1973 Greater Philadelphia Invitational Championship (part 5 of 7)
The first four games of this round-robin event were played on the previous weekend, and July 14-15, 1973 were the dates for the final three.
My first opponent on the second weekend was Harvey Bradlow, an old friend/nemesis from our junior days (at that point, not that long ago!). Harvey, NM William Atkinson, and I had been the top juniors in Philadelphia once eventual FMs Mike Shahade and Boris Baczynskyj had gotten too old for that designation. We all had played each other several times, of course.
What I remember most about this game, aside from the general complicated play, is a brief conversation I had with Mike Pastor just after the opening. Of course, USCF rules prohibit players from giving (and getting) advice during a game and, among the friendly players of this event, that likely would not happen. However, it is common to talk about your game so long as helpful advice is neither solicited nor given, i.e., effectively a one-way conversation. If someone asks you about your game, players often provide information so long as there is no helpful/meaningful feedback. For example, if someone asks how your game is going and you tell them you "have a good game", he/she can't reply "Are you sure about that?" because that would convey information. So, to be safe, that's why it's suggested that you refrain from speaking about your game at all, and I rarely do.
As a reminder from the earlier blogs and a prelude to the following, Mike Pastor and Harvey Bradlow were friends and frequent study partners. In this game I, playing Black, chose to transpose into a variation of the Sicilian Sozin that was recently in the spotlight thanks to, if I remember correctly, GM Velimirovic's then-relatively new piece sacrifice idea for White, Nf5.
Shortly after Harvey played that knight sacrifice and I had replied (maybe a move or two later) I was walking around waiting for Harvey's reply; each move was going to take a while in that very dynamic position! Mike, well aware of our situation, spotted me walking around and asked "Do you know anything about this variation?" As noted earlier, this kind of innocent chatter is common among experienced players, so long as no one is giving helpful information. Knowing that Mike would never convey anything I said to him back to Harvey during the game, I answered honestly "Yes, a little" and Mike mysteriously, and perhaps mischievously, replied "Well, I think someone is in trouble!"
My immediate reaction was a brief smile. I think Mike was trying to imply that he knew that Harvey knew a lot about this opening, so therefore I was in trouble if, indeed, I only knew a little. I guess he could have meant that Harvey knew nothing so, if I knew a little, then Harvey was in trouble, but that interpretation was very unlikely. In any case, his memorable comment, as it should have, had absolutely no effect on the game. But I was never curious enough to ask Mike after the game "So who did you think was in trouble?"; it remains a mystery to this day. I knew the game was going to be decided by whomever handled the resulting complications better, not who knew the opening better, so it was a moot point . That, of course, turned out to be the case. More importantly, if I won the game, I would establish myself as a really strong contender for first place! Wouldn't that be shocking...
A real fighting game where nerves and time management were definitely factors, as they are in many clashes between good players. The player with the advantage had trouble holding it due to complications, but that makes for a fun game for the spectators (who were pretty much restricted to the other players!).
So, just like that, after this game I am in first place all alone at 4-1! I think there was one player, perhaps Tim Taylor, at 3.5-1.5, but that's just a guess. By this point the other players were indeed paying attention to me, after my being just an outsider both before the event and for the first few rounds. If I could finish strongly I could actually win, and my dream of just participating, an honor in itself, would turn into a unbelievable scenario of holding the area's most prestigious title on my first try!
Next up in the penultimate round, old friend Joe Weber, then a young expert, but for the past forty years the honorable resident master of the North Penn Chess Club in Landsdale, PA.