Throwback Thursday: Watson wins 1969 NHS!

This weekend marks the 51th edition of the National High School Championship. This year’s tournament promises to be one of the largest in its history – indeed, as I write these words, registration has been closed as the playing field has swelled to a hard cap of 1700. CLO will cover the event over the weekend, and readers should also check US Chess social media accounts for on-site, up-to-the-minute reporting. Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/us_chess/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/USChess Use the hashtag #HSChessChamps for your posts and tweets! The first National High School Championship, held April 11-13 1969, was a more modest affair. Chess Life reported in June 1969 that 370 players from “21 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico” converged on the McAlpin Hotel in New York for eight rounds of action. The inaugural winner of the event was a “John Watson, a senior at Brownell-Talbot High School, Omaha, Nebraska” who finished with 7.5/8 points.

Wonder what ever happened to that guy?

John Watson, 1967 NE Centennial. Courtesy "The Gambit," photo Elly Didrichsons.

The bespectacled kid from Omaha went on to become International Master John Watson, author of over 30 books, including the critically acclaimed Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy and Chess Strategy in Action. Watson is best known for his work on the openings, with pioneering titles on the English and Chigorin to his credit, and his four editions of Play the French have taught at least two generations of players how to combat 1.e4. Watson has had success as a teacher and trainer, helping GM Tal Shaked to the World Junior title and NM Abby Marshall to become the first girl to win the Denker Tournament of High School Champions. He has recorded hundreds of instructional videos for chessclub.com, and his “Chess Talk” interview series for ICC was an important precursor for today’s chess streamers and podcasters. But people forget that Watson could actually play the game too. We only have one game from the 1969 National High School Championship, and while it’s far from perfect, it does show the early Watson’s tricky tactical style at work.

[pgn] [Event "National HS Ch"] [Site "?"] [Date "1969.04.12"] [Round "?"] [White "Cardamone, James"] [Black "Watson, John"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B76"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "56"] [SourceTitle "The Gambit, 08/2015"] [SourceDate "2019.03.13"] [SourceVersionDate "2019.03.13"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 O-O 8. Qd2 Nc6 9. O-O-O Nxd4 (9... d5 {is almost universally played today.}) 10. Bxd4 Be6 11. Nd5 Bxd5 12. exd5 Rc8 13. Kb1 Qc7 14. Rc1 {Freeing the queen from its defensive duties.} (14. g4 {allows Black to try and lure the queen with} Bh6 $5 (14... Nxd5 $5 {is another idea:} 15. Bxg7 Kxg7 16. c3 e6) 15. Qc3 Nxd5 $15) ( 14. c3 {may improve:} Qa5 15. Be3) 14... a6 15. g4 b5 16. h4 Qb7 17. c4 bxc4 18. Bxc4 Rxc4 $6 19. Rxc4 Qxd5 20. Qc3 $2 {[#]} Ne4 $1 21. Qc1 (21. Qe3 Qxc4 22. Bxg7 Kxg7 23. Rc1 Qe6 24. Qxe4 Qxe4+ 25. fxe4 Kf6 $19) 21... Qxc4 22. Bxg7 Kxg7 23. fxe4 Qxe4+ 24. Ka1 Rc8 25. Qd1 Rc2 26. h5 Rd2 27. h6+ Kf8 28. Qc1 Qc2 0-1 [/pgn]
The 1969 US Open was held in Lincoln, Nebraksa, a short trip down Interstate 80 from Omaha. Watson was top Nebraska player, scoring a respectable 7/12. His game against P.Cook is a melee that works out in Black’s favor.
[pgn] [Event "US-op"] [Site "Lincoln"] [Date "1969.08.20"] [Round "11"] [White "Cook, P1."] [Black "Watson, John L"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D02"] [PlyCount "60"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c3 d5 3. Nf3 c5 4. dxc5 e6 5. b4 a5 6. Qb3 b6 7. cxb6 axb4 8. cxb4 Qxb6 9. b5 Nbd7 10. e3 Nc5 11. Qc2 Bd6 12. a4 O-O 13. Be2 e5 14. Bb2 Ng4 15. Nc3 d4 16. exd4 exd4 17. Nxd4 Ne6 18. Nd5 Nxd4 19. Qxh7+ Kxh7 20. Nxb6 Nc2+ 21. Kf1 Nxa1 22. Nxa8 Nb3 23. Bd3+ f5 24. Nb6 Nxf2 25. Kxf2 Bc5+ 26. Ke2 Bxb6 27. Bc4 Re8+ 28. Kf3 Nd2+ 29. Kg3 Re3+ 30. Kf4 Nxc4 0-1 [/pgn]
Before leaving professional chess for a ‘real job’ in engineering, Watson had no few successes in tournament play, earning his IM title in 1982. His win in the 1980 Bar Point International is perhaps his best result, along with a first place finish in the 1981 American Open. Watson never completely left the tournament arena, and despite some health challenges, he has in recent years returned to active play. Perhaps his best win since his comeback was at GM Gawain Jones’ expense at the 2015 Gibraltar Open.
[pgn] [Event "Gibraltar"] [Site "?"] [Date "2015.??.??"] [White "Jones, Gawain C"] [Black "Watson, John L"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E84"] [WhiteElo "2671"] [BlackElo "2319"] [PlyCount "88"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 g6 3. d4 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f3 O-O 6. Be3 Nc6 7. Nge2 a6 8. Qd2 Rb8 9. Rc1 Bd7 10. Nd1 Re8 11. Nf2 b5 12. cxb5 axb5 13. g3 e5 14. d5 Ne7 15. Bg2 c6 16. dxc6 Bxc6 17. O-O d5 18. Bc5 Qd7 19. Rfd1 Qb7 20. Qb4 Nc8 21. Rc2 dxe4 22. fxe4 Nb6 23. b3 Bh6 24. Nc3 Nbd7 25. Bd6 Rbc8 26. Re2 Qb6 27. Rd3 Ng4 28. Ncd1 Ba8 29. Bh3 Nxf2 30. Nxf2 Rc1+ 31. Kg2 f5 32. Be7 Qe6 33. Bd6 Nf6 34. Qxb5 Qf7 35. Rf3 fxe4 36. Nxe4 Nxe4 37. Qd7 Qxf3+ 38. Kxf3 Nf6+ 39. Kf2 Nxd7 40. Bxd7 Bf8 41. Bxe8 Bxd6 42. b4 Rh1 43. Ke3 Bxb4 44. Rc2 Bd5 0-1 [/pgn]
Watson has also been a regular at the U.S. Open, one of the only one round per day events in the States. His 2017 Norfolk victory over IM Rolando Nolte is a solid, workmanlike attack.
[pgn] [Event "US Open"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.07.31"] [Round "7"] [White "Watson, John L"] [Black "Nolte, Rolando"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E58"] [WhiteElo "2308"] [BlackElo "2473"] [PlyCount "67"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Bd3 d5 6. Nf3 c5 7. O-O Nc6 8. a3 Bxc3 9. bxc3 Qc7 10. Bb2 dxc4 11. Bxc4 e5 12. h3 b6 13. Bb5 e4 14. Nd2 Bb7 15. Bxc6 Qxc6 16. c4 cxd4 17. exd4 Rfe8 18. d5 Qd6 19. Re1 Rac8 20. Bxf6 Qxf6 21. Nxe4 Qg6 22. Qd4 Red8 23. a4 Ba6 24. Rac1 h6 25. Rc3 f5 26. Nd2 Qf7 27. Re5 Qd7 28. Rce3 Re8 29. d6 Rxe5 30. Rxe5 Re8 31. Qd5+ Kh8 32. Rxe8+ Qxe8 33. d7 Qd8 34. Qe6 {White wins} 1-0 [/pgn]

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Watson’s most recent major event was the 2019 Bay Area International. His final round win over Mike Arne, the last of his games currently available in MegaBase, shows his skill in playing IQP positions.

[pgn] [Event "Bay Area International"] [Site "?"] [Date "2019.01.05"] [White "Watson, John"] [Black "Arne, Mike"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D27"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "73"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 e6 5. Bxc4 c5 6. O-O a6 7. Bd3 Nc6 8. Nc3 cxd4 9. exd4 Be7 10. Bg5 O-O 11. Rc1 Nh5 (11... h6 12. Bh4 Nh5 13. Bxe7 Nxe7 14. Ne5 Nf6 15. Ne4 Nfd5 16. Nc3 Bd7 17. Be4 Bc6 18. Nxc6 bxc6 19. Qd2 Qd6 20. Rfd1 Rfb8 21. b3 Nxc3 22. Rxc3 Rd8 23. h3 Rab8 24. Rc4 Rb5 25. Bf3 a5 26. Qc3 Nd5 27. Qc1 Rb6 28. g3 Nb4 29. Rd2 Rdb8 30. Kg2 Qd8 31. Rc5 Rb5 32. Bxc6 Nxc6 33. Rxb5 Rxb5 34. Qxc6 Rd5 35. a3 e5 36. b4 axb4 37. axb4 Rd6 38. Qb7 exd4 39. Ra2 d3 40. Rd2 Qg5 41. Qb8+ {Radjabov,T (2734)-Bacrot,E (2718) Beijing 2014 1/ 2-1/2}) 12. Be3 Nf6 13. Bb1 Nd5 14. Qd3 f5 15. a3 {Typical motif - switching the bishop to the a2-g8 diagonal once it is no longer of use on b1-h7.} Bf6 $146 (15... Qd6 16. Na4 b6 17. Ba2 Nxe3 18. Qxe3 f4 19. Qe4 Nd8 20. Qxa8 Bb7 21. Qa7 Bxf3 22. gxf3 Qxd4 23. Qxe7 {1-0 (22) Kopczynski,M (2190)-Ciesla,K (1936) Leba 2006}) 16. Ba2 (16. Nxd5 Qxd5 17. b4 {wti Qd2 and Ba2}) 16... Nce7 (16... Nxe3 {looks good but after} 17. Qxe3 Nxd4 18. Rfd1 $1 Nxf3+ 19. Qxf3 Qe8 {and White has compensation for the pawn}) 17. Rfe1 b6 18. Bg5 h6 19. Bd2 (19. Bxf6 Rxf6 20. Nxd5 Nxd5 21. Ne5) 19... Re8 20. Nxd5 Nxd5 21. Rc6 (21. g4 { comp move}) 21... Qd7 22. Bxd5 Qxd5 23. Rxb6 Bb7 24. Bf4 e5 25. Rxb7 $1 Qxb7 ( 25... e4 26. Qb3 Qxb3 27. Rxb3 exf3 28. Be5) 26. dxe5 Be7 27. Qxf5 Qxb2 28. Qg6 Kh8 29. Bxh6 $1 {Anyway!} gxh6 30. Qxh6+ Kg8 31. Qg6+ Kh8 32. h3 $1 {Preparing the rook lift} Rac8 (32... Bc5 {stopping Re3, aiming at f2} 33. Re4 Bxf2+ 34. Kh2 (34. Kf1) 34... Qb7 35. Rg4 Re7 36. Ng5 $18) 33. Re4 Qc1+ 34. Kh2 Rg8 35. Qh5+ Kg7 36. Rg4+ Kf8 37. Qf5+ (37. Qf5+ Bf6 38. Qxf6+ Ke8 39. Rxg8+ Kd7 40. Qd6#) 1-0 [/pgn]

Comments

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Nice when the winner was on the cover and someone who did great things in the future. Christiansen in '71, future GM for another example. Bobby even was there in NYC visiting, a year before winning world championship. I was in Jr high but played in it too. Ms. Marshall, like myself, is a former NM, not a NM, by the way.

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