Bobby Fischer World Champion 1972 Commemoration

Bobby Fischer (1943-2008) became the 11th World Chess Champion on September 1, 1972 when Boris Spassky phoned his resignation of the adjourned 21st and final game of their title match.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Fischer’s triumph, the world-famous Marshall Chess Club hosted a Bobby Fischer World Champion 1972 Commemoration. This event, fittingly, began on September 1 and consisted of two ten-player round robins: GM A and IM B.

GM A players could earn a grandmaster norm by scoring 7 points out of 9 or an international master norm by tallying 5½ points out of 9.

The IM B section required 7 points out of 9 for an IM norm.

I served as Chief Arbiter. The event was organized by IM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy and America’s newest International Organizer, IO Keith Espinosa. Congratulations, Keith!

 

GM A

Hungarian GM Gergely Kantor (Hungary) finished in clear 1st Place with 7 points. GM Mark Paragua (Philippines) followed with 6 points, while GM Djurabek Khamrakulov (Uzbekistan) and FM Sandeep Sethuraman (USA) tied for 3rd-4th place with 5½ points.

GM A round 7
FM Chen — GM Kantor and IM Korley — Zeltsan in Round 7 of the GM A event.

Sethuraman earned his 2nd IM norm in the process, as well as 35 FIDE rating points, taking his live rating to 2371. If he plays in our November event, perhaps he can earn his final norm and cross the 2400 barrier required for the IM title? Anyway, congratulations Sandeep!

 

IM B

FM Gus Huston (USA) won this section with 6½ points out of 9, just missing out on his 2nd IM norm. The 30 Elo points he gained, however, will take his FIDE rating back over 2300.

Round 1 of the Bobby Fischer Commemoration
Round 1 of the tournament on the 50th anniversary of Bobby Fischer becoming World Champion!

GM Michael Rohde (USA) and Zachary Tanenbaum (USA) tied for 2nd-3rd place with 5 points. The latter had an impressive debut at the NYC Invitationals, and will hopefully return.

 

More Info

You can find more information on the event website. Results, standings, and all 90 games from the event can be found on Chess Results.

 

Coming Up Next

From November 9-13, the New York Fall Invitationals will take place in Long Island City, NY. There will be five sections this time: GM A, GM B, IM C, IM D, and NM E. The NM section will be a six-player round robin over three days with no norms on offer.

2022 New York Summer Invitationals: Results

Hilton Garden Inn Midtown Park Avenue
The playing venue, in a great location! Photo: TripAdvisor

The 2022 New York Summer Invitationals concluded on July 11, once again organized by the dynamic duo of Keith Espinosa and IM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy.

The event featured four sections: GM A, GM B, IM C, and IM D. GM and IM norms were available in the A and B sections, while only IM norms were on offer in C and D.

Overall, two IM norms were achieved.

Let’s see the results, shall we?

 

GM A: Grandmaster Class

Polish GM Kamil Dragun finished in clear 1st Place in this section with 6.5 points. GM Djurabek Khamrakulov (Uzbekistan) followed with 6 points, and GM Ante Saric (Croatia) tallied 5½. This trio dominated the event.

No norms were earned this time; 5 points would have scored an IM norm for FMs Liran Zhou and Maximilian Lu, though the latter will presumably have his IM title approved at the next FIDE Congress in August.

A GM norm required 6½ points, but no one ever looked very likely to earn one during the course of the event.

 

GM B: Don’t Lose

Joseph Zeltsan (USA) won this section with 5½ points out of 9, winning two games and drawing the rest. In addition, he earned his second IM norm. Congratulations!

IM Bryce Tiglon (USA)GM Leonid Yudasin (Israel), and FM Aaron Jacobson (USA) tied for 2nd place with 5 points. Jacobson could have earned his final IM norm with a win over tail-ender Qibiao Wang (China) in the final round, but only managed to draw.

The GM norm in this section was a full 7 points out of 9. Maybe next time?

 

IM C: Just Win

FM Tanitoluwa Adewumi (USA) scored 7 points out of 9, winning the section and scoring his second IM norm. He’s now 2-for-2 in the New York Invitational series. Congratulations!

FM Akira Nakada (USA) once again came just a half-point short, finishing 2nd with 6½. Rating favorite IM Mykola Bortnyk (Ukraine) came in 3rd place with 6 points.

 

IM D: Fight Club

GM Michael Rohde (USA) emerged victorious, tallying 7 points out of 9. The veteran GM showed great form throughout, and was motivated to post the highest score among the four groups, which he did (along with Tani)!

IM Arjun Vishnuvardhan (India) followed Rohde with 6½ points, and IM Nikolai Andrianov (Russia) scored 6. Because the IM norm was 7 points, the norm seekers went after the top three, but their attempts backfired.

While no norms were earned, this section was a bloodbath; it was common for Group D to go well after the other sections were done or nearly so! Only 17 of 45 games ended in draws.

 

More Info

You can find more information on the event website. Results, standings, and downloadable games can be found on Chess Results.

 

Coming Up Next

From September 1-5, the Marshall Chess Club will host the next edition of the series, the Bobby Fischer World Chess Champion 1972 Commemoration, in two sections — GM A and IM B.

Bobby Fischer became World Chess Champion on September 1, 1972; 50 years ago. I was born 11 years later on the same date.

Bobby Fischer the Opening Model

The Never-Ending Influence of Bobby Fischer

Bobby Fischer
Bobby Fischer (1943-2008). Photo: Encyclopaedia Britannica

Since today is Bobby Fischer’s birthday, I felt I had to write something about him. Last year, I started this blog a bit after March 9.

He’s a controversial figure, shall we say … but there’s one thing no one can deny:

Fischer’s chess career basically ended 50 years ago — his 1992 match with Boris Spassky notwithstanding — but he is still the biggest name in American chess.

There’s much we can learn from the games of the 11th World Champion, but I’ll discuss how one of his famous victories has brought me points in my own praxis.

After all, no matter how much we study chess for pleasure, we want results!

 

A Nagging Problem

On one hand, I find the Pirc Defense (1.e4 d6) and related Modern Defense (1.e4 g6) to be among the trickiest openings to face. Fortunately, Black sits back for awhile and lets you choose the setup you prefer.

When trying to learn an opening, I look for models: games from master practice I can emulate. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with traps that arise in your openings.

In 2017 I needed something against the Pirc. I’ve pretty much always used the Austrian Attack (1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.f4), but strangely enough hadn’t chosen a model! Then Bobby Fischer came to my rescue.

 

When in Doubt, Steal!

Pal Benko
Pal Benko (1928-2019) in lovely Budapest. Photo: ChessBase

I rediscovered this well-known miniature Bobby Fischer won against Pal Benko in the 1963-64 U.S. Championship where the future Champ scored a clean 11-0:

Ok, now how can we use this game to fight the slithery Pirc?

 

You Must Memorize Sometimes!

Yes, memorize. The game above is short, but we should learn most of it. I’ll reveal what worked for me.

FIrst of all, remember this setup: f2-f4, Ng1-f3, Bf1-d3:

At this point, Black has a few choices: 6…Na6, 6…Nbd7, or 6…Bg4 (as in the game).

Note: 6…c5?! doesn’t work here: after 7.dxc5 dxc5 White has too much center. And if 7…Qa5? White can safely play 8.cxd6. [If White’s bishop was on e2 instead of d3, Black could strike with 8…Nxe4!]

A. 6…Na6

White can play 7.e5 as the game notes suggest, but I prefer 7.0-0 c5 8.d5 establishing a nice space advantage and asking Black what he plans to do with the Na6. If he wants to play …Na6-b4xd3, let him. You can consider c2xd3, after which Black will never break down your center.

If instead Black goes for something like 8…Nc7, looking at breaks with …b7-b5 and/or …e7-e6, just play 9.Qe2 and calmly centralize. If Black goes for …a7-a6 and …Ra8-b8, aiming for …b7-b5, I recommend playing a2-a4 and leaving a rook on a1 to use the a-file if it opens.

B. 6…Nbd7

This time, I think 7.e5 is best, otherwise Black will play this himself. Moreover, the second player’s pieces aren’t the most comfortable. I won a couple of games in The Right Move tournaments in the late 1990s with a quick e5-e6 thrust in similar positions, and after …fxe6, Nf3-g5. I seem to recall having my light-squared bishop on c4 in these situations, reminiscent of Velimirovic vs. Rajkovic, but my memory is hazy.

C. 6…Bg4?!

Surprisingly, I face this move most often! Well, if it’s bad enough for twice-Candidate Benko…

In a word, we’re going to clean Black’s clock.

7.h3! Bxf3 8.Qxf3

Then, Black won’t resist developing the knight with a hit on d4; your response is simple:

8…Nc6 9.Be3

Being that you’re now ready to play e4-e5, Black needs to get this move in first:

9…e5

Most importantly, memorize the following sequence:

10.dxe5 dxe5 11.f5!

 

What Now?

In summary, your plan is a pawn storm on the kingside with g4-g5, etc. If Black doesn’t allow this by capturing on f5 immediately, a la Benko, capture with the queen and prepare a kingside attack by using the open lines/squares available to your pieces.

All in all, I recommend learning the whole 21-move game, but getting this far will give you much improved results against the Pirc.

Have you tried learning model games or fragments from the games of Bobby Fischer or other greats? Comment on your experiences!

The Levon Aronian Transfer: My Thoughts

Levon Aronian from ARM to STL!?

Levon Aronian
Levon Aronian. Photo: europechess.org

When I first saw the chess24 tweet with news that Levon Aronian will switch federations from Armenia to USA, I seriously thought it was an April Fool’s Day joke!

Then I realized it’s only February 26…

Holy Crap. Of all top players, I never expected to see Aronian transfer from Armenia. He is THE living treasure of a chess-obsessed nation.

Then I read his comments in the press release of the Saint Louis Chess Club, and understood his decision. A new governement apparently didn’t support his endeavors the way he felt they should. It reminds me of Sergey Karjakin’s transfer from Ukraine to Russia several years ago.

 

More Support is Good for Chess as a Whole

I’ve already seen comments online criticizing the USA and particularly Rex Sinquefield, but I’m all for top players receiving more support, no matter which country they play for.

Personally, I’m grateful for Mr. Sinquefield supporting chess the way he has over the past 10+ years. He is the single most important person in American chess since Bobby Fischer.

Aronian playing for the USA in Olympiads and World Team Championships will be…strange… but otherwise, not much will change.

Levon Aronian will always be seen as Armenian by fans worldwide. Let’s discuss the rest of Team USA:

  • Wesley So is still viewed as Filipino because he changed federations when he was already a 2700 player.
  • The case of Leinier Dominguez is very similar to that of Aronian.
  • Hikaru Nakamura developed as a chess player entirely in the States — and won the top section of my first rated tournament.
  • Fabiano Caruana took his early steps in chess in America. I would know, he played in countless Marshall Chess Club events I directed. The first time he played in one of my tournaments, he was already a FIDE Master. This was long before he went to Europe.
  • Ray Robson, Sam Shankland, and Jeffery Xiong developed in the United States.

Chess doesn’t have the money of other sports, and players should find opportunities wherever they can. Those complaining on the sidelines aren’t going to pay these players’ bills.

Good luck, Levon!

An Important Bishop Endgame Concept

Bishop Endgame Theory

In particular, we’re going to discuss the same-color bishop endgame. The attacking side has one pawn, and the defender has none.

If the defender can sacrifice their bishop for the last pawn the game is drawn, so the attacker must proceed carefully.

What the Defender Wants in this Ending

The position is completely drawn if the defending king can reach a square in front of the pawn opposite the color of the bishops. The king stays put and the defender moves their bishop around forever … or until they can call over the Arbiter or TD and claim a draw. Here’s an example:

Things get much more complicated if the defending king is behind the advancing pawn. In that case, the bishop desperately tries to control a square the pawn needs to cross in order to prevent it from queening. The attacking king and bishop look to attack the defending bishop, forcing it to move and give up control of the pawn’s path.

This is why you nearly always want your king to blockade passed pawns in the endgame: he can control all of the squares around him, and it’s harder to push him away than a rook, bishop, or knight!

A Worst Case Scenario

Anyway, a plausible scenario is the following:

This is a famous endgame study by Genovese composer Luigi Centurini (1820-1900) published in 1856. You’ll find it in every endgame encyclopedia, for example Basic Chess EndingsDvoretsky’s Endgame Manual, and Magnus Carlsen’s favorite Fundamental Chess Endings … but for years I didn’t quite understand it.

The Black bishop can stop the pawn on either the long b8-h2 or mini a7-b8 diagonal. If White can gain control of both diagonals, the Black cleric will be unable to stop the pawn.

Chase the Bishop!

 

More Room to Operate

Notice that Black lost because of the short a7-b8 diagonal. To draw, Centurini taught us that the defender usually needs both diagonals to be at least four squares in length. Then, there will always be at least one square on one of the diagonals that the attacker cannot control.

Here’s a famous example of successful defense:

 

Hopefully you now understand this classic bishop endgame if you previously struggled with it!

Which Chess Opening Move is Best? Part 1

Should I Open with 1.e4, 1.d4, or something else as White?

Not surprisingly, the short answer is “it depends.”

Let’s dig deeper.

First, there is one thing you certainly should not do. Don’t play offbeat moves (1.b3, 1.b4, 1.f4, 1.Nc3, etc.)  just to avoid theory. I’ve touched on this before. Only use moves like this if you enjoy playing the resulting positions. 

Having gotten that out of the way, we really have only four or five serious moves left. There’s no question which one we should discuss first.

1.e4 — Best by Test?

The famous game Fischer-Tal from the 1960 Leipzig Olympiad was a sharp draw in the French Defense. You can actually purchase a print of this photo here.

To a certain extent, I think Bobby Fischer was right. But not everyone should follow his advice.

Opening with the King Pawn requires the most well-rounded skills. Generally, you must attack the Sicilian Defense or give Black at least equality. Aggressive play is also the best recipe against the French Defense, Caro-Kann, and Pirc Defense, among others.

At the same time, patience and maneuvering skills are needed to play the Ruy Lopez or Italian Game well.

The higher up the rating ladder a player advances, the less opponents are afraid of gimmicky attacks — aside from feeling confident against gambits, they might willingly enter slightly worse positions with a chance to grind you down. Michael William Brown was in my group at the 2008 Western Invitational Chess Camp (organized by Robby Adamson). His main defense was the Closed Ruy Lopez, and he really knew how to play it. Sure enough, Michael became a Grandmaster in 2019.

Maybe the biggest question is: can you break down the Berlin Wall or Petroff Defense?

My point is, I think 1.e4 requires the most diverse range of skill to play well consistently — in other words, to legitimately play for a win against strong opposition. Contemporary role models include CarlsenCaruana, and Karjakin. 

It’s no coincidence these players have contested the last two World Championship Matches!

Not everyone prefers the King Pawn, or possesses the ability to play it well — or at least as well as the ability to play other first moves.

In Part 2, we discuss some alternatives, starting with 1.d4.

In Part 3, I give my opinions on various Flank Openings.

Positional Chess Handbook: Strategy for All Levels

495 Chess Lessons in Your Pocket

Positional Chess Handbook
Positional Chess Handbook by Israel Gelfer

Positional Chess Handbook can be considered a strategy cousin to 1001 Chess Sacrifices and Combinations, the iconic puzzle book by Fred Reinfeld. Both are pocket-sized and ideal for studying on-the-go — but PCH is definitely the superior book.

I recommend Positional Chess Handbook to players (and coaches!) of all levels. Players rated from zero to at least 2200 will benefit. The book will give beginners ideas about strategy; it has much to teach club players; and it is a good refresher for the 2000+ crowd.

Originally published in 1991, it is filled with instructive game fragments from famous and not-so-famous players and composers. You’ll find examples from Morphy and Steinitz, as well as from Fischer, Karpov, and Kasparov. In all, there are 495 diagrams over 208 pages (plus index). I’m sure author Israel Gelfer (FIDE Master and FIDE Senior Trainer) spent many years compiling the examples that helped his students the most.

So what does it cover?

Positional Chess Handbook: Contents

Most of the 21 chapters isolate a certain positional feature, making it easy to reinforce understanding of a particular concept without distraction. A few sections are more general, but very instructive nonetheless. Of course, tactics are everywhere in this book, too — strategy cannot exist without them, right?

              1. Instroduction; Strong and Weak Pieces
              2. A Good Bishop versus a Bad Knight
              3. A Good Knight versus a Bad Bishop
              4. Bishops—Same Colour
              5. Bishops—Opposite Colour
              6. Knights
              7. Rooks
              8. Two Bishops
              9. A Rook versus Two Minor Pieces
              10. Choosing an Endgame; Some Aspects of the Endgame
              11. Key Squares—Strong Points
              12. Strategic Advantages
              13. Exchanges
              14. Cramped Positions, Restricted Pieces
              15. Pawn Structures
              16. Pros and Cons
              17. Active King; Central Supremacy
              18. Inducing Weaknesses
              19. A Diagonal
              20. Two Diagonals,
              21. Positional Sacrifices

            Index of Players and Composers

Images from the Book

Positional Chess Handbook, page 103 Positional Chess Handbook, page 81 Positional Chess Handbook, page 49

 

 

 

 

Positional Chess Handbook is one of the books I reread portions of regularly to keep my positional skills sharp. The others are Simple Chess and Judgment and Planning in Chess. You don’t need much else. Best of all in these tough times, each of these books can be had for under $10!

Have you read PCH? What are your impressions? Comment below!

The First Master Game I Studied

A Special Birthday

Today is the 65th birthday of the man who taught me how to play chess — my dad.

One Saturday night when I was eight years old, my dad was cleaning out the hallway closet of our family’s apartment. I noticed a folded chess board, similar to this one. I knew it was a chess set — I don’t remember where I was first learned what chess was — and asked my dad to teach me how to play.

That night and the next day, he did. I understood the basic rules plus castling and pawn promotion — later I realized that he didn’t quite understand en passant! We began to play.

Well … I am no Morphy or Capablanca! My attempts to win our early games went nowhere.

My parents, sister and I soon went to the now-defunct Coliseum Books near Columbus Circle. I was looking through the chess books and other things, and my dad saw this cool-looking book that had lots of colored arrows and diagrams! This was apparently not a common thing back then. The book was also written by a Grandmaster! It was …

Better Chess by David Norwood. It combined Advanced Chess and Chess Puzzles into one volume.

My parents bought me the book and I read it over and over and over.

I learned basic strategy and solved my first tactical puzzles.

I learned about a bit about four openings explored in the book: the Spanish Game, King’s Indian Defence (sic), Modern Benoni, and King’s Gambit.

And the cherry on top? Brief, fascinating bios of great players past and present: Paul Morphy, Wilhelm Steinitz, Jose Raul Capablanca, Mir Sultan Khan, Bobby Fischer, Garry Kasparov, and Judit Polgar. I loved this book so much!

In it, I also found my first master game played by the author which I tried to make some sense of with the help of the annotations.

Today, it’s time for me to annotate this memorable game.

I didn’t become serious about chess until a few years later, but the foundation was set. With my second chess book, I was on my way.

Thanks, Dad.

Chess Tactics: Spassky — Rashkovsky, 1973

Boris Spassky (born 1937) was the tenth World Chess Champion (1969-1972). Before that, however, he was one of the greatest prodigies of early modern professional chess.

Boris Spassky. Photo: Britannica.com
Boris Spassky. Photo: Britannica.com

Born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), he defeated Mikhail Botvinnik in a simul in 1947 as a ten-year-old, a year before Patriarch became the sixth World Champion.

With a third-place finish in his very first USSR Championship, Spassky qualified for the 1955 Gothenburg Interzonal. At Antwerp he captured the World Junior Championship a point ahead of Edmar Mednis. He next qualified for the 1956 Amsterdam Candidates Tournament — earning an automatic Grandmaster title.

At 18 years old, Spassky became the youngest GM ever, eclipsing Tigran Petrosian‘s record by five years.

He established himself as a top player in the early 1960s. Highlights include the 29th USSR Championship (Fall 1961) and the 1964 Moscow zonal.

Spassky battled through the World Championship cycle to earn a title match with Petrosian in 1966. The match went the full 24 games, but Iron Tigran narrowly retained his title.

Undeterred, Spassky immediately won the Second Piatigorsky Cup. In the next Championship cycle he defeated Petrosian in June 1969 to become the new Champion.

Why he is underrated

Unfortunately, Spassky was outshone by two meteors: first Tal, then Fischer.

Mikhail Tal was born less than three months before Spassky. He won back-to-back USSR Championships, an Interzonal, a Candidates Tournament, and a World Championship match within four years! Just 23 years old, he shattered the record for youngest World Champion ever.

Bobby Fischer broke Spassky’s youngest-ever GM record by three years. Later, he won 20 consecutive games en-route to victory in the 1970 Interzonal and 1971 Candidates series with tallies of 6-0, 6-0, and 6½-2½. Then he took Spassky’s World Championship title in 1972.

This is a loss for chess! The casual fans who only know Spassky as “the guy who lost to Fischer” should play through some of his best games — they are as enjoyable and imaginative as those of any player in chess history, full stop.

By chance, an old student of mine was given a book of Spassky’s games. He was mesmerized by Spassky’s wide-ranging talent. Totally understandable!

Resilience

After losing his title, Spassky won probably the strongest-ever USSR Championship, the 41st, in October 1973. The field included established stars like Lev Polugaevsky, Viktor Kortschnoj, Efim Geller, Paul Keres, and Mark Taimanov, youngsters Evgeny Sveshnikov and Alexander Beliavsky … and four other World Champions — Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian, and Karpov.

Today we’ll look at Spassky’s minature against Nukhim Rashkovsky in Round 8. Like Maia Chiburdanidze’s classic win over Dvoirys, it comes from a Najdorf Sicilian with 6.Bg5.

White to play. How did Spassky punish his opponent’s imprecise play?

12. ?

 

Mr. Universal

Chess Tactics: Gashimov — Gelfand, 2009

Vugar Gashimov (1986-2014) was a top player from Azerbaijan who was dogged with ill health for much of his life. Despite this, he rose as high as World Number 6 in November 2009.

Vugar Gashimov
Vugar Gashimov. Photo: ChessBase

Gashimov reached a peak rating of 2761 in January 2012, the same month as Wijk aan Zee. As it turned out, this would be his last tournament … epilepsy and a brain tumor forced him to retire from chess at just 25 years old. He died two years later, only 27, reminiscent of Pillsbury, Charousek, and other top talents a century before.

His notatble tournament victories include the Cappelle la Grande Open (2007 and 2008), the FIDE Grand Prix (2008) in his home city of Baku, and Reggio Emilia (2010/2011). He also won the decisive last round game that clinched gold for Azerbaijan at the 2009 European Team Championship.

The Gashimov Memorial has been held annually since 2014 in Shamkir, Azerbaijan.

Gashimov wins a minature against the formidable Boris Gelfand. The Belarusian-Israeli legend was only the fifth player in chess history to achieve a 2700 Elo rating (after Fischer, Karpov, Tal, and Kasparov). He nearly reached the chess Olympus in 2012 when he drew a 12-game World Championship match with Viswanathan Anand (+1 =10 -1) but lost the rapid tiebreak.

 

White to play. How did Gashimov end the game quickly after Gelfand’s untimely castling?

11. ?

 

Not-so-Boring Petroff