Chess Room Newsletter #812 | Mechanics' Institute

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Chess Room Newsletter #812

Gens Una Sumus!

Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club Newsletter #812
December 22, 2017

I guess we’ll just start preparing with it. It’s hard to know the ramifications of opening developments. I guess there will be some opening developments and maybe we’ll find out that some opening lines aren’t as good as we previously thought, but I don’t think there will be huge changes. It will probably advance our knowledge of chess a bit and it will probably take many years before we get to that next level.

—Fabiano Caruana, commenting on Alpha Zero’s crushing
victory over Stockfish after just learning to play
(“Here and There” has more on this extraordinary achievement)

1) Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club News

The Fall Tuesday Night Marathon / William Lombardy Memorial ended in a tie for first between 14-year-old FIDE Master Josiah Stearman and Expert Alexander Ivanov. Their scores of 7½ from 9 were good for $675 apiece. Tied for third, a half-point behind, were National Masters Conrado Diaz and Natalya Tsodikova.

The 143-player event, which proved to be a fitting tribute to the memory of the late William Lombardy, shattered the previous Mechanics’ Chess Club attendance of 135 set this past summer.

Several players won a large number of rating points. The big gainers, picking up 50 or more, were a mixture of juniors and veterans.

Jamayandgva Zulkhuu +199
Terrance Robertson + 131
Wassim Nasiff +83
Ehkhjin (Cindy) Gomboluudev +82
Brendan MacIntyre +59
Greg Sarafian +54
Maximus Shinejil +54

A crosstable for the event with a complete list of prize winners as well as all games from the event, can be found on the Mechanics’ Chess Club web site.

The Winter Tuesday Night Marathon starts January 9.

From round 9 of the Fall Tuesday Night Marathon:
White to move (Ivanov–Whitehead after 29...Rfb8)White to move (O'Connor–Diaz after 25...Rxc4)
Black to move (Cendejas–Schneider after 29 Rxf5)Black to move (Simpkins–Porlares after 26 Qe2)
White to move (Nyangar–Hoffman after 6...Nxd5)Black to move (Ash–Touset after 31 Kh3)
Black to move (Rudyak–Boldi after 6 Nxd5)White to move (Robertson–Brown after 9...Nxf6)
Black to move (Baer–Boldt after 5 Ng4)White to move (McEnroe–Olson after 6...Bc5)
White to move (Ashton–Apel after 6...f5)White to move (Baterdene–Lubich after 26...e5)
For the solutions, see the game scores for round 9.

Fourteen players showed up for the December 13 edition of the Wednesday Night Blitz. Carlos D’Avila won with the excellent score of 11 from 12. Fellow Expert Jules Jelinek was second at 10, followed by Na Chea and Vijay Sridharan with 7 points.

The Wednesday Night Blitz will not be held next week (December 27) but will resume January 3.

The Chess Room will be closed December 24–26, 2017 and January 1, 2018. International Master Elliott Winslow’s free Saturday classes for beginner and intermediate players will be held on December 23 and 30 from 11 am to 1 pm.

The Mechanics’ 2018 weekend tournament calendar will start on January 6 with the 18th Bob Burger Open held to honor the National Master, who is a world class problemist (composer and solver) and a noted author (The Chess of Bobby Fischer). The 86-year-old Burger, who now makes his home in Arcata, California, has been a good friend of the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club for 60 years.

Bob Burger at the Mechanics’ Chess Club around 2001 (Photo: Val Zemitis)

The MICC weekend schedule for 2018 is as follows:

Bob Burger OpenJanuary 6info
Henry Gross MemorialFebruary 3info
Fink Amateur MemorialMarch 3–4info
Max Wilkerson MemorialMarch 17info
Imre Konig MemorialApril 7info
Charles Powell MemorialMay 5info
Ray Schutt MemorialMay 6info
Arthur Stamer MemorialJune 2–3info
William Addison MemorialJune 16info
Charles Bagby MemorialJuly 21info
Vladimir Pafnutieff MemorialAugust 4info
Bernardo Smith MemorialAugust 18–19info
Howard Donnelly MemorialSeptember 8info
J.J. Dolan MemorialOctober 6info
Carroll Capps MemorialNovember 3–4     info
Pierre Saint–Amant Memorial     November 17info
Guthrie McClain MemorialDecember 1info

Walnut Creek Grandmaster Sam Shankland is tied for sixth in the Sunway International in Sitges, Spain, after six rounds. His score of 4½ from 6 with three rounds to go is good for a performance rating of 2667. Follow Sam at

2) 1999 Bronstein Jubilee Action Tournament

The Mechanics’ Chess Club held a five-player double-round rapid chess tournament in April 1999 to honor the 75th birthday of David Bronstein. Slovak Grandmaster Lubomir Ftacnik won the event (FIDE rating average 2575) with 5/8, followed by Grandmasters Ilya Gurevich 4½, Yasser Seirawan and Roman Dzindzichashvili 4 and Walter Browne 2½.

An exhibition game, separate from the tournament, was held as part of the jubilee to honor Bronstein with Seirawan facing off, but with a twist. Chris Mavraedis explains:

In April of 1999 at the venerable Mechanic’s Institute Chess Club in San Francisco GM Yasser Seirawan played a unique exhibition game against GM Lubomir Ftacnik. The grandmasters were stationed in separate rooms with a demo board and an audience. They then played an exhibition game with the moves shuttled back and forth by a runner. As the game progressed the grandmasters explained to their respective audiences the reasoning behind their moves and strategy. It was highly educational for the chess players who attended. In this video we see and hear GM Seirawan. It would have been great to have had a video camera in the room with GM Ftacnik for a comparison of his comments. But I only had one camera

The game, with Seirawan’s instructive commentary, can be seen here.

Here are two photos from the event.

Yasser Seirawan and Lubomir Ftacnik before the start of the game. (Photo: Chris Mavraedis)

Yasser Seirawan and Lubomir Ftacnik analyzing the end of their game. (Photo: Chris Mavraedis)

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

The following game has an interesting history of its development in two ways from my encounters with John.

Firstly, John kept scrapbooks of Fischer, Tal and Spassky games, and among these was the game: Spassky–Olafsson, Moscow, 1959. I recollect playing a skittles game or two copying this game when I played Black against John. There was an improvement on Black’s 20th turn that we learned about much later. It can be found in the several good books of Spassky’s games, or from an article Alan Benson wrote in The California Chess Reporter, Vol. XV, No. 6, May-June, 1966. I was still curious and selected this move against John in the Mechanics Institute Invitational of 1967, below. We did not have to travel to San Francisco for this game, playing it at John’s parents’ home in Saratoga, in sight of his library and scrapbooks.

Secondly, John and I had a tournament “war” in which I beat his Ruy Lopez with the black pieces four times, 1959–1962. I answered with a different defense each time. Such was John’s need to improve his score with this opening that all his games with the white pieces in our training match of 1961–1962 began with the Ruy Lopez. His determination to learn from me demonstrates his great will power. I won the match with 5 wins, 2 draws and 3 defeats, but John won the Ruy Lopez battle with 2 wins, 2 draws and only 1 defeat. None of these Ruy Lopez games were won directly from the opening, but from mistakes in the middle game. I never got to play the white side of the Ruy Lopez against John either before or after the training match, except in skittles or five-minute games.

Our present game was played several years after our match clashes, and it shows how much John had matured as a master chess player. I add that we both had earned the USCF Master title at about the same time in 1964.

Ruy Lopez C96
John Blackstone – Erik Osbun
Mechanics Institute Invitational, San Francisco (Saratoga) May 7, 1967

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Na5 10.Bc2 c5 11.d4 Bb7

This is an idea of Borisenko.

12.d5 Bc8 13.Nbd2 c4

I follow the Spassky–Olafsson game with the idea of playing the suggested improvement on the 20th turn. However, probably better is 13….g6 14.b4 Nb7 15.a4 Bd7 16.Nf1 Qc7 17.Bh6 Rfc8 18.axb5 cxb4 19.bxa6 Nc5 20.cxb4 Nxa6 =, Geller–Romanishin, Moscow, 1985.

14.Nf1 Nb7 15.g4 h5

The point of the variation is active defense against the siege engine of 16.Ng3.

16.gxh5 Bxh3 17.N3h2 Nh7 18.Qf3 Bd7 19.Kh1 Bg5 20.Ne3 Qf6

This is the suggested improvement over 20….Bf4?! 21.Nf5! Bxc1 22.Raxc1 Bxf5 23.exf5! Qf6? 24.Rg1 Nc5 25.Rg2 Qh6 26.Rcg1 Nf6 27.Ng4! Nxg4 28.Rxg4! Kh8 29.Rxg7 (Spassky–Olafsson, Moscow, 1959). It saves a tempo and enables the trade of queens.

21.Rg1 Kh8 22.Nf5 Bxf5 23.exf5 Bxc1 24.Raxc1 Qh6 25.Ng4 Qf4

The queen trade is really forced, because the h-pawn capture is taboo. In so doing Black has to deal with his deteriorating pawn structure.

26.Qxf4 exf4 27.Kg2 Rae8 28.f6!

Sets up the h-pawn as a threat and spoils Black’s pawn structure.

28….Nxf6 29.Nxf6 gxf6 30.Kf3 Re5

Black has counter-play on the dark-colored squares for compensation, but the White d-pawn is not yet threatened.

31.h6 Nc5 32.Rcd1 Rg8 33.Rxg8+ Kxg8 34.Rd4 Nd3

This is necessary in order to stifle the h-pawn.

35.Bxd3 cxd3 36.Rxd3 Kh7 37.Rd2 Kxh6 38.Kxf4 Kg6 39.b3 f5 40.f3 Re1 41.Rc2

This is required in order to get the pawn majority moving.

41….Rd1 42.c4 bxc4 43.bxc4 Kf6 44.Ke3

The check at d4 is denied, because 44.c5 dxc5 45.Rxc5 Rd4+ 46.Ke3 Ra4 gives Black too much counter-play.


The better defense is 44….Ke5 45.f4+ Kf6 46.c5 dxc5 47.Rxc5 Ke7 48.Ra5 Kd6. White has the advantage, but Black still has counter-play.


White goes for the seventh rank.

45….Ra1 46.Rb7+ Kf6 47.Rd7 Rxa2 48.Kf4

This fine square for the king could have been denied by 44….Ke5.

48….Rc2 49.Rxd6+ Ke7 50.Rc6 Rc3 51.Kxf5 Rxf3+ 52.Ke5 f6+

Perhaps this move can be dispensed with, but more likely it does not really matter. White’s connected passed pawns win.

53.Ke4 Rc3 54.Kd4 Ra3 55.Rc7+ Kd8 56.Rf7 Rf3 57.Kc5 a5 58.Ra7 Ra3 59.Kc6 f5 60.d6 Ke8 61.Ra8+ Kf7 62.d7 Rd3 63.d8(Q) Rxd8 64. Rxd8 1-0

4) Here and There

It might seem hard to believe with the prices the Palace Hotel commands today, but there was a time when the Mechanics’ Institute’s nearby neighbor regularly hosted chess tournaments. These ranged from the 1961 U.S. Open (won by Pal Benko) to the 1973 U.S. Junior Closed (won by Larry Christiansen with Mark Diesen second).

A few years after the latter event the 1976 Golden Gate Open attracted 468 players, who competed for $11,500 in prize money (the equivalent of about $50,000 today). Grandmaster James Tarjan took home the first prize of $1600 for his 5–1 score. M.I. Grandmaster-in-Residence Nick de Firmian was second at 4½, and two players competing in the current Tuesday Night Marathon, International Master Elliott Winslow and FIDE Master Frank Thornally, were among those who tied at for third at 4–2 in the event, directed by Mike Goodall.

Possibly the last tournament at the Palace was the 1983 San Francisco Class Championship, held April 9–10, 1983. Mike Goodall was once again the tournament director and U.S. Chess Hall of Famer George Koltanowski was an honored guest of the event.

Newsletter #809 wrote of the noted chess historian, teacher and bookseller Fred Wilson’s move to new quarters at 41 Union Square West, Suite 718 (at 17th Street) on December 20. His old store at 799 Broadway (or 80 East 11th Street—both are correct) had a rich chess connection, as he explains.

It was built in 1854 and was the St. Dennis Hotel until 1930, when soon after the “crash” it was converted into an office building. After the owner died early this year it was purchased by the Normandy Group for one hundred million dollars. According to their website the current intention is to gut the building entirely and rebuild a new ten story modern office building in its place. I was told by an agent for Normandy that 799 Broadway was not considered for landmark status because its facade is “not distinguished”.

Still, the St. Dennis had many famous people stay here, including—of great interest to chessplayers—Paul Morphy, who stayed at the St. Dennis during the First American Chess Congress in 1857. Also, Abraham Lincoln stayed here when he participated in the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates held at Cooper Union (nearby) in 1861. Additionally, Marcel Duchamp had a studio here on the fourth floor during the 1960’s.

Also, Dr. Albrecht Buschke ran America’s first chessbook shop at 799 Broadway from 1940 to 1983. Finally, I started my chess bookshop here in November, 1979, and will have been here for almost exactly 38 years before I am forced to move six blocks uptown.

We could add the U.S. Chess Federation had its headquarters in this building from 1956 to 1967. It was here Frank Brady edited Chess Life when it made the transformation from newspaper to magazine format in 1961. Bobby Fischer used to visit 80 East 11th street to dictate his Chess Life contributions to Editor Joe Reinhardt in 1963–65. The USCF was at 81 Bedford Street prior to 80 East 11th, and moved out of the city to Newburgh, New York, in 1967.

Here are three articles to offer some perspective on the DeepMind program AlphaZero’s crushing defeat of Stockfish, after just learning how to play.

From ChessBase, comprehensive article, includes brief videos from lead scientist on the project. From The Verge. From, includes video of GM comments.

5) This is the end

This position is from a Grandmaster game, but it was blitz, so be quick.

Black to move, or, White to move

Show solution

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