Monday, 29 December 2014

Georges Koltanowski

Georges Koltanowski was a Belgian (later American) chess player who was one of the top European players in the 1930s.

He was a regular in the top tournaments and had many big-name scalps. Below is a game from the 1936/37 Hastings tournament where he drew with (and probably should have beaten) the eventual winner, former (and future) world champion, Alexander Alekhine.

So why is there a game from Georges Koltanowski on a website about Colchester Chess Club?

While Koltanowski (often called Kolty) was a very strong player, he was most famous for his incredible feats of blindfold chess. Georges Koltanowski set a world record on 20th September 1937, in a 34-game simultaneous match in Edinburgh, when playing blindfolded he won 24 games and lost 10, over a period of 13 hours. This remained the world record until November 2011. He also set another blindfold record in 1960 when be played 56 consecutive blindfolded 10-second per move games - winning 50 of them.

As part of a tour of the UK, Kolty visited Colchester Chess Club On the 24th March 1937 and gave a blindfold simultaneous display. He played 6 games - winning five (against Dr L S Penrose, Dr R C Turnbull, Councillor A H Cross, Mr R Garside and Mr E Dowsett) and drawing one (against Mr B Grey). After the simultaneous display he gave a short lecture containing anecdotes about his career and chess problems. The write-up about the event mentions that he showed himself to be an expert in the Colle system - he later wrote a book about this opening which he often used against amateur opponents (but rarely against strong players).

Kolty returned to give a second blindfold simultaneous display at Colchester Chess Club on the 29th January 1938. This time he played eight games - seven wins (against Cross, Turnbull, Stanley & Grey, Penrose & Krumpach, Hucklesby, Simmons, Garside & Sainsbury) and one loss (Rossiter & Spurge - playing together). After the simultaneous match he gave a short lecture about the Colle system - perhaps a specific request following his previous visit.

The signed picture of Kolty, above, was dedicated to Lionel Penrose (the match secretary at the club at that time).

Many of Kolty's relatives died in the holocaust, but Kolty survived as at the start of the 2nd World War he was touring South America. The American consul in Havana saw him giving a chess exhibition and decided to give him a US visa. He stayed in America where he wrote over 19,000 chess columns for the San Francisco Chronicle over a period of 52 years, he also became president of the United States Chess Federation. Unusually for a non-world class player, he made his living from chess - giving exhibitions and writing numerous books. He died in 2000 aged 96.

Further details about Kolty's visits to Colchester can be found in the scanned historical archives on the About the Club page.


[Event "Hastings 3637"] [Site "Hastings"] [Date "1936.??.??"] [Round "9"] [White "Koltanowski, George"] [Black "Alekhine, Alexander"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A48"] [Annotator "Barnes, Nathan"] [PlyCount "88"] [EventDate "1936.12.??"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "ENG"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1999.07.01"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 b6 3. e3 Bb7 4. Nbd2 c5 5. c3 g6 6. Bd3 Bg7 7. e4 d6 8. O-O O-O 9. Qe2 cxd4 10. cxd4 {A better choice than Nxd4 as it maintains a strong presence in the centre.} Nc6 11. a3 Nd7 {The discovered attack from the g7 bishop threatens to win the d4 pawn.} 12. Nb3 a5 13. a4 {Preventing Black from playing a4 to push the knight away so that he can win the pawn on d4. The simple 13.Be3 was a bit better though.} Nb4 {the disadvantage of playing a4 - the Black knight occupies the hole on b4.} 14. Bb5 Nf6 15. d5 e6 {trying to reopen the a8-h1 diagonal} 16. dxe6 Nxe4 $2 (16... fxe6 17. Ng5 (17. Bg5 $2 { loses a pawn} Bxe4) 17... Qe7 18. Nd4 e5 $1 {and Black is okay} (18... Bc8 $2 { loses material} 19. Bc4)) 17. Ng5 $1 {neither the pawn on e6 or the knight on g5 can be safely captured} Bd5 (17... fxe6 $2 18. Nxe4 {wins a piece}) (17... Nxg5 $4 18. e7 {forking the queen and rook}) 18. exf7+ Kh8 {forced} (18... Bxf7 $2 {loses a piece} 19. Nxf7 Rxf7 20. Qxe4) (18... Rxf7 19. Nxf7 Bxf7 (19... Kxf7 {is about the same}) 20. Qxe4 Bxb3 {and Black has not got sufficient compensation for the exchange}) 19. Nxe4 Bxb3 20. Bg5 {developing with tempo} Qc7 21. Rac1 Qxf7 22. Nxd6 {White has come out a pawn up} Qe6 23. Qxe6 Bxe6 24. Bc4 Bxc4 25. Nxc4 Nd3 26. Rc2 (26. Nxb6 $2 Nxc1 27. Bxc1 {and Black is slightly better} (27. Nxa8 $2 Ne2+ $1 {Moving with check - meaning White gains a winning material advantage} 28. Kh1 Rxa8)) 26... Rac8 27. b3 {Necessary, otherwise Black wins back the material} (27. -- Nxb2 28. Rfc1 (28. Rxb2 Rxc4 29. Ra2) 28... Nxa4) 27... Rf5 28. Be3 b5 29. axb5 Rxb5 30. Rd2 Rxb3 31. Nxa5 Ra3 32. Rfd1 Rcc3 33. Nc4 Rxc4 34. Rxd3 Rxd3 35. Rxd3 h6 36. g3 { preventing any back-rank mates} Kh7 37. h4 h5 38. Kg2 Rc7 39. Ra3 Kg8 40. Ra7 Rxa7 41. Bxa7 Kf7 42. Kf3 Ke6 43. Ke4 Bh6 44. f3 Bf8 {White has an extra pawn but will not be able to force a win} 1/2-1/2

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