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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Western Open at Cedar Point, Ohio

Cedar Point today
    My guess is that none of the visitors to Cedar Point know, or care, that it was once the venue for the Western Open Chess Championship, the forerunner of the U.S. Open. 

     Cedar Point is a 364-acre amusement park located on a Lake Erie peninsula in Sandusky, Ohio. Opened in 1870, it is the second-oldest operating amusement park in the United States behind Lake Compounce, an amusement park located in Bristol and Southington, Connecticut that was opened in 1846 and is the oldest continuously-operating amusement park in the United States.
     Known as "America's Roller Coast", today the park features a world-record 72 rides, including 16 roller coasters – the second-most in the world behind Six Flags Magic Mountain. Other attractions near the park include a one-mile-long white-sand beach, an outdoor water park called Cedar Point Shores, an indoor water park called Castaway Bay, two marinas, and several nearby resorts.
     It is the only amusement park in the world with five roller coasters taller than 200 feet and is the only park with roller coasters in all four height classifications. Cedar Point also received the Golden Ticket Award for "Best Amusement Park in the World" from Amusement Today for 16 consecutive years from 1997-2013. It is the most visited seasonal amusement park in the United States with an estimated 3.6 million visitors in 2016.
Sea Swing amusement ride
    In the mid-19th century, the south shore region of Lake Erie was a popular vacation destination for the emerging middle class in the United States. The lake's islands, such as Kelleys Island and South Bass Island, were gaining a reputation for their freshwater bathing resorts and the Cedar Point peninsula was originally known for its fishing. Railroad and steamship travel supported an emerging tourism industry, and rapid development of the area began.

     In the 1860s during the American Civil War, housing for a battery of four field artillery pieces was constructed at the tip of the peninsula. It was used to defend a prison for Confederate soldiers on nearby Johnson's Island. Louis Zistel, a German immigrant, built two boats to transport the prisoners. In 1870, he began to ferry locals to the Cedar Point peninsula, which was regaining popularity as a summer picnic destination. Zistel opened a bathhouse on the north shore of the peninsula and the same year built a beer garden with a small dance floor. This marked the beginning of commercial tourism on Cedar Point.
Bathing beauty

     In 1882 eight new bathhouses, a dance hall and wooden walkways on the beach were built. They were a success and offering were expanded every year. In 1888 a two-story theater and concert hall with a bowling alley and photographer's studio were built.
     The first amusement ride was a water toboggan consisting of a ramp that launched riders into Lake Erie, opened in 1890. The first roller coaster opened in 1892 and stood 25 feet high and had a top speed of only 10 miles per hour. There were two tracks; one for the ride down and the other for the train to be hauled back to the top by the ride attendant. In 1897 the peninsula was transformed from a picnic ground into a nationally recognized amusement park and resort destination.
     The historic Hotel Breakers opened in 1905 as one of the largest hotels in the Midwest; it had 600 guest rooms and a cafe that could seat 400 guests. A new area of the park called "Amusement Circle" was designed in 1906 to link the pier to the beach. It was located southeast of the Coliseum, a large arena built the same year that featured a grand ballroom and other attractions. 
    Roller coasters grew as did other rides, but the peninsula was primarily marketed as a bathing resort complete with shows, exhibits, motion pictures, and other forms of entertainment and the park's rides were not emphasized. 
     And that's how it was when 14 players met at the Hotel Breakers for the Western Open in 1925. I am not sure how easy travel to Cedar Point was in those days. For example, if you traveled by car, you could purchase George F. Cram Company's Official Paved Road Atlas of the United States and it was only in 1925 that the numbering of Federal highways began. Commercial air travel was a long way off, so I am guessing the best way to Cedar Point was by train.
     Carlos Torre was planning to defend his title, but instead went back to Mexico where he gave a series of exhibitions. This tournament was also the first time that non-Western state players were encouraged to attend and the result was that the event was eventually to morph into the US Open.
     The tournament turned out to be a battle between two outsiders from New York, Abraham Kupchik and Charles Jaffe, against the “local” player Samuel Factor from Chicago. Another New Yorker, 22-year old Herman Steiner's name appears, but it wasn't until 4 years later when he tied for first in the New York State Championship and also in 1929 finished first in the Premier Reserves at Hastings that he became one of the country's top players. Steiner left New York for Los Angeles in 1932 and that pretty much put him out of the loop for serious play which centered in New York. Nevertheless, Steiner performed an important task in popularizing chess in the West, especially among the Hollywood set.
     Marvin Palmer, the Detroit powerhouse, had played in the Western several times since 1913 and not done especially well, but in this one he has one draw and seven wins; a pace that was too good to keep up in the last five rounds were he was to meet the other top players. Losses to Factor and Jaffe put and end to whatever hopes he had. 
     In the end Kupchik prevailed, thanks to defeating both of his main rivals and finishing with seven wins in a row.

1) Abraham Kupchik 11.5
2) Samuel Factor 11.0
3) Charles Jaffe 10.5
4) Marvin C Palmer 9.0
5) Irving Spero 8.5
6-7) Albert Margolis and Herman Steiner 8.0
8) John Winter 7.0
9) William Widmeyer 5.0
10) Marshall J. Maxfield 3.5 1
1-12) Andrew H. Palmi and Robert Scrivener 3.0
13) Robert S. Goerlich 2.5
14) Theodore Barron 0.5

     I have posted about “Uncle Bob” Scrivener HERE. Marshall J. Maxfield (April 18, 1897 – February 10, 1935, 37 years old) was Brooklyn Chess Club champion in 1925. He was a teacher at the Haaren Cooperative High School in Manhattan and formerly a member of the faculty of Pratt Institute, died of pneumonia at his home after a short illness.
     Maxfield, who was an electrical engineer, was born in California and was educated at the University of Southern California and Penn State College. He was for a while connected with the statistical department of the' New York Light and Power Company. He was a member of the Brooklyn Chess Club, Long Island Bridge League, Kings Highway Democrat Club, Andrew Jackson Club and the New York High School Teachers Association.
     He was survived by his wife, Macedonia, and his funseral was held in his home at 9:30am with a requiem mass at Our Lady Help of Christians R. C. Church; he is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery.
     Regarding the opening employed by Maxfield in this game, according to Wikipedia this exchange leads to simple and clear cut positions where white makes no effort to exploit the advantage of the first move, and has often chosen this line with expectation of an early draw, and indeed draws often occur if neither side breaks the symmetry.
     The article adds that despite the symmetrical P-structure, white cannot force a draw. To create genuine winning chances, white will often play c2–c4 at some stage to put pressure on Black's d5-pawn. Black can give white an Isolated d-Pawn by capturing on c4, but this gives white's pieces greater freedom, which may lead to attacking chances.
     If white avoids c2–c4 is not played the sides have two main piece setups: White may put his pieces on Nf3, Bd3, Bg5, Nc3, Qd2, or the QN can go to d2 and white can support the center with c3 and perhaps play Qb3. When the QN is on c3, the KN may go to e2 when the enemy B and N can be kept out of the key squares e4 and g4 by f3. When the N is on c3 in the first and last of the above strategies, white may choose either short or long castling. The positions are so symmetrical that the options and strategies are the same for both sides. Another way to unbalance the position is for either side is to castle on opposite sides.
          From the above explanation it should be clear that the exchange variation is not so simple as it might at first appear.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

32nd Western Championship 1931

    This event in Tulsa, Oklahoma concluded on Tuesday October 13 and was the annual tournament of the Western Chess Association. The winner was Samuel Reshevsky, at the time a student at the University of Chicago. There were ten entries and Reshevsky, by winning six games and drawing three (with Rundell. Factor and Barnes), barely beat out Samuel Factor who drew four (with Reshevsky, Whitaker, Mlotkowski and Borochow.)

     The National Chess Federation had failed to do much that year except to pick the Olympic team for Prague. The team consisted of Isaac Kashdan, Frank Marshall, Arthur Dake, I.A. Horowitz and Herman Steiner. The USA team won the title for the first time and it was fully deserved. They lost 3 matches in the early stage but they were simply the strongest as a team and all the players score 60 percent or better.
     The Federation was also involved with its first imbroglio with Norman T. Whitaker. He would later get involved in another dispute with the USCF. In this first incident Whitaker had been upset with the National Chess Federation's founder and President Maurice Kuhns who didn't like Whitaker.

      Kuhns (1859-1949) served as president from 1926 to 1939 when the NCF merged with the American Chess Federation to form the US Chess Federation. Kuhns was made president emeritus of the USCF. He was also a vice-president of FIDE. In the 1920s, he devised the Kuhns Cable Chess Code, a method of transmitting moves over cable which was used in the 1926 London-Chicago Inter-city cable match. He was one of the first Certified Public Accountants in the U.S.
     Kuhns was involved in an amusing incident involving Alekhine.  Reti's simultaneous blindfold record was surpassed by George Koltanowski in 1931 when he took on 30 opponents. Alekhine was the world champion and even then he was very active in tournament play, giving exhibitions and playing blindfold games, but he had never played more than 15 at once.  In 1933 he decided to take on the challenge of beating Koltanowdki's record. The opportunity came when when the organizing committee of the chess section of the Century of Progress Exhibition at the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago invited Alekhine to be its main attraction when they offered him $1,000 (almost $19,000 today) to try and beat Koltanowski's record by playing 32 games.
     Kuhns presided over the attempt and was tasked with keeping silence, but around 6PM a torrential rain began falling and swamped the streets. Many people rushed into the playing venue where they interrupted Alekhine who was seated on a raised platform. Fortunately Kuhns was able to restore order and maintain quiet. Alekhine set the record, losing four games in the process.
     Edward Lasker was the referee and teller and later claimed that Alekhine made a number of mistakes and only corrected them when Lasker questioned his moves. While serving as teller and calling out the moves Lasker's helping Alekhine by clarifying his moves may seem questionable, but even if a sighted player makes an illegal move, he has the opportunity to correct it. In any case, there are no official rules for blindfold simultaneous exhibitions!    
     Whitaker had won the 1st NCF Congress at Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1927, but was not invited to play at the 2nd NCF Congress at Bradley Beach, New Jersey in 1928. The NCF also had refused to name Whitaker to the Olympic teams and as a result he threatened to form the Western Chess Association as a second United States affiliate with FIDE. Whitaker's plans for the organization never materialized because he was arrested and sent to prison for his part in a scam related to the Lindbergh kidnapping.
     A pedophile, crooked as a dog's hind leg and a bitter man, Whitaker could turn on the charm when he wanted too...that's why he was so successful as a conman! When I met him the mid-1960s at a tournament in North Carolina I didn't know who he was, but he came across as a genuinely likable old fellow. I remember him adjudicating an adjourned game and offering helpful advice. He was peddling 365 Selected Chess Endings, a book he wrote with Expert Glen Hartleb. His promise was that if we learned everything in it we would become a master. Of course, like a bunch of people I bought an autographed copy, but never learned anything from it. Unfortunately, the book is long gone, but I wish I still had it because it was an original edition hot off the press plus it was autographed.
     Third place finisher James A. Anderson (June 28,1906 - December 23, 1991, 85 years old) is a mysterious fellow. He just appeared out of nowhere to finish second in the 1929 Western Championship, ahead of players like Herman Steiner, Whitaker and Factor. He was selected to play bottom board on the Olympiad team at Hamburg 1930 along with Isaac Kashdan, Frank Marshall, Harold Phillips and Herman Steiner; he scored +3 -7 =3. He was three-time champion of St. Louis. After that he disappeared from the world of chess.
    Harry Borochow (June 15, 1898 – October 20, 1993, 95 years old) was California State Champion from 1930 to 1932. Because of his successes prior to the institution of a rating list, he was awarded the title of Master Emeritus by the USCF.

1) Samuel Reshevsky 7.5
2-3) Samuel Factor and Norman T. Whitaker 7.0
4) James A. Anderson 5.5
5) G.E. Rundell 5.0
6) Stasch Mlotkowski 4.5
7) Harry Borochow 4.0
8) Arnold Davis 2.5
9) George S. Barnes 1 2.0
10 Wilber 0.0

Monday, January 29, 2018

1918 Rye Beach Masters' Tournament

Harlow B. Daly
    Back in 1918 nine masters from the New York City area, one from Boston and one from Hartford, Connecticut met at the Rye Beach Hotel in Rye Beach, New York from July 22nd to July 26th. He tournament was for the New York State Chess Association Championship.

     For unknown reasons Black had finished his schedule early and two of the games were to be played at the Manhattan Chess Club on July 28th. Going into the final round Abraham Kupchik and Oscar Chajes were tied for first with 6.5-0.5 each, followed by Jacob Bernstein with 5-2, Roy T. Black with 5-3 and Charles Jaffe with 4-3. Fittingly enough, the last round pairings at the Manhattan Chess Club were was Kupchik vs. Chajes which was won by Kupchik thereby securing first prize. The other game was between Jaffe and Bernstein and was won by Jaffe and as a result he tied Bernstein and Black for third place.
     Kupchik was undefeated and was held to a single draw by Bernstein while Chajes lost only to Kupchik and drew with McCudden. 
     Arnold Denker described Kupchik as a “frightened little rabbit.” Denker wrote of him, Kupchik was a tiny, whisper of a man with the saddest eyes he had ever seen. Denker claimed that if chess were nothing more than an analytical science then Kupchik would likely have made it into the big time. Known to club members as “Kuppele” or “Kup” he was, according to Denker, repulsed at the idea of attacking an opponent; defensive chess was the name of the game. However, he was extremely good at 10-second per move chess. 
   He tied for first with Frank Marshall at Lake Hopatcong in 1923 and finished second behind Capablanca at Lake Hopatcong in 1926, ahead of Maroczy and Marshall. In 1935 at the Warsaw Chess Olympics, playing 3rd board, Kupchik scored an impressive +6 -0 =8. Both Kupcik and Chajes were considered as inviteee to the great New York 1924 tournament, but it was decided that neither of them would have added anything to the tournament except two extra rounds inspite of the fact that Kupchik had a superior record to at least two of the participants.

1) Kupchik 7.5-0.5
2) Chajes 6.5-1.5
3-5) Jacob Bernstein, Roy T. Black and Charles Jaffe 5-4
6) Harry Borochow 3-6
7) Harlow B. Daly 2.0
8) J.L. McCudden 1.5-6.5
9) Ring 0.5-8.5

     Daly's game against J.L. McCudden was interesting because he used the Danvers Opening. Or, as I like to call it, the Nakamura Attack because Hikaru Nakamura has been known to use it occasionally in Internet blitz games. Besides blitz, Nakamura also used it in two serious tournament games: he drew against GM Nikola Mitkov in the 2005 HB Global Chess Challenge in Minneapolis, Minnesota and against Indian GM Krishnan Sasikiran in the 2005 Sigeman Tournament in Copenhagen/Malmo, Denmark. In that game he got a playable position out of the opening but later lost. He later wrote on the Internet, "I do believe that 2.Qh5 is a playable move...”  Dutch GM Hans Ree called 2.Qh5 "a provocative but quite sensible move", and suspected it could be effective because of its shock value.
     Daly is known to have used the opening at least twice; in this game and against G.N. Cheny in the 1906 New York State Championship at Trenton Falls. He won both games, but like Nakamura, the wins probably had more to do with the strength of the player than of the opening. Contemporary British problemist W.P. Turnbull wrote, the Danvers Opening is not so bad as it looks. Still, many players would take umbrage with those assessments.
     The Danvers Opening, also known as the Queen's Attack, Queen's Excursion, Wayward Queen Attack, Patzer Opening and the Parham Attack, as far as anybody knows, made its first appearance in print in the Dubuque Chess Journal in May 1875, where it was dubbed the Kentucky Opening, perhaps in reference to a game played in Danville, Kentucky, which was published in the August issue of the same magazine. J.H. Blackburne, in Mr. Blackburne's Games at Chess referred to the Jerome Gambit (a variation of the Giuoco Piano where white plays 4.Bxf7+) as the Kentucky Opening.
Roy T. Black

     Or, it could have come from the American Chess Bulletin in 1905 where it was referred to as the Danvers Opening by E. E. Southard, a well-known psychiatrist and a strong amateur player, after the hospital where he worked.  Southard was a doctor and a specialist on mental diseases at the Danvers Insane Hospital. 
     As a point of interest, the Danvers State Hospital, also known as the State Lunatic Hospital at Danvers, Massachusetts was built in 1874, and opened in 1878, under the supervision of prominent Boston architect Nathaniel Jeremiah Bradlee, on an isolated site in rural Massachusetts. It was a multi-acre, self-contained psychiatric hospital designed and built according to the Kirkbride Plan.
     The hospital was the setting for the 2001 horror film Session 9 and was also featured in the 1958 film Home Before Dark. In the book Project 17 by Laurie Faria Stolarz, the plot involves six teens breaking into Danvers. In the video game Painkiller, one of the levels, called Asylum, is based on the central administration section. While the outside is a faithful reproduction, the inside is not. The Danvers State Hospital is believed by literary historians to have served as inspiration for the infamous Arkham sanatorium from H.P. Lovecraft's The Thing on the Doorstep. In spite of being included in the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, the majority of the building was demolished in 2007.
     The opening is also somewhat famous for having been played by t hat snoot, actor Woody Harrelson, against Garry Kasparov in a 1999 exhibition game in Prague. Harrelson achieved a draw after being assisted by several grandmasters who were in Prague attending the match between Alexei Shirov and Judith Polgar. Then in 2000, Kasparov again faced the opening as black when tennis star Boris Becker played it against him in an exhibition game in New York; Kasparov won in 17 moves.
    The opening can cause black some problems by forcing him to first defend the e-Pawn then to either play 3...g6 (virtually committing Black to fianchettoing his king bishop), 3...Qe7 (blocking the bishop), or 3...Qf6 (taking away the knight's best square).
     Daly (1883-1979), who's career spanned 75 years, played, among others, Alekhine, Dake, Koltanowski, Lasker, Marshall, Mieses, Pillsbury and Torre.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Losing With Alekhine's Defense

    Last year I did a post titled My Macabre Fascination with Alekhine's Defense in which I commented, “When I see it, I want to turn away, but am drawn to it and generally can't resist playing over the game.”
     Alekhine's Defense is sharp and often underrated. Black immediately challenges the white e-pawn and tries to lure white into constructing a big P-center with the hope that it will be vulnerable to counterattack.
     It has been recounted numerous times that Alekhine introduced the defense, but never played it again. That story has been told by many including Anthony Saidy and Norman Lessing in The World of Chess, which they probably got from R.N. Coles in Dynamic Chess in his introduction to Alekhine's game against Endre Steiner at Budapest, 1921.  Actually, Alekhine appears to have first played it in a consultation game against A. Donegan, E. Müller and O. Zimmermann in Zurich on August 27, 1921. The game against Steiner was played the following month in September. 
    Yakov Neishtadt writing in Paul Keres Chess Master Class stated that Alekhine’s Defense had been employed earlier by the little-known M. Klyatsky who hailed from Moscow.  Historian Hugh Meyers opined that “M. Klyatsky” could possibly be Mikhail Gertsovich Klyackin who was born in 1897 in Poland and died April 14, 1926 in Moscow.
     Klyackin was born in Warsaw and during the First World War his family moved to Petrograd. He studied law and after the revolution moved to Moscow where he worked in the legal profession. He was the winner of the All-Russian Chess Olympiad amateur tournament in 1920 and in 1921 he played three matches with Alexander Ilyin-Zhenevsky, winning one (5-3), losing two (0.5-5.5) and (2.5-7.5). He participated in a couple of Moscow championships: 1920-21 (4th place) and 1923, 5th place. In 1926, he played three rounds before withdrawing and shortly thereafter died of tuberculosis. He was also a problem composer and his first problem was published in Izvestia in 1922. He published about 30 problems.
     However, Alekhine's Defense had been published as far back as 1824 when Alexander Petrov published analysis on it. Even before Petrov though was Johann Allgaier (1763-1823), the German-Austrian master and theoretician and author of the first chess handbook in German, Neue theoretisch-praktische Anweisung zum Schachspiel, who published analysis on it.
     In the United States Edward Hymes Jr. (December 4, 1908 – October 17, 1962), a bridge and chess player who was noted for his original opening style, frequently played Alekhine's Defense. Hymes was an attorney from New York City. At age 26, he joined the ACBL Laws Commission which stipulates the rules of bridge. His main partner was Oswald Jacoby. His father and uncles were prominent players in New Jersey.
     Die Aljechin-Verteidigungpublished was a 28-page booklet published in 1922 by Hans Fahrni. It was the first monograph on Alekhine's Defense and Fahrni explained that he had decided to call it Alekhine's Defense.

Here's a site you might like

Here's a site you might like:  
Chess Cognac by Brendan J. Norman. 

     Mr. Norman's sentiments are mine..."make sure enjoying your chess is the main reason you play because…What other point is there?"
     He also likes to mess around with engines with aim of, as he puts it, “aiming for a fun chess opponent, over the number crunching, boredom inducing machines. What I mean is that I look more for chess engines which play beautiful chess, rather than ones which play the strongest chess.” 

Subjects covered: physical training, endgames internet chess, defense, tactics, positional chess, GUIs, black openings, chess software, white openings, chess psychology, famous players, dynamic chess, Brendan's games, computer chess and chess engines

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Alexander Kotov and Other Stuff

Kotov circa 1967
     Mikhail Botvinnik had won the Absolute Championship held in Moscow and Leningrad between March and April, 1941. He was followed by Paul Keres, Vasily Smyslov, Isaac Boleslavsky, Andor Lilienthal, and Igor Bondarevsky.
     The winner of this Match - Tournament was supposed to be the challenger for Alekhine's world title. The reason for the tournament was because of the results of the 12th USSR Championship held in 1940. The Soviet Union had annexed Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia and the eastern parts of Poland. This meant that players like Keres, Petrov and Mikenas were eligible to play in the 12th Soviet Championship. As Lilienthal had been granted Soviet citizenship, he was also eligible.
     The hall in which the Championship was held had a noise problem from the spectators and Botvinnik, who was leading after nine rounds, claimed he was affected by all the noise which accounted for his sharing fifth and sixth places with Boleslavsky behind Bondarevsky and Lilienthal who tied for first. Smyslov was third and Keres fourth.
     Botvinnik wrote a letter to his supporter and tournament organizer Vladimir Snegiryov who persuaded the authorities that a Match - Tournament of the first six place finishers would be a better determination of who should challenge Alekhine than the winner of the playoff match between Bondarevsky and Lilienthal. Thus, the twenty-round match-tournament was organized and Botvinnik won in a convincing manner.
     Then the time came for the 13th Soviet Championship.  On June 22, 1941, Germany launched a massive surprise attack against the Soviet Union. The German attack came during the semi-final round of the 13th Soviet Championship which was being held at Rostov-on-the-Don. When the war news broke out all the games were quickly agreed drawn.
     Despite the confusion and uncertainty Moscow sports officials initially ordered the tournament organizers to continue with the event, but this proved impossible because the players all left Rostov-on-the-Don; some went home, some joined their reserve units. And so the tournament was canceled. The Soviet Championship tournament was not resumed until 1944 and that one was called the official 13th Soviet Championship.
     Alexander Ilyin-Zhenevsky, the Father of Soviet Chess, was one of the competitors at Rostov-on-the-Don. Because of his association with many “enemies of the State” Ilyin-Zhenevsky himself suffered persecution in the Stalin era. According to Botvinnik (described by David Bronstein as a “good Communist”) and official sources, Ilyin-Zhenevsky died in a Nazi air raid on Lake Ladoga on a ship during the siege of Leningrad.
     In any case, Ilyin-Zhenevsky wasn't arrested in the purges and he still enjoyed freedom of travel. In fact, his wife had accompanied him to the tournament. When he learned that war had broken out Ilyin-Zhenevsky sought the advice of other Leningraders at the tournament: should he and his wife return to Leningrad? The others said they were returning, and so Ilyin-Zhenevsky followed suit. His decision to return was a fateful one; Rostov-on-the-Don was his last tournament.
     Back in Leningrad Ilyin-Zhenevsky was put in charge of a work crew digging anti-tank trenches around the city. On September 1, 1941, he and his wife were evacuated by water from Leningrad, then under siege. On September 3rd, their boat was attacked by German aircraft and Ilyin-Zhenevsky was badly wounded and died later that day. His wife was not injured, but she was overcome with despair and committed suicide a few days later. That's the official version, but some believe Ilyin-Zhenevsky fell victim to the Great Purge along with the majority of the Old Guard of revolutionists and was executed. Many other Leningrad players included Ilya Rabinovich and S. Vainshtein who died of starvation. Pyotor Romanovsky survived, but his wife, hree daughters and their housekeeper all died of hunger and sickness.

Shakhmaty v SSSR
   The chess magazine 64 ceased publication almost in mid-issue as the staff closed the doors and left for the front. In Leningrad, Shakhmaty v SSSR also shut down for the duration. Chess columns in the many newspapers and magazines disappeared and the All-Union Chess Section closed up. Surprisingly, one new chess magazine appeared: The Soviet Chess Chronicle, published by the USSR Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, first appeared in 1943 and was published until 1946.

     In Moscow, even as the German army closed in, the tradition of an annual city championship in November continued. The decision to hold the Moscow Chess Championship was due to Stalin’s determination not to evacuate Moscow or relocate the government in the face of the advancing German Army. Stalin’s resolve was symbolized by his decision to hold the annual Red Square military parade on the anniversary of the Revolution (November 7) as usual. This defiant gesture, along with Stalin’s speech on that occasion, proclaimed to the world that normal life continued in spite of the German threat.
     The organizer of the 1941 Moscow Chess Championship was Vladimir Alatortsev, president of the Moscow Chess Club. By November 1941, Moscow was virtually on the front lines, but that did not deter Alatortsev. The games were held in a variety of locations around the city for maximum propaganda value. For political reasons the tournament was widely reported in the Soviet press and spectator interest was high.
Preparing for attack
    The Moscow Championship was unlike any other though. Vasily Panov (1906-1973), one of the participants, recalled that initially the noise of air raid sirens, anti-aircraft fire and bombs made concentration very difficult and there was frequent interruptions as players had to retreat to air raid shelters. The normal procedure when a game is interrupted was to seal a move, but there was not enough time to seal a move when the sirens sounded, so the clocks were simply stopped until the game could be resumed in a shelter. There were complaints because the player having the move had an advantage because he could mentally analyze the game without time penalty. The solution was simple: they simply ignored the sirens and continued play! And, the attacks occurred during every round! 

     The winner was Alexander Kotov (1913 – January 8, 1981). Kotov entered the ranks of the Soviet Union's elite players after having steadily progressed through the classification system to reach the rank of Master at the age of 25 in 1938. 
     In the spring of 1939 Kotov was one of the least known competitors in the Soviet Championship, but four straight wins put him in the lead. By the time the last round was reached he was tied with Botvinnik and by chance they were paired in the last round. Interest in the game reached fever pitch with tickets being sold out and large crowds gather all around the tournament hall. The result was an exciting game that ended in victory for Botvinnik.
     Kotov suffered a severe setback in the 1940 Championship though when he shared next to last place with Levenfish and many thought his good showing in the previous tournament had been an accident, but they were wrong as his talent was still growing. Kotov himself recognized that his weak point was relying soley on tactics and ignoring strategy so he undertook to eliminate that weakness by making a creful study of the games played in the match between Chigorin and Tarrasch in 1893.
     Owing to the War he had to postpone his efforts and it wasn't until after the War was over in 1945 and he won both of his games against Isaac Kashdan in the radio match against the United States that he was able to continue his progress.
     He placed fourth in the 1948 Interzonal Tournament in Saltsjöbaden, Sweden, tied for first with Bronstein in the 1948 Soviet Championship and in the early 1950s he racked up good result in international tournaments. 
    Kotov was also the author of a number of books, the best known of which is Think Like a Grandmaster which created a sensation when Ken Smith first published in 1971 in the US. According to the late US Master James Schroeder, Kotov was weak with Knights, but wasn't aware of it so he created an artificial system which he hoped would avoid blunders.  Schroeder wrote that the book is full of instruction and advice, but because Kotov was weak with Ns he sometimes misjudged a position. I don't know how accurate Schroeder's assessment was, but he is correct in stating that Kotov's system in which he recommends analyzing a line only once is artificial. GMs are like the rest of us...they skip around all over the place. They are better because their judgment of the positions they reach is far, far better than ours. They are better at spotting tactics, too!