by Allan Savage
Denis passed away April 14, 2016. He was 75. He got hooked on chess in 1958 while he was a freshman at LeMoyne College in Syracuse, NY. His first USCF tournament was played in DC in 1961 where he acquired a 1600 rating. In graduate school at Clarkson University, he met a group of ardent chess players and reached 1900-2000 strength. Graduating in 1968 with a Ph.D in solid state physics, he moved to Maryland and took a job at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds where he spent his entire working career.
He was a longtime participant of tournaments in the metropolitan DC area and select tournaments outside, including the World Open, US Open, US Senior, the Amateur Team East, and the Bermuda International. He was a life member of the USCF, occasionally Maryland’s USCF delegate at the annual meeting, an Original Life Master, and Maryland State Champion in 1983. A frequent competitor in the Baltimore Open, Denis won it outright twice (1980, 1984) and shared first place seven other times: first in 1969 and last in 2006.
Denis was also well known for his columns in the Maryland Chess Newsletter (MCN). He regularly reported on events he attended like the US Open and Bermuda International, and local events, and he also wrote about other subjects as well. I believe his first journalistic contribution to MCN was in Nov-Dec 1975 (volume 7, no. 6) – see below. In Summer/Fall 2005 MCN (volume 10, no. 1), a list of Maryland State and Amateur Champions from 1955-2005 was published, thoroughly researched and compiled by Denis.
As a player, Denis was a fierce competitor, especially in the endgame. Mike Atkins mentions that he had good endgame technique and when holding only a slight advantage, often tried to squeeze his opponents in long games. Over the years, I probably played Denis more than a dozen times. His USCF rating peaked over 2300 in the early 1980s, and again in the early 1990s. In recent years he has been at his rating floor of 2200, but still a tough competitor. Then, in his final event in February 2016, the Amateur Team Championship East, he reached 2201 with a fine performance on 3rd board; and his perennial team of senior players tied for first place! (see May 2016 Chess Life, page 20).
Another of his favorite tournaments was the Bermuda Open International. He played in and reported on the first one in 1983 (Spring 1983 MCN), and participated in every annual occurrence for 27 years! The event was held for the final time in 2011. Denis was likely the only player to attend them all. No doubt his tying for first with 3 GMs and two IMs in the inaugural tournament gave him great incentive to return. The great climate, hospitality, international participants, and party atmosphere that he frequently reported about, surely also contributed.
In the Virginia Chess Newsletter 2002 (#3) Denis wrote a remembrance for Charlie Powell. There he published all their mutual games and noted that his lifetime record against Powell was even: +5 -5 =6. Quoting Denis in 2002: “…chess is my hobby of a lifetime and I have played nearly 4000 rated games, all of which are saved on my computer. Maybe one of these games will be enjoyed by someone else and it will all be worth it.” This was his most dominating game against Powell.
Strenzwilk – Powell (1969 Turkey Shoot Open)
1.e4 e6 2.d4 c5 3.Nf3 a6 4.Bd3 b5 5.0-0 c4 6.Be2 Bb7 7.e5 Ne7 8.b3 cb3 9.ab3 Nbc6 10.c4 bc4 11.bc4 d6 12.ed6 Qd6 13.Nc3 Nf5 14.d5! Nd8 15.c5! Qc7 16.Qa4+ Qd7 17.Qxd7+ Kxd7 18.c6+ Nxc6 19.dc6+ Kxc6 20.Ne5+ Kc7 21.Nxf7 (1-0, 64).
In 1975 (MCN vol. 7, no. 6, Nov-Dec), Denis met the reigning World Correspondence Champion Yakov Estrin in the last round of a tournament at Johns Hopkins.
Estrin – Strenzwilk (Baltimore, 1975)
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bg5 a6 8.Na3 Be6 9.Nc4 Rc8 10.Ne3 Be7 11.Bxf6 Bxf6 12.Ncd5 Bg5 13.c3 0-0 14.Be2 g6 15 0-0 f5 16.ef5 gf5 17.Kh1 Kh8 18.f4 Bh6 19.Bd3 Ne7 20.Nxe7 Qxe7 21.Qh5 Bxf4 22.Nxf5 Qg5 23.Qxg5 Bxg5 24.h4 Bf4 25.g3 Bxf5 26.Bxf5 Rxf5 27.gf4 Rc4 28.Rad1 Rfxf4 29.Rxf4 Rxf4 30.Rxd6 Rxh4+ 31.Kg2 Rg4+ 32.Kf3 Rf4+ 33.Ke3 Kg7 34.Re6 1/2-1/2
In 1982, Denis won the DC Open with a perfect 6-0 score. At the time he called it his best result ever, as he defeated two players rated in the top 50 in the country: Ove Kroll and John Meyer. I knew the Danish player Ove Kroll, as we had a mutual interest in the Nimzowitsch Defense, in which he was a top theoretician. Here Denis outplays Kroll essaying his pet defense.
Strenzwilk (2249) – Kroll (2482). (Washington DC, 1982)
1.e4 Nc6 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Bg4 (This pin, here or on move 4, is no longer considered so promising today, after many unsatisfactory tests by GM Miles) 4.Be2 g6 5.Nbd2 Bg7 6.h3 Bd7 7.c3 e5 8.de5 de5? 9.0-0 Nf6 10.Qc2 0-0 11.Nc4 Nh5 12.Rd1 Qc8 13.Bf1 h6 14.b4 a6 15.a4 f5 16.Nh4! Ne7 17.ef5 g5 18.Ng6 Nxg6 19.fg6 g4 20.hg4 Bg4 21.Be2 Nf4 22.Bxf4 Rxf4? 23.Ne3! Be6 24.g3 Rf6 25.Rd2 Qe8 26.Bd3 Kh8 27.Be4 c6 28.Rad1 Qg8 29.c4 Rff8 30.Bf5 Rxf5 31.Nxf5 Bxc4 32.Nd6 Bb3 33.Nf7+ Bxf7 34.gf7 Qxf7 35.Rd7 Qe6 36 Rd8+ 1-0
When winning the Maryland State Championship in 1983, Denis defeated senior master Robert Eberlein and master Greg Acholonu.
Eberlein – Strenzwilk (Maryland Open, 1983)
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c6 4.e3 Nf6 5.Nf3 Nbd7 6.Bd3 dc4 7.Bxc4 b5 8.Bd3 Bb7 9.e4 b4 10.e5?! bc3 11.ef6 cb2 12.fg7 Bxg7 (12…bxa1=Q!?) 13.Bxb2 Qa5+ 14.Qd2 Qxd2+ 15. Kxd2? c5 16.Rab1 Bxf3 17.gf3 Rb8! 18.Rhg1 Bf6 19.f4 Ke7 20.f5 Rb6 21.Bc3 Bxd4 22.Bxd4 cd4 23.fe6 fe6 24.Rg7+ Kd6 25.Rxb6+ ab6 26.Rxh7 Rf8 27.Ke2 Nc5 28.Rh4 e5 29.Bc4 Rf6 30.Rh8 Ne4 31.f3 Nc3+ 32.Kf2 e4 33.Rd8+ Kc5 34.Rc8+ Kb4 35.Bb3 Rxf3+ 36.Kg2 Rd3 37.h4 Rd2+ 38.Kg3 e3 39.Re8 Nxa2 40 h5 Kxb3 41.h6 e2 42.h7 Rd3+ 43 Kf2 Rh3 44.h8=Q Rxh8 45.Rxh8 Nc3 46.Rd8 Kc4 47.Ke1 Kd3 48.Rd7 b5 49.Rd8 Nd1 50.Re8 Nc3 51.Rd8 b4 52.Rb8 Nd5 53.Rg8 b3 54.Rg3+ Kc2 55.Kxe2 d3+ 0-1.
Strenzwilk – Acholonu (Maryland Open, 1983)
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6 4.0-0 Nge7 5.d4 ed4 6.Bg5 Bg7 7.c3 f6 8.Bf4 dc3 9.Nxc3 0-0 10.Qd2 d6 11.h3 Be6 12.Rac1 a6 13.Be2 Qd7 14.Rfd1 Rfd8 15.Nd5 Kh8 16.b4 Rdc8 17.Rc2 Ne5 18.Rdc1 Bxd5 19.ed5 c6 20.dc6 Rxc6 21.Nd4 Rxc2 22.Rxc2 N7c6 23.Nxc6 bc6 24.Qc1 a5 25.b5 cb5 26.Bxb5 Qe6 27.a4 d5 28.Bd2 d4 29.f4 d3 30.Rc7 Nf7 31.Bxd3 Nd6 32.Qc6 Rd8 33.Ra7 Rc8 34.Ra8 Rg8 35.Bb5 Qe7 36.Rxg8+ Kxg8 37.Qa8+ Kf7 38.Qxa5 f5 39.Kh2 Ke6 40. Qb4 Ne4 41.Bc4+ 1-0
In the 1998 US Open playing Black, Denis drew with Grandmaster Julian Hodgson vs. Hodgson’s favorite opening.
Hodgson – Strenzwilk (Hawaii, 1998)
1.d4 d5 2. Bg5 h6 3. Bh4 c6 4. Nf3 Qb6 5. Qc1 Bf5 6. c4 e6 7. Nc3 Be7 8. Bg3 Nf6 9. e3 O-O 10. Be2 Nbd7 11. c5 Qd8 12. OO Ne4 13.Nxe4 Bxe4 14. Nd2 Bh7 15. b4 Re8 16. Qb2 Bf6 17. f4 Bh4!we 18. Bxh4 Qxh4 19. b5 Qe7 20.bxc6 bc6 21. Qb7 Rec8 22. Qa6 Nf6 23. Bd3 Bxd3 24. Qxd3 Rab8 25. Rab1 Qc7 26. Rb3 Rxb3 27. axb3 Qa5 28. h3 Rb8 29. Kh2 Qa3 30.Qc3 Ne4 31. Ra1 Nxc3 32. Rxa3 Rb7 33. Kg3 Kf8 34. Kf3 Ke7 35. e4 Nb5 36. Ra4 Nc3 37.Ra3 Nb5 38. Ra4 Nc3 39. Ra6 Nxe4 40. Nxe4 Rxb3+ 41. Ke2 dxe4 42. Rxc6 Rb2+ 43. Ke3 Rb3+ 44. Ke2 Rd3 45. Rc7+ Ke8 46. Rxa7 Rxd4 47. Ke3 Rc4 48. Rc7 g6 49. g4 f5 50. c6 Kd8 51.Rd7+ Kc8 52. Rg7 Rc3+ 53. Ke2 Rxh3 54. Rxg6 fxg4 55. Rxg4 Kc7 56. Rg6 Kxc6 57. f5 Rf3 58.fxe6 Kd6 59. Rg4 Rf6 60. Rxe4 Rxe6 1/2-1/2
As a fine player and ever-present friendly face, Denis will be greatly missed from area events. Already at the 2016 Maryland Open, his absence was noticeable.