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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Other guys were playing besides Fischer...

Lessing J. Rosenwald
     The Third Lessing J. Rosenwald Trophy Tournament, New York, Oct.-Nov. 1956 was better considered to be the U.S. Championship although the Rosenwald tournaments only later officially became the U.S. Championship event.  Rosenwald was Chairman of Sears from 1932-1939 and later became a collector of rare books and art; his father, Julius Rosenwald, was instrumental in the education and chess career of Samuel Reshevsky.
     The 1956 tournament is best known for 13-year old Bobby Fischer's win over Donald Byrne in the Game of the Century, but it's forgotten that were were other players in the event besides him and Byrne. Reshevsky finished first despite a first-round loss to Donald Byrne with one round to spare, two points ahead of Bisguier.
    Arthur Feuerstein, who had drawn Fischer in the U.S. Junior that summer, was outstanding, scoring plus two. A report in Chess Life said he would have finished second if he had not weakened in a favorable game against Edmar Mednis. Feuerstein's play was described as fearless and original. Feuerstein was also member of the 1957 U.S. Student Team in Iceland. In 1972 Feuerstein was in a near-fatal car accident that left him in a coma for 6 weeks. When he recovered, he didn't know how to speak English very good or who his family was, but he said there were two things he did remember...who his wife was and how to play chess. I lost a game to Feuerstein in the U.S. Open Correspondence Championship in 1970. Then after his recovery, lost another one, also in the U.S. Open Correspondence Championship in 1972. I do not remember if the games were played in the prelims, semis or finals.
     Another player who did surprisingly well was Abe Turner, who was heading toward a high prize until his disastrous results against Bisguier and Reshevsky in the last two rounds. Turner was a well-liked fellow who spent his "work week" earning his living as a chess hustler and on weekends writing plays. Turner took a job at Al Horowitz' Chess Review where he was was stabbed to death and stuffed into a safe by fellow employee Theodore Smith who had been released from a mental asylum only a few years earlier. It probably didn't help that Turner allegedly made homosexual advances towards Smith.
    Eliot Hearst was another sensation. He was playing under the handicap of having just finished his Master's thesis in psychology and preparing for his induction into the Armed Forces. Hearst went on to research blindfold play and authored a book on the subject. He also wrote a popular column for Chess Life titled Chess Kaleidoscope. 

1) Reshevsky (9)
2) Bisguier (7)
3-4) Mednis and Feuerstein (6.5)
5-7) D. Byrne, Bernstein and Turner (5.5)
8-10) Seidman, Fischer and Hearst (4.5)
11) Pavey (4)
12) Shainswit (3)

     Donald Byrne (June 12, 1930 – April 8, 1976), a member of the US Chess Hall of Fame, deserves to be remembered for more than losing a game to Bobby Fischer. He defeated or drew world champions Vasily Smyslov, Bobby Fischer, Tigran Petrosian, and Mikhail Tahl. He was inactive in chess after 1974 and died from lupus. 
     According to Chessmetrics his highest ever rating of 2621, which placed him at number 17 in the world, came in 1958. By comparison, Smyslov (2723), Botvinnik (2720), Bronstein (2699), Tahl (2687) and Keres (2696) lead the list followed by Reshevsky, Gligoric, Petrosian, Spassky, Geller, Averbakh, Taimanov, Zurakhov (who is this guy?!), Korchnoi, Szabo, Najdorf and then Byrne. 
     The following encounter between Byrne and Turner is both instructive and entertaining. In a routine position in the QGA Turner makes a seemingly logical move that turns out to be a blunder when Byrne conjures up an attack against his King, seemingly out of nowhere.


  1. I've always heard that Feurstein forgot how to play chess and had to relearn the game. An interesting thing with the Turner case is that his killer thought that Turner was a Soviet agent, possibly because of Soviet chess literature he had.

    1. I believe Fuerstein was involved in a nearly fatal automobile accident and suffered severe head trauma. The fact that he was able to recover so much of his chess playing ability is a tribute to his talent and tenacity.

  2. Chess Life has a good article on Feuerstein here