No chess year was complete without participation in the sprawling madcap World Open. Some years it was in downtown Philly, other years it was out at the rather unpleasant featureless suburban landscape of the Adam’s Mark hotel at the intersection of I-95 and Route 1. That hotel is no more (good riddance! – the eating choices were dismal and the elevators slow and creaky).
Let’s start with a theoretically interesting game from the 1977 World Open edition.
Ruy Lopez 3….g6
M. Ginsburg – Olte (2026)
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6!? This move is better than it looks and has been used by GM Smyslov numerous times with good results.
If white reacts slowly, black gets good development and also a good chance for a later initiative.
4. d4 exd4 5. Bg5!? TN A TN only because I was flying blind. It has been played in many games, notably Van der Wiel-Ree 1983 (1-0), Lobron-Iskov, 1983 (1-0), Diez del Corral-Lombardy, 1975 (1-0). Of course, black had his say in Valvo-Biyiasis, 1977 (0-1), Kupreichik-Malaniuk, 1987 (0-1). My idea was simple. Very rapid development and (after a trade of bishops) to exploit the dark squares weaknesses created with ….g6 in the vicinity of black’s king.
Many years later, in the Khalifman book Openings for White according to Anand 1. e4 Volume 1, 2003 he has the same idea but does it a little differently. He recommends 5 .c3!? (I play this later) 5…dxc3 6. Nc3 Bg7 7. Bg5 and now the best move for black is …f6 preserving his bishop. White retains excellent compensation for the pawn. You will notice many similarities between Khalifman’s line and my move order.
5…Be7 Played in the majority of the above-referenced games. 5…f6?! looks quite ugly and indeed Van der Wiel dispatched Ree in the aforementioned game after 5…f6?! 6. Bh4. Computer engines prefer 6. Bf4 but in any case, 5…f6 is fairly disgusting. After the computer-preferred 6. Bf4 Bg7 7. O-O Nge7 8. Nxd4! is correct with a solid white plus. A historical footnote: Cleghorn-Bisguier, 1976, went 8. Re1 O-O 9. Nxd4 f5? 10. e5 Nxd4 11. Qxd4 d5 12. Bg5 Be6 13. Qh4 Rf7 14. Nd2 c5 15. Nf3 Qf8 and now white fumbled with 16. c3? and even went on to lose. However, 16. Be3! (a crushing retreat) threatens the c-pawn and Nf3-g5 simultaneously and wins on the spot. Poor Cleghorn.
6. Bxe7 Qxe7 6…Ngxe7!? is how Kupreichik-Malaniuk went. Its continuation is interesting: 7. Nxd4 d5!? (is Black asking too much here?) 8. Nc3 dxe4 9. Bxc6 = and here, 9. Nxe4 also looks equal after 9…O-O 10. Nxc6 Nxc6 11. O-O Bf5 12. Bxc6 Qxd1 13. Raxd1 Rd8. Another example is 11. Bxc6 bxc6 12. O-O Bf5 13. Ng3 Qxd1 14. Rfxd1 Be6 15. b3 a5 and white kept a tiny plus but could not convert in Khalifman-Malaniuk, Minsk 1987, 1/2 . In that position, white played 16. a4?! Rfd8 but could have tried the more aggressive 16. Ne4!? Bf5 17. Rd4! with some chances. In practice, many draws have resulted from the 6…Ngxe7 line but it doesn’t look like a lot of fun since a small miscue can result in the doubled pawns hurting.
7. O-O! Much more testing than the lame 7. Bxc6 which has been played quite a bit.
7… Qc5? 7…Qb4? is similar and also bad. The only move of any theoretical worth is 7…Nf6! to maintain development and play is very double-edged. I think white still has good compensation with hopes of exploiting the dark square holes in the middlegame.
8. Ba4 Nge7 9. c3! Getting to the crux of the matter. Black will really miss the absence of his dark-squared bishop now.
This position is really depressing for black. White has won the opening argument.
9…dxc3 10. Nxc3 O-O 11. Rc1 f6? Black had to play 11…Qa5, wasting further time, and after 12. Qd2 white has more than enough for the pawn and will probably succeed with direct attack.
12. Qd2?! Already, 12. Nb5 won: 12…Qb6 13. Nd2! A hard move to spot! 13…Rb8 14. Nc4 Qc5 15. Nxc7 with utter ruination.
12…a6? 12…Kg7 was necessary to keep dark squares under control.
13. Qh6 A thematic invasion. Now white has an obviously winning position. 13…d5 14. Bb3 Qd6 15. exd5 Na5 16. Ne4 Nf5 17. Nxd6! The only way to mess this up would be to the play the move I had originally written on my scoresheet, 17. Qd2? Nxb3 18. axb3 Qd8 and black can play on.
17…Nxh6 18. Rxc7 Nxb3 19. axb3 The rest is a mop-up.
19….Bf5 20. Nxb7 Be4 21. Rd1 Rf7 22. d6! Bxb7 23. d7! This temporary ‘piece sacrifice’ is just a small tactic to accelerate the win.
23….Rff8 24. Rxb7 Rfd8 25. Nd4 Rab8 26. Rxb8 Rxb8 27. Nc6
A very clean win to start the tournament nd a harbinger I was in good form. I would go on to score 4.5 out of the first 5 and tie for the tournament lead! Let’s see some more games from this event.
Sicilian Najdorf, Sozin Variation 6. Bc4
NM M. Ginsburg – NM Leslie Braun World Open 1977
My opponent was a well-known personality at the Marshall Chess Club! One time,as the day manager Leslie kicked out a very young Maxim Dlugy for excessive rambunctiousness. I must admit I was contributing to the ruckus. Leslie picked Max up by the collar and out he went. Unfortunately, when Leslie died, nobody claimed his body for a while – no relatives could be located. IM Walter Shipman saved the day and made the necessary arrangements. It was hard to believe such a popular guy would end up in such anonymity.
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bc4!? One of the sharpest treatments, and a favorite of WC Bobby Fischer. Recently a crushing white victory and attacking masterpiece in this line, Christiansen-Wojtkiewicz, was one of the best games at the US Championship 2006.
6…e6 7. Bb3 b5
8. f4 The Christiansen game saw the surprising and ultra-sharp 8. Qf3!?
8…Qc7 9. O-O Be7 10. f5 e5 White is playing very directly. But is it any good?
11. Nde2 Bb7 12. Ng3 Nbd7 13. Bg5 Nb6 14. Nh5
14…Nxh5 15 Bxf7+!? An interesting attack and actually the only point of white’s setup. Black has to be careful now.
16. Qxh5+ Kg8 17. f6 gxf6?? Black absolutely had to play 17…Bxf6! here to involve the queen laterally in the defense. There would follow 18. Rxf6! (only move) and now it’s just a draw: 18…gxf6 (weirdly, 18…b4 is possible but not offering any special advantages; 18…b4 19. Raf1! gxf6 20. Bxf6 Qf7 with an identical draw after 21. Qg4+ as in the following line) 19. Bxf6 Qf7! 20. Qg4+ Qg6 21. Qe6+ with a clear-cut perpetual check. The text leads to quick, unmitigated, disaster.
18. Rf3! Nothing can rescue Black now. White threatens Bh6 and Rg3+ and black is defenseless.
18…h6 He could have resigned instead of playing this move. 19. Qg6+ Kf8 20. Bxf6 Bxf6 21. Rxf6+ Ke7 22. Qg7+ 1-0.
The position turned into a massacre of the black forces.
Here’s another nice game from the same event. Numbers in square brackets are minutes elapsed. Note I had broken through the barrier of 2200 (master) in this event.
IM Lawrence Day (Canada, 2313) vs Mark Ginsburg (2212)
World Open, Philadephia, PA 1977 Round 5 40/110
1. Nf3 c5 2. g3 Nc6 3. Bg2 g6 4. O-O Bg7 5. e4 d6 6. d3 e5 7. c3 Nge7 8. a3 O-O 9. b4 b6
Lawrence is famous for unorthodox openings, but in this game he takes things a little too casually and I get the chance to build up some initiative.
10…h6 11. Ne1 Be6 12. Nc2?! Here, 12. Qc1!? Kh7 13. Nd2 is interesting.
12… Rc8 13. bxc5? It’s just bad to open the d-file. 13. b5? Na5 is not good either, so white would have done better to just develop with 13. Qd2 or lash out with 13. f4.
13…dxc5 14. c4 f5 15. Nc3 f4
An exceedingly bad position for White after only a few moves. Nevertheless, I make inaccuracies soon and so does my opponent that makes the game a see-saw affair.
16. Bc1 Qd7 17. Nd5  g5?!  17…Bh3! is correct: 18. f3 Bxg2 19. Kxg2 Nd8! with the idea of Ne6 and Nd4 and black keeps pressure.
18. Rb1 Bh3 19. f3 h5 Black’s edge has disappeared to almost nothing.
20. Bb2 Rf7 21. Rf2 Nxd5 22. cxd5 Ne7? A blunder. Correct is 22…fxg3! 23. hxg3 Nd4! with good play.
23. Bxh3 Not bad, but strong was 23. gxf4! exf4 24. d4! with an edge. Black can’t take back with the g-pawn: 23…gxf4?? 24. Qf1! wins: 24…Bxg2 25. Rxg2 Kh7 26. Rg5 with a decisive initiative.
23… Qxh3 24. Qf1? Very bad. 24. gxf4! again has the exact same ideas as the prior note.
24…Qd7? This is more incomprehensible than white’s blunder. 24…Qxf1+ was obvious and leads to an equal game after 25. Kxf1.
25. gxf4 exf4 26. Bxg7 26. d4 is still strong. 26…Rxg7 27. Kh1 27. Rg2 looks more active here with a significant white edge.
27…Ng6 28. Qe2 White has wasted too much time. He once again had the central break 28. d4 but then Black has 28…g4 with counterplay.
28…g4 Now chances are about equal again.
29. Rg1  Ne5 
A very sharp position.
30. fxg4 f3 The only way. The position stays in balance.
31. Rxf3? 31. Qd2!? was a good alternative. The problem with the text is that Black now has a bunch of easy moves to find.
31…Nxf3 32. Qxf3 Rf8 An obvious move improving black’s game.
33. Qe2 Rxg4
34. Ne3? In this position, it was imperative to retain the rook with 34. Rd1 or 34. Re1. White could then put up serious, and possibly successful, resistance with Nc2-e3 coming up. The text leads to total disaster.
34…Rxg1+ 35. Kxg1 Qg7+ 36. Kh1 Qe5! This natural centralizing move puts black in complete control.
37. a4  Kh7 The foxy 37…Rf7! is strong here.
38. Nc4 Qg5  39. e5?  White had to hang tight with 39. Ne3 and make black work for the point.
39…Qc1+? Even with plenty of time left, black fails to observe the obvious 39…Rg8! cutting off the white king. Then, 40. Qf1 a6! (threatening b5) 41. Nxb6 Qxe5 wins easily.
40. Kg2 Qg5+ 41. Kh1 41. Kh3?? Rf4! is instant suicide.
41…h4! Whew. Black finds a good move and is back on track again. If he had kept wasting time and fooling around, the white center pawns would become very dangerous.
42. Qe4+ On 42. h3 , black can win in several ways. One way is 42…Qg3! 43. Qh5+ Kg7 44. Qg4+ Qxg4 45. hxg4 Rf3! wins.
42…Kh8 43. Ne3 Rg8 Here, 43…Rf4 was faster: 44. Qg2 Qxe5 and wins.
White resigned, but he could have played on a little with 44. Ng2. The game continues 44…h3 45. Qh4+ Qxh4 46. Nxh4 Rg4 47. Nf3 Rf4 48. Ng1 Rf5 and black wins a prosaic ending.
After this game, I had the glorious score of 4.5/5. I would soon crash to earth, though, at the hands of iron-man technician GM Anatoly Lein, a recent immigrant from the USSR.
Mark Ginsburg vs GM Anatoly Lein (2507)
World Open, Philadelphia, PA 1977 Round 6 King’s Indian Attack, 40/110.
In case you were wondering, back then USCF ratings were seriously deflated. 2507 made Lein one of the top dogs. He and also recently arrived immigrant GM Leonid Shamkovich were tearing up the US Swiss System circuit.
1. g3 d5 2. Bg2 Nf6 3. Nf3 e6 4. O-O Be7 5. d3 O-O 6. Nbd2 a5!?  7. e4 a4
A very deep and mystifying series of pawn moves from the seasoned Grandmaster. It makes sense, though, for black to play on the side where he is stronger. The chances are about level.
8. a3 Nc6 9. e5 Nd7 10. Re1 b5 11. Nf1 Na5 12. Nd4 c6
13. f4 13. Qg4 Kh8 leads nowhere. The text doesn’t offer very much either.
13…Qb6 14. Be3 c5 15. Nf3 Nb8 16. g4 16. d4!? is interesting here.
16…Nbc6 17. Ng3  f6 18. Qe2 fxe5 19. fxe5 Bd7  20. h4 b4 Now black is slightly on top.
21. Kh2? 21. h5 is correct although it must be admitted that after 21…bxa3 22. bxa3 Nd4 or 21…h6 white is only playing for equal chances.
21…Nd4! Oops. Black is now well on top.
22. Nxd4 cxd4 23. Bg5 Bxg5 24. hxg5 b3 25. Rac1 bxc2 26. Rxc2 Qd8! Quite convincing. The g5 pawn cannot be protected.
27. Nf5 White takes his chances in a speculative venture; 27. g6? hxg6 is quite bad.
27…Qxg5 28. Bxd5
At the time, I remember thinking that this might work. Hope chess doesn’t usually work! At some point during this sharp play Anatoly made a huge commotion about the noise and the lighting, and the TDs re-seated us in some other area of the ballroom. Being young, I was not nonplussed by the strange ‘adjournment’.
28…Qf4+ 29. Kh3 exd5 30. e6 Rxf5 31. exd7 Rff8 32. Qe8 Rd8 33. Rc8 Nb7
Look at this sad tableau. i have a passer on the seventh, supported by two heavies on the eighth, and there is absolutely nothing else I can undertake. Black wins by slow attrition.
34. Re7  g5!  The win is now ironclad.
35. Re5 Qf3+ 36. Kh2 Qf2+ 37. Kh3 Qh4+ 38. Kg2 Qxg4+ 39. Kh2 Qf4+ 40. Kh1 Qf6 41. Re6 Qf1+ 42. Kh2 Qf7 43. Re5 Qf4+ 44. Kh1 g4 The black g-pawn creeps inexorably up and the white king is doomed.
45. Qe6+ Kh8 46. Qe8 Qf1+ 47. Kh2 Qf2+ 48. Kh1 g3 49. Qxf8+ Qxf8 50. Re8 Kg7 51. Rxf8 Kxf8 52. Rc7 Nd6 53. Rc5 Ke7 54. Rxd5 Ke6 55. Rxd4 Rxd7 56. Rxa4 Nf5 57. Re4+ Kf6 58. a4 Rxd3 59. Re1 Rd2 60. b4 Nh4
At this point, any good chess engine announces mate in 5.
61. Rf1+ Kg5 62. Kg1 Rg2+ 63. Kh1 Rf2 64. Rg1 Rh2#
And I fall back into the World Open masses.
For a little bit of humor, here is a scrappy effort by young IM-to-be Jon Schroer!
Mark Ginsburg (2212) – Jon Schroer (1808), Round 4.
Sicilian, 3. Bb5+
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Already at a young age Jon had a reputation of being a theoretician. 3. Bb5+ is a fairly safe way to avoid the sharp lines.
3…Nc6 These days, I prefer 3…Bd7. Believe it or not, that led to a tactical win for me (playing black) vs a NM in the US Open 2005. I will talk about that game in the Fabulous 00s.
4. O-O Bd7 5. Re1 a6 6. Bf1 Nf6 7. c3 e5 8. h3 Be7 9. d4 Looks good for white, but appearances are deceiving: white is wasting a lot of time on little pawn moves to construct this center.
9…O-O 10. a4
9…Qc7 The weird 10…cxd4 11. cxd4 Qb6!? or even 11…d5!? comes into consideration, in both cases with a level game. The text is fine too.
11. Na3 h6?! 11….cxd4 12. cxd4 Rac8 with an equal game was correct.
12. Nc4?! Here, 12. d5! is correct with a plus. Since 12…Na5?? 13. b4! is unplayable, the knight has to go somewhere strange like a7 or d8.
12…b5?  The series of mistakes continues. 12…exd4! 13. cxd4 d5! is a very concrete way to play that solves all of black’s problems. However, this ‘unnatural’ move sequence is not easy to find especially for inexperienced players.
13. Ne3 cxd4 14. Nd5!  A very strong zwischenzug, possibly overlooked by black. Now white has a lasting edge.
14…Qb7  15. cxd4 Rfe8? Necessary was 15…Nxd5 16. exd5 Nb4 with a poor game.
16. axb5 This position is winning for white.
16…axb5 17. Rxa8 Rxa8 18. Nxe7+ To give you an idea how good white’s position is, there are two wins here. First of all, the straightforward 18. dxe5 does the trick. If 18…Nxd5 19. exd6! Nf6 20. dxe7 Nxe7 21. Nd4 with a decisive edge. The text is also winning.
18…Nxe7 19. dxe5 Nxe4
20. Qd4?? What the heck is this? The simple 20. exd6 leaves black suffering but even stronger is the crushing 20. Rxe4! Qxe4 21. Qxd6 forking black’s pieces. Black loses after, for example, 21…Bxh3 22. Qxe7 Bg4 23. Be3 Bxf3 24. gxf3 Qxf3 25. Qd7 b4 26. Qh3. This blow was rather elementary (as was 20. exd6) and the move played was quite abysmal. The other moral of the story is, beat them young because when they get older, it gets a lot tougher! That is the lesson I learned from Max Dlugy, Schroer, Ilya Gurevich and a whole host of other young fry.
20…Bc6! Of course. To highlight how weak white’s last move was, black also had 20…d5 and even 20…Ra4.
21. Nh4 dxe5 22. Qxe5 Re8 Black quite legitimately offers a draw.
23. Bxb5? I play on with this really bad move.
23…Ng6! After white’s series of horrific blunders, black is well on top.
24. Bxc6 Qxc6 25. Nxg6 White now has nothing better than this pathetic ‘queen sacrifice’.
25…Rxe5 26. Nxe5 Qc2 27. Rf1 Nd2? The fairly obvious 27…Nxf2! wins for black. 28. Be3 Nd1 29. Bd4 f6 is lights out.
28. Re1 Ne4 Mercifully, before I can do anything more wrong, the game was agreed drawn.
Here is a photo of young Schroer taken about 3 1/2 years after this game was played. (Dec. 1981) (he’s standing on the left next to the author).