Chess Room Newsletter #841 | Mechanics' Institute

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Chess Room Newsletter #841

Gens Una Sumus!

Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club Newsletter #841
September 7, 2018

In my life I have only known three chess players with photographic memories—Bobby Fischer, Bernard Zukerman, and John Hall.

—FIDE Master and Chess Digest publisher Ken Smith

1) Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club News

International Master Elliot Winslow defeated National Master Russell Wong last Tuesday night and leads the Walter Shipman TNM after five rounds with a perfect score. Right behind him at 4 ½ is 17-year-old Ezra Chambers who recently crossed over 2300 USCF for the first time.

The Shipman has already seen more than its share of upsets and round five was no exception. Leading the way was Renate Otterbach (1098), who won her third consecutive game, defeating an opponent rated close to 500 points higher.

From round 5 of the Shipman TNM G/2 Tuesday Night Marathon:
Black to move (Wong–Winslow after 15 Rfd1)White to move (Wong–Winslow after 25...Qxf6)
Black to move (Chambers–Diaz after 25 f3)Black to move (Kuczek–Vickers after 33 Kg2)
Black to move (Ivanov–Maser after 11 Qa6)Black to move (Ivanov–Maser after 46 Kc3)
Black to move (Anderson–Traub after 9 Ne2)Black to move (Anderson–Traub after 16 Qe4)
White to move (Walder–Babayan after 32...Kg8)Black to move (Askin–Gossiaux after 17 Qxd3)
Black to move (Frank–Mays after 15 Bg2)Black to move (Agdamag–Yanofsky after 22 e4)
White to move (Kim–Chan after 13...Ba5)For the solutions, see the game scores for round 5.

Conrado Diaz and Jordy Mont-Reynaud tied for first with scores of 9–3 in the Wednesday Night Blitz held August 29. Fellow National Master Anna Matlin was third with 8½. The event attracted 15 participants.

Eleven-year-old FIDE Master Christopher Woojin Yoo shattered Sam Shankland’s record for the youngest state champion from Northern California by five years when he won the Labor Day weekend event held September 1–3 with a score of 5½ from 6, raising his USCF rating to 2456. IM Joshua Sheng was second at 5, followed by Senior Master Andrew Hong and National Derek O’Conner at 4½. The last, the only player to draw Woojin Yoo (in round 4) raised his rating 2340. Tuesday Night Marathon regular FIDE Master Ezra Chambers was among those at 4, and raised his rating over 2300 for the first time.

Elizabeth Shaughnessy organized and Richard Koepcke and Bryon Doyle directed the 234-player event, held in Union City, for the Berkeley Chess School.

Former Mechanics’ Member Hans Niemann’s mother Mary writes:

Hans just earned his International Master title, so I wanted to reach out to you and let you know, because the Mechanics Chess Club is where he started and jumped from 1000 to 2200 rating the two years before we moved to Connecticut.

Hans is a sophomore in high school now, focused on preparing for college and he also is on the high school swim team. This summer he caught a second wind for chess and earned both Grandmaster and International Master norms at the U.S. Masters; he now has his sights set on becoming a GM.

The Mechanics’ will be ably represented by US Champion Sam Shankland in the 2018 Chess Olympiad held in Batumi, Georgia, from September 24 to October 5. The United States will be the top seed (on four boards) for the first time since Haifa 1976.(some of the American teams in the 1930s would also have been ranked number one, particularly in 1937. Of course that was long before FIDE ratings were introduced.)

For a complete list of teams see Open and Women's competition. Note host Georgia is not listed yet, as they may field multiple teams if there are an odd number of countries competing.

The Mechanics’ longest-running tournament, the Arthur Stamer Memorial dates back to 1964 and many famous players have won the event, from William Addison in 1964 to Tawin Nunbhakdi in 2018. Complete list.

Multiple winners are

8 – IM Ricardo DeGuzman
4 – GM Peter Biyiasas
3 – GM Nick deFirmian, NM Romy Fuentes, NM Earl Pruner, IM Walter Shipman
2 – NM Michael Aigner, NM Craig Barnes, NM Dennis Fritzinger, Expert Steven Gaffagan, IM Marc Leski, NM Michael Pearson, IM Jeremy Silman, SM Gregory Young

Mechanics’ Archivist Diane Lai found the following one page synopsis of the MI’s chess history circa 1950 that was published in the August 1955 issue of the California Chess Reporter on page 39.

The schedule for the Tuesday Night Marathon for 2019 is now available.

Winter TNM, Jan. 8–Feb. 26
Spring TNM, Mar. 19–May 7
Summer TNM, May 28–July 16
Stephen Brandwein TNM, Aug. 6–Oct. 1
Fall TNM, Oct. 22–Dec. 17

2) John Hall 1946–2018

Dallas Senior Master John Hall, who died earlier this year, might be the answer to the question “who is the strongest but least known player in the history of modern American chess”. Rated around 2450 USCF for much of his active playing career, Hall rarely played outside of his native Texas where he was twice state champion (1968 and 1973) and won the Southwest Open four times (1968, 1970, 1971 and 1991).

Hall was even better at blitz than over the board play and would give masters serious time odds and still consistently win money, albeit barely enough to get by even when combined with lessons and book royalties. He was living on the edge for most of his life and that was the case when he resided in San Francisco for six months in the 2000s.

Hall will be best remembered for the books he wrote for Chess Digest and Lou Hays. His Combination Challenge (1991) and Endgame Challenge (1995) are both useful training manuals, and his annotations to the Bobby Fischer complete games collection published by Hays is well done, consistently zeroing in on the key moments.

(Photo: John Hall)

It is difficult to find games played by Hall, especially as there are players with the same name from England and Canada. The following effort, annotated by Hall in Chess Life & Review by Hall and Grandmaster Robert Byrne in his New York Times column (July 1, 1976, p. 24) is the exception. Hall defeats Kim Commons, who later in the year would help the United States take first place in the Chess Olympiads in Haifa. The game was played in the National Chess League, which was played by telephone.

King’s Indian Attack A07
John Hall (Houston)–Kim Commons (Los Angeles)
National Chess League 1976

Annotation by John Hall except where indicated.

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.g3 d5 3.Bg2 c6 4.0–0 Bg4 5.d3 Nbd7 6.Nbd2 e5 7.h3 Bh5 8.g4?! Bg6 9.Nh4 Bc5 10.e4?

Hall’s 10 e4 was positionally wrong, creating a weak square at White’s f4 that Commons could have exploited by 10 . . . dxe4; 11 dxe4 0-0 with the plan of obtaining a knight outpost by 12 ... Re8, 13 ... f8, 14 ... Ne6 and 15 ... Nf4. Why did he not play the solid 10 e3? (Robert Byrne)

10…dxe4 11.dxe4 Nxe4?!

Good was 11...Nf8! and ...Ne6 with convenient play for Black.

Commons, however, not content with positional methods, sailed in with 11 ... Nxe4. But then, after 12 Nxf2, he should have proceeded with 12 ... Nxd2; 13 Nxh8 Nxf1; 14 Nxf7, Qf6, with an even game. Instead, he lashed out with 12 . Nxf2?! leading, after 15 ... hxg6, into an ending with a rook plus two pawns versus two minor pieces. (Robert Byrne)

12.Nxg6 Nxf2

Virtually the losing move. Necessary was 12 ... Nxd2 13.Nxh8 Nxf1 14.Qxf1 Ke7 though White still has an advantage after 15.Nxf7 Kxf7 16.Qc4+ due to the two bishops and better pawn structure.

13.Rxf2 Bxf2+ 14.Kxf2 Qb6+ 15.Kg3 hxg6 16.Nc4

Perhaps Commons underestimated the speed at which the White pieces came into play with 16 Nc4 and 17 Qd6. The key position arose after Hall’s 21 Qb4, when Commons must have considered and then had to reject 21 ... c5 22. Qe4 Qf7 23. h4 Rde8 24. Rf1 Rhf8 25. h5 f5 26. gxf5 gxf5 27. Rxf5 Qxf5 28. Qxb7+ Kd8 29. Qxb6+ Ke7 30. Bxc5+ Kf7 31. Bd5+, which wins everything in sight. (Robert Byrne)

16…Qc7 17.Qd6 0–0–0 18.Bg5

A finesse designed to weaken Black’s g6 square.

18...f6 19.Be3 Nb6

Of course not 19...Kb8 20.Bxa7+.

20.Nxb6+ axb6 21.Qb4 Rd4

Anxious not to weaken his king’s position by 21...c5 which would be answered by 22.Qe4, attacking Black's g6, Black reacts with a rather hopeless sacrifice.

22.Bxd4 exd4+ 23.Kf3 c5 24.Qd2 f5 25.Qf4 Qe7 26.Kf2 Re8 27.Kg1 Qe2 28.Qf3 Re7 29.gxf5 Qxc2 30.f6 gxf6 31.Qxf6 Qe2 32.Qxb6 Qe3+ 33.Kh1 d3 34.Rf1 d2 35.Rf8+ Re8 36.Bxb7+ 1–0

3) Mechanics’ Institute Chess Room Register key

In Newsletter #834 we wrote about the Mechanics’ Chess Room register which contains hundreds of signatures by the famous (Alekhine, Tal and Smyslov among others) and the not-so-famous. Here is a key to some of the more important signatures.

4) Frank Marshall in 1917 (Part Ten) by Eduardo Bauzá Mercére

September 23

Frank J. Marshall, the United States chess champion, is back from Atlantic City and will make his headquarters for the winter at Marshall’s Chess Divan, 118 West Forty-Ninth street, where he will give a simultaneous exhibition in the near future.

NY York Herald, 23 Sep 1917, p. **5

October 14, Masters in Consultation Chess

A consultation chess match of international interest began last night at F. J. Marshall’s Divan, when Marshall. champion of the United States, and Basil [Vassily] Soldatenkov, a member of the special Russian commission to the United States, paired against D. Janowski, the French champion, who has Charles Jaffe, the Russian expert, as his partner. The contest will probably extend over the greater part of the week. Marshall and Soldatenkov, playing the white pieces, elected a queen’s pawn opening, to which the rival pair replied with knight to king’s bishop third.

NY Times, 15 Oct 1917, p. 10

Experts consult at chess

Some first-class talent got together the other day in a consultation game at Marshall’s Chess Divan, 118 West Forty-Ninth Street, Manhattan, where Marshall, partnered by Basil Soldatenkov, special Russian Envoy to America, paired off against David Janowski and Charles Jaffe. Unfortunately, play was adjourned after a hard-fought session, during which seventeen moves were recorded, but the visiting envoy was called away to Washington before play could be resumed.

Marshall and Soldatenkov played the Stonewall variation of the Queen’s Pawn Opening and, without castling, essayed a King’s side attack, which, however, was well handled by Janowski and Jaffe, who, at the cessation of play, had slightly the superior position. Presumably, the four experts will manage to arrange for another meeting, sooner or later, when a decision may be reached. The score follows:

QP Stonewall D00
Marshall + Vassily Soldatenkov–Dawid Janowski + Charles Jaffe

1. d4 d5 2. e3 Nf6 3. Bd3 c5 4. c3 e6 5. f4 Be7 6. Nd2 O-O 7. Nh3 b6 8. Ng5 Nbd7 9. Qc2 h6 10. h4 Bb7 11. Ndf3 c4 12. Bh7+ Kh8 13. g3 Ne4 14. Qh2 b5 15. Bxe4 dxe4 16. Ng1 b4 17. Ne2 a5 adjourned and likely not resumed.

Brooklyn Eagle, 25 Oct 1917, p. 3*

5) US September FIDE Rating List

The US has 14 players rated over 2600 FIDE on the September 2018 FIDE rating. Rank is shown for those in the top 100. Bay Area players on the list are highlighted in bold.


NameRatingBirth year
 2 Caruana, Fabiano 2827 1992
 9 So, Wesley 2776 1993
 14 Nakamura, Hikaru 2763 1987
 27 Shankland, Samuel 2722 1991
 58 Robson, Ray 2682 1994
 75 Kamsky, Gata 2666 1974
 99 Xiong, Jeffery 2651 2000
 Onischuk, Alexander 2647 1975
 Akobian, Varuzhan 2641 1983
 Sevian, Samuel 2634 2000
  Lenderman, Aleksandr 2630 1989
  Zherebukh, Yaroslav 2629 1993
  Naroditsky, Daniel 2615 1995
  Izoria, Zviad 2601 1984
  Erenburg, Sergey 2579 1983
  Gareyev, Timur 2579 1988
  Liang, Awonder 2575 2003
  Hess, Robert 2574 1991
  Ramirez, Alejandro 2567 1988
  Holt, Conrad 2561 1993

6) Top Individual Olympiad Performers

Outside of the World Championship the biannual Chess Olympiad is the biggest stage in chess. Although it is primarily a team event, individual accomplishment is noted, and no player better represented his country than the late Tigran Petrosian. The former World Champion scored 103 points in 129 games (79.8 percent) and lost only one individual game (on time), in a drawn rook ending to Robert Hubner in the 1972 Olympiad.

Garry Kasparov is not far behind with 64½ points in 82 games (78.7 percent), and unlike Petrosian his teams took gold in every Olympiad he played. He did lose three games.

7) Mieses-Rubinstein 1909 match game

MI Newsletter reader David Arganian points out that in Game 243 (Mieses-Rubinstein 1909 match game) of Akiva Rubinstein: Uncrowned King Rubinstein blundered into a mate

with 31....Kd8?? Incredibly, despite being a full rook down, he had a draw with 31...Kb7! After Schlechter's 32. Qb3+ Black plays 32…Bb6!

Best play is then 33 Be3 Qh4+ 34 Kg2 Qg4+ 35 Kf2 Qf4+ 36 Ke2 Qg4+ 37 Kd2 Qg2+ 38 Kc3 Qf3. Black now has two pawns for the exchange, and White will eventually have to force a perpetual.

8) Here and There

Former MI regular Chris Mavraedis writes: I thought I’d share with you an in-depth interview posted recently on the excellent Giants blog, Together We're Giants. I’d really enjoy your feedback on this interview.

9) This is the end

See if you find the best play for both sides in this game between club players.

White to move

Show solution

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