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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Book Collections by Zan Chess and Gunther Ossimitz

   I stumbled across an interesting site by accident while visiting chessgamesdotcom called Zan Chess
    For those that don't know, Chessgamesdotcom is a database of historical games. The most interesting feature for me is that they have brief introductions and games from 750 events dating from 1843 to 2003! You can also find games of players literally from A to Z. A lot of material comes from someone named Zanzibar and Zan Chess is his site.
     What is interesting about Zan Chess is that it contains links to quite a few chess books that can be found on Google. Tournament books include those from 1850 to 1930; many are in German. There are also books on matches ranging from London-Edinburgh in 1829 to the 1911 Tarrasch-Schlechter match.
     If you do not speak German, there was a question posted on Google groups back in 1999 where someone was wanting to know some common chess terms in German and Gunther Ossimitz listed a few German translations for English terms. Gunther Ossimitz (born in 1958) passed away on January 8, 2013 after a severe illness. Ossimitz had a site where he posted all the games without any annotations in pgn files from many famous chess books. I believe the site is only available via the Wayback Machine HERE.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

We Owe a Debt of Gratitude to Nathaniel Cooke

   Nathaniel Cooke was the designer of a set of the chess set which is now standard. Today you will often see the name “Cook” but that is incorrect because his name was misspelled as "Cook" on the 1849 patent. Prior to 1849, there was no such thing as a standard set. Instead there were innumerable varieties of sets with many being regional in design and appearance.
     In southern Europe in the early 11th century, the rules began to get standardized and as chess gained popularity in Europe, the pieces began to represent a royal court. Originally they had represented an army and so the pieces were counselors, infantry, cavalry, elephants, and chariots. As representatives of a royal court they came to be referred to by the names we know today.
the English Barleycorn set
  By the 1800s with chess clubs and tournaments starting to appear around the world, it became necessary to use a standardized set that would enable players from different cultures to compete without getting confused. However, it wasn't until 1849 that Howard Staunton met the challenge. Prior to 1849, there were a wide variety of popular styles in England.

     Staunton, a chess authority and organizer of tournaments and clubs in London was also considered to be one of the best players in the world, but the set that bears his name was designed by architect Nathan Cooke who based the design on Victorian London’s Neoclassical architecture. Except for the Knight; it's believed that the Knight was inspired by a sculpture on the east pediment of the Parthenon depicting horses drawing the chariot of Selene, the Moon Goddess.
The Jaques St. George set

     The simplicity of Cooke's design appealed to Staunton; that and the fact that the pieces were easily distinguishable. And so he allowed Cooke to use of his name in marketing the new pieces, which were first offered to the public in 1849 by John Jaques of London.  On the same day the new design became available in London an advertisement in the Illustrated London News that read:

A set of Chessmen, of a pattern combining elegance and solidity to a degree hitherto unknown, has recently appeared under the auspices of the celebrated player Mr. Staunton….The pieces generally are fashioned with convenience to the hand; and it is to be remarked, that while there is so great an accession to elegance of form, it is not attained at the expense of practical utility. Mr. Staunton’s pattern adopts but elevates the conventional form; and the base of the Pieces being of a large diameter, they are more steady than ordinary sets.

The Northern Upright set, was
also popular in England

     There is some confusion about the design because Nathaniel Cooke was John Jaques' brother-in-law and, also, editor of the News.   Some speculate that Cooke was not actually the designer but was an agent acting on behalf of Jaques, who was looking to increase his profits by creating a cheaper, more efficient design that appealed to a variety of players. It also helped that Jaques had Staunton's blessing.
     The design was a huge success. And because of its simplicity ion design it was relatively cheap and easy to produce. It took a while for it to become the absolute standard though; the Staunton set has been required by worldwide chess organizations only beginning in the 1920s.
     Cooke registered the design at the Patent Office on March 1, 1849 under the Ornamental Designs Act of 1842. As Cooke was the editor of The Illustrated London News for which Staunton wrote a chess column, he asked Staunton to advertise the set. The ad appeared in Staunton's column on September 8, 1849. That's why it became famous as the “Staunton” chess set.
     Recently a fellow named Daniel Weil modified the venerable Staunton design for the 2013 World Candidates Tournament in London. Weil said he looked at the origins in architecture and following the lead of Cook, he resized the set so that when the eight pieces are lined up at the beginning of play, their angle reflects the pitch of the Pantheon's pediment.
     He also slightly streamlined the pieces and the design is supposed to reflect the relative value of each piece...the more a piece is worth, the wider the base. The new Staunton pieces were also designed to accommodate different styles of play, such as the way the pieces are grasped. I wave been playing chess for a long time and was never aware that there was such a thing as a North and a South hold!
     The World Chess Set, was thus born and was the official chess set for the 2014 World Championship Match and the only set used by the players. You can read more about them at Chess House. Also, there is an interesting discussion on the design and manufacture of chess sets on Chessdotcom.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Need Readers' Help!

For the past several months I have been using Firefox (which is up-to-date) as my default internet browser. However, for the last couple of weeks the games in the posts do not show up; there's just an empty box where they should appear. Even then, on a few occasions the games do display properly. This is not a problem if I use Internet Explorer 11; the games show up OK. Does anyone else have this problem?

UPDATE -  Only one viewer has commented that this is a problem.  I have experimented with several different game viewers, but none of them are completely satisfactory.  Therefore, I will continue to use the KnightVision viewer.

A Modern Chigorin Defense

     This game features a more modern version of the QGD Chigorin Defense. It was played in the 5th Dziedzica Memorial (held in Trzcianka, Poland) which took place on April 19, 2015.  The time limit was Game 10 plus 5 seconds per move. 
     Among the 301 players from 11 countries were 27 GMs and 10 IMs.  The event was also valid for the Polish Rapid Chess Championship.  Etienne Bacrot edged out Pawel Jaracz on tie-break after both scored 8/9.  Jaracz was declared Polish Rapid Champion. 
     White is GM Radosław Wojtaszek, currently the highest rated player in Poland. He has been one of the seconds to Viswanathan Anand since 2008 and assisted Anand in matches against Vladimir Kramnik, Veselin Topalov, Boris Gelfand and Magnus Carlsen. Masternak is a Polish IM. 
     All of the databases I consulted give the result as a win for black, but at the end white has a clearly won position, so I am unsure if the database results are wrong or if white exceeded the time limit in a won position. One thing the game does show is that even if you succeed in playing the opening in a half-way decent manner you still have to follow it up well, which black failed to do on move 9. It also shows just how difficult it is to beat a 2700 rated GM even if you get a position that offers reasonably good play.

Monday, August 28, 2017

QGD Chigorin Defense

     The Chigorin Defense is a rarely played defense to the Queen's Gambit that begins with 1. d4 d5 2. c4 Nc6
     It violates several classical principles: black does not maintain the center pawn at d5, the c-Pawn is blocked, and often black must be willing to trade his c8B for white's N on f3. In addition, sometimes he is forced to sacrifice a P, but there are chances of regaining it later. In return Black gets quick development and piece pressure on the center. While it's generally considered “playable” it's only rarely seen. GM Alexander Morozevich is the only modern GM who regularly plays it. 
     Theoreticians will say that blocking the Pawn on c7 with the N is bad because the P on c7 should either go to c6 to support the d5-Pawn or attack the center by ...c5. Proponents claim that black's active piece play in the center counterbalances the disadvantages. In many older books, prejudices against Chigorin's Defense resulted in wrong evaluations. This idea of Chigorin's was later demonstrated in openings as the Nimzo-lndian and the Gruenfeld.
     Chigorin never liked QP openings because he hated any opening which lead to slow pressure on the opponent's position and a lengthy positional struggle.  He always aimed for play where there was a possibility of creating concrete plans and variations, not abstract reasoning. He suffered a number of painful defeats in his matches with Steinitz and Tarrasch, but they were better players. 
     Chigorin rebelled against what was known as the “Modern School” in his day, i.e. the teachings of Steinitz and Tarrasch, who attempted to establish laws that applied in every situation because they restricted creative thinking. Chigorin believed it was necessary to take into account the specific features of the position and to make a dynamic appraisal of each position's strategic and tactical possibilities. 
     The Chigorin Defense is a fighting opening in which black can count on equal play with adequate counterchances. The positions reached often result in unusual P-structures. Morozevich pointed out that the advantage was that his opponents wasted a lot of time because they didn't know where to place their pieces or what they should be aiming for. In the end, it was his belief that abstract evaluations don't matter when it comes to actually playing the game and no attempts to refute the Chigorin Defense have led anywhere. Besides Morozevich such players as Smyslov and Spassky have played it. And why not? In the Chigorin black's aim is to obtain active piece play, giving maximum scope to his pieces from the very start. 
     If you like attacking chess Chigorin's games are instructive and fun to play over. Jimmy Adams' Mikhail Chigorin: The Creative Genius is a great book at a reasonable price. 
     The following game is one of Chigorin's duels with Steinitz where he used his defense and managed to equalize without much trouble. True, he lost the game, but it was due to later mistakes, not the opening.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Wojtkiewicz Tribute

The editor of the Ohio Chess Bulletin, Michael Steve, has kindly sent me pdf files of articles that appeared in the August and December 2006 issues.  The August article is a write up on the Columbus (Ohio) Open in which Wojtkiewicz and Finegold shared first place and the announcement of his passing. The December article contains National Master Tom Britt's tribute to Wojtkiewicz. 

Download from Dropbox: 
August 2006 article 
December 2006 article

Friday, August 25, 2017

Modern Day Legends Battle It Out

  When Phiona Mutesi was in New York City in 2015 to promote The Queen of Katwe, a new book about her life, a reporter was told by one of the players present, “I mean, it’s an inspirational thing, but she’s not a real player. There’s a couple of young girls here that could beat her for sure.” 
     The fellow proceeded to tell the reporter, “I’m a living legend. I played with Bobby Fischer and Marcel Duchamp.” Asked if he had ever beaten Fischer his reply was, “Not often.” 
     When asked his name, the reply was, "Asa. A-S-A. I don’t need a last name. You can Google me. I’m famous." The man was Asa Hoffmann. 
     It's true; he beat Fischer. But, as Stuart Chagrin, the club president said, “If Asa played Bobby five hundred times, yeah, he probably won a couple.”  Another player referred to Hoffmann as “the person who is blessed to have played everyone in history.” 
     Hoffmann also advised the reporter that he was a master of seven different games: chess, Scrabble, bridge, poker and backgammon. That's only five, but no matter to Hoffman. He continued, “I’m waiting for chess boxing, senior middle weight division. Siss! Pow! Bam!” (he karate chopped the air) “I’m a trained killer from Vietnam. Well, they trained me to go there, but they didn’t send me, so that’s why I’m still here and in such top shape. Chess is great, but there’s no money in it. If I was in golf or tennis, I’d be rich.” 
     Asa Hoffmann (born February 25, 1943 in New York City) is a FIDE Master, chess teacher and author. Known as the sparring partner of champions, his peak USCF rating was 2471, his peak quick rating 2515 and his peak blitz rating 2414. When it comes to blitz, Yasser Seirawan described Hoffmann as "a near legendary figure in the New York City chess world." Hoffmann was portrayed in the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer by actor Austin Pendleton. 
     When interviewed at the 1987 New York Open Hoffmann told a reporter, ''I could've been a contender. I could've been a Grandmaster.'' Instead, he became a chess hustler. Hoffmann, a former New York City junior champion and vice president of the Manhattan Chess Club, described himself as a professional gambler, but a small-timer. ''I want to be a high roller,'' he said. ''I want to own a horse instead of betting on one.'' 
     Hoffmann is a gamesman from a family of lawyers. ''My parents didn't want me to be a chess player,'' he said. The son of two attorneys, he grew up on Park Avenue and attended Columbia University. His parents had hopes he would become an attorney, but Hoffmann had other plans and after a year at Columbia dropped out to play chess full-time. He was able to make a modest living playing blitz for money in the clubs and parks and was good friends with future World Champion Bobby Fischer. They played countless blitz games together, but Hoffmann concedes that only rarely was able to win. 
     In 1987 he married long-time girlfriend, chess photographer and actress Eva Veronika Klein and they were married until her death in 2007. In 2014 Hoffmann married a girlfriend from 37 years earlier, Virginia D'Amico. Their wedding reception was held at the Marshall Chess Club. 
     Hoffmann's opponent in this game was Aleksander Wojtkiewicz (January 15, 1963 – July 14, 2006), a GM who was born in Latvia. In his early teens he was already a strong player; a student of ex-world champion Mikhail Tahl whom he assisted in the 1979 Interzonal in Riga. He won the Latvian Chess Championship in 1981. 
     Wojtkiewicz's promising chess career was interrupted when he refused to join the Soviet Army. In 1982, at the age of 19, he was called up for the draft. At the time, the Soviet Union was fighting a war in Afghanistan and he did not want any part of it, neither philosophically or practically. He went underground, making a living by hustling cards and chess on the streets of St. Petersburg and resort cities in the South of Russia and working as a pimp while sleeping on the floor friends’ apartments. After four years, in 1986, that lifestyle had left him worn out so he turned himself in and was sentenced to two years as a draft dodger. His time in a Latvian jail as the prison photographer taking pictures of violent crime scenes had a profound psychological effect on him. 
     After serving a year he received amnesty as a result of the meeting of Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev. When released, he moved from Riga to Warsaw where he won two Polish Championships and represented Poland in the Chess Olympiads in 1990 and 1992. 
     At first he was in good favor with Polish chess officials, but their relationship quickly soured. Having become a leading Polish player, the Polish federation gave him an apartment and a car and wanted to give him a house. However, Wojtkiewicz showed up drunk at the meeting with the mayor of Warsaw and head of chess federation and told both that he wanted no favors from former communists like them. This, naturally, cost him the support of the Polish chess federation. 
     In 1998 he had a son, Josef, with the Lithuanian player Laima Domarkaite. He did manage to obtain sponsorship from the Polish airline LOT which allowed him to fly for free anywhere in the world. He took advantage of their sponsorship to play in international tournaments world-wide. A frequent visitor to the US, he eventually settled here in 2002 and briefly attended the University of Maryland at Baltimore in order to take advantage of their chess scholarship to play on the university team. After settling in the US he became one of the most active players on the tournament circuit and won the annual $10,000 first prize for Grand Prix tournaments several times. Wojtkiewicz played in the World Championship cycle 2004 and tied for first at the 2006 World Open in Philadelphia and won the 2006 National Open in Las Vegas. 
     He died on the evening of July 14, 2006 at the age of 43. His close friend and attorney wrote that people were asking her about his death and she claimed to have spoken with his physician and the medical examiner.  She stated that he did not die of liver failure or alcoholism. He died of a perforated intestine and massive bleeding. She also stated that if he had been helped sooner, he would have lived, but he had lost so much blood by the time the ambulance arrived that it was too late. 
     IM Mark Ginsburg disputed that. Changes in his appearance were noticeable and Ginsburg's claim was that Wojtkiewicz did, indeed, die of liver failure as a consequence of heavy drinking. Ginsburg stated that a few months previously at the World Open, Wojtkiewicz had a condition called ascites and bleeding associated with a liver that was no longer functioning. 
     At the World Open, Wojtkiewicz mentioned to Ginsburg and GM Nick DeFirmian that he had quit drinking, believing that his liver would recover. But, with his liver not functioning, the back up of blood resulted in a perforated instestine as well as end-stage liver disease were all the result of alcohol abuse. 
     The following game between these two modern day legends is typical of their uncompromising play.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Mrs. Heinrich Wolf

     Monday was a bad day. There was the disappointment of the partial solar eclipse (80 percent). Honestly, had I not known it was happening, I would not have noticed anything out of the ordinary because it's gotten darker on even a slightly cloudy day. Before the eclipse, there was a trip to the dentist. One tooth that was almost all filling had been causing problems; any kind of pressure caused it to throb for days. The dentist told me it was because the filling was so close to the nerve and it needed to be pulled; the same thing another dentist told me a year ago. 

     So, Monday morning found me in a dentist chair with an assistant putting me in a head lock while the oral surgeon was tugging and twisting. After a minute or so I heard the loudest crack I've ever heard when the tooth split. After it was finally out they told me it would bleed for a couple of hours which turned out to be wrong...at 2:00am Tuesday morning I was still spitting blood. Not to mention my mouth was quite sore, plus soft food like Jell-O is not my idea of a meal. After things got a little better, I spent some time browsing the Internet and visited the World Chess Hall of Fame.
     For some unknown reason, Paula Kalmar-Wolf (along with Korchnoi and Alla Kushnir) was recently inducted into the World Chess Hall of Fame, but how many ever heard of her?
     Paula Wolf-Kalmar (April 11, 1880 - September 29, 1931) was an Austrian female master, born in what is now Zagreb. 
     She took 5th at Meran 1924 , the unofficial European women’s championship. The final standings were: 

1-2) Helene Cotton and Edith Holloway (England) 5.5 
3) Stevenson (England) 5.0 
4) Michell (England) 3.5 
5) Kalmar (Austria) 3.0 
6-7) Gulich (Czechoslovakia) and Pohlner (Austria) 2.5 
8) König (Germany) 0.5

     Of Helene Cotton almost nothing is known except that the March 1929 issue of the British Chess Magazine reported that she had died at the age of 92 and she had been an occasional competitor in the British Ladies Championship. Mrs. Stevenson was killed when she walked into an airplane propeller.
     Kalmar-Wolf was a three-time Women's World Championship Challenger. She finished 3rd behind Vera Menchik and Katarina Beskow at London 1927, finished 2nd behind Menchik at both Hamburg 1930 and Prague 1931. At Hamburg she was leading for much of the tournament before diabetes, of which she died the following year, resulted in a poor finish.
     For almost ten years she won almost all women's tournaments in Austria. Many top players in Vienna gave the female players little credit, but after a few of them were defeated by the ladies they were forced to admit they were worthy adversaries. Unfortunately, few of her games have survived and little is known of any the Viennese women's tournaments. 
     Almost nothing is known about her first 30 years except that she was born Paula Klein in Zagreb, then known as Agram (today Zagreb). No one in her family played chess. At some point after she moved to Vienna she became Paula Kalmar, but nothing is known of her husband. They did have one child. In 1923 an article in Neue Wiener Schach-Zeitung stated that she had a hard life growing up and was on her own in her early youth. She told the magazine that in spite of marriage, business and caring for her mother, she was able to earn her own living making and selling women's hats. 
     She didn't learn to play chess until her early thirties, but soon became one of the strongest female players in the 1920s and early 1930s, first in Vienna, then Austria, and finally internationally. Richard Reti was one of her early coaches and later, her second husband, Heinrich Wolf.
     Her first teacher was a judge named Johann Schopfleuthner, but she mostly taught herself from a book by Jean Dufresne and soon joined the Viennese chess club, one of the largest and most popular chess clubs in Vienna. In 1913 it had over 100 members. The club offered free lessons, club tournaments and correspondence play. Many prominent members were leading players of the day, officials and intellectuals, such as Savielly Tartakower and his brother Arthur, Richard Reti, Heinrich Wolf, Hermann Weiss and David Przepiorka and even Aaron Nimzovich. You can find some scant information on Arthur Tartakower at Edward Winter's site, Post 8198.
     Kalmar made rapid progress and visited the club only once a week, but told Neue Wiener Schach-Zeitung that “was not enough for my appetite." Starting in 1915 she began to play daily and took lessons with Reti and after the First World War, Heinrich Wolf, who also became her second husband in 1925. Kalmar said, “... he was the one who opened up to me the true spirit of the game, which is an inexhaustible source of joy and pleasure." Her marriage to Wolf lasted only a few years. It was Rudolf Spielmann who encouraged her to play internationally, but she was always overshadowed by Vera Menchik. 
     Paula Kalmar-Wolf died of diabetes in Vienna on September 29, 1931 at the age of 51. 
     The following game was played against Miss Daunke of Breslau, Germany (today Wrocław, Poland) in one of the Austrian Women's tournaments. According to one poster in Chessgamesdotcom this tournament was held during the week between Christmas and New Year in the Vienna Chess Club and six Austrian and two German players participated. Kalmar-Wolf finished an undefeated first yielding only two draws. 
     This game is very impressive; especially clever was the was Kalmar-Wolf kept up the pressure after her opponent's slight slip at move 24 and then polished her off by trapping her Q and finally underpromoting. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Murder of Russia's Button Czar

     Sergey Nikolaevich Nikolaev (September 27, 1961 – October 20, 2007, 46 years old) was an IM and coach. He abandoned his chess career in the late 1980s to became a successful businessman though he did maintain his interest in chess and continued to attend chess events in Moscow. 
     He was originally from the Sakha Republic (aka Yakutia Republic, it is a republic in far northeastern Russia, in northeastern Siberia). The Sakha Republic is huge with a population of about about a million with a climate and terrain that can only be described as “harsh.” It has the lowest lifespan in Russia and unemployment and alcoholism are common. As a point of interest, Yakutsk has the lowest winter temperatures for any city with temperatures reaching as low aa 30 degrees below zero (F) and a record low of almost 84 below! It is the biggest city built on continuous permafrost and most houses there are built on concrete piles. 
     In the Soviet Era (1917 to 1991) discrimination against the native population was common. There were restaurants in the capital of Yakutsk that didn't allow native Yakuts in. In Yakutsk anyone speaking the native language was often looked down on and told to speak a civilized language which Nikolaev did. In fact, he did not speak Yakut; at home they always spoke only Russian. 
     Even though he was the youngest of five brothers, from childhood he managed the family budget and learned the value of money as he calculated everything down to the last kopeck. Speaking of chess players when he got older, he said some of them stay babies until they retire, but he was already an old man by the age of seven. 
     His father and brothers all played chess. When the chess magazine “64” arrived there was always a fight over it and as the youngest, Nikolaev always was the last to see it. He studied in a group and at 12 he reached the first category. By the time he graduated and went to study in Leningrad he was a Candidate Master. He played in a lot of tournaments, but wasn't a fanatic because, as he said, he got very tired from working so hard at it. 
     After graduating from the commerce institute he returned home and became deputy head of a department in the republic's Ministry of Trade. He continued playing and soon obtained the Master title and in 1984 won the national Spartak championship, a strong master tournament. He was champion of the republic three times. The republic's team, for which he always played top board, placed highly in Russian events.  
     When Perestroika began emerging and opportunities to travel outside the country appeared, Nikolaev was one of the first people to start playing in foreign opens. In Harkany, Hungary, he won a tournament and became an IM. His play was erratic...he could beat GM, but still finish with a minus score. His style was tricky and tactical and earned him the nickname “Cunning Nikolasha.” 
     Chess wasn't his only interest and he often told his colleagues things that to them seemed strange and far-fetched. He would tell masters from some remote Russian town that soon everything would disappear from the shops and they should buy potatoes and flour. He would also remind them that they should not worry about ratings, but rather the future of their children because things were going to change for the worse. Life wasn't going to just get more expensive, it was going to get MUCH more expensive. It was his belief that only those who played at the very highest level could live off chess.  He often spoke about what seemed like odd stuff like getting an apartment, how to get a permit to live in Moscow, how to meet influential people. Everybody thought he was talking nonsense. 
     When he got the opportunity, he organized a tournament in Podolsk, near Moscow. That was in late 1990 and the Soviet Union was entering the last months of its existence and everything was in short supply, but at Nikolaev's tournament there was tea and coffee and pastries for all. Even toilet paper was supplied! He tried to combine playing with directing duties, but it was a bad idea and his results were poor, but the tournament was a success and he decided to continue organizing. 
     As a result, he developed a chess program in the republic that attracted Masters and GMs. He also wanted to put chess on television. It didn't work out and he realized that if he stayed in chess, he'd always be dependent on sponsors, high-ranking officials and circumstances beyond his control. He also realized that having passed 30, he couldn't make it as a professional player and the smartest thing to do was leave the game. He did read chess magazines but completely gave up playing chess and didn't even own a chess set. 
     He did not care much for the attitude many professionals took towards chess. He used to ask young players, "Have you thought about the future? Look at the veterans playing in tournaments, they're like lamp-posts in the street, every passing dog tries to lift its leg on them! And don't complain later that you've wasted your time, that I didn't warn you or you didn't know." 
     Nikolaev got a loan and established a button business. His belief was, "As long as the world turns a woman will always wear clothes, and buttons will always be needed." Back on the streets of Moscow he hired girls, supplied them with sacks of buttons and told them to sell them one by one. It may seem odd, but in those days he wasn't the only on in the button business; there others doing the same thing. 
     He realized there were bigger profits to made in other businesses, but it could be risky; one could go broke and, in those days, even get killed. So, he stuck with buttons and expanded his business to include thread and sewing accessories. He was very successful, eventually becoming the leading Russian supplier. By that time he employed mostly chess players.
     He ran the company with an iron fist, but employees respectfully called him Papa and because of his business acumen employees often referred to him as “the Genius.” If he gave someone a job, it was for a lifetime. In return he expected absolute loyalty. 
     Not a 9-5 type of guy, Nikolaev ridiculed schemes, business plans and timetables for development and wasn't a big fan of paperwork. Employees would spend however much they considered necessary on a job then give a personal report of their expenses and that was it. 
     Despite his personal low-key demeanor, underneath he had an iron will and when talking to him one couldn't read anything on his poker face.   On the other hand, he could read people and often a 15 minute chat would tell him all he needed to know about a person. It was a skill he tried to teach his employees. 
     Nikolaev liked to read books about wealthy people in an effort to learn about how they managed their lives, their money and everything else. That lead him to make the comment, "There are only three things you can earn honestly - calluses, hernias and debts. I'd also like to know, where did the firewood come from? It's a small detail, of course, but they keep it quiet. Where did it come from?"  Along with great self-confidence he also had the gift of persuasion because he believed he could always justify his point of view. 
     A rather odd person, he lived well. Fresh fruits, vegetables, juice, an occasional glass of the best red wine and Evian water were always available. He never drank tap water and washed his dishes in a special solution because he didn't trust commercial dish washing liquid...it left traces on the dishes. Initially he refused to use computers because they gave off radiation, but he eventually learned to use them, but only to surf the web, get the news and keep up with chess. He also disliked animals and tried to avoid them because he believed they carried diseases. Germs lurked everywhere so he wore gloves and was obsessed with health, medicine and nutrition. 
     All his friends were chess players and when they came to Moscow he always invited them to a restaurant. While there he would ask questions. Things like where exactly did the items on the menu come from, were the mushrooms really wild as stated on the menu?   Questions like that.
     He never married because he was skeptical of women and never allowed anyone to get too close because it placed restrictions and obligations on him that he didn't want. Besides, it was his belief that he wouldn't live long. He was right. 
     In 2007, Nikolaev was brutally murdered in the streets of Moscow. He was attacked after a soccer match by a gang of neo-Nazi youths near his home because of his Eurasian appearance. They used a baseball bat and a knife. 
     After the soccer match the gang marched around the southern part of the city, attacking anybody they saw who did not look like an ethnic Russian.  Despite numerous witnesses, nobody tried to aid Nikolaev nor did anybody alert the police for 30 minutes after the attack as he lay dead in the street. The gang of young people, aged 14-16, had disappeared by the time the police arrived. 
     Nikolaev was not the only victim. His friend Galijan Gulyashov was badly beaten, but survived and was admitted to the hospital in serious condition. 
     You can survey his games HERE.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Reshevsky's Last Run

     Back in 1981 Samuel Reshevsky was a few months shy of his 70th birthday when he sat down in Jacksonville, Florida to play two other GMs that were at least half his age. The event was the playoff to determine the third American contender for the 1984 world championship. 
     By 1981 Seirawan had won two strong international tournaments and the world junior and had earned a reputation for long, but tactically dynamic, games. In 1981 at the US Championship in South Bend, Indiana he never looked like a leader until the final week when he suddenly appeared certain to finish first or second. 
     It was Reshevsky and Kavalek who took the lead during the early rounds and they kept it into the second week of play. But then Walter Browne began playing like he did in his early days in the championship. In one game he knocked off Leonid Shamkovich in 107 moves and then Lev Alburt. In his game against Alburt, Browne sealed his move and left, leaving his Hershey bar on the table. The TD sealed Browne's candy bar in another envelope and when play resumed Browne quickly polished off both the Hershey bar and Alburt. 
     In the final round Kavalek and Christiansen drew while Reshevsky defeated Boris Kogan and as a result there was a three-way tie for third place behind Seirawan and Browne. Christiansen had the advantage in the playoff for the third spot because he had defeated Reshevsky in the 14th round which gave him the better tie-break score in the double-round playoff. If all six games were drawn, or if Kavalek and Christiansen were tied, the tiebreaks favored Christiansen. 
    It had been almost 50 years since a player had been near the top at such an advanced age. From his modest home on a shady street in Spring Valley, New York, Reshevsky told an interviewer, ''I'm thinking of getting younger. I'm a happy man because I'm a religious man and I've been that way since childhood. I don't think you can be happy without religion.''
     Spring Valley had been home to three of National Football League players, actress Julianna Marguiles, actor Gerald O'Loughlin, a sports cartoonist, a college basketball coach and a few rappers and musicians, but Reshevsky was probably the most famous resident. However, few recognized him on his walks along the shady suburban streets. As a retiree, Reshevsky spent most of his time quietly at home, giving chess lessons at $35 an hour and conducting correspondence games for a fee, or making an occasional trip for a simultaneous exhibition or tournament. It was said of Reshevsky that he never studied chess, but don't believe it! His basement study, which he called ''my chess factory'', was lined with chess books and sets. 
     Until Bobby Fischer's arrival in 1957 at the age of 14, Reshevsky was the top player in the United States for more than 20 years and he captured eight US championships, the last one in 1971 when Fischer didn't play. And, it was during the 1970s that the words ''twilight of his career'' started being used to describe him. In the playoff, Christiansen, the highest-rated active player, was favored, but Reshevsky said: ''I think my chances are as good as anyone's. It's never too late. It's up to the Almighty.'' Some other Reshevsky comments were: 
     On beating Lasker at Nottingham in 1936: ''It was exciting, of course, because he had been world champion for 27 years. But I didn't make anything special of it. When you're young, you don't even think about getting old.'' 
     Playing Fischer: ''I have played all the best players of this century, and they were all powerful, but I would have to put him No. 1.'' “If he came back, it would contribute a lot to the game.'' 
     Reshevsky insisted that time had not dimmed his memory; he could still play the 56 moves of his defeat of Capablanca in the Margate tournament of 1935, a game that made him a GM. He said, ''Some games don't make an impression on you, but in that game I remember everything. Every move.'' 

1-2) Browne and Seirawan 9-5 
3-5) Christiansen, Kavalek and Reshevsky 8.5-5.5 
6) Shamkovich 7.5-6.5 
7-8) Robert Byrne and Peters 7-7 
9) Lein 6.5-7.5 
10-12) Alburt, Kogan and Tarjan 6-8 
13) Benjamin 5.5-8.5 
14-15) Fedorowicz and Kudrin 5-9 

     Larry Evans was also entered, but after losing to Byrne and Alburt he withdrew and the games did not count. This was to be the last championship for both five-time winner Evans and eight-time winner Reshevsky. 
     In the playoff Reshevsky had only one good chance when he adjourned a highly favorable R and N ending against Kavalek on the fifth day of play but couldn't score the point. The game lasted 90 moves and Reshevsky gave it every ounce of energy he had before agreeing to the draw. With all the playoff games drawn Christiansen won the final spot in the Interzonal. 
     In this game from the championship Reshevsky's opponent was Sergey Kudrin (born September 7, 1959), formerly of the Soviet Union. Kudrin was awarded the GM title in 1984. Kudrin won the United States Open Championship in 1984 and 2007. The game is pretty boring until Kudrins' speculative 18th move after which the tactical possibilities grew thick as hair on a dog's back. Reshevsky's tenacious defense and technique in scoring the win are impressive.