Kindred’s Special: GM Samuel Reshevsky, American Champion, 11 Game Match vs. Isaac Kashdan–Part 1

I refer you back to an earlier article I did on Samuel Reshevsky. In all the years of his really active play prior to his aging, he never lost an organized chess match, yet as fate would have it, he was never given the chance to play for the World Championship. Many in the chessworld, especially in what was known as the WEST during the cold war, felt he should have been in the seat opposite the world champion, Mikhail Botvinnik, as he had defeated Botvinnik 2-1 in the USA – USSR chess team match.  Many people today do not know Reshevsky existed or, therefor, knew he was crowned the Western World Champion as a result of the celebrated match between himself and Miguel Najdorf, who at the time, was considered to be the top player out of the West along with Reshevsky. This title was partly the result of the frustration by Western players who felt that it would be appropriate to establish the best match player outside the Soviet Bloc. At the time, Reshevsky was number 1 in North America and Najdorf was number 1 in South America and these two were the dominant players in the West.  The logical step was to play for the Western World Championship which took place in 1951.

Reshevsky had long been supreme in the United States and was a first rate prodigy from the time he was about 6-8 years old, giving a host simultaneous displays both in Europe and then in the USA.  He was born in Poland and his parents moved the family via travels in Europe which supported his exhibition schedule to finally settle in the United States.  But I do not want to rehash what I have already given earlier so dig up the article and enjoy.

Isaac Kashdan was a leading player and had acquired a good reputation as a GM and success in European events.  The two agreed to do battle in an 11-game match which took place in New York City in 1942.  The effects of battling WWII seemed to make chess not so important and this match probably had something to do with keeping chess interest reasonably high in the country. For history sake I give the entire 11-game match which will be continued through several columns.  Enjoy.

White:  Samuel Reshevsky     vs.    Black:  Isaac Kashdan    Opening: Grunfeld Defence  Game 1.

1. d4  Nf6  2. c4  g6  3. Nc3  d5  4. Bf4  This interesting variation idea was popular before and during the 1938 AVRO Tournament.  Like most things in life that are pursued, openings in chess are often based upon “fashion of the times.”

4. … Bg7 5. e3  O-O Already, Black has his sights set on putting the question to White whether he should accept taking the c-pawn in the following sequence, 6. cxd5  Nxd5  7. Nxd5 Qxd5 8. Bxc7 Nc6! 9. Ne2  Bg4 > Rac8 ending in a position already seen in Keres vs. Lilienthal, Moscow 1940.  Reshevsky was noted for opening plans with one move at a time which often caused him to get himself into time trouble through the years. He would sit and set up a plan in mind drawing perhaps on his brilliant mind for chess as a prodigy.

6. Qb3  c5  7. dxc5  Ne4!  8. cxd5  Qa5  9. Ne2  Nxc6  This was known from AVRO Capablanca vs. Flor.  Reshevsky hits first with a brilliant concept and upsets Kashdan who probably reckoned on uncorking  after what Capablanca played of 10. Qc4  Na6 11. Nd4 by e5 instead of Flor’s …Bd7 here, creating a tactical motif shot for favorable complications after 12. dxe6ep  Bxe6  13.Nxe6  Nxe6 with good square count.

10. Qd1!!  e5 Again a sqct move taking away the d4 Knight post. Kashdan likely thought that he was in a good position since now, 11. Bg3 yields either Bf5 or maybe 11. … b5  12. a3  b4  13. axb4  Qxb4 with an energized position.

11. Bg5!  f6  Again, this electrifiing push seems to give Black joy as 12. Bh4 gives Black the initiative, regaining the pawn, and getting a rather unbalanced position favorable for him. But here the genius of Reshevsky is seen with his superb skill and depth of powers to visualize the operations that are taking place on the board and consequential result of possessing a superior ending at the end of it’s execution. White correctly determines the dangerous looking center pawns will not get far due to the backwardness of the Black Qside position. It is probable that Kashdan was taken by surprise with the effectiveness of White’s reply.

12. a3!! I like this whole idea; it is wonderful! and shows Reshevsky at his best.

12. …Ne4 13. Bh4 g5 14. Bg3 f5 15. f3 Nxc3 16. Nxc3 f4 17. Bf2 e4 18. Rc1 Bf5 19. Be2  exf3  20. gxf3  fxe3  21. Bxe3  Nd7  22. O-O  Rae8  23. Bd4  Ne5  24. Kh1 As my earlier column on King safety a corner square is “the pits for the opponent.”

24. … a6  25. d6! Eyes open for a powerful  26. Qb3+.

25. … Kh8  26. b4  Qd8  Black is finally forced to make his reply because 26…Qxa3? meets   27.Nd5 winning.

27. Nd5  g4  28. Nc7  gxf3  29. Bxf3  Nxf3  30. Bxg7+ Kxg7  31. Nxe8+  Qxe8  32. Rc7+  Kg8  33. Re7  Qg6  34. Qd5+  Kh8  35. Rxf3  Kashdan resigns.

I was only 4-years old when this match was played.  And it was four more years before my brother Ray came home from the Army.  He went to college on the GI Bill and had chosen for English an interesting view of chess which dealt with + – = moves as I recall and got an A or B on it.  I used to sit and watch the games he reviewed and documented. I never took much interest in chess until my teen years although I must have got some polish for it into my brain by that experience. I remember questioning why not this move or that move in certain positions and my brother who was a expert would say something like, “yes that is an interesting thought and looks okay to me, too.” He had taught me when I was 3 how the pieces moved and had enjoyed a few games with my brothers and sister although I think it was more a chore for them than for me to go through that experience.  What I really learned from those hours spent with my brother was a love of chess history that he would convey to me during some of the games examined.

This first game of the Reshevsky – Kashdan match provides an insight into match play at the highest level where both must have used personal research of openings from a major tournament like the AVRO of 1938.  It also reflects upon the understanding that following plans and ideas from past battles, while good to know, can be subject to changes in appraisals and/or outright redirection of a concept with the introduction of new moves which makes home analysis rather useless and throws the combatants on their own.  At the least that would be the case and at the most it might force use of much time to try and find final clarity if at all possible for the results of a future position or how it effects the nature of an approaching endgame structure.

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