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Friday, August 5, 2022

Obscure Game, Bizarre Finale

     Back in 1948 the U.S. presidential election was a close one; Harry Truman and Thomas E. Dewey were neck and neck in the polls. Newspaper headlines such as appeared in the New York Times read Dewey Defeats Truman, but the day after the election, Truman pulled out an upset victory. 
     In the Smith–Mundt Act of 1948, the Voice of America was forbidden to broadcast directly to American citizens. VOA is a government owned radio broadcaster that produces digital, TV, and radio content in 48 languages and distributes it to affiliate stations around the world. 
     The intent of the legislation was to protect the public from propaganda being put out by its own government! Congress had serious reservations about letting the State Department broadcast VOA radio programs to the American public because some characterized the State Department as "chock full of Reds" and "the lousiest outfit in town." One state representative from New York called for a house cleaning in the Department to "keep only those people whose first loyalty is to the United States". Even the FBI (i.e. J. Edgar Hoover) had concerns. 
     As late as 1998 the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled the act exempts VOA from releasing transcripts in response to a Freedom of Information Act! 
     Another interesting fact about radio broadcasts in 1948: it was estimated that crooner Bing Crosby's recordings filled more than half of the radio time allocated to recorded music! I will spare readers from having to listen to one of his songs, but if you're interested just go to YouTube HERE.
     The big chess news in 1948 was Mikhail Botvinnik winning The Hague/Moscow match-tournament to become world champion. Botvinnik won by a 3 point margin and had a plus score against all his rivals. It's quite possible that Stalin had given orders for Keres and Smyslov to lose to Botvinnik. 
     David Bronstein won the first Interzonal at Saltjobaden and went on to tie Botvinnik in their 1951 match. Many are unaware of the fact that the second place finisher, Laszlo Szabo of Hungary, missed tying with Bronstein because he lost one game...to the last place finisher Eric Lundin of Sweden; it was Lundin's only win!
    Amid all the big goings on there was an obscure tournament held in Baarn, a small town in the Netherlands near Hilversum. I was unable to uncover any information on the event, but because the one game from the tournament that I ran across listed it as having been played in the Baarn Major, I assume it was either an open event or there were other side tournaments and this was the main one. 
     Although the tournament results have passed into obscurity, one game survived. It was the Brilliancy Prize game won by Paul De Vos (March 10, 1911 - June 14, 1981) that featured a fantastic and bizarre final position. De Vos was was Belgian Champion seven times: 1933, 1936, 1937, 1940, 1941, 1945 and 1948.
     His opponent was Baruch H. Wood (July 13, 1909 - April 4, 1989), an English player, editor and author. In 1935, he founded the magazine CHESS, which became one of the two leading chess magazines in Great Britain. From 1946 to 1951 he was a president of the ICCA, a forerunner organization of the ICCF. He was also a FIDE Judge and an International Arbiter. 
A game that I liked (Komodo 14)
[Event "Baarn Major"] [Site "?"] [Date "1948.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Baruch H. Wood"] [Black "Paul De Vos"] [Result "0-1"] [Annotator "Stockfish 15"] [PlyCount "54"] [EventDate "1948.??.??"] [SourceVersion "1"] [SourceVersionDate "2022.08.05"] [SourceQuality "1"] {Nimzo-Indian} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 d5 {This is the Noa Variation.} 5. a3 {The main line is 5.cxd5 after which black can play either 5. ..Qxd5 or 5...exd5} Bxc3+ 6. Qxc3 Ne4 {This N is destined to play a major role in the game's outcome.} 7. Qc2 c5 8. dxc5 Nc6 {It's too soon to tell, but this N will deliver the final blow.} 9. cxd5 exd5 10. Nf3 Bf5 11. b4 O-O 12. Bb2 d4 {This is the only example of this move that I could locate...probably with good reason...it's very speculative.} (12... Re8 {remains equal.} 13. Rd1 b6 14. e3 bxc5 15. Bb5 Qb6 16. Qa4 Rac8 17. Rxd5 Be6 18. Bxc6 Qxc6 19. Qxc6 Rxc6 { is equal. Ivanchuk,V (2717)-Topalov,V (2718) Monte Carlo 2001}) 13. Qc4 (13. g4 {A Stockfish recommendation that's not likely to occur to a human.} Bg6 14. Qc4 Re8 15. Bg2 (15. Nxd4 {is premature.} Qh4 {attacking f2 and obtaining a winning position.} 16. O-O-O Qg5+ 17. e3 Nxf2) 15... h5 16. O-O {This looks dangerous, but there is no way for black to exploit the position of white's K.} (16. Nxd4 {is still too soon.} Ne5 17. Qb3 Nxg4 18. Bxe4 Rxe4 {While the position is evaluated as being equal, most players would prefer black.}) 16... hxg4 17. Nxd4 Ne5 18. Qb3 {White is a solid P up.}) 13... Re8 {Black's d-Pawn is still immune from capture, a fact that Wood was unaware of!} 14. Nxd4 { [%mdl 8192]} (14. Bxd4 a5 15. e3 axb4 16. Be2 (16. axb4 Nxd4 {wins material.}) 16... Bg4 17. h3 Bxf3 18. gxf3 Nxd4 19. fxe4 (19. exd4 Nc3 {wins}) 19... Nxe2 20. Kxe2 bxa3 {and black stands well.}) (14. Rd1 {is the correct move.} Bg4 15. Bxd4 Nxd4 16. Qxd4 Qe7 {Now with 17.Qb2 white would have equality. Instead he lost quickly with his next move.} 17. Qe3 Rad8 18. Nd2 Qd7 19. Qb3 Nxd2 20. Qc2 Bxe2 {White resigned. Brown,M (2121)-Bodek,M (2191) Crossville USA 2011}) 14... Qf6 {Now ...Rad8 is a very strong threat.} 15. Ra2 {Guarding the B, but white is already lost as a result of his last move.} (15. f3 {is no good.} Qh4+ 16. g3 Nxg3) (15. O-O-O {is met by} Rad8 (15... Nxf2 {wins, but not the exchange!} 16. Nxf5 Qxf5 17. Rd5 Qe6 18. Rg1) 16. f4 (16. Nxc6 Rxd1+ 17. Kxd1 Qxb2 { and wins.}) 16... Nf2 {Black is clearly winning.}) 15... Be6 16. Nxe6 Qxf2+ ( 16... Qxe6 {No doubt this is what Wood was hoping for because now it is he who is winning.} 17. Qxe6 Rxe6 18. f3 Nf6 19. e4 {With 2Bs vs 2Ns plus two extra Ps.}) 17. Kd1 {He can run, but he can't hide said boxer Joe Louis about his opponent Billy Conn shortly before their heavyweight title rematch at Yankee Stadium in New York City on June 19, 1946.} Rxe6 18. Bc3 Rd8+ 19. Kc2 { Stockfish likes 19...Nxc3 leading to a mate in 10, but let's not agree because we would then be deprived of the unusual finish we see here.} Qe3 (19... Nxc3 20. Ra1 Re3 21. Rc1 Qf6 22. Qd3 Na4 23. Kb3 Rexd3+ 24. Kxa4 Nd4 25. b5 Nc2 26. exd3 Qc3 27. b6 Qxa3+ 28. Kb5 Qb4#) 20. h4 Rd2+ {[%mdl 512] Stockfish's preferred 20...Nd2 gets about a one Pawn higher evaluation, but, again, who cares?} 21. Bxd2 {Black could still go badly wrong here if he recaptures on d2 with the wrong piece!} Qxd2+ (21... Nxd2 22. Qd3 Nd4+ 23. Kd1 Qxd3 24. exd3 Nxf1 25. Rxf1 {and it's white who is winning.}) (21... Nd4+ {This check doesn't lead anywhere after} 22. Kc1 {and black has to take a draw with} Nb3+ 23. Kc2 Nd4+ {etc.} (23... Nexd2 {loses!} 24. Qd3 Qxd3+ 25. exd3 {and black is down material.})) 22. Kb3 Nd4+ 23. Ka4 Qd1+ {Black mates in 3.} 24. Ka5 Ra6+ ( 24... Qa4+ {sacrificing the Q immediately is a move quicker.} 25. Kxa4 Nc3+ 26. Qxc3 Ra6#) 25. Qxa6 {Kudos to Wood for not resigning and allowing his opponent a beautiful finish!} Qa4+ 26. Kxa4 Nc3+ {The N has been patiently sitting on e4 since move 6 and now it plays a major role in covering the Ks escape square. } 27. Ka5 Nb3# {What a game!} 0-1

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