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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Munich Quadrangular 1909

Hans Fahrni
     Both this tournament and the winner, Hans Fahrni (October 1, 1874 – May 28, 1939), have been long forgotten. Fahrni was born in the Austrian-Hungarian empire city of Prague which today is in the Czech Republic. It's not certain when he went to Switzerland, but from there he eventually emigrated to Germany where he became master of the German Schachbund in 1904. While in Munich, in 1911, Fahrni was the first master to play 100 opponents simultaneously. 
     After failing as photographer and because of his psychosis, a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with reality, he became a professional chess master. In 1916, he was hospitalized for his condition, was released, but was hospitalized again after a relapse. 
     The outbreak of the First World War ruined his life and was probably the cause of his illness and the reason why he was deported back to Switzerland from Germany. Back in Switzerland, he was heavily involved with art and chess composition. He was the first Swiss composer to compose over 150 studies which often resembled over the board positions. Eighty-three of his compositions were composed together with the Dutch problemist Johannes Willem Keemink.  Almost nothing is known about Keemink except that in 1920 he played a match against Euwe and his only studies were composed with Fahrni.  The two published a book of endgame studies in 1928
     According to Chessmetrics, Fahrni's highest rating was in 1906 with an assigned rating of 2557. By 1917 his rating had dropped a bit to 2510, but he was ranked at number 20 in the world. For 1917, the top rated players were Lasker, Capablanca, Marshall, Schlechter and Tarrasch. 
     His best ever tournament performance came in 1911 at San Remo where he finished 1st, ahead of Levitsky, Przepiorka, Gunsberg, Kostic, Forgacs and Reti. Fahrni played several matches. In 1907, he lost to Spielmann (+3 –5 =2). In 1908, he drew with Alekhine (+1 –1 =1). 
    The same year he defeated Salwe (+3 –1 =1). In 1910, he lost to Spielmann (+3 –4 =4). In 1912, he defeated von Bardeleben (+3 –0 =1). In 1914, he drew with Leonhardt (+1 –1 =0). In 1916, he drew with Selesnev (+2 –2 =2). In 1917, he lost to Teichmann (+0 –2 =2). 
    During his career he also authored three chess books, two on the endgame and his monograph on 1.e4 Nf6 was the first time it was referred to as Alekhine's Defense. Although Wikipedia and other sources say that he was joint Swiss champion with Oscar Corrodi in 1892, according to the websites of both the Swiss chess federation and ARVES (an endgame studies site) it was actually his brother Paul Fahrni. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Mr. Bluster of the Chess World

     For those too young to remember, Mr. Bluster was the resident skinflint, mayor of Doodyville and nemesis of Howdy on the Howdy Doody Show. In the chess world it was Reuben Fine. 
    Reuben Fine's Lessons From My Games has some great games by a great player, but as everyone knows, Fine was an ego maniac. The book's table of contents gives the first clue. Out of the 50 chapter headings all but nine begin with “I.” For example, “I become an ex-world champion,” “I beat Alekhine,” “I make a combination against Capablanca.” To his credit he does have one chapter titled “The best game I ever lost” (Alekhine-Fine, Hastings, 1936/37). As for becoming an ex-world champion, he never was world champion, but believed he should have been. 
     One of the chapters that doesn't begin with “I” is titled “How far ahead can a chess master see?” Fine wrote that “it all depends” and noted that in the ending where precise calculation is required 40 or 50 moves were possible. He then proceeded to tell readers how in his game against George Shainswit in the 1944 US Championship, when he offered the sacrifice at move 29, he was able to see the final mate at move 43. That was possible because the position was relatively simplified, he said. 

     Curious, I let Stockfish analyze the position for an hour after 29.Rxd5 (it actually preferred 29.g4) just to see if it could find a mate; it couldn't. In fact, it wasn't until move 33 that Shainswit started making some inferior moves that cost him the game and no mate showed up until after he played 39...Kg5 although by that point he was lost anyway. Nevertheless, Fine's win in this game IS pretty nifty. 
    I posted about the 1944 US Championship HERE.  Several of the top players were either in the military or their jobs left little time for chess while several were into middle age and didn't have the time or energy to play. 
     Reshevsky refused his invitation because he was taking CPA examinations the same month although he did show up as a spectator. Arthur Dake had given up competitive chess in 1938 and rarely played. Alexander Kevitz, touted as a real comer in the mid-1930s, was so disappointed with his even score in the 1936 championship that he quit chess for a decade to run his pharmacy business. Isaac Kashdan withdrew at the last minute on doctor's orders and Anthony Santasiere was unable to obtain a vacation from his teaching job. Fine was only able to play when he obtained a last minute three week leave from his government job. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The 1940s Produced a Vintage Crop of US Masters

     During the 1940s the US produced a crop of young masters, Larry Evans (1932 – 2010), Robert Byrne (1928-2013), Donald Byrne (1930-1976), George Kramer (1929), Eliot Hearst (1932-2018), James Sherwin (1933), William Lombardy (1937-2017), Walter Shipman (1929-2017) and Arthur Bisguier (1929-2017). All of them went on to become prominent players either internationally or at home and they all also became successful in fields outside of chess. 
     Of the crop, my favorite is Bisguier. In recent years I have purchased very few chess books, but when the two volumes of Bisguier's games came out I had to have them. Bisguier wasn't known for his literary efforts in chess, but for many years he was a contributor to Chess Review, one of the all time great chess magazines and for a brief time he was Managing Editor of Chess Life. The two books were: The Art of Bisguier, The Early Years (1945-1960) and The Art of Bisguier, Selected Games 1961-2003. American Chess Masters from Morphy to Fischer was co-written with Andy Soltis, but it appears that Bisguier actually had little to do with it. 
     The first book is a large size: 8.5 x 11; easy to read, large type for game moves and italic type for notes, many photographs which are washed out and are badly distorted. If you can get past the puns, jokes, anecdotes, trivia, chess history and sometimes bad analysis, the games are action packed affairs that are a lot of fun to play over. On mine the pages came loose very quickly. Fortunately, the second volume is much better produced and contains instructive, well-annotated games. 
     But, like I said, it's Bisguier's games that are the important thing. Known for his opening experiments and swashbuckling tactical style, Bisguier could also play solid positional chess and excellent endings...if he had too. For him, chess was a game, not a profession and during his heyday he worked full time for IBM, first as a programmer and later as a technical writer. He also enjoyed partying, the ladies, literature, bridge and (ugh!) checkers. For many years Bisguier also served on the board of directors for a local branch of Planned Parenthood. 
     The following game was played in the 1945 Manhattan Chess Club Junior Championship and attracted the attention of Reuben Fine who featured it in his Game of the Month column in Chess Review and later included it in one of his books. 
     Fine wrote, “Bisguier played from beginning to end with admirable imagination and precision.” Bisguier's analysis didn't add much to Fine's notes and at the end Fine confessed that in spite of his dubious play earlier, Byrne missed a chance to equalize, so the question was, where did Bisguier go wrong in conducting his attack? Fine wasn't sure. And, I'm not sure I was able to answer that question even with Stockfish because there's always the possibility that engines may find a hidden resource that the players missed. Just because there is one move hidden in a position that allows the defender to escape doesn't mean that the attacker did anything wrong. In fact, the attacker often deserves kudos for bringing about such a position that makes the defender's task so difficult! 

     What I liked about the game was the way, when he culdn't accomplish anything more on the K-side, Bisguier switched to the other side.  The resulting pressure on black's position was just too much.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Short's King Takes A Walk

    The Tilburg tournaments were a series of very strong events held in Tilburg, The Netherlands. Established in 1977, they ran continuously through 1994 under the sponsorship of Interpolis, an insurance company. Fontys College revived the tournament series from 1996 to 1998, when the last edition was played. There have been other annual tournaments at Tilburg, but the strength and importance has been greatly diminished since the old days.
     In 1992 the tournament was for the first time held in the knockout format.  Game one on day one, game two on day two (both at classic time limits). Day three was a rest day, but for those tied 1-1 they had to play two more tie-break games (each with rapid time limit) and in a few cases, another two. The format was described by some commentators as very brutal. Anyone getting off to a slow start would be eliminated and sent home in just two or three days, such as happened to the entire group of Hungarians: Lajos Portisch, Gyula Sax, Zolt├ín Ribli, Jozsef Pinter and Peter Leko. Those who did not win cleanly in the initial two games found fatigue a problem due to having to give up their rest days. The benefit over the old double round-robin format, was that it opened up the potential for an unexpected winner which made it exciting for the spectators. 
     The 1992 edition had 111 players, 94 in round one, with the 47 winners then being joined by 17 seeded players given a bye to round two. Round two therefore comprised 64 players, round three 32 and round four 16. At the time, it had the largest prize fund of any traditional tournament. Mickey Adams won 100,000 Dutch guilders which is well over $1000,000 in today's US dollars. The seeded players were also given very generous conditions of a guaranteed 10,000 guilders. 
     The 1994 event, which clashed with another strong tournament in Holland, was organized by the Dutch insurance company Interpolis and was another large knockout tournament. 
     At the opening ceremony, a spokesman for Interpolis shocked the audience with an announcement that the company was reconsidering its chess and other public relations activities, following a merger with Rabobank. 
     Another major surprise was the return of the Brazilian GM Henrique Mecking, a former world-class player, who had suffered a life-threatening condition, but had slowly recovered. 
     There were three more round robins played in 1996 (winner Jeroen Piket), 1997 (winner Peter Svidler) and 1998 (winner Viswanathan Anand). 
     The following game between Nigel Short and Jan Timman features an amazing King march from g1 to g5 to set up a mating net on a board full of pieces, but there was no way Timman could hinder it. 
     Timman made the mistake of entering an opening line that Short was quite familiar with and Short's 30th move contained an idea that was genius.
     Concerning Alekhine's Defense, last year I did a post on it, My Macabre Fascination With Alekhine's Defense, where I wrote, “When I see it, I want to turn away, but am drawn to it and generally can't resist playing over the game.” Naturally, I've tried it several times in correspondence games and have scored plus one in 10 games, but to be honest, I have mostly gotten positions that caused me to regret having played it! 

1) Garry Kasparov 10.0-4.0 
2) Nigel Short 8.5 
3) Viswanathan Anand 8.0 
4) Anatoly Karpov 7.5 
5) Gata Kamsky 7.0 
6) Jan Timman 6.5 
7) Viktor Kortchnoi 5.5 
8) Evgeny Bareev 3.0 

Saturday, May 26, 2018

A Modern Immortal?

     In my post The Brutal Murder of Internationl Master Gilles Andruet, reader Takchess suggested taking a look at the game Andruet vs. Spassky that was played in the German Bundesliga in 1988. A full list of players for the 1988 season can be viewed HERE. On chessgames.com, he had commented that this game is a modern immortal. After playing over it that sounds like a good description. 
     In this game Andruet battles Spassky on level terms until move 27 when he makes an fatal mistake. Spassky's reply leaves him with a won position, but it also contains a deadly threat involving a Queen sacrifice. 
     The game features a minority attack and there is a good explanation of the possibilities inherent in this formation HERE
     I first became interested in the minority attack with white after seeing a couple of nice wins by Reshevsky and about the same time reading about it in Pachman's Modern Chess Strategy. It seemed like the ideal positional approach, simple and straight forward. Unfortunately, in practice black has plenty of satisfactory ways of meeting it and at best white doesn't get more than a draw.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Abraham S. Kussman

     Kussman was born December 21, 1907 in Geneva, Switzerland. Exactly when he arrived in the United States is unknown, but he graduated from Morris High School in the Bronx, New York in 1925. 
     His father taught him how to play and he seemed to have a natural talent for the game. In 1924 he played fourth board for his high school team in the preliminaries of the Interborough High School Chess League and won six games in a row; in the finals he scored +1 -1 =1. 
     After graduating, he attended City College of New York (class of 1929) and played fourth board on the chess team. After joining the Manhattan Chess Club in 1926, the following year he won third prize in the Class B handicap tournament and in 1928 he finished third in the Class A tournament. 
     In 1928, while a college student, Kussman scored an excellent victory in the National Chess Federation's first Intercollegiate Championship. By 1930 he was participating in the Mahanttan club's Young Masters Tournaments which included the likes of Reuben Fine and Arthur Dake. 
     In 1928, the National Chess Federation was beginning to stand on its own and had become affiliated with FIDE, become involved in supporting trips to international tournaments by US Masters and in  1929 organized its own championship which was held at Bradley Beach, New Jersey. 
    The Intercollegiate was held at the Manhattan Chess Club and was directed by the legendary L. Walter Stephens. It was Stephens who was largely responsible for the tournament when he sent letters to colleges all over the country. 
    Arnold Denker didn't care much for L. Walter Stephens, depicting him as a rigid and humorless man who sucked the enjoyment out of everything. Denker also poked fun at Stephens penchant for wearing bightly colored suits. The younger players barely tolerated Stephens and frequently made vulgar jokes about him. His wife, Maude, was described as as a "tall pencil-thin lady with a weakness for flowered hats as lush and wild as any tropical forest." She served as secretary of the Manhattan Chess Club from 1942-1954, Her husband occupied that position had from 1924-1941 and Denker claimed they lorded over the club "as if it were the family plantation." Most likely Denker's dislike of Stephens stemmed from an incident at the 1942 US Championship when Stephens incorrectly forfeited Denker in his game against Reshevsky.  
     Despite the invitations sent out by Stephens the turnout for the Intercollegiate was quite small, but some of the best college players in the country played in the 7-player, double round event. The winner received a gold medal for his prize.  Quite different from today's prizes. The final standings were: 

1) Abraham Kussman (+8 -2 =2) 9.0-3.0 
2) D.G. Weiner (+8 -3 =1) 8.5-3.5 
3-5) T. Beyer (+5 -5 =2) 6.0-6.0 
3-5) D. Bronstein (+5 -5 =2) 6.0-6.0 
3-5) P. Schlesinger (+4 -4 =4) 6.0-6.0 
6) A.N. Towsen (+3 -8 =1) 3.5-8.5 
7) L. Ault (+2 -8 =2) 3.0-9.0 

   Leslie Ault was to later become a US Intercollegiate Champion and authored a couple of chess books. He was also the father of masters Leslie and Robin Ault. Graham Clayton gives a good account of Ault's career HERE
     Kussman's losses were to Weiner and Bronstein. Second place was taken by D.G. Weiner of the University of Pennsylvania who came within a whisker of winning except for a setback in the semi-final round. 
     With the exception of Kussman and Ault the other players faded into chess obscuity. Theodore Breyer of Columbia University class of 1931 was a recent high school graduate. For some time it seemed that he was destined to easily finish third, but then lost two games in a row (two games per day were played). A.N. Towsen of Albright College class of 1928 and Leslie Ault of Rutgers class of 1929 both lacked experience, but both helped themselves to a point and a half from Schlesinger who had won both of his games from Weiner. 
     Kussman died at the age of 67 on March 13, 1975. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Arturo Quiroga's Missed Brilliancy?!

     I doubt anybody has ever heard of Arturo Quiroga, but according to an article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle back in 1922, when a team of masters from the Manhattan Chess Club contested the first Pan-American cable match against a team from the Argentine Chess Club in Buenos Aires on April 23rd, Quiroga...well, you can read what the article said about the game for yourself.  More on this at the end of this post. 
     On the US end the Manhattan Chess Club's home was in the Hotel Sherman Square where a cable operator sat near the player and a teller would relay the moves which were then sent to main office from where they were cabled to far away Buenos Aires. 
     The match was terminated at two o'clock in the morning after fourteen and a half hours play and the time didn't include a break of an hour and a half for supper! Club officials in New York finally stepped in and proposed that the match be called to a halt even though only two games of the six board match had been completed. Those two games had been drawn. The four remaining game were all adjourned in complicated positions and they were to be sent to Capablanca who was the official adjudicator, but at the time he was in Paris. However, it was generally agreed that the New York team would be victorious by a final score of 4-2. 
     The only game in which the Manhattan team had even looked like losing was the Schroeder – Quiroga game which in the afternoon had been given up as lost, but fate intervened when Quiroga supposedly missed his chance. 
     The first game to actually reached a conclusion happened when Albert Marder agreed to a draw against Rolando Illa, ex-champion of Buenoes Aires after 26 moves. 
     The game between Oscar Chajes, former Manhattan club champion against Julio Lynch, regarded as the best player in Buenos Aires at the time was agreed drawn in 38 moves. 
     At second board Roy T. Black, former New York state champion was playing white against Benito Villegas. Black, who had traveled all the way from Syracuse, New York for the match, opened with the Ruy Lopez and succeeded in breaking up his opponent's K-side Pawns and at move 28 won one of them which gave him a decided advantage. 
     At board 4, Jacob Rosenthal, another former state champion, was playing Arnoldo Ellerman, a famous problem composer and one of the best players in Buenos Aires. For a long time they maneuvered cautiously behind their own lines and the outcome looked drawish. But, Rosenthal had two Bs against two Ns and thought that adjudication should result in his being awarded the point. At midnight Ellerman cabled that he had to stop play and Rosenthal agreed. 
     At board 6, Harold M. Phillips, president of the Intercollegiate Chess League met Belgrano Rawson's Caro-Kann with aggressive play and by advancing his h-Pawn had managed to break up Rawson's K-side. Their game was one of the two that continued all the way to two o'clock I n the morning.  Phillips had not yet managed to score the point, but it was believed he was very close to doing so. 
     After play had stopped Robert Raubitschek, chairman of the Manhattan's tournament committee that was in charge of the match, made an effort to come to an understanding with the captain of the Buenos Aires team to reach an agreement on the results of the unfinished games without sending them to Capablanca, but the Buenos Aires team was unwilling to accept the conclusions of the Manhattan team. It was expected that Capablanca's reply would take 4-5 weeks, but the Manhattan team was confident that they would win 4-2.
     Eventually a post card was received from Capablanca and he had awarded wins to Black and Phillips for Manhattan and Quiroga for Buenos Aires.  Capa singled out Phillips' game for his interesting and well-played game. 

Bd. 1) Chajes vs. Lynch drawn 
Bd. 2) Black vs. Villegas adjudicated as a win for Black 
Bd. 3) Marder vs. Illa drawn 
Bd. 4) Rosenthal vs. Ellerman adjudicated as a draw 
Bd. 5) Schroeder vs. Quiroga adjudicated as a win for Quiroga 
Bd. 6) Phillips vs. Rawson adjudicated as a win for Phillips 
Final score: Manhattan 3.5 Buenos Aires 2.5 
Buenos Aires had white on odd numbered boards 

     What's interesting is that everybody, including Capablanca, was wrong about the Schroeder vs. Quiroga game as analysis with Stockfish 9 shows. According to Stockfish, not only did Quiroga NOT have any advantage at move 19; he was actually lost as early as move 15. And, in a Shootout from the adjourned position at move 36 which Capablanca adjudicated as a win for black, all five games were drawn. 
    After playing over the game with Stockfish, I even went back and double checked the newspaper article just to confirm that I had it right. Indeed, in the Daily Eagle Helms had claimed that Quiroga missed an immortal brilliancy, but it never said how. And, in his published notes Schroeder not only never made any such claim, he didn't even comment on move 19. Conclusion: never believe everything you read in the paper.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Wayback Machine – Rzeschewski

      I came across the accompanying picture and couldn't resist posting it. In case you're wondering Rzeschewski is the short guy on the right! 
     Back on May 10, 1922, Sammy Rzeschewski, as Samuel Reshevsky was known in those days, returned to Providence, Rhode Island to give his second simultaneous exhibition sponsored by the Providence Chess Club at the Elk's Auditorium where he scored 16 wins and yielded two draws.  Those obtaining draws were L.H. Blount, the Providence champion, and S.L. Thompson of the Hospital Trust chess team. Sammy's score was an improvement on his previous year's record where he got nicked for four draws. 
     During a ten minute break Sammy sang two verses of America, Our Glorious Land which thrilled the audience and resulted in a prolonged applause. (I can't find a song by that title.) After the break he proceeded to hand out defeats to all but Blount and Thompson. 
     After the simul J.C. Cook, chairman of the entertainment committee of the chess club made a presentation of a gold metal to Sammy that was inscribed, “Samuel Rzeschewski, from the Providence Chess Club, May 10, 1922, in recognition of his genius in the field of chess and music.” Cook then gave a demonstration of the Knight's Tour and Blount played a blindfold game against a player named Harold Bonant. Rzeschewski spectated and threw in a few comments. Blount lost! 
    When he arrived in Providence, Rzeschewski paid his respects to the mayor which is when the picture was taken. He also met the President of Brown University, W.H.P. Faunce. While in town he stayed with Mr. Louis Shatkin, owner of a local manufacturing company. Mr. Shatkin also took Sammy on a spin around town in his automobile which left Sammy quite thrilled. Rzeschewski spent the night in Providence so he could sing the next day at an orphanage. As a boy, he loved singing as much as he loved chess. I don't know how he felt about either after reaching adulthood.