Lone Pine, California was a town in the middle of nowhere, halfway between Los Angeles and Reno, Nevada. Looking around, one could only see tumbleweeds, a few streets, a few saloons, and the majestic Mt. Whitney.
Yet strangely it was the site of the strongest recurring Swiss on American soil in the 1980s, thanks to millionaire Louis Statham. Predictably, when Statham died, so did the tournament.
Here are some tangles from my only participation, Lone Pine 1980. This was a famous year since I turned 21 on March 27 during the event. At 11 pm on March 26th, while trying to get a drink at the “Last Chance Saloon”, the bartender was having none of my underaged condition and said “There’s the door, pardner” to the great mirth of onlooker Fedorowicz. As John pointed out to me, I triumphantly returned and got my drink after midnight (i.e. about an hour) later.
Another amusing episode at LP ’80 was GM Dzindzi successfully giving 5 to 1 time odds in blitz to numerous players, such as IM Larry Kaufman. Dzindzi’s superb clock handling was quite amazing. Dzindzi and defector GM Lev Alburt battled it out for top honors in the main event. In an offday, some intrepid travelers tried to go up Mt. Whitney. We discovered it is a very high mountain with not much oxygen and snowy up there and so we gingerly came back down. If memory serves, Jerry Hanken drove the vehicle and IM Bruce Rind was one of the explorers.
GM Anatoly Lein vs Mark Ginsburg
Lone Pine 1980
1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. Bg5 Bg7 4. Nbd2 O-O 5. e3 d6 6. Bc4 Nbd7 7. c3 a6 8. a4 b6 9. O-O Bb7
I haven’t done anything really bad yet. But in the upcoming sequence I play like a positional butcher. Even so, thanks to my opponent’s later inaccuracies, somehow I get a playable game.
10. Qe2 h6 11. Bh4 g5 12. Bg3 Nh5 13. Ne1 Nxg3 14. fxg3! c5 15. Nd3 Qc7 16. Nf2
Let’s take stock. I’m trying to give away as many light squares as I can. Objectively it’s just horrible for black.
16… e5 17. d5 f5 18. g4 f4
I might as well try Ye Olde Bum’s Rush with my pawns.
19. Nfe4 Nf6 20. Nxf6+ Bxf6 21. Ne4 Kg7 22. Qd3 Be7 23. h3 Qd7 24. b4 cxb4 25. cxb4 Qe8 26. b5 a5
At least the white bishop on c4 is a bit dead.
The simple 27. exf4 gxf4 28. g3! gives white a big edge.
27… Rc8 28. Rac1 Qg6 29. Ba2 h5 Now black is completely OK.
30. Bb1 hxg4 31. hxg4?
31. Nxg5!? is interesting. There follows 31…Qxd3 32. Ne6+ Kf6 33. Bxd3 Rxc1 34. Rxc1 Rc8 or 34…Rg8, in both cases keeping the balance. The text could have gotten white into big trouble.
31…Qh6! is also strong. After 32. Nf2 Rc5 white just has a bad game.
This is a blunder. I have no doubt that my incoherent lurching play up until now confused the veteran Anatoly. Because precisely here I could have achieved a fantastic position! But it’s hard to give white advice. 32. Rxc8 Bxc8 also leads to problems.
Black had the strong 32…Qf7! here. Take a look. 32…Qf7! 33. Rcd1 (protecting d5) 33…Rh4 and white’s position is coming apart. 32…Qh6 is less effective: 33. Ke2 Rxc1 34. Rxc1 Bc8 white has 35. Nf2! protecting g4. The text doesn’t ruin anything -black is well on top.
33. Rh1 fxe3+ 33…Qh6 is also tough to handle.
So far, so good. Now what?
No!!! I blew it! 34…Rxc1! 35. Rxh2 (35. Rxc1 Qf7!) 35…Re1+ 36. Kd2 Rxb1!! 37. Qxb1 Bxd5 38. Nc3 Qxb1 39. Nxb1 Bb3! would be an incredible turnaround, with …d6-d5 coming up. Black would have every chance of winning. That would have been a great accomplishment for me in my first and only LP appearance. But it was not to be.
35. Rxc8 Bxc8 36. Qf1!
Ugh! I set myself for the only tactic that white could possibly have! The upcoming Ne4xd6! is going to hurt, since white controls the f-file now. My moment in the sun passed and all that is left are ruins. At the time, fortunately, I didn’t quite see what I had missed and I only had vague feelings that I might have had something good.
36…Rxg4 37. Nxd6 Rg3+ 38. Kd2 Bxd6 39. Bxg6 Bb4+ 40. Kc1 Kxg6 41. Qf2 Ba3+ 42. Kb1 Bf5+ 43. Ka1 Rb3 44. Qxb6+ Kf7 45. Qc7+ Kg8 46. Qd8+ Kf7 47. Qc7+ Kg8 48. Qxe5 1-0
As a reminder, you can play over this game and all the 1980s games in the collection at our Replay Server.