Steve Brandwein -A Chess Genius!!


Steve Brandwein heard of him ? If not the following. He seems to be a very special and extremely strong chessplayer. Start to read what Sam Sloan  writes about him on his site.


Here :

According to what i have read about Steve Brandwein he is known to be an exceptional chess talent. He almost never makes any mistakes. Know the openings he plays VERY well. Also a very good tactician. Slightest mistake by his oponent will be severly punished.

Not only that IM Larry Kaufmann played him many years ago.

From An Exclusive Interview with Larry Kaufman by Jim Eade


C. T. How did you learn to play chess? How old were you?

L.K. My father taught me at age 7, and I had a lesson on how to do the king and rook checkmate at age 8 from Harold Phillips, the first USCF president and a New York champion in the year 1895 (!!). His daughter and my mother were best friends from college.

C.T. Who were you biggest influences?

L.K. Fischer was my biggest influence in my teens, although the book that influenced me the most was Reshevsky’s (“How chess games are won”). On a personal level I would say Steve Brandwein.

C.T. How so?

L.K. When I was a college student at M.I.T., Steve lived nearby and we became friends. I was very impressed with his intellect, knowledge, and memory; he was (and presumably still is) a very brilliant man. At the time I was a high Expert while Steve was already retired from regular tournament play with a 2300 rating, which was pretty good back in the mid 1960s. At blitz chess he was much better still, certainly way beyond my level. He taught me a lot about chess (and other things too), but the biggest impact was a twenty game match we played.  Due to the rating disparity we agreed to a 2-1 time handicap; I think Steve took 30′ to my hour.  I thought this would make for a fair match, but I was soon to realize how wrong this was. After 19 games I was still seeking my first win; the score was 10 wins for Steve and 9 draws. Finally by some miracle I won the final game. Just a few weeks later, I was the American Open Champion!! This shows both how much I learned from this match and how strong Steve must have been to score so well against me giving me time odds; my own rating soon hit 2300.

I played many other training matches over the years with various masters, but this was the only one I lost. My match victims in these matches included Bill Hook, Mark Diesen, Larry Gilden, and Arnold Denker. There was also a drawn match in my very early days with Frank Street, who soon became the nation’s second Black chess master.


Have anyone played this mysteroius figure named Steve Brandwein ? Or do anyone has any games with him. I have searched for them.


What about a blitz match between Steve Brandwein and Nakamura ?

tonydal wrote:
kalle99 wrote:

He almost never makes any mistakes.


Yeah, that comment alone was enough to make me hope no one would venture posting in this Tongue out

It's too bad Estragon has to be such a nice and knowledgeable guy.

tonydal wrote:
kalle99 wrote:

He almost never makes any mistakes.


Well guys...this is high class swenglish! :) If you translate "He almost never makes any mistakes." into swedish "word for word" .....this would be the way we say it in swedish. But now I understand it sounds funny in english.  :) But this (translated) is the way we say it in Swedish and it is very natural for us.

kalle99 wrote:
tonydal wrote:
kalle99 wrote:

He almost never makes any mistakes.


Well guys...this is high class swenglish! :) If you translate "He almost never makes any mistakes." into swedish "word for word" .....this would be the way we say it in swedish. But now I understand it sounds funny in english.  :) But this (translated) is the way we say it in Swedish and it is very natural for us.

I thought you said it very well in english :) -- I think it's the idea that tonydal (and I) were smirking at.  Even the best players in the world regularly make inaccuracies.  Only once or twice a year is a top level game touted as "nearly perfect" between two top players.  Even incredible performances where a top player goes without losses at a super-elite tournament have games that contain any number of inaccuracies and even blunders.  The most recent world championship match saw a terrible blunders by both sides, and this is not counting inaccuracies.

If this person, Steve Brandwein were such an astounding player (greater than any player alive today) we would certainly have heard of him.  So what proof do you offer us?  He played Kaufman?  Why is this an accomplishment?  Did he beat Kaufman?  Did he beat him more than once?  Did he score 10 out of 10 games in a 10 game match?  Even so, Kaufman is famous but he is not a top player in the world.

Add to this that chess skill is completely relative, and often beginners and amateurs in general often greatly misunderstand a strong players skill as being much greater than it actually is.  So that when we read this claim that the player Brandwein (a name we've never heard of) was an almost perfect player it's easy to understand why we would let out a laugh.

In terms of blitz chess, you could only mention 1 or 2 other players in the world with Nakmura's name.  Without a doubt, Nakamura would absolutely destroy Brandwein (whoever that is) in a blitz match.


I agree, he is a genius


Unfortunately I don't know Steve personally that well, but since I was a member of Mechanic Institute chess club for 14 years now, i talked to him and seen him. I know that Steve is a very strong player and I am pretty sure, had he played competitively these days, he could easily be over 2300. back in 2000, Steve played blitz with a friend of mine, a master with a current rating close to 2300 and a very good tactician. Steve beat him very convincingly to my amusement. I don't know for certain how good he really is these days and how far he could have gone, but he is definitely talanted to be an IM or GM 


I had heard similar stories when I was at the Mechanic's for a few years.


I mainly speak about blitz and rapid chess here of course. If anyone logs into ICC and follow any grandmaster blitzgame you can notice that they make "A LOT" of mistakes. It happens here and there. But this guy Steve is according to at least two sources we have like a computer when playing blitz. And someone here wrote something like : "If he would have been so good then wouldnt we have heard of him ?" Yes thats a very logical reasoning. But dont forget that this man was a very strong chess hustler. It is all to his advanatage to hide his real strength. Do you think Karpov or Kasparov would win any money if they sat down in Washington Square Park screaming and challenging the players there to play for money ? No one would play them for money. So for a hustler it is very important to be VERY strong but at the same time it is also important to be "anonymous" and travel around....just winning money.


I dont claim that he is .....or was the best blitzplayer in the U.S  but I just find this man interesting as a chessplayer and I am not ready to wipe him under the carpet already. Also the strategy he is/was using is also interesting. He was kinda playing backwards. Retreating very much sitting and waiting for slightest mistake. If I am not wrong there is a chessbook on this topic tiltled something like "Reversed chess strategy"  or something. Of course he could posess a unique talent despite the fact that he never won any main championships.


Here is a third source where you can read about Steve :


I first met Steve Brandwein while a freshman at Boston University in the fall of 1960. We were in the student lounge of the Myles Standish Dorm where he had a board all set up and he asked if I played. I said that I did and he offered me the white pieces. I considered myself to be a better than average player who had participated in tournaments and on my high school team back in New Jersey.

To make a long story short, after both of us had castled king-side ripped away the protection in front of his king which led me to the false belief that his days were numbered as I sought to exploit the weakness of his position. How foolish I was as I watched him move his king one space to the side (H8) and use the opening at G7 to throw everything at me except the kitchen sink. NO! Wait a minute, besides the two rooks, a queen, and a bishop, I seem to recall there was in fact a kitchen sink that stormed across the board to mop up the board with me.

He was very gracious as he won that game and one other. He said, "You play very well; I'm sorry you didn't win one." We became friends and he invited me to join him on the BU chess team. We wound up going to Princeton over the Christmas break to play in the national collegiate tournament.


I liked this thread :)


I met Steve in San Francisco about fifteen years ago.  I was expert strength at that time (I'm an NM today) and he beat me in a blitz match, 12-2.  He was at least 2400 strength in speed chess then.

I have also heard that he apparently played many games with Fischer in New York in the 60's, and held his own.

Finally, I have heard that as strong as he is in chess, he is much stronger in Scrabble.  He is mentioned in the Stefan Fatsis book "Word Freak" and was referenced in a USA Today review of that book as follows:

"Midway through his quest to master Scrabble, author Stefan Fatsis meets "game-room legend" Steve Brandwein, a well-read bookie and expert at Scrabble and chess who refuses to play in tournaments.

He's the epitome, Fatsis writes, "of the game-playing mind and character: brilliant, unconventional, and unapologetic."

I have been friends with Steve Brandwein since 1959 when we were freshmen together at Boston University; was his roommate for a year in the early '60s; and was his brother-in-law for a couple of years in the mid-60s when his sister and I were foolish enough to think we could make a go of marriage. I do not play chess so anything I know about him in that regard is second hand.
I first met Brandwein when a roommate of mine, Win Rhoades, attended a lecture for the first time in the Biology class he was enrolled a little after Thanksiving 1959 (the class had started in Sept.). He leaned over to ask the student at the next desk what had gone on in the class so far. The guy was Brandwein and he responded that he didn't know since it was his first visit also. They hung around for a while after class and hit it off; Win then introduced Brandwein into our circle of friends and many of us have remained buddies with him ever since.
Some Brandwein anecdotes:
When he was a student at Lawrence (Mass.) High School, around 1958, Brandwein took a public speaking course in which the students were given the assignment of writing a radio script. He wrote one purporting to be a newscast for Radio Moscow, bristling with denunciations of capitalism and imperialism. The teacher took one look at it, balled it up and threw it in the wastebasket, and announced that it was an inappropriate paper. An enterprising classmate retrieved it, made a mimeograph stencil of it, ran off a couple of hundred copies, and distributed them throughout the school. After class that day Brandwein led a large contingent of students to the Lawrence Common where he mounted the bandstand and read the script. He then asked how many in the crowd wanted to be communists and most raised their hands. He thereupon conferred the obligation  and swore them into the communist movement (he of course had nothing to do with the actual Communist Party). Several brought their scripts home and told their parents what had happened. The school was deluged with outraged protests and the headmaster called Brandwein's mother to tell her that her son was suspended and that the matter was being turned over to the FBI. She called people she knew at the New York Times where her late husband had been a sportswriter and they called the FBI on Brandwein's behalf. Bigshots in the Bureau ordered the headmaster to lay off the kid and the following morning Brandwein returned to class. At the end of the day, when he went to walk home, he was trailed by a mob yelling 'communist', 'traitor' and the like and brandishing a rope. A number of rocks were thrown at him, some hitting him in the head, but the rope wasn't put into use. On succeeding days he declined to be driven to and from school, refusing to back down to the mob. After a while the attacks, threats and persecutions subsided, life returned to status quo ante, and Brandwein completed his secondary studies.
Many of us at BU were movie fanciers and we would go to the theaters that then lined Washington Street, the main stem of downtown Boston, where we would often take in two double features in a day. Brandwein and another friend, Dave Herder, were so fanatical that they sometimes sat through in three in a day. They saw virtually everything that was shown in the theaters at the time including the Steve Reeves costume epics with dubbed English and such trash as Night of the Iguana and From the Terrace. Brandwein's eyesight was poor so he would sit in the first row which was really something in the days of single screen theaters showing movies in Cinemascope or Todd-A-O; the times I tried to sit with him I got nauseous from the experience. 
When I roomed with him, while our more conscientious roommates applied themselves to their studies in the evenings, Brandwein and I pursued our own cirricula which greatly improved our minds but did little for our grades. Brandwein made himself familiar with virtually all the literature of the world that as been translated into English although he refuses on principle to read anything written before 1800 - he used to take out about three books each day from the Boston Public Library, read them in the evening, and return them the next day for three new ones. Around the time our roommates were getting into bed Brandwein and I would stop our reading and play a half dozen or so games of cribbage which he would almost invariably win as he always knew the best way to play each hand and could only be defeated when dealt very poor cards. We'd end the card playing with a brisk game of Steal the Old Man's Bundle (a childrens' game in which skill plays no role, similar to Go Fish) and finally go to bed. Brandwein never graduated; I got my BA after six and a half years.
Brandwein enrolled in a Geology class to satisfy a requirement but failed to master the subject as thoroughly as he'd done in Biology. On the final exam the only answer that he got credit for, aside from a few true/false and multiple choice questions where he'd played the law of averges, was his answer to the question, "How old is the earth?"  Brandwein wrote, "The All-High created the earth 5,724 years ago", that being the then date on the Jewish calendar which counts from Creation. 
While students, a number of friends and I, disgusted with capitalism and imperialism, joined the Young Socialist Alliance, the youth organization of the Socialist Workers' Party which was the mainstream U.S. Trotskyite organization of the time. Brandwein, then as now, loved his Comrade Stalin and took every opportunity to ridicule the trots. 
One time when Larry Trainor, one of the older comrades, was giving an internal educational on Stalin's destruction of nearly the entire old guard of Bolsheviks, Brandwein made several wise-ass interventions such as asking, "What about Tomsky?" after Larry stated that Stalin executed almost all of Lenin's associates. (Tomsky committed suicide before Stalin's executioners could get to him.) After Larry made one particular statement, Brandwein asked "Where did you learn that?" When Larry replied that Trotsky had writen it, Brandwein sneered, "An impartial source." Larry stomped out of the room vowing, "I will not to come back until you get rid of that goddam sophist!"  
The comrades took this stuff very seriously and, eventually, attempted to bar him from meetings. One time when we arrived for a meeting at the Jollity Building-type headquarters of the SWP, the organizer for the YSA stood in the doorway to prevent Brandwein's entering; Brandwein dropped to all fours and crawled in between the guy's legs. So he continued to bedevil them for as long as his friends kept listening to Comrade Trotsky's siren song and bringing him around to meetings.    
Concerning Brandwein's deficiency in killer instinct, during our student days BU put on a General Knowledge Contest (GNC as the loving cup awarded to the winning team had it) in which each college of the university fielded a team of four. Brandwein and I considered this immodest and declined to compete. Instead we sat in the audience and whispered more correct answers to one another than the official contestants could come up with.
When he lived in Lawrence and in Boston he participated in chess tournaments but as few tournaments take place in Boston he was able to amass few master's points and was unlisted. When he moved to New York in 1965 or '66 he started participating in lots of tournaments and almost immediately jumped to 13th in the U.S. He thereupon permanently stopped competing.
I've heard that he played Bobby Fischer, a man with a gargantuan killer instinct and one widely regarded as the best of his era, several times and that in each game Brandwein appeared to be winning when Fischer proposed calling it a draw; each time Brandwein assented. Is he or was he the best chess player in the world? It strikes me that he may well be (even though his fame never spread to Sweden). He is also said to be highly skilled in bridge, go, rummy games, poker, backgammon, and, surprisingly, scrabble. Very likely a number of other games as well (Steal the Old Man's Bundle?). Someone once told me that Brandwein could have made a good living as a bridge hustler if only he'd had the requisite smooth manners.
In 1972 at the time of the heavily publicized Fischer/Spassky world championship chess match, he was asked by his friend Shelby Lyman to participate in a televised expert panel to comment on the progress of the match. The first time Brandwein appeared on camera he noted that Fischer had already received a phone call from "Mad Dog Kissinger" and that he might soon expect an invitation to the White House from "Nixon, the murderer of the Vietnamese people." He was immediately yanked from the panel, bringing his promising television career to an abrupt end.
When he first lived in Manhattan he stayed at what had to be the seediest hotel in midtown. I tried to phone him there once and the desk clerk answered the phone in a heavy Yiddish accent, barking "Pennview Hotel. Vat do you vant?" An appropriate setting for Brandwein. He was a regular at the chess club in New York called the Flea House, a venue as seedy as the hotel.
In the early 1970s he would come to visit me and my (second) wife in Brooklyn after having spent the day at chess meets put on by organizations of old refugees from the Russian revolution like Mensheviks or Social Revolutionaries. One time he came for dinner carrying a small flag we'd never seen before; it turned out that he'd just been at a czarist chess tourney and that this was the banner of Alexnder III and Grigori Rasputin which they passed out to all attendees. (Remarkably, the same flag is now the one used by the Republic of Russia.) I was astonished and somewhat delighted that he was hanging around with people who otherwise existed only in history books.
Brandwein's tastes in food were closer to prejudices. He would not eat any green or purple food but relished anything red, orange, or yellow. One time my wife prepared a dinner of stuffed green peppers from which Brandwein picked out all the meat and rice filling while seemingly not allowing his fork even to graze the green pepper shell. At the conclusion of the meal he announced that it had been good but that it was the first green food he'd ever eaten. As a student he subsisted for a few years largely on Chef Boy-R-Dee products out of cans. For a while he patronized a dive in a rundown section of Boston called the Prince Spaghetti House (I didn't know anyone else who would even walk through the door of the place.) After a while the owners called it a day and the new crowd changed the name to the Vince Spaghetti House, necessitating only a slight alteration in the sign and the menues. Brandwein remained a loyal customer. Almost every evening at our student apartment he he would heat up a few frozen meat knishes from Meyer's Kosher Kitchen which he would wash down with draughts of orange tonic (a New England term for soda) . He claimed as heroes Rabbis Zaitchik and Twersky whose names appeared on the knish boxes as the assurers of the kosherness of the contents. Sadly, in recent decades health considerations have forced a more conventional diet on him. I always imagine Zaitchik and Twersky along with Chef Boy-R-Dee languishing on the unemployment line as a consequence of the loss of Brandwein's patronage, not to mention Prince and Vince. Presumably though, his reformed diet still adheres to the color coding.
An early job he had in New York was working as a cashier in a Mafia-owned massage parlor (whore house). One day when he was off a couple of gunmen stuck up the place, taking eveyone's money and jewelry as well as the customers' trousers. When Brandwein reported for work the next day he was told what had happened and resigned on the spot.
The only real job he had in those days was working briefly for the post office. He was given a cubicle on the wall of which he hung a poster of V.I. Lenin in a heroic pose. After a few days he was ordered to remove it and, when he refused, was fired. Truly a man of principle.
After he moved to California, he worked at answering phones in a bookie parlor. He was said to be a valued employee because of his ability to calculate odds instantaneously in his head. Too bad he was unable to pass a single math class in college.   
He later worked at an underground indoor hemp farm. That job came to an end when he arrived at work one morning to find the farm a smoking ruin due to a short circuit during the night.
He's worked as an attendant for the past several years at the Mechanics' Institute chess club in San Francisco, the first job that has taken tax withholding and social security from his pay since he got bounced by the post office. He's due to retire sometime in the near future. Ironically, he will now qualify for Social Security although he always predicted that the capitalists and their government would kill the program before he was old enough to start getting checks so why bother having a real job?. It appears, though, that unless we make the revolution soon Brandwein will only be off by a handful of years in his prophesy.
It's been a great pleasure knowing Zewey Himself, a name he was known by among his old friends after a long-ago custodian at the Boylston Chess Club in Boston. It's always good to get together with Zewey and argue about 1872, 1889, 1917, 1921, 1936/37, 1939, 1956, and many of the other pressing issues of our time. I hope we're granted many more years of friendship.
-Steve Kellerman 

^too long; didnt read, can you please sum it up in a sentence?

just kidding, long essay though, the guy sounds like a genius to be sure 


I found one game.

Our friend

Brandwein lost in 20 moves.


Far out! I wouldn't have thought such a thing possible. Who is John Curdo?

stevekellerman wrote:

Far out! I wouldn't have thought such a thing possible. Who is John Curdo?

Got a few hundred games for him, I saw a win over Larry Kaufman in there somewhere, but no great shakes


The more pious Brandwein of 1955

The self-described "Little Aardvark Short and Stout"



Three Comrades, c. 2008

l-r: Steve Kellerman, Russell Brandwein (Steve's brother), Steve Brandwein

Photo: Mary Sue Brandwein, Boston area


Two Old Reds: Steve Kellerman, Steve Brandwein  c.2008


Thanks Steve for your post on Brandwein. It would be very nice to find more games of him.


Best regards.


Does anybody have any more of Steve Brandwein's games to share?

  I have only seen the one above.


I am writing a book "CoffeeHouse Chess, Hustlers and other Heroes"

George Treysman,Charles Jaffe,Jude Acers, Benard Parham, Steve Brandwein,Asa Hoffman among others.