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Leonid Shamkovich vs Joel Benjamin
USA (1976)
Spanish Game: Closed Variations. Keres Defense (C96)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 3 OF 3 ·  Later Kibitzing>
May-08-05  Boomie: <Hesam7> 34. ♗xb5 seems to win after 31...♗c8. Black has nothing useful to do. Eventually the white king comes to b4 to get the pawns moving. For example:

31... ♗c8 32. ♖xa7 ♖xa7 33. ♖xa7 ♗xa7 34. ♗xb5 ♗b6 (34... ♗e6 35. f4 f6 36. fxe5 fxe5 37. ♗g5 ♗b6 38. ♗e7 ♔f7 39. ♗d6 ♔f6 40. ♔f1 ♗c8 41. ♗c4 ♗d8 42. b5 ♗b6 43. ♔e2 h5 44. h4 ♗g4+ 45. ♔d2 g6 46. ♔c2 ♗c8 47. ♔b3 ♗g4 48. ♔b4) 35. ♗c4 ♔f8 36. b5 f6 37. ♗b4+ ♔e8 38. ♗d6 h5 39. h4 ♔d8 40. ♔f1 etc.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sneaky: <<Sneaky> the Bishop is in c8, and 34 c7 only loses the pawn.> You are right, sorry it was late at night... in that case I'll go with your Bxb5 and the plan of winning the ending up a pawn. <IMO this is not a "White To Play And Win".> Nothing I've seen here has convinced me of that. These computer generated lines where White wastes time checking the Black king toward the middle of the board should be tossed into the rubbish bin.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: <   blak519: According to rebel 12 31. Be2 g6 32.c7 Bc8 33.Rxa7 Rxa7 34.Rxa7 Bxa7 35.Bg5! intending Bd8 is a draw. > Can you extend this line? Thx!
May-08-05  kevin86: I had Rama's variation,so i missed it again.These Sunday puzzles are as hard as playing basketball with an extra bone in each foot. (OUCH!)
May-08-05  JohnBoy: The point of this to me is that 31.Be2 gives white non-trivial winning chances. The advancement of the c pawn is pretty clearly the idea, but how to realize this? My main try was 31.Bxb5, after which I disagree with <Boomie>'s line:<31. Bxb5 Bxb5 32. Rxa7 Bxa7 33. c7 Bd7 34. b5 Rc8 35. Rxa7> - black can do much better with 32...Rxa7 in this line - 33.Rxa7 Bxa7 34.c7 Bd7 35.b5 Bb6 and white will lose this.

31.Be2 is a master's move which earns my appreciation, even if it does not guarantee the win.

May-08-05  Boomie: <JohnBoy> Thanks for the correction. I must have confused a couple of lines. This is a transcendental position, one without resolution. Is there a win after 31. ♗e2? I dunno.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Richard Taylor: My conclusion on this was 32 c7 but I adconsiderd Rxb5 and even Ra5 or maybe a waiting move even f4 0r rxa6 but eventualy I came to the conclusion that

32 c7! Bb7 33. Ra7 Ra7 34. Ra7 Ba7 35 Bb5 Bb6 36. Bc6! Bc8 37. b5 Bc7 38. Bb4+ (actually I thought White was a move behind here...) then I thought that after Kg8 39 f4 was best to win

But although I saw the continuation in the game ( I dintconsider it too deeply as I felt that that was the point of c7 - I didnt think black could take the pawn at all) I wasn't convinced of my own analysis! Although it looked good ! I was convined I hadnt found it! in my head - the position didn'tlook easily winnable (or very exciting) - but I would have gone for it...OTB or online..

And yet I felt the problem had somehow defeated me!! Strange person I am...I get the "solution" and feel as though I am way out of line .... chessgames said it was going to be monstrously difficult - that was good psychology by them !!

Premium Chessgames Member
  Richard Taylor: Just saw that the move was Be2 !! I thought (at one stage) it might be a move like that (or f4)(a waiting move) that but I was thinking of getting the B to b3 -mised Bc8 as a defence also - so Iwnetofr c7 immediately - oh well had fun trying!! Got the main ideas - within a time frame of 2000 years I will solve a Sunday one completely
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: In "200 Open Games" David Bronstein writes this about his combination in Bronstein vs Gligoric, 1967: <From the educational point of view, moves [of Bronstein's combination] can be divided into three independent parts: (i) the trap [moves that set up the combo]; (ii) the combination [moves with the theme of his combination]; and (iii) the forced follow-through [moves of the cleanup].> The Be2 of Shamkovich combination is the trap/set-up move here.
May-11-05  patzer2: The possibility 31. Be2! g6! 32. c7! (suggested earlier by <>) gives White winning chances, but Black has excellent practical drawing chances in this defensive combination.

However, with best play it may still be a white win. Playing it out with Fritz 8 produced the following result:

31... g6! 32. c7! Bc8! 33. Rxa7 Rxa7 34. Rxa7 Bxa7 35. Bg5 Bb6 36. Bd8 f5! 37. Bxb5! fxe4 38. Kf1 Kf7 39. Be2 h5 40. Bc4+ Ke8 41. Bb5+ Kf7 42. Bc6 Ke6 43. Bxe4 Kd7 44. Bxg6 Bxc7 45. Bxc7 Kxc7 46. Bxh5 Bb7 47. h4 Kd6 48. f3 Ba6+ 49. Ke1 Ke7 50. Bg6 Kf6 51. Be8 Bd3 52. Bc6 Bc4 53. b5 Kg6 54. g4 Kh6 55. b6 Ba6 56. b7 Bxb7 57. Bxb7 1-0.

I'm sure there are improvements for Black (possibily even with a sure draw), but this may be sufficient to demonstrate the potential for a White win after 31. Be2! g6! 32. c7!

Jul-30-15  Retireborn: Anybody know the occasion/tournament this game is from?
Jul-30-15  zanzibar: This might be a hard one to definitively pin down.

I found a mention of a 1976 event with both players in attendance:

<International Tournament, Manhattan CC, NYC (1976)>

Evans writes about it in his 2006-01-16 column: <Youth Must Be Served>:

Jul-30-15  zanzibar: The <New York (1976)> final standings can be found in Di Felice:

Jul-30-15  Retireborn: <z> Many thanks for that. This game is referred to by Anand in his NiC annotations to

Anand vs Piket, 1999

He says both he & Piket knew 18.Nbd4! from the Shamkovich-Benjamin game, but neither of them had realised just how strong it is.

The Manhattan event Evans refers to could very well be the one, but Di Felice seems to be a team event where both Shamkovich and Benjamin were playing for New York. Fascinating to see Edward Lasker's name in the team, though - he must have been 90 at the time!

Jul-30-15  zanzibar: <RB> right you are about the match... omphf!
Jul-30-15  zanzibar: Looks like Evans recycled his original 1977 Boy's Life article too:

Then it was titled <A Break for Juniors?>

Jul-30-15  zanzibar: Here is the proper xtab for the MCC It (1976):

Jul-30-15  Retireborn: <z> Brilliant! That is everything I wanted to know - many thanks yet again.
Jul-30-15  zanzibar: OK, I just played it over, and will again with an engine later.

The game might be a candidate for the pun "Four Square" for the interesting criss-crossed pawns structure on d4,5/e4,5.

(After 28...Bb6)

click for larger view

As for the bishop on h6, while a bishop on the rim might not be grim, it sure looks dim.

Engine suggests 19...Nxd5 actually keeps Black in the game, despite the h6-bishop!

Jul-30-15  Howard: There was some controversy over Wilder and Benjamin's being invited to play in this event, for some believed that kids of their age might not be able to probably handle being soundly beaten by their much-stronger colleagues.

Someone--Lombardy I believe--wrote a very (!) lengthy letter to Chess Life& Review, in which he defended the decision to have them play.

Jul-30-15  zanzibar: Yes, <Howard>, Evans quotes from Lombardy in his article.

Lombardy is quoted as saying that losing game-after-game might be too hard on the young players, causing them to become dispirited (I'm paraphrasing).

Still, there was the assessment at the end of the tournament:

<Co-winner Lein said: "Benjamin plays like a master, In 3 or 4 years he may be a Grandmaster.">

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <Co-winner Lein said: "Benjamin plays like a master, In 3 or 4 years he may be a Grandmaster.">

It took a bit longer--we first met in 1986, the year he was awarded the title.

Premium Chessgames Member
  SteinitzLives: Lots of us were surprised that it took Joel so long to become a GM. For a little while there, when he was an 11 year old rated expert, (which was real rare in the 1970's) many thought maybe, just maybe, he might be the next Bobby, but the longer it took him to get to GM, the more unlikely it seemed.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <SL> My first recollection of Joel was as a small kid, aged twelve, but looked younger still.
Jul-31-15  zanzibar: I found a photo of him from the Manhattan tournament, which I've doctored and posted here:

* * * * *

There was another tournament from 1976 which I found mentioned in the press coverage, where both Shamkovich and Benjamin appeared:

<Hartford Open ~Oct 1976>

<Among the players at the tournament is 12-year-old sensation Joel Benjamin who, according to his father, started playing chess at the age of 9 and attained his "expert" status at the tender age of 11.


It's a bit odd having a chess prodigy in the family, his father admitted, especially when everybody else in the family plays chess "but very badly".

He doesn't want Joel to become a full-time professional chess player though, and he says, and neither does Joel.

"He's talking about being a writer, now," said his father, "but who knows at his age. He's a bright boy, though. He can do anything he wants."


Shamkovich is also mentioned. In particular,

<emigrated to Israel from Russia in October 1974 and six months later came to the United States>

<The Hartford Courant (1923-1989); Oct 17, 1976>

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