Steve Brandwein -A Chess Genius!!


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.


No, but I know masters who have recollections of him from years ago.  If that would help at all, e-mail me at


  I knew Steve for a little over a decade. Every Thursday the Mechanics Institute would run another round of a double round robin at 40/2 20/1 forever. Ater 5 hours of play the games were adjourned and moves sealed. These were probably the last events of this type ever held and I count myself fortunate to have been able to play in so many of them.

  Many of us would get there early to socialize (heh). And Steve was always there as he was every day. Peter Stevens, Tom Stevens, Peter Grey, Max Wilkerson, and a half dozen others. We would discuss history and politics while Steve would do the NY Times crossword at breakneck speed. It was as if he were just filling it out and only rarely did I ever see him pause. All the while Steve would add to the conversation with short pithy comments. I never met anyone smarter than Steve. He was very impressive.

  He seemed to be a chess monk, living in a studio apartment and having only one bowl and a cup. His life seemed to be all about chess although it was very difficult to get him to express an opinion on any position. His humility before the game made a huge impression on me, and it is the one thing I have tried to emulate.


Steve Brandwein died on December 12, 2015 after a brief illness. There is supposed to be a memorial program at Mechanics' Institute. Anyone wishing to attend should check with the Inst.


chess has lost a great american philosopher. we all have lived and breathed chess at a time in our life. this man did it for a the 1st post said accurately he almost never made a mistake.and as rw haines,two comments before mine, his humility to the game is something we should emulate.i knew him for 36 years. i have always called him the smartest person i ever met.when najdorf visited the mechanics institute in 1979, no one could give him a good game.steve walked in and they played 6 games,each winning 3.then during analysis of the games i watched steve give the best theory to the najdorf lines that steve played.they had played in greenwich village in the mid 60's and the hour i watched them analyze was over 3000 games i won 6, and drew about 12. my highest rating 1999.we originally played 5 minute.then he gave me time odds took me years to realize the game only went 6 minutes and he needed no time for when i made a mistake the end was near.but in the few games where i made him think{cause he gets to think on my time}i did not have enough time to come up with the we adjusted the time odds to me 60 more seconds sometimes to think.


I got to meet Steve in Seattle during the 80's.  He wanted to play me, why I'm not sure as I was about a 1900 at the time, not even in his chess universe.  Maybe cause I was an West coast transplant non confomist Jew as well.   I never played for money but he insisted we play for stakes of some kind so we agreed to play for my used copies of Players Chess News, I think that was Yasser's publication.  Handed over some big piles to him.  I really liked your characterization of his attitude while playing,  kind of a benign neglect, no ego.  Its so cool, the pictures of him from 2008 that you posted look just like I remember him from years before.   Fun to think about those days!


Did Steve ever play blitz with a group of players who set up tables and took on all comers along Mission in San Francisco? I was visitng in maybe 2007 / 2008 and played a game with someone who could have been Steve - the face and glasses look very familiar - as a visitor from the UK he gave me some sage advice "Not to go too much farther in that direction" (e.g. away from the more high end stores a few blocks away to my left) and proceeded to beat me in the economical and rather mechanical way described above. It may or may not have been Steve, but having read the above articles, I'd like to think it was. Clearly he was an unsung genius.


The memorial for Steve Brandwein will be at the Mechanics' Institute chess club (San Francisco) on Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016 from 1-5. 


Thank you all for the the memories!!!  

Very sorry to hear that Steve has passed.

stevekellerman wrote:

Steve Brandwein died on December 12, 2015 after a brief illness. There is supposed to be a memorial program at Mechanics' Institute. Anyone wishing to attend should check with the Inst.

Steve what kind of openings did he play?


Thanks for sharing Steve.  (The game looked like a Brandwein win in 20.) Brandwein lived very close to Bobby Fischer in S.F. in the late 70's.  They played many blitz games with each other & other chess masters. Brandwein reportedly was the only one who could beat Fischer & did so regularly, though not most of the time.  He was probably the 2nd best American player in the 60's & 70's (after Reshevsky's decline), & maybe beyond.  


Thanks for sharing Steve.  (The game looked like a Brandwein win in 20.)

kalle99 wrote:


****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 ?***

Steve was an old friend, and I played him ~ 50 games and scored ~20+. He sometimes asked me to play for friendly stakes, but could win but a little. When we met he would address me as Dr.---- and we would stroll around the city talking about  diverse topics, especially politics and history, but also sports and good cheap restaurants to eat at. Our talks were essentially one continuous conversation over a period of 10 years, since we both remebered exactly what we had last said in our last talk, and picked it up from there. He was a genius, no question. As a chessplayer,he was strong, but  not quite world class as he is here described. Had he cared to play tmt chess seriously, he would have peaked at ~ 2600+. BTW Steve would have had big problems v. Nakamura.  He was always in practice, so he escaped some lost positions due to his deft use of the clock based on the position. Steve was a great guy and I was saddened to learn of his passing.


Steve never played on Market St in San Francisco that I saw and I was there for years during the late 90s.  (Sadly the drug dealers started using the chess scene there for cover more recently around 2014 and the cops closed it down).

  Id often see him in the  late 90s at the horseshoe cafe on lower haight street at night where some people would meet and play. He wasn't there to play though and I maybe got a game or two out of him max.  He'd sit on the sidelines mostly half reading and half listening.  His voice and his manner was very memorable.  I'd say the large majority of us there were scruffy and homeless or close to homeless and a mixed bag of drug and drinking problems and at least one of us was/is certifiable.  He seemed to like the raw dirty crowd.  Super guy. 

He was no hustler! He couldn't be bothered.  As said it was like money wasn't an interest 


Steve Kellerman related an anecdote about a speech that Steve gave in a class at Lawrence High in his senior year. I remember it (vividly and) differently, because I was in the class. Steve was a misfit at Lawrence High. Having moved from NY City a few years before, he had contempt for the country bumpkins of Lawrence. His speech dripped with that contempt. It also was absolutely brilliant. Occurring at the tail end of the McCarthy era, it really infuriated our teacher, Ms. Shine. She stopped the class and lectured Steve on how misguided he was and asked that he talk with his minister. Things got worse when he stated that he had no minister because he was Jewish, and she started to rant at him. Word spread out the school very quickly. During lunch break, when we all went outside to the adjoining common, the students surrounded him and started attacking him as if they were baiting a bear. The next day, during lunch break, things escalated. The, school suspended him for about a week, hoping things would cool down, which they did. I am fairly sure that (1) no copies of the speech were made (or circulated); (2) he never repeated the speech outside of class; (3) he never recruited any students into communist atcivities. When he gave the speech I was mesmerized, whereas my classmates were simply puzzled.

The Lawrence Jewish Community was quite small, so, being Jewish, I knew all the Jewish families in town, including the Brandweins, who lived a block from us. I would be glad to share more with Steve Kellerman, who can reach me at   ejk0 (at) lehigh (dot) edu.