Kindred’s Special: A Visit with Western Massachusetts Chess History

Over the years I have endeavored to not only find chess books featuring most of the famous players from the past, but also endeavored to find those written by amateur players, and devoted to regional history. Such a softcover is titled, THE CHESS GAMES OF DAVID LEES and authored by David Lees. I did a book review and recommended it, thoroughly enjoying the well prepared manuscript of exceptional quality.

It is a history of New England chess both as lived by the author, his own selected games that covered a period of chess growth nationally as well as regionally; his research, excellent assistants’ help acknowledged and written record of  Massachusetts gift to American fans everywhere.  I highly recommend this book to add to your own library.

White:  David Lees   vs.   Black:  Harlow Daly   Opening:  Sicilian Defense

Tournament:  Eastfield Mall Open, Springfield, Massachusetts, Date March 2, 1969

Notes by Don Reithel

During this era, malls sprang up across much of the country.  In Rochester, NY we had our own experiences with the early desire to attract customers. Our own experiences mirrored what David relates: steady decline in attendance and by 1981 (1988 here) such support ceased to exist.

I wonder if other malls across the country experienced a similar decline.

1. e4  c5  2. Nf3  Nc6  3. d4  c:d4  4. N:d4  Nf6  5. Nc3  e5

This was Dr. Emmanuel Lasker’s way to play the Sicilian and gained the name Pelikan Variation. Perhaps the most famous game known by American players was the manner with which Robert Fischer handled the white pieces during his own apprenticeship.  White’s next is considered the right way to play.

6. Ndb5  Bb4?!

Black chooses a course when he plays 3…e6.  Normal is 6. … a6 where White seems to keep a microscopic edge but play is very sharp.  Whole books have been written on this line.

7. a3  B:c3  8. N:c3  O-O

9. Bg5  h6  10. Be3  d6

Do you see why White enticed Black’s reply 9….h6?  Also notice Black kind of voluntary exchange of King Bishop to save perhaps a misguided tempo idea is risky.  The dark squares have been weakened.  White elects to complete deployment of forces prior to any invasion using a K-side pawn rollup.

11.  Be2  Be6  12. Qd2  Qd7

Harlow Daly was 85-years young and one of New England’s top players since 1901.  Like many elders who pushed wood across those 64-squares, Harlow was a great storyteller.  Perhaps such elderly players in our chess world today should enrich our chess life with their own reflections.

13. O-O-O

My chess correspondent, Charles Warburton, who I greatly admire for his skill said he was always of the belief that castling Q-side was weak in almost all cases and preferred castling K-side (O-O).  Here, however, David’s plan seems good because he gains room to expand and his King is safe on the Q-side.  But Black sees light with the events closing (e:d5) eliminating the backward QP weakness.  But is it an illusionary misadventure after all?

13. … Rad8  14. f3  b6  15. Qe1  Qe7  16. Nd5  B:N!!  17. e:d5  Nd4  18. B:d4  e:d4  19. Bc4  Qe5  20. Qd2  N:d5  21. B:d5  Q:d5  22. Q:d4  Q:d4  23. R:d4  23. R:d4  Rfe8  24. Kd2  Re6  25. Re1  R:e1  26.K:e1   Kf8  27. Kd2  Ke7  28. Re4+  Kf6  29. Kd3  d5

The White/Black struggle finds Black’s backward pawn turning into a QP isolani.  With the White King dominant, it seems only White can benefit.  The following endgame play reminds me of the famous endgame Russian star V. Smyslov.

30. Re2  Rd6  31. Kd4 Re6  32. Rf2  Rd6   33. a4 Ke6  34. Re2+ Kd7  35. Re5 Kc6  36. g3  Rd7  37. f4  a6  38. b4  Rd6  39. Re7  Rf6  40. Re5  Rd6 41. g4  g6  42. Re7  Rf6  43. Ke5  Rd6  44. R:f7  Rd8 45. Rf6+  Kc7  46. R:g6  d4  47. Ke4  Re8+  48. K:d4  Re2  49. R:h6  R:c2  50. g5  b5  51. a:b5  a:b5  52. g6  Rc4+  53. Ke5  R:b4  Black resigns before White’s follow up play.

David mentions that he finished with a 4-1 finish and in the next year’s event scored 4.5 – .05 behind a Dr. Erich W. Marchand 5-0, a famous mathematician who was champ of USCF tournament participation for many years, President of the Rochester Chess Club,  a Vice President of USCF and instrumental as a member of the committee appointed to create the USCF Elo-rating system.

We often times see upsets in many sports.  It happens in chess, too. I am not referring to an individual game result but what occurred at the Massachusetts Open of 1978 deserves mention as a just conclusion for my article on Massachusetts chess.  I have read similar tales coming from all across the country and most likely internationally as well.

As the 3rd round concluded, a chap by the name of David T. was in the lead with 3-0.  Having drawn with John Curdo, one of the most astute players coming out of New England chess, we each stood at 2.5 points.  Going to lunch, I expected David T. would be playing John Curdo, an obvious last round pairing while I would be matched with the highest 2-1 player provided we had not met earlier.  Well, I came back from lunch only to see that David T. had withdrawn from the event!  As he told me later, he reasoned that he would lose to Curdo who would surely tie for lst if I was to win or come lst if I drew or lost.  By sitting it out, David T. figured he would be in the money with a 2nd place finish with 3 points.  At best, if either of us drew, he would tie for part of the top cash prize.

As a tournament director over many years, I never came across this type of situation.  In fact, while Mr. T. might be smart to guarantee winning some dough, trying one’s best would make his tournament a great experience and show good sportsmanship.  Such generalship is hardly commendable.  To anticipate total failure simply assures failure.  Of course the old saying goes this way:  JUST FOLLOW THE MONEY.  In contrast, see a different outcome coming from self confidence.

Our most recent Marchand event attracted 6-grandmasters. I understand two withdrew.  GM Kamsky came to play and won the event.  But the surprise of the event was that one of our young club players tied for lst.  Of course his opposition was not as strong.  But surprise of surprises, he met and defeated a grandmaster in the final round!

Years ago, our Rochester tournaments were $5 entry fees.  Our opens were sometimes $10 and only much later raised to $20.  Ha! Ha!  At today’s fees, one probably would not draw many to come out.  The difference was that years ago players came to renew that bond with fellow chess players as regionals were few and far between.  We came to play chess and test our mettle.  Few cash prizes existed anyway so the spirit of achievement was the attraction. With today’s high entry fees, withdrawals are  rare but disturbing to me because the BUCK is why a few come. Enjoyment of good competition within their class of entries continues to be the honey that fills their joy!

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