Mechanics' Institute Chess Room Newsletter

by John Donaldson


 
Gens Una Sumus!

Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club News #660
February 26, 2014

In chess, intuition manifests itself first and foremost in the ability, in a somewhat unconscious way, and with a high degree of accuracy, to choose between different lines of play.

—Valeri Beim, The Enigma of Chess Intuition, page 11

The Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club Newsletter will take a break the next few weeks, resuming on March 19.

The A. J. Fink Amateur, open to all current USCF members rated below 2000, will be held March 8 and 9.

1) Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club News

International Master Ganbold Odondoo won the Winter Tuesday Night Marathon last evening. The former member of the Mongolian Olympiad team defeated 10-year-old Expert Hans Niemann in round eight to finish with 6½ points, good for $650.

Expert Steven Gaffagan, who like Odondoo and Niemann entered the eighth round with a 5½–1½ score, drew a hard-fought game last night with top seed NM Hayk Manvelyan. This result enabled IM Elliott Winslow and Class A players Ashik Uzzaman and Sergey Ostrovsky to join Gaffagan in a tie for second at 6–2. Uzzaman, who has played very well the last two TNMs, is now 2147, while Ostrovsky picked up 98 rating points and is almost an Expert (1983).

Dramatic as both these players rating gains were, they were not the largest among the 100 participants. Top honors for biggest rating gain goes to Perry Rosenstein, who moved up an impressive 179 points (1546 to 1725) with Enkhjin (Cindy) Gomboluudev right behind, advancing 157 points (1275 to 1432). Cindy’s mom, Enkhmaa Nyangar, also had a fine result, improving from 1739 to 1825. Young Adam Vichik picked up 127 points and is now rated 1609. Congratulations also go to veterans (age 60+) Mike Anderson and Steven Krasnov, who regained their Expert titles.


From round 8 of the Winter Tuesday Night Marathon:
White to move (Gray–MacIntyre after 20...Bxd6)Black to move (Vichik–Bekhtur after 28 b3)
White to move (Campers–Morgan after 19...Nbd7)White to move (Poling–Rakonitz after 20...Rh8)
For the solutions, see the game scores for round 8.

The Spring Tuesday Night Marathon starts on March 18, and all current USCF members are welcome to play. This event is both USCF- and FIDE-rated, and features free weekly one-hour lectures (GMs Daniel Naroditsky and Sam Shankland were guest speakers during the last TNM). All games from each round are entered into the Mechanics’s Institute Chess Club database, with some annotated. The entry fee is a very reasonable $50 for eight rounds. Come join the fun.


Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club Blitz Coordinator Jules Jelinek writes:

Last week, we had 14 players (and growing) and the results were

1st - Arthur Ismakov $49
2nd – Jules Jelinek $29.40
3rd – IM Elliot Winslow $19.60


Chris Maevraedis has posted an excellent video of John Grefe on YouTube: http://youtu.be/F4OICAFz49Y

He writes

I have a video of John giving Robert Martinez and me an hour lesson on the King’s Indian Defense at his “office” ... Cafe Roma from 2001. It doesn’t show John’s face, as I set up a tripod focused on the chess board only. But it will be a trip down memory lane for all of us that spent so many pleasant afternoons with John at his office going over games ... both ours and master games.

2) Remembering John Grefe, by Michael Anderson

The following remembrance was read at the John Grefe Memorial on February 8.

My Friend John Grefe

Good afternoon everybody—My name is Mike Anderson and I was both a student and friend of John Grefe.

It would be safe to say that I knew John from 1976 to 2013. Thirty-seven years.

I experienced many sides of John. The International Master of chess side, the spiritual side, the humorous side, the kind side, the sports fan side and the grumpy side etc. etc.

I first met John sometime in the early to mid 1970’s. I saw him at one of the Paul Masson chess tournaments and walked up and asked him: “Mr. Grefe, What do you think of Alexander Kotov’s approach to analyzing variations in his book Think Like a Grandmaster?” He said unequivocally: “Not much, that’s not how people think!” I guess that was my first lesson from John. A year before he had won the 1973 title of United States Closed co-Chess Champion. I watched him play that day... And I noticed that he played with a picture of a “Guru” next to his board. What really interested me was during one of his rounds he played a red-headed somewhat long haired chess player that had a little button-like-picture of himself next to HIS side of the board. He sported a faint smirk on his face. There they were... both had their pictures... and both playing chess. At the end of the game, the red-headed guy said “I guess his Guru was stronger than mine.”

In 1976 I moved to Berkeley in order to attend university. It was in Berkeley that my relationship with John deepened.

As I got to know John more and more, I noticed that he was a very measured individual. He epitomized the saying—”Think, before you speak.” In normal human intercourse you would assume that John was spontaneous. That would be a mistake. He simply possessed a phenomenally quick and disciplined mind. When answering a question related to chess or not, he had a certain cadence in his speech – very controlled.

He was always willing to go over my games... showing me in instantaneous fashion where I missed tactics, and stratagems.

His real passion was in playing over grandmaster games. We must have gone over 1000’s of games. In the late 70’s we would go over to the Cafe Espresso on North Side Berkeley. The crowd consisting of Charlie Motz, Jimmy Stewart, Jim Waide, Swaminathan Subramanium and myself would gather around... Grefe would deftly go over the games... demonstrating several alternative ideas... showing tactics as to why one move lost and another won.

Years passed and we migrated from one Cafe to the next... Grefe always had “nicknames” for everything... People, places and things. For instance he called the Cafe Espresso – “Cafe DePresso” because of the extremely poor lighting. After the Cafe Espresso got turned into a laundry mat – We took up haunts at “Cafe Ariel” – We spent several years there going over the fantastic games of Kasparov and others. But then the “Cafe Ariel” later got turned into a hamburger place called “Barneys” – We then migrated to “Cafe Milano” – John really liked the Cafe Milano... with its vaulted ceilings... and loft. Good players would show up there: David Strauss, Mark Leski and Gustavo Lima Darcy and the notorious Chis Ramayrat.

It was there when Bobby Fischer played his return chess match with Boris Spassky. After the second game Grefe stated: “He’s lost a step” We went through the match games and John punched holes in Fischer’s play. But heaven never lasts... One day two chess players got into a fist fight... and management threw all the chess players out.

John was bummed. In his usual manner however he brushed it aside... and we moved to the I– House. There Sandy – the owner dedicated a wonderful chess table with a bronze plaque – stating in so many words “Chess players are always welcomed”. Home at last. It was there that John showed me a fantastic game that Kasparov had played.

Kasparov vs Topalov – Wijk aan Zee 1999... I remember him showing me the position and asking me what I would play after 23...Qd6? Without really analyzing I said “QxQ”? To which he showed me Kasparov’s move 23.Rxd4... My mouth fell open. What a move. We played through the game and I was amazed at all the lines that John investigated... It also made me feel good that he showed me this game. Like I mattered.

As far as chess mentoring went... the most important advice that I ever received from John was of a psychological nature. One day, “at his office” – (The Cafe Roma which is now the Cafe Estrada on the corner of College and Bancroft – was what John called – “My office”) … On that day I told John, “Man, I gotta beat this guy...” referring to some chess opponent. John replied: “You put waaaay to much emphasis on Winning and Losing’ – Do you remember what attracted you to the game? You should play chess because you enjoy it. Forget about winning and losing!” I was stopped in my tracks. He hit home. I had forgotten what drew me to the game. In my quest to win at all costs... I no longer had fun.

John’s advice took root and the anxiety and fear of losing lost its sting. I played stress free chess. I gained 200 rating points and almost made master that year – 1992.

On another occasion during one of the Mechanics Marathons I had played against a “C” player and grabbed an exchange and a pawn. I soon had a lost game due to lack of piece coordination and development. I showed John the game and he just shook his head and said “You have got to respect the game.” That also, stuck with me.

John made money by teaching chess. He worked with Elizabeth Shaughnessy at the Berkeley Chess School.

I remember on several occasions going to visit John and watched him analyze the kid’s chess games.

From 2010 to 2013 a lot of us met at Dr Walter Wood’s house on Saturday afternoons. Grefe would go over countless Grandmaster games with Walter Wood, Christopher Hume and myself.

John had developed a great repertoire of sayings to illustrate a point that he was trying to make when it came to teaching chess. Here is a list that I remember on more than one occasion:

“Sixteen men, get’m all out.” (making a point about developing chess pieces)

“Retreat leads to defeat.” (moving a knight or other piece to a back rank)

My intuition tells me “I should calculate!”’ (as a way to rebuff a student when they suggest a move based upon intuition)

In response to a student who moves a piece instantly without thinking he would say the following: “Oh, you have an uncanny ability to assess a chess position – instantaneously... Unlike you, I have to analyze the variation.” (He would then take a little time and refute the move)

When a student would miss a tactic he would often state: You seem to be suffering from a “Severe lack of tactical awareness”’ (This happened so often to Walter Wood he actually coined an acronym called: “SLOTA”)

“If you have castled kingside do not play P-KN4 unless it wins”   (advice to a particular student who wants anonymity)

The spiritual side of John Grefe was clearly eastern mystic. John had studied several Vedic Texts. And post-Vedic texts. Including but not limited to the Upanishads, The Bhagavad Gita , The Mahabharata etc etc.

John also knew Russian. I remember a couple of years ago he came to my apartment where I have a big TV which is hooked up to a Play-Station which in turn has a built-in-browser. John really liked my TV because he could surf the web with a 70inch monitor. He directed me to a Russian website and said “Now, if you are really serious about chess you can come to this website and read the latest free analysis way before New In Chess publishes it. The entire website was composed of the Cyrillic alphabet. But John, I don’t know Russian. He said “It’s not that hard. Here, this word means black and this word means white and on and on he went telling me I just needed a chess player’s vocabulary and I would be set.

John was also a prolific reader... He had read every Jack Reacher book ever written. He loved to read Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, John Grisham, Michael Crichton, Ian Fleming and the list just goes on. Authors I have never even heard of. But that was John.

His favorite TV series while growing up was “The Beverly Hillbillies”

Once he sang the entire song for me with this silly look on his face. I had to laugh. I couldn’t believe that he remembered all the lyrics from 50 years ago.

I could go and on about John … I knew him pretty well.

We shared similar beliefs concerning eastern mysticism. We both read Meher Baba, Ramana Maharshi, and Sri Nisargaddatta.

John was not a Hindu, but he did believe in a frame of mind called “Enlightenment.” In his own way John pursued enlightenment.

On his deathbed I brought a photograph of Sri Ramana Maharshi and as feeble as John was, he reached out and held it staring at the picture. He could barely breathe yet he mustered all his strength grasping the photo... and stared into it... gradually he lost consciousness, and his grip loosened...

We shall miss John. We will miss his wit, his humor, and his friendship.

3) Jerry Hanken interviews Tony Miles (Part Three)

Jerry Hanken’s Interview With Grandmaster Anthony Miles—April 13, 1978

J.H. -You’ve played Karpov?

A.M. - Yes, too many times.

J.H. -How many times?

A.M. - I really am not sure. It must be about seven . . . six or seven . . . I always get Black against him. Very annoying.

J.H. -Every game?

A.M. - The only time I didn’t have Black as in the B.B.C. television tournament, where I had Black against him in the first game and drew, so I got White against him in the replay and drew so I had Black against him in the second week and lost. In all tournaments I’ve had Black against him and lost them all, that’s very irritating.

J.H. -You feel that you are actually inferior to him as a player?

A.M. -The record would indicate I don’t have good grounds for claiming equality at the moment.

J.H. -What sort of player is Karpov?

A.M. -Technically he is very good. He has a very good grasp of the game.

J.H. -Does he have ideas?

A.M. - Well, it seems to be more efficiency than ideas, you know, ideas are around too. He’s a very talented games player. He has a very quick grasp of things.

J.H. -How do you stack him up against Fischer in terms of ideas or simply chess imagination?

A.M. - Fischer was a bit before my time (Ed. note: How old we are!), really. I have had no first-hand experience.

J.H. -Have you played over his games?

A.M. - Well, I don’t play over any games very seriously. I get the impression that Fischer was a bit more exciting, that he deliberately set out to cause more trouble, I mean, in the course of play to cause more problems to the opponent, but, well, it’s a completely different approach . . . but, of course, a match between them would be very interesting.

J.H. -You allude to the fact that you don’t play over many games . . . which brings the natural question, as a chess professional, how do you prepare for a tournament?

A.M. - Excuse me, I haven’t yet conceded my argument to the tax man that I’m a chess professional. I still have claims to be a journalist.

J.H. -You consider yourself a chess journalist?

A.M. - I’m working on it . . . I don’t think I’m doing very well, but I’m working on it. I have a column in the New Statesman.

J.H. -Let’s examine this area of preparation for matches and tournaments. You say you don’t play over many games? Do you specifically prepare openings?

A.M. - Well of course I don’t play any matches anyway. I don’t like preparing. It seems like hard work doesn’t come very naturally to me. I much prefer to play, that’s why I play too much . . . sometimes I get a bit tired of play . . . I prepare very little.

J.H. -Do you get The Chess Player and Informant?

A.M. - Yes, of course.

J.H. -Do you glance at different opening variations?

A.M. - I browse a bit.

J.H. -Is chess an art?

A.M. - Is chess an art? . . . I think it’s all a matter of approach. I regard it more as a sport, personally.

J.H. -You have more in common with Pelé or van Gogh?

A.M. - (Laughs heartily) . . . not van Gogh, certainly. I think Pelé was an artist. I suppose I am more of a sportsman than an artist.

J.H. -The element of competition in chess seems to distinguish it from other arts.

A.M. - Well, you can call it an art; I think it’s all a matter of personal approach. It’s whatever you want it to be. I refer to it as sport.

J.H. -Man strives alone as an artist, and creates work. But a chess player has to work with another chess player.

A.M. - I thought you wanted me to be profound?

J.H. -I was just throwing this out as a suggestion, see how you react to it.

A.M. - Would you repeat it and I’ll pay attention this time. (Laughter) . . .

J.H. -An artist strives alone but a chess player needs another man, a chess player to create something . . . with hem.

A.M. - Well now, you’ve got these massive computers to play against these days . . . sometimes you don’t need another man anymore.

J.H. -You think that computers will eventually take over the chess world and be better than the Grandmasters?

A.M. - No, uh uh. I hope not. I think the number of possibilities in chess is too great to manage it just at the moment, and I don’t think they’ll ever manage . . . I don’t know how they’re going to manage that.

J.H. -You sound a little insecure about the whole proposition.

A.M. - Well, maybe, maybe, I don’t know how I think, so I don’t know how a computer does. You program the computer to assess positions. A lot is done by feeling, I have no idea how this can be programmed.

J.H. -Although 10 years ago, when Levy made his bet, it seemed almost to be a joke, now, we do have computers that can play on a Grandmaster level . . . at a rapid or five-minute pace.

A.M. - Well, computers can calculate faster than people. The key is the positional assessment at the end. Can they play at Grandmaster’s standards in five-minute chess?

J.H. -I understand that there was a computer game or two in which certain Grandmasters were beaten at five-minute chess.

A.M. - Yes, I understand that Stean lost a five-minute game to a computer, I don’t know of any other instances.

J.H. -Well, that’s what I had in mind.

A.M. - Yes.

J.H. -If we establish chess as a sport then, you think it should be included under the same kind of structure of commission that govern other sports? Such as a boxing commission, to regulate boxing, et cetera.

A.M. - Well, we have F.I.D.E. to regulate chess.

J.H. -You think F.I.D.E. is an effective body?

A.M. - Well . . . let’s see . . . I don’t really have very much experience with F.I.D.E. and its work . . . I don’t have first-hand experience . . . I’m not really qualified to judge. I have heard stories but . . . don’t we all?

J.H. -Do you think it is a possibility at this time, from stories that you’ve heard, and impressions around the world that you get from all the other Grandmasters from time to time that F.I.D.E. will collapse or split?

A.M. - . . . I’m sure that it would be interesting to see what happens when they have the elections for the president. No, I don’t think it will come to pass . . .

J.H. -If Korchnoi should happen to win his match with Karpov . . .

A.M. - You mean both of them? There is a return match clause so he would actually have to beat Karpov 12 times.

J.H. -Which is quite a bit to ask of anyone. In any case, let’s speculate on a Fischer-Korchnoi match.

A.M. - That’s the same as speculating on a Fish-Anybody’s match . . . Korchnoi would be more than willing to play, but it’s quite unlikely.

J.H. -Let’s switch the subject a bit now. I’d like to ask you something about an area that I know that you have sow strong feelings in and that’s the area of chess ethics. In this area we won’t mention any specific names, but apparently you do have some views about how chess ethics should be regulated on a world basis.

A.M. - Well, I know there is a vast amount of abuse and bribery—buying of points and what have you. I just fell that something ought to be done about it . . . an idea that appeals, as if F.I.D.E could find some power to exercise, it might set up a disciplinary commission of some sort . . . and, you know, it is well-known that certain people do indulge in buying and selling of points. Maybe if F.I.D.E. had some power to suspend them, say, from the next World Championship cycle, or for all International tournaments for a certain period, it might manage to discourage them a little.

J.H. -Is it true, and I am sure that you would know, that there are actually some national federations which have participated in this sort of corruption?

A.M. - I am told so . . . from reasonably reputable sources.

J.H. -How would they do it?

A.M. - OH, I don’t know, I mean . . . they’d have to be careful who they tried to bribe. Most people have reputations either good or bad . . . and if you try to bribe some people with good reputations, I mean, it gets around. Personally, I don’t know of any people offering bribes, I mean . . . I don’t remember anyone offering me any great bribe, but, I’d be very inclined to accept it, take the cash in advance and not throw the game and don’t the proceeds to F.I.D.E. or something. That’s another good way of deterring bribery.

J.H. -There’s no one who would make you a second offer.

A.M. - Well, yes, I think it might slow it down a bit.

J.H. -Is there anything that you can think of, which would generally upgrade your sport of chess?

A.M. - In what respect?

J.H. -In respect to playing conditions, and to organization.

A.M. - Well, this again, varies from country to country. I mean, my basic problem is England of course, where I don’t play at all. There have been great improvements in the junior level, and a lot of encouragement has gone into this. Lots of people put in a lot of hard work, and they’ve been very successful. We now have a lot of very strong juniors. I think, one of the things that’s been elected is, to publicize the game, sell it to the public . . . I mean . . . chess is just not popular in England and while it’s not popular then, very little money comes into it, and it’s difficult to enlarge on a broader scale. It’s all very well having lots of nice charitable trusts and sponsoring Juniors, I’n not too worried about myself, I get on quite well enough as it is, but, try actually to build-up the game in England . . . something has to be done to market the game to the public . . . I mean, it’s just not done at the moment. I can think of only one or two people, who actually have any ambitious ideas towards actually presenting chess to the public.

J.H. -Yet in England, you participated in something that is almost inconceivable in American and that is a televised series of matches.

A.M. -. . . Yes, well, that had nothing to do with the chess federation, that’s the T.V.

J.H. - What was it like to play on television?

A.M. - Well, the games are not played live of course. The games are played one week and recorded the next.

J.H. - You mean, you’re not actually playing the game as you’re seen on television, the games have been played and then you actually sit and replay the moves?

A.M. - Yes, of course. You can’t film a five-hour game in 25 minutes if you’re filming it live, can you?

J.H. - You try to put a littlepizzazz into your moves . . . ?

A.M. - You’re supposed to, yes.

J.H. - When your opponent makes a good move do you throw up your hands and say, “Oh”!

A.M. -Well, not quite so dramatically, you know, a little raise of the eyebrows . . . (Laughter) . . . a scratch of the head . . . you know . . .

J.H. - Who won the tournament on British television?

A.M. - Karpov – after the second replay over me.

J.H. -This was very much like the old tournaments in the 1860’s, where draws were replayed.

A.M. - Yes, except that replays accelerate.

J.H. -The time limit changes.

A.M. -The time limit gets faster.

J.H. -What was the final time limit in your loss to Karpov?

A.M. -The final time limit was all the moves in half an hour, I mean . . . at the end of the game we had two minutes left each, during which time we produced 50 moves each.

J.H. - So you finished second to Karpov in the match?

A.M. -Yes, that’s right.

(to be continued)



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