Donald Byrne: encouragement for Dragon fans

3/29/2007 – The name is most often associated with the dramatic "Game of the Century" loss to the 13-year-old Fischer. But Donald Byrne was an impressive player in his own right, as our Playchess trainer Dennis Monokroussos shows in this 1955 Dragon against Efim Geller. A nice win by a good guy.

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Dennis Monokroussos writes:

When you see or hear the name “Donald Byrne”, your first thought is probably about the so-called “Game of the Century”, Byrne’s famous loss to the 13-year-old Bobby Fischer in the 1956 Rosenwald Tournament. And this is understandable – Fischer himself has called this his best game! But Byrne, who died in 1976 at just 45 years of age, was an impressive player in his own right. He was a strong IM (a GM by today’s standards), many times a participant in the U.S. Championships, the 3-1 winner of a match against then-Candidate Yuri Averbakh, and had to his credit wins or draws against world champions Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian, and Fischer. That’s already quite impressive, and even more so when you realize he was an amateur. He had a Ph.D. and was an associate professor of English at Penn State the last 15 years of life, where he also coached their chess team.

He is thoroughly worthy of his own show, therefore, and this week we’ll take a look at his win over Ukrainian legend Efim Geller from one the 1955 USSR-USA team match. Byrne played the Dragon Sicilian, and against Geller’s 9.0-0-0 chose the playable but now thoroughly unfashionable 9…Be6. (Dragon fans can rejoice: even relatively bad sidelines defeat world-class opposition!) Geller enjoyed various static advantages, but Byrne always managed to keep his dynamic play alive. This took both imagination and courage: positionally, he accepted tripled pawns and a buried bishop; materially, he sacrificed a piece, and then the exchange. For all that, the battle remained extremely unclear, but Geller finally broke, missing a sham sac combination that won Byrne a piece. Even after that the win wasn’t entirely clear, thanks to Byrne’s pseudo-bishop, but with good technique the American brought home the point.

It’s a nice win by a good guy, and theoretically interesting, too. What more could a chess fan want? I hope to see you all this Thursday night at 9 p.m. ET.

Dennis Monokroussos' Radio ChessBase lectures begin on Thursdays at 9 p.m. EDT, which translates to 01:00h GMT, 02:00 Paris/Berlin, 12:00h Sydney (on Friday). Other time zones can be found at the bottom of this page. You can use Fritz or any Fritz-compatible program (Shredder, Junior, Tiger, Hiarcs) to follow the lectures, or download a free trial client.

You can find the exact times for different locations in the world at World Time and Date. Exact times for most larger cities are here. And you can watch older lectures by Dennis Monokroussos offline in the Chess Media System room of Playchess:

Enter the above archive room and click on "Games" to see the lectures. The lectures, which can go for an hour or more, will cost you between one and two ducats. That is the equivalent of 10-20 Euro cents (14-28 US cents).


Dennis Monokroussos is 40, lives in South Bend, IN, and is an adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame.

He is fairly inactive as a player right now, spending most of his non-philosophy time being a husband and teaching chess. At one time he was one of the strongest juniors in the U.S., but quit for about eight years starting in his early 20s. His highest rating was 2434 USCF, but he has now fallen to the low-mid 2300s – "too much blitz, too little tournament chess", he says.

Dennis has been working as a chess teacher for seven years now, giving lessons to adults and kids both in person and on the internet, worked for a number of years for New York’s Chess In The Schools program, where he was one of the coaches of the 1997-8 US K-8 championship team from the Bronx, and was very active in working with many of CITS’s most talented juniors.

When Dennis Monokroussos presents a game, there are usually two main areas of focus: the opening-to-middlegame transition and the key moments of the middlegame (or endgame, when applicable). With respect to the latter, he attempts to present some serious analysis culled from his best sources (both text and database), which he has checked with his own efforts and then double-checked with his chess software.


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