Monday, August 1, 2011

The Dayton Chess Club Championship: Still Going Strong After Five Decades

This article was originally published in the January/February 2008 issue of the Ohio Chess Connection. I have not changed or updated the text of the article; the accompanying chart was prepared at the time the article was published but it did not appear in print at that time and I have now updated it to include the names of the 2008-2011 champions.

The quest began the first time that I saw the trophy. Each winner of the Dayton (Ohio) Chess Club Championship has his name engraved on metal plates that are mounted on a trophy that dates back to 1959, a lengthy and impressive chess legacy for a mid-sized (and shrinking) Midwest city. When the original trophy had no room for any more names it was attached to a larger base, an addition that took place a few years prior to when I joined the club in 1986. Being both a competitor and a history buff, the first thing that I did after seeing this double-decker trophy was to look at all of the names and count up who had won the championship the most times: Richard Ling, who captured five DCC titles between 1961 and 1973, including three straight from 1965-67. I was one of the weakest players in the club but when I looked at that trophy all I could think about was becoming strong enough to make a run at Ling’s impressive record. This spring I accomplished that goal by winning my sixth DCC title, scoring 5.5/6 against a field that included four other former DCC champions plus two juniors who rank among the top 50 in the country in their respective age groups (Michael Vilenchuk, currently the sixth rated 13 year old at 2038, and Aswath Bommannan, the 33rd rated 10 year old at 1595).

During his final NBA season, Hall of Famer Julius Erving told Tom Callahan, “I've borrowed from every player I've ever seen, from the little guard with the two-hand set shot to the big center with the slam dunk to the forward defending the passing lanes like a free safety.” Similarly, I have borrowed from many of the players who I encountered in my early years at the Dayton Chess Club. For instance, I’ve always despised draws but I used to be downright reckless in my attempts to turn every game into a win, which generally resulted in a decisive result--albeit not always the one that I wanted! I’ll never forget what DCC veteran Robert “Bud” Lytle said after I showed him one of my games in which I disdained a draw and made a wild attempt to win—which resulted in a loss. He shook his head in disgust and declared, “Man, a draw is a half win.” His comment did not completely curb my overly aggressive instincts but it provided a different perspective for me to consider. On another occasion, when I was struggling a bit with my white repertoire, Lytle suggested that I try the King's Indian Attack, which eventually became my main weapon with the white pieces for several years.

Lytle’s name is not on the trophy but I later learned that he came very close to achieving that honor; Ling claimed his final DCC title by beating Lytle in a playoff match after they tied for first place in the tournament. Here is the decisive game from that match (all game scores in this article except for the final one were originally published in various issues of the DCC Review):

Robert "Bud" Lytle - Richard Ling [A54]
1973 DCC Championship Playoff
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nf3 d6 4.Nc3 e5 (The Kevitz-Trajkovic Defense, a favorite of Ling's) 5.e3 a6 6.h3 h6 7.Bd3 Be7 8.d5 Nb8 9.0-0 Nbd7 10.a3 a5 11.e4 Nc5 12.Bc2 0-0 13.Be3 b6 14.Nd2 g5 15.h4!? (This unnecessarily weakens White’s K-side) Ng4 16.Bxc5 bxc5 17.hxg5 hxg5 18.Ne2 Kg7 19.Ng3 Rh8 20.Nf5+?? (After the game, Tony Mantia suggested 20.Nb3=) 20...Bxf5 21.exf5 Rh1+ 0-1
Ling, who was the Ohio co-champion in 1962, was still a very active member of the DCC when I joined. He was known for three things: 1) A remarkable ability to rattle off moves quickly during severe time pressure; 2) an uncanny knack for saving bad positions (often while rattling off moves quickly during severe time pressure); 3) being a gentleman at all times.

I very much enjoyed competing against Ling and then analyzing with him after the games. He never once acted like my questions were stupid or bothersome. At first I was no match for him but eventually I was able to give him a decent game; inevitably, he would get into time pressure, I would move too fast and he would win. As this game from a 1980 simul in Dayton shows, Ling could grasp victory from the jaws of defeat even against a world class opponent:

GM Larry Christiansen - Richard Ling [B29]
1980 Dayton, Ohio Simul
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e5 Nd5 4.Nc3 Nxc3 5.dxc3 Qc7 6.Bf4 Nc6 7.Bd3 e6 8.Qe2 d5 9.exd6 Bxd6 10.Bxd6 Qxd6 11.0-0-0 Bd7 12.Kb1 Qe7 13.Be4 0-0-0 14.Rd2 Be8 15.Rxd8+ Qxd8 16.Rd1 Qe7 17.b3 Bd7 18.Qb5 Nd8 19.Rxd7 (A nice shot that rips open the position around Black’s K) Qxd7 20.Qxc5+ Qc7 21.Qxa7 Qxc3? (Black should have prevented White’s 22nd move by playing 21...f5 22. Qa8+ Kd7) 22.Bxb7+ Kd7 23.Ba6+ Kd6 24.Bb5 Nc6 25.Bxc6 Kxc6 26.Nd4+ Kd5 27.Qd7+ Kc5 28.Nxe6+!? (White should have played 28. Nf3 and picked off more Ps while Black tries to coordinate his pieces and find shelter for his K) Kb6? (Black should accept the piece by playing 28...fxe6 because he can get a perp if White tries to win the Q or R: 29.Qc7+ Kd4 30.Qxg7+ e5 31. Qxh8 Qe1+) 29.Qd6+ Ka7 30.Nc5 Qa5 31.Qd7+ Kb6 32.Na4+ Ka6 33.Qc6+ Ka7 34.Nc3 Rb8 35.a4 Rd8 36.Kb2 Qe5 37.f4 Qxf4 38.Nb5+ Kb8 39.Ka3 Qe5? (Black should have played 39…Rd1 40. Qb6+ Kc8 41.Qc5+ Kd7) 40.c3? (White could win by playing 41.Qb6+ Kc8 42.Na7+ Kd7 43.Qxd8+! followed by a deadly N fork at c6) f5? (Black should sidestep the aforementioned threat by playing 40…Qe7+) 41.a5? (White again overlooks the winning combination) 41...Rd5 42.Qb6+ Kc8 43.Na7+ Kd7 44.Qc6+ Ke7 45.a6? (White should have played 45.b4, which prevents Black’s next move) Rc5 (Black’s K will now journey to safety while his Q and R conduct a decisive attack) 46.Qb7+ Kf6 47.Qb6+ Kg5 48.Qd8+ Kh5 49.Qd1+ Kg6 50.g4 Ra5+ 51.Kb2 Qxh2+ 52.Kb1 Qa2+ 53.Kc1 Qa1+ (Black wins the Q after 54.Kc2 Ra2+; Fritz helpfully points out that those moves also initiate a mate in nine sequence) 0-1
Ling never talked about why he always got into time pressure or how he so frequently managed to completely outplay his opponents once he got there. Several players frankly told me that the likelihood of ever running Ling out of time was very remote—and this was before the days of Chronos clocks and five second time delay. If you have a good position, don’t even look at the clock, they implored; play the best move that you can find and let him worry about your move and his dwindling time. Of course, they were right but this kind of advice falls into the “easier said than done” category, particularly for a young player who tended to play too fast anyway.

Eventually, I earned my first victory against Ling, surviving his attempted time pressure heroics. We all know that some players deal with defeat—particularly to a lower rated player—better than others but Ling, true to form, was a gentleman. He congratulated me and we analyzed the game together, just like we had on all the previous occasions when he had beaten me. Sadly, on December 11, 1989, he and his wife were killed in a car accident. The DCC Championship trophy was renamed the Richard Ling Memorial Trophy in his honor.

A few years after Ling passed away, Dale Burk joined him as a five-time DCC champion. Burk loved gambits and active piece play and if you were not careful he would blow you right off of the board. He lived in Great Britain for a period of time during the 1970s. Here are a couple typical Burk efforts from that period:

Dale Burk - M. Marshall [B21]
Norfolk Chess League
1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.Nf3 e5 4.c3 dxc3 5.Nxc3 Bb4 6.Bc4 Qc7? (Black should play 6…Qe7) 7.Bxf7+ Kxf7 8.Qb3+ Ke8 9.Qxb4 Nc6 10.Qc4 Nf6 11.0-0 a6 12.Nd5 Qd8 13.Be3 Nxd5 14.exd5 Na5 15.Qe4 b5 16.Qxe5+ Qe7 17.Qc7 Nc4 18.Rfe1 Kf7 19.Ng5+ Kg8 20.h4 Qf8 21.b3 h6 22.bxc4 hxg5 23.Bxg5 bxc4 ("His development is something less than optimum," Burk wryly commented in his annotations) 24.Re7 d6 25.Rae1 Bf5 26.Qxc4 Kh7 27.g3 Rc8 28.Qb4 Bd3 29.Qxd6 Rc2 (Black is of course completely lost but this allows an immediate mate)30.Qh6+ Kg8 31.Rxg7+ Qxg7 32.Re8+ Kf7 33.Qe6# 1-0
Dale Burk - K. Short [B21]
1974 Thetford CC Championship
1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3 e6 5.Nf3 Bb4 6.Bd2 Nc6 7.Bc4 Nf6 8.Qe2 Qb6 9.0-0 Na5 10.e5 Nd5 11.Bxd5 Bxc3 12.Bxc3 exd5 13.Qd2 Nc4 14.Qxd5 Qc7 15.Rac1 Nb6 16.Qe4 Qd8 17.Bb4 Na4 18.Bd6 Nb6 19.Nd4 Qg5 20.Nb5 1-0
By the time I joined the DCC, Burk was battling diabetes and other health problems. Sometimes these ailments would prevent him from playing for a while but he would inevitably reappear and often, despite his weakened state, he would perform quite well—but, win or lose, he was always smiling, always quick with a joke and always upbeat. I did not get to interact with him as much as I did with Ling but I found his positive attitude and fighting spirit very inspirational and I certainly learned something new every time I had a chance to play against him or analyze with him.

Burk matched Ling’s record in remarkable fashion, finishing in a three way tie for the 1992 DCC title with an undefeated 4.5/6 score despite being in failing health (I scored 4/6 that year, tying for 4th-5th place and for first place U2000, my best performance yet in the DCC Championship). Burk gained 53 rating points in what turned out to be his DCC swan song; he passed away shortly after this tournament.

It is impossible to mention Ling, Burk and the Dayton Chess Club without also saying something about Tony Mantia, who shared the 1992 championship with Burk, one of Mantia’s four DCC titles. Mantia and Burk were extremely close friends, while the elder Ling served as a mentor figure, particularly for Mantia. Earle Wikle once referred to this trio as the “generals” of Dayton chess and that is a very apt description, because they were fixtures on the local chess scene from the 1960s until the early 1990s. Mantia has a very diverse opening repertoire, the product of his legendarily large personal library of chess books. Many of my early games against him were decided in his favor by clever opening transpositions; somehow, we always seemed to end up in the lines that he wanted to play and he was always a tempo or two ahead of where he was supposed to be. Those experiences sharpened my game immensely.

Mantia is an accomplished correspondence player and, like Burk, a lover of word play; any post-mortem with Burk or Mantia was sure to include numerous puns. Here is a crisp correspondence victory by Mantia:

Isidore Rothman - Tony Mantia [C06]
Golden Knights Semi-Finals 1976
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ne2 cxd4 8.cxd4 f6 9.Nf4 Nxd4!? (A risky decision. Safer is 9…Qe7) 10.Qh5+ Ke7 11.Ng6+ hxg6 12.exf6+ Nxf6 13.Qxh8 Kf7 14.0-0 e5 15.Nf3 Nxf3+ 16.gxf3 Nh5 17.Qh7 (White should have played 17.Be3 followed by Rac1) Qf6 (White’s Q is completely entombed and his K is in danger) 18.h4? (In boxing terms, White is leading with his face. He should have played 18.Re1) e4 (This nice interference move stops White’s threat at g6 and begins a winning attack) 19.Re1 exd3 20.Bg5 Qxf3 21.Rac1 Qg4+ 22.Kf1 Ng3+ 23.fxg3 Qf3+ 24.Kg1 Qxg3+ 25.Kh1 Qf3+ 26.Kg1 Bc5+ 27.Rxc5 Qg3+ 28.Kh1 Qxe1+ 29.Kg2 Bh3+ 0-1
I won my first DCC title in 1997 and followed that up with victories in 1999, 2000 and 2002. In 2004, Wikle, John Dowling and I shared the title, enabling Wikle and I to join Ling and Burk as five-time champions. Twenty years earlier, Wikle was the first expert level player I had ever met; he and Dr. Harold Wright ran an after school chess club that provided my first serious chess instruction. They would show us some tactics or endgames and then we would practice against them or each other. I relished the chance to compete against a strong player like Wikle. I took a lot of poundings from him but that just showed me what I had to do to improve. Seeing my enthusiasm for the game, Wikle told me about the Dayton Chess Club and set me on the path which led to me becoming a USCF member. We have had many interesting tournament games, including several in various DCC Championships. It was only fitting that in order to win my sixth title I had to face him. We each had 2.5 points going in to our fourth round battle.

David Friedman - Earle Wikle [C00]
DCC Championship 3/30/07
1.e4 e6 2.d3 d5 3.Qe2 (Transposing to the King's Indian Attack, Fischer's preferred weapon against the French Defense) 3...Be7 4.g3 c5 5.Bg2 Nc6 6.c3 d4 7.f4 Qc7 8.Nf3 e5 9.0-0 Bd6!? (9...Bg4=) 10.Na3 Bg4 11.h3 Bxf3 12.Qxf3 Nge7 13.Nb5 Qd7 14.cxd4 cxd4 15.Nxd6+ Qxd6 16.Bd2 0-0 17.f5 f6 18.g4 Nd8 19.Rac1 Nf7 20.h4 h6 21.Qg3 Rfc8 22.g5 hxg5 23.hxg5 Nxg5 24.Bxg5 fxg5 25.Qxg5 Qf6 26.Qg3 Rc6 27.Rxc6 bxc6 28.Bf3 Rb8 29.Rf2 Rb5 30.Bd1 Rc5 31.Bb3+ Kf8 32.Rh2 (Stronger is 32.Bc4 a5 [32...Rxc4 33.dxc4 c5 34.Rg2 Kf7 35.Qh3 Ke8 36.a3+-] 33.Qh3 Ng8 34.Rg2 Qh6 35.Qxh6 Nxh6 36.f6 gxf6 37.Rg6 Rxc4 38.dxc4 Ng8 39.Kf2 Kf7 40.Rg3 Nh6 41.Ra3 Ke6 42.Rxa5+-) 32...g6 33.Rh7 Rc1+ (33...gxf5 34.Rf7+ Qxf7 35.Bxf7 Kxf7 36.b4 Rc1+ 37.Kf2 Rc2+ 38.Ke1 f4 39.Qg5 Ke6 40.Qh6+ Kf7 41.Qd6 Ng6 42.Qd7+ Kf6 43.Qxa7±) 34.Kg2 Nd5!? (34...gxf5 35.Rf7+ Qxf7 36.Bxf7 Rc2+ 37.Kf3 fxe4+ 38.dxe4 Kxf7 39.Qxe5 Rxb2 40.Qxd4 Rb7 41.Qd6+-) 35.exd5 Qxf5 36.Qf2 (36.Qf3?? Rg1+ 37.Kxg1 Qxf3 38.dxc6 Qxc6-+) 36...cxd5 37.Bxd5 Ke8 38.Qxf5 gxf5 39.Rxa7 Rc2+ 40.Kf3 Rxb2 41.a4 (This wins but simpler is 41.Be6 f4 42.Ra5 Ke7 43.Rxe5 Kd6 44.Re4 Rh2 45.Bc4+-) 41...e4+ 42.dxe4 d3 43.Bc6+ (43.exf5 d2 44.Ke2 also wins) 43...Kf8 44.Rd7 fxe4+ 45.Kxe4 1-0
After this victory, I defeated two-time champion Dowling in round five before clinching the title with a win over the talented junior Bommannan in the last round; my lone draw came in round three versus Vilenchuk. I am proud to have my name listed on the Richard Ling Memorial Trophy alongside Richard Ling, Dale Burk, Tony Mantia, Earle Wikle, John Dowling and many other fine champions; more than that, my chess career has been enriched immensely because I have had the opportunity to compete against and analyze with them.

DCC Champions, 1959-2011

1959 J. Fink
Most Wins: 8 (Friedman)
1960 H. Fleat

6 (Wikle)

1961 R. Ling

5 (Ling, Burk)
1962 V. Zukaitis

4 (Wolford, Mantia)
1963 D. Wolford

1964 D. Wolford

1965 R. Ling

1966 R. Ling

1967 R. Ling

1968 R. Buchanan

1969 D. Wolford

1970 V. Burk

1971 C. Unruh

1972 D. Wolford

1973 R. Ling

1974 B. Espedal

1975 A. Casden

1976 A. Mantia

1977 A. Mantia

1978 V. Burk

1979 D. Guehl

1980 D. Guehl

1981 B. Beard

1982 V. Burk

1983 V. Burk

1984 J. Jordan

1985 G. Vitko

1986 A. Hood

J. Jordan

E. Wikle

1987 D. Blossom

1988 T. Chou

1989 A. Miravete

1990 R. Springer

1991 M. Chiminiello

1992 V. Burk

A. Mantia

J. Langreck

1993 J. Vehre

1994 A. Mantia

1995 F. Titus

1996 C. Atkins

1997 D. Friedman

1998 M. Fowler

1999 D. Friedman

2000 D. Friedman

2001 E. Wikle

2002 D. Friedman

E. Wikle

2003 C. Atkins

E. Wikle

2004 E. Wikle

D. Friedman

J. Dowling

2005 R. Sprague

M. Kalafatas

J. Dowling

B. Coraretti

2006 R. Sprague

2007 D. Friedman

2008 E. Wikle


J. Dowling

2009 D. Friedman

2010 A. Goldin

2011 D. Friedman

Notes: Dale Burk's given name was Vernon, so that is why
he is listed as "V. Burk" on the trophy; Chiminiello (1991)
changed his surname to Kalafatas (2005).

No comments: