Hardinge Simpole

Reuben Fine's Best Games
Masterpieces by an uncrowned world champion
By Fine, Reuben
ISBN 184382101x
SERIES Hardinge Simpole Chess Classics
Paperback  248 pages
Subject [Chess ] [Fischer ]
Published 23 January, 2004
UK Price £18.95   
US Price $30.00   

During the 1930s, it appeared that the USA, not the USSR, would inevitably become the dominant force in the chess world. During that time the USA team won four consecutive gold medals in the Chess Olympiads. Moreover, the USA could boast two world beaters in the form of Sammy Reshevsky (see companion volumes) and Reuben Fine, whose best games appear in this book. However, the massive state support offered to chess in the USSR finally tipped the scales in the direction of Soviet Russia. Nevertheless, it is difficult to avoid the impression that - had the economic playing field been level - then the American Grandmasters, and Fine in particular, would have emerged on top. In this context it is fascinating to observe Fine's comments,in this book, about his trip to Russia in the late 1930's. Whereas Soviet writers, such as Kotov, (see the Soviet School of Chess) stress the creativity and free thinking of Soviet Masters, Fine, in distinction, observes a rigidity and conformity of intellectual purpose, which he believes would ultimately have imposed insuperable restrictions on them, had they been facing equally well resourced opposition in the crucial battles that came after the second world war. This is a remarkable book, contributing fresh insights into the chess of the 1930s, and containing games by a great master, whose output has been unjustly neglected. Reuben Fine was the American Grandmaster who formed, along with Keres, Botvinnik and Reshevsky, the most potent threat to the domination of the old masters Capablanca, Alekhine and Euwe, in the period preceding World War Two. Fine had an easy flowing style and with his shared victory at Avro 1938, ahead of the world Úlite and equal only with Keres, it appeared that his dream of world domination was at hand. Sadly, the Second World War shattered any illusions of chess hegemony by Fine and he declined his invitation to compete for the supreme crown, when it finally came in 1948. By then Fine was already set on the path of professional psychology. As with Pillsbury, events had contrived to deprive the USA of a likely world beater. Fine stands out as one of those individuals who might have challenged the Soviet juggernaut with success - as Bobby Fischer later did - had forces united behind him to support his struggle. As it was, lone westerners in the 1930s to 1950s stood scant prospect against the mighty Soviet state supported machine.

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