Samuel Reshevsky was a Polish-American chess grandmaster. He was also an accomplished writer on chess and chess-related topics and a professional accountant. He was a chess prodigy and having discovered his talents early in life, his parents took him to America to exhibit his skills. He defeated many accomplished players in his childhood but took a temporary break to complete his education. After graduation, he started competing at a professional level whilst holding down his accountant’s job. Throughout his illustrious career, he participated in competitions across the world, defeated seven world champions, including Bobby Fischer, and became an international grandmaster too. He won the ‘U.S. Chess Championship’ eight times and continued to play well into his 70s. He is remembered for his durability as a player as well as his outstanding tactics and positional gameplay. But he was also notoriously slow in playing his opening moves, a trait that cost him a lot of time in crucial games but also unsettled his opponents. Many believe that it was this flaw that cost him his world championship title.
Childhood & Early Life
Samuel Reshevsky was born on November 26, 1911, in Ozorkow, Poland, to Jacob Reshevsky and Shaindel Reshevsky. His father was a textile merchant. His parents belonged to the Orthodox Jewish community and he reportedly had five siblings.
At the age of four, he was discovered as a child chess prodigy. By the age of eight, he had started competing against and defeating professional chess players.
In November 1920, his parents shifted to the U.S. and started to take him around to exhibit his chess skills. During his early years in the U.S., he played over a thousand games, by means of which his parents earned a living.
At the age of nine, he played and won 19 games against noted officers of ‘West Point’, a military school. In 1922, he is said to have become the youngest competitor in a prominent tournament like ‘New York Masters’.
Much of his early life in the U.S. was spent on the road, away from any formal education, which landed his parents in court. But the matter was quickly resolved with the intervention of a wealthy sponsorer, who agreed to support his career if he completed his education.
From 1924 to 1931, he was away from professional chess while he attained his education. But he continued to attend a few chess events during this time.
In 1931, he won his first ‘US Open Chess Championship’ at Tulsa, Oklahoma.
In 1934, he earned an accounting degree from ‘University of Chicago’ and was declared the joint winner of ‘US Open Chess Championship alongside Reuben Fine.
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After graduation, Samuel Reshevsky moved to New York City and started working as a professional accountant and began playing in chess tournaments.
In 1935, he began his international chess playing career when he participated in a championship tournament in England, where he beat the world champion, Jose Raul Capablanca. From then onwards till the 1960s, he was always in the lead for the ‘World Championship’, but never won the title.
From 1936 onwards, he competed in and won first or subsequent positions in many international competitions, including ‘US Chess Championship’.
During the Cold War, he was reportedly not permitted by American authorities to participate in the ‘Candidates Tournament’ held in Budapest.
In 1953, in Zurich, his closest shot at becoming the ‘World Champion’ vanished when the ‘KGB’ and several Soviet grandmasters colluded to prevent him from winning the title at any cost.
In his later career, he had a fierce rivalry with another popular chess player, Bobby Fischer, who was younger to him by an entire generation.
He played against and vanquished seven world champions during his career, including Alexander Alekhine, Vasily Smyslov, Lasker, Jose Raul Capablanca and Bobby Fischer.
He also wrote many books on chess, some of which focused on his strong suit, positional play. He was also a chess columnist for several illustrious publications like ‘The New York Times’, ‘Chess Review’, ‘American Chess Bulletin’, etc.
He continued to play well into his later years and often came close to winning the ‘World Championship’ title, especially in the 1981 tournament.
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In 1984, he won the ‘Reykjavik Open’ at the age of 72, defeating several grandmasters in the process.
He continued to actively compete in chess tournaments until his death.
He wrote several books on chess. These include: ‘Learn Chess Fast!’ (1947), Reshevsky on Chess’ (1948), ‘How Chess Games Are Won’ (1962), ‘Great Chess Upsets’ (1976) and ‘The Art of Positional Play in Chess’ (1978).
Awards & Achievements
He has been the winner of the ‘US Chess Championship’ for many years, including, 1936, 1938, 1940-42, 1946 and 1969.
From 1944-45, at Boston, he won his third ‘US Open’ in chess and was declared the ‘Pan-American Champion’ at Los Angeles, California.
In 1950, he was amongst the first few to be honoured with the ‘International Grandmaster’ title of ’World Chess Federation’.
He is also the record-holder for the ‘most games won’, ‘most games played’ and ‘most finishes in the top three spots’ for the ‘US Chess Championship’.
Family & Personal Life
Samuel Reshevsky married Norma Mindick and had three children with her. He spent the majority of his life in New York City and suburban New York, where he resided with his family.
He passed away on April 4, 1992, at the age of 80, in New York City, United States.
At birth, he was named Szmul Rzeszewski.
Since he was a pious follower of Orthodox Judaism, he arranged his chess schedule in such a way that he would not have to play on the Jewish Sabbath.