Archive for the ‘National Chess League’ Category

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.


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)


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.

The Fabulous 70 Part 12: The Kan Klassics

July 27, 2007

In 1978 I undertook to play Eugene Meyer in Washington DC (I believe at his house on Jennifer Street, NW) a 6-game match since both of us liked to play the Kan Sicilian (aka the Modern Paulsen) which goes 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cd 4. N:d4 a6. Nowadays GM Serper likes this line a lot too, scoring a nice last-round win over Becerra in the National Open 2007; GM Svidler has tried it out as well to good effect, for example in his thematic win vs GM Naiditsch.

Here is a photo of Eugene Meyer (date, location, and photographer unknown as of this writing).


And now the first game of my unrated E. Meyer match. And quite a wild first game it turned out to be.

M. Ginsburg – Eugene Meyer 5/1/78 Time control 40/2

Sicilian Kan

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Bd3 Nf6 6. O-O Qc7 7. c4 d6 8. Nc3 g6!? Extremely provocative especially since white has not yet committed to Be3. White now hurries to place the bishop where it can attack the weakened dark squares.

9. Bg5 Bg7 10. Qd2 White can try 10. Kh1!? with the idea of f2-f4.

10…h6 11. Bh4 Nbd7 12. f4 [14] g5! [22] Wow. A typical Eugene Meyer move. And it works!


13. fxg5 hxg5 13…Ng4! is good here.

14. Qxg5 Bh6 Black is OK here. White now embarks on a crazed sacrificial attack but it’s not good for more than equality.


15. Nxe6!? 15. Qg3 is the sane choice, for example 15…Qc5 16. Qf2.

15…Qb6+ 16. c5 Forced. The position is extremely bizarre.

16…dxc5 17. Nd5! The only move to keep chances balanced.


17…Nxd5 18. Ng7+! See prior comment.

18…Bxg7 19. Qxg7 Rxh4 20. Qg8+ White also has the try 20. exd5!? here. Black responds with the clever 20…c4+ 21. Rf2 Qd4! and stands slightly better.

20…Ke7 21. Rxf7+ Kd6 22. Qg3+? White goes wrong after finding a series of only moves. Correct was 22. cxd5! with the following crazy variation: 22…c4+ 23. Kh1 Qxb2 24. Re1 cxd3 25. Qg3+ Ne5 26. Rf6+ Kc5 27. Qxh4 d2 28. Rd1 Bg4 29. Qf2+ Qd4 30. Qxd4+ Kxd4 31. Rxd2 with an equal game! Such a high intensity of tactics is rare in such a long line.

22…Nf4 23. Bc4? A further miscue after which it’s hopeless. Necessary was 23. Bf1 and after, for example, 23…Qd8 protecting the rook on h4, white has 24. Rxf4 Rxf4 25. Qxf4+ Kc6 26. Rd1 continuing the fight. Even so, black keeps some edge.

23…Qxb2! Of course.This impudent pawn grab simply wins for black. He has time to coordinate his forces and get his king to safety.

24. Rd1+ Kc6 25. Rxf4 Rxf4 26. Qxf4 Qe5 27. Qf7 Kb6 28. Bd5 Ka7 The black king finds a haven and white could have given up very safely now. For no particular reason (sour grapes at letting ‘the big attack’ fizzle?) I toddle on a bit.

29. a4 Nb6 30. a5 Nxd5 31. exd5 Rb8 32. h3 Bf5 33. d6 Bc2 34. Rd5 Qe1+ 35. Kh2 Bb3 36. Qc7 Bxd5 37. Qxc5+ Ka8 38. Qxd5 Rd8 39. g4 Re8 0-1


Finally I resign.  As a matter of fact, I think at this point I failed to arrange for any more match games. This lesson was not lost on me; I improved my play in a very similar opening to beat GM Dzindzihashvili in the Chicago Open December 1979. But first I had to try it out from the black side. This happened in the following interesting game versus NM Alan Pollard in a telephone match (National Chess League), two days after the above game on May 3rd, 1978.

National Chess League (telephone match)

Alan Pollard, LA (2373) – Mark Ginsburg (Washington Plumbers), 2353.

Sicilian Kan 40/1, then 20 moves in 30 minutes, then adjourn

The rapid time control was not so rapid. There were extreme delays as “runners” on both teams relayed moves made on the board to the phone operators. Sometimes games had to be reset a couple of moves due to relay error! Ah, the days before the Internet!

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Bd3 Nf6 6. O-O Qc7 7. Be3 d6 8. c4 Nbd7 9. Nc3 b6 10. f4 Be7 11. Rc1 g6 12. b4 O-O 13. a3 Re8 14. Qf3 Bb7 15. Qh3 Bf8 16. Nf3 Here white has the very dangerous 16. f5!? but black can hold on after 16…exf5 17. exf5 Ne5 18. Be2 Bg7 19. fxg6 hxg6 20. Bh6 Bh8 21. Qh4 Ned7.

16… Bg7 17. Bd4 Rac8 18. Qh4 Qd8 19. Rce1 White’s play is a little incoherent over the past few moves and black now has a good game.


19…e5 A completely valid and solid defense is 19… Nh5! 20. Bxg7 Qxh4 defusing the situation. Then, 21. Nxh4 Nxg7 22. Na4 e5 23. f5 g5 24. Nf3 h6 25. Rd1 Red8 is simply equal. The text is trying for more.

20. fxe5 Nxe5 21. Bxe5! It looks strange to give up the bishop, but it’s the best move here.

21…dxe5 22. Rd1 Qe7? 22…Nh5! was far superior with only a small disadvantage.

23. Qf2 Ng4?! It’s unsound to give up the b6 pawn, but white has to find the refutation – no easy task in a 40/1 game.

24. Qxb6 Bh6 25. Rfe1? White stumbles badly. He had the crushing 25. c5! Be3+ 26. Kh1 Rc6 27. Qa5 Nf2+ 28. Rxf2 Bxf2 29. Nd5 and black is not long for this world. Similarly, 25…Ne3 26. Bxa6 is also decisive. The move 25. c5! is obvious once one sees that losing the exchange is not a big deal with the queenside pawns ready to roll and the d5 square available for the WN on c3.

25…Rc6 26. Qa7 Rc7 27. Qb6 A sample alternative here is 27. Kh1 Bxe4 28. Qg1 Bxd3 29. Nd5 Qd6 30. Nxc7 Qxc7 31. Rxd3 Qxc4 32. Rd4 Qc8 33. Rxg4 Qxg4 34. Nxe5 with a level game.

27… Rc6 28. Qa7 Rf6!? Bravely avoiding the repetition draw. Of course it’s a thin line between brave and foolhardy.


29. Nd5 Bxd5 30. Qxe7 Rxe7 31. cxd5 Be3+ 32. Kf1 Bf2 33. Re2? The logical 33. Rc1! gives white a substantial edge.


33…Ne3+?! This move is a little craven and also not very good. 33… Bd4!? is another and better way to try to bottle white up. Then, 34. Ke1 Bc3+ 35. Nd2 Bd4 36. Rc1 Bf2+ 37. Kd1 Ne3+ 38. Rxe3 Bxe3 39. Rc8+ Kg7 40. Nc4 Bd4 41. Na5 Rf2 42. Bxa6 Rxg2 43. Bb5 is good for white but difficult to see over the board.

34. Rxe3 Superior was 34. Kxf2! Nxd1+ 35. Ke1 leaving white with an edge.

34…Bxe3 35. Ke2 Ba7 36. Rc1 Rd6 37. Rc8+ Kg7 38. Nd2 Bd4 39. Nc4 Rf6! Black is just in time to generate serious counterplay on the f-file.

40. d6 Rd7 At this stage, both players got 30 more minutes for the next 20 moves. keep in mind the very long telephone relay-delay. Effectively, it was more like 45 minutes of thinking time for the next 20 moves.

41. a4? A very bad blunder. 41. Bc2!, with the idea of Bc2-a4, liquidates the game into a drawn ending after the inevitable Rdxf6 or Rfxd6. 41. Ne3 was also safe and completely equal.

41…Rf2+ Black is now winning but it will take some calculation to bring the point home, not an easy task at this time control.

42. Kd1 Rxg2 43. b5 axb5 44. axb5 Rxh2 [69] The complete destruction of white’s kingside should have been decisive.

45. Rc7 Rd8 46. d7


46…Ra2? Black in turn fumbles the ball. Of course I can play 46… h5 but after 47. b6 Ra8 48. Bb1 the position is murky. The winning move, by no means easy, was 46…g5! In that case, white’s desperate counter-measures with 47. Nd6 are simply ignored! 46…g5 47. Nd6 g4! 48. Nb7 g3!! 49. Nxd8 g2 50. Ne6+ Kh6 and wins – an exceptionally nice variation. This is a good example of where concrete calculation can bring the point home – although …g5 is on the surface ugly (giving the f5 square to white’s knight) – the poor position of the WK means that the g-pawn can safely rush up. The specter of white’s advancing passed pawns must have caused this panic reaction.

47. b6 Raa8 [79] This incredibly passive sequence, transferring an active rook on the 7th rank to a passive location on the first rank, is of course by no means a winning attempt. White is now totally OK again. This crazy see-saw game is once again in balance.

48. b7 Rab8 49. Rc8 h5 If 49… f6 50. Nd6! forcing 50…Ba7 and black is not really getting anywhere.

50. Na5 [83] Bb6 51. Nc4 Bd4 52. Ke2 g5 53. Na5 Bb6 54. Nc6 Rxb7 55. Nxd8 Rxd7 56. Nc6 Rc7! The easiest way to steer for a draw and an end to this nutty game before any unfortunate accidents occur.

57. Rxc7 Bxc7 58. Ne7 g4 59. Kf2 Kh6 [89] 60. Kg3 [88] Kg5 At this stage, my scorepad indicates the game was adjudicated (?). However it must have been declared drawn as well – neither side can do anything.


Here were the final match results. The Andersson-Peters game was funny. Andersson was led into our venue, the tiny chess shop in Georgetown (was it called ‘It’s Your Move’?), and his clock read 4:59. I think he was in town for his Volvo exhibition match versus GM Lubosh Kavalek (Kavalek won that match easily – the match took place in a Volvo dealership showroom!). Ulf thought it was G/1 Minute (!!) game and started bashing out moves in his pet …Nf6 Nxf6+ exf6 Caro Kann. On move 15, he noticed others were thinking and he then realized it was actually a 40 moves in an hour game! He then slowed down just a tiny bit and won an ending (of course, starting in an equal position) effortlessly vs IM John (Jack) Peters. I really need to find that game-score. Our team won by the narrowest of margins thanks especially to the 2 Meyer Brothers.

Washington Plumbers Result Los Angeles
GM Ulf Andersson 1 IM John Peters
IM Mark Diesen 0 Julius Loftsson
Mark Ginsburg Adjourned and … 1/2 Alan Pollard
Eugene Meyer Adjourned and … 1 Kent
Steve Odendahl 0 S Jones
John Meyer 1 Tibor Weinberger