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Friday, August 11, 2017

Alfred Francis Kreymborg

    Maybe I'm wrong, but I think that the people who really enjoy chess are the dubs and duffers, experts who have resigned their ambitions, those who play only for pastime, and, of course, the great fraternity of kibitzers – Alfred Kreymborg. 

     In his autobiography, Troubadour, playwright, novelist, anthologist and editor Kreymborg mentioned his chess activities, his winning of a chess club championship in Greenwich Village as a teenager when all the members were adults and his appetite for the game could not be appeased. Kreymborg also wrote of the time when he was 15 or 16 and tried to play three simultaneous blindfold games and fainted. It scared him out of trying to do it again. His decision was reinforced when not long afterward Harry N. Pillsbury who was famous for his blindfold prowess got committed to an insane asylum though it wasn't a result of blindfold play. It was most likely the result of his playing with a prostitute while participating in St. Petersburg 1895 and contracting syphilis. 
     Many years later he had a relapse when he was talked into playing a blindfold game at a friend's house. While holding one of the host's kids on his lap he played a group of other dinner guest who consulted on each move. Much to the delight of the guests, he won easily, but never played blindfold again. 
     Alfred Francis Kreymborg (December 10, 1883 – August 14, 1966) was born the son of a cigar-store owner in New York City and spent most of his life there and in New Jersey. He was an active figure in Greenwich Village and frequented the Liberal Club. 
     Along with chess, he was interested in music and his desire to compose eventually led him to writing. He began writing poetry in his late teens and soon became an active figure in the Greenwich Village literary circles. His first work was published in 1915. His first book of poetry, Mushrooms: A Book of Free Forms, was published in 1916 and it established him as one of the early adopters of free verse. He went on to author over a dozen more poetry collections. Kreymborg also edited the prominent Modernist magazine Broom, An International Magazine of the Arts and co-founded the anthology series American Caravan.
     Kreymborg was recognized as a Master level player in his youth. On two occasions he played and lost to Capablanca, including a defeat in 1910 due to botching the ending. He drew one game with Frank Marshall in the 1911 Masters Tournament, but shortly afterward left the chess world after a stunning defeat by Oscar Chajes. Kreymborg asserted that, after a painful loss to Chajes he resolved to have done with chess tournaments, chess clubs and chess forever after. However, some twenty years later he “returned to the game of my first love...” 
     Two of Kreymborg's games were published in Chess Review in 1928, the below win against Adams and a loss to A.C. Cass.  In the introduction to the game against Adams, Kreymborg wrote, “I haven’t played hard chess for 23 years...I’m quite certain that after White’s 21st move, a sound, though crazy-looking move, Black must lose...By the way, I’ve written a play called Queen’s Gambit Declined, which is dedicated to the Club. It was published by Samuel French. Maybe we’ll act it out some day. It needs only four actors, but they have to be better actors than chessplayers.” 
     Kreymborg's opponent, Edward Bradford Adams (July 28, 1878 – January 12, 1972, 93 years old) was born in Westport, Connecticut and died in Pasadena, California. He was a member of the Marshall Chess Club in the 1920s and 1930s. He was the President of the Brooklyn Institute Chess Club in the 1930s. Adams frequently competed in the New York State Championship, finishing in 4th place in 1924, 1926, and 1927, 2nd in 1928, 5th in 1929, 9th in 1931, and a tie for 1st in 1934, but lost the play-off to Robert Levenstein. 
     The complications in this game are simply amazing!

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