Mechanics' Institute Chess Room Newsletter

by John Donaldson


Gens Una Sumus!

Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club Newsletter #641
August 28, 2013

The link between mathematics and chess is fairly obvious. The have at least one element in common in that, in order to excel in either, one must possess powers of calculation. But in the use of this resemblance there lies a difference. Calculation might be termed the bread-and-butter of one vast area of mathematics. In chess it is only one of many attributes needed to be a master. Calculation is chiefly employed in the art of combination and therefore is a weapon of execution, but necessarily basic to the art of chess itself.

—Harry Golombek, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, Vol. 5, No. 3, 1980

1) Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club News

FM Andy Lee and surprising Class A player Hovik Manvelyan are leading the Neil Falconer Tuesday Night Marathon with perfect scores after four of the nine rounds of the competition. Manvelyan has pulled off several upsets, and is a good position to cross 2000 if he keeps playing the way he has. Tied for third with 3½ points are Hovik’s son, NM Hayk Manvelyan, and IM Elliott Winslow.

The Mechanics’ entry in the 2013 US Chess League got off to a great start last night by defeating a strong Los Angeles Vibe team 3-1.

Time Control: Game in 75 with 30-second increment.

San Francisco MechanicsLos Angeles Vibe
GM Vinay Bhat: 25550.50.5 IM Andranik Matikozyan: 2577
IM Daniel Naroditsky: 25701.00.0 IM Zhanibek Amanov: 2431
FM Yian Liou: 24910.50.5 FM Luke Harmon-Vellotti: 2491
Siddharth Banik: 21921.00.0 Nicky Korba: 2160
Average Rating: 2452Average Rating: 2415

To learn more about the Mechanics’ team for this season go to NM Michael Aigner’s blog at

The team’s next match will be next Wednesday against the Arizona Scorpions.

Hi everyone,

Every Wednesday evening is the time for the weekly round-robin blitz tournament at Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club. As always, the last entry is accepted at 6:40 pm, with sign-up beginning at 6:20 pm and games starting soon after. Entry is $7 with clock; $8 without clock. Non-member entry is $9 with clock; $10 without clock. Prizes are 50%, 30%, 20% of base entry fees ($7 per player) collected. Time control preferably is 3 minutes, increment 2 seconds; otherwise 5 minutes, no increment.

Results for August 21:

1st - IM Elliott Winslow
2nd - Harry Wheeler
3rd - Yamon Tezcan, Oleg Shaknazarov, Jules Jelinek

Jules Jelinek
Weekly Wednesday Night Blitz Coordinator

2) Sam Shankland wins ZMDI Open in Dresden

Orinda-raised Sam Shankland, now beginning his senior year at Brandeis University, had a 2700+ FIDE performance to take first place on tiebreak over fellow GMs Mikhailo Oleksienko of Ukraine and Georg Meier of Germany in the ZDMI Open held August 10th to 18th. The three winners scored 7 from 9, with Shankland taking home 2000 Euros (about $2600) for his efforts.

Go to for Sam’s report on the event which includes several of his games.

This result puts the 2013 Samford Fellowship winner back over 2600 FIDE after a series of subpar results this summer.

3) Honorary GM Elmars Zemgalis to turn 90 on September 9

FIDE recognized Elmars Zemgalis with the title of Honorary Grandmaster in 2003 in recognition of his outstanding results in tournaments played in Germany in the period 1946-1951. The Latvian-born Zemgalis, who has made Seattle his home for 60 years, is best known for tying for first at Oldenburg 1949 with Bogoljubow (12/17) ahead of GMs Rossolimo, Unzicker, O’Kelly and Saemisch.

A contender for the title of rarest chess book has to be Sachs Aiz Dzelondratim which you will not find listed in the holdings of either the John G. White collection in Cleveland or the Royal Dutch Library in The Hague—the two great public repositories of chess books.

Published in Belgium in 1946 in Latvian, this book’s title translates as Chess behind Barbed Wire. The authors, Elmars Zemgalis and Valentins Berzzarins, were two of many young Latvian men who found themselves temporarily housed in POW camps at the end of World War 2. It took the Allies a little while to figure out what to do with citizens of a country that had been wiped off the map after the Soviet invasion in 1939.

This 55-page work contains 50 games with light notes from events played in Denmark, Germany and Belgium in 1945 to early 1946 involving not only Latvian POWs/DPs but citizens from other countries detained in a legal limbo.

Conditions in Europe after WW2 were very difficult but especially for those in POW and DP camps which makes holding tournaments with hundreds of participants as chronicled in Chess Behind Barbed Wire quite remarkable. The following game, played in challenging conditions, is far from perfect, but contains many interesting moments. White plays what he believes to be a refutation (5.Nxb5) of Black’s opening strategy, not knowing the game Szekely-Canal, Budapest 1933, where the strength of Black’s exchange sacrifice was first realized, and soon finds himself in trouble.

In this game Black doesn’t find 8...e5!, but nonetheless, after the opening, things are definitely going Nurme’s way, until almost by magic Zemgalis steers the game into an ending where, despite having only two pawns for a piece, he is no trouble, and in fact it is Black who needs to be accurate. At a certain stage it even seems White might win, and at one moment he can, but Nurme just manages to hold the draw.

Thanks to NM Viktors Pupols we are able to offer two sets of annotations to this game separated by almost 70 years.

First are the original annotations from Chess behind Barbed Wire (page 40), translated from Latvian to English by Viktors Pupols.

Slav D10
Zedelghem 1945

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 dc 4. e3 b5 5. Nxb5

Theory recommends this as a refutation of Black’s 4th. Judging from this game, that is doubtful.

5...cxb5 6. Qf3 Qc7! 7. Qxa8 Bb7 8. Qxa7 e6 9. Bxc4

White’s queen does not feel comfortable. 10...Nc6 was threatened; if 9.d5 Bc5 10. d6 Qxd6 11. Qxb7 Bb4+, Black is assured of at least a draw. What happened to the White advantage predicted by theory?

9...bxc4 10. Bd2

10. Qa4+ Qc6 11. Qxc6 Nxc6 and Black has an edge.

10...Na6! 11. Nf3 Bd6 12. 0-0 Ne7 13. Ba5

Again, the threat was ...Nc6.

13...Qc8 14. Ne5 Nd5!

The threat is ...Bb8.

15.Nxc4 Bb8 16. e4!

If 16...Bxa7 17. Nd6+.

16...Qd7 17 Ne5 Qb5 18 a4 Qxf1+ 19. Kxf1 Bxa7 20. exd5 Bxd5 21. Rc1! 0-0 22. Nc6 Bxc6

Forced. If 22... Bb8 23. Ne7+ Kh8 24. Nxd5 ed 25. Rc6!

23. Rxc6 Nb8 24. Rc4 Na6? 25. b4 Nb8 26. b5 Nd7 27. Bb4 Ra8 28. a5 g6 29. Rc7 Nf6 30. b6 Bxb6! 31. ab Nd5 32. Ra7! Nxb6 33. Rxa8+ Nxa8 34. Ba5 Kf8 35. Ke2 Ke7 36. Kd3 Kd7 37. Ke4 f6 38. d5! e5 39. g4 h6 40. h4 Nc7 41. Bxc7 Kxc7 42. g5?

42. h5! gxh5 43. gxh5 Kd6 44. Kf5 Kxd5 45. Kg6! would win

42...fxg5 43. hxg5 h5 44. Kxe5 Kd7 45. f4 h4 46. Ke4 Kd6 ½-½

A draw!

Annotations by today’s standards from Viktors Pupols:

Slav D10
Zedelghem 1945

Once upon a time, gentlemen accepted gambit pawns and held on to them. Later it seemed that Qf3, attacking a8 (and sometimes also f7) won. In this game White is booked and trusts his intuition (and contemporary theory) that his queenside advantage will prevail. Black is not booked and makes natural moves but not always the strongest ones. The game was played in a POW camp in Zedelghem, Belgium, in the winter of 1945. The main barracks were crowded and noisy; the game was played in unheated barracks, and after each move the players would jump up and try to warm their fingers. White went on to win strong tournaments in the next five years. Black was apparently a rank amateur; no other chess games by him are known.

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 dxc4 4. e3 b5 5. Nxb5

Theory has progressed because of games similar to this. The only current choice now is 5. a4, and on ...5...b4 6. Ne4 or 6.Nce2.

5...cxb5 6. Qf3 Qc7!

...and/or ...Nc6, giving back the piece rather than the rook.

7. Qxa8 Bb7 8. Qxa7 e6 9. Bxc4 bxc4 10. Bd2?

After 10. Qa4+ Black may have an edge, but now the queen stays trapped....

10...Na6! 11. Nf3 Bd6

...and would stay trapped if Black inverted moves and played 11...Ne7 first.

12.0-0 Ne7 13. Ba5

Again, the threat was ...Nc6.

13...Qc8 14. Ne5?

Quickly: this is the last chance to get the queen out: 14. Qb6 Bc7 15. Qb5+ Bc6 16. Qh5 barely holds.


The threat is ...Bb8.

15. Nxc4 Bb8 16. e4!

If ...16...Bxa7 then 17 Nd6+

16...Qd7 17. Ne5 Qb5

This looks good, but Black has overlooked 18. a4! ; if 18...Qb3 19. Ra3 Qxb2 20. Nc4! Correct was 17... Qe7 winning.

18. a4 Qxf1+ 19. Kxf1 Bxa7 20. exd5 Bxd5

An automatic recapture. 20...Bxd4 was stronger.

21. Rc1! 0-0 22. Nc6 Bxc6 23. Rxc6 Nb8 24. Rc4 Na6?

Black could not find a better move, but 24...Nd7 25. Rc7 Bb6 would lead to the same endgame he is forced into a couple of moves later. Even better is—again—24... Bxd4!

25. b4 Nb8 26. b5 Nd7 27. Bb4 Ra8 28. a5

White is winning, but acts too fast.

28...g6 29. Rc7 Nf6 30.b6 Bxb6 31. ab Nd5 32. Ra7! Nxb6 33. Rxa8 Nxa8 34. Ba5 Kf8 35. Ke2 Ke7 36. Kd3 Kd7 37. Ke4 f6 38. d5! e5?

...Nc7 gives up the Pawn temporarily, but holds the draw.

39. g4 h6 40. h4 Nc7 41. Bxc7

White can exchange bishop for knight now or later. The longest variation is 41. g5 fxg5 42. hxg5 h5 43. Bc3 Nb5 44. Bxe5 Nd6+ and you have to exchange the bishop: if you allow ...Nf5, you cannot break the blockade. But 45. Bxd6 Kxd6 46. Kxh4 K—anywhere is a pawn endgame that I believe White cannot win: Black can always maintain the opposition.

Editor: Houdini 3 points to 41.h5! as the path to victory.

41...Kxc7 42. g5

42. h5 gxh5 43.gxh5 Kd6 44. Kf5 Kxd5 45. Kg6 Ke6 will not win. Was 45. Kg6 a misprint? Did the annotator mean 45. Kxf6? After 45...Ke4 there is no win either!

42...fxg5 43. hxg5 h5 44. Kxe5 Kd7 45. f4 h4 46. Ke4

The last trap would be 46. f5 and if ...gxf5 47. Kf4 wins! White’s split pawns are farther apart than Black’s; therefore the Black king cannot cover them both. But if 46...h3, both sides queen with Black on the move, and there is a perpetual. But if 46...h3 47. Kf3! transposes to the previous note.

46...Kd6 Draw


You can browse through our archived newsletters using the "next" and "previous buttons".
Alternatively, you can select a newsletter to read from this list: