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Monday, February 10, 2014

1940 US Championship

     The 1940 was the third championship tournament. Prior to that the title has been decided by match play until Frank Marshall had stepped aside in 1936 to allow a new championship era to begin.
      What was significant about this tournament was that it was the last championship tournament in which Reuben Fine, Samuel Reshevsky and Isaac Kashdan competed together. All three remained active during the 1940’s but never again competed in the same event. Eventually Kashdan abandoned chess for a business career and Fine for a career in psychiatry leaving Reshevsky to dominate American chess until the arrival of Fischer.
     There still wasn't much of a financial reward in chess and the championship prize fund had not grown; in fact between 1936 and 1938 it had been reduced.  In this tournament the organizers had unsuccessfully tried to drop the prize fund down to $400 (about $6,500 in today’s dollars). More than 50 years earlier in the Sixth American Congress held in 1864, first place had been worth over $7,500 in today’s dollars. In addition to Fine and Kashdan, other top players were devoting less time to chess because they needed to make a living. Two years earlier after the 1938 tournament the losing players had even asked the tournament organizing committee to return their $20 entry fees, around $325 in today’s money, because the tournament had made a slight profit, but the organizers refused. There had been a recession in 1937–1938 that actually occurred during the Great Depression. The American economy took a sharp downturn in mid-1937 and lasted for 13 months through most of 1938 and personal income was 15% lower than it had been at the peak in 1937. Times were hard for everyone and other things were more important than playing in chess tournaments.
     Reshevsky described the 1940 championship as a personal battle between him and Fine but that wasn't quite true. Their last-round game determined first prize, but there were actually other players who figured in fracas. Albert Pinkus had returned to chess after almost 10 years during which time he had been leading an adventurous life. Pinkus made a series of expeditions to the jungles of Guyana and Venezuela starting in 1932. Pinkus had won several major tournaments in the 1920s before he left on his expeditions with the intention of collecting both zoological and botanical specimens. His most important botanical collections took place between 1938 and early 1939, when he made a trip from Georgetown, British Guiana to the vicinity of Mount Roraima where he assembled some 290 herb specimens. His route took him up the Mazaruni River to the Kurupung River, overland to the Kamarung River from wherehe followed the Pakaraima Mountains on the Venezuelan side. Reaching Arabupu at the base of Roraima, he spent three months in the region, including ten days at the summit. His collections were important because they added to the few holdings obtained by previous explorers. 
     He called off further expeditions due to the outbreak of war and returned to New York in 1939 and resumed his chess career while working as a stockbroker. He went on to win the New York State Chess Championship in 1947 among other competitions.
     This tournament was also Kashdan's best challenge for the championship. Kashdan was from Brooklyn, New York, and was a 34-year-old insurance salesman. 
     Kashdan had taken an early lead and after 12 rounds was slightly ahead of Reshevsky. Fine was some distance back as a result of a 5th round loss to the colorless but solid Abraham Kuphick. To maintain his hopes Kashdan, playing White, had to score at least a draw his Round 13 game with Reshevsky while a win would likely mean first place. Their individual game was a Ruy Lopez with Kashdan conducting operations on the kingside when Reshevsky opened up the center and Kashdan exchanged minor pieces to obtain his favorite: the two bishops. That was a mistake because Reshevsky's two knights were so strong that at the cost of a pawn he had the better chances. They finally traded down to an ending which Kashdan lost when he made a major blunder. Unnerved by the loss, he lost the next day to a brilliant attack by Weaver Adams and so, after leading most of the way, ended up in third place two and a half points behind Reshevsky.
     Fine had overcome his loss to Kupchik by winning 10 and drawing 4 games so Fine and Reshevsky reached the final round to battle it out for first.

Final Standings:
1) Samuel Reshevsy 13
2) ReubenFine 12.5
3) Isaac Kashdan 10.5
4-5) Albert Pinkus and Albert Simonson 10.0
6-7) Abraham Kupchik and Arnold Denker 9.5
8-11) Sidney Bernstein, David Polland, Fred Reinfeld and George Shainswit 7.5
12-13) Weaver Adams and Herbert Seidman 7.0
14-15) Martin Green and Milton Hanauer
16) Philip Woliston 3.0
17) George Littman 2.0

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