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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Carl Pilnick Tussels with Jeremiah Donovan

     Pilnick (December 24, 1923) was born in New York City.   He was considered a chess prodigy in his teens, but never lived up to his potential. He was a solid journeyman master though and the USCF awarded him the Life Master title. Aside from being a strong master he was noted for his dry wit, direct method of speaking, love of movies, politics, and good food. Professionally he founded and served as president of Telecommunications Management Corp. of Los Angeles. 
     He learned to play when he was 8 or 9 but didn't begin to take chess seriously until he was 15 when he joined the Marshall Chess Club. As a member of the club in the late 1930s he knew Frank Marshall and Edward Lasker and a frequent visitor to the club in those days was Marcel Duchamp, but according to Pilnick, Duchamp rarely spoke to anyone. 
     Pilnick was the captain of his City College of NYC team in 1942 which was the year he qualified for the US Championship. That was the year of the famous forfeit of Denker over Reshevsky by Walter Stephens which you can read about in my post HERE.
     Pilnick was busy with his own game so didn't witness the incident, but he remembered hearing Denker complaining loudly (can you blame him?). As for Reshevsky, he just walked out. When asked about it later he said, “It wasn't my decision.” Like most everybody else, Pilnick didn't have a very high opinion of old Walter whom he described as “a pompous ass who knew nothing about chess but had money and liked to direct tournaments.” 
     Regarding the Denker-Reshevsky incident, Pilnick said it was typical of Reshevsky who would take any advantage he could get and the Pinick-Reshevsky incident later in the tournament helped make up for what happened to Denker. Reshevsy was easily winning the ending when at move 92 he made a careless move that allowed Pilnick a stalemate with a Q-sac. See the game HERE. You will notice that in the score it shows the last move to be Pilnick's 93.Qf2, but according to Pilnick, Reshevsky actually went through the formality of capturing it by slamming his own Q down with 93...Qxf2 and then stomped out without even a handshake; he also didn't bother signing the scoresheets. Typical Reshevsky! There was an article on him not too long ago in Chess Life where it described him as playing with “sharp elbows.” I once heard Norman Whitaker say, “Reshevsky wouldn't help anybody.” I got to see examples of his sharp elbows on a couple of occasions. HERE
     I also remember how, during his game with Milan Vukcevich, Reshevksy kept rattling gum wrappers and clearing his throat, but only when it was Vukcevich's turn to move. Rather than being upset, Vukcevich thought the incident was amusing. I was at the coffee machine when Vukcevich came out of the playing room to get a cup and said, “I don't believe it! Reshevsky just coughed and it wasn't my move.” In spite of all that, I liked Reshevsky.  While somewhat taciturn, he was pleasant enough when away from the board.
     Back to Pilnick...in the Championship Pilnick scored a respectable +4 -7 =4 to finish tied with Irving Chernev for 10-11. His wins were against Herman Steiner, Jacob Levy, Norman Lessing and Boris Altman. Besides Reshevsky, he drew with Denker, Chernev and Harold Halbohn. He lost to Isaac Kashdan, Albert Pinkus, Al Horowitz, Herbert Seidman, Jacob Levin, Harry Baker and Matthew Green. 
     Shortly after the championship tournament the 19-year old Pilnick was drafted and spent the years 1942-46 in the Army Air Corps. After the war he completed college and began his working career. Pilnick was fortunate that he had a neighbor near by in The Bronx that he was able to study with, Arthur Bisguier. Pilnick was married in 1951. 
     For the most part Pilnick rarely ventured to tournaments outside the New York area. I did find one international tournament that he played in...Buenos Aires, 1948. In that event he did fairly well. The finish was: 1) Stahlberg 2) Najdorf 3-4) Michel and O'Kelly 5) Guimard 6-7) Pilnick and Iliesco 8) Rossetto, who Pilnick defeated 9) Medina 10) Camara 11) Julio Bolbochan and 12) Garcia. Pilnick scored 4.5 – 6.5.
     He played in the 1952 U.S. Open in Tampa, Florida where he scored very well.   He tied for places 5-9, scoring 8 -4.  His only defeat came in the last round against Eliot Hearst. Another success was his first place tie with Anthony Santasiere in the 1953 Marshall Chess Club Championship. He moved to Los Angeles, California in 1961. Then in 1971 he he scored a major success when he finished first in the 1971 American Open on tiebreaks ahead of Larry Evans, Walter Browne and masters Ross Stoutenborough and Davis Strauss. 
     Pilnick's play was influenced by many of the top Russian players of the 1940s and 50s and he read any chess material that was available, but said the two books that he found most helpful were Modern Chess Openings and Basic Chess Endings. He passed away at home in Oakland, California on March 7, 2013 after several years of declining health. 
     His opponent in this game, Jeremiah F. Donovan, is largely unknown except that he was a one time star Brooklyn College player, a member of the Marshall Chess Club and was active in the 1940s and 50s. He was a sergeant in the US Army during WW2. 
     In this game he engages Pilnick in an exciting game with an ending that is very tough with a lot of baffling possibilities.

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