Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club Newsletter #803
October 6, 2017
A grandmaster title is like a driver’s license. You don’t yet know how to drive well, you learn on the go.
—Serbian grandmaster Dr. Petar Trifunovic, as told to Grandmaster Lubos Kavalek
The Mechanics’ Chess Club will host the 17th annual J.J. Dolan Memorial G/45 this Saturday.
The Newsletter takes its traditional break between Tuesday Night Marathons with this issue and resumes on October 27.
1) Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club News
International Master Elliott Winslow won the 125-player Peter Grey Tuesday Night Marathon this past Tuesday with an outstanding score of 8–1 (1 draw and one half-point bye), scoring 2½ from 3 against his fellow 2300s. FIDE Master Josiah Stearman and National Master Conrad Diaz tied for second a half-point back.
A number of players with established ratings had exceptional performances, gaining over 50 rating points.
Jonathan Baterdene +196
Timothy Bayaraa +173
Sam Greene +124
Nicholas Boldi +89
Kevin Yanofsky +83
Jackie Cowgill +70
Michael Baer +62
Bruce Ricard +53
|Black to move (O'Connor–Diaz after 19 cxd5)||White to move (Cohee–Porlares after 44...Ke7)|
|White to move (Maser–Simpkins after 22...Be5)||White to move (Abraham–Babayan after 15...Qxg2)|
|White to move (Stolpe–Touset after 12...Bxd4)||Black to move (Ebert–Melville after 16 Bxd8)|
|White to move (Casares–Kondakova after 13...Rfd8)||Black to move (Otterbach–Harris after 17 Nd4)|
|For the solutions, see the game scores for round 9.|
National Ezra Chambers and Expert Carlo D’Avila tied for first at 9½ from 12 in the September 27 edition of the Wednesday Night Blitz. Jules Jelinek was third in the 13-player field.
Bay Area Chess hosted two national championships in Santa Clara the weekend of September 22–23. Grandmasters were plentiful in both events, and took the top spots, with Ray Robson and Daniel Naroditsky sharing honors in the G/30 and Robson, Zviad Izoria, Alex Shimanov, Timur Gareev and Meikset Khachiyan tying for first in the G/30.
Two young Mechanics’ regulars had outstanding results in the G/30. 10-year-old Adrian Kondakov defeated his first Grandmaster, Carlos Matamoros of Ecuador, and Ahyan Zaman won the C group with 4½ from 5.
Former Mechanics’ member Grandmaster James Tarjan had an outstanding result at the Isle of Man, scoring 5½ from 9 against nine Grandmasters for a performance rating of 2671 FIDE. This exceptional performance, one of the best results ever achieved by an American player age 65 or over, has only been matched by Sammy Reshevsky. We will have more to say about this achievement in future issues of the Newsletter.
The annual Western States Open will be held in Reno from October 13–15. This event has long been one of the most popular national tournaments in the United States and a favorite of Mechanics’ members. It boasts an affordable entry fee and reasonable hotel rates ($50 on Thursday and Sunday and $81 on Friday and Saturday). More information.
2) James Harkins (1929–2017) by John Donaldson
Today strong players are produced all over the United States, but it wasn’t long ago New York City was by far the number-one chess center in the country with a huge gap between the Big Apple and the next city. One contender for number two from roughly 1946 to the late 1990s was Cleveland.
Cleveland, you might ask? Consider that in the 1990s Grandmasters Alex Yermolinsky, Gregory Serper and Anatoly Lein, International Masters Calvin Blocker and IM Dmitri Berkovich, Women Grandmaster Camilla Baginskaite, US Chess Hall of Famer Milan Vukcevich and Senior Master Boris Men all made their home in the city on Lake Erie.
While this might have been the period when Cleveland had its strongest players, the city was also a hub of chess activity in the 1970s, when it hosted a 16-player Grandmaster Invitational (The Plain Dealer International) in 1975 and nearby cities (Oberlin and Mentor) hosted two U.S. Championships—in 1975 and 1977 respectively. Adopted son Milan Vukcevich, a Grandmaster of chess problem composition who was nominated for the Nobel prize in chemistry, took third in the earlier Championship.
Cleveland chess shone even earlier. It hosted the 1947 U.S. Junior Open, won by Clevelander Larry Friedman over Jim Cross and future U.S. Champion Larry Evans, and hosted well-established chess clubs for kids and women in the 1940s. When the U.S. Open was held in Cleveland in 1957 (Bobby Fischer’s first big victory), many out-of-towners were surprised to discover that Cleveland had a full-time chess center.
One man lived through all of this—James Harkins Jr. Affectionately known as “The Hawk”, Jim was a native of Cleveland who made the city his home his entire life. His death on July 27 at the age of 87 is deeply felt by his many friends there.
A graduate of Case Western Reserve Law School and The Hague Netherlands Academy of International Law, Jim worked most of his life for the city of Cleveland, but chess, bridge and opera were his passions.
Jim developed into a strong player at the Pawns Chess Club, held in the Treasure Room at the John G. White Collection, part of the Cleveland Public Library. This club for junior players also produced Larry Friedman (U.S. Junior Champion in 1946 and 1947), twin brothers George and Harald Miller—the latter Ohio state champion in 1951. William Granger, one of the first strong African-American players in the Midwest and one of Ohio’s best in the late 1940s and early 1950s, also played there.
Larry Friedman (left) and James Harkins engage in a blindfold game while onlookers struggle to follow the action. This photo, taken during a session of the Pawns Chess Club at the John G. White Library, was published in Chess Review in July 1948 (p. 5).
Harkins would go on to become a National Master and win the Ohio Championship in 1964, 1968, and 1973 (he tied for 1st in 1954 but lost on tiebreak). Of his many fine achievements in chess, perhaps the most impressive was his draw in 1958 with Pal Benko (then living in Cleveland), who qualified for the Candidates’ a few months later. Jim played quite well into his eighties and was rated 2088 a few months shy of his 85th birthday.
“Jim Harkins recaptures city chess crown” is the headline from this 1966 issue of the long-running Cleveland Chess Bulletin.
Fellow National Master David Presser, a good friend of Jim’s, reflects on Jim’s character:
Jim was an extremely generous person. He seemed to genuinely enjoy treating people to dinner. He also shared his skills as an attorney and helped me on several occasions, always adamantly refusing compensation. A Cleveland tournament organizer, James Schroeder, sometimes had low turnouts and lost money Mr. Schroeder told me that Jim Harkins was the only person who gave him some money to help defray the deficit.
Jim had a soft heart. I heard this story: during a big tournament in Milwaukee, Jim defeated a young player who cried after the game. Jim then reported the game as a win for the youngster!
The Hawk will be missed.
3) Blitz at the Mechanics
Blitz chess has a long tradition at the Mechanics’. Today we have the weekly Wednesday Night Blitz, attracting upwards of twenty players a week and the yearly Ray Schutt Memorial gets stronger and larger each year (last April 79 players competed), but five-minute chess has always had a following at the MI, as the three following crosstables from the late 1960s and 1970 show.
The first, won by National Master Carroll Capps, who wrote science fiction novels under the pseudonym C. C. MacApp, is undated, but is from either 1967 or early 1968. Three-time Washington State champion John Braley’s appearance pins it down, as he only lived in San Francisco during this period.
MI Blitz won by Capps
The second crosstable is also undated, but the participation of Irving Chernev (his son Melvin also played) makes it likely it was in 1968 or 1969—about the time the famous chess writer moved from New York to San Francisco. David Blohm, who was among the best juniors in the United States in the mid-1960s, won the event, ahead of fellow National Master Roy Hoppe, who was equally adept at bridge.
Chernev’s play in MI Blitz
By 1970 the weekly blitz, or rapid transit tournaments, as they were sometimes called, were becoming larger and stronger. The following crosstable from early 1970 shows International Master William Addison and future Grandmaster James Tarjan sharing top honors in the 19-player event. Many other well-known players participated, including future U.S. Champion John Grefe, U.S. Junior Closed participant Takashi Kurosaki, Ruth Fitzgerald (nee Herstein) and noted organizer and bibliophile Alan Benson.
4) Still Hanging in There
Much has been made of the number of young talents in the United States coming up in the United States, and rightly so. Jeffrey Xiong and Sam Sevian are rated over 2600 FIDE and among the top ten players in the World under 21. Awonder Liang and Ruifeng Li are not far behind while older and higher-rated Sam Shankland, Ray Robson and Daniel Naroditsky are still at an age when there is plenty of room for improvement. However none of the players mentioned occupy the number 4 and 5 spots on the US rating list behind the “Big Three”. Can you guess who does?
Yep, it’s Alexander Onischuk and Gata Kamsky, holding steady at 2682 and 2676 respectively and both over 40 years old. Neither shows signs of giving up their spot without a fight. Onischuk nearly won the U.S. Championship earlier this year, and recently knocked out FIDE 2740 Radosław Wojtaszek in the World Cup. Kamsky tied for first in the Korchnoi Memorial this past August with Russian Grandmasters Alekseev (2614), Kokarev (2617) and Shimanov (2646) with 7½/9.
5) This is the end
This study challenges both sides to make the most of their position. Which would you rather be, White or Black?
White to move