My Favorite U.S. Chess Magazines, Part 2
Chess Life, of course, has had its good times and bad times; the late 1970s brought about a cut in the page-count while the Fischer drop in membership forced austerity, including removing many columnists. It never came close to its glory days again.
However, we are looking at its best years—1961 until the the merger (Chess Life and Review) in late 1969. To show what Chess Life had to offer, I randomly grabbed a stack and ended up with 1962. It’s been a long time and I was excited to see what’s hiding in these 1962 issues.
Before I go on, keep in mind that the quotations to follow are the notes of the Chess Life writers.
A cover of the modern Chess Life.
I didn’t have to search to find lots of fun stuff: INTERNATIONAL TOURNAMENTS: Games From Recent Events by Master Leonard Barden. Barden’s huge column (on page five and six) offered Top Technician, Repeat Performance,Where Did Black Go Wrong, and Grandmaster Circus. Though he wasn’t the best analyst in the world, it’s clear that Barden went out of his way to offer something interesting and special in every one of his columns.
I was tempted to share Top Technician with you, but Grandmaster Circus is irresistible!
Barden: “Occasionally experienced grandmasters behave like dunces, overlooking wins and revealing ordinary human weaknesses. As in the game below, time trouble is the usual explanation, but this needn’t prevent us enjoying the sight of a circus turn.”
“To Smyslov’s chagrin, the other masters immediately surround the board once the game was over and pointed out to him that he had a clear win in the final position.”
Barden challenged the readers to find Black’s win. Are you brave enough to accept his challenge?
RESHEVSKY SHOWS WHO IS BOSS
HOW CHESS GAMES ARE WON is the column by Grandmaster Samuel Reshevsky.
His column is usually all about positional chess. Since most players love looking at attacks or tactics, games like this are pure gold since, if you have no/poor strategic knowhow, you won’t go anywhere. Here is a game from the January issue titled “Without Counter-play.”
Reshevsky: “The following variations of the King’s Indian Defense are still of great interest today. With 8.Be3 my plan was to induce my opponents to gain a few temp at the expense of weakening his king-side slightly. I gave up my king-bishop for a knight, obtaining temporary control of the king-bishop file.
“Realizing that his queen-bishop had limited mobility, my opponent exchanged it for my king-knight. I neutralized Najdorf’s action on the king-wing, reducing his game to complete passivity. Black’s principal trouble was his immobilized king-bishop. on move 21 I started action on the queen-side. The advantage of the queen-bishop pawn was a serious threat.
“I managed to get my pawn to c6, supported by the knight-pawn. Najiorf tried everything to get counterplay, but to no avail. He finally was forced to give up a piece for the advanced pawn. Having no counterplay for the piece, he resigned.”
If you like dominating a game while avoiding almost all risk, then you should study Reshevsky’s games.
That’s already a lot, but there’s much, much more: CHESS TACTICS FOR BEGINNERS by Dr. Erich W. Marchand, and a John W. Collins column (a close friend of Fischer, Lombardy, the Byrne brothers, etc.), GAMES BY USCF MEMBERS. Then a “break”, showing various tournament results and crosstables. I noticed that Robert Byrne won the U.S. Open Speed Championship with an 8-0 crush. Oddly, I played three of the nine combatants (Bisguier, Gross, and Loftsson) in later years (I would have been eight years old in 1962!).
THE MYSTERIOUS DIMITRIJE BJELICA
After that the well-known (and super-prolific) chess writer Dimitrije Bjelica (a Serbian who was born in 1935) wrote an article about Lisa Lane (born 1938) and Gisela Greaser (born 1906). Lisa was a friend of Fischer, but that didn’t stop Fischer from putting down female chess players. He said, “They’re all fish. Lisa, you might say, is the best of the American fish.” Gisela Gresser dominated women’s chess for many years (winning nine national chess titles).
Here’s a bit of his article: “Lisa Lane’s first visit to Yugoslavia was a real sensation. When she arrived at the Belgrade Airport we thought she was a film star from Hollywood. Everybody recognized her from newspaper photos. Yugoslav chess columns often told of a young, beautiful lady who wanted to become a grandmaster.”
“When she visited Sarajevo, over five hundred people came to the chess club to listen to her being interviewed. ‘Everybody has a million excuses for not fulfilling her ambitions,’ said Lisa.”
Unfortunately, she didn’t come close to her ambitions. However, I think her notoriety convinced many woman to reach for the moon. And, as we see now, there are many, many women who have indeed reached passed the moon, earning IM and GM titles.
Stepping away from Bjelica’s article, I have to quote what Eliot Hearst and John Knott wrote about Bjelica’s claims about his record-breaking 56 games of blindfold chess on May 25, 1997 (I should add that these two men wrote a fantastic book titled “Blindfold Chess.”):
“The Exhibition was played at the International Congress of Nurses and his opponents were all woman nurses. The game he lost was to his mother, at that time she was 80 years old. Bjelica reports that the exhibition lasted seven hours and that in several games his version of chess, Chess for Peace, was used, in which the bishops standing initially on f1 and f8 were replaced by pawns. He told us that none of his opponents had chess ratings but some ‘some of them were very good.’ Tellingly and surprisingly, he admitted that he was permitted to write down whatever he liked during the exhibition.”
In any case, the man is quite amazing, having authored 80 books and 55 videos. His articles are always worth reading.
An issue of Chess Life from November 1962. Image via eBay.
MAY I READ YOUR PALM?
The end of the January 1962 magazine has HERE AND THERE, which talks chess about all sorts of stuff. They discuss the famous photo of Bobby Fischer reading Mikhail Tal’s palm (yes, he was into palmistry), and when Fischer looked at Tal’s palm, Fischer said, “The next world chess champion will be…[a moment of silence passed] Bobby Fischer!” Whereupon everyone in the room started laughing.
All this was from the January 1962 magazine. Looking at the other 1962 issues we see LARRY EVANS ON CHESS (February issue) where he explains the ins and outs of the Caro-Kann. COLLEGE CHESS by Peter Berlow. All the games from the Lessing J. Rosenwald Tournament (New York 1961-62, U.S. Chess Championship).
WILLIAM LOMBARDY WAXES POETIC
TIDBITS OF MASTER PLAY by Grandmaster William Lombardy.
Robin Hood in Chess?
“In Sherwood Forest it is difficult to tell the woods from the trees, and one never knows who might be skulking behind one of those mighty oaks. A wealthy nobleman, traveling the lonely forest road, might suddenly be confronted by Little John merging from the shadows. With his mighty start he enforces his ideal—to rob from he rich and give to the poor.
“For like purpose was the Battle of Hastings, the 1961 Christmas Tournament, fought. Against the distinguished foreign invaders the Britishers lined up their stoutest opposition. The renowned Penrose, the stubborn defenders Barden and Wade, and the little-known John Littlewood, all were lurking at their boards patiently waiting for the invaders to make the slightest mistake.
“None of these staunch Englishmen fulfilled his mission more faithfully than John Littlewood. Not only did he draw with the once-world championship contender, Salo Flohr, but he carried off the shields of two Grandmasters—Gligoric and Bisguier. This must be considered a splendid feat, though his disappointing score of 4-5 did not give him a place among the leaders.
“The question remains whether Littlewood was taken much too lightly, or whether he may really be a candidate for championship chess. If the players at Hasting had seen the following game, they would probably have decided on the latter. The game, played at the Clare Benedict Team Tournament, April 1961, reveals a spirited attacking style combined with a good sense of position play.”
I suspect that if you read that a second time your brain might melt. Anyway, here’s the game that, deservedly, impressed Lombardy.
I did say that White made a mistake with 39.Qa4. In the following puzzle, please see if you can find Black’s right move.
This is really tough, but if you find the first two moves you can be proud.
The late William Lombardy was a real character, and though I was on the West Coast and he was on the East, we did have a few run-ins here and there. When his book, Understanding Chess: My System, My Games, My Life, came out, he sent me a copy with the following inscription: "Dear Jeremy, Your literary contributions to chess are grandiose and stand as Grandmasterly. And I don’t say that to all the goils!" Typical Lombardy!
BOTVINNIK, TAL, AND FISCHER
And, as the 1962 issues continue, more and more wonders present themselves. One is the celebration when Fischer won the Interzonal with the undefeated, amazing, score of 17.5-4.5. Botvinnik admitted that he liked to take a drink of cranberry juice when he felt he was getting the better in a game. At the Leipzig team tournament, however, he became a convert to black coffee. Harry Golombek, the British international master who had been the judge at Botvinnik’s last five title match, told Barden that during the second Tal match Botvinnik would regularly drink his coffee after the session had been in progress for three hours. Weaver Adams discussed the totally insane Adams Gambit, and IM Raymond Weinstein shared his analysis about the King’s Indian Defense.
And that’s enough. We aren’t even in the April issue! When you also realize that all the issues are filled with wonderful photos you know you’re getting far more than what you paid for. Okay, okay, you want a bit more? Then here is Tal and Fischer in the Bled tournament being interviewed by D. Andric:
TAL: “There is no absolute chess champion of the world today, but at least ten top players of approximately equal strength: Botvinnik, all four Russian participants at Bled (Tal himself, Keres, Petrosian, and Geller), Korchnoi, Smyslov, Spassky, Fischer, Reshevsky, and Gligoric. Any of them could win any of the strongest tournaments anywhere.”
D. ANDRIC: Some other participants of the tournament persuaded Fischer to sing when at a Bled night club one evening, hoping to have some fun at his expense. They were hushed to awe however, when he sang a series of rock and roll songs attractively and well.
FISCHER: “My main talent lies not in chess but in music: I’ve written this somewhere in my diary. Grandmaster Smyslov who could be an opera singer anywhere admitted I had a suitable voice, and I’ve got rhythm, too.”
Next week I’ll finish this three-part series with a look at Chess Review.