Contents 4.6.2022:
 The Last Gamesman 
Ukraine Fundraiser
Best Recent Game Contest
Chess Toons
En Passant
Problem of the Week

Editor's Note

The Last Gamesman 


Paul Morphy is credited with the aphorism, "The ability to play chess is the sign of a gentleman, the ability to play chess well is the sign of a wasted life."

If anyone were curious to know what Paul Morphy had in mind when he said these words, Asa Hoffmann's recently released memoir provides an entertaining elucidation of his idea. Asa, who I believe has a Morphy Number of 4, authored his memoir together with his wife Virginia Hoffmann, and it reads like a creative, non-fiction patchwork quilt of recollections, anecdotes and stories from a New York City chess hustler. The Last Gamesman: My Sixty Years of Hustling Games in the Clubs, Parks, and Streets of New York describes with clarity and detail the outline of what most readers who are chess players will agree was a life well lived.

The introduction, penned by Marshall Chess Club President Emeritus Dr. Frank Brady, sets the reader up for the entertaining journey they are about to embark upon: 

But perhaps the most fascinating aspect of his memoir is his recollection as he lived this life of chess in the Big Apple. He weaves remembrances of players as would a novelist. Here we see him playing some of the great players of his day, from Reshevsky to Fischer, from Evans to Kamsky. As a youngster, he and a number of the up-and-coming chess players would walk the streets at night, looking for a café or a pub so that they could play all night long. And he did, often until dawn. By honing his technique in playing such gifted players, Hoffmann became one of the country's top speed players. 

He describes with clarity and flare the atmosphere and inner workings of the Manhattan and Marshall, the two leading chess clubs in the United States. When he entered young manhood, he was elected a member of both Boards of those clubs, and his observations and comments as an insider will undoubtedly become an important part of chess history. 

Anyone who knows Asa will relish the book as a gap-filler for anecdotes he may have once started to tell you but didn't have time to finish, and those who don't know him will be enthralled by the ups and downs of his life together with the sketches of the characters along the way. For me personally, I was surprised to see several figures who I recall bumping into on my own journey through New York Chess, such as Richard Gilmartin, a denizen of the Village Chess Shop who made an impression on me as a young player. He passed away about ten years ago, but seeing him described (very accurately) in The Last Gamesman was moving for me, as if Asa had conjured up a memory of a friend from my own past and presented him to me on the page.  Asa does this time and again throughout, connecting lofty figures in the chess world with the rest of us through the localities in which all of our paths have crossed: The Village Chess Shop, the Bar Point Club, the Flea House, the Manhattan Chess Club and yes, the Marshall. He also gives credit to the hardworking organizers and managers such as Dr. Frank Brady, Bruce Pandolfini, Bill Goichberg and Steve Immit who made the tournaments and clubs hum and buzz with life 24/7.  

What I love most about this book though are the photographs - 30 pages of them with several photographs per page. There are photos of nearly every character from the New York City chess scene from their youth.  There is Bruce Pandolfini as a young man with long hair and a wide brim hat. He resembles the front man of a rock and roll band more so than a budding chess master. There is Dr. Frank Brady as a young man, full of gusto but already professorial in his stature and smiling the same way he does today. And of course many photos of Asa surrounded by the players of the era of his youth. Half the fun of going through this section is seeing if you can recognize the players before reading the caption.

Beyond chess, there are chapters on Backgammon, Poker, Bridge, Horse Racing and Scrabble. Even checkers, the game that Paul Morphy famously said was for "tramps," gets a chapter of its own. Perhaps the only thing that is missing is an annotated collection of chess games, though Asa assured me that this is forthcoming and for those who can't wait, there is always his earlier classic, Chess Gladiator

After having read The Last Gamesman, I cannot recommend it highly enough. While it is available to purchase on amazon, I assume that Asa would prefer you buy it from him personally the next time you bump into him so that he can sign it and inscribe it with something witty and personal, as he did in my copy: "Greg, it's never too late to make master."    


— Greg Keener, Editor of the Spectator 


Fundraiser to Benefit Ukraine

Marshall Chess Club Members came together to show support for the crisis in Ukraine in the best way that we know how: holding a chess tournament.

The fundraising event was held on Saturday March 26th, in two sections with prizes for each. The president of the club, Sarathi Ray, was in attendance to acknowledge the importance of the event and hand out trophies during the awards ceremony at the event's conclusion.  

The tournament was well attended, with 54 chess players total. A full crosstable for the event with results can be found here. In addition, several donations poured in from members who were unable to attend the event but wanted to show their support for the cause nonetheless, and the total raised for the crisis in Ukraine was $4,025 as of the time of writing.

— Greg Keener, Editor of the Spectator 

Best Recent Game Contest

The Marshall Spectator is thrilled to announce a new contest for our current members to participate in. If you have played a recent game at the Marshall Chess Club that you think may be appealing to a wider audience, please submit it with your annotations to Each issue we will select the most interesting game based both on the quality of play and annotations and publish it here for our readership to enjoy.

Congratulations for Mr. Kole Henry Moses for submitting this game fragment to the Best Recent Game contest and winning a free entry to the Marshall Chess Club. Want to submit your recently played game? Simply email a recent, annotated game that you played at the Marshall to us at and you will automatically be entered into the contest. 

We look forward to reading your submissions and sharing your recent brilliancies with our readership! 

Mr. Kole Henry Moses vs NN
(Play through the game fragment here.)

In this position, I considered a few moves. The first move that came to mind, and ultimately the correct move was 21. Na3, which I should have played. However, I rejected this move because after 21. Na3 Nxa3 22. Qxa3 Kf7 23. Be5 Kg7 I wasn't sure how to continue my attack. It appeared to me that the king was completely safe on h6 with the dark square bishop covering the c1-h6 diagonal. As it turns out, I was quite wrong. White can bulldoze through with 4. Rxf6 Nxf6 5. Qe7+ Kh6 6. Bxf6 Rg8 (to stop Bg7#) 27. Bg7+ Rxg7 28. Qh4#. Another move was d5, however, this seemed even less appealing as Na3 no longer works after Qc5. Both Na3 and d5 are worthy alternatives which would lead to better games, however, the last move I considered was perhaps a simpler path to victory.

1. Be5  

At first this move looks ridiculous and frankly impossible. And at first, the computer thinks that way at well. The computer says this is drawing on low depth. Why does this work? The first question is what happens after 1... fxe5?
Otherwise, if the bishop is not taken, there aren't many useful waiting moves for Black to help consolidate. 1...Nxe5 loses to 2.Bxb5 winning the queen, while the knight and queen are stuck guarding f6 and Kf8 so other moves will transpose into any of the lines from 1.Na3 most likely. 

1... fxe5  Now 2. Na3 is a different story. If 2... Nxa3 3. Qf7+! Kf8 4. Qf8+ Qe8 5. Qd6+ with Rf8 to follow . If 4. Kc7, it is clear to see that there is a mating net after 5. Rf7 since the pawn on c3 holds the escape square on b4. Also the g8 knight can't block as the queen and the rook hold the e7 square twice. A queen sac won't work because it will be possible to triangulate the white queen and pick up the rook in the corner and Black will be down too much material. So after Na3 Black might try 2... Ne7 (which is best) however, after 3. Nxc4 bxc4 4. Bxc4 there is no good way for Black to consolidate given White's dominance on the f-file and one the light squares. If Black plays 4... Qc7 5. Bb5+ Kd8 6. Qe6 and Black is paralyzed. White can simply activate the rook with Ra1 or play Qf6, Re8 Qf7 and there is no way to stop the back rank problems. If 4. Kd8 there is Bb5 still and after the queen moves it white will play Qb4 or Qa4 and it is clear that there is no way to stop all the infiltration with Rf6 coming. Lastly we can look at what my opponent tried with 2... Bf4.

2. Na3 Bf4 It makes sense trying to block the rook's file, but like the other moves, it simply will not do to defend the king. However, again I play an inaccuracy. I rejected the simple 3.Nxc5 because after 3... bxc5 4. Bxc5 Kf8 5. dxe5 g5 I didn't want to play g3 because I feared the counterplay with e6+, e7 harassing my rook and threatening to promote not giving me enough time to capture the bishop. However this is perfectly fine and winning. I played...

3. dxe5

I noted that 3... Nd2 does not work after 4. Qa2 still threatening Bxb5 winning the queen and Rxf4. There is no way to stop both threats as a convenient move such as Qf6 which would get the queen off the pin and defend the bishop is impossible as the pawn on e5 holds the square. I neglected that after 3... Ne7 4. Rxf4 Rf8 I was forced to trade rooks and my initiative would have been halted, though I would still have an advantage. So after my opponent found Ne7, I tried 4. Nxb4 leaving my opponent's Knight on c4 and bishop on f4 both hanging. 

3... Ne7

4. Nxb5 Again, my opponent finds the best move in 4... Nd2 

Here I played 5. Nd6+ reasoning that if the queen captures, I cannot recapture with the pawn or I lose my queen, however, I can play Qa4+ and if the black queen blocks I play Bb5 winning the queen.  The computer thinks black can still hold by giving up the queen though. Luckily, my opponent blundered and played 5... Kd8

From this point out I see the sequence starting with the very natural 6. Qb8+ Kd7 7. Qa7+ Ke6 With 8. Rxf4 Kxe5 9. Qd4+ Kxf4 10. g3+ Kg5 11. Nf7+ Kf5 12. Qe5#  

Mr. Kole Henry Moses, Marshall Chess Club Member 


Chess Toons

En Passant

Chess News En Passant:

– Hikaru Nakamura and Richard Rapport are officially in the Candidates 2022.

– The FIDE Grand Prix Series 2022 came to an end with Wesley So winning the third leg in Berlin by beating Hikaru Nakamura in the finals tiebreaks with a 1.5-0.5 score.

– Check out all of Alireza Firouzja's Most Brilliant Moves on in this article by Marshall Chess Club Member NM Anthony Levin. 

– A stunning end to the Charity Cup final saw Magnus Carlsen survive a major scare from Jan-Krzysztof Duda to clinch a second Meltwater Champions Chess Tour title of the season.

Problem of the Week

M. Klasinc, 1974


Helpmate in 2:

(a) diagram;
(b) replace all 4 rooks by bishops;
(c) replace all 4 rooks by knights.

In a helpmate, Black moves first and cooperates with White to mate Black. So in this problem, each side makes two moves and after White's second move, Black will be mated. This is three problems in one; all solutions are completely unique. That such gems of the chessboard exist is almost enough to make on believe in Caissa, the goddess of chess.

Solution to U. Ring and H.-H. Staudte, 1965: 1.Kf6 f8=R+ 2.Kg5 Kg7 3.Kh5 Kf6 4.Kh6 Rh8 mate.

Alexander George, Marshall Chess Club Member

Editor's Note

Spot a typo in the spectator? If you have any feedback, comments, or would like to submit an article please contact me directly at

Enjoy, and thanks for reading!

—Greg Keener, Editor of the Spectator
The Marshall Chess Club
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