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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Joaquim Durao

International Master Joaquim Manuel Durao (25 October 1930 - 21 May 2015) passed away today. He was Portuguese champion 13 times, represented Portugal in ten Olympiads and served as president of the Portuguese Chess Federation. Durao was also a member of the Executive Committee of FIDE for 14 years (1982-1996) and recently served as Vice-President. In addition, he received the Order of Merit from the President of Portugal in 2006. For a tribute visit Spraggett On Chess

Santasiere vs. Rasmussen

    While browsing the aforementioned Brooklyn Daily Eagle I ran across the following game played in the 1925 Metropolitan League Match between Anthony Sanatsiere (Marshall CC) against Charles Rasmussen (Staten Island CC). A comment was made in the article that Santasiere hoped to win a brilliancy prize with the game, but a careful analysis shows that his brilliancy was actually unsound because instead of keeping his winning advantage, his sacrifice should have lead to a draw at best. 
     Brilliancy prizes haven't been offered in a long time. Chess, as it's played today, is different; swashbuckling play belongs to the distant days of yesteryear. Besides, now anybody with an engine can tell instantly if a sacrifice is sound or not. Still, to me, something says Santasiere deserved a brilliancy prize for this game simply because of the concept plus he had the guts to play it even though he couldn't have analyzed it all out. Who cares if it was unsound?  It's fun to play over which is why most of us play chess anyway.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

     I recently discovered an interesting site that allows you to research the Brooklyn Daily Eagle for any subject, including chess. For example, when I typed in “Reshevsky” there were 469 matches.

     “Pillsbury” turned up 3,923 matches and “Frank Marshall” yielded almost 58,000! It should be pointed out that by “match” they mean how times the person's name appears. e.g. if it appears six times in an article, that's six “matches.” 
     The Brooklyn Eagle was a daily newspaper published in Brooklyn, New York and later in New York City for 114 years from 1841 to 1955. At one point it was the most popular afternoon paper (with the largest daily circulation in the nation) in the United States. Walt Whitman, the 19th Century poet, was its editor for two years. 
     The paper, renamed The Brooklyn Daily Eagle and Kings County Democrat on June 1, 1846, was again renamed, on May 14, 1849, the name being shortened to The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. On September 5, 1938, the name was further shortened, to Brooklyn Eagle.
     The paper ceased publication in 1955 due to a prolonged strike and was briefly revived from the bankrupt estate between 1960 and 1963, and later, with its former name now in the public domain, in the late 1990s in association with another local newspaper in the borough. A new version of the Brooklyn Eagle as a revival of the old newspaper's traditions began publishing in 1996. It has no business relation to the original Eagle, although it publishes a daily historical/nostalgia feature called "On This Day in History," made up of much material from the pages of the old original Eagle. 
     The Brooklyn Public Library maintains an online archive of the original Brooklyn Daily Eagle issues encompassing the years 1841 through 1955, a virtual encyclopedic survey of the history of the City and the later Borough of Brooklyn for more than a century...and, more importantly for all of us chess aficionados, the chess columns.  Have fun browsing!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Gata Kamsky's First U.S. Championship

     Gata Kamsky (born June 2, 1974) is a Soviet-born American player and a former World Rapid Chess Champion. Kamsky, a former prodigy, was awarded the GM title in 1990 and in 1991, he won the U.S. Championship. 
     Midway through the final round of the 1989 New York Open, with the help of Lev Alburt and two FBI agents, Gata and his father Rustam disappeared from the playing site and applied for political asylum. 
     By the time the 1991 U.S. Championship rolled around Bobby Fischer had not been around for more than 25 years to plague organizers with his demands and it had been more than a decade since Walter Browne walked off the stage in Pasadena in a huff, but controversy returned with the arrival of Gata Kamsky and his father. 
     Fischer's mantle as a bellyacher had fallen on Browne and the 1978 Championship would have been his biggest test up to that time as he would have been facing virtually all the top players - Kavalek, Byrne, Shamkovich, Lein, Tarjan, Rogoff and Christiansen. Browne's performances in U.S. tournaments had been remarkable but the same thing couldn't be said for his foreign events. So, there was doubt in 1978 that Browne could win the U.S. Championship again. 
     The tournament was being held on the Southern California campus of the Worldwide Church of God. You may remember that for a short period that was Bobby Fischer's new faith and during the tournament several of the players were granted brief audiences with Fischer who was living in seclusion a few miles from the playing hall. Of course, Fischer refused to even make an appearance at the tournament. 
     Anyway, when it came to controversy Browne had filled the void of left by Fischer. At pre-tournament players' meeting Browne (as he frequently did) complained about the lighting. The TD, Isaac Kashdan, had had run-ins with Browne in the past, most notably at Lone Pine but this time Kashdan arranged to have the lighting technician meet with Browne to work things out to his satisfaction. The result was Browne was happy with the lighting if he would be allowed to sit at a particular board throughout the tournament. Seating assignments were rotated and so Kashdan balked at giving Browne any more special treatment. After all, because he was the champion, he had been given an extra $850 appearance fee and a nice guest cottage; the other players were being housed in a dormitory. Shortly before the start of the tournament Kashdan inspected the tournament hall and noticed one of the tables out of line (unkbown to Kashdan, Browne himself had moved it)  so he moved it back. Not long after that the first round started, Browne came in several minutes late and realized his table had been moved out from under the extra lighting. Browne then asked Kashdan, "Why do you hate me?" and Kashdan replied that he didn't hate Browne and then Browne stormed off the stage without sitting down or acknowledging his opponent, Larry Christiansen. The result was Kashdan forfeited Browne, but a few people tried to appeal on Browne's behalf. 
     Kashdan called a meeting of the appeals committee and they listened to Browne's complaint and his threat that he would withdraw if the forfeit wasn't reversed. The committee asked Christiansen what he wanted to do about the forfeit but he didn't want the responsibility of making the decision. In the end, the committee, William Lombardy, Kenneth Rogoff and Andy Soltis, upheld Kashdan's decision. Lombardy tried to talk Browne out of leaving, but it did no good and the next morning Browne was gone. 
      In 1990, after a 133 years, the championship was held as a knock-out as an experiment. Part of the reason was that the round robin format was getting old because the battle for first prize was usually decided with two or three rounds remaining and at some point a lot of the players realized they had no chance for a prize. As a result, they spent their final days generally goofing off between rounds and agreeing to quick draws in the tournament. The idea was that a knockout tournament meant something was at stake in every game. But it also meant that players could be eliminated very quickly, so as compensation those that got eliminated early could enter the U.S. Open which was being held concurrently. 
     The easiest way to win a two-game match was to play for a draw with Black and a win with White. On the other hand, losing with White would be disastrous. Yasser Seirawan found that out in the first round when he lost to Lev Alburt and as a result Alburt had draw-odds in the second game meaning that Seirawan had to take risks - with fatal results.  As early the second round, the players were reminded of another reason why the knockout system wasn't such a good idea. To break ties players had to play a two-game playoff in which they had only 30 minutes per game and if they were still tied, they had to play a 15-minute game. 
     By the time this tournament started Kamsky was rated 2747 and nearly 70 points ahead of number 2 rated Yasser Seirawan. In the first round Kamsky was paired against the tournament's lowest rated player, World Junior Champion Ilya Gurevich. Kamsky had some problems in holding a draw in the first game, but easily won the second. His next opponent was Alexander Ivanov whom he also defeated with one win and a draw. 
     His next opponent was John Fedorowicz. Oddly, two players in particular, Fedorowicz and Joel Benjamin, were critical of the "Russianization" of U.S. chess. Their feeling was all those Russians were coming over here and usurping what they thought was their position in U.S. chess circles and it was affecting their ability to make money at chess. Benjamin succeeded in defeating his former “Russian” opponent, Boris Gulko, but Fedorowicz, who had defeated Alex Yermolinsky and Patrick Wolff, couldn't get past Kamsky. During his game with Kamsky there was an ugly encounter in which Kamsky's father accused Fedorowicz of discussing the game with Nick deFirmian away from the board. Witnesses said all Fedorowicz said was, "Oh, excuse me, Nick," as he walked about the playing hall. It's weird, but three years later Rustam hired Fedorowicz, by then his good friend, to be Gata's second in the Professional Chess Association candidates matches. Kamsky's victory over Fedorowicz set up a final showdown with Joel Benjamin and Kamsky won an exciting match to become the new U.S. champion. 
    During Gata's encounter with Benjamin his father wasn't done complaining. While Benjamin, playing white, was studying his crucial 17th move, Patrick Wolff, who had been knocked out by Fedorowicz in the second round and was playing in the Open approached the board to get a better look and Rustam began loudly telling Wolff to get out of the area. He and Wolff took their dispute outside where Rustam began making claims to the organizers that Wolff, Benjamin and Benjamin's supporters were cheating. TD Carol Jarecki informed Rustam that the proper procedure was to make an official protest and he calmed down, but there was more drama in the playing hall when Benjamin, possibly upset over the brouhaha created but Rustam's outburst, blundered on this 17th move and missed a win. The final game, during which Rustam was banned from the playing hall, was a lifeless draw in 27 moves and so Kamsky became the youngest U.S. champion since Bobby Fischer.

Monday, May 18, 2015


     Eugene Znosko-Borovsky (16 August 1884 – 31 December 1954) was a Russian master, music and drama critic, teacher and author. Born in Saint Petersburg, he settled in Paris in 1920, and lived there for the rest of his life.

     Outside of chess Znosko-Borovsky was a noted drama critic. He was also a soldier in the Russian military. He fought and was wounded in both the Russo-Japanese War and in World War One. Later, he fought against the Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution before moving to France.

     Znosko-Borovsky learned to play chess as a young boy and won prizes in local and regional tournaments while studying at Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum. He made his international debut at Ostend in 1906 where he won the brilliancy prize for his game against Amos Burn. His chess fame comes, not from his games, but from his chess writing and the entertaining and educational lectures he used to give.

     Znosko-Borovsky's playing career was frequently interrupted by other events in his life. Between 1909 and 1912 he was a prominent critic of the Modernist Apollo magazine, befriended many Russian poets and writers and was Nikolay Gumilev's second in his 1909 duel against MaximilianVoloshin. Decorated and wounded in military battles, he first served as a volunteer in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 and 1905 and was again called into service during World War I. Following evacuation, he was taken by a British ship to Constantinople and from there proceeded to Paris, which remained his home from 1920 onwards.

     As a player, Znosko-Borovsky never reached the highest levels, but he did have some notable results in international tournaments, including Paris 1930, where he finished first without loss, ahead of Savielly Tartakower, Andor Lilienthal and Jacques Mieses, and first prize in the premier tournament at Folkestone 1933. Success often came in individual encounters with his more distinguished peers; he won impressive games against José Raúl Capablanca, Akiba Rubinstein, Max Euwe and Efim Bogoljubov as well as a short match with Edgard Colle in 1922. He was also highly skilled at simultaneous exhibition play.

     In conversation and as a lecturer, teacher or writer of chess, his abilities were widely acknowledged, particularly in Russia and France where he contributed regular articles and columns to magazines and newspapers. It was in the field of writing that he excelled, authoring many popular books including The Evolution of Chess, Capablanca and The Muzio Gambit. Most of his books were translated into English, principally The Middle Game in Chess, How Not to Play Chess, How to Play the Chess Openings, How to Play Chess Endings, and The Art of Chess Combination.

     After his death, Gerald Abrahams wrote a personal tribute: “The death of Znosko-Borovsky deprives the chess world of one of the few survivors of an intellectually rich generation, the Russian Masters of the old regime ... My own memories of Znosko go back to 1923-24. I found him then, and at all times later, a stimulating friend and a delightful conversationalist in many subjects. His reputation as a dramatic and literary critic was, at one time considerable in Europe, though England knew little of this. Those who have read his chess works, however, must be aware that their writer was a kultur mensch in the best sense. Withal, he was stoical in adversity (adversity was always his lot) and possessed of great humor and resilience ... As a player he suffered from the demands of a professionalism that is incompatible with great performance: but he leaves records of many games which reveal, if not genius, then a great talent ... those who knew him will all agree that his life enriched, and in a degree inspired, the chess world.”

     The following instructive game was played in Nice, 1930 where he finished third behind Tartakower and Sir George Thomas and ahead of Kostic and Maroczy. His 21st move is positively brilliant.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

A Lesson from Reinfeld

     One of my first chess books was Attack and Counterattack in Chess by Fred Reinfeld published in 1955. It's not a very good book by today's standards; it was one of Reinfelds “potboilers” as they used to be called. It was clearly rushed and there are a lot of mistakes in analysis. It bothered me then and I still find it odd that Reinfeld didn't give the player's names or the tournaments in which any of the games were played. Still while browsing through it recently I did find the games interesting and here is an instructive game under the heading How to Exploit Superior Mobility. We see black struggling to keep control of the center but because he is behind in development and cramped, white is able to dominate the open lines.  
     Like the games in many older books, when analyzing the game with an engine, you find hidden resources and lines that were either ignored or missed by the annotators. Apparently they often did not check the games carefully.  After all, there were only a handful of masters in the whole world and who was going to question them?!  It's a different story these days...armed with an engine we can all snidely point out their omissions.  Seriously, I wish I were as strong as Reinfeld, Horowitz or Kmoch, or a hundred other popular authors back in those days! Also, in many cases I think they just ignored some things because they were trying to make a point and just wanted us to see the forest, not the individual trees.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Fischer vs. Larsen Blitz Game

     Korchnoi once said of Geller that he was a good attacker, but he calculated variations badly, wasted a lot of time and often didn't believe himself. 
     We've all done the same thing...check and recheck our calculations then play something else! There is also another question that comes up sometimes and that is, “Should you trust your opponent?” In the fourth game of their 1965 Candidate's Match, Larsen played the unusual 5...Nd7 which caused Tahl to spend 50 minutes calculating 6.Nxf7, but he ended up playing 6.Bc4 instead. Tahl wrote, “My intuition insistently kept telling me that the sacrifice had to be correct, but I decided to calculate everything as far as mate, spent some 50 minutes, but then in one of the innumerable variations I found something resembling a defense, and rejected the sacrifice. This was a betrayal of myself, I saved the game only by a miracle after the adjournment.” 
     I suspect part of Tahl's problem was that if a player of Larsen's caliber offers you a chance to sacrifice a piece for a winning attack on move 6, he must know what he's doing and the attack is unsound! Tahl decided to calculate everything out to the end, but when he couldn't, he decided to trust his opponent. 
     The following year in a blitz game played at the Piatigorsky Cup in Santa Monica, California, Larsen played 6...Nd7 against Fischer, who was clearly willing to take a draw, but Larsen declined the invitation and quickly lost. I found 5 or 6 games in online databases with the move and white won them all. Engine analysis with Stockfish seems to indicate that the position does favor white, but there is no forced win. For a more complete discussion of the variation I suggest the article by Gary Lane at Chesscafe HERE.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


     Years ago I read How to Think Ahead in Chess: The Methods and Techniques of Planning Your Entire Game by Horowitz and Reinfeld. The book deals with one opening for white, the Stonewall Attack, and the Sicilian Dragon against 1.e4 and Lasker's Defense to the Queen's Gambit Declined for black. Of course, these days the Dragon has a whole lot more theory than was ever presented in the book, but Lasker's Defense remains a solid and fairly easy way to meet 1.d4. 
      I have always liked the 'look' of the Stonewall Attack and the concept seems simple enough, but for some reason black never rolled over and died like the examples shown in the book and after a bunch of losses, I gave it up. 
      Black has three good ways of defending. One is the fianchetto of his King's B and I remember seeing a game won by Euwe as black that left an impression on me that it was a good method of refuting the Stonewall. When black fianchettoes, he reduces, but does not eliminate, white's attacking potential. White's B on d3 does not have any prospects, but what white can do is develop his dark squared B with b2-b3 and Ba3 and he may be able to play, after ...c7-c5, dxc5 which makes it difficult for black to regain his P. White also has the square d4 for his N. What happens when black fianchettoes his B is that white is compelled to change his strategy and when I have met the Stonewall with black, I have found most of my opponents were unaware of this and continued with business as usual.
     Black also has a couple of other ways of equalizing. One is with ...Bg4 which is often the choice of engines. The other is to play the rather surprising ...Nc6. Even though it blocks the c-Pawn after 1.d4 d5 2.e3 Nf6 3.Bd3 Nc6 Reuben Fine went so far as to give the move a “!” The move ...Nc6 was also a favorite of Chigorin way back when. 
     The main thing for white to remember that if black fianchettoes his KB, plays ...Bg4 or ...Nc6, white must change his strategy from the typical plan of straightway attacking black's king. 
     The following game featuring 3...Nc6 is very complicated;  I didn't realize how complicated until I started analyzing it with Houdini, Stockfish and Komodo!  It ended in a draw, but the next day Schlechter realized that he had missed a win at move 40. After white's 48.Qf7 the game was agreed drawn; probably both players assumed black, in the face of mate, had to take a perpetual check. GM Andy Soltis gives this game with brief notes in his book The Stonewall Attack and he, like Schlechter, makes no comment on the final position. Of course Soltis was writing an opening book, not a game collection.  But, the engines were showing black still had a significant advantage in the final position and considerable analysis with all three engines seems to confirm that black, had he continued, most likely would have won! 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Paul Keres Studies

     It's hard to believe that Keres has been gone 40 years! Keres (born January 7, 1916) was among the world's top players from the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s and narrowly missed a chance at a world championship match on five occasions. He won the 1938 AVRO tournament, which led to negotiations for a title match against champion Alexander Alekhine, but the match never took place due to World War II. After the war Keres was runner-up in the Candidates' Tournament on four consecutive occasions. 
     His health started declining in 1973 and he didn't play in any major events in 1974. He died of a heart attack in Helsinki, Finland, at the age of 59, while returning to Estonia from a tournament in Vancouver, which he had won. Over 100,000 attended his state funeral in Tallinn, Estonia. 
     Reshevsky described why Keres never became world champion: "Well, I believe that Keres failed in this respect because he lacked the killer instinct. He was too mild a person to give his all in order to defeat his opponents. He took everything, including his chess, philosophically. Keres is one of the nicest people that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. With his friendly and sincere smile, he makes friends easily. He is good natured and kind. Yes, he loves chess, but being a human being is his first consideration. In addition to chess, Keres was interested in tennis, Ping-Pong, swimming, and bridge." 
     In addition to authoring several books, few people are aware that Keres, who was a great attacking genius and, also, a superb endgame player, published 180 problems and 30 studies. 
    In the following position, published in Magyar Sakkvilág in 1936, white is a queen up but his K looks doomed on account of the threat of 1...b2+ followed by 2...b8=Q.


     The following study won First Prize in the USSR Composers' Contest in 1947. White's task seems impossible, but the win is there. In fact, when I let Komodo 8 analyze the ending, it did not suggest any improvements. It's a fine example of a R and P ending that is worth studying. I would recommend going to the 6-piece Shredder Endgame Database after move 5 and trying out different moves to see how to play the ending.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Caruana to Join U.S. Chess Federation

I commented recently on the attempt to entice Caruana to return to the U.S. and it has finally happened. Read the post.

 SAINT LOUIS (May 12, 2015) - The United States Chess Federation (USCF) today announced that Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana has initiated the application process to change chess federations, which, when approved, will allow him to play for the United States. Fabiano, who has dual citizenship in the United States and Italy, has been playing for the Italian Chess Federation for a number of years. Read more...

Rubinstein's Masterpiece

     Akiba Kiwelowicz Rubinstein (12 December 1882, in Stawiski, Poland - 15 March 1961 in Antwerp, Belgium) was a famous Polish player at the beginning of the 20th century.
     Stawiski is a town in north-eastern Poland situated on the Dzierzbia River. The population as of 31 December 2008 was 2,417. The town was destroyed by fire in 1812 in the course of the French campaign against Russia and rebuilt again and became a trade and commercial center known for its furs, fabrics and hats. It was burned to the ground during the Russian–Prussian war of 1915, soon before the re-establishment of the sovereign Republic of Poland. The Polish army fought a battle with the Bolsheviks there in July 1920 during the Polish-Soviet War and by 1932, over 50 percent of the town's population was Jewish, numbering approximately 2,000. 
     Upon the Soviet invasion of eastern Poland in 1939, the local administration was abolished by the Soviet NKVD and replaced with Jewish communists who declared Soviet allegiance. Ethnic Polish families were being rounded up and deported to Siberia. The Soviet terror lingered until the Nazi took control in 1941. A German command arrived in Stawiski on July 4–5, 1941 and massacred 700 local Jews in nearby Płaszczatka Forest. The Nazis created a Jewish ghetto in Stawiski, then transferred all its occupants to a much larger Ghetto in Łomża, which was annihilated in November 1942. This history accounts for the fact that in the early 1900's Rubinstein actually participated in the Soviet championships.
     His father Kiwe died before he was born and because of his family's poverty, he was raised by grandparents in Bialystok. Akiba married Eugenie Lew around 1917; they moved to Belgium in 1926 and in 1931 his wife opened a restaurant in Brussels at which time Rubinstein he stopped playing chess. His wife died in 1954. 
     His family planned for him to become a rabbi but he chose not to finish his studies but to devote himself entirely to chess. The decision came in 1903 after he won fifth place at a tournament in Kiev. He had been training with Gersz Salwe in Lódz. 
     Rubinstein flourished from 1907 to 1912. Beginning from his win at Karlovy Vary in 1907, through a shared win at St. Petersburg in the same year, he culminated it in a record string of wins in 1912. He won five consecutive major tournaments that year: San Sebastian, Piestany, Breslau (the German championship), Warsaw and Vilnius (although none of these events included Lasker or Capablanca). 
     Some believe that he was better than world champion Emanuel Lasker at this time. Ratings from Chessmetrics support this conclusion, placing him as number one in the world between mid-1912 and mid-1914. Reuben Fine disagreed, believing he was not quite as strong as Lasker and he was eclipsed by Capablanca after 1911. 
     At the time when it was common for the reigning world champion to handpick his challengers, Rubinstein was never given a chance to play Lasker for the world championship because he was unable to raise enough money to meet Lasker's financial demands. His plans were also damaged by a poor showing at the St. Petersburg tournament in 1914 when he failed to finish in the top five. A match with Lasker was arranged for October 1914, but it never took place because of the outbreak of World War I.
     After the war Rubinstein was still an elite player, but his results lacked their previous consistency. He won Vienna in 1922 ahead of the future world champion Alexander Alekhine and was the leader of the Polish team that won the Chess Olympiad at Hamburg in 1930 with a record of thirteen wins and four draws. A year later he won an Olympic silver.
     Known for superb endgame play, particularly in Rook endings, he took the ending into account when playing the opening. After 1932 he withdrew from tournament play, mostly because his schizophrenic tendencies and was suffering from anthropophobia, a fear of people and society. During World War II when the Nazis eventually arrived and deported Rubinstein from his asylum to the death camps, he was so insane that they let him live. Edward Winter details his later years HERE.
     One of the most beautiful games ever played was the following game against Rotlevi. Soltis wrote , "Every great player has a game which became his visiting card to chess history...this was Rubinstein's." Kmoch called it "The Rubinstein Immortal Game," Schlecter called this perhaps the most magnificent combination of all time and Tartakower said it was one of the great games of chess of all time. Even Botvinnik and Flohr said it was a fantastic game adding that it was “perhaps the first game to be played in the scientific method, developed by the Russian chess-players." Irving Chernev wrote, "The great artist of the endgame displays his virtuosity in yet another field. He unleashes an attack with the fire and elegance of a Morphy, and unfolds combinations and brilliant sacrifices that would do honor to Tahl or Alekhine." 
      Rubinstein was a classical player and rarely ventured outside the confines of the double QP openings as Black when he faced 1. d4 and this game has been annotated in dozens of books and magazines over the years.