07 August 2007

Tales of Hoffman (Notes)

Continuing with Tales of Hoffman, the critical position from the Nyman - Larsen game is shown in the following diagram. This is the same position that Hoffman appears to have reached in his simul game against Larsen.

Correspondence 1966
Larsen, Bent

Nyman, Sture
(After 8...h7-h6)
[FEN "r1bqr1k1/ppp2pp1/2nb1n1p/6B1/3P4/P2Q1N2/1PP1P1PP/RN2KB1R w KQ - 0 9"]

Nyman played 9.Bh4? (Larsen's '?'), and the game continued 9...g5! (My '!') 10.Bf2 Ne4 11.h3 Bf5 12.Qd1 Bf4. Black's pieces dominate the center. Now after 13.g4, Black continued sharply with 13...Nxf2 14.Kxf2 Be3+. In a correspondence game, sacrificial attacks can be calculated precisely.

In his notes, Larsen looked at 9.Bxf6 Qxf6 (Is this the move where Larsen 'studied the position for what seemed like ages'? If so, was he thinking about 9...gxf6?) 10.e4, which might have been what Hoffman played. Now Larsen gave 10...Bf5 11.Nc3, when Black recovers the sacrificed Pawn and gets a better position with 11...Qg6. The Danish GM also gave 10...Bg4, if Black wants to try for more.

The PGN game score for the complete game is here:-

[Event "?"]
[Site "corr"]
[Date "1966.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Nyman"]
[Black "Larsen"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A02"]

1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.exd6 Bxd6 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.d4 O-O 6.Bg5 Re8 7.Qd3 Nc6 8.a3 h6 9.Bh4 g5 10.Bf2 Ne4 11.h3 Bf5 12.Qd1 Bf4 13.g4 Nxf2 14.Kxf2 Be3+ 15.Kg2 Nxd4 16.gxf5 Nxf3 17.Qxd8 Nh4+ 18.Kg3 Raxd8 19.Nc3 Nxf5+ 20.Kg2 Rd2 0-1

By coincidence, while looking at chess blogs yesterday, I found this post by IM Mark Ginsburg: The Larsen Simul.

When I got to the playing hall, I noticed the boards were all set up so that his opponents would all have the black pieces. But I wanted to play white! In a rather bold "move", I asked Bent if it would be OK if I got the white pieces. I don’t remember exactly what happened next, but I got my wish. Perhaps he alternated W and B on all the boards of the simul (which was probably in the 30-50 range) - that is the part I don’t know. The important thing is that I got to move first. What a nice guy!

This is indeed more like the Larsen I remember, unlike the Hoffman caricature, where you can imagine the steam coming out of Larsen's ears.


My copy of Larsen's 50 Udvalgte Partier is inscribed to Jan [translating from the Danish]:

Stay home with me and have fun with chess, instead of going to the [club] 'Capablanca', for I love you so. - Your Elsie

I found the copy a few years later in a used book bin and have often wondered whether Jan ditched the Capablanca or ditched Elsie.


Robert Pearson said...

I received email from Paul Hoffman and put up a link to him at my blog...this reminds me of a college class I took awhile back about the "New Autobiography," where, since memory is imperfect anyway the writer is supposedly allowed to "novelize" things a bit to make the story better. There was a lot of discussion about what was okay in this regard while still calling the book "non-fiction."

I don't claim that Mr. Hoffman has novelized his story but like you I find the description of the simul with Larsen rather strange.

Mark Weeks said...

Wahrheit wrote, 'the writer is supposedly allowed to "novelize" things a bit to make the story better'

Yes, it's clear that Hoffman's account of the Larsen simul has been embellished to make it more interesting. I can imagine that Hoffman prepared diligently for his game and that he studied the 1.f4 line from the Nyman game. I can also imagine that Larsen recognized the game and commented on it to his young opponent. Hoffman writes for the mass market and he knows what it takes to sell books. If he can sell chess, that's fine with me.

Where I have a problem is the account of Larsen's bizarre behavior: 'The smile disappeared and his voice became grim. "I shall crush you anyway, like I crushed him."' Who says that to a teenage kid? This is a variation on the tired theme that chess players are strange. Does the rest of the book build on the same theme? We'll know when it has been published. - Mark