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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Maurice Wertheim – Renaissance Man




Maurice Wertheim was born in New York City 16 February 1886  and passed away 27 May 1950 in Cos Cob, Connecticut.  Wertheim was an American investment banker, chessplayer, chess patron, environmentalist, and philanthropist. He financed much of the activity in American chess during the 1940s. Wertheim founded Wertheim & Co. in 1927.

Wertheim & Co. was an investment firm founded in 1927 by Wertheim and Joseph Klingenstein, who met when they worked together at Hallgarten & Company. The firm engaged primarily in the merchant-banking business; it invested in companies and real estate primarily for the benefit of its own partners and a small number of investment-advisory clients from its formation until the deaths of Wertheim and one of his senior partners (Edwin Hilson) in 1952. After 1950, control of the firm passed to co-founder Joseph Klingenstein and under his leadership the firm created one of the first professional research departments on Wall Street.

Although its size and visibility did not keep pace with those of fellow firms firm expanded significantly in the early 1970s. Under the leadership of Klingenstein's son Fred, Wertheim & Co. expanded its services and by 1970 had 20 partners and approximately 200 employees generated annual revenues of around $40 million.

By 1986, when the Klingenstein family sold their interest in the firm to a British merchant bank, and the name of the firm was changed to Wertheim Schroder.   In 2000 Schroders sold their interest to Smith Barney.

Wertheim graduated from Harvard University in 1906. He inherited nearly half a million dollars from his father, who had been successful with the United Cigar Manufacturers Company. He entered the investment banking field in 1915 in New York, and founded his own firm Maurice Wertheim and Company in 1927, developing a very successful business in mergers and acquisitions, and becoming wealthy in the process. During World War II, he served as a dollar-a-year man on the War Production Board in the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Wertheim was a strong amateur chess player, who enjoyed the game, and put a lot of effort into his correspondence play. He was also interested in the theatre, fishing, nature conservancy, and art. He donated 2,000 acres (8.1 km2) on eastern Long Island to the United States government in 1947; this became the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge. He arranged for the donation of his collection of French Impressionist paintings to the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University upon his death.

His main contributions to American chess were as a patron and organizer. He financed the 1941 U.S. Championship match between Samuel Reshevsky and I.A. Horowitz and he assisted financially the Manhattan Chess Club with a move to better quarters in 1941.

It was Wertheim who conceived the idea for the 1946 chess match between the United States and the Soviet Union in Moscow, convinced the U.S. State Department that it would make a difference in thawing the Cold War.  Additionally, Wertheim financed it, paying for the trans-Atlantic travel and hospitality upon arrival.

When the economic necessities of maintaining a family of four threatened cause Smauel Reshevsky to give up his chess career, a fund was raised among chess lovers by Wertheim which gave Reshevsky some $3,000 a year to supplement the $6,000 to $7,000 a year he made in tournaments and exhibitions. The figure of $6,000 a year may not seem like much today, but in the mid-1940’s it’s buying power was the equivalent of over $70,000 today.  In those days that $3,000 would be worth about $36,000 today.

After his death from a heart attack in 1950, a memorial Maurice Wertheim chess tournament was organized in 1951 in New York in his memory.

He married Alma Morgenthau in 1912, and they had three daughters, one of whom was the historian Barbara W. Tuchman. Alma died in 1974. He married Ruth White in March 1930, but they had no children and divorced in 1935. He married again in 1944, and he and his third wife Cecile Berlage deeded 1800 acres of land straddling the Carmans River to the people of America. The land was originally purchased as a hunting retreat and known as "Stealaway." It is now the core of the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge.

This hunting lodge estate is rarely mentioned in family reminisces and biographies. The impressions of local residents was that it was a very private retreat for Maurice and his wife, and a few close friends with similar interests (the Wertheims also had a large mostly rural estate in Cos Cob, Connecticut; a fishing lodge on the Gaspé Peninsula, Quebec, Canada; and a home in Cuba). The estate lodge on the banks of the Carman's River, was very modest, not much more than a shack in the woods. The farmland that once occupied most of the land was allowed to return to its natural state, and the river and bay marshes were left undisturbed. Little was known locally of the man, Maurice Wertheim.

He wrote of himself, "Sometimes, in a light moment, I say about myself that my chief interests in life are banking, the theatre and fishing, but that their importance to me is in the inverse of the order named." His children include well known authors and environmentalists.

In the following game he defeats the strong New York Master, Dr. Erich W. Marchand in a correspondence game played in 1943.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Disaster at Queen Alice

On Saturday QA suffered a corruption of their database.  Things were up and running again by Sunday with the apparent result that all running games got canceled.  It also appears that some people who did not archive their games lost the record of them also. All my archived games seem to be intact, not that it matters because I had them all downloaded anyway.  As for me, I only had one game left and it would have probably decided first place.  My position wasn’t so hot so the likely result would either be a tie for first or a second place finish.  Personally, it wasn’t much of a disaster, but many players had put in a lot of time and effort into their games only to have them canceled and I can sympathize with them.

Still, considering this is a free site and probably one of the best ones around on which to play correspondence chess and it is run for the love of it by a fellow named “Miguel” what happened is unfortunate and he suffered some criticism in the forums which I think is unfair.  When you do something and do it well all for free and then something happens beyond your control and you go to great lengths to correct the situation as soon as possible, I think you deserve a lot of credit, not criticism.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Lechenicher SchachServer Ratings

Upon checking my games at Lechenicher SchachServer I discovered I’m eligible to participate in the preliminary groups of the 2016 LSS/IECG World Championship.  Don’t get excited!   So are 300 other players.  We 300 aren’t the site’s top rated players but appear to be the slugs from the ranks who are rated too low to qualify by rating.  I doubt I’ll sign up because the time limit is much slower than I prefer.  My preference is for “Rapid” events which means no vacations are possible and the T/L is 10 days basic plus one day per move.  The one event I’m in now was started at the end of November last year and I have only three games left (out of 6) and we are on moves 40, 41 and 62, so they move pretty fast.

What caught my eye was the ratings of some of the players with ICCF and FIDE ratings.

For the ICCF players here’s the breakdown:
One Senior Master rated 2158,
Five International Masters with an average rating of 2119
Three Senior Masters with an average rating of 1951.  The lowest rated SM is 1769

The FIDE rated players:
Two International Masters rated 2109 and 1922
17 FIDE Masters rated from 1664 to 2160 with the average rating being 1989

What I thought was interesting is that LSS allows engine use, as does the ICCF, in its tournaments and here are these obviously accomplished players who you would think would be among the site’s top rated by virtue of being good enough to obtain a title in either correspondence or otb play. 

Looking at the site’s top rated players I see a lot of names of top level CC players, but only one otb titled player.  That of Brazilain GM Alex Fier.  The 24 year old Feir got his FM title in 1996, IM title in 2004 and was awarded the GM title in 2007 and currently sports a pretty good 2603 rating with the FIDE. Fier’s record on LSS so far is +1 -10 =5 which includes one forfeit win and 8 (!) forfeit losses.  It looks like he got off to a bad start but he’s still playing and is ranked #2 with a 2644 rating. 

Anyway, I just thought it was interesting to notice that even using an engine is no guarantee of success in correspondence play…just look at some of those ratings. Some of them are actually worse than mine!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Tough Najdorf Sicilian

In this game my opponent, who holds the LSS e-mail master title, seemed to have the superior position throughout the game, but I could not find any significant improvements in his play and the game eventually fizzled out to a drawn R&P ending.

The opening reminded me of a game played many years ago in the final round of the 1972 US Open Postal Championship against a former US Closed Championship competitor.  We were following a popular opening booklet on the Najdorf Sicilian and after mailing him my move I discovered a flaw in the analysis.  Unfortunately he discovered it, too.  I liked the idea in that game of Black placing his N on e5 instead of c5 because I couldn’t find a way to continue the Q-side attack after 13…Nc4.  So, I decided to play 13…Ne5 thinking the N would be more useful on the e5 square. 
The engines didn’t like the move very much and it did look like White had a very strong attack.  Still, there seemed to be no way for him to cash in on his position which included an extra P.  At first the engines liked White’s position by a little over a Pawn but over the course of the game their evaluations showed a downward drift toward equality.  I haven’t been able to find any way to improve on White’s play so could it be that the engines were over-optimistic? If that’s the case, it remains another case in point that you can’t always rely on them.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Regina Fischer

Regina Fischer protesting the Vietnam war in Paris in 1973

According to a psychiatrist report in 1943 Regina Fischer spoke at least six languages (English, French, German, Russian, Spanish, and Portuguese) fluently and was brilliant but paranoid.  Actually, she had good reason to be paranoid.  The FBI read her mail and studied her canceled checks for years before finally concluding she was not a spy.  No doubt much of the FBI’s interest was due to the fact that she studied medicine in Moscow during the Stalin era.  Her outspokenness on political/social issues and her relationship with Hungarian scientist Paul F. Nemenyi, Fischer's father who was not listed on the birth certificate, probably did not help her situation either.

1942 found Regina Fischer in Denver, Colorado which was only just a stopping place for a restless woman who couldn't settle on a permanent home. She was taking classes at the University of Denver and working at a company that made chicken incubators. At 29, Regina had already lived in eight other cities and four other countries. This was her ninth job and her sixth university.  She was the mother of 5-year-old girl Joan and she alone.

Her husband, Hans-Gerhardt Fischer, was away in Santiago, Chile and barred by immigration authorities from entering the U.S. This is when Paul Nemenyi appeared.  Nemenyi was 47, a Hungarian refugee and a theoretical engineer teaching at a nearby college. He made $165 a month, was an animal-rights supporter and refused to wear wool.  He walked around in winter with his pajamas sticking out from underneath his clothes.

Still, he had a compelling mind. "He was smart, very, very smart," recalls Charlotte Truesdell, who worked at a research laboratory with Nemenyi in the '40s. "He had a strange kind of memory. He remembered things by their shapes."  A memory of Nemenyi can be read HERE

Regina was the daughter of a Polish dress cutter who had moved to the United States with his family while she was a baby and she returned to Europe as a young adult and studied medicine.  She lived in Berlin in the early '30s when Hitler was coming to power. It was there that she met Fischer, with whom she moved to Moscow, where they lived for several years under Stalin.

In Colorado in 1942, Regina and Nemenyi were drawn together by their political beliefs. Nemenyi had told colleagues he preferred communism to capitalism and the FBI suspected Regina of communist sympathies.  Regina never revealed what happened between them but it seems clear that in the summer of '42 a romance took place because the next year, Bobby was born.

There is an account of the affair in the FBI file.   Their investigation began in 1942 when a baby-sitter found what she believed to be pro-communist letters belonging to Regina and turned them over to the FBI.  Nemenyi told one FBI informant, a social worker, that he met Regina at the University of Denver. But whatever follows his account in the FBI file is censored by the FBI.  In the narrative after that point Bobby is in the picture. The file says, "He (Nemenyi) advised he helped support the boy."

By the time of Bobby's birth Regina had moved to Chicago and Nemenyi was teaching in Rhode Island. She gave birth to Bobby in a clinic for poor single mothers. And on the birth certificate she listed Fischer as the father. She briefly considered putting Bobby up for adoption but after talking to a social worker (who later described the conversation to the FBI) she broke down and cried and was unable to go through with it.

She then moved into a Chicago home for fatherless families where she ended up leading a rebellion among the other mothers, encouraging them to question the institution's rules. The home called the police who arrested Regina and charged her with disturbing the peace. She was acquitted.  Regina divorced Fischer in 1948 and moved to Brooklyn, New York where she worked as an elementary school teacher and nurse at Prospect Heights Hospital in Brooklyn.

Bobby’s only public statement about his father appeared in Start, a Zagreb newspaper where he said, “My father left my mother when I was two.  I have never seen him.  My mother has only told me that his name is Gerhardt and that he was of German descent.”  However, later Bobby told a friend that he and his sister, Joan, did not have the same father.  Joan Fischer Targ always insisted that her father’s name was Hans-Gerhardt Fischer.  He died on February 25, 1993 in Berlin.

Regina (Wender) was born on march 31, 1913 in Zurich, Switzerland and died of cancer on July 27, 1997 at the age of 84 in the Stanford University Hospital.

 A 750 page FBI report on Regina Fischer can be viewed HERE

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Why No Recent Posts?

A couple of reasons: mostly I have been busy with a lot of rather mundane tasks but another reason is no doubt due to my mild Seasonal Affective Disorder!  I get mildly depressed in the winter but feel much better in spring and summer.  I live in an area where winter days are short and there are big changes in the amount of daylight.  Also, I’m finding I dread the snow and cold more and more as I get older.  You know, getting dressed and going out in the dark and the cold to plow the driveway and the sidewalks; it gets harder every year even with the 5-forward and 2-reverse speed snow blower in the garage!

Experts are not sure what causes SAD, but they think it may be caused by a lack of sunlight. Lack of light may upset your sleep-wake cycle and other circadian rhythms. My sleep has been whacked out...to bed at 11 o’clock or mid-night and up early and mid-afternoon naps. SAD may cause problems with a brain chemical called serotonin that affects mood.

The symptoms are feeling sad, grumpy, moody, or anxious and losing interest in your usual activities.  One may also eat more and crave carbohydrates such as bread and pasta and there is a tendency to sleep more and feel drowsy during the daytime.

Doctors often prescribe light therapy which it is said works well for most people and is easy to use. But, you need to stick with it and use it every day until the season changes.  Other treatments include antidepressants which can improve the balance of brain chemicals that affect mood and counseling.  They say regular exercise also helps.  Actually, I’m not into any of these things because it’s not serious enough to cause a real problem; it’s just an annoyance. 

But the fact remains that playing my correspondence games has become a burden and I don’t want to bother with them...I just grit my teeth and slog through them.  Fortunately the lack of interest hasn’t cost me any points...yet.  I have offered and accepted some draws in positions where I would normally have played on though.  Fortunately all of those opponents have been higher rated so it hasn’t cost me any points. I have also been working part-time at my old job three mornings a week and that really helps because I’m so busy there.  Still, I find myself yearning for some 70 degree weather and it getting dark at 9:30 or 10 o’clock at night!

It was said of some of the Soviet players that they learned a lot of chess because they spent so much time studying it during those long, cold, dark Soviet winters.  I admire them for being able to survive, let alone being able to study chess.  Anyway, if you live someplace where it’s warm and sunny, can I come and visit for a couple of months?  It won’t cost much to feed me and we can play some chess.  In the meantime I'm going to go eat some bread and butter then take a nap.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Firebird 1.2 vs. Rybka 3 Test

Computer Chess Online has saved me the trouble of testing the Firebird engine.  The Blog’s author tested both engines at a time control of 40 moves in 2 hours.  The result? After 33 games the result was 4 wins apiece with 25 draws.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Firebird 1.1 Settings and New Release

I recently came across a topic on settings for the Firebird engine on Open Chess Forums where a Dr. Wael Deeb has experimented with the parameter setting for thsis engine and claims “The settings are stronger than Houdini and Rybka 4.” He claims to have run over 300 games at long time controls (20 minutes + 20 seconds) against the Rybka,Houdini and eight of the strongest Ivanhoe versions and using his settings, Firebird it won three tournaments in a row without a single loss. Note: These settings are for version 1.1 only.

His settings for the parameters are:
Pawn Hash=64
Pawn Value=120
Rook Value=600
Queen Value=1170
Bishop Pair Value=70
Verification Reduction=8

Also now available is the new Firebird 1.2 which is commented by many computer chess specialists as the new strongest chess engine in the world, even stronger than Rybka 3 & RobboLito.  Firebird is a UCI windows 'console' application, without any GUI (graphical user interface) that you may use with free programs like Winboard, Arena, Chess-gui or with Chessbase 9 & 10. DOWNLOAD

I have not had time to test any of these engines against Houdini yet, but plan to do so in the near future.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Another Loss to the Same Guy

A while back I posted a game I lost to the same opponent when I tried the inferior capture with the b-Pawn instead of the d-Pawn in the Exchange Variation of the Ruy Lopez.  In this game I lost to him again as White in my favorite Torre Attack.  As near as I can tell the loss was a result of misjudging the position after the exchange of Q’s  at move 21.  It never occurred to me the b-Pawn would be lost and with it the game.  Well played by my opponent.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Frustration with Hewlett-Packard

A few years ago I bought my wife a digital camera and it worked great.  For managing the pictures we used software from Hewlett-Packard and a small, cheap inkjet printer called Photosmart Express.  Last year when the old desktop died I tried installing the software on the laptop running Windows 7, but no luck…the software would not run.  After consulting Hewlett Packard’s website I discovered the printer and software are outdated and would not run on Windows 7.  Their recommended solution was to upgrade.  No way was I going to do that; I settled for downloading the pictures using Explorer and then printing them out, if desired, on another printer.

So  yesterday we came into possession of a desktop running Windows XP and I loaded the camera software onto it and all was well except the driver for the printer was nowhere to be found. I consulted the Hewlett-Packard website to locate the driver only to be confronted with a bewildering array of information overload.  After about a half hour I gave up in frustration trying to locate the driver and called them. 
To my surprise I was on the line with a tech representative in about 15 seconds.  I explained the problem and they said they could help.  The first question was did I want to place an order for upgraded equipment/software?  “No. Everything works fine’” I said.  “I just want to know where I can find the printer driver on the website.”  The rep said she could help me with that. How did I want to pay?  “What?! Excuse me!  Are you asking me to pay for information about where on your website I can locate the driver I need?” I asked.  The reply was, “Well, sir, your equipment IS out of warranty.”  I hung up.

I was flabbergasted! Their website was so devilishly complicated I couldn’t locate the driver and they wanted to charge me just to tell me where it was!  It took another hour of surfing the web, but I finally succeeded in finding a link where all had to do was click on it, download the driver and install it.  The whole incident makes me think I will never buy H-P stuff again.
In the same vein, the new desktop lacks Word and Excel and I am not about to pay ~$300 for them.  I went to Open Office and downloaded their software and in 15 minutes was able to open and save documents and spreadsheets in Word and Excel formats. 

I guess that’s why I favor free chess software and engines…some of them work just as good as the stuff you pay a hundred dollars for. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Akiba Rubinstein



Part 2
Part 3

Fischer at Santiago, 1959

The second Torneo de Arturo Alesandri Palma was held from April 20th to May 6th, 1959 in Santiago, Chile. Thirteen players from Europe and the Americas competed in the event. The participants from Europe included Borislav Ivkov from Yugoslavia and Ludek Pachman from Czechoslovakia. The participants from the Americas included sixteen year old Bobby Fischer from the United States, João de Souza-Mendes from Brazil, Luis Augusto Sanchez from Venezuela, Herman Pilnik and Raul Sanguineti from Argentina, and Walter Ader Hausman, Rodrigo Flores-Alvarez, Carlos Jauregui, Rene Letelier Martner, Julio Salas Romo, and Moises Stekel Grunberg from Chile. The tournament was an important one for Fischer as he was still just beginning to compete in international events. Though he scored as many wins as the two first place finishers, Ivkov and Pachman at seven wins each, he suffered four losses while only drawing one game to finish +4 at the final to tie for 4th-6th place.

All the games from the event can be viewed HERE.
In an article in the German chess magazine “Karl” Pachman described his first encounter with Fischer: "I met him for the first time in May 1959 in Santiago de Chile [apparently Pachman had not "met" Fischer properly the year before in Portoroz]. On the day before the tournament he asked me to translate for him. He had arrived in Chile accompanied by his mother, and the organizer wanted to know if the two needed separate rooms. Bobby replied: 'You haven't understood, I want you to put up my mother in a room that is at least ten miles away!' Then he wanted to know about the prize money. The organizer asked if he hadn't read the letter of invitation? "I never read letters," said Bobby. The prize money that was named was too low and he threatened to leave. I told him his behavior was not correct, but he simply said ‘I have to get more.’

We stayed in the same hotel and talked every day, often preparing together for our games. That was unusual, since Bobby refused to analyze with the other players. He was suspicious of them all, fearing they would steal his ideas. But for some reason he considered me an exception. We had a kind of father-son relationship. I understood him and wished him a great future, hoping that he would mature as a human being in the process. But he remained exactly the same. He was completely apolitical. He hated the Russians, but not for political reasons. The last time I met him was at the chess Olympiad 1968 in Lugano. This was just a few weeks after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslavia. I was trying to get FIDE to expel the Soviet Union from the tournament and from the world chess organization. After a press conference Fischer came to me and thanked me for attacking the Soviets. 'Keep it up, attack the Russians,' he said."

Karch’s Washington Chess Letter


I found an interesting little bit of history in the form of a pdf magazine from 1958 that was fun to look through.  It’s interesting to note the Pacific Northwest had their own rating system in those days; top rated players were Arthur Dake, Elmars Zemgalis, Olaf Ulvestad and James McCormick who were masters with ratings over 2150. 
On Saturday, August 2nd & 3rd there was a tournament announcement for the Seattle Seafair tournament at the YMCA, 6 rounds. The Entry Fee was $3.00 ($2.00 if under 18).  First prize was $25 and other prizes based on entries and expenses. 
The Western Open held in Milwaukee was won by Pal Benko on tiebreaks over Milton Otteson ahead of the previous year’s winner, Donald Byrne.  Benko had escaped to communists is 1957 and was living in Cleveland, Ohio.  Another Clevelander, Lajos Szedlacsek, and Dr. Paul Poschel of Ann Arbor, Michigan, both masters, also tied with Byrne but had inferior tiebreaks.
As a junior I played in several tournaments where the YMCA was a popular venue.  You got a tiny room (with a community bathroom down the hall) for about $3.00 a night.  The tournament room always had squeaky floor boards and since there was no air conditioning in those days, it was always stifling hot! Smoking was allowed back then and I still remember an opponent who smoked a corncob pipe during our game.  Between the heat and humidity in the middle of July, or maybe it was August, and smelling that stinking pipe smoke, I can remember the nausea.  I don't remember the game result or who my opponent was...but I do remember wanting to puke during most of the game!  Come to think of it, I probably lost.