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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Botvinnik, Absolute Champion

    Botvinnik was not a nice man. David Bronstein snidely referred to him as “a good Communist” who was not above using his influence to get what he wanted.
     When the 12th Soviet Championship was finished on October 1940, Botvinnik found himself tied for 5th place with Isaac Boleslavsky, two full points behind the joint winners Andor Lilienthal and Igor Bondarevsky. Vasily Smyslov and Paul Keres finished 3rd and 4th, respectively. What's more, Botvinnik had lost both of his games against the joint winners. 
     For Botvinnik it was a disaster that left him fearful of losing his position as the Soviet player with the best claim to challenge Alekhine. Something had to be done! 
     Lilienthal and Bondarevsky were scheduled to have a playoff to determine the champion, but Botvinnik was able to persuade the chess authorities that neither of those two were worthy of representing the Soviet Union. So, he pulled strings to arrange a quadruple round tournament between the top 6 finishers in the 12th Championship in place of a playoff. The tournament would be for a new title thought up by Botvinnik: Absolute Championship of the USSR, a title separate from the regular Soviet Championship to be decided only once and to determine who had priority in challenging Alekhine. 

    Botvinnik convinced authorities that reforming the title was a matter of urgency and stressed that fact to Vladimir Snegiryov, a Botvinnik supporter, whom he described as “ugly” and “slovenly dressed.” Snegiryov had taken the place of the purged Nikolai Krylenko
     It was Snegiryov who persuaded the authorities that a match-tournament was a better idea than a playoff and so it happened. The first ten rounds were held in the Tauride Palace in Leningrad and last ten rounds in the Hall Of Columns in Moscow. It started on the 23rd of March and ran until the 29th of April. 
     Two months after this tournament in Operation Barbarossa, Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union, a number of players were lost in the ensuing fighting and Soviet chess activity receded into the background until after the War. 
     The antagonists in this game are Bondarevsky and Lilienthal. The latter is famous for eing the world's oldest living Grandmaster. Lilienthal (May 5, 1911 – May 8, 2010) was born in Moscow and moved to Hungary at the age of two, returned to the Soviet Union in 1935 and then went back to Hungary in 1976.
     Writing in The Soviet School of Chess, a book loaded with propaganda about the superiority of the Soviet system, authors Kotov and Yudovich made the observation that Lilienthal was uneven in his results because he had not fully mastered the training methods worked out in the Soviet Union. 
     Another reason they gave was that he paid insufficient attention to physical fitness and as a result he was unable to stand the strain in competition. I was reminded of the time I met an elderly gentleman in his nineties. The old guy looked sixty and every morning enjoyed a hearty breakfast of beer poured over a big bowl of Wheaties. For more on beer over cereal see HERE! He told me of the time when as a young man he had tried to buy life insurance but was turned down because he was too skinny. In those days life insurance companies equated being skinny with being sickly.
     When Lilienthal played at the high level at which he was capable, his games were examples of subtle positional maneuvering, smashing attacks and ingenious exploitation of endgame advantages. 
     Lilienthal's opponent was Igor Bondarevsky (May 12, 1913 – June 14, 1979).  Like Tartakower, Bondarevsky was born in Rostov-on--Don and was a GM in both OTB and postal play, an International Arbiter, trainer, and author. He later was Spassky's coach. 
     Bondarevsky made comparatively few appearances in international tournaments, but in his first, Stockholm 1948, he tied for sixth with Najdorf, Stahberg and Flohr which earned him a spot in the challengers tournament in Budapest 1950. Unfortunately, illness prevented him from playing. 
     Initially, he was known for complicated tactical chess, but when he realized that more was required to reach the upper echelons, he began studying, and mastered, strategy. At that time he more or less abandoned tactics and began relying purely on technique. With that there was a decline in his results. 

Monday, October 29, 2018

Exciting Finish in the 1951 Canadian Championship

     The 1951 championship marked the first time it was held on the Pacific Coast. A substantial fundraising drive that was undertaken to provide sufficient funds to sponsor the tournament netted just under $1,700 of which $500 came from a private patron. 
     The previous championship in Arvida, Quebec, in 1949 had been won by Maurice Fox for a record eight times. His record was subsequently matched by Abe Yanofsky. In the 1949 event, Fox had managed to stave off challenges Yanofsky, Frank Anderson, Vaitonis and Fedor Bohatirchuk who had won the 1927 championship of the Ukraine. 
   In the 1951 championship play was from, Sundays excepted, August 26, from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., with adjournments being played on the following mornings from 9 o'clock to 12 noon. 
     As defending champion Fox's traveling expenses paid. Additionally, accommodations for all the participants was paid. Prize money: First $300; second $200; third $120; fourth $80; fifth $60; sixth $20. Plus bonuses were paid to the other plays based on wins. Other prizes for brilliancy, shortest game, etc were offered. Prior to the start there was a banquet for the players that was open to the public for $2.50 per plate. 
     The big question was could Fox repeat? He couldn't. The championship was won by Paul Vaitonis, a cost accountant in Hamilton, Ontario. 
     Povilas (Paul) Vaitonis (August 15, 1911 – April 23, 1983) was born in what was to become modern Lithuania.  He was an IM and was inducted into the Canadian Chess Hall of Fame in 2011. 
     Vaitonis was a five-time Lithuanian champion ( 1934, 1937, 1938, 1942, and 1944) and played for Lithuania in four official and one unofficial Olympiads (1933, 1935,1936, 1937, 1939) scoring +36 -29 =18.  The 1936 Olympiad held in Munich was unofficial. In those days he played, and lost, three matches against Vladas Mikenas. He won the Canadian championship twice. 
     Vaitonis left Lithuania just before the advancing Soviet forces arrived. His reason..."all the time you're afraid. Even if you don't do anything wrong you never know when they'll arrest you." 
     He was scheduled to escape to Sweden in a small boat, but the boat was bombed and those he intended to escape with were killed. He managed to find another ship which successfully ran the gauntlet to Sweden. Many Baltic players ended up in the US, Canada and Australia: Arlauskas, Dreibergs, Endzelins, Jursevskis, Mednis, Ozols, Sarapu, Tautvaiaas and Zemgalis. 
     He remained in Sweden until 1948. That year he got married and left for Canada in 1949. After working for a year on a farm he found employment as a cost accountant. He wrote a weekly chess column in The Hamilton Spectator from 1953–1955. 
     In 1949, he finished 5th in the Canadian Championship. In 1951 and in 1957, he was Canadian Champion. In 1952 he qualified for the Interzonal in Stockholm 1952, but only managed 19th place. In 1953, he finished 3rd place in Canadian Championship. Vaitonis played for Canada in two Olympiads (1954 and 1958), scoring +10 -8 =10.   In 1952, he was awarded the IM title and through the 1960s he continued playing in the Canadian Championships and on various local teams. 
     Vaitonis leaned to play chess at the age of five, and oddly, he did not particularly care for tournament play; he most enjoyed just casual play with friends. 
     The 1951 championship quickly turned into a race to see if anyone could catch Frank Anderson, who established a substantial lead by scoring 9.5 out of his first 10 games! 
     The only ones who had a chance were Vaitonis and Frank Anderson. For Abe Yanofsky the tournament was a disaster when he lost his first two games: to Bohatirchuk and Anderson. Then is round 5 he lost to Hayes and it was all over.
     The championship came right down to the wire and wasn't decided until the last adjournment of the final round. Because of the odd number of players each player had to receive a bye. I still have painful memories of losing a game to Hayes back in 1962 and I also did a post on him HERE.
     When the final round arrived Vaitonis already had his bye and Bohatirchuk had his in round 11. Anderson's bye was in the last round which meant his 10.0 points was his final score. In round 12 Bohatirchuk had beaten Anderson which set up the decisive last round game between Bohatirchuk and Vaitonis. Going into the 13th round the scores were: 
1) Anderson 10.0 
2) Vaitonis 9.5 
3) Bohatirchuk 9.0 

Final standings;
1) Paul Vaitonis 10.5 
2) Frank Anderson 10.0 
3) Fedor Bohatirchuk 9.0 
4) Abe Yanofsky 8.0 
5) Nathan Divinsky 6.5 
6-7) Maurice Fox and Walter Jursevskis 6.0 
8-9) Frank Yerhoff and Jack Taylor 5.0 
10-11) Rea B. Hayes and Walter Holowach 4.0 
12) Howard Ridout 3.0 
13) Charles Millar 1.0 

Here is the decisive game. 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Rise of Bent Larsen

     February 1956 was a sad month because on February 4th, Dr. Savielly Tartakower died at the age of 68 in Paris. On a happier note, a few months later at the Olympiad in Moscow Bent Larsen (March 4, 1935 – September 9, 2010) made his debut in the international arena. Like Tartakower, Larsen was to become known for his imaginative and unorthodox style. 
     Larsen won the Danish championship six times and was a Candidate for the World Championship four times, reaching the semifinal three times. Larsen became a GM in 1956 with his gold-medal performance on board one at the Moscow Olympiad, where he drew World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik. He suffered from diabetes and died in 2010 from a cerebral hemorrhage. 
     The 12th Olympiad took place between August 31 and September 25, 1956, in Moscow and the Soviet team (Botvinnik, Smyslov, Keres, Bronstein, Taimanov and Geller) which had won the previous two Olympiads, was the huge favorite and they lived up to expectations. 
     A total of 34 teams were entered and were divided into four preliminary groups of eight or nine teams. The top three from each group advanced to Final A, the teams placed 4th–6th to Final B, and the rest to Final C. All groups and finals were played as round-robin tournaments. The US did not sent a team to the Olympiad that year, but less than a month after the Olympiad, on October 17th at the Marshall Chess Club in New York, 26-year-old Donald Byrne sat down to play 13-year-old Bobby Fischer in what was later to be called "The Game of the Century" by Hans Kmoch in Chess Review
     Even though the Soviet Union was the heavy favorite, authorities treated the event dead seriously.  Things were changing in the Soviet Union. Unknown to the world at the time, at the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union held during February, the Soviet Leader, Nikita Khrushchev, had given a speech condemning former Soviet premier Joseph Stalin who had died three years earlier. Khrushchev denounced Stalin as a cruel leader who had created a toxic, suspicious and terrifying environment in which persecution was rife. Khrushchev stated that Stalin's "cult of personality" must be dismantled and urged the Soviet Congress members to reveal the truth about Stalin slowly to the Russian public. The entirety of the secretive speech was not revealed to the Russian people until 1988. And, a win by the Soviet team would go a long way to “prove” the superiority of the Soviet system.
    The Red Army Central Theater was the venue. The main final consisted of 12 teams. The Soviets started with impressive 4-0 over England and took the early lead. After challenges by Hungary, Yugoslavia and unexpectedly Switzerland, in round 9 the Soviets trounced Denmark by scoring three wins and assured themselves a first place finish. But the sensation was on on board 1 where Larsen held the World Champion, the mighty Botvinnik, to a draw. When it was all over, the Soviets won another trophy but this time it was not so easy. They lost their first ever match and couldn't overtake their competitors until penultimate round. 

Final A 
1-Soviet Union (Botvinnik, Smyslov, Keres, Bronstein, Taimanov and Geller)
2-Yugoslavia (Gligoric, Matanovic, Ivkov, Karaklajic, Milic, Durasevic) 
3-Hungary (Szabo, Barcza, Benko, Szilagyi, Bely, Portisch) 
4-Argentina (Najdorf, Bolbochán, Panno, Pilnik, Sanguineti, Wexler) 
5-West Germany (Unzicker, Schmid, Darga, Pfeiffer, Niephaus, Teschner)
6-Bulgaria (Padevsky, Minev, Kolarov, Tringov, Tsvetkov, Milev) 
7-Czechoslovakia (Filip, Pachman, Sefc, Rejfir, Alster, Jezek) 
8- England (Golombek, Penrose, Wade, Milner-Barry, Clarke, Phillips)
9-Switzerland (Blau, Bhend, Walther, Keller, Johner) 
10-Denmark (Larsen, Poulsen, Pedersen, Ingerslev, Nielsen, Enevoldsen) 
11-Romania (Balanel, Ciocaltea, Troianescu, Soos, Ghițescu, Radulescu) 
12-Israel (Czerniak, Porath, Aloni, Oren, Dobkin, Smiltiner) 

Friday, October 26, 2018

Stumped by Sam Loyd

When I saw this two mover by Loyd that appeared in Musical World in 1859, the solution came pretty quickly...that is until I realized that it must be cooked, but it isn't. For the solution visit my book review page HERE.

White mates in 2

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Havana 1952

     In 1952 there was an international chess tournament at the Capablanca Chess Club in Havana. Cuba invited five players from the United States to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Cuba. 
     The invitees were: US Champion Larry Evans, former champions Samuel Reshevsky and Herman Steiner, former U.S Open Champion I.A. Horowitz and Dr. Edward Lasker. 
     Other noted players invitees were: Najdorf, Eliskases, Prins, Rossolimo, Gligoric, Pomar, Roman Toran and Braslav Rabar. It was rumored that Dr. Petar Trifunovic of Yugoslavia might also be invited. Rossolimo was doubtful and Dr. Max Euwe had to decline because of business. 
    Technically Rossolimo represented France, but he planned to make his home together with his wife and young son in the United States after the tournament. A Chess Life article observed that his inability to converse in English may hinder him for awhile in his search for an occupation outside of chess here, but added a man of his talents should have little trouble attaining eventual success. As for his English, when I met him at his chess studio in the mid-1960s, it was excellent. A little-known skill of Rossolimo's was that he was an expert in jiu-jitsu. 
     Cuba was to be represented by: Dr. Juan Gonzales and Dr. Romano with four other, as of the time of the announcement, unnamed Cuban players. In the end, there were 21 players in the final standing. Originally there were 23, but early in the tournament, General Manuel Soto Larrea (who played 6 games) and Captain Jose Joaquin Araiza Munoz (who played 5 games) were recalled by the Mexican government and had to withdraw. No reason was given and Mexican history for the year 1952 does not turn up anything of significance except perhaps the presidential elections which were held in July. Or, it may have had something to do with Cuban, not Mexican, politics. The tournament took place in February. 
     In what had to be the most shocking turn of events during the tournament was when Roberto Quesada, Sr. suffered a heart attack at some point prior to his 17th round game against Steiner and did not recover. All the players attended his funeral. The loss of three players along with the regularly scheduled bye, coupled with many adjourned games, made daily coverage of the race for first between Najdorf and Reshevsky somewhat confused at times.
     When the coupe took place Rossolimo was in first place, but he then mysteriously lost three games in a row to spoil his chances for a really high prize. First place was $2500.00 and as Chess Life observed, “...even with the price of meat these days, you can buy a lot of bacon with ($2,500.00).” 
     On the political scene, the Cuban President, Carlos Prio Socarras, who sponsored the tournament, was deposed when Fulgencio Batista preempted the presidential election during the tournament by staging a coup. 
     Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar (born Ruben Zaldivar, January 16, 1901 – August 6, 1973) was the elected President of Cuba from 1940 to 1945, and the US-backed authoritarian ruler from 1952 to 1959, before being overthrown by Castro. 
     Batista initially rose to power as part of the 1933 revolt which overthrew the provisional government of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes y Quesada. He then appointed himself chief of the armed forces, with the rank of colonel, and controlled the five-member "pentarchy" that functioned as head of state. He maintained this control through a string of puppet presidents until 1940, when he was himself elected President of Cuba. He then instated the 1940 Constitution of Cuba and served until 1944. 
     After finishing his term he lived in Florida, returning to Cuba to run for president in 1952. Facing certain defeat, he led a military coup that preempted the election. Back in power, he received financial, military, and logistical support from the United States even though he suspended the 1940 Constitution and revoked most political liberties. 
    He then aligned with the wealthiest landowners who owned the largest sugar plantations, and presided over an economy that widened the gap between rich and poor. Eventually it reached the point where most of the sugar industry was in US hands and foreigners owned 70 percent of the arable land. Batista profited by negotiating lucrative relationships with both the American Mafia, who controlled the drug, gambling, and prostitution businesses in Havana and with large US companies who were awarded lucrative contracts. 
     To quell the growing discontent Batista established tighter censorship of the media and used the Bureau for the Repression of Communist Activities secret police to carry out wide-scale violence. He was overthrown by Castro in 1959.
     Batista's coup which took part during the tournament seems to have had no effect on the tournament and was never mentioned in the daily newspaper reports of the event. It was originally envisioned as a Capablanca memorial tournament, in honor of the ten year anniversary of Capablanca's death, but it's not considered part of the Capablanca Memorial series. 
     After Batista was deposed by Castro, Che Guevara was instrumental in establishing the Capablanca Memorial tournaments. The 1952 event was "pre-revolution," so became something of a non-event in Castro's Cuba. 
     Also in Chess Life was an article by Kenneth Harkness, the inventor of the rating system adopted by the USCF, in which he made predictions on the results of the Havana tournament based on the rating system which had been in operation for two years. 
     Harkness rightfully boasted his system worked like “one of those mechanical brains you read about in the papers. Tournament results are fed in at one end and ratings come out at the other. The machine has no feelings or emotions. When presented with the results of a tournament, it pays no attention to fancy titles. The sponsors may call it a Masters’ Tournament to Decide the Championship of Fifteen Counties; but the system adds up the ratings of the players, strikes an average, and calls the contest an 1843-point Class B event, if that is how it turns out.” His predictions were, as he put it, “about as near as you can come without the use of a crystal ball.” 
     In order to measure the performances of American players in foreign tournaments, 163 tournaments held in Europe and Pan-America since 1945 had been rated. Having thus built up a list of foreign players, an attempt was made to keep it up-to-date by rating the results of all important events in the future. Harkness rated the players as follows: 

1. Miguel Najdorf 2714 
2. Samuel Reshevsky 2704 
He predicted a photo-finish between these two although he gave Reshevsky the edge because he had made higher ratings than Najdorf in the past and because he was out to avenge the loss of the US Championship to Larry Evans the previous year. This would lead to Reshevsky's playing “harder than ever to recover his prestige.” Harkness pointed out that a difference of 10 points in ratings means practically nothing. 
3. Evans 2660 
4. Gligorich 2654 
5. Eliskases 2648 
Any one of these three could take third prize, and there is about a 5 to 1 chance that one of them would win the tournament. Larry Evans was on the way up and this event was, according to Harkness, was a chance for him to show whether he is headed for the (then) Grandmaster Class (at that time 2700), or whether he was going to level off below that. Gligorich and Eliskases had averaged around 2650 points for the past four years. For either to finish ahead of both Najdorf and Reshevsky would be unlikely but not impossible. 
6. Rossolimo 2507 
7. Horowitz 2473 
8. Guimard 2484 
9. Prins 2478 
There was little to choose between these four players. A spread of only 37 points between the highest and lowest of their current ratings meant that any one of them could take sixth prize. He gave Rossolimo a very slight edge because he had been the most consistent for the past three years. Horowitz was also a steady player, having been rated as a Senior Master since 1934. He was capable of finishing higher than sixth, but it had nine years since Horowitz scored more than 2600 and there were indications that he as on the down-grade. In the last US Championship Horowitz made only an even score, earning a 2400 performance rating. Guimard and Prins usually been lower performances in the past and Prins' rating was the highest he had ever achieved. 
10. Herman Steiner 2427 
There was no telling what Steiner would do in any one tournament. Being highly emotional and somewhat erratic, he could do well or badly. 
11. Araiza 2344
12. Gonzales 2343 
13. Lasker 2342
With such a small rating difference difference between these three players, it was a toss-up for 11th place. Edward Lasker surprised everybody when he took third prize in the six-man Masters Tournament at the Marshall Chess Club in 1951, but the schedule at Havana was a tough one for a player in his sixties. The Mexican veteran J.J. Araiza had been out of international competition since 1945 and it was likely he had slipped below his 2346 rating. 
14. Toran 2283 
15. Pomar 2211 
A 100 to 1 long shot was the young Spanish champion Roman Toran. Harkness predicted he didn't have a chance of finishing in the money, but he could do better than 14th. Pomar had been a disappointment. After being ballyhooed as another Capablanca or Rcshevsky, the boy wonder fizzled out. He was, of course, a strong player but never lived up to initial expectations. 

     Miguel Aleman (2147) and Francisco Planas (2120) may or may not have been under-rated and Harkness had no record of their performance since 1947. He had no record on the performance of the remaining players. 
     The biggest surprise was Dr. Juan Gonzales was under-rated! Prior to Havana, the Cuban master had played in only four rated tournaments, so the system had not had a chance to produce an accurate average. Either Gonzales had not reached his peak or Harkness may have lacked sufficient data. 
     Horowitz finished about where predicted. He was leading the field for a while and his friends were figuring out what his income tax would be on the first prize. Later, Horowitz got bumped around and sank to his normal level causing Harkness to write, “The system knows!” 

1-2) Miguel Najdorf and Samuel Reshevsky 16.5 
3) Svetozar Gligoric 15.0 
4-5) Larry Evans and Erich Eliskases 14.0 
6) Nicolas Rossolimo 12.5 
7) Juan Carlos Gonzalez 11.5 
8-10) Roman Toran, Arturo Pomar and I.A. Horowitz 10.5 
11) Lodewijk Prins 10.0 
12-13) Eldis Cobo Arteaga and Carlos Guimard 9.5 
14) Eleazar Jimenez 9.0 
15-16) Edward Lasker and Herman Steiner 8.5 
17) Ricardo Romero 6.5 
18) Roberto Quesada, Sr. 6.0 
19) Francisco Planas 5.0 
20) Migule Aleman 3.5 
21) Rogelio Ortega 2.0 
Chess Drum has a nice article on Ortega. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Night Cuban Police Raided Capablanca's House

     Cuba is known for old cars, cigars, Fidel Castro and chess which is one of Cuba’s greatest prides and is deeply embedded in Cuban history and culture.
     Even Castro played chess and promoted it along with his nationwide literacy programs. When the Cuban government promoted a campaign to educate the masses in Cuba after the revolution, the goal was to provide free education to every citizen. Around 1966 chess would be taught to all children; Castro borrowed this idea from Capablanca, who believed it was important for children to learn chess in school. Che Guevara also pushed for chess education in schools. 
     Things didn't quite work out as hoped though. It was obligatory to learn chess in primary school, but there were not enough teachers. As a result, the government pushed for more chess education, particularly when it strengthened relations with the Soviet Union. In the 1980s, the government created the Latin American Higher Institute of Chess that offered free chess lessons in the hopes of creating a new generation of Grandmasters. Castro and his right-hand-man Che Guevara organized the Chess Olympiads in 1966 and the world’s largest simultaneous game of chess in 2002. 
     Guevara's father took him to a tournament when he was a boy growing up in Buenos Aires and he saw Capablanca playing. That’s where he first got addicted to chess and also where he first learned about the country where Capablanca came from. Che and the Cuban government invested huge amounts of money to support chess. 
     In Cuba, chess is synonymous with Capablanca, but few know that Christopher Columbus brought chess to the island in the 15th century. However, Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, the man who declared Cuban independence in 1868, is considered to be the father of chess in the country because he translated the rules. 
     Of course, Jose Raul Capablanca is considered one of the greatest players of all time and when he won the World Championship in Havana in 1921, he became a national hero and greatly contributed to the game’s popularity in Cuba. 
     Today the recognized Cuban organization is Federacion Cubana de Ajedrez, but at one time there was a rival organization. When Reuben Fine visited Havana on personal business in 1942 he was surprised to find there was an internal dispute in Cuban chess. 
     A few years prior to his visit the Federacion Cubana de Ajedrez was the sole organization in existence. To Fine's surprise they had begun a vitriolic campaign against Capablanca some years previously when it became apparent that Capa's failing health was preventing him from repeating his great success of the past.
     Fine was shown newspaper clippings that made ridiculous claims about Capa which he described as silly and insulting. For example, at one time Capa was asked to play a match against one of the strongest Cuban players of the day and when he refused, it was claimed Capa was afraid he would lose. 
     After the 1938 AVRO tournament where Capa finished 7th out of 8 places, the organization made what Fine called pernicious and vituperative attacks on Alekhine and called Capa the professional champion of Cuba. At the same time, they withdrew his honorary title of president of the Cuban Chess Federation. Fine claimed that while the Federacion Cubana de Ajedrez paid lip service to Capa's influence on chess in the country, they did not appreciate his importance to it. 
     The result was that Capablanca formed his own organization, the Federacion Nacional de Ajedrez de Cuba, which continued even after his death. However, FIDE only recognized Federacion Cubana de Ajedrez whose behavior thoroughly annoyed Fine because they tried to exploit his visit which was made entirely for personal reasons and at his own expense. He was also annoyed that they tried to use the name of Capablanca to harm his own organization. 
     What really got Fine was upset was that when he gave a simultaneous exhibition, the official Cuban federation tried to make his score as bad as possibly by stacking the deck against him with strong players and encouraging another strong player to roam around giving advice to his opponents. And, they actually ordered players who were going to resign to play on in the hopes of tiring him out. 
     Fine also found it galling that the official federation (Federacion Cubana de Ajedrez) had printed on its stationery a line calling Francisco Planas, the 1927 and 1929 Cuban champion, the “simultaneous chess champion of the world” which Fine dubbed “material for good comedy.” 
     In 1941, Planas broke a simultaneous record by playing 618 opponents at 103 boards in Havana. Six players consulted at each table. He won 64, drew 26, and lost 13. It took him 16 hours to finish and he walked over 15 miles. 
     Back on March 5, 1933 Capa had given an 8 board clock simul in Havana with the stipulation that he had one minute per move and his opponents had 3 minutes. Additionally, his opponent's time could be rolled over if they moved before the three minutes were up. 
     On six of the boards there were teams of two or three players while two strong players, Francisco Planas and Alejandro Meylan, took on Capa single handed. Only Planas was able to put a dent in Capa's performance when he drew in 48 moves. Capa used 42 minutes and Planas used 92 minutes. 
     Shortly after that exhibition Capa was scheduled to head out for a tour of Panama and the United States, but that evening the police surrounded his house. They were looking for one Carlos Pelaez Cossio, husband of his wife's sister. 
     Back in 1924, Capa was world champion and he had been mentioned as the author of a proclamation against the president of Cuba. Capa denied the rumors but admitted that he was friends with the rebels. Pelaez had written letters to Capa stating that he was trying to send weapons and armed expeditions to Cuba. Pelaez was one of those people who was willing to be martyred for his beliefs and the government police reckoned him to be a dangerous revolutionary. 
     Years later a family member told one of Capa's biographers that Capa helped Pelaez escape through the back yard and he made it to the Mexican embassy where he asked for asylum along with Capa's brother Ramiro. 
     Ramiro Capablanca Graupera (died December 6, 1944) was governor of the Cuban province of Las Villas and president of the Municipal Institute of Pan American Sciences. He was part of the council that drafted the Cuban Constitution of 1940. 
     After helping the two escape, Capa rushed to a neighbor's house (a former minister of justice) where he explained the situation and was then taken to the port for his departure to Panama. It's not known if he returned to his house to pick up luggage, but when he arrived in Panama it is known that he went shopping for suits and ties. 
     Although the police did surround his house and there was a great deal of hubbub, they never actually raided the house by entering it. 
     After Capablanca died in 1942, chess aficionados organized the Capablanca Memorial tournament in his honor. The first tournament after the 1959 revolution that brought Castro to power was in 1962 at the Habana Libre Hotel, the finest hotel in Havana. It was funded by Che Guevara, the Argentine revolutionary and director of the National Bank. 
     This was not the last time the government promoted chess. In 1962 Castro banned professional sports, but huge amounts of money were devoted to baseball, boxing and chess. When Cuba sponsored the 1966 Chess Olympiad, they provided each of the 58 participating countries’ teams with a chauffeur, car and paid air travel and spent an estimated $5 million on the event. Castro himself even put in an appearance and played Bobby Fischer, who was barred by the U.S. government from attending the Capablanca Memorial the year before although he played by telex. 

     In December 2002, Castro led another chess exhibition in Jose Marti Square in Havana that made the Guinness World Book of Records for the largest chess simultaneous match, with 11,320 players. The success of the event led to the broadcasting chess lessons on TV. 
     In 2003, universities began offering chess degrees. A year later, 13,000 players took on 500 masters and Cuba broke the world record for the largest simultaneous chess exhibition in history. In 2008, Cuban GM Leinier Dominguez won the World Blitz Championship. 
     Chess by mail was once very popular and Cuba had 10,000 people in the ICCF, but now the number has fallen to less than 1,000. The reason is because these days most correspondence chess is conducted over the internet and online chess in Cuba is difficult because internet play is difficult. Internet access is limited to Wi-Fi hotspots and expensive for the average Cuban. 
     Officially the government claims that 4.5 million users accessed Cuba’s internet in 2016, representing about 40 percent of the country’s population, but home internet is only available in 5 percent of homes, typically belonging to doctors, professors and state media professionals. Until last year, most home internet connections were illegal until the government announced a pilot program to install internet in 2,000 homes across selected neighborhoods in Old Havana and provincial capitals. Still, many Cubans can't afford to pay for internet connection. 
     Mobile internet does not exist in Cuba, so Cubans must visit local Wi-Fi hotspots at parks to go online by purchasing one-hour user cards for about a dollar an hour. One dollar may not seem like much but when you consider the average Cuban makes $30 per month, it's expensive.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Hungarian Defense

Sir George Thomas - Southea 1949
     In his writing C.J.S. Purdy gave four rules that will help average players avoid opening pitfalls: 

1- Move nothing beyond the fourth (or 5th rank as black) until all pieces are developed unless it is a capture or attacks something. 
2- Avoid h2/h6 or a3/a6 unless it attacks a piece 
3- Castle as early as possible, but first make sure your opponent can't sacrifice a B on h2 (or h7).
 4- As black play Bf8-e7. 

     As Purdy observed, these rules won't enable you to play like a master, but they will avoid almost all opening traps. He added that if your judgment tells you to break one of the rules, then break it. 
     He also pointed out that the above rules preclude one from playing the Ruy Lopez, but he advised against playing the Ruy anyway because it's a complex opening that requires too much study.
     This brings us to the Hungarian Defense, a quiet response against the popular Guioco Piano which is often seen by white in amateur games. Besides being very solid and easy to play, it has almost no critical variations.
     The variation takes its name from a correspondence game between Paris and Pest, Hungary played from 1842–1845, but was first analyzed by Cozio in the 18th century. It has been played on occasion by some GMs, including Reshevsky, Hort, and former world champions Petrosian, Karpov and Smyslov.
     With the move 3...Be7, Black avoids the complexities of the Giuoco Piano, the Evans Gambit and the Two Knights Defense, but at the same time gives white an advantage in space and freer development, so Black must be prepared to defend a cramped position. 
     White's best response is 4.d4, seeking advantage in the center. Other moves pose less problems for Black; they are: 4.c3 Nf6 (Steinitz) and 4.0-0 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.d4 Bg4.  After 4.d4, Black continues either 4...exd4 or 4...d6. 
     All that said, Harding and Botterill, in their 1977 book on the Italian Game conclude that, "The Hungarian Defense can only be played for a draw. White should have an edge in most lines". 
Tartakower - Southsea 1949
     In the following game Thomas shows some of the latent possibilities in the Hungarian Defense.  It was played at Southsea 1949 which was won by Rossolimo ahead of Pachman and Tartakower. I have a small book on the tournament written by Harry Golombek that I purchased from the CCLA many, many years ago. 
Rossolimo at Southsea 1949
     The 1949 Southsea tournament was the first 10-day Southsea Swiss tournament that was the forerunner of a number of tournaments that were held in the 1950s and 60s. The event was repeated at Easter time until 1952 and the series was known as Agnes Stevenson Memorial tournament. It attracted many players of international repute: Bogoljubov, Tartakower, Yanofsky, Rossolimo, Bisguier and Pachman and helped start the career of Jonathan Penrose, ten times British Chess Champion. 
Golombek preparing the tournament book

     Sir George Thomas is well known, but R.C. Woodthorpe, a British amateur, is almost unknown.  His name shows up in many British tournaments of the 30s, 40s and 50s. 
     I am not sure they are the same person, but in the 1930s there was a British mystery writer named R.C. Woodthorpe. As a mystery writer, Ralph Carter Woodthorpe (1886-?) was the author of eight detective novels published between 1932 and 1940. Two of these featured Nicholas Slade as the leading character.