Posts Tagged ‘Manhattan Chess Club’

The Fabulous 60s: McKelvie upsets Benko

March 18, 2009

This just in from Dr. Neil McKelvie (Chemistry Professor at CCNY and Chess Master)

Mark…I noticed that (a) there have been no comments on my Denker submission; BUT (b) if you look up “Neil McKelvie” on GOOGLE, which I just did out of curiosity, I note that the first three entries – meaning most often accessed – are for me. (The next ones: I am not the principal of a religious English school in Yorkshire, and I do not play drums in a NZ rock band!) No 3 is for your BLOG. I have received no comments – have you?

MG Note: New Zealand (NZ) is a fantastic place, every chess player should visit it. The most recent NIC magazine has a story about the Queenstown, NZ Open organized by GM Chandler.  As Dr. McKelvie points out, in Auckland, NZ there happens to be MacKelvie Street but it’s listed as McKelvie Street.

McKelvie on Benko

Now: Pal Benko! I played him twice in MCC championships, and once in a US Open in Boston; but several times in Rapids (once coming in second to Bobby Fischer…7-0 I think was HIS score – ahead of Bisguier and Benko) This game is similar to the Denker game in that I played a highly speculative and probably unsound improvised gambit. *I* think that the most interesting Chess often comes from doubtful moves that no decent Computer would ever play! (Benko scored 7-0 the next year, ahead of Bisguier 5 1/2 – 1 1/2 and me 5-2)

McKelvie – GM Pal Benko Manhattan Club Championship – date 1966?

MG Note to readers: The Manhattan CC moved all over Manhattan, including a stint at the world famous Carnegie Hall at 57th and 7th Avenue.  This game was played before that venue.  Notes in the body of the game are by MG with Rybka kibitzing… see next section for McKelvie’s notes.

1. e4   c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3  e6 6. f4 a6 7. Be3 b5

As in many games, for example SM Bill Kelleher – M. Ginsburg, New England, 1980s (possibly early 90s).

Old Theory

Old Theory

8. e5!? Just as Kelleher played!  Theory presumes this to be premature but play gets very sharp.  It’s odd to see super sharp McKelvie openings because when I (MG) played him he reacted very passively in a QGD MCC Ch. 1985.  Maybe decaf that day?

In the 1970s, this type of structure was covered in a Scheveningen textbook.  Let’s see it:

What we had to work with in the 1970s

What we had to work with in the 1970s

However this 8. e5!? lunge was little covered.  I was certainly shocked when Kelleher tried it against me.

8….dxe5 9. fxe5 Nd5 Just for completeness, 9….b4!? TN 10. exf6 bxc3 11. fxg7 Bxg7 12. bxc3 Qc7 is a small edge for white – thus playable.

10. Nd5 Qxd5 11. Be2 Still following the Kelleher game.  I don’t have that game score handy….(I won after insane complications).  The bizarre computer choice 11. Nf3 retains equality.

11…Qxe5 I  believe that I, too, accepted this pawn because it’s hard to see what else black can do.

12.Qd2    Bb7 A very important position for the theory of this line has been reached.  Interesting, Rybka judges white has almost equal chances.  Black has one narrow way (see next note) to get something.  As McK mentions in his notes below, 12…Bc5! is a good alternative here and Rybka agrees.

13.Bf4    Qd5(? – McK) The best, not easy to see at the board, is 13…Qc5! 14. O-O-O Be7 15. Nb3 Qc8! 16. Bd6 Qd8! 17. Nc5 Bd5! and black has a small plus.

14. O-O-O! A wild continuation hanging a2.  However in the end this turns out to be justified. Rybka mentions 14. Bf3 Qd7 15. Rf1!? with compensation.    It also gives an inhuman line 14. Bf3 Qd7 15. Qc3 Bxf3 16. gxf3!?, also with good compensation.

14…Qd7  (? – Rybka) Benko blinks first, makes a move that doesn’t contribute to development, and he lands in a lost game!  But starting here we have a fascinating battle of the chess engines.  It would be interesting to turn even more engines loose on this one.

Naturally Rybka 2.2 doesn’t like this game choice and recommends 14…Qxa2 15. Nb3 Be7 (forced) 16. Bd6 Bf6 17. Be5! O-O (17…Be7?! 18. Bxg7 is good for white after 18…Rg8 19. Qh6)  18. Bxf6 gxf6 19. Qf4 (or 19. Qh6) – thus far McK analysis- and now a truly amazing defense, 19…Nc6!! 20. Qxf6 Na5 and white has nothing better than a perpetual with queen checks on g5 and f6.  Incredible.   But hang on to your hats.  Rybka 3.1 has seen deeper!  19…Nc6 20. Qxf6 Na5 21. Nc5 Rac8 22. Rd4! and wins!  Thus we have to revise our opinion and say black should not grab on a2!

Rybka 3.1 indicates black should not grab on a2 just yet, develop with 14…Be7, but then 15. Bf3 Qxa2 16. Qc3! causes obvious problems.  Is there any defense at all?  Let’s take a look at this position; the resource it finds for black is truly amazing.

Position after 16. Qc3 (Analysis)

Position after 16. Qc3 (Analysis)

Readers:  A) What should black play from the diagram position above?  B) What’s the correct evaluation with best play for both sides?

15. Qc3! Now black has a horrible game in all lines.

15…Bd5? This makes it worse. 15…b4, while very lame, was the best chance.

16. Nf5! A real cruncher.  Black is dead lost.

16…Nc6 17. Rxd5! exd5  18. Bg4!  Kd8 What a depressing move to have to play. In fact, black could have resigned – see the note to white’s next move.

19. Nd4 (“!” – McK, “?”   – Rybka)

Rybka hates this move because of what’s out there.  Indeed, one of Rybka’s juicy moves, 19. Ne7!!, forces resignation after 19…Qxg4 20. Nxc6+.  Even worse, if that is possible, is 19…Qxe7 20. Qxc6 with utter destruction.   For the sadists in the audience, 19. Nh6!! is just as effective.  For example, 19. Nh6!! Nb4 20. Bg5+ Be7 21. Nxf7+ and it’s +13.95 in computer speak!

This just in from McKelvie:  “Just incidentally….I DID intend Ne7, which of course wins easily, but then picked Nd4, which wins a piece and ALSO wins easily. Why? After Ne7 Black can play B:e7 and then K:d7, with R+N for Q and dead lost, but at least developed and able to survive for a while. After Nd4 Black is still with a useless R and unmoved B. The way I played SHOULD have led to immediate resignation after Qe1/e3 instead of Re1…now THAT was careless of me, or perhaps I wanted to enjoy winning against Benko a bit longer!

I suspect Rybka cannot understand failing to win Q for two pieces instead of just winning a piece, unless I have missed some amazing defence after my Nd4.   Cheers – Neil McKelvie”

19…Nb4! Black doesn’t have to be asked twice to do this. He’s now at only -1.2; if white had done 19. Ne7 it would have been -5 in computer-speak.

20. Kb1 Qb7 20. Rc8 21. Qh3 also loses: 21…Qb7 22. Bg5+! Kc7 23. Qc3+ Kb8 24. Bf4+ and wins the rook.

21. a3 h5 22.  Bh3 a5 23. ab Ra6   24. Nxb5 axb5 25. Bc7+ Ke8  26. Re1+ Re6   27.B:e6   fe   28.Qh3    Rh6    29.R:e6+  Kf7  30.R:h6   gh   31.Qf5+   Kg8   32.Qe6+   Kh7   33.Qf7+   Bg7 34.Nd4    Qa7    35.Nf5    Qg1+ 36.Ka2    b3+  37.K:b3   Resigns

I will try to find the “counter-twin” Kelleher game.

Some notes by McKelvie

Some notes: 12….Bc5 looked good for Black, although after 13.O-O-O O-O (?! – Rybka)  (MG: Rybka likes 13….Bb7! first) 14.Bf3 Ra7 15.Bf4!? Qd4 16.Qd4 Bd4 17.Rd4 White has a little compensation with two Bishops…
13….Qc5 was much better than 13…Qd5. If 14…Qa2 15.Nb3  Be7 16.Bd6 Bf6 17.Be5 O-O(?)
18. Bf6 gf 19 Qh6 a5(?) 20. Bd3 f5 21.g4,,,,  (MG:  See game notes for a discussion of a preliminary computer try, 19…Nc6)
26. Qe3+ was quicker.

Cheers….Neil McKelvie

McKelvie Puzzle

One McK creation from MANY years ago…a Mate in Four (but the first move is fairly obvious).
White: Qh1; Kg2; Pg4; Nb4; Ne8 Black: Kd7 Pb7

9/21/09:  Neil sent in a correction, the above puzzle had a typo. Here is the right version.

White: Kg2; Qh1; N’s b5 and e8; P g4;

Black: Kd7; Pb7    White to play and Mate in 4.

Solution: 1.Ne8-c7
If 1….Ke7 2.Qh7+ If then 2…Kf6 3.Nd5+ and then mirror mates from 4.Qh5 or Qf5 Other moves are uninteresting. HOWEVER
If 1…..Kc6; some logic. Black’s possible second moves with the K are 2…Kb6; 2…Kc5 and 2…K back to d7.  For the Q to then mate in two more moves, it has to get to a3, d4, and e5 respectively. There is only one square from where all three can be reached: a1!
SO: 2.Qa1. But now; what if 2…Pb6. NOW, the K has three squares available: 3…c5 or d7 or b7. To mate then, the Q has to get to c3, e8…AND a8. There is only one square from which to reach all three:3.Qh8. Therefore: Z for Zugswang! Q from h1 -> a1; h8; and a8.

McKelvie on Celts, Irish, Scots

“Mc” and even “M’ ” are valid SCOTTISH (and Irish) abbreviations for “Mac”. For my family name, which comes from the whole area of northern Ireland, the islands to the north, and the Scottish land area to the east; south of Glasgow, “McKelvie is the Scottish spelling, and “McKelvey” is the Ulster spelling. We are supposedly all descendants of a chieftain named “Cielbach Mac Cielbach”, where the “C” turned sometimes into “K” and sometimes into “S” (the northern English name “Selby”) over 2000+ years.

Scots from the North ,”highlanders”, are invariably “Mac”. Lowland Scots, who originally came from Northern ireland anyway, are usually “Mc”. The ROMANS named the group from Northern Ireland the “Scotti”. They were in constant war with the O’Neill’s from the south of Ireland, and so pushed into the south of Scotland, then occupied by the Picts. The two groups united against the Roman invaders. Later a character called Kenneth MacAlpine had married a daughter of the Pictish King, and when he died he became the first king of a united Scotland, having had other claimants killed off. To this day the tall fair-haired Highlanders – descendants of the Picts? – look, think, and talk differently from the Lowlanders. The groups do not always get on well together.
So; the Northern Ireland conflict has a 2000+ year history.

MG Note:  Since I was/am a Philistine savage, previously I believed “Mc” was Irish and “Mac” was Scottish and that was that.  Clearly things are much “Highland mistier.”

The Fabulous 60s: Dr. Neil McKelvie on Arnold Denker

June 13, 2008

MG Note: This guest article by Dr. Neil McKelvie, long-time MCC official and Professor of Chemistry at CCNY, was originally a comment on my 1989 Manhattan Chess Club Championship post.

McKelvie-Denker : Lasker-esque Psychology

Here from memory – is a wild game by me vs. Arnold Denker, against whom I had a plus score of 3-2 (FURIOUSLY denied by Arnold, until I provided the details! He didn’t like to lose!)

Manhattan championship – year??
Neil McKelvie – Arnold Denker
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3. d4 cd 4.N:d4 a6 5. Nc3 Qc7
6. Bd3 Nc6 7. Be3 MG Note: We now know 7. Nxc6!

7…Nf6 8. Qe2(?) Bd6 9. g3??!
This is a truly awful move – but played deliberately! Denker, as I knew from long experience, was prone to overconfidence, and this made him smile happily! (A real Patzer move!!) White’s white-sqiare weakness will be very bad. MG: This was a typical Emmanuel Lasker ploy! In this case, the move isn’t *that* bad.

Position after the “lemon” 9. g3 (It isn’t that bad)

9…N:d4 10.B:d4 e5 11.Be3 Bb4 12.O-O! B:c3 13 bc O-O? (…d6! and White has a miserable position)

14, Bg5 Qc6 15. f4 ef! 16. e5 f3!

Position after 16…f3!? Both sides are swinging for the fences.

Addendum by McKelvie 4/9/09:
“After Denker’s f3….I “should” have taken on f3 with my Queen! Then …Q:f3 is forced, I think; R:f3; if then …Ng4; Be7 Re8; Bd6 N:e5; Re3 f6; Bc4 Kh8; Bf7  wins the exchange, right? Other lines; White seems to have a “winning: game, with two B’s and a B position suffering from acute constipation!
Cheers – Neil McKelvie”

17 R:f3 Ng4
Thinking that the W e-pawn will be lost…..

18.Be7 Re8 19.Bd6
Denker intended 19…N:e5 20 B:e5 d6, but then looked, and saw 21. B:h7+
IF 21…K:h7 22, Qd3+ Kg8? 23. B:g7! K:g7 24. R:f7+! K:f7 and White wins in all variations. This would not work without Black’s 4…a6 and 14…..Qc6, because one variation is 24 Qh7+ Ke6 25.Re1+ Kd5 26. Qd3+ Kc5 27. Qd4+ Kb5 28. Qb4++
However; B should play 22…f5. 23. R+f5 can lead to a draw by perpetual check, but no more. I planned 23. Bd4. Denker thought this was bad for him, at least cosmetically, but his W. Bishop is equally frightening. Maybe both sides are losing! I haven’t had the nerve to give this position to a computer.

Denker played, after L O N G thought, 19……b5? (Why do so many long thinks lead to chessic mental paralysis and a blunder?)
20.Qe4! Q:e4 21.B:e4 Ra722.Bd5 Nh6 23.Raf1

Position after 23. Raf1.  Denker is Toast.

23…Re6 (threat was 24 R:f7!)
24.B:e6 de 25.c4 bc 26.Rc3 Bd7 27.Rb1 f5 28.Bb8 Ra8 29.R:c4 Nf7 30.Rb7 Nd8 31.R:d7 R:b8 32.Rcc7 Resigns 1-0

Denker, Club Member X, Organic Chemistry, and a Playboy Bunny

Finally, a very funny Manhattan Chess Club story, again involving Denker.

Year: 1966 or 1967? A young lady appeared in my Organic Chemistry lecture (”J.” ;) She had worked as a Bunny in the Playboy Club, and had adopted that style of dressing, minus the ears, for everyday use, It wasn’t exactly usual then to see a young blonde lady wearing a see-through blouse and no underwear, and very short shorts. Of course, *I* received full voltage! (She asked another girl, since this didn’t seem to work, “Is he Gay?” “No; he has a young and very pretty wife! You are wasting your time!)

So, she got friendly with one of my PhD students, who was doing the exam grading. She said to me, “David tells me you are a chess master”. “Yes.” “David has been teaching me to play” (??!!) “Can I see you play Chess?”

Inspiration! Denker had a keen appreciation of the ladies. “Can you come to the Manhattan Chess Club in the Henry Hudson Hotel this Sunday at 2 pm? I’m playing former US Champion Arnold Denker. However, please stand behind me when I’m playing so that I don’t get distracted!” “I can come, but I’ll be dressed for a date. Won’t this be too much for a Chess Club” (If they are playing Chess, they’ll never notice you!!”

Denker sat up in his chair and his eyes goggled. Shortly after, he made a mistake, and I was a pawn up with a good position. At this point Club Member X came in. He had listed his non-Chess occupation as “sex consultant” (I assume this could have meant “pimp” but I kept my
thoughts to myself… ;) He saw me talking to “J”. “Is she a friend of yours?” “Not exactly; she is a student in my class,” (Is it OK if I talk to her?” “None of my business, but she is with her date.”

10 minutes later… “J” was playing with her date, with our hero Club Member X practically draped over her. I was so fascinated by the human drama going on behind me that *I* blundered!!
Eventually Denker won.
Next day. “J”: “I don’t think I like Chess that much. Who was that creep?”

Next Sunday’s round, our hero “X” gave me his business card.
“Can you give this to that very lovely young lady? I think I could really teach her a lot!!”

Conticello on MCC

April 28, 2008

A Manhattan Chess Club Timeline [Abridged]

by Nicholas W. Conticello

Italicized Supplemental Notes by IM Mark Ginsburg

1901- Frank J. Marshall wins the first of three Manhattan Chess Club (MCC) titles.

1909- MCC organizes match between Marshall and young member Jose Raul Capablanca. The unknown Cuban demolishes the World Championship contender by +8-1=14 and goes on to become the third World Champion.

1915- Capablanca wins NY International ahead of Marshall.

1924- MCC board members arrange legendary New York international featuring most of the leading players of the era. Lasker takes first with 16-4 ahead of Capablanca, Alekhine, Marshall, Reti, etc. Capa’s loss to Reti in the fifth round is the Cuban’s first defeat in 8 years.

1927- MCC board sponsors a six-player event supposedly to select a challenger for Capablanca’s title. Capa wins without loss of a game, while Alekhine confirms his status as challenger with a convincing second. Alekhine’s ensuing victory in their match later in the year by +6-3=25 will shock the chess world and end MCC’s grip on the World Championship.

1936- MCC member Samuel Reshevsky wins first US Championship tournament of the 20th century.

1945- On Sept. 1 Club is site of American half of USA-USSR radio match. Soviets win by 11 points in 20 games and begin their 27 year grip (to the day!) on world chess.

1948- Members Reshevsky and Reuben Fine are invited to play in World Championship tournament to choose a successor to Alekhine. Fine, fearing Soviet collusion, cites his studies in psychology as his reason for not playing. Reshevsky plays anyway and finishes third.

1951- Reshevsky wins MCC’s Wertheim Memorial ahead of Max Euwe and Miguel Najdorf.

1952- Future GM and World Junior Champion William Lombardy joins the Club.

1955- Reshevsky wins the Rosenwald tournament (de facto US Championship) ahead of Arthur Bisguier and Larry M. Evans. 12-year-old Robert J. Fischer joins.

1956- Fischer is invited to the Rosenwald at age 13. He is beaten by eventual winner Reshevsky on time (his only known time forfeit) and runnerup Bisguier ( the latter’s only win against Fischer) but defeats Donald Byrne in what TD and Club Manager Hans Kmoch eulogizes as the “Game of the Century” and scores a respectable 4.5/11.

1957- In the space of one year, Donald Byrne wins the Western Open, Gisela Gresser wins the US Women’s title, Fischer wins the US Open and US Junior, Lombardy wins the World Junior Championship (11-0!), Arthur Bisguier wins the US Closed, and Samuel Reshevsky is crowned “Champion of the Western Hemisphere” by virtue of a match victory over Miguel Najdorf. The year will end with 14-year-old Bobby Fischer taking the first of a record 8 US Championships without the loss of a game.

1962- Larry Evans defeats William Lombardy for the Edgar Trophy.

1963- Fischer wins the US Championship for the sixth time with a perfect 11-0 score. The event is held at the Henry Hudson Hotel, which also was home for the Club.

1964- Benko defeats Bisguier in a match for an Interzonal spot vacated by Fischer, who declined his invitation to the Amsterdam event.

1971- The Club moves from the Henry Hudson to E. 60th St. just off Fifth Avenue. In August, the Club sponsors an invitational Master Rapids. Fischer swamps the field with 21.5-0.5 (the draw going to six-time Club Champion Walter Shipman.) This was the soon-to-be World Champion’s last appearance at the Club.

1973- The peak of the “Fischer Boom” sees the Club’s membership exceed 400.

1974- The “Boom” goes bust, and the Club must move again, to 155 E. 55 St. In February Viktor Korchnoi wins another special Master Rapids.

1976- The Club sponsors the first New York International since 1951. IM Norman Weinstein ties for first with recent emigre GM’s Anatoly Lein and Leonid Shamkovich. 12-year-old Joel Benjamin, making his international debut, wins a game from Canadian IM Bruce Amos.

1977- Anatoly Lein wins the Moses Mitchell Tournament of Champions ahead of Sal Matera, Bernard Zuckerman, and future Club President Neil McKelvie.

1978-14-year-old Joel Benjamin wins the first of six Club titles.

1984- The Club moves to the Carnegie Hall Studios, 155 W. 57 St, for the second time.

News flash 5/17/11 from Mark Pinto“Records are probably lost but I tied with [Walter] Shipman in 1984 and he was given the title on tiebreaks. [… ] Going from memory (not as reliable as it used to be) wins against Asa [Hoffmann] , Eric Cooke, drew with B[ernie] Zuckerman(a Nadjorf where I was white), drew with Shipman not sure who else I played. ”

1988 – IM Mark Ginsburg (Yay!) wins the MCC Championship for the first time, with a field including MCC stalwarts Zuckerman and Shirazi. The 10th floor Carnegie Hall location features an 11th floor bathtub for the grimy combatant.

1989- Gata Kamsky’s American debut after defecting during the New York Open is the Club’s 4 Rated Games Tonight. Kamsky will play frequently at the Club over the next five years.

MG: I play Kamsky in an MCC quad. We have cordial post-game analysis until his father yanks him away mid-sentence, much like a bad vaudeville act gets the cane.

1989- The Club runs a Knockout Qualifier with sixteen of the country’s strongest players vying for the right to meet Kasparov in a two game 25 minute match at the New York Public Library. Gata Kamsky, a last minute substitute, wins the event ahead of many GM’s.

1990 – IM Mark Ginsburg (Yay!) wins the MCC Championship for the second time, granting a draw from a position of strength to FM Danny Shapiro in the last round. Leonid Bass and Mark are just in time to Maxim Dlugy’s wedding.

1991 – Despite having won the event two years previously, the gruff manager Russell Garber omits to invite MG to this year’s championship and MG misses it, not knowing its exact dates.

1992 – The Club and the American Chess Foundation purchase a building at 353 W. 46 St. in the hopes of providing the Club with a permanent home and enabling the Foundation to expand its activities. The site is called the American Chess Center.

1993- By June the Club is unable to maintain its share of the building and cedes its part ownership to ACF. Billy Colias is hired as manager in July, charged with running the Club and the ACF’s bookstore. he dies Nov. 4 from an accidental overdose of an over-the-counter-medication.

1994- Kamsky celebrates his match victory over Anand with a final appearance in the Thursday Night Action. He scores 4-0, defeating Lombardy and IM Danny Edelman en route.

1997- Jay Bonin becomes the first player to win the championships of the Marshall and Manhattan Clubs and the State of New York to become the only triple Crown winner in NY State history.

1999- Maurice Ashley gains his final GM norm in an International held at the Club, beconing the first African-American Grandmaster.

2000- The Club’s lease at 353 W. 46 St. expires. it moves to the New Yorker Hotel on May 1. A few weeks later GM Max Dlugy wins a Master Rapids event held concurrently with the New York Open to celebrate the Club’s reopening. In November Eric Cooke wins atwo-game blitz playoff from Asa Hoffmann to become the Club’s last champion in the 20th century.

2001 – MG visits the almost defunct club in this sad New Yorker Hotel (some non-descript room on a high floor) location.

2002- On Feb. 1, after two years of unstoppable decline, the Club closes its doors for the last time.

Copyright 2008 Nicholas W. Conticello. All rights reserved.

For Further Reading

More MCC trivia and amusement here.

Pathos from the Readers

This I heard on ICC 4/28/08:

jonesey tells you: watched my then 13 yr old son play in the last tourney at the manhattan while they were carrying stuff out. sad

1980s Photos

July 28, 2007

Some Photos.

1981, New York City (can’t remember exact venue – think it might have been the Statler on 34 St.). The Pan-Am Intercollegiates, December.

The following motley group gathered – we were not part of any one team, we were just doing a “staged” photo clustered around the first place trophy.


From left to right, standing we have: Jon Schroer, the author, Steve Odendahl, and Eric Tall.

Seated we have future US Champion Michael Wilder whom I believe was still in High School.

Also in this time frame, maybe 1981 or 1982, we have the author at the famous Marshall CC (23 W 10 St., NY NY), site of many IM- and GM- norm tournaments.


Throughout most of the 1980s, I lived in a sprawling 3-bedroom apartment in Washington Heights (Upper Manhattan, 170th St.) along with Senior Master (hailing from Michigan) Jeremy Barth, Andrea Sisniega (sister of Mexican GM Marcel Sisniega) and at one time or another, also John Fedorowicz, Michael Rohde, and other visiting luminaries such as Pia Cramling. Here is the semi-famous cat Petey Pie, who throughout the 1980s terrorized such GM apartment guests as Eric Lobron and Ralf Lau with nocturnal prowling while they were trying to sleep. Click on Petey to see the bigger version. We used to sign her up to get magazine subscriptions; they arrived addressed to “Ms. Pie.”


The apartment was a haven for beatniks and foreign artisans. Here are discussants Charles (Chuckles) Fambro and Hanna Moishezon on our crummy Washington Heights foam sofa. Of course, Chuckles was unclassifiable. So was Hanna. I would place this photo at around 1985 or 1986 Fall 1987 or 1988 (see Jeremy Barth commentcurrent thinking places Jeremy as the photog).


Photo by Eric Schiller, whom I believed organized many of these important norm events. I discovered this photo by accident by stumbling on this web page. After making norms, players would celebrate at the palatial Schiller mansion on Long Island. One of these tournaments is where I first met Judy Shipman I found her instructional chess book somewhere and now she spells her name Judee. There must be some story there.

Moving to 1983, Manhattan Chess Club, famous old soda machine on the 10th floor of Carnegie Hall, 57th St. and 7th Avenue, on its old location on 155 E 55 St. (prior to Carnegie Hall, W 57 St), NYC. Sadly the MCC went defunct.  See another related post where I am trying to reconstitute the champions’ list with the help of one-time manager, Nick Conticello. I am pretty sure pink tinted glasses were popular then.


The author at the Manhattan Chess Club’s famous old Coke machine, 155 E 55 Street, 1983

Do you know why men like having a beard? In the act of feeling the beard (pretending to think), the concentrated nerve endings on the fingertips feel good! It’s got nothing to do with the face feeling the fingers, it’s all to do with the converse. 🙂 That’s why you see learned men of advanced education constantly feeling their beard! I read this in a neurophysiology study. Don’t make me cite it.

Here is the World Open 1985. I can state for certainty that both Ian Findlay (Canada) and Michael Wilder were relaxing on the bed. As for the principles, better they remain anonymous. The less said about this, the better. I believe this was taken in the hotel across the parking lot from the Adam’s Mark – the Sheraton (?).


Between Rounds at the World Open 1985 

Moving ahead to the World Open 1986, what progress has been made? Well, first of all we have more people in the photo. We have Leonid Bass with that stylish hat and Sergey Kudrin left to the right, seated, rear. From left to right in the forefront, we have Michael Wilder, the author, and Joel Benjamin. This looks like it was taken right outside the Adam Mark’s “Players Bar”.

Between Rounds at the World Open 1986 

Here’s another one from the World Open, same era. I would estimate it’s also 1986.


Relaxing at the World Open 1986 

Here we have Joel Benjamin on the left rear and cute as a button Andrea Sisniega (sister of Mexican GM Marcel Sisniega) with a most excellent bottle of Mouton Cadet. Andrea lived in Washington Heights in a sprawling three bedroom apartment along with me, Senior Master Jeremy Barth, and at various other times Fedorowicz, Lobron, Rohde, Christiansen, McCambridge, Lanni, Wilder, Pia Cramling, Ralf Lau, and other luminaries. Yes, 250 Fort Washington Avenue, Apt. 2A, NY, NY, 10032, had a lot of chess player guests over the years from 1981-1988.

In the forefront of this photo we have the author on the left and peripatetic Michael Wilder on the right with an amusing expression. It looks like everyone is having a good time. My “wine glass” as you might guess was an Adam’s Mark hotel bathroom glass. Not very haute couture.

Here’s one more from the same event. In this one, Mike Wilder has on Leonid Bass’s hat. Standing, left, Dmitry Gurevich. Sitting, the author. On the right, Joel Benjamin.


More between-round relaxation, World Open 1986 

The next curio depicts Joel Benjamin with some bread rolls. I don’t know the location or exact date, but it has to be the 80s, doesn’t it? Photographer unknown as of this writing.


Moving up to 1989, we have a photo from the Berlin Open organized by Herr Seppelt. Photo by Eric Tall.


The author playing blitz with Joel Benjamin, Berlin Summer Open 1989 

By this time, the pink tinted glasses were history. I actually had a job on Wall Street (although I got sacked later in the year for too much nocturnal polka-ing). From left to right seated we have Matthew Messinger and the author; I am playing Joel Benjamin in a friendly blitz game in the Hotel Intercontinental in Berlin, Germany. Standing observing the proceedings is Dr. Anne Dinning who pretty much was responsible for me losing my day job. I wrote a small article on this tournament for Chess Life magazine that some of you may remember. The upshot is that we won more in the casino than the chess tournament. The highlight of the tournament may have been GM Josef Klinger of Austria getting ejected for public drunkenness (there was a convenient beer hall directly adjacent to the playing area).

And here is the view of the actual Berlin Open playing hall. I’m figuring out where to move vs a German FM Uwe Bokelbrink. Photo by Eric Tall.


The author (left, foreground playing white) vs. FM Uwe Bokelbrink, Berlin 1989 

And of course we saw two dogs fighting (or were they playing?) in Berlin:


Action photo credit: Eric Tall.

And at the very end of the decade I played in a Brugges, Belgium tournament New Years Eve 1989.

Before the event, this photo was taken in Delft, Holland.


The author and Christine Syben, Scheveningen Holland 1989. 

Nice town! Home of the little blue porcelain. That’s the author with a smaller person, American chess player Christine Syben. She went on to lose money in the Scheveningen casino. Photo by Eric Tall.

Finally we switch to what has to be a World Open; Canadian future IM Deen Hergott vs Joel Benjamin.  A side note: the Wikipedia article on Hergott mentions he is the chess columnist for the Ontario Citizen newspaper – I learn so much from Wikipedia!  The article also points out Hergott’s academic proficiency in mathematics, a nice counterpoint to our own IM Kenny Regan.

As is usual, if anyone has the game score of this encounter (for completeness), that would be appreciated – send it in.

Deen Hergott (left) vs Joel Benjamin, World Open (?), 198x (?) 

Do you feel like jumping ahead a decade? Here are the 1990s photos.

The Classic 80s Part 3: Manhattan Chess Club

July 16, 2007

In the mid-1980’s, The Manhattan Chess Club had a fabulous location on the 10th floor of Carnegie Hall, at 57th Street and 7th Avenue in Manhattan (I believe the MCC that Bobby Fischer frequented was at a different eastside location). Across the street was “Merit Farms”, where hungry chess players would get sandwiches and what not. Steve Immitt called it “Merit Clowns.” There was even a bathtub on the 11th floor that the players could use; an unheard of luxury for a chess club. Some players took the nice location too far and actually started living in the club. A creeping seediness gummed up the works and, coupled with the rent increase, the MCC had to move to the far west site (9th avenue in the 40s) where it, sadly, did not last.  I refer the readers to a newer post where I am trying to establish a who’s who of MCC champions over the years.

Here’s a photo of me circa 1983, with the famous old Manhattan CC soda machine.  Facial hair is fun but it’s unclear how it affects one’s play. Maybe we should ask Levon Aronian about this. I heard from a reader that in 1983, the MCC was actually at another east-side location (not yet Carnegie Hall).  Can anyone confirm the 1983 location?


1983:  Where exactly was the MCC? 

Every year the MCC Championship was a banner event attracting many strong players. Over the years, such luminaries as Bobby Fischer, Joel Benjamin, Robert Byrne, and other GMs have won it. I managed to do the trick twice, in 1988 and 1990.

First let’s look at a 1983 tussle featuring an unusual opening which has its merits and is quite good to get booked up players out of book.
Joel Benjamin vs Mark Ginsburg
Manhattan Chess Club Championship, 1983

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 d6 3. Nc3 e5 4. Nf3 e4!? 5. Ng5 Bf5 6. g4 Bxg4 7. Bg2 Nc6!? 7…Nbd7 is also playable here. See Alburt-Ginsburg, Lone Pine 1980. In general, I think this line is underrated for black as active piece play is achievable.

8. Ngxe4 Be7 9. b3?! 9. Be3, 9. Rg1, and even 9. Nd5!? are more to the point.

9…Nxe4 10. Nxe4 O-O 11. Bb2 f5! A natural space-gaining move. The position is now very sharp and unclear.

12. Ng3?! Tempting black into a strong advance. 12. Nc3 looks safer.


Position after 12. Ng3.  Black is tempted into the bum’s rush. 

12… f4 A logical follow-up. Black now has a small edge.

13. Ne4 d5! Correct. White’s center is splintered.

14. cxd5 Nb4 15. d6 Bxd6 16. d5 Qe7 17. a3 Bf5 18. Nxd6


Position after 18. Nxd6.  Two good moves, but only allowed to pick one. 

18… Nc2+!? The obvious 18…Nd3+ is tempting and strong but after 19. Kd2! (19. Kf1?? loses horribly to the crushing blow 19…f3! 20. exf3 (20. Bxf3? Bh3+ 21. Bg2 Rxf2+) Qxd6 and white is paralyzed.) white stays afloat. Note that 19…Nxb2 20. Nxf5! Rxf5 21. Qc1 is good for white. Black should continue 19…Nxf2! 20. Nxf5 Rxf5 and after the best moves 21. Qe1! Qg5! black has some edge. The text is also good for some advantage.

19. Kf1 Qxd6 20. Rc1 f3! Black finds the key resource.  Another splintering motif to go with the earlier 13…d5!; quite a field day for these brave pawns.

21. exf3 Qa6+?! Here is where things start to slip slowly away. Black had the much stronger craven capture 21…Nxa3! and the knight can extricate via b5. After 22. Qd4 Rf7 23. Qc5 Qxc5 24. Rxc5 Nc2 the knight can dance out another way and black has a decisive edge – white’s structure is ruined.

22. Kg1 Rae8 Black, of course, still has a big edge here.


Position after 22…Rae8.  How can black contrive to lose this? 

23. Qd2 Qg6? The text is terrible and white gets tempi to unravel. 23…Rf7! is much stronger. For example, 23…Rf7 24. h3 Re2 25. Qg5 Qb6! hitting f2 and wins. or 23…Rf7 24. Qc3 Nxa3! (g7 is guarded!) and black again has every chance to win.

24. h4! Of course! For the first time in many moves, white gets breathing room and it is now black that has uncoordinated pieces. The (smallish) advantage now sits with white.

21…Bd3? Another weak move. 21…h5! was necessary and white’s edge is manageable.

25. h5 Qf5 26. Rh4 26. Rh3 was also very strong.

26…Re2 27. Qc3 Qf6 28. Qxf6?! The brute-force 28. Bf1 wins for white. 28…Rxf2 29. Qxf6 Rxf1+ 30. Rxf1 gxf6 leads to a technically lost ending.

28…gxf6 29. Bf1 The clever 29. Rg4+ Kf7 30. h6! was stronger here.

29…Re1 30. Rg4+ Kf7 31. Rxe1 Nxe1 32. Bxd3 Nxd3 33. Bc3 Black still has a bad game but there are glimmers of hope here and there.

33…Rg8 33…Rd8! 34. Rc4 Rxd5! playing for activity was a better bet. For example, 35. Rxc7+ Ke6 36. Rxh7 Nf4! keeping fighting chances.

34. Rxg8 Kxg8 35. Bd2 Now white has a classic better minor piece advantage.

35…Kf7 36. Kf1 Nc5 37. b4 Nd7 38. Bf4 Nb6 39. Bxc7 Nxd5 40. Bb8 a6 41. Ke2 Ke6 41…f5 putting a pawn on white and gaining space was better.

42. Kd3 Ne7? Black misses a clever defense: 42…b5! 43. Kd4 Nb6! preventing Kc5 due to the knight fork on d7. Then, 44. Bf4 Nd7 and black for the moment has built a defensive wall preventing the white king from getting in.


Position after 42…Ne7.  Things are going wrong in slow-motion.

43. Bg3 Nf5 44. Kc4 Kd7 45. Kd5 Ng7 46. h6 Nf5 47. Bf4 Ne7+ Black should have at least tried 47…Nh4.

48. Kc5 Ng6 49. Be3 Ne5 50. Bd4 Nf7 51. Be3 51. Bxh6! Nxh6 52. a4 is strong.

51…Ne5 52. Bd4 Nf7 53. Bxf6! White finds the correct way to unbalance the game and make the B vs N duel more lopsided.

53…Nxh6 54. Kd5 Nf7 55. f4 b5 56. Bh4


Position after 56. Bh4.  Last straw coming. 

56… h5? A terrible move. Black has to sit tight with 56…Nd6! and pray. The following variation demonstrates black still has chances: 56…Nd6 57. f3 h5 58. Ke5 Nc4+ 59. Kf6 Nd2! 60. Kg6 Nxf3 61. Kxh5 Ke6! 62. Kg4 Nh2+!, holding the position.

57. f5 Nh6 Now it’s too late for 57…Nd6 58. Ke5! (58. f6 also wins). The rest is a set of meaningless moves, black is totally lost.

58. Ke5 Ke8 59. Kf6 Nf7 60. Kg6 Ne5+ 61. Kg7 Nf7 62. Bg3 Nd8 63. f3 Nc6 64. f6 Nd8 65. Kg6 Kf8 66. Bc7 Nb7 67. f7 1-0

An exceptionally poorly played middlegame, tossing away a won game, and then a poorly played ending as well. These two things usually add up to a loss. But note the nice opening!

Moving ahead two years to 1985, here is a happier memory. A brilliancy prize game played vs Dr. Neil McKelvie, a Chemistry Professor at CCNY in 1985. I believe Neil was one of the directors of the club in this era. I didn’t do particuarly well in the 1985 incarnation, but at least I got some jollies in this slugfest.

Mark Ginsburg vs NM Dr. Neil McKelvie
Manhattan Chess Club Championship, 1985

Queens Gambit Declined

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. c4 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 Be7 7. O-O O-O 8. b3 b6 9. Bb2 Bb7 10. Qe2 dxc4?! It doesn’t look right to concede the center so quickly.

11. bxc4 c5 12. Rad1 cxd4 13. exd4


13… Qb8 Black wants to transfer his queen to the strong f4 square. White rushes to prevent that.

14. Ne5! Rd8 15. f4! White’s initiative is quite menacing. Black hurries to erect defensive structures and it’s up to white to break them down.

15…g6 16. Kh1 Bf8 17. d5! exd5 18. cxd5 Re8


19. d6! A very nice clearance to get to black’s king.

19…Bxd6 20. Nb5 Bc5 21. Bc4! Focusing on the f7 point. White’s position is now winning but some further line-opening sacrifices are needed.


21… Re7 22. Bxf7+! Rxf7 23. Nxf7 Kxf7 24. f5!

Attacking players find all these moves easily. Black’s king position is completely ripped apart and he has no defense.

25…Qe8 25. Qc4+ Kf8 26. Rxd7! Qxd7 27. fxg6! Everything is with gain of time; when an attacking game flows smoothly it’s a lot of fun to play.



It was resignable here. White proceeds to capture most of black’s pieces.

28. Rxf6+ Ke7 29. Rf7+ Kd8 30. Bf6+ Kc8 31. Qg4+ Kb8 32. Qg3+ Bd6 33. Rf8+ Bc8 34. Qxd6+ 1-0

A most enjoyable game.

Here’s another tough tangle from the ’85 event versus a former US Championship participant and USA representative in the Chess Olympiad, George M. Kramer.

According to ChessBase, Mr. Kramer’s middle name is Mortimer (a good trivia question?). He has been active in top chess for many decades; his career has games vs GMs Fine, Najdorf, etc. Here’s a 10 move win of his(!) vs. American NM Weaver Adams, US Open 1946, Pittsburgh. Kramer was black in the W. Adams win, and his opponent had authored one of the typical weak self-help books you see in bookstores, “White to Play and Win.” Heh. Kramer played in numerous US Championships; here’s a feeble loss to Bobby Fischer in the 1957 event and to even things out a win over Letelier in the World Chess Olympiad, Dubrovnik, 1950. I see at he also played in the Munich 1958 and Varna 1962 Olympiads.

NM George M. Kramer – IM Mark Ginsburg

MCC Ch 1985, Round 5

King’s Indian Defense


1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 d6 3. Nc3 Nbd7 4. Nf3 e5 5. e4 A totally different way is steering play for the Old Indian with 5. Bg5! Be7 6. e3 O-O 7. Qc2 exd4 8. Nxd4 (8. exd4 h6 9. Bh4 d5 10. c5 c6 is OK for Black) 8… h6 9. Bh4 Ne5 10. O-O-O Re8 and we reach a well-known book position with a small edge for white.

5… g6 6. Be2 Bg7 7. O-O O-O 8. Be3 h6 An interesting move to gauge white’s intentions.


9. Ne1 9. dxe5 is my personal preference; after 9…dxe5 10. Qc1! Kh7 (10… Ng4? 11. Bd2 Kh7 12. Ng5+! hxg5 13. Bxg4 with a big edge to white) 11. Rd1 and white is a bit better.

9… exd4 10. Bxd4 Re8 Playable is 10… Ne5 11. Nc2 Re8 12. f3 Be6 13. b3 Nc6 14. Be3 Nd7 15. Qd2 Qh4 16. Rad1 Rac8 17. Nd5 Kh7 and black fights on.

11. f3 c6 Black can try 11… Ne5 12. Nd5 a6 13. Qd2 Bd7 14. Rd1 Nxd5 15. cxd5 Bb5.

12. Qd2 Ne5 13. Rd1 Be6 14. b3 g5 Rather unsolid. More usual would be 14… Qa5 15. Nc2 Rad8 16. f4 c5 17. Bf2 Nc6 18. Bh4 Nd4 19. Bd3 Nxc2 20. Qxc2 Bg4 21. Rde1 Rb8 22. Nb5 Qb6 23. Qf2 with some white edge.

15. Be3?! A better alternative here is 15. Nc2!? ganging up on d6. 15. Qe3 is another chance.

15… Qa5 16. Nc2 Nh5! 17. Na4 Qxd2 18. Rxd2 Nf4! Black is OK now, the pawn sacrifice on d6 is fully justified.

19. Bxf4 gxf4 20. Rxd6


20…a6? Quite a feeble move for several reasons. 20… Rad8! is clearly good. It’s unusual in the sense that black, behind material, actually does want to trade here. 21. Rfd1 (Offering nothing is 21. Rxd8 Rxd8 22. Rd1 Rxd1+ 23. Bxd1 Nd7 24. Be2 f5! with full compensation for the pawn; however it is drawish and black really has no winning chances.} 25. Kf2 Kf7 26. g3 Be5 27. gxf4 Bxf4 with approximate equality.

21. Rd2 White is simply better after this slow move, but he also had 21. c5! This move appears to lose the c5-pawn, but white has a nice counter-tactic. 21..Bf8 22. Rd4 Nd7 23. Rfd1! Nxc5 (23… Bxc5 24. Nxc5 Nxc5 25. Rd6 a5 26. Nd4) 24. Nb6! (an unexpected trapping of the knight on c5. 24… Rab8 25. b4 a5 26. bxc5 Bxc5 27. Nc4 Red8 28. Kf1 Bxd4 29. Rxd4 with a big plus.

21… Bf8 Here, white has a stable and comfortable edge. But look what happens!

22. g3!? Methodical. White clears the way for the f3 pawn to advance. I would prefer the simpler 22.Rfd1 with a big plus.

22… fxg3 23. f4?? A gross tactical blunder. 23. hxg3 b5 24. Nb2! leaves white on top. For example, 24…Bg7 25. Ne3! guarding the N/b2 against possible discovered attacks.


23… gxh2+ 24. Kg2 Rad8! White must have overlooked this simple tactic. The position has been opened up for the two bishops and white collapses.

25. Rfd1 25. Rd4 Ng4 or 25…Bg4 both win for black.

25… Rxd2 26. Rxd2 Ng6! A very simple solution. White’s once proud, solid position is a structural ruin.

27. Kxh2 27. f5 is a slightly better try but still white winds up in a lost ending after an elementary tactical blow: 27…Bxf5! 28. exf5 Rxe2+ (28… Nf4+29. Kxh2 Rxe2+ 30. Rxe2 Nxe2 transposes) 29. Rxe2 Nf4+ 30. Kxh2 Nxe2 31. Kg2 Bd6 32. Kf3 Nc1 33. Nc3 Be5 34. Ne4 Nxa2 35. Nc5 Nc1 36. Nxb7 Nxb3 37. Nb4 Nd2+ 38. Ke2 Nxc4 39. Nxa6 Bb2 40. Nb4 Ne5 and black wins.

27… Nxf4 With the rooks still on, black has a crushing position with the bishop pair and an extra pawn.

28. Bf3 Ng6 29. Ne3 b5 30. Nb2 Bb4 31. Rd1 Ne5 32. Bh5 From now on, black has his choice of wins.

32…Kh7 33. Nd3 Bd6 34. Nxe5 Bxe5+ 35. Kg2 Bf4 35… Rg8+ 36. Kf2 Rg5 37. Bf3 Kg6 also wins very easily.

36. Kf3


36…Bxe3! One of the great advantages of the bishop pair, as GM Yefim Geller observed, is that one of them can be traded at the right time for positional or material gains. And the right time might last for a very long time. This is a good example, it is time to lose the bishop pair to aim for an easily won and simplified ending.

37. Kxe3 bxc4 38. b4 Rb8 38… Bd5! exploiting the pin is a very simple win.

39. a3 a5 40. Rb1 Of no help is 40. bxa5 Rb3+ 41. Kd4 Rxa3.

40…axb4 41. axb4 Rb5! The threat of …c6-c5 is very convincing so white resigned.



Let’s jump ahead to the end of the 1980s for a nice ‘gamelet’ vs NM Maxim Berlyant, refuting his particular interpretation of the Snake Benoni.

Mark Ginsburg vs Maxim Berlyant
Manhattan Chess Club, 1989

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c5 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 Bd6?  Not good after 3. Nc3; playable after 3. Nf3.  I took great pains to explain this to IM John Watson and I’m still not sure he understands, because he didn’t at the time (judging from his confused reaction and initial statement that the Snake was equivalent after 3. Nc3 and 3. Nf3).


6. g3! Bc7 7. d6!  This is a complete refutation. Since white has not committed his KN to f3 yet, it can go to h3 to f4 to d5.  That is the key differentiator. Black is paralyzed by the d6 pawn wedge.

6…Ba5 8. Bg2 O-O 9. Nh3 Qb6 10. O-O Ne8  An abject retreat signals black’s desperate condition.


11. Nd5 Qd8 12. Qc2 Na6 13. Ng5 Everything with gain of time. It’s not usual that a master is reduced to such helplessness after a handful of moves.

13…g6 14. Ne4 Bb6 15. Bh6

A very brutal finale.  Black has no defense.



This snake was squashed.




Watch this spot; I will post other MCC Championship tangles versus Dlugy, Benjamin, Schroer, Zuckerman, Shirazi, Cooke, and more.