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Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Brilliancy By Robert H. Steinmeyer

     Few readers will remember the name of Robert H. Steinmeyer (1927-1988, 61 years old), but from the 1940s through the 1970s he was Missouri’s best player.
     Born in St. Louis, Steinmeyer won the Missouri State Open Championship in 1942, shortly after his 15th birthday. Then shortly after turning 18, he dropped out of high school and enlisted in the Army and served the remaining years of WW II. While on leave from the Army he won the Missouri State Championship in 1946. After his discharge as a Private First Class, he entered Washington University and graduated in 1951. Steinmeyer lived all of his life in St. Louis where he worked for commercial barge lines. 
     In days gone by the St. Louis District Championship was a round robin to which the area’s strongest players [usually 8] were invited and it was played at the rate of one game per week. Steinmeyer won the championship ten times (1944, 1945,1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1953, 1960 and 1961).
     As one of the country's top rated players he was often invited to play in the US Championship, but only accepted the invitation to three (1962, 1963 and 1964). As a teenager he started playing postal chess with Chess Review and eventually became one of their top players on a par with Hans Berliner. 
     Steinmeyer, who was also an active Bridge player and a member of the St. Louis Opera Guild (a volunteer organization committed to the growth and success of opera), gave up chess sometime during the mid to late 1970s.
     At the 1944 US Open in Boston, Reshevsky scored 15.5-1.5 to finish a full three points ahead of his closest rival, Anthony Santasiere. It was in the final round that Reshevsky sat down with the intent of enjoying himself and went on a rampage in his famous game against Arnaldo Vasconcellos of the Brazilian Consulate in Montreal. In a brilliant display of fireworks, Reshevsky sacrificed three pieces and crushed his opponent with an overwhelming attack. 
     However, it was the 17-year old Steinmeyer who stole the show by tying for third with veteran E.S. Jackson, Jr. with 12-5 scores. What made Steimeyer's feat all the more remarkable was that although he was Champions of St. Louis this was his first time in a national event and his high place was impressive as he finished ahead of several seasoned players. He lost only two games; he put up a stiff fight against Reshevsky and he was also defeated by Roger Johnson, a strong master from Pennsylvania who at the time was a Sergeant in the US Army. 
     One of Steinmeyer's best games was his brilliant crush of Neil Bernstein (1916-1967, 51 years old). According to Chess Scotland historian and archivist Alan McGowan it's likely that Bernstein was the same person who was briefly a student in Scotland. 
     He went to Scotland in March of 1937 to study medicine at Edinburgh because at the time there were limited places for Jewish students in US medical schools. Bernstein played in the Scottish Championships of 1938 and 1939. The 1939 championship included two other American players, Louis Geronimus and Max Pavey; that year Pavey won the Scottish Championship. 
     In July of 1939, Bernstein returned to the United States and never went back to Scotland because of the outbreak of WWII. After the war he continued his medical studies at Middlesex University in Massachusetts. 
     The only additional information I could find on Bernstein was that in 1949 he was living in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn, New York. That year he participated in the US Open in Omaha, Nebraska where he finished with a score of 6.5-5.5 and tied for places 21-28 out of 70 players.

Robert Steinmeyer - Neil Bernstein

Result: 1-0

Site: US Open, Boston

Date: 1944.07.31

Alekhine's Defense
[...] 1.e4 ♘f6 2.e5 ♘d5 3.c4 ♘b6 4.b3 The idea of this rare bird is not so much to reinforce the c-Pawn as to hinder black's development. For example, if 4...d6 5.exd6 exd6 and black has difficulties developing his B on f8. 4...g6 5.♕f3 Interesting! The early Q move violates opening principles, but it's not without merit. For one thing it compels a defense to the immediate threat of 6.c5 after which the N would have no place to go. Secondly, the move makes room for Q-side castling. Here's an interesting anecdote: In his notes to this game I.A. Horowitz incorrectly stated that 5.Qf3 also has the elements of a wily trap. 5...e6 To prevent 6 6 P-B5, but now Black's K-side position is full of holes. To
5...c5 6.♗b2 ♗g7 7.e6 And wins according to Horowitz. Such superficial, even downright bad, notes were often the case in pre-engine days, especially in magazines. Actually, this position favors black...just consult any engine! 7...f6 8.exd7+ ♕xd7 9.♕e3 ♘a6 10.♘c3 O-O The position is even, but in the game Kocheev,A (2315)-Sviridov,V (2556)/Minsk 2019 black went on to win.
6.♘c3 is also good. 6...d6 7.♘e4 ♗g7 8.d4 h6 9.exd6 equals. Migliorini,M (2164) -Ventura Bolet,A (2080)/Lignano Sabbiadoro ITA 2017
6...♗g7 7.d4 ♘c6 8.♕e3 O-O 9.♘f3 d6 10.♘bd2 dxe5 11.dxe5 ♕e7 12.O-O-O ♘d7 This is perfectly good, but also worth considering was counterattacking with 12...a5 13.♘b1 After this black could have seized the initiative. White had two better moves.
13.♗d3 continuing with routine development. 13...b6 14.♖he1 ♗b7 with equal chances.
13.h4 This leads to some interesting play. 13...a5 14.h5 a4 15.♔b1 axb3 16.♘xb3 This is best.
16.axb3 ♖a5 17.hxg6 fxg6 18.♕g5 ♕xg5 19.♘xg5 ♖xf2 20.♖xh7 ♗xe5 21.♗xe5 ♖xe5 22.♘de4 and black is slightly better.
16...b6 17.hxg6 fxg6 18.♘g5 h6 19.♘f3 ♘c5 20.♘xc5 ♕xc5 21.♕e4 ♖a4 with complications. Shootouts in this interesting position resulted in white winning one game and drawing four.
13...a6 This is way too passive. Better was 13...a5
13...a5 This forces white to surrender a P because he cannot very well allow ...a4 14.♗d3
14.h4 a4 15.h5 axb3 16.axb3 ♕c5 17.♕xc5 ♘xc5 Black's position is preferable.
14...a4 15.♗c2 axb3 16.axb3 ♖a5 Here, too, the e-Pawn is a problem for white.
13...a5 14.♘c3 This is white's best response. After 14...♘cxe5 15.♘xe5 ♘xe5 16.♗e2 ♗d7 17.f4 ♘c6 18.♗f3 black has the advantage; in Shootouts Stockfish managed to convert the extra P into 5 wins in 5 games.
14.h4 ♘a7 This method of counterattack turns out to be way too slow.
14...♕c5 was more vigorous as after 15.♕e2 b5 16.h5 ♘cxe5 Black is better positioned for defense and counterattack if he gets the chance. Here is an interesting line... 17.♗d4 ♕e7 18.♕e4 ♘xf3 19.♗xg7 ♕g5+ 20.♔b2 ♔xg7 21.h6+ ♔g8 22.♕xa8 with an unbalanced position. In Shootouts using Stockfish the results were that white scored +2 -1 =2.
15.h5 Owing to black's loss of time in initiating Q-side counterplay this move results in white getting a killer attack. 15...b5 16.♘c3 b4 After this black has zero chances of obtaining any counterplay.
16...bxc4 and black gets thumped. The following lines are for illustrative purposes only and may not represent the absolute best moves. 17.♘e4 f5
17...cxb3 18.♖xd7 ♗xd7 19.♘f6+ ♗xf6 20.exf6 ♕d6 21.axb3 e5 22.♘xe5 ♕xf6 23.hxg6 fxg6 24.♘xd7 wins
18.exf6 ♘xf6 19.♘xf6+ ♗xf6 20.♗xf6 ♕xf6 21.♗xc4 ♕f4 22.♕xf4 ♖xf4 23.hxg6 hxg6 24.♘g5 ♖xf2 25.♘xe6 ♗xe6 26.♗xe6+ ♔g7 27.♖d7+ ♔f6 28.♖f7+ winning
16...♗b7 is relatively best. 17.hxg6 fxg6 18.♘e4 ♗xe4 19.♕xe4 ♖fd8 with a poor position, but at least he has some hope of surviving. In Shootouts white scored +2 -0 =3 wiht a couple being difficult endings.
17.♘e4 ♖d8 18.♕f4 ♕f8 AT this point black is reduced to marking time and there is little hope for a successful defense. 19.hxg6 fxg6 20.♘f6+ ♗xf6 21.exf6 e5
21...♗b7 is fruitless. 22.♖xh7 ♘xf6 (22...♔xh7 23.♘g5+ ♔h8 24.♕h4+ mates) 23.♖xd8 ♖xd8 24.♗xf6 wins
22.♘xe5 ♘xf6 23.♖xd8 ♕xd8 Steinmeyer now concludes the game with gusto. 24.♘xg6 ♘g4
24...hxg6 25.♗xf6 ♕d6 26.♖h8+ ♔f7 27.♖h7+ ♔e6 (27...♔g8 28.♖g7+ ♔f8 29.♗e5+) 28.♕g5 mates in 5. One line... 28...♘c6 29.♗h8 ♕d1+ 30.♔xd1 ♘e7 31.♕xe7+ ♔f5 32.♖f7+ ♔g4 33.♗e2#
25.♖xh7 Nice! 25...♔xh7 26.♕f7+ ♔h6 27.♗g7+ (27.♕g7+ ♔g5 28.♘e5+ ♔f4 29.g3+ ♔e4 30.♗g2+ ♔f5 31.♕g6#) 27...♔g5 28.f4+ (28.♘f4 ♕d1+ 29.♔xd1 ♘xf2+ 30.♔e2 ♗g4+ 31.♔xf2 ♖f8 32.♕g6+ ♔xf4 33.g3#) 28...♔h5 29.g3 ♘h6 30.♘e5+ ♘xf7 31.♗e2+ Black resigned. (31.♗e2+ ♗g4 32.♗xg4#)
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  1. At age 30, Robert Steinmeyer won the 1957 Ohio Championship when he resided in Cincinnati. He scored 6.5 in the 7-round Swiss event, held in the Seneca Hotel in Columbus, and directed by James Schroeder. Ross Sprague of Cleveland was second with 6.0 and Ervin Underwood of Columbus was third with 5.0. The event drew 40 players.