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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Evgeny Ruban, A Hooligan Who Was Stripped of His Master Title

    You probably never heard of Evgeny Ruban (1941-1997). A very strong player from Siberia, he was never allowed to travel outside of the Soviet Union, but wherever he was exiled to, Chita, Kostroma or Volkovyssk, he was the city champion. As a homosexual, he was charged with hooliganism which was later upgraded to hooliganism with extreme cynicism. He was stripped of his Master title and reduced to the title of Candidate Master of Sport and even had his picture removed from the Chigorin Chess Club in St. Petersburg. But, he was in good company; Korchnoi's photo disappeared in 1976. Only a handful of Ruban's early games have survived. 
    In 1959 at the national youth team championship in Riga, Ruban played on board two for Belorussia, when he kicked off the team because of a conflict with his coaches; staying out late at night and independent behavior were a violation of the sporting regime, a term that usually meant drunkenness or an unacceptable level of individualism. As a result, he was disqualified for a year. That event wasn't the last; many more were to come.
     Physically he looked “Jewish” which was disadvantage. He maintained that his parents were Ukrainian and when he moved to Minsk he asked the Soviet Master Albert Kapengut's father, a historian, about the possibility of joining majoring in history. Kapengut's father, thinking Ruban was Jewish, mentioned the possible difficulties of getting in and Ruban quickly told him, “You know, I'm a Russian.” It didn't matter though because Ruban was drafted into the army. He played a lot chess in army tournaments, but still was not a master.
     After the army, he arrived in Leningrad in 1965 where he lived for six years. There he entered the university to study philosophy. And that's when his chess talent blossomed. He won the quarter-final of the city championship, made the master norm in the semi-final and became city champion in the final. His trademark was that he always played in a suit. He was viewed as being smart, self-disciplined and solemn, but at the same time sarcastic, caustic and cynical. GM Sosonko, who knew him at that time, wrote that he didn't like him at all. Sosonko wrote that after winning the Leningrad Championship, Ruban became more self-assured, but also more arrogant because he thought he was a “star.” Sosonko described how Ruban whould show up at the chess club all dressed up wearing a bow tie. In those days few men wore beards, but Ruban was an exception. During games he would often smile to himself and stroke his beard. Sosonko also wrote, “He could wound you for any reason and consciously pick at the wound. All this with a nice smile.”
     Ruban was always short on money. He lived in a student dormitory on a monthly stipend so small that it was of impossible to survive on it and he occasionally made a little money from chess. Kapengut recalled playing in a tournament against Ruban in 1965 in Vilnius where they gave out food vouchers and Ruban exchanged his for cash and lived on yogurt and a roll. Ruban spent what little money he had on books, especially on philosophy, but he would read anything and was rarely without a book.
     While a student he had already started drinking and at the Chigorin Club's team championship which took place on Sundays he would arrive for his game still under the influence from his partying on Saturday and into Sunday morining. Team members would get him a beer...a littler hair of the dog that had bitten him.
     Even when drinking, he was still very strong. In the semi-final of the 1966 Soviet Championship Ruban arrived after binge drinking and lost his first four games, but in the end shared fourth place, missing qualification for the final by only half a point.
     In 1967 at Rostov-on-Don he played in a tournament for young masters which was his first really strong event. There he finished with a plus 2 score and handed the eventual winner Vladimir Tukmakov his only defeat.
     Ruban had a classical style and as excellent knowledge of the openings and his play was characterized by his ability to exploit the initiative well and play logical, positional chess. He also had a fairly good endgame technique. In the 1960s he learned a lot from the famous Soviet GM Isaac Boleslavsky. Strong players often gathered at Boleslavsky's house to discuss theory and research openings.
     He obtained his degree in 1970 and was accepted as a postgraduate student. That's when his troubles really started. One day in Leningrad in a small public park he met a young factory worker, shared some vodka and cheese and Ruban offered the young man money for sex. The young man agreed and visitors saw them. Some visitors intervened and a disturbance broke out, police were called and the two were arrested. The story about what happened in the police van isn't clear. One version is that Ruban offered the police sex if they were let go. Another version is that the young man demanded his payment, but Ruban refused claiming they'd been interrupted and the act have never been brought to fruition. His suggestion was that the young man collect his money from the police.
     The outcome of the matter was that the young man, blaming it on the vodka, showed remorse and promised he'd never do anything like that again; he was released on bail. Ruban, on the other hand, got involed in a philosophical discussion with the investigators about Socrates and the tolerant attitude towards homosexuals in the upper echelons of ancient Greek society, quoted Plato and gave Leonardo da Vinci and Marcel Proust as examples. The investigators weren't impressed and he was refused bail and went to court charged with hooliganism.
     In court Ruban talked about a professor who had introduced him to gay sex when he was in dire financial straits , and how he didn't regret it because it had showed him who he really was. He refused to admit he was guilty of anything and his final statement was that he was grateful to the Soviet court that was sending him to a camp because people like him were needed there. The court threw the book at him...four years for hooliganism committed with extreme cynicism.
     He was released early and exiled. When his sentence ended he returned to Belorussia and resumed tournament play. It was at that time that he was stripped of his master title. At the championship of Belorussia he finished first by a half point, but awarding him the titled created a controversy. It was finally determined that a pederast wouldn't be a fitting champion and the title was awarded to the runner up.
     Ruban sent a request to Leningrad for the federation of the city where he had been champion to support a petition to restore his master title. At a committee meeting to determine what should be done the problem was solved when the director of the Chigorin Chess Club waded up the request and threw it in the wastebasket. Ruban wanted to return to Leningrad but needed a residence permit. He tried to get work as a security guard in order to get a temporary permit and even looked in to arranging a fake marriage, but was unsuccessful and had to return to Belorussia. He never did get his master title restored.
     As a homosexual and an outcast Ruban found it very difficulty to find employment but finally got a job as an orderly in a hospital morgue and finally found work as a lighting technician in a drama theater. He told a few acquaintances that he had written a play; some say he wrote crime novels. Being a convicted homosexual meant he could have no close friends because close association with such a person would stigmatize the other person, too, and bring them under suspicion.
     In the 1970s he was again convicted and sentenced and exiled. Upon his return he worked for a while as an instructor in the chess club, but was soon fired for drunkenness. He didn't leave the club though. He still hung out there reading library books on philosophy, art and crime novels. All the young players admired his knowledge of philosophy and literature. Sitting around in a shabby suit he always willing to accept a small gift, he drank every day and often didn't eat. All this left him emotionally disturbed and sometimes out of control. One time at a chess club he created a disturbance and shouted obscenities at a master who had been involved in his disqualification back in 1959.
     By the end of the 1980s he was scruffy, filthy and completely broken down. He lived in poverty with his elderly mother in her small apartment where they survived on her small pension. After getting drunk, he was hit by a car and taken to a hospital where he remained in critical condition for two weeks before beginning to recover; but then he suddenly died. His mother couldn't afford to pay for his funeral and it was paid for by the woman who had hit him. Almost nobody came to his funeral. The place where he was buried doesn't even have a name; locals just call it “the cemetery.” There is just a plaque with his name on it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


 Violators II shall be added to the special list (“FIDE Blacklist”) for the period to be determined by the FIDE Ethics Commission on the basis of the severity of violation. Such period in any case shall not exceed 10 (ten) years.
     Last year a US federal court ruled that “robust reporting” of chess moves during play is in the public interest. The ruling explained why the attempt by World Chess (Agon) to stop chess24 and Chessgames from broadcasting the moves of the Carlsen-Karjakin World Chess Championship had been denied. The long-established understanding in the chess world that chess moves can’t be copyrighted was therefore in both a US and a Russian court.
     Who/what is Agon? Agon is a sports event promoting company founded in 2012 in New Jersey by Andrew Paulson as the sole shareholder. On February 20, 2012, an agreement between Agon and FIDE was made, running from 2012 to at least 2021 for the management of the World Chess Championship and associated events, subject to approval by the 2012 FIDE General Assembly. This approval was forthcoming in September 2012. In October 2014, Agon was sold to its current CEO Ilya Merenzon for the sum of one pound. The goal was to make chess a commercial success. For Merenzon's opinion/reasoning on the matter, you can read it HERE.
     In his decision the judge ruled that chess24 was not “pirating,” but creating its own content “at great expense.”  The ruling meant that Agon had failed to show it was likely to win the case if it went to trial. The judge also discussed legal precedents, explaining that the NBA vs. Motorola “Hot News” case that Agon cited was actually lost by the NBA with the court upholding the right of other companies to build products around sports statistics. He explained, “...the Court is not persuaded that World Chess alone can report on the Championship game scores. Indeed, it is well-established that sports scores and events, like players' moves in the Championship, are facts not protectable by copyright."
     In the NBA vs. Motorola case it was determoned that sports data used in a fantasy baseball league was readily available in the public domain. Basic factual information about chess moves is no different from any other factual information generated from a sports match or other public event and thus cannot be protected under copyright law.
     The reasoning is chess moves are not protected by United States copyright law because, like sports scores and statistics, the moves that a player makes during a game are not creative works of authorship. Chess players may disagree, but the law takes a different view.  Sports events are not ‘authored’ in any common sense of the word. There is considerable preparation for a game, however the preparation is as much an expression of hope or faith as a determination of what will actually happen. Unlike movies, plays, television programs, or operas, athletic events are competitive and have no underlying script. Preparation may even cause mistakes to succeed and athletic events may result in unanticipated occurrences.  Sounds like chess games when you look at it that way.

     Agon has lost every legal case, so now they have developed a live moves policy on broadcasting in an effort to impose a ban on reporting chess moves using FIDE "ethics" as its basis. FIDE and ethics are definitely not words one would expect to see used together in the same sentence.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Fischer Blunders

Fischer-Larsen during their 1971 match
     Andrew Soltis wrote that when it comes to guessing your opponent's next move fifty percent is a good number to shoot for. I assume he was talking about his fellow Grandmasters, but if that's true the figure for the rest of us must be pretty low! So, maybe my method of selecting a move isn't so bad after all. My method is:

The Tartajubow Method of Move Selection
     We all make mistakes in calculating, but Soltis claims that you CAN learn how to calculate and reduce the number of mistakes. He adds that during portions of the game such as openings, textbook endings and forced combinations you can be reasonably sure of you opponent's move, but again, I assume he was talking about his peers. Most of us average players don't know openings all that well and we miscalculate tactics all the time. And, endings? How many average players know textbook endings or can even explain the opposition or triangulation?! 
     From what I have run up against on the internet on quite a few occasions, some players don't even know what a tactic is, so they certainly can't calculate them. I am talking about players who play something like Bxf7+ in the first few moves without reason. Apparently they think the “sacrifice” is playing in tactical style and they've heard “tactics win games” but don't realize there's a difference between a sacrifice and just giving away a piece.  I like CJS Purdy's advice because it's more accurate.  He said always look for a sound tactic (back in the old days we called them "combinations.") before you do anything else.
     Once we get trained in tactical motifs, if we ever do, (see Chess Tempo for a complete list) the number of oversights will sharply decline. Even if we get a winning position, wins slip away by either an outright oversight or because of other factors. Even Bobby Fischer wasn't immune to such gremlins as seen in the following game against Bent Larsen. 
     According to psychologists, one of the most difficult moves to spot is the backward retreat of a well developed piece because we just aren't trained to think that way. In this game a backward move by Larsen ended all of Fischer's attacking chances and all he was left with was a Q-side that was a total wreck.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Ludek Pachman, Political Activist (Part 1)

See previous post for Part 2…. 

     Ludek Pachman (May 11, 1924 - March 6, 2003) was somewhat uncoordinated as a result of a childhood bout with polio, but he never let that slow him down. Besides being a strong GM, he played tennis, played the piano, played bridge with a passion, was a great orator and a prolific writer. Pachman was an opening theoretician, was practical and had great belief in his abilities and so was always optimistic of his chances. 
     He won the Czechoslovak Championship seven times, the first being in 1946. He wrote thousands of pages on political and religious subjects. When it came to his biography, published in several languages, it's claimed that mistakes, distortions, whitewashed facts and overlooked events were frequent. From the end of the fifties to the mid-sixties Pachman was a very strong GM and a welcome player at international tournaments. He was also a chess coach, organizer and author, writing more than 80 books on more than strategy, tactics and openings. 
     After World War II, Pachman was a passionate Communist and served on a commission whose job it was to examine doctors, professors, engineers and scientists to determine their loyalty and knowledge of Marxism-Leninism was sufficient. Ludek Pachman was a harsh examiner and his verdict determined if a person could work in their profession or if they had to seek employment as a factory worker, security guard, waiter, or some other low paying job. Under him, many people were not allowed to practice their profession. In fact, Czech emigres who fled to Germany and Austria called him “Colonel Pachman” and said that he was one of the most sinister figures of the Gottwald regime. 
     Klement Gottwald (1896 – 1953) was a Czech Communist politician. When the Communists party had been banned in 1938 Gottwald had emigrated to the Soviet Union. In 1945 he returned to Prague and in the 1948 coup d'├ętat in which the Communist Party seized power with the backing of the Soviet Union, Gottwald took over most presidential functions until he was formally elected as President. Then shortly after a meeting with Stalin, Gottwald imposed the Soviet model of government on the country. He nationalized industry and collectivized its farms. In response to opposition Gottwald instigated a series of purges, first removing non-communists and later to some communists as well. 
     During this time Pachman became head of a department for preparing union cadres and stayed in this post for several years. At party courses he gave lectures on dialectics and historical materialism. His favorite subject was Imperialism which he called the highest stage of capitalism and Stalin's writings were his Bible. 
     When he became a Communist, Pachman was taken with the ideas of equality and brotherhood and he tried to put those ideas into practice. But in 1952, due to political reasons, Pachman left the political world and became a professional chess player for the next 15 years. However, even as a professional chess player he maintained connections with high ranking political figures. Players from Eastern Europe knew to watch their speech around him because what they said could be twisted when they got home. The subject of conversations would change or people would quit talking when Pachman showed up. 
      As a player Pachman made frequent trips to Cuba to play in tournaments and coach its players.  Regarding his political leanings at that time, Viktor Korchnoi recalled that in 1963 during the Capablanca Memorial Tournament in Havana Pachman proudly told him and Robert Wade, “I learned how to drive a tank recently." and when Korchnoi and Wade gave him a quizzical look, he explained, “We have to defend our Cuba!” 
     Pachman met Fidel Castro a few times and once Castro asked him why he didn't smoke.  Pachman replied that he had never smoked in his life. Castro then handed him a big Cuban cigar and told him, "If you are a friend of Cuba, you will smoke this cigar to the end.” Pachman complied, but much later recalled that it was a torture and to get rid of the taste he downed a sizable quantity of Bacardi. From then on he had such a revulsion against smoking that he tried to convince every smoker he met to give it up.

Ludek Pachman, Political Activist (Part 2)

     Prague Spring. That's what a brief period of liberalization in Czechoslovakia under Alexander Dubcek is known as and it changed Pachman's political views. 
     Soon after Dubcek became first secretary of the Czechoslovak Communist Party on January 5, 1968, he granted the press greater freedom of expression; he also rehabilitated victims of political purges during the Joseph Stalin era. In April he promulgated a sweeping reform program that included autonomy for Slovakia, a revised constitution to guarantee civil rights and liberties, and plans for the democratization of the government. 
     By June many Czechs were calling for more rapid progress toward democracy. Although Alexander Dubcek, who Pachman enthusiastically supported, insisted he had things under control the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact countries viewed the developments as a counterrevolution. On the evening of August 20, Soviet troops invaded the country and quickly occupied it. Hard-line communists regained power, reforms were curtailed and Dubcek got booted out the following April. Ludek Pachman was in the thick of the call for reforms during Prague Spring and was considered one of its heroes. 
     As unrest grew, Pachman increasingly spoke out in support of Dubcek and against the policies of the Soviet-installed government. In August 1969, Pachman was arrested and spent months in prison without being charged, going on a hunger strike at one point to protest his treatment. He was released in 1970, but was rearrested in January 1972. At one point in his incarceration, he attempted suicide by jumping head first from his bed onto the floor, causing permanent injuries to his head and spine. In his later years when Pachman spoke of his political enemies he always referred to them as “they.” The odd thing is that at one time Pachman himself was a “they.” 
     In his later years he was almost completely involved in politics and even at chess tournaments he could be seen in restaurants hanging out, not with other Grandmasters, but with “other” types. Pachman spoke several languages and could easily switch from Czech to German to English or Spanish or even Russian. 
     The Lugano Olympiad took place in 1968 two months after the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia and all the Czech players in the Czechoslovakia-USSR match wore black armbands. Pachman wasn't playing for the Czech team as he was too involved in politics, but he did go to Lugano where he almost stirred up a political debate at the FIDE Congress.
     When the Soviet delegate proposed the immediate exclusion of South Africa from FIDE, the then FIDE president Folke Rogard called the Soviet delegate in for a conversation and showed him a letter from Pachman and added that if anyone should be kicked out of FIDE it was the six Warsaw Pact countries and the Soviet Union. Rogard also warned that if the Soviet Union insisted on excluding South Africa, he would make Pachman's letter public. Nobody knows what was in the letter, but the issue of South Africa' s FIDE membership was removed from the agenda. 
     Back in Czechoslovakia, Pachman received permission to tour the country giving simultaneous exhibitions and lectures and drew large crowds. He didn't lecture on chess though. His lectured about the political situation and what could be done to attract the world's attention to their problems. He was also involved in underground meetings, distributing pamphlets, calling for for civil disobedience, organizing demonstrations, writing letters of protest and distributing them to any and all organizations and political and social activists. Naturally, Big Brother was watching.  
     In the summer of 1969 Korchnoi and Keres played in an international tournament in Czechoslovakia and one day Kochnoi found a note from Keres at the hotel stating that he been invited to meet some interesting people and would be back in the evening. The meeting was with Pachman and the visit did not go unnoticed. The following day when Korchnoi and Keres returned to Moscow as soon as he stepped off the plane, Keres was escorted to KGB headquarters at Lubyanka and subjected to an interrogation for several hours. 
     It's not known who ratted on Keres. Olympic athlete Emil Zatopek a Czech long-distance runner who won three gold medals at the 1952 Summer Olympics was at the meeting and Pachman later told Korchnoi that Zatopek was the culprit. But then Keres was constantly being watched and, also, anyone who came into contact with Pachman fell under suspicion.
     Pachman was arrested in 1969 and even in prison he wrote protest letters to the President of the republic, to Fidel Castro and to the United Nations. He was released in 1970 only to be arrested twice more. When he went on a hunger strike they force-fed him, but Pachman closed his eyes and didn't open them again until his release; he also stopped speaking, communicating with prison guards and doctors only in writing. When Pachman's wife visited and spoke to him, he wrote down his replies. Fearing for his mental health, a doctor asked him, if released, would his behavior change. Pachman's reply, in writing, was that he would open his eyes and begin speaking. 
      At first Pachman didn' t want to emigrate, but in November 1972 he left Czechoslovakia and moved to Solingen, West Germany where his friend ran one of the strongest chess clubs in the country. Several years later Pachman moved to Passau and added another “n” to his name, making it sound more German. In 1978 “Ludek Pachmann” won the championship of West Germany. 
     Grandmaster Genna Sosonko described a situation at the zonal in Barcelona in August 1975. Francisco Franco was in power at the time and about ten days before the tournament started several people were sentenced to death for killing a policeman. Upon arrival he was discovered some representatives of Eastern European countries, namely some strong GMs from Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, had refused to come in protest. Players from Romania and Hungary showed up, but decided not to play out of fear of reprisals by their governments. 
     In the first round Sosonko and Pachman played a GM draw which they didn't even bother to analyze and after the game reporters from Radio Catalonia besieged Pachman and he spoke passionately against politics weaseling its way into sports, especially chess. He also spoke of many people from Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union who had been given long prison sentences for writing letters of protest or publishing their work abroad. Sosonko commented that while listening to Pachman's emotional speech it was hard to imagine that at one time Pachman himself had been a “they.” In fact, Pachman had been a significant cog in the Communist machine. 
     One year at Lone Pine, Sosonko ran into Pachman early on a Sunday morning and Pachman informed him he was in a hurry; he was late for church; Pachman had become a zealous Catholic and had even written a pamphlet about his conversion to the Catholic faith. Pachman wrote that when he went to back to prison, he realized that when he was at home he felt he was a believer and while in prison he had long discussions with God and in his head he argued on both sides; He told himself he was very sinful and promised to change his life for the better. He believed that was impossible in prison and he could only do it at home.
     Pachman became an active member of the Christian Social Union, a political party siding with the extreme right (harboring conservative views or opinions on economic, political, and social issues). When their annual congress took place in Passau, the speaker was Franz Josef Strauss, the long-time leader of the party and he an Pachman became close friends.
     Pachman was very valuable to the party because he was an excellent speaker and debater. He had all the qualities of a politician: extraordinary ambition, enormous confidence in himself and his purpose. He was a master of intrigue could see the weaknesses of his opponents and exploit them. His biggest weakness was his argumentative style and inability to compromise. 
     When the Velvet Revolution, a non-violent transition of power in what was then Czechoslovakia, occurred from November 17 to December 29, 1989, took place the 65-year old Pachman returned to take part.  Popular demonstrations against the one-party government of the Communist Party resulted in the end of 41 years of one-party rule in Czechoslovakia, and the subsequent dismantling of the planned economy and conversion to a parliamentary republic. 
     Pachman died in Passau , Germany on March 6, 2003. The editor of the Czech chess magazine knew Pachman well in the last period of his life and described him as very nice, kind and responsive, always ready to help someone and a person with whom it was interesting to spend time. Pachman never had much interest in money. He wouldn't ask for a fee when he wrote articles for chess magazines, willingly gave simultaneous exhibitions and lectures and never insisted on getting paid.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Venona Project, Espionage And A Chess Champion

    The Venona Project was a counterintelligence program initiated by the United States Army's Signal Intelligence Service (later the National Security Agency) that ran for nearly four decades, spanning 1943 to 1980. The purpose of the project was the decryption of messages transmitted by the intelligence agencies of the Soviet Union, specifically the NKVD, the KGB and the GRU.

     During the 37-year duration of the Venona project, the Signal Intelligence Service obtained approximately 3,000 Soviet messages, only some of which were ever decrypted. The intelligence yield included discovery of the Cambridge Five espionage ring in the UK and Soviet espionage of the Manhattan Project in the U.S. The Venona project remained secret for more than 15 years after it concluded.
     Among the Soviet spies identified in the Venona project were Enos Regnet Wicher (1911-1993) who was a professor of physics at Columbia University at the time. Wicher was never convicted of anything, but it was during the time he worked for the Wave Propagation Group of Columbia University's Division of War Research that he was a source of information on American military electronics for the Soviets.  According to one source he was "unofficially" banished to Mexico. The Wicher family (Enos, his wife Maria and stepdaughter Flora) were all accused of being spies for the Soviet Union during the 1940s.
     During World War II Enos worked in the Wave Propagation Group at Columbia's Division of War Research and was alleged to have spied for Soviet intelligence with code name was "Keen" and also “Kin”. He was married to Maria Wicher and the stepfather of Flora Wovschin, the most active Soviet spy revealed in the Venona project.
     Maria Wicher had previously been married to Dr. William A. Wovschin and was the mother of Flora Wovschin. Maria's code name in Soviet intelligence and in the Venona project is "Dasha".
     Flora Don Wovschin was born in 1923 in New York City. She attended the University of Wisconsin, Columbia University and Barnard College. At Barnard she was active in the American Students Union and may have been a member of American Youth for Democracy. She attended Barnard with Marion Davis Berdecio and Judith Coplon, both of whom Wovschin later recruited into service for the NKVD.
     From September 1943 to February 1945 she worked in the Office of War Information then transferred to the United States Department of State. She resigned from the State Department in September 1945. The most active secret agent during WWII, Wovschin acted as courier for Soviet intelligence.  After the war she renounced her American citizenship and travelled to the Soviet Union where she married a Soviet engineer. An FBI counterintelligence report on Wovschin has a hand written note in the margin stating she may have died serving as a nurse in North Korea. Her code name in Soviet intelligence and in the Venona project is "Zora".
     Enos and Maria were members of the U.S. Communist party and Maria was aware of both her husband's and her daughter's work.
     The December 8, 1955 issue of the Mexico City Collegian, The American College South Of The Border, ran article titled “Wicher Combines Work With Study.” Wicher, an Associate Professor of Science and Mathematics, stated his interest in science began as a youngster in Rock Falls, Illinois when he skipped school to go fishing and while digging for worms found an old skull in an Indian mound.
     In 1929 when he entered college at St. Ambrose in Davenport, Iowa he majored in mathematics and graduated cum laude in in 1933. He went on to receive his Master's Degree in 1934 and later that year began to study theoretical physics at the University of Wisconsin. While there he also taught classes. From 1938-1940 he was consulting mathematician for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forrest Products Laboratory. In 1941 he was appointed to head the Department of Physics at Olivet College in Michigan. He tendered his resignation after four months after Pearl Harbor and taught radio and radar physics for the Army Signal Corps. After being medically discharged in 1944 he was appointed to the highly classified War Research Division at Columbia University where he contributed to a highly technical book, Radio Wave Proagation.
     After the war's end Wicher worked for five years doing a contract job for the Bureau of Naval Ordinance as a research mathematician and later as Research Director. In 1950 he returned to the University of Wisconsin for futher study and published a paper on the Faraday Effect. In 1951 he was appointed head of the Physics Department at the University of Georgia where he remained until late 1953.
     Wicher stated in the article that he had visited Mexico in 1951 and like the relaxed atmosphere and so moved to Mexico in 1953 along with his wife Maria and son Anthony.
     According to the history of Harvey Mudd College in California, in the fall of 1961, three physicists were added to the Physics Department; one of them was Enos Wicher who applied from Mexico City, where he had spent eight years as head of the science and engineering department at the University of the Americas. Wicher was a very active member of the department until his retirement in 1975. He was also known at the college for his competence as a chess player.
     Wicher, whose USCF rating was in the mid-2000s, was the 1939 Wisconsin State Champion and in 1940 he was Co-champion with Arpad Elo. He won the Championship for the third time in 1951. In 1952 he was the Georgia State Champion. He participated in the 1971 U.S. Open in Ventura, California where he finished 163rd out of 402 players with a score of 6.5-5.5. He was also active in ICCF postal tournaments in the 1980s. I wasn't able to locate any of his games.

My Friend Elvis

     This is a cat that has been stopping by our back door for years. Too friendly to be feral, she probably has a home somewhere in the neighborhood, but when the weather is nice she spends the day in the woods behind our house. On some days she stops by to get fed and other days she ignores the food...she just wants petted. Yesterday she wasn't hungry and after getting her back and belly rubbed she headed back into the woods. I named her Elvis before I knew she was a girl cat.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Chantal Chaude de Silans

At play in 1951
     Chantal Chaude de Silans (March 9, 1919, Versailles – September 5, 2001, Grasse) was a French player and a pioneer of women's chess. She was awarded the title of Woman International Master at its creation in 1950 and later the honorary title of Woman Grandmaster. Like many people before and after her, life events interfered with her promising chess career. In her case it was World War Two and raising a family. 
     She learned how to play the game when she was nine along with her brother the Baron de Silans, who later became a strong amateur. She quickly demonstrated a talent for chess. 
     In 1932, at age thirteen, she entered her first women's French Chess Championship at the age of 13 where she finished fourth. She also finished fourth the following year and commentators predicted that she had a great future. Unable to participate in 1934 and 1935, she won he only title in 1936 at the age of seventeen. After that she no longer participated in the in the French Women's Championship, except when she returned 61 years later to pay in the 1993 Women's Championship. 
     In 1936, she was invited to participate in the French Men's Championship where she finished 8th out of 9, but the experience of playing against the best French players aided her progress. She went on to compete in will many other French men's championships: 1947 (7th out of 10), 1949 (9th out of 10). Her best result was in 1951 when she finished 3rd out of 14. 1952 (7th out of 10), 1955 (5th out of 11), 1958 (10th out of 12), 1963 (13th out of 26), 1969 (29th out of 30). Between 1936 and 1949 she participated in several Paris championships. 
     In 1939, she married Bernard Chaude a few days before the war broke out and followed him to Morocco. Chaude was a race car drive who once participated (in 1935) in the 24 hour race at Le Mans, but he failed to finish.  They returned to France in 1942 and joined the French Resistance.
     After World War Two she played the Women's World Championship Candidate Tournament three times with less brilliant results. Life outside of chess was the reason; she had four children. At the end of the second world war, the title of world champion is vacant following the death of Vera Menchik the defending champion, killed during a Nazi bombing of England where she resided. The first post-war women's world championship is organized by FIDE in Moscow from December 19, 1949 to January 18, 1950. This tournament was the turning point of her chess career. 
     By that time the Soviet players has established a dominance that was to continue for decades. The Soviet players were the big favorites in the 16-player tournament, but to everyone's surprise, Chantal Chaude de Silans jumped to the lead which she held until the 12th round. Unfortunately towards the end, the stress, the cold weather and fatigue caused her to crack. It also didn't help that she was one fo the few players who did not have a second. The French Federation could not afford one and was so poor that it even had to resort to seeking donations from the French players in order to send her to the tournament. She lost in the 13th and 14th rounds and ended up tying with Edith Keller-Herrmann (East Germany) and Eileen Tranmer (England) for 5th place behind the four Soviet players (Lyudmila Rudenko, Olga Rubtsova, Elisaveta Bykova and Valentina Belova). Also in 1950, she was the first woman to participate in the men's chess Olympiads as part of the French team that went to Dubrovnik to participate in the first postwar Olympiad. 
     She played a few matches against men: she lost to Swiss champion Henry Grob (5.5-2.5) in 1951, but defeated many time Paris champion Stephan A. Popel (2.5-1.5) in 1957. 
     Despite having to take care of her four children, she participated again in the Women's World Championships in 1952 and 1955 (Moscow) and in 1961 (at Vrnjacka Banja), always finishing in the lower half. 
later years
     In 1970, she became the President of the Paris Caissa chess club which shr managed for more than thirty years. During her tenure tha club produced several young talents who would later become strong GMs such as Olivier Renet, Eloi Relange, Manuel Apicella, Igor Nataf and Joel Lautier. 
     Madame Chaude de Silans was respected by all and when such greats as Boris Spassky, Vasily Smyslov or David Bronstein visited Paris they never failed to pay her a visit. 
     The following game, one of her later ones, is by no means one of her best, but it's exciting. Over-aggressive play lead to a lost position, but Mrs. Gresser discovered that won positions do not play themselves and in the complications, she lost her way and the game. The Women's Candidate Tournament was won by Nona Gaprindashvili who went undefeated. Madame Chaude de Silans scored +2 6 =8 and tied for places 12-14 with Gisella Gresser and Lisa Lane, both of the United States. She did have the satisfaction of drawing with the top three finishers, all of the Soviet Union: Gaprindashvili, Borisenko and Zvorikina.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

1933 USSR Championship

    1933 was an active chess year. The 5th Chess Olympiad was held in Folkestone and the United States won the gold medal, Czechoslovakia silver, and Sweden bronze. In conjunction with the Olympiad. Vera Menchik retained her women's world champion title when in a double round 8-woman tournament she crushed all opposition and scored +14 -0 =0.
     Chess Review was established by Isaac Kashdan. Kashdan left after only one year and I.A. Horowitz took over. The leading American chess magazine for most of its run, the Chess Review would be published from January 1933 until November 1969 when it merged (disappeared would be a better description) with Chess Life which deteriorated into a rag hardly worth reading. As a life USCF member I canceled my paper edition a year ago and haven't even bothered to read the online issues.
     In tournament play there was the annual Hastings Christmas Congress that was won by Salo Flohr, then of Czechoslovakia, for the second consecutive year. Sandwiched between the Soviet Championship and Flohr's win at Hastings, he also played a drawn match with Botvinnik. Esteban Canal won a tournament in Budapest ahead of such prominent players as Pal Rethy with 9½, Lilienthal, Lajos Steiner and Erich Eliskases.
     In the United States a tournament was held to see who would join Frank Marshall and Isaac Kashdan on the US Olympiad team. Reuben Fine won followed by Arthur Dake and A.C. Simonson.
   A tournament was held in Aachen and won by Bogoljubow. The tournament was organized by the Grossdeutsche Schachbund, a new state-supported chess federation with Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels serving as honorary chair. The editors of Chess Review decried the virtual exclusion of Jews from German chess, not only from tournaments but also from chess cafes and playing rooms.
     To test the strength of Soviet chess masters Nikolai Krylenko had organized the Moscow 1925 tournament. On a rest day world champion Capablanca gave a simultaneous exhibition in Leningrad and a young Mikhail Botvinnik (1911-1995) was selected as one of his opponents and won the game which gained him recognition as a player to be watched. Six months later he was invited to play in the Leningrad Championship and the rest was history.
     The 1933 Soviet Championship was his second Championship win. The tournament was a battle between the new generation of Soviet players and those who first made their mark before the Revolution. There was no love lost between the generations.  Against Dus Chotimirsky, Botvinnik defended a R and P ending which eventually ended up with both sides having only their K and R, but Dus Chotimirsky continued playing.  The game was only declared a draw by the intervention of the tournament committee. Botvinnik later learned that his opponent had planned to play 150 moves before offering a draw. At least that's how the story goes; I was unable to locate the game.
     Previous championship tournaments (Odessa 1929 and Moscow 1931) didn't have the best players in the country, but this tournament did and it was the younger generation that that succeeded. While Botvinnik faltered towards the end, he was still able to confirm his previous successes. Botvinnik lost two games: Bohatirchuk and Riumin. 
     It was shortly after this tournament that the champion of Czechoslovakia, Salo Flohr, suggested a match between himself and Botvinnik that was drawn. Things went badly for Botvinnik early in the match and he trailed 4-2, but in the last half he evened the score. The tie was considered a great success because at the time Flohr was considered a serious world championship contender. In 1942 Flohr became a Soviet citizen.

Final standings:
1) Botvinnik 14.0
2) Alatortsev 13.0
3-5) Levenfish, Lisitsin and Rabinovich 12.0
6) Rauzer 11.5
7) Chekhover 11.0
8) Bohatirchuk 10.5
9) Kan 10.0
10-11) Riumin and Romanovsky 9.5
12-13) Verlinsky and Yudovich 9.0
14) Savitsky 8.5
15) Sorokin 7.5
16-17) Goglidze and Freymann 7.0
18) Zubarev 6.5
19) Dus Chotimirsky 5.5
20) Kirillov 5.0

     Many games are missing from this event because the tournament book contained only 46 of the 190 games. The following game was the first of Botvinnik's that went viral in the chess magazines and it was subjected to analysis by such great theoreticians as Tarrasch and Becker. The game is given in the book Secrets of the Sicilian Dragon by Gufeld and Schiller under the heading of The Dragon Hall of Fame.