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Monday, June 24, 2019

Rubinstein's Visit to the United States

     For a little over three months beginning in the Spring of 1928, Akiba Rubinstein and his wife visited the United States where he gave simuls and played several exhibition games. 
     An international tournament had originally been planned, but when that did not work out a match against Marshall was suggested, but that did not come to pass either. 
     Upon his arrival in the US, his first game was a consultation game at the Manhattan Chess Club against L.B. Meyer, I.A. Horowitz and Isaac Kahdan. In a rather curious Ruy Lopez a draw was agreed after 33 moves in a position where no pieces or Pawns had been exchanged. 
     From there Rubinstein visited Chicago, Illinois and Cincinnati, Ohio where he gave numerous exhibitions before returning to New York City in May. Starting on April 28 and continuing through May 6, a series of single match games was arranged at the Manhattan in which Rubinstein met George J. Beihoff, Harold Phillips, Oscar Tenner, Isaac Kashdan, Herman Steiner and Abe Kupchik. 
     Club Champion Abe Kupchik succeeded in giving Rubinstein a hard time. After 33 moves Rubinstein complicated matters by offering the sacrifice of a N which Kupchik refused to take. Rubinstein had a slight advantage, but couldn’t take advantage of it and a draw was agreed in 67 moves. 
     Kashdan also drew his game when Rubinstein refused to accept the win after Kashdan forgot to punch his clock at move 45 and exceeded the time limit. The game proceeded and was drawn in 64 moves. 
     After the series of exhibition games at the Manhattan, Rubinstein and his wife sailed on the White Star Line for home in Antwerp. Prior to their departure Rubinstein announced his decision to take part at a tournament at the famous Bavarian health resort Bad Kissengen that was to be held in August of 1928. There he finished third behind Bogoljubow and Capablanca. 
     In 1929, he played in the Scheveningen type team tournament at Ramsgate, finished 4eh at Carlsbad behind Nimzovich, Capablanca and Spielmann and finished 2nd behind Capablanca at Budapest. 
     In an unheralded and forgotten tournament in Rogaska-Slatina in eastern Slovenia he finished first ahead of Salo Flohr. The year 1930 started well for Rubinstein when he finished 3rd at the great San Remo tournament behind Alekhine and Nimzovich. 
     Then his results started to slip and in December of 1931 he played in his last major tournament at Rotterdam (a four player, double round event) where he finished last behind Landau, Colle and Tartakower. 
     By 1932 he had withdrawn from tournament play and spent the last years of his life suffering from mental illness, living at various times at home with his family and in a sanatorium. 
     Rubinstein's well known mental problems started to manifest themselves early. After the San Sebastian tournament in 1911 where Rubinstein and Vidmar tied for second behind Alekhine, Hans Kmoch ran into Rubinstein on a train and Rubinstein informed him that he was not on his way home to Lodz, but to Munich. There he was going to see a professor about a fly that kept landing on his head and disturbing him when he was playing. 
     Later, it wasn't just the fly, it was knocking on the walls and on his door so that he couldn't sleep. At one point he believed the culprit was Richard Reti and broke into Reti's room and tried to choke him. 
     A germaphobe, he believed people who shook hands with him were trying to infect him with germs and so carefully washed his hands afterwards. 
     There have been a number of successful people who are germaohobes. Howard Hughes spent most of his life trying to avoid germs. Nikola Tesla was fastidiously clean to the point of (allegedly) using seventeen clean towels a day, and claiming to have a violent aversion against the earrings of women. Radio personality Howard Stern and TV personality Howie Mandel are germaphobes. Mandel stated that in his mind his hand is like a petri dish. And, it’s well known that President Trump, a germaphobe, doesn't like shaking hands. 
     However, although he was not able to function in society, Rubinstein was far from being a vegetable. His son Samy, a strong player himself, stated that his father did receive visitors, read the papers and kept up with chess and occasionally they even practiced together. 
     Rubinstein left behind no literacy legacy, but I did discover that in September 1923, the Lasker chess club in Jersualem published Chess: A Monthly for Chess Enthusiasts in Palestine and Abroad. The first issue stated that great Jewish masters abroad had promised their regular contribution, but things didn’t work out. Only three (the first being a double issue) sporadic issues appeared. 
     One of the masters who promised to contribute was Rubinstein and the June 1924 issue published About the Opening. It wasn’t much of an article, only one page and very basic. There was not a single opening or variation given. Rubinstein advised control the center, emphasized development over material and advice such as we must not hesitate to sacrifice if only we can interfere with the opponent’s regular development. Even the magazine commented that the article was so basic that only beginners would find it very useful. See Jewish Chess History...Mr. Pilpels's site is a treasure trove of information on Jewish players.
     In the following game Rubinstein defeats George Beihoff (April 22, 1879 – October 18, 1937) who took 3rd place in the 1910 Manhattan Chess Club championship behind Marshall and Johner and was New York State champion in 1913. Beihoff also took part in a number of the Rice Chess Club tournaments in New York City. 

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