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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Despised Anatoly Karpov

   When in 1975 Bobby Fischer chickened out and refused to play Karpov and Karpov was automatically crowned as World Champion, a lot of people started to speculate that he didn’t deserve the championship. You can read an excellent 2008 interview with Karpov on Fischer HERE
     In My Great Predecessors, Kasparov himself stated that he had put forth the provocative suggestion that in a Fischer-Karpov match, Karpov would have had real winning chances and that Fischer declined to defend his title because he was afraid of losing to an unfamiliar opponent. 
     Without going into detail on Kasparov’s reasoning, years ago during the infamous Karpov-Kasparov matches, I heard Bobby Fischer making the ridiculous claim that the games were prearranged computer generated games. It was clear that both the K’s had surpassed Fischer’s understanding of the game. He tried to level the playing filed by creating Fischer random just like Capa tried to introduce new pieces when it was clear the younger generation had surpassed him. 
     By the way, Kasparov claims that the great masters of the past can be arbitrarily divided into three groups: 

1) Those with relatively poor intuition, but they had qualities of straightforward play, erudition, logic, orderliness, iron will and an extraordinary capacity for work. Steinitz, Botvinnik, Euwe and Fischer. 
2) Strong, at times even phenomenal, strategic intuition. Capablanca, Smyslov, Petrosian, Spassky, Karpov and maybe Rubinstein. 
3) Strong specific intuition operating in sharp position where material and positional equilibrium are disturbed. Lasker, Alekhine,Tal, Chigorin,Bronstein, Stein, Korchnoi and Kasparov himself. 

     GM Andy Soltis said the best thing that could be said about Karpov as World Champion was that he actually played chess. Unlike some other champions before him who went into hibernation after winning the title, Karpov put his reputation on line in classy big league Category 10 or higher tournaments quite often and in his first two years as champion he actually won seven major tournaments. All told, he played in almost three dozen such events during his reign from 1975 to 1985. 
     Still, nobody ever liked Karpov. He did what the Party expected of him and as for his personal conduct, again, he played by the rules, but he was not, as one American political columnist put it, a gentleman like Spassky. 
     Particularly interesting, or should I say amusing?, was Soviet, later U.S. GM Leonid Shamkokich’s opinion of Karpov whom he clearly despised. While admitting that Karpov was a great fighter, Shamkovich stated that his refusal to continue his first match against Kasparov was not a result of cowardice, but rather Karpov was betrayed by his “frail, hairless body” which “aged visibly” during the marathon match. 
     I am not sure why Shamkovich considered having a hairless body had anything to do with Karpov's collapse late in the match. I met Shamkovich and he was always dressed in a suit and tie, so I don't know...maybe he was a hairy guy and equated it with manliness!?  If you're interested the Live Science website has an article on why women don't fall for hairy guys.
     Anyway, when Shamkovich first met the 11-year old Karpov, he was impressed but not favorably. He described Karpov as a “cold. selfish, hard, unfriendly” child that was lacking any of the “playfulness associated with normal youngsters.” 
     Shamkovich called it a tragedy that that Karpov’s greatness was sucked out of him by the propaganda and adulation heaped on him by the Party to the point that he really believed the propaganda that he was the ideal Soviet youth, sportsman and great Soviet man to the point that the title of World Champion became, in Karpov’s mind, part of his name. When he wrote that, Shamkovich must have forgotten about Bobby Fischer who for the rest of his life claimed he was the World Champion. 
     According to Shamkovich, if Karpov had been of a decent character he would have been shocked and angered when he found himself “being beaten by an Armenian Jew whose real name was Gary Weinstein.” 
     Karpov, according to Shamkovich, had become so used to winning from positions analyzed virtually to mate by others and the analysis given to him, or against opponents who had been ordered to lose, that he couldn’t handle it and so that’s why the first match against Kasparov was aborted. 
     One time I helped the late James R. Schroeder by proofreading one of his booklets and by way of saying thank you, he sent me a book of Karpov’s best games which I assume he didn’t want and to be honest, neither did I. It wasn't that I despised Karpov for being a hairless, nasty little fellow (I didn't know any of that)...I just didn't enjoy playing over his games.
     Karpov possessed extraordinary positional understanding and his chess showed it. It was highly positional. He was always striving to improve his position without taking any risk. He’d just wait for his opponents to make the slightest inaccuracy and then he’d pounce. If his opponents played pretty decent chess and avoided any major errors, that was OK...his unparalleled mastery of the endgame was often sufficient to score the point. 
    Karpov (born May 23, 1951) was from the industrial town of Zlatoust in the Urals where his father was a factory worker and later an engineer at the factory. In his early years, Karpov wanted to become a pilot and promised all of his relatives a ride when he got his license. 
    He received his first chess lessons from his father and after starting school, he began playing in a club of the factory’s Palace of Culture. 
    His life was not limited to chess. Starting in 1978, he worked as a junior researcher in the social studies institute at Leningrad State University. Two years later, he became a junior, then senior, researcher of the political economy department. 
    He was also a social figure, chairing the Soviet Fund of Peace, and later a similar establishment in Russia. He is a well known philatelists and is the author and co-author of a series of books. In 1999-2003 he was a chairman of the board at the Federal Industrial Bank. In 2004, he became a member of the Presidential Council on Culture and in 2006 Karpov was appointed Acting Chairman of the Ecologic Safety and Environmental Protection Commission.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Major Open Yarmouth 1935

Reshevsky at Margate in 1935
     Historically 1935 was a year with some far-reaching consequences. In international headlines, the Nazis repudiated the Versailles Treaty and introduced compulsory military service. The Nazis also enacted the Nuremberg Laws against Jews to prevent what they called racial pollution and, at the same time, Heinrich Himmler started a breeding program to produce an Aryan super race. And, Mussolini invaded Ethiopia, 
     In the U.S., President Roosevelt opened the second phase of his New Deal calling for Social Security, better housing, equitable taxation, and farm assistance. 
     Down Louisiana way, Huey Long (the Kingfish) was assassinated. The Kingfish (1893–1935) was a farm boy who grew up to be an extremely successful traveling salesman before studying law at Tulane University. He was admitted to the bar in 1915 and practiced in Winnfield and Shreveport, Louisiana. 
     Long was elected to the Louisiana railroad commission in 1918, was reelected in 1924, served as its chairman and attorney for the state in public utility litigation. 
     In 1924 he was narrowly defeated for governor, but was swept into office four years later. Once in office, the state legislature obstructed his programs for economic and social reforms. However, through extensive use of patronage he severely lessened the influence of the rich folks that controlled the Louisiana legislature and managed to take over control of the state for himself. 
     Long built badly needed roads and bridges, expanded state-owned hospitals, and the extended the school system into remote rural regions. In the process, he increased taxes on large Louisiana businesses, especially the oil companies. The state legislature was either bulldozed or bribed into passing his laws. As a result, in 1929, Long was impeached on charges of bribery and gross misconduct, but he was not convicted. 
     The Kingfish was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1930, but he did not take his seat until January of 1932, after he had made sure one of his supporters was elected governor. From over 1,000 miles away in Washington D.C., Long continued to direct things in Louisiana and in 1934 he began a reorganization of the state, which virtually abolished local government and gave him the power to appoint all state employees. 
     As a senator, Long was at first a supporter of Roosevelt, but soon became a vociferous critic. President Roosevelt branded Long as the most dangerous man in America.
     Long wanted to be president and was gaining a national following. Early in 1934 he introduced his plan for national social and economic reform that was called the Share-the-Wealth program; it would guarantee family annual income and a homestead allowance for every family. 
     In September 1935, on a trip to Louisiana, Long was assassinated by Dr. Carl A. Weiss...or was he? Weiss in turn was killed by Long's bodyguards. The whole incident remains a mystery to this day. Read the story...
Long lies mortally wounded

     Long's political machine flourished for several years after his death and his family remained important in state politics. 
     In the chess world C.J.S. Purdy won the Australian Chess Championship, scoring an amazing 12-1. In the Hungarian championship 18-year old Laszlo Szabo won the first Championship with a score of +10 -1 =6. 
     On January 5, 1935, the Hastings Christmas Congress ended. The Premier section saw a three-way tie between Salo Flohr, Max Euwe, and Sir George A. Thomas. Capablanca finished 4th with Botvinnik and Lilienthal tied for 5th-6th place. In the Soviet Union, the GM title was re-created for the benefit of Mikhail Botvinnik. 
     Jackson W. Showalter (born 1859) died on his 76th birthday at his home in Georgetown, Kentucky on February 5, 1935. On March 16, 1935, Aron Nimzowitsch (born 1886) died of pneumonia in Copenhagen. 
     Soviet Master Ilya Rabinovich (1891-1942) was ordered to lose to Botvinnik (1911-1995), to ensure that Botvinnik would finish in a tournament in Moscow, but Botvinnik got wind of it and refused to go along and so the plan was aborted. The game was drawn and Botvinnik shared first with Salo Flohr (1908-1983) of Czechoslovakia. Earlier, Flohr had proposed to Botvinnik that they both draw their final game and share first. Apparently Botvinnik had no objection to that arrangement. 
     In August 1935, Agnes Lawson-Stevenson, age 52, was on her way to Warsaw to play for England in the ladies’ world championship. She had arrived at the Posen, Poland airport from Berlin and after completing passport formalities she was rushing back to her plane and walked into the propeller which split her head open, killing her instantaneously. Her widower, Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson, married Vera Menchik in October of 1937. 
    The 6th International Team Tournament was held in Warsaw and was won the USA team (Fine, Marshall, Kupchik, Dake, Horowitz) for the third consecutive time. Alekhine attended the FIDE Congress in Warsaw as part of a commission to make a list of challengers for the next world championship match. Capablanca was first choice, Botvinnik the second. 
    From October 3 to December 15, the world championship match was held in 13 cities in Holland and Euwe defeated Alekhine. 
    After the international tournament at Margate (won by Reshevsky ahead of Capablanca and Thomas), Reshevsky stayed in England to participate in the Major Open which was held at Yarmouth in conjunction with the British Championship. 
    The two notable events of Yarmouth 1935 were Menchik's win against Reshevsky and it was the only time Menchik played Sonja Graf in a mixed gender event. 
    Menchik was not allowed to play in the British Championship because she did not obtain her British citizenship in 1937. In addition to the British Championship (won by William Winter) the British Women's Championship was held as well as  a number of other sections which were open to all nationalities.
     Often the Major Open would have mostly non-British players and be the strongest section and some of these events were among Menchik's better results...1931 she took first place, second in 1932 and third at Yarmouth. 

Final Standings 
1) Samuel Reshevsky 10.0 
2) Jakob Seitz 8.5 
3) Vera Menchik 7.0 
4-5) Adrian Conde and Sammi Fajarowicz 6.5 
6) Ernst Klein 5.5 
7-8) Sonja Graf and Baruch H. Wood 5.0 
9-10) A.J.G. Butcher and Lodewijk Prins 4.0 
11) V. Ivanoff 2.5 
12) Francis Kitto 1.5 

   There was one amusing incident. In the adjourned game between Graf and her compatriot Fajarowicz, the position was incorrectly recorded in the sealed envelope. Neither player noticed the error when the game was resumed and it ended in a draw. 
   In the meantime some spectators had set up the correct position and after their game was finished even Graf and Fajarowicz joined the analysis and it was discovered that it was a dead win for Graf. Under FIDE Rules she could have demanded a replay from the correct position, but she elected to abide by the drawn result because to have replayed it would have been unfair to Fajarowitz who was a major contributor to finding the winning line for Graf.

Friday, December 27, 2019


     This is one of my favorite sites for locating games. OK, so it’s received some harsh criticism from such luminaries as Chesscafe.com columnist and chess historian Olimpiu G. Urcan, GM Tim Harding and chess historian Edward Winter, but considering it’s free and run by amateurs, it is a valuable resource in my opinion. 
     Urcan criticized the "phony scholarship" and lack of ethical standards of Chessgames.com and chess websites in general. He also criticised its close association with Raymond Keene. 
     Harding said he would never dream of using chessgames.com as a source for any kind of historical data and Winter criticized the site for lack of precision, rigor and sourcing. 
     It’s a free site, but you can enhance your experience (the site’s words) by subscribing to their premium tier of advanced features for $29 a year. The site touts itself as an Internet chess community with over 224,000 members.
     Chessgames.com maintains a database of games, where each game has its own discussion page for comments and analysis. Limited primarily to games where at least one player is of master strength, the database begins with the earliest known recorded games and is updated with games from current top-level tournaments. 
     Chessgames.com was founded in 2001 by Daniel Freeman (who died on July 24, 2018, at the age of 50) and Alberto Artidiello (who died at the age of 56 on March 1, 2015) in association with 20/20 Technologies. They developed software to integrate a database with a discussion forum, so that all games and players have a unique message board. 
     Each game is hosted on a separate web page to allow internal and external weblinks to that particular game. Although other online databases may contain more games, they typically do not permit external links to individual games or allow for kibitzing on each game. 
     Prominent Chessgames.com members have included: Susan Polgar, Nigel Short, Gata Kamsky, Raymond Keene, Eric Schiller, Maxim Dlugy, Lawrence Day, Natalia Pogonina and Yelena Dembo. Plus, many Grandmasters have posted on the site. 
     Despite its flaws the Chessgames.com database can be searched by player, year, opening, ECO code and result. Members can create Game Collections to store hundreds of database games by any desired category, such as opening, endgame, tactic, player, or tournament. The site's kibitzing may be searched by keyword for all messages to locate previous posts and find specific information.
     Chessgames.com has created several educational tools available to Premium (paid) members, but the free membership also offers a lot. 

Game Collections - games assembled by members. Some collections feature a player, opening, or a tactical motif. Other collections are based on games found in a popular chess books. Still others are personal collections of favorite games. You can use the option to locate the collections. 
Tournament Index - games from specific tournament from 1843 to 1999 
Players - a directory of the most eminent chess players in the database. 

     One valuable/interesting resource is the collection of games that are based on chess books...about 120 books at present! 
     Some are the subject of more than one collection and some have more than one volume but are counted as one book. This is a really valuable asset because if you own a chess book and would like to be able to use your chess program to play through or analyze the games that are included in the book, just find the game in the collection and play through them using the interface available on chessgames.com or just download the game.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

A Classic Bishop Sacrifice by Alekhine

     Alekhine is a poet, who creates a work of art out of something which would hardly inspire another man to send a picture postcard. The wilder and more involved a position the more beautiful the conception he can evolve. - Max Euwe

     Alexander Alekhine (1892-1946) has been called a combinational genius, but as Kasparov pointed out in My Great Predecessors, his fantastic tactical vision was based on a sound positional foundation and for that reason, he can safely be called a pioneer of a universal style of play. 
     Kasparov believes the important factors are material (obviously an important factor, but not always the decisive one), time (a tempo, speed of a passed Pawn, how fast an attack develops) and quality of position (P-structure, strong/weak squares, active/passive pieces, two Bs, etc). The highest skill is to be able to weigh up all these factors and determine who stands better. 
     It’s Kasparov’s claim that Alekhine was the first to combine all three factors in his play, linking them together. Even today decades later Alekhine's games are still a marvel. 
     Reti noted that Alekhine's outstanding quality was his ability to give even the most commonplace positions an unusual turn and his game against Asgeirsson abounds in such original moves. The game was played in a ten-board clock simultaneous against strong opponents, in which Alekhine scored +8 -1 =0.
    Asmundur Asgeirsson (March 14, 1906 – November 2, 1986) was a six-time Icelandic Champion (1931, 1933, 1934, 1944, 1945, 1946). It was Asgeirsson who was King of Island chess when Fridrik Olafsson appeared on the scene in the middle of the 20th century. According to his biographer, Baldur Moeller, Asgeirsson was a polite gentleman and his early circumstances didn’t allow much in the way of an education, but he was an excellent mathematician.

     Although few players these days get the opportunity to play the Classic Bishop Sacrifice everyone is familiar with it. In many cases it is combined with an attack along the open h-file as is the case here. This arises when white has a R on h1 and a P on h4 with the P acting as a support for a N on g5 and the h-file gets opened up. 

     It is interesting to note that the position after 9.Bd3 presents a situation that to a modern day correspondence player would be a real dilemma. Stockfish and Komodo give different best moves and evaluations. It is precisely this situation that separate the men from the boys in high level correspondence chess in which engine use is allowed. What is an accurate assessment of the position? Which defense is best for black? Does white’s position contain seeds that will grow into a winning attack? The answers will require a great deal of analysis and experimentation. 

Monday, December 23, 2019

Al Horowitz

Al Horowitz
     Friday was spent getting surgery for stenosing tenosynovitis on the ring finger of my left hand and today it’s swaddled in a huge ball of gauze which fortunately comes off today. 
     Stenosing tenosynovitis is more popularly known as trigger finger. At first it was just annoying, but eventually got to the point that something had to be done. You can watch the surgery on Youtube HERE
     Israel Albert Horowitz (November 15, 1907 – January 18, 1973) is most remembered today for his chess books, but Horowitz was a leading player in the U.S. during the 1930s and 1940s. He was U.S. Open Champion in 1936, 1938 (with Kashdan) and 1943. In 1941, he lost a match (+0−3=13) against Samuel Reshevsky for the U.S. Championship. 
     Horowitz played on the U.S. Team in four Chess Olympiads, in 1931, 1935, 1937, and 1950; the first three of which were won by the U.S. which fielded a team made up of such players as Marshall, Reshevsky, Fine, Kashdan and Horowitz In those Olympiads he scored an amazing + 29 -3 =19. 
     In the USA vs. USSR radio match 1945, Horowitz scored one of the only two wins for the U.S. by defeating Salo Flohr and so splitting his match of two games. Then in the 1946 edition of the same event, he split his match against Isaac Boleslavsky. 

     Unofficially, starting in 1935 until 1954, Chessmetrics ratings have him hovering just outside the top 10 in the world. 
     When Horowitz passed away at the relatively early age of 65 it was probably due in large part to his lifestyle. After he put in a full day at Chess Review, he would show up at the Marshall Chess Club around 7 p.m. and then around 11 p.m. he would be playing skittles at the Manhattan Chess Club against all comers. After the Manhattan closed he have a late-night snack of hot dogs and beans or his favorite, a hot pastrami sandwich and he would usually end up getting to bed around 4 a.m. His three packs of cigarettes a day probably didn’t help either. 

     Although Horowitz authored a number of books, there’s no collection oif his best games. One of my favorite old books is his Golden Treasury of Chess; you can read about how the book came into my possession HERE
     Horowitz presented six of his own games in the book, so they must have had some special meaning for him. The games he presented were: Alex Kevitz (1931), Isaac Kashdan (1936), an amateur (1940), Herbert Seidman (1942) and Samuel Reshevsky (1955). 
     Here is his game against Herbert Seidman from the 1942 U.S. Championship which he described as an “old fashioned slugging match.” This tournament was originally cancelled by USCF president George Sturgis owing to the U.S. entrance into World War Two, a decision that met with immediate criticism from everybody, including Horowitz at Chess Review, calling it “a most unfortunate decision.” 
     Horowitz’ reasoning was that the U.S. government was actively encouraging sports and recreational activities and other countries at war are continuing to hold tournaments. Additionally, chess would be a relaxation from the war, it used no defense materials and money contributed to a tournament remained in the country and was not diverted from defense. 
To those that celebrate it...

     The U.S. government prohibited large public gatherings on the West Coast for the duration of the war and the first significant cancelled event was the Rose Bowl Game scheduled for New Year's Day, 1942. 
     Originally scheduled to be played in the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California, it was moved to Durham, North Carolina, due to fears about an attack by the Japanese on the West Coast following their attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. In that game Oregon State Beavers defeated the host Duke Blue Devils 20-16 in Wallace Wade Stadium (known as Duke Stadium, at the time) on the Duke University campus. 
     Then on January 15, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave baseball the go-ahead to play despite the War. He also encouraged more night baseball so that war workers may attend. 
     The Chicago Cubs had signed contracts to install lights at Wrigley Field, but cancelled the plans because the military needed the material. That’s not to say that absolutely no night games were ever played at Wrigley Field. The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League's first All-Star Game and the first ever night game was played in the ballpark on July 1, 1943 when it was played under temporary lights installed for the occasion.
     Finally, lights were installed and lit on August 8, 1988, for a game between the Cubs and the Philadelphia Phillies, but the game didn’t count because it was rained out after 3-1/2 innings, so the first official night game took place the following evening against the New York Mets, a game which the Cubs won 6–4.
     The 1942 Championship was the tournament where director L. Walter Stephens incorrectly forfeited Denker in his game against Reshevsky who had overstepped the time limit and then Stephens refused to reverse his decision. Amazingly, the decision was upheld by the tournament committee. Further reading...

1-2) Kashdan and Reshevsky 12.5-2.5 
3-4) Denker and Pinkus 10.5-4.5 
5) Steiner 10.0-5.0 
6) Horowitz 9.0-6.0 
7) Seidman 7.0-8.0 
8-9) Levin and Levy 6.5-8.5 
10-11) Chernev and Pilnick 6.0-9.0 
12-13) Baker and Lessing 5.5-9.5 
14-16) Altman, Green and Hahlbohm 4.0-11.0 
Reshevsky won the playoff 
Matthew Green had to withdraw after six rounds due to dental problems that required medical attention. 

Friday, December 20, 2019

Ukrainian Players

     For a long time visitors to this site from the United States far outnumbered other countries. Frequently visitors from Brazil were a close second, but lately, for reasons unknown, Ukrainian visitors have been outnumbering U.S. visitors by a large margin. 
     I was unaware of how many well known players were/are from the Ukraine...Wikipedia lists 115 players and that list is even missing some! A few ended up in the U.S. where they occupied a position of prominence, if not nationally, then locally. Here’s a partial list of some of the better known Ukrainian players. Note that some of the players were just born in Ukraine or places that at one time were under its control. 

Lev Alburt, Boris Alterman, Boris Baczynsky, Alexander Beliavsky, Ossip Bernstein, Efim Bogoljubov, Fedir Bohatyrchuk, Isaac Boleslavsky, David Bronstein, Oscar Chajes, Alexander Chernin, Josif Dorfman, Fedor Duz-Khotimirsky, Pavel Eljanov, Maurice Fox, Mikhail Golubev, Eduard Gufeld, Vitaly Halberstadt, Vassily Ivanchuk, Nicolai Jasnogrodsky, Gregory Kaidanov, Sergey Karjakin, Abram Khasin, Boris Kogan, Alexander Konstantinopolsky, Irina Krush, Gennady Kuzmin, Konstantin Lerner, Isaac Lipnitsky, Paul List, Vladimir Malaniuk, Adrian Mikhalchishin, Alexander Moiseenko, Alexander Onischuk, Sam Palatnik, Roman Pelts, Ruslan Ponomariov, Stepan Popel, Vsevolod Rauzer, Oleg Romanishin, Nicolas Rossolimo, Iosif Rudakovsky, Lyudmila Rudenko, Vladimir Savon, Alexey Sokolsky, Victor Soultanbeieff, Leonid Stein, Mark Taimanov, Vladimir Tukmakov, Miroslav Turiansky and Boris Verlinsky. 

     There was no date on the Woochess article I saw, but the Ukraine was listed as the 4th strongest chess county with 91 GMs. Very impressive. 
     One of the names that caught my eye was that of Josif Dorfman (born May 1, 1952) who is a Soviet-French GM, coach and chess writer of renown. 
     His books have been highly acclaimed and he acted as one of Garry Kasparov's seconds in his first four World Championship matches against Anatoly Karpov. As a result he was involved in a little intrigue in the Kasparov-Karpov matches. Mark Weeks covered it in The Dorfman Affair in his blog.
     Later Dorfman moved to France where he coached the French player Etienne Bacrot from age nine until Barcot became a GM. In 2004 Dorfman was awarded the title of FIDE Senior Trainer. 
     In his career Dorfman has played some impressive games such as the following one. His opponent was Bulgarian GM Petar Velikov (born March 30, 1951), the Bulgarian champion in 1987. 

     The game was played in the very strong 9-round Swiss at Palma in 1989 that was won by Boris Gelfand (7.5-1.5) a half point ahead of Anthony Miles and Gata Kamsky. 
     Dorfman finished way down in the standings with an even score of 4.5, but so did players like Lev Polugayevsky, Murray Chandler, Zurab Azmaiparashvili, Sergey Kudrin, Jerorn Piket, Julian Hodgson, Bnet Lartsen, Edward Gufeld, Robert Byrne, Vladimir Bagirov and Andy Soltis, just to name a few! Samuel Reshevsky scored but a single point. Velikov scored 3.5 points. 
     The Palma de Mallorca 1989 event was a World Cup Qualification Tournament. In 1988–1989, the Grandmasters Association, a brainchild of Kasparov which held tournaments in competition with FIDE, organized a series of six World Cup tournaments in the form of a Grand Prix. 
     Speaking of Palma...it is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of the Balearic Islands in Spain. I was there in 1966 and the city and the weather were beautiful. When I was there a great tournament was taking place that was won by Tal ahead of Pomar and Portisch. I was in Palma because I was on a U.S. Marine Corps six-month long training cruise to the Mediterranean and the ship I was on was in port for liberty while the tournament was being played. I didn't find out about the tournament until months later when I read about it in Chess Review magazine. 

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Predrag Ostojic...he went out a window, but how?

Botvinnik - Ostojic Belgrade 1969
     The Yugoslav GM Predrag Ostojic (February 22, 1938 - July 5, 1996), awarded the GM title in 1975, was Yugoslav Champion in 1968 and 1971. 
     Although he was not very well known, Ostojic scored a number of firsts: Vrnjacka Banja 1975, Paris 1968, 1969 and 1970, San Juan 1971, Casablanca 1974 and Hasselt 1974. 
     I saw Ostojic playing in the international tournament in Cleveland, Ohio in 1975. My impression was that he was kind of a quiet, mousy guy who seemed to keep to himself. In that tournament he finished second a half point behind Istvan Csom. Although Ostojic won seven games, his three losses, perhaps resulting from his own celebration of winning the GM titile in Vranacka Banja before coming to Cleveland, spoiled his chances for taking the top place. 
     In spite of his success in 1975, according to the Chessmetrics site Ostojic wasn’t even ranked among the top 100 players in the world, but his rating, which hovered around 2500, meant that in that day he was a solid GM. 
     Ostojic met an untimely end at the age of 58. Bill Wall says he committed suicide in Mainz, Germany while Wikipedia says he died when some gangsters threw him out of a window because of unpaid gambling debts. 
     Sixteen players contested for the title in Belgrade. Four shared the first prize: Milan Matulovic, Lev Polugaevsky, Svetozar Gligoric and Borislav Ivkov each scoring 10. Mikhail Botvinnik came in lone seventh. 

1-4) Milan Matulovic, Lev Polugaevsky, Svetozar Gligoric and Borislav Ivkov 10.0
5-6) Levente Lengyel and Ewfim Geller 9.5 
7) Mikhail Botvinnik 8.5 
8) Duncan Suttles 7.5 
9) Aleksandar Matanovic 6.5 
10-11) Enver Bukic and Bojan Kurajica 6.0 
12-15) Dragoljub Janosevic, Dragutin Sahovic, Georgi Tringov and Predrag Ostojic 5.5 
16) Hans J. Hecht 4.5 

     Botvinnik’s result was a little surprising as earlier in the year Botvinnik and Geller had shared first place at Wijk aan Zee ahead of Portisch and Keres. In 1969 the top rated players in the world were: Fischer, Spassky, Korchnoi, Botvinnik, Petrosian, Larsen, Geller, Portisch, Keres and Polugaevsky. 
     By the winter of 1969, before Belgrade which was played in December, Botvinnik said he had decided to give up tournament play within a year. This decision should have made his final events more meaningful, but he was simply not motivated. 
     The field at Belgrade, which was dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the ousting of the Nazis in World War II, was so strong that Botvinnik's performance rating was still a creditable 2653. He played one impressive game and that was against...Ostojic! 
     The Soviet Patriarch had two more events planned. The first was the extraordinary Match of the Century, a ten-board, 4-game match pitting the USSR against the rest of the world that was scheduled for March 29 to April 5, 1970, also in Belgrade. 
     Botvinnik was furious over being placed down on board 8 in that match and wrote, “A number of grandmasters - those who were playing on the top boards – made sure that I was put on board eight...” 
     He saw it as an insult designed to get him to refuse to play. But, in reality it made sense because the World board eight player was Milan Matulovic who had lost twice to Botvinnik in the previous three years. 
     In any case, the board placement decision for the Soviet team caused so much animosity that it was reported by Alexander Nikitin, the team trainer, that half the team wasn’t talking to the other half. And, Botvinnik wrote in Achieving the Aim that if he had refused to go to Belgrade there was strong possibility the World team would win. 
     When the Soviet team arrived at the Moscow airport to depart for the match, team members gathered for pictures, but Botvinnik flatly refused to have his picture taken with the team, stating that he wouldn’t be photographed with “them.” 
     The USSR barely won the match by a score of 20.5-19.5 and Botvinnik defeated Matulovic +1 -0 =3, so maybe be was right...his one point margin insured the victory for the Soviet team!?
     What was Botvinnik’s final event, you ask? His final event was supposed to be a match with Bobby Fischer in the spring of 1970, to mark the 75th anniversary of the Chess Society of Leiden in the Netherlands! 
     Botvinnik and Fischer negotiated indirectly, through the Dutch organizers, but when it came to dealing with Fischer, the Dutch were on a fool’s errand.
     Botvinnik wanted a 16-game match, presumably because he didn’t have the stamina for a 24-game format that he had once considered the absolute minimum. Fischer wanted no limit on games with the winner being the first to score six wins. 
    Somehow Botvinnik thought he and Fischer had reached a compromise on a best of 18 games match and so he started training with Spassky at a resort town on the Black Sea. At Botvinnik’s request a notebook with about 500 of Fischer’s games were prepared and every day Botvinnik, who said Fischer reminded him of Smyslov, began studying the games. 
    But, with our 20-20 hindsight we all know that when it came to dealing with the irrational Fischer, nothing was a sure thing.  Fischer was still insisting on the no limit, 6-win format and the match collapsed. Botvinnik said it was because of Fischer’s maniacal fear of returning to competition. 
     The Dutch organizers replaced the match with a four-player tournament that was played from April 18, 1970 to May 6 in Oegstgeest. The tournament, which proved to be beyond boring, included former world champion Botvinnik, the new world champion Boris Spassky, the player with the best tournament record in the world, Bent Larsen, and the Dutch champion, Jan Hein Donner. 
     Spassky won and Donner, who was expected to be cannon fodder, did much better than expected. For his part, Botvinnik managed one good game, an endgame win from Bent Larsen. The final standings were Spassky (+2 -0 =10), Donner (+1 -1 =10) and Botvinnik (+1 -2 =9) tied with Larsen (+2 -3 =7).
     After this tournament Botvinnik was through with competition because as his daughter Olga explained, “He couldn’t create beautiful games anymore.” She said her father had said he didn’t want to just “slap pieces about the board.” 
     I see I have been sidetracked here, so back to Belgrade, 1969. Ostojic defeated Geller in this tournament; his opponent in this game was Enver Bukic (December 3, 1937 – February 22, 2017, 79 years old) also from Yugoslavia.
     Bukic was awarded the IM title in 1964 and the GM title in 1976. He was a member of the student national team which won a silver medal at the 1963 Olympics and he always performed very well in the Yugoslav Championships. His best international results were first at the Kostic Memorial in Vrsac 1975, first at Stip 1976 and first at Uljma 1976. He lived in Ljubljana, the birthplace of his wife who was a historian. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2019


     In all the years I have been playing chess I have never heard of the term "priyome" (pronounced "pree-YOHM"). 
     It's a very common word in Russian with various meanings including reception, acceptance and gimmick. It is also very common in Russian chess literature that refers to typical maneuvers used in positions with certain Pawn structures or other defining characteristics. 
     Because the word does not have an exact equivalent in English and so it has appeared untranslated in English-language chess literature, although this usage is not widespread.
     Technique or a typical maneuver are close translations. The concept of priyome includes both patterns and their associated maneuvers and are therefore important to remember. 
     In 100 Chess Master Trade Secrets, Andrew Soltis addresses the issue of Priyomes, or positional patterns. Soltis divides the book into four chapters, each with 25 important positions focused around a single topic. Chapters are: 25 Key Priyomes, 25 Must-Know Endgame Techniques, 25 Crucial Sacrifices and 25 Exact Endings. 
     The first things you have to do with a priyome is to recognize the structure and its characteristics. The second thing you have to do is to recognize the associated maneuver associated with it. 
     Soltis points out that most all players know basic tactical stuff like pins, skewers and forks, but these devices don’t have anything to do with where the Pawns are, only where the pieces are. However, there are strategic devices which depend on Pawn structure. These are Priyomes. Priyomes can be general, like occupying an file with a R and they can often be described in words, not moves. 
     Priyomes are sort of the Standard Operating Procedure for a particular position and they existe for both sides. There are even counter-priomes which are methods of preventing the priyome!

     One of the best known Soviet trainers, Alexey Suetin, said mastering priyomes was a key to success. He advised students to have their own personal collection of priyomes and study them so they could apply them when those patterns arise during their games. 
     The Russian trainer Anatoly Terekhin estimated that masters know about 100 priyomes, but Soltis claims the average player doesn’t need to know nearly that many. 
     Soltis states that thinking in terms of priyomes is an excellent method for taking pattern recognition to the next level and enhancing your chess intuition. 
     Priyomes can be collected in a notebook, flash cards or on a computer. Chess.com has 24 games in pgn format from Soltis’ book that you can download. Games in pgn format contained in books from Begin Chess that might be useful are: Logical Chess Move by Move, 1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations, Excelling at Technical Chess. Practical Rook Ending, Shereshevsky’s Endgame Strategy and Understanding Pawn Play in Chess. Of course, it's advisable to have the book to accompany the games just so you will know what is being discussed.
     The following game is an example of a priyome that is quite instructive. It was played in the great International Jubilee Grandmaster Tournament held at Bled, Yugoslavia in 1961. 
     Tal finished first a whole point ahead of Fischer despite losing his individual game to Fischer who was undefeated. 
     Concerning this game, Tal related how late in the tournament, Najdorf asked him what his four best games in the tournament had been. Tal answered they were his games against Olaffson, Ivkov and Parma and when Najdorf pointed out that was only three, Tal told him the fourth would be “my last-round game against you!" 
     Then, the night before the last round, Fischerwas seen talking to Najdorf, perhaps showing him an opening innovation. After his meeting with Najdorf, Fischer told Tal that he (Tal) would lose to Najdorf, but since he hadn’t played badly, Fischer would be content to share first with him and would be playing for a draw. Tal said he had no thought of losing to Najdorf and the next day when Tal sat down to play Najdorf, Fischer walked over to the table expecting to see 6.Bg5. Tal glanced at Fischer, grinned and played the quiet 6.Be2 which presumably upset the previous night’s Fischer/Najdorf preparation. 

Monday, December 16, 2019

How Good Was Thomas W. Wilson?

     The Progressive Era was a period of widespread social activism and political reform across the United States that spanned the 1890s to the 1920s. The main objectives of the Progressive movement were addressing problems caused by industrialization, urbanization, immigration, and political corruption. 
     One of the leaders of the movement was Thomas W. Wilson (December 28, 1856 – February 3, 1924), better known as Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States (1913-1921). 
     Like Theodore Roosevelt before him, Wilson regarded himself as the personal representative of the people. “No one but the President,” he said, “seems to be expected … to look out for the general interests of the country.” That said, Wilson was also an openly racist president.  See THIS article.
     He developed a program of progressive reform and asserted international leadership while trying to build a new world order. In 1917 he proclaimed American entrance into World War I a crusade to make the world “safe for democracy.” 
     Wilson was born in Virginia in 1856, the son of a Presbyterian minister who during the Civil War was a pastor in Augusta, Georgia, and during Reconstruction a professor in the charred city of Columbia, South Carolina. 
     After graduation from Princeton (then the College of New Jersey) and the University of Virginia Law School, Wilson earned his doctorate at Johns Hopkins University and began an academic career. Wilson advanced rapidly as a conservative young professor of political science and became president of Princeton in 1902. 

     His growing national reputation led some Democrats to consider him Presidential material. First they persuaded him to run for Governor of New Jersey in 1910. In the campaign he asserted his independence of the conservatives and of the machine that had nominated him, endorsing a progressive platform. 
     He was nominated for President at the 1912 Democratic Convention and campaigned on a program called the New Freedom, which stressed individualism and states’ rights. In the three-way election he received only 42 percent of the popular vote but an overwhelming electoral college vote. 
     In 1916, one new law prohibited child labor and another limited railroad workers to an eight-hour day. By virtue of this legislation and the his slogan “He kept us out of war,” Wilson narrowly won re-election. But after the election he concluded that the U.S. could not remain neutral and on April 2, 1917, he asked Congress to declare war on Germany. 
     After the Germans signed the Armistice in November 1918, Wilson went to Paris to try to build an enduring peace. He later presented to the U.S. Senate the Versailles Treaty, containing the Covenant of the League of Nations. But the election of 1918 had shifted the balance in Congress to the Republicans and the Versailles Treaty failed to pass in the Senate by seven votes. 
     Then President Wilson, against the warnings of his doctors, made a national tour to mobilize public sentiment for the treaty. Exhausted, he suffered a stroke and nearly died. Nursed by his second wife, Edith Bolling Galt, he lived until 1924. 
     In the book Woodrow Wilson: A Medical and Psychological Biography, a Supplementary Volume to the Papers of Woodrow Wilson, it describes the household of the young Woodrow Wilson as being like that of most other Presbyterian preachers of that day. 
     Sundays were strictly observed. Daily prayers and Bible readings took place and were conducted by Wilson’s father when he was home and by Mrs. Wilson when he was away. Mrs. Wilson and Woodrow's sisters played the melodion (a type of keyboard) and the family sang hymns and Scottish ballads. 
     In spite of their strict Sunday routine, Dr. Wilson, Woodrow’s father, was not otherwise overly strict and although card playing and games of chance were not permitted, when Woodrow was old enough, he and his father played billiards and chess. 
     The January 5, 1953 edition of Chess Life published the following game attributed to Wilson who was a Princeton University professor at the time. The magazine didn’t give any further details, but it may possibly have been a simultaneous exhibition game. I do not know of any other games attributed to President Wilson and judging by this single game it's hard to say how good he was.
     His opponent was Salomon Langleben (1862 - February 8, 1939), a Polish master who lived in the United States before returning to Poland at the end of the 1800s. From 1900 to 1917 he had considerable success in European tournaments. In 1894 he won in Buffalo city championship.