcase he found it locked and asked Fischer about it. Fischer told him the suitcase was locked because if the "Commies" tried to poison him, he didn't want to make it easy for them. 
     Biyiasas, a Canadian GM, was born November 19, 1950 in Athens, Greece and moved to Canada as a young boy, growing up in Vancouver. He won the first of his four British Columbia championships in 1968, repeating in 1969, 1971, and 1972. In 1969 he played in the Canadian Closed Championship and finished in the middle of the field. He went on to represent Canada as second reserve on its bronze medal-winning team at the 1971 World Students' Olympiad in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, where he scored +4 −1 =2. 
     He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 1972 with a bachelor's degree in mathematics, the same year he won the first of his three British Columbia Open titles and repeated in 1976 and 1978.
     Biyiasas won the Zonal Closed Canadian Championship in 1972 with a score of 12-5, half a point ahead of Lawrence Day and George Kuprejanov which earned him the IM title. He tied for 1st–4th places at an international tournament in Norristown, Pennsylvania in 1973, tying with Kenneth Rogoff, Bruno Parma, and Herman Pilnik. 
     His first really strong tournament was the 1973 Petropolis Interzonal where he only managed to finish in 15th place with 6.5-10.5. In São Paulo the same year he scored 6.5-6.5 and later that year won the British Columbia Diamond Jubilee Open and repeated in 1974 and 1976. 
     In 1974 at the Pan American Championship in Winnipeg he finished third and later tied with Kim Commons for the American Open title in 1974. He repeated as Canadian champion in the Zonal at Calgary 1975. This earned him another Interzonal chance at Manila 1976, but he again did not fare well, scoring 6-19 which put him in 17th place.
     He played for Canada in the Olympiads four times, winning board medals on three occasions, including a silver and two bronzes: 1972 Skopje board 4, 1974 Nice board 2, 1976 Haifa board 1 and 1978 Buenos Aires board 2. 
     Biyiasas tied for 3rd–4th at New York 1977 behind Leonid Shamkovich and Andrew Soltis. Then in 1978 in the Canadian Zonal he finished 2nd. As a result of his strong play in the Olympiad and New York he earned the GM title. In 1979 he won the Paul Keres Memorial in Vancouver. 
     He immigrated to the US in 1979, working in San Jose, California as an IBM computer programmer. 
     One of his best results was in Wijk aan Zee 1980, where he scored 7.5-5.5, tying for 4th–6th places. He also did well at Zrenjanin that year where he finished second. He played in the US Championship at Greenville, Pennsylvania in 1980, finishing just below 50 per cent. The tournament was held at Thiel College and was defined by the battle between the generations of the forties and those of the late sixties and early seventies.  Bisguier, Byrne and Evans versus Browne, Christiansen and Seirawn. Also participating were three Russian emigres, who had expressed their intention of remaining in this country. Mark Diesen suffered a bad fall after the third round and after treatment at Greenville hospital was forced to withdraw and his score was not considered in the results. There was three way tie for first place between Larry Evans, Walter Browne and Larry Chistiansen who were followed by Yasser Seirawan and Leonid Shamkovich (tied for 4-5), Anatoly Lein and Vitaly F Zaltsman (6-7). Eight through thirteenth was a tie between Peters, Byrne, Bradford, Benko, Biyiasas and Bisguier. 
     Biyiasas won several tournaments in the San Francisco area including four titles in the Carroll Capps Memorial (1981, 1982, 1983, and 1985); and four titles in the Arthur Stamer Memorial (1978, 1979, 1982, and 1984). 
     Generally favoring unusual openings, he avoided mainline Sicilians when he played 1.e4 and liked K-Indian Attack-type setups and contributed some important theory to the K-Indian Attack. 
     Biyiasas went to work as a programmer for IBM and later set up his own software company and retired from competitive chess in 1985. He was married to Ruth Haring, a Women's IM and they had three children. One son, Theodore, plays chess and is rated around 1900. 
   His opponent in this game, which features a Q-sac, was IM Camille Coudari who represented Canada on the Bronze medal winning team at World Students' Team Championship 1971 and the Olympiad in 1978. Coudari also co-directed The Great Chess Movie in 1982. New York Times Review  See also, Chessdotcom and Immortal Chess.
     For a complete discussion of the opening see the Wikipedia article HERE

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Endgame Tablebases...Do You REALLY Need Them?

     I was recently asked about the value of using endgame tablebases with analysis engines. The truth is, my knowledge of TBs is pretty slim...I knew there are several different ones, but beyond that, not much. My thought was that they are not necessary because most engines are pretty good at endings these days, so TBs will not help that much. Now, I am not so sure. One thing I learned was that you have to use the right endgame tablebase with whatever engine you are using. 
     I set up a B+N (regarded as the most difficult of the elementary mates) and a 2B ending and Stockfish 7 and Komodo 8 both found the mates almost immediately.  Even the old Fritz 5.2 found the wins almost at once. But, in the 2B ending Arasan 19.0.1 showed a winning advantage (10.00 evaluation) after three minutes, but did not show a mate. The B+N ending was harder for it; after three minutes, it showed an advantage of only 1.25 of a P. 
     Tablebases are databases that provide perfect ending solutions for a set number of pieces. That is, a five-piece tablebase is able to instantly tell you the best play for any position with two Kings plus any three pieces. Engines refer to TBs in their analysis and this makes them play better in endgames. Another advantage is that tablebases can help an engine decide whether to exchange down to an endgame covered by the tablebase. On the downside they can take up a lot of space, but with today's computers that should not be much of a problem.

The big three are: 
Nalimov tablebases – these are available by ChessBase on DVD, and take up as many as nine DVDs. These include the full five-piece sets as well as a few six-piece sets. Although they are the oldest and take up the most space, they are also the most widely supported. The five-piece set takes up a little over 7GB.
Gaviota tablebases – These are newer than Nalimov and take up slightly less space. Even though they are free, downloading them is a pain.  The full five-piece set takes up just over 6.5 GB.  
Syzygy tablebases - They are the newest and require the least amount of space (less than 1 GB for five-piece set) and is especially recommended for Houdini 4 because it was designed to make the most of them. 

     Graham Banks is a New Zealand computer chess aficionado. As a tester of chess programs, he is co-founder and member of the CCRL group. According to Banks, if tablebase support is built-in to the engine it could add a 5-10 Elo improvement. Others have estimated that most engines gain at most 25 Elo from using them and others have found no significant difference in playing strength. So, it seems that using 3-4-5 piece tablebases will only give a minimal Elo increase, if any at all. Or does it? See the position below. 
     I don't have TBs installed and if I ever have any question about a particular ending with six pieces or less I do it the hard way and consult the online Shredder endgame database. Another reason I have not installed them is because it seems like a lot of work and to be honest, I think I lack the technical know-how.
     For further reading visit A Guide To Endgame Tablebases at Horizon Chess. Stack Overflow also has a good article that explains the use of tablebases HERE.

White to move
    Above is a position where TBs would definitely be a help. Black wins in 40 moves according to the online tablebase. After 3 minutes Stockfish showed an evaluation of about 3.50 in black's favor. In a Shootout consisting of five games (17-25 plies), the results were rather surprising. Black won three games, but two were drawn. Of course in the Shootout the specified plies were reached in seconds which means that this method is not an absolutely reliable indicator of the correct result. What is indicated though is that the addition of the 3-4-5 piece tablebases could, in some positions, be a real help.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Hint On Working with PGN Databases

     Several of my databases are in PGN format which cannot be manipulated using either Fritz 12 or Chess Assistant 16. For example, neither program allows you to delete games that are in PGN format. You have to either convert the database by copying the games into the program's format or else use a text editor to manually delete the unwanted games from the PGN file. 
     If you want a simpler way to manipulate PGN databases the easiest way is to download WML Software's Chess Pad. It's a PGN database game viewer and editor with a lot of functions that can also be used with Winboard and UCI engines for playing and analysis. It's also simple to use! So, if you have PGN databases that you want to work with then Chess Pad will get the job done without any fuss.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Losing by Hallucination

     That's what happened to my opponent in an online game yesterday. As white I opened with the Grob Attack (1.g4) and, as often happens, my opponent (rated 1900+) got confused about the situation on the a8-h1 diagonal and lost the exchange. But, he put up manly resistance and because of his active N and B, combined with my weak Pawns, I found making progress difficult. So, I decided to return the exchange hoping it would allow me to make some inroads into his position with my R. It turned out to be a poor idea. But, after my opponent got the exchange back a funny thing happened...with 10 minutes left on his clock, he thought for six of them and then resigned. I don't know what he thought he saw, but it turned out that a post-game analysis with Stockfish showed the game was only a draw...five out of five in a Shootout. But what is really of interest is the position after 29...Rb8. I missed a nifty forced win. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Herman Pilnik

Pilnik vs Wade in 1956
     Pilnik is a name I well-remember from back in the old days. But, I got to thinking, I don't know anything about him nor have I played over more than a very few of his games and they were probably ones he lost to better known players. So here's what I found out about him.
     Pilnik was born on January 8, 1914 in Stuttgart, Germany and won the city championship at the age of 15 in 1929.  The following year his family moved to Argentina. That was a surprise because I thought he was originally from Argentina.
     He first drew attention when he came in third (behind Alekhine and Najdorf) in a speed tournament in Buenos Aires in 1939.  And, in the intervening years he improved greatly so that by the mid-1950s he was one of the ranking players in the world as evidenced by his qualifying for the Candidates Tournament in 1956. 
     Ludek Pachman, in his book Chess and Communism, wrote of Pilnik that he was very often seen on romantic evenings with beautiful women. Pilnik was a romantic in all areas of life, optimistic, a very good conversationalist and in chess possessed he a vigorous attacking style, but was, at the same time, considered a player of the Classical School. The Pilnik Variation of the Ruy Lopez is named after him. It is a slower variation for stronger players looking for a long, strategical game where experience will count as it avoids a lot of mainline theory.
     Once Argentine President Juan Peron invited members of the Argentine Chess Olympic team to a reception, among them Pilnik, whose political views were anti-Peron. The atmosphere was cordial though and President Peron, accompanied by his wife, as a way of appreciation for the achievements of the team offered a gift where he asked each player what he wanted. One replied life insurance, another asked for a house and when it was Pilnik's turn he asked Eva Peron for a kiss! 
     He won the Argentine Championship three times: in 1942, 1945 and 1958. According to Wikipedia, Pilnik began his international career in 1942 when he tied for 10-11th in New York, but I was unable to locate this event.  He did play in a tournament in New York in 1948/49 where he finished tied for third.  In 1942 he tied for second with Stahlberg behind Najdorf at Mar del Plata. 
     In 1944 he tied for 1st with Najdorf, also in Mar del Plata.  According to Chessmetrics this was his best ever tournament with a 2722 Performance Rating. In 1945 he was undefeated and finished third at the Pan-American Tournament held in Hollywood. 
     At the beginning of the Hollywood tournament some of the invited players were unable to attend because America was still at war in the Pacific and travel was difficult. Albert Pinkus and Edward Lasker withdrew as they could not obtain reservations. Weaver Adams, a last-minute replacement, was delayed enroute and arrived three days late with Dr. Cruz of Brazil. Pilnik, another replacement, also had his misadventures. He lost his plane reservation and proceeded by car. He crashed into an unlighted truck at night and woke up in a Yuma, Arizona hospital. He arrived in Hollywood three days late with his head swathed in bandages. Other players withdrew for various reasons. Pilnik received First Brilliancy Prize for his win over Weaver Adams. 
     In 1951, he won both Beverwijk and Vienna in 1951/52. In 1952 he finished first in Belgrade and in 1954, he won in Stuttgart. Pilnik played for Argentina in five Olympiads: 

1950 - he won the team silver medal and the individual gold medal playing at first reserve board (+6 −1 =3) in Dubrovnik 
1952 - team silver medal at fourth board (+6 −1 =7) in Helsinki 
1954 - team silver medal playing at fourth board (+3 −2 =2) in Amsterdam 
1956 - team silver medal playing at fourth board (+7 −3 =3) in Moscow 
1958 - team bronze medal at first board (+5 −2 =8) in Munich 

   He was awarded the IM title in 1950 and the GM title in 1952. 
   Pilnik finished 10th (last place) at the Candidates Tournament at Amsterdam 1956 where he scored +1 -9 =8. His lone win was against Szabo who tied for third and he scored a draw and a loss against all the other players. The tournament was won by Smyslov. 
   Chessmetrics assigned him his highest rating of 2670 in 1945. After FIDE ratings began to be published, Pilnik's rating hovered around the mid-2400s which put him about a hundred points below the world's best in those days. 
   Pilnik eventually moved to Venezuela where he taught chess at the Caracas Military Academy. He passed away on November 12, 1981 at the age of 67 in Caracas. For a copy of one of his 1945 visas see HERE.
   Here is his Brilliancy Prize game against Weaver Adams. Pilnik's attack seems to come out of nowhere and it was difficult to determine exactly where Adams went wrong, but all his trouble seems to stem from 15...Nd7 which withdrew the N from the K-side where it would have helped with defending the K. A very subtle mistake that Pilnik wasted no time in taking advantage of.