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Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Returning to Cleveland 1975

     Back in March of last year I gave a game played in the obscure 1975 Cleveland (Ohio) Plain Dealer International and today we will revisit the tournament and take a look at one of GM Andrew Soltis' wins. 
     US Chess Hall of Famer Andrew Soltis (born May 28, 1947) is well known as a Grandmaster, author and columnist. He was inducted into the United States Chess Hall of Fame in 2011. 
     Soltis, who grew up in Queens, New York, learned how the chess pieces move at the age of ten when he discovered beginner's book in the a Queens public library. He took no interest in the game until he was 14 when he joined a local chess club and later the Marshall Chess Club. His first tournament was the 1961 New York City Junior Championship. 
     By 1970, he was good enough to man second board on the gold-medal winning US team in the 17th World Student Team Championship and tied for the best overall score. In 1972 he won the annual international tournament at Reggio Emilia, Italy and became an IM in 1974. His first-place finishes in New York international tournaments in 1977 and 1980 resulted in his being awarded the GM title in 1980. 
     Soltis won the Marshall Chess Club championship a record nine times (1967, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1974, 1977, 1979, 1986, and 1989) and played in four US Championships (1974, 1977, 1978 and 1983). He tied for first in the 1977 and 1982 US Open Championships. 
     I once heard it said that Soltis was not deserving of his GM title and that he somehow got it because of political machinations within the FIDE. However, on the 1980 FIDE rating list Soltis' rating was 2440. That put him in a class with the following GMs: Arthur Bisguier (2455), Liuben Spassov (2450), Laszlo Barczay (2450), Krunoslav Hulak (2450), Levente Lengyel (2450), Orestes Rodriguez (2445), Karl Robatsch (2440),Yair Kraidman (2440), Bozidar Ivanovic (2440), Dragoljub Janosevic (2440), Istvan Bilek (2440), Albin Planinc (2435) and Erich Eliskases (2435). He deserved the title! 
     Aside from his journalistic work, Soltis has been a prolific writer having authored or coauthored more than 100 books and opening monographs on chess. Unfortunately his writings have been criticized for his lax attitude about providing sources on historical and other factual matters. 
     The Plain Dealer Invitational Tournament was held in Cleveland, Ohio, May 1-22, 1975 at Fribley Commons on the Case Western Reserve University Campus. The site was a modern, but unused, dormitory which had special lighting installed in the playing hall. The conditions in the playing hall were good, as were the accommodations for the spectators. 
     If anybody remembers anything about the tournament it was Bernard Zuckerman throwing a Bishop at a noisy spectator. I witnessed the incident and it was rather amusing. The spectator kept yapping away to nobody in particular even after Zuckerman shushed him a couple of times. Finally, in exasperation Zuckerman tossed, not threw, a B at the guy who then refused to return it causing the TD to have to go get another one. 
     From March 29 through April 6, the USCF held two Futurity-Qualifying tournaments to determine the invitees to Cleveland. The Eastern Qualifier was the Goldwater- Marshall Invitational at the Marshall Chess Club in New York City; it was won by Julio Kaplan with Bernard Zuckerman finishing second. 
     The Western Qualifier was held at Lina Grumette's Hollywood club, The Chess Set and it was won by James Tarjan with Tibor Weinberger finishing second. The other participants were all invitees. 
     I remember NM James Schroeder complaining that Weinberger's inclusion was a farce because the 43-year old Weinberger was too old to be a "hope" and he was not a "promising" player. It also seems some of the players who were hoping for title norms were not happy with Weinberger's inclusion either and wanted the tournament reduced from 16 to 15 players. The reason was that one of the main purposes was to gain titles for American players and because Weinberger lacked an FIDE rating he was rated at 2200 for this tournament. That had the effect of lowering the "Category" ranking and thus increasing the score necessary to gain a title norm. 
     In this tournament Senior Master Norman Weinstein fulfilled his third IM norm and it was the debut of the 1974 US Junior Co-Champion Larry Christiansen who showed himself to be a worthy opponent. I remember overhearing Soltis asking how old Christensen was (18 or 19, I think) and commenting about how impressive his play was. 
     It was originally expected that GM Borislav Ivkov of Yugoslavia and GM Lajos Portisch of Hungary would be playing, but unfortunately they could not make it. In those days most international tournaments were scheduled for play to be from 3:30 PM to 8:30 PM, but this one was changed to conform with the publishing schedules of The Plain Dealer newspaper; instead, the playing hours were 6 PM to 11 PM. Thus, the players had a practical problem of not having any place to eat after the tournament because the restaurant in their hotel as well as all those nearby were closed by 11 PM. That explains why I remember seeing Zuckerman "enjoying" a TV dinner before the start of one of the rounds! 
     One reason the tournament didn't get a lot of publicity was because of the sponsor. Because the main sponsor was the Plain Dealer newspaper, the rest of the Cleveland news media, radio and TV stations would not report on it; evidently they didn't want to give free publicity to a competitor. 
     The TD was George Koltanowski, but oddly, I have absolutely no recollection of ever having seen him at the tournament! You think I would remember seeing such a famous personality. Kotltanowski was assisted by William Lukowiak, President of the Massachusetts Chess Association. 
     The foreign players all had fighting styles which met the US players in search of title norms would have to go all out to reach the magic 10 points for an GM norm and even 7.5 for an IM norm. 
     The highest rated player and pre-tournament favorite was Romanian GM Florin Gheorghiu, who had been having an outstanding year, but he took his sixth round loss to Edmar Mednis badly and became hardly recognizable. Hungary was represented by GM Istvan Csom who took the lead and kept it all the way. Yugoslav IM Predrag Ostojic had made his second GM norm just before Cleveland at Vrnjaeka Banja in 1975 and was hoping for his third at Cleveland, but didn't get it. 
     Soltis was somewhat of a surprise as the top American finisher. USCF Senior Master Norman Weinstein played to score the required 7.5 for his IM title and that explains his high number of draws (13 out of 15 games!). After eight rounds IM Bernard Zuckerman was tied for last place with 2 points, but then he came alive and scored 5.5-1.5. Christiansen defeated two GMs in good games and missed the IM norm by only a half-point. 
     IMs James Tarjan and Julio Kaplan were disappointing. Tarjan had a disastrous start, scoring one point out of six games even losing all four of his games with white, but he fought back and finished with a respectable score. At one point Kaplan was plus 2, but couldn't keep up the pace. 
     Former Soviet player Leonid Shamkovich, at age 52, got off to an excellent start, but tired at the end. Shamkovich arrived in Cleveland without his luggage. In Los Angeles at the security check-in his suitcase was taken to go through the x-ray machine. Thinking this was part of the check-in procedure, he boarded the plane without it. It took almost four days to track it down and return it to him.
     Canadian Champion IM Peter Biyiasas turned out to be seriously handicapped by his lack of opening knowledge. Last place finisher Weinberger admitted that he was insufficiently prepared both theoretically and psychologically. 
     Here is an exciting game by Soltis against Argentina's Miquel Quinteros. As Soltis explained in Confessions of a Chess Grandmaster: "What happened in this game is that Quinteros has been repeatedly victimized by his own Achilles heel, an impractibility that often leads him to grab pawns he shouldn't and defend positions without a sense of danger."

Andrew Soltis - Miguel Quinteros

Result: 1-0

Site:Plain Dealer International, Cleveland, Ohio

Date: 1975.05

Sicilian Scheveningen

[...] 1.e4 c5 2.♘f3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.♘xd4 ♘f6 5.♘c3 a6 6.a4 Soltis thought for about 10 minutes before deciding on this seldom seen mover that was introduced by Alexander Beliavsky. The move prevents ...b5 and waits to see how black will proceed. 6...e6 Black could also play 6...e5 or 6... g6 entering a Dragon, but neither of these are lines Quinteros plays; instead he enters into a Scheveningen. 7.♗e2 ♗e7 8.f4 ♕c7 9.O-O ♘c6 10.♗e3 ♗d7 11.♕e1 O-O 12.♕g3 ♖ab8 This was a novelty, but it really doesn't accomplish much.
12...d5 13.e5 ♘e4 14.♘xe4 dxe4 15.c4 b6 16.♘xc6 ♕xc6 resulted in a quick draw in Lutz,C (2580)-Hulak,K (2530)/Wijk aan Zee 1995
12...♖fd8 13.♔h1 ♗f8 14.f5 ♘xd4 15.♗xd4 e5 with equal chances. Corrales Jimenez,F (2542)-Isakov,M (2163)/Sturbridge USA 2018
13.♔h1 ♔h8
13...♘xd4 14.♗xd4 ♗c6 15.♗d3 b5 16.axb5 axb5 17.e5 and white is better. Pierrot,F (2330) -Moreno Carnero,J (2220)/Buenos Aires Najdorf 1994
14.♗f3 g6 This only results in a serious weakening of his K-side. Quinteros hopes to play ...e5 without allowing white's N to occupy f5.
14...e5 This is still his best chance. After 15.♘f5 ♗xf5 16.exf5 ♕a5 (16...♕d7 17.♕h3 white has a dangerous attack.) 17.♕h3 ♘d4 with equal chances.
15.♘xc6 bxc6 Capturing with B eliminates any hope he had of play along the b-file. Also, after 15...Bxc6 16.Bd4 leaves black with an annoying pin on his N. 16.e5 Aggressive play. 16...♘e8 Instead of retreating, black should have advanced!
16...♘d5 17.♗d4 f6 Excellent! In the complications both sides have chances.
17.♘e4 Soltis plays aggressively and does not care about the b-Pawn. 17...d5
17...♖xb2 is a loser. 18.exd6 ♘xd6 19.♗d4 f6 20.♗xb2 with a won game.
18.♘g5 As far as I know this move has never been questioned, but it should have given the advantage to black...theoretically, that is.
18.♘c5 Is technically better. Then if 18...♖xb2 (18...♗xc5 19.♗xc5 ♖g8 20.b3 black is in a difficult bind.) 19.♕f2 white can't afford to yield another P. 19...♗c8 20.♗d4 ♖b8 21.h3 ♘g7 22.g4 and black's best try is probably to close the position with 22...f5 and try to hold on as white's advantage is minimal. 22...f5 23.exf6 ♗xf6
18...♖xb2 The move 18...h6 leads to a position that is very hard to judge (and play)!
18...h6 Forcing white to retreat to the passive square h3 or else sacrifice the N. 19.♘xf7 ♖xf7 20.♕xg6 ♖g7 21.♕xh6 ♖h7 22.♕g6 ♘g7 This is not a position that is likely to appeal to a human, but in Shootouts Stockfish scored 4 wins and a draw for black.
19.♕h4 ♗xg5 20.♕xg5 Theoretically the position is judged equal by the engines, but a human GM will take note of the weak datk squares around black's K and try to take advantage of it. 20...♘g7 21.♗c5 ♖e8 22.♗e7 This is a real slip that should have allowed black to equalize. Correct was 22.Dd1 (he can't afford to give up the c-Pawn) and then play Bd4. However, black would still have reasonable hopes of defending himself. 22...♔g8 weakening the position
22...♘f5 23.♗a3 This is best.
23.♗f6 ♔g8 24.♗e2 (24.g4 h6 and the Q is trapped.) 24...♖xc2 25.♗d3 h6 26.♕g4 ♖c3 27.♗xf5 exf5 28.♕h4 h5 29.♕g5 ♔h7 30.e6 wins
23...♖xc2 24.g4 ♘e3 25.♗e7 ♖xe7 Necessary now that the N is not available to guard g7. 26.♕xe7 ♔g7 (26...♘xf1 27.♕f8#) 27.♖ac1 ♖xc1 28.♖xc1 with equal chances.
23.♗f6 ♖eb8 Soltis was correct in stating that the only move that offers black any chances at all is 23...Nf5.
23...♘f5 24.♗e2 ♖xc2 25.♗d3 h6 26.♕g4 and white has a decisive attacking formation.
24.♗g4 To prevent ...Nf5
24.♖a3 was much better. 24...♘f5 25.♗d1 followed by g4 with a crushing attack as the R will join in.
24...♘e8 25.♗e7 This should have allowed black to defend himself. 25...♕c8 Quinteros hopes to get his Q to the defense, but it's not possible.
25...♗c8 was the move that equalizes. 26.♖a3 ♖8b7 27.♗d8
27.♗f6 ♖b1 28.♗e2 ♖xf1 29.♗xf1 ♘xf6 30.exf6 ♕d6 and black is better as there is no good way for white to continue his attack.
27...♕d7 Stockfish 12: 28.♖g1 ♖b1 29.♗d1 c5 30.a5 d4 31.♖h3 ♕a4 32.♗f6 ♖xd1 33.♖xd1 ♕xc2 34.♖g1 ♖b2 35.♖xh7 ♘xf6 36.♖h8 ♔xh8 37.♕xf6 ♔g8 38.♕d8 ♔g7 39.♕f6
26.♖a3±26...♖b1? (26...♘g7 27.♖h3 ♖b1+⁠−) 27.♗d1+⁠−27...a5?? shortens the misery for Black (27...♘g7 28.g4 c5+⁠−) 28.♕h6 ♘g7 29.♖h3
29.♖h3 f6 30.exf6 ♕f8 31.♗xf8 ♘f5 32.♕xh7 ♔xf8 33.♕xd7 ♘g3 34.hxg3 d4 35.♖h8#
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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Let's Talk About the de la Bourdonnais vs. McDonnell Matches

     At the time all the world, at least all the chess world, knew about the encounters of de la Bourdonnais and McDonnell. In 1834 the two hammered away at each other in a series of six (!) matches that confirmed that de la Bourdonnais was the leading player in the world. There wasn't any such thing as a World Champion at that time, but unofficially it had to be de la Bourdonnais. 
     de la Bourdonnais was considered the world's leading player from 1821, when he surpassed his mentor Alexandre Deschapelles. In 1823 La Bourdonnais defeated William Lewis, Britain's leading player, in a match in London, and in the spring of 1825 he played and defeated the best players that England had to offer. Nine years later he returned to London when a challenge was issued on McDonnell's behalf. 
     Between June and October 1834 the two played a series of six matches, a total of eighty-five games, at the Westminster Chess Club in London. Play generally began around noon, some of the games taking more than seven hours to complete. 
     After each game, McDonnell would return to his room exhausted, where he would spend hours pacing back and forth in a state of nervous agitation. Meanwhile, de la Bourdonnais would be downstairs regaling himself at the chessboard where he would continue to play till long after midnight, smoking cigars, drinking punch and gambling. 
     The two were evenly matched in their abilities, but wildly contrasted in their styles of play. de la Bourdonnais was known for the rapidity of his play, often replying to his opponent's moves within seconds, whereas the McDonnell sometimes took as many as two hours to make a single move. But despite his deliberation, McDonnell was a reckless player whereas de la Bourdonnais was always cautious. McDonnell's penchant for wild and often ill-considered attacks told against him during their matches. 
     The personalities of the two men were also different. de la Bourdonnais was an ebullient and garrulous individual. When winning, he grew talkative and affable; but when things went against him, he "swore tolerably round oaths in a pretty audible voice." McDonnell was taciturn and imperturbable. Winning or losing, he showed little emotion which seemed to unnerved his opponent. 
     In the first match of the series McDonnell's lack of big-match experience told against him and he was heavily defeated by sixteen games to five, with four draws (+5 -16 =4). But he quickly recovered from this setback and went on to win the second match by five games to four (+5 -4). 
     Although the title of World Chess Champion was not created until 1886 (with Wilhelm Steinitz as the first champion), the world's leading players from earlier times are recognized today as unofficial world champions. La Bourdonnais is usually regarded as the champion from 1821 until his death in 1840. 
     It was about 1824 that Deschapelles retired and declared de la Bourdonnais his successor. Shortly afterwards, he traveled to England and took on the best the country had, but nobody could defeat him. 
     He paid his next visit to England in 1834, and most of the players he had met ten years earlier were gone or retired. The only possible challenger was Alexander McDonnell who was giving his opponents at the Westminster Chess Society the odds of at least a Pawn. 
     On the arrival of de la Bourdonnais everyone was anxious to see the two play a match. McDonnelI declared himself ready to play upon any terms and in any manner. And so a match Of twenty-one games (draws not counting) was arranged. 
     It is amusing to note that no care was taken to prevent spectators from pressing closely around the players. During the first games played McDonneIl especially suffered from the inconsiderate crowding around of spectators; for his part, de la Bourdonnais was comparatively indifferent. 
     How bad was the problem with spectators? Early in the match at one point when the two players were engaged in one of their most trying positions a spectator walked in and first shook hands with both of them and then leaned over, rested his hands between the pieces and surveyed the position and began asking questions. "Is this your first game today?" "The Rook seems in the devil's own mess." Unbelievably, neither player seemed too upset! 
     The final match was abandoned in obscure circumstances, but apparently de la Bourdonnais was forced to return to France to deal with his creditors. McDonnell was leading 5-4 at the time. It seems the players had a loose agreement to continue the match at a later date. but that never happened. 
     As for the games, while there were some instances of brilliance, Harry Golombek found them to generally be of low quality especially the endgame technique. In one game McDonnell had an endgame with a R+2Ps vs. a R and did not know how to win. To make matters worse, he blundered away his R and lost the game! 
     de la Bourdonnais was not as bad as McDonnell in the endgame but he was weak in the opening. There were relatively few draws, but this was partly due to McDonnell's inaccurate defense which caused him to lose games instead of draw them. 
     In the end, de la Bourdonnais was clearly the better player. He was a professional with greater knowledge and experience while McDonnell was a gifted amateur who had not encountered first class opposition. 
     One positive outcome of their match was similar to what happened over a hundred years later when Fischer met Spassky in 1972 and the result was the Fischer Boom where more and more people began to follow and study the game, they began visiting chess clubs and new stars appeared. 
     While Golombek was probably right about the overall quality of play, the following game is quite interesting and it has a few unexpected twists and turns. They may have played using a set like THIS one. 

Alexander McDonnell - Louis de la Bourdonnais

Result: 0-1

Site: Match, London

Date: 1834

Sicilian: Lowenthal Variation

[...] 1.e4 c5 2.♘f3 ♘c6 3.d4 cxd4 4.♘xd4 e5 5.♘xc6 This move is almost never seen today, the modern masters preferring 5... Nb5 5...bxc6 6.♗c4 ♘f6 7.♗g5 ♗e7
7...♕a5 8.♗d2 ♕b6 9.O-O ♗e7 10.♗c3 d6 11.♕d3 O-O is completely equal. Prol Medeiros,H (2006)-Silva,L/Niteroi BRA 2019
8.♕e2 White has tried a number of moves here, all leading to equality.
8.♗xf6 ♗xf6 9.♕d6 ♕e7 10.♕xe7 ♔xe7 Schroeder,M (1452)-Clausen,D (1287)/ Dortmund 2006
8.♘c3 O-O 9.O-O h6 10.♗e3 ♗b7 11.♕f3 Schneider,A (2380) -Sieben,F/Kassel 1994
8.♕d3 O-O 9.♘c3 h6 10.♗h4 d6 11.O-O Oleniak,W (1882)-Graf,P (2127)/Police 2009
8...d5 So far the opening has been strikingly modern, but white's next move, an unprovoked parting with the two Bs is a poor idea. Better was 9.exd5 cxd5 10.Bb3 with equality. 9.♗xf6 ♗xf6 10.♗b3 O-O 11.O-O Black has to be considered better he because he has a strong center and the two Bs. 11...a5 12.exd5 Yeilding the center is not a good idea. Better was 12.Rd1 and 13.Bc4 12...cxd5 13.♖d1 d4 14.c4 Simply horrible as it fails to challenge black's center. Bringing his N to e4 was a reasonable idea. However, thanks to imprecise play by black later on, this P will pose a serious threat. 14...♕b6 15.♗c2 ♗b7 16.♘d2 ♖ae8 17.♘e4 ♗d8 18.c5 ♕c6 19.f3 ♗e7 20.♖ac1 f5 According to Stockfish this logical advance only results in white getting the chance to equalize. Black could have offered up a P for excellent chances with 20...Qh6, but that's a move that only an engine is likely to find!
20...♕h6 21.♕b5 ♗a6 22.♕xa5 ♗e2 23.♕d2 (23.♖e1 d3 is good for black.) 23...♗xd1 24.♕xh6 gxh6 25.♖xd1 and supposedly black stands well here, but this is not likely to be a position that would appeal to a human. In Shootouts black scored +3 0 =2 with white holding on for the draw at the higher plies (19 ans 21).
21.♕c4 ♔h8 22.♗a4
22.♘d6 This must be considered somewhat better. After 22...♗xd6 23.♗a4 ♕xc5 24.♕xc5 ♗xc5 25.♗xe8 ♗b6 (25...♖xe8 loses after 26.♖xc5 and a P is lost.) 26.♗a4 and black is only marginally better.
22...♕h6 23.♗xe8 An interesting position that contains a drop of poison! 23...fxe4 Alert play.
23...♖xe8 This careless move loses after 24.♘d6 ♗xd6 25.♕b5 ♖f8 26.♕xb7 and black can't save his B.
24.c6 exf3 25.♖c2 Another action packed position!The only way for black to sustain the advantage is to sacrifice his light squared B! 25...♕e3 ruins a very nice position
25...♗a6 26.♕xa6 e4 The onslaught of Ps wins for black. 27.♕b5 (27.gxf3 d3 28.♖g2 exf3 29.♖g3 ♗d6 also wins) 27...d3 28.♖f2 e3 29.♖xf3 e2 30.♖xf8 ♗xf8 31.♕xd3 ♗c5 32.♔h1 ♕e3 The winning move in a problem like position.
26.♔h1 Moving the K out of check seems right, but in this case it is wrong!
26.♖f2 Saves the game, but it takes some fancy footwork by both sides. To wit... 26...♗a6 27.♕xa6 ♗c5 28.♕f1 d3 29.♖xd3 ♕g5 30.♔h1 ♗xf2 31.♖xf3 ♖xf3 32.gxf3 ♗b6 With a likely draw.
26...♗c8 27.♗d7 f2 28.♖f1 d3 29.♖c3
29.♗xc8 was not any better as after 29...dxc2 30.♗a6 ♕c5 31.♕xc5 ♗xc5 32.♗d3 e4 33.♗xc2 e3 34.♗d3 ♗b6 black wins after ...Rd8
29...♗xd7 30.cxd7
30.♖xd3 is met by 30...♗e6 31.♕c2 ♕c5 32.♖d2 ♕xc2 33.♖xc2 ♗h4 34.c7 (34.g3 ♗d5#) 34...♔g8 and black is winning the ending
30...e4 31.♕c8 ♗d8 32.♕c4 ♕e1 The finish is a nice one. 33.♖c1 d2 34.♕c5
34.♖fxe1 leads to mate in three. 34...fxe1=♕ 35.♖xe1 dxe1=♕ mate next move.
34...♖g8 35.♖d1
Inferior is 35.♖fxe1 dxe1=♕ 36.♖xe1 fxe1=♕ 37.♕g1 ♕xg1 38.♔xg1 ♖f8 39.g3 e3 40.g4 e2 41.g5 e1=♕ 42.♔g2 ♕e2 43.♔h3 ♕f3 44.♔h4 ♖f4#
35...e3 36.♕c3 ♕xd1 37.♖xd1 e2 McDonnell resigned. (37...e2 38.h4 exd1=♕ 39.♔h2 f1=♕ 40.♕b4 ♗c7 41.♕f4 ♕xf4 42.g3 ♕xg3#)
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