Mechanics' Institute Chess Room Newsletter #36

"Chess is all about making decisions. Postponing a decision doesn't necessarily improve it."

John Nunn

1) Kasparov and Kramnik to Meet Again 
2) Charles Powell Memorial 
3) Tueday Night Marathon 
4) Fischer Update 
5) Summer FIDE Rating Tournaments 
6) Before the Fire: MI Chess History 1854-1906 Part Three 
7) Diesen-Donaldson 
8) Chess Camps 
9) Upcoming Tournaments 

1) Kasparov and Kramnik to Meet Again

This Sunday (May 20) a super strong tournament featuring Kramnik and Kasparov will start in Astana City, the new capital of Kazakhstan. Dedicated to the 10th anniversary of Kazakhstan's independence, the event features the two K's, Alexander Morozevich, Alexey Shirov, Boris Gelfand and local hero (and former world junior champion) Darmen Sadvakasov.

2) Charles Powell Memorial

The 1st Charles Powell Memorial, held May 13 to honor one of the Bay Area's strongest players in the 1980s, was a fitting tribute. There were only 18 advance entries, but 29 players showed up at the door making this the best-attended one day event at the Mechanics' in recent memory!

Expert Vivek Nambiar of Milpitas defeated Stanford Master Ryan Porter in the last round to take home the $225 first prize with a 4-0 score. Tying for second at 3 1/2 in the G/60 event were National Master Keith Vickers, Expert Nicholas Proudfoot and Uri Andrews. 15-year-old Andrews of San Jose, rated in the 1700s was the revelation of the event, collecting several scalps. Upsets were the order of the day as only Keith Vickers won a prize among the five masters competing.

Charles Powell was Armed Forces Champion several times and a key member of the Washington Plumbers, winners of the 1976 National Telephone League. A perennial state champion in his native Virginia, Charles moved to San Francisco in the late 1970s and played in several Northern California State Championships (Bagby Memorials), but will be best remembered for his friendly manner and good sportsmanship. In a passing of the baton, National Master Robert Haines, who was encouraged by Charley in his first tournament in the Bay Area, sent two of his young students Lucian Kahn and Keith Moffat, to play in this event.

3) Tuesday Night Marathon

Berkeley undergraduate David Steele defeated fellow Expert Larry Snyder to grab the lead in the April-May Marathon with two rounds to go. Steele has 5 1/2 from 6, but right behind him is Expert Victor Ossipov with 5. Chasing the two leaders are National Masters David Blohm, Kenneth Hills and Michael Aigner, plus Experts Steve Gaffagan and Peter Grey all at 4 1/2.

4) Fischer Update

LOVE him or loath him, Bobby Fischer will always remain one of the games biggest stars, not to mention one of its biggest enigmas.

Thanks to the legions of fans who have kept the faith over the years, the erratic and often misguided American genius is still big news in the game despite the fact that it's nearly ten years now since he last (officially) played a game.

The rumour mill on his whereabouts these days is always active. Prohibited from returning to the US due to an outstanding arrest warrant from the Treasury (though when I visited Seattle recently I have it on authority from a very reliable source that Fischer managed to come back into the country via Canada to attend his sister's funeral last year), he's been known to favour living in Budapest (even Scotland's own Jonathan Rowson bumped into him one night there whilst on the metro), though its recently reported that he now lives in Japan. Whilst in Budapest, he struck up a working friendship with the Hungarian No.1, Peter Leko. In return for some "free" advice and insight into the game from the great one, Leko played a number of (unpublished) Shuffle Chess games with him.

It's now claimed that Fischer has been playing again under a pseudonym on an internet chess server and smashing up several strong GMs - by playing weird openings such as 1 f3 followed by some bizarre king manoeuvres in an effort to avoid book theory. Often the games are said to resemble his latest development for chess, "Fischerrandom." As ever, all playing stories such as this is taken with a healthy pinch of salt, but it would be good for the game if substantiated.

Fischer even made it into the pop charts this year! The Sydney-based indie guitar band Lazy Susan managed to get a lot of airtime recently in Australia with a single, simply entitled, "Bobby Fischer", telling of the life and struggle of their hero.

Certainly no candidate for an Ivan Novello or Grammy award, the catchy lyrics go something like:

"Bobby Fischer beat Spassky in Iceland '72. I know a girl who's better looking but who thinks like Bobby Fischer too. When Booby Fischer was a kid they knew he was a prodigy. I know a girl who's somewhat older but no less of an authority."

I wish I had the smarts to understand her charts. If I don't concentrate she'll have me in checkmate.

In Tampa Bay and Lafayette they all knew Bobby Fischer's name. I know a girl who made her mark in smaller cities but her fame's the same. When Bobby Fischer made his comeback in the 90s he was worse for wear. I know a girl who made a comeback but her mind was altogether there.

She said, 'I drink chocolate milk from a cow I built. Doot n'doot doot doot. Doot'n doot doot doot.'

They're all saying that you'll never play again. They're all saying that you're finished, that you're washed up as a friend. All my life I have 'feather-dustered' but that's not how it's going to end. Oh no.

Spies in hideouts send their secret messages. There's a thief caught in the headlights of a car beneath a bridge. There's no lights on in the house except the light in the fridge. Oh yeah.

Reykjavik, no one ever says Reykjavik in a song.

Despite persistent rumours that he'll play at some time a "Fischerrandom" or Shuffle Chess match against a top GM (one rumour had it that he would play his long-time friend, the Philippines GM Eugene Torre), nothing ever materialised. Yet, despite declaring on winning the world crown in 1972 that, "all I want to do, ever, is play chess," he never officially touched another piece for twenty years - and only then when he had reputedly run out of money.

Courtesy of John Henderson from his column in The Scotsman

5) Summer FIDE Rating Tournaments

Rated over 2000 USCF and interested in playing in a FIDE Rating Tournament This June? The MI will be running an event(s) June 16-24 at the MI. The format will be dictated by entries, but we are aiming at two 10-player roundrobins with 7 rated and 3 unrated in each group. Entry fee is $50 and all money is returned in prizes. If you are interested in playing please contact John Donaldson ASAP at

6) Before the Fire: Part Three of a History of the MI Chess Room 1854-1906

The best record of early club championships is Guthrie McClain's account in the July 1981 issue of Chess Life which we reprint here. McClain credits a manuscript by Dr. H.J. Ralston, co-founder of the California Chess Reporter, as his primary source.

The first mention of a local championship is in The Argonaut column The Chess Player, a tournament at the Mechanics' Institute in 1885 won by J. Waldstein, with N.J. Manson 2nd and Fritz Peipers 3rd. A second tournament in 1885 was won by H. Heinemann, who won eight straight games and ended it right there.

Local tournaments continued, but records are practically non-existant since the closing of The Chess Player in 1888 - until 1920, when a San Francisco Chronicle column began. At that time the strongest players, and frequent club champions, were Elmer W. Gruer of Oakland and Adolph J. Fink, both of them also California champions on several occasions.

Local Champions

By the 1890s, there were regular club championships at the Mechanics' Institute. Gold medals were awarded to the winners. A list of club champions appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle of November 1905.

1894-5               Walter R. Lovegrove 
1895                  George Thompson 
1896 May           Walter S. Franklin   
1896 Oct.           Oscar Samuels 
1897                  Oscar Samuels 
1898                  Walter R. Lovegrove 
1898                  J.J. Dolan 
1901                  Valentine Huber 
1902                  Hobart K. Eels 
1903                  Nathaniel J. Manson 
1904                  Wallace E. Nevill 
1905                  Arthur B. Stamer 
The following article which appeared in the San Francisco Call of April 28, 1896, can be added to the original work by Ralston and McClain and was uncovered by Sibylle Zemitis.


Walter S. Franklin Carries Off the First Prize Gold Medal

Close of the Big Tourney

G. Thompson Succeeds in Securing Second Place After an Exciting Contest

The handicap tournament which has been in progress for some time at the Mechanics' Institute was concluded yesterday. There were thirty-two contestants divided into four classes as follows:

First class scratch - H.O. Chase, Thomas D. Condon, F.H. Curtis, J.M. Durkin, S. Epstein, W.S. Franklin, J. Hirsch, Thomas Martin, E.L. McClure, E. Nevill, Richard Ott, Oscar Samuels, Rudolf Stein, G.R. Thompson.

Second class, at odds of pawn and move - Fred Burnett, JR. Chicton, E.A. Cutting, H. Epstein, R.J. Harding, A. Schuman, C.W. Spalding, George Walker.

Third class, at odds of pawn and two moves - J. Boxall, R.F. McLeod, John Newman, Charles Muller, C. Thomas, J.M. Torres.

Fourth class, at odds of knight - George Burnett, I. Denton, C.L. Miel, A.D. Reynolds.

Dr. Benjamin Marshall, the nestor and patron of chess on the Pacific Coast, and Messrs. H. Hyneman, D. L. Lyons, Joseph Sullivan and Joseph Waldstein acted as judges, and Richard Ott as secretary. The tournament has been conducted under the rules as given in Steinitz's Modern Chess Instructor. Time limit: Twenty moves per hour. Winners of first two games in each round to remain, losers to drop out entirely. Draws not to count. Following were the results:

Winners of first round - Messrs. Boxall, Chase, Chilton, Condon, Cutting, Denton. H. Epstein, Franklin, McCluire, McLeod, Ott, Samuels, Stein and Thompson.

Winners of second round - Messrs. Boxall, Condon, Denton, Franklin, McClure, McLeod, Ott and Thompson.

Winners of third round - Messrs. Denton, Franklin and Thompson.

Winners of fourth round - Messrs. Franklin and Thompson.

Winner of fifth and final round - Walter S. Franklin, who consequently obtained first prize, a gold medal, and G.R. Thompson, second prize, a silver medal.

The contest has been an exciting one throughout, and when it finally settled down to between Franklin and Thompson the incidents occurring in the chessroom during the past week will long be remembered. C.R. Thompson has an international reputation, while Walter Franklin is not yet 18 years of age, and two years ago knew nothing about the game.

Walter Franklin is the son of Joseph Franklin, the well-known merchant on Battery Street. He was born in this City, attended the public schools, and is now a student of Cooper's Medical College. The moves were taught him by his father and by Oscar Samuels, another of the youthful champions of the Mechanics' Institute.

Franklin-Thompson [C11] San Francisco (MI Championship) 1896

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.dxc5 Nxc5 7.b4 Ncd7 8.a3 Qh4+ 
9.g3 Qd8 10.Bg2 f6 11.exf6 Nxf6 12.Nf3 Qb6 13.Qe2 Nc6 14.Bb2 Be7 15.Na4 Qc7 
16.c4 0-0 17.Ng5 Kh8 18.0-0 Re8 19.Bxf6 Bxf6 20.Rac1 Bxg5 21.cxd5 Nd4 22.Qe4 
Qd7 23.Nc5 Qxd5 24.Qd3 Nf3+ 25.Rxf3 Bf6 26.Qxd5 exd5 27.Rd3 b6 28.Bxd5 Bf5 
29.Bxa8 Bxd3 30.Nxd3 Rxa8 31.Ne5 Kg8 32.Kf2 Re8 33.Re1 Bxe5 34.fxe5 Kf7 
35.Kf3 Ke6 36.Ke4 Rc8 37.Rd1 Rc4+ 38.Rd4 Rc2 39.Rd6+ Ke7 40.Kd5 Rxh2 41.Kc6 
g5 42.Rd7+ Ke6 43.Rxa7 Kxe5 44.Kxb6 Kf5 45.Rc7 Kg4 46.Rc3 h5 47.a4 Rg2 48.a5 
Rxg3 49.Rxg3+ Kxg3 50.a6 h4 51.a7 g4 52.a8Q h3 53.Kc5

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