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Friday, February 28, 2020

1989 US Championship, a Weird One

     Before we get to the subject at hand, this is just a “throw in” as I hope this is not typical of people who read this blog! Somebody named Joan Garcia, who may or may not be real but is certainly an idiot, made a comment that was absolute gibberish on one of my recent posts. To wit:
     The format is (if winning). But accomplish not continue to upgrade, keep the note top until the level reaches a clear number of hands, if the current casino royale bond win, subsequently bet reorganize this bendable has the strongest bearing capacity. But at the similar time, the completion to return is not completely strong. One different is to accrual the difference in betting. As long as the winning percentage recovers a bit, it will succeed. There are not many requirements for playing baccarat. There are many forms. I will temporarily recommend these formats. Because it is nevertheless rare, you are forgive to build more customary ways. combine a sentence here, no concern how it changes, it will not modify later than the sentence. 
     Now on to more important stuff...like the 1989 US Championship in Long Beach, California. 
     In the late 1980s and early 1990s a lot of Grandmasters were trying to wrestle control of their destiny from FIDE through the Grandmasters Association and later the Professional Chess Association, but they were running into the same problem as FIDE and the USCF...it was hard to find sponsors willing to put us cash. 
     Gone were the days of men like Lessing J. Rosenwald (February 10, 1891 – June 24, 1979), a millionaire businessman, rare book collector, art collector, philanthropist and chess patron. And, by this time Louis D. Statham (1907–1983), the millionaire engineer and inventor of medical instruments who had sponsored the Lone Pine tournaments was gone. So, the question was, who was going to sponsor this year’s championship? It was Les Crane. 
     Les Crane (December 3, 1933 – July 13, 2008) was born Lesley Stein and was in his own right quite an interesting fellow. He was a radio announcer and television talk show host and a pioneer in interactive broadcasting. Later he was to become the first network television personality to compete with Johnny Carson after Carson became a fixture of late-night television. 
     Crane was born in New York and graduated from Tulane University where he was an English major. He spent four years in the Air Force as a jet pilot and helicopter flight instructor. 
     He began his radio career in 1958 in San Antonio and later worked in Philadelphia. In 1961, he became a popular and controversial host for a major radio station in San Francisco. 
     In 1963, Crane returned to New York City to host Night Line, a 1:00 am TV talk show. The first American TV appearance of The Rolling Stones was on Crane's program in June 1964 when only New Yorkers could see it. The program debuted nationwide in August 1964 where it competed with The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson. 
     In late June 1965, following Crane's three-month absence from television, The Les Crane Show was re-titled Nightlife. Emphasizing light entertainment, network executives wouldn’t allow guests to discuss controversial topics. In the Fall of 1965 the show relocated to Los Angeles, but it was canceled in early November 1965 as it was never able to overtake Johnny Carson in the ratings.
    After his show was canceled Crane unsuccessfully tried acting. He was also known as an advocate for civil rights and was praised by black journalists for his respectful interviews with Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali. He was also one of the first interviewers to have an openly gay guests. However, back when the show aired locally in New York City when he tried to invite members of a lesbian advocacy group to be guests officials ordered him to cancel the booking. 
     In 1968, Crane was back hosting a radio talk show in Los Angeles. He also did some local TV talk, but left radio when the station switched to a country music. 
     In the 1980s, Crane got involved in the software industry and became chairman of The Software Toolworks, creators of Chessmaster and the educational series Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. The company was also responsible for such games as The Original Adventure and the PC version of Pong. The company was sold and renamed Mindscape in the early 1990s. 
     How that came about was Crane, who was an avid chessplayer, had been managing a music distributorship and they reached an agreement with a software company to market a chess game developed by Toolworks. They brought in a chess programming expert named Mike Duffy and Chessmaster 2000 was born. It was released in 1986. 
     Building from this success, the two companies merged under the Toolworks name in October 1986.  Following the merger, Crane conceived a typing application in which the user would be guided by Mavis Beacon, a fictional typing instructor who would correct the user's mistakes. And that’s how Les Crane got involved in sponsoring the 1989 US Championship. 
     This one had a couple more Russian emigres, Alexander Ivanov and and Igor Ivanov (no relation) added to the mix. Both of them were already established in the US and were familiar figures at all the big open tournaments in the US. 
     One of the players was 20-year-old Stuart Rachels who was a student of Alabama’s legendary Boris Kogan.  Rachels earned his invitation by virtue of his being the new US Junior Champion, but not much was expected of him. 
     English GM Anthony Miles was living in the US after having had a feud with the British Chess Federation and some of his peers. He didn’t have a permanent US address so exactly how he got into a couple of US Championships is a mystery. He had also played in the 1988 championship in Cambridge Springs, PA where he finished dead last. 
     That was one of the US Championships I visited and its surprising winner was Michael Wilder. I was the only spectator at the post mortem between Wilder and Miles (a draw). It was interesting as Wilder seemed intimidated by Miles. The other interesting thing was that after the round was over several of the players headed straight for the hotel bar. 
     Rachels was a surprise; he held his own against the GMs and ground down Dimitry Gurevich in a 100 moves. Another surprise was Walter Browne...he lost his first four games! 
    This was a zonal tournament and four tickets to the 1990 Interzonal in Manila were up for grabs. That meant that starting about the middle of the tournament the leaders began to play carefully with a lot of draws being the result. For example, Dzindzichashvili and Dlugy hardly played their game at all and agreed to a draw in nine moves. 
     There was an odd occurrence after 11 rounds. Over the Thanksgiving weekend the American Open, also sponsored by Crane's Software Toolworks, was being held in Long Beach so the Championship was suspended for four days! Ten of the players in the Championship took part and Browne, deFirmian and Dlugy, shared first place with Larry Christiansen who had declined his invitation to the Championship. Also tied was the country’s newest star, 15-year-old Gata Kamsky. 
     When the championship resumed Dzindzichashvili and Rachels both beat Igor Ivanov in successive rounds and took a half point lead ahead of Boris Gulko, their nearest rival. 
     Going into the final round Rachels and Dzindzichashvili were in the lead with 9 points. They were followed by Seirawan and Gulko with a gaggle of others in contention for the Interzonal spots because Seirawan and Gulko were already seeded into it. 
     In the last round Rachels and Rohde agreed to a draw in 11 moves. Meanwhile, Dzindzichashvili, who the Los Angeles Times described as a “baggy-eyed 45-year-old Russian gambler" tried for 31 moves to beat down Alexander Ivanov, but couldn’t do it and had to agree to a draw. 
     The remaining key games were Seirawan vs. Dlugy and Fedorowicz vs. Gulko. The latter had the most at stake because Gulko could finish first and Fedorowicz could get a trip to the Interzonal in Manila. But, the game fizzled out to a draw in 69 moves. 
     The remaining critical game was won by Seirawan tying him for first place and knocking Dlugy way down in the standings. 
     IM Stuart Rachels (born September 26, 1969), the son of the philosopher James Rachels (1941–2003), is no longer active. 
     He has two BAs in philosophy and a PhD. His FIDE rating is 2485 and his USCF rating a lofty 2605. He’s not very well known because he quit chess. 
     In 1981, at the age of 11 years and 10 months he became the youngest master in US history and won the US Junior Invitational Championship in 1988. 
     After his success in the 1988 Championship which qualified him for the 1990 Manila Interzonal he achieved a respectable score of 6.0-7.0. He had two GM norms, one short of being awarded the title. 
     In 1999, he became an assistant professor in the Philosophy Department at the University of Alabama and in 2004, he was promoted to associate professor. He has released later editions of some of his father's books, notably The Elements of Moral Philosophy and Problems from Philosophy.
     Amazon has listed a book by Rachels, The Best I saw In Chess, that you can preorder.  Should be interesting!

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Some Openings Should Be Avoided

     The last few days have been depressing. It started out drizzling rain before changing over to snow. It’s dark, overcast, windy, cold and there is a fine, almost invisible, lake effect snow blowing around outside. 
     Come to think of it the term “outside” which everybody uses is redundant. Of course the weather is outside. I suppose if you live in a really bad shack it could be snowing inside, though. 
     A homeowner over on Long Road has an amateur weather station in his backyard and his gauges show it’s 22 degrees outside, but it feels like half that. What’s more, it’s not going to change for the next three days. 
Out my front window. No traffic, no squirrels, no old people going for a walk...nothing

     Reading and playing 10 minute games on line using goofy openings has been the plan of the day for the past few days and looks like it will remain so at least until the weekend. 

      Yury Markushin, an amateur, has put together an extensive website called ChessWorld. He published one article listing five openings not recommended for players of any level. With a brief synopsis of his reasons not to play them, they are: 

Barnes Opening (1.f3) 
This is probably one of the worst choices. Not only this move does not take control of the center, blocks an important f3 square for the N, doesn’t allow development of any pieces and it seriously weakens safety of white’s K. 
Ware Opening (1.a4) 
Anyone who plays it is most likely a complete beginner. It is possible to transpose into some sort of reversed Scandinavian or a variation of Four Knights game, but you will be few tempi behind. 
Grob Attack (1.g4) 
This opening is classified as an irregular opening and proudly competes for one of the worst first opening moves that white can make. There are some advocates for this opening, who state that an average player will most likely not know how refute it. There are some simple traps associated with black responding 1…d5 which can be easily bypassed by using common-sense. Against correct play white will end up with an inferior position, behind in development. Actually, I love this one! 
Clemenz Opening (1.h3) 
This may transpose into the Grob Attack. It is a time-wasting move that does not accomplish anything constructive. It only wastes a tempo and creates a weakness on the K-side. 

Mr. Markushin does not mention several other equally suspect debuts.  I have played most all of these openings with varying success in 10 minute online games. The truth is, no matter what opening you play the stronger player is probably going to win. Ergo, the success rate is irrelevant. 

The Desprez Opening (1.h4). 
This does nothing in either the fight for the center or for white’s development and it weakens the K-side. 
St. George Defense (1...a6) 
Black prepares to advance on the Q-side with 2...b5, but allows white to occupy the center with 2.d4. The opening gained some attention after Anthony Miles used it to defeat Anatoly Karpov in 1980. 
Borg Defense (1...g5) 
That’s Grob spelled backwards. It’s also known as the Basman Defense, after British IM Michael Basman. The move weakens the K-side severely, but according to Modern Chess Openings (MCO), Black is only somewhat worse. 
Carr Defence (1...h6) 
This defense has also been used by Basman, and can transpose to the Borg after 2.d4 g5.
Corn Stalk Defense (1...a5) 
US master Preston Ware played it in eleven known tournament games from 1880 to 1882, winning four and losing seven. 
Lemming Defense (1...Na6)
It just develops the knight to an inferior square.
Goldsmith Defense (1...h5)
Also known as the Pickering Defense, all this move achieves is to waste a tempo and weaken the K-side.
Duras Gambit (1...f5)
This is also known as the Fred Defense. It’s a Pawn sacrifice which gives black a lead in development after 1.e4 f5 2.exf5 Nf6, but without much compensation for the sacrificed for it. The line was played three times in an exhibition match between Ossip Bernstein and Oldřich Duras.
Adams Defense (1...Nh6)
Also known as the Wild Bull, this has little to recommend for it. 
Barnes Defense (1...f6), reverse Barnes Opening which makes it even worse.  The fact that Barnes used 1...f6 once to defeat Morphy doesn't mean anything because Morphy's poor play later was responsible for his loss, not the defense. Both are named after English master Thomas Wilson Barnes (1825–1874) who was one of the leading British masters of his time. To Barnes' credit, he does have a good variation of the Ruy Lopez named after him (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6) although today it's better known as the Smyslov Defense. 

     Edmar Mednis claimed that 1.f3 is the worst possible opening move, but I’ve been experimenting with it a lot in online 10 minute games.  I have been playing 1.f3 followed by Nh3 and Nf2. It’s worked out quite well mostly because my opponents have tried an immediate refutation and have ignored commonsense rules of development and control of the center. A few times luck was on my side when they got better games then blundered. Of course, the situation has also been reversed a few times because, sad to say, I am not immune to blunders myself. 
     I have played 1.f3 twice in "serious" correspondence games. Both opponents answered with 1...e5 and proceeded to score crushing victories. These were in games where engine use is permitted and so the conclusion is that all the bad things said about 1.f3 are true if you are playing Grandmasters. Average opponents are far less likely to come up with a refutation.
     After 1.f3 e5 some players continue with the nonsensical 2.Kf2, which is sometimes called the Fried Fox Attack, Wandering King Opening, The Hammerschlag, Tumbleweed, the Pork Chop Opening, or the Half Bird . 
     Despite its obvious deficiencies, 1.f3 does not lose the game, but black can secure a comfortable advantage by advancing central pawns and rapidly developing pieces to assert control over the center. 
     No matter which of these silly openings/defenses you play, at some point (the sooner the better) you are going to have to play according to sound opening principles and so some of the less outlandish moves will simply be a wasted move and will have resulted in a loss of time. Others will leave you with a permanent weakness that you may or may not regret depending on how well you opponent plays.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Raymond Weinstein, a Player With Pluck

Weinstein in 1960
   The 1963-64 US Championship was the year of Fischer’s incredible 11-0 sweep in a very strong tournament that had only William Lombardy missing. The top ratings were: Fischer (2685), Reshevsky (2611), Lombardy (2575), Benko (2566), Evans at (2559), R. Byrne (2512). 

     Clearly Fischer was the favorite, but there was always the possibility of surprise upset like the one he suffered at the hands of Edmar Mednis in the previous year’s championship. Fischer won that championship by a full point ahead of Arthur Bisguier, but his loss convinced him a US Championship consisting of 12 players was too small because a single loss could end up being very costly. 
     Enough about Fischer...this tournament is always about Fischer, but he wasn’t the only one playing and the other 11 players produced some good games, but nobody remembers them. 
     The tournament, as usual in those days, was played in the Hudson Hotel, a 27-story high-rise boutique hotel located at West 58th Street at Ninth Avenue in New York City. 5,059 Google reviews give it 3.6 stars out of 5. Rates are cheap...I’ve paid more for hotel rooms in dying cities in the US’s Rust Belt. For a $150 a night plus taxes and a daily $34.37 facility fee (whatever that is) you can get a one bedroom suite at the Henry Hudson. Regular rooms are half that.
     The hotel was constructed in 1928 by Anne Morgan, daughter of J. P. Morgan, as the American Woman's Association clubhouse and residence for young women in New York. It was completed in 1929. The building contained 1,250 rooms, along with a swimming pool, restaurant, gymnasium and music rooms along with a multitude of specialized meeting rooms. The American Woman's Association went bankrupt in 1941 and the clubhouse building was converted into The Henry Hudson Hotel, open to both men and women. 
     During World War II the building housed Dutch soldiers. More recently, until 1997 the second through ninth floors served as the headquarters for public television station WNET; the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour was broadcast from the building. WNET has since relocated. 
     In 1997, the building was purchased by Morgans Hotel Group and underwent a three-year renovation and the name was changed from The Henry Hudson Hotel to simply The Hudson. Hudson Bar, with its glowing yellow glass floor hosts events such as dance parties, movie premieres, book launches, and has been featured in several TV shows such as Gossip Girl and Sex and the City. No more chess tournaments though. 
     If you eliminate Fischer’s score, the top finisher was Larry Evans who lost to Raymond Weinstein, but won his crucial game against Pal Benko. 
     Samuel Reshevsky lost his game to Evans..if he had won, their scores would have been reversed. Reshevsky’s loss to Weinstein was also costly, costing him a tie with Evans. 

     The fact that Lombardy wasn’t playing probably made little difference in the final scores. In those days Lombardy was not yet the bitter old man he was to become, but rather a gregarious, outgoing fellow. His play was, in a word, boring. It was painful watching him in person sitting, sitting and then sitting some more until time pressure forced him to hurry up. Playing over his games is a good way to put yourself to sleep. 
     I never cottoned to the play of either Larry Evans or Pal Benko either. Evans, they used to say, was a mini-Reshevsky. His games, to me at least, were precise, but boring. He liked to grab a Pawn then hold on to it and squeeze out a win in the ending.  
     At the time Benko was one of the world’s top rated players. He was King of the Opens, having won just about every major open tournament in the United States. He played some interesting games in the course of mowing down lesser lights in those opens, but against his peers his play was not in the least exciting...or interesting. 
     The two most exciting players in this tournament were cousins Arthur Bisguier and Raymond Weinstein. You never knew how Bisguier was going to do. Perhaps it had something to do with his fun loving personality which carried over into his chess. 
     I remember before the start of the 1975 US Championship in Oberlin, Ohio when a bunch of people were milling around outside the playing room taking advantage of the opportunity to chat with the players and pose for pictures. Bisguier asked a couple of young men where you could get a drink in town. When they informed him alcohol wasn’t sold in the college town and the nearest place was several miles away, Bisguier whipped out his wallet and handed them some money and asked them to go buy him a fifth of Jack Daniels. 
     Probably the most exciting player was Raymond Weinstein as attested to by his 5 wins, 6 losses and no draws! The 1963/64 championship was Weinstein’s last event. 
Above: Weinstein (left) with John W. Collins in Collins' apartment circa 1957. Photo: John Collins Collection, Lilly Library at Indiana University

     In round 1 he caught Reshevsky with an unsound sacrifice and the veteran failed to notice a followup pseudo Q-sacrifice. Reshevsky played on far too long, but that wasn’t unusual for him because you never know what can happen and he had some incredible luck in his career. His hesitation at resigning was demonstrated in the 1951 Rosenwald tournament when he adjourned in a dead lost position against Bisguier but wanted to play it out. Bisguier had better things to do and convinced Reshevsky’s wife, Norma, to convince him to resign.
    In round 2 Weinstein launched a risky cut-and-thrust attack against Edmar Mednis and after a seesaw battle Weinstein, in a double-edged position, made a do nothing move with his K that turned out to lose almost immediately.
     Weinstein’s round 3 game was postponed until after round four because he had college exams on the scheduled day. In that game he delivered a positional crush to Donald Byrne. In round 4 he was positionally outplayed by Dr. Anthony Saidy. 
     In Round 5 Larry Evans committed a tactical blooper, but imprecise play by both sides left the outcome in doubt until the end when Evans missed a shot at drawing and lost. The round 6 game between Weinstein and Bisguier promised to be exciting and it was. Weinstein ceded the initiative early on and resigned after 33 moves and a faulty combination. 
     In round 7 he won a gem of a game against Robert H. Steinmeyer by making a nifty positional sacrifice. Round 8 saw Weinstein getting crushed in a flurry of Fischer tactics. In round 9 he was outplayed slowly but surely in a boring Benko positional win that stretched into the ending. In round 10 Edmar Mednis grabbed the initiative and slowly squeezed the life out of Weinstein. In the last round Robert Byrne succumbed to a brisk attack. 
     Finishing with a minus 1 score isn’t impressive, but when you consider how he did it, you have to admire Weinstein’s audacious play. Here is his win against Reshevsky.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Trusting Your Opponent

     The Nottingham 1936 tournament was one of the strongest of all time and at the time it was played it was the most important event the chess world had seen. 
     It was one of the very few tournaments in chess history to include five past, present, or future world champions (Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Euwe and Botvinnik) plus a number of other leading players (Fine, Reshevsky and Flohr). Also playing were leading veterans Vidmar, Bogoljubow and Tartakower.
     According to the Chessmetrics estimated ratings the top eight players in the world were playing: Euwe, Botvinnik, Alekhine, Flohr, Capablanca, Reshevsky, Fine, Bogoljubow. The event is also notable for being Lasker's last major event and for Botvinnik achieving the first Soviet success outside the Soviet Union. 
     At the same time the 1936 British Women's Championship was held. It was won by Edith Holloway (1868-1956) at the age of sixty-eight. She had also won the Championship in 1919. 

Final Standings: 
1-2) Botvinnik and Capablanca (10.0) 
3-5) Euwe, Fine and Reshevsky (9.5) 
6) Alekhine (9.0) 
7-8) Flohr and Lasker (8.5) 
9) Vidmar (6) 
10-11) Bogoljubow and Tartakower (5.5) 
12) Tylor (4.5) 
13) Alexander (3.5) 
14) Thomas (3.0) 
15) Winter (2.5) 

     It should be noted that although the British players took the last four places, their presence made a huge difference in the final standings. 
     Winter drew with Botvinnik in the last round, preventing Botvinnik from taking sole 1st place. Winter also drew with Reshevsky, preventing Reshevsky from tying for first.
     Tylor and Thomas both drew with Alekhine, preventing the former world champion from tying for first. Thomas also drew with Fine, preventing Fine from tying for first place. 
     Finally, Tylor and Alexander both beat Flohr, preventing him from taking first place. 
     The four British players all drew with each other and all lost their games against Capablanca, Euwe, Lasker, and Bogoljubow. 
     One of Lasker’s first books was Der Kampf (The Struggle) in which he tried to discover general laws for overcoming the difficulties of life. Lasker’s most famous book though was his Manuel of Chess in which he expounded theories of others, but added nothing of his own. 
     Lasker’s view was that chess was nothing more than a struggle and the goal was to defeat your opponent no matter what theoretical rules had to be broken...you do it by any means permitted by the rules. Reti called him a philosopher who happened to play chess. 
     His approach often meant that his play was governed by considerations apart from the way it was played by most master, i.e. always finding the absolute best line of play. 
     In the New York 1924 tournament Lasker finished first, but in at least half his games at some point or other he was strategically lost, but only actually lost one of them. His tactical play and superb endgame skill saved the day. 
     It was also claimed that psychologically he knew his opponents and what kinds of risks he could take against them. That was part of his philosophy...the game is a fight and making use of an opponent’s strengths and weaknesses was part of it. 
     Writing in his book Kings of Chess (Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Euwe and Botvinnik), William Winter wrote of Lasker: 

His attitude to chess is well exemplified by a game which I played against him in the Nottingham International Tournament of 1936. After over half an hour's thought I placed a Knight on a square on which it could be taken by a Pawn. Lasker replied instantaneously with a quiet defensive move and I soon found that all I had gained by my brilliancy was the loss of valuable thinking time. After the game was over a spectator asked him what would have happened had he taken the Knight. "I do not know," he replied. "I was playing a strong master and if a strong master thinks for half an hour and then plays a pieced where I can take it, I think that it will not be healthy for me to take, and I let it alone."

Let’s take a gander at the game.

Monday, February 24, 2020

He Could Have Been World Champion...Maybe

   World Champion Emanuel Lasker believed that if the man had devoted more time to chess, he would have become one of the world's leading players. Sir George Thomas said that the man indisputably ranked as one of the greatest players in English chess and only lack of opportunity prevented him from definitely establishing his position in the world championship class. Anne Sunnucks wrote that his devotion to teaching and his insistence on treating chess as merely a game was all that prevented him from becoming one of the leading players of the world. 
     They were referring to Henry Ernest Atkins (August 29, 1872 – January 31, 1955) who is best known for his record of winning the British Championship nine times in eleven tries. He won all but his first and last attempts and won every year from 1905 to 1911, and again in 1924 and 1925. 
     Atkins was a schoolmaster and treated chess as a hobby, hardly studying it at all and playing in only a handful of international tournaments. He was an extremely gifted player who would likely have become one of the world's leading players had he pursued the game more single-mindedly. 
     Due to his profession and the fact that he looked at chess as only a hobby, he often ignored the game for years at a time. He played a handful of tournaments/matches from 1895 to 1914 and then stopped all chess activities until 1920. 
     Between 1895 and 1901, Atkins played in seven minor tournaments, winning four and finishing second or equal second in the others, and losing just 3 out of 70 games. At Amsterdam 1899, an amateur tournament that was his first international appearance, he achieved a perfect score, winning all 15 games and finishing 4 points ahead of the second-place finisher. 
     Atkins' best-ever result came at his first major international tournament, Hanover 1902 where finished third with +8 -2 =7 behind David Janowsky and Harry N. Pillsbury, but ahead of Mikhail Chigorin and Frank Marshall. 
     After the 1911 British Championship, Atkins retired from tournament chess for the next 11 years. He later remarked, "I really can't say why I didn't play after 1911 for so many years." 
     He had agreed to play in the 1919 Hastings Victory Congress, but withdrew at the last moment "by doctor's orders.” He played a bit in 1920 to 1922, and then quit again until 1927, when he played in the London Olympiad. And then he quit again until 1935, when he played in the Warsaw Olympiad at the age of 63. 
     In 1922, a major international tournament was organized in London, the first in almost a quarter of a century; many of the world's leading players agreed to compete. Despite his long layoff from the game, Atkins was invited, and agreed to play. Not surprisingly, after such a long hiatus, he had a disappointing tournament, scoring only 6.0-9.0 and finishing 10th out of 16 players. He finished outside the prize list, for the first and only time in his career. 
     However, he did have the consolation of claiming among his victims Rubinstein and Savielly Tartakower. 
     At some point he made a deep study of the games of Steinitz and modeled his play so closely after Steinitz that he became known in Europe as "der kleine Steinitz.” However, IM Jeremy Silman said he played over a hundred of Atkins games and while there were some good positional games, he also saw a lot of “tactical crushes and quite a bit of chaos” and “crazy fight(s).” 
     Born in Leicester, Atkins learned chess from one of his brothers and joined the school chess club at age 10. One of his sisters gave him a copy of Howard Staunton's book The Chess-Player's Handbook, which he closely studied. At 15, he joined the Leicester Chess Club and within two years was playing on first board. 
     While in college, he also played on first board for Cambridge University. In four years playing for Cambridge he only lost one match game. In 1890, he went to Peterhouse, Cambridge as a mathematical scholar. 
     He was mathematical master at Northampton College from 1898 to 1902 and at the Wyggeston School from 1902 and 1909. He was then appointed principal of what later became Huddersfield New College in 1909, serving in that position until 1936. 
     An unobtrusive man, he was last seen as a spectator at Nottingham, 1936 wandering about as if he was nobody. Atkins died on January 31, 1955 in Huddersfield, England. 
     In December 1921 the British Chess Federation decided to hold an international tournament of sixteen players as the main event of its 1922 congress. Borislav Kostic and Frank Marshall were invited, but had problems with traveling expenses and were unable to accept. 
     The tournament ran from July 31 to August 19, 1922. Many games played in this tourney would later find their was into the best games collections of a number of players. 

London 1922 Final Standings 
1) Capablanca 13.0 
2) Alekhine 11.5 
3) Vidmar 11.0 
4) Rubinstein 10.5 
5) Bogoljubow 9.0 
6-7) Reti and Tartakover 8.5 
8-9) Maroczy and Yates 8.0 
10) Atkins 6.0 
11) Euwe 5.5 
12-13) Znosko-Borovsky and Wahltuch 5.0 
14-15) Morrison and Watson 4.5 
16) Marotti 1.5 

     As mentioned, London 1922 was a disaster for Atkins, but the way in which he took down Rubinstein was described best by Tartakower: The feature of this game is white's skillful conduct of the attack, which, times hanging by a thread and kept up by problem-like maneuvers, succeeds in the face of many dangers.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Stupid Rules

     Running any organization, large or small, is a tough job and you are bound to be disliked by half of the folks you're ruling. 
     Some rules leaders make defy logic while some rules that seem ridiculous actually once had a real purpose. The Arizona law that prohibits shooting camels dates back to the days of the United States Camel Corps, an army experiment to use camels for military forces. Read MORE... 
     In Indiana it’s illegal to catch fish with your bare hands. Apparently this law is designed to prevent “noodling” which is fishing for catfish using one's bare hands; it’s practiced primarily in the southern United States. But, why is it that in Juneau, Alaska there is a law prohibiting you from bringing your pet flamingo into a barbershop? 
     Back in 1961 in Gainesville, Georgia a law was added to the city code as a publicity stunt making it illegal to eat fried chicken in “the poultry capital of the world” with anything other than your fingers. The thing is, this is a law and technically it is possible to be arrested for violating it, though nobody has. Still, it could happen. 
     Corporations have their share of equally stupid rules. Apple has a rule in its stores that employees cannot correct customers. If they ask for an aPhone, it’s considered condescending to say, “Do you mean an iPhone?” 
     Phil Libin, former CEO of software company Evernote, made a rule that if you wanted to talk to a coworker in the office, you couldn't do it by phone or e-mail; you had to get up and mosey over to their office and talk to them in person. 
     In 2013, employers at Sparrows, an offshore oil and gas services company in Scotland, sent a memo to employees informing them that milk, while still permitted on the premises, could no longer be used in cereal. They were informed that company purchased milk was for use in tea or coffee and added, "The use of this milk for cereal is to cease with immediate effect." 
     Chess organizations are not above making stupid rules either. To me at least, it’s silly to think writing down a move on your scoresheet, changing you mind at the last second, crossing it out and writing down another is cheating. Hence the rule about making your move then writing it down. Blame this on Booby Fischer.
     In the early 1970s any organizer who succeeded in contacting Fischer with a tournament invitation was first quizzed about how much money they would pay him just to play. They also received a question as to whether or not his list of seven demands would be met. 
     Among those demands was the stipulation that a player could not record any move other than the one he actually played because it would be violating rule 18 (1a) which prohibits a player from consulting notes. Of course everybody remembers at the 2015 US Championship incident when Wesley So was forfeited for writing motivational notes to himself and his opponent GM Varuzhan Akobian complained that So was taking notes. 
     In order to avoid cheating the FIDE Laws include a paragraph that forbids players having smartphones, smartwatches or any other electronic devices with them during play. That makes sense considering the number of cheating incidents on record these days. 
     GM Ruslan Ponomariov set a record of sorts when in 2003 at the European Team Championship he became the first GM ever to forfeit a game for allowing his mobile phone to ring during his game. 
     It seems the Indian chess officials have taken stupidity to the limit when Indian IM C.R.G. Krishna recently won on a forfeit over Indian GM Baskaran Adhiban in the third round of the National Team Open in India. 
     While FIDE regulations rule out only electronic devices, in national events in India the wearing of all types of watches is prohibited! Apparently arbiters in India aren’t considered to be too bright because in March 2018, the All India Chess Federation leadership banned the use of all wristwatches. Why? To simplify matters for arbiters who evidently are deemed incapable of telling the difference between an analog and a digital watch. 
     Unaware of the prohibition against watches in his home country, Adhiban was wearing his analog watch during a game for his team, Petroleum Sports Promotion Board, against Krishna, who was playing for Railway Sports Promotion Board. Nine moves into the game Krishna noticed the watch and informed the arbiter, who forfeited Adhiban. 
     Krishna wasn’t the first one to win in this way. In May 2018, at the KIIT Open in Orissa, India GM Martyn Kravtsiv lost to WIM V. Varshini when she claimed a win after spotting her opponent's watch. 

     When I first read of this ridiculousness my first reaction was to think many unkind things about Krishna and Varshini for taking a cheap shot and claiming a win against an opponent they weren’t good enough to defeat over the board. But then my calmer self returned and I realized you are not being a jerk if you are following the rules. The jerks are the people that made the stupid rule.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Spassky vs. Darga Varna 1962

     Bulgaria is a place that few know much about. A few of their players are pretty well known today such as Veselin Topalov and his manager IM Silvio Danailov and Dejan Bojkov. 
     Older players will remember names like Alexander Tsvetkov[, Oleg Neikirch, Kamen Piskov, Milko Bobotsov, Nikola Padevsky, Nikola Spiridonov, Ivan Radulov, Evgenij Ermenkov and Georgi Tringov that popped up in the crosstables of a lot of European tournaments in years gone by. 
     Older Americans will be familiar with Nikolay Minev (November 8, 1931 – March 10, 2017) who was a Bulgarian IM and noted chess author. Along with his wife Minev emigrated to the United States in the mid-1980s and settled in Seattle, Washington. He was associated with Yasser Seirawan’s magazine Inside Chess in the 1980s and 1990s. He was the champion of Bulgaria in 1953, 1965, and 1966. He played for Bulgaria in the Olympiads in 1954, 1956, 1958, 1960, 1962, and 1966. He died on 10 March 2017 in Seattle. 
     Varna is the third largest city in Bulgaria and the largest city and seaside resort on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast. The city has been a major economic, social and cultural center for almost three thousand years. It’s an important center for business, transportation, education, tourism, entertainment and healthcare. The city also the maritime capital of Bulgaria and headquarters the Bulgarian Navy and merchant marine. 
     Yes, Bulgaria has a navy! It has been largely overlooked in the reforms that Bulgaria had to go through in order to comply with NATO standards, mostly because of the great expense involved and the fact that naval assaults are not considered to be a great concern for the country's security. Only a few of the more modern frigates, corvettes and missile crafts are on active duty. During WW2 the Bulgarian Navy supported the Axis Powers in the Black Sea and consisted mainly of four obsolete torpedo boats and eight motor torpedo boats. Bulgaria saw little naval fighting during the war, its main action taking place in October 1941. Bulgaria changed sides and joined the Soviet Union in September 1944. 
     Varna has what is known as an oceanic climate with Mediterranean influences in summer, continental influences in the Fall and Winter. The Black Sea climate is milder than the inland parts of the country. Summer begins in early May and lasts till early October and average in the low to mid 80s. Snow is possible in the coldest months, but can quickly melt. 
     The 15th Olympiad took place between September 15 and October 10, 1962 in Zlatni Piasaci (Golden Sands), near Varna at the Casino Restaurant. The Chief Arbiter was Soviet GM Salo Flohr. Thirty-seven teams and 220 players churned out 1452 games (8 games were forfeited). 
     No doubt the most famous game was the drawn Fischer-Botvinnik encounter which is the only time they ever played each other. For an interesting article on the chess pieces used at Varna see the article on Chess.com HERE

     The above photo from the American Chess Magazine's Facebook page shows Bobby Fischer studying a daily bulletin from the Varna Olmpiiad.
     The Soviet team with 6 GMs (Botvinnik, Petrosian, Spassky, Keres, Geller and Tal) lived up to expectations and won for the sixth consecutive time. Yugoslavia (Gligorić, Trifunovic, Matanović, Ivkov, Parma, Minic) took second and Argentina (Najdorf, Bolbochán, Panno, Sanguineti, Rossetto, Foguelman) finished third. 
     The US team (Fischer, Benko, Evans, R. Byrne, D. Byrne, Mednis) finished off the podium in fourth place. They were followed by Hungary Bulgaria (Padevsky, Tringov, Minev, Kolarov, Milev, Popov), West Germany, East Germany, Romania, Czechoslovakia, The Netherlands and Austria. 
     Spassky’s opponent in this game was Klaus Darga (born February 24, 1934), a West German Grandmaster. Darga was the West German Junior Champion and shared first place in the World Junior Championship of 1953, with Oscar Panno of Argentina who was awarded the title on tiebreak. Darga won the West German Chess Championship in 1955 and 1961. 
     His best performance is held to be the 1967 Winnipeg tournament, where he also tied for first place with Bent Larsen, whom he beat, ahead of Boris Spassky and Paul Keres (tied) He was awarded the title of IM in 1957 and GM in 1964. He played for West Germany in ten Olympiads between 1954 and 1978, and also served as coach of the German national team. He was second reserve for the World team in the 1970 Match of the Century between the Soviet Union and the rest of the world, but did not play. 
     After his retirement as a chess professional, Darga became a computer programmer for IBM.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Vintage Reshevsky

     The other day I posted one of Reshevsky’s brilliancy prize games, but that game was what GM Alex Yermolinsky would have called “crushing a tomato can.” In the following game we see Reshevsky exhibiting all the characteristics that were discussed in that post against one of the all time great players in the history of chess, Paul Keres. 
     We see Reshevsky’s superb tactical ability save him from a prepared variation. His position was riddled with weaknesses but his superhuman skill at finding counterplay not only neutralized Keres’ advantage, but actually allowed Reshevsky to reach a won ending. The game was vintage Reshevsky. 
     It was played in round 18 of the 1948 World Championship which was played to determine the new World Champion following the death of the previous champion Alexander Alekhine in 1946. 
     On April 22nd play for lap four began in Moscow at the House of Unions and spacious the Hall of Columns was jam packed every round. Botvinnik was the hero od Soviet chess and when the fourth lap started he was on the brink of success. The only way he could be caught was if he totally collapsed and that was unlikely to happen. When this game was played an overflow crowd of some 800 rabid spectators had to be shunted off into another room where a Soviet master described the play.