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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Vladimir Zak

     A mediocre teacher expounds. A good teacher explains. An outstanding teacher demonstrates. A great teacher inspires. And this, of course, applies to him. Vladimir Grigoryevich Zak was a great chess teacher. - Genna Sosonko in Russian Silhouettes 

     We had a joke: anybody who survives the "training method" is guaranteed a bright future! The important thing was to leave Zak before frustration sets in and you decide to quit chess. Valery Salov and Gata Kamsky left early and became stars in their teens...Zak religiously believed in the dogma of the classical school. In his opinion, everything young chessplayers needed to know was written in stone many years ago. - Alex Yermolinsky in The Road to Chess Improvement

     Mark Taimanov said he did not think that Zak was a high-class teacher or a strong player but it was noteworthy that he did develop a lot of players with different styles and of very high class, so he must have had secret. Zak himself said he was lucky. In 1958 he was awarded the title Honored Trainer of the USSR. According to Chessmetrics when the below game was played (in which Lilienthal was absolutely destroyed by the way) Lilienthal's rating was around 2580 and in 1947 Averbach's rating was around 2470, so it's not like Zak was a non-master!

     Vladimir Grigoryevich Zak (February 11, 1913 - November 25, 1994) was a Ukrainian player and one of the most famous coaches of the Soviet Union. In the 1920s the family moved to Leningrad and his named was changed from Vulf to Vladimir and he abandoned his Jewish heritage and became Russian by culture and education. 
     He served in the front with the Army during the Second World War and was awarded the Order of the Second-class Patriotic War, medal for service in battle and a medal for victory over Germany. After the war was over he settled in Leningrad and worked there for over 40 years as a chess coach. His best-known pupils were Boris Spassky and Viktor Korchnoi. Most of Zak's students were appreciative of his help, Yermolinsky being an exception. Zak adopted much of his teaching technique from his hero, Pyotr Romanovsky, who had made a great impression on him and with whom he had studied before World War Two.
     Zak received the title of Honored Trainer of the Soviet Union in 1958. Although he himself was never able to win the title of master, his strength was the recognition of talent and its early promotion and his pupils later turned to other coaches who could develop their chess further. It should be remembered that in those days before the Elo system, you became a master in the Soviet Union only by defeating an established master in a match.
     The Elo system rating distribution follows the Bell curve and because the Soviet Union had millions of players as compared to a mere handful in the US for example, they had hundreds, if not thousands of players, who by today's standards were of master strength.  And, Zak did qualify to play in the semi-finals of the Soviet Championship. In 1947 he lost a match to Yuri Averbach for the master's title. In all fairness, Averbach was much more than a master, he received his GM title shortly after the match. Zak also lost a match for the title in 1948 against Viktor Vassiliev (5.5 to 7.5). Vasiliev was a strong master and analyst and an invalid due to war wounds. 
     Gennadi Sosonko, the Soviet-born Dutch GM, wrote that at the age of 12 he first met Zak at the Leningrad Pioneers Palace when he played Zak in s simultaneous that was designed to single out kids with potential. He remembered Zak as a stern man with Assyrian facial features (I had to Google this! - Tartajubow) and with staring unblinking dark eyes who had the habit of flexing of his jaw muscles, especially when analyzing a position.
     Sosonko once asked Zak to analyze a game he (Sosonko) had won and when they arrived at the critical position and Sosonko explained that he stood worse, but his opponent was nervous and when Sosonko got into time trouble, his opponent began playing carelessly and lost. Zak got angry and called the whole affair disgraceful. 
     All the kids were afraid of Zak and he frequently chastised them when they wrote analysis on a sheet of paper but didn't transfer it to their notebooks in an organized fashion. Zak had a difficult personality and Sosonko believed the reason was that his life was difficult. Korchnoi, who grew up without his father who died in the war wrote that in many ways Zak replaced him and molded him as a person. 
     Zak was very upset when Spassky left him for Tolush; Sosonko later expressed regret that he didn't do the same thing! Still, Spassky admitted that Zak had taught him a great deal, saying he didn't think that Zak was a difficult person, but rather that he was firm in his principles. 
     One of Zak's questions to the youth was always who was the strongest player at the end of the 1800s. After they rattled off all the names like Steinitz and Chigorin, Zak would announce that it was James Mason and they were advised to study his games.
     Eventually at the age of 73, Zak was forced to leave the Palace where he had worked for more than forty years. By that time he was also on bad terms with his colleagues, some of whom were his former pupils. In the end he suffered from senility and was moved to an old persons' home. Even then, he was interested in the latest news, looked at chess magazines and sometimes played through a game on the board.
 

Monday, January 16, 2017

William Hook

Hook in 1977
     Hook (May 28, 1925 – May 10, 2010) born of Finnish parents in New Rochelle, New York, was an artist, gambler and master. He served as captain and played first board for the British Virgin Islands chess team. 
     After spending World War II in a tuberculosis ward, Hook became involved in the chess world of New York City in the 1950s. 
     He learned to play chess from a friend at the age of 15 and in 1943, at the age of 18, was drafted by the Army, but his pre-induction physical revealed that he was suffering from tuberculosis. As a result he was hospitalized for the next 15 months. 
     While in the hospital he got Gossip's Chess Manual off a library cart and shortly afterward subscribed to Chess Review and took up postal chess. It was in Chess Review that he read about a chess club, The New York Academy of Chess and Checkers, near the hospital and when he was discharged in September, 1944 the first thing he did was pay it a visit. The club was run by a former Canadian checker champion, Harold Fisher, and so came to be known as Fisher's and later, the Flea House
     Because of his tuberculosis, the State offered to pay for training and he chose to study fine art, but was forced to take courses in commercial art because it offered better employment opportunities. He enrolled in the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, but because he lacked the motivation to study, he ended up flunking out. Shortly afterward his mother died and he moved to Detroit to live with an aunt and uncle. 
Abstract chess painting by Hook
     Hook got married in 1957 and in the 1960s he started going to the BVI to dive, fell in love with the place and he and his wife and spent all their vacations there. They eventually bought a home in the islands. He formed the BVIs chess Olympiad team in 1968 which he described as the chess equivalent of the Jamaican bobsledders. The teams were never very good and Hook said on one occasion they were given a trophy showing the hindquarters of a donkey, but they went to have a good time. 
     Over a 40 year period Hook played in 17 Olympiads, winning the gold medal for best percentage on board one at Malta in 1980. To commemorate this achievement, the British Virgin Islands issued a stamp in his honor. 
Position Hook v Kanani, Olympiad, 1980

     His memoir Hooked on Chess was published in 2008. In the book he told stories about the scene in the New York chess clubs of the 1950s, describing the personalities and atmosphere. He also included stories about his encounters with players ranging from homeless unknowns to Stanley Kubrick, Marcel Duchamp and Bobby Fischer. Hook was also the author of various magazine and newspaper articles about chess. 
     In the art world, he was known for his one-man shows in painting and photography. His art career began with realistic subjects, but gradually gravitated towards the abstract. Chess remained one of his main themes throughout his development. Not experiencing major success in painting, though some of his paintings were displayed in various chess clubs, he turned to photography and his chess photos often appeared in chess magazines. 
     Hook was a resident of Silver Spring, Maryland at the time of his death. 
 

Friday, January 13, 2017

1991 US Championship...Time For Another Big Brouhaha

The Kamskys
     It had been over 25 years since Bobby Fischer had argued with the organizers of the US Championship and a decade since Walter Browne had walked out in a huff, so another to-do in the event was long overdue. This time it wasn't from a participant though; it was from his father. 
     Halfway through the last round of the 1989 New York Open, Lev Alburt and two FBI agents accompanied an obscure 14-year-old Soviet kid and his father when they disappeared from the playing site and asked for political asylum. 
     At the time, Gata Kamsky didn't have a title, but within months he surprised everybody when he won an elimination tournament among leading American players to see who would play a short exhibition match with world champion Kasparov. When the exhibition started in Los Angeles, Kamsky was rated number one at 2747 which put him 62 points ahead of number two Yasser Seirawan. 
     The 1991 championship organization was a throwback, as had been the previous championship won by Lev Alburt, to the old days when the USCF reverted back to a knockout format.
     Kamsky started of a little shaky when he was paired against the lowest rated player, World Junior Champion Ilya Gurevich, and barely managed to hold the draw in the first of their two game match. But, he managed to score a convincing win in the second game.
     Seirawan was having his problems against Igor Ivanov, taking nine games before he could finally overcome him. At the age of 31 Seirawan was getting to be an old man by chess standards and he struggled from the beginning. In the G30 tiebreaker he got swindled and lost, but managed to rebound with two wins. 
     Another newcomer was Soviet emigre (then only an IM) Alex Yeromolinsky, also a long of tooth 32-year-old, who was making his debut in the championship. Although ranked fifth, Yermo was an unknown and John Fedorowicz had trouble finding any games in the Informants, so he had a friend dig some out of old Shakhmatny Bulletins. It helped. Fedorowicz squeaked past Yermo then reached the semifinals by defeating Patrick Wolff. Joel Benjamin was lucky when he made it into the semi-finals by defeating Seirawan. 
     The semifinals were going to be interesting. Benjamin was paired with Gulko and Fedorowicz against Kamsky. Both Benjamin and Fedorowicz had been whining against all the Russian players who had been arriving in this country and taking prize money out of pocket of American players, thus depriving them of making a living at chess. 
     There had been a lot of foreign born players in American chess since way back. Charles Stanley, George Mackenzie, Eugene Rousseau, Napoleon Marache, Edward Lasker, Charles Jaffe, Oscar Chajes, Abraham Kupchik, Nicolas Rossolimo and even the great Samuel Reshevsky, to name a few. But it had been some time since foreign-born players had been making their presence felt. 
     Then starting in the 1980s, Soviet players began popping up in the championship: Vitaly Zaltsman, Boris Kogan, Sergey Kudrin, Roman Dzhindzhikashvili, Dimitry Gurevich, Lev A1burt, Maxim Dlugy, Anatoly Lein and Leonid Shamkovich, for example. 
     Benjamin and Fedorowicz saw all these new Soviet-born players as a menace to their livelihood, plus they were apparently not aware of the fact that many leading players of the past had something called a "job" they worked at, often playing after they put in a day at work. For example, when Bisguier played his match against Reshevsky in 1957, he (Bisguier) got off work and grabbed some fast food which he ate in the cab on the way to the match. Plus, prize money usually didn't amount to a living wage. Never mind, they felt privileged, I guess. 
     Benjamin defeated Gulko in the first game then drew the second to make it to the finals.  Kamsky's defeat of Fedorowicz included a difficult R plus opposite color B ending and it caused what was to become a common occurrence when Kamsky's father went on the rampage. He accused Fedorowicz of discussing the game with Nick deFirmian while it was in progress. 
     Fedorowicz did, indeed, speak to diFirmian while the game was in progress. On his way out of the playing room, Fedorowicz bumped into deFirmian and said, "Oh, excuse me, Nick," Three years later though, Kamsky's father hired Fedorowicz to be Gata's second in the Professional Chess Association candidates matches. 
     The finals consisted of a four game showdown between Kamsky and Benjamin. The first two games resulted in a win each, both winners having the black pieces.   Then right in the middle of game three came another Dad Kamsky blowup. 
     Rustam was walking around the playing site, warning any players not to make eye contact with Benjamin or pass on any advice. While Benjamin was pondering a critical position, Patrick Wolff, who was competing in US Open which was being held concurrently wandered up to the board to get a better look and Rustam began loudly telling Wolff to get out. In the ensuing argument, Wolff managed to take their argument outside and Rustam renewed his claim that Wolff and other supporters of Benjamin were cheating. 
     TD Carol Jarecki quieted Kamsky down when she informed him that the proper procedure was to make an official protest. Gata eventually emerged the winner and their final game, played with Rustam banned from the room, was a boring K-Indian where Kamsky began trading pieces at move eight. Kamsky thus became the youngest US Champion since Bobby Fischer. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Myroslav Turiansky...Plus a Bonus - the Fritz Hotness Meter

     This post is to spotlight the Upper Midwest master Myroslav Turiansky, but while looking over this game, I inadvertently had the Fritz 12 Hotness and Mate-O-Meter on. I did a post on this gadget a few years ago and noted that it was fun to watch, but didn’t find it to be much help. This game changed my mind. 
     What caught my attention was the readings after white played 18.Ne5. Stockfish's evaluation was 0.00 after either 18...Nxe5 or 18...O-O. Now, a 0.00 evaluation does not mean a dead draw, but rather that neither side can claim a clear advantage and so you might think there wasn't much going on in the position. However, the Hotness Meter was registering 7.0 out of 10 which means something is going on: tactics are lurking in the position or positional features like material exchanges, strong or weak positional features like P-structure or piece mobility are about to happen. So, even though the evaluation of 0.00 indicates an equal position, the hotness readout of 7.0 alerts us to the fact that the position is one that merits careful examination not only for tactics, but for major positional changes. This gadget does have merit after all! 
     Turiansky (October 10, 1912, Rudky, Ukraine – December 18, 1998, Radekhiv, Ukraine ) was a Ukrainian-American master. 
     In 1944, along with thousands of others, Turianksy began the westward exodus and arrived in Vienna, where from 1946-1947 he became one of the best players in the city and won the Hietzing Chess Club championship. He finished 16th (last) in the long forgotten Schlechter Memorial, won by Laszlo Szabo, held in Vienna in 1947. 
     The following year Turiansky emigrated to New York City where he became active in the Marshall Chess Club and in the 1949–1950 season placed second in its club championship, behind Larry Evans. In his desire to organize Ukrainian chess he moved to Chicago in 1950, and won twice the Chicago city championship (1953 and 1954). He finished 10th in the US Open Chess Championship at Milwaukee 1953. 
     Turiansky did not return his native Ukraine until late in 1998, soon after the death of his wife, Roma. It was during that visit that he passed away on December 28, 1998, in the town of Radekhiv, Lviv region, and was buried there not far from where he was born. 
     Turiansky's father was Osyp Turiansky, a renowned literary figure, taught him how to play chess at the age of 11. Although he had received a master's degree in law at Lviv University, it was not in jurisprudence, but in chess that he left his mark. Turiansky's early chess career was closely connected with the organization and development of Ukrainian chess in the 1920s. 
     In 1926 Ukrainians in Lviv founded a club named Chess Knight (Shakhovyi Konyk) later renamed the Society of Ukrainian Chess Players (TUSh), which during World War II became a division of the sports club Ukraina. In the 1926-1944 period, these clubs brought together the top names of Ukrainian chess in Lviv, such as Popel, Turiansky and M. Romanishin, the father of today's GM Oleg Romanishin. Turiansky won the championship of the Chess Knight club in 1928 and tied for first and second places with Stephan Popel in the Championship of Western Ukraine in 1943. 
     The quality that distinguished Turiansky was his readiness to volunteer his services for the benefit of organized Ukrainian chess. He served as secretary and librarian of the chess society until World War II and then, during the German occupation headed the chess division of the Ukraina sports club. He promoted chess by staging simultaneous exhibitions, sometimes along with Stephan Popel. 
     After moving to Chicago he offered his organizational skills to a Ukrainian club, the Lions (Levy) Sports Club. There he established a chess club and captained a chess team that competed successfully in the Metropolitan Chicago League for about twenty years He cooperated with the Ukrainian Sports Federation of the U.S.A. and Canada (USCAK), volunteering to host at the Lions Club the first USCAK Championship of Ukrainians in North America in 1966. In 1956 Turiansky finished third, but in subsequent USCAK championships he finished second twice and in 1982 won the Ukrainian Championship of the US and Canada. 
     In 1953 and 1954 he won the Chicago city championship, and several times won top prizes in the state championships of Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa. In the 1953 US Open in Milwaukee he finished 10th. 
     In Kyiv a book was published about players of the Ukrainian diaspora with one chapter devoted to Turiansky. 
     His opponent in this game, James Barry Cross Jr. (born 1930) of Waukesha, Wisconsin died on Monday, May 16, 2016, at Waukesha Memorial Hospital at the age of 86. He was born in Wilmette, Illinois. Married in 1954 and after serving in the the US Air Force, he and his wife settled in California where they lived from 1956 until 1997. They then moved to Waukesha in 1997. Cross won the US Junior Championship in Milwaukee in 1950 and in 1957 won the California State Championship.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Herbert Avram

Avram dressed for battle!
     Herbert Avram was born in New York City on January 24, 1913. A decorated World War II veteran, Government Analyst, pioneer in the development of the digital court reporting industry and chess master, Avram died January 15, 2006 at age 92 at his home in California, Maryland. 
     Avram's long-time relationship with both the chess and backgammon communities began at the age of 6 when he learned the game of chess from his uncle. He was soon a regular at the Manhattan Chess Club and went on to play at both national and international tournaments, with many tournament championships. In 1974, he was awarded a Life Master title. 
     He won the Virginia State Championship three straight times from 1952 to 1954. He also won the Maryland Open becoming Maryland State Champion in 1955 and 1979. 
     Avram attended St. Lawrence College in Canton, New York his freshman year. When his father was awarded an engineering commission in Istanbul, Turkey, Avram accompanied his parents and transferred to Robert College in Istanbul which is the college from which he earned his degree. 
     Avram was very proud of his US Navy career. His decorations included the American Theater Ribbon, American Defense Ribbon, European-African-Middle Eastern Ribbon with Two Stars, Asiatic-Pacific Ribbon with Five Stars, Victory Medal World War II-Occupation of Japan, and Philippine Liberation Ribbon. 
     His Navy career as a Lt. Commander during World War II included key assignments in both the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters. From 1941 to 1942, he was assigned to the USS New York and BB-34 and the Amphibious Force from 1942 to 1943. He was part of the Amphibious Force Pacific Attack, Transport Ships, from 1943-1945. 
     In 1951 Avram moved to Arlington, Virginia, to work as an Analyst with the National Security Agency and after his service with NSA, he went on to work with the Central Intelligence Agency. During and after World War II, because he worked at NSA and the CIA the sensitive nature of his intelligence work meant he could never be alone with Soviet players in tournaments or at chess clubs. 
     He left government service to follow his interests in the burgeoning digital court reporting market in the early 60s. A pioneer in this business, Avram and several others founded Stenocomp Corporation in Falls Church, Virginia. In the 70s, Stenocomp was acquired by Translation Systems, Inc. Today, a practical application of his early pioneering work is Closed Captions as seen on television. 
     Avram was a Mensa member and any conversation with him could end up growing into a major discussion. Politics were off-limits unless one was ready for an emotional debate. Personally, he was known for his quick smile and easy-going personality, optimistic attitude and love of life that made lifelong friends everywhere he went. Avram was passionate about the Redskins football team and the Republican Party. 
     As a player, Avram was noted for his materialism and his tough defense, although he was also quite capable of launching sparkling attacks.. His chess activity tended to be marked by intervals of great activity followed by periods away from the game. 
     After his death, his wife of 64 years, Henriette, a computer programmer, succumbed to cancer three months later. They had three children. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. 
     One of his most memorable wins is the following game where he absolutely crushed Bobby Fischer in the 1957 US Open held in West Orange, New Jersey. It can't be claimed that Fischer was just a 14-year-old kid so Avram's win wasn't a big deal. At the time Fischer was the US Junior Champion and shortly before this game was played had defeated Donald Byrne in the US Championship in The Game of the Century.
 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

More on Frank Ferryman

The Middletown Journal (Middletown, Ohio) 
Thu, Mar 30, 1950
     The editor of the Ohio Chess Bulletin, Michael Steve, sent me some newspaper clippings on Frank Ferryman who was featured in my recent post on the 1954 Ohio Championship. 
     One of the clippings from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle mentions that after game 4 of the 1942 Reshevsky - Kashdan match, members of the Manhattan and Marshall Club played a series of games where all the games opened with the Ruy Lopez Deferred Steinitz Variation (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 d6). Ferryman, playing white on board 13, defeated K. Mahler. 
     We also read that Ferryman played with success in some of the Marshall CC rapid tournaments. For example, in 1942 he shared first with Severin Bruzaa, former champion of the Brooklyn Chess Club and on another occasion he shared first with Herman Helms. 
     Mr. Steve also included another Ferryman game and an Excel spreadsheet of the crosstable from the 1954 Ohio Championship. Along with the Ferryman game, the crosstable is of historical interest, so I am making it available for download from Dropbox HERE
     One thing that was of interest was the ratings of the players. In 1954 Ferryman was rated 2065 and on the next list in 1955 it was up to 2187.
     A word about ratings in those days...they are close to, but not exactly comparable to, today's ratings. 
     The first USCF National rating list was published on November 20, 1950 and had nine classifications: Grandmaster (over 2700), Senior Master (2500 and 2699), Master (2300 and 2499), Expert (2100 and 2299) and Class A, Class B, Class C and Class D (below 1500).
     On the first list Reuben Fine was an active Grandmaster (2817) and Samuel Reshevsky an inactive Grandmaster (2770), meaning he had not played in any rated tournaments since January 1, 1947. There were only five active Senior Masters (Kevitz, Dake, Denker, Kashdan and Horowitz) and five inactive ones (Simonson, Reinfeld, Kupchik, Polland and Treysman). That first list had 2306 players and covered a 30 year period up to July 31, 1950. 
     By the time we get to 1954, which was only the 8th list published, Reshevsky was rated 2739, Senior Masters were Donald Byrne, Robert Byrne, Denker, Kramer, and Rossolimo and there were only 36 Masters in the whole country. 
     The system in use on these lists was not exactly the same as the Elo rating system we have today. It was a system devised by Kenneth Harkness and the ratings were calculated by William Byland who did them all by hand. 
     The starting point for the calculations was every player who had an even score in the US Open was assigned a rating of 2000. The Harkness system as it was known was almost identical to the Elo system, the main difference being that if you got a perfect score your performance rating was 500 points higher than the average rating of your opponents; today it's 400 points. 
     However, the biggest difference between the Harkness and Elo system was that under the Elo system, ratings changed on a game by game basis; under Harkness it was on a tournament to tournament basis. Under the Elo system, each game, rather than each tournament, is rated. The sum of points won or lost always equaled 32...now known as the K-factor. This remains pretty much what is in effect today except that the K-factor has been tweaked for higher rated players. 
     The major problem with the system, which consisted of a relatively small group of players, was the trend in the ratings was a downward drift because established players lost points to new, improving players. As a result, by 1956 the classifications at the top were lowered so that Grandmasters were over 2600, Senior Masters over 2400 and Masters over 2200. You can see a Harkness rating table HERE. You can also read my post History of Chess Ratings in the USA.
     The following game features Ferryman's round 5 win over Walter Mann, also an Expert, who tied for places 5-10. The tournament had 47 entrants. 
 

Monday, January 9, 2017

1980 US Championship

Some of the participants, only slightly older!
     This tournament marked a significant change in US chess. The tournament was held Greenville, Pennsylvania, which is located about 80 miles from both Pittsburgh and Cleveland, Ohio. Greenville has a population of about 6,000 and the town's biggest employer is the Werner Company, a world leader in the manufacturing and distribution of aluminum and fiberglass ladders. It's also home to the venue, Thiel College, a private liberal arts, sciences and professional college related to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. 
     The tournament had some new faces: Yasser Seirawan, Joe Bradford, Mark Diesen, John Peters, Peter Biyiasas and Vitaly Zaltsman. Leonid Shamkovich, Anatoly Lein and Vitaly Zaltsman were Soviet emigres of which Zaltsman was the newest. Arriving in 1976, he had been making a living on Swiss tournaments. 
     Larry Christiansen and Seirawan represented the young generation while the old guard was represented by Robert Byrne, Arthur Bisguier, Larry Evans and Pal Benko. The success of this last group had been slowly but perceptibly declining and it was becoming clear that their chances of winning the championship were slim to none given the crop of strong new players.
     Also, this was the first championship into which players could be seeded by scoring wins in Swiss System tournaments under a Gran Prix format that had been sponsored by Church's Fried Chicken.
     The fact that the Old Guard was on the skids became apparent in the first round when Seirawan crushed Evans and Peters likewise crushed Bisguier. Robert Byrne fared no better when he was tactically outplayed by Joe Bradford. Who was Joe Bradford? He was an unknown who came out of nowhere when he qualified by scoring an upset victory in the 1978 U.S. Open in Phoenix, Arizona. Bradford was from Austin, Texas and was the lowest rated player in the event and so was considered an easy point which was seemingly verified when Byrne built up an overwhelming position in round one.  Unfortunately for Byrne, he blundered away the game. Then in round two Bradford was stomped by Walter Browne.  Bradford worked for the Texas Department of Transportation and at his peak had a FIDE rating of over 2400. The late Ken Smith thought he had enough talent to be a GM if he worked at it full time. He didn't become an IM until after he retired from his job. 
     You won't see the name of Mark Diesen, one of the most promising young players in the country at the time and a former world junior champion, in the crosstable because on the night of the third round he suffered injuries when he fell down a flight of stairs and had to withdraw. He soon abandoned chess and graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in Chemical Engineering. He worked as a reservoir engineer for Shell Oil, Pennzoil and Noble Energy. Diesen (born September 16, 1957) passed away suddenly on December 9, 2008 in Conroe, Texas.
     The tournament appeared to be a horse race between Browne and Evans. Larry Evans, the old man in the tournament at the age of 52, was there more or less by accident. At the last minute Lubosh Kavalek canceled and based on ratings, the next two players in line were Evans and 23-year old Nick deFirmian. In a typical no brain fashion, the USCF decided to break the tie on the basis of the two players' average rating. Evans hadn't played in a tournament for two years, so his average rating was his current one. 
     As a result of Diesen's withdrawal, which resulted in there being a bye in each round, by the last round there was a four-way tie for first place between Evans, Christiansen, Browne and Seriwan. That meant the last round was a tense one. A win could mean $5000 and first place while a loss could mean $900 and sixth. 
     The pairings were Zaltsman vs. Seirawan, Shamkovich vs. Christiansen, Evans vs. Lein and Browne vs. Bisguier. 
     Evans played cautiously against Lein and drew at adjournment after 35 moves. Christiansen lost a Pawn against Shamkovich but had enough play to force a draw. 
     Browne emerged from the opening against Bisguier with what appeared to be an endgame advantage and so he kept pressing until the game was adjourned.  Meanwhile, Seirawan wasn't doing so good against Zaltsman when they also adjourned. 
     Both games were to be resumed later that night and the final result hung on those two games. Within minutes of resumption Bisguier demonstrated a clever defense that he had discovered during adjournment in their N and P ending and forced Browne to accept the draw.  That meant three of the four leaders had drawn and first place depended on the outcome of the Zaltsman vs. Seirawan game. 
     Seirawan had played a risky opening and ended up defending an inferior position. He was lost at adjournment and could not find a way to salvage the game and ended up losing in 67 moves. 

1-3) Browne, Christiansen and Evans 7.5-4.5 
4-5) Seirawan and Shamkovich 7-5 
6-7) Lein and Zaltsman 6-6 
8-12) Benko, Biyiasas, Bradford, Byrne and Peters 5-7 
13) Bisguier 4.5-7.5

     Withdrawals...in the 1978 championship Walter Browne withdrew in a snit, Diesen had to withdraw in this one and in the next championship (1981) Larry Evans was to withdraw in a huff. Anatoly Lein whipped Evans pretty badly in the first round and in the second round Evans was horribly outplayed in the opening by Robert Byrne and forced to resign before his 21st move. Evans then decided it was time to head home to Reno, Nevada, making it the third straight championship in which someone had dropped out. 
     The following game was one of the crucial games and received the "best overall game" of the event prize. Christiansen demonstrated how much he had improved since his five straight losses in the previous championship in Pasadena when he scored +3 -6 =5 to finish in 13th place out of 15. That was the event from which Walter Browne had withdrawn.