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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 24, 2011

Albany thematic tournament won by visitor from Troy

By Peter Henner

The Albany Chess Club held its first thematic tournament on Wednesday, Feb. 16. Former State Quick Chess Champion Phil Thomas from Troy won the tournament, with a perfect score of 4-0.

Thomas and fellow Troy player, Elihu Hill, joined 12 members of the Albany Chess Club in the 14-player tournament. John Leisner, treasurer of the Albany Chess Club and organizer of the tournament, placed second with a score of 3½-½, drawing only to top-rated player, Dean Howard.

Four players tied for third: Bill Little, Tim Wright, Art Alowitz, and Howard with 2½-1½. Wright won a playoff with Howard for third place. Alowitz was awarded first prize for the highest score of the seven lower-rated players, and Glen Perry, with 2-2, won second prize for the lower rated players.

Players were required to play the Kings Gambit Accepted, with each player playing two games with Black and two games with White, and having 15 minutes for the entire game.  The idea of thematic tournaments, where players are required to play a specific opening, is not new, but this is the first such tournament in the Capital District for several years.

Revival of Albany club

The Albany Chess Club, which was somewhat moribund for several years, has now made a full recovery.

The Club does not have the resources of the Schenectady Chess Club, which has benefited from a longtime relationship with the Niskayuna Community Center and, like the Saratoga Staunton Club, has hosted a club championship with between 10 and 20 players for a number of years. Nevertheless, the Albany Club, under the leadership of President Tim Wright and Treasurer John Leisner, has sponsored a club championship with 12 players, has had a regular meeting place since last spring, and has demonstrated that it can successfully host chess events.

The club is also sponsoring two of the eight teams in the Capital District Chess League. 

Schenectady update

The Schenectady Club hosts two tournaments after the preliminary sections, a championship section for the winners of the preliminary sections, and a consolation Swiss tournament.

The surprise in the championship section has been the play of Dilip Aaron, who qualified because of the withdrawal of Richard Moody. Aaron’s rating has gone up by 100 points, to 1618, in the last two months. He followed his upset win against Bill Little with an upset draw with Alan LeCours, both long-time Class A players and sometime Experts.

In another game in the championship section, two-time defending Champion Phil Sells drew John Phillips. In the consolation Swiss tournament, two players, David Finnerman and Michael Kline, jumped out in front with scores of 2-0 in the eight-player tournament.

Long-time player retires from tournament competition

Bill Little, who writes the excellent chess blog for the Eastern New York Chess Association, announced that he is going to be retiring from active competition, but he will continue his blog and will continue to be an active participant in the Capital District chess scene. Little is the only Capital District player who played in all three of the area championships this year, although his results were not up to his usual standards. As part of his retirement, he withdrew from the finals of the Schenectady Championship.

It is an unfortunate reality that chess players, like participants in other competitive sports, have difficulty competing at the same level as they get older.  Bill noted that his performance in games deteriorated after several hours of play, and that he had lost several games to weaker players after playing reasonably well for most of the game.  Having watched the ends of two of his games in the Albany Championship, I believe that his assessment of his late game play is accurate, but he will be missed.  Bill is a great competitor, a true gentleman and a worthy chess scholar.

Today’s problem

Today, it is common to have several tournaments per year with the strongest players in the world. A hundred years ago, such tournaments were rare, and the major ones are still remembered fondly, and described only by their year and city.

“New York 1924” was the major international tournament of the 1920s, won by former World Champion Emanuel Lasker, ahead of Champion Capablanca, and future Champion Alekhine.

This problem is the finale of the game that won the First Brilliancy Prize.

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