The Fabulous 70s Part 6: US Amateur Teams

English Opening, 1. c4 c5, Four Knights Variation

Amateur Teams were always a nice event in the year’s calendar. Taking place in February, with only trophies (no cash) as prizes, there was nevertheless fantastic attendance in most year. In the 1970s, some of these happened in Atlantic City (pre-casino!). Innovative organizer Denis Barry (1929-2003) was the brain behind the event. In later years, it split into the 4-region format that we have today.

Here is a relic going way back to 1977.

Mark Ginsburg (2165) vs Richard Costigan (2308)
US Team Championship, New Jersey 1977

My opponent was one of the Costigan brothers (Richard, Thomas, William) and I would wind up playing them many times in my career. Richard became an IM and I tangled with NM Thomas in the US Junior Closed in Memphis, TN, 1978. Later this year (November 1977) I would score a ‘breakout’ performance and win a strong open in NYC, moving up to 2350, but since this was only February 1977 I was still in the Expert range.

1. Nf3 c5 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3 Nc6 4. e4 e6 5. Be2!?


An interesting semi-waiting move in the style of Little Sammy Reshevsky. Of course, this should offer nothing for White but is good psychologically if the opponent oversteps the bounds of safety.

5…d5 5…Qb6!? is a good dynamic alternative here. The text is more static but not bad.

6. exd5 exd5 7. d4 dxc4? A bad positional mistake. 7….cxd4 is safe. Then, 8. Nxd4 dxc4 9. Be3 and 9. Nxc6 are both equal.

8. d5 Nb4 Leads to a bad position, but so do 8…Na5 9. Bf4 and 8…Nd4 9. Nxd4 cxd4 10. Qxd4.

9. Bxc4 Bf5

Something has gone seriously wrong and black’s knight is horribly offside on b4.

10. O-O Be7? 10…Bd6, while not pleasant, kept the game going.

11. Bf4 Now White has a decisive edge.

11…Nh5 12. Be5! O-O 13. a3 Na6


14. h3? The peculiar retreat, not normally on players’ radar screens, 14. Ne1! is immediately decisive. Take a look, it’s not often such a retreat is so strong. If 14…Bg6 (what else? 14…Nf6? 15. d6!) 15. f4! simply wins a piece.

14…Qd7? Black had to try 14…Bf6 to play on. Now white can go “straight up the middle” and score a quick KO.

15. Bb5! Qc8 16. d6 Rd8 17. dxe7 A totally obvious pseudo queen sacrifice. It would be hard to find a player who would NOT play it, so it does not deserve an exclamation point.

17…Rxd1 18. Raxd1 1-0


Black cannot handle e7-e8 and gives up.


To disabuse you of the notion that I was strong, here is a very weak effort from the same event.


E. Melman vs Mark Ginsburg
US Team Championship, New Jersey 1977

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Nc3 Qc7 6. Be3?

This move does not work versus the Kan. I have faced this blunder in countless tournament games.  White cannot get an English Attack.

6…Bb4 7. Qd2 Nf6 8. Bd3 d5 9. f3?

Another bad blunder. White loses a piece. NM Renard Anderson at least found 9. exd5 versus me Las Vegas 2003, but Black of course has no problems and I went on to win.  Granted, there were insane complications in that game, and it will appear in a 2000’s installment.


9… e5 10. Nde2 d4!

Black should now win easily.

11. Nxd4 exd4 12. Bxd4 Nbd7?

12…Nc6! is by far the easiest. 13. Bxf6 gxf6 doesn’t help white at all. An upcoming Nc6-e5 will put white in a rapid tomb.

13. O-O-O O-O 14. Qg5 Bc5?

A typical youth blunder.


15. Nd5 Qc6 16. Bxc5 Qxc5 17. Nxf6+

Greeaaaat. I lose my piece back and should lose now. Fortunately, white (a low-rated player) cannot convert.

Kh8 18. Qxc5 Nxc5 19. Nd5 Bd7 20. Nb6 Rad8


21. Bc4 Be6 22. Rxd8 Rxd8 23. Rd1 Rxd1+ 24. Kxd1 Kg8 25. Kd2 Kf8 26. Kc3 Ke7 27. Kd4 Bxc4 28. Kxc4 Ne6


White proceeds to blow it.

29. g3??

His position was so good this blunder doesn’t lose!

29…Ng5 30. f4 Nxe4 31. Kd5 Nf6+ 32. Kc5 Ne4+ 33. Kd4 Nf2 34. c4 Ng4 35. h3 Nf2 36. h4 h5 37. Nd5+ Ke6 38. Ne3 f5 39. b4 Ne4 40. Nf1 Kd6 41. Kd3 g6 42. Kd4 1/2-1/2



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