Kindred’s Special: Canada’s First Grandmaster–Abe Yanofsky

I spoke earlier of Bernard Freeman and his assistance in aiding the Anderson family.  He deserves of course a more comprehensive personal achievement in organization work as the catalyst that enriched Canadian chess.  I would like to restructure somewhat this national honor to suggest that he was a banner institution to the advancement of North American chess as he had on numerous occasions achieved a communion and respect of the United States chess organizers with whom he was associated through the junior chess programs of both countries.

Abe Yanofsky’s mentor was Bernard Freeman.  He found the young lad of eight while stopping off to see if any problems needed attention concerning the 1933  Dominion Chess Tournament held in Winnipeg.  He gave Abie a chess book.  Three years later he again visited Winnipeg and was impressed with the level of skill achieved by Abie and made arrangements for the youngster to come to Toronto to play in what was later termed Canadian Amateur Championship.  The twelve-year old won both the junior and the major tournaments.  At the age sixteen Abe Yanofsky won what was to be a string of Canadian Championships.

The 1939 Olympiad was being held in Buenos Aires and Freeman gave his place to 15-year old Abe Yanofsky so he could sharpen his talent.  Abe did not disappoint scoring 84.4 % winning the 2nd board prize.

The CFC provided funds so Abe could play in the famous 1946 Groningen tournament.  In the 15th round he met and defeated Mikhail Botvinnik and the Dutch spectators were so taken with Yanofsky that they carried him shoulder high through the hall.

Major Championship of Canada

Toronto 1937

White:  S. Gray   vs.  Black:  Abe Yanofsky  (age 12)

Opening:  French Defense

1. e4   e6  2. d4  d5  3. Nc3  Bb4  4. Bd2  B:c3  5. B:c3  d:e4  6. Qe2  Nf6  7. O-O-O

I have mentioned in earlier articles about the pro and con of castling Q-side as it relates to the exposure of the King still in the central complex (c1-f1) and exposed to Queenside operations spearheaded by pawns.  See now how master Yanofsky  thinks tempi.  By move 12 he has cemented his positional chances and formulated an attack plan on the enemy King. Think square count!

7. … b6  8. f3  Ba6  9. Qe3  B:f1  10. R:f1  e:f3  11. N:f3  O-O  12. Rd1  a5!  13. h4  Nc6  14. a3  b5  15. h5  b4  16. Bd2  b:a3  17. Q:a3  Ne4  18. Qe3  N:d2  19. Q:d2  a4  20. Qe3  Qd6  21. h6  g6  22. Ne5  a3  23. b:a3  R:a3  24. Qe4  Qb4  25. c3  Q:c3 check (0-1).

1946 Groningen Tournament

White:  Abe Yanofsky   vs.  Black:  Mikhail Botvinnik

Opening:  Ruy Lopez – Morphy Defense (a6)

1. e4  e5  2. Nf3  Nc6  3. Bb5  a6  4. Ba4  Nf6  5.  O-O  Be7  6.  Re1  b5  7. Bb3  d6  8. c3  O-O  9. h3  Na5  10. Bc2  c5  11. d4  Qc7 12. Nbd2  c:d4  13. c:d4  Nc6  14. d5

This was the stock answer and later on efforts were made to find alternative ideas by keeping the center fluid for the time being. For example, 14. Nb3 a5  15. Be3  a4  16. Nbd2  Nb4 17. Bb1  Bd7  18. a3  Na6  19. Bd3 was one alternative plan.

14. … Nb4  15. Bb1  a5  16. Nf1  Bd7  17. Bd2?!

A suggestion of jump moves 17. a3 > b3 > Ra2 might be an interesting idea. Botvinnik now hits upon a good plan that gives him good winning chances when the young Canadian missteps.

17. … Rfc8!  18. B:b4?  a:b4  19. Bd3  Bd8!  20. Qd2  Qa5  21. Ne3  b3  22. a3  Qa4  23. Nd1!  b4  24. Ne3 b:a3  25. R:a3  N:e4 !  26. Qd1

Avoiding  another blunder by 26. R:a4  N:d2  27. R:a8  N:f3 check  28. g:f3  R:a8 with a clear winning position.

26. … Qb4  27. R:b3  Qa4  28. Bc2  Nc5 29. Rc3 Qb4  30. Qb1  g6  31. Rc4  Qb7  32. b4  Na6?!

Yanofsky suggests 32. …Na4 with the idea of strengthening the position of his pieces, enabling the two Bishops to work together. Such differences do squares make in piece placement.

33. R:c8  R:c8  34. Bd3

Increasing square count and planning  Re2 if he swipes the b-pawn. Botvinnik makes a rare miscalculation.  He has the Bishop-pair

34. …  N:b4?  35. Re2

White’s target is Rb2, winning the Knight.  Perhaps now is the time to return the pawn by 35. …e4!!

35. … Ba5?

This potent looking move idea is wrong.

36. Rb2  Rb8   37. Nd2  Qa7  38. Ndc4  Qc5  39. N:a5

The loss of this Bishop will have an impact on future play. White now gains the Exchange.

39. … Q:a5  40. Nc2  N:d3  41. R:b8 check  Kg7  42. Ne3  Qd2  43. Qf1  Nc5  44. Qd1  Qc3  45. Rb6  Ba4  46. Qf3  Qe1 check  47. Kh2  48. R:d6

Also good for White is 48. N:f5 check g:f5  49. Qg3 check  Kf7  50. Qh4!

48. … f4  49. Nf5 check  Kf7  50. Qg4  Ne4  51. Qh4  g:f5  52. Q:h7 check  Ke8  53. Qg8 check  Resigns. It is mate in four.

There are chess organizers, devotees to the game in like or differing ways that make the game of chess the pastime it is.  It is the love of sharing, of giving to others, the joy and more–the chance to raise the bar and give of themselves so that chess finds many years to come as it has found this golden age in North America.

The elite chess professional and amateur devotees and/or being in the art of problem composition, writers, organizers from clubs or national representatives in those fields help to give life to the art of chess.   There is a need to review the past as we observe the present and look to the future and due honor to those who make possible it’s discovery by old and young alike.





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