Friday, October 26, 2012

Akiba Rubinstein Lecture

I attended LM Scott Massey's lecture on "Rubinstein's Endings" last night at the Kenilworth Chess Club, along with about ten other members of the club.  Scott analyzed or briefly discussed eight excellent games, mostly from Rubinstein's early career, which showed how easily he beat opponents with "simple chess," always focused on keeping his pieces active and his pawns healthy while strictly limiting his opponent's counterplay.  The eight games covered can all be found online, along with links to notes (where available):
  1. Rubinstein - Duras, Vienna 1908
    Chernev's notes from Twelve Great Players at Google Books
  2. Rubinstein - Lasker, St. Petersburg 1909
    Annotated by James Stripes at his Chess Skills based on the Donaldson book
  3. Rubinstein - Capablanca, San Sebastian 1911
    Exeter Chess club lessons
  4. Schlechter - Rubinstein, San Sebastian 1912
  5. Rubinstein - Reti, Berlin 1928
  6. Mattison - Rubinstein, Karlsbad 1929
    Chernev annotates in his Twelve Great Players
  7. Cohn - Rubinstein, St. Petersburg 1909
    Baburin discusses at ChessCafe
  8. Spielmann - Rubinstein, St. Petersburg 1909
    Dvoretsky discusses at ChessCafe
Scott talked about how Rubinstein only discovered chess in his late teens, while recuperating from TB, when he turned from his studies of the Talmud to read one of the only chess books written in Hebrew: Sossnitz's Sehok ha-Shak (which is not a book that Scott owns, to his regret).  Always the bibliophile, Scott mentioned several books that he had consulted in preparing his lecture:
  • Hans Kmoch, Rubinstein's Chess Masterpieces (1941)Published originally in German as Rubinstein Gewinnt! this is a wonderful collection of 100 games.  The most recent Dover edition (though unfortunately still in descriptive notation) appears to be no longer in print, but I often see it available used and it is definitely worth having.  It was clear during the lecture that this had been Scott's first choice to consult, and it is still a wonderful book for students -- who can find the games collected at Chessgames and most of the book online at Google books.
  • Mihail Marin, Learn from the Legends (Quality Chess 2006), which begins with a chapter on Rubinstein's Rook Endings.  You can find the games from this book, which won the ChessCafe book of the year award, collected at Chessgames.
  • John Donaldson and Nikolay Minev, The Life and Games of Akiva Rubinstein: Uncrowned King (2007)Building on earlier work by the same authors from 1994, this two volume biography and games collection is surely the definitive work on Rubinstein.
Thanks to Scott, I own the late Edgar McCormick's tattered and much used hardcover edition of Kmoch's book, which was inscribed to him by Kenneth Harkness in thanks for his help with the USA-USSR radio match of 1945.  I think I learned everything I know about chess endings from this book and from Irving Chernev's Capablanca's Best Chess Endings (see Chessgames collection), and I wish I had more time to revisit all of these great games.  Analyzing several of them, with Scott's help, was a very worthwhile way to spend a few hours on a Thursday night.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

LM Scott Massey to Lecture Tonight

Life Master Scott Massey, who was champion of the Kenilworth Chess Club for many years, will lecture tonight at the club on "Rubinstein's Endgames."  The entry fee for the lecture is $5 and it should begin by 8:15 p.m.  Scott's annual lectures are always well received and have covered Moscow 1925 and the Origins of the Soviet School of Chess (my favorite), Bobby Fischer, How to Analyze, The Games of Paul Keres, and King and Pawn Endings.  As Scott is very knowledgeable about endings and a big fan of Rubinstein's games, I expect this to be an excellent event -- one I am planning to attend.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

"Fischer vs. Spassky" in The New Yorker

I was intrigued by Lara Vapnyar's short story "Fischer vs. Spassky" in The New Yorker (October 8, 2012), which provides an unusual perspective on the famous 1972 chess match, as seen through the eyes of a Jewish couple living in the Soviet Union who contemplate emigrating--with all the risks that entailed.  For those of us who have too easily accepted the black and white Cold War narrative of the match, the story provides some neat reversals.  Take this quote, for instance:
All the Russian Jews who considered themselves liberal had wanted Fischer to win. For them, the Soviet Union stood for everything that was vile and deceitful, while the United States held the promise of everything that was good. And Fischer was the face of that good. The enormous, warty face of democracy.
Read the full story online.