chess

Mastery knows no age. Genius can occur in anyone, and of course, always presents itself when a child is very young. In 1920, one such genius, Samuel Reshevsky was busy mastering chess masters in France. Reshevsky learned chess when he was just 4 years old. He became known as a child chess prodigy and was playing simultaneous games of chess against adults when he was 6 years of age. At age 8 he was playing chess against strong players. Following the events of World War 1, Reshevsky immigrated to the United States. As a 9 year old, his first American simultaneous exhibition was with 20 officers and cadets at the Military Academy at West Point. He won 19 games and drew one. He toured the country and played over 1,500 games as a 9 year old in simultaneous exhibitions and only lost 8 games. In his early years he did not go to school and his parents ended up in Manhattan Children’s Court on charges of improper guardianship. In reality, little Samuel probably could have taught the teachers, so missing some of his education was not detrimental to him in any way.

Reshevsky was a tough and forceful player who was superb at positional play, but could also play brilliant tactical chess when warranted. He often used huge amounts of time in the opening, a dangerous tactic which sometimes forced him to play the rest of the game in a very short amount of time. That sometimes unsettled Reshevsky’s opponents, but at other times resulted in blunders on his part. Reshevsky’s inadequate study of the opening and his related tendency to fall into time-pressure may have been the reasons that, despite his great talent, he never became world champion; he himself acknowledged this in his book on chess upsets.

Reshevsky never became a truly professional chess player. He gave up competitive chess for seven years, from 1924 to 1931, to complete his secondary education. He graduated from the University of Chicago in 1934 with a degree in accounting, and supported himself and his family by working as an accountant. Not everyone could leave off and then pick up their education and never miss a beat. Of course, when you have genius level intelligence, I guess that isn’t a problem.

Some people seem to have an exceptional mind. They might be a genius, or they might just be very good at one thing or a few things. Whatever the case may be, they are virtually impossible to beat at that one thing. The game of chess is one that many people don’t understand how to play. I played it many years ago, but I can’t say that I was ever very good at. I could play, and I could beat some players, provided they were not better than novice level. But, there are chess players who could only be classified as genius when it comes to the game of chess.

Two such players were 26 year old Donald Byrne, who on October 17, 1956, took part in what was destined to be called The Game of the Century. In the end Byrne would lose the game to 13 year old Bobby Fischer, in the Rosenwald Memorial Tournament in New York City. The competition took place at the Marshall Chess Club. It was nicknamed “The Game of the Century” by Hans Kmoch in Chess Review. Kmoch wrote, “The following game, a stunning masterpiece of combination play performed by a boy of 13 against a formidable opponent, matches the finest on record in the history of chess prodigies.”

I don’t suppose Mr Byrne expected to be bested by a 13 year old boy, nor did he likely appreciate all the publicity that came of his unfortunate loss. Donald Byrne was one of the leading American chess masters at the time of this game. He won the 1953 U.S. Open Championship, and later represented the United States in the 1962, 1964, and 1968 Chess Olympiads. He became an International Master in 1962, and probably would have risen further if not for ill health. Robert “Bobby” Fischer (1943–2008) was at this time a promising young master. Following this game, he had a meteoric rise, winning the 1957 U.S. Open on tiebreaks, winning the 1957–58 U.S. (Closed) Championship, and all seven later championships in which he played, qualifying for the Candidates Tournament and becoming in 1958 the world’s youngest grandmaster at the age of 15. He won the world championship in 1972, and is considered by many to be the greatest chess player of all time.

According to Kmoch’s recap of the game, Fischer, who was playing Black, demonstrated noteworthy innovation and improvisation. Byrne, who was playing White, after a standard opening, makes a seemingly minor mistake on move 11, losing a tempo by moving the same piece twice. Fischer pounces with brilliant sacrificial play, culminating in a queen sacrifice on move 17. Byrne captures the queen, but Fischer gets far too much material for it…a rook, two bishops, and a pawn. At the end, Fischer’s pieces coordinate to force checkmate, while Byrne’s queen sits, useless, on the other side of the board. Responding to an interviewer’s question about how he was able to bring off such a brilliant win, Fischer said, “I just made the moves I thought were best. I was just lucky.” Looking at his lifelong record, I doubt that anyone would agree with that statement. Fischer’s wins were anything but luck. They were rather a matter of skill, focus, and a strategic mind.

RaelynnFor a girl, turning twelve means that she is stepping into those teen and pre-teen years. For most of us, those years are tumultuous at best. We can’t decide if we like ourselves or hate ourselves. One minute we are sure that we must be the ugliest girl ever, and the next minute we look in the mirror, and there stands a girl who might just have some pretty features, after all. While this rite of passage is normal for girls of this age, it is not fun, so while I’m excited for the future of my grandniece, Raelynn Masterson, I also know that the road ahead will likely be a bit bumpy. Nevertheless, Raelynn has an advantage over me, in that she is a very pretty girl. Hmmm…maybe I haven’t moved past that stage…or maybe we never really do.

Of course, looks are not the only things on Raelynn’s mind. She is a resourceful girl. She is interested in how things work, and in making things better in her world. I suppose that is why she decided to run for class Playing Chesssecretary at school last year. She wanted to be able to affect changes in areas where they were needed. She is a thinker. She sees a problem, and thinks things through to come up with the best solution. Those are the kinds of people we need in politics…honest, concerned, and logical. Maybe we need to have her run for president of the United States. She would do a far better job that our current president, if you ask me.

Raelynn is a smart girl. She like to play chess with her Uncle Dave Chase…a game that takes forethought and good strategy skills. I’m not sure how often she beats him, but just being able to play Chess is a skill that many people don’t have. I used to play it, years ago, but I haven’t played in so long, that I’m not even sure I remember how anymore. Raelynn is growing up so fast that sometimes she seems much older that her young years…another anomaly that seems to happen about this age, whether it is because they are maturing so fast, Father Daughter Socialor that they want to be grown up already. They definitely seem to be twelve, going on…

Still, no matter how old Raelynn gets, she will always be her daddy’s girl. She and my nephew, Rob Masterson have such a close relationship. She is close with her mom, Dustie Masterson too, but for a lot of girls, being a Daddy’s Girl is simply the way it is. Raelynn also loves her siblings. She looks up to her older sister, Christina Masterson, and is a great role model for her younger siblings, Matthew and Audrianna Masterson. She is a great big sister, and she makes life fun for all who know her. Today is Raelynn’s 12th birthday. Happy birthday Raelynn!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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