Chess Room Newsletter #708 | Mechanics' Institute

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Chess Room Newsletter #708

Gens Una Sumus!

Mechanics’ Institute Chess Newsletter #708
June 13, 2015

When he has an advantage he almost never lets it go. Where other players are maybe ready to accept a draw and go home, he’s ready to work the extra two, three hours and convert his advantage, even if it’s a really tiny one.

—Fabiano Caruana, talking about Magnus Carlsen

1) Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club News

International Master Elliott Winslow and Experts James Sun, Ashik Uzzaman and Eric Steger are tied for first in the Summer Tuesday Night Marathon at 3–0. It’s still possible to enter the 98-player event with half-point byes for the first three rounds. This TNM, an eight-rounder, ends July 14.

From round 3 of the Summer Tuesday Night Marathon:
White to move (Winslow–Grey after 34...Rd8)Black to move (Steger–Walder after 30 Qh7)
Black to move (Dupree–Padmanabhan after 13 Rf1)White to move (Drane–Gupta after 15...f6)
White to move (Casares–Padmanabhan after 19...c6)White to move (Paquette–Lin after 26...cxd5)
For the solutions, see the game scores for round 3.

The Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club will be holding a blitz tournament for MI guard Tony Lama (USCF peak rating 2088) who turned 80 in early June. Tony only learned to play in his thirties, but that hasn’t stopped him from having a passion for the game that persists to this day. Come to the M.I. to say hi to Tony and play some blitz on July 12 (details below under item number 6).

Foster City National Master Siddarth Banik won the 52nd Arthur Stamer Memorial, held June 6 and 7 at the M.I. Banik scored 5½ from 6 to finish a half-point ahead of Senior Master Cameron Wheeler, whom he defeated in round 4. Pranav Srihari, Karthik Padmanabhan and Paul Gallegos (the only non-teenager among the top finishers) tied for third at 4½ in the 40 player field.

2) Alan Benson (1947-2015)

Alan Benson of Berkeley died at the age of 67 at Alta Bates Hospital in Oakland on June 10th after a brief illness.

Alan grew up in San Leandro and learned to play chess in the early 1960s. He made steady progress and earned his National Master title in the early 1970s. Soon after he became a Correspondence Master.

Alan stopped playing around 1976 to focus on organizing and directing. His tournaments at the Student Union at UC Berkeley in the 1970s and early 1980s had a deserved reputation for being meticulously organized, and many strong players participated in them, including future Grandmasters Yasser Seirawan, Larry Christiansen and Nick de Firmian.

A true chess lover, Alan was involved in all aspects of the game. Besides playing correspondence chess, competing over the board, directing and organizing, he was a problem composer and solver. Alan was also a noted collector who had a large chess library. He wrote well-received articles for the Northern California magazine Chess Voice and Walter Browne’s Blitz Chess. The latter was on a blitz tournament held at the Mechanics’ Institute in 1991 won by Alan’s favorite player, Mikhail Tal.

A member of the Mechanics’ Institute since the early 1960s, Alan played many Grandmasters in simultaneous exhibitions there with the list including Bent Larsen, Miguel Najdorf and a young Bobby Fischer. The latter was in 1964 during Fischer’s transcontinental tour around the United States.

The two crossed paths two years later during the second Piatigorsky tournament. Alan enjoyed telling friends how on the free day before the last round he set up in the lobby of the Miramar Hotel with the latest Soviet chess literature (Shakmaty Bulletin, Shakmaty v SSR and Shakmaty Riga) which promptly caught Bobby’s eye. The two talked for a few minutes and realized they had friends in common (Ray Oster being one). Soon after they were heading up to Fischer’s room where they looked at recent games for several hours. This was definitely the highlight of Alan’s life.

Fischer was not the only important chess personality to befriend Alan. Six-time U.S. champion Walter Browne stayed with him when he first arrived in Berkeley in the late 1960s and Berkeley Chess School founder Elizabeth Shaughnessy remembers Alan being one of the first people she met in the Bay Area chess community. Max Burkett has fond memories of Alan assisting him in producing the bulletins for Lone Pine in 1976 and the biannual CalChess Masters (1979 and 1981).

Alan faced many health challenges the past decade and things were never easy for him, particularly after he was evicted from his beloved “cave” on Atherton Street. There is no question that he would not have come close to making it to 2015 if not for the help of his life-long friends Frank Thornally and Kerry Lawless who were always there when he needed them.

A memorial will be held for Alan at the Mechanics’ Institute on Sunday, June 28th, from 1 to 4 pm. All are welcome to attend. Those unable to be there, but who would like to share their memories of Alan, are encouraged to e-mail their remembrances to [email protected].

One of Alan’s best results was a Master Invitational held in in late 1970 and early 1971 at the Mechanics’ Institute, where he made a plus score against strong opposition.

Here he beats 18-year-old James Tarjan a few years before he became an International Master (1974) and Grandmaster (1976).

French Winawer C19
Alan Benson–James Tarjan
San Francisco (2) 1970

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 Ne7 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 c5 7.a4 Bd7 8.Nf3 Nbc6 9.Bd3 Qc7 10.0–0 c4 11.Be2 f6 12.Re1 0–0–0 13.Ba3 Nf5 14.Bf1 h5 15.Qd2 Rde8 16.h4 Nd8 17.a5 Nc6 18.g3 Nxa5 19.Bh3 Nc6 20.Qc1

20.Bxf5 exf5 21.Bd6 Qd8 22.Qc1 was a promising alternative.

20...b6 21.Qb2 Qb7 22.Bg2 Kc7 23.Nd2 Kb8 24.Ra2 Bc8 25.Bh3 g5 26.Bxf5 exf5 27.Bd6+ Ka8 28.Qb5 gxh4 29.Rea1 Rh7 [29...Na5]


Strong, but 30.Ra6! with unstoppable threat of Rxb6 was even more powerful.

30...Be6 31.Qb5!

With powerful threats of Rxa7+ and d5.

31...Na5?? 32.Qxe8+ Bc8


In the following game Alan wins with a nice attack against a noted master of both chess and bridge.

Sicilian B28
Alan Benson–Roy Hoppe
San Francisco (8) 1971

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 a6 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 e5 6.Nf5 d6 7.Ne3 Nf6 8.Bd3 Be6 9.0–0 Be7 10.Ned5 Bxd5 11.Nxd5 Nxd5 12.exd5 Nb8 13.Qg4 g6 14.Qb4 Qc7 15.Be3 Nd7 16.f4 f5 17.c4 e4 18.Be2 Kf7 19.Rac1 Rhc8 20.Kh1 b6 21.g4! Rg8 22.gxf5 gxf5 23.Bh5+ Kg7 24.Rg1+ Kh6 25.Bf7! Rxg1+ 26.Rxg1 Rf8 27.Qc3! Bf6

27...Rxf7 28.Bxb6

28.Bd4 Qd8 29.Bxf6 Nxf6 30.Qh3+


3) Interview with Anatoly Karpov

The following extract comes from the third part of an interview by Irwin Fisk with Anatoly Karpov that can be found at

IWF: What do you think was going on with Spassky? Why wasn’t he coming to train?

AK: He was very self-confident and he had a positive score in his previous games. He had played well against Fischer in previous games before the match. Spassky, as I said, was quite sure he would beat Fischer in spite of the impressive results Fischer showed in the Candidates Matches. It is known that Spassky is not a big worker or hard worker in chess. He is quite lazy, so he didn’t work too much on chess. This was the main reason he was defeated by Fischer. If you recall the games, it was game four when Spassky with black showed a fantastic novelty which was prepared by him and his team. I know this novelty. But, what happened is Spassky didn’t make the effort to memorize it, because it was winning by force.

Geller told me when they started to repeat this before the game, Spassky, after three or four moves into the novelty, said, “Oh, this is not so important, because I will find the moves over the board.” So, he didn’t remember the moves and he didn’t win the game, which had already been won at home. This was extremely important because Spassky won the first game, a strange game. Better not to say that Spassky won the game, but that Fischer lost the game. Then, Fischer didn’t appear for the second game, and Fischer won the third game, so if Spassky had won game four with black, he most probably would have won the match. He just didn’t play well after game four.

Both players had lost so much energy in the first eleven games that they were like boxers in the last round. Tired. Spassky could have won many games in the second part of the match, but he missed everything. Then, Fischer won everything. It certainly brought chess to the forefront.

IWF: Did you go to Reykjavik?

AK: No, I didn’t go to Reykjavik. This was a mistake by the sport leaders of the Soviet Union, because it was considered that I should go, not as a part of Spassky’s team but just to watch and understand the championship match and to get experience. In an official document from the [Soviet] Federation, one of the sports leaders in the Ministry of Sport wrote that it was too early for Karpov to go, because they didn’t see a great future for me for the world championship [laughter].

I watched the games [from Reykjavik]. We were making preparations for the World Chess Olympiad. I was there with [Tigran] Petrosian and [Paul] Keres and [Viktor] Korchnoi and [Mikhail] Tal. I mostly analyzed with Keres and Korchnoi.

IWF: Where was this?

AK: Near Moscow. I remember that summer because it was very hot and there were fires all around Moscow. Fire of the turf [peat]. You could smell the smoke. We were in the city of Dubna. Dubna is famous for its nuclear energy institute, and Dubna at that moment was one of the chess centers. Many scientists played chess, so they liked chess players to come there. So we stayed in the hotel in the middle of the city. We analyzed together with Keres and Korchnoi most of the games that Spassky played against Fischer. I found ways that Spassky could get a winning position in the opening of the Alekhine Defence. Fischer played the Alekhine Defence and Spassky missed a very big advantage.

Spassky was confident he would beat Fischer based on his positive score prior to the match.
Above is their bout from the Olympiad in 1966.

IWF: Geller and Krogius went to Reykjavik, as I recall.

AK: It was the team of Spassky, Geller, Krogius and Iivo Nei from Estonia. We had our team, the Soviet Union team, which were preparing for the Chess Olympiad.

IWF: What were the team members saying as the Spassky vs. Fischer moves were coming in?

AK: We could see it was a very big fight. Very emotional. Actually, my friends on the team with whom I was working were impressed by one of the adjournments where Fischer had the advantage, but after the adjournment he played a very sharp line and he analyzed very deep because it looked dangerous. But Fischer analyzed very deep and won the game which had many complications. We were impressed by the quality of his analysis of that game. Fischer showed many novelties in the opening, so it was clear that Fischer had prepared very well.

IWF: I know Fischer was playing 1.e4 so much before the match that there was a cartoon on the cover of Chess Life that featured Spassky at the board, surrounded by the Soviet team. One asks, “But Boris, what if he doesn’t play 1.e4?” Were they training for a variety of openings or did they place more emphasis on e4?

AK: I wasn’t there for all of the training, but Fischer had to play 1.d4.

IWF: At what point did you and your team realize that Spassky was going to lose the match?

AK: Fischer took the lead very quickly after he lost the first games. Spassky couldn’t show anything; he was playing very bad. It was already clear that Fischer was playing better chess at that moment. Later, nobody expected Fischer to lose.

After the strange incidents in the beginning of the match, Bobby Fischer quickly took control

IWF: When Spassky lost, there was a lot of talk that he wasn’t treated well.

AK: What do you mean he wasn’t treated well?

IWF: The Soviet authorities were unhappy that he lost; there was so much at stake.

AK: The Soviet authorities were very disappointed, and of course chess players had deep [many] privileges within the society until that moment. We started to come under attack years later, not immediately, but at that time the prizes [money] were not taxed. Spassky received the full prize [money] without paying any taxes, but then he began to behave strangely. Probably this was a reaction for his defeat, and so he didn’t feel psychologically well. He started to behave a little bit arrogant. He just made the leaders disappointed and upset. They gave full support to his preparation. They put some conditions which Spassky didn’t like about forming his group. They insisted that he have security as part of his team. Spassky didn’t want it. Spassky wasn’t happy. He was not free to take everyone he wanted and he wanted not to take other people. This, as I understand, was the only inconvenience.

These people thought Spassky should behave differently after losing this important match. He had problems with his private life, which was being criticized at that time. In the Soviet Union, the moral part of life and the private life was to be under control, always. Spassky, from their viewpoint, wasn’t behaving well. At the end, they [Soviet authorities] attacked not only Spassky, but all of our advantages. In 1975, they created a law under which we gave part of our prizes [money], a big part of our prizes, to the state.

IWF: Really?

AK: When I played my match with Korchnoi in 1978, I received only 20% of my prize.

IWF: 80% went to the state?

AK: Yes, Spassky received 100%.

IWF: So that hurt chess players from then on.

AK: Before Spassky lost to Fischer, and two years after, we didn’t give any money [to the state] from our prizes. From exhibitions, yes, but not from prizes. I was the biggest victim in 1978. We had good money in the Philippines, but I had to give most of my prize to the state.

IWF: Did they call it a tax?

AK: No, actually it wasn’t a direct tax. We had to give it to the Sports Ministry. They called it participation in developing sport and chess in the country.

IWF: Didn’t Spassky move to France?

AK: Yes, he moved to France in ‘75. This was described when the leaders said, “This is enough. We gave chess players everything and they didn’t behave well.”

4) State Champions Young and Old

Congratulations to National Master Roland Feng who at age 14 years 16 weeks and 2 days became the youngest state champion from Washington, breaking Yasser Seirawan’s record of 16 which he set back in 1976. Viktors Pupols, playing in the same event earlier this year, set a milestone that may never be beaten for the oldest competitor competing at age 80. He played his first Washington State Championship in 1954.

National Master Hans Multhhopp of Cincinnati won the 2014 Ohio State Championship at the age of 59.

5) Here and There

National Master Michael Aigner writes that the two knights versus pawn ending won by 11-year-old Hans Niemann that was examined by Mike Anderson in MI Newsletter #707 is analyzed in depth by Dana Mackenzie at his chess blog which can be found at

Grandmaster Jesse Kraai teaches gives a seminar every Thursday night at the Berkeley Chess Club from 7 to 9 pm, in which he analyzes a game from each of the seminar participants. Players usually range in strength from 1800 to 2300, and the cost per session is $40. Contact Jesse at [email protected].

Eduardo Bauza Mercere passes on the following amusing blitz game first published in the New York Post (April 25, 1936, p. 11), edited by Horace Bigelow.

Bigelow writes:

Who said beautiful combinations were impossible in “lightning” chess where moves have to be made at the rate of ten seconds apiece? Note the following encounter in a rapid transit game between two modest players who prefer to remain anonymous.

Budapest A52
New York 1936

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 Ng4 4. e4 h5 5. f4 Bc5 6. Nh3 f6 7. exf6 Qxf6 8. Nc3 Nc6 9. Bd2 g5 10. Nxg5 Qxg5 11. fxg5 Bf2+ 12. Ke2 Nd4+ 13. Kd3 Ne5# 1-0

6) Tony Lama 80th Birthday Blitz Tournament July 12

A chance to pay tribute to an old friend

When: Sunday, July 12 (1 pm -5 pm)

Where: Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club, 4th floor, 57 Post Street, San Francisco (Montgomery BART)

Format: Six double-round Swiss (12 games)

Time Control: 4 minutes with two-second increment

Registration: Noon to 12:45 pm.

Prizes: $650 guaranteed

1st - $300
2nd - $200
3rd - $100
Top under 2000 - $50

There will be book prizes for all participants.

Entry Fee: $10. Free to IMs, GMs, WIMs and WGMs

7) This is the end

This is a position from a game.

Black to move

How can Black convert his material advantage, with White threatening to promote the h-pawn?

Show solution

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