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November 26: The Orthodox Chess Grandmaster

November 26, 2013
786px-Samuel_Reshevsky_versus_the_WorldSamuel Reshevsky, a famous child chess prodigy and an American grandmaster who won the U.S. Chess Championship eight times, was born in Lodz, Poland on this date in 1911. Reshevsky learned to play at age 4, and by 8 he was beating expert players with ease and giving exhibitions in which he played numerous opponents simultaneously (see photo at left). Coming to the U.S. at age 10, he played thousands of games in exhibitions — and was eventually brought to court with his parents for not being registered in school. Julius Rosenwald of Sears, Roebuck then became his benefactor, promising him a livelihood on condition that Reshevsky complete his education. He did so by leaving competitive chess for seven years, and graduated from the University of Chicago in 1934 as an accountant. Despite never becoming a fully professional chess player, Reshevsky became an international grandmaster, won numerous international tournaments, and was described by Bobby Fischer — whom he tied after 11 games in a tournament that Fischer cancelled in the middle — as the best player in the world. An Orthodox Jew, Reshevsky would not play on the Sabbath. “By playing slowly during the early phases of a game I am able to grasp the basic requirements of each position. Then, despite being in time pressure, I have no difficulty in finding the best continuation. Incidentally, it is an odd fact that more often than not it is my opponent who gets the jitters when I am compelled to make these hurried moves.” —Samuel Reshevsky