Thursday, September 15, 2005

Torre-Saemisch, Moscow 1925

diagram White to play and win after 17...Kg7?

It has been a busy week for me, so I have not been playing or studying as much chess. But I have found time to annotate a nice short game by Carlos Torre, from which the diagram above is taken. It is from the Moscow 1925 tournament, which will soon be the subject of a lecture by NM Scott Massey at the Kenilworth Chess Club. Torre played the "Torre Attack" against Saemisch, who overestimated his chances at the critical moment and so allowed the young star a chance for a powerful knock-out blow. As usual, you can play the game over online or download the PGN file. But try to solve the puzzle before you do.

If I have a chance (before moving on to other things), I may come back to annotate some other games of Torre's from the tournament. After all, he had a very strong performance there, finishing 6th in a very strong field and actually leading the tournament at the halfway mark, before losing to the eventual winner Bogoljubow.

Carlos Torre Carlos Torre at Moscow 1925 (in "Chess Fever")

Like Morphy and Fischer, Torre is one of the many lost American chess talents. Many at the time expected him to be another Capablanca. According to his biographer Gabriel Velasco, after the game with Saemisch Emmanuel Lasker commented: "These first steps of the young Torre are undoubtedly the first steps of a future champion." But for all his promise he could barely scrape by. Though it is widely reported (following Reuben Fine) that he gave up chess because of "a nervous break down," I think the truth may have had more to do with "a crisis of career." After all, though he had performed brilliantly at the game from 1925 to 1926, he had very little to show for it monetarily. It was simply much safer for him to return to his native Mexico (from which he had immigrated with his family to New Orleans) to become a pharmacist, working for his brother the doctor, than to continue on the precarious course of being a "professional chessplayer."

The 1920's were something of a turning point in the professionalization of the game: FIDE was founded in 1924, Frank James Marshall was helping organize a group of New York "chess philanthropists" to make it possible for the U.S. Champion at least to earn a living from the game, and the Soviets were just starting to organize the system that would eventually make it possible for a large number of people to be chess professionals (in much the same way that they made it possible for supposedly "amateur" Olympians to succeed at other sports). Moscow 1925 is something of a watershed in the Soviet's "professionalization" of chess, in fact, and so it is interesting that it was against this back-drop that Torre performed so brilliantly for a man his age only to vanish from the scene because he could not earn a decent living.

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