No. 5 May, 1953 Vol. LXXIII



To the Editor, "British Chess Magazine."

Dear Sir, - You and readers of the "B.C.M." have no doubt read about the anonymous donor giving 30,000 dollars to erect an enclosure in New York Central Park to enable chess fans to play regardless of rain and cold. A leading New York newspaper devoted a long column, printing the photo of the "home of chess," and as a clever contrast a peculiar pair, a young negro boy playing an old man whose face somehow indicated that there was nothing else left to him, but chess. Whether it was on purpose or accidental, it conveyed to me the idea of the universality of chess beyond all boundaries, irrespective of countries. I have previously had the opportunity of observing chess-players of all nationalities, when I was taking part in the chess olympics at Prague, 1931, Warsaw, 1935, and Munich, 1936. It was a still greater thrill when I undertook to visit the country of sunshine as California might be called.

I believe for many of us (like myself) California has a unique appeal. To the romantic mind Los Angeles conveys the movie stars with its "Hollywood," which is a district incorporated into the town. The soul of Hollywood chess is Herman Steiner, who runs the Hollywood Chess Club. At the back of his house there is a fine building which accommodates the club. The chess room itself is made spectacular by the photos hanging round the walls. There we see most of the famous actors and actresses photographed "playing chess." Though I may say on good authority that except for Humphrey Bogart none of them excels at the game, but by the expressions on their faces and their posture they convey to the onlooker the "real chess fan." Perhaps chess masters should not only try to learn chess, but learn to act in order to be more successful.

The club is made up of a mixture of all nationalities. I once heard Alistair Cooke say in his "American Commentary" that most of the newcomers to Los Angeles came with the secret idea of settling down in the "movies," but were stranded in all kinds of curious professions. Though he mentioned some peculiar ways of making one's living, he did not mention "chess professional." And if Herman Steiner is called one even by himself, this does not convey the right notion. The work he puts in to keep up the activity of the club, the difficulties that must be overcome to organize mere1y a simultaneous display or a tournament cannot be understood by one who is not familiar with the structure of the city. It is spread out, with inadequate bus service. It is not adequate because it is not a commercial success, since nearly everybody in Los Angeles seems to have a car. I cannot forget the feeling of loneliness when I walked in the street under the blazing sun to find myself by myself, and only the passing cars indicated that the town was not "dead." Because an American, even if he wants to buy a stamp ten yards away, uses his car. But possessing a car is not considered a sign of wealth, and in the evenings the quiet residential district where Steiner lives is swarming with cars.

When I arrived in Los Angeles the County Championship was in progress and I was surprised by the high level of chess, since, like many Europeans, I thought that the Americans have no flair for the game. Their enthusiasm is unbounded. I once overheard Steiner reproaching a player for having turned up late when his opponent had to come 100 miles away. The conquest of distances is here the main problem. I used to think in European distances and only later realized that the State of California is one thousand miles long, just one state and not the biggest one. To organize a tournament or even a simultaneous display means drawing players from a radius of 150 miles. When one considers that one has to keep up a car and a club as well, one will understand that besides being an idealist, one has to be a rich man to be a chess professional in Los Angeles.

Even the smaller towns have chess clubs, and it was in Long Beach, twenty-two miles from Los Angeles, where I gave my first simultaneous exhibition. I was going down with the idea of having a "walk over" but I met with stiff opposition. This small town of 60,000 inhabitants has a fine club. It has a room provided for it by the municipal authorities. This it shares with the draught players.

Women's chess is well represented in Los Angeles. Mrs. Stevenson (formerly Sonja Graf) is here, though not active. Also here is Mrs. Nancy Roos, former Belgian Lady Chess Champion. The most interesting woman player is Mrs. G. Piatigorsky, who is of French extraction. She took up chess only one-and-half years ago and her grasp of the game is great. A pupil of Steiner, she embarrasses one with her questions on intricate opening problems, and I had to study the Richter Attack to be able to answer them. The game below, played in the County Championship, will give a good example of her intrinsic play.

The continuous sunshine deceives one's sense about time, and seasons seem to be non-existent. Except for the falling leaves and the cool evenings, one would hardly perceive that it was winter.

Only a short distance away, 500 miles means a casual trip in America, is San Francisco. The ten-hours' travel on the coast is most impressive, the train winding along its way in the mountains, and forming a semicircle so that one can see the two locomotives and the tail of the train at the same time. On the left the Pacific Ocean glitters. San Francisco itself is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. One may imagine how impressive is an immense one-span bridge painted red, under which ocean-going steamers pass by and in the distance the islands and mountains of California showing up. This is the famous "Golden Gate Bridge." San Francisco is the most cosmopolitan city in the USA, one out of six is said to be foreign born. The largest chess club is situated in the "Mechanics' Institute." (An English idea; it was once established as a king of working men's club, I remember having visited one in Nottingham.) It is one of the oldest if not the oldest chess club in the USA, supposed to have been founded in 1855. Here chess fans battle from 10 a.m. till 10 p.m.-to see twenty to thirty players is not unusual. They run a perpetual tournament with a kind of ladder system, but with an involved point system, to make up for the differences in the player's strength. The main organizers in Northern California are Guthrie McClain, Neil T.Austin, and Dr. H. J. Ralston. The latter is editor of the California Chess Reporter, the official organ of the California State Chess Organization. George Koltanowski has set up an organization of his own called "The Chess Friends of Northern California Inc.," a corporation for promoting chess.

The Spanish influence is still noticeable in Northern California, particularly in the names of towns like San Jose, Modesto, and Sacramento. On Sunday afternoon, going by car to Modesto (about sixty miles from San Francisco), I was able to watch the final of the Central California Chess League matches, where about eighty players participated.

Though there are many chess clubs one curious thing should be mentioned: open air chess. In MacArthur Park, in Los Angeles, and in Golden Gate Park, in San Francisco, there is great chess activity until sunset. Unlike players in New York, they have no enclosure.

I expected to have lots of rain when I arrived in San Francisco but a spell of six weeks sunshine waited for me. They say it is unprecedented in the history of the city. By the time this letter is printed I hope all my English friends, too, will be enjoying sunshine more than it is appreciated here, because in England they do not take it for granted.

Best regards to all my chess friends in England and to you.

Yours truly,

San Francisco Imre König.

April, 1953.

Game No. 11,284 - Los Angeles, 1952. White: Mrs. Piatigorsky. Black: Madrid.

Sicilian Defense

1 P-K4 P-QB4

2 Kt-KB3 Kt-QB3

3 P-Q4 PxP

4 KtxP Kt-B3

5 Kt-QB3 P-Q3

6 B-KKt5 P-K3

7 Q-Q2 B-K2

8 Castles (Q) P-QR3

9 P-B4 Castles

10 P-K2 B-Q2

11 B-B3 Q-R4 (a)

12 Kt-Kt3 Q-B2

13 K-Kt1 (b) KR-Q1

14 P-Kt4 QR-B1

15 P-KR4 Kt-K1

16 BxB KtxB

17 P-Kt5 P-Kt4

18 Kt-K2!! (c) P-Q4

19 P-K5 P-Kt3

20 P-R5 Kt-Kt2

21 PxP BPxP

22 Kt(2)-Q4 Kt(Kt2)-B4

23 Q-R2 P-KR4

24 PxP e.p. (d) K-R2

25 R-Q3 P-Kt5

26 B-Kt4 P-R4

27 Kt-B3 R-B1

28 Kt-Kt5 ch K-R1

29 Kt-Q4 (e) Kt-Kt

30 RxKt Kt-B4

31 R-Q2 Q-Kt3

32 P-R7 Q-K6

33 BxKt RxB

34 R-KB1 R(1)-B1

35 R(2)-B2 Q-Kt3 (f)

36 R-Kt1 RxP (g)

37 Q-R6 R(5)-B4

38 QxP B-K1

39 Kt-B7 R(4)xKt

40 Q-Kt8ch RxQ

41 PxR (Q) mate

Loss of time, as White usually retreats with his Knight to K-Kt3.
13 P-K5 would have won a piece. If 13...Kt-Q4; 14 BxKt, PxKt (14...BxB; 15 BxKt); 15 KtxP, Q-Q1; 16 KtxB ch, KtxKt; 17 PxP.
A very fine move. If at once 18 Kt-Q4, P-QR4, and Black obtains a dangerous counter-attack, while the text move prevents ..., P-QR4.
Showing fine judgment! The tempting 24 BxP, PxB; 25 QxP, K-Kt1; 26 Q-R8ch, Kt-Kt1; 27 R-R7, R-K1; 28 P-Kt6, R-K2 gives nothing definite for White.
Before starting the decisive attack White exchanges his passive Knight against Black's important defensive piece.
A necessary move to keep the King's pawn defended after 35 Q-R6.
Longer resistance promised 36 ..., B-K1 though the position is lost in any case. The text move allows White to bring about a nice combination.

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