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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Dr. Karl Burger

     Burger, a medical doctor, was born January 22, 1933 and died on April 1, 2000 at the age of 67 after a long illness while living in Augusta, Georgia.  He was an International Master with two GM norms. 
     During 1949-53, Columbia University's chess team won the National Intercollegiate Championship when this biennial event was held in 1950 and 1952. The team consisted of James Sherwin, Eliot Hearst, Francis Mechner and Karl Burger plus two reserves. Everybody has heard the term “cheapo” being used to describe a move which threatens something so obvious that only an idiot would fall for it, and he does. Burger invented the term. 
     A wealthy doctor, Burger played chess in over 20 countries and 47 of the 50 states, winning the 1993 Georgia State championship. He participated in only one US Championship and that was in 1969 where finished last with 4 draws and 7 losses. 
     According to Sam Sloan, Burger gained a good many rating points in open tournaments back in the days before there were class events and accelerated pairings were not yet used. He would enter a Swiss event and in the first round be paired against a low rated player whom he was sure to beat, gain a couple of rating points, and then drop out. 
     Sloan also described an alleged scandal involving Burger. He sponsored a tournament in 1980 to which he donated the prize money. A number of strong masters were playing and Burger scored a brilliant win in almost every game and tied for first.  The result lead to speculation that the games had been rigged and his opponents had been bribed. Burger defeated GMs Lev Alburt, Roman Dzindzichashvili, Edmar Mednis and Leonid Shamkovich. Sloan claimed he examined the games and found nothing out of the ordinary and concluded that Burger just had a good tournament. 
     Burger was one of Bobby Fischer's early coaches at the Manhattan Chess Club. Like Fischer, Burger grew up in Brooklyn, New York in the 1950s and it was at the Manhattan Chess Club where he first met Fischer who was ten years his junior. When Fischer showed up at the club he always had salami sandwiches that he would eat while taking lessons from Burger. Food was prohibited at the club, but they made an exception for Fischer.  The board ended up covered with debris from Fischer's salami sandwiches which Burger found disgusting and as a result he developed a “very great hatred of salami." 
     After obtaining his medical degree Burger worked as a physician and lived with his parents. His father died in 1967 while aboard a cruise ship bound for Bermuda. Then when his mother died in 1978 only Dr. Burger and their maid were left. The maid, who had been with the family over 30 years, moved to Georgia because the climate was warmer and she had relatives there; Burger went with her and she continued to work for him until she died of cancer in 1996.  After that, Burger lived a monk-like existence generally avoiding neighbors, but he did offer chess lessons out of his home and played chess on the internet.
     Suffering complications from diabetes, he had a stroke and lost the feeling in his right hand and foot and very rarely left the house. 
     The following game, real tactical melee, was played in the 1953 US Open held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The tournament was won by Donald Byrne who finished half point ahead of Max Pavey. Horowitz tied for third with Nicolas Rossolimo, James Sherwin, Frank Anderson of Canada, Eliot Hearst and James Cross. Burger was next in line, tying for places 9-12 with Curt Brasket, Miroslav Turiansky and Joseph Shaffer. In reporting the game results in his Chess Review, the Picture Chess Magazine, Horowitz might have reported the result of this one as “Burger blasts Horowitz” or “Burger hammers Horowitz” or “Burger bamboozles Horowitz” or some such.  It was much more colorful than simply listing the results as Burger 1 - Horowitz 0.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Stunning Sacrificial Attack by Horowitz

     A couple of years ago I did a post on the book Point Count Chess by Horowitz and Mott-Smith and today wanted to look at a game that appeared in the book. I mentioned in the previous post that I had doubts Reshevsky really wrote the forward. Reshevsky claimed he wrote all his books, but rumor has it they were ghosted, mostly by Fred Reinfeld. National Master James Schroeder told of one incident where he questioned Reshevsky about something he (Reshevsky) had written in one of his books and Schroeder said Reshevsky had no idea what he was talking about. The incident lead Schroeder to believe Reshevsky had never even seen the book. But I am getting off the subject. 
     The big question is will this system work. I think it's probably on a par with the piece value beginners learn where, for example, a Queen is worth nine points and a Rook is worth five. They may know that if they have a Q vs. a R they have a four point advantage, but do they know how to take advantage of it in order to win? As I stated in the earlier post, by calling your attention to the different positional factors it will help you recognize the strengths and weaknesses of the position and so the system has some value. 
     In the following game we'll take a look at Horowitz' game against a master from the 1930s to the 1950s. Horowitz gives some pretty flimsy notes as they relate to applying the point count system, but what I really enjoyed was Horowitz' brilliant tactical play after Martin played 23...Kg7. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Brilliancy Prize by Boris Siff

     Boris Siff (May 6, 1911 – April 11,1998 in San Jose, California at the age of 86) was an interesting character whose main distinction was that he became a USCF Senior Master (over 2400) for the first time at the age of 72. 
     After a tournament in 1984 at the age of 72 Siff, suffering from leukemia, was having a meal with friends in a restaurant when he was taken by to the hospital where the doctor advised him that he should remain hospitalized, but he refused and returned to the tournament the next day. It should also be mentioned that Siff had open heart surgery a few months earlier and his spleen had been removed shortly before this tournament. 
     Aided by a couple of shots of cognac he defeated then Senior Master (later IM) Elliot Winslow to win the tournament. It was this event where he scored wins over two Experts (2000-2199), two National Masters (Fritzinger and Michael Tomey), Winslow and GM Peter Biyiasas that earned him the Senior Master rating. Unfortunately his rating dropped to 2399 (one point below the SM title) before his rating was published. At the time of his death his rating stood at 2266. 
     The only child of Russian emigrant parents, Siff was originally from the Bronx, New York City.  He received a four year scholarship to one of New York's finest private schools and joined the Empire City Chess Club in the Bronx. Arnold Denker wrote about Siff in My Best Chess Games 1929-1976 that Siff had a very enterprising style and was very original in his approach to the opening.  Denker added that when it came to openings Siff was "far ahead of the times.” Denker also wrote that, probably due to the demands of work, he completely disappeared from tournament play. Denker also believed had Siff continued tournament play in a few years he “would have contributed a great deal to the theory of the openings." 
     Siff, who retired as a machinist in 1976, faded into obscurity after his successes in winning the championships of Boston, New England and Florida in the 1950s. Before moving to California, Siff was the 1956 Massachusetts champion and in 1958 he tied for first with John Curdo and Orest Popovych. 
     At the end of his life Siff, who never married, was barely eking out an existence. One reason was that for many years he gambled on card games. At the insistence of a couple of friends he eventually gave up that vice and returned to his first vice, chess.
     The following game won Siff the brilliancy prize. His opponent was Dennis Fritzinger, the 1970/71 California State Champion. Fritzinger played in several Lone Pine Tournaments in the 1970s and was a contributor, along with Jude Acers, to the book Grandmaster Chess: The Book of the Louis D. Statham Lone Pine Masters-Plus Tournament 1975 by Robert E. Burger. The game is interesting because after black's seemingly innocuous 18th move a flurry of tactics followed.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Baden-Baden 1870

     This event was the first international tournament in Germany and the first to be interrupted by a war (the Franco-Prussian war).  Play was 20 moves per hour and the players had the option of using chess clocks or timing their games the old fashioned way by using hourglasses. 
     This was probably the strongest tournament ever held up until that time. The tournament lasted from July 18th to August 4th and consisted of ten masters playing a double round robin.
     The day after the tournament began, on July 19th, France declared war on Prussia and the southern German states, including the Grand Duchy of Baden, took the side of Prussia and its North German allies. At the outbreak of the war there was much discussion between the players as to whether or not the tournament should continue. The reason was because Baden-Baden is not far from the French border and there was a real possibility that the town could be occupied by the French. In the end the players opted to continue although according to press reports the atmosphere was tense. 
     After the fourth round, as a reservist officer Adolf Stern was called to active duty. He had only played four games, losing two on time (to Steinitz and Minckwitz), winning one (against Minckwitz) and drawing one (to Steinitz). His 14 forfeited games were counted as wins for his opponents. 
     The finish of Baden-Baden in August was near the end of hostilities. At one time artillery fire could be heard in Baden-Baden from a distance of 18 miles. 
     The French town of Sedan, near the Belgian border, was the decisive battle of the war and it began on the morning of September 1, 1870. The battle continued until 4:15 PM, when Napoleon, who had just arrived in Sedan, took command. Recognizing the hopelessness of the situation, he ordered the white flag to be hoisted. Terms of surrender were negotiated during the night and on the following day Napoleon, together with 83,000 troops, surrendered to the Germans. Sedan lies 234 miles from Baden-Baden and Stern, who participated in the battle, sent a post card on September 4th saying, "Emperor Napoleon has been mated." 
     The two main rivals were Anderssen and Steinitz. Anderssen created a minor sensation when he defeated Steinitz in both of their games but then lost both games against Gustav Neumann. 
     After ten rounds Neumann was leading Anderssen and Blackburne by a half point followed by Steinitz a point behind first. Then Neumann faded, losing two games to Steinitz and one each to Rosenthal and de Vere. 
     Meanwhile Steinitz had come alive, scoring 5.5 points in seven rounds and going into the last round was half point behind the leader Anderssen. In the last round Steintz' opponent was de Vere against whom he could only draw. 
     Anderssen was paired against Louis Paulsen who had been having a poor tournament, but was still one of the best players in the world at the time. It was his last round win against Paulsen that gave Anderssen first place and it was a real slugfest! 
     Ludek Pachman wrote some truly great books, especially on tactics and strategy, but when he annotated this game in the entertaining Decisive Games in Chess History he did a really poor job. His brief notes were primarily based on the result and he ignored almost all the possibilities for both sides to the point that his notes were pretty much useless. A fairly common trait in many of those old books! 

1) Anderssen 13.0 
2) Steinitz 12.5 
3-4) Neumann and Blackburne 12.0 
5) Paulsen 9.5 
6-7) De Vere and Winawer 8.5 
8-9) Rosenthal and Minckwitz 7.0 
10) Stern 1.5 

Milner-Barry vs Hagarth

  Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry KCVO CB OBE (September 20, 1906 – March 25, 1995) was a British player, chess writer, World War II codebreaker and civil servant. During World War II he worked at Bletchley Park and was head of "Hut 6", a section responsible for deciphering messages which had been encrypted using the German Enigma machine. After the war he worked in the Treasury, and later administered the British honors system
     A talented chess player, he won the first British Boys' Championship in 1923. He made his international debut at the strong London tournament in 1932 tournament. His best results in international competition were achieved in three straight years at the Margate tournaments from 1937–39, and at Hastings 1938. In all four events he finished just above the middle against strong fields, with performance ratings (as calculated by Chessmetrics) between 2538 and 2565. This places him at a solid International Master standard although he never received this title. 
     He represented England in the Olympiads of 1937, 1939, 1952 and 1956. The 1956 Olympiad trip to Moscow was risky since Britain and the USSR were by then locked into the Cold War and Milner-Barry's wartime codebreaking knowledge would have been of great interest to the Soviets; the fact that Britain had broken German codes on a massive scale was kept secret until 1974 when The Ultra Secret was published. 
     Milner-Barry finished second in the British Chess Championship at Hastings 1953 which was his best result in British Championships. He was president of the British Chess Federation between 1970 and 1973, competed in the British Championship as late as 1978 and was still competing local events into his 80s. George Koltanowski wrote that, "his style was very pleasing to spectators because he was always looking for dangerous continuations and quite often he found them!"
     Michael Haygarth was a regular competitor in the British Championships during the early 1960's. He was a regular in the British Championship from 1959 to 1979, winning it in 1964. Not much is available on Haygarth, but he appears to have retired from chess in the late 1960s, but returned for another ten years after Fischer won the world championship. In the 1974 British it was his defeat of Jonathan Mestel that caused a seven-way tie which was eventually resolved in favor of George Botterill. Haygarth passed away peacefully in the hospital on April 27, 2016 at the age of 81. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Levenfish - Botvinnik Match 1937

At play during the match
     In 1937 Botvinnik declined to play in the Soviet Championship because he was preparing his thesis for his doctorate in electrical engineering. Nevertheless, his refusal to play angered some of his supporters. 
     One such was Alexander Ilyin-Genevsky who was not only a Soviet Master but also one of founders of the Soviet chess school, a chess organizer, an Old-Guard Bolshevik cadre, writer, military organizer, historian and diplomat. Ilyin-Genevsky censured Botvinnik and notified Nikolai Krylenko who sent Botvinnik a telgram in which he threatened to discuss his refusal with the Central Committee
     This was no idle threat. At the time the Soviet Union was entering an era of terror.  In his memoirs Botvinnik made light of the 20-minute trials and executions, claiming that the British press was “conducting an intensive anti-Soviet campaign.” But Botvinnik was, according to David Bronstein, “a good Communist” and so given his own high standing in the Soviet Union, Botvinnik could hardly expect him to say otherwise. 
     The fact is that on the day of the Botvinnik-Vidmar game at Nottingham in 1936 there was in the Soviet Union a show trial of 14 high ranking Communist Party members and anti-Stalinist who were found guilty and shot. Near the end of his life in an interview with Dutch GM Gennady Sosonko, Botvinnik said that reports of millions dying in camps was unlikely and many, including some of his friends, actually returned home from them. However, he told another interviewer, Sarah Hurst, that mass repressions did start in 1937 but he was busy with tournaments and his doctoral thesis so he didn't feel any of the effects.
     At the same time a few Party officials Botvinnik had known began disappearing. One in particular was a fellow named Grigory Ordzhonikidze, who had given Botvinnik a car, apparently saw the handwriting on the wall and committed suicide.  Alexander Chevryakov, who had awarded Botvinnik the Badge of Honor in 1936 followed suit and did the same thing. Also, Alexander Kosarev was shot in 1939. 
     On September 10, 1936 one master, Pyotr Izmailov, was arrested for participating in a counterrevolutionary Trotskyist-fascist terrorist organization and on April 28, 1937 he was sentenced to death and shot. He was married to Galina Efimovna Kozmina, who received eight years in Kolyma for being the wife of the enemy of the people. 
     A similar fate was met by other of Botvinnik's opponents. Arvid Kubbel, Mikhail Shebarshin and Vladimir Petrov of Latvia disappeared. Regarding Petrov, he was sentenced to ten years in a corrective labor camp after being arrested in August 1942 under Article 58 for criticizing decreased living standards in Latvia after the Soviet annexation of 1940. Wikipedia states that in 1989 it became known that he had died at Kotlas in 1943 from pneumonia. One time at the US Championship GM Edmar Mednis, who was born in Latvia, was talking about Petrov and when asked whatever happened to him, Mednis replied rather tersely, “The Russians shot him.” 
     According to Leonid Shamkovich it was because Botvinnik knew he was valuable to the Soviets for propaganda purposes and so he could get away with treating people like Krylenko as an equal. 
     So, because Botvinnik wasn't playing in the 1937 championship the rather long of tooth 48-year old Grigory Levenfish who had shared the title with Ilya Rabinovich in 1934 won the title.   Not long afterward Krylenko announced that there was to be a match between Levenfish and Botvinnik. According to Levenfish in his memoirs it was Botvinnik who wanted the match. 
     Levenfish was promised that if he won or drew he would be awarded the coveted title of Soviet Grandmaster. The match would end when someone scored six wins or if the score stood at five wins to five wins. In the latter case, the match would be drawn. Thus, Botvinnik need to score 6-4 to win the match. 
     The match began at 6:30 pm on October 5, 1937 which was the same day the Euwe-Alekhine world championship match started in The Hague. The two opponents hammered away at each other as evidenced by the fact that out of 13 games only 3 were drawn.  Levenfish got off to an early lead, but then Botvinnik fought back and was leading after 9 games by a score of +4 -2 =3. Then Levenfish fought back and after 12 games Botvinnik's lead was a single game with a score of +5 -4 =3. Levenfish's win in the final game tied the match at 6.5 points. 

Botvinnik 1 0 0 ½ ½ 1 1 1 ½ 0 0 1 0  6.5 
Levenfish 0 1 1 ½ ½ 0 0 0 ½ 1 1 0 1  6.5 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Elisaveta Bykova

Bykova in 1982
     There were two Candidates tournaments in 1956, the men's and the women's.  The men's tournament in Amsterdam 1956 was won by Vasily Smyslov who earned the right to challenge Mikhail Botvinnik. As the loser of the Botvinnik - Smyslov World Championship Match in 1954, Smyslov was seeded into the tournament while the other nine were qualified from the Gothenburg Interzonal in 1955. 
1) Smyslov 11.5 
2) Keres 10.0 
3-7 Szabo, Spassky, Petrosian, Bronstein and Geller 9.5 
8-9 Filip and Panno 8.0 
10) Pilnik 5.0   

     The Womens' Candidates Tournament was won by Olga Rubtsova. But, instead of her playing the defending champion Elisaveta Bykova, for some reason FIDE decided that the championship would be decided between the top three female players: Rubtsova, Bykova, and Lyudmila Rudenko, ex-champion and loser of the last title match. 
     The championship tournament was held in Moscow in 1956. The three players each played an 8-game match against each other, with Rubtsova eventually clinching the title to become the fourth women's champion. 
1) Olga Rubtsova 10-6 
2) Elisaveta Bykova 9.5-6.5 
3) Lyudmila Rudenko 4.5-11.5 

     Elisaveta Ivanovna Bykova (November 4, 1913 - March 8, 1989) was the third and fifth Women's World Champion, from 1953 until 1956, and again from 1958 to 1962. She was awarded the title of Woman International Master in 1950, International Master in 1953, and Woman Grandmaster in 1976. Bykova authored three books: Vera Menchik, Soviet women players and the Women’s World Championship. 
     She was born to a peasant family in Bogolyubovo in 1913 and lived in Moscow since 1925. She was taught chess by her older brother. In 1927 she won a school tournament, but for several years after that she didn't play in tournaments, but devoted her time to her studies in high school and the Institute of Economic Planning. 
     When she made her debut in the semi-finals of the USSR Women's Championship in 1935 she finished far down in the standings, but she was determined to improve with persistence and hard work. After graduating from the Institute in 1936 she began serious study of theory and began competing regularly in tournaments. 
     Her first major success was in 1937 when she finished third in the Moscow women's championship and received a second category rating (1875-2000). For a description of the Soviet category rating systems see the article on chessdotcom HERE. She won the tournament the following year. 
     Realizing her need to meet stronger opponents, she began competing in men's tournaments which included Candidate Masters (2125-2250) and as a result moved up to a First Category (2000-2125) rating. 
     During World War Two she was employed in the printing industry and organized Soviet women players in providing recreation for wounded servicemen. Her biggest successes after the war were winning the USSR women's title in 1947, 1948 and 1950 plus the women's championship of Moscow many times. After tying for third in the 1949-1950 women's world championship she was awarded the Master title. 
     In 1953 she met Ludmila Rudenko, the reigning champion, in a 14-game match for the world title. The match had a thrilling finish. Before the last game the score was 7-6 in Bykova's favor which meant that Rudenko could retain her title only if she could win. 
     Bykova came out of the opening with the better game, but got into time trouble and allowed Rudenko to get the advantage. The game was adjourned in a very complicated position in which Rudenko had the better chances. Upon resumption Rudenko played weakly, missing the winning line and then the drawing line and so Bykova became the world champion by winning the match 8-6. Bykova lost the title two years later in the aforementioned women's three-way title match. 
     In 1958 she regained the world championship title by defeating Olga Rubtsova 8.5-5.5 which she held until 1962 when she lost the title to Nona Gaprindashvili. 
     In 1953 Bykova was awarded the Soviet title of Honored Master. The title of Honored Master of Sport was introduced in 1934. It was awarded by the State Committee for Physical Culture and Sport to athletes, including chess players, for outstanding performance. The award was in the form of a badge and certificate. Though normally conferred for life, it was revoked in the case of Alla Kushnir and Viktor Korchnoi following their defection from the Soviet Union. Mark Taimanov also had his award revoked in 1971 following his crushing defeat at the hands of Bobby Fischer, but this was restored in 1991.
     The following game, which has some fascinating hidden tactical possibilities, demonstrates Bykova's powerful attacking play.