Archive for the ‘Chess Journalists’ Category

The Fabulous 00s: A New Chess.FM Segment

June 11, 2008

Upholding the Sicilian – A new Chess.FM Segment

I am preparing a series of ICC Chess.FM lectures on “Upholding the Sicilian” (1. e4 c5) against various unusual white tries. John Henderson is producing the series and Andy MacFarland is the production engineer.

The first two segments are devoted to the Smith-Morra gambit (1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3).

Using games I have collected and analyzed, I collate and distill the findings to give the best black responses in each case. Some of the games are historical classics (Smith-Evans, San Antonio 1972; Fischer-Korchnoi Buenos Aires 1960) and some are brand new analyses created by me working in conjunction with my faithful friend Rybka. In some lines, black can even turn the tables and attack white’s king!

I have collected the various findings at the end of ‘aries’ library on ICC.

Dovetailing with “Manest” (Alex Lenderman) Lectures

The Smith-Morra segment is particularly interesting because it dovetails into another set of Chess.FM lectures given by IM Alex Lenderman. In his segments, he presents the Smith-Morra from the white side. I focus on black’s resources and in combination we do have a very interesting “360 degree” look at this interesting gambit.

Future Plans and Website Feedback

In the future, I will develop and present research on the Alapin (1. e4 c5 2. c3), the Grand Prix Attack (1. e4 c5 2. f4, or 1. e4 c5 2. nc3 Nc6 3. f4), the Moscow (1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+) and more.

I will devote space on this website for reader feedback so we can grow the analysis tree.

Unrelated Photos of the Day

The 1985 Columbia University Pan-Am Squad

Mystery IMs

The Fabulous 00s: The 2008 US Championship Qualifier in Tulsa, OK

March 30, 2008


The 2008 Qualifier was held in a restaurant-less roadside motel. Here’s a picture of a sushi train in the eponymously named nearby eaterie, Sushi Train.  See this post for some chess theory from the event.


The Sushi Train Comin’ to Getcha

Sushi Train was a hoot. The train circles the patrons continuously and it’s just one big fish pig-out. Ilya Gurevich and I used to go to a place in Japantown, San Francisco, with a similar (but smaller and less fancy) train. Sushi Train’s train was gaily decorated and had a little signal and warning bar that raised and lowered. It even had a locomotive with a little guy in there and a train-repair car! Of course, food critics might say “Fish in Tulsa??”

To get to Sushi Train, it was necessary to cross several major intersections. Chess players were often seen clutching their equipment bags and running for their life after “overlooking” some people had a green left turn arrow. Other attractions in the area included KMart, Chili’s, a boobie barn named “Tabu” and a rock music nightclub in the playing site. The playing site, some sort of Best Western, had no restaurant, opting for a rather bizarre “club only” option. Here’s a picture of the boobie barn which was conveniently located near a diamond wholesaler that was going out of business. Thus, a possible course of action is to pick up a 70% discounted diamond then head over to Tabu with some nice tips for the dancers in the form of loose stones.


The Boobie Barn “Tabu” it’s the hut under the Forced Liquidation Sign


My own games were a dismal collection. After the “high” of Foxwoods, I had a “bummer”. Too many games packed into each day, an endless assortment of bad take out food (Fedorowicz looked at my gruel-like soup that I was slurping out of a styrofoam container and said “Looks Good”) and a nerve-wracking time control (G/90 + 30 sec delay) led to numerous shall we say sub-optimal resuls. For example, in Round 1 I lost to Coleman. FM Teddy Coleman? No, an expert, Maxx Coleman. My ingenious opening combination led to the immediate loss of a piece which he of course overlooked. The blunder fest continued with me walking into a knight fork. Bravo! After a few wins, I pulled up lame again with a loss to a candidate master, overlooking a one-mover in a slightly superior ending with no losing chances. Bravo!

There were a few chessic things worth mentioning.

Hanken Parts with the Dude

Round 1 saw a wipeout – GM Alex Yermolinsky dropped the People’s Elbow on Jerry Hanken when Jerry ignored every basic opening principle. You can’t do that against GMs. Hanken “parted with the Dude” (his own King) in short order on the white side of a Catalan, which is rather difficult to do.

Jerry Hanken – GM Alex Yermolinsky Round 1. A Catalan Not to Be Emulated.

1.c4 e6 2.g3 d5 3.Bg2 Nf6 4.Nf3 dxc4 5.Qa4 Nbd7 6.O-O a6 7.Qxc4 b5 8.Qc2 Bb7 9.d4 c5 10.Bg5 I believe this position was discussed in GM Beliavsky’s autobiography, Uncompromising Chess. But not the way this game develops.

10…Rc8 11.Qd1 h6 12.Bc1?? Ugh. Never anti-develop versus a GM.

12…Qb6 13.Nc3 cxd4 14.Qxd4 Bc5 15.Qh4 Ke7 16.g4 Ugh. 16…g5 17.Qh3 Qc7 18.Ne1 Ne5 19.Bf3 Rcg8 20.Nd3 Nxf3 21.exf3 Bd6 22.Ne4 Nxe4 23.fxe4 Bxe4 24.Ne1 h5 25.f3 Grotesque. A computer would have resigned. 25…hxg4 26.Bxg5 Rxg5 27.Qxh8 gxf3 0-1 I haven’t seen such senseless butchery since watching the CNN evening news.

Squelching the Moptop

Then in Round 2 we had a very instructional sequence. IM Josh Friedel in a very Russian-styled (think Lein of the old days) game neutralized and then tortured young Daniel Naroditsky when Daniel played a very slow King’s Indian “Attack” as white and then horribly weakened his own f4 square with an instructive positional mistake. That is a very youthful mistake; once a youth makes it, he or she remembers and it tends not to happen again! Trips to Russia will teach one how to play in that grand CCCP-torture mode. Here is the game:

FM Daniel Naroditsky – IM Josh Friedel Round 2 King’s Indian “Attack”

1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 c6 Many Russians play 2…Bg4 right away here.

3.Bg2 Bg4 4.O-O Nd7 5.d3 e5 6.Nbd2 Ngf6 7.e4 Bd6 8.c3 O-O 9.Qc2 Re8 10.h3 Bh5 11.Re1 Bf8 12.a4 a5 13.Nf1 This already is a bit suspect. What’s the horse doing?

13…dxe4 14.dxe4 Nc5 15.g4?? The moptop plays a dreadful move that causes no end of torture for himself.

15…Bg6 16.Ng3 Qd3! Of course. Now it’s cake for black. White just isn’t having any fun at all; why is the word ‘attack’ in this opening treatment?

17.Qxd3 Nxd3 18.Re2 Nd7 19.Nh4 N7c5 20.Be3 Rad8 21.Nxg6 hxg6 22.Nf1 Nb3 23.Rb1 Bc5 24.Bf3 Bxe3 25.Rxe3 Nf4

Total domination. A slightly older kid might resign right now with such a bishop battling such a knight.

26.Kh2 Nd2 27.Nxd2 Rxd2 28.Kg3 g5 29.b4 axb4 30.Rxb4 Re7 31.Rb6 Red7 32.Re1 Rc2 33.Rb3 Ne6 34.Rd1 Rxd1 35.Bxd1 Rc1 36.Bf3 Nc5 37.Ra3 Rc2 38.a5 Kf8 39.Bg2 Rb2 40.f3 Rb3 41.Ra2 Rxc3 42.Kf2 Rc4 43.a6 bxa6 44.Bf1 Ra4 45.Rc2 Ra5 46.Rb2 Ke7 47.Rb8 Ra2 48.Kg3 Ra3 49.Kg2 a5 50.Ra8 f6 51.Ra7 Kd6 52.Rxg7 Rc3 53.Rf7 Nd7 54.Ba6 a4 55.Bc8 Nb6 56.Bf5 a3 57.Rxf6 Kc5 58.Rf7 Nc4 59.Ra7 Rc2 60.Kg3 Ne3 61.f4 Nf1 62.Kf3 gxf4 0-1

Greed Should Not Be Good

In Round 3, a perplexing situation arose in a Sicilian versus NM Erik Santarius:

E. Santarius (2203) – IM M. Ginsburg Tulsa Qualifier, Round 3. Sicilian Scheveningen.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e6 I am gaining confidence with this move after the epic Becerra encounter from Foxwoods 2008.

6. Bd3 Unusual and a little clunky and self-blocking. 6…Nc6! This must be the right reaction.

7. Be3 7. Nxc6 bxc6 promises zero.

7….Be7 8. f3 O-O 9. Qe2 Nxd4! A standard freeing strategem.

10. Bxd4 e5 11. Be3 Be6 Black has his share of the center and the chances are balanced. After all, white has not even managed to castle in either direction yet. But now the game takes a very strange turn.

12. Bc4!? Rc8 13. Bxe6?! I would prefer 13. Bb3 keeping an eye on things. I had no idea what he was up to at this point but it was really the next move that was the absolute shocker.

13…fxe6 14. Bxa7??! Oh. My. God. Did he really take that pawn? Never would I have guessed that any opponent no matter what rating would take this pawn. I don’t usually look at my opponent, but this time I had to take a quick glance to see if he had gone non compos mentis. He looked normal so my sanity check didn’t work. The text seemed at the time to be totally nuts and/or the product of a bad computer program circa 1990. Can he really do that? At the time, I thought “No way!”. He’s not castled, I have possibilities of Rxc3 and Qa5 with a subsequent d6-d5 breakout, or b6 trapping the guy long-term, or Qa5 right away keeping b6 in reserve, or d6-d5 right away keeping Rxc3 and Qa5 in reserve. So many juicy and titillating choices! Running computer programs on the position is a real mother-lode of interesting possibilities now, so in practical terms his pawn snatch really puts the onus on me to be accurate in a very limited time setting (Game/90 + 30 sec delay was the time control).

The variations now are incredible – the hunt for punishment for this move takes a number of twists and turns.

Readers: I will complete this game post soon; for the time being, just look and decide what you think is Black’s best here. Can I punish this audacious, un-castled, pawn grab? Signs point to yes, yes? So what’s the right move?


Position after 14. Bxa7??! – How to punish the greed?

Before posting the rest, I will just note that the game was drawn, with black barely holding a bad ending with R&active N vs RR.

4/3/08: As promised, here is the rest of the game.

14…Rxc3? Not a good reaction. First of all, black has 14… b6!? – a good move and ambitious. 15. Qa6 (15. Nb5 Qd7 16. a4 Ra8 17. a5 bxa5 18. Rxa5 Rfb8!! Black would need good tactics to see this move way ahead of time. Black is now slightly better. 19. O-O Rb7 20. c4 Bd8 21. Ra6 Rbxa7 22. Nxa7 Rxa7 23. Rxa7 Qxa7+ 24. Kh1 Bb6 25. b4 Bd4 26. b5 Nd7 and black is very good. Or, 15. a4 Rxc3! 16. bxc3 Qc7 17. Qe3 Qxa7 18. a5 Nd7 19. O-O d5 and again black is doing well. I did not see the shot on my 14th move. Returning to 15. Qa6, 15… Nd7 16. a4 Bh4+!? (16… Rxc3 17. bxc3 Qc7 18. Ke2 Qxc3! The strongest. Black is a little better.) 17. g3 Rxf3 18. a5 Re3+ 19. Kf2 Nc5 20. Qb5 Qg5 and now let’s show a nice sample variation: 21. Ne2 Nxe4+ 22. Kg2 Nxg3 23. hxg3 Rxg3+ 24. Kf2 Qe3+ 25. Kf1 Rf3+ 26. Kg2 Qf2 mate.

Black also has the tantalizing 14… d5?! – at the time, I thought about this move quite a bit with the idea of Rxc3 next. However, white maintains an edge if I take the n/c3 next turn and I did not understand that. There might follow 15. exd5 exd5! This simple recapture never occurred to me. It’s about equal. (I had focused on 15… Rxc3? 16. bxc3 Qa5 and this is refuted by 17. Qxe5! Qxa7 18. Qxe6+ Rf7 19. Rd1 and White is simply better here. Black has no avenues of attack.) 16. O-O-O (An important variation is 16. O-O!? b6 17. Nb5 Bc5+ 18. Kh1 e4 19. a4 Nh5 A very nice slow-motion positional move, ignoring the queenside piece formation. 20. g3 (20. a5 Nf4 21. Qd1 e3 22. Nc3 bxa5 23. Bxc5 Rxc5 24. Re1 d4 25. Ne2 Ne6 26. Qd3 Qd6 27. Kg1 Rg5 28. Qe4 Rb8 29. b3 Re5) 20… Qd7 21. f4 Qh3 with a mess.

Returning to 16. O-O-O, 16… Rxc3 17. bxc3 Qa5 18. Bf2 Qxc3 19. Kb1 Qb4+ 20. Kc1 Qa3+ 21. Kb1 Bb4?? loses, 22. Qxe5 Bc3 23. Qe6+ Kh8 24. Qb6 Cold shower! White wins. This means black should take the perpetual check draw.

There also is 14… Qa5 , a fine, solid choice. White has to play 15. Bf2 — if 15. Qe3?? Nd7! and oops! White loses the bishop on a7 and the game. I don’t even think I saw this simple possibility – it’s a nice trap.

White has another inferior choice, 15. Be3?! This is dubious, but it takes sharp vision to know why. The answer is 15… d5! and NOT 15… Rxc3?? 16. Bd2! – oops!

After 15….d5!, 16. Bd2 Qc5 17. exd5 exd5 : in this bizarre scenario, white cannot castle in either direction. If the greedy 18. Qxe5? Bd6 19. Qf5 Rce8+ 20. Kd1 (20. Kf1 Ne4! wins) 20… Qf2! and White’s position crumbles. For example, 21. Qg5 (21. Qh3 d4 22. Ne4 Nxe4 23. fxe4 Rxe4 24. Qd3 Qxg2 25. Re1 Qg4+ 26. Kc1 Rxe1+ 27. Bxe1 Bf4+ 28. Kb1 Re8 {A total rout; white must resign.}) 21…Re5 22. Qg3 Re1+ 23. Bxe1 Qd4+ 24. Kc1 Bxg3 25. Bxg3 Qc4!! A beautiful tactic. It shows how black has to open the game versus the loose, uncastled, WK in order to win.

Returning to the game,

15. bxc3 Qa5 16. Qe3! d5 17. a4 Qb5 This position is worse for black than I thought during the game.

18. Bc7?! Indicated is 18. a4 Qc4 (18… Qc6 19. O-O d4 20. Bxd4! exd4 21. cxd4! and white is much better – black’s minor pieces have no perspectives) 19. Qd3 Qc6 20. Ba5 with white edge.

18… Nd7? Correct is 18… dxe4! with full counterplay. This simple move was simply not on my radar.

19. exd5 exd5 20. a4? The grab 20. Bxe5! is correct and black cannot exploit the WK. White should win that.

20…Qc6 21. Ba5 e4 22. Bb4 Bh4+ 23. Kd1 Re8 24. Rf1 Bf6 25. a5 h6? Bad move! This game really showed a lot of inaccuracies in such a short time, on both sides.

Correct is 25… Ne5! and black is all right.: 26. Qc5 (26. fxe4 dxe4 27. Qc5 Qe6 28. Kc1 Nc4 29. Qh5 e3 30. Qe2 Rc8 {Full positional compensation.}) 26… Qe6 27. Re1 Nc4 28. Qb5 Bg5 29. Qxb7 Ne3+ 30. Kc1 exf3 31. Kb2 f2 32. Rxe3 Bxe3 33. a6 Qf7 and it is equal.

26. f4! Of course. White has control again.

26…Rc8 27. Rf2 Qc4 28. Qe2 Bxc3 29. Qxc4 Rxc4 30. Bxc3 Rxc3 31. Rb1 e3 32. Rf3 Nc5 33. Rb4 Kf7 34. f5 Kf6 Of course black should lose but in this crazy time control (G/90 + 30 sec increment), well played endings are impossible.

35. Rg4 Ra3 36. Ke2 Rxa5 37. Rxe3 Ra2 38. Rc3 Ne4 39. Rc7 Kxf5 40. Rgxg7 b5 41. Kd3 Ra1 42. Ke2 b4 43. Rgf7+ Ke5 44. Rf1 Ra2 45. Re1 Kd4 46. Kf3 Nc3 47. Rc1 Ra6 48. Rf7 Re6 49. Rf4+ Kc5 50. Ra1 d4 51. Ra5+ Kc4 52. Rff5? In time pressure, white missed 52. Ra8! Re3+ 53. Kg4 Re2 54. Rc8+ Kd5 55. Rd8+ Kc5 56. Rf5+ Kc6 57. Rxd4 Rxg2+ 58. Kh3 Rxc2 59. Rc4+ Kd7 60. Rxb4 and wins. Not an easy variation.

52… Re3+ Immediately equal was 52… b3 53. cxb3+ Kxb3 =

53. Kg4 b3 54. cxb3+ Kxb3 55. Rf2 d3 56. Ra6 Ne4 Black tricks himself with 56… h5+ 57. Kxh5 Ne4 58. Rf8 d2 59. Rd8 Re2 60. Rc6 Nc3 61. Rd3!! and wins.

57. Kf4 Re1 58. Re6?! White can dance around and eventually prevail with 58. Rf3 Nc5 59. Rc6 Kb4 60. Rf2 Nb3 61. Rb6+Kc4 62. Rd6 Kc3 63. Rd8 Nc5 64. Kg4 Re2 65. Kf3. However, he had very little time and decided to go for the easy draw.

58… Nxf2 59. Rxe1 d2 60. Rf1 Kc3 61. g4 Kd3 62. Kf3 d1=Q+ 63. Rxd1+ Nxd1 64. h4 Ne3 65. Kf4 Ng2+ 66. Kf5 Nxh4+ 67. Kf6 Nf3 68. Kg6 1/2-1/2 Almost to the proverbial last pawn.

Dealing with the Semi-Slav Harshly

In the entire Tulsa event, I had one bright spot in a game vs. Conrad Holt:

IM M. Ginsburg – C. Holt, Tulsa Qualifier 2008. Round 4. Slav Defense.

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. g3!? I like this gambit idea without the knight yet on c3. Magnus Carlsen had some nice wins with this line recently. In particular, I believe he dispatched the veteran GM Lajos Portisch rather convincingly.

4…Bf5 5. Bg2 e6 6. O-O Nbd7 7. Nc3 Bd6 8. Nh4 Bg4 9. h3 Bh5 It’s useful to put bishop a little offside. White shouldn’t go crazy, though, and expose his own king to attack.

10. Qb3 Rb8 10…Qb6 11. c5! is no fun at all for black. After 11…Qxb3 12. axb3, b3-b4-b5 happens.

11. cxd5! The right moment. Now black cannot take back with a pawn and so must take with the knight, and this concedes white a big center.


Position after 11. cxd5! – I am at least doing something right this tournament.

11…Nxd5 12. e4 Nxc3 13. bxc3 O-O 14. f4 b5 15. Nf3 Bxf3 White forced this concession. The two bishops will become very powerful when the game opens up.

16. Bxf3 c5 Black is doing his best to make counterplay. Now I hatch a very strong idea to defuse black’s principal idea of b5-b4.

17. e5 Be7 18. f5! The key idea. White must attack quickly and open the game for the bishops.


Position after 18. f5! – Hurry-up offense.

18…exf5?! I would prefer not taking although white is clearly better. The text gives up the d5 outpost.

19. Bf4! g5? Suicide and a move I did not really expect to see. Any other move defending against e6 would be better.

20. Be3 b4 21. Qc2! Black is now toast due to the threat of Qxf5 and Be4, mating. The rest of the game is a mop-up with the bishop pair showing some stylish variations near the end.

21…Qb6 22. Qxf5 Qe6 23. Qe4! The threat of Bg4 is lethal.

23…Qxh3 24. Rf2 Qh6 25. Bg4 Rbd8 Now, with a big time edge, I got confused. Can I win/mate with 26. Rh2 Qg7 27. Bf5 h6 28. Kg2 with the idea of doubling rooks on the h-file and jettisoning my c- and d-pawns? Suppose I calculate wrong? Things get kind of sharp. More perplexing, after black takes on c3 and proceeds to take on d4, I might be able to recapture on d4. But this doubling on the h-file looked so primitive! In the end, I decided just to advance my monster center pawn duo.

26. d5 (!) The simplest. 26…Rfe8 To guard against d6 winning the bishop.

27. Raf1 Bd6 28. e6! Crushing.

28…fxe6 29. Bxe6+ Kh8 30. cxb4! It’s always nice to be able to afford moves like this. White is simply playing to get on the a1-h8 diagonal.

30…Bxg3 31. bxc5 So obvious it does not merit an exclamation. 31…Bxf2+ 32. Rxf2 Nf6


Position after 32…Nf6

33. Bd4! A little embarrassing would be 33. Rxf6? Qxf6 34. Bd4 Rxe6! – a nice and unusual trick exploiting various pins – allowing black to play on after 35. Bxf6+ Rxf6 36. Qe7 Rdf8. White might win, but why bother? The text puts black in a terminal bind.

33…Rf8 34. c6 Qg7 35. Qe5 Nh5 36. c7! With utter destruction. Black resigned. If only my other Tulsa games were coherent.


More Photos!

Some Tulsa-ites (Tulsites?) (Tulsians?) (Tulipers?) (Tulsonians?) have a social conscience!

Tulsans against the War

A Tulsonian Makes Her Stand

Grandmaster Goldin doesn’t know what to do order in the fast food grill joint! (inconveniently, across a frontage road from the site, but for $2 Tulsa burgers, this is the place.

Goldin in the Grill Joint

What the Hell is this Strange Menu? Emu Burger? Yak Filet?

Tulsa had a strange habit of putting micro-ads into the scrub grass. These little signs only attracted the attention of vagrants, transients, and chess players staggering along the highway frontage road.

Here are some of the odd signs.

4 Handed Massage?!

Intriguing. I will call.

Trees are Good

Oh Yeah! Tulsa supports the Occasional Tree Amongst the Billboards!

Even More Chess!

There were many interesting games played.

Here’s a fascinating tangle from Round 4.

IM Blas Lugo – GM Jesse Kraai French Exchange

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 dxe4!? 5.Nxe4 Be7
A favorite treatment of GM Evgeny Bareev. This is not as quiet as it appears since the kings wind up on opposite sides often. It has the advantage of avoiding many long mainline theory variations.

6.Bxf6 Bxf6 7.Nf3 Nd7 8.Qd2 O-O 9.O-O-O Be7 10.Bd3 b6 11.Kb1 The primitive 11. h4 turned out to be too slow in Suetin-Bareev, Hastings 1991, and black won after 11…Bb7 12 Kb1 Nf6. To give a counter-example, White won after 11. h4 Bb7 12. c3!? Nf6 13. Neg5 Bxf3 14. gxf3, but this position is equal after 14…Qd5. Black played 14…Kh8?! and lost in Topalov-Dreev, Linares 1995. The text move, on the other hand, also doesn’t promise much – only 3 draws in Chessbase’s BigBase. A more dangerous try is 11. Neg5!? which hopes for 11…h6? — after 11. Neg5 h6?, white scored +4 =0 -0 in ChessBase! But there’s a curiosity here: in Volokitin-P.H. Nielsen, Germany 2004, the game went 11. Neg5 h6 12. Bh7+ Kh8 13. Be4 which at first glance looks good for white. However, at first glance black missed 13…hxg5 14. Bxa8 g4! and the threat of Be7-g5 wins material for black! In the game, black played 13…Bxg5 14. Nxg5 Rb8 and lost. However, he was doing OK after 15. Nf3 Nf6 16. Bc6 Qd6 17. Ne5 Ng4! 18. Nxg4 Qc6 – he only lost due to later middlegame miscues. The truth about 13…hxg5? is revealed in another example, J. Polgar – F. Berkes, Budapest 2003, white introduced an incredible gambit: 12. Bh7+ Kh8 13. Be4 hxg5? 14. g4!! (not the greedy 14. Bxa8?) and now black faces complex problems. White stops black from playing g5-g4 and prepares to open the h-file. In the game, black lost after 14…Rb8 15. h4 g6 16. hxg5+ Kg7 17. Qf4 and white crashed through. The question is, can black live after 14. g4? Let’s take a look. First of all, 14….Ba6 15. h4! gxh4 16. g5! is crushing. For example, 16…Kg8 17. Rxh4 f5 (What else?) 18. Bc6 Rc8 19. Rdh1 Kf7 20. d5! and wins. Let’s go back to Berkes’s choice, 14…Rb8. 15. h4 and first we see that 15…gxh4? is bad: 16. g5 g6 17. Rxh4+ Kg7 18. Rdh1 Rg8 19. Rh7+ Kf8 20. Qf4! and wins.

So we go to Berkes choice, 15…g6 16. hxg5+ Kg7 17. Qf4. This is critical. We first notice that 17…Ba6 is crushed by a typical Judit Polgar brute-force tactic 18. Rh7+!! Kxh7 19. Qh2+ Kg8 20. Rh1 Bxg5+ 21. Nxg5 Qxg5+ 22. f4! and wins. We also notice that Berkes’s choice, 17…Bb7?, was crushed by the same tactic.

what about 17…Rh8!? – trying to defend on the h-file. There follows 18. Rxh8 Qxh8 (forced) 19. Ne5! and now black cannot take: 19…Nxe5? 20. Qxe5+ Kg8 21. Qxc7 Bxg5+ 22. Kb1 and the rook on b8 is trapped; white wins. And after 19…Qe8 20. Rh1! the lethal threat of 21. Nxf7! is introduced. Black still cannot take on e5 and hence is lost.

Going back to the beginning, 11. Neg5!? is best met by 11…Bxg5! and now 12. Qxg5 Qxg5+ 13. Nxg5 Nf6 is dead equal. Or, 12. Nxg5 Nf6 and black is OK and even won in B. Lopez-Kraai, San Diego 2004. That game continued 13. Qf4 Bb7 14. Rhe1 Qd6!? and here white disdained an equal ending after 15. Qxd6, opting for 15. Qh4 h6 16. Nf3 (16. Ne4! equal) Bxf3 17. gxf3 Nd5 18. Re4, eventually getting into trouble with the weak d4 pawn. White tried 13. h4!? in Sax-Dizdar, Celje 2003, and black reacted suspiciously with 13…c5?! 14. dxc5 Qd5 15. Kb1? Qxc5 equal. But white missed 15. Qf4!! Qxa2 16. Nxh7! Nxh7 17. Qe4 Nf6 18. Qxa8 Qa1+ 19. Kd2 Qxb2 20. Qxa7 and white keeps a small plus. Stronger is 13. h4 Bb7! and black is fine.

11…Bb7 12.Qf4 c5 In Sindik-Dizdar, Pula 1993, black introduced an idea similar to the game: 12…Qb8!? 13. Qg3 c5! with good play. White can improve with 13. Ne5! c5 14. Bb5! Nf6 with sharp play after 15. Nxf6+ Bxf6 16. Rhe1 and now the Korchnoi pawn grab 16…Bxg2!?

13.dxc5 Qb8! Gambits in opposite-castled king positions are effective even in the ending! This is particularly true in the “perpetual time pressure” time control of G/90+30 sec.

14.Qxb8 Raxb8 15.cxb6 Nxb6 16.b3? Correct is the solid 16. Ned2! and hunkering down. This would not create the c3 weakness in the game.

16…Na4! Very unpleasant to meet in this time control. White probably overlooked this.

17.Rde1 Bxe4 18.Bxe4 Nc3+ 19.Kb2 Bf6 This position is terrible for white.

20.Bd3 Ne4 21.Kb1 Nxf2 22.Rhf1 Nxd3 23.cxd3 Rfd8 24.Re3 a5 25.Ne5 Rd5? Correct is 25…Bxe5 26. Rxe5 a4! and black is on top. For example, 27. Kc2 axb3+ 28. axb3 Ra8 29. Kc3 Ra2 with a huge initiative.

26.Nc6 Rb7 27.Rg3 Kf8 28.Rf4! White is doing the right things now to get back in the game.

28...Be5 29.Nxe5 Rxe5 30.Rc4 f5 31.Rf3? 31. Kc1!

31…Ke7 31…Re2! is strong. 32.Rf2 Rd7 33.Kc2 Red5 34.Rf3 Kf6 35.Kc3 g5 36.d4? 36. h4! to reduce the number of pawns.

36…f4 37.a3 Kf5 Now black is gaining control again with his monstrously active king.

38.Rc5? White had to wait with 38. Rf2. The pseudo-active text is crushed.

38…g4 39.Rf1 e5! White probably underestimated this.

40.Rxd5 Rxd5 41.dxe5 Rxe5 42.Kd2 h5 43.b4 axb4 44.axb4 h4 45.Rb1 f3 46.gxf3 gxf3 47.b5 Kg4! The key move. White is lost.

48.b6 f2 49.b7 Re8 50.Rb4+ Kh3 51.Rb3 Kg2 52.b8Q Rxb8 53.Rxb8 f1Q 54.Re8 0-1

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 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 70s: News of the Weird and my First Dzindzi Encounter

November 11, 2007

Chess Life & Review editor Burt Hochberg really foisted some lu-lu covers on the chessplaying masses in the 1970s.

Here is a typical shocker, Paul Morphy’s hand (actual size). Shades of the macabre Edgar Allen Poe!


A whole nation of chessplayers suddenly found themselves putting their hand on the cover photo to compare. And the truth became apparent: Morphy had a small, delicate, feminine hand. You can see for yourself by noticing the relative size of the push-pins.

When the nation got tired of macabre comparisons, it was time to look inside for the latest, juiciest, Rating List. Here is the State of the Union of the US Juniors, September 1977.


Some notable names and numbers:

Mark Diesen, World Junior Champion, heads the pack at 2440 (an astronomical rating back then). Close behind are Michael Rohde and Yasser Seirawan. Note the Whitehead brothers are neck and neck with Paul at 2269 and Jay at 2256. Girome Bono, #13, is still active on ICC. I used to play Karl Dehmelt (#16) quite a bit on Philadelphia-area tournaments. 13-year old Joel Benjamin is #22 at 2199 (one point shy of master!). I’m #18 at 2212. Moving down, “Collins Kid” Louis Cohen is #35 at 2142. Chess author John Donaldson is #37 at 2141 (a late-bloomer, obviously, at 18 years of age). Peter Winston is #41 at 2131 and right next to him is the fellow who wrote about him in a recent Chess Life, Charlie Hertan at 2129. Billy Adam, subject of my related article, is #46 at 2119. #47, Richard Kaner, won the National HS one year in a highly improbable upset year.

The under-16 list is also amusing. #33, Miles Ardaman, at 1784. #47, David Griego, at 1642. Everybody starts somewhere! The #2, Tyler Cowen, might have quit chess early but nobody can say he didn’t keep busy. And he has an amusing new book out titled “Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist” – I kid you not. In a weird cross-disciplinary coincidence, he was mentored in economics by Schelling at Harvard (author of the famous Schelling curves, showing incentives to contribute, and a key citation in my NYU Information Systems dissertation.

Just to convince people there’s actually chess on this site sometimes, here’s an upset win I scored over GM Roman Dzindzihashvili way back in December 1979 (The Chicago Christmas Masters/Experts). Ben Finegold quizzed me recently on ICC as to the existence of this game (his father witnessed it). Yes, it does exist, and here it is, unearthed from the tomb of my ancient scorepad pile.

NM Mark Ginsburg (2373) – GM Roman Dzindzihashvili (2595) Chicago Christmas M/E 12/30/79 Round 4.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Bd3 Nf6 6. O-O d6 7. c4 g6 8. Nc3 Bg7 9. Bg5

I was extremely familiar with this position, having just played Eugene Meyer a Kan-thematic training match in Washington, DC.

9…Nbd7 10. Kh1 b6 More careful was 10… O-O 11. f4 Qb6 12. Nb3 Qc7. In the early stage, Roman was playing quickly, obviously underestimating the unknown kid.

11. f4 Qc7 And now more circumspect was 11…O-O 12. f5 Ne5 13. fxg6 fxg6 14. Nf3 Nf7! 15. Bh4 Qc7 with a playable game.

12. f5 gxf5? This makes everything worse. Relatively best was 12… e5 13. Nc2 O-O 14. Ne3 Bb7 15. Rc1 Nc5 16. Ned5 Nxd5 17. Nxd5 Bxd5 18. cxd5 Qd7 19. f6 and white is much better, but not completely winning.

13. exf5 e5 Strangely, it’s already lost for black.


14. Ne6! The computer shows another unusually attractive way to win: 14. Nd5!! Nxd5 15. Ne6!! (an exquisite and extremely rare double knight sacrifice; you’ve heard of double bishop sacrifices (Lasker-Bauer) but how often have you heard of a double knight sacrifice?) 15…fxe6 16. Qh5+ Kf8 17. fxe6+ and white cruises. For example, 17…N7f6 18. cxd5 Qe7 19. Bxf6 (or keep sacrificing for a quicker kill, 19. Rxf6+! Bxf6 20. Rf1 Bxe6 21. dxe6 Qxe6 22. Rxf6+ Qxf6 23. Bxf6 and wins) 19… Bxf6 20. Qh6+ with destruction. At the time, I saw my 16th move “Excelsior” theme and decided to go for that. It wins easily enough, but I have to rate the computer line higher in creativity and speed of execution.

14… fxe6 15. fxe6 O-O 16. e7! A great move to be able to play against a strong player. Black’s rook is frozen to f8.


16…Bb7 The problem is that 16… Re8 is crushed by 17. Nd5 (or by 17. Rxf6 Nxf6 18. Bxf6 Bxf6 19. Nd5; it’s unusual that white has so many winning lines so early) 17… Nxd5 18. Bxh7+ Kxh7 19. Qh5+ Kg8 20. Qxe8+ Kh7 21. Qh5+ and this pleasing pendulum maneuver nets white a second queen. So black must resort to the text and the rest is just a mop-up with no special carefulness or technique required; a good thing because at this age I had none.

17. exf8=Q+ Rxf8 18. Nd5 Nxd5 19. cxd5 Rxf1+ 20. Qxf1 Nc5 21. Rc1 e4 22. Bxe4 Bxb2 23. Re1 Be5 24. Bf4 Qf7 25. Bxe5 Qxf1+ 26. Rxf1 dxe5 27. Bb1 Bxd5 28. Rf5! Nd7 29. Rh5! The very active rook cannot be stopped.

29…Bf7 30. Rxh7 Bxa2 31. Rxd7 Bxb1 32. Rd6 b5 33. Rxa6 Kf7 34. Kg1 Bd3 35. Kf2 Bc4 36. h4 Bd5 37. Rb6 Bc4 38. g4 Bd3 39. Ke3 Bf1 40. g5 Kg7 41. Ke4 1-0

After the game, Roman feeling the anger of losing to a weaker player (I’ve felt that way many times), said “You have just bought yourself bad luck for rest of life.” This was tame compared to the Bill Lombardy speech I received after Bill lost on time at a World Open, but I knew what Roman meant – I would be in for heavy weather the next couple of times we met. And indeed, the next time we met (I was white again) I won his queen but he gained too much play with a Rook, Knight and Pawn and scored a positionally well-executed victory that made it into the Robert Byrne New York Times column (World Open, 1980).


Here is that game:

M. Ginsburg – GM Roman Dzindzichashvili World Open 1980

1.g3 c5 2.Bg2 Nc6 3.e4 g6 4.Ne2 The sort of off-beat knight placement in anti-Sicilians favored by the dearly departed Billy Adam.

4…Bg7 5.c3 e5 6.O-O Nge7 7.Na3
O-O 8.Nc2 d5 9.d3 Be6 10.f4 dxe4 11.dxe4 Bc4 12.Bd2 Qd3 13.Rf2
Rad8 14.Ned4
The sort of tactic that might “work” but no player is very happy about executing. It wins black’s queen but gets a structurally very bad game.

14…exf4 15.Ne1 fxg3 16.Nxd3 gxf2 17.Nxf2 cxd4 18.Qc2
Be6 19.Kh1 dxc3 20.Bxc3 Nd4 21.Qb1 Nec6 22.Qf1 Ne5 23.b3 h5
24.Rd1 Ng4 25.Rd3 Nxf2+ 26.Qxf2 Nxb3 27.Qc2 Rxd3 28.Qxd3 Nc1
29.Qe3 Bxc3 30.Qxc3 Rc8 31.Qe3 Nxa2 32.h3 b5 33.Qxa7 b4 34.e5
b3 35.Qb7 Rc1+ 36.Kh2 Rc2 37.Kg3 Nc3 38.Be4 Nxe4+ 39.Qxe4 Rc3+

An amusing bygones-era photo collage of the combatants in this game – the unlucky GM, as you probably can guess, is on the left – his photo is circa 1992, I think, and mine was from April 1979:


The Short Life of Billy Adam

October 6, 2007

William (Billy) Adam was a Syracuse, NY (the same neck of the woods as now-Norwegian GM Jon Tisdall) master whose life only lasted from 1963 to 1982. He came from a large family – many sisters (not sure if any brothers). It was shocking when I saw his obituary at such a young age (only 19). When I heard about his death from Joel Benjamin’s dad, Alan, I thought it was a practical joke – too implausible to be true. To demonstrate the power of the Internet World Wide Web on modern society, (the ‘converse’ power to forget older news), Bill’s life (which ended pre-Web, 1982) is not to be found in any source I was able to uncover via Google. Readers?

Apparently according to the following letter Jon Schroer and I were planning a Chess Life eulogy but nothing came of that (click to enlarge).


Billy was a big natural talent. We had some adventures – for example he convinced me to save money and sleep under the chess tables in the Philadelphia World Open – a plan foiled by security guard flashlights at about 3:30 am (we were flushed into the bus terminal).   Billy rushed onto a bus that was idling with a sign in the front that said “Pittsburgh”.  I got him off that bus! And, in New York City, we even convinced IM John Watson to party with us one time. No small feat. Billy was a friendly kid with lots of energy.

The last few years of his life he spent as a student at SUNY Stony Brook, NY and he had mostly withdrawn from competitive chess, which was actually a big loss for chess.

Parallels with Peter Winston

One thing he had in common with Peter Winston:

Charlie Hertan writes in Chess Life magazine, “in November, 1977, when Peter had a miserable 0-9 result. He seemed a little off-kilter and baffled, as we all were, but I guess we chalked it up to his rustiness and terrible form at the time”. A strange coincidence, Billy Adam too had a baffling 0-and-something result in a US Junior. This included a dump where Billy played into Fool’s mate (the TD forfeited him, wisely). We can safely say that 0-and-something results from strong juniors are a clear signal for mental health intervention. If we had such intervention in either the Winston or the Adam case, they would probably be with us today.

I would like readers to chip in here with Billy Adam memories. I will hunt a game I played with him (he won in a Keres Attack, Philadelphia 1979) and post it here.

For now, I will simply relate that 1. e4 c5 2. d3 Nc6 3. f4 with the idea of g3, Bg2, Nb1-d2, Ng1-e2, was named by Billy as the “Billiam Attack.” Note the strange position of the white knights. He would keep flipping the knights with Nd2-f3, and, after a f4-f5, also get in the fearsome Ne2-f4.

Here’s a National HS Blog I found (‘A History of the National High School Chess Championship’, by Steve Immitt) that mentions a notable performance by 14-year-old Billy Adam.

Cleveland, OH 1977: The Ninth National High School returned to Cleveland, with 494 players. In the past 8 years, only once did either the top-rated player or a Master finish first (Larry Christiansen did both in 1973). The winner has usually been an Expert, as no one under 2000 has ever won (1976 was the only time it was won by a player ranked lower than 7th at the start). There is, however, an old National High School tradition of the “Cinderella A-Player,” an unknown player who has the tournament of his life only to fade at the end. This curious custom started at the first National High School in 1969, when Paul Jacklyn needed a last-round draw to win on tiebreak, but lost to John Watson. Nick Ocipoff was 6-0 when he blundered a winning position to jettison the title the following year. Peter Radomskyj had defeated the top-rated player to go 6-0 before losing to Christiansen in 1971. In 1976, Jake Meskin was 6-0 before he lost to Rich Kaner. Every time, the player who defeated the “Cinderella A-Player” went on the win the tournament himself. This year, 14-year old Bill Adam of Syracuse, NY was cast as Cinderella. Top-rated Yasser Seirawan (2364) was upset in round 3 by Chris Richmond (1809) of Burlington, VT, throwing open the path to the championship to Adam. After upsetting 2nd-rated Steve Odendahl (2217) he needed but a last-round draw on Board One with 6th-ranked Jim Thibault (2134) of Salem, MA. Jim sacrificed a piece for a crushing attack. Adam defended doggedly, only to be outplayed in the endgame. Thibault’s victory gave him 7 points and the best tiebreaks to capture the championship. Once again, the clock had struck twelve for Cinderella.

Some players that may be able to chip in with Billy memories: Jon Tisdall, Charlie Hertan, Jon Schroer, … (others?).

Breaking Billy Adam News

Breaking news from the ICC cyber universe, Oct 11, 2007: Firebug tells you: Billy Adams actually played in several tournaments in Rochester NY around that time. I may have a few games but definately Ron Lohrman may have some he played against Dr Marchand Stay Tuned!!!

The Fabulous 00s: The 2007 Miami International Open

October 5, 2007

When my good Word Press blog buddy FM Marcel Martinez (we cross-link, you see [wink wink]) told me about the First International Miami Chess Open, how could I resist? This event, organized by IM Blas Lugo, drew a host of good players: Mikhalevski, Becerra, Izoria, Shabalov, Nakamura, G. Hernandez, A. Zapata, and more.

The actual venue was a convention center next to the Sheraton hotel, itself close to the Miami airport. The venue had some quirks. First of all, cell phones went off all the time, and the people answering (usually kibitizers or players strolling around from lower sections) chose to answer in normal voices, not whispers! Secondly, sometimes the occasional mambo or Star Spangled Banner would erupt from an adjacent ballroom, and this happened in one amusing instance when Becerra and I had under 30 seconds in the not-for-the-faint-of-heart time control of G/90 + 30 second increment per move.

The games themselves were very interesting, and some were of high quality despite the constant rushing brought by the “gambling” time control. I gather this is a ‘normal’ time control now in FIDE events. It’s nuts! It ruins all complicated endings. And for what, to save a little time to go to Starbucks or the hotel bar?

Here are some of my efforts and I will also add some special games that I witnessed. By the way, you can find most of the games online at the Monroi site (but not the quicker schedule early games; only after the merge).

Snubbed by the Monroi Lady

The Monroi lady was busy running around taking pictures, but when I visited that weird site (replete with world clocks and electronic license tickets) I was surprised to see my games piloted by a faceless (photoless) individual whereas my opponent always had an actual, real, photo. I feel so left out and so anonymous, Monroi lady! I’m sorry I didn’t use your little box to record my games! Can we start again? Take my picture, Monroi lady (sniffle). Don’t leave me faceless, Monroi lady!

Let’s start with two smooth victories as White. In the first, I defuse a sharp junior by taking him out of his comfort zone – I steer the game into a Kramnikian bishop-pair torture structure.

IM M. Ginsburg – NM Corey Acor

G/90 + 30 sec increment per move

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d5 3. c4 e6 4. g3(!) My opponent astounded me after the game by relating that he was already improvising now. So the exclamation point for this fortuitous turn of events. Apparently he was most ready for 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e5!? – I’m usually a 1. c4 player and I wouldn’t enjoy seeing a Budapest on the board. Someone like IM Finegold, booked to gills versus the Budapest, would enjoy it very much.

4….c5 5. cxd5 Nxd5?! 5…..exd5, reaching a Tarrasch, is more reliable.

6. Bg2 Nc6 7. O-O Nf6 It is already difficult to suggest solid black continuations.

8. dxc5! White has no objection at all to reach a superior queenless middelgame.

8…Qxd1 9. Rxd1 Bxc5 10. a3 e5? Much too loose. White will be able to snipe at the center pawns effectively with the bishops. Black has to stay compact and hunker down.


11. Nc3 (0:18) Be6 (0:59) 12. b4 Bb6 13. e3! Extremely strong. White takes away key squares and resumes the harrassment of black’s center next.

13…Rc8 This optically good mechanical move (rook to semi open file) turns out to not help black at all so he might have wanted to castle here instead.

14. Bb2 O-O 15. Na4! (0:44) As simple as that, the position is now winning for white. A black ….Be6-b3 turns out to be a pseudo-threat. Black’s center is under intolerable pressure.

15…Bb3 Nothing else to do, but the text is insufficient. 15…Bc7 16. Nc5 is crushing – see a similar knight maneuver motif in my Glenn Bady game that immediately follows this one.

16. Nxb6 axb6 16…Bxd1 17. Nxc8 simply results in black losing a center pawn after the mass exchanges 17…Bxf3 18. Bxf3 Rxc8 19. Bxc6 – white wins easily.

17. Rdc1 (0:51) Nd7 (1:28) 18. Nd2! This maneuver is exceedingly strong. The knight travels to d6 via e4 and black is totally paralyzed. To make matters worse, he has virtually no time left. Not a pleasant situation.

18….Be6 19. Ne4 Rb8 (1:29) 20. Nd6 Nd8 21. Rc7 f6 As black, I might have given up here. In fact, yeah, I would have given up. It’s just no fun.

22. Rd1 f5 23. Bd5 Nf6 The rest is just black blitzing and white scooping up material as it is left en prise.

24. Bxe6 Nxe6 25. Re7 Ng5 26. Nxf5 Rf7 27. h4 Black had no time to think anymore.


27…Nh3+ 28. Kg2 Ng4 An amusing blitz tactic, but white has time left to figure out that 29. Kxh3?? is met by 29…Nxf2+. The knights get into an incredible tangle now, but the situation was mucho hopeless (do you like my Spanish?) of course.

29. Rxf7 Kxf7 30. f3 Ngf2 31. Rd2 g6 32. Nd6+ Ke6 33. Ne4 Once one pair of knights goes off, the other black knight is lost. Black recognized his plight and immediately resigned although he had built up a small bank of reserve time due to the 30 second per move increment.


Here’s a related effort versus Expert Glenn Bady (2137) from an earlier round. Readers will notice some common motifs.

IM Mark Ginsburg – Glenn Bady Miami Open 2007

1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3 Bc5 5.d3 d5? Highly suspect in conjunction with black’s previous move. 5…d6 is stronger, but the bishop is still exposed out on c5.
6.cxd5 Nxd5 7.Bg2 Nde7 White will be able to take advantage of this passive placement.

8.O-O O-O 9.Bd2 a6 10.Rc1 Ba7 11.a3 h6 12.b4 Bg4 13.Na4 The strange-looking 13. Be3!? is a try here and is a bit of a positional trap. If black takes on e3 (the wrong choice, strengthening white’s center), 13…Bxe3?! 14. fxe3 Nf5 15. Qd2 white can hope for some edge. Better is not taking and playing 13…Qd7 14. Bxa7 Rxa7 15. Na4 b6! keeping the knight out of c5. Play could continue 16. Re1 Bxf3! 17. Bxf3 a5! with excellent chances for full equality. Since most players would play to double white’s pawns with 13. Be3 Bxe3?!, this move is well worth considering.

13…Re8 14.Nc5 Qc8 15.a4 (?!) Things are looking very good, at least optically, for white. He is making progress on his agenda. However at this exact moment black has an interesting and hidden defense; therefore the careful 15. Re1 should have been considered nullifying the positional threat of Bg4-h3.


15…Rb8? A human move and a natural instinct to defend b7 without giving up the “lurking” bishop so carefully nestled away on a7. The computer finds an ingenious and dispassionate resource 15…Bxc5! 16. Rxc5 b6! 17. Rc4 Be6! driving the rook back. Then, after 18. Rc1 Bh3! 19. Qc2 Bxg2 20. Kxg2 b5! black can use the b7-g2 diagonal and he is close to equality. A really fantastic, anti-positional, counter-intuitive, and amazing computer variation to give black positional advantages of his own starting from a point where it looked like white was calling all the shots.

16.Re1! Getting back on the right course. This avoids the simplification threat ….Bg4-h3 and waits.

16…Ng6? I didn’t have long to wait. The text blunders a pawn. However, a move like 16…Qf5 leaves white on top as well. There simply isn’t anything meaningful to organize on the kingside and white is too active.

17.Nxa6! bxa6 18.Rxc6 Re6 19.Rc4 Rf6 20.Qc2 c6 21.Rc1 Bd7 Black’s position is a structural ruin.


22.Be1! I thought for a while and found this excellent regrouping which really winds the game up efficiently. This is important in crazy time controls like the one in Miami. White prepares Nf3-d2-e4 and black is helpless due to his numerous structural weaknesses. This unstoppable and very strong knight maneuver is very similar to the Acor game above (white moves 18 through 20). I only found this move after some cogitation; my original plan was 22. Be3?! but rushing to simplify, at the cost of some pawn structure disfigurement (although the pawns can be straightened, maybe, with a later d3-d4) is definitely second-best.

22… Qe8 23.Nd2 Ne7 24.Ne4 Rg6 25.Nc5 Bxc5 Once this bishop goes off the board, it’s smooth sailing for white.

26.Rxc5 Nd5? Makes it easier but of course black was losing anyway.

27.b5! axb5 28.axb5 Nf4 29.bxc6 Bg4 30.c7! Rc8 Forced. There’s no time to take a pawn: 30…Nxe2+ 31. Qxe2! Bxe2 32. cxb8=Q Qxb8 33. Rc8+ and white is up a piece.

31.f3 Bd7 32.gxf4 Bh3 33.Bg3! Bxg2 34.Rxe5! An effective zwischenzug. White remains a piece up.


Now here’s an interesting draw vs NM Marc Esserman – he was White in a topical Smith-Morra gambit.

NM Marc Esserman – IM Mark Ginsburg

Smith-Morra Gambit, Sicilian Defense

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.c3 dxc3 5.Nxc3 Nc6 6.Bc4 d6 7.O-O Nf6 8.Qe2 Be7 9.Rd1 e5

I don’t normally play this defense but it suddenly occurred to me to maybe use the d4 square later for my N on c6. I usually get the variation 1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3 Nc6 5. Bc4 d6 6. Nf3 a6!? and play that way. This is something new for me.  Philosophically, black has just handed over the d5 square but the f-rook is not ideally placed for white on d1. Black should be OK on the theory he hasn’t done anything really stupid yet.  “Book” lines bear this out.

10.Be3 O-O 11.Rac1  I am unable to determine how stupid or conversely playable 11. Bc5 is. In some minor games 11. Bc5 a6(!) occurred.

11…a6  Maybe this move is not so great. The immediate 11…Be6 looks sound.

12.b4!? An interesting space gaining move. Black is getting squeezed a little.  The obvious try 12. Nd5 can be met by 12…Nxd5 13. Bxd5 Bg4 or 13…Nb4 in both cases with a reasonable game.  Historical note: GM Nemet played the blunder 12. Nd5 Nxd5 13. Bxd5 Be6?? here which loses to 14. Bxc6 bxc6 15. Nxe5!; however his amateur opponent played 14. Rd2?? instead and lost, Caldelari-Nemet, Baden 1997. Again the odd move 12. Bc5 is possible; 12. Bc5 b6!? 13. Ba3 Rc8 with approximate equality.

A entirely different line is 12. a3!? – in a historical footnote, 12. a3 Bd7 13. b4 Rc8 14. Rd2 Ng4 15. Nd5 Nxe3 16. Qxe3 b5 17. Bb3 Bg4?? 18. Rdc2 and white won, Robert Shean-Peter Winston, US Open 1972.  Black missed the ingenious zwischenzug 17….Nd4!! 18. Rxc8 Nxf3 CHECK 19. Qxf3 Bxc8 with full equality. A rare early Peter Winston game score that I found by blind chance in ChessBase. 

12…Bg4  Consistent; reducing the defenders on d4.  12…Be6 is oddly playable though: 13. Bxe6 fxe6 14. Ng5 Qd7 15. Na4 looks scary aiming for the hole on b6, but black has 15…Nd4! 16. Bxd4 Qxa4 17. Bc3 Rfc8! (stopping Qc4) 18. Nxe6 a5! with the point that 19. bxa5 is met by 19….Qxe4 and black is OK.  A good example of strange “long-distance” piece coordination. 

13.a3 Rc8 14.Bb3 h6 Playable is 14…Qe8 getting out of the way.  I was already planning my strange and not very good concept introduced by my 16th move.



An important moment.

15…Bxf3?!  Not the best.   For no particularly good reason, I shied away from 15…Be6!? 16. Bxe6 fxe6 17. Qa2! because this move looked fearsome during the game. However, after the simple 17…Kf7! (not 17…Qd7? 18. Na4!) the try 18. Nh4 is met by the surprising 18…Ng4! – for example 19. Nf5 Nxe3 20. fxe3 Qd7 and black is somewhat better. Or, 19. Ng6!? Kxg6 20. hxg4 Kf7! and again black has some edge.  Another white move, 18. Na4, is met by the simple 18…Qe8 19. Nb6 Rd8 and nothing is apparent for white. Since black did not see this, he opts for the safer but weaker surrender of the two bishops and keeps working to try to gain control of d4. An interesting but flawed “secondary” defensive concept.  Another possibility, 15…Bh5!?, looked risky to me (in fact, it is risky to put the bishop offside after 16. g4 but let’s see….) After 16. g4 Bg6 the situation is murky. For example, the tactical white trick 17. Nh4 Bxe4 18. Nxe4 Nxe4 19. Ng6 gives black a chance to sacrifice: 19…Ng5! 20. Nxf8 Qxf8 (or 20…Bxf8) 21. Kg2 (21. Bxg5? Bxg5 with Nd4 coming; black edge) 21…Ne6 with a complex game where white might be a little better but there’s still a whole game ahead. 

16.Qxf3 Nh7?! With some ideas of Bg5, trading off a key piece.  However it “ignores the obvious.”

17.Rc2!? Logical; preventing the trade.  However white had the primitive 17. Nd5! Bg5 18. Bb6! Qd7 19. Rc3! with huge pressure. It’s not losing after 19…Nf6 20. Rcd3 Nxd5 21. Rxd5 Be7 22. a4!, but it’s no fun at all. (22….Nxb4 23. Rxe5 with a big edge).

17…Kh8?  Here I had the stronger 17…Bg5! and if 18. Bc5 dxc5! 19. Rxd8 Rcxd8 and white has to go through contortions to deal with Nd4. Black has good compensation for the queen.  An example variation is 20. Ne2 (20. Qg3 might be better; 20. Qg3 Nd4 21. Rb2 cxb4 22. axb4 Bf4 23. Qh4 Nxb3 24. Rxb3 Nf6 with approximate equality) 20…cxb4 21. Bd5? (21. axb4! Nf6! with a solid game; not 21…Nxb4? 22. Rc7 Nf6 23. Bxf7+! with an edge) 21…a5 22. Qb3 Nf6 23. Bxc6 bxc6 24. Rxc6 bxa3 and black is completely OK.  More importantly, I have good chances of getting the initiative in that position (25. Qxa3? Rd1+ 26. Kh2 Nxe4 is just bad; 25. Rc4 Rd2! is not that great either). It is very important when defending against a speculative gambit to seek an opportunity to counter-sacrifice and get aggressive.

18.Ne2 Qd7 19.Ng3 Nd4 Now this is the “panic” button, because white is amassing a fearsome attack. But it’s already bad for black; I missed a big chance on move 17.

20.Bxd4 Rxc2?  This is a blunder but 20…exd4 21. Qf5! is also horrible for black. For example, 21…Nf6 22. Rxc8 Qxc8 23. Qxc8 Rxc8 24. Bxf7 and white wins easily. I noticed the text move was a gross tactical oversight the moment I took the rook – a common phenomenon.

21.Bxc2?  White thinks for a little bit and then plays this lemon. Both sides miss the obvious tactic 21. Bxe5! and white has a big edge. The variations are clear: 21…Rc6 22. Nf5 f6 (disgusting) 23.Qg3 Ng5 24. Bd4! and black,  a rook up, does not have the faintest hope of surviving. Moves like Bd5 and h4 are coming up.  Or, 21. Bxe5 f6 22. Bxd6! (the simple 22. Bc3 Rxc3 23. Qxc3 also wins for white) Bxd6 23. Bxc2 Ng5 24. Qd3 Rd8 25. Nf5 Nf7 26. e5! and white wins.  Or the tragicomic 21. Bxe5 Rc7 22. Nh5 f6 23. Nf4! Qe8 24. Bd4 Ng5 25. Qg4 and black has no hope of surviving.

21..exd4 22.Rxd4 Bf6 23.Rd3  Be5  White still has uncomfortable pressure (as would be the case with 23…Ng5).  

24.Qe3 Qc7  The disgusting 24…Bxg3, going into total passivity, was relatively speaking one of the better moves.

25.Bb3 Rc8 I thought that this held up f2-f4, believing that 26. f4 Qc1+ won the pawn on f4.  Once again I make an elementary tactical oversight – maybe too much mambo in the next room over?

26.Ne2?  My thinking was flawed but once again white believes me.  26. f4! is very strong: 26…Qc1+ 27. Qxc1 Rxc1+ 28. Kf2! and since 28…Bxf4? 29. Ne2! wins for white, black has a terrible game.  For example, 28…Bb2 29. Rxd6 and wins. Another losing line is 26. f4! Bb2 27. Nf5! Qc1+ 28. Qxc1 Rxc1+ 29. Kf2 Bxa3 30. Nxd6 and wins.

26…Nf6 27.g3? These pawn moves in front of white’s king are a concession.  27. Rd2 with the idea of 27. Rc2 was much stronger. For example, 27. Rd2 d5?! 28. Rc2 Qd7 29. Rxc8+ Qxc8 30. f4 with a big edge.

27… Bb2 28.a4 Qe7! 29.f3 d5! This active defensive sequence saves the day.

30.exd5 Qxb4 31.Qd2  It appeared that white was reaching for 31. d6?? but of course then 31…Qe1+ 32. Kg2 Re8! would just win. White retracted his hand and played the sensible move.

31…Qxd2 32.Rxd2 Be5 33.Kg2 Kg8 34.Rd3 Kf8 35.f4 Bd6 36.Kf3 g6? If black hurries with his N to c5, he can even play for a win in this drawish ending, given the crazy time control. For example, 36…Nd7 37. Nd4 Nc5 38. Re3 g6 and black can keep playing although objectively of course it is still level.

37. Nc3  With this knight arriving soon on e4, there is nothing left to play for.


A very interesting Smith-Morra theory game.  Further analysis is required on 15…Be6!? or 15…Bh5!?.

Strangeness in the 1970s: Actual, Physical, Letters

October 2, 2007

In the old days, people wrote letters (not e-mail)!

Here is an example of a chessic correspondence. Click several times to enlarge.


A couple of things to note.

First of all, note the zeitgeist use of the word (Miss) in parentheses. Secondly, I have no idea what happened to this Evans book I supposedly won, nor do I remember ever seeing it. Thirdly, I have no idea what happened to RHM Press. And why did they have an office in Puerto Rico? At some point Burt Hochberg (the chief editor) got mad at me in the early 1980s, but more on that later.

Letters were not confined to contests. I would also routinely get mail regarding receipt of an entrance fee (particularly amusing were missives from “Peter Morris, Stoneyfields Lane, Edgware, Middlesex” for Lloyds Bank entries) and also post-event congratulation letters, even for menial prizes. For example, I got an 8th place congratulations (!) from Franklin and Marshall College after the 1974 US Junior Open. They might have not written the letter if they had realized chess players had trashed their reading room with an indoor frisbee contest. For more information on that brutal frisbee flinging spree, please contact Don Reents or James Keith Melbourne.

Here is that letter.  I’m telling you, physical (actual) letters should be brought back – makes chess very classy. 🙂


See?  Heartwarming. I offer F&M College belated apologies for the absurd indoor frisbee fight that took place in their sedate, intellectual, reading room.