Mechanics' Institute Chess Room Newsletter

by John Donaldson

Gens Una Sumus!

Mechanics’ Institute Newsletter #759
August 26, 2016

When you’re not expecting a gift sometimes you don’t take it.

—Viswanathan Anand

1) Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club News

Natalya Tsodikova defeated International Master Elliott Winslow in a nicely-played game (shown below), and has the only perfect score after four rounds of the Alan Benson Tuesday Night TNM. Masters Josiah Stearman and Bryon Doyle (who drew in round 4) are joined at 3½ by Experts Igor Traub, Ganesh Viswanath and Jamieson Pryor.

The Alan Benson Memorial TNM, named for the long-time Berkeley master and tournament organizer, is now up to 103 players, with five rounds in the event still to be played. This marks the tenth consecutive TNM with triple-digit entries.

From round 4 of the Alan Benson Tuesday Night Marathon:
White to move (Sloan–Kuczek after 31...Rxf5)Black to move (Weingarten–Chen after 20 Kh1)
White to move (Kim–Donaldson after 13...Qxb2)White to move (Lukasiewicz–Chan after 19...Qd8)
Black to move (Starr–Gaffagan after 27 Rc5)White to move (Rakonitz–Morgan after 14...cxd5)
White to move (Enkh–Casares after 22...Qxe6)White to move (Eastham–Gaines after 10...Bh5)
For the solutions, see the game scores for round 4.

King’s Indian Petrosian E93
Natalya Tsodikova (2195)–Elliott Winslow (2321)
Alan Benson TNM (4) 2016

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Be2 0–0 6.Nf3 e5 7.d5 a5 8.0–0 Na6 9.Bg5 h6 10.Bh4 g5 11.Bg3 Nh5 12.Ne1

12.Nd2 is the key alternative.

12...Nf4 13.Bg4 Nc5

13...f5 Averbakh-Stein, Kislovodsk 1964.


14.f3 is another possibility.


14...Rxc8 Sosonko–Piket, Dutch ch. 1994.

15.f3 f5 16.Bf2


16...fxe4 17.Bxc5 exf3!? was worth considering.

17.Bxc5! dxc5 18.Nc2 g4 19.fxg4 fxg4 20.Ne3

White's control of f5 plus the good knight versus bad bishop give her a clear advantage.

20...Ra6 21.Na4

21.Nf5 was the more straightforward way of handling the position. The text wins a pawn, as ...b6 would lock in the rook.

21...Rg6 22.Nxc5 g3


23.Ne6! Nxe6 24.Nf5! Rf7 25.dxe6 Qxe6 26.Qxh5+– looks even stronger.

23...gxh2+ 24.Kh1 Qd8 25.Nxf4 exf4 26.Nf5 Qg5 27.Qd2 Be5 28.c5 Kh7 29.Rac1 Rfg8 30.Rc2 h4 31.Rf3 Qg4 32.Qf2?

32.Ne7 or 32.Qd3 would have kept White’s advantage.

32...h3! 33.Qh4+ Qxh4 34.Nxh4 hxg2+ 35.Rxg2 Rg3 36.Rf1


36...Rxg2 37.Nxg2 Rg3 with equal chances, as 38.Nxf4?? is met by 38…Rg1+.

37.Rxh2+ Kg8 38.Nf5 f3 39.Nh6+ Kg7 40.Nxg4 Rxg4 41.Rh3 Rxe4 42.Rhxf3 Rh4+ 43.Kg1 Rg4+ 44.Kf2 Bxb2 45.Ke2 Be5 46.Rd1 Rg6 47.Rf5 Bh2 48.Rh1 Rg2+ 49.Rf2 Rxf2+ 50.Kxf2 Be5 51.Kf3 b6 52.Ke4 1–0

20-year-old Grandmaster Daniel Naroditsky, rated 2646 FIDE (#7 in the U.S., #11 in the Americas and #116 in the World), will be the special guest lecturer at the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club on Tuesday, August 30, from 5:15 to 6:15 pm. The topic of the talk, which is free to all, will be his European tour this summer (Corsica, Denmark and Latvia).

Santa Clara Expert Michael Da Cruz won the 11th Bernardo Smith Amateur, open to players rated under 2200 USCF, with a score of 5½ from 6. Half a point back, and the only player to draw him, was top seed Ganesh Viswanath. Those winning book prizes for turning in the biggest upsets were Sam Greene, Tergelsar Enkh, Jordan Wingenroth, Shawnak Shivakumar and Nicholas Jiang. 27 players competed in the event, held August 20–21.

Bernardo Smith (1987–1952) was an important organizer and tournament director for the Mechanics’ Institute from the 1900s to the 1920s. By profession a musician and music teacher, he served as the captain for San Francisco in several of its telegraph matches with Los Angeles.

You can find a picture of Smith just before you enter the M.I. Chess Room. He is in the group photograph of the participants of the Western Chess Association championship that was held at the Mechanics’ in 1923 (he served as the tournament director).

Grandmaster Sam Shankland (player) of Walnut Creek and MI Chess Director John Donaldson (captain) of Berkeley will represent the Bay Area in the Baku Chess Olympiad, which starts September 2.

Marin High School student National Master Ladia Jirasek won the John Larkin Memorial Marathon, held at the Berkeley Chess Club from July 1 to August 19. Jirasek’s winning score of 5–1 put him half a point ahead of 12-year-old National Master Josiah Stearman and Experts Ganesh Viswanath and Derek O’Connor. Bryon Doyle directed the 35-player event, which was organized by Elizabeth Shaughnessy.

2) H.G. Wells on Chess

In 1897 Lawrence & Bullen of London published a book of 39 essays by H. G. Wells entitled, “Certain Personal Matters.” Essay number 30’s topic was Chess.

Concerning Chess

The passion for playing chess is one of the most unaccountable in the world. It slaps the theory of natural selection in the face. It is the most absorbing of occupations, the least satisfying of desires, an aimless excrescence upon life. It annihilates a man. You have, let us say, a promising politician, a rising artist, that you wish to destroy. Dagger or bomb are archaic, clumsy, and unreliable—but teach him, inoculate him with chess! It is well, perhaps, that the right way of teaching chess is so little known, that consequently in most cases the plot fails in the performance, the dagger turns aside. Else we should all be chess-players—there would be none left to do the business of the world. Our statesmen would sit with pocket boards while the country went to the devil, our army would bury itself in chequered contemplation, our bread-winners would forget their wives in seeking after impossible mates. The whole world would be disorganised. I can fancy this abominable hypnotism so wrought into the constitution of men that the cabmen would go trying to drive their horses in Knights’ moves up and down Charing Cross Road. And now and again a suicide would come to hand with the pathetic inscription pinned to his chest: “I checked with my Queen too soon. I cannot bear the thought of it.” There is no remorse like the remorse of chess.

Only, happily, as we say, chess is taught the wrong way round. People put out the board before the learner with all the men in battle array, sixteen a side, with six different kinds of moves, and the poor wretch is simply crushed and appalled. A lot of things happen, mostly disagreeable, and then a mate comes looming up through the haze of pieces. So he goes away awestricken but unharmed, secretly believing that all chess-players are humbugs, and that intelligent chess, which is neither chancy nor rote-learned, is beyond the wit of man. But clearly this is an unreasonable method of instruction. Before the beginner can understand the beginning of the game he must surely understand the end; how can he commence playing until he knows what he is playing for? It is like starting athletes on a race, and leaving them to find out where the winning-post is hidden.

Your true teacher of chess, your subtle chess-poisoner, your cunning Comus who changes men to chess-players, begins quite the other way round. He will, let us say, give you King, Queen, and Pawn placed out in careless possible positions. So you master the militant possibilities of Queen and Pawn without perplexing complications. Then King, Queen, and Bishop perhaps; King, Queen, and Knight; and so on. It ensures that you always play a winning game in these happy days of your chess childhood, and taste the one sweet of chess-playing, the delight of having the upper hand of a better player. Then to more complicated positions, and at last back to the formal beginning. You begin to see now to what end the array is made, and understand why one Gambit differeth from another in glory and virtue. And the chess mania of your teacher cleaveth to you  thenceforth and for evermore.

It is a curse upon a man. There is no happiness in chess—Mr. St. George Mivart, who can find happiness in the strangest places, would be at a loss to demonstrate it upon the chess-board. The mild delight of a pretty mate is the least unhappy phase of it. But, generally, you find afterwards that you ought to have mated two moves before, or at the time that an unforeseen reply takes your Queen. No chess-player sleeps well. After the painful strategy of the day one fights one’s battles over again. You see with more than daylight clearness that it was the Rook you should have moved, and not the Knight. No! it is impossible! no common sinner innocent of chess knows these lower deeps of remorse. Vast desert boards lie for the chess-player beyond the gates of horn. Stalwart Rooks ram headlong at one, Knights hop sidelong, one’s Pawns are all tied, and a mate hangs threatening and never descends. And once chess has been begun in the proper way, it is flesh of your flesh, bone of your bone; you are sold, and the bargain is sealed, and the evil spirit hath entered in.

The proper outlet for the craving is the playing of games, and there is a class of men—shadowy, unhappy, unreal-looking men—who gather in coffee-houses, and play with a desire that dieth not, and a fire that is not quenched. These gather in clubs and play Tournaments, such tournaments as he of the Table Round could never have imagined. But there are others who have the vice who live in country places, in remote situations—curates, schoolmasters, rate collectors—who go consumed from day to day and meet no fit companion, and who must needs find some artificial vent for their mental energy. No one has ever calculated how many sound Problems are possible, and no doubt the Psychical Research people would be glad if Professor Karl Pearson would give his mind to the matter. All the possible dispositions of the pieces come to such a vast number, however, that, according to the theory of probability, and allowing a few thousand arrangements each day, the same problem ought never to turn up more than twice in a century or so. As a matter of fact—it is probably due to some flaw in the theory of probability—the same problem has a way of turning up in different publications several times in a month or so. It may be, of course, that, after all, quite “sound” problems are limited in number, and that we keep on inventing and reinventing them; that, if a record were kept, the whole system, up to four or five moves, might be classified, and placed on record in the course of a few score years. Indeed, if we were to eliminate those with conspicuously bad moves, it may be we should find the number of reasonable games was limited enough, and that even our brilliant Lasker is but repeating the inspirations of some long-buried Persian, some mute inglorious Hindoo, dead and forgotten ages since. It may be over every game there watches the forgotten forerunners of the players, and that chess is indeed a dead game, a haunted game, played out centuries ago, even, as beyond all cavil, is the game of draughts.

The artistic temperament, the gay irresponsible cast of mind, does what it can to lighten the gravity of this too intellectual game. To a mortal there is something indescribably horrible in these champions with their four moves an hour—the bare thought of the mental operations of the fifteen minutes gives one a touch of headache. Compulsory quick moving is the thing for gaiety, and that is why, though we revere Steinitz and Lasker, it is Bird we love. His victories glitter, his errors are magnificent. The true sweetness of chess, if it ever can be sweet, is t see a victory snatched, by some happy impertinence, out of the shadow of apparently irrevocable disaster. And talking of cheerfulness reminds me of Lowson’s historical game of chess. Lowson said he had been cheerful sometimes—but, drunk! Perish the thought! Challenged, he would have proved it by some petty tests of pronunciation, some Good Templar’s shibboleths. He offered to walk along the kerb, to work any problem in mathematics we could devise, finally to play MacBryde at chess. The other gentleman was appointed judge, and after putting the antimacassar over his head (“jush wigsh”) immediately went to sleep in a disorderly heap on the sofa. The game was begun very solemnly, so I am told. MacBryde, in describing it to me afterwards, swayed his hands about with the fingers twiddling in a weird kind of way, and said the board went like that. The game was fierce but brief. It was presently discovered that both kings had been taken. Lowson was hard to convince, but this came home to him. “Man,” he is reported to have said to MacBryde, “I’m just drunk. There’s no doubt in the matter. I’m feeling very ashamed of myself.” It was accordingly decided to declare the game drawn. The position, as I found it next morning, is an interesting one. Lowson’s Queen was at K Kt 6, his Bishop at Q B 3, he had several Pawns, and his Knight occupied a commanding position at the intersection of four squares. MacBryde had four Pawns, two Rooks, a Queen, a draught, and a small mantel ornament arranged in a rough semicircle athwart the board. I have no doubt chess exquisites will sneer at this position, but in my opinion it is one of the cheerfulest I have ever seen. I remember I admired it very much at the time, in spite of a slight headache, and it is still the only game of chess that I recall with undiluted pleasure. And yet I have played many games.

3) Jahr-Saidy, Reggio Emilia annotated by Dr. Anthony Saidy

The following game and notes come from the archive of the late Peter Grey.

From left to right: Yakov Zusmanovich, Andy Ansel, Jurgen Stigter, Anthony Saidy and Michael Negele at the Mechanics’ Institute attending a meeting of the Ken Whyld Association, October 2009 (Photo: MI Chess Archives)

Sicilian B57
Ulrich Jahr–Anthony Saidy
Reggio Emilia (5) 1967

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bc4 Qb6 7.Nde2

Preferable is 7.Nb3, as in Fischer–Saidy, US Championship 1966.

7...e6 8.0–0 Be7 9.Bb3 0–0 10.Bg5

This is usually preceded by 10.Kh1.


Better than 10...Qc5 11.Be3

11.Kh1 Qc5 12.f4 b5 13.Ng3 Bb7

Not 13...b4? 14.e5! Fischer–Benko, Bled 1959.

14.Nh5 Kh8

The king is quite safe here, and White’s pawn on e4 is quite shaky.


A new move. 15.Rf3 b4 16.Nxf6 gxf6 17.Na4 Qc7 18.Bd5? Bxd5 19.Qd4 e5 20.Qxd5 fxg5 is Ciocaltea–Petrusiak, Halle 1965 (Black won).

15...Rae8 16.Qe2? Nxh5 17.Qxh5 f6 18.Bxe6

18.Rf3 g6! 19.Qh6 Nxb3 20.Rh3 Rf7 21.Qxg6 Ref8 and Black wins.


Not 18...fxg5? 19.Bf5.


19.Qh3 fxg5 20.b4 Qc7 21.bxa5 Bf6 22.Nxb5 Qc5 23.e5 dxe5 24.fxg5 Bxg5 25.c4 a6 (25...Rf2! is even stronger-editor.) 26.Nc3 Qxa5 and Black is much superior!

19...fxg5 20.Rf3 Qd4 21.b4 Rxf4 22.Qh3 Rxf3 23.Qxf3 Bf6 0–1

4) How to improve your Chess, by GM Jesse Kraai

The following suggestions, which offer interesting food for thought, come from Jesse’s blog, which can be found at

GMs get asked this question all the time. We give idealized answers, offering the paths to improvement we wish we had followed ourselves. It’s a lie. But I’ve decided that it’s an interesting lie. Here is mine:

1) Study your own games with a notebook and pen, no computer. Get a nice wooden set. Write everything down, the variations, what you missed, your valuations, your prejudices, your principles of play.

2) Study your own games with a notebook and pen, no computer. Get a nice wooden set. Write everything down, the variations, what you missed, your valuations, your prejudices, your principles of play. I know, I repeated myself.

3) Do tactical puzzles. Easy ones, like the Polgar mate-in-twos, but also hard ones, and thousands of endgame studies.

4) Study with friends. Learn to see the game from their perspective.

5) Go over classic games.

6) Teach others.

7) Get fit. Don’t eat crap. Chess, like life, is going to feel like a throwdown no matter what metaphysical sugar people like J. Kraai sometimes coat it with. The game will push you to your limits. Be ready for it.

Having a coach can help, especially if your chess feels like it has already visited every crevice and hillock of a very well-travelled plateau. But let me stress, before I talk about the office of a coach: the above seven exercises should be the foundation of your chess.

You have already suffered over the board. Bring this suffering to your coach, even if it is incautiously tossed into garbage bags that you don’t want to look at anymore, and cannot bear to smell. Your coach cannot bear your burden for you; she can only unpack it and stick your nose in it.

Lessons are not going to make you happier. A traditional therapist, I think, will also not make you happier. They are simply going to point out stuff that you don’t notice, and give you the skills to see it on your own. Insight will make you a better player. And the quality of whatever meditation you think you are conducting when you play chess will improve.

You are playing chess because you sense something spiritual in it. You have tasted it, but are not really certain what it is. You keep coming back to the game to find it.

I offer some speculation as to what we are trying to find here, but you will have to answer this question for yourself. And that answer will say something about your chess.

4) This is the end

In this study, both sides must play carefully. In solving it, you too must be careful.

White to move

Show solution


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