Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New York 1924: Richard Reti, The Hypermodern Master

I apologize for the lead-in photo as my scanner is not working in my new setup and I had to resort to creative measures to get this rare photo taken of Mr. Reti at the event. The limitations of the web leaves mainly the photo from Wiki. I felt this post deserved a little more than that.

Born May 29, 1889 in Slovakia ( part of Austria- Hungary at the time), he came on the chess scene in the 1910’s playing in the Romantic Style with Gambits. His style changed rapidly following the First World War as he became one of the Hypermodern revolutionists.

In his book written in 1923, Modern Ideas, he essays the evolution of the great players I’ve been covering plus some before coming to the chapter on Hypermodernism. He talks about the evolution of combinative play from the days of Morphy and Anderssen utilizing rapid development and open positions to deliver the flare. He points out how the teachings of Steinitz and Tarrasch made remedy of the tactical melee with positional maneuvering for closed positions with the goal of small yet tangible goals that could translate to a win in the end.

In his book, he mentions how at the turn of the century, chess sort of fell into a stagnation with drawn matches being all too common at the top level who followed the prescribe principles. In the section on “Storm and Stress” He speaks of young masters at the time who found gambit lines in established openings played in vogue at the time. ( Still talking Pre-WWI with lot’s of Ruy Lopez and Queen’s Gambits )

One person he mentions is Akiba Rubinstein who rose with the Storm and Stress players ( Alekhine and Nimzovitch) but still played in the “scientific method” of his recent predecessors ( Tarrasch and Steinitz). Yet his formula for dealing with closed positions was best described as follows:

“He developed the pieces in closed positions not so that they should be immediately effective and have open lines, as was formerly done, but so that they should become ultimately effective in the event of a possible breakthrough, which should take place with the dissolution of the closed position.”

I am taking extra time in the explanation of Reti’s style as he was the first in my study at this event who really was an example of the Hypermodern movement playing his signature opening every chance he got. Reti proudly proclaims that “ Hypermoderns are the greatest opponents of routine play”. Born out of the positional nurturing of Dr. Tarrasch and Steinitz, along side of the American ideas of “overcoming struggles in hostile positions” with Pillsbury, Hyper-modern chess got it’s last formidable genetic kick from Rubinstein’s positional ideas of handling closed positions by being prepared for the inevitable.

In chess, rules are meant to be broken. Should openings be control of the center? We will see in the sample games from New York 1924, that Reti was a good rebel yet conscientious of Romantic, Scientific and Hypermodern ideas.

Here is the score sheet of the famous Capablanca Defeat by Reti:

Capablanca was in the midst of an eight year long 63 game unbeaten streak (his last loss was to Chajes at New York 1916). Reti ended this run in the fifth round, when Capablanca went badly wrong on the black side of a hypermodern Reti opening. He got his queen stuck in the mud. Experts say this was the wake up call he needed and came back fighting for the remaining rounds.

In round 11, again we have a Reti opening against Tartakower. This game demonstrates Reti’s respect from Scientific style of play along with Hyper-modern as both sides get good control of the center right through the middle game where the games shifts to a battle on the King’s side with advancing pawns. Sharp play leads to an unstoppable exchange leading to a permanent advantage into the endgame.

In round 12, against Bogoljubow, he wins the top brilliancy prize of the event with a beautiful move on move 19 in this position: (Don't scroll past here if you want to guess the move)

19: Bh5 is a maneuver that leads to series of forced moves ending with a back rank mate.

Round 13, he beats Alekhine with a London System, named as such by Alekhine identifying similar games played in London 1922. Alekhine explained he merely employed the wrong plan of a King’s side advance in a position that required something different. But on move 21 black seems to make a blunder which allows Reti a Knight fork.

Lastly, the game in round 17, he defeats Tartakower again, quite decisively with an exchange sacrifice in this position:

( scroll break)

Move 22; … Rxd2. Reti goes for the jugular. The heart of White's problems are the dark squares. Lining up pieces on the a5-e1 diagonal can't be all that good. Why this Rook sacrifice works:
1) White has a bad King's position
2) White has a serious weakness on the Dark squares
3) The Bishop is the key to holding White's Queen's side.
4) Weakening both King's and Queen's sides is a strategic advantage.

So there you have it. A marvelous example of how a Hypermodern breaks rules in the opening when its right. Reti was able to conjure up ideas from his predecessors and contemporaries to finish 5th in this strong event.

Brief Epilogue:
He set the record in 1925 for playing 29 consecutive blindfold games winning 21 drawing 6 and only losing 2. He dies of Scarlet Fever in 1929 but still has a second book published posthumously in 1933, titled, Masters of the Chess Board.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

New York 1924: Geza Maroczy, The great defender

Born in Sveged, Hungary on March 3, 1870, would have made him 54 for this New york event. But this also made him at the prime age for Hastings 1895. Indeed, he played at Hastings and won the minor tournament which was equivalent to winning today’s under 2200 section. At the turn of the last century, he had several successful events between 1902-1908. In 1906, he was to play a match against Emanuel Lasker for a World Championship but political problems in Cuba ( the venue where this was to be played) caused the match to be canceled.

Geza Maroczy was semi-retired from playing in 1908 and returned as a clerk and auditor at the Center of Trade Unions and Social Insurance. At one point, he was the chief auditor at Educational Ministry but that was short lived after the Communist government was overthrown. He had a hard time finding a job and made a return to chess after WW I.

At New York 1924 he came in 6th place with a strong defensive style of play and demonstrating his Queen ending skills. None of the games had his signature “Maroczy Bind” against the Sicilian. I had a hard time sitting still through his games as attacking players seem to make more interesting games. At first his style didn’t make much sense. That’s not to say that Maroczy’s games in NY1924 aren’t’ interesting. Rather, the strong subtle nature of his play can be appreciated. It took me a little while with the first game to wrap my brain around the style of play. But once I did, I grew an appreciation for this style of play.

In reviewing Geza Maroczy’s games, I learned that defensive play doesn’t necessarily mean passive play. In round 6 against an attacking player like Frank Marshall for instance, has White playing a reverse Ruy Lopez style and simplified the position before harsh attacks could surface. The exchange to simplify almost seemed to be a fault though as the game looked drawish after this exchange on move 15. But as the game continues, Maroczy focused on opening up the e-file while Black made action on the King side with his pieces. The defense holds out for White and now he has a pawn majority on the queen side. The sharp play with the queen ending is another subtle strength of this player as he out maneuvers Marshall in the endgame.

In round 9 with the Black pieces against Yates, he allows a structural weakness of pawn islands in the middle game only to be well defended and use as an advantage in the endgame with Queens and Knights. Hitting on White’s defenseless pawns, he creates an endgame that looks like a classic “space invader” situation with 3 passed pawns raining down on Yates.

In round 21, he cramps Bogoljubow’s position with a pawn on e4, again well defended. At one point he offers three pawns for the taking with a crushing forcing sequence of moves that nets a rook. ( Which pawn to take or none? Move 23 for white)

He Draws in a lost position against Alekhine in round 14 after inheriting an IQP position. He has a hard time making the best of c-file and drops the a-pawn in order to gain control of the c-file. His strong queen counter-play drops 2 more pawns but allows a perpetual check much to the chagrin of Alekhine who claims his Alibi is the fact that at a critical moment in the game, he was too focused on the match between Capablanca and Lasker ( to be covered later) and made a hasty move.

His draw with Capablanca in round 8 where Jose Raul Capablanca plays a London System, Maroczy immediately plays to the weakness of the system and targets b2 and e4. It was Capablanca that simplifies first in this game and makes a positional misjudgment on move 14. ( 14 Bg5). Capablanca plays to a safe draw through 3 move repetition in a middle game where neither side was giving up any ground to give the other a favorable endgame.

Overall, the recipe that Maroczy seemed to be most successful was the following:
1) concede a weakness that can be defended if you gain initiative and play
2) A solid defense can cause your opponent to take too many risks
3) Control of e4 as black was a successful strategy
4) Knowing how to control the Queen in the endgame meant knowing which color complex was stronger and targeting your opponent’s weaker squares

After his win at Hasting’s 1895 amateur event, he was titled Master. It wouldn’t be until 1951 when FIDE grants Geza Maroczy with the title of Grand Master. He passed away on May 29, 1952.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

New York 1924: Efim Bogoljubow, A winning formula

Bogoljubow is endlessly optimistic. He always hopes to find new strength for his creative endeavors deep in his rich natural talent. – Alexander Alekhine

Born in the Ukraine, on April 14,1889, he soon became known as a strong player in Russia after tying for first place in 1911 in Kiev. Since I don’t have any printed biographies on Efim Bogoljubow, I have no further insight on how he began playing chess. Little is available on the internet.

I will say that he was a strong player in the 1920’s and 1930’s showing up at most of the international events. His biggest rival being Alexander Alekhine , but more on this later. He is best known for an opening defense to the Queen’s Gambit Declined, called the Bogo-Indian Defense 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3. Nf3 Bb4+ which arises from those wishing to avoid the Nimzo-Indian (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4). To my surprise, no Bogo-Indians were harmed in the making of this tournament.

Mr. Bogoljubow demonstrates a hypermodern aptitude quite eloquently in this event being well rounded with deep calculations that keeps an eye for a favorable endgame.

In round 3 against Frank Marshall, central control of the dark squares becomes a focus in the opening stage after the dark squared bishops are exchanged off the board. Marshall wastes a few moves attempting to get his queen to control these squares that Bogoljubow already controls with a couple pawns. The concession he receives with a doubled pawn is advanced development and eventually e5. He launches a king side attack beginning with Ne5. As Black tries to defend, weakens the King’s cover. Then, Bogoljubow uses the formula of simplification to reveal the weakness and maximize his advantage.

In round 4, Reti falls prey to a similar formula. In a variation of the MacClucheon French defense, Bogoljubow plays 5.Nge2 as a means to gain control of the center. After posting the knight on e4, Reti wastes 3 moves with a Bishop to remove this piece. Ahead in development, initiative and still gets to post a knight on e4! Then, looking ahead, he sees a bishop’s of opposite colors endgame that is actually favorable to his bishop given the semi-closed pawn structure in the center simplifies with a queen trade.

Applying the same formula in Round 5 against Maroczy, he defends a Colle-Zuckertorte by controlling the center. This time his opponent didn’t waste precious opening tempo to usurp any advanced control. Rather, Maroczy begins an attack on the kingside. Bogoljubow sees through the ploy and determines deep down that if if can control the c-file with a flank attack, that he would have a better endgame once he simplifies. His plan works leaving him with an advanced passed pawn into the endgame.

With Yates in round 10, we see the formula again. In hypermodern approach to handling the Ruy Lopez, Bogoljubow allows Yates to over extend a pawn center and quickly hits back with control and weakens Yates’ Queen’s side. The pawns fall and the simplification makes for an easy win.

Against Ed Lasker in round 14, he quickly takes advantage of an opening weakness, controls the center, converts it to an advantage for the endgame.

Tartakower puts up a good fight in round 15 as both hypermodern geniuses wrestle indirectly for the center. The Stonewall pawn formation was chiseled away at the e6 point. Using the law of two weaknesses, Bogo hammers on both the e6 and the weak spots on the Queen’s side. Tartakower holds out for a while. Bogo’s only chance to break through for a win comes in a pawn sacrifice entering the endgame.

The sacrifice gives him the initiative and control of the c-file for the rook where he can muster some play and penetrate Tartakower’s defense. This was a remarkable game with solid defensive maneuvers by Black only to be broken through by clever tactics and heavy calculations!

Alekhine had trouble securing any full points from Bogoljubow. Both games were drawn. Their second encounter in round 17 had the swords of both attacking players deflecting sparks. This was a remarkable game given the fact that Bogoljubow again employs the 5.Nge2 variation of the MacCucheon French against a very savvy Hypermodern attuned to central control. Surprisingly, Bogo may have missed an opening move pawn advance that would have secured a long term goal in the endgame. Instead he plays a developing move which gave Alekhine a chance to develop a plan to secure the Bishop pair. A bloody middle game exchange leaves the imbalance of Bogo’s
two rooks and a queen to fight off Alekhine’s bishop pair, Rook and queen. As long as the Stonewall pawn formation stayed in tact, Bogo could see he had the more active pieces. Alekhine fought hard to break through but White simplified down trying for a win as well. The draw came exhaustively after 85 moves with no hopes of penetration from either side barring a three move repetition.

He finished with a score of 9 ½ placing him in 7th . ( 8+ 3= 9-)

After studying Efim Bogoljubow’s games in the New York 1924 tournament, I am left with inspiration of how to turn a temporary advantage like initiative into a permanent one of material or positional for an endgame. This is exactly what Silman tries to cover in HTRYC. How to win a game is purely made simple by the demonstrations of this man’s formula of the following boiled down steps ( not to oversimplify)

1) central control
2) use initiative to create weaknesses
3) Simplify to exploit the weakness


Efim Bogoljubow was living in Germany at the time of New York 1924 since World War I. He went back to Russia for a couple years and twice won the Soviet Championships, Breslau 1925 and finished ahead of Dr. Emanual Lasker and Jose Raul Capablanca at the Moscow 1925 chess Tournament. In 1926 he emigrated back to Germany and beat Rubinstein in Berlin 1926. Alekhine and Bogoljubow sparred for the World Championship in 1929 and again in 1934 losing in both instances. He continued to play in competitions through the 1930’s and 40’s finally drawing a min-match against his friendly adversary Alekhine in Warsaw 1943. In 1951, the World Chess Federation (FIDE) awarded him the title of International Grandmaster. One year later he died on June 18, 1952

Editor's note: Please don't razz me for some formating issue on this post. Blogspot seemed to have had a cold today and I had extreme trouble with the formatting for some reason on this post. It was randomly cutting off sentences and inserting new lines though the edit window shows no such thing. I wasn't about to retype the entire post.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New York 1924: Savielly Tartakower and the Bronx Zoo

First, Happy New Year and best wishes for all my readers in 2009.

Savielly Tartakower was born on February 22, 1887 in Russia by Austrian parents. How he came to represent France for the New York 1924 event requires a little explanation as he changes citizenship four times in his life. Though his parents were Jewish, he was christened at birth, his parents having adopted Christianity some time earlier. Jews in czarist Russia took that protective step to avoid persecution, but it failed to save Tartakower’s parents, who were murdered in a pogrom in Rostov-on-Don in 1911.

He attended college in Geneva and Vienna where he studied Law ( received his doctorate) but discovered the crippling addictive powers of chess and started attending chess meetings in various caf├ęs for chess players in Vienna. During World War I, he was recruited by the Austo-Hungary army. After the war, he setttled in Paris. Thus he represents France in New York 1924. Eventually, he accepts citizenship to Poland after they gain their 1918 and became one of the most prominent honorary ambassadors of Poland abroad.

More on the migration of Dr. Tartakower later, as it was in Paris, where he played most of his chess. He decided to become a chess professional and wrote for many chess related magazines. He published his most famous book, Die Hypermoderne Schachpartie in 1924 and to this day, I wish an english translated version were available on ebay.

The first few rounds at New York 1924 were very strong for Tartakower. He was in first place by round 4 and held on until round 6. Against Bogoljubow in round 1, he plays a Kings gambit with his own variation ( 3.Be2) meant to address Black’s desire to hold on to the pawn. Tartakower enters an IQP game comfortably but allowed him a nice kingside attack giving him the edge in a Rook and pawn endgame.

He draws against Frank Marshall in round 2 despite being down 2 pawns. He exposes Frank’s overworked queen and puts on the pressure to save the game.

In round three he soundly beats Mr. Yates starting with a Bishop sacrifice against an overworked rook in this position. The nuances in this game are quite complex and Alekhine points out where I was over looking. In the game notes, I tried to included these variations as much as possible.

At one point, during an off day, Dr. Tartakower visited the Bronx’s Zoo’s Monkey house. Aparently, Tartakower walked by the cage where an orangutan was housed. The orangutan, named Susan, moved closer to Tartakower when Tartakower got closer to the cage. Tartakower, in jest, asked the orangutan what opening should he play in the next round, and showed the orangutan a chess set. The orangutan suggested somehow to Tartakower to play 1.b4. Since the climbing movement of the pawn to b4 and then to b5 reminded Tartakower of the climbing movement of the orangutan, he called it the Orangutan, and the name stuck. Thus the original Oragutan opening had its startling debut in international competition in round 4 against an unsuspecting Maroczy. Alekhine comments “ an odd move, the chief drawback of which is the fact that White discloses his intentions before knowing those of his opponent. “ I don’t know, I think it shows some insight to his witty sense of humor. He drew this game.

He continues his undefeated momentum in round 5 drawing against Dr. Lasker in a very conservatively played game playing a Paulsen variation of a Sicilian defense. A rapid liquidation leaves both sides in a neutralized Bishop verus Knight endgame with no hope to break through.

His loss in round 6 agaisnt Capablanca will be covered later but breaks the momentum. He almost beats Alekhine in round 9 as he has a very strong attack. Alekhine had to get resourceful and found a perpetual check opportunity to salvage a draw.

He picks up two more wins as white against Frank Marshall in round 14, and his other France compatriot, Dawid Janoski in round 16. Overall, he finishes in 8th place with 4 wins, 8 draws and 8 losses.


His strongest events were yet to come as he finished in first place at Hastings in 1927 and 1928. He continued to finish in the top tier of other events through 1930. He represented Poland in 9 chess olympiads through the 1930’s. When WWII broke out he joined forces with the Allies and later ended up in Beunos Aries, Aregentina. He returned to Europe after the war and eventually gained citizenship in France. He represented France at the 1950 Chess Olympiad. FIDE instituted the title of International Grandmaster in 1950. He won the French Championship in 1953. He died February 4, 1956.