Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hugh Edward Myers (1930-2008), RIP

Hugh E. Myers, a chess original if the term means anything at all, died three days before Christmas, only a month short of his seventy-ninth birthday. I'm surprised that he lived so long, for as I knew him in the 1980s he was invariably in poor health. I first became aware of Hugh and his unorthodox openings and original opinions (or was that original openings and unorthodox opinions) after I came across the original (1973) edition of his book, The Nimzovich Defense, which I found in, of all places, Rudi Schmaus's bookshop in Heidelberg. That would have been about 1978 or '79. Schmaus was the publisher of the Das Moderne Blackmar-Diemer Gambit series, which included a reprint of Diemer's original Vom Ersten Zug an auf Matt! as well as two books by Freidl and one by Studier. At the time Freidl's Band 2 was due out shortly, and I would drive over to Heidelberg now and then to check on it (or really just to browse through a collection of chess books). A few years ago I decided I was through with this foolish game and sold my copy of that book. Shortsighted, I know. But I digress. In his Nimzovich book Hugh included a game or two that transposed into a BDG. That was enough impetus for me to get in touch with him and subscribe to his The Myers Openings Bulletin. Later, when Charles Szasz and I started a little publication for Blackmar-Diemer Gambit aficionados, Hugh was very supportive, and over the years we kept in touch with an occasional letter or note. I never had the pleasure of meeting him face-to-face, but now and then he had a comment on something I published, and he wrote a short piece for at least one issue of BDG WORLD.
Hugh's best known game is his 1956 win over William Lombardy in the Manhattan Chess Club semifinals, which was annotated by Hans Kmoch in Chess Review, March 1957, p. 89. One of several things I like about this game is the sequence with the Knight sac at f6, leaving the White pawn there with Black defenseless on the black squares. It is a recurring theme in many BDG games. You can play through this game and several others at the Chessbase site here. Myers,Hugh Edward - Lombardy,William James [A11] Manhattan CC-ch sf-D 5657 New York (5), 1956 1.g3 Nf6 2.Bg2 d5 3.Nf3 Bf5 4.c4 c6 5.cxd5 cxd5 6.Qb3 Bc8 7.0-0 e6 8.Nc3 Nc6 9.d4 Bd6 10.Rd1 h6 11.a3 Na5 12.Qc2 Bd7 13.b4 Nc4 14.e4 dxe4 15.Nxe4 Rc8 16.Ne5 Bxe5 17.dxe5 Nd5 18.Qe2 0-0 19.Qh5 Qc7
20.Rxd5!! exd5 21.Nf6+ gxf6 22.exf6 Nd6 23.Bxh6 Bf5 24.Bxd5 Qc2 25.Bxf8 Rxf8 26.Qh6 Ne8 27.Re1 Bg6 28.Rxe8 Qd1+ 29.Kg2 Qxd5+ 30.f3 Qd2+ 31.Qxd2 Rxe8 32.Qh6
Myers: "It was hard to breathe; people were packed around our table, standing on chairs. My opponent sat and stared at this position for five minutes, until his flag fell. He left without saying anything. I call that resigns." You said it, Hugh. We'll miss you. More pages with additional info:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Diemer's Night before Christmas

The ghost of E. J. Diemer gives a twenty board simultaneous on Christmas eve...

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the hall
The chessplayers were stirring, like a woodpushers' ball;
The pieces were hung on the demo with care,
In hopes that E. J. soon would be there;
The patzers were huddled in clusters of nulls,
While visions of checkmates danced in their skulls;
I'd poured me a Becks, got a plate full of vittles,
And just settled down to a few rounds of skittles,
When out on the street there arose such a clatter,
I lurched from my chair to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The neon on garbage in the dumpster below
Gave a luster of midday like lights on real snow,
When, what to my wondering eyeballs appears,
But a long black Mercedes and eight gambiteers,
With a little old driver, so clearly a schemer,
I knew in a moment it had to be Diemer.

More cocky than masters his cohorts they came,
And he chuckled and chortled and called them by name;
Come, Bachl! Come, Freidl! Come Studier and Soller!
On Kampars! On Tejler! On, Danner and Müller!
To the top of the steps! To the door of the hall!
Now sacrifice! Sacrifice! Sacrifice all!
Like passed pawns with a lust to expand,
They dashed up the steps, this merry little band;
So up to the doorway his cohorts they flew,
With bags full of chessmen, and Emil Joseph too.

And then in a twinkling I heard in the wings
A clipping and clopping like toppling Kings.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Through the front door Diemer burst with a bound.
He was clad all in black, from his toes to his cheeks,
And his clothes were wrinkled like he'd worn them for weeks;
A bundle of score sheets he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a TD just opening his pack.

His eyes--how they burned! His brows, how hairy!
His cheeks were like granite, his countenance scary!
His long thin mouth was turned down like a bow,
And his beard was gray--cold ashes in snow.
The stub of a pencil he held in his teeth tightly,
And the graphite like smoke discolored them slightly;
He had thick, tinted glasses and eyes of slate
That stung when they hit you, like a back rank mate;
He was lean and mean, a formidable sight,
And I shuddered when I saw him--he gave me a fright;
The gleam in his eyes and the tension in the air,
Soon gave me to know I hadn't a prayer.

He spoke not a word, but went straightaway to it,
Twenty games, twenty gambits, twenty wins 'fore you knew it;
Then, extracting a rag and blowing his nose,
And giving a snort; out the doorway he goes.
He sprang to his limo, to his gang gave a yell,
And away they all roared like bats out of hell.
But I heard him exclaim ere he faded from view,
"Blackmar-Diemer forever! (and Happy Christmas, too)."

Monday, December 22, 2008

Reindeer Games

Reindeer Games

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Yes, Boris, there is a Blackmar-Diemer Gambit

Many years ago an eight-year old girl, Virginia O'Hanlon, wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Sun, looking for the truth about Santa Claus. The quick response by veteran newsman Francis P. Church, which was printed as an unsigned editorial on Sept. 21, 1897, has since become history's most reprinted newspaper editorial. Some ninety-plus years later, in BDG WORLD 37, November 1989, I imagined a letter from Virginia's twin brother, Boris, with similar doubts about the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit. I provided a parallel answer...
One of the joys of editing this modest little paper comes in the letters we receive from our readers. For example...
Dear Editor-- 
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Blackmar-Diemer Gambit. Papa says, "If you see it in BDG WORLD, it's so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Blackmar-Diemer Gambit?
Boris O'Hanlon

Boris, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see in ECO. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Boris, whether they be grandmasters' or children's are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Boris, there is a Blackmar-Diemer Gambit. It exists as certainly as truth and courage and imagination exist, and you know that they abound and give to your chess its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Blackmar-Diemer Gambit! It would be as dreary as if there were no Santa Claus. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in Sozins and Scheveningens. The eternal light with which chess fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in the Blackmar-Diemer! You might as well not believe in Santa Claus. You might get your papa to hire men to watch all the grandmasters in all the tournaments to see a Blackmar-Diemer, but even if they did not see one, what would that prove? Grandmasters don't play BDGs, but that is no sign there is no Blackmar-Diemer Gambit. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor grandmasters can see. Did you ever see Santa on your rooftop? Of course not, but that's no proof he wasn't there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders that are unseen and unseeable in chess.

You tear apart the chess clock and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest grandmaster, not even the united strength of all the strongest grandmasters that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Boris, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Blackmar-Diemer Gambit! Thank God! it lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Boris, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, it will continue to make glad the heart of chess.
--Tom Purser, with appreciation and apologies to Francis P. Church and the New York Sun. You can see a clipping of the original "Yes, Virginia..." editorial and a photo of Frank Church here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

When not to castle

My old pal Pete Atzerpay, the well-known private detective and strong amateur chessplayer, has been fairly inactive for several years now, but today he sent me this little tidbit. "Proving only," Pete notes, "when not to castle." Atzerpay, Peter - NN unrated blitz, 14.Dec.2008 BDG, Teichmann Defense 1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.f3 exf3 5.Nxf3 Bg4 6.h3 Bxf3 7.Qxf3 c6 8.g4
Among BDG zealots this line is known as the Seidel-Hall Attack. The idea is that absent any idea, offer another pawn.
8...Qxd4 9.Be3 Qb4 10.0-0-0 e6 11.Rd4 Qa5 12.Ra4 Qc7 13.Bd3 Be7 14.g5 Nd5 15.Nxd5 cxd5 16.Rf1
Okay, when not to castle. Black could have played 16...Rf8 and White would still be looking for an idea.
17.Bxh7+ Kxh7 18.Qh5+ Kg8 19.Rh4
I knew there must be some reason for running that rook up to the fourth rank.
19...f5 20.g6 1-0

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Wine, New Zealand, the BDG

What more could you ask for?


The Kaikoura Winery sits on a limestone bluff in South Bay on the East Coast of New Zealand's South Island in a magnificent landscape of vineyards, sea and mountains. It was the site of the 2008 Kaikoura International Open, played 8 - 12 October, with GM Darryl Johansen, GM Murray Chandler, and IM Stephen Solomon finishing equal first, and Chandler winning on tiebreaks.

There was wine and a Blackmar-Diemer, a fine combination.

van Dijk,Peter (2040) - Milligan,Helen (1832)
Kaikoura International Open
New Zealand, 10.10.2008
BDG, Bogoljubov Defense

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.e4 dxe4 4.f3 exf3 5.Nxf3 g6 6.Bc4 Bg7 7.0-0 0-0 8.Qe1 b6 9.Qh4 Ba6 10.Bxa6 Nxa6


11.a3 c5 12.d5 Nc7 13.Bh6 Ncxd5 14.Rad1 e6 15.Ng5 Nh5 16.Bxg7 Kxg7 17.Rxf7+ Kg8 18.Rg7+ Kh8 19.Rxh7+ Kg8 20.Rg7+ Kh8 21.Rxg6 1-0 Schneider,W-Richter/cr Germany 1967
11...Qd7 12.h3 Nh5 13.Bxg7 Kxg7 14.Ne5 Qd6 15.Nb5 Qb4 16.a4 f6 17.Nc6 Qc4 18.Nxe7 Rae8 19.Rae1 Qxa4 20.Nxa7 Nb8 21.Nac8 Nc6 22.Nxc6 Qxc6 23.Ne7 Qd7 1/2-1/2 Meszaros,G-Madl,I/HUN-chT 1994
11...Nb4 12.Ng5 Bxh6 (12...Nbd5 13.Rae1 c5 14.dxc5 bxc5 15.Rd1 e6 16.Bxg7 Kxg7 17.Nxd5 exd5 18.Rxf6 1-0 Searson,B-Berkley,S/IECC email 2001) 13.Qxh6 Qxd4+ 14.Kh1 Rfe8 15.Rxf6 Qxf6 16.Qxh7+ Kf8 17.Nce4 Qg7 18.Ne6+ 1-0 Kahl,F-Von Rosenberg,C/Germany email 2005
12.Bxg7 Kxg7 13.Ng5 h6 14.Rxf7+ Kg8 15.Rxf8+ Qxf8 16.Rf1 Qe8 17.Ne6 Qd7 18.Qe4 Ng7 19.Qxa8+ 1-0 Lynn,K-Chandler,M/Dunedin 1975
12...Nf6 13.a3 c6 14.Rad1 Nc7 15.Ne5 Qe8 16.Rde1 Ne6

17.Bxf6 only helps if Black plays 17...Bxf6? (17...exf6 18.Nf3 Qd8-+) 18.Rxf6 exf6 19.Ne4 fxe5 (19...Kg7 20.Nxf6 Qc8 21.Rf1+-) 20.Nf6+ Kg7 21.dxe5+-
17...Rd8 18.Bxg7 Kxg7 19.Rxf6 exf6 20.Ng4 Qe7 21.Qh6+ Kh8 22.Ne4 Rg8 23.Nexf6 Rg7 24.c3 Rd6 25.Re3 Rd5? [25...Qd8=/+] 26.Nxd5+/- cxd5 27.Ne5 Qd6 28.Qh3 f5+/- 29.Qh4 Nf8 30.Nf3 Kg8 31.Re8 Kf7 32.Ra8 Kg8 33.Ne5 Re7 34.Qh6 Rg7 35.Qg5 Re7 36.Qh6 Rg7 37.Qg5 1/2-1/2

Why fight on, what with a playing venue like this:

Another glass of merlot, if you please.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Blackmar: Gone with the Wind?

Today I came across a review by Sean Marsh of a new book by IM Gary Lane, who years ago published a book on the Blackmar-Diemer (and also wrote a couple of articles for my magazine, BDG World).  Lane's new book is The Greatest Ever Chess Tricks and Traps (published November 2008 EU, December 2008 US, ISBN 9781857445770, paperback, 240 pages).

Marsh writes:
As usual in a book by IM Lane (a specialist in writing chatty books for club players), little biographical and historical snippets are often used to add colour and background to the players and games.

For example, in his analysis of the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, he relates a little surprise:

‘Did you know? It is alleged that music composed by Blackmar can be `heard in the famous Gone with the Wind.’

Having blown away numerous chess opponents with his favourite opening, it seems quite fitting.
Well, a surprise to some, perhaps. But this has been discussed (without resolution, apparently) previously. See for example, Unsolved Chess Mysteries (11) by Edward Winter. I'll try to round up my notes and provide a little more info on this