Chess Room Newsletter #844 | Mechanics' Institute

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Chess Room Newsletter #844

Gens Una Sumus!

Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club Newsletter #844
September 28, 2018

The crowd mimics its heroes. This is a natural tendency, but there is no such need for such mimicry. It is illogical for one who has not yet earned his master title to ape the complicated opening variations played by, say, a world champion.

—Lajos Portisch, in How to Open a Chess Game

1) Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club News

National Master Ezra Chambers has 7½ from 8, maintaining his lead with one round to go in the Walter Shipman TNM. Trailing by half a point, and in clear second, is International Master Elliott Winslow. Tied at 6 points, a full point behind Winslow, are Experts Natalya Tsodikova and David Askin.

From round 8 of the Shipman Tuesday Night Marathon:
White to move (Ivanov–McKellar after 9...Bxf3)White to move (Ricard–Mays after 14...Qxf4)
Black to move (Rakonitz–Hack after 24 Rfe1)White to move (Huberts–Boldi after 30...Kg8)
Black to move (Harris–Cohee after 44 Qe6)Black to move (Yogi–Hilliard after 28 Rac1)
For the solutions, see the game scores for round 8.

Expert Jules Jelinek won the September 26 edition of the Mechanics’ Wednesday Night Blitz with 10 from 12. Second in the 16-player event was Master Conrado Diaz with 9½ points, and third was National Master Jordy Mont-Reynaud with 9.

The Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club, which has been in continuous existence since 1854, has had a Chess Director since 1951. Prior to that a Chess Room Committee ran the club.

Arthur Stamer (1951–1963)
Kurt Bendit (1963–1964)
Howard Donnelly (1964–1965)
William Addison (1965–1969)
Alan Bourke (1969–1971)
Ray Conway (1971–1980)
Max Wilkerson (1980–1996)
James Eade (1997–1998)
John Donaldson (September 1998–)

Kurt Bendit (Photo: MI Archives)

Kurt Bendit not only served as the MI Chess Director, but was an Expert-rated player and well-respected electrical engineer. He helped many of Caissa’s wayward sons over the years.

We believe that Kurt, who would be 94, is still alive and welcome news of him. Five years ago, he was living at the St. Francis Convalescent Pavilion, 99 Escuela Dr., Daly City, CA 94015-4003 (phone number (650) 949-3200.

2) U.S. Opens in the Bay Area

The U.S. Open has a long and illustrious history that dates back to 1900. It has been many years since it was the largest or strongest tournament in the United States, but it is still an important event with a rich history.

The 1923 U.S. Open was held at the Mechanics’ Institute from July 30 to August 6, but it wasn’t called that, nor were hundreds of players squeezed into the Chess Room. David Moody (aka Phony Benoni), who has done a tremendous job of preserving the history of the U.S. Open series at, provides the answers to why this was not your modern-day U.S. Open.

At first, the tournament was the championship of the Western Chess Association (originally the Northwestern Chess Association), and was a round robin among whoever happened to show up. It remained a round robin through a semi-invitational phase, but gradually introduced preliminary and final sections to accommodate more players. The exact area controlled by the Western Chess Association varied from the Mississippi Valley region to all of the United States and Canada west of Pennsylvania and New York.

The Western Chess Association was superseded by the American Chess Federation in 1934, and that organization ran the tournament until in the United States Chess Federation took over in 1940. An important innovation came in 1946, as the swiss system was used for the first time to determine placement from the preliminary to the various final sections. At Corpus Christi 1947, the swiss system took over the whole shebang.

A picture of the twelve participants who played in the event can be found in the hallway right before one enters the Chess Room.

Moody continues:

Nineteen years after young Stasch Mlotkowski came to St. Louis to win the Western Open, the Western Open came to him in San Francisco. He showed it made no difference, tying for first with perpetual contender Norman T. Whitaker as defending champion. Samuel Factor came in third.

This most western of the Western Opens was missing Edward Lasker and many other big names who were committed to play in the Ninth American Congress at Lake Hopatcong, which began only two days after the Western ended.

Some ghoulish trivia: the tournament was played in the rooms of the Mechanic Library, just across the street from the Palace Hotel where President Warren Harding died on the evening of August 2nd. Crowds gathered outside the hotel, but I have found no indication that the tournament was disrupted in any way.

The next U.S. Open in San Francisco was not held at the Mechanics’ Institute, but across the street at the Palace Hotel. The event, organized by Mechanics’ members, was dominated by Hungarian-Americans, with Pal Benko winning the first of eight U.S. Open titles and Zoltan Kovacs, in the tournament of his life, finishing second. The event set an attendance record for the time with 197 entrants. Stratospheric hotel rates and the high cost of meeting space make another U.S. Open in the City unlikely.

The 1981 US Open in Palo Alto attracted another record crowd with 662 players, and was won by Florin Gheorghiu, Larry Christiansen, Jeremy Silman, Nick de Firmian and John Meyer. This turnout is greater than any U.S. Open the past few decades but was quickly overtaken as the largest by the all-time record holder, the 1983 U.S. Open in Pasadena, with 836 participants.

The last U.S. Open held in the Bay Area was the 1995 event in Concord, which was won by future Mechanics’ Grandmaster-in-Residence Alex Yermolinsky.

It’s been 23 years since a US Open was held in the Bay Area; hopefully it will not be too long before another is hosted here.

3) A Chess Poem by Dennis Fritzinger

not easy

keeping your head
while castled positions
are exploding
and pawns are racing
to the finish line
and the clock is ticking
is not an easy
it’s easier to get
emotionally involved
and lose your way.
in the thick of action
you want to be
cool as a cucumber
in control
of your own emotions.
it’s not easy.

4) Tarjan-Tang, US Open 2018, annotated by James Tarjan

English A14
James Tarjan – Andrew Tang
US Open (6) August 2, 2018

1.c4 e6 2.g3 d5 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Bg2 Be7 5.0-0 0-0 6.b3 c5 7.Bb2 Nc6 8.e3 b6 9.Nc3 dxc4 10.bxc4 Bb7 11.Qe2 Qc7 12.Rad1


12...Rfd8 13.Ne1 a6 14.f4 b5

In "The Modernized Reti" on page 102, Demuth gets to this position, implying that Black is OK. He says White should not undertake this aggressive Rad1 plan with Black’s rook still on a8, strengthening the ...b5 counterplay. I had looked at Demuth’s book, this exact page, before the game but as so often confused the details. In any case the position is not so clear.

15.f5 Na5

I thought the knight somewhat out of place here on the edge of the board, but he wants to force me to take cxb5 and give him his queenside play. 15...exf5 16.Rxf5 Qd7

16.cxb5 exf5 17.Rxf5 axb5 18.Nxb5 Qb6 19.a4 Qe6? 20.Re5?

20.Bxf6 Bxf6 21.Rxc5 looks overwhelming, but continuing the analysis, Black wins back the a-pawn and White is still a long way from an easy win converting his one remaining extra pawn; 20.Rxf6 Bxf6 21.Nc7 Qe7 22.Bxf6 Qxc7 23.Bxd8 Rxd8 24.Bxb7 Nxb7 White is able to trade some pieces and keep his extra pawn, though again, remains a long way from victory. In all cases, especially as long as queens are on the board, White is hampered by his relatively exposed king, and of course the targets on a4 and d2.


Black has lured White’s rook to an awkward square.

21.Bxb7 Qxb7 22.Nd3 Nb3 23.Nc3 Qa6

After this I had a long ponder, and realized it was time to think about forcing the game to a draw. Very much like a Benko Gambit, Black is going to win back his pawn and could easily end up with the better of it.

24.Nc1 Qxe2 25.N3xe2 Nxc1 26.Bxc1 Bd6


27.Rf5 Rxa4 28.Bb2 Be7

29.Bxf6 Bxf6 30.Rxc5 Ra2 31.Nc3 Bxc3 32.Rxc3 g6 33.h4 Rdxd2 34.Rxd2 Rxd2 35.Kf1 Kg7 36.Rc6 f5 37.Re6 Ra2 ½–½

James Tarjan in deep concentration at Lone Pine in the late 1970s. (Photo: Stella Monday)

5) Frank Marshall in 1917 (Part Twelve) by Eduardo Bauzá Mercére

F. J. Marshall and D. Janowski, the United States and French champions, had to play second fiddle to the crack metropolitan players in the rapid transit tournament held in the early hours of yesterday morning, following the memorial service at the I. L. Rice Progressive Chess Club. A. Kupchik won first prize with a score of 9½ points. E. Michelsen, with 9 points, won the second prize; J. Bernstein, 7½, the third; I. Tenenwurzel, 7, the fourth, while F. J. Marshall and R. Wahrburg divided the fifth prize. D. Janowski, O. Chajes and F. Fier also participated.

NY Sun, 4 Nov 1917, p. 4+

November 4

A. Kupchik, champion of the Manhattan Chess Club, won the first prize in the big invitation rapid transit tournament at the I. L. Progressive Chess Club yesterday with a score of 9½ points out of 10 games played. His draw was with F. J. Marshall, who, with 8½ points, took second prize. J. Bernstein, 8, and D. Janowski, 7, won the third and fourth prizes, respectively. A collection was taken for the soldiers’ smoking fund.

NY Times, 5 Nov 1917, p. 12

November 5

There was a large attendance at the Marshall Chess Divan Monday evening, when the champion played two blindfold games against consulting teams. At board 1, captured [sic] by Dana Brannan, with J. H. Morse, P. C. Maas and D. Haagman participating, the allies were successful. Marshall drew the second game against Otto Deck, W. H. Longbridge, S. L. Holbrook and Emile Sill.

Brooklyn Eagle, 9 Nov 1917, p. 9

One of two blindfold games played against consultation partners.

Marshall - S. L. Holbrook + W. H. Longbridge + Otto Deck + Emile Sill

1. d4 d5 2. c4 Nf6 3. cxd5 Nxd5 4. e4 Nb6 5. Nf3 Bg4 6. Bc4 Bxf3 7. gxf3 e6 8. Rg1 N8d7 9. Bb3 g6 10. Nc3 Bg7 11. e5 Qe7 12. Be3 O-O-O 13. Qc2 Qb4 14. a3 Qe7 15. Nb5 c6 16. Rc1 Kb8 17. Nd6 Nd5 18. Nxb7 Kxb7 19. Qxc6+ Kb8 20. Bxd5 ½–½

American Chess Bulletin, 12/1917, p. 252

November 9, Marshall Off On Tour

Leaving today for Troy, where he is scheduled to give an exhibition this evening, Frank J. Marshall will forsake his accustomed haunts on West Forty-ninth street, Manhattan, where he has his chess divan, for the space of three weeks or so. The United States champion is due in Chicago about the middle of the month and will play at Schenectady tomorrow [sic; the note was probably intended to be published on November 8], at Utica on the 10th, and 11th, and at Rochester on the 12th.

Brooklyn Eagle, 9 Nov 1917, p. 9

6) 43rd Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia

A number of Olympiad regulars are missing from the event. These not only include Alexander Grischuk and Peter Svidler from the Russian team, but also Lubomir Ftacnik, Alexander Beliavsky and Eugenio Torre—the latter three regulars going back to the 1980s and in Torre’s case even earlier.

Both American teams are off to fast starts in the Olympiad, and are tied for first with 8 points, having won their first four matches. American fourth board Sam Shankland of Walnut Creek has scored 3 out of 4 to date. Seven rounds remain for the 184 teams in the open section and the 149 in the women’s division. Web site.

7) John Fedorowicz turns 60

The Mechanics’ Chess Club and its members wish a very happy birthday to U.S. Chess Hall-of-Famer John Fedorowicz, who turned 60 on September 27. The “Fed” has played many tournaments and taught many camps at the Mechanics’ over the years. (Photo: Joan Arbil).

8) This is the end

In this study, White is down to his last pawn. Can he make it count?

White to move

Show solution

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