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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Reshevsky's Last Run

     Back in 1981 Samuel Reshevsky was a few months shy of his 70th birthday when he sat down in Jacksonville, Florida to play two other GMs that were at least half his age. The event was the playoff to determine the third American contender for the 1984 world championship. 
     By 1981 Seirawan had won two strong international tournaments and the world junior and had earned a reputation for long, but tactically dynamic, games. In 1981 at the US Championship in South Bend, Indiana he never looked like a leader until the final week when he suddenly appeared certain to finish first or second. 
     It was Reshevsky and Kavalek who took the lead during the early rounds and they kept it into the second week of play. But then Walter Browne began playing like he did in his early days in the championship. In one game he knocked off Leonid Shamkovich in 107 moves and then Lev Alburt. In his game against Alburt, Browne sealed his move and left, leaving his Hershey bar on the table. The TD sealed Browne's candy bar in another envelope and when play resumed Browne quickly polished off both the Hershey bar and Alburt. 
     In the final round Kavalek and Christiansen drew while Reshevsky defeated Boris Kogan and as a result there was a three-way tie for third place behind Seirawan and Browne. Christiansen had the advantage in the playoff for the third spot because he had defeated Reshevsky in the 14th round which gave him the better tie-break score in the double-round playoff. If all six games were drawn, or if Kavalek and Christiansen were tied, the tiebreaks favored Christiansen. 
    It had been almost 50 years since a player had been near the top at such an advanced age. From his modest home on a shady street in Spring Valley, New York, Reshevsky told an interviewer, ''I'm thinking of getting younger. I'm a happy man because I'm a religious man and I've been that way since childhood. I don't think you can be happy without religion.''
     Spring Valley had been home to three of National Football League players, actress Julianna Marguiles, actor Gerald O'Loughlin, a sports cartoonist, a college basketball coach and a few rappers and musicians, but Reshevsky was probably the most famous resident. However, few recognized him on his walks along the shady suburban streets. As a retiree, Reshevsky spent most of his time quietly at home, giving chess lessons at $35 an hour and conducting correspondence games for a fee, or making an occasional trip for a simultaneous exhibition or tournament. It was said of Reshevsky that he never studied chess, but don't believe it! His basement study, which he called ''my chess factory'', was lined with chess books and sets. 
     Until Bobby Fischer's arrival in 1957 at the age of 14, Reshevsky was the top player in the United States for more than 20 years and he captured eight US championships, the last one in 1971 when Fischer didn't play. And, it was during the 1970s that the words ''twilight of his career'' started being used to describe him. In the playoff, Christiansen, the highest-rated active player, was favored, but Reshevsky said: ''I think my chances are as good as anyone's. It's never too late. It's up to the Almighty.'' Some other Reshevsky comments were: 
     On beating Lasker at Nottingham in 1936: ''It was exciting, of course, because he had been world champion for 27 years. But I didn't make anything special of it. When you're young, you don't even think about getting old.'' 
     Playing Fischer: ''I have played all the best players of this century, and they were all powerful, but I would have to put him No. 1.'' “If he came back, it would contribute a lot to the game.'' 
     Reshevsky insisted that time had not dimmed his memory; he could still play the 56 moves of his defeat of Capablanca in the Margate tournament of 1935, a game that made him a GM. He said, ''Some games don't make an impression on you, but in that game I remember everything. Every move.'' 

1-2) Browne and Seirawan 9-5 
3-5) Christiansen, Kavalek and Reshevsky 8.5-5.5 
6) Shamkovich 7.5-6.5 
7-8) Robert Byrne and Peters 7-7 
9) Lein 6.5-7.5 
10-12) Alburt, Kogan and Tarjan 6-8 
13) Benjamin 5.5-8.5 
14-15) Fedorowicz and Kudrin 5-9 

     Larry Evans was also entered, but after losing to Byrne and Alburt he withdrew and the games did not count. This was to be the last championship for both five-time winner Evans and eight-time winner Reshevsky. 
     In the playoff Reshevsky had only one good chance when he adjourned a highly favorable R and N ending against Kavalek on the fifth day of play but couldn't score the point. The game lasted 90 moves and Reshevsky gave it every ounce of energy he had before agreeing to the draw. With all the playoff games drawn Christiansen won the final spot in the Interzonal. 
     In this game from the championship Reshevsky's opponent was Sergey Kudrin (born September 7, 1959), formerly of the Soviet Union. Kudrin was awarded the GM title in 1984. Kudrin won the United States Open Championship in 1984 and 2007. The game is pretty boring until Kudrins' speculative 18th move after which the tactical possibilities grew thick as hair on a dog's back. Reshevsky's tenacious defense and technique in scoring the win are impressive. 

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