- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 18, 2017

American chess lost one of the good guys with the passing of GM Arthur Bisguier at the age of 87 on April 5.

It was somehow fitting that New York-born Bisguier died smack in the middle of the 2017 U.S. national championship tournament in St. Louis, since the widely loved “Dean of American Chess” has been smack in the middle of the national chess scene since he first emerged as coming force with his fifth-place finish at the 1946 U.S. Open as a 17-year-old high school student.

His playing resume was impressive, although Mr. Bisguier was part of an entire generation of strong postwar American players who labored in the immense shadow of Bobby Fischer. He was U.S. champion in 1954, played on five Olympiad teams between 1952 and 1972, won three U.S. Opens, a U.S. junior championship and three U.S. Senior Opens.

But Mr. Bisguier’s most lasting legacy may have been the lives he touched and friendships he made as a roving goodwill ambassador for the game, recruited by the U.S. Chess Federation for lectures, exhibitions and lessons at innumerable hospitals, nursing homes, schools and prisons. At the end of his life, Mr. Bisguier was the world’s oldest active grandmaster, and he may been the best-liked as well.

“It is no effort for Art to win friends and influence people,” Chess Life writer Kenneth Harkness once observed. “It is a natural gift.”

At the board, Mr. Bisguier was just as keen as any great player to crush the other guy, with a particular talent for the attack. Today’s game finds him besting frequent sparring partner GM Pal Benko in the 1960 U.S. Open.

In a Semi-Tarrasch QGD, White doesn’t ordinarily give up a bishop so readily with 10. Re1 Bf6 11. Be3!, but Bisguier will benefit down the line from the open c- and f-files. Black, though is doing fine up through 20. Ne5 g6 21. Be4, when he could have found full equality with 21 … Bxe4 22. Nxe4 Kg7 23. Rxc8 Qxc8 24. b4 Nb7 25. Qa4 a5!.

Instead, Black opens up the floodgates with 21 … f6? (see diagram) 22. Bxg6!? (even better might be 22. Nxg6! hxg6 23. Bxg6 Kg7 24. Qg4, when White has a clear edge after 24 … Rg8 [Rxc2?? 25. Bf5+ Kf8 26. Bxe6, with unstoppable mate] 25. Rc7! Qd8 26. Qxe6 Kxg6 27. Rxe7 Qd5 28. Qg4+ Qg5 29. Qxg5+ fxg5 30. b4, winning material) fxe5 23. Qh5 hxg6 24. Qxg6+, with a fierce attack.

The position remains double-edged until Black loses his way: 24 … Kf8 25. Nc4! (clearing the rook’s way to f2) Be4? (Rxc4! 26. Rf2+ Bf3! 27. Rxf3+ Qxf3 28. gxf3 exd4 29. exd4 Rxd4, and it’s still a tense battle) 26. Qh6+ Kg8 27. Qxe6+ Kh8 28. Qxe5+ Kg8 29. Qe6+ Kh8 30. Nxb6! — Benko gets a scary-looking attack for his lost queen, but White stays in control.

White clarifies things on 34. Qf7! (stopping the threat of perpetual check) Rf2+ (Bxa8 35. Qh5+) 35. Qxf2 Bxf2 36. Kxf2 Bxa3 37. Kg3, and White’s four extra pawns will dominate Black’s king and bishop. In the final position after 49. b5 Bd1 (Be4 50. Kb7 Bxd5+ 51. Kxa7 Kxe6 52. b6 Kf6 53. b7 Bxb7 54. Kxb7 and wins), Benko resigns before White can administer 50. d6+ Kxe6 51. d7 Bf3+ 52. Kc7 and wins.

Bisguier-Benko, U.S. Open, St. Louis, August 1960

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c5 4. e3 cxd4 5. exd4 d5 6. Nc3 Be7 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8. Bd3 Nc6 9. O-O O-O 10. Re1 Bf6 11. Be3 Nxe3 12. fxe3 b6 13. Ne4 Be7 14. Rc1 Bb7 15. a3 Rc8 16. Re2 Na5 17. Rec2 Rxc2 18. Rxc2 Qa8 19. Ned2 Rc8 20. Ne5 g6 21. Be4 f6 22. Bxg6 fxe5 23. Qh5 hxg6 24. Qxg6+ Kf8 25. Nc4 Be4 26. Qh6+ Kg8 27. Qxe6+ Kh8 28. Qxe5+ Kg8 29. Qe6+ Kh8 30. Nxb6 Rxc2 31. Nxa8 Rxg2+ 32. Kf1 Nc4 33. Qxc4 Bh4 34. Qf7 Rf2+ 35. Qxf2 Bxf2 36. Kxf2 Bxa8 37. Kg3 Kg7 38. Kf4 Kf6 39. e4 Bc6 40. d5 Ba4 41. b4 Bc2 42. e5+ Kg6 43. h4 Bd1 44. Ke4 Kf7 45. Kd4 Ke7 46. Kc5 Kd7 47. e6+ Ke7 48. Kc6 Bf3 49. b5 Bd1 and Black resigns.

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email dsands@washingtontimes.com.

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