Kindred’s Special: A Trip Back in Time

In 1920 during cutting of The Kid, Sammy Reshevsky, boy-wonder chess prodigy, visited the studio.  The seven year-old was giving a simultaneous exhibition of 20 players at the Athletic Club.  His manager introduced him to Charlie Chaplin who observed a youngster, age 7, who had a pale. thin and intense face with large eyes that stared belligerently when he met people. “I had been warned that he was temperamental and seldom shook hands with anybody.”

After a brief introduction the lad started staring at Charlie in silence. Charlie went on with his film cutting chore.  Finally he said, “Do you like peaches?

“Yes!” he beamed.

“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, too.”

Several minutes later he returned elated with several peaches.  That was the beginning of our friendship.

“Can you play chess?”, he asked.

Charlie had to admit he could not.

“I’ll teach you! Come and see me play tonight, I’m playing twenty men at the same time,” he said with braggadocio. I said I would and take him to supper afterward.  “Good! I’ll get through early.”

The run of checkmates followed in fairly rapid succession after some length of play that was a great enjoyment for the over 300 who attended, and only the California state champion’s game was still going.  He sat there and studied and studied with the lad growing ever more impatient, finally exclaiming, “You haven’t moved yet?”

The champ, a Dr. Griffiths, shook his head no, so the youngster said, “Look, if you try this move, I’ll go here and if you try that move, I will go there” and he ran off a number of possible variations quickly. “You can’t beat me and we’ll be here all night, so lets call it a draw.”

The Doctor acquiesced. So, it was off to supper!!

During the era of the 20s, a number of motion pictures having much to do with chess themes saw its popularity grow. Cinema titles like, The Three Musketeers, The Miracle of the Wolves, The Seventh Seal, LeJoueur d’Echecs, (The Chess Player), Entr’ Acte came to the screen during the silent and talkies era.

Samuel Reshevsky became chess champion of the United States and later on Champion of the Western World. He was an author and longtime contributor to Chess Review and participated in many international tournaments and team matches.

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