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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Real Humdinger by Spassky

     Bobby Fischer called this game one of the ten greatest of all time. Pachman called it a modern masterpiece, Soitis ranks it number 32 on his top 100 list, a poll of readers by Shakmatny Bulletin ranked it as one of the very best games of the 1960s and in his book on Spassky, Bernard Cafferty called it one of the finest games he had ever had the pleasure to review or to analyze. Everybody agrees that it is of the most amazing games ever played and one of the more famous games of the modern era. 
     The game is Spassky vs. Bronstein from the 1960 USSR Championship. It's the game that was featured in the classic James Bond movie "From Russia, With Love" as being played by Kronstein against McAdams. I never saw the movie because I am not James Bond fan and rarely go to movies, but I am not sure how it took me 57 years to discover this game!
     Spassky's 15.Nd5, threatening Qh7+, has received the accolades of a lot of fine players. But, it has also been criticized on the grounds that 15. Rf2 would have given him an excellent game whereas the move he actually chose leads, with correct play, to an unclear position.
     That's true, but as Soltis pointed out, chess isn't always about finding perfect moves. (That is unless you're a modern correspondence player seeking perfection by using a bunch of engines and a powerful computer.) In OTB play chess is about making pragmatic choices. In this game Bronstein was short on time and the complications as a result of Spassky's sacrifice resulted in, as Botvinnik used to put it, head whirling complications. 
     If you haven't seen this game, you'll enjoy it.  If you have seen it before, enjoy it again!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Refuting the Refutation of the Colle?!

     In chapter 23 of his book Action Chess renowned author and teacher C.J.S. Purdy wrote that the nearest thing there is to a perfect opening for amateurs is the Colle System because it's a play by pattern system. 
     Gunnar Gundersen (March 11, 1882 in Bordeaux – February 9, 1943 in Melbourne) was an Australian master who disagreed. Born in Bordeaux, France, he was raised in Melbourne where his Norwegian father was the Scandinavian consul. Gundersen started to play chess as a freshman at Melbourne University in 1902 and would eventually become a professor of mathematics there. He participated in the Mannheim 1914 tournament, scoring 2.5/10 in the Main tournament (Hauptturnier A) before the outbreak of World War I stopped the event. After a hurried distribution of the prize money Gundersen succeeded fleeing to Christiana [now Oslo]. He rode the train for 6 days on what should have been a 36 hour trip and during that time he had only two meals and ten hours sleep. Gundersen won the Victorian State Championship in 1907, 1908, 1912, 1913, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919, 1920, 1922 and 1929 and the New Zealand Championship in 1929/30 and 1931/32. 
     Gundersen didn't think much of the Colle, calling it an opening consisting of wood shifting, safety first and one that kept the draw in hand and Edgar Colle played it because he suffered from an inferiority complex. Gundersen stated that if black can prevent e2-e4 by any means, then the opening was busted. 
     The Colle, Torre, and the London System….while their general reputation is rather bad, the fact is, there is simply no refutation. Moreover, they all have been played by world champions at one time or another. 
     When meeting any of these systems my favorite method is to use a K-Indian setup. In one old book, Winning With the Colle System by Kenneth Smith and John Hall, they wrote that often when black “messes around” with a fianchetto or two and attacks white's center from the flank white should rejoice. That's nonsense! They only gave one example, Koltanowski vs. Alekhine, Hastings 1936-37 and in their annotations offered a single comment mentioning 7.b4! left white better. It was a better move, but hardly a refutation of Alekhine's double fianchetto. 
     They would have better served their readers to have explained that in openings like the Colle, Torre and London systems, when black chooses setups different than the usual Queen's Gambit formation, white does well to change his strategy.  
     It's not unusual that less than honest authors who are advocating a particular opening, especially secondary, obscure, or in some cases, downright inferior openings, to avoid anything that does not agree with their claim. 
     In the book Colle, London and Blackmar-Diemer Systems Tim Harding says the Colle formation is not very good for white against the King's Indian. For that reason he recommends white not play e2-e3 until black has played e7-e6. His recommendation is that when black plays the K-Indian white should abandon the Colle and play the London System. That is, 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. Bf4. For an excellent article on the London System, see this article on Chessbase.
     Also, in the excellent book, Zuke 'Em by Dave Rudel, in the forward GM Aaron Summerscale wrote that one particular move order that he found to be irksome was 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 g6. If you are interested in playing the Colle then Rudel's book is probably the best one available for amateurs. 
     Here is a game where black fianchettoes his KB and white transposes into the London System. The position looks pretty bland, but the winner comes up with an ingenious plan to infuse some life into the position. 
     Michael J. Franklin (February 2, 1931) is a British FM and was one of the country's leading players for many years. 
     George Botterill (January 8, 1949) is a British IM and at one time was one of Britain's leading young players. In 1974 he was in a seven way tie for first in the British Championship and won the playoff. In 1974 he became a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Wales and began playing for the Welsh team. In 1974 he was joint Welsh champion and in 1977 he won the British title outright. Botterill is best known as a chess writer, in particular for his opening collaborations with Raymond Keene. He later became Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Sheffield.

Friday, March 17, 2017

An Interesting Line Against the French

     I used to play the French Defense regularly. That probably had a lot to do with Botvinnik being my favorite player early on and his One Hundred Selected Games was one of the few books that actually got read so much the cover fell off. 
     I was also influenced by CJS Purdy's book, Action Chess. In it he wrote that OTB he preferred giving white as few options as possible and that was the appeal of openings like the Dragon Sicilian (I never played it), the French and another of my favorites, the Caro-Kann. Purdy claimed that the Sicilian was too complicated and the Caro-Kann retarded black's development and needed a lot of study and that left the French. His recommendation was the line 3...dxe4, but I found it to be a bit too passive so I eventually went back to Botvinnik's favorite, the Winawer. 
     I have to confess that when playing over this game I had never seen white's 7th move and found it intriguing. My expanded Fritz 12 opening book shows that out of 220 games white won (not scored) 51 percent. I was surprised to find that it only shows up in two games in the Rybka opening book and is not listed at all in the HIARCS book. Nor did it show up in my correspondence book consisting of top level correspondence games. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Golombek's Bench

Golombek's Memorial Bench
       Sir Harry Golombek (March 1, 1911 – January 7, 1995) was British chess champion in 1947, 1949 and 1955, an honorary GM (1985), the chess correspondent for The Times between 1945 and 1989, and editor of the British Chess Magazine from 1938 to 1940 and also the overseas editor of the BCM in the 1960s and 70s. In 1966 he was awarded the OBE for services to chess. During the Second World War Golombek, originally a bombardier, later worked at Bletchley Park, in Hut 8, the section responsible for cracking the Enigma code.
     In St. Giles Churchyard, Chalfont S.t Giles, Bucks, UK, by the entrance to the church, there is a bench with the dedication "Harry Golombek, O.B.E. Code Breaker, Chess Correspondent, Writer" with his birth and death dates. 
St. Giles Church

Negative Immortality...

    That's what Arnold Denker described James F. Smyth as having achieved in The Bobby Fischer I Knew. It was because Smyth lost this "brilliancy" to Helms.  Denker wrote "everybody" has seen; I hadn't so decided to take a look at it.
     Not much is known of Smyth. Denker said he was born in England and a certified public accountant. His name pops up frequently in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle of the period and he was the librarian for the Brooklyn Chess Club, a frequent competitor in its championship and in 1915 he defeated Bora Kostic in a simultaneous. The Eagle also has mention of a James F. Smyth who was an attorney, not an accountant...same person or not? 
     Hermann Helms (1870 – 1963) was born in Brooklyn, New York, but spent his early childhood in Hamburg, Germany and Halifax, Nova Scotia before returning to the US at the age of 17. The following game has been called his "Evergreen" game, but as we will see, like many old "brilliantly" played games, it has plenty of flaws. It's still an entertaining game to play over though and any of us would have been proud to have played it, especially the final move. Arnold Denker published the game with brief notes and his analysis is some of the crappiest I have seen in a long time. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

It's Not Over Until It's Over

     When calculating a tactical sequence you must be absolutely certain you have reached the end. You have to ask yourself, "Am I sure this is the final position?" Stop too short and there may be a nasty surprise awaiting. 
     That's what happened in this game. Barda saw Keres' threat and calculated five moves ahead and thought his 20.Kf2 left him with a won position. But, the sequence wasn't over and Keres saw a couple of moves further...to the real end of the sequence. 
     Paul Keres needs no introduction. He was an aggressive and a swashbuckling player and this trait never left him even though in his later years his play was a little more positional. That's because as a player gets older it gets harder to calculate tactics and so one tends to rely on experience and intuition more. 
     His opponent, Olaf Barda (August 17, 1909 – May 2, 1971), born Olaf M. Olsen, was a Norwegian who was the first Norwegian player to be awarded the IM title, which he received in 1952. Barda won the Norwegian Championship six times: 1930 (under the name Olsen), 1947, 1948, 1952, 1953, and 1957. Barda was also a strong correspondence player, winning the Norwegian correspondence championships in 1946 and 1949/1950. In 1953 he was awarded the correspondence GM title and finished fourth in the First World Correspondence Championship played between 1950 and 1953. 
     This game was played in the 12th Chess Olympiad which was held between August 31 and September 25, 1956, in Moscow. The Russians were were double defending champions and lived up to expectations although their margin of victory wasn't as big as in previous years. Yugoslavia and Hungary finished second and third.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Fickle Finger of Fate

 The Biel Interzonal of 1977 was part of the cycle that resulted in the Karpov - Korchnoi World Championship Match in 1978. At Biel Petrosian had some bad luck and some good luck. And, if it weren't for bad luck, Huebner would have had no luck at all. In this tournament Petrosian lost one game to a tailender, the 2380 rated Oscar Humberto Castro Rojas and he should not have won this one from Robert Huebner.   
     Huebner's loss left him bitter about chess. He stated in an interview that there was a time he actually enjoyed playing chess, but when he thought about this game where he missed a forced mate, it cause him to lose interest. 
     Many of today's players won't know the name of the somewhat quirky German (then West German) GM Robert Huebner (born November 6, 1948), but he was one of the world's leading players in the 1970s and early 1980s. 
     At eighteen, he tied for first in the West German Championship, became an IM in 1969 and a GM in 1971. By 1980 his rating placed him number three in the world. Hubner played in three Candidates Tournaments and all of them ended in a controversy. 
     In 1971, he forfeited a closely contested quarter final to Tigran Petrosian, complaining about the noise when he was behind by one game. 
     In 1980-81 he reached the final before losing to Viktor Korchnoi when he forfeited the match after 10 games, again when he was down one point. In his match against Korchnoi, after six games Huebner was leading by one point, but in Game 7 he blundered and lost then lost game 8 which gave Korchnoi a one point lead. 
     Huebner asked that game 9 be postponed which it was. When it was played two days later, the game was adjourned as was game 10 which was played the next day. 
     On January 7th Huebner asked for another postponement of the two adjourned games until January 12th. Meanwhile the last two games were scheduled for January 10th and 11th.
     But, on the morning of January 9th Huebner packed up and left Merano. Korchnoi was informed at breakfast and Huebner had left a letter to arbiter Henk Folkers stating he was abandoning the match. 
     Nobody knows exactly why Huener walked out. Rumor was that Huebner had a disagreement with his seconds, Vlastimil Hort, William Martz and Gudmundur Sigurjonsson, but that turned out not to be the case. Korchnoi's manager, Alban Brodbeck, had been involved in a nasty argument with chess patron Wilfried Hilgert in which he called Hilgert a liar and a highwayman. Hilgert made the same claims against Brodbeck. The argument got ugly; Hilgert's wife wouldn't greet Korchnoi's secretary and things escalated until Huebner apparently had enough. 
     Finally, in 1983 Huebner lost a quarter final match to Vassily Smyslov. The match was tied after the original 10 games plus four playoff games.  The tie was resolved in Smyslov's favor by... the spin of a roulette wheel! 
     Huebner served as Nigel Short's second in the 1993 world championship match against Garry Kasparov and remained active on the international circuit into the 2000s, but was never a full-time chess professional due to his career as a papyrologist (the study of ancient literature, correspondence, legal archives, etc.). 
     Huebner has authored a few works on chess, the most interesting of which was probably a ChessBase CD where he concluded that Alekhine's analyses were overestimated and he was very harsh and negative in his comments on Alekhine's games and analysis. According to Huebner, Alekhine had terrible weaknesses in every single aspect of the game, including technical and psychological ones. On reviewer of the CD wondered if Alekhine's rating would have gone up or down after thorough tutoring by Huebner. 

Biel final results:
1) Bent Larsen 12.5 
2-4) Tigran Petrosian, Lajos Portisch, Mikhail Tahl 12.0 
5-7) Vasily Smyslov, Robert Byrne and Robert Huebner 11.5 
8) Ulf Andersson 10.5 
9-11) Istvan Csom, Efim Geller and Jan Smejkal 10.0 
12) Gennady Sosonko 9.5 
13-15) Vladimir Liberzon, Kenneth Rogoff and Boris Gulko 9.0 
16) Raul Sanguineti 8.5 
17) Aleksandar Matanovic 8.0 
18) Oscar Humberto Castro Rojas 6.0 
19) Andre Lombard 5.0 
20) Joaquin Diaz 2.5 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Andrew Soltis on Monkey Wrenches

    A monkey wrench (known as gas grips in the UK) is an adjustable wrench with large jaws that has an adjusting screw in the handle; it can also mean to sabotage something.
     In his book The Inner Game of Chess, Andrew Soltis has a chapter full of examples where one player threw a monkey wrench into his opponent's plans by playing an unexpected move.  Usually monkey wrenches consist of incorrect assumptions on the part of one of the players; they can be an unexpected quiet move, a move that destroys the guard of another piece, a Zwischenzug, a move that combines both attack and defense or a desperado move. 
     Soltis advises when calculating a sequence of moves it is essential to make sure obvious or forced moves really are forced. 
     In the following game Erich Eliskases (1913–1997), a rising star Alekhine tapped as a World Championship contender made not one but two incorrect assumptions.  First, that black had to move his King on move 26, then on the very next move that in reply to 27.Bxf7+ the B to be captured. 
     His opponent, Walter Henneberger (1883–1969), threw two monkey wrenches into Eliskases' calculations. By the way, Eliskases is pronounced Erik E-liss-kah-sis...see Youtube HERE
     Henneberger was a Swiss master whose career as a school teacher afforded him few opportunities to compete in international tournaments. In the early 1900s he won the Swiss Championship four times but was well into middle age before he met world-class opposition.

The final standing in the Libverda:
1) Salo Flohr 9.5 
2) Fritz Saemisch 7.5 
3) Karl Gilg 7.0 
4-6) Max Bluemich, Emil Zinner and Rudolf Pitschak 6.0 
7-9) Sandor Boros, Erick Eliskases and Albert Becker 5.5 
10) Franz Herzog 4.5 
11) Walter Henneberger 2.5 
12) August Haida 0.5

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Drugs and Chess

     In an effort to become an official Olympic sport FIDE instituted drug testing for chess. I never bothered to read them before, but they are quite interesting! The FIDE drug regulations can be viewed on their site HERE
     What legal or illegal substance could a player take in order to enhance performance? I didn't know there were any, but an article in The Washington Times had some startling revelations. 
     Recent research shows that for tournament-level chess players such drugs do exist. In a series of experiments, researchers found that caffeine, the stimulant Ritalin and the stay-awake drug Modafinil improved a players’ chances of winning a game against a computer program set to their skill level, but not by much. 
     In a single game, the edge gained by taking one of these was the equivalent of giving a player the opening move, but over a many games the marginal improvement seen in players taking Ritalin and Modafinil could be large and relevant. 
     However, players under the influence of performance enhancers slowed their play enough to the point that they were more likely to lose on time. They played better, but used more time. 
     The new study, published in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology, set out to test whether three drugs with reputed powers of cognitive enhancement actually improved performance of complex intellectual tasks more than a placebo. Forty German tournament players between the age of 18 and 60 took part. They reported to the lab on four separate days. After breakfast and again after lunch and each was given either 200 mg of caffeine, 20 mg of Ritalin, 200 mg of Modafinil (Provigil), or a placebo. 
     Test subjects played a total of 20 games against a computer program , the strength of which was adjusted to their level of play so that they would score wins 50 percent of the time. By the end of four sessions, each player had tried each of the drugs and the placebo.
     Competing against the program under the influence of placebo, players won 52 percent of the time. Under the influence of Ritalin, players won 54.1 percent. On caffeine players won 54.3 percent and on Modafinil they won 55.1 percent of the games. 
     As for the speed issue, compared with players on the placebo, the players’ average reflection time per game increased when they were given any of the other three capsules. Times per game rose from 7.28 minutes to as high as 9.22 minutes on Modafinil which meant their probability of exceeding the time limit in a tournament game would be substantially increased. 
     Other findings: When the researchers eliminated games lost on time, players who got Modafinil and Ritalin (but not those on caffeine) showed even greater performance enhancement over those on the placebo. Players who took Ritalin, widely used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, showed an enhanced ability to tune out distractions.
     FIDE's list of banned substances includes Ritalin and Modafinil, but not caffeine, and the researchers in this test questioned the fact that coffee was not banned. 
     Their conclusion is that cognitive enhancement is a possibility. If time is not a factor, taking any one of these three drugs appears to significantly improve an individual’s ability to tune out distractions and improve performance, but where time is a factor the price may be too high. 
     My conclusion is that these drugs are better suited to correspondence chess where time is not such an important factor.  Before firing up Stockfish and Komodo and trying to sort out which one is offering the better suggestion, wash down some Modafinil with a couple of cups of coffee and improve your performance by 10 percent or so. It could be worth a some rating points. 

Medscape Medical News - Psychiatry Stimulants Enhance Cognitive Performance in Top Chess Players. Read more...