Tuesday, February 26, 2013


No doubt the most exciting chess photo I have ever taken has to be the one from a Game/30 event at the Armenian Cultural Center, Watertown in 1990, where we see the tops of the field facing off against each other in the last round. On the left, playing the black pieces is NM Girome Bono {24 yrs old} (USCF: 2453), Harvard '88 vs GM Alex Sherzer  {19 yrs old) (USCF: 2602; FIDE 2504) playing the white pieces.  If I had to title this photo I would call it simply: "Tension" The backstory to this slice of time in chess history is that Bono had stopped writing down his moves and Sherzer had insisted that Bono keep writing (neither player was, technically, in time-pressure, defined as under 5 minutes, but Bono was clearly closer to time-forfeiture than Sherzer). Bono continued not writing and Sherzer continued insisting. Words were exchanged. The TD, George Mirijanian was summoned and appraised of the situation by the spectators. George in his cool and impartial fashion, instructed master Bono to continue writing down the moves until reaching the 5 minute mark, and master Sherzer should proceed playing the game without further delay. There was, by the time the dispute had been resolved, a rather large crowd gathered around this chess table, yet you could hear a pin drop. The tension was so intense (thick) you could cut it with a knife, as the expression goes. Sherzer went on to win the game and the next year became US Junior Chess Champion (under 20 yrs old).  Rumor has it that the reason for the dispute was that Bono was surprised and somewhat dismayed by how strong Sherzer actually turned out to be. One might say Bono underestimated Sherzer. And as the game proceeded, Bono was taking more and more time, just to maintain equality until it was clear that Sherzer was forging ahead with an advantage on the board and the clock. Sherzer did indeed win this game on time, with a won position on the board as well.
Sherzer (right) vs Bono, 1st Mass Game 60, Watertown, 1990.                Photo: Steve Stepak
Familiar faces from left to right: IM Bill Paschall, long-time BCC Master, NM Jim Dracup, Harvard Square summer chess scene denizen, and TD George Mirijanian (glasses). There are other familiar faces in the crowd but I am not remembering their names at the moment.
GM Alexander Ivanov vs FM Bill Kelleher, Blitz event, circa 1988. Photo: Steve Stepak
This piece of BCC chess history in pictures documents that the Club had a weekly blitz chess tournament.  The location of the BCC at this time was the City Club of Boston, on Boylston Street, Boston, the place where Harry Nelson Pillsbury was said to spend many an evening playing chess. It is also the venue where the great World Chess Champion Mikhail Tal gave a 30 board simul in 1988, traveling for the first time to the USA(Boston and Framingham) from his winning the World Blitz Chess Championship (ahead of Kasparov, Karpov and Vaganian) in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada at the "World Chess Festival"
GM Alexander Ivanov vs GM Maxim Dlugy, US Open, (blitz) 1988
Lafayette Hotel, Boston. Dlugy won the game on time in an equal position and won the event.
Spectators included Doug from the Harvard Square Chess Scene, Arline Young, Mrs. Dlugy and Mrs. Ivanov (NM Esther Epstein). Photo: Steve Stepak
MACA Tournament, at the Armenian Cultural Center. Master Table: from left to right . . . NM Jacob Rasin (Chess Teacher and Chess Camp Director) GM Alexander Ivanov (US Champion), FM John Curdo, most successful tournament chess player of New England (specialist in the bishop endgames) and GM Alex Sherzer, 1991 US Junior Chess Champion. Photo: Steve Stepak
GM Ilya Gurevich plays black vs GM Patrick Wolff, match. Boylston Chess Club, City Club of Boston location, 1986. Photo: Steve Stepak [chess set and wooden board provided by Steve Stepak].
[Time and History. Clearly each photo I present is a slice of time and space in a perpetual universe.] Neither Gurevich nor Wolff was a GM at the time of the photo. But the chess talent was indeed there.
Wolff won the match with Gurevich. A few notes on the players: Ilya Gurevich was born in Odessa, USSR, in 1972 and grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts, attending Yeshiva Academy. Ilya played and won many tournaments in the Greater Boston Area. He won the World U14 Championship in Argentina in 1984 and the World Junior Chess Championship in Chile, in 1990, receiving his GM title. He graduated New York University and earned an MBA going on to make a nice living as a stock options trader on wall street (who said that the chess skills of strategy and planning ahead are not generally applicable for practical purposes like earning a living!) Patrick Wolff was born in Massachusetts in 1968, to parents who were university professors. He won the US Junior Championship in 1987 and the US Championship in 1992 and 1995. Wolff attended Yale University and transferred to Harvard to graduate in 1996. To date he is the only person to have played on both the Yale and Harvard chess teams. Patrick, in an Exhibition Game in New York City, versus World Champion Garry Kasparov, beat the then reigning champion (1988) in an English Opening, playing the black pieces, in 25 moves: 1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 c6 4.d4 ed4 5.Qd4 d5 6.cd5 cd5 7.Nf3 Nc6 8.Qa4 Be7 9.0-0 0-0 10.Be3 Ng4 11.Bd4 Nd4 12.Nd4 Qb6 13.Nc3 Qh6 14.h4 g5 15.Nd5 Bd8 16.Rac1 gh4 17.Rc8 hg3 18.Nf3 Nh2 19.Rfc1 Rc8 20.Rc8 Nf3 21.ef3 gf2 22.Kf1 Qd2 23.Nf6 Kg7 24.Ne8 Kh8 25.Qe4 Bh4 0-1   My information has it that Patrick Wolff is now living in the San Francisco bay area, managing his own hedge fund: "Grandmaster Capital" .  Yes, another successful chess master story.  Bravo, Patrick!
Intercollegiate Chess League: PanAmerican Games   Photo: S. Stepak
 Harvard v Rhode Island College. For Harvard: Board 1: IM Vivek Rao (PhD, physics; professional activities in finance, computer science); Board 2: IM Danny Edelman (business executive, organizer of Kasparov, Karpov Harvard simuls and Polgar Sisters-Boston Chess Festival); Board 3: NM Andrew Serotta, (Kasparov master clock simul, last to fall); Board 4: NM Mark Glickman (PhD statistics; Prof. Health Policy, BU).  For RIC: Board 1: GM Sherzer; Board 2: NM Leonard Johnson; Board 3: WIM Sharon Burtman; Board 4: Jim Dela-Selva; (background) NYU Board 1: GM Ilya Gurevich; Board 2: IM Mark Ginsburg . . . Venu: Charles Hotel, Cambridge MA, Dec. 27-30 1990. Harvard won the team event 6-0. [Story published in Chess Horizons, March-April, 1991, page 13.]
Erez Klein (New York) vs Robert Seltzer (Boston) Boylston Chess Club,  Photo: Steve Stepak
FM Erez Klein [USCF 2435 (highest) FIDE 2229], b.1976 (NY) vs NM Robert Seltzer [USCF 2336 (highest) FIDE 2251], b.1975 (West Roxbury, MA). Match organized by Harry Lyman at the Boylston Chess Club, City Club of Boston, George Mirijanian, TD. The match was called "the Aspis Prize"; after 4 rounds of regulation play [30/90, 20/60, 20/30], the score was tied 2:2. A tie-break was called for, Game 15. Seltzer won. It was $1250 to the winner, $750 to the loser. 
The date: August 29th - 30th, 1987. [Reported in Chess Horizons]
World Chess Champion Mikhail Tal, Boylston Chess Club, Boston, 1988 Photo: Steve Stepak
World Chess Champion Mikhail Tal played all-comers 5-2. He won all his games, checkmating most of his opponents as his flag, on an old BHB analogue clock, in suspended animation so ready to fall at any unpredictable moment--but never did. Boston was Tal's first time in the USA, just after winning the World Blitz Championship in St. John New Brunswick, Canada (1988). Tal gave a 30 board simul at the Boylston Chess Club, City Club of Boston where he amazed the crowd and endeared them eternally. 
Dennis Seawald, World Chess Champion Tal, Ken Ho, chat.          Photo: Steve Stepak
Dennis Seawald [USCF 2318 (highest)] who played Searching for Bobby Fischer Josh Waitzkin at the Armenian Cultural Center, Watertown, MA circa 1990 -- game drawn, talks to World Chess Champion Misha Tal and Ken Ho [USCF 1936 (highest)]. Ken uses this photo on his blog: "Ken Ho's Chess Corner" where he describes an all-night chess party he attended where Tal continued to wow the people with his deep chess wisdom. Ken dates this event as "3/7/88". It was at this simul that I spoke with Tal, who had arrived early to the BCC Simul, for over an hour. My questions were mostly on why Tal didn't take a "medical recovery break" in 1961, as Botvinnik had agreed to: Tal's reply: I was young then. All I wanted to do was to play chess. The other key question I asked Tal was: who would have won the match between Fischer and Karpov in 1975. Tal replied emphatically: Fischer. 1978 (?) Tal spoke with his hands to indicate: not clear. Karpov was getting stronger and stronger. By 1978, Karpov would have been a formidable opponent for the Brooklyn boy. Yet one will never know. 
I must make this note: Tal in all his interactions with the Greater Boston Chess Community, spoke fluent and erudite English.  Misha Tal was truly a gentleman and a scholar, as well as a great chess fighter and commentator.
Bobby Seltzer watches as World Chess Champion Tal makes his move. Photo: Steve Stepak
This was Tal's 2nd US city visited: Framingham, MA for a 40 board simul. 1988.
The game was a Sicilian Defense, known Queen sacrifice on Tal's part. Seltzer figured out all the puzzles to the position and won the game, producing Tal's only defeat in the event.
28 years ago!
GM Susan Polgar, Women's World Chess Champion, [USCF 2590] age 16 at the time, plays a simul at the Boylston Chess Club, City Club of Boston, 1985. Seen in photo is Jonathan Myers [USCF 2055] and Jim Dracup [USCF 2230] Photo: Steve Stepak, appearing on cover of Chess Horizons (1985/86) publication of the Massachusetts Chess Association.

One last note: if there is anybody out there in chess land who can identify any of the spectators in the photos I am presenting here, please leave the information in a comment to this post or call in the information to the Boylston Chess Club, Somerville, MA. Also, if there are any errors or inaccuracies that I have published in this post, please alert me of them, also in a comment or a phone call to the BCC.  Thanks. And good chess to all.

1 comment:

Tim Hanke said...

Thanks for the walks down Memory Lane that your great photos provide. I note the Chess Horizons cover photo of Zsuzsa Polgar, age 16, playing a move against NM Jim Dracup in 1985, when she visited the Boylston Chess Club to give a simul. Apparently I missed my best chance to be on the cover of the magazine, because Jim had taken over my position in a game I had started against Polgar. Unfortunately, as those who were there can attest, Polgar played incredibly slowly. As the hours passed, I realized to my own incredulity I would have to abandon my game and leave to catch a bus if the game dragged on much longer. I was Black in a Budapest Defence if memory serves. To gain activity for my pieces, I sacrificed an exchange, reaching an unclear position. It was this position that Dracup inherited. He told me later he didn't think my sacrifice was sound, but he managed to wangle a win from the position. It's probably for the best that I had to leave to catch a bus--I probably would have screwed it up.