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Monday, March 30, 2020

Bogoljubow's Best Games

   People who knew E.D. Bogoljubov described him as jovial and friendly with a coarse humor. As a player he was always known for his optimism and confidence. 
     Bogo was one of the greatest, and underrated, players of his day.  He had plus scores against the likes of Reti, Rubinstein, Spielmann and Nimzovich. He also won some very strong tournaments. Unfortunately, it’s his match loses that everybody remembers. 
     The claim is that in 1929, Alekhine only agreed to play a world championship match against him to avoid a rematch against Capablanca. Alekhine won easily, +11 -5 =9. Five years later, in 1934, they met again and Alekhine won that one, too, by a score of +8 -3 =15. 
     After achieving initial success in Russia, Bogoljubow played in Mannheim 1914 to gain experience in international tournaments. When World War One broke out on August 1st, he and the other Russian players were arrested by the Germans. While in prison they were allowed to play a number of tournaments.
     Life wasn’t too bad because during the war Bogoljubow married a German school teacher and after the war he continued living in Germany, but officially he was still a Soviet citizen. 
     Nikolai Krylenko, the official government chess promoter in the Soviet Union tried to convince Bogoljubow to return and in 1924, he visited Russia to take part in the Soviet Championship which he won. The next year, he won the Soviet Championship again as well as the very strong Moscow tournament of 1925 ahead of Lasker, Capablanca, and Rubinstein. Also, in 1925, he won the Open German Championships in Breslau ahead of Rubinstein and Nimzovich. 
     In 1926, he returned to Germany and applied for citizenship. This made him a non-person in the Soviet Union and mention of his name was forbidden and his name removed from tournament crosstables. 
     In 1927, Bogoljubow was now a German and in 1928 and 1929 he played two matches against Max Euwe that were for the "FIDE Championship.” As a result, Bogo was able to get enough sponsors in Germany and The Netherlands that he was able to challenge Alekhine a for a world title match. 
     When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Bogoljubow was a German citizen but not of "German blood" and so he was no longer allowed to play in German Championships or for the national team but he was allowed to work as a coach.
     Bogoljubow has been accused of being a Nazi sympathizer, but it is quite probable that he was a member of the Nazi Party as a matter of convenience. 
     During World War II, Hans Frank, who became known as the Butcher of Poland and was executed after the war for war crimes, invited Bogoljubow to move to Kracow to play chess and to work as a translator. Before the war was over Bogoljubow returned to Germany and after the war again began taking part in the German Championship. He died June 18, 1952 in Triberg, where he had lived most of his life. 
     It’s unfortunate that, at lease as far as I know, nobody has written a book of his best games. Of course, nowadays Bogoljubow is pretty much forgotten, but his games deserve to be better known. On chessgames.com you can find a collection of 56 of his best games. Below in one of them from Bad Pistyan 1922.

     The tournament was the result of a letter Gyula Breyer, who had died in early November 1921, to the Secretary of the Kosice Chess Club, suggesting that a strong international tournament should be arranged in Pistyan that would carry on the tradition started when the town had hosted a strong international tournament in 1912. The event was designated the Gyula Breyer Memorial Tournament. There was also a “B’ event made up of lesser masters. 
     Oldrich Duras, Emanuel Lasker, Aron Nimzovich and Richard Teichmann did not reply. Rubinstein accepted, but had to withdraw before the tournament began because of illness. 
     The race for first was close and the final result was still in doubt until the last round. After the next to last round Alekhine and Bogoljubov were tied with 14 points. In the last round Alekhine could only draw with Reti and Bogoljubow defeated Euwe to win the tournament. 
Reti vs Euwe

1) Bogoljubow 15.0 
2-3) Spielmann and Alekhine 14.5 
4) Gruenfeld 11.0 5) Reti 10.5 
6-7) Saemisch and Wolf 9.5 
8) Tartakower 9.0 
9-11) Tarrasch, Euwe and Johner 8.5 
12-13) von Balla and Treybal 8.0 
14-15) Selezniev and Hromadka 7.0 
16-17) Prokes and Przepiorka 6.0 
18) Marco 5.5 
19) Opocensky 4.5 

     Bogo’s straightforward crush of Wolf is most impressive. Heinrich Wolf (October 20, 1875 – December 1943), was an Austrian journalist and master. In 1908, he and Simon Alapin served as Emanuel Lasker’s second for his World Championship match against Tarrasch. This was the first match in which seconds were used. 

     After Hitler's authorization in September 1941, between October 1941 and October 1942, the Germans deported approximately 183,000 German, Austrian, and Czech Jews to ghettos, shooting sites, concentration camps and killing centers, primarily in German-occupied Poland, the Baltic States and Belarus among other locations. In December 1941, Wolf was among those deported to the Riga ghetto where he was murdered by the Nazis.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Chess Publisher Murdered

     Some of my favorite chess books are those by Purdy, the best games of Nezhmetdinov and Mark Buckley’s Practical Chess Analysis; they were published by Bob Long of Thinkers’ Press, Inc. 
     Not too long ago Charlie Gary III, 19, of Davenport, Iowa found himself facing battery, theft, and robbery charges stemming from a case in October of 2019. On October 27, 2019, Gary assaulted a 63-year-old man of Rock Island, Illinois striking him in the head with a TV and a lamp and reportedly stole the man’s vehicle and 55 inch flat-screen television. 
     On Tuesday, January 7, 2020 at approximately 5:43 pm, Davenport Police were dispatched to 1500 Leclaire Street in Davenport in reference to an unresponsive person. It was Bob Long, age 74, who was pronounced dead at the scene. 
     Police later located Gary in Long's vehicle when he was arrested. Gary admitted to police that he forcibly entered went Long’s home with the intent to steal Long’s car. Police say Gary strangled Long, killing him and then stole property and his car and left the scene. 
     Gary was charged with 1st Degree Murder, 1st Degree Robbery and 1st Degree Burglary and was held held in the Scott County Jail. 
     Over his 50-year career Long’s had several publishing and business ventures: Chessco, Thinkers Press, Gilbert and Lange, and most recently, the Chess Butler. Long was also the authorized publisher of the collected works of C.J.S. Purdy, described by Bobby Fischer as one of the best chess writers and teachers in the world. 
     After selling his mail-order chess business to Chess4Less in the early 2000s, Long returned to the chess marketplace shortly after his non-compete expired and he continued to sell chess books and equipment to his customers. Note: I have known the owner of Chess4Less, Paul Azzurro, since he was a high school student and I can highly recommend Chess4Less for your chess needs. 
     I never personally met Long who was often described as a curmudgeon, but back in 2012 I received a pleasant e-mail from him and we ended up discussing several topics. In the e-mail he told me, “Everyone says I am opinionated and have strong opinions. I don't disagree with that. But the vast majority are based on experience and dealing with a fickle public. I have been around those who stand for nothing but who will fall for anything--not pleasant chaps.”

Friday, March 27, 2020

Fine Stomps Horowitz

     The year 1934 got off to a bad start when on February 17th Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch died in Munich a few weeks before his 72nd birthday. And, the year ended with the death by heart attack of Paul Leonardt on December 14th 1934, while playing a game in Konigsberg, East Prussia. 
     In between those two unfortunate losses, from April 1st to June 14th, the world championship match was held in 12 cities in Germany (Baden-Baden, Villingen, Freiburg, Pforzheim, Stuttgart, Munich, Bayreuth, Bad Kissingen, Nuremburg, Karlsruhe, Manheim, and Berlin) between Alekhine and Bogoljubov. Alekhine easily retained his title. After the match, Alekhine accepted a championship match with Max Euwe. 
     Botvinnik drew a match (+2 -2 =8) with 25-year-old Salo Flohr (then a Czech citizen) held in Moscow and Leningrad. Flohr probably ranked right behind Alekhine and Kashdan. 
     The match was arranged by Alexander Ilyin-Genevsky, a member of the Soviet embassy in Prague. It was opposed by high level Soviet chess officials becaused they didn't think Botvinnik stood any chance against such a strong opponent. In spite of attempts to dissuade him, Nikolai Krylenko, who in the 1930s headed the Soviet chess, checkers, insisted the match be played because, "We have to know our real strength." 
     Botvinnik fell two games behind by the end of the first six games which were played in Moscow. However, aided by his old friend Ragozin and coach Abram Model, heevened the score in Leningrad and the match was drawn. 
     In March the newspapers reported that chess master, pedophile, thief and con artist Norman T. Whitaker, an imprisoned lawyer companion of rogue FBI agent Gaston B. Means, convicted of swindling Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean of $104,000 on the pretense of recovering the kidnapped Lindbergh baby, was singing like a canary in an attempt to bargain for his freedom by telling where the money is hidden. Whitaker also is said to have declared that Means knows the "inside story" of the Lindbergh kidnapping. 
     The Western Open (US Open) was held in Chicago and Samuel Reshevsky and Reuben Fine tied for first with a score of 7.5-1.5. They were followed by Arthur Dake (6.5) and Arnold Denker (5.5). 
     Chess Review magazine complained that the negotiations for a Marshall-Kashdan match for the US title were still dragging and added, "From present indications it looks as though it will continue to drag on, and on, and on." 
     While the magazine (i.e. Al Horowitz) expressed respect and admiration for both Frank Marshall and Isaac Kashdan, "over and above any individual chess player, or gcoup of chess players. stands the great chess public." And, the public wanted a match and they were entitled to it.
     Horowitz opined that the present situation was absurd and Marshall's demand for a purse of $5,000 (about a whopping $97,000 in today's buying power) was absurd because the title wasn't worth that much. 
     Chessmetrics estimates Al Horowitz' rating in 1934 to have been in the mid-2400s barely placing him in the world's top 100 players. 
     Horowitz (November 15, 1907 – January 18, 1973) was a leading player in the U.S. during the 1930s and 1940s. He was U.S. Open Champion in 1936, 1938, and 1943. In 1941, he lost a match (+0−3=13) with Reshevsky for the US Championship. He played on the U.S. Team in four Chess Olympiads, in 1931, 1935, 1937, and 1950. 
     In the 1945 USA-USSR radio match Horowitz scored one of the only two wins for the US by defeating Salo Flohr and in the 1946 edition of the same event he split his match against Isaac Boleslavsky. 
     In 1934, Chessmetrics puts Reuben Fine's rating at about 2600 placing him in the world's top 25. 
     In January the 20-year old Fine won the 17th Marshall Chess Club Championship and he was US Open Champion in 1932, 1933 and 1934. He would go on to win the title again in 1935, 1939, 1940 and 1941. 
     Fine had graduated from City College of New York in 1932, at the age of 18 and first achieved prominence by winning the championship of the Marshall Chess Club, a few years earlier. At the Olympiad at Folkestone in 1933, playing on board 3, he scored +6 -1 =6 earning the board silver medal. 
     Thus, in 1933, Fine was a seasoned veteran and one of the country's outstanding players. Chess Review said the quality of his play entirely belied his years. Never impetuous, always imaginative, he is capable of winning by virtue of a thorough knowledge of positional principles and an ability to achieve and increase small and subtle advantages. 
     He began 1934 by again winning the championship of the Marshall Chess Club and in the spring he engaged in a twelve-game match, played at various venues over a couple of months time, with Horowitz. All of the games illustrated Fine's resourcefulness and his style of play as Fine scored a decisive +4 -1 =5 victory. 
     Horowitz got off to an unexpected bad start by losing the first two games when Fine played aggressive, attacking chess. In the last game Horowitz declined a draw offer and lost giving Fine 6.5 points in what turned out to be an easy match victory. The last two games scheduled at the Marshall and Manhattan Chess Clubs were not played. 
     Note that the database in 365chess.com is incorrect. It lists only nine games, but the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (July 5, 1934) verifies that ten games were played. 

Fine        1 1 = = 1 = 0 = 1 =  6.5 
Horowitz 0 0 = = 0 = 1 = 0 =  3.5 

     The following first game of the match was an indication of what was to come as Fine handled Horowitz with ease.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

What Happened In 1999?

     Well, let’s get off the bleak subject of chess being played during war and flu pandemics and move on to a happier time, the year 1999. 
     Come to think of it, maybe 1999 wasn’t such a happy year in chess either. History of sorts was made with a big cheating scandal. Also, the world lost a number of players. 

February 24th: Catharina Roodzant, 3-time winner of the women's Dutch championship. March 22nd: Fan Adams, chess patron and organizer. April 13th: Ortvin Sarapu, 20-time New Zealand champion. May 17th: GM Lembit Oll ) committed suicide by jumping out of a 5th floor window of his apartment in Tallinn at the age of 33. He suffered from severe depression after his wife divorced him. September 11th: Francisco Perez, Spanish/Cuban master. September 17th: Gary Koshnitsky an Australian master. November 11th: Lodewijk Prins of The Netherlands at the age of 86. 

     The big scare that year was the Y2K Bug, also called Year 2000 Bug or Millennium Bug. It’s funny now, but things were panicky at the time. It was supposed to be a problem in the coding of computerized systems of every kind that was going to create havoc in computers and computer networks around the world at the beginning of the year 2000. 
     Nothing was going to work, cars wouldn’t start and even garage door openers wouldn’t work. Elevators, temperature control systems, medical equipment...everything was going to shut down. 
    The engineering vice president of the company I worked for asked me to prepare a list of all the computerized equipment we had in the machine shop so he could make a report to the company president. When I asked the machine shop foreman what digital equipment we had he snorted, “Are you kidding? All this (expletive deleted) is ancient.” 
    Supposedly, the problem was that many computer programs abbreviated four-digit years as two digits in order to save memory space. These computers could recognize “98” as “1998” but would be unable to recognize “00” as “2000.” Thus on midnight January 1, 2000, computers would be using an incorrect date and so fail to operate properly unless the software was repaired or replaced before that date. 
     Programs that projected budgets or debts into the future could begin malfunctioning in 1999 when they made projections into 2000. In addition, some computer software did not take into account that the year 2000 was a leap year. 
     Even before that it had been feared that some computers might fail on September 9, 1999 (9/9/99), because early programmers often used a series of 9s to indicate the end of a program. Widespread chaos on and following January 1, 2000 was predicted. 
     In October of 1998, President Bill Clinton signed the Year 2000 Information and Readiness Disclosure Act. The law was designed to encourage American companies to share Y2K data by offering them limited liability protection for sharing information about Y2K products, methods, and best practices. In England the British government announced that its armed forces would be prepared in time and would provide assistance to local police if utilities, transportation systems, etc. Worldwide an estimated $300 billion was spent to upgrade computers and application programs to be Y2K-compliant. 
     Come January 1, 2000 everybody woke up and found everything working just fine. There followed accusations that the whole thing had been greatly exaggerated from the beginning. Naturally, those who had worked in Y2K-compliance efforts insisted that the threat had been real. 
     In other computer/chess related news, at the 1999 Boblingen Open, an unknown German player named Clemens Allwermann went undefeated scoring 7.5-1.5 and finished first ahead of several IMs and GMs. His performance was 2630. Not bad for a 55 year old with a 1900 rating. 
     People became skeptical when it was discovered his moves matched Fritz 5.32. Allwermann’s nefarious scheme was exposed by Hartmut Metz when he showed examples where Fritz played brilliant tactics, but also made bad, anti-positional moves. 
     When Allwermann’s last round opponent, GM Sergey Kalinitschev resigned, Allwermann informed him that the final position was mate in eight, but Kalinitschev didn’t think so. Allwermann told him to check it out which is what some players did and they discovered Allwermann was right. 
     The question became how did he get the moves from a computer? The Boblingen TD recalled that although the temperature in the playing hall was usually near 90 degrees, Allwermann always played wearing a tie and a blazer. It was speculated that a miniature camera might have been hidden in his tie and his long hair and glasses could easily have hidden a receiver. It was also reported that Allwermann used to run a store selling electronic equipment. 
     Not long after the tournament Allwermann published a letter on the Internet saying that his result had been due to careful preparation, especially in the Sicilian Sveshnikov. He also threatened to sue anyone who accused him of cheating. It was a hollow threat because he didn’t follow up on the threat when the Metz story was published. 
     Several months after Boblingen, the District Attorney’s office began investigating him for embezzlement of the prize money which amounted to about $850. It was shown that almost all of his moves were reproduced by Fritz5.32 and the Fritz Powerbook 99. Even a transposition error in Powerbooks was reproduced. 
     Super-sleuthing by Hartmut Metz enabled him to locate an electronics supplier who had sold Allwermann some equipment. The store owner stated that Allwermann had insisted on modifications that would allow him to enter a four-digit code in a hand-held radio transmitter. He had also purchased a small receiver that would fit in his ear and could be hidden under his long hair. 
     After several months the District Attorney’s office dropped the case for lack of evidence. Their reasoning was that a strong player's moves sometimes matched Fritz and nobody actually saw him using any electronic devices. None of that mattered to the Bavarian Chess Federation which banned him from tournaments. 
     Before the ban Allwermann had played in another tournament where he was under scrutiny by everybody. In that event his play matched his 1900 rating. 
     In other 1999 developments, Judit Polgar was the first and only woman to be a FIDE World Champion quarter finalist. That same year Susan Polgar, who was the woman’s world champion, refused to accept the match conditions between her and Xie Jun and forfeited her title. She didn’t want to play the match in China.
     The top rated players were Kasparov (2812), Anand (2751), Kramnik (2751) and Shirov (2726). Boris Gulko was the US Champion. 
     There was some good news though. In March, Maurice Ashley became the first black GM and youth had their day. David Howell, age 8, became the youngest player to beat a GM when he defeated John Nunn in London and Bu Xiangzhi became the world's youngest GM at the age of 13 years, 10 months, and 13 days.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Archived Chess Life and Chess Review

   Did you know there is a digital archive of Chess Life and Chess Review magazines that is available to the general public at no charge as part of the USCF’s non-profit educational mission to empower people, enrich lives, and enhance communities through chess? 
     It does not contain the most current 12 months of Chess Life; those are only available to US Chess members. 
     Each month, a new PDF will be rotated in to keep the archive current. These PDFs are fully text searchable; you can search for names, old TLAs, and even for every mention of specific moves such as 1. P-K4 or Bb4. If you have Adobe Acrobat PRO, you can text search your entire archive without the files being opened. Chess Life is available from 1946 and Chess Review from 1933. VISIT
     It's not often we get to say this, but kudos to the USCF!

Players Surrounded By Death

     In October 1918, the United States was still fighting in World War I and at the same time, on the home front cities were gripped with fear: schools were closed; theaters, churches and places of public amusement had been shuttered. 
     In October alone 195,000 people died, making it the deadliest month in American history. The killer was none other than influenza. In stark contrast with most seasonal flu outbreaks, this one was more deadly to the young and healthy than to the elderly or sick. The pandemic lasted 15 months and worldwide 500 million people got sick and between 3-5 percent of the world’s population died. 
     In 1918 the flu was not a disease that was even reported, but in January 1918, a doctor in Haskell County, Kansas reported unusual flu activity to the Public Health Service. By March, it had spread to the nearby Army base at Fort Riley. On the morning of March 11, one soldier reported being sick and by lunch that day, more than 100 soldiers on the base had fallen ill. From Fort Riley, soldiers carried the disease to other military bases and, eventually, the battlefront in Europe. 
     Initially, this new influenza strain was rarely fatal and set off few alarms. Across the battlefields of Europe, it was referred to as the “three-day fever.” However, it continued to spread and by the summer it was all over the world. In Fiji fourteen percent of the population died in just 16 days. 
     Most seasonal flu viruses affect only to the upper respiratory tract, but this flu also affected the lower respiratory tract which made it both easily spread and potentially far more deadly as patients drowned in their own fluid. 
     By July the medical community, especially those along the war front, had decided the threat was over...but it wasn’t. 
     In September, a soldier at Camp Devens, Massachusetts was sent to the hospital and misdiagnosed with meningitis. The next day, more than a dozen more were sent to the hospital. At its worst point, 1,543 soldiers at Devens alone were diagnosed with the flu in a single day. From there it spread into cities such as Boston which was only 35 miles away. 
     A physician at Camp Devens’ hospital reported that mere hours after a patient’s admittance, they began to turn blue from a loss of oxygen and it was only a matter of a few hours until they died. The numbers were staggering. In a single day in Philadelphia, 759 people died from flu-related illnesses. Death spread so quickly that many were buried in mass graves. 

     During this wave symptoms were not typical. Many reported coughing up blood or bleeding from the ears, nose, and even eyes. Streets were deserted and cities looked like ghost towns. 
     Eventually, the spread slowed down and with it came a false sense of security. Mass celebrations following Armistice Day in November 1918, led to a third wave beginning in January 1919, which, while gruesome, was not quite so deadly as the second. 
     In an attempt at maintaining wartime morale, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Sedition Act in 1918. Under threat of 20 years’ imprisonment, the law made it illegal to "utter, print, write, or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States." 
     Does the following sound familiar? Arthur Bullard, a former student of President Wilson’s wrote at the time, "Truth and falsehood are arbitrary terms...The force of an idea lies in its inspirational value...It matters very little whether it is true or false." 
     While Americans were dying by the thousands, public health officials continually lied about the scope and severity of what was going on and media, whether unknowingly or by deception, printed misinformation. 
     An October 15, 1918 headline in the Philadelphia Inquirer read "Scientific Nursing Halting Epidemic." At the same time, in that week alone, 4,597 people in Philadelphia died of flu-related illnesses. On September 20, the Arkansas Gazette wrote: "Spanish influenza is plain la grippe – same old fever and chills." The next month, Arkansas confirmed it had 1,800 cases and issued a statewide quarantine. 
Pottsville PA  October 15, 1918

     In spite of the War and the flu, chess activity continued. Though many were small (e.g. Quad events) there were tournaments in Vienna, The Hague, London, Amsterdam, Arnhem, Moscow, Copenhagen, Berlin, Nijmegen, Scheveningen, Breslau, Rye Beach, Kaschau, Gothenburg, Chicago, New York and Budapest. 
     A major tournament was played in New York City in October in spite of the fact that it was the month the pandemic struck with full force. On October 4th, 999 new cases were reported during the previous 24 hours. And, by October 19th there were 4,875 new cases. The daily death count fluctuated between 400 to 500 from October 16th to the 26th. 
     It was so bad that on October 30th Mayor John Hylan dispatched 75 men to the Calvary Cemetery to help bury bodies that had overflowed the facility’s receiving vault. 
     The first line of defense was isolation of the ill. Those that got sick in private houses or apartments were supposed to voluntarily keep themselves in strict quarantine there. Those that got sick in boardinghouses or tenements would be moved to city hospitals and held under strict observation. At Bellevue Hospital patients were laid out on cots jammed together in every nook and cranny and children were packed three to a bed. 
     It’s amazing that none of the tournament’s participants got sick! It was originally planned as an 8-player double round robin tournament, Norman T. Whitaker began a game a day before Round 1, became ill and withdrew, leaving it as a 7-player tournament. 
     Capablanca wouldn’t become world champion until 1921, but he was so good that at St. Petersburg 1914, he was giving all the St. Petersburg masters time odds of 5–1 in speed games and winning. He was undefeated in this tournament and yielded only three draws, two to Kostic and one to Black. 
     Borislav Kostic lost a match against Capablanca 5-0 the next year. He was awarded the GM title in its inaugural list in 1950. Kostic was living in Indiana at the time of this tournament, presumably to avoid the war in Europe. He was undefeated in this tournament. 
     Marshall was the strongest US player and was very active in both domestic and international events, with inconsistent results. In this tournament he lost both of his games to Capa, had a draw and a loss to Kostic and a win and a loss against Chajes. It was in this tournament in the first round that Marshall sprung his prepared variation (the Marshall Gambit, or Marshall Counterattack) against Capablanca who found his way through the complications and won. In round two Marshall lost Chajes and was never able to overcome the bad 0-2 start. 
Chajes vs Capablanca
   Oscar Chajes had handed Capablanca one of his rare losses in 1916, lost a match to Janowski in Havana 1913 (+0 - 2 =1) and defeated him in New York 1918 (+7 -5 =10). 

     Janowski, a talented tactician, was relatively weak in endgame play, but he was one of the top 10 players in the world during the late 1890s and early 1900s. In round one Janowski lost to the eventual tailender, Morrison and this was the beginning of his lackluster result. 
     A strong local master, Roy T. Black finished third at New York 1911, winning a rare game against Capablanca. 
     John S. Morrison was Canadian champion for a number of years. 

Final standings: 
1) Capablanca 10.5 
2) Kostic 9.0 
3) Marshall 7.0 
4) Chajes 6.0 
5) Janowsky 4.0 
6) Black 3.5 
7) Morrison 2.0 

     In the following game Chajes plays the opening quite well in modern fashion, but then instead of going for Q-side counterplay, he opts for counterplay in the center. Normally that would be a good idea, but not here because in doing so he opened himself up to a swift central breakthrough by his opponent. The result was disaster.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The Most Dangerous Player in the Country

     It’s called death row; it’s the place where Nevada’s worst of the worst spend 22 hours or more each day in solitary cells, waiting for the call that means they will be executed by lethal injection. 
     In reality the 80 or so death row inmates at Ely State Prison in White Pine County, Nevada are more likely to die of disease or suicide than be executed. Lengthy appeals, the lack of a suitable execution chamber, debates over the drugs used and defense attorneys who make appeals all factor into why Nevada has not executed an inmate in almost a decade. 
     Despite a reputation for being tough on crime, Nevada has executed only 12 inmates in 28 years. And 11 of the 12 executions since capital punishment was reinstated by the state in 1977 have been “volunteers,” or inmates who have voluntarily given up their appeals. 
     One of those death row prisoners, a chessplayer, has been called the "Most Dangerous Man in Nevada" and he has been on death row for almost four decades. 
He rapes. He robs. He kills. 
    He is defined by psychologists as a sociopath, meaning he is a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience. 
     It started with kidnap, rape and assault in 1964 at the age of 17, followed by a prison escape two years later. He eventually served his time and was released only to find himself back in jail a short time later on new charges. 
     That was in 1979 and Patrick Charles McKenna was a prisoner in the Las Vegas, Nevada city jail when he strangled his cellmate, Jack J. Nobles, after an argument over a chess game that McKenna lost. As a result, a murder charge was added to his list of crimes and in 1980 he was convicted and sentenced to death. 
     In 1979 while in jail and awaiting trial, McKenna was the brains behind a desperate bid freedom that stunned Las Vegas when he and two other armed prisoners held police at bay for two days using jail guards as hostages. 
     McKenna was described as morally challenged by former Clark County Sheriff Jerry Keller, who was on the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department's Hostage Negotiation Team at the time.  He stated McKenna took no culpability or accountability for himself. He blamed everything that happened on everybody else. 
     In August 1979, McKenna and two other inmates somehow gained access to the gun locker and each had obtained a nine-millimeter Smith and Wesson officer's weapon. They then took three corrections officers hostage and were actually holding 106 inmates hostage as well. 
     The two other inmates were 29-year-old Felix Lorenzo who was facing a 150-year prison term for robberies and kidnappings and 40-year-old Eugene Shaw who was looking at up to 60 years for robbery and use of a deadly weapon.
     Tensions had been running high between the two of them as well as with McKenna. Then forty-four hours into the crisis a member of the Hostage Negotiation Team was on the phone with McKenna when events started happening fast. While they were talking shots started being fired. 
     The tension between Lorenzo and Shaw had boiled over and they got involved in a gunfight. McKenna ran to the back of the room, put on a corrections officer’s uniform and hid under a mattress. When the smoke had cleared, Lorenzo and Shaw were both dead and McKenna was back in custody. One of the hostage corrections officers took a bullet to the hand during the shootout but was otherwise OK. 
     Fourteen years and several escape attempts later, after the Supreme Court had granted him a new penalty hearing, McKenna was returned to Las Vegas to face a new jury. The Clark County Sheriff wasn’t taking any chances. McKenna, a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, was considered an escape threat and was clothed in mitts and a hood. The jury didn’t change his sentence. 
     In a 1990 interview McKenna told a reporter he got a "raw deal." Referring to the escape attempt as a “jailhouse thing” he stated he was “just trying to get out of there.” 
     As for murdering his chess opponent McKenna stated, “Any other time, any other case on the face of it, we're talking Second Degree. (Note: Second degree murder is one which is intentional, but lacks premeditation.) And I make no bones about it. I admit to that. But because of all that, so I ended up with this thing. And I end up with the death penalty. They got me on ice for a while." 
     McKenna is still on Death Row at age 72 and authorities say he is just as dangerous today as he was 20 years ago, 30 years ago, 50 years ago. They also add that he is no less a threat to the community and probably no less a threat to some of the inmates in the Nevada State Prison.

You can watch a one hour 15 minute Youtube documentary on McKenna HERE.

Monday, March 23, 2020

The Coronavirus and Chess

     With all the precautions causing a disruption in a lot of activities, my online chess activity has increased. 
     I play at Chess Hotel. They have a free membership, but I always play as a guest. When you log in you are assigned a meaningless rating of 1200 and it is only for that session. Sign out and back in and you are at 1200 again. 
     The rating, of course, means nothing but I like the site because you can select from the following options:
Bullet (1 minute) 
Bullet (2 minutes + 1 second) 
Blitz (3 minutes) Blitz (5 minutes) 
Blitz (5 minutes + 2 seconds) 
Rapid (10 minutes) 
Rapid (15 minutes) 
Chess960 (8 minutes) 
Custom (set your own time limits) 
     You never know if you’re going to play, a rank beginner or a pretty decent player, but for the most part I have gotten opponents strong enough to make the game challenging. 
     What amazes me is that with games and ratings so absolutely meaningless there exists a class of player that you run into occasionally who, when they get into a lost position, either refuse to move and let their time run out or just leave the site. At least when they leave the site you are credited with the win without having to wait. 
     Such people must have a very delicate psyche. Nobody likes being wrong or losing, but research shows the more rigid (and less adaptive) your personality, the more difficulty you will have in dealing with those situations. 
     Chess players can be interesting. Several years ago on a forum there was a discussion on “red books.” They were a German series of hardcover books with red cloth bindings and algebraic notation (before it was popular in the United States) and had a diagram every five moves. Players included were Lasker, Petrosian, Capablanca, Chigorin, Steinitz, Anderssen,Tal etc. These were pre-database game collections which had almost all known games of the players.
     Anyway, somebody on the forum asked if anybody was familiar with the series and one person wrote yes and directed the poster to a link where they could buy the book on Spassky. The ad said something to the effect that this was the book Fischer carried around as he prepared for his match with Spassky.
     Believe it or not, one forum poster went on a diatribe claiming the ad was a lie and a scam because how could the seller prove it was THE book owned by Fischer?  When several people tried to point out to him that the seller didn’t mean it was the actual book in Fischer’s possession, the poor guy still didn’t understand. Like I said, some chess players are just weird. 
     For reasons that I can’t explain, I have developed morbid fascination with inferior openings and defenses. I suspect the reason is boredom with normal openings and the fact that losing an anonymous 10 minute game on line doesn’t mean anything, so why not experiment and/or just have some fun? 
     One favorite is the Barnes Opening (1.f3) named after Thomas Wilson Barnes (1825–1874), an English player who had an impressive eight wins over Paul Morphy, including one game with the Barnes Defense (1...f6). 
     Having long been a fan of the Grob Attack (1.g4), I have also been experimenting with that most horrible of all defenses, the Reverse Grob (1.e4 g5). Sometimes it’s also called the Borg (Grob spelled backwards) Defense or the Basman Defense. Bad as it is, I have managed to score quite well with it, including one win against a player rated 1768 on the old Instant Chess site, now known as Lichess. 
     Why do these hideous openings and defenses work? When they do, it’s always the same old story. They are met with disdain by players who think there is an immediate refutation and so they can abandon solid opening principles that would give them an advantage. 
     Of course in many cases the loss can be attributed to later tactical errors, or as in the case of a couple of the games, bad endgame play. Studying endings is the chess equivalent of eating your vegetables, but they can be fun! Besides that, serious players must master basic endgames. 
     One of the things that makes it difficult to get motivated to study endings is that there is no guarantee that knowing such things as the opposition or related square theory will ever be useful. 
     I never bothered to study how to mate with a B+N against a lone K because it never happens, right? But, did you know that in the 2009 New York State Championship a master named Alec Getz (white) outplayed GM Alex Lenderman and reached the following position?

    It’s black’s move and Lenderman knew 38...Nxc6 39.Bxc6 was hopelessly lost, so what did he do? He played 38...Nxd3 eliminating white’s P and knowing that after his own remaining Ps fell, he would put Getz’s endgame knowledge to the test by forcing him to mate with a B+N. Getz was up to the task! 
     If you don’t think studying endings can be fun, try working on either K+P or Rook endings...they can be quite challenging. 
     Here’s an interesting Reveres Grob that shows why these bad openings often work.

Friday, March 20, 2020

World Championship 1886

     The year 1886 was important for me personally. Not that I was around then, but on November 25, 1886 in Wayne, West Virginia my paternal grandfather was born. To put things in perspective, just a couple of months earlier, on September 4th, the great Apache warrior Geronimo finally surrendered.  
     Between January 6th and 11th in 1886, there was a blizzard which initially dropped southeast across Texas before strengthening while it moved through the South and then headed up the Eastern Seaboard through New England, reaching its peak strength as it moved through New Jersey. 
     Over several days this system brought significant snow to the southern Rockies. Elsewhere it brought high winds and snowfall that resulted in blizzard conditions across portions of the Plains and the East. 
     With it came a significant cold spell across portions of the southern and eastern United States. Fort Macon, North Carolina, registered winds up to 62 miles per hour on January 8 and Wilkes County, North Carolina recorded 8 inches of snow. Near Staunton, Virginia, 14 inches of snow fell. 
     Up in New Jersey, high water and waves severely damaged railroad tracks in Sandy Hook. The gale in New York City blew away the anemometer cups at the local weather observing site. 
     Along with the cold, although a minimal amount of new snow fell, there were blizzard conditions in Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska on January 6. Telegraph wires were downed and rails were covered with snow, suspending travel. Across the Texas Panhandle, at least five died due to exposure and the largest loss of life from a blizzard in Iowa's history occurred with 20 people perishing. 
     Even the deep South was affected. In Jasper, Alabama, a mix of rain, sleet and snow fell on January 8 and 9. Savannah, Georgia, reported a light snowfall for the first time in six years. Up to 24 inches of snow fell in parts of Long Island, New York. As the system moved through New England, some areas received over 15 inches. 
     How all this affected the World Championship match between Steinitz and Zukertort that commenced on January 11, 1886 at 2:00 PM in the Cartiers Academy Hall on Fifth Avenue in New York City I am not sure. 
     The first five games were to be played in New York, then the venue switched to St. Louis for four games and from there to New Orleans. Most chess historians accept this match as the first match for the title of World Champion.
     In 1886 Steinitz was considered the best player in the world and Zukertort was considered the second best and some historians consider this match to have been the first World Championship match. 
     In 1872, the two had met in a match which Steinitz won by the score of +7-1=4. Some historians consider that one to be the first World Championship match. Steinitz considered himself to be World Champion after his +8-6=0 win against Anderssen in 1866. 
     There was hostility between the two and negotiations lasted almost three years. Disagreement over the choice of venue was resolved when Steinitz finally persuaded Zukertort to accept the United States. Zukertort was paid $750 to make the trip from London and the winner of the match was promised a quarter of the proceeds from the betting syndication. The winner was the first player to score ten wins. The match used the same chess clock as three years earlier and the time limit was 30 moves in 2 hours, followed by another 15 moves in each subsequent hour. For the first time a demonstration board measuring approximately 3 feet square was erected above the players so that the spectators could follow the game. 
     After Zukertort lost the first game he complained of a lack of practice. He was asked, “Why didn’t you practice in London?” “I couldn’t,” he fired back, “Blackburne is always sick and Mason drunk.” 
     By the time play reached New Orleans, the match was still in the balance (4–4, with one draw), but by that time Zukertort was said to be physically exhausted and approaching mental breakdown. Steinitz, on the other hand, appeared to be playing robustly and demonstrated great mental stamina. Steinitz quickly took control of the match and wrapped things up with a further six wins, four draws and just one defeat. 
     The final game ended on March 29, 1886 when Zukertort tendered his resignation and congratulated the new World Champion. It’s also possible that Zukertort's play was affected by his heart problems and he died two years later.
     This brilliant game by Steinitz demonstrates his positional chess. Zukertort, a representative of the Old Guard, did not really appreciate the power of the mobile center, but Steinitz knew how to wield it with great effectiveness.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Never Resign?

     It’s not unusual to see raging forum debates among lower rated players about when, or even if, you should resign. 
     One common argument is that you should never resign because you can always try to create a stalemate. In 60+ years I’ve had exactly zero serious tournament games end in stalemate. If memory serves there have been a couple of offhand or blitz games but the stalemates weren’t the result of a cleverly “created” trap, but rather the result of a gross blunder. 
     The truth is “never resign" is beginner thinking and it should be! Beginners are prone to making horrific blunders. Once I saw a player offer a draw in an ending where he had a R+K vs. K. He commented, “There must be a way to win, but I don’t know how to do it.” HIS opponents should NEVER resign! 
     On the other hand, knowing when to resign is a sign of chess maturity. You should play until you are out of ideas...then it's OK to resign. Bobby Fischer once said he knew he was lost, but instead of resigning he played on a few more moves to make sure it was really true! Perhaps that’s not a bad idea because it may prevent things from happening like what happened to the great Miguel Najdorf in his game against Raul Sanquineti at Mar del Plata in 1956; he resigned in what has been claimed was a won position. 
     I think the claim that Najdorf resigned in won position came in the days before engines. Najdorf was not winning at all...not even close. In fact it was Sanguineti who was winning until he blundered and allowed a drawn position in which Najdorf resigned. 
     I ran Shootouts with Stockfish 11 and the games were all drawn. Usually they came down to white having a Q vs. R+B+2Ps and white got a perpetual check. 
     Najdorf resigned because he thought there was no defense against 59.Qe7 mate and didn't see that 58...Rxg4 gave his K an escape square on f5...an incredible oversight from a player of his stature and it cost him a clear first. It's also obvious that Sanguineti, a strong player himself, missed it in what was a double oversight. It's possible time may have been a factor.
     Tim Krabbe has 35 examples of players resigning in won positions HERE.

Final standings: 
1) Julio Bolbochan and Najdorf 11.5 
3) Sanguineti 10.5 
4) Eliskases 10.0 
5-6) Jacobo Bolbochan and Redolfi 9.5 
7) Shocron 9.0 
8-9) Behrensen and Idigoras 8.5 
10) Pelikan 8.0 
11) Maderna 7.5 
12) Wexler 6.5 
13) Toth 6.0 
14-15) Rossetto and Reinhardt  4.5 
15) Olivera 2.5 
16) Gondim 0.0

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

C.H.O’D. Alexander

   When Alexander died, Botvinnik described him as “a great chess player; he will never be forgotten.” Botvinnik appears to have been proved wrong.
     Everybody has heard of Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander, but few appreciate how good he was. Outside of chess, he received two awards from the British government. The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, a British order of chivalry founded in 1818. The Order was originally awarded to those holding commands or high position in the Mediterranean territories acquired in the Napoleonic Wars, and was subsequently extended to holders of similar office or position in other territories of the British Empire. It is also awarded to those who hold high office or who render extraordinary or important non-military service in a foreign country and can also be conferred for important or loyal service in relation to foreign and Commonwealth affairs. 
     He also received the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire which is awarded for chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organizations, and public service outside the civil service. It was established in 1917 and comprises five classes across both civil and military divisions, the most senior two of which make the recipient either a knight if male or dame if female. 
     Alexander (April 19, 1909 – February 15, 1974) is known for his work on the German Enigma machine at Bletchley Park during the Second World War, and was later the head of the cryptanalysis division at GCHQ for 25 years. 
     Alexander was born in Cork, Ireland, the eldest child of an engineering professor at University College, Cork. His father died in 1920 during the Irish War of Independence and the family moved to Birmingham, England, where he attended King Edward's School. He won a scholarship to study mathematics at King's College, Cambridge, in 1928, graduating in 1931. 
     From 1932, Alexander taught mathematics at Winchester, and married Enid Constance Crichton Neate (1900–1982) on December 22, 1934. Their eldest son was Sir Michael O'Donel Bjarne Alexander (1936–2002), a diplomat. Their other son was Patrick Macgillicuddy Alexander (March 20, 1940 - September 21, 2005), a poet who settled in Australia in 1960. 
     In 1938, Alexander left teaching and became head of research at the John Lewis Partnership. In February 1940, Alexander arrived at Bletchley Park, the British codebreaking center during the World War 2. 
     He joined the section tasked with breaking German Army and Air Force Enigma messages. In 1941, Alexander transferred to the hut working on Naval Enigma where he became deputy head of the hut under Alan Turing. Alexander was more involved with the day-to-day operations of the hut than Turing and while Turing was visiting the United States, Alexander formally became the head of the hut around November 1942. In October 1944, Alexander was transferred to work on the Japanese code. 
     In mid-1946, Alexander joined the post-war successor organization to the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park. By 1949, he had been promoted to the head of Section H (cryptanalysis), a post he retained until his retirement in 1971. 
     Alexander won the British championship in 1938 and 1956 and represented England in the Olympiad six times: 1933, 1935, 1937, 1939, 1954 and 1958. 
     At the 1939 Olympiad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Alexander had to leave part-way through the event, along with the rest of the English team, because of the declaration of World War II, since he was required at home for code breaking duties. Alexander was awarded the IM title in 1950 and the correspondence IM title in 1970. 
     He won Hastings 1946/47 a point ahead of Savielly Tartakower. His best tournament result was equal first with David Bronstein at Hastings 1953/54, where he went undefeated and beat Bronstein (in 120 moves) and Soviet GM Alexander Tolush. He also authored several chess books, mostly for beginners.
     His opportunities to appear abroad were limited as he was not allowed to play chess in the Soviet bloc because of his secret work in cryptography, but he was probably of GM strength. Alexander made important theoretical contributions to the Dutch Defense and Petrov Defense. 
     When the England met the USSR team in a radio match in 1946 they hoped to avoid an “American Tragedy” where the Soviet team had defeated the Americans by a score of 15.5-4.5. For their part, the British players had a good knowledge of the strength of the Soviet team and they were well prepared, but a defeat could not be avoided: 14 to 6 on the men's boards and 4 to 0 on the women's boards. It must be said that even though the men's team lost they performed better than the American team had managed to do.

1) Alaexander-Botvinnink 1-1 
2) Klein-Keres 0.5-1.5 
3) Konig-Smyslov 0-2 
4) Golombek-Boleslavsky 1-1 
5) Fairhurst-Flohr 0.5-1.5 
6) List-Kotov 0-2 
7) Winter-Bronstein 1-1 
8) Aiken-Bondarevsky 0-2 
9) B.H. Wood-Lilienthal 0.5-1.5 
10) Abrahams-Ragozin 1.5-0.5 
11) Tramner-Borisenko 0.0-2.0 
12) Bruce-Rudenko 0.0-2.0