1973 Greater Philadelphia Invitational Championship (part 7 of 7)

The seventh and final round was the only game on Sunday, so I had an entire day to prepare. I had a half point lead; a draw would clinch a tie for the title and a win, of course, made me the outright champion on my first attempt.

My opponent was the late Boris Baczynskyj. For some reason big Boris, one of the area's most popular players, never called me "Dan", always "Heisman", but you had to like him anywaySmile. When GM Joel Benjamin was about 11, Chess Life published a picture of him playing Boris and the caption read "400 pounds of chess master - 70 of it is Joel"!Smile

Boris liked sharp Open Sicilian lines with White and probably would venture Fischer's 6.Bc4 if I played the popular Najdorf Defense. I had avoided playing the Najdorf in my previous game with black against Harvey Bradlow, so Boris might not be expecting it. So I prepared a complicated line that I found somewhere (apparently not MCO-10; I just checked my early bible; more likely an early Informant) where Black allows White to sacrifice a piece for a big attack. I figured that the line was OK for Black if I knew it, and offered winning chances for me.

During the opening I played my moves rather slowly even though they were familiar to me. Besides being nervous - there was a lot on the line! - I did not want Boris to know that I had studied the piece sacrifice line toward which we were heading; if he thought I was super-booked he might smell a rat and instead play something safe.

That part worked like a charm. The bad news was that as soon as I went beyond my opening preparation, I promptly made a big mistake and fell into a lost game! My only consolation was that Boris had taken one of his two hours to play the opening and I had taken a little less than half an hour. Still, I would have gladly switched positions, including clock times.

Eventually we found ourselves in a very complicated position with Boris mostly having a big advantage with my exposed king; however, he was also in a time scramble. But that's getting ahead of the story (click on the moves to see the annotations below the board):

I won! One of my biggest thrills. I had some help from my formidable opponents, but the winner of an event like this usually does. In that sense, there is definitely luck in chess and, this time, I was on the good side. Luck may not even out in the long run (at one point I lost 27 of 31 "coin tosses" in the final round and got Black! Use the binomial theorem to figure the odds against that...), but it gets close. As they say, Good players make their own luck.

After the event, I calculated that my USCF rating should rise to 2227 (in those days I believe FIDE did not rate national-only events; these days it would likely be dual-rated). But before computer-ratings, it took the USCF months to rate an event and, at the US Open the following month, the USCF adjusted the rating formula. Then, inexplicably, their statistician applied the new formula to all events not yet rated, even if they were played before the formula was changed! This ex post facto decision not only cost me my master title for a while, but made me so upset I did not play in events for about a year (you can also read about this in my book The Improving Annotator).

I just guesstimated that the $200 I won (the largest prize I ever won in a chess event, even without inflation adjustment) would be worth about 1,000 today (2013). So I googled an inflation calculator and it turned out to be $1037.30 Smile. Plus I got a nice silver bowl which occasionally I remember to polish...

PS: I only played in one more Greater Philadelphia Invitational Championship, in 1977, one of the final invitationals of the series. That 1977 event was one of the strongest "local" events ever held (not including the national sized World Open and other large CCA events). Eventually all 8 participants from 1977 got FIDE titles: IMs Bruce Rind, Richard Costigan, and Tim Taylor, FMs Karl Dehmelt, Tom Costigan, Mike Shahade, and Boris Baczynskyj, and "only" CM for me. In 1977 I was the lowest rated player by about 200 rating points, but came in a respectable 6th of 8, again beating Boris and drawing with Rich Costigan and Karl Dehmelt.

I guess one of the reasons that the Invitational died is that the CCA began holding the World Open in Philadelphia each year, so local masters now had plenty of strong competition, whereas before we were more of an isolated pocket. I believe that Bruce Rind is the strongest player ever to be born and stay in the Philadelphia area; certainly in the past 100 years or so. Bruce has been retired for quite a while, but he was a strong IM at his peak. We've never had a home-grown GM born and stay here - yet.

This completes my 7-part series. Hope you enjoyed it and that I was able to preserve a small slice of Philadelphia chess history for posterity. Thanks again for NM Richard Pariseau for creating this event and later TD Jim Politowski for taking up the organizing after Rich no longer wished to run it.

PPS: I just found in my attic a writeup on this event by TD Politowski in an old Atlantic Chess News (Vol 1 #6). It says that David Moore finished second with 4.5-2.5, Tim Taylor was third, and Mike Pastor fourth. The average age (not including Golder, who refused to divulge) was 21! It listed the previous winners as 1969: Leroy Dubeck and Arnold Chertkof, 1970: Mike Shahade, 1971: Shahade and Dubeck, and 1972: Ross Nickel.

Previous installment links for this seven part series (one blog per round):


  • 3 months ago


    I believe the picture in chess life may be of Joel Benjamin and Jerry Hankin.

  • 4 years ago

    NM NoRematch

    I was unable to find the picture of Boris vs Joel Benjamin in Chess Life.  If anyone finds the issue or picture please post.  I would love to add it to my collection. 

  • 4 years ago

    NM danheisman

    Scsiduck, Poncherello, Jrussell2, thanks! Much appreciated. Glad you enjoyed the series. I enjoyed reliving it and re-annotating the games with Houdini 3Smile.

    If I remember correctly, I was lost at some point in every game except against Joe Weber in Round 6. Against Taylor I was lost after 33.g3 if he had played 33...Rc4 and after 33.c4 if he had played 34...f4. Against Pastor it was borderline; after 34...Nc8 Pastor could have played 35.Nh4 and after 37...dxc4 he could have played 38.Qc2. In both cases Houdini rates his advantage as +1.00, which is borderline winning. In the other five games I was much more clearly lost at some points. Can't say the games weren't mostly exciting, though. I think this tournament is a good example of my "style", if such exists - not afraid of a fight, but willing to play positional when the position calls for it. I guess the closest GM to that style in those days was Spassky, but of course he did it a lot better Smile.

    As a comparison for ratings in the early 1970's (as per this blog series), I just found the US Chess Federation 1970 rating list (3 years before this event) and posted on Twitter to show the relative inflation (partly also due to growth/expansion/computers) in ratings:

    • In June 1970 I was tied 23-25th rated player in USCF Under age 21 at 2060; there were 9 masters in the US under age 21. Today the USCF Under age 21 list shows the 100th rated player is rated 2223! The 23rd rated U21 player today is SM Andrew Shvartsman at 2400.
    • In June 1970 Top rated junior (U21) soon-GM Rogoff was rated 2384; 2nd on the U21 list was rated 2321, 3rd 2296. Today there are 52 players on the USCF U21 list rated over 2300.
    • Among all age USCF players in June 1970, Walter Browne was rated 10th at 2477. In the USCF Feb 2013 list 2477 would place you 72nd!
  • 4 years ago


    This was just a pleasure to read.  A very nice writeup.  Thanks.

  • 4 years ago


    Very interesting. Nice to see the human side of chess.

  • 4 years ago


    Great game and tournament… thanks Dan. 

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