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Friday, June 30, 2017

Edith Lucie Weart

Weart in 1967
     Edith Weart was born in Jersey City, New Jersey on April 19, 1897.  She died in January 1977 at age 79.
     She attended Oberlin (Ohio) College and after graduating in 1918 with a degree in chemistry she lived in Canton, Ohio.
     The American Mercury of May 1929 published an article she wrote and contained a brief bio: "Edit Lucie Weart was born in Jersey City and is a graduate of Oberlin. She specialized in chemistry and was engaged in laboratory work for a number of years. She is now secretary to two dermatologists, and devotes her spare time to medical editing." 
     By 1931 she was working as assistant to the advertising manager of Mead, Johnson and Co., a pharmaceutical house that supplied baby diet products. She wrote extensively on health related topics, writing books and publishing articles in numerous periodicals. Her books on health topics were geared toward children and included titles such as The Story of Your Skin, The Story of Your Bones, The Story of Your Respiratory System and many others. In 1948 she also wrote one chess book, also geared toward children, titled The Royal Game: Chess for Young People
     She learned to play chess in 1924 and 10 years later Frank Marshall's wife, Carrie, organized a women's chess tournament in New York City that in a few years evolved into the US Women's Championship. Weart was one of ladies considered strong enough to participate. After the tournament, Harriet Broughton, writing for Chess Review said, "Evidence of the serious attitude they have lies in Miss Edith Weart's statement that games bore her, but she likes chess: She says that for ten years the only competition she was able to get was from friends she herself had taught to play; and she taught them all the Evans gambit! Moreover, she used this opening consistently playing white in the tournament. She ended with six wins and five losses." 
     In this first event Weart tied for 5th out out of 12 with a 6-5 score. Two years later in 1936 she tied for second with Mary Bain behind Adele Rivero. In 1937 she was a columnist for Chess Review and only finished 9th out 10. In the 1938 U.S.Women's championship Weart finished 4th behind Karff, Bain and Rivero. Shortly after that tournament she played in the US Open. 
     While returning from the Open in Boston, Mary Bain, Mrs. Raphael McCready and Weart were in a car accident when their car skidded on slippery pavement and crashed into a pole. McCready suffered minor injuries and Bain fractured a vertebra which required her to be in a cast for eight months, bedridden for much of that time. Weart was pinned under the car and sustained a fracture to her shoulder. 
     The 1938 event was Weart's last though she did serve as assistant TD in 1946 and 1948 and served on the US Women's Championship committee 1951. After 1938, her reports for Chess Review also appeared less and less frequently. It was then she began writing her many children's books and, also, authored newspaper articles on chess aimed at children. 
     She had begun spending time on weekly visits to bed-ridden children in the cardiac ward of the Bellevue Hospital, where she was known as The Toy Lady, teaching them chess. The children especially treasured the red and white Bellevue Chess Club button they were given after they mastered the fundamentals. 
     The following 1936 game played for the women's championship of the Marshall Chess club is typical of the problems we amateurs often face. We get a good, even winning position as white does here, then don't know what to do with it! The games in this tournament were, as Herman Helms pointed out, not always sound, replete with complications and frequent surprises and he gave this game as an example.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Shirov's Birthday Gift to Tahl

     The following game was played on Tahl's last birthday (he died June 28, 1992) and shortly before Nikolenko resigned Shirov approached Tahl and told him that the game was modest birthday present to him and Tahl seemed pleased. 
     Shirov is currently rated 2656 which ranks him number 97 in the world among active players, but that wasn't the case in 1991. Shirov was the world under-16 champion in 1988, the world under-20 co-champion in 1990 (second on tiebreaks to Ilya Gurevich). 
     In 1998 Shirov's ranking rose to number four in the world and he played a ten-game match against Vladimir Kramnik to select a challenger for World Champion Garry Kasparov. Shirov won the match with two wins, no losses and seven draws.  However, the plans for the Kasparov match fell through when sufficient financial backing could not be found. When Kasparov instead played Kramnik for the world title in 2000, Shirov maintained that the match was invalid and he was the rightful challenger. In 2000, Shirov reached the final of the FIDE World Chess Championship, losing 3½–½ to Viswanathan Anand. 
     Shirov, who studied under Tahl, is a great tactician who loves complications and his games, like this one, often contain unusual material imbalances. All of his games are not filled with unremitting violence however; Shirov consideres himself to be a calculator which is a skill that is particularly useful in the ending. As a result, he is also a very fine endgame player. 
     In 1991 the USSR Championship was played in Moscow from November 1st to the 13th and was a 64-player Swiss event, which included some of the most senior as well as newest GMs and Masters in the Soviet Union. Artashes Minasian and Elmar Magerramov tied for first, with with Minasian declared winner on tiebreaks. The Soviet Union would dissolve over a month later, and while the separate nations that made up the USSR would continue to hold their individual championships, there would never again be a Soviet championship.
     Shirov finished tied for places 10 to 14 with Kharlov, Frolov, Vaganian and Tiviakov all of whom scored 6.5 points. Nikolenko finished with a gaggle of players in places 24 to 38 at 5.5 points. Besides Nikolenko, the others were: Shabalov, Yakovich, Ionov, Yurtaev, Aseev, Dokhoian, Bagirov,Ibragimov, Serper, Sorokin, Sveshnikov, Lputian, Rashkovsky and Balashov.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Paul Morphy, Endgame Maestro

   When you think of Morphy, what kind of chess do you think of? Probably romantic gambits and scintillating tactics. But writing in the International Chess Magazine, Steinitz said, By mixing up Morphy's blindfold, offhand and odds games with those of his serious encounters against strong masters, popular prejudice has (wrongly) credited Morphy with the faculty of creating positions against his strongest opponents in which brilliant sacrifices formed a a distinct feature...”
      If you look at Morphy's games in many of them he had inferior endings (if the game got that far) simply because in many of them he started conceding odds! And because of the prejudice that accompanies his play, his endgame play has been largely ignored, but every indication is that he was one of the best, if not the best, endgame players in the world in his day. 
     The great Capablanca opined that Morphy “had the most extraordinary brain that anybody has ever had for chess. Technique, strategy, tactics, knowledge which is inconceivable for us; all that was possessed by Morphy...” 
     Bobby Fischer said Morphy was “Perhaps the most accurate player who ever lived, he would beat anybody today in a set-match. He had complete sight of the board and seldom blundered even though he moved quite rapidly. I’ve played over hundreds of his games and am continually surprised and entertained by his ingenuity.” 
     Despite his reputation as a brilliant tactician Morphy also had a great understanding of positional play and endings as will be seen in the following instructive game. Generally transition into a favorable ending is because one has a material advantage. However, often having a material advantage will eventually force the opponent to surrender some material. It can be difficult to utilize a positional advantage if one does not comprehend exactly what constitutes such an advantage. Nor is it possible to exploits a positional advantage unless one's technical ability is enhanced by planning and execution. 
     In this game we see Morphy build up a favorable position by move 18, but instead of attacking, he plays for a favorable ending where he has an extra P, but it's on the K-side. His other advantages are a B vs. a N, a spatial advantage and a more active K, all of which he uses to to methodically force the win. 
     Commenting on the game Lowenthal said, “This game on the whole, does not present such numerous points of interest as many of the foregoing contested on the same occasion, but is yet worth studying, as it exhibits great accuracy on Mr. Morphy's part, without which winning would have been no easy task.” Perhaps, but for us non-masters, the game is actually quite instructive. 
     This game was played in a blindfold simultaneous in Paris 1858 and the article below was printed in The New York Times, October 19th 1858. 

     The astounding performances of young Paul Morphy have brought the excitement in the chess playing world of this city up to white heat. Last Monday he played against, and beat, blindfolded, eight of the best players of Paris at one time! The Cafe de la Regence, at which this extraordinary feat occurred, has two large rooms on the ground floor. In the first room, which is full of marble tables, were seated the eight adversaries of Mr. Morphy. in the second room, in which are two billiard tables, was seated the single player. A large portion of this room, including the billiard tables, was shut off from the crowd by a cord, and behind the tables, in a large arm chair, sat Mr. Morphy, with his back nearly directly to the crowd. Two gentlemen, reporting for the press, kept the games, and two other gentlemen, Messrs. Journoud and Arnous de Riviere, cried out the moves, or rather carried them from one room to the other. The adversaries of Mr. Morphy were Messrs. Baucher, Bierwith, Morneman, Guibert, Lequesne (the distinguished Sculptor), Potier, Pret, and Seguin. 
     They were all either old or middle-aged men, and superior players, while Morphy is but twenty-one years of age. The boards of the eight players were numbered 1, 2, 3, etc., in the order in which I had given the names of the gentlemen. At 12:30 the games commenced, Mr. Morphy playing first, and calling out the same move for all the eight boards.... 1. e4. The games were conducted in French, Mr. Morphy speaking French perfectly. At 7pm #7 was beaten with an unseen checkmate. Soon after 8pm, No 6 abandoned the game as hopeless, and half an hour later, #5 played for and gained a drawn game. Numbers 1, 2, and 3 were soon after beaten. At 10 pm, #4 made the player accept a draw game, but it was 10:30 before Mr. Seguin, #8, a very old gentleman, who contended with great desperation, was beaten. Thus he beat #6, while #2, who acted on the defensive and only sought a drawn game, effected their purpose, but a drawn game under such circumstances, ought to be considered equivalent to a win. 
     During the entire exhibit, which lasted ten hours, Morphy sat with his knees and eyes against the bare wall, never once rising or looking toward the audience, nor even taking a particle of drink or other refreshments. His only movements were those of crossing his legs from side to side, and occasionally, thumping a tune with his fingers on the arms of the chair. He cried out his moves without turning his head. Against 1, 2, 3, and 6 and 7, who were not up to the standard of the other three players, he frequently made his moves simultaneously after receiving theirs. He was calm through out, and never made a mistake, nor did he call a move twice. 
     It must be collected, moreover, that Mr. Morphy played "against the field" - in other words, that around each of the eight boards there was a large collection of excellent chess players, who gave their advice freely, and who had eight times longer to study their play in than the single player. He played certainly against 50 men, and they never ceased for a moment making supposed moves and studying their games most thoroughly during the long intervals that necessarily fell to each board. And yet Morphy, who out of sight of these eight boards, saw the game plainer on each than those who surrounded them! I could scarcely have thought the thing possible if I had not seen it. At the end of the games there was shout from the three hundred throats present , which made one believe he was back again in Tammany Hall! The fact is there was a considerable number of Englishmen and American's present (among the latter was Prof. Morse, who took a deep interest in these extraordinary games), but much the larger number were French. Morphy did not seem at all fatigued, and appeared so modest that the frenzy and admiration of the French knew no bounds. 
     He was shaken by the hand and complimented till he hung down his head in confusion. One gray-haired man, an octogenarian chess player, stroked his hair with his hands, as he would a child of his own, and showered him with terms of endearment. Morphy had no beard yet, and looks more like a schoolboy than a world's champion. He escaped from the excited crowd as soon as possible, and left with some friends, to get something to eat. It is not necessary to point out to chess players the immensity of this intellectual feat; every one will admit that it borders upon the miraculous, and, as was remarked by one of the antagonists, Lequesne, such a mind never did exist, and, perhaps, never will again. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Robert Brieger and Ronald Simpson Slug It Out in Omaha

     Robert Brieger composed direct mate problems, helpmates and endgames. He passed away at the ge of 86 on April 26, 2012 in Houston, Texas. He was born in Houston on October 18, 1925 where he resided his entire life except for brief jobs away from Houston.
     Brieger graduated with B.S. in Mathematics from University of Houston in 1946 and obtained his teaching certificate in 1951. Professionally he taught math for brief periods in Houston and other Texas districts and worked two years for Convair Aeronautics in San Diego, California. 
     He began playing chess at the age of 17 and eventually became a rated Master. He authored several books on chess and composed countless end game studies as well as played correspondence chess. Brieger also held the title of Houston City Chess Champion many times and was a powerhouse in Texas and tournaments in the Southwest for many years,
      Besides chess, he loved classical music and played the clarinet in high school and university orchestras, later he enjoyed attending concerts and opera.  Later in life he also enjoyed all types of ballroom dancing. He loved classical movies and collected favorites, especially winners of awards in Cannes and Venice, as well as Hollywood. 
     Brieger was well known in the area of Houston in which he lived because of his life-long habit of walking miles throughout the neighborhood. 
     Brieger played this game in round 10 at the 1959 US Open in Omaha, Nebraska where Brieger scored 6.5-5.5 and finished tied for places 44-57. Simpson finished with a score of 5-7 and tied for places 92-104. The following game is full of raging complications and the outcome was in the balance until the very end. A good show by BOTH players! 

NOTE: I originally thought Brieger's opponent in this game was the late FM Ron Simpson of New York and North Carolina.  Thankfully, an alert reader caught this faux pas; this game was played before FM Simpson was born!  The player of the black pieces in this game was obviously another Ronald Simpson.  A tribute to FM Simpson can be found at Chess Drum.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

McBrain Engine

     As you know, Stockfish 8 has been out for quite some time while Komodo 11 has come out just recently. On May 22, 2017 Komodo 11.01 was released and was claimed to be about 10 elo stronger than Komodo 10.4 and 55 elo stronger than Komodo 10. It's major improvements were in other areas. 
     As of June 24, on the CCLR 40/40 rating list Komodo 11.01 is one rating point ahead of Stockfish 8, but in head-to-head encounters Stockfish leads by a score of +4 -2 =22, so it seems that SF is still the best engine. 
     What I wanted to do was see if any of the SF developmental engines are better than SF8, so I visited the abrok site and downloaded Stockfish_17062123_x64. I won't discuss the supposed improvement in this version as I have no idea what “The idea is that chances are the tt-move is best and will be difficult to raise alpha when playing a quiet move.” means.
     However, I did run a match of 4-minute games between this engine and SF8 and the results were that the developmental version scored +1 -0 =9. Clearly there's not much difference between the two engines. 
     Another engine that caught my attention was McBrain which is based on Stockfish. In a 4-minute, six game match between SF8 and McBrain 2.5 the result was that McBrain won by a score of +2 -1 =3. McBrain has an interesting style, but it does seem a bit slower than SF. Obviously these short tests at a fast time limit cannot be considered conclusive, but if anyone is interested in tinkering with engines, these two are worth a look.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Southsea 1950

The Bogoljubow vs Trott ending was a rare bird
     The annual Agnes Stevenson Memorial, an open tournament, was played in the 1950s and 1960s with Southsea being the venue from 1949 to 1952. Mrs. Stevenson was a British Ladies Champion who met an untimely end in 1935 when she accidentally walked into an airplane propeller. 
     The 1950 tournament was Arthur Bisguier's first international success in Europe and Jonathan Penrose created a sensation by defeating both Tartakower and Bogoljubow. His loss to Bisguier in the eighth round knocked him out of first into a tie for third place. 
     There's also an interesting anecdote concerning Tartakower that relates to the Wesley So incident when he was forfeited at the US Championship for writing noted on his scoresheet. In The Chess Masters on Winning Chess by Fred Reinfeld he wrote, “Tartakower had a fluent pen; he wrote voluminously, often annotating a game for a newspaper or magazine while he was playing it.” 
     Leonard Barden wrote that he witnessed Tartakower making notes during at least one game, at one or more of the Southsea tournaments of 1949, 1950 and 1951. Barden related that in Tartakower's game against Ravn at Southsea, 1951 he (Barden) was curious to see what Tartakower was writing and so crept up behind him and found there were copious notes in small writing on his scoresheet.  He went on to say that apparently Tartakower had trouble reading his own notes because he pushed his glasses back on his forehead, squinted and peered closely at what he had written. Nobody objected though; Tartakower was a legend and besides, it wasn't considered consulting written material in those days.  That would come many years later. 
     Bogoljubow's opponent in this game is A.H. Trott. Not a lot is available on Trott. He is referred to in an article in keverelchess.  He was an alumni of the Alleyn School in London. The June, 1947 issue of the school magazine mentions that he was playing for the school's chess team. The July, 1951 wrote, “A.H. Trott (tn 1945-47-note: this is apparently a reference to the years he attended) has won the Southern Counties' Chess Championship by finishing first out of the British players in the recent Southsea Tournament. Both The Times and the Observer made favourable comments on his play.” 
     This game where he was defeated by Bogoljubow has a rare finish. Trott's last move was a check and Bogoljubow replied with a move that delivered mate. 

The final standings of Southsea 1950 were: 
1-2) S. Tartakower and A. Bisguier 7.5 
3-5) J. Penrose, L. Schmid and H. Golombek 7.0 
6) E.D. Bogoljubow 6.5 
7-13) F.F.L. Alexander, L. Barden, R. Newman, L. Prins, A.R.B. Thomas, H. Trevense and R.G. Wade 6.0 
14-18) J.M. Aiken, B. Brown, L. Illingworth, R. Reifenberg and A.H. Trott 5.5 
19-25) H.H. Cole, L. Derby, J. Poole, K. Winterton, R.C. Woodthorpe, F.S. Wollford and R.F.G. Wright 5.0
26-31) W. Fry, A. Knight, I. Napier, J.J. O'Hanlon, P.A. Ursell and H.H. Wright 4.5 
32-35) Mrs. R.M. Bruce, J. Duthilleul, A. Eva and A. Warson 4.0 
36-38) Miss J. Doulton, Capt. H. Heneage and D. Leslie 3.5 
39-40) E. Attenborough and D. Fawcwtt 3.0 
41) Cmdr. J. Britton 2.0 
42) A.S. Dance 1.5 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Rudolf Spielmann

     Rudolf Spielmann (May 5, 1883 – August 20, 1942) is pretty much a forgotten player from long ago and that is a shame. His father was a newspaper editor in Vienna who played chess in his spare time and taught the game to Rudolf and his brother. 
     Though Spielmann had a degree in law, he never worked as one because he devoted his life to chess. He never married but was devoted to his nieces and nephews and Fine described him as having two passions: beer and chess. Interestingly, on February 25, 2015, The Guardian carried an article about Spielmann's nephew, 92-year-old Eric Roland Spielman, from Loughton, England who died after being hit by a car while walking to the chess club. The driver of the car was another 92-year-old! More details on Eric Spielmann can be found HERE
     According to Chessmetrics his highest performance rating of 2791 came at Carlsbad in 1929 and his highest rating was 2716 in 1913 which ranked him number 7 in the world behind Rubinstein, Lasker, Nimzowitsch, Tarrasch, Schlechter and Marshall.   He was devoted to gambits, vicious attacks against the enemy King and brilliant tactics and that's why his games should be better known by players who like the tactical play by the likes of Tahl and Nezhmetdinov.
     The reason he probably isn't better appreciated is because of his tournament record. While he did very well in some, in others he bombed and so he was never among the world's elite players. Spielmann loved the King's Gambit and the Center Game continued playing then even after most players gave up on it. But, by the late 1920s he switched mainly to 1.d4 as dictated by fashion of the day. 
     Spielmann's first tournament was the Berlin City Championship 1903/04 in which he tied for 2nd and 3rd with Bernstein. During his career, he did well, winning 33 of the roughly 120 in which he played, including Stockholm 1919; Bad Pistyan 1922; and Semmering 1926.
     In 1934, Spielmann fled Vienna due to rising pro-Nazi sympathies in the city and the moved to the Netherlands. In 1938, he went to Prague to be with his brother Leopold, but the German army occupied Czechoslovakia only a few months later.  His brother was arrested and died in a concentration camp a few years later. One of their sisters also perished in a camp, the other survived the war, but never recovered mentally from the ordeal of it and ended up committing suicide. 
     Spielmann managed to flee to Sweden and hoped to eventually reach England or the United States and attempted to raise money for the trip by playing exhibition matches, writing chess columns and a book which was not published for political reasons...some members of the Swedish Chess Federation were sympathetic to the Nazis and disliked Spielmann who was Jewish. 
     World War Two was in progress and because of Nazi sympathies in Sweden, Spielmann became withdrawn and depressed and one day in August, 1942 he locked himself in his apartment and didn't come out.  On August 20, concerned neighbors summoned police who entered his apartment and found him dead. He was 59 years old. The official cause of death was ischemic heart disease, a disease characterized by reduced blood supply to the heart.
     Rumor has it that he intentionally starved himself. Generally, humans can survive without any food for 30-40 days as long as they are properly hydrated and death can occur at around 45 to 61 days. However, the body can sustain itself no more than about two weeks (at most) without fluid intake. He was buried in Stockholm, his tombstone reading "A fugitive without rest, struck hard by fate.” 
     The following game was played in King's Gambit Accepted tournament in Abbazia, 1912. This theme tournament was organized by Georg Marco and of the 12 players, who met each other twice, at the time only Spielmann, Duras, Cohn and Leonhardt were regarded as masters at the time. This may be one of the reasons why no tournament book appeared, and many of the games are apparently lost forever. The tournament was a big success for Spielmann, but a tragedy for the King's Gambit. White scored only +40 -59 =21. 

1) Spielmann 15.0 
2) Duras 13.5 
3-4) Cohn and Reti 11.5 
5) Lowcki 11.0 
6-7) Flamberg and Freymann 10.5 
8) Szekely 9.0 
9) Leonhardt 8.0 
10-11) Nyholm and Rosselli 7.5 
12) Aurbach 5.5

     In The Art of Sacrifice in Chess, Spielmann presents this game as an example of a “vacating sacrifice” which is designed to clear a certain square for a certain piece. Going over the game with Stockfish shows that while Spielmann's sacrifice at move 16 is very good and sound, the play which results gets extremely complicated and his notes did not bring out all the hidden finesses. This game is a great example of Spielmann's brilliant play.