Monday, March 22, 2010

Lone Pine 1975: Leonid Shamkovich, Careful Tactician

Leonid Aleksandrovich Shamkovich was 51 at the time of Lone Pines 1975. He was born in a Jewish family in Rostov-on-Don in Russia on the first of June in 1923. Nicknamed Prince because of his aristocratic bearing and manner of speech, Mr. Shamkovich was not among the leading Soviet players who dominated the game for most of the second half of the 20th century. He was known to play with great emotion, which made his results very uneven. Still, he was good enough to win the Russian championship in 1954 and 1956 and to tie for fifth place in the 1964-65 Soviet championship. He became a grandmaster in 1965. His best victory coming at Sochi in 1967, where he tied for first place with Nikolai Krogius, Vladimir Simagin, Boris Spassky and Alexander Zaitsev.

Three Years prior to Lone Pine 1975, Shamkovich left the Soviet Union, moving to Israel along with Liberzon and Kushnir. He did not stay in Israel for long. He moved to Canada in 1973 and to the United States at the end of that year, settling in New York City. By the time of this tournament, he was still considered a citizen of Israel.

He was well versed in the art of Sacrifice. In round 6 at LP1975, Shamkovich had white against Martz Williams’ Berlin defense.

The “Berlin Wall” was favorite defense of Arthur Bisguire against the Ruy Lopez. Black played a little too passive, not following some prescribed methods by those who played it regularly. Shamkovich begins by dismantling the wall in the center. But on move 27 was the nice finish. Shamkovich offers his Queen to open up the diagonal and follows through with some real simple chess.

In round 8 as Black, we see Shamkovich play a positional game to defeat the Grandmaster from Argentina, Oscar Panno. In this English opening, White comes out a little cramped only to allow Black an active pawn center.

This allows him to advance the d-pawn all the way to the 2nd rank. Because white is placed on the defensive after this pawn, Shamkovich secures his position even more with a nice out-posted knight in the center and complete control of the d-file. He picks up material by storming the advanced rank with all his pieces. Left with isolated pawn islands and one less rook, White graciously resigns.

After LP1975, he won the 1975 Canadian Open Chess Championship. In 1976 and 77 he tied for first place in the United States Open. He continued to play through the 1990s.

Mr. Shamkovich's expertise was as an analyst and tactician. He was sought after as a coach, and worked for two world champions, Mikhail Tal and Garry Kasparov. He also wrote more than a dozen books, including ones on the Gruenfeld Defense and the Schliemann Defense, the latter a particularly tactical opening.

His Sacrifice in Chess begins, "A real sacrifice involves a radical change in the character of a game which cannot be effected without foresight, fantasy, and the willingness to risk."

Shamkovich died of complications from Parkinson's disease and cancer in his Brooklyn home on April 22, 2005.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Blundering at the 19th Annual Eastern Class Championship in Sturbridge.

I thought I’d pause in the Lone Pine 1975 series to provide myself with some cathartic analysis of the three losses at my most recent tournament. To put things in perspective, I’ve been in the process of transitioning positions at my main job and started teaching part time. In addition, I have a very “exciting” home environment that keeps me up at night chasing rebellious teens. Why don’t I just put chess on a shelf? This is my outlet, where I can blow off steam. Once I enter that arena, and hit that clock, the meditative process begins and for the most part, I can put out of mind all the other things, in theory.

In practice, I have been distracted as will be seen in my game. I was walking into round 3 with a point and a half. My opponent was of equal rating but of fractional age in relation to my own. I played the White side of a QGD with the first four moves being classic 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 as we entered the three knights variation. Here my opponent plays 4…b6 an oddball in my book. I attempted to play via classic rules and exchanged first in the center creating an opportunity to play into a hopefully a minority attack. But I never got there. Asleep at the wheel, I played rote moves and opted to castle versus taking aggressive action on my opponent’s underdeveloped queenside. Then I wasted my time with pawn moves and closed myself in for my opponent to walk in with a Queen and knight. Here is that debacle:

In round four I was in a swashbuckling spirit as I was facing an opponent I often face at the club. I had a pretty good score against him and just plain old felt like taking a risk… at a tournament. I had been studying the Winawer Gambit in the Slav at a cursory level and thought “ wouldn’t it be cool to surprise Mark with this? Well, in hindsight, I was totally unprepared and only knew the first few moves and not the true spirit of the gambit. It went abysmally wrong from about move 6 until I finally threw in the towel. Here is that debacle:

In the last round, my opponent barely could see over the king. What distracted me most was this odd looking security blanket device the kid had. I should have taken a photo of it but this is what I found on the web that came close to it:

“What’s that?” said the mean looming figure from the Black pieces pointing to the crocodile shaped thing.

“A pencil case” said the heroic voice.

“No its not, it’s a crocodile!” exclaimed the bully as if to say under his breath, “ you expect THAT to protect you?”

Calmly, our small hero said, “ It’s a crocodile pencil case, sir.”

Such a device was fitting for the swamp of the Caro-Kann I fell into. I missed some really aggressive moves in the middle game and by move 26 I resigned as the crocodile was about to consume my queen.

Here is THAT debacle:

It actually was good to review these games and put the key positions in my “daily dose” study patterns. I am practicing for the World Open this year. The Part time teaching gig will reward me with the means to get there. Continuing to play even at half capacity of my full strength is better than dusting off rust a month prior to the big event. Thank god I don’t put much stock in my rating. It’s only a game. On the bright side, I played through some fog, went on an adventure and challenged a fierce little crocodile. There’s always NEXT TIME!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Lone Pine 1975: Peter Biyiasas Canadian GM turned Programmer

Editor’s note: Sorry for the delay to post this. I tried to contact Peter Biyiasas personally to get some first hand accounts and his perspective from this match. Ruth Haring was generous enough to forward me his email but I seemed to hit a brick wall. I’ll keep trying to reach other former players from this match. I hope to hear from at least one.

As Canadian Champion in 1972 and 1975, had this 25 year old local master as a strong candidate for the top prize at Lone Pine 1975. He had previously won a British Columbia Open 1972 where he had a history of victories in the Vancouver area starting in 1968. 1972 seemed to be a banner year for Peter as he also won the Zonal championship in Toronto which earned him the title of IM. A couple of his other victories leading up to this event included 1st-4th (tie) at Norristown in 1973, 1st place in 1973 and 174 at the British Columbia Diamond Jubilee Open and even came in 3rd place at the Pan American Championship in 1974.

At Lone Pine in 1975, he seemed to struggle with the strong competition but still managed to finish with 6 points which earned him a prize. Here are two games to highlight his attacking style of play.

The first won him a brilliancy prize in round nine and was published in Chess Life and Review. The game shows how Peter can play an aggressive game as Black with the King’s Indian Defense. I copied Peter’s game notes as best I could. He sacrifices a knight to open up channels to the white king and two moves later offers his ROOK! This is an amazing game.

In the last round he plays a King’s Indian Attack as white against GM Damjanovic’s Sicilian Defense. The classic plan in the KIA is to first go for a central pawn push and follow up with a King side attack. Peter accomplishes both by throwing all of his king side pawns at Black despite being castled on the king side! He uses bishops instead of pawns to provide enough cover while storming the barricades.

A fierce battle evolves around the opposing kings, major pieces and bishops. At one point Black sacrifices his bishop in hopes to simplify the exchange and gain a pawn for the endgame but it back fires and he loses to a classic deflection tactic where Peter wins the queen.

After Lone Pine, Peter earned his GM title in 1978 following a couple of strong finishes where tied in New York and Buenos Aries Olympiad. He continued to play in tournaments through the late 1970’s through 1985 where he retired from competitive chess. There are notes that he was married to Ruth Haring and that they had three children. He is best remembered for his contributions to the notorious King’s Indian Attack opening system.

Peter went to work as a programmer for IBM and later set up his own software company according to Chess Ninja over at the Daily Dirt.