Rank & File

(Vol. IX, #4 : July-August 1986)

The Long View:


by Dr. Richard Lewis

In August, 1932, a major chess tournament was held in Pasadena, California. Its designation as an International Chess Congress was justified by the participation of Dr. Alexander Alekhine, World Champion from Paris, France, and the Captain Jose Araizo of Mexico City, champion of Mexico. The remaining players were Americans, with ten of the top players in the Unites States present.

The world was in the depths of the Great Depression. Herbert Hoover was in the White House. The summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles were in the concluding stages. Babe Didriksen was the national heroine, having set four world records.

Of the contestants, Alekhine was most renowned. He came to Pasadena from Berne, Switzerland where he had played in and won a recent tournament. The trip of over 8000 miles took 15 days by ship and rail.

Isaac Kashdan was the best known of the American players. He was the winner of the Manhattan Chess Club championship, and played first board on the victorious American team at the Olympiad held in Prague in 1931.

Reuben Fine was the youngest of the competitors, having his eighteenth birthday during the event. He was the Marshall Chess Club champion, and winner of the Western Open recently concluded in Minneapolis, a precursor of the U. S. Open.

Samuel Reshevsky, a student at the University of Chicago, had taken second prize in the Minneapolis event.

Herman Steiner of New York had played three times on the American team in the Olympiads.

Arthur Dake of Portland, Oregon was the Pacific Coast Champion. He had won the Marshall Chess Club championship and also was on the winning team at Prague in 1931.

Captain Jose Araiza was a member of the Mexican army. He was champion of Mexico for many years.

Jacob Bernstein of New York had won the New York state championship four times.

Fred Reinfeld was a student at the City College of New York. He was the current New York state titleholder and also had won the Intercollegiate Chess League individual title.

Samuel D. Factor was champion of Chicago for many years, and also was a recent winner of the Western Open.

Adolph J. Fink was one of the strongest players in San Francisco, and had held the state title until 1929.

Harry Borochow of Los Angeles was the current California state champion.

The event was held under the auspices of the California Chess League. Alexander Taylor of the Pasadena Chess Club was the director. Play was at the Hotel Maryland in downtown Pasadena. On the opening day Kashdan and Dake played an exhibition game overhead in the blimp "Volunteer" and the moves were transmitted by radio to the opening luncheon meeting. The game was a French Defense, and was declared drawn by repetition after 19 moves.

In the play, Alekhine rapidly established his superiority, winning his first five games. In the sixth round he allowed a draw with Factor. In the seventh round he defeated Steiner in a game, which he included in his collection of "Best Games." He drew with Reinfeld in the eighth round. In the ninth round he was paired with Kashdan who was his only close competitor. In a Queen's Gambit Declined, Alekhine playing White won the exchange on the 19th move. Against stubborn resistance, he succeeded in turning this advantage into a full point after a 60-move marathon. Alekhine's lead was now 2.5 points with only two rounds to play. His intensity may have decreased somewhat as in the last two rounds he lost to Dake and drew with Fine.

Final scores were: Alekhine 8.5-2.5, Kashdan 7.5-3.5, Dake, Steiner and Reshevsky 6-5, Borochow 5.5-5.5, Reinfeld, Bernstein, Fine and Factor 5-6, Araiza 3.5-7.5, and Fink 3-8.

Prizewinners included Alekhine ($250) and Kashdan ($150), while Dake Steiner and Reshevsky divided third and fourth for $50 each. Final standings in the tournament were generally according to form. The one exception was Reuben Fine who had a disastrous loss to Borochow in the ninth round, when Fine made a mistake on the third move which cost him a piece and the game.

The literary abilities and efforts of the participants may be of interest. Alekhine was already established as a superior annotator of games. Fine a very authoritative author, producing such still-popular works as "Basic Chess Endings" and "Ideas Behind the Chess Openings." Reinfeld became perhaps the most prolific chess author in history, and his books justifiably remain very popular. Steiner was for many years the Los Angeles Times chess columnist, and on his death Kashdan succeeded him in that capacity.

Alex Taylor, the director of the tournament, remained active as a chess promoter and enthusiast for many years. He served as President and Secretary-Treasurer of the Pasadena Chess Club many times. He directed many local tournaments. He helped found the Southern California Chess League and in 1970 was elected to their Hall of Fame. He died early this year at the age of 94.

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