Mechanics' Institute Chess Room Newsletter

by John Donaldson

Gens Una Sumus!

Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club News #658
February 12, 2014

From a practical point of view, when playing the KID it is important to have good nerves and the ability to avoid time pressure. The importance of each move may be huge; sometimes the fatal drawbacks of a losing move are revealed only eight or ten moves later!

—Judit Polgar, From GM to Top Ten—Judit Polgar Teaches Chess 2, page 146

1) Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club News

Ganbold Odondoo was held to a draw last night by NM Russell Wong, enabling Expert Steven Gaffagan to join him in a tie for first after six rounds of the Winter Tuesday Night Marathon. The two leaders, who have five points, who already met in round five (Odondoo won), will likely face top seed and defending champion NM Hayk Manvelyan and FM Frank Thornally in round 7.

Among the overachievers in the 100-player event are the mother and daughter tandem of Enkhmaa Nyangar and Enkhjin (Cindy) Gombuluudev. Rated 1645 and 1320 respectively, they have both pulled off several upsets and with two rounds to play have scores of 4–2 and 3–3. Also impressive is the play of young Adam Vichik, who has won three games in a row. His 4–2 score has him up roughly 150 rating points.

From round 6 of the Winter Tuesday Night Marathon:
White to move (Nyangar–Grey after 17...Nd8)White to move (Nyangar–Grey after 20...Qe7)
White to move (Vichik–Delaney after 14...d5)White to move (McCarty-Snead–Louie after 34...Rc7)
Black to move (Eytan–Gomboluudev after 11 Nh3)Black to move (Reyes–Starr after 29 h4)
Black to move (Reyes–Starr after 31 Kg2)White to move (Reyes–Starr after 56...a2)
Black to move (Schlosberg–Allen after 9 g4)White to move (Cowgill–West after 13...Nd7)
For the solutions, see the game scores for round 6.

A crowd of roughly 70 people showed up at the Mechanics’ Institute last Saturday afternoon to pay tribute to John Grefe, who died on December 22.

Among those who had words to say about the 1973 US co-champion were GMs Walter Browne, James Tarjan, and Jesse Kraai, IMs Julio Kaplan, Walter Shipman, Elliott Winslow, Vince McCambridge, Guillermo Rey, David Pruess and John Donaldson, plus FMs Paul Cornelius, Frank Thornally, Craig Mar and Paul Whitehead, not to mention national masters C. Bill Jones, Robert Hammie, Mike Arne, Kerry Lawless and Dennis Waterman.

Thanks go to Masters of Ceremonies Mike Anderson, Will Clipson, Renate Otterbach and Ralph Palmeri for helping to make this event possible. Their efforts are greatly appreciated.

Tuesday Night Marathon players can look forward to special guest lecturers Sam Shankland (February 18) and Alex Onischuk (April 15).

Arthur Ismakov topped the 13-player field in the M.I. Wednesday Night Blitz held on February 5. Jules Jelinek was second and Felix German third.

2) Curt Brasket (1932-2014)

Minnesota chess has lost a legend with the passing of Fide Master Curt Brasket on January 24. He was 81.

Winner of the Minnesota state championship a record 16 times, Brasket was a late-comer to the game, and he didn’t play in his first major competition, the 1950 US Open in Detroit, until he was 17. His fifty-percent score was respectable, but gave no hint at the rapid progress he would soon make.

Brasket won the 1952 US Junior Open in Omaha, but it was his performance in the US Open the following year that would become both his greatest success and most bitter disappointment. The 1953 US Open in Milwaukee set records for the time, both for the number of participants (181), and for the number of strong American and Canadian players in the competition. Brasket was among the leaders after eleven rounds at 9-2, having beaten the likes of Larry Evans, James Sherwin, George Shainswit, Elmars Zemgalis, Arthur Dake and Hans Berliner. Had he scored but one point in his last two games Brasket would have been invited to play in the US Championship—a very special honor in those days, when almost every participant hailed from New York City. He would have also had a fair chance of being named to the US team that faced the Soviets the following year. Alas, Brasket lost his last two games and finished ninth.

He never again came this close to the national limelight, but performed well in several Lone Pine tournaments in the 1970s, numbering GMs Walter Browne and Larry Evans among his scalps. He did this despite having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease that decade. Brasket played a staggering 583 tournaments between 1991 and 2011, and he could not have done it without the support of his wife Rita.

Chess has lost one of its great gentlemen with the passing of Curt Brasket.

Far from the center of American chess, and with family and work responsibilities, Brasket was never able to play professionally, but one indication of his potential was his score against Canada’s top player, Abe Yanofsky, in their meetings on first board in the annual Minnesota-Manitoba match. They played five times in the 1950s, and the score was +1, -0, =4 in Brasket’s favor. Here is his win.

Ruy Lopez C62
Curt Brasket–Abe Yanofsky
Minnesota-Manitoba match, Detroit Lakes 1959
Annotations by Curt Brasket

1.e4 e5

In previous games Yanofsky had tried 1...e6 and 1...g6 against me.

2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 d6

An effort to evade a possible prepared line in the Four Knights Game.. It leads by transposition to the Steinitz Variation of the Ruy Lopez.

4.Bb5 Bd7 5.d4 exd4 6.Nxd4 Nxd4 7.Qxd4 Bxb5 8.Nxb5 a6

Or simpler 8...Ne7 followed by ...Nc6 as in Lasker–Blackburne, Hastings 1895(!).

9.Nc3 Nf6?

This natural developing move rather surprisingly turns out to be the direct cause of Black’s later troubles. Correct was still ...Ne7! as in the Lasker–Blackburne game.

10.Bg5 Be7 11.0–0–0 0–0 12.e5! Ne8

12...dxe5 13.Qxe5 Bd6, while unattractive, may be no worse than the text.

13.Bxe7 Qxe7 14.exd6 Qxd6

No better is 14...Nxd6 15.Nd5 followed by Nxc7.

15.Qxd6 Nxd6

15...cxd6 16.Ne4 Rd8 17.Nc5 wins a pawn.

16.Nd5! Ne4

16...Ne8 17.Rhe1 Rb8 18.Re7 c6 19.Nb6 Nf6 20.Nd7 with advantage for White.

17.Rd4! f5 18.f3 Nf6 19.Nxc7 Rad8 20.Rhd1 Rxd4 21.Rxd4 Kf7

Sacrificing a second pawn in the hope of obtaining some play against White’s pinned knight.

22.Rb4! Rd8 23.Rxb7 Rd7 24.c4! g5

24...Ne8 25.Nxe8 Rxb7 26.Nd6+

25.b4 g4 26.a4 Kg6 27.c5 gxf3 28.gxf3 Rd3 29.f4 Rd4 30.Rb6! Kf7 31.Rxa6 Rc4+

Black cannot capture neither pawn [due to] Rxf6+.

32.Kd1 Ne4 33.Ra7 Kg6 34.Rb7 Nc3+ 35.Kc2 Nxa4+ 36.Kb3 Nxc5+ 37.Kxc4!

Much simpler than 37.bxc5, which also wins.

37...Nxb7 38.Kd5 Kh5 39.Ne6 1–0

source: Chess Life, October 20, 1960, page 12.

3) Jerry Hanken interviews Tony Miles (Part One)

The series of tournaments held in Lone Pine, a small town in the Eastern Sierras not far from Death Valley, were the glue that held top-level American chess together in the 1970s and early 1980s. Every spring from 1971 to 1981 top players from around the world would gather to meet the best that American chess had to offer, be it veteran grandmasters, up-and-coming international masters or strong juniors. These were special events.

Louis Statham, a retired inventor who had retired to Lone Pine, sponsored the events, and Isaac Kashdan directed, assisted by Myron Lieberman, Ted Yudacufski and Myron Johnson. Max Burkett headed the bulletin crew and national master Jerry Hanken was the transportation secretary—getting to Lone Pine was not an easy task—a specially-chartered bus picked up many of the players from LAX.

During the late 1970s Hanken, who had played at Lone Pine in the early years when the rating requirement was not as strict, branched out into chess journalism, and the following interview, never before published to our knowledge, represents one of his first efforts.

Tony Miles was just about to turn 23 when this interview was given. World Junior champion in 1974 and England’s first grandmaster in 1976, Miles was at the beginning of an outstanding career, during which he became one of the very best players in the world.

Jerry Hanken’s interview with Grand Master Anthony Miles—April 13, 1978 (Part one of four parts)

J.H. - You just came from Lone Pine, Tony?

A.M. - Yes, it seems so

J.H. - This was not one of your great tournaments, I understand.

A.M. -This is true.

J.H. -This is your third trip to America?

A.M. -Yes . . .

J.H. -Yes, as well I know the first one was in 1973. When you came to lone Pine in 1973, you were untitled and still a junior. Has your impression changed in five years of Lone Pine? Is your mood, the city, the town, the tournament changed?

A.M. -There isn’t much of Lone Pine to change. The tournament is getting a bit bigger each year.

J.H. -The cash prizes were better?

A.M. - Yes, they would have been had I won.

J.H. -Was it just bad form or was there a specific reason why your performance was not up to par.

A.M. - I think I played a little bit too much this year. I have been playing on-stop all year.

J.H. -In this particular Lone Pine tournament, we had 23 people who had the Grandmaster title. Have you ever played in a tournament that had anything approaching this kind of turn-out in Grandmasters?

A.M. - In Bugojno there were 16 of 16. Not too bad.

J.H. -This was an all-Grandmaster round-robin, in Yugoslavia in which you played in prior to coming to Lone Pine. Your performance there was considerably better, I understand.

A.M. – Yes, somewhat better.

J.H. -How many tournaments have you played this year?

A.M. – I’ve played four, with about two days rest between each.

J.H. -Are you thinking of taking some time off?

A.M. - Yes, I have to play in Las Palmas in three weeks, the I’ll take a month off and lie around at home and not do anything else for a while.

J.H. -The question of good form and bad form seems to plague professional chess players. Do you have an explanation?

A.M. - If I had any explanation, then I wouldn’t have any bad form.

J.H. -This is certainly true. Do things which occur in your personal life sometimes affect the way that you play chess?

A.M. - No. I don’t take so such notice of them.

J.H. -Then it’s simple cycles?

A.M. - Yes.

J.H. -Now, let’s talk a little about your chess career. A question which I almost always ask grandmasters is this one. The question intrigues me because everyone has a different kind of perception. Try to remember, what your first impression of the chess pieces, or, chessboard was.

A.M -I really don’t remember. My father taught me to play chess when I was a young child, perhaps 5. I was a very keen games player. I had run through the card games and all the intelligent games he could think of so he had to resort to chess.

J.H. -You don’t have a specific memory.

A.M. - Of the first time, no—no I don’t.

J.H. - At that time, did you distinguish chess from other games?

A.M. - Well, the thing is that he gave it a big build-up. You know, he was trying to put it off and find other games, but they got too boring so he had to find something more complicated.

J.H. -What sort of chess player was your father?

A.M. -He was just a casual player who never played in a club.

J.H. -He never played tournaments?

A.M. – No, he never did.

J.H. -Was there anyone in your family, in your background, who played chess?

A.M. - My grandfather taught my father to play but he also was not serious.

J.H. -When would you say there is a time when you can recall that chess took on a special meaning?

A.M. - Well, it depends on your special meaning. I played with my father when I was 5 or 6 for some time, who knows how long.

J.H. -Do you remember the first time that you ever won from him?

A.M. - I don’t know perhaps after a year or two. I used to beat him and he would say, “I’m watching the television at the same time. I can beat you, of course, if I ever take it seriously.” By then, I guess I beat him regularly.

J.H. -Were you still under 10 then?

A.M. - Oh yes. Say, we’d play maybe, I guess, one game a night, and then it just became boring too. I stopped playing chess and I didn’t really start again until someone brought a chess set to school and I was about nine or ten. It was a great novelty. We discovered that there were a few people who knew how to play the game and it became a craze in the school for awhile. I always beat everyone else, even the teachers in the beginning. So I must have learned a certain amount in the games with my father. Next year the school entered a team in the local league.

J.H. -You were 10 then?

A.M. - Yes, about 10 I think. We won our division of the league. I played in Birmingham. There was a primary schools individual championship and I won that. I also won all my games on first board in the team competition.

J.H. -You were only 11 then?

A.M. - Yes. So I suspected I had a certain talent for the game.

J.H. -You might actually be classified almost as a prodigy then?

A.M. - No. not really, I didn’t play anyone strong.

J.H. -When did you play your first masters or strong players?

A.M. –This was a little later when I joined the Birmingham Chess Club.

J.H. -Were there strong players there?

A.M. -Yes, strong players, but I didn’t play them much at first. I actually started playing casual games and use to lose to them regularly, but after a few weeks I began to win the odd one. Then, I started playing in the local Senior leagues, at about, I guess, maybe, 11 or 12.

J.H. -Did you ever play games with stronger players at odds?

A.M. -No.

J.H. -How do you feel about that, young players competing at odds? Do you think that is good or bad?

A.M. -Bad, I think.

J.H. -Why?

A.M. - It’s not the same game. You don’t really learn chess that way. Actually, I think I played weak players at odds occasionally. I used to win my primary school championship so regularly that they decided to introduce a handicap system. I think they got me down to starting off without a queen and two rooks before I stopped winning. (Laughter)

J.H. -So, do you recall the first rated tournament that you ever played?

A.M. -I suppose it was the local league. I mean, I don’t think I had a rating until I was about 13. Only Leonard Barden knows about these things. I didn’t know about this at the time. Probably, my first published rating was at about the age of 13.

J.H. -What was it?

A.M. - Converted to the American system, it was about 1800.

J.H. -So that was, on the American system, about Class A.

A.M. - These strange classes mean very little to me.

J.H. -Class A in America is 1800 to 2000.

A.M. - Yes.

J.H. -In America we have a system whereby people in certain classes can win considerable prize money. Do you have a similar system in England?

A.M. - Yes, there are lots of tournaments like that around.

J.H. -How do you feel about that system?

A.M. - It’s O.K. It encourages weaker players to go after some large sums but it lends itself to a certain amount of corruption and bickering. I don’t think that we have the same problem in England, but i don’t think those prizes should be so high.

J.H. -Do you agree perhaps, with the position of the Professional Chess Association, which is that this discourages excellence?

A.M. -I think not really, if anyone has any real ambition then they’re not going to settle for winning class prizes, because, basically, they are for the more social player who wants to, to win something, but as I say, they should not go too high. What do they run here?

J.H. -They’re considerable. The class prizes are often as much as the master prizes.

A.M. -I feel they should be graduated. I think, any system whereby the Class-E player gets the same as the top tournament, well, I think that’s a bit too much.

(To be continued)

4) Here and There

Magnus Carlsen is getting closer to 2900 after the Zurich Chess Challenge, and Levon Aronian is now 43 points higher than the number-three-rated player in the world, Vladimir Kramnik.

Hikary Nakamura is the only American rated in the top twenty, but he is not the only North American resident. Webster University student Wesley So is now number 19, after a good performance at Wijk aan Zee.

1. Carlsen 2881.2
2. Aronian 2830.1
3. Kramnik 2787
4. Topalov 2785
5. Caruana 2782.5
6. Grischuk 2777
7. Nakamura 2771.9
8. Anand 2770.3
9. Karjakin 2766
10. Svidler 2758
11. Dominguez 2757
12. Mamedyarov 2757
13. Vachier-Lagrave 2753.8
14. Gelfand 2753
15. Ivanchuk 2752.9
16. Adams 2750.9
17. Vitiugov 2747.2
18. Giri 2746
19. So 2738
20. Bacrot 2738

MI Newsletter #658 ran a game won by Andy Soltis featuring an interesting transposition in the Tarrasch French, but as GM Soltis writes we gave the wrong name of the losing player:

“Slight correction in your latest newsletter. The player in that Bermuda 1983 game was not the strong master Joe Bradford. I believe my opponent was named Michael Bradford.”

Here is a powerful win by future IM John Watson a few years before his four-volume series on the English was published.

English A18
John Watson–Gordon Taylor
Vancouver 2nd Keres memorial, 1977

1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e6 3.e4 d5 4.e5 d4 5.exf6 dxc3 6.bxc3 Qxf6 7.d4 c5 8.Nf3 h6 9.Bd3 cxd4 10.cxd4 Bb4+ 11.Kf1 Nc6 12.Bb2 0–0 13.Qe2 Qd8 14.Rd1 Qa5 15.Bb1 Rd8 16.Qd3 g6 17.h4 Qh5 18.g4! Qxg4 19.h5 e5 20.hxg6 f5 21.d5 e4 22.Rxh6 Kf8 23.Bf6 Be6 24.dxe6 Qxg6 25.Rh8+ 1–0

source: CSCA Oct/Nov 1977 page 3


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