Samuel Reshevsky, age 8, defeating chess masters at once in France (1920)

Reshevsky, at age 8, giving a simultaneous exhibition in France, defeating several chess masters at once (1920)

Samuel Reshevsky learned chess when he was only 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 chess masters. After World War I, Reshevsky’s family immigrated to the United States of America.

In America, his first American simultaneous exhibition was with 20 officers and cadets at the Military Academy at West Point. He won 19 games with only 1 draw. He toured the U.S. and played over 1,500 games as a 9-year-old chess player in simultaneous exhibitions. He only lost 8 games out of 1,500 chess games.

In his early years, Reshevsky did not go to school and his parents ended up in Manhattan Children’s Court on charges of improper guardianship.

Unfortunately, Reshevsky never became a truly professional chess player. He gave up competitive chess in 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.

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 that 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.