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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Reshevsky's Luck

    #1 In the 1942 US Championship he lost on time to Arnold Denker, but when the TD, the eccentric L. Walter Stephens, came up and picked up the clock from the back and turned it around he forfeited Denker. Despite his error being pointed out to him by Denker and the spectators, Stephens refused to reverse his decision. Reshevsky’s comment was, “It’s not my decision.” The result was Reshevsky tied for first with Isaac Kashdan and went on to win the playoff match.

#2 In the AVRO 1938 tournament Reshevsky had two adjourned games to play; one was scheduled in the morning and one in the afternoon. His morning game ended earlier than expected so the TDs called Rueben Fine, his afternoon opponent, to come and finish their adjourned game. Fine protested saying he was asleep and had not looked at the position. Threatened with a forfeit, Fine consented to resume play immediately. Reshevsky had a won position, but blundered into a drawn position, but Fine overstepped the time limit and lost.

#3 In the last round of the 1940 US Championship Reshevsky needed only a draw against Fine to secure first place. Fine surprised him with the Giuoco Piano and Reshevsky played poorly, ending up with a lost position. With the US Championship in his grasp, Fine miscalculated and lost.

#4 At the 1953 Zurich tournament Laszlo Szabo missed a mate in two against Reshevsky and only drew.

      His success in escaping from bad positions and time pressure earned him the title of “Escape Artist” from the leading Soviet players of the day. Reshevsky, on many occasions, offered draws in lost positions and his reputation was such that his opponents accepted.  
      Reshevsky usually played to win in the endings and his will to win was phenomenal. One spectator reported watching Reshevsky at play and his face was red and the veins in his forehead were actually pulsating.
      His openings were generally terrible and as a result he had to defend inferior positions coming out of the opening. He would tenaciously defend and play on and on until his opponent blundered. Denker described playing him was like having a bulldog clamped to your leg. Reshevsky never studied theory and his play was generally lacking in intuition, but he calculated and calculated. That explains his frequent time pressure escapades. In the opening he was often forced to calculate what his opponents already knew.
      Reshevsky was often perceived as a positional player, but all the players ‘in the know’ attributed his success to his enormous ability to calculate tactics. At one time, one of his favorite openings as white was the QGD, Exchange Variation because the fixed P-formation allowed him to calculate very deeply. This was typical; one rarely saw wild positions in his games because his habit was to never allow the tension to remain in the position in the form of Pawn captures. The reason was because he played by calculating long variations and it is difficult to do that with any great accuracy if there are a lot of Pawn captures available. In many of those Exchange Variation games he made the win look easy so for a long while I played it, but never had the success he did. In fact, most of the games were drawn.
     A taciturn man, Reshevsky never had much to say and it’s doubtful he actually wrote the book of his best games (Reshevsky On Chess); rumor is Fred Reinfeld ghosted it for $100. NM Jim Schroeder once asked Reshevsky about several facts appearing the ‘autobiography’ and Reshevsky had no idea what Schroeder was talking about. I  played Reshevsky an ‘instructional’ correspondence game and he didn’t offer anything even close to instruction. He did tell me one move was questionable because it allowed him to play …Bf5. Apparently he was unaware that it had appeared in a recent game between a couple of first class GMs (Donner and Kavalek, if memory serves) at Wijk aan Zee. He said, “Thank you.” when I wished him Happy Hanukah and, finally, “I believe this game is a draw.” That was the extent of his instruction!

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