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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Alekhine's Mystery Opponents

     Alekhine was not above publishing fake games, his involvement in political controversies is well known and even the exact details of his death are something of a mystery. In 1945 he won a small event in Sabadell, Portugal that also created something of a mystery. 
     After his match with Capablanca Alekhine returned to Paris and began speaking out against Bolshevism, the communist form of government adopted by Russia following the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. 
     Nikolai Krylenko, a Bolshevik revolutionary and politician who participated in the political purges of the 1920s and 1930s, was known as the Father of Russian Chess, and at that time president of the Soviet Chess Federation. Krylenko published an official memorandum stating that Alekhine should be regarded as an enemy of the State and the Soviet Chess Federation broke all contact with him until the end of the 1930s. Whether by choice or not, Alekhine's older brother Alexei, with whom he had a close relationship, publicly repudiated him and his anti-Soviet stance. But then in 1939 Alexei is reputed to have been murdered, possibly because of his open support of the Nazis. As a side note, Alexei himself was also a chess player of some reputation. Justice finally caught up with Krylenko; he ended up getting arrested himself, confessed to numerous crimes under torture and after a trial lasting 20 minutes, was found guilty and immediately taken out and shot.  Kevin Spraggett has a great article on Krylenko.
     In the 1930s Alekhine was dominating the chess world, but in1933 Reuben Fine noticed that he was drinking heavily. Hans Kmoch wrote that his heavy drinking started during Bled in 1931 and continued through his 1934 match with Bogoljubow. He was also drinking heavily during his 1935 match with Euwe. In 1934 Alekhine married his fourth wife, Grace Freeman (nee Wishaar), sixteen years his senior. She was an American-born widow of a British tea-planter in Ceylon and retained her British citizenship to the end of her life and was Alekhine's wife until his death. 
     After the 1939 Chess Olympiad in Buenos Aries many participants decided to stay in Argentina or moved elsewhere in South America rather than face an uncertain future by returning to a Europe in the midst of a war. Alekhine stayed in Argentina for several months after the Olympiad, winning in a couple of tournaments and he could have remained there or even gone to the United States with his American-born wife. Instead, in January 1940 he returned to Europe and after a short stay in Portugal he enlisted in the French army as a non-commissioned sanitation officer. Owing to his knowledge of foreign languages, he was soon transferred to intelligence work as a lieutenant and became an interpreter. 
     After France fell in June 1940, he was demobilized and ended up in Marseille where he made several attempts to go to Cuba claiming he wanted to play a match with Capablanca. The request was denied because it was felt he wasn't serious about the match and only wanted a visa to get out of the country. That left him trapped in Europe and to protect his Jewish wife and her French assets (a castle at Saint Aubin-le-Cauf which the Nazis looted), he agreed to cooperate with the Nazis by writing several articles critical of Jewish chess players. Along with several other strong masters he also participated in several tournaments sponsored by the Nazis. 
     By late 1943, Alekhine was spending all his time in Spain and Portugal because economic conditions in Germeny were such that they were no longer sponsoring tournaments and book sales were almost non-existent. By this time his chess had badly deteriorated. In 1944, he narrowly defeated Rey Ardid in a match and won a small tournament in Gijon. In 1945 he scored first in Madrid, tied for second at Gij√≥n, won at Sabadell, tied for first in Almeria, finished first in Melilla and took second in Caceres. Alekhine's last match, which he barely won (+2 -1=2), was against Francisco Lupi in 1945. 
     After World War II his invitation to the London 1946 victory tournament was withdrawn when the other competitors protested. While planning for a world championship match against Botvinnik, Alekhine died at the age of 53 in his hotel room in Estoril, Portugal on March 24, 1946 under strange circumstances. Was it a heart attack, or as the autopsy stated, he choked to death on a three-inch long piece of unchewed meat that was blocking his windpipe, or was he murdered by a French death squad as his son claimed? Much has been written about this and Kevin Spraggett, a long time resident of Portugal, makes the case for murder claiming the crime scene was tampered with and the autopsy faked. You can read Spraggett's excellent coverage of Alekhine's death HERE
     The question has been asked why Alekhine's wife didn't offer him any help during his last days when he was living in poverty and suffering from health issues. No one knows, but it is speculated that he was separated, but not divorced, from her and she wanted nothing to do with him. 
     So, what were the mysteries at Sabadell? It concerned the 15-move game Alekhine vs. Munoz and some photographs of the tournament that didn't match up. You can read all about it in Edward Winter's excellent article HERE. Winter's article also brings up the question of exactly who was Alekhine's opponent the following game from Sabadell. Was it the local adult player Teodoro Terrazas Elizando or the 11-year-old Filiberto Terrazas? Although years later Filiberto Terrazas claimed he was Alekhine's opponent, it appears that it was actually the local player Teodoro Terrazas Elizando. 

1) Alekhine 7.5 
2) Vilardebom 6.5 
3-4) Perez and Lupi 6 
5-6) Valles and Medina 5.5 
7) Ros 3.5 
8) Mena 2.5 
9) Munoz 2 
10) Terrazas 0 

For more Soviet chess history you can download in pdf format the 400-plus page PhD dissertation by Michael A. Hudson that I posted about HERE.
 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Reshevsky the Tactician

    

 Many players unfamiliar with Reshevsky think he was a positional player; he wasn't. 

     The legendary Samuel Reshevsky (November 11, 1911 - April 4, 1992) was the most famous prodigy since Capablanca and he was the link between the pre-War and post-War era: he played Lasker, Alekhine and Capablanca and after the war, every great player from Botvinnik to Fischer. He played almost a hundred games with eleven world champions! 
     Everybody remembers what Fischer did to popularize chess in the 1970s, but in the early 1900s Reshevsky accomplished the same thing when, as a child, he created a sensation with his national tours.  But when he stopped playing to complete his education, they stopped writing about him. 
     When Alekhine first met Reshevsky at the tournament in Pasadena in 1932 he wrote that his impression was most favorable. Reshevsky exhibited not a hint of arrogance and a quiet dignity. One wonders if Alekhine was as wrong about this impression as he was in his assessment of Reshevsky's play! 
     Alekhine observed that at that time, strength wise, Reshevsky was nothing special and was comparable to the "average American master."  But what struck him was Reshevsky's style which "exudes utter tedium" and lacked imagination and if it wasn't for his obvious gift, Alekhine would have considered him as having a lack of talent! Alekhine believed that was because of Reshevsky's childhood being spent playing chess, resulting in, at the age of 21, his being like an old man, tired, disillusioned and incapable of creative thinking. Of course Alekhine turned out to be wrong as Reshevsky demonstrated a few years later at the 1938 AVRO tournament. 
     Reshevsky's weakness was his openings which he played almost entirely by intuition. Reshevsky claimed to have never studied chess, but that was not true.   After Pasadena, for the first time in his life, he studied books on opening theory. 
     Botvinnik described Reshevsky's play as a forceful, active and impetuous adding that he evaluated positions in a routine, but unusual way.   His main strength was his calculating ability. Botvinnik claimed that Reshevsky calculated only 2-3 moves deep, but he looked at a lot of possibilities. He stated this calculation didn't always help because there was no "purity" (not sure what that means) and he often ended up in bad positions. Botvinnik added that Reshevsky "had no taste" because he was willing to play any position at any time, but he skillfully complicated play and was not afraid of dangerous positions. He also played on both flanks and when he played a "waiting move" it generally indicated that he had realized his original plan wasn't going to work and he was awaiting a mistake and a convenient opportunity. 
     Reshevsky also liked to make harassing moves and to force his opponents into difficult situations where he could use his imagination.  Also, he was always ready to go into the ending, especially those with a lot of pieces, because in those positions he had great skill.
     According to Botvinnik, Reshevsky's weaknesses were his weak positional feeling in complicated positions, openings and his routinely getting into time trouble.   In time trouble his play was "deft" but he did make oversights. 
     Reshevsky's serious battle for the world championship essentially ended in the 1953 Candidates Tournament. True, in 1968 he played a match against Korchnoi to see who would move on in a bid for the world championship, but by that time he was no longer truly a serious contender. 
     Even after the 1953 tournament he continued to unnerve the Soviet players for some time to come, especially after he inflicted a painful defeat on Botvinnik in the 1954 US vs USSR radio match. 
     In the summer of the following year when the US team was in Moscow for a return match.  Reshevsky, bypassing FIDE, actually proposed a match with Botvinnik for the world championship. Botvinnik told Reshevsky he would let him know, but Reshevsky never heard from him, adding in a 1991 interview that, "I have nothing against Botvinnik." 
     Bronstein wrote that Reshevsky was always sure that he played chess better than anyone in the world. He also revealed that after the Moscow team match the American ambassador held a reception at his residence and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushev was in attendance. Reshevsky boldly asked Khrushev to allow him to play Botvinnik a match for the championship and Khrushev replied that he wasn't the one who could make that decision.
     Nobody in the Soviet chess federation wanted to risk a match, but they did invite Reshevsky to play a 24-game match against Bronstein.  The match was due to take place in December, 1956 with 12 games in Moscow and 12 in New York with a $6,000 (around $53,000 today) prize fund. Unfortunately, the October, 1956 Hungarian revolt caused the match to be canceled. 
     Viktor Korchnoi wrote that in every game Reshevsky played you could sense his enormous desire to fight and win. While his lack of opening knowledge was a handicap, in the middlegame he was extremely confident and had enormous tactical talent and psossessed the ability to make original and non-routine (there's that description again) evaluations. Positional battles were not to his taste and he avoided positions where maneuverings and waiting were required. 
     Kasparov, on the other hand, made the observation that Reshevsky did have a high level of positional understanding or else he would never have maintained such a high level of play for so many years. 
     In the Match of the Century in 1970, Reshevsky was assigned 6th board in a secret vote by the other players. In that match he made an equal score against Smyslov, but had to sit out the last game for religious reasons. His replacement, Olafsson, lost to Smyslov which could have been the reason for the Soviet's narrow one point victory in the match.
 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Vladimir Zak

     A mediocre teacher expounds. A good teacher explains. An outstanding teacher demonstrates. A great teacher inspires. And this, of course, applies to him. Vladimir Grigoryevich Zak was a great chess teacher. - Genna Sosonko in Russian Silhouettes 

     We had a joke: anybody who survives the "training method" is guaranteed a bright future! The important thing was to leave Zak before frustration sets in and you decide to quit chess. Valery Salov and Gata Kamsky left early and became stars in their teens...Zak religiously believed in the dogma of the classical school. In his opinion, everything young chessplayers needed to know was written in stone many years ago. - Alex Yermolinsky in The Road to Chess Improvement

     Mark Taimanov said he did not think that Zak was a high-class teacher or a strong player but it was noteworthy that he did develop a lot of players with different styles and of very high class, so he must have had secret. Zak himself said he was lucky. In 1958 he was awarded the title Honored Trainer of the USSR. According to Chessmetrics when the below game was played (in which Lilienthal was absolutely destroyed by the way) Lilienthal's rating was around 2580 and in 1947 Averbach's rating was around 2470, so it's not like Zak was a non-master!

     Vladimir Grigoryevich Zak (February 11, 1913 - November 25, 1994) was a Ukrainian player and one of the most famous coaches of the Soviet Union. In the 1920s the family moved to Leningrad and his named was changed from Vulf to Vladimir and he abandoned his Jewish heritage and became Russian by culture and education. 
     He served in the front with the Army during the Second World War and was awarded the Order of the Second-class Patriotic War, medal for service in battle and a medal for victory over Germany. After the war was over he settled in Leningrad and worked there for over 40 years as a chess coach. His best-known pupils were Boris Spassky and Viktor Korchnoi. Most of Zak's students were appreciative of his help, Yermolinsky being an exception. Zak adopted much of his teaching technique from his hero, Pyotr Romanovsky, who had made a great impression on him and with whom he had studied before World War Two.
     Zak received the title of Honored Trainer of the Soviet Union in 1958. Although he himself was never able to win the title of master, his strength was the recognition of talent and its early promotion and his pupils later turned to other coaches who could develop their chess further. It should be remembered that in those days before the Elo system, you became a master in the Soviet Union only by defeating an established master in a match.
     The Elo system rating distribution follows the Bell curve and because the Soviet Union had millions of players as compared to a mere handful in the US for example, they had hundreds, if not thousands of players, who by today's standards were of master strength.  And, Zak did qualify to play in the semi-finals of the Soviet Championship. In 1947 he lost a match to Yuri Averbach for the master's title. In all fairness, Averbach was much more than a master, he received his GM title shortly after the match. Zak also lost a match for the title in 1948 against Viktor Vassiliev (5.5 to 7.5). Vasiliev was a strong master and analyst and an invalid due to war wounds. 
     Gennadi Sosonko, the Soviet-born Dutch GM, wrote that at the age of 12 he first met Zak at the Leningrad Pioneers Palace when he played Zak in s simultaneous that was designed to single out kids with potential. He remembered Zak as a stern man with Assyrian facial features (I had to Google this! - Tartajubow) and with staring unblinking dark eyes who had the habit of flexing of his jaw muscles, especially when analyzing a position.
     Sosonko once asked Zak to analyze a game he (Sosonko) had won and when they arrived at the critical position and Sosonko explained that he stood worse, but his opponent was nervous and when Sosonko got into time trouble, his opponent began playing carelessly and lost. Zak got angry and called the whole affair disgraceful. 
     All the kids were afraid of Zak and he frequently chastised them when they wrote analysis on a sheet of paper but didn't transfer it to their notebooks in an organized fashion. Zak had a difficult personality and Sosonko believed the reason was that his life was difficult. Korchnoi, who grew up without his father who died in the war wrote that in many ways Zak replaced him and molded him as a person. 
     Zak was very upset when Spassky left him for Tolush; Sosonko later expressed regret that he didn't do the same thing! Still, Spassky admitted that Zak had taught him a great deal, saying he didn't think that Zak was a difficult person, but rather that he was firm in his principles. 
     One of Zak's questions to the youth was always who was the strongest player at the end of the 1800s. After they rattled off all the names like Steinitz and Chigorin, Zak would announce that it was James Mason and they were advised to study his games.
     Eventually at the age of 73, Zak was forced to leave the Palace where he had worked for more than forty years. By that time he was also on bad terms with his colleagues, some of whom were his former pupils. In the end he suffered from senility and was moved to an old persons' home. Even then, he was interested in the latest news, looked at chess magazines and sometimes played through a game on the board.
 

Monday, January 16, 2017

William Hook

Hook in 1977
     Hook (May 28, 1925 – May 10, 2010) born of Finnish parents in New Rochelle, New York, was an artist, gambler and master. He served as captain and played first board for the British Virgin Islands chess team. 
     After spending World War II in a tuberculosis ward, Hook became involved in the chess world of New York City in the 1950s. 
     He learned to play chess from a friend at the age of 15 and in 1943, at the age of 18, was drafted by the Army, but his pre-induction physical revealed that he was suffering from tuberculosis. As a result he was hospitalized for the next 15 months. 
     While in the hospital he got Gossip's Chess Manual off a library cart and shortly afterward subscribed to Chess Review and took up postal chess. It was in Chess Review that he read about a chess club, The New York Academy of Chess and Checkers, near the hospital and when he was discharged in September, 1944 the first thing he did was pay it a visit. The club was run by a former Canadian checker champion, Harold Fisher, and so came to be known as Fisher's and later, the Flea House
     Because of his tuberculosis, the State offered to pay for training and he chose to study fine art, but was forced to take courses in commercial art because it offered better employment opportunities. He enrolled in the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, but because he lacked the motivation to study, he ended up flunking out. Shortly afterward his mother died and he moved to Detroit to live with an aunt and uncle. 
Abstract chess painting by Hook
     Hook got married in 1957 and in the 1960s he started going to the BVI to dive, fell in love with the place and he and his wife and spent all their vacations there. They eventually bought a home in the islands. He formed the BVIs chess Olympiad team in 1968 which he described as the chess equivalent of the Jamaican bobsledders. The teams were never very good and Hook said on one occasion they were given a trophy showing the hindquarters of a donkey, but they went to have a good time. 
     Over a 40 year period Hook played in 17 Olympiads, winning the gold medal for best percentage on board one at Malta in 1980. To commemorate this achievement, the British Virgin Islands issued a stamp in his honor. 
Position Hook v Kanani, Olympiad, 1980

     His memoir Hooked on Chess was published in 2008. In the book he told stories about the scene in the New York chess clubs of the 1950s, describing the personalities and atmosphere. He also included stories about his encounters with players ranging from homeless unknowns to Stanley Kubrick, Marcel Duchamp and Bobby Fischer. Hook was also the author of various magazine and newspaper articles about chess. 
     In the art world, he was known for his one-man shows in painting and photography. His art career began with realistic subjects, but gradually gravitated towards the abstract. Chess remained one of his main themes throughout his development. Not experiencing major success in painting, though some of his paintings were displayed in various chess clubs, he turned to photography and his chess photos often appeared in chess magazines. 
     Hook was a resident of Silver Spring, Maryland at the time of his death. 
 

Friday, January 13, 2017

1991 US Championship...Time For Another Big Brouhaha

The Kamskys
     It had been over 25 years since Bobby Fischer had argued with the organizers of the US Championship and a decade since Walter Browne had walked out in a huff, so another to-do in the event was long overdue. This time it wasn't from a participant though; it was from his father. 
     Halfway through the last round of the 1989 New York Open, Lev Alburt and two FBI agents accompanied an obscure 14-year-old Soviet kid and his father when they disappeared from the playing site and asked for political asylum. 
     At the time, Gata Kamsky didn't have a title, but within months he surprised everybody when he won an elimination tournament among leading American players to see who would play a short exhibition match with world champion Kasparov. When the exhibition started in Los Angeles, Kamsky was rated number one at 2747 which put him 62 points ahead of number two Yasser Seirawan. 
     The 1991 championship organization was a throwback, as had been the previous championship won by Lev Alburt, to the old days when the USCF reverted back to a knockout format.
     Kamsky started of a little shaky when he was paired against the lowest rated player, World Junior Champion Ilya Gurevich, and barely managed to hold the draw in the first of their two game match. But, he managed to score a convincing win in the second game.
     Seirawan was having his problems against Igor Ivanov, taking nine games before he could finally overcome him. At the age of 31 Seirawan was getting to be an old man by chess standards and he struggled from the beginning. In the G30 tiebreaker he got swindled and lost, but managed to rebound with two wins. 
     Another newcomer was Soviet emigre (then only an IM) Alex Yeromolinsky, also a long of tooth 32-year-old, who was making his debut in the championship. Although ranked fifth, Yermo was an unknown and John Fedorowicz had trouble finding any games in the Informants, so he had a friend dig some out of old Shakhmatny Bulletins. It helped. Fedorowicz squeaked past Yermo then reached the semifinals by defeating Patrick Wolff. Joel Benjamin was lucky when he made it into the semi-finals by defeating Seirawan. 
     The semifinals were going to be interesting. Benjamin was paired with Gulko and Fedorowicz against Kamsky. Both Benjamin and Fedorowicz had been whining against all the Russian players who had been arriving in this country and taking prize money out of pocket of American players, thus depriving them of making a living at chess. 
     There had been a lot of foreign born players in American chess since way back. Charles Stanley, George Mackenzie, Eugene Rousseau, Napoleon Marache, Edward Lasker, Charles Jaffe, Oscar Chajes, Abraham Kupchik, Nicolas Rossolimo and even the great Samuel Reshevsky, to name a few. But it had been some time since foreign-born players had been making their presence felt. 
     Then starting in the 1980s, Soviet players began popping up in the championship: Vitaly Zaltsman, Boris Kogan, Sergey Kudrin, Roman Dzhindzhikashvili, Dimitry Gurevich, Lev A1burt, Maxim Dlugy, Anatoly Lein and Leonid Shamkovich, for example. 
     Benjamin and Fedorowicz saw all these new Soviet-born players as a menace to their livelihood, plus they were apparently not aware of the fact that many leading players of the past had something called a "job" they worked at, often playing after they put in a day at work. For example, when Bisguier played his match against Reshevsky in 1957, he (Bisguier) got off work and grabbed some fast food which he ate in the cab on the way to the match. Plus, prize money usually didn't amount to a living wage. Never mind, they felt privileged, I guess. 
     Benjamin defeated Gulko in the first game then drew the second to make it to the finals.  Kamsky's defeat of Fedorowicz included a difficult R plus opposite color B ending and it caused what was to become a common occurrence when Kamsky's father went on the rampage. He accused Fedorowicz of discussing the game with Nick deFirmian while it was in progress. 
     Fedorowicz did, indeed, speak to diFirmian while the game was in progress. On his way out of the playing room, Fedorowicz bumped into deFirmian and said, "Oh, excuse me, Nick," Three years later though, Kamsky's father hired Fedorowicz to be Gata's second in the Professional Chess Association candidates matches. 
     The finals consisted of a four game showdown between Kamsky and Benjamin. The first two games resulted in a win each, both winners having the black pieces.   Then right in the middle of game three came another Dad Kamsky blowup. 
     Rustam was walking around the playing site, warning any players not to make eye contact with Benjamin or pass on any advice. While Benjamin was pondering a critical position, Patrick Wolff, who was competing in US Open which was being held concurrently wandered up to the board to get a better look and Rustam began loudly telling Wolff to get out. In the ensuing argument, Wolff managed to take their argument outside and Rustam renewed his claim that Wolff and other supporters of Benjamin were cheating. 
     TD Carol Jarecki quieted Kamsky down when she informed him that the proper procedure was to make an official protest. Gata eventually emerged the winner and their final game, played with Rustam banned from the room, was a boring K-Indian where Kamsky began trading pieces at move eight. Kamsky thus became the youngest US Champion since Bobby Fischer. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Myroslav Turiansky...Plus a Bonus - the Fritz Hotness Meter

     This post is to spotlight the Upper Midwest master Myroslav Turiansky, but while looking over this game, I inadvertently had the Fritz 12 Hotness and Mate-O-Meter on. I did a post on this gadget a few years ago and noted that it was fun to watch, but didn’t find it to be much help. This game changed my mind. 
     What caught my attention was the readings after white played 18.Ne5. Stockfish's evaluation was 0.00 after either 18...Nxe5 or 18...O-O. Now, a 0.00 evaluation does not mean a dead draw, but rather that neither side can claim a clear advantage and so you might think there wasn't much going on in the position. However, the Hotness Meter was registering 7.0 out of 10 which means something is going on: tactics are lurking in the position or positional features like material exchanges, strong or weak positional features like P-structure or piece mobility are about to happen. So, even though the evaluation of 0.00 indicates an equal position, the hotness readout of 7.0 alerts us to the fact that the position is one that merits careful examination not only for tactics, but for major positional changes. This gadget does have merit after all! 
     Turiansky (October 10, 1912, Rudky, Ukraine – December 18, 1998, Radekhiv, Ukraine ) was a Ukrainian-American master. 
     In 1944, along with thousands of others, Turianksy began the westward exodus and arrived in Vienna, where from 1946-1947 he became one of the best players in the city and won the Hietzing Chess Club championship. He finished 16th (last) in the long forgotten Schlechter Memorial, won by Laszlo Szabo, held in Vienna in 1947. 
     The following year Turiansky emigrated to New York City where he became active in the Marshall Chess Club and in the 1949–1950 season placed second in its club championship, behind Larry Evans. In his desire to organize Ukrainian chess he moved to Chicago in 1950, and won twice the Chicago city championship (1953 and 1954). He finished 10th in the US Open Chess Championship at Milwaukee 1953. 
     Turiansky did not return his native Ukraine until late in 1998, soon after the death of his wife, Roma. It was during that visit that he passed away on December 28, 1998, in the town of Radekhiv, Lviv region, and was buried there not far from where he was born. 
     Turiansky's father was Osyp Turiansky, a renowned literary figure, taught him how to play chess at the age of 11. Although he had received a master's degree in law at Lviv University, it was not in jurisprudence, but in chess that he left his mark. Turiansky's early chess career was closely connected with the organization and development of Ukrainian chess in the 1920s. 
     In 1926 Ukrainians in Lviv founded a club named Chess Knight (Shakhovyi Konyk) later renamed the Society of Ukrainian Chess Players (TUSh), which during World War II became a division of the sports club Ukraina. In the 1926-1944 period, these clubs brought together the top names of Ukrainian chess in Lviv, such as Popel, Turiansky and M. Romanishin, the father of today's GM Oleg Romanishin. Turiansky won the championship of the Chess Knight club in 1928 and tied for first and second places with Stephan Popel in the Championship of Western Ukraine in 1943. 
     The quality that distinguished Turiansky was his readiness to volunteer his services for the benefit of organized Ukrainian chess. He served as secretary and librarian of the chess society until World War II and then, during the German occupation headed the chess division of the Ukraina sports club. He promoted chess by staging simultaneous exhibitions, sometimes along with Stephan Popel. 
     After moving to Chicago he offered his organizational skills to a Ukrainian club, the Lions (Levy) Sports Club. There he established a chess club and captained a chess team that competed successfully in the Metropolitan Chicago League for about twenty years He cooperated with the Ukrainian Sports Federation of the U.S.A. and Canada (USCAK), volunteering to host at the Lions Club the first USCAK Championship of Ukrainians in North America in 1966. In 1956 Turiansky finished third, but in subsequent USCAK championships he finished second twice and in 1982 won the Ukrainian Championship of the US and Canada. 
     In 1953 and 1954 he won the Chicago city championship, and several times won top prizes in the state championships of Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa. In the 1953 US Open in Milwaukee he finished 10th. 
     In Kyiv a book was published about players of the Ukrainian diaspora with one chapter devoted to Turiansky. 
     His opponent in this game, James Barry Cross Jr. (born 1930) of Waukesha, Wisconsin died on Monday, May 16, 2016, at Waukesha Memorial Hospital at the age of 86. He was born in Wilmette, Illinois. Married in 1954 and after serving in the the US Air Force, he and his wife settled in California where they lived from 1956 until 1997. They then moved to Waukesha in 1997. Cross won the US Junior Championship in Milwaukee in 1950 and in 1957 won the California State Championship.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Herbert Avram

Avram dressed for battle!
     Herbert Avram was born in New York City on January 24, 1913. A decorated World War II veteran, Government Analyst, pioneer in the development of the digital court reporting industry and chess master, Avram died January 15, 2006 at age 92 at his home in California, Maryland. 
     Avram's long-time relationship with both the chess and backgammon communities began at the age of 6 when he learned the game of chess from his uncle. He was soon a regular at the Manhattan Chess Club and went on to play at both national and international tournaments, with many tournament championships. In 1974, he was awarded a Life Master title. 
     He won the Virginia State Championship three straight times from 1952 to 1954. He also won the Maryland Open becoming Maryland State Champion in 1955 and 1979. 
     Avram attended St. Lawrence College in Canton, New York his freshman year. When his father was awarded an engineering commission in Istanbul, Turkey, Avram accompanied his parents and transferred to Robert College in Istanbul which is the college from which he earned his degree. 
     Avram was very proud of his US Navy career. His decorations included the American Theater Ribbon, American Defense Ribbon, European-African-Middle Eastern Ribbon with Two Stars, Asiatic-Pacific Ribbon with Five Stars, Victory Medal World War II-Occupation of Japan, and Philippine Liberation Ribbon. 
     His Navy career as a Lt. Commander during World War II included key assignments in both the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters. From 1941 to 1942, he was assigned to the USS New York and BB-34 and the Amphibious Force from 1942 to 1943. He was part of the Amphibious Force Pacific Attack, Transport Ships, from 1943-1945. 
     In 1951 Avram moved to Arlington, Virginia, to work as an Analyst with the National Security Agency and after his service with NSA, he went on to work with the Central Intelligence Agency. During and after World War II, because he worked at NSA and the CIA the sensitive nature of his intelligence work meant he could never be alone with Soviet players in tournaments or at chess clubs. 
     He left government service to follow his interests in the burgeoning digital court reporting market in the early 60s. A pioneer in this business, Avram and several others founded Stenocomp Corporation in Falls Church, Virginia. In the 70s, Stenocomp was acquired by Translation Systems, Inc. Today, a practical application of his early pioneering work is Closed Captions as seen on television. 
     Avram was a Mensa member and any conversation with him could end up growing into a major discussion. Politics were off-limits unless one was ready for an emotional debate. Personally, he was known for his quick smile and easy-going personality, optimistic attitude and love of life that made lifelong friends everywhere he went. Avram was passionate about the Redskins football team and the Republican Party. 
     As a player, Avram was noted for his materialism and his tough defense, although he was also quite capable of launching sparkling attacks.. His chess activity tended to be marked by intervals of great activity followed by periods away from the game. 
     After his death, his wife of 64 years, Henriette, a computer programmer, succumbed to cancer three months later. They had three children. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. 
     One of his most memorable wins is the following game where he absolutely crushed Bobby Fischer in the 1957 US Open held in West Orange, New Jersey. It can't be claimed that Fischer was just a 14-year-old kid so Avram's win wasn't a big deal. At the time Fischer was the US Junior Champion and shortly before this game was played had defeated Donald Byrne in the US Championship in The Game of the Century.