During 1949-53, Columbia University's chess team won the National Intercollegiate Championship when this biennial event was held in 1950 and 1952. The team consisted of James Sherwin, Eliot Hearst, Francis Mechner and Karl Burger plus two reserves. Everybody has heard the term “cheapo” being used to describe a move which threatens something so obvious that only an idiot would fall for it, and he does. Burger invented the term.
A wealthy doctor, Burger played chess in over 20 countries and 47 of the 50 states, winning the 1993 Georgia State championship. He participated in only one US Championship and that was in 1969 where finished last with 4 draws and 7 losses.
According to Sam Sloan, Burger gained a good many rating points in open tournaments back in the days before there were class events and accelerated pairings were not yet used. He would enter a Swiss event and in the first round be paired against a low rated player whom he was sure to beat, gain a couple of rating points, and then drop out.
Sloan also described an alleged scandal involving Burger. He sponsored a tournament in 1980 to which he donated the prize money. A number of strong masters were playing and Burger scored a brilliant win in almost every game and tied for first. The result lead to speculation that the games had been rigged and his opponents had been bribed. Burger defeated GMs Lev Alburt, Roman Dzindzichashvili, Edmar Mednis and Leonid Shamkovich. Sloan claimed he examined the games and found nothing out of the ordinary and concluded that Burger just had a good tournament.
Burger was one of Bobby Fischer's early coaches at the Manhattan Chess Club. Like Fischer, Burger grew up in Brooklyn, New York in the 1950s and it was at the Manhattan Chess Club where he first met Fischer who was ten years his junior. When Fischer showed up at the club he always had salami sandwiches that he would eat while taking lessons from Burger. Food was prohibited at the club, but they made an exception for Fischer. The board ended up covered with debris from Fischer's salami sandwiches which Burger found disgusting and as a result he developed a “very great hatred of salami."
After obtaining his medical degree Burger worked as a physician and lived with his parents. His father died in 1967 while aboard a cruise ship bound for Bermuda. Then when his mother died in 1978 only Dr. Burger and their maid were left. The maid, who had been with the family over 30 years, moved to Georgia because the climate was warmer and she had relatives there; Burger went with her and she continued to work for him until she died of cancer in 1996. After that, Burger lived a monk-like existence generally avoiding neighbors, but he did offer chess lessons out of his home and played chess on the internet.
Suffering complications from diabetes, he had a stroke and lost the feeling in his right hand and foot and very rarely left the house.
The following game, real tactical melee, was played in the 1953 US Open held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The tournament was won by Donald Byrne who finished half point ahead of Max Pavey. Horowitz tied for third with Nicolas Rossolimo, James Sherwin, Frank Anderson of Canada, Eliot Hearst and James Cross. Burger was next in line, tying for places 9-12 with Curt Brasket, Miroslav Turiansky and Joseph Shaffer. In reporting the game results in his Chess Review, the Picture Chess Magazine, Horowitz might have reported the result of this one as “Burger blasts Horowitz” or “Burger hammers Horowitz” or “Burger bamboozles Horowitz” or some such. It was much more colorful than simply listing the results as Burger 1 - Horowitz 0.