Archive for the ‘IM Steve Odendahl’ Category

The Fabulous 70s: Rewarding the Clock-Punching Monkey

June 2, 2008

The Good and the Evil Inherent in Clock Punching Monkeys

I was titillated to read in a recent CLO Irina Krush’s protest against Anna Zatonskih’s blitz tactics in their US Women’s title playoff match.

Her open letter ends,

“To conclude, I will state that sharing the title would be an acceptable outcome for me, but I would certainly welcome any initiative to decide the title in over-the-board games, with real time controls that don’t degrade the participants into clock punching monkeys.” (emphasis mine).

The bold-faced phrase brings back rich, nostalgic memories. Turn back the clock to 1975 and the scene is the Silver Spring chess club, managed by Larry Kaufman and frequented by such personalities as Diana Lanni, me, future IM Steve Odendahl, and other riff-raff. Since we were young and highly immature, Steve and I invented a game that was solely to reward the clock-punching monkey. The game was called “Clock”. It is fun for all ages and invariably reduces the participants to gasps of laughter, unless of course one of the players is Ray Keene or some other dour type. I want to stress a chessboard and pieces are not needed! Here is how you play:

The Immortal and Skillful Game of ‘Clock’

  1. Set the clock to one minute each (this was the old fashioned clock that ticked, but I imagine you could subject a Chronos to this too).
  2. ‘White’ bangs his or her fist on the table then bangs the clock to start the game.
  3. ‘Black’ must bang his or her fist on the table and only then can he or she bang the clock to start the opponent’s clock.
  4. In response, now ‘White’ must bang his or her fist on the table before he or she can hit the clock.
  5. And so on, alternating steps 3 and 4, until somebody flags.

No Chess Involved! Any hit of the clock without first banging the fist on the table is an immediate forfeit!

Overturning: A Nuance of the Game

The 1975 version of the game naturally resulted in the clock often overturning and sitting on its side. It was unclear who should right it and clearly in such a thrilling game neither player really wants to right it. I suggest playing with the clock in an enclosed case so it can’t overturn.

A Surprise ‘Clock’ Spectator

In one uproarious ‘Clock’ incident, the clock had just overturned and both players were howling loudly. A small, dapper gentleman gave Steve and me a pitying glance. And this was the first time I laid eyes on surprise club visitor GM Lubosh Kavalek.

Enjoy your game of Clock, everyone! For extra thrills, play with a digital clock and set it for 10 seconds each, or try a game of “Clock Odds” to test the speed demon in your neighborhood!

Sad postscript:

Krush didn’t leave sleeping dogs lie and wrote an awful “final letter” to US Chess online. The bad sportsmanship meter is now in the red zone on this issue. Poor Anna Zatonskih could not, and should not, respond to this nasty Krush tirade. Simply change the format going forward if it’s so upsetting!

Happy Post Post-Script

Anna Zatonskih righted the boat with a well-conducted interview. Hurrah for Anna Z.  All is well.


Fabulous 70s: Going Way Back to 1974

December 6, 2007

Pictured are the winners of the D.C. Chess League “B” Division, the one and only “Potomac B” squad!

I will need help with some missing first names from the readers.  (supplied by a timely comment by John Mingos!)

From left, standing: John Mingos, Bob Owen, me, David Matzke. I remember Mingos and Matzke from the JCC Chess Club in Rockville, Maryland – my first chess club! It was a short drive away from my home in Bethesda, MD on 70-S (now named Interstate 270). Of course I was too young to drive and my father had to do the honors.

Seated from left: Bob Adams, Alan Kline, and John Struss.


It was strange but fortuitous for chess development how strong chess-wise the small region was.

Potomac, MD had World Junior Champ Mark Diesen who won it in Groningen, Holland, in 1976 – GM Kavalek (his second) wrote a nice article for Chess Life & Review about it.

Bethesda – Chevy Chase MD area: IM’s me, Steve Odendahl, Larry Kaufman

elsewhere in Maryland: Robert Eberlein, Allan Savage, David Thompson, Larry Gilden

Washington DC: John Meyer, Eugene Meyer

Virginia: dearly departed: Charlie Powell, 7-time Virginia State Champ and hero of the National Chess League.

As the San Francisco Mechanics Institute chess club newsletter wrote in 1995, ” A perennial state champion in his native Virginia, he moved to San Francisco in the late 1970s and played in several Northern California State Championships (Bagby Memorials), but will be best remembered for his friendly manner and good sportsmanship. ”

We also had from Virginia another dearly departed strong player, future IM Richard Delaune (4-time state champ) who also died much too young in 2004 at 49. The USCF writes, “Richard K. Delaune was born December 24, 1954. Rick Delaune was an International Master, Life USCF member, VA state champ in 1974, 1975, 1981, and 1985. Richard’s highest Established over-the-board rating achieved was 2468 (after the 1998-09-13 “Hall of Fame Open” held at the U.S. Chess Center where he tied for 1st place). Rick was also active in USCF Correspondence Chess. He was also one of the nicest, easy-going guys you’d ever want to meet. He was 49 when he died of a heart attack while home with his mother on Saturday, May 29th.”

The Fabulous 70s Part 2: The Lloyds Bank Open

June 22, 2007

The Lloyds Bank Swiss was a very strong event taking place in August of each year sponsored by yes, you guessed it, Lloyds Bank. Every year it was held at the Cumberland Hotel at Marble Arch, London, a very posh spot. And it was very near Hyde Park so the chess players could explore some greenery in the off houses as well as typical British pubs such as “The Three Tonnes” etc. GM-to-be James Plaskett (nicknamed Plastic Fantastic in some circles) was very social in pub settings. At some point, I managed to bonk my head on a pub sign hanging outside to the great amusement of onlookers.

Over the years, many luminaries played there and many amusing events took place. For example, tiny tots Peter Svidler and Matthew Sadler were battling grownups, GM Nick DeFirmian battled some unrated (when I looked at the game the unrated was up a queen but in his hurry to mate stalemated Nick; this unrated evolved to be GM Stefan Kindermann!). At some point IM-to-be Steve and Odendahl and I burst out snickering when Danny Kopec fell into a repetition draw vs a Hungarian GM up on the stage while hopelessly winning and up a lot of material (I believe it was GM Farago). Kopec was rightfully steamed at our insouciance. The event was also famous for people with “Sir” in front of their name or “MBE” or “OBE” after their name (part of the ruling class!) giving droning speeches at the end – mixed with chess players dressed horribly, such as Fedorowicz, Odendahl, and me. Director Stewart Reuben (who weirdly morphed into a poker player before it was fashionable) and Ray Keene would gave us hate-stares (particularly directed at Fedorowicz, who at some point lashed back) but it didn’t change our outfits. Another amusing thing was when Odendahl and I were thwacking each other over the head with a vinyl chessboard, Reuben uttered the laconic “Oh for God’s sake” which to us seemed the ultimate Britishism. For food, we went to the Kyhber Pass Indian restaurant quite a bit which was near the King’s Head pub, a chess hangout frequented by such luminaries as Speelman and Whiteley. My last installment was Lloyds Bank 1991, but it kept going for a while. GM-to-be IM Michael Wilder won in 1987 (also in that year young Anand scored a miniature victory over young Adams), and I see that GM Morozevich scored an incredible 10.5/11 in the 1994 incarnation at age 17! I see no record of it occurring after that, so I am guessing 1994 was the last year. Pity!

The readers may not know IM Steve Odendahl (he is inactive, at last check working for Sun Microsystems) but in one of these Lloyds Banks he scored a nice win over GM-to-be Danny King in one of his pet anti-Gruenfeld lines. I couldn’t find that game, but here’s a nice win of his over GM K Spraggett in Toronto, 1983.

Here is a battle royale from one of the Lloyds Bank installments in 1979. It’s really too bad they don’t happen any more! I wasn’t an IM yet (only achieved that in 1982).   See my separate post on Lloyds Bank 1978.

GM Rosendo Carrean Balinas vs Mark Ginsburg   
London, Lloyds Bank 1979

Sicilian Defense, Modern Rauser Variation 6. Bg5 Bd7

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Bg5 Bd7

This very sharp move was quite popular in the 70s and 80s. It faded due to some theoretical discoveries for white in the early 2000’s. Nevertheless, it is a good surprise weapon.

7.Qd2 Rc8 8.O-O-O Nxd4 9.Qxd4 Qa5 10.f4 10. Bd2 is popular, e.g. 10…a6 11. Kb1 Qc5!? which is playable for black.


10 … e6!? Introducing a very sharp gambit.

11.Bxf6 Here, 11. Bc4!? declining and developing is very interesting.

11…gxf6 12.Qxf6 Accepting the pawn, but black gains the dangerous g7-c3 diagonal for his dark square bishop. This was all semi-known to me at the time, but I had never tested the assertion. As a matter of fact, I don’t recall who showed me this 10…e6!? gambit idea. It was soon before this game was played.

12…Rg8 13.Qd4 d5 14.f5


Maximum violence!

14…Rxc3 15.Qxc3 Qxa2?! Now the game is completely crazy. However my move wasn’t the best one in the position. Superior was 15…Bh6+! 16. Kb1 Qxc3 17. bxc3 dxe4 18. fxe6 Bxe6 and black is completely OK with equal chances. Youths like to attack and keep the queens on.

16.Re1?! A mistake in return. 16. Kd2! is much more accurate. 16…Bh6+ 17. Ke1 Qa4 18. Bd3 dxe4 19. fxe6 and white is on top. 16…dxe4 16…a5!? is an inventive move that I did not consider during the game. White might respond 16…a5!? 17. fxe6 fxe6 18. Qb3 but even so, after 18…Bh6+! 19. Kd1 Qxb3 20. cxb3 Bc6 Black has little to fear.

17.Rxe4 Bh6+ 18.Kd1 Bc6


This is the sort of position that is child’s play for a computer and a huge headache for a human player.

19.Re5? 19. Rh4 is more accurate. Then, both 19…Qa1+ and 19..Qb1+ lead to great complications. For example, 19. Rh4 Qb1+ 20. Ke2 Qc1! 21. Rg1 (Kind of feeble, but what else?) 21…Bg7!? or 21…Bg5!? in both cases with sharp play and mutual chances.

19…Qb1+ 20.Ke2 Bg7 Black is on top now. The question is, can white “bail out” and survive. 21.Kd2 Bxe5 22.Qxe5 Rg5 23.Qb8+?! 23. Qh8+ was a more challenging try. The game can then get really sharp but black’s king winds up safer: 23. Qh8+ Kd7 24. Qd4+ Ke8 25. Qh8+ Ke7! Avoiding the draw. 26. f6+ Kd7 27. Qf8 (27. Qxh7 Rd5+ wins, e.g. 28. Kc3 Kd6! with a mating attack.) 27…Rd5+ 28. Kc3 Kc7! with a big attack.

23…Kd7 Now it’s simply bad for white in all lines.



24.Bb5? A tactical miscue. Black is faster than white and winds up the game with a direct mating attack. However, the superior 24. Qxb7+ Bxb7 25. Bb5+ Kc7 26. Rxb1 Rxg2+ simply leads to a terrible ending for white. 24. fxe6+ fxe6 25. Qxa7 Qxb2 is also very good for black.

24…Rxg2+ 25.Ke3 Qxh1 26.Qxb7+ Kd8 27.Qb8+ Ke7 28.Qxa7+ Kf8 29.Qc5+ Kg8 30.Qxc6 White could not postpone taking the bishop any longer. Now it’s black’s turn to hunt the white king which cannot escape. It’s all over.

30…Qe1+ 31.Kd4 Qf2+ 32.Kd3 Qd2+ 33.Ke4 Rg4+ 0-1

It was a thrill for me to beat a GM. I would go on to beat GM Roman Dzindzihashvili later in the year in Chicago and GM Shamkovich the next year in New York, but this game was a special treat because it was so tactical and crazy.


At the end of this event there was further hilarity when it was announced I would receive the special “Junior Merit” award. One of the gaggle of British juniors, I believe it was Stuart Conquest, muttered “He’s not a Junior!” and it was true, I was not eligible. Nevertheless, I was the proud recipient of 20 quid or so. Huzzah.