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Friday, September 29, 2017

Queen Alice and Chess Hotel Updates

     Three years ago I posted that Queen Alice was the site I played on when I wanted to play CC without an engine, but had not played there for over a year. I quit playing there about a year before the post because the server went down and I had a couple of tournaments that got wiped out. The site owner appears to have abandoned the site as his last post, as near as I could tell when I visited it the other day, was about 10 years ago! Nevertheless, after several attempts I remembered my old password and logged in just to see what was going on. The forums don't seem to be anywhere nearly as active as they were when I played on the site. The day I dropped by 21 members had been active on the site within the last 5 minutes. By comparison, when I logged in at Lechenicher Schach Server, 28 players had been active in the last 10 minutes. Queen Alice had a total of 968 member visits within the last week, so it appears that the site is still running well enough. I am not sure of the total number of players, but 75 of them are rated over 2400. Of course, that has nothing to do with real ratings and the top player's score is +773 -13 =33. At the time I played engine users were not too prevalent, but that has probably changed. In any case, it still looks like it might be a decent place to play if you are looking for a correspondence game on a good free site.
     About six years ago I posted about Chess Hotel, a quick and easy place to sign in and play in real time. As I mentioned on the post, I played 5 or 6 games there which were against very weak opponents. At Chess Hotel you can play regular chess in real time at a various time limits. Fischer Random (chess960) is also available. If you want to register you will receive a free account that keeps you games and statistics. 
     The other day I visited it for the first time since making that post six years ago and played a several 5 minute plus 3 seconds per move games and did not have to wait for more that 30 seconds for the game to be accepted. As a guest you're assigned a 1200 rating and most of your opponents, also guests, will be in that range. The ratings are meaningless and I played a couple of very bad players, but was pleasantly surprised to play several who were quite challenging.
     Both sites appear to be in good working order and if you are looking for free site then either Queen Alice for correspondence or Chess Hotel for real time both seem decent choices. The following 5-minute plus 3 seconds per move played on Chess Hotel turned out to be quite interesting.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

1921 Ohio Championship

Downtown Cleveland in 1921
    Twenty players gathered at the City Club of Cleveland from February 22-28, 1921. On October 27, 1912, The City Club of Cleveland was formed and incorporated by five men: H. Melvin Roberts, Walter L. Flory, Edward M. Baker, John A. Alburn, and Mayo Fesler. In May 1913, the City Club established its first home above Weber's restaurant, just off Public Square on the south side of Superior Avenue and City Hall, before moving into the City Club Building in 1983. Since 1912, the Club has served as one of the country's oldest, non-partisan, and continuously operating free speech forum and has hosted speakers such as Babe Ruth, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Shirley MacLaine, Eliot Ness, Rosa Parks, Robert F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, among thousands of others.

     The competitors in the knockout affair were I. Spero, E.E. Stearns, E.W. Christian, W.J. Huske, W.R. Mott, W.S. Kupfer, J.J. Hoornstra, L.W. Emery, E.N. Moore, E. Seaver, F.W. Ballard, W.L. Hughes, M.A. Goldsmith, J.B. Clough, G. King, A.D. Hillyar, D.L. Ordway and G.W. Hanna.
     In the semi-fianls Sterns defeated Huske 2-0 and Spero defeated Christian 2-1. The final match for the championship between Spero, the reigning Cleveland city champion, and Strearns was close. Their first game was a 78 move draw. Spero won the second in 74 moves while Stearns took the third game in 73 moves. The following game was the final game in the match for the state championship.
     Dr. Elliott E. Stearns, a Yale graduate, was born October 7, 1891 and died at the age of 77 on June 23, 1969. For many years Stearns was a prominent players from Cleveland. Stearns lost to Capablanca in a Cleveland exhibition in February 1922, but later that year had won a game against him in another. On a later occasion he lost another game to Capa.
     Irving Spero was born in Poland June 15, 1892, but I was unable to determine when he arrived in the US. At some point he moved to California because his name turns up in accounts of events at the Mechanics' Institute Chess Club in San Francisco as early as 1930. He was strong enough that in 1934 he gave a 10-board simultaneous exhibition at the Hollywood Chess Club and scored 9 wins and 1 loss. He died at the age of 63 on August 17, 1955.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

History of the ICCF

Dr. Hornstein and his wife in 1959
     The International Correspondence Chess Federation was founded in 1951. Before that, in Berlin in 1928, several European countries formed the International Fernschachbund. Between 1928 and 1939 their championship tournaments featured not only the best postal player but OTB players like Paul Keres, Erich Eliskases and Dr. Milan Vidmar.
     In 1935 the IFSB began holding postal Olympiads, or team championships. In 1937 Alekhine, well known for postal play in his youth, suggested a a world correspondence championship be held starting in 1940, but World War II came along. With almost no postal play taking place during the war, it wasn't until December, 1945 that the IFSB was resurrected, but in the form of the International Correspondence Chess Association. During the remainder of the 1940s the ICCA offered tournaments organized into several classes as well as endgame tournaments in which games started from specific positions.
     The first ICCA magazine, ICCA Resume, advertised a world championship tournament beginning in June of 1947. Before that could happen volunteers disappeared due to what the British referred to as “internal strains.” The magazine, now renamed Chess Mail, ceased publication and for several months things ground to a halt. Since the British had been handling most of the ICCA's administration several British players got together and drafted a new Constitution and in the spring of 1951 there was a meeting in London and the new organization was named the Internatioal Correspondence Chess Federation and Chess Mail was the magazine.
     German was selected as the official language and the German postal club BdF began running the European tournaments. The German magazine Fernschach had ceased publication in 1939, but it was restarted in 1951 and in 1956 it became the official ICCF publication.
     In this game the players were K. Kausek, a member of the Czechoslovak teams that were very successful in the CC Olympiads. They finished second in the First Olympiad (1949-1952) and were winners in the Second Olympiad (1952-1955). The players were Paroulek, Hukel, Kausek, Borsony, Olexa, and Skrovina, with Karel Prucha as Team Captain.
     Norman Hornstein (November 27, 1914, New York City - July 26, 1989, Southport, North Carolina) was a medical doctor from Southport, North Carolina and the 1960 North Carolina State Champion. In 1967, his home was destroyed in a fire. Lost in the blaze was an estimated $70,000 worth of art treasures, including the entire collection of paintings by Hornstein's wife, Gilliam, and 20 watercolors and drawings by famous artist and sculptur Sir Jacob Epstein. Hornstein was admitted to the hospital with burns and other injuries, but the rest of the family escaped unharmed; he made a full recovery.
     Dr. Hornstein was known for his kindness towards his patients and he never turned anyone away just because they could not afford to pay, though sometimes he would receive items for his services. One such item was a skunk.
     His wife, herself a gifted artist, was actively involved in the arts and was one of the founders of the Art Festival in Southport. Some of her artwork was on display in the traveling North Carolina Artists Exhibition. In 1958 she was the women's champion of North and South Carolina.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

George N. Cheney – Killed in Battle

    Cheney was born in Syracuse, New York on Sunday, April 2, 1837. As a child his school teachers found that he possessed an unusual talent for mathematics. At the age of 13 he he quickly mastered elementary algebra and at the age of 18 he entered an academy connected with New York Central College where there were two algebra classes; one for beginners and one for advanced studies and he joined both. In the advanced class his ability was exceeded by only one student and the president of the academy dubbed Cneney a natural mathematician.
     Cheney and one of his older brothers learned to play chess in 1854 from a book titled Chamber's Information for the People. His eldest brother and a sister also learned how to play, but of the four of them George was the best. While at college he defeated a faculty member who was considered very strong...it was said that Morphy could not have given him Queen odds. In the latter part of 1855 Cheney discoved the chess columns in a couple of newspapers and was inspired to try his hand at composing problems which he began publishing under various nommes de plume.
     In 1856, through his sister Nellie, he became acquainted with Daniel W. Fiske while Fiske was on a visit to his family in Syracuse. At the time Fiske wasn't all that strong, but he was by far the strongest player Cheney had ever encountered and Cheney lost about 18 out of the 20 games they played. But it was through Fiske that Cheney made the acquaintance for several other players and began to delve into problem solving with more earnest. 
     Solving problems helped his progress and when Fiske returned the following year Cheney had improved considerably. It was this visit that resulted in the organization of the chess club in Syracuse. The club members were mostly wealthy, but had little interst in the game because when Fiske returned tp New York the club was mostly deserted. It wasn't until Fiske returned a year later in 1858 and he persuaded the owner of the Syracuse Standard to put a chess column in the paper. The local chess club supplied the type for the column and Cheney was in charge of it for a while until he no longer had the time and W.O. Fiske took over. Fiske held that position until the summer of 1859 when Cheney again took over the chess column, but it lasted only a few more weeks.
     In August of 1858 Syracuse received another visit from Fiske and by this time Cheney succeeded in winning the majority of their games. In 1859 Cheney was in ill health, but made a short visit to New York City and played some 20 games against the city's best player, Theodore Lichtenhein, against whom he was evenly matched, even winning most of their later games. Later, when he was in better health, Cheney played Morphy at Knight odds, winning one and losing one. In the meantime he had also won three prizes in problem solving tourneys.
     When the Civil War broke out in 1861 and President Lincoln called for volunteers Cheney enlisted in the Oonodaga volunteers. Cheney was one of a very small number selected from his regiment to do skirmishing duty at the Battle of Bull Run. He was last seen considerably in advance of his party of skirmishers in a fight in which it was every man for himself. One of Cheney's companions observed him loading his rifle out in the open and called out to him to get behind a tree to which Cheney replied, “Well!” He was soon obscured by the smoke and it was later discovered that he had been killed in battle. The day was July 21, 1861; Cheney was 24 years old.
     It was said that Cheney possessed a “true spirit of chess” to a greater degree than any player except Morphy. He labored under the disadvantage of having had few opportunities play strong opposition, but those that knew him believed he had a natural genius for chess and regarded him as a player with a future. His untimely death was considered a great loss to the chess world.
     Cheney is primarily remembered for his problems, of which he left about 125 to 150. any of them were remarkably original and beautiful and all of them possessed a lot of subtlety that left most solvers puzzled.
     One of Cheney's favorite ideas is shown in this two-mover: White interferes his own pieces in order to prevent stalemate. From this idea derives the Cheney-Loyd theme: piece A makes a critical move and the piece B of different color goes to the critical square and interferes.
White to mate in two
Highlight for solution: 1.Qg3! 1...Bxe7 2.Qxc7# 1...Rb5 2.Rxb5# 1...dxc3/d3 2.Qe3# 1...Rxc3 2.Rxa5#

Monday, September 25, 2017

Olomouc 1944

Florian at Brno in 1947
   In 1944 preparations were being made to bring and end to World War Two. The German Army high command had long been expecting an Allied invasion of northern France but had no means of knowing where precisely the invasion would come. Rundstedt, commander in chief in the west, thought that the landings would be made between Calais and Dieppe (at the narrowest width of the Channel between England and France), Hitler thought the central and more westerly stretches of the coast of Normandy would be the site and Rommel, who was in charge of the forces on France’s Channel coast, finally came around to Hitler’s opinion and so fortifications of those stretches were consequently improved.  It turned out Hitler was right, but the Allies eventually prevailed anyway.

     There was a lot happening in the chess world, too. Most famously, on June 27, 1944 Vera Manchik-Stevenson, who was widowed the previous year and still held the women's world championship title, her younger sister and their mother were killed in a V-1 rocket bombing raid which destroyed their home at 47 Gauden Road in the Clapham area of South London.
     The US Championship was held at the Park Central Hotel in New York City from April 17 to May 7. Reshevsky was preparing for his CPA exams which, by the way, he said were harder than any chess game he ever played and so turned down his invitation. Kashdan decided not to play at the last minute on the advice of his doctor. That left Fine as the favorite, but fate declared otherwise. Arnold Denker played the tournament of his life, defeated Fine and became the US Champion for the only time.
     In Moscow, the 13th USSR Chess Championship was won by Botvinnik followed by Smyslov, Boleslavsky and Flohr. The Moscow City Championship was by Smyslov ahead of a gaggle of strong GMs.
     Herman Pilnik and Miguel Najdorf shared first in Mar del Plata. Buenos Aires was won by Moshe Czerniak and Rio de Janeiro by Erich Eliskases.  Other notable events were: Krakow (Rudolf Teschner), Posen (Hans Mueller), Brunn (Karel Opocensky), the Baltic Chess Championship in Riga (Paul Keres) and Gijon (Alekhine).
     Unnoticed was a tournament held in Olomouc, the historical capital of Moravia in the east of the Czech Republic. During the Second World War most of the city's ethnic Germans sided with the Nazis and the German dominated city council renamed the main square after Hitler.
     Olomouc was the home town of the founder of the Studeten German Party Konrad Henlein who secretly negotiated with Hitler and became his puppet. The city became the center of Pan-German movements and later of the Nazis. The War brought a rise in anti-semitism and attacks on the Jewish population. During 1942-1943 the ethnic Germans sent all the remaing Jews to concentration camps in occupied Poland. After Olomouc was liberated, Czech residents restored the original name to the town square and when the retreating Germans passed through town they shot at its 15th century astronomical clock, leaving but a few pieces.
     The winner of the tournament was Jaromir Florian (August 13, 1911 – September 9, 1984). Florian, from Brno, was one of the most famous and most charismatic players in Czechoslovakia even though he never possessed an international title. Originally from Bilovec, Czechoslovakia, in 1919 his family moved from the German border to Brno where in 1935 he graduated from his law studies. His first success in chess was winning the championship of the Central Unity of Czech Chess in Brno in 1944. After the war, Florian was a member of the Czechoslovak team that played matches against England, the Netherlands and France. In 1948 he played in the final of the Czechoslovak Championship for the first time and then played five more times, the last being in 1965.
     Beginning in 1948 Florian was a judge of the state court in Brno and in March 1949, he investigated atrocities committed during the war. His enemies devised a case in which he was alleged to have taken bribes. As a result, he went on trial and was found guilty and was sentenced to a four-year imprisonment (1950-1954) where he worked in a quarry. After serving his sentence he owned a chess shop in Brno.
     The runner up at the 1944 Olomouc tournament was Frantisek Zita (November 29, 1909 – October 1, 1977) who was born in Prague, then Austria-Hungary. He was Czech (Bohemia and Moravia) champion in 1943 and awarded the IM title in 1950. Zita passed away in Prague, then Czechoslovakia, in 1977.

Final standings:
1) Jaromir Florian 7.5
2) Frantisek Zita 7.0
3) Augustin Tikovsky 6.5
4) Karel Hromadka 5.0
5) Jiri Hlavacek 4.5
-8) Oldrich Malcanek, Vlastimi Stulik and V. Mohapl 3.5
9-10) V. Hanak and Rudolf Mikulka 2.0

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Phil Montgomery...a Tragedy

     Hardman Philips Montgomery (September 25, 1834 – January 22, 1870) was the youngest son of the former Postmaster of Philadelphia, John C. Montgomery. His talent for chess and mathematics became apparent after he entered the University of Pennsylvania in 1851, skipping the freshman year and entering as a sophomore.
     Montgomery played for the Philadelphia team against New York (1855-1856) and won two postal games. His only major tournament was the First American Congress, a knockout tournament in which draws did not count. The Congress, organized by Daniel Willard Fiske, was held in New York from October 6 to November 10, 1857. The top sixteen American players invited were: William Allison, Samuel Calthrop, Daniel W. Fiske, William J. Fuller, Hiram Kennicott, Hubert Knott, Theodor Lichtenhein, Napoleon Marache, H.P. Montgomery, Alexander B. Meek, Paul Morphy, Louis Paulsen, Frederick Perrin, Benjamin Raphael, Charles H. Stanley and James Thompson. The first prize of $300 was refused by Morphy, but he did accept a silver service consisting of a pitcher, four goblets, and a tray.
     In the first round Montgomery defeated William S. Allison by a score of 3 wins to one. In the second round he was knocked out by Louis Paulsen who had scored two wins and was declared the winner when Montgomery had to return to Philadelphia. Three wins were required to win the match.
     Montgomery founded the Philadelphia Chess Club and became its first President. In 1859 his win in a correspondence game gave Philadelphia the victory over New York and in 1860 he won the club's first championship. In 1861, Montgomery played a match against New York's Theodore Lichtenhein and lost +2 -7 =1 and as result, he practically retired from serious chess. The only exceptions were a match against James A. Leonard in 1861 whom he defeated by a score of +8 -4 =2 and a match he lost to Gustavus Reichhelm +4 -8 in 1864.
     After retiring from chess Montgomery lived in Philadelphia and New York where he practiced law until he moved to Marysville, California. Far away from home and old friends and the scenes of old triumphs and defeats, he was stricken down by a stroke of paralysis at the age of thirty-six.
     Montgomery's style was described as one of daring brilliancy. He delighted in giving full sway to his vivid imagination and his combinations were astonishing for their originality and audacity. His style of play was nervous and rapid and his offhand games were always accompanied by a running good natured banter. The weak side of his play was a constitutional defect which no amount of chess knowledge, experience or ability could overcome...he could not endure defeat.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Saint Susan On Chicken Chess


    While visiting  Susan Polgar's site I saw a post where she asked the question, “Why are draw offers allowed in chess? Only stalemate, 3-fold repetition, perpetual checks, and no mating materials can result in a draw.” and commented, “...why not eliminate draw offer, period? There should be no arbitrary 30-40-50 move no draw offer rule. Just get rid of this option!...You cannot stop chicken chess. You can only hope to contain it.”

     Prohibitions against short draws have never worked. According to chess historian Anne Sunnucks until 1867 tournament games that were drawn were replayed. The Paris tournament of 1867 had so many drawn games to be replayed that it caused organizational problems. In 1868 the British Chess Association decided to award each player half a point instead of replaying the game.
     In 1929 the first edition of the FIDE laws of chess required thirty moves to be played before a draw by agreement, but the rule was discarded when the rules were revised in 1952. In 1954 FIDE rejected a request to reinstate the rule, but it did state that it is unethical and unsportsmanlike to agree to a draw before a serious contest had begun. FIDE stated that the director should discipline players who repeatedly disrespect this guideline, but it was largely ignored.
     Chess trainer Mark Dvoretsky, writing in a column for the Chess Cafe website, suggested that agreed draws should not be allowed at all, pointing out that such an agreement cannot be reached in other sports. Dvoretsky says that compelling players to carry on in “dead” positions is a small problem, adding that the effort required to play out these positions until a draw can be claimed by repetition or lack of material, for example, is minimal.
     In 1962 FIDE reinstated a rule against draws by agreement in fewer than thirty moves, with the director allowing them in exceptional circumstances. FIDE had the intention of enforcing the rule and the penalty was a loss of the game by both players. However, players ignored it or got around it by intentional threefold repetition. Directors were unable or unwilling to enforce the rule.
     In 1963 FIDE made another attempt ruling that draws by agreement before thirty moves were forbidden. The penalty was forfeit by both players. Directors had to investigate draws by repetition to make sure the players weren't just circumventing the rule. The rule was dropped in 1964 because when it didn't work as expected.
     In 2003, GM Maurice Ashley proposed that draw offers not be allowed before move 50. That same year, an international tournament in New York City had a rule that draws could not be agreed to before move fifty, but draws by threefold repetition or stalemate, were permissible any time. Players agreeing to premature draws were to be fined 10 percent of their appearance fee and 10 percent of any prize money they won
     The Sofia 2005 tournament employed a similar rule, which has become known as "Sofia rules". The players could not draw by agreement, but they could draw by stalemate, threefold repetition, the fifty-move rule, and insufficient material. Other draws are only allowed if the arbiter declares it is a drawn position. Anti-draw measure was adopted in the Bilbao Final Masters and the FIDE Grand Prix 2008-2010 which did not allow players to offer a draw. The draw had to be claimed with the arbiter, who was assisted by an experienced GM. The following draws were only allowed through the Chief Arbiter: threefold repetition of position, fifty-move rule, perpetual check and a theoretical draw.
     In 2016 the World Championship match between Magnus Carlsen and challenger Sergey Karjakin they could not draw a game by agreement before black's 30th move, but they could claim a draw by threefold repetition.
     There have been various proposals to change the scoring system so that a win is worth more than two draws, but they have not been accepted.  Back in 2005 John Nunn wrote that he believed the rules did not need to change...the simple solution was for organizers to not invite players known for taking short draws. 
       But what of Susan Polgar? I looked on chess.com for her games and out of the 982 games, 408 were drawn and they included some of these masterpieces: a draw in 11 moves against Dimitry London in the Manhattan CC Championship, 16 moves against Milan Nrdja at Baden-Baden, a 12-move draw against Humberto Pecorelli Garcia in Trenciaanske Teplice, a 9-mover against Nigel Davies at Wijk aan Zee, 14 moves against Smyslov at Copenhagen and 10 moves against Peter Szekely in the 1987 Hungarian Championship...and so on.
     So why is she complaining about short draws? The answer, I guess, is the one provided by Dr. Milan Vidmar when he complained of players making quick draws and was reminded that he also used to be guilty of the same thing. His response: "All saints were sinners in their youth!”

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Aborted Karpov-Kasparov Match of 1984

    Between June and October 1834 La Bourdonnais and McDonnell played a series of six matches, a total of eighty-five games, at the Westminster Chess Club in London. It was the first match of importance and is sometimes referred to today as the World Championship of 1834. The overall score was 45 wins to La Bourdonnais, 27 wins to McDonnell, and 13 draws.
     The second longest match is history was the 1984 match between challenger Garry Kasparov and defending champion Anatoly Karpov in Moscow from September 10, 1984 to February 15, 1985. After 5 months and 48 games, the match was abandoned in a controversial way with Karpov leading five wins to three with 40 draws. It was one of the most frustrating, boring and controversial matches in history.
     It was a record-setting match in many ways and none of them positive: Most games in a modern match (48), most draws (40), most short draws (23), most consecutive draws (17), second most consecutive draws (14), most moves (1,647), most days (159), most “technical timeouts”, greatest weight loss by one of the players and, of course, most cancellations (1).
     Karpov started in good form and after nine games Kasparov was down 4–0 in a first to six wins match. The experts were predicting that Kasparov wouldn't win a single game. But then came 17 consecutive draws!
     Karpov won game 27, then came another series of draws until game 32 and Kaspaov finally scored his first-ever win against Karpov. Another 14 draws followed, through game 46. The previous record length for a world title match had been 34 games, the 1927 match between José Capablanca and Alexander Alekhine. Then things started to change; Kasparov won games 47 and 48, making the score 5–3 in favor of Karpov and suddenly it looked like it may be a match after all. But then things took a weird turn.
     The match was ended without result amid great controversy by FIDE President Florencio Campomanes and a new match was announced to start a few months later. Both players stated that they preferred the match to continue, but at a press conference Campomanes cited the health of the players, which had been strained by the five month match, was his concern. Thus this match became the first world championship match to be abandoned without result.
     Karpov had lost 22 pounds over the course of the match, but Kasparov was in excellent health and extremely resentful of Campomanes' decision, asking him why he was abandoning the match if both players wanted to continue. Kasparov, who had won the last two games, felt he was now the favorite to despite his 5-3 deficit. He appeared to be physically stronger than his opponent and in the later games seemed to have been playing the better chess.
     At the press conference where he announced the termination of the match Campomanes stated that he had not known what he intended to do. Or, did he? Later, he was picked up on tape telling Karpov, who by this time had a withered neck and bulging eyes, “I told them exactly what you told me to tell them.”
     The restarted match in 1985 was best of 24, with Karpov to retain his title if the match was tied 12–12. Karpov was also granted the right of a return match in 1986 if he lost.
     Not all the games were tedious draws. Sharp struggles beginning with game 36 rekindled interest in the match. Before this game (number 41) Karpov took a timeout on Friday, January 11, 1985 in order to use the three days to prepare his sixth, and final, win. It didn't happen.