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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

R+N+P Ending

       While looking through Jeremy Silman's How To Reassess Your Chess, right in the introduction he commented that endgames are a neglected area of study by average players and class players know little about them. And so he began the book with a brief discussion of some basic endings which he BEGGED his readers to to study.    
     Back in the late 1960s, rated in the mid-1600s, I was in one of the chess clubs in Chicago and picked up a book by Peter Griffiths, The Endings in Modern Theory and Practice, took it home and spent a lot of time studying K+P and R+P endings.  That was combined with playing over several hundred master games while trying to guess the next move.  In my next tournament I defeated four Class A players before losing to a Senior Master in the last round!  I ended up with a rating of around 2100 before giving up OTB chess. The miracle of an elementary knowledge of basic endings and pattern recognition! "One of the biggest misconceptions about chess is it requires a lot of memorization.  In reality, while some memorization is required, pattern recognition plays a crucial part in chess mastery."  - Mrs. Paul Truong (aka Susan Polgar).
     I recently played an interesting ending on Instant Chess. The initial position is evaluated at -0.63 by Stockfish 6 which means that black (me) has a slight advantage, but probably not enough o win. I ran 20 Shootouts using Stockfish 6, Komodo 8, Fritz 12 and Gull 3 and all the games were drawn. White was able to save the game despite being a Pawn down because of his centralized pieces, but in the actual game the two passed black Pawns resulted in victory, so white's defense had to be precise...something he was not able to accomplish
     White ended up losing for two reasons: 1) he allowed Rooks, a long-range piece, to be exchanged and so was left with a short-stepping N that was unable to cope with black's separated, passed Pawns and 2) he failed use the opportunity to create a valuable asset in the form of an advanced, passed Pawn of his own. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Alekhine vs. Tenner Fake

     Hoaxes have always been around. In 2005 a tournament called "Memorial Heroes of Chernobyl" was held in the Ukraine. The official tournament site had games, results and pictures...except that apparently the event never took place. On almost all internet chess sites there are people signing up with multiple accounts and playing themselves in short games just to pump up a fake rating. Tahl told stories about helping people to get norms by giving them an easy draw. In the introduction to Dynamic Chess Strategy Mihai Suba told of a student tournament in 1967 where he was the only person to turn up and needing a norm to become a second category player, he told how the arbiter gave him the names of some of the other entrants who were no shows and told him to produce some plausible games. So he copied some games out of a book about Alekhine and came second...in a tournament where he was the only participant. 
     During World War One Alekhine worked on the Austrian front as a Red Cross official rescuing wounded under artillery fire and he was hospitalized in 1916 in Tarnopol. In Garry Kasparov's My Great Predecessors: Part I he wrote, "In the autumn of 1918 Alekhine made a dangerous trip to the south—to Kiev and Odessa. The civil war was at its height and many towns were constantly changing hands...In Odessa a tournament was planned with the participation of some local masters--Verlinsky, Vilner and others, but Alekhine's main aim was to travel abroad by boat. However, the tournament did not take place.  It was not possible to obtain a ticket on a boat and Alekhine was stuck in Odessa until spring 1919.” Kasparov went on to explain that, as related by Bohatirchuk, Alekhine was faced with the problem of how to survive and how not to lose hope of becoming world champion. Some admirer found him work in the safest place, the commission for confiscating valuables from the bourgeoisie. To work in the commission you had to join the communist party, which Alekhine did. Even so, he was arrested by the secret police and sentenced to be shot. However, a couple of hours before the sentence was carried out the order was given to free Alekhine.  See Who Saved Alexander Alekhine at Chessdotcom.
     Alekhine then returned to Moscow, tried acting for a while, gave it up, visited Kharkov where his brother was living, caught typhus and recovered and in May 1920 again returned to Moscow, where in October 1920 he won the first chess championship of Soviet Russia. In November the secret police brought a new case against Alekhine and in early 1921, after being interrogated about anti-Soviet activity, all charges were dropped and he was released. 
     But I digress. In Moscow 1915, Alekhine “played” one of his most famous games...a 5-Queen game against Grigoriev, but the game was a fake that was concocted by Alekhine.
     Another fake was his mate in fifteen against Oscar Tenner who claimed the published game was really a post-mortem of a twenty-three move draw. Tenner (April 1880– 24 December 1948) was a Polish-German–American master. 
     At the beginning of his career he played in several tournaments in Germany. He was battling for first in the second master group of the Mannheim tournament that was interrupted by the outbreak of the war. Tenner was then shuffled off with Alekhine, Vidmar, Spielmann, Reti and others and often told stories about how they made a chess set out of bread which they ended up eating when food got scarce. To escape fate, he joined the Austrian army where he suffered two battle wounds. 
     After World War One he emigrated to the United States. He became a fixture at the Manhattan Chess Club for over 30 years and was a frequent participant in major opens on the East Coast. At the club he would arrive early and sit at his table and with his glasses shoved up on top of his head and squint at Die Stadtzeitung, his favorite reading material. Tenner was a self-proclaimed expert on politics, especially foreign policy and he liked to describe the true meaning behind the headlines as he saw it...a conspiracy theorist of his day. 
     Tenner was married in March of 1930 in New York City to a middle-aged lady from Berlin and eventually they had a son. According to Arnold Denker, that pretty much ended Tenner's analysis of openings and the international news as his son became his new focus of attention. 
     His forte was blitz chess and ever the optimist, every time he lost, he would promise that he would win the next game. He was good enough that during a blitz tournament during the 1924 New York International that he made it into the final group and tied for second behind Capablanca and ahead of Marocy and Tartakower, both of whom he defeated. By the 1930s Tenner was long past his prime, but he never tired of playing in blitz tournament for small stakes where he usually lost. It never mattered to him or his opponents that he always claimed he never had the money...he would acknowledge that he owed them and set up for another game.
     Tenner was a very talented player of the Romantic style who defeated the leading US players of the day...guys like Kashdan and Horowitz and he was an expert on the openings, but his tendency was, after the opening, to expect the game to play itself. Against lesser players he was able to capture numerous brilliancy prizes. 
    In his book, My Best Games 1908-1923, Alekhine included a brilliancy against Tenner in the notes to his game against Teichmann, but according to Arnold Denker, Tenner had proof that the game, as given by Alekhine, was never played.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Max Pavey

    Many know that Fischer played in his first simul against Max Pavey, but very little else is remembered about Pavey who was one of the US's top players after the Second World War; he was also a key figure in the early days of the U.S. Chess Federation.
     Born March 5, 1918 in Boston, Massachusetts, Pavey arrived in Scotland in 1938 to study medicine at Glasgow University. While a student he won the Scottish Championship at Aberdeen 1939, with 7.5-1.5. 
     In the 1938/39 season of the Glasgow Chess League, he played on board one for the Bridgeton Working Men's Club in the first division. In the Spens Cup competition, Pavey played for the Glasgow Jewish Institute, helping that club to win the 1939 Spens Cup. In all of these matches, he lost only won game. Not bad considering that an article in the June 1939 issue of Chess he stated, "My chess career has hitherto consisted of three years' Intercollegiate chess for the City College of New York, and some games for various teams in the Metropolitan League.  I had a fair record but not impressive." 
     Pavey returned to the US in the summer of 1939, but was prevented from returning to Glasgow to continue his studies by the outbreak of war in September. He did visit Scotland one more time, briefly, in 1955; on the way home from the USA v USSR match in Moscow, Pavey and his wife, Violet, stopped for a very short visit. 
     A Senior Master with the USCF, Pavey had a very distinguished career both in and outside of chess. In 1947 he won the U.S. Lightning Championship and in 1948 he tied 5-8th place in the U.S. Open with 8.5–3.5. He won the New York State Championship in 1949. 
    In 1951, he took 3rd in the US Championship, scoring 7-4. That was the same year he gave a simultaneous exhibition in Brooklyn and faced the seven-year-old Bobby Fischer; it was Fischer's first attempt at serious chess and he lost in about 15 minutes. Unfortunately the game score has been lost. 
    Pavey finished second to Donald Byrne in the 1953 US Open at Milwaukee. In 1954, he took 3rd in the New York Manhattan Chess Club Championship and in 1954 he played on third board in the match against the USSR in New York. He was paired against Paul Keres who defeated Pavey two games to one with one drawn. Chessmetrics estimated rating in December 1955 at 2418 which ranked him at number 115 in the world.
     In 1955, he played on sixth board in the return match held in Moscow where he scored +0 -2 =2 against Tigran Petrosian. In 1955/56, he won the Manhattan Chess Club Championship with a remarkable 12–3 score. In 1956, he tied for 10-11th in the US Championship, but later in the year beat Bobby Fischer in the Manhattan Chess Club Championship Semi-Final. He won group 2 of the club championship with 4.5–0.5. 
     Known as a soft spoken and affable man, Pavey also devoted considerable efforts to the job of chairman of the USCF International Affairs Committee and he continued to conduct international negotiations from his hospital bed concerning the participation of American team in the first International Women's Team Tournament in Holland. The City College of New York has a Max Pavey Scholarship and an award for excellence in chemistry. On the first USCF rating list in 1950 he was ranked number 15 with a rating of 2442, but the ratings were probably quite inaccurate. Fine was first with 2817 and Reshevsky second at 2770. Alex Kevitz was 3rd with 2610! 
     Also a ranking tournament bridge player, Pavey was a chemist by profession and for several years had been manager of the Canadian Radium and Uranium Corp. Laboratory in Mt. Kisco, N.Y. and it is believed that he might have been the victim of radiation poisoning. That was based on a statement from the State Labor Department of New York which brought court action against the company alleging it was lax in reprocessing a salvaging radium. 
     Death claimed Pavey on September 4, 1957 at the age of 39 after a long confinement in the Mt. Sinai Hospital. Leukemia and coronary complications "with a suspicion of radium intoxication" were listed as the causes. 
     The following game is from the 1951 US Championship which was won by Larry Evans ahead of Samuel Reshevsky.  Pavey finished third, drawing with both Evans and Reshevsky.  He only lost one game, to Albert S. Pinkus who shared last place with Milton Hanauer and Albert "Buddy" Simonson.  Even if he had won that game it would not have improved his standing as Evans scored 9.5, Reshevsky 9.0 and Pavey 7.0. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Robert G. Wade

     Robert Graham Wade (10 April 1921 Dunedin, New Zealand – 29 November 2008, London), was a New Zealand and British player who was not only a professional player but also a prolific writer, editor and researcher as well an administrator, arbiter and coach. For many years he was Britain's only chess professional and he won the British Championship in 1952 and 1970. He was New Zealand champion three times and played in seven Chess Olympiads. He represented England in six Olympiads between 1954 and 1972. In 1970 he withdrew from the team in favor of younger players and represented New Zealand instead. He also played in one Interzonal tournament. Wade held the titles of International Master and International Arbiter. 
     Wade learned chess at the age of eight from his father, a farmer, but did not take the game seriously until high school when he was awarded membership of the Athenaeum Institute, Dunedin, where chess was played and chess books available. He developed his skills from materials in the local library such as the British Chess Magazine and works by Australian champion Cecil Purdy. 
     After leaving school, Wade entered the civil service and he rapidly climbed the chess ranks winning the New Zealand Championship in 1944. His second victory the following year resulted in an invitation to the British Championship of 1946. At the time of the event, Wade's leg was in a cast owing to an inflammation of his knee and he played poorly; but after recovering he took the opportunity to travel to a master tournament in Barcelona where he had limited success, but it was a valuable experience.
     Shortly after that on his way back to New Zealand, Wade, traveling by Greyhound bus, toured the United States and Canada, playing in a number of tournaments. When he arrived back in New Zealand, having sailed from San Francisco, he found that his civil service job had been taken during his extended absence. He remained in New Zealand long enough to win his third New Zealand championship in 1947 before returning to England where he finally settled. He soon became the country's most active player. In 1950 he was awarded the title of International Master. He became an important presence in FIDE and was a member of the committee that drew up the first official laws of the game in 1949. 
Wade in 1953

     Although he crossed swords with the Soviets over his support for players who had fallen out of favor with the Communist authorities, Wade was still invited to officiate in Moscow at the world title match in 1951 between Mikhail Botvinnik and David Bronstein. 
     The requirements for the Grandmaster title were far more stringent in his active playing days than they are today and when FIDE offered him the title of honorary Grandmaster, Wade, a modest and unassuming man, refused to accept it. Although he never finished highly in any major international event, Wade took some notable scalps during his career, including the world title contenders Viktor Korchnoi, Pal Benko, Lajos Portisch and the East German champion Wolfgang Uhlmann. Uhlmann was the world's leading expert in the French Defence, but lost in his favorite opening when he met Wade at Skopje in 1968. His best international results were 2nd at Arbon 1949 behind Ludek Pachman and a shared 5–7th place in a powerful field at Venice 1950 with 8.5 – 6.5 which is where he earned the IM title. In 1950 he was good enough to draw a match at 5 – 5 with Lothar Schmid.
     Wade also drew with Bobby Fischer at the Havana tournament in 1965 in a game played by telex. On this occasion he analyzed the position at adjournment and then went to bed. He awoke the next morning to find everyone was declaring his position hopeless, but his excellent defense held the draw. 
     Wade accumulated a vast chess library and in the pre-computer age his advice was sought by many prominent players. He possessed the most comprehensive collection of Soviet chess literature in the West and secretly helped prepare Fischer for his match against Spassky in 1972. He also assisted Fischer in his rematch against Spassky 20 years later. 
     New standards in chess publishing were established by Wade, particularly in the field of opening theory, during his editorship of the Batsford series of chess books in the 1970s and 1980s. He also wrote numerous classic tournament books and opening manuals that helped raise the level of play of a generation of British players. For players who were going to compete abroad or represent England, a visit to his home in Blackheath was almost mandatory. He had so many visitors that it was necessary to make an appointment well in advance. Upon arrival, there was always tea and he gave his assistance with enthusiasm and free of charge. The only stipulation was that the visitor had to tolerate Wade's cats.
     Wade was influenced by the success of Soviet training methods, some of which he introduced to Britain...see the excerpt by the U.S. Army underneath the game for some interesting insight on the Soviet training methods. He gave lectures and simultaneous exhibitions and played many training matches. Wade deserves much of the credit for the success of a generation of fine English grandmasters in the 1970s and 1980s. 
     He remained an active player in his late eighties and returned to New Zealand for the Queenstown Open in 2006, where he scored 6 - 4 and drew with the winner, GM Murray Chandler. His last major event was the Staunton Memorial in London in July 2008, where he was badly outrated (he needed only a single draw to increase his Elo rating!) and lost all eleven games.
     In 1979 he was appointed OBE. He was later appointed chief coach to the British Chess Federation. Wade never married and was taken to the queen Elisabeth Hospital in Woolwich on Wednesday morning with severe pneumonia. He died on Saturday November 29, 2008 at 3:00 am.
     In the following game he alertly takes advantage of a mistake by Benko who was at the height of his game at the time.

     Researchers at the U.S Army Research Institute studied Soviet chess training and saw a parallel between the problem of training battlefield commanders to think adaptively in tactical situations and that of training chess grandmasters. 
     They analyzed the Soviet training manuals to understand their methods. The difference between the Soviet methods and traditional chess instruction is, in a sense, the difference between education and training. The rest of the world studied the game of chess, its strategies and tactics, and tried to understand why one move was better than another. As students studied the game, they acquired knowledge about chess and understanding of its principles. They educated themselves about the game of chess. The Soviets did that as well, but also studied the human processes of finding good moves and avoiding errors, of searching and evaluating chess positions, and of controlling emotion and fighting a psychological battle with one's opponent. The Soviets described principles of expert play that reflected the thought patterns of grandmasters. While many of these expert principles were familiar to the rest of the world, the Soviet trainers went one critical step further. 
     They created exercises that trained these principles, ingraining them in their students. After sufficient training, the Soviet students employed the expert thought patterns not simply because they understood the principles nor because they were consciously directing their thinking by using expert patterns as a checklist. The cognitive behaviors had become automatic. As a result of the exercises, the students followed the principles without thinking about them, freeing their limited conscious resources to focus on the novel aspects of the contest and to think more deeply and creatively at the board. The Soviet chess trainers in essence treated the thinking that the player does during a game as a behavior – something a player does with chess knowledge itself – and then developed exercises to train that thinking performance to conform to that of an expert. 
     The U.S. Army called this process “adaptive thinking” and when an officer who is confronted by unanticipated circumstances during the execution of a planned military operation, he would be able to make adjustments to either exploit the advantage or minimize the harm of the unanticipated event...in short, he would be able to adapt to conditions for a more successful outcome.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Vintage Tahl

The first strong tournament in Switzerland for a long time took place in Zurich in May and June 1959 and it had several of the world's leading players participating. Among them were Tahl, who a year later would defeat Botvinnik to become world champion, Fischer, Keres, Larsen. Unzicker, Barcza, Olafsson, and Donner. Things started well for the Swiss masters; Walther held Fischer to a draw in a B and P ending and Tahl lost to Edwin Bhend. Tahl was undaunted though and went on to win his next four games!

Final stndings: 
1) Tahl-11.5 
2) Gligoric- 11.0 
3-4) Keres - 10.5 
3-4) Fischer 
5-6) Larsen - 9.5 
5-6) Unzicker 
7) Barcza - 8.5 
8) Olafsson – 8.0 
9) Kupper – 7.0 
10-11) Donner 6.5 
10-11) Bhend 
12) Keller - 6.0 
13-14) Duckstein – 5.0 
13-14) Walther 
15-16) Blau - 2.5 
15-16) Nievergelt 

The following attacking game is vintage Tahl.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Resuming an Old Hobby

     Years ago I always watched Bob Ross' Joy of Painting on public television and was inspired to give it a try, but my pictures never turned out like his so I eventually abandoned the whole idea. Recently while accompanying my wife to the craft store, she suggested I take it up again, but I demurred. She ended up buying a $20 boxed watercolor set for me, so I was stuck. The first few paintings were something a six year old would be proud of, but now I'm doing paintings a 12 year old would be proud of, so I'm making progress. After practicing on landscapes (which don't seem to turn out well...they all look gobbed up) and animals, I naturally tried doing chess players: Reshevsky, Fine and Fischer were the first, but Botvinnik ended up completely unrecognizable...portraits are difficult, too!  Right now I'd estimate my painting Elo at about 800-900, but with the help of Youtube lessons maybe I can get to 1200!

A Lesson on Planning by Capablanca

     In the book The Search For Chess Perfection, there is a Purdy article titled The Play for Position After the Opening in which he observed that it's fairly easy to play a reasonably well-played opening, but playing a good middlegame is more difficult. Aside from playing good moves from memory, in its most elemental concept, the idea in the opening is always the same...development. But when development is complete, you have to figure out what to do next. This is called planning or positional play. Of course, at any time, on every move, you must be alert for a tactic because tactics accomplish more than positional play. Of course, we are talking about sound tactics. 
     Occasionally while playing on line I run into players who cannot tell the difference between tactics and blundering. Take the following position: 
White to move

     My 1600-rated opponent (white), instead of playing the logical 4.Nxe5, thought he was playing “tactical chess” when he played 4.Bf7+ which is not a tactic, it's an outright blunder. He was left with nothing but a N in play and you can't checkmate with just a N. 
     In the article Purdy stated his aim was not to show how the precise moves chosen by Capablanca could all be worked out by an average player, but simply to show how to think in such positions. Purdy makes the astute observation that if the student can learn to plan logically, he will avoid serious errors and recognize such errors when made by his opponent. He also adds that you should not become discouraged when you play a move that is not quite as good as the master's. The difference between moves often is very small and such nuances only matter at the GM level. The thing is to avoid moves that are really against the spirit of a position. The interesting thing about this game is that we see in Capa's play how the balance of power edges by almost imperceptible degrees in his favor.
     A plan will aim at one or more of the following four objectives and according to which side has the initiative. For example, if you have a strong initiative you do not need to bother with trying to remove your own weaknesses but rather to exploit the opponent’s. 

The four possible objectives: 
1. Exploiting enemy weakness(es)
2. Removing enemy strength(s) 
3. Removing your own weakness(es) 
4. Establishing your strength(s). 

In actual practice, planning is always simpler than this list would make it appear. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Pawn Sacrifice, the movie

I saw this movie Saturday afternoon. 

Some reviews: 
Rotten Tomatoes 
New York Times 
Rolling Stone 
Tartajubow - This move was made, not with chess players in mind, but with general audiences. My wife, who knows nothing about chess and cares about it even less, went with me and enjoyed it. She was amazed at how wacko Fischer was, and that was despite the fact that only a tiny fraction of his idiosyncrasies were shown. Me? I wasn't that impressed. It touched briefly on his early childhood and his rise to prominence. The main feature was the match with Spassky and after that we saw some script on the screen that briefly gave highlights from his life after winning the world championship. Then, at the end. we saw some short clips (actual ones) of his arrival in Iceland. It appears non-players like it better than real players.  She gave it 4 stars.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Thrill a Minute!

This online Game 15 featuring a Q-sac and missed mates was a real thrill.