Mechanics' Institute Chess Room Newsletter

by John Donaldson

Gens Una Sumus!

Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club Newsletter #851
November 30, 2018

They’re not doing themselves any favours this year by excluding two of their strongest players [Svidler and Grischuk], a luxury that most teams cannot afford. And it may turn out it’s a luxury they cannot afford either.

—Magnus Carlsen, predicting the fate of the Russian team
at the Batumi Olympiad a few rounds before the end.

M.C.’s entire commentary can be found at Chess 24.

1) Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club News

FIDE Master Ezra Chambers defeated National Master Conrado Diaz in round six of the Vartan Bedjanian Tuesday Night Marathon, and is now the sole leader with 5½ points. Nipping at his heels with 5 points each are Master Jordy-Mont-Reynaud, Expert Aleksandr Ivanov, and Class A Players Kevin Kuczek and Michael Askin.

From round 6 of the Bedjanian Tuesday Night Marathon:
White to move (Gaffagan–Askin after 26...Nd7)Black to move (Gaffagan–Askin after 31 Qg6)
White to move (Askin–Vickers after 16...Nd5)White to move (Askin–Vickers after 19...Qa7)
White to move (Askin–Vickers after 32...Rxf2)White to move (Boldi–Steger after 34...Kd8)
For the solutions, see the game scores for round 6.

National Masters Anna Matlin and Michael Chiang tied for 1st in the Wednesday 11/28 edition of the Wednesday Night Blitz with 8 points each. Tied for 3rd through 6th with 7 points apiece in the 11-player event were Jules Jelinek, Felix Rudyak, Joe Urquhart and Kristian Clemens.

U.S. Champion GM Sam Shankland’s Small Steps to Giant Improvement is now out in paperback.

Every world champion from Emanuel Lasker to Anatoly Karpov visited the Mechanics’ excepting Mikhail Botvinnik. The following photo comes from Karpov’s visit in 1999, which was arranged by then MI Grandmaster-in-Residence Roman Dzindzichashvili.

Anatoly Karpov with FIDE Master Mark Pinto and Ewelina Krubnik (who has taught the Sunday women’s chess club for many years). (Photo: MI Chess Club Archives).

2) Letter from Newsletter Editor John Donaldson

This will be my last Newsletter, as Abel Talamantez takes over as Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club Director this week. Abel will be only the tenth person to occupy this position since it was established in 1951 and we wish him well.

I would like to offer a big thank-you to MI Chess Director Jim Eade and MI Executive Director Mark Pinto, who offered me the position at the 1988 US Open in Kona, Hawaii.

During the past twenty years many people have been good friends of the MICC, especially Tibor Weinberger, Mark Pinto, the Schutt family (including Ray’s brother Bill) and the late Mike Goodall. All of the above provided generous financial support for many years that enabled the club to put on numerous special events, from invitationals to blitz tournaments.

Working with fellow employees Alex Yermolinsky, Anthony Corrales, Paul Whitehead, Nick de Firmian, Elliott Winslow, Tony Lama and especially the late Stephen Brandwein was good fun and never boring.

Jim Flack was my boss (MI Executive Director) for 15 of the years I was Chess Director. His confidence in the Chess Room and willingness to give it free reign to try new programs was much appreciated.

Peter Sherwood has made the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club a better place. Peter and his wife Bonnie are generous donors to the Mechanics’ Institute, but his contributions are not limited to this. It was Peter who went out and bought 40 Chronos Clocks which have been the mainstays of the Tuesday Night Marathon ever since. It was he who encouraged the entering of the TNM games and who has posted them online for over a decade.

If you have enjoyed the Newsletter, especially since issue #620, thank Peter, who has edited the weekly publication for close to six years. It is he who prepares the challenging endgame studies each week.

Last but not least I would like to acknowledge the lasting legacy of Neil Falconer, who for over 60 years championed the Mechanics’ Institute, and especially his beloved chess club. The MICC has been around for over 150 years and, knock on wood, it will be around another 150.

3) Wallace E. Nevill, remembered by Frederick William Huber

The following article was preserved by the late Peter Grey and found among his effects. It was numbered 18, but none of the other articles in the series were preserved. Sadly, very little of the MI Chess Club’s records before World War Two have been preserved, outside of its chess tables (built in 1913), photographs and newspaper columns of the time. As such this article, dealing with the 1904 MICC Champion, provides a glimpse into the past, even if it is not the most flattering portrait.

A Californian Miscellany, San Francisco Characters. No. 18 Wallace E. Nevill, by Frederick William Huber

He was from Australia and originally a Campbellite minister, whatever that is. He first got a job as a conductor on the Jackson Street Cable Car Line. His incompatibility cost him his job. Simon Meyer, nephew of the well-known Daniel Meyer, next got Nevill a job as a conductor on the California Street Car Line. It was discovered that Nevill smoked on the job. He was told not to. He smoked his head off. That job went. Simon Meyer next got Nevill a job as a sexton in some Protestant church. Nevill was cautioned not to put too much fuel in the stove in a basement room, where weekly meetings were held. Nevill crammed it full to the top and nearly burned the place down. That job went.

The fact that he married is established, the details are apocryphal. The story goes that he married a stenographer and lived with her in her mother’s rooming-house. The wife supported him for a while until she wearied of it and cast him adrift.

I joined the Mechanics’ Institute on a Saturday and spent the evening in the Chess Room. On leaving, Nevill said to me: “I wish I knew how I am to subsist until Monday. I thought to myself: “You must have played yourself out with everybody in the room, when you tackle a newcomer.” I didn’t give him anything.

We became friends in spite of this and worked many a chess problem together. Nevill suggested that the outstanding positions and brilliancies occurring in play should be recorded and preserved. When I was idle during the Depression, I remembered that is and a book full of these lies in the Chess Room.

Nevill told me that, weather permitting, he had spent many a night on a bench in Golden Gate Park. Sometimes he challenged me to a game of chess for 10 cents. I realized that he was broke and went in on it. He was an excellent chess player and won the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Championship for the year 1904.

Joseph Haber, the attorney, likes to tell the following. Bill Bowe was an old-time checker player and champion. Av certain Hoag, a newspaper man was the best checker player of his day. He played under the name of Hopewell. Bowe found his checker playing anything but lucrative and became very seedy. He was illiterate, could neither read nor write. Books on checkers were Bohemian villages to him, except when J.J. Dolan, a director of the Mechanics’ Institute condescended to read out of one of them to him. At a session, Bowe would say: “Now this is an even position. I can take either side and win.” When Pat Calhoun, President of the United Railways acquired control opf the San Francisco Bulletin he put Hoag in charge as manager. Hoag, in turn, gave Bowe a job. Mr. Haber met Bowe on the street. “You are looking quite prosperous, Mr. Bowe.” “You know, Mr. Haber, I was down and out and contemplated suicide but Nevill showed me how to live on 10 cents a day. Now, at 60 years of age, I am a messenger, but am earning my living.”

Nevill wrote a book entitled Chess Humanics, a copy of which was in the Mechanics’ Library. He asked for it back when he was ousted for non-payment of dues. It was given to him.

He wrote to his sister in Australia that he was starving. She sent him money. Instead of husbanding this windfall, he went to London to try to get a book published. He was unsuccessful and returned to San Francisco. He had submitted his manuscripts to me but I found nothing original in them. “Strabo says, someone else says”, etc. anybody could have done as much with a pair of scissors and a paste pot.

During prohibition he once asked me where I dined. I told him “In the Latin Quarter, I invite you to accompany me whatever you like.” Later, he asked me what I spent for dinner. I answered him: “about $1.25.” “Are you still willing to take me?” “Sure, would you like to go to-night?” “It would be too much for me. Give me half of it and let me spend it the way I like.” “Mr. Nevill, you are bargaining with good-nature, I don’t do it that way.”

When Nevill qualified for the original Old Age Pension which paid at that time $35 a month, he must have lived in clover, according to his standards.

Notes: The full title of Nevill’s book, published in 1905, is Chess-Humanics: A Philosophy of Chess, a Sociological Allegory; Parallelisms Between the Game of Chess and Our Larger Human Affairs. It’s not exactly an exciting read. For more on the book and Nevill see W.

One wonders what happened to the notebook that Huber compiled and what his relationship was, if any, with the bandleader and 1901 MI Chess Club champion Valentine Huber.

4) James Tarjan at The Isle of Man (continued)

My opening against the young Austrian Grandmaster Valentin Dragnev went even worse than the one with Sethuraman (Ed.: see MI Newsletter #850). I remembered that 12. ...b4 must be the move, but I could not remember why and it made no sense to me at the board. In fact, the long-established theory is 12. ...b4 13.Na4 c5! which came to me, as so often, a few moves later into the game.

But in fact, if I had remembered the (old) theory very likely Dragnev had prepared for me the (latest) theory of 13. Ne2 Nxe4 14.Qc2, a very strange and obviously computer-inspired pawn sacrifice. Now, for next time I will be better prepared for this line, but of course next time they will remain one step ahead of me with something else.

There is an uncanny resemblance in fact to my bad position out of the opening against Sethuraman, in both cases that beautiful White king’s bishop.

However, yesterday the goddess of chess deigned to smile upon me, and in turn rather frown at Dragnev. He overlooked practically the only tactic available to Black in the position, namely 20. ...Rxc3! After this he struggles with the material deficit of rook vs. two minor pieces. The battle continues for a long time, with ups and downs along the way. I have not had the time or inclination to look at it all in detail. Suffice to say that at move 71, the young grandmaster from Austria was obliged to extend his hand in resignation to the old geezer, faced otherwise with the even greater ignominy of being mated on the board.

James Tarjan, as he appeared in the tournament program for a junior tournament in Norwich, England in 1972. The program caption read “James TARJAN, United States of America. Age 20. 2nd U.S. Junior Chanpionship 1969. 1st U.S. National Open. Member U.S. Student Team: Dresden 1969, Haifa 1970, Mayagnez 1971.”

Ruy Lopez C95
Valentin Dragnev (2508)-Jim Tarjan (2404)
Isle of Man (5) 2018

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Nb8 10.d4 Nbd7 11.c4 c6 12.Nc3 Bb7

Longstanding theory is 12...b4 but now some recent games with 13.Ne2!? and the very odd, obviously computer-inspired continuation (13.Na4 c5) 13...Nxe4 14.Qc2 f5 (14...Nef6 15.Ng3) 15.c5+ d5 16.Be3.


Having gotten in Nc3 and a3, White is very happy


And if Black wants to attempt this position, he has to find some other plan over the next few moves

14.Ba2 Rc8 15.Be3 Qc7 16.Rc1

16.cxb5 cxb5 17.Nh4 Rfe8 18.Nf5 Bf8 19.Qf3 is very strong for White.

16...Qb8 17.cxb5 cxb5 18.Nh4 Rfe8 19.Nf5

19.dxe5 Nxe5 (19...dxe5 20.Qb3 Rc4 21.Nxb5 axb5 22.Rxc4 bxc4 23.Qxc4 Rf8 24.Ng6+-) 20.Nf5 is also very promising for White.

19...Bf8 20.Qf3?

Just not this. Instead 20.f3 or 20.Qd3.

20...Rxc3! 21.bxc3?!

The best chance is 21.Rxc3 Bxe4 22.Nxh6+ gxh6 23.Qg3+ Kh7 24.Qh4.

21...Bxe4 22.Nxh6+ gxh6 23.Qg3+ Kh7 24.Qh4 Bg6 25.c4 b4 26.c5 b3 27.Bxb3 Qxb3 28.c6 Qa4 29.Bg5 Bg7 30.Kh2 Nd5 31.cxd7 Qxd7 32.dxe5 dxe5 33.Red1 e4 34.Kg1 Qf5 35.Rc5 Re5 36.Bc1 Qe6 37.Qd8 e3 38.fxe3 Bf6?

38...Be4 winning.

39.Qc8 Qxc8


40.Rxc8 Be4 41.Rf1


41...Re6 42.Rb8 Kg7 43.Rc8 h5 44.Rb8 h4 45.Bb2 Bxb2 46.Rxb2 Rg6 47.Rff2 f5 48.Rb7+ Kh6 49.Rfb2 Rg3 50.a4 a5 51.Ra7 Nxe3 52.Rxa5 Nxg2 53.Kf2 Nf4 54.Rb8 Nxh3+ 55.Ke1 Kg5 56.Ra7 Kf4 57.Rh7 Ng5 58.Rxh4+ Ke3 59.Rb3+ Bd3 60.Rh1 f4 61.Kd1 f3 62.Re1+ Kd4 63.Rb4+ Kc3 64.Rf4 Rg2 65.Rf8 Rd2+ 66.Kc1 Rc2+ 67.Kd1 Be2+ 68.Rxe2 fxe2+ 69.Ke1 Kd3 70.Rd8+ Ke3 71.Re8+ Ne4 0-1

Having seen how badly I played against 11.c4 in the Breyer two rounds ago against Dragnev, Christiansen repeated the variation. But also, it is the latest thing, I guess. So I had my chance to prepare for it this time. There are sharp, interesting lines after 14. ...f5, but none of them appealed to me and my computer said I could hold equality as I played, giving back the pawn. Believe it or not, the position after 28. ...Qf4 was all in my prep. Or rather my computer’s prep. And, as so often in these cases, the minute I got beyond all that opening prep I immediately went completely wrong. His 29.Qe7 at least keeps the queens on and the game going. The computer calls it equal but that will not save you if you don’t understand the position. In fact, Black’s pawn structure is compromised on both sides and his rook on f8 is not yet developed. Sure, Black could hold a draw but only if he continues to make good moves, starting with 30. ...Bd6. (The computer could do it; after all it came up with all those moves to that point.) The opposite colored bishops do not automatically save Black with rooks or queens on the board, much less both.

Instead once I was actually on my own playing chess, I showed very poor judgment in going after the b2 pawn with my bishop. Trying to be “active”. The most crucial pawn in the position is Black’s on c5, and once he gobbles that things become dire. I immediately realized how badly I had screwed it up. Immediately as in after the fact.

Then for a long time I am struggling, yet again, to somehow hold a bad position. If we overlook that he could have ended the game at once with 38.Qh5. I am sure he in turn did not play all the exactly best moves. 46. ...Ra8! looks a very likely draw; I saw it at the board but hallucinated some threat on his part, of him right away bringing either his king to g6 or his pawn to f6 or both, but apparently, I could defend. Instead I went into passive mode, and as usual this did not avail. I do believe that one way or the other he should break through my leaky blockade, once he wins the a-pawn and is up a pawn again.

Ruy Lopez Breyer C95
Johan-Sebastian Christiansen (2541)–Jim Tarjan (2404)
Isle of Man 2018 (7) 2018

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Nb8 10.d4 Nbd7 11.c4 c6 12.Nc3 b4 13.Ne2 Nxe4 14.Qc2 Nef6 15.Ng3 c5 16.dxe5 dxe5 17.Nxe5 Nxe5 18.Rxe5 Bd6 19.Re2 Qc7 20.Nf5 Be5 21.Bg5 h6 22.Bh4 Bxf5 23.Qxf5 Rae8 24.Rae1 g6 25.Qf3 g5 26.Bg3 Bxg3 27.Qxf6 Rxe2 28.Rxe2 Qf4 29.Qe7 Qd4 30.Kf1 Bf4?


31.g3 Bc1? 32.Re5+/- Bxb2 33.Rxc5 Qd8 34.Qe2 Qf6 35.Rd5 Bd4 36.c5 Kg7?

Black is in trouble but maybe 36...Rd8 37.Rxd8+ Qxd8 38.c6 Bb6.

37.Rd6 Qe5 38.Qxe5+?

38.Qh5 wins at once.

38...Bxe5 39.Rd7 Rc8 40.Rxf7+ Kh8 41.f4 gxf4 42.gxf4 Bd4 43.Ke2 Bxc5 44.Kf3 Rf8 45.Rd7 a5 46.Ke4 Bb6


47.h4 Rd8 48.Rf7 Bd4 49.Kf5 Bg7 50.Ra7 Rf8+ 51.Kg4 Bc3 52.Rxa5 Bd2 53.f5 Rf6 54.Ra7 Bc3 55.Be6 Rf8 56.Kh5 Rf6 57.Rc7 Bd2 58.Rc4 Kg7 59.Rc7+ Kf8

I wanted to get my king out of its box in the corner but this turned out even worse.

60.Kg4 Ke8 61.Rc8+ Ke7 62.Rc7+ Ke8 63.h5 Rf8 64.Kf3 Bg5 65.Ke4 Bf6 66.Kd5 Bh4 67.Rb7 Be1 68.Kc6 Bd2 69.Kd6 Bf4+ 70.Kd5 Bg3 71.Rg7 Bf4 72.Ra7 Kd8 73.Kc4 Bg5 74.Kxb4 Re8 75.Rd7+ Kc8 76.Kb5 Kb8 77.Ka6 Re7 78.Rxe7 Bxe7 79.Kb6 Ba3 80.f6 1-0

5) Here and There

International Master Elliott Winslow and National Master Derek O’Connor are tied for first in the Berkeley Chess Club Championship with a round remaining. This year’s BCC Championship is stronger than usual, with a number of masters in the 39-player field.

Grandmaster Tejas Bakre won the Emory Tate Memorial, held October 26-28 in Santa Clara, with a score of 4 ½ from 5. The Bay Area Chess event attracted 114 entries.

6) Looking Back—San Francisco versus Los Angeles 1926

The last of the San Francisco versus Los Angeles cable matches was held on May 30, 1926. That November the annual tradition, dating back over a decade, would be replaced by face-to-face matches. For the next roughly forty years players from the North and South would meet in central locations like Atascadero and Fresno.

This photo from the Mechanics’ Institute archives shows the match in progress. Among those pictured are several figures who played significant roles in the history of the MICC. On the far left the second player is Bernardo Smith and the young man next to him, looking at the photographer is H.J. “Bip” Ralston, who would later found the California Chess Reporter with Guthrie McClain.

To the right of the door which now leads to the Chess Director’s office, sitting next to the man standing (wearing a dark hat) is the famous problemist A.J. Fink. Closer to the camera, the next-to-last player pictured with the black pieces, is Henry Gross, who was already one of the best players in California, and would remain so for many years (he drew Bobby Fischer at Oklahoma City 1956). The Mechanics’ won this match 8½ to 6½.

7) More Books

We wrote in Newsletter #850 about local bookstores where used chess literature can be found. Newsletter reader Kerry Lawless points out we missed Bibliomania, located near downtown Oakland at 1816 Telegraph Ave. Open Monday through Saturday from 11 am to 5 pm, it has several shelves of good-quality chess books for sale.

Lawless, the editor of the outstanding website, would know, as he once had a chess library of close to a thousand books. While not so many as other Bay Area collectors like Robert Moore and Mingsen Chen, it was definitely up there.

8) Paul Allen, Chess Player

Many famous people from Napoleon, to Lenin to Bill Gates have been identified as chess players, although some of them have not been particularly strong, to put it mildly. Not so the late Paul Allen. The detailed 24-page program for the 5th Annual 1971 Washington State High School Chess Team Tournament, produced by Howard Chin, features a picture of the Lakeside (Seattle) team with 17-year-old senior Paul Allen in the middle. The April 1971 issue of Northwest Chess on page 26 notes that Allen scored 2½–2½ playing board four for Lakeside in the five-board competition, for a performance of about 1400. That rating, adjusted for inflation, would put him in the neighborhood of the average tournament player at around 1500–1600 USCF.

9) Alexander Ipatov, on how to improve at chess

Grandmaster Alexander Ipatov, who is studying at St. Louis University, offers some useful advice for club players on how to improve, in the following interview. Read it in its entirety.

1. What in the most quick and effective way to increase one’s ELO rating studying individually (no coach involved), for chess players 1400–1800 ELO.

Answer: I recommend solving chess tactics and studies daily (from 30 minutes to 1 hour), and also analyzing the games of the world champions with their own annotation. I suggest focusing on games of players like Capablanca, Alekhine, Botvinnik and Smyslov. By sticking to this simple routine novice players can quickly improve.

2. Could you suggest an example of an effective training program for chess players 1400–1800 strength? What changes in the program once the player’s level goes up?

Answer: When I was younger, I followed the advice from question #1 and it helped me a lot. I recommend that simple outline to anyone looking for improvement. I think chess engines do not play any significant role in improvement of a chess player, at least not until they reach IM/GM level. Currently, I only study chess by skimming through new games, especially paying attention to the opening lines and variations.

3. How much time do players of 1400–1800 strength need to dedicate to studying openings and how should it be done?

Answer: The most important thing in studying chess is to do it systematically (i.e. every day). Studying only one time per week, even for 8 hours, is not as efficient as multiple times per week. I do not recommend using chess engines for opening preparation to chess players under 2400. Instead, I suggest looking through chess games of strong players (2600+) and trying to understand their plans, ideas behind positioning of pieces, etc.

4. What is the main mistake that most novice chess players make, preventing them from improving at chess?

Answer: Trusting the computer analysis too much and trying to memorize openings, endgames, etc. instead of understanding and ‘feeling’ the positions.

5. Is playing blitz and rapid chess helpful for becoming a better chess player?

Answer: If playing against a stronger opponent, from whom you can learn something new, then yes. Generally, I do not suggest spending much time on blitz and especially online chess. That can develop some bad habits such as playing on intuition, not calculating variations and rushing the moves.

10) Strongest chess player to develop in San Francisco

This is sort of a trick question. If one goes by the strongest player born in the city that honor might go to Canadian Grandmaster Duncan Suttles, who was born in San Francisco but left at an early age, long before he started playing chess.

The title of strongest player to develop in San Francisco has several pretenders to the throne with the Whitehead brothers, FM Paul (=1st U.S. Junior Closed) and IM Jay (U.S. Grand Prix winner), both strong contenders.

National Master Gil Ramirez, who won the 1956 California State Championship while a high school student, is another candidate. He is pictured here in a photo from the MI archives, playing in the 1956 state championship, the finals of which were held at the Mechanics’.

State Champion Gil Ramirez (L) vs. Irving Rivise. Background: Sam Geller, TD Arthur B., Stamer.
This photo was first published in the California Chess Reporter, November 1956, page 73.

These three strong players notwithstanding, the winner has to be International Master William Addison, with a peak FIDE rating of 2490 in 1970 and a lifetime plus score in roughly a half-dozen US Championships.

Addison was playing particularly well the last couple of years before he retired. In 1969 he nearly won the US Championship and his second-place finish earned him a ticket to the Interzonal. The following year he won several tournaments, often with outstanding scores.

One of the events was the Berkeley Masters, where he scored 8–1 in a round robin event, a point and a half ahead of second place finisher James Tarjan. National Masters William Bills was third at 6–3 with John Grefe, who would tie for first in the US Championship three years later, fourth at 5–4. Jude Acers shared fifth at fifty percent with former World Junior Champion Julio Kaplan who forfeited two games. Other playing included National Masters Robert Burger, George Kane, Kenneth Fitzgerald and Alan Benson.

Here is one of Addison’s easier wins from the event against the well-known organizer and tournament director.

King’s Indian E92
William Addison–Alan Benson
Berkeley Masters Tournament 1970

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0–0 6.Be2 e5 7.Be3 Ng4 8.Bg5 f6 9.Bh4 g5 10.Bg3 f5?! 11.exf5 Bxf5 12.h3 e4?

13.hxg4 exf3 14.Bxf3 Re8+ 15.Kf1 Bg6 16.Bxb7 Nd7 17.Bxa8 Qxa8 18.Qd2 c5 19.Nb5 Re4 20.dxc5 Nxc5 21.Qxg5 Rxc4 22.Nxd6 Ne4 23.Nxe4 Qxe4 24.Re1 Qc6 25.Kg1 Bf6 26.Qe3 Re4 27.Qc1 Rc4 28.Qd1 Rd4 29.Qb3+ Bf7 30.Qb8+ Kg7 31.g5 1–0

11) Ipatov wins in first PNWC Master; Tarjan finishes third

Pacific Northwest Chess Center, based out of the Seattle suburb of Kirkland, held a strong tournament this past November, which was won by former World Junior Champion Alexander Ipatov with 7 from 7. Grandmasters Francesco Rambaldi and James Tarjan were second and third, at 5½ and 4½, respectively. This was yet another fine result for the latter, who was a frequent visitor to the Mechanics’ Institute in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The 66-year-old Tarjan had three wins (including the following against the second seed), a draw, a loss (to Ipatov) and two half-point byes to maintain his position as the top-rated player in the United States age 65 and older (MI members IM Elliott Winslow and NM Kerry Lawless are number 7 and 11 on the same list).

The PNCC, which opened its facility in October, plans a series of master events with invited Grandmasters. The next two events are December 14–16 and January 18–21 with Grandmasters Vladimir Belous and Andrey Stukopin the special guests for the first event and Chinese super-GM Bu Xiangzhi and Tarjan for the second. More information on these events and others.

James Tarjan annotates his victory over Italian Grandmaster Francesco Rambaldi, who is studying at St. Louis University.

Certainly it helped that I had White. The opening I played, yet again, the Symmetrical English, is not going to give White any sort of opening advantage. I have learned this though experience, sometimes bitter. But one has to play something, and at least this got me out of the opening alive (unlike against Ipatov, and unlike in so many of my games with very strong ones) and in a structure I have some experience with. I could go on about the precise opening moves but I will not. Suffice to say, he played something a bit unusual with 6. ...Rb8. But it is evidence of just how solid Black’s position is, and, if you will, how harmless White’s opening is, that Black can play practically any logical move and get a decent position.

He set up a solid development, something like in the Fischer line but with the pawn back on d6 rather than aggressively pushing ...d5 early. I figured to have a slight pull having gotten in b4, but it didn’t seem to turn out that way. By move 17 I was uncertain how to play and launched an interesting but objectively not inspiring launch of the g-pawn in front of my king. For better or worse he avoided simplifying and things became very complicated. No doubt I was helped that he was playing to win and thus looking to avoid exchanges. What he did burned his bridges on the queenside in order to launch an attack against my now somewhat-exposed king. But, when things got crazy and complicated, for once it was he who blinked first and failed to make the most of his position. After a couple desultory moves he was simply run over without ever getting his attack going.

English A37
James Tarjan–Francesco Rambaldi
PNWC Masters (4) 2018
Notes by Tarjan

1.c4 g6 2.g3 Bg7 3.Bg2 c5 4.Nc3 Nc6 5.Nf3 d6 6.0-0 Rb8 7.Rb1

7.e3 Nf6 (7...Nh6!?) 8.d4 0-0.

7...e6 8.d3 Nge7 9.Bd2 b6 10.a3 Bb7 11.b4 0-0 12.e3 Qd7 13.Qa4


13...Ba8 14.Rfd1 Rfd8 15.Be1 Nf5 16.Ne4 Qe7

Black is playing ...d5 with a tempo on the knight and I wasn’t sure how to respond, other than going back with 17.Nc3.


Interesting, but objectively not so good.


17...d5!? is actually possible here, but how he played is apparently better.

18.g5 Nf5 19.Ng3 Ne5 20.Nxe5 Bxg2 21.Kxg2 dxe5?!

21...Bxe5! 22.Nxf5 exf5 The computer slightly prefers Black, and I suppose that makes sense; White has weakened his king position 23.f4 (23.h4!?) 23...Bg7 24.Bf2 Qb7+ 25.Kg3 Re8.


22.bxc5 first perhaps, but I wanted to get my knight to the wonderful square e4 ASAP. One way for Black then would be 22...Nh4+ 23.Kf1 Qxg5 24.Qxa7 Qg4 with a possible draw by perpetual.


Leaving the Ne4 and playing for an attack against the king. At the board I couldn’t believe this plan by Black should work but the computer thinks Black is OK in what becomes a complicated mess. I thought he had to play 22...Nd6 23.Nxd6 Qxd6 and it is about equal.

23.bxc5 bxc5

Here Houdini wants to play consistently with 23...hxg5 with the sort of position we used to call “unclear”. The computer’s evaluation hovers around equal. White’s king has a more-or-less safe haven on f1.


Now White comes quickly on the queenside, though the evaluation, at least by my software, remains around equal.

24...hxg5 25.Ba5 Rdc8 26.Rxb8 Rxb8 27.Qxc5 Qb7 28.Qc7 Qa8

Only now does the computer agree that White is better. 28...Qb3! and Black has enough attack to make a perpetual check, though both sides must navigate further complications 29.Nxg5 most straightforward (White can also move the rook, though then it gets really messy 29.Rd2 Nh4+ 30.Kh3 (30.Kf1? Nf3-/+) 30...Qb1 31.Nxg5 Nf5 32.Kg2) 29...Nh4+ 30.Kh3 Qxd1 31.Qxb8+ (31.Qxf7+? actually loses) 31...Bf8 32.Bb4 Qf1+ with perpetual check.

29.Kf1 Nh4 30.Ke2! Rf8?

He was getting short of time and did not see anything good to do. He needs to find a way to get at White’s king. [30...g4! is the only logical try 31.c5 Rc8 (31...Rb2+ 32.Rd2 Rb1 33.c6 Nf3 34.Rd1) 32.Qd7 This is strong for White, but only if he can calculate a long variation: 32...Rxc5 (Otherwise Black has nothing better than trading into a bad endgame with 32...Qc6) 33.Nxc5 Qf3+ 34.Kd2 Qxf2+ 35.Kc3 e4+ 36.Kb3 the king runs to the queenside and survives 36...Qb2+ 37.Ka4 Qc2+ 38.Kb5 Qxd1 39.Qd8+ Bf8 40.Bb4.


The rook comes to the seventh and Black is running out of attacking ideas, while allowing the trade of queens is also getting hopeless

31...Qe8 32.Nc5!

blocking the last path of Black’s queen on a4


I thought he might throw in 32...e4 but it doesn’t help after 33.d4.

33.Rb7 Nf3 34.Nd7 Kh8 35.Rb8

Always a chance for a mistake: 35.Nxf8?? Qa4 equal.

35...Qe7 36.Bb4 Qh4

Finally he gets his queen into the attack, but too late

37.Nxf8 Ng1+ 38.Kf1 Qxh2 39.Qxf7 1-0

12) Boris Spassky simul at Paul Masson

Boris Spassky and Max Euwe both gave simuls during this Paul Masson tournament. Here is a game played by Spassky against National Master Alan Benson.

Sicilian B81
Boris Spassky–Alan Benson
Saratoga (simul), July 18, 1980

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 6.g4 h6 7.g5 hxg5 8.Bxg5 Nc6 9.Qd2 Qa5

9...Qb6 10.Nb3 is the normal continuation.

10.Nb3 Qb4 [10...Qb6 leaves Black a tempo down.]

11.Bg2 [11.Bxf6 gxf6 12.Bb5 was a more active approach.]

11...Na5 12.0–0–0 Be7 13.Kb1 Nxb3 14.axb3 0–0


Black’s opening play has not been exact and with 15.Nd5! Nxd5 16.Qxb4 Nxb4 17.Bxe7+– White would be easily winning. The text is not as convincing.

15...Bxf6 16.Nd5 Qxd2 17.Nxf6+ gxf6 18.Rxd2 Bd7 19.Rxd6 Bc6 20.Rg1 Rfd8 21.e5


21...Bxg2 22.Rxg2+ Kf8 23.Rxd8+ Rxd8 24.exf6 Rd1+ 25.Ka2 Rd4 with drawing chances (Benson and de Firmian) in 1980.

22.Bxc6+ Kh8 23.exd6 bxc6 24.c4 Rb8 25.Kc2 c5 26.Ra1 Rb7 27.Ra6 Kg7 28.Rc6 a5 29.Rxc5 Rb6 30.d7 Rd6 31.Rc7 1–0

13) A Reader Writes

I’d place a pretty large bet that in the photo in MI Newsletter #850 that Fischer was posing with a “victory” sign, perhaps after winning U.S. Championship, as opposed to his flashing a “peace” sign. Although 1958 would have been the year that that the symbol was created for the U.K.’s Committee for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), it would seem unlikely that Fischer would have in a pre-internet world been aware of, or more significantly inclined to embrace the political in that same year. Don’t know timing of U.S. Championship or when in 1958 the “peace” sign unveiled.

—Stewart Katz (Sacramento)

14) Remembering National Master Ray Fasano (1945–1986)

Ray Fasano was one of a number of strong junior players to come out of northern New Jersey in the late 1950s. Like John Grefe, who grew up nearby, Fasano was rated near master in his early teens, but like the future US Champion he was sidetracked in his development by the distractions of the 1960s.

During that decade Fasano played little after placing fourth in the 1961 U.S. Junior Open in Dayton, Ohio, at the age of 15. By the time he returned to play in the early 1970s in New Mexico Fasano learned the theory of his old favorite, the Najdorf, had developed in his absence. As he told it, a 1200 player blitzed off 20 moves of theory against him in the 6.Bg5 variation and quickly achieved a winning position.

Lesson learned; Ray moved on to less-theoretical openings and during the mid-1970s to mid-1980s achieved the successes his early days had predicted. He tied for first in the 1976 Washington State Championship with a young Yasser Seirawan and Viktors Pupols, but lost the playoff. This was the closest a player from Eastern Washington (Fasano was then living in Tonasket) has ever come to winning that state title. His best results in Swiss tournaments were equal first in the 1974 Oregon Open with Arthur Dake and Yasser Seirawan and equal first with John Donaldson in the 1981 Keres Memorial.

Fasano died in a motorcycle accident in June of 1986 in Seattle.

15) This is the end

This rook-and-pawn endgame between two club players had plenty of twists and turns.

Black to move

Show solution


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