Lone Pine 1975: Leonid Shamkovich, Careful Tactician

Mar 22, 2010, 5:47 PM |

Leonid Aleksandrovich Shamkovich was 51 at the time of Lone Pines 1975. He was born in a Jewish family in Rostov-on-Don in Russia on the first of June in 1923. Nicknamed Prince because of his aristocratic bearing and manner of speech, Mr. Shamkovich was not among the leading Soviet players who dominated the game for most of the second half of the 20th century. He was known to play with great emotion, which made his results very uneven. Still, he was good enough to win the Russian championship in 1954 and 1956 and to tie for fifth place in the 1964-65 Soviet championship. He became a grandmaster in 1965. His best victory coming at Sochi in 1967, where he tied for first place with Nikolai Krogius, Vladimir Simagin, Boris Spassky and Alexander Zaitsev.


Three Years prior to Lone Pine 1975, Shamkovich left the Soviet Union, moving to Israel along with Liberzon and Kushnir. He did not stay in Israel for long. He moved to Canada in 1973 and to the United States at the end of that year, settling in New York City. By the time of this tournament, he was still considered a citizen of Israel.


He was well versed in the art of Sacrifice. In round 6 at LP1975, Shamkovich had white against Martz Williams’ Berlin defense.



The “Berlin Wall” was favorite defense of Arthur Bisguire against the Ruy Lopez. Black played a little too passive, not following some prescribed methods by those who played it regularly. Shamkovich begins by dismantling the wall in the center.  But on move 27 was the nice finish. Shamkovich offers his Queen to open up the diagonal and follows through with some real simple chess.



In round 8 as Black, we see Shamkovich play a positional game to defeat the Grandmaster from Argentina, Oscar Panno.  In this English opening, White comes out a little cramped only to allow Black an active pawn center.



This allows him to advance the d-pawn all the way to the 2nd rank. Because white is placed on the defensive after this pawn, Shamkovich secures his position even more with a nice out-posted knight in the center and complete control of the d-file. He picks up material  by  storming the advanced rank with all his pieces. Left with isolated pawn islands and one less rook, White graciously resigns.  


After LP1975, he  won the 1975 Canadian Open Chess Championship. In 1976 and 77 he tied for first place in the United States Open. He continued to play through the 1990s.


Mr. Shamkovich's expertise was as an analyst and tactician. He was sought after as a coach, and worked for two world champions, Mikhail Tal and Garry Kasparov. He also wrote more than a dozen books, including ones on the Gruenfeld Defense and the Schliemann Defense, the latter a particularly tactical opening.



His Sacrifice in Chess begins, "A real sacrifice involves a radical change in the character of a game which cannot be effected without foresight, fantasy, and the willingness to risk."



Shamkovich died of complications from Parkinson's disease and cancer in his Brooklyn home on April 22, 2005.