How Lawrence Day beat himself
by David Cohen
When I mention a chess player beating himself, I probably conjure up an image of Geri, the lonely geriatric chess player in the park, from the Academy Award winning animated short film from Pixar, "Geri's Game". Geri ran around the board making the moves of both players. But no, this is the mystery of the Canadian Team at the 1974 Nice Olympiad
My researches into Canadian chess history started simply enough. I wished to compile a listing of our Olympiad results, including individual scores. The 1974 Olympiad was the last before Canadian International Arbiter Phil Haley introduced the Swiss pairing system at the 1976 Haifa Olympiad. Back in 1974, a system of round robins was still in use. In the preliminary, Canada placed =3rd and was relegated to the Group 'B' finals with 15 other teams. Here my (chess history) troubles began.
When I totalled up the players' scores from the database of Canadian Olympiad games on Hugh Brodie's Montreal Chess web site, I was 0.5 points short. Chess Canada 1975.07-08, p.44, provided the explanation: Canada's result against the other team from its preliminary group, Denmark, was carried over. Canada scored 0.5 points against Denmark. So, Canada scored 30.5 points against the remaining 14 teams in the Group 'B' finals, for a total of 31 points and an 8th place finish (24th overall).
But now comes the real mystery. In his Toronto Star column of 2004.01.31, IM Lawrence Day stated that Day - Ásmundsson, Canada - Iceland, 1-0 is the correct colours. He expressed his frustration that databases around the world contained the game with the colours reversed, giving it as Ásmundsson - Day, 1-0. I consulted the Canadian DB, and, sure enough, the DB had the wrong colours. But when I reverse the colours, then Canada should score one more point! What happened?
I investigated the players' colours. With 14 teams to play, Canada would have had 7 Whites and 7 Blacks. Checking in the DB for the colours on Board 1 in each match revealed 7 Whites and 6 Blacks in the 13 other matches. So, Canada played Black against Iceland. This meant that Canada was Black on Board 1, and alternated colours on succeeding boards.
Board 1 was a draw (click on the moves to see the game):
The next two players in board order, Peter Biyiasas and D. Abraham Yanofsky, did not play this round.
Board 2 saw a game (published in Chess Canada 1975.07-08, p.45-7, with annotations by Kuprejanov) that was in the winner's words "extremely tense and nervous":
In the normal course of events, Canada would play Black on Board 3. But Lawrence has the original scoresheet to prove that he played White! I believe Lawrence played the wrong colour on his board. Piasetski, sitting next to him, probably alternated his colour from Lawrence's, and thus played the wrong colour as well. Technically, this was possible if the players at Boards 3 and 4 were seated apart from the top two boards. (It was also possible if Canada's players on Boards 3 and 4 switched with each other.) However the switch happened, it was the responsibility of the two team captains.
My theory on how the switch happened must be placed into the context of the tournament. First, all reports I've read suggest that the organization of the tournament was chaotic. Round bulletins (and, I understand, the subsequent book based on them) were incomplete or full of errors. Second, Canada did not have a team captain!
Here is the Board 3 game, which followed Lawrence's home preparation:
And now the real troubles started. Lawrence reported the results of the game as it was PLAYED - but the organizers must have recorded the result as it was ASSIGNED. So, Canada - supposed to be playing Black - lost the game on Board 3. Lawrence had beaten himself!
Board 4 was a draw:
Because the point was split, the colour switch had no effect here.
Now we can see how Lawrence's game came to enter the databases with the colours reversed. Going by board order, the assigned colours and game results, editors - without accurate round bulletins to refer to - concluded that Lawrence must have played Black on Board 3 and lost the game. Strangely enough, the database of games from France has Canada playing Black in three of the four games! Lawrence's game is reversed, in order to match the posted result, while Piasetski's game is recorded with him also playing Black. The Canadian database maintains the 2 Whites to 2 Blacks ratio by also reversing the colours on the Board 4 game, thereby showing Piasetski as playing White.
[As of 2015, based on opening analysis provided by Mr. Thomas Binder, Berlin, Germany, we believe the game was actually Piasetski-Víglundsson. Comparing to both players’ other games from the Olympiad Piasetski usually started with the King’s pawn, while Víglundsson usually opened with d2-d4. Actually Piasetski never in this tournament played the French after e2-e4, but Víglundsson did. - note by OlimpBase editor]
In conclusion, Canada should have scored one more point and finished =5th in Group 'B' (21st overall). Finally, I have also answered the question: if you beat yourself, is the game scored a win or a loss? In Lawrence's case, it was scored a loss, but he had other matters to attend to - he was on his honeymoon.
Lawrence Day, chess column in Toronto Star 2004.01.31 and personal correspondence
Chess Canada 1975.07-08, Volume 5 published by Vladimir Dobrich, edited by Robert Rubenstein
Hugh Brodie's Montreal Chess web site and Canadian games DataBase
Eric Delaire's DataBase of games from France
is a graduate of Yale University School of Management. He is a chess teacher, as well as a FIDE International Arbiter and long-time chess organizer. He has written extensively about the game, including three volumes of chess teaching materials and many articles about the history of chess in Canada. You can contact him through his website on
Written and copyright 2004 by David Cohen. Originally published 2004.03.15 Scarboro Community Toronto Chess News & Views electronic newsletter. Reprinted by permission of the author.