Random Posts

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Rudolf Spielmann

     Rudolf Spielmann (May 5, 1883 – August 20, 1942) is pretty much a forgotten player from long ago and that is a shame. His father was a newspaper editor in Vienna who played chess in his spare time and taught the game to Rudolf and his brother. 
     Though Spielmann had a degree in law, he never worked as one because he devoted his life to chess. He never married but was devoted to his nieces and nephews and Fine described him as having two passions: beer and chess. Interestingly, on February 25, 2015, The Guardian carried an article about Spielmann's nephew, 92-year-old Eric Roland Spielman, from Loughton, England who died after being hit by a car while walking to the chess club. The driver of the car was another 92-year-old! More details on Eric Spielmann can be found HERE
     According to Chessmetrics his highest performance rating of 2791 came at Carlsbad in 1929 and his highest rating was 2716 in 1913 which ranked him number 7 in the world behind Rubinstein, Lasker, Nimzowitsch, Tarrasch, Schlechter and Marshall.   He was devoted to gambits, vicious attacks against the enemy King and brilliant tactics and that's why his games should be better known by players who like the tactical play by the likes of Tahl and Nezhmetdinov.
     The reason he probably isn't better appreciated is because of his tournament record. While he did very well in some, in others he bombed and so he was never among the world's elite players. Spielmann loved the King's Gambit and the Center Game continued playing then even after most players gave up on it. But, by the late 1920s he switched mainly to 1.d4 as dictated by fashion of the day. 
     Spielmann's first tournament was the Berlin City Championship 1903/04 in which he tied for 2nd and 3rd with Bernstein. During his career, he did well, winning 33 of the roughly 120 in which he played, including Stockholm 1919; Bad Pistyan 1922; and Semmering 1926.
     In 1934, Spielmann fled Vienna due to rising pro-Nazi sympathies in the city and the moved to the Netherlands. In 1938, he went to Prague to be with his brother Leopold, but the German army occupied Czechoslovakia only a few months later.  His brother was arrested and died in a concentration camp a few years later. One of their sisters also perished in a camp, the other survived the war, but never recovered mentally from the ordeal of it and ended up committing suicide. 
     Spielmann managed to flee to Sweden and hoped to eventually reach England or the United States and attempted to raise money for the trip by playing exhibition matches, writing chess columns and a book which was not published for political reasons...some members of the Swedish Chess Federation were sympathetic to the Nazis and disliked Spielmann who was Jewish. 
     World War Two was in progress and because of Nazi sympathies in Sweden, Spielmann became withdrawn and depressed and one day in August, 1942 he locked himself in his apartment and didn't come out.  On August 20, concerned neighbors summoned police who entered his apartment and found him dead. He was 59 years old. The official cause of death was ischemic heart disease, a disease characterized by reduced blood supply to the heart.
     Rumor has it that he intentionally starved himself. Generally, humans can survive without any food for 30-40 days as long as they are properly hydrated and death can occur at around 45 to 61 days. However, the body can sustain itself no more than about two weeks (at most) without fluid intake. He was buried in Stockholm, his tombstone reading "A fugitive without rest, struck hard by fate.” 
     The following game was played in King's Gambit Accepted tournament in Abbazia, 1912. This theme tournament was organized by Georg Marco and of the 12 players, who met each other twice, at the time only Spielmann, Duras, Cohn and Leonhardt were regarded as masters at the time. This may be one of the reasons why no tournament book appeared, and many of the games are apparently lost forever. The tournament was a big success for Spielmann, but a tragedy for the King's Gambit. White scored only +40 -59 =21. 

1) Spielmann 15.0 
2) Duras 13.5 
3-4) Cohn and Reti 11.5 
5) Lowcki 11.0 
6-7) Flamberg and Freymann 10.5 
8) Szekely 9.0 
9) Leonhardt 8.0 
10-11) Nyholm and Rosselli 7.5 
12) Aurbach 5.5

     In The Art of Sacrifice in Chess, Spielmann presents this game as an example of a “vacating sacrifice” which is designed to clear a certain square for a certain piece. Going over the game with Stockfish shows that while Spielmann's sacrifice at move 16 is very good and sound, the play which results gets extremely complicated and his notes did not bring out all the hidden finesses. This game is a great example of Spielmann's brilliant play.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Print Your Own Chess Book the Easy Way

     Back in May I did a post on using chess notebooks and earlier this month did one on Rolf Wetzell who suggested using flash cards, but I was thinking that if you have a program like Aquarium or Chess Assistant you could easily make a workbook with a three ring binder and a hole punch. Your workbook could be on anything: openings, interesting middlegame positions or endings. You can also make your own chess books and then save then in pdf format. The possibilities are endless. 
     It's probably technically not legal, but you could also copy games out of books or magazines into Word and then format the pages however suits you. One good way to do this is with a good Optical Character Recognition software program. The best free OCR program I have found is FreeOCR. It is very simple to use and supports multi-page tiff's, fax documents as well as most image types and has Twain scanning.  Here is a sample page I created using Chess Assistant:

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Desperado Moves

     A desperado piece is a piece that is en prise or trapped, but captures an enemy piece before it is itself captured. This can be in either a situation where both sides have hanging pieces, or "...in which you use your doomed piece to eat as much material as possible before it dies." GM Andy Soltis.
     The problem with calculating when desperado moves are involved is that they can occur even when several of the pieces involved are protected, they can be long or short sequences and different kinds of pieces can be involved: i.e. N for a R, R for a Q. 
     A couple important point were pointed out by Soltis: 

 1) When the captures are unequal, the winner is usually the player who makes the most damaging capture. 
2) If the same kinds of pieces are being captured, the player who makes the final capture is often the one who wins.  
     He also observed two points to keep in mind when calculating are:
1) The material balance (or imbalance) after each move 
2) What's the material situation at the end, which is the last capture? 

     Keeping track of the material in a sequence of captures can be confusing and you must keep an eye out for surprise moves that end the sequence in your opponent's favor. You might think this would be difficult to keep track of using only ten fingers, but THIS Youtube video might help. 
     The following game of trap the Queen involves some tricky calculation of desperado moves that's fun to try and visualize. Good luck!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Irene Vines, Mystery Lady

     Irene Vines won the Louisiana State Championship in 1956 when she topped a strong field of 47 players with a score of +5 -0 =1. She was undefeated until the last round when she met the strong Tennessee player Robert S. Scrivener
     Vines was from New Orleans and in 1953 she tied for 1st place in the"C" section of the New Orleans Championship ahead of her husband, a doctor, who finished fourth. In 1954 she finished 7th. 
     Her finish in the 1954 U.S. Women's Open qualified her a spot in the 1955 U.S. Women's Championship. After six rounds she was leading the even with a score of 5-1, her one loss being against Willa Owens. After that she began to fade and the battle became a race between the 1954 US Women's Champion, Gisela Gresser of New York City and Nancy Roos of Los Angeles who ended up tied at 9-2 and were declared co-champions. Third place was taken by Mona Karff, fourth by Jacquelyn Piatagorsky. Vines finished fifth with a score of 7.5-3.5. 
     On the 1955 USCF rating list her rating was 1916. After the '55 US Women's championship she seems to have disappeared from the national chess scene and I wasn't able to uncover anything else about her.

Friday, June 16, 2017

A Tussle Over a Buick

     The 1955 US Open held in Long Beach, California had a rather bizarre and controversial finish. Reshevsky and Rossolimo tied for first place and cash prizes are generally split equally while trophies are awarded on tie breaks. The problem with this tournament was that first prize was a 1955 Buick Century that had been donated by a local dealer. 
     Tiebreaks involve adding up the adjusted scores of opponents and that was the problem. In this event adjustments were made by awarding a half point for unplayed games or a loss on a forfeit and subtracting a half point for a bye or a win on forfeit. It caused a problem. 
     In round two, Reshevsky defeated James Bolton who ultimately finished with 7 points. In round 7, Bolton received a forfeit win from Ronald Gross (who finished with 6 points). 
     Bolton had defeated Gross in a game that was actually played, but AFTER the game Bolton was informed by a spectator that while he was away from the board, Gross had made a move, taken it back and played another one.  An enraged Bolton demanded the TDs award him the game on a forfeit and they complied.  It's hard to imagine Bolton's demand because winning on a forfeit would mean no rating points. Bolton was rated 2110 and Gross 2123 at the time though both would eventually become strong masters.  However, at this time the rating system was new and players weren't so sensitive to such things as rating points. 
     Thus, because Bolton received a forfeit win, his adjusted final score for tiebreak purposes was 6.5, not 7.0 points, and that lowered Reshevsky's tiebreak score enough that Rossolimo got the car. 
        In today's dollars...$25,500
     As it turned out though, the decision was the right one because Kenneth Harkness later pointed out in Chess Review that even without deducting that half point, Rossolimo would have been awarded the car.  That was because the first two tiebreak systems would have resulted in a tie, but the third method would have given Rossolimo the Buick by a 0.25 point margin. The two players could have settled the issue themselves when they met in round 8, but they elected to play a 17-move draw. 
     Rossolimo's win over Irving Revise, who finished tied for places 6-9 with Anthony Saidy, Ivan Romanenko and James T. Sherwin with 8.5 points, was interesting. John W. Collins called it one of Rossolimo's most most clean-cut wins. It was anything but! When Collins annotated the game for Chess Life his notes were almost worthless because he missed so many points and made it look like Rossolimo's play was near perfect and Revise was the recipient of a stern thrashing. As is often the case, things weren't so clean-cut. If only one had Stockfish in 1955! 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Frank K. Perkins

     The other day while browsing the 1955 rating list in Chess Life I noticed the name of one of the players listed as a Master Emeritus, Frank K. Perkins. 
     Because I had never heard of him I decided to do some research, but not a lot turned up. That was probably because in the mid-1930s he gave up chess for bridge. He wrote at least one book on it titled Vital Tricks at Contract Bridge which was published in 1953. He also published numerous articles on the game and was the founder of New England Bridge League. 
     Frank Kendall Perkins was born on October 6, 1891 in Brooklyn, but was educated in Mount Vernon, New York. Perkins first came to the notice of the chess playing public as a member of the Cornell University Chess Club when he became its champion. 
     After obtaining his degree in civil engineering in 1912, he became a junior engineer in the New York subway construction. At various times he was a member of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Chess Clubs. On at least one occasion he gave a simultaneous exhibition at the Brooklyn club where he scored +19 -2 =3. At one time he was also a member of the Marshall Chess Club. Perkins was a participant in the Rice Memorial tournament in New York, 1916. 
     Before the outbreak of World War I Perkins applied for a US Army commission in March of 1917 and received it the following month. He received his training at Madison Barracks and was assigned to the 303rd Engineers at Camp Dix, New Jersey in September. 
     He sailed for France in May of 1918 and arrived in June. By early July he was engaged in combat near Ypres where he helped prepare the defense for an anticipated attack. He also fought at Chateau Thierry. In September of 1918 Perkins was gassed, but had recovered by October and again found himself working by night under shell fire, hiding in the woods and sleeping by day. In October he was also made commanding officer of his company with the recommendation that he be promoted to Captain. 
     Perkins faced some pretty tough conditions and wrote that this time seemed like a nightmare. He was so weak he could hardly sit on his horse and they worked under shell fire day and night with no chance to get proper rations, just hard tack and bully-beef when they were lucky. Soldiers were often given tins of beef along with hard tack, a rigid biscuit that looks like a large cracker that is made from flour, water, and sometimes a pinch of salt. It is known not only for its portability and shelf life but also its ability to chip teeth. Bully beef (corned beef) was often spread on the hard tack or eaten straight from the can. 
     He was gassed a second time, but this time it was not serious enough to require hospital admission, but it was bad enough that it affected his stomach. When his outfit was ordered to march to the rear he was sent to the hospital where he was admitted; he was in the hospital when the armistice was signed. 
     A September, 1937 issue of Games Digest magazine article says: Frank Perkins, another of our contributors on chess, directs his article to the attention of the average player. But Perkins is far above the average class. While he has retired from active competition, Frank was not so many years ago considered this country’s leading amateur chessplayer. His retirement, by the way, was not caused by old age, but by the fact that he now devotes most of his attention to contract bridge, at which he is an equally famous star. A native New Yorker, Frank is now settled in Boston. 
     Perkins passed away in February, 1971. His surviving games are few. Aside from his games in the Rice Memorial, I found one long, boring game in which he held I.A. Horowitz to a draw in a Marshall vs. Manhattan league match in 1929 and this one from his college days. 
     This game was played in the championship of the Triangular College League in 1910. The games were played in the Rice Chess Club in New York City and each team consisted of two players. There was a lot of excitement because the outcome depended upon the last game played. Perkins of Mount Vernon, New York and Arthur Ehrlich of Brooklyn played for Cornell and both won their games thereby regaining the lead that Pennsylvania had taken the day before. Pennsylvania's second place finish was for the most part due to the excellent play of Norman T. Whitaker who won all four of his match games. His partner was M. Teitelbaum could only score 1.5 points. Brown University was last. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Joseph Redding

     In 1884 Johann Zukertort spent July 2nd to July 25th in San Francisco giving simultaneous chess exhibitions and his visit was arranged by Joseph D. Redding and J. E. Tippett. 
     At the time Redding was a young lawyer and Zukertort played a 5-game match against him on even terms. The conditions were that Redding played white in all five games and the opening was the Evans Gambit. Zukertort wrote that he considered Redding to be the strongest player in San Francisco and though he (Zukertort) won all five games the match “was a hard tussle.”
     Redding was born in Sacramento, California on September 13, 1858. Redding, California was named after his father. In 1871 he entered the California Military Academy at Oakland and graduated in 1873. From there he entered the Urban Academy which was a college prep-school. After graduating in 1876 he entered the scientific department of Harvard University, but attended lectures at the Harvard Law School. 

     In August, 1879, he took employment in the law offices of McAllister & Bergen in San Francisco and passed his law exams that same year. Besides practicing in San Francisco, Redding also appeared before the US Supreme Court to argue cases. In 1881 e also represented the Southern Pacific Railroad Company specializing in the land departments
     One of his more important legal cases argued before the Supreme Court was when the US government attempted to arrest and try one Indian for killing another Indian when both of them were on the reservation. Redding represented the Indian who was acquitted by the jury because the US government did not have jurisdiction on the reservation, at least at that time. Redding's legal practice was large and very lucrative for the day. It was estimated that his practice raked in somewhere close to half a million in today's currency. 
     Redding also had a passion for music and he began composing at an early age and successfully published numerous compositions. At the age of thirteen, he was was considered a “phenomenon” and accompanied the pianist Hugo Mansfeldt on a concert tour.   While in college he wrote several comedies which were produced in many of the colleges societies of New England. Later Redding collaborated with operetta writer Victor Herbert on a grand opera called Natoma, set in California in the 1820s. The opera has been called the greatest flop of all time. 
    One of Redding's major passions was pisciculture...yes, there really is such a thing...it's the controlled breeding and raising of fish. As a result, he was appointed special agent of the United States Fish Commission for the Pacific coast. He was instrumental in the passage of an act of Congress in getting the services of a ship to investigate the marine fisheries. Redding's attempt to change the fish-eating habits of Americans were immortalized in verse by Ambrose Bierce - Here lies Joseph Redding, who gave us the catfish. He dined upon every fish except that fish. 'Twas touching to hear him expounding his fad. With a heart full of zeal and a mouth full of shad. The catfish miaowed with unspeakable woe. When Death, the lone fisherman, landed their Jo. 
     Another major area of interest was charitable aid and he often contributed income from his plays to charity.  He frequently spoke to audiences on a variety of subjects and contributed articles to the leading magazines and literary journals of the day on a variety of subjects. 
     Redding was a social animal and was elected president of the Bohemian Club in 1885.  He appreciated art and was elected president of the San Francisco Art Association as well as being an esteemed member of several other clubs. 
     Redding was clearly a decent chess player. In addition to his games against Zukertort, in 1888 won a San Francisco tournament ahead of W.R. Lovegrove, a strong master Redding beat visiting G.H.D. Gossip in a match for a purse of $50. Jackson W. Showalter was impressed with Redding’s play during his 1891 visit to San Francisco, and delayed leaving the city to try to arrange a match against Redding, the results of which seem to have been lost. 
     In his later years Redding split his time between New York and San Francisco, appearing in various events at the famous Manhattan Chess Club. He played games with world champions Steinitz, Lasker, and José Raúl Capablanca and once gave a speech at the annual Manhattan Chess Club dinner in 1907. 
     Few of his games have survived. In spite of his accomplishments, what's he best remembered for?  His association with the Bohemian Club of San Francisco.  The Bohemian Club was envisioned as a place where interesting people could have fun without a lot of social rules. The club motto is "Weaving Spiders Come Not Here", a line taken from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. The motto implies that outside concerns and business deals are to be left outside. Nowadays the club has been involved in controversy. See the Washington Post article Bohemian Grove: Where the rich and powerful go to misbehave.
     The following game is very instructive because of the K and P ending.  Studying it will pay dividends!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Fine's Luck

     It seems if it wasn't for bad luck, Fine wouldn't have had any luck at all. Reuben Fine (October 11, 1914 – March 26, 1993) was one of the strongest chess players in the world from the mid 1930s into the early 1950s, but was never able to win the US Championship. Once when asked why that was so, Samuel Reshevsky said, “It was because I was playing.” 
     In the first modern US Championship in 1936, the 21-year old Fine was, along with Reshevsky and Kashdan, the elite of US chess. That tournament didn't go well for Fine. His 7 wins and 7 draws showed his play eas too timid and his loss to Albert Simonson, who was playing fantastically well, meant that Fine could do no better than tie George Treysman for third behind Reshevsky and Simonson. 
     Simonson, the youngest player in the tournament, was an unknown and was recognized as one of the better bridge and backgammon players. His only previous claim to fame had been his mediocre performance on one of the US Olympiad teams, but he made a remarkable late surge to finish a half point behind Reshevsky. 
     Treysman, at 55 was an old man, who had never played in a tournament before but was a professional coffeehouse player, earning dimes at speed and offhand games at some of the seedy clubs around New York. 
     In the 1938 Championship Fine finished second behind Reshevsky by a half point. He might have won, but losses to Anthony Santasiere (who tied Treysman for places 10-11) and Milton Hanauer (tied for places 12-14 with S. Cohen and Fred Reinfeld) proved disastrous.
     Then again in 1940, Fine finished a half point behind Reshevsky. This time it was a loss to the super-solid Abraham Kupchik who finished tied with Arnold Denker for sixth place. Fine sat out the 1942 event but in the 1944 Championship Reshevsky wasn't playing, so it looked like this was Fine's chance. 
     This time he lost one game. When he met Denker in the seventh round it was Denker who prevailed. This was the tournament of Denker's life as he scored an amazing +14 -0 =3 and finished ahead of Fine who's score was almost as good, +13 -1 =3. 
     Fine did much better in the US Open though. At 17, he won his first of seven US Open Championships (then known as the Western Open) at Minneapolis in 1932 where he finished a half point ahead of Reshevsky. 
     Against high class opposition Fine often played brilliantly, but in domestic tournaments he often made tactical errors against lesser opposition. Who knows why? 
     The following game is from the US Open held in Dallas, Texas in 1940. In those days Dallas was out of the way, there was a war going on which made travel difficult, plus the New York State Chess Association championship was being held. As a result, the turnout was a dismal 27 entrants. 
     The field was split into three preliminary sections, with pre-tournament favorites Fine, Herman Steiner, and Weaver Adams seeded into different groups with the top three from each preliminary qualifying for the finals. 
     As expected Adams was undefeated in his section, finishing ahead of Erich Marchand. Steiner was also undefeated in his section, finishing ahead of Harold Burge. Fine was also undefeated, but J.C. Thompson tied him for first. Fine's opponent in this game was the unheralded Albert Roddy from Oklahoma. Arnold Denker called Roddy a “non-master”, but I don't think that is necessarily the case. 
     In the 1947 Southwest Open held in Fort Worth, Texas, Roddy tied for first with J.C. Thompson, Robert G. Wade and Blake W. Stevens. At the time Wade was touring the United States and Canada by Greyhound bus and playing in a number of tournaments. Blake Stevens (April 23, 1927 – August 25, 1993) was from San Antonio, Texas and won the city championship several times. On the 1955 USCF rating list (the only old list I have) he was rated 2140. J.C. Thompson was a Master long before there was an official rating list.
     I attempted to discover more information on Albert Roddy, but was unable to do so. There was an Albert Roddy (1900-1966) who is listed as registering for the draft in the September 26, 1918 issue of the Ada (Oklahoma) Weekly News. There was also an Army Second Lieutenant Albert H. Roddy during World War II who as captured by the Nazis while serving in Germany and was sent to Stalag Luft 3 near Sagan, Germany. He was freed in 1945.  Whomever this Albert Roddy was, this game was his 15 minutes of fame.