Saturday, December 27, 2008

New York 1924: The Honorable British Master, Mr. Frederick Yates

Born January 16, 1884 made Frederick Dewhurst Yates 40 at this event. He was a respected British chess master winning the British championship six times with his tenacious and sharp playing style. I could not find much information about this player in my limited research ( without investing in other printed memoirs of players of the time). There is quite a bit of material about his death which I will try to honor later in this article.

Outside of the New York 1924 event, he has been known to defeat attacking players like Alexander Alekhine, Max Euwe, Akiba Rubinstein, and Milan Vidmar while not fairing so well with Positional players like Jose Capablanca and Geza Maroczy. Neither of these players he ever had a plus score against throughout his entire chess playing career.

A look at the games he played in this tournament reveals a tactical and resourceful player who was not all that strong in the opening lines. Rather, he’d make due of his given position and out- maneuver his opponent in the middlegame.

He managed to beat Edward Lasker in both encounters. As White in round 4, he advances the d4 pawn a little early giving Edward a chance cramp Yate’s position. He hangs on until he opens up the position to further complications. Ed. Lasker decides to exchange queens at the wrong time in an effort to simplify and Yates just plays it through to a victory. In round 12, this time as Black, Yates in a similar fashion, plays a passive Indian defense allowing Ed to over extend himself in the center. This was a relatively new hypermodern way to play. However, Yates to a risk at allowing too much central control for white. Luckily, Ed. Lasker decided to play into what Alekhine calls a “strategic Blunder of serious consequences” advancing a pawn to d5 here:

But this weakens the queen side as Ed. Lasker attempts a king side attack further weakening the position by castling queenside. Yates makes best use of the bishop pair like lasers on the queenside. The game ends in a B v N endgame with stronger pawns in Yate’s favor.

In round 14 as Black against Janowski, he plays a queenside strategy with minor pieces instead of freeing his position with a c5 lever advance against the center and almost costs him the middle game as he inherits a cramped position. Janowski, starts a series of exchanges which falls in Yates’ favor. If your opponent has a cramped position, one should avoid exchanges.

He demonstrates his knowledge of defending against the Ruy Lopez in round 11 and draws Emanual Lasker in a game that allowed him the bishop pair as compensation for a slightly weakened pawn position. As the game transitioned from the later middle game to endgame, it becomes clear that with both sides activating the kings and minor pieces, neither was penetrating through to the other side and a draw was agreed upon.

His most resourceful moment was in round 20 against Jose Capablanca. Yates had the white side of a Ruy Lopez . Capablanca managed to grab a strong central defender in the middle game which caused a lot of problems for Yates as Black’s bishops pinned pieces and limited his mobility. Yates sends off a desperado in this position and manages a draw a few moves later with a perpetual check.

In round 18, he was White against Tartakower’s Paulsen Variation of the Sicilian. Tartakower jumps the gun with a premature Ne5 before finishing development and Yates takes full advantage by controlling the center and the open c-file. In a moment of desperation and hopes of a perpetual check, Tartakower throws a piece away. His plan didn’t work out so well and Yates pulls off the win.

In Round 19, Yates plays white against Reti’s Caro-Kann. He doesn’t chase the bishop like we see in typical main lines. Reti gets greedy in the middle game and goes after pawns while Yates sets up a nice attack. Reti resigns after this position:

Overall, Yates finishes in 9th place with 7 points ( +5, -11, = 4 ) With $25 paid to every won game and $12.50 for every drawn to the non-prize winners, Frederick Yates still walked away with $175. I still like the idea of these old tournaments awarding at least some compensation to non-prize winners for games won.


Not much can be found on Frederick Yates following New York 1924. He was an honored British Chess Master. On November 11th, 1932, Yates was found dead in his apartment from asphyxiation due to a leaky gas fitting. The controversy surrounding his death seems to stem from a very speculative quote in Ed Lasker’s book, “ Chess Secrets I Learned from the Masters” ( NY 1951) :

‘It made me very sad to learn, some time during the last war, that Yates had committed suicide, apparently for financial reasons. He had probably been too modest to ask British chessplayers for help.’
To set the record straight, this excerpt was recorded from the court verdict:

It came out at the inquest before the St Pancras coroner on 15 November that, though the gas-taps in the room were securely turned off, there had been an escape from what a gas company’s official described as an obsolete type of fitting attached to the meter in the room. The meter, it appears, was on the floor, and the fitting must have been accidentally dislodged. A verdict was recorded of Accidental Death; and the coroner directed that the gas-pipes from the room should remain in the custody of the court. The body was conveyed to Leeds for burial on the morning of 16 November.’

I’d prefer to remember Mr. Yates for his creativity in mediocre middle games and his ability to pounce when his opponent makes a blunder in strategy.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

New York 1924: The Other Lasker, Edward.

"It has been said that man is distinguished from animal in that he buys more books than he can read. I should like to suggest that the inclusion of a few chess books would help to make the distinction unmistakable."
Ed. Lasker

Edward Lasker wrote in his memoirs of the New York 1924 tournament as published in the March 1974 edition of Chess Life magazine: "I did not discover that we were actually related until he (Emanuel Lasker) told me shortly before his death that someone had shown him a Lasker family tree on one of whose branches I was dangling." Note, this was 1974. ( 7th cousins). He was born on December 3, 1885.

He was a remarkable man. With a Mechanical and Electrical Engineering degree from the Technical College of Berlin, he invented the popular mechanical breast pump (U.S. Patent Office issued Patent No. 1,644,257 ) for nursing woman on the go as well as saving the lives of premature babies. His close colleagues teased him with the label “The Chest Player”. The invention made him some good money which allowed him the chess diversions. Who’s laughing now?

Along with Harry Nelson Pillsbury and other strong American Chess players ( Like Harry Lyman), Ed Lasker was also skilled at other games like Checkers and Go, publishing books on these subjects as well as chess.

He won 5 U.S. Opens ( 1916, 1917, 1919, 1920, and 1921) and narrowly lost a match against Frank Marshall at 8.5 -9.5 for the U.S. Championship. This strong performance got an invitation to this New York 1924 International Event.

Unfortunately, his performs placed him second to last ( 10th). He drew Alekhine both games. His round 10 draw with Alekhine, demonstrates his aggressive style as this endgame became a race to the finish. Alekhine, as Black, had an advanced passed pawn on the 2nd rank ready for the queening square, while Ed delivers a perpetual check to squeak a half point.

In round 6, Ed Lasker as Black, almost beats his distant cousin, Emanuel in a very dynamic Ruy Lopez endgame with Rook versus Knight. Emanuel got behind in the exchange as he fired off a dubious combination in hopes to gain some middle game edge with extra pawns on the king side. He held the position and slowly simplified the position through careful exchanges. Ed tried to secure the point but had to settle for the ½ point.

Against Tartakower in round 13, he was able to get the upper hand while Tartakower played several wasted queen moves as black in a QGD triangle defense. Finally, with a battery of major pieces centralized, he delivers a nice combination and wins the game:

Another strong opponent was round 21 with Reti on the black side of well played Ruy Lopez. Transitioning out of the opening, Reti chooses to open up the king side with an f5 advance to break up the pawn center. This turned out to be a mistake as Ed was able to launch a nice King side attack. Tactically, he delivers this shot with his knight that wins the game.

Those were his only two wins of the event. He managed 9 draws against some tough competition but not enough to pull him out of 10th place.


Edward Lasker deserves a little more mention here. He died in 1981 at the age of 95! In his long lifespan, he bridges the players of the Hypermodern era with the modern players like Petrosian, Tal, Fisher, and Kasparov. Though he never made it to World Champion strength he did manage a few U.S open titles and continued to play and write chess well into his old age.

He was consulted by Claude Shannon at MIT who pioneered information theory and perhaps the first attempt at a chess computer made from relays. Claude went on to publish a paper on computer chess entitled Programming a Computer for Playing Chess.

Edward Lasker was an engineer and a chess player. So am I , what can I say?

Next up: Frederick Yates

Sunday, December 14, 2008

NY 1924: The return of the Janowski

I’ll begin this series with the eleventh place finisher ( last) Dawid Janowski, the representative from France who was 56 at the time of this event. He’s a good cross-over point from the Hasting’s 1895 event where he finished 13th ( top of the lower half) when he was merely 25 years old.

Noted by both Alekhine and Capablanca, Janowski’s play is inconsistent to his actual strength. A little passed his prime, he lost a lot of games due to poor opening strategies. That’s not to say he played badly in all his games, rather, in some games, he took unnecessary risks as he tried to transition to a playable middle game.

As an example of when his idea worked, in round one against Jose Capablanca, he launches a novelty in the QGD that spooked the stronger player into launching a knight sacrifice to play to a forced draw so as not lose.

In round 5 as Black against Ed Lasker ( two Lasker’s at this event… one, the BIG Dr. Lasker, the second, a distant relative Ed.), he manages to get behind in material ( pawns) out of the opening. He’s a strong defensive player and holds his ground. Later, he sacrifices a Bishop to gain entry to the weakened King and wins the queen and the game.

In round 7 against Bogoljubow, he inherits a cramped position out of the opening but has the bishop pair. Janowski had a reputation of being quite deadly with such a pair and proves true after a series of exchanges to free his game. He sets up a nice deflection tactic that squeezes out a win with vice like pressure on the 2nd rank.


This is probably his best game of the event and the one to watch.

In round 10 against Tartakower, a proponent of the Hypermodern defenses, he gets behind in material and is faced with an advanced passed pawn and strong knight outpost. In a do or die scenario, he exchanges his rook for the invasive duo and frees his game enough to later pull off a draw by repetition in an otherwise lost game.

As White against Maroczy in round 17, he gambits a pawn to grab a lead in development and initiative early on but then seems to squander it as he drops a central pawn. A misstep by Maroczy allows him to recover gracefully as he gets an advanced knight out post and traps his opponent’s rook and goes on to win the game.

Comments on his playing style by others in the tournament : ( source Wiki)

Janowski played very quickly and was known as a sharp tactician who was devastating with the bishop pair. Capablanca annotated some Janowski games with great admiration, and said, "when in form [he] is one of the most feared opponents who can exist". Capablanca noted that Janowski's greatest weakness as a player was in the endgame, and Janowski reportedly told him, "I detest the endgame."

American champion Frank Marshall remembered Janowski's talent and his stubbornness. In "Marshall's Best Games of Chess" he wrote that Janowski "could follow the wrong path with greater determination than any man I ever met!"

Edward Lasker in his book Chess Secrets I Learned from the Masters recalled that Janowski was an inveterate but undisciplined gambler who would often lose all of his chess winnings at the roulette wheel.

This was not his best match as in the recent past ( relative to 1924), he actually tied for 1st place in New York 1916 ahead of Capablanca and won in Atlantic City in 1921. It appears that New York 1924 became his swan song as he died 3 years later of tuberculosis.
I'll remember him for his tenacious style of play. Despite not playing the top move in a given position, he always gave his best effort to sustain the choice he made. ( Better to have a bad plan than no plan at all).
Next Up : Ed Lasker

Saturday, December 06, 2008

More Time traveling: Landing in New York 1924

As I exit the time machine set for spring time in 1924, New York is bustling about with anticipation for the Yankees with Babe Ruth in the Roster. But the activity that really is getting some media attention is the International Tournament happening at the Almanac Hotel organized only two months prior, following a visit from Alekhine on New Years eve.

Mr. Harry Latz of the Alamac Hotel was hoping to consider hosting a match of the then World champion, Jose Capablanca and Alekhine for World championship. The discussion with a few representatives from the Manhattan chess club felt they might find more financial support hosting an international tournament. The cost was estimated to be $10,000.

Mr. Latz put up $2500 as a seed to promote this event. Others soon followed with subscriptions ranging from $1 to $500 ( from the Manhattan Chess Club) to support the event. The Boston Chess Club paid $39 and the Providence Chess Club provided $25.

With Venue in place, invitations, passports and steamer tickets were sent out to the European masters. Emanuel Lasker tried to travel from Finland, but his ferry stuck in the ice. The 56-years-old Emanuel left the boat and walked many miles to a railway station. He arrived timely in Hamburg to board the SS Cleveland with Alexander Alekhine, Efim Bogoljubow, Géza Maróczy, Richard Réti, Savielly Tartakower and Frederick Yates. They arrived in New York and met up with Jose Capablanca, Frank Marshall, David Janowski and Edward Lasker in New York. Rubinstein and Nimzovitch could not make the event.

No one under 30 was entered in this event. Some speculate that WWI may have slowed the growth of new blood entering international tournaments.

The time limit was 30 moves in 2 hours and 15 moves per hour thereafter. Prizes were 1st: $1500, 2nd: $1000; 3rd $750 ; 4th $500; 5th $250. Consolation money to none prize winners were paid at the rate of $25/win and $12.50 /draw.

A “rapid transit” tournament was held at the Manhattan Chess Club where 7 of the masters joined the amateurs while the premier event was going on.

Jose Capablanca was the favored one to win. Emanuel Lasker was 56 at this event and still had enough kick in him to take out the new champion. After all, he was world champion for 27 years between 1894 and 1918. David Janowski, from France, was another carry over from the Hastings 1895, was also pushing 56 at this event. Jose Capablanca commented that Janowski was devastating with a bishop pair but weak in the endgame. I will explore this personality more and his games in the next post.

Editor's note: Corrected spelling of the Hotel to Alamac 1-13-2009

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Pilsbury Doughboy Memorial

I Played all four rounds at the Harry Nelson Pillsbury Memorial and managed to score 2.5 points. The games are post turkey , Pillsbury doughboys… not thatr nutritional if you get my drift. I may post the game scores on a couple but for now I’d rather save my energy on better examples down the road. This was my "rust remover" event.

My only loss was in the first round against an 1800+ player. Despite having a slight advantage out of the a English turned Slav like defense as black, I managed to throw it away with careless pawn advance on the f-file that allowed my opponent to have the upper hand in the end game. I should have taken the draw he offered on Move 20 but I looked at his clock and thought could squeeze him for a point ( OK I got Greedy).

The second round had me paired with a guy who was experiencing his first tournament after only playing on He didn’t even know how to notate the game. It was not a satisfying win. I suggested he play in the lower section and advocated for him with the TD. The guy never showed up for round three.

I was paired against our club president in round 3. We’ve gone back and forth on several occasions. This was not a pretty game. I had white, and played into a QGA with advancing a pawn center. I knew if I threw him out of book I’d stand a better chance at this memory machine. I played a difficult line with Bd3 ( after recovering the c4 pawn and he kicks it with b5). But I was also not that familiar with QGA lines since all I’ve been looking at were QGD games of Pillsbury and the likes in my 1895 time machine journey. I played a howler of a move setting him up for a nice Bishop sac on f2 to net at least a rook. He over looked it ( I had a good poker face I guess) and I managed to get a winning knight fork on his king and rook.

The last round I was paired with another under-rated shooting star kid. About part way through I was down a pawn but had a bishop versus knight ending. I looked at the kid’s score and saw he still had a chance at the class prize in our section. I offered a draw and said “ You will still be in for the U1750 prize.” His eyes lit up, he went to the pairings board and checked the scores. He saw one other player might be in contention as well and checked out that game. After ascertaining that this other game was not in favor of the contender, he accepted my draw offer. I thanked him. I walked away with 10 rating points. Not too bad since I was 2 and half months rusty after the teaching gig.

I printed out a poster of the HN Pillsbury based on my biographical post, complete with pictures. It was well received and I donated it to the care of MACA ( Massachusetts Chess Association). I also made several copies of a chessbase CD I created on the Hastings 1895 series I did here, augmented with Frttz’s analysis and training exercises. I sold 3 at the event so I broke even.

I went back to the Club last night and was paired with a13 year old rated 1844. He must have been tired because he missed two tactics that allowed me to first net a knight then later, his rook. So the MDLM stuff is still paying some dividends… and I am one knight who refuses to burn out.

Stay tuned, I got the time machine all primed for New York 1924. This is an event with Em Lasker, Capablanca, Tartakover, Reti, Alekhine and Frank Marshall to name a few. The book I scored on e-bay has annotations by Alekhine as well as a 21 page essay on the openings used in this tournament. I am psyched to get started on this hypermodern themed event. I find that going through the romantic style of play from London 1851 helped me understand the positional theme of the Hastings event. Both of these will help me fathom the depths of the “new wave” of hypermodernism seen in this event.