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Friday, June 16, 2017

A Tussle Over a Buick

     The 1955 US Open held in Long Beach, California had a rather bizarre and controversial finish. Reshevsky and Rossolimo tied for first place and cash prizes are generally split equally while trophies are awarded on tie breaks. The problem with this tournament was that first prize was a 1955 Buick Century that had been donated by a local dealer. 
     Tiebreaks involve adding up the adjusted scores of opponents and that was the problem. In this event adjustments were made by awarding a half point for unplayed games or a loss on a forfeit and subtracting a half point for a bye or a win on forfeit. It caused a problem. 
     In round two, Reshevsky defeated James Bolton who ultimately finished with 7 points. In round 7, Bolton received a forfeit win from Ronald Gross (who finished with 6 points). 
     Bolton had defeated Gross in a game that was actually played, but AFTER the game Bolton was informed by a spectator that while he was away from the board, Gross had made a move, taken it back and played another one.  An enraged Bolton demanded the TDs award him the game on a forfeit and they complied.  It's hard to imagine Bolton's demand because winning on a forfeit would mean no rating points. Bolton was rated 2110 and Gross 2123 at the time though both would eventually become strong masters.  However, at this time the rating system was new and players weren't so sensitive to such things as rating points. 
     Thus, because Bolton received a forfeit win, his adjusted final score for tiebreak purposes was 6.5, not 7.0 points, and that lowered Reshevsky's tiebreak score enough that Rossolimo got the car. 
        In today's dollars...$25,500
     As it turned out though, the decision was the right one because Kenneth Harkness later pointed out in Chess Review that even without deducting that half point, Rossolimo would have been awarded the car.  That was because the first two tiebreak systems would have resulted in a tie, but the third method would have given Rossolimo the Buick by a 0.25 point margin. The two players could have settled the issue themselves when they met in round 8, but they elected to play a 17-move draw. 
     Rossolimo's win over Irving Revise, who finished tied for places 6-9 with Anthony Saidy, Ivan Romanenko and James T. Sherwin with 8.5 points, was interesting. John W. Collins called it one of Rossolimo's most most clean-cut wins. It was anything but! When Collins annotated the game for Chess Life his notes were almost worthless because he missed so many points and made it look like Rossolimo's play was near perfect and Revise was the recipient of a stern thrashing. As is often the case, things weren't so clean-cut. If only one had Stockfish in 1955! 

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