The National Open in 1978 was a breakthrough event for me. Winning clear first with 5-1, I zoomed from low master to high 2300s all in one go.
some of the six games. I faced a lot of name players, outplayed some, and got lucky in others. A perfect combination!
Round 1. Ron Henley (2378) – M. Ginsburg (2255)
Queen’s Gambit Accepted, 4…Bg4 Variation 40 Moves in 110 Minutes, 20/1, 20/1.
This line is quite nice even today as a surprise weapon. Tigran Petrosian used it to defeat Garry Kasparov in a famous and quite incredible game. I am not sure why this strange time control was so popular in the 1970s by the way. Minutes elapsed are shown in square brackets. Readers might remember Ron Henley as a fellow who, by sheer determination and hard work, scored enough GM results to become a GM in the early 80s before retiring to become a Wall Street baron. One of his GM norms was in the marathon Indonesia tournament (Timman, Ribli, Browne, et al.).
1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 Bg4 5. Bxc4 e6
6. h3 6. Qb3 Bxf3 7. gxf3 Nbd7! 8. Qxb7 c5! offers black good compensation, as has been shown in many games.
6…Bh5 7. O-O White often prefers to play g2-g4, corral the black bishop with the N, and redeploy the B on c4 to g2 via f1. That’s how the Kasparov-Petrosian game went.
7…Nbd7 Nowadays I prefer 7…a6 and …Nc6, to enforce the e6-e5 break later. Black has good chances for equality in these lines. The text isn’t bad either, and leads to a Slav-like formation. I managed to beat IM Tim Taylor in a NYC Swiss in the 1980s with the text move, but it does seem a bit more passive than the Nc6 line. Even so, it’s solid.
8. Nc3 Be7 9. e4 Nb6  10. Be2 O-O 11. Be3 Rc8! A nice preparatory move to support the …c5 break.
12. Ne5 Bxe2 13. Qxe2 Bb4! White has done good optical things but black has a fully equal game!
14. f3 A gambiteer would give serious consideration to 14. Bg5!? Qxd4 15. Bxf6 gxf6 16. Ng4 here. After 16…f5 17. exf5 exf5 18. Nh6+ Kh8 19. Nxf5 Qf4 the game is about even.
14…Nfd7 14…c5 is playable here, for example 15. Rad1 Qe7 16. Qf2 cxd4 17. Bxd4 Bc5. The text leads to a more double-edged game.
15. Nd3 Bxc3 16. bxc3 Now 16…c5?! 17. Rab1 isn’t very good.
16…Nc4 17. Bf2 Qg5!?  Simply to bother white a bit and keep him off-balance. Objectively, though, white can meet this well.
18. f4  Qa5 18…Qg6!? is possible.
19. Rac1? 19. a4! is the right move. 19…Qxc3? 20. Rfc1 Qd2 21. Qf3! leads to a big white plus.
19…Rce8?! Too mysterious. The rook later goes back to the d-file. The obvious and simple 19…b5! was fine or even the preparatory 19…a6.
20. Ne5 Ndxe5 21. fxe5 b5 22. Bh4 c5!  The thematic hit at white’s center keeps a level game.
23. Rf3?!  This move loses a tempo in the following sequence. Better was 23. Rf4.
22…cxd4 24. cxd4 Qd2! Obvious and strong. Black has chances for an edge in the queenless middlegame.
25. Qxd2 Nxd2 26. Re3 Rc8  27. Rd1  Nc4 28. Rb3 a6
White is not lost here, but it’s not very pleasant for him.
29. Kf2 h6 30. Ke2 Kh7 Black’s moves will prove useful as he can quickly expand on the kingside.
31. Rf1 Rc7 32. Be1 Rd8 33. Rd3 Rcd7 34. Bh4  g5 35. Bf2 Nxe5 36. Ra3 Ng6 Black would have a hard time winning after 36…Nc6 37. Rxa6 Nxd4+ 38. Bxd4 Rxd4 39. Rxf7+.
37. Rxa6 Nf4+ 38. Kf3 Rc8 39. Be3?! The difficult and passive 39. Ra3! was a good move to hold the position.
39…Rc3 40. Rc1 Having made the time control, white offers a draw. But black is having none of it, since there is no risk to play on.
40…Rdc7! Of course! White’s king is insecure. Here, 41. Rxc3 Rxc3 42. g4 is incredibly ugly. Nevertheless, it has its points as 42…Nxh3 43. Ra7 Kg7 44. Rb7 holds.
41. Re1(?!) f5!  A very strong break in the center.
42. exf5 exf5 Now black has a big attack again.
43. Rf6  Ng6 44. Kf2 Rc2+ 45. Kf1 f4 46. Bf2 Rxa2 47. d5 Rd2 48. d6 Rcc2 49. Bb6 Kg7! 50. Rfe6 Kf7! Black’s 49th and 50th moves completely halted white’s counterplay and now it’s smooth sailing.
51. Bd8 Nominally a blunder, but white was completely helpless.
51…Rf2+ 52. Kg1 Rxg2+ 53. Kh1 f3?! 53…Nh4 mates much more efficiently. The text fortunately doesn’t ruin anything.
54. Rf6+ Kf7 55. Rxf3
55…Nf4? Naturally, black misses again 55….Nh4! mating or even 55…Rh2+ 56. Kg1 Rcg2+ 57. Kf1 Nh4 mating.
56. Bb6? Allowing a mate after all. Still, the tougher 56. Rxf4 Rh2+ 57. Kg1 gxf4 58. d7 Rcg2+ 59. Kf1 f3!, ignoring queen threats, mates in a slightly more dramatic way.
56…Rh2+ 57. Kg1 Rcg2+ and white resigned since it is mate next move with Rh1#.
This game started an incredible run of victories for me. I will post more of them in this article.
Round 2. Mark Ginsburg (2255)-Tim Taylor (2317)
My opponent, Tim Taylor, went on to become an IM in the 1980s. He had flaming red hair and many Chess Life readers know him more recently as the madcap action hero in his hedonistic and emotionally charged Hungarian Adventures (I am paraphrasing, not having the CL in front of me). Time passes and his hair is white now, but his Hungarian Adventure articles in Chess Life will long be remembered for their Sturm und Drang – it’s nice to see controversy in the staid pages of CL.
1. c4 e6 2. Nf3 d5 3. b3 Nf6 4. Bb2 Be7 5. g3 O-O 6. Bg2 c5 7. O-O Nc6 8. d3 b6
9. a3 Taimonov beat Kholmov in 1972 with 9. Nbd2 Qc7 10. Rc1 here. For some oddball reason, I was taking my temperature during this game and notated it. I must not have been feeling well and clearly I had a penchant for numbers. So here it was 100.6 degrees.
9…Bb7 10. Nbd2  Rc8 I was simply trying to avoid theory.
11. h3?! Not very useful.
11…Rc7  12. Qc2 Qa8 13. e3 Rd8 14. Rae1?  Extremely awkward. However, I have a good excuse. My temperature has gone up to 101.2.
14…Rcd7 15. cxd4? Making matters worse. I had ceased taking my temperature but clearly my brain was not doing well.
15…Rxd5 16. d4 cxd4 17. exd4 R5d7 18. d5 Nothing else to do. I open lines.
18…Rxd5 19. Nc4 R5d7 20. Ng5 Nd4 21. Bxd4 Bxg2??  With my horrific opening, black must have relaxed. Note he was playing very quickly. He had the simple 21…Rxd4 winning. The text turns the tables completely. This blunder was a really unexpected gift to complete my first day. Since he was playing quickly, no doubt he underestimated the captain of the white forces who had already demonstrated total incompetence.
22. Bxf6 Bxf6 23. Qxh7+ Kf8 24. Ne3! 
Maybe this is the move black overlooked. He cannot play 24…Bxf1 25. Qh8+ Ke7 26. Nf5 mate.
To make matters worse, he can’t play 24…Bxg5 either: 25. Qh8+ Ke7 26. Nf5+ Kf6 27. Qxg7+ Kxf5 28. Re5 mate. Since these moves are not possible, he has to play the forced 24…g6 which runs into 25. Nxe6+! (25. Qh6+ transposes to this line) 25…fxe6 26. Qh6+ Bg7 27. Qf4+ Rf7 28. Qb4+! (exploiting the long range of the queen) with a huge edge after 28…Kg8 29. Nxg2. The move played in the game, 24…Rd5?, offers no resistance. Black must have been disoriented.
24…Rd5?  25. Nxd5 Qxd5 26. Rd1 Now it’s really all over.
26…Bxg5 26…Qxd1 27. Nxe6+ fxe6 28. Rxd1 is completely hopeless for black.
27. Rxd5 Bxd5 28. Qh8+ Ke7 29. Qxg7 The rest needs no comment. White wins easily.
29… Bf6 30. Qg4 a5 31. Rc1 Rd7 32. Qf4 Bxb3 33. Rc7 Rxc7 34. Qxc7+ Kf8 35. Qxb6 Black really could have resigned here, but no doubt he was quite embittered.
35…a4 36. Qb8+ Kg7 37. Qd6 Kg8 38. h4 Bg7 39. g4 Bf8 40. Qd8 Kg7 41. Qd4+ Kg8 42. Qb2 Bd1 43. Qc1 Bb3 44. g5 Kg7 45. h5 Bd5 46. Qf4 Be7 47. Qc1 Bb3 48. Qc3+ Kg8 49. h6 Bf8 50. Qc8 Winning a piece.
50…Bc2 51. Qxc2 1-0
Camille Coudari (Canada, 2313) – M. Ginsburg
The following day saw more success for me. IM Coudari blundered early on and the Québécois Seperatist went down in flames in a miserable ending that had several features in common with the Round 1 Henley torture.
1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 d6 3. d3 Nc6 4. Be3 Nf6 5. g3 g6 6. Bg2 Bg7 7. f4 Qb6!? A very interesting sortie and effective against this particular move order.
8. Rb1 Ng4! The logical follow-up. White has problems.
9. Nd5 The problem here is that 9. Bd2 is met by the very strong 9…c4!. Enjoy this contortion: 10. Nh3 Ne3! (Black already has a significant edge) 11. Bxe3 Qxe3+ 12. Qe2 Qxe2+ 13. Kxe2 cxd3+ 14. cxd3 Bg4+ 15. Kf2 Nb4! 16. Bf1 Bd4+ 17. Kg2 Nc2 and white is bound hand and foot.
9… Nxe3! The strongest move. 9…Qd8 is too accommodating.
10. Nxb6 Nxd1 11. Nxa8 Ne3 12. Nc7+ Kd8 13. Nd5
A very interesting position.
13…Nxc2+ Black could have played the solid 13… Nxg2+! 14. Kf2 e6 15. Nc3 Nxf4 16. gxf4 f5 with an excellent game.The text isn’t bad, though.
14. Kd2 N2d4 15. Nf3 e6 16. Nxd4?? An inexplicable lapse. Was I hypnotizing my opponents in this event? White blunders a piece and the game. After 16. Ne3, for example, the position is level. Black can play 16…Nxf3+ (among others) 17. Bxf3 b5.
16…cxd4 Just like that, white’s knight is trapped. Many years later at the mechanics institute chess club in San Francisco a senior master, Omar Cartagena, would make the identical tactical blunder in the same basic opening and lose to me in the Dake Memorial, 2000 in the first round.
To his credit, Omar recovered in that event to score an IM norm.
17. Nc3 dxc3+ The rest is very simple and in fact much easier than the round 1 Henley struggle. Naturally Camille was very angry at himself.
18. bxc3 Kc7 19. Rhf1 b6 20. Rf2 h5 21. Kc2 Bd7 22. h3 Rc8 23. Kd2 Kd8 24. Bf1 Na5 25. d4 Nc4+ 26. Bxc4 Rxc4 27. Kd3 Ra4 28. Rbb2 Ke7 29. e5 In this hopeless position, White offers a draw!
29…Bc8 No, thanks. This tournament gave me good practice at declining draws. I would decline IM Zaltsman’s draw in a later round.
30. exd6+ Everything loses. For example, 30. g4 Ba6+ 31. Ke3 f6.
30…Kxd6 31. g4 Ba6+ 32. Ke3 h4 33. g5 Bc4 34. Ke4 Ra3 35. Rfc2 b5 36. Ke3 Kd5 37. Kd2 Ke4 38. Rc1 Kxf4 39. Rg1 Rxa2 40. Rxa2 Bxa2 41. Rf1+ Kxg5 42. Rxf7 Bf6 43. Rxa7 Bc4 44. Ke3 Bf1 45. Rb7 Bxh3 46. Rxb5+ Bf5 47. Kf3 h3 48. Kg3 Kh5 49. Rb3 Bh4+ 50. Kh2 Be7 51. Rb6 Kg4 52.c4 Bg5 Black, after some fumbling, finally figured out how to use the two bishops to usher a passed pawn home. White resigns.
M. Ginsburg – Robert Gruchacz (2258)
Robert Gruchacz, or “Gruch” as he was known, became an IM in the 1980s. He was an investment tycoon who made and lost several fortunes; most of his “action” took place in Chicago. Sadly he passed away in Scottsdale, Arizona in 2006.
1. c4 g6 2. Nc3 Bg7 3. d4 c5 4. d5 d6 5. e4 Nf6 6. Nf3 O-O 7. Bd3 a6 8. a4 e5 9. h3 b6 10. Bg5 Qe8 11. Qd2 Ra7 12. g4!?  Kh8  13. Bh6 White should not have been in a rush to play this move but it doesn’t hurt.
13…Bxh6 14. Qxh6 Ng8 15. Qe3 f6
Black has achieved a reasonable, solid formation typical of the Czech Benoni.
16. Kd2 Re7 17. Rag1
A very bad misjudgment. Black ruins his solid formation. He had the interesting line 17…Bd7 18. b3 b5!? 19. cxb5 Qd8!? with counterplay. Given his speed of play, it is likely that “Gruch” was underestimating his opponent. Amusingly, at the Bar Point chess club (NYC) in the early 1980s, Jay Bonin made the identical mistake versus me and lost very quickly. GM Pal Benko said to Jay afterward, “Hara Kiri.” To reinforce his point, Benko mimed a stabbing motion at his own abdomen. I am not sure if Jay understood.
18. gxf5  gxf5 19. exf5 e4 This entire adventure is clearly dubious with black’s unstable king position.
Even stronger was 20. Bxe4 Bxf5 21. Ng5 Bxe4 22. Ngxe4 and white has a decisive advantage.
20…Bxf5  21. Nfg5  h6? 21…Nf6! was correct to limit white to a distinct, but not decisive, edge.
22. Ne6 Bxe6 23. Nxd6! 
Crushing. Black must have overlooked this obvious intermezzo.
23…Bg4?  The problem is that the best move 23…Bxd5! runs into the tactical blow 24. Rxg8+! Rxg8 25. Qxh6+ mating, or 24..Kxg8? 25. Rg1+ winning, or 24…Bxg8! (relatively best) 25. Qxh6+ Rh7 26. Bxh7 Rxf2+ 27. Kc1 Qf8 28. Qxf8! with a big edge. Still, 23…Bd5! was by far the best move. The text is totally hopeless.
24. Nxe8 Rxe3 25. fxe3 Bf3 26. Rf1 Nd7
Black could have resigned already. His position is in ruins and he is down masses of material.
27. Rhg1 Ne5 28. Nc7 Nf6 29. Ne6 Rf7 30. Nf4 Ne4+ 31. Kc2 Nd6 32. Ng6+ Nxg6 33. Rxg6 Nxc4 34. Rxh6+ Kg7 35. Rh7+ 1-0
IM Vitaly Zaltsman (2440) -M. Ginsburg
English Opening, Gruenfeld 1. c4 c5
Vitaly Zaltsman was a frequent competitor in the 70s and 80s, and he also trained young Maxim Dlugy. Vitaly and Max could be seen conducting training sessions at the Manhattan CC (now defunct) at Carnegie Hall on 57th Street in New York City. He was a specialist on defending the black side of the Sicilian Rauser and Max played a lot of games with it in his ascent to winning the World Junior and the GM title.
1. Nf3 c5 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3 d5
I knew zero theory. Luckily, my opponent chose one of the most untesting variations imaginable (a “soft” variation in Stohl’s parlance) and I had easy moves to find. The result was an extremely promising middlegame for me.
4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e3
See Ginsburg-Simutowe, US Open 2005, for a more recent example of this line.
5…Nxc3! The correct reaction. 5…Nc6? as Simutowe played 6. Bb5 is weaker.
6. bxc3 g6 7. Bc4 Maybe it’s a little harsh to criticize this move, but black does gain a tempo later with Nc6-a5. 7. Be2 can therefore be recommended.
7…Bg7 8. O-O O-O 9. d4 Nc6 10. Ba3  Na5 11. Bd3 b6!  As “every schoolboy” knows in the Gruenfeld, black can afford to gambit a queenside pawn. Accepting that pawn exposes white to a concentrated black queenside initiative involving practically all his pieces. See Kasparov-Korchnoi, Candidates 1983 (0-1) for an analogous example of what happens when white takes the gambit pawn.
12. Qe2 White wisely declines.
12…Bb7 Beyond my level of cleverness is the clever 12…Qc7 13. Rfd1 Bd7! aiming at a4, as occurred in Dumitrache-Ghinda, 0-1, Predeal 1988.
13. Rfd1 Qc7 14. Rac1 Rfd8 15. Bb2?! 15. e4 is a more natural move but it appears black can maintain the balance. Then, 15…e6 16. e5 Bh6!? occurred in Trois-Rodriguez, 1/2, Riga Interzonal 1979. In addition, White had a nasty accident after 15. e4 e6 16. dxc5 bxc5 17. Nd2 Bc6! 18. f3 Bh6! 19. Bc2 Bxd2 0-1, Ostl-Lutz German Ch. 1991.
In earlier games, White tried his luck with 15. h4!?, for example 15. h4 Rac8 16. h5 e5!? with sharp play and an eventual draw, Bobotsov-Padevski, Varna 1968.
A strategic error. This gives black all sorts of nice light squares to work on and helps his knight return from offside. Again, 16. e4 was stronger.
16…Bxa6 17. Qxa6 Qb7 18. Qe2 Qc6! Of course! The queen heads for a4 and the knight for c4. This is similar to the Henley torture in Round 1.
19. h3 White offers a draw. I’m having none of it! Black has a beautiful position.
19…Qa4 20. Ba1 Nc4 Black’s pieces get to menacing spots.
21. Qc2 Qxc2 22. Rxc2 b5! Thematic. Black has a huge ending plus.
24…cxd4?? What’s this? In one stroke, I ruin everything and give the lifeless white bishop some life. Was I relaxing with my big tournament score? A more experienced player doesn’t make that mistake. Take a look instead at the strong 23…Rd6!, for example, 24. Rb1! (to provoke a6 and stop the rook entry to a6) 24…a6 25. Ng5!? (aiming for e4) 25…f5! 26. dxc5 Rxc5 and black is well on top. That move would keep all my advantages.
24. cxd4 As Mikhail Tal remarked in one of his game, the music has died. There’s nothing left to play for and the game is dead even.
24…a5 25. Kf1 e6 26. Ke2 Bf8 27. Nd2 Nxd2 28. Kxd2 Ba3 29. Rb1 b4 1/2-1/2
There only remained the last round versus the solid IM-to-be Walter Shipman. I won the event at 5-1 so clever readers will guess this game was drawn.
M. Ginsburg – W. Shipman (2231)
The last round and I’m a half point ahead of Zaltsman and a point ahead of Shipman at 4.5/5! Things have gone really well so far. Let’s see if I can manage to play this game without screwing up.
I would go on to play Walter many, many times in the 80s and 90s. He was always solid – some would say stodgy – and it was always a chore to overcome his resistance.
1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 c6 3. e4 e5?! Not a very good system, especially because it’s easy for white to find good moves. 3…d5! of course is correct.
4. Nf3 Bb4 5. Nxe5 O-O 6. Be2 Re8 7. Nd3! Even knowing no theory, it’s obvious that gaining the two bishops will give white a pleasant game.
7…Bxc3 8. dxc3 Nxe4 9. O-O d5 The position looks like some kind of bad Petroff for black.
10. cxd5 Qxd5 11. Be3 Bf5 12. Nf4 Qe5 13. Qd4! Given the tournament situation, I don’t have to go crazy and the text gives me a safe plus.
13…Qxd4 14. Bxd4 Nd7 15. Rad1 Nb6 16. f3 Ng5 17. Rd2 Ne6 18. Nxe6 Bxe6 19. b3 Nd5 20. f4 f6 21. c4 Ne7 22. g4! The player with the two bishops should try to gain space and open lines. Black’s position is rapidly approaching the critical danger point.
22…f5 23. g5 b6 24. Bf3 Rad8 25. Rfd1 c5
26. Bb2?! Much stronger is 26. Be5! Rxd2 27. Rxd2 Ng6 28. Kf2! Nxe5 29. fxe5 and white has a huge bind. For example, 29…Kf7 30. Rd6. This is the kind of position an experienced player will not foul up.
26… Rxd2 27. Rxd2 Ng6 28. Bh5? Once again, white doesn’t see and thus bypasses the crushing 28. Be5! Nxe5 29. fxe5 Bf7 30. Bc6 Rc8 31. Rd6 with an overwhelming game. Once the winning bind is perceived and stored in memory banks (experience!) it increases the player’s strength.
28… Rc8 29. Bxg6 hxg6 30. Rd6 Re8 31. Be5 Kf7 32. Rc6 Rd8 33. Rc7+ Rd7 34. Rxd7+ Bxd7 35. Bb8 a6 36. Ba7 b5 37. cxb5 Bxb5 38. Bxc5 Be2 39. Bd4 Ke6 40. Kf2 Bh5 41. Bxg7 Thus white wins some pawns but not the game because black has a secure blockade on the kingside. It’s hard to get too upset though with first place in view.
41…Kd5 42. Ke3 Kc6 43. Kd4 Bd1 44. h4 Bh5 45. Kc4 Be2+ 46. Kb4 Bh5 47. Ka5 Kb7 48. b4 Be2 49. a4 Bh5 50. b5 axb5 51. axb5 Be2 52. Kb4 Bh5 53. Kc5 Be2 54. Bd4 Bh5 55. Kd6 Be2 56. Ke7 Bh5 57. Kf7 Ka8
Wow. First place alone and the (then) princely sum of $600. Hurrah.