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Friday, March 24, 2017

Preston Ware

Mr. Ware appears to have been camera shy
     Preston Ware Jr. (August 12, 1821 – January 29, 1890) was born in Wrentham, Massachusetts and died January 29, 1890 in Boston. 
     At the age of seventeen he became clerk in a wholesale boot and shoe house in Baltimore, Maryland at a salary fifty dollars a year (about $1,200 today) plus his room and board. It was during this time he learned to play chess. He was eventually promoted to a position as a bookkeeper for the firm and later was employed by Robert G. Ware and Brother, of Baltimore, a wholesale boot and shoe dealer. About this time he was one of the organizers of the Baltimore Chess Association. After a brief stay with Robert G. Ware and Brother he established the wholesale shoe company of Anderson, Ware and Co. Over the next several years Ware partnered with different individuals in the boot and shoe business, forming and selling several of them. 
     At one point Ware held interest in a freight company called the Jenk’s Boston and Baltimore Packet Line, which he had helped organize. The line lasted until it was put out of business by steam ships. 
     In 1852 Ware moved his family to Boston and joined another boot and shoe company named Joseph F. Dane and Co. In Boston he joined company with several other players who met regularly at the United States Hotel and in 1858 founded the Boston Chess Club. 
     In 1853 Ware bought out the Hayward Rubber Company and in 1855 he sold his interest in the shoe and boot business in Baltimore to his partner. In 1858 he sold his interest in the Joseph F. Dane and Co. and in 1860 sold his stock in the Hayward Rubber Company and became agent of the Newark Rubber Company. Not done with the shoe business, Ware formed another boot and shoe company which continued in business until 1879 when he sold out again. 
     Ware played in many local tournaments. Internationally he participated in Second International Chess Tournament in Vienna in 1882 where he finished in sixteenth place of eighteen scoring a total of 11 points out of 34. At least he had the satisfaction of beating Max Weiss and the winner of the tournament, Wilhelm Steinitz, in a game lasting 113 moves. At the time, Steinitz had not lost or drawn a game for nine years prior to this tournament and was the unofficial World Champion. 
     Ware also competed in the first, second, fourth and fifth American Chess Congresses. Ware was an influential member of the Mandarins of the Yellow Button in Boston. The Yellow Button was a pin worn in the hats of Chinese imperial officials to indicate high rank in the civil service. The Boston Mandarins were a group of amateur players who beaten a recognized master (a professional international player) in an even game...no simuls, etc. They played on Saturday afternoons and dined together in the evening. The group was the foundation of what would become the Deschapelles Chess Club in Boston.
     Ware was known for his eccentric opening play. He used the Ware Opening (1.a4, then known as the Meadow Hay Opening), the Corn Stalk Defense (1...a5, sometimes known as the Ware Defense), and the Stonewall Attack. Around 1888 he reintroduced the Stone-Ware Defense against the Evans Gambit, 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 Bb4 5. c3 Bd6. The Edo historical rating site puts his rating at around 2350. 
     The following game is a typical Ware game. After a double Stonewall opening, Ware launches a Q-side P expansion, but black had several opportunities to launch a decisive K-side attack. When he failed to do so, things got really messy and Ware managed to establish advanced, connected passed Ps on the Q-side. Things were so messy in fact that I ran Shootouts using Stockfish at several points because I didn't think it was possible to rely on the engine evaluation. Given these circumstances it didn't seem fair to assign question marks to all the moves that Stockfish wanted to; the positions were just to complicated to be calculated over the board. Besides, in a number of cases I discovered that the engine's horizon effect was skewing the evaluations! 
     The game was played inthe 2nd American Chess Congress, held at the Kennard House in Cleveland, Ohio. Two decisive games (+2, -2, or +1 -1) were required against each opponent. Play was from 9-12 am, 2-5 pm, and 7-10 pm each day, but players were free to make other arrangements. 
     After the opening of the Ohio Canal in 1827, a number of large brick hotels with up to 200 rooms were built which included the Kennard House in 1855. All the hotels were 5 stories high with plumbing, bathrooms, and water closets located in common areas instead of in every room. The buildings generally had retail stores and office space on the street level, and several had balconies on the upper floors overlooking the street. The changes in name and management of these early 19th-century hotels were frequent. Today the Kennard House is a parking lot. 
Kennard House

1) Mackenzie **** 1=0- =10- 11-- 11-- 11-- 1=1- 11-- 11 (15.5) 
2) Hosmer 0=1- **** 11-- 1=1- 00-- 01-- 11-- 11-- 11 (13.0) 
3) Elder =01- 00-- **** 01-- ==01 11-- 11-- 11-- 11 (12.5) 
4) Judd 00-- 0=0- 10-- **** 11-- 10-- =11- =11- 11 (11.5) 
5) Ware 00-- 11-- ==10 00-- **** 01-- 01-- 11-- 11 (10.0) 
6) Smith 00-- 10-- 00-- 01-- 10-- **** 11-- 11-- 11 (9.0) 
7) Harding 0=0- 00-- 00-- =00- 10-- 00-- **** 01-- 11 (5.0) 
8) Johnston 00-- 00-- 00-- =00- 00-- 00-- 10-- **** 11 (3.5) 
9) Haughton 00-- 00-- 00-- 00-- ---- ---- ---- 00-- **** (0.0) 

The hapless Mr. Haughton withdrew after 10 straight losses and his unplayed games were awarded to his remaining opponents as wins. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The First Soviet Championship

     In 1874, Emanuel Schiffers defeated Andrey Chardin in a match held in St. Petersburg and so was considered the first Russian champion until his student, Mikhail Chigorin, defeated him in a match held in St. Petersburg in 1879. In 1899 the format of the championship was changed to a round-robin tournament known as the All-Russian Masters' Tournament. 
     In 1920 a tournament designated All-Russian Chess Olympiad was held and only later was it recognized as the first official Soviet championship. The event, probably the strongest in history up to that time, was important because it was the beginning of state support for chess and authorities also realized that chess could be used as a tool for political and cultural reasons. 
     Odd sidelights were that the participants were forced to play, the tournament was marked by a strike protesting the meager food rations and it was not long afterwards that the winner would be proclaimed by the government to be a traitor. 
     The idea for the tournament began in early 1920 and discussions were headed up by the military organization overseeing military training. Alexander Ilyin-Zhenevsky, a strong master, headed up the Russian Sports Olympiad committee and it was he who suggested chess be included. The actual program for the tournament was put together by Alexander Alekhine and prominent masters Nikolai Grekov and Nikolai Grigoriev. 
     As a result of World War One (July 28, 1914 to November 11, 1918) and with Russia in the middle of a revolution and the economy in a mess, it was not even known with any certainty which players were alive or dead, let alone could play. So a call went out using the Red Army to locate players who were then shanghaied for the tournament. Ilyin-Zhenevsky denied that players were forced to play. Supposedly the military's involvement meant the players would get special treatment and after the tournament they could return to their jobs. But, that was not always the case. Dr. Abram Rabinovich, who lived in in Kiev, was walking home from work when he came across an announcement that he and two other players believed to be in Kiev had been ordered to Moscow. He was advised to report to the local military authorities. Rabinovich was recovering from typhus and did not want to make the trip, but was forced to go anyway. Peter Romanovsky, a bank employee from Petrograd, was conscripted into the Army to insure he made it to Moscow. In addition to the main event, a simultaneous amateur event was planned and the military was also used to assure players for that event were “available.” 
     The strongest players included Alexander Alekhine, Peter Romanovsky, Nikolai Grigoriev, Abram Rabinovich, Ilya Rabinovich, G.Y. Levenfish, Benjamin Blumenfeld and Ilyin-Zhenevsky himself. Players not from Moscow were housed in a military barracks and ate in the mess hall. Players were unhappy with the arrangement: the barracks was cold and unheated and the beds were hard and the food poor. 
     Food quickly became an issue. The rations for both the recruits and the players consisted of about 7 ounces (slightly more than half a loaf of bread today) plus and evening meal of thin herring head soup and fried herring tails. As a result the players had to buy food on the black market, often trading cigarettes for food. Players also began to suspect that the offered prizes which had never been specifically spelled out would not be available. 
     Halfway through the tournament a number of the stronger players refused to play the fifth round unless their demands were met: they wanted an advance cash allowance, cheese issued to the players, an increase in their bread ration and cigarettes. Alekhine, who was living at home in Moscow with his parents, did not sign the protest, but said he would act in solidarity with the strikers because did not think it right to play against hungry opponents. In order to save the tournament, Ilyin-Zhinevsky acquiesced to the demands except for the cheese; there wasn't any in Moscow. 
    The winner was Alekhine with Romanovsky second and Levenfish third. However, there was another nasty surprise in store for the players...the promised prizes were missing! Instead the organizers handed out various items that had been confiscated from emigres who were considered “enemies.”  As the winner Alekhine got first choice and chose a huge vase. The top three were also awarded handwritten certificates on cheap paper. 
     Ilyin-Zhenevsky, who had an old war injury, played the final games lying in bed and the players' rebellion damaged his political reputation and placed him in a compromised position. 

1) Alekhine 12.0 
2) Romanovsky 11.0 
3) Levenfish 10.0 
4) I. Rabinovich 9.5 
5-7) Grigoriev, A. Rabinovich, Kubbel 8.5 
8) Blumenfeld 8.0 
9-10) Ilyin-Zhenevsky and Daniuszewski 7.0 
11-12) Zubarev and Pianov 6.5 
13) Tselikov 5.5 
14) Mundt 4.5 
15) Pavlov 4.0 
16) Golubev 3.0 

     Peter Romanovsky (July 29, 1892, Saint Petersburg – March 1, 1964, Moscow) was an IM, International Arbiter and chess author. During the Siege of Leningrad in winter of 1941–42, a rescue party reached his home and found him half-conscious from starvation and cold. The rest of his family, his wife and four daughters, had frozen to death. All the furniture in the house had been used for firewood. 
     Romanovsky was considered one of Russia's greatest chess luminaries and taught several generations of Leningrad and Moscow players. A very hospitable man, many young chess players would visit him and he would read them lectures about chess history, development of chess ideas, chess schools and great masters of the past. An accomplished balalaika (a Russian three-stringed musical instrument with a triangular body) player, Romanovsky sometimes performed classical music for his students on it. He also wrote poetry. 
     He was awarded the IM title in 1950 and the International Arbiter title in 1951 and in 1954 the Soviets withdrew their application for him to receive the GM title for political reasons. The application was based on his first place in the 1927 USSR championship. But, because anti-Stalinist Fedor Bohatirchuk had shared the title in 1927 and he was no longer recognized in the USSR as the result of his having defected to Canada, the USSR Chess Federation did not want to give the GM title to Bohatirchuk, so they withdrew the application for Romanovsky as well. Romanovsky published two books on the middlegame which were translated into English in 1990. 
     Abram Rabinovich was born in Vilnius, Lithuania and had several success in international tournaments. During World War I, he moved to Moscow where he also enjoyed considerable success. According to Yuri Averbach, Rabinovich was a short man who wore pince-nez on his big red nose. In summer, he would wear a canvas blouse. Before the war, he was the editor of chess column for a newspaper. In his last years, he would study theory extensively. In 1941-42 he was living in poverty and hunger Moscow where he died of starvation in 1943. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Real Humdinger by Spassky

     Bobby Fischer called this game one of the ten greatest of all time. Pachman called it a modern masterpiece, Soitis ranks it number 32 on his top 100 list, a poll of readers by Shakmatny Bulletin ranked it as one of the very best games of the 1960s and in his book on Spassky, Bernard Cafferty called it one of the finest games he had ever had the pleasure to review or to analyze. Everybody agrees that it is of the most amazing games ever played and one of the more famous games of the modern era. 
     The game is Spassky vs. Bronstein from the 1960 USSR Championship. It's the game that was featured in the classic James Bond movie "From Russia, With Love" as being played by Kronstein against McAdams. I never saw the movie because I am not James Bond fan and rarely go to movies, but I am not sure how it took me 57 years to discover this game!
     Spassky's 15.Nd5, threatening Qh7+, has received the accolades of a lot of fine players. But, it has also been criticized on the grounds that 15. Rf2 would have given him an excellent game whereas the move he actually chose leads, with correct play, to an unclear position.
     That's true, but as Soltis pointed out, chess isn't always about finding perfect moves. (That is unless you're a modern correspondence player seeking perfection by using a bunch of engines and a powerful computer.) In OTB play chess is about making pragmatic choices. In this game Bronstein was short on time and the complications as a result of Spassky's sacrifice resulted in, as Botvinnik used to put it, head whirling complications. 
     If you haven't seen this game, you'll enjoy it.  If you have seen it before, enjoy it again!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Refuting the Refutation of the Colle?!

     In chapter 23 of his book Action Chess renowned author and teacher C.J.S. Purdy wrote that the nearest thing there is to a perfect opening for amateurs is the Colle System because it's a play by pattern system. 
     Gunnar Gundersen (March 11, 1882 in Bordeaux – February 9, 1943 in Melbourne) was an Australian master who disagreed. Born in Bordeaux, France, he was raised in Melbourne where his Norwegian father was the Scandinavian consul. Gundersen started to play chess as a freshman at Melbourne University in 1902 and would eventually become a professor of mathematics there. He participated in the Mannheim 1914 tournament, scoring 2.5/10 in the Main tournament (Hauptturnier A) before the outbreak of World War I stopped the event. After a hurried distribution of the prize money Gundersen succeeded fleeing to Christiana [now Oslo]. He rode the train for 6 days on what should have been a 36 hour trip and during that time he had only two meals and ten hours sleep. Gundersen won the Victorian State Championship in 1907, 1908, 1912, 1913, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919, 1920, 1922 and 1929 and the New Zealand Championship in 1929/30 and 1931/32. 
     Gundersen didn't think much of the Colle, calling it an opening consisting of wood shifting, safety first and one that kept the draw in hand and Edgar Colle played it because he suffered from an inferiority complex. Gundersen stated that if black can prevent e2-e4 by any means, then the opening was busted. 
     The Colle, Torre, and the London System….while their general reputation is rather bad, the fact is, there is simply no refutation. Moreover, they all have been played by world champions at one time or another. 
     When meeting any of these systems my favorite method is to use a K-Indian setup. In one old book, Winning With the Colle System by Kenneth Smith and John Hall, they wrote that often when black “messes around” with a fianchetto or two and attacks white's center from the flank white should rejoice. That's nonsense! They only gave one example, Koltanowski vs. Alekhine, Hastings 1936-37 and in their annotations offered a single comment mentioning 7.b4! left white better. It was a better move, but hardly a refutation of Alekhine's double fianchetto. 
     They would have better served their readers to have explained that in openings like the Colle, Torre and London systems, when black chooses setups different than the usual Queen's Gambit formation, white does well to change his strategy.  
     It's not unusual that less than honest authors who are advocating a particular opening, especially secondary, obscure, or in some cases, downright inferior openings, to avoid anything that does not agree with their claim. 
     In the book Colle, London and Blackmar-Diemer Systems Tim Harding says the Colle formation is not very good for white against the King's Indian. For that reason he recommends white not play e2-e3 until black has played e7-e6. His recommendation is that when black plays the K-Indian white should abandon the Colle and play the London System. That is, 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. Bf4. For an excellent article on the London System, see this article on Chessbase.
     Also, in the excellent book, Zuke 'Em by Dave Rudel, in the forward GM Aaron Summerscale wrote that one particular move order that he found to be irksome was 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 g6. If you are interested in playing the Colle then Rudel's book is probably the best one available for amateurs. 
     Here is a game where black fianchettoes his KB and white transposes into the London System. The position looks pretty bland, but the winner comes up with an ingenious plan to infuse some life into the position. 
     Michael J. Franklin (February 2, 1931) is a British FM and was one of the country's leading players for many years. 
     George Botterill (January 8, 1949) is a British IM and at one time was one of Britain's leading young players. In 1974 he was in a seven way tie for first in the British Championship and won the playoff. In 1974 he became a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Wales and began playing for the Welsh team. In 1974 he was joint Welsh champion and in 1977 he won the British title outright. Botterill is best known as a chess writer, in particular for his opening collaborations with Raymond Keene. He later became Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Sheffield.

Friday, March 17, 2017

An Interesting Line Against the French

     I used to play the French Defense regularly. That probably had a lot to do with Botvinnik being my favorite player early on and his One Hundred Selected Games was one of the few books that actually got read so much the cover fell off. 
     I was also influenced by CJS Purdy's book, Action Chess. In it he wrote that OTB he preferred giving white as few options as possible and that was the appeal of openings like the Dragon Sicilian (I never played it), the French and another of my favorites, the Caro-Kann. Purdy claimed that the Sicilian was too complicated and the Caro-Kann retarded black's development and needed a lot of study and that left the French. His recommendation was the line 3...dxe4, but I found it to be a bit too passive so I eventually went back to Botvinnik's favorite, the Winawer. 
     I have to confess that when playing over this game I had never seen white's 7th move and found it intriguing. My expanded Fritz 12 opening book shows that out of 220 games white won (not scored) 51 percent. I was surprised to find that it only shows up in two games in the Rybka opening book and is not listed at all in the HIARCS book. Nor did it show up in my correspondence book consisting of top level correspondence games. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Golombek's Bench

Golombek's Memorial Bench
       Sir Harry Golombek (March 1, 1911 – January 7, 1995) was British chess champion in 1947, 1949 and 1955, an honorary GM (1985), the chess correspondent for The Times between 1945 and 1989, and editor of the British Chess Magazine from 1938 to 1940 and also the overseas editor of the BCM in the 1960s and 70s. In 1966 he was awarded the OBE for services to chess. During the Second World War Golombek, originally a bombardier, later worked at Bletchley Park, in Hut 8, the section responsible for cracking the Enigma code.
     In St. Giles Churchyard, Chalfont S.t Giles, Bucks, UK, by the entrance to the church, there is a bench with the dedication "Harry Golombek, O.B.E. Code Breaker, Chess Correspondent, Writer" with his birth and death dates. 
St. Giles Church

Negative Immortality...

    That's what Arnold Denker described James F. Smyth as having achieved in The Bobby Fischer I Knew. It was because Smyth lost this "brilliancy" to Helms.  Denker wrote "everybody" has seen; I hadn't so decided to take a look at it.
     Not much is known of Smyth. Denker said he was born in England and a certified public accountant. His name pops up frequently in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle of the period and he was the librarian for the Brooklyn Chess Club, a frequent competitor in its championship and in 1915 he defeated Bora Kostic in a simultaneous. The Eagle also has mention of a James F. Smyth who was an attorney, not an accountant...same person or not? 
     Hermann Helms (1870 – 1963) was born in Brooklyn, New York, but spent his early childhood in Hamburg, Germany and Halifax, Nova Scotia before returning to the US at the age of 17. The following game has been called his "Evergreen" game, but as we will see, like many old "brilliantly" played games, it has plenty of flaws. It's still an entertaining game to play over though and any of us would have been proud to have played it, especially the final move. Arnold Denker published the game with brief notes and his analysis is some of the crappiest I have seen in a long time. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

It's Not Over Until It's Over

     When calculating a tactical sequence you must be absolutely certain you have reached the end. You have to ask yourself, "Am I sure this is the final position?" Stop too short and there may be a nasty surprise awaiting. 
     That's what happened in this game. Barda saw Keres' threat and calculated five moves ahead and thought his 20.Kf2 left him with a won position. But, the sequence wasn't over and Keres saw a couple of moves further...to the real end of the sequence. 
     Paul Keres needs no introduction. He was an aggressive and a swashbuckling player and this trait never left him even though in his later years his play was a little more positional. That's because as a player gets older it gets harder to calculate tactics and so one tends to rely on experience and intuition more. 
     His opponent, Olaf Barda (August 17, 1909 – May 2, 1971), born Olaf M. Olsen, was a Norwegian who was the first Norwegian player to be awarded the IM title, which he received in 1952. Barda won the Norwegian Championship six times: 1930 (under the name Olsen), 1947, 1948, 1952, 1953, and 1957. Barda was also a strong correspondence player, winning the Norwegian correspondence championships in 1946 and 1949/1950. In 1953 he was awarded the correspondence GM title and finished fourth in the First World Correspondence Championship played between 1950 and 1953. 
     This game was played in the 12th Chess Olympiad which was held between August 31 and September 25, 1956, in Moscow. The Russians were were double defending champions and lived up to expectations although their margin of victory wasn't as big as in previous years. Yugoslavia and Hungary finished second and third.