In particular, the articles written by Grandmaster William Lombardy (who was also at that time a Roman Catholic Priest) were among my favourites. There was something unpretentious about the GM's style of writing that made it seem as though he was speaking directly to the reader, one on one as it were. His interesting articles were not about ego, not about controversy, not about personalities, but simply about the game of chess. At the end of each article I always came away with a feeling that I had actually learned something useful. That I had broadened my understanding of chess.
An extraordinary natural talent for chess
William Lombardy (Bill, to his friends) was born in the Bronx on December 4, 1937. He learned chess from a neighbour at the age of 9, and quickly demonstrated remarkable talent. In those days, New York was the place to be if you wanted to learn chess--it was the hub of American chess having both the Marshall Chess Club and the Manhattan Chess Club, amongst others-- and Bill absorbed as much as he could from a chess community that had historically been enriched by immigration from Europe. He and Larry Evans (b.1932, in Manhattan) seemed destined to transform the face of American chess. By his late teens Bill was already of strong grandmaster strength, possessing a profound understanding of strategy.
Bill soon achieved some amazing results. He won the Canadian Open in Montreal in 1956 (tied with Larry Evans) and in Toronto in 1957 he won the World Junior Chess Championship with an unheard of perfect score (11-0). With this remarkable success, Bill became the first American to win a world title in chess since Morphy. (In Morphy's time, a 'world title' did not yet officially exist).
Lombardy narrowly lost a match with Reshevsky in 1957 (5 draws, 1 loss), who was still one of the very best players in the world. In 1960,in Leningrad, he played first board at the World Student Team Championship, scoring a brilliant 12 points from 13 possible, leading the US team to a stunning victory over the highly rated USSR team and giving America yet one more world title. Enroute to this feat, he defeated Boris Spassky with the black pieces in the critical encounter! At the 1960 Leipzig Olympiad, Bill scored 11.5 points from 17 possible (including a win against Portisch and a draw with Botvinnik) and FIDE decided to honour him with a GM title!
Lombardy's first steps in international competition were brilliant successes
Such an impressive list of achievements might lead any spectator to assume that a great champion was being groomed, possibly for the World Title itself. But this was not to be the case: Lombardy's meteoric rise was abruptly cut short. Cruel fate had it that at about the same time, in the same country, in the same city and frequenting the same small chess circle, a lad just 6 years younger than Bill ( b.1943 Bobby Fischer,Brooklyn) had exploded upon the scene, and Lombardy found himself having to be content to play second fiddle.
Lombardy was the closest boyhood friend that Bobby ever had. Fischer, when 11 years old, told Bill that he would become World Champion one day, and he was right on !
There can not be two champions at the same time. Lombardy had the misfortune that while his extraordinary natural chess talent was enormous, he was not a genius like Bobby. Nor was his more cautious boa-constrictor style of play able to impress the fans like Bobby's dynamic, more aggressive style of play. Perhaps more importantly, what little (private) financial support there existed in American chess at the time went to Fischer; Bill had to do everything on his own.
It must have been very frustrating for a young, aspiring artiste to find himself having to compete in the shadow of a Mozart. A talent like Lombardy takes time to mature and bear fruit, it requires care and nursing. It was unreasonable to demand everything of him immediately. Fischer, on the otherhand, delivered : he won every US Championship that he played in; the best Bill could do is come runner up (1960-61). Fischer played first board at the Leipzig Olympiad. Bill played first board at the World Student Team Championship only because Fischer was not a student. While Bill had indeed won the World Junior Chess Championship, Fischer never wanted to play in a World Junior championship, considering it a waste of his time...
A golden generation of American chess; just too much talent all at once
The following game was undoubtedly the most published game in 1960, and is probably Lombardy's best known effort.
World Student Team Championship
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5
Spassky's games did very much to popularize this sharp move. He won many games with it, and used it frequently in his 1972 match with Fischer.
6... Nbd7!? Lombardy plays a less popular variation, probably hoping to catch Spassky a bit unprepared.
7. Bc4 Qa5 8. Qd2 e6 9. O-O!
This is Tal's favourite move. Some prefer castling long (000), but praxis has shown that is very effective tucking the white king over into the other corner.
9... Be7 10. a3!? This move never caught on, and probably with good reason. The simple 10.Rad1 has done very well in practice and is considered the strongest move here.
10... h6 11. Be3 Ne5 12. Ba2 Qc7 Interesting is 12... Neg4!? 13. f4 Qh5 14. h3 Nxe3 15. Qxe3 g5
13. Qe2 Arriving at the following position.
13...b5!? A natural move.
14. f4 Neg4 15. h3 Nxe3 16. Qxe3 O-O Lombardy has a satisfactory position
20... Bd6 21. Qe2 Bxa3! Very well played!
23.Qf3?! Horrible! White had to try to hang on with 23. Qd2! Bc5 24. Kh2 Rxe1 25. Qxe1, even though he is clearly suffering. 23... Bc5 24. Kh1 Rxe1 25. Rxe1 Qa5!
Spassky must have simply overlooked this strong move ! All the more amazing since it is obvious. White now wins a piece
26. Nc3 b4 [26... d4 27. Ra1] 27. Nxd5 Qxa2 28. Nxf6 gxf6 29. Qc6 Qc4
Lombardy W. - Portisch L.
1:0, Leipzig 1960.
16. Ne1! Ne7 17. f4! Be6 18. fxe5 Nxe5
19... Nxf3 20. Bxf3 Bf7 21. Nd4 Re8 22. Bb2 Qb6 23. Kh1 h5 24. Ra1 Ra8 25. Rxa8 Rxa8 26. Rc1 h4 27. Qc3 Rc8 28. Qd2 Rxc1 29. Qxc1 hxg3 30. hxg3 Qd6 31. Kg2 Be8
I think it was a mistake for Black to have allowed the exchange of both rooks, as he needed these pieces to counterattack later. As it is, white's minor pieces are soon dominating the board.
32. Nc2! Bxb2 33. Qxb2 Nc6 34. Qb3 Bf7 35. Qc3 g5 By itself, this move only weakens the black position.
36. Nd4! Lombardy's idea is based on pure Capablanca: the ending is better for white because the black pawns are separated and attackable. 36... Nxd4 37. Qxd4 g4 38. Be2 Qh6 39. Bf1 Qa6 40. Kf2 Kh7
Despite reduced material, the black weaknesses are even more vulnerable than before!
41. Qc5! A quiet move that Capablanca would be proud of 41... Qa2 42. Be2 Qb1 43. Qxb5 Qh1 44. Qb8
William Lombardy with a chess admirer from chessbase.
The following wild position arose after the 31st white move from the Evans vs Lombardy game in the Ventura chess tournament of 1971. Black is threatening mate in one move, and seems to be winning, simply. However, the position is not so simple, and White sets a brilliant swindle. (White had just played Qc3 checking the king.)
Evans was part of the golden generation of chess, winning the US championship at 18years of age
32....Re6!!! A move of rare beauty!
33. Qxe6 Qxe6 34. Kg1 Bxg2 35. Kxg2 Qh3 [35... Qd5! is even better]
36. Kf2 Qxh2 37. Kf3 Qxg3 38. Ke4 Qg2 39. Rf3 Rh3 40. Rc6 Kf7 41. Rc7 Ke8 [0:1]
Benko, Lombardy and Hort
Lombardy signing an autgraph on his 70th celebration in NYC