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Friday, February 11, 2011

Irving Chernev

      Irving Chernev (1900-1981) was born in Priluku, Ukraine, and in 1904 his family emigrated to Brooklyn, New York.

      In the 1930s, Chernev won several very strong rapid transit chess tournaments at the Marshall Chess Club and in 1942 played in the U.S. Championship, won by Isaac Kashdan, finishing with +4 -7 =4 to tie for 10th-11th place out of 15. In 1944, he played in the U.S. Championship, won by Arnold Denker, but had a poor result of +1 -11 =3 and finished 16th out of 18. He played in played in numerous New York state championships, authored of 20 chess books and one checkers book. In his younger days, Chernev was considered a master in both chess and checkers
      In the 1930’s, Chernev was a major figure in the New York City chess world, rubbing shoulders with players like Fine, Reshevsky, Kashdan, Horowitz,and Denker. During that time he wrote articles for Horowitz’s new Chess Review magazine, and published his first books, Chess Strategy and Tactics, with Reinfeld, and An Invitation to Chess, with Kenneth Harkness. In the early forties, Chernev had become, in Denker’s words, "a solid master." If chessplayers earned ELO points for appreciating chess, for caring deeply about it, then Chernev would have been a Grandmaster. He never went anywhere without five or six little black notebooks which were kept for recording games or fantastic combinations, problems or amusing anecdotes. Chernev could be quirky, obstinate, naïve, and even dead wrong. Some of his anecdotes weren’t actually very factual. In his books the principles he expounded are simplistic generalizations, superficial axioms that lead to rote, mechanical play rather than original, creative, and independent thinking. But it must be remembered he was writing mostly for beginners.
      Denker said that in the 1930’s and 40’s Chernev worked at a series of menial jobs in the paper industry. However, in 1968 he retired from Marquardt & Company in New York City and moved to San Francisco.
      Marquard was an aeronautical engineering company that was involved in the development of the ramjet engine. The ramjet never became a major design and the company turned to other fields in the 1970s but eventually went bankrupt in the 1990’s. Chernev died of cancer in San Francisco on September 29, 1981 at the age of 81.
      Chernev wrote that he "probably read more about chess, and played more games than any man in history." His most famous book is Logical Chess: Move by Move, where he took 33 classic games from 1889 to 1952, and explained them in an manner instructive for beginners.
      In 1976, Chernev listed his choice of the 12 greatest players: Capablanca, Alekhine, Lasker, Fischer, Botvinnik, Petrosian, Tal, Spassky, Bronstein, Rubinstein, and Nimzovich.
      He also listed the 10 best chess books: My Best Games of Chess, 1908-1923, Alekhine, Masters of the Chessboard, Reti, My 60 Memorable Games, Fischer, My Chess Career, Capablanca, One Hundred Selected Games, Botvinnik, My System, Nimzovich, The Book of the International Chess Tournament 1924, Alekhine, Das Internationale Schachmeisterturnier in Karlsbad 1907, Marco, IV Internationales Schachmeisterturnier – Karlsbad 1929, Manual of Chess, Emanuel Lasker

In the following game he defeats NM Harry Baker in the 1942 US Championship.


  1. His enthusiasm came through in his writing

  2. Logical chess move by move and his book on Capablancas endgames are fantastic. Also his book of "The most instructive games of chess ever played" is fine. Yes it won't do much for a master but for club players they are useful even today.