Archive for the ‘Ivy League’ Category

The Fabulous 80s: Columbia U fails to repeat in the 1985 Pan-Am

January 8, 2008

Here’s a funny picture from the Columbia University’s “Daily” newspaper reporting on the Columbia squad’s failure in the 1985 event, held in New Brunswick, NJ (Rutgers U. home town). Click to enlarge.

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Man or Building?

The first thing to note: the player on the left, Earl Hall, had the same name as a Columbia University building! I kid you not. “Earl Hall” on campus had a lot of chaplain events. Earl the person was a monster third board and a very strong player (Senior Master strength) who helped us win the 1984 event in Kitchener, Ontario (side note: I recently found the winners page – showing all historical Pan-Am winners). There have been very few Pan-Am’s outside the USA and Columbia took gold in 1984!

To the right of Earl the person, is yours truly. Next we have second board SM Jeremy Barth, then NM Simon Yelsky (I think he went to Joel Benjamin’s high school and we nicknamed him “Old Yeller” for no reason) and finally Leonid Rozhetskin.

Author’s postscript and reflections on the Greater Blogoverse as of January 13, 2008: due to commotions, cross-links and mutters in the Blogoverse, I backtracked on some breadcrumbs and came to realize that Leonid Rozhetskin grew up to be an international legal and investment celebrity and is now head of a major film production company. He, along with Eric Eisner, son of ex-Disney chair Michael Eisner, co-founded L+E Productions and their “Hamlet 2” production, starring Elizabeth Shue and Catherine Keener, made it into Sundance. It’s funny how when I mention a name, disturbances in the blogoverse quickly (within 24-48 hours) alert me to the fame or infamy of the mentioned individual. Often times, it’s the individual or minions thereof mentioning my site in their context – certainly, ego-surfing is a popular pastime that spans all ages and socio-economic boundaries. But if a minion ego-surfs on behalf of his or her master (mistress?), what is that called, minion-surfing? At any rate, a hearty round of applause for Leonid who has seen a heady ascent from “Columbia’s last board” to Very Important Societal Personage.

We were the highest rated in the 1985 version, but as the article points out, “one of our players was so convinced he had a winning game he hallucinated a piece away.” Well, that player was me and my bungle was versus University of Florida’s Miles Ardaman. But any press is good press, right? Right.

And on an unrelated 1980s matter, here are some 1980s photographs.

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From left: Jan Adamski, Gabor Pirisi, and the author.

This was the August 1985 Eeklo, Belgium prizegiving. From left: IM Jan Adamski (POL), IM Gabor Pirisi (HUN), and me. Pirisi has an odd-looking trophy! I was lucky enough to defeat Pirisi in short-order in the IM round-robin as black when he played too riskily versus a Sicilian Scheveningen. Note the 1980’s hair style and glasses. I don’t know who took this photograph.

IM G. Pirisi – IM M. Ginsburg ECI 1987 Eeklo, Belgium

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 d6 6. Be3 a6 7. g4!? A Hungarian specialty that Judith Polgar has used many times, for example to defeat Kazimzhdanov in Morales, Mexico WC Candidates 2006.

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Position after 7. g4. A Hungarian Specialty.

7…h6 8. Qf3 Nc6 Risky is 8… Nbd7 9. Qh3 Nc5 (better may be 9…e5!? 10. Nb3; not 10. Nf5? g6 11. Ng3 Nb6 12. Be2 h5 13. Qh4 Be7! and black won in Ermenkov-Polugaevsky, Buenos Aires 1978) 10. f3 e5 11. Nb3 Be6 12. Nxc5 dxc5 13. Qg3 Be7 14. h4 Qa5 15. Qxe5 O-O-O 16. Bc4 Bd6 17. Bxe6+ Kb8 18. Qf5 fxe6 19. Qxe6 Rhe8 20. Qf7 Nd5 21. O-O-O Nxe3 22. Rxd6 Rf8 23. Qxg7 Rxf3 24. Qe5 Rxd6 25. Qxd6+ Ka7 26. Qd3 Rg3 27. Ne2 Nf5 28. Nxg3 and white won, 1-0 Sax,G (2550)-Tukmakov,V (2570)/Las Palmas 1978. If Vladimir loses, take notice, the variation is dangerous.

9. Rg1 Bd7!? Playable but risky is 9…g5!? 10. O-O-O Bd7 11. h4 Rg8 12. Qe2 Ne5 13. Bh3 (white was ultimately successful with 13. hxg5!? hxg5 14. Nf3 in Dominguez-Bruzon, Las Tunas 2001, 1-0, 57) 13…b5 14. f4 gxf4 15. Bxf4 b4 16. Nb1 Ng6 17. Bg3 Qa5 18. Qf3 Be7 19. e5 Nd5 20. Rgf1 Rf8 21. exd6 Bxh4 22. Bxh4 Nxh4 and drawn in 42, Ermenkov,E-Suba,M/Baile Herculane 1978. The text is definitely a slower and more sedate approach, that is unexpectedly rewarded quickly in this game.

10. h4 h5 11. g5?! Not very good. Better is 11. gxh5 Rxh5 (11… Nxh5 12. O-O-O Rc8 13. Nxc6 Bxc6 14. Bd4 b5 15. Bd3 b4 16. Ne2 Bb7 17. Kb1 with a white plus) 12. Nxc6 Bxc6 13. Bg5 Rh8 14. O-O-O Be7 15. Qe3 Qc7 16. Bh3 b5 17. f3 Bb7 18. Kb1 Rc8 19. Rg2 b4 20. Nd5 exd5 21. Bxc8 Bxc8 22. exd5 Bf5 23. Re2 and white went on to win, 1-0 Blees,A (2415)-Rytshagov,M (2495)/Antwerp 1996.

11… Ng4! 12. Bh3? Another bad move. Black now executes a dance of the knights with much gain of time.

12… Nce5 13. Qe2 Nxe3 14. Qxe3?  White had to play the ugly 14. fxe3.

14…Qb6! Now white is totally lost! Black has too many threats, including the primitive fork-trick he executes in the game.

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Position after 14…Qb6. White has no defense.

15. g6 The best white had was the sad 15. Nce2 Qxb2 16. Qc1 Qxc1+ and wins, or the slightly trickier 15. Rd1 Nc4 16. Qf3 Nxb2 17. Rd2 Nc4 18. g6!? O-O-O! 19. Rd1 Ne5! and wins.  If 15. O-O-O Nc4,white can keep playing with 16. Na4 (forced) Bxa4 17. Qc3, but after 17…Ne5 18. g6 Bd7 19. gxf7+ Kxf7 20. f4 Nc6 21. Nf3 Ke8 22. Ng5 Rh6! black consolidates the extra piece and wins.

15. ..Qxd4! Weirdly, white was lost even before 15. g6. He now loses a piece for no compensation, so the game is effectively over.

16. gxf7+ Kd8 17. Qg5+ Kc7 18. Rg3 Nxf7 19. Qf4 Ne5 20. Rd1 Qb6 21. Qg5 Rh6 22. Ne2 Rc8 23. f4 Nf7 24. Rc3+ Kb8 0-1

Let’s move on to a picture from Lugano, 1984.

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Lematchko-Sax, Lugano, 1984

Moving back a year to Lugano, Switzerland 1984, we have Tatiana Lematchko (WGM, Bulgaria) on the left battling future WC Candidate Hungarian GM Gyula Sax. Photo by intrepid Frenchwoman Catherine Jaeg.

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Chess, Bridge, Wall Street, and Huge Amounts of Money

October 31, 2007

I chanced upon this New York Times article today.  Turns out a top Bear Stearns executive, Warren Spector, was ousted due to the subprime mortgage mess and the collapse of two major Bear Stearns hedge funds.  That name was familiar to me.  When… where…?  Suddenly I remembered.

The year was 1979 and I was playing in an intramural bridge tournament.  One of my opponents was the very same Warren Spector, a former “King of Bridge” (a high school player with the most yearly “Master Points”.)   At this point we were both classmates at Princeton, but as I read in some other Internet bio article, he recently donated so much money to St John College (Annapolis MD) they built a dorm in his name.  He must have transferred there, since he graduated in 1981.

I am “declarer” in the hand and I start running my trumps in desperation.  Spector makes what seems to me to be a terrible discard, letting me take the rest of the tricks when he threw away an honor card.  He mutters, “You just executed a guard squeeze and didn’t even know it!”  He gave the impression of haughty imperiousness. But he was right.  I didn’t know a guard squeeze (a complicated bridge ‘endgame’ maneuver) from shinola; I was just running my trumps and from my perspective, he had made an elementary blunder. This is a typical injustice of strategic games; it happens in chess too. An opponent stumbles into a resource that draws or wins for him, having seen nothing.

Returning to the impression of imperiousness, that’s what they said in the Bear Stearns ouster article too!  “Mr. Spector is a cool, aloof man who has the casual confidence of one who achieved significant professional success at a young age.”   They say also, “[he is] a smooth and at times imperious man with a wide-ranging intellect.”  A leopard does not change his spots, but he acquires plenty of them!  Witness this mind-boggling Spector compensation report from the Forbes bio sheet:

Cash Compensation (FY November 2006) Salary $250,000 Bonus $16,194,430 Latest FY other long-term comp. $18,847,625 Total CASH $35,292,055 Stock Options (FY November 2006) Number of options Market value unexercised 510,607 $46,257,839 unexercisable 247,372 $9,892,364 Total OPTIONS 757,979 $56,150,203

Not a bad combined compensation package for this imperious card player.  There was a strange (or maybe not so strange, a good example of narrow-focused nepotism?) bridge link amongst all the top Bear Stearns executives:  “Ace” Greenberg, the CEO Jimmy Cayne, and Spector are all very good players.  An analogy in a game more familiar to us would be GM Patrick Wolff working for Clarium Capital, an investment fund captained by a chess player, Peter Thiel, the famous founder of PayPal.  Another one is the famous surge by Bankers Trust into chess in the early 1990s that hired Norman Weinstein and Max Dlugy as traders. Let’s hope the chess connection trumps (get it?  hahaha) the “deck of cards” which might “topple” at any time. Abusing a tired metaphor!

Conclusion?   There might be more lucrative things to do than chess or bridge.  Still doubting?  Ask Stephen Feinberg, another classmate at Princeton!  If memory serves, he was either a high expert or low master at his USCF peak. His investment fund Cerberus is always in the news, gobbling up companies left and right. 

MG Addendum 6/29/08:  Currently Cerberus LLC is running Chrysler (a car company) into the ground.  Poor Chrysler is not long for this world.

In a weird coincidence, both he and I worked at some point for the toppled titan Drexel Burnham Lambert (felled by the misdeeds of junk bond king Michael Milkin).  Stephen’s compensation is not public but estimated to be at least $50M/year.   Do you think Feinberg and perhaps the newly “disgraced” Spector might be convinced to run a chess tournament?  The “intensely private” Feinberg might cough up a few bucks (as might Spector) if we name it after them. Note: there’s something to be said for running PRIVATE companies. No embarrassing inspection of one’s net worth on public web pages.


So we reach the Caissic Crisis: who will approach this titanic duo to organize the first $10 million Open prize fund tournament? All the spokesperson needs to do beforehand is think of how it benefits the interests of Spector and Feinberg. There has to be an angle! Maybe play the Princeton card.  Or we could play the Harley card. Both Stephen and I enjoy riding Fat Boys, Sportsters, Dyna Glides, what have you.