Tuesday, June 4

Chess in Chicago: A double chessboard tragedy

Our readers may well remember the name of Elmer W. Gruer, the native Californian and first-class chessplayer currently engaged in advanced work in chemistry at the University of Chicago.  We present, thanks to The San Francisco Call, another game by Mr. Gruer, who unlike so many players of our acquaintance seems unhesitant to submit his losing efforts to public scrutiny if their inherent artistic or didactic value warrants their appearance in print.  We find this openness and modesty refreshingly commendable, and wish that more devotees of our game would follow Mr. Gruer's fine example.

The game below, from the ongoing Championship tourney of the Chicago Chess Club, merits attention for several reasons.  To begin with, Mr. Gruer, playing Black against current Illinois State Champion Charles W. Phillips, conducts the first 66 moves of the contest in absolutely splendid fashion.  We urge the reader not to overlook this phase of the game.  Our friends at the Call term the young Californian's play "worthy of a Lasker," extremely high praise that nevertheless, to our mind, seems quite justified in this instance.  But in truth the story only begins at that point, and what follows is a double tragedy.  

The position after Black's 66...Rxc3 is diagrammed below.  Mr. Gruer, by virtue of masterful maneuvers, enjoyed a completely winning position and had just pocketed a second White pawn.  The first player was reduced to desperate measures, which he immediately undertook via 67.Rxe6!?

And here the first tragedy struck.  Black replied 67...Qb4?  (a "temporary aberration," as Gruer put it), and the work of hours was undone in a moment.  Black could well have captured the Rook with 67...Bxe6!, to meet 68.Qxe6 with 68...Rc7 69.Nf3 Qc1! 70.Ng5+ Kh6, when 71.Nf7+ is refuted by 71...Rxf7 72.Qxf7 Qh1 mate.  Mr. Gruer's 67...Qb4? allowed his opponent to turn the tables with 68.Re7+, and after 68....Kg8 69.Qe5 Bf7 70.Qf6, Black resigned.  Chess can be a cruel game, and even in a winning position a player must never allow his attention to waver - advice admittedly far easier to give from the quiet of one's study than to follow after prolonged mental labor at the board.


There we had originally thought to bring this entry to an end, were it not for a chance visit to our offices by Herr Fritz, who dropped by to discuss an unrelated matter, and to whom we demonstrated the above game.  Our sharp-eyed visitor considered for a few seconds the position after 68.Re7+ and then essayed not 68...Kg8, as played by Mr. Gruer, but rather 68...Kh6.  We had deemed this move impossible owing to the deadly 69.Qe5, which reply we put on the board, only to be stunned by Herr Fritz's counter 69...Qxe7! 70.Qxe7 Rc1, when suddenly White's King is threatened with mate, and the first player must content himself with giving perpetual check, as even the thrust 71.g4 does not alter matters, e.g. 71...hxg4+ 72.Kg3 Rc3+ 73.Kf2 g3+ 74.Ke2 g2 75.Kf2 Rc1, when again White's only recourse is perpetual check.  We reprint the game below, with added notes to reflect Herr Fritz's discovery.  


This, then, was Mr. Gruer's second tragedy, of which we suspect he remains unaware: his 67...Qb4? ought to have cost him only half a point; it was 68...Kg8? that in fact cost the game.  Winning this contest, we are told, would have given Mr. Gruer the Chicago Chess Club Championship, while drawing it would have left him every hope of overall success.  Losing it virtually ensures that Mr. Phillips will claim the title.  While of course congratulating the winner, we cannot help but express our sympathy for the loser, whose character, we are happy to say, seems sturdy enough to withstand these blows of fate: having been promised a splendid feast upon his return to California in the event that he captured the Chicago Championship, Mr. Gruer closed his account of the above game with the laconic, "Goodbye, eats."  Such a man is a credit to our world of chess. 

No comments: