From drunk tweeting to Tide-pod-eating, the internet is proving to be perhaps the greatest enabler of human stupidity since the invention of alcohol.
Still, there are times that the web can protect us from our own folly, as in last week’s column when we chronicled the bad result Bobby Fischer posted in the 1956 tournament where he played what came to be known as the “Game of the Century.” I — almost — wrote that “Fischer’s performance was so shaky that he even lost to somebody named ‘Eliot Hearst.’ “
Just before hitting “Send,” I figured I probably ought to Google the guy, just in case.
Turns out Hearst, who died just a year ago, was a fine chess player, columnist, author, organizer and administrator, not to mention an Army veteran and an eminent psychologist who wrote a pioneering study on blindfold chess.
He may have been a cut below Fischer, Reshevsky, Lombardy and other postwar U.S. stars, but before leaving for a career in academia, Hearst managed to earn a life master title, was a New York state and Marshall Chess Club champ, qualified for two U.S. championships, and was a member of the storied U.S. 1960 squad that defeated the Boris Spassky-led Soviet team to win the World Student Team championship. Hearst also wrote a popular column for Chess Life, worked for the U.S. Chess Federation and captained a number of international teams, including the 1962 U.S. Olympiad team with Fischer on first board.
Long story short, we nearly did supremely accomplished Hearst a profound injustice, and to make up for it offer this belated appreciation.
In the 1953 U.S. Open against master Robert Sobel (another New York-born, future academic star, by coincidence), Black used a nice tactical trick to pick off his opponent’s loose rook. White position is already loose after 24. Nd5 Bb8, when Hearst threatens 25…Nf2+ 26. Kg1 Nxe4! 27. Qxe4 Rxd5, and things come to a head just a few moves later.
Thus: 27. Rd1 Nxd5 28. exd5?! (tougher was 28. Rxd5, though Black has the edge on 29…Rxd5 29. exd5 Qd7 30. Ra1 [g4? e4 31. Ne1 e3 32. Nf3 Qd6 33. Kg2 Bb8 is very powerful] e4 31. Nd2 e3 32. Nf3 Qxf5) Qd7 29. f6 e4 30. Ng5 h6! (setting the trap) 31. Nxe4 Rxe4 32. Qxe4 c4+, and White’s problem rook on a4 falls. Sobel’s desperate mating attack is easily turned back, and by 39. Re8+ Kh7 40. Re7 Bg3, it is Black who has the unstoppable mate; White resigned.
Hearst may have used some of his budding psychology smarts on master Elias van Sweden in their 1956 U.S. Open in Long Beach, California, since Black concedes in just 24 moves without a single piece coming off the board. We pick it up from today’s diagram in this King’s Indian Attack, where Black has just played 19…g5-g4, with unmistakable ill intentions on the White king.
Van Sweden fails to appreciate the danger with 20. Qb3?! (a wasted move; White has to get his queenside counterplay going with 20. Qc3 Ne6 21. d5 Ng5 22. Qa5 Nf3+ 23. Kh1 Nxe1 24. Rxe1 Bc8 25. Qxc7) Nf7 21. Rac1? (really drifting now…) Ng5 22. Re2 Nf3+ 23. Kh1 (Bxf3 gxf3 24. Ree1 Qh3 and wins) Rg5! 24. c5+ d5, and White resigns(!), apparently convinced a sacrificial attack on the h-file is unstoppable.
It’s not pleasant, but White could fight on with 25. h4 Nxh4!? (gxh3 26. Bxf3 Rg7 27. Nh2 c6 28. Kg1 exf3 29. Nhxf3) 26. gxh4 Qxh4+ (or 26…Rh5) and Black has a raging attack but no forced win.
Sobel-Hearst, 54th U.S. Open, Milwaukee, August 1953
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. f4 e5 7. Nf3 Qc7 8. Be2 Be6 9. O-O Nbd7 10. a4 Rc8 11. f5 Bc4 12. a5 Be7 13. Kh1 O-O 14. Bg5 Rfe8 15. Bxc4 Qxc4 16. Ra4 Qc5 17. Qd2 Bd8 18. Be3 Qc6 19. Rd1 Bc7 20. Qd3 Nc5 21. Bxc5 dxc5 22. Qc4 Ng4 23. Re1 Rcd8 24. Nd5 Bb8 25. Kg1 Ba7 26. h3 Nf6 27. Rd1 Nxd5 28. exd5 Qd7 29. f6 e4 30. Ng5 h6 31. Nxe4 Rxe4 32. Qxe4 c4+ 33. Kh1 Qxa4 34. Qg4 g6 35. Qh4 Qxc2 36. Re1 Qf2 37. Qxf2 Bxf2 38. Re7 Rxd5 39. Re8+ Kh7 40. Re7 Bg3 White resigned.
• David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email email@example.com.