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    Tuesday
    Apr052005

    Bobby Fischer and Damiano's Defense

    In the post "Naming and Contingency," I presented some well-known analysis showing that Black loses by force after 3...fxe5 in the unfortunately named Damiano's Defense. An anonymous commentator reported having read (or at least having thought that he read) that a "strong player" beat Bobby Fischer once, in a simul, using said defense.

    I don't know about a win, but I think I know what he's referring to. In Bobby Fischer: Complete Games of the American World Chess Champion (first edition), compiled and edited by Lou Hays, we find this (the game score is from the book, but the analysis is mine):

    Fischer,Robert James - McGregor,Robert F [C40]
    Houston sim Houston, 1964

    1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f6 3.Nxe5 Qe7 4.Nf3 d5 5.d3 dxe4 6.dxe4 Qxe4+ 7.Be2 Bf5

    This is a threat White can probably ignore: 8.Nd4 [After the Morphyesque 8.Nc3! Black is destined for misery: 8...Qxc2 (8...Bb4 9.0-0 Bxc3 (9...Qxc2 10.Qxc2 Bxc2 11.Nd4 Bg6 12.Ne6 Kd7 13.Bc4 Nc6 14.Rd1+ Bd6 15.Nxc7+-) 10.bxc3 Nc6 11.Re1 Nge7 12.Bb5 Qg4 13.h3 Qh5 14.Rxe7+ Kxe7 15.Ba3+ Kf7 16.Ne5+ Nxe5 17.Qxh5++-) 9.Qxc2 Bxc2 10.Nd4 Bg6 11.Bf4 Nc6 (11...c6? 12.Ne6 Na6 13.Bxa6 Kf7 14.Nc7+-) 12.Ne6+-] 8...Nc6 9.Nxf5 Qxf5 10.0-0 Bd6 11.Bg4 Qb5 12.Nc3 Qc4

    13.Be2? After this lemon, the Black king gets to leave town. White's still better, but a huge part of his advantage is gone. [13.Re1+ Nge7 14.Be6+-] 13...Qf7 14.Bb5 0-0-0 15.Qg4+ [15.Bxc6?? Bxh2+ 16.Kxh2 Rxd1 17.Bxb7+ Kxb7 18.Rxd1 Ne7-+] 15...f5 16.Qh3 Nge7 17.Ne4 h6 18.Nxd6+ Rxd6 19.Bf4 Rd4 20.Be3 Rb4 21.Bxc6 Nxc6 22.b3 Re4 23.Rfd1 Rd8 24.Rxd8+ Nxd8 25.Rd1 Qe6 26.g3 Rxe3

    [26...Rxe3 27.fxe3 Qxe3+ 28.Kf1 Qf3+ 29.Ke1 Qe3+ and White can't escape the perpetual without hanging the Rd1.] 1/2-1/2

    Hays writes the following of McGregor's opening choice: "Bluffing. McGregor, actually a strong player, wanted Fischer to think he was a beginner." I'm not really sure that the bluff worked - wouldn't a beginner play 3...fxe5? Fischer didn't play a particularly incisive game, but even so, had he not played the 13.Be2 lemon - which had nothing obvious to do with purely psychological factors - McGregor would almost surely have been another simul victim.

    So, fans of dubious openings, it's true: someone played one of the absolute worst openings against one of the world's absolute best players and lived to tell the tale, but it's not an example worth emulating.

    Monday
    Apr042005

    Naming and Contingency

    In the previous post, we saw that the so-called "Maroczy Bind" was named for Geza Maroczy not because he played it, but because, after facing it, he popularized that setup. A bit of an injustice to Swiderski, but he's not alone.

    To take a relatively recent and prominent example, the ...Qb6xb2 line in the 6.Bg5 Najdorf deserved to be named after Bobby Fischer if any variation did, but apparently it came to be known as the "Poisoned Pawn Variation" when some journalist during the 1972 Fischer-Spassky match asked about the opening and was told that Fischer had snatched a poisoned pawn.

    Oh well. Even worse is the baptism of Damiano's Defense - 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f6? Damiano's connection to this horrible move was that he mentioned it in a treatise, refuting it! It would be more just if the opening had some other name and 3.Nxe5!, the first move of the refutation, was known as Damiano's Attack or something to that effect.

    (In case anyone's curious, the main line proceeds 3.Nxe5 fxe5 [3...Qe7 lets Black regain the pawn and live, but with a clearly inferior position] 4.Qh5+ Ke7 [4...g6 5.Qxe5+ and 6.Qxh8] 5.Qe5+ Kf7 6.Bc4+ d5 7.Bxd5 Kg6 8.h4! [much more accurate than the immediate 8.Bxb7, though that may also win after 8...Bxb7 9.Qf5+ Kh6 10.d3+ g5 11.h4 Kg7 12.Bd2 g4 13.Qxg4+ Kf7 14.Qh5+ Ke7 15.Bb4+ c5 16.Bxc5+ Kd7 17.Qf5+ Kc7 18.Bxf8] h5 9.Bxb7! and now:

    A. 9...Bxb7 10.Qf5+ Kh6 11.d3+ g5 12.Qf7! with a quick forced mate, as the threat of 13.hxg5+ Qxg5 14.Rxh5# can be delayed but not prevented.

    B. 9...Bd6 10.Qa5 and a final divergence:

    B1. 10...Bxb7 again leads to a forced mate, though it takes a little longer this time: 11.Qf5+ Kh6 12.d4+ g5 13.Qf7! [again] Bf4 14.hxg5+ Qxg5 15.Bxf4 [again threatening Rxh5#] Nf6 16.Qxf6+ Kh7 17.Qxg5 any 18.Rxh5#

    B2. 10...Nc6 11.Bxc6 Rb8. Here at least Black won't get mated too quickly, but he's four pawns down with a bad position to boot. White's winning.)

    Finally, there are also more minor nomenclatural injustices that arise due to the originator's modesty. The Polish GM Savielly Tartakower is the inventor of both 1.b4 (alternately called the Polish and the Orangatun [and in Russia, it's named after Sokolsky, who wrote a book on the opening]) 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 - the "Catalan", named for the place he introduced the opening.

    Does it matter? Perhaps no one is harmed, especially since there aren't any copyrights on chess moves and no royalties lost ("If I had a nickel for every time someone played that opening..."). But still, it is an injustice, in that the person who deserves the credit doesn't receive it (or in the case of Damiano's Defense, blame is improperly assigned).

    A final, semi-bleak thought: if my recommendation is strictly followed, does it mean that in about 15 years, every new variation will be called something like the "Shredder 21" or the "Fritz 20"? Ugh!

    Monday
    Apr042005

    The Swiderski Bind?

    In my post on the (alleged) Geza Maroczy-Viktor Korchnoi game, I mentioned en passant that part of Maroczy's claim to fame is a pawn structure bearing his name, the so-called Maroczy Bind. The history bug bit Victor Reppert, and he apparently tried to find the stem game, the maiden voyage, the tournament debut of Maroczy's eponymous brainchild.

    The result? Nothing. Not a game found he, so he sent me a comment and passed along the challenge: could I do any better?

    At first, I assumed he must have used overly strict search parameters and optimistically fired up ChessBase 9.0. I opened the Mega 2005 database, entered "Maroczy" (with White) in the game data filter and White pawns on c4 and e4 in the position filter, and subsequently did the same for him with Black (but with Black pawns on c5 and e5). A number of games popped up in both cases, but only one or two were even vaguely Bindish, and neither could plausibly be thought the basis of the "Maroczy Bind" label.

    Fortunately, Andrew ("Andy") Soltis came to the rescue. A book I found quite helpful as an up-and-coming kid was his Pawn Structure Chess, and in the second edition (1995), pages 108-109, he provides the explanation:

    "Oddly enough, Geza Maroczy (pronounced MAHRotsee) was not the originator of the pawn formation that bears his name. In fact, the first master game to gain recognition of the Bind was Swiderski-Maroczy, Monte Carlo 1904, in which Maroczy, with Black in a Dragon formation, was the 'bindee' rather than the 'binder.' It was his opponent who played c2-c4 and e2-e4. But for years later Maroczy, a great Hungarian grandmaster and chess journalist, repeatedly drew attention to the powers of the Bind, and by the 1920s, permitting the Bind was equated with making a blunder. [For the sake of those afraid of the Bind, I continue:] In our time, however, the Bind has been shorn of much of its reputation because of the many methods of freeing Black's game. In its purest form thet Bind is still a very dangerous animal, but Black can avoid the pure form if he plays carefully."

    Swiderski,Rudolf - Maroczy,Geza [B38]
    Monte Carlo Monte Carlo (4), 1904

    1.e4 c5 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nf3 g6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4

    The basic Bind. 5...Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nc3 d6 8.Be2 Bd7 9.0-0 0-0 10.h3 [10.Qd2 Nxd4 11.Bxd4 Bc6 12.f3 a5 13.b3 Nd7 14.Be3 Nc5 15.Rab1 Qb6 16.Rfc1 is a normal, main line position that has occurred in hundreds of games, but although Swiderski's move is less incisive, it can't really be described as an error, either.] 10...Nxd4 11.Bxd4 Bc6 12.Qd3 Nd7 13.Bxg7 Kxg7 14.b4 b6 15.Rfd1 a5 16.a3 axb4 17.axb4 Qc7 18.Nd5 Bxd5 19.Qxd5 Rxa1 20.Rxa1 f5 21.Qe6 Ne5 22.exf5 Rxf5 23.Ra8 Rf8 24.Rxf8 Kxf8

    White still has a slight edge here, but now he miscalculates, loses a pawn and the game. 25.c5? [25.Qd5+/=] 25...dxc5 26.f4 Nf7 27.Bc4 Qxf4 28.bxc5 bxc5 29.Qc8+ Kg7 30.Qxc5 Qe5-/+ 31.Qc8 Nd6 32.Qg8+ Kh6 33.Qf8+ Kg5 34.Bf1 Qe3+ 35.Qf2 Qxf2+ 36.Kxf2-+ Kf4 37.Bd3 Ne4+ 38.Ke2 g5 39.Bc2 h5 40.Bb3 e5 41.Bf7 h4 42.Bc4 Nf6 43.Kf2 Ke4 44.Bf7 Kd3 45.Bg6+ e4 46.Bf5 Kd2 47.Bxe4 Nxe4+ 48.Kf3 Kd3 0-1

    Sunday
    Apr032005

    Humor Tournament: 1st place

    In an earlier post, I referred the readers to the second-prize winning entrant in a study competition devoted to humor; now, at last, Tim Krabbé has revealed the first place-winning composition (see diary entry 281). The winning composition is certainly impressive, but in all honesty, I greatly preferred the second place-winning work (same location; diary entry 276).

    Does this mean I'm an endgame study philistine? If there are any composers reading this, I'd love to know what sorts of criteria lead the cognoscenti to prefer the winner over the runner-up.

    Sunday
    Apr032005

    Radio Reflections on Chess, Children, and Character

    South Bend area chess player and higher ed blogger Ken Smith (not that Ken Smith) occasionally writes radio essays for our local NPR radio station, and this Friday his essay offered reflections arising from the local chess scene. The punchline comes at the end, when he writes that "[w]hen you watch them [chess-playing pre-teens], you get the impression that some of them may already know that chess, like life, is about character."

    I think he's overly optimistic about the value of chess and its role in shaping those kids' characters, but I think Ken does a nice job of presenting something of our game, in an attractive way, to the "gentiles" - something all of us with access to media should do from time to time, if only to combat the negative images out there.

    Thanks, Ken!

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