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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Clare Benedict Tournaments

The Chess Patron
    The Clare Benedict Chess Cups were a series of team matches held between 1953 and 1972 that were named after patron Clare Benedict. The events came to an end, apparently, when the funding ran out. No Communist countries were ever represented.

     She is not to be confused with the English romance writer Benita Brown who publishes under the pseudonym Clare Benedict or Claire Benedict the British actress known for her work in classical productions on the British stage and radio productions. 
The Actress

     This Clare Benedict was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1870 and died in 1961. A distant relative of James Fenimore Cooper, she was a wealthy heiress as a result of an inheritance from steel and oranges. She spent much of her life in Europe, traveling with her aunt, the writer Constance Fenimore Woolson (1840-1894) and later with her mother Clara (1844-1923). She visited various places, attended festivals, concerts and theatrical performances. She died in 1961 in Lucerne, Switzerland, where she had lived since 1941 and was buried in Rome.
The Author
   She was also a gifted writer who published collections of tales as well as a personal account of the months leading up to the war. However, she is best remembered as a patron, in various areas. After World War I she started to support the Schillerstiftung in Weimar with gifts of food for needy writers. She did the same again after World War II and in 1950 helped with a generous donation to put the Schillerstiftung on its feet again.

     After he mother died in 1923 she gave money to the Cimitero Acattolico in Rome to raise the wall around it and for gardening. With her help in 1938, Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida opened the Woolson House and installed The Clare Benedict Collection of Constance Fenimore Woolson there. It also houses documents relating to Clare Benedict’s life.
     The English Department of Basel University profited from her generosity. When she lived in Basel from 1939 to 1941 she became interested in the work done in the department's work and in 1952 helped to create the “James Fenimore Cooper Stipendien-Fonds” which supports the study of Anglo-Saxon language, literature and culture. She also donated shelves, furniture and other items. When she died she bequeathed part of her library to the department.
     Shortly before her death she put together a library of books authored by people buried at the Cimitero Acattolico in Rome which she gave to the cemetery. There is also a tulip that carries her name: Tulipa eichleri 'Clare Benedict’.
     The first Clare Benedict Cup took place in 1953 in The Netherlands. The second, in 1954, was the only individual tournament in the history of the event. The line-up was very strong, with two GMs and four IMs...very impressive in those years. The participants included Dr. Max Euwe and GM Petar Trifunovic of Yugoslavia. Dr. Trifunovic has the distinction of being the only player from a Communist country to ever hve participated in one of the events. West Germany's 26-year old Lothar Schmid finished first ahead of surprising second place winner Dr. Erwin Nievergelt of Switzerland while Euwe could only manage third place. Trifunovic finished with a disappointing even score. Schmid's success resulted in a GM title awarded to him in 1959.
     Born in Zurich in 1929, Nievergelt was one of Switzerland's biggest hopes in the 1950s. He represented Switzerland at two chess Olympiads. Chess ended up taking a back seat to his career in the fledgling fields of Operations Research and Computer Science. For almost a quarter of a century he finally worked as a professor at the University of St. Gallen. After his retirement, Nievergelt, who was also gifted as a concert pianist, moved to the south, where he found a second and third home in Italy and Spain.
     The following game is from the 7th Cup held in Biel in 1960 and won by the West German team. Gerhard Pfeiffer (June 14, 1923 – June 27, 2000) was an IM (title awarded in 1957) and chess problemist. He played for West Germany in six Olympiads where he won two bronze medals (team and individual). I was unable to locate much information on Italian Master Stefano Bruzzi except that he was born July 5, 1936 and died at the age of 81. At some point he moved to England sometime in the early 1960s where he played for the Surbiton Chess Club right up to the end of his life. He was also a noted expert on endings.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Zook the Book

    IM Bernard Zuckerman (born March 31, 1943 in Brooklyn, New York) competed in seven US Championships (1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1974, 1977 and 1978), his best result being a tie for fourth place with William Addison in 1965. He served as a member of the US team in the World Student Team Championships in 1964, 1967 and 1969. At Brooklyn College, Zuckerman was a prominent player, along with Raymond Weinstein, on its national champion college chess team.
     For more than forty years, Zuckerman was well-known authority on openings and according to Arthur Bisguier, his opening knowledge was second only to that of Bobby Fischer. Zuckerman, one of Fischer's close friends, was 22 days younger than Fischer and he often told Fischer that as soon as he got to be as old as him, he would be as strong as him, too.
     So profound was Zuckerman's opening knowledge that at the 1959 US Open in Omaha, Nebraska, Bisguier, who won the tournament, often asked Zuckerman, then only a Class B player, what opening to play and then followed his advice. Perhaps the only “hole” in Zuckerman's opening knowledge was the time Bisguier tried to surprise him by not playing one of his usual variations on the black side of a Ruy Lopez. According to Bisguier, Zuckerman disappeared for 45 minutes, but when he returned to the board he seemed pretty well booked up; it made Bisguier suspicious about what Zuckerman had been doing during that 45 minutes. At the 1967 Students Olympiad W.R. Hartson wrote that Zuckerman had been quite critical of some British analysis on the Sicilian Dragon and found his arrogance and general obnoxiousness quite amusing while most of the other English players found him unbearable at first but grew to like him as time passed.
     By 1964, Zuckerman, a very good blitz player, was strong enough to play in the US Championship. He would play about twelve to fifteen moves, get a clear advantage and then offer a draw which was usually accepted. Bisguier observed that he was a tough opponent to beat, but his weakness was that he never tried to “milk” good positions to their potential. Bisguier believed it was more a matter of temperament than lack of technique. Too many draws was also likely the reason he never got the GM title. His propensity to play a few good opening moves and then offer a draw ultimately resulted in his not receiving invitations to international tournaments. He pretty much abandoned chess in 1990.
      Zuckerman is also well remembered for an incident at the international tournament in Cleveland (Ohio) 1975 where he threw a Bishop at a noisy spectator. Zuckerman kept asking the guy, who was a real butthead, to be quiet and when he wouldn't, Zuckerman threw a Bishop at him. When the TD tried to retrieve the B, the spectator wouldn't return it.  I witnessed the incident and would describe the "throw" as more of a "toss."  The TD got a Bishop from another set and things returned to normal.  I remember that in this tournament the chess clocks were the fairly new Heuer Champion clocks and they were very noisy when the button was pushed.  When a spectator mentioned it to Andy Soltis his comment was, "They sound like a time bomb going off."
Heuer Champion chess clock

     The following game against Duncan Suttles was played in the 1965 US Championship and was one of the tournament's more exciting games. Bobby Fischer had skipped the 1964 Interzonal in a dispute over world championship procedures and had dropped from sight for all of 1964 and much of 1965, but he was back for this championship. His lack of sharpness, especially in tactical acuity, began to show up.
     In the first round his consecutive win streak was broken when he drew with William Addison, but the next day he beat Duncan Suttles, a San Francisco-born player who by then was planning to settle in Canada. Fischer then defeated Evans, Benko and Zuckerman. But then disaster struck when he made a simple oversight against Robert Byrne, only the second game Fischer had ever lost in a championship.
     The next day Reshevsky was out for revenge because in the 1963-64 event where Fischer went 11-0 he had swindled Reshevsky. As they began the game both players were cordial to each other for the first time since their aborted match four years before. Reshevsky scored a smashing victory when he won a Q for a R then played the ending flawlessly. The win caused Reshevsky to comment, the "myth of his invincibility has been shattered," adding that, "It can be safely predicted that future US championships will be even closer." Still, Fischer finished first by a full point. And, Reshevsky was wrong.  Fischer was to play in only one more to play in only more championship, in 1966, where he was undefeated and finished first by two points.

1) Fischer 8.5-2.5
2-3) R.Bryne and Reshevsky 7.5-3.5
4-5) Addison and Zuckerman 6.5-4.5
6) Rossolimo 6.0-5.0
7-9) Benko, Evans and Saidy 5.0-6.0
10-11) Bisguier and Burger 3.0-8.0
12) Suttles 2.5-8.5

Friday, October 27, 2017

7 Things Lady Gaga Has In Common With Chess

     The other day I was poking around on the internet and looking through old chess books and magazines trying to find something interesting to write about, but nothing seemed to pop out, so I went to one of those sites that generates headlines designed to grab interest and typed in chess. You know, the kind they use for clickbait ads. A few interesting possibilities came up:

 The Most Boring Chess Article You'll Ever Read – the problem is, I've probably already done that.
The Rise of Chess and How To Make It Stop - Not a bad idea. Chess was more fun and you had a better chance of getting a higher rating when the USCF only had 5,000 members and there weren't a hundred kids running around at chess tournaments.
10 Ways Chess Can Suck the Life Out of You – You could probably come up with more than that.
10 Ways Marketers Are Making You Addicted to Chess - That's easy to answer also. Start with opening books, DVDs, software and pay-to-play internet sites.
Why You Should Forget Everything You Learned About Chess - for me at least, most of it was either wrong or useless.

     Buried down in the middle was the headline Seven Things Lady Gaga Has In Common With Chess. Actually, I couldn't find seven things she has in common with chess, but did you know Lady Gaga likes a man who knows his way around a chessboard? Last year she revealed to The Sun newspaper, "I like to play chess, I think that it's fun." Unfortunately, that's about all that's available on her devotion to chess.
     Singer-actress Jessica Simpson is also a chessplayer. Back in 2010, Simpson and her speculated boyfriend at the time, Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins, were obsessed with playing chess against one another. She became addicted after he taught her how to play and they began playing each other on a regular basis. Beyond that though, like Lady Gaga, nothing is really known about her chess prowess or even if she still plays.

     However, I did find her name mentioned in a book titled Your Children Are Under Attack – How Popular Culture Is Destroying You Kid's Values And How You Can Protect Them published in 2005 by Jim Taylor, PhD.
     Taylor points out that children under the age of six spend two hours a day in front of a television or computer screen and, unbelievably, two-thirds of toddlers spend over two hours a day in front of a screen. The result is that children see more than twenty thousand commercials a year and absorbs unhealthy values that hurt their development. Taylor shows how today's kids are bombarded by the values of popular culture that advocate greed, blatant sexuality and violence. In the book he shows parents how to work with children to fight back against this assault.
     He points out examples of how parents push their kids in all kinds of things: music, dance, sports and many other activities that value achievement, and that includes chess. A few years back I visited a tournament at a local college and on the way to the parking lot after the first round I observed a mother who was grabbing her sobbing 7 or 8-year old daughter by the shoulders and yelling, “Look at me when I talk to you! Why didn't you play the opening like I showed you? What's wrong with you!” Poor kid. Today it's nothing like when I played in my first tournament, the state junior championship, at the age of 15 or 16. My sister and mother dropped me off at the site then left to find a hotel room and go shopping. They showed up a few hours later and my mother asked, “How'd you do?” I don't remember my exact answer, but do remember her reply. “That's nice. Do you want to go get something to eat?”  My parents never knew there was such a thing as an Elo rating or that I even had one.
     Taylor warns that not only kids but many parents are seduced by the pop culture's message of fame and fortune through athletic success. They are bombarded with “reality” TV shows, talent shows, children's beauty pageants and the success of young performers. He mentioned Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson in that context.
     The author reminds parents that if they fall for that pot of gold they will probably be disappointed and may do irreparable harm to their children. The odds are a child's superstardom or obtaining the Grandmaster title are highly unlikely to happen.

Read Nigel Davies article: Too Young For Chess

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Fischer's Last U.S. Championship

    Robert Fischer won the U.S. Championship for the eighth and last time in 1966 and after that he refused to play in any more championships.
     His losses to Edmar Mednis in 1963 and to Samuel Reshevsky and Robert Byrne in the 1965 championship had left him fretful. After the loss to Mednis the idea occurred to him that the tournaments were too chancy because one bad game and he could lose his title. In his words, "Something [is] really wrong if a fellow couldn't lose a game in a US championship without practically being eliminated."
     So, in the fall of 1966 he laid down the law: The championship would have to be enlarged to make it a double-round event or it would be lengthened by adding another eight or more players. That would be a fair fight like the Soviet championship, he said.
     USCF officials couldn't understand how Fischer, who had won 53 games out of 79 (an 82 percent winning record) could have such doubts about his ability. Even in the 1965 Championship where he lost an unprecedented two games and was held to a draw by William Addison, Fischer had mowed down Bernard Zuckerman, Nicolas Rossolimo, Pal Benko, Larry Evans, Anthony Saidy, Arthur Bisguier, Karl Burger and Duncan Suttles to win the title by a full point.
    In the months before the 1966 Championship Fischer was silent, but then in a long distance phone call from Mexico City to the USCF, Fischer presented his demands. The 1966 Championship had to be 16 rounds or he wouldn't play.
     Enter Maurice J. Kasper. Kasper (1900-1972) was a wealthy man who made his fortune in the textile business and financed many events, including the Manhattan Chess Club where he was President for many years, offered Fischer a promise to work towards a longer tournament next year, but there just wasn't enough time this year. He also sweetened the pot by offering Fischer an extra $500 for showing up this time. Fischer relented and arrived from Mexico just a few days before the first round.
     This turned out to be his last appearance in the US Championship. When the 1968 tournament rolled around Fischer didn't even respond to his invitation. The tournament was to be a 12-player event, not 16, and Fischer wouldn't even consider it. Longtime friend Larry Evans said he tried to get him to play, but Fischer was adamant.
     Instead, he chose to play in a 16-player tournament in Netanya, Israel. Besides Fischer, the notable players included were Daniel Yanofsky from Canada, Hans Ree from the Netherlands, and Victor Ciocaltea from Romania, two of Israel's strongest players, Yair Kraidman and Moshe Czerniak. At the time, Fischer was active in the World Wide Church of God and was observing the Jewish Sabbath which, of course, presented no problems in Israel. Fischer blew away the competition and finished undefeated with ten wins and three draws, three and a half points ahead of Yanofsky and Czerniak who shared second.
     Returning to the 1966 tournament. Besides Fischer, the line up included six strong GMs (Evans, Reshevsky, Robert Byrne, Lombardy, Benko and Bisguier). Of the others, Rossolimo had not played much since the 1950s, but was still good enough that on any given day he was capable of defeating anyone as were Anthony Saidy and Bernard Zuckerman. Donald Byrne was strong, but rusty from lack of practice while the remaining two, James T. Sherwin and William Addison, were there based on their ratings. Addison was later to qualify for the 1970 Interzonal at Palma de Mallorca, where he finished in a lowly 18th place.
     In this last championship Fischer was nicked for draws by Evans, Addison and Robert Byrne and finished first by two full points. But, when he reiterated his preposterous demand that the next championship either be a double round affair or consist of twenty players and his demand wasn't met, he refused to play in any more US Championships.

1) Fischer 9.5
2) Evans 7.5
3-4) Benko and Sherwin 6.0
5) Bisguier 5.5
6-7) Addison and Saidy 5.0
8-10) R. Byrne, Reshevsky and Rossolimo 4.5
11-12) D. Byrne and Zuckerman 4.0

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Hastings 1953-54

     The 29th Hastings Christmas Chess Festival was held at the end of the year 1953. After resuming annual tournaments in 1945 following World War II the Hastings club had struggled to keep the event going, but without many foreign participants the tournaments hadn't been of much interest to the public. The 1953-54 tournament was a different story.
     The Soviet Chess Federation sent David Bronstein and Alexander Tolush. Other invitees were four time Hastings winner Dr. Savielly Tartakower , C.H.O'D. Alexander, who had won the 1946-47 event, IMs Aleksander Matanovic, Alberic O'Kelly de Galway, and Robert Wade plus Fridik Olafsson, who had placed third in the 1953 World Junior Championship, Rudolf Teschner, the editor of Deutsche Schachzeitung and West German champion of 1951; and a previous Hastings participant and Dennis Horne, another British player.
     The failure of Bronstein and Tolush was an embarrassment by the Soviet Chess Federation, so the following year they Vasily Smyslov and Paul Keres. Those two did what Bronstein and Tolush failed to do; they dominated the tournament and tied for first.
     But for the 1953-54 event, it was C.H.O'D. Alexander who emerged as the hero when he scored 6.5-2.5 to tie for first with Bronstein. Plus, Alexander defeated both Soviet players. Especially notable was his 14-hour, 120-move battle with Bronstein. In the last round Alexander polished off Tolush in 28 moves. His victory prompted one magazine to comment that it was possible for a non-Soviet player to win a tournament when the deck wasn't stacked with other Soviets.
     Alexander's marathon victory over Bronstein stirred a lot of interest in the British press, especially when the multiple adjournments made an ideal day-to-day serial. Excitement was added when, after the first adjournment, Alexander defeated Tolush and so was tied with Bronstein who was adjourned in a bad position against Rudolph Teschner of West Germany.  Both Alexander and Bronstein had scores of 5.5-2.5.  What that meant was that there was a possibility that if Alexander managed to defeat Bronstein, he would capture sole possession of first place.
     In the adjourned Bronstein vs. Teschner game, Bronstein was a Pawn down and had no compensation. Shortly after resumption he had to let go of a second Pawn. When he offered a draw Teschner rightly refused, but then began to play one poor move after another and ended up losing which allowed Bronstein to tie for first.
     At Hastings 1937-38 Alexander tied with Keres for second place behind Reshevsky and ahead of Fine and Flohr. In the 1946 Anglo-Soviet Radio Match he scored a win and a loss against Botvinnik. Had it not been for the Second World War it's possible that Alexander would have reached the highest levels. According to Chessmetrics, between the years 1951 and 1956 Alexander's rating was over 2500 placing him among the top 50-60 players in the world.
     Most of the players in this tournament are familiar names with, perhaps, the exception of Dennis Horne. Dennis M. Horne (1920-2015) came into prominence while a student at Oxford University right after the war in which he served in the army. Probably the highlight of his career was his defeat of Euwe at Plymouth in 1948. At Felixstowe 1949, the first Swiss system British championship, he tied for second with Hooper behind Harry Golombek and he did quite well at the 1949-50 Hastings Premier. He was one of England's top players in the 1950s and played on the 1952 Olympiad team.
     Horne eventually became a prep school master with less time for chess and he began devoting more time to bridge. This tournament was his last major event and although he finished last, he defeated Olafsson and drew with O'Kelly. Horne did pop up again in the late 1970s when he played in the Dubai Open with mediocre results.
     Here is Alexander's crush of the very dangerous attacker Alexander Tolush. Kevin Spraggett has a good post on Tolush HERE.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Is Opening Theory Wrong About the Urusov Gambit?

     Among the mid-19th century contemporaries of Alexander Petrov and Carl Jaenisch were gifted masters like I.S. Shumov, V.I. Mikhailov and S.S. Urusov who contributed many new ideas which broadened and deepened opening theory. In 1859-1861 Shakmatny Listok published Urusov's Guide to the Study of Chess which continued the analytical investigations of Petrov and Jaenisch and in which he published numerous discoveries in the opening and ending.
     Sergey Semyonovich Urusov (August 3, 1827 – November 20, 1897) was a leading 19th century Russian player and self-published amateur mathematician. His brother Dmitry Urusov (1829-1903) was also a strong player. Urusov was a member of the Russian nobility, holding the title of Prince and an officer in the Tsarist army. In 1853 he played a few games against Alexander Petrov who was visiting Saint Petersburg; the score is usually given as 3–1 in favor of Petrov though sources vary. The same year he won a match against Ilya Shumov by 4–3, and again in 1854 by a score of 12–9. Also in 1854, he drew a match against Carl Jaenisch by a score of 2-2.
     As an Army officer he fought in the Crimean War in 1854–55 and was awarded the Order of Saint George for bravery during the Siege of Sevastopol. During the war he met Leo Tolstoy and the two became friends. They later fell out after Tolstoy left the Russian Orthodox Church.
     Following the Crimean War, he left the army and devoted himself to chess. There were few organized tournaments at the time, so his chess activity consisted primarily of individual matches. He was considered the second strongest Russian player after Petrov, who beat him again in 1859 by a score of +13 −7 =1; the same year he won matches against Shumov and Viktor Mikhailov. He drew a match against the Austrian Ignatz Kolisch in 1862, who was one of the strongest players in the world at the time, and defeated the strong German player Philipp Hirschfeld in 1866. In 1878 he retired from chess and bequeathed his collection of chess books to Ilya Tolstoy.
     The Urusov Gambit in the Bishop's Opening (1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d4) is named after Sergey S. Urusov. You don't see this gambit very often these days, but in the last 4 years or so I have played it in correspondence game nine times and scored +5 -0 =4 with it. White's compensation is mainly piece activity and open lines, so white must play very actively and precisely to force a concession before black can catch up on development. Some good analysis on the gambit can be found HERE. In all my analysis I relied heavily on analysis by Michael Goeller found in this link. 
     Also, in the games that were played a few years ago I used several different engines as well as Rybka's Monte Carlo analysis. In Monte Carlo analysis you start with a position and then Rybka plays hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of games against itself at lightening speed in order to give a rough idea of the results. I have of necessity had to trim out literally reams of analysis on the opening in the attached game, but engine analysis seems to indicate that the Urusov Gambit is much better than its reputation. A lot of the notes on the opening of this game came from Goeller's site as well as several engines that were available at the time the game was played.
     Two good videos on the Urusov can be found on Youtube. HERE and HERE

Monday, October 23, 2017

Whirlwind Attack by Milton Hanauer

      Frank Marshall founded the Marshall Chess Club in Greenwich Village, New York City in 1915, but it was officially incorporated in 1922. Originally the Club meet in several temporary homes until it moved permanently to 23 West Tenth Street in 1931 when the brownstone building was purchased for Marshall by a group of wealthy patrons.
     The club's purpose was to establish a meeting place on the same lines as such famous resorts as Simpson’s Divan in London and the Café de la Regence in Paris. Marshall's idea was to make the club a place of instruction for young players as well as a place where all chess players could feel free to gather. You can read some interesting anecdotes about the Marshall by Dr. Mark Ginsberg HERE.
     The club has been the site of several rounds of the U.S. Championship, incuding Bobby Fischer's Game of the Century. In the late 1950s, Bobby Fischer competed regularly in the Marshall's Tuesday night speed-chess tournaments. In 1965, when the U.S. State Department refused to issue him a visa to play in Cuba in the Capablanca Memorial tournament, Fischer secluded himself in the Marshall's rear drawing room and set up a board and proceeded to compete via teletype. Sitting, appropriately, at Capablanca's table with a single official in attedance, his moves were wired to Havana. He tied for 2nd-4th Ivkov and Geller a half point behind Smyslov.
     The list of club members is impressive: Reuben Fine, Erling Tholfsen, Anthony Santasiere, Milton Hanauer, Sidney Bernstein, Fred Reinfeld, Arthur Dake, Albert Simonson, Herbert Seidman, Larry Evans, Bobby Fischer, Edmar Mednis, James Sherwin, Andy Soltis, Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura and even Stanley Kubrick, Marcel Duchamp and Howard Stern.
     The following game was played in the 1950-51 club championship. I have posted on Milton Hanauer before. In this game his opponent was journeyman Master John L. Foster, originally from New York City and later from Florida where he won the 1958 Florida Championship. Hanauer's whirlwind attack is pretty impressive.