The greatest genius whom i ever knew (Part 1)

The greatest genius whom i ever knew (Part 1)

Jan 23, 2010, 6:45 PM |

(This is an excerpt from the book "The Bobby Fischer I Knew")

Death Be not Proud of Dreams Destroyed

If I were to tell you that a young man's father was an alcoholic who late one night walked off a pier and drowned and that his uneducated mother scrubbed floors and cleaned offices to pay the rent for an ugly little flat in Hell's Kitchen, what would you rate that man's chances in our society?

Right, but as a rare flower may flourish in the desert, so genius sometimes seems to grow in the most barren of soils. For such was the background of Donald MacMurray, the greatest genius whom I ever knew and the possessor of the highest I.Q. recorded in America up to the time of the early 1930s. To this day -- 50-plus years later -- no one has equalled his record of earning a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Chicago and a law degree at prestigious Columbia. Oh, yes, he completed the first degree in 8 1/2 months and the second in a single year.

Donald and I met in our early teens under most unusual circumstances; and that we would later become close friends after a rocky start was even more remarkable. Mac was captain of the De Witt Clinton High School chess team, while I served as a captain of Theodore Roosevalt. Both of us were finalists in the New York City Individual Championship, and as luck would have it, our game decided the winner. As White, I was up a piece in a winning position when he played ... P-KN4, attacking my Knight on KB4. As I reached to move the Knight, I inadvertently knocked over my King on KN1. Whereupon, Mac explained to referee Hermann Helms that my lapse could only mean that I was resigning or that I planned to move my King. But the ref, who was known as the Grand Old Man of American Chess, ruled in my favor at once. And Mac resigned.

Later, as we left the Marshall Chess Club together, he explained that even this last variation had not been good enough, though he felt it had been worth a try, As the years passed, we met many times at the Manhattan Chess Club where we were junior members. We played a lot of chess together and even teamed up with two others to hold Alexander Alekhine to a draw in the world champion's famous simultaneous exhibition on election day, November 8, 1932, at the old Seventh Regiment Armory.


Mac also played another chess immortal, Jose Capablance, who conducted an exhibition along the same lines as Alekhine's a year earlier in the Armory. The great Cuban seemed to start out well in the game, but Mac and a yound Reuben Fine showed some fine endgame technique. Deafeating Capablanca was always a notable feat.



To be continued...