Blitz Chess, Volume 3, Issue 3, April-June 1991

A Night of "Blitz Magic" by Alan Benson

The Pan-Pacific WBCA Blitz Championship was held at the Mechanics' Institute Chess Club in San Francisco on March 15th beginning at 7:30 pm. Traffic was heavy in the city that rainy Friday night, so we started a little late. Prizes were guaranteed by the WBCA (minimum of $200.00 first). The TD was Max Wilkerson, the efficient full time director of this famous club.

The Mechanics' Institute was founded in 1855 and established permanent residence at No. 1 Post Street back in 1866! After the great quake and the ensuing fire of 1906, the Institute relocated to its present site at 57 Post Street. The spirits of many former World Class Champions still linger in the playing room: the likes of Lasker, Capablanca, Alekine, Euwe, Smyslov, Petrosian and Fischer. Now added to these prestigious names is the world renowned Grandmaster Mikhail Tal. The list of "others", would take up an additional page.

There were 36 players paying $20.00 each (WBCA membership required) to play in two preliminary sections of 18 people each. The tournament featured four GM's, one IM, three Life Masters and six masters plus a few experts and "A" players. There was a large contingent of spectators as well. We were all on pins and needles until Tal arrived to play on March 4th in the Pan-Pacific Grandmaster Tournament which was held in the memory of Guthrie "Mac" McClain.

Since the tournament officially began on March 2nd, Tal had to make up his postponed games on the two free days, leaving no free time between tournament games. Had the WBCA blitz tourney been held during the Grandmaster tournament it would have been ideal with most of the participants playing. Standing room only would have been an understatement.

In the western style shootout the pretournament favorites Tal and Browne lost early to Greg Kotyar (2396) and Jules Jelinek (2155) respectively. But both players settled down and found that steady blitz rhythm to produce a long string of victories. In the end Tal and Browne took first place in their respective sections. The dark horse story unfolded with Paul Whitehead taking a clear second (15-2) ahead of two GM's, Adianto and Balinas in Tal's section and Richard Lobo (14-3) who placed just ahead of IM Strugatsky and right behind Browne in his section.

The final is now set with these four players playing against one another twice (white and black). Browne pounces on Paul and Richard to produce a quick four zip start. Tal allows only one draw (with the black pieces against Paul) and now the reigning World Blitz Champion is just one-half point behind Browne for the title. At this point Paul and Richard agree on two quick draws and now all eyes are focused on the Tal-Browne match. Misha plays exciting "Tal chess" in the first game and sacs a full rook (temporarily) to produce and outstanding tactical victory. The Magician from Riga only missed 28.Qf5 which would have won immediately. In the second game Browne plays in masterful fashion to defeat Tal in a gem of a miniature. Tal deserves a sportsmanship award for not playing safe but instead choosing to play dynamically for the spectators in this last game of the blitz tourney. At that time he had a half-point over his chief rival Browne.

By the narrowest of margins Walter Browne wins the finals with 5-1 ($300), Tal places second with 4.5-1.5 ($150), Paul Whitehead is third with 1.5-4.5 ($90), and Richard Lobo took fourth with 1-5 ($60). Also cashing were 3rd and 4th in each of the two preliminary sections: GM Adianto ($30) and Kotlyar ($20) in Tal's section and IM Strugatsky ($30) and Robles ($20) in Browne's section.

It would not be a complete tournament report if I did not mention the following people: From the Pan-Pacific organization committee Neil Falconer (who played in Tal's section scoring 7-10), Bob Burger and GM Nick de Firmian were also on hand. Neil and Bob are on the Board of Directors of the Mechanics' Institute. CalChess President Tom Dorsch and his wife Carolyn Withgitt were also present. Tom helped Max check the current WBCA rating prior to the commencement of the blitz tourney (he also played in Tal's section scoring 8.5-8.5). Mike Goodall and Peter Stevens gave Max little TD breaks by keeping the two crosstables up to date. Last but not least were the scorekeepers that made the publication of the following blitz games possible. They were Ron Basich (preliminary and finals), John Pope and Agnis Kaugers (finals). There were one or two others whom I was not able to identify. Your writer stuck by Tal's board writing faster than a locomotive to insure some of Misha's games for the hall of fame blitz records.

The Sorcerer from Riga had provided "Blitz Magic", for all the chessplayers in the Bay Area to enjoy.

In closing I add only this little story: after Tal had arrived on the evening of March 4th, my friend Mike Goodall and I played some blitz games in honor of Tal. Mike attacked ferociously; I defended. Then, I attacked and Mike defended. It went on and on like this, until after the short match was over and I looked at Mike and said: "Tal is in town!".