Mechanics Institute Chess Room Newsletter #277

   I am 31 now. I can work as a lawyer when I am 50 or 60, but if I want to play chess, I must do it now - in 20-30 years it will be too late.

Gata Kamsky

1) Mechanics' Institute Chess Club News
2) Local chess players gamble in Las Vegas by Michael Aigner
3) Igor Ivanov Remembered by Jonathan Berry
4) Here and There
5) Upcoming Events 

1) Mechanics' Institute Club News

Six-time US Champion Walter Browne and Mechanics' Institute Club Members GM Alex Yermolinsky, WGM Kamile Baginskaite and NM Batchimeg Tuvshintugs will play in the US Championship scheduled for early March in San Diego.

The Winter Marathon begins next Tuesday and runs eight rounds over nine weeks. There will be no round on Valentine's Day ( February 14).

At present it looks like there will be no People's Open this year breaking a 32-year tradition. This event, which is closely associated with the UC Berkeley campus, actually was held in Hayward the first two year's of its existence before moving to the Student Union. The first years the People's attracted several GMs but the top prize of $500 stayed frozen over 30 years with the result that what had once been a regional event became a local one. Still into the 1990s it was attracting 200 plus players and even last year 144 plus a large scholastic section. The event benefited for many years from a close connection between SUPERB, the UC Berkeley student organization, and local organizers like Alan Benson, Don Shennum, Alan Glascoe, Mike Goodall and most recently Richard Koepcke. Now that connection seems to have been lost. Hopefully another venue can be found though it will likely lack the special ambience of the Student Union where bongo drummers would serenade players into the evening. Should the People's not be held that will leave only a handful of events in the Bay Area outside of the Mechanics' and East Bay Chess Club. It's a curious situation when the governing body for chess in Northern California (CalChess) has a near record treasury of over $20,000 but holds only one open event a year (the state championship on Labor Day weekend) and the state magazine, which started over 50 years and ran continuously until a few years ago, is no more. Maybe the solution is to make Reno part of Northern California.

2) Local chess players gamble in Las Vegas by Michael Aigner

A large number of northern Californians fly or drive to Las Vegas during the last week of 2005 for the North American Open. This event has become a West coast cousin of the annual World Open in Philadelphia, complete with high entry fees and a correspondingly large prize fund. Of course, this was Las Vegas, Sin City and the gambling capitol of America! A total of 658 players showed up to play in the "Goichberg lottery" (named after organizer Bill Goichberg).

The 105 player Open section featured 20 Grandmasters and a large number of International Masters. Your reporter had the honor of playing (and losing to) GM Jaan Ehlvest. Moreover he was paired with two GMs, two IMs and two untitled players rated around 2400 USCF. Another famous player in attendance was GM Alexandra Kosteniuk. This was one tough tournament!

And yet one player distinguished himself from all the other GMs: Hikaru Nakamura. The reigning U.S. Champion gave up just two draws in seven rounds and took first place all alone. He impressively pushed GM Nikola Mitkov off the board on the white side of the Scotch game in the last round.

A few local players performed well in the top section. Most notable was FM Alan Stein who scored 5.0 and qualified for the U.S. Championship. He faced four GMs and one strong IM, losing just once while defeating GM Vadim Milov. IM-elect David Pruess and FM Dmitry Zilberstein each finished with 4.5. Pruess narrowly missed out on tiebreaks for qualifying for the U.S. Championship. FM Bela Evans shared top U2300 honors with 4.0.

The biggest story for Northern California came out of the Expert section. High school junior Drake Wang scored five wins and two draws for a share of first place and the biggest paycheck of his young life. As an additional reward, his rating now exceeds 2200 USCF! Those who know Drake realize that his goal for 2005 was to become a master--and he achieved it in the final week of the year. Congratulations to NM Drake Wang! :lol:

Very few other local players finished at or near the top of their section. Kudos to Adarsh Konda and John Jaffray in the U2000 section (tied for 3rd) and Jennifer Livschitz in the U1400 section (tied for 5th). A number of NorCal residents scored 4.0 or 4.5 in their respective sections--enough for a respectable result but not enough to win money.

A special congratulations to 19-year-old Batchimeg Tuvshintugs of Oakland who qualified for the US Championship on her first try.

From the Continental Chess Association website


The U.S. Champion, 18-year old Hikaru Nakamura, defeated the tournament leader, GM Nikola Mitkov, in the final round to take clear first place in the North American Open, winning over $11,000. The event had 713 entries (658 players, 55 re-entries), 20 Grandmasters, and prizes totaling over $140,000. It was is the final qualifier for the 2006 US Championship, and 31 players paid the optional fee to make their final attempt to qualify. The overall qualifiers were Alan Stein, Jesse Kraai, Mark Ginsburg and Stephen Muhammad, and the women's qualifiers Batchimeg Tuvshintugs and 17-year old Vanessa West. Go to for the crosstable.

John Donaldson writes: Congratulations go to Jesse Kraai and Alan Stein for bouncing back from tough losses in the last round of the East Bay GM Swiss which cost them respectively GM and IM norms only a few days before Las Vegas. Both had tried to qualify for the US Championship several times earlier this year. I believe this is the third time that Stephen Muhammad has qualified for the US Championship which is an impressive feat. The biggest congratulations go to IM Mark Ginsburg of Tucson who has been trying very hard to qualify for the US Championship for several years. Several times Mark lost a spot in the championship on tiebreak but here he finally earned a ticket to San Diego.

The qualifying spots are often subject to vagaries with some players catching breaks and others having the tough pairings. I couldn't help but notice the excellent result by IM James Rizzitano who came back two years ago after more than 15 years of not playing tournament chess. Inevitably he shed some rating points, dipping below 2400 for the first time since he started shaving, but his result in Las Vegas will put him back over as he beat two GMs (Kreiman and Zapata), drew two GMs ( Gallagher and GM-elect Khachian) and beat FM Manouckian but lost to qualifiers Muhammad and Kraai (the latter immediately after a marathon battle with Zapata). It's not easy to qualify for the US Championship.

3) Igor Ivanov Remembered by Jonathan Berry

This remembrance earlier appeared in Canada's national paper the Globe and Mail.

Earlier in the month, the A&E channel premiered the movie Knights of the South Bronx, starring Ted Danson. A&E were justly enthusiastic about the movie, showing it four times in eight hours. Although as a chess purist one might quibble about this or that, the tone and acting of the movie, based on fact, were excellent. An inspiring story.

A most different movie inspired what follows. Glenn Gould, The Russian Journey is a 21st century look at the epochal visit of Mr. Gould to Moscow and Leningrad in 1957. The movie argues that Mr. Gould changed the way that Russian musicians think about music. Not just a few new licks on the ivories, but a fundamental change.

Just so was the effect of Igor Ivanov on Canadian chess. His arrival in 1980 inspired--forced--our top players to new heights.

Here is a game from the 1982 Chess Olympics. Although Canada's 18th place finish was mediocre, it was full of drama. A highlight was the match against England, where Mr. Ivanov had White against Tony Miles. Like Mr. Gould, these two artists passed from our world all too soon.

1.Ng1-f3 Ng8-f6 2.c2-c4 b7-b6 3.g2-g3 c7-c5 4.Bf1-g2 Bc8-b7 5.O-O g7-g6 6.Nb1-c3 Bf8-g7 7.d2-d4 Nf6-e4 8.Qd1-d3 Ne4xc3 9.b2xc3 O-O 10.e2-e4 c5xd4 11.c3xd4 d7-d6 12.Bc1-g5 Nb8-c6 13.Ra1-c1 Ra8-c8 14.Rf1-d1 Rc8-c7 15.Qd3-e3

Another try is 15.c4-c5. White prefers to maintain an impressive centre, but Black has no weaknesses of his own, and a target at c4.

15...Qd8-a8 16.Bg5-h6 Nc6-a5 17.Bh6xg7 Kg8xg7 18.c4-c5

An amazing concept. White plays the expected push, but the timing makes it a gambit. Less imaginative players might choose between Nf3-d2 or d4-d5.

18...Bb7xe4 19.d4-d5 Be4xf3 20.Bg2xf3 Qa8-c8

Black feared passivity. After 20...Na5-b7 White can regain the pawn with a small edge. Interesting is 20...Rc7xc5 21.Rc1xc5 d6xc5 (to capture with the other pawn allows check on c3) 22.d5-d6 Qa8-b8 23.d6xe7 Rf8-e8 24.Rd1-d7 and Black lacks activity, although it is not clear how White might break through.

21.c5-c6 Qc8-f5 22.Rd1-d4 Qf5-f6 23.Rc1-e1 Rf8-e8

Black refrained from 23...b6-b5, not because of 24.Rd4-f4 Qf6-b2 25.Re1-e2 Qb2-a1+ 26.Re2-e1 and a draw, but 24.Bf3-e2. If Black gives back the pawn with Na5-c4, White's c6-pawn is strengthened by the availability of the open b-file. Otherwise the knight is at risk and must sacrifice itself at c6.

24.Qe3-d3 Kg7-g8 25.Rd4-f4 Qf6-b2 26.Bf3-g4 f7-f5

Black stops Bg4-d7, but pays for the offside position of the knight.

27.Bg4xf5! g6xf5 28.Qd3xf5 Kg8-h8 29.Qf5-h5 Rc7-c8 30.Rf4-h4 Qb2-g7 31.Re1-e6 Re8-f8 32.Re6-h6 Qg7-a1+

If 32...Rf8-f7 33.Rh6xh7+ Qg7xh7 34.Qh5xf7.

33.Kg1-g2 Rf8xf2+ 34.Kg2xf2 Rc8-f8+ 35.Rh4-f4 Rf8xf4+ 36.g3xf4 Qa1-d4+ 37.Kf2-g2 Qd4-d2+ 38.Kg2-h3 Qd2-d3+ 39.Kh3-h4 Qd3-e4 40.Rh6xh7+1-0

The denouement. The knight cannot catch the pawn. Black resigned. Mr. Ivanov showed that one can play accurately, but still have romantic flair.

The same game was published here 23 years ago, but like Mr. Gould's recordings, this repays repeated visits. Technology moves on, in chess as in music. We have computers to displace our prejudices, but even under the objective gaze of silicon, the beauty of this game continues to shine.

Canada won the match against England and had good chances for a finish as high as 8th until the last round. Mr. Ivanov showed up late for the game because he was helping a player from Bulgaria to defect to the West. It would be easy to blame Mr. Ivanov's defeat in that game on the loss of 40 minutes on the chess clock, or on the excitement of a real life drama at the police station, but Guillermo Garcia of Cuba played a masterful game. Mr. Garcia also left us in an untimely hurry; he died in a traffic accident at age 36. But his games, just as much as those of Messrs. Ivanov and Miles, live on.

Closing the circle, Mr. Ivanov as a young man loved music; he was skilled at both the cello and piano. He stuck to music at his mother's request. But his mother died when he was just a teenager, and he moved on to his greater love, chess. In later years, he gave piano recitals in Utah, where he settled.

Editor: Go to for a fine tribute by Norm Jenson and a chance to listen to a recording of Igor playing the piano.

4) Here and There

GM Alex Stripunsky, GM Leonid Yudasin, and IM Yury Lapshun tied for First in the 27th Annual Empire City Open, December 28-29 in the New Yorker Hotel. New York City's largest non-scholastic tournament this year had 283 entries in 4 sections, including 11 re-entries.

Congratulations to GM Patrick Wolff and his wife Diana who are the parents of Samuel Wolff who was born on December 22. The Wolff's have made San Francisco their home and Patrick is working for the Clarium Capital Management hedge fund.

The University of Baltimore at Maryland County, led by GM Alex Onischuk, are the national collegiate champions having defeated both powerhouse teams from the University of Texas at Dallas who finished second and third. Stanford tied for eighth in the event which was held right after Christmas in Miami. Top scorer on the team was Alisha Garg.

5) Upcoming Events

Mechanics' Institute

Bob Burger - January 7
Henry Gross - February 4
A.J. Fink Amateur - March 4 and 5

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