Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hastings 1895: Emanuel Stepanovitch Schiffers, “Russia’s Chess Teacher”

45 years old at Hastings 1895, the Russian, Emanuel Schiffers, scored a total of 12 points ( 9 wins, 6 draws and only 6 losses) to place 6th at the event earning him 30 pounds. This was to be his best performance in his chess career given the strength of this international event. Prior to this event, Schiffers held the title of Russian champion for 10 years before finally being defeated by his student, Mikhail Chigorin, in 1880.

Schiffers was known as "Russia's Chess Teacher". In 1889, Schiffers gave the first public lectures on chess theory in Russia, at the St Petersburg Chess Association and in other cities. He wrote the chess textbook Samouchitel shakhmatnoi igry (Chess Self Taught, published 1906).

In round one, he demonstrates how tactically sharp he can be against Gunsburg and offers knight to his opponent. The position below is with White (Schiffers) to move

He plays Nxc7 and the king can’t take it or its mate in two (31... Kxc7?? 32. Qxd6+ Kc8 33. Be6#).

Rounds 2 and 3 are draws with Tiechmann and Burn, Round 4 is Teacher versus Student and is the game to watch. He again out plays tactically against the second place winner in the event by taking Mikhail down a very sharp line of the Scotch and by move 18 he plays Ne4! which creates a double threat on the position:

Round 6 is a draw against Meises but he takes out the Drunken Master, Blackburne in round 6 with an early adoptation of what later became known as the Rubenstein Variation of the French.
Round 9 is his next win against Tinsley ( after losing to Tarrasch and Pillsbury in rounds 7 and 8 respectively). The timid play by his opponent allowed him to dominate the opening and the game. The selected games of Schiffers first batch of wins in Rounds 1,4,6 and 9 can be found here.

In round 10, Verganni attempts a tactical shot with Nf3 but fails.

He loses to Steinitz ( he’s up next) in round 11, draws to George Marco in 12 and loses to Adolf Albion in Round 13. He comes up for air with a win against Janowsky who drops a queen early on in the game in round 14.

Against Mason he draws in round 15 and loses to Lasker and Schlechter in rounds 16 and 17. Drawing in round 18 to Von Bardeleben finishes a long stretch of matches that he doesn’t close with a full point.

Finally, in the last three rounds, agianst Bird ( already covered here), Walbrodt and Pollock, he scores 3 points. In Pollocks game, he makes use of his knowledge of pawn formations as Pollock tries to take him into an early endgame with queens off the board. The games of round 10, 14, 20 and 21 can be found here.

What struck me about Emanuel Schiffers in these games was his ability to play sharp tactical lines that were also part of the classical theme of the Steinitz/ Tarrasch era of positional play. He knew how to exploit a developmental advantage, central control and how to play to his opponent’s weaknesses in an endgame, often creating more weaknesses. This chess teacher from St. Petersburg had a great performance agaisnt the elite players of his time.

I hope you find this useful or entertaining at least.
Note: I chose NOT to play in the NE open this year after my past two years craptacular appearances here in 2006 and then again last year.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Hastings 1895: Curt Von Bardeleben, The Luzhin Defense

Did I mention that Hastings is a seaside town and this event was played around this time of year? All the more fitting for me to have studied these games while at the seashore! ( ok last time I rubbed it in)

The Count Von Bardeleben was 34 at the tournament and an amateur chess player as he was in the “legal profession” as noted in the short biography in the tournament book. the novel The Defense (or The Luzhin Defence) by Vladimir Nabokov. Nabokov in turn drew upon the events in the life of his friend Curt von Bardeleben who committed suicide in 1924. The novel was made into a movie in 2001 titled “ the Luzhin defense”.

At Hastings, Herr Von Bardeleben was the only one undefeated entering round 10 with 3 draws and 6 wins. Up against Steinitz whose game I will detail when I post on Steinitz, was so upsetting to Von Bardeleben, that he left after move 24 without resigning. His stellar performance started to deteriorate following that incident as he didn’t even play round 17. Instead he had a courier send a message to Pillsbury that he was ill and had to forfeit their match.

He starts out strong beating Burn in round one as black taking advantage of Burn’s misplaced pieces on the rim. He beats Lasker in round 4 ( the game to watch ) with the better pawn structure and more active rooks as they went into a a rook and pawn endgame. The draws with Bird and Albin are not commented on here though the Bird game was previously posted about in the first of the series. Round 5 he beats Vergani in a queen pawn set up I like ( Ne5 and lots of king side action). A tenacious knight and pawn ending gets the better of Mason in round 6 as he eggs on a pawn advantage. These four games are found here.

In round 7 he tears Mieses to pieces ( I couldn’t resist) as Mieses’ premature attack implodes. I covered Schlechter’s round 8 draw already and in round 9 he dumps on Pollock who attempts to play a Benoni defense. Having the wind knocked out of him in round 10 by Steinitz, he only manages three more draws with Tarrasch, Janowski and Schiffers in the next 6 rounds losing to Chigoran, Tinsley, and Walbrodt. Round 19 he finally gets a solid win with Gunsberg making use of his developmental advantage and beginning an attack against the weak uncastled king with a bishop sacrifice. In round 21 he beats Marco playing in a hypermodern way with 1…g6. Rounds 7, 9 19 and 21 are found here.

Overall, he tied in seventh place with Teichmann winning 8, drawing 7 and losing only 6 ending in a score of 11.5. He took home slightly more that Teichmann, 15 pounds 5 shillings because he had a win in the first round against Burn. ( Extra money was awarded for wins in the first three rounds).
Besides his phenominal mustache, what struck me most about his style of play was how he seemed to be a pioneer in the Bf4 positioning of the Queen’s bishop, an adaptation later found in QGD and London systems which makes e5 a focus of central struggles.

A tragedy of a genius to have taken his life. Such acts of madness are themes all too common on looking at the history of great chess players. Will it stop me? Thank God I am not a genius!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I'm at the beach

The Hastings 1895 is temporarily on hold due to this important and much needed break.

Mrs. Blunder and I are celebrating our anniversary at Long Beach Island, NJ at this beach house courtesy of a generous relatives:

There is no Internet so I am currently tapping into the Ocean City Library's free wifi just to rub it in that I am at the beach for a week and you may not be.

It's pretty romantic here and not much room for chess:

I'll return to the time machine when I get back and cover Schiffers and Tinsley next. In the meantime, I've got my surf casting rig, my beach clothes and my honey. What more can I ask for? ( OK, I also have the Polgar brick for some surf side reading too).

Surf's up dude.
Blunderprone -at the beach!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Hastings 1895: "Richard the fifth" Teichmann

The picture on the left is what he looked like at Hastings. The other picture is what he was better known for looking like with the trademark patch over the eye. During the London 1899 he had to withdraw after 4 rounds because of eye trouble. He lost the use of his right eye due to an illness and from then on wore an eye patch. So he grew a beard and wore a patch and returned to chess in 1902. The moniker, "Richard the fifth" came about because he tended to finish in fifth place in a lot of events around the turn of the last century.

It is argued that he was born on the exact same day as Emanuel Lasker, December 24, 1868 but there are conflicting reports that it may have been December 23, 1868 as listed in his obituary in Germany. In 1890 he was a student of modern languages (becoming fluent in several of them) and studied in Berlin where he also improved his chess. He moved to England in 1892 as a language teacher and resided there for a number of years.

26 at the time of the event in Hastings he tied in 7th place with Von Bardelben. His games against Bird( win), Blackburne(loss) and Schlecter(draw) are covered in previous posts. In this post I will comment on his other victories and draws with the folks in the top 10. Rounds 2, 4, 9,10 and 15 are in part one, while rounds 16, 17, 19-21 are covered in part two .

His draw with Schiffers in round was rather dull with a rapid exchange of pieces in the style of Schlecter. In Round 4 against Vergani, he wins with a knight sac that opens up the king side. He effectively uses the rule of two weaknesses in his win with Marco in round 9. The game with Tarrasch in round 10 reached a time pressure in this position:

Tarrasch plays 34. Qa1 which loses a piece. He would have been better playing 34.Ra5 with a decent game. By move 42 Tarrasch exceeded his time and lost.

Steinitz, at 59 in this event, shows he still has what it takes by pulling off a draw against this young German in round 15 while being down 2 pawns in a hopeless endgame:

In round 16, he plays a phenomenal game with Meises while down in material. I think this is the game of the post to watch if you want to pick only one. He plays Bishop versus rook in a middle game battle with an advanced passed pawn and doesn't let up.

His win with Tinsley in 17 is achieved with all the big guns requiring both rooks, queen and bishop to mate an exposed king. In round 19, a queen sac leading up to a mate in three combination is a nice finish showcasing his tactical skills.

Isolated queen pawns were looked down upon in this era of chess. Teichmann showcases effectively how to defend with one and draws with Von Bardeleben in round 20 and the win with Tinsley( round 17) also showcases his ability to use an IQP as a middlegame weapon.

In the last round against Mason, he demonstrates his ability to maintain a solid pawn structure and more active rook in an endgame to bring home the point and close in 7th place with a prize of 14 pounds and 15 shillings.

His best tournament successes was finishing in first place at Carlsbad in 1911 defeating top players like Rubinstein, Alekhine and Nimzovitch.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Hastings 1895: The Draw Master-Carl Schlechter

( we return to our regularly scheduled program... the cat still lives)

Carl Schechter, was only 21 at the time of Hastings. He only learned chess 5 years prior to this event and only became serious at playing in competitions three years prior to this event. He finishes in ninth place after a phenomenal record of 12 draws and 5 wins. He beats Pillsbury in round 18 as he was virtually undefeated with the exception to one loss up to that point! However, his formula was rather dull.

I collected some of the twelve draws here. There are a couple of Petroffs that rapidly dissolve into draws after early queen exchanges. I already covered his draws with Bird and Blackburne . His play against the stronger players seemed to be formula driven with develop then rapidly exchange major pieces.

The exception is his draw against Steinitz. Steinitz offers a Bishop to prevent Schlecter from castling, an interesting maneuver by the older master. Then he misplays the middle game and creates an opportunity for a Rook and Queen Skewer by Schlechter. He fights back, down in material, with a mobile pawn force in a last ditch effort and pulls a dubious combination:

Play 28.c5 ?!, Calmly, Schlechter responds with 28...Qe6 29. cxb6 then 29...c5! The game still ends in a draw as the younger Autrian appears the weaker player in the end game and can't quite seal the deal. Steinitz wipes the beads of sweat off his forehead after a threefold repetitive dance. This is the game to watch I think.

I've had to overcome my personal avoidance of watching over drawn games. Psychologically I want to see how an player CRUSHES his opponent. But the thing that draws teach us is that exact play can show how to play against strong lines in openings. That was not entirely the case here in reviewing Schlechter's games, he was a formula man that seemed to deliberately play for a draw and on occasion win a good game.

About his five wins, against Burns in round 12, he hits upon a classic CT-ART geographical level 10 Motif ( odd how I refer to a modern piece of software as classic in reference to a game that was played over 110 years ago) :

39. Qxf6+!

With Tinsley in round 14, he simply has the more active rooks in the endgame. He Beats Schiffers with two "hungry pigs" ( double rooks on the 7th) and against Mason in round 20, he executes an eloquent Rook, Queen and Knight mating net on the exposed king.

The commentary in the book about round 18 and the leader, Pillsbury, suggests Schlechter was a force to be feared. He ends up winning the game as Pillsbury trips up the endgame and ends up in a lost R+P ending:

There was talk that Pillsbury's first place positioning was now in extreme jeopardy but the way the next round played out, it put him back on top. Schlechter's wins secured him a place in the top 10 and some handsome prize money of 13 pounds!

One thing is for sure, where London 1851 had mutton chops, Hastings 1895 had the extreme mustaches!

Up next: Richard Teichmann.

I hope you enjoyed this.