Random Posts

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Ramsgate 1929

     It's often reported that Vera Menchik's greatest tournament was this one where it is sometimes said she tied for second with Rubinstein, half a point behind Capablanca and ahead of her mentor Geza Maroczy.  That's not quite true! 
     It's usually not mentioned that Ramsgate was a Scheveningen team tournament which pitted seven foreign masters against seven English players and Menchik was on same team as Capa, Rubinstein and Maroczy, so she never even played them. She was undefeated, scoring against Sir George Thomas, Reginald Michell and Hubert Price and drawing with F.D. Yates, T.H. Tyler, William Winter and E.G. Sergeant...quite an accomplishment to be sure, but her +3 -0 =4 was against the British players only. It was the first event which she played against men; she was the only woman to play in men's tournaments in the first half of the 20th century.  According to an article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in April, 1929, although Menchik was playing on the foreign team, she had been living in Hastings for a number of years and her results in this match made her one of the best players in England.
     Ramsgate was a Scheveningen team tournament. This system, where a player faces every player on the opposing team and the team with the highest score is the winner, was first used at Scheveningen in 1923. The idea was to allow a team of ten Dutch players to face ten foreign masters so they could gain experience against strong competition. 
     Of the British players Sir George Thomas and F.D. Yates are fairly well known, but the others are not. 
     Reginald Michell (April 9, 1873 – May 19, 1938) was British Amateur Champion in 1902. He played in eight England vs. USA cable matches between 1901 and 1911 and twice represented England the Olympiad. He was a frequent competitor in the Hastings International Congress over 20 years and scored wins over Mir Sultan Khan and Vera Menchik in 1932-3. He had 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finishes in the British Championship. Michell worked in the Admiralty and his wife Edith Michell was British Women's Champion in 1931 (jointly), 1932 and 1935. 
     Sir Theodore Tylor (May 13, 1900 – October 23, 1968) was a lawyer and IM strength player despite being nearly blind. He was knighted in 1965 for his service to organizations for the blind. Tylor competed in twelve British Championships; his best result was in 1933, finishing second to Mir Sultan Khan. He tied for first in the 1929-30 Hastings Premier Reserves with George Koltanowski. He won the British Correspondence Chess Championship in 1932, 1933, and 1934.
     William Winter (September 11, 1898 – December 18, 1955) won the British Open Championship in 1934 and the British Championship in 1935 and 1936. He had wins over a number of the world's top players including Bronstein, Nimzovich and Vidmar.  Unfortunately, health issues and poor tactical play did not permit consistent results. Winter was the author several of chess books and was a nephew of J. M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan. Harry Golombek, rather unkindly, described Winter, who was a communist as "...he was revolutionary, illogically moved by his emotions (he contrived to be both a fervent communist and a staunch patriot) and, more often than not, drunk." Winter also holds the distinction of having been, because of his political activities, the only British Champion to have served time in prison.  For a good article on this fascinating character see Edward Winter's article HERE.
     Edward G. Sergeant (December 3, 1881 – November 16, 1961) played mostly in local events and was a frequent competitor in the British Championship, London City Championship and the Hastings International Congress. He was a second cousin of Philip W. Sergeant, a British professional writer on chess and popular historical subjects. 
     Hubert E. Price (1877 - February 19-1957) played in a number of BCF championships. His best result was tying for second in the British Championship with Michell behind Mir Sultan Khan held shortly after this match-tournament. Price also played in a number of Hastings Premier tournaments. His best result was second behind Borislav Kostic in the 1921-2 tournament.
     Of the visiting team, Capablanca, Rubinstein, Menchik and Maroczy need no introduction. 
     George Koltanowski (September 17, 1903 – February 5, 2000) was born in Belgium and was on tour in South America when World War II began. He was allowed to move to the United States in 1940 and lived there for the rest of his life. Koltanowski played on two Belgian and one United States Olympiad teams. He was known in his later years for his chess lectures, blindfold play and knight tour demonstrations and tireless promotion of chess.  He is in the US Chess Hall of Fame.
     Victor Soultanbeieff (November 11, 1895 - February 9, 1972) was born in the Ukraine and moved to Belgium in the early 1920s. He won the Belgian championship multiple times, but work obligations limited his opportunities for international play. He was on the Belgian Olympiad team at Folkstone, 1933. Known for his aggressive play, he sometimes won short, brilliant games, but such play also lead to needless defeats. He participated in a total of 22 Belgian championships between 1923 and 1969, winning it 5 times, finishing second three times and one third place finish. In addition to being a chess author he also played correspondence chess. 
     Eugene Znosko-Borovsky (August 16, 1884 – December 31, 1954), a noted drama and literary critic, was born in Russia and moved to Paris in 1920. As a player, Znosko-Borovsky never reached the highest levels, but he did have some notable results such as Paris 1930, where he finished first undefeated ahead of Tartakower, Lilienthal and Mieses. He also took first prize at Folkestone in 1933. During his career he managed wins from such luminaries as Capablanca, Rubinstein, Euwe and Bogoljubov and won a short match with Edgard Colle in 1922. 

     England got crushed 31.5 - 17.5 and their only bright spot was Thomas' even score.  This game features what appears to be an incredible double blunder at move 10.  I checked several sources and they all show the game score as given here, but stranger things have happened.  While there were better games played in this match, I chose this one because it shows that often there's a reason why some master games don't get published!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Paris 1933

     While looking over some of the games from this event I found several published tactical problems that had been taken from it. One reason for this is no doubt because the tournament featured three strong players (Alekhine, Tartakower and Lilienthal) who took advantage of the opportunity to strut their superior tactical ability over lower rated players.
     One instructive game was Alekhine's defeat of Abraham Baratz. What caught my eye was it featured one of my favorite openings, the Panov-Botvinnik Attack. Alekhine's play wasn't the brilliant tactical play we normally associate with him. His clean, simple positional play made the win look easy and studying his technique will prove instructive. 
     I also discovered that Abraham Baratz was a very interesting fellow. If you've ever seen Alekhine's grave you will have noticed a marble likeness of him at the top of the tombstone. It was made by Baratz. 

     Abraham Baratz (September 24, 1895 – 1975, Paris) was a Romanian born Jew who moved to Paris in 1924 to study art and ended up becoming a French citizen. Baratz had a studio in the Montmarte section of Paris where he did sculpturing and worked in ceramics.
     He was also a fairly decent chess player, winning the Paris City Championship on numerous occasions. Internationally he he also had some modest successes: 1926 fifth in Scarborough, 1927 tied for first with George Koltanowski in the Major event at Hastings. Remember the Premier event was the top section that had the very best players with the Major being for those of lesser skill. In 1930, he tied for first in Bucharest and in 1930/31, he finished sixth in Hastings (again, the Major). Before emigrating to France he played for Romania twice in the Olympiads; at first board (+6 –4 =5) at Hamburg 1930, and at third board (+7 –3 =7) at Prague 1931. Chessmetrics puts his rating at over 2500, so he was of at least IM strength. 

1) A. Alekhine 8.0 
2) S. Tartakower 6.0 
3) A. Lilienthal 4.5 
4) E. Znosko Borovsky 3.5 
5) B. Zuckerman 3.0
 6-9) M. Frentz, M. Raizman, F. Lazard and A. Baratz 1.5 
10) A. Gromer 1.0 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Szabo Gives a Lesson On the Blockade

     A blockade is when the opponent has a pawn that needs to be stopped. That is generally accomplished by putting a piece, usually a N, in front of it. Qs and Rs usually make poor blockaders because, as the strongest pieces, they shouldn't be tied down on this task. 
     The concept of blockade was aptly demonstrated by Nimzovich when he advised, "First restrain, then blockade, finally destroy!" In fact, he even wrote a book on blockading, Die Blockade. This little appreciated book was translated in to English over thirty years ago and a new translation was published a few years ago.  Even today it contains a lot of good instruction. 
    I have always been intrigued by the following game in which Gligoric had two passed Ps on the Q-side and what looked like an excellent position, but Szabo showed how to render them impotent. 
     The game, played at Helsinki Chess Olympics 1952 (OlympBase has a full article on this event HERE), is a good example of blockading by BOTH sides. Pachman presented this game as an example of blockade strategy and his light notes illustrated the points very well, but as is often the case, it wasn't the one sided positional shellacking that a casual examination would indicate. Engine analysis with Stockfish and Komodo turned up resources for both sides, but Pachman's general evaluation is correct. The line chosen by Gligoric left him struggling by move 13 and a couple of other games from the same position did not turn out well for white either.  As one might expect, it was a great game between these two titans and Szabo's play was very instructive.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Alekhine's Defense Four Pawns Attack Planinc Variation

     In the previous post I mentioned the possibility of examining the Planinc Variation with an engine and the results are shown in the following game between Gerog Tringov and Albin Planinc. Using Komodo 8, I looked at its top six moves, but eliminated a couple of them, 5.a4 and 5.Na3, because a quick check of those moves didn't look very promising. Chalk them up to obscure engine moves. 
     I didn't find much on Google about the Planinc Variation except that it's named after GM Albin Planinc, who championed it in the 1970s and then in the 1990s a German correspondence player named Michael Schirmer experimented with it. I was unable to locate any of Schirmer's games. 
     In the book The Alekhine for the Tournament Player by Lev Alburt and Eric Schiller they say that players of the white side who play the Four Knights Variation need to be prepared to meet 5...g5 (the Planinc Variation) because the right moves are not easy to find at the board and they amusingly added that this is the only thing that the variation has going for it.
     The only line I found that seems to offer black anything near equality is the following: 
1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. d4 d6 4. c4 Nb6 5. f4 g5 6. exd6 (This is white's most popular continuation, but engine analysis indicates that 6.Nc3 might actually be better.) cxd6 (Black almost always plays 6...Qxd6) 7. fxg5 Nc6 8. Nf3 Bg4 9. Be3 Bg7 10. Nc3 Bxf3 11. gxf3 O-O 12. f4 d5 reaching the position shown in the diagram. Using Stockfish I ran a Shootout from this position which resulted in all five games being drawn.

 My analysis did not discover anything that would indicate that this variation might have some hidden resources for black that would make it worth playing. In fact, it seems to confirm that if black plays 5...g5 he is taking a huge risk and it seems that unless white plays very poorly black will immediately be on the defensive...not what he wants when he plays a gambit! 
    As for the players, I did a post featuring one of Planinc's brilliant wins involving a Q sac a few years ago HERE.
     Georgi Tringov (March 7, 1937 – July 2, 2000) was a Bulgarian GM.  He was awarded the IM title in 1962 and the GM title in 1963, the year he won the Bulgarian championship. Tringov was active mainly during the 1960s and 1970s and qualified for the 1964 Interzonal where he finished fifteenth. 
     Tringov had numerous successes in international tournaments, including first place at Vrsac 1973. He placed fifth in the 1955 World Junior Championship and played for Bulgaria in five World Student Team Championships (1957 through 1960), winning the individual gold on board four in 1957 and 1958. Playing on board 2 in 1959 he scored +11=2−0. Tringov played in 12 Olympiads and in 1968 he won the gold medal with a score of +8=6-0 on board two. In 1978 he scored +6=5−0) on board three.
     Tringov was involved in a controversy in his game against Korchnoi at the Olympiad in 1972. Their game was adjourned after 41 moves with Tringov to seal. his next move. Sealed moves were written on a separate piece of paper, not the player's score sheet. But Tringov sealed his move by writing it on his score sheet. Upon resumption, when the arbiter opened the envelope it contained Korchnoi's score sheet but not Tringov's. The arbiter ruled the game a forfeit win for Korchnoi. Oleg Neikirch, the Bulgarian team captain, protested but the arbitration committee upheld the arbiter's ruling. After the Olympiad was over, it was learned that Tringov had accidentally placed his score sheet in his pocket. Tringov discovered his mistake several days after his forfeit but was too ashamed to admit his mistake to the organizers of the Olympiad. 
     If anyone is interested trying this variation I have made a pdf copy of this game that can be printed out for reference. Download from Dropbox.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Alekhine's Defense Four Pawns Attack

     I don't know why, but I have always been intrigued by Alekhine' Defense, especially the Four Pawns Attack. Some GMs, notably Nigel Short, do not rate the defense very highly and in his book Nigel Short's Chess Skills he lists it under black openings as one of the "Bad and indifferent"ones.  In his 1985 match against Lev Alburt, a leading proponent of the Alekhine, Short scored 3 wins out of 3 games against it. But, the difference in their strength at the time may have been more of a factor than any deficiencies in the defense because Short won the match 7-1. GM Nick de Firmian observed the game immediately loses any sense of symmetry or balance which makes the opening a good choice for aggressive fighting players. 
     Alekhine's earliest tournament games with the defense were at Budapest, 1921 against Fritz Saemisch and Endre Steiner but it was simply called "Irregular." 
     Chess historian Edward Winter writes that when annotating one of the games in BCM, Sir George Thomas wrote that this "novel" defense was introduced by Alekhine there and since then it had been subjected to further testing by other players. Thomas went on to say that it was tentatively named Alekhine’s Defense, adding that it was a "novelty of considerable importance and it opened up a new field for investigation." Winter also tells us that in 1922 in the first monograph on the opening, Die Aljechin-Verteidigung by Hans Fahrni, he called the opening "Alekhine’s Defense."
     It's popularity waxes and wanes but Vassily Ivanchuk and Lev Alburt championed the defense and made many contributions to its theory and practice. Shabalov and Minasian occasionally use it as do Aronian, Adams, and Nakamura. Fischer and Korchnoi also had it in their repertoire. 
     The strategy of Alekhine's Defense is to tempt the white Ps forward with the hope of then undermining white's expanded center. White has to prove that the extra space is advantageous and often uses his space advantage to attack the black K. For his part, black tries to use tactical means based on the weak squares and Ps that White has created. 
     White has several strategies: the Four Pawns Attack, the Exchange Variation, Modern Variation, Balogh Variation, Two Pawns Attack, Two Knights Variation as well as several sidelines. These days you'll mostly see white playing the Modern Variation (1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. d4 d6 4. Nf3) which was made popular in the 1972 Spassky-Fischer match.
     Today's game features The Four Pawns Attack which is white's most ambitious try, and the variation which perhaps illustrates the basic idea of the defense best: black allows white to make several tempo-gaining attacks on his N and set up an imposing P-center. White then must find a way to use his advantage in space before black succeeds in attacking and destroying it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

US Champ Leaves for Moscow

S.S. Paris
     Back on October 17, 1925, which was a Saturday, Frank Marshall, then the US Champion, was the last of three players from the Western Hemisphere to depart for the international tournament in Moscow that was due to begin on November 5 when he set sail aboard the S.S. Paris of the French Line. For the interesting history of this ship see the Wikipedia article HERE
     Members of Marshall's family and of the Marshall Chess Club were on hand at the pier to bid him farewell. Upon landing, he was to proceed to Paris and obtain his Russian passport from the Plenipotentiary Mission which represented the USSR in Paris. From there, by way of Berlin and Warsaw, he would go to Moscow. 
     In the letter which accompanied his invitation, the chairman of the tournament committee had stated that Marshall was one of the most desired masters they hoped would attend. US players were happy to see Marshall accept his invitation because this tournament promised to be one of the strongest ever. 
     As for Marshal, he had shown that he had regained his pre-World War One form when he finished fourth at New York 1924 then shared fifth and sixth with Tartakower at Baden-Baden, 1925 and then shared third and fourth places with Carlos Torre at Marienbad, also in 1925. 
     Torre preceded Marshall to Moscow a few days earlier having sailed on the S.S. Lithuania for Danzig while Capablanca had left on Wednesday morning on the S.S. Mauretania. It was expected that between the three of them a large share of the prize fund would be brought back to the Western Hemisphere. 
     The tournament was organized by Nikolai Krylenko and was the world's first state-sponsored chess tournament.
     Krylenko (May 2, 1885 – July 29, 1938) was a Russian Bolshevik revolutionary and a Soviet politician who served in a variety of posts in the Soviet legal system, rising to become People's Commissar for Justice and Prosecutor General of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. 
     He was an exponent of the socialist legal theory that said political considerations, rather than criminal guilt or innocence, should guide the application of punishment. Although a participant in the Show Trials and political repression of the late 1920s and early 1930s, Krylenko was ultimately arrested himself during the Great Purge. Following interrogation and torture by the NKVD, Krylenko confessed to extensive involvement in wrecking and anti-Soviet agitation. He was sentenced to death by the Military Collegium of the Soviet Supreme Court in a trial lasting 20 minutes and executed immediately afterward.
     There were eleven foreign players and ten Soviet masters. World champion Capablanca and his predecessor Emanuel Lasker both participated and a race between them was expected, but Bogoljubow won a sensational victory. 
     The tournament aroused great interest among the Soviet citizens as hundreds of spectators followed the games in Hotel Metropol and ten of thousands watched demonstration boards downtown. Bogoljubow's win was regarded as a Soviet victory, but shortly after this in 1926 he left the Soviet Union and became a German citizen. Later Bogoljubow and Alekhine were called "renegades" in the USSR. Bogoljubov would never participate in another Soviet event. 
     The film Chess Fever used a number of scenes from the tournament, and even featured Capablanca. Watch Youtube video on this tournament HERE.

1) Bogoljubov 15.5 2) Lasker 14 3) Capablanca 13.5 4) Marshall 12.5 5-6) Tartakower and Torre 12 7-8) Reti and Romanovsky 11.5 9-10) Grünfeld and Ilyn-Zhenevsky 10.5 11) Bohatirchuk 10 12-14) Verlinsky, Spielmann and Rubinstein 9.5 15) Levenfish 9 16) Rabinovich 8.5 17) Yates 7 18-19) Saemisch and Gotthilf 6.5 20) Dus Chotimirsky 6 21) Zubarev 4.5