Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Journey Begins: Lone Pine Masters-Plus Tournament of 1975

The time machine has landed me in a small little remote town in the eastern part of California near the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The year is 1975 and 44 chess players are arriving in this town that is about 10 blocks long and three blocks wide. All the games were played at the Lone Pine Town Hall, which Mr. Statham had built for the sole purpose of the anual event.

Back in 1965, a wealthy engineer and inventor named Louis D. Statham, sold his home in Los Angeles to none other than Hugh Hefner to settle into a quieter location in Lone Pine. Statham was a correspondence player and had a modest Class A rating. He loved chess so much that he wanted some chess players around Lone Pine. So he set up a series of masters tournaments footing the entire bill!

He started this series in 1971 with GM Isaac Kashdan as Arbiter. Between 1971-1974 the participants were mostly American and Canadian with the exception of a couple Eastern Europeans traveling abroad.

In 1975, he cast the net further almost on a dare. “ How many GM’s could we bring to Lone Pine if we tried?” Lone Pine was building a reputation as one of the best known sites in the U.S. He raised the prized fund to $12,500 ( about double the prize money in European events) and offered to pay the travel expenses guaranteed against any prize money. To be fair, the local GM’s were given $600 in lieu of travel expenses.

That is why, in 1975, this turned out to be the strongest tournament of the year. Twenty-two GM’s came to Lone Pine. From the Philippines, came Eugene Torre a freshly minted GM. From Argentina, Miquel Quinterros arrived ( though he’d been in the Philippines prior). Israel brought Vladimir Liberon, Leonid Shamkovich who were both ex-Russians immigrating. They traveled with Alla Kushnir, the only female IM.

From Europe came nine GMs. Veterans of Lone Pine were Svetozar Gligoric from Yugoslavia (a good cross over from Zurich 1953) and Florrin Gheorghiu from Romania . Mata Damjanovic had to play two games in advance in a tournament in Birmingham, England because of a conflicting dates. From Hungary came, Isvtan Bilek, Istvan Csom and Gyoso Forintos. Iceland brought Gudmundur Sigurjonsson. Karl Robatsch came from Austria. Lothar Schmid of West Germany, was the chief arbiter of the Fischer-Spassky match in Iceland.

From Canada came Duncan Suttles and Abe Yanofsky. Oscar Panno and Hector Rosseto came from Argentina. Herman Pilnik came from Vennuzuela. From the U.S came Walter Borwne, Sam Reshevsky ( another veteran from Zurich 1953), Larry Evans and Pal Benko.
There were 11 International masters and 11 national masters. Included in this bunch were Jeremy Silman at 20 and Michael Rhodes at the tender age of 15. Arnold Denker and Arthur Drave were the elder statesmen at 61 and 65 respectively.

With 44 chessplayers in this sleepy little town, several small hotels were filled and chessplayers were seen all over in coffee shops, tennis courts and even getting hair cuts.

It wasn’t without effort that Statham tried to bring in former world champions from the soviet union. Three Czechoslovakians accepted only later to have the federation decline their invites. The speculation was that they were forced to follow the lead of the soviet’s boycott to this event because of the battles that came about from Fischer-Karpov match during that period.

So what is in store you may ask? I plan on following the games and biographies of the Grandmasters. I will most likely have a post or two on some of the more famous national/international masters as they also provided some wonderful upsets.

The tournament book I will reference is “Grandmaster Chess: The book of the Louis D. Statham Lone Pine Masters-Plus Tournament, 1975” by GM Isaac Kashdan and the staff of the California Chess Reporter. The games are lightly annotated and I have no PGN of the entire event to work from. If any of my readers can locate the raw games from this event and provide a link I’d be much obliged. I found one reference to a PGN of a Lone Pine 1975 but it turned out to be the wrong event. Beware of the file as it’s not the collection of games I am looking for though labeled as Lone Pine 1975. This turned out to be a different event of that year.

Back in 1975, chess informants were starting to become popular for opening preparation. Thus, Lone Pine 1975 happens the days before the generation of overly prepared openings through computer databases. Old fashioned preparation of reading books and building on the reputations of your predecessors was the mainstay here. We’ll be seeing a lot of Sicilians and English openings as they were the style of the day.

Gligoric was quoted as saying ( in the Chess Life and Review, July 1975) “ Lone Pine 1975 brought together an unusual gathering of people, some of whom had not met for ten or even twenty years. Naturally enough, the past was partly rebornat some of these chess boards, too.” He was referencing that many of the lines and systems which were popular in his youth were revived at Lone Pine. “At those rare moments when your commentator watches the ‘strange’ positions from the Two Knights Defense, Marshall Attack or Meran Defense, he cannot escape the queer, tender feeling of being refreshed by an old idea”

I’ll be entering all these games by hand into chess base, a labor of love. I will be providing commentary, descriptive annotations by the players and checking the variations with computer.

I hope you enjoy.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Twas the Knight before Checkmate

Twas the knight before Checkmate and across the board
There were advancing pawns like a marauding hoard
The queen said “ What pests!”
While the King replied “ I cannot rest”
When in his finachetto
The Bishop said “ I’ll send them back to their ghetto.”
And started to devise a plan that was grand
But with who might be partner for the stand
On Flank, on file and even if Fritzed-in
The pawns were well supported and rather well fixed-in
When in from the dark
The knight decided to hark
“ I will take fight with the lead thug,
I'll take down this wall of bugs”
“It’s suicide” the queen did shout.
The knight ignored them all and jumped about.
Down went the pawn in one blow indeed
The bishop joined in by the death of the steed
The queen saw an opening and took her stance.
“Check!” she said with mixed feelings and chance
The opposing King retreated at a hasty rate
The next move that came was a quick check mate.
All through the land, the feelings were not light
For all the king's peoples were saved by this brave and good Knight!

Merry Chessmas to all my readers

I’ll be resuming the Magical History tour sometime after Christmas with an intro to the Lone Pines tournament.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Taking out my frustrations over the board

I was matched with yet another Class A player ( near expert strength). I knew I was going to have black against him and found a game in my database where we had played before. It was an exchange C-K and I like the line with 5…Qc7 as it sets up some interesting dynamics. Last time we played I missed a nice little tactical maneuver after he played 6Qb3, Nxd4 can be played and creates some interesting dynamics. He chose to play 6.Ne2.

(60) (Class A 1900+) - Duval,G [Blunderprone]
Holiday Swiss,

B13: Caro-Kann: Exchange Variation and Panov-Botvinnik Attack 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.c3 Qc7 6.Ne2 Nf6 7.Bf4 e5

I was inspired to play this line as I had seen this before in study exchange variation C-K games with this line. 8.dxe5 Nxe5 9.0–0 Bd6 Black gets a very active position with the e5 advance. The game is no longer a closed position. 10.Bb5+ Bd7 11.Bxd7+ Qxd7 12.Nd4 0–0 13.Nd2

I played 13...Nd3 First, I want to let you know I had a horrible work day. I couldn't resist this hole and I really wanted to mess someone up after the bad day. [Safer would have been to play13...Rfe8 14.N2f3=] 14.Bxd6= Qxd6 15.Qc2 (position)

15…Nxf2 OK, in hindsight I should have played more conservative. But playing against a strong player gave me a chance to take some chances with very little to lose. The exchange I envisioned gave me a Rook and Pawn for the two pieces at the very least. At best I had a mate threat or a rook for a knight. So I decided to mix it up.

This did leave me with an IQP that was hard to defend in the middle game which I didn't take into consideration and should have. This was a lesson learned, and a new position for my daily training. [¹15...Qa6!?= is interesting] 16.Rxf2 [16.Nf5 Qb6 17.Rxf2 Ng4 18.Ne7+ Kh8±] 16...Ng4 17.N2f3 Nxf2 18.Qxf2 Rfe8 19.Re1 [19.Nf5 Qd7 20.N3d4 f6±] 19...Qf6 [19...Rxe1+ 20.Qxe1 Qd7 21.Qd2²] 20.Qg3 [20.Rf1 Rad8±] 20...Re4 [20...Rxe1+ 21.Qxe1 h6 22.Nh4] 21.Nd2 [¹21.Rf1 Rf4 22.Qh3²]
21...Rxd4? I saw a rook for two pawns and a knight. Again, in an IQP I should have played more conservatively but for some reason, this was more satisfying than winning. Creating an imbalanced game against a strong player and lasting to almost an endgame was rewarding in some sense. [¹21...Rxe1+ would allow Black to play on 22.Qxe1 Qb6] 22.cxd4+- Qxd4+ 23.Qf2 Qxb2 24.Nb3 [24.Qxa7 Rf8 (24...Rxa7?? 25.Re8#+-) 25.Nb3 h6±] 24...Qxf2+ [ I could have kept the queen on the board. 24...Qa3 25.Rd1±] 25.Kxf2 Kf8 26.Rc1 Re8 27.Rc5 Re5 28.Nd4 Ke8 29.Nb5 a6 [29...Rf5+ 30.Ke2 Rh5 31.h3±] 30.Nd6++- Kd7 31.Nxb7 f6 [31...Re6 32.Rc2 Rb6 33.Nc5+ Ke7 34.Ke3+-] 32.Rc2 Ke7 [32...f5 33.Nc5+ Kd6 34.Nxa6+-] 33.Nc5 [33.Rc7+!? seems even better 33...Kf8+-] 33...a5 34.Nd3 I totally went out to lunch on this move. I recall that 2 connected passed pawns in some positions are worth a rook. But they have to be on the 5th and 6th rank. On 6th and 7th you even have winning chances. I played the fool here and played 34… Ke6?? simply worsens the situation 35.Nxe5 fxe5 36.Ke3 d4 37.Ke4 h6 38.Rc4 g6 39.Ra4 0–1

No guts no glory. I took my lumps, satisfied that I didn’t play a timid game. I was clouded with a frustrating day at work and put on the fog lights of an attacking and imbalanced game of a chess instead. In this case, I veered off the road with little damage. But I did get a rush of adrenaline and sharpened my axe a little more.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Inglorious Blunders ( at the Harry Nelson Pillsbury Memorial)

ACIS Update:

Do check out Harvey as he has now started a Google group dedicated to the cause which will allow a better exchange of ideas and resources as we can up/down load files and share common useful links etc.

Tourney report:
I like the Harry Nelson Pillsbury Memorial held every Fall in Massachusetts as it’s a recognized Heritage event and has been held annually for over 25 years! It’s a Grand Prix event as well but since I am not a master, that has little importance for me ( this year). The format has changed over the years. This year, it was kept to a 1 day event with four rounds of a G60’s. This meant some serious yet fast action was about to happen on this Sunday following our American Thanksgiving.

We were blessed with team members from the famous Boston Blitz featuring, GM Eugene Perelshteyn and IM’s David Vigorito who tied for first place in the open section. FM Dennis Shmelov and Ilya Krasik, also Boston Blitz players, tied for 3rd and 4th place.

There were four sections for a modest turn out of 53 players in all three sections. I played in the Under 1900 section below is my round for round account of my games.

Round one loss to a Class A player:

I played the back side to an English opening that was more like a Reti when I responded 1…c6. I should have known better as I studied Reti in the New York 1924 series. I might have faired better had I played a line with Bf5 which Lasker used regularly to avoid the cramped complications I fell into. I really need to work on the transpositions. Two major issues came up in this came. The first, looking at the position below on Black’s move 10.

I wanted to advance c5 and keep the bishop as it was my only one “out of the gate”. But I ended up with a dumb position hemming in that bishop altogether. The chess engine suggests moving the knight to f8 as this will be handy later. I think even better is to exchange on d2. Where Black’s game is cramped and I want to lock the pawns on dark squares, having a pair of knights will be better. Plus White’s dark squared Bishop gets hemmed in now.

The second issue was a bad plan to remove White’s light squared bishop. A couple moves later, I created a battery with a queen and Bishop on the c8-h3 diagonal and went after White’s Bg2. Somewhere I had a notion that getting rid of the bishop would weaken White’s king position. True, in some cases with finachetto’s this is a good plan. The exception I overlooked was that it traded Black’s Active Bishop for White’s more passive one.

Round 2 win against a Class A player:

I played the White side against a Nimzo-Indian defense. I had been studying the Rubinstein variation since my New York 1924 studies and liked the games in Zurich 1953 with Taimanov playing some interesting ideas against Averbahk. Now my problem is that I play 6Nge2 in the more traditional sense of the Rubenstein meant to keep the q-side pawns from being messed up. The idea is to follow-up with f3 and e3-e4 especially once Black exchanges the bishop. By Zurich 1953, that line was replaced with a more aggressive 6Nf3 made popular after New york 1924 and became the main line. The idea is to allow the double c-pawn and get the bishops on both diagonals ( a1-h8 and b2-h7) in preparation for opening the center. I didn’t do that… was happy to settle with remember to play the bishop to D3 first and then said Nge2 must come next.

Regardless of this, I did manage a playable middle game as I had the opportunity to test Black’s ability to play an IQP. I sort of know how to attack and/or defend such a position. I recall my lessons’ Jorge Sammour-Hasbun in telling me the fundamental is that the endgame is more favorable for the player who doesn’t own the IQP. Exchanges then become favorable and the owner should avoid it. Black didn’t do much to prevent this in the game.

Blocking the square in front of the IQP also keeps it from advancing and getting traded to equalize or worse… become a decoy as a king side attack forms. The defender will place the rooks on both adjacent files ( as did my opponent in the game and I got my knight in front of the pawn. He missed a knight forking tactic on the other weakness on d6.

Round 3 win ( I should have lost) against a Class C player

You know, I was feeling pretty damn cocky. Round one wasn’t a total loss and I just beat a class A player. When this opponent played an Advanced variation, I decided on the spot to try something I had never tried before and played 3..c5. I read through this variation back in a day ( never played it)…but felt I could “think through this” OTB. By move 11 I was humbled with a Greek gift on h7:

Sucker punched, I hobbled my king in the corner for a few moves, desperately pulling in reinforcements in when I could. Then I had a chance 11 moves later and played this:

I got damn lucky. Note to self, don’t pick a tournament to “explore” a new line I was meaning to look into when I got a round to it.

Round 4 victory against a Class A player ( cinching the Class prize):

My opponent’s third round game was the last to finish and he ended up losing in a time scramble when he thought he had set his clock to correctly allow the 5 second delay. He was rattled as he challenged my 1d4 witrh 1..c5. “Crap, a Benoni”, I thought. This time, because of my training positions, I made sure I had some from previous “lessons” and managed to survive the opening without any traps. It did give Black a slight advantage in piece mobility. I decided to handle the game as a hypermodern positioning my bishops as Black expanded in the center with pawns. Black’s d-pawn became backward and I was given a chance to exchange pieces and win the pawn.
In turn Black had the bishop pair in an open position giving me a pawn advantage if I made it to the end game. To my surprise, Black exchanges one of his bishops for my knight on b5. This gave me more mobility and then he totally hung a piece. He clearly was still rattled from the previous match.

I finished with 3 points to clear the under 1750 class prize and did a happy dance with my BIG money winnings of $75.

Lessons I learned:
1) Learn your openings enough to get to a middle game you can play.
2) Recognizing and being comfortable with certain middle game themes like IQP and minority attacks can be beneficial if I come out of the opening a little less than equal.
3) Don’t try anything new.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Part 4: Putting it all together

But first things first , the A.C.I.S. Update:

I’ve added a couple new comers to the list on the side. Please take some time to welcome these folks.

Wrimle to the fray. He’s working on board vision. Make sure you check out his simple declaration.

The Scheming Mind also is new and seeks to transition from correspondence chess to OTB and outlines a nice plan that fits in with a busy person’s lifestyle of work and School.

Tempo waxes philosophically over middle game to end game transitions and breaks it down in his mind’s eye.

Steve channels Sherlock Holmes and solves a mystery of an extra pawn.

Linux Guy posted some games from his recent “lessons” at the American Open .These are some fine games and if you scroll down, he offers a contrasting picture of two types of players at this event Pitting MDLM against Positional players who’ve taken the time to study Z53. ( LG, I fit in both categories!)

“Pumpkin Chunkin” rook ( since it’s close to T-day), has some more of his nifty GIF animations on some memory chunks of a Scotch game. I have to learn that.

It’s nice to see the new comers. I try to keep the door wide open for all who seek to declare an improvement plan and dare blog about. In return, we will off support and encouragement in your journey. Huzzah!

Positive Reinforcement:

So I have to report that since I made my 440 positions, I’ve played several games this month. Seven of these games were against Class A players. In the last week, I’ve managed to defeat 3 class A players in a row. I’ve been playing once a week at the chess club and on Sunday, November 29th, I played at one of my favorite events, The Harry Nelson Pillsbury Memorial. I finished with 3 wins out of 4 games earning the U1750 cash prize, but my wife needn’t worry about me quitting my day job…just yet.

The Jury is still out on whether my new training regimen had a great deal to do with it or am I just rebounding from my really bad slump and this is just the laws of averages working here. Nonetheless, it’s the most positive reinforcement I’ve had to date on this process of improvement. Earlier in the month, my USCF rating was at an abysmal ( for me) 1618. After Sunday and after picking up some points at the close of the Club’s monthly event, I jumped up to 1723. My all time highest is 1755 I had earlier in the year. So this is where my cautious optimism comes from. Earlier in the year, I had a goal of breaking 1800 by the end of the year. I just might have a chance of doing that depending on how I end December with at the club. I’ll be happy meeting my 1755 high.

Putting it in motion

Of the 440 positions, I had a set of 55 positions form my most recent games I went over daily. At first it took me over an hour. By the event, I had this down under a half hour and hitting them at 100%. I also took the 50 positions created from my repertoire database out lined in part 3 and reviewed them 3 times ( every other day before the event). One day, I did all 105 and plowed through another 20 positions of the games studies. In particular, I couldn’t resist going over the games of Hastings 1895 in preparation of the Harry Nelson Pillsbury Memorial. It just seemed like the thing to do.

I am now in the process of weeding out my “daily dose” and moving the easier ones into the “once a week” review group. I am adding the recent games and pulling in some positional studies from the Zurich 1953. This is a work in progress as I fine tune this.

I will do some opening maintenance and pull some new positions to study as I broaden my scope. These will be reviewed 2 or 3 times a week. I am shooting for a complete Brain Burner once a month with the entire set but this will take time. As I add new positions to the “daily dose” I have to build up my experience and keep the time to under an hour.

So my formula is to have 50-ish daily, 50-ish opening rep training every other day on top of the daily dose. Once a week add 20 or more of the positional studies from the master game collections and eventually build of a rep of 50 of these to do once a week. The goal is to get the easier ones moved to the monthly brain burner.

In the near future, I will be posting a couple of the recent games as some were pretty spectacular with inglorious blunders on both sides. For instance, I almost lost one game against a lower rated player because I got cocky and played a variation of a defense I never played before! Next thing I knew I was subjected to a Greek gift and almost mated.

In general, where I won my games was all in tactics. Tactics I recognized over the board because I was comfortable enough knowing the positions.

One last tip I will throw out there is that I use my training database in 3D format so I can visualize the moves better. That was one thing I learned back when I was a Knight Errant. CT-ART was all 2D and I had the hardest time transposing to OTB.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving : A.C.I.S. Update

HI everyone. In America, today is holiday that is meant to remind us of all the things to be grateful for. I hope all of you enjoy this day as well as my readers outside the USA.

I am grateful for the energy the A.C.I.S. of Caissa movement is experiencing.

Loomis is chugging along a la MDLM, brushing off the CT-ART rust. He’s such a classic.

Bannat is trying real hard to break the USCF 1200 barrier. Wish this improver some luck.

Chess Tiger has an interesting game where he plays a Colle-Zuckertort against some 1…b5 line. He’s looking for some feedback. Get you annotation pens out.

Chunky rook has amazing animated chess graphics ( How does he do it) and bemoans an inglorious blunder.

Harvey is new to the quest and seems to be trying out my database suggestions as he files off some rough edges. Please, pay him a visit and welcome him.

Steve Eddins psoted his first training position created in Chess base ( using his Chess Imager utility to display the position on his blog)

Wahreit gets all philosophical. Let him know why imporoving is a quest for you. And then enjoy the Cake he serves up J

I’ve had a couple others on the close fringes of joining “the movement” asking about what plans and others just don’t want to advertise and that’s fine too.

As for me, I am gearing up for the Harry Nelson Pillsbury memorial. MY database already grew to 440 positions. I have gone through the first 60 positions every day with increasing results. I plan on having a daily hit list and a weekly mash with more problems and a once a month brain burner where I go through the whole set. I also took the advice from one of my readers to start using category names so people can find this under ACIS. I went back only as far as the Zurich series and created category tags for that series as well.

Hope the tryptophan is off set by coffee. Set up the pieces!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Part 3: Finding training patterns in your Repertoire

In part 1 I proclaimed my new training regimen which basically consists of creating a personalized set of positions from my own games, repertoire and study material.

In Part 2 I showed you how I used chess base to create my own training positions to have a set of tactical and positional puzzles themed from my own games.

In this entry I will show you how I develop a repertoire data base and how I use this to create study positions.

But first a brief update on the growing A.C.I.S of Caissa movement:

Following an action from the playbook of Loomis, I plan on keeping the ACIS of Caaissa updates limited to THIS blog and not on my mirrored site at the greater community at I like the smaller closer circle of friends here as it tends to promote a more supportive environment. The "how to" stuff will get forward to

Unlike the brutish Knight’s errant DLM movement of the mid ‘00’s, A.C.I.S. of Caissa is proving to be more accessible to the “common folk” as the final circles of the MDLM method was just unreachable if you work, have a family and want to practice good hygiene. If the truth be known, most of the knights errant had modified the MDLM method to smaller circles and approached it in a more realistic manner.

Loomis has joined in this universalistic approach and proclaims to be Baaaack.

Steve (learn’s chess) Eddins is firing up the blog to declare his mission and thoughts.

Chunky Rook has fired off a series of gif patterns worth checking out on his blog

Linuxguy reviews a game he played on FICS and shows appreciation to having studied Zurich 1953

And finally, Chess tiger was lulled into this quest with this line:

What pulled my attention is that one may choose his or her own study plan. So
one isn't pushed towards Rapid Chess Improvement of Michael De La Maza or How to Reassess Your Chess from Jeremy Silman or Novice Nook written by Dan Heisman orInternational Chess School (ICS) or Lev Albert's Chess Course or ... . This is a good thing because for all we know, all combined may bring a bigger outcome chess wise then following only one of these courses.

Building a repertoire database.

I use chess base for a lot of reasons. One of the things I’ve done was create a blunder-rep database with games centered around my openings I play. First, I pull in games that I have studied from the classic tournaments that are in any shape or form close to what I play in my chess games.

Hastings 1895, London 1924 and Zurich 1953 is not enough resources for what I am looking for. There are several ways to approach this. You can set up a position using chessbase and use the search online tool to pull games from their huge inventory. I find this tedious as I haven’t found a clean way to import the large volume of games as a result of this method. The best I was able to achieve was dumping them all into one huge game file or saving each one individually. I will use this method to find key players ( grandmasters) who play this variation but not as a means to build the volume I seek for the purpose of building a training database.

I wanted a quicker method to build the base up. I use google to search for PGN or CBH data bases of specific variations. There are several websites that fill this gap. will allow a search for the position and provide a collection of games to download as PGN. Chessopolis ( is another resource I use frequently and they actually have CBH files that can import directly to Chess base. There are plenty more if you search.

The trouble with “canned” data sets from some of these places is the quality of games are littered with amateur games. But my philosophy at this stage in my improvement path is that I can still learn from these amateurs.

Panning for gold.

Once you have a repertoire database built up, the next step is to use the search capability of chess base to find positions to study.

Finding Traps in the opening to avoid or inflict:

The first thing I do is to find the opening traps I want to avoid. I will set the search to find the games that end in 15 moves or less where the side I would most likely play loses.

I will create training positions described in my previous post for each of the unique wins. Some are duplicates and worth skipping over. What you get is a clear pattern of what not to play in certain lines. Optionally, you could run the engine on each of these to get some annotations and ideas what to play. I merely reference my books and make a quick note where to improve and what not to play. The opening tactical trap becomes the positional study that I solve for the aggressor. Then I look at the notes in the game centered around the failing position. This is where having an amateur database comes in handy as you will more likely have a lot of examples to chose from.

On the flip side, from the same repertoire base I will change the search to games where my side wins and repeat the process. The result will build up tactical positions found in the openings of my games that I can inflict if my opponent doesn’t play exactly in this line. Positional themes start to come about from these and I get a better understanding of the opening.

Finding Mating themes:

Another search I will conduct in the bluder-rep is to find those games that have ended definitively with a check mate. To weed out the previous search I set the move order to a range greater than 15 to include the long games. I go through the same process of looking at wins for both sides to see the kind of attacks typical from both perspectives. I then create training positions from these making notes of the type of attack as a memory marker for the pattern.

For added measure I use the same filter but instead of definitive mates, I search for results being my side to win. This will include winning endgame positions to come about in my games with higher probability.

Middle game positions:

There’s no way around this but to review games against masters who play the same openings in your repertoire. I am building on this with my tournament games studies and include several positions from each of the highlighted games.

So far I have just over 100 positions as I build upon this. I think it’s a good start. I’d like to build this to at least 500 by Spring, but I don’t want to get stuck in the process before using it. 100 problems to start with will be a good litmus for the upcoming Pillsbury Memorial here at the end of the month.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

D.I.Y. ( Do It Yourself) CT-ART

In my last post, a movement was started in terms of Adult Chess Improvement Seekers. The movement has morphed from the ashes of the old Knights Errant to a new form that is calling itself A.C.I.S ( pronounced as Axis) of Caissa. A few bloggers have thrown their hats in to the ring to claim “membership” in this method-agnostic quest to improve ones play that is individually tailored to suit your ability and keep you seeking. The demographic seems to be mostly adult amateur players stuck in a non-master level ELO rating. The only real requirement is that you establish a method you can sign up for and blog about your journey. More details will follow as this movement is still on the ground floor. If you identify with this and feel like becoming a part of a growing community, state your quest on your blog and give us a glimpse of your chosen method by dropping a comment with a link. I will add you to a growing link list. I ask you do the same. ( The link list will be on my home and not necessarilly on my mirrored site on

Here are a few ACIS of Caissa members to consider to date ( note:If I left you out, it was entirely unintentional) :

Wang : States his claim and starts talking

Whareit is ROCKING the world with his claim ( and nice Eddie Van Halen clip)

ChunkyRook : stakes a very well thoguht out claim on "yet another improvement post"

LinuxGuy is foucsing on endgames and developing calculation skills

Continuation of my Quest:

I mentioned in my last post that I am looking at creating my own pattern training database so I can do a “circles” method training. This will consist of a mix of positions from my own games, reference games in my repertoire database and positions from my games studies. This week I will talk about the mechanics of creating training positions using Chessbase. Next time I will talk about building a reference/repertoire database and how to I plan to use it to create training positions for my “BP-ART”.

Choosing games and first entry into the database:

An integral part of my plan involves playing games on a regular basis. I can play on ICC, or other online servers, but I am mainly going to focus harvesting positions form serious OTB games played under arbitration of a tournament or club event that gets rated. Going over your very own wins and losses is a very important aspect of training. I have a database of my games dating back a few years. I have decided to select only the games where I changed my white repertoire in 2008 on forward as it is most pertinent to my immediate improvement.

How am I coming up with positions in my own games? Some are rather obvious. Taking time to go over the game with my opponent after a match provides the first line of input. I am practicing to improve my annotations during this phase as my thinking as well as my opponent’s is very fresh and provides valuable insight in certain positions.

I start by entering the games in Chessbase, I will start with self annotations based on the post mortem analysis. ( see picture below). I double click the position to annotate and enter the text. If I want to add text before the move, I “right click” and select Add text before. This may seem basic to most my readers but for others just navigating around CB tools, I hope this helps.

After I enter my self annotations and commentary, I then use a chess Engine like Fritz or Rybka to run the full analysis. I make sure I select “save old annotations” so not to over write my original mark up. I also use the “replace” otherwise I end up with all kinds of extra games in the database.

Finding Positions for training.

After the analysis, typically a critical position comes out. Often the post mortem has a critical position I want to recall. The resulting analysis from the chess engine will also typically pop out a few blunder checks. If the game was tight, I look at the various evaluations and look for when the equal sign starts to shift in the other direction and look at that position for clues.

I will also check to see how far down the line we went in an opening variation. I may create a position from this discovery if I feel a need to improve that aspect of the game.

The Ideal game will have a training position for the opening, middle game and endgame. In reality, I have games that were clearly decided in the opening stage. Not much else to learn in the crash and burn that followed unless a good defensive maneuver was passed.

Making Training positions:

First thing I do is create a new database specifically for training positions as I use the games database to harvest positions. This is an important step to really get the CT-ART like action. From the games database, in a selected position from one of the games, I then use the right mouse button selected over the move. I select over the “Special annotation” and it opens another drop down list. From there I select “Training annotation”

A box pops up and you can enter any text you wish. The score is usually automatically set for 10 points. Often I have a position that branches into a better variation. When that happens, the list of moves will include it. The mainline ( the bad move I made) is automatically set at a score of 10. To make the winning variation a the correct choice in training, I select the top move and demerit the score to 0 and the winning variation I increase to 10.

Now, the other thing I will do is delete moves prior and after that critical position. This helps for the focus. You can do this easily with Right Mouse Button , scroll over Delete and select from the list of options. Then I do a “save as” and select the training data base to stor the position as it will keep the whole game intact in my games database so I can go back for future reference.

A dialog box will open asking for game information, Typically this has been filled during the games entry phase. What I would like to suggest is in the “annotators” tab, you enter a “head line”. It’s no coincidence that my sample position is against none other than Rolf Wetzell, author of the book “Become Master at any age”. This is my modern version of doing flash cards. Setting the headline in the annotator’s index allows it to appear in the headline. Don’t forget to save.

Next time I will continue this series with how to build a repertoire to add opening positions to the training database.

I hope you find this helpful as some of my readers were asking about building their own training database. Again, this is only one aspect of my new regimen. I have just begun to enter positions and almost have 50 positions set up from my own games. My goal is to get to about 500 positions in my database with a mix from my own games, my tailored opening repertoire and of course the magical history tour positions that are most pertinent to my games.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Adult Chess Improvement Seekers ( ACIS)

I will be stepping out of the time machine between now and through the holidays. Partly because I am waiting for Christmas before I pick up my next tournament book ( Dear Santa, I want the Grandmaster Chess: The Book of the Louis D. Statham Lone Pine Masters-Plus Tournament 1975 for Christmas).

There is a large community of adult chess improvement seekers out there. You know who you are. I believe improvement is still out there for us old dogs as long as we are willing to put in the right effort. Coaching is a big benefit but if you are like me, sometimes, the financial resources aren’t there. Which books to buy, what method to choose and how to train vary with the individual ACIS.

In a recent post by Eric, aka Blue Devil Knight. The question of whether the ill famed cult of the knight errants DLM have died off. In brief, and for you new comers, a Knight Errant DLM is basically an improvement seeker who has attempted to follow ( loosely) the Rapid Chess Improvement method of Michael De La Maza by doing what I call the seven circles of hell. There was a blog community that had formed as a result and for the chess blog-osphere… this was a viral moment. Like a moth to a flame, I too, did the MDLM method and saw moderate results ( gaining roughly 300 USCF… warning results vary widely).

Most of us realized the original author was unemployed and could focus the time and effort to reach the 400 points in 400 days idea. The rest of us did modifications according to our real world experience. For instance, I chose a concentric circle method, doing each level of CT-ART 3.0 seven times before advancing to the next level. MDLM, suggests doing all 9 levels sequentially and repeating it 7 times decreasing the allotted time by one half ( roughly). Some felt a smaller set of circles was more beneficial and others used a different set of tactical problems… like How to beat your dad in chess.

The plus side of this method is that it is a brute force way to etch a bunch of tactical patterns in your noggin especially if you score poorly in tactics in the first place. The repetitious nature of the MDLM method is a good way to ultimately a good way to increase your base of pattern recognition into long term memory. In his landmark book, Thought and Choice in Chess. Adriaan de Groot determined the fundamental difference between Master and amateur was the ability to recall these patterns. A master is in order of magnitude greater than that of an amateur thus, underscoring the idea of finding a way to improve your base of patterns to recall. De Groot’s study was lot more complicated than that but I don’t want to digress from the plus side of having some kind of method to increase you ability to recall and play with confidence a certain number of positions.

Aside from the outrageous time commitment ( which can be dialed down to practical real-life terms), the down side to the MDLM method is that it’s like pheasant hunting with a canon. Once the circles are completed you may recall only a few of the patterns. This is because in practice, you only use a small subset of those patterns. The rest never or so rarely occur that they don’t make it into long term memory. Sustaining the 1000 tactical patterns in memory is not realistic with this method. You lose it if you don’t use it.

What should one do? I believe the answer requires picking the right problem set for the individual. The best results would be to study patterns and positions that occur in your regular games based on your opening repertoire. Notice how I also say patterns and positions and not necessarily tactics alone. I believe you have to include the whole game. Making the right choice in an opening, middle game and endgame requires an understanding of position and patterns.

I point back to Adriaan De Groot. He believed players went through four stages to determine the right move:

Stage one: “Orientation phase” requires the player to assess the situation and determine generally what to do next. Now, whether you use a method like Silman’s imbalances or Nimzovitche’s system … there is a requirement to recognize patterns here.

Stage two: “Exploration Phase” is the calculation phase and Kotov’s Think like a Grandmaster “tree of analysis” is a good example of this. Does pattern recognition help here? Sure it does. In order to evaluate a branch in your head, if you can recognize a winning position that can be reached it saves time OTB.

Stage three: “Investigation phase” is where the subject actually chooses a line to play as the “best move” and then Stage four is the “Proof phase” where the player confirms the choice being valid.

Here is what I plan on doing over the next couple months and will blog on my progress and efforts.

1) I will select a personal set of problems based on my recent games and put them into chess base using the training position tool and setting scores based on complexity. These will mostly come from my losses and even some wins.
2) I will create opening training positions where I have difficulties
3) I will use chess base to filter miniatures out of the database based on my specific repertoire. I will create additional problems to add from these.
4) I will select games from my previous historical games studies that pertain to my openings I encounter and find specific middle and endgame positions that are most beneficial to my repertoire.
5) As the data base grows, I will apply the circles training method ala MDLM.
This is a work in progress subject to modifications. My next post will be on the mechanics of setting up my own problems using chess base as I work on the first item.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Zurich 1953: Vasily Smyslov, A night at the Opera with the Winner

Vasily Smylsov was born March 24, 1921 in Moscow and learned to play chess from his father at the age of 6. His father was a good player. That and his father’s library created the foundation of this contender. He was a tenor opera singer. Had it not been for his narrowly failing an audition for the Bolshoi Opera in 1950, he might never had made it to Zurich 1953. He once said, “ I have always lived between chess and music”. He once sang operatic extracts on Swiss radio and during the interval of a serious chess game against Botvinnik he sang to an audience of thousands.

In 1938, at 17, he showed some promise as he won the USSR Junior Championship and tied for 1st and 2nd place in the Moscow city Championship. During WWII, international tournaments were very limited. He placed 3rd in the 1940 USSR Championship ahead of Botvinnik. . He won the 1942 Moscow Championship and finished strong in several other regional events.

Despite hitting a post war slump between the period of 1945 -46 with up and comers like Bronstein, Keres and Botvinnik at his heels, his earlier results earned him a place in the Howard Staunton memorial in August of 1946. He finished in third place. For the next couple of years, his results showed a consistent pattern of high finishes against strong company, but with virtually no tournament championships. Smyslov had never actually won an adult tournament other than the Moscow City Championship, before he played in the 1948 World Championship Tournament.

How did he get to Zurch?

Smyslov was one of the five players selected to compete for the 1948 World Chess Championship tournament to determine who should succeed the late Alexander Alekhine as champion. His selection was questioned in some quarters, but this criticism was amply rebutted when he finished second behind Mikhail Botvinnik, with a score of 11/20.

Finishing second seeded him in the 1950 Budapest Candidates Tournament but finished behind Bronstein and Boleslavsky. FIDE granted him the International Grandmaster title in 1950 on its inaugural list.

The third place finish in 1950 seeded him into the 1953 Candidates match in Zurich. To recap, he was a pretty good player back in a day under local competition, showed that he could fight like the big guns in international play though not quite a first place finish, could make the opera, and was a freshly minted GM in 1950 seeded into both cycles of candidates matches.

Enter Zurich 1953. After his win against Euwe in round 3, he takes an early lead in the match. This game was a pendulum swinging back and forth. Smyslov played the black side of a Grunfeld and forced Euwe into an IQP dynamic. Euwe had a lot of theoretical preparation for the line and moves ahead with marching the d-pawn. Euwe follows up with an exchange sacrifice that gives him a couple of passed pawns, one being very advanced. Smyslov finds the move that underscores the very weakness of the advanced pawn on d6. In a resourceful maneuver, Euwe attempts a decoy to draw the rook away. Finally, Smyslov accurate play leaves Euwe with a slight inaccuracy that allows Black to come hammering down on the material. He defeats Euwe in both occurrences in this match ( again in round 18). This was the confidence builder he needed. In contrast to the Howard Staunton Memorial where he finished behind the former World Champion, this was the boost he needed.

By round 8, the American was taking the lead. The expectation in round 10 was to see a huge battle. Instead, both players were more into reconnaissance of the other players and saving their major battle for the second have. Indeed, by round 25, Smyslov was leading by ½ a point. Reshevsky needed the win. Smyslov had White and opens with the Reti, which REshevsky had a prepared line that pitched his knights against the Bishop pair. The middle game was a heated dance with neither side conceding to a draw. Then , on move 33, Smyslov plays Rc2 because it prepares a battery on the long diagonal and opens the position up in favor of White.

Prior to this round, Smyslov faces off with Keres in round 24. Keres, with white, launches a strong rook attack on Smyslov’s king side. Had he made a couple more supportive moves ( blocking the Balck King’s escape) he might have actually gotten the point. Smyslov sees through Keres’ rook sacrifice and passes on it to play a more accurate move that opens up the diagonal, the d-file, and strong points in the center. In the first half of the tournament, in round 9, Smyslov put Keres under cross fire in an inferior QGD.

His victory in Rounds 24 and 25 cinched the victory as he entered round 26 a full pont nad a half ahead of Reshevsky. By round 27 he maintains a 2 point lead only to shrink ny ½ point in one round by Bronstein in round 28. On October 23, 1953, he finished round 30 with 18 points in a clear 2 points ahead of Bronstein, Keres and Reshevsky.


Following the Candidates match, he faced Botvinnik. After 24 games ending in a drawn match, Botvinnik retained his title. The next interzonal cycle had him seeded once again for the 1956 Candidates Match in Amsterdam. He won that match again with another shot at the World Champion. Assisted by trainers Vladimir Makogonov and Vladimir Simagin, Smyslov won by the score 12.5-9.5. The following year, Botvinnik exercised his right to a rematch, and won the title back with a final score of 12.5-10.5. Smyslov later said his health suffered during the return match, as he came down with pneumonia, but he also acknowledged that Botvinnik had prepared very thoroughly.[2]Over the course of the three World Championship matches, Smyslov had won 18 games to Botvinnik's 17 (with 34 draws), and yet he was only champion for a year.

Smyslov continued to play in other World Championship Qualifiers though he never ended up qualifying for another World Championship. Even at the age of 62, he played in the Candidates Final in 1982. He lost to Gary Kasparov who went on to defeat Karpov, the World Champion at that time.

End notes:
This concludes my biographical study on this historic series on the Zurich 1953 Candidates match. Right now I will park the Delorean and tune her up for my next journey. The time machine is being calibrated for the late 1970’s. Stay tuned to see where I land next.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Zurich 1953: David Bronstein, Attack with Defense

David Ionovich Bronstein was born on February 19, 1924 in Bila Tserkva (near Kiev) in Ukraine. He learned to play chess at the age of six from his grandfather. He was trained by an International Master, Alexander Konstantinopolsky as a youth. At age 15, he came in second place at the Kiev championship. He earned a Master’s title at age 16.

Upon graduating high school, WWII broke out and interrupted his plans to study Mathematics at Kiev University. After the war, he attended Leningrad Polytechnical Institute for one year. Chess took precedent over his studies. In 1944, he defeated the Soviet Champion, Mikhail Botvinnik at the USSR Championship. This launched him into playing on the Soviet team during the famous 1945 USSR versus USA Radio Chess Match.

It was during the 1948 interzonals in Saltsjobaden where he won the tournament that earned him a grandmaster title. The win earned him a spot in the 1950’s Candidates match in Budapest. His best friend, Boleslavsky and David both won the match and had to endure a play off. He beat Boleslavsky and went on to contest Botvinnik for the Championship. The Moscow World Championship Match in 1951 ended in a draw ( 12-12) and Botvinnik retained the title. He came real close to taking the title leading by a full point by game 22. Speculation about Bronstein being forced to lose the match was rumored. He was quoted as saying ( in his book, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice:
"I have been asked many, many times if I was obliged to lose the 23rd game and if there was a conspiracy against me to stop me from taking Botvinnik's title. A lot of nonsense has been written about this. The only thing that I am prepared to say about all this controversy is that I was subjected to strong psychological pressure from various origins and it was entirely up to me to yield to that pressure or not."
And a little further in the book:
“I had reasons not to become the World Champion, as in those times such a title
meant that you were entering an official world of chess bureaucracy with many
formal obligations. Such a position is not compatible with my character.”
In any case, his results in 1951 entitled him as a seed into the candidates match here in Zurich 1953.

I’ll cut to the chase. In the previous post I mentioned about the conspiracies lurking at Zurich. In round 12 , we have Paul Keres as Black against Bronstein. Move 5 is suspect as well as further along when Keres willingly exchanges his strong king side defender, the dark squared bishop, and pretty much hands Bronstein the game. The comment Bronstein makes on this move is “ a little too straightforward, an opinion Black soon comes to share himself.”, is a little revealing in a subtle way.

It is move 14..Bd4+ which forces the exchange and allows White to dominate the king side that I find most suspect. Bronstein’s previous quote about chess bureaucracy may have resonated with Keres here. By round 12, the fix was in for either Bronstein or Smyslov to take down the American, Reshevsky.

Going into round 13, Reshevsky was undefeated and in the lead a full point and a ½. Bronstein was under extreme pressure to WIN. Bronstein plays the King’s Indian as black, a strong defense and very well theorized by the author. It starts down a common KID with lots of maneuvering. Reshevsky tries to cash in on an initiative in the center preparing an exchange sacrifice with a mating combination. Instead, Bronstein exchanges off the strongest attacker, the knight. After the dust settles, Reshevsky offers a draw but Bronstein brings it home with a very sharp and instructional Queen versus opposite bishops endgame. At a tense moment, both sides were avoiding queen exchanges due to mutual annihilation. It ends with White being Zugzwanged. This win closed the gap to only ½ point difference between Reshevsky and him.

They meet again in round 28. By this time, Smyslov was in clear first place with 16 points and Reshevsky and Bronstein were even with 14 ½ points. The heat was still on. They go into a main line Ruy Lopez 18 moves before Bronstein takes the first detour. He plays 18 g3 to prevent Black from landing on f3 with a knight. The middle game then struggled around White preventing black from landing his knight on d3 while trying to land his own on d5. Reshevsky offered draws on several occasions as time pressure loomed. Bronstein plays a trap against the American under time pressure and it works. Black was forced to give up the exchange ( rook) or face being mated.

These three games were the highlight of the drama and tensions felt at the Zurich event. I’d like to point out one of the other nice wins that has some technical merit. His first round win against Taimanov was a nice Benoni with a queen side attack with Bronstein playing a pawn sacrifice in the opening. The b5 line undermined White’s d5 advance and opened the a- and b-files for a marauding raid on the queenside.


The concession of placing second was to write the epic tournament book that is still instructional today. He qualified for the 1955 Goteborg Interzonals and landed a another near miss at the Candidates match in 1956 Amsterdam where he tied for third through seventh place behind runner up Keres and winner Smyslov. He had to Qualify for the 1958 Interzonal in Portoroz but didn’t make it to the candidates match in 1959 by ½ point. He missed the next round of zonal qualifiers in 1962 as well.

Bronstein was also a six times winner of the Moscow Championships, and represented the USSR at the Olympiads of 1952, 1954, 1956 and 1958, winning board prizes at each of them, and losing just one of his 49 games in those events. Along the way he won four Olympiad team gold medals. In the 1954 team match against the USA (held in New York), Bronstein scored an almost unheard-of sweep at this level of play, winning all four of his games on second board.

He had successes in other international events like Hastings 1953-54, Belgrade 1954, Gotha 1957, Moscow 1959, Szombathely 1966, East Berlin 1968, Dnepropetrovsk 1970, Sarajevo 1971, Sandomierz 1976, Iwonicz Zdrój 1976, Budapest 1977, and Jūrmala 1978.

His greatest legacy in my opinion was in his books. Zurich International Chess Tournament 1953 reached the largest circulation and he continued to write until his 70’s with The Sorcerer’s Apprentice being an autobiographical section along with games that amplify the ideas behind the player’s moves. His work gives insight to a romantic vision of chess.

His contributions to several openings extends this legacy with special regards to his work on the king’s Indian defense.

Bronstein was a chess visionary. He was an early advocate of speeding up competitive chess, and introduced a digital chess clock which adds a small time increment for each move made, a variant of which has become very popular in recent years. ICC wouldn’t have some of the time limits today had it not been for this genius.

He was married three times. His first wife was Olga Ignatieva, a Soviet woman International Master, and they had one son. Little is know about his second wife Marina Viktorovna. He was divorced in the mid 1960’s. Then, in 1984, he married Tatiana Boleslavsky, the daughter of best friend GM Isaac Boleslavsky.

His health was in decline in his last couple of years, suffering from high blood pressure. He died on December 5, 2006 in Minsk, in the arms of his wife Tatiana.

“I still wonder why people in general have respect only for world champions and not for all chess players,” he wrote. “Is it not clear that we all play the same game of chess?”

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Zurich 1953: Possible Conspiracies and Controversies.

In my previous post on Paul Keres, I made a reference to some controversy about game fixing at the Zurich 1953. A couple of readers posted comments and links to articles that seemed to substantiate more behind the scenes activities around this. I felt remiss in not elaborating early. This was in part by my attempt to keeping the perspective to just the games and the brief biographies of the players. This didn’t provide the correct vantage point. It is like peering through a key hole to watch a parade. I thought I’d use this post to climb up on top of the rook and attempt to provide some perspective on the topic of Soviet domination in chess, the Cold War, and the KGB, from still a limited perspective.

Background: the rise of Soviet Dominance in Chess ( 1920’s through late 1940’s)

First, I’d like to point to an article that appeared recently in the Slate: . Christopher Beam’s article, titled, Red Squares, Why are the Russians so good at chess? Postulates that since the Bolshevik revolution, it became a national pastime that was subsidized. Vladimir Lenin’s supreme commander of the Soviet Army, Nikolay Krylenko, laid the foundations for state sponsored chess. This opened the doors to chess schools and state run tournaments. It was promoted as a vehicle for international dominance. Alekhine was the first Russian to win a world championship.

At this time, FIDE used a complicated “London Rule” to determine the Champion ( per request of Capablanca). That being: the first player to win 6 games would win the match and the former champion would have a year to defend his title. In addition to this, the challenger had to raise $10,000 for prize money. The Soviet union refused to join FIDE mainly because of the financial requirements for the world championship matches. Had it not been for an Argentina businessman backing Alekhine, the match would never havee occurred. But in 1927, Alexander did manage to defend Jose Capablanca for the title and changes were being put in place on the conditions for future challengers.

Without getting into too much further mud with the FIDE’s changing landscape over the debate of determining challengers either by commission or the Dutch proposal, I’d rather focus on what the soviets were proposing. The Dutch solution, the AVRO 1938 tournament, brought together the best players in the world. Paul Keres won this on a tie break against the American, Reubin Fine. Mikhail Botvinik came in third. Botvinik challenged Alekhine for the World championship immediately following the 1938 tournament. Keres also challenged the world champion and both had the $10,000 prize fund. The problem was World War II broke out. Estonia was in a tug of war with German-Nazi occupation for a period and then back the USSR by the end of the war. Negotiations with Botvinik were sustained but Keres was prevented by the Soviets on the grounds that he had collaborated with the Germans during their occupation of Estonia. ( he played in a tournament while under German occupation). Ultimately, Capablanca’s challenge to the title was accepted and the rival’s were to play in Buenos- Aires in 1940. They never got a chance to play the match due to travel restrictions during WWII.

As for Keres, keep in mind the severity of the Stalinism and ideologies of the Cold War. In WWII, Red Army soldiers, if captured by the Germans and later freed, would often be shot by their own army on grounds of ideological contamination. Now, Keres was neither a soldier or a defector. Playing in Nazi-organized tournaments while Estonia was under German occupation and later suspected him of assisting anti-Soviet Estonian Patriots definitely clouded Paul’s ability to challenge the World title. By virtue of AVRO 1938, he had the right to challenge Alekhine for the World title. With Estonia now back under USSR control, Keres had to stand aside while his country man, Botvinnik, challenged the World Champion ( despite placing third in AVRO).

FIDE’s decision to allow the match with Capablanca (though they never played) did not bode well with a country who’s national pastime was sense of pride. Following the War and shortly after, Alekhine’s death, a interregnum made the normal procedure of challenger versus contender impossible. Problems with money and travel checkered FIDE’s decisions on how to proceed. The Soviet Union realized it could not afford to be left out of the discussions about the vacant world championship, and in 1947 sent a telegram apologizing for the absence of Soviet representatives and requesting that the USSR be represented in future FIDE Committees.

The people’s hero: Mikhail Botvinnik:

As the USSR joined the discussion, Mikhail Botvinik put a proposal based on the 1938 AVRO tournament with the omissions of the late Alekhine and Capablanca dignitaries. The proposal ended up defining the three year cycle which the challengers to the World Champion would be selected. The 1948 world championship match ended up being a five player quintuple round robin event with the following players: Max Euwe (from Holland); Mikhail Botvinnik, Paul Keres and Salo Flohr (from the Soviet Union); and Reuben Fine and Samuel Reshevsky (from the United States). But FIDE soon accepted a Soviet request to substitute Vasily Smyslov for Flohr, and Fine dropped out in order to continue his degree studies in psychiatry. Botvinik won the title in 1948, and kicked off an era of Soviet domination.

Taylor Kingston is a historian who has several articles with Chess Café. His article: The Keres-Botvinnik Case Revisted: A further Survey of the Evidence points to the +4 -1 score against Keres, his best opponent and previous winner at AVRO, to be suspect of falling prey to the oppressive Stalin regime. Botvinnik was becoming an acceptable icon of Soviet Culture.

Though he agrees that no real smoking gun came from the KGB files follwoign the fall of the USSR, looking at the games really was inconclusive due to mixed results from several strong players ( Hans Ree, Jan Timman, Larry Evans, John Watson and John Nunn). Taylor points more in the direction of the politics in the day. To allow Keres to win the 1948 championship is “comparable to a Mormon becoming Pope” and may hold the key to the evidence of coercion. He cites that the Soviets may have motive and opportunity, ultimately lack of proof makes this argument more speculative.

The article references a few other historians. One by Valter Heuer, who was a friend of Keres examines Keres’ WWII postwar situation through 1948. Though Keres had to sustain many hardships and distractions, they were not construed as deliberate Soviet Policy to help Botvinnik. Another was Ken Whyld who know Keres basically claims that he was not ordered to lose the games but the emphasis was on that if Botvinnik failed, it was not Keres’ fault.

In an interview with Botvinnik, he comes out and says that the orders for Smyslov and Keres to lose came directly from Stalin himself during the second half of the match. Botvinnik then went on to state that he found the proposal insulting and refused.

To recap thus far: FIDE’s World Championship title was up in the air following the death of Alekhine in 1946. Having boycotted FIDE under principles of the London Rules not a true invitation for true challengers unless they were backed by beneficiaries, decides to chime in on how the championship should be won and has their architect win it!

Bronstein and Boleslavsky duke it out in the next cycle to challenge Botvinik. Bronstein draws the match against Botvinnik. Because drawn matches go to the defender, Botvinnik retains the title.

What really went down in Zurich 1953?

With 5 years into the Soviet architected FIDE championship cycle matches, we arrive at Zurich. This was also the same year that Stalin had died and the arrest and execution of Lavrenti Beria and others connected to the KGB. Bronstein’s second was not allowed to travel to Switzerland because he was an officer in the secret police. So the atmosphere was politically charged.

With the Cold War also in full swing, 9 soviets were represented in the Candidates match out of a field of 15 to insure the World Championship title be held by the USSR. By round 11, Reshevsky, the American, was leading the tournament. In the book, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Bronstein claims he was under pressure by heads of the USSR delegation and ordered him to win. Reshevsky was not to be allowed to advance . In my next post I will comment on this 13th round game that became a positional masterpiece.

The second half of the tournament Smyslov was leading by one point over Bronstein and Reshevsky. Keres was catching up. The Soviet’s delegates ordered physicals for Keres, Bronstein and Smyslov at this point and concluded that Smyslov was weakened and wouldn’t make it to round 30. In short, a lot of draws were seen in the middle rounds so that by round 22 Reshevsky and Smyslov were tied with 13 ½ points followed by Bronstein with 12 ½ and Keres with 12.

Reshevsky lost to Kotov in Round 23. This was gave the Soviets a slight break since Smyslov had a bye that day. It allowed Bronstein and Keres to move up to 13 points. Round 24, Keres had white against Smyslov. In the Tournament book, Bronstein only makes the comment that Keres was motivated by “psychological circumstances” in taking a risky Kingside attack.

Later, Bronstein in a 64 article, describes the struggle the Keres was under. Before the round, the KGB tried to convince him to make a draw with White against Smyslov so that he could use his strength against reshevsky in round 25. Keres lost ( game will be highlighted in a later post on Smyslov).

In round 24 Bronstein was also approached by the delegates and was told that Geller was asked to throw his game against Bronstein to insure his standings. Bronstein tried to protest but decided to play for a draw instead. Bronstein ended up losing to Geller.
The KGB thought it was Geller’s strong will to defy them and suggested to Bronstein to make a quick draw with Smyslov even having a conversation with him prior to the game.

A lot of this is one person’s word over most probable speculations. With out definitive proof, it's hard to reveal this without a shadow of doubt. It definitely adds to the color of the games played in Zurich 1953.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Zurch 1953: Paul Keres the Attacker

Paul Keres was born in Estonia on January 7, 1916 making him 37 at the time of the candidates match in Zurich. He grew up in Narva, Estonia, a town that had a scarcity of chess literature. He learned the game from his father and older brother and learned notation from the chess puzzles in the daily newspaper. He took it upon himself to compile a handwritten collection of about 1000 games. This probably helped him become three time Estonian school boy champion in the early part of the 1930’s. He learned about correspondence chess while attending high school. He attended the University of Tartu in 1937-1941 studying Mathematics and represented the school in several interuniversity matches.

In 1935 he was the Estonian champion and played on the top board for Estonia that same year at the Chess Olympiad. His sharp attacking style gave him some recognition which led him to pursue international events. In the mid to late 1930’s, he had several strong finishes in matches throughout Europe. In 1938, he tied with Reubin Fine for first in the AVRO tournament. He beat Fine in a tie breaker and expected to contest Alekhine for World Championship but World War II broke out and with the occupation of Estonia the match was denied. During the War, Estonia went from being annexed by the Soviet Union to being under Nazi control after the invasion in 1941. During the War, he was able to play in several Navi-sponsored events including Alekhine, but never got to contend the World Championship title and always seemed to finish just behind Alekhine. He played in other smaller events in the early 1940’s with strong results.

When the Soviets recaptured Estonia in 1944, Keres was unsuccessful in his attempt to flee and had to face harassment and threats by Soviet authorities. Keres managed to avoid deportation at the cost of being delayed coming back to international play. For Political reasons, he was excluded from the 10-player roster for the Soviet team for the 1945 Radio match against the USA and again in Groningen 1946. He played a few successful matches locally in Estonia. It wasn’t until 1946 where he returned to international play in the Soviet Radio Match against Great Britain.

Odd how Keres became a seed for the Zurich match as a result of the 1948 World Championship match in 1948, arranged to determine the world champion following Alekhine’s death in 1946. At the 1948 event, his performance was far from his best. Held jointly in The Hague and Moscow, the tournament was limited to five participants: Mikhail Botvinnik, Vasily Smyslov, Keres, Samuel Reshevsky, and Max Euwe. (Reuben Fine had also been invited but declined.) A player met each of his opponents five times. Keres finished joint third, with 10.5 out of 20 points. In his individual match with the winner Botvinnik he lost four out of five games, winning only in the last round when the tournament's result was already determined.

Since Keres lost his first 4 games against Botvinnik in the 1948 tournament, suspicions are sometimes raised that Keres was forced to "throw" games to allow Botvinnik to win the Championship. It’s speculated by some chess historians that the Soviet chess officials gave Keres strong hints that he should not hinder Botvinnik's attempt to win the World Championship. Botvinnik only discovered this about half-way though the tournament and protested so strongly that he angered Soviet officials. These are mere speculations and Keres probably did not deliberately lose games to Botvinnik or anyone else in the tournament.

So, let’s look at a few of his games at Zurich 1953, where he finished in second place ( tied with Bronstein and Reshevsky). We see in round 3 with Black against Szabo, he takes immediate advantage of a misplayed opening by Szabo. In this QGA, Szabo plays an early Qa4+ on move 5.

In Round 5 against Stahlberg, Keres turns a novelty of a QGD into a battle of isolated Queen’s pawns, first to himself with an advantage then to white to exploit the problems. He handles the initial IQP and transforms it to a positional advantage a little later by reconnecting with a pawn chain leading on e4. After White inherits the IQP, Black blockades it appropriately and the d-pawn eventually falls giving him a slight advantage in the endgame. This very difficult Q+P endgame could have been drawn under exact play but Keres finds the right plan: getting the King to the queen side and force an exchange of queens. This was a very instructional game on IQP’s.

In round 23, he tries the same Novelty out on Geller who has had a chance to prepare for this and basically wins with a series of little combinations. Geller prepared a sharper line that intended to open the position into a tactical game. The first mini combination allows Keres to castle against all odds because he has some good tactical shots in his position. A second combination evolves around a similar theme from a previous game
starting with Ne4. Then, a third combination allows Black winning simplifications. The final blow was made simple with a back rank threat.

Against Petrosian in round 16, we see a shuffling of a King’s Indian system. Keres plays Bf4 to stall e7-e5 and provoke Black to expand the queenside instead. Both sides tend
to make natural and necessary moves in hopes to draw the other player into a
weakness. Petrosian makes the first inaccuracy allowing Keres an attack up the

Lastly, we look at round 28 and another case where after a slight inaccuracy, Gligoric falls to Keres attacks. Gligoric makes five pawn moves in a row in the opening and was able to hold off the first wave of attacks at the cost of the queenside. This left the door wide open for Keres to come waltzing in with the queen.

Keres plays in 3 more Candidates Matches in 1956, 1959 and 1962 only to place in second and cause more suspicion to being under pressure to NOT to win these events. He successfully led the Soviet team in the Chess Olympiads to seven consecutive gold medals and five board gold medals which broke a record when he had four straight board gold medals.
He continued to play strong in several events over the next couple of decades with championships earned in Beverwijk 1964, Buenos Aires 1964, Hastings 1965, and Bamberg 1968 to name a few first place finishes.
By the 1970’s, he was still placing in 2nd and 3rd place in various events up until the time of his fatal heart attack in 1975 where he dies in Helsinki while returning from a tournament in Vancouver which he indeed won.

He was one of few players to have a plus score against Capablanca as well as Smyslov, Petrosian, Karpov and Tal. He played 10 world champions beating nine of them from Capablanca to Fischer (he drew with Karpov).

His rival Samuel Reshevsky, while paying tribute to Keres' talent, tried to pinpoint why Keres never became world champion, and also complimented his friendly personality.
"Well, I believe that Keres failed in this respect because he lacked the killer instinct. He was too mild a person to give his all in order to defeat his opponents. He took everything, including his chess, philosophically. Keres is one of the nicest people that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. With his friendly and sincere smile, he makes friends easily. He is goodnatured and kind. Yes, he loves chess, but being a human being is his first consideration. In addition to chess, Keres is interested in tennis, Ping-Pong, swimming, and

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Zurich 1953: Samuel Reshevsky, A child Prodigy grows up.

Paul Morphy was probably the first documented Chess Prodigy as he came of age in the Mid 1800’s . Half a century later it was Jose Raul Capablanca and not so well known Richard Reti. Born, November 26th, 1911 near Poland, Samuel Reshevsky learned to play at age 4, and by the time he was eight, he was beating masters and giving simultaneous exhibitions. His parents moved to the United States in 1920 so they could exploit his skills and make a living off an child’s simultaneous exhibitions. This made him the first chess prodigy from the USA since the days of Paul Morphy.

It’s no surprise that he went on to win several U.S Championships ( 1936, 1938, 1940-42, 1946) before playing at Zurich. He was not considered a professional chess player as an adult since he temporarily gave it up to attend college at the University of Chicago with an Accounting degree. He support himself and his family by working as an accountant. He married Norma Mindick and had three children.

He was seeded into the Zurich 1953 Candidates Match. He finished in Third place during the World Championship match competition in 1948. He was invited to the Budapest Candidates match in 1950, but because of the Cold war, the US refused to send him.( rumored and in an interview in 1991, Reshevsky claims the decision was his, though other NATO country players like Euwe, didn’t play) He was titled GM in 1951. His previous status and new title gave him a seat in Zurich 1953.

Let’s look at some of his Zurich 1953 games. Round 4 has Szabo attempting the Grunfeld Gambit. The game starts down a safe line of the Grunfeld until Szabo attempts the Grunfeld gambit. Reshevsky declines the offer but Szabo pushes and sacrifices both center pawns to keep White's King side undeveloped. Black's threats are too tame given the material loss. This allows Reshevsky to defend rather well. Szabo misplays the middle game where he should have exchanged bishops and get a rook to c8. A combination in the end forces an exchange of queens. This leaves White with too much material for Black to defend.

In Round 5, Reshevsky plays Black against Euwe. Euwe initially missed playing e4 early in the game which would have given him an attack. This gave Reshevsky a chance to recoil with a strong attack on the a8-h1 diagonal with a Bishop and Queen battery. White dodges the strong mate threat but it costs him hanging pawns and misplaced minor pieces. Black breaks through on the c-file. White's last ditch effort attempts a run for queen but too much material was lost.

In round 6, on a streak, he is paired against Stahlberg in a relentless pursuit of the center. The game starts down the path of a Tarrasch Variation of the QGD. Taken a little further down the path of the Swedish Variation makes Black target a Queenside pawn majority. Reshevsky takes immediate aim on the center and Black's pawn chain. White is relentless on the attacks and makes a series of forcing moves while inching his d-pawn closer to the eighth rank. Black chokes and gives up one of the queen side pawns despite Reshevsky being under time pressure.
After winning three games in a row, he draws in round 7 against Bolesavsky but picks it back up again in round 8 with nail biter with seconds left on Reshevsky’s clock avoiding a swindle from Kotov. The game starts down an old Indian defense but quickly turns into a King’s Indian defense. Black supports and puts pressure on d5 while White focuses on e5. White then pushes b pawn, putting more pressure on the Black center. Reshevsky trades off the good bishop for Black's bad bishop. Doing so, he immobilizes Black's knight on c8. Now, under time pressure, Kotov slings a last ditch swindle effort But Reshevsky keeps his cool and snaps up a piece with check instead. A note about Reshevsky’s time pressures, in his own words:

"By playing slowly during the early phases of a game I am able to grasp the basic requirements of each position. Then, despite being in time pressure, I have no difficulty in finding the best continuation. Incidentally, it is an odd fact that more often than not it is my opponent who gets the jitters when I am compelled to make these hurried moves."

His streak stalls mid tournament with a string of draws coupled with a few losses. He comes back towards the later half in round 18 with Averbakh. Bronstein flames Averbakh for not playing an early c5 in the Nimzo-Indian. Instead, Averbakh choses a solid but passive line in the Nimzo-Inidan and gets a false sense of security with rote strategy. This allows Reshevsky to take his time to build a strong center and acheives d4 and e4. Then, he begins a king side attack by first weakening the pawns around it, followed by the battering ram on the h-file. Again, under time pressure. Bronstein felt that Averbakh could have at least created better complications later in the game with counter attacks on the queen side. Reshevsky felt that this was his best game of the tournament.

In round 22, against Boleslavsky’s King’s Indian defense, Reshevsky takes the more complicated Fianchetto variation and creates complications. Bronstein gets rather poetic with this game and states:
"Chess is a limitless game; to avoid losing his way in it, the chess player will use certain guideposts to orient himself in the evaluation of a position and the selection of a plan, such as weak pawns, open files, a lead in development, good and bad bishop, a poorly placed king, and so on." ( he goes on at length but to get to his point for this game Bronstein continues: ) "It is worth noting that one will not find in every game such guideposts as will allow one to compare a position's good and bad points and to choose a proper plan on that basis....In any event, one frequently finds the sort of game which must be played for quite some time on nothing more than gut feeling and calculation."
Again, Reshevsky was under tremendous time trouble, yet again, he takes on a complication that leaves him with a point.
Finally, in round 29, I will point to the game against Gligoric in which Gligoric gives Reshevsky a chance to regroup. He plays a Slav variation of the King's Indian and even plays an early c5 targeting the Reshevsky’s White pawn center before it has a chance to reach critical mass. Reshevsky plays cautiously and allows Gligoric to gain some space on the Queen's side. Playing to win d5 and getting a little impatient ( according to Bronstein), Gligoric hands Reshevsky the a1-h8 diagonal which he exploits rapidly. Again, under time pressure, Reshevsky missed a cleaner solution to the end. He still managed to win.

A little about the “self entitlement” persona given by the former Prodigy:

In the book, Bronstein comments about the Kotov game and the time pressure moments. Reshevsky blurts out “ How many moves do I have to go to make the first time control?” This is regarded as highly illegal under tournament rules and to top it off, a spectator responds. The event goes without any violations being claimed. It may have been because one of the games was played late at night to accommodate Reshevsky’s strict orthodox Jewish Observations about playing during the rise of the evening star. His Friday games had to be played during the day so as to finish before the rise of that star. Then, on Saturday, he started his games several hours after the other games after the rise of the evening star.
I hear anecdotal remarks about Reshevsky’s sharp sense of entitlement in the chess world. One has him asking a tournament official to disqualify Bent Larsen because he continued to play a game for a win after they agreed before the start to conclude with a draw.
I’m not sure of how many of these are true or embellishments. Having been a prodigy at such an early age, psychological studies on such prodigies reveals that there is a threshold they reach as adults once their peers “catch up”. After being the center of attention for so long, some can’t make the transition smoothly ( Fischer for one, Morphy may have been another). Add to that the notion that his parents moved to the USA when he was eight to pretty much put him on display like a freak. I don’t know, but that alone has got to mess up a kid. That’s my unsolicited opinion. My apologies to bring this into the essay for Reshevsky.

During his long chess career, Reshevsky played eleven of the first twelve World Champions, from Emanuel Lasker to Anatoly Karpov, the only player to do so (he met Garry Kasparov but never played him). He defeated seven World Champions: Lasker, Jose Raul Capablanca, Alexander Alekhine, Max Euwe, Mikhail Botvinnik, Vasily Smyslov, and Bobby Fischer.
Besides playing is several U. S. Championships and the US team for the Chess Olympiads, following Zurich 1953, Reshevsky won some important tournament titles at events in New York 1956 (Lessing Rosenwald Trophy), Dallas 1957, Haifa/Tel Aviv 1958, Buenos Aires 1960, Netanya 1969, and the Reykjavík Open 1984 at age 72.

His legacy includes a few books: Reshevsky on Chess ( 1948), How Chess Games Are Won (1962), Great Chess Upsets (1976), and The Art of Positional Play (1978). He also wrote a book on the 1972 World Championship match between his great rival Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky. He authored columns in chess magazines and The New York Times.

Reshevsky died at the age of 80 in New York on April 4, 1992