While wanting to write an introduction, putting my thoughts on the topic into words has proven to be a most difficult undertaking. Although I predominantly scour books, newspapers and periodicals for the bulk of my information, I also check out everything I can find written by others online. Much of what I've encountered about Santasiere online, particularly about his various writings, has been presented in an unpleasantly condescending and supercilious manner. In reading the following articles by Santasiere, the reader will notice some extreme views not only on chess but on some chess players. Santasiere tended to be dogmatic in his views and set against those who didn't adhere to them. His style of writing was rather florid and rambling, but certainly not unreadable. While I haven't read Santasiere's 1972 book, "Essay on Chess," it seems to be, in part at least, a compilation of the following articles.
Arnold Denker devoted an entire chapter to Santasiere in his book, "The Bobby Fischer I Knew, and Other Stories." Denker, who claimed to have only really gotten to know Santasiere after they had both retired to Florida, called him "a truly sensitive and even beautiful person....the Tony I saw was -to quote Hermann Helms- 'a teacher, chess master, artist, musician, poet, novelist, philosopher, motorist and bridge expert.'" But even Denker, who seemed to have developed a close friendship built upon mutual respect with Santasiere, saw him a a man of internal dichotomies. Denker wrote: "Tony had the chutzpah to say that the Queen's Gambit stank like a dead mackerel while himself playing the soporific Reti Opening.....'Do as I say, not as I do,' was often his motto....Tony inveighed against materialism, yet he embraced the cotton-wool security of being a public school teacher." Denker compares Tony's style to that of Reshevsky (whose style Santasiere loudly decried) and quoted Larry Evans' famous disdain of Santasiere's hypocrisy but at the end says, "so, was Tony a chess hypocrite-a player who talked like a tiger and played like a Tigran? I don't think so because he had the heart of a Romantic, and in his manic moments, he played an astonishing brand of attacking chess that must helped to sustain his armour propre."
I prefaced Santasiere's articles with the following one by Frank Brady:
"Chess Life" March 20, 1959
As I entered the apartment of Anthony E. Santasiere, two things competed from my attention: the wonderful smell of Italian cooking and the numerous oil paintings that seemed to occupy every square inch of wall space. The famous Bronx school teacher was busy in the kitchen preparing dinner and so I occupied myself nosing my way through his extensive library and record collection. Editor Fred Wren has asked for a story on Santasiere for publication in CHESS LIFE, hence my pilgrimage to the netherlands of the Bronx on this rainy, January evening.
During dinner, I had difficulty steering the conversation into chess lines, since my host;s interests were so diversified, and his enthusiasms and talent so varied, that keeping the conversation on one subject was nearly impossible.
The one facet of his personality that impressed me most and still impresses me on reflection, was his overwhelming talent and ability with virtually anything that intrigues him. Chess, poetry, painting, music and cooking are his "spare time" endeavors, that is, when he is not correcting papers and teaching school five days a week. There is no doubt that if he had directed his interests to just one artistic endeavor, he would have assuredly attained great heights in that particular field. His stature is great in the chess world and to say that he is proficient at his other interests would be a gross understatement.
After dinner we headed for the nearest chessboard (his house has many) and began playing some skittles while continuing our talk. It was here that he opened up about chess in general and his specific role in it for the past 38 years.
A member of the Marshall Chess Club since 1920, he has competed in the club championship no less than 38 times, which is not only a record for that particular club but probably for any chess club in the country. He has been Marshall Chess Champion a total of six times. His many other titles would require a list much too long for the scope of this article, but among those that deserve extraordinary mention are : U.S. Open, 1945; New York State Champion 1928, 1930, 1946, 1956l 2nd place in U.S. Open 1949; 3rd in U.S. Ope 1947; 1st place in Milno International 1953. Perhaps his greatest achievement was third prize in the U.S. Championship in 1945 - behind Reshevsky and Kashdan, but ahead of such notables as Denker, Horowitz, Levin, Steiner, Kramer, Pinkus, Sandrin, etc.
In 1925, as a boy of 18, he competed in the international tournament at Lake Hoptacong. His final score was nt impressive (he tied for last place) but he proved to be a dangerous opponent and a "stubborn little bother" to the prizewinners. He drew with Marshall, Janowski and Lasker and lasted 80 moves with Kupchik. Janowski was so furious at drawing with him that he refused to eat at the same table with "that schoolboy" thereafter.
Though he threatens to resign from chess soon, he is still very active and I might add, still very strong. at last count, he was leading the Marshall Semi-Finals ahead of Sherwin, Collins, Pilnick, Weinstein, Levy, Kaufman, etc.!
The following games, with Tony's comments, are considered among his best:
"Chess Life" preface:
We believe that every reader will find something, somewhere, in Tony's essay which will both interest and inspire him. Many American masters and experts have played top-drawer chess for forty years, but few if any of them have emerged from such a period of play, as has Tony, with their original ideals untarnished and unchanged. Always a fighter, trying to win, but preferring to lose a good game to winning a mediocre one; always striving for creative artistry; always emphasizing the 'game' rather than the point; always playing his opponent rather than the score; a modest winner, and a malice-free loser; Tony Santasiere, a so-called 'minor American master,' has a 'major' message for us all. Many readers (including your editor) will disagree with some of his opinions, and with some of his philosophy of life and of chess. No one who knows Tony will disagree, however, the the opinions and philosophy are his own honest expressions based on his own experiences and observations.
"Chess Life," April 20, 1960
Would you like to enjoy a cigar, a cup of coffee and unlimited chess all for sixpence? The scene is London, the place Ries Divan in the Strand, the year 1848; and your opponents would include not only the internationally famous English champion, Howard Staunton (who was, at that time, even more eminent as a Shakespearean scholar) but also a youth of sixteen years of age who played anybody, and accepted any odds offered to him. This young man was destined to occupy a far higher place in the hearts of chess lovers than the revered Staunton. His name was Henry Edward Bird; and his fame rests on a premise and an offshoot therefrom. For the former, we may say by our standards that he was a "romantic" chess master who knew the meaning of love. For the offshoot we present "Bird's Opening" — a charming, speculative manner of beginning a chess game, an opening which while not entirely original with Bird, nevertheless was indebted to him for almost fifty years of consistent analysis and practice. In 1885 the Hereford Times acknowledged the debt by conferring the name "Bird" to this particular opening.
Since then the more romantic masters have all sensed the charm of "Bird's Opening," and have been attracted to it. It is one of my favorite openings; and when, in an important game, I adopted it, I commented, as a critic (in full sympathy with the opening's mood), "Look at the birdie!"
That — you will opine — is a rather crazy way to begin a serious essay on that delightful, time-consuming creative activity (pregnant with Heaven and/or Hell) which we call chess. But I brought you to Henry Bird not only disarmingly to expose you to the first warm rays of romanticism in this (so-called) game, but also, and very simply, to quote him:
"Chess is so ancient that, by that distinction alone, it seems taken beyond the category of games altogether; and it has been said that it probably would have perished long ago if it had not been destined to live forever."
Chess has been played in all climates, in all the countries, and by all sorts of people. More than a game, it is at once a medium for the creation of ideas and beauty, and a battlefield alive with the spirit of eternal struggle and adventure. More specifically as to its age, a headline in The New York Times (March, 1938) read:
"Playing of chess six thousand years ago uncovered in ancient Tepe Gawra."
While age is not necessarily synonymous with worth, yet it should at least command respect. It constitutes concrete evidence of a courageous survival through difficulties. Simply as a medium of creative expression (the "scores" of master chess games can be preserved for the enjoyment of countless lovers of chess in future generations — in other words, these battles can be recreated), chess deserves to rank on quite as high a plane as music or painting. This statement the general public may consider an exaggeration, but I can only say that I am fully qualified to express that opinion, since I have studied music (with great love) for more than thirty years, and through twenty-eight years have created more than three hundred oil paintings. (My chess career began more than forty years ago.) It may interest you to know that at one time of my life I had to fight through a long period of acute and unrelenting suffering. I can honestly say that chess did more for me then than either music or painting. I was able "to lose myself" for hours at a time at the chessboard.
Just to give you an idea of the hold that this game's fascination has, let me tell you how once, playing a U. S. championship game, I struggled through the usual four hour period of play, and (the game not finished) emerged with a minimal advantage. It is customary then to complete the game on some other day; and you may be sure that, before resumption, both opponents will study rather exhaustively the potentialities of the adjourned position.
In this particular game, though there were very few pieces Left on the board (I had four, and my opponent, three), the problems presented were so intricate (and I, perhaps, so stupid!) that I did not arise from my study of the position until fourteen hours later! It was then nine A.M.; and I had to play another important game that evening.
The fourteen hours had gone by as if they had been a minute. It was imperative that I get some sleep — but how? My nerves were in a sorry state. Whereas now under those circumstances I would reach for Scotch liquor or even sleeping pills, at that time I was very young, and dared not go beyond beer. So I drank four bottles of beer in rapid succession, and became thoroughly unconscious (and happy). But I wakened refreshed — and won both games.
Chess is really wonderful — it has everything — a mind, heart and soul, guts, gambling, human weakness, humor. It is at once an art and a science, a tragedy and a comedy, soulful, yet intellectual. If you would know the heart and soul of a man, play with him some games of chess. There, on those sixty-four squares, will develop the story of his personality. He may be cautious, bold, sound, reckless, timid, imaginative, nervous, dull, brilliant — humor too may be on display. Here we see the fascination and the fundamental worth of the game of chess. It is not merely an exercise in intellectual gymnastics; it is a struggle of heart and soul with overtones of subtle psychological forces.
Let us now consider the expert at chess. He must know when to be cautious or bold, he must judge nicely the opportuness of attack or defense, he must have a thorough knowledge of the techniques necessary for carrying out his ideas. Yet, through it all, influencing his strategy, coloring every single detail thereof is his personality and the story of his living. It is inevitable that the very essence of his being shall enter fully into a contest of such serious intent.
Here, in America, we have been far too anxious to worship success — in chess, as in finance. To play a good game of chess one had to be the winner; to have a great reputation, the number of first and second prizes was the only proper criterion. It matters not that we have on display the heart and soul, the reasoning of a human being — we brush it all aside with the sweeping question — did he win the game?
This superficial attitude has for a great many years obscured the true worth of a great American champion, a man who added a thrilling chapter to the glorious traditions of Pillsbury and Morphy. That man was Frank J. Marshall. Here was a master who knew how to be brave, to reduce to a minimum any motive of material gain, to play adventurously, to welcome danger, to stake all on the thrill of a tempestuous charge . . . his play was like the flight of a bird across the rising sun, like the downpour of rain on limitless plains, like the warm handshake of a friend. Of such a man they said — how many first prizes did he win? You may rest assured that many a winner of first prizes will long have been forgotten, while certain games of Marshall will live on and on, to create again and again those stories of rousing adventure which he told so well.
To you who fear defeat or the opinions of others — to you who worship material success, who sacrifice ideals for profit, I say this: you are already dead, you are ignorant of the most exalting, the most divine moments a human being can experience. And, to return to chess, would you rather produce a thousand victories predicated on sound technique and the mistakes of our opponents, or just one game where genius and sparkling wit and dashing brilliance sweep the board?
Dare to be yourself — rise above fear; put aside thoughts of reward and punishment. You may fail, go down in defeat, but from the ashes of your suffering will emerge a real happiness, a success of true spiritual worth . . . you have lived, lived in the grand tradition, and your soul has embraced the one and only Truth.
"Chess Life," May 5, 1960
At the risk of some redundancy, I should like to consider more fully the facts and the implications of the material versus the spiritual issue in chess. Here the values can be sharply and startlingly spotlighted, because everyone seems to realize that chess is a medium of the intellect, and so few understand that it can and should nevertheless be played with feeling and from the heart. It is so very important that all chessplayers should be convinced that the aim of chess (as in anything else) is not to win, but to love! A religious person will understand the distinction at once. An irreligious person, if not influenced by this essay, will nevertheless learn from (bitter) experience.
Here I wish to place in bold print a deep personal love for God. Nowhere, more than in chess, is there a greater crying need for this love., for chess symbolizes for many the crowning superiority of man's mind, and seemingly, if not the ignorance of God, then the lack of real dependency on Him. But in truth, man's mind is as nothing, is as dry as most "Queen's Gambiteers," beside inspiration - the Divine Grace which can and does - operate in chess wherever the superbly trained ego can relax into love of God.
The standard is not to be cold, efficient and self-sufficient - all of that is dust, and creates if not hatred, hydrogen bombs. The standard is simple Love. Then even failure is altogether rewarding!
The heart and the mind are not even often cooperative; rather are they often proponents of opposite points of view, and, in truth, bitter enemies. In chess, as in everything else, the heart should be the master, should predominate; yet, paradoxically, for the clearest thinking, emotion should be almost non-existent. Any turmoil in the subconscious will surely impair the ability to think. Well then, by all means allow such ability to be impaired! (rather than deliberately to crush feeling). For such a person, if he build up his spiritual resources, the day will come when he will still retain great feeling and also be able to think clearly. This will of course result in magnificent creations.
The most successful intellectual machines in chess have been cold-blooded, keen-thinking masters. These profit materially, but are the first to succumb to the wintry blasts of (material) disillusionment. An American philosopher, David F. Swenson (who probably does not play chess at all) writes:
"Life teaches that noble enthusiasms are seldom born out of the calculations of the understanding." And — in the perspective of eternity, success is nothing and failure is nothing, but the spirit of endurance in suffering and loyalty in striving for a good cause is everything.'"
As a critic of chess play, or to use the terminology of the chess public — "annotator" — I have achieved a certain success and reputation. I have much in sympathy with Bernard Shaw who wrote:
"'A criticism written without personal feeling is not worth reading. It is the capacity for making good or bad art a personal matter that makes a man a critic.' When people do less than their best, and do that less at once badly and self-complacently, I hate them, loathe thorn, detest them, long to tear them limb from limb and strew them in goblets about the stage or platform. In the name way, really fine artists inspire me with the warmest personal regard, which I gratify in writing my notices without the smallest references to such monrtrous conceits as justice, impartiality, and the rest of the ideals. When my critical mood is at its height, personal feeling is not the word; it is passion:"
To that I can add, as applying especially to chess, that a good critic can stimulate and teach; he can raise the moral standards of his followers everywhere; he can expose the meretricious, the material; he is a powerful incentive to greater joy. All of this he accomplishes with understanding and love, though love of God is for him the most important.
What kind of chess do I like to see? And what kind hate? You already have some idea, but I will go into greater technical detail here.
It has been assumed by some individuals who do not know my soul that I am inclined to worship at the altar of brute force, of bombastic chess and fireworks. But the truth is that I love and can appreciate as well as anyone the strongly intellectual, positional type of play — providing always that it is motivated by enterprise and courage. I have one hatred, and that is for the chess master who sits back (in security) and waits for his opponent to make the first mistake. There are some such chess masters; but they do not deserve to be called masters — they should be called egotistic-cowards. And yet, perhaps, I judge too harshly, for as Maxim Gorky said: "in his own hole there's nothing wrong with a skunk." Nevertheless I feel so strongly about these matters that I yield to the necessary in my nature — the same necessity as in the quatrain:
Last night I slew my darling wife;
Stretched her on the flooring.
I was loath to take her life—
But I had to stop her snoring.
However, let us return to chess and to a somewhat higher level of expression — a peak reserved for chess romanticism. In this game the great masters have always dared to dare, to pose the question, to go about their constructive business. They never looked upon their opponent as a prospective poor victim, but as a partner in a labor of love, as an individual whose efforts should command respect.
Here is one of my annotations to a game between Euwe and Botvinnik (1938):
". . for gallantry such at this was chess intended — in such an atmosphere it lives and breathes, blooms, and glows like a fragrant flower in the month of May — a thing of loveliness, of warmth.
Scientific chess, chess of security never that was and never can be chess for spirits that soar!"
In this connection that wise man of science. C. G. Jung, says:
"Scientific method must serve; it errs when it usurps a throne."
And our greatly respected Lewis Mumford ("The Human Prospect") comments most sharply on the worth of "security": "
"Not tame and gentle bliss, but disaster, heroically encountered, is man's true happy ending."
Always, we repeat, the basic issue is that of intellect versus life. Of course, in chess, we sometimes have intellect and life together, though it is quite rare. But we are here concerned with those extremists who preach the triumph of a cold intellect divorced from life. And I say to them and to you, again and again; let there be life! Take Intellect off its throne — let there be life! In his excellent, fair and stimulating book, "The House of Intellect" Jacques Barzun helps us, by way of definition, to understand more clearly exactly what is involved:
"Intellect, stiff, angular, unchanging; life, flowing and adaptive. Intellect, the blade that carves and separates forever; life, a perpetual mixing and joining, fusion and confusion. Intellect, the watcher; life, the participant."
Especially appealing to me, in chess play, is that realm of fantasy where imagination reigns supreme — that land of romance whence, to the delight of mankind, have emerged all that is queer and novel, charming and bravely speculative, challenging and rich in spiritual values. This type of chess master will never hesitate to throw his dreams at his opponent — and to do so lovingly and joyfully.
Now let me explain to the non-chessplaying public that, like Gaul, all chess is divided into three parts: the beginning (called the "opening"), the middle game and the end game. The opening, in my opinion, is the most important, for, like any embryo, it implies all of that which may follow. It may interest you to know that I have invented one of the latest new openings (after the "Reti Opening") and called it "Santasiere's Folly." It was revealing and amusing that, at a recent team match, a friendly observer remarked that all the openings I play should be called "follies."
That "Santasiere's Folly" is a new opening may be doubtful, for, really, nothing can be new — we can only meditate anew on the old. But it is rich spiritually by which I mean that it constitutes a challenge to the middle game abilities of both players; and further, it is romantic, by which I mean that it leaves far behind the "safe and sound" chains of chess for the clean laughing freedom of daredevil adventure. As to my lack of modesty in the name, It is a tradition (with regard to naming openings) to respect the one who has longest explored the possibilities, and suffered with (loved) it in theory and practice. And I do hope this discussion will remind you to read or reread that most wise and delightful volume by Desiderius Erasmus entitled: "In Praise Of Folly."
Now we will consider the "middle game" briefly. I was once asked for a definition of it, and came up with: "While the general idea is that the middle game begins after the first ten or dozen moves of a game, the more sophisticated opinion is that it may begin much earlier — i.e. even in the 'opening.' The middle game should include the inauguration of a profound strategical plan of attack or defense. The rising tension will move on to a climax which may result in checkmate or a clear winning advantage for one player, or the contest may carry over into a close 'end game.' The personality of chess masters is most clearly indicated by their conduct of the middle game. Here daring, imagination and fantasy can reign, or, as so frequently with modern masters. fearful super-science. The middle game should be a field of battle, not a mirror for self-love."
"Chess Life," June 5, 1960
And yet, for so many reasons, creating a beautiful chess game is so difficult! Weaver Adams, the vereran "romantic" American master and good friend of mine, told me he was convinced his throries were goo, but in practice, he hesitates to play even what he knows must be a good move because of a seeming "fear and trembling." (Have you read Kierkegaard?) I know exactly what he means, for to create is very near divinity, and we are owed by our responsibility. The thought of failure unnerves us.
How curious that the chess genius begins with sweeping, superb self-confidence, goes thorough a long phase of struggle blending into a period of "fear and trembling." And then what? A final phase of mature confidence or of total degeneracy?
Now you may ask me — what is the difference between chess strategy and tactics? And I may reply (knowing that there is no sharp line of demarcation) that strategy is the heart and soul of play-, whereas tactics is the mind. Or I may say, borrowing from music, that tactics are the scales, arpeggios, notes, rhythms, harmonies etc., whereas strategy is the poetry, the spirit. Or strategy may be the dream of an architect: tactics, his tools, his techniques. In chess. of course, both are part of the equipment of any master.
In tactics, I have two unusual thoughts to hand on to the amateur chess lover. First, that the most difficult good moves to see on a chess board are those involving a pseudo-suicide motif — i. e., an undeveloping move! It is constructive to bring your forces out into the open, to the firing line; but vanity sometimes prevents us from imagining the opposite — namely, a retreat to whence we came; and exactly that may sometimes be best.
The other thought is this: how often moving a pawn to attack an enemy pawn proves to be a strong move! If at the same time, it attacks a piece, it is probably even stronger. The famous musician and chess master, Philidor said. "Pawn play is the soul of chess."
Speaking generally, to play good chess is so difficult that even veteran master chess critics have confessed their confusion. It is on the record that Howard Staunton, the English champion looking at a certain game remarked — "I do not see how either side can survive." And Dr. Tarrasch, the great German chess theorist and teacher, wrote: "It is not enough to be a good player; you must also play well."
Thousands of hours are given up by chess lovers — often in solitude — to the study of the intricacies of pet lines of play with the curious result on the one hand of a Nat Helper concluding- "I hate every move of the Sicilian Defense —for both sides!" And on the other hand, a Weaver W. Adams, who had been up all night studying, called me at 8:30 A.M. long distance to bless me with the new revelations, hung up, immediately changed his mind and sent me the following telegram:
BISHOP MOVE GOOD
IF KNIGHT TO KNIGHT FIVE
OTHERWISE LOUSY SORRY
The telegraph operator was probably puzzled as to the unfortunate move of a bishop which could be described as "lousy."
Now we must consider briefly the third subdivision of a chess game, the "end game." This begins generally when the majority of the pieces are off the chess board. and the king (fearful before) now feels free to move around. And in fact, the first principle of good play in the end game is to use the king as an attacking weapon. The end game is much more precise, "scientific" than the opening or middle game. To play an ending well requires common sense and mathematical thinking. Did you know that there are different talents for the different types of endings? I feel most "at home" in bishop endings. Marshall and Rubinstein were two of the greatest rook ending players who ever lived. Reshevsky is superb with knights. Botvinnik is outstanding with queens. Tn my opinion the most difficult ending, and the one most calculated to give you a nervous breakdown is an ending with queens and rooks.
Organized chess has recently gone through a phase of "rating" chess experts and masters according to their material performance in action. Mathematics forms the basis of the method of rating. And how does a poet react to all of that? I condemn the rating system - and advise you to ignore it. One reason is that it penalizes failure; yet failure can be a glorious success when it shines with the loveliness of heart-warmth, of courage. For another obvious reason it rewards the cowardice that in so-called "security" can undertake nothing architectural for fear of loss, but can wait for the opponent's error to appear, and thus gather in the all-important point. The games of some (most) "high scorers" are like themselves — cold and dry as dust. The games of some "low scorers" are like themselves — alive, human, creative, warm, a delight to the lover. One can only laugh at a rating system! Who can measure the loveliness of a rose?
Before I leave the subject of strategy and tactics in chess I would like to return, in a sort of coda, - to the topic of the opening, (You recall the importance I attach to that subdivision.) I am going to quote from one of my annotations to the match between Samuel Reshevsky (champion) and Isaac Kashdan (challenger) — published in the "American Chess Bulletin." Vol. 39, No. 5. In this quotation I am talking about an ultra-conservative opening called the "Queen's Gambit" — a favorite with Reshevsky who has specialized in it — a misnomer, if there ever was one, for a "gambit" in chess must have definite connotations of speculation and risk.
"Reshevsky will never rise to the world's championship on the (divine?) strength of one rock-bound opening. His opponent will expect it, and (to a great extent) solve the problems. A true champion must be more free, less dogmatic, must keep his opponent guessing. Why has Kashdan thus far failed so miserably versus the 'Queen's'? Because he has, to his credit, played to win at all costs. Better to lose every time than to play for a draw deliberately! (To play for a draw is the purest, most timid materialism.) So Kashdan is even more to be commended for daring to lose, than Reshevsky who has brilliantly succeeded in refining and super-refining the already well-digested no-risk opening. There comes a day when a degenerate classicism cries aloud--yes, weeps—for a romanticist."
Now it would be of interest for you and for me to turn back to the pages of chess history, to think about, to discuss the personalities, the geniuses who gave their all to this noble game. And since I (as you understand) cannot be all-inclusive — because we are all to some extent limited, I shall dwell more particularly on the more recent past, even if I have to "ignore" such extraordinary talents and deeds as were those of Anderssen, Kieseritsky, Steinitz, Pillsbury, Zukertort, Tschigorin and Morphy.
It is indeed sad to record the end, the passing away of an entire generation of great chess masters. Almost, one may say that a golden age is now a sunset which must, all too soon, plunge the chess world into a darkness painfully like unto a vacuum.
Alekhine dead! And before him, Capablanca and Lasker. Rubinstein and Maroczy are but great names of the past. The great geniuses, Nimzovitsch and Reti, are no more. Speilmann is dead! Our own dear Marshall is gone. And add Steinitz, Schlecter, Pillsbury, Dr. Tarrasch, Zukertort, Janowski, Blackburne, Tschigorin — and so, to many others! How great indeed is our loss! And how fortunate, too, that history has preserved for us the record of their glorious struggles.
The time is at hand to measure the worth of some of these great masters anew, to examine closely the nature of their talent, the quality of their souls; and, above all, to measure by standards that are more or less new and of tomorrow's world, standards which in my opinion, probe more deeply, reveal greater and more fundamental truths. It is to be hoped that such a study will reinforce our appreciation and love for some "lesser lights," while at the same time providing us with profound inspiration for the noble deeds of the future.
My judgments are a good deal objective, and the result of cold, "learned" observation; but they are even more subjective. I admit my prejudices; but that enhances my value, and is not at all a serious fault, for in the last analysis we all have prejudices — only a corpse admits to no opinions! The nature of my prejudices will unfold as I proceed.
"Chess Life," July 20, 1960
We will start with Rubinstein — because I have finished a close examination of one hundred of his games —Rubinstein, the great Akiba Rubinstein — one of the idols of my youth. And I was sadly disillusioned.
Here was a master who, I had been made to understand, had been the equal of Lasker, a giant of the chess world, a personality to be approached with awe. Only, it seemed, the lack of opportunity had cheated him of the world's championship. Now I know better. Rubinstein, at his best, would never have conquered Lasker. He was definitely smaller in stature — not as a strategist or tactician, for in these technical fields he was at least Lasker's equal. Nor was he inferior as a dreamer; he was, in truth, the greater artist. But it was as a fighter that he could not equal Lasker. To ever so small a degree, Rubinstein possessed the fear which Lasker knew not.
Lasker embraced life, plunged into it boldly; Rubinstein was somewhat not so strong, so passionate.
No matter from what angle we consider Lasker — Dr. Emanuel Lasker, world's champion for almost thirty years— we must respect and admire him. Only Alekhine, in my opinion, reached greater heights. But Lasker was without doubt the outstanding player of his generation. On a background of profound knowledge he built magnificent edifices with psychology and courage. Even as an almost old man, he remained a formidable competitor. In his prime, he was without a peer.
But to have said this for Lasker — (and less, in all justice, one may not say) — does not mean that we must ignore the weaknesses of his personality. We are seeking the truth; therefore we most look below the surface. Lasker was not a poet — he was not a lover. Chess inevitably became for him a necessary medium of expression; but it expressed mostly his mind, his will, not his heart. If he really loved anyone or anything, it was himself. This was his great weakness. And that is why, for instance, I would place Nimzovitsch or Marshall or Alekhine above Lasker in that immortal firmament of Spirit. Lasker was essentially a materialist. He was a cold thinker. He was not so much a creator, as a most expert and quick solver of a long series of problems wherein his search was for clarity, and (with reason as a tool) a profitable solution, the goal. Dr. Reuben Fine was a profound student of Lasker's style, and I quote from an opinion wherein he does not ignore sex:
"The search for clarity would for Lasker be specifically tied up with the wish to deny or 'regulate' his sexual impulses. We may recall his statement that when he married he became husband, father and grandfather all in one stroke. It is perhaps no accident that the two opening variations which bear his name (the exchange variation in the Ruy Lopez and Lasker's Defense in the Queen's Gambit Declined) both involve an unusually early exchange of queens; that is, to clarify the situation he gets rid of women."
But despite the fact that Lasker was a thinking materialist, it was mostly because he was a great fighter that he was enabled to reach the material heights, and to stay there for so long. Nonetheless, he was fearless. Though without fear, still he hated to lose; he approached real risk with profound distaste. His mind (will) so overshadowed his heart that he could never "let go" spiritually; he could never accept loss with a smile; he could never put beauty first, and the point second. His wonderful mind saw to it that material success should he his.
Not so with Nimzovitsch or Reti (passionate for new roads of beauty), not so with Marshall or Speilmann (with joy in the attack), not so with Mieses, Tschigorin, Duras, Tartakower (delightfully insane), Pillsbury, Janowski (the fierce artist) — and of course, Alekhine! All these contemporaries of Lasker were, in my opinion, in one very important respect, greater than Lasker. With them the heart was loving enough to put aside the grosser material considerations, to rise somewhat beyond vanity.
Only a lover can ignore loss, can afford to experiment, to dream! Only a lover can find his reward outside of material success. In the last analysis, only a lover, even though he suffer terribly, enjoys life. And when we look up to the stars, we shall surely see how the lovers outshine all the rest. This they have earned; they have deserved.
Lasker was not a lover; still less so were Dr. Tarrasch and Capablanca.
It is revealing that I don't think of writing "Tarrasch"; I must write "Dr. Tarrasch". To that extent did he impress the world — even a world that knew him not personally — with his not genius, but God-like genius. We were simply not in his category, not fit to breathe the air he did. Dr. Tarrasch was a supreme egotist, a self-made Prussian God. He was the worst kind of a materialist — talented, yes — a great mind, yes — knowledge, yes — a great master, of course: But he was bankrupt spiritually. He had no understanding of the word "humility", and no concern for the word "love". And there is no doubt that a mind lacking such a foundation must face the crises with little of the strength that can be drawn only from the deep wells of "faith". And the accomplishments of such a mind can never touch infinity, must always know the cold and even cruel limitations which grow, like cancers, out of self-love. That is what I mean when I say that Dr. Tarrasch was bankrupt spiritually. And yet, he was a profound student of our beloved game; he was a great teacher, even though his theories, were dogmatic.
Now Capablanca! the great Capablanca (how well he knew it!), the perfect machine, the fiery temperament with (especially in his younger days) the cold, selfish heart, the incredible, insane conceit — Capablanca.
And yet, there is more to be said, for this was a magnificent personality. The spiritual world was never to Capablanca's taste, but he always had at his command simple, forceful ideas — and youthful, too! Alas! that even he is among the dead! Only to have been in his presence was to have known the vibrant, joyous quality of all that is eternally young, to have known an atmosphere charged with electricity, to have suffered a stimulation too penetrating to be earthly. We salute the great Capablanca!
But as he grew older, he deteriorated sadly. The degenerate trend was more spiritual in nature, than physical. I really believe he was insane — i.e., incapable of recognizing an equal competitor — including of course Alekhine in his prime, and Botvinnik in his youth. There never was, and there never will be an egotist quite so extreme as Capablanca. His self-love was so extraordinary as to become a thing of wonder, of charm; even before he died, he was a legend.
And yet, how much more noble is true humility, true love, true greatness! We have only to think of Franz Schubert or Abraham Lincoln or Albert Einstein to know the genius of Capablanca in its own unique lack of light. As a chess master he was an ultra-materialist, and even by such standards overrated. He stimulated the world of chess, and (most unfortunate result) actually inspired a whole generation of masters to imitate his cold, efficient, technical style (for instance, Kashdan — "der kleine Capablanca"). It was Capablanca who was mostly responsible for the so-called "grandmaster draw", the natural result of scientific "perfection" divorced from emotion, "will-to-win" or creative power. Finally it was Capablanca who stated in public print that the game of chess, if not dead, had at least reached the end of the road; and he advocated changes in the rules or even pieces!
Capablanca stimulated, darkly inspired the world of chess, but he loved it not; he loved only Capablanca. And the world will understand and remember — or forget.
To follow with Marshall is to compare night with day. Marshall lived always with love. He knew well how to accept — nay, welcome — danger. And therefore, he was often intimate with material loss. Always he loved the game more than Marshall, more even than his team or country. This is the love that surpasses all loves. In the world of chess, Marshall advanced with the heart; almost he despised and laughed at the mind! To win or lose meant nothing compared to the love and the fight. He did win, and he did lose — losses that hurt deeply, but could not dim the sunshine. His material success was not outstanding; but his spiritual success was magnificent. America and the whole world respects the memory of Frank J. Marshall, and yields to him the love he gave.
And now the greatest genius the chess world has ever known — Alekhine. It is unfortunate that I should write about him now rather than before the last war. Then, almost without exception, chess lovers respected and admired his great talent, his creations. But now certain alleged writings of Alekhine have caused unhealthy emotions to dominate the thinking of some chess players. Hatred, if it could, would darken even ever-lasting beauty. So that, before I discuss Alekhine, I must plead with you to realize that beauty (genius) Is eternal, while hatred is only very temporary and fundamentally false.
The world is still rich with intolerance, and quick with persecutions. Even with the best of intentions, we are none of us quite equal to the great courage needed to accept the "Sermon On The Mount" into our hearts, and into our daily living.
Especially for chess, any theory of racial superiority is so much nonsense, — and more so when concentrated on the followers of a religion. At that time I had to express myself as follows: "Steinitz, Reti, Speilmann, Nimzovitsch — to mention only a few of the great spiritual Jewish chess masters — were all bold, passionate experimenters, ardent with an urge to beauty, disdaining personal material gain as the more important motivating force. Chess will always be indebted to their original and brilliant creations." And so, I simply cannot understand why Alekhine, as reported, wanted to think otherwise. The facts are not known, He claimed a defense, but died before he could present it.
It is no easy thing to analyze the human mind and heart. Most of us live not in one world, but in ten worlds. Some of on can be part saint, part devil. We are none of us without weakness.
In the field of music, for instance, we recall how Beethoven insulted even princes. Or consider Johannes Brahms who apparently had a hateful personality. He made many enemies; he deserved to be disliked—but only apparently! Let us go to the music! What a heart! What a superb artist! This, then, was the man—and him we must love.
So with Alekhine. Let us put aside his (our) supposed prejudices. Let us be more rather than less tolerant of his failings in social living as a man, for his true life was only for chess. Let us look at his games, his creative output. The prejudices, a local and not too important disturbance, will die of their own dead weight. Alekhine's games will live, as all true beauty deserves to live. Alekhine was the greatest spirit. ual chess master our world has ever known. That his material success, too, was great is not so important. Behind the mind, behind . the scenes was a truly kingly heart and soul. It is so very rare that a great mind is motivated by a great heart. Alekhine, in his chess, had both. He most have worked very hard to attain his incredible knowledge of the game. He was superb in all phases — opening, middle game, ending. But he was superb not so much because of that knowledge, but because of his heart—a heart which I am sure had been well fortified and strengthened by great sufferings bravely borne.
"Chess Life," Sept. 20, 1960
Alekhine was an egotist— but he was also humble. A paradox?— but an index of his greatness. He was an efficient scientist, but also a daring, yes, even a most delicate artist. A paradox?— but an index of his greatness. He was absolutely fearless. He experimented willingly. He loved in the highest sense. Chessically he was all in all. He worked and suffered, and gloried in what, out of genius, he could create. We can only thank God for a genius like Alekhine!
Rubinstein, Lasker, Capablanca, Marshall, Alekhine — all dead — all dead! Well may we weep! And so, with such a glorious past, what can we say for the future of chess? Simply this — that beauty still lives, and will always live. Genius still lives and will always live!
And now finally, of the living, I would like to present and to discuss just one of my contemporaries, the outstanding international grandmaster and many times United States champion, Samuel Reshevsky who, even as a child, was known the world over as a chess genius.
Of course I have personally known Reshevsky, and played games with him through more than thirty years. So my comments on him as a chess master, reflecting as they do my own philosophy, are founded not only on a long, close personal observation, but also on a selection of his best games--"Reshevsky On Chess"—(written by himself) to which I gave careful study.
The man I respect. He is deeply religious, though by his devotion to a religion with a name, he automatically implies certain opinions as to other religions with names. In that particular sense, he is not free; he is not loving enough. What who is? I respect Reshevsky, and I deeply respect his religion.
Before we leave the subject of the more personal Reshevsky. it only fair to present the view of a minority of the American chess public —namely, that he has always loved money more than chess. A mans' money, like his wife, is always more or less of his private domain. And yet, where the lack of enough money can dictate whether or not you represent your country in an international team, match — some people have strong opinions about such matters. While Reshevsky's friends have always been very loyal and generous to him. some of his contemporaneous American masters have resented the fact that before participating in any event, he would almost always demand substantial money guarantees, while his competitors would be getting either nothing at all (in that sense) or, for team matches, just the bare minimum in expenses. But now I'd prefer to drop this rather unpleasant topic.
To judge — if I dare so attempt — Reshevsky as a chess master is not so easy. —A phenomenal prodigy, his genius was, and is obvious. Yet, in comparison with other geniuses. he does not shine too brilliantly. When we compare his creative output with that of an Alekhine, or even of a Reti or Nimzovitsch, his inferiority is manifest. Why? Because they were lovers creating out of love; he was a genius using his talent not so much to create but to conquer. It was not the beauty or the idea that mattered, but the point. He broke no new paths —no opening bears the name, Reshevsky — no, not even a humble variation. He traveled the road of ultra-refinement. Reshevsky is a peak of classicism.
In tactics he is superb and precise. His technique in end game play is superlative. But this argues only for a virtuoso, one with ultimate command of his tools, and of the skills necessary to their proper use. All of that is a great deal, but not enough. Any humble poet is far superior. He may not score as many points; but he colors the contest with love. In the finest sense of the word he creates. The one, in knowledgeable security, refines on all the past; the other, though not in ignorance, despises security in order to test his dreams.
Reshevsky was never a dreamer. He was a scientist and fighter. His play is courageous and very often correct. But the poet's play is full of twilight, soft with weakness; and his strengths are full of charm. and refreshing to the weary traveler.
And one final word — Reshevsky as a writer, an author. a chess lover for posterity, is indicted for laziness and stinginess. His near-zero efforts as a critic and teacher are well known. Even in his own and only book he greatly fails as a scientist. Many plausible alternative lines of play he never recognizes (in his comments). never explores or discusses. Of this Alekhine was never guilty in his prime. Could Reshevsky find it to his taste to annotate like the Alekhine of the superb "New York, 1924" tournament book? Never!
In Reshevsky's book I also found this curious statement:
"Never again will I permit chess to interfere with the more important business of caring for my family."
A chess lover? I laugh! Why, any unskilled laborer can raise a family — but a Reshevsky? a genus? a dream for all humanity? Schopenhauer was correct: "A married philosopher is ridiculous."
So we conclude that Reshevsky — for all his phenomenal talent — is (in chess) a failure on the level of Love.
"Chess Life," Oct. 20, 1960
The year, 1904. was an especially good year for chess in the United States—our own Frank Marshall achieved his greatest material triumph, first prize at Cambridge Springs, two points ahead of Janowski and Dr. Lasker (then world champion): among others who followed were Marco, Schlechter, Showalter, Tschigorin, Mieses and Pillsbury —only nine years after the latter had electrified the chess world at Hastings — but alas! at this time very soon to be dead!
And during that same year, 1904, occurred three memorable births: first, the Cambridge Springs Defense came into existence; secondly, late in the year, in Manhattan, I was born, the twelfth of thirteen children (parents and all living in two rooms); thirdly, the first number of America's oldest and most honored chess magazine. the "American Chess Bulletin" was published. Its editor, Hermann Helms was and is an extraordinary man; and here is the place, and now is the time to sing his praises, for, believe me, they are fully earned, deserved.
By 1904, Hermann Helms was thirty-four, already established as a news reporter and columnist. Today, fifty-six years later, at the age of ninety, he carries on with hardly a slackening pace, and has for years now been honored by the title, "Dean of American Chess."
What memories he must have! For seventy-five years he has seen them all come and go— hundreds and hundreds of geniuses, champions and near-geniuses, lovers and self-lovers! Almost as far back as Morphy, but certainly from the days of Showalter. Hodges and Pillsbury, through the entire magnificent career of Marshall, on to Fine, Reshevsky and Kashdan, on to Bobby Fischer; and during that time to deal, both in a business way and otherwise, with more than a score of famous international, non-American stars including such temperamental and tempestuous giants as the world champions, Dr. Lasker, Capablanca and Alekhine! Reporter, manager, entrepreneur, annotator, publisher (Hermann Helms was responsible for the best tournament book the world has ever seen —Alekhine's "New York 1924 Tournament Book"), organizer, but also peacemaker, almost a mother to these stars, Hermann Helms, truly a superman, for seventy-five years has given almost his every moment to chess. During all that time I've hardly known him to take a single holiday. And for this devotion has come to him a financial reward so small as hardly to be worth mentioning. Where in the chess world, where in the United States have we found such love?
The history of American chess most almost surely be somewhat a history of Hermann Helms. What sort of a man is he? Always tall and thin, almost frail (but "wiry" —whatever that means) he obviously possessed hidden sources of strength to carry him. still working hard, into the age of ninety. Strength of a spiritual nature, you may be sure. In his prime, he was a very strong chess player, a master capable of creative chess. (I could bring up memories of the Brooklyn Chess Club. once a giant among chess clubs — now a mere shell — how sad! Hermann was at that time intimate with the Brooklyn Chess Club.) But his great and even desperate need was "to hunt out the news"; he was a born, a dedicated reporter. For chess, he fell into a passionate routine — first, the material facts, the scores and prizes of the masters, then the detailed game scores, then the game analyzed and explained. This service he gave to America and to the world for sixty years! (And, fortunately. the end is not yet.) Who can estimate the true worth of such a service? for it is pure love. Hermann Helms published all of this in three newspapers, The New York Times, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle and the New York World-Telegram and in his own American Chess Bulletin. His weekly column in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle was internationally famous. And that excellent newspaper, like all of us being mortal, had to die — a pity!
I first met Hermann Helms early in my own career. I first annotated games for the Bulletin around 1928; nor have I stopped now after more than thirty years. Some of my criticisms were highly "controversial"; but Hermann, ever the man "to call a spade a spade", supported me 100%, despite at times very strong pressure. Loyalty stands high among his many virtues. (It may interest you to know that he never paid me a penny for my work. Since the Bulletin was sometimes published at a loss, that is understandable. I never asked Hermann for money — however, there are other intangible rewards that are very dear to a lover.) In his personal life, Hermann Helms has not, I believe. been too happy. He lost an only child and very dear daughter at an early age. His true love and life was always chess. He is an intelligent. modest, courageous and truly loving man —perhaps a bit austere. When finally he called me "Tony" — after more than twenty-five years of our relationship— I was really shocked! Even today I hesitate a bit to call him Hermann, though I love him more and more. Over though, telephone I always ask his devoted secretary, Miss Sullivan (to whom, incidentally, chess owes a very great debt indeed), "And how is Mr. Helms?" Gracious lady that she is, I'm sure she would be shocked, were I to say "Hermann."
Talk about unsung heroes! Did the great German philosopher, Nietzsche ask for a superman? I give him and you a chess lover extraordinary — Hermann Helms.
In "Vanity Fair" we find Thackeray's famous — "Vanity, vanity—all is vanity"; and while it is true, as Samuel Johnson said: "no man sympathizes with the sorrows of vanity," vanity can be even portentous according to C. G. Jung: "When God is not recognized, selfish desires develop, and out of this selfishness comes illness."
Yet, gentle laughter with regard to this topic of self-love is always in order, and rewarding to our common humanity, though, perhaps, I should heed Corwin's warning:
"Never make people laugh. If you would succeed in life, you must be solemn, solemn as an ass. All the great monuments are built over solemn asses."
There is humor, too, in chess—all sorts of humor —alibis, for instance. All chess players love to win, and hate to lose, and the chess master who loses "must" have his alibi. He may complain of the noise, or lack of it, of the light or the shadow, of the people or the clock or the cold or the heat. Only very rarely will he admit, "I could not see a thing!" In a letter I wrote, I was talking of my rather indifferent showing in a state championship tournament. and said:
"Yes — I have an alibi — but won't it be demoralizing if the day should come when I do poorly, and have NO alibi? It would almost be necessary to do one of three things: manufacture an alibi, retire honorably from all competition, enter an institution for the mentally deficient."
Many years ago the late Herman Steiner, who was sometimes(?) addicted to a colossal egotism, approached a wealthy patron of the game with a plea for "backing" of one hundred dollars to play a match against a "push-over." Herman "wept" that such a chance for easy money should not and could not be ignored. The "push-over" was Reuben Fine —and I need not tell you who was the easy winner.
In 1923, at the age of eighteen, I was invited to my first international tournament, and, as expected, finished tied for last place. But amazingly enough (and since that time I have always been able to lose to the "duffers," while fighting like hell against the "big shots"), I played drawn games with three of the first four prize winners —Marshall, Janowski and Edward Lasker. Janowski — the fierce French champion — was mortally wounded. When he saw that he could not win, he swept the pieces off the board. Thereafter he absolutely refused to eat at the same table with me, and always referred to me as—"That schoolboy!"
There is another story in connection with that same tournament, this having to do with my first visit to a gambling institution. There was such a place across the road from the hotel where we were playing. And when hostilities were over, and the prizes distributed, Marshall — my good friend — and Janowski wanted to gamble. The former, however, took the precaution of handing over all his money to me except thirty dollars which he kept to play with; he allowed me five dollars to play. He then warned me that no matter what he did or said, I should give him no more money. At the roulette wheel I soon lost my share. Frank, however, held out for quite some time; but then had nothing. Believe it or not, he got on his knees, and with tears in his eyes begged me for his own money. Of course I refused. and walked out. Janowski lost every penny of his prize of almost two hundred dollars, and had to borrow from friends for his needs.
"Chess Life," Dec. 5, 1960
Now I would like to share with you a few anecdotes about my beloved friend, Frank J. Marshall. But first let me begin at the beginning.
It was long ago — more than forty years ago; I was a small boy (in height) aged about eleven or twelve. I had been in love with chess for about a year. Somehow I had heard about chess clubs, and especially about Marshall and the Marshall Chess Club. And I was determined — I dreamed about it day and night — not only to see that club with my eyes (through eye-glasses — now after all those years of the necessity of wearing them, I hardly wear them at all, and that is a rare pleasure; I actually read better without them —I suppose that has been one of my rewards, from God, for being a good (?) boy!) but to become a member of it! And of course I bad no money, for my family was very poor. But Love always finds a way.
So that sunny Sunday afternoon I went downtown to the Marshall Chess Club for the first time —little did I know that I was to consider that place my home, and visit it many thousands of times! The club then was in a "Nice" building in a pleasant residential neighborhood on Fifty-first Street in New York. It was in awe of the building, let alone the club; and I did not dare approach it — at first. So I walked up and down the street, some ten or twelve times, never taking my eyes from the building, and afraid to approach it. Finally I did, and where the door sign said "MARSHALL CHESS CLUB", I rang the bell. The door was opened immediately by Frank Marshall, himself! It was our first meeting, and it was love at first sight. He welcomed me in —I was swooning with delight and awe.
Now an interlude — we will return soon to the scene at the club. You will recall that with regard to my young self and that situation, I used the word "awe" twice—an adornment but the simple truth. From the first I looked up to Marshall as if he were a God. And not only Marshall, but also the other great masters on the local scene — among others Kupchik, Jaffe, Hodges, Edward Lasker. That was me, but I have long observed that, generally speaking, today's youth has definitely discarded that "awe", if ever it had any at all. The more prevalent attitude seems to be— I hope that old guy drops dead, so I can go." And worse! I happened to overhear one brilliant young genius say to another (in a big tournament) — "I hope I play Santasiere — he's a fish!". He was so mistaken, for though I have been many things in my life, and have dreamed of being many more, my aquatic activities have been exactly zero. (Incidentally I was soon privileged to score a victory over that young admirer. Today he has much matured, and I — almost — love him, as he does me,) But why have the young lost this love and awe for the masters? It is so sad, for it is a great failure on the level of love and respect; and while it darkens a bit the light that does and should surround a master, it steals much more from the inner light of the young egotist —for love, true love, widens the horizons, and floods his own soul with sunshine—if only he can open the door!
But let us return to the scene at the chess club. Standing behind Frank, and sweetly smiling a welcome, was his beloved wife, Carrie. I love her always more and more, though it was not always so, for on occasion we had to agree to disagree. (Especially when I put the chess pieces on the floor.) Today at the club, she carries on magnificently; and she and I can hardly do without each other. If that is not true love, what is?
So, that afternoon more than forty years ago, Frank and Carrie invited me to visit the club at any time; and when I said that I had no money, they said that for awhile I would not have to pay dues. You see Love does open doors. The next year I played for the first time on the team of the Marshall Chess Club, played six games and won them all. At the end of the season, at a meeting of the members I was presented with a purse of money — a complete surprise and delight. (I recall that on that occasion I was still wearing "short pants" — it was the custom in those days for boys to wear short pants until they attained a certain height. Today they wear men's trousers even at the age of three.) Recently I celebrated my fortieth —or forty-first year of playing on Marshall teams by winning in the "World Series" (vs. the Manhattan Chess Club) from Horowitz with a King's Gambit.
Now — the anecdotes: Frank did not love only chess —he loved other games too, for instance bridge and (even when he died) bingo, Once, with me as an observer, he was Capablanca's partner in a game of contract bridge. In a very difficult hand (which he had to play) he finally went down three tricks. Capa was quite upset — Why didn't you do this?" (or that); Frank entered a defense. Caps persisted an a refutation, and he was always more violent, more explosive. Frank countered with a more detailed, and quite plausible defense. Capa, in a sort of despair wherein he could push stupidity aside, delivered a veritable Niagara Falls of argument. Frank was calm but increasingly stubborn. To the unbiased observer his defense was quite correct and nohow to be refuted. Capa lost his temper completely. Waving his cards wildly in the air, he shouted — "All I know is that if I had played the hand, it would not have happened."
Another bridge story —this time Mr. and Mrs. who were partners. For years and years it was known to all the cardplayers. that Frank hated, above all, a "club" bid either from his own hand or from his partner. On this occasion, Carrie opened the bidding with "one club." Frank, a little annoyed, bid "one no-trump." Carrie bid "two clubs." Frank, dismayed, looked at her quickly at least six times, as if to say, "Don't you remember?" Then he said, "two no-trumps." She, after a long pause, offered "three clubs." He, firmly and coldly and with a sense of finality, and raising his voice just a bid said, "three no-trumps." Carrie, after a prolonged study of her cards, (Frank more and more jittery with every passing second), "Four clubs." This was like the explosion of a bomb; Frank jumped up in his seat; shock and amazement were struggling for mastery as he said loudly, "Four no-trump!" Carrie, rather timidly but really in despair, "Five clubs." Frank glared at her, a piercing look with not a little hatred, and overtones of "Are you crazy?" and very loudly, "Five no-trump!" Carrie, very firmly, very stubbornly, and not a little angry and with a raised voice, "Six clubs!" Frank bent far forward as if he wanted to eat her, with hatred jumping out of his eyes, and yelled, "SIX NO-TRUMP!!" She, most defiantly, and with an air of having suffered every blow that life can offer — "Seven clubs!" "SEVEN NO-TRUMPI!!" screamed Frank and threw his cards violently on the table, while showering himself with ashes from a burnt out cigar. (The opponent said, "Double", and Frank went down six tricks.)
But let us return to the chess world. Frank was playing against a great master of international reputation in a very important game. His position was very complicated; it was his move, and there were three or four good possibilities from which to choose. He thought and thought—thirty minutes, forty minutes, fifty minutes, After exactly one hour, he made his move, and came over to me immediately and said, "San, I just made the worst move on the board!" And (outside of an atrocious blunder) that was the precise truth!
At the club, Frank and I sat at adjoining tables just before the start of a team match. He had the white pieces, and leaned over to me and asked, "What should I play?" I, with a bit of a devilish gleam in my eye, replied at once, "P-QR3" (Anderssen's Opening). And so he did! —but on the third move. The opening was P-K4, P-QB4; P-QN4, PxP; P-QR3 (1. e4 c5 2. b4 cxb4 3. a3).
So finally dear Frank had to die. We all knew that during the last few years of his life he had a very serious heart condition; so his death did not come as too great a shock. The manner of his passing was not at all morbid. He had gone to Jersey City, alone, to play there in a game of Bingo. Afterwards, walking on the street, he dropped dead. Thus, for American chess history, there came about the sudden end of more than an era. It was the end, for a generation, of the sparkling of romantic Glory, for America, on the chess stage of the whole world. Frank J. Marshall was dead; and he was both utterly lovable and unique.
Santasiere promised further reminiscences, but I've been unable to locate any.