A (More) Yiddishe Bobby Fischer


Samuel Reshevsky

Samuel Reshevsky was a child chess prodigy who routinely whooped older opponents. 
A Polish-born Orthodox Jew, Reshevsky arrived in the U.S. in November 1920, around the age of 9.

In 1923, Reshevsky’s talents were on display in Washington, D.C.:

While in Washington, shortly before the death of President Harding, Sammy was received at the White House. He won a number of matches from Senators and Congresmen during his stay in Washington and also won a match from William J. Burns, head of the Investigation Bureau of the Department of Justice.

Shortly after the boy arrived in the United States he gave a remarkable demonstration of his ability at West Point, where he defeated nineteen Army officers and drew one game with Colonel Frieberger, veteran of the service.

The following year, philanthropist Julius Rosenwald took an interest in young Sammy’s education, and helped arrange for his family to settle in Detroit. Rosenwald also financed the boy’s education at the University of Chicago, reportedly keeping him out of the spotlight until after the Reshevsky completed his academic studies.

In 1935, just two years after reemerging onto the competitive chess scene, Reshevsky earned his first international masters’ tournament victory in Margate, England. In 1955, he was elevated to nigh-celebrity status after defeating Soviet juggernaut Mikhael Botvinnik. And in 1964, he expressed interest in moving to Israel during an international competition in Tel Aviv.

Staying true to his faith throughout his career, Reshevsky routinely turned down matches that conflicted with the Jewish Sabbath.

Reshevsky passed away in 1992 at the age of 80.

IMAGE: Chess prodigy Samuel Reshevsky, aged 8, defeating several chess masters in France (1920).

ARCHIVE NOTES: Though also born Jewish, Bobby Fischer lost favor with the Jewish community following a series of anti-Semitic remarks beginning in 1992 and
continuing for many years later until his death in 2008… Reshevsky defeated Fischer in 1961 after Fischer walked away following the eleventh of a sixteen-game matchup — The first aerial chess game was played between two Jews on a Goodyear blimp in 1932 … Chess afficianados might appreciate The Washington Times’ recap of two Reshevsky’s victories 38 years apart.

Recommended from JTA