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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Mr. Bluster of the Chess World

     For those too young to remember, Mr. Bluster was the resident skinflint, mayor of Doodyville and nemesis of Howdy on the Howdy Doody Show. In the chess world it was Reuben Fine. 
    Reuben Fine's Lessons From My Games has some great games by a great player, but as everyone knows, Fine was an ego maniac. The book's table of contents gives the first clue. Out of the 50 chapter headings all but nine begin with “I.” For example, “I become an ex-world champion,” “I beat Alekhine,” “I make a combination against Capablanca.” To his credit he does have one chapter titled “The best game I ever lost” (Alekhine-Fine, Hastings, 1936/37). As for becoming an ex-world champion, he never was world champion, but believed he should have been. 
     One of the chapters that doesn't begin with “I” is titled “How far ahead can a chess master see?” Fine wrote that “it all depends” and noted that in the ending where precise calculation is required 40 or 50 moves were possible. He then proceeded to tell readers how in his game against George Shainswit in the 1944 US Championship, when he offered the sacrifice at move 29, he was able to see the final mate at move 43. That was possible because the position was relatively simplified, he said. 

     Curious, I let Stockfish analyze the position for an hour after 29.Rxd5 (it actually preferred 29.g4) just to see if it could find a mate; it couldn't. In fact, it wasn't until move 33 that Shainswit started making some inferior moves that cost him the game and no mate showed up until after he played 39...Kg5 although by that point he was lost anyway. Nevertheless, Fine's win in this game IS pretty nifty. 
    I posted about the 1944 US Championship HERE.  Several of the top players were either in the military or their jobs left little time for chess while several were into middle age and didn't have the time or energy to play. 
     Reshevsky refused his invitation because he was taking CPA examinations the same month although he did show up as a spectator. Arthur Dake had given up competitive chess in 1938 and rarely played. Alexander Kevitz, touted as a real comer in the mid-1930s, was so disappointed with his even score in the 1936 championship that he quit chess for a decade to run his pharmacy business. Isaac Kashdan withdrew at the last minute on doctor's orders and Anthony Santasiere was unable to obtain a vacation from his teaching job. Fine was only able to play when he obtained a last minute three week leave from his government job. 

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