Mechanics' Institute Chess Room Newsletter

by John Donaldson


Gens Una Sumus!

Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club Newsletter #616
February 20, 2013

Once you’re no longer young, open tournaments are very hard work.

—Jan Timman (page 90, New in Chess, 2012/6)

1) Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club News

National Master Romy Fuentes drew an important game last night against International Master Elliott Winslow that puts him in the driver’s seat with one round to go in the Winter Tuesday Night Marathon. Fuentes (who also drew Steven Krasnov in round 2) is joined in the lead at 6 out of 7 with FIDE Master Andy Lee, but the latter is unable to play in the last round due to a prior commitment. Lee in fact scored 6 from 6 in the games he played, putting his USCF rating back over 2300, but he is stuck at 6, and no scenario leaves him with a chance to remain tied for the top spot, as Winslow and Expert Steven Gaffagan (Fuentes’ likely last round opponent) have 5.5 points to share 3rd place in the 90-player field.

Andy Lee was kind enough to send us an analysis of his exciting game last night against the ever-inventive Oleg Shakhnazarov.

French Advance C02
Oleg Shakhnazarov-Andy Lee
Winter Tuesday Night Marathon

1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 e5 c5 4 c3 Qb6 5 Nf3 Nc6 6 Be2

Despite years of playing the French, I realized that I couldn’t remember what line to play here—it turns out that I haven’t faced 6 Be2 since 1998.

6 ... f6

Probably 6 ... Bd7 is more sensible, but it all transposes in a move.

7 0–0 Bd7 8 Na3

This is a typical move, with ideas of invading b5 or coming back to c2 to guard the d-pawn. Most common is 8 dxc5 Bxc5 9 b4, gaining some queenside space and preparing to develop the bishop.

8 ... cxd4 9 cxd4 a6

I felt like this might be a wasted move, but I did not relish allowing the knight into b5 and d6—for example, 9... Rc8 10 Nb5 Nxe5 11 dxe5 Bxb5 12 Bxb5+ Qxb5 13 Nd4, when White has a lot of play for the pawn.

10 Nc2 Be7?!

Probably 10... Nge7 is preferable, although I was no longer sure that I wanted to allow White to break up my kingside pawns.

11 b3 Nh6

Black would like to wait on this move until White has committed his queen bishop, but White has more useful waiting moves: 11... Rc8 12 Bd3, and he is beginning to get coordinated against the kingside.

12 exf6 Bxf6 13 Ba3!

Now White has a nagging pull in the middlegame, as it’s hard to find a safe  place for the king.

14... Nf5

The alternative 14... Be7 15 Bxe7 Nxe7 16 Ne5 Rd8 17 Bh5+ g6 18 Re1 seems miserable to me.

14 Bc5 Qc7 15 Rc1 Kf7?!

Trying to solve the problem of the king, but this is likely too ambitious.  15... Be7 or 15... Nd6 are admissions of White’s advantage, but Black is not in danger of being quickly knocked out.

16 Ne3!

I had missed this when playing my previous move, expecting only 16 Bd3 g6 17 Nb4 Nxb4 18 Bxb4 Bc6 19 Bc5 Rhe8 20 Re1 Kg7 with a playable position.

16... Qf4?

Also bad is 16... Nxe3? 17 fxe3 Rhe8 18 Ng5+ Kg8 19 Nxh7! Kxh7? 20 Bd3+ Kg8 (20... Kh6 21 Qg4) 21 Qh5 with mate to follow.  Black had to play 16... g6 17 Ng4 Bg7 and try to absorb the growing white initiative.

17 g3

White can win a couple of ways here: another way is by playing 17 Nxf5 when my planned 17... exf5 runs into 18 Ne5+! Bxe5 (18... Nxe5? 19 dxe5 Qxe5 20 Re1 and White crashes through) 19 g3! Qg5 20 dxe5 Be6 21 f4 when Black is just positionally busted.

17... Nxe3 18 gxf4?

This lets me off the hook.  18 Qd2! Qc7 19 fxe3 Rhe8 doesn’t immediately look dangerous, but White once again has 20 Ng5+ Kg8 21 Nxh7! Kxh7 22 Qd3+ with a deadly attack: 22... Kg8 23 Qg6 threatens, among others 24 Rxf6; 22... Kh8 23 Qg6 e5 24 Qh5+ Kg8 25 Bd3 e4 26 Qxd5+; 22... Kh6 Bh5! is completely crushing.

18... Nxd1 19 Rfxd1 Rhc8

White has a bit of initiative left in the ending, just enough really to compensate for his shattered pawns.  The position is more or less equal.

20 Ne5+

On 20 Bd6 Black can play 20... Nxd4 21 Nxd4 Rxc1 22 Rxc1 Bxd4, but 23 Rc7 Ke8 24 Rxb7 holds the balance.  The computer prefers 20 Ng5+, as Black has a few ideas after the check on e5.

20... Nxe5 21 fxe5 Bg5 22 Rc3 b6!?

Black has a variety of ideas here, but I thought that this was most forcing; White’s pieces get a little tangled and Black’s rook becomes active.

23 Rf3+ Kg8 24 Bxb6 Rc2 25 Bd3 Rxa2 26 Bc5

This seems clearly best, resealing the c-file and keeping pressure on f8.

26... g6!?

I initially intended 26... Bb5 here, but couldn’t see how it gave me any chances to win. The text stops the Rf8 mate ideas as well as Bxh7+ tricks (after Bb1 Ra1, for example). However, it also gives White a target to go after on the kingside.

27 Kg2!

A key move, and one that I underestimated.  White’s chances on the kingside are no worse that Black’s on the queenside.

27... a5

If 27... Rb8 White plays 28 b4, so I tried to fix the pawn as a future target.

28 Kg3 Bd2

The looming threat of h4-h5 made it clear that I needed to play it safe—my intention is get in Bb4, trading the dangerous Bc5.

29 Bb1?!

This doesn’t quite seem to work out for White. The immediate 29 h4! is more dangerous, since 29... Bb4 30 h5 Bxc5 31 dxc5 is hard to meet: for example, 31... gxh5? 32 Kh4! and 31... Rc8? 32 hxg6 hxg6 33 Bxg6 Rxc5 34 Rg1! are both crushing.

29... Ra1 30 h4

30 Rxd2 Rxb1 is again just equal, but White puts his idea into motion.

30... Bb4 31 h5 Bb5?!

The computer suggests an improvement based on a theme that occurred later in the game: 31... Bxc5 32 dxc5 a4! 33 hxg6 (33 bxa4 Bxa4 34 Rf1 Bc2) 33... a3 34 gxh7+ Kh8 35 Rfd3 a2, winning a piece.

32 hxg6?!

This is far more risky than either 32 Bc2 Ra2 33 Bd3 or 32 Rf6 Be2 33 Rh1 Bxh5 (33... Bd3 34 Bxd3 Rxh1 35 hxg6 gives White more than enough for the exchange) 34 Rxe6.  Maybe White isn’t lost, but he has to play very carefully to hold now.

32 ... Be2 33 gxh7+ Kh8 34 Rg1 Bxf3 35 Kxf3 Bxc5

Finally trading bishops after a series of forced moves.  There are some funny variations here, such as 35... Ra3 36 Kg4 Rxb3 37 f4 Bxc5 38 dxc5 a4 39 Kg5 a3 40 Kf6 a2 41 Rg8+ Rxg8 42 hxg8=Q+ Kxg8 43 Ba2 Rb2 44 Kxe6 Rxa2 45 Kxd5, which the computer assures me is drawn.

36 dxc5 a4

I was originally planning 36... Rb8? but after 37 Ke2! White is actually better, given that the rook can’t leave the back rank. 36... Ra3 transposes to the previous note and may actually be more testing.

37 b4?

Only this move loses. I assumed that White could not capture, but 37 bxa4 Rb8 38 Rg8+ Rxg8 39 hxg8=Q+ Kxg8 40 Bd3 Rxa4 41 Ke3 Kf7 42 f4 Ke7 43 f5 exf5 44 Bxf5 Rc4 45 Kd3 Rxc5 46 Kd4 Ra5 47 Bc8! is a positional draw – maybe Black can improve by playing 40... Rc1, but it’s going to be tough. White also has another strong idea: 37 c6! axb3 (now 37... a3 loses to 38 Rg8+!) 38 c7 Rf8+ 39 Ke2 Raa8 40 Rg3 Rfc8 41 Rxb3 Rxc7 42 Rb6 Re7 with fairly simple equality.

37... a3

Now there’s no stopping the a-pawn.

38 c6 a2 39 Rg8+

A clever attempt to complicate, as the unusual configuration in the lower left corner of the board prevents Black’s rook from stopping the pawn, but White doesn’t have a perpetual.

39... Rxg8 40 hxg8=Q+ Kxg8 41 c7 axb1=Q 42 c8=Q+ Kg7 43 Qd7+ Kh6 44 Qxe6+ Qg6

Now it’s over, as 44 Qh3+ is met by 44... Qh5+.

45 Qd6 Qxd6 46 exd6 Ra6 47 Ke3 Rxd6 48 Kd4 Kg6 49 Kc5 Rd8

And White’s flag fell.

Last night’s guest lecturer, International Master Jeremy Silman, again demonstrated why he is one of the most entertaining and instructive speakers in the chess world, as a crowd of over 80 people listened to his talk on psychology in chess.

The game Byamba-Winslow, featured in Newsletter 613, gets a detailed write-up at Dana Mackenzie’s site, under the heading Chess Meets Zombie Apocalypse. You can find it at

Two Mechanics’ stars, six-time US Champion Walter Browne and teenage International Master Daniel Naroditsky, have written books published by New in Chess (The Stress of Chess and Mastering Complex Endgames respectively) in the last few months. These are both first-rate efforts which will appeal to a wide range of chess players. If you like these books consider writing a short review at or another site to spread the word.

2) The Mechanics’ Chess Club and San Quentin

Olympiu Urcan published a fascinating article on the chess-playing San Quentin inmate Peter Claudianos under the title A Chess-Loving Jailbird at the Chess Café website. Below we publish some of the Mechanics’-oriented material, but encourage Newsletter readers to check out the entire article at

In 1916, Claudianos, who began playing better chess, played at least two games by correspondence with W.R. Lovegrove, one of the leading players of the Mechanics Institute Chess Club. Both of them, lost by Claudianos after a good fight, were printed in the Oregonian of May 16, 1916. Following the score of the first game, Claudianos asked: “Where did White lose?”

Peter Claudianos – W.R. Lovegrove
Game by correspondence, 1916

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 Bb4 5.0–0 0–0 6.Nd5 Nxd5 7.exd5 e4 8.
dxc6 dxc6 9.Be2 exf3 10.Bxf3 Be6 11.a3 Bd6 12.d4 Qd7 13.Be3 f5 14.d5
cxd5 15.b4 c6 16.Be2 Qc7 17.f4 Rfe8 18.c3 a5 19.Qd4 axb4 20.axb4 Rxa1
21.Rxa1 Bf7 22.Bf3 g5 23.g3 gxf4 24.Bxf4 Bxf4 25.gxf4 Qe7 26.Kf2 Qh4+
27.Kg2 Bh5 28.Qf2 Qxf2+ 29.Kxf2 Bxf3 30.Kxf3 Kf7 31.Ra7 Re7 32.Ra1
Ke8 33.Ra8+ Kf7 34.Rh8 Ke6 35.Ke3 Kd6+ 36.Kd3 Rf7 37.Kd4 Re7 38.
Kd3 Ke6 39.Rg8 Kf6 40.Rg5 h6 41.Rg3 Re4 42.Rf3 b6 43.Kd2 Rc4 44.Kd3 b5 45.Rf2 Kg6 46.Re2 Re4 47.Rf2 Kh5 48.h3 Kh4 49.Rf3 h5 50.Kc2 d4 51.cxd4 Rxd4 52.Kb3 Rc4 53.Ka3 c5 54.bxc5 Rxc5 55.Kb4 Rc1 56.Kxb5 Rh1 57.Kc4 Rxh3 58.Rf1 Kg4
59.Kd4 Rf3 60.Re1 h4 61.Ke5 h3 62.Rg1+ Rg3 0-1

W.R. Lovegrove – Peter Claudianos
Game by Correspondence, 1916

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 exd4 4.e5 Ne4 5.Qxd4 d5 6.exd6 Nxd6 7.Nc3 Nc6 8.
Qf4 Be7 9.Bd2 Be6 10.Bb5 0–0 11.Rd1 Nxb5 12.Nxb5 Bd6 13.Nxd6 Qxd6
14.Qxd6 cxd6 15.Bf4 Rfe8 16.0–0 d5 17.h3 b5 18.Bd6 b4 19.Ne1 a5 20.f4
f5 21.Nf3 h6 22.a3 Red8 23.Bc5 Rdb8 24.axb4 axb4 25.b3 Ra2 26.Rf2 Rc8
27.Ne1 Rc7 28.Nd3 Rb7 29.Bd6 Rb6 30.Nc5 Kf7 31.Bc7 Rb5 32.Nxe6 Kxe6 33.c4 Rba5 34.Bxa5 Rxa5 35.cxd5+ Rxd5 and White won at move fifty-five.

Urcan notes: It proved difficult to decipher the whole game because of typographical errors, but Black is lost in this position.
The supporting role of various San Francisco-based players for San Quentin’s chess fraternity was evidenced in the
Oregonian’s chess column of July 16, 1916. Besides underlining Claudianos’s leading role, it also offered details of leading San Francisco players’ simultaneous exhibitions inside the prison.

The fact that none of the “masters” scored a hundred percent in their exhibitions may indicate the San Quentin chess crowd was not much worse than that of an average American chess club in the West:

“Chess in San Quentin Penitentiary

“‘Little Black Pawn’ in the Staten Islander, has received a letter from Ernest J. Clarke, the well-known chess player of San Francisco, giving an account of his recent visit to the San Quentin Penitentiary. He says there is a large chess club there under the presidency of a young Greek, a life-termer, for dynamiting a house during the graft prosecution in San
Francisco several years ago. The prison is the largest in the United States, having 2800 prisoners and is conducted along humanitarian lines.

“They have all kinds of activities, a splendid band of 50 pieces, baseball team, chess and checker club. Harry Baker is president of the checker department, but there is one game which is absolutely barred—cards.

“Hallwegan, Stamer, Fink and Clarke played simultaneous chess against four separate groups with the following results: Fink won 11 games, lost 4, drew 2; Stamer won 8, lost 1; Hallwegan won 10, lost 9 and Clarke won 6 and drew 1. The time consumed was one hour and a half. The visiting party presented the prisoners with several books on chess and
ten sets of chess men and boards.”

3) Here and There

Romy Fuentes passes on the sad news that National Master Rodolfo (Rudy) Hernandez died a few weeks ago. Hernandez, who had been living in Las Vegas the past decade, was a regular in Mechanics’ events for many years, and his last USCF-rated tournament was the 2003 Winter Tuesday Night Marathon.

The most recent issue of Wired has an in-depth article on Susan Polgar and her move to Webster University in St. Louis. It can be found at

The United States will be competing in the Women’s World Team Championship, to be held March 2-13 in Astana in Kazakhstan. Competing for the US are Anna Zatonskih, Irina Krush, Tatev Abrahamyan, Sabina Foisor and Viktoria Ni.


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