Archive for the ‘Bar Point Chess Club’ Category

The Fabulous 80s: The Mighty Cochrane Gambit

February 18, 2008

I was always up for the experimental gambit here or there especially at free-wheeling New York City swisses.

Here’s the mighty anti-Petroff weapon, the Cochrane Gambit in action versus a Russian exaptriate, V. Goistroievich (the player formerly known as Polyakin).

This opening is named after John Cochrane, a British Scottish fellow barrister living in and around Calcutta in the 19th century and he tangled with the best Brahmin players of the day. IM Jay Whitehead has collected many Brahmin games in his 19th century database and I have privy to those files: many examples of modern-looking King’s Indians, Gruenfelds, and the like from the 1840’s to 1860’s! The very first Cochrane gambit was played by Cochrane against the Brahmin player Mohishunder in Calcutta, 1848.

A Brief Bio of John Cochrane

From John Henderson’s daily chess column in The Scotsman, 2 March 2007:

“He should not be forgotten. Scottish amateur and barrister John Cochrane (1798-1878), who died on this day 129 years ago, may not have achieved notoriety as a player, but he is responsible for perhaps the boldest opening innovation that survives unrefuted to this day.

Captain Evans deserves credit for his gambit, which influenced chess for years, but this was only the sacrifice of a mere pawn for obvious strong development. By contrast, it takes a remarkably brave, persistent, and swashbuckling player to take seriously the piece sacrifice in the normally staid Petroff’s Defence with 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Nxe5 d6 4 Nxf7, and realize that rather than being a standard tyro’s silly attack that this is really a dangerous weapon.

Cochrane is also famously associated with the confusing naming history of the Scotch game. In the historic London vs. Edinburgh correspondence match of 1824-1828, Cochrane (though Scottish) played for London, and persuaded them to choose the then obscure opening he had been experimenting with.

In the middle of the first game, he had to leave for India; the English team squandered their opening advantage after he left, and went on to lose the game. The Scottish team were sufficiently impressed that they played the gambit successfully later in the match, and this led to its naming.

The debut though of his trademark 4 Nxf7 in the Petroff must have come as a shock to his opponent back in 1848, in much the same way as it stunned everyone when Topalov rehabilitated it against Kramnik, at Linares 1999.”

Onward and Upward: My Cochrane Game

M. Ginsburg – V. Gostroievich (2217) Petroff Defense, Cochrane Gambit CC January Open, 1/24/82, NYC. 30/90.

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nxf7! The exclamation point is for the sheer audacity and for the fact this variation is underrated.


Position after 4. Nxf7! – white wants a pawn storm!

White’s idea is startlingly simple: he dislodges the black king and uses the extra pawns to make a united pawn storm. The missing knight is not of great consequence if the pawn storm can do damage. Everything hinges on the next few moves.

4…Kxf7 5. d4 This opening hinges on the primitive tactical trick that 5…Nxe4? 6. Qh5+, regaining the piece with an extra pawn, is not playable for black.

5…g6 (0:09) 5…Be7 is a bit passive. 6. Nc3 Re8 7. Bc4+ is clear compensation after either 7…Be6 or 7….Kf8. For example, 7…Be6 8. Bxe6+ (Taking the bishop is a tough choice because 8. d5 is interesting, too: 8…Bg4 9. f3 Bh5 10. e5!? Nfd7 11. e6+ with a complete mess) 8…Kxe6 9. O-O Kf7 10. f4. The immediate 5…Bg4 6. f3 doesn’t do anything, but black also has the direct 5…d5!?. After 6. e5 Ne4 7. Nd2 Nxd2 8. Bd2 Nc6 9. Qf3+ Kg8 10. c3 white retains compensation.

Readers will find the following sample variation humorous as well: 5….d5 6. e5 Ne4 7. Bd3!? Nc6 8. Be3 Be7 9. O-O Nb4 10. Be2 Bf5 11. g4 Bc8 12. f3 Ng5 13. a3 Nc6 14. Nc3 h5 (Chaos!) 15. h4 Nh3+ 16. Kg2 Bxh4 17. Qd3 Ng5 18. f4 Ne4 19. Nxe4 dxe4 20. Qxe4 Be6 21. c4 Bxg4 22. Bxg4 hxg4 23. d5 Ne7 24. f5 with a complete mess! A great Cochrane tableau.

The move chosen in this game, 5…g6, is somewhat slow and white can use the time to build up the menacing pawn front.    These days, yet another try, 5….c5!? is considered critical.   In Topalov-Kramnik, Linares 1999, White inverted the moves with 5. Nc3!? c5 6. d4, but this of course boils down to 5. d4.

6. Nc3 c6 Here, 6…Be6 is a major alternative. The direct 7. f4 d5 8. e5 Ne4 does not convince. There are humorous lines though, e.g. 9. Nxe4 dxe4 10. c4 c6 11. Be2 Bb4+ 12. Kf2 Nd7 13. d5 Bc5+ 14. Be3 Bxe3+ 15. Kxe3 (The King to the Attack!) 15…Qb6+ 16. Kxe4! (Excelsior!) with absurd complications after 16…Bf5+ 17. Kf3 Kg7 – black is somewhat better.

Stronger is 7. Bd3. We could get a weird Benoni with 7…c5 8. d5 Bg4 9. f3 Bd7 10. O-O and white’s compensation is evident.

7. f4 Bg7 8. e5 (0:05) White’s agenda is clear: Pawn-storm!

8…Re8 9. Bc4+! A fixed pawn structure helps white’s agenda.

9…d5 10. Bd3 Ng4 (0:46)

In the only other example I can find, Rodriguez played 10…Bg4!? here versus Alvarez Arandia in Asturias 1986. White played the feeble 11. Ne2? and after 11…Ne4 black was better and won the game eventually. However, 11. Qd2! is clearly stronger. After, e.g., 11…Nfd7 12. O-O white has obvious compensation. And the line 11. Qd2! Qb6? 12. Na4 Qd8 13. O-O Ne4 14. Bxe4 dxe4 15. f5! is just bad for black (15…gxf5 16. h3 and white is much better).

11. O-O Qh4 12. h3 Nh6 13. Qf3 Nf5 14. Ne2 h5 Black hurries to set up some kind of blockade but it all looks very flimsy. White simply directs more pieces to the kingside sector.

15. Bd2 (0:25)


Position after 15. Bd2. Black gaffes.

15…Kg8? (1:01) The computer correctly points out black needed to play something like 15…Rh8! or 15…Na6! here. Still, 15…Rh8 16. Be1 Qe7 17. g4 hxg4 18. hxg4 Nh4 19. Qg3 looks very nice for white. And on 15…Na6, the following crazy line is about equal: 15…Na6 16. Be1 Qe7 17. g4 hxg4 18. hxg4 Nh6 19. f5 Qg5! (not very easy to see in OTB) 20. fxg6+ double check Kg8 21. Qg2 Bxg4 22. Nf4 Nc5!! 23. dxc5 Bxe5 with equal chances! The onus is definitely on black to defend; white has pressure in most lines. After the gaffe in the game, it gets really bad, really fast.

16. Be1 Qd8 17. g4 hxg4 18. hxg4 Nh6 (1:05)


Position after 18…Nh6. Decision Time.

19. Bxg6? (0:42) A reciprocal blunder. Those with a very well tuned tactical intuition would spot the crushing 19. f5! gxf5 20. gxf5 Qg5+ 21. Ng3! Nd7 22. f6 Nxf6 23. exf6 Rf8


Position after 23…Rf8 (analysis)

Now white has a good continuation. 24. Qh5 Bxf6 25. Qxg5+ Bxg5 26. Bh7+! (A really nice point to justify all of this) Kxh7 (note that decling with 26…Kg7 27. Nh5+! does not help; an aesthetic geometrical arrangement) 27. Rxf8 Kg6 28. Ne2 Be7 29. Nf4+ Kg7 30. Ne6+ Kg6 31. Re8 Nf5 32. Nc7 Rb8 and white will win easily.

19… Bxg4 20. Qd3 Rf8 21. f5 (0:55) Bxf5? (1:14) Black tosses the game away in a state of sacrificial shock. He had to defend with 21… Nd7! 22. f6 Nxf6 23. Bh4 Bxe2 24. Qxe2 Qb6!! and this amazing resource saves the game, for example 25. exf6 Qxd4+ 26. Qf2 Qg4+ 27. Qg2 Qd4+ 28. Bf2 Qxf6 29. c3 Qd6 and black is fine.

22. Bxf5 Now white is completely winning. Chalk another up to Cochrane!

22…Qg5+ 23. Ng3 Na6 (1:20) 24. Bd2 (0:59) Qh4 25. Rf4 Qg5(?) Nominally a blunder but it didn’t matter.

26. Rg4 1-0

What do you think? Not a bad opening and worth a try!

I encourage readers to submit their own Cochrane material. And I just heard that GM Boris Alterman will be presenting it soon in an ICC Gambit lecture.


Postscript 2/19/08: Thanks to John Henderson for the Cochrane biographical material and the nationality correction!


The Fabulous 80s: All Things Bass!

February 1, 2008

IM Leonid Bass was a fixture in the New York chess scene through much of the 1980s.  I know at some point (in the 1990s?) he then crossed the atlantic to live in Caen (France — a northern town, not to be confused with Cannes on the Riviera) – not sure what he’s up to now.


From left: Leonid Bass, Linda Carrubba, and US Champions Michael Wilder and Joel Benjamin, World Open Player’s Bar 1986.

Here’s a tussle I had with him in the Bar Point International, August 1980. I think he became an IM in the next few years after this event, as did I.

Leonid Bass – Mark Ginsburg, Bar Point August International Round 5. Modern Defense.

1. d4 g6 2. c4 Bg7 3. Nf3 d6 4. Nc3 Bg4 This is a very tricky opening that I recommend for the hardships and vagaries of tournament play.


Position after 4…Bg4.  Trickiness. 

5. e3 c5 Interestingly Rybka likes 5… Nc6 6. Bd3 Nf6 7. O-O O-O 8. h3 Bxf3 9. Qxf3 e5; for example 10. d5 Nb4 11. Bb1 Re8 12. a3 e4 with interesting play. Also possible is 5… Nf6 6. Be2 O-O 7. O-O Nc6 8. h3 Bf5!? 9. d5 Na5 10. Nd4 Bd7 11. Qc2 c5!? with complications. I was following some old theory (a game, Portisch-Timman, where Timman made a comfortable albeit sharply played draw). I had the RHM Tournament book on Wijk an Zee 1975 where that exciting game was played and annotated by Timman.

6. d5 Portisch played 6. Be2 cxd4 7. exd4 Nh6! 8. h3 Bxf3 9. Bxf3 Nc6 10. d5 Ne5 11. Be2 Nf5! and black was fine, Portisch-Timman, 1/2, 47 moves, Wijk aan Zee 1975.  The two knights really worked well in the center. 

6…Nf6 7. Be2 e6!? Bass criticized this move since it obviously hands over d5. Still, black can play “around” the d5 square and get counterplay, as occurs in the game.  So maybe it’s not so bad; Benoni-type counterplay is going to occur no matter what.

8. h3 Bxf3 9. Bxf3 exd5 10. Nxd5 Nc6 11. O-O O-O 12. Rb1 Nxd5 13. Bxd5 Rb8 14. a3 Ne7 15. b4 cxb4 16. Rxb4 Clearly black won’t have any problems now that white’s pawns are split.

16…Qc7 17. e4 b6 18. Bf4 Nxd5 19. cxd5 a5?! I could have played 19… Rbc8 with complete equality.

20. Rb1 Rfc8 21. Qd3 Be5 22. Rfc1 Correct is 22. Bxe5! dxe5 23. Rfd1 with a small plus.

22… Qe7 23. Be3 Rxc1+ 24. Bxc1 Qd7 Most accurate is 24… Rc8 25. Bd2 Qf6 26. Rxb6 Bd4 27. Rb1 Qxf2+ 28. Kh1 Be5 and black is fine.

25. Bd2 Qa4 26. Qb3? This is a bad stumble.  By going after an unimportant pawn on a5 white exposes himself to a very dangerous attack.  This makes sense because black is very centralized and white, after this tactical expedition, will be totally uncoordinated. Indicated is 26. f4 Bd4+ 27. Be3 Bxe3+ 28. Qxe3 with equal chances.

26…Qxe4 27. Bxa5


Position after 27. Bxa5.  Black has something!

27…Rc8?! Very strong is the attacking 27… Qf4! 28. g3 Qf5! (a very nice maneuver) 29. Kg2 Bd4 forcing the very sad 30. Be1.  Then, 30…Ra8 31. Rd1 Bc5 and white has a dreadful game; black should win.

28. Bxb6 Rc3 29. Qb4 Qxd5 30. Be3 Rd3 31. Qa4 Qa2 32. Rb8+? Another mistake. Correct is 32. Rc1 h5 33. Qa8+ Kg7 34. a4 Ra3 35. Qb7 and white holds on.

32… Kg7 33. Bf4 33. Kf1 Qa1+ 34. Ke2 Rxa3 wins for black.

33… Qa1+  This does not ruin anything.  But the nicest is 33… Bd4! and black wins very fast with the help of a pretty tactic. 34. Be3 Qa1+ 35. Kh2 and now we get to the nice moment.


Position after 35. Kh2 (analysis).  Black wins!

35…Rxe3!! 36. fxe3 Be5+ 37. g3 Qe1! (A really nice combination to explode white’s king shelter) 38. Kg2 Qxg3+ 39. Kf1 Qf3+ 40. Kg1 Qxe3+ 41. Kg2 d5! and it’s mop-up.  I missed a similar exploding tactic as black in a game posted elsewhere versus the venerable IM Sal Matera way back in 1977.

34. Kh2  Black is still winning.

34…Rxa3?   But not like this. Here black missed a beautiful shot: 34… g5!! 35. Bxe5+ (35. Bg3 Bxg3+ 36. fxg3 Rd1 wins) 35… Qxe5+ 36. g3 Rd2 and white has to resign.


Position after 36…Rd2 (analysis).  Black wins. 

The problem, of course, is that 37. Kg2 is rudely met by 37…Qe3! and the f2-pawn falls.

35. Qe4 Bxf4+?! The most accurate is 35… Ra4! 36. Bxe5+ dxe5 and black can torture for many moves. My play in this region of the game was very poor.

36. Qxf4 Qe5 37. Qxe5+ dxe5 38. h4! White reaches a position “every Russian schoolboy knows” to draw this 4 vs 3 rook ending. The rest of the game is not of interest; black manages to reach a drawn K & P vs K at the very end.

38…Ra7 39. g3 f5 40. Kg1 Re7 41. Kg2 Kf6 42. Rb6+ Re6 43. Rb7 Re7 44. Rb6+ Kg7 45. Rb8 Kh6 46. Rh8 Kh5 47. Kh3 e4 48. Rf8 Rd7 49. Re8 Kh6 50. Kg2 Kg7 51. Kf1 Kf6 52. Ra8 Rb7 53. Ra6+ Ke5 54. Ra8 Rc7 55. Re8+ Kf6 56. Ra8 Kg7 57. Re8 Kh6 58. Kg2 Kh5 59. Kh3 Rc2 60. Re7 h6 61. Rxe4 Rxf2 62. Re5 Rf3 63. Ra5 g5 64. Rxf5 Rxf5 65. g4+ Kg6 66. gxf5+ Kxf5 67. hxg5 hxg5 1/2-1/2

The Fabulous 80s: The Conclusion of the Bar Point International 1980

January 22, 2008

The Last 2 Rounds of the Bar Point International, 1980

When we left off, I was needing a perfect 2-0 in the last 2 rounds to score my 2nd IM Norm. The first norm was at Jose Cuchi’s Heraldica-Jennika International Round-Robin, May 1980, where I did well (.2 points shy of a GM norm — GM norm weaker in those days) against Shamkovich, Dzindzi, Piasetski, Mednis, Gruchacz, La Rota, and other well-known NY competitors.

Here is the next to last round of the Bar Point International 1980, Round 10.

NM Walter Shipman – Mark Ginsburg Reti Opening

1. d4 Nf6 2. g3 d5 3. Bg2 c6 4. Nf3 Bf5 5. Nbd2 h6 6. c4 e6 7. O-O Nbd7 8. b3 Be7 9. Bb2 O-O 10. Ne5 Qb6 11. Nxd7 Nxd7 12. e4 dxe4 13. Nxe4 Nf6 14. Qe2 Walter often employed this nothing system as white. It was up to me to generate winning chances! For the time being, nothing to do but “go along” and allow simplification.

14…Nxe4 15. Bxe4 Bxe4 16. Qxe4 Bf6 17. Rfd1


Position after 17. Rfd1. How to get the required winning chances?

The next few moves are routine. Then I come up with a good idea on move 20.

17…Rad8 18. Rd3 Rd7 19. Rad1 Rfd8 20. Bc3 Qa6! 21. a4 Qb6 22. Bb2 Qb4 Black’s small “hassling” maneuvers with the queen yield an immediate and suprising payoff.


Position after 22…Qb4 – A shocking turn of events unfolds

23. Bc3?? Clearly a bad blunder. Normally Walter, a future solid IM, did not commit these.

23… Qxb3 So obvious no exclamation point is warranted. Now it’s complete torture for white and black duly converts the ending.

24. Ba5 Qxc4 25. Bxd8 Rxd8 26. Rb1 Bxd4 Since Bxf2+ is threatened now, white has no time to grab the b-pawn with the rook.  It’s all over.

27. Kg2 b6 28. a5 Qd5 Quite winning is the convincing 28… b5! 29. Rd2 f5 30. Qf3 b4. There is really no reason to rush to trade queens, but the text doesn’t ruin anything.

29. Qxd5 Rxd5 30. Rc1 Bc5 31. Rxd5 cxd5 32. f4 Kf8 33. f5 Ke7 34. fxe6 fxe6 35. a6 The other move, 35. axb6 axb6, gets ground down: 36. Ra1 h5 37. h3 Kf6 38. Rf1+ Ke5 39. Rf7 g6 40. Kf3 b5 41. Rg7 b4 and wins.

35… e5 36. Kf3 Ke6 37. h4 h5 38. g4 e4+ 39. Kf4 hxg4 40. Kxg4 d4 41. Kf4 Kd5 42. Rg1 Bd6+ 43. Kf5 e3 44. Re1 Bg3 45. Re2 Bf2 0-1

A very surprising easy win over the normally tough Walter.

Now it all depended on the last round. I needed to beat Dan Shapiro; I was white. Let’s see this nervy game. What a game it turned out to be! Hideous blunders, huge reverses, all the items present in nervy norm games.

Mark Ginsburg – NM Dan Shapiro, Round 11. English, Hedgehog.

1. c4 c5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Nf3 b6 GM Yudasin favors this slightly dubious treatment. I will go into my game with him from a 2004 World Open in another post.

4. e4 d6 Playable is the provocative 4… Nc6 5. d4 cxd4 6. Nxd4 Bb7 7. Be2 e6 and here, many players favor 8. Bf4!? with chances to reach a small edge. For example, Ljubojevic triumphed over Winants with this move in 45 moves. 1-0 Ljubojevic,L (2620)-Winants,L (2415)/Brussels 1987. On the other hands, 8. Ndb5? Qb8! is simply weak.

5. d4 cxd4 6. Nxd4 Bb7 7. Bd3 e6 8. O-O Be7 9. b3 O-O 10. Bb2 Nbd7 11. Qe2 a6 Many years of study cause me to conclude this position is extremely dangerous for black. White’s bishops are pointing right at the black king. For example, I have 12. Rad1!? here and then 13. f4. In this game, I go a different way with Rae1. I am not sure which is better.


Position after 11….a6. Danger, Will Robinson.

12. Kh1 Re8 13. f4 Qc7 14. Rae1 g6 15. e5 Nh5 16. f5!?


Position after 16. f5!? — The Gauntlet is Thrown Down

16…exf5?? Under immediate pressure, black commits what should have been an immediately losing blunder. Necessary was 16… Nxe5! 17. fxe6 fxe6 18. Nxe6 Qd7 19. Nf4 (19. Nd4 Qh3) 19… Nxf4 20. Rxf4 Bg5 and black is fine. Also white has the dangerous 18. Be4!? and black can defend with 18…Ng7! 19. Bc1!? Bxe4 20. Qxe4 Rac8 21. Bh6 Bd8! and he is solid.

17. exd6?? A horrific blunder in return. On my scorepad of the time, I had notated “monumental hangover.” Note to self: a hangover is not a good idea in an important last round game. I believe Fedorowicz had a related hangover but still managed to draw, and almost beat, GM Alburt. Obvious and crushing was 17. e6! Bf6 18. Bxf5 Nc5 (18… Bxd4 19. exf7+ Kxf7 20. Bxd7+ wins) 19. Nd5 Bxd5 20. cxd5 Bxd4 21. Bxd4 Ng7 22. Bxg7 Kxg7 23. Qb2+ Kg8 24. exf7+ Qxf7 25. Be6! and wins.

17… Bxd6 18. Qxe8+ Rxe8 19. Rxe8+ Nf8 This is the kind of thing white does NOT want. Defending versus black’s active pieces is no fun with white’s uncoordinated army. White is much worse, in fact he is losing. That is how bad my blunder was.

20. Nf3 Nf4 Already black had 20…Bxh2 21. Nd5 Bxd5 22. cxd5 Bd6 23. Rd1 Qd7 24. Ree1 Ng3+ 25. Kg1 Bb4 26. Re3 Qxd5 and wins easily. The text doesn’t ruin it, black is still winning.

21. Bb1 N4e6 22. Nd5 Bxd5 23. cxd5 Qd7 24. Ra8 Nc7 Winning was 24… Qb7 25. Re8 Qxd5.

25. Ra7 Qc8 26. Ne5 Qb8 27. Nc6 Qe8 28. Bd3 Nxd5 29. Nd4 Qe5 30. g3 Ne3 Here, 30… Bc5 31. Nxf5 Qxb2 32. Nh6+ Kg7 33. Nxf7 b5 won for black.

31. Rf3 Bc5 32. Nxf5 Qxb2 33. Nxe3 Bxe3 34. Raxf7 Ne6 35. Bc4 Qa1+? The light square check, 35… Qb1+! 36. Kg2 (36. Rf1 Qe4+ 37. R7f3 Bc5 38. Kg2 b5 39. Bxe6+ Qxe6 wins for black) 36… Qg1+ 37. Kh3 Ng5+ 38. Kg4 h5+ 39. Kh4 Qxh2 mate is quite convincing. Black starts to lose the handle of things.

36. Rf1 Qe5 37. R7f6 Qe4+ 38. R1f3 Bd4 Here, best was 38… Kg7 39. Bxe6 Qb1+ 40. Rf1 Qxa2 41. Rf7+ Kh6 42. h4 Qc2 43. Bd5 Qe2 44. Bc4 Qg4 45. Kg2 b5 and the game continues with black keeping a small edge, but nothing like before.

39. Bxe6+ Kg7 40. Rf7+ Kh6 41. Bc4 Now it is equal. But I need to win!

41…Qb1+? Correct was 41…b5! with equality.

42. Rf1 Qxa2 43. R7f4 Bc5? 43… Be3 is tough: 44. Rh4+ Kg5 45. Rxh7 Qc2 46.Bd5 Qd3 47. Bg2 Qxb3 48. h4+ Kg4 49. Kh2 and white has pressure, but it’s not decisive. The text moves the bishop into a discovered attack which white… fails to execute!

44. Rh4+ Of course, 44. b4 won also.

44… Kg5 45. Rxh7? The correct move is 45. b4! winning.

45… b5? How many blunders can a single game contain? 45… Qc2 is much tougher and nothing decisive can be seen for white.

46. Be6! Finally, white puts an end to this long suffering game. Black’s king is in a decisive mating net.

46…Bf2 47. h4+ Kf6 48. Rxf2!+ 1-0 Black loses the queen after 48…Qxf2 49 Rf7+.


So I made my norm with this incredibly poorly played game. Well, it was a long tournament. Perhaps Walter Shipman was showing signs of fatigue in the Round 10 game presented above.




The Fabulous 80s: NYC’s ‘Bar Point’ Club and its 1980 FIDE International

January 19, 2008

Chess and Music

The Bar Point Club, on 14th street and 6th Avenue, New York City, was an extremely busy chess locus in the early 1980s. It was owned by a backgammon player for some time (readers, I have forgotten his name) and after that, noted chess organizer and politician Bill Goichberg owned it; after that Peter Malick (a card player, and associate of Wayne Kramer from the MC5 60’s Detroit rock group) took over. I only know that Peter knew Kramer because I met, to my shock, Wayne Kramer face to face in one of the crazy late Bar Point nights. I could come up with nothing more clever than “I really like the MC5” and Wayne retorted “Small world”, turned on his heel, and walked off. The Bar Point went defunct for rent non-payment in the the mid 1980s – no more quads, no more IM and GM tournaments, no more back-room poker where I used to play heads-up with Howie Lederer. Sometimes after (or before) a poker skirmish I would then do battle in chess in the front room with Howard (he was a USCF expert).

A Few Words on a Pure Gambling Game: Backgammon

As a side comment on backgammon – this gambling game with “checkers”, dice, and the “doubling cube” could be very profitable to those more skilled than their wealthy but deluded opponents. For exampe, IM Jay Whitehead made thousands in one night playing the owner of a New York City Greenwich Village jazz club owner (one of the major clubs, for example Village Gate, the detail escapes me), and then was generous enough to fund a trip for me and him to play in Lugano, Switzerland 1984 where I played, among other people, ex-WC Boris Spassky. I know the winnings was in the thousands because he woke me up in the middle of the night to help him count the fifites and hundreds that were bulging out of every one of his pants and shirt pockets. Poker is has some similarities with the vast pool of weaker players but the complicated-to-use-properly backgammon doubling cube, rewards more immediately the better analyst. Besides, it’s nice to own a nice Moroccan or Syrian artisan backgammon set. You could also play the simpler Turkish backgammon variant shesh-besh (with no doubling cube).

Some Actual Chess

In 1980 I made my 2nd IM norm with a strong finish. Let’s see some of the games.

Round 1. Bar Point International I

IM Margeir Petursson (ICE) – M. Ginsburg

Of course my opponent went on to become a famous Icelandic Grandmaster and also a very successful lawyer businessman.

1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e6 3. e4 d5 4. e5 Ne4 5. Nxe4 Much safer is 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. Qc2, but then black has the surprising 6…Ng5!! TN – I used this to draw strong Canadian Kevin Spraggett in Toronto 1983. For example, 7. Nxg5 Qxg5 8. d4 Qh4 9. cxd5 Nxd4 10. Qd1 exd5 11. Nxd5 (11. Be3 Nf5 12. Nxd5 Bb4+ 13. Bd2 Qe4+ 14. Be2 Bxd2+ 15. Qxd2 Qxe5 and it’s equal. I don’t remember who showed me 6…Ng5!! TN, but it’s a really good novelty. Maybe I was the first to play it?

5… dxe4 6. Qg4 f5!? TN Black can also play 6… Bd7 7. Qxe4 Na6 8. Nf3 Bc6 9. Qb1 Nc5 10. d3 Nd7 11. d4 Bb4+ 12. Bd2 Bxd2+ 13. Nxd2 O-O 14. b4 a6 15. a4 Nb6 16. b5 with a total mess. The text move, 6…f5!?, is a novelty with great surprise value. Was I the first to play it? Again, I don’t remember who showed me. I was staying with Tisdall and Fedorowicz at the time; so maybe one of them.


Position after 6….f5!? TN. Who showed me this? Is this the first time it was played?

7. exf6 Qxf6 8. Qxe4 Nothing comes of 8. Nh3 Nc6 9. Be2 Qf5.

8… Nc6 9. Nf3 Bc5 10. Bd3? Much stronger is 10. Be2 e5 11. O-O Bf5 12. Qd5 Bb6 13. d4 Nxd4 14. Nxd4 Bxd4 15. Bh5+ g6 with a murky game.

10… Bd7 11. O-O O-O-O 12. Bc2 Nb4 13. Bd1?! Slightly more natural is 13. Bb1 Bc6 14. Qe5 b6 15. Qxf6 gxf6 16. Ne1 Rhg8 17. g3 Bb7 18. d3 Bd4 and black has a nice game.

13… Bc6 14. Qe5 Nd3 15. Qxf6 gxf6


Position after 15…gxf6. White is hog-tied.

The novelty in the opening could not have succeeded more. White is paralyzed and black should have no trouble winning this.

16. a3 a5?! The right move is 16… Rhg8! 17. b4 Bd4 18. Rb1 Be4! (I missed this move) 19. g3 Bxf2+ 20. Kg2 Bd4 and black is easily winning.

17. b4 axb4 Black can also play 17… Nxc1 18. bxc5 (18. Rxc1 axb4 19. d4 Bxf3 20. Bxf3 Rxd4 21. axb4 Bxb4) 18… Nd3 and he stands well.

18. axb4 Bxb4 19. Bc2 19. Ba3 Bxa3 20. Rxa3 Rhg8 21. g3 Nb2 is good for black, but not a decisive edge.

19… b6 20. Ba3 Rhg8 21. Bxd3 Bxf3 22. g3 Bxd2 23. Bc2 f5?! Once again I miss an easy and rather primitive variation: 23… Bc3 24. Rab1 Be2 25. Rfc1 Bd2 trapping the rook and wins.

24. Rfb1 Rg4 25. c5 bxc5 26. Bxc5 Rc4 27. Bb3 Rxc5 28. Bxe6+ Rd7 29. Ra2 Bc3 30. Ra3 Here, white lost on time; fortunate for me because I had been showing shaky technique so far.


Black is on top, but not totally winning. For example, 30…Bd5 31. Bxf5 Bf6 32. g4 Kd8 33. Bxd7 Kxd7 34. Rd1 Bg5 35. h4 Be7 36. Rf3 Kc8 37. Rf5 c6 and the game goes on, with black having an edge but it remains to see if I can convert it.

In Round 4 I encountered New England junior Jim Rizzitano. I include the ratings at that time as a historical curiosity.

Mark Ginsburg – NM James Rizzitano (2352 USCF, 2225 FIDE) Round 4. Leningrad Dutch.

1. c4 f5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. O-O O-O 6. d4 d6 7. Nc3 Nc6?! Of all the Leningrad Dutch lines, (7….c6 8. d5! MG-Sarkar US Ch 2006, 7….Qe8 MG-Bareev Naestved 1988 are popular) this one is the most positionally suspect.

8. d5 Ne5 9. Qb3 Ned7 Perhaps a little better is 9…Nxf3+ 10. Bxf3 Nd7 11. Bg2 Nc5 12. Qc2 and white keeps some edge. GM Anderssson as white managed to beat De la Villa Garcia, Pamplona 1998, in 43 moves in this line.

10. Qc2 Nc5 11. b4! Although many moves have been seen here, the text is obvious and strong.

11…Nce4 12. Bb2 This position has been seen OTB in other games; it simply favors white.

12…e5 Aagard-Rewitz, Aarhus 1999, saw 12…c5 13. dxc6 bxc6 14. Nxe4 fxe4 15. Nd4 and white has an edge. Aagard won in 40 moves. The double-double “A” is very aesthetic: Aagard played in Aarhus. 🙂 Black also was unsuccessful with 12…Nxc3 13. Bxc3 Bd7 14. Nd4 Qc8 15. Rac1 c6 16. dxc6 bxc6 17. b5 c5 18. Nc6 and white won in 48 moves, Haba-Trapl, Czechoslovakia 1994.

13. dxe6 Nxc3 14. Bxc3 Bxe6 15. Rad1 Qe7 16. Ng5 White did absolutely nothing clever and he has a huge edge. That means black’s opening was poor.

16…c6 17. b5 Bd7 18. Qd3 Ne8 19. Bxg7 Kxg7 20. Qd4+ Kg8 21. h4 h6 22. Nh3 Kh7 23. Rfe1 Rd8 24. e4 Qf7 25. exf5 Bxf5 26. Nf4 The easiest was 26. Qxa7 Nc7 27. Qb6.

26… Rc8 27. Bf3 Ng7 28. Qxd6 Qxc4 29. bxc6 bxc6


Position after 29…bxc6. White to play and win.

30. Re7? A tactically alert player would find the immediately decisive and aesthetic 30. h5! gxh5 (30… g5 31. Ng6 Rfe8 32. Qf6 wins) 31. Re7 Rf7 32. Bd5! (interference theme!) and wins.

30… Qc3 31. Qd4 Once again, 31. h5! g5 (31… gxh5 32. Nxh5 and wins) 32. Ne6 Bxe6 33. Qxe6 Rxf3 34. Rdd7 Rxg3+ 35. Kh2 Rh3+ 36. Qxh3 Qxh3+ 37. Kxh3 Rg8 38. Rxa7 wins.

31… Qxd4 32. Rxd4 Kg8 33. Rxa7 Rf7 34. Rxf7 Kxf7 35. Rd6 c5 The last chance was 35… g5 36. hxg5 hxg5 37. Ne2 and it’s not all over yet.

36. Nxg6! c4 37. Bd5+ Ne6 38. Nf4 c3 39. Rxe6 c2 40. Rc6+ Ke7 41. Rxc8 Bxc8 42. Ne2 Bf5 43. Nc1 1-0

Middle Round Disasters

All was not sweetness and light. I suffered a nasty reverse playing the white pieces versus Icelandic future Grandmaster and World Championship candidate Johann Hjartarson. Recall that Hjartarson defeated Korchnoi in a match! And then I threw away a completely won game and lost ignominiously to the eventual tournament winner, now sadly retired from OTB play to pontificate and author various tomes, IM John Watson. It took GM Larry Evans in a newspaper column to rudely show me the winning line. Readers will commiserate when they see the diagrams tell the woeful story of the Watson game.

Round 5.

IM John Watson – M. Ginsburg English Opening

1. c4 John’s fearsome specialty. Not a bad move; I used it myself in numerous Mikenas Attack encounters (1. c4 Nf6 2. nc3 e6 3. e4!?, later taken up by Nakamura, e.g. Nakamura-Zarnicki 1-0 HB Global Chess Challenge, Minneapolis 2005).

1…Nf6 2. Nc3 c5 3. g3 e6 4. Nf3 b6 5. e4 Bb7 6. d3 d5? A really bad move. 6…Nc6 is fine for black.

7. cxd5 exd5 8. e5 Nfd7 Black has handled the first phase very poorly.


Position after 8…Nfd7. Black has a very poor game.

9. d4? A miscue in return. The surprising 9. Bh3! is extremely good for white. For example, 9…d4 10. Ne4 Bd5 11. O-O Be7 12. e6! fxe6 13. Nfg5 with strong pressure.

9…cxd4 Now black is OK again.

10. Nxd4 Nxe5?! This pawn grab looks and is too risky. The more sedate 10…Bc5 and much more sensible is quite playable for black.

11. Bb5+ Nbd7 12. Qe2 White had 12. Bf4! Bd6 13. O-O O-O 14. Nf5! with a big plus.

12…Qe7 13. O-O O-O-O 14. Be3 Kb8 15. a4 This idea is not bad,; 15. Rae1 is another valid way to handle the position.

15…g6?! The inaccuracy festival continues. This is rather slow. Correct is the challenging 15…Qf6!, e.g. 16. a5? Bc5! threatening to eat on d4 then fork on f3 with Nf3+. In that position, Black is fine and even has chances to gain the initiative. White should play 16. Bxd7! Rxd7 17. Bf4 Bd6 18. Ncb5 g5 18. Bxg5! Qxg5 20. Nxd6 with some advantage.

16. a5 Bg7


Position after 16…Bg7. Time to act.

17. b3?! Hesitant and weak. Correct is the simple 17. axb6 Nxb6 18. Ba6 and white has a big edge. And on 17….axb6? 18. Bf4! eyeing Nc6+ is completely crushing, e.g. 18…Qd6 19. Ba6 Bc6 20. Ncb5! and white wins. Also strong is the evident 17. a6! Ba8 18. Rfe1 with a bind.

17… bxa5? Another error. 17…Rc8! is correct, e.g. 18. Rfc1 Qb4! to lure the rook to a4: 19. Ra4 Qe7 and black is holding the position. Now 20. axb6 Nxb6 would hit the rook on a4 and let black have room to breathe (and defend).

18. Rfc1?! White had the tempting 18. f4! and black has to walk a narrow path just to not lose right away. He has to play 18…a6! (18…Ng4? 19. Nc6+ Bxc6 20. Bxa7+ wins) 19. Ba4 Rc8! 20. Rac1 Rc7! (Black must acquiesce to the inevitable loss of a piece; he has some pawns for it) 21. fxe5 Nxe5 and black is worse but not lost.

18…Rc8 19. Rxa5?! 19. f4! will transpose to the above note after 19…a6! 20. Ba4 Rc7! 21. fxe5 and white enjoys a sizeable plus.

19… Rxc3! This seems like desperation but in fact it’s black’s best try.

20. Rxc3 Qb4 21. Ra2? The situation is confusing. 21. Bd2 Qxd4 (21…Qxa5 22. Rc8+ is good for white) 22. Ra4 Qb6 23. Be3 Nf3+ 24. Qxf3 d4 25. Qf4+ Be5 26. Bxd4 Bxf4 27. Bxb6 Nxb6 28. Rxf4 Nd5 29. Rcf3 Nxf4 30. Rxf4 Rd8 31. f3 f5 32. g4 is a crazy sample line that fizzles into a draw. Still, the text is an outright blunder. White must have overlooked something.

21… Qxc3 22. Bxd7 Qd3! Strong! Black now has some hopes of getting the upper hand. This is the kind of move that white may have overlooked in preliminary calculations; now he gets really rattled.

23. Qe1?? A really bad blunder. Correct is 23. Bb5! Qxe2 24. Bxe2 Re8 25. Kf1 with a level game, or 25. Nb5 Nc6 26. Nxa7 Nb4 again with a draw. White must have hallucinated a mate or something, but this clunker just drops a piece.

23…Nxd7! I don’t know why I indicated 23… Qxd4? as good in my scorepad after the game. That move only seems to draw: 24. Bxd4 Nf3+ 25. Kf1 Nxe1 26. Bxg7 Rd8 27. Be5+ Ka8 28. Kxe1 Rxd7 29. Bd4 Bc6 and it’s equal. The text grabs a free piece and the game should be all over.

24. Bf4+ A last check before white has to give up.


Position after 24. Bf4+. One last “puzzle” to solve, and I fail ignominiously.

24…Kc8??? What the heck – a mutual hallucination? Maybe I was low on time, but my scorepad doesn’t have the times in it. Did Watson give off weird mental vibes after his irrational 23rd that I “caught” and “echoed?” Only a while after the game (I was really eager to forget it) did I read GM Larry Evans column that “informed me” that 24… Ka8 would win. White doesn’t have any threats, let alone a potential mate. Could I have overlooked that 25. Qa5 Bxd4 guards a7? It is true that backward diagonal moves are often overlooked … More likely, I thought the desperado 25. Rxa7+ “worked”. In reality, 25. Rxa7+ Kxa7 26. Qa5+ Ba6 27. Qc7+ Ka8 28. Qc6+ Bb7 29. Qa4+ Qa6 also wins for black. Pretty simple stuff. Whatever the case, the text is suicide and after white’s next, it is clear black loses many pieces all with check. Did I really do this, move my king to a losing square when the other square obviously wins? Yes, I did!

25. Qc1+ I’m losing. A serious blow to my IM norm chances. Boo! I am now losing to John Freakin’ Watson.

25…Kd8 26. Qc7+ Ke8 27. Re2+ Ne5 28. Bxe5 Bxe5 29. Qxe5+ Kd7 30. Qe7+ Kc8 31. Rc2+ Kb8 32. Qe5+ 1-0 Ugh! I was really angry. Time to rebound! The winner of this game won the tournament, with a big score of 8.5 out of 11, reaffirming the adage ‘winners make their own luck’.

Theory Interlude: Blowing Kudrin’s Mind in a Dragon

In the eighth round, I had the opportunity to surprise Kudrin with a TN in the Dragon. This doesn’t happen often to the well-prepared Sergey. He employed my TN with white the next year!

M. Ginsburg – Sergey Kudrin, Round 8 Sicilian Dragon, Yugoslav Attack.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 The Yugoslav attack. The only real way to deal with this opening. Anatoly Karpov had some beautiful wins with it, including a famous Informant masterpiece over Viktor Korchnoi (WC Match), in this variation.

7…O-O 8. Qd2 Nc6 9. O-O-O! This move cuts down on the amount of material white has to know. For that reason, it has high practical value.

9…Nxd4 A whole different story is 9… d5 10. exd5 Nxd5 11. Nxc6 bxc6 12. Bd4 e5 13. Bc5 Be6 14. Bc4 Re8 15. Ne4 h6 16. g4 f5 17. gxf5 gxf5 18. Rhg1 Kh7 19. Qg2 and white won, 1-0 Fedorov,V (2425)-Eletsky,E/Oviedo 1993. There have been many games in this line, and current thinking is that white has a small edge.

10. Bxd4 Be6 11. Nd5 White can try 11. Kb1 Qc7 12. Bb5 a6 13. Ba4 b5 14. Bb3 b4 15. Na4 Rab8 16. h4 [If 16. Bxe6 fxe6 17. b3 Qc6 18. h4 Rfd8? (Better is 18… Nh5 19. Bxg7 Kxg7 20. Qe3 h6 21. g4 Nf4 with equality) 19. g4 e5 20. Bb2 h6 21. g5 Nh5 22. gxh6 Bf6 23. c4 Nf4 and white won, 1-0 Nijboer,F (2534)-Janssen,R (2445), Wijk aan Zee 1999.] As Bernard Zuckerman told me, 11. Bb5? right away is really bad: 11…Qa5 12. Ba4 Rfc8! and white cannot complete his defensive idea and is hence lost (BZ). The computer verifies Bernie. For example, 13. Bb3 Bxb3 14. axb3 Qa1+ 15. Nb1 a5! and black has a big plus.

11… Bxd5 12. exd5 Qc7 13. Kb1 Rac8 (13… Rfc8 14. Rc1 a6 15. h4 e5? 16. dxe6 fxe6 17. g4 Qf7 18. h5 e5 19. hxg6 hxg6 20. Be3 d5 21. Bh6 Bh8 22. Qh2 Nh7 23. Bd3 Rc6 and white won, Kuzmin,G (2495)-Alterman,B/Voroshilovgrad 1989.

14. Rc1! TN


Position after my novelty 14. Rc1! TN

I know this is a good move, because Kudrin adopted it as white the next year, 1981! I also have vague memories of discussing this move with someone (perhaps they told me about it) but I am not sure about that. Previously seen was the anemic 14. c4? b5! 15. Rc1 (15. b3 bxc4 16. bxc4 Rb8+ 17. Ka1 Rb6 18. Be2 Rfb8 19. Rb1 Nd7 20. Bxg7 Kxg7 21. Qd4+ Kg8 22. Rxb6 Rxb6 23. Rb1 Rxb1+ 24. Kxb1 Qa5 and black went on to win, 0-1 Dhar Barua,S (2225)-Shaw,J (2390)/Manchester 1997. 15… Rb8 1/2-1/2 Bertok,M-Vidmar,M/Ljubljana 1955.

14… a6 The passive 14… Nd7 is good for white: 15. Bxg7 Kxg7 16. h4 Nf6 (16… h5 17. g4 Rh8 18. Qd4+ f6 19. Qxa7) 17. h5 gxh5? (17… Nxh5 18. g4 Nf6 19. Qh6+ Kg8 20. Bd3 Qc5 21. g5 Qe3 22. f4! Qxf4 23. Rcf1! wins) 18. Bd3 {1-0 Smeets,J (2311)-Didderen,G/Hyerois 2001}

15. c4! Also playable is 15. h4 e5 16. dxe6 fxe6 17. g4 e5? (Correct is 17… Qc6 18. Be2 Nd5 19. Bxg7 Kxg7 20. h5 Nf4) 18. Be3 Qc6 19. Be2 Nd5 20. h5 Nxe3 21. Qxe3 Qc5 22. Qb3+ d5 23. hxg6 hxg6 24. Rcd1 Rfd8 25. Bd3 and white won, S. Kudrin (!) Mark,D (2256)/Palo Alto 1981. This game proves the worth of the 14th move novelty! The position on the board now is simply good for white.

15… Rfe8 The rash ‘breakout’ 15…b5? 16. cxb5 Qxc1+ 17. Qxc1 Rxc1+ 18. Kxc1 Rc8+ 19. Kb1 Nxd5 20. Bxg7 Kxg7 21. bxa6 is obviously very good for white.

16. Bd3 e6 17. dxe6 fxe6 and I had a huge edge with the bishop pair and black’s hanging pawns. Unfortunately, I only drew eventually and I can’t find the scoresheet. The fact that Sergey used this as white in the very next year is heart-warming (a fact I didn’t know until I looked it up recently).


The Exciting Conclusion of the Tournament

So in the last two rounds I needed a perfect 2-0 score to get the norm. In the next to last round I was black against future IM Walter Shipman and in the last round I was white against future FM Dan Shapiro. Well, I got the job done very smoothly and easily against the normally stodgy and solid Shipman. But the Shapiro game was another story. I posted them in a separate installment – the last game in particular, a nervy norm game, was not for the faint of heart.

Caught Between Two Chess Clubs

September 17, 2007

This just in from the new US Chess Life website – an article titled “Fischer: Fame to Fallout” by Al Lawrence. I cite this paragraph where Bill Goichberg is quoted:

Running back-and-forth across the street to play in two tournaments at once

“At the peak, all kinds of people were going into the chess business,” Goichberg remembered. “Parlors, clubs, even full-time clubs were popping up in unlikely places, like Poughkeepsie. I used to hold a quad at the Baptist Church in Jamaica, Queens. Some newcomer began holding tournaments at the same time at the YMCA across the street! One player entered both, running back and forth across the street to make moves in two games at once. I don’t think he did very well.” — Bill Goichberg

This is pretty funny because in the 1980s, it became a one-time practice (not a common practice, mind you, but definitely a viable option) to run/jog/walk fast between the Bar Point Club at 6th Avenue and 14th Street (amusingly and coincidentally, considering the above quote, Bill Goichberg was the Bar Point’s owner during one interval in the 1980s) and the venerable Marshall Chess Club at 23 West 10 Street. This was not a very short distance – in other words, it was inconvenient to jog between the two sites when several games were in progress.

In one such absurd situation, I was playing Robert Feldstein in a quad at the Bar Point in a fast time control game. Feldstein was enjoying a quarter pounder with cheese at the board, he was dead lost, and he was definitely not resigning. The complication here was (due to not-staggered-enough round times) that I was playing IM Walter Shipman at the same time, in a much slower time control game, at the Marshall Chess Club in a more “serious” masters tournament. In a feat of athletic stupidity, I started trotting between the two venues. Finally, Feldstein resigned a ridiculous position and I was able to make my final run back to the Shipman game, panting and sweaty. I was able to settle down and play Walter ‘heads-up’ successfully in a long ending. I don’t think the Marshall saw anything so ridiculous until the statue of Marshall’s head disappeared (temporarily) a year later.

I never tried this stunt again. But it seems like something a young Fischer would have done if he was … caught between two chess clubs. Am I right?

Everybody sing now:

Caught between two chess clubs,

Feelin’ like a fool,

Cuz playing 2 simultaneous chess games,

Is breakin’ sportsmanlike rules!