Monday, December 22, 2008

Najdorf-Czerniak 1929 Match, Game 5

Czerniak,Moshe - Najdorf,Miguel [B01]
Warsaw Match (Game 5), Oct. 1929
[Annotations: Czerniak]

1.e4 Nc6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5? (3.Bb5! probably gives White the better game (see the 7th game of the match)) 3...Qxd5 4.Nf3 e5! 

(Much better than 4...Bg4 which could be answered by 5.Nc3! Bxf3 6.Nxd5 Bxd1 7.Nxc7+ Kd8 8.Nxa8 Bxc2 9.d5! followed by Bf4 and the trapped knight escapes to freedom via c7.) 5.c4? (5.dxe5 would also be a mistake because of 5...Qxd1+ 6.Kxd1 Bg4 7.Be2 0–0–0+ 8.Nbd2 Bxf3 9.Bxf3 Nxe5 with advantage to Black; the relatively lesser evil was 5.Be3 , though even then Black stands better.) 5...Qe4+ 6.Be2 (If 6.Be3 exd4 7.Nxd4 Bg4 followed by 0–0–0 with excellent play.) 6...Nxd4 7.Nxd4 Qxd4 8.0–0 (Better was 8.Qc2 .) 8...Qxd1  

9.Bxd1? Nonsense. Of course the capture should have been with the rook. One of my weakest games. 9...Be6 10.Re1 0–0–0 11.Bf3 f6 12.Be3 Kb8 13.b3 Ne7 14.Nc3 


14...Nf5! Liquidation. 15.Bg4? White reckons that after ...Nxe3 he will reach an ending with opposite-coloured bishops. 15...Nxe3! 16.Bxe6 Nc2 17.Red1 Bb4! 

The point. 18.Rxd8+ Rxd8 19.Rd1 White counted on just this. 19...Nd4! 


Simple and pretty. Black wins a piece in all variations. White resigns. 0–1

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Najdorf-Czerniak 1929 Match, Game 4

Najdorf,Miguel - Czerniak,Moshe [A45]

Warsaw Match (Game 4), 1929

[Annotations: Czerniak]

1.d4 Nf6 2.e3 b6 3.Nf3 Bb7 4.Bd3 e6 5.Nbd2 d5 6.0–0 Bd6 7.c4 Nbd7 8.b3 Rc8 9.Bb2 0–0 10.Qe2 Ne4 11.Rfd1 c5 12.Rac1 f5 

Black momentarily masters the important e4-point, but White prepares interesting counteractivity. 13.cxd5 exd5 14.dxc5 (Presumably 14.Ba6 gave more solid play.) 14...Ndxc5 15.Ne5 Qh4 Threatening 16...Nxd3 17.Qxd3 Qxf2+ etc. If 16.f3? then 16...Nxd3 etc., just the same. 16.Ndf3 Qh5 17.Bb5! a6 18.b4 axb5 19.bxc5 Bxe5 20.Bxe5 bxc5 21.Qxb5 Bc6 22.Qa6 g5!? 

(Clearly better was 22...Qe8! with the threat of ...Rc8-a8 as well as ...Bc6-b5-e2xf3.) 23.Bd4! Very good. 23...f4 Again not the best. (Precise calculation of two interesting variations was required. 23...cxd4 24.Rxc6 Ra8 25.Qb5; and 23...g4 !?! 24.Ne5 g3! 25.hxg3? cxd4 26.Nxc6 dxe3 27.Ne7+ Kh8! with a beautiful mating attack. If instead on move 25 White captures not with the h-pawn but with the f-pawn, he achieves a clear advantage.) 24.Bxc5! Nxc5 25.Rxc5 g4 26.Rxc6 Ra8 27.Qb5! Rab8 28.Rb6 Rxb6 29.Qxb6 gxf3 30.Qe6+! 

30...Qf7 31.Qxd5 Qxd5 32.Rxd5 fxg2 33.Kxg2 fxe3 34.fxe3 Ra8 35.Rd2 

 (...) and Black did not resign until the 52nd move. 1–0

Monday, December 15, 2008

Najdorf-Czerniak 1929 Match, Game 3

Czerniak,Moshe - Najdorf,Miguel [E60]
Warsaw Match (Game 3), Oct. 1929
[Annotations: Czerniak]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 0–0 5.e4 d6 6.Ne2 e5 7.d5 a5!  

(Rather not immediately 7...Nbd7 8.0–0 Nc5 (as in the game Capablanca-Bogoljubow, Karlsbad 1929) which can be answered by 9.b4! ( 9...Ncxe4 is impossible because of 10.f3 ) and White stands slightly better.) 

8.h3 Na6 9.0–0 Nc5 10.Nbc3 b6 11.Be3 Bd7 (In the game mentioned above, Black played 11...Qe7? upon which White freed himself with a3! and b4. At present, in the event of a3!? comes a4!.) 12.Qd2 a4! 

Very good. Directly threatens ...Qc8! 14.Kh2 Qa6! gaining a pawn. 13.f4 exf4 14.Nxf4 Re8 15.Bxc5 bxc5 16.Rae1 Rb8 17.Qc2 Rb4 18.b3 Qb8 19.Rb1 Qa7 20.Nd3 axb3 21.axb3 Rb6 22.e5!

An ingenious combination; it leads to interesting and complicated play. 22...dxe5 (Black must pick up the gauntlet; declining to take the pawn could have fatal consequences, e.g. 22...Nh5 23.g4 Ng3 24.Rf3!) 23.Ra1 Ra6 24.Rxa6 Qxa6 25.Nxc5 Qb6 26.Qf2

At first glance Black's position seems hopeless...

26...e4!? A bolt from the blue. A seemingly crazy move, actually unusually strong and subtle. The tangle of manifold combinations is so difficult to calculate that only after over half an hour of thought did I decide on a move, and then not the strongest one. 27.Kh2? (Play should probably go as Mr Lowtzky showed in his analysis, 27.N3xe4! Nxe4 28.Bxe4 Rxe4 29.Nxd7 with a good game.) 27...Bf5 28.g4 Bxg4 29.N5xe4 Qxf2 30.Rxf2 Nxe4 31.Nxe4 Bd1

From here Black is playing in great time trouble. 32.b4 f5 33.Nc5 Re3! 34.Ne6 Be5+ 35.Kh1 Be2! 36.c5 Bg3 37.Kg1 Bc4 38.Rf3 Re1+ 39.Rf1 Bxf1 40.Bxf1 c6! 41.dxc6 (If 41.d6 Rxe6 42.d7 Bc7 43.Bc4 Kf7 and Black wins.) 41...Rxe6 42.Bc4 Kf7 43.b5 Ke7 44.Bxe6 Kxe6 45.Kg2 Be5 46.b6 Bd4 47.c7 Kd7 48.c6+ Kc8 0-1

[The amusing final position deserves a diagram - A.P.]:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Annoying Reviews

Okay, this has little to do with Jewish chess history in particular, but it's one of my pet peeves.

One of the curses of chess literature is the numerous poor books that pass uncriticized by reviewers. Edward Winter is famous for taking such authors and reviewers to task, and I would like to add my own minor contribution.

In a recent review in -- which, actually, generally does a good job in criticizing worthless books -- 606 Problems for Chess Nuts (2008 Sterling Publishing) by Fred Wilson and Bruce Alberston is reviewed rather positively by Steven Goldberg. I haven't read the book, I must admit, but I strongly suspect its quality when the puzzle used to illustrate it in the review is the following, puzzle #354 (Black to play):

The book's solution is 1... Ra3+. This is indeed the best move, as it wins a full queen (or mates) but neither the reviewer nor, apparently, the authors bother to note that the much simpler 1... exd5 (or, even simpler, 1... Qxc3+ 2. bxc3 2. exd5), while technically "only" winning a rook, are much simpler, as they win just as easily and without any sacrifices or complications.

This, mind you, is supposed to be a realistic position for the 'intermediate player'. How many intermediate players have their opponents hang rooks to them in such a fashion? And, if they do, how many bother to calculate deeply to see if it isn't possible to win the Queen instead, risking a mistake or loss on time?

Having a few of Wilson's and Alberston's other books, they display all the usual signs of hack work: mostly trivial tactical problems, only two problems per page (to take up as much space as possible, in order to make the book look longer than it is), and so on. Apparently this latest book is no different, as it too, the reviewer notes, has two problems per page, and a full 1/3rd (202) of its puzzles are dedicated to what the authors call 'advanced beginners' (an oxymoron), which means people who are 'thoroughly conversant with the moves and rules' of chess. If that makes one an "advanced" beginner, what, pray tell, is a novice?

Naturally, the market for such "advanced" beginners is larger than the one for advanced players -- there are more of them, and they're far less discriminating. So it's easy to pass on to them, as Edward Winter says, dregs pretending to be cream.

It is very easy to write chess books for beginners; it's very hard to write good ones. Reviewers shouldn't pass off every collection of trivial tactics that comes down the pike as 'helpful', but should take a good, hard look at the book's merits and demerits.

Najdorf - Czerniak 1929 Match, Game 2

Najdorf,Miguel - Czerniak,Moshe [B13]

Warsaw Match (Game 2), Oct. 1929

[Annotations: Czerniak]

1 .e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.c3 Nf6 6.Bf4 Bg4 7.Qb3 Qd7 8.Nd2 e6 9.Ngf3 a6

(Probably 9...Bd6! should be played here, and if 10.Bxd6 Qxd6 11.Qxb7 0–0 with a good game.)

10.Ne5 Nxe5 11.dxe5 Ng8! Best! (If 11...Nh5 12.Be3 with the threat of of h3 and g4.) 12.f3 Bh5 13.0–0–0! Rc8 White was intending c3-c4! 14.Kb1 b5 For the same reason. 15.Rhe1 Bc5 16.g4 Bg6 17.Bxg6 hxg6 18.Ne4! a5! (After 18...Ne7 19.Nd6+! Bxd6 20.exd6 and then Qxd5.) 19.Nd6+ Bxd6 20.exd6

Black counts on capturing the weak d6-pawn; whereas White defends until it he can produce a strong, direct attack on the black king, when he gives the d6-pawn away and quickly transferring forces to the kingside achieves the advantage.

20...Nf6! (On 20...Rc4? there would follow nice play 21.Rxd5! Rxf4 22.Rxb5! ...) 21.Be5! Excellently played. The superbly developed bishop conceals a subtle, deeply calculated trap. 21...0–0 (21...Kf8 22.Qa3 a4 23.Bxf6 gxf6 24.Rxd5 exd5 25.Re7 Qd8 26.d7 Rc7 27.Qd6 Kg7) 22.h4! Ne8 23.Qa3 b4! 24.Qxa5!

Best. (After 24.cxb4 Nxd6 25.bxa5 Nc4 26.Qd3 Nxe5 27.Rxe5 Qc7 regains the pawn with an equal game.) 24...bxc3 25.Bxc3 Nxd6 26.h5! gxh5 (Interesting play is given by 26...Nc4!? 27.Qa6? Rc6 (27...Ra8? 28.Qxc4) 28.Qb5 Qc7 threatening 29.-- Na3+) 27.gxh5 Ra8 28.Qb4 Rfb8 29.Qg4 Nf5 30.h6 Qa4? (30...Qa7 was clearly better.) 31.Qxa4 Rxa4 32.Be5! Black threatened ...d4! 32...Rba8

33.hxg7! Rxa2 34.Rh1 Nxg7 (If 34...Ra1+ 35.Kc2 Ne3+ 36.Kb3! Rb8+ 37.Bxb8 Rxd1 38.Rxd1 Nxd1 39.Be5!)

35.Rdg1! The last hope is dashed. (If 35.Rhg1 f6 36.Bxf6 R2a7 with chances for a draw.) 35...Ra1+ (No help now is 35...f6? 36.Bxf6 R2a7 37.b4 Rb7 38.Rh4 Rab8 39.Kc2! winning.) 36.Kc2 Rxg1 37.Rxg1 f6 38.Bxf6 Ra7 39.b4! 1-0

A lively, very interesting battle. White played the game excellently... One of Najdorf's best-played games.

Najdorf-Czerniak 1929 Match, Game 1

Czerniak,Moshe - Najdorf,Miguel [A15]
Warsaw Match (Game 1), Oct. 1929
[Annotations: Czerniak]

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 d6 3.g3 Bf5 4.Bg2 Qc8 Typical of young players... 5.0–0 Bh3 6.d3 e5 7.Nc3 Bxg2 8.Kxg2 Nc6 9.Nd5 Nxd5 10.cxd5 Ne7 11.e4 c6 (Not 11...f5? 12.Ng5) 12.dxc6 Nxc6 13.Be3 Be7 14.Rc1 Qe6 15.a3 0–0 16.Ng1!

The excellently placed knight defends three vulnerable squares - e2, f3 and h3 - and allows the White queen to start a counterattack on the queenside. (Not to be played is 16.d4? exd4 17.Bxd4 Qxe4 18.Re1 Qd5! 19.Rxc6? bxc6 20.Rxe7 c5! and Black wins.) 

16...f5 The opening of the f-file is inevitably favourable for Black. 17.exf5 Rxf5 (Of course not 17...Qxf5 because of 18.Qb3+ and Qxb7; however, probably better is 17...Qd5+ ...) 18.Qa4 White takes advantage of a momentary "lull before the storm" to start a strong counterattack on the queenside. 18...Raf8 (18...a6 gave a more solid game, but Black heads for a clarification of the situation.) 19.Qb5! R5f7 20.f4 exf4 21.Bxf4 g5! 

Black energetically heads for victory. The last move secures the f-file for Black's rooks. However, the excellent g1–knight saves an almost hopeless position.

22.Bd2 (If 22.Bxg5? Nd4 23.Qa5 b6! gains a piece.) 22...a6 23.Qc4! It's still not possible to take on b7, because of Qd5+ ... With the text move White forces his opponent to play ...d6-d5, which takes away that square from the black queen. 23...d5 24.Qb3

24... Nd4? This saves a hopeless situation. (Black overlooked the winning move 24...Bc5!! with the further 25.Rxf7 Qxf7 winning... The text move allows White to completely equalize the game.)

25.Qxb7! Ne2 26.Rce1 (If 26.Rfe1 there follows an effective mate 26...Rf2+ ...) 26...Rxf1 27.Rxf1 (Not 27.Rxe2 Rxg1+) 27...Nxg1! (Much better than 27...Rxf1 after which White would still have chances, e.g. 28.Kxf1 Nxg1 29.Kxg1 ...) 28.Rxf8+ Kxf8! 29.Kxg1 Bc5+ 30.Kh1? (Better is 30.Kf1) 30...Qe2 31.Qc8+ Kg7 32.Qxc5 Qf1+ 33.Qg1 Qf3+ 34.Qg2 Qd1+ 35.Be1! Qxe1+ 36.Qg1 Qe2! ½–½

Najdorf - Czerniak Match, 1929 (Part II) - Introduction

As said before, Yochanan Afek had kindly let me copy Moshe Czerniak's notebook of his games in Poland in the 1920s. The notebook includes a match between Czerniak and Miguel Najdorf, which I mentioned before -- see the previous post on this blog about the Najdorf-Czerniak match.  

Marek Soszynski had kindly agreed to transcribe the games and the annotations into 'Chessbase' format. He, together with Tomasz Lissowski, encouraged me to contact chessbase to see if they might be interested in publishing it. They have just contacted me and said they'll add it to their upcoming mega database 2009, and that I 'need not delay' in publishing it on my blog. Therefore, I am finally doing so. 

Mr. Soszynski notes: 'All the games and the variations [in the chessbase format, which I reproduce in this blog - A. P.] are Czerniak's. I have added practically nothing', although some annotations were omitted as 'flawed or uninteresting', and others (the majority) due to the illegibility of the original manuscript. 'The standard of play was high. All the games, without exception, were interesting - with a rich combinational thread. The second game of the match merits particular attention'. 

The match took place in the Chessplayers' Association, Warsaw, Poland, Oct. 14-28, 1929. (3 games a week). The time control was 20 moves per hour, and the winner was the first to win five games, draws not counting. Najdorf won by the convincing score of +5 -1 =2.

In the following posts I will enter the games one by one. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Steinitz vs. God (again)

Wilhelm Steinitz. Credit: 'Wilhelm Steinitz' entry in .

There is an old story -- or, rather, libel -- that Steinitz (incidentally, a Jew, of course) had once said that he could beat God even if he gave God pawn-and-move odds. Naturally, no exact source is ever given for this alleged saying, and it is merely repeated from one book to another whenever an incident about the alleged insanity of chess players in general, and masters in particular, is needed to spice up the book.

In Alifut Yisrael be'Shachmat 1961/62 ('Israeli Chess Championship 1961/62', Ed. Eliahu Shahaf, "Mofet" press, Tel Aviv, 1962), we find, however, a different version of the story (p. 19):

Wilhelm Steinitz, who was self-confident enough to once say that even God couldn't give him pawn and move...
Naturally this version of the story is unattributed, and it is used to "spice up" an article about opening theory. However, it follows Irving Chernev's The Bright Side of Chess [1948] in suggesting that Steinitz did not claim he could beat God while giving pawn-and-move odds, but merely that God could not beat him if God gave him pawn-and-move odds. (See Edward Winter's article, Steinitz versus God).

There is, naturally, a great difference between the two claims. In Chernev's and Shahaf's version of Steinitz's quip, 'God' is just a metaphor for 'a perfect player', and the claim is pure Steinitz: colorfully put and not suffering from false modesty, but in essence simply the insightful (and perhaps true) claim that the playing strength of the best masters of his time had so improved, that it practically close to perfection. (This happened, presumably, due to the new, scientific understanding of the game's strategy, of which Steinitz was the most important developer.)

One wonders (see also Winter's article) whether Steinitz really made either claim. It is doubtful he ever did. But, if he did, I would bet a significant sum he made the latter claim, and that sensation-seeking writers, making use of Steinitz's real mental illness at the end of his life as an excuse to print "crazy chess player" canards, turned the story on its head and made Steinitz's perfectly reasonable remark into "proof" of megalomania.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Lowest-Rated Player to win National Championship?

Zadok Domnitz. Photo Credit: Shachmat [Israeli Chess Association's magazine], Year 2 No. 5 (Dec. 1963), p. 6.

The Israeli chess championship of 1961/62 (officially, of the Hebrew year H'TSKV -- 5,722 -- which began in September 1961) caused a sensation: the three winners (with 9.5/15) included not only IM Yosef Porat (who played in all previous championships, from 1935 on, only once finishing below 3rd place) and Itzchak Aloni (a player in the championships since 1945 -- which he won -- finishing below 3rd only twice), but the 28-year-old Zadok Domnitz. Not only did he not have any FIDE title, he was not even an Israeli Chess Association master -- merely a 'senior candidate master'. The other participants were mostly ICA masters, including two FIDE IMs (Porat and Moshe Czerniak).

Domnitz is probably one of the lowest-rated players to ever win a national championship, at least in countries where chess is popular. His victory caused quite a sensation, although Aloni eventually won the championship on the three-way tie-breaking match (scoring 2 /2). (To avoid a possible misunderstanding, 'low rated' does not imply 'weak'!)

Aloni's Opening Style

Itzchak Aloni, a caricature by Yaakov Zehavi. Credit: Alifut Israel Be'Sachmat 1961/62 [Israel's Chess Championship 1961/62] by Eliahu Shahaf [Editor], et al. "Mofet" Press, Tel Aviv, 1962.

From the book given above (p. 117), in the English-language introduction by Shahaf: 'Granted, he is not the expert as far as openings [sic] theory is concerned... "colour being the only element uniting his pieces after they have left their initial positions", as one [critic] had put it.'

Or, as quite a few of those I interviewed about Aloni put it: 'he felt lost if he came out of the opening with a reasonable position'.