Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Alexander Alekhine at the City and Hamilton Clubs of Chicago

 American Chess Bulletin: 1924, p. 56

Alexander Alekhine arrived in Montreal on November 17th, 1923 after a trans-Atlantic crossing aboard  the steamship Minnedosa, after having set sail from Cherbourgh.  Alekhine began his North American tour, giving an exhibition at Montreal's National Atheltics Association on November 22nd, against 37 local players, winning 27 games, with five games ending in a draw and losing five. He would give a number of exhibitions in Canada before crossing the border to the United States. Alekhine's first exhibition in the U.S. was on December 12th at the Manhatten Chess Club, where he played 33 games including two blindfolded, winning  22, with 9 drawn games and 2 lost games. He would give many more  displays of his chess abilities before reaching Chicago.

Alekhine, after giving a simultaneous exhibition in Cleveland on January 25th, with stops along the way in Detroit (January 28th) and South Bend (February 1st), to give exhibitions, now made his way to Chicago.

The City Club Bulletin of Chicago for  Monday, January 21, 1924 , had already announced that a  exhibition by the Russian chess expert  Alekhine was to take place at the club. 

   "On Saturday afternoon, February 9, at 1:30, a simultaneous exhibition will be given at the City
Club by the internationally famous chess master, Alexander Alekhine of Moscow, Russia. He will
play against forty players at once, two of the games being played blindfold by Alekhine, that is
without sight of the boards or men. This performance promises to be the most interesting ever put on by the chess section of the City Club and all members interested in chess are invited to be present with their friends. Those wishing to try their skill against Alekhine are urged to make reservations at once as the number is limited to forty."
The City Club Bulletin; January 21, 1924

But before the exhibition at the City Club, Alekhine would give a simultaneous display on February 5th at the Hamilton Club.

   'At the Hamilton of Chicago on March [sic] 5, Alekhine contested a total of 40 games, of which two were "sans voir". these two he won. His final score was 28 won,5 lost, 5 drawn. The best game among those who won was played by D. Kirk who plays second board of the Elks Club chess team. The other winners Fred Henschel. L.J. Isaacs, H. Nitsche, W. Hodgson. Those who drew were Col. W.C. Rogers, J. Hoggins, William V. Burt and P.A. Burrows.'  
American Chess Bulletin; 1924, p.53

 In the February 4th, bulletin a special invitation was extended to women chess-players to take part in the exhibition with the Alekhine, noting that several female players had already agreed to participate. The Lincoln room on the fourth floor of the City Club had been set aside for the exhibition.

   "Before an audience of 200 fans, Alexander Alekhine, Russian chess master, faced forty opponents
in the Lounge of the City Club on Saturday afternoon, February 9, and after five hours of play lost two games, drew two and won thirty-six Lewis J. Isaacs of the Chicago Chess Club and Francis P. Byerly of the City Club scored wins; Miss Harriet Ray, daughter of William D. Ray a member of the City Club, and H. C. Levinson secured draws.
The City Club Bulletin; February, 18, 1924

During the exhibition Alekhine played two blindfolded games, against Mr. S. R. Watkins and Miss Florence Gleason winning both, the unique feature of the game against Miss Gleason is that she also played without sight of the board against the Russian master. In the end she lost but not before a "stout resistance".

   "Miss Gleason also played her game without sight of board or men, and was only defeated after making an oversight at the last. She is the only woman chessplayer, as far as is known, who is able to play in this manner, and her game was the center of much attention by the gallery."
The City Club Bulletin; February, 18, 1924

Alekhine was quoted '...in a report published in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 21 February 1924, A3. "In my opinon there was not another women in the world who could do what Miss Gleason had accomplished" '.
Alexander Alekhine's Chess Games, 1902-1946
Skinner and Verhoeven; McFarland (1998) p.214

The next stop on the future world champion's tour was Milwaukee, where he was to give a simultaneous display at that city's City Club on February 11th, he was joined on his journey north by the western champion Edward Lasker, who would act as referee and give a chess lecture prior to the display.


City Club News (Milwaukee) February 15, 1924

Alekhine would return to Chicago in 1929 again giving an exhibition at the City Club, again in 1932, and 1933 during his world tour, but those are stories for another post.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Samuel Reshevsky ( Rzeschewski) 1921 Chicago simultaneous exhibitions.

The Jewish monitor., December 31, 1920, 
Fort Worth and Tyler Annual New Year Edition

The "Boy Chess Wizard's"  visit to Chicago, was in one stop in many, in a tour that began with his departure from Europe aboard the steamship Olympic. The "Boy Chess Wizard" was already a veteran  of exhibiting his chess abilities, like the young Mozart, Samuel Reshevsky at 8 years of age  had already toured a number of European capitals.. Prior to his sailing to the United States, on October 27th, 1920, Reshevsky had spent some three months in England giving exhibitions. Even during his trans-Atlantic crossing Reshevsky gave an exhibition.

The New York Tribune., April 30, 1922 

The young Reshevsky's American debut was a much anticipated event in New York City chess circles. but his debut took place not in the metropolis but upstate at West Point at the United States Military Academy on November 10th, 1920, Reshevsky played twenty games, winning all except one which ended in a draw.

New York City's players finally got their chance to face the prodigy at the Lexington theatre on November 25th, Reshevsky playing twenty opponents, won 15, lost 1, with 4 games ending in a draw. There would be many more cities to visit and exhibitions to give before Reshevsky would give his first exhibition in Chicago.

SDN-062470, Chicago Daily News negatives collection
Chicago History Museum. 

After stops in Philadelphia, Newark, Cleveland and Milwaukee to give exhibitions, Reshevsky , now nine years of age, arrived in Chicago on March 11th, in the company of his parents, and agent.

Reshevsky's first exhibition in Chicago was to take place on March 12th at the Illinois Athletic Club, which for the occasion had it's 60 foot swimming pool drained and had a platform installed within, for the purposes of the exhibition.

Twenty players were recruited from the I.A.C., the Hamilton Club, Chicago Elks, City Press and the Engineers Club to face the "boy chess wizard".

   "As Sammy came down stairs of the club to the room in which the games were played, he was greeted with applause , which the pale faced lad acknowledged with a nod . He immediately went into the square reserved for him inside the twenty adjoining tables, at which his opponents were seated. He then allowed a slight delay as he posed for the motion picture men, and then asked to start play."
Chicago Daily Tribune; March 13, 1921 

 Miss Alma Wells (1921)
SDN-062465, Chicago Daily News negatives collection
Chicago History Museum. 

   " Miss Alma Wells, the only woman in the twenty to oppose the youthful master, put up a spirited contest of two hours before she was maneuvered to defeat before the brilliancy of the lad."
Chicago Daily Tribune; March 13, 1921 

A "well dressed throng" watched as young Reshevsky after several hours of play won all twenty games. The report in the Tribune concluded with a notice that the prodigy would play another exhibition the next evening at the Sinai Social Center, against a " picked squad of local players." 

 The Reform Advocate: March 12, 1921

The following evening, March 14th at the Sinai Social Center, Reshevsky faced sixteen local players, among those who faced Reshevsky as reported in Tribune was Lewis J. Isaacs a former champion of South Africa.

The local players fared a little better, Reshevsky won thirteen games, two ended in a draw, and one game was left for adjudication. Charles B. Hardiman of Elgin and E.A. Purity were the players who managed to wrestle a draw from "the 9 year old chess marvel".

In the American Chess Bulletin Hardiman wrote; "...he looked at me saying ' I give draw'. we shook hands, I could not let go until I kissed his hand, if given good care, he will give to the chess world much as did Paul Morphy, and will trim them all."

The longest game of the evening was the game with former South African champion Isaacs, which after three and half hours was left over for adjudication, by the Western Champion Edward Lasker.

   " In the opinion of champion Lasker this game at end of play, was a draw, and was so claimed by Isaacs, but Sammy claimed it a win and debated the point in a lively manner."
Chicago Daily Tribune; March 15, 1921

Among the 250 in attendance was Julius Rosenwald, businessman (he was part owner of Sears, Roebuck and Company) and philanthropist, Rosenwald in time would become a mentor to the young Reshevsky. He hoped to arrange a match game between the young Reshevsky and the Western Champion Edward Lasker, before the departure of the prodigy for Toronto, his next stop of his tour. but there was one more exhibition for the "boy chess wizard" to give, this exhibition took place on the afternoon of March 17th at the toy department of the "Fair", Reshevsky faced ten opponents, and after just two hours, he emerged victorious in all ten games.

SDN-062471, Chicago Daily News negatives collection
Chicago History Museum.

The game between the prodigy and the Western Champion, took place that evening at the home of Julius Rosenwald, before a distinguished audience. Reshevsky lost the game to Lasker, but gained a benefactor in Julius Rosenwald.

   " When I played a match game with him at the home of Julius Rosenwald, Thursday evening he got himself brilliantly out of the troubles of an opening unknown to him. In the ending I outplayed him not because I can see farther than he, I think, but because he took matters to lightly, thinking to have at least a draw and because my knowledge of  end games is, naturally, greater  than that the child could have gained in his short life."
American Chess Bulliten; April 1921

Chicago Tribune; March 18, 1921

During his stay in Chicago, Reshevsky played forty-six games during three simultaneous exhibitions,winning all except three drawn games. the only loss he suffered, was the "match game"at the hands of Western Champion.