Posts Tagged ‘US Junior Open’

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!


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.