A Game … and a Mystery

Back in 1993, when correspondence chess was played on postcards, Alina Markowski (a well-practiced organizer) set up a correspondence team to compete in the Correspondence Chess League of America (CCLA) team championship.

The team was known as the Kalifornia Kings. Jeff Arnold (an extremely likeable young man) took first board. I took second board, and the team finished third (if my memory is correct).

Jeff was not only a Master in correspondence chess, but also one in OTB.

This is perhaps his most famous game. Unfortunately, there is a little confusion about the exact date and location. NM Jerry Hanken suggests it was played in the Southern California Open, which means the game must have been played in Los Angeles in September of that year. Mr. Hanken has since passed away.

The account given in the Chess Correspondent (the magazine of the CCLA) of the same year (1997) claims the game was played at a North County Open, which would put that game in Oceanside, California. Personally I think the game was probably played in Oceanside, but I don’t know.

Does any reader know the details of the game? Please share your insights here.

Thank you!

And now the game (hold on to your seatbelts – it’s quite a ride! 🙂

NM Jeff Arnold-Harish (1975)
California, 1993
[Jerry Hanken, Rank and File, March/Apr. 1997 (JH) ; The Chess Correspondent, 1997 (CC)]
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 O-O 8.a4 Bb7 9.d3 d6 10.Nc3 b4 11.Ne2 Nb8 (11…Na5 12.Ba2 would return to the more usual continuations in this variation. – CC) 12.Ng3 (Considering the problems Black is likely to face before he can get his bishop to g7, namely a knight settling on g5, he probably would have done better to regroup with 12…Nfd7 only playing …g6 after his bishop was sitting on f6. – CC) 12…g6 (? Up to now, Back’s moves, though not the best, have been reasonable.12…Nbd7, followed by 13…Nc5 allows White only a tiny edge. – JH) 13.Bh6 [!? 13.c3!? (Arnold). I like 13.Bh6 better, although it will involve some hazardous sacrifices. 13.Bh6 lets Black know that his f7 also requires defending. – CC] 13…Re8 14.Ng5 d5 (What else can Black do? White now wins the pawn on e5. – JH) 15.exd5 Nxd5 [? “15…Bxd5 is better.” (Arnold) True, although Black hasn’t escaped all his problems. After 16.c4 bxc3 (also 16…Bb7 doesn’t quite work. 17.Rxe5 Nfd7 18.Re3 Bxg5 19.Rxe8+ Qxe8 20.Bxg5 just nets a pawn although it is bit backward!) 17.bxc3 Bf8 18.Bxf8 Kxf8 (or 18…Rxf8 19.Rxe5 Bxb3 20.Qxb3 the pawn on d3 is taboo: 20…Qxd3 21.Rd1) 19.N3e4, Black’s position is still under considerable pressure. – CC] 16.Rxe5 f6 (Black does not believe White has won a pawn and avoids 16…c6 in what now becomes a classic attack! – JH) 17.Qf3 (! – JH) 17…c6 (Too late! – JH.)

18.Nh5 [! “Good Knight!” (Arnold) – CC ; ! White has two pieces en prise. So, of course, he puts a third one into the pot! If 18…fxe5 19.Qf7+ and if 18…gxh5 19.Ne6 decides quickly. So …- JH] 18…fxg5 [If 18…gxh5 I had planned 19.Bxd5+ (Here Chess Life’s Jerry Hanken analyzed wrong. 19.Ne6 does not decide quickly. What about 19…fxe5 20.Nxd8 or 20.Qg3+ Kf7? Although this looks winning it is a lot slower.) 19…cxd5 20.Qf5 fxg5 21.Qe6+ Kh8 22.Qf7 Rg8 23.Rxe7 +- (Arnold)] 19.Nf6+ (! – CC) 19…Kh8 (If 19…Bxf6 20.Rxe8+ Qxe8 21.Qxf6 then it’s mate on g7 or f8. – JH) 20.Nxd5 Nd7 (If 20…cxd5 21.Qf7 and crunch! – JH) 21.Qf7 (Crunch anyway! – JH) 21…Bf8 22.Nf6 (Mate threat on g8! – JH ; ! Of course, the knight can’t be taken. If 19…Bxf6 20.Rxe8+ Qxe8 21.Qxf6 Black can’t defend the threatened mate on g7 without allowing an equally unpleasant fate on f8. – CC) 22…Nxf6 23.Rxe8 Qd7 24.Bg7mate 1-0

The same game in PGN

[Site “California”]
[Date “1993”]
[White “NM Jeff Arnold”]
[Black “Harish (1975)”]
[Result “1-0”]
[Source “Jerry Hanken, Rank and File, March/Apr. 1997 (JH) ; The Chess Correspondent, 1997 (CC)”]
{Jerry Hanken, Rank and File, March/Apr. 1997 (JH) ; The Chess Correspondent, 1997 (CC)} 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 O-O 8.a4 Bb7 9.d3 d6 10.Nc3 b4 11.Ne2 Nb8 {11…Na5 12.Ba2 would return to the more usual continuations in this variation. – CC} 12.Ng3 {Considering the problems Black is likely to face before he can get his bishop to g7, namely a knight settling on g5, he probably would have done better to regroup with 12…Nfd7 only playing …g6 after his bishop was sitting on f6. – CC} g6 {? Up to now, Back’s moves, though not the best, have been reasonable.12…Nbd7, followed by 13…Nc5 allows White only a tiny edge. – JH} 13.Bh6 {!? 13.c3!? (Arnold). I like 13.Bh6 better, although it will involve some hazardous sacrifices. 13.Bh6 lets Black know that his f7 also requires defending. – CC} 13…Re8 14.Ng5 d5 {What else can Black do? White now wins the pawn on e5. – JH} 15.exd5 Nxd5 {? “15…Bxd5 is better.” (Arnold) True, although Black hasn’t escaped all his problems. After 16.c4 bxc3 (also 16…Bb7 doesn’t quite work. 17.Rxe5 Nfd7 18.Re3 Bxg5 19.Rxe8+ Qxe8 20.Bxg5 just nets a pawn although it is bit backward!) 17.bxc3 Bf8 18.Bxf8 Kxf8 (or 18…Rxf8 19.Rxe5 Bxb3 20.Qxb3 the pawn on d3 is taboo: 20…Qxd3 21.Rd1) 19.N3e4, Black’s position is still under considerable pressure. – CC} 16.Rxe5 f6 {Black does not believe White has won a pawn and avoids 16…c6 in what now becomes a classic attack! – JH} 17.Qf3 {! – JH} 17…c6 {Too late! – JH.} 18.Nh5 {! “Good Knight!” (Arnold) – CC ; ! White has two pieces en prise. So, of course, he puts a third one into the pot! If 18…fxe5 19.Qf7+ and if 18…gxh5 19.Ne6 decides quickly. So …- JH} 18…fxg5 {If 18…gxh5 I had planned 19.Bxd5+ (Here Chess Life’s Jerry Hanken analyzed wrong. 19.Ne6 does not decide quickly. What about 19…fxe5 20.Nxd8 or 20.Qg3+ Kf7? Although this looks winning it is a lot slower.) 19…cxd5 20.Qf5 fxg5 21.Qe6+ Kh8 22.Qf7 Rg8 23.Rxe7 +- (Arnold)} 19.Nf6+ {! – CC} Kh8 {If 19…Bxf6 20.Rxe8+ Qxe8 21.Qxf6 then it’s mate on g7 or f8. – JH} 20.Nxd5 Nd7 {If 20…cxd5 21.Qf7 and crunch! – JH} 21.Qf7 {Crunch anyway! – JH} 21…Bf8 22.Nf6 {Mate threat on g8! – JH ; ! Of course, the knight can’t be taken. If 19…Bxf6 20.Rxe8+ Qxe8 21.Qxf6 Black can’t defend the threatened mate on g7 without allowing an equally unpleasant fate on f8. – CC} 22…Nxf6 23.Rxe8 Qd7 24.Bg7# 1-0

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