- The Washington Times - Friday, April 14, 2006

With all the tributes pouring in for Art Buchwald, we would be remiss if we did not honor here his long love of and service to the game of chess.

The 80-year-old Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist is winning new friends and admirers as he faces serious illness at a Washington hospice. Doctors amputated his right leg in January, but he has lost none of his wit and generosity in greeting a stream of visitors and well-wishers in the days since.

Chess has been a lifelong passion for Buchwald, who played often while serving in the Marines in World War II and was one of the few celebrity opponents who could regularly beat actor Humphrey Bogart, who had a reputation as the best player in Hollywood.

A 1972 column took a shot at the petulance of new world chess champion Bobby Fischer. When President Nixon calls to congratulate the new American champ in Reykjavik, Buchwald has Fischer making all kinds of demands, including the use of a fully stocked Air Force One to return home.

The column ends with Nixon agreeing to Fischer’s demand, then calling Henry Kissinger to arrange to have the plane hijacked to Cuba.

I remember Buchwald best as the gracious host of a series of chess banquets staged for the annual National Press Club chess tournament, one of the area’s longest-running events. Buchwald always had a kind word for every competitor and his love of the game clearly shone through.

• • •

This being Tax Day, we also honor Sammy Reshevsky, perhaps the greatest accountant ever to play the game.

The Polish-born American grandmaster, who died in 1992, was a hard man to love at the board. With a dogged defensive style and a positive addiction to time trouble, Reshevsky produced relatively few brilliancies. But he was very dangerous match opponent, the best player in the West for most of the early postwar era, and a force to be reckoned with even in his later years.

Reshevsky could turn out the brilliant combination on occasion, as his victory over Brazilian master Fernando Vasconcellos from the 1944 U.S. Open demonstrates. In this little-known gem, White offers in turn a pawn, a knight, a bishop, a rook and a second knight to deliver checkmate, all in 26 moves.

Black’s pawn-grubbing with 10. Re1 Qb6 11. Bg3 Qxb2?! tempts Reshevsky into an un-Sammylike speculative sacrifice, one that is amply justified by the subsequent course of play: 12. Nxd5! exd5 13. Rb1! (a useful interpolation to deflect the queen) Qa3 14. e6 Nf6 15. exf7+ Kxf7 16. Bh4, and the White pieces circle the lonely Black king.

With bullheaded directness, White proceeds to eliminate any Black barrier to checkmate: 18. Bxf6 Nxd3 19. Bxg7+! Kxg7 20. Rxb7+!! (perhaps the game’s most inspired move, as 20…Bxb7 allows 21. Qg4+ with mate to come) Be7 21. Qh5 Rf8 22. Qg5+ Kh8, and now one last sacrifice puts Black out of his misery: 23. Ng6+! hxg6 24. Qh6+ Kg8 25. Qxg6+ Kh8 26. Rbxe7, and Vasconcellos resigned before facing 26…Qxe7 27. Rxe7 and inevitable mate on h7.

• • •

We got such a good response to last week’s column on blindfold chess that we’re offering now a game that just missed the cut a week ago. Alexander Alekhine, world champion from 1927 to 1946, created some of the greatest tactical masterpieces in the history of the game.

This win, taken from a blindfold simultaneous exhibition the year before he won the crown, holds its own with any of the brilliancies Alekhine wove with full sight of the board.

In a Yugoslav King’s Indian, the slow positional jousting of the early game gives way to an unexpected tactical melee, with Alekhine exploiting his two bishops to the full: 31. Re1 Kh7 32. e4 Be5 33. exf5 gxf5 (see diagram), and despite the unfortunate position of his knight on b8, Black seems to be holding on.

But Alekhine sees further — 34. c5!! bxc5 35. b6 Rc8 36. Qc3! (exploiting the pin on the bishop) Rfe8 37. Bxe5 dxe5 38. Qxe5!! Qxe5 39. Rxe5 Rxe5 40. Rxc7+ Rxc7 41. bxc7, and the passed pawn picks off the Black knight.

Black remains an exchange to the good, but Alekhine judged correctly that the c-pawn and bishop will eventually cost Black his rook, as well. A piece up in the ending, White’s bishop corrals the Black pawns and soon forces resignation, as well.

U.S. Open, Boston 1944


1. e4e614. e6Nf6

2. d4d515. exf7+Kxf7

3. e5c516. Bh4Nb4

4. dxc5Nd717. Ne5+Kf8

5. Nf3Bxc518. Bxf6Nxd3

6. Bd3Ne719. Bxg7+Kxg7

7. 0-0Nc620. Rxb7+Be7

8. Bf4Qc721. Qh5Rf8

9. Nc3a622. Qg5+Kh8

10. Re1Qb623. Ng6+hxg6

11. Bg3Qxb224. Qh6+Kg8

12. Nxd5exd525. Qxg6+Kh8

13. Rb1Qa326. Rbxe7Black


Blindfold simultaneous exhibition, London, 1926


1. d4Nf628. h4Qe7

2. c4g629. e3Kh8

3. g3Bg730. Kg2f5

4. Bg20-031. Re1Kh7

5. Nc3d632. e4Be5

6. Nf3Nc633. exf5gxf5

7. d5Na534. c5bxc5

8. Qd3b635. b6Rc8

9. Nd4Nb736. Qc3Rfe8

10. Nc6Qd737. Bxe5dxe5

11. 0-0a538. Qxe5Qxe5

12. b3Nc539. Rxe5Rxe5

13. Qc2Bb740. Rxc7+Rxc7

14. h3Rae841. bxc7Re8

15. a3Bxc642. cxb8=QRxb8

16. dxc6Qc843. Be6Kg6

17. b4axb444. c7Rf8

18. axb4Na645. c8=QRxc8

19. Ra4Nb846. Bxc8c4

20. b5h647. Ba6c3

21. Ra7e548. Bd3Kf6

22. Kh2Kh749. Kf3Ke5

23. f4Re750. Ke3h5

24. fxe5Rxe551. Bc2Kf6

25. Bf4Ree852. Kf4Kg7

26. Nd5Nxd553. Kxf5Kh6

27. Bxd5Qd854. Kf4Black


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

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