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Thursday, December 2, 2021

Henry Gross. a Later California Master

Henry Gross
     Way back in 1928 Henry Gross (1907 - 1987), a lawyer by profession, tied for first with A.J. Fink in the California State Championship, but lost the single game playoff. He won the championship in 1952 and the next year finished second behind Herman Steiner. 
     Because of his tie for first in the state championship, as a college senior in 1929, Gross was appointed the freshman coach of the University of California Chess Club; he was already making a name for himself in the California chess world at the age of 20. 
     Gross was from San Francisco and played at the famous Mechanics' Institute, but after passing the bar exam he got married, started a family and gave up chess for a period of ten years or so. After his divorce he married a woman who was bridge player and she had no objections to Gross' hanging out at the chess club, which in many cases also happened to be where the bridge club met. 
     When WWII ended Gross returned to the game and helped form the Golden Gate Chess Club in San Francisco. As one of the California State Chess Federation's first presidents Gross was an active supporter of chess organizations in California and he personally donated $1,000 (over $9,000 today) to help finance the 1961 US Open that was held in San Francisco. 
     The Pan-American tournament in Hollywood in 1954 was an exciting event with the lead changing hands from round to round. At the end of four rounds, Bisguier, Evans, Steiner and Rossolimo were tied at 4-0. In the fifth round Rossolimo took the lead. 
     After tenth round it was a tie at 8-2 between Bisguier, Evans, Rossolimo and Pomar who had steadily been climbing. Round 11 saw Evans and Pomar tied at 9-2, but both of them lost ground in the last three rounds and in the end it was Arthur Bisguier who prevailed.

     There was also a Rapid Transit event that was won by Larry Evans, with a 19-2 score. He lost one game to second place finisher Louis Spinner who scored 18.5. Sherwin was third with 18.0.
     On the June 1954 USCF rating list Henry Gross was a Master with a 2314 rating. In those days the classifications were Grandmaster (rated over 2700) of which there was only one: Samuel Reshevsky. Senior Master (2500-2699). They were: Donald Byrne, Robert Byrne, Arnold Denker, George Kramer and Nicolas Rossolimo.
     There were 36 Masters (2300-2499) on the list. Experts (2200-2199) were also rated separately form the Class players. In 
     the following game Gross defeated Saul Yarmak (born Dec 18, 1933) who won the US Junior Championship in 1953. The following year, 1954, Yarmak, by then a US Army Private, tied for 3rd-4th in the US Junior Championship. 
Saul Yarmak

     Arthur Bisguier didn't like Yarmak. In The Art of Bisguier, Vol. 1, he wrote that when they met in the 1954 Pan-Am, Yarmak showed neither Bisguier, who was the reigning US Champion, nor the other strong masters any respect. Bisguier called him an “egomaniac" and a "braggart who liked to criticize other players.” As a result, Bisguier offered Yarmak a side bet at 20 to 1 with draw odds that he (Bisguier) would win. Bisguier, playing Black, made good on his bet and won in 27 moves. Yarmak was rated an Expert at 2176 at the time.

Henry Gross - Saul Yarmak

Result: 1-0

Site: Hollywood, CA USA

Date: 1954

Pirc Defense

[...] 1.e4 d6 The Pirc Defense (pronounced Peerts) is characterized by 1...d6 and 2...Nf6, followed by ...g6 and ...Bg7, while allowing white to establish a P-center, usually with Ps on d4 and e4. It differs from the Modern Defense (aka the Robatsch Defense) primarily in that in the Modern black delays developing his N to f6. The delay in attacking white's P on e4 gives white the option of blunting the g7 Bishop with c2–c3. There are numerous transpositional possibilities between the two. 2.f4 Rare and also inferior to the usual 2.d4 which statistically gives white far better chances. 2...♘f6 3.e5 This gives the game a Alekhine Defense-like flavor. It's not bad, but far more usual is 3.Nc3 3...dxe5
3...♗g4 4.♗e2 ♗xe2 5.♕xe2 ♘fd7 6.♘f3 e6 7.d4 and white is slightly better. Fier,A (2490)-Crosa,M (2386) Sao Paulo 2006
3...♘fd7 4.♘f3 c5 5.c3 dxe5 6.fxe5 ♘c6 7.e6 fxe6 Oltean,D (2361)-Nita,L (2206) Olanesti ROM 2013. In this unbalanced position the chances are about equal.
4.fxe5 ♗g4 This move turns out to be to black's disadvantage.
4...♘d5 results in equality. 5.♘f3 c5 6.♗b5+ ♗d7 7.♗xd7+ ♕xd7 with equal chances. Mellado Trivino,J (2460)-Hamed,A (2320) Tanta City EGY 1998.
5.♗e2 ♗xe2 6.♕xe2 ♘d5 7.d4 e6 8.♘f3 c5 9.O-O ♗e7 10.c4 ♘b6 The N is not especially well placed here.
10...♘b4 is an interesting alternative. 11.a3 ♘4c6 12.d5 exd5 13.cxd5 ♕xd5 14.♘c3 ♘d4 15.♘xd4 ♕xd4+ 16.♗e3 ♕xe5 with an equal position.
11.dxc5 ♗xc5+ 12.♔h1 O-O 13.♘c3 and white stands well owing to his spatial advantage, Q-side P-majority and open files for his Rs.
11...♘c6 12.dxc5 ♘d7 13.♘c3 Black faces an interesting problem. Which P should he take? 13...♘dxe5 Not this one! The e-Pawn, being a center P, seems logical, but there is a fly in the ointment as Gross will demonstrate.
13...♗xc5 is correct. Then after 14.♗xc5 ♘xc5 15.♘b5 O-O 16.♘d6 ♕b6 17.♔h1 White can only claim a minimal advantage. Black's plan will be to undermine the N by playing ...f6 at some point.
14.♖ad1 ♕a5 15.♘xe5 ♘xe5 16.♗d4 ♘c6 17.♗xg7 This move exposes the fly! 17...♕xc5+
17...♖g8 This was best, but even so, black is practically lost here, too. 18.♗f6 ♗xf6 19.♕f2 ♖g7 20.♕xf6 ♕xc5+ 21.♖f2 ♕e5 22.♘e4 ♕xf6 23.♘xf6+ ♔f8 24.♖d7 White has a dominating position.
18.♔h1 There is no way to avoid white's strong threat of Ne4. 18...♖g8 19.♘e4 ♕a5 20.♗c3 Black is now completely lost as the Q has no place to go. 20...♕c7 21.♖xf7 Qh5 would kill now.
21.♕h5 also packs a strong punch. 21...♖g6 22.♖xf7 ♖d8 (22...♔xf7 23.♕xh7+ ♔f8 24.♕xg6 mates in 6) 23.♖df1 ♔d7 24.♕xh7 and wins
21...♖d8 (21...♔xf7 22.♕h5+ ♖g6 23.♕xh7+ ♔f8 24.♕xg6) 22.♖df1 Aiming for Nf6+. 22...♔d7 23.♘f6+ ♔c8 24.♘xg8 ♖xg8 25.♕xe6+ ♕d7 26.♕xd7+ ♔xd7 27.♖xh7 ♔d6 28.b4 ♖g4 29.b5 Black resigned.
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