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Saturday, October 14, 2017

William Lombardy Has Died

Lombardy passed away Friday, October 13 in California. See Chess.com article.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Battle of Brothers

   The USCF organized its first U.S. Junior Open in July, 1946 at the Lawson YMCA in Chicago and the winner that year was 16-year-old Larry Friedman, the 1945 Junior Champion of the city of Cleveland, Ohio. The previous year Friedman finished in 4th place in the Ohio State Championship while a sophomore at Shaw High School in Cleveland.  Friedman also won the Junior Open in 1947, held in Cleveland. On July 31, 1950, Friedman appeared on the first USCF rating list at 2284. After that he quit chess until he popped up and took 1st place as the top New Jersey resident in the New Jersey Open (though the event was actually won by Tibor Weinberger) only to disappear again.
     In July 1948, Arthur Bisguier won the 3rd annual U.S. Junior Championship Tournament, held in Oak Ridge, Tennessee on tiebreaks over Frank Anderson of Toronto. Bisguier also won it in 1949 on tiebreaks over Larry Evans and James Cross when it was held in Fort Worth, Texas.
     The Byrne brothers were both students of Brooklyn chess coach and master John W. Collins.  Donald is most famous for his loss to Bobby Fischer in the the Game of the Century.  He won the U.S. Open Championship in 1953 in Milwaukee and around that time was the second-highest rated player in the U.S. behind Reshevsky, against whom Byrne had a winning record. Besides being a good chess player, though he rarely competed in tournaments, he was repeatedly selected to be Captain by his teammates because of his interpersonal acumen and his generous, helpful nature. Byrne was very popular with the Penn State chess team players. In the late 1950s, he contracted lupus, an auto-immune disease that led to the demise of his kidneys and made him allergic to the sun. He was known around campus for his very wide-brimmed brown Stetson hat. He would frequently tell stories about his chess exploits, often turning red from laughter time.
     George Kramer was a very strong master and won the 1951-52 Manhattan Chess Club championship and the state of New Jersey championship in 1964, 1967 and 1969. He also participated in a number of U.S. Championships. For more on Walter Shipman, see his obituary HERE.
     But, before they were all well known, in 1949 the five of them participated in a double round Junior Masters Tournament at the Manhattan Chess Club with the following results:

1) Robert Byrne 5-3
2) Donald Byrne 4.5-3.5
3) Arthur Bisguier 4-4
4) George Kramer 3.5-4.5
5) Walter Shipman 3-5
     Robert's only loss was to his brother and while Donald lost two games...to Bisguier and his brother.

     After this event, the brothers also did well in the club's weekly rapid transit tournament with Donald scoring 14-1 in the field of 16 players when he drew with Walter Shipman and Larry Evans. Evans finished second with a 13-2 score while Robert Byrne finished third. Arthur Bisguier finished fourth and Herman Helms was fifth.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

1950 US vs. Yugoslavia Radio Match

Yugoslav Master B. Rabar
I am revisiting this match because I posted on it back in July, but have deleted that post because there was some confusion over the game scores and results, but I think I have everything cleared up now, having found some additional information.

     After World War II radio matches were popular because they provided a relatively inexpensive method of arranging long-distance competition at a time when many countries were still recovering economically and travel was expensive and restricted. There had been the famous USSR - USA match in 1945 and 1946 saw matches USSR vs Great Britain and Australia vs France. In 1947 there was Australia vs Canada and in 1949 Argentina clashed with Spain.
     One long forgotten match was held in 1950 when Yugoslavia defeated the United States. As usual the match was played using teletype machines and short wave radio transmission between New York and Belgrade.  The match took place between Saturday, February 11th and Tuesday, February 14th. Moves were transmitted using the Uedemann code. The code was invented by Chicago player Louis Uedemann (1854–1912). His name is often misspelled as “Udemann.” He developed a code that was later refined by D. A. Gringmuth, of St. Petersburg, a leading Russian problem composer, and adapted for use with telegraphs for cable matches. Gringmuth's notation was first used in the telegraphic match between London and St Petersburg in November 1886.
     The time control was 50 moves per 2 hours, but the mechanics of transmission caused delays which slowed the progress of the match. The Radio Corporation of America, a leading manufacturer and supplier of radio components in the US, provided the American radio transmission equipment. Hans Kmoch was the match referee and the American team played in an office in The Chanin Building in Manhattan. The Yugoslav team played out of the Kolarech University Hall in Belgrade. The Yugoslav's held a grand opening ceremony complete with with the Belgrade Radio Symphony Orchestra serenading a hall packed with dignitaries including the US Ambassador and veteran GM Milan Vidmar, who served as the American representative.
     In Europe the Yugoslavs were generally considered second only to the Soviets. In post-war international matches they defeated the Swiss team, the Austrians, the Dutch, the Hungarians and the Czechs. They were enthusiastic about meeting the American team because it would be the first meeting since the end of the war.
     The match was important politically for the Yugoslavs for reasons of national prestige and as a representative of Socialist culture. Of their top players only 18-year old Andrija Fuderer, who shared 4th in the Yugoslav championship, was not on the team while the 16-year old Ivkov was. 
    The Yugoslav team was lead by Svetozar Gligoric, Yugoslavia's 1949 champion who was regarded as one of the strongest players in Europe. In 1947 he had defeated Vassily Smyslov at Warsaw and drawn with Isaac Boleslavsky, two of the ranking Soviet masters and in 1949 he had defeated Gideon Stahlberg in a twelve-game match. At the time Glogoric was journalist on the staff of Borba, the official newspaper of the Yugoslav Communist party. Second board was Vasya Pirc, a Professor of Modern Languages.  At board 3 was Petar Trifunovich a journalist and Yugoslavia's champion in 1945, 1946 and he had tied for first place with Gligoric in 1947.
     The other Yugoslav players were journalist Braslov Rabar, Milan Vidmar, an engineer and a son of the famous Yugoslav player of the same name, Stojan Puc, a clerk, Bora Milic, student, Bora Kostich, who at the age of 63 was the oldest member of the team.  The team was rounded out by Alexander Matanovich, a student and Boraslav Ivkov, a 16-year-old high school student.
     The American team had problems before the match even started.  It lost Kashdan who was to play third board when a week before the match was to begin he was hospitalized with a perforated ulcer. His place was taken by Bisguier. The U.S. team also lost Herman Steiner the day before the match. Steiner had agreed to play then refused because he was in a snit over not being assigned Board 1. He did have a nebulous claim to Board 1 because he was the reigning U.S. champion, having won the Championship at South Fallsburg, New York in 1948. Although he finished ahead of Kashdan, the only Grandmaster playing, it was in a relatively weak field. Steiner was awarded his IM title in 1950 and went on to captain the U.S. Olympic team at Dubrovnik later that year. Olaf Ulvestad was brought in as a last minute replacement rushing to New York from Cleveland. Unfortunately, he was rusty, having played little competitive chess in the previous year.
    Not that it would have made any difference in the outcome of the match but the U.S. cause wasn't helped by the result of the second Matanovic - Pinkus game.  Pinkus had lost a difficult N and P ending in the first game and in the second game the following position was reached after Matanovic's 24.Qh4:

By playing 24...Rh8 the position would have offered both sides chances. According to headline from a New York Times article Pinkus forfeited, so I assume that he must have lost on time.  Still, with a time limit of 50 moves in two hours it's hard to believe that he was in time pressure because the position is not all that complicated.

     First brilliancy prize was awarded to Denker for his win over Rabar. Playing over the game failed to disclose any  tactical brilliancy though Denker did score a fine positional win. Denker is well known, but few will know much about his opponent even though we see his contribution to chess almost every time we see a published game.
     IM Braslav Rabar (September 27, 1919 – December 6, 1973) was Yugoslav champion in 1951 and in 1953 he tied for first but lost the playoff match. He played for Yugoslavia in three chess Olympiads (1950, 1952, 1954), winning a total of five medals. Rabar was a co-inventor of the classification systems for the Chess Informant publications and he was one of the editors of the monthly chess magazine Sahovski Glasnik.
     Much more interesting was Bisguier's win over Ivkov which was awarded the second brilliancy prize although it was also a positional crush, not a tactical brilliancy.   Bisguier wrote that he took great pleasure in winning this game because Ivkov had a reputation of being a fine positional player.  Even though he was only 16-years old, Ivkov had earned his National Master title the year before by sharing 4th–7th places in the Yugoslav Championship and at Bled in 1950, which featured some of the best players in the world, he shared 5th–6th places. In 1951 he won the first World Junior Championship.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

U.S. Patents 2,208,137 and 2,410,746 by Adele Raettig

   The two gizmos shown are for an angle divider and a magnetically operated switch.
     The patent for the angle divider was applied for on October 26, 1939 and issued on July 16, 1940.  The divider was an instrument used for dividing angles of various degrees into any number of predetermined parts. The problem was that most angle dividers were complicated and made it difficult for an average person to use, but this contraption was simple to use and inexpensive in construction.
    The other thing is a magnetically operated switch. A patent for the device was filed on September 2, 1942 and issued on November 5, 1946.  According to the patent this device relates to a switch and refers more particularly to a magnetically operated selective switch used for energizing or otherwise influencing any one of several circuits. An object of the  invention was the provision of an effectively operating circuit controller or switch of simple, compact and sturdy construction, which was inexpensive to manufacture and which could be conveniently utilized for the purpose of closing any one of a comparatively large number of circuits. Another object was the utilization of a permanent magnet for the purpose of actuating selectively any one of several levers used for establishing an electrical connection between a number of terminals. Who knows what it was used for or if it was ever actually used in anything?  The inventor of both was Adele S. Raettig of Hoboken, New Jersey.
Adele Raettig

    Getting a patent does not always mean the inventor is going to make money because you can get a U.S. patent even if your invention is worthless and has no commercial value. Also, getting a patent does not stop someone from infringing on your idea. It is up to the patent holder to take the infringer to court if, after you warn him, he persists in infringing.
    A fellow named Robert W. Kearns invented the intermittent windshield wiper which he claimed was stolen by automakers, spent twenty years in court and finally was awarded millions, but legal fees got most of it and Kearns was still nearly broke; the lawsuits had consumed him, his wife left him and he was once committed to a psychiatric hospital.
    When Frank Marshall finally stepped aside as U.S. Champion in 1936 organizers of the first modern championship tournament had planned for a substantial number of entries to be split into preliminary round robins that would select eight qualifiers for the 16-player finals. The eight qualifiers would meet eight seeded players (Reshevsky, Fine, Dake, Kashdan, Kupchik, Steiner, Horowitz and Kevitz). The problem was there were so few advance entries for the preliminaries that the organizers had to drop the registration fee from $10 to $5. In today's currency that's about $175 to $88. In 1936 you could buy a car for $580 and gasoline was $0.19 a gallon. Bread cost $0.08 a loaf and a gallon of milk cost $0.47. With the average annual salary being $1,500 that $10 entry fee was pretty hefty.
    Eventually 48 players, including Adele Raettig, the only woman, entered. All games, preliminaries and finals, were held in New York. Eleven of the finalists were from New York and most of the high-placing non-qualifiers were also from the New York City area. The few strong out-of-towners included Californian Herman Steiner, Illinois state champion Samuel Factor, Harold Morton from Boston and New England champion Weaver Adams.
    Adele Raettig (September, 1889 – August, 1972) graduated from what was then the State Normal School at Montclair, New Jersey. Today the school is Montclair State University. She was a school teacher in Hoboken and later attended Columbia University. Although she never fared especially well in Women's Championships, she was nevertheless a strong player who successfully competed against men and occasionally defeated recognized masters.
    The following game was played in 1943 in a match in which the Intercollegiate Chess League took on non-student opponents. In this match five college clubs were matched against teams from seven different commercial teams and the commercial teams were leading by 6.5-5.5. The match's most exciting game was on board 2 between Sol Rubinow of the CCNY team and Nelson J. Hogenauer of the Hanover National Bank team and President of the Commercial League.  Their game was adjudicated as a draw by Frank Marshall. But, the deciding game was between Miss Raettig, who served as manager for the champion Chase National Bank team, on board 10 where she defeated R. McGrath of Rutgers. The game shows just how bad some of us amateurs are at playing endings!

Monday, October 9, 2017

World Student Team Championship: Leningrad 1960

    The first student championship was held in Oslo in 1954 where Czechoslovakia won. The Soviet team won in at Lyons, 1956 at Uppsala, 1957 at Reykjavik and in 1958 at Golden Sands in Bulgaria. In 1959, at Budapest, Bulgaria won an unexpected victory.
     This event, the 7th, was held in the Young Pioneer Palace in the city of Leningrad (today St. Petersburg) from July 15th August 2nd, 1960. The participating teams were: Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Finland, East Germany., Great Britain, Holland, Hungary, Mongolia, Romania, Sweden, USA, USSR, and Yugoslavia. When the event began news was received that the Polish team would be arriving late, but shortly after the start it was learned that they were not coming.
     The British team took the lead in the first rounds. Playing against Belgium, Finland and Hungary, they scored 10-2, but when they came up against the Soviet and United States teams they suffered severe defeats.
     After the fifth round the United States took the lead, however in the sixth round the Yugoslav team created a sensation by defeating the U.S. by a decisive 3.5-0.5 and as a result, the Soviets took the lead and in subsequent rounds it was a race between them and the U.S.
     The decisive fight was in the 11th round when the Soviets only drew with Hungary while the U.S. defeated Finland 4-0. And, in the 12th round the U.S. team consolidated their lead by beating Hungary 3.5-0.5. The final round featured the U.S. vs. Soviet match up which would decide the championship. The U.S. team won, mostly due to the efforts of William Lombardy and Charles Kalme. Lombardy won top prize on first board and as a result was awarded the GM title at the FIDE congress in October 1960 at Leipzig. In this event he scored an amazing 12-1 (two draws!). On second board Kalme scored 11.5-1.5 which tied him for top honors with Milan Vukcevich of Yugoslavia. Kalme’s only loss was to Vukcevich.
    Vukcevich had a reputation as a gentleman and he demonstrated it very well when he had a chance to beat out Kalme for the board prize when both went into the last round with 11-1 scores. As soon as he heard that Kalme had accepted a draw against Bulgaria because the U.S. team agreed to four quick draws to clinch the championship, he felt it would be unfair for him to take the board prize because Kalme took a quick draw under such conditions. In a gesture of true sportsmanship, Vukcevich offered his German opponent a draw on the twelfth move, which was accepted.

     In 1962 Vukcevich moved to the U.S. and decided on a career in science when he enrolled in MIT. He eventually ended up in Cleveland, Ohio as an instructor at Case Western Reserve University for six years before leaving to work for General Electric, where, from 1989, he served as Chief Scientist. He published two books on science. In 1969 he was joint winner of the U.S. Open along with Pal Benko and Robert Byrne. In 1975 he finished third in the U.S. Championship and from 1976-79, he played in the National Telephone League, scoring 16.5 from 22 games., including wins against Bisguier, Yasser Seirawan, Nick De Firmian and Leonid Shamkovich. Vukcevich was also an accomplished problemist. He died in 2003 in Cleveland, Ohio and is buried in Evergreen Hill Cemetery in Chagrin Falls. 

The Pal Benko clock
    The first time I ever saw Vukcevich was sometime in the 1960s at a long forgotten weekend Swiss in the resort community of Lakeside, Ohio which, of course, sits right on Lake Erie. What I remember was that the venue was a screened-in room in a building right next to the lake and it was hot and humid and we could hear the waves lapping and the smell of dead fish was overpowering. I also remember that I had a new Pal Benko chess clock that was a piece of junk. It was of poor construction and the glass in the front was quite loose and rattled. Early in one of my games there was a loud snap and the whirring of the spring unwinding when, for no apparent reason, it just broke. I also remember after the completion of one of the rounds somebody asked Vukcevich why he had thought so long over one of his moves. His reply was, “After 12 moves the position was starting to get a little fuzzy.” He had taken so long in order to make sure his sacrifice was correct.

     Charles Kalme (November 15, 1939 – March 20, 2002) was born in Riga, Latvia and at the conclusion of World War II, Kalme and what was left of his family fled Latvia, lived for years in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany and finally arrived in Philadelphia in the United States in 1951.
     Kalme won the U.S. Junior Championship in 1955 with a 9-1 score. He also won the Pan-American Intercollegiate championship in 1957. He appeared in two U.S. Championships: 1958-1959 and 1960-1961. He was also a master contract bridge. Kalme received a Ph.D. degree in mathematics from New York University in 1967, and became a professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley. When Latvia regained its freedom from the Soviet Union, Kalme returned there, where he died in 2002.
     On board three Raymond Weinstein tied for top honors with Alekander Nikitin of the Soviet Union with a 7.7-2.5 score. Weinstein's unfortunate story is pretty well known and I have posted on it HERE.
     Fourth board was manned by Anthony Saidy (1937- ), who played a lot of chess and became a medical doctor. The only alternate was Eliot Hearst (1933- ) who went on to receive a Ph.D. in Psychology and was a professor for many years at the Indiana University and then at the University of Arizona. He also authored a well received book on blindfold chess. For many years Hearst wrote a very popular column for Chess Life magazine. I met Hearst one time in the early 1960s and he was very nice to a young kid who brashly asked for his autograph.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Shooting Incident at the Home of Former World Champion

    As is often the case newspaper accounts are unclear and at times even conflicting. Was the shooting incident at the home of former World Champion Wilhelm Steinitz an accident or attempted murder? Then there is the question of William H. K. Pollock, the English master. Was he present when the shooing occurred or wasn't he?
     Sometime in 1889 or 1890 Wilhelm Steinitz moved to a secluded house in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. In early November, 1892, Pollock paid a visit to Steinitz to help him with a book. Five years previously Steinitz had fired his personal secretary, Nathaniel W. Williams, and replaced him with Ernest Treitel, but both were living with Steinitz and there was an uneasy rivalry between them. Williams had been resentful of Treitel and had refused to hand over Steinitz' books and papers. 
    One morning Williams, dressed for hunting and carrying a gun, entered Treitel's room at about 7:00 AM. Steinitz was sitting a short distance away from the room which had the door closed and testified that he heard the two men talking angrily when he heard a muffled gun shot and then a louder one and Williams came out of Treitel's room and left the house. Treitel cried out that Williams had shot him and Steinitz rushed in and found Williams in bed with his left arm badly wounded.
     When arrested, Williams insisted it was an accident and claimed he was in Treitel's room because he had to pass through it to get out of the house. After his arrest Williams was scheduled to appear before a judge early the following week and the way things stood, if the judge released him, he would be arrested again. This time on a complaint from Steinitz that Williams had repeatedly threatened to kill him.
     Williams had worked for Steinitz as his secretary, butler and business manager. He also did a little gardening and even killed the chickens to make a meal. He didn't get paid a lot, but both he and his employer were happy with the arrangement.
     How was Pollock involved, or was he involved at all? Problems between those two developed when Steinitz needed help in preparation of of a book he was planning and so had hired Pollock to help him. Things didn't go well. Pollock didn't like Williams and Steinitz claimed Pollock's domineering manner made life difficult for him. And so, Steinitz fired Pollock, but gave him permission to stay in the house until he could make arrangements to move.
     After the hiring of Treitel, Williams continued with his duties. Then one day he asked Steinitz for a day off so he could attend a Columbus Day parade in New York City. Steinitz refused to give him the day off and told him that if he went, he might as well stay in New York because he would not be allowed back in the house. Williams replied with something Steinitz didn't like and Steinitz angrily rose from his seat which was not an easy task because he had a bad knee and walked with two canes. Williams was frightened enough that he ran upstairs and returned with what Steinitz called a “bludgeon.” But, by the time Williams returned with his bludgeon Steinitz had resumed sitting and that was the end of the incident.
     The two then sat down for breakfast and the conversation again turned to Williams' plans to go to New York for the parade and the argument rekindled. As Steinitz was again getting out of his chair one of his canes somehow manage to hit Williams on the head. Steinitz said it was a with a just a tap, but Williams said it was with a thud. Williams also claimed that as he held out his hand, he was again struck, this time with enough force to dislocate his thumb.
     Williams went to the parade and when he returned Steinitz allowed him to continue living in the house because he didn't have the heart to throw him out. Williams said he refused to leave because Steinitz owed him money. For two weeks things continued with an uneasy truce.
    The night before the shooting Treitel and Steinitz were playing cards when Williams came in, swept the cards off table and cursed at them both…according to Steinitz' testimony he used “bad words.” 
   Steinitz testified that on the day of the shooting, Williams had threatened to kill him. After he found Treitel wounded he ran out of the house and from the front porch cried, “Murder!” but Williams was standing there and threatened to shoot him unless he kept quiet. Steinitz knew the gun was empty, but he was still scared. 
   At the trial Treitel, who never got up before 10:00 AM, claimed that he was awakened at seven in the morning by a blow to the head and saw Williams standing at the foot of the bed and said, I'm going to shoot you.” Treitel told him, “All right. I can't help it.” whereupon Williams did indeed shoot him. Treitel manged to go look for Steinitz and told him to go for a doctor, but Steinitz replied that nobody could leave the house because Williams was standing at the front door saying he'd kill anybody that left. 
   Williams testimony was that he was passing through Williams room to go hunting when Williams chased him out and grabbed the gun and it went off. There was yet another person living in Steinitz' house, Anna Dietrich, a housekeeper, and she testified that Treitel himself confessed to her that the shooting was accidental.
     In the end, Williams was found guilty of assault and battery with intent to kill. In the meantime Treitel had died from scarlet fever.
    And what about Pollock? Historians are not sure of his whereabouts at the time and he was never mentioned in the newspapers of the day as a witness so it seems he was not living in the house at the time. Nor are they sure exactly what fueled the animosity that developed between him and Steinitz. Pollock is not known to have ever made mention of the falling out between the two or of the shooting. As for Steinitz, he privately complained of Pollock's ingratitude, hostility and drunkenness. So far as anybody knows this is the only time Pollock was ever accused of having had a problem with alcohol.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Jay Whitehead

Whitehead in 1977
    Anybody familiar with the US chess scene in the 1970s probably remembers the Whitehead brothers, Jay and Paul. Jay, born in 1961 in New York, was the stronger of the two and was headed towards the GM title, but gave up active play before reaching his prime and started researching old chess games, playing backgammon and living a Bohemian existence.  He spent 20 years doing historical research and collecting games prior to 1867 which he recorded in a database. Awarded the IM title in 1986, Whitehead was a US Junior Champion, a Grand Prix champion, frequent competitor in the Lone Pine tournaments of the 1970s and played in the US Championship in 1983 and 1987.  The Whitehead family allowed Bobby Fischer to “hideout” in their home in San Francisco back in the early 1980s.

     In the 1983 US championship he finished in tenth place out of 14, scoring +2 -4 =7. The 1983 event was held at Thiel College in remote Greenville, Pennsylvania and the 23-year old Yasser Seirawan, the top rated US player and already a veteran of European tournaments, had a hissy fit. Seirawan wrote the USCF asking for more money as an appearance fee, better publicity and living conditions.  He wrote that the best US players should not be "living in dormitories and eating cafeteria food.” The USCF refused and so Seirawan didn't play. The tournament began during a heat wave and there was no air conditioning in the dormitories. Whitehead, the reigning US Junior Champion, lost to 19-year old Joel Benjamin in the second round in what turned out to be a brilliancy prize game.
Looking down Main Street in Greenville

     The 1987 Championship was held in Estes Park, Colorado for the third time in as many years. Whitehead again did not finish well. This time he scored +3 -6 =4 and finished in twelfth place out of 14. The highlight of this tournament was that after the final night of partying someone trashed a hotel room as if they were a rock star, even damaging wooden banisters. It was the last tournament held in town.
     Around 1984 Whitehead joined the Hare Krishna sect and would often appear at tournaments in flowing robes, but he quickly became a member of a dissident group. The founder of the Hare Krishna religion, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was eventually murdered, but I am not sure by whom. Whitehead wrote several articles about the murder which Sam Sloane published on his website. Sloane wrote that in 2006 Whitehead sent him a desperate email asking him to remove Whitehead's name from the article, but to keep the article on the site.
     Swami Prabhupada (September 1, 1896 – November 14, 1977) was a spiritual teacher and the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, commonly known as the Hare Krishna Movement. Before adopting the life of a guru in 1950, he was married with children and owned a small pharmaceutical business. As the founder of the Hare Krishna Movement he emerged as a major figure in Western counterculture and thousands of young Americans joined the group. In the mid-1960s he traveled throughout the US and devotees established temples in New York and San Francisco. 
     It has been rumored that the Swami may have been murdered by his close associates whom he allegedly began to criticize as being corrupt. One site that referred to him as a world-famous saint, cultural ambassador, scholar, social reformer claims that he had warned in a letter dated September 1970 that “the great sinister movement ( i.e. the Illuminati] is within our Society” and they were after him. It was alleged that in 1977 he was held in a small room and slowly tortured and poisoned to death by the agents of this sinister movement which the site identified as "Jews and Satanic Zionists." Who knows, but apparently Whitehead had some thoughts on the matter.
     Jay Whitehead died in the Zen Hospice Guest House in San Francisco after a long battle with cancer on October 4, 2011. 
     Here is an exciting and complicated tactical game he played against Michel Wilder at Lone Pine in 1980. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Throw out old instructional books?

    One of the most read books in my chess library is Ludek Pachman's Modern Chess Strategy. I bought Alan S. Russell's abridged version back in 1963 and still have it. The cover has long since disappeared, the pages are dog-eared and a lot of passages are underlined. Russell's book was an abridgment that compressed into one volume Pachman's three volume Moderne Schachstrategie, the German translation of the original Czech Strategie Moderniho Sachu. Russell left out a number of games and the opening moves of many more. The book was reprinted in 1971 and is in descriptive notation which turns a lot of people off, but if anyone is of at least below average intelligence learning descriptive notation shouldn't be a problem. I learned it as a ten year old kid, so how hard can it be?!
     Pachman's book is a classic on strategy that gives all the most important principles with his own games and those of Nimzovich, Alekhine, Smyslov and Botvinnik as examples. He covers concepts like play in the center and on the wings, P-structures and how to play with the pieces. He also discusses topics like exchanging pieces, lead in development, coordination of the pieces, etc.
     While browsing through it the other day I was intrigued with a position from Pachman vs. Donner that was played in the 1955 match between Czechoslovakia and The Netherlands. As black, Donner had a P-majority in the center, but Pachman stated it wasn't favorable for him because white was able to attack it by piece pressure combined with P-pressure from the flanks and finally destroy it by the advance of the d-Pawn which he had held back in reserve.  
     It looked like the game would be very instructive, but when I began playing over it with the help of Stockfish and Komodo it became apparent that Pachman's analysis was at odds with these two monster engines. In fact, in a couple of lines Pachman's analysis was so tactically faulty as to render his conclusion on the line meaningless.
     I have found many other similar examples in old books. Obviously in any chess book errors are unavoidable, especially those written before modern engines were invented, but does that mean those old books have no value? I don't think so.
     We don't play engines; we play humans, at least you do if you play over the board. What's important are ideas and the author’s ability to communicate them to his readers. Old books like Pachman's, Euwe’s two books on the middlegame, Lasker's Manual of Chess, Bronstein's Zurich International Chess Tournament and the game collections of great players of the past are timeless classics that never grow old.
     Jeremy Silman probably said it best when he advised that when an engine disagrees with assessments of the authors of these great old classics the best thing to do is concentrate on what the author is trying to share with you
     I like playing over games using an engine because it gives me a chance to try out a whole bunch of different moves and see why they don't work. Sometimes there will be tactical mistakes that refute what the author has written. When that happens or when the engine is saying things are equal but the author claims one side has an advantage, what I usually do is run a Shootout in my Fritz GUI. Playing the game at 17-25 plies results in five games and gives a pretty good indication of the true evaluation. What I usually do then is look at the game played at 25 plies and try to get an idea of the general drift the play took. 
     For example in the above mentioned Pachman – Donner game, at one point in his analysis Pachman commented that white's central position combined with the open g-file gave him a decisive K-side attack. It wasn't so; in fact, the opposite was true as indicated in Shootouts with a couple of engines and all the games were won by black! Even so, Pachman was correct in his overall assessment because had white played correctly he likely would have won. As Shootouts indicated, white had better control of the center and his K-side was adequately defended so the correct strategy was to commence playing on the Q-side which lead to victory in every case. That was because black's K-side attack was stalled and he was too tied up to defend against the Q-side attack because white controlled the center.
     It's been pointed out (by Silman, I think) that a lot of modern instructional books which rely heavily on engine analysis often have a lot of engine generated variations that have no instructional value. They are included simply because they may be a few centipawns better. The fact is that in many cases humans are not capable of finding a move that an engine may suggest. Humans rely on patterns, concepts and ideas and are not capable of calculating millions of positions. Instructional manuals are designed to teach us to understand concepts that we can repeat. When GM Gregory Kaidanov is analyzing with an engine and it suggests a move that he would never consider and there likely is no realistic possibility of playing or even noticing it in a real game situation he ignores it even though it may be the absolute best move.
     Looking for some good chess books that are enjoyable to read and from which you can actually learn something? My advice is 1) take a few minutes to learn descriptive notation and 2) buy those cheap but well constructed Dover chess books
    Play over the games and try to absorb the ideas the author is trying to teach. Even if Alekhine, or Botvinnik or Fischer missed something that Stockfish spotted in a fraction of a second you can still learn something from those guys. I believe even if your move choice was limited to moves those legends rejected you could probably make a living playing chess.