Mechanics' Institute Chess Room Newsletter

by John Donaldson


 

Gens Una Sumus!

Mechanics’ Institute Newsletter #611
December 13, 2012


“Soviet players had to play so often in qualification tournaments that they had forgotten how to play for first place”.

—Mikhail Botvinnik, complaining/explaining Bobby Fischer’s tournament successes, in New in Chess 2004 (issue 4, page 68)

The Newsletter will take a break during the holidays and resume on January 9th.


1) Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club News

Experts Allan Beilin and Tanuj Vasudeva tied for first in the 12th Guthrie McClain Memorial G/45, held December 8th, with 4.5 from 5. Top seed IM Ricardo DeGuzman was knocked out in round 3 by 15-year-old Hemang Jangle, who in turn was beaten by Beilin. Jangle, Adam Morton and Lauren Goodkind shared third in the 49-player event, with 4-1 scores. The next Mechanics’ G/45 event, the 13th Bob Burger Open, will be held January 12th.


Expert Todd Rumph won the Fall Tuesday Night Marathon with a score of 7.5-1.5, but fell just short of his long-held goal of becoming a USCF Master, ending the event one point short at 2199. IM Elliott Winslow and NM Romy Fuentes shared second place in the 70-player field, with 7-2 scores.
The
Winter TNM, an eight-rounder, starts on January 8.

The next session of the Mechanics’ C.C.
Thursday Evening Class with Former U. S. Champion Nick de Firmian starts January 10, and runs 8 consecutive weeks, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
This class, limited to a maximum of 8 students, is aimed at players below 2000, and is a perfect fit for the Tuesday Night regular who has been stuck for a long time at the same rating.
Three-time U.S. Champion de Firmian will offer hands-on instruction, including an in-depth analysis of the students’ games.
The cost for the eight classes is $240 for Mechanics’ Institute members, and $270 for non-members.

M.I.C.C. Weekly Wednesday Night Blitz Coordinator Jules Jelinek gives the names of the winners of the Wednesday Blitz held December 5th.
1st - Carlos D’Avila
2nd - Jules Jelinek
3rd - Merim Mesic

IM Daniel Naroditsky
will travel to the Netherlands next week to play in the annual Groningen Chess Festival, which runs from December 19-30.

The Mechanics’ Institute will play host to the
U.S. Chess School from January 2-6. IM Greg Shahade, head of the USCS, will be the lead instructor for the dozen young teen attendees rated 2150 to 2300.

The United States will play in the Pan American Team Championship, a qualifier for the 2013 World Team Championship. The event will be held January 24-30 in Campinas, Brazil, near Sao Paulo.

The US team, in the absence of Hikaru Nakamura and Gata Kamsky, who have prior commitments to compete in conflicting events in Wijk aan Zee and Gibraltar, will consist of Alex Onischuk, Varuzhan Akobian, Alex Lenderman, Ray Robson and Sam Shankland. Yury Shulman will serve as team coach and John Donaldson as team captain.

This will be the first time the US has fielded an entry for the Pan American Team in its over-forty-year history. Grateful thanks go to Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis for making the US participation possible.

2) Jackson Showalter Visits the Mechanics’ in 1891

Part One
The following article was first published in the San Francisco newspaper The Morning Call on February 17th, 1891. We thank NM John Blackstone for pointing this article out to us, and hope to find more information about Showalter’s activities at the Mechanics’.

A CHESS EXPERT.
Arrival of J. H. Showalter, the Eastern Player.

Local Artists to Test His Skill—He Proclaims Steinitz the World’s Champion—His Views on the Game.

J. H. Showalter, one of the most prominent of native American chess-players, and whom good judges predict will soon equal Steinitz, the chess champion of the world, is now in the city. This is his first visit to California. Business and pleasure combined have brought him here. During his stay in San Francisco, which will be of about a month’s duration, he will be the guest of the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club, in whose rooms he will daily display his mastery of the royal game.

He will play some match games with the best players of the various local clubs, and such experts as Messrs. Redding, Lovegrove and Dr. Marshall have already consented to cross swords with him. The games will most probably be played in the Mechanics’ Institute rooms.

Mr. Showalter comes from Georgetown, Ky. He is a most prepossessing gentleman, about 30 years of age, and of pleasing address and appearance.

Speaking to a Call reporter yesterday on the topic of chess he said, “I have played the game ever since I was a boy, but it has only been within the last five or six years that I gained any deep insight into the game.”

HIS FIRST APPEARANCE.

“I made my first public appearance in a tournament in 1889, when I took part in the International Chess Congress held in New York. There were twenty contestants, and I gained ninth place. Last year I was more successful, taking first place in the tournament, at Chicago, of the United States Chess Association, against Lipschitz and Pollock. There will be another tournament held this year at Lexington, Ky., beginning on August 4th, in which I shall take part, as will Pollock of Baltimore; Max Judd of St. Louis, a very strong player; Lipschitz of New York; and others.

“I am an honorary member of every chess club in the country, I believe, and am an active one of the Manhattan Club of New York. I do not know if it be any special honor, but, as far as I can ascertain, I am the youngest public chess-player in America.”

Who is the greatest living chess-player? “Steinitz, most certainly. There can be no doubt about his being the champion. He is a Bohemian by birth, I believe. At present he is in New York, where he has lived for the past two years.”

NO NEW PLAYS.

In reply to a question as to what new openings or gambits had recently been invented, Mr. Showalter said, “Chess is too old a game; it has been played too many ages for any really new discoveries to be made in it. What are claimed as new gambits or openings are simply the old ones revived with the slightest of variations. It is true that in many instances attacks condemned years ago as unsound have been studied over again, demonstrated to be sound, and played again successfully, but that does not make them new inventions. The game is the same as ever. The changes are in developing new lines as the play progresses and varying the cross-gambits, defensive and aggressive plays. My remarks apply to new inventions in play solely to the openings and gambits, for as the game proceeds new combinations are constantly being made by the advanced players. It is simply impossible to number the possible variations of a game of chess.”

Part Two
A ROYAL PASTIME
Interview With an Exponent of Its Beauties.
What the Champion Says of San Francisco Chess-Players
A Few Specimen Games.
Off for the East.

Jackson W. Showalter, the American champion chess-player, who has been demonstrating the beauties of that scientific game to the players in the Mechanics’ Institute, leaves at the end of this week for his home in Kentucky. En route he will visit Los Angeles, staying there about a week, and will play the experts there. After leaving Los Angeles lie will visit St. Louis for two weeks to play a match with Max Judd, who challenges his title to the championship.

Mr. Showalter has been most courteously treated by the local chess plavers, and he is eloquent in expressing his gratitude for the extremely kind manner in which he has been received. Unfortunately the rainy weather caused him to suffer with a severe cold during most of his mouth’s stay and left him unable to accept much of the hospitality that was so freely extended to him. Excepting the disagreeable weather recollections, he carries away with him only the pleasantest memories of San Francisco and its residents.

Speaking of the strength of the local players as compared with those he has met elsewhere, Mr. Showalter is most complimentary. In his opinion, “the players of San Francisco are much stronger than those of Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and Pittsburg. They take a very great interest in the game, and the outlook for San Francisco to be one of the leading centers for first-class play is most encouraging. Owing to larger populations and wider organizations the play in New York, St. Louis, Brooklyn and New Orleans is probably stronger than here. But San Francisco in general comparison with all cities of equal size in the Union is much ahead.

I have played with all the leading lovers of the game here. I think Joseph D. Redding is perhaps the strongest player I have met, but I have only played twice with him. I won one game and the other was not finished. My principal reason for not leaving sooner was to meet Mr. Redding in a match game of three in five this week. Walter Lovegrove is the best young player I have met here. I think he will prove a formidable opponent for anyone in a year or two, and I believe he has a most brilliant prospect before him in the chess world.

“Dr. Marshall is also a player of strong caliber. I have played several games with him, and always found him a hard man to defeat. Messrs. Manson, Ott and Heinemann are also first-class, and would be valuable acquisitions to any club.

“After meeting Mr. Judd in St. Louis my next public engagement is in the United States Association Chess Congress on August 4th at Lexington, Ky., when the championship title will be played for again.”

That the games between the champion and Walter Lovegrove were well contested from the opening to finish can readily be seen by a glance at the following record of the moves.

Vienna Gambit C25
Walter Lovegrove - Jackson Whipps Showalter
San Francisco, 1891

1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 exf4 4.d4 d5 5.exd5 Qh4+ 6.Ke2 Bg4+ 7.Nf3 0–0–0 8.Bxf4 Nf6 9.dxc6 Bc5 10.cxb7+ Kb8 11.Be3 Rhe8 12.Kd3 Rxe3+ 13.Kxe3 Bxf3 14.Kxf3 Qg4+ 15.Kf2 Bxd4+ 16.Ke1 Qh4+ 17.g3 Bxc3+ 18.bxc3 Rxd1+ 19.Kxd1 Qe4 20.Rg1 Qe3 21.Rg2 Ne4 22.Re2 Nxc3+ 23.Ke1 Nxe2 24.Bxe2 Qc3+ 0–1

This game, while exciting, does not show Dr. Lovegrove at his best. He was very likely in his prime in the 1890s (Lovegrove was born in 1869).

The following excerpt from Dr. Ralston’s remembrance of Lovegrove gives an idea how strong he was—likely one of the half-dozen best players at the time.

In 1891 he won a match from Joseph Redding, who claimed the championship of the Pacific Coast, by a score of 7-1. Max Judd, who was prominent in national chess circles, visited San Francisco about the same time, and Dr. Lovegrove won six out of seven games in casual play.

The American champion, J.W. Showalter, also visited San Francisco, and although he had the edge over Dr. Lovegrove in casual play, lost no less than 12 games to him out of about 30 played.

In 1893 Dr. Lovegrove visited Los Angeles, where he met and conquered Simon Lipshutz by a score of 3 1/2–1/2. The American Championship was in a rather foggy state in those days, but technically, the present writer believes, Lipshutz was still the champion, by virtue of his decisive win over Showalter in their match of 1892. However, one must admit that Dr. Lovegrove’s victory over Lipshutz must be weighed with caution because of the very uncertain nature of the champion’s health. Lipshutz was a chronic sufferer from tuberculosis, which caused his premature death at the age of 42.


3) Recollections of the Istanbul Olympiad, by US Team Captain John Donaldson
The December issue of Chess Life has a lengthy report on the US performance in Istanbul, with an emphasis on the two teams’ play. The following report looks at the event from a different perspective.

The 2012 Chess Olympiad set an attendance record, with more than 1,700 players and team captains participating on 157 teams in the open, and 127 teams in the women’s section. By comparison, at the first Olympiad I attended, in Dubai in 1986, there were 834 players on 108 teams in the open, and 49 teams in the women’s section (statistics from the great site olimpbase.org). This increase in the number of people to feed and lodge is somewhat mitigated by the decrease in the number of rounds from 14 to 11. That said, the event is getting more and more expensive to organize.

When judging the Istanbul Olympiad it’s important to remember that the budget that helped Istanbul win the right to host the event in 2008 (they won 95-40 over Budva, Montenegro) was not what was available to the organizers in 2012. During the interim there were changes in the Turkish sports ministry that resulted in the $5-million budget being reduced 40 to 50 percent.

This might explain the very high amounts for room upgrades. The organizers charged 150 Euros per person for a double occupancy room, which a day before the Olympiad went for 90 Euros for two, including breakfast. To be fair, the 300 Euro charge did include lunch and dinner, but 210 Euros a day seems a lot for two people eating a couple of buffet meals. Many teams that traditionally pay for upgrades (the US included, for the first time since the early 1980s) doubled up in 2012 due to the high expense.

Running contrary to this trend, Russia sent a large delegation with multiple coaches, plus captains for each team and stayed on the Executive floor of the WOW Hotel. One had the distinct impression that the Russian Chess Federation, under the leadership of President Ilya Levitov, spared no expense (two-week training camp, dedicated super-computers, and large bonuses for medaling) in an attempt to return to its former glory in the Olympiads.

The 100 Euro charge per player, captain, coach, delegate, journalist etc. was also without precedent. Ostensibly this was to cover transportation costs (from the hotels to the playing site, for example) that were provided in every previous Olympiad. My understanding is that some of the poorer federations got a waiver of this fee.

Olympiads can be judged in different ways. What follows is a description of Istanbul 2012 and a comparison with recent Olympiads (Turin 2006, Dresden 2008, Khanty-Mansiysk 2010).

Food
It’s said that an army travels on its stomach—chess players are no different, and feeding over 2000 people (players, captains, coaches, arbiters and FIDE delegates ) is a real logistical challenge. Istanbul offered buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner that were plentiful, if lacking in variety after a few days, not to mention two weeks. Personal food preferences certainly factor into the final decision, but I would rate Istanbul ahead of Turin and Khanty-Mansiysk, but behind Dresden, which had fantastic buffets for breakfast and lunch (if you were staying at the Maritim hotel). To be fair, Dresden only offered a mediocre dinner at a central site, far from many hotels.

Playing Hall
The playing hall in Istanbul was very good for the participants, though not ideal for spectators who came to watch in person. Security was tight and it took a while to get things running smoothly, but since the incident with the French team in 2010 there have been new challenges facing organizers. I would rank Istanbul number two for its playing hall, ahead of Dresden and Khanty-Mansiysk, but behind Turin, which was outstanding.

Arbiters
There were some concerns that the level of arbiting might be affected by the ban instituted by Turkish Chess Federation President Ali Nihat Yazici on representatives from Germany, Ukraine, England, Georgia, Switzerland, France and the United States. I can’t speak to the overall level of arbiting, as the US team only played once below board 5, but the arbiters for all our matches were professional, and performed their duties to a high standard.

Location of the Olympiad and Playing Hall
Istanbul was a very easy city for most teams to fly into, even more accessible than Turin or Dresden and light-years better than Khanty-Mansiysk, which was a bit of a nightmare to get to.

The location near the airport was not ideal (it had originally planned to be held in the center) but the airport location was not all bad. Near the airport it was much quieter (no problem with airplane noise), and the walk to the playing hotel from the two WOW hotels was fine. Teams not staying in these hotels had to be bused in (20 to 30 minutes), which was not very nice, but at least they were compensated by staying in better hotels. I stayed at the Marriott Courtyard in January 2010, and it was better than either WOW hotel, if for no other reason than that it was newer. All hotels offered were basic standard three stars—decent and solid, but nothing special. The Polat Renaissance Hotel, where high-ranking FIDE officials stayed, was indeed a real five star hotel.

Comparing the various Olympiads in this category is hard. My personal pick for number one would be Dresden. The US stayed at a wonderful hotel that was 30 seconds from the playing site, but other teams had a daily commute to the playing hall of almost two hours. Turin was an easy walk for all, but the accommodations were very modest (picture college dorms stripped of everything but the beds and wiring) while in Khanty the hotel was fine, but every team had to commute by bus. Overall I think Istanbul comes out on top in this category.

To sum things up, in in comparing Istanbul with Olympiads from 2006 onwards I would put it in the middle, with credit for a job well done with reduced resources, but also an acknowledgement that some of the steps to raise revenue were heavy-handed and may have backfired and produced less revenue than normal. Clearly FIDE needs to have better guarantees that successful bidders follow up on their promises. One also has to acknowledge that successful bidders, past and future, are likely to be those who are willing to host other FIDE events (the World Cup most prominently). One example is Baku, who got the Olympiad for 2016, as well as the Olympiad for 2015. FIDE does not have that many sponsors for big ticket items, and it’s understandable that it should try to leverage its stars like the Olympiad to cover the bills for other events.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the issue of drug testing, which was again carried out at the Olympiad, as it has since at least 2006. Chess is very unlikely to ever be an Olympic sport, with the number of events in the Summer Games being continually reduced, and a requirement that all sports in the Winter Games be played on snow and ice. This might make one question the desire of FIDE to have observer status in the Internal Olympic Committee, which requires them to implement drug testing. One answer might be that having observer status in the IOC raises FIDE’s overall stature, but a more nuts-and-bolts response is that it brings in money. A certain number of federations (I’ve heard 30 to 40, out of close to 200) in FIDE receive money from their national sporting body specifically because chess qualifies as a sport, due to its status with the IOC.

This brings up an interesting point. I’ve been told that most of the federations that receive these funds are not in the top ranks of world chess (Netherlands being an exception), but it would appear that those that are tested are exclusively the very best players in the world. This information should be double-checked, but it does provide food for thought, as getting tested, while normally more of an annoyance than anything else, can at times be unpleasant. The selection of those who will be tested is done prior to the start of the round. You can imagine that the loser of a game that contributes to his team’s losing a match might not enjoy the timing—remember Ivanchuk in 2008? Also, producing a sample after a 5-hour game is not automatic. The player may need to rehydrate, and waiting a half-hour before they are good to go, when hungry, and eager to see teammates, is hardly ideal.

Last, but not least, the organizers of the next Olympiad in Tromso, Norway, should think about beefing up their Internet service. Chessplayers love to be online, and the service provided at all Olympiads since 2006 has been woefully inadequate.

4) Here and There

22-year-old Magnus Carlsen’s magnificent score in the London Chess Classic left him with the highest rating ever achieved by a chess player: 2861. This eclipses the previous record of 2851, which was established by Garry Kasparov in 2000.

It’s always difficult to compare players of different generations, but we can show how far ahead of their peers they were.

Here is the current unofficial FIDE Top 10.

1. Carlsen 2861
2. Kramnik 2810
3. Aronian 2802
4. Radjabov 2793
5. Caruana  2781
6. Karjakin 2780
7. Anand  2772
8. Topalov  2771
9. Nakamura  2769
10. Mamedyarov and Ivanchuk 2766

FIDE only has ratings of the Top Ten on its site going back to July 2000, which was shortly after Garry Kasparov reached his historic peak rating of 2851, published on the July 1999 and January 2000 lists . Still, it provides a useful point of comparison.

1. Kasparov 2849
2. Kramnik 2770
3. Anand 2762
4. Morozevich 2756
5. Adams 2755
6. Shirov 2746
7. Leko 2743
8. Ivanchuk 2719
9. Topalov 2707
10. Krasenkov and Bareev 2702

Interestingly Vladimir Kramnik is the number-two player on both lists, presently trailing Carlsen by 51 points. Anyone thinking Kasparov’s greater gap over the number-two in 2002, 79 points, makes him the dominant player since the institution of FIDE ratings in 1970 may wish to consider that Bobby Fischer in 1972 was rated 2785, a whopping 125 points ahead of the number-two player, Boris Spassky.


The United States is represented in both the Men’s (Hikaru Nakamura and Gata Kamsky) and Women’s (Anna Zatonskih) sections of the recently-started SportAccord World Mind Games in Beijing. The 32 players (16 men and 16 women) compete in a program of Rapid, Blitz, Blindfold and Mixed Pair competitions.


 

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