Stahlberg v. Kashdan (1930): The Little Capablanca Makes an International Splash

Mar 31, 2011, 2:45 AM |

Dr. Isaac Kashdan (1905-1985) was one of the first Americans to get international recognition for his play and be considered a serious contender for World Champion of Chess.  This 1930 Hamburg victory over Stahlberg has been credited as the game where Kashdan made his biggest early impression on the world stage.  After Salo Flohr, Kashdan was considered by many, including then-champion Alekhine, to be the most likely candidate to dethrone Alekhine.  Not since Frank James Marshall took the stage ~30 years earlier had an American garnered such international acclaim.  Kashdan earned the nickname “Little Capablanca” (after the legendary champion Capablanca) in 1930.  He was known for very mechanical, precise, kind-of-Terminator-like play, playing mostly for position and the endgame, waiting for a mistake from his opponent to ruthlessly exploit rather than ambitiously attacking himself.  Unfortunately, Kashdan was never able to live up to his full potential as a player; he had a family to take care of and good-paying work in the insurance industry.  Hence, Kashdan could never find the time to give chess the kind of one-minded devotion which a true world champion needs to possess.  That said, Kashdan had a long, respectable career, and did much to promote the game, including co-founding “Chess Review” with fellow-American Israel “Al” Horowitz, appearing on popular TV, writing a decades-long chess column for the LA Times, and numerous other achievements.


Gideon Stahlberg (1908-1967) was one-half of the dynamic duo from Sweden (along with Stoltz) who were the first Scandinavian players to get international attention.  See my Pilnik v. Stahlberg blog for a victory of his.  In the 1930s (and for decades later), Stahlberg and Kashdan were all names well-known amongst the chess elite.


All comments in notation by GM Reuben Fine (1951).


I will try to add-in some of the alternate lines later.