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Monday, May 13, 2019

1926 Western Championship

     In the gangster world of Chicago in 1926 there was a lot of action. It was during the time of prohibition so bootlegging was big buiness.
     Pasquale Tolizotte (affiliated with the Southside O'Donnell's gang) was murdered, but that was just the beginning. 
     Henry Spingola, brother-in-law to the Genna Brothers, was murdered by members of the Chicago Outfit. Genna Brothers member Edward Baldelli was found in a ditch outside Chicago and the brothers ally Vito Bascone, another bootlegger, was murdered in Stickney, Illinois. 
     James Russo, an independent bootlegger in Chicago's Little Italy, was murdered by Al Capone’s gunmen. While meeting with a lawyer, North Side Gang leader Hymie Weiss, along with his bodyguard, was gunned down in an ambush and two other gang members were severely wounded. 
     With Weiss's death, George "Bugs" Moran assumed gang leadership. In October John O'Berta and Joseph "Polack Joe" Saltis called a peace conference in a successful attempt to broker a ceasefire among the city’s major bootleggers. The Chicago Outfit and the North Side Gang divided the city into two territories. But, in December the ceasefire was broken when Sheldon Gang member Hillary Clements was killed by the Saltis-McErlane Gang. 
     In more pleasant news, in August eighteen year old Mae Greene was chosen as Miss Chicago out of 4,000 rivals at the Trianon Ballroom in Chicago. She went on to represent Chicago at the Atlantic City Miss America beauty pageant. 
     In baseball, the Chicago Cubs record of 82-72 was good enough for a 4th place finish while the White Sox finished 83-70 and finished in 5th place. 
     During the first 25 years if its existence the US Open was known as the Western Open. The Western Chess Association restricted its annual championship to "Western" players. Western players included the US and Canadian players who lived west of Pennsylvania. Practically speaking, west of Pennsylvania meant players from mainly Ontario and Manitoba.
     Eventually it was open to almost everybody except players from New York, presumably because they were considered just too strong. In 1925, the tournament was finally opened to everybody, including New Yorkers because the WCA had plans to become a national organization. 
     Their plan was to be an association of individual members as described in a letter by the secretary of the WCA, Samuel Factor, to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in October of 1925. 
     In the letter Factor pointed out that for the past 26 years, the Western Chess Association had been a leading factor in maintaining and increasing interest in chess throughout the West and Middle West and in the meeting at Cedar Point, Ohio in 1925, it was unanimously voted to increase the field and scope by making it a national organization. With that end in mind, the WCA had reorganized and made membership open to all players in the United States and Canada. 
     Factor added that it was the duty of all players to give the organization both moral and financial support. Dues were $1 per year. As a member of the WCA, one was entitled to vote on all questions pertaining policy, receive the association’s Year Book, which would contain games scores of the games played in the championship tournaments. 
     By the following year there was a new proposal that would establish the National Chess Association of the USA. It would take over governance on the national level with the WCA being only a division. The result was the National Chess Federation came into existence, but it did little more than select teams for the Olympiad plus a few duties that pertained to national chess. 
     The WCA continued operations until the early 1930s, when a new generation of young masters began coming to the Western Championship in search of serious competition. In 1934 the Western Chess Association became the American Chess Federation and the tournament became the American Chess Federation congress. In 1939, that organization merged into the United States Chess Federation and the tournament became the U.S. Open. 
     In 1926 the WCA hosted a Masters Tournament in addition to the Western Championship that was held at the same time. They were held at the Hotel LaSalle in Chicago from August 21-September 2, 1926. The lineup for the Masters included six former Western champions, the current US Champion plus Geza Maroczy who was touring the US and had delayed his return home for this tournament. The final standings were:

1) Frank Marshall 8.5 
2-3) Geza Maroczy and Carlos Torre 8.0 
4-5) Charles Jaffe and Abraham Kupchik 7.5 
6) Isaac Kashdan 7.0 
7) Samuel Factor 6.5 
8) Edward Lasker 6.0 
9) Adolf J. Fink 5.0 
10) Newell Banks 4.5 
11) Oscar Chajes 4.0 
12) Jackson W. Showalter 3.0 
13 Lewis J. Isaacs 2.5 

     The following game is one in which Banks made and unsound Q sacrifice, but won when Kashdan missed the refutation.  The 21 year old Isaac Kashdan was just beginning his career while Newell Banks’s rating estimated rating was in the mid-2300s according to Chessmetrics. 
     In a side note, Kashdan's only surviving son, Richard (born 10/04/1944), is a San Francisco attorney who is also known by the pseudonym Mark Bernay and was a telephone hacker in his younger days. More details.  
     Newell Banks (October 10, 1887 – February 17, 1977) of Detroit was a master checker player who occasionally dabbled in chess. His father was Dr. W. B. Banks, also of Detroit, was the former Michigan State Checker Champion.
     Banks played his first game of blindfold checkers at age five and a half at the Detroit Chess and Checker Club. In 1947, at age 60, for 45 consecutive days (4 hours per day) Banks played 1,387 blindfold checker games, winning 1331 games, drawing 54 and losing only two.  He played them in batches of six games at a time. He also set a new blindfold speed record playing 62 games in four hours, winning 61 and drawing one at the Convention Hall, Detroit, Michigan.

     In this tournament he defeated Isaac Kashdan and Frank Marshall, and drew with Jackson W. Showalter, Samuel Factor, and Oscar Chajes. Edward Winter article on Banks 
     According to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle very few tournaments in this country could compare to this tournament which followed close on the heels of Lake Hopatcong. The results at the Lake Hopatcong were 1) Capablanca, Kupchik, Maroczy, Marshall and Lasker, so Capablanca was the only one missing from Chicago. Torre came in from Mexico for the Chicago event. 
     Prizes were for Chicago were: $150, $100, $75, $50 and $25...about $2,200 down to $360 in today’s dollars. The time limit was 20 moves per hour then 15 move per hour. 

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