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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Reshevsky vs. Benko Match

     Reshevsky won a lot of matches. In 1941, he defeated I. A. Horowitz in a US Championship playoff match by a score of +3−0=13. In 1942, he defeated Isaac Kashdan +6−2=3 in the US Championship playoff.
     In 1952, he defeated Svetozar Gligorić +2−1=7. The same year in New York, Mexico City and San Salvador he played an informal match for The Championship of the Free World and defeated Miguel Najdorf by a score of 11-7. The following year a rematch took place in Buenos Aires and Reshevsky again won, 9½–8½. 
     In 1956, he defeated William Lombardy (+1−0=5). In 1957, he scored match victories over Arthur Bisguier (+4−2=4) and Donald Byrne (+7−3=0). In 1960, he defeated Pal Benko (+3−2=5). 
     In 1961 Reshevsky began a 16-game match with US Champion Bobby Fischer that was played in New York and Los Angeles. He won that one, too. 
     After eleven games the score was tied +2 -2 =7, but then Fischer went on one of his obscenity laced rampages and refused to play the 12th game which was rescheduled so the match organizer, Jacqueline Piatigorsky, could attended her husband's cello concert. Back in New York, Fischer was a no show for the match's continuation. 
     In 1965 Reshevsky lost a four-game play-off match following the Amsterdam 1964 Interzonal. 
     Chessmetrics assigned Benko a rating in the low 2600s in 1960 and Reshevsky a little higher in the mid-2600s. The match was played at the Manhattan Chess Club with the winner receiving the George P. Edgar Trophy.
     Edgar was a stockbroker and chess enthusiast who donated funds for numerous tournaments and matches.  The winner of the matches he sponsored got a silver trophy which was passed from winner to winner each year. The trophy was designed by internationally famous artist and amateur chess player Man Ray. 
Man Ray's failed project

     Phildadelphia-born, Brooklyn- raised, Dada-Surrealist artist Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky) created sets from 1920 till his passing in 1976. Hailed as one of 20th century's most innovative artists and son of a Russian immigrant tailor, his artwork was far ahead of its time. His vision was to design a simple straightforward, but modern and affordable chess set. I think he failed...a reproduction costs about $450 and you can't use it in tournament play.
     The Reshevsky-Benko match was the inaugural match with the winner getting $1,000 and the loser $500. At the time the 32-year old Benko was a recent immigrant to the U.S. and was employed as a clerk on Wall Street.
     Before the match a writer asked Benko if he ever resorted to psychological ploys to help win a match.  Benko's reply was the a GM who employed such tactics wasn't worth a pawn. 
      Benko's play was always, so it seemed to me, boring. Watching him (and William Lombardy) play was, well...boring.  Mostly all they did was sit and think, think some more and after an interminable wait, move. Time trouble was the norm.
     Come to think of it, Reshevsky was a slow mover, too, but watching him could be entertaining.  He like to fiddle with cigarettes, noisily unwrap gum and clear his throat when it was his opponent's turn to move.
     He'd sometimes hold down his clock button making it difficult for his opponent to press his own button after making a move and sometimes he was known to start his opponent's clock if his opponent was away from the board.  
     If he had a bad position and his opponent was in time trouble, Reshevsky liked to pester them with repeated draw offers.  And, he wasn't above asking bystanders  to comment on his game while it was in progress.  
     He sometimes would offer a draw and when his opponent accepted, he'd deny having offered it.  Or, offering a handshake as if to offer a draw and then claiming his opponent resigned.  Against Stahlberg at Helsinki in 1952, Reshevsky altered his scoresheet to make it look like a threefold repetition had occurred.
     Reshevsky could be brusque and I once heard Norman Whitaker say, "Reshevsky wouldn't help anybody."  He had, as the old saying goes, sharp elbows, meaning he would do whatever it took to win.  Even so, the few times I met him he was pleasant and approachable and though he didn't offer anything more than a couple of comments in the "instructional" postal game I played against him, I rather liked the man.  Apparently he just got nasty when it came to chess; to him winning was all that counted and all was fair if it lead to the desired result.
     In the match Benko got off to a good start in game 1 (see below) when Reshevsky, in a difficult position, grabbed a Pawn to equalize material but left himself open to a mating attack. 
    In game 2 Benjo's two Bs were no match for Reshevsky's two Ns and it was Benko's turn to fall victim to a mating attack. Game 3 was a steady R+N and P ending that was eventually drawn in 46 moves.      Game 4 was another draw, this time featuring an ending where both sides had a B+N+5Ps. In game 5 Benko got crushed in 29 moves although the game was over long before that. 
     Game 6 was a GM draw in a mere 14 moves. In game 7, Benko began drifting out of the opening and by move 26 he was busted, gave up his Q on move 29 and resigned several moves later. Both players took a breather in game 8 which was drawn in 16 moves. 
     That meant Reshevsky only needed a half point to win the match which he did in game 9 in a solidly played Benoni. Game 10 was anti-climactic and wasn't necessary. It was adjourned at move 41 with Benko having an extra P. Reshevsky may have had drawing chances, but since he had already won the match there was no point in playing it out. 

Reshevsky  0   1   1/2   1/2   1   1/2   1   1/2   1/2   1    5 1/2
Benko        1   0   1/2   1/2   0   1/2   0   1/2   1/2   0    4 1/2

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