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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

32nd Western Championship 1931

    This event in Tulsa, Oklahoma concluded on Tuesday October 13 and was the annual tournament of the Western Chess Association. The winner was Samuel Reshevsky, at the time a student at the University of Chicago. There were ten entries and Reshevsky, by winning six games and drawing three (with Rundell. Factor and Barnes), barely beat out Samuel Factor who drew four (with Reshevsky, Whitaker, Mlotkowski and Borochow.)

     The National Chess Federation had failed to do much that year except to pick the Olympic team for Prague. The team consisted of Isaac Kashdan, Frank Marshall, Arthur Dake, I.A. Horowitz and Herman Steiner. The USA team won the title for the first time and it was fully deserved. They lost 3 matches in the early stage but they were simply the strongest as a team and all the players score 60 percent or better.
     The Federation was also involved with its first imbroglio with Norman T. Whitaker. He would later get involved in another dispute with the USCF. In this first incident Whitaker had been upset with the National Chess Federation's founder and President Maurice Kuhns who didn't like Whitaker.

      Kuhns (1859-1949) served as president from 1926 to 1939 when the NCF merged with the American Chess Federation to form the US Chess Federation. Kuhns was made president emeritus of the USCF. He was also a vice-president of FIDE. In the 1920s, he devised the Kuhns Cable Chess Code, a method of transmitting moves over cable which was used in the 1926 London-Chicago Inter-city cable match. He was one of the first Certified Public Accountants in the U.S.
     Kuhns was involved in an amusing incident involving Alekhine.  Reti's simultaneous blindfold record was surpassed by George Koltanowski in 1931 when he took on 30 opponents. Alekhine was the world champion and even then he was very active in tournament play, giving exhibitions and playing blindfold games, but he had never played more than 15 at once.  In 1933 he decided to take on the challenge of beating Koltanowdki's record. The opportunity came when when the organizing committee of the chess section of the Century of Progress Exhibition at the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago invited Alekhine to be its main attraction when they offered him $1,000 (almost $19,000 today) to try and beat Koltanowski's record by playing 32 games.
     Kuhns presided over the attempt and was tasked with keeping silence, but around 6PM a torrential rain began falling and swamped the streets. Many people rushed into the playing venue where they interrupted Alekhine who was seated on a raised platform. Fortunately Kuhns was able to restore order and maintain quiet. Alekhine set the record, losing four games in the process.
     Edward Lasker was the referee and teller and later claimed that Alekhine made a number of mistakes and only corrected them when Lasker questioned his moves. While serving as teller and calling out the moves Lasker's helping Alekhine by clarifying his moves may seem questionable, but even if a sighted player makes an illegal move, he has the opportunity to correct it. In any case, there are no official rules for blindfold simultaneous exhibitions!    
     Whitaker had won the 1st NCF Congress at Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1927, but was not invited to play at the 2nd NCF Congress at Bradley Beach, New Jersey in 1928. The NCF also had refused to name Whitaker to the Olympic teams and as a result he threatened to form the Western Chess Association as a second United States affiliate with FIDE. Whitaker's plans for the organization never materialized because he was arrested and sent to prison for his part in a scam related to the Lindbergh kidnapping.
     A pedophile, crooked as a dog's hind leg and a bitter man, Whitaker could turn on the charm when he wanted too...that's why he was so successful as a conman! When I met him the mid-1960s at a tournament in North Carolina I didn't know who he was, but he came across as a genuinely likable old fellow. I remember him adjudicating an adjourned game and offering helpful advice. He was peddling 365 Selected Chess Endings, a book he wrote with Expert Glen Hartleb. His promise was that if we learned everything in it we would become a master. Of course, like a bunch of people I bought an autographed copy, but never learned anything from it. Unfortunately, the book is long gone, but I wish I still had it because it was an original edition hot off the press plus it was autographed.
     Third place finisher James A. Anderson (June 28,1906 - December 23, 1991, 85 years old) is a mysterious fellow. He just appeared out of nowhere to finish second in the 1929 Western Championship, ahead of players like Herman Steiner, Whitaker and Factor. He was selected to play bottom board on the Olympiad team at Hamburg 1930 along with Isaac Kashdan, Frank Marshall, Harold Phillips and Herman Steiner; he scored +3 -7 =3. He was three-time champion of St. Louis. After that he disappeared from the world of chess.
    Harry Borochow (June 15, 1898 – October 20, 1993, 95 years old) was California State Champion from 1930 to 1932. Because of his successes prior to the institution of a rating list, he was awarded the title of Master Emeritus by the USCF.

1) Samuel Reshevsky 7.5
2-3) Samuel Factor and Norman T. Whitaker 7.0
4) James A. Anderson 5.5
5) G.E. Rundell 5.0
6) Stasch Mlotkowski 4.5
7) Harry Borochow 4.0
8) Arnold Davis 2.5
9) George S. Barnes 1 2.0
10 Wilber 0.0

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