Chess Room Newsletter #823 | Mechanics' Institute

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Chess Room Newsletter #823

Gens Una Sumus!

Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club Newsletter #823
April 6, 2017

I want to tell a story of a night in Skopje (1972). At that time our delegation started unsuccessfully… After five hours of play (against the Bulgarians), we had drawn one and adjourned three games in messy positions where either side could win. I got to the hotel feeling despondent, as the game in which I had at first had a strong edge had been adjourned… in a boring .

The analysis of my game was entrusted to Keres. I have to say after thirty years of chess I have become immune to being amazed at things, but his analysis truly astonished me. After a while it became clear that it was possible to play for a win without rooks on the board. The position that had at first appeared dull became more interesting by the minute. The analysis was accompanied with smiling and a cup of coffee after every hour and a half. We finished at about 6 am, with the resumption scheduled for 10 am…

Incidentally, the analysis proved to be highly productive, for when on the following day the game was again adjourned, on the 72nd move, Keres and I were perfectly familiar with the position: we had reached it in our analysis the previous night. There was no need for a second resumption: Radulov resigned without further play.

—Mikhail Tal, speaking about Paul Keres (interview).
The game Tal–Radulov, Skope (ol) 1972, is an instructive
example of how to win bishop-of-opposite-color endings

1) Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club News

International Master Elliott Winslow, National Masters Conrado Diaz, Tenzing Shaw, Derek O’Conner and Ezra Chambers, and Expert Alexander Ivanov are the remaining perfect scores after three rounds of the Spring Tuesday Night Marathon. It’s still possible to join the 129-player field with three half-point byes.

From round 3 of the Spring Tuesday Night Marathon:
Black to move (Winslow–Singh after 35 Bxd2)White to move (Jensen–Stearman after 32...Kd7)
White to move (Lewis–Quang after 28...Nf6)Black to move (Malykin–Argo after 21 Rhe1)
White to move (Vemuri–Wonsever after 16...Bxe2)White to move (Ochoa–Donaldson after 19...Ke7)
White to move (Babayan–Bennett after 16...Nxd5)Black to move (Simpkins–Cowgill after 33 Kd2)
For the solutions, see the game scores for round 3.

The March 28 edition of the Wednesday Night Blitz was the strongest yet in the long-running series. Grandmaster Carlos Matamoros of Ecuador, who makes his home in Davis with his wife, Women’s International Master Paloma Guiterrez, an assistant professor of mathematics at UC Davis, scored 11½ from 12 to finish way ahead of the other 12 contestants. His only draw was with Ecuadorean International Master Augusto Moran, who was second with a score of 8½. National Master Anna Matlin was third with 8 points.

A lot of chess will be played this weekend in the Bay Area. While the CalChess Scholastic State Championships will be held in the Santa Clara Convention Center, the Mechanics’ will be hosting the 18th Imre Konig Memorial G/40—a chance to play five USCF-rated games at a reasonable price.

Those who prefer watching to playing will want to check out the finals of the Pro Chess League at the Folsom Street Foundry this Saturday and Sunday. The four finalists are Chengdu (China), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Yerevan (Armenia) and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis. More information.

2) April 2018 FIDE ratings

The April FIDE rating list is out and the United States continues to be the only country with three players rated in the top 10, but Russia continues to have a much deeper bench with 25 players rated in the top 100 to 8 for the United States (Onischuk, Shankland, Kamsky, Xiong and Robson besides the big three). Four other countries have at least three players rated over 2700: China (6), Azerbaijan (4), India (3) and Ukraine (3).

1. Carlsen 2843
2. Mamedyarov 2814
3. Caruana 2804
4. Kramnik 2792
5. Vachier-Lagrave 2789
6. Nakamura 2787
7. So 2786
8. Karjakin 2778
9. Ding Liren 2778
10. Giri 2777
11. Anand 2776
12. Aronian 2767
13. Grischuk 2766
14. Svidler 2760
15. Yu Yangyi 2760
16. Nepomniachtchi 2751
17. Topalov 2749
18. Radjabov 2748
19. Navara 2744
20. Wojtaszek 2743

3) Roland Feng wins 2018 Washington State Championship

17-year-old Senior Master Roland Feng won the 2018 Washington State Championship this past February with a score of 7 ½ from 9. Tying for second in the 10-player round robin were National Masters Tian Sang and Anthony He at 7 with International Master Michael Lee finishing fourth at 6–3.

60-year-old National Bill Schill, entered the event as the third-lowest-rated player but finished fifth at 5–4, losing only a single game. The Washington State Champion has been determined in a round robin tournament since the early 1930s and Schill played in his first event in 1976, a remarkable streak of over 40 years, but one overshadowed by one of the other participants in 2018.

National Master Viktors Pupols played in his first Washington State Championship in 1954(!) and is still going strong over 60 years later—a record that will be hard to beat. The 82-year-old Pupols scored 2–7 to finish ninth.

Viktors Pupols (L) on his way to defeating Pal Benko in the 1969 U.S. Open (Photo: unknown)

4) De Firmian-Blackstone, Los Angeles 1975 by National Master Eric Osbun

This win in the last round enabled John to tie for first with Walter Browne at 5–0. [This game was played while I was getting ready to depart to Nicaragua for a job as well site geologist at the drilling of geothermal wells on the flank of Momotombo Volcano.]

Benoni A73
Nick de Firmian–John Blackstone
California Chess Classic, Los Angeles, August 2–5, 1975

1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.c4 c5 4.d5 d6 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.Be2 0-0 7.Bg5 e6 8.Nf3 h6 9.Bh4 exd5 10.cxd5 g5 11.Bg3 Nh5 12.Nd2 Nxg3 13.hxg3

Most of you will recognize these opening moves as Larsen–Fischer, Santa Monica, 1966. Fischer now played 13….Nd7, which you may find in ECOA, 4th edition, A72.


John transposes to A73, if Nick replies 14.0-0. But that never happens, so the players are on their own.

Bilek–Evans, Amsterdam, 1964, went 13….f5 14.exf5 Bxf5 15.Nc4 a6 16.a4 Qe7 17.Nb6 Ra7 18.0-0 Nd7 19.Nxd7 Qxd7 20.a5 R7a8 21.Na4 Rae8 22.Nb6 Qc7.


Consider another path to restricting Black: 14.g4 Nc7 15.a4.

14….Nc7 15.a4 f5 16.f3 Rb8 17.Ne3 f4 18.gxf4 gxf4 19.Nc4 a6


Remarkable, White thinks he is winning. A careful approach is 20.a5.

20….dxe5 21.d6 Ne6 22.Qd5 Bd7 23.Nxe5?

Wrong. 23.Ne4 is correct, but yields little: 23.Ne4 Rf7 24.Nxc5 Nxc5 25.Qxc5 Be6.

23….Rf5 24.0-0-0 Rxe5

Black has scored a piece, and takes the initiative.

25.Qb3 b5 26.axb5 axb5 27.Nd5!?

White sets a trap!


Not 27….Rxe2? 28.Ne7+ Kf8 (or 28….Kh8 29.Qd3) 29.Qd3 Rxb2 30.Qf5+ with perpetual check.

28.Qc2 Rxd5!

Breaks White’s counter-play.

29.Rxd5 Qf6 30.Rhd1 Ra8 31.Kb1 Kh8?

31….Rf8 should be played now in order to prevent an incursion on the light-colored squares, to preserve the queen and bishop weapon on the long diagonal, and to prepare 32….Ng5 threatening 33….Bf5.

Black should win this position, but after his King move and subsequent Queen exchange

his position loses its energy.

32.Rf5 Qg6 33.Qe4 Rf8

Too late.

34.R1d5 Kh7

35.Rxf8 Nxf8 36.Qxg6+ Kxg6 37.b3

Intelligent liquidation.

37….cxb3 38.Bxb5 Kf6 39.Bxd7 Nxd7


Greedy, White could have saved himself a world of worry by playing now 40.Rb5 and 41. Rxb3. The probability of a drawn result would increase.

40….Ke6 41.Rxf4 Kxd6 42.Rg4

The b-pawn can no longer be freely removed, and no other pawn has equal significance.

42….Be5 43.f4 Bd4 44.Rh4 Nf6 45.Rxh6 Kd5 46.Rh8 Ne4 47.Rb8 Kc4 48.Kc1 Kc3 49.f5 Bc5 50.g4 Ba3+ 51.Kd1 b2 52.Ke2?

Last chance for 52.Rxb2 and the long endgame of king vs. knight and bishop. Once the useless pawns are gone, Black drives the white king to the dark-squared corner and mates.

52….Bb4 53.Rc8+ Kb3 White resigns.

A queen is to be born.

I did not see John for several years after this time for reason of my new family and my professional responsibilities, and then a return to school for the tools of an engineering degree at the University of Texas at Austin in 1981-1983. I did not learn until much later that John had also started a family. Two children were born to his wife Julia Kathleen: a son Brandon and a daughter Brie. Unfortunately, Julia died of cancer on June 12, 1983, when Brie was just a year and a half old. John had to raise two very young children.

I cannot remember when I talked to John afterwards, but the meeting could not have been later than the 90s at one of the National Opens in Las Vegas. He was not playing chess. I enquired about that and John replied to the effect that he no longer had the will. Family is more important than chess.

John Blackstone: 27 July 1944 to 12 May 2017, rest in peace my friend.

5) This is the end

We’ve seen several opposite-colored bishop endings, as well as same-colored bishop ones. This time, we have a mono-colored bishop study. Should be easy, right?

White to move

Show solution

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