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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

US Coffeehouse Chess Champion

George N. Treystman (sometimes spelled Treysman) was an exceptionally strong coffeehouse player from New York City who is little known today. That’s mostly because not much is known of the details of his life and, because he was primarily a coffehouse hustler, most of his games have not survived. Treystman was never a serious tournament player except for the year 1936 when he nearly won the US Championship. In those days there were a series of preliminary qualifying events and players had to score well to make it to the finals. Treystman nearly won the event and would have if it had not been for a catastrophic last round loss to Albert Simonson. Instead he finished tied with Rueben Fine for third place behind Samuel Reshevsky and Simonson.

Treystman earned his living as a hustler in the seedier chess clubs of New York City. He was willing to gamble on anything…chess, horses, cards…anything. Norman Lessing and Dr. Anthony Saidy in their book, The World of Chess, wrote that Treystman, “never opened a chess book or, I suspect, many books of whatever description.” Arnold Denker called Treysman the best odds-giver at chess in the United States. Among his victims were such stalwarts as Isaac Kashdan, Arthur Dake, Alex Kevitz, Herman Steiner and Arnold Denker. The site Chessmetrics which calculates historical ratings, put his performance in this event at 2575. According to Chessmetrics his peak rating was 2650. When the first official chess rating system was published in 1950 Treystman had a 2521 rating.

Treysman qualified for the finals at the 1937 US Open in Chicago, where he tied 3rd-4th with 6/10 and in 1938 he again played in the U.S. Championship at New York where he scored 7/16 for a tied 10-11th place. He died of throat cancer in February, 1959.

Here is a sample game in which he defeated US Master Weaver W. Adams. The game can best be described as “messy.” That refers to the position, not the play, as both players threaded their way through the complications quite well.


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