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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Fine – Reshevsky Rivalry

     One of the first rivals in US chess Reshevsky had was Dr. Reuben Fine, the man Kasparov referred to as “one of the most underrated players in the history of the game.” Fine was the only player who had an overall plus score in games against world champions. In 1929 Fine began playing in the Marshall and Manhattan clubs and soon became a sensation in rapid chess, in those days played at 10 seconds a move. In his younger days Fine successfully competed with Reshevsky in major open tournaments and defeated the leading US players in matches. His international debut came in Pasadena, 1932. It was not a particularly successful start even though he drew with Alekhine. Fine scored 5-6 and shared places 7-10. 
     Eventially he learned German so he could read books by Tarrasch, Nimzovich and Reti and made a study of Alekhine’s games. His study paid off and by 1935 he finished first at Hastings with 7.5 – 1.5 ahead of Euwe, Keres, Tartakower, Bogoljubow and Moroczy. From there on, Fine gained a reputation as a possible world championship contender as a result of his play in several European events.
      On the home front Fine was never able to win the US championship. Reshevsky used to ask, “How many times has Fine won the US Championship?” He would then answer his own question with, “None!" and then ask, "Why do you think that is?" and again answer his own question with, "It was because I was playing.” Reshevsky sat out the 1945 championship and Fine was expected to win it, but Arnold Denker played the tournament of his life and finished first ahead of Fine!

     Starting shortly before the end of WW2 Fine unsuccessfully tried to get the chess world to buy into the idea that he ought to still be considered a world championship contender. Fine didn’t participate in the 1946 US Championship and as a result Reshevsky and Kashdan gained the right to participate in the upcoming tournament to determine Alekhine’s successor despite Fine’s claim that he should be included. The USCF wouldn’t support Fine’s claim but FIDE did. Fine still did not participate. Later Fine kept changing his story; he alluded to the fact he was not allowed to play but also stated he was working on his PhD and could not spare the time; he complained nobody consulted him on the tournament’s scheduled dates,; he complained the tournament arragements were “bizarre,” and said he never received and official invitation; he whined on and on. Years later Larry Evans said Fine told him that he didn’t play because he did not want to spend three months of his life watching the Soviets throw games to each other. In any case, Fine dropped out of chess not long afterwards. On the other hand, to his credit, Reshevsky kept playing and playing and playing even after he was eclipsed by Fischer. 
     Once in a Chess Life interview Rehsevksy claimed he considered himself as the player most capable of winning the world championship from the later 1930’s on.  When asked if Fine had a good chance to beat Alekhine, Reshevsky replied, "Certainly not!" In an interview much later in life when asked about Fine Reshevsky replied, "Fine was a fine player.” (laughed)
     Here is an interesting anecdote about the Reshevsky vs. Smyslov game from the 1945 USA vs. USSR Radio Match.
     In the game below, Fine defeated Reshevsky at AVRO 1938 in a good example of the power of the queenside majority.

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