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Friday, April 20, 2018

If I Didn't Play Chess I'd Play...

the harmonica...

The Greatest Player in the World

     No doubt about it, it was Reuben Fine. At least he thought so. Author Sam Sloan, who knew Fine, could never figure out if he was joking or if he really believed it. Arnold Denker wrote that he always felt sorry for Fine, mentioning that he lied a lot. Nevertheless, Fine was a great player, at least for a brief period of time and some of his chess books were pretty good, too. 
     Of Basic Chess Endings, Fine said that if it wasn't in the book, then it wasn't known. In a 1984 interview, Fine stated that it took him three months to write the book which was published in 1941. 
     Needless to say, over the years, many errors were found and many of them were published in Larry Evans' Chess Life column. Over one hundred errors were found and a mimeographed list of them was printed by Paul L. Crane and Rev. David Chew. An 18-page booklet containing over 200 corrections was published by Samuel Louie in 1990 and 1993.
     Burt Hochberg finally convinced the publisher to create a new edition. Endgame expert Pal Benko, whose own copy of the book contained hand-written notes of almost all of the errors, did the revision. The revised edition was published in 2003. Of course, endgame tablebases have revealed some errors have not been corrected. 
     Even with the inevitable errors bound to be found in such a work, Larry Evans listed it in his "basic chess library" and World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik considered it the best book on the endgame. Yuri Averbakh (who wrote the five-volume Comprehensive Chess Endings and Chess Endings: Essential Knowledge) based his research on Fine's book. And, John Nunn, who wrote a review of Basic Chess Endings, both the original version and the revised edition, called it a classic. Nunn also added that Fine was at his best when he gave general descriptions and the book has been rightly praised for its instructional value. 
     Nunn added that while it was well worth reading, much of the material on Queen endings was seriously misleading because knowledge of those ending has greatly increased since Fine wrote the book. Benko's revision has been described as poor. Many positions are without diagrams and some positions have been removed and the chapter on Queen endings was not brought up to date. Benko also failed to correct many errors in the original book. No computer-checking of the analysis was done; Benko does not use computers. The layout has also been described as shabby. 
     I said all that to ask, how many modern Grandmasters could write such a great classic (without a computer, no less), which Basic Chess Endings is, in three months?! That is if it really took him three months...remember what Denker said. 
     Up until the early 1930s, Fine claimed he had never read a chess book, but then he discovered them. The only problem was he didn't think any of them were worth reading. Books by Marshall and Capablanca were too elementary and the tournament book of Saint Petersburg 1914 had too many errors in the notes. Fine wrote that at first he thought he was mistaken, but later discovered that many chess authors were just plain sloppy. 
     After Pasadena 1932, Fine began studying German chess literature; he thought they were the only books worth the effort. He especially praised Tarrasch's Three Hundred Games. After that, he turned to the Hypermoderns, especially Reti's Masters of the Chessboard and Nimzovich's My System. Fine especially praised Nimzovich for pointing out principles for handling closed and cramped positions. 
     Those books didn't help with practical play so then he turned to studying the games of Lasker, Capablanca and Alekhine. After that he became the greatest player in the world. 
     For all his braggadocio, according to Chessmetrics Fine was rated number one in the world six different months between the October 1940 rating list and the March 1941 rating list. And, his highest assigned rating was 2762 on the July 1941 rating list which placed him number two in world behind Botvinnik at 2786. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Moscow 1947

     The Chigorin Memorial in honor of Mikhail Chigorin (1850–1908), founder of the Soviet Chess School and one of the leading players of his day was first held in Saint Petersburg in 1909. 

    Later an international invitational memorial series was established; they were mainly played in the Black Sea resort Sochi (from 1963 to 1990). Prior to that irregular tournaments had been held in 1947, 1951, 1961, and 1972, played in diverse venues. When, in 1993, the venue returned to Saint Petersburg it had degenerated into an open tournament.
     In 1947 it was a given fact that the next World Champion was going to be Botvinnik. He had won the first major tournament to be held after World War II, Groningen in 1946, and he had turned in an excellent performance in the Soviet championship. So, for him, along with Paul Keres and Vasily Smyslov, the Chigorin Memorial held from November 25 to December 23 was to be their final appearance before the upcoming world championship tournament. Officially the tournament was limited to Slavic players, but by international standards it was still a very strong event. 

     Botvinnik, thanks to a series of wins from rounds 6-10, established a one point lead. Then after round 11 his lead was a comfortable 1.5 points, but a draw in round 12 cut it back to one point ahead of Keres and Kotov. 
     Then came the fateful 13th round. Botvinnik had white against the newcomer Pachman while Keres had black against Gligoric and Kotov had black against Bondarevsky. Naturally, that put Botvinnik in a good position to increase his lead. But disaster struck when Botvinnik committed a rare gross blunder that cost a piece. He played on but the issue was never in doubt. 
     Both Keres and Kotov faded while Botvinnik recovered in round 14 when he defeated Keres in a marathon 80-move game. In the final round with first place assured he took a 13-move GM draw against Trifunovic. Of the foreign masters, only Pachman (Czechoslovakia) and Trifunovic (Yugoslavia) managed to score more than 50 percent. 

1) Botvinnik 11.0 
2) Ragozin 10.5 
3-4) Boleslavsky and Smyslov 10.0 
5) Kotov 9.5 
6-7) Keres and Novotelnov 9.0 
8) Pachman 8.5 
9) Trifunovic 8.0 
10) Gligoric 7.5 
11) Bondarevsky 6.5 
12) Kholmov 5.5 
13) Kottnauer 5.0 
14-15) Plater and Sokolsky 4.0 
16) Tsvetkov 2.0 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Tartakower Almost Finished First

     Germans in Sudetenland started the German Chess Federation in Czechoslovakia in 1921. The new federation held congresses every year and at its first congress held in Teplitz-Schonau in 1922. 
     Fourteen players participated in the round robin event. Despite the absence of world champion Capablanca, Alekhine, former world champion Emanuel Lasker and such prominent players as Bogoljubow, Euwe and Nimzovich all the top players in the world were there. Bogoljubow had originally intended to play but withdrew at a late stage and was replaced by Friedrich Saemisch. 
     Some players, notably Tarrasch and Teichmann were past their peak. Where Rubinstein fit in was a question mark. His style placed him among the newer generation, but he had already notched up some important victories and was generally considered the best player in the world behind Lasker. 
     The time control was 2 hours for the first 30 moves, then 1 hour every 15 moves. Draws before move 45 could only be made in agreement with the tournament director. 
     For most of the tournament Spielmann and Tartakower were in the running, but with one round to go they were caught by Reti leaving all three with 8.5 points. A half point behind were Rubinstein and Gruenfeld, both of whom had only theoretical chances of reaching first because it was unlikely that Spielmann, Tartakower and Reti would lose their last round games. 
     Rubinstein's nerves worked against him when as black in a complicated position he blundered away a piece at move 47 against Kostic and lost. Reti was playing white against Gruenfeld and their key game ended in a draw following a complicated positional battle. 
     In Spielmann's game, after mutual blunders, he was lucky to get a draw against Wolf. It was Tartakower who had the best chance of winning in the last round because he was facing Teichmann, a master of the older generation whose best days were behind him. Besides, Tartakower had white. Their game turned out to be a thriller. 

1-2) Reti and Spielmann 9.0 
3-4) Tartakower and Gruenfeld 8.5 
5) Rubinstein 8.0 
6) Kostic 6.5
7) Teichmann 6.0 
8-10) Treybal, Wolf and Maroczy 5.5 
11-13) Tarrasch, Saemisch and Mieses 5.0 
14) Johner 4.0 

Reti suffered three losses: Wolf, Mieses and Johner 
Spielmann lost only to Reti, but had too many draws 
Tartakower lost three: Reti, Teichmann and Treybal 
Gruenfeld lost only to Spielmann, but he also had too many draws. 
Rubinstein also lost three: Reti, Tartakower and Kostic 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Euwe and Silly Blunders

     This one took place at Paignton in 1951.

1) Harry Golombek 6.5
2) Dr. Max Euwe 6.0
3) J.H. Donner 4.5
4-5) Leonard Barden and A.R.B. Thomas 3.0
6) Francis Kitto 2.5
7) R.M. Bruce 1.5
8) John B. Goodman 1.0

     Golombek's lone draw was against Donner. Euwe won all his games except against Golombek. Donner lost one game, to Euwe, and was held to draws by Golombek, Barden and Goodman.
     This was the very first Paignton congress which was to become a fixture in British chess. The venue was the Oldway Mansion which once belonged to the Singer family of sewing machine fame.
The Singers had a nice house

     IM Harry Golombek was assigned a rating of 2543, his highest ever, in 1951 by Chessmetrics ranking him 103rd in the world.  The 50-year old Euwe was assigned a rating of 2682 ranking him number 17 in the world.
    Euwe once said, “During my chess career, I have made quite a few oversights. In fact I have probably made more silly blunders than any other world champion.”
    While Euwe is often considered to be the weakest of the world champions, that implies that somehow he was lucky to win it, but that's not true. Euwe's great characteristic was logic and he believed in law and order on the board. His play was accurate and aggressive, but his attacks were different than, say, Tal's; Euwe's attacks were based on logic. But, as he admitted, his greatest weakness was a tendency to blunder.
     Writing in the tournament book of Nottingham, 1936 W H Watts wrote: Euwe is the essence of caution. To win the world's championship and to secure a place only half a point behind the winner on caution alone is impossible, there must be depth and imagination, but the outstanding impression to be gained from his games is caution and dogged perseverance.
     In his return match with Alekhine things went badly for Euwe after winning the first game; he ended up losing the match by five points. Various reasons have been put forward, but it's possible that one reason was that his second, Reuben Fine, fell ill with appendicitis and could not assist him.
    After this his teaching duties made it difficult for him to concentrate on tournaments and in the Dutch championship he could only play matches in the evening as he had teaching commitments through the day. Although received time off to play in other tournaments he had no time to prepare. 
    During the war he provided food for people through an underground charity organization. The after the war he won the London Tournament in 1946 and it looked like he might once again be a challenger for the world championship, but in in a few years it was clear that that was not going to be the case. The main reason was likely that chess took a back seat to his professional career.
    In 1954 Euwe became interested in data processing and was appointed as Professor of Cybernetics. In 1957 he visited the United States to study computer technology and while in the US he played two unofficial games against Bobby Fischer, winning one and drawing one.
     He was appointed director of The Netherlands Automatic Data Processing Research Centre in 1959. From 1961 to 1963, he was chairman of a committee set up by Euratom to examine the feasibility of programming computers to play chess. In 1964, he was appointed to a chair in an automatic information processing in Rotterdam University and later at Tilburg University from which he retired in 1971.
    From 1970 to 1978 Euwe was president of FIDE. While in that position he acted with great tact and skill as arbitrator of the Fischer - Spassky World Championship match. Euwe made huge efforts to ensure that the Fischer-Karpov match was played, but thanks to Fischer's obstinacy, his efforts failed.
     In the following game against Golombek, Euwe held a significant advantage until move 30 when he made a gross oversight and ended up losing.

Monday, April 16, 2018

King Moves in the Opening

     In his book The Modern Chess Instructor Steinitz wrote that "...it is specially as regards the powers of the King that the modern school deviates from the teaching and practice of old theorists....and we consider it established that the King must be treated as a strong piece both for attack and defense." 
     Steinitz put his King where his pen was when he often delayed castling until after his opponent has done so, or didn't castle at all and sometimes he never moved his King at all. This strategy allowed him to carry out other piece maneuvers. His theory was just a few simple precautions were needed for the King safety, perhaps only a single minor piece within convenient reach. 
      Steinitz also used a line in the King's Gambit where white doesn't castle, but has compensation. The Steinitz Gambit: 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 exf4 4.d4 Qh4+ 5.Ke2. 

     Of course all this goes against everything we were ever taught about how to play the opening, but GMs know when the rules can be safely violated. 
     A while back I came across three interesting games where white moved his King in the opening: one by Olaf Ulvestad and two by Yasser Seirawan. 
     In this game Ulvestad played 10.Ke2 to avoid a pin. Arnold Denker liked it only because it was different, but in this particular position that wasn't much of a reason to play it. In the two games by Seirawan one time it worked, the other time it was a disaster. 
     In addition to being ridiculed for his chess books, Reinfeld was never appreciated much as a player. Regarding his chess books though, he wrote some really good ones early in his career. But, as he later complained, he got paid almost nothing for them. Then he discovered when he wrote trash for casual players royalties came pouring in. 
     As a player, by the time this game was played he was known as a “squeezer” who seldom won or lost, mostly drawing. But, when he felt like it he could play aggressively as he did in this game which received a special prize as “the showpiece of the tournament.” For some interesting views on Reinfeld please refer to Edward Winter's post number 8436

Friday, April 13, 2018

Where's Brian?

     Brian R. Eley (July 6, 1946) is a former British Champion who belonged to the group of talented masters who came to the fore in Britain in the 1970s, after the dominance of Jonathan Penrose ended.  That group included, among others, Raymond Keene, William Hartston, George Botterill. 
     Eley played in domestic tournaments, was a chess coach and gave simultaneous exhibitions. For a period around 1971, he wrote an infrequent chess column for the Morning Telegraph of Sheffield. He also ran a chess retail business, supplying books, sets, etc. 
     It was a major upset when Eley won the 1972 British Championship. In the Chessgames.dom database his last tournament listed is Hastings, 1973. He had a peak FIDE rating of 2350. 
     A few years ago one person posting in a chess forum stated that as early as 1980 rumors about Eley being involved in child molestation were floating around and when the British Chess Federation got wind of them, he was never given any position involving responsibility for junior players. 
     In July, 1991 Eley was arrested at his South Yorkshire home on suspicion of sexually abusing an underage male he had once coached. He was released on bail. Although not charged at that time, Eley jumped bail approximately a month after his arrest and disappeared. He was subsequently charged with more than 30 offenses of a similar nature and remains a fugitive.  All the references I found said  he is wanted by the British police and Interpol., but I am not sure that is any longer the case.  His name does not appear in a search of persons wanted by Interpol
     On the same forum another poster claimed to have played Eley at a chess club in Amsterdam. He did not know who Eley was, but knew there was some controversy surrounding him, and that he was a very strong player who hustled for money. He thought many of the Dutch players simply regarded Eley as a victim of British injustice. He was also curious as to why the British never applied to the Dutch government for a warrant for his arrest and extradition. 
     John Nunn remarked that Eley "became the only British Chess Champion...to appear on the television program Crimewatch." 
     In the following game he crushes many time British champ Jonathan Penrose. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Teeny Tiny Positional Errors

    I posted an attacking game by Flohr a few years ago and recently ran across the following game that shows what kind of chess he played in his heyday, the late 1920s and early 1930s. At one time he was considered a serious contender to challenge Alekhine for the World Championship, but by the mid-1930s the flawless yet aggressive positional play was gone. Even then, Chessmetrics places him among the world's top 20 players from 1930 to 1951.  Czech GM Vlastimil Hort, who knew Flohr, did a tribute on Chessbase HERE.
     The following game, played against Rafael Domenech in a tournament in Rosas Spain in 1935, was brilliant enough that Irving Chernev included it in his book The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played. I don't have Chernev's book so can't compare notes. 
Flohr at Barcelona in 1935.  Today's players would object to the crowding!

    Unfortunately I was unable to find any information on the tournament or Flohr's opponent. Little seems to be known of Domenech except that in the 1930s he was a regular contributor to the magazine Els Escacs a Catalunya (Chess in Catalonia). All the databases I consulted show white resigning after 30...Kd6, but Edward Winter discovered that the game continued 31 c5+ Kxc5 and according to Flohr in his notes to the game that appeared in El Ajedrez Espanol in July, 1935, “White resigned a few moves later.”

     Domenech's doesn't make any tactical blunders, only tiny positional errors, but that's all it takes to lose to a world-class player.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Palma de Mallorca 1966...I was there but missed it

     Palma de Mallorca is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of the Balearic Islands in Spain. It is situated on the south coast of Majorca on the Bay of Palma.      There have been many chess tournaments played there and in 1966 a tournament known as the II Torneo Internacional de Palma de Mallorca was played. I was there. Unfortunately, I was was unaware that there was a great chess tournament going on! The reason for my being there was because at the time I was a part of a US Marine Corps six-month long training cruise to the Mediterranean and the ship I was on was in port for liberty while the tournament was being played. My only memory of Palma is that the weather and the city were beautiful. I didn't find out about the tournament until months later when I picked up a copy of Chess Review at a newsstand. Yes, a chess magazine at a newsstand! 
     The cruise wasn't a total bust chesswise. While in Rome I was looking at a chess set in a store window when a man came up and asked if I was interested in buying one. When I replied in the affirmative he said the shop that made them was right around the corner and he'd take me to it. Being a little skeptical, I warily followed him and sure enough, there was a small woodworking shop with a lot of sets for sale. He told the lady behind the counter to sell me the set for the same price that she'd sell it to him and not the American tourist price! Somewhere in Spain I also picked up several chess books in Spanish that were not available in the US. All those items are long gone; what happened to them, I do not know.
     The tournament was sponsored by Hotel Jaime I and the Palma tourist industry, the publishing corporation Asociacion de la Prensa and the Spanish Chess Federation. With a larger budget than the previous year's event, several strong GMs participated, including ex-world champion Tal. Half of the players were on their way home after the Olympiad in Havana which had ended November 20th. 

1) Tal 12.0 
2) Pomar 11.0 
3) Portisch 10.0 
4) Ivkov 9.5 
5) Matanovic 9.0 
6) Pfleger 8.0 
7-8) Shamkovich and O'Kelly 7.5 
9-10) Trifunovic and Lehmann 7.0 
11) Menvielle 6.5 
12) Robatsch and Toran 5.5 
14) Wade 5.0 
15-16) Medina and Visier 4.5 

      First Beauty Prize went to Lehmann for his win over Shamkovich.

Thanks to an alert reader I had biographical information of the wrong Heinz Lehmann.  Heinz Gerhard Lehmann, the chess player, was born in Konigsberg, West Germany on October 20, 1921 and died at the age of 73 on June 8, 1995.  Lehmann played in the Zonal tournaments in 1954 and 1960 and in the German Championships he finished 2nd in 1953 and 3rd in 1957 and 1959.  He represented West Germany in the Olympiads in 1958 and 1960.  He finished first at Hoogovens-B in 1964.  He was an honorary GM.