Dec 22, 2013, 9:47 PM |

I was just 18 and graduated from high school. my parents were upper middle class [later to become poor] and gave me one heck of a nice present - I got to stay in a hotel for two weeks and play in the US Open in Omaha Nebraska.  Just one game a day.

I remember ordering breakfast to be sent up to my room--often my favorite liver and onions.

My first USCF game was against an expert. I played the Black side of the Ruy Lopez and won!  Someone had told me I had beat the Puerto Rico champion!

2nd game was not so good. Played a very well known master and made an error on about the 10th move and lost my queen and resigned. A miniature against me!

At the end of the tournament I had 5 wins and 5 loses and two draws--good for a class A rating.

I remember grandmaster and former USA champ, Arthur Bisguier, coming into the tournament. He had just been married. He was favorite to win the tournament and eventually did win the tournament.

Also his relative, GM Paul Benko, of Benko Gambit fame was there. [I think they were cousins.] Benko was known for his columns on the endgame in Chess Life. In this tournament he tied for 2nd one half point behind Bisguier.

In one game I was playing Clark Harmon [think that was his name] who was junior champ of Oregon or some state. He was beating me in the late middle game or early endgame.

But then I saw something. I could sacrifice my knight for his two pawns.

This would leave me with my bare king but he would have king and pawn and bishop but it was a draw!

Paul Benko had been watching the game. I wondered why a famous GM woud watch our game?  

Right after I made my sacrifice Benko came up to the table and announced the game was going to be a draw!  because my opponent's extra pawn was a "a" file pawn [called rook pawn] and he had the classic bishop of the wrong color to drive my king out of the corner.

Benko was quite pleased with my sacrifice and knowledge of the endgame.  I am sure my opponent was not so pleased as at first he looked at my sac with amazement. However he agreed to a draw.

My next tournament was a few years later. It was called the Bradley Summer Open. Only about 10 players. I won that tournament.

My next US Open was years later 1973 in Chicago and that is another story...