Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Harry Nelson Pillsbury Memorial Tournament

( A Preview of the Tournament report that will be published in the next issue of Chess Horizons.)

Two days before Massachusetts’s first prominent chess hero’s 139th birthday, 57 players gathered on December 3, 2011 in Leominster at the Veteran’s Center to play in the 2011 Harry Nelson Pillsbury Memorial. Why this is not listed as a Heritage event under USCF guidelines ( Tournaments Held for at least 25 years) is beyond me since I looked back on MACA’s tournament history for this event dates back to 1991 . Any records before that are archived with USCF.
In the world wide web, I have a chess blog ( and mirrored here at that is heavy on the historical perspective of chess, it’s players and major events. When asked to do the tournament report for this event, I was honored and could not resist tying in a little colloquial historical perspective to this event.

Harry Nelson Pillsbury

Born on December 5th, 1872, he was only 22 when he went to Hastings in 1895 and turned the European chess world on its head as he won the event. He learned to play chess in 1888 at the age of 15. His first chess teacher was Addison Smith, a member of the Boston Chess Club who lived in Somerville.

He moved to Philadelphia by the time he started taking this game seriously at age 17 years old. Pillsbury creativity and resourcefulness started to show up in 1890. Pillsbury played a series of Evans Gambits with the veteran Baltimore expert, H.N. Stone. He was one of the inventors of the Stone-Ware defense in the Evans. Our Somerville native smashed him 5-2.

Like Fisher, his knowledge of openings showed his resourcefulness to garnish older variations with his own added twists. This was especially seen at Hastings 1895 where he played a couple Evans Gambits against Schiffers and Bird. He played a variation not seen in Europe since the days of Kieseritzky and Mayet ( 50 years earlier). Having trained with this variation from local American players H.N Stone and Addison Smith, he had an advantage over his European contemporaries.

Though our event held in 2011, didn’t attract the European power houses of the day, we did have local GM Alexander Ivanov and two prominent local IM’s David Vigorito and Igor Foygel among the notable players in attendance in the open section. It was a quick draw in the final round of the 21 player open section that ended with GM Ivanov and IM Vigorito tied for first place with 3.5 points. Masters Vadim Martirosov and Avraam PIsmennyy followed with a 3.0 score. I was hard pressed to collect any score sheets from these games as IM David Vigorito commented that he stopped recording the last 15 moves of one of his games because of the time control.

One game I collected was from a friend and fellow blogger on Although local Expert, Robert King had not finished with any prize money, his final score of 2.5 points came after 1 win and 3 draws, one being against IM Foygel in Round 3. Below is the game he annotated. It appears, that IM Foygel has the spirit of Pillsbury as he plays an older line of the Benoni ( 3…e5) against Mr. King, transposing it to an old Indian defense.

The Under 1900 section had the largest attendance with 27 players. This was my rust breaker event as I had personal matters taking priority over my chess board. Lately, with life in all its complications, the only time I get to play chess is on a one day event. I used to loath such events because of the G60 time controls and how I needed all the time in the world against a much younger opponent brought up on bullet and lightning internet chess. But I have acclimated since my love for the game versus my time for the game are on two separate and seemingly opposing axis’s.

Given the G60 time control, it comes as no surprise then that an eleven year old, Nithin Kavi, was undefeated and won first place in the U1900 section. Yours truly came in a clear second, playing only the last three rounds. My last round game was a raucous Central variation of the Slav defense where Black chose to play a minor piece exchange for 3 pawns. Here is that game with my annotations.

The Under 1500 section had a total of 9 players and a three-way tie for first place from the Granite State as James Benway, Robert B Walton Jr, and Anson O’young all from New Hampshire, finished with 3 points each. I didn’t get a chance to collect any of these games from that section.


LinuxGuy said...

f3 is slow. You did a nice job standing tall in the complications.

The Mascot said...

I played against Pillsbury a few times.

All you really had to do to get an advantage was poke him in the stomach. He'd get all flustered and go "Woo-hoo!"

Robert Pearson said...

Hi George,

You and your readers are invited to submit items to the The Best Of! Chess Blogging Carnival. Deadline is January 27. Hit the link for more details, and please post a link on your blog or chess forum.

Best regards,

Robert Pearson

Robert Pearson said...

The first installment of the best of chess blogging Carnival is up! The Best Of! Chess Blogging, Part I: Openings

Robert Pearson said...

Dear George,

You're featured at Part II of the Best of Chess Blogging
which is now posted.

Robert Pearson said...

The Best of Chess Blogging Part III: What a Wonderful World has been posted.

Have a look and please post a link!

Anonymous said...

My first tournament was in the Pillsbury Tournament in about 1970 in Boston at the chess club there. At that time the tournament was already running for a long time. when I attended it was packed full of people. It was in early December just like it is today. I have been a life member since 1970 and the Pillsbury tournament has always been in early December since that time.

George Merijanian should know all about it. It must be 50 years old by now easy. You must have archived issues of Chess Horizons. It is always mentioned there. unfortunately I was forced to move and no longer have my old copies of chess horizons.