Mechanics' Institute Chess Room Newsletter

by John Donaldson

Gens Una Sumus!

Mechanics’ Institute Newsletter #752
June 24, 2016

Well, I think if you are in doubt you shouldn’t pursue it. It is only for people who are completely devoted. Of course, if you enjoy it, you can always stay connected to chess through writing or training or other such side activities. The good part about chess is that it is a highly creative field. It is not easy to find another profession which is so creative. If you pursue your academics and get a job, there is high possibility that you would be working in the office day after day. Whether to pursue a career in chess or not depends on personal feeling. It is a very difficult choice to make and everyone has to decide for himself. But to become a chess professional requires huge amount of discipline and devotion to the game.

—Boris Gelfand, answering whether love for the game
is necessary to pursue chess as a career.

Read the second part of Gelfand interviewed by Sagar Shah at

1) Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club News

International Master Elliott Winslow’s 5–0 score puts him a point ahead of the field in the Summer Tuesday Night Marathon. Among those trailing him on 4–1 are FIDE Master Andy Lee and National Masters Tenzing Shaw,

James Sun, Uyanga Byambaa and Josiah Stearman. Three rounds remain for the 122 contestants.

From round 5 of the Summer Tuesday Night Marathon:
Black to move (Sun–Winslow after 44 Ka2)Black to move (Shaw–Viswanath after 48 Bg6)
White to move (O’Connor–Wang after 21...Rf6)White to move (Porlares–Smith after 28...cxb3)
White to move (Giridharan–Malykin after 39...Nc3)White to move (Wonsever–McEnroe after 11...cxd5)
For the solutions, see the game scores for round 5.

Tianyi He won the 16th William Addison Memorial G/45 held June 18 with a 4½/5 score. Derek Slater, Ethan Boldi, John Canessa and Aaron Thompson tied for second half a point back in the 34-player event.

William Addison at the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club, circa 1957 (Photo: MI Chess Club Archive).

Grandmaster Sam Shankland is off to an excellent start in the Edmonton International Chess Festival. Sam is currently in second in the ten-player round robin with 3½ out of 4, having drawn top seed Alexey Shirov and beaten GM S.P. Sethuraman (2653 FIDE).

Sam’s performance to date puts him back in the FIDE live rating at #98 at 2654. Follow the tournament at

Shankland, of Walnut Creek, will play in the 49th Biel Chess Festival from July 23 to August 3.

Daniel Naroditsky improved his USCF rating from 2718 to 2724 by tying for first the 2016 Castle Chess Camp Grand Prix held June 17–19 in Atlanta. Naroditsky defeated fellow Grandmaster Mageesh Panchanathan and IM Kassa Korley, while drawing Grandmasters Alex Shimanov and Irina Krush.

Foster City Grandmaster Daniel Naroditsky will have played three European tournaments this summer.

       June 25–July 4 Open International de Porticcio (Corsica)
       July 23–August 1 Politiken Cup (Denmark)
       August 8–14 Riga International Tournament (Riga)

The Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club hosts a free Women and Girls class every Sunday. Taught by Ewelina Krubnik, it is held between 11 am and 1 pm.

2) The Passing of Three Giants: Frank Berry (1945-2016), Bill Hall (1969-2016) and Danny Kopec (1954-2016)

Three giants of American chess died within a week of each other. Each was a great ambassador for the game they loved.

Mike Klein offers a fine tribute to all three at https: //

For individual remembrances go to:

Frank Berry -

Danny Kopec -

Bill Hall -

3) Norman Mailer on Chess And Boxing

Tuesday Night Marathon regular Craig Andries passes along the following chess reference from Norman Mailer’s The Fight, on the 1974 Ali versus Foreman fight in Zaire, also known as the Rumble in the Jungle.

The following passage comes from Chapter 17

....In chess, no concept had once been more firmly established than control of the center, and for much the same reason as boxing - it gave mobility for attack by the left or the right. Later, a revolution came to chess, and new masters argued that if one occupied the center too early, weaknesses were created as well as strengths. It was better to invade the center after the opponent was committed. Of course with such a strategy you had to be resourceful in a cramped space. Tactical brilliance was essential at every step. Was that not exactly what Ali had accomplished? It was doubtful, however, if many a chess game had been played which equaled in timing Ali’s climatic occupation of the center of the ring.

A short video of Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson playing chess can be found at

4) Lajos Portisch Simul in New York 1966

Lajos Portisch gave a simultaneous exhibition in New York at the Manhattan Chess Club on his way home from the 1966 Piatigorsky tournament. Richard Reich provides the following games from the exhibition, where Portisch scored +28 =5 -2.

They were first published in I.A. Horowitz’s column in the New York Times on October 2, 1966.

Lajos Portisch–iberius DeMarinis
New York (simul) 1966

1.d4 c5 2.d5 e5 3.Nc3 d6 4.e4 Be7 5.Bb5+ Bd7 6.Bd3 Nf6 7.f4 Bg4 8.Nf3 exf4 9.Bxf4 Nh5 10.Be3 Bh4+ 11.g3 Be7 12.O-O Nd7 13.Be2 O-O 14.Nd2 Bxe2 15.Qxe2 Nhf6 16.Nc4 a6 17.Bf4 Nb6 18.Nxd6 Bxd6 19.Bxd6 Re8 20.Bxc5 Nbxd5 21.Nxd5 Qxd5 22.exd5 Rxe2 23.Rf2 Rxf2 24.Bxf2 Nxd5 25.Rd1 Nf6 26.Rd6 Ne4 27.Rb6 Nxf2 28.Kxf2 Rb8 29.c4 Kf8 30.Ke3 Re8+ 31.Kd3 Re7 32.Rd6 Ke8 33.b4 Rd7 34.Rxd7 Kxd7 35.Kd4 Kc6 36.a4 h5 37.c5 f6 38.Kc4 g5 39.b5+ axb5+ 40.axb5+ Kc7 41.Kd5 f5 42.Ke5 f4 43.gxf4 gxf4 44.Kxf4 1-0

Lajos Portisch–Jean Ponze
New York (simul) 1966

1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 Nf6 3.c4 dxc4 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.Qe2 a6 7.O-O b5 8.Bd3 Nbd7 9.e4
cxd4 10.e5 Nd5 11.Nxd4 Bb7 12.Rd1 Be7 13.Nf3 Qc7 14.Bd2 Rc8 15.Nc3 Nxc3 16.Bxc3 Bxf3 17.Qxf3 Nxe5 18.Bxe5 Qxe5 19.Qb7 Qc7 20.Qxa6 O-O 21.Qxb5 Rb8 22.Qh5 g6 23.Qe2 Bf6 24.Rab1 Rfd8 25.b3 Rb6 26.Bc4 Rxd1+ 27.Rxd1 Rd6 28.Rxd6 Qxd6 29.g3 Qe5 30.Qxe5 Bxe5 31.b4 Bc3 32.b5 Ba5 33.Kf1 Kf8 34.Ke2 1/2-1/2

Lajos Portisch–John Hechtingler
New York (simul) 1966

1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. d3 d6 6. Be3 e6 7. Qd2 Nge7
8. Bh6 O-O 9. h4 Bxh6 10. Qxh6 Kh8 11. h5 Ng8 12. Qd2 Nd4 13. hxg6 fxg6
14. O-O-O Bd7 15. Nh3 Kg7 16. Ne2 Nxe2+ 17. Qxe2 Qa5 18. Kb1 Rae8 19. e5 d5
20. Nf4 b5 21. Qg4 Rf5 22. Rxh7+ 1-0

Portisch’s opponent in the following game is one of the more colorful characters in American chess the past 50 years. Not to be confused with the San Diego master of the same name who was close in age, this Steven Spencer grew up in the New York chess scene of the 1960s. He was a promising junior player participating in the 1968 and 1969 U.S. Junior Closed Championships, and in the latter lost a famous game to Ken Rogoff which was annotated by Bobby Fischer in his Boys Life column.

Spencer was a member of the UC Berkeley team (along with Frank Thornally, Richard Laver, Mike Morris and Sam Sloan) that won the 1967 Pan American Intercollegiate. He attended UC Berkeley (or was in the Bay Area) from roughly 1967 to 1969.

Spencer appears to have played no tournament chess from 1970-73, possibly receiving free room and board from the U.S. government. He reappeared in the Bay Area in 1974 and for the next few years was living on a commune in Willow Springs, Missouri, supporting himself by playing tournaments around the country. Spencer kept expenses down by hitchhiking, crashing on floors and performing surgery on half-eaten pizza using a knife to remove chewed portions left by the previous eater.

Your editor played in a Region V Junior Championship in Bowling Green, Ohio, on Memorial Day weekend in 1976 while Spencer was playing in a concurrent open event, and seeing him in action persuaded me it might be prudent to go to college and have a backup plan before trying to make a living at chess.

Spencer had his openings designed to avoid drawish positions and was fond of the Veresov (1.d4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Bg5) and meeting 1.e4 with …Nc6. He also played the Modern in provocative fashion—for example 1.d4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 a6 4.a4 d6 5.Be2 Nc6 6.Be3 f5 7.d5 Nb4 and now 8.a5 (intending Ra4) led to sharp complications in Donaldson–Spencer, Vancouver 1976.

International Master Elliott Winslow recalls attending an event in Woodstock, New York, in the summer of 1977 that confirms that by that year Spencer had stop playing chess and become a born-again Christian and insurance salesman. The USCF lists a Steven Spencer of Missouri playing in the 1994 World Open.

Lajos Portisch–Steve Spencer
New York (simul) 1966

1. c4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. e4 Nc6 5. Be3 e5 6. d5 Nd4 7. Nge2 Nxe2 8. Bxe2 f5 9. f3 Nf6 10. O-O O-O 11. c5 f4 12. Bf2 Rf7 13. cxd6 cxd6 14. Rc1 Bf8 15. Qb3 g5 16. Rc2 g4 17. Rfc1 Rg7 18. Bh4 gxf3 19. Bxf3 Be7 20. Nb5 Ng4 21. Bxe7 Rxe7 22. Nxd6 Bd7 23. Nf5 Bxf5 24. exf5 Rg7 25. d6+ Kh8 26. Bxg4 Rxg4 27. Qe6 Qg8 28. Rc8 Rxg2+ 29. Kf1 1-0

5) This is the end

In this position from a 2015 tournament, both players misplayed the ending. Can you do better?

White to move

Show solution


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