Random Posts

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Great Yerhoff - Ulvestad Fracas of 1946

Yerhoff in 1941
     If you are an old postalite (as Al Horowitz used to call correspondence players) like me, you probably remember seeing the name Frank J. Yerhoff in magazines like Chess Review and the Chess Correspondent. 
     Yerhoff (May 8, 1918 – April 27, 1999, 80 years old) was born in Regina, Saskatchewan and over the board he was one of Canada's strongest players during the late 1930s and 1940s. 
     He learned to play chess in 1935 and it wasn’t long before he was good enough to win both the Saskatchewan and correspondence chess championships...titles which he held for many years. He was a devoted Morphy fan and also dabbled at composing problems. 
     Yerhoff finished second in his first OTB tournament, the 1937 Sasketchewan Championship, but then won the tournament for the next eight years in a row and was joint Canadian Champion with D.A. Yanofsky in 1945. He was also Canadian Correspondence Chess Association champion in 1938 and the Canadian Correspondence Champion in 1939, 1940, 1941, 1943 and 1945.
     During the war years his efforts were confined mostly to correspondence play and starting in 1942 he began playing in Chess Review tournaments where he also had considerable success. Unfortunately not long after he started playing in Chess Review tournaments censorship regulations forced Chess Review to Canadian entries. 
     The US Open returned at the end of World War II and the 1946 tournament set a record with 58 players and it was the first Open run under the Swiss System. The first two rounds were paired by lot to determine qualifiers for the various final sections. The Preliminary tournament was played as an eight-round Swiss. Afterwards, the players were divided into groups of 8-10 by order of finish, with ties broken by Sonnenborg-Berger. Each finals group then played a round robin, with scores from the preliminary section carried over. 

Winners of the preliminary group were: 
1) Olaf Ulvestad 6.5 
2-4) Herman Steiner, Abraham Kupchik and Gerald Katz 6.0 
5-10) Donald Byrne, Walter Shipman, Harry Fajans, Herbert Seidman, Arthur Bisguier and Frank Yerhoff. 

     Weaver Adams, Miguel Aleman Dovo, Robert Byrne and Hyman Gordon equaled the scores of the players in the 5th-10th group, but failed to qualify for the Championship group because their S-B points were too low. 
     The final standing were: 

Scores include both finals and preliminaries 
1) Herman Steiner 13.5 
2) Herbert Seidman 2.5 
3) Abraham Kupchik 12.0 
4-5) Donald Byrne and Olaf Ulvestad 10.5 
6) Arthur Bisguier 9.5 
7-10) Harry Fajans, Gerald Katz, Walter Shipman and Frank Yerhoff 8.5 

    In the following game Yerhoff defeats Olaf Ulvestad in a real free-for-all. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Correspondence Chess Then and Now

Postal play then
     Engines have become so strong that winning games in the upper levels of correspondence play is almost impossible. On Lechenicher SchachServer I played exclusively in the Rapid events (10 Basic plus 1 day per move; no vacations) and even then only about 1/3 of the games were decisive. 
     Tactical wins are a thing of the past; success requires superior strategy. One top level CC player described his method for selecting a move as given below and added that about the only good program for using this method is Aquarium’s IdeA

1) Do an infinite analysis for several hours (perhaps overnight) 
2) Go to the end of the line and start an infinite analysis on the end position for a reasonable period of time. How much time you want to spend doing this depends on how much time and/or patience you have. 
3) Step backwards to the previous move and do the same thing. As you do this you will notice the engine may suggest a better move. You will explore these new suggestions in a similar manner. 
4) Eventually you will have worked your way back to the starting position. By that time you should have a pretty good idea of the best line. 

Correspondence play now
     Be prepared to spend days following this procedure. Also, be prepared to draw because unless you’re playing rapid correspondence games, you opponent is doing the same thing. 
     After Pillsbury's success at Hastings in 1895 a meeting was held in January, 1896 in Chicago and the Pillsbury National Correspondence Chess Association (PCAA) was organized. 
     In March of 1896 the PCCA President, Edward Runge, received a letter from Pillsbury saying he was pleased with the founding of the organization and any use of his name that would increase the interest in chess was freely given. 
     The PCCA only had 50 members and in 1897 they began their first correspondence tournament, the Grand National. Dr. Otto Meyer of Richmond, Virginia was the winner. 
     The club struggled until late 1905 or early 1906 when all of a sudden, the tournaments stopped for unknown reasons. However, the PCCA revived in the Fall of 1907, but the only person doing any work in the club was a fellow named George Walcott and so the club soon folded for good in a couple of years. 
     A fellow named Stanley Chadwick had won a few tournaments and had qualified for the second round of their 1905 Grand National, but he quit the PCCA in 1909 and founded his own club which eventually became the Correspondence Chess League of America (CCLA). 
     The Jamuary 17, 1916 edition of the magazine Chess News, edited by the secretary of the Boston Chess Club George H. Wolcott, carried an amusing article on postal chess: 

Saving for postage is one of the pleasures of a chess player. He walks up to the little window, leaves there some of his good coin, receiving in return that which enables him to communicate with his friends in far away cities. There is no sport, no other pastime, as dependent as chess upon the mail service. 

     The article then went on to express the opinion that Americans were disposed to take the government for granted, leaving it to the powers that be to make changes, improvements or otherwise. But, when it came to the matter of first class postage, an immediate readjustment of the rate was needed and apparently the government was lax in that area and needed prodding by the citizens. 
     The magazine complained that an abnormal profit was being made from a public service (i.e. the post office) that should be merely self-supporting. It was pointed out that although all letters cost two cents to mail, only a small portion of them weighed the full ounce permitted and it actually cost the government less than one cent each to handle them. This resulted in the accumulation of a surplus of over eighty million dollars each year on first class letter mail! 
     Wolcott asked what happened to this eighty million dollar surplus then proceeded to answer his own question. Second class mail service was for publishers who paid one cent per pound for newspapers and magazines. Each year the deficit in the for handling this second class mail was...wait for it...eighty million dollars. Thus the good citizens who wrote letters (which included postal chess players using post cards) were subsidizing publishers of newspapers and magazines.  
     There was an organization that was trying to do something about this awful situation, the National One Cent Letter Postage Association headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio. The group was asking that each group of mail users pay for the cost of the service they were being provided and that writers of letters (and post cards) no longer be taxed 100 percent to subsidize publishers of periodicals. Wolcott concluded with the plea for readers to: Write to the Association; do it now. 
     In the following lively correspondence game the players were Mordecai Morgan of Philadelphia and J. E. Narraway of Ottawa, Canada, both well known players of the day. The play is complicated and some of the positions are very subtle with many hidden points. 
     Mordecai Morgan (December 30, 1862 – September 21, 1931, 68 years old) was active in Philadelphia. He was mostly active in correspondence chess play and Walter Penn Shipley described him "as one of the leading correspondence players of this country.” 
     In 1884, he beat Zukertort in a simul and in 1892 he beat the future world champion Lasker. In 1887, he tied for first with Samuel W. Bampton and W. H. Schultz. He then went on to win the championships in 1888, 1891 and 1894. 
     In 1888, Morgan became one of the directors of the Franklin Chess Club in Philadelpha, and was reelected in 1891, 1894 and 1897. He also became the treasurer of the Pennsylvania Chess Association in 1897. 
     In the Franklin Chess Club championship in 1894, Morgan was the runner up behind Emil Kemeny. He dominated the 1895/1896 championship, won in 1903 and again in 1905. 
     Morgan was active in telegraph matches between the Franklin Chess Club and the Manhattan Chess Club and he participated in the Anglo-American cable match in 1907. In addition, he wrote the four volumes work Chess Digest (Philadelphia, 1901-1905). 
     James E. Narraway (June 11, 1857 – June 16, 1947, 90 years old) was born in either Guysboro, Nova Scotia or in Sackville, New Brunswick; nobody is sure which one. 

     Before moving to Ottawa in 1887, he was the champion of Saint John, New Brunswick for several years. He beat Sam Loyd on top board in a team correspondence match of players between the USA and Canada. 
     In 1888 he tied for first place in the Canadian Championship and was awarded 3rd place after play-off.  He won the championship outright three times: 1893,1897, 1898. He also won several prestigious correspondence tournaments in the late 1800s and early 1900s. 
     Narraway, an accountant, worked in Civil Service for the Canadian government. Also, as a paleontologist he made two discoveries on the banks of Ottawa River accepted by Royal Ontario Museum and British Museum. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Mieses Gives An Endgame Lesson

     Everybody has heard of Jacques Mieses (1865-1954), but few appreciate how good he was in his heyday. Chessmetrics assigns him a rating of 2625 in 1921 which ranked him number 9 in the world. He was behind Capablanca, Rubinstein, Bogoljubow, Tartakower, Reti, Kostic, Tarrasch and Maroczy. Paul Johner rounded out the top ten.  Jacques Mieses pronounced
     Mieses was born in Leipzig, Germany and at the age of 17 won the Berlin championship. Five years later he finished third at Nuremberg and joint second at Leipzig. 
     His first international tournament was the famous Hastings tournament of 1895. Mieses finished tied for 20th place out of 22, but he was determined to compete at the highest level. Over a decade later in 1907 he won the inaugural Leopold Trebitsch Memorial Tournament in Vienna. He also finished third at Ostend the same year. In 1909, Mieses played future World Championship contender Carl Schlechter in a blindfold match and defeated him with two wins and a draw. Mieses organized the San Sebastian tournament in 1911 which introduced the world to Capablanca. 
     In the 1930s, Mieses fled Germany to escape Nazi persecution and settled in England where he became a naturalized citizen. The opening 1.d3 is named after him. 
     Carlsbad 1907 was one of four well-known international tournaments held there. The others were 1911, 1923 and 1929. The 1907 tournament results were: 
1) Rubinstein 15.0 
2) Maroczy 14.5 
3) Leonhardt 13.5 
4-5) Nimzovich and Schlechter 12.5 
6-8) Vidmar, Teichmann and Duras 11.5 
9) Salwe 11.0 
10) Wolf 10.5 
11-12) Marshall and Dus Chotimirsky 10.0 
13) Spielmann 9.5 
14) Tartakower 9.0 
15) Janowski 8.5 
16-18) Berger, Chigorin and Mieses 7.5 
19) Olland 6.5 
20) Cohn 5.0 
21) P. Johner 4.5 

     I know endings aren’t popular, but remember the advice from NM James Schroeder and SM Marl Buckley in the previous post on Woodpeckering. It wouldn’t hurt to study endgames even if you don’t like them! 
     In the 3rd edition of his classic How To Reassess Your Chess, Jeremy Silman began the book with a section on endings. He admitted that it had nothing to do with his theme, but he included it because everyone needs to know the basics of endgames, but class players have very little, if any, knowledge of them. 
     That part of the book has been removed from the revamped 4th edition. I suspect it was not because Silman has changed his mind, but because few readers probably gave it much attention. If they wanted to study endings, they would buy a book on endings. And, by eliminating the material on endings there’s more room for middlegame material. 
     When we think of endgames we usually think of strategy, but even simple endgames can be surprisingly tactical and in the following game by Mieses we see a tactical continuation in the late middlegame that leads to a very instructive ending in which Mieses gets a passed a-Pawn vs. Wolf’s passed d-Pawn. The game is also a good example of Rook handling in the ending. 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Chess Was Dull In 1909

     ….or, there is nothing new under the sun. 
     Back in 1909, staring on April 19th and finishing in late June, Capablanca crushed Marshall by a score of 8 wins, one loss and fourteen draws. Capablanca wrote In My Chess Career that his victory put him in the foremost rank among the great masters of the game. 

     The match was not without controversy. It was sanctioned by the New York State Chess Association as being for the U.S. Championship. Since the death of Pillsbury in 1906, many had assumed that the titlw should revert to Marshall due to his great tournament successes. And, in this match Marshall was defending his title. But after losing Marshall declared that Capablanca could not be US Champion because he was not a US citizen. 
     Lawyer Walter Penn Shipley was asked to settle the dispute. Shipley ruled that neither Marshall nor Capablanca was the US Champion because when Pillsbury died the title had reverted to the last person to hold it, the retired Jackson W. Showalter. Shipley stated that until Showalter declined a challenge nobody had a valid claim to the title. Shipley also concluded that Capablanca could not become US Champion without becoming a citizen. At this time, the New York State Chess Association withdrew their support for Capablanca's claim, effectively stripping him of the title. 
     Prior to leaving for Havana, Capablanca was reported as intending to apply for U. citizenship once he became eligible. After his return to the US, Capablanca made a public statement with a somewhat modified position. In the American Chess Bulletin he wanted to make his position clear. He was the undisputed champion of Cuba, and even though he had won their match, Marshall had the greatest reputation and the best score in tournaments of any living player in the United States and is therefore considered everywhere as the strongest representative of the United States. 
     By his victory over Marshall, Capa stated he was the strongest player on this side of the Atlantic and considered himself “Champion of America.” He stood ready to defend his title within a year against any American (Player from the United States) or anywhere else, for a side bet of at least $1000. He added, “Under these circumstances the question whether I am a citizen of the U.S.A. or not has nothing to do with the matter under consideration." 
     The American Chess Bulletin's interpretation of this statement was that Capablanca was claiming to be the strongest player in the Western Hemisphere, not the US champion. The whole incident sounds like the forerunner of the 1952 Reshevsky-Najdorf match which was billed as the “Match for the Championship of the Free World.” 
     Marshall challenged and beat Showalter for the US title in late 1909 and even endorsed Capa’s entry into the 1911 San Sebastian tournament, though Capablanca did not meet the qualifications for entry. 
     Another interesting aspect of the Capablanca-Marshall match was the considerable criticism it received both in the US and abroad. The problem was the financial arrangement…players would receive a certain sum for every game of the match. 
     Capablanca jumped out to an early lead in the first 13 games: +7 -0 =5. Then after that came a six week stretch in which nine draws were played and Capa was unable to score the final point. To many it looked like they were playing for the gate money. 
     The magazine Chess Weekly also complained (remember this was in 1909) of the ever increasing dullness of modern chess contests and this match was a prime example. 
     According to Chess Weekly the culprit was what the magazine called “the ultra modern school.” The school had the policy of accumulating small advantages, risking nothing and leaving nothing to chance or uncertainty. And, to make matters worse, such play had thoroughly established respectability. The magazine stated that unfortunately as the play was becoming sounder, it was also becoming “deficient in the qualities which make chess an entertaining game.” 
     According to the editorial it was difficult to become enthusiastic over a subtle ten-move combination involving nothing more than the doubling of a Pawn. Another disadvantage was the tendency of the modern players to specialize in only about four openings; ninety per cent of the games were Queen Pawn openings or the Ruy Lopez. This tendency accounted “for the hackneyed repetitions of modern masters' games as well as the ever increasing number of draws.” 
     The magazine claimed the Capa-Marshall match was a “vivid example of how this tendency, while perhaps ensuring soundness of play because so little is ventured, subverts chess genius and robs the game of its former attractiveness.” The magazine further opined that both Marshall and Capablanca possessed the tactical talent that was capable of producing games that “sparkled with originality and vigor.” The magazine claimed the remedy lay with the chess public, especially the promoters and managers of future chess contests. Stipulated sums should be paid respectively to the winner and the loser of a match. In tournaments a draw should count only a quarter of a point.
     Additionally, the magazine pointed out that “present conditions absolutely require some provision guarding against the systematic repetitions of certain lines of play.” The editorial pointed out that there are are at least twenty theoretically sound openings and it seems reasonable enough that, following the lead of checkers, a player would not be allowed to adopt the same opening more than once or twice during a contest. Their final conclusion: Chess as a science is an abnormity (an abnormal condition or quality). 

Saturday, October 26, 2019


     No, this is NOT a chess program. In fact, it has nothing to do with chess, but it’s a handy program that has become a “must have” for me and I just wanted to share it. 
     It’s a free Optical Character Reader that allows you to copy or extract text from images, videos or PDFs right off the Internet screen. 

     All you do is download and install the program and it puts a little fish icon in the upper right hand corner of your screen. Then when you want to use OCR to copy text off the screen so you can past it into Word, just click on the icon, put a rectangle around what you want to OCR and in a few seconds the text is ready to copy and paste. Copyfish is available for both Chrome and Firefox. Download Copyfish

Friday, October 25, 2019


Should you be a Woodpecker? The quick explanation of the Woodpecker Method is that you need to solve a large number of puzzles, then solve the same puzzles again and again and again, only faster and faster and faster. The idea is you’re re-programming your subconscious. 
     That seems to be the gist of the method proposed by Axel Smith and Hans Tikkanen in their book The Woodpecker Method
     Everybody knows that when it comes to Class play (players below the Expert/Master level) games are almost always decided by tactics, but this Woodpecker Method sounds a lot like de la Maza’s Seven Circles
     In the de la Maza method you choose 1,000 problems which you will go through seven complete times and each time you go through the set, you go faster and faster. 
     On the first pass, you have 64 days to do the 1,000 problems. That’s 15-16 problems a day which seems doable. On the next run through the problems you should be able to do all of the problems over 32 days within about the same amount of time per day. By the time you’re done you supposed to be able to do all the problems in 12 hours, less that 15 seconds per problem. All this is assuming you don’t burn out or start puking when you see the problems.
     Anyway, there used to be a lot of blogs advocating the method, but I think they are almost all discontinued. Also, I don’t think anybody ever claimed it really worked. This Woodpecker Method sounds kind of similar. 
     The claim is that back in 2010, by using this method, Hans Tikkanen achieved three GM norms within a seven-week period. Hans Tikkanen (born February 6, 1985) is a Swedish GM who has won the Swedish Championship five times. But, it should be pointed out that he won the Swedish Junior Championship in 2002, so in 2010 he was hardly a Class player, but already a strong master. Tikkanen is also a football player. 
     This Woodpecker Method is going to be hard work that sounds more like drudgery than anything. There's no doubt that there will be benefits like sharper tactical vision and fewer blunders, but that's assuming you can get through the course. My guess is most players won't. 
     Axel Smith is also the author of Pump Up Your Rating. In that book he recommended, among other things, using the de la Maza Method. Also, I discovered Smith left something out of that book: he put in a LOT of hours and, oh, by the way, former Super-GM Ulf Andersson was his coach. It never hurts to be able to study 8 hours a day and have a GM on staff to coach you. 
     The whole point is that this method sounds like self-torture and studying chess should be fun. I know if I were motivated to study chess I’d want it to be fun. 

     Instead of torturing yourself, the late NM James R. Schoeder recommended a different approach. Writing in The Chess Correspondent back in 1975, he gave some pretty good advice that if followed should not be painful, but actually enjoyable.
     It was Schroeders' opinion that 90 per cent of the chess books in print are worthless and he even went so far as to say most of them harmful. As for opening books, he said don't read them until you are at least an Expert (2000+). 
     He said you should never waste time on those things called Modern Chess Openings or Encyclopedia Of Openings etc. because they are nothing more than a compilation of selective data and contain thousands of mistakes in analysis and evaluations. GM Lubomir Kavalek once wrote that he had checked a variation in the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings and he “could not believe (his) eyes” at one evaluation and added that we should not really surprised since he had found dozens of similar mistakes and misjudgments in that book. 
     Just as bad (or worse) are books of specific openings, especially if they are written by a non-Master. The ever caustic Schroeder wrote, “Articles on openings written by amateurs but published by professional magazines are worthless (unless you want to amuse yourself refuting the drivel).” The reason so much of this type of material is published is because publishers pander to the desire of many players who are looking for an easy way to improve. 
     Schroeder wrote that only after you become completely knowledgeable of how to checkmate, and thoroughly understand the endgame, and know all the possible types of combinations and have played through at least a thousand master games are you then you are ready to study openings. He added that by the time you do all that, you'll be a Master anyway.  One assumes that Schroeder believed you will learn enough about openings by playing over master games to get you by. He is probably correct. 
     He wrote, “If you cannot refute a bad move over-the-board you will never be a good player.” 

Three things Schroeder recommended: 
1) Study endings 
2) Study Tactics 
3) Play over master games. 

     Jonathan Hawkins managed to go from being an average tournament player with a rating of around 1700 to a Grandmaster. He claims he did it by focusing his attention on the endgame and devising a number of building blocks and identified a number of important areas of study. See his book Amateur to IM: Proven Ideas and Training Methods.
     One’s goal should not be to become a one trick pony. One should endeavor to become an all around player and to that end one should, as Senior Master Mark Buckley wrote, make it a goal to become an all around master. In order to do that Buckley had to study everything that he didn’t understand, even if he didn't like it. 

For further reading...
Vox article - Re-reading is ineffective 
American Psychological Association - Study Smart 
Study Right - Learning is really hard work. Learning by osmosis doesn't work.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Chess Champion Wed

     From 1901 to 1904 Checkmate, a “Monthly Chess Chronicle”, was published Prescott, Ontario by. J.H. Graham. It was the first ever monthly chess magazine in Canada. 
     In the initial issue Graham wrote that the appearance of a chess monthly in a small town remote from the leading centers of the game and under the management of one whose name was not familiar might require some explanation. The explanation was that he simply wanted to produce a magazine at a reasonable price that covered events of general interest, present games, endings, analyses and discoveries in the openings that had value. He also wanted to publish “the prettiest and freshest fancies in the problem art.” He promised that even though it was an experiment, the magazine would continue for at least one year regardless of the support it got. 
     In the first issue there was an article titled “The American Champion Weds” that read: 

Harry N. Pillsbury and Miss Mary E. Bush, both of Philadelphia, were united in marriage in Chicago on the morning of Jan. 17. The ceremony, which was entirely private, was performed by Rev. Frank Dewitt Talmage. They had been engaged for three years, and the American chess champion made the best move in his life when he procured that license. 

Had not Mr. Pillsbury been a chess expert he probably would never have known Miss Bush. Their first meeting occurred during one of the champion's professional engagements. Mrs. Pillsbury is the daughter of the late Judge Bush, of Monticello, N.Y.,who was State Senator when he died a few years ago. The few chess friends who had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Pillsbury were charmed by her beauty and gift of conversation. She will accompany her husband on his tour through the South and to the Pacific coast. They left for St. Louis on Friday morning. 

There’s an interesting entry on Ancestry.com: 
Mary Ellen Pillsbury (Bush) 
Birthdate: estimated between 1843 and 1899 
Death: Unknown 
Immediate Family: Daughter of Albert J. Bush and Charlotte Horton 
Wife of Frank Shearf; Henry DuBois Southard and Harry Nelson Pillsbury 

     The September issue carried some interesting news on Pillsbury. Harry Nelson Pillsbury (December 5, 1872 – June 17, 1906), as you know, was a leading American player who at the age of 22 won one of the strongest tournaments of the time (the Hastings 1895 chess tournament) but his illness and early death prevented him from challenging for the World Chess Championship. See my post Pillsbury’s Syphilis
     According to the September article, Pillsbury was to retire as a professional player “in about two years.” After his retirement he proposed to devote himself earnestly to the study of law. Before that happened though, he intended to play a match with Lasker for the world championship. It was expected that the details of the match would be arranged when Pillsbury went to Europe, which he planned to do early in 1902 and be to be gone a year or more. I had never heard of Pillsbury's intention to retire and become a lawyer.
     After his marriage Pillsbury and his wife left for what was known as his fourth American tour...it was considered a brief one, lasting only four months. 
     In January of 1902, along with his wife, he was sailed for England. While abroad he was planning on playing in a number of tournament (which he did) and touring the Continent (which he did). 
     The magazine speculated that when Pillsbury left professional chess for good there would be no one to take his place in the realm of blindfold chess. At the time he had done what no one had done, or even attempted. 
     His record of twenty simultaneous blindfold games was unheard of, especially since he could also combine both checkers and whist with his blindfold chess games. Pillsbury thought he could handle up to 30 blindfold games. 
     Upon reaching Europe in 1902 he played in Monte Carlo (second a half point behind Maroczy) and in Hanover (second a point and a half behind Janowsky).
     During the Hanover tournament Pillsbury gave numerous exhibitions and on August 2, 1902, during a rest day, he set a new world record by playing 21 blindfolded games simultaneously. He only scored +3 -7 +11, but his feat was made more difficult in that his opponents were allowed to analyze their games by shifting pieces around and consult spectators. Also, his opponents were all strong players and included future GM Ossip Bernstein. In addition to the blindfold chess games in the Hanover exhibition, he also played four blindfold games of checkers, winning three and drawing one. 
     The tournament committee promised ten shillings to the winners and five shillings to anyone who obtained a draw. Checkmate magazine observed that amount of money would buy a lot of cigars and beer. The exhibition took 11 and a half hours. So much for a rest day! 
     Pillsbury’s feat was considered nothing short of phenomenal especially when compared to Zukertort who played 16 games against weak players on two consecutive days, or, Blackburne who played “only” 15 games. When comparing them to Pillsbury’s exploits, Checkmate magazine put the accomplishments of Zukertort and Blackburne in the “infant class.” 
     In December 1902, Pillsbury was in Moscow and broke his own world record by playing 22 simultaneous blindfold games in an exhibition lasted 10 hours. He scored +17 -1 =4. 

     According to Alekhine, one of the players was his older brother, Alexei, who supposedly drew, but other than Alekhine’s word there is no evidence. The 10-year old Alekhine did watch the exhibition though and is was a strong motivation for his trying blindfold and simultaneous play himself. 
     In 1903, Pillsbury was back playing in Monte Carlo where he finished third behind Tarrasch and Maroczy. In Vienna he finished fourth behind Chigorin, Marshall and Marco. He then returned to the United States and played in Cambridge Springs in 1904, his last major event. 
     By 1904, his ability to sustain the rigorous concentration needed for top flight chess had been severely impaired and some his games were blighted by mistakes. He never did become a lawyer. See Edward Winter’s site HERE for details on Pillsbury’s last days. 
     The following Youtube video by GM Ben Finegold looks at three miniatures, one by Pillsbury and two by Spassky he says you should know by heart. You can download the games on Chess.com. 
Pillsbury vs Winawer, Budapest 1896 
Larsen vs Spassky, USSR vs. Rest of the World 1970 
Spassky vs Avtonomov, Soviet Junior Qualifiers 1949

Wednesday, October 23, 2019


     I got a chance to tinker around with HIARCS the other day. It’s available from the USCF in two versions: HIARCS Chess Explorer ($69.95) and DEEP HIARCS Chess Explorer ($99.95). 
     As you probably know, HIARCS was developed by Mark Uniacke and it’s been around almost forever with the first version marketed by Chessbase and sold in the Fritz GUI back in 1996. From the beginning one of Uniacke’s goals has been for HIARCS to play in a more human-like fashion at different Elo ratings.
     HIARCS Chess Explorer is a database, analysis and playing program and is available for both Windows Macintosh computers. The first question is, what’s the difference between HIARCS and DEEP HIARCS? Is the difference worth the extra $30? That would be a personal decision, I guess. 

* Deep offers the multi-core/multi-processor version of HIARCS 14 whereas HIARCS has the single core version. Most engines these days automatically are multi-core/multi-processor, so this seems a little odd to me. 
* Deep has access to additional online content, including 1 Terrabyte of Chess Endgame and Opening Book Databases whereas HIARCS has access to standard online content only. 
* Databases include: 
Top Games – about 35,000 games between the world's top players, mostly from the last 20 years. 
Annotated Games – exactly what it says Fischer vs. Spassky - all the games played between these two. Not sure why you would want these because chess progress has moved on. 
Kasparov - Karpov - all the games played between these two. Same as Fischer-Spassky except the games are a lot more boring. 
Tactics - contains 300 tactical puzzles 
You can download a larger 200K+ database of master games. 

     HIARCS can use any UCI compatible chess engine, so depending what you want to use it for...practice against human-like play or to seek perfection...you can use the HIARCS engine or download Stockfish.
     The HIARCS engine is famous for its human-like and entertaining attacking playing style It does have a very nice interface that allows to to customize the pieces, board and layout. Navigation around the databases, games and players is pretty easy. User Manuel 
     The bottom line is that HIARCS looks to be a pretty good program that does just about everything all the other programs do, but for me, the deal breaker is you have to pay $30 extra for the multi-core/multi-processor version. Also, the database is pretty small. 
     I really can’t address HIARCS ability to play human-like chess and I couldn’t locate any recent games, so the following game against a human from 2012 will have to do. HIARCS smoothly defeated IM Jefferson Pelikian (born October 10, 1965) who was co-champion of Brazil in 1994. 
     The Mercosur Cup 2002 tournament was a 12-player affair that was held in Vicente Lopez, Argentina and was won by IM Bernardo Roselli who finished a half point ahead of Oscar Panno and Hiarcs 8. 

     Currently in the CCLR 40/40 rating list HIARCS 14 is rated number 43-44 with a 3054 rating and it gets crushed by Stockfish and Komodo. On the FastGMs Rating Lists (60 seconds / game + 0.6 seconds / move) it’s rated 2758 and is in 46th place. 
     Clearly HIARCS is not the best engine out there, so a lot depends on how well it meets the claim that it plays human-like chess. Can anybody attest to that claim?

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Dr. A.G. Olland and Dr. Johannes Esser

     I would be surprised if any readers knew anything about these fellows, but Dr. Adolf Georg Olland (April 13, 1867 – July 22, 1933) was the leading Dutch master in the days before Max Euwe and his opponent, Johannes Fredericus Samuel Esser (October 13, 1877 - August 3, 1946), was a Dutch surgeon, chess player and art collector. Esser was Dutch champion in 1913 and a whole lot more.
     Dr. Olland, a medical doctor, was born in Utrecht and such was his fame throughout Holland that if someone said they were from Utrecht, the replay was, “Ah yes, the home of Dr, Olland!” 
     Beginning with Amsterdam 1887 where he finished 3rd, Olland performed well in Dutch and German events and had some good successes, and a few failures, in international events. 
     Olland was also very active in match play, competing in 29 matches, all except one in his home town Utrecht. He defeated most Dutch players except Euwe who beat him twice, but lost to foreign masters such as Geza Maroczy, Richard Réti, and Edgar Colle. 
     Chessmetrics estimates his highest ever rating at 2609 in 1902. This put him in a group that included such players as Teichmann, Mieses, Atkins, Wolf, Marco, Napier, Gunsberg, Marshall and Blackburne. Olland died of a heart attack playing in the 1933 Dutch Championship at The Hague. 
     Esser and his sister Elisabeth were largely raised by the neighbor, milk trader Leen Spruyt. Esser married Olga Hazelhoff Roelfzema (1889-1924) in 1912. They had two daughters (Elisabeth and Carla) and a son (Maarten). Olga died in 1924. Five years later, Esser remarried Aleida de Koning, with whom he had four daughters: Rocquereyne, Boduina, Annie and Olga. 
     From 1897, Esser studied arts at the University of Leiden. During his medical studies he helped his sister with her dental studies, after which he also passed the exam to be a dentist. 
     He initially established himself as a general practitioner. In 1913 he quit his general practice and went to study general surgery at the University of Utrecht. He specialized in maxillo-facial surgery, a specialization that deals with very serious congenital and inflicted facial deformities. Repairing the face by applying a skin transplant later became his specialty. After gaining practical experience in various Rotterdam hospitals, he left for Paris to further train there. 
     He also attended a crash course in war surgery in Paris. After the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, he tried to become a war surgeon with the British and the French, but they rejected him. After having worked in the Netherlands for some time (including as a dentist) he became a war surgeon at the front in Brno, Czech Republic in 1915. 
     In the following years he worked successively in Vienna , Budapest and Berlin. He specialized in prosthesis for a facial reconstruction with cheekbone, eye and glasses from 1920 and 1921. Esser treated thousands of war wounded people who were put away in camps because of their horrific mutilations. 
     The basis of plastic and reconstructive surgery was laid in the First World War and at the time, Esser was considered a great expert in this field. He is seen as the founder of this branch of surgery in Holland. For a history of cosmetic surgery post-World War I you can visit:Warning: graphic content
Innovative Cosmetic Surgery...WWI
The Rebuilt Faces of War

     After the war he had a private practice in Berlin for a number of years, but due to a tax issue he moved back to the Netherlands in 1924. Because he had not completed his education in the Netherlands, he could not get a job as a surgeon and so he went into business and art. 
     In the following years he tried to realize an idealistic plan, the Surgical Free State. It was to be a small independent area where one could engage in plastic surgery. To realize this plan, he traveled half-way across Europe and eventually ended up in the United States. 
     Due to unfortunate stock market speculation, he lost all his money at once. To provide for his existence, he then toured the U.S. giving lectures of all kinds. He also started his memoirs. In the meantime, he was physically and mentally deteriorating and shortly after the Second World War he died of a heart problem. 
      Esser earned to play chess while still in his youth and in 1896 he played simultaneous exhibitions in Delft and in 1910 he beat David Janowski in Paris by a score of 2.5-0.5. 
     In 1909 and in 1912, Esser participated in the Dutch Championship and in 1912 he finished second  In 1913 , he beat the then Dutch champion Rudolf Loman in a match for the title with 3.5-0.5, after which he was allowed to call himself Dutch champion. Esser served as chairman of the Schaakbond in the period 1908-1909. 
     His best historical Elo rating was 2570, in September 1913. Esser was also a large art collector, who collected work by George Breitner, Leo Gestel, Piet van der Hem, Isaac Israels, Piet Mondriaan and Jan Sluijters, among others. An overview exhibition of his collection was held in the Singer museum in Laren from December 2005 to April 2006. For more details on Esser’s accomplishments visit HERE

Monday, October 21, 2019

Karel Opocensky

Opocensky and Bronstein in 1954
     There was a story in an old Chess Review that the game Karel Opocensky lost to Capablanca at the Buenos Aires Team Tournament in 1939 was his favorite. The reason: after Capablanca won by accident he told Opocensky, “You outplayed me from the start and you would have beaten any other player in the world.” 
     If THIS game was the one referred to, I’m not seeing it, nor did Stockfish. Apparently Capa was being gracious. Or, perhaps since this game was played in the Final A section, they met in a preliminary section. 
     George Koltanowski recalled that in his first international tournament at Merano in 1924, he was up a Pawn but forced a draw by repetition against Opocensky who was furious. Opocensky thought that Kolty was morally obligated to play for a win and proceeded to call him “everything but a gentleman” and lecture him at length on ethics and integrity in chess play. I have to wonder why, if Opocensky felt that strongly about Koltanowski’s actions, why didn’t he just resign? The next time they met in a tournament in England more than ten years later and Koltanowski won, Opocensky told him, “You should have won that game in Merano, too.”
     Opocensky felt he was insulted by Nimzovich at Marienbad 1935, when, while Nimzovixh was considering his next move, Opocensky went for a walk. When he returned, instead of sitting down he leaned over his chair to study the position and as he did so he was swaying back and forth. Nimzovich snapped, “Go away or stop swaying your silly stomach over the board and give a man a chance to think.” Opocensky left, but they never spoke to each other again. 
     That anecdote reminded me of the time I was playing a many time state champion and was doing quite well coming out of the opening. As he held his head in his hands pondering his next move, I, too, was thinking hard and in the process was rocking back and forth. Suddenly the champ looked up and yelled, “G-- d--- it, quit rocking!” then buried his head back in his hands. Everybody was looking at us and it was a little embarrassing. I quit rocking and went on to lose. 
     Karel Opocensky (February 7, 1892 - November 16, 1975) was an IM who had the distinction of being the first Czech chess professional. 
     His father was a well-known building tycoon in Prague and decided that Karl, the middle and most gifted of the even children, should take over the family business, but he preferred chess instead. His father was furious with the decision and gave him an ultimatum, the family business or chess. Opocensky chose chess and said he never regretted his choice. 
     He won the Czech championship four times (1927, 1928, 1938 and 1944) and played for Czechoslovakia four times in the Chess Olympiads with a +30 – 11 =14 record. 
    When World War II broke out, Opocensky, Jan Foltys, and Frantisek Zita were playing for the Bohemia (the westernmost and largest region of the Czech lands in the present-day Czech Republic) and Moravia (a region in the Czech Republic forming its eastern part) team in the Olympiad in Argentina. They chose to return home while their teammates Jiri Pelikan and Karel Skalicka decided to remain in Argentina. 
     During the war Opocensky remained quite active and achieved moderate success. After the war, he played in several international and Czech tournaments, again with modest success. In 1951 and 1954, he was the chief arbiter for the World Championship matches in Moscow and in the 10th Olympiad at Helsinki 1952 and in the second Candidates Tournament at Zurich 1953. 
     Opocensky was also an opening theoretician with two variations named after him: in the Gruenfeld and the Sicilian. Czech GM Vlastimil Hort knew him personally and attested to the fact that it was Opocensky who once showed another variation in the Sicilian to Miguel Najdorf who was so successful with it that the variation came to be called the Najdorf Sicilian. 
     In 1910, while still in grammar school, he played the first tournament at the Cafe Louvre in Prague. The Cafe is still in existence today...for starters their Braised Beef with Creamy Sauce, Cranberry Target and Bread Dumplings for less that $10 looks pretty good. 
     Opocensky scratched out a living by writing chess articles, reporting on tournaments, annotating games and giving lessons. When WW I broke out he was playing in Mannheim, not in the Meisterturnier, but in the Hauptturnier A group where he was in 11th place (out of 17) with a +2 -3 =6 score. When the tournament broke up, Opocensky, a staunch Communist to the end, returned home and was upset to find that his oldest brother Jan had started a political career as a right wing politician. 
     In spite of his political leanings, which didn’t change much even after Russia invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968 to halt reforms that were taking place, Opocensky was well liked and respected by all the great players who knew him.
     He was known for a style that was surprising and trappy and when he stood worse, patient defense was not his preference; he preferred a quick counterattack with tactical chances.