The Fabulous 70s: The National Chess League

Before the current-day US Chess League, we had the National Chess League played with telephones!  (pre-Web).  Runners would relay the moves with lingo like “Baker echo 7” (Be7).  Often times, a move was mis-relayed causing the game to back up and restart.  Games could take hours with the relay delays, although nominally the time control was G/1 hour with no increment.

Here are 3 amusing contests from the 1979 season, including one from the playoffs.

IM Dumitru Ghizdavu (CLE) – Mark Ginsburg (DC)  Sicilian Scheveningen, 4/22/79

I would hazard a guess my opponent hies from Romania.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 Nf6 4. Nc3 cxd4 5. Nxd4 e6 6. Be3 a6 7. f4 b5 8. Qf3 Bb7 9. Bd3 Nbd7 10. g4 b4 A wild line very popular at the time.

11. Nce2 e5 12. Nb3 h5!?

Wild Stuff

Wild Stuff

13. g5 Ng4 14. f5 Nxe3 15. Qxe3 a5 16. O-O-O a4 17. Nd2 d5!? 18. exd5 Bc5 19. Qg3 Bxd5 20. Be4 Bxa2 21. Bc6

Key Moment

Key Moment

21…Rc8? I totally missed 21… O-O! 22. Ne4? (22. f6 Rc8  unclear) 22… Qb6 23. Bxd7 Be3+ 24. Nd2 Rfd8! and black wins.

22. Bxa4 O-O 23. Ne4 Qb6 24. Rxd7 Be3+ 25. Kd1 Rfd8 Still, I generate play against white’s floating king.

26. Ke1 Rxd7 27. Nf6+ Kh8 28. Nxd7 Qa7 29. b3 Rxc2 30. Qf3 Bxb3! The craziness continues.  Quite a game!

31. Qxh5+ Kg8 32. g6

Key Moment Deux

Key Moment Deux

32…Bh6? I don’t think I had a lot of time left.

This second blunder is fatal.  I could have survived with  the wild sac (consistent with the rest of the game) 32… Rxe2+! 33. Kxe2 (33. Qxe2 Bxa4 34. gxf7+ Kxf7 35. Nxe5+ Kg8 36. Qc4+ Kh7 37. Qxb4 Bc2 38. Qc3 Bxf5) 33… Bc4+ 34. Kf3 Bd5+ 35. Kg4 Bh6)

33. Bxb3 Qa1+ 34. Kf2 Qd4+ 35. Kg3 Bf4+ 36. Kh3 Qd3+

I should have at least tried 36… Qe3+ hoping for 37. Ng3??  Rxh2+! 38. Rxh2 Qxg3 mate but it is hard to believe Ghizdavu would fall into that one.

37. Kh4 Bg5+ 38. Qxg5 Qe4+ 39. Qg4 Qxh1 40. gxf7+  1-0

In an amusing postscript, Ghizdavu recently popped up on the Arizona Scorpions USCL blog (see Comments section) announcing he’s moved to …. surprise ….. Surprise, AZ!   I would have to guess that DC won this Cleveland match but I didn’t record the individual board results.

M. Ginsburg (DC) – Julius Loftsson (LA)  Sicilian Taimanov 3/18/79

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nb5 d6 6. c4 Nf6 7. N5c3

Unusual and tried by Ljubojevic sporadically.

A Ljubo Special

A Ljubo Special

7…Be7 8. Be2 O-O 9. O-O b6 10. Bf4 Bb7 11. Nd2 a6 12. Re1 Rc8 13. Rc1 Ne5 14. Bg3 Qc7
15. b4 Qb8 16. Qb3 Bc6 17. f4 Ng6 18. h4?!
A very junior move. All my pawn advances come to naught and black is fine.

Rfd8 19. h5 Nf8 20. a4?! a5! I have no idea why I played my 20th.

21. bxa5 bxa5 22. Bf3 N8d7

Time for a Horrific Blunder

Time for a Horrific Blunder

23. e5?? Utter confusion on my part. A really ugly and mistimed advance that should have just handed black the game.

23… dxe5 24. fxe5 Bxf3 25. Qxb8 Nxb8 26. Nxf3 Nxh5 27. Bh2 Rxc4 I shed some pawns with no compensation.  Can you envision white winning?  No?  But look what happens.

"White to play and win"

"White to play and win"

28. Ne4 Rxc1 29. Rxc1 g6?!

Simplest was 29… Na6 stopping any play; e.g.  30. Nd6 g6 and black wins.

30. Rc7 Nd7 31. Nd4 Nc5?

Black had the nice 31… Bc5! 32. Nxc5 Nxc5 33. Rxc5 Rxd4 34. Rxa5 g5 and he should win.

32. Nd6 Bxd6? Another mistake and this one is serious enough to turn the game completely around.  32… Bg5! 33. Rxc5 Be3+ 34. Kf1 Bxd4 35. Rxa5 Ng7 36. Ke2 Nf5 37. Ra6 Rb8 and black is better.  He was probably in time trouble.

33. exd6 Ne4 Black is also losing after 33… Na6 34. Nc6 Rf8 35. d7 Nxc7 36. Bxc7 Nf6 37. Ne7+ Kg7 38. d8=Q Rxd8 39. Bxd8

34. d7 1-0

I think that DC won this match as well against LA.

So we got into the playoffs and here is a game from the Semi-Finals, DC versus the strong Berkeley Squad.  This time around I did record individual board results (see below).

IM Julio Kaplan (Berkeley Riots) – M. Ginsburg (DC Plumbers)  King’s Indian, 4 Pawns Attack, Benko-Gambit-esque

If you are wondering about the Plumbers name, look up the White House Plumbers and the notorious Watergate Scandal that occurred during President Nixon’s reign of terror.
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 g6 4. Nc3 d6 5. e4 Bg7 6. f4 O-O 7. Nf3 b5

Believe it or not, at the time I notated this as “!”  It works out well in the game but white was very compliant, opening lines up for black.

8. cxb5 a6 9. e5?! Former World Junior Champ Kaplan is aggressive, but I don’t like this at all.

9…dxe5 10. fxe5 Ng4 11. Bf4 Nd7 12. bxa6 Ndxe5 Black has a great game now.

Big Plus Already!  What can go wrong?

Big Plus Already! What can go wrong?

13. Nxe5 Nxe5 14. Qd2 c4! I’m playing well!  These motifs are obvious to Benko players but I was totally on my own.

15. Bxe5 Bxe5 16. Bxc4 Qc7 17. Be2 Bxa6 18. Bxa6 Rxa6 19. O-O Bxh2+ 20. Kh1 Be5 21. Rf3 Rf6 22. Rxf6 Bxf6 23. Ne4 Bg7 24. Re1 Rd8 25. Nc3 Qc4 26. Re3? A huge lemon, of course, but white had a bad game.

Qf1+ 27. Kh2 Bh6 As simple as that, black is winning.  But remember a kid is playing an ending, and accidents can happen to kids.

Yay.  I win?

Yay. I win?

28. Re1 Bxd2 29. Rxf1 Bxc3 30. bxc3 Rxd5 31. Rf2 e5 32. a4 Rc5 33. Rc2 Rc4 34. Ra2 Rxc3
35. a5 Rc7 36. a6 Ra7 37. Kg3 f6 38. Kf3 Kf7 39. Ke4 Ke6 40. g4

Is it possible not to win?

Is it possible not to win?

It’s hard to conceive of black not winning this position.

40…f5+

Easier is 40… h5 41. gxh5 gxh5 42. Kd3 Kd5 43. Ra5+ Kc6 44. Ke4 Kb6 and after dealing with the white pawn there are no obstacles for black.

41. gxf5+ gxf5+ 42. Kf3 h5 43. Ra1 Kf6 44. Ra2 h4? Completely off my radar was the simple 44… f4! 45. Ke4 h4 46. Ra5 h3 47. Rxe5 Rh7 48. Rf5+ Kg6 and black wins, since the h1-a8 diagonal skewer is decisive.

45. Ra1 Ra8?? Did I really do that?  What a nonsensical blunder. Well by now it was obvious I was incompetent so I doubt another stronger move would have “won” for me.

46. a7 h3 47. Kg3 e4 48. Kxh3 Kg5 49. Ra5 Kf4 50. Kg2 Kg4 51. Ra4 f4 52. Rxe4 Rxa7 53. Re8 Ra2+ 54. Kg1 Kf3 55. Rf8 Ra5 56. Rf7 Ra1+ 57. Kh2 Rf1 58. Ra7 Re1 59. Rf7 Re5 60. Kg1 Rg5+
61. Kf1 1/2-1/2
Quelle desastre!

Here are the board results:

DC                     –       Berkeley

Mark Diesen   0   John Grefe

future IM Steve Odendahl 0  Paul Whitehead (I commented that Odendahl stood much better and went nuts)

Larry Kaufman  1  Jay Whitehead

Richard Delaune 1/2  Cornelius

John Meyer 0  DeFirmian (I noted that John lost on time with a queen versus a rook!)

So we lost this Semi-Final match 2 to 4.

And for Something Different

World Open 1985

World Open 1985

Vince McCambridge (right) and a fan, World Open, 1985.

Military History, Anyone?

Is anyone awake at the Pentagon?

This Afghanistan story of heavy American casualties from cnn.com:

“The battle Saturday in which eight U.S. troops were killed was so fierce that, at one point, U.S. forces had to fall back as attackers breached the perimeter of their base, a U.S. military official with knowledge of the latest intelligence reports on the incident said.

Forward Operating Base Keating, seen in 2007, is surrounded by tall ridge lines.

Forward Operating Base Keating, seen in 2007, is surrounded by tall ridge lines.

The new revelations about the battle that engulfed Forward Operating Base Keating in Kamdesh District are a further indication of how pinned down and outmanned the troops were at the remote outpost. The base, in an eastern Afghanistan valley, was surrounded by ridge lines where the insurgents were able to fire down at U.S. and Afghan troops.

The facility had been scheduled to be closed within days, CNN has learned. The closing is part of a wider effort by the top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, to cede remote outposts and consolidate troops in more populated areas to better protect Afghan civilians.”

It’s hard to believe that we haven’t learned our lesson from famous failures in the past to hold remote outposts.  A classic siege, Dien Bien Phu, saw the French try to hold a similar, ridiculously located, forward base to great cost.  Read “Hell in a Very Small Place” by Bernard Fall for that incredible account. I attach more information about this amazing book at the bottom of this article.  Even the USA’s own President, LBJ, when fortifying the ludicrous outpost Khe Sanh in Vietnam said “I don’t want another damn DIN BIN FOO.”

Why did we try to keep and hold a new DIN BIN FOO in Afghanistan?  A failed strategy cannot work if you fast-forward it in time.  This is the theme of the classic book of repetitious military failure throughout the ages, “The March of Folly” by Barbara Tuchman.  Hello, Pentagon?  Once agin:  we don’t want another damn DIN BIN FOO.  Forward, remote operating bases are sitting ducks.

If we are going to be in a far-away country trying our hand at “World Police” (that didn’t work too well for the British in the early 20th century), we might as well learn from prior military disasters.

More on “Hell in a Very Small Place”

From Amazon,

“he siege of Dien Bien Phu, in which a guerrilla force of Viet Minh destroyed a technologically superior French colonial army, must rank with Waterloo, Gettysburg, Midway, Stalingrad, and Tet as one of the decisive battles in military history. Not only did Dien Bien Phu put an end to French imperial efforts in Indo-china, but it also convinced the Viet Minh, when they came to power in Communist North Vietnam, that similar tactics would prevail in their war with the United States. As an American army officer told Bernard Fall during the Vietnam War: ”What we’re doing here basically is, we’re exorcising Dien Bien Phu.”Bernard Fall in this monumental work has written an exhaustive, revelatory, and vivid account of the battle, leading the reader from the conference rooms of the U.S. State Department to the French Foreign Office to the front lines of Indo-China and the strategy sessions led by General Giap and Ho Chi Minh. Among the many historical curiosities here disclosed is evidence that then-Secretary of State John Foster Dulles offered atomic bombs to the beleaguered French, and that then-Senator Lyndon Johnson played a key role in defeating a proposal to aid the French with critical air support. Without U. S. aid, the fortress at Dien Bien Phu fell on the very day that the cease-fire conference opened in Geneva.Based on hitherto unavailable documentation from the French Defense Ministry, and replete with detailed maps of the many assaults, Hell in a Very Small Place is a first-rate military history. But even more powerful is the political wisdom it imparts about a war that was not only the beginning of the end of the French colonial empire but a rehearsal for American involvement in Vietnam.”

Tragically, the author Bernard Fall died while embedded with Marines in South Vietnam in 1967.



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