The US Chess scene has been saddened by the recent losses of two respected veterans in IMs Walter Shipman and Nikolay Minev, who both never quite made it to the hallowed status of ‘Grandmaster’, but shouldn’t be forgotten just because they opted for personal careers rather than the vagaries of being a chess professional. And this week, we pay tribute to Shipman and Minev, who nevertheless made their mark in the game despite being classed as amateurs.
Walter Shipman was one of America’s top postwar players of his generation and he passed away late last month in San Francisco at the age of 87 following a long illness. Despite having the ‘right stuff’ to become a Grandmaster, Shipman’s long career in the day job as a lawyer prevent him from making his name in top international tournaments.
He was a longtime member of not one but two of America’s oldest and most respected clubs, first at the Manhattan Chess Cub, where the New Yorker was a multi-time champion, and then, following his retirement, he relocated to San Francisco and became a member of the Mechanics’ Chess Club. And throughout a long and distinguished chess career, he scored big wins over top stars of his era as Sammy Reshevsky and Larry Evans, and a draw with a young Bobby Fischer in the 1957 US Open.
And like a vintage old wine, Shipman was awarded the international master title in 1982 late in life, but one of his early highlights came during a key clash in the very strong 2nd Rosenwald Cup tournament of 1955/56, held in New York City in the Manhattan Chess Club, where a surprise upset win late in the tournament, over the highly-fancied GM Sammy Reshevsky, deprived the top seed of winning the tournament.
Walter Shipman was a true gent in ever sense of the word, and was respected and beloved by the whole American chess community and will be sadly missed by all. For a more fuller tribute, you can read IM John Donaldson’s obituary of Walter Shipman for US Chess.
GM Samuel Reshevsky - Walter Shipman
Rosenwald Cup 1955/56
Budapest Defence, Alekhine Variation
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 The Budapest Gambit (or Budapest Defence) got its name because it was played and developed by Budapest coffeehouse players at the end of the 19th century. And even to this day, it's perceived to have a 'coffeehouse' flavour to it; a rarity, seldom seen at the top level, and used more as a surprise weapon. 3.dxe5 Ng4 4.e4 Nxe5 5.f4 This line is so-called because of the obvious similarities with the Four Pawns Attack in the Alekhine's Defence. But White has to be careful not to have his position compromised by the early advance of his pawns. 5...Ng6 6.Nf3 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 Qf6 8.e5 Qb6 9.a3?! I don't know why Reshevsky allows the doubling of his c-pawns because, in the ending, it's basically his poor pawn structure that does for him. He should have played 9.Qc2 or, if he wants to go for the all-out attack by not caring about his pawn structure, then 9.f5 Ne7 10.Bd3 with a sharp game in prospect. 9...Bxc3+ 10.bxc3 d6! This becomes a problem for Reshevsky, as now the f5 pawn push is no longer an option - and herein lies the start of all of his long-term endgame issues. 11.exd6 0-0! 12.Qd4 White can't take on c7, as he can quickly find himself being overrun by Black's rapid and rampant piece-play after 12.dxc7 Nc6! stopping Qd4 as in the game - and now Black has serious threats of ...Bg4 and ...Re8 catching the White king stranded in the middle of the board. 12...Qa5 13.Bd2 Nc6 It's basic survival skills now for Reshevsky. Caught out in the opening, he now has to force the exchange of queens, regardless of how damaging his pawn structure is going to be. 14.Qd5 cxd6 15.Qxa5 Nxa5 16.Rb1 b6 17.Nd4 Bb7 18.Kf2 Rfc8 19.Nb5 Nxc4 20.Bxc4 Rxc4 21.Nxd6 Rc7 22.Nxb7 Rxb7 23.Rhd1 Rd7 Perhaps better was 23...Rc7 and locking Reshevsky down to defending his c-pawn? 24.Be3 Rad8 25.Ke2 This was really White last chance for safety with 25.Rxd7 Rxd7 26.c4! Rc7 27.Rc1 and, with c5 coming soon, this will go a long way to salvaging the draw for Reshevsky - but Shipman seizes his moment when offered it, and goes on to outplay the better player with some fine endgame play that must have demoralised his illustrious opponent, who was fighting for first place in the tournament. 25...Kf8 26.c4 Rxd1! The best chance for Shipman to try to win this is by exchanging off all the rooks and trying to pick off one of the weak pawns on c4 or a4 with his king and knight. But with correct play, with more pieces coming off the board, Reshevsky should really have saved this. 27.Rxd1 Rxd1 28.Kxd1 Ke8 29.Ke2 Not immediately bad, but the best way to hold this was with the simple idea of 29.a4 and following up immediately with c5 to quickly exchange off one of those pesky weak pawns that soon proves to be Reshevsky's downfall. 29...f5 30.Kd3 Kd7 31.g3 Ne7 32.c5 b5! Now we see why Reshevsky had to play a4 first, as pointed out in the previous note, as his survival chances have now diminished. 33.Bc1 Nc6 With the Black pawns on b5 and f5 and now ...Nc6, White's king is locked out of occupying an active central post, as now Black has the simple king march of Ke6-d5 and round up the weak c5-pawn. 34.a4 a6 35.axb5 axb5 36.h3 Ke6 37.g4 g6 38.Be3 Kd5 39.gxf5 gxf5 40.Bf2 Nd8 41.Kc3 Nc6 42.Be3 Nd8 43.h4 h5 44.Bf2 There's no hope of survival. If 44.Kb4 Kc6 45.Kb3 Ne6 46.Kb4 Nc7! 47.Kb3 Nd5 will win either the f-pawn or the c-pawn with an elementary win. 44...Ne6 45.Be3 Nxc5 46.Kb4 Ne6 47.Kxb5 Ke4 48.Ba7 Nxf4 49.Kc6 Ng2 50.Kd6 Nxh4 51.Ke6 Nf3 0-1