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Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Hated Round Robin

     For those that do not know, GM Greg Serper regularly writes very interesting articles for Chess.com under the username Gserper. His current FIDE rating is 2522 and he has played no rated games since 2008. His USCF rating is 2592 and his last rated event was when he won an open tournament in Atlanta, Georgia, also in 2008. He currently lives in the state of Washington. 
     Serper (September 14, 1969) was born in Tashkent in the former USSR republic of Uzbek and learned to play chess at the age 6 from his grandfather. In 1985, at age 16, he started studies at Moscow's famous Botvinnik-Kasparov Chess School. During his military service he played in the 27th World Junior Championship held in 1988 in Adelaide, Australia where Joel Lautier emerged victorious ahead of Vassily Ivanchuk, Serper and Boris Gelfand on tie-breaks. 
     In January 1996 he moved with his family to the United States. In 1999, Serper played in the US Championship in Salt Lake City, Utah. That tournament was an odd one...Group A consisted of Boris Gulko, Alex Yermolinsky, Dmitry Gurevich, Larry Christiansen, John Fedorowicz, Sergey Kudrin, Igor Shliperman and Alex Shabalov. 
     Group B was made up of: Greg Serper, Yasser Seirawan, Joel Benjamin, Alexander Ivanov, Nick de Firmian, Gregory Kaidanov, Roman Dzindzichashvili and Ben Finegold. 
     In the semi-finals Seirawan defeated Gulko and Serper defeated Yermolinsky. In the finals Gulko defeated Serper. 
     But, none of that is the point, except to show that in his day Serper was a strong GM and is well qualified to speak on matters pertaining to chess. When I came across one of his recent articles (September 30, 2019) at Chess,com titled “Round-Robin Chess Tournaments Are Dead!‎” I was somewhat astounded. I did not know that. 
     Serper quoted GM Vladislav Tkachiev who was Kateryna Lagno’s second in the 2019 women's Candidates Tournament. It was a round robin and Lagno tied for third place, but lost any real chances of winning halfway through. This prompted Tkachiev to write on Facebook, “This format for the Candidates' Tournament doesn’t have any right to exist. It is an inhuman and sadistic experiment over the participants and all others included.” 
    I don’t think round robins are an “experiment”, and am not sure why players feel this way about them. If I had to travel to Europe for a knockout tournament and got eliminated in the first round, it would seem like a wasted trip. On the other hand, if it was a round robin and I spent 2-3 weeks mired in last place I guess that would be bad, too. One advantage I see in favor of the knockout format is that it avoids all the draws and there will be a clear winner. 
     Draws have always been part of chess and they certainly have their place, but nobody likes short GM draws, non-games if you will. If however, you are a pro they have their place because making a living playing chess is a struggle. If a quick draw guarantees paying some bills then you can’t blame a player for taking it. It’s no fun for the spectators or organizers, but understandable from the players’ point of view. 
    There’s no real point to this post. I just thought the GM’s opinions on round robins was interesting. 

Further reading…  
Something Old, Something New‎ by Batgirl
Articles by Greg Serper

Friday, November 29, 2019

What’s It’s Name?

     The other day, as black, I played an interesting 30 minute game online that opened 1.e4 f5. Yes, I played 1...f5. What’s it’s name? 
     I ask because there is a lot of discussion about it on forums and it has been called the Duras Gambit, The Fred, the Southern Fred, the Reversed From and the Tiers Counter Gambit. 
     The line played in my game, 1.e4 f5 2.exf5 Nf6, has been called the Main Line Fred or the Duras Gambit. I also saw it referred to as the Fake Fred or the Pseudo-Fred...apparently if you are a serious aficionado, 2...Nf6 is not the true Fred. That’s 2...Kf7. I don’t know. 
     It's really not good at all and there's a reason why masters don’t play it. In fact there’s really little reason for anybody to play it because as one forum poster observed, “If the opponent is weaker than you, then you should be able to win without taking such risks. If the opponent is stronger, he is likely to know the refutation or find it.” 
     Some unfortunate fellow named Magana played the true Fred against Pillsbury in a simul in Paris in 1902 and never had a chance: 
Pillsbury - Magana, Paris 1902 
1.e4 f5 2.exf5 Kf7 3.d4 d5 4.Qh5+ g6 5.fxg6+ Kg7 6.Bd3 Nf6 7.Bh6+ Kg8 8.gxh7+ Nxh7 9.Qg6+ Bg7 10.Qxg7 mate. 
     Paste the game into an engine and look at the evaluations. After 1...f5 black starts out at -2.00 and it quickly gets worse. At best, with 8...Rxh7 black could have kept his disadvantage at -6.50 instead of getting mated. 
Oldrich Duras
     At Prague in 1938, Oldrich Duras employed 1...f5 in two games against Dr. Ossip Bernstein, winning one and drawing one. 
     In January, Bernstein, an old friend of Duras, was visiting Prague and they had not seen each other for nearly 25 years. They played a couple of quick games to try out the Duras Defense (or whatever you want to call it) and the games were recorded by Frantisek Fric who published Sachovy tyden (Week in Chess). During the War he became one of the victims of of the Nazis. 
     Here’s my Duras Gambit, or whatever it is. 


Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving…

     ...to those that celebrate it. To those that don’t, have a peaceful rest of the week. 

     A boatload of Pilgrims, or were they Puritans, fleeing religious persecution, sailed from England, landed on Plymouth Rock and with the help of the friendly Indians barely survived their first winter. In thanks for their survival, these pious folks invited the Indians to share in a huge feast. At least that's the way I heard it told when I was in elementary school.
     Many get the Pilgrims and the Puritans mixed up. The common thinking is that they were both groups of English religious reformers who landed in Massachusetts, wore black hats, square collars and buckled shoes. 
     Every British citizen was expected to attend the Church of England or be punished. One group of farmers in Northern England, known disparagingly as the Separatists, began to worship in secret. As a result they were hunted and persecuted and many of them lost their homes and their livelihood, so they began seeking another place to live. 
     The Separatists first fled to The Netherlands, but life in Holland wasn’t English, so they decided the only way to live as true English Christians was to establish their own colony in the New World. 
     Not all of the Separatists could make the trip across the Atlantic, including their spiritual leader, Reverend John Robinson. With Joseph Bradford as their leader, they left the docks in Delftshaven to meet the Mayflower in London. 
     They were the Pilgrims, but first usage of that term wasn’t until around 1800. Prior to that the Separatists who landed at Plymouth Rock were known as the first-comers or forefathers. It was these people who had the first thanksgiving. Or were they?
     On the other hand, the Puritans thought they could reform the church from within and were less radical because they believed they could live in their local churches without abandoning the Church of England. 
     The Puritans ultimately decided to journey to the New World, too, but not for the same reasons as the Separatists. The Puritans, who already had some money, saw a favorable investment opportunity by owning land in America. And they also believed that by being far away from England they could create the ideal church. They were under the leadership of John Winthrop. 
     When the Puritans settled in 1630, they arrived in 17 ships carrying more than 1,000 passengers. They had money, resources and divinely ordained arrogance. In a few decades the Massachusetts Bay Colony swallowed up the Pilgrim colony of Plymouth. 
     With the help and protection of Squanto and the friendly Wampanoag, the Pilgrims learned how to live off the land and the little band survived. The first Thanksgiving in 1621 was held to celebrate a bountiful harvest and it was shared with the tribe that helped make it possible. 
     That story is mostly a boatload of falsehoods, but even historians can’t agree on what the real Thanksgiving story is and a lot of people are now, like all other holidays, opposed to it for a variety of reasons. 
     One idiot on the radio claims it wasn’t a bitter winter and shortage of food that endangered the Pilgrim’s survival, but it was their Socialistic politics and communal living that caused the problem. 
    Take the colony’s most creative and industrious people…they had to share the fruits of their labor with the colony sluggards and so had no incentive to work any harder than anyone else. 
     According to this talk show blabbermouth, things turned around when the colony’s governor, William Bradford (who was probably a staunch Republican) assigned a private plot of land to each family and put them on their own. 
     These days, instead of celebrating the boldness, piety and sacrifices of those first Europeans, some claim the holiday whitewashes the genocide of indigenous people and others hold a fast in observance of what they call a “national day of mourning” in remembrance of the beginning of the end of Indian culture.
     Actually, the end for the Indians started several years earlier when British slaving crews introduced smallpox that was carried by their infected cattle and it ended up killing over ninety percent of the local population. The death rate for the Black Plague was “only” thirty percent. 
    Smallpox did decimate the Wampanoag and they did help the Pilgrims survive, but a group calling itself The United American Indians of New England allege that in return for their generosity, Pilgrims stole grain stores and robbed Wampanoag graves. How and where they got the evidence for this is not clear.
     In any case, it is simply not known whether the Wampanoag were actually invited, or if they crashed the party, as some historians now suggest, when they heard gunfire from the stockaded village and just showed up to see what the commotion was all about. Many historians claim the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag were never more than wary allies against other hostile tribes. In reality, the Pilgrims regarded the Indians as uncivilized, heathens.
     There is no evidence that turkey was served, only some kind of wild fowl...probably geese and duck. Venison, corn mush and stewed pumpkin, or traditional Wampanoag succotash may have been on the menu. Cranberries, though native to the region, would have been too tart for desert and sweet potatoes were not yet grown in North America. Grapes and melons may have been available.
     Another theory on the beginning of Thanksgiving is that in Connecticut where the Pequot tribe was celebrating a corn festival, in the predawn hours a band of Puritans, not Pilgrims, descended on the village and shot, clubbed and burned alive over 700 men, woman and children. 
     According to Robert Jensen, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, that was the real origin of Thanksgiving and it was so proclaimed in 1637 by Massachusetts Bay Governor John Winthrop in gratitude for God’s destruction of the Pequot village. Thereafter massacres of the Indians were routinely followed by days of thanksgiving. 
     What’s true and what’s not, I can’t say. How ever it happened that Thanksgiving became a holiday, I will be spending the day with my family and being thankful for a whole lot of things.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Edward Lasker and the Electric Breast Pump

A pump from around the 1930s
     When Edward Lasker (December 3, 1885 – March 25, 1981) couldn’t find a job in New York he embarked on a simul tour to make money. 
     In Chicago he met Julius Rosenwald, the head of Sears and Roebuck, who hired him as a safety engineer. Lasker worked for Sears between 1915 to 1919 until he was hired by Ernest Gundlach, president of the Chicago Chess Club and owner of a cow milking machine business. 
     Lasker’s job was to engineer improvements and the job required that he work on dairy farms in Michigan, Minnesota and Iowa. 
     Lasker told how he had to get up at 4:30 every day to get his experimental milking machine ready for the morning milking. Then it was breakfast at six and after that he had nothing to do until the evening milking. In between time he helped the farmers take in the hay. 
     In 1921, he got into the business of developing an electric breast pump to secure mother's milk for premature infants too weak to nurse. Lasker claimed it paid five times as much as milking cows. On the down side, he claimed that, “for the next decade or so, I had to put up with friends calling me a chest player.” Lasker’s pioneering work in the field of electric breast pumps was important. 
     An article published by historian Jill Lepore in The New Yorker in 2009 prompted an overwhelming onslaught of commentary from mothers and the media outlets across the country when Lepore asked the question, “If breast is best, why are women bottling their milk?” 
     She received hundreds of e-mails and phone calls in response. Mothers shared their exasperation with the modern-day conflation of breast pumping with breastfeeding...the experience of hooking oneself to an electrical milking machine and breastfeeding are two different things. 
     By the late 1990s, the breast pump had become so common place in feeding a baby breast milk that the technology was not given much thought. By the early 2000s, as breastfeeding activism in the US focused on public breastfeeding and lactation rooms in work places, few took notice of rise of the breast pump.
     It all begged the question, “What, if anything, the breast pump means for the future of breastfeeding in America?” We won’t attempt to answer that question, but only look at Lasker's contibution.
     Prior to the 1920s, the most common methods for extracting breast milk were a nursing infant or manually squeezing the breast by hand. 
     Breast pumps, borne from the same lineage as bloodletting and cupping devices, existed, but they tended to require the same amount of manual labor as squeezing by hand and the results weren’t as good. Even so, extracting the milk by hand was tedious, time-consuming and frequently unpleasant, particularly when done by a caregiver, so pumps did have some advantage.
     The possibility of improving the process began to receive some thought as hospitalized childbirth and care expanded over the first several decades of the twentieth century, leaving hospitals, and particularly nurses, with some women with uncooperative lactating breasts to care for. 
     The most successful electric breast pump emerged in the 1920s out of the collaborative efforts of the chess-playing engineer Edward Lasker and the famous American pediatrician Isaac A. Abt
     Because he had been working for the cow milking machine manufacturer, Lasker had what Abt believed to be the perfect background for designing a pump that could be used on human mothers. Consequently, Abt invited Lasker to build something he could use in his hospital in Chicago for premature infants who were too weak to nurse. 
     Lasker accepted the challenge and in 1923 filed for a patent for an electric breast pump based on his knowledge of cow milking. 
     Within a few years the pump was being featured in articles in nursing journals and discussed in medical textbooks. Lasker recalled in his memoirs that the famous pediatrician, Joseph B. DeLee wrote to tell him that he considered the machine indispensable in any hospital in which maternity work was done.
     Lasker’s work helped move the age-old breast pump into the modern era. At the time, breast pumps were employed as medical devices only and were not designed for the reuse of the milk for feeding to healthy infants. The reason was contamination of the extracted milk presented a problem. 
Early pump ad

     Also, physicians balked at mothers having electric milking machines in the home. A well-known Los Angeles physician named Earl Tarr commented that the electric pump would be found far more useful in the maternity ward of a hospital than elsewhere and they should not be sold to mothers for home use. 
     As might be expected, there were arguments over who would control the things...the medical profession or the business world. Soon after Abt’s Pump entered the medical world, physicians took advantage of the opportunity to put them into use outside the hospital. 
     Dr. Tarr believed there was no such thing as a new-born infant that was physically able, during the first few weeks, to empty a breast and he tried to prove the superiority of Abt’s Pump over the baby in that regard. 
     In a series of clinical experiments performed at the Anita M. Baldwin Hospital for Babies in California, Tarr used the Abt Pump to reestablish milk supplies in mothers who had gone dry and compared the abilities of the pump with that of a baby. He argued that breast milk was superior to modified cow’s milk and the electric breast pump could be used to advantage in that area. 
     Naturally, there were enemies of the electric pump who believed the old-fashioned hand squeezing method was better. It was free, it could be easily learned by any mother, it carried very little risk of contamination, and, by teaching it, doctors and nurses educated women about how their bodies worked.
     In spite of their efforts the breast pump won out. Abt’s Pump meant the United States served as the world’s leading manufacturer of hospital breast pumps until World War II. When war broke out in Europe in 1939, restrictions on trade left many overseas hospitals without a supply of replacement Abt Pumps and parts. 
     As a result a Swedish engineer named Einar Egnell undertook to build a better breast pump. He devoted 3 years to learning all about lactation and experimented with how best to mimic the nursing infant. His eventual success relied greatly upon the assistance of Maja Kindberg, the head nurse at a Stockholm hospital. He went through eight prototypes before coming up with a design that worked. Mothers at the hospital began to demand what became called the Sister Maja Breast pump (or SMB pump) over the existing Abt Pumps because they found it to be more comfortable. 

For further reading: 
200 Years Of Breast Pumps, In 18 Images 
Breast Pumps Throughout History

Monday, November 25, 2019

Bent Larsen’s Last Tournament

     Recently I played an interesting game online using the Cornstalk Defense (1...a5) and was going to do a post on it, but in the process of making the annotations I came across the game Contin-Larsen from the 2008 Magistral Internacional Ruibal tournament in Buenos Aires. Larsen lost that game and when I investigated further I discovered that it was played in his last tournament. 
      Larsen often played “weird” openings, but he was an incredibly strong player and so could get away with it.  From the 1950's to the 1970's he was at the height of his career, but was overshadowed by Fischer.  Of course, so was everyone else. There's no question that from 1963-1975 Larsen and Fischer were the two strongest players outside of the Soviet Union. 
     Larsen's accomplishments are too numerous to mention here, but if you’re looking for a good book filled with entertaining games and outstanding annotations then I can highly recommend Bent Larsen's Best Games: Fighting Chess with the Great Dane
     In the early 1970s, Larsen left Denmark via the Canary Islands (Las Palmas) and ended up Argentina where lived with his Argentinian-born wife. I read that he left Denmark in order to avoid paying the high taxes there. 
     Larsen (March 4, 1935 – September 9, 2010) continued to play despite his advancing age. He suffered for a number of years from diabetes and as early as 1999 it was clear he was experiencing serious health problems. 
     In 1999 he only finished 7th out of 10 in the Danish Championship and the following year he was forced to withdraw when he became seriously ill with an edema which required brain surgery. 
     Although he occasionally played in tournaments in Buenos Aires, by 2009 his Elo rating was down to 2415. His final tournament was Magistral Internacional Ruibal 2008 in Buenos Aires where he lost all nine games. 
     He died in Buenos Aires in September 2010. According to the English Chess Federation Newsletter, "His health had been poor for some considerable time and he had been virtually inactive for years" He died from a cerebral hemorrhage. 
     Writing of Larsen in My Great Predecessors, Garry Kasparov said of him, “I think that people like Bent Larsen are indispensable to the chess world; without them, it would be gray and grumpy,” 
     In his last tournament the 73 year old Larsen played bad openings such as the Grob Attack, the Cornstalk, 1.b4 and as black one game opened 1.d4 c5 2.d5 e5 3.Nc3 and now Larsen played 3...h5. How much this contributed to his failure is open to question. Was his failure the result of bad openings or had his play simply deteriorated? In his heyday he would have gotten away with such openings because he was that good. 
     Youtube has an interesting, if somewhat blurry, video of Larsen’s last tournament HERE.  

1) Andres Rodriquez 7.5 
2) Diego Valerga 7.0 
3-4) Damian Lemos and Carlos Garcia 6.5 
5) Ramiro Dos Santos 5.0 
6) Sandro Mareco 4.5 
7) Lucas Liascovich 4.0 
8-9) Daniel Contin and Gustavo Mahia 
10) Bent Larsen 0-9 

Sunday, November 24, 2019

31st Soviet Championship, 1963

     In the fall of 1964 I was on a cruise to the Mediterranean which you can read about HERE. One of our ports of call was the Spanish city of Barcelona. It was there that I was looking at a nice wooden chess set in a store window when a gentleman walked up and asked me if I was interested in buying a set. When I said I was, he informed me that the shop where they were made was right around the corner and then escorted me into it. Before disappearing he told the lady behind the counter to make sure that she charged me the same price that she would charge him. 
     The set is long gone, but whether it was in Barcelona or Valencia, I purchased some chess books in Spanish. One in particular was a favorite...a tournament book of the 1963 Championship of the Soviet Union that was played in Leningrad from November 23 to December 27, 1963. 
     Known as the 31st Soviet Championship, twenty of the Soviet Union's strongest players competed with only two notable absences: the newly crowned world champion Tigran Petrosian and the deposed Mikhail Botvinnik. 
     Korchnoi, the defending champion, was probably the favorite to win the tournament because back in August he had finished first at Havana ahead of Geller and Tal. Besides, Leningrad was his home town. Unfortunately for him, the combination of a tough schedule of events that year and some bad losses ruled him out of the battle for first place. 
     Leonid Stein was a somewhat surprise winner when he emerged as the champion by winning the playoff in what would be the first of three Soviet crowns for him and it signaled his arrival as one of the world's strongest players. He remained in the World's top 10 until his untimely death at the age of 38 from a heart attack in 1973. 
Averbakh-Nei scoresheet

     According to the July 1964 issue of Chess Review, "The tournament was formally named the Championship of the Soviet Union, but, in fact and in view of its main purpose, it has become an integral part of the FIDE competitions for qualification to the World Championship program."
     "The six 'winners' of this tournament: Stein, Spassky, Kholmov, Bronstein, Geller and Suetin won the right to participate, along with Tal and Smyslov, in an eight-man, double-round tournament from which four would qualify for the Interzonal Tournamcnt."
     The magazine added: “The writer feels compelled to animadvert (i.e. pass criticism or censure...I had to look that one up. Tartajubow) on this "elective" character of the tournament. Soviet Championships have been celebrated for the combativeness and uncompromising attitudes of their participants. The Chigorin school, Chigorin style and Chigorin mode of approaching the game are well known. At this championship. however. the rules of the ancient and venerated Chigorin school were upset. No one asked to be the winner of the tournament. All, it seems, entered with a studied calculation and the modest wish of qualifying sixth, or better.” 

1-3) Kholmov, Spassky and Stein 12.0 
4-6) Suetin, Geller and Bronstein 11.5 
7-8) Gufeld and Polugaevsky 11.0 
9) Gipslis 10.5 
10) Korchnoi 10.0 
11) Bagirov 9.5 
12-13) Nei and Averbakh 9.0 
14-15) Furman and Taimanov 8.5 
16) Klovans 7.5 
17) Zakharov 7.0 
18-19) Bondarevsky and Novopashin 6.5 
20) Osnos 5.0 

1) Stein 2.5 
2) Spassky 2.0 
3) Kholmov 1.5  

     Everybody knows about the winners, except maybe Ratmir Kholmov, but who was the last place finisher Vyacheslav Osnos? 
     Osnos (July 24, 1935 - August 27, 2009, 74 years old) may have finished last with a miserable + 2 -11 =6 score, but the Russian trainer and author was awarded the IM title in 1965 and was champion of Leningrad in 1971 and 1980. He also competed in six Soviet championship finals from 1963 to 1968. 
     Even though he finished last in this tournament, he qualified by winning semifinal ahead of Spassky, Suetin, Bondarevsky and Averbakh. 
     In 1964, he finished second behind Korchnoi in the Leningrad City Championship, which doubled as a semi-final for the Soviet championship. In 1965, he came third in the semifinal, and achieved his best result in a Soviet championship final, finishing in eighth place behind Leonid Stein, but ahead of David Bronstein and Korchnoi. 
     In 1968, Osnos tied for first in the Leningrad City Chess Championship, but lost the playoff against Valery Bykov and Alexander Cherepkov. In 1969, he won an international tournament in Debrecen. 
     In 1970, he finished third in the Leningrad championship. He won the Leningrad championship in 1971 and 1980. 
     Between 1968 and 1974 he was one of Viktor Korchnoi's seconds and in 1974 he was awarded the title of Honoured Trainer of the Russian SFSR. Osnos assisted Korchnoi during his World Championship Candidate's final match against Anatoly Karpov in Moscow 1974.
     Osnos co-authored with Peter Wells The Complete Richter-Rauzer, published by Batsford in 1998. 
     Normally when you feature a player, you show one of his wins, not a loss, but Osnos’ loss to Spassky was just too instructive not to show. In the game Osnos took the b-Pawn in the opening...always a risky thing to do. In doing so he allowed Spassky to develop his pieces quickly and get a good grip on the center, which in turn gave him excellent attacking chances. 
     Chessgames.com has a nice collection of 75 of his best games HERE

Friday, November 22, 2019

Kira Zvorykina

Zvorykina in 1957
     Kira Alekseyevna Zvorykina (September 29, 1919 – September 6, 2014, 94 years old) was a Soviet chess player who spent many years living in Belarus, formerly known by its Russian name Byelorussia. It’s a landlocked country in Eastern Europe bordered by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital and most populous city is Minsk. 
     She published one book, Vrriadkh shakhmatnoĭ gvardii (In the Ranks of the Chess Guard, 1984) that recounts highlights from her career. 
     She came from a large family of seven children and in her youth both her immediate and extended family were enthusiastic players and held their own private chess tournaments. As a result of her success in these events, at the age of 16 she entered a school competition and won all of her games. 
     By 1927 the family had resettled in Leningrad where she joined the Palace of Young Pioneers' Chess Club where classes were given by Peter Romanovsky, then a Candidate Master, but who later became an IM, author and highly respected chess teacher. 
     At 17 she became the Leningrad Schoolgirl Champion and also began studying at the Institute of Cinematography. Her time for chess gradually became more limited and it wasn't until 1946 that she began to emerge as an important force in world chess, finishing second in the Leningrad Women's Championship. 
     After marrying GM and trainer Alexey Suetin she progressed further and went on to become a three-time winner of the Women's Soviet Championship: 1951, 1953, 1956. In 1957 and 1958 she tied for first, but lost the tiebreak with Valentina Borisenko (‘57) and Larisa Volpert (‘58). Suetin, by the way, was an excellent writer and any of his books are worth reading.

     Zvorykina was one of the strongest female players in the world during the 1950s and early 1960s. Her greatest international success was in Plovdiv at the Women's Candidates Tournament of 1959, when victory over a strong field earned her a match with reigning Women's World Champion Elizaveta Bykova for the title. Unfortunately the 1960 match coincided with her mother's terminal illness and this undoubtedly affected her play and she was soundly defeated by Bykova who won by a score of 8.5-4.5. 
     Zvorykina twice represented the Soviet Union in the Olympiads, winning team gold on both occasions while scoring an impressive undefeated 17.5-2.5 in her individual games. 
     In international chess, there were very few women's tournaments held in the 1950s when Zvorykina was at her peak, but she tied for fourth place at the 1952 Moscow event and beat Anne Sunnucks (+1 =1 −0) in the USSR versus Great Britain Match of 1954. 
     In the 1960s, she competed in only a small number of international tournaments without much success against a new wave of strong players like Tatiana Zatulovskaya, Nona Gaprindashvili and Nana Alexandria. 
     In World Championship Candidates tournaments she remained a consistent and respected performer throughout the 1950s and well into the 1960s, always finishing among the top five. 
     Zvorykina spent some time in Moscow, when Suetin was appointed Head Chess Coach there. Later, she lived in Minsk, where she ran a chess school, although her career had previously been in engineering. 
     A frequent competitor in the Belarusian Chess Championship, she was champion on three occasions (1960, 1973 and 1975). Despite advancing years, she played chess in rated tournaments until 2007; in 1998, close to her eightieth birthday, her Elo rating was still 2245 and at the World Seniors at Rowy, Poland in 2000, she finished in the middle of the pack. 
     She was awarded the WIM title in 1952 and the WGM title in 1977. She also became an International Arbiter in 1977. You can watch her playing a blitz game in 2009 on Youtube HERE
Zvorykina in later years

     Her opponent in the following game was Jozefa Gurfinkel (May 2, 1919 - October 7, 1989) was a student of Igor Bondarevsky. In 1939, she won the Rostov Oblast Women's Chess Championship. In 1950, she shared first place in the Russian PFSR Women's Chess Championship, but lost the playoff match. 
     In 1941 she graduated from the Rostov State University, Faculty of Philology. Worked as a chess trainer at the Rostov Chess Club and other parts of the city. Former Chairman of the Rostov District Chess Federation Women's Committee.
     In 1963, she moved to Volgograd with her husband, master Alexander Konstantinov and continued to work as a chess coach. Her daughter Tatyana Moiseeva (born 1951) is also a chess player. 
     Between 1947 and 1968, she participated in the USSR Women's Championships nine times. Her best result was in 1954, when she finished second behind Larissa Wolpert. 
     In 1950 she became a Sports Chess Master in the USSR. She was awarded the WIM title in 1954. She was on the Russian PFSR Chess Team, which won the USSR Chess Championship in 1951. 
     This game is one that appeared in Zvorykina’s book, In the ranks of the Chess Guard. It’s exciting and it doesn’t appear in the database of her games on chessgames.com. 

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Nikolai Riumin, Another Tragically Short Career

     Once upon a time, back in the 1930s, Botvinnik didn’t get a lot of respect. When Leningrad master Yakov Rokhlin visited Moscow in 1930, Nikolai Grigoriev took him to the local chess club and Abraham Rabinovich, chess editor for the newspaper Vechernyaya Moskova, complained to Rokhlin that he was “making a big fuss about Botvinnik” whom he described as a dry, cold player and Rokhlin was instructed to inform Leningrad players that they would never make a world champion out of Botvinnik. On the other hand, Moscovite Nikolai Riumin was a genuine player. 
     It was true, at least the part about Ruimin, who was the idol of Moscow players, being a genuine threat to Botvinnik. Physically, Ruimin was striking: tall, thin, slightly stooped with long, thin arms. Botvinnik wrote that Ruimin was "... a master of complicated and doubled-edged positions. He, undoubtedly, was one of the strongest representatives of the younger generation of chess masters. He loved chess passionately and he was a very pleasant man.” Botvinnik also described how, when one of their fierce tournament battles was over, Ruimin congratulated him in a very sportsmanlike manner. 
     Style-wise his play was tactical, original and dramatic. While at the board he would often draw his hands up into his sleeves and when he made his move, his hands would slide out, firmly grasp the piece and carefully move it to the intended square. 
     Nikolai Riumin was born September 5, 1908 and was one of the strongest Soviet players of the 1930s. He learned the moves at the age of 16 and within three years was a first category player (roughly USCF Expert, 2000-2199). The Soviet system had beginners then categories, fifth being the lowest. After the first category came Candidate Masters (Elo 2200) and Masters (Elo of about 2400). 
     By the time Riumin was 20 years old he had finished second in the Moscow City Championship which was often stronger than many international tournaments and he had knocked Ilya Kan and Vasily Panov off their perch as Moscow’s best players. 
     He won the Moscow Championship in 1931, 1933/34, and 1935 and played in four Soviet Championships. His best result was in 1931 when he finished second to Botvinnik. His best International result was at Leningrad 1934 where he shared 2nd place with Peter Romanovsky, behind Botvinnik and ahead of Max Euwe. In 1935, he finished first at Gothenburg. 
     By 1936 he was suffering from tuberculosis to which he succumbed in Omsk, Siberia in 1942. 
     The following game is from the Soviet Championship was played in Leningrad from December 7th, 1934 to January 2nd, 1935. Twenty of the Soviet Union's best players competed with only one noticeable absence, Mikhail Botvinnik, the winner of the previous two Soviet championships. He had accepted an invitation to the chess festival held at Hastings
     Fedor Bohatirchuk and Grigory Levenfish were at the top of their game. In the first half of the tournament Bohatirchuk led the field, closely followed by Vladimir Alatortsev, but he fell behind in the second half, allowing Levenfish to tie for first with Ilya Rabinovich. 

1-2) I. Rabinovich and Levenfish 12.0 
3-4) Bohatirchuk and Riumin 11.5 
5-8) Chekhover, Lisitsin, Ragozin, Alatortsev 10.5 
9-12) Yudovich Sr., Belavenets, Makogonov and Kan 10.0 
13-14) Veresov and Panov 9.0 
15-16) Savitsky and Mazel 8.5 
17) Rauzer 7.5 
18-19) Dubinin and Ilyin-Zhenevsky 7.5 
20) Freymann 4.5 

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Isaac Liptnisky, A Short, Tragic Career

     Early in 1949 Botvinnik was looking through a chess magazine and was attracted to the annotations of a game because of their bold conclusions and upon checking and rechecking the variations he couldn’t refute any of them. The game and annotations were by a young Candidate Master from Kiev named Isaac Liptnisky. 
     Less than two years later Lipnitsky’s name was among the leaders in 1950 USSR Championship and when the tournament was over, he was tied for second place with Alexander Tolush and Lev Aronin a half point behind Paul Keres.
     Lipnitsky (born June 25, 1923) was a two-time Ukrainian champion (1949, 1956), and was among Ukraine's top half-dozen players from 1948 to 1956. He was a theoretician and professional teacher. 
     He learned to play chess while a schoolboy and sharpened his skills in the Palace of Young Pioneers in Kiev. From 1942 to 1947, Lipnitsky served in the Soviet Army and saw action from Stalingrad to Berlin and received several medals for valor. After demobilization in 1947, he began serious study and together with another young player from Kiev named Boris Ratner he published a collection of games by top Ukrainian players. 
     Lipnitsky authored one other book, Questions of Modern Chess Theory, which was published in 1956. This lost masterpiece of Soviet chess literature was called one of the most influential books ever written by by former Soviet player GM Greg Serper who wrote that it played a large part in his early development. When Quality Chess published this book in English, probably because the publishers thought the theory no longer relevant, Lipnitsky’s highly detailed analysis of the Ragozin System and his analysis of several key games in its development were not included. In its place are 10 of Lipnitsky's games against such players as Keres, Tolush, Geller and Suetin extensively analyzed by Lipnitsky himself. 
     Lipnitsky’s first big success was in the 1949 when he won the Ukrainian championship ahead of six masters. That, coupled with a some major successes the following year, earned him the Soviet Master title. 
     In the early to mid-1950s his successes began to decline and when Kotov and Yudovich published The Soviet School of Chess in Moscow in 1958, they falsely accused him of complacency and laziness. 
     But, Lipnitsky was neither complacent nor lazy. He died in Kiev on March 25, 1959, two months short of his 36th birthday. The cause of death was polycythemia, a slow-growing blood cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many red blood cells. These excess cells thicken the blood, slowing its flow. The disease also causes complications, such as blood clots, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. There is no cure. 
     He never got the chance to compete internationally but was certainly of at least IM, if not GM, strength. He had a wide opening repertoire and his style was positional and tactics were rare. In his short career he defeated, among others, Keres, Smyslov, Petrosian, Kotov, Averbakh, Bondarevsky, Taimanov, Geller, Furman, Aronin, Suetin, Kan, and Vasiukov. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Alexander Konstantinopolsky

     Alexander Konstantinopolsky (February 19, 1910 - September 21, 1990) was a Soviet IM and one of the country's most distinguished theorists, coaches and trainers and chess authors. 
     He was nearly 20 when he learned the game and soon afterwards began playing tournaments in Kiev in 1930. Two years later he won the Kiev championship ahead of many well known masters. In 1933 he was awarded the Soviet Master title for his successes in Ukrainian tournaments. Altogether he was a five-time Kiev champion. 
     In the following years he scored many impressive victories: he tied for third place with Lilienthal in the Trade Union Championship in 1936, tied for second with Ragozin in the 1937 USSR hampionship and tied with Bondarevsky and Kotov in the 1945 USSR Championship. 
     In the 1948 USSR Championship where he tied for 6th place with Keres, Bondarevsky and Lisitsyn he did not lose a single game and scored impressive wins over Keres, Lilienthal and Levenfish. In the 1950 Championship he finished in fifth place. 
     An all around player with an active positional style and superb defensive ability, he played endings with great precision and rarely missed an opportunity to pull off an unexpected tactical blow. 
     He was appreciated in Soviet circles as an excellent teacher. Widely regarded as a friendly and kindly man, during the late 1930s, Konstantinopolsky trained young players and amateurs in Kiev, at the Palace of Young Pioneers. He and Bronstein were close friends and Konstantinopolsky served as Bronstein's second for the 1950 Candidates' playoff match against Isaac Boleslavsky. Isaac Lipnitsky was also one of his pupils. 
     He was awarded the IM title in 1950, won the first Soviet Correspondence Chess Championship in 1951, earned the IM title at correspondence in 1966 and was awarded the Soviet title of Honorary Grandmaster title in 1983.
     Konstantinopolsky had a wide opening repertoire with both colors. He, along with Boleslavsky and Bronstein, was one of the Ukrainian pioneers who developed the King's Indian Defense into prominence,. The variation had been considered suspect until the mid-1930s. During this time, Konstantinopolsky played one of the earliest games in the Yugoslav Attack against the Dragon Variation of the Sicilian Defense, a line which would become very popular about 20 years later. He also defended the Dutch Defense with success at a time when it was rarely played by top players. 
     Konstantinopolsky was the author of many valuable studies and articles on opening theory. He also served as a member of the Presidium of the USSR Chess Federation and took an active part in Soviet chess affairs. 
     He played in the Soviet Team Championship, Riga 1954, scoring 5.5-4.5; this was his last really strong performance and his OTB play seems to have largely stopped about 1955, as he concentrated more on correspondence play and on his job as a trainer and coach. Chessmetrics ranks him as 11th in the world in 1945. In 1948–1951, Konstantinopolsky won the 1st Soviet Correspondence Championship. 
     It appears that he played in only one tournament outside the Soviet Union. He played in the B section of Amsterdam 1966, when he was well past his prime at age 56. He scored a creditable 5-4. 
     In the following game, after his ill advised 7th move, Keres never had a chance. It was played in the 16th USSR Championship that was held in Moscow from November 10th to December 13th, 1948. Nineteen of the Soviet Union's top GMs were playing, among them were the participants of the Saltsjobaden Interzonal (1948), David Bronstein, Alexander Kotov, Andor Lilienthal, Igor Bondarevsky, Salo Flohr, Viacheslav Ragozin. 

1-2) Bronstein and Kotov 12.0 
3) Furman 11.0 
4) Flohr 10.5 
5) Tolush 10.0 
6-9) Bondarevsky, Keres, Konstantinopolsky and Lisitsyn 9.5 
10-11) Ilivitsky and Lilienthal 9.0 
12) Kholmov 8.5 
13-15) Averbakh, Levenfish and Ragozin 8.0 
16-17) Alatortsev and Panov 7.5 
18-19) Aronin and Taimanov 6.0