Herman Steiner

by Bill Wall

Herman Steiner was born on April 15, 1905 in Dunaskka Streda, Hungary (later, part of Czechoslovakia and now part of Slovakia).

Steiner immigrated to the USA in 1921 and settled in New York City. For a time, he was active as a boxer and took up martial arts.

In 1921, at the age of 16, he was a member of the Hungarian Chess Club and the Stuyvesant Chess Club.

In 1925, he played in a major tournament in New York

In July-August, 1928, he was a member (board 2) of the USA team at the 2nd chess Olympiad in The Hague. He won 6, lost 1 (to Polish player Paulin Frydman), and drew 9. The USA team won the silver medal, behind Hungary. The team members were Isaac Kashdan, Herman Steiner, Samuel Factor, Erling Tholfsen, and Milton Hanauer.

In 1928, he took 1st place in a tournament in Wiesbaden. It was this tournament that Sammi Fajarowicz (1908-1940) introduced the Fajarowics variation of the Budapest (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ne4), when he played it against Steiner.

In September-October, 1928, he played at an internationals tournament in Budapest. Capablanca won the event.

In January, 1929, he was first in the Premier Reserves at Hastings, England.

In June, 1929, he played at a tournament in Bradley Beach, New Jersey. Alekhine won the event.

In 1929, he tied for first place, with Jacob Bernstein, in the New York State chess championship in Buffalo. Steiner won on tiebreak.

In September, 1929, he tied for 2nd-4th at the 30th Western Association Tournament, held in St Louis. The event was won by H. Hahlbohm.

In July, 1930, he was a member of the USA team at the 3rd chess Olympiad in Hamburg. He played Board 4. He won 7, drew 2, and lost 6.

In October, 1930, he took 2nd at Gyor, Hungary, behind Kashdan.

In February, 1931, he won a tournament in Berlin, ahead of Saemisch and Lajos Steiner. He won three, drew one, and lost one.

In 1931, he was a member of the USA team at the chess Olympiad in Prague. The team composed of Frank Marshall, Isaac Kashdan, Herman Steiner, Al Horowitz, and Arthur Dake. The USA team took the gold medal. Steiner won 7, lost 2, and drew 3 (70.8%) and the highest winning percentage of any of the other team members.

In April-May, 1931, he played in the New York International. Steiner took 6th place. Capablanca won the event.

In August 1931, he took 2nd at the 10th German Chess Federation Congress in Brno (Brunn), Czechoslovakia, behind Salo Flohr.

In July, 1932, Steiner lost a match with Fine in New York. Steiner won 3 games, drew 3, games, and lost 4 games.

In August, 1932, Steiner played in the 33rd Western Chess Championship in Minneapolis. He took 4th with 7.5 points, behind Fine, Reshevsky, and Reinfeld.

In August 1932, he took 3rd-5th at the Pasadena International Tournament. He was behind Alekhine and Kashdan. He tied with Reshevsky and Dake. He was not a California resident yet; otherwise he would have won the California State Championship for having the best score in the Pasadena International. That title went to Harry Borochow. Steiner decided to remain in California after the Pasadena tournament.

On January 7, 1933, Steiner gave a 78-board simul at the Los Angeles Athletic Club, winning 69, drew 3, and lost 6. The exhibition lasted 8.5 hours. Some of the boards had as many as 4 players on each board. He may have played over 300 people that day.

In January, 1933, Steiner formed his International Chess Club (108 North Formosa Avenue) in West Hollywood, later called the Hollywood Chess Group. It was headquartered in a clubhouse next to his residence. He taught a weekly chess class at the Hollywood Athletic Club.

On April 11, 1933, he played Jose Capablanca in a game of living chess at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. Capablanca mated Steiner in 25 moves. The game was pre-arranged. The game was refereed by movie director Cecil B. De Mille.

On July 9, 1933, he became chess editor of the Los Angeles Times. He took over from Clifford Sherwood, who started the column in 1927. He wrote chess columns from 1933 to 1955. When Steiner died, Isaac Kashdan became the chess columnist.

In August, 1934, he played in the Syracuse International. He took 7th. The event was won by Reshevsky.

In January, 1935, he tied for 1st-3rd with Fine and Dake in Mexico City. Steiner's only loss was to Fine. He won 11 games, lost one, no draws.

In 1935, Dake defeated Steiner for the Pacific Coast championship.

In May, 1936, Steiner played in the 1st U.S. Championship tournament, held in New York. He tied for 11th-12th place. He won 5, lost 8, and drew 2. There were 16 players.

On May 30, 1937, Herman Steiner won on Board 1 in the annual North-South match in California, defeating Adolf Fink. On the way back to Los Angeles, he collided with a car going in the opposite direction. Steiner's passenger, Dr. R. B. Griffith, who played Board 2 for the Southern California team, died in the car crash. The driver of the other car was almost killed.

In September, 1937, he took 2nd at the 38th US Open in Chicago.

In November, 1939, he tied for 2nd-3rd with Harry Borochow in the California State Championship, behind Philip Woliston, age 19. The event was played at the Hollywood Chess Group.

In December, 1939, Steiner defeated Woliston in a match.

In 1940, he took 2nd, behind Reshevsky, in the American Chess Federation Championship.

In August, 1940, Steiner took 2nd, behind Fine, in the 41st U.S. Open, held in Dallas. He won 5 and lost 3. Fine won with a perfect 8-0 score.

In 1941, Steiner played 400 players on 100 boards in Hollywood, winning 83, drawing 11, and losing 6. The event helped raise money for the British War Relief.

In July, 1941, Steiner took 2nd, behind Fine, in the 42nd US Open, held in St. Louis.

In March-April 1942, he played in the 4th U.S. Championship. He took 5th place.

In August 1942, he tied for 1st-2nd with David Yanofsky in the 43rd U.S. Open, held in Dallas.

In 1943, he won the California Open with the score of 17-0.

In March, 1944, Steiner played a short match with Reuben Fine in Washington, D.C. Fine won 3 and drew 1.

In April, 1944, he tied for 3rd-4th with Al Horowitz, behind Denker and Fine, in the 5th U.S. Chess Championship, held in New York. He won 12, lost 1 (to Fine), and drew 4.

In January, 1945, he tied for 1st-2nd with Adolf Fink in the California State Championship. There was no play-off, so both players were co-champions. The event was held at the Mechanics' Institute in San Francisco.

He appeared on the June-July 1945 cover of CHESS REVIEW with Humphrey Bogart, Charles Boyer, and Lauren Bacall.

In July, 1945, he organized the First Pan-American International Tournament, held at the Hollywood Athletic Club. Samuel Reshevsky took 1st. Reuben Fine took 2nd. Herman Pilnik took 3rd. Steiner tied for 7th-8th.

In September, 1945, he was the only U.S. player to achieve a plus score against the USSR team in the USA-USSR radio match. He won one game and drew one game against Igor Bondarevsky on Board 6.

In January, 1946, he tied for 3rd-5th at Hastings, behind Tartakower and Ekstrom.

In January, 1946, he took 1st at the "Victory" International Masters' Tournament in London, ahead of Savielly Tartakower and Ossip Bernstein and Harry Golombek. He won 8, lost 1, and drew 2.

In 1946, Steiner raised $5,000 to challenge Arnold Denker for the U.S. Championship, which Denker won in 1944.

From May 4-18, 1946, Steiner played and lost to Arnold Denker in Los Angeles in a U.S. Championship match. Steiner lost 3, won 1, and drew 6 games. The match was played in the auditorium of Griffith Park in Los Angeles. Reuben Fine was the referee.

In May, 1946, he captained the Southern California team in the annual North-South match. Steiner played board 1 and defeated Lapiken. The North won by the score of 14-11.

In July, 1946, he won the 47th U.S. Open in Pittsburgh.

In August-September, 1946, he played at Groningen. He took 18th place out of 20. He won 2, lost 9, and drew 8. The tournament was won by Botvinnik.

In September, 1946, he lost one game and drew one game against Salo Flohr in the USA-USSR match in Moscow. He was board 6. The USSR won by the score of 12.5 to 7.5.

In October-November, 1946 he played in the 6th U.S. Championship and took 7th. Reshevsky won the tournament. He won 10, lost 6, and drew 2.

In October, 1947, he lost a match against Reuben Fine, held in Los Angeles. Fine won 4 games and drew 2 games.

In 1947, he was the chess advisor for the movie Cass Timberlane, starring Spencer Tracy and Lana Turner. He told Lana Turner, "Don't play chess. Sitting at a chess board for hours might make you fat and spoil your perfect figure." There were several chess scenes in the movie.

In 1948, he won the California State Speed Championship.

In August, 1948, he won the 7th U.S. championship at South Fallsburg, New York, ahead of Isaac Kashdan. His score was 15-4 (won 12. drew 6, lost 1 - to Ulvestad). There were 20 players. He was U.S. Champion from 1948 to 1951. Steiner did not defend his title in 1951, which was won by Larry Evans, age 18.

In January, 1949, at the New York International, Steiner took last place with 1.5 points. Reuben Fine won the event. Steiner drew 3 games and lost 6 games.

In 1949, he won the California Speed Championship.

In 1950, he took 2nd-3rd, behind Ray Martin, in the Hollywood Invitational.

In July, 1950, he was California's top rated player at 2394 and 18th-20th in the U.S.

In August-September, 1950, he captained the American team at the 9th chess Olympiad in Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia. The USA team was unbeaten, but took 4th place. The team consisted of Reshevsky, Steiner, Horowitz, Shainswit, Kramer, and Evans.

In October, 1950, he took 5th at Venice. The event was won by Alexander Kotov.

In 1950, he was awarded the International Master title.

In April, 1951, Steiner's USCF rating was 2355 and the 16th highest rated player in the U.S.

In 1951, he played board 1 against a match with the Capablanca Chess Club of Havana, played in Hollywood. The Hollywood team won by the score or 11.5 to 7.5.

In November, 1951, Steiner's USCF rating was 2340.

In April 1952, Steiner's USCF rating was 2427.

In 1952, he took 3rd in the Hollywood International Tournament, behind Gligoric and Pomar.

In 1952, he played in the 2nd Interzonal Tournament in Stockholm. He tied for 11th-13th.

In 1952, he played in Havana.

In June-July, 1952, he lost to Larry Evans, age 20, in a U.S. Championship match, held in Los Angeles. Evans won by the score of 10-4 (8 wins, 4 draws, 2 losses). The prize fund was $3,000.

At the end of 1952, Steiner's USCF rating was 2410.

In 1953, he won the California State Championship, held in Hollywood.

In 1953, he played in a tournament ion Mar del Plata. The event was won by Gligoric.

In 1953, Steiner's USCF rating was 2417.

In 1954, he organized the Second Pan-American Chess Congress.

In 1954, he won the California Open, held in Santa Barbara. There were 81 players.

In 1954, he won the California State Championship, held in San Francisco. There were 10 players.

At the end of 1954, Steiner's USCF rating was 2417.

In 1955, he won the California Open, held in Fresno.

In 1955, he was defending his State Championship title in Los Angeles when he had a heart attack and died on November 25, 1955, while being examined by a doctor. By agreement of the players, the 1955 California State Championship was cancelled. Earlier in the day, he had drawn with William Addison in 62 moves, and had 4 wins and 1 draw after 5 rounds. He was 50. Steiner's last USCF rating was 2507.

He played in 14 North-South team matches, winning 9 and drawing 5 on board 1 or 2.

Steiner's students included movies stars such as Humphrey Bogart, Louis Hayward, Fritz Feld, Rosemary Clooney, Jose Ferrer, and Billy Wilder. He also coached James Cross and Jacqueline Piatigorsky.

He was a U.S. Chess Federation vice-president.

Steiner had a 66.6% score in U.S. Championship tournaments.

Herman Steiner's hobby was disc recording, which he taught to his son, Armin.

Herman had a few bit parts in movies. In one film, he played Adolf Hitler because of his resemblance.

In 1961, a new Herman Steiner Chess Club was established on Cashio Street in Los Angeles.

Herman married a concert pianist named Selma. Herman's children were Eugene and Armin. Armin is a famous music scoring engineer and classical violinist. His pop engineering credits include hits for Glen Campbell, Neil Diamond, the Fifth Dimension, Bread, Heart, Dolly Parton, Johnny Rivers, Hall & Oates, Helen Reddy, Herb Alpert, Marin Gaye, the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, and Barbra Streisand. He was the scoring mixer for such movies as Jarhead, Cinderella Man, Ladder 49, The Matrix Revolutions, The Matrix Reloaded, Seabiscuit, Finding Nemo, Road to Perdition, One Hour Photo, The Matrix, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Toys, A League of Their Own, Home Alone, Die hard 2, Born on the Fourth of July, Die Hard, The Presidio, Big, The Witches of Eastwick, Cocoon, Revenge of the Nerds, Rhinestone, All the Right Moves, Star Trek VI, Return of the Jedi, Anchorman, A League of Their Own, Jurassic Park II, Space Camp, Ernest Saves Christmas, Police Academy 4, Silverado, Black Widow, etc. He was the orchestrator for Jumpin' Jack Flash. So if you hear any of the music any these films, you can thank Herman Steiner, former U.S. Chess Champion.

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