Posts Tagged ‘Chess’

The Fabulous 10s: Playing Celebrities Online

May 1, 2010

Today I played the real Roger Federer in a 5 minute game.  How do I know?  Because his name was RogerFederer and also because of the way the game went!

Aries2 vs Roger Federer  ICC 5 Minute Game  5/1/10

Sicilian Sveshnikov

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Nd5 Nxd5
8. exd5 Nb8 9. c4 Be7 10. Be2 O-O 11. O-O f5 12. c5 a6 13. cxd6 Bxd6 14.
Nxd6 Qxd6 15. Qc2 Nd7 16. Rd1 Nf6 17. Be3 Rd8 18. Rac1 f4 19. Bc5 Qd7 20.
Bb6 Re8 21. d6 e4 22. Qb3+ Qe6 23. Bc4 {Black resigns} 1-0

The defeated foe

Tennis analysis:

I smashed his return into the deep right corner; (12. c5!);  he ran after it and tried a feeble lob (18…f4) which I then smashed cross-court (21. d6) leaving him flailing.

And Over At Chess.Com

A historical brouhaha has broke out.  GM Serper wrote an instructional article on the Veresov (1. d4 Nf6 2. Nc3 d5 3. Bg5) and up pops “Prestwich” (ostensibly from Spain, or he likes Spanish flags) who writes:

“[…] To call the opening 1 d4 d5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Bg5 the Veresov is unhistorical and forms part of the legacy of Soviet intellectual imperialism. Although played earlier, this opening owes its development as part of modern chess to the “Hypermodern” players Breyer, Reti and Tartakower. The latter, a super-GM of his time, in particular deserves to have his name associated with this opening: Megabase has 19 games of his with it, the earliest played in 1922 (when Veresov – born 1912 – was probably still in short trousers) and the last in 1951. Many other strong players have a better (or equal but prior) claim than Veresov to have their name associated with this opening, notably the German IM Kurt Richter (a brilliant attacking player) who popularised the opening in the 1930s; books from that era usually called this Richter’s Opening. Megabase contains 21 of his games with it, the first in 1928. To compare, Veresov has 23 games with it in Megabase, the first in 1938. A further injustice was done to Richter by the Soviets, who named the popular Sicilian line 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 exd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 d6 6 Bg5 after their player Rauser, yet much of the early development and testing was done by Richter.”

I don’t know how much of this is correct, but I think it’s easy to dispute the notion that Tartakower was a “super GM of his day”.  I think Tartakower was more of a coffee house player, extremely vulnerable in tournaments, who lost many one-sided games.  And is “unhistorical” a word?  I’ve heard of “Maoist Revisionism”, but this?


An ICC message I received: Protocol (23:01 10-May-10 EDT): Bill Hook, Captain of the championship Washington Plumbers team in the inaugural season of the National Chess League, winner of the first board individual gold medal in the 1980 chess Olympiad, author of Hooked on Chess, died May, 10, 2010.

I didn’t realize Bill Hook was so much into NYC coffeehouses, penny-ante gambling, and so on.  It was all revealed in his book!  I was into them… a generation or one and a half generations later!

Bill Hook and the Washington Plumbers

Click several times to enlarge.

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.”

And for Something Different


Canadian IM Lawrence Day

The Fabulous 00s: Strong Chess on your Phone!

April 2, 2009

On your iPhone more particularly – Glaurung and Shredder!

Glaurung is a very strong and free program available from the iPhone “Apps Store.”  I will post some Glaurung games that I contested on my iPhone 3g – it lets you save the games on the phone as PGN!  What progress in the field of computer chess – a program in excess of 2500 USCF strength running on a slim svelte iPhone – I am very impressed!   It allows “takebacks” so hapless humans can takeback many times…. and still not win.   One of the nice features is that when the human taps on the piece to move, the computer draws blue dots on the screen of all that piece’s legal move destinations.  Then the human just taps on one of the blue dots.  The iPhone relies on human finger tapping, not a Treo-style stylus.

“flyer” on ICC also alerted me to Shredder on the iPhone:  “Shredder for iPhone is available now…it rates your play, has a million-move opening book, and 1,000 exercises…though I’m not sure how strong it is :-)”

And again “flyer”:   flyer (18:28 06-Apr-09 EDT): Cyber Chess Ultimate let’s you play on ICC!:


Here Comes Technology

Oh some chess?  A Snappy Caro-Kann Gamelet

The point of this site (besides robot cartoons) is chess (and nominally, chess history). I like the word ‘gamelet’.  It was used a lot in Reinfeld and Chernev books.  Here’s an ICC blitz gamelet

[Event “ICC blitz”]
[Site “cyberverse”]
[Date “2009.04.14”]
[White “aries2”]
[Black “chessIPO1”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “B18”]

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. h4 h6 7. N1e2!? A great blitz weapon.


7…e6 8. Nf4 Bh7 9. Bc4 Nf6 10. Qe2 Nd5 11. c3


 11…Be7? A weak move that gives white the g7 point to attack.  An interesting try is 11… Qd6!? that wound up as a draw in two example database games.

On the other hand, 11… Nxf4?! 12. Bxf4 Bd6 13. Qg4 Bxf4 14. Qxg7 Ke7 15. Nh5! is bad for black and white duly won, 1-0 Rubinetti,J-Benko,F/Buenos Aires 1965.

12. Ngh5! O-O?! Another misstep.  Correct is the cold-blooded 12… Rg8! and now, for example, 13. O-O!? Bxh4! 14. Re1 Be7 15. Qe5 Kf8 16. Nxe6+ fxe6 17. Nf4 Bf5 18. Nxe6+ Bxe6 19. Qxe6 Qd7 20. Qe4 Na6 21. Qf3+ and now the computer indicates a fantastic defense resource: 21…Bf6! 22. Bxh6 Rh8 23. Bd2 Kg8! and black holds.

13. Qg4 I did not consider (but should have) the tricky 13. Bxd5!? exd5! (13… cxd5? 14. Nxg7! Kxg7 15. Qe5+ f6 (15… Kg8 16. Nh5 f6 17. Qg3+ forces resignation) 16. Nxe6+ Kh8 17. Qg3 Rg8 18. Nxd8 Rxg3 19. fxg3 Bxd8 20. Bxh6 with a big ending edge) 14. Qe5 f6! (14… Bf6? 15. Nxf6+ Qxf6 16. Qxf6 gxf6 17. Rh3 is horrible for black) 15. Qe3 Qe8 and black holds on; hard-to-see defense!

13… Bf6 14. Nxg7! A standard, but aesthetic, blow.  With colors reversed, Beliavsky once landed this tactic against ex-WC Karpov on the g2 square in a stodgy QGD and won as black! I recommend that the readers consult the excellent book “Uncompromising Chess” by Beliavsky to improve their game.

14…Bxg7 15. Nh5 Bg6 16. Nxg7 Kxg7 17. h5 Nf6


Position after 17…Nf6.  An interesting moment. 

18. Bxh6+?! I didn’t consider the very strong 18. Qg3! Ne4 (18… Rh8 19. hxg6 fxg6 20. Bf4 Nbd7 21. Bd3 Qe8 22. O-O-O and white wins) 19. Qe5+ Qf6 20. Bxh6+ Kxh6 21. hxg6+ Kg7 22. Rh7+ Kg8 23. Qxe4 Qxg6 24. Qxg6+ fxg6 25. Rxb7 and it’s all over.  The text allows black a surprising way to wriggle out to near-equality.

18… Kxh6 19. hxg6+ Kg7 20. Qg5!  White can go wrong with the unsound 20. Rh7+??  Nxh7 21. gxh7+ Kh8! and white can resign.


Position after 20. Qg5! —  Decision time.

20… fxg6? 20… Rh8!! is a great defense. 21. gxf7+ Kxf7 22. O-O-O Na6 (just getting stuff out) 23.
Qe5 Nd5! (23… Qd7? 24. Rxh8 Rxh8 25. g4 with a big initiative) 24. Bxa6 bxa6 25. c4 Nb6 26. Rde1
Qf6 27. Qc7+ Qe7 28. Qxc6 Rac8 29. Qf3+ Qf6 30. Qxf6+ Kxf6 31. c5 Nd5 32. Kd2 and white can pretend to have a small edge here.

21. Rh6 Now white wins.

21…Qe8 22. Bd3 Nh7 23. Rxg6+ Kh8 24. Qh6 For some reason the stronger check, 24. Qe5+!, did not come to my mind.  After 24… Rf6 25. Rh6 white wins.  When I played this move, I had in mind the nice game continuation, but it’s not forced.

24… Qf7 25. Rf6! 1-0 A pleasing end to a pleasing gamelet.  Black is caught in a cross pin and resigns.


Final position after 25. Rf6!

What’s on the Horizon

We all know Ilya Nyzhnyk (up and coming 12 year old prodigy who needs a vowel).  Who’s after him?  Here are some more youthful Russian prodigies.


Actually as an ethnic quiz identify the NON-Russian in the above photo.

And To Conclude – Some Reader Queries

Some readers were asking, “is it true sushi is served sometimes with real gold leaf?”  Yes it is. For example, on Avenue A in New York City, “Le Miou”.


That’s real gold leaf!  Nutritious?  Dunno, probably not.

Others were asking, “What’s the best looking motorcycle cruiser?”  I would vote for the Victory 8-ball.


Victory 8-ball.  Best Looking?

The Fabulous 00s: Understanding the Flying Phallus Attack

May 22, 2008

What did the Flying Phallus Portend?

The world (more than 300,000 views on YouTube) has now seen the startling flying phallus interrupting ex-World Champion Garry Kasparov’s political speech. However, for Westerners, we have unresolved questions – what was he talking about and what did he say after the phallus was punched out of the sky?

To answer, I turned to a Russian political commentator who, as a day job, works on computer systems.

He told me,

Kasparov was talking about respecting political opponents and increasing general political culture in Russia, when a plastic penis with balls constructed in a helicopter style flew across the room until it was shut down by his guard. Kasparov then went on to say that this is the face of the Kremlin leaders who offer this solution to the demographic problem in russia.

Gotta tell you, if Kasparov made his way to Kremlin, he would not be much different from Putin and Co.”

Strong words! Of course, on the video, I saw the device punched out of the sky (not shot) but let’s not quibble. Or, at the French say, “mais n’enculons pas les mouches.” I look forward to the next flying object situation in the chess world, it makes the 64 squares much more …. 3-dimensional.

What US Government Personnel Saw in Ecuador

When I alerted US Government personnel stationed in Ecuador about this incident, they went to the YouTube page, and there was a disclaimer: “This medium is UNCLASSIFIED U.S. Government Property.”  Then they were able to see the flying phallus.

The Fabulous 00s: Chess Whiz turned Financial Guru Faces Car Tsuris

December 22, 2007

“NEW YORK ( — Chrysler Corp., the troubled automaker bought by private equity just four months ago, is scrambling to sell assets amid indications of huge losses, as access to cash becomes increasingly scarce, according to a published report Friday.

“Someone asked me, ‘Are we bankrupt?'” the Wall Street Journal quoted Chrysler boss Robert Nardelli telling employees at a meeting earlier this month. “Technically, no. Operationally, yes. The only thing that keeps us from going into bankruptcy is the $10 billion investors entrusted us with.”

To raise money, Chrysler is looking to sell over $1 billion in land, old factories, and other holdings, even if it has to let those properties go for under book value, the Journal said.

In an interview with the Journal, Nardelli confirmed the comments and declined to give a financial forecast for 2008, saying only that Chrysler “will make a pretty significant improvement” over the $1.6 billion the company is set to lose this year. The Journal said Nardelli originally hoped to turn a profit in 2008.

The rush to raise capital comes amid constricting access to money as more banks and other lenders face heavy losses related to subprime mortgages.

Chrysler’s owner, Cerberus Capital Management, is now facing serious subprime-related losses from GMAC Financial Services, which it bought from General Motors (GM, Fortune 500) for $12 billion, and is also trying to walk away from a now pricey deal to buy United Rentals Inc., (URI) the Journal said.

Cerberus bought Chrysler from German automaker Daimler in a deal that closed in August.

In the arrangement, Daimler (DAI) essentially paid Cerberus to take the automaker, which fell to No. 4 in U.S. sales behind Toyota Motor (TM) in 2006, in an effort to get out from under a $1.5 billion loss from last year, along with continued obligations to union members and retirees. ”


How does this relate to chess?  Master and fellow Princeton Alumnus and bazillionaire Stephen Feinberg (I wrote about him previously in conjunction with bridge-player Warren Spector’s spectacular Bear Stearns flame-out) is the puppetmaster of Cerberus.  When his company bought Chrysler and appointed Nardelli (who failed horribly at Home Depot) the Wall Street community questioned these twin moves as evidence of Cerberus’s (temporary?) insanity.  Perhaps it wasn’t Feinberg who orchestrated this deal – if so, subordinates’ heads are going to roll.  If he did, it warrants a “??” in chess terms.    Let’s review the recent ‘strategy’ – Cerberus seems to be eating its own multiple heads.

Synopsis of Cerberus’s Recent Blunders in Chess Terms

Cerberus maneuver Consequence In chess terms, this is…
Buying Chrysler Chrysler Operationally Bankrupt Hanging queen
Appointing Nardelli of Home Depot disaster fame to run Chrysler Nardelli runs Chrysler into bankruptcy Overlooking bank rank mate
Acquiring GMAC GMAC hit by subprime defaults Moving queen to where the queen and king can be forked by a knight

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 70s: News of the Weird and my First Dzindzi Encounter

November 11, 2007

Chess Life & Review editor Burt Hochberg really foisted some lu-lu covers on the chessplaying masses in the 1970s.

Here is a typical shocker, Paul Morphy’s hand (actual size). Shades of the macabre Edgar Allen Poe!


A whole nation of chessplayers suddenly found themselves putting their hand on the cover photo to compare. And the truth became apparent: Morphy had a small, delicate, feminine hand. You can see for yourself by noticing the relative size of the push-pins.

When the nation got tired of macabre comparisons, it was time to look inside for the latest, juiciest, Rating List. Here is the State of the Union of the US Juniors, September 1977.


Some notable names and numbers:

Mark Diesen, World Junior Champion, heads the pack at 2440 (an astronomical rating back then). Close behind are Michael Rohde and Yasser Seirawan. Note the Whitehead brothers are neck and neck with Paul at 2269 and Jay at 2256. Girome Bono, #13, is still active on ICC. I used to play Karl Dehmelt (#16) quite a bit on Philadelphia-area tournaments. 13-year old Joel Benjamin is #22 at 2199 (one point shy of master!). I’m #18 at 2212. Moving down, “Collins Kid” Louis Cohen is #35 at 2142. Chess author John Donaldson is #37 at 2141 (a late-bloomer, obviously, at 18 years of age). Peter Winston is #41 at 2131 and right next to him is the fellow who wrote about him in a recent Chess Life, Charlie Hertan at 2129. Billy Adam, subject of my related article, is #46 at 2119. #47, Richard Kaner, won the National HS one year in a highly improbable upset year.

The under-16 list is also amusing. #33, Miles Ardaman, at 1784. #47, David Griego, at 1642. Everybody starts somewhere! The #2, Tyler Cowen, might have quit chess early but nobody can say he didn’t keep busy. And he has an amusing new book out titled “Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist” – I kid you not. In a weird cross-disciplinary coincidence, he was mentored in economics by Schelling at Harvard (author of the famous Schelling curves, showing incentives to contribute, and a key citation in my NYU Information Systems dissertation.

Just to convince people there’s actually chess on this site sometimes, here’s an upset win I scored over GM Roman Dzindzihashvili way back in December 1979 (The Chicago Christmas Masters/Experts). Ben Finegold quizzed me recently on ICC as to the existence of this game (his father witnessed it). Yes, it does exist, and here it is, unearthed from the tomb of my ancient scorepad pile.

NM Mark Ginsburg (2373) – GM Roman Dzindzihashvili (2595) Chicago Christmas M/E 12/30/79 Round 4.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Bd3 Nf6 6. O-O d6 7. c4 g6 8. Nc3 Bg7 9. Bg5

I was extremely familiar with this position, having just played Eugene Meyer a Kan-thematic training match in Washington, DC.

9…Nbd7 10. Kh1 b6 More careful was 10… O-O 11. f4 Qb6 12. Nb3 Qc7. In the early stage, Roman was playing quickly, obviously underestimating the unknown kid.

11. f4 Qc7 And now more circumspect was 11…O-O 12. f5 Ne5 13. fxg6 fxg6 14. Nf3 Nf7! 15. Bh4 Qc7 with a playable game.

12. f5 gxf5? This makes everything worse. Relatively best was 12… e5 13. Nc2 O-O 14. Ne3 Bb7 15. Rc1 Nc5 16. Ned5 Nxd5 17. Nxd5 Bxd5 18. cxd5 Qd7 19. f6 and white is much better, but not completely winning.

13. exf5 e5 Strangely, it’s already lost for black.


14. Ne6! The computer shows another unusually attractive way to win: 14. Nd5!! Nxd5 15. Ne6!! (an exquisite and extremely rare double knight sacrifice; you’ve heard of double bishop sacrifices (Lasker-Bauer) but how often have you heard of a double knight sacrifice?) 15…fxe6 16. Qh5+ Kf8 17. fxe6+ and white cruises. For example, 17…N7f6 18. cxd5 Qe7 19. Bxf6 (or keep sacrificing for a quicker kill, 19. Rxf6+! Bxf6 20. Rf1 Bxe6 21. dxe6 Qxe6 22. Rxf6+ Qxf6 23. Bxf6 and wins) 19… Bxf6 20. Qh6+ with destruction. At the time, I saw my 16th move “Excelsior” theme and decided to go for that. It wins easily enough, but I have to rate the computer line higher in creativity and speed of execution.

14… fxe6 15. fxe6 O-O 16. e7! A great move to be able to play against a strong player. Black’s rook is frozen to f8.


16…Bb7 The problem is that 16… Re8 is crushed by 17. Nd5 (or by 17. Rxf6 Nxf6 18. Bxf6 Bxf6 19. Nd5; it’s unusual that white has so many winning lines so early) 17… Nxd5 18. Bxh7+ Kxh7 19. Qh5+ Kg8 20. Qxe8+ Kh7 21. Qh5+ and this pleasing pendulum maneuver nets white a second queen. So black must resort to the text and the rest is just a mop-up with no special carefulness or technique required; a good thing because at this age I had none.

17. exf8=Q+ Rxf8 18. Nd5 Nxd5 19. cxd5 Rxf1+ 20. Qxf1 Nc5 21. Rc1 e4 22. Bxe4 Bxb2 23. Re1 Be5 24. Bf4 Qf7 25. Bxe5 Qxf1+ 26. Rxf1 dxe5 27. Bb1 Bxd5 28. Rf5! Nd7 29. Rh5! The very active rook cannot be stopped.

29…Bf7 30. Rxh7 Bxa2 31. Rxd7 Bxb1 32. Rd6 b5 33. Rxa6 Kf7 34. Kg1 Bd3 35. Kf2 Bc4 36. h4 Bd5 37. Rb6 Bc4 38. g4 Bd3 39. Ke3 Bf1 40. g5 Kg7 41. Ke4 1-0

After the game, Roman feeling the anger of losing to a weaker player (I’ve felt that way many times), said “You have just bought yourself bad luck for rest of life.” This was tame compared to the Bill Lombardy speech I received after Bill lost on time at a World Open, but I knew what Roman meant – I would be in for heavy weather the next couple of times we met. And indeed, the next time we met (I was white again) I won his queen but he gained too much play with a Rook, Knight and Pawn and scored a positionally well-executed victory that made it into the Robert Byrne New York Times column (World Open, 1980).


Here is that game:

M. Ginsburg – GM Roman Dzindzichashvili World Open 1980

1.g3 c5 2.Bg2 Nc6 3.e4 g6 4.Ne2 The sort of off-beat knight placement in anti-Sicilians favored by the dearly departed Billy Adam.

4…Bg7 5.c3 e5 6.O-O Nge7 7.Na3
O-O 8.Nc2 d5 9.d3 Be6 10.f4 dxe4 11.dxe4 Bc4 12.Bd2 Qd3 13.Rf2
Rad8 14.Ned4
The sort of tactic that might “work” but no player is very happy about executing. It wins black’s queen but gets a structurally very bad game.

14…exf4 15.Ne1 fxg3 16.Nxd3 gxf2 17.Nxf2 cxd4 18.Qc2
Be6 19.Kh1 dxc3 20.Bxc3 Nd4 21.Qb1 Nec6 22.Qf1 Ne5 23.b3 h5
24.Rd1 Ng4 25.Rd3 Nxf2+ 26.Qxf2 Nxb3 27.Qc2 Rxd3 28.Qxd3 Nc1
29.Qe3 Bxc3 30.Qxc3 Rc8 31.Qe3 Nxa2 32.h3 b5 33.Qxa7 b4 34.e5
b3 35.Qb7 Rc1+ 36.Kh2 Rc2 37.Kg3 Nc3 38.Be4 Nxe4+ 39.Qxe4 Rc3+

An amusing bygones-era photo collage of the combatants in this game – the unlucky GM, as you probably can guess, is on the left – his photo is circa 1992, I think, and mine was from April 1979:


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.

The Fabulous 70s: Almost Beating Yasser Part 1

September 20, 2007

Preamble: The US Junior Open 1974

The first time I met Yasser Seirawan it was August 1974 at the Franklin & Marshall College in rural Lancaster, Pennsylvania, site of the 1974 US Junior Open. This tourney, full of nascent stars such as Michael Rohde and John Fedorowicz (and yes, Steve Odendahl) was won by obscure New Mexico master Spencer Lucas whose specialty, as I recall, was the Alekhine’s Defense. This was my first chess trip out of town (I hailed from Bethesda, MD) and Greyhound Bus Lines lost my luggage for the duration of the event.

MG Addendum 5/14/08:  Dana MacKenzie writes that Yasser was “the top-rated player […] a 14-year-old with a rating of 2315. […]  I never got within a mile of playing on the top boards, but I still remember this player’s calm, unflappable demeanor. He had curly hair and an angelic face that looked rather girlish, but I doubt that anybody teased him about it in this crowd, because nobody teases the #1 guy in the tournament.

I don’t think Yasser’s rating was that high in Lancaster.  Readers will need to check this.  Yasser was a very peppy kid, on the small side, but I don’t think he was the pre-event favorite.  In fact, I remember Spencer Lucas, a low master, as having a stratospheric rating.

Oddities from the 1974 Junior Open Tournament

In one bizarre turn of events, Fedorowicz lost to a kid dressed in a burlap sack (because John forgot where he was going to move after a long break brought on by President Nixon resigning; TD Leroy Dubeck ordered everyone’s clocks stopped for quite a while!). In another oddity, young Phil (Flippy) Goulding from Maryland castled queenside illegally vs Michael Rohde (a black knight on b2(!) covered the d1 square!), said “J’adoube” very audibly, uncastled, then moved his King to a random square, remaining two pawns down as white and dead lost in an Alekhine’s. Flippy drew that game after the shocking un-castle (and almost won it).

Yasser was a small yet energetic kid with a big afro who would jump up and exclaim “Hi-yer, I’m Yass-er!” Flash forward 4 years and we find ourselves in a much more serious event.

Flash Forward 4 Years to 1978

It’s now August 1978 and US Junior Championship Invitational in Memphis, TN. One of the big Kahunas was the unflappable and dapper (and much more grown-up!) Yasser Seirawan from Seattle. With a towering 2452 rating, he was indeed the one to beat. When the game started, we were both at “plus one” and needed to move up.


Yasser is third from left; I am second from right. Click to enlarge.

Mark Ginsburg (2339) – Yasser Seirawan (2452)

US Junior Invitational 1978, Round 4 40/150 then adjournment

English Opening

1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e6 3. e4!? d5 3…c5 4. e5 Ng8 is a whole different story. In any event, it’s good psychology to make a player face his own favorite opening – Yasser has scored numerous impressive wins with the English.

4. e5 d4 5. exf6 dxc3 6. bxc3 Qxf6 7. d4 The inversion 7. Nf3! with the idea of e.g. 7…c5 Bd3!? 9. O-O Bd6 10. Be4! with an edge, as in Ginsburg-Somogyi Las Vegas 2005, was not known yet. Also see 7. Nf3 e5 8. Bd3! and white won a nice quick game in Nakamura-Zarnicki, Minneapolis 2005.

7…b6 8. Nf3 In some game from Yasser’s early career, I believe he was successful playing white with the offbeat 8. Nh3!?

7…Bb7 9. Be2 Bd6 10. Qa4+ Bc6 11. Qc2 (0:37) Qg6!


Yasser defuses my harmless 10th and 11th moves and gets the queens off.

12. Qxg6 hxg6 13. Be3 Nd7 14. O-O-O Bb7 (0:29) 15. h3 The position is about equal.

15…c5!? (0:41) A risky strategic commitment. White gladly advances with d4-d5 and black has no chance to bother white’s shielded c-pawns. In addition, white will gain a lot of space on the kingside. 15…O-O or 15…a6 are safe.

16. d5 e5 Perfectly playable is 16…exd5 17. cxd5 Nf6 18. Bb5+ Kf8 19. c4 Rc8. The text is fine too; it just leads to a more blocked position.

17. Ng5 f5? (1:04) Correct is 17…Nf6 and it’s about level.

18. f3 Very strong is 18. g4! right away. 18…f4 19. Bd2 b5 20. Rhe1 and white is better. The slow text is still a bit better for white.

18…Nf8 19. Bd3 Bc8 20. Rde1 Ke7 21. h4 Bd7 22. Re2 Again, 22. g4 is strong.

22…Nh7! 23. Nxh7 Rxh7 24. Bg5+ Kf7 Black is all right again.

25. g4 (1:34) Rhh8 Perfectly reasonable is 25… Rf8 26. Rg2 Be7 and black holds.

26. h5 Rae8?! More accurate is 26… Raf8 27. Rg2 gxh5 28. gxh5 Rh7. Also, 26…gxh5 is fine for black.

27. Rg2 Kf8? Relatively best is 27… gxh5 28. gxf5! with a small white advantage.

28. h6! Kf7? Black must have been totally confused by white’s unusual space gaining ‘pawn storm’. More challenging is 28… gxh6 29. Bxh6+ or 29. Rxh6, in both cases with a white edge but nothing decisive yet.

29. h7! (1:56) Now white has a winning bind! It’s quite unusual for a master strategist such as Yasser to fall behind strategically, but that is what happened. Only white can ruin his own game now – I have a free rein on all sides of the board.


29…Be7 30. Bxe7 Rxe7 31. Bc2 Kf6 32. Kd2 The immediate 32. g5+ Kf7 33. Kd2 Ree8 34. Re2 b5 35. Bb3 a6 36. Kd3 bxc4+ 37. Bxc4 Bb5 38. a4 Bxa4 39. Bxa6 is quite winning.

32… f4 33. g5+ Kf7 34. Re2 Be8 (2:15) 35. Kc1 Kf8 36. Kb2 Kf7 There is nothing for black to do but sit and wait for the axe to fall. Seirawan himself has won many games tying his opponent up hand and foot.

37. Ka3 Bd7 38. Ba4 Ke8 39. Rhe1 Rxh7 40. Rxe5 Rxe5 41. Rxe5+ Kd8 42. Bxd7 Kxd7 (2:35) The sealed move. Yes, we had dinner-break adjournments in the 1970s. Black’s position is completely hopeless.

43. Re4! (2:29) More accurate than 43. Re6 Rh3.

43… Rh4 44. Ka4 a6


45. Re6 Winning is the fairly obvious 45. a3 and black has no move left (zugzwang). For example, 45…Rh5 46. Rxf4 Rxg5 47. Rf7+ Kc8 48. Rxg7 Rg3 49. Kb3 g5 50. a4 Kb8 51. a5 bxa5 52. Ka4 Rxf3 53. Kxa5 Rf6 54. Rxg5 Kc8 55. Rg7 Kb8 56. Re7 Rf3 57. Kxa6 Rxc3 58. Kb6 and wins. The text is winning too. It’s very hard to see how white could not win this.

45… Rh3 46. Rxb6 46. Rxg6 is also winning: Rxf3 47. Rxg7+ Kd6 48. Rg6+ Kc7 49. Rf6 Rg3 50. g6 f3 51. kb3 f2 52. Rxf2 Rxg6 53. Rf7+ Kb8 (53…Kd6 54. Ra7 wins) 54. a4 threatening a5.

46…Rxf3 47. Rxa6 Re3 47… Rxc3 48. Ra7+ Ke8 49. d6 Rd3 50. Re7+ Kf8 51. Re4 Rd4 52. d7 Rxd7 53. Rxf4+ Ke7 54. Kb5 wins. When this game was played, I believed the text 47…Re3 to be some kind of ingenious resource and I started to get nervous, which is ridiculous of course.

48. Ra7+! White doesn’t fall for the trick 48. Rxg6 Re7! and the f-pawn is a major nuisance. It should be all over now.

48…Ke8 Black, as a Harvard freshman once wrote in a political science essay, “is at the very brink of Agamemnon.”


49. Ra8+?? This is one of those moments where I look at the old scoresheet and cannot believe what I am reading. One of the “issues” was that I went out with Fedorowicz during the adjournment break and Yasser stayed inside, “working”. But of course there’s nothing to work on. In any event, if I had even briefly looked at the adjournment, I would have not gone up this blind alley and played the obvious 49. Rxg7 f3 50. Rxg6 and black can resign, for example 50…Rxc3 51. Kxb5 and the game is over. Believe it or not, I had not calculated the capture on move 50, believing my opponent’s f-pawn would be a problem in this variation. Since it is not, (pawn g5 guards Rf6 to stop the enemy pawn), white just wins with the numerous extra pawns. The text draws!

49… Ke7 What a gruesome turn of events. Now black’s f-pawn really is a problem! The rest of the game is simply white flailing around trying to win an unwinnable game. What an incredible botch!

50. Ra7+ Ke8 51. Rb7 f3 52. Rb1 Kd7 53. Kb3 f2 54. Rf1 Re2 55. a4 Kc7 56. a5 Rd2 57. Ka4 Rb2 58. Rd1 Re2 59. Rf1 Rb2 60. Ka3 Rd2 61. Kb3 Kb7 62. Ka4 Ka6 63. d6 Ra2+ 64. Kb3 Rd2 65. d7 Rxd7 66. Rxf2 Kxa5 67. Re2 Rb7+ 68. Kc2 Rb6 69. Re7 Rc6 70. Rxg7 Re6 71. Kd3 Ka4 72. Rd7 Kb3 73. Rb7+ Ka3 74. Rd7 Kb3 75. Rd5 Rc6 76. Rd8 Re6 77. Rb8+ Ka3 78. Kc2 Re2+ 79. Kd3 1/2-1/2

It was very ignominious to have to face the rest of the players the next day and offer fumbling explanations regarding the half point on the crosstable.

In Part II, we’ll examine another “bring Yasser back from the precipice”, World Open 1984, where my position was just as winning. D’oh!