IM Winslow Wins October Tuesday Night Marathon at Mechanics'

Mechanics' Institute Library in San Francisco, CA


Traditionally held at the Mechanics’ Institute (MI) in downtown San Francisco, the Tuesday Night Marathon is one of the longest running weekly tournament in the United States. Begun in 1972 by former MI chess room director Ray Conway as the worldwide popularity of chess exploded – Fischer vs. Spassky, anyone? – the TNM was indeed a marathon: 12 rounds, one game per week, complete with adjournments and sealed-move envelopes. 

Conway was truly a character. A cross between W.C. Fields and Fred Flintstone, he always wore a black suit and carried a huge cigar. The late master Steve Brandwein once gave Conway the nickname “two-gun” -- though this was not completely accurate: Conway only carried one gun, and he used a shoulder holster like a detective in some TV show from that era.  

I played in the second TNM in late 1972 and was paired against my brother, IM Jay Whitehead – that scoresheet is the only one I still own from that tournament. More kids would come and play in the TNM then go on to become masters, including GMs Daniel Naroditsky, Sam Shankland and more recently Patrick Wolff. Other notable participants in this classic event were IMs John Grefe and Walter Shipman. 

Conway set loose a beast of an event, and successive MI directors have had to regularly adapt this brainchild to fit the changing chess world. Adjournments now belong to a dimly remembered prehistoric past (though the MI still has a collection of sealed-move envelopes). The number of rounds has been shortened, though never to a fixed count, often ranging between six and nine.  

And now steered through a global pandemic by MI chess director Abel Talamantez, the TNM has gone fully online and hardly missed a beat. No longer confined by the four walls of the Mechanics’, strong players are now participating from all over the world, including GMs Aleksandr Lenderman and Gadir Guseinov. And many of the “regulars” have made the jump online as well. 


The online TNM features two games every Tuesday evening, at 6:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. pacific, with a time control of G/35+2. The tournament runs as a two-section event (Over/Under 1600 and more recently 1800) or with a traditional Open format. The games are played on and manually paired by MI tournament directors. 

Conway passed away in 1995, but like the man himself, his legacy looms large -- the 2020 October TNM was named in his honor.  The event ran in one Open section, playing eight rounds over four Tuesdays, and was won convincingly by veteran IM Elliott Winslow with an undefeated 7/8. His two draws came against Guseinov and FM Kyron Griffith.  

Elliott teaches for the MI’s scholastic program and has won the TNM numerous times over the years. His play seems to have sharpened recently but, like all veterans, prefers an endgame where he can outplay the youngsters. Tarrasch’s old adage “Before the endgame, the gods have placed the middle game” has been replaced by Elliott’s new motto: “After the middle game the gods have placed the endgame."

Here is Winslow's favorite game from the event – a sharp win over up-and-comer Nicholas Weng, who once described how he plays (and beats) older players: “I just out-calculate them.” But not this time.  

[pgn][Event "Ray Conway TNM"] [Site ""] [Date "2020.10.13"] [Round "3"] [White "Nicholas Weng"] [Black "Elliott Winslow"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B89"] [WhiteElo "1958"] [BlackElo "2278"] [Annotator "Paul Whitehead"] [PlyCount "86"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [TimeControl "2100+2"] {[%evp 0,86,18,25,44,44,63,11,11,16,28,54,52,36,96,34,31,36,34,25,48,18,30,29, 35,22,8,8,16,0,-14,0,50,-3,12,-40,-31,-31,-116,-232,-232,-123,-176,-163,-167, -223,-178,-188,-188,-184,-184,-225,17,54,60,46,35,44,35,30,30,-41,-37,-31,-31, -35,-46,-55,0,-58,-6,-55,-54,-168,-168,-216,-256,-300,-375,-375,-204,-287,-454, -454,-474,-29999,-1439,-29999,-30000]} 1. e4 c5 {Elliott continues to play sharp and theoretical openings - his games are often the most hair-raising of any given round.} 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 d6 6. Bc4 {The sharp Sozin variation, favored by Bobby Fischer.} e6 7. Bb3 Be7 8. Be3 a6 9. Qe2 Qc7 10. O-O-O {And this is the ultra-sharp Velimirovic Attack.} Na5 11. g4 b5 12. g5 Nxb3+ ({Black avoids} 12... Nd7 13. Bxe6 $1) 13. axb3 Nd7 14. h4 (14. Nf5 $5 {is considerably sharper.}) 14... b4 15. Na4 Nc5 16. h5 Nxe4 17. Qg4 $6 ({A bit slow.} 17. g6 $1) 17... d5 18. g6 Bf6 (18... f5 $1 19. Qg2 h6 {locks it up, and black is better.}) 19. f3 e5 20. Nf5 Bxf5 21. Qxf5 Ng3 22. Qg4 Nxh1 23. Nb6 d4 (23... hxg6 $1) 24. Nxa8 Qc6 25. Bxd4 $1 O-O {The players have been exchanging sharp blows, and now things calm down, but only for awhile.} 26. Be3 Rxa8 27. Rxh1 Rc8 28. gxh7+ Kxh7 29. Qf5+ Kg8 30. h6 g6 31. h7+ Kh8 32. Qe4 a5 33. Kb1 Qb5 34. Bc1 Bg7 35. Bd2 $2 ({White is drifting.} 35. Bh6 $1 {would keep the balance in this tricky position.}) 35... f5 36. Qh4 Qc6 37. c3 Qxf3 38. Qe1 Qd3+ 39. Ka2 a4 $1 {Now black has a mating attack.} 40. bxa4 b3+ 41. Ka3 Qc4 42. Rh4 e4 43. Qd1 Bf8# {Winslow won by checkmate. A fine finish.} 0-1 [/pgn]

And here is another game that was spellbinding to watch unfold: GM Guseinov vs IM Prasanna Rao from round 4. 


[pgn][Event "Ray Conway TNM"] [Site ""] [Date "2020.10.13"] [Round "4"] [White "Gadir Guseinov"] [Black "Prasanna Rao"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C63"] [WhiteElo "2600"] [BlackElo "2508"] [Annotator "Whitehead, Paul"] [PlyCount "109"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [TimeControl "2100+2"] {[%evp 0,109,16,28,38,44,16,8,68,58,52,77,52,65,51,52,70,65,80,81,28,28,23,22, 45,29,35,58,58,4,56,58,57,13,18,0,82,18,18,-5,-5,49,86,102,102,158,201,159,200, 121,118,117,136,132,132,92,112,76,105,71,84,47,116,132,121,121,138,145,168,168, 182,159,150,113,115,121,121,105,105,111,125,97,97,97,97,168,156,158,158,148, 145,79,141,86,135,116,125,144,144,146,206,193,190,204,213,245,327,403,424,423, 461,541]} {This heavyweight encounter between the two highest-rated players took place in the 4th round.} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 f5 {The Schliemann Defense to the Ruy Lopez.} 4. d3 fxe4 5. dxe4 Nf6 6. O-O d6 7. Nc3 Be7 8. Be3 O-O 9. Bc4+ Kh8 10. Ng5 Qe8 11. Ne6 {White "wins" the bishop pair.} Bxe6 12. Bxe6 Qg6 13. Bf5 Qf7 14. Bh3 Qg6 15. Bf5 Qf7 16. a3 {Spurning the repetition, White takes the b4 square from Black's knight and asks: what are you going to do?} Rad8 17. Bh3 Qg6 18. Qd3 d5 $5 {Feeling the pressure, Black sacrifices 2 pawns to stir up trouble.} (18... a6 19. Rad1 {is still tough for Black.}) 19. Bf5 Qh5 20. exd5 e4 21. Bxe4 Ne5 22. Qd4 Bd6 23. h3 Nxe4 24. Qxe4 Rde8 (24... Nf3+ 25. gxf3 {and the White knight can swing around to g3 via e2 and defend.}) 25. f4 $1 Nc4 26. Qxc4 Rxe3 27. Rf2 Rfe8 {Black has white a bit tied up... but two pawns is just too much.} 28. Raf1 Qg6 29. Kh1 a6 30. Qd4 b6 31. Qd2 Qg3 32. Ne2 Qh4 33. Nd4 {This regrouping of the knight is decisive.} R8e4 34. Ne6 h6 35. c4 Qg3 36. b4 Rxc4 {Black regains a pawn, but the White forces become untangled.} 37. Rf3 Rxf3 38. Rxf3 Qg6 39. Rc3 Qb1+ 40. Kh2 Re4 41. Rf3 Re1 (41... Rc4 {would have been more stubborn. Now White forces the queens off.}) 42. Qc3 Rh1+ 43. Kg3 Qa1 {Forced to stop Qxg7 mate.} 44. Qxa1 Rxa1 45. Kg4 $1 {The king joins in the attack.} a5 (45... Rd1 46. Kf5 Rxd5+ 47. Kg6 {is hopeless.}) 46. Kf5 Kh7 47. Rg3 g5 48. Rc3 $1 {The rook switches sides, working wonders on the 3rd rank.} axb4 49. axb4 gxf4 50. Nxc7 Bxb4 51. Rc6 Bc5 52. Ne6 Rg1 53. Rc7+ Kg8 54. Nxc5 {The simplest.} bxc5 55. d6 {Guseinov won by resignation. The d-pawn will cost black his rook. A game where Black's imaginative play was met firmly by White's two-feet-on-the-ground style.} 1-0 [/pgn]

The complete list of prize-winners can be found on the Mechanics’ Institute chess club website

Congratulations, Elliott Winslow on an important win for the older generation!