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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Lester Samuels

     Samuels, a prominent New York attorney of a bygone era, was mentioned in the introduction to Arnold Denker's The Bobby Fischer I Knew. Denker described him as a casual player who was a frequent visitor to the Manhattan Chess Club and who once beat Herman Steiner in a match in 1931 without the loss of a game. That sounds like a pretty strong casual player!  
     Hermann Helms in the March 19, 1931 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, wrote, “Samuels who rates high among the many acknowledged experts at the Manhattan Chess Club has again given demonstration of his ability by winning two exhibition games in succession from Herman Steiner, State champion in 1929 and fresh from his recent triumph in the Berlin sextangular masters tournament. It was to have been a series of three, but the brilliant work of Samuels in taking both games makes a third unnecessary.” I was going to include the first game from the match as published by Helms, but it wasn't very interesting. Early on Steiner missed the move ...Bxh7+ that left Samuels up a P after he regained the piece and he then ground out a precise, if boring, win. The second game wasn't given.       
     I did some research on Samuels, but not much turned up...some old newspaper chess columns which mentioned his name and a case where he was charged with perjury in a legal case and it appears he was found guilty but the verdict was reversed upon appeal. 
     He graduated from Columbia University where he appears to have been quite active in the chess club, serving as manager in 1922. In 1925 he was one of two Columbia representatives in a meeting of the a Columbia, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton chess league which was having a squabble over eligibility. Samuels and the other representative offered to concede a slight change in the eligibility rule, but the representatives of the other colleges felt that the question could not be satisfactorily settled. At the conclusion of the meeting the league was dissolved. 
     In 1930 Samuels won the Manhattan Chess Club Championship and defeated Isaac Kashdan in the process. Remember, this was at the time when Kashdan was at his peak! In 1934 he won the Brooklyn Chess League Championship with a score of +11 -1 =2.      
     Beyond that I didn't discover much except for a few of his games published in old newspaper columns and below is a nice win over an opponent named Rosenthal that was played in the preliminary rounds of the Brooklyn Chess League Championship. One wonders just how good Samuels would have been had he been more than a “casual player!”

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