Person of day   -  26 NOVEMBER 2020

SAMUEL RESHEVSKY

SAMUEL RESHEVSKY

At the start of the 20th century, Sammy Reshevsky was one of the most celebrated wunderkinds. He was born in Poland into a modest Jewish family, but by 8 he toured in Berlin, Vienna, Paris and London with séances of simultaneous exhibitions.

In 1920, his parents moved the family from Poland to the US, where he became the strongest American chess player in the early 1930s. In 1935 Reshevsky once again astounded Europe, winning a tournament in Margate and overtaking Capablanca, whom he defeated in an individual battle. This was a momentous occasion in his spectacular career. During the 30 subsequent years, he competed for the world championship. In the late 1930s, he emerged as one of the world’s leading chess players. In 1936, he split 3rd-5th places in a famous tournament in Nottingham, in 1937 he won in Kemeri and Hastings and in 1938 he split 4th-6th places in the AVRO-tournament, where the planet’s strongest 8 players competed.  

World War II took from Reshevsky several years of active chess life. After its end, he re-entered the fray for the title of world champion. In 1948, Reshevsky was a competitor in the match-tournament for the world championship. However, he could not match Botvinnik- which the Soviet government feared- but he nonetheless showed his remarkable strength, splitting 3rd-4th places with Keres.

The American grandmaster once again demonstrated his class 5 years later in the candidates’ tournament in Zurich. For a long time, he fought for first place with Smyslov, but finally he could not bear the pressure, splitting 2nd-4th places with Keres and Bronstein. After this, despairing of his ability to penetrate the heavy barrier of Soviet grandmasters- there were eight of them in Zurich- Reshevsky did not compete for the world championship for 11 years, until the candidates’ tournaments were changed to matches. In 1964, Reshevsky competed in the inter-zonal tournament, but could not join the 8 candidates; he lost the deciding match to Portisch, who split 6th place with him. 3 years later, he won the right to compete in the candidates’ matches, but lost to Korchnoi in the quarter-finals. He played in 2 more inter-zonal tournaments, but his years did not give much hope for success.

An eight-time winner of the American National Championship and winner of multiple international tournaments, Reshevksy never became a professional chess player- he worked as an accountant. Furthermore, he not only performed notably in tournaments but in individual matches as well; he defeated Gligoric, Najdorf, Lombardy, Bisguier, Benko and in 1961 he played against Fischer, where at a score draw of 5,5:5,5 he was awarded victory die to his opponent’s refusal to continue the game. Until the end of the 1980s, Reshevsky continued to participate in tournaments, occasionally teaching his younger competitors strategy and tactics.

Samuel Reshevsky died in April 1992.