- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2018

With April 15 looming, let’s consider a few ways the Royal Game has crossed paths with the tax man.

Bobby Fischer’s long, sad peripatetic final years began when he theatrically defied U.S. Treasury sanctions to play in his 1992 rematch with former Soviet champion Boris Spassky. There’s GM Michael Wilder, the 1988 U.S. national champion, who worked for 14 years as a top lawyer at the IRS before taking a position at one of Washington’s top corporate tax law firms.

But the greatest green eyeshade-wearer in U.S. chess was undoubtedly Samuel Reshevsky, the Polish-born prodigy who was America’s most accomplished player in the decades between the heyday of Harry Nelson Pillsbury and Frank Marshall at the beginning of the 20th century and Fischer’s emergence in the late 1950s.

An accountant who had to keep his day job during the tough Depression years, many say the dour, dogged Reshevsky played chess like the conscientious bean-counter he was. “Penny-pinching chess,” is how rival GM Larry Evans once described Reshevsky’s positional, defensive, grind-out-a-win style. Ironically, Reshevsky combined a tough-minded approach to his play with an addiction to time trouble, often making his games among the most exciting to watch in the playing hall.

Reshvesky himself was appropriately clear-eyed about his own play, observing, “My style lies between that of Tal and Petrosian,” respectively, the hyper-aggressive and the hyper-solid Soviet world champions.

“My strength consists of a fighting spirit, a great desire to win, and a stubborn defense whenever in trouble,” he added. “I rarely become discouraged in an inferior situation, and I fear no one.”

It’s an approach that brought great success over a career that spanned eight decades, including eight U.S. championships and near-misses in the 1948 world championship tournament and the 1953 FIDE Candidates tournament. Until Fischer came on the scene, Reshevsky also had a big plus score against virtually all of his American rivals, including Isaac Kashdan (14-3-5), Bill Lombardy (4-1-12) and Evans himself (12-2-10).

Sammy also racked up a plus score against the other great American star of his prime years, with a 5-1-14 career edge over Reuben Fine. One of the accountant’s best efforts against Fine — a well-known psychologist, by the way — came their game from the 1933 Western Championship, at the time one of the strongest open events in the U.S.

In a Queen’s Indian, after 16. Nxe5 Nd4 (Nxe5? 17. Nb5 wins a pawn) 17. Ng6 (Rxd4 cxd4 18. Nxf7 Qxf7 19. Rxd4 e5 20. Rd2 Qxc4 was an interesting alternative) hxg6 18. Qd3 e5, Black has a gloriously placed knight that, curiously, has nothing to do. Reshevsky simply works around the knight while whipping up an impressive kingside attack.

Thus: 24. b3 f5?! (Black’s game is solid but passive, and this gives White’s better-placed pieces a chance to activate) 25. exf5 Bxg2 26. Kxg2 gxf5 27. Rxf5! Nxf5 28. Rxf5 Qh6 29. Qe4!, gaining a tempo for the attack by hitting the rook on b7. A defensive lapse by Fine in a difficult position now proves fatal: 29 … Re7? (the wrong square, though Black’s play is also not easy on the stronger 29 … Qg6 30. h4 Kf8 31. h5 Qe6 32. Qg4 Qh6 33. Ne4, and White’s pieces dominate the board) 30. Qg4+ Kf8 (Kh7 31. Rh5 wins) 31. Rh5 Qg7 32. Qh4 Ke8 33. Nd5 f5 (no better was 33 … Re6 34. Rh8+ Kd7 35. Qxd8+ Kc6 36. Qc7 mate) 34. Nxe7, and Black resigns as either capture of the knight loses the queen to 35. Rh7, while 34 … Qg4 35. Rh8+ Kd7 36. Rxd8+ Kxd8 37. Nxf5+ Qxh4 38. gxh4 is an easy endgame win.

Despite his affinity for small-ball chess, Reshevsky could swing for the tactical fences on a fat pitch down the middle. Today’s diagram picks up a 1934 Reshevsky game against GM Arnold Denker. Reshevsky as White has returned the gambit pawn in Denker’s Budapest Gambit and already built up a promising attacking array.

The attack is unleashed after Black plays 14 … fxe5? (Be6 15. Qe2 fxe5 16. Rad1 is tougher, though White remains for choice) 15. Ng5 Nf6 (even on the tricky 15 … Bg4 16. Qxg4 Qxd3, Black’s prospects are bleak after 17. Rae1 Nf6 18. Qe6 Nd8 19. Qxe5) 16. Rxf6! Bxf6 (gxf6 17. Qh5+ Kf8 18. Qf7 mate) 17. Qh5+ g6 18. Bxg6+!, and Black is busted.

There followed 18 … hxg6 (Kf8 [Ke7 19. Bc5 mate] 19. Qh6+ Bg7 20. Rf1+ Kg8 21. Bxh7+ Rxh7 22. Qxh7 mate) 19. Qxg6+ Ke7 20. Bc5 mate. A high-flying Romantic attack from the allegedly defensive-minded Reshevsky!

American GM Fabiano Caruana sent a message this week, capturing clear first in the Grenke Chess Classic in Karlshuhe, Germany over a field that included Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen. Caruana’s undefeated 6½-2½ is even more impressive given that he just won the exhausting Candidates tournament last month in Berlin, earning him a title match with Carlsen in November.

Reshevsky-Fine, Western Championship, Detroit, September 1933

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Bb4+ 4. Bd2 Bxd2+ 5. Qxd2 b6 6. g3 Bb7 7. Bg2 O-O 8. Nc3 Qe7 9. O-O d6 10. Qc2 c5 11. dxc5 bxc5 12. Rad1 Nc6 13. e4 Rfd8 14. Rd2 Ng4 15. Rfd1 Nge5 16. Nxe5 Nd4 17. Ng6 hxg6 18. Qd3 e5 19. Rf1 Bc6 20. f4 Rab8 21. f5 Qg5 22. f6 Rb7 23. Rdf2 gxf6 24. b3 f5 25. exf5 Bxg2 26. Kxg2 gxf5 27. Rxf5 Nxf5 28. Rxf5 Qh6 29. Qe4 Re7 30. Qg4+ Kf8 31. Rh5 Qg7 32. Qh4 Ke8 33. Nd5 f5 34. Nxe7 Black resigns

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email [email protected].

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