Mechanics' Institute Chess Room Newsletter

by John Donaldson

Gens Una Sumus!

Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club Newsletter #805
November 3, 2017

Indeed, I was close to something great, like you say. Here not chess was interesting for me. During the games, I was sitting and looking at the opponent, not at the board. It was just interesting how he behaved, his facial expression. For me, it was like a young boxer who had a fight, for instance, against Mike Tyson. Kasparov is really a great chess player, I have never denied it.

—Sergey Karjakin, on what it was like to play against
Gary Kasparov in St. Louis this past summer.
Full article.

1) Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club News

International Master Elliott Winslow, who has dominated the TNM the past few years, is among 17 players with perfect scores after two rounds of the Fall Tuesday Night Marathon/William Lombardy Memorial. The 114-player field includes ten players rated over 2200. It’s still possible to enter the nine-round event with half-point byes for rounds 1 and 2.

Lance Erickson (left) and Jacob Crofts (right) dressed in their chess best for Halloween and round two of the TNM, pose for the camera,while Frank Bannan takes a break from his blitz game to check them out. This photo was taken in the Chess Room Annex, where a giant photograph of Mikhail Tal (partly seen in the photograph) is hung. (Photo: Laura Sheppard)

From round 2 of the Fall Tuesday Night Marathon:
Black to move (Yanofsky–Diaz after 21 Rd2)Black to move (Melville–Tsodikova after 36 Be5)
Black to move (Crofts–Askin after 8 Be2)Black to move (McEnroe–Whitehead after 35 Nc5+)
White to move (Drane–Ross after 15...Bxg5)White to move (Dougel–Apel after 11...Nd7)
For the solutions, see the game scores for round 2.

International Master Elliott Winslow of Alameda and 11-year-old Expert Rochelle Wu of Davis tied for first in the 46th Carroll Capps Memorial with 5–1 scores. Wu, who scored 3–1 against Masters, including a round-four victory over Winslow, should soon be back over 2200. National Master Russell Wong was third in the top-heavy event, which attracted 32 players the weekend of October 28–29.

World Under-10 Champion Rachel Wu and Grandmaster John Fedorowicz at the 2016 World Youth Championship in Batumi, Georgia. (Photo: Ben Finegold)

One example of how heavy-duty opening theory has filtered down to the masses is Daniel McKellar, rated 1810 USCF, had two games in which he reached the following position in the Botvinnik Anti-Meran: 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 c6 5. Bg5 dxc4 6. e4 b5 7. e5 h6 8. Bh4 g5 9. Nxg5 hxg5 10. Bxg5 Nbd7 11. g3 Bb7 12. Bg2 Qb6 13. exf6 O-O-O 14. O-O c5 15. d5 b4 16.Rb1: as White against Wu in round two, and Ricard in round six.

Jules Jelinek dominated the October 25 edition of the Wednesday Night Blitz, scoring 11½ from 12 to win the 15-player event. Jeff Sinick was second at 8, followed by Felix Rudyak at 7½.

Close to 30 Mechanics’ members ventured to Reno for the annual Western States Open, held the weekend of October 13–15. Ecuadorean Grandmaster Carlos Matamoros, currently living in Davis, won the Open section with a score of 5–1 International Master Omar Cartagena of San Francisco, in his first major tournament in 18 years, performed quite creditably, scoring 4 from 6, including draws with GM Atanas Kolev and IM John Bryant.MI members Michael Walder (1st Expert section) and Cailen Melville (=1st Class B section) did particularly well further down.

Larry Snyder points out that National Master Bryon Doyle is a talented writer besides being a strong player. Check out his work here.

2) John Blackstone, remembered by Erik Osbun (part one)

John Blackstone (Photo: Brea Blackstone)

My chess friend John Blackstone passed away on May 12 in Las Vegas. He is survived by his son Brandon and daughter Brie. We were working (slowly) on augmenting and preparing material for a collection of Marshall games. His hobby was collecting chess history, and his contributions will be sorely missed.

I offer the following chess episodes from John’s climb from beginner to master class in remembrance of our association. I first heard of him as a participant in the U.S. Junior Open at San Francisco, 1957. I had no idea then that we would play many games in the years to come. His rise to Master can be followed in The California Chess Reporter, in the rating history at the Chess Dryad web site, and in the Cal Games database compiled by Mr. Hillary. However, that good information is pale by comparison to my personal observations, to follow.

John prepared for the 1959 U.S. Junior in Omaha by playing a 10-game match with the experienced William T. Adams (Adams won by 5 to 4 with one draw.). John was only 14 years old and this is probably his best game of the match. His handling of the wheeling knights and driving rooks shows talent.

I met John for the first time over the board at the 1959 U.S. Junior. He was a tall, good looking blonde kid, but his chess still needed some work. There was a small contingent of California juniors at this event, and, led by Gil Ramirez and Art Wang, we won the “team title” of the first five from any state. [The rest of our best 5 were David Krause, Walter Cunningham and myself.] John had played in the 1957 U.S. Junior in San Francisco, getting a minus score and repeating that in the 1959 event. What he had was the will.

French Defense
John Blackstone–William T. Adams
Game 9 of Match, 1959

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5

First played in the game Mortimer–Winawer, London, 1883. It was a White disaster, and so most games going back to 1861 and forward through about 1927 continued 4.exd5. It appears that the best players in the world did not understand how to play the French Defense, Winawer Variation.

In 1927, even the future world champion, Mikhail Botvinnik, lost twice with both the White and Black pieces. Yes, the variation is difficult. That is exactly why many strong players are attracted to it.

4…c5 5. Bd2

The more common move is 5.a3. The text move is safe, but thought not to yield an advantage in depth.


This is thought to be the simplest variation for obtaining equality, but serious attention has been given 5….Ne7, 5….Nh6, and 5….cxd4.

6. Nb5

The main idea of the 5.Bd2 variation, which is to threaten Nd6 with check after the exchange of dark-squared Bishops.


Not good, the recommended procedure is 6….Bxd2+ 7.Qxd2 Nxd4 8.Nxd4 cxd4 9.Nf3 Ne7 10.Nxd4 Nc6 with two possibilities:

1) 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Bd3 Qb6 13.Rb1 0-0 14.0-0 (Lasker – Bohatirchuk, Moscow, 1935 ) Ba6! with equal chances.

2) 11.f4 Qb6! 12.c3 Nxd4 13.cxd4 Bd7 with equal chances. Less good is what transpired in the game Endre Steiner – Lilienthal, Budapest, 1932: 11.f4 0-0 12.0-0-0 Nxd4 13.Qxd4 Qa5 14.Kb1 Bd7 15.Bd3 Rfc8 16.g4 Qc5 17.c3 Bb5 18.Qxc5 Bxd3+ 19.Rxd3 Rxc5 20.Rd4 Rac8 21.R1d1 Rc4 22.Kc2 Rxd4 23.Rxd4, with advantage for White in the interesting rook endgame to come. White used his spatial advantage and won it.

7. Bxb4 Nxb4 8. Nd6+?!

White lunges to his goal, but is the timing correct? A really good line is 8.Qd2 Nc6 reaching the exact position obtained in the game Fine–Capablanca, A.V.R.O., 1938, with one extra move for each side having been played. The critical position keeping the extra move pair is explored as follows:

1) 9.Nf3 f6 10.Qf4 Nh6! 11.Nd6+ Kf8 12.Bb5 Nxe5! (12….Nf7? 13.Nxf7 Kxf7 14.Bxc6 bxc6 15.exf6 gxf6 16.Ne5+ Kg7 17.Qg3+ Kf8 18.Nxc6 Qd7 19.Nxd4 and White has won a pawn, Fine–Capablanca, A.V.R.O., 1938 ) 13.Nxe5 Ke7 14.Nxc8+ Rxc8 (Capablanca’s post-game suggestion ) 15.0-0 Qb6 16.Bd3 fxe5 17.Qxe5 Nf7 18.Qg3 (18.Qxg7? Rhg8 19.Qxh7 Rh8 draws at least.) e5, and Black has obtained equality at least.

2) 9.0-0-0?! Nxe5! 10.Qxd4 f6 11.Qc5 b6! (Not 11….Kf7? 12.Nd6+ Kg6 13.f4 Nf7 14.f5+! exf5 15.Rxd5 Nxd6 16.Rxd6 Qf8 17.Nf3 with a winning position for White, Hasenfuss – Besruchko, Kemeri-Riga, 1939 ) 12.Qc3 ( or 12.Qc7 Bd7, or 12.Qa3 Nf7 ) Kf7, and Black acquires at least equal chances.

3) 9.f4! Nh6 [If 9….Nge7 10.Nd6+ Kf8 11.Nf3 Nf5 ( 11….Bd7 12.0-0-0 Nc8 13.Nb5 a6 14.Nbxd4 Qa5 15.Qxa5 Nxa5 16.Bd3 avoids getting the weak pawn at f5, but White’s position is still very favorable. ) 12.Nxf5 exf5 13.Nxd4 Nxd4 14.Qxd4 Qa5+ 15.c3 Be6 16.Be2 Rc8 17.0-0 Qc5 18.Qxc5+ Rxc5 19.Rfd1 Ke7 20.Rd4 Rd8 21.R1d1, and White has a favorable endgame, Rellstab–Berg, Kemeri, 1937.] 10.Nd6+ Kf8 11.Nf3, which Keres evaluates as advantageous for White.

8…Kf8 9. Qd2 Qb6!?

This leads to an entirely new position. Of course, 9….Nc6 10.f4 Nh6 11.Nf3 is the line Keres evaluated.


Intending to lift his rook and move it to b3 where it will pin the black knight, an interesting idea. Nevertheless, the move neglects the situation in the center. Correct is to over-protect the e-pawn with 10.f4.


Stronger is 10….Nc6, simultaneously attacking the e-Pawn and the b-Pawn. If then 11.Qf4 f6 12.exf6 Nxf6 13.0-0-0 e5, with an excellent game for Black.

11. Rh3


The power of suggestion has taken over Black’s thinking, and so he submits to defending directly against White’s aggressive idea.

A more truculent path is 11….fxe5 12.Nxc8 (12.Rf3+ Nf6 13.Rxf6+ gxf6 14.Qh6+ Ke7 15.Qg7+ Kxd6 16.Qxh8 Nxc2+ 17.Kd1 Nxa1 is unproductive, and 12.Nb5 Qc5! 13.Rf3+ Nf6 14.Rxf6+ gxf6 15.Qh6+ Kf7 fails miserably.) Rxc8 13.Rb3 Nxc2+ 14.Kd1 Qxb3! 15.axb3 Nxa1 16.Qb4+ Ne7, but then 17.Nf3 appears to be very dangerous for Black in consideration of his un-coordinated pieces.

12. Rb3 Qc7 13. f4 fxe5?

Black calculates that now he can accept the sacrifice, but he won’t get away with it. Much better is 13….Nh6 14.Nf3 Nf7 in order to exchange or drive off the obstreperous knight posted at d6.

14. fxe5 Nxe5

The fore-ordained capture is now a fact. At this point there does not seem to be a more reasonable move. Maybe 14….Nh6 15.Rf3+ Kg8 16.Qf4 Qe7 17.0-0-0 Nf5, but then 18.Nxf5 exf5 19.Re1 Qb4 20.Qd2 Qxd2+ 21.Kxd2 will net the better endgame for White. Still, this may be the best available for Black.

15. Qb4 ….

The specter of discovered check arises. Useless is 15.Qf4+ Nf7 16.Rf3 Nf6.

15…. Nc6

15….Ne7 16.0-0-0 N5c6 17.Rf3+ Kg8 18.Qc5 b6 19.Qa3 Nf5 20.Nxf5 exf5 21.Bb5 Be6 22.Ne2 Rc8 23.Bxc6 Qxc6 24.Nxd4 Qd7 25.Re1 Re8 26.R3e3, and White wins.

16. Qc5 Qe7

Or 16….Nge7 17.Rf3+ Kg8 18.Nf7, and White wins.

17. Ba6!

A little overloading combination breaks open the position to White’s advantage.


Not good is 17….Qxh4+? 18.g3 Qh1 19.0-0-0.

18. Bxb7! Bxb7 19. Nxb7 Qxc5 20. Nxc5 Rc8 21. Rb5


Black must get out his pieces, but it appears that he misses his best chance: 21….Ke7 22.0-0-0 Kd6 23.Nb7+ Kc6 (23….Nxb7 24.Rxb7 Rc7 25.Rb8 is unhealthy.) 24.Nxd8+ Kxb5 ( 24…Rxd8 25.Rb4 e5 26.Nf3, and White wins back the pawn shortly with a great advantage. ) 25.Nf7 Nf6 26.Nf3! Rhe8 27.Nd6+ Kc5 28.Nxc8 Rxc8 29.Rxd4!, and al-though White has recovered the exchange and the pawn with apparently an advantage of the better pawns, there remains considerable play in the position.

22. 0-0-0 Nf5 23. Nf3 Nd6?

To be considered is 23….h5 24.Nxd4 Nxd4 25.Rxd4, but it’s likely worse than his best chance that he passed over on his 21st turn.

24. Ra5 Nc6 25. Ra4 Ke7 26. Re1

Driving Black onto the defensive, and now the combined might of the initiative with active rooks and knights put Black at risk of a mating attack.

26… Nd8 27. Rxa7+ Kf6 28. Nd7+ Kg6 29. Nxd4 Ne4

If 29….Re8 30.Ra6.

30. Ne5+ Kf6 31. Nd7+ Kg6 32. Rf1

Closing the corral gate.

32…Re8 33. Ne5+ Kh6 34. g4

Bridle and saddle are made ready.

34…Rg8 35. Nxe6!


Or 35….Nxe6 36.Nf7+ Kg6 38.h5 mate.

36. Nxg7! N6b7

If 36….Rxg7 37.Rf6+ Rg6 38.g5+ Kh5 39.Rxh7+ and mates.

37. Nf5 1-0

3) William Lombardy

Last Newsletter we wrote about Grandmaster Lombardy spending time at the Mechanics’ Institute and his visits to the Pinole Chess Club. We have since learned from Ralph Palmeri, Lombardy’s last host, that he also visited the Berkeley Chess Club and the well-known chess watering hole, the Strada Coffee Shop, near the UC Berkeley campus.

William Lombardy smiles after enjoying a good meal at the Mechanics’ Institute during the Imre Konig Memorial on September 16. (Photo: Yakov Zusmanaovich)

Grandmaster William Lombardy’s obituary in the New York Times had a few errors and misstatements in it. Here are a few to set the record straight.

1. Besides the son, Mr. Lombardy is survived by an older sister, Natalie Pekala.

Natalie, William’s sister, is his junior by twelve years—see My Seven Chess Prodigies (p. 129). This has since been corrected.

2. Paul Marshall was not the lawyer for the U.S. team, he was Bobby Fischer's lawyer. This has since been corrected.

3. Anthony Saidy, an international master who played with Mr. Lombardy on the top American teams in the 1950s and ’60s, told the New York Times in 2016. “He always seemed to drag his matches out so long, getting out of jams until his opponent could not.”

Anthony Saidy wrote “then and now”; he was misquoted.

4. But he came of age in the shadow of Bobby Fischer, the phenomenon out of Brooklyn six years his junior. Virtually all the sponsorship money and support available for American players went to Mr. Fischer.

Not true. Sammy Reshevsky, a Candidate in 1968, was supported by the American Chess Foundation throughout the 1960s. Fischer only received support in the early 1970s when he was competing in the World Championship cycle. Lombardy was sent to several South American tournaments with ACF support in the late 1950s. He stopped playing at the end of 1960 to start his studies on the path to becoming a priest.

4) This is the end

This study illustrates some basic, and some not-so-basic principles of king-and-pawn endings.

White to move

Show solution


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