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Friday, July 14, 2017

The Time Norman T. Whitaker Beat Two Dead Horses

     If you ever read Arnold Denker's delightful The Bobby Fischer I Knew, you read about a few of the scams Whitaker pulled off and probably wondered how people could be so gullible. A smooth talker, he even scammed me once. Often guys like Whitaker are successful with their scams because they appeal to people's greed. In my case it was the promise of becoming a Master. But, how in the 1921 Western Open he managed to convince his opponent, the tournament officials and ten other players to let him replay a lost game is beyond belief. 
     In 1939, the USCF was created through the merger of the American Chess Federation and National Chess Federation. The American Chess Federation, formerly the Western Chess Association, had held an annual open championship since 1900 and after the merger that tournament became the US Open. 
     In 1921 the Western Chess Association held its tournament at the City Club of Cleveland at the Hotel Hollenden in Cleveland, Ohio. The Hollenden Hotel was a luxury hotel in downtown Cleveland that opened in 1885, was significantly upgraded in 1926 and demolished in 1962. During the hotel's existence, it contained 1,000 rooms, 100 private baths, a lavish interior, electric lights and fireproof construction. As Cleveland's most glamorous hotel of the time, it hosted industrialists, celebrities and politicians, including five US Presidents. 
     Edward Lasker, from Chicago, annexed the title for the fifth time. The Association's meeting and tournament was held in October and Lasker, who had been elected president of the Association the previous year, had returned from spending most of the summer in Europe only two weeks earlier. 
     The referee and tournament director was Charles E. Shive, a representative of the City Club and publisher of the Cleveland Chess Bulletin. There were 12 entries and it was determined that with Sunday as a rest day, they could squeeze in the 11 rounds. The players agreed to a time limit of 20 moves per hour with playing sessions from 9:00am to 1:00pm and 2:30pm to 6:30pm. On Tuesday and Friday there would only be the morning session.
     The games were played in a suite of rooms except for the first three days which were played in the City Club's lounge. During those three days play didn't start until 4:00pm. The reason they started late those first three days was because there was a special telegraph set up in the Club's lounge that brought news of baseball's World Series being played at the Polo Grounds in New York City. 
     The much-anticipated 1921 World Series featured John McGraw's New York Giants and the New York Yankees who were appearing in their first World Series. The Yankees were relying on Babe Ruth, who was coming off what was his best year ever statistically. But, because of an infected arm and a bad knee (which he wrenched in Game 5), Ruth played only part-time in the series and did not start the final game. 
     Facing elimination, Yankee manager Miller Huggins sent Ruth up as a pinch hitter for first baseman Wally Pipp in the bottom of the ninth. Nursing both elbow and knee injuries, Ruth had sat out this game and missed all of Games 6 and 7. The bases were empty and the Yankees still trailed by the lone run of the game scored by the Giants in the top of the first. A home run would tie the game and a hit or a walk would give the Yankees a chance. Ruth grounded out and shortly afterwards infielder Aaron Ward would make the final out of the Series, giving the Giants their first world championship since 1905. 
     Following the Series, Ruth and another player did some postseason barnstorming which was against the rules for Series participants at that time. Both were suspended for a number of games at the start of the 1922 season. Ruth filed a personal appeal with Commissioner Landis, who upheld their suspensions but agreed to rescind the rule to be effective the end of that season.

The final standing were: 
1) Edward Lasker (Chicago) 9.5 
2) Samuel Factor (Chicago) 9.0 
3) Harold Hahlbohm (Chicago) 8.5 
4) Norman T. Whitaker (Washington DC) 8.0 
5) Leon Stozenberg (Detroit) 7.5 
6) J.T. Beckner ( Winchester, Kentucky) 6.0 
7) W.L. Moorman (Lynchburg, Virginia) 4.0 
8-9) H. Hoffman and S.H. Shapiro (both of Cleveland) 3.5 
10-11) B.A. Czaikowski (Chicago) and Dr. Eliot E. Sterns (Cleveland) 2.5 
12) J.H. Norris (Hoopeston, Illimois) 1.5 
Shapiro forfeited his game against Beckner when he arrived late because of a misunderstanding on the starting time. 

     Lasker was undefeated and drew with Factor, Hahlbohm and Beckner. Factor lost only one game, to Whitaker, and drew with Lasker and Stolzenberg. Factor (1883-1949) was born in Lodz, Poland and after a number of success in Europe, which included a drawn mini-match with Richard Reti (+1 –1 =0), moved to the US in 1920 or 1921. This tournament was only his second since arriving in the US. He was the nephew of Max Factor, founder of the cosmetics giant Max Factor and Company. 
     Harold Halbohm was always a dangerous player, but in this tournament he found the time limit too fast and was in time trouble in several games. He drew Lasker, lost to Factor and Beckner and won the rest. 
     Norman T. Whitaker (1890-1975) was awarded the IM title in 1965 (after ten years of hounding authorities) based on his results decades earlier. At the time of this event he was already an established thief, con man and pedophile. He lost two games, to Lasker and Hahlbohm. His game against the latter was an exciting affair and involved an incident that was nothing short of astonishing. 
     Leon Stolzenberg (1895-1974) had been a medic in the hospital at Tarnopol in World War I. In the summer of 1916 Alekhine served in the Red Cross on the Austrian front and in September of that year he played five people in a blindfold display at a Russian military hospital at Tarnopol. That's where he allegedly played a famous blindfold game against an “M. Feldt.” Some historians have disputed this, claiming the game was actually against a Dr. Fischer. After moving to the US after the war, Stolzenberg became one of the leading national and international correspondence players. He won the Michigan state championship several times and won the US Open (at the time the Western Chess Association Tournament) in 1926 and 1928. This was his first tournament since moving to the US. He lost to Lasker, Hahlbohm and Whitaker, drew with Factor and defeated the others. 
     The time limit was found to be a bit too fast for some of the players and in the second round against Whitaker, Hahlbohm barely made the time limit, but Whitaker, who had lost to Lasker in the first round, didn't think so and tried to claim the win, but his claim was disallowed and he ended up losing the game. 
     Undismayed, Whitaker somehow managed to convince Hahlbohm that they should replay the game from move 21. The officials left the decision up to the other players who unanimously consented. And so the game was replayed and Hahlbohm again managed to win the complicated position. This time Whitaker manned-up and admitted he had been fairly beaten. In view of the fact that he lost his first two games, his final finish was impressive. 
     There was also a minor tournament with eight entries that was won by Dr. Joseph Furtos of Akron, Ohio with a perfect 7-0 score. Other players were the 80-year old George McClure of Youngstown, Ohio and Clevelanders A. Cohen, Lewis Garvin, J.S. Hosterman, Manuel Levine, A.S. Loeb and C.S. Williams. 
     It was shortly after the start of this tournament that Celia Niemark, the 17-year old daughter of a farmer in West Austintown near Youngstown, gave an abbreviated simultaneous exhibition against six opponents that was witnessed by most of the participants. 
     Here is the odd second round game, or should I say games, between Whitaker and Hahlbohm.

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