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Friday, January 11, 2019

The U.S. Open in Ticky Tacky Detroit, 1950

     When folk singer Malvina Reynolds wrote "Little Boxes" in 1962 (a tune popularized by Pete Seeger), she was satirizing California’s tract housing “all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.”  But she just as easily could have been writing about much of the post-World War II housing in Detroit and its suburbs. 

     Detroit’s population peaked in 1950 at a little over 1.8 million and housing was scarce because the GI Bill’s home loan had made it easier for veterans to buy homes. Many people accustomed to renting were able to own a home for the first time, even if some cookie cutter homes resembled glorified dollhouses.
     These houses were designed by architect Wallace Neff who died in 1982 at the age of 87. He built expansive California country homes, suburban retreats and movie magnate showplaces that made him wealthy and famous.   He designed homes for Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., the Marx brothers, Frederick March, Joan Bennett and many more. 
     Neff also pioneered in the design of inexpensive, mass-produced bubble homes which were inflated reusable balloons sprayed with concrete. 
    Neff's Detroit houses averaged between 700-800 square feet and were virtual carbon copies of one another. “If you visited with a neighbor, you could walk into their house blindfolded and easily find the kitchen or bathroom,” a former Neff homeowner recalls. Though the properties weren’t very wide, they did have one benefit, he says. “The lots were narrow but deep, so the backyards could actually have gardens.” 
     Other than housing, in the 1950's Detroit was considered the Paris of the west in regards to architecture. It was the home of some of the greatest pre-depression architecture. The immense amount of wealth that entrepreneurs accumulated in Detroit during the 20th century led to buildings popping up giving Detroit unique and magnificent structures. 
     That was the backdrop for the 120 player 51st US Open held in Detroit, July 10-22, 1950. 
     The winner, 20-year-old Arthur Bisguier, had a good year. Besides winning his first U.S. Open, he shared first with Tartakower at Southsea in England in his first international tournament and he was awarded the IM title. Bisguier also played 10th board for the U.S. in the long forgotten radio match against Yugoslavia in which he defeated Ivkov by a score of 1.5-0.5. 
     Attendance at the U.S. Open had been poor in the past; the previous record was only 86 players, but this year was a record breaking 120. 
     In the first round Bisguier easily defeated Class A player Richard Kujoth, but in round 2 he was upset by local player Lester Spitzley in a R and P ending. Spitzley couldn't keep up the pace. He lost to Walter Shipman in the 3rd round and ended up in a tie for places 74-89 with a 5.0-7.0 score. 
    Then in the 3rd round Bisguier was held to a draw by an unknown player by the name of Elias Van Sweden. A 4th round victory over master Lewis J. Isaacs started his run at the title and a last round draw with Larry Evans clinched it.
     Pennsylvania master Herman Hesse's second place was something of an accident because of the vagaries of the Swiss system pairings. Hesse lost to Stolzenberg, Berliner and Le Cornu, but won all his other games. His victories over the players with plus scores came against A.J. Fink, David Hamburger, Jerry Sullivan, Gisela Kahn Gresser, Harlow B. Daly and Charles C Crittenden.
     The nine-way tie for third place included five former champions and a future one. 
     In the first round Herman Steiner was paired against a player named John Holt. Steiner's train was running six hours late and when he didn't appear on time, Holt started his clock. In those days the one hour forfeit rule was not in effect, so when Steiner arrived 90 minutes late he still had half-an-hour to make the time control at move 40. When Holt lost on time Steiner still had ten minutes left. Holt finished in a tie for places 66-73 with an even score. 
     Some of the players suffered a disaster on the way home. Jeremiah Donovan's car overturned on a rain-soaked road near Batavia, New York and four players were hospitalized in the Genesee Memorial Hospital (now United Memorial Medical Center): Bisguier (broken rib and a gash on the forehead), Shipman (broken ankle), Crittenden (fractured collarbone) and Evans (cuts and bruises). Hearst and Donovan were not injured. 

Plus scores: 
1) Arthur Bisguier 9.5-2.5 
2) Hermann Hesse 9.0-3.0 
3-11) Jeremiah F. Donovan, Larry Evans, Leon Stolzenberg, Weaver Adams, Walter Shipman, Robert Steinmeyer, Herman Steiner, Anthony Santasiere, George Kramer 8.5-3.5 
12-17) Hans Berliner, Maurice Fox, Albert Pinkus, Paul Poschel, Ariel Mengarini and Jack Soudakoff 8.0-4.0 
18-25) Eliot Hearst, A.J. Fink, Povilas Tautvaisas, Phil Le Cornu, Joseph Shaffer, Walter Grombacher, Robert Coveyou and George Krauss 7.5-4.5 
26-40) David Hamburger, Carl Hesse. Attilio Di Camillo, Elias Van Sweden, Max Guze, Howard Ridout, William Byland, Lewis J. Isaacs, Homer Jones, Jerry Sullivan, John Ragan, Lee Magee, Edgar McCormick, Karl Burger and Thomas Jenkins 7.0-5.0 
41-52) Edmund Nash, George Eastman, Gisela Kahn Gresser, Harlow B. Daly, George Miller, Alfred Ludwig, Rafael Cintron, Paul Adams, James T. Sherwin, Charles Crittenden, Howard Ohman and Rudolph Eckhardt 6.5-5.5 

     In the following game Weaver Adams (April 28, 1901 – January 6, 1963), the winner of the 1948 U.S. Open, suffers defeat at the hands of the man Arnold Denker described as “the Indiana Jones of chess,” Albert Pinkus.  
     Adams advocated his theory in books and magazine articles from 1939 until shortly before his death that 1.e4 wins first with the Bishop's Opening, then with the Vienna Opening. As was often the case, in this game he failed to prove his point. 

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