Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A New Opening?

Jerome Gambit Gemeinde member, chess opening maven and book author Bill Wall sent me a copy of the September 1958 issue of the Precita Valley Chess Herald ("A Monthly Chess News Bulletin Published by the Precita Valley Chess Club Representing The San Francisco Bay Area Chess League") which had an interesting article. 
A New Opening?
During the U.S. Open at Rochester, Minnesota, there was a small tourney taking place on the side. In it was one man named John Ishkan, who, during one round as White, played 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ After White's fifth move his opponent went up to George Koltanowski and asked, "What opening is this?". Kolty said that he did not know but that he would feed the moves to the IBM machine and find out. A little later the player of the Black pieces asked George, "Did the machine have the answer?" "Yes," was the reply, "It's the ASHCAN OPENING!" -- To complete the story, by the way, Ishkan won the game!

A few comments:

The July 1958 cover story of Chess Review was on "A Chess Playing Program for the I.B.M. 704" by Alex Bernstein. This is likely the "IBM machine" that George Koltanowski was joking about consulting with.

I was surprised that Kolty was unfamiliar with the Jerome Gambit, but there was little written about it in the 1950s (I can think only of L. Elliott Fletcher's 1954 Gambit's Accepted that had a game and analysis), certainly nothing in the recently released (1957) Modern Chess Openings, 9th Edition.

My files show a Koltanowski game from a 1953 blindfold simultaneous display in Brussels, which, while a Philidor Defense, has abit of a Jerome touch to it:

Koltanowski,G - NN
blind simul Brussels, 1953

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nd7 4.Bc4 h6 5.dxe5 dxe5 6.Bxf7+ Kxf7 7.Nxe5+ Kf6 8.Qd5 Ne7 9.Qf7+ Kxe5 10.Bf4+ Kd4 11.Na3 b5 12.Qe6 Kc5 13.Be3+ Kb4 14.Qb3+ Ka5 15.Qxb5 checkmate

It is interesting to note that the same opening line appeared in a game between Alexandra Kosteniuk and Almira Skripchenko (both rated 2400+ at the time) over 50 years later, only this time it was drawn.

Kosteniuk,A - Skripchenko,A
PWPW S.A Chess Cup, Warsaw, POL (7), 20.06.2004

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nd7 4.Bc4 h6 5.dxe5 dxe5 6.Bxf7+ Kxf7 7.Nxe5+ Kf6 8.Qd4 c5 9.Nxd7+ Ke7 10.Qxc5+ Kxd7 11.Qb5+ Ke7 12.Nc3 Kf7 13.Be3 Nf6 14.e5 Ng4 15.0-0 Qh4 16.h3 Nxe3 17.fxe3+ Kg8 18.Qb3+ Kh7 19.Nd5 Qg5 20.Rf7 Bxh3 21.Qd3+ Kg8 22.Nf4 Kxf7 23.Nxh3 Qxe5 24.Rf1+ Kg8 25.Qc4+ Kh7 26.Qd3+ Kg8 27.Qc4+ Kh7 28.Qd3+ Kg8 29.Qc4+ drawn

(By the way, you might want to check out Bill's new chess magazine White Knight.)

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