Mechanics' Institute Chess Room Newsletter

by John Donaldson

Gens Una Sumus!

Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club Newsletter #807
November 17, 2017

So what was it like facing a peak Kasparov glaring at you? Well, it's annoying—because first of all he makes good moves and on top of that there's all the other pressure he inflicts too. But what made Kasparov dangerous was his moves. If he was making faces and then played bad moves we would have just laughed at him. These days, I think you can over-estimate the psychological stuff.

—Viswanathan Anand (complete interview here)

The 17th annual Pierre St. Amant G/45 will be held this Saturday, November 18, at the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club.

1) Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club News

National Master Conrado Diaz and Expert Alexander Ivanov are tied for first at 4–0 in the Fall Tuesday Night Marathon / William Lombardy Memorial. Five rounds remain for the 126 participants.

This event marks the 16th consecutive TNM with triple-digit attendance, with six out of the last eight attracting a minimum of 125 players.

Winter 112 players
Spring 120
Summer 135
Peter Grey 125
Fall 126 (still in progress)

Winter 132
Spring 125
Summer 127
Alan Benson 106
Fall 113

Winter 121
Spring 106
Summer 106
Leighton Allen 102
Fall 105

Fall 103

From round 4 of the Fall Tuesday Night Marathon:
White to move (Traub–Porlares after 22...Bxc4)White to move (Thornally–Kuczek after 4...b6)
White to move (Mays–Lum after 29...Kh7)White to move (Marquez–Krasnov after 30...Qd8)
Black to move (Erdenebileg–Wonsever after 30 Qd4)White to move (Subedar–Chen after 18...Kxf6)
White to move (Newey–Agdamag after 14...Rf5)For the solutions, see the game scores for round 4.

The results of the 10-player November 8 Wednesday Night Blitz:

1st – Carlos D’Avila – 11½ pts out of 12
2nd - Jules Jelinek – 9½ pts
3rd – Joe Urquhart – 7½ pts

There will be no blitz on November 22.

Mechanics’ Institute member John Ebert and the chess scene at the Vallejo branch of Panama Bay Coffee Company were written about in the October 20 editions of the Vallejo Times-Herald. Read about it here.

MI Chess Director John Donaldson’s article: “The History of the United States in Chess Olympiads” was published on November 9 at the St. Louis Public Radio website (read).

2) Bay Area Players at the Olympiads

Bay Area chess players have shined at the biannual Chess Olympiads. The list of players who have participated includes the following individuals. We believe this list to be complete but would welcome any additions we might have overlooked.

Players who have represented federations other than the United States

Joan Arbil (Turkey) 1982-1986 (3 Olympiads)
GM Peter Biyiasas (Canada) 1972-1978 (4 Olympiads) one silver, two bronze individual medals
GM Walter Browne (AUS) 1970-72 (2 Olympiads) one individual bronze
IM Julio Kaplan (Puerto Rico) 1966-1972 (4 Olympiads)
GM Parmarjan Negi (India) 2012-14 (2 Olympiads) one team bronze medal
Elizabeth Shaughnessy (Ireland) 1969, 1998-2002, 2006-2010 (7 Olympiads)

Players who have represented the United States

IM William Addison (USA) 1964-66 (2 Olympiads) one team silver

(L-R) Jack Collins, William Addison and Robert Byrne analyzing in the mid-1960s. (Photo: Beth Cassidy)

GM Walter Browne (USA) 1974, 1978, 1982-1984 (4 Olympiads) team – four bronze
GM Nick de Firmian (USA) 1980, 1984-1990, 1996-2000 (8 Olympiads) team – two silver, three bronze; individual – two bronze
FM George Kane (USA) 1972 (1 Olympiad)
GM Sam Shankland (USA) 2014-16 (2 Olympiads) team – one gold; individual – one gold
GM James Tarjan (USA) 1974-1982 (5 Olympiads) team – one gold, three bronze; individual - two gold, one bronze

A few highlights:

Sam Shankland hold the American record for best winning percentage for players who have played more than one Olympiad (81 percent)

Nick de Firmian scored three out of four in matches against the Soviet Union including wins over Artur Yusupov and Alexander Beliavsky.

Nick de Firmian at the 1988 New York Open

James Tarjan won seven team and individual medals in five Olympiads.

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

After the U.S. Open in San Francisco, I entered San Jose State University as a student in the Geology Department. I was working in Yosemite, and taking the time to play in the Open cost income and some hardship in a new city for me. I was fortunate that John and his family had me over for dinners and chess with John at their home in nearby Saratoga. I am very grateful for their kindness.

The main event was a 10-game training match with John. At the time I was considered the stronger player, and John’s sound policy (starting with his match with Bill Adams) of getting experience by playing matches with stronger players helped to build his chess strength. The games were hard -fought, as the sample below shows. I was again fortunate to win by 5 games to 3 with 2 draws.

Ruy Lopez Steinitz Deferred C72
John Blackstone–Erik Osbun
Training Match, 3rd Game of 10
San Jose, November 28, 1961

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.0-0

Following Fischer, but more common are 5.c3 or 5.Bxc6+, the latter favored by John Grefe, as shown in the pages of the California Chess Reporter.

5….Bg4 6.h3

This move defines the tactical possibilities to follow. Contrary to the note by Fischer, it is not important to kick the bishop immediately. White gets a good game with 6.c3 Qf6

7.d3 Nge7 8.Be3, for if now 8….Bxf3? 9.Qxf3 Qxf3 10.gxf3 g5 11.Kh1 h6 12.d4 Bg7 13.d5 b5 14.Bc2 Na5 15.a4 0-0 16.axb5 axb5 17.Na3 Rfb8 18.b4 Nc4 19.Nxc4 bxc4 20.Rfb1 f5 21.Kg2 f4 22.Bd2 and White has the better position (D.J. Foley–L. Frankenstein, California Open, Santa Barbara, 1958). Black’s bishop is practically useless.


Fischer–Geller, Bled, 1961, continued 6….Bh5, but that is another story, best described by Fischer himself in My 60 Memorable Games.

6….h5 is Black’s most contentious move in this, the third game of our training match. In order to present new problems, I played 6….Bd7 in later games, the seventh going 7.c4 and the ninth going 7.c3.


This is the move Fischer said he would play in answer to 6….h5. The main alternative is 7.Bxc6+, and White, if he chooses, can transpose back into it after 7.d4. Of course 7.c3 is quite sound too.


Taking the step to garnish the hanging d-pawn. The main alternative is 7….b5 8.Bb3 Nxd4 (8….Bxf3? is the game Blackstone–R.Gross shown below.) 9.hxg4 Nxb3 (Or 9….hxg4 10.Ng5 Nh6 11.Bd5 c6 12.c3 cxd5 13.cxd4 Be7 14.Qd2, with advantage for White in the game de Firmian–Timman., Reykjavik, 2000) 10.axb3 hxg4 11.Ng5 Qd7 12.c4 Rb8, and now White has the choice of:

1) clarity with 13.Qd5 c6 14.Qxf7+ Qxf7 15.Nxf7 Kxf7 16.Rxa6 Nf6 17.Re1 bxc4 18.bxc4 d5! 19.cxd5 cxd5 20.exd5 Bc5 21.Be3 Bxe3 22.Rxe3! Rxb2 23.Ra1! Nxd5 24.Rxe5 Rc2 25.Na3 Rc6! 26.Rf5+ Rf6 27.Rxf6+ = (analysis of Ivan Sokolov)

2) messy with 13.Rxa6 f6 14.Nc3 fxg5 15.Nxb5 Nf6 16.Ra7 Rc8 17.Re1 Qf7 18.Be3 Qh5 19.Kf1 (Smirnov–Yandemirov, ECU Club, 2000).

All of this comes from MCO15 and ECOC, 5th edition.

The game Blackstone–R. Gross, California Open, Fresno, 1962, continued 7….b5 8.Bb3 Bxf3? 9.Qxf3 Qf6 10.Bd5?! (Stronger is 10.Qc3 Nge7 11.dxe5 dxe5 12.Be3 g5 13.a4, with advantage to White in the game Nikolaevsky–Shiyanovsky, U.S.S.R., 1962.) Nge7 11.Qc3 Nxd4 12.Qxc7 Nxd5 (Ronnie is defending carefully: Not 12…Rc8 13.Qb7 Nxc2 14.Qxa6 Nxa1 15.Qxb5+ Kd8 16.Bd2.) 13.Qb7 Qd8 14.Qxd5 Rc8 15.Nc3 Rc5 (Forcing the exchange of queens, which is less risky than 15….Nxc2 16.Rb1 Nd4 17.Be3 when White is fully developed.) 16.Qb7 Qc8 17.Qxc8+ Rxc8 18.Be3 Ne6! (This is better than 18….Nxc2 19.Rac1 Nd4 20.Bxd4 exd4 21.Nd5, or 18….Nxc2 19.Rac1 Nb4 20.Rfd1 Be7 21.a3 Nc6 22.Nd5.) 19.a4 b4 20.Nd5 Rc4! 21.f3 Nc7! 22.b3 Nxd5! 23.exd5 Rc8! (23….Rxc2? 24.Rac1 allows a white rook to penetrate his defenses.) 24.a5 Be7 25.Rf2 Bd8 26.Ra4 Rb8 27.Bd2 Rb5 28.Bxb4 Rxd5 Drawn. The black rook has defended well.

Careful defense by Ronald Gross is in sharp contrast with the fireworks about to erupt in our game.

8.Qxf3 exd4 9.c4!?

I had expected 9.c3 to which I intended to reply 9….Qf6 (9….dxc3? 10.Nxc3 is too dangerous.) 10.Qxf6 Nxf6 11.Bxc6+ bxc6 12.cxd4 Be7, and Black is O.K.

ECOC, 5th edition gives 9.Bxc6+ bxc6 10.Rd1 Qf6 11.Qb3 Ne7 12.Qb7 Rc8 13.c3 g5 14.Qxa6 g4 15.Qd3 dxc3 16.Nxc3 Ng6 17.Qa6 Kd7 18.Na4 gxh3 19.Nc5+ Kd8 20.Nb7+ Kd7 21.Nc5+ Kd8 Draw (Azov–Sermek, Croatia 2005).

9….Qf6 10.Qb3 0-0-0

Appears to play into White’s hands, but it seems the best defense to me.

11.Bxc6 bxc6 12.Qa4 Kb7 13.Nd2 Ne7 14.b4 Ra8

Prepares to answer 15.b5 axb5.



Black has only this chance for counterattack.


White wants more than 16.b5 axb5 17.Rxb5+ cxb5 18.Qxb5+ Kc8 19.Qe8+ Kb7 20.Qb5+, and draws.

16….Bh6 17.Bb2 Rhg8 18.Nxd4


Ignores the threat, it’s the best chance.

19.Nxc6 Qh4 20.b5

White must attack, for if 20,g3?? gxh3 21.Kh2 Qxe4, and Black wins.

20….gxh3 21.bxa6+

So that if now 21….Rxa6?? 22.Bf6+.

21….Kc8 22.Nxe7+ Qxe7 23.Qc6

Not 23.g3?? Qxe4.

23….Rxg2+ 24.Kh1 Bf4

Certifying the draw.

25.Qxa8+ Kd7 26.Qd5 Rh2+ 27.Kg1 Rg2+ 28.Kh1 Rh2+ 29.Kg1 Draw

4) November FIDE Rating List

The United States continues to have three players in the top ten, while China has four women.

1. Carlsen NOR 2837
2. Aronian ARM 2801
3. Caruana USA 2799
4. Mamedyarov AZE 2799
5. Vachier-Lagrave FRA 2796
6. So USA 2788
7. Kramnik RUS 2787
8. Anand IND 2782
9. Grischuk RUS 2782
10. Nakamura USA 2780

Top-10 women:
1. Hou Yifan CHN 2680
2. Anna Muzychuk UKR 2576
3. Ju Wenjun CHN 2567
4. Kosteniuk RUS 2549
5. Mariya Muzychuk UKR 2544
6. Cmilyte LTU 2542
7. Lagno RUS 2541
8. Lei Tingjie CHN 2528
9. Dzagnidze GEO 2524
10. Tan Zhongyi CHN 2523

5) This is the end

This is a study, so expect the unexpected.

White to move

Show solution


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