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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Fine Wins First U.S. Lightning Championship

In the Summer of 1942 the U.S. Lightning Championship was created and was won by Dr. Reuben Fine ahead of Reshevsky. Before the introduction of chess clocks in the mid-1950s chess club "rapid transit" tournaments had a referee who every ten seconds called out “Move!” or in some cases a bell or gong was rung.
Just about all famous players have played rapid chess, but what to a lot of them really think about it?
  • "Playing rapid chess, one can lose the habit of concentrating for several hours in serious chess. That is why, if a player has big aims, he should limit his rapid play in favor of serious chess." – Vladimir Kramnik
  • "Yes, I have played a blitz game once. It was on a train, in 1929." – Mikhail Botvinnik
  • "He who analyzes blitz is stupid." – Rashid Nezhmetdinov
  • "Blitz chess kills your ideas." – Bobby Fischer
  • "To be honest, I consider [bullet chess] a bit moronic, and therefore I never play it." – Vladimir Kramnik
  • "I play way too much blitz chess. It rots the brain just as surely as alcohol." – Nigel Short
  • "Blitz is simply a waste of time." – Vladimir Malakhov

Even so, almost all top players indulge; as Kramnik also said, "Blitz – it's just a pleasure."

The title in the first U.S. Rapid Championship was decided in the semi-final round when Fine and Reshevsky met. Fine faced an uphill battle when he lost the exchange early, but Reshevsky, who needed a win to finish ahead of Fine, could only reach a drawn position, so he forced the issue and ended up losing. The final standings were:

1- Reuben Fine 10-1
2- Samuel Reshevsky 9-2
3- George Shainswit 7.5-3.5
4- I.A. Horowitz 7-4
5- Isaac Kashdan 6-5
6-7- Matthew Green 5.5-5.5 (born Dec-28-1915, died Dec-16-2006, 90 years old)
6-7- Herbert Seidman
8- Albert Pinkus 5-6
9-10- Arnold Denker 3.5-7.5
9-10- Abe Yanofsky (Not sure why the 17 year old Canadian was playing)
11. H. Nadell 2-9 (another unknown player)
12. Herman Helms 1.5-9.5 (at 75 Helms was simply too old to compete successfully)

In the following game Fine should have lost. While analyzing the game the following position was reached and Stockfish was showing a clear win for white, but I just couldn't believe it. But, it's there; white won all five Shootouts!

White to move


  1. I think Arnold Dener was a typo for Arnold Denker. Great site by the way. I always enjoy visiting.

    1. Yes, you are correct; I don't know why that never occurred to me. Thanks!