Play chess with people from all around the world!
Play online chess at

'Coffee Break Chess' No. 10, 29th May 1999

© 1999 by Alexander Baburin

After a few weeks of intensive travelling and crossing various time zones, I am finally back to Dublin and thus I hope to produce this newsletter on a weekly basis again. This is only handy, as there are lots of topics, which I would like to cover. In this issue and in the subsequent one I’d like to share my experience in Cuba. After that I intend to look back and show some more games, played in the Commonwealth Championship in India (April 1999). Then I plan to answer questions of my readers, as such questions have been piling up for quite some time.

Death of GM Lembit Oll. A very sad news came recently from Estonia – its No. 1 chess player, GM Lembit Oll, committed suicide on 16th of May by jumping out of his apartment, which was located on the 4th floor. I did not know him well, but on those occasions, when we met, Oll made a very favourable impression on me. In 1997 in Los Angeles we made a quick draw in the last round and had a few beers afterwards and had a chart about chess. Then Lembit was also telling me about life in Estonia. There are rumours that his tragic decision was ignited by some financial difficulties, but those who knew him better doubt this very much, pointing out that was his recent divorce and separation from his two sons is more likely to be the cause. Obviously, he had some kind of crisis and made this unfortunate move... Oll was a world-class player (constantly rated well above 2600) with classical style and he will undoubtedly remain in the history of chess! Here is one example of his play:

Oll - Shaked, New York Open 1997

White to play and win; see the solution in the end of this newsletter. You can read more about Oll at Inside Chess Web site at

Vladimir Nabokov’s jubilee. Famous Russian writer Vladimir Nabokov was born 100 year ago. Perhaps not everyone knows that he was also a very keen chess composer. Not surprisingly, chess is featured in his books and one of his major works – ‘Luzhin’s Defence’ (I believe, that in English the title is ‘The Defence’) is about a chess player. It’s a very interesting novel and, alas, it has something in common with the sad news about Oll. The main character of the book – Grandmaster Luzhin – ends his life by jumping from the window.

10 years ago Russian player Georgy Ilivitsky (1921-1989) died. He was a very strong player, coming equal third in the 22nd USSR Championship in 1955 with Botvinnik, Petrosian and Spassky, just half of a point behind of the winners – Geller and Smyslov - and ahead of Keres and Taimanov. He decided to quit life, feeling that he was totally forgotten. I heard that he had read Nabokov’s book and got the idea to jump out of the window, which he did...

About two years ago very talented and creative Latvian player Alvis Vitolinsh jumped out of the window. And now Lembit Oll... There is something strange about the fact that all three chess players chose the same way to die, as did Luzhin!

Anyway, the book (‘Luzhin’s Defence’) is worth reading, though I prefer chess motifs in yet another Nabokov’s work – ‘Invitation to the Execution’ (again, this is my translation of the title from Russian, the actual title may be different). In the May issue of ‘64’ there is an article about Nabokov-composer by Ya. Vladimirov, which states that even though the writer was not a very good composer, he was certainly very interested in this field and had some achievements. I'’ like to show two of his problems, featured in the article:


In both positions White checkmates in 3. The solutions are given in the end of this issue.

Starting something new. Recently I was offered to try something completely new to me – writing book reviews. I’ve taken the challenge and next week (I believe, on Wednesday) you can see my first review on Hanon Russell’s Web site – Chess Café at I will be reviewing only opening books there.

Disastrous organisation of the Capablanca Memorial in Havana or ‘One Mystery Solved’. Last week I came back from Cuba, where I took part in Capablanca Memorial. There were 4 all-play-all events there, with the Elite section nearly reaching category XIII (the average rating was 2550). I always wondered what attracted chess professionals to Havana, as GMs do not receive appearance money there and the prize fund is very modest (with $1200 for first in our section). My guess was that GMs regard this is a holiday (nice beaches, etc), combined with a chance to play in a closed tournament, which are somewhat scares nowadays. I decided to give it a try and accepted invitation to play in Cuba this year. That was a blunder, as the tournament was horribly organised, which made all foreign participants dream of that day when they can finally get out of Cuba! Before I get into details, let me say that having grown in Russia, I am used to harsh conditions and understand that poor countries have more difficulties, providing high standards in chess competitions. This I accept, but I cannot tolerate the attitude which chess organisers adopted in Cuba! First of all, we stayed in an awful hotel (‘Vedado’, remember this name!), where there was reconstruction doing: at 8-00 you wake up, because you think that some floors are being destroyed. Knocking goes on the whole day, giving you little chance to rest. One of the two lifts never worked, while the other broke down frequently, thus forcing people to use stairs, where bags with cement and other stuff was always obstructing the way. Should the fire break down in the hotel, at least broken legs would be guaranteed to everyone! Food in the hotel buffet was next to poison, with only a few things (rice, fruits) being safe - many players suffering badly. That forced us to seek escape and we often ate elsewhere. The service was appalling: in the hotel restaurant I once ordered an omelette. 20 minutes later I started to wonder of what was going on and the waiter assured me that everything was OK. 10 minutes after that he said that the chef is taking care of my omelette; 5 minutes later (that’s 35 minutes waiting for such a simple thing!) I walked away, saying ‘Forget it!’. I was just mad! Later my friends told me that once we waited 55 minutes for the same dish, but because there were 4 of us and we were having beer, we took it a bit easier. When I went to confirm my flight, the procedure took 1 hour and 40 minutes... I guess that one needs to be VERY patient, while in Cuba! I believe that somebody messed with my computer (left in the hotel room) while I was playing; GMs Miles and Atalik are certain that their computers were checked. One may wonder who would be interested in chess players’ data, but for us the idea that most complete collections of our games (with analysis, recommendations, etc) might be available for the Cuban Chess Federation, is not a lot of fan!

The organisers did absolutely nothing, when the players complained about unacceptable conditions, which clearly shows, how indifferent they are to visiting GMs. I wonder how they hope to get a category XII tournament in Havana next year – personally I will do my best to inform my colleagues that they should avoid those tournaments at any cost: you lose money and you suffer in many ways! So, you if are an IM or GM, reading this issue, please take my advice: do NOT play in Cuba! Once the organisers get you there, they believe that their mission is completed and wash out their hands!

I am sure that the organisers cut a deal with the hotel ‘Vedado’ – for $39 a night they could have found a much better place for the players to stay, for example in some tourist place. Somebody was very interested to keep us in that hotel...

Cuba itself is not an attractive place, unless you stay in a tourist spot beside some wonderful beach and never leave your hotel. Havana is not particularly interesting and in many ways it’s over-priced. For example, five of us once went for a drink and found a bar, which looked OK. The admission fee was $10, but we decided to give it a try. After the first round of drinks we were immediately presented with a bill, which surprised us, as were not going to leave yet. Well, we soon changed our minds, as each drink was $7! They is how Cubans think at the moment: a bit of Coca-Cola, a bit of rum and you can charge that poor animal, called ‘tourist’, anything you want! Those tourists are so rich and so also stupid... Well, they would be stupid to come to Cuba again, that’s for sure! In Havana you cannot walk in peace, as after every 10 metres you have so say something like this: ‘No, I don’t need a taxi’, ‘No, I do not want cigars’, ‘No, I am not looking for a girl’ or ‘No, I do not want to buy rum!’. I considered carrying a poster with a huge ‘NO!’ written on it...

To be fair, playing conditions were adequate and some people at the tournament were nice, for example, whose who were in charge of producing tournament bulletins and the Internet coverage.

My play in Havana. I am not happy with the quality of my games in Havana, even though +1 was not too bad. On a few occasions I suffered from ‘dead-brain’ syndrome, which is typical for novices to that climate. It works like this: you sit and think, time seems to run a lot faster, but you don’t notice it and keep thinking, yet not coming up with anything constructive. Then you are in a time-trouble and commit a mistake. This is not an excuse, but a reality. Not surprisingly, those who tend to be in time-trouble, did poorly in the tournament, e.g. GM Godena. More practical approach, adopter by Miles and Atalik, served them well. In the beginning of the tournament I cooped with this syndrome badly, while later my opponents suffered more from it, allowing me to win 4 games in a row. Here is one of them:

Here in the game Baburin-Godena (6th round) White threatens to limit the scope of the b7-bishop by e3-e4. Getting short of time, Black correctly decides to enforce the crisis: 21...Nxa4! 22 Rxa4

After 22 Bxa4 b5 23 Bd4 bxa4 (also possible is 23...Rxa4 24 Nb6 Rxd4 25 Rxa8 Rxd1+ 26 Qxd1 Qxa8 27 Nxa8 Rxa8 and probably White is not better here.) 24 Bxa7 Qxa7 Black is OK.

22...Rxa4 23 Bxa4 b5 24 Nd7! White does not risk anything, playing like this. 24...Nxd7 25 Rxd7 Rxc4 26 Rxe7

I nearly had an optical illusion here: 26 Qxc4?? bxc4 27 Rxe7 c3 28 Bc1 Kf8 29 Ba3, as I thought that I would meet 29...Qb1+ with 30 Rd1+. Fortunately, I noticed that there was something slightly illegal in the move Re7-d1. :)

26...Rxa4 27 Qd2 Rc4?? (D)

Black holds after 27...Qf8 28 Rd7 Bc6 29 Rd8 (29 Bxg7 Kxg7 30 Qc3+ Kg6 31 Qxc6 is about equal.) 29...Be8 30 Rb8 f6 31 Qd8 Kf7 32 Rb7+ Kg8 33 Rb8=, but better yet is 27...Bc6!, when White has to settle for a draw in the endgame arising after 28 Qc3 Qf8 29 Rc7 Rc4 30 Rc8 Rxc3 31 Rxf8+ Kxf8 32 Bxc3.

28 Rxf7! Rc7 Black cannot play 28...Kxf7 29 Qd7+ Kg6 30 Qxg7+ Kh5 31 g4+ Rxg4+ 32 Qxg4+ Kh6 33 Bg7#. 29 Rd7! Bd5 30 Be5 1-0 Time: 1.49 - 1.55

I will show more games from Cuba in the next issue of Coffee Break Chess - stay tuned!

Solutions. L. Oll (2625) – T. Shaked, (2445), New York Open, 1997. White concluded the game with 32 Rxf6! Rxf6 33 Qd8 Qe8 34 Bg8+ Kh8 35 Bxe5! 1-0. Now 35...Rxe5 36 Qxf6 is mate, while after 35...Qxd8 36 Bxf6+ Rg7 37 Bxg7+ Kxg8 38 Bf6+ Black loses too much material, so Black resigned.

1. Nabokov, 'The Problemist', 1969 1 h3! and then: h4 2 Rh7 hxg3 3 h4# or 1...Kh4 2 Rxg6 gxh3 3 Bf6# or 1...Kh6 2 h4 g5 3 hxg5#.

2. Nabokov, 'The problemist', 1970 1 Rd8! and now: 1...Bxd8 2 Bxd7 Bc7 3 Bb5# or 1...Bc7 2 Rxd7 Bb6 3 Bxb7# or1...dxe6 2 Rxd6 exd5 3 Nxc5#.

Technical support. I am very grateful to Igor Yagolnitser for his help with this project. For assistance regarding CBC, please contact Igor at

Alexander Baburin, Dublin.

The recipient is granted a limited license to re-send this Newsletter to another in electronic form, or post it on an electronic bulletin, board or World Wide Web site, as long as no fee is charged for such reproduction. Any such reproduction must contain this license and acknowledge the author's copyright. Such reproduction does not waive any rights to future reproduction by the copyright holder.