Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Journey Begins: Lone Pine Masters-Plus Tournament of 1975

The time machine has landed me in a small little remote town in the eastern part of California near the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The year is 1975 and 44 chess players are arriving in this town that is about 10 blocks long and three blocks wide. All the games were played at the Lone Pine Town Hall, which Mr. Statham had built for the sole purpose of the anual event.

Back in 1965, a wealthy engineer and inventor named Louis D. Statham, sold his home in Los Angeles to none other than Hugh Hefner to settle into a quieter location in Lone Pine. Statham was a correspondence player and had a modest Class A rating. He loved chess so much that he wanted some chess players around Lone Pine. So he set up a series of masters tournaments footing the entire bill!

He started this series in 1971 with GM Isaac Kashdan as Arbiter. Between 1971-1974 the participants were mostly American and Canadian with the exception of a couple Eastern Europeans traveling abroad.

In 1975, he cast the net further almost on a dare. “ How many GM’s could we bring to Lone Pine if we tried?” Lone Pine was building a reputation as one of the best known sites in the U.S. He raised the prized fund to $12,500 ( about double the prize money in European events) and offered to pay the travel expenses guaranteed against any prize money. To be fair, the local GM’s were given $600 in lieu of travel expenses.

That is why, in 1975, this turned out to be the strongest tournament of the year. Twenty-two GM’s came to Lone Pine. From the Philippines, came Eugene Torre a freshly minted GM. From Argentina, Miquel Quinterros arrived ( though he’d been in the Philippines prior). Israel brought Vladimir Liberon, Leonid Shamkovich who were both ex-Russians immigrating. They traveled with Alla Kushnir, the only female IM.

From Europe came nine GMs. Veterans of Lone Pine were Svetozar Gligoric from Yugoslavia (a good cross over from Zurich 1953) and Florrin Gheorghiu from Romania . Mata Damjanovic had to play two games in advance in a tournament in Birmingham, England because of a conflicting dates. From Hungary came, Isvtan Bilek, Istvan Csom and Gyoso Forintos. Iceland brought Gudmundur Sigurjonsson. Karl Robatsch came from Austria. Lothar Schmid of West Germany, was the chief arbiter of the Fischer-Spassky match in Iceland.

From Canada came Duncan Suttles and Abe Yanofsky. Oscar Panno and Hector Rosseto came from Argentina. Herman Pilnik came from Vennuzuela. From the U.S came Walter Borwne, Sam Reshevsky ( another veteran from Zurich 1953), Larry Evans and Pal Benko.
There were 11 International masters and 11 national masters. Included in this bunch were Jeremy Silman at 20 and Michael Rhodes at the tender age of 15. Arnold Denker and Arthur Drave were the elder statesmen at 61 and 65 respectively.

With 44 chessplayers in this sleepy little town, several small hotels were filled and chessplayers were seen all over in coffee shops, tennis courts and even getting hair cuts.

It wasn’t without effort that Statham tried to bring in former world champions from the soviet union. Three Czechoslovakians accepted only later to have the federation decline their invites. The speculation was that they were forced to follow the lead of the soviet’s boycott to this event because of the battles that came about from Fischer-Karpov match during that period.

So what is in store you may ask? I plan on following the games and biographies of the Grandmasters. I will most likely have a post or two on some of the more famous national/international masters as they also provided some wonderful upsets.

The tournament book I will reference is “Grandmaster Chess: The book of the Louis D. Statham Lone Pine Masters-Plus Tournament, 1975” by GM Isaac Kashdan and the staff of the California Chess Reporter. The games are lightly annotated and I have no PGN of the entire event to work from. If any of my readers can locate the raw games from this event and provide a link I’d be much obliged. I found one reference to a PGN of a Lone Pine 1975 but it turned out to be the wrong event. Beware of the file as it’s not the collection of games I am looking for though labeled as Lone Pine 1975. This turned out to be a different event of that year.

Back in 1975, chess informants were starting to become popular for opening preparation. Thus, Lone Pine 1975 happens the days before the generation of overly prepared openings through computer databases. Old fashioned preparation of reading books and building on the reputations of your predecessors was the mainstay here. We’ll be seeing a lot of Sicilians and English openings as they were the style of the day.

Gligoric was quoted as saying ( in the Chess Life and Review, July 1975) “ Lone Pine 1975 brought together an unusual gathering of people, some of whom had not met for ten or even twenty years. Naturally enough, the past was partly rebornat some of these chess boards, too.” He was referencing that many of the lines and systems which were popular in his youth were revived at Lone Pine. “At those rare moments when your commentator watches the ‘strange’ positions from the Two Knights Defense, Marshall Attack or Meran Defense, he cannot escape the queer, tender feeling of being refreshed by an old idea”

I’ll be entering all these games by hand into chess base, a labor of love. I will be providing commentary, descriptive annotations by the players and checking the variations with computer.

I hope you enjoy.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Twas the Knight before Checkmate

Twas the knight before Checkmate and across the board
There were advancing pawns like a marauding hoard
The queen said “ What pests!”
While the King replied “ I cannot rest”
When in his finachetto
The Bishop said “ I’ll send them back to their ghetto.”
And started to devise a plan that was grand
But with who might be partner for the stand
On Flank, on file and even if Fritzed-in
The pawns were well supported and rather well fixed-in
When in from the dark
The knight decided to hark
“ I will take fight with the lead thug,
I'll take down this wall of bugs”
“It’s suicide” the queen did shout.
The knight ignored them all and jumped about.
Down went the pawn in one blow indeed
The bishop joined in by the death of the steed
The queen saw an opening and took her stance.
“Check!” she said with mixed feelings and chance
The opposing King retreated at a hasty rate
The next move that came was a quick check mate.
All through the land, the feelings were not light
For all the king's peoples were saved by this brave and good Knight!

Merry Chessmas to all my readers

I’ll be resuming the Magical History tour sometime after Christmas with an intro to the Lone Pines tournament.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Taking out my frustrations over the board

I was matched with yet another Class A player ( near expert strength). I knew I was going to have black against him and found a game in my database where we had played before. It was an exchange C-K and I like the line with 5…Qc7 as it sets up some interesting dynamics. Last time we played I missed a nice little tactical maneuver after he played 6Qb3, Nxd4 can be played and creates some interesting dynamics. He chose to play 6.Ne2.

(60) (Class A 1900+) - Duval,G [Blunderprone]
Holiday Swiss,

B13: Caro-Kann: Exchange Variation and Panov-Botvinnik Attack 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.c3 Qc7 6.Ne2 Nf6 7.Bf4 e5

I was inspired to play this line as I had seen this before in study exchange variation C-K games with this line. 8.dxe5 Nxe5 9.0–0 Bd6 Black gets a very active position with the e5 advance. The game is no longer a closed position. 10.Bb5+ Bd7 11.Bxd7+ Qxd7 12.Nd4 0–0 13.Nd2

I played 13...Nd3 First, I want to let you know I had a horrible work day. I couldn't resist this hole and I really wanted to mess someone up after the bad day. [Safer would have been to play13...Rfe8 14.N2f3=] 14.Bxd6= Qxd6 15.Qc2 (position)

15…Nxf2 OK, in hindsight I should have played more conservative. But playing against a strong player gave me a chance to take some chances with very little to lose. The exchange I envisioned gave me a Rook and Pawn for the two pieces at the very least. At best I had a mate threat or a rook for a knight. So I decided to mix it up.

This did leave me with an IQP that was hard to defend in the middle game which I didn't take into consideration and should have. This was a lesson learned, and a new position for my daily training. [¹15...Qa6!?= is interesting] 16.Rxf2 [16.Nf5 Qb6 17.Rxf2 Ng4 18.Ne7+ Kh8±] 16...Ng4 17.N2f3 Nxf2 18.Qxf2 Rfe8 19.Re1 [19.Nf5 Qd7 20.N3d4 f6±] 19...Qf6 [19...Rxe1+ 20.Qxe1 Qd7 21.Qd2²] 20.Qg3 [20.Rf1 Rad8±] 20...Re4 [20...Rxe1+ 21.Qxe1 h6 22.Nh4] 21.Nd2 [¹21.Rf1 Rf4 22.Qh3²]
21...Rxd4? I saw a rook for two pawns and a knight. Again, in an IQP I should have played more conservatively but for some reason, this was more satisfying than winning. Creating an imbalanced game against a strong player and lasting to almost an endgame was rewarding in some sense. [¹21...Rxe1+ would allow Black to play on 22.Qxe1 Qb6] 22.cxd4+- Qxd4+ 23.Qf2 Qxb2 24.Nb3 [24.Qxa7 Rf8 (24...Rxa7?? 25.Re8#+-) 25.Nb3 h6±] 24...Qxf2+ [ I could have kept the queen on the board. 24...Qa3 25.Rd1±] 25.Kxf2 Kf8 26.Rc1 Re8 27.Rc5 Re5 28.Nd4 Ke8 29.Nb5 a6 [29...Rf5+ 30.Ke2 Rh5 31.h3±] 30.Nd6++- Kd7 31.Nxb7 f6 [31...Re6 32.Rc2 Rb6 33.Nc5+ Ke7 34.Ke3+-] 32.Rc2 Ke7 [32...f5 33.Nc5+ Kd6 34.Nxa6+-] 33.Nc5 [33.Rc7+!? seems even better 33...Kf8+-] 33...a5 34.Nd3 I totally went out to lunch on this move. I recall that 2 connected passed pawns in some positions are worth a rook. But they have to be on the 5th and 6th rank. On 6th and 7th you even have winning chances. I played the fool here and played 34… Ke6?? simply worsens the situation 35.Nxe5 fxe5 36.Ke3 d4 37.Ke4 h6 38.Rc4 g6 39.Ra4 0–1

No guts no glory. I took my lumps, satisfied that I didn’t play a timid game. I was clouded with a frustrating day at work and put on the fog lights of an attacking and imbalanced game of a chess instead. In this case, I veered off the road with little damage. But I did get a rush of adrenaline and sharpened my axe a little more.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Inglorious Blunders ( at the Harry Nelson Pillsbury Memorial)

ACIS Update:

Do check out Harvey as he has now started a Google group dedicated to the cause which will allow a better exchange of ideas and resources as we can up/down load files and share common useful links etc.

Tourney report:
I like the Harry Nelson Pillsbury Memorial held every Fall in Massachusetts as it’s a recognized Heritage event and has been held annually for over 25 years! It’s a Grand Prix event as well but since I am not a master, that has little importance for me ( this year). The format has changed over the years. This year, it was kept to a 1 day event with four rounds of a G60’s. This meant some serious yet fast action was about to happen on this Sunday following our American Thanksgiving.

We were blessed with team members from the famous Boston Blitz featuring, GM Eugene Perelshteyn and IM’s David Vigorito who tied for first place in the open section. FM Dennis Shmelov and Ilya Krasik, also Boston Blitz players, tied for 3rd and 4th place.

There were four sections for a modest turn out of 53 players in all three sections. I played in the Under 1900 section below is my round for round account of my games.

Round one loss to a Class A player:

I played the back side to an English opening that was more like a Reti when I responded 1…c6. I should have known better as I studied Reti in the New York 1924 series. I might have faired better had I played a line with Bf5 which Lasker used regularly to avoid the cramped complications I fell into. I really need to work on the transpositions. Two major issues came up in this came. The first, looking at the position below on Black’s move 10.

I wanted to advance c5 and keep the bishop as it was my only one “out of the gate”. But I ended up with a dumb position hemming in that bishop altogether. The chess engine suggests moving the knight to f8 as this will be handy later. I think even better is to exchange on d2. Where Black’s game is cramped and I want to lock the pawns on dark squares, having a pair of knights will be better. Plus White’s dark squared Bishop gets hemmed in now.

The second issue was a bad plan to remove White’s light squared bishop. A couple moves later, I created a battery with a queen and Bishop on the c8-h3 diagonal and went after White’s Bg2. Somewhere I had a notion that getting rid of the bishop would weaken White’s king position. True, in some cases with finachetto’s this is a good plan. The exception I overlooked was that it traded Black’s Active Bishop for White’s more passive one.

Round 2 win against a Class A player:

I played the White side against a Nimzo-Indian defense. I had been studying the Rubinstein variation since my New York 1924 studies and liked the games in Zurich 1953 with Taimanov playing some interesting ideas against Averbahk. Now my problem is that I play 6Nge2 in the more traditional sense of the Rubenstein meant to keep the q-side pawns from being messed up. The idea is to follow-up with f3 and e3-e4 especially once Black exchanges the bishop. By Zurich 1953, that line was replaced with a more aggressive 6Nf3 made popular after New york 1924 and became the main line. The idea is to allow the double c-pawn and get the bishops on both diagonals ( a1-h8 and b2-h7) in preparation for opening the center. I didn’t do that… was happy to settle with remember to play the bishop to D3 first and then said Nge2 must come next.

Regardless of this, I did manage a playable middle game as I had the opportunity to test Black’s ability to play an IQP. I sort of know how to attack and/or defend such a position. I recall my lessons’ Jorge Sammour-Hasbun in telling me the fundamental is that the endgame is more favorable for the player who doesn’t own the IQP. Exchanges then become favorable and the owner should avoid it. Black didn’t do much to prevent this in the game.

Blocking the square in front of the IQP also keeps it from advancing and getting traded to equalize or worse… become a decoy as a king side attack forms. The defender will place the rooks on both adjacent files ( as did my opponent in the game and I got my knight in front of the pawn. He missed a knight forking tactic on the other weakness on d6.

Round 3 win ( I should have lost) against a Class C player

You know, I was feeling pretty damn cocky. Round one wasn’t a total loss and I just beat a class A player. When this opponent played an Advanced variation, I decided on the spot to try something I had never tried before and played 3..c5. I read through this variation back in a day ( never played it)…but felt I could “think through this” OTB. By move 11 I was humbled with a Greek gift on h7:

Sucker punched, I hobbled my king in the corner for a few moves, desperately pulling in reinforcements in when I could. Then I had a chance 11 moves later and played this:

I got damn lucky. Note to self, don’t pick a tournament to “explore” a new line I was meaning to look into when I got a round to it.

Round 4 victory against a Class A player ( cinching the Class prize):

My opponent’s third round game was the last to finish and he ended up losing in a time scramble when he thought he had set his clock to correctly allow the 5 second delay. He was rattled as he challenged my 1d4 witrh 1..c5. “Crap, a Benoni”, I thought. This time, because of my training positions, I made sure I had some from previous “lessons” and managed to survive the opening without any traps. It did give Black a slight advantage in piece mobility. I decided to handle the game as a hypermodern positioning my bishops as Black expanded in the center with pawns. Black’s d-pawn became backward and I was given a chance to exchange pieces and win the pawn.
In turn Black had the bishop pair in an open position giving me a pawn advantage if I made it to the end game. To my surprise, Black exchanges one of his bishops for my knight on b5. This gave me more mobility and then he totally hung a piece. He clearly was still rattled from the previous match.

I finished with 3 points to clear the under 1750 class prize and did a happy dance with my BIG money winnings of $75.

Lessons I learned:
1) Learn your openings enough to get to a middle game you can play.
2) Recognizing and being comfortable with certain middle game themes like IQP and minority attacks can be beneficial if I come out of the opening a little less than equal.
3) Don’t try anything new.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Part 4: Putting it all together

But first things first , the A.C.I.S. Update:

I’ve added a couple new comers to the list on the side. Please take some time to welcome these folks.

Wrimle to the fray. He’s working on board vision. Make sure you check out his simple declaration.

The Scheming Mind also is new and seeks to transition from correspondence chess to OTB and outlines a nice plan that fits in with a busy person’s lifestyle of work and School.

Tempo waxes philosophically over middle game to end game transitions and breaks it down in his mind’s eye.

Steve channels Sherlock Holmes and solves a mystery of an extra pawn.

Linux Guy posted some games from his recent “lessons” at the American Open .These are some fine games and if you scroll down, he offers a contrasting picture of two types of players at this event Pitting MDLM against Positional players who’ve taken the time to study Z53. ( LG, I fit in both categories!)

“Pumpkin Chunkin” rook ( since it’s close to T-day), has some more of his nifty GIF animations on some memory chunks of a Scotch game. I have to learn that.

It’s nice to see the new comers. I try to keep the door wide open for all who seek to declare an improvement plan and dare blog about. In return, we will off support and encouragement in your journey. Huzzah!

Positive Reinforcement:

So I have to report that since I made my 440 positions, I’ve played several games this month. Seven of these games were against Class A players. In the last week, I’ve managed to defeat 3 class A players in a row. I’ve been playing once a week at the chess club and on Sunday, November 29th, I played at one of my favorite events, The Harry Nelson Pillsbury Memorial. I finished with 3 wins out of 4 games earning the U1750 cash prize, but my wife needn’t worry about me quitting my day job…just yet.

The Jury is still out on whether my new training regimen had a great deal to do with it or am I just rebounding from my really bad slump and this is just the laws of averages working here. Nonetheless, it’s the most positive reinforcement I’ve had to date on this process of improvement. Earlier in the month, my USCF rating was at an abysmal ( for me) 1618. After Sunday and after picking up some points at the close of the Club’s monthly event, I jumped up to 1723. My all time highest is 1755 I had earlier in the year. So this is where my cautious optimism comes from. Earlier in the year, I had a goal of breaking 1800 by the end of the year. I just might have a chance of doing that depending on how I end December with at the club. I’ll be happy meeting my 1755 high.

Putting it in motion

Of the 440 positions, I had a set of 55 positions form my most recent games I went over daily. At first it took me over an hour. By the event, I had this down under a half hour and hitting them at 100%. I also took the 50 positions created from my repertoire database out lined in part 3 and reviewed them 3 times ( every other day before the event). One day, I did all 105 and plowed through another 20 positions of the games studies. In particular, I couldn’t resist going over the games of Hastings 1895 in preparation of the Harry Nelson Pillsbury Memorial. It just seemed like the thing to do.

I am now in the process of weeding out my “daily dose” and moving the easier ones into the “once a week” review group. I am adding the recent games and pulling in some positional studies from the Zurich 1953. This is a work in progress as I fine tune this.

I will do some opening maintenance and pull some new positions to study as I broaden my scope. These will be reviewed 2 or 3 times a week. I am shooting for a complete Brain Burner once a month with the entire set but this will take time. As I add new positions to the “daily dose” I have to build up my experience and keep the time to under an hour.

So my formula is to have 50-ish daily, 50-ish opening rep training every other day on top of the daily dose. Once a week add 20 or more of the positional studies from the master game collections and eventually build of a rep of 50 of these to do once a week. The goal is to get the easier ones moved to the monthly brain burner.

In the near future, I will be posting a couple of the recent games as some were pretty spectacular with inglorious blunders on both sides. For instance, I almost lost one game against a lower rated player because I got cocky and played a variation of a defense I never played before! Next thing I knew I was subjected to a Greek gift and almost mated.

In general, where I won my games was all in tactics. Tactics I recognized over the board because I was comfortable enough knowing the positions.

One last tip I will throw out there is that I use my training database in 3D format so I can visualize the moves better. That was one thing I learned back when I was a Knight Errant. CT-ART was all 2D and I had the hardest time transposing to OTB.