Mechanics' Institute Chess Club Newsletter #493

The most important causes of blunders are time pressure, tension, fatigue and the lack of sufficient concentration. The outstanding cause of blunders in top-level competitions is time trouble...

Sammy Reshevsky (Introduction to Great Chess Upsets)

1) Mechanics' Institute Chess Club News

2) Kamsky and Onischuk leading US Championship by FM Michael Klein

3) Berkeley Chess Club News by Marc Newman

4) Remembering Henry James "Bip" Ralston


1) Mechanics' Institute Chess Club News

Frequent Mechanics' Chess Club benefactor Colin Ma took some interesting photos at the 4th Annual Ray Schutt Memorial a few weeks, a selection of which are on display in the Chess Room display case. We also thank Colin for his donation of a hardcover copy of Yasser Seirawan's brand new book Chess Duels" My Games With the World Champions.

George Sanguinetti sends the following results from the May 12 M.I. Wednesday Night Blitz

1st tournament

1. Jorge Lopez 7-0!
2. Arthur Ismakov 6
3. Jules Jelinek 5

2nd tournament

1. Arthur Ismakov 2.5/3
2. Jorge Lopez 2

The Summer Tuesday Night Marathon started on May 25. The eight round event typically attracts 55-70 players ranging in strength from International Master to below 1200.


2) Kamsky and Onischuk leading US Championship after Five Rounds by FM Mike Klein

St. Louis, May 19, 2010 - With a field of seven players jumbled at the top of the tables, only two players managed to continue their winning ways at round five of the 2010 U.S. Championship, held at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. GM Gata Kamsky and GM Alexander Onischuk, the second and third seeds, both won as White and are all alone at 4/5.

Kamsky had one of the shorter games of the day as he dispatched three-time champion GM Larry Christiansen on the White side of an offbeat Ruy Lopez. Building a huge center with the one-two punch 10. d4 and 11. f4., he preceded the advances with a queen sortie that he called a "gorgeous idea." Together, the moves gave Kamsky the initiative. Kamsky's goal was to turn the tables on Christiansen. "I had to do something," Kamsky said. "My experience with Larry is that he's a very aggressive player."

The crunching shot 26. g4 opening the b1-h7 diagonal and Kamsky's pieces flooded the Black kingside. Though Kamsky argued that instead of "attacking" that this game should be called "positionally-based, with aggressive intentions," Christiansen's position collapsed faster than Mt. St. Helens.

Joining Kamsky at the top was Onischuk, who extended his U.S. Championship unbeaten streak to a record 46 games by narrowly winning against GM Varuzhan Akobian. "[Akobian] started making mistakes at the very end," Onischuk said. In the post-mortem, Onischuk praised his opponent's 27�Qe5, controlling the long diagonal. "His position is fine because it's really dangerous for me to take on a6," Onischuk said. But after the mistake �a5 on the very next move, Onischuk's queen took up a dominating post. The final chance for Akobian to save the game may have been 31�e3, as 32. fxe3 Qxe3+ 33. Qxe3 Nxe3 34. Kf2 Nxf1 35. Kxf1 is drawn according to Onischuk.

Onischuk explained his success simply. "I know how to prepare for important tournaments," he said. He suggested that his studying has equipped him with several opening surprises, but so far his opponents have done all the steering into uncharted waters. "Of course I'm not going to play Nc3 and f4 - I would say crazy lines," he said, referring to GM Hikaru Nakamura's preparation against him in round four.

No other player could keep pace with a win, but not for a lack of trying. GM Yury Shulman and top-seeded GM Nakamura battled to a chaotic draw on board one. At one point, Nakamura promoted to a second queen and Shulman refused to take it, instead pursuing his own initiative.

"I didn't think his advantage was serious, until I blundered severely with Qc5," Nakamura said, explaining he simply missed the Shulman's knight centralization. Playing quickly, Nakamura blitzed out another opening surprise, the Blumenfeld Gambit. But Shulman coolly accepted the pawn and after a long forcing sequence, acquired a small army in return for Nakamura's extra queen. Shulman said he could not recall any game he had played like this one, but he was reminded of Kasparov-Lautier, Linares, 1994, when the Frenchman also promoted a second queen on b1 (but used it to beat the World Champion). After all three queens came off, the game was agreed drawn on the 54th move.

"You can't win every game with Black," Nakamura said. He will now leave board one for the first time in the event.

GM Jesse Kraai, one of the lower seeds, won his third game in a row to vault into a tie for third. Sensing that GM Jaan Ehlvest would push for a win with White, Kraai bided his time and then released his pieces. "Ehlvest feels obliged to beat me, and that gives me chances that I wouldn't get if I was 2600," Kraai explained. After getting his pawn to e5 and knight to f4, Kraai liked his position. Asked about his newfound possibility of making the quad final after round seven, Kraai downplayed the line of thinking, quoting some advice he received from GM Victor Mikhalevski. "Sometimes it's better not to dream," he said.

Neither GM Alex Stripunsky or GM Alex Yermolinsky managed to get to four points. They agreed to a draw on board four in a complicated position. Stripunsky had won three in a row prior to round five, but both players still control their own fate to qualify for the finals.

Rebounding from two consecutive missed opportunities, IM Irina Krush pounced on the luckless GM Robert Hess, who lost for the second straight day. Krush said she was embarrassed by the win, as she made some imprecise moves in building for her g-file attack. After making a random pawn move in the midst of the attack, she said, "That's how I confuse my opponents - with moves that don't make sense. I realized my strategy of playing well wasn't working." After seeing two winning positions only earn � point in round three and four, she said, "There is a lot of justice in chess." Her performance rating is back over 2600, and though the topic is taboo in the press room, everyone is aware that she is on pace for her second grandmaster norm.

GM Joel Benjamin won his second game of the event with a series of sacrifices on GM Aleksandr Lenderman's king. He eventually opened up a discovered attack on Lenderman's queen to earn the full point.

GM Alex Shabalov ended a streak of losses, winning as Black in a long Sicilian game over GM Melikset Khachiyan. GM Gregory Kaidanov and GM Ben Finegold got their first wins of the championship. For the third time in five rounds, eight of the twelve games were once again decisive.

The crowds swelled for Tuesday's games, and at one point the commentary room was full of spectators. Only two rounds remain before the quad qualification.

The 2010 U.S. Chess Championship is open to the public and will feature grandmaster commentary by GM Maurice Ashley and WGM Jennifer Shahade. Live Spectators can access the event by purchasing a membership to the CCSCSL, which costs just $5/month for students and $12/month for adults. The championship quad finale will take place May 22-24 and will culminate with the $10,000 U.S. Championship Blitz Open at 8 p.m. on Monday, May 24, an event that will feature U.S. Championship competitors and some of the top players from across the country.

Follow all the action live at

3) Berkeley Chess Club News by Marc Newman

The latest six-round Berkeley Chess Club tournament has finished, with Todd Rumph and Craig Andries tying for first with 4.5 points and winning $125 each. Joshua Cao won $50 for top under 1800 performance. This was another well-attended event with 36 participants and was possibly our strongest field yet. This week is our Saturday 4-round G/45 tournament on the 22nd. Check it out at

Our Friday tournament will resume on May 28 and as always, the club page is at:


4) Remembering Henry James "Bip" Ralston

The Mechanics' Institute recently received a substantial donation of books from the library of the late H.J. "Bip" Ralston thanks to the generosity of his son Peter. Among the items donated were six extremely hard to find volumes of the British Chess Magazine the Institute was missing. The Mechanics' Library now has a complete set of BCMs (1881-2009) in its lockcase room to go along with complete runs of the American Chess Bulletin, Chess Life, Chess Review and the California Chess Reporter.

The latter, the definitive guide to California chess from 1951 to 1976, was co-founded by Bip Ralston who also found time to write books on the Steinitz-Anderssen and Capablanca-Marshall matches and run chess columns in San Francisco papers in the 1920s and 1950s - all these activities in addition to substantial professional and family obligations.

A life-long member of the Mechanics', Ralston drew with Emanuel Lasker when the former World Champion visited the Institute in 1926. Bip Ralston could be counted on for several decades to defend a board for the Institute in cable matches and later face to face battles between Northern and Southern California. Henry James "Bip" Ralston was one of the giants of Northern California chess.

The following three unpublished games, found in Ralston's chess papers, show his aggressive style. The first two, played when he was a student, are rough, but the third shows his later more mature style.

Ralston - Beech

Berkeley 1926

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e5 Nfd7 6.h4 c5 7.Nb5 Qa5+ 8.c3 cxd4 9.Bxe7

9.b4! Qb6 10.Qxd4 was a clear path to a better game.

9...Kxe7 10.Qg4 g6 11.Qg5+ Kf8 12.Nxd4 Qb6 13.Nh3

13.0-0-0! was less speculative and clearly better for White.

13...Qxb2 14.Nxe6+ fxe6 15.Qd8+ Kg7 16.Qe7+ Kh6

Here 16...Kg8 leads to the game continuation in a few moves.

17.Qg5+ Kg7 18.Qe7+ Kg8 19.Qxe6+ Kg7 20.Qe7+ Kh6 21.Qg5+ Kg7 22.Rc1?

Brave! White spurns the perpetual but at considerable risk.

22...Nc6 23.Be2 Ndxe5 24.h5 Rf8 25.hxg6 Nxg6 26.Bd3 Qxa2?

26...Bf5! 27.Bxf5 Rae8+ 28.Kf1 Rxf5 would have refuted the attack.


27.Nf4! was needed...

27...Re8+ 28.Kd1 Qc4 was 28...Re5!

29.Nf4 Qxc3??

29...Qxf4 30.Rxh7+ Kf8 31.Rh8+ Nxh8 32.Qxf4+ Nf7 with equal chances was required.

30.Rxh7+ 1-0

The last part of the following game is up and down but has a pretty conclusion.

Ralston - Schue

Berkeley 1927

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ng4 4.e4 Nxe5 5.f4 Ng6 6.Be3 Bb4+ 7.Nd2 d6 8.a3 Ba5 9.b4 Bb6 10.c5 dxc5 11.bxc5 Ba5 12.Bc4 0-0 13.Ngf3 Qf6 14.e5 Qe7 15.0-0 Rd8 16.Qb3 Nd7?

Black needed to trade the bishop.


The tactical shot 17.Bxf7+! was possible as 17...Qxf7 is met by 18.e6.

17...h6 18.Rad1

Again 18.Bxf7+ was possible.

18...b6 19.c6 Ndf8 20.Rxd8 Qxd8 21.Bxf7+ Kh8 22.Bxg6 Nxg6 23.Qf7 Qd3? 24.Qxg6?

Chess blindness afflicts both players for the next few moves. 24.Qe8+ Kh7 25.Nf6+ gxf6 26.Qf7+ Kh8 27.exf6 won on the spot.


24...Ba6 would have kept the game going.

25.Kh1 Ba6

Now this loses!

26.Nfg5! hxg5 27.Nf6! 1-0

Ralston - Bergmann

California 1939

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Bb7 5.Bg2 d5 6.0-0 Be7 7.Nc3 Nbd7 8.cxd5 exd5 9.Bf4 Rc8 10.Qa4 a6 11.Rac1 c6 12.Ne5 Nxe5 13.dxe5 Nd7 14.e4 b5? 15.Qd1 Nb6 16.Qg4 g6 17.e6 f6 18.Rfd1 d4 19.Bh6 c5 20.Nd5!?

20.Ne2 or 20.Qh3 would have preserved White's advantage without risk.

20...Nxd5 21.exd5 Bxd5 22.Bxd5 Qxd5 23.Rxd4 Qxd4

23...f5! was Black's saving grace.

24.Qxd4 cxd4 25.Rxc8+ Bd8 26.Bg7 1-0

The following appreciation was written around the time of Bip Ralston's passing by his son H.J. "Peter" Ralston III.

Henry J. "Bip" Ralston, whose research on the physiology and the mechanics of human walking led to major improvements in artificial limbs for amputees, died of cardiovascular disease at his home in San Francisco on January 3, 1993 at the age of 86.

Bip Ralston was a member of a pioneer San Francisco family, his grandfather arriving in San Francisco from Scotland in 1861. Ralston attended public school in San Francisco and matriculated at the University of California, Berkeley in 1923. He supported himself as an undergraduate by serving as a staff writer and columnist for the old San Francisco Bulletin. He then entered the graduate program in zoology at Berkeley and received the Ph.D. in 1934, following which he served as instructor in zoology for a year. He held appointments at City College of San Francisco from 1935-1939, and in the School of Dentistry in San Francisco from 1939 to 1944. He served as Assistant Professor at the Department of Physiology at the University of Texas, Galveston, from 1944 to 1945, and then was named to the faculty of the California College of Physicians and Surgeons at the University of the Pacific, where he rose to the rank of Professor in 1953. During that same postwar period Ralston began his physiological research in the Biomechanics Laboratory of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery in San Francisco, collaborating with Professor Verne Inman and faculty members of the Department of Mechanical Engineering in Berkeley. Their work was an outstanding example of multidisciplinary research focused on an important problem: the physiological and mechanical properties of human locomotion, and how normal locomotion is perturbed in individuals having an amputation of part or all of the lower extremity, or in patients having paralysis of the lower limb following injury or stroke. Ralston was appointed a Research Physiologist in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery, the home of the Biomechanics Laboratory, in 1955, a position that he held until his retirement in 1976. Ralston and Inman studied normal human volunteers and volunteer subjects with various injuries or amputations. Their fundamental work elucidated the properties of the hip, knee and ankle joints, as well as the complex joints of the foot during walking and the energy expenditures created by walking in normal individuals, and the abnormal energy demands placed on individuals with the then poorly designed artificial limbs or braces. Many relatively young men with wartime injuries to the leg that required artificial limbs or extensive bracing suffered from cardiovascular disease which was induced in part by excessive energy expenditure while walking with the artificial limbs. In collaboration with their engineering colleagues in Berkeley, Ralston and Inman published a series of papers that led to substantially improved designs of artificial limbs. Their work was compiled in the landmark publication Human Walking which is presently being prepared for a new edition. In recognition of his many scientific contributions, Ralston was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1966.

In addition to his research activities at UCSF, Ralston taught neuromuscular physiology to several generations of students in the Physical Therapy Program in the School of Medicine.

Bip Ralston was an ardent chess player during his college days and was nationally ranked in the 1930s and 1940s. He was also a lifelong admirer of the musical compositions of Beethoven and his extensive collection of recordings of Beethoven dating back to the 1930s were among his most precious possessions.

Bip Ralston and his wife Sue were married for 59 years at the time of his death. Their eldest son, Henry J. III, is Professor of Anatomy at the University of California, San Francisco; their second son, Stephen, is a senior staff lawyer at the Legal Defense Fund of the NAACP in New York; their younger son, John, is a high school teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area and has held administrative staff appointments at UCSF. Ralston is also survived by his sister, Harriet Dodgen, of Pullman, Washington.