Archive for the ‘Billy Adam’ Category

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!!!

Fabulous 90s: More Photos

October 5, 2007

Let’s start off with young Jorge Zamora (now Sammour-Hasbun). I believe this was Needham, MA 1992 – I am in the foreground playing Jorge a skittles game – photograph by Chris Bernstein.


Moving right along, here are two Ivanovs. Alexander Ivanov and the dearly departed Igor Ivanov – I would guess it’s the World Open in some year in the 1990s. Of course it might be the 1980s. 🙂


And now we have GM Jaan Ehlvest with a sharp plaid jacket! Photo by Bill Hook. The site and year are unknown as of this writing.


And now we have a photo with an official caption (bestowed by the photographer, Chris Bernstein): “The Mystical Hertan.” Photo year: 1992.


I believe this photo was probably taken at the Needham, MA tournament. Yes, it’s FM Charlie Hertan! He recently wrote an article in Chess Life magazine about the mysteriously disappeared and presumed dead junior talent Peter Winston. I might “retaliate” someday with a memorial to the known deceased Billy Adam (a junior talent from Syracuse, NY). Billy’s incredibly short, meteoric life was from 1963 to only 1982. He spent his last years in Stony Brook, NY. As a sidenote, I must confess for many years I thought Charlie was an IM. I was *shocked* to see his title as FM in Chess Life.

Boxing News

News update: John Fedorowicz boxed Billy Adam on W 74th Street without training helmets in 1981. John Fedorowicz boxed me a few years later on W 170th Street (with red training helmets).

News postscript: apparently in 1981, Billy Adam’s practice boxing with John Fedorowicz almost turned into a fistfight because I forgot to say “ding” (the end of the round). According to John on Oct 5, 2007, “it became a fistfight when Bill punched me in the month.” He continues, “I ended the fight with a brutal uppercut… you (this author) were laughing.” Good times. 🙂 He adds, “One of your girlfriends uppercut me as well.” I asked who, and he said “Sue”. Ah yes, my Princeton buddy! Sue Kazmaier!!! John adds, “she snapped my head back into a brick wall.” I remember our apartment on W 74 Street and we did have a brick wall, so it’s all coming back!

More Photos

OK moving on. we have the dearly departed IM Victor Frias, photographed March 1994 eating breakfast. Photographer and site unknown as of this writing.


Victor Frias was the referee in the aforementioned Fed-MG boxing match, Washington Heights, Mid 1980s. I will dig up a photo of that classic event.

For something completely different now I present an award I got in 1991 (during my graduation from NYU with an MBA in Stat/Operation Research) from Dr. W. Edwards Deming – considered a Very Important Person in quality control and, as I understand it, revered by the Japanese.  To wit: “The Deming prize was instituted by the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers and is awarded each year in Japan to a statistician for contributions to statistical theory.  The Deming prize for application is awarded to a company for improved use of statistical theory in organization, consumer research, design of product and production. “

Dr. Deming was 90 years old when I got the award in May of 1991!   The typo in my handwritten last name did not bother me. 

Dr. Deming passed away a few years after (20 December 1993) I received this accolate. 


An award from Dr. W. Edwards Deming, NYU, 1991.