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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Chess of Karl Marx

   Francis Wheen, the biographer of Karl Marx, wrote that while Marx was waiting for the proofs of Das Kapitol to be returned he spent an evening at a party hosted by the chess master Gustav Neumann. As a memo of that night there remains the record a game in which Marx defeated a fellow named Meyer.
     Karl Marx (1818-1883), the ideological father of the Soviet Union, was an avid chess player and it was said that at times he had an unhealthy obsession with the game. In the early 1850s, during the first years of his London exile he would spend entire nights playing one game after another against other German exiles. 
     One of Marx’s frequent opponents was Wilhelm Liebknecht (1826- 1900) a German socialist and one of the principal founders of the Social Democratic Party of Germany who was a colleague of Marx. 
     Liebknecht was, at least by his own account, strong enough to have considered a career as a chess professional and he wrote a firsthand account of Marx’s passion for chess. He described Marx as a very enthusiastic player who “tried to make up what he lacked in science by zeal, impetuousness of attack and surprise.” In Liebknecht’s opinion Marx was an excellent checker player, but his chess “did not amount to much.” 
     Actually, the term “scientific” play didn’t come into use until Steinitz day in the mid-1870s. Marx played in the 1850s when the “Romantic” style was in vogue. Romanticism was characterized by speculative sacrifices in the hopes of creating an attack and hopefully the player with least material was the winner.
     Marx was more than a casual player; when he played he was deadly serious. Liebknecht related that when Marx was in trouble “he lost his temper and when he lost a game, he was furious.” When losing he was obnoxious, loud, disagreeable and emotionally volatile, but when winning he was happy and companionable. 
     Liebknecht described grueling all-day, all-night marathon sessions in which Marx, losing game after game, insisted on repeatedly testing and refining an opening innovation or a middlegame variation until he was finally able to win. Only after he had finally won would he allow his exhausted opponent to quit. 
     It’s odd that for such a reputedly passionate player, Marx’s works make no mention of chess nor did his wife or daughter mentioned chess in any of their writings about Marx. With the exception of Liebknecht neither did any of the personal memoirs of his contemporaries mention his chess. 
     In his memoir, Liebknecht recalled an incident that happened in the Marx home in the early 1850s. After a marathon session of chess between Liebknecht and Marx that lasted all day and well into the night, the two men finally broke off. Marx had been losing and was determined to resume play in the morning.
     When Liebknecht returned the next morning Marx’s wife and children were not present and it appeared Marx had been up all night analyzing and preparing openings. Play continued and Marx ordered his housekeeper to bring them lunch which they hardly ate. They played far into the night before Liebknecht began winning. After midnight the housekeeper appeared and apparently under the direction of Mrs. Marx told them they must stop playing. 
     The next morning, the housekeeper visited Liebknecht at his home with a curt message from Mrs. Marx stating that no more chess would be tolerated in the Marx home. 
     British master and chess author Gerald Abrahams conjectured that Marx was a very weak player, but that opinion was based on analysis of the known game played by Marx, the 28 move casual game played at a party against Meyer mentioned above. 
     Marx was not in the habit of keeping a score of his games, but another player who was watching the game recorded it. The game itself isn’t very noteworthy, but the opening, a Muzio Gambit, is interesting. Meyer accepted the offer because in those days it was considered declining unsporting to decline a sacrifice. How things have changed! 
     A few analyst tried to draw superficial conclusions between the scientific and materialist Marx and this game played in the Romantic style. The truth is, with only one sample game, it’s hard to draw any conclusions. Besides, the scientific style was unknown to chess until Steinitz introduced it in the mid-1870s. 
     The first thirteen or so moves of this game conformed to what was already known theory. The Muzio Gambit had been played for generations prior to this game and all the main variations had been worked out. What is clear is that both Marx and his opponent knew the then current opening theory. 
     Marx played with great energy and Meyer defended well, but stumbled on move 18 and Marx seized on the inaccuracy with a series sharp moves. Bearing in mind that this was a casual game played at a party, the question is, how good was Marx? 
     There were quite a few errors making it difficult to consider either player as being of master strength, but they clearly were not weak players either. Perhaps Class A (1800-1999), or Expert (2000-2199) if you’re feeling generous.

Monday, April 27, 2020

1928 Washington-London Cable Match

     The year 1928 is really remembered much of anything, but it did have some interesting happenings. Most important of all was probably the Kellogg-Briand Pact that was signed by 65 nations in Paris. The Pact outlawed war. Unfortunately it wasn’t successful. 
     Richard E. Byrd started his expedition to the Antarctic and didn’t return until 1930. The first of Joseph Stalin's Five Year Plans imposes collectivization on agriculture in the Soviet Union. Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. 
     Herbert Hoover was elected president, defeating Alfred E. Smith, governor of New York. Jumping ahead to 1931, there’s a legend of one of old-time radio’s most famous bloopers that involved long-time radio announcer Harry von Zell.
     As often happens, the truth is not quite like the legend. The legend is that on a live broadcast in 1931 von Zell introduced Hoover by announcing: “Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States, Hoobert Heever.” While it is true that von Zell called the President “Hoobert Heever”, the circumstances were quite different. 
     The occasion was not a live address, but a tribute offered on the anniversary of President Hoover’s birth. Announcer von Zell was reading a lengthy recounting of Hoover’s life, career, and accomplishments and at the very end he mispronounced the President’s name. 
     von Zell’s explanation was that he was young and very nervous and he had mentioned the name of Herbert Hoover at least twenty times before he made the slip up. So, how did the legend that it happened during a live inaugural broadcast with President Hoover actually present come about? 
     A fellow named Kermit Schafer fabricated the circumstances for his Pardon My Blooper record album and claimed it was a “genuine recording.” The result was generations were convinced that the apocryphal version was what really happened.
     One of the biggest events in 1928 was when John Baird, a Scottish inventor, beamed a television image from England to the United States on January 26th. Baird’s invention, a pictorial-transmission machine he called a televisor, used mechanical rotating disks to scan moving images into electronic impulses that was then transmitted by cable to a screen where it showed up as a low-resolution pattern of light and dark. Baird’s first television program showed the heads of two ventriloquist dummies, which he operated in front of the camera apparatus out of view of the audience. 
     Also in 1928, GE introduced a television set with a 3 inch by 4 inch screen named the Daven and it sold for $75...quite a princely sum in those days. The same item would cost you over $1,100 today. 
     In 1928 W3XK, the first American TV station, began broadcasting from suburban Washington, D.C. The station was the outgrowth of the work done by Charles F. Jenkins in devising a way to transmit pictures over the airwaves in a process he called radiovision. 
     Jenkins sold several thousand receiving sets, mostly to hobbyists and after receiving permission to start an experimental TV transmitting station, aired programming five nights a week until shutting down in 1932. 
     His television was essentially the wrong technology. His receiving sets relied on a 48-line image projected onto a 6-inch-square mirror to create the picture, rather than using electronics. Jenkins was also the first to air a television commercial. He was fined by the government for doing so because advertising wasn't legal.  Much to our dismay that was to change.
     The chess world lost two prominent players. On October 19, Emanuel Lasker's brother, Dr. Berthold Lasker (1860-1928) died at the age of 67. Berthold is almost unknown, but he won the New York State Chess Association championship in 1902. On February 28, 1928, Oscar Chajes (1873-1928) died in New York City at the age of 54. Chajes held the championship of New York and Illinois and the Western Chess Association championships many times. 
    On August 26, 1928, John G. White (1845-1928) died in Jackson Lake, Wyoming at the age of 83. He was founder and donor of the world's largest chess library, the John G. White Collection, at the Cleveland (Ohio) Public Library. 
     In other happenings, the International Association for Correspondence Chess was formed and the National Chess Federation organized a Radio Chess League.  Sultan Khan won the All-India chess championship and Frederick Yates won his 5th British championship, held at Tenby. Max Euwe won the 2nd (and last) world amateur championship. 
     The second Chess Olympiad was held at The Hague and the Hungarian team (Nagy, A. Steiner, Vajda, and Havasi) took 1st place. Only chess amateurs were allowed. The British and Yugoslavs suspected that the USA team (Isaac Kashdan, Herman Steiner, Samuel Factor, Erling Tholsen and Milton Hanauer) included chess professionals, so they withdrew in protest. The US team finished second. 
     It's likely those on the US team considered pros were Kashdan, Steiner and, possibly Tholfsen. In 1933 Kashdan had gone into partnership with Al Horowitz to found Chess Review, but it didn't last long because Kashdan needed to make a living. There was an ad appearing in the 1941 issue of Chess Review for Kashdan's insurance business; he offered life, annuities, auto, fire, burglary and liability insurance.  Visit his office at 175 Fifth Avenue or call him at ALgonquin 4-2895. You may have seen the building in which his office was located on television because it's the famous Flatiron Building. Later in the 1940s Kashdan moved to California because its better climate helped his son's health problems.
     Steiner ran a successful chess club and schmoozed with the Hollywood stars of the day. Tholfsen may have been a pro, but after the Depression ended in 1939 he gave up tournament play and worked as a Spanish teacher in the New York City public school system and was very active in the labor movement for many years. Milton Hanauer was a public school principal. 
     In July the Brooklyn YMCA banned chess and all the chess tables and pieces were removed. YMCA members couldn’t even play on a magnetic or pocket set. The reason for the ban was that the secretary concluded that chess attracted too many undesirable elements to the YMCA and some of the players and spectators were smoking which was forbidden inside the YMCA. Besides that it cost extra money for supervisory personnel to keep a room open for chess. 
     In August, the Western Chess Association (US Open) was held in South Bend, Indiana and was won by Detroit master Leon Stolzenberg. In September Abraham Kupchik won the National Chess Championship, held in Bradley Beach, New Jersey. Edward Lasker and I.A. Horowitz tied for 2nd-3rd. 
     With all this exciting stuff going on, the third cable match for the Insull Trophy that was played on Saturday, November 10th between a team from Washington, DC and a team from London was pretty much forgotten. 
     Under the terms of trophy's gift, should London win this year the trophy would become the property of the London Chess League. 

     Play began at 2pm and by 7pm the games were adjournment for a one hour dinner beak. Play resumed at 8pm and things went smoothly until there was a problem in the Goldstein vs. Walker game on board six. Walker’s move was incorrectly decoded in London.  Goldstein made his move then retracted it when it was discovered that the Walker's move wasn't correct. It took half an hour to straighten things out.
     Between 930pm and 1030pm draws were agreed to on boards 1, 3 and 4 while the other games were still in progress. By 11pm it had become apparent that Sergeant was going to defeat Byler on board 5. 
     Then at about 1130pm Washington offered to draw the remaining games (boards 2, 5 where Sergeant was winning and 6). At 1150pm London countered with the suggestion of draws on boards 2 and 6 and a win on board 5, but promised that the Cup should be put up for competition the next year. There was no response from Washington and the next week the secretary of the British team was preparing to send the games for adjudication to Max Euwe.
     Before the games could be sent to Euwe a cable arrived from Washington agreeing that Sergeant was winning on board 5. However, Washington protested that because the teller in London had decoded one of the moves incorrectly and Goldstein made a reply which he then took back when the mistake was discovered, the US should get a forfeit win on board 6. The dispute was never resolved.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Attacking An Uncastled King

     Once upon a time when I was a young patzer chess books were a frequent purchase, but one day I realized two things about chess books: 1) most of them never got studied and 2) they didn’t seem to help much. Then one day I had another epiphany...over the board chess had little interest for me and what I really liked was postal play. 
     A correspondence master rating seemed within reach and to that end specialty opening books and foreign chess magazines became important purchases. 
    The problem is that when you start out in postal chess as a kid in Class C reaching master takes a long time...remember this was using post cards because computers and the Internet were in the future. 
    After getting to within about hundred points of my goal life interfered and the result was a 13 year hiatus. By the time I returned to correspondence play it was being done on the Internet and Fritz 5.32 was on the scene. Climbing higher proved impossible because while using Fritz was illegal the rules didn’t matter to a lot of people. The result was that instead of being a young patzer I found myself an old patzer. 

     Things might have been different if I had found Purdy back in the old days. The simplicity and clarity with which he wrote makes him one of the greatest instructors ever. A sample of his advice: 

* When playing against an isolated d-Pawn avoid Bd3 (or ...Bd6) 
*The average player will more easily learn to play commonsense chess from the games of Morphy than any other player...we commend them to all who find modern games too complex to understand. 
* Positional play is the treatment of positions in which sound tactical play is not possible. It means strengthening one’s own position or weakening the opponent’s...if neither is possible avoid weakening your own position. 

     Purdy wrote that to play chess well requires imagination and intuition and you will develop these qualities by thinking methodically and at the same time you will avoid many blunders. To this end he devised the Purdy Method to be followed at every move: 

(1) What are his threats or his objective? Before parrying them, see if they can be ignored. 
(2) Have I a sound combination? The emphasis is on sound. A lot of rating challenged players seem to think just willy-nilly giving up a piece is playing tactical chess, but quite often they are just throwing away a piece for nothing.
(3) If there is not a sound tactical continuation, and there usually isn’t, what should be my aims? This is where planning comes in and that does not necessarily mean a 20 move long plan. It often is nothing more than the improvement of a piece’s position. Hint: if you can’t think of anything to do, find your least active piece and try to improve its position. 
(4) Before playing any move ask if it will allow you opponent a sound combination. 
(5) During your opponent’s turn to move, make a reconnaissance, looking quickly all the squares each piece commands; ask how safe are the Kings and other pieces, what Pawns are weak and what squares? (Note: this is going to require that somewhere along the line that a player must become familiar with strategy)
(6) I might add this: most gross blunders (dropping pieces, etc.) can be eliminated by visually scanning ranks files and diagonals after your opponent moves and before you move. 

     Following his advice won’t make you a Master, but it will eliminate a lot of blunders and raise you rating...how much is anybody’s guess. 
     When attacking the King it makes no difference whether it is uncastled or has been driven from its castled home, the problem facing the attacker is the same. It should be mentioned that just because a King is uncastled, a mating attack is not always justified. Its loss of castling must be accompanied by its exposure to attack. 

An attack against an uncastled King usually has three phases: 
1) draw it away 
2) pursue it and 
3) set up a mating net. 

    That said, there have been times when the King escaped, so the attacker has to be alert to make sure the prey can't get away. A good example is seen in this offbeat variation of Alekhine’s Defense: 1.e4 Nf6 2.Bc4 Nxe4 3.Bxf7+ Kxf7 4.Qh5+ Black can’t castle and white regains the sacrificed N, but has he no advantage whatsoever in spite of the fact the black's King appears to be in serious danger. In fact, black may actually stand a little better.


Thursday, April 23, 2020

Richard Verber

A Chicago legend
     Senior Master Richard Verber was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but at an early age moved to Chicago where he became a legend. For a long time he was one of the strongest players and most prominent organizers and teachers in the Chicago area. 
     Richard Verber (June 3, 1944 – Dec. 10, 2001) passed away at the age of 57. Suffering from obesity, his later years were plagued with health issues and he was confined to a wheelchair. His passing was attributed to complications of diabetes. 
     Verber had been playing chess competitively for only two years when in 1961, at the age of 17 while a student at St. Ignatius High School, he achieved the Master title. He achieved the Senior Master (2400+) title in 1971. 
     He received his undergraduate degree from Loyola University in 1966 and did graduate studies in art history at the University of Chicago. 
     He won the 1962 Chicago Open and 1966 North Central Open, and tied for first in the 1970 Illinois Open. He represented the United States at the World Student Team Championships in 1967, 1969, and 1970. In the 1970 event in Haifa, Israel, his 5½-1½ score won the gold medal on fourth board and helped the US win the championship. 
     Verber served as president of the Chicago Chess Club during the early 1970s and was responsible for organizing the 1973 US Open at the La Salle Hotel in downtown Chicago; the event drew more than 700 players. 
     He declined two invitations to the US Championship. In 1974, even though it was held in Chicago and the 1975 tournament in Oberlin, Ohio. The 1974 event was won by Walter Browne who went undefeated. Benko and Evans tied for second. I got to witness every round of the 1975 tournament which was also won by Browne. Kenneth Rogoff was second and the popular local player, Dr. Milan Vukcevich, was third. 
     Also a National Tournament Director, he organized many important events in Chicago including multiple US Opens, US Championships, international title tournaments and simultaneous exhibitions. 
     Verber ran for the USCF Policy Board in 1975 for the only time and was expected to win, but he was upset by Fred Townsend of Connecticut. 
     As an organizer Verber’s enthusiasm was sometimes excessive and occasionally he promoted his tournaments to the point that entry fees didn’t cover expenses, including prizes. 
     In one event he was unable to pay much of the guaranteed prize fund and player complaints resulted in the suspension of his Director certification. He eventually was able to pay all the winners in full and his certification was reinstated. 
     Verber’s talent talent for the game was as both a tactician and strategist. National Master John Thomas, a friend and former US Amateur Champion stated that rather than relying on calculation Verber relied on intuition. Thomas added that Verber always knew that while he would be a good player, he'd never be a great one and so there were many other things that interested him. With his background in art history, he read widely in a number of languages. 
     For some reason Verber did not save his score sheets and as a result almost all of his games are unknown. In the beginning he played highly theoretical and often risky lines. By the early 1970s, after realizing that he would not be a professional player, Verber changed his openings and began playing by rote solid openings that had little theory attached to them, but often they contained sophisticated traps in which he could catch unwary and less talented opponents. 
James Warren
     Verber’s opponent in this game was James E. Warren of Lombard, Illinois who died at the age of 81 on December 12, 2014. 
     His contribution to Illinois chess as a player, organizer, patron and volunteer was unparalleled and along with his wife Helen he founded the Illinois Chess Association. 
     Warren was instrumental in the implementation by the USCF of the Elo rating system in 1960. He also served as USCF's Rating Statistician and wrote a computer program for calculating ratings. It was at his suggestion that the terms Master, Expert, Class A, Class B, Class C be used in conjunction with the Elo system. 
    Besides selling chess books, organizing tournaments and being involved in the ICA, Warren and his wife organized American Postal Chess Tournaments, the Warren Junior Program and the once popular Midwest Masters tournaments.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Hastings 1949/50

     The 25th Hastings Christmas Chess Festival was held from December 29th, 1949 to January 7th, 1950. 
     Chess Review magazine had belittled the status of the previous tournament (1948/49) by pointing out that the tournament had reached its peak in 1934/35 when Capablanca, Euwe, Botvinnik, Flohr and Lilienthal played. 
     Chess Review opined that English chess fans must have felt like underprivileged children because the 1948/49 tournament had slipped to the status of local competition with a “sparse leavening of second rate foreign players.” Harsh! 
     The magazine went on to say the best of these second rate foreign players was the “stringy, hollow cheeked Nicolas Rossolimo, a Greek born in Russia and living in France.” The magazine also claimed that his four wins and five draws “in this mediocre field” showed that he was no world beater. 

     Curious about just how good Rossolimo was in 1950, I went to Chessmetrics and discovered he was ranked, at 2654, number 23 in the world four different months between the January 1950 and the May 1951 rating lists. Thus he was in the neighborhood of players like, among others, Averbakh, Bogoljubow, Lilienthal, Salo Flohr, Bondarevsky, Taimanov, Euwe, Pachmann, Rossetto, Barcza, Ragozin etc. He remained in the top 50 until the mid-1950s. Maybe he wasn’t a world beater, but he was pretty good! 
     Chess Review also had biting words for Paul Schmidt (6th place +1 -1 =7) and Robert Wade (8th place +1 -3 =5) stating that both had “failed to distinguish themselves.” 
     The magazine was especially critical of Schmidt, pointing out that his moment of glory came in 1937 when he finished ahead of Keres, Stahlberg and Flohr in an Estonian tournament, but in this tournament “proved unequal to the chore of winning games...but was at least able to draw them.” Of poor Wade the magazine commented he “was not any too good at that.” 
Schmidt in later years
     The criticism of Schmidt seems unfair because at the time he was working on earning his PhD in chemistry from Heidelberg University which he got in 1951. After receiving his degree he moved to Canada and from there to Philadelphia and later a place that’s hardly a chess Mecca, Allentown, Pennsylvania, where he made contributions to electrochemistry and anodic oxidation of silicon, was expert in neutron activation analysis, and published many papers, till his retirement in 1982. So, it would appear that at Hastings, Schmidt was on his way to all but giving up a career in chess. Chessmetrics ranks him Number 9 in the world 15 different months between the November 1942 and August 1944 with a 2600+ rating. 
      The 1949/50 event was an improvement over the previous Hastings.  In addition to the winner of the previous event (Rossolimo) there were former world champion Max Euwe and Hungarian GM Laszlo Szabo who had been a top European player since he burst onto the chess scene in 1935 when at the age of 18 he won the Hungarian Championship. This was Szabo’s third win at Hastings. 
     Also playing was 17-year old Larry Evans, who was in those days described as a prodigy. Larry M. Evans (March 22, 1932 – November 15, 2010) won or shared the US Championship five times and the US Open four times. He wrote a long-running syndicated chess column and wrote or co-wrote more than twenty chess books. 
     Evans first won his first championship in 1951 ahead of Samuel Reshevsky, and his last in 1980 when he tied with Walter Browne and Larry Christiansen. He was awarded the IM title in 1952 and the GM title in 1957. 
     Evans was born in Manhattan and learned much about the game by playing for ten cents an hour on 42nd Street in New York City. At age 14, he tied for 4th–5th place in the Marshall Chess Club championship. The next year he won it outright, becoming the youngest Marshall champion at that time. He finished equal second in the 1947 US Junior Championship and in 1948, at the age of 16, he played in the US Championship and tied for eighth place with 11.5-7.5.
     Evans tied with Arthur Bisguier for first place in the US Junior Championship in 1949. Evans didn’t have much respect for his mother and didn’t treat her very well and Bisguier didn’t like it...that is until he met the woman. Bisguier didn’t elaborate on what the problem with Mrs. Evans was.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Close Race At Amsterdam 1950

   In 1950 paranoia over Communism, or the “Reds” as they were called, had a lot of people scared. The Red Scare lasted through the late 1940s and early 1950s with Wisconsin’s Senator Joe McCarthy as the leader. 
     McCarthy used hearsay and intimidation to establish himself as a powerful and feared figure. He leveled charges of disloyalty at celebrities, intellectuals and anyone who disagreed with his political views, costing many of his victims their reputations and jobs. McCarthy’s reign of terror continued until his colleagues finally denounced his tactics in 1954. 
     The FBI’s head, J. Edgar Hoover also compiled extensive files on suspected subversives through the use of wiretaps, surveillance and the infiltration of leftist groups. 

     Many ordinary Americans felt the effects of the Red Scare on a personal level. Thousands of alleged communist sympathizers were hounded by law enforcement, alienated from friends and family and fired from their jobs. 
     Movies were still popular, but television was starting to take a big bite out of the film industry’s revenue. Every night families huddled around the TV to watch sitcoms and game shows. I Love Lucy began a three year run at the top of the ratings. Game shows like $64,000 Question and The Price is Right were very popular. 
     In 1950 the automobile industry established a new all-time production record of 7,987,000 vehicles. The most serious event of the year was the re-imposition of Regulation W, the government’s credit control bill which had limited purchases during and immediately after World War II. It required a one-third down payment with the balance to be paid within 21 months (three months longer than the wartime version) was restored in September. This caused some financial problems and two manufacturers introduced new small cars during 1950, to meet the demand for an economical car for middle income families and a car with an initial price that placed it within reach of many people who previously had to buy used cars. 
     In chess, the year 1950 started off with Laszlo Szabo of Hungary winning at Hastings 1949/50 with an 8-1 score and 16-year old Larry Evans finished 4th.
     Lyudmila Rudenko (1904-1986) won the 2nd Women's World Championship, held in Moscow. James B. Cross won the US Junior championship. Arthur Bisguier won the US Open, held in Detroit. 
     On May 27, 1950, chess patron and former president of Manhattan Chess Club Maurice Wertheim (1886-1950) died in Cos Cob, Connecticut at the age of 64. 
     1950 saw the birth of the International Correspondence Chess Federation. The first Candidates Tournament, held in Budapest from April 9 to May 16, 1950. Reshevsky was unable to play when the State Department decreed that American citizens could not travel to Hungary. The event was won by David Bronstein and Isaac Boleslavsky. Bronstein won the playoff, 7.5-6.5. 
     Madame Chantel Chaude de Silans (1919-2004) played on the French team at the Dubrovnik Olympiad, the first woman to play on a men’s team. She played first reserve board, winning 1 game, drawing 1 game, and losing 4 games. The Yugoslav team (Gligoric, Pirc, Trifunovic, Rabar, Vidmar junior, Puc) won and the USA took 4th. The US team was Reshevsky, Steiner, Horowitz, Shainswit, Kramer and Evans.
     FIDE awarded the first Grandmaster titles to 27 players. The first list also included 94 International Masters and 17 International Women Masters. The GMs were: Bernstein, Boleslavsky, Bondarevsky, Botvinnik, Bronstein, Duras, Euwe, Fine, Flohr, Gruenfeld, Keres, Kostic, Kotov, Levenfish, Lilienthal, Maroczy, Mieses, Najdorf, Ragozin, Reshevsky, Saemisch, Smyslov, Stahlberg, Szabo, Tartakower, and Vidmar. 
     In November the first USCF rating list appeared and had 2,306 players on it. Fine was top rated at 2817 and Reshevsky was second at 2770. 
     Boris Velinsky (born 1888) died in Moscow at the age of 62 on October 30, 1950. He was Moscow champion in 1928 and USSR Champion in 1929. He was on the 1950 list as one of the original IMs. 
     In 1950 Lodewijk Prins of The Netherlands organized an international tournament that was held at the stock exchange in Amsterdam from from November 11th to December 9th. 
Old rivals meet

     Invitations were sent to all the strongest masters of the day. The Soviet Chess Federation declined the invitations and, in fact, their masters weren’t allowed to play in any international tournaments until 1952. Laszlo Szabo of Hungary also declined his invitation. 
     All of the best Dutch masters played including former world champion Max Euwe and the recent Hoogovens champion, 23 year old J.H. Donner. Najdorf scored a spectacular success when he went undefeated and finished clear first. Najdorf finished one point ahead of Samuel Reshevsky who was also undefeated. 
     This tournament played a large part in causing Reshevsky to seek out a match against Najdorf which didn’t take place until 1952. 
     Najdorf’s opponent in this game was Gudmundur Gudmundsson (May 11, 1918 – April 20, 1974) was one of Iceland’s best players from the late 1930s to late 1950s. He was Icelandic Champion in 1954. It’s a typical Najdorf rout of a lesser player.

Friday, April 17, 2020

A Sham Queen Sacrifice

      In his book The Art of Sacrifice in Chess, Rudolf Spielmann distinguishes between real and sham sacrifices. 
      A sham sacrifice leads to a forced and immediate advantage, usually in the form of mate or regaining the sacrificed material after a forced line.
     In a real sacrifice the loss of material is offset by other compensation. 
     Bent Larsen wrote that giving up the Q for a R and two minor pieces is sometimes called a Queen sacrifice, but since a R plus two minor pieces is more valuable than the Q, he believed it should not be considered a sacrifice.
     In his book Spielmann doesn’t say anything specific about Queen sacrifices, but gives as examples Spielmqnn-Maroczy, Vienna, 1907 and Spielmann-Moller, Gothenburg, 1920. 
White mates in 8 moves: 

     In the above position I made a rare (for me) Queen sacrifice. It was a sham sacrifice because as Stockfish pointed out, I had a forced mate. At the time I thought it was a real sacrifice because, not seeing the mate, I envisioned my R strutting back and forth along the seventh rank capturing material and leaving me with, if not a mate, a material as well as a positional advantage and an easy win. Post mortem analysis with Stockfish convinced me that even with a huge evaluation in my favor there was no guarantee I could have won the ending as I envisioned it.
This is the position I envisioned:

     It didn't matter because we never reached the above position. In the first diagram after 17.Qh5+ Nxh5 18.Bg6+ nothing happened for about two minutes then I got a message that the disgusting little twit had left the site.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

1957 Soviet Championship

Leona Gage - stripped of her title
     In 1957 things were different, but one thing was the same. In 1957, there was a flu pandemic called the Asian flu. It caused an estimated one million to two million deaths worldwide and is generally considered to have been the least severe of the three influenza pandemics of the 20th century. 
     By mid-summer it had reached the United States, where it initially infected relatively few people, but several months later numerous cases were reported, especially in young children, the elderly, and pregnant women. This upsurge was the result of a second pandemic wave that struck the Northern Hemisphere in November 1957. 
     The second wave was particularly devastating and by March 1958 an estimated 69,800 deaths had occurred in the United States. 
     Some infected individuals experienced only minor symptoms, such as cough and mild fever, others experienced life-threatening complications. Those persons who were unaffected by the virus were believed to have possessed protective antibodies.
     The rapid development of a vaccine and the availability of antibiotics to treat secondary infections limited the spread and mortality. Interestingly, the Center for Disease Control believes there are laboratories throughout the US that are still storing the 1957 virus. 
     When Elvis Presley appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show for the 3rd time the cameras would only show him from the waste up. By that time he was being called Elvis the Pelvis because of his striptease-like behavior on stage. Jack Gould of The New York Times declared Elvis had no discernible singing ability and John Crosby of the New York Herald Tribune called Elvis “unspeakably untalented and vulgar.” 
     Parents, religious groups and the Parent-Teacher Association condemned Elvis and rock 'n' roll music by associating both with juvenile delinquency. At a live concert in Seattle Elvis asked his audience to please stand for the national anthem. When they did, he picked up his guitar, began his vulgar gyrating and sang You Ain't Nothin' But a Hound Dog. The crowd ate it up. 
     The director of the Detroit Public Library banned The Wizard of Oz for having "no value for children of today," for supporting "negativism" 
     Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes accidentally invented bubble wrap while trying to create plastic wallpaper. At first it was marketed as a greenhouse insulator. Apparently that didn’t sell and eventually it was sold as the packaging material we know today.  
     When Northeast Airlines Flight 823 crashed on Rikers Island on February 1, 1957, prisoners were released from the prison building to help pull people from the wreckage. Some had their sentences commuted or reduced for acts of heroism during the incident. Story
     The idea that there was a nationwide web of organized crime wasn't recognized until police raided the Appalachian Meeting, a mafia summit in upstate New York in 1957.  Story
     Racist South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond set a record for the longest filibuster by a lone senator when the old windbag talked for 24 hours and 18 minutes as he opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1957 which basically was designed to make sure blacks in the South had the right to vote. He also later opposed ending segregation. 

Bits and Pieces: 
     Stan Laurel (of Laurel and Hardy) refused to ever perform publicly again after the death of his friend and partner Oliver Hardy. 
     Laika, a dog, was the first living creature to be sent into space, in Sputnik 2; she didn’t survive the trip. 
     Kent cigarettes used asbestos filters from 1952-1957. The were marketed as offering "the greatest health protection in the history of cigarettes." 
     Journalist Drew Pearson claimed that John F. Kennedy's Pulitzer Prize winning book Profiles in Courage had been ghost-written by his speechwriter Ted Sorenson. JFK's father sued and ABC retracted the statement and apologized. In 2008 Sorensen admitted he wrote most of the book. 
     Miss USA 1957, Leona Gage was stripped of her title when it was revealed that she was 18, married, and the mother of two children. 
     During a Philadelphia Phillies baseball game, a foul ball off the bat of Richie Ashburn hit a fan and broke her nose. When play resumed, as she was being taken out on a stretcher, another foul ball off Ashburn’s bat hit her again. What are the odds? 
     A US Air Force pilot caught in bad weather discovered his prototype F-107 jet fighter had no cockpit lighting. He managed to navigate and land the aircraft by periodically flicking a Zippo cigarette lighter and using the flame to read the instruments. 
     James Vicary created a controversy when he announced that he invented subliminal advertising at a Fort Lee, New Jersey movie theater and he was flashing messages between film frames telling people to buy Coke and popcorn. In 1962, he said he made the whole thing up. 
     Lawrence Joseph Bader, a cookware salesman from Akron, Ohio, disappeared on a fishing trip on Lake Erie in 1957. Eight years later he was found alive in Omaha, Nebraska, as a local TV personality, Fritz Johnson. 
     The horror film Texas Chainsaw Massacre was partially based on the real murderer Ed Gein. When Gein's house was searched by authorities in 1957, they found, among other things, a belt made from a human and a lampshade made from human skin 
     The chess world lost several prominent players in 1957. On January 5, 1957, Czech Champion Oldrich Duras died in Prague at the age of 74 on January 5th and on February 15th Harald Malmgren, the Swedish Correspondence Champion in 1942 died in Uppsula at the age of 52. On April 6, 1957, Nancy Roos, US Women’s Champion, died of cancer at the age of 52 in Los Angeles at the age of 52. Max Pavey passed away in New York at the age of 39 on September 4th. He won the Scottish Championship in 1939, was US Lightning Champion in 1947, New York State Champion in 1949 and Manhattan Chess Club Champion in 1952-53 and 1955-56. 
     Vasily Smyslov defeated Mikhail Botvinnik to become world champion thus ending Botvinnik's nine-year reign. Botvinnik regained his title in the rematch the following year. 
     In June, the World Junior championship was held in Toronto and won by William Lombardy with a perfect score. 
     Bobby Fischer won a typewriter for taking first in the US Junior Championship in San Francisco. He also won the US Junior Speed Championship. In August Fischer tied for 1st-2nd with Arthur Bisguier at the US Open in Cleveland. The tournament the TD, Georges Koltanowski, originally awarded the title, trophy and prize money to Bisguier based on incorrectly calculated tiebreaks. Later it was determined Fischer was actually the winner and at the age of 14. His rating was 2264. See my post on the SNAFU HERE
     In September, the first women's chess Olympiad was held in Emmen, Netherlands and was won by the USSR. 
     There was a time when a feature of the finals of the Soviet Championship was that a crop of new talent was discovered, adding to the already large number of Soviet GMs. 1956 was such a year with several talented young masters who had fought their way through the semi-finals to qualify. 
     Mikhail Tal was one of those players. For him 1956 was a year of great progress. Not yet a GM, his results and his play were showing signs of genius.
     The 23rd USSR Championship was held in Leningrad from January 10 through February 15, 1956. While not as strong at the previous championship it did feature the first appearance of Tal and Polugaevsky. They did well, but the tournament was a battle between Averbakh and Spassky. Taimanov made a hard charge by winning his last three games and so managed to catch them.

     Tal's opponent in  this game, Alexander Tolush, is barely known today, but a few years before this game Botvinnik described him as the one Master in the Soviet Union who above all others based his play on sound reasoning coupled with strong attacks and tricky tactics. Tal’s most potent weapon was his ability to orient himself in positions with head whirling complications. When these two met you could expect an exciting game!