Chess Room Newsletter #824 | Mechanics' Institute

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Chess Room Newsletter #824

Gens Una Sumus!

Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club News #824
April 13, 2018

As Keres aged, he became increasingly sociable, witty and probably also affectionate. The last tournament we played together was in Wijk aan Zee (1969). I caught a cold, but continued playing. I am lying in bed, analyzing the adjourned position against Portisch on a pocket chess set—a difficult endgame... Unexpectedly, there is a knock on the door and Paul comes in, “So, can you save it?” I explain that after a long search I’ve found a single drawn position, but I can’t work out how to obtain it. Keres took my pocket chess set, thought for a while and, giving the chess set back, said, “Well, what if you play like this?” We looked at each other and were overcome with uncontrollable laughter—Paul had found a simple way of obtaining the position I was looking for. When we resumed play, Portisch was stunned This is how he was robbed of 1st place.

—Mikhail Botvinnik, speaking about Paul Keres (interview)

1) Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club News

National Masters Conrado Diaz and Derek O’Conner are the only remaining perfects score after round four of the Spring Tuesday Night Marathon. International Master Elliot Winslow and FIDE Master Ezra Chambers lead a large group a half point back. There are 134 players in this TNM making it the third consecutive event in the series to attract over 130 entries.

From round 4 of the Spring Tuesday Night Marathon:
White to move (Sherwood–Marcus after 20...h5)Black to move (Donnelly–Jensen after 19 fxg5)
Black to move (Hope–McKellar after 16 Rad1)White to move (Wong–Perlov after 24...Nf6)
White to move (Krasnov–Erdenebileg after 20...Bxd5)Black to move (Admassu–Newey after 39 Kb4)
Black to move (Singh–Kondakova after 14 Nxd6)White to move (Singh–Kondakova after 26...Qd8)
Black to move (Bennett–Rakonitz after 23 Bg3)Black to move (Yu–Simpkins after 7 Qh3)
White to move (Giridharan–Boldt after 9...Qxf6)For the solutions, see the game scores for round 4.

FIDE Master Ezra Chambers defeated National Master Conrado Diaz to take top honors in the 18th Imre Konig Memorial G/40 held April 7. Chambers scored 5–0 and Diaz and Expert Michael Da Cruz were a point back in the 30-player event. Class A player Stewart Katz finished out of the money but his 3–2 score was achieved against tough opposition (a win over National Master Paul Gallegos and losses to Chambers and Diaz).

Wednesday Night Blitz coordinator Jules Jelinek provides the results of the 14-player event held on April 4.

1st – Jules Jelinek 9–3
2nd to 4th – Carlos D’Avila, Jonathan Lang and Jeff Sinick 8–4

The annual Steve Brandwein/Ray Schutt/ Jay Whitehead Memorial Blitz Tournament will be held on Sunday, May 6, from 12pm-5pm with a guaranteed prize fund of $1000 ($400,$250,$120,$100, $75, $50) and book prizes for all entrants. Entry fee is $10 (free to GMs and IMs). More information.

The Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club is always open to out of town visitors. Grandmasters Alexander Huzman and Carlos Matamoros were recently at the club, as was Liverpool Chess Club President James Gallagher. The Liverpool CC (founded in 1837) is 17 years older than the Mechanics’.

2) Martin Lester O’Shea (1938–2018)

Visitors to the Mechanics’ Chess Club on weekday afternoons the past decade would often have seen two well-dressed gentlemen squaring off in a seemingly endless series of games. They never used clocks, but always kept score, their marathon encounters drawing comparisons to the La Bourdonnais–McDonnell matches.

One of the players, Robert Frank, is a regular participant in the Tuesday Night Marathon, but to our knowledge his fellow competitor, Martin Lester O’Shea, who went by Lester, never played a tournament game. That didn’t prevent him from loving chess and the Mechanics’ Institute, of which he was a faithful member for many years.

The following obituary first appeared at SF Gate.

Martin Lester O’Shea died on March 12 in Walnut Creek, after a brief illness. He was 79 years old. He was born in San Francisco to Martin and Karola Bergmann O’Shea on December 6, 1938, and grew up in Noe Valley at a time when there were still unpaved streets and residents kept livestock.

Lester was first in his class at Lowell High School and then went on to Stanford University and graduated in 1959 with a degree in economics and membership in Phi Beta Kappa. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and attended Pembroke College at Oxford for two years. Upon returning to the United States he attended Harvard, earning a MBA. He was the editor of the Harbus News, the publication of the Harvard Business School.

After a number of years in finance and real estate investment, he returned to his studies at the Golden Gate School of Law in San Francisco and received his law degree in 1996. Lester always had a keen interest in politics and government. He ran for citywide offices in San Francisco, and was chairman of the SF Republican Central Committee. He was appointed to several government boards, state and national: The National Advisory Council on Adult Education (1983), the Board of Foreign Scholarships (1987), and the Commission on California State Government Organization and Economy, better known as the Little Hoover Commission (1984-88).

He was the author of three books on government and society, reflecting his political philosophy, and showcasing his incisive writing style.

Lester had varied interests and, some would say, eccentricities. Until two years ago he refused to relinquish his 1982 Jeep Wagoneer until it could no longer be repaired. He played the violin and read and studied Latin classics—in Latin.

Mostly he loved being outdoors, especially the high country of the Sierras on pack trips, and holidays in Yosemite. He was proud that he had climbed Mt. Whitney, Mt. Shasta, and many other western peaks. Lester’s favorite home was the cabin in a remote location in Placer County, a place visited a few people, lots of creatures, and unfortunately by bears who plundered the cabin for groceries. Actually, it is a small house, off the grid, but offering all the amenities for comfort and well-being, including a swimming pool. He spent many weekends there, especially in the summer and fall.

At home in the East Bay, he walked or hiked every day in Briones Regional Park, the Contra Costa Canal Trail, and the Lafayette Reservoir. He is survived by his wife, Camille de Campos, whom he met at Stanford, and daughters Laura O’Shea (Geoff Vaughn), Amy Hunt (Harry), and Amanda O’Shea and five grandchildren.

3) Oldest player to become a USCF Master

In Newsletter #804 we wrote about the noted chess historian and book dealer Fred Wilson who reached a 2200 USCF rating for the first time last fall. At the time we wrote that the late Oscar Shapiro holds the American record for oldest player to become a master for the first time (age 74).

Since then we found the following information in the September 1991 issue of Chess Life (page 597).

Here and There
Long-time USCF friend Bernard Friend reports this game, played at the Dumont Chess Club, apparently earned him the Master title. If so, this is the culmination of a rather long hunt—going back to 1939, when a tournament draw with Reuben Fine first roused his ambitions. He asks whether this is a record—has any player earned the Master title at a later age than 71?

A game between Friend (2195) and Paul Song (2198) followed.

Friend was born April 22, 1919, and the game was likely played no later than May or June to make it into the September Chess Life. So he was no more than 71 years and two or three months old while Wilson was 71 years and 6 months. This means the oldest American player to earn a Master rating over the first time is Oscar Shapiro followed by Fred Wilson and then Bernard Friend.

4) Remembering National Master John Hillery (1952–2010) by Jack Peters

National Master John Hillery was a man who wore many hats in chess including player (national master), organizer, tournament director, administrator and editor. He was also an excellent correspondence player as the following game, annotated by his good friend International Master Jack Peters, shows.

Hillery’s opponent, Michael Wierzbicki of Wisconsin, did very well in the 1971 US Junior Open in Portland, tying for third with a young Larry Christiansen behind Peter Biyiasas and John MacPhail. Wierzbicki has been a psychology professor at Marquette for a long time. The USCF MSA (which goes back to September 1991) has his highest over-the-board rating as 2320, but he was likely higher than that in the 1980s.

Modern Benoni A72
John Hillery–Michael Wierzbicki
Golden Knights Championship 1989–1990

Annotations by International Master Jack Peters

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c5 4.d5 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.Nc3 g6 7.e4 Bg7 8.Bg5 h6 9.Bh4 a6

Black has abandoned 9...g5 10.Bg3 Nh5 11.Bb5+ Kf8 because 12.e5 Nxg3 (or 12...g4 13.0–0!) 13.fxg3 dxe5 14.0–0 gives White a powerful attack.


Harmless is 10.a4 g5 11.Bg3 Nh5.

10...b5 11.Be2 0–0 12.0–0 Nbd7 13.Qc2 Re8

Most natural. Also adequate is 13...c4 14.b4 cxb3 15.axb3 Bb7.

14.a4 b4 15.Nd1

Heading for c4 via e3. Before White can establish a bind, though, Black has two opportunities for counterplay.


The other method is 15...g5 16.Bg3 Nxd5 17.Nc4 Nf4, when 18.Nxd6?! Ne5 19.Nxe8?? loses to 19...b3.


Black does not fear 16.Qxb3 g5 17.Bg3 Nxe4 18.Nxe4 Rxe4 19.Qc2 Nf6.

16...Rb8 17.f4

Safer are 17.Nc3 and 17.Ne3.

17...Rb4 18.Nc4 Nb6 19.Nde3 Nxc4 20.Nxc4


Nunn’s recommendation. The fight intensifies, and Black’s chances are no worse.


As 21.e5? Ba6 favors Black.

John Hillery (Photo: John Hillery)


21...Qd7 22.e5 dxe5 23.fxe5 Nxd5 24.Bg3; 21...Ba6 22.Qf3 Bxc4 23.Bxc4 Qd7!? 24.Be1! (24.Bb5? Rxb5 25.axb5 Nxe4) 24...Nxe4 25.Bxb4 cxb4 26.Bb5 Qa7+ 27.Kh1 Re7 28.f5 is dynamically balanced.

22.e5 Bf5 23.Qd2 Ne4 24.Qd1 dxe5 25.g4 Bd7 26.d6 Qc8

Black seems to obtain an edge by 26...Qb7 27.f5 gxf5 28.gxf5 Bf6.

27.f5! gxf5 28.gxf5


The complicated 28...Bxf5 29.Rxf5 Qxf5 30.d7 leads to a draw by 30...Qg6+! 31.Kf1 (not 31.Kh1? Rd8 32.Bxd8? Nf2#) 31...Qf5+ 32.Kg2 Qg6+ unless White dares to risk 33.Bg4 Ra8 34.d8Q+ Rxd8 35.Qxd8+ Kh7 36.Kh3 h5 37.Bc8.

29.Be1 Rb8

Acquiescing to a small disadvantage. A similar evaluation applies to 29...Rb7 30.Nxa5 Rb8 31.Rc4 Bxf5 32.Nxb3; Black’s original intention of 29...Bxf5? 30.Bxb4 Bc2! would lose to 31.d7! Nxd7 32.Qd5, refuting 32...Nf6 most elegantly by 33.Rxf6 Bxf6 34.Nd6 Qe6 35.Nxe8! Qxd5 36.Nxf6+.

30.Bxa5 Bxa4

Not 30...Bxf5? 31.Nb6.

31.Bc7 Rb4 32.Nb6 Qb7 33.Nxa4 Rxa4 34.Rc4!?

Black gets plenty of compensation from 34.d7?! Rd4! 35.dxe8Q+ Nxe8.

34...Qb5! 35.Qc1

If 35.d7 Nxd7 36.Rd4, Black can hold the draw with 36...Qxe2 37.Qxe2 Rxd4.



White must worry about the safety of his king. For example, 36.Rxe4? Qc6 37.Rxe8+ Nxe8 creates the disturbing threat of ...Bg7–d4+.


Easier is 36...Qb4 37.Rc4 Qb5, repeating; Instead, 36...Qb4 37.Rxc5? would return the advantage to Black after 37...Qd4+ 38.Kh1 e3.

37.Rxc4 Nd5??

Fatal. After 37...e3 38.Rxa4 Qxa4, the correct 39.Qc4 (White could get swindled by 39.Qc5? Nd7! 40.Qb5 Qxb5 41.Bxb5 Bxb2) 39...Qxc4 40.Bxc4 Re4 41.Be2 Nd7 leads to a well-deserved draw.


From this point, Hillery foresaw the artistic finish.


Insufficient are 38...Nxc7 39.dxc7; and 38...Ra7 39.Rxe4; Even the trickier 38...Ra2!? fails, to 39.Qd2! Rxb2 40.Qxd5 Qxd5 41.Rxd5 Rxe2 42.d7 Rf8 43.d8Q b2 44.Qxf8+ Kxf8 45.Rd1.

39.d7 Nxd7 40.Rxe4 Qxe2 41.Rxe2 Rxe2 42.Qc6


Too many Black pieces are loose after 42...Bd4+ 43.Kf1 Rf2+ 44.Ke1 If 44...Nc5 easiest is 45.Qe8+ Kg7 46.Be5+; 42...Nc5.

43.Rxd4 Bxd4+ 44.Kf1 Rxb2

The best chance, as his b-pawn is formidable. Again, Black cannot coordinate his pieces after 44...Rf2+ 45.Ke1. White refutes 45...Nf8 by 46.Bd6 Rxb2 47.Qe8 Bg7 48.f6.

45.Qxd7 Rf2+ 46.Ke1 b2 47.Qe8+

Not 47.Qxd4?? Rc2!, and Black wins.


If 47...Kh7 48.Qxf7+ Bg7 , White maneuvers the queen into position by 49.Qg6+ Kg8 50.Qe6+ Kh8 51.Qe8+ Kh7 52.Qe4 , then finishes with 52...Rg2 53.f6+ Kg8 54.Qe6+ Kh7 55.Qf5+ Kg8 56.f7+ Kh8 57.Be5.

48.Be5+ Bxe5 49.Qxe5+ Kh7 50.Qe4


Black cannot reach a “fortress draw” by 50...Rg2 51.f6+ Kh8 52.Kf1 Rg6 because of 53.Qe8+ Rg8 54.Qb5.


The careless 51.Qb7? Rxf5 52.Qxb2 Kg8 draws.

51...Rb4 52.f6+ Kh8 53.Ke2!

Threatening 54. Qg1. Less convincing is 53.Kf2? Rb6 54.Kg3 Kg8.


54.h4! 1–0

With 54.h4! White plans to run his king to c5 to disrupt Black’s defense. Black must resort to 54...h5 (as Black lands in zugzwang by 54...Rxf6 55.Qxb2 Kg7 56.h5) 55.Ke3 Re6+ (Another zugzwang appears after 55...Rxf6 56.Qxb2 Kg7 57.Qe5, anticipating 57...Kg6 58.Qg5+) 56.Kd3 Rd6+ 57.Kc4 Rb6 58.Kc5 Rb8. Then White conquers resistance by 59.Kd6 Rb4 60.Ke7 Kg8 61.Qg1+ Rg4 62.Qh1! Ra4 (or 62...Rb4 63.Qd5) 63.Qg2+ Rg4 64.Qb7 Rxh4 65.Ke8. A grand conception fittingly ends a magnificent game.

4) Viswanathan Anand interviewed in 1992

Viswanathan Anand is still rated in the top 10 in the world at 48, a position he has occupied for close to three decades. Twenty-five years ago he offered his insights in what is needed to stay at the top.

A study of your ELO points pattern over the years shows that you have never really suffered a serious slump in your career. Spectacular as this is, how do you guard against a slump and the negative feelings that this might engender?

My ELO ratings have been fairly stable, I should say. But this can be deceptive stability. One can settle into a steady, comfortable pattern. At some point you have to tell yourself that you have to break it. It is often a problem of confidence. When you have a low rating, you improvise, gamble a lot. When you have a high rating, you tend to play safe and protect it. For instance, earlier this year, I found myself settling into some kind of a comfortable pattern. Then I saw the danger. A trainer in Moscow told me my openings showed that I was trying to be what I was not. You have to design openings for your style. Talking of a steady pattern, I found that I always used to have easy wins early on, get to the semifinals and then crash out. I would self-destruct when it came to the crunch. In the Immopar tournament (France), I finally solved the problem. I made some conscious efforts to deal with the internal pressures.

Surely, it takes more than knowledge to survive at the top in chess?

It does. More than knowledge, you have to feel good on the day. You shouldn’t always think of your rating. For instance, in the top tournaments now, I have to score at least 50 per cent to hold on to my current rating. And this itself can bring a lot of pressure. But ultimately it is all about confidence. I lost my eighth game to (Anatoly) Karpov (in the Candidates series) because of a lack of confidence. Halfway through, doing well, I thought it was over. He hung in there and it was soon over for me.

This article was published in The Sportstar of December 19, 1992 (link).

5) Here and There

Former Irish champion Eamonn Keogh represented his country in the 1966 Olympiad. Here he shares an anecdote about Bobby Fischer.

“We were in Cuba for six weeks and after that myself, Ray Cassidy, and other players, including Bobby Fischer, stayed on as guests of the government for another two and a half weeks. I remember asking Bobby in night club in Havana if he would play in a tournament in Ireland. ‘Sure’, was the reply, ‘that’ll be $25,000’. He was great company actually, and absolutely idolized by the Cubans.”

John Henderson has written a first-rate tribute to the late Eliot Hearst.

6) This is the end

This position is from analysis of a GM game.

Black to move

Show solution

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