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Monday, March 17, 2014

Oscar Tenner

     Oscar Tenner was born on April 5, 1880, in Lvov, then the capital of Austrian-held region of Galicia and now part of Ukraine and died 24 December 1948.
     At the beginning of his career, he played in several tournaments in Germany. He won the elimination round then finished 4th at Hamburg, 1910, took 7th at Berlin 1911, tied for 9-10th at Breslau 1912, shared 3rd at Jungbunzlau, 1913 and tied for 2nd-3rd with Ilya Rabinovich at Mannheim 1914 (interrupted DSB-Congress, Hauptturnier A). After World War I, he tied for 6-7th at Berlin 1922 and then emigrated to the United States. He played many times in the Manhattan Chess Club Championship and other tournaments in New York. He also tied for 7-8th at Lake Hopatcong 1923 (the 9th American Chess Congress) and took 8th at Bradley Beach 1928. He took 41st at Baltimore 1948 (US Open Chess Championship) at the age of 68.
     In 1914 he was battling for the lead in the second master group or “Hauptturnie' A” of the Mannheim International when World War I broke out. The Russian players were interned at Triberg, and Tenner was also included in that group. He often told the story about how they made a chess set out of soft bread and later, when food became scarce, ate the pieces. To escape internment, he joined the Austrian army (suffering two slight battle wounds). Many times while walking from the Manhattan Chess with Arnold Denker he liked to demonstrate the infamous goose step from his army days.
     On March 18, 1930 at age 50 he married a Ms Edith Bernstein, a middle-aged lady from Berlin. Some months later, to everyone’s surprise, Mrs. Tenner gave birth to a son, Marcus and, according to Denker, from that day on, Tenner would strut into the club, thumbs hooked in his vest pockets and his chest all puffed out and would ask everyone, “Have you seen my little vun?”
     Tenner was a fixture at the Manhattan Chess Club for close to 30 years. He arrived early every day and sat at “his” table, squinting at Die Stadtszeitung, his favorite newspaper. Tenner was an expert on politics and analyzed the news daily, never failing to overlook an item on foreign affairs. When someone passed by he would always ask, “Wissen sie” (“Did you know that...”) which started every conversation, and then he would launch into a lengthy discussion about the true meaning of the news as he saw it.
     Tenner feared no and had supreme confidence in his chess ability and was especially strong at blitz. During the 1930s he would join the younger players in playing blitz for stakes, and because he was long past his prime, he often lost. He rarely had any money, so on those occasions he would stick his fingers into his vest pockets, feel around and then announce, “You get vun." Denker’s impression of Tenner’s play was that he was a very talented player and at one time or another, he defeated most of the leading American masters. In his youth, before leaving Germany, he defeated such famous European masters as Fyodor Bogatyrchuk (a future co-champion of the Soviet Union), Karel Hromadka and Karel Treybal. His main problem was his tendency to play the opening with the best but then he would relax and expect the position to play itself.
     Style-wise Tenner was a Romantic who always tried to play beautiful game and many times won the Manhattan Chess Club Championship brilliancy prize. Al Horowitz once wrote in Chess Review that Tenner never played for safety and sanity when risk and foolhardiness would do.
     Tenner died at age 68 on December 24, 1948 in New York’s Bellevue Hospital. For more information on Tenner’s opponent in this game see my post on Donald MacMurray.

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