1973 Gr Phila Invitational Championship (Part 1 of 7)

| 8

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the 1973 Greater Philadelphia Invitational Chess Championship. In honor of this event I thought I would write a 7-part series with light annotation of my game in each round. Each blog will primarily consist of the game, with some preparatory text setting up the situation and briefly introducing my opponent. This first entry will be a little longer, as I will provide an abbreviated history of the event.

The Philadelphia area has always had an Open championship, a swiss tournament where everyone can play, and the winner is declared the area Open Champion. I won the Open event twice, in 1971 and 1976. But for a period of about a dozen years from mid-1960's thru the late 1970's, there was another, much more prestigious event, the Greater Philadelphia Invitational Chess Championship. This round-robin tournament was the brainchild of NM Richard Pariseau, who decided to format it similar to the US Championship, which invited the top players in the country. Since he wanted it to be played over two weekends, Rich decided inviting the 8 top players in the area to play each other would be the ideal number (to give you an idea of how strong Rich was in his prime, he played six-time US Champion GM Walter Browne three times and, despite the fact that both were aggressive players, drew all three).

When I first started playing in 1966, this new event was a tournament for the local chess gods: the experts and occasional master - master was a very difficult title to obtain in those days. I was a frequent spectator as the event initially was held at the Germantown Chess Club, where I was a member. However, as I started to improve, the idea that I might someday qualify to play became more and more a reality.

By the time I was an upperclassman at college, I actually merited an invitation to the event. I awaited my invitation but it never arrived! When I asked Rich why I had not been invited, he said that he did not wish to disturb my classwork! I was a little chagrined and told Rich that this should be my call (especially since I was a good student) and, in an uncharacteristic burst, I exclaimed that someday I would not only play, but would win it Foot in Mouth. That wasn't exactly the wisest thing I ever said, to say the least.

By the time I graduated in Dec 1971, Rich had handed over the organization of the Championship to the top local TD, Jim Politowski. I am not sure about 1972, but the next chance Jim had to hold the event was the summer of 1973.

For one reason or another, many of the old guard who played in the 1960's were no longer available: Pariseau, Leroy Dubeck, Rich Lunenfeld, Jerry Kolker, Ross Nickel, Clarence Kalenian, and Sergei Goregliad. Instead they were replaced by a newer, possibly even stronger group such as Tim Taylor (soon to be an IM), FM Boris Baczynsky, and NM Michael Pastor, who was invited to play in the super-prestigious US Junior Invitational Championship. One of the old guard, USCF Expert Lou Golder, was able to play. The field was rounded out by NM Harvey Bradlow, a good friend of Pastor and IM Bruce Rind, NM Joe Weber (then an expert), one of the first strong local African-Americans, Expert David Moore, and myself. I barely got in, rated 6th or 7th of the 8 players invited. Only David Moore, and possibly Joe Weber, at the time had slightly lower ratings.

In general, the inflation of the late 1970's had not yet taken place, so ratings were somewhat lower than today. Later in the 1970's an even stronger group with Rind, the Costigan brothers (IM Rich and FM Tom), FM Karl Dehmelt, and FM Mike Shahade (along with Dubeck & Baczynskyj) would not only dominate this event, but also represent the area as the Philadelphia Quakers in the National Chess League, a phone forerunner of the current online US Chess League. Mike's son Greg is the founder and commissioner of the USCL and Mike serves these days as the Philadelphia Inventor's manager.

Jim's playing site for the event was LaSalle College at Broad and Olney. I had been born at Einstein Hospital, not far from there, and had won the 1966-67 Philadelphia High School Doubles Bowling (!) Championship with friend Don Beck a few years before at Olney Lanes, so for me there was a good vibe about the Broad and Olney area. Later I would marry Shelly Hahn, who graduated high school at Girls' High located - well, you guessed it.

We played the Championship in an abandoned cafeteria, at least abandoned for that weekend. The time control was 40 moves in 2 hours followed by 20 moves an hour - there were no sudden death time controls then! My first round opponent was David Moore, who was ranked last of the 8, to my 7th. I believe the only other time I had played David before that was an uneventful draw.

At the start of the event I was 22 years old and the first two rounds were the last time I could claim that level of youth; my 23rd birthday was the next day, July 8, when we played rounds 3 and 4...

[Note: to see the light notes, play through the game and, if the move contains a note, that note will appear below the board.]

Score after 1 round: 0-1

Agh! What a horrible start to my first big invitational tournament, losing to the lowest rated player! Was I going to embarass myself and finish near my pre-event ranking (7 of 8) or, horrors, in dead last? With terrible games like this one, and stronger opponents to come, my outlook for this round-robin event was quite bleary, to say the least.

Next round: soon-to-be IM Tim Taylor (corrected; to be continued)