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Friday, February 17, 2012

Rzeschewski on Tour in 1920

From the American Chess Bulletin:

Another private exhibition of Rzeschewski’s prowess was had on the evening of January 9, 1920 at the residence of Dr. Heny Keller, 143 West 86 Street, New York, lecturer on orthopedic surgery at the New York Polyclinic Medical School and instructor in orthopedics at New York University, as well as president and director of the Harlem Forum.  

Among the many guests were many physicians, specialists, neurologists, ministers and lawyers so that Sammy was the cynosure for the eyes of a very critical audience.  Seemingly unconscious of the galaxy surrounding him, the nine-year old developed the openings, laid his plots and caught his victims in his traps as though he were playing with children instead of five grown-up men.  Einar Michelsen of the I.L. Rice Progressive Chess Club and former Western champion was the fourth to yield and at 11:45 PM, when Leon Kussman, the Jewish dramatist gave in, there was prolonged cheering.
Dr. Marcus Neustaedter, noted neurologist, who has played considerable chess in his time, referred to Rzeschewski as a particularly precocious child, whose abnormality, he said, was fortunately bent in the right direction.  He regarded Sammy as very high strung and of a somewhat neurotic temperament.  Endeavoring to cross examine him a bit, he interrogated him as to his school work, but Sammy, never over-chummy with interviewers, tore him away with a curt, “I’ve got a teacher at home; that’s all.”
Dr. Neustaedter stated the boy’s growth is a bit stunted and that he was undersize for his age.  Ordinarily this might account for some malformation or sluggishness of the mind, but not so in Sammy’s case – rather the reverse.  His peculiar precocity, he added, made the child a phenomenon and one with a pronounced ego which in elder persons would pass for swelling of the head.  Dr. Neustaedter laid especial stress on his ability to concentrate and work out abstruse combinations.  “His genius,” the neurologist said, “shows itself in the fact that he is a classical player who develops problems.”

Dr. Keller commented on the prodigy as follows:  “He is three years ahead of his age in mentality.  Although a genius in one line, he is not abnormal in other things. He has a brilliant memory, is very witty and quick at repartee.  Altogether he is a very unusual child.”

Dr. Jacob Tarlau, rabbi of the People’s Synagogue of the Educational Alliance, who is not acquainted with the difficulties of chess, expressed his unbounded astonishment and commented upon the fact that Rzeschewski is most faithful in keeping up his Hebrew studies and punctiliously observes the requirements of the faith of his orthodox parents.
Here is one of the games from the simul:

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