Posts Tagged ‘Steve Odendahl’

The Fabulous 70s: Rewarding the Clock-Punching Monkey

June 2, 2008

The Good and the Evil Inherent in Clock Punching Monkeys

I was titillated to read in a recent CLO Irina Krush’s protest against Anna Zatonskih’s blitz tactics in their US Women’s title playoff match.

Her open letter ends,

“To conclude, I will state that sharing the title would be an acceptable outcome for me, but I would certainly welcome any initiative to decide the title in over-the-board games, with real time controls that don’t degrade the participants into clock punching monkeys.” (emphasis mine).

The bold-faced phrase brings back rich, nostalgic memories. Turn back the clock to 1975 and the scene is the Silver Spring chess club, managed by Larry Kaufman and frequented by such personalities as Diana Lanni, me, future IM Steve Odendahl, and other riff-raff. Since we were young and highly immature, Steve and I invented a game that was solely to reward the clock-punching monkey. The game was called “Clock”. It is fun for all ages and invariably reduces the participants to gasps of laughter, unless of course one of the players is Ray Keene or some other dour type. I want to stress a chessboard and pieces are not needed! Here is how you play:

The Immortal and Skillful Game of ‘Clock’

  1. Set the clock to one minute each (this was the old fashioned clock that ticked, but I imagine you could subject a Chronos to this too).
  2. ‘White’ bangs his or her fist on the table then bangs the clock to start the game.
  3. ‘Black’ must bang his or her fist on the table and only then can he or she bang the clock to start the opponent’s clock.
  4. In response, now ‘White’ must bang his or her fist on the table before he or she can hit the clock.
  5. And so on, alternating steps 3 and 4, until somebody flags.

No Chess Involved! Any hit of the clock without first banging the fist on the table is an immediate forfeit!

Overturning: A Nuance of the Game

The 1975 version of the game naturally resulted in the clock often overturning and sitting on its side. It was unclear who should right it and clearly in such a thrilling game neither player really wants to right it. I suggest playing with the clock in an enclosed case so it can’t overturn.

A Surprise ‘Clock’ Spectator

In one uproarious ‘Clock’ incident, the clock had just overturned and both players were howling loudly. A small, dapper gentleman gave Steve and me a pitying glance. And this was the first time I laid eyes on surprise club visitor GM Lubosh Kavalek.

Enjoy your game of Clock, everyone! For extra thrills, play with a digital clock and set it for 10 seconds each, or try a game of “Clock Odds” to test the speed demon in your neighborhood!

Sad postscript:

Krush didn’t leave sleeping dogs lie and wrote an awful “final letter” to US Chess online. The bad sportsmanship meter is now in the red zone on this issue. Poor Anna Zatonskih could not, and should not, respond to this nasty Krush tirade. Simply change the format going forward if it’s so upsetting!

Happy Post Post-Script

Anna Zatonskih righted the boat with a well-conducted interview. Hurrah for Anna Z.  All is well.


The Fabulous 80s: The Pan-Am Intercollegiates 1981

February 17, 2008

The 1981 Pan Am Intercollegiates were in New York City, I think at the Statler Hotel. This was my first year in graduate studies at Columbia University. The University of Toronto featuring Ian Findlay won this year (the middle year of a 3-year run by UT). If I am not mistaken, both Steve Odendahl (with a Nimzovich Defense, 1….Nc6) and Gregory Markzon upset Joel Benjamin at this event.

2/29/08 note from Dave Gertler“I don’t know about Markzon, but Odendahl did beat Benjy (w/Nimzovich) at ’81 Pan-Am.  In fact, in the Yale-Swarthmore match, black won on all 4 games! Tragically, I was white on bd. 2.  “

Photo Time


From left (standing): Jon Schroer, the author, Steve Odendahl, and Eric Tall.

We were not on the same team – this was a staged photo around the trophy that Ian Findlay took home to Canada (U. Toronto). Seated: Michael Wilder, I think he was a high school student/observer.

New York City, December 1981


Steve Odendahl (left), Michael Wilder (center), and the author. Pan-Ams December 1981, NYC.

Three Games from the Event

Here are three amusing games. There is also some good theoretical content.

Richard Costigan (2353, U. Pittsburgh) – M. Ginsburg (2478, Columbia “A”), Pan-Am 12/1981. Round 6. Time control: 40/2

Sicilian Pelikan.

My opponent is still going strong, he is an IM now and I played him in the World Open 2007.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Bf4 e5 8. Bg5 a6 9. Na3 Be6!? This is an interesting move that I used to beat Joel Benjamin also in 1981. It has good surprise value versus the regular “Sveshnikov” move 9…b5.

10. Nc4 Rc8


Position after 10…Rc8. New-Age Pelikan.

11. Nd5 Joel played 11. Ne3 inviting a strange gambit sequence. That game went 11.Ne3 Qb6! 12.Rb1 Nxe4! A crazy gambit line that Jon Tisdall showed me. 13.Nxe4 h6! Regaining the piece due to 14. Bh4 Qb4+! – a strange lineup along the 4th rank. 14.c3 hxg5 15.Bc4! White gets good compensation on the light squares. 15…Nd8 16.Bb3 Be7 17.O-O Qc6 18.Nd5 Bxd5 19.Bxd5 Qd7 20.Qb3 O-O 21.Rfd1 g6 22.c4 Ne6 23.Qh3 Kg7 24.Bxe6 fxe6 25.b3 Rf4 26.Qe3 Qc6 27.Ng3 Qc5 28.Qe2 Rcf8 29.Rd2 R8f7 30.Rbd1 Qc6 31.h3 g4! 32.hxg4 Rxf2! Very strong. White cannot withstand the long ranging queen, center pawns, and strong dark squared bishop and eventually goes under. 33.Qxf2 Rxf2 34.Rxf2 d5 35.Rfd2 Bg5 36.Re2 Bf4 37.Nf1 e4 38.Kh1 Be5 39.g5 d4 40.Nd2 e3 41.Nf3 Qe4 42.Ree1 d3 43.Rxd3 Qxd3 44.Nxe5 Qc3 45.Nf3+ e5 46.Re2 e4 47.Ng1 Qd4 48.Nh3 Qd1+ 49.Ng1 Qd2! The beginning of the end. 50.Kh2 Kf7 51.Kg3 Ke6 52.Kh2 Kf5 53.g3 Kxg5 54.Kg2 Kg4 55.c5 Qd4 56.b4 Qxb4 57.Rxe3 Qd2+ 58.Re2 Qd3 59.Kf2 Qxg3+ 0-1, Benjamin-Ginsburg, NYC 1981. This game wound up in an early Kasparov / Keene “BCO” oeuvre.

White can also play 11. Bd3 Be7 12. O-O O-O (or 12… b5 13. Nd2 Nb4 14. Be2 O-O 15. Bxf6 Bxf6 16. a3 Nc6 17. Nd5 Nd4 18. c3 Nxe2+ 19. Qxe2 Rc5 with an OK game) 13. Qe1 Nb4 14. Ne3 Ng4 15. Bxe7 Qxe7 16. a3 Nxd3 17. cxd3 Nxe3 18. Qxe3 and white went on to win, 1-0 [37], Nijboer,F (2375)-Ligterink,G (2455)/Wijk aan Zee 1988/EXT 1997.

11… Bxd5 12. exd5 Possible is 12. Bxf6 gxf6 13. exd5 (or 13. Qxd5!?; according to my scorepad, this occurred in Kudrin-MG, NYC Futurity Swiss 1981. I rated the position as unclear. There might follow 13…Nb4 14. Qd2 d5 15. exd5 Qxd5 and white can claim a small edge.) In this game, white tries a dubious gambit but I am able to refute it.

12… Ne7 13. Qd3 Nexd5! 14. O-O-O (1:04) Rc5! (1:16) A strong TN. Black is better after accepting the center pawn gambit.


Position after 14…Rc5! – black won the opening discussion.

15. f4 Qc7 16. fxe5 dxe5 17. Qf5? 17. Qb3 Be7 18. Ne3 h6 19. Nxd5 Nxd5 20. Bxe7 Nxe7 and white is worse, but not yet lost.

17… Be7 18. Nd2 (1:41) g6! 19. Qf3 Rxc2+ 20. Kb1 O-O (1:39) Now black is just winning.

21. Bd3 Rc6 22. h4 Nb4 23. h5 Nxd3 24. Qxd3 Nxh5 25. Ne4 f5 26. Qd5+ Kg7 27. Bxe7 (1:58) Qxe7 28. Nd6 Nf6? A more tactically alert player would find the much stronger is 28… Nf4 29. Qd2 Rf6 and white’s knight is trapped! The text unnecessarily prolongs the game but the final result is not affected since white had no time left to think.

29. Qd2 Ng4 30. Qb4 Rc7 (1:56) 31. Qb6 Nf6 32. Qe3 Rd7 33. Qh6+ Kg8 34. Nc4 Rxd1+ 35. Rxd1 And white lost on time. Columbia won the match 3-1.


In the next game I faced sharpshooter Dmitri London, a very dangerous and active opponent. I attach the USCF ratings at the time as a historical curiosity. I believe we lost Dmitri to the workforce at some point in the late 80’s or early 90s.

M. Ginsburg (2478, Columbia “A”) – Dmitri London (2383, Brooklyn College) Gruenfeld Defense.

Round 7.


1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. c4 Bg7 4. Nc3 d5 5. Qa4+ Bd7 6. Qb3 dxc4 7. Qxc4 O-O 8. e4 Bg4 9. Ne5 Nc6! Excellent. Black gains full equality.

10. Nxc6 bxc6 11. f3 Be6 12. Qa4 Nd7 13. Be3 Nb6 14. Qb4 Qd6 15. Qxd6 cxd6 16. O-O-O Rab8 17. Bg5 Rfe8 18. h4 h6 19. Bf4 a5 20. g3 a4 21. Rh2 Rb7 22. Rc2 White’s maneuvers are slow and ponderous, but enough to hold the balance.

22…Reb8 23. Kb1 Nc4 24. Bxc4 Bxc4 25. e5 g5 26. hxg5 hxg5 27. Bxg5 dxe5 28. Nxa4 Rb4 29. Nc5 exd4 30. a3 d3 31. Nxd3 Ra4 32. Bf4 Rd8? A mistake. 32… e5! is right – this surprising move gives equality: 33. Nxe5 Bb3 34. Rd3 Bxc2+ 35. Kxc2 Rb5 36. Re3 Rc5+ 37. Kb1 Rb5 38. Ka2 Ra8 39. Nc4 Rd5 40. Kb1 Bd4 41. Re7 Rh5 – about equal.

33. Rcd2 Be6 34. Ne5 Rxd2 35. Rxd2 c5 36. Rd8+ Kh7 37. Kc2 Ra7 38. Nc6 Rb7 39. Be5 f6 40. Bf4 Bd7 41. Na5 Ra7 42. b4 In this pleasant position and obviously superior position, I offered a draw here to clinch a win for our team.

42… Ba4+ Black refuses! He is battling for his team – but he has a bad game!

43. Kd2 Ra6 44. Be3 cxb4 45. axb4 Nothing much has changed – I offer a draw again.

45…f5 And black declines again! Good fighting spirit, but what can be accomplished on the board?

46. g4 fxg4 47. fxg4 Re6 48. Rd5 Re4 Now black offers a draw. But it’s now painfully clear white can play on with no risk. And so I advance my passed pawn.

49. b5 Rxg4?! Black immediately goes wrong. He should sacrifice to get rid of the potential threat with 49… Bxb5 50. Rxb5 Rxg4 51. Nc6 Kg6 52. Nxe7+ Kf7 53. Nf5 Rg2+ 54. Kd3 Rb2 55. Ra5 Rb3+ 56. Ke4 Rb4+ 57. Kd5 Bf6 and it should be drawn.

50. b6 Rg2+ 51. Kd3 e6? A decisive mistake. Correct is 51… Bc2+! 52. Kc4 Be4! 53. Rd1 Kg6 54. Kb5 Bf3 55. Rg1 Rxg1 56. Bxg1 Ba8 57. Ka6 Bd5 and black will be able to hold this.

52. Rh5+ Kg6 53. Rc5 It’s now winning for white.

53…Bd1 54. b7 Be2+ 55. Ke4 Rg4+ 56. Bf4 Black resigned. We won the match 3-1.



And finally here’s a battle from the last round.

James Thibault (2318, Rhode Island College “A”) – M. Ginsburg (2478, Columbia “A”) Round 8. Sicilian, 2. c3.

My opponent won the 1977 National High School on tiebreaks – see the amusing National High School history page written by Steve Immitt. I was present at that tournament but lost chances at top honors when I claimed a win on time in the penultimate round but my opponent, Mark Stein, stunned me by ignoring my valid claim (I neglected to stop the clocks, or even more radically seize the clock as I have seen many excited players do) and simply making a move. I then made a move in reply and got up to get the TD, nullifying my claim. Bravo! It pays to know the rules in these common situations.

1. e4 c5 2. c3 d5 3. exd5 Qxd5 4. d4 Nf6 5. Nf3 e6 6. Bd3 Nc6 7. O-O cxd4 8. cxd4 Be7 9. Nc3 Qd6 10. Be3 O-O 11. Rc1 a6 12. a3 Rd8 Very solid but a little passive.

13. Ne4 Nxe4 14. Bxe4


Position after 14. Bxe4

14…Bf6 Playable is 14… Bd7 15. d5 exd5 16. Qxd5 Qxd5 17. Bxd5 Be8 18. Be4 Bf6 19. b4 Bd7 20. h3 and drawn shortly, 1/2-1/2 Short,N (2485)-Sosonko,G (2575)/Amsterdam 1982.

15. Qc2 g6 Bad is 15…h6? 16. Rfd1 Ne7 17. Ne5 Nd5 18. Nc4 Qc7 19. Qb3 b5 20. Ne5 Bxe5 21. Rxc7 Bxc7 22. Rc1 Bb7 23. Rxc7 Nxc7 24. Bxb7 and white won, 1-0 Iordachescu,V (2601)-Dutreeuw,M (2389)/Turin 2006.

16. Rfd1 Ne7 17. Ne5 Nd5 18. Ng4 Bg7 19. Bg5 Rf8 Stronger is 19… f6! 20. Bxd5 exd5 21. Nh6+ Bxh6 22. Bxh6 Bf5 and it is equal.

20. Bxd5?! 20. Nh6+ Kh8 21. Qc5 Qxc5 22. Rxc5 b6 23. Rc6 Rb8 is only a tiny bit worse for black.

20… exd5 21. Nh6+ Kh8 22. Qc7 Qxc7 23. Rxc7 Be6! Black is all right.


Position after 23…Be6! Black stands well.

24. Be3 If 24. Rxb7 there is a tactical trick: 24…f6 25. Bd2 g5! black has a good game: 26. Bb4 Bxh6 27. Bxf8 Bxf8 28. Rb6 Bf7 29. Rxf6 Kg7 30. Rc6 Be7.

24… b5 25. Rc6 a5 26. b3?? A bad mistake fatally weakening the queenside pawns.

26…Rfc8 27. Rdc1 Rxc6 28. Rxc6 Bf8 29. Bf4 Maybe black will overlook the mate threat?

29…Kg7 30. Bc1 Re8? Easily winning is the simple tactical sequence 30… a4! 31. b4 (31. bxa4 Rxa4 32. h3 – sadly white has to waste time to extricate the h6 knight – 32…Bxa3 33. Bxa3 Rxa3 34. Ng4 b4 35. Rb6 b3 and wins) 31…Bxb4! and wins rapidly and efficiently.

31. g4 In this terrible position, white offers a draw! Black of course declines.

31…Bd7 32. Rc7 Re1+ 33. Kg2 Rxc1! White could resign after this simple blow. However, black shows shaky technique at several points and we reach a weird ending: R, B and wrong rook pawn versus Rook!

34. Rxd7 Kxh6 35. Rxf7 Bxa3 36. h4 g5? Very easy was 36… Rc3 37. f3 g5 38. hxg5+ Kxg5 39. Rxh7 Rc2+ 40. Kf1 Kf4 and wins in a few moves.

37. Rf6+ Kg7 38. hxg5 Be7 39. Rb6 b4 40. Rb7 Kf7 41. Ra7 Ra1?! Simple was 41… Rd1 42. f4 Rxd4 43. Kf3 Rd3+ 44. Kf2 Rxb3 and wins.

42. f4 Ra2+ 43. Kg3 a4? 43… Ra3 is yet another simple win. Now the game enters the tortuous ending phase.

44. bxa4 Ra3+ 45. Kf2 b3 46. Rb7 Rxa4 47. Rxb3 Rxd4 48. Kf3 Bd6 49. Rb7+ Kg8 50. f5 Rf4+ 51. Ke2 d4 52. f6 Bf8 53. Rd7 Rxg4 54. Kf3 Rxg5 55. Rxd4 Rg6 56. Rf4 Kf7 57. Rh4 Bh6 58. Ra4 Rxf6+ 59. Kg4 Kg6 60. Rb4 Bg5 61. Rb7 h5+ 62. Kg3 h4+ 63. Kg2 Kh5 64. Rb4 Rc6 65. Kh3 Rc3+ 66. Kh2 Be7 67. Rd4 Bf6 68. Re4 Bd8 69. Rb4 Bc7+ 70. Kh1 Kg5 71. Ra4 Bf4 72. Ra1 Kg4 73. Rg1+ Bg3 74. Rg2 Kh3 75. Rh2+ Kg4 76. Rg2


Position after 76. Rg2. Care is required.

Naturally black has to be alert to stalemate tricks and not trade rooks with the wrong rook pawn, if white’s king is near the h1 corner!

76…Rc1+ 77. Rg1 Rc6 78. Rg2 Kf3 79. Rg1 Rc2 80. Rg2 Bf2 81. Kh2 Rc1 82. Kh3 Bg3 83. Rg1 Rc2 84. Rg2? A mistake. Tougher is 84. Rh1 (not 84. Rf1+ Rf2 85. Rh1 Kf4! with zugzwang) 84…Rf2 85. Rf1! Ke3! This is the right move, to triangulate to f4. 86. Rh1 Kf4! with the same zugzwang as in the prior note. Or, 86. Re1+ Kf4 87. Rh1 Kf5! with a similar zugzwang. White’s rook is tied to h2, defending the mate, and he has no moves.

84…Rf2! And in light of 85. Rxf2 Kxf2! giving the white king an escape hatch at g4 to release the stalemate but not letting him back to the h1 corner, White resigned.


The match was drawn 2-2. (RIC “A” vs Columbia).

The Short Life of Billy Adam

October 6, 2007

William (Billy) Adam was a Syracuse, NY (the same neck of the woods as now-Norwegian GM Jon Tisdall) master whose life only lasted from 1963 to 1982. He came from a large family – many sisters (not sure if any brothers). It was shocking when I saw his obituary at such a young age (only 19). When I heard about his death from Joel Benjamin’s dad, Alan, I thought it was a practical joke – too implausible to be true. To demonstrate the power of the Internet World Wide Web on modern society, (the ‘converse’ power to forget older news), Bill’s life (which ended pre-Web, 1982) is not to be found in any source I was able to uncover via Google. Readers?

Apparently according to the following letter Jon Schroer and I were planning a Chess Life eulogy but nothing came of that (click to enlarge).


Billy was a big natural talent. We had some adventures – for example he convinced me to save money and sleep under the chess tables in the Philadelphia World Open – a plan foiled by security guard flashlights at about 3:30 am (we were flushed into the bus terminal).   Billy rushed onto a bus that was idling with a sign in the front that said “Pittsburgh”.  I got him off that bus! And, in New York City, we even convinced IM John Watson to party with us one time. No small feat. Billy was a friendly kid with lots of energy.

The last few years of his life he spent as a student at SUNY Stony Brook, NY and he had mostly withdrawn from competitive chess, which was actually a big loss for chess.

Parallels with Peter Winston

One thing he had in common with Peter Winston:

Charlie Hertan writes in Chess Life magazine, “in November, 1977, when Peter had a miserable 0-9 result. He seemed a little off-kilter and baffled, as we all were, but I guess we chalked it up to his rustiness and terrible form at the time”. A strange coincidence, Billy Adam too had a baffling 0-and-something result in a US Junior. This included a dump where Billy played into Fool’s mate (the TD forfeited him, wisely). We can safely say that 0-and-something results from strong juniors are a clear signal for mental health intervention. If we had such intervention in either the Winston or the Adam case, they would probably be with us today.

I would like readers to chip in here with Billy Adam memories. I will hunt a game I played with him (he won in a Keres Attack, Philadelphia 1979) and post it here.

For now, I will simply relate that 1. e4 c5 2. d3 Nc6 3. f4 with the idea of g3, Bg2, Nb1-d2, Ng1-e2, was named by Billy as the “Billiam Attack.” Note the strange position of the white knights. He would keep flipping the knights with Nd2-f3, and, after a f4-f5, also get in the fearsome Ne2-f4.

Here’s a National HS Blog I found (‘A History of the National High School Chess Championship’, by Steve Immitt) that mentions a notable performance by 14-year-old Billy Adam.

Cleveland, OH 1977: The Ninth National High School returned to Cleveland, with 494 players. In the past 8 years, only once did either the top-rated player or a Master finish first (Larry Christiansen did both in 1973). The winner has usually been an Expert, as no one under 2000 has ever won (1976 was the only time it was won by a player ranked lower than 7th at the start). There is, however, an old National High School tradition of the “Cinderella A-Player,” an unknown player who has the tournament of his life only to fade at the end. This curious custom started at the first National High School in 1969, when Paul Jacklyn needed a last-round draw to win on tiebreak, but lost to John Watson. Nick Ocipoff was 6-0 when he blundered a winning position to jettison the title the following year. Peter Radomskyj had defeated the top-rated player to go 6-0 before losing to Christiansen in 1971. In 1976, Jake Meskin was 6-0 before he lost to Rich Kaner. Every time, the player who defeated the “Cinderella A-Player” went on the win the tournament himself. This year, 14-year old Bill Adam of Syracuse, NY was cast as Cinderella. Top-rated Yasser Seirawan (2364) was upset in round 3 by Chris Richmond (1809) of Burlington, VT, throwing open the path to the championship to Adam. After upsetting 2nd-rated Steve Odendahl (2217) he needed but a last-round draw on Board One with 6th-ranked Jim Thibault (2134) of Salem, MA. Jim sacrificed a piece for a crushing attack. Adam defended doggedly, only to be outplayed in the endgame. Thibault’s victory gave him 7 points and the best tiebreaks to capture the championship. Once again, the clock had struck twelve for Cinderella.

Some players that may be able to chip in with Billy memories: Jon Tisdall, Charlie Hertan, Jon Schroer, … (others?).

Breaking Billy Adam News

Breaking news from the ICC cyber universe, Oct 11, 2007: Firebug tells you: Billy Adams actually played in several tournaments in Rochester NY around that time. I may have a few games but definately Ron Lohrman may have some he played against Dr Marchand Stay Tuned!!!

The Fabulous 70s Part 10: US Junior Open

July 21, 2007

In August of 1976 I ventured up to rural Storrs, Connectictut to the U Conn campus for the US Junior Open along with fellow IM-to-be Steve Odendahl. This event had New England juniors Jim Rizzitano, Charlie Hertan, and NY hopeful Eric Moskow. A hurricane swept through Storrs during the event with high winds and blackouts. We also had the joy of random acts of participant “playfulness” damaged the Dean’s car, resulting in the event getting banned from Storrs in the future for life. Readers who participated are welcome to comment further! C’est la vie.

James Rizzitano [1868] – Mark Ginsburg (2095)

US Junior Open Storrs, CT 1976. Round 6. 40/90.

Sicilian Smith-Morra Declined, transposing to 2. c3.

Of course Jim Rizzitano, a famous New England IM, is well known to the chess world. He entered the work-force after making IM (as did I) and recently he made a Caissic comeback and authored some books, Understanding Your Chess and How to Beat 1. d4, as well. Watch this space for another game I played against a New England player, Charlie Hertan, in this event.

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 Nf6?! One should be brave and accept this gambit.

4. e5 Nd5 5. cxd4 d6 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Bc4 e6 It doesn’t make too much sense to shut in the bishop on c8. 7…Nb6 is stronger theoretically. Then, 8. Bb5 Bd7 (or 8…dxe5 9. Nxe5 Bd7) leads to positions where black should be able to equalize with careful play. One recent example is 8…dxe5 9. Nxe5 Bd7 10. Qb3 e6 11. Be3 Bb4+ 12. Nc3 Bxc3+ 13. bxc3 Nxe5 14. dxe5 Bxb5 15. Qxb5+ Qd7 16. Rb1 Qxb5 17. Rxb5 Kd7! 18. O-O (18. Ke2!?) 18…Kc8! (A very creative defensive resource, this sudden king run!) 19. Rfb1 Rd8 20. Bxb6 axb6 21. Rxb6 Rd7 22. R6b2 1/2-1/2, E. Sevillano – N. DeFirmian, World Open Philadelphia 2004. Black alertly uses his rook on the original square of a8 to gain play. A sample continuation would be 22…Rc7 23. Rc2 Ra5! 24. f4 g5! 25. g3 gxf4 26. gxf4 Rac5 27. Rb3 Rc4 with a level game. IM Sevillano is dangerous with this opening and can bite as well as bark, as GM Erenburg found out in the National Open 2007.

8. Qe2 Be7 9. Nc3 dxe5 10. dxe5 Nxc3 11. bxc3 At the time, I thought splitting white’s queenside pawns means I have a good game. Of course, theory tells us white’s activity gives him a plus here. The only thing working in black’s favor is that a white misstep and inappropriate trades land him in a bad and possibly losing ending.

11…O-O 12. O-O b6 13. Qe4 Bb7 14. Bd3 g6 15. Bh6 Re8


16. Rfe1 Theoretical Novelty! White is better. 16. Rad1 Qc7 17. Qf4 is also good although 17…Rad8 18. Rfe1 Rd5 19. Be4 Rxd1 20. Rxd1 Rd8 21. Rxd8+ Nxd8 22. Nxb7 Nxb7 23. Qa4! Bf8 Barle-Jansa, Sombor 1976, and black salvaged a draw.

In a strange coincidence, fellow New Englander Patrick Wolff had this position as black in a very important game in the US Championship 1992. Boris Men was white. Patrick played into this risky with 16.Rad1 Qc7 17. Qf4 Rad8 and Men played 18.Be4 (transposing to Barle-Jansa game with fewer moves) 18…Rxd1 19. Rxd1 Rd8 20. Rxd8+ Nxd8 21. Bxb7 Nxb7 22. Qa4! (the critical move as in the Barle game). Now black is in a very bad way after Wolff’s miscue of 22…Qd8? indirectly protecting the a-pawn for the moment by eyeing white’s back rank. He should have played 22…Bf8! witih good chances to hold as Jansa played in the Barle game. Let’s look at this position.


Position after 22…Qd8, Men-Wolff US Champ. 1992 (Analysis)

Men immediately went quite wrong with the inexplicable and very weak 23. Nd4? Na5!, Wolff equalized, and went on to win the game and the event! In any successful tournament, the winner can always look back and point to some combination of good moves and good fortune making up for not-so-good moves. The natural move 23. h4!, leaving the knight on f3, gives white a big plus. For example, 23…Na5 (23…a5 24. Be3 Nc5 25. Qb5 with an obvious edge) 24. Ng5! (24. Bg5! is also good, for example 24…Bxg5 25. Nxg5 and white has a large advantage) 24…Qb8 25. g3!? preparing Ng5-e4. 25. Qf4!? f6 26. Nf3 is also very good. White is clearly better in all lines. This is important theory for 2. c3 fans.

In addition the mysterious 16. Qe3!? was successful for white in two outings, 16…Bc5 17. Qe2 Qc7 18. Rfe1, Nunn-Pritchett, Decin 1975, and 16…Qd5 17. Rad1 Qc5 18. Qf4, Markun-Sale, Bled 1995.

16… Na5 17. Qe2 Possible is 17. Qe3 Qc7 18.Bg5 Qxc3 19. Bxe7 Rxe7 20. Qg5 Rd7 21. Bb5 Rdd8 holding (not 21…Rd5 ?? 22. Qh6 mating). But there is room to explore in this gambit line: white has compensation after, e.g., 20. Rac1!? Qb2 21. Qf4 where black should hurry with 21…Bxf3!

17… Rc8 18. Bb5! Bc6 18…Nc6 19. a4 is not fun for black.


19. c4? Much stronger is 19. Nd4! Bxb5 20. Nxb5 Rc5 21. Rad1 Qb8 22. Nd6! Bxd6 23. exd6 Nc4 24. d7 Rd8 25. Rd4 with a clear edge to white.

19… Qc7 20. Rad1 Qb7 21. Nd4 Red8 22. Nxc6 Nxc6 23. Rxd8+ Black survives the tactical blow 23. c5 Nd4 24. Rxd4 Rxd4 25. Ba6 Qc6 26. Bxc8 Qxc8 27. cxb6 axb6. He is also OK after 23. Qf3 Na5 24. Qxb7 Nxb7 25. Ba6 Rxd1 26. Rxd1 Rc7.

23…Rxd8 24. Qe4 Na5 25. Qg4 No better is 25. Qf4 a6 26. Ba4 Qc7 27. Rc1 Qc5 and black is slightly better.

25… a6 26. Ba4 Qc7 27. Re4 Rc8 28. Bb3 b5! Now black is starting to assert himself and gains a powerful passed pawn thanks to white’s back rank problems. White rapidly goes downhill.


29. Bd2 29. Qe2 bxc4 30. Bc2 Qc5 is also good for black.

29… bxc4 30. Ba4 c3 31. Bc1 Qb6 32. Bc2 Qb5 33. Qf3 Qd5 34. a4 Nb3 35. Bxb3 Qxb3 36. Qd3 Rd8 37. Rd4 Rxd4 38. Qxd4 Qc2 39. Qe3 Qd1+


Emulating “The Man Who Fell to Earth”, I would lose in the next round to Sweeney (2186), ruining my tournament.

Here is my previous round debacle versus FM-to-be Charlie Hertan, aka Mister Donkey, aka Eeh-Yaw. I believe for a certain time, the US Chess Federation actually accepted his alias “Mister Donkey” as an official tournament name so New England pairing sheets would have pairings like “Curdo vs Kelleher, Donkey vs Ivanov.”

Mark Ginsburg (2095) – Charlie Hertan (2120) US Junior Open

Round 5. 40/90.

Larsen’s Opening 1. b3

1. b3 d5 2. Bb2 e6 3. e3 Nf6 4. Nf3 c5 5. Bb5+ Bd7 6. Bxd7+ Nbxd7 7. O-O Be7 8.c4 dxc4 9. bxc4 O-O 10. Nc3 Ne8 11. Rc1 Nd6 12. d3 Bf6 13. Qe2 Rc8 14. Nb5?! 14. a4 or 14. Rfd1 are normal.

14…Nxb5 15. cxb5 Qa5 16. Bxf6 Nxf6 17. Qb2 Nd5 18. Ne5 18. Rc4 is better.

18…Rfd8 19. Rfd1 Qb4 20. Qxb4? A terrible move. 20. Nc4 was about equal.

20…cxb4 21. Rc4 Nc3 22. Rd2 f6 23. Rxc8 Rxc8 24. Nc4 Nxb5 Now black should be easily winning. Somehow he bungles it and I get a chance to draw later…

25. g3 Na3 26. Nd6 Rc7 27. d4 a5 28. e4 b6 29. d5 exd5 30. exd5 Rd7 31. Nf5 Nc4 [88] Mr. Donkey is in big time trouble!

32. Rd4 b5 33. d6 g6?! 33…Kf7 wraps the game up soon.

34. Ne7+ Kf7 35. Nc8 a4 36. Rd5 Na3 [89] A very easy line is 36…b3 37. axb3 axb3 38. Rxb5 b2 winning but Mr. Donkey had no time to think anymore. Black is winning after the text move too.

37. Rd4 [88] b3 37…Nc2 wins easily. The text, if coupled with Nc2, also wins.

38. axb3 axb3?? With only seconds left, black doesn’t see the crushing intermediate move 38…Nc2! 39. Rd3 a3! and wins, or 39. Rd2 axb3 40. Rd3 Rd8 41. d7 b2 42. Rb3 Rxd7 44. Rxb2 Nd4 and black wins.

39. Rb4 Shockingly, white is fine now. The clock is the last hurdle.

39…Rd8 40. Rxb3?? And white throws the game away. Even though white only had less than a minute left, there is no excuse for this terrible move. 40. Na7! liquidates the pawns and makes a safe draw.

40…Rxc8 41. Rxa3 Ke6 Black, with his active king and passed pawn, wins easily. The Donkey gets the last eee-yah.

42. Ra7 Kxd6 43. Rb7 43. Rxh7 Rb8! wins.

43…Kc5 44. Kf1 h5 45. Ke2 Rc6 46. Kd3 Kb4 47. f4 Ka4 48. Ra7+ Kb3 49. f5 g5 50. Re7 Rc3+ 51. Kd4 b4 52. Re6 Kc2 53. Rxf6 b3 54. Re6 b2 55. Re2+ Kb3 56. Rxb2+ Kxb2 57. Ke5 g4 58. Kf4 Rc2 59. f6 Rxh2 60. Kg5 Kc3 61. f7 Rf2 62. Kxh5 Rxf7 63. Kxg4

White finally throws in the towel in this exceptionally poorly played game.


I would have to wait until the Fabulous 80s to gain revenge against Mr. Donkey in a Bar Point Chess Club encounter on West 14th Street and 6th Avenue in New York City.