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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Dr. Orest Popovych

     Dr. Orest Popovych was born January 8, 1933 in Lvov and arrived in the US in 1949 as a postwar refugee. He graduated from Rutgers University in 1955 and obtained his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1959. 
     In 1963 he began teaching at Brooklyn College. He is a professor emeritus of analytical chemistry at Brooklyn College of the City of New York and co-authored the book Nonaqueous Solution Chemistry. He served as the President of the Shevchenko Scientific Society, USA and is the author or editor of four books in English and one in Ukrainian. A collection of 33 of his English translations of Vasyl Makhno's Ukrainian poetry has been published as part of a bilingual book titled Thread and Selected New York Poems
     Popovych was awarded the 2010 Prize for Best Translations from Ukrainian into English by the American Association for Ukrainian Studies and his English translations of Vasyl Makhno's poems have appeared in Agni, International Poetry Review and Poetry International. But wait! There's more! 
    Dr. Popovych also had a remarkable career as an FIDE master. His name was frequently seen at th top of tournament crosstables in major events during the 1960s. He won the New Jersey championship in 1959, 1961, 1985, and 2001 and authored a chess book featuring games by former champions of the Ukrainian Sports Federation of the USA and Canada. He was inducted into the Ukrainian Sports Federation Hall of Fame in 2016. He won the 1984 Atlantic Open and the championship of the Ukrainian Sports Federation five times. He earned his Master title in 1957 and in 1972 he was a Senior Master and ranked number 13 in the country. In 1972 he participated in the US Championship, but did not do well, scoring +0 -9 =4, and finishing in last place. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

A Brilliancy by Owen Hindle

(Left) recent photo of Hindle.  (Right) Parr
     The following game has been on my list of games to look at for a while now. English readers will be familiar with the names of Hindle and Parr, but others probably won't. 
     In the 1960s FIDE Master Owen Hindle (born March 14, 1940, 76 years old) was one of the strongest English players. He  finished second in the British Championship in1964, played in the Chess Olympiads 1964 and 1966, was British lightning champion of 1965 and represented England in the Zonal tournament 1967. He is also a distinguished chess author, having written books on the Piatigorsky Cup 1963, Further Steps in Chess, J.H. Blackburne: The Final Years, The Life and Games of Cecil de Vere and The Mystery of Edward Pindar
     A dangerous tactician, Hindle wrote, "Never believe a player who justifies his brilliant sacrifice with reams of analysis supposedly calculated at the time. Usually the sacrifice just seems the right thing to do; the analysis comes later." 
     Frank Parr (December 17, 1918 – December 28, 2003) was British Boys (Under 18) champion in 1935. The British Federation for Correspondence Chess introduced a Frank Parr Memorial Tournament in 2005. Held alongside it was the David Parr Memorial, dedicated to Frank's eldest son, another fine player who also died in 2003. 
     Frank Parr enjoyed a long chess career and was well known for his aggressive style and alertness to tactical possibilities. Parr won the Hastings Premier in 1939/1940 with a score of +6 -0 =2. At the time he was in the military service, having been drafted in 1939. That was his only Hastings Premier appearance, although he played in many Challengers' sections up to 2002. 
     Parr tied with Gabriel Wood for the correspondence championship in 1948 and with H. Israel in 1949 and won in 1950 and 1956. Parr made his first appearance in the championship in 1936, finishing fifth, and played in a total of 25 British Championships. His best result was in 1956 when after managing only a draw in the first two rounds, he won eight consecutive games before drawing with Leonard Barden in the last round to finish with 9-2. Although this score would have secured first place in most years, he finished second a half point behind C.H. O'D. Alexander despite winning their individual game. Parr never held any FIDE or British Chess Federation titles. 
     Before retirement he worked as a messenger at the London Stock Exchange. He had three sons and one daughter. Aside from chess, his main hobby was gardening, but he was also a supporter of Fulham Football Club and a regular patron of Surrey County Cricket Club. After a long illness Parr died in Epsom on 28 December 2003, the opening day of the Hastings International Chess Congress. 
     The following game is from the 1962 British Championship at Whitby. Hindle finished 8th, scoring +5 -3 =3 while Parr finished 11th, scoring +5 -4 =2. The tournament was won by Jonathan Penrose. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Puzzling Life of Aristide Gromer

     Gromer (born April 11, 1908 in Dunkirk - died 1966 in Plouguernevel, France) was one of the more interesting characters in the chess world. After completing his schooling Gromer became a full-time player and at one point served as secretary of the French Chess Federation.  The end of 1933 saw him directing a chess and bridge club in Paris. 
     He was the champion of France three times: 1933, 1937 and 1938. During the 1930s he participated in several tournaments. He finished equal 2nd with Tartakower in Paris 1930. This was a strong tournament won by Znosko Borovsky and Lilientahl and Mieses were playing. 
     From 1934 to 1935 Gromer toured Spain playing blindfold games and giving simultaneous exhibitions. During this period he tied for first in the Madrid 1934 tournament and also defeated the strong Spanish players Sanz Aguado and Ortueta in matches. 
     At the end of 1935 George Koltanowski, then living in his birth country of Belgium, wrote an article in the magazine El Ajedrez Espanol in which he accused Gromer of running a scam against the small clubs that welcomed him. But Spanish newspaper chess columns of the time written by such respectable writers as Ramon Rey Ardid in the Barcelona paper and Manuel Golmayo in the Madrid paper never mentioned anything and their comments were always favorable to Gromer. 
     Koltanowski had criticized Gromer’s conduct in Spain earlier, but in the October 1935 issue of Chess magazine he stated he had some very unpleasant things to say about Gromer and it was his hope that the object of his attack actually read them. Koltanowski, claiming he was publishing the article ot the request of the San Sebastian Chess Club, accused Gromer of victimizing Spanish players and doing the game a lot of harm and by publishing the article he hoped to stop people from being duped. 
     The article sounds preposterous and nobody knows if any of it is true or not especially since it's known that Koltanowski sometimes had problems with facts and he was known to embellish his stories on occasion.   
     The charge was that Gromer would turn up in some small town, announce that he was broke and beg the chess club to arrange a simultaneous display for him. The display would be arranged and he would be paid his fee. He would then stay on and claim he had borrowed money from club members and he wanted to play one more simul so he could pay them back, but he only paid back half of what he owed. He would then request another simul so he could make enough money to pay the balance. By the time the club got through paying his fees so their members could get their money back the club was broke. Koltanowski claimed that in San Sebastian Gromer didn't pay back any of his debts and stayed at the finest hotels at the club's expense. 
     Gromer finished second in Paris 1938 and one notices that he was one of the players who participated in 1939 in the Buenos Aires Olympiads who decided to stay in Argentina when the war broke out in Europe. During that time many of the exiles eked out an existence by giving simultaneous exhibitions. While in Argentina he played he played matches and in 1940 he participated in the Torneo Mayor which allowed him to qualify for the title of champion of Argentina. He tied with Guimard and Sulik but was defeated by Guimard in the playoff. In 1941 he finished in the middle of the table in a tournament in Sao Pedro, Brazil.
     Gromer first turned up in Strategy magazine in 1922 where it was reported that he finished second in a thematic King's Gambit tournament organized by a Paris club. It was also mentioned that Gromer was the nephew of the French player Jacques Grommer who had taught him how to play chess. He would have been 14 at the time. 
     On March 4, 1923 the Parisian newspapers reported that a simultaneous was given by Gromer, but reported his age as 13 (he was apparently small for his age) and claimed he was a gifted pupil who was about three years ahead in school. In fact, at the time of the simul he would have actually been 14 or 15, but in those days his exact birth date was unknown. It's also been reported that the same was true of Samuel Reshevsky. Some reports indicate that he was actually about three years older than his parents claimed when he was touring the country as a child prodigy. Like Reshevsky's parents, the press was manipulated to make a better story. Gromer's parents were Isaac Gromer and Ida Gordon. Both were born in Vilnius, Lithuania which at the time was called Vilna and was part of the Russian Empire. They were married in Berlin in 1906. Gromer's father was a mathematician and his mother the daughter of a Berlin rabbi. 
     More about that claim that he was the nephew of Jacques Grommer, a chess coach at the Cafe de la RĂ©gence: Jacques Grommer emigrated to the United States in January 1912 which means that Aristide would have had to have learned chess from his uncle at the age of about three and a half. 
     Also mysterious was his return to France from Buenos Aires which it seems he did in May of 1942 just as the Nazi persecution of Jews in France intensified. In May of 1942 the Germans insisted on Jews wearing the Star of David and there was a big roundup of Jews in July of 1942, so it's unknown how Gromer managed to survive in France during World War Two. After the war he only turns up in 1947 when in February he lost a match to Tartakower, scoring two losses and four draws. He also played in the Paris and French championships. After that, almost nothing is known about him. It appears that Gromer died in 1966 at a psychiatric hospital in Plouguernevel, France. 
     Tactical possibilities abound in the following game played in the 1932 Olimpiad

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Real as a Pro Wrestling Match

Not real!
     The 31st Hastings Christmas Chess Festival was held at the end of the year 1955. Ten GMs and masters were invited to participate in the premier event: GMs Viktor Korchnoi and Mark Taimanov from the Soviet Union, West German champion Klaus Darga, Spanish champion Jesus Diez del Corral, Yugoslav GM Borislav Ivkov, Icelandic master Fridrik Olafsson, Swiss master Raphael Persitz, British correspondence champion John Fuller, and previous Hastings winners Harry Golombek and Jonathan Penrose. 
     Olafsson gained international recognition by tying Korchnoi for first place in the final. Both players finished undefeated. There were only three prizes: 60, 40 and 20 pounds. In 1955 US dollars this converts to $150, $96 and $48. That is the equivalent of $1,356, $870 and $435 today. 

1-2) Korchnoi and Olafsson 7.0 
3) Ivkov 6.5 
4) Taimanov 6.0 
5) Darga 4.5 
6-7) Fuller and Persitz 3.5 
8) Diez del Corral 3.0 
9) Penrose 2.5 
10) Golombek 1.5 

     In his book, Chess Is My Life, Korchnoi wrote that when he and Taimanov left for the tournament they were accompanied by a "supervisor", Lev Zaitsev, a KGB colonel whose main function was to keep an eye on them.  Zaitsev was later to be come a diplomat in Washington, D.C. and played in many US tournaments, achieving the rank of Master.  Previously he had been assigned to the Soviet embassy in Ottowa. 
     Korchnoi played well and first place was decided in his game with Olafsson which was drawn. Korchnoi wrote that in their individual game, which was drawn, that Taimanov was rather afraid of him because Korchnoi was playing white.  Korchnoi claims that Taimanov persuaded him to compose the game. In his book Chess Encounters, Taimanov wrote about how brilliantly they both had played, but the whole game was faked. Let's take a look at this fake game. 
     Analyzing with Stockfish and Komodo leads one to believe that not only was the game fake, but Taimanov's claim that both players played brilliantly was fake, too. Before engines allowed all of us to be armchair GMs they could get away with such claims. Who could challenge them in those days? 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Can White Win?

     I have a 1950 issue of Chess Digest Magazine. The magazine, at one time known as California Chess News, came out 10 times a year and the subscription cost $2.00 per year. 
     A short article described how the magazine's problem editor, A.J. Fink, walked into a storage room and picked up a copy of Berliner Schachzeitung from March of 1912. That afternoon there were a number of strong players hanging out at the Mechanics Institute and they set up the position in the diagram. 
     The position was from an actual game and Berliner Schachzeitung was offering a prize for anyone who could find a win for white. The guys at the Institute came up with 1. Qxf7 Qa5 2. b6 (The threat is 4.Rxe3+ Bxe3 4.Qc7mate.) Qxb6 3. Bb5 as their solution, but the next day a master named Charles Bagby came up with 3...e5 and nobody could find a win. Fink was unable to locate the issue that contained the solution, so they remained mystified as to how white can win and they were offering a book prize to any reader who sent in the right solution. 
     I let Stockfish analyzed this position for about a half hour and discovered that there is no win, but the position is amazingly complicated; in some variations there is only one move for both sides that avoids losing. It would be interesting to know if any readers, either in 1912 or 1950, discovered what they thought to be a win.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Dinge Gambit

     The December 1, 1886 issue of Spectator Magazine carried a brief article on the Pierce Gambit, a variation of the Vienna Opening.  According to the authors of the gambit it was "an attempt to graft the Muzio Gambit on the Vienna stem, like the Hampe-Allgaier and it is undoubtedly a beautiful and suggestive opening, and leads to an even game." The gambit can also be reached via the King's Gambit. 
     The name comes from brothers W. Timbrell Pierce (1839-1922) and James Pierce (1833-1892) and it was first mentioned in a January 1886 article in the British Chess Magazine for which the two brothers regularly contributed. It was first played in the game between Louis Paulsen and Berthold English in 1887. 
     Curiously, in a letter to the British Chess Magazine in 1898, Timbrell Pierce stated that when he played over the below game which was widely published claiming Dinge had employed a "new gambit" he thought Dinge's 6.d5 was new and stated it looked strong.
     However, Pierce discovered that he had actually published a short analysis on 6.d5 two years previously in Chess Monthly!  So, it appears that when this game was played in 1898, Dinge was following Pierce's brief, but flawed, analysis that had been published in Chess Monthly.
     I was unable to locate much information on Max Dinge except that, according to Edo Historical Ratings, he was born February 23, 1876 and the date of his death is unknown. Dinge is known to have played in three tournaments between 1896 and 1899 with a rating of around 2000. 
     Carl Walbrodt (November 28, 1871, Amsterdam – October 3, 1902, Berlin) was a German master who was very active in the 1890s. He gave simultaneous displays, taught chess, and played in many tournaments. Walbrodt also founded two chess clubs and wrote a chess column in the Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger from about September 1899 until February 1902. According to the Oxford Companion to Chess, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis in the early 1890s. He died from that disease at the age of 30. Chessmetrics put his rating at over 2600. 
     Unfortunately for Dinge, Pierce's analysis was defective and Dinge's name has been associated with an unsound gambit that has never been played since even though he won thanks to Walbrodt's atrocious defense. 
     I don't remember where, but I recently read an excellent blog post in which it was pointed out that you can't always trust the analysis published in books and magazines.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Obscure Celia Neimark

     Celia Neimark Ginsberg was born in the small town of West Austinville, Ohio on July 11, 1914 and died in Las Vegas, Nevada on May 1, 1998 at the age of 83. Visit her grave. Although it appears the town was frequently referred to as "West Austinville" by locals, it was actually "West Austintown", an unincorporated community started in 1869 when the railroad was extended to that point. A post office called West Austintown was established in 1872 and remained in operation until 1929.  
     Irving Spero, the Ohio State champion was the chess editor of the Youngstown (Ohio) Vindicator, and in 1921 planned a tournament, open to boys and girls fifteen and under and among the early entries were Celia and Fanny Neimark. It was presumed Fanny was Celia's sister, but no further information on the tournament seems to have ever surfaced. It is known that the famous chess and checker champion Newell W. Banks gave a simultanous against 21 players at the Youngstown club and he was held to a draw by Celia. About that time Sammy Rzeschewski (later Reshevsky) gave an exhibition in Cleveland, Ohio and one of his opponents was Louis Neimark, but it's not known what relation Louis was to her. 
     The seven year old Celia was a farm girl and was described by the papers of the day as being "as sturdy a specimen of a child as one would wish to see."  She was quite well known in the area and was elected to an honorary membership in the Youngstown Chess Club. 
     Spero referred to her as a chess prodigy and believed she was destined to make a mark in the chess world. On the occasion there was a picnic on her father's farm for the benefit of the Youngstown Relief Society and Celia played a simul against ten opponents. It was outdoors on a hot day and after an hour and a half her parents made her quit and the unfinished games were adjudicated. Her score was +6 -2 =2. The strength and identity of her opponents is unknown. 
     Celia also played a simul at the City Club of Cleveland against six opponents selected at random. In order to protect her from undue strain she was only allowed to play for about one hour and the games were adjudicated by Edward Lasker. She scored +3 -1 =2. 
     Her only known game is the one she played against Spero and nothing more was ever heard of her. 
     I did discover a Las Vegas company called The Star Auxiliary of Southern Nevada that was registered on December 29, 1971 with Celia Ginsberg listed as president. It was described as a domestic non-profit corporation, but I was unable to determine exactly what the purpose of the company was. It appears to have been an educational endeavor and at some point its exempt status was permanently revoked by the IRS for failure to file the required forms for 3 consecutive years. 
     It would be interesting to know what happened to her and her chess career and how she ended up in Las Vegas, but an internet search didn't turn up anything further. Another promising player lost to the realities of everyday life, I guess.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Openings and Average Players

    In the last post I gave a link to an article by Jim Schroeder and today I went back and re-read it. Unless you are a master, I suggest following his advice because it was right on!
     The best moves aren't in the books. My mind went back to a 1972 game I played in the finals of the US Open Correspondence Championship (Chess Review's Golden Knights) in which my opponent was a Senior Master and former US Championship competitor. I had lost a game against him two years previously in the semi-finals and was determined not to lose when I met him again in the finals...fat chance of that happening, but I was hopeful. 
     I was playing white against his Najdorf Sicilian and was using an opening booklet on the Najdorf and following a line that was supposed to be equal for white. After my 17th move, according to the book, black was supposed to play 18...Nc5 with equality, but my opponent played 18...Ne5 and quickly got the advantage. A couple of moves before I resigned 10 moves later he asked if I had been been using that particular booklet and when I said yes, he commented that he thought so because there was a mistake in the analysis! I had already figured that out, but it was a valuable lesson. It suggests that Schroeder was right when he said the best moves are not usually in the books. 
     Curiously, I found one OTB game played in 1975 where we followed that postal game and I played the same 17th move! My opponent also found 18...Ne5, but fortunately he didn't follow it up correctly and ended up losing. 
     That got me to thinking. In my OTB games during that period how far did the average game get before one of us left the book? The sample was about 30 games against opponents ranging from about 1300 to master. In two games we left the book at move three thanks to offbeat openings (like 1.c3, for example). The longest were a Dragon Sicilian and five Najdorf Sicilians where we left the book at move 12 or 13. The average was 9-10 moves (not plies).
     The average chess player usually can't remember reams of analysis and as this little experiment showed you are usually playing book moves whether you know it or not for maybe a quarter to a third of the game. 
     I also noticed that even when we left the book, with a couple of exceptions, the moves played were not "bad" as evaluated by an engine. The blunders came, but rarely in the opening. 
     As Schroeder observed, we are weak because we tend to study openings long before we can comprehend them and we should first become knowledgeable of 1) how to checkmate, 2) understand the endgame, 3) know all kinds of tactical patterns and 4) play through at least a thousand games. Only then should we study openings.
     It's as Schroeder said, authors and even many coaches pander to their readers and students. Pander. I like that word! It means "provide gratification for others' desires." GM Alex Yermolinsky commented that chess coaches are often put in the position where they have to pander to their students...if they don't give the student what they want, they just quit or find another coach. And, students often think they know more about what they need than their coach and what they usually think they need is...opening knowledge. That's why the best sellers are opening books.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Colorful James R. Schroeder

Typical Schroeder chess books
     James R. Schroeder, now retired from chess, was a colorful and sometimes controversial character. His name is pronounced Sch-A-der with a long a, NOT Sch-roader! On his website (now defunct) he described himself as "a renown chess author, editor, critic, master, historian and constant student of the game. He was the Ohio Chess Champion of 1950 and 1985 and the winner of fifty consecutive USCF rated games." Schroeder founded and operated The Prison Chess Fund. He was also a seller of books and chess equipment.
     Schroeder was born on November 30, 1927 and as far as I know is still alive and living in Washington state. I knew him quite well when he lived in Cleveland, Ohio and was active as a tournament director and was known for visiting the John G. White chess book collection at the Cleveland Public Library where he would meticulously hand copy games from famous tournaments, type them up, mimeograph them and then sell them for fifty cents apiece at tournaments. I even helped him on one book by proofreading the games and I think he gave me a book (a real one) of Karpov's games for my efforts. 
     One day he approached me at a tournament and asked if I had a car and could I give him a ride to his apartment to pick up some chess books to bring back and sell. His apartment was in an older building and was sparsely furnished with a small portable black and white TV with a coat hanger antenna. Chess books were piled all over the place. On the way back we stopped for lunch at an out of the way Chinese restaurant where we were the only non-Chinese in the place, but Schroeder seemed to be pretty well known. 
     According to his "Confidential Chess Lessons," a typewritten and mimeographed booklet of miscellaneous "instructions", Schroeder learned to play chess around 1945. Originally from Michigan, he moved to Ohio where he became active in promoting chess everywhere he could. While serving in the Army during the Korean War his pocket chess set was always with him and he played a lot of postal chess during that time. After the war he returned to Columbus, Ohio and later moved to Dayton, Ohio. While living in Dayton he never once visited the home of the poet, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, or went near the internationally famous Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, or visited the Wright Brothers Memorial. At some point he ended up in Springfield, Ohio, where in 1957 he got married and the Schroeders had one daughter. 
     In the 1950’s he studied the game and players extensively and became editor of the Columbus YMCA Chess Bulletin and became an active tournament player. He founded the Tru-Test Company, which sold chess books and supplies. In Cleveland he was founder of the “Cleveland Chess Foundation" and published the “Mini-Might Chess Bulletin." He also founded the Prison Chess Fund which supplied chess books to prisoners and encouraged people to play postal chess with inmates. 
     One lesser known incident in Schroeder's career was when he was selected by the controversial Nestor Farris to be the editor of The Chess Correspondent. According to Bryce Avery in Correspondence Chess in America, it was the "most catastrophic blunder in Farris' entire CCLA career." 
     Avery wrote that when he got the job, Schroeder had been given enough material for a couple of issues, but he wouldn't use it, choosing to write his own material instead and got the CCLA board's dander up by complaining in the magazine that they had not given him enough material. He also changed the design that had been used by the previous editors, Isaac Kashdan and William Wilcock. Schroeder's cover was too dark and the font hard to read. He also used filler that included drawings of maggots, photos of Elizabeth Taylor dressed as Cleopatra and a cartoon of a woman wearing only a towel. Sounds like the January, 1975 issue of the magazine, Schroeders' only issue before getting fired, was a forerunner of Kevin Spraggett's blog! An excerpt from that January, 1975 issue by Schroeder can be seen HERE.
     At the 2012 US Open, held in Vancouver, Washington where Schroeder was then living (and probably still does), the USCF Executive Board (Ruth Haring, Greg Walters, Allen Priest, Mike Nieman, Mitchell Atkins, Jim Berry, Bill Goichberg) voted not honor him with an award. Schroeder's reaction: "Look in your Funk and Wagnalls for words to express my opinion of them. Invectives, derogatory, vituperative, caustic. Being a gentleman of refined habits, I never employ such language and decline to lower myself into their midden-heap." 
     Schroeder declared the following game, published by Al Horowitz in Chess Review where he was referred to as Shredder Schroeder, was his first brilliancy prize game, adding that he was not a good attacking player, but nobody could miss his sacrifice.