Thursday, February 24, 2011

Najdorf's Last Serious Game -- Analyzed by Najdorf

Yochanan Afek had sent me material he had received from Herbert Perez-Garcia, who interviewed the participants of the 1996 Groningen tournament -- the 50th anniversary tournament of the 1946 Groningen event, which was the first postwar international tournament. The contestants in 1996 included all the survivors: GuimandSmyslov, Najdorf, Denker, Szabo, Christoffel, and Yanofsky. Of these, four (Najdorf, Denker, Szabo and Yanofsky) were Jews. All players involved had died in the meantime.

The videos are quite interesting, showing how, even in extreme old age, these men found great enjoyment in chess, and also in post-mortem analysis. All the videos are available here (mostly in Spanish, but some in English). The most interesting one where Najdorf analyzes the last serious game he played -- appropriately, a victory, over Denker:

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Whole new Meaning to the term "Chess in the Schools".

In Israeli schools, grades are not known by number but by letter; e.g., 'grade a' = 1st grade, 'grade b' = 2nd grade, etc. Most schools have more than one class in each grade, and the classes are known by number: class d1 means the 1st fourth-grade class in the school. (The numbering is arbitrary: class d2 isn't necessarily worse or better than class d1.) Typically, children retain their number throughout their school career: e.g., the children in class c4 become class d4 the next year.

I had the following conversation (in Hebrew) with a strong chess player I know. 
Me: By the way, what grade is your daughter in school?
Him: She's in the English opening.
Me: Next year the Queen's gambit, I suppose?
Him: Yes. The year after that, the Ruy Lopez.
Me: And then Bird's opening?
Him: Well, that's a rather doubtful opening, isn't it?
Me: That's what they're all like when they're 12, I've heard. 
And they say chess players live in a world of their own. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Kraidman's First (?) Published Game

In the following game, Yair Kraidman, then 25, defeated the reigning Israeli champion, Moshe Czerniak -- no mean feat for a 25-year-old playing against an IM, at the time when there were only about 100 IMs in the entire world.

Kraidman,Yair - Czerniak,Moshe [E73]
Israel Championship  (2), 10.1957
[Annotations: Eliyahu Shahaf]
Source: Davar, 11.10.1957

1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 g6 3.d4 Bg7 4.e4 0–0 5.Be3 d6 6.Be2 e5 7.d5 Ne8 8.g4 f5 9.gxf5 gxf5 10.exf5 Bxf5 11.Nf3 Na6 12.Rg1 Kh8 13.Qd2 c6 14.Bh6 Bxh6 15.Qxh6 Qf6 16.Qxf6+ Nxf6 17.dxc6 bxc6 18.0–0–0 Rad8 19.Nh4 Ne4 20.Nxe4 Bxe4 21.f3 Bf5 

A very nice tactic that wins two pawns, after which the country's champion [Czerniak - A.P.] fought on in a lost position. 

22...Be6 23.Rh5 Rg8 24.Bd3 Rg7 25.Ng6+ Kg8 26.Nxe5 Rf8 27.Nxc6 Nc5 28.Be2 Rg2 29.Rxd6 Rxe2 30.Rxc5 Bf7 31.Rf6 Rxh2 32.Rcf5 Re8 33.Re5 Kg7 34.Rxe8 Bxe8 35.Rd6 h5 36.Nd4 Bg6 37.c5 h4 38.c6 h3 39.c7 Rh1+ 40.Kd2 h2 41.c8Q Rd1+ 42.Ke3 Re1+ 43.Kf4 h1Q 44.Qc7+ Kh8 45.Qd8+ Be8 46.Qf6+ Kh7 47.Nf5 Qh2+ 48.Ng3 a5 49.b3 Kg8 50.Qg5+ Kf8 51.Qh6+ Qxh6+ 52.Rxh6 Ra1 53.Rh2 a4 54.Nf5 axb3 55.axb3 Bg6 56.Nd4 Kf7 57.Ke5 Ke7 58.b4 Rb1 59.Kd5 Kf6 60.b5 Bd3 61.Kc5 Ke5 62.Rh5+ Kf4 63.b6 Rc1+ 64.Kd6 Ba6 65.Ra5 Bc8 66.Ne2+ 1–0

Another Game from the 1957 IDF Championship

Without further ado... (and, no, it is not that Tal, of course).

Shefi - Tal [C96]
IDF Championship, 04.1957
[Annotations: Eliyahu Shahaf]
Source: Davar, 19.4.1957

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 b5 6.Bb3 Be7 7.Re1 d6 8.c3 0–0 9.h3 Be6 10.d4 exd4 11.Bxe6 fxe6 12.cxd4 d5 13.Nbd2 Bb4 14.e5 Ne4 15.a3 Bxd2 16.Bxd2 Rf7 17.Rc1 Qd7 18.Qc2 Rxf3! 19.Rxe4 dxe4 20.gxf3 Nxd4 21.Qxe4 Rf8 22.Bb4

22. ...  Rf4! 23.Qa8+ Kf7 0–1

From the IDF Chess Championship, 1957

The IDF's championship was started in Israel in 1951 (link in Hebrew). By the late 1950s it became a tradition. In 1957 Davar published an interesting game from the championship, between Maor (White) and Bonin (Black), which shows quite well the dangers of a premature attack -- the old rule, 'the reply to an attack in the wings is a counterattack in the center' still applies. Indeed, practically no top player plays this variation as White.

Maor - Bonin [C78]
IDF Championship , March/April 1957
Source: Davar, 12.4.1957

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 b5 6.Bb3 d6 7.Ng5?! d5!

8.exd5 Nd4 9.d6 Nxb3 10.dxc7 Qxc7 11.axb3 h6 12.Nf3 Bd6 13.d3 0–0 14.h3 e4 15.Nd4 Bc5 16.Nxb5 Qb8 17.N5c3 Bxh3 18.Nxe4 Ng4 19.g3 Bb6 20.Bf4 Qb7 21.Qf3 Kh8 22.Nbd2 f5 23.Nd6 Qxf3 24.Nxf3 Bxf1 25.Rxf1 Rad8 26.Nh4 Rf6 27.Nc4 Ba7 28.Ne5 Kh7 29.Nxg4 fxg4 30.Ng2 Re6 31.Ne3 g5 32.Bc7 Rc8 33.Ba5 Bxe3 34.fxe3 Rxe3 35.Bc3 Rxg3+ 36.Kh2 Rh3+ 37.Kg2 Re8 38.Rf7+ Kg6 0–1

Friday, February 18, 2011

More Retrograde Analysis

We have already encountered the work of Yehuda Weisberg, who was killed in the Israeli war of independence in 1948. On 17.5.1957, Davar dedicated its chess column to his memory, noting he had 'made a name for himself in retrograde analysis'. Indeed he had.

Davar published a previously-unknown retrograde analysis problem by him, which is -- I believe -- seen here in English for the first time. (The usual caveats about originally being hard to prove apply.)

Source: Davar, 17.5.1957
What was Black's last move?

(It's harder -- much harder -- than it looks!)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Ruth Opening

It is probably not known today that the American junior chess champion in the 1950s, Saul Philip Wachs, (thanks for the middle name, Mr. Gaige!) visited Israel in 1955. The details of the trip were given by him in an interview to Davar, published Jan. 20th, 1956.

Saul Wachs. Photo Credit: Davar, Jan. 20th, 1956.
Wachs, the interview tells us, visited Israel as part of an intensive four-month learning tour as part of his training as a teacher. He is quite positive about Israel in general and chess in Israel in particular. He notes that he played in one serious tournament (the Jerusalem club's Hannukah tournament), three blitz tournaments, and... gave ten simultaneous exhibitions. In particular he notes -- correctly -- that Israel was developing a new generation of younger players who are challenging the "old guard" of players who were born and raised in Europe. He is especially impressed by the large number of female players, noting that in the USA one hardly ever 'sees a skirt in a chess club.' He adds, no doubt to his interviewer's delight, that the chess columns in the Israeli press are 'on a high level' and that if only 'the Israeli ministry of education and culture would pay attention to chess', Israel will have great chess success.

These niceties concluded (Wachs doesn't forget to mention some of his co-students are thinking of making aliya and emigrating to Israel, a statement that at the time was more or less expected as a formality from any Jewish visitor to the country) the interview concludes with a game between Wachs and Rosenberg in the Jerusalem tournament. Unsurprisingly, the game isn't found in "standard" databases. It is interesting that what later became known as the Trompowsky opening is named by Wachs as an opening system 'associated with William Ruth'.

Wachs,Saul - Rosenberg [D01]
Hannukah Tournament, Dec. 1955
(Annotations: Saul Wachs)

1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 this opening system is associated with William Ruth, a veteran master in the USA.  Ne4 3.Bf4 d5 4.f3 Nf6 5.Nc3 Bf5 6.Bg5 Nc6 Prevents White's e4, but White can exploit the knight's awkward place and gain the advantage. 7.Bxf6 exf6 8.e3 Bb4 9.Bd3 Bg6 10.Nge2 Qe7 11.Qd2 0–0–0 12.a3 Ba5 13.b4 Bb6 14.Kf2 Bxd3 15.cxd3 g5 16.Rhb1 Nb8 17.a4 c6 18.a5 Bc7 19.b5 h5 20.a6 b6 21.bxc6 Nxc6 22.Nb5 Bb8 23.Rc1 Kd7 24.Nec3 Qe6 25.Re1 Bxh2 26.e4 Ne7 27.exd5 Qf5 28.Qa2 Threatens 29. d6 or 29. Qa4.

It's not often one sees an isolated triple pawn...

28...g4 Better was 28. ... Ke8. 29.d6 Bxd6 30.Nxd6 Kxd6 31.Qa3+ Kc7 32.Rxe7+ Rd7 33.Rc1 gxf3 34.gxf3 Due to time pressure White missed 34.Nb5+ Kb8 (34...Kd8 35.Nd6! winning instantly) 35.Qd6+! Rxd6 36.Rb7+ Ka8 37.Nc7# 34...Kd8 35.Rxd7+ Qxd7 36.Nb5! Re8 37.Qd6 1–0