- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 13, 2018

John T. Campbell, 91 and one of the game’s good guys, was laid to rest with military honors Monday at Quantico National Cemetery, beside his beloved wife and partner, Frances.

An easygoing Texan and Navy veteran of World War II, John worked for the National Science Foundation and later as a water analyst for the U.S. Geological Survey. He died last month after a long period of failing health.

But Washington-area chess fans will always remember John as the gentle, genial guiding light behind the Arlington Chess Club, presiding for decades over the Friday-night club ladder, organizing events and captaining the D.C. Chess League’s Arlington Argyles. Some of the region’s best players got their start at the ACC, which developed into one of the best regional chess clubs in the nation, and John personally and graciously welcomed me back to the game after a long period of inactivity in the mid-1980s.

A great friend of this column, John provided a venue and an opportunity for countless others to play the game he loved. And John was no slouch at the chessboard, nearly obtaining the expert rating in the early 1990s and capturing the Virginia senior champion’s crown several times.

John was justifiably proud of today’s game, played at the Bermuda Open in 1997. After his higher-rated opponent, New York master Jerry Simon, rejected a draw offer after Move 19 in this (Very Deferred) Benko Gambit, John said later, “I resolved to play for a win” and proceeded to do so in spectacular, sacrificial fashion.

After 12. Bc2 a6 13. bxa6 Bxa6, we finally arrive at the classic Benko formation, with Black having open queenside lines, a very useful half-open f-file and a strong central pawn phalanx to compensate for the gambit pawn. Things heat up markedly after 15. Qe2 d4!? (sharpening the play, though 15…Nc5 16. Rd1 Nd3+ 17. Bxd3 cxd3 18. Qd2 Rxf3! 19. gxf3 Qh4 leads to a strong attack) 16. Qe4 d3 17. Qxc6 dxc2 18. 0-0 (unclear is 18. Rc1 Nc5 19. 0-0 Nd3 20. Nd4 [Rxc2 Nb4 21. Qe4 Bb7 22. Qe2 Nxc2 23. Qxc2 Rxf3 is much better for Black] Rfd8 21. Qxe6+ Qxe6 22. Nxe6 Nxc1 23. Rxc1 Rd2) Nc5 19. Rxc1 Bb7 20. Qd6 (declining the draw offer) Qe1!, when 21. Qxc5 is met by 21…Rxf3! 22. Qb6 (gxf3?? Qg6+ and mate next) Rb8 23. Qc7 Bc6 with chances for both sides.

White’s 21. Ne1?! Nd3! 22. Nxd3 Rd8! (a nice interpolation) 23. Qb6 (see diagram) runs into the inspired 23…Bxg2!! 24. Kxg2? (this may be the losing move; the kill-joy 24. Ne1 Bh3 25. Qe3 Qh5 26. Rxc2 Bxf1 27. Kxf1 Qxh2 is hard to evaluate, but keeps the contest alive) cxd3; Campbell is a piece down but may be actually better — his passed pawns are monsters and the White king lacks sufficient cover.

Black breaks through on 25. Kh1 (Ne4 Qg6+ 26. Ng3 d2 27. Qb3 dxc1=Q 28. Rxc1 Rd2 29. Qe3 Rfxf2+ 30. Qxf2 Rxf2+ 31. Kxf2 Qh6! 32. Ne2 Qxh2+ 33. Ke1 Qxe5 34. Rxc2 h5 and Black is winning) d2! 26. Rxc2 Qg6 27. Qb3 Qd3!? (good enough to win, but it would have been especially sweet had Black found now 27…Rxf2!! 28. Rxf2 ([Rg1 d1=Q! 29. Nxd1 Qe4+ 30. Rg2 Qxg2 mate] d1=Q+ 29. Nxd1 Rxd1+ 30 Rf1 Rxf1 mate) 28. Ne2 (losing a piece, but the only alternative — 28. Kg1 — brings us back to 28…Qg6+ 29. Kh1 Rxf2!!) Qxe2 29. Kg1 Qxf1+, winning a rook.

Black ends all suspense by trading queens and White is dead lost in the final position when he forfeited on time.


American GM Wesley So stumbled out of the gate at the FIDE Candidates Tournament that kicked off over the weekend in Berlin, scoring just a half-point in the first three rounds of 14-round, double-round robin event. GM Fabiano Caruana, the other U.S. entry in the eight-grandmaster field, is at 2-1 (including a Round 1 win over So), a half-point behind front-runner Russian former world champion Vladimir Kramnik.

The winner of the Brawl in Berlin will challenge reigning champ Magnus Carlsen of Norway for the world title in London in November.

Simon-Campbell, Bermuda Open, February 1997

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 e6 5. dxe6 fxe6 6. Bg5 d5 7. e4 Be7 8. e5 Nfd7 9. Bxe7 Qxe7 10. Nf3 O-O 11. Bd3 c4 12. Bc2 a6 13. bxa6 Bxa6 14. Nc3 Nc6 15. Qe2 d4 16. Qe4 d3 17. Qxc6 dxc2 18. O-O Nc5 19. Rac1 Bb7 20. Qd6 Qe8 21. Ne1 Nd3 22. Nxd3 Rd8 23. Qb6 Bxg2 24. Kxg2 cxd3 25. Kh1 d2 26. Rxc2 Qg6 27. Qb3 Qd3 28. Ne2 Qxe2 29. Kg1 Qxf1+ 30. Kxf1 d1=Q+ 31. Kg2 Qd5+ 32. Qxd5 Rxd5 33. b4 Rxe5 34. a4 Re4 35. Rb2 Rb8 36. b5 Rxa4 37. b6 Ra6 38. b7 Ra7 White forfeits.

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

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