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Monday, May 21, 2018

The Wayback Machine – Rzeschewski

      I came across the accompanying picture and couldn't resist posting it. In case you're wondering Rzeschewski is the short guy on the right! 
     Back on May 10, 1922, Sammy Rzeschewski, as Samuel Reshevsky was known in those days, returned to Providence, Rhode Island to give his second simultaneous exhibition sponsored by the Providence Chess Club at the Elk's Auditorium where he scored 16 wins and yielded two draws.  Those obtaining draws were L.H. Blount, the Providence champion, and S.L. Thompson of the Hospital Trust chess team. Sammy's score was an improvement on his previous year's record where he got nicked for four draws. 
     During a ten minute break Sammy sang two verses of America, Our Glorious Land which thrilled the audience and resulted in a prolonged applause. (I can't find a song by that title.) After the break he proceeded to hand out defeats to all but Blount and Thompson. 
     After the simul J.C. Cook, chairman of the entertainment committee of the chess club made a presentation of a gold metal to Sammy that was inscribed, “Samuel Rzeschewski, from the Providence Chess Club, May 10, 1922, in recognition of his genius in the field of chess and music.” Cook then gave a demonstration of the Knight's Tour and Blount played a blindfold game against a player named Harold Bonant. Rzeschewski spectated and threw in a few comments. Blount lost! 
    When he arrived in Providence, Rzeschewski paid his respects to the mayor which is when the picture was taken. He also met the President of Brown University, W.H.P. Faunce. While in town he stayed with Mr. Louis Shatkin, owner of a local manufacturing company. Mr. Shatkin also took Sammy on a spin around town in his automobile which left Sammy quite thrilled. Rzeschewski spent the night in Providence so he could sing the next day at an orphanage. As a boy, he loved singing as much as he loved chess. I don't know how he felt about either after reaching adulthood. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Is It Real Or Is It Fake?

     The most famous fake game is Alekhine's five-queen game that he published in My Best Games of Chess 1908-1923. The following game played in a weekend tournament in The Netherlands in 1983 between unknown players seems to be regarded by many as a composed game, but was it? 
     Analysis with Stockfish shows a lot of errors, so it could be a real game. Or, were the mistakes because amateur players composed it without aid of an engine which were only beginning to become a force to be reckoned with in 1983? 
     In 1982 BELLE won the 13th ACM computer championship held in Dallas, Texas and in 1983, the first chess microcomputer beat a master in tournament play. BELLE became the first chess computer to attain a master's rating when, in October, 1983, its USCF rating was 2203. 
The Jackalope, real or fake?

     Even if it was a composed game it doesn't really matter because it's a lot of fun to play over. As someone pointed out, we enjoy composed chess problems and endings all the time, so why not a composed game. 
     If it was composed and played in a tournament, was it cheating? Players agree to a draw beforehand all the time and 10-move GM draws are frowned upon, but accepted as normal. What's the difference between agreeing to a draw before the game and playing ten moves, or playing 48 moves? That brings up another point. If the game was composed, how many players do you know would be willing to take the losing side? 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Adele Rivero Belcher

    Adele Rivero Belcher (1908 - 1992) is somewhat of a mysterious woman. Born in Belgium, Rivero was the name of her first husband and little is known of her life before she came to the United States.
     She was born to Flemish parents in Antwerp and went to school in Belgium and France. She said that as a child because of illness and the war the family had to keep moving. As a result she had little time for normal childhood play; she had no use for dolls and she didn't particularly like the other kids. 
     She described herself as introspective and curious about everything and always analytical and believed life held a lot of adventure and she was always looking for it. She described the time when she was little that she decided to try and fly. “I remember that once, when I was quite small, I decided to fly by means of will power alone. I took the jump as the take-off. Which turned out quite disastrously.'' 
     A sober and mature little girl, she had absolutely no sense of fear. At the age seven years old when Antwerp was being bombed she absolutely refused to go down in the cellar. "I said to them, with a child's determination. 'If I die, I'm going to die in bed."  It wasn't until 1937 that she claimed to have acquired the rudiments of fear and that was when she witnessed a burglar entering an apartment. 
     After arriving in New York she worked as a stenographer (a job that involved taking shorthand) and first began attracting attention in 1934 when she tied for second place in the first women’s tournament that was organized by Caroline Marshall at the Marshall Chess Club. After the tournament she joined the Marshall Chess Club and began playing against male players. 
     In the Marshall Club Women’s tournament held in 1936, she scored a perfect 5-0 finishing ahead of Mary Bain and Mrs. B.W. McCready. Owing to the success of those two events the Marshall announced a tournament that was to determine the American woman's champion. 
     In 1936, Rivero stated, “More American women would take up chess if there was anything in it for them...The game needs a whale of a lot of publicity just as bridge had. At the present time there are very few American women who even play a passable game.” She also complained of the lack of funding for women's chess. 
     The first Women’s Chess Championship held by the American Chess Federation was won by Rivero in 1937 and the first National Chess Federation’s Women’s Championship was won by Mona May Karff in 1938. Following the merger of the two organizations, the United States Chess Federation held its first women’s chess championship in 1940, which was won by Rivero. 
     She agreed to defend her title in 1941 in a match against Mona May Karff who won the match. The day before the match against Karff she married Donald Belcher which may explain why she lost the match so badly. 
     Prior to the match with Karff, Chess Review described Rivero: “Slim, petite Adele Rivero...plays strong, conservative chess. Inclined to be nervous, she exercises remarkable control in important games, displays great powers of stamina and concentration, nurses small advantages into the end-game.” 
     Karff scored a decisive 5-1 win and Belcher's play was weak and contained a lot of outright blunders. After the match Horowitz wrote, "Mrs. Belcher...was nervous and self-conscious, made some incredible blunders, showed every sign of being badly out of practice. After losing four straight, she came to life in the fifth game, smartly out-played her opponent, put on a real show for her many admirers, only to lapse into defeat in the sixth and final game." They split the $197 prize money, which would amount to about $3,400 these days. 
     At some point she ended up in Vermont where she went down in the Vermont chess history books when she become the first woman to win the state championship. That was in 1954. She appears to have remained active in Vermont chess up until the early 1960s. She passed away at the age of 84 in Williston, Vermont and is buried in Barre, Vermont.
     I did a post on Belcher's opponent in this game HERE. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle has some columns mentioning Donald Belcher HERE and HERE. There is mention of the Belcher - Karff match HERE.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Prague 1946 – Ruined by the Soviets

Margarita Carmen Cansino
     Things were humming in Prague in 1946. After the War the Czechs looked favorably on the Russians who had liberated them. As a matter of fact, the Communist Party had a solid following dating back to the 1920s when Czechoslovakia was a democratic nation. 
     A “necktie party” was held for Karl Hermann Frank on May 22 when he was hanged before 5,000 spectators in the courtyard of the Pankrac Prison in Prague after being convicted of war crimes and the destruction of Lidice and Lezaky. WARNING: The link to Frank contains graphic content
     Eduard Benes, the postwar president, had signed a friendship treaty with the Soviets while working with the government-in-exile during 1943. By the beginning of 1946, there was no USSR military presence in the country, but the Communists were well-represented in the government. After a lot of political intrigue over the next couple of years Benes, by that time frail and sick, resigned in June, 1948 and passed away on September 3, 1948. 
     After the Communist took over, Czechoslovakia which until then had been the last democracy in Eastern Europe, was doomed to more than 40 long years of totalitarian rule which lasted until the Velvet Revolution in 1989. 
     Besides the political intrigue going on, in 1946, a lady who was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1918 as Margarita Carmen Cansino, the oldest child of two dancers, visited Prague and created a stir. By then she had become a popular Hollywood actress known as Rita Hayworth. 
     She had just starred in her first major dramatic role in the 1946 film, Gilda, which also starred Glenn Ford. 1946 was also the year of the first Karlovy Vary International Film Festival where she made an appearance at the world renowned spa town, and upon seeing the beauty of the Czech Republic, she decided to take in the sights of Prague. 
     The international chess scene was severely disrupted by World War II beginning with the 1939 Olympiad at Buenos Aires. Some teams and players withdrew and others remained in South America for the duration of the war. Also, Alekhine had died in the spring of 1946. 
     After the war ended, the FIDE conference in the summer of 1946 had to reestablish itself and had proposed a world championship tournament including five participants from the AVRO 1938 tournament: Mikhail Botvinnik, Paul Keres, Max Euwe, Samuel Reshevsky and Reuben Fine. 
     Along with those players would be Smyslov plus the winner of either Groningen (the first major postwar tournament. It was held in August and September) or Prague which was played in October of 1946. Prague was a memorial to Karel Treybal and Vera Menchik who both died during the war. 
     The possibility of advancing a player to a world championship tournament was only part of what the Prague organizers envisioned for the tournament. They had invited Botvinnik, Smyslov, Keres, Flohr, Bronstein, Euwe, Reshevsky, and Fine, but none of them played. Tartakower had accepted, but never arrived due to travel difficulties. Karel Opocensky was chosen to replace him. 
     Then on October 2, Moscow notified the organizers that the four-player Soviet players promised wouldn't be coming due to a conflict with the semifinals of their national championship. This unexpected last-minute cancellation threw the Prague tournament into chaos. It also weakened the prospects of the eventual winner, the Polish Miguel Najdorf who had remained in South America during the war, to be included in the FIDE World Championship Tournament scheduled for 1948. 
     Botvinnik won at Groningen and since he was already a candidate, the winner of Prague was presumed to get the open place, but chess politics interfered. In the end, when the Soviets pulled out of Prague, its strength was greatly reduced and so Najdorf's chances to participate in a world championship tournament went with it. 
     As for the tournament itself, Jan Foltys got off to a great start by scoring 4-0, but then after two draws, he suffered two defeats. Three draws in the final five rounds resulted in his only tying for fourth place with Svetozar Gligoric.
     Gligoric also got off to a blazing start, scoring 5.5-0.5 in six rounds, which included a win over Najdorf.  Then he too faded when he scored +1 -2 =4 in the remaining rounds. 
     Trifunovic started with two losses, to Stoltz and Foltys, but then went on a scoring binge, finishing with a +7 -0 =4. Stoltz scored +2 -2 =3, but finished up well by scoring +5 -0 =1. 
     Like Gligoric, Najdorf got off to a blazing start. He scored +6 -0 =1; his loss was to Gigoric. He continued his solid play and coasted to first with a draw against Stoltz with one round to go. 

1) Najdorf 10.5-1.5 
2-3) Stoltz and Trifunovic 9.0-3.0 
4-5) Gligoric and Foltys 8.5-3.5 
6) Golombek 6.5-5.5 
7-8) Pachman and Sajtar 6.0-6.0 
9-10) Katetov and Kottnauer 5.5-6.5 
11-12) Zita and Guimard 4.5-7.5 
13-14) Opocensky and Rohacek 3.5-8.5 

Note that this event is not to be confused with the Prague vs. Moscow match which was also played in 1946. The Moscow team consisted of Bronstein, Kotov, Smyslov, Alatortsev, Simagin, Lilienthal and Bondarevsky. The Prague team was made up of Zita, Opocensky, Katetov, Kottnauer, Sajtar and Pachman. 

     The Czech player Cenek Kottnauer (February 24, 1910 - February 14, 1996) emigrated to the United Kingdom in 1953. Frantisek Zita (November 29, 1909 – October 1, 1977) was born in Prague, then Austria-Hungary and was Czech (Bohemia and Moravia) champion in 1943. 
     The game is interesting because Zita launches an ill advised attack where in the end he wasn't attacking at all; he was just giving away pieces. It reminds me of some of my “attacks.” 

Monday, May 14, 2018

Walter Muir

     Walter Muir (1905 – December 29, 1999) was awarded the Correspondence International Master title in 1971. Muir, who began playing postal chess in 1925, was probably the most influential person in the development of correspondence chess and was a dominant figure in postal play on the national and international level for almost fifty years and he was recognized as the Dean of American Correspondence Chess. 
    It was Muir who lead the way for American players to get involved in international play with the ICCF and he served as the secretary of the ICCF for the US. Muir was the founder of the United States Postal Chess Union, the organization that provided access for international postal play for members of CCLA, United States Chess Federation, American Postal Chess Tournaments, Knights Of the Square Table and The Chess Connection. 
     The APCT was one of the leading US postal clubs for about 35 years and when the organizers of the club, Helen and Jim Warren, announced their retirement in 2005 the club went out of existence after the last tournaments were completed. 
     NOST (Knights of the Square Table) was founded in 1960 by Robert Lauzon and Jim France as a postal organization with aim was to play in a less competitive atmosphere, in which friendship and conversation were more emphasized than winning. Over time, members also began playing Chess variants as well as Shogi. The club also included Checkers and Go. NOST lasted 43 years, closing down its website in 2003. This was because its members had aged or died and because the internet had begun to supplant postal chess. 
     The Chess Connection was a significant group with many strong players and that featured high prize fund tournaments and they published an outstanding magazine. 
    Muir won the Canadian Correspondence Chess Association Champion nine times: 1928, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1939, 1942, was the British Overseas CC Champion twice and, champion of the Illinois CCA 16 times. He also won nine ICCF Master Tournaments, qualified seven times for ICCF World Championship second-round play, and played on four Olympiad teams for the United States. 
     Muir was the first US player to defeat a USSR player (Atjashev) in ICCF competition The Walter Muir Memorial Invitational Correspondence Chess Tournament is named in his honor, and is supported by both the ICCF USA. and the Canadian Correspondence Chess Association. 
     Both of his parents were Canadian citizens. His father was a meat company executive whose job moved him to many cities around the world and Walter was born in Brooklyn, New York. 
     He surveyed the right-of-way between Albany, New York and New York City for the New York Power and Light Company between 1931-1932, but spent most of his life in Salem and Roanoke, Virginia. He was employed by General Electric for 46 years. He was married to Dorothy Saunders Muir for 65 years. 
     The Dorothy S. and Walter Muir Memorial Fund Established through Muir's estate. The fund supports the Roanoke Valley Chess Club, where was the president for some time, the Fintel Library at Roanoke College and the Western Virginia Foundation for the Arts and Sciences. The annual Walter Muir Chess Tournament is held in his honor. 
     Muir makes mincemeat of his opponent, Frank Valvo, in the following game. Valvo was the father of Michel Valvo. Frank was a prominent correspondence player of his day and in the 1950s and 1960s he played in many OTB events in New York state. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

Grob Plays the Grob

     Stefan Bueckner, FIDE master and publisher of the magazine Kaissiber is famous for playing and advocating unusual and dubious openings such as the Englund Gambit and the Grob Attack and he said his score with the Grob in correspondence games is close to 90 percent. 
     IM Michael Basman is particularly known for frequently choosing bizarre or rarely played openings and he has published The Killer Grob. In his book Basman writes that 1.g4 ignores the firmly held dogma that one should open the game with a move by a center pawn, but, as he pointed out, the Grob has its own logic. He addressed the question, does the Grob work?
     GM Jonathan Levitt said that while moves like 1. e4 or 1.d4 hardly give white a winning advantage, the disadvantage of the Grob is that it hands black an equal game right from the start. 
     While Henri Grob (June, 1904 – July, 1974) was not a chess giant, he was no slouch. He was considered as a leading Swiss player from the 1930s to 1950s and was invited to many prestigious tournaments and was Swiss Champion in 1939 and 1951. Chessmetrics puts his highest rating at 2491 in 1934, placing his at number 79 in the world. And, he was serious about 1.g4. When he published his book Angriff g2–g4 in 1942, he wrote that the work was not meant for beginners. 
     Some interesting facts about Grob: Between 1946 and 1972, he played 3,614 correspondence games against readers of the Neue Z├╝rcher Zeitung, a leading Swiss newspaper scoring +2,703 -430 =481. Grob married nine (!!!) times. When asked if he were married he replied, "Almost always." 
Chantal Chaude de Silans vs Grob in 1951

     The opinion of those esteemed players is not without weight and it would seem that for those of us holding the lowly Patzer title, against our peers the Grob is not easy to meet. Our opponents are good enough to recognize that the move is nonsense and they often overreact thinking there must be an immediate refutation, but there isn't. As a result, careless play on black's part by ignoring white's pressure on the focal points of d5 and b7 can, if if black is unaware, easily result in his getting into trouble. 
     I have used the Grob successfully on many occasions, but my Chessbase Light Database shows white only scoring +63 -93 =37, or just 42 percent; not very encouraging. There's an interesting site on the Grob, The World of Grob's Attack, that is worth a visit if you're interested in playing this unusual opening. 
     Here is a Grob original: 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

A Brilliancy By William Spackman

     Unless you are familiar with the history of the Correspondence Chess League of America or a fan of sexist, juicy eros obsessed novels containing offbeat analysis of the delusions and perils of modern love, you've probably never heard of him. 
     As a novelist, his prose style has been described by some reviewers as contrived and a mix of cheeky wordplay, studied eloquence, slang and breezy spontaneity that melded interior monologue, conversation and external action.  Some have dismissed his works while others have called him an American master. It seems you either love his books or you hate them.
     In reviewing one book, A Little Decorum, the reviewer couldn't finish it. He described it as tedious, annoying and repelling with characters that are superficial, unreal and boring. Another of his books, Declarations of Intent, is described as the witty story of a wary woman editor wooed by a Princeton classicist. One reviewer wrote, “Studded with disarming observations and gorgeous, one-of-a-kind sentences, Spackman's writing is a sensuous delight. Like Jane Austen, he exposes savage passions lurking beneath civilized exteriors.”

     Spackman began his literary career by writing fiction on the side and his first published work appeared in 1953. At the time he was living in Colorado and later moved to Philadelphia where he was employed in public relations. 
     William Mode Spackman was born in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, the son of George Harvey Spackman and Alice Pennock Mode on May 20, 1905.  He was educated at Princeton University, Balliol College, graduating in 1927. Spackman, or “Spack” as he was known to friends, passed away at his home in Princeton after a career which made him one Princeton's most distinguished literary alumni. 
     Descended from Pennsylvania Quakers, he was described as “an irreverent wit” whose editorship of Nassau Lit, the country's second oldest college literary magazine, aroused the wrath of many of its readers. 
     Spackman called himself a "flaneur" (loafer), but was a real student who won a Rhodes scholorship. He returned to a varied American career as magazine editor, teacher of classical literature in universities. He served in media service in the Navy during WWII. 
     He was married to Mary Ann, daughter of Bishop Paul Matthews of the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey.  Matthews served in that capacity from 1915 to 1937. Born in Ohio, he was the the son of Stanley Matthews, an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Matthews married the Procter and Gamble heiress Elsie Procter and their son, T. S. Matthews, was editor of Time magazine. Bishop Matthews died in Florida at the age of 87.
     For years the Spackmans spent several months of the year at a villa in Brittany, France and they eventually retired to an estate in Princeton where he renewed his literary career by writing five novels and a volume of essays which won an award from the Academy of Arts and Letters. His first wife died in 1978, and in 1979 he remarried. 
     He left his chess collection to Princeton in 1955.  The collection primarily consists of tournament books and bulletins, along with many game collections. 
     Spackman edited the CCLA's The Chess Correspondent in the 1940s and it was through his efforts that the club made it through some difficult times.  In 1948 he announced a brilliancy contest in which there was no specified dates, but only that the game had to be played in a CCLA event. The games were judged by a panel with the names removed and it turned out that Spackman won first prize. 
 
Scene of the tragedy today
    Spackman,s opponent in this game, Allen Pearsall (1877 – January 1, 1948) from Chula Vista, California, was a long time postal player with the CCLA. He was killed instantly when struck by a car at the corner of Third Avenue and I Street on New Year's day. 


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

1960, a BIG Year

     On February 24 the first submarine to circle the world began its journey. The nuclear submarine USS Triton circled the globe underwater; it took 84 days and was completed on May 10th. The US launched the world's first nuclear powered Aircraft Carrier the USS Enterprise. 
     September of 1960 saw the first ever televised presidential debate between Vice President Richard Nixon, Republican, and Democrat John F. Kennedy who met in Chicago to debate live. Radio listeners thought Nixon won, while television viewers chose Kennedy. 
     Nixon was not handsome like the image conscious Kennedy. Nixon was nervous, sweating like a pig, needed a shave and when answering questions, he looked at the host, not into the camera which made him look “shifty” to viewers. Nixon wasn't helped when a reporter asked President Eisenhower to name some of his vice president’s contributions. Exhausted and irritated after a long press conference, Eisenhower replied, “If you give me a week, I might think of one. I don’t remember.” He intended it to be a self-deprecating reference to his own mental fatigue, but the Democrats used it in a television commercial that ended with the statement, “President Eisenhower could not remember, but the voters will remember.” In January 1961, John F. Kennedy became President. 
"Tricky Dick" as Nixon was later to become known

     In other major developments the US entered the Vietnam War, the IRA started it's fight against the British, Chubby Checker and the twist started a new dance craze, a Soviet missile shot down the United States' U2 spy plane, aluminum cans were used for the first time, Xerox introduced the first photocopier, Fidel Castro nationalized American oil, sugar and other US interests in Cuba and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries was formed.
     There were major food shortages in East Germany and 160,000 refugees crossed to West Germany resulting in Nikita Khrushchev ordering the construction of the Berlin Wall. In Sharpeville, South Africa Afrikaner police opened fire with sub-machine guns on black demonstrators March 21st. Fifteen African countries gained independence and South Africa left the Commonwealth. 
     Chile suffered one of the greatest earthquakes on record that loosed a tsunami. Hurricane Donna formed on August 31st and battered the Caribbean and Eastern United States until mid-September. 
     The American Heart Association linked smoking to heart disease and death in middle-aged men. In the UK, Princess Margaret married Antony Armstrong Jones, a British photographer and film-maker. 
     The Canadian Prime Minister was John Diefenbaker and Charles de Gaulle was President of France, Jawahar Lal Nehru was Prime Minister of India and Harold Macmillan of England. 
     In Louisville, Kentucky, Cassius Clay (who later took the name Muhammad Ali) won his first professional fight after having won the Gold Medal in the Olympic games which were held in Rome. The Winter Olympics were held in Squaw Valley, California. 
     The Soviet Union beat Yugoslavia 2-1 to win the first ever European Football Championship. In pop culture Lady Chatterley's Lover went on sale in England 32 years after it was banned while Coronation Street Soap premiered on television in the UK. The Etch-A-Sketch was introduced for $2.99 manufactured by Ohio Art Company. 

     We chess players had our own news headlines. The biggest being Tal's defeat of Botvinnik for the World Championship. US Women's Champion Lisa Lane was hot. But, there was a lot of other things happening, too. 

National Championships: 
Yugoslavia - Gligoric ahead of Bertok 
Soviet Union - Korchnoi ahead of Petrosian 
United States – Fischer ahead of Lombardy 
Poland -Doda ahead of Filipowicz, Drozd and Mannke 
Argentina – Najdorf ahead of Julio Bolbochan 
Hungary – Sazbo ahead of Barcza and Portisch 
Great Britain - Jonathan Penrose 

Major Tournaments: 
Nimzo Memorial Copenhagen - Petrosian 
Marianske Lazne – Pachman 
Madrid Zonal playoff – Gligoric, Portisch, Pomar and Donner 
Varna – Padevsky and Krogius 
Sarajevo – Pachman and Puc 
Sao Paulo – Julio Bolbochan 
Santa Fe – Gligoric ahead of Szabo 
Beverwijk – Larsen and Petrosian 
Hastings – Gligoric and Bondarvesky 
Stockholm – Tal ahead of Uhlmann 
Leipzig Olympiad – Soviet Union (Tal, Botvinnik, Keres, Korchnoi, Smyslov, Petrosian) ahead of United States (Fischer, Lombardy, Byrne, Bisguier, Rossolimo, Weinstein) 
Buenos Aires - Reshevsky and Korchnoi ahead of Szabo 
Mar del Plata – Spassky and Fischer ahead of Bronstein