Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Maltese Falcon Attack

Happy Thanksgiving to all. I've been out of town for a few days and have not posted for a bit, partially due to the time away, partially to a little hiccup when a garbage truck backed into my truck. I'm fine; my truck's not. Today I want to bring back a little article by Tim Sawyer from an old BDG World issue about one of the strange characters of American chess. I first became aware of Claude Bloodgood through a column he wrote for the American Postal Chess Tournaments Newsletter, probably in the late 70s. It was called The Chess Swindler, the Chess Hustler, or some such title. I think I first saw a game he claimed to have played with Humphrey Bogart in that column. Bloodgood left the scene in 2001, and took many unanswered questions about his life and chess exploits to his grave. You can find a Wikipedia article on him here, with several links to more info. But for now, enjoy this little piece by Tim Sawyer, author of the BDG Keybook. Claude, here's looking at you, kid. The Maltese Falcon Attack By Tim Sawyer I confess. I have dabbled in a few non-BDG openings for variety. Most of the time I play 1.d4 (over 600 recorded games as White). Now and then I go for 1.e4 (over 200 times as White), every once in a while I venture a flank opening with 1.c4, 1.f4, or 1.g4 (about 50 times each). About a year ago, APCT announced a thematic tournament with the Grob (1.g4). When I saw Claude Bloodgood had entered, I entered too, especially to play him via correspondence. Bloodgood is in prison for life, and there is no condoning the crimes for which he has been convicted. Yet, I found this 72-year-old man to be a very friendly opponent, and we carried on a lively discussion from postcard to postcard.BogartI mentioned to Tom Purser that I was playing Bloodgood. Tom inquired about the famous Humphrey Bogart game via 1.d4 Nf6 2.g4. Bloodgood told me that it had been published. Our games ended with three draws and one Bloodgood win. We said our good-byes and I figured I'd never hear from him again. Then there comes this fascinating note from which I quote: Dear Tim, You asked me about the Bogart Poisoned Spike Game some time ago. I mentioned that it had been published. It was originally published in the New York Daily News circa 1935, later in the New York Times. I first became aware of it when Bogart visited the U.S. Naval Hospital at Camp Pendleton (Calif.) in late 1955. I was playing chess when he and several other Hollywood actors arrived on the ward where I was recovering from foot surgery. He watched me play for a while and then discovered I was playing for money. He got a great big grin and asked if I'd care to play him for a small wager. The games were blitz (no scores), but he held his own (I think we broke even after 8 games) and gave me a phone number to call him when I could get out of the hospital for a day or so. When I called, I got someone else, but arrangements were in place and a car was sent for me. I played Bogart (and some others) at beach houses in Santa Monica one time and Van Nuys several times. Bogart took real pride in his chess ability and was a born hustler. I am enclosing two Bogart games (1 against me) which I hope you will find interesting. Same opening line in Bloodgood-Lowmaster also enclosed... Best, Claude Here are the games he sent in what Bloodgood calls the "Maltese Falcon Attack," clearly a cousin of the BDG: 2359 / Dutch Defense Humphrey Bogart Claude Bloodgood Santa Monica 1955 1. d4 f5 2. Nf3 e6 3. e4 fxe4 4. Ng5 d5 5. f3 exf3 6. Qxf3 Nf6 7. Bd3 g6 8. Nxh7 Rxh7 9. Bxg6+ Rf7 10. 0-0 Bg7 11. Bg5 Nbd7 11. .. Kf8 12. Bxf7 Kxf7 13. Qh5+ Kg8 14. Bxf6 Bxf6 15. Qg6+ Bg7 16. Rf7 1-0. Claude Bloodgood - Robert Lowmaster, Camp McGill, Japan 1956 (Game 2360). 12. Nc3 Kf8 13. Bxf7 Kxf7 14. Rae1 c5 15. Nxd5 exd5 16. Qxd5+ Kg6 16. .. Kf8 17. Qd6+ Kg8 18. Re7 Ne8 19. Qe6+ Kh8 20. Rxg7 1-0. Humphrey Bogart - NN, Santa Monica 1955, (Game 2361) 17. Bxf6 Bxf6 18. Re6 Qh8 19. Qf5+ Kf7 20. d5 Qh4 21. c3 Qg5 22. Qh7+ Qg723. R1xf6+ Nxf6 24. Re7+ Kxe7 25. Qxg7+ Kd6 26. Qxf6+ Kxd5 27. Qd8+ 1-0. As for my experiments in the Grob, I scored quite well as White (78%, same as with the BDG), and better that I deserved. I won one section that Bloodgood did not enter. I also managed a couple draws versus strong postal players in other events, such as BDGer Tim Just and author Roy DeVault. Alas, my Grob games were very ugly; my wins were not completely deserved. I won nine games when my opponents either set their board up wrong, or had severe health problems, or they just quit. Two players gave me a draw when I was losing. My assessment of 1.g4 opening theory is that both sides are lost. I have gone back to playing 1.d4! This article originally appeared in BDG World 77