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Old November 25th 04, 09:55 PM
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Default That infamous game with the scattered grapefruit peels...

FYI: This post from March 2004 (to this newsgroup) is now on the web!
Thanks to Mr. Topov for making this available!

From: "Gregory Topov"
Subject: That infamous game with the scattered grapefruit peels...
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 2004 22:41:30 -0500


That Infamous Game with the Scattered Grapefruit Peels

GM Topov's last two articles have been about the little known but
brilliant Russian GM Victor Seignovich. In this article, he responds
to another contribution from Matt, who submitted some comments about
the scandal that occurred in the game when the Seignovich Crossfire
Opening was refuted, a game famously known as the one with "the
scattered grapefruit peels."

In response to the articles about GM Seignovich, Matt Damien from
Finland writes:

Thank you, GM Topov, for setting the record straight on Seignovich's
remarkable career. Much of what you write is complete news to me,
though of course I'm familiar with the Crossfire Opening, and I had a
friend who called it the "In-Seignovich" opening, though it was a few
years before I read anything about Seignovich and could appreciate the
homonymic implications of the epithet. If I remember correctly, my
friend often responded with the "Dancing Dame Defense" (the
Dandi-Ovani Defense), following the lead of Dandi-Ovani in that famous
game with the scattered grapefruit peels. Back then (this was around
1997), no one seemed terribly worried about the implications of 7.
a5!? in that line.

Thanks to Matt for this interesting contribution. Your friend's
reference to the "In-Seignovich" Opening is certainly somewhat
humorous, given Seignovich's unfortunate mental state. I always
thought that the combination of his first name and middle initial was
rather humorous. His parents evidentally had high expectations when
they named him! Interestingly, Victor was actually the fifth of
sixteen children (four of his siblings died in infancy). Victor was
the name of his paternal grandfather, a much respected family figure,
and so the first five children in the Seignovich family were named
Victor Alyusha, Victor Borislav, Victor Constantin, Victor Dimitri,
and of course the champion himself Victor Evgeny. The next child was a
girl, Katya, and from that point on the parents evidently abandoned
the alphabet game. Victory E's siblings did not enjoy the same success
as he did. Victor A. became an engineer, but committed suicide in 1927
after a horrific train crash south of Leningrad, caused by a defective
rail device that he had mis-engineered. Victor B. went on to become a
general in the Red Army, but was killed in action in Poland in the
Second World War. Victor C. died in infancy as a result of cholera.
Victor D., a brilliant violinist, disgraced the family by seeking
asylum in the United Kingdom after performing a Vivaldi concert in
London while on tour with the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, and
developing a career in British politics. But the family made an
indelible mark with GM Victor E, and to this day the Seignovich name
is a household name in SRC clubs throughout Russia.

The infamous game with the scattered grapefruit peels certainly was
scandalous, and is referred to by some SRC insiders as the "Peel-Gate"
scandal. Unfortunately the game is better remembered for the
grapefruit peels than for the "Dancing Dame Defense" (the Dandi-Ovani
Defense) that was first played in that game. If I recall correctly,
Dandi-Ovani was playing Scottish GM James McKinrock, who opened with
Seignovich's now familiar Crossfire Opening. McKinrock was expecting
the usual response, and was highly surprised when Dandi-Ovani
retracted his queen in the shadow of his rook's pawn, and proceeded to
launch the Serbian Catapault, by aligning three pawns together on a
file in an unusual Tri-Plod formation, and then assaulting McKinrock's
helpless bishops with an advanced queen by taking advantage of the
complex colour weakness. It was this unusual queen maneouvering that
led to the name "Dancing Dame Defense", and its success is the reason
that Seignovich's Crossfire Opening is rarely played today.

The tournament was sponsored by Fruit-utopia, a company specializing
in importing fruit. The sponsors had generously provided fresh fruit
imported from Brazil for all the players. It is relatively well known
that when Dandi-Ovani was four moves into successfully executing the
"Dancing Dame Defense", McKinrock suddenly realized that because his
rooks were fatally tied to the d-link of union on the d file, his king
would be the victim of a forced checkmate in 3 after his opponent's
queen had secured the anchor point on the dark square. At this point
McKinrock was so disgusted with himself that he took his bowl of
refreshments and scattered their remaining contents (mostly grapefruit
peels) across the board, with chess pieces flying across the room as a

The full story of the Peel-Gate scandal is recounted by GM Volga
Sharpinksi in the "Exhaustive Pictorial Encyclopedia of Russian SR
Chess: An Random Adventure of Memorable Stanley Moments". Volume 3 of
this excellent encyclopedia (unfortunately only available in Russian
and a rather poor German translation) covers the pre-war period, and
has twenty pages devoted to the tournament where this unfortunate
incident happened. What is not that well known, it seems, are the
remarks that Dandi-Ovani made to McKinrock to inspire this outburst.
McKinrock, who was wearing a traditional Scottish kilt at the time,
was apparently offended when Dandi-Ovani began making underhanded
comments about real men not wearing kilts and his well-reputed
fondness for quiche. It has to be admitted that McKinrock looked
rather ridiculous playing SR Chess in his native costume and that
kilts have more often been the subject of questionable humor. But such
remarks were certainly inappropriate at tournament game between
professional players. The food fight that followed was one of the
lowest moments of SR Chess, particularly when some spectators
over-reacted and took the opportunity to join McKinrock's assault
against Dandi-Ovani, using some less-than-fresh strawberries. A
full-scale riot nearly eventuated when one of these fruity projectiles
crashed into the balding dome of the tournament organizer, Maxime
La-Pierre, who was just entering the room at that moment. SR Chess
took severals years to regain the respectability lost as a result of
this debacle. McKinrock himself never recovered from the emotional
distress of his loss, and aside from a life long aversion to
grape-fruit and strawberries, soon abandoned SR Chess altogether and
began a rather unsuccessful career as a chimney sweep. It's
unfortunate that the unpleasant incident with the grapefruit peels
overshadowed the brilliance of Dandi-Ovani's refutation of the
Crossfire Opening with the novel "Dancing Dame Defense."

As an aside, not only is Sharpinski's book a highly entertaining work,
it also gives tremendous insight into the goings-on in the upper
echelons of SRC society (no true SRC fan can afford to miss the
priceless account of the post-match celebrations that followed the
1956 Berlin Invitational, an incident involving a legendary GM in a
clown costume, a garden rake, three pails of red paint, and a swimming

SRC GM Gregory Topov

GM Topov is a world renowned grandmaster in Stanley Random Chess, who
has received international acclaim for his articles about the latest
developments in the world of SRC.
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