Reuben Fine chessplayer and psychoanalyst was born in New York City in 1914 and he died there 26 March 1993.
Fine gave up competitive chess in 1951 in order to concentrate on his profession and went on to become a leading writer, editor and finally elder statesman among American Freudian psychologists.
|Life Magazine photo|
After graduating from college at the age of 18, Fine become a professional player. He shared first prize in his first major international at Hastings in 1935-36 and over the next two years, he played in 13 tournaments, winning eight of them. But, his greatest success was in the AVRO tournament in Holland in 1938. This event had the top eight players in the world, was generally accepted as a contest to decide who had the best credentials to challenge Alekhine for the world championship. Fine shared first place with Paul Keres.
Fine later described himself as 'World Champion 1946-48' on the grounds that because of his AVRO results, he had best claim to the title between Alekhine's death in 1946 and The Hague/Moscow tournament.
Fine was considered a serious contender for the world championship and was invited to play in the 1948 The Hague/Moscow six player tournament to determine the world championship after Alekhine's death, but he declined, ostensibly for professional reasons claiming that he could not interrupt his studies. However, speculation was that he was suspicious that the three Soviet Union players would gang up on the outsiders in order to ensure one of them would win the tournament. He told Larry Evans that he didn't want to waste three months of his life watching the Russians throw games to each other.
Although Fine was successful in open tournaments he was never able win the US (Closed) Championship, usually placing behind Samuel Reshevsky. When Reshevsky was asked why Fine never won the US Championship he said, “Because I was playing.” In 1944 Reshevsky didn't participate and Fine was expected to finally win, but Arnnold Denker played the tournament of his life and defeated Fine in their individual game and so Denker won the championship with Fine finishing second a half point behind. Imagine scoring 78.1 percent in the US Championships yet never winning one!
As a psychologist Fine was of the opinion that chess is an embodiment of the Oedipus Complex, with the father-figure King and powerful mother- figure Queen providing the elements for the player to enact fantasies about killing his father. The pieces are mostly phallic symbols and all players are latent homosexuals. According to him, that explained why, at least in his day, there were not a lot of strong women players. His opinions on the subject of homosexuality have cited in legal battles over, including the legislative battle over same-sex marriage in Hawaii. Though most of us non-psychologists might think Fine was irrational in his beliefs and find them amusing, he was one of the most rational chess players of his time with an attacking style.
Report of the Commission on Sexual Orientation and the Law
Today, Fine is an almost forgotten player and his games are rarely looked at, but he was good! He won all the seven US Championships he played in though in his day they were opens and the strength of his competition was not always of the highest caliber. He won 5 gold medals in three Olympiads and had a plus or even score with all the world champions he played. Fine wrote, “In my own mind I have always stressed accuracy above everything else; whatever happens then flows naturally out of the position.” Fine, who learned to play at the age of eight, was a regular at the Marshall Chess Club and he eventually became one of the best blitz players in the world, even holding his own in blitz against the world champion Alekhine.
During WWII Fine wrote chess books, including his famous Basic Chess Endings, a book that has been considered one of the best works on the endgame (and one that's still worth owning) even though it was published more than 60 years ago. I remember reading that he claimed to have written the book in six months...an amazing feat that I doubt few players could accomplish today. He also wrote The Ideas Behind the Chess Openings, which, though badly dated, is still useful book for understanding the openings. The book is available for download from Chessdotcom HERE.
Arnold Denker wrote that as a young man Fine was “terribly mixed up and a horrible liar” because “he had a screwed-up youth and never really overcame his strong feelings of inferiority. Thus the bragging. My fondness for him was more a feeling of sadness.”
It's a shame that Fine's games are not better known because of his clear, methodical style. In the following game he defeats Adolph Fink, an internationally known problem composer and a landmark figure in California chess. The game is atypical of Fine's scientific approach to the opening which is one strange Bird.