The Fabulous 80s: Victor Frias!

Victor Frias was a very jolly fellow who hailed from Chile.  He lived near me in Washington Heights (upper Manhattan) in New York City in the 1980s and often came over to play blitz vs. me, Jeremy Barth, and whoever else happened to be around.

An anecdote:  some guy standing outside the Marshall Chess Club asked Victor for a ride uptown as I was getting into his car.  “No!” Victor yelled as we drove away.  The guy asked “Why not?” and Victor said “You’re not my friend!”  A real straight shooter!

Another anecdote:  Victor is completely winning as black vs. 2600-rated GM Jan Smejkal in a NY Open up material plus the initiative in a fairly simple ending.  However, Victor’s diaper-wearing kid Pablo has run amok and Victor is distracted trying to round him up.   Play over the game if you are a sadist.  Check out the position after black 45, it was practically resignable for white.

Anyway the baby chasing takes its toll and somehow Victor even loses(?!!) and it’s a good lesson, don’t let a diaper-wearing kid anywhere near a GM encounter.

Another anecdote:  Victor taught me juicy swear words in Spanish including vulgar slang particular to Central America.   A group of us went to a nice Spanish-speaking restaurant in Washington Heights (unless it was ‘Victor’s’ – a Cuban Place on W 75th?).  I got drunk, used many of the words in a loud voice, and was booted.  I fell down between two cars parked outside. Much merriment ensued.

Here’s a photo.

Victor Frias (l.), John Fedorowicz

This photo looks like the sofa at Paige Stockley’s apartment on W 118th St.(?)  and Broadway near the Manhattan School of Music.

Victor often said after waking up from a nap that he was in a time warp because the people at any given party were always talking about exactly the same things years apart.

Victor died some years ago and readers can find my printed “Chess Life” obituary in a back issue.

Here is a crazy game I played versus Victor that made it into the obituary.

First, some background about the tournament. We often traveled to New England on a bus that left out of the Port Authority, W 178 St., NYC (near the GW Bridge).  Sometimes, when we were flush with money, we would rent a car.  Fitchburg, Leominster, Sturbridge, many Mirijanian tournaments!  Ilya Gurevich, a natural comic, called Mirijanian Marijuanian.  No doubt others did too.  This game was played in Fitchburg.   In the first round of this tournament a loud argument broke out between Frias, Mike Wilder, and me.  They wanted my rental car keys!  I was still playing!  I didn’t want to give it to them!  Frias said “Don’t be an asshole.”  I said “I’m still not giving you my keys.”  My beleagued opponent had to get the TD to get us to quiet down as we all actually started pushing and shoving near the board.  Bad sportsmanship!

[Event “Fitchburg, MA”]

[Date “1985.08.01”]
[Round “4”]
[Result “1-0”]
[White “Victor Frias”]
[Black “Mark Ginsburg”]
[ECO “A43”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 c5 3. d5 g6 4. c4 d6 5. Nc3 Bg7 6. e4 O-O 7. h3 a6 8. a4 e6
9. Bd3 exd5 10. exd5

GM Vugar Gashimov has upheld black’s position numerous times after the currently more popular 10. cxd5 although GM Yermolinksy rates white’s position very highly in the book “The Road to Chess Improvement.”

10…Re8+ 11. Be3 Nh5 12. O-O Nd7 13. Qd2 f5 14. Rfe1 Ne5  

Black is good

I loved my position already!  Curiously, Victor as black achieved a nice Benoni structure in his Smejkal game referenced earlier in the article.

15. Nxe5 Bxe5 16. f4 Bg7 17. a5 Bd7 18. Kh2 Qh4 19. Kg1 Qg3 20. Qf2 Qxf2+
21. Kxf2 Bd4 22. Kf3 Nf6 23. Bd2 Rxe1 24. Rxe1 Re8

White really hasn’t done anything wrong so I think i was overoptimistic here.

 25. Rb1?!   This move, of course, is risky!

25…Ne4   Did white miss this one? I felt like I was crawling all over and should win! Especially with my “dynamic” next few moves!  On the other hand, white eliminates the black bishop on d4 and gets his queenside rolling, so he definitely has his resources.

26. Bc1 h6 27. Ne2 g5 28. Nxd4 cxd4 29. fxg5 hxg5 30. b4 Kf7   A very tense situation!


31. Rb2 Ba4 32. g4 Bd1+ 33. Kg2  All of black’s pieces are incredibly active but nothing is clear!

 33…f4 34. Kf1 Nc3

Still keeping the pressure on, or so I thought. Victor, though, was a very tough and resourceful defender.
35. h4  White had to do something!  Both sides were now low on time.

35…Bxg4 36. hxg5 Bh3+ 37. Kg1  White’s king toddles around avoiding 37. Kf2 Nd1+ forking the rook.  Amazingly, I could still not find a win.

 Re1+ 38. Kh2 Rxc1 39. Kxh3 Rd1 40. Bf5 d3 41. Kg2  White’s king darts back.  A very frustrating tableau for black with multiple advanced, threatening passed pawns and nothing clear.

Sharp Tableau

41… Kg7   This is not an impressive move. Looking at it now, 41…f3+!? comes to mind.  If 42. Kxf3 Rf1+ 43. Kg4 Rg1+ I’m not sure what is going on; maybe a perpetual check?  If 42. Kf2 Rh1 and 43. Kxf3 then transposes after 43…Rf1+.

42. Rf2 Ne2 43. Bg4 Rc1 44. Bxe2 dxe2 45. Rxe2 Rxc4  Now he starts playing really well in the rook ending!  I am sure I made inaccuracies in what follows and I get ground down!

46. Re6 Rxb4 47. Kf3 b6 48. axb6 Rxb6 49. Kxf4 a5 50. Kf5 Ra6 51. Re7+ Kg8 52. Kf6 Ra8 53. Re3 a4 54. Ra3 Ra6 55. g6 Ra8 56. Rh3 Ra7 57. Rc3 Ra8 58. g7 1-0

The wily Chilean International Master had completely turned the tables!  Such was life in the tough world of New England Swisses.

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One Response to “The Fabulous 80s: Victor Frias!”

  1. Jeremy Says:

    Hi Mark, thanks for the great stories and memories. Two minor points of feedback. First, if the Smejkal game is from 1988, Vic’s kid could only have been Camilo (b. 1987), not Pablo, who wasn’t born until a few years later. And as for that infamous night out in Washington Heights, it was an all-night cafe on 181st Street. Our fellow customers were businessmen just in from Madrid and the trigger for us getting booted were your only-too-successful efforts at 2:00am to demonstrate your master of the pronunciation of “chúpame”, scandalizing the Spaniards and waitpeople.

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