Posts Tagged ‘Backgammon’

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.

pet1.png

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

pet2.png

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.

0-1.

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

rizz80_1.png

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.

wat1.png

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

wat2.png

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.

wat3.png

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

kud_1.png

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).

1/2-1/2

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.

Advertisements

The Fabulous 70s: Breakthough Games

January 17, 2008

Certain games boost a player’s career. Here are 2 examples from 1973 (I started tournaments September, 1972 by winning a Novice Section in Washington, DC – credit to Bobby Fischer and his eponymously named “Fischer Boom”!). I am writing this paragraph on the day Bobby Fischer passed away.

Game 1.

In the first game, be aware I knew no theory at all. I had just studied a Reinfeld book, “Comprehensive Chess Course” which was actually a bunch of Reinfeld paperbacks stuck together into one thick hardcover. The game showed me I had some ability to “make the pieces dance” – cool tactics always captivate Juniors. Let’s see it. At the time I was “B” strength.
NN – M. Ginsburg Offhand Game, May 5, 1973. Quartermadero, CA.

Bird’s Opening.

1. f4 d5 2. e3 c5 3. Be2 Nc6 4. Nf3 g6 5. O-O Bg7 6. d3 Nf6 7. Ne5 Nxe5 8. fxe5 Nd7 9. d4 cxd4 10. exd4 Qb6 11. Kh1 O-O 12. c3? 12. Nc3 is the right move.

12…f6! 13. exf6 Nxf6 14. Bd3 Bg4 Too advanced for me was 14…e5! 15. Nd2 (15. dxe5?? Ng4 wins for black) 15…Ng4 with a huge plus.

15. Qc2 Ne4 I adorned my scorepad with a “!” here but 15…e5! is again also strong. The text is fine too.

16. Re1 Nf2+ 17. Kg1

nn1.png

Position after 17. Kg1. What’s the crazy kid gonna do?

17…Bxd4? I gave this one “!!” but in fact it is too crazy and it should only draw. It is a cool move, though. The right moves are the cold-blooded 17…Rac8 18. Qd2 e5! or the immediate 17…e5 again, in both cases winning easily.

18. cxd4 Qxd4 19. Be3? Really quite amazingly, the ignoring move 19. Bxg6! draws for white. The text runs into my planned refutation and it all comes up roses for black.

19…Qxd3 20. Qc7

nn2.png

Position after 20. Qc7. This time, I get it right.

20…Nh3+! I gave it a “!” on my scorepad and it is nice. White gets overloaded.

21. gxh3 Rf1+! Very nice. I gave it “!!”. White has no chance to breathe.

22. Rxf1 Qxe3+ 23. Rf2 Rf8 24. Qg3 Qe1+ 25. Kg2 Bxh3+! The final overloading shot. I once again awarded it “!!”. I must have really liked this game (I reconstructed it after the fact into my first scorepad). 26. Kxh3 Rxf2 27. Nd2 Qe6+ 28. Kh4 Qf6+ 29. Qg5 Rxh2+ 30. Kg4 h5+ 0-1

The entire game, played poolside, must have taken only about 20 minutes but it was very enjoyable (at least for the player with the black pieces). I don’t know how strong NN was.

Let’s see the second game, actually more important: the first time I managed to beat a USCF expert. It occurred in a DC Chess League (DCCL) game, June 1, 1973.

Game 2.

Mark Ginsburg (1692, JCC “A”) – Kent Goulding (2023, “Toadgrabbers”).

Sicilian Defense, Dragon, Classical. 6/1/73.

The Toadgrabbers were the perennial league powerhouse. This 1973 edition featured strong players Mark Diesen, Allan Savage, and Richard Delaune. Our team was crushed in this match, but I had a happy ending on my board. Interestingly, my opponent Kent went on to become a world-class backgammon talent, authoring books (such as Backgammon with the Champions) and playing in many top-level matches. He also seems to have played some poker.

His brother, Phil “Flippy” Goulding, was my contemporary at Pyle Junior High School (that’s when I played in my first tournament) and subsequently at Walt Whitman HS. We would play Bethesda-Chevy-Chase (BCC HS) – they had future IM Steve Odendahl – many mirthful HS matchups. I also played in some tournament bridge events with Flippy and I heard a rumor that later on in life, Flippy captured the OTB Texas State Chess Championship. Future World Junior Champ Mark Diesen was a HS over in the other direction, Potomac HS. As far as I know, Mark Diesen and Flippy now both reside in Texas.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 g6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 Bg7 6. Be3 Nf6

It’s a Dragon and I know zero theory. What to do? The Classical Variation!

7. Be2 d6 8. f4 O-O 9. O-O Bd7 10. Kh1 Qc8 11. Rc1 I couldn’t think of anything else to do.

11…Ng4 12. Bg1 At the time, I was sort of proud of this “nestled” bishop and the fact my 10th had vacated the g1 nestle point. Today, of course, all this is ho-hum. Black is fine.

12…Nxd4 13. Bxd4 e5 14. Nd5!? Re8 15. fxe5 dxe5 16. Bc3 h5 17. Bb4 Qd8 18. Bc4 I’m just sort of flailing around. My opponent is tempted into winning an exchange, but I get the material back.

18…Qh4 19. h3 Nf2+ 20. Rxf2 Qxf2 21. Nc7

kent73_1.png

Position after 21. Nc7. Black has a strange defense here.

21…Bc6 A curious computer defense here is 21… Bh6! 22. Qf1 Qf4 23. Rd1 Qxf1+ 24. Rxf1 Bf4! with a level game. The text is also OK; maybe white is a tiny bit better.

22. Nxa8 Bxe4 23. Qf1! Thanks to the counterattack on f7, White is fine.

23…Qxf1+ 24. Rxf1 Rxa8 25. Rxf7 Kh8 26. Bd3 Bd5 27. Rd7 Bc6 28. Re7!? A very odd “winning attempt” that unexpectedly succeeds. Retreats are a simple draw.

28…Bf8 White is OK after losing the exchange, but it certainly should not be anything for me.

29. Bxg6 Bxe7 30. Bxe7

kent_2.png

Position after 30. Bxe7. Black is fine but he has to be accurate.

30…e4?! Black starts to go wrong. If memory serves, he was in time trouble (Time Control 50 moves in 2 hours). He had the surprising and instructive 30… h4! with the idea 31. Bxh4 Kg7! 32. Bd3 Rh8 33. Bf2 Rxh3+! and he stands better. This isn’t forced, but in the game black doesn’t get any kind of play. After 30…h4! his rook gets active in all lines. The problem with the text is that white can easily deal with the passed center pawn, and black’s rook doesn’t have entry points.

31. Bxh5 Kg7 32. Bc5 b6 33. Be3 Rf8 34. Be2 White’s bishops have reached nice blockading squares.

34…Kg6? Black should play 34… Kf6 35. g4 Ke5; that’s where the king belongs. It will be tough for white to win that position. For example, 36. Kg2 b5 37. c3 a5 38. a3 b4!? with some counterplay. White is a bit better, but it will be a tough slog.

35. g4 Rh8 Now black has very little play.

36. Kg2 Bd5? Necessary was 36…b5. The text is the last straw.

37. c4! White’s advantage has reached decisive proportions.

37…Be6 38. Kg3 Rc8 39. b3 b5 40. c5! Sealing things up. Black is helpless.

40…Bd5 41. Bxb5 Rc7 42. Kf4 Rf7+? Losing material but it was lost anyway.

43. Ke5 Ba8 44. Be8 Kg7 45. Bxf7 Kxf7 46. Kd6 1-0

 

I was really shocked that I won this game. Beating an Expert! This milestone helped me realize that even (oooh!) Masters might be fallible. Soon I would be feasing on the likes of John Meyer , Robert Eberlein, and other locals such as Duncan Thompson, but that would take two years or more.

 

Postscript: My First Tournament

 

My First Tournament was the 8-round Swiss, September 1972 Novice Section at the Ramada Inn, Thomas Circle, Washington, DC. I managed to win it! Here are two games.

 

 

Mark Ginsburg (UNR) – Moses Ma (1288) Round 4, Alekhine’s Defense

Ah, to be unrated again!   Even though I knew no theory, I was able to get “OK” positions in most openings.

1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. d4 d6 4. c4 Nb6 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. exd6 cxd6 7. Bd3 e5 8. d5 Nb4 9. Be2 Bf5 10. Na3 Qe7 11. Be3 e4 12. Nd4 Bg6 13. Ndb5 Nd3+ 14. Bxd3 exd3 15. O-O Qd8 16. f4 Be4 17. Re1 g6??  This miscue ends the game.

18. Bd4 Rg8 19. Rxe4+ Kd7 20. Qxd3 a6 21. Qe3 Nxc4 22. Nxc4 axb5 23. Nb6+ Kc7 24. Rc1+ Kb8 25. Re8 Qxe8 26. Qxe8+ Ka7 27. Qxa8# 1-0

I include this bad game just for historical interest – my opponent certainly went on to make societal headines: Moses Ma went on to become “Dr. Ma”, a very well known Information Technology consultant and head of a large consulting company, MMG Partners. Very amusingly, he also made big headlines in the 1980s when his MIT squad was busted in a tournament bridge cheating scandal. His team was using hand signals to relay their cards – the gory details are here. The hand signals were much too fidgety and they were caught on camera. Ooops! At the time, it was the most “shocking” etc. etc. scandal, but I had a good laugh due to the sheer ineptitude of the cheaters. I have it on good authority that the MIT Dean, when contacted for comment, said “A card game? Who cares!” and hung up the phone.

Let’s fast forward to the last round. I have 6.5 points out of 7, and my opponent Ziegler has 6. He needs to win!

Ziegler – M. Ginsburg, Round 8. September 3, 1972.

 

 

Let’s see this nervous battle royale featuring the usual last round items of jitters, blunders, and incredible saves.

1. d4 Nf6 2. b3?! e6 3. Bb2 Bb4+ 4. c3 Be7 5. e3 b6 6. Qf3 Nc6 7. e4 Bb7 8. Bd3 e5?! 9. d5 Nb8 10. Nh3 Ba6 11. c4 Bb4+? 12. Nc3 d6 13. O-O Bc8 14. a3 Bxc3 15. Bxc3 Bxh3 16. Qxh3 Qd7 17. Qg3 Qg4 18. Qxg4 Nxg4 19. f3 Nf6 20. f4 Nbd7 21. b4 O-O 22. f5 Nh5 23. Bd2 h6 24. g4 Nhf6 25. g5 hxg5 26. Bxg5 Ne8?? Passive but playable is something like 26… a5 27. Kg2 Nh7 28. Bd2 Nhf6 29. Kf3 Kh7 30. Rg1 Rh8 31. h4 Kg8 32. Bg5 and the game toddles on.

27. Be7 Ooops! Oh no! Not to worry, I play on.

27…Ndf6 28. Rf3 g6 29. Kh1 Kg7 30. Bxf8+ Kxf8 31. fxg6 fxg6 32. Bc2 Kg7 33. Raf1 b5? It was losing anyways but this is crazy.

34. cxb5 Rd8 35. h4 Nh5 36. Rg1? The infilatration with 36. Rf7+ is simplest.

36… Nf4 37. Rfg3 Nf6 38. Rc3 Rd7 39. Re1 Kh6 40. Bd1 Rh7 41. Kh2 Ne8 42. Kg3 Kg7 43. Rh1 g5 44. h5 Kh6 45. Kf2 Nf6 46. Ke3 Inaccurate. Stronger is 46. Rc4.

46…N6xd5+? What the heck is this? Another crazy sacrifice from the kid. Last round nerves? Black had 46… Ng2+! 47. Kd3 Nf4+ 48. Kc2 Nxe4 49. Rc6 Rf7 50. Re1 Nf6 51. Ra6 g4 with some counterplay. This is the best black’s being doing in some time.

47. exd5 Nxd5+ 48. Kd2 Nxc3 49. Kxc3 d5 50. Rf1 The computer has white up by more than 4 points. It’s looking grim for my drawing hopes.

50…g4 51. Bxg4 Rg7 52. Rf6+ Kg5 53. Rg6+ Rxg6 54. hxg6 Kxg6 55. Bf3 d4+ 56. Kd3 Kf5 57. Bd5 Kf4 58. Be4 Kg4 59. Kc4 Kf4 60. Kd5 Ke3 61. Kxe5 d3 62. Bxd3 Kxd3 63. Kd5 Kc3 64. Kc6 Kc4 65. Kxc7?? The nice shot 65. b6!! wins. For example, 65…cxb6 (65…axb6 66. Kxc7 b5 67. Kc6) 66. b5 Kb3 67. Kb7 Ka4 68. Kxa7 Ka5 69. a4 and wins. Very good. The text draws!

65…Kxb5 66. Kb7 a5 1/2-1/2

And I win first place, a happy ending! I received $100, which in 1972 was a lot of money! I immediately bought a beautiful pearl-handled cap gun for $5 at the local Woolworth.

Not a good finale for Mr. Ziegler, who threw his pen.