(Volume I, Numbers v-vi, October 1968)
***CHARLES CHAPLIN MEETS YOUNG SAMUEL RESHEVSKY***
By D. E. KEELER
Charles Chaplin, in his highly entertaining Autobiography (originally by Simon and Schuster in hardback, now in paperback by Pocket Books, New York, 1966), through he "never got beyond checkers," gives the following anecdote (pp. 256-7).
"During the cutting of The Kid (1921 - KL) [Jackie Coogan's first picture], Samuel Reshevsky, aged seven, the boy champion chess player of the world, visited the studio. He was to give an exhibition at the Athletic Club, playing chess with twenty men at the same time, among them Dr. Griffiths, the champion of California. He had a thin, pale, intense little face with large eyes that stared belligerently when he met people. I had been warned that he was temperamental and that he seldom shook hands with anybody.
"After his manager had introduced us and spoken a few words, the boy stood staring at me in silence. I went on with my cutting, looking at strips of film.
"A moment later I turned to him. 'Do you like peaches?'-'Yes,' he answered.-'Well, we have a tree full of them in the garden; you can climb up and get some-at the same time get one for me.'-His face lit up. 'Ooh, good! Where's the tree?' 'Carl will show you,' I said, referring to my publicity man.
"Fifteen minutes later he returned, elated, with several peaches. That was the beginning of our friendship. 'Can you play chess?' he asked. I had to admit that I could not. 'I'll teach you. Come see me play tonight. I'm playing twenty men at the same time,' he said with braggadocio.
"I promised and said I would take him to supper afterwards.
"'Good, I'll get through early.'
"It was not necessary to understand chess to appreciate the drama of that evening: twenty middle-aged men pouring over their chessboards, thrown into a dilemma by a child of seven who looked even less than his years. To watch him walking about in the center of the U-shaped table, going from one to another was a drama in itself.
"There was something surrealistic about the scene as an audience of three hundred or more sat in tiers on both sides of a hall, watching in silence a child pitting his brains against serious old men. Some looked condescendingly, studying with set Mona-Lisa smiles.
"The boy was amazing, yet he disturbed me, for I felt as I watched that concentrated little face flushing red, then draining white, that he was paying a price with his health.
"'Here!' A player would call, and the child would walk over, study the board a few seconds, then abruptly make a move or call 'Checkmate!" and a murmur of laughter would go through the audience. I saw him checkmate eight players in rapid succession, which evoked laughter and applause.
"And now he was studying the board of Dr. Griffiths. The audience was silent. Suddenly he made a move, then turned away and saw me. His face lit up-and he waved, indicating that he would not be long.
"After checkmating several other players, he returned to Dr. Griffiths, who was still deeply concentrating.
"'Haven't you moved yet?' said the boy impatiently.'
"The doctor shook his head.
"Oh, come on, hurry up!'
"The child looked at him fiercely. 'You can't beat me! If you move this, I'll move that!' He named in rapid succession seven or eight moves ahead. 'We'll be here all night, so let's call it a draw.'
"The doctor acquiesced."
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