The Classic 80s Part 3: Manhattan Chess Club

In the mid-1980’s, The Manhattan Chess Club had a fabulous location on the 10th floor of Carnegie Hall, at 57th Street and 7th Avenue in Manhattan (I believe the MCC that Bobby Fischer frequented was at a different eastside location). Across the street was “Merit Farms”, where hungry chess players would get sandwiches and what not. Steve Immitt called it “Merit Clowns.” There was even a bathtub on the 11th floor that the players could use; an unheard of luxury for a chess club. Some players took the nice location too far and actually started living in the club. A creeping seediness gummed up the works and, coupled with the rent increase, the MCC had to move to the far west site (9th avenue in the 40s) where it, sadly, did not last.  I refer the readers to a newer post where I am trying to establish a who’s who of MCC champions over the years.

Here’s a photo of me circa 1983, with the famous old Manhattan CC soda machine.  Facial hair is fun but it’s unclear how it affects one’s play. Maybe we should ask Levon Aronian about this. I heard from a reader that in 1983, the MCC was actually at another east-side location (not yet Carnegie Hall).  Can anyone confirm the 1983 location?


1983:  Where exactly was the MCC? 

Every year the MCC Championship was a banner event attracting many strong players. Over the years, such luminaries as Bobby Fischer, Joel Benjamin, Robert Byrne, and other GMs have won it. I managed to do the trick twice, in 1988 and 1990.

First let’s look at a 1983 tussle featuring an unusual opening which has its merits and is quite good to get booked up players out of book.
Joel Benjamin vs Mark Ginsburg
Manhattan Chess Club Championship, 1983

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 d6 3. Nc3 e5 4. Nf3 e4!? 5. Ng5 Bf5 6. g4 Bxg4 7. Bg2 Nc6!? 7…Nbd7 is also playable here. See Alburt-Ginsburg, Lone Pine 1980. In general, I think this line is underrated for black as active piece play is achievable.

8. Ngxe4 Be7 9. b3?! 9. Be3, 9. Rg1, and even 9. Nd5!? are more to the point.

9…Nxe4 10. Nxe4 O-O 11. Bb2 f5! A natural space-gaining move. The position is now very sharp and unclear.

12. Ng3?! Tempting black into a strong advance. 12. Nc3 looks safer.


Position after 12. Ng3.  Black is tempted into the bum’s rush. 

12… f4 A logical follow-up. Black now has a small edge.

13. Ne4 d5! Correct. White’s center is splintered.

14. cxd5 Nb4 15. d6 Bxd6 16. d5 Qe7 17. a3 Bf5 18. Nxd6


Position after 18. Nxd6.  Two good moves, but only allowed to pick one. 

18… Nc2+!? The obvious 18…Nd3+ is tempting and strong but after 19. Kd2! (19. Kf1?? loses horribly to the crushing blow 19…f3! 20. exf3 (20. Bxf3? Bh3+ 21. Bg2 Rxf2+) Qxd6 and white is paralyzed.) white stays afloat. Note that 19…Nxb2 20. Nxf5! Rxf5 21. Qc1 is good for white. Black should continue 19…Nxf2! 20. Nxf5 Rxf5 and after the best moves 21. Qe1! Qg5! black has some edge. The text is also good for some advantage.

19. Kf1 Qxd6 20. Rc1 f3! Black finds the key resource.  Another splintering motif to go with the earlier 13…d5!; quite a field day for these brave pawns.

21. exf3 Qa6+?! Here is where things start to slip slowly away. Black had the much stronger craven capture 21…Nxa3! and the knight can extricate via b5. After 22. Qd4 Rf7 23. Qc5 Qxc5 24. Rxc5 Nc2 the knight can dance out another way and black has a decisive edge – white’s structure is ruined.

22. Kg1 Rae8 Black, of course, still has a big edge here.


Position after 22…Rae8.  How can black contrive to lose this? 

23. Qd2 Qg6? The text is terrible and white gets tempi to unravel. 23…Rf7! is much stronger. For example, 23…Rf7 24. h3 Re2 25. Qg5 Qb6! hitting f2 and wins. or 23…Rf7 24. Qc3 Nxa3! (g7 is guarded!) and black again has every chance to win.

24. h4! Of course! For the first time in many moves, white gets breathing room and it is now black that has uncoordinated pieces. The (smallish) advantage now sits with white.

21…Bd3? Another weak move. 21…h5! was necessary and white’s edge is manageable.

25. h5 Qf5 26. Rh4 26. Rh3 was also very strong.

26…Re2 27. Qc3 Qf6 28. Qxf6?! The brute-force 28. Bf1 wins for white. 28…Rxf2 29. Qxf6 Rxf1+ 30. Rxf1 gxf6 leads to a technically lost ending.

28…gxf6 29. Bf1 The clever 29. Rg4+ Kf7 30. h6! was stronger here.

29…Re1 30. Rg4+ Kf7 31. Rxe1 Nxe1 32. Bxd3 Nxd3 33. Bc3 Black still has a bad game but there are glimmers of hope here and there.

33…Rg8 33…Rd8! 34. Rc4 Rxd5! playing for activity was a better bet. For example, 35. Rxc7+ Ke6 36. Rxh7 Nf4! keeping fighting chances.

34. Rxg8 Kxg8 35. Bd2 Now white has a classic better minor piece advantage.

35…Kf7 36. Kf1 Nc5 37. b4 Nd7 38. Bf4 Nb6 39. Bxc7 Nxd5 40. Bb8 a6 41. Ke2 Ke6 41…f5 putting a pawn on white and gaining space was better.

42. Kd3 Ne7? Black misses a clever defense: 42…b5! 43. Kd4 Nb6! preventing Kc5 due to the knight fork on d7. Then, 44. Bf4 Nd7 and black for the moment has built a defensive wall preventing the white king from getting in.


Position after 42…Ne7.  Things are going wrong in slow-motion.

43. Bg3 Nf5 44. Kc4 Kd7 45. Kd5 Ng7 46. h6 Nf5 47. Bf4 Ne7+ Black should have at least tried 47…Nh4.

48. Kc5 Ng6 49. Be3 Ne5 50. Bd4 Nf7 51. Be3 51. Bxh6! Nxh6 52. a4 is strong.

51…Ne5 52. Bd4 Nf7 53. Bxf6! White finds the correct way to unbalance the game and make the B vs N duel more lopsided.

53…Nxh6 54. Kd5 Nf7 55. f4 b5 56. Bh4


Position after 56. Bh4.  Last straw coming. 

56… h5? A terrible move. Black has to sit tight with 56…Nd6! and pray. The following variation demonstrates black still has chances: 56…Nd6 57. f3 h5 58. Ke5 Nc4+ 59. Kf6 Nd2! 60. Kg6 Nxf3 61. Kxh5 Ke6! 62. Kg4 Nh2+!, holding the position.

57. f5 Nh6 Now it’s too late for 57…Nd6 58. Ke5! (58. f6 also wins). The rest is a set of meaningless moves, black is totally lost.

58. Ke5 Ke8 59. Kf6 Nf7 60. Kg6 Ne5+ 61. Kg7 Nf7 62. Bg3 Nd8 63. f3 Nc6 64. f6 Nd8 65. Kg6 Kf8 66. Bc7 Nb7 67. f7 1-0

An exceptionally poorly played middlegame, tossing away a won game, and then a poorly played ending as well. These two things usually add up to a loss. But note the nice opening!

Moving ahead two years to 1985, here is a happier memory. A brilliancy prize game played vs Dr. Neil McKelvie, a Chemistry Professor at CCNY in 1985. I believe Neil was one of the directors of the club in this era. I didn’t do particuarly well in the 1985 incarnation, but at least I got some jollies in this slugfest.

Mark Ginsburg vs NM Dr. Neil McKelvie
Manhattan Chess Club Championship, 1985

Queens Gambit Declined

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. c4 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 Be7 7. O-O O-O 8. b3 b6 9. Bb2 Bb7 10. Qe2 dxc4?! It doesn’t look right to concede the center so quickly.

11. bxc4 c5 12. Rad1 cxd4 13. exd4


13… Qb8 Black wants to transfer his queen to the strong f4 square. White rushes to prevent that.

14. Ne5! Rd8 15. f4! White’s initiative is quite menacing. Black hurries to erect defensive structures and it’s up to white to break them down.

15…g6 16. Kh1 Bf8 17. d5! exd5 18. cxd5 Re8


19. d6! A very nice clearance to get to black’s king.

19…Bxd6 20. Nb5 Bc5 21. Bc4! Focusing on the f7 point. White’s position is now winning but some further line-opening sacrifices are needed.


21… Re7 22. Bxf7+! Rxf7 23. Nxf7 Kxf7 24. f5!

Attacking players find all these moves easily. Black’s king position is completely ripped apart and he has no defense.

25…Qe8 25. Qc4+ Kf8 26. Rxd7! Qxd7 27. fxg6! Everything is with gain of time; when an attacking game flows smoothly it’s a lot of fun to play.



It was resignable here. White proceeds to capture most of black’s pieces.

28. Rxf6+ Ke7 29. Rf7+ Kd8 30. Bf6+ Kc8 31. Qg4+ Kb8 32. Qg3+ Bd6 33. Rf8+ Bc8 34. Qxd6+ 1-0

A most enjoyable game.

Here’s another tough tangle from the ’85 event versus a former US Championship participant and USA representative in the Chess Olympiad, George M. Kramer.

According to ChessBase, Mr. Kramer’s middle name is Mortimer (a good trivia question?). He has been active in top chess for many decades; his career has games vs GMs Fine, Najdorf, etc. Here’s a 10 move win of his(!) vs. American NM Weaver Adams, US Open 1946, Pittsburgh. Kramer was black in the W. Adams win, and his opponent had authored one of the typical weak self-help books you see in bookstores, “White to Play and Win.” Heh. Kramer played in numerous US Championships; here’s a feeble loss to Bobby Fischer in the 1957 event and to even things out a win over Letelier in the World Chess Olympiad, Dubrovnik, 1950. I see at he also played in the Munich 1958 and Varna 1962 Olympiads.

NM George M. Kramer – IM Mark Ginsburg

MCC Ch 1985, Round 5

King’s Indian Defense


1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 d6 3. Nc3 Nbd7 4. Nf3 e5 5. e4 A totally different way is steering play for the Old Indian with 5. Bg5! Be7 6. e3 O-O 7. Qc2 exd4 8. Nxd4 (8. exd4 h6 9. Bh4 d5 10. c5 c6 is OK for Black) 8… h6 9. Bh4 Ne5 10. O-O-O Re8 and we reach a well-known book position with a small edge for white.

5… g6 6. Be2 Bg7 7. O-O O-O 8. Be3 h6 An interesting move to gauge white’s intentions.


9. Ne1 9. dxe5 is my personal preference; after 9…dxe5 10. Qc1! Kh7 (10… Ng4? 11. Bd2 Kh7 12. Ng5+! hxg5 13. Bxg4 with a big edge to white) 11. Rd1 and white is a bit better.

9… exd4 10. Bxd4 Re8 Playable is 10… Ne5 11. Nc2 Re8 12. f3 Be6 13. b3 Nc6 14. Be3 Nd7 15. Qd2 Qh4 16. Rad1 Rac8 17. Nd5 Kh7 and black fights on.

11. f3 c6 Black can try 11… Ne5 12. Nd5 a6 13. Qd2 Bd7 14. Rd1 Nxd5 15. cxd5 Bb5.

12. Qd2 Ne5 13. Rd1 Be6 14. b3 g5 Rather unsolid. More usual would be 14… Qa5 15. Nc2 Rad8 16. f4 c5 17. Bf2 Nc6 18. Bh4 Nd4 19. Bd3 Nxc2 20. Qxc2 Bg4 21. Rde1 Rb8 22. Nb5 Qb6 23. Qf2 with some white edge.

15. Be3?! A better alternative here is 15. Nc2!? ganging up on d6. 15. Qe3 is another chance.

15… Qa5 16. Nc2 Nh5! 17. Na4 Qxd2 18. Rxd2 Nf4! Black is OK now, the pawn sacrifice on d6 is fully justified.

19. Bxf4 gxf4 20. Rxd6


20…a6? Quite a feeble move for several reasons. 20… Rad8! is clearly good. It’s unusual in the sense that black, behind material, actually does want to trade here. 21. Rfd1 (Offering nothing is 21. Rxd8 Rxd8 22. Rd1 Rxd1+ 23. Bxd1 Nd7 24. Be2 f5! with full compensation for the pawn; however it is drawish and black really has no winning chances.} 25. Kf2 Kf7 26. g3 Be5 27. gxf4 Bxf4 with approximate equality.

21. Rd2 White is simply better after this slow move, but he also had 21. c5! This move appears to lose the c5-pawn, but white has a nice counter-tactic. 21..Bf8 22. Rd4 Nd7 23. Rfd1! Nxc5 (23… Bxc5 24. Nxc5 Nxc5 25. Rd6 a5 26. Nd4) 24. Nb6! (an unexpected trapping of the knight on c5. 24… Rab8 25. b4 a5 26. bxc5 Bxc5 27. Nc4 Red8 28. Kf1 Bxd4 29. Rxd4 with a big plus.

21… Bf8 Here, white has a stable and comfortable edge. But look what happens!

22. g3!? Methodical. White clears the way for the f3 pawn to advance. I would prefer the simpler 22.Rfd1 with a big plus.

22… fxg3 23. f4?? A gross tactical blunder. 23. hxg3 b5 24. Nb2! leaves white on top. For example, 24…Bg7 25. Ne3! guarding the N/b2 against possible discovered attacks.


23… gxh2+ 24. Kg2 Rad8! White must have overlooked this simple tactic. The position has been opened up for the two bishops and white collapses.

25. Rfd1 25. Rd4 Ng4 or 25…Bg4 both win for black.

25… Rxd2 26. Rxd2 Ng6! A very simple solution. White’s once proud, solid position is a structural ruin.

27. Kxh2 27. f5 is a slightly better try but still white winds up in a lost ending after an elementary tactical blow: 27…Bxf5! 28. exf5 Rxe2+ (28… Nf4+29. Kxh2 Rxe2+ 30. Rxe2 Nxe2 transposes) 29. Rxe2 Nf4+ 30. Kxh2 Nxe2 31. Kg2 Bd6 32. Kf3 Nc1 33. Nc3 Be5 34. Ne4 Nxa2 35. Nc5 Nc1 36. Nxb7 Nxb3 37. Nb4 Nd2+ 38. Ke2 Nxc4 39. Nxa6 Bb2 40. Nb4 Ne5 and black wins.

27… Nxf4 With the rooks still on, black has a crushing position with the bishop pair and an extra pawn.

28. Bf3 Ng6 29. Ne3 b5 30. Nb2 Bb4 31. Rd1 Ne5 32. Bh5 From now on, black has his choice of wins.

32…Kh7 33. Nd3 Bd6 34. Nxe5 Bxe5+ 35. Kg2 Bf4 35… Rg8+ 36. Kf2 Rg5 37. Bf3 Kg6 also wins very easily.

36. Kf3


36…Bxe3! One of the great advantages of the bishop pair, as GM Yefim Geller observed, is that one of them can be traded at the right time for positional or material gains. And the right time might last for a very long time. This is a good example, it is time to lose the bishop pair to aim for an easily won and simplified ending.

37. Kxe3 bxc4 38. b4 Rb8 38… Bd5! exploiting the pin is a very simple win.

39. a3 a5 40. Rb1 Of no help is 40. bxa5 Rb3+ 41. Kd4 Rxa3.

40…axb4 41. axb4 Rb5! The threat of …c6-c5 is very convincing so white resigned.



Let’s jump ahead to the end of the 1980s for a nice ‘gamelet’ vs NM Maxim Berlyant, refuting his particular interpretation of the Snake Benoni.

Mark Ginsburg vs Maxim Berlyant
Manhattan Chess Club, 1989

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c5 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 Bd6?  Not good after 3. Nc3; playable after 3. Nf3.  I took great pains to explain this to IM John Watson and I’m still not sure he understands, because he didn’t at the time (judging from his confused reaction and initial statement that the Snake was equivalent after 3. Nc3 and 3. Nf3).


6. g3! Bc7 7. d6!  This is a complete refutation. Since white has not committed his KN to f3 yet, it can go to h3 to f4 to d5.  That is the key differentiator. Black is paralyzed by the d6 pawn wedge.

6…Ba5 8. Bg2 O-O 9. Nh3 Qb6 10. O-O Ne8  An abject retreat signals black’s desperate condition.


11. Nd5 Qd8 12. Qc2 Na6 13. Ng5 Everything with gain of time. It’s not usual that a master is reduced to such helplessness after a handful of moves.

13…g6 14. Ne4 Bb6 15. Bh6

A very brutal finale.  Black has no defense.



This snake was squashed.




Watch this spot; I will post other MCC Championship tangles versus Dlugy, Benjamin, Schroer, Zuckerman, Shirazi, Cooke, and more.

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5 Responses to “The Classic 80s Part 3: Manhattan Chess Club”

  1. The Classic 00s 2005: Battles in the Sonoran Desert « IM Mark Ginsburg Presents A Personal Chess History Says:

    […] The Classic 00s 2005: Battles in the Sonoran Desert Note to reader: if you’re looking for the E. Vicary analysis insanity it is here.  Also, the most recently edited historical article:  The Manhattan Chess Club Memoirs. […]

  2. Jery Says:

    I remember those days at the Manhattan. But I dont think that the person sleeping in the club was the problem. You know people like Goichberg and Immitt have successful events because they are really into what they do and they work hard at it. Also they don’t put unncessary restrictions on people. They aren’t contemptuous of their customers like some people at the Manhattan were. Its too bad that few of the people who actually have been in charge of chessclubs in Manhattan have been like that.

  3. Marlon Says:

    Nostalgia and the days of yore. This brings back many fond memories. Unfortunately, chess today is not the same. Back then, it was more of a collection of characters from all walks of life, each eccentric in their own right, united in our passion for the game. Sadly it will never be the same…

  4. fluffybunnyfeet Says:

    For those among the readership perhaps interested in the wider world –
    a slightly more believable take on the current financial meltdown, from somebody we know and respect, rather than the current Gang Of Idiots:

    Larry Kaufman used to run strong blitz tournaments in the late 1970s in Silver Spring, MD. At one such event I lost as white to [recently retired] Rogoff’s Najdorf.

  5. The Fabulous 60s: McKelvie upsets Benko « IM Mark Ginsburg Presents A Personal Chess History Says:

    […] 8. e5!? Just as Kelleher played!  Theory presumes this to be premature but play gets very sharp.  It’s odd to see super sharp McKelvie openings because when I (MG) played him he reacted very passively in a QGD MCC Ch. 1985.  Maybe decaf that day? […]

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