Archive for the ‘Lubosh Kavalek’ 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.

The Fabulous 70s: Washington Plumbers win the 1976 National Chess League!

November 28, 2007

Before the current day US Chess League, there was the pre-Internet phone matches conducted between various cities in the National Chess League.

Here is a photo of the 1976 season winners, the Washington Plumbers (so named after Nixon’s squad of burglars who broke into the Watergate hotel and started the snowball of corruption that sank the Nixon presidency). The photo was taken at the “It’s Your Move” chess club in Georgetown, Washington DC – this club has long been defunct, the victim of rising rents in popular Northwest Washington.

ncl_76_2.gif

The 1976 National Chess League Victors, the “Washington Plumbers” (click several times to see details)

Some classic personalities in this photo. Starting from left, masters Sam Greenlaw and Robert Eberlein helped out in key matches. Third from left, very strong master Charlie Powell scored a clutch win (figuring out immense complications in severe time trouble) vs Jack Peters in a semifinal round. Next to Charlie is team captain, BVI’s own Bill Hook. Next to Bill is one of the Meyer brothers, John Meyer. Next to John is senior master Larry Gilden with his hand in the plunger, a player with one of the highest ratings in the country in the early 1970s. As Charlie Hertan writes recalling 1972, “Senior masters were very rare in those days, and except for national tournaments like the U.S. Open or fledgling World Open, you wouldn’t expect to see more than one, sometimes two, at a weekend event. Larry Gilden was usually the top-ranked player, with a “monster” rating of about 2410.”

I still remember Larry showing me a “philosopher’s wheel” (a circular chart he had made with lots of tiny Elliott Winslow-style letters). In the latter part of the 1970s, Gilden suffered a decline in playing strength. Nevertheless, he defeated me in a long up and down game where he was white in a g2-g3 Sicilian Taimonov. After the game, he exclaimed “Thank you!” I looked at him and he said, “You made me feel like a Gilden again.” This is a pretty cool after-game speech.

And next to Larry, second from right, is 1976 World Junior Champ Mark Diesen – he went to Potomac HS, the HS right next to mine (Walt Whitman HS in Bethesda). Finally, on the right, we had our star, Czech emigrant GM Lubosh Kavalek. It also didn’t hurt in 1978 that we were able to play guest star Swedish GM Ulf Anderssen in a match (Ulf was in town losing a short match 1 1/2- 4 1/2 to Lubosh in a Volvo exhibition match). I played on this team in the 1978 season.
For more information on this ancient precusor to today’s US Chess League and some games, click here.

January 2008 Postscript on Larry Gilden

I saw this in the liquor store review blogosphere: (pay close attention to the end of the interview)

“Larry!”

I was standing in a nearly empty Pearson’s this evening, just before closing time. A gray-haired gentleman with coke-bottle-thick, black-rimmed glasses looked up from the shelf that he was stocking.

He had no idea who I was.

“How would you have done against Bobby Fischer?”

Without even thinking about it, he replied, “I played him in 61. Beat him head-to-head.”

“I don’t believe you.”

We talked further.

It was the New York Chess and Checkers Club, and Larry Gilden, later named a chess FIDE Master, played Fischer in about 25 games of 5-minute speed chess.

“Beat him once, played him to a draw three times.”

“He won twenty games?”

“Yeah, about that.”

“Was he that good?”

He nodded his head. “He was a genius. It’s a shame he didn’t get the rest of his life in order.”

“Is it true you have a gambit named after you?”

I had heard of the Gilden Gambit.

He denied it. “I’m in the books, but I don’t think there’s anything named after me.”

I think the author of the italicized quote is “Don Rockwell.” At any rate, I have the Ginsburg Gambit – maybe our names are similar and things got confused. 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Bc4!!?? Nxe4 – the Ginsburg Gambit. I wonder if Gilden knows about it? I will post my 1970s analysis on it, on this site, shortly. I did realize Larry worked in a liquor store, now we know (thanks to the blogosphere) which one!   The liquor blog also contained a link to a nice finish in the game Gilden-Jakobsen, World Junior Champ., The Hague, Netherlands, 1961.