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Monday, October 31, 2016

Vienna 1922

     This tournament was one of the first great events after World War One and all the great of the day, Alekhine, Bogojubow, Gruenfeld, Maroczy, Reti, Spielmann, Tarrasch and Tartakower were their; only Lasker and Capablanca were missing. 
     The surprise of the tournament was the 42-year old Rubinstein. After the war he was still an elite player, but his results were inconsistent. In another ten years he would withdraw from tournament play. Alekhine had been dominating tournament play in the early 1920s having taken frst at The Hague, Budapest and Triberg in 1921 and at Hastings just a few months before this tournament. So, his fourth place tie was something of a surprise, but as it turned out, it was only a minor hiccup in his career. 
     As for Rubinstein, it was hoped that it might be possible that he was still able to compete, possibly even for a world championship match. After all, he defeated Alekhine, and his game against Bogoljubow won first brilliancy prize and his game against Spielmann was a real gem. He had also, with some luck, won a difficult and theoretically important ending against Tartakower in what turned out to be a crucial game in deciding first place. 
     The tournament also turned out to be the best result ever in the career of Heinrich Wolf who finished third in an outstanding fashion. Wolf (October 20, 1875 – December 1943) was a journeyman Austrian master who from all reports was murdered by the Nazis. 
     This event was also important because of the influence of the hypermodern players who made their theories felt. The Nimzo-Indian and the Gruenfeld Defense (which its inventor used to defeat Alekhine). And, the Alekhine was played in four games, but Alekhine was not a participant in any of them. 
     In addition to the participants who were also the most of the famous writers of the day, chess authors Vladimir Vukovic (author of the classic, The Art of Attack) and Imre Koenig were also playing. Koenig was studying in Vienna and was the youngest player in the tournament. Koenig (Sept 2, 1901, Gyula, Hungary – 1992, Santa Monica, California) lived in Austria, England and the USA between the two world wars. In 1949, he became a naturalized British citizen, but in 1953 he moved to the United States. 
     Edward Winter in his post No. 3842 mentions the claim that shortly before the Vienna tournament Alekhine had tried to commit suicide by stabbing himself in the stomach. 
     All the games at Vienna were hard fought. Unlike today, only about one third were drawn. The following game, played in the first round, features very sharp and accurately executed tactics as well as excellent positional play in which Reti managed to hold the draw in a very difficult ending. In the final position it looks like white could win by going after the black b-Pawn then marching his a-Pawn home, but if you set up the position in the Shredder endgame database you will see how black holds the draw...very instructive. 

1) Rubinstein 11.5 
2) Tartakower 10.0 
3) Wolf 9.5 
4-6) Tarrasch, Maroczy, Alekhine 9.0 
7) Gruenfeld 8.0 
8) Reti 7.5 
9) Bogoljubov 6.5 
10-11) Vukovic and Spielmann 6.0 
12) Saemisch 5.5 
13) Takacs 4.0 
14) Koenig 2.0 
15) Kmoch 1.5

EDIT...a reader pointed out the game as originally posted was broken off, so here is the corrected version.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Chess and Homicide

     While reading Edward Winter's article on Chess Murders, I was lead to another of his articles on the Wallace Murder Case. That got me curious as to how many other murders chess players had been involved in. 
     I was familiar with Claude Bloodgood's having murdered his mother with a hammer and IM Raymond Weinstein's slitting an old man's throat with a razor. I also knew about and US Senior Master Abe Turner having been stabbed to death by a fellow employee at Chess Review and English IM Simon Webb having been stabbed to death by his son. But, what about other cases involving chess players and murder? Googling "chess homicide" turned up a gaggle of stories! 

Alexander Pichushkin - a Russian serial killer believed to have killed at least 49 people and possibly as many as 60 was a chessplayer.  
Massimo Fishti stabbed his roommate through the heart in an argument over a game of chess.  
Jens Eberling fatally shot his 11-year-old son with a rifle and then himself in Scotch Plains, New Jersey a couple of years ago.

In Jeffersontown, Kentucky last year Steve Dillard, active in Kentucky chess, was found by a family member murdered inside his home. HERE. Followup 

Two years ago in Ireland, journalist/researcher Tom O'Gorman was murdered by an Italian boarder over a chess game. One of his lungs had been cut out and couldn't be found  Did his killer eat it? HERE

Earlier this year in Fort Collins, Colorado a man who had been acquitted of a 1994 homicide that stemmed from a chess game gone awry shot three Colorado deputies, fatally wounding one of them.  Details.

In 2014 in Iowa City, Iowa a man was charged with killing his neighbor after the neighbor slapped him over a chess game. Details.

     The list goes on, and maybe that accounts for the fact that in 2013, in a city in central New York State, after a 65-year old man was stabbed to death in a vacant lot the city had proposed to turn it into a chess park, but neighbors objected. One lady living next to park commented, "If we can't feel safe in our own home, what possibly could a chess park do? We can't get people to stop stabbing each other... now the idea is we're going to get those people to play chess?" You can understand her concerns.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Two Dr. Max Langes

Max Lange, the Stronger
     Dr. Max Lange (August 7, 1832, Magdeburg – December 8, 1899, Leipzig) was a German player and problem composer. Lange attended Grammar school in Magdeburg and later studied at the universities at Jena, Berlin, Halle and Heidelberg where he studied law and philosophy , obtaining his doctorate in both. While still a schoolboy, in 1849 he founded his school's chess club (named "Sophrosyne") and a Magdeburg chess magazine; the magazine lasted only one year. 
     From 1858 to 1864 he was, first with Anderssen, then with Hirschfeld and Suhle, and later by himself, the editor of a chess magazine founded by the Berlin Club. He also conducted the Sontagsblatt (Sunday newspaper) and a chess column in the Leipsic Illustrated Journal. Somewhere around 1862 he founded the West German Chess Association and first first in its tournament at Dusseldorf three years in a row. He also finished first in tournaments in Aix la Chapelle in 1867 and Hamburg in 1868. 
     Lang was one of the original members of the German Schachbund and upon the death of the director, Lang took over, but his arbitrary rule lead to a temporary split in the organization. The split lead to holding two rival Masters' tournaments in Germany in the same year. 
     For the last thirty years Lange withdrew almost entirely from tournament and match play, but continued his interest in the game.   As a chess writer, his works were known for their brilliance and attractive style and he was a major contributor to opening theory of the day. He contributed to the theory of the Evans Gambit, King's Gambit and Bishop's Gambit. But, he did NOT invent the famed Max Lange Attack and the opening is NOT named after him; it is named after the other Dr. Max Lange. 
     Lange was an honorary member of several German chess clubs.  In his day he was known as "a fertile inventor of new modes of play in several openings and a valuable contributor to chess literature." 
     Chessmetrics estimates that Lange was one of the top ten players in the world in the 1860s. After his sabbatical from tournament chess from 1868 he made his final appearance in the German Championship at Nuremberg in 1883. Lange finished in a tie for 17th–19th which was last. Even so, according to Chessmetrics he was still among the top 40 to 50 players in the world in the 1880s. 
     Dr. Max Lange (1883–1923) was the other one and less is known about him. At least one source said they were not related, but one, the more reliable, I think, claimed they were father and son. See the article in Sarah's Chess Journal HERE
     This Dr. Max Lange's best known tournaments were Hilversum 1903 and the 14th DSB-Congress at Coburg 1904. This Lange was also an author and published Lehrbuch des Schachspiels (Textbook of Chess Games, Halle 1856), and Handbuch der Schachaufgaben (Handbook of Chess problems, Leipzig 1862). This one was the inventor of the variation of the Two Knights Defense called the Max Lange Attack. 
     This Max Lange was born in Stettin, Germany (now Szczecin, Poland). He was a mathematician and a friend of the Laskers, Emmanuel and Edward. He played in some "minor" tournaments, i.e. lower sections of major tournaments between Hannover 1902 and Mannheim 1914. 
     In 1920 he moved to Japan in order to play Go, which he found more interesting than chess. He died in the Kanto earthquake of 1923. 
     The following game was played by the "better" Max Lange that was first published in his Sammlung Neuer Schach Partien (Collection of New Chess Games) in 1857.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Ljuba Danielovna Kristol

     Ljuba Kristol (May 26, 1944, Leningrad) is a Russian-born Israeli International Correspondence Grandmaster and Woman International Master. She grew up in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) and has lived in Israel since 1976. 
     She won the ICCF Women's World Championship in correspondence chess on two occasions: between 1978 and 1984, and between 1993 and 1998 and is a five-time OTB women's champion of Israel ( 1978, 1982, 1984, 1988 and 1990). She was awarded the Women's correspondence GM title in 1990. 
     Her opponent in this game is ICCF Senior IM Pablo Buj (born 1933) of Argentina. Buj was involved in a controversy in 1983 during the finals of the 11th Postal World Championship in his game against Erich Thiele. 
     After black's 81st move the following position was reached: 
Buj (to move) vs. Thiele

      This endgame is of some interest to endgame study composers The outcome depends on whether the Bs are the same or opposite colors. This ending also arises occasionally in practice as in this game. 
     In this position Buj submitted analysis claiming he was winning, but the game was adjudicated a draw leaving Buj very unhappy. Databases now confirm the win, which is relatively straightforward, taking only 18 moves. Today, after two minutes, Stockfish evaluates this position as a win for white and out of curiosity I ran a Shootout at 15-23 plies. Stockfish scored 5 easy wins for white.
     When today's game (Buj vs. Kristol) was played, one might wonder how much of a part computers may have played. In 1994 the Chess Genius program was entered in a Professional Chess Association rapid chess tournament where it defeated and eliminated world champion Kasparov, but lost to Viswanathan Anand in the next round. This was the first time a computer had defeated the world champion in an official game even if it was a rapid one. 
     At the Intel World Chess Grand Prix in London in 1994 Chess Genius achieved a rating performance for the tournament of 2795. In an article in 1994 comparing Chess Genius with Fritz, GM and computer chess expert John Nunn wrote, "(my) own opinion is that if raw playing strength is your dominant criterion, then go for Genius". 
     By 1999 Chess Genius had dropped out of the top ten on the Swedish Chess Computer Association rating list and eventually disappeared. 
     Even as late as 2004 when Correspondence GM Robin Smith published his Modern Chess Analysis he advised that giant hash tables and huge amounts of memory didn't get you much and that speed was more important. He added that 256 megabytes of RAM should be sufficient and describes 512 as "plenty." 
     Programs that he considered excellent were commercial programs like ChessMaster, Chess Tiger, Fritz, Hiarcs, Junior, Rebel and Shredder while freeware programs like Crafty, Ruffian and Yace were also excellent. Chessbase and Chess Assistant databases were also recommended. 
     In any case, as late as 2004 Smith was showing that among top level correspondence players, the use of engines were mostly of value in checking for tactical blunders because the engine's positional and endgame play had glaring weaknesses that any competent correspondence player could take advantage of. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Ramsgate 1929

     It's often reported that Vera Menchik's greatest tournament was this one where it is sometimes said she tied for second with Rubinstein, half a point behind Capablanca and ahead of her mentor Geza Maroczy.  That's not quite true! 
     It's usually not mentioned that Ramsgate was a Scheveningen team tournament which pitted seven foreign masters against seven English players and Menchik was on same team as Capa, Rubinstein and Maroczy, so she never even played them. She was undefeated, scoring against Sir George Thomas, Reginald Michell and Hubert Price and drawing with F.D. Yates, T.H. Tyler, William Winter and E.G. Sergeant...quite an accomplishment to be sure, but her +3 -0 =4 was against the British players only. It was the first event which she played against men; she was the only woman to play in men's tournaments in the first half of the 20th century.  According to an article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in April, 1929, although Menchik was playing on the foreign team, she had been living in Hastings for a number of years and her results in this match made her one of the best players in England.
     Ramsgate was a Scheveningen team tournament. This system, where a player faces every player on the opposing team and the team with the highest score is the winner, was first used at Scheveningen in 1923. The idea was to allow a team of ten Dutch players to face ten foreign masters so they could gain experience against strong competition. 
     Of the British players Sir George Thomas and F.D. Yates are fairly well known, but the others are not. 
     Reginald Michell (April 9, 1873 – May 19, 1938) was British Amateur Champion in 1902. He played in eight England vs. USA cable matches between 1901 and 1911 and twice represented England the Olympiad. He was a frequent competitor in the Hastings International Congress over 20 years and scored wins over Mir Sultan Khan and Vera Menchik in 1932-3. He had 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finishes in the British Championship. Michell worked in the Admiralty and his wife Edith Michell was British Women's Champion in 1931 (jointly), 1932 and 1935. 
     Sir Theodore Tylor (May 13, 1900 – October 23, 1968) was a lawyer and IM strength player despite being nearly blind. He was knighted in 1965 for his service to organizations for the blind. Tylor competed in twelve British Championships; his best result was in 1933, finishing second to Mir Sultan Khan. He tied for first in the 1929-30 Hastings Premier Reserves with George Koltanowski. He won the British Correspondence Chess Championship in 1932, 1933, and 1934.
     William Winter (September 11, 1898 – December 18, 1955) won the British Open Championship in 1934 and the British Championship in 1935 and 1936. He had wins over a number of the world's top players including Bronstein, Nimzovich and Vidmar.  Unfortunately, health issues and poor tactical play did not permit consistent results. Winter was the author several of chess books and was a nephew of J. M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan. Harry Golombek, rather unkindly, described Winter, who was a communist as "...he was revolutionary, illogically moved by his emotions (he contrived to be both a fervent communist and a staunch patriot) and, more often than not, drunk." Winter also holds the distinction of having been, because of his political activities, the only British Champion to have served time in prison.  For a good article on this fascinating character see Edward Winter's article HERE.
     Edward G. Sergeant (December 3, 1881 – November 16, 1961) played mostly in local events and was a frequent competitor in the British Championship, London City Championship and the Hastings International Congress. He was a second cousin of Philip W. Sergeant, a British professional writer on chess and popular historical subjects. 
     Hubert E. Price (1877 - February 19-1957) played in a number of BCF championships. His best result was tying for second in the British Championship with Michell behind Mir Sultan Khan held shortly after this match-tournament. Price also played in a number of Hastings Premier tournaments. His best result was second behind Borislav Kostic in the 1921-2 tournament.
     Of the visiting team, Capablanca, Rubinstein, Menchik and Maroczy need no introduction. 
     George Koltanowski (September 17, 1903 – February 5, 2000) was born in Belgium and was on tour in South America when World War II began. He was allowed to move to the United States in 1940 and lived there for the rest of his life. Koltanowski played on two Belgian and one United States Olympiad teams. He was known in his later years for his chess lectures, blindfold play and knight tour demonstrations and tireless promotion of chess.  He is in the US Chess Hall of Fame.
     Victor Soultanbeieff (November 11, 1895 - February 9, 1972) was born in the Ukraine and moved to Belgium in the early 1920s. He won the Belgian championship multiple times, but work obligations limited his opportunities for international play. He was on the Belgian Olympiad team at Folkstone, 1933. Known for his aggressive play, he sometimes won short, brilliant games, but such play also lead to needless defeats. He participated in a total of 22 Belgian championships between 1923 and 1969, winning it 5 times, finishing second three times and one third place finish. In addition to being a chess author he also played correspondence chess. 
     Eugene Znosko-Borovsky (August 16, 1884 – December 31, 1954), a noted drama and literary critic, was born in Russia and moved to Paris in 1920. As a player, Znosko-Borovsky never reached the highest levels, but he did have some notable results such as Paris 1930, where he finished first undefeated ahead of Tartakower, Lilienthal and Mieses. He also took first prize at Folkestone in 1933. During his career he managed wins from such luminaries as Capablanca, Rubinstein, Euwe and Bogoljubov and won a short match with Edgard Colle in 1922. 

     England got crushed 31.5 - 17.5 and their only bright spot was Thomas' even score.  This game features what appears to be an incredible double blunder at move 10.  I checked several sources and they all show the game score as given here, but stranger things have happened.  While there were better games played in this match, I chose this one because it shows that often there's a reason why some master games don't get published!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Paris 1933

     While looking over some of the games from this event I found several published tactical problems that had been taken from it. One reason for this is no doubt because the tournament featured three strong players (Alekhine, Tartakower and Lilienthal) who took advantage of the opportunity to strut their superior tactical ability over lower rated players.
     One instructive game was Alekhine's defeat of Abraham Baratz. What caught my eye was it featured one of my favorite openings, the Panov-Botvinnik Attack. Alekhine's play wasn't the brilliant tactical play we normally associate with him. His clean, simple positional play made the win look easy and studying his technique will prove instructive. 
     I also discovered that Abraham Baratz was a very interesting fellow. If you've ever seen Alekhine's grave you will have noticed a marble likeness of him at the top of the tombstone. It was made by Baratz. 

     Abraham Baratz (September 24, 1895 – 1975, Paris) was a Romanian born Jew who moved to Paris in 1924 to study art and ended up becoming a French citizen. Baratz had a studio in the Montmarte section of Paris where he did sculpturing and worked in ceramics.
     He was also a fairly decent chess player, winning the Paris City Championship on numerous occasions. Internationally he he also had some modest successes: 1926 fifth in Scarborough, 1927 tied for first with George Koltanowski in the Major event at Hastings. Remember the Premier event was the top section that had the very best players with the Major being for those of lesser skill. In 1930, he tied for first in Bucharest and in 1930/31, he finished sixth in Hastings (again, the Major). Before emigrating to France he played for Romania twice in the Olympiads; at first board (+6 –4 =5) at Hamburg 1930, and at third board (+7 –3 =7) at Prague 1931. Chessmetrics puts his rating at over 2500, so he was of at least IM strength. 

1) A. Alekhine 8.0 
2) S. Tartakower 6.0 
3) A. Lilienthal 4.5 
4) E. Znosko Borovsky 3.5 
5) B. Zuckerman 3.0
 6-9) M. Frentz, M. Raizman, F. Lazard and A. Baratz 1.5 
10) A. Gromer 1.0 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Szabo Gives a Lesson On the Blockade

     A blockade is when the opponent has a pawn that needs to be stopped. That is generally accomplished by putting a piece, usually a N, in front of it. Qs and Rs usually make poor blockaders because, as the strongest pieces, they shouldn't be tied down on this task. 
     The concept of blockade was aptly demonstrated by Nimzovich when he advised, "First restrain, then blockade, finally destroy!" In fact, he even wrote a book on blockading, Die Blockade. This little appreciated book was translated in to English over thirty years ago and a new translation was published a few years ago.  Even today it contains a lot of good instruction. 
    I have always been intrigued by the following game in which Gligoric had two passed Ps on the Q-side and what looked like an excellent position, but Szabo showed how to render them impotent. 
     The game, played at Helsinki Chess Olympics 1952 (OlympBase has a full article on this event HERE), is a good example of blockading by BOTH sides. Pachman presented this game as an example of blockade strategy and his light notes illustrated the points very well, but as is often the case, it wasn't the one sided positional shellacking that a casual examination would indicate. Engine analysis with Stockfish and Komodo turned up resources for both sides, but Pachman's general evaluation is correct. The line chosen by Gligoric left him struggling by move 13 and a couple of other games from the same position did not turn out well for white either.  As one might expect, it was a great game between these two titans and Szabo's play was very instructive.