Chess Room Newsletter #797 | Mechanics' Institute

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Chess Room Newsletter #797

Gens Una Sumus!

Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club Newsletter #797
August 25, 2017

He belonged to the World Wide Church of God starting in his late teens. He used to come here (Collins’ home) and listen to Herbert W. Armstrong. He became a Biblical reader, but I don’t know if you would call him a student. He carried the Bible around, even to a cocktail party. He would hand the Bible to me and say, “Open it up, and read something, and I’ll tell you where it is from.” He had almost total recall.

—John Collins, speaking about Bobby Fischer,
as quoted in Steven A. Fondiller’s The Ideal Tutor

1) Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club News

Three rounds into the 111-player Peter Grey Tuesday Night Marathon there are eight players with perfect scores, including FIDE Master Josiah Stearman and National Masters Derek O’Connor, Conrado Diaz and Russell Wong. This TNM has already seen many upsets, with Brendan MacIntyre, rated 1519, leading the way with wins over players rated 1924 and 2026.

From round 3 of the Peter Grey Tuesday Night Marathon:
White to move (O'Connor–Khristoforov after 13...e4)White to move (Chen–Diaz after 13...Nd5)
White to move (Sherwood–Winslow after 23...Bf5)White to move (Cohee–Traub after 39...Re2)
White to move (McKellar–Greene after 29...Qg7)Black to move (Enkh–Mays after 15 h3)
White to move (Zaman–Otterbach after 12...Nxc4)Black to move (Badgett–Cunningham after 16 O-O-O)
Black to move (Than–Cowgill after 13 Nh4)For the solutions, see the game scores for round 3.

MI tournament regular Ashik Uzzaman has been doing well of late. He tied for first in the under-2050 section of the Central California Open in Fresno held August 11–13 and the following week took first in the 12th Bernardo Smith Amateur (for players under 2200) at the Mechanics’ Institute with a 5½ from 6 score, a half-point ahead of Gary Warmerdam. Ashik’s son Ahyan Zaman has also been doing very well, with his USCF rating rising over 400 points in 2017.

Congratulations to FIDE Master and long-time Mechanics’ Trustee Mark Pinto, who tied for second in the 2017 U.S. Senior Open held in Northfield, Minnesota, this past July, scoring 5 out of 6. Former Mechanics’ Grandmaster-in-Residence Alex Yermolinsky won the 105-player event.

Chris Mavraedis (L) and Mark Pinto at the Mechanics’ Institute on Chris’ book Falling In Love with Baseball ( held August 15. (Photo: Elizabeth Mavraedis)

Ladia Jirasek won the 2017 Exchange Bank Open held in Santa Rosa the weekend of August 19–20, scoring 4–0. Fellow National Master Paul Gallegos was second, a point back. Paul Stagnoli directed the 28-player event.

Enrico Sevillano won the Emory Tate Memorial held in Milpitas the weekend of August 19–20. The veteran Grandmaster, who was only nicked for a draw by FIDE Master Rayan Tagizadeh, scored 4½ from 5, a half-point ahead of FIDE Master Josiah Stearman. The Bay Area chess event attracted 91 players.

Thanks to German Master Michael Negele for donating a copy of the book he wrote on Paul Schmidt with the assistance of Schmidt’s daughter Eva Regina Magacs. This handsomely-produced 320-page hardback with dust jacket is devoted to the contemporary of Paul Keres who was one of the top 20 players in the world in the late 1930s and later became a noted scientist. Paul Felix Schmidt / A Winning Formula can be checked out of the Mechanics’ Institute library.

2) John Collins (1912–2001)

Few individuals have contributed more to American chess than John William “Jack” Collins. A man who wore many hats, including player, teacher, writer, administrator and organizer, Collins offers many details of his life in the first pages of My Seven Chess Prodigies (1975). A biography he provided for the journal Paraplegia in 1952 gives more information, as does a series of recaps of his life he did with Howard Kipp Parker in the 1990s. We summarize them here.

Collins’ mother suffered a breech birth and he was born of small stature with spastic paralysis. Until he was 10 he could walk, but after that he relied on a small specially-built tricycle for his mobility

Jack (his father was also John, so from an early age Collins went by Jack) was born in Newburgh, New York, but grew up in Huntsville, the largest town in the Muskoka Region of Ontario, Canada. Collins was largely self-educated, but did attend elementary school in Huntsville, pulled in a sled by the family dog, a huge collie named Tim. He was raised in a loving and supportive environment, and would grow up to be a role model for the disabled, at a time when few resources were available for the physically challenged.

John Collins and his childhood dog Tim in Huntsville, Ontario, circa 1920. (Photo: John Collins Collection, Lilly Library at Indiana University).

The Collins family moved to New York city in the early 1920s, and it was there he learned to play at 16, helped by his first two chess books, Mitchell’s Guide to the Game of Chess and Edward Lasker’s Chess Strategy. Despite his physical handicaps, which undoubtedly affected his stamina, by the early 1940s Collins had defeated Ed. Lasker, Ulvestad, Morton and Helms, while drawing Marshall, Horowitz, Reinfeld, Santasiere, Hanauer, Seidman, Shainswit and Polland. When the U.S. Chess Federation instituted ratings in the early 1950s Collins was rated among the top 25 players in the country, and held his own in training games with Bobby Fischer, William Lombardy and Raymond Weinstein, played from 1956 to 1958.

Collins was active in chess organization from an early age. Besides the Hawthorne Chess Club, for which he is so famously known, he, with L. Walter Stephens, helped to organize the “latter day” Brooklyn Chess Club in the 1930s. This is the same club where Bobby Fischer started playing in the early 1950s.

His sister Ethel, his only immediate family member besides his parents, assisted Collins in day to day living. She was also the office nurse of a prominent Brooklyn ophthalmologist who played chess. Without his sister’s support life would have been much harder for Jack and it is hard to imagine him achieving the many things he did without her. The two lived together in Brooklyn until 1959 when they moved to Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan.

Besides the “seven prodigies” (Fischer, Lombardy, the Byrne brothers, R. Weinstein, Matera and Cohen), Collins had many other students. These included not only famous artists like Marcel Duchamp and John Cage, but many players who would later become well-known in the chess world. In 1991 Collins listed Max Dlugy, Sal Matera, John Litvinchuk, Nawrose Nur, Greta Fuchs, Lisa Lane and Shernaz Kennedy as some of those he had tutored.

Raymond Weinstein (L)and John Collins studying in Collins’ apartment circa 1957. Weinstein was a member of the US Student Team that won gold in 1960 and the US Olympiad team that took bronze the same year. He was third in the 1960–61 U.S. Championship. (Photo: John Collins Collection, Lilly Library at Indiana University).

3) Memory in Chess

Chess is full of players who had or have exceptional memories. Three Americans known to have the gift were Paul Morphy, Bobby Fischer and Bernard Zuckerman. Morphy is said to have memorized the complete Louisiana book of codes and laws, while Fischer could remember all of his game from around 1958 to 1972. Bernard Zuckerman, aka “Zook the Book”, had a phenomenal memory of all things chess—not just opening theory.

Add a fourth to this list … Ken Rogoff. The U.S. Grandmaster, better known for serving as the chief economist for the International Monetary Fund, memorized every single game in roughly the first 16 Chess Informants, according to Grandmaster Jonathan Tisdall, who, like Rogoff, grew up in upper-state New York (Rochester for Rogoff and Syracuse for Tisdall). Rogoff would ask Tisdall to give him the name of the two players who played a game and would then provide the tournament, moves and result—without fail. Tisdall, who has made his home in Norway for over three decades, helped Rogoff prepare for a U.S. Championship in the mid-1970s. He shared this information with your editor over breakfast one morning at the 2017 World Team Chess Championship in Khanty Mansiysk, Russia, where Tisdall was serving as the Norwegian team captain.

4) Remembering Mike Goodall (1946-2010)

International Arbiter Mike Goodall is remembered for directing the 1975, 1984 and 1986 U.S. Championships and innumerable tournaments around the Bay Area (mostly at U.C. Berkeley and the Mechanics’ Institute), but also for being a good guy that his friends could always count on.

Here he is captured with his feet up while Ricard Lobo (hands on his head) and a young Nick de Firmian battle it out. (Photo: Alan Benson)

5) This is the end

A study in symmetry.

White to move

Show solution

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