Chess Room Newsletter #731 | Mechanics' Institute

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Chess Room Newsletter #731

Gens Una Sumus!

Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club Newsletter #731
December 18, 2015

It’s really a lot of hard work. First of all it seems that this is a very boring subject. But if you want to progress then it is a must to study this phase of the game. I ate all the books of Averbakh, not study, I devoured them. I would dissect one position for hours and try to understand what was going on. So first I would set up the diagram position on the board and the work for a few hours and only then check the answers from the book. After years of reading them it’s in my body now. I do not remember each and everything from the book, but when I am in a practical situation under time trouble, my hand automatically finds the correct move because of the work done at home. Once I played a blitz match against the French player Joel Lautier. First game was drawn. In the second game I was winning at first but then I missed the win, and I landed in a pawn down ending. At that moment I felt that I should sacrifice one more pawn and go into the rook ending. Something within me told that this was the right way and it was blitz, so I had very little time. I sacrificed the pawn, and I was two pawns down. He tried to win that position, even sacrificed one pawn back. But I managed to defend accurately, saved a draw with just ten seconds left. People were shocked with this defensive effort.

—Baadur Jobava, interviewed by Sagar Shah, in answer to the question
What is the best way to improve one’s endgame play?

Go to for the interview.

This is the last Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club newsletter of 2015. Newsletter #732 will appear on January 8, 2016.

The staff of the MICC wish you Happy Holidays!

1) Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club News

Twelve-year-old Josiah Stearman became the second-youngest winner in the 42-year history of the Tuesday Night Marathon with his win over Michael Walder last night in the 105-player Fall Tuesday Night Marathon. Stearman, who will go over 2200 after the event, numbered National Masters Uyanga Byambaa and Keith Vickers plus Experts Bill Ortega and Walder among his victims. He took a half-point bye in round one, and his only loss was to top seed James Critelli (2376) in round 7.


Josiah Stearmen earlier this year (Photo: Claralyse Palmer)

Critelli and Natalya Tsodikova tied for second and third at 7–2, with Byambaa, Gil Alvarez and Robert Drane sharing fourth with 6½. The latter had a spectacular result beating National Master Vickers and Experts Walder and Hovik Manvelyan, as well as drawing International Master Elliott Winslow and Expert Ivan Ke.

The performance will put Drane back over 2000 for the first time in over thirty years and concludes a remarkable run in 2015 in which he has improved over 200 points. Veteran players take heart!

Congratulations also go to Tsodikova and Bryon Doyle, who both went over 2200. Natalya was rated a master back in the 1990s when she played in several US Womens Championship, but this is the first time for Bryon.

This marks the sixth consecutive TNM with over 100 entries:

Fall TNM (2015) – 105 players
Leighton Allen TNM – 102
Summer TNM – 106
Spring TNM – 106
Winter TNM – 121
Fall TNM (2014) – 103

A large turnout is predicted for the 2016 Winter Tuesday Night Marathon, which starts on January 5. Grandmaster Sam Shankland will be the guest lecturer that evening and will talk about the 2015 Qatar Masters.

From round 9 of the Fall Tuesday Night Marathon:
White to move (Stearman–Walder after 44...Ke6)White to move (Babayan–Vickers after 22...Qd5)
Black to move (Dupree–Andries after 14 Nce2)Black to move (Sherwood–Marcus after 19 Rxe3)
White to move (Starr–James after 41...f5)Black to move (Brown–Yamamoto after 23 b3)
Black to move (Robertson–Morgan after 24 Qb3)White to move (McKellar–Simpkins after 6...Be6)
Black to move (Enkh–Nassif after 54 Kh8)For the solutions, see the game scores for round 9.

Wednesday Night Blitz Coordinator Jules Jelinek writes:

There will be a blitz tournament every Wednesday in December (No holiday building hour conflicts). Sign-up is at 6:30 pm; round one starts at 6:40 pm. Late entries accepted.

Last week there were 6 players, and the results were

1st – Jules Jelinek
2nd – Felix Rudiyak
3rd – David Flores

Mechanics’ Chess Director John Donaldson has just finished a third edition of his book Legend on the Road, which covers Bobby Fischer’s 1964 transcontinental tour around the United States. The current edition, at just under 400 pages, is almost twice the length of the previous book and is available in Kindle format, with a version for iPad users produced by e+books ( appearing in 2016.

Sam Shankland and Daniel Naroditsky will be playing in the super-strong Qatar Masters from December 22–29. Among those competing are Carlsen, Kramnik, Giri, So, Karjakin, Li Chao, Tomashevsky, Mamedyarov, Harikrishna, Jakovenko, Wei Yi, Yu Yangyi, Radjabov, Vitiugov, Wojtaszek and Ivanchuk. This is the second year the event has been held and it has already established itself as the strongest open tournament in the world.

Former Mechanics’ Chess Club member Grandmaster James Tarjan will be playing in arguably the second strongest open tournament, the Tradewise Masters in Gibraltar, from January 25 to February 6, 2016 (the Millionaire Open and Isle of Man are two other strong opens that come immediately to mind). Hikaru Nakamura and Viswanathan Anand head the field of 230 contestants, with 7 others over 2700 FIDE and another 22 over 2600. Jim is ranked 69 at 2478.

International Master Jeremy Silman, a Mechanics’ member in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, recently completed a series of 24 lectures (each 30 minutes) for The Great Courses series. Go to for information on it.

2) Stephen Brandwein 1942-2015

Stephen Brandwein in 2014 (Photo: Richard Shorman)

Stephen Brandwein died on December 12, 2015, after a brief illness, in San Francisco, the city he made his home the last thirty years of his life.

Younger players will likely not have heard of Steve, as his days as a tournament player ended almost fifty years ago, but older ones will remember that he was rated around 2300 in the mid-1960s, which put him among the top fifty players in the country at the time. Steve soon thereafter gave up tournaments, but the following remembrance by Grandmaster Larry Kaufman (interviewed by Jim Eade), who credits Steve with being an early mentor, indicates he was even stronger that.

When I was a college student at M.I.T., Steve lived nearby and we became friends. I was very impressed with his intellect, knowledge, and memory; he was (and presumably still is) a very brilliant man. At the time I was a high Expert while Steve was already retired from regular tournament play with a 2300 rating, which was pretty good back in the mid-1960s. At blitz chess he was much better still, certainly way beyond my level. He taught me a lot about chess (and other things too), but the biggest impact was a twenty game match we played. Due to the rating disparity we agreed to a 2:1 time handicap; I think Steve took 30 minutes to my hour. I thought this would make for a fair match, but I was soon to realize how wrong this was. After 19 games I was still seeking my first win; the score was 10 wins for Steve and 9 draws. Finally by some miracle I won the final game. Just a few weeks later, I was the American Open Champion!! This shows both how much I learned from this match and how strong Steve must have been to score so well against me giving me time odds; my own rating soon hit 2300.

Steve was known for being an exceptionally good blitz player and split a six-game match with Miguel Najdorf at the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club in the early 1980s. A few years earlier Steve roomed with Jim Buff and Bobby Fischer at 521 3rd Avenue in the Richmond district of San Francisco, and played the latter several sessions of three-minute games, scoring 20 percent. Many years later Steve recalled that most games when he was White were Polugaevsky Najdorfs (6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 b5)—interesting because this was a line Bobby never played in tournaments.

National Master Robert Haines of Albuquerque captured Steve well in the following remembrance.

I knew Steve for a little over a decade. Every Thursday the Mechanics Institute would run another round of a double round robin at 40/2 20/1 forever. After 5 hours of play the games were adjourned and moves sealed. These were probably the last events of this type ever held and I count myself fortunate to have been able to play in so many of them.

Many of us would get there early to socialize and Steve was always there as he was every day. Peter Stevens, Tom Stevens, Peter Grey, Max Wilkerson, and a half dozen others. We would discuss history and politics while Steve would do the NY Times crossword at breakneck speed. It was as if he were just filling it out and only rarely did I ever see him pause. All the while Steve would add to the conversation with short pithy comments. I never met anyone smarter than Steve. He was very impressive.

He seemed to be a chess monk, living in a studio apartment and having only one bowl and a cup. His life seemed to be all about chess although it was very difficult to get him to express an opinion on any position. His humility before the game made a huge impression on me, and it is the one thing I have tried to emulate.

Steve Brandwein was a unique personality who will be impossible to replace. A memorial will be held for him at the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club on January 24 from 1 to 5 pm, and all are welcome. Those who are unable to attend are encouraged to send their remembrances to [email protected], to be shared during the event.

3) The Ultimate Gamesman – Walter Browne
(Part Four), by David A. Fryxell

Continued from Newsletter #730

Walter Browne playing Jay Whitehead (back to camera) at Paul Masson in the 1970s. James Tarjan (wearing a visor - the games were played outside) intently watches another game. (Photo: Alan Benson)

John Grefe (left) and Walter Browne in Walter's backyard in Berkeley, circa 1975. (Photo: Raquel Browne)

“His mother run away to Russia when he was just a boy,” Raquel Browne interjects, smiling a clinical psychologist’s smile. “You see?”

“I remember, I guess it was the last time I talked with Bobby,” her husband resumes, “Fischer started reciting from the Russian dictionary, making fun of their explanations of things. It was pretty funny, but he just kept going on. After 40 or 50, it got pretty tiresome, you know?”

Browne doesn’t need hate to make him want to beat Karpov. The winning that would be enough. But this will not be his year. As Browne tells it, the organizer for the U.S. tournament to qualify for a shot at the championship, Isaac Kashdan, had assured him the tournament wouldn’t take place last June or July. So Browne scheduled an exhibition tour for those months and at the last minute the tournament was scheduled for July, after all. Browne had to cancel out of part of his tour, returning to California, exhausted, to compete. “Kashdan promised to do all he could, within the rules, to make it up to me. We got the lights, tables, chairs all set so I was satisfied. Then, just before play was to start, Kashdan changed everything. Something about not blocking the aisles. What aisles? This is chess!” Exasperated and exhausted, Browne dropped out and now must wait for the championship cycle that culminates in 1984.

Some in chess say that Browne is simply spoiled, that he’s a “bad boy.”

Raquel Browne says, “My husband, he needs peace.”

Kashdan, ominously, is also the director of the tournament in Lone Pine. A spindly old man in a polka-dot shirt, from which depend (sic) long arms he doesn’t seem to know what to do with, he’s paying particular attention to Browne’s fourth-round game.

Today Browne’s opponent is another teenager, Michael Wilder. (“They’re giving me all the kids,” Browne acknowledges with a shrug.) Wilder wears a blue T-shirt, limp brown jeans, floppy tennis shoes. Browne is natty in a tan sweater, tan slacks, brown boots he bought in Iceland. Between moves, Wilder tours the other boards with Joel Benjamin; they chat and tug each other’s elbows like two school boys pulling a prank.

Browne has quickly fallen into time trouble again. He’s ahead by a pawn once more, but he’s used 90 minutes to Wilder’s 30. Browne’s wife arrives with a bottle of Perrier; she opens it and pours. Browne sips silently from the plastic cup, eyes like a hawk’s looking for rabbits.

But Kashdan interrupts the hunt. The game clock, he whispers, is six minutes slow. He replaces it with a new clock, splitting the lost time between the two players, giving each three minutes less to work with. Browne doesn’t bother to whisper his anger: “What are you talking about? What are you doing? Where’s the witnesses here?” The rooms turns towards him, shushing.

Kashdan’s plaintive explanation falls on unhearing ears. Browne makes his next move with a thud, knocking over a piece which Wilder gingerly restores. “Forget it, forget it.” Browne says bitterly. “You’re always right, so forget it.”

He struggles visibly to regain his concentration, and the game continues. Soon Browne is down to fifteen minutes, with twenty moves still to make. He gives up a rook for just a bishop, but gets compensation with his queen, crunching an opposition pawn. Wilder takes a long time for his reply, sucking on his little finger as he thinks; the teenager’s time advantage is shrinking, but Browne may now be so close to the edge that it won’t make a difference. What can three minutes matter? In three minutes without oxygen, life expires. The empty Perrier bottle goes to the floor beside Browne’s dervish leg.

Finally, Wilder finagles two dangerous rooks deep into Browne’s territory. A pawn goes and suddenly Browne is as short of options as he is of seconds. His clock flag is parallel to the table; an errant breath could make it fall. Browne, in almost physical pain, is no longer writing down his moves, just counting them with ragged slashes on his scoresheet.

Now Wilder’s flag has started to tip as well, but it’s too late; under the time pressure, Browne has run out of good moves. Brusquely, he resigns. He rapidly shows Wilder what he, Browne, ought to have done, how he could have won if not or the time, then stalks out of the hall.

Later, walking through the darkening mountain air to dinner at “the only good restaurant in town,” Browne tries to explain. “You understand, it wasn’t just the three minutes—though three minutes were worth more than his three minutes. It was the argument. It broke my concentration. I overreacted, and I knew I overreacted. For the next two hours, all I could thing about was the argument.” He rattles off how he knew he could take a pawn with his queen here, then saw an imagined threat there, and failed to snatch the free pawn. He taps his temple with a forefinger. “Incredible.”

(to be continued)

4) Here and There

A more recent article on Walter Browne (May 28, 2014) by Tim Peters focuses on his expertise as a game player. It makes for interesting reading and can be found at

One of the responses to the article by Dave Mancini makes clear what a one of a kind and powerful presence Walter was in the chess world.

When I saw the name Walter Browne, and noted the spelling, I said it must be the chess player. I remember playing chess tournaments at the McAlpin hotel in NYC, in 1973, when I was in high school. Walter never liked noise in the tournament room. He’d stand up and yell at the top of his lungs for players to be quiet! He was definitely one of the best players at any of the tournaments I was in. Definitely one of chess’s more colorful players of the era!

Walter Browne was a good friend of International Master Danny Kopec, going back many years. They authored a book (with Lubomir Ftacnik) called Champions of the New Millennium and taught together at Kopec’s summer camps. Now Danny is busy paying tribute to Walter by preparing a follow-up game collection to The Stress of Chess.

In addition to this project Danny has also been working on a series of DVDs covering various aspects of chess. His latest, The History of the World Chess Championship, may well be his best. Coming in at close to 4½ hours, it covers all the greats from Steinitz to Carlsen, plus their predecessors Morphy and Anderssen, as well as Viktor Kortchnoi, who Kopec feels is the strongest player never to wear the crown.

Kopec is an excellent speaker and mixes analyses of important historical games with anecdotes about the giants including some of a personal nature (he shared at hotdog with Bobby Fischer at Nathan’s shortly before the latter’s match with Taimanov). Kopec is a believer that all chess players, regardless of their playing level, need to know something about all the World Champions to truly possess chess culture. To learn more about this DVD go to

Las Vegas Master John Blackstone passes along the following win by Walter that is not in Mega Database 2015. It was played at the Mechanics’ Institute at the 1974 Carroll Capps Memorial.

Sicilian Scheveningen
Walter Browne–Ruben Rodriguez
San Francisco 1974

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2 e6 7.0-0 Be7 8.f4 Qc7 9.a4 b6 10.Bf3 Bb7 11.e5 dxe5 12.fxe5 Nfd7 13.Bxb7 Qxb7 14.Qg4 Bc5 15.Be3 0-0 16.Ne4 Nc6 17.Nxc5 bxc5 18.Bh6 g6 19.Nxc6 Qxc6 20.Qf4 f5 21.Bxf8 Rxf8 22.Rad1 c4 23.Rd6 Qxa4 24.Qd4 Rf7 25.b3 Qb5 26.bxc4 1-0

Christian Science Monitor Apr 8, 1975

Lauren Goodkind of Menlo Park has an interesting website,, that is definitely worth a visit. Lauren specializes in teaching children and parents who are new to the game.

8 Parnassus Road in the Berkeley hills is an address familiar to many chess players who subscribed to Blitz Chess, as it was publisher Walter Browne’s home. Although he lived there for over 40 years it was not his only residence in the East Bay. When he first visited Berkeley as a teenager in the late 1960s Walter stayed with Alan Benson. Later (1973) he and his future wife Raquel rented an apartment at 2309 Blake Street #401.

Future US co-champion John Grefe and Mary Lasher (translator of several of Averbakh’s Russian language endgame series and editor of Northwest Chess) lived in an apartment at 2202 McKinley Avenue in Berkeley in 1971.

5) This is the end

In this study, White needs to stop the black pawn. Can he do it?

White to move

Show solution

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