An Important Game from 1979

In March 1979 Michael Rohde took a big step toward U.S. Chess stardom – he made his first GM result at the Marshall Chess Club!  The tourney was also notable for Eugene Meyer’s 2nd IM norm and Larry Kaufman’s 1st IM norm.

Here is the NY Times article (by GM Robert Byrne). Click to enlarge.

The game itself seemed to go in a predictable path:

Plaskett was over-aggressive, Rohde picked up a few pawns, and won by taking advantage of Plaskett’s over-exposed King.

But behind the scenes, another player on an adjacent board (who was finished with his game) was analyzing and moving the pieces around, generally being distracting, during this featured NY Times game. Rohde asked him to stop, and the 3rd party took offense. Words were exchanged, the situation became ultra-tense, and it almost came to an all-out fight. The TD was summoned and this tense game’s clocks were stopped. Future GM Jim Plaskett was shocked (being British, does this happen in the UK?) and when things got underway again he offered no meaningful resistance and lost quickly.

Viva USA!  Barroom brawls do have a place in our chess culture.  Note in the NY Times article Byrne committed the common typo of Rhode (like Rhode Island).

Plaskett (UK) – Rohde (USA)  Sicilian Kan

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. Nc3 a6 4. d4 cd 5. N:d4 Qc7 6. Bd3 Nf6 7. f4 d6 8. Be3 Be7 9. O-O Nbd7 10. Qf3 Nc5 11. Rae1 O-O 12. Qg3 b5 13. e5 dxe5 14. dxe5 Ne8 Forced. If 14…Nfd7?? 15. Bh6 wins.

I am not sure when the near-fisticuffs broke out but I do know it was before Plaskett was dead lost.

15. Ne4 15. Be4!? Nxe4 16. Nxe4 Bb7 17. Bg5 Rd8 and black defends.

15…Nxd3 16. cxd3 Bb7 17. Rc1 Qd8 18. Nc6? Correct is 18. Nc5 and white is slightly better after e.g. 18…Bd5 19. b3.

18…Bxc6 19. Rxc6 Qd5! 20. Rfc1?! The simplest way was 20. Bc5! Qxc6 21. Bxe7 Nc7 and chances are balanced.  If 20…Bxc5+?! 21. Rxc5 Qxa2?! white gets the edge after 22. Nf6+! Kg8 (22…Nxf6? 23. exf6 g6 24. Qe3 Kh8 25. Qh6 Rg8 26. Rf3 just wins for white as 26..Qb1+ is met by the simple 27. Rc1) 23. Nd7! Rg8 24. Qf2!

20…Qxa2 21. Rc7? This ridiculous combination is unsound and loses quickly.  Even at this late juncture, White had the interesting resource 21. Nc5! threatening 22. Nd7 trapping the rook.  Then if 21…Rd8 22. b4! Qb2 23. Qf4 the entire game lies ahead.

21…Nxc7 22. Rxc7 Qb1+ 23. Kf2 Q:d3 Black is completely winning by the simplest of means; simply capturing things while at the same time centralizing his pieces.

24. Qf4 f6! The computer has black up by 5.82 “points” now.  Ouch.  Its not often you see the defensive side switch entirely over to the attack in one half-move.

25. exf6 A pleasing side-variation: if 25. Rc3 Qd5 26. Kg3 g5! 27. Qf3 fxe5 28. Qg4 Rf4!! 29. Bxf4 exf4+ 30. Kf3 Qd1+ and wins white’s queen!

25…B:f6 26. Kg3 Bh4+! and white resigns.  Now the margin is 14.06 “points”, reminiscent of a football game.


Hopefully the reader gets a sense for how quickly Plaskett dried up and blew away.

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