September 22, 2016

On Chess: An ordinary set, an extraordinary rivalry

By Josh Friedel

In August 1986, a game of quick chess was played at the U.S. Open in Somerset, N.J. The board was vinyl, the pieces were plastic, and a Jerger wooden chess clock sat next to the board. While the set may have been common, the players were most certainly not.

Playing with the white pieces was GM Reuben Fine.  GM Samuel Reshevsky played black. Both were legends, second only to Bobby Fischer in American chess history.

The timing for this specific game on this chess set was also notable: It was the first induction ceremony for the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame. It is only fitting that the Hall of Fame was opened by a game between two of its most illustrious inductees.

Not only was Reuben Fine one of the world’s best players for nearly 20 years, he was also a doctor of psychology who wrote several books on that subject as well as on chess. Sammy Reshevsky was a child prodigy who was a strong contender for the World Championship from the 1930s through the ‘60s.

Fine won the U.S. Open seven times to Reshevsky’s three (once tying with each other); but, Reshevsky had a tendency to beat Fine at the U.S. Championship, winning it eight times while Fine always seemed to come up just short. Stats like these make it clear the two had an excellent and well-matched rivalry, with Reshevsky coming out on top with four wins to Fine’s three and 12 games that were drawn.

Below are presented a few of their notable battles, including the game played at the opening of Hall of Fame. Fittingly, the 1986 U.S. Open was won by another American chess legend, GM Larry Christiansen.

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