Chess Room Newsletter #810 | Mechanics' Institute

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Chess Room Newsletter #810

Gens Una Sumus!

Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club Newsletter #810
December 8, 2017

I get over losses more easily than wins. When you win you reluctantly start to think (especially if it’s a memorable win) about how to continue the “series”, while when you lose you’ve been shown your place and you need to focus all your efforts in order to get out of there. Therefore I treat losses as part of my path in chess, as an essential test.

—Levon Aronian, interviewed at Chess24 (complete interview)

1) Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club News

Paul Whitehead’s play in the Fall Tuesday Night Marathon / William Lombardy Memorial is testament to Neil Young’s adage that “Rust never sleeps.” The 57-year-old FIDE Master has played very little tournament chess the past two decades, and when he did, the rust showed, but in the past year Whitehead has been playing regularly online and he says it has helped—a lot.

Whitehead, who tied for first in the 1978 U.S. Junior Closed with future U.S. Chess Hall-of-Famers Yasser Seirawan and John Fedorowicz, is tied for first with National Master Conrado Diaz after seven rounds of the current TNM at 6–1. The two, who will meet in round eight, have reached their score by different paths, with Whitehead having won the five games he has played (two half-point byes), including victories over USCF 2300s Josiah Stearman and Derek O’Connor. Diaz lost to Stearman, but defeated International Master Elliott Winslow in a wild sixth-round game in which the advantage changed hands several times.

Two rounds remain for the 131 contestants, the third-largest Mechanic’s tournament ever held (the record is 136 players).

From round 7 of the Fall Tuesday Night Marathon:
Black to move (Campers–Melville after 20 Rb1)White to move (Wonsever–Malykin after 10...f6)
Black to move (Touset–Ricard after 11 Nbd2)White to move (Pane–Brown after 21...b5)
Black to move (Boldi–Ash after 48 Kb2)Black to move (Drane–Donaldson after 21 Rf2)
White to move (Simpkins–Standen after 25...Ne8)For the solutions, see the game scores for round 7.

12-year-old National Master Rochelle Wu of Davis dominated the 18th Guthrie McClain G/30 held December 2, scoring 5½ from 6, including wins over National Masters Conrado Diaz and Paul Gallegos. Wu, now rated 2234, drew only with her brother Sijing in the last round. He finished second at 5–1 and is getting close to 2200. National Masters Romy Fuentes and Gallegos were joined by up-and-coming Class A player Ethan Boldi in a tie for third at 4½ in the 37-player event. Yuelin Shi, Hubert Liu, Daniel Lin, Ben Michelson and Nicholas Boldi won book prizes for turning in the biggest rating upsets.

The November 29 edition of the Wednesday Night Blitz was won by Jules Jelinek with a score of 8½ from 10, followed by Jeremy Shar at 8 and Luke Pane on 7. Carlos D’Avila, Joe Urquhart and Mariusz Krubnik tied for fourth in the 14-player event.

2) Tigran Petrosian Simul at the Mechanics’ Institute

Former World Champion Tigran Petrosian visited San Francisco in 1978 with his wife, Rona, as honored guests of famous chess writer Irving Chernev, and past editor of the California Chess Reporter Guthrie McClain, following the prestigious Louis D. Staham tournament in Lone Pine.

During his brief stay Petrosian faced 22 opponents in a simultaneous exhibition at the Mechanics' Institute Chess Club on April 16, winning 16 games, losing two (to Neil Falconer and Leon Miller) and drawing four with Gary Berry, Michael Gonsalves, Roger Hoffman and Edward Syrett.

Chess Voice 1978 (page 56)

Here are two photos from the exhibition taken by Richard Shorman. Thanks to National Master Kerry Lawless for making them available.

Tigran Petrosian is discussing his game with Neil Falconer. Myron Johnson (near Petrosian’s head) and National Master Vladimir Pafnutieff (wearing a trench coat with white hair) are among the spectators.

Tigran Petrosian is preparing to make a move while a crowd of spectators takes in the action. Among the crowd, far in the back, is National Master Vladimir Pafnutieff and nearby Paul Vayssie (black moustache)

3) John Blackstone, remembered by Erik Osbun (part six)

I watched this game in progress. John was tall and characteristically leans over the board, which Benko remedied by gently pushing back John’s forehead with the back of his hand. John got up and said to me that if he did that again he would be slugged. Nothing came of it. Benko got a winning position, but threw it away in complications during his often characteristic time pressure. I find in my short annotations that a good defensive move is often overlooked in time pressure in favor of unfortunate simplifying exchanges.

Sicilian B20
John Blackstone–Pal Benko
American Open (Santa Monica) 1966

1.e4 c5 2.Ne2

Paul Keres’ move.

2….g6 3.d4 Bg7 4.Nbc3

4.dxc5 Qa5+ 5.Nbc3 Qxc5 6.Be3 is a good line.


4….cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nc6 6.Be3 Nf6 would reach a common position, but Benko wishes to provoke with 4….Nf6 5.e5 Ng4 (or 5….Ng8 6.f4 cxd4 7.Nxd4 Nc6) 6.f4 cxd4 7.Nxd4 h5, great strategic complications.


5.dxc5 Qa5 6.Bd2 Qxc5 7.Be3 Qa5 8.f3 is still a good line.

5….d6 6.a4

A good alternative is 6.f3.

6….0-0 7.g3 Na6 8.Bg2 Nc7 9.0-0 b6 10.f4

The cautious approach to this position is 10.h3 followed by 11.Be3.

10….Bb7 11.h3

11…a6 12.Qd3?!

This move does not prevent 12….b5. In fact it helps Black to accomplish it.

Better is 12.Be3 b5 13.axb5 axb5 14,Rxa8 Qxa8 15.Qd2 b4 16.Nd1. Also worth consideration is 12.g4 b5 13.axb5 axb5 14.Rxa8 Qxa8 15.Ng3 b4 16.Nce2, but it looks risky.

12….b5 13.a5

White sees that 13.axb5 axb5 14.Rxa8 Qxa8 15.Nxb5? Nxb5 16.Qxb5 Ba6 loses, so he places his bet on restriction..

13….b4 14.Nd1 Re8 15.Rf2?

Stronger is 15.g4, and if then 15….e6 16.dxe6 Rxe6 17.Ng3.

15….e6 16.dxe6 Rxe6 17.f5 Bxe4

Black snatches the e-pawn.

18.Bxe4 Rxe4 19.Bg5

White’s best chance.

19….Qe8 20.Ne3

If 20.Qxd6? Ncd5 is a Benko holiday, so John toughs it out. .


Getting rid of the annoying bishop.

21.Bxf6 Rxe3 22.Qxd6 Nb5 23.Qd5 Bxf6

Black wins a piece.


White’s only chance for counter-play.

24….Rd8 25.Qf5 Rxe2?

25….Rd6 is correct, protecting the extra piece. Benko is in time pressure already, and good defensive moves are harder to find than exchanges in time pressure.

26.gxf7+ Qxf7 27.Qg4+ Qg7 28.Qxg7+ Kxg7 29.Rxe2

So White lives to fight on, but it will not be easy.

29….Bxb2 30.Rf1 Nd4 31.Re7+ Kg6 32.Rf2 Rd6 33.Kg2 Nc6

34.Re4 Rf6?

Much stronger is 34….Ne5 35.R2e2 Rd5, and if now 36.c4? bxc3 37.Rxe5 Rxe5 38.Rxe5 c2, Black wins.

Once more, exchanges are easier to find than good defensive moves in time pressure.

35.Rxf6+ Kxf6 36.Rh4

White keeps his game alive, but just barely.

36….Bc1 37.Rh5 Be3?

Correct is 37….Ne5 38.g4 (or 38.Kf2 c4) c4 39.Rf5+ Ke6 40.Rf1 (or40.Rf8 b3) Bb2, and Black should win.

38.Kf3 Bg5

Black is forced to trap the rook, otherwise his c-pawn falls.

39.h4 Ne5+?

Too late, needed is 39….Kg6 40.g4 Ne5+ 41.Kg3 Bf6 42.Kf4 Nd7 (or 42….Nf7 43.Rxc5 Bxh4 44.Rc6+) 43.Rd5, but White wins the c-pawn.

40.Ke4 Kg6

Now the only move.


This sets up the winning king-and-pawn ending, and Benko pays the time pressure price.

41….hxg5 42.Kxe5 gxh4 43.gxh4 c4 44.Kd4 b3 45.cxb3 cxb3 46.Kc3 Kh5 47.Kxb3 Kxh4 48.Kc4 Kg5 49.Kc5 Kf6 50.Kb6 Ke7 51.Kxa6 Kd8 52.Kb7 1-0

4) Here and There

The (Camden, New Jersey) Courier-Post, May 8th, 1958, p.10, has: “Bobby Fischer will give a simultaneous exhibition at the Atlantic City Chess Club at the Jewish Community Center on Saturday, May 31. He will play up to 25 boards.”

We have been unable to find confirmation this event took place and note Fischer does not mention it in the biographical section of Bobby Fischer's Games of Chess, which was published in 1959.

The American Continental, which serves as a qualifier for the World Cup, will be held in Montevideo, Uruguay, June 1-10, 2018.

Bay Area players did well in the Saint Louis Invitational held November 17–22 at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, with Grandmaster Christian Chirila and International Master Steven Zierk tying for second

Final standings:
1. IM Burke (USA, 2490) – 6/9, 2–5. GM Chirila (ROU, 2557), IM Zierk (USA, 2493), GM Ashwin (IND, 2474) and IM David Gurevich (USA, 2471) – 5½, etc. Zierk’s score was good for a performance rating of 2562 and half a point from a GM norm.

An article with good advice on how to select a coach for a child can be found here.

5) This is the end

This tricky knight-and-pawn position occurred in a Grandmaster-level game.

Black to move

Show solution

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