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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Robert Brieger and Ronald Simpson Slug It Out in Omaha

     Robert Brieger composed direct mate problems, helpmates and endgames. He passed away at the ge of 86 on April 26, 2012 in Houston, Texas. He was born in Houston on October 18, 1925 where he resided his entire life except for brief jobs away from Houston.
     Brieger graduated with B.S. in Mathematics from University of Houston in 1946 and obtained his teaching certificate in 1951. Professionally he taught math for brief periods in Houston and other Texas districts and worked two years for Convair Aeronautics in San Diego, California. 
     He began playing chess at the age of 17 and eventually became a rated Master. He authored several books on chess and composed countless end game studies as well as played correspondence chess. Brieger also held the title of Houston City Chess Champion many times and was a powerhouse in Texas and tournaments in the Southwest for many years,
      Besides chess, he loved classical music and played the clarinet in high school and university orchestras, later he enjoyed attending concerts and opera.  Later in life he also enjoyed all types of ballroom dancing. He loved classical movies and collected favorites, especially winners of awards in Cannes and Venice, as well as Hollywood. 
     Brieger was well known in the area of Houston in which he lived because of his life-long habit of walking miles throughout the neighborhood. 
     FM Ronald Simpson tragically succumbed to stage four cancer on Thursday, September 19, 2013 at the age of 53. Simpson was an active member of the North Carolina chess community after being a legendary figure in New York’s Black Bear School of Chess for many years. In the 1980s, as a product of the Fischer Boom, a surge of black players reached Master level. Cities such as New York had established the Black Bear School of Chess whose purpose was to produce Masters. GM Maurice Ashley, the first African-American GM, was the product of the “school". In addition to Ashley and Simpson, Masters such as William Morrison and Ernest Colding were developed. 
     Simpson's career started when he learned chess from a neighbor and then began challenging anyone who was willing to play him. He later joined the Black Bear School of Chess who staged 30-game blitz matches and seriously studied the game. Simpson loved tactical chess and became known for his swashbuckling style of play. 
     After moving to North Carolina he played for the Carolina Cobras in the US Chess League and won a number of tournaments and was a North Carolina State champion.  Simpson was one of those rare masters who would play anyone, anywhere. He often played in local events where he was 200-300 points above everybody else simply because he enjoyed playing and analyzing with others.  He was buried back in New York City where his mother still lived. 
     The two met in round 10 at the 1959 US Open in Omaha, Nebraska where Brieger scored 6.5-5.5 and finished tied for places 44-57. Simpson finished with a score of 5-7 and tied for places 92-104. The following game is full of raging complications and the outcome was in the balance until the very end. A good show by BOTH players! 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

McBrain Engine

     As you know, Stockfish 8 has been out for quite some time while Komodo 11 has come out just recently. On May 22, 2017 Komodo 11.01 was released and was claimed to be about 10 elo stronger than Komodo 10.4 and 55 elo stronger than Komodo 10. It's major improvements were in other areas. 
     As of June 24, on the CCLR 40/40 rating list Komodo 11.01 is one rating point ahead of Stockfish 8, but in head-to-head encounters Stockfish leads by a score of +4 -2 =22, so it seems that SF is still the best engine. 
     What I wanted to do was see if any of the SF developmental engines are better than SF8, so I visited the abrok site and downloaded Stockfish_17062123_x64. I won't discuss the supposed improvement in this version as I have no idea what “The idea is that chances are the tt-move is best and will be difficult to raise alpha when playing a quiet move.” means.
     However, I did run a match of 4-minute games between this engine and SF8 and the results were that the developmental version scored +1 -0 =9. Clearly there's not much difference between the two engines. 
     Another engine that caught my attention was McBrain which is based on Stockfish. In a 4-minute, six game match between SF8 and McBrain 2.5 the result was that McBrain won by a score of +2 -1 =3. McBrain has an interesting style, but it does seem a bit slower than SF. Obviously these short tests at a fast time limit cannot be considered conclusive, but if anyone is interested in tinkering with engines, these two are worth a look.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Southsea 1950

The Bogoljubow vs Trott ending was a rare bird
     The annual Agnes Stevenson Memorial, an open tournament, was played in the 1950s and 1960s with Southsea being the venue from 1949 to 1952. Mrs. Stevenson was a British Ladies Champion who met an untimely end in 1935 when she accidentally walked into an airplane propeller. 
     The 1950 tournament was Arthur Bisguier's first international success in Europe and Jonathan Penrose created a sensation by defeating both Tartakower and Bogoljubow. His loss to Bisguier in the eighth round knocked him out of first into a tie for third place. 
     There's also an interesting anecdote concerning Tartakower that relates to the Wesley So incident when he was forfeited at the US Championship for writing noted on his scoresheet. In The Chess Masters on Winning Chess by Fred Reinfeld he wrote, “Tartakower had a fluent pen; he wrote voluminously, often annotating a game for a newspaper or magazine while he was playing it.” 
     Leonard Barden wrote that he witnessed Tartakower making notes during at least one game, at one or more of the Southsea tournaments of 1949, 1950 and 1951. Barden related that in Tartakower's game against Ravn at Southsea, 1951 he (Barden) was curious to see what Tartakower was writing and so crept up behind him and found there were copious notes in small writing on his scoresheet.  He went on to say that apparently Tartakower had trouble reading his own notes because he pushed his glasses back on his forehead, squinted and peered closely at what he had written. Nobody objected though; Tartakower was a legend and besides, it wasn't considered consulting written material in those days.  That would come many years later. 
     Bogoljubow's opponent in this game is A.H. Trott. Not a lot is available on Trott. He is referred to in an article in keverelchess.  He was an alumni of the Alleyn School in London. The June, 1947 issue of the school magazine mentions that he was playing for the school's chess team. The July, 1951 wrote, “A.H. Trott (tn 1945-47-note: this is apparently a reference to the years he attended) has won the Southern Counties' Chess Championship by finishing first out of the British players in the recent Southsea Tournament. Both The Times and the Observer made favourable comments on his play.” 
     This game where he was defeated by Bogoljubow has a rare finish. Trott's last move was a check and Bogoljubow replied with a move that delivered mate. 

The final standings of Southsea 1950 were: 
1-2) S. Tartakower and A. Bisguier 7.5 
3-5) J. Penrose, L. Schmid and H. Golombek 7.0 
6) E.D. Bogoljubow 6.5 
7-13) F.F.L. Alexander, L. Barden, R. Newman, L. Prins, A.R.B. Thomas, H. Trevense and R.G. Wade 6.0 
14-18) J.M. Aiken, B. Brown, L. Illingworth, R. Reifenberg and A.H. Trott 5.5 
19-25) H.H. Cole, L. Derby, J. Poole, K. Winterton, R.C. Woodthorpe, F.S. Wollford and R.F.G. Wright 5.0
26-31) W. Fry, A. Knight, I. Napier, J.J. O'Hanlon, P.A. Ursell and H.H. Wright 4.5 
32-35) Mrs. R.M. Bruce, J. Duthilleul, A. Eva and A. Warson 4.0 
36-38) Miss J. Doulton, Capt. H. Heneage and D. Leslie 3.5 
39-40) E. Attenborough and D. Fawcwtt 3.0 
41) Cmdr. J. Britton 2.0 
42) A.S. Dance 1.5 

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!