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Monday, October 5, 2015

Alekhine vs. Tenner Fake

     Hoaxes have always been around. In 2005 a tournament called "Memorial Heroes of Chernobyl" was held in the Ukraine. The official tournament site had games, results and pictures...except that apparently the event never took place. On almost all internet chess sites there are people signing up with multiple accounts and playing themselves in short games just to pump up a fake rating. Tahl told stories about helping people to get norms by giving them an easy draw. In the introduction to Dynamic Chess Strategy Mihai Suba told of a student tournament in 1967 where he was the only person to turn up and needing a norm to become a second category player, he told how the arbiter gave him the names of some of the other entrants who were no shows and told him to produce some plausible games. So he copied some games out of a book about Alekhine and came second...in a tournament where he was the only participant. 
     During World War One Alekhine worked on the Austrian front as a Red Cross official rescuing wounded under artillery fire and he was hospitalized in 1916 in Tarnopol. In Garry Kasparov's My Great Predecessors: Part I he wrote, "In the autumn of 1918 Alekhine made a dangerous trip to the south—to Kiev and Odessa. The civil war was at its height and many towns were constantly changing hands...In Odessa a tournament was planned with the participation of some local masters--Verlinsky, Vilner and others, but Alekhine's main aim was to travel abroad by boat. However, the tournament did not take place.  It was not possible to obtain a ticket on a boat and Alekhine was stuck in Odessa until spring 1919.” Kasparov went on to explain that, as related by Bohatirchuk, Alekhine was faced with the problem of how to survive and how not to lose hope of becoming world champion. Some admirer found him work in the safest place, the commission for confiscating valuables from the bourgeoisie. To work in the commission you had to join the communist party, which Alekhine did. Even so, he was arrested by the secret police and sentenced to be shot. However, a couple of hours before the sentence was carried out the order was given to free Alekhine.  See Who Saved Alexander Alekhine at Chessdotcom.
     Alekhine then returned to Moscow, tried acting for a while, gave it up, visited Kharkov where his brother was living, caught typhus and recovered and in May 1920 again returned to Moscow, where in October 1920 he won the first chess championship of Soviet Russia. In November the secret police brought a new case against Alekhine and in early 1921, after being interrogated about anti-Soviet activity, all charges were dropped and he was released. 
     But I digress. In Moscow 1915, Alekhine “played” one of his most famous games...a 5-Queen game against Grigoriev, but the game was a fake that was concocted by Alekhine.
     Another fake was his mate in fifteen against Oscar Tenner who claimed the published game was really a post-mortem of a twenty-three move draw. Tenner (April 1880– 24 December 1948) was a Polish-German–American master. 
     At the beginning of his career he played in several tournaments in Germany. He was battling for first in the second master group of the Mannheim tournament that was interrupted by the outbreak of the war. Tenner was then shuffled off with Alekhine, Vidmar, Spielmann, Reti and others and often told stories about how they made a chess set out of bread which they ended up eating when food got scarce. To escape fate, he joined the Austrian army where he suffered two battle wounds. 
     After World War One he emigrated to the United States. He became a fixture at the Manhattan Chess Club for over 30 years and was a frequent participant in major opens on the East Coast. At the club he would arrive early and sit at his table and with his glasses shoved up on top of his head and squint at Die Stadtzeitung, his favorite reading material. Tenner was a self-proclaimed expert on politics, especially foreign policy and he liked to describe the true meaning behind the headlines as he saw it...a conspiracy theorist of his day. 
     Tenner was married in March of 1930 in New York City to a middle-aged lady from Berlin and eventually they had a son. According to Arnold Denker, that pretty much ended Tenner's analysis of openings and the international news as his son became his new focus of attention. 
     His forte was blitz chess and ever the optimist, every time he lost, he would promise that he would win the next game. He was good enough that during a blitz tournament during the 1924 New York International that he made it into the final group and tied for second behind Capablanca and ahead of Marocy and Tartakower, both of whom he defeated. By the 1930s Tenner was long past his prime, but he never tired of playing in blitz tournament for small stakes where he usually lost. It never mattered to him or his opponents that he always claimed he never had the money...he would acknowledge that he owed them and set up for another game.
     Tenner was a very talented player of the Romantic style who defeated the leading US players of the day...guys like Kashdan and Horowitz and he was an expert on the openings, but his tendency was, after the opening, to expect the game to play itself. Against lesser players he was able to capture numerous brilliancy prizes. 
    In his book, My Best Games 1908-1923, Alekhine included a brilliancy against Tenner in the notes to his game against Teichmann, but according to Arnold Denker, Tenner had proof that the game, as given by Alekhine, was never played.

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