Archive for the ‘John Watson’ Category

The Fabulous 80s: NYC’s ‘Bar Point’ Club and its 1980 FIDE International

January 19, 2008

Chess and Music

The Bar Point Club, on 14th street and 6th Avenue, New York City, was an extremely busy chess locus in the early 1980s. It was owned by a backgammon player for some time (readers, I have forgotten his name) and after that, noted chess organizer and politician Bill Goichberg owned it; after that Peter Malick (a card player, and associate of Wayne Kramer from the MC5 60’s Detroit rock group) took over. I only know that Peter knew Kramer because I met, to my shock, Wayne Kramer face to face in one of the crazy late Bar Point nights. I could come up with nothing more clever than “I really like the MC5” and Wayne retorted “Small world”, turned on his heel, and walked off. The Bar Point went defunct for rent non-payment in the the mid 1980s – no more quads, no more IM and GM tournaments, no more back-room poker where I used to play heads-up with Howie Lederer. Sometimes after (or before) a poker skirmish I would then do battle in chess in the front room with Howard (he was a USCF expert).

A Few Words on a Pure Gambling Game: Backgammon

As a side comment on backgammon – this gambling game with “checkers”, dice, and the “doubling cube” could be very profitable to those more skilled than their wealthy but deluded opponents. For exampe, IM Jay Whitehead made thousands in one night playing the owner of a New York City Greenwich Village jazz club owner (one of the major clubs, for example Village Gate, the detail escapes me), and then was generous enough to fund a trip for me and him to play in Lugano, Switzerland 1984 where I played, among other people, ex-WC Boris Spassky. I know the winnings was in the thousands because he woke me up in the middle of the night to help him count the fifites and hundreds that were bulging out of every one of his pants and shirt pockets. Poker is has some similarities with the vast pool of weaker players but the complicated-to-use-properly backgammon doubling cube, rewards more immediately the better analyst. Besides, it’s nice to own a nice Moroccan or Syrian artisan backgammon set. You could also play the simpler Turkish backgammon variant shesh-besh (with no doubling cube).

Some Actual Chess

In 1980 I made my 2nd IM norm with a strong finish. Let’s see some of the games.

Round 1. Bar Point International I

IM Margeir Petursson (ICE) – M. Ginsburg

Of course my opponent went on to become a famous Icelandic Grandmaster and also a very successful lawyer businessman.

1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e6 3. e4 d5 4. e5 Ne4 5. Nxe4 Much safer is 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. Qc2, but then black has the surprising 6…Ng5!! TN – I used this to draw strong Canadian Kevin Spraggett in Toronto 1983. For example, 7. Nxg5 Qxg5 8. d4 Qh4 9. cxd5 Nxd4 10. Qd1 exd5 11. Nxd5 (11. Be3 Nf5 12. Nxd5 Bb4+ 13. Bd2 Qe4+ 14. Be2 Bxd2+ 15. Qxd2 Qxe5 and it’s equal. I don’t remember who showed me 6…Ng5!! TN, but it’s a really good novelty. Maybe I was the first to play it?

5… dxe4 6. Qg4 f5!? TN Black can also play 6… Bd7 7. Qxe4 Na6 8. Nf3 Bc6 9. Qb1 Nc5 10. d3 Nd7 11. d4 Bb4+ 12. Bd2 Bxd2+ 13. Nxd2 O-O 14. b4 a6 15. a4 Nb6 16. b5 with a total mess. The text move, 6…f5!?, is a novelty with great surprise value. Was I the first to play it? Again, I don’t remember who showed me. I was staying with Tisdall and Fedorowicz at the time; so maybe one of them.


Position after 6….f5!? TN. Who showed me this? Is this the first time it was played?

7. exf6 Qxf6 8. Qxe4 Nothing comes of 8. Nh3 Nc6 9. Be2 Qf5.

8… Nc6 9. Nf3 Bc5 10. Bd3? Much stronger is 10. Be2 e5 11. O-O Bf5 12. Qd5 Bb6 13. d4 Nxd4 14. Nxd4 Bxd4 15. Bh5+ g6 with a murky game.

10… Bd7 11. O-O O-O-O 12. Bc2 Nb4 13. Bd1?! Slightly more natural is 13. Bb1 Bc6 14. Qe5 b6 15. Qxf6 gxf6 16. Ne1 Rhg8 17. g3 Bb7 18. d3 Bd4 and black has a nice game.

13… Bc6 14. Qe5 Nd3 15. Qxf6 gxf6


Position after 15…gxf6. White is hog-tied.

The novelty in the opening could not have succeeded more. White is paralyzed and black should have no trouble winning this.

16. a3 a5?! The right move is 16… Rhg8! 17. b4 Bd4 18. Rb1 Be4! (I missed this move) 19. g3 Bxf2+ 20. Kg2 Bd4 and black is easily winning.

17. b4 axb4 Black can also play 17… Nxc1 18. bxc5 (18. Rxc1 axb4 19. d4 Bxf3 20. Bxf3 Rxd4 21. axb4 Bxb4) 18… Nd3 and he stands well.

18. axb4 Bxb4 19. Bc2 19. Ba3 Bxa3 20. Rxa3 Rhg8 21. g3 Nb2 is good for black, but not a decisive edge.

19… b6 20. Ba3 Rhg8 21. Bxd3 Bxf3 22. g3 Bxd2 23. Bc2 f5?! Once again I miss an easy and rather primitive variation: 23… Bc3 24. Rab1 Be2 25. Rfc1 Bd2 trapping the rook and wins.

24. Rfb1 Rg4 25. c5 bxc5 26. Bxc5 Rc4 27. Bb3 Rxc5 28. Bxe6+ Rd7 29. Ra2 Bc3 30. Ra3 Here, white lost on time; fortunate for me because I had been showing shaky technique so far.


Black is on top, but not totally winning. For example, 30…Bd5 31. Bxf5 Bf6 32. g4 Kd8 33. Bxd7 Kxd7 34. Rd1 Bg5 35. h4 Be7 36. Rf3 Kc8 37. Rf5 c6 and the game goes on, with black having an edge but it remains to see if I can convert it.

In Round 4 I encountered New England junior Jim Rizzitano. I include the ratings at that time as a historical curiosity.

Mark Ginsburg – NM James Rizzitano (2352 USCF, 2225 FIDE) Round 4. Leningrad Dutch.

1. c4 f5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. O-O O-O 6. d4 d6 7. Nc3 Nc6?! Of all the Leningrad Dutch lines, (7….c6 8. d5! MG-Sarkar US Ch 2006, 7….Qe8 MG-Bareev Naestved 1988 are popular) this one is the most positionally suspect.

8. d5 Ne5 9. Qb3 Ned7 Perhaps a little better is 9…Nxf3+ 10. Bxf3 Nd7 11. Bg2 Nc5 12. Qc2 and white keeps some edge. GM Anderssson as white managed to beat De la Villa Garcia, Pamplona 1998, in 43 moves in this line.

10. Qc2 Nc5 11. b4! Although many moves have been seen here, the text is obvious and strong.

11…Nce4 12. Bb2 This position has been seen OTB in other games; it simply favors white.

12…e5 Aagard-Rewitz, Aarhus 1999, saw 12…c5 13. dxc6 bxc6 14. Nxe4 fxe4 15. Nd4 and white has an edge. Aagard won in 40 moves. The double-double “A” is very aesthetic: Aagard played in Aarhus. 🙂 Black also was unsuccessful with 12…Nxc3 13. Bxc3 Bd7 14. Nd4 Qc8 15. Rac1 c6 16. dxc6 bxc6 17. b5 c5 18. Nc6 and white won in 48 moves, Haba-Trapl, Czechoslovakia 1994.

13. dxe6 Nxc3 14. Bxc3 Bxe6 15. Rad1 Qe7 16. Ng5 White did absolutely nothing clever and he has a huge edge. That means black’s opening was poor.

16…c6 17. b5 Bd7 18. Qd3 Ne8 19. Bxg7 Kxg7 20. Qd4+ Kg8 21. h4 h6 22. Nh3 Kh7 23. Rfe1 Rd8 24. e4 Qf7 25. exf5 Bxf5 26. Nf4 The easiest was 26. Qxa7 Nc7 27. Qb6.

26… Rc8 27. Bf3 Ng7 28. Qxd6 Qxc4 29. bxc6 bxc6


Position after 29…bxc6. White to play and win.

30. Re7? A tactically alert player would find the immediately decisive and aesthetic 30. h5! gxh5 (30… g5 31. Ng6 Rfe8 32. Qf6 wins) 31. Re7 Rf7 32. Bd5! (interference theme!) and wins.

30… Qc3 31. Qd4 Once again, 31. h5! g5 (31… gxh5 32. Nxh5 and wins) 32. Ne6 Bxe6 33. Qxe6 Rxf3 34. Rdd7 Rxg3+ 35. Kh2 Rh3+ 36. Qxh3 Qxh3+ 37. Kxh3 Rg8 38. Rxa7 wins.

31… Qxd4 32. Rxd4 Kg8 33. Rxa7 Rf7 34. Rxf7 Kxf7 35. Rd6 c5 The last chance was 35… g5 36. hxg5 hxg5 37. Ne2 and it’s not all over yet.

36. Nxg6! c4 37. Bd5+ Ne6 38. Nf4 c3 39. Rxe6 c2 40. Rc6+ Ke7 41. Rxc8 Bxc8 42. Ne2 Bf5 43. Nc1 1-0

Middle Round Disasters

All was not sweetness and light. I suffered a nasty reverse playing the white pieces versus Icelandic future Grandmaster and World Championship candidate Johann Hjartarson. Recall that Hjartarson defeated Korchnoi in a match! And then I threw away a completely won game and lost ignominiously to the eventual tournament winner, now sadly retired from OTB play to pontificate and author various tomes, IM John Watson. It took GM Larry Evans in a newspaper column to rudely show me the winning line. Readers will commiserate when they see the diagrams tell the woeful story of the Watson game.

Round 5.

IM John Watson – M. Ginsburg English Opening

1. c4 John’s fearsome specialty. Not a bad move; I used it myself in numerous Mikenas Attack encounters (1. c4 Nf6 2. nc3 e6 3. e4!?, later taken up by Nakamura, e.g. Nakamura-Zarnicki 1-0 HB Global Chess Challenge, Minneapolis 2005).

1…Nf6 2. Nc3 c5 3. g3 e6 4. Nf3 b6 5. e4 Bb7 6. d3 d5? A really bad move. 6…Nc6 is fine for black.

7. cxd5 exd5 8. e5 Nfd7 Black has handled the first phase very poorly.


Position after 8…Nfd7. Black has a very poor game.

9. d4? A miscue in return. The surprising 9. Bh3! is extremely good for white. For example, 9…d4 10. Ne4 Bd5 11. O-O Be7 12. e6! fxe6 13. Nfg5 with strong pressure.

9…cxd4 Now black is OK again.

10. Nxd4 Nxe5?! This pawn grab looks and is too risky. The more sedate 10…Bc5 and much more sensible is quite playable for black.

11. Bb5+ Nbd7 12. Qe2 White had 12. Bf4! Bd6 13. O-O O-O 14. Nf5! with a big plus.

12…Qe7 13. O-O O-O-O 14. Be3 Kb8 15. a4 This idea is not bad,; 15. Rae1 is another valid way to handle the position.

15…g6?! The inaccuracy festival continues. This is rather slow. Correct is the challenging 15…Qf6!, e.g. 16. a5? Bc5! threatening to eat on d4 then fork on f3 with Nf3+. In that position, Black is fine and even has chances to gain the initiative. White should play 16. Bxd7! Rxd7 17. Bf4 Bd6 18. Ncb5 g5 18. Bxg5! Qxg5 20. Nxd6 with some advantage.

16. a5 Bg7


Position after 16…Bg7. Time to act.

17. b3?! Hesitant and weak. Correct is the simple 17. axb6 Nxb6 18. Ba6 and white has a big edge. And on 17….axb6? 18. Bf4! eyeing Nc6+ is completely crushing, e.g. 18…Qd6 19. Ba6 Bc6 20. Ncb5! and white wins. Also strong is the evident 17. a6! Ba8 18. Rfe1 with a bind.

17… bxa5? Another error. 17…Rc8! is correct, e.g. 18. Rfc1 Qb4! to lure the rook to a4: 19. Ra4 Qe7 and black is holding the position. Now 20. axb6 Nxb6 would hit the rook on a4 and let black have room to breathe (and defend).

18. Rfc1?! White had the tempting 18. f4! and black has to walk a narrow path just to not lose right away. He has to play 18…a6! (18…Ng4? 19. Nc6+ Bxc6 20. Bxa7+ wins) 19. Ba4 Rc8! 20. Rac1 Rc7! (Black must acquiesce to the inevitable loss of a piece; he has some pawns for it) 21. fxe5 Nxe5 and black is worse but not lost.

18…Rc8 19. Rxa5?! 19. f4! will transpose to the above note after 19…a6! 20. Ba4 Rc7! 21. fxe5 and white enjoys a sizeable plus.

19… Rxc3! This seems like desperation but in fact it’s black’s best try.

20. Rxc3 Qb4 21. Ra2? The situation is confusing. 21. Bd2 Qxd4 (21…Qxa5 22. Rc8+ is good for white) 22. Ra4 Qb6 23. Be3 Nf3+ 24. Qxf3 d4 25. Qf4+ Be5 26. Bxd4 Bxf4 27. Bxb6 Nxb6 28. Rxf4 Nd5 29. Rcf3 Nxf4 30. Rxf4 Rd8 31. f3 f5 32. g4 is a crazy sample line that fizzles into a draw. Still, the text is an outright blunder. White must have overlooked something.

21… Qxc3 22. Bxd7 Qd3! Strong! Black now has some hopes of getting the upper hand. This is the kind of move that white may have overlooked in preliminary calculations; now he gets really rattled.

23. Qe1?? A really bad blunder. Correct is 23. Bb5! Qxe2 24. Bxe2 Re8 25. Kf1 with a level game, or 25. Nb5 Nc6 26. Nxa7 Nb4 again with a draw. White must have hallucinated a mate or something, but this clunker just drops a piece.

23…Nxd7! I don’t know why I indicated 23… Qxd4? as good in my scorepad after the game. That move only seems to draw: 24. Bxd4 Nf3+ 25. Kf1 Nxe1 26. Bxg7 Rd8 27. Be5+ Ka8 28. Kxe1 Rxd7 29. Bd4 Bc6 and it’s equal. The text grabs a free piece and the game should be all over.

24. Bf4+ A last check before white has to give up.


Position after 24. Bf4+. One last “puzzle” to solve, and I fail ignominiously.

24…Kc8??? What the heck – a mutual hallucination? Maybe I was low on time, but my scorepad doesn’t have the times in it. Did Watson give off weird mental vibes after his irrational 23rd that I “caught” and “echoed?” Only a while after the game (I was really eager to forget it) did I read GM Larry Evans column that “informed me” that 24… Ka8 would win. White doesn’t have any threats, let alone a potential mate. Could I have overlooked that 25. Qa5 Bxd4 guards a7? It is true that backward diagonal moves are often overlooked … More likely, I thought the desperado 25. Rxa7+ “worked”. In reality, 25. Rxa7+ Kxa7 26. Qa5+ Ba6 27. Qc7+ Ka8 28. Qc6+ Bb7 29. Qa4+ Qa6 also wins for black. Pretty simple stuff. Whatever the case, the text is suicide and after white’s next, it is clear black loses many pieces all with check. Did I really do this, move my king to a losing square when the other square obviously wins? Yes, I did!

25. Qc1+ I’m losing. A serious blow to my IM norm chances. Boo! I am now losing to John Freakin’ Watson.

25…Kd8 26. Qc7+ Ke8 27. Re2+ Ne5 28. Bxe5 Bxe5 29. Qxe5+ Kd7 30. Qe7+ Kc8 31. Rc2+ Kb8 32. Qe5+ 1-0 Ugh! I was really angry. Time to rebound! The winner of this game won the tournament, with a big score of 8.5 out of 11, reaffirming the adage ‘winners make their own luck’.

Theory Interlude: Blowing Kudrin’s Mind in a Dragon

In the eighth round, I had the opportunity to surprise Kudrin with a TN in the Dragon. This doesn’t happen often to the well-prepared Sergey. He employed my TN with white the next year!

M. Ginsburg – Sergey Kudrin, Round 8 Sicilian Dragon, Yugoslav Attack.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 The Yugoslav attack. The only real way to deal with this opening. Anatoly Karpov had some beautiful wins with it, including a famous Informant masterpiece over Viktor Korchnoi (WC Match), in this variation.

7…O-O 8. Qd2 Nc6 9. O-O-O! This move cuts down on the amount of material white has to know. For that reason, it has high practical value.

9…Nxd4 A whole different story is 9… d5 10. exd5 Nxd5 11. Nxc6 bxc6 12. Bd4 e5 13. Bc5 Be6 14. Bc4 Re8 15. Ne4 h6 16. g4 f5 17. gxf5 gxf5 18. Rhg1 Kh7 19. Qg2 and white won, 1-0 Fedorov,V (2425)-Eletsky,E/Oviedo 1993. There have been many games in this line, and current thinking is that white has a small edge.

10. Bxd4 Be6 11. Nd5 White can try 11. Kb1 Qc7 12. Bb5 a6 13. Ba4 b5 14. Bb3 b4 15. Na4 Rab8 16. h4 [If 16. Bxe6 fxe6 17. b3 Qc6 18. h4 Rfd8? (Better is 18… Nh5 19. Bxg7 Kxg7 20. Qe3 h6 21. g4 Nf4 with equality) 19. g4 e5 20. Bb2 h6 21. g5 Nh5 22. gxh6 Bf6 23. c4 Nf4 and white won, 1-0 Nijboer,F (2534)-Janssen,R (2445), Wijk aan Zee 1999.] As Bernard Zuckerman told me, 11. Bb5? right away is really bad: 11…Qa5 12. Ba4 Rfc8! and white cannot complete his defensive idea and is hence lost (BZ). The computer verifies Bernie. For example, 13. Bb3 Bxb3 14. axb3 Qa1+ 15. Nb1 a5! and black has a big plus.

11… Bxd5 12. exd5 Qc7 13. Kb1 Rac8 (13… Rfc8 14. Rc1 a6 15. h4 e5? 16. dxe6 fxe6 17. g4 Qf7 18. h5 e5 19. hxg6 hxg6 20. Be3 d5 21. Bh6 Bh8 22. Qh2 Nh7 23. Bd3 Rc6 and white won, Kuzmin,G (2495)-Alterman,B/Voroshilovgrad 1989.

14. Rc1! TN


Position after my novelty 14. Rc1! TN

I know this is a good move, because Kudrin adopted it as white the next year, 1981! I also have vague memories of discussing this move with someone (perhaps they told me about it) but I am not sure about that. Previously seen was the anemic 14. c4? b5! 15. Rc1 (15. b3 bxc4 16. bxc4 Rb8+ 17. Ka1 Rb6 18. Be2 Rfb8 19. Rb1 Nd7 20. Bxg7 Kxg7 21. Qd4+ Kg8 22. Rxb6 Rxb6 23. Rb1 Rxb1+ 24. Kxb1 Qa5 and black went on to win, 0-1 Dhar Barua,S (2225)-Shaw,J (2390)/Manchester 1997. 15… Rb8 1/2-1/2 Bertok,M-Vidmar,M/Ljubljana 1955.

14… a6 The passive 14… Nd7 is good for white: 15. Bxg7 Kxg7 16. h4 Nf6 (16… h5 17. g4 Rh8 18. Qd4+ f6 19. Qxa7) 17. h5 gxh5? (17… Nxh5 18. g4 Nf6 19. Qh6+ Kg8 20. Bd3 Qc5 21. g5 Qe3 22. f4! Qxf4 23. Rcf1! wins) 18. Bd3 {1-0 Smeets,J (2311)-Didderen,G/Hyerois 2001}

15. c4! Also playable is 15. h4 e5 16. dxe6 fxe6 17. g4 e5? (Correct is 17… Qc6 18. Be2 Nd5 19. Bxg7 Kxg7 20. h5 Nf4) 18. Be3 Qc6 19. Be2 Nd5 20. h5 Nxe3 21. Qxe3 Qc5 22. Qb3+ d5 23. hxg6 hxg6 24. Rcd1 Rfd8 25. Bd3 and white won, S. Kudrin (!) Mark,D (2256)/Palo Alto 1981. This game proves the worth of the 14th move novelty! The position on the board now is simply good for white.

15… Rfe8 The rash ‘breakout’ 15…b5? 16. cxb5 Qxc1+ 17. Qxc1 Rxc1+ 18. Kxc1 Rc8+ 19. Kb1 Nxd5 20. Bxg7 Kxg7 21. bxa6 is obviously very good for white.

16. Bd3 e6 17. dxe6 fxe6 and I had a huge edge with the bishop pair and black’s hanging pawns. Unfortunately, I only drew eventually and I can’t find the scoresheet. The fact that Sergey used this as white in the very next year is heart-warming (a fact I didn’t know until I looked it up recently).


The Exciting Conclusion of the Tournament

So in the last two rounds I needed a perfect 2-0 score to get the norm. In the next to last round I was black against future IM Walter Shipman and in the last round I was white against future FM Dan Shapiro. Well, I got the job done very smoothly and easily against the normally stodgy and solid Shipman. But the Shapiro game was another story. I posted them in a separate installment – the last game in particular, a nervy norm game, was not for the faint of heart.

The Classic 80s Part 3: Manhattan Chess Club

July 16, 2007

In the mid-1980’s, The Manhattan Chess Club had a fabulous location on the 10th floor of Carnegie Hall, at 57th Street and 7th Avenue in Manhattan (I believe the MCC that Bobby Fischer frequented was at a different eastside location). Across the street was “Merit Farms”, where hungry chess players would get sandwiches and what not. Steve Immitt called it “Merit Clowns.” There was even a bathtub on the 11th floor that the players could use; an unheard of luxury for a chess club. Some players took the nice location too far and actually started living in the club. A creeping seediness gummed up the works and, coupled with the rent increase, the MCC had to move to the far west site (9th avenue in the 40s) where it, sadly, did not last.  I refer the readers to a newer post where I am trying to establish a who’s who of MCC champions over the years.

Here’s a photo of me circa 1983, with the famous old Manhattan CC soda machine.  Facial hair is fun but it’s unclear how it affects one’s play. Maybe we should ask Levon Aronian about this. I heard from a reader that in 1983, the MCC was actually at another east-side location (not yet Carnegie Hall).  Can anyone confirm the 1983 location?


1983:  Where exactly was the MCC? 

Every year the MCC Championship was a banner event attracting many strong players. Over the years, such luminaries as Bobby Fischer, Joel Benjamin, Robert Byrne, and other GMs have won it. I managed to do the trick twice, in 1988 and 1990.

First let’s look at a 1983 tussle featuring an unusual opening which has its merits and is quite good to get booked up players out of book.
Joel Benjamin vs Mark Ginsburg
Manhattan Chess Club Championship, 1983

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 d6 3. Nc3 e5 4. Nf3 e4!? 5. Ng5 Bf5 6. g4 Bxg4 7. Bg2 Nc6!? 7…Nbd7 is also playable here. See Alburt-Ginsburg, Lone Pine 1980. In general, I think this line is underrated for black as active piece play is achievable.

8. Ngxe4 Be7 9. b3?! 9. Be3, 9. Rg1, and even 9. Nd5!? are more to the point.

9…Nxe4 10. Nxe4 O-O 11. Bb2 f5! A natural space-gaining move. The position is now very sharp and unclear.

12. Ng3?! Tempting black into a strong advance. 12. Nc3 looks safer.


Position after 12. Ng3.  Black is tempted into the bum’s rush. 

12… f4 A logical follow-up. Black now has a small edge.

13. Ne4 d5! Correct. White’s center is splintered.

14. cxd5 Nb4 15. d6 Bxd6 16. d5 Qe7 17. a3 Bf5 18. Nxd6


Position after 18. Nxd6.  Two good moves, but only allowed to pick one. 

18… Nc2+!? The obvious 18…Nd3+ is tempting and strong but after 19. Kd2! (19. Kf1?? loses horribly to the crushing blow 19…f3! 20. exf3 (20. Bxf3? Bh3+ 21. Bg2 Rxf2+) Qxd6 and white is paralyzed.) white stays afloat. Note that 19…Nxb2 20. Nxf5! Rxf5 21. Qc1 is good for white. Black should continue 19…Nxf2! 20. Nxf5 Rxf5 and after the best moves 21. Qe1! Qg5! black has some edge. The text is also good for some advantage.

19. Kf1 Qxd6 20. Rc1 f3! Black finds the key resource.  Another splintering motif to go with the earlier 13…d5!; quite a field day for these brave pawns.

21. exf3 Qa6+?! Here is where things start to slip slowly away. Black had the much stronger craven capture 21…Nxa3! and the knight can extricate via b5. After 22. Qd4 Rf7 23. Qc5 Qxc5 24. Rxc5 Nc2 the knight can dance out another way and black has a decisive edge – white’s structure is ruined.

22. Kg1 Rae8 Black, of course, still has a big edge here.


Position after 22…Rae8.  How can black contrive to lose this? 

23. Qd2 Qg6? The text is terrible and white gets tempi to unravel. 23…Rf7! is much stronger. For example, 23…Rf7 24. h3 Re2 25. Qg5 Qb6! hitting f2 and wins. or 23…Rf7 24. Qc3 Nxa3! (g7 is guarded!) and black again has every chance to win.

24. h4! Of course! For the first time in many moves, white gets breathing room and it is now black that has uncoordinated pieces. The (smallish) advantage now sits with white.

21…Bd3? Another weak move. 21…h5! was necessary and white’s edge is manageable.

25. h5 Qf5 26. Rh4 26. Rh3 was also very strong.

26…Re2 27. Qc3 Qf6 28. Qxf6?! The brute-force 28. Bf1 wins for white. 28…Rxf2 29. Qxf6 Rxf1+ 30. Rxf1 gxf6 leads to a technically lost ending.

28…gxf6 29. Bf1 The clever 29. Rg4+ Kf7 30. h6! was stronger here.

29…Re1 30. Rg4+ Kf7 31. Rxe1 Nxe1 32. Bxd3 Nxd3 33. Bc3 Black still has a bad game but there are glimmers of hope here and there.

33…Rg8 33…Rd8! 34. Rc4 Rxd5! playing for activity was a better bet. For example, 35. Rxc7+ Ke6 36. Rxh7 Nf4! keeping fighting chances.

34. Rxg8 Kxg8 35. Bd2 Now white has a classic better minor piece advantage.

35…Kf7 36. Kf1 Nc5 37. b4 Nd7 38. Bf4 Nb6 39. Bxc7 Nxd5 40. Bb8 a6 41. Ke2 Ke6 41…f5 putting a pawn on white and gaining space was better.

42. Kd3 Ne7? Black misses a clever defense: 42…b5! 43. Kd4 Nb6! preventing Kc5 due to the knight fork on d7. Then, 44. Bf4 Nd7 and black for the moment has built a defensive wall preventing the white king from getting in.


Position after 42…Ne7.  Things are going wrong in slow-motion.

43. Bg3 Nf5 44. Kc4 Kd7 45. Kd5 Ng7 46. h6 Nf5 47. Bf4 Ne7+ Black should have at least tried 47…Nh4.

48. Kc5 Ng6 49. Be3 Ne5 50. Bd4 Nf7 51. Be3 51. Bxh6! Nxh6 52. a4 is strong.

51…Ne5 52. Bd4 Nf7 53. Bxf6! White finds the correct way to unbalance the game and make the B vs N duel more lopsided.

53…Nxh6 54. Kd5 Nf7 55. f4 b5 56. Bh4


Position after 56. Bh4.  Last straw coming. 

56… h5? A terrible move. Black has to sit tight with 56…Nd6! and pray. The following variation demonstrates black still has chances: 56…Nd6 57. f3 h5 58. Ke5 Nc4+ 59. Kf6 Nd2! 60. Kg6 Nxf3 61. Kxh5 Ke6! 62. Kg4 Nh2+!, holding the position.

57. f5 Nh6 Now it’s too late for 57…Nd6 58. Ke5! (58. f6 also wins). The rest is a set of meaningless moves, black is totally lost.

58. Ke5 Ke8 59. Kf6 Nf7 60. Kg6 Ne5+ 61. Kg7 Nf7 62. Bg3 Nd8 63. f3 Nc6 64. f6 Nd8 65. Kg6 Kf8 66. Bc7 Nb7 67. f7 1-0

An exceptionally poorly played middlegame, tossing away a won game, and then a poorly played ending as well. These two things usually add up to a loss. But note the nice opening!

Moving ahead two years to 1985, here is a happier memory. A brilliancy prize game played vs Dr. Neil McKelvie, a Chemistry Professor at CCNY in 1985. I believe Neil was one of the directors of the club in this era. I didn’t do particuarly well in the 1985 incarnation, but at least I got some jollies in this slugfest.

Mark Ginsburg vs NM Dr. Neil McKelvie
Manhattan Chess Club Championship, 1985

Queens Gambit Declined

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. c4 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 Be7 7. O-O O-O 8. b3 b6 9. Bb2 Bb7 10. Qe2 dxc4?! It doesn’t look right to concede the center so quickly.

11. bxc4 c5 12. Rad1 cxd4 13. exd4


13… Qb8 Black wants to transfer his queen to the strong f4 square. White rushes to prevent that.

14. Ne5! Rd8 15. f4! White’s initiative is quite menacing. Black hurries to erect defensive structures and it’s up to white to break them down.

15…g6 16. Kh1 Bf8 17. d5! exd5 18. cxd5 Re8


19. d6! A very nice clearance to get to black’s king.

19…Bxd6 20. Nb5 Bc5 21. Bc4! Focusing on the f7 point. White’s position is now winning but some further line-opening sacrifices are needed.


21… Re7 22. Bxf7+! Rxf7 23. Nxf7 Kxf7 24. f5!

Attacking players find all these moves easily. Black’s king position is completely ripped apart and he has no defense.

25…Qe8 25. Qc4+ Kf8 26. Rxd7! Qxd7 27. fxg6! Everything is with gain of time; when an attacking game flows smoothly it’s a lot of fun to play.



It was resignable here. White proceeds to capture most of black’s pieces.

28. Rxf6+ Ke7 29. Rf7+ Kd8 30. Bf6+ Kc8 31. Qg4+ Kb8 32. Qg3+ Bd6 33. Rf8+ Bc8 34. Qxd6+ 1-0

A most enjoyable game.

Here’s another tough tangle from the ’85 event versus a former US Championship participant and USA representative in the Chess Olympiad, George M. Kramer.

According to ChessBase, Mr. Kramer’s middle name is Mortimer (a good trivia question?). He has been active in top chess for many decades; his career has games vs GMs Fine, Najdorf, etc. Here’s a 10 move win of his(!) vs. American NM Weaver Adams, US Open 1946, Pittsburgh. Kramer was black in the W. Adams win, and his opponent had authored one of the typical weak self-help books you see in bookstores, “White to Play and Win.” Heh. Kramer played in numerous US Championships; here’s a feeble loss to Bobby Fischer in the 1957 event and to even things out a win over Letelier in the World Chess Olympiad, Dubrovnik, 1950. I see at he also played in the Munich 1958 and Varna 1962 Olympiads.

NM George M. Kramer – IM Mark Ginsburg

MCC Ch 1985, Round 5

King’s Indian Defense


1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 d6 3. Nc3 Nbd7 4. Nf3 e5 5. e4 A totally different way is steering play for the Old Indian with 5. Bg5! Be7 6. e3 O-O 7. Qc2 exd4 8. Nxd4 (8. exd4 h6 9. Bh4 d5 10. c5 c6 is OK for Black) 8… h6 9. Bh4 Ne5 10. O-O-O Re8 and we reach a well-known book position with a small edge for white.

5… g6 6. Be2 Bg7 7. O-O O-O 8. Be3 h6 An interesting move to gauge white’s intentions.


9. Ne1 9. dxe5 is my personal preference; after 9…dxe5 10. Qc1! Kh7 (10… Ng4? 11. Bd2 Kh7 12. Ng5+! hxg5 13. Bxg4 with a big edge to white) 11. Rd1 and white is a bit better.

9… exd4 10. Bxd4 Re8 Playable is 10… Ne5 11. Nc2 Re8 12. f3 Be6 13. b3 Nc6 14. Be3 Nd7 15. Qd2 Qh4 16. Rad1 Rac8 17. Nd5 Kh7 and black fights on.

11. f3 c6 Black can try 11… Ne5 12. Nd5 a6 13. Qd2 Bd7 14. Rd1 Nxd5 15. cxd5 Bb5.

12. Qd2 Ne5 13. Rd1 Be6 14. b3 g5 Rather unsolid. More usual would be 14… Qa5 15. Nc2 Rad8 16. f4 c5 17. Bf2 Nc6 18. Bh4 Nd4 19. Bd3 Nxc2 20. Qxc2 Bg4 21. Rde1 Rb8 22. Nb5 Qb6 23. Qf2 with some white edge.

15. Be3?! A better alternative here is 15. Nc2!? ganging up on d6. 15. Qe3 is another chance.

15… Qa5 16. Nc2 Nh5! 17. Na4 Qxd2 18. Rxd2 Nf4! Black is OK now, the pawn sacrifice on d6 is fully justified.

19. Bxf4 gxf4 20. Rxd6


20…a6? Quite a feeble move for several reasons. 20… Rad8! is clearly good. It’s unusual in the sense that black, behind material, actually does want to trade here. 21. Rfd1 (Offering nothing is 21. Rxd8 Rxd8 22. Rd1 Rxd1+ 23. Bxd1 Nd7 24. Be2 f5! with full compensation for the pawn; however it is drawish and black really has no winning chances.} 25. Kf2 Kf7 26. g3 Be5 27. gxf4 Bxf4 with approximate equality.

21. Rd2 White is simply better after this slow move, but he also had 21. c5! This move appears to lose the c5-pawn, but white has a nice counter-tactic. 21..Bf8 22. Rd4 Nd7 23. Rfd1! Nxc5 (23… Bxc5 24. Nxc5 Nxc5 25. Rd6 a5 26. Nd4) 24. Nb6! (an unexpected trapping of the knight on c5. 24… Rab8 25. b4 a5 26. bxc5 Bxc5 27. Nc4 Red8 28. Kf1 Bxd4 29. Rxd4 with a big plus.

21… Bf8 Here, white has a stable and comfortable edge. But look what happens!

22. g3!? Methodical. White clears the way for the f3 pawn to advance. I would prefer the simpler 22.Rfd1 with a big plus.

22… fxg3 23. f4?? A gross tactical blunder. 23. hxg3 b5 24. Nb2! leaves white on top. For example, 24…Bg7 25. Ne3! guarding the N/b2 against possible discovered attacks.


23… gxh2+ 24. Kg2 Rad8! White must have overlooked this simple tactic. The position has been opened up for the two bishops and white collapses.

25. Rfd1 25. Rd4 Ng4 or 25…Bg4 both win for black.

25… Rxd2 26. Rxd2 Ng6! A very simple solution. White’s once proud, solid position is a structural ruin.

27. Kxh2 27. f5 is a slightly better try but still white winds up in a lost ending after an elementary tactical blow: 27…Bxf5! 28. exf5 Rxe2+ (28… Nf4+29. Kxh2 Rxe2+ 30. Rxe2 Nxe2 transposes) 29. Rxe2 Nf4+ 30. Kxh2 Nxe2 31. Kg2 Bd6 32. Kf3 Nc1 33. Nc3 Be5 34. Ne4 Nxa2 35. Nc5 Nc1 36. Nxb7 Nxb3 37. Nb4 Nd2+ 38. Ke2 Nxc4 39. Nxa6 Bb2 40. Nb4 Ne5 and black wins.

27… Nxf4 With the rooks still on, black has a crushing position with the bishop pair and an extra pawn.

28. Bf3 Ng6 29. Ne3 b5 30. Nb2 Bb4 31. Rd1 Ne5 32. Bh5 From now on, black has his choice of wins.

32…Kh7 33. Nd3 Bd6 34. Nxe5 Bxe5+ 35. Kg2 Bf4 35… Rg8+ 36. Kf2 Rg5 37. Bf3 Kg6 also wins very easily.

36. Kf3


36…Bxe3! One of the great advantages of the bishop pair, as GM Yefim Geller observed, is that one of them can be traded at the right time for positional or material gains. And the right time might last for a very long time. This is a good example, it is time to lose the bishop pair to aim for an easily won and simplified ending.

37. Kxe3 bxc4 38. b4 Rb8 38… Bd5! exploiting the pin is a very simple win.

39. a3 a5 40. Rb1 Of no help is 40. bxa5 Rb3+ 41. Kd4 Rxa3.

40…axb4 41. axb4 Rb5! The threat of …c6-c5 is very convincing so white resigned.



Let’s jump ahead to the end of the 1980s for a nice ‘gamelet’ vs NM Maxim Berlyant, refuting his particular interpretation of the Snake Benoni.

Mark Ginsburg vs Maxim Berlyant
Manhattan Chess Club, 1989

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c5 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 Bd6?  Not good after 3. Nc3; playable after 3. Nf3.  I took great pains to explain this to IM John Watson and I’m still not sure he understands, because he didn’t at the time (judging from his confused reaction and initial statement that the Snake was equivalent after 3. Nc3 and 3. Nf3).


6. g3! Bc7 7. d6!  This is a complete refutation. Since white has not committed his KN to f3 yet, it can go to h3 to f4 to d5.  That is the key differentiator. Black is paralyzed by the d6 pawn wedge.

6…Ba5 8. Bg2 O-O 9. Nh3 Qb6 10. O-O Ne8  An abject retreat signals black’s desperate condition.


11. Nd5 Qd8 12. Qc2 Na6 13. Ng5 Everything with gain of time. It’s not usual that a master is reduced to such helplessness after a handful of moves.

13…g6 14. Ne4 Bb6 15. Bh6

A very brutal finale.  Black has no defense.



This snake was squashed.




Watch this spot; I will post other MCC Championship tangles versus Dlugy, Benjamin, Schroer, Zuckerman, Shirazi, Cooke, and more.