My Favorite U.S. Chess Magazines, Part 3
IM Silman concludes his series on chess magazines.

My Favorite U.S. Chess Magazines, Part 3

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Chess Review (from 1933 to late 1969) was without any doubt the best American chess magazine until, in 1961, it ran into a remarkably improved Chess Life. Both tried to beat the other (interest exploded due to the advent of Tal and, of course, Bobby Fischer), though both were excellent. Al Horowitz, who was with Chess Review from the beginning, worked day and night for decades until he retired. This led to the merger of both magazines, and Chess Life and Review was born (late 1969 until, in 1980, it changed the name back to Chess Life).

I’ve chosen the 1960 issues of Chess Review since, at that time, they felt that they would stay number-one for many, many years to come. Of course, they had no idea that, in just another year, a battle with Chess Life would ignite a war for supremacy.

January 1960 issue of Chess Review. Image via eBay.

January 1960 issue of Chess Review. Image via eBay. 

In 1960, Chess Review started with a very nice cover photo. Then the next page was all about 10 chess quizzes (a good start!). Page one had a very interesting photo taken in a sporting goods plant in Belgrade. Quite a few people were playing on swing sets and seesaws. The people, playing like children: Petrosian, Tal, Averbakh, and Keres.

Under the photo was various bits and pieces that happened during the challengers tournament. My two favorite stories in that event:

1. Benko vs. Gligoric were playing. Gligoric botched the opening, Benko started to use tons of time (he always uses tons of time), Gligoric fought back, Benko refused a draw, more moves were played, and with five moves left to make the time control Benko offered a draw and his opponent accepted it. Some random spectator was curious about how much time Benko had left so he walked up to the board, started the clock, and Benko’s flag fell instantly!
2. In round nine, Gligoric offered a draw to Petrosian and went on to win when it was refused. However, it turned out that, being deaf, Petrosian had simply failed to hear the offer!

3. Benko thought that Tal might be hypnotizing him. So, when they played, Pal put on dark glasses. Unfortunately the glasses might have interfered with his vision and Benko hung a pawn for nothing and, of course, lost the game.

4. Tal gave a simultaneous exhibition at both pingpong and chess, making his chess moves in the brief interval when the ball was out of play.

So far, two pages and I’m already enjoying it. Can the magazine keep the fun going? I doubt it, but anything is possible! Let’s see… ahh…The United States Championships was about to begin and there were some issues (I don’t know what those issues were). Due to this, Fischer was upset and withdrew. The replacement was Tony Saidy (the hero in the fantastic HBO film about Fischer). Saidy accepted, and then Fischer decided to play after all, leaving Saidy floating in the wind.

September 1960 issue of Chess Review. Image via eBay.

September 1960 issue of Chess Review. Image via eBay. 

It had to happen! Page four featured a photo and info of the Waterville Chess Club defeating the Portland Chess Club 5-4. I was about to leap over pages that didn’t offer columns but was stopped in my tracks on page five, which featured a theoretical line that was thought to be fine for Black.

On the same page I noticed another French Defense. Surely Black would do better than the previous game:

And now our first puzzle:


What’s going on? I’m still on page five (!!!) and I still have 380 pages to go if I look at all the 1960 issues (it’s now clear that I won’t come close).


Leaping a few pages, I came across of SPOTLIGHT ON OPENINGS by Dr. Max Euwe. He discussed:

However, he also discussed:

Due to the slow pace of this line, much is still valid (though it won’t hurt to look into a modern tome in his line). More important, Euwe teaches you about the pros and cons of this setup, mixing erudite conversation with a little humor by Keres.

Euwe: “The continuation most played in this new-old opening is the so-called ‘Two Knights Variation,’ which, for some time, seemed about to become a killer of the Caro-Kann.”

SILMAN: More was given, but I have to move on to hopefully new and amazing stuff. Oh, I forgot to tell you that Keres was right. 7.Bd2 is now White’s most common choice, followed by 7.a3.


Moving on, I found more basic tactics, more positions on tactics (THE FINISHING TOUCH by Walter Korn), and yet another column by Euwe, this time on Endgames (Rook Against Pawns). I’ll leave Euwe’s endgame behind (I already gave him a plug) and show some of Walter Korn’s puzzles.


Black missed a chance in the lifetime. Can you see it?


From a game by Richter, Berlin 1929.



Games From Recent Events by Hans Kmoch

Stepping away from the puzzles, I experienced déjà vu. After Euwe’s article about 1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3 Bg4 4.h3 Bxf3 5.Qxf3 Nf6 6.d3 e6 7.g3 Bb4, I thought I had left it behind me. But no, Hans Kmoch decided to throw a surprise in my face! His TALE of THREE CARO-KANNS was all about that exact same variation!

All three games had Fischer playing White, and all three games showed that Black didn’t have much to worry about. Nevertheless, Fischer lost two out of the three games — Keres won two and Benko lost. All three games are heavily annotated.


The Decline and Rise of the Gambit, by Al Horowitz

I was looking forward to this since Al Horowitz was the heart and soul of this magazine. After all, after working on Chess Review from 1933 to late 1969, he had to be a living part of it. The various bits and pieces that I found on page after page was pure Horowitz.

In this column he showed the (at last for this game) demise of the Wing Gambit. However, the second game showed that sacrificing stuff is still pretty damn fun!


On page 26 and 359 pages to go! I won’t make it, captain, I won’t make it!

Lisa Lane had a score of 7-1, with Gresser only a half-point behind. I noted Lena Grummette, who ran a very nice chess club in her Los Angeles home. She came in 2nd to last (2-6) but helped chess in so many ways.


United States Championship, 1959-60

Fischer once again kicked his opponents to the curb with an undefeated 9-2 score; Robert Byrne was close behind with 8-3. I’ve passed by more Max Euwe columns, one titled CHAMPIONSHIP OF WEST GERMANY and another called, LATEST NEWS ON THE KING’S INDIAN. When Fischer is within my sights, other things simply fly away into the cloud.


Don’t tell anyone, but he will talk about Fischer

“As hero of the tourney I name Paul Keres. At the age of forty-three he played like a youth of twenty. Before the tourney many journalists expressed the opinion that Keres would enter under the device ‘Now or Never.’ He is a player of great strength and at the end of the three-year interval, in the next match tourney (which he won the right to enter by taking second place in this one) he will be one of the principal contenders.

“Champion Petrosian of the Soviet Union could have expected to do better. But he played without enthusiasm and this was apparent in his score. He drew many games and was not a contender for first place. Smyslov’s failure provoked even greater wonder. In style and character too he is a very equable player, but from the very start of his tourney he was over-anxious. It may be that he needs to learn the ways of his opponents. Since 1954 he has played chiefly against Botvinnik and he has lost touch with the style of other grandmasters. Only in the third round did he show his exceptional strength, but it was by then already too late to win.

“Fischer, at the outset, dreamed of being champion of the world. But he would have had better chances in playing, first, for the junior championship. There, without a doubt, he would have won. He showed himself to be high-class player, and in the near future will be serious opponent.

“I myself played unevenly. But in such a long contest it is hard to play well through. At first being in bad physical shape, I was only gathering strength, and it was only in the third round, in Zagreb, that I managed to apply my full powers.

“As my best game I could the one with Smyslov in the second round and the one with Fischer in the third.

“For a long time I have dreamed of playing at least one game with the champion and I am happy that now I shall get to play him in a whole match.”

I can’t imagine Fischer being happy to hear Tal’s advice to play in the junior championship and that in the near future he will be a serous opponent.

by Fred M. Wren

Mr. Wren was often viewed as someone who portrayed the soul of the chess player. He had a witty pen and an outpour of energy. Here’s a part of a paragraph:

“I was once stupid enough to proclaim to a nation-wide radio audience that ‘the turn of the wheel, the run of the cards, the fall of the dice — any factor involving luck or chance — have no application to the game of chess. If you play better chess than your opponent, you win. If he plays better than you, you lose. It’s as simple as that.’ The worst part of it is that, when I said that, I actually believed it! For, although my chess opponents had for year been calling me the luckiest living chess layer, I had always laughed off their ‘sour grapes’ complaints, claiming that what they enviously referred to as ‘Wren luck’ was simply a generic term describing a chess talent of such scope and brilliance that it was far beyond their powers of understanding and also beyond the powers of their vocabularies to define properly. Hence, their generalization — ‘Wren luck.’”

Reading his stuff is a real blast. If possible, check him out!

by Fred Reinfeld

Before I go into his column, I must say that when I was very young (12 and 13 and clueless) I thought Reinfeld was a horrible writer. In fact, during those days other players also voiced that opinion. It was only when I understood a bit more about chess and writing that I realized that he was way, WAY ahead of his time. First, he was one of the top 10 players in the U.S. (he was number six at one time). So much for him being a patzer. But his writing was the thing that won me over. Yes, though he wrote over 100 chess books, a few of them were indeed “give me the quick money” types (everyone has to eat). But the vast majority of his books went from good to very good to incredible. The Great Chess Masters and Their Games is a must-own classic, all of his biographies (Alekhine, Capablanca, Keres, Emanuel Lasker, Morphy, and Nimzowitsch) are very enjoyable, and as I write this I’m looking at his Practical End-Game Play (it has some very nice games that are not in any databases), which I have cherished throughout my career. He died at the age of 54. I wish I was able to thank him for all he taught me, including a love of chess history.

Okay, back to his column!

“It was characteristic of Alekhine’s energetic style that once he obtained the advantage he exploited it with super human energy. This technique produced games that are highly instructive and very enjoyable as well.”

Instead of giving you the full game, I’ll turn it into a puzzle:


I guess I have to end this or I’ll be sitting here forever, my wife sharpening the knife. It’s a pity that I can’t show you Lombardy’s win over Spassky (annotated by Hans Kmoch). It’s sad that I can’t show you all of Euwe's columns. And it’s a crime that I can’t show you AFTER THE WORLD CHESS TITLE MATCH by Mikhail Tal, where Tal himself discussed (in two huge pages) his victory over Botvinnik.

So, which magazine (in their prime years) won? Chess Life (until it crashed and burned at the end of the 1970s), Chess Review (a wonderful magazine until Horowitz, who was the owner and editor from 1933 to 1969, called it quits), or Chess Life and Review (a kind of chess chimera, which blended in with each other)? These magazines didn’t have glossy covers. They weren’t pretty. But they gave you the news, they gave you wonderful columns by legendary players, they gave you lots and lots of photos, they gave you an endless stream of tactical puzzles. And, most importantly, they had soul. When I look at modern high-tech magazines, I don’t feel it’s alive (and, of course, it’s not). But these three magazines were part of your life. They were special friends who paid a visit every month. And those that loved them still mourn their demise.

The “winner” is clear: Chess Life and Review has to be the boss since it absorbed almost everything from each other. The “almost” was Israel Albert Horowitz, who really was the “soul in the shell” [the mag being the shell]. You felt his presence in every magazine. You marveled at the love he gave to each mag, making all of them something special. That can’t ever be replaced.

New shiny magazines offer a lot, but the ghosts of the 60s and 70s can only be seen if you “listen" to those magazines. I hear them all the time. Read them and you'll hear them too.

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