Random Posts

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Rzeschewski in Boston

     Back on April 2 in 1921 child prodigy Sammy Rzeschewski appeared at Lorimer Hall in Boston which was crammed with 200-300 spectators, most of whom doubted his ability to cope with the 19 local players who had been selected to play against him. He scored +16 -1 with two draws. 
     There were some dramatic moments, one of which was when, after nearly 400 simul games in America, Sammy realized that someone had actually checkmated him. The little fellow was crestfallen, but the defeat only served to sharpen his wits and he went on to pull off winning combinations against the top players. For example, Harlow B. Daly thought he was all set to win when Sammy hit him with some fireworks and went on to win. Another was Sammy's win over veteran Charles B. Snow who had been a local champ for over forty years and had defeated Pillsbury once and Steinitz twice in simuls. 
     An article in the Boston Globe described him in a way that today seems a little strange, but apparently in the day didn't raise any eyebrows: 

At first glace he looked a rather wistful little chap. He has light brown hair, very thick and long and glossy, and he wears it in a great wave across his head, with one long wisp hanging down over a full, broad and not too high forehead. His eyes, brown and long-lashed and well set, are deep under the brows; his little nose is a model of short, straight fineness, and he has a sad-looking, serious little rosebud of a mouth, drooping a little but looking extremely kissable. A chin neither weak nor obtrusive makes him look grave, but his full, rather pale cheeks discount it a trifle. 
     His ears, rosy, almost round, and large, are set right in the middle of his picture in profile. For his head has has a very long overhang, which again gives him the look of an adult. 
     When a situation arose at any board that made him pause he would lean on one elbow, cross one ankle over the other and give himself to a concentrated study. He glanced up occasionally, apparently not at his opponent. It was more as if he looked inward; his eyes in those little flashes seemed blank and dead. 

     After Sammy lost this game it inspired him to take revenge on his remaining opponents. When one of the best players, a fellow named Lyon, went down to defeat the crowd cheered and a moment later the nationally known Harlow B. Daly got mated causing pandemonium to break loose. According to John F. Barry the applause was so deafening that the "little fellow childishly put his two tiny hands to his ears and as he looked up a faint, imperceptible smile crept over his face, mingled with a childish and innocent look of wonderment." 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Mar del Plata 1960

     Mar del Plata has a rich history of tournaments and famous international tournaments started in 1928, but from 1941 to 1970 was it a truly international tournament with considerable reputation. After 1970 the number of events fell off drastically. 
     The Mar del Plata Variation of the King's Indian Defence (1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 0–0 6. Be2 e5 7. 0–0 Nc6 8. d5 Ne7) is named after a game played between Miguel Najdorf and Svetozar Gligoric in 1953. 
     In 1960 the 23rd Mar del Plata International Tournament was held from March 29th to April 15th. Among the participants four grandmasters were playing: Bobby Fischer from the U.S., David Bronstein and Boris Spassky from the Soviet Union and Fridrik Olafsson from Iceland were the foreign GMs while Erich Eliskases was the sole GM from Argentina. 
      The 17-year old Fischer and the 23-year old Spassky, at the time the two youngest GMs in the world drew a great deal of attention by dominating the event and tying for first place. Spassky beat Fischer in their individual encounter and was undefeated, but Fischer's play impressed the Soviets, who perceived him as a potential challenger to their hegemony. 
     After the tournament Spassky, a journalist who rarely contributed anything in that area, wrote a report for Shakhmaty v SSSR in which he gave a lengthy report on Fischer. Spassky wrote how Fischer was willing to play any time, night or day, and was often seem playing blitz games even after a tiring evening of adjournments. Spassky commented that Fischer hated losing and if he did, he immediately wanted another game and would get angry if he failed to win. He also added that when he did lose, Fischer always claimed he had a won position. Spassky also noted that Fischer had a great knowledge of chess literature, especially Soviet bulletins and magazines. The final standings: 

1-2) Spassky and Fischer 13.5
3) Bronstein 11.5 
4) Olafsson 10.5
5) Bazan 9.0
6) Wexler 8.5
7) Letelier 8.0
8-10) Incutto, Redolfi and Foguelman 6.5
11-12) Bielicki and Eliskases 6.0
13-15) Marini, Alvarez and Gadia 4.0
16) Saadi 2.0

Monday, August 29, 2016

Grab a Pawn or Play for a Positional Advantage?

     Ludek Pachman was an icon in his day, a great player and a political activist, who after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia was tortured almost to death in a Prague cellar. 
     The 1943 Prague tournament was Pachman's first serious event at the age of 18 and in his book, Checkmate in Prague, he wrote that following his win against Jan Foltys (see game below), "the great Alekhine invited me to his room. He got me to demonstrate my game, made a few comments, praised me, and then showed me his game, explaining several hidden combinations and also accepting praise. Mrs. Alekhine was there with her two cats. I had to hold one for a bit and the wretch scratched me, but it was a marvelous evening, something in the nature of a high-point in my life so far." 
     He went on to describe how Alekhne invited him into his room every day to analyze and how he soon realized that it was no good disagreeing with Alekhine because it made him angry. Alekhine also invited Pachman to join him for coffee at a cafe where one could get real coffee under the counter – an expensive luxury for which Pachman always had to pay. Pachman managed to foot the bill for Alekhine's coffee only because during the tournament he had been befriended by a wealthy patron who gave him a gift of an enormous salami and invited him to lunch at his house every day. Thanks to his patron and by doing without supper he was able to pay for Alekhine's coffee. In the process, he discovered Alekhine always made a point of not paying by simply walking out of the restaurant. If he was alone the waiters knew him so they sent the bill to the tournament director. Also, just like Fischer was to do many years later, Pachman learned that by threatening to walk out of the tournament, Alekhine had extracted an extra 5,000 crowns to go with his original 40,000 crown appearance fee. 
     On August 20, 1968, the Soviet Union led Warsaw Pact troops in an invasion of Czechoslovakia to crack down on reformist trends in Prague. Pachman was arrested in the middle of the night and was taken to a torture cellar where he was almost killed. On Christmas Eve 1969 the doctors called his wife to inform her that he would probably not survive the night. He did, and in the early seventies he immigrated to West Germany, where he became a political activist with strong anti-communist views. His eloquence brought him regular appearances on political talk shows. 

1) Alekhine 17.0 
2) Keres 14.0 
3) Katetov 13.0 
4-5) Sajtar and Foltys 12.5 
6-9) Saemisch, Lokvenc,Urbanec and Thelen 11.0 
10) Pachman 9.5 
11) Opocensky 9.0 
12-15) Bartosek, Fichtl, Prucha and Novotny 8.5 
16) Florian 7.5 
17) Podgorny 6.0 
18) Dietze 5.5 
19) Kubanek 3.5 
20) Sucha 1.5 

On to the game... 

     Writing in Guide to Good Chess, C.J.S. Purdy wrote that the number one rule for endings is "Before ever thinking of making a passed Pawn get all your pieces into as good positions as possible."  That is assuming you don't already have a passed Pawn. 
     Purdy observed that one is likely to get sidetracked from observing this rule if the opportunity to win a Pawn presents itself. He gave an example from one of his own games where he had two Rs +B +5 Ps versus his opponent's R +2Ns +5 Ps. Had he taken the opportunity to pick up an extra P the result would have still been a superior position, but the "road to victory would have stretched for miles."  Instead, by improving the position of his B he was able to stifle his opponent's counterplay and win quickly. 
     In the following game, in the middlegame Pachman played a nice little tactical trick that netted him passed Pawn. Then he played to win a Pawn, but made an interesting observation that instead of winning the Pawn it may have been better to play for a clear positional advantage.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Tweaked Version of Stockfish 7

      I discovered a tweaked version of SF7 in a Chess2u forum. I ran a highly unscientific 24-game blitz test between Stockfish 7 64 POPCNT and Stockfish 250816 64. Stockfish 250816 64 won rather decisively: +7 -4 =13.  Below is one of the more interesting games. 
     The game was annotated using SugaR, an engine by Marco Zerbinati that is derived from Stockfish. I have been unable to find it on any of the usual rating lists and there is some debate as to how good is really is. On one engine forum a poster claimed it seems to be stronger at blitz, but he was not sure about longer time controls. Another poster said he tested it at 40 minutes + 20 seconds increment time control and claimed it outperformed the latest Stockfish development version by +20 Elo after a couple of hundreds of games.
     SugaR is free so you can modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License. It can be downloaded HERE. I am not sure that I would completely trust SugaR without a lot further testing, but would not hesitate to use the updated version of Stockfish.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Mary Rudge, Fogotten Lady Champion

     Mary Rudge (February 6, 1842 in Leominster, Great Britian–November 22, 1919 in London) was an English female master. 
     Her father was a surgeon and was reported to be fairly strong although he never played tournament chess.  He taught his oldest daughters to play and they in turn taught Mary. Even though she was a prominent lady player of her day, she lived a life of poverty and died almost forgotten. 
     Dr. Rudge died when Mary was 32 years old and she and her sister, both unmarried, went to live with their brother, also unmarried, who served as a curate (a member of the clergy who served as an assistant to a vicar), in Bristol. 
     After death of her father, Dr. Henry Rudge, she moved to Bristol where she started playing chess seriously.  She began playing chess in a correspondence tournament in 1872.  The first mention of her in over the board competition was in August 1874 when she played in the second class at the Meeting of the Counties’ Chess Association in Birmingham.  According to the Edo rating her highest rating was 2146 in 1883. 
     Rudge was the first woman to become a member of the Bristol Chess Club which did not allow women to join until 1872 and played board 6 for them in several matches. 
     By 1889 she was in dire financial straits and gave consent for the club to make a financial appeal on her behalf. As a result, she was befriended by Frideswide Rowland and her husband, Thomas, who was a chess journalist. Mary started alternating between living in Bristol and Ireland. 1889, possibly inspired by Mrs. Rowland, she composed and published a chess problem in the Clontarf Parochial Magazine and gave a simultaneous display, winning all six games. The result was she was soon being hailed as the best female player in the world.
     She was a winner of the first Women’s International Chess Congress, under the management of the Ladies' Chess Club of London in conjunction with the Women's Chess Club of New York. 
     The tournament was played at the Hotel Cecil, in the Masonic Hall, for six days, but the final rounds were decided at the Ideal Cafe, the headquarters of the Ladies' Chess Club in 1897. Her play was described as steady and tenacious and it was said she didn't seem to care so much about how to win, but rather how to make her opponent lose. She never took risks and never indulged in fireworks. Her preferred style was to win a Pawn or get a grip on the position then grind out the win. Rudge was 55 years-old and the oldest of the 20 players and had substantial experience playing chess at the time. She won the event with an overwhelming 18 wins and 1 draw. 
     Over the next years, she took part in various competitions, playing in Bristol and Dublin. In 1875 she lost a simultaneous exhibition game against Blackburne and in 1876 she was defeated by Zukertort in simul, but in 1898 she played against world champion Emanuel Lasker in a simultaneous display. Lasker was unable to finish all the games in the time available and Mary’s was one of those unfinished. He conceded defeat because he would be lost against best play. 
     The mid-to-late 1890s saw her health deteriorate and in 1900 her sister died leaving her on her own. In 1912 there was another appeal for funds. The Cork Weekly News published the following announcement by Mrs. Rowland: 

Miss Mary Rudge is the daughter of the late Dr Rudge, and after his death she resided with her brother, who kept a school, but since his decease she is quite unprovided for, her sisters are also dead, and she is without any income of any kind. She lived as companion with various ladies, and was for some years resident with Mrs Rowland, both at Clontarf and Kingstown. Whilst at Clontarf, she played in the Clontarf team in the Armstrong Cup matches, and proved a tough opponent, drawing with J. Howard Parnell and winning many a fine game. She was also engaged at the DBC to teach and play in the afternoons. At the Ladies’ International Congress, London, she took first prize (£60), making the fine score of 19½ in 20, the maximum. Miss Rudge held he Champion Cup of the Bristol Chess Club, prior to Messrs H.J. Cole and F.U. Beamish. Miss Rudge is now quite helpless from rheumatism and is seeking admission into a home or (if possible) the Dublin Hospital for Incurables. A fund is being collected for present expenses, pending her admission, and chessplayers are asked to help – either by influence or money. Donations may be sent to Mrs Rowland, 3 Loretto Terrace, Bray, Co. Wicklow, or to Mrs Talboys, 20 Southfield Park, Cotham, Bristol.

     In 1918 when her cousin died without a will she claimed to be sole next of kin, but another claimed to be the grandson of her cousin's uncle and appears to have won his case and Mary got nothing. 
     She moved to the British Home for Incurables, Streatham and died in Guy's Hospital, London, on November 22, 1919 at the age of 77. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Checking for Hidden Gems in Pruned Moves

     In engine assisted correspondence play it's never a good idea to play openings from engine books or human databases. Top rated correspondence players spend a ton of hours deeply researching openings and in order to be successful at that level they are limited to a very narrow choice of openings. And, once out of the opening, if one plays the engine's top choice every time one won't advance very far. You know the advice...blah, blah, blah. Boring, boring, boring! 
     As you also know, engines prune moves that they initially determine to be inferior, but sometimes pruned moves can contain a hidden resource. Here's how to discover some of those moves. 
     Use the engine to explore moves that look good to you. Unless you're rated north of 2500 they will probably not be very good, but not always. The other way is to look at moves the engine might have pruned. Here's how you do that. 
     Assuming your chess program allows it, you remove the engine's top choices and have it evaluate the remaining moves (except for obviously bad ones). This forces the engine to look at moves that it might have pruned. For example, in the position shown the top choices are 12.O-O-O, 12.f5 and 12.Bd3.

    In this case, using Chess Assistant I went to the Infinite Analysis command and marked the moves I wanted the to force the engine to analyze: 

     This forces the engine to look at moves that it might have rejected out of hand and sometimes it will find something it initially missed. 
     Another trick is after the engine has had time to analyze the position step forward several moves in the best line and then start moving backwards looking for alternate moves the engine may have pruned. 
     These two tricks will sometimes help in finding hidden resources. It will require some time, but it can be interesting tinkering with the position. 
     I sometimes have opponents with ICCF titles and when I get a move that does not show up as one of either Stockfish's or Komodo's top three moves it signals that the position requires extra attention. I used to assume that they were using superior hardware or had let their engines run overnight or some such. After learning of the above two tricks I realized what had happened...my engines probably missed something in the time I let them analyze and digging deeper into that particular position was necessary.  Happy mining for hidden gems!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Practical Advice on the Isolated d-Pawn

    Back in March I covered some basic strategy on the handling of the isolated d-Pawn and gave an instructive game between Szabo and van Seters.
     The following game is a gem where Bronstein scores a quick knockout with the isolated d-Pawn, but the important thing is the excellent practical advice that C.J.S. Purdy offers in his notes to the game where he explains how black went wrong.  Whether you play with or against this formation, Purdy's advice is worth remembering. 
     Bronstein needs no introduction, but his opponent, Bela Berger, is probably unknown unless you are Australian. Berger was born August 12, 1931 in Szombathely, Hungary. 
     He finished 5th in the Hungarian Championship at Budapest 1953 and in 1954 he played for Hungary "B" at fourth board in 1st Triennial Cup in Budapest. 
     After the failure of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, Berger moved to Australia, where he won the New South Wales state title in 1957 and 1961. 
     He played in the Australian Championship in 1958/59, finishing second with 11.5 points, behind Lajos Steiner who scored 12.5. Australian champion John Purdy, son of C.J.S. Purdy, was one of Australia's two representatives at the 1963 Pacific Zonal Championship in Jakarta. There was a quadrangular selection tournament in Melbourne for the second spot. Berger and Karlis Ozols tied for first; the selectors voted in favor of Berger 3-0. In Jakarta, he tied for first with Indonesia's Arovah Bachtiar on 5.5/8, and won the playoff 2-1 after 3 games. A fourth game was won by Bachtiar, but it had no bearing on the outcome, as the tiebreak system used favored Berger. As zonal champion, he became an International Master. 
     He went on to play in the 1964 Interzonal tournament in Amsterdam, with 18 grandmasters and 6 international masters, finishing 23rd out of 24. Berger tied for 7-8th in the Meralco Open in Manila in 1968. He died in December 2005 in Sydney, Australia. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Evans Gambit

Captain Evans
     The Evans Gambit isn't seen very often these days, but Reuben Fine said it poses a challenge for black because the two usual ways of defending (playing...d6 or returning the gambit Pawn) are more difficult to pull off than with other gambits. 
     In the Evans white offers a P to divert the black Bishop on c5 and if black accepts, white can play c3 and d4 gaining control of the center and open diagonals to play Ba3 or Qb3. This allows him to generate threats against f7 and prevents black from castling K-side. If Black declines then white gains space on the Q-side. 
     The gambit is named after Welsh sea captain William Davies Evans. Evans (January 27, 1790 – August 3, 1872) was a seafarer and inventor. He invented the tri-colored lighting on naval vessels designed to prevent collisions at night. For this invention he was awarded £1500 by the British government and a gold chronometer and £200 from the Tsar of Russia.
     Evans was most likely educated at Haverfordwest Grammar School. About the beginning of the century the family moved to Castle Pill, the name of an inlet of Milford Haven in Wales. He went to sea in 1804 at the age of 14 and served in the navy until the Napoleonic wars ended in 1815. He learned to play chess sometime around 1818 and was transferred to the postal department until 1819 where he served as captain of a mail ship named the Auckland which sailed between Milford Haven, Wales and Waterford, Ireland.  During this period he played a lot of chess with a well known player of the day, Lt. Harry Wilson. 
     As a chess player, Wilson was one of the last surviving veterans of a group of players between what has been called the Transition School which was a group of players between Philidor and de la Bourdonnais. Beside his chess career, Wilson, who was described as a man who never made and enemy and never lost a friend, served as an officer in the Royal Navy. He died in Spring Vale, Isle of Wight in 1851. 
     It was some time around 1824 Evans invented his gambit and in 1826 he created a sensation in the chess world by introducing his opening in a famous game in London when he defeated Alexander McDonnell, the strongest player that Ireland ever produced. 
     In January 1840 Evans retired on a pension and spent his time at London chess clubs and traveling abroad. He died on 3 August 1872 at 29, Rue Christine, Ostend, Belgium and is buried in the old cemetery in the town. The inscription on his gravestone reads: To the sacred memory of William Davies Evans, formerly Commander in the Post Office and Oriental Steam Services; Superintendent in the Royal Mail Steam Company, and inventor of the system of tri-coloured light for shipping. Also well known in the chess world as the author of the Evans’ Gambit.
     In 1832 the first analysis of the gambit was published in the Second Series of Progressive Lessons by William Lewis and the gambit became very popular shortly after that, being employed a number of times in the series of games between McDonnell and Louis de la Bourdonnais in 1834. Players such as Adolf Anderssen, Paul Morphy and Mikhail Chigorin subsequently took it up. Eventually however, Emanuel Lasker dealt a heavy blow to the opening with a modern defensive idea: returning the pawn under favorable circumstances. See GM Bryon Smith's article at Chessdotcom, The Evans Gambit: Modern Play 
     As a result of Lasker's innovation the opening was out of favor for much of the 20th century, although John Nunn and Jan Timman played some games with it in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and in the 1990s Garry Kasparov used it in a few of his games which prompted a brief revival of interest in it. 
     In the following game Evans wins brilliantly against McDonnell, but analysis with Stockfish shows that McDonnell missed a chance to save the game at move 16. Have engines finding flaws in the play of the great players of yesteryear resulted in a loss of respect for their play? Engines have made us all armchair Grandmasters, but they haven't helped us understand chess any better. All they have done is proved the old masters weren't perfect. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

What kind of chess player are you?

     Chess.com created a quiz where you can find out which chess style and which great player suits you the best. You just answer 20 quick questions and the quiz will tell about your game.  Take the quiz
     The quiz was written by IM Davis Pruess and IM Daniel Rensch when they were Chess.com co-directors of content and it's based on top-level chess analytics. 
     When Nakamura took the quiz in October 2015 he was classified as a technician like Vladimir Kramnik. He was no longer the "unpredictable chess barbarian" that he once was. IM Danny Rensch was surprised to find out he is a grinder like Anatoly Karpov. 
     According to the results I am a Mastermind. This type of player seeks to master both their own emotions and to impose their reality on the chessboard. A Mastermind always seeks the right move, and believes that attacking is the right way. Typically choosing sharp openings, Masterminds win with fantastically deep calculations, producing combinations which are deeply hidden in correctly built-up positions. Masterminds thrive in complicated positions, where their accurate calculating ability and iron nerves give them the advantage.

Recommended Openings White: Ruy Lopez and Queen's Gambit 
Black: Ruy Lopez and French Defense 

     The player I identify with is Alekhine who, according to the quiz, was a true Mastermind. One of the greatest attacking players ever, Alekhine could produce spectacular combinations from positions which seemed to promise no such thing. His calculation ability was phenomenal, and his combinations often included deadly and unexpected surprises at the end of a series of obvious moves: the famous "sting of the scorpion's tail". Most important was his ability to build up an attacking position and create complications without taking undue risks himself. 
     One time at a tournament I heard a local master say that I play like Fischer. We were all gathered around the pairing chart and I overheard my next opponent ask if anyone knew me and a local master said, "He plays like Fischer." My opponent asked, "What do you mean he plays like Fischer?" The master replied, "Not Bobby. He plays like the kid named Fischer in the under 1200 section." Have fun, take the quiz!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Barking Up the Wrong Tree

     I was just killing time browsing some old magazines when I discovered this game which has some really complicated tactics. It was played by a couple of amateurs in the 1952 Tri-State (Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania) Junior Championship and features an interesting and original French Defense.
     After an unusual variation of the French Defense there wasn't much going on, but a couple of early mistakes by both players reached a position where white couldn't resist the temptation to hunt down black's King, but he was barking up the wrong tree. 
     Both sides missed some truly amazing tactics and white's strategy paid off as he managed to come out the winner. It's hard to criticize the players because in a couple of positions even Stockfish took some time to sort things out. For amateur human players, the tactics were just too complicated.