Saturday, July 27, 2013

Jerry Graham's Recollections of the Marshall Chess Club

It's been a while since I've posted anything on the blog and and intend to blog semi-regularly again. While I think of topics I'd like to cover, I thought I'd share a nice personal essay my good friend Jerry wrote about his experiences at the Marshall Chess Club:

My one main criticism, is that he titled the essay "Marshall Chess Divan." However, he will never admit that the place is a club, not a divan.

The Marshall Chess Divan - Modified 6/24/13

I doubt it was coincidence that I lived across the street from the club.  My father and Dr. Vitanza were business partners with GM Reuben Fine.   I think that's what got Dr. Vitanza involved in chess, and he very likely saw the building for sale (they would buy 10 West 10th Street) while visiting the club.  I still have some pieces from the wooden set Dr. Vitanza gave me many decades ago.  Dr. Vitanza helped increase my interest in chess, though I was taught by my mother, and I was also inspired by my great-uncle, Ben Ferstadt, who was from the town of Berestechko in the Ukraine.

I played chess in junior high school.  Our faculty adviser was Mr. Vinocore.  In our junior high school club was future US Women's Champion Rachel Crotto.  I didn't show up for the first scholastic tournament I was registered for.  My first actual rated chess tournament was the last rated chess tournament ever to be held at Chess House on 72nd Street.  While Chess House was owned by NM Charles Hidalgo, the tournament was run by Louis Brockman, who later ran tournaments with his father Henry in Flushing.

I first met FM Asa Hoffmann at Chess House.  My first visit to the Marshall was when I was a young teenager and me and my friend Howard (not Howard Prince. A different Howard) got lost on the way back from my second tournament in Elizabeth New Jersey, where I first met Goichberg and Joe Lux.  I think we had run out of money and asked both of them to lend us enough money to get home, and neither of them did.  Probably Joe didn't have too much back then. We were all teenagers. Me and Howard had just enough money to take the PATH back to Manhattan. I lived uptown in those days with my mother.  After trying to find my father and visiting the Marshall, we started walking uptown, and a cop let us into the subway at 23rd Street.

When we went into the Marshall, only Bill Slater was there, or maybe one or two other people.  I first played my friend Howard and he beat me.  Then Bill Slater played my friend, but refused to play me because I was supposedly too weak.  Some day someone will write about some of our most minor deeds.

I got elected to the board I think in my early twenties after I already had had my own chess tournament business.  I am still the Governor who got elected at the all-time youngest age.  Goldwater was president (  I didn't know the club was broke until many years later. I think the other governors knew but they didn't tell me.  As far as I know, I was the second governor in the club's history to be nominated by petition, the first being Alex Sheldon.  Peter Sepulveda, who was like an annoying big brother to me, encouraged me and signed my petition.   I heard from him recently, but he rarely comes to the club unfortunately.  Dr. Milton Hanauer also encouraged me a great deal. 

Then World Champion, GM Robert J. Fischer made his last public appearance in New York at the Marshall Chess Club.  He was seated on the bench nearest to the front East window.  With him was Betty Buscemi, who was night manager before IM Jay Bonin.

I was night manager after IM Bonin.  I left the board and my job there during the aftermath of throwing Goichberg's tournaments out of the club.  It was during the time of the Goichberg tournaments that most of the club's valuable trophies were stolen.   There was no security in place, not even locks.   Goldwater was an anarchist and didn't believe in locks. The only locks were on the front door of the building and the office.  The club's antique chess sets on display in the back room were sold off.  NM Leslie Braun helped Mr. Goldwater pack them up and take them to Southerbees. 

Someone broke into the office with a pickaxe.  I found the pickaxe in the basement. Someone was planning to break into the office over and over again.   Dr. Vitanza broke the pickaxe handle into small pieces with a larger pickaxe, and left the pieces in front of the club in the hopes it would leave a message to the thief that his efforts were unwelcome.  One of the other members, Bob Lukasik, repaired the door and reinforced it with a thick wooden board which remains there to this day. Someone stole the bust of Frank Marshall as a joke but later returned it.

The last years of the Goldwater administration were awful.  Some of the elderly members had left when Goichberg's tournaments came in.  Even though Goichberg's tournaments were only on the weekends, these elderly members liked to play every day.  The club was still active though, due to the high concentration of tournament players.  When Goichberg was thrown out, there was no equivalent tournament program put in place at the Marshall.  Almost all of the tournament players went to Goichberg's new place on 14th Street, the Bar Point.  The Bar Point, I believe,  eventually became the Chess Center of New York, under the ownership of Steve Immitt.

Mr. Goldwater was sick with leukemia.  Unfortunately most of the board members were afraid to come forward to take up the leadership of the club for fear of Mr. Goldwater, who everyone assumed would leave the club a great deal of money.   Goldwater left the club no money at all, and I don't blame him.  There was no one around to protect it and put it to good use.

Dr. Finkelstein became president pro-temp and then president.  I don't know how that happened, but usually one president appoints the next president, just a new board members usually come on the board on the suggestion of other board members.   Dr. Finkelstein and Dr. Hanauer were once co-principals and best friends, but it seemed to me that they were two very different men.  Dr. Hanauer was one of the first pioneers of scholastic chess long before everyone was doing it.  

I don't know much about Dr. Finkelstein's administrations. I wasn't there.  I heard later that there was an untoward attempt to sell the building which was headed off at the last minute.  Those who go far enough to the Haft administration know that there were three plaques that sat together on the mantle of the middle fireplace.   One was Dr. Finkelstein, one was Alex Weber.  I forget who the third was.   I heard that Alex Weber was one of the great men who stopped the sale of the building.   If it were not for him we would not have a club today.   There would be no club for GM Magnus Carlsen to visit, for us to play in tournaments, or any of the good things that are happening these days.

Another person who was instrumental in saving the club was Peter Sepulveda.  Peter was never president, but he brought many new people on to the board over a period of several decades.   He had a great deal of influence other who the presidents would be.  I believe he played a major role, not only in selecting Gary Sperling, but also in replacing him with Marianna Bellizzi.   From what I've heard, Sperling reactivated the system of committees which traditionally ran the club, but he was too autocratic, and was replaced by Marianna Bellizzi, who was president for many years.   When she got tired of being president, Peter helped bring in Leon Haft. 

I had been at the Manhattan and rejoined the Marshall when Leon Haft hired my friend FM Ron Young as manager.   Leon wasn't crazy about me.  In fact Leon threw me out of the office a couple of times.  While he never apologized for throwing me out of the office, many years later he found a letter I had written him, and when he saw me at the club he complemented me on it. 

During the Haft years, Steve Immitt was invited in to increase the chess activity in the club.  All I can remember was that the club was very active and fun during those years.  Later I would find out that Leon had taken out a balloon mortgage on the building and had used it to operate the club.  When the mortgage came due during the Prince years we were mad at Haft for having done that, but now I think he did the right thing in that.  I actually liked the club's decor, or the lack thereof. It was just something I had grown up with.

Haft was controversial for a number of reasons.  During the Haft administration, the club failed to make its annual tax filings.  The tax filings had been entrusted to Isadore Rothman, who was very sick with the cancer that eventually killed him.   Rothman was given full blame.  Jack Henry eventually talked the IRS into lowering or eliminating the fines.   Leon left before his term was up, and with no active officers, Ron Young had to handle the club's business pretty much on his own.  Steve helped out from time to time.  Ed Kopieki was the night manager.   Despite all of these problems, which most of the members didn't know about, the club was very active during Haft's time. There were internationals run Dr. Eric Schiller and Eric Moskow, MD.  There was also a series of internationals that included Josh Waitzkin and some of his contemporaries, including GM Maurice Ashley.  Bob Dunnigan was a very active volunteer through most of the Haft administration.

We had a big orange cat in those days named Marshall Gambit.   He was a perfect cat for the chess club.  He didn't like dogs or other non-members.   When we had internationals, he didn't like to be excluded from the room, he wanted to watch his friend FM Ron Young play.  We would fight him over this, but he usually got in anyhow.   To my knowledge he only walked across a game in progress one time.  It was during an international, and he knocked over one of Ron's rooks.  I think Ron asked his opponent if he had to say "j'adoube" before placing the rook back on the board.   Sadly the cat left the planet the same week as NM Leslie Braun.

It wasn't until later when Howard Prince was president that GM Bill Lombardy encouraged me to run for the board again.  Actually the year before Howard agreed to make me assistant treasurer.  During that year, I not only learned how little money the club had, but also that membership was plummeting due to an ill-timed dues increase.   The building actually wasn't doing that badly at the time even though some of the apartments were rent stabilized.   In fact, we were putting money in the bank.  The club had a very low budget due to the decline in membership, but I still remember those as good years.

After I became assistant treasurer and then treasurer, I saw that the club didn't and shouldn't get too much cash from tournaments.  The best source of revenue is Resident memberships.   I think the club had a tradition of not encouraging professional players, because the original idea was that GM Marshall would be the only chess professional there.  Unfortunately the idea of not encouraging professional chessplayers went on for decades even after Marshall died. For many years in a row, the strong GM Andy Soltis won the club championship. Until he was outscored one year by then NM Brian Hulse.  The idea of not encouraging professional players still lives on in the policy of not allowing titled players to vote.

The times when NM Doug Bellizzi was manager were great.  One of the great attractions was Israel Zilber (, a strong player who had beaten Tal twice.  In Tal's game collection book, the Game #1 is a game Tal had played with Zilber when Tal was 12 and Zilber was 15.  Mr. Zilber suffered from schizophrenia.  He always wore a elaborate sea captain's uniform.  He stored a large number of these uniforms on the coat racks we then had at the club.  People would come from everywhere to play him.  Everyone from the legendary NM Peter Winston ( to Vincent Livermore came.  It was during this period that NM Winston played in his last rapids before his disappearance.  Zilber was sleeping at the club.   This was forbidden by the administration (which I was not part of at the time) and they kept on taking away his key to the front door.  I kept making copies of the key and giving them to him.  That's just how I am. 
Magnus Carlsen at the Club

Outside of Marshall
Better Late than never!- Jerry's Bar Mitzvah the club!
 Friday Night Rapids circa 2002: Your Loyal Blogger Evan Rabin, Paul Pressman, Leif Pressman, Jerry Graham, Fabiano Caruana, Ralph Itale and others 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Shall Philadelphia or Seattle win the 2012 USCL Championship?!

The end of the 2012 USCL season is here; tomorrow night the Philadelphia Inventors and the Seattle Sluggers will fight for all the glory tomorrow, December 1 at 4 PM! With that in mind, I give you Rabin's final set of predictions for 2012!

GM Erenburg- GM Akobian 1/2-1/2 These guys drew at the Philadelphia Open back in April in a topsy-turvy affair. Erenburg had a slight advantage, blundered a piece in time pressure, and was miraculously able to draw. Akobian has been a fire this year, but as FM Mike Klein mentioned in his interview with GM Erenburg, four out of his five games this year was with the white pieces.

IM Orlov- SM Fisher 1-0 Fisher is known to perennially pull off upsets in the league and the truth of the matter is I wouldn't be all that surprised if he did here too, but with his recent wins against GMs Kraai and Holt, I think Orlov shall remain a favorite!

FM Gorman- Sinanan 1-0 FM Gorman has been a straight up beast this season, enough said!

Feng- IM Costigan 1/2-1/2 In a battle between youth and age, I think Costigan will equalize in the opening and not push for much more!

and a 2-2 Tied Match will lead to a tiebreaker that Seattle will win!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Results-to-be of the 2012 USCL Semifinals!

Unfortunately, luck wasn't on my side last Wednesday, as I got 0/2 match predictions and only 3/8 or 37.5% of game predictions correct. Hopefully I can turn things around for the semifinals!

Wednesday night, I will be seeing Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler at the Barclays Center. Here's a video of a rendition of "Things Have Changed" that they performed a few months ago in Rome!

A Repeat of the 2011 Eastern Division Quarterfinals: The Manhattan Applesauce give Draw Odds to the Philadelphia Inventors 

GM Romanenko- GM Erenburg 1/2-1/2 Erenburg won their week 7 encounter but that was with the white pieces; Romanenko is a rock with white!

IM Bartell- IM Vovsha 1/2-1/2 Vovsha is 2-0 against Bartell in league history, but he was white both times. Bartell is pretty solid as white too!

Shvartsman- FM Gorman 1/2-1/2 two solid players, why not draw?!

IM Costigan- King 1/2-1/2

and a match of four hard fought draws will send Philadelphia to the championship, Drawn Match 2-2

The Seattle Sluggers Yield Draw Odds to the Arizona Scorpions due to Inferior Tiebreaks ( Both Teams had 6.5-4.5 regular season records)

GM Akobian- IM Molner 1-0 a repeat result of week 3!

IM Altounian- IM Orlov 1/2-1/2- Altounian is a rock!

Sinanan- IM Mohandesi 1/2-1/2 solid guys!

Chakraborty-Lessler 1-0

and we shall see another Drawn Match 2-2

and Philadelphia and Arizona will both benefit from draw odds to face off in the 2012 USCL Championship!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Rabin's Prognostics for the 2012 USCL Western Division's Quaterfinals!

I did a pretty lame job predicting the Eastern Quarterfinals. I have to give Manhattan some credit for defeating my beloved Knights in a topsy-turvy match. Manager Shaun Smith was talking a lot of smack about the match and I requested I write an apology for predicting New York would win, if they lost. While I refuse to apologize, I thought I'd at least share our conversation!

 I also got a mere 1/8 or 12.75% of game predictions correct but will take the consolation that I least predicted the correct outcome of the Philadelphia- Baltimore match. 

Let's hope things are better for tonight! It's nice to have some competition now with Ron Young being back with his famous jumbles! 

For my acclaimed Youtube video, I give you Phil Lesh and Friends' encore from last night's show, a rendition of "Not Fade Away." Expect a review of that show to a blog near you soon! 

The Two-Time USCL Champions, The Dallas Destiny vs the Veteran Seattle Sluggers Who Never Quite Made it to the End 

GM Sadorra- GM Akobian 1/2-1/2 Akobian will equalize in a theoretical opening and a draw will be the ultimate result! 

IM Orlov- GM Holt 0-1 Orlov is certainly capable of drawing or beating Holt, especially as he shocked the crowds a few weeks ago, defeating GM Kraai. However, Holt is pretty good at creating complications to win with black. I also think Kraai didn't play his best in that game; out of the opening, it seemed as if he lost the two bishops for no real reason.

Safin- Sinanan 1-0 Anything can happen.. Safin has an incredible 4/4 record this season, while Sinanan has an excellent 5/7 record. With a slightly better record, a higher rating and the white pieces I'll give Safin an edge. 

Lessler- Guenther 1-0 

and Dallas will end Seattle's Season, Dallas Wins 2.5-1.5 

The Experienced Arizona Scorpions Take on the USCL Post-Season Newbies, The St. Louis Archbishops 

IM Molner- GM Diamant 1/2-1/2 They drew in week 9, why not draw again?! 

IM Kannappan- IM Altounian 1/2-1/2 I think Kannappan is a slight favorite to win, but Altounian very rarely loses USCL games! 

IM Mohandesi- IM Bregadze 1/2-1/2 Similar note the above game! I thought Bregadze was a favorite in their week 9 match up, and that was with the white pieces. They drew then, so another one seems likely!

Hendrickson- Chakraborty 1-0 Time for Revenge!

and Hendrickson will lead the newbies to victory! St. Louis Wins 2.5-1.5 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Rabin Predicts the Results of the 2012 USCL Season's Eastern Division Quaterfinals

I will give a detailed analysis of my stats for the regular season, but that'll have to wait. My music readers will have lots to read this week as I have two concerts coming up this week! Tuesday night I'm going to Phil Lesh and Friends at the Roseland Ballroom and Wednesday I'm seeing the Who play the Quadrophenia album at the Barclays Center.

For my youtube video, here's a rendition of "St. Stephen" the band did in Monclair last week:

Without further ado, here's the expected results of tomorrow's night quarterfinal matches!

The Manhattan Applesauce Shall Attempt to Seek Revenge for its 2011 Semifinal Loss to the New York Knights 

GM Romanenko- GM Gelashvili 1/2-1/2 Gelashvili got upset by Romanenko earlier this season. However, I don't think Gelashvili will crumble this time!

SM Herman- IM Vovsha 0-1 A toss-up in a wild game! With his back-to-back victories against IM Enkhbat and GM Hess, Vovsha seems pretty scary though!

Shvartsman- FM Bodek 0-1 Instincts here!

Katz- King 1-0 While objectively I think King is a stronger player than Katz, I think preparation will do Katz justice here and he will pull off a slight upset.

and my beloved knights shall defeat my second favorite team, New York Wins 2.5-1.5

The Philadelphia Inventors Shall Attempt to Make Use of Its 1st Place Finish Against The Baltimore Kingfishers

Last year Philadelphia also got the first place seat, but got knocked out in the quarterfinals by Manhattan Anyway... Shall it help them out this year?

GM Erenburg- IM Enkhbat 1-0 Enkhbat is a solid player and Erenburg has had a lot of draws this season... I was tempted to predict a draw, but I think Erenburg will come trough with a win!

GM Kaufman- IM Bartell 1/2-1/2 It's gonna be a relatively peaceful game.

FM Gorman- NM Wang 1-0 Wang shocked the crowds in week 8 as he upset GM Gulko with the black pieces.. However, Gorman has been a beast all season long..... I think Wang will go for complications due to draw odds and end up taking too many risks.

FM Zimmer- IM Costigan 1-0 Instincts!

and Philadelphia will meet New York in the Semfinals, Philadelphia Wins 2.5-1.5

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Rabin's Predictions for the End of the USCL's Eastern Divsion's 2012 Season!!

I finished predicting the Western Division's 2012 season with a  bang, getting 3/4 matches and 11/16 match predictions correct. There were two last minute lineup changes that I did not account for ( Byambaa playing for SF instead of Ebrahimi and Mu playing for Carolina instead of Simpson). My stats are actually on the conservative side as I truthfully would have probably predicted Byambaa to beat Salisbury and Altounian to beat Mu. To the contrary, both games were draws.

Tomorrow night will be a very exciting end to the Eastern Division's as seven out of eight are still in playoff contention. See for a summary of playoff scenarios. Let's see what the results shall be!!

As three of the seven surviving teams will be eliminated, we shall definitiely see some stiff competition tomorrow night!

The Potentially Spoiling New England Nor'easters vs the Likely-to-be 2012 USCL Eastern Division Champions, the Philadelphia Inventors

GM Ivanov- GM Erenburg 1/2-1/2

FM Bartell- IM Vigorito 1-0 In 2010, they drew when Vigorito was white. In 2008, Bartell won with the white pieces.. I think he'll win again!

Theil- Gorman 1/2-1/2 While Gorman has been on fire lately, Theil hasn't played in the USCL since 2010's Week 10. While part of me wants to say Gorman will win, I think Theil will keep things solid with the white pieces.

Daly- Goldberg 0-1

and Philadelphia will be secured the first place spot in the East! Drawn Match 2-2

The Connecticut Dreadnoughts Needs to Defeat the Manhattan Applesauce to Have a Good Chance to Make the Playoffs!

GM Hess- IM Vovsha 1-0

IM Schneider- GM Kekelidze 0-1

IM Sarkar- IM Milman 1/2-1/2

Smith- Tanenbaum 1-0

and both teams will likely make the playoffs; Connecticut Wins 2.5-1.5

Two Teams Near the Middle of the Pack Duke it Out for Playoff Spots: The New Jersey Knockouts vs the New York Knights

GM Stripunsky- GM Gelashvili 1/2-1/2

SM Herman- GM Gulko 0-1

FM Shen- FM Bodek 0-1

Katz- Burke 1-0

and NY will end NJ's 2012 USCL Season! NY Wins 2.5-1.5

The Baltimore Kingfishers and the Boston Blitz Shall Fight to the Bitter End for A Potential Seat in the Playoffs

GM Margelashvili- Shmelov 1-0

FM Gulamali- GM Kaufman 0-1

Defibaugh- Matirosov 0-1

Krasik- Zimmer 1-0

and a Drawn 2-2 Match will make Baltimore's playoff hopes tiny and Boston's absolutely none!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Rabin Predicts the Results of The End of the Western Division's 2012 USCL Regular Season

I did a very poor job for last Friday's rare USCL action, getting 0/2 match and 2/8 game predictions correct. Let's see how I do tomorrow night for the end of the Western Division's regular season tomorrow night!

It is now once upon a time in the West!

Two Teams That Secured Playoff Spots Duke it Out: The 1st Place Dallas Destiny vs the 2nd Place Saint Louis Arch Bishops

The Dallas Destiny doesn't have all that much to play for as they secured clear first place; however the Saint Louis Arch Bishops has to win or at least draw to maintain its second place position.

IM Holt- GM Diamant 1-0

IM Kannappan- IM Wang 1-0

Gater- IM Bregadze 0-1

Hendrickson- Guenther 1-0

and Saint Louis will Likely Secure Second Place (depending how Seattle does), Saint Louis Wins 3-1

Two of the Teams that are Eliminated from Playoff Contention Bring Sub-2300 Lineups: The San Francisco Mechanics vs the Miami Sharks

IM Naroditsky- GM Becerra 1/2-1/2

Recio- FM Liou 0-1

FM Lee- Rosenthal 1-0

Salisbury- Ebrahimi 1-0 I don't know either of these players but I looked at their MSA pages and while Ebrahimi has been consistent in the 1800s, Salisbury is on a sharp rise, having made expert recently.

and a weak San Francisco Team shall defeat a weak Miami team, San Francisco wins 2.5-1.5

The Arizona Scorpions Who May with a Little Luck Rise to 3rd Place vs the Potentially Spoiling Carolina Cobras 

IM Molner- IM Schroer- 1-0 a draw is the second most likely result!

FM Simpson- IM Altounian 0-1 Altounian will handle a lot of Simpson's complications and simplify to get the full point!

IM Ginsburg- Jones 1-0

Timmel- Martinez 1/2-1/2

 and for a change, I won't take any margin of error! Arizona Shall win 3.5-.5! 

The Los Angeles Vibe Shall Attempt to Maintain its Lifetime Record against the Seattle Sluggers (Current Score 2-1)

I give LA a lot of credit for utilizing a strong 2400+ lineup, even though they are already eliminated from playoff contention. To be honest, it's a little disappointing that some of the other teams sort of threw in the towel, brining subpar lineups.

IM Amanov- FM Mikhailuk 1-0

FM Milat- IM Kiewra 1-0 Milat won their 2010 encounter with the black pieces. Kiewra is definitely stronger now with a higher rating and IM title, but my instincts tell me Milat will win again!

FM Kavutskiy- FM Collyer 1/2-1/2

Sinanan- FM Yanayt 1-0

and we shall see Seattle Win 2.5-1.5