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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Prize money in 1955 plus a sharp King's Gambit

     While looking at the 1955 Chess Life magazine I ran across the breakdown of the prize fund for the 1955 US Open and it was interesting to see what the players received as prize money. First place tie breaks ultimately went to Rossolimo after some confusion which you can read about here
      Rossolimo won a Buick automobile. I am not sure exactly what the cost of the car was, but a stock 1955 Buick 4-door Tourback Sedan sold for $2,291 which is the equivalent of about $20,300 in today's dollars.  For his second place finish Reshevsky got $1,000...about $8,892 today. 
Other prizes were: 
Donald Byrne $750 ($6632 today) 
Larry Evans and Abe Turner $550 ($4,864 today) 
5 players received $300 ($2,653 today) 9 players, including Arthur Dake received $72.23 ($638.80 today) 
16 players, including William Lombardy, received $3.13 ($27.68 today) 
Sonja Graf, top woman won $50 ($442.20 today) 

By contrast, the top prizes in the last U.S. Open were:  $8,000-4,000-2,000-1,500-1,000-800-600-500 plus $200 to a clear winner. The total prize fund last year was $50,000 compared to $5,115 (a little over $45,000 today) in 1955. 

Rossolimo (left) receives his car

Unrelated to the Open, I stumbled on the following King's Gambit game played in the Wichita, Kansas Open in 1954. It's a Cunningham Gambit where black snatched too many Pawns and white quickly got the upper hand. The ensuing complications were enormous and, as usual, it's a good idea to play through the variations on an actual board and try to visualize all the lines.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Flashy Win by Jeremy Silman

     IM Jeremy Silman (born August 28, 1954) is well known as the author of over 35 chess books and over the board he has won the US Open, the American Open, and the National Open and was the coach of the US junior national chess team. 
     What generally isn't known is that, in addition to his chess books, Silman has co-authored a book on casino gambling, Zen and the Art of Casino Gaming: An Insider's Guide to a Successful Gambling Experience. He also served as a chess consultant on the 2001 film Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, as well as television programs Monk and Malcolm in the Middle. He was also involved in Yamie Chess and does Asian movie reviews. Yamie Chess is a manufacturer and publisher of educational math toys and comics. For more on his participation in the Monk show see this article at Chessdotcom. Visit HERE for details on the Harry Potter movie.
     This game by Silman, who at the time was sporting an Expert rating (2000-2199), is an exciting slug fest from a tournament in La Mesa, California back in 1973. His opponent, a promising junior at the time, went on to become a strong correspondence player. He has been inactive in tournament play for many years.

Monday, February 8, 2016

A Rook and Pawn Ending

    I have always enjoyed these endings so while looking over the games from Bucharest 1954 (see previous post) I noticed one of Nezhmetdinov's wins was a R and P ending that was very instructive. The old saying is “All Rook endings are drawn, except for those that aren't.” is always true and that is what makes them so fascinating.  Unfortunately in Rook and Pawn endings there are a ton of rules that apply and they are difficult to remember. Perhaps the best thing to do is try to learn by example.
     Nezhmetdinov will never be in the running for the title “King of the Endgame” but he played a lot of endings that are of great practical value because even in the ending, just as in the opening and middlegame, he sought active play and tactical solutions wherever he could. I recommend playing over this ending using an actual board and pieces. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Nezhmetdinov at Bucharest in 1954

     Nezhmetdinov was also a checker champion and the photo is of him playing the Senegalese player Baba Sy in checker tournament on a 10 by 10 board. Concerning checkers, Bobby Fischer was interested in the game, but he never played it seriously. Besides Nezhmetdinov, quite a few well known chess players also excelled at checkers, but none to the extent that he did. Among chess players known to have been checker players are: Alexandre Deschapelles, Albert Hodges, Harry N. Pillsbury, Frank Marshall, Edward Lasker (who wrote books on both games). Checker champion Newell Banks was also a master chess player. Irving Chernev, who probably was not actually a chess master, also wrote a book on checkers. 
     In the spring of 1954 Nezhmetdinov, who rarely played outside of the Soviet Union, made one of his most successful appearances in any tournament. Four Soviet masters played, Viktor Korchnoi, Ratmir Kholmov, Semyon Furman, and Rashid Nezmetdinov. Joining them were distinguished players Gideon Stahlberg of Sweden, Dr, Miroslav Filip and Ludek Pachman of Czechoslovakia, Alberic O'Kelly de Galway of Belgium, Bogdan Sliwa of Poland and Enrico Paoli of Italy, Bela Sandor, Stefan Szabo, and Gyula Kluger all of Poland, Robert Wade then representing New Zealand plus four Romanian players, Victor Ciocaltea, Ion Balanel, Octav Troianescu, and Paul Voiculescu.  For many of these players this tournament was the one that gained them their first titles.
     At the time the four Soviet players were practically unknown outside Russia and were being allowed to compete in international tournaments as a result of Nikita Kruschev's DeStalinization program. In addition, the Russian Chess Federation wanted to answer criticism that they only sent their top masters to tournaments because they were afraid their “ordinary” masters wouldn't be very successful. 
     In order to make sure Korchnoi, Kholmov, Furman, and Nezmetdinov would do well at Bucharest the authorities sent them to Moscow for training and preparation under the direction of Isaac Boleslavsky and David Bronstein. At the time of this event none of the Russian participants had titles and it was because of their results in this event that all four would be awarded the IM title. 
     The big surprise was Korchnoi's first place finish with a score of +10 -1 =6; his only loss was to Kluger who also earned the IM title as a result of his fifth place finish. Nezhmetdinov, in addition to capturing the first brilliancy prize for his win against Paoli in the fifth round, finished second just a half point behind Korchnoi with a score of +10 -2 =5. For Paoli the tournament was a disaster; he finished next to last with a single win and eleven losses and five draws. Paoli (who died in 2005) had a long and successful career in Italian chess and in 1969 missed the GM title by only a half point; he was awarded the title of Honorary GM in 1996. 
     As for the other Soviet players, Kholmov tied for third with Filip and Furman tied for sixth with Pachman. Just before the fifth round, Nezhmetdinov was informed that his son, Iskander, had just been born. This tournament was also the beginning of Filip's brief (1955 to 1962) foray into the group of the world's elite players. During this period he twice qualified for the Candidates Tournaments for the World Championship (Amsterdam 1956 and Curacao, 1962).
     At Curacao he was pretty much outclassed and afterward he lost interest in tournament play, becoming more concerned with just avoiding defeat rather than winning and turned to writing books, journalism and working as an arbiter. In 2002 he was invited to attend festivities for the 40th anniversary of the 1962 Candidates, but he declined saying he had pretty much lost interest in chess. Interesting fact: Filip was 6 feet 9 inches tall.

     Nezhmetdinov's win over Paoli is well known and has been analyzed many, many times but in case you haven't seen it, it's the featured game here. Even if you have seen it, enjoy playing over it again.  While looking over the game I also discovered the opening followed the Ciocaltea-Filip game from the same tournament, but Ciocaltea missed a fine sacrifice; if he had seen it, it's possible that the first brilliancy prize would have been his. Crosstable

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The False Arrest of Arkady Flom

Much of the information for this post was taken from of a story appearing in the July, 1991 issue of The Free Lance Star of Fredericksburg, Virginia. Flom's case was widely reported in newspapers around the country.

     Flom was one of a million chess players that was unknown to the chess world, but he sounds like an interesting guy. Not a lot is known about him other than his fleeting moment of dubious fame when he got arrested in New York City in back 1988. 
     A native of Kiev, Flom had earned a degree in veterinary medicine in 1955 and enjoyed a comfortable life by Soviet standards, but as a Jew, he was increasingly dismayed over religious discrimination. For Flom, the straw that broke the camel's back was when his son was kept off the fencing team. He suffered a heart attack in 1979 and the Soviet authorities finally allowed him to leave for the United States. 
     He arrived in Brooklyn, New York and when his health didn't improve and his marriage broke up, he turned more and more to chess. Several days a week he would make the one hour subway ride from his home in Brooklyn to 42nd Street in Manhattan where chess players gathered on the sidewalk near the New York Public Library. Some enterprising individual rented sets, tables and chairs for them to use and the players typically wagered a few dollars on the games. 
     Around noon on Monday, August 16, 1988 Flom was sitting at a table waiting for a game when a young man, apparently a construction worker on his lunch break, sat down and asked if he wanted to play. Flom said he did and he usually played for two dollars. It was obvious to Flom that his opponent was a beginner because he won easily and so Flom proposed a second game. Only this time the guy was to pay Flom a dollar for a lesson and Flom would show him where he was making mistakes. The man turned out to be an undercover cop. He gave Flom the money then an undercover female officer hung a badge around her neck and bravely emerged from the crowd to handcuff Flom. 
     As other players and passersby looked on in amazement, the 67-year-old Flom was arrested for gambling and hauled off to the police station. There he was fingerprinted, photographed and charged with promoting gambling and possession of gambling equipment...a chessboard and pieces.
     Flom was advised that he could make a single phone call and the only person he knew to call was an elderly neighbor whom he asked to call his sons who lived out of state. Apparently, the woman, who spoke Russian, did not fully understand or didn't care because his sons never got the message.
     Flom was then taken from the police station to jail to await arraignment. There he was ordered to remove his shoelaces and belt and empty his pockets. He was also forced to give them his heart medication which he took three times a day. Flom, who had never been in trouble before, protested that he was sick and advised the police that he suffered from a heart condition. 
     No matter. He was put in a filthy, stinking cell with about 60 other men and there was no place for him to even sit down. Eventually, Flom and about a dozen others were chained together and taken by van to another jail. They arrived shortly after midnight and Flom, who had been suffering through his ordeal for 12 hours, was beginning to have chest pains. A medical person examined him and gave him back his pills then sent him to Beekman Hospital; he was having a heart attack.
     At the Beekman emergency room he was only given pain medicine and allowed to lie down for several hours before he was returned to the first jail he had been in. From there, he was transported back to the second jail. Assigned to a cell with one other prisoner, he was given a cheese sandwich and coffee, but not feeling like eating, he gave them to his cell mate. There was only one bed which Flom offered to his cell mate, choosing to spend the night sitting up. 
     The next morning he was taken to a holding cell where he spent several hours before being taken into the courtroom.   It was a confusing scene for Flom what with men in suits, obvious criminals, prostitutes and other assorted folks all over the place, including some sleeping on benches. Flom was represented by a public defender named Michael Butchen. 
     Butchen told the judge, Herbert Adlerberg, that he didn't think Flom was guilty of gambling. It was a chess game, not a three-card monte scam and the whole affair was ridiculous. Butchen also informed the judge that Flom had never been in trouble before and all he did was offer a cop a chess lesson. The judge asked the prosecutor, a woman name Deborah Steiger, how what Flom did constituted gambling because he (the judge) didn't see it. Steiger agreed and asked the charges to be dismissed.
     Flom told them, “I am a sick man. I got two heart attacks. I told them and now...they arrested me. I am not a gambler. I play chess 40 years. I never was a gambler. They put my case now. What does that mean?” The judge advised him to talk to his lawyer, as if he had one. However, a month later Flom did have a lawyer, Charles Krupin who often represented Russian speaking clients, and he sued the city for a million dollars for wrongful arrest
     The question was, why did a city that averaged seven murders a day and lead the nation in armed robberies even bother with a guy like Flom?  One officer testified they did it because they had received an anonymous phone call informing then that there was illegal activity going on at that location. The director of the neighborhood planning board testified that while they had a few complaints, most people didn't object to the chess players and they were never a big problem.  Besides, 87 years before Flom's arrest New York courts had determined that Flom wasn't gambling because chess is not a game of chance. Flom did not play chess any more after his arrest and his heart condition continued to worsen. 
     Flom never collected on his lawsuit though because he died before the case was settled out of court. Five years after filing the lawsuit, in 1993, it was settled for $100,000. His relatives share, after legal fees, came to $66,000.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Stanley Kubrick and Chess

     Stanley Kubrick was born on July 28, 1928 in the Bronx, New York. His father taught him how to play chess in 1941 when Stanley was 12 and he quickly became a skilled player and even hustled in Central Park. 
     His father gave him a camera for his 13th birthday after which he became an avid photographer and three years later he snapped a photograph of a news vendor in New York the day President Franklin D. Roosevelt died (April 12, 1945) and sold the photograph to Look Magazine for $25, which printed it. 
     At the time, he was a student at Taft High School, which he attended from 1941 to 1945. During this time, he played in tournaments at the Marshall and Manhattan Chess Clubs as well as in the parks such at Washington Square in Greenwich Village where he often played 12 hours a day for quarters, making around $20 a week. Back in those days a quarter was equal to about $4.00 today, so he was making around $320.00 a week in today's dollars. In those days his favorite opening was The Orangutan (1.b4). 
     The parks are where became friends with Larry Evans and it was at the Marshall Chess Club that Kubrick met Alton Cook, a film critic for the New York Telegram and Sun and that's what got Kubrick interested in making movies. 
A movie scene on the cover of Chess Review
     In 1956, he wrote the screenplay for The Killing which was his first movie with chess in it. After getting out of Alcatraz prison, Johnny Clay (played by Sterling Hayden) masterminded a race-track robbery to steal $2 million. In the movie Clay went to the Academy of Chess and Checkers looking for his friend. The Academy of Chess and Checkers was a mock up of the New York Chess and Checker Club (aka the Flea House) on 42nd Street in New York City where Kubrick had been a regular. 
     One of the actors appearing in a scene in the Flea House was Kola Kwariani (Nick the Wrestler). Kwariani was a professional wrestler and wrestling promoter who also played chess and was a friend of Kubrick. In February 1980, while entering the Flea House, Kwariani was seriously injured after being assaulted by a group of teenagers. The incident as described by Sam Sloan: "Nick came in the downstairs entrance one evening when about five black youths were leaving. They bumped into each other and words were exchanged. Nick never took any gruff from anybody and soon he was engaged in a fight with all five black kids at once. Nick probably could still have handled any one or two of them, but five were too many. Nick was beaten." He was taken to a hospital where he died. He was 77 years old. Read an article on the Flea House by Sam Sloan HERE.
The real Flea House
     Chess appeared in many of Kubrick's movies. In 1980, he directed The Shining and one day actor Tony Burton arrived on set carrying a chess set in hopes of getting a game with someone during a break. Kubrick noticed the set and despite production being behind schedule, he called off filming for the day and played chess with Burton. Kubrick won every game, but still thanked Burton for the games since it had been some time that he'd played chess against a challenging opponent. Or so one story goes. Burton told it differently. 
     Tony Burton, in an interview, told of his games with Kubrick, adding that they were good ones. Burton hadn't been playing chess for as long as Kubrick had, having learned the game when he first started acting while in his early 20s. He said he went on to study chess a bit after he got the hang of it. He said that when he played Kubrick, he beat him. He told the interviewer, “When we got going, and really got into our first game--he decided to shut the set down because I had opened up the game with what is called the King's Indian opening and he didn't anticipate that. It really shook him up. No one gave up in the game and it went right down to the checkmate each and every time we played each other during the shooting of the film. In that first game, we both ended up with only pawns on our sides of the board. I just happened to make it to the other side first--got my queen back, and then, was able to finish him off.”
     In a New York Review of Books, writer Jeremy Bernstein mentioned during an interview with Kubrick he had a date with a chess hustler in Washington Square Park to play for money. Kubrick wanted the guy's name. Bernstein said his was named Fred Duval, a Haitian who claimed to be related to Francois Duvalier. He was positive the name wouldn't mean anything to Kubrick, but Kubrick told him, “Duval is a patzer.” Bernstein added that he and Duval were just about equal in ability so he wondered what that made him. See the article, Chess Hustling, a Look Back, on the New York Times Blog.

Article in The Afro American May 13, 1939
     Kubrick went on to explain that early in his career he also played chess for money in the park and that Duval was so weak that it was hardly worth playing him. Read the article
     In 1962 Kubrick permanently moved to England after becoming disenchanted with Hollywood. He had a fatal heart attack in his sleep on March 7th, 1999. He was 70 years old.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

I Beat Magnus Carlsen!

 Sorry. I couldn't resist placing this meme I generated on a site called Meme Generator.

Here's more on my defeat of Magnus…

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

An Unknown Gem By Reshevsky

     Reshevsky has long been my favorite player and I never miss a chance to play over his games. I played him a correspondence game once and met him several times and despite his reputation, found him to be a decent fellow away from the board. 
     In this little known game Reshevsky gets the better position out of the opening and when his opponent erred at move 19 and lost a Pawn he correctly began seeking complications. It was to no avail though because Reshevsky was equally adept at playing tactical chess. 
     Don't let the fact that there's only Qs and Rs on the board fool you...there's a lot of tactical stuff going on in this game that's very instructive. The game was played in the Metropolitan League Match in New York City in 1955 with Reshevsky playing for the Manhattan Chess Club and Franklin Howard playing for the Marshall Chess Club. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

1955 Chess Life...all 12 issues

     I discovered this fascinating download of all 12 issues of Chess Life magazine consisting of 204 pages in pdf format at Simard Artizan Farm. The magazine can be downloaded from the site HERE Be aware that it will take some time to download the entire package as it's 509,465 kb, but it's worth it!
    In those days, if my memory is correct, it was printed on newsprint and came out every two weeks. Each issue was chocked full of local news, national and international news, games plus the regular columns. Personally, I like this format far better than the slick monthly they put out today.  
    The Spring 1955 rating list (page 68) listed Masters Emeritus the following players: Jacob Bernstein, Roy T. Black, Adolph Fink, Herman Hahlbohm, Hermann Helms, Lewis J. Isaacs, Charles S. Jacobs, Abraham Kupchik, Edward Lasker, W.R. Lovegrove, Frank Perkins, Harold M. Phillips, William Ruth, Morris Shapiro and I.S. Turover, 

Grandmaster (over 2700) – Samuel Reshevsky (2766) 
Senior Masters (2500-2699) – Arthur Bisguier (2587), Donald Byrne (2587), Robert Byrne (2621), Larry Evans (2629) and Herman Steiner (2507) 

There were 36 masters (2300-2499). Some of the best known names were: Hans Berliner (2300), Arthur Dake (2400), I.A. Horowitz (2394), William Lombardy (2302), Edmar Mednis (2350) and Nicholas Rossolimo (2462) and  Norman T. Whitaker (2313). 

     Whitaker deserves special mention because there was a note stating he was included because his rating was earned prior to his expulsion from the USCF and adding that his name would not appear on any future rating lists. 
     What Nefarious Norman did to warrant such an action was not specified, but I suspect it involved the cantankerous and difficult to deal with Dickensian character Montgomery Major who was the editor at the time. His fights during the middle 1950s included an ongoing heated and uncompromising battle with Whitaker. 
     Major was strong willed and opinionated and had a knack for making enemies as well as friends. For the first ten years Chess Life was largely his creation, but during his last few years with the newspaper his job was always in jeopardy. 
     Major’s associations with chess were mostly of an organizational nature, rather than as a player for such organizations as the Chicago City Chess League, the Illinois State Chess Association, one of the organizing directors of the American Chess Federation (a fore-runner of the U.S. Chess Federation) and the Correspondence Chess League of America where he managed to alienate a lot of people before being forced out. In addition to being the editor of Chess Life he also wrote columns under pseudonyms like “William Rojam,” which is Major spelled backwards. 
     In the January 5, 1956 issue he wrote a column slamming everybody who was trying influence policy decisions for the magazine in what he called a conspiracy to gag Chess Life and their “futile and clandestine attempt to replace the Editor with someone more subservient to their mandates.” Major was forced to resign at the end of 1956 because USCF members were sick of him and the bickering and infighting he was causing.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Who is Better and by How Much?

In this position black just played 19...Qd1-b6 and offered a draw. While looking over the game with Stockfish 7 (64 POPCNT) it was showing a winning advantage for white of about 2.5 Pawns while Komodo 8 was evaluating the position at 0.00. 

I decided to run some Shootouts and with Stockfish white scored 5 wins out of 5 while Komodo scored +1 -0 =4 for white. The curious thing was that playing white with Stockfish and black with Komodo 8, Komodo shows things equal until you actually start making moves. Some further experimentation resulted in almost every case that after a few moves, Komodo's evaluation started making a sudden jump to a huge advantage for white. Also, the two engines disagreed on almost every move! 

I also checked the position with some other engines: 
Houdini 1.5 - evaluation 0.00 
Fritz 12 – evaluation 0.00 
Gull 3 - evaluation 1.57 
Stockfish 7 64 – evaluation 1.85

There are some basic differences in the engines: Stockfish is a rather deep searcher, but it does it through aggressive pruning of the tree of analysis. The advantage to this is quick analytical sight and tactical ingenuity, but there are also some disadvantages. Stockfish can miss some resources hidden deep in the position. Komodo 8 is slightly faster in its evaluation has been fine-tuned by GM Larry Kaufman and it seems to be slightly more attuned to positional nuances especially when it comes to evaluating positions that have a material imbalance. 

What's the correct evaluation? Honestly, I do not know, but would be interested in seeing if anybody cares to test the position. In any case, in an engine assisted correspondence game, I'd play Stockfish's 20.Nd3 just to see what happens because it seems white has almost no chances of losing.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Chess Champion's Winnings Confiscated

From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle January 18, 1923...
Austrians Impound Prize Won by Rubinstein at Chess 
Akiba Rubinstein, who, as in 1912, is again getting the habit of monopolizing the best there is to be had in the way of cash emoluments at the tournaments in which he takes part, had a curious, not to say shocking experience after the conclusion of the recent international congress at Vienna. As his share of the booty distributed among the masters in the form of prizes, he had the snug sum of 8,000,000 crowns in Austrian currency – considerable luggage all will admit. 

NOTE: Vienna was a hard-fought event with only 32 draws in 103 games and this is not just due to the top players beating up the amateurs; there weren't many of them to beat up on! The tournament was a great success for Rubinstein, who scored 11.5 – 2.5 and finished a point and a half ahead of Tartakower, two points ahead of Heinrich Wolf and two and a half points ahead of Tarrasch, Maroczy and Alekhine who was probably the pre-tournament favorite. 

     Continuing from the article...Departing from that once gay city and arriving at the border, the great master, who established his chess reputation as a Russian, but now represents Poland, ran afoul of the frontier officials, who, it appears, took a livelier interest in his cash holding than in the rest of his belongings. At any rate, the net result of the painful interview was that the 8,000,000 crowns were impounded which, of course, meant that Rubinstein and his Austrian money parted company and he continued his journey alone, or with whatever foreign change he may have had in his pocket. The reason advanced for this strange procedure was that releasing these home made funds and permitting them to run amuck in strange hands would assuredly result in the further depreciation of Austrian exchange! At this writing and basing calculations on present New York quotations, the value of the amount involved, in American dollars is exactly $120. (NOTE: about $1,700 in today's currency) 

Evidently, Rubinstein must have procured a through ticket, for he finally reached Hastings safely in time for the opening of the chess festival there. He holds an official receipt for the money that he left behind, but the authorities clearly are not good correspondents for his letters of protest, so far, are without reply. At Hastings 1922, Rubinstein barely managed to finish first with an advantage of only half a point over Reti and Siegheim. This was due to the fact that he lost a game to J.A.J. Drewitt, former Oxford player in the sixth round. In addition, he drew three games. 

1) Rubinstein 6.5 – 2.5 
2-3) Reti and Siegheim 6-3 
4-5) Conde and Norman 5-4 
6) Yates 
7-8) Blake and E. Sergeant 3.5 – 5.5 
9) Drewitt 3-6 
10) P. Sergeant 2-7

     The third Hastings Christmas Chess Festival was held at the end of the year 1922. As with the previous installments of the event, more participants were invited to join the Premier tournament, with the roster increasing to ten in this edition. Among the notable participants this time around were Akiba Rubinstein and Richard RĂ©ti. The non-British participants dominated over their English opponents, with Rubinstein finishing clear first at the final with 6.5. As with other early editions of Hastings, the complete tournament game scores are not known. 
     Here is the first round game between Rubinstein and relatively unknown Siegheim who so well defended himself that after Rubinstein's attack failed he managed to draw by perpetual check. It was openings like this that lead to Capablanca declaring that chess was played out in his day.