Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club Newsletter #577
March 28, 2012
We would study openings all day and by evening he couldn’t remember anything we looked at.
— Pal Benko, explaining that Sammy Reshevsky’s legendary lack of opening knowledge was not due to lack of study but a poor memory– What it Takes to Become a Chess Master (p. 5) by Andrew Soltis
1) Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club News
Three rounds into the Spring Tuesday Night Marathon only two of the 71 competitors have perfect scores. FM Frank Thornally and Expert Steve Gaffagan lead the way, with a large pack, led by IMs Elliott Winslow and Ganbold Odondoo, FM Andy Lee and NM Romy Fuentes, half a point back.
Expert Carlos D'Avila won the 12th Max Wilkerson Memorial held March 24th with a score of 5-0. Tying for second at 4-1 in the 40 player event were Dharim Bacus, Romy Fuentes, Nicholas Karas and Kyle Shin.
Bulgarian Grandmaster Dejan Bojkov won the 20th Cork Chess Congress, held in Ireland’s second city this past weekend, with a score of 5-1. Tying for second in the 33-player open section at 4½ were Grandmaster Alex Baburin, International Master Alex Lopez, FIDE Master Phillip Short and Mechanics’ Institute Chess Director John Donaldson.
2) Val Zemitis 1925-2012
Chess lost one of its most loyal and hard-working friends with the passing of Valdemars (Val) Zemitis early on the morning of March 22 in Davis, California. The cause was prostate cancer.
Born April 11, 1925, in Riga, Latvia, Mr. Zemitis learned to play in his early teens. He and his sister Rita were taught the game by their father, Martins Zemitis, a master violin-maker.
Like many of his countrymen, Mr. Zemitis fled west when the Soviet Union invaded Latvia for the second time in 1944. Soon after the Second World War was over he resumed his chess career as a displaced person in Germany, while studying at the University of Göttingen. During his stay there he found time to play in one of the first international events after the Second World War (Oldenburg 1946) and to edit the magazine Sacha Pasaule (Chess World). This was the first but certainly not the last time Mr. Zemitis involved himself with chess journalism.
While in Germany Mr. Zemitis was taught some of the finer points of the game by Grandmaster Friedrich Sämisch, who also sparked his interest in blindfold play. The ten-board exhibition Mr. Zemitis gave sans voir in Ottendorf, Germany, on April 22, 1951, is recounted in Blindfold Chess—History, Psychology, World Records, and Important Games, by Eliot Hearst and John Knoff, the most important book on the subject.
Mr. Zemitis immigrated to the United States in 1951, first settling in Salem, Oregon. While there he managed to climb Mt. Hood, while also becoming acquainted with American chess players for the first time. Less than a year later he settled in Berkeley, where he studied at the University of California. This was a golden time for chess in Northern California, and Mr. Zemitis soon found himself good friends with many of the leading lights of Bay Area chess, including Neil Falconer and Bob Burger. These three would serve as games editors for the newly founded California Chess Reporter, which was published by Guthrie McClain, who was an inspiration to chess players throughout the state and region. All four men were devoted to the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club of San Francisco and the Castle Chess Club, an East Bay institution comprised of UC Berkeley graduates.
During his undergraduate days Mr. Zemitis enjoyed his greatest competitive success, tying for third in the 1954 California Open where he scored 5.5 from 7, drawing with Grandmaster Isaac Kashdan and International Master Herman Steiner. Held in Santa Barbara over Labor Day weekend, the event had all the best players in the state competing, and the 81 competitors was a record setting turnout for the time.
Mr. Zemitis was inducted into the US Army in 1956 and was sent to Fort Sam Houston, where he was trained to become a radiologist, a career that he would practice the rest of his working life. Assigned to Germany, in part because of his facility with languages (he spoke Latvian, German, English and Russian fluently), Mr. Zemitis once again found time to resume his chess activities, drawing with soon-to-be World Champion Mikhail Tal in a simul held around the time of the Munich Olympiad.
It was in Germany that Mr. Zemitis met his future wife Sibylle. The two would be married for over fifty years and had two sons, Martin and Cedrick.
The Zemitis family returned to California in 1959, and the following year, with the assistance of Bob Burger, Mr. Zemitis published his first book, The Unknown Tal. This was quite possibly the first book dedicated to the Wizard of Riga.
Family and job commitments kept his chess activities on the back burner in the 1960s and 1970s, but upon retiring from his work with the state of California, Mr. Zemitis returned to the game in a big way as a journalist and promoter. He helped the late Hans Poschman produce the California Chess Journal in the late 1980s after the demise of Chess Voice, the successor to the California Chess Reporter. During this period Mr. Zemitis also became well-known for his role in trying to provide players with information about chess periodicals around the world, producing invaluable comprehensive lists in those pre-Internet days.
Mr. Zemitis did not confine himself solely to chess literature. He was also a man of action, who helped the young Zsuzsa Polgar make her West Coast debut in the United States in the 2nd San Francisco International in 1986. Later he was instrumental in bringing the Latvian Women’s Champion Dana Reizniece to play two international events at the Mechanics’ Institute in 2000. Soon after Latvia regained its independence in the early 1990s, Mr. Zemitis found himself corresponding with the young Alexey Shirov, and trying to help him find opportunities in a rapidly changing world.
During the last decade of his life Mr. Zemitis continued his productive work, first as the publisher and a contributor to the journal Latvian Correspondence & Latvian Gambit Magazine and later for its successor Latvijas Saha Vestnesis. As important as these publications were they were dwarfed by the completion of his Encyclopedia of Latvian Chessplayers. This massive two-volume work, over 800 pages in length, can be found at the Mechanics’ Institute and the principal public repositories of chess books—the John G. White Collection in Cleveland, the Royal Dutch Library in The Hague and the Anderson Collection at the State Library of Victoria in Australia. There is no other publication like it devoted to the chess players of one small country; albeit one that has produced giants the likes of Tal, Nimzovitch and Shirov.
A man who seldom, if ever, raised his voice or lost his temper, Val Zemitis will be remembered as a good husband and father, a friend to any animal he ever met and a true lover of chess.
Slav Exchange D13
Val Zemitis – G. Gottschalk
1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 c6 4.cxd5 cxd5 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Bf4 e6 7.e3 Nh5 8.Be5 f5 9.Rc1 Be7 10.Bd3 0–0 11.0–0 Bd7 12.Ne1 Nxe5?!
Safer was 12...Nf6. This exchange offers White’s knight an excellent post on d4.
13.dxe5 Qe8 14.Nc2 g5?!
This is too ambitious. More solid was 14...g6.
Played to prevent the knight incursion which occurs after 15...Rb8 16.Ncb5.
This well-timed blow tears apart Black’s position.
17�fxg4 18.Nxd5! exd5 19.Qxd5+ Kg7?
Black’s only chance to survive was 19...Kh8, although after 20.Qe4 Qg6 21.Qxg6 hxg6 22.Rc7 Rfd8 23.e6 Bb5 24.Bxb5 Bd6 25.e7 Bxc7 26.exd8Q+ Rxd8 (26...Bxd8 27.Be2) 27.Ne6 Rd6 28.Bc4 the ending is far from pleasant.
No better is 20...Bb5. After 21.Nxb5 axb5 22.Qe4 Rh8 23.Bxb5 Qd8 24.Rd7 Qe8 25.Rc1 Black remains a piece ahead but his position is hopeless.
21.Qe6 Rf7 22.Nf5+ Kf8 23.Bc4 Ng7 24.Qh6 Rxf5 25.Qxh7 1–0
QGD Semi-Tarrasch D41
Val Zemitis – Henry Gross
San Francisco 1963
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 c5 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.e4 Nxc3 7.bxc3 Nc6?
7...cxd4 8.cxd4 Nc6 is the normal way to handle the position. Now Black quickly gets the worst of it.
As 8...Nb8 is met by 9.Bb5+ Bd7 10.dxe6 Bxb5 11.exf7+.
9.exd5 Nb8 10.Bb5+ Bd7
Pragmatic and strong was 11.Bxd7+ Qxd7 12.0–0 but Val prefers an old-fashioned king hunt.
11...Bxb5 12.Re1+ Be7 13.d6 Nc6 14.Bg5 f6 15.Qd5 Qd7
16.Qxc5 Ba4 17.dxe7 fxg5 18.Qxg5 Rg8
19.Qh4! Bc2 20.Rac1 Qf5 21.Nd4 Nxd4 22.Qxd4 Qd3
23.Rxc2! Qxc2 24.Qd5 Rh8 25.Qxb7 1–0
Evans Gambit C52
Val Zemitis - Dan Marshall
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3 Ba5 6.d4 exd4 7.0-0 Nge7 8.Ng5 d5
8...Ne5 9.Nxf7 Nxf7 10.Bxf7+ Kxf7 11.Qh5+ g6 12.Qxa5 is considered to be slightly better for White in Nunn’s Chess Openings (NCO).
9...f6!? is an old recommendation by Levenfish.
NCO says that Black is better, but Mr. Marshall wasn’t able to deal with White's most natural reply.
11.Re1 0-0? 12.Rxe5 Nxe5 13.Qxe5 Re8 14.Qf4 Re1+ 15.Bf1 Qxd5 16.Bd2 Rd1 17.Qa4 Rxf1+ 18.Kxf1 Bf5 19.Qd4 Bd3+ 20.Kg1 Qf5 21.Na3 Bb6 22.Qf4 Qc5 23.Qxf7+ 1-0
3) Here and There
Berkeley Chess Club news by Marc Newman
The BCC has just completed another six-week tournament, with NM Roger Poehlmann taking clear first with 5.5. There were 50 participants, including three Masters.
The next tournament begins this Friday and new players are welcome.
You can always find standings and online registration details here:
This page also now has the full BCC calendar for the year, including the winners of completed tournaments.
Nor Cal House of Chess International
An IM norm tournament was held March 17-26 at the Nor Cal House of Chess and organized by Ted Castro.
1. IM Enrico Sevillano (2502) 7.5/9
2-3. IMs Ray Kaufman (2316) and Ricardo DeGuzman (2400) 6
4. FM Ron Cusi (2316) 5.5
5. NM Yian Liou (2293) 5
6. FM Richard Lobo (2236) 4
7. FM Tigran Ishkhanov (2347) 3.5
8-9. FM Bela Evans (2256) and Uyanga Byambaa (2110) 3
10. FM Emmanuel Perez (2290) 1.5
News from the Metropolitan Chess Club of Los Angeles, by Ankit Gupta
Metropolitan Chess, Inc. will be hosting IGM and World Champion Viswanathan Anand in August 2012. He will be leading as an instructor at our Metropolitan 2012 Invitational Camp. This will mark the first time in 17 years that Viswanathan Anand will come to the United States for a chess related purpose.
Another eight instructors will be teaching at the camp: GM Loek van Wely, GM Melikset Khachiyan, GM Robert Hess, GM Var Akobian, IM Armen Ambartsoumian, IM Andranik Matikozyan, IM Zhanibek Amanov, and FM Aviv Friedman. This will be the strongest team of instructors assembled for an instructional camp in the United States.
A sound bite of GM Loek van Wely from the 2011 edition of the camp can be found at
Please visit Metropolitan Chess, Inc.’s website at www.metrochessla.com to keep updated with related events.
Metropolitan Chess, Inc. is hosting an International Master norm round robin tournament from March 28th to April 1st of 2012. The tournament is sponsored by California Market Center, Fashion Business, Inc, Chess.com, MonRoi, LawyerFy, Law Offices of Steinfl & Bruno, and Betty Bottom Showroom.
This tournament is the 17th in its series and is being held in Suite C1002 of the California Market Center on 110 East 9th Street, Los Angeles 90079. The tournament is organized by Ankit Gupta, FA, IO and the chief arbiter is Randy Hough, IA.
The participants include IM Zhanibek Amanov (KAZ), IM Andranik Matikozyan (ARM), IM Roman Yankovsky (RUS), FM Michael Casella (USA), FM Mark Duckworth (USA), FM Kameswaran Visweswaran (IND), Samuel Sevian (USA), Craig Clawitter (USA), Kofi Tatum (USA) and Robert Akopian (USA).
The tournament will be a 10 player round-robin (all play all), with rounds scheduled as follows – 28th: 7:00 PM, 29th: 11:00 AM & 5:00 PM, 30th: 11:00 AM & 5:00 PM, 31st: 11:00 AM & 5:00 PM, 1st: 10:00 AM & 4:00 PM. Spectators are welcome and encouraged to come to watch the games in person at the tournament site.
The standings can be found on the Metropolitan Chess, Inc. website at
4) A Chess Poem by Dennis Fritzinger
why lawyers love chess
the opening moves
are well known on both sides;
is where the action is,
and the endgame decides.