Samuel Reshevsky: A Compendium of 1768 Chess Games, with Diagrams, Crosstables, Some Annotations, and Indexes

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Author: Gordon, Stephen W

Year: 1997

Publisher: McFarland & Company

Place: Jefferson, NC


xviii+406 pages with tables, diagrams and indexes. Folio (11" x 8 1/2") bound in original green cloth with gilt lettering to spine and front cover. First edition.

The full, majestic title of Stephen W. Gordon's book is Samuel Reshevsky: A Compendium of 1768 Games With Diagrams, Crosstables, Some Annotations, and Indexes; and this gives an accurate impression of its brobdingnagian scope. It charts the chess career of Samuel Reshevsky (1911-1992), and that was pretty brobdingnagian too. Reshevsky was a genuine prodigy and was giving simultaneous displays against adults-playing scores of amateur players at a single shot-from the age of six; and he was still of grandmaster strength when well into his 70s. The earliest game given here is against the great Rubinstein and was played in Warsaw in 1917, while the last competitive game (number 1766) is against Smyslov, one of Reshevsky's great rivals, and was played in Moscow in 1991. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that Reshevsky was a chess player who straddled the twentieth century. Gordon provides a substantial linking narrative, surveying Reshevsky's career decade by decade, and his prose is clear, lucid and interesting. The scores of the 1768 games are generally accurate and they are well presented; there are a plentiful number of diagrams. A considerable amount of time and research must surely have gone into collecting and checking them. It is unfortunate, therefore, that some of the annotations have errors that seem to have arisen out of a conversion from English descriptive notation to algebraic notation. These errors are especially prevalent in Larry Evans's annotations to the Reshevsky-Fischer match (on pages 217-224). One simple example from page 219: "Fischer and Tal are the best 1.e5 players in the world." Clearly, 1.e4 (and not 1 - e5) is meant. On the same page, in the note to Black's twelfth move in game 906, the variation 12.a4 d6 13.a5 is given. Since White's eleventh move in this game was 11.axb3 this is clearly impossible; 12.h4 d6 13.h5 is meant. And one could point to other similar examples. These mistakes don't make the text incomprehensible, but they can be quite irritating.

Reshevsky as a player had what one might call a combative positional style. Because he depended on his positional understanding and technique, and was dogged and resourceful rather than inspired (unlike, say, Tal), it is easy for an average player to underestimate just how strong he was. He was unspectacular and so his magic often remained invisible; but not to his peers, of course, those who played against him and sometimes lost. Bobby Fischer put him in his top ten and highlighted one of his strengths: "He can see more variations in a shorter period of time than most players who ever lived." Fischer went on to say that "for a period of ten years - between 1946 and 1956 - Reshevsky was probably the best chess player in the world"; a judgment that can be queried but is worth consideration. Significantly, Fischer's time frame takes in the Zurich 1953 tournament where, as we know from the late David Bronstein's revelations, the KGB bullied Soviet players into cheating and conniving to deny Reshevsky first place (with some players, it didn't take much bullying). See, in this regard, Andy Soltis's two articles entitled "Treachery in Zurich" at the ChessCafe website. Review by Paul Kane.


A near fine copy issued without jacket.