Mechanics' Institute Chess Room Newsletter

by John Donaldson

Gens Una Sumus!

Mechanics’ Institute Newsletter #672
June 20, 2014

I absolutely adore “Attack with Mikhail Tal”, by Mikhail Tal and Iakov Damsky, as well as Petrosian’s and Larsen’s annotated game collections. I love it when the book consists of light analysis but plenty of words describing the subtle psychological details.

—Levon Aronian, answering the question of what are his favorite books.

1) Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club News

The cream has risen to the top at the midway point of the 86-player Summer Tuesday Night Marathon, with International Master Elliott Winslow, FIDE Masters Andy Lee and Frank Thornally, National Masters Natalya Tsodikova and Keith Vickers, and former National Master Oleg Shakhnazarov (2193), sharing the lead with 3½ from 4. Top seed Hayk Manvelyan was held to a fourth-round draw with ten-year-old Expert Hans Niemann, and has 3 points.

From round 4 of the SummerTNM Tuesday Night Marathon:
White to move (Uzzaman–Lee after 18...Qh5)White to move (Timur–Hua after 20...g6)
Black to move (Chalissery–Afkham-Ebrahimi after 24 Na4)Black to move (McKellar–Potharam after 16 Bh6)
White to move (Newey–Louie after 22...Rd7)Black to move (MacIntyre–Simkins after 30 Rf5)
White to move (Casares–Cole after 9...Qxd6)Black to move (Eytan–Olson after 29 Kxd2)
For the solutions, see the game scores for round 4.

18-year-old Grandmaster Daniel Naroditsky of Foster City is in a 10-way tie for fifth in the Teplice Open in the Czech Republic with 5 from 6. Go to to follow the action.

Saturday May 31, a memorial service was held at the Mechanics’ Institute for Neil Falconer. The longest-serving Trustee in the history of the Institute with 39 years of service, Falconer was the 1951 California Open Champion and the 1992 US Senior Champion, but his contributions to the Royal Game went well beyond this. Several in the audience at the memorial were no doubt familiar with Neil’s funding and organizing chess programs in poor intercity schools in Richmond and San Francisco back in the 1980s, but few could have known of his support of the 2000 US Olympiad team. US Chess Trust treasurer Jim Eade related that if not for Neil and a few others the team might not have been sent, due to US Chess Federation financial troubles at the time.

Neil loved former Mechanics’ Grandmaster-in-Residence Alex Yermolinsky’s Thursday lectures, which focused on endgames, and he could often be found attending them sitting next to his good friend Mingson Chen. Neil showed his appreciation for the classes by supporting Alex when he competed in the FIDE World Cup in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

Mechanics’ member Sam Shankland, who was born in Berkeley and raised in Orinda, will be busy this summer. First up is a 10-player-round robin in Edmonton from June 20-29. Among those Sam will face are 2700+ FIDE Vasily Ivanchuk and Wesley So. Next he will fly to Biel to play in a strong open July 12–25, before making his debut on the US national team at the Chess Olympiad in Tromso from August 1–15. Sam’s summer will conclude with the Riga Open, where fellow MI GM Daniel Naroditsky will also be competing.

2) Abraham Kupchik – The Greatest Manhattan Chess Club Champion

Some might have been surprised by the induction of Abraham (Abe) Kupchik (1892-1970) into the US Hall of Fame this past May, but those well-versed in US chess history were not. IM Walter Shipman, one of the most knowledgeable people in the United States on chess played in this country from 1900-1950, believes that following the death of Henry Nelson Pillsbury in 1906 until the emergence of Isaac Kashdan in the late 1920s, a strong argument could be made that Kupchik was number two in the United States, after Frank Marshall (roughly 1913-1928).

Kupchik did not play much overseas excepting an outstanding result on board three for the gold-medal-winning US Olympiad team in 1935, but he dominated the Manhattan Chess Club Championship for several decades at a time, when that was one of the strongest events held in the United States.

The records for the winners of this event are surprisingly poor and online information is not to be trusted, nor is that in The Bobby Fischer I Knew by Arnold Denker and Larry Parr, where on page 62 they write that “Kupchik won the Manhattan Chess Club Championship nine times outright and once jointly.” Also wrong is the May 1949 issue of Chess Review (page 133), which notes that Kupchik “won the Manhattan Club Championship at least ten times!”

This two references, while not identical, are at least close, but now read the following. Chess Review August-September 1945 (page 5) quotes Kupchik himself, who says he won the Manhattan CC Championship “fifteen or sixteen times.” This is quite a discrepancy.

The great chess archivist Jeremy Gaige and his successor Gino Di Felice provide some help, but many crosstables for Manhattan Chess Club Championships are missing. Using books by these gentlemen, supplemented by the American Chess Bulletin and Chess Review (from 1933 forward) I was able to piece together the following, although a few questions remain.

What emerges is that between 1913–14 and 1936–37 Kupchik won 13 times, finished second or equal second 4 times, and fifth once in 18 tries—a truly remarkable record. Note there are a few years (1922–23 and 1930–31) that I was unable to determine whether Kupchik participated, but other people are listed as the winner.

According to Arnold Denker in The Bobby Fischer I Knew, Kupchik was shorter than Reshevsky—just a few inches over five feet—but that didn’t stop him from being a great player.

Denker also writes that Kupchik had a passive style and played as if he was afraid, but IM Shipman (who knew both men well) tells me “solid” is much more accurate description. He adds that Kupchik beat Denker in a very nice game in the 1936 US Championship, and had a lifelong plus score against him.

Tarrasch D34
Abraham Kupchik–Arnold Denker
US Championship (11) 1936

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 c5 5.cxd5 exd5 6.g3 Nc6 7.Bg2 Be7 8.0–0 0–0 9.Bf4 Bf5 10.dxc5 d4 11.Na4 Ne4 12.Rc1 g5 13.Nd2 Nxf2 14.Rxf2 gxf4 15.Rxf4 Bg6 16.Bxc6 bxc6 17.Nf3 Bf6 18.b3 Bg7 19.Rc4 Qe7 20.Nb2 Rfe8 21.Kf1 Rad8 22.Nd3 Qe3 23.Nh4 Bh5 24.Rc2 Rd5 25.Nf5 Rxf5 26.Rxf5 Qe4 27.Rf3 Bxf3 28.exf3 Qf5 29.Nf2 Re3 30.Kg2 Rc3 31.Ne4 Rxc2+ 32.Qxc2 Qd5 33.Nf2 Bf8 34.b4 f5 35.Nd3 Bh6 36.a4 Kf7 37.b5 cxb5 38.axb5 Ke7 39.Qa4 1–0

Abraham Kupchik’s record in Manhattan Chess Club Championships:

1913–14 Abraham Kupchik (1)
1914–15 Kupchik (2)
1915–16 Kupchik (3)
1916–17 Kupchik (4)
1917–18 Oscar Chajes (Kupchik did not play)
1918–19 Kupchik (5)
1919–20 Chajes and Kupchik (no playoff) (6)
1920–21 David Janowski, Roy T. Black (Kupchik did not play)
1921–22 Morris A. Schapiro (Kupchik did not play)
1922–23 Schapiro (I could not determine if Kupchik played)
1923–24 1. Chajes 2. Kupchik (7)
1924–25 Kupchik (8)
1925–26 Kupchik (9)
1926–27 1. Maroczy =2-3. Kupchik and Kashdan
1927–28 1. Kupchik (10) in a 5 player double round robin with Horowitz, Pinkus, Steiner and Kashdan
1928–29 1. Kevitz 2. Kupchik
1929–30 1.Kashdan 2. Kupchik
1930–31 Kupchik (11)
1931–32 Kashdan (I could not determine if Kupchik played)
1932–33 Kupchik (12) and Willman tied (Kupchik won the playoff)
1933–34 Willman (Kupchik did not play)
1934–35 Kupchik (13) and Kashdan tied (Kupchik won the playoff)
1935–36 Kevitz (Kupchik did not play)
1936–37 1. Kashdan =5.Kupchik
1937–38 Kashdan (Kupchik did not play)
1938–39 Moskowitz (Kupchik did not play)
1939–40 Denker (Kupchik did not play)
1940–41 Albert Pinkus (Kupchik did not play)
1941–42 Sydney Bernstein and Fred Reinfeld (Kupchik did not play)

3) Here and There

Top-seed Sam Shankland (2730) won the open section of the Best of the West tournament in Santa Clara over Memorial Day weekend with a score of 5–1. The 22-year-old recent graduate of Brandeis University was joined in the winner’s circle by Konstantin Kavutsky of Los Angeles, who had an outstanding result. Both winners drew with each other, and with IM Roman Yankovsky, also of Los Angeles. Yankovsky, GM Melik Khachian (Los Angeles), IM Ricardo DeGuzman and Southern California junior Craig Hilby tied for third with 4½ points. Six-time US Champion Walter Browne, Tuesday Night Marathon regular Andy Lee and South Bay junior Kesav Vishwanadha were among those on 4–2. The latter raised his rating to 2372 and will no doubt earn his Senior Master (2400 rating) title this summer, along with Cameron Wheeler.

A total of 190 player competed in the multi-section event organized by Salman Azhar’s Bay Area Chess and directed by John McCumisky and Tom Langland.

The US Chess Federation was founded in 1939, but grew slowly its first few decades until Jerry Spann of Oklahoma launched a big membership drive in the late 1950s. Here are a few interesting tidbits from its early days.

• September 30, 1944 the USCF had 1,708 members, including 536 from California (thanks chiefly to Herman Steiner), 152 from Illinois, 192 from New York, 85 from Washington D.C.). The USCF sent out a monthly newsletter that was a precursor to the Chess Life newspaper.

Humphrey Bogart was on the USCF Board of Directors—December 11, 1944

George Emlen Roosevelt was Vice President and Treasurer of the USCF in June of 1945. Wikipedia notes he was a banker and philanthropist, a first cousin once removed of US President Theodore Roosevelt, and one of the most prominent railroad financiers of his day. Roosevelt served for a time as President of the Marshall Chess Club.

• USCF dues were $3 in 1950.

A warm welcome to Senior Master Teddy Coleman of New York and National Master (and WIM) Irina Zenyuk of Pittsburgh, who recently relocated to the Bay Area.

4) Tournament Crosstables by Eduardo Bauza Mercere

New York Manhattan CC-ch 13 Jan - 10 Feb 1918

                          1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1. Chajes, Oscar          * 1 1 0 1 1 1 1  6
2. Northrup, George E.    0 * 1 1 1 1 0 1  5
3. Field, Otis Warren     0 0 * 1 0 1 1 1  4
4. Ladd, H. I.            1 0 0 * 1 = 1 -  3
5. Ettlinger, Alfred K.   0 0 1 0 * 0 1 -  2
6. Hallgarten, Albert     0 0 0 = 1 * = 0  2
7. Malowan, Walter        0 1 0 0 0 = * -  1
8. Hicks, John Ravenswood 0 0 0 - - 1 - *  1

Reconstructed from game scores and results published in ACB, 3/1918, p. 54; NY Tribune, 10 Feb 1918. p. 17; NY Herald, 14 Jan 1918, p. 8; NY Sun, 22 Jan 1918, p. 13; 10 Feb 1918. p. 4.


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