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Old March 16th 04, 04:26 AM
Gregory Topov
 
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Default Obituary to a brilliant player you probably never knew

The SR Chess world recently mourned the passing of Mikhail Seignovich, at
aged 74, the only surviving son of legendary GM Victor Seignovich. In
tribute to Mikhail, here follows an obituary of his father, clearly a
shining star in the history of SR Chess players.

The relatively unknown Russian champion Victor E. Seignovich (1909-1931) had
a brilliant but very brief career. After a tremendous rise out of obscurity
to become the Russian Junior Champion in 1926, and national champion just
three years later, Seignovich did much to promote public interest in SR
Chess by performing blindfolded simultaneous exhibitions. The most
memorable of these was his 1929 blindfolded simultaneous exhibition in the
Red Square during the national championships, during which he was seated on
a post thirty feet in the air for six hours wearing nothing but a pair of
soccer shorts, while playing a dozen promising young Russian players (the
final score was 10 wins and 2 draws, one by an accidental stalemate in a
winning position). This did much to enhance the profile of SR chess in the
public eye, although it did little for Seignovich's personal health, and may
well have been a contributing factor in him turning to alcohol later in his
life. An annotated record of these games has been preserved by Dr. Carroll
Lewiston in his monumental "Standard Primer on SR Chess Gambits and Left
Wing Sacrifices" (edited and published posthumously by his wife Alice with
the help of Hattie Madd). Lord Foxton-Burnaby-Smith's 1956 publication
"Mayhem of the Masters: A Retrospective Look at a Retroactive Decade of
Russian SR Chess Dominance" also contains a selection of Seignovich's best
games from tournament play (although strangely it includes neither of his
remarkable wins with the black pieces against the American Thornton twins at
the 1927 Brussels Invitational).

Seignovich was legendary in the Russian chess schools for his tendency to
create unusual openings. The most famous of these was the murky h4! at the
1928 SR Chess Olympics, a stunning move which required his distinguished
Austrian GM opponent to ponder for 45 minutes before resigning after seeing
that the forced asymmetrical random reply of ...g5 would inevitably lead to
a mate in 13 with the help of a loaded rook. The International SR Chess
Federation made significant increases to the random factor of SR Chess in
years to follow, to prevent such controversial openings. Despite these
changes to the random factor, a study of Seignovich's early games is still
an absolute necessity for any aspiring SR Chess grandmaster. Even today the
lecturers at the "Taco Belle School of SR Chess" in Barcelona make
Seignovich's openings mandatory for their students to learn.

The world will never know what Seignovich's true potential was, because he
had to be institutionalized after suffering several embarrassing alcohol
induced delusions. The worst of these was at the 1930 Hungarian Open, when
he arrived dressed as a knight, and began eating his opponents rooks,
apparently under the delusion that they were made of swiss cheese.
Seignovich had earlier been incarcerated for an unfortunate incident
involving a cheese grater and his neighbour's pet rabbit. He died just six
months later at the tender age of 22, after choking on a golf ball which he
believed to be a boiled egg.

Seignovich's impact on the game continues to be felt especially in the SR
Chess Olympics hosted in Prague every four years, where the "Seignovich Most
Beautiful Opening Trophy" is awarded to the player who produces the most
caffeine inspired plus-minus performance of consecutive pawn moves. His
widow continued to be active after his death for many years by selling SR
chess memorabilia, and at one stage even modelled the famous propeller hat
which has since been trade-marked by Sir Stanley himself. Seignovich's
death is still felt by SR chess players around the world, and ever since his
demise, few have dared perform simultaneous exhibitions in pole position
while wearing soccer shorts for fear of the psychotic consequences that
might follow. Nonetheless he will always be fondly remembered for his brash
combinations of light and dark squared pawn traps, and his willingness to
serve as a public advocate of SR Chess. A rook autographed by his wife
continues to have a place of honour among my personal collection of chess
memorabilia.

SRC GM Topv

--
Gregory Topov
---------------------------------------------------------------------
"I don't necessarily agree with everything I say." - Marshall McLuhan


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Old March 16th 04, 09:44 PM
Eopithecus
 
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Default Obituary to a brilliant player you probably never knew

Have any of his games been published?

david
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Old March 16th 04, 11:04 PM
Gregory Topov
 
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Default Obituary to a brilliant player you probably never knew

"Eopithecus" wrote in message
om...
Have any of his games been published?


Certainly.

To quote from the obituary:
"An annotated record of these games has been preserved by Dr. Carroll
Lewiston in his monumental "Standard Primer on SR Chess Gambits and Left
Wing Sacrifices" (edited and published posthumously by his wife Alice with
the help of Hattie Madd). Lord Foxton-Burnaby-Smith's 1956 publication
"Mayhem of the Masters: A Retrospective Look at a Retroactive Decade of
Russian SR Chess Dominance" also contains a selection of Seignovich's best
games from tournament play (although strangely it includes neither of his
remarkable wins with the black pieces against the American Thornton twins at
the 1927 Brussels Invitational)."

In addition to the above two titles, you should also consider getting hold
of Sir Humphry Footscray's unauthorized autobiography entitled "From Humphry
to Humpty: Personal Memoirs of My Rise and Fall as a British SR Chess
Champion." In chapter five (appropriately called "From Russia Without Love:
The Seignovich Mismatch"), Sir Humphry recounts his series of six friendly
exhibition games against GM Seignovich, while he was preparing for the
British SR Chess Championship title in 1929. The match was sponsored by the
Royal British Equine Society, and featured some splendid presentations about
pasture management, parasite control and horse handling before each game.
Sir Humphry was himself an avid horse lover, although he documents that
Seignovich (only 20 at the time) showed more interest in the lovely ladies
who were handling the horses than the horses themselves. Seignovich's
interest certainly returned when the chess boards appeared, however, because
he won the match convincingly with five wins and a draw. Sir Humphry's book
has a complete record of all six games, along with his personal annotations.
My favorite is his comment after Seignovich's obscure 4.a4!? in game three.
This is now known as the Seignovich Crossfire Opening, with both bishops
then being developed in synchronized meter on the third rank, in preparation
for a Central Pawn Scissors attack. At the time it was a new move, however,
and Sir Humphry remarks: "A genius at work, Seignovich was already thinking
Central Pawn Scissors while I was still concentrating on warming up my seat
and regretting the fact that I hadn't worn long underwear. The game lasted
only another twelve moves, with the Scissors decapitating my short shrift
knight on d5 shortly thereafter. Seeing as I couldn't create a twin pawn
parrot formation to prevent a unmatched queen autarchy, I resigned with
whatever dignity I could muster, and trudged home in disgrace, consoling
myself by nursing my remaining pride with a glass of warm milk, a long bath,
and a meditative read of the latest proceedings of British parliament."
Incomprehensible to most players aside from grandmasters perhaps, but
certainly a fitting commentary on Seignovich's brilliance.

I'd love to hear from others who were familiar with Seignovich's dashing
play, because he is certainly not known or appreciated as he should be.

SRC GM Topov
--
Gregory Topov
---------------------------------------------------------------------
"I don't necessarily agree with everything I say." - Marshall McLuhan


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Old March 17th 04, 12:12 AM
mdamien
 
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Default Obituary to a brilliant player you probably never knew

"Gregory Topov" wrote in message
.. .
"Eopithecus" wrote in message
om...


snip

I'd love to hear from others who were familiar with Seignovich's dashing
play, because he is certainly not known or appreciated as he should be.


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.

Matt



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Old March 18th 04, 02:36 AM
Gregory Topov
 
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Default Obituary to a brilliant player you probably never knew

"mdamien" wrote:
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 result.

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,
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 pool.)

SRC GM Topov

--
Gregory Topov
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"I don't necessarily agree with everything I say." - Marshall McLuhan


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