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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Anthony Santasiere

Anthony Santasiere (9 December 1904 – 13 January 1977) was a high school mathematics teacher at the Angelo Patri School in the Bronx, New York. His hobbies included writing poetry, oil painting and playing the piano. Santasiere wrote extensively on chess in the magazine American Chess Bulletin and was the author of the book The Romantic King's Gambit. The chess opening Santasiere's Folly (1.Nf3 Nf6 2.b4) is named for him.

In 1923, Santasiere tied for 13th/14th place in Lake Hopatcong scoring only 2.5 – 10.5 but drew with Frank Marshall (1st) and David Janowsky (3rd). In 1924, he took third place, behind Marshall and Carlos Torre, in New York. In 1927, he tied for third/fourth in New York and tied for fourth through sixth place in the New York State Championship. Santasiere won the New York State Championship the following year. In 1929, he took third place, behind Herman Steiner and Jacob Bernstein, in the New York State Championship and tied for first the following year.

In the 1930’s he had moved up to the point that in 1931, he took seventh place in New York (Capablanca won) and tied for third/fourth in the New York State Championship which was won by Fred Reinfeld. In 1934, he tied for ninth/tenth in Syracuse (Samuel Reshevsky won). In 1935, he took seventh in the US Open and then in 1938, he played in the US Champiuonship and only tied for 10th/11th. In 1938, he took fifth in Boston.

At that time there were many strong tournaments being held in Ventnor City, New Jersey, a popular resort town. He shared first place with Shainswit in 1943, took second place, behind Reshevsky, at Boston 1944 (the US Open), and won at Peoria 1945 (the US Open). In September 1945, he played in the radio match US vs USSR on tenth board against David Bronstein and lost both games. In 1949, he took second, behind Albert Sandrin, in the US Open. He won a tournament in Italy in 1953.

Santasiere, the 12th of 13 children, grew up extremely poor and his education was paid for by a wealthy, elderly chess fan. In return for getting his education paid for Santasiere had to spend the summers at his benefactor’s estate. Arnold Denker verified that when he knew Santasiere in the 1970’s when they were both living in Florida, Santasiere was a homosexual and lived with his companion. Hmmm…maybe that explains how he got his free college education and the summers at the old man’s estate.

Santasiere was always chastising the great players for what he deemed to be cowardice in the openings. Ruy Lopez’ and Queen’s Gambits were almost always blasted. In his writings he advocated romantic openings and gambits, but he, himself, played stuff like the Reti. It prompted a dispute in writing with Larry Evans in mid-1961 and Evans, wrote, “His games are characterized by plodding, timidity and opening repetition. He enters even ‘romantic debuts’ such as the Vienna and King’s Gambit with reams of prepared analysis, strives constantly to keep the draw in hand and prevent complications from getting away from him over the board. Where are the glorious games which qualify Santasiere as the darling spokesman of romanticism?”

Denker gave an example of the time in the 1946 US Championship when Santasiere had the better position and Reshevsky had 2-1/2 minutes left for 23 moves. Santasiere offered, and Reshevsky accepted, the draw. Santasiere’s reasoning was that time was not a factor, but Reshevsky’s Queen endgame ability had to be respected, so a draw offer was, as he put it, common sense.

When Santasiere retired to Florida in the 1960’s he began playing again and for about two or three years won about every local tournament he entered. He developed heart problems and at the advice of his doctor, gave up tournament play.

There follows one of his better attacking games against Edmar Mednis. Santasiere’s opening was very risky and Mednis didn’t play the best and the result was a wild draw.

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