Posts Tagged ‘Bar Point’

The Fabulous 80s: The Inimitable Kamran Shirazi

April 7, 2008

The One and Only: Shirazi!

Iranian International Master Kamran Shirazi was a fixture on the NY Chess Scene in the 1980s and a dashing, enigmatic, figure. From Wikipedia, “He was known for playing strange and unorthodox openings. As this was a period of rating inflation, Shirazi’s rating rose rapidly and he became one of the highest rated players in the United States Chess Federation. However, when invited to play in the 1984 U.S. Chess Championship, Shirazi managed only one draw from 17 games, finishing last.[3] In that championship, Shirazi also achieved the dubious distinction of losing the shortest decisive game in the history of the U.S. Championship: his game as White against John Peters, which went 1.e4 c5 2.b4 cxb4 3.a3 d5 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.axb4?? Qe5+ 0-1.”

The Bar Point Details

I can add some details probably unknown to Wikipedia: in the early 1980s, a number of us crazy chess players slept over at the Bar Point chess club (14th Street and 6th Avenue in New York City) quite a bit. It was owned at one point by card player Peter Malick and at another point by Bill Goichberg. It started life as a backgammon club owned by err… a backgammon player – readers, need help here. We loved the sandwiches made by sandwich ladies Diana Lanni and Judy Shipman. The night-time denizen roster was strong: me, Jon Tisdall, Michael Rohde, and future poker great Howie Lederer. One night Shirazi showed up into our large, common, sleeping room known as the “Cloud Room.” I think it was called this because of the decrepit oversized pillows issued billowing clouds of dust creating “clouds” when they were moved around on the foam sofas. Shirazi enters the Cloud Room and announces “I am divorcing.” Tisdall hugs one particular pillow and says “You’re not getting my pillow.” I would categorize this as typical chess player banter. Shirazi was impressive in 1980’s tournaments with the ladies’ pick-up line: “Just Hold Me.” This line works. Fortunately his rating inflation led to my own because I defeated him numerous times in the 1980’s and 1990s, amassing a large plus record. The trick was to stay alert and not fall for some crazy Shirazi tactic. Many players were unable to do this (even strong ones) and succumbed to his strange play. One of his trademarks that you will see in the games below are wild, seemingly amateurish (OK, often amateurish) pawn lunges and strange minor piece formations.

Shirazi vs. Zuckerman

A typical dialog overheard at the Manhattan Chess Club Championship: Shirazi: “I am an artiste… I move the chess pieces… trying to create art….” Bernard Zuckerman (representing science and rationality): “I have no idea what you are talking about.” Well, let’s put some 1980s Shirazi games before the viewing public and let them make up their own minds.

On to the Chess!

Game 1. Kamran takes on a “rock”, GM Anatoly Lein.

Shirazi – Lein, US Championship 1986 French Winawer 4. Ne2 variation

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Ne2 dxe4 5.a3 Be7 6.Nxe4 Nd7 7.Bf4 Ngf6 8.Qd3 A rather common sideline of the set of Winawer uncommon sidelines. Black is not supposed to have problems, but look what happens to the veteran!

9…O-O 9.O-O-O b6 10.Nxf6+ Nxf6 11.Qg3? The game continuation is just good for black.

11…Ne4! 12.Qe3 Bb7 13.f3 Nf6 14.Be5 Qd7? A boo-boo in return. The simple 14…Nd5 15. Qd3 Bg5+! 16. Kb1 a5! is very good for black as is 16. f4 Bh6! 17. c4 f6! – in both cases black has a strong initiative and Shirazi did not like to defend.

15.Kb1 Rac8 16.Nc3 a6? Bizarre and slow. 16…Nd5 is completely fine for black.

17.Bd3 b5 18.g4 The lunge 18. Qg5! is objectively stronger here.

18…Nd5 19.Nxd5 Bxd5 20.g5 Bd6 This instructive sequence builds a defense: 20…a5! 21. Qf4 Bd6 22. Rhg1 g6! 23. Rg3 Bxe5 24. dxe5 b4 25. Qh4 bxa3 26. Rh3 h5! 27. gxh6 Qd8! and black is fine.

21.Rhg1 c5?! And now black is really asking for it. He had the simple 21…Bxe5 22. dxe5 Rfd8 23. Rg3 c5! 24. Rh3 g6 25. Qf2 Qe7 and black is solid.

22.Rg3 c4? Now the situation demands the utmost care. He needed to play 22…cxd4! and now the sacrifice fails: 23. Bxh7+? Kxh7 24. Rh3+ Kg8 25. Qd3 f5! 26. gxf6 Bxe5 27. Qh7+ Kf7 28. Qxg7+ Ke8 29. Qxf8+ Kxf8 30. Rh8+ Kf7 31. Rh7+ Kxf6 32. Rxd7 Rg8 and by the immutable laws of Sturm und Drang, black winds up winning the ending. If white plays the superior 23. Qxd4 Bxe5 24. Qxe5 Rfd8 25. Rh3 g6 26. f4 Qc5 28. Ree3, trying to mate via the Rxh7 trick (see Game 6 for this failed motif re-occurring), black has the cold shower move 28…Bg2! guarding h3, getting the queens off, and reaching an equal ending. By the text move, Black was hoping he was showing incredible sangfroid. But it’s tactical short-sightedness as White is tempted into a winning sacrificial adventure.

Position after 19...c4

Position after 22…c4 – time to pull the trigger!

23.Bxh7+! The conditions are right!

23...Kxh7 24.Rh3+ Kg6 The plausible 24…Kg8 is crushed by the nice sequence 25. Qf4 Bxe5 26. Qh4! f6 27. g6 and mate.

25.Rg1 Rg8 26.Qf4 White is lining up for some very nasty mates, some of which involve a queen sacrifice.

26…Bxe5 27.dxe5 Qe7 28.Qg4 c3 29.Rh4! Completing the entombment of black’s king.

Position after 29. Rh4. Resignation is forced.

The problem is that 29…Rh8 30. Rh6+! mates. 1-0

Now he takes on “Joe Solid”, aka “Mr. Trading Queens” or “Mr. Endgame”, Maxim Dlugy, in the 1985 US Championship. Evidently, there was no hangover from the 1/2 out of 17 score in the prior year’s version (in Berkeley – alarm bells, anyone?). Note to future US Championship organizers: 17 games is too long an event. In this perplexing game, Maxim does succeed in getting the queens off but Kamran confounds with unusual piece placements and pawn lunges.

Game 2. Shirazi – Dlugy, US Championship 1985 Caro-Kann 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Bc4 Ngf6 6.Ng5 e6 7.Qe2 Nb6 8.Bd3 h6 9.N5f3 c5 10.dxc5 Bxc5 11.Ne5 Nbd7 12.Ngf3 Nxe5 13.Nxe5 O-O 14.Bd2 Qd5 15.f4 b5 16.Be3 Bxe3 17.Qxe3 Bb7 18.Rg1 Rfd8 19.g4 Qd4 20.Qxd4 Rxd4 21.g5 hxg5 22.fxg5 Nh5 23.O-O-O Rd5 24.Rge1 Nf4 25.Bf1 a6 26.c4 Rc8 27.b3 f6 28.gxf6 gxf6 29.Nd7 Rxd1+ 30.Rxd1 f5 31.Rd4 Ng6 32.Kb2 b4 33.c5 Rc7 34.Bc4 Kf7 35.Rd6 Nf4 36.c6 Bc8 37.Rd4 Ng6 38.Nb8+ a5 39.Bb5 e5 40.Rd1 e4 41.h4! White’s perplexing play all over the board nets material shortly.

41…f4 42.h5 Ne5 43.Nd7 Nxc6 44.Bxc6 e3 45.Bd5+ Kg7 46.Rg1+ Kh6 47.Nf6 Bf5 48.Ng8+ Kxh5 49.Bf3+ Kh4 50.Rg2 Bh3 51.Rg1 Rd7 52.Kc1 Bf5 53.Nh6 Be6 54.Rg6 Bd5 55.Nf5+ Kh3 56.Rh6 mate. 1-0

Here is Kamran laying some hurt on many-time US Champ Lev Alburt when Lev incautiously avoids a draw by perpetual.

Game 3. Lev Alburt – Kamran G Shirazi 1983 US Championship Benoni Defense 1.d4 c5 2.d5 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 Bg7 6.Be2 O-O 7.O-O Na6 8.Nd2 Nc7 9.a4 e6 10.Nc4 exd5 11.exd5 b6 12.Bf4 Ba6 13.b3? Correct is 13. Qd3 with an edge. On the other hand, the capture orgy variation with 13. Bxd6 Bxc4 14. Bxc7 Bxe2 15. Bxd8 Bxd1 16. Bxf6 Bxc2 17. Bxg7 Kxg7 is dead equal. The text is a simple tactical oversight and indicative of Lev’s poor form in this game (see his blunder on move 20).

Position after 12. b3? – Black misses a tactical resource.

13…Re8? An amusing reciprocal blunder. Black had the obvious 13…Nfxd5 with a huge edge. The point is that 14. Nxd5 Nxd5 15. Qxd5 (if 15. Bxd6 Nc3! wins) 15…Bxa1 16. Rxa1? Qf6! is a double attack that wins for black. Even the better 16. Nxd6 Bxe2 17. Rxa1 Qf6 18. Be5 Qe6 should win for black. After the text, it’s equal.

14.Bf3 Nh5 15.Bd2 Bxc4 16.bxc4 Qh4 17.Be2 Be5 18.g3 Nxg3 19.hxg3 Bxg3 Naturally it should be a perpetual check draw now when white grabs the bishop.

Position after 19…Bxg3: Time for a rare Alburt miscue.

20.Kg2?? An irrational misjudgment exposed in only 2 moves, but this happens to the best of us. For Lev Alburt, this sort of grotesque blunder was indeed very rare in the 80s – he had great tournament results in the U.S.

20…Qh2+ 21.Kf3 Bxf2! Oops! The flaw is exposed. 22. Rxf2 Qh3+ 23. Kf4 is suicide: 23…Re5 threatening …g5 mate; if then 24. Rg2 Rf5+ 25. Ke4 Re8 mate is an ignominious checkmate in the middle of the board. Another plausible defense, 22. Bf4, is crushed by the aesthetic 22…Re3+!! 23. Bxe3 Qg3+ 24. Ke4 Qxe3 mate. Maybe it was this latter variation that Lev overlooked.

22.Rg1 Re5 23.Bd3 Bxg1 24.Ne4 Of course 24. Qxg1 Qxd2 is hopeless.

24…Rf5+ And mate next move. 0-1

The next game shows Shirazi’s astounding versatility in the opening – a staid Petroff Defense eventually becomes a barn-burning back-rank mate motif!

Game 4. [White “Nick DeFirmian”] [Black “Kamran G Shirazi”] US Championship 1986 Petroff Defense

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Bd6 7.O-O O-O 8.c4 c6 9.Nc3 Nxc3 10.bxc3 Bg4 11.Rb1 dxc4 12.Bxc4 b5 13.Bd3 Nd7 14.h3 Bh5 15.Be4 Qc7? A bizarre blunder. After the obvious 15…Rc8 16. Qd3 Nf6 17. Bf5 Bg6 black is OK.

16.Bxh7+! Did Kamran overlook this simple tactic? He plays on as if nothing has happened. His games often feature huge swings so my advice to any prospective opponent is, don’t relax after gaining a huge edge with an obvious tactic.

16…Kh8 17.Bd3 17. Bf5 followed by g2-g4 is crushing. 17. Bc2 is very strong too, for example 17. Bc2 Rae8 18. g4 Bg6 19. Bxg6 fxg6 20. Qd3 and black is in very bad shape. If 17. Bc2 f5 18. Re1 black is lost due to the new weakness on f5.

17...f5 18.Be2?! 18 Re1 is stronger.

18…Rae8 19.Re1 Nf6 And now, for reasons unknown, white not only fails to convert the material but he goes on to lose in a rather disorderly manner. I suspect the clock was a factor.

20.Ng5 The solid 20. Be3 Ne4 21. Qc2 maintains white’s edge.

20…Bh2+ 21.Kh1 21. Kf1 is stronger.

21… Rxe2 22.Rxe2 Ne4? A blunder. 22…Bxe2 was compulsory.

23.Nxe4 fxe4 24.Qe1? White might have been low on time already. 24. Ba3! Rxf2 25. g4!! wins cleanly. It is counter-intuitive to move pawns in front of one’s own king but in this case it simply gains massive amounts of material while simplifying. For example, 25…Qg3 26. Rxf2 Qxf2 27. Rb2! and black must resign.

24…Bxe2 25.Qxe2 Bd6 26.Qxe4 White is still winning at this point.

26…Qf7 27.Qxc6 White was probably in time trouble during this choatic phase.

27…Qg6 28.Rxb5?? The quiet 28. Rb2, guarding f2, won easily . If 28…Re8 29. Bd2! Re2 30. Qa8+ Kh7 31. Qf3. The text lets in uninvited guests.

28…Rxf2 29.Qa8+?? From a win to a draw to a loss. A slide often seen in Shirazi’s confounding games. In Game 5, GM Larsen bypasses the draw stage and goes right from win to loss in one move. In this position, the scary looking 29. g4! saves the game. If 29…Qc2 30. Qc8+ Rf8 31. Rh5+ Kg8 32. Qe6+ is a perpetual check.

29…Rf8 30.Rg5 Desperation.

30…Qe4! Suddenly white’s back rank weaknesses come to the forefront. After 31. Qxe4, the black rook on f8 is unpinned and it delivers the deathblow with 31….Rf1 mate.


Game 5. Now here’s a real lu-lu. Kamran defeats super-GM Bent Larsen in a totally crazy game.

GM Bent Larsen – Kamran Shirazi NY Open 1986

1.c4 e5 2.g3 h5! The insouciance! Bent himself was always a big believer in wing-pawn pushes, but so soon?!

3.h4 d5! The insouciance!

4.cxd5 Nf6 5.Nf3 Ng4 Of course Kamran does not hesitate to move a developed piece again. Objectively black’s play makes little sense, but Bent must have steamed and soon he goes off the rails.

6.Nc3 Bc5 7.e3 O-O 8.Bg2 The simple 8. Qc2! with Be2 soon leaves white way on top. The text is fine too.

8…c6 9.Ng5 Be7 10.d4 Bxg5 11.hxg5 Qxg5 12.dxe5 Qxe5 13.Qd4 The obvious 13. e4! is crushing, for example 13…g6 14. Bf4 Qg7 15. d6 and white will win easily. White is still winning after the text.

13…Qf5 14.e4 Re8 15.Bf4 Nd7 16.O-O-O Qg6 17.Rh4 c5 18.Qd2 Nde5

Position after 18…Nde5. White falls on his own sword.

19.Rdh1??? Poor Bent. The preparatory 19. f3! wins. 19…Nf6 20. Nb5! c4 21. Nc7 Nd3+ 22. Kb1 Bd7 23. Nxa8 and wins. The text is the only move that turns black’s cheap tactic “on.” A win becomes a loss. He was guessing from black’s incredibly poor play in the opening that it was akin to a simul game and ‘anything wins’. Well, the unfortunate text move loses – hard to fathom. Incredible ‘brinksmanship’ on Shirazi’s part.

19…Nxf2! It is hard to believe, but apparently true, that Bent enabled this simple knight fork tactic. He must have been feeling pretty sick around now. A feeling not uncommon in Shirazi’s victims.

20.Bxe5 Nxh1 21.Bc7 Nxg3 22.Kc2 Nxe4 23.Nxe4 Bf5 24.Qe2 Rxe4 25.Bxe4 Re8 26.Qxh5 Bxe4+ 27.Kb3 Qxh5 28.Rxh5 g6 29.Rg5 f6 30.d6 fxg5 31.d7 Bd5+ 32.Kc3 Rf8 33.a3 g4 34.d8=Q Rxd8 35.Bxd8 g3 36.Bh4 g2 37.Bf2 b6 38.Kd3 Kf7 39.Bg1 a5 Soon to be widely separated passed pawns mean the end in bishops of opposite colors endings.

40.Bh2 Ke6 41.Ke3 a4 42.Kf2 b5 43.Ke3 b4 44.Bg1 c4 45.Kd2 c3+ 0-1

We need to tear down the Shirazi invincibility a little bit. Let’s conclude with one of my exciting victories over Kamran. I turn the tables by playing crazy and risky in the opening, sacking a knight. Kamran inappropriately “played for mate” and I was able to land a great and unique queen sac.

Game 6 [White “Kamran G Shirazi”] [Black “Mark Ginsburg”] NY State Championship 1989, Albany Catalan Opening

1. c4 e6 2. g3 d5 3. Bg2 Nf6 4. Nf3 Be7 5. d4 dxc4 6. O-O O-O 7. Qc2 a6 8. Rd1 Nbd7 9. Na3!? I had never seen this move and was on my own. I hatched a bizarre and unsound gambit… in Shirazi-style!

9… b5?! 10. Ne5 Nxe5 11. dxe5? Black’s opening was one big bluff. 11. Bxa8! leaves white well on top.

11…Nd5 12. e4 c6!? For the knight I get a pawn phalanx and excellent long-term compensation.

Position after 12…c6!? – strange compensation.

13. exd5 cxd5 14. b3 Qa5 15. Nb1 Bb7 16. bxc4 bxc4 17. Nd2 Rfc8 18. Nf3 Bc6 19. a4 White keeps the annoying light-squared bishop out but gives up important squares. Black has easy counterplay.

19…Rab8 20. Ng5 g6 21. h4 White is systematically going for black’s king but I have sufficient resources.

21...Be8! A useful defensive wall has been built.

22. h5 c3! A pawn wedge which is highly effective. To see a mirror image wedge (pawn on f3) see the sacrificial game (where I similarly donated a knight) J. Shahade – M. Ginsburg, Las Vegas 2003.

23. hxg6 hxg6 24. Rd4? Qb6 25. Rh4? White is completely oblivious to black’s nice threat. He wants to play the slow-motion mating attack Bf3, Kg2, Qd1, and then deliver mate with Rh8+ Kxh8 Qh1+ and mates. But black gets to move, and what a move he has here!

25…Qb2!! Oh yes! Very pleasant. The positional queen sacrifice wreaks total havoc on white’s game. He can’t accept and he can’t decline. The net result is white loses most of his remaining pieces in short order.

Position after 25…Qb2!! — a queen irruption that can’t be handled.

26. Be4 White would like to see 26…dxe4 27. Qxe4 Qxa1 28. Rh8+! but this standard clearance sacrifice is not on the cards. 26. Ra2 is crushed by the simple 26…Qxc2 27. Rxc2 Rb1 and thanks to the pin on the N/g5, black wins heavy material.

26…Qxa1 27. Kg2 Never losing hope that black might somehow get mated via an h-file clearance.

27...dxe4 28. Qd1 Bxg5 0-1 Watch this space; I will post more 80’s Shirazi’s barn-burners in the next few weeks as I dig them up.

Appendix April 8, 2008

Some more 80’s games for the entertainment value. Warning: the next game is not correct on ChessGames.Com. Black’s 17th move, as pointed out by Eric Schiller, is actually 17…Ba6. had it as 17…Bxe6.

Kamran G Shirazi – Lev Alburt Lone Pine 1981, Alekhine’s Defense Crazy Sideline Gambit

1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.c4 Nb6 4.c5 Nd5 5.Bc4 c6?! The most popular move theoretically is 5…e6. Here’s a blast from the past: 5…e6 6. Nc3 Nxc3 7. bxc3 Bxc5 8. Qg4 and now black played 8…Kf8? and lost in E. Lasker – Buchholtz Copenhagen 1927. A late game in E. Lasker’s career (I am assuming it’s Emmanuel and not Edward). It’s funny that 8…O-O! is strong: the incredible point is that 9. d4, planning 10. Bh6, is met by the shocking 9….f5! defending with gain of time. Objectively, 5…e6 is to be preferred over 5…c6.

6.Qe2 An interesting gambit. Another and more natural way to play is 6. Nf3!? Qa5 7. O-O Qxc5 8. Qe2 e6 9. d4 with obvious compensation.

6…b6 6…Qa5 looks better. The game gets crazy after 7. Nf3 Na6! 8. O-O Nxc5 9. d4 Ne6. Worse would be 7…Qxc5? 8. d4 with more than enough compensation. The ugly move 6…e6!? is playable: 7. d4 b6 8. cxb6 axb6 and black won eventually in Shirazi (!!) -Alburt, US Championship Berkeley 1984! This “discussion” continued three years later!t However, the opening does not deserve credit because white kept some edge in the early middlegame only to falter later.

7.Nc3 Here, 7. Nf3 looks better. 7…bxc5 8. O-O with excellent compensation.

7…Nxc3? A serious mistake. 7…e6! is correct with a decent game after 8. Nf3 Bxc5 (white has some compensation). It could transpose to Scotto (2255)-Shabalov (2575), St. Maarten 1993, that black eventually won.

8.dxc3 bxc5 9.Nf3 This position is just downright bad for black.

Position after 9. Nf3. Black has a horrible game.

9…e6 10.Ng5 f5?! More weaknesses. 10…Be7 11. Ne4 Qb6 was a better try. It was not Lev’s day.

11.Bf4 Be7 12.h4 White had the strong 12. O-O-O! Bxg5 13. Qh5+ and he’s well on top.

12…Qa5 13.g4 h6 13…O-O is also crushed by 14. gxf5 Rxf5 15. Qg4 Rf8 (15…Bxg5? 16. Qxf5!) 16. Rg1 and wins. And black cannot move in the variation 14…Bxg5 15. fxe6! dxe6 16. Bxg5 Ba6 17. Bxe6+ Kh8 18. Qe4!

14.Nxe6! It’s all over. White has an overwhelming attack.

Position after 14. Nxe6! – Crunch.

14…dxe6 15.gxf5 h5 Nothing helps. 15…O-O 16. f6! wins easily: 16…Bxf6 17. exf6 Rxf6 18. Qe4 Ba6 19. Bxe6+ Kh8 20. O-O-O.

16.Rg1?! The fastest win here was 16. O-O-O! – after 16…exf5 17. Rhg1 Kf8 18. e6! white breaks through with Qe5 coming up. The text permits black a little wiggle room.

16…Kf8? Which he misses. 16…Qa4! 17. Rxg7 Ba6! forces white to find a nice win via 18. f6! Bxc4 19. Rxe7+ Kd8 20. Qd1+! Qxd1 21. Rxd1+ Kc8 22. f7 Na6 23. Bh6 and wins. If white were to play, e.g., 18. Bxa6? Nxa6, the bishop on f4 would be hanging and black is right back in it.

17.fxe6 17. O-O-O is crushing but now it doesn’t matter.

17…Ba6 Not 17…Bxe6 as reported. Black’s king is so alone that he could have resigned already.

18.Bg5 The simple 18. Bxa6 Qxa6 19. Qe4 won. The text wins too – black’s king is too lonely.

18…Bxg5 19.Rxg5 Qc7 20.O-O-O Sadistic would be 20. Rxh5! Rg8 21. Qf3+ Ke8 22. Qf7+ and white goes up more than a queen.

20…Bxc4 21.Qxc4 Ke8 22.Qd3 The end of the line. The defense 22…Rh6 is impossible due to the deflection 23. Rxg7! Qxg7 24. Qd8 mate.


A one-sided affair — quite an unusual type of defeat for the strong Soviet defector.

Leonid Shamkovich – Kamran Shirazi Lone Pine 1981, King’s Indian Defense, Bayonet Attack. I am particularly interested in this game because I like white’s opening system in general. It’s surprising to see how Shirazi plays very concretely and originally (sacrifice on move 22) to establish the dangerous central pawn duo.

1.d4 g6 2.c4 Bg7 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 d6 5.e4 O-O 6.Be2 e5 7.O-O Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.b4 Nd7 10.Bd2 An argument can be made for the exciting gambit line 10. c5!? dxc5 11. bxc5 Nxc5 12. Ba3 b6 13. Bxc5 bxc5 14. Rb1 with compensation. In addition, Ukrainian GM Pavel Elianov tried 13. Nd2!? but got little vs. Beliavsky, Warsaw 2005 – that game went 13. Nd2 f5!? (there is also 13…c6!? with equal chances) 14. Bxc5 bxc5 15. Qb3 Kh8 16. Qc4 and black was fine – Beliavsky only lost due to a gross blunder later on.

10…f5 11.Ng5 Nf6 12.f3 The move 12. Bf3!? is interesting.

12…Nh5 13.g3 Bf6 Nothing was wrong with 13…f4!? here.

14.exf5 gxf5? 14…Nxf5 was correct with equal chances.

15.f4!? 15. Bd3!? gives white the edge.

15…Ng7 16.Rc1 Strong is 16. fxe5 dxe5 17. b5 with advantage.

16…Ng6 17.Kh1 White also had the careful 17. Nh3!? with a small edge.

17…a5 18.a3 axb4 19.axb4 Bxg5?! Too risky. Correct is 19…Bd7 with a very solid game. In retrospect it works out, though!

20.fxg5 f4 21.Ne4 Bf5 A suspicious tactical adventure starts.

22.Nf6+ Rxf6 23.gxf6 Qxf6 24.Qb3? The entire plan would backfire on black if white had found the accurate 24. Ra1! Be4+ 25. Kg1! Rf8 26. Ra3! with a big edge.

24…Be4+ 25.Bf3 Qf5 26.g4 Bxf3+ 27.Qxf3 Qd7 28.Be1? A lemon. Maybe white was in time-trouble. Correct is 28. Ra1 Re8 29. Rfe1 stopping e4. If 29…Nh4 30. Qh3 keeps control.

28…Re8 29.Bc3 The back and forth bishop moves waste too much time and black gains total control now.

29…e4 30.Qh3 e3 31.Qh6 Relatively better was 31. Rf3 but it’s still good for black after 31…Re4.

31…Re4 32.Ra1 Ne8 33.Ra8? A blind alley. White could play for tricks with the clever waiting 33. Rfc1! trying to tempt black into 33…Qxg4? (33…f3! is correct and the not very obvious 33…Qf7!? is also strong) and only now 34. Ra8 Qd7 35. Re1! – white is not dead yet. For example, 35…e2?? 36. Qh5! and white is right back in it.

33…e2 34.Rfa1 f3 35.Be1 Qxg4 Mate is now forced. 0-1

GM Petar Popovic – Kamran G Shirazi 1986. Sicilian Alapin. In this game, Shirazi typically goes nuts in the opening, giving his opponent a chance to acquire a gigantic advantage. After Popovic declines the generous gift, Shirazi makes something out of nothing when suddenly he entombs white’s errant rook in an ending.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e5 Nd5 4.g3 b6 5.Bg2 Ba6!? A bizarre placement.

6.d3 Nc6 7.O-O e6 8.Re1 Be7 9.c4 Nc7 10.b3 O-O 11.d4 cxd4 12.Nxd4 Nxd4 13.Qxd4 d5? Objectively horrible but introducing maximum confusion.

14.exd6 Bf6 15.Qf4? Missing the crushing 15. Re5! Bxe5 16. Qxe5 Rc8 17. Ba3 and white will win easily. Also gruesome is 15…Ne8 16. Ba3 Bxe5 17. Qxe5 Rc8 18. Nc3 Qd7 19. Nb5! with complete board control.

15…Nd5 16.cxd5 Bxa1 17.dxe6 fxe6 18.Qe4? 18. Qd2! Rb8 19. Rxe6 is good for white.

18…Qf6? Best is 18…Qxd6 with a balanced game.

19.Qxe6+ Qxe6 20.Rxe6 Rac8 21.Be3? After 21. Bg5! white has the edge.

21…Bd4! Of course! This back-rank trick gives black a small edge.

22.Bd5 Kh8 23.d7 Bxe3 24.dxc8=Q Bxf2+ 25.Kg2 Bxc8 26.Re2 Bc5 27.Nd2 g5! This is a case where Shirazi’s pawn lunge is positionally well motivated. 28.Nf3 Ba6! Black is doing all the right things to keep the bishop-pair edge.

29.Re4 Bd3 30.Rg4 Be3 31.h3 h5 32.Ra4 b5 33.Ra6 g4 34.hxg4 hxg4 35.Ne5 Bf1+ 36.Kh1 Rf5 37.Nxg4 A very good defensive try here is 37. Ng6+! Kg7 38. Nf4 Bb6 39. Bg2 with chances to live.

37…Bb6! 38.Bg2 Be2 39.Nh2 Rf2 40.b4 Bc4 41.a3?? Necessary was 41. a4! with good chances to draw.

41…Ra2?? Winning was 41…Be6 threatening 42…Bc8. If 42. Bb7, 42…Rf7 wins. 42.Bc6? 42. Bb7! gives white good saving chances.

42…Ra1+? Completely crushing was the tactic 42…Be6! and if 43. Bb7 (to stop Bc8) black switches back to 43…Bh3! winning decisive material. A nice variation.

43.Kg2 Ra2+? Once again, black had 43…Be6! and if 44. Bb7 Ra2+ transposing to the prior note.

44.Kh1 Bb3? Yes, 44…Be6! wins cleanly. 45. Bb7 Bh3! and white must resign. 45. Rxb6 is clearly hopeless too because after 45…axb6 white cannot grab on b5: 46. Bxb5?? Bd5+! and white will go down a whole rook.

45.Nf3 Rc2 46.Ne5?? Matters are not decided after 46. Be4 Rc1+ 47. Kg2 Kg7 but black is clearly much better operating with all the tactics pointed out in prior notes (which he had missed so far!).

46…Rxc6 Oops! 0-1

And here is a game I found on Chess365.Com that I do not recall playing! The game has me playing a Caro Kann which I certainly do not know. Mistaken identity or demonic possession? The only game I remember from this tournaments is beating J. Polgar as black. I must have flushed this one down the memory drain. Here it is again as a kind of self-flagellation.

K. Shirazi – M. Ginsburg (?) NY Open 1988 Caro Kann 4…Nd7

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nd7 One would think the alternate reality me would at least play 4…Bf5. The text seems passive.

5. Ng5 Ngf6 To the present day, I know zero about this line.

6. Bd3 Nb6!? Not a bad sideline.

7.N1f3 h6 Even if I knew it pretty well, this tactical line would not be a good choice unless I had extra coffee that day. The provocative text has the advantage of luring white into an unsound adventure – his next move!

8. Nxf7?! A rather standard sacrifice to make black’s king dance around. However in this exact position black can more than adequately defend, so the text is premature.

8…Kxf7 9. Ne5+ Kg8 10. Bg6 Be6 Black is actually better now, but it takes good tactical sense to prove it.

11. O-O Nc4 11…Nbd7 is strong. The surprising point is 12. f4 Qb6! 13. Kh1 c5! and black is much better.

12. f4 Qc8? An ugly move and a clear lemon. Correct is the central strike 12….c5! and after, e.g., 13. c3 cxd4 14. cxd4 Rc8 black is better. Or, 13. b3 Nxe5 14. fxe5 Nd7 15. c3 cxd4 16. cxd4 Qb6! and black is again better. If I am too lazy to play 12…c5!, the preparatory 12…Qb6! is again fine with c5 next.

13. c3? 13. Qd3! is much stronger with full compensation. The slow text is much worse.

13…Nd6! Black should be very happy now, having conquered successfully all the key light squares. He should win now with accurate play. But look what happens!

Black fumbles the ball

Position after 13…Nd6! Everything is sweetness and light for black at the present time.

14. Re1 Ng4?? Awful. The simple 14…Bf5! leaves white with insufficient compensation. 15. Qb3+ is met by the simple 15…Qe6!. Or, 15. Bxf5 Qxf5 16. g4 Qe6! and again white doesn’t have enough for the piece minus.

15. f5 Nxe5 16. dxe5 Bxf5 17. exd6 Bxg6 18. dxe7 Kh7 19. Bf4 This is the last chance for black.

19...Bxe7? Horrific, bringing the rook to the 7th rank is a death sentence. 19…Qf5! is the only way to resist. After 20. Qd4 Re8 black can play on. After 21. Bd6 Bxe7 22. Bxe7 it’s not a lot of fun, but at least it’s not immediately losing.

20. Rxe7 Re8 21. Rc7 Qf5 22. Qd4 As is well known, bishops of opposite colors help an attacker. It’s all over.

22…Bf7 23. Bxh6 Qg6 24. Rf1 Rf8 25. Bxg7 c5

Desperation. I could have resigned. The alternate reality me was probably steaming.

26. Qf6 Qxf6 27. Bxf6 Kg6 28. Rxc5 Bxa2 29.Rg5+ Kh6 30. Rg3 Rf7 31. Rf4 1-0 Very poor defense by black after encountering the unsound sacrifice on move 8.

The Fabulous 80s: The Conclusion of the Bar Point International 1980

January 22, 2008

The Last 2 Rounds of the Bar Point International, 1980

When we left off, I was needing a perfect 2-0 in the last 2 rounds to score my 2nd IM Norm. The first norm was at Jose Cuchi’s Heraldica-Jennika International Round-Robin, May 1980, where I did well (.2 points shy of a GM norm — GM norm weaker in those days) against Shamkovich, Dzindzi, Piasetski, Mednis, Gruchacz, La Rota, and other well-known NY competitors.

Here is the next to last round of the Bar Point International 1980, Round 10.

NM Walter Shipman – Mark Ginsburg Reti Opening

1. d4 Nf6 2. g3 d5 3. Bg2 c6 4. Nf3 Bf5 5. Nbd2 h6 6. c4 e6 7. O-O Nbd7 8. b3 Be7 9. Bb2 O-O 10. Ne5 Qb6 11. Nxd7 Nxd7 12. e4 dxe4 13. Nxe4 Nf6 14. Qe2 Walter often employed this nothing system as white. It was up to me to generate winning chances! For the time being, nothing to do but “go along” and allow simplification.

14…Nxe4 15. Bxe4 Bxe4 16. Qxe4 Bf6 17. Rfd1


Position after 17. Rfd1. How to get the required winning chances?

The next few moves are routine. Then I come up with a good idea on move 20.

17…Rad8 18. Rd3 Rd7 19. Rad1 Rfd8 20. Bc3 Qa6! 21. a4 Qb6 22. Bb2 Qb4 Black’s small “hassling” maneuvers with the queen yield an immediate and suprising payoff.


Position after 22…Qb4 – A shocking turn of events unfolds

23. Bc3?? Clearly a bad blunder. Normally Walter, a future solid IM, did not commit these.

23… Qxb3 So obvious no exclamation point is warranted. Now it’s complete torture for white and black duly converts the ending.

24. Ba5 Qxc4 25. Bxd8 Rxd8 26. Rb1 Bxd4 Since Bxf2+ is threatened now, white has no time to grab the b-pawn with the rook.  It’s all over.

27. Kg2 b6 28. a5 Qd5 Quite winning is the convincing 28… b5! 29. Rd2 f5 30. Qf3 b4. There is really no reason to rush to trade queens, but the text doesn’t ruin anything.

29. Qxd5 Rxd5 30. Rc1 Bc5 31. Rxd5 cxd5 32. f4 Kf8 33. f5 Ke7 34. fxe6 fxe6 35. a6 The other move, 35. axb6 axb6, gets ground down: 36. Ra1 h5 37. h3 Kf6 38. Rf1+ Ke5 39. Rf7 g6 40. Kf3 b5 41. Rg7 b4 and wins.

35… e5 36. Kf3 Ke6 37. h4 h5 38. g4 e4+ 39. Kf4 hxg4 40. Kxg4 d4 41. Kf4 Kd5 42. Rg1 Bd6+ 43. Kf5 e3 44. Re1 Bg3 45. Re2 Bf2 0-1

A very surprising easy win over the normally tough Walter.

Now it all depended on the last round. I needed to beat Dan Shapiro; I was white. Let’s see this nervy game. What a game it turned out to be! Hideous blunders, huge reverses, all the items present in nervy norm games.

Mark Ginsburg – NM Dan Shapiro, Round 11. English, Hedgehog.

1. c4 c5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Nf3 b6 GM Yudasin favors this slightly dubious treatment. I will go into my game with him from a 2004 World Open in another post.

4. e4 d6 Playable is the provocative 4… Nc6 5. d4 cxd4 6. Nxd4 Bb7 7. Be2 e6 and here, many players favor 8. Bf4!? with chances to reach a small edge. For example, Ljubojevic triumphed over Winants with this move in 45 moves. 1-0 Ljubojevic,L (2620)-Winants,L (2415)/Brussels 1987. On the other hands, 8. Ndb5? Qb8! is simply weak.

5. d4 cxd4 6. Nxd4 Bb7 7. Bd3 e6 8. O-O Be7 9. b3 O-O 10. Bb2 Nbd7 11. Qe2 a6 Many years of study cause me to conclude this position is extremely dangerous for black. White’s bishops are pointing right at the black king. For example, I have 12. Rad1!? here and then 13. f4. In this game, I go a different way with Rae1. I am not sure which is better.


Position after 11….a6. Danger, Will Robinson.

12. Kh1 Re8 13. f4 Qc7 14. Rae1 g6 15. e5 Nh5 16. f5!?


Position after 16. f5!? — The Gauntlet is Thrown Down

16…exf5?? Under immediate pressure, black commits what should have been an immediately losing blunder. Necessary was 16… Nxe5! 17. fxe6 fxe6 18. Nxe6 Qd7 19. Nf4 (19. Nd4 Qh3) 19… Nxf4 20. Rxf4 Bg5 and black is fine. Also white has the dangerous 18. Be4!? and black can defend with 18…Ng7! 19. Bc1!? Bxe4 20. Qxe4 Rac8 21. Bh6 Bd8! and he is solid.

17. exd6?? A horrific blunder in return. On my scorepad of the time, I had notated “monumental hangover.” Note to self: a hangover is not a good idea in an important last round game. I believe Fedorowicz had a related hangover but still managed to draw, and almost beat, GM Alburt. Obvious and crushing was 17. e6! Bf6 18. Bxf5 Nc5 (18… Bxd4 19. exf7+ Kxf7 20. Bxd7+ wins) 19. Nd5 Bxd5 20. cxd5 Bxd4 21. Bxd4 Ng7 22. Bxg7 Kxg7 23. Qb2+ Kg8 24. exf7+ Qxf7 25. Be6! and wins.

17… Bxd6 18. Qxe8+ Rxe8 19. Rxe8+ Nf8 This is the kind of thing white does NOT want. Defending versus black’s active pieces is no fun with white’s uncoordinated army. White is much worse, in fact he is losing. That is how bad my blunder was.

20. Nf3 Nf4 Already black had 20…Bxh2 21. Nd5 Bxd5 22. cxd5 Bd6 23. Rd1 Qd7 24. Ree1 Ng3+ 25. Kg1 Bb4 26. Re3 Qxd5 and wins easily. The text doesn’t ruin it, black is still winning.

21. Bb1 N4e6 22. Nd5 Bxd5 23. cxd5 Qd7 24. Ra8 Nc7 Winning was 24… Qb7 25. Re8 Qxd5.

25. Ra7 Qc8 26. Ne5 Qb8 27. Nc6 Qe8 28. Bd3 Nxd5 29. Nd4 Qe5 30. g3 Ne3 Here, 30… Bc5 31. Nxf5 Qxb2 32. Nh6+ Kg7 33. Nxf7 b5 won for black.

31. Rf3 Bc5 32. Nxf5 Qxb2 33. Nxe3 Bxe3 34. Raxf7 Ne6 35. Bc4 Qa1+? The light square check, 35… Qb1+! 36. Kg2 (36. Rf1 Qe4+ 37. R7f3 Bc5 38. Kg2 b5 39. Bxe6+ Qxe6 wins for black) 36… Qg1+ 37. Kh3 Ng5+ 38. Kg4 h5+ 39. Kh4 Qxh2 mate is quite convincing. Black starts to lose the handle of things.

36. Rf1 Qe5 37. R7f6 Qe4+ 38. R1f3 Bd4 Here, best was 38… Kg7 39. Bxe6 Qb1+ 40. Rf1 Qxa2 41. Rf7+ Kh6 42. h4 Qc2 43. Bd5 Qe2 44. Bc4 Qg4 45. Kg2 b5 and the game continues with black keeping a small edge, but nothing like before.

39. Bxe6+ Kg7 40. Rf7+ Kh6 41. Bc4 Now it is equal. But I need to win!

41…Qb1+? Correct was 41…b5! with equality.

42. Rf1 Qxa2 43. R7f4 Bc5? 43… Be3 is tough: 44. Rh4+ Kg5 45. Rxh7 Qc2 46.Bd5 Qd3 47. Bg2 Qxb3 48. h4+ Kg4 49. Kh2 and white has pressure, but it’s not decisive. The text moves the bishop into a discovered attack which white… fails to execute!

44. Rh4+ Of course, 44. b4 won also.

44… Kg5 45. Rxh7? The correct move is 45. b4! winning.

45… b5? How many blunders can a single game contain? 45… Qc2 is much tougher and nothing decisive can be seen for white.

46. Be6! Finally, white puts an end to this long suffering game. Black’s king is in a decisive mating net.

46…Bf2 47. h4+ Kf6 48. Rxf2!+ 1-0 Black loses the queen after 48…Qxf2 49 Rf7+.


So I made my norm with this incredibly poorly played game. Well, it was a long tournament. Perhaps Walter Shipman was showing signs of fatigue in the Round 10 game presented above.




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.