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Monday, September 30, 2019

Chess, Politics and Ricardo Calvo

     Ricardo Calvo Mínguez (October 22, 1943 – September 26, 2002) was a Spanish chess player, doctor, author, reporter, and chess historian who spoke fluent Spanish, German, and English. He was awarded the IM title in 1973 and played for Spain in four Olympiads (1966, 1968, 1972 and 1974). He died in 2002 from esophageal cancer. 
     As an historian, he tried to prove that Spain played a major role in chess late in the fifteenth century when the increased powers of the Q and B were introduced during the Renaissance in Italy. 
     In 1987, Calvo was condemned by FIDE and was declared "persona non grata" for writing a controversial article in New in Chess which it was claimed was a racial attack on Latin Americans. This is rather odd to me because Latin Americans could be of any race. 
     The 1987 FIDE General Assembly met in Seville and passed resolution censuring Calvo. The Committee was made up of Arnold Denker (Chairman), J.E. Molina Marino and Manual Aaron and they recommended Calvo receive a five year suspension from all FIDE events. 
     FIDE delegates voted (72 for, 1 against and 2 abstentions) for a milder resolution which condemned Calvo’s “admitted election irregularities” and his “insulting and defamatory” letter, which “brings chess into disrepute.” Ultimately, Calvo was declared persona non grata, but would be allowed to play in FIDE events. What, exactly, had Calvo done? 
Calvo

     In a letter in New in Chess he described his Latin American experience while campaigning on behalf of Raymond Keene and Lincoln Lucena in late 1986. He was in possession of a letter by Gary Kasparov giving him authority to arrange a tour of simuls, exhibitions and lectures to Latin American countries. 
     Calvo briefly described the results he obtained in each country. Apparently the problem was that he classified the various Latin American federations based on their voting intentions. If they were not interested in a Kasparov visit, they were corrupt. 
     He also described the “kind of people who have supported Campomanes.” They were countries where: 
* a girl must become a prostitute at the age of 14 
* a boy must become a policeman or a soldier of the dictator if they want to survive. 
* chess delegates were delighted with a small piece of the big cake of money, or power, or traveling away from their unhappy surroundings. 
* they were grateful for a free ticket, or a good meal, or the possibility of a position with the FIDE 
Read letter  

     In his syndicated column Larry Evans called the letter a solid piece of journalism while pro-FIDE folks described it as a savage piece of sour grapes, worthless, devoid of details and evidence or proof. Others took a middle of the road approach claiming that while Calvo could not substantiate his claims, nobody could disprove them because they were so vague. You can read Larry Evans' interview with Calvo in Evans' book This Crazy World of Chess, The Sixty-Fifth Square HERE.
     A number of FIDE delegates were against the original Denker proposal on the grounds that it was free speech, but non of them spoke against the final resolution. 
     Using the term election fraud, Denker stated that the issue of free speech was secondary to Calvo’s election irregularities. To use today's terminology, that was an “alternative fact." In other words, it was a lie. There was nothing illegal or unethical about trying to obtain votes by offering simultaneous displays by Kasparov. 
     In response, Calvo wrote a letter to FIDE in which he disputed their decision claiming that a ban against a chess player based on any political ideas is in itself an intellectual and juridical monstrosity. He added that Hitler, Stalin, Pol-Pot, Mao, Sadam or Ilyumzhinov had the right, if they wished, to play in a chess tournament. Chess is, he claimed, a spiritual refuge far above the dirty politics of everyday life in any country. 
     For a good story in Spanish on Calvo visit HERE. You can read about Calvo’s opponent, Vladimir Liberzon HERE

Sunday, September 29, 2019

A Book Worth Buying

Alekhine’s Odessa Secrets 
Sergei Tkachenko has written a fascinating account of Alekhine’s time spent in Odessa during World War I, the Russian Revolution and Civil War, as well as of the impact of Odessa on his later life. Really enjoyed reading this one. Read complete review.

 

Friday, September 27, 2019

Colonel Moreau, Not As Bad As You Might Think

     In 1903, Monte Carlo was the venue of the third of four tournaments designed to help bolster tourism during the winter season. Games were played between February 10th and March 17th in the Monte Carlo Casino and when the players complained of the noise to tournament director Jules Arnous de Riviere told them they would just have to get used to it. 
     The tournament started with a controversy. The committee had invited Lasker, Blackburne, Napier, Schieffers and, according to the tournament book, “others”, but they were unable to participate. Not invited was Janowski because according to de Riviere, Janowski had publicly stated that if invited he would decline because de Riviere was the tournament director. 
     Also not invited was Gunsberg. His crime was that he had written an article in a London newspaper criticizing the penalizing of drawn games particularly if the players involved have no chance of a prize; they couldn’t be blamed for being satisfied with a draw. 

     Chigorin’s situation was was appalling. He was invited and accepted and his name was listed as one of the participants in the various papers issued by the committee. Chigorin made the long and arduous trip of nearly 1,900 miles from St. Petersburg to Monte Carlo and when he arrived the president of the committee, Prince Dadian, either directly ordered Chigorin’s exclusion or intimated that he would not remain president of the committee and possibly withdraw his patronage (i.e. prize money) and go home that very day unless de Riviere barred Chigorin from participating. Action was taken accordingly and Chigorin was informed he was out. Wolf filled the vacancy created by Chigorin’s expulsion. 
     The reason for Chigorin getting kicked out of the tournament was that “in spite of the many acts of generosity on the part of the Prince, (Chigorin) had shown persistent animosity in the press, (publishing) articles which the Prince considers injuste et inaigne (unfair and unjust).” The tournament book added that the Prince had “won golden opinions” among the players because he was courteous and had charming manners, so his hostility towards Chigorin was not without just cause. It also hinted that the Prince was a nice guy because he was willing to indemnify Chigorin for his trouble in making the trip. 
     Other players were said to have felt Chigorin’s criticism was severe and pointed and it was not unlikely that some of the Prince’s games, admired as they were everywhere, caused some envy and Chigorin was trying to minimize their value. 
     It was also said the Chigorin had hinted that perhaps the games weren’t actually played and the Prince’s opponents were unknown, perhaps even non-existent! Endeavoring to belittle the Prince’s achievement Chigorin unjustly upheld him to ridicule and contempt. 
     According to Chigorin he wasn’t aware of anything he did that warranted such drastic action. He stated that he had seen a couple of the Prince’s games where the brilliancy prizes he had been awarded were unsound and he published the games with copious notes pointing out how the Prince should have lost.
     Chigorin also related that the previous year in Kiev and allegedly in either a theater or a circus, he had passed by the Prince without taking any notice of him. 
     The tournament book commented that the only representatives of France were Taubenhaus and “a Col. Moreau, the latter hitherto unknown to fame, whom, however, the committee accepted to make up the required number. Not much is known of the player hitherto unknown to fame, Col. Moreau. 
    Some have questioned whether the chess player Colonel Moreau and the French officer Moreau were the same person. The little known retired French Army officer had acquired some wealth as a businessman and, also, at the Monte Carlo casino, but had scant skill as a chess player. It has also been claimed that he helped sponsor the tournament and invited several of the players, himself included. It was his first and last tournament. 
     One source commented that so bad was his play that against the “Drawing Master” Carl Schlechter, Moreau played the notoriously drawing French Defense Exchange Variation, and still lost.
     Emil Kemeny, writing in American Chess Weekly in 1903, gave Moreau a break when he stated, “Colonel Moreau, who finished last is perhaps stronger than the score would indicate, but he is not used to Tourney play, and too old to stand the continuous strain.” Moreau did win 75 francs for his efforts.
     Kemeny’s estimation of Moreau’s ability may not be far off. This tournament was so strong that even losing 26 games gives Moreau an estimated rating of 2382 according to Chessmetrics.  Of course, that means nothings since he lost all of his games, but playing over a few of them seems to confirm Kemeny’s comment that Moreau was better than the results indicate.
     Colonel Charles Paul Narcisse Moreau (September 14, 1837, Paris – July 6, 1916) was a French soldier and mathematician. He served in the artillery and as an officer of the French Legion of Honor. He introduced Moreau's necklace-counting function into mathematics. 
     Just to be clear: In combinatorial mathematics, Moreau's necklace-counting function is where μ is the classic Mobius function, counts the number of "necklaces" asymmetric under rotations that can be made by arranging n beads the color of each of which is chosen from a list of α colors. 
     One respect in which the word necklace may be misleading is that if one picks such a "necklace" up off the table and turns it over, thus reversing the roles of clockwise and counterclockwise, one gets a different "necklace", counted separately, unless the necklace is symmetric under such reflections. This function is involved in the cyclotomic identity. 
     Documents detailing Colonel Moreau's military career say he was promoted to lieutenant on October 1, 1861. He served in Mexico from May 1863 to March 1867 during the French intervention in Mexico and received a couple of awards.
     In August 1868 he was promoted to captain and served in Africa from January 1869 to August 1870, when he returned to take part in the Franco-Prussian War. He participated in the battle of Sedan in September 1870, and was taken prisoner; he was released in June of 1871. 
     He then served Algeria from August 1871 until November 1873. In 1886 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel, and in 1890 was promoted to colonel. He was made an officer of the French Legion of Honor in 1893. 
     Tarrasch won the tournament after several losses in the opening rounds. Geza Maroczy, who had won the tournament the previous year, came in second. Harry N. Pillsbury, whose health in the last few years had been steadily declining, managed only third place in what would be his penultimate international tournament. 

Final Standings: 
1) Tarrasch 20.0-6.0 
2) Maroczy 19.0-7.0 
3) Pillsbury 18.5-7.5 
4) Schlechter 17.0-9.0 
5) Teichmann 16.5-9.5 
6) Marco 15.5-10.5 
7) Wolf 14.0-12.0 
8) Mieses 13.0-13.0 
9) Marshall 12.0-14.0 
10-11) Taubenhaus and Mason 10.5-15.5 
12) Albin 8.0-18.0 
13) Reggio 7.5-18.5 
14) Moreau 0.0-26.0 

Thursday, September 26, 2019

An Early Tamanov Debacle

Tal vs. Shiyanovsky
     A few years back, in 1964 it was, I was on Operation Steel Pike and after it was over, we visited Barcelona where I picked up a chess set from the factory that made them and while visiting a book store, some Spanish chess books. One of them was a tournament book on the 29th USSR Championship that was held in Baku in 1961. 
     Baku, a large rail junction and port terminal, is the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan, as well as the largest city on the Caspian Sea. It is also famous for oil refineries, petrochemical, chemical, food, engineering branches of industry, oil equipment production, building materials, instrumentation, electrical engineering and radio electronics and shipbuilding. 
     1961 was an eventful year. Electric toothbrushes were introduced and the first lasers were developed. Barbie got her boyfriend Ken. The top rated television shows were Westerns...Wagon Train, Bonanza and Gunsmoke.
     Outgoing President Eisenhower warned us about the dangers of the developing military industrial complex...close links between defense contractors, the Pentagon and politicians. I think it mostly went unheeded. 
During the televised debate Nixon was sweating like a pig
     The new President Kennedy established Peace Corps. When he first proposed it while a presidential candidate, his opponent, Richard Nixon, vehemently declared it would be a haven for draft dodgers. Actually, the Peace Corps provided young men with draft deferment, but not an exemption.
     Incidentally, most people are probably unaware of Richard Nixon's considerable military experience
     With Vietnam in full swing, in 1966 the Harvard Crimson opined that, "Two year service in the domestic or foreign peace corps should count as a complete and legitimate alternative to military service." And, in 1967, then-Peace Corps director, Jack Vaughn, began making a case against drafting volunteers. He claimed, "Pulling a volunteer off a productive job at mid-tour is unfair to the nation, to the host country, the Peace Corps and the individual." 
     In 1961 one of the first things the new President John F. Kennedy did was doublecross Cuban exiles during thier failed attempt to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. 
     In other news, the Soviets built a wall dividing East and West Berlin and Nazi Adolf Eichmann was tried in Israel, found guilty and hung. By the way, if you come across The House on Garibaldi Street, it's a good read. I wouldn't pay the ridiculous Amazon prices though...it's not THAT good!  
     Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was first human in space during a single-orbit flight and Commander Alan Shephard Jr. Was the first American in space in a suborbital flight. Virgil Grissom followed in similar fashion two months later. The Soviets were also involved in another first when their space probe Venera 1 became the first man-made vehicle to reach another planet when it arrived at Venus. 
     In 1961 there were two Soviet Championships. The 28th was played in Moscow from January 11 to February 11, 1961. It served as the Soviet Zonal from which four players for the Stockholm Interzonal to be played in 1962.
     Petrosian finished first a half point ahead of Korchnoi. Newcomer Leonid Stein scored a sixth round win over Petrosian who then went on to score 9 points in his next 11 games, taking a 1.5 point lead with two rounds to go and coasting from there. 


     Korchnoi also had a spectacular fininsh winning his last four games. Geller, who also qualified, was near the top for the entire tournament. The last spot was taken by Stein as a result of his last-round win against Spassky who tied with Smyslov for fifth and sixth a point behind Geller and Stein. 
     The 29th Championship was the second of two and was held Baku from November 16th to December 20th. Twenty one of Russia's strongest players were there, including many who played in the previous championship earlier in the year. 
     Boris Spassky and Vasily Smyslov had both just barely missed qualifying for the Stockholm Interzonal were entered and hoped to do better. The tournament turned out to be a disaster for Smyslov who lost four games and tied for 8th place with three others, one of whom was Paul Keres. Keres only lost two games, but had too many draws. Of the other big names, Tal might have been expected to finish higher, but he lost three games (Spassky, Bronstein and Nezhmetdinov). 
     Spassky and Smyslov started off with 3.5 in the first four rounds, but after Spassky defeated Smyslov in the 5th round, they went their separate ways.  Spassky lead the rest of the tournament and Smyslov went on to lose more games: Taimanov, Gipslis and Vladimirov. 
     Polugaevsky scored an incredible 7 out of 8 in the final rounds, but it wasn't enough. Spassky’s result was attributed to the fact that not long before the tournament he had split with his long-term coach and mentor, Aleksandr Tolush, and had begun to work with Igor Bondarevsky. 
     There are some interesting photos of the type of sets that were used in this tournament posted in the forum at at Chess,com HEREChessbazaar sells a reproduction of the set.

1) Spassky 14.5 
2) Polugaevsky 14.0 
3) Bronstein 12.5 
4-5) Vasiukov and Tal 12.0 
6-7) Averbakh and Taimanov 11.5 
8-11) Gipslis, Keres, Smyslov and Kholmov 11.0 
12) Shamkovich 10.5 
13) Khasin 9.5 
14-16) Vladimirov, Kots and Shiyanovsky 8.0 
17-18) Lein and Savon 7.5 
19) Nezhmetdinov 7.0 
 20-21) Bagirov and Gurgenidze 6.0 

    About all you can say about Taimanov’s play in the following game is, "What a debacle for a player who at the time was among the top dozen or so players in the world!" Ten years later he was to face another debacle when he lost 6-0 to Bobby Fischer. 


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

John G. White

     John Griswold White (August 10, 1845 – August 27, 1928) was a prominent Cleveland, Ohio attorney, a chess connoisseur, and a bibliophile. 
     White was born in Cleveland (his parents were originally from Massachusetts) and his birthplace was located on what was then Lake Street (probably today’s Lakeside Avenue), near the present-day City Hall. 
     White was born near-sighted but was not diagnosed until he was a teenager. Although fitted with glasses eventually, White usually read without them, preferring (according to his contemporaries) to hold the books close to his face.
     His parents valued education and White received early education in Little Red School House of Northford, Connecticut, at Home, and Canandaigua Academy. According to his long-time friend, it was in Connecticut that White gained his ability to read fast, where books and money were scarce. White made a friend in the nearby town with the bookseller, who allowed him to read any book while his mother did her weekly shopping. 
     Further education took place in Cleveland and Western Reserve College in Hudson, Ohio, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and was class salutatorian at his 1865 graduation; his speech was delivered in Latin. White played chess in college and he and one of his professors played every Wednesday evening, often into the early hours of the morning. 
     After graduation, he studied law under his father. In 1868, White was admitted to the Ohio Bar and in 1903, he was admitted to the Court of Appeals and to the Supreme Court in 1910, receiving the degree of Doctor of Laws from Western Reserve in 1919. White also was the attorney for the Catholic Diocese of Northern Ohio under three bishops, though White himself was not Catholic.
     White practiced law in 1870, partnering with Robert E. Mix and Judge Conway W. Noble. The law firm had various names due to partners either dying, retiring, or through consolidation. The law firm remains in existence today.
     White was elected to the Cleveland Public Library's Board of Directors in 1884 and served as Library Board President from 1910 until his death in 1928. In 1884, Cleveland Public Library was thought to be mismanaged and White began a survey to discover how other libraries were being managed and it was White who instituted numerous changes as well as establishing one of the earliest staff annuity plans for public employees. 
     When taking walks, White and his father would engage in intellectual activities such as only speaking Latin one day, Greek another, and having a "Chess Day" where they would play blindfold games. 
     White loved romantic novels and stories of the Wild West, in which reading was his primary relaxation. His house on 1871 East 89th Street was filled with novels and hundreds of books on chess. Today that address is a parking lot next to the University Church of Christ. 
     White wore a beard long after it became unfashionable. He never owned an automobile, and often rode streetcars between his home and his office downtown. He was a life-long bachelor. White began donating books to the Cleveland Public Library in 1885. 
     His fascination with chess was lifelong, from the walks with his father to his collecting chess-related books, information, and materials. Over a period of some fifty years he conducted a determined quest, throughout the world, for desirable additions to his library. 
     After White left the Library Board in 1886, the library began purchasing cheaper, popular books, which prompted him to donate scholarly books to the library. His donations also included books on folklore and Orientalia. White's goal was to collect everything published on chess as well as chess manuscripts and any other texts that mentioned or were related to chess. 
     At the time of White's death in 1928, the collection numbered 60,000 volumes. The library has since split the collection into three sections: chess, folklore and Orientalia including materials on Asia, the Near and Middle East, Africa, Australia and Oceania. 
     White left Cleveland for a fishing trip at his favorite mountain resort in Jackson Lake, Wyoming with his friend and former law associate and four weeks into his vacation, he passed away from pneumonia.  I was unable to turn up any of White’s games except the following one which he won against Orestes Augustus Brownson.
     Brownson was a problemist and published The Dubuque Chess Journal, a widely respected publication that was published in the offices of the Dubuque Herald from August, 1870 until it was sold in 1876. At the time The Journal was one of two internationally which was exclusively dedicated to chess. After the publication was sold, it was  published in Hannibal, Missouri until June, 1892.
     The Journal had 160 issues and was well known by problem composers and players around the world.  It contained short stories with chess themes, chess poetry, news from chess clubs in the United States, Europe and Australia and obituaries of prominent players.
     This game appeared in the January-August 1873 edition. In most games published in the magazine Brownson gave only the city in which they were played (e.g. Chess in New Orleans, Louisiana, Chess in New York City, etc.), but in his game against John G. White he gave no city, so it was most likely a postal game. As you will see, White was quite a strong player!  





Tuesday, September 24, 2019

You Need A Games Database

     A database is just a collection of chess games and it is important to know the strength of the players whose games are included in your database.
     A lot of databases (along with their opening statistics) are skewed because they contain games played by, for example, a couple of players rated under 1100 in the Antarctica Under-10 Championship.
     For example, Chess Assistant will give you a report on evaluations, full stats and previously played lines, but you need to take into consideration several factors before deciding on a particular move such as:

* How does each move fare result-wise
* What was the year the move was played
* What is the move’s performance rating, etc. 

     So, that’s why it’s important to know the strength of the players whose games those stats are based on. Also, when studying openings it can be very useful to have the complete game just to give you an idea of how to follow up and this is something a lot of opening books don't do. Here too you want that to be based on something other than the play of lower rated players. 
     It is very important to realize that databases don't tell you which move is correct, only which moves been played and are popular. A line might appear in a hundred games and be successful most of the time, but it may have been refuted and the refutation only appears in a handful of games...maybe even only one. 
     Some things that have to be considered are: 

Sample Size – the number of games may be too small too draw any serious conclusions. 
Year Played - theoretical advances in recent years can mean stats are useless if a lot of the games were played back when Bobby Fischer was a kid. 
Ratings – as already mentioned, it is important to consider the strength of the players. Even if a move might be good, if a garden variety master plays it against a GM the statistics will show up as unfavorable. Or, the database may contain a lot of games with an opening that’s favored by lower rated players but it's not one that a GM would be caught dead playing. That’ll mean the stats for that opening are meaningless. 
     Size – Big isn’t always better. Better to have a million GM games than 8 million with 7 million games played by non-masters. 

     Keeping a database up to date is a never ending chore, but it’s something that should be done regularly. It’s nice to have several hundred thousand games played from way back, but it’s more important to have recent ones if you’re a serious player. 
     Chessbase is what many professionals use, but their Mega Database isn't cheap. It’s got 72,000 annotated games and contains more than 7.6 millions games from 1560 to 2018. It’s over $170 though. 
     One of my favorites is KingBase. It’s a free games database, updated monthly and you can download games in PGN, SCID or CBV format. The games are mainly collected from the websites of various tournaments and TWIC archives so they have done a lot of the work for you. 

What you get: 
KingBase has no annotated games, no games with less than 6 moves, no games before 1990 and no games with players rated below 2000. The files are available via direct download or BitTorrent. There’s also a KingBase Lite with over a million games. 

KingBase 2019 has around 2.2 million modern games (i.e. played after 1990) and monthly updates are available for download...currently over 81,000 games. The only downside is that the updates are in pgn format so they may have to be converted to another format, depending on what program you are using.

     Other valuable sites for games are The Week In Chess and Lars Balzer’s site. Also, if you’re into making an opening book these games would be a good choice.  For more information on making your own opening books see: 

Making a Correspondence Opening Book 
Beware of Chess Engine Opening Books

Monday, September 23, 2019

John A. Hudson

     The first US Armed Forces Championship tournament was held in 1960, and continued until 1993, when the Department of Defense withdrew its support. The USCF and the US Chess Center supported the tournaments until 2001, when the support of the Department of Defense was resumed. 
     Emory Tate (December 27, 1958 – October 17, 2015), an Air Force Staff Sergeant, won the championship five times (1983, 1984, 1987, 1988 and 1989) and in 2018, Larry Larkins (an Electronics Technician in the Navy) won his sixth Championship. 
     In 1960 during Armed Forces Week, from May 15 to May 21, the first Armed Forces Championship was held at the American Legion Hall of Flags in Washington, DC. 

Final results: 
1-2) Air Force Captain John A. Hudson and Army SP4 Arthur W. Feuerstein tied for first with a +9 -0 =2. 
3-5) Czapski, Krauss, and Grande 
6-7) Giertych and Robinson 
8) Mott 
9) Moran 
10) Sobczyk 
11-12) Walker and Leuthold 

     Hudson and Feuerstein split the $1,500 prize money place. The money was put up by Thomas Emery, a New York businessman who had served in the Marine Corps during World War I. 
     Emery was a fascinating character, a man of many accomplishments. He was a good friend of Al Horowitz and Frank Marshall. Emery and Marshall spent many hours together talking and analyzing. 
     Emery’s main areas of interest were the military, his medical career and chess. He was from New York and attended school in England and sometime around 1910 he took an interest in chess and progressed rapidly. 
     Shortly after the US entered World War I, Emery found himself in Plattsburg, New York training to be an Army officer. An outstanding student there, at the age of 21 he was offered a commission as a Captain in the Quartermaster Corps which he turned down. Instead, he enlisted in the Marines. I have no idea why he turned down the commission, but as a 19-year old Navy Hospital Corpsman serving with the Marines, when I was promoted to Petty Officer (petty meaning small and insignificant) it came with an offer of a commission as an Ensign in the Medical Service Corps. I turned the commission down because I was young and foolish. Time brought about a change...I am no longer young. 
     Emery had a good knowledge of French and acted as interpreter. Somehow he was wounded in 1918 and was recommended for an award for bravery. Germany had formally surrendered on November 11, 1918, and all nations had agreed to stop fighting while the terms of peace were negotiated. On June 28, 1919, Germany and the Allied Nations signed the Treaty of Versailles, formally ending the war. Emery was discharged in August of 1919. 
     During World War II he pursued medical studies, but never became a doctor. He did have a connection to medicine through his grandfather, Brigadier General Charles T. Alexander, a surgeon under Custer and under Sherman.  Emery lectured on hematology, served as a Senior First Aid Instructor on Long Island.
     Emery was a strong amateur player and is best remembered for his support of both master chess and armed forces chess. He sponsored the first Armed Forces Championship in 1960 and continued to sponsor it during his lifetime.
    John A. Hudson (February 8, 1930 - October 9, 2012) was an accomplished player; by his twenties he held a Master rating...quite a feat in those days. He won the 1952 Louisiana State Championship, the US Amateur Championship in 1956, the Armed Forces Champion in 1960, 1961 and 1970, and in 1965, he won the California State Open. 
     Born in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, he passed away at the age of 82 on Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at Whatcom Hospice House in Bellingham, Washington following complications from a stroke he had suffered two weeks earlier. 
     His father was a career naval officer and most of Hudson’s early years were spent on the family farm in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania where his father had retired. He and his brother attended South Philadelphia High School where he was an exceptionally gifted student and graduated early. A cello player, he had a life-long love of classical music. He went on to the University of Pennsylvania, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Botany. 
     In 1951, following the outbreak of the Korean War, he enlisted in the Air Force and made it a 20 year career as a navigator in the Air Rescue Service and later in the Strategic Air Command as a B-47 navigator-bombardier. He was also a navigation-training instructor and served as the editor of The Navigator magazine. He retired from the Air Force in 1971, with the rank of Major. 
     Chess, cello and classical music weren’t his only interest. He was an excellent carpenter and electrician who enjoyed making home repairs and improvements. He was also an avid reader who especially enjoyed visiting book stores. He also enjoyed the movies (Peter Sellers films were particular favorites) and he had an encyclopedic knowledge of movie trivia. 
     After retiring from the Air Force he returned to school to pursue graduate courses in English literature at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. 

Friday, September 20, 2019

Evans, Kramer and Shainswit: Unbelievable, Revolting, Unforgivable

     After the frivolity of yesterday’s post it’s time to get back to serious stuff and talk about the blight that has ruined modern day correspondence chess and has also become the bane of modern championship chess...draws. 
     In the 1920s Capablanca believed that within a few decades games between GMs would always end in draws so he enlarged the board and added two new pieces. Then came Bobby Fischer who turned his back on the old chess and only played Fischer Random, “The old chess is dead, it's been played out.” he said. 
     Back in 2013, I did a post on the 1948 US Championship that was played in South Fallsburg, New York. It was the championship that Andrew Soltis described as “The Largest and the Least,” adding, “It was the best of championships, it was the worst of championships.”      
     Recently I came across a letter to the editor, Montgomery Major, in the November 5, 1948 issue of Chess Life that was written by Richard W. Wayne who was the tournament director and at one time served as director of the Ventnor City tournaments. Apparently Major, a cranky character anyway, had castigated the TD for allowing so many short draws. 
     Wayne claimed no one in the chess world was more opposed to or more disgusted by short draws than he was and trying to place the blame for the short draws on him showed “a complete lack of experience in the tournament field.” 
     Before the tournament Wayne had discussed the draw matter with Fred Reinfeld and it was concluded there was absolutely nothing that could be done about enforcing a 30-move draw rule. If two players wanted a quick draw they could just continue to play “making farcical and ridiculous moves” or just repeat the position three times. 
    In particular, Major’s ire had been raised over an 11 move draw between Larry Evans and Walter Shipman in round three. The game is given at Chessgames.com but it’s 13 moves, not 11. Also, Wayne stated that it was Evans who offered the draw, but in the game Shipman (playing black) made the last move so one would suppose it was he who made the offer. 
     Wayne also stated that Evans had “a much superior position” so Shipman hardly had any choice but to accept the offer. For his misdeed, according to Wayne, Evans deserved “the most scathing criticism” that either Wayne or Major could offer. 
     Did they play 11 moves or 13? According to Chess Life's account it was 13.  Chess Life stated, "16-year old Larry Evans gave a sorry account of himself by offering a draw after 13 moves to Shipman. The latter, who should know better, accepted at once.  Chess play or horseplay?"  Also, Stockfish doesn’t show any significant advantage for white after either move 11 or move 13. 
     According to Wayne, even more revolting was the round 11 game between George Kramer and George Shainswit...absolutely unforgivable. Wayne stated that both players were much more experienced (at that time) than either Evans or Shipman and both of them were “in the thick of contention for one of the high prizes.” 
Shainswit in the Army (1943)

     Shainswit, a player of “tremendous ability” drew harsh criticism for having long had a reputation for his willingness “to accept a draw in the middle of the fight.” Shainswit tied for 5th-7th with a score of +6 -1 =12.
     As for Kramer, his actions were a “horrible exhibition” and his acceptance of a draw in the final position was “almost unbelievable.” Actually, the final position was nearly equal...perhaps just a smidgen of an advantage to black. 
     Chess is a unique game in that it’s the only one where the players can agree to a draw at any time for any reason and over the years there have been attempts to discourage draws, but none have been successful. In the first international tournament in London in 1862, drawn games had to be replayed until there was a decisive result. 
     In 1929 the first edition of the FIDE laws of chess required 30 moves to be played before a draw could be agreed to, but it was discarded when the rules were revised in 1952. 
     In 1954 FIDE rejected a request to reinstate the rule, but it did state that it is unethical and unsportsmanlike to agree to a draw before a serious contest had begun. FIDE stated that the director should discipline players who repeatedly disrespect this guideline, but it was ineffective. 
     In 1962 FIDE reinstated a version of the rule against draws by agreement in fewer than 30 moves unless the director approved. Penalty was a loss of the game by both players. As Wayne pointed out back in 1948, a threefold repetition came to the players’ rescue. Besides, directors wouldn’t enforce the rule...they no doubt understood that it was impossible. 
     The following year FIDE got tough. Directors had to investigate draws by repetition of position to see if they were to circumvent the rule. The rule was dropped in 1964 because it also failed. 
     In 2003, GM Maurice Ashley proposed that draw offers not be allowed before move 50. The 2003 Generation Chess International Tournament in New York City had a rule that draws could not be agreed to before move fifty; threefold repetitions and stalemate, were permissible at any stage. Thirty moves or fifty, it made no difference. 
     In the World Championship 2016 between Carlsen and Karjakin they were not permitted to agree a draw before move 30. No matter. Out of 12 games 10 were drawn. And, in the 4 playoff games, 2 were drawn. In the 2016 World Championship there were 12 games with 10 draws. The outcome came down to blitz. It seems no matter what draws keep snowballing.


     There have also been proposals to alter the scoring system so that a win is worth more than two draws, but they have also been unsuccessful. 
     Ecclesiastes 1:9 applies, I guess... What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. 
     One thing that made this tournament interesting was the fact that the wide disparity in playing strengths lead to some amusing miniatures and even instructive games. Instructive because they demonstrated how strong masters can so easily crush the not so strong masters. 

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Mystery Player At the 1948 Tri-State Championship

     The Tri-State (West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania) Championship was first held in 1945 by Gene Collett, the West Virginia Chess Association Bulletin editor, Bill Byland, president of the Pennsylvania Chess Association and S. S. Keeney of the Ohio Chess Association. 
     The idea was that the top two finishers in each state's championship would be invited to play and if one of them could not participate, the state could send a replacement. The site of the event rotated among the three states. 
     Originally, the side events consisted of state matches, but full participation by all three states was hard to achieve. In 1949, a Junior event was started and in 1951, an Open Tournament was initiated. The Tri-State Junior Championship was a separate event until 1955 when it was determined that the highest finisher in the Open would be the Junior Champion. 
     Clocks: Because the 1946 event had a shortage of clocks, the following year one of the players suggested that the Association start a fund to buy clocks for the next championship, but there were no clocks on the market because production had been discontinued during the war. As a result, several players made their own clocks and one produced by the brother of one of the players was said to actually resemble those sold commercially. And so, the 1948 tournament was the first state championship where clocks were used. 

The final standings were: 

     The championship was played November 12-14, 1948 in Wheeling, West Virginia and was won by Herman Hesse of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania after a one game playoff win over Rainer Sachs of Cleveland Heights, Ohio. 
     Pennsylvania didn’t enter a team in the team championship which was won by Ohio by a score of 7.5-4.5 over West Virginia. 
     The state champions were Dietz (PA), Werthammer and Hurt were WV co-champions and Sterns (OH). The other players were the runners up in their state championship. 
     Rainer (Ray) Sachs was 16 years old and I could only find a couple of mentions of him. The first was in the January 1947 issue of Chess Life when junior players met at the Cleveland Public Library where on January 11th, John Hoy, Ohio State Champion, found going tough in a simultaneous exhibition and was forced to concede six wins and three draws to the juniors. Winners were: William Granger (Glenville High), Rainer Sachs (Roxboro Junior High), Alfred Robbotoy (West Tech.), Norman Saunders (Cathedral Latin). Richard Christopher (Cathedral Latin) and Jim Harkins (Shaker Heights). Draws went to Bernard Berkman (Grenville), Fred Bartell (Lincoln), and Donald Latnik (Fairfax Elementary). Old time Ohio players will no doubt fondly remember the venerable Jim Harkins
     The January 1954 issue of Chess Review reported that the Central New York State Championship was won by “former Cleveland kingpin Rainer Sachs with a score of 5-1. Equaling Sachs’ score but losing a play-off was Arthur W. Wood, several times titleholder of the Syracuse city championship." 
     Then I discovered there is a Rainer Kurt "Ray" Sachs (born June 13, 1932, making him 16 years old at the time of this tournament) who is a German-American computational radiation biologist and astronomer. There was no mention of chess, but considering the man’s professional accomplishments it stands to reason that he didn’t have time for it. 
     Sachs was co-author of the Sachs–Wolfe effect, which concerns a property of the Cosmic microwave background radiation. He and Ronald Kantowski were responsible for the Kantowski–Sachs dust solutions to the Einstein field equation. These are a widely used family of inhomogeneous cosmological models. 
     Sachs was born in Frankfurt am Main in 1932, a son of the German Jewish metallurgist George Sachs. In 1937 the family left Germany to flee from Nazi persecution and settled in the United States, so Rainer Sachs is generally considered an American scientist. 
     He received his bachelor's degree in mathematics from MIT and his PhD in theoretical physics from Syracuse University. From 1969 to 1993, he was Professor of Math and Physics at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB), and from 1993 he has been Professor Emeritus at UCB. In 1994, he was appointed Research Professor of Mathematics UCB, and since 2005 he has been an Adjunct Professor at the Tufts medical school. Until 1985, he worked on general relativistic cosmology and astrophysics. 
     With Hung-Hsi Wu he co-wrote the books General Relativity for Mathematicians and General Relativity and Cosmology. His contributions include joint work on the Sachs-Wolfe effect and the Ehlers-Geren-Sachs theorem, both of which deal with the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation. From 1985, he has worked in mathematical and computational biology, especially radiation biology. His work in radiobiology has included research on radiation and cancer. 
     Same guy? I can’t be sure, but it’s quite probable that he is especially since in 1954 Sachs won the Central New York State Championship and got his PhD from Syracuse University which is the right location. 
Rainer Sachs in 2002

     The two Sachs vs. Hesse games were the ones that decided the championship. As described in the West Virginia Chess Bulletin, Sachs had defeated Hesse in a difficult Pawn ending in their tournament game which was played on Saturday. It was adjourned after 70 moves. Sachs had claimed a draw by repetition, but it turned out that while it was the same position, it was not the same player to move. They ended up finishing the game in the wee hours of Sunday morning and it looked to be drawn, but on move 105 Sachs blundered and then resigned on move 108. 
     At the end of the tournament with both players tied, Sachs debated whether to stick around for the playoff game or let Hesse have the title by default. Elliot Sterns was leaving for home and told Sachs to stay and go for the title promising that when he (Sterns) got back to Cleveland he would call Sachs’ parents and high school principal and explain that he might not be home in time for school Monday morning. For his part, Hesse was willing to make arrangements for the playoff game to be played at a later date when it was more convenient. 
     Sachs stayed and the game turned into a rough and tumble affair that finally ended up in Hesse’s favor.