Archive for the ‘The 1980s’ 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: The Pan-Am Intercollegiates 1981

February 17, 2008

The 1981 Pan Am Intercollegiates were in New York City, I think at the Statler Hotel. This was my first year in graduate studies at Columbia University. The University of Toronto featuring Ian Findlay won this year (the middle year of a 3-year run by UT). If I am not mistaken, both Steve Odendahl (with a Nimzovich Defense, 1….Nc6) and Gregory Markzon upset Joel Benjamin at this event.

2/29/08 note from Dave Gertler“I don’t know about Markzon, but Odendahl did beat Benjy (w/Nimzovich) at ’81 Pan-Am.  In fact, in the Yale-Swarthmore match, black won on all 4 games! Tragically, I was white on bd. 2.  “

Photo Time


From left (standing): Jon Schroer, the author, Steve Odendahl, and Eric Tall.

We were not on the same team – this was a staged photo around the trophy that Ian Findlay took home to Canada (U. Toronto). Seated: Michael Wilder, I think he was a high school student/observer.

New York City, December 1981


Steve Odendahl (left), Michael Wilder (center), and the author. Pan-Ams December 1981, NYC.

Three Games from the Event

Here are three amusing games. There is also some good theoretical content.

Richard Costigan (2353, U. Pittsburgh) – M. Ginsburg (2478, Columbia “A”), Pan-Am 12/1981. Round 6. Time control: 40/2

Sicilian Pelikan.

My opponent is still going strong, he is an IM now and I played him in the World Open 2007.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Bf4 e5 8. Bg5 a6 9. Na3 Be6!? This is an interesting move that I used to beat Joel Benjamin also in 1981. It has good surprise value versus the regular “Sveshnikov” move 9…b5.

10. Nc4 Rc8


Position after 10…Rc8. New-Age Pelikan.

11. Nd5 Joel played 11. Ne3 inviting a strange gambit sequence. That game went 11.Ne3 Qb6! 12.Rb1 Nxe4! A crazy gambit line that Jon Tisdall showed me. 13.Nxe4 h6! Regaining the piece due to 14. Bh4 Qb4+! – a strange lineup along the 4th rank. 14.c3 hxg5 15.Bc4! White gets good compensation on the light squares. 15…Nd8 16.Bb3 Be7 17.O-O Qc6 18.Nd5 Bxd5 19.Bxd5 Qd7 20.Qb3 O-O 21.Rfd1 g6 22.c4 Ne6 23.Qh3 Kg7 24.Bxe6 fxe6 25.b3 Rf4 26.Qe3 Qc6 27.Ng3 Qc5 28.Qe2 Rcf8 29.Rd2 R8f7 30.Rbd1 Qc6 31.h3 g4! 32.hxg4 Rxf2! Very strong. White cannot withstand the long ranging queen, center pawns, and strong dark squared bishop and eventually goes under. 33.Qxf2 Rxf2 34.Rxf2 d5 35.Rfd2 Bg5 36.Re2 Bf4 37.Nf1 e4 38.Kh1 Be5 39.g5 d4 40.Nd2 e3 41.Nf3 Qe4 42.Ree1 d3 43.Rxd3 Qxd3 44.Nxe5 Qc3 45.Nf3+ e5 46.Re2 e4 47.Ng1 Qd4 48.Nh3 Qd1+ 49.Ng1 Qd2! The beginning of the end. 50.Kh2 Kf7 51.Kg3 Ke6 52.Kh2 Kf5 53.g3 Kxg5 54.Kg2 Kg4 55.c5 Qd4 56.b4 Qxb4 57.Rxe3 Qd2+ 58.Re2 Qd3 59.Kf2 Qxg3+ 0-1, Benjamin-Ginsburg, NYC 1981. This game wound up in an early Kasparov / Keene “BCO” oeuvre.

White can also play 11. Bd3 Be7 12. O-O O-O (or 12… b5 13. Nd2 Nb4 14. Be2 O-O 15. Bxf6 Bxf6 16. a3 Nc6 17. Nd5 Nd4 18. c3 Nxe2+ 19. Qxe2 Rc5 with an OK game) 13. Qe1 Nb4 14. Ne3 Ng4 15. Bxe7 Qxe7 16. a3 Nxd3 17. cxd3 Nxe3 18. Qxe3 and white went on to win, 1-0 [37], Nijboer,F (2375)-Ligterink,G (2455)/Wijk aan Zee 1988/EXT 1997.

11… Bxd5 12. exd5 Possible is 12. Bxf6 gxf6 13. exd5 (or 13. Qxd5!?; according to my scorepad, this occurred in Kudrin-MG, NYC Futurity Swiss 1981. I rated the position as unclear. There might follow 13…Nb4 14. Qd2 d5 15. exd5 Qxd5 and white can claim a small edge.) In this game, white tries a dubious gambit but I am able to refute it.

12… Ne7 13. Qd3 Nexd5! 14. O-O-O (1:04) Rc5! (1:16) A strong TN. Black is better after accepting the center pawn gambit.


Position after 14…Rc5! – black won the opening discussion.

15. f4 Qc7 16. fxe5 dxe5 17. Qf5? 17. Qb3 Be7 18. Ne3 h6 19. Nxd5 Nxd5 20. Bxe7 Nxe7 and white is worse, but not yet lost.

17… Be7 18. Nd2 (1:41) g6! 19. Qf3 Rxc2+ 20. Kb1 O-O (1:39) Now black is just winning.

21. Bd3 Rc6 22. h4 Nb4 23. h5 Nxd3 24. Qxd3 Nxh5 25. Ne4 f5 26. Qd5+ Kg7 27. Bxe7 (1:58) Qxe7 28. Nd6 Nf6? A more tactically alert player would find the much stronger is 28… Nf4 29. Qd2 Rf6 and white’s knight is trapped! The text unnecessarily prolongs the game but the final result is not affected since white had no time left to think.

29. Qd2 Ng4 30. Qb4 Rc7 (1:56) 31. Qb6 Nf6 32. Qe3 Rd7 33. Qh6+ Kg8 34. Nc4 Rxd1+ 35. Rxd1 And white lost on time. Columbia won the match 3-1.


In the next game I faced sharpshooter Dmitri London, a very dangerous and active opponent. I attach the USCF ratings at the time as a historical curiosity. I believe we lost Dmitri to the workforce at some point in the late 80’s or early 90s.

M. Ginsburg (2478, Columbia “A”) – Dmitri London (2383, Brooklyn College) Gruenfeld Defense.

Round 7.


1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. c4 Bg7 4. Nc3 d5 5. Qa4+ Bd7 6. Qb3 dxc4 7. Qxc4 O-O 8. e4 Bg4 9. Ne5 Nc6! Excellent. Black gains full equality.

10. Nxc6 bxc6 11. f3 Be6 12. Qa4 Nd7 13. Be3 Nb6 14. Qb4 Qd6 15. Qxd6 cxd6 16. O-O-O Rab8 17. Bg5 Rfe8 18. h4 h6 19. Bf4 a5 20. g3 a4 21. Rh2 Rb7 22. Rc2 White’s maneuvers are slow and ponderous, but enough to hold the balance.

22…Reb8 23. Kb1 Nc4 24. Bxc4 Bxc4 25. e5 g5 26. hxg5 hxg5 27. Bxg5 dxe5 28. Nxa4 Rb4 29. Nc5 exd4 30. a3 d3 31. Nxd3 Ra4 32. Bf4 Rd8? A mistake. 32… e5! is right – this surprising move gives equality: 33. Nxe5 Bb3 34. Rd3 Bxc2+ 35. Kxc2 Rb5 36. Re3 Rc5+ 37. Kb1 Rb5 38. Ka2 Ra8 39. Nc4 Rd5 40. Kb1 Bd4 41. Re7 Rh5 – about equal.

33. Rcd2 Be6 34. Ne5 Rxd2 35. Rxd2 c5 36. Rd8+ Kh7 37. Kc2 Ra7 38. Nc6 Rb7 39. Be5 f6 40. Bf4 Bd7 41. Na5 Ra7 42. b4 In this pleasant position and obviously superior position, I offered a draw here to clinch a win for our team.

42… Ba4+ Black refuses! He is battling for his team – but he has a bad game!

43. Kd2 Ra6 44. Be3 cxb4 45. axb4 Nothing much has changed – I offer a draw again.

45…f5 And black declines again! Good fighting spirit, but what can be accomplished on the board?

46. g4 fxg4 47. fxg4 Re6 48. Rd5 Re4 Now black offers a draw. But it’s now painfully clear white can play on with no risk. And so I advance my passed pawn.

49. b5 Rxg4?! Black immediately goes wrong. He should sacrifice to get rid of the potential threat with 49… Bxb5 50. Rxb5 Rxg4 51. Nc6 Kg6 52. Nxe7+ Kf7 53. Nf5 Rg2+ 54. Kd3 Rb2 55. Ra5 Rb3+ 56. Ke4 Rb4+ 57. Kd5 Bf6 and it should be drawn.

50. b6 Rg2+ 51. Kd3 e6? A decisive mistake. Correct is 51… Bc2+! 52. Kc4 Be4! 53. Rd1 Kg6 54. Kb5 Bf3 55. Rg1 Rxg1 56. Bxg1 Ba8 57. Ka6 Bd5 and black will be able to hold this.

52. Rh5+ Kg6 53. Rc5 It’s now winning for white.

53…Bd1 54. b7 Be2+ 55. Ke4 Rg4+ 56. Bf4 Black resigned. We won the match 3-1.



And finally here’s a battle from the last round.

James Thibault (2318, Rhode Island College “A”) – M. Ginsburg (2478, Columbia “A”) Round 8. Sicilian, 2. c3.

My opponent won the 1977 National High School on tiebreaks – see the amusing National High School history page written by Steve Immitt. I was present at that tournament but lost chances at top honors when I claimed a win on time in the penultimate round but my opponent, Mark Stein, stunned me by ignoring my valid claim (I neglected to stop the clocks, or even more radically seize the clock as I have seen many excited players do) and simply making a move. I then made a move in reply and got up to get the TD, nullifying my claim. Bravo! It pays to know the rules in these common situations.

1. e4 c5 2. c3 d5 3. exd5 Qxd5 4. d4 Nf6 5. Nf3 e6 6. Bd3 Nc6 7. O-O cxd4 8. cxd4 Be7 9. Nc3 Qd6 10. Be3 O-O 11. Rc1 a6 12. a3 Rd8 Very solid but a little passive.

13. Ne4 Nxe4 14. Bxe4


Position after 14. Bxe4

14…Bf6 Playable is 14… Bd7 15. d5 exd5 16. Qxd5 Qxd5 17. Bxd5 Be8 18. Be4 Bf6 19. b4 Bd7 20. h3 and drawn shortly, 1/2-1/2 Short,N (2485)-Sosonko,G (2575)/Amsterdam 1982.

15. Qc2 g6 Bad is 15…h6? 16. Rfd1 Ne7 17. Ne5 Nd5 18. Nc4 Qc7 19. Qb3 b5 20. Ne5 Bxe5 21. Rxc7 Bxc7 22. Rc1 Bb7 23. Rxc7 Nxc7 24. Bxb7 and white won, 1-0 Iordachescu,V (2601)-Dutreeuw,M (2389)/Turin 2006.

16. Rfd1 Ne7 17. Ne5 Nd5 18. Ng4 Bg7 19. Bg5 Rf8 Stronger is 19… f6! 20. Bxd5 exd5 21. Nh6+ Bxh6 22. Bxh6 Bf5 and it is equal.

20. Bxd5?! 20. Nh6+ Kh8 21. Qc5 Qxc5 22. Rxc5 b6 23. Rc6 Rb8 is only a tiny bit worse for black.

20… exd5 21. Nh6+ Kh8 22. Qc7 Qxc7 23. Rxc7 Be6! Black is all right.


Position after 23…Be6! Black stands well.

24. Be3 If 24. Rxb7 there is a tactical trick: 24…f6 25. Bd2 g5! black has a good game: 26. Bb4 Bxh6 27. Bxf8 Bxf8 28. Rb6 Bf7 29. Rxf6 Kg7 30. Rc6 Be7.

24… b5 25. Rc6 a5 26. b3?? A bad mistake fatally weakening the queenside pawns.

26…Rfc8 27. Rdc1 Rxc6 28. Rxc6 Bf8 29. Bf4 Maybe black will overlook the mate threat?

29…Kg7 30. Bc1 Re8? Easily winning is the simple tactical sequence 30… a4! 31. b4 (31. bxa4 Rxa4 32. h3 – sadly white has to waste time to extricate the h6 knight – 32…Bxa3 33. Bxa3 Rxa3 34. Ng4 b4 35. Rb6 b3 and wins) 31…Bxb4! and wins rapidly and efficiently.

31. g4 In this terrible position, white offers a draw! Black of course declines.

31…Bd7 32. Rc7 Re1+ 33. Kg2 Rxc1! White could resign after this simple blow. However, black shows shaky technique at several points and we reach a weird ending: R, B and wrong rook pawn versus Rook!

34. Rxd7 Kxh6 35. Rxf7 Bxa3 36. h4 g5? Very easy was 36… Rc3 37. f3 g5 38. hxg5+ Kxg5 39. Rxh7 Rc2+ 40. Kf1 Kf4 and wins in a few moves.

37. Rf6+ Kg7 38. hxg5 Be7 39. Rb6 b4 40. Rb7 Kf7 41. Ra7 Ra1?! Simple was 41… Rd1 42. f4 Rxd4 43. Kf3 Rd3+ 44. Kf2 Rxb3 and wins.

42. f4 Ra2+ 43. Kg3 a4? 43… Ra3 is yet another simple win. Now the game enters the tortuous ending phase.

44. bxa4 Ra3+ 45. Kf2 b3 46. Rb7 Rxa4 47. Rxb3 Rxd4 48. Kf3 Bd6 49. Rb7+ Kg8 50. f5 Rf4+ 51. Ke2 d4 52. f6 Bf8 53. Rd7 Rxg4 54. Kf3 Rxg5 55. Rxd4 Rg6 56. Rf4 Kf7 57. Rh4 Bh6 58. Ra4 Rxf6+ 59. Kg4 Kg6 60. Rb4 Bg5 61. Rb7 h5+ 62. Kg3 h4+ 63. Kg2 Kh5 64. Rb4 Rc6 65. Kh3 Rc3+ 66. Kh2 Be7 67. Rd4 Bf6 68. Re4 Bd8 69. Rb4 Bc7+ 70. Kh1 Kg5 71. Ra4 Bf4 72. Ra1 Kg4 73. Rg1+ Bg3 74. Rg2 Kh3 75. Rh2+ Kg4 76. Rg2


Position after 76. Rg2. Care is required.

Naturally black has to be alert to stalemate tricks and not trade rooks with the wrong rook pawn, if white’s king is near the h1 corner!

76…Rc1+ 77. Rg1 Rc6 78. Rg2 Kf3 79. Rg1 Rc2 80. Rg2 Bf2 81. Kh2 Rc1 82. Kh3 Bg3 83. Rg1 Rc2 84. Rg2? A mistake. Tougher is 84. Rh1 (not 84. Rf1+ Rf2 85. Rh1 Kf4! with zugzwang) 84…Rf2 85. Rf1! Ke3! This is the right move, to triangulate to f4. 86. Rh1 Kf4! with the same zugzwang as in the prior note. Or, 86. Re1+ Kf4 87. Rh1 Kf5! with a similar zugzwang. White’s rook is tied to h2, defending the mate, and he has no moves.

84…Rf2! And in light of 85. Rxf2 Kxf2! giving the white king an escape hatch at g4 to release the stalemate but not letting him back to the h1 corner, White resigned.


The match was drawn 2-2. (RIC “A” vs Columbia).

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.

The Fabulous 1980s: The 1989 Manhattan CC Championship

January 14, 2008

In 1989 I played in the Manhattan Chess Club Championship at Carnegie Hall on West 57th Street in Manhattan. Although I won the 1988 and 1990 events, this 1989 version really escapes my memory, even when I look at the game scores.

Reader query: I cannot locate a list of the champions by year! I could only locate this somewhat anemic “history” of the MCC. Does anyone have access to such a list? See the bottom of this post for my highly incomplete reconstruction. Has the venerable club really fallen into such depths of paucity? Note on February 14th: Nick Conticello has risen to the occasion and is locating this list of champs 1883-1997 (originally compiled by Walter Shipman) – see comments.

3/14/08: Here’s Nick’s PDF file converted to an image: (click several times on the image to enlarge). I would like to see LOCATIONS too! (The MCC moves around a lot). Probably the MCC had some more champs after 1997, readers? (This list was compiled in 1997, but I don’t think the club was totally defunct yet).


MCC Champs 1883-1997. List compiled by IM Walter Shipman. Source: Nick Conticello.

In the third round I played New York personality Charlie Weldon. Charlie unfortunately died in 1993 while traveling in Yugoslavia (I believe of acute appendicitis) and here is his Wikipedia entry. I actually learned of his death by reading a clipping in the Village Chess Shop in Greenwich Village, NYC.

Charles Weldon (born 1939 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin – died of peritonitis in 1993 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia) was a chess master and professor of computer science at City University of New York.

Weldon was a three-time Wisconsin State Chess Champion, and swept all his games at the US Amateur Chess Championship. He is listed as a life member with the United States Chess Federation. He was known for playing the Schliemann Defense.

Now let’s see the game.

Charlie Weldon [2398] – IM Mark Ginsburg, Manhattan CC Champ. 1989, Round 3.

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. c4 Bg7 4. g3 O-O 5. Bg2 d6 6. O-O Nbd7 7. Nc3 a6!? I like this move, the poor man’s Panno (since the N is on d7, not c6). 8. e4 c5 9. h3 None other than future-WC Anatoly Karpov suffered a famous reverse, losing to Andras Adorjan, with 9. Re1 cxd4 10. Nxd4 Nc5 11. h3 Bd7 12. Be3 Rc8 13. Rc1 Qa5 14. a3 Na4 15. b4 Nxc3 16. Rxc3 Qa4 17. Qb1 Rc7 18. Rec1 Rfc8 19. Qd3 Be8 20. Bf3 Nd7 21. Bd1 Ne5 22. Qf1 Qd7 23. c5 b5 24. Bb3 dxc5 25. Rxc5 Rxc5 26. bxc5 Nc4 27. Bxc4 Bxd4 28. Rd1 e5 29. Bxd4 exd4 30. Bd5 Rxc5 31. Rxd4 Qc8 32. h4 Rc2 33. e5 Qc3 34. Rd3 Qxe5 35. Qg2 Kg7 36. Qf3 Qe1+ 37. Kg2 Rc1 38. g4 Qh1+ 39. Kg3 Rg1+ 40. Kf4 Qh2+ 41. Ke4 Qxh4 and white gave up, 0-1 Karpov,A-Adorjan,A/Hungary 1969. See the book “Black is OK!” by Adorjan for more details on that game. Also 9. e5 dxe5 10. dxe5 Ng4 11. e6 fxe6 12. Qe2 Nde5 gives a tiny edge at best.

9… cxd4 10. Nxd4 Nc5 11. Be3 Bd7 12. Qe2 Black is fine after 12. b4?! Ne6.

12…Rc8 Playable here is 12… Na4 13. Nxa4 Bxa4 14. Rac1 Rc8 15. b4 Bd7 and black went on to win a long maneuvering game, Cacho Reigadas,S (2200)-Garcia,A (2335)/Lleida 1991.

13. Rfd1 (0:23)


Position after 13. Rfd1: Black is OK!

13…Qa5?! The moves 13…h5 or 13…Qc7 are both more logical. The white move b2-b4 is not especially fearsome and does not have to be prevented. For example, 13…h5 14. b4 Na4! 15. Nxa4 Bxa4 or 13…Qc7 14. Rac1 Rfe8 15. b4 Na4 in both cases with a complicated game.

14. Rab1?! White had the strong 14. Nb3! here with a distinct edge.

14…Na4 (0:21) 15. Nxa4 Bxa4 16. b3 Bd7 17. a4 Rfd8 18. Qd2 Qc7 19. a5 Be8 20. Ne2 Qb8 21. Bb6 Rd7 22. f3 22. Nc3 is more natural.

22…e6 23. f4 (0:44) d5? (1:10) I don’t know what I was thinking, but this move simply does not work. I should just wait.

24. cxd5 exd5 25. e5? Why this? Although white keeps a small edge, he should grab the free pawn: 25. exd5 Bf8 26. Rbc1 and black has no compensation.

25… Ne4 (1:11) 26. Qe3 The strongest is 26. Qb2.

26… f5 27. exf6?! Another miscue. White should play 27. Rd3 Bf7 28. Nc3 Be6 29. Rbd1 and this is good for him.

27… Bxf6 28. Bd4 [0:48] Qd6 29. Rbc1 White can play for equality here with 29. Bxe4 dxe4 30. Kh2 Rf7 31. Nc3 Bxd4 32. Rxd4.

29… Rxc1 30. Rxc1 Re7 (1:31) 31. Bxf6 Qxf6


Position after 31…Qxf6: Tense Equilibrium

32. Qb6?? Charlie, rushing for no reason (only 60 minutes elapsed in a 40/2 game) blunders badly. The not very obvious 32. Nc3! Bc6 33. Nxe4 dxe4 34. Rd1 Kg7 is about equal. He should have taken time here and found that clever defense. 32. Bxe4 Rxe4 33. Qd2 is another “OK” line for white but it looks risky to give up the fianchettoed bishop.

32… Qb2! [1:48] White cannot handle this infiltration. Black wins in all lines.

33. Bf3 (1:05) The alternative 33. Qe3 is slightly tougher, but after 33…Bc6 34. Rf1 Qd2! 35. Rf3 Qxa5 black wins.

33… Nxg3! A standard overloading tactic. 34. Bxd5+ Kf8 35. Nxg3 Qxc1+ 36. Kg2 Qd2+ 0-1

My results so far:

Round 1- 1/2 pt. bye

Round 2 1-0 Larry Tamarkin

Round 3 1-0 Charlie Weldon

Round 4 1/2 B. Zuckerman

Now I will present

Round 5 (1/2 vs. Michael Rohde) and Round 6 (1-0 vs James Schuyler).

Author’s note 3/15/08: According the Nick Conticello’s champion list (see above), Michael Rohde won the 1989 event!

Round 5, MCC Ch. M. Ginsburg – GM M. Rohde (2540).

1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Bb4 3. g3 Nf6 4. Bg2 O-O 5. e4 d6 6. Nge2 Be6 7. d3 c6 8. a3 Ba5 9. O-O h6 10. b4 Bb6 11. Bb2 Qd7 12. Rc1 Bh3 13. Na4 Bd8


Position after 13…Bd8: I have nothing and quickly get less.

14. Qd2 a5 15. c5 Bxg2 16. Kxg2 axb4 17. Qxb4 b5 18. Nb6 Bxb6 19. cxb6 c5 My play has made very little sense and black logically builds up a big positional edge. 20. Qb3 Qc6 21. f4 Nbd7 22. fxe5 dxe5 23. Nc3 Ra5 24. Nd1 Qxb6 25. Ne3 Qe6 26. Qc2 Ra4 27. Nf5 c4 28. dxc4 Rxc4 29. Qd3


Position after 29. Qd3: I am toast.

29…Nc5 Here, 29… Rfc8 is crushing. From here on out, black (perhaps out of tiredness) misses a bunch of wins and finally white manages to hold a rook ending.

30. Qd6 Rxc1 31. Rxc1 Nfxe4 32. Ne7+ Kh7 33. Qxe6 fxe6 34. Rc2 Nd3 35. Re2 Ng5 Here, a nice win is 35… Rf2+ 36. Rxf2 Nexf2 37. Bxe5 Nxe5 38. Kxf2 Nc4 39. Ke2 Nxa3 40. Kd3 Nc4 41. Kc3 Ne3 42. Kb4 Nf1 and white can resign.

36. h4 Nf3 37. Bc3 Nd4 38. Re3 Rf7 The clever tactic 38… Rf2+! 39. Kh3 Ne2! sets up a mate threat and wins: 40. Rxd3 h5 41. Rd1 Nxc3 42. Ra1 e4 and it’s all over.

39. Rxd3 Rxe7 40. h5 Rc7 It’s getting harder, but 40…Rd7 41. Re3 Rd5 42. Kf2 Nc2 43. Rxe5 Rxe5 44. Bxe5 Nxa3 45. Bc3 Nc4 seems to do the trick; black should win.

41. Bxd4 Rd7 42. Rb3 exd4 43. Rxb5 Kg8 The long variation 43… d3 44. Rb1 Rd5 45. Rd1 Rxh5 46. Rxd3 Ra5 47. Re3 e5 48. a4 Kg6 49. Re4 h5 50. Rc4 Kf5 should win.

44. Kf2 Kf7 45. a4 Rc7 Unless I am missing something in this long variation, 45… Kf6 46. a5 e5 47. a6 Ra7 48. Rb6+ Kf5 49. Rd6 Ke4 50. Ke2 Rc7 51. Kd2 Rf7 52. Ke2 Rf3 will win.

46. Kf3 Rc3+ 47. Ke4 d3 48. Ke3 Now it’s just a draw – a quite lucky escape.

47… Ra3 49. a5 g6 50. hxg6+ Kxg6 51. Re5 Kf6 52. Rh5 Kg6 53. Re5 Kf7 54. Rh5 Kg7 55. Re5 Kf7 1/2-1/2

Round 6.

IM M. Ginsburg – NM James Schuyler (2300). Nimzovich Defense

A historical curiosity: James’s last name used to be Levine, he changed it a little bit previous to this event.

1. d4 Nc6 2. Nf3 d6 3. e4 Nf6 4. Nc3 Bg4 5. Bb5 a6 6. Bxc6+ bxc6 7. h3 Bh5 8. Bg5


Position after 8. Bg5. A Theoretical Position in the Nimzovich Defense.

8…Rb8(!) Rather inferior is 8… Qb8?! 9. Qd3! Bxf3 (Black cannot grab 9… Qxb2 10. Rb1 Qa3 11. O-O e6 12. Rb7 Rc8 13. Qc4 Kd7 14. Na4! and wins) 10. Qxf3 e6 11. O-O Nd7 12. b3 h6 13. Bh4 Qb4 14. Rad1 Qa5 15. Rfe1 and white was much better and went on to win, 1-0, Yuri Balashov – J. Orzechowski, Wisla 1992.

9. Qe2?! Qc8? Black actually could have eaten on b2 here with the rook with unclear chances.

10. O-O-O e6 11. d5 Qb7 12. b3 Be7 13. g4! Bg6 14. dxe6 fxe6 15. e5! White just has a big edge now.


Position after 15. e5! – Smooth Sailing for White now.

15…dxe5 16. Nxe5 O-O 17. Nxg6 Ba3+ 18. Kb1 hxg6 19. Qxe6+ Kh7 20. Qc4 Qb4 21. Qxb4 Bxb4 22. Bxf6 Rxf6 23. Ne4 Rf4 24. Rd4 Kh6 25. Rg1 Be7 26. c3 c5 27. Rc4 Bh4 28. g5+ Bxg5 29. Rxg5 Rxe4 30. Rgxc5 This ending is hopeless, black could have resigned. 30…Rxc4 31. Rxc4 g5 32. Rxc7 Rf8 33. Rc6+ Kh5 34. Rxa6 Rxf2 35. c4 Kh4 36. Rg6 Rf5 37. Rxg7 Kxh3 38. Kb2 g4 39. b4 g3 40. c5 g2 41. c6 Rf2+ 42. Kb3 and black gave up. 1-0.

Postscript: on January 23, 2008, Larry Tamarkin sent me another game I had played in this event. My knights dance well in this game.

M. Ginsburg – NM L. Tamarkin MCC (Ch.) 1989, Queen’s Indian. Round 2.

1. d4 e6 2. c4 b6 3. Nf3 Bb7 4. Bf4 Bb4+ 5. Nbd2 Nf6 6. e3 O-O 7. Bd3 Re8 8. O-O Bf8?! 9. Qc2 d6 10. Bg5 h6 11. Bh7+ Kh8 12. Bxf6 Qxf6 13. Be4 c6 14. Qa4 Qe7 15. Rad1 f5 16. Bb1 g5 17. c5!


17. c5! – the knights need squares.

17…dxc5 18. Ne5 Qf6 19. f4 g4 20. Kh1 cxd4 21. exd4 Rd8 22. Rfe1 Bd6 23. Qb3 Na6 24. Ndc4 Bf8 25. Na5 Bc8 26. Naxc6 Rd5 27. Bd3 Nc7 28. Rc1 Rd6 29. Nd8! Converging on f7 with both knights.


Position after 29. Nd8! – Nimble knights.

29…Nd5 30. Nef7+ Kg7 31. Nxd6 Bxd6 32. Nxe6+! The knights really rampaged in this game. Now it’s just a material capturing bloodbath.

32…Bxe6 33. Bc4 Bxf4 34. Bxd5 Bxc1 35. Rxe6 Qf8 36. Bxa8 1-0

So I finished the event with 4.5/6. I must confess I have no memory of *any* of these games. And I don’t know who won the 1989 event, because I can’t find any club history pages!

Just for fun, I insert here a scanned image of a 1988 MCC bulletin, edited by stalwart Steve Immitt using what appears to be an old-fashioned typewriter. Maybe you can read it (click to enlarge) well enough to play over an entertaining game between NM Ernest Colding and Michael Rohde, with notes by peripatetic NM Larry Tamarkin.


An MCC ’88 Bulletin: The Good Old Days of Carnegie Hall!

Help Needed – Fill in the History!

Over the years, the Manhattan CC saw many famous players. Bobby Fischer, Robert Byrne, Pal Benko, Bernard Zuckerman, Joel Benjamin, Kamran Shirazi, and many, many others. Does anyone have a list of the champions? I know the club opened in 1877 and closed in 2002 (there was no Championship in 2002; I don’t know if there was one in 2001 or 2000). Below I list the years, the champion’s name (if known), and the club location in that year. Can someone fill in the extensive gaps? Thanks in advance.

Year   Champion  Club Location   

1949	Arthur Bisguier	100 Central Park South
1982                                 155 E 55th
1983                                 155 E 55th
1984                                  ** moved to 57th and 7th, 10th floor, from 155 E 55th **
1988	Mark Ginsburg	57th and 7th Ave., Carnegie Hall, 10th floor
1990	Mark Ginsburg	57th and 7th Ave., Carnegie Hall, 10th floor
1998  Joel Benjamin
1999  Joel Benjamin
2000  Eric Cooke
"2001 is a bit unclear in my memory. I know Leonid Yudasin beat Benjamin in a
two-game blitz playoff for some kind of trophy, but I can't say for sure Yudasin
was a member. However, consider the following points: 1) Manhattan CC record-keeping                                          was so sloppy that Yudasin may indeed have been a member by the then
prevailing standard of filling out an application (for a GM.)
2) The event crosstable shows Yudasin in first place.
3) I addressed Joel as a "six-time Manhattan CC Champion" at the Bruce Bowyer memorial
yesterday and he did not correct me.
A possible countervailing point is my January 2003 Chess Life piece,
which i can't find, and in which I may (possibly) have called Joel a seven-time champion.
So at this moment I am not quite sure." - Nick Conticello.

Postscript – The MCC Before Carnegie Hall

Larry Tamarkin told me (1/29/08) that the MCC was located on 55th street, on the East Side, and moved to Carnegie Hall around 1986. [?] Update February 2008: Randy Gunolo sends this comment in: “The Manhattan moved to Carnegie Hall in early 1984. Before that, it was at 155 E 55th, where Xaviera Hollander had had her offices in her glory days. I’m not sure if their paths briefly crossed or they just missed each other.” Author’s note: Dutch import Xaviera Hollander is the author of a best-selling book, The Happy Hooker.

Postscript 2: Bridge and Games East, aka ‘Sleaze East’

Larry Tamarkin also reminded me about Sleaze East (not the club’s real name). The club’s real name was “Bridge and Games East” – see comments section. This East Side gambling establishment featured Dzindzi playing long backgammon matches. It shut in the mid-80s, possibly 1985 (or a little later), when a disgruntled gambler fired a gun in the club. The police had to dig the bullet out with a tool. Larry was there and “he grapped me by the scruff of my neck and said that I didn’t seem to understand him when he was ‘telling’ everyone else to get out…”.

(Larry didn’t “understand” he wanted everyone to clear out when he fired the gun).

“He was mad at me cause i didn’t move out like everyone else when his gun was being fired…I was so in my little world i didn’t even know what was happening….I think he calmed down when he realized i wasn’t intentionally trying to ‘diss him’…he let me go and Steve Immitt later said I was lucky he didn’t shoot me!”

After this bullet episode, the club shut. Larry thinks it was on 57th and 2nd or 3rd avenue. The commentor, Mr. Randy Gunolo, opines it was on E 56th street. I will need help from the readers as to this club’s real name and more exact location and year of closing.

‘Crazy Joe’ and the 38-special at Sleaze East

This just in from Steve Immitt on the famous gun incident at Sleaze East: ” “Crazy Joe” let loose a couple of rounds from his .38, while you [Larry Tamarkin – ed.] and Larry Sanchez were busy playing speed chess and everyone else hit the deck.” I had visited Sleaze East a couple of times, and saw Dzindzi in a very long backgammon tussle. Rebekah Greenwald asked Roman in Russian, “kak tebya nravitsia eto…. Sleaze East”? (translated to “How do you like this…. Sleaze East?”). Roman stared at her and did not reply.

For Further Reading

Visit this other blog entry [4/28/08] for Nick Conticello presenting an abridged MCC timeline.

The Fabulous 80s and 90s: Encounters with Jay Bonin

January 10, 2008

Jay Bonin has been an active player his entire career. It follows that when I was active in the same area (NY, the 1980s) we would play a lot. Here are some of the amusing games.

In a separate installment I will show a “flock of Walter Shipman games” in the same vein.

The very first game is from the October Open, New York City, 1982, featuring a little-known sideline in the Maroczy Bind.  I attach Jay’s rating at the time.

IM Mark Ginsburg – Jay Bonin (2364 USCF)   10/10/82  October Open, Round 2.

1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 c5 3. Nf3 g6 4. e4 d6 5. d4 cxd4 6. Nxd4 Bg7 7. Be2 Nc6 8. Be3 O-O 9. Rc1 Ng4!  A perfectly good move although little seen.  Black is about equal after this move.


Position after the clever 9…Ng4! 

10. Bxg4 Bxd4!  Forced. I can’t find this position in Chessbase.  Is 10….Bxd4 really a novelty?  Somehow I don’t think so.  Previously seen was the obviously losing 10… Bxg4?? 11. Nxc6 Bxd1 12. Nxd8 Bh5 13. Nxb7 Rfb8 14. Na5 and white won shortly,  Loehr,H-Kirchhoff,H/Weilburg 1997.  Did black maybe miscount the pieces in this capture sequence?   After Jay’s move I don’t see any clear way for white to claim an edge.

11. Bxd4 Bxg4 12. f3 Nxd4 13.  Qxd4 Be6 14. O-O Qa5  Not so good is 14… Qb6?! 15. Qxb6 axb6 16. b3 Ra3 17. Rc2 Kg7 18. Nb5 Ra5 19. a4! Bd7 20. Nc3 Be6 21. Re1 and white has a nagging edge.

15. b3 Rfc8?!  I would rather use the other rook: 15… Rac8 16. Kh1 a6 17. f4 Rc5! 18. Rf3 f6 19. Rg3 Kh8 20. Qe3 Qa3 with unclear play.  But given the improvement suggested on black’s 16th move, maybe this rook choice isn’t bad after all.

16. Kh1 b5?!  Jay is impatient and undertakes something he isn’t ready for. White is better after 16… Qc5 17. Qd3 Rc7 18. f4 f5 19. exf5 Qxf5 20. Qe3 a6 21. Rcd1 Rac8 22. Rfe1 Bf7.  But a possible improvement here is 16… Rc5! 17. f4 Rh5! keeping the rook useful.  Then, 18. Rfe1 Rc8 19. Nd5 Bxd5 20. exd5 Rc7 21. a4 b6 22. g3 Qc5 is OK for black.

 17. cxb5 Rc7 18. Nd5! Bxd5 19. Rxc7 Qxc7 20. Qxd5 Rc8 21. h3 Qc2 22. a4 Qb2 23. Rg1!  The key move of the game and not so easy to find.  White safeguards everything before proceeding.


Position after 23. Rg1!  This peculiar move was the best one available. 

23…Qf2?  Another blunder puts black in a lost game. 23… Qc3 24. Qb7 Rc7 waiting was necessary to see how white will make progress.

24. Qb7 Rc3 25. Qxe7 Rxf3?  This hastens the end.  Black needed 25… Qd4 to see if white would find the instructive winning line with an excelsior theme:  26. f4! Rxb3 27. f5! Re3 28. f6! establishing a winning bind: 28…Qxe4 29. Qd8+ Qe8 30. Qxe8+ Rxe8 31. Rc1 and wins.  White had other ways, too, but this line is elegant and by far the fastest.

26. gxf3 Qxf3+ There won’t be a perpetual today, but this needed to be verified before white made his 26th move.

27. Kh2 Qf4+ 28. Rg3 Qf2+ 29. Rg2 Qf4+ 30. Kg1 Qc1+ 31. Kf2 Qc5+ 32. Kf3 Qc3+ 33. Kg4  There are some king marches that are scary.  This is not one of them.

33…h5+  34. Kh4 Qe1+ 35. Rg3 d5 36. Qe8+ Kg7 37. Qe5+ f6 38. Qe7+ 1-0

Now we jump to the Manhattan CC “4 Rated Games tonight”, May 1989. I would be willing to guess Steve Immitt directed it and that Larry Tamarkin was lurking around somewhere in the club. Note Jay’s high USCF rating at the time. The game also illustrates one of Jay’s characteristics: the occasional stumble into a big tactical hole. The final diagram with all the hanging pieces is both confusing and typical for a random action game.

Jay Bonin (2537) – Mark Ginsburg “4 Rated Games Tonight”, Manhattan CC, NY, 1989. Polish Defense

1. d4 b5? Why?

2. e4 a6 3. Nf3 Bb7 4. Bd3 e6 5. O-O Nf6 6. Re1 Be7 7. Nbd2 c5 8. e5 Nd5 9. dxc5 Bxc5 10. Ne4 Black has a terrible game. I don’t think I ever played this again. Well, I did play 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 b5!? and drew vs Shabalov, Reno, 1992, but that seems to be taking less liberties.


10…Qb6 This grotesque concession is no worse than any other pathetic continuation.

11. Nxc5 Qxc5 12. Ng5! f5 13. exf6 Nxf6 14. Ne4 Nxe4 15. Bxe4 Bxe4 16. Rxe4 Nc6?! 16…O-O 17. Rf4! is not a lot of fun but it’s somewhat better than the text.

17. Be3 Qf5 18. Rf4 Qe5 19. c3 White maintains a huge bind.

19…Rd8 20. a4 Rf8 What else? But there’s a tactical problem that white immediately exploits.

21. Rxf8+ Kxf8 22. Bb6 Rb8 23. Qxd7! Ut-oh. If 23…Rxb6, 24. a5 wins easily. Black is dead.

24…Qd5 24. Qc7 Kg8 25. Bd4 e5 26. Bxe5 Qxe5 27. Qxc6 bxa4 28. Qc4+ Kh8 29. Qxa6 h6 30. Rxa4 Rxb2 31. Ra1 Qxc3(?) Black was lost anyway and chooses to walk into mate in this action game. A purist, of course, should award this grab a question mark.


Position after 31…Qxc3: White to play and win.

32. Qa8+ Kh7 33. Qe4+ Kg8 34. Ra8+ Kf7 35. Qe8+ Kf6 36. Ra6+ Kf5 And of course, at this point, it is mate in 6. 37. Qe6+ Kf4 38. Ra4+?! The easiest is 38. g3+ and mates shortly.

38…Rb4 39. Qe3+?? The right choice is 39. Qd6+ Kf5 40. Ra5+! Kg4 41. Qg6+ Kh4 42. Rh5 mate. The text which at first glance looks like it wins a rook and ends the game instead allows an incredible saving resource for black – is this “luck in chess” or it just a very rare situation?


39… Kf5!! Quite a trick to pull off in an action game! Everything hangs and white can’t take anything due to the bank rank problem. It can’t be called a swindle because I didn’t do anything. It was all white’s construction. Note here that 40. g4+ is met by 40…Rxg4 CHECK and again, black escapes.

The game concluded limply with 40. Ra5+ Kg6 41. Qe6+ Qf6 42. Qxf6+ Kxf6

and agreed drawn a few moves later. Whew! Of course, in the prior game, I had been tortured also playing black versus Gata Kamsky (not that this matters).



The next game is short, but has interesting points.

Jay Bonin -M. Ginsburg, New York 1990

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Bb4+ 4.Bd2 Qe7 5.g3 Nc6 6.Bg2 Bxd2+ 7.Nbxd2 d6 8.Nf1!? d5 Black used 8…e5!? to good effect in Christiansen-Adams, Biel 1991 that continued 9. Ne3 O-O 10. O-O a5 with equal chances, and Adams went on to win a sharp game in 48 moves. Of course 8…O-O is playable too.

9.Rc1 9. N1d2!? Ne4 10. O-O Nxd2 11. Qxd2 led to a small white edge; in Arencibia-Panchenko, Terrassa 1998, white won in 66 moves.

9…O-O The immediate 9…Qb4+ is fine too.

10.Ne3 Again, 10. N1d2 is playable. Black can try 10…a5!? or 10…Rd8 11. O-O Bd7 12. e3 Be8 that looks passive; white won in 42 moves in Matamoros-Hoffman, Elgoibar 1996.

10…Qb4+ 11.Qd2 Qxd2+ Here, 11…a5 is stronger practically to keep life in the position. Then, 12. a3 Qxd2+ 13. Kxd2 Re8 14. Kd3 is possible but double-edged.

12.Kxd2 Ne4+ 13.Ke1 Rd8 14.cxd5 exd5 15.Nd2 Nf6 16.Nf3 Ne4 17.Nd2 Nf6
18.Nf3 1/2-1/2

The Fabulous 80s: Columbia U fails to repeat in the 1985 Pan-Am

January 8, 2008

Here’s a funny picture from the Columbia University’s “Daily” newspaper reporting on the Columbia squad’s failure in the 1985 event, held in New Brunswick, NJ (Rutgers U. home town). Click to enlarge.


Man or Building?

The first thing to note: the player on the left, Earl Hall, had the same name as a Columbia University building! I kid you not. “Earl Hall” on campus had a lot of chaplain events. Earl the person was a monster third board and a very strong player (Senior Master strength) who helped us win the 1984 event in Kitchener, Ontario (side note: I recently found the winners page – showing all historical Pan-Am winners). There have been very few Pan-Am’s outside the USA and Columbia took gold in 1984!

To the right of Earl the person, is yours truly. Next we have second board SM Jeremy Barth, then NM Simon Yelsky (I think he went to Joel Benjamin’s high school and we nicknamed him “Old Yeller” for no reason) and finally Leonid Rozhetskin.

Author’s postscript and reflections on the Greater Blogoverse as of January 13, 2008: due to commotions, cross-links and mutters in the Blogoverse, I backtracked on some breadcrumbs and came to realize that Leonid Rozhetskin grew up to be an international legal and investment celebrity and is now head of a major film production company. He, along with Eric Eisner, son of ex-Disney chair Michael Eisner, co-founded L+E Productions and their “Hamlet 2” production, starring Elizabeth Shue and Catherine Keener, made it into Sundance. It’s funny how when I mention a name, disturbances in the blogoverse quickly (within 24-48 hours) alert me to the fame or infamy of the mentioned individual. Often times, it’s the individual or minions thereof mentioning my site in their context – certainly, ego-surfing is a popular pastime that spans all ages and socio-economic boundaries. But if a minion ego-surfs on behalf of his or her master (mistress?), what is that called, minion-surfing? At any rate, a hearty round of applause for Leonid who has seen a heady ascent from “Columbia’s last board” to Very Important Societal Personage.

We were the highest rated in the 1985 version, but as the article points out, “one of our players was so convinced he had a winning game he hallucinated a piece away.” Well, that player was me and my bungle was versus University of Florida’s Miles Ardaman. But any press is good press, right? Right.

And on an unrelated 1980s matter, here are some 1980s photographs.


From left: Jan Adamski, Gabor Pirisi, and the author.

This was the August 1985 Eeklo, Belgium prizegiving. From left: IM Jan Adamski (POL), IM Gabor Pirisi (HUN), and me. Pirisi has an odd-looking trophy! I was lucky enough to defeat Pirisi in short-order in the IM round-robin as black when he played too riskily versus a Sicilian Scheveningen. Note the 1980’s hair style and glasses. I don’t know who took this photograph.

IM G. Pirisi – IM M. Ginsburg ECI 1987 Eeklo, Belgium

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 d6 6. Be3 a6 7. g4!? A Hungarian specialty that Judith Polgar has used many times, for example to defeat Kazimzhdanov in Morales, Mexico WC Candidates 2006.


Position after 7. g4. A Hungarian Specialty.

7…h6 8. Qf3 Nc6 Risky is 8… Nbd7 9. Qh3 Nc5 (better may be 9…e5!? 10. Nb3; not 10. Nf5? g6 11. Ng3 Nb6 12. Be2 h5 13. Qh4 Be7! and black won in Ermenkov-Polugaevsky, Buenos Aires 1978) 10. f3 e5 11. Nb3 Be6 12. Nxc5 dxc5 13. Qg3 Be7 14. h4 Qa5 15. Qxe5 O-O-O 16. Bc4 Bd6 17. Bxe6+ Kb8 18. Qf5 fxe6 19. Qxe6 Rhe8 20. Qf7 Nd5 21. O-O-O Nxe3 22. Rxd6 Rf8 23. Qxg7 Rxf3 24. Qe5 Rxd6 25. Qxd6+ Ka7 26. Qd3 Rg3 27. Ne2 Nf5 28. Nxg3 and white won, 1-0 Sax,G (2550)-Tukmakov,V (2570)/Las Palmas 1978. If Vladimir loses, take notice, the variation is dangerous.

9. Rg1 Bd7!? Playable but risky is 9…g5!? 10. O-O-O Bd7 11. h4 Rg8 12. Qe2 Ne5 13. Bh3 (white was ultimately successful with 13. hxg5!? hxg5 14. Nf3 in Dominguez-Bruzon, Las Tunas 2001, 1-0, 57) 13…b5 14. f4 gxf4 15. Bxf4 b4 16. Nb1 Ng6 17. Bg3 Qa5 18. Qf3 Be7 19. e5 Nd5 20. Rgf1 Rf8 21. exd6 Bxh4 22. Bxh4 Nxh4 and drawn in 42, Ermenkov,E-Suba,M/Baile Herculane 1978. The text is definitely a slower and more sedate approach, that is unexpectedly rewarded quickly in this game.

10. h4 h5 11. g5?! Not very good. Better is 11. gxh5 Rxh5 (11… Nxh5 12. O-O-O Rc8 13. Nxc6 Bxc6 14. Bd4 b5 15. Bd3 b4 16. Ne2 Bb7 17. Kb1 with a white plus) 12. Nxc6 Bxc6 13. Bg5 Rh8 14. O-O-O Be7 15. Qe3 Qc7 16. Bh3 b5 17. f3 Bb7 18. Kb1 Rc8 19. Rg2 b4 20. Nd5 exd5 21. Bxc8 Bxc8 22. exd5 Bf5 23. Re2 and white went on to win, 1-0 Blees,A (2415)-Rytshagov,M (2495)/Antwerp 1996.

11… Ng4! 12. Bh3? Another bad move. Black now executes a dance of the knights with much gain of time.

12… Nce5 13. Qe2 Nxe3 14. Qxe3?  White had to play the ugly 14. fxe3.

14…Qb6! Now white is totally lost! Black has too many threats, including the primitive fork-trick he executes in the game.


Position after 14…Qb6. White has no defense.

15. g6 The best white had was the sad 15. Nce2 Qxb2 16. Qc1 Qxc1+ and wins, or the slightly trickier 15. Rd1 Nc4 16. Qf3 Nxb2 17. Rd2 Nc4 18. g6!? O-O-O! 19. Rd1 Ne5! and wins.  If 15. O-O-O Nc4,white can keep playing with 16. Na4 (forced) Bxa4 17. Qc3, but after 17…Ne5 18. g6 Bd7 19. gxf7+ Kxf7 20. f4 Nc6 21. Nf3 Ke8 22. Ng5 Rh6! black consolidates the extra piece and wins.

15. ..Qxd4! Weirdly, white was lost even before 15. g6. He now loses a piece for no compensation, so the game is effectively over.

16. gxf7+ Kd8 17. Qg5+ Kc7 18. Rg3 Nxf7 19. Qf4 Ne5 20. Rd1 Qb6 21. Qg5 Rh6 22. Ne2 Rc8 23. f4 Nf7 24. Rc3+ Kb8 0-1

Let’s move on to a picture from Lugano, 1984.


Lematchko-Sax, Lugano, 1984

Moving back a year to Lugano, Switzerland 1984, we have Tatiana Lematchko (WGM, Bulgaria) on the left battling future WC Candidate Hungarian GM Gyula Sax. Photo by intrepid Frenchwoman Catherine Jaeg.

Once in a Lifetime Structures: Pawn Diamonds and Pawn Boxes

November 21, 2007

Sometimes a structure, a certain arrangement of pieces or pawns, occurs on the chessboard so outlandish, so absurd, so … je ne sais quoi…. it’s apparent it’s not going to happen again – at least to the player who created it.  Oh by way check out this nice companion blog from the UK while we are on the subject.

The Tale of the Pawn Diamond

The Pawn Diamond is one of those inimitable structures. Another related ‘situation’ (of wacky material imbalance) occurred in the 80s in my game against NM Alan Williams (Bar Point Chess Club, NYC) where I had 3 Queens and a Rook versus a Queen and 2 Rooks for many moves, but that’s a different story (the Williams game for some time was a record holder in Tim Krabbe’s world records compendium). But here we are talking about structures – pieces or pawns’ placements relative to one another. So I would say the Pawn Diamond is my strangest absolute structure. It’s so powerful!

Let’s see it. Or, in Lord of the Rings terms, “All shall see it and despair.”

Patrick Wolff – IM Mark Ginsburg NY Open 1983

1. e4 Young Patrick was quite tardy for the game which did not help him when the game got complicated.

1…g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. f4 Nc6 5. Be3 Nf6

Well, with the black knight committed to f6, it’s really a Pirc now. Still, the game gets really crazy.


6. Be2 O-O 7. Nf3 a6 8. Qd2 b5 9. a3 Bb7 10. f5 b4 11. axb4 Nxb4 12. fxg6
hxg6 13. Ng5 e5!
It’s always correct to act in the center when the opponent is acting on the wings. White’s structure is very loose now.


14. d5 c6 15. Na4 a5 16. c3 cxd5 17. Bb6 Qe7
18. cxb4 Bh6!
White gets into a very nasty pin and it turns out black gets overwhelming compensation for the lost piece. The problem in the opening basically is that white played too much on the wings and black stayed central.

19. h4 Nxe4 20. Qd3 axb4 21. Nxe4 dxe4 22. Qh3
Kg7 23. O-O f5
The very rare ‘pawn diamond’ starts to be formed. There is very little to do constructively that white can undertake, especially in practical play where advancing pawn phalanxes take on a life of their own.


24. h5 Rac8 25. hxg6 Qg5 26. Qh5 Qxg6 27. Rad1
Rf6 28. Qxg6+ Kxg6 29. Bb5 e3 30. Rfe1 f4 31. b3 Bg5!
Every piece gains maximum activity This is reminiscent of another Pirc/Modern game that worked out very well with a sacrifice; versus J. Shahade Las Vegas National Open 2003.

32. Bc4 Bh4 33. Re2 d5! The d-pawn is immune because white has a back-rank problem.

34. Bb5 d4 And there it is. The stuff of legends. The pawn diamond. Does anyone have access to a structural search; in how many other games has this occurred? White, of course, is dead – the diamond is worth at least 2 minor pieces. At this point, Inna Izrailov walked past and gawked in amazement.


35. Bc5 f3 It’s craven to break up the diamond and cash in, but at some point the game does have to be won.

36. gxf3 Bxf3 37. Rf1 Kh5! It’s pleasing to have the king help out too.

38. Ra2 Rg8+ 39. Kh2 Bg3+ 40. Kh3 Bf2 0-1

Well. I can definitely say I never got a Pawn Diamond again – yet.


I have to show you one more – perpetrated on me by future GM Ilya Gurevich – the humorous Pawn Box. In a weird cosmic coincidence, both Patrick and Ilya at the time were strong New England juniors. Remember, it takes two to create these structures so credit must be given to their uncompromising styles.

The Saga of the Pawn Box

IM M. Ginsburg – I. Gurevich, World Open 1985. King’s Indian, Bayonet Attack

If there was ever a time to beat Ilya, this was it. He was young and up and coming and got a not very good opening after my good prep in the Bayonet Attack King’s Indian. But then… the pawn box! Let’s see it.

1.c4 g6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 O-O 6.Be2 e5 7.O-O
Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.b4 Nh5 10.c5!
A very under-rated system. White jettisons the two bishops, clears the g7-a1 diagonal, and is very quick on the queenside. And the best thing of all? His king never gets mated in this line – no crushing pawn storms. Nowadays, of course, Kramnik and Van Wely have popularized 10. Re1.

10…Nf4 11.Bxf4 exf4 12.Rc1 h6 13.a4 g5 14.cxd6 cxd6 15.h3 White has a very comfortable game.


15…Ng6 16.Nb5 Qe7 17.Re1 Rd8 18.Rc7 Rd7 19.Qc2 Rxc7 20.Qxc7 Qxc7 21.Nxc7 Oh yes. White has gotten the queens off, has initiative, and stands better.

21…Rb8 22.Nb5 Bd7! 23.Nxd6 Bf8! An ingenious resource. However, I thought I still had things under control.

24.e5 Bxd6 25.exd6 Bxa4 26.Nd4 Bd7 27.Bg4! A winning shot, so I thought – to gain f5 for my knight.

27…Bxg4 28.hxg4 Rd8 29.Nf5 Nh4!! I never saw this coming – the very essence of black’s defensive concept. Black deforms his structure maximally to gain enough activity to draw. This conforms to the Russian maxim, “all rook endings are drawn.” At the time, I was shocked that young Ilya was escaping. And so he did after the remaining moves…

30.Nxh4 gxh4 31.Re7 Rxd6 32.Rxb7 a6 33.Ra7 Kg7
34.Kh2 Kg6 35.Kh3 f6!
Establishing the amazing pawn box! Of course, white’s next move destroys it (nibbles it), but at least we had it on the board for a half-move. The most aesthetic thing about the box is that the move 35…f6! is actually useful, sheltering the black king from checks and preparing to eat the morsel on d5.


36.Kxh4 Rxd5 37.Kh3 Rd4 1/2-1/2


I would ask readers here, too, is there a structural search to show how many prior games had Ye Olde Boxe?

The Fabulous 80s: Fun and Chess in Eeklo Belgium

November 16, 2007

Belgium has always been a nice place to play. Eeklo is in Flemish Belgium (Dutch language, no French) nestled near the Dutch border (Sas van Gent, Holland, has been another location for the event). It is slightly larger than the proverbial one-horse town that would be a one-horse town if somebody gave it a horse. In the center of town, there was a cafe with the crowd-pleasing “crevette salade” – very yummy.

Here is a battle versus future GM Danny King in the Eeklo, Belgium ECI International. There is also a concomitant ECI Youth Open. Luminaries who have played in this event in years past include John van der Wiel, David Goodman, Pavel Blatny, Philipp Schlosser, Ferdinand Hellers, Erik Pedersen, and more!

Danny King – IM M. Ginsburg ECI 1983 Eeklo, Belgium

1. Nf3 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. g3 Nf6 4. Bg2 O-O 5. O-O d6 6. c4 Nbd7 7. Nc3 e5 8. h3 c6 9. e4 Re8 10. Re1 exd4 11. Nxd4 a5 Needless to say white has good chances to gain an edge starting from here, but white’s next few moves seem tentative.

12. Rb1 Nc5 13. b3 Nh5 14. Be3 Be5!? White can’t repel with f4 because the g3 pawn would be hanging. The text sets up an unusual re-arrangement to keep black’s piece activity alive, but in retrospect it’s a little dubious.


15. Qd2 Ne6 16. Nde2?! 16. Nxe6 Bxe6 17. g4! is a strong idea. Black is running severely short of space after 17…Ng7 18. f4 Bf6 19. g5 Be7.

16…Qf6 17. Rbc1?! And here, 17. Na4! eyeing b6 is strong. Sometimes it’s best to simply vacate the a1-h8 diagonal in King’s Indian structures, leaving black’s pieces pointing at nothing.

17… g5! 18. Rf1 If 18. Na4 now, black has 18…Nhf4! (not 18…Nef4? 19. Nb6!) with counterchances.


I have managed to totally confuse the strong captain of the white forces with my unusual play. This move prohibits white’s agenda with f2-f4 in the most radical way and cements black’s advantage. A classic example of two sides each pursuing their own agenda, almost unmindful of the other, with one side arriving slightly earlier at the goal.


19. g4 Ng7 20. Ng3 h5 21. f3 Nge6?! 21…hxg4 22. fxg4 Qh6! is strong.

22. Nce2! White hunkers down an plays a set of optically horrific moves, but in fact they are strong and limit black’s pull to a minimum.

22… hxg4?! Stronger is the immediate 22…Qh8! – it is careless to let white operate on the f-file right away.

23. fxg4 Qh8 24. Bxf4 Nxf4 25. Nxf4 Bxf4


26. Rxf4!? White is doing his best to stay afloat.

26…gxf4 27. Nh5 Qe5 28. Rf1 Re6! A very useful transfer of the rook for offensive and defensive purposes. See the note to black’s 32nd move for how I should have to used this rook to get at white’s king.

29. Rxf4 Rg6 Of course there is some risk that the rook will wind up stranded here with nothing to do – which occurred in the game after I made a mistake!

30. Qf2 Be6 31. h4? A major mistake. This is tactically playable due to the fork on f6 but it’s much too optimistic and now black should win. Correct was 31. Nf6+ Kg7 32. Nh5+ Kf8 33. Qb6! with counterplay; for example 33…Qc5+ 34. Qxc5 dxc5 35. e5! and white is OK.

31…a4! This calm reply puts white in a lost game.

32. b4 A desperate bid at counterplay. If black opens the a-file for the rook it will all be over very soon.

32…c5? First of all, 32…a3! keeps a huge edge. Secondly, I must have been scared of the obvious capture 32…Bxc4! 33. Qb6 Qe7? 34. Qd4, but I had a brilliant sequence here: 32…Bxc4! 33. Qb6 Kh8! 34. Qxb7 Rag8! (every piece attacking) 35. g5 Qc3! 36. Qxc6 Qe3+! 37. Rf2 Qe1+! 38. Bf1 Rxg5+!! and mate in 9! The text doesn’t throw away black’s edge, but it’s third-best. It would have been very nice (for me) to snatch the pawn and then find the mating variation, but it was not on my radar at the time.

33. bxc5 Qxc5?

A big blunder after a small blunder that destroys my hopes of winning. Correct is 33…dxc5! keeping the blockade and black has every chance to win. For example, 34. Nf6+ Kg7 35. g5 Bxc4 36. Rf5 Qd4 with a small black edge. If I converted, this would give me first place in the tournament and relegate Danny to 2nd.

34. Qxc5 dxc5 35. e5 Kh8 36. Nf6 Rd8 37. Bd5!


White has skillfully bottled black up – a consequence of my little miscue at move 32 and big miscue at move 33 which released the blockade.

37…Kg7 38. g5 Bxd5 39. cxd5 b5 40. Kf1 c4 41. Ke2 At adjournment we decided to call it quits, although white now has a huge positional bind. It clinched tournament victory for Danny.


And so Danny captured 1st place and I finished 2nd, to the delight of his Belgian lady cheering section.

Ths game reminds me of the famous quote by Lord Alfred Tennyson (good for barking out after any draw):

“Faultily faultless, icily regular, splendidly null,
Dead perfection; no more. “

That was the result of the game – a big fat null.

Since chess players need culture, a picture of Lord Tennyson to go with his great quote:

Jumping ahead to the end of the decade, here is a battle versus Marjan Mitkov from the same event, 1989. I think he may be the brother of GM Nikola Mitkov who resides in the USA.

Marjan Mitkov – Mark Ginsburg ECI 1989 King’s Indian 4 Pawns Attack

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Be2 O-O 6. f4 c5 7. d5 b5 8. cxb5 a6 9. Nf3? This allows a simple trick.

9…axb5 10. Bxb5 Nxe4! 11. Nxe4 Qa5+ 12. Nc3 Bxc3+ 13. bxc3 Qxb5 14. Kf2 Qc4! Freezing white’s weak pawns.


Position after 14…Qc4! 

15. Qd2 Bb7 16. Re1 Re8 17. a3 Bxd5 18. Qe3 Bxf3?  There is no reason to give up this strong bishop.

19. Qxf3 d5 20. f5 Nd7 21. Bg5 e5 22. Qh3 Qa4 23. Kg1 f6 24. fxg6 hxg6 25. Qd3 Kg7 26. Bd2 Qc6 27. c4 d4 Well, it looks really awful for white anyway.  Nevertheless, he succeeds in finding chances!


 Position after 27…d4.  White finds some chances.

28. Re4 f5 29. Rh4 Rh8 30. Qh3 Rxh4 31. Qxh4 Nf6
32. Qh6+ Kf7 33. Rf1 Rxa3 34. g4!
White is not quitting and the game gets very exciting in mutual time trouble.


 Position after 34. g4! – Excitement!

34…fxg4 35. Qh7+ Ke6 36. Qxg6 Rf3 37. Ra1 e4 38. Bg5 Ke5 39. Ra7 e3 40. Re7+ Kd6 41. Bxf6 White has gained a piece in the time scramble.


Position after 41. Bxf6 – White is up a piece after the time control.
41…Rf1+!  But black finds an aesthetic shot that forces mate!

42. Kxf1 Qf3+ 0-1

This combination was very satisfying to play because it was at the tail-end of a series of blows and counter-blows.

Photo Time

From the 1985 ECI Eeklo event (I won the IM section ahead of future GM Ferdinand Hellers), here is the USA junior representative, Revi Schea.


USA Junior representative Revi Schea, Eeklo Belgium 1985