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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sidney N. Bernstein

      Sidney Bernstein (13 July 1911, New York City – 30 January 1992, New York City) had two different phases to his career. After being a serious player in his youth he stopped playing for ten years and then came back with the idea of playing just for fun.
      Bernstein had an impressive record in US tournaments:
Tie for 2nd-4th in Marshall Chess Club Championship at New York 1930/31
Tie for 6-7th in New York State Chess Championship at Rome 1931
He played board two, behind Reuben Fine, on the victorious CCNY team in the 1931-32 Intercollegiate championships.
11th in the American Chess Federation Congress (U.S. Open) at Philadelphia 1936 Participanted in eight U.S. Chess Championship events (1936, 1938, 1940, 1951, 1954, 1957, 1959 and 1961).
Played three times in Ventnor City, sharing 1st in 1940,tied for 5-7 in 1941, and tied for 3rd-6th in 1942.
He tied for 1st with Reinfeld in Manhattan Chess Club Championship at New York 1942 and took 8th in Manhattan CC in 1955.   Over the course of his career Bernstein played Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Rubinstein in simultaneous displays and scored many wins against Denker, Marshall, Mednis and Reshevsky in tournament play.
      His career was well chronicled in his book Combat: My 50 Years at the Chessboard, but unfortunately he did not write much else about chess. In the late 1930s he coedited with Fred Reinfeld a book on Kemeri 1937 and in 1947 the two collaborated on a revision of James Mason’s The Art of Chess.
      Combat: My 50 Years at the Chessboard is unusual in that he kept annotations to a minimum under the assumption his readers were not novices. However, in complicated positions he did supply detailed notes. Also rather odd was Bernstein’s omission of diagrams.  The reason? He thought they wasted space and encouraged readers to skim! Another oddity was hyphens between moves were omitted. It has long been a questions as to who wrote the book Reshevsky On Chess.  Reshevsky claimed he wrote it, but others suspected it was ghost written by Fred Reinfeld.  I once read somewhere that the fee was $100 which would be about $1500 in today’s currency.  BTW, Reinfeld also ghost wrote Frank Marshall’s My Fifty Years of Chess.

      In writing to Edward Winter, Bernstein related how he and Reinfeld eventually had a falling out when Bernstein was working for Reinfeld in the 1950s as an analyst. Reinfeld began complaining about Bernstein’s work.  Without telling her husband, Bernstein’s wife wrote Reinfeld a nasty letter and that ended their friendhip. Reinfeld was not a particularly pleasant man himself and he also had a falling out that ended his friendship with I.A. Horowitz.
      Bernstein, who had many opening innovations, wrote of the King's Indian …over many years I’ve come to feel that even the world’s greatest players (Karpov included) misplay the white side of the King’s Indian by an early e4. This blocks the fianchettoed bishop (as Black will certainly play …e5), allows a “hole” at d4 and forfeits the option of using the square e4 as a transfer spot (for example, my last move). I’ve always kept the e-pawn at home with the option of e3 if needed – and have scored numerous wins in that fashion. (Source: Edward Winter’s Chess Notes)
      Bernstein never contributed to the USCF’s Chess Life: “…mediocre bureaucrats” and “…those USCF morons” pretty much summed up his opinion.

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