Chess in 1956

 by Bill Wall


In 1956, China officially sponsored and recognized chess as a competitive sport.


In 1956, Edith Charlotte Price (1872-1956) died in England.  She was five-time British Ladies Champion (1922, 1923, 1924, 1928, 1948).  She first played in the British Ladies Championship in 1912, finishing 2nd.  She won it in 1948 at the age of 76, the oldest player ever to win a national championship.   She was the woman's world chess championship challenger in 1927 and 1933.  She founded the Gambit Chess Rooms in Budge Row for men only (except for waitresses), which was still active until 1958.  This chess club was opened every day of its existence but for two days.  It was closed for two days in September 1940 because it was bombed during a Nazi raid.


In 1956, Isaac Kashdan (1905-1985) appeared on Groucho Marx’s You Bet Your Life.  The episode aired February 9, 1956. Groucho called him “Mr. Ash Kan” throughout the show. Kashdan’s partner was Helen Schwartz, the mother of Tony Curtis.  Kashdan told Groucho that it was pretty hard to cheat in chess. Groucho responded, “If I can’t cheat, forget it. The only fun I have in any game is cheating.” They failed to win any money and did not say the secret word.


In 1956, Botvinnik shared 1st place with Smyslov at Moscow.  This was Botvinnik’s only first place finish during his world championship years.


In 1956, chess first appeared on Russian television. It was a report on the 23rd Soviet Championship that was broadecast from a Leningrad studio.


In 1956, Veniamin Sozin (1896-2956) died in Leningrad at the age of 60.  He was a Russian chess master, author, and theoretician.


In January, 1956, Max Pavey won the 68th Manhattan Chess Club Championship.


The January 1956 issue of Chess Review had Fischer on the cover giving a simul at the Manhattan Chess Club against the Yorktown Chess Club youth group.  In January 1956, Bobby, age 12, won the class B prize of the first Greater New York City Open (January 21-26, 1956). It was held at the Churchill Chess and Bridge Club in Manhattan. The event was won by Bill Lombardy, 6-1, on tie-breaks over Dr. Ariel Mengarini. Fischer won 5 games and lost 2 games (5-2). There were 52 players in this event. Fischer tied for 5th-7th (shared with Anthony Saidy and E.S. Jackson). In the final round, he was playing Rhys Hays.  In a particularly difficult position, Bobby thought for a long time, then decided on a move.  Bobby moved a piece then punched the clock on the next table!  His USCF rating for the event was 2157.


In January, 1956, Herbert Seidman won the 39th Marshall Chess Club Championship.


On January 2, 1956, Arthur Bisguier and Larry Evans tied at 2nd Rosenwald tourney in New York with a score of 6 out of 10.


On January 6, 1956, Korchnoi and Olafsson tied at the 31st Hastings  Christmas tournament with score of 7 out of 9.


On January 9, 1956, Hans-Ulrich Grunberg was born in Schwerin, Germany.  He was awarded the IM title in 1981 and later earned the GMC title.  He was East German Champion in 1980 and 1989.


On February 5, 1956, Savielly (Xavier) Tartakower (1887-1956) died in Paris at the age of 68.  He is one of the 27 original grandmasters that were appointed by FIDE in 1950.


On February 10, 1956, Victor Frias (1956-2005) was born in Santiago, Chile.  He was awarded the IM title in 1982.  In 1995 he tied for first place in the NY State Chess Championship with GM Joel Benjamin and GM Zaitchik.


In February, 1956, Samuel Reshevsky played 66 games simultaneously at the Crown Room at Romanoff’s Restaurant in Hollywood.  After 5 hours of play, he lost one game and drew two games.  Humphrey Bogart and Mike Romanoff were the two players able to hold Reshevsky to a draw.  (source: Amarillo Globe-Times, Feb 16, 1956)


On February 15, 1956, Spassky, Taimanov, and Averbakh tied for 1st in the 23rd USSR Ch in Leningrad.  Taimanov won the playoff.


On February 28, 1956, Yehuda Gruenfeld was born in  Zcerdziniov, Poland.  He was awarded the IM title in 1978 and the GM title in 1980.  He was Israeli champion in 1982 and 1990


On March 2, 1956, Juan Carlos Gil-Reguera was born in Barcelona.  He was awarded the IM title in 1986.


On March 17, 1956, Paul van der Sterren was born in Venlo, Netherlands.  He was awarded the IM title in 1979 and the GM title in 1989.  He was Dutch champion in 1985.


On March 25, 1956, Alexander Kochiev was born in Leningrad.  He won the European Junior Championship in 1975-76.  He was awarded the IM title in 1976 and the GM title in 1977. 


On April 7, 1956, Julius du Mont (1881-1956) died in Hastings at the age of 74.  He was a chess player and journalist, editor and writer.  He was chess columnist of The Field and of the Manchester Guardian.  Between 1940 and 1949 he was general editor of British Chess Magazine.


In April, 1956, British chess champion Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander (1909-1974) was invited to a chess tournament in Moscow.  However, the British Foreign Office forbade him to go to Russia because “he knows too many secrets.”  Alexander was Britain’s top decoding expert during World War II.  (source:  Lubbock Evening Journal, Apr 16, 1956)


On April 19, 1956, Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier.  One of the wedding gifts was an antique chess set.


On April 30, 1956, Vasily Smyslov won the Candidates tournament in Leewarden, Netherlands.


At the end of April, Bobby Fischer’s USCF rating was 2168.  However, his published rating in the May 20, 1956 issue of Chess Life was 1726.  Fischer's USCF rating in August 1956 was 2349. He was 13 years, 5 months old, the youngest US master ever. The record stood until July, 1977, when Joel Benjamin became a master at 13 years, 3 months.


On May 1, 1956, Alexander Ivanov was born in Omsk, USSR.  He was awarded the GM title in 1991.  He was the co-winner of the 1995 U.S. Championship (with Nick DeFirmian and Patrick Wolff). He won the Pan-American Championship at San Felipe, 1998.


On May 12, 1956, Zenon Franco Ocampos was born in Asuncion, Paraguay. He was awarded the IM title in 1982 and the GM title in 1991.  He was Paraguayan champion in 1976. He was Pan-American champion at San Pedro de Jujuy 1981.


On May 19, 1956, Ventzislav Inkiov was born in Stanke Dimitrov, Bulgaria.  He was awarded the International Master title in 1977 and the Grandmaster title in 1982.  He won the Bulgarian Championship in 1982 after a play-off.


On June 27, 1956, Larry Mark Christiansen was born in Riverside, California.  He was US Junior Champion in 1973, 1974, 1975.  He was awarded the GM title in 1977.  He won the US Championship in 1980, 1983, and 2002.


In July 1956, Bobby Fischer took first place at the 11th Annual U.S. Junior Championship (July 1-7) in Philadelphia with 8 wins, 1 draw, and 1 loss (8.5-1.5).  He became the youngest-ever junior chess champion at age 13, a record that still stands (he placed 20th with 5-5 at Lincoln, Nebraska in 1955).  The event was held at the Franklin Mercantile Chess Club with Bill Ruth as tournament director, assisted by D. A. Gianguilio. Fischer's USCF rating after this event was 2321, making him a master at age 13 years, 3 months, 29 days and ranked #33 in the nation. He had become the youngest master in history.  The rating was not published until August of 1956.  There were 28 participants from 12 states and Canada. He was interviewed and said he liked rock and roll music and was a Brooklyn Dodger fan.  (source: Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, Aug 3, 1956)


On July 16, 1956, Karel Hromadka (1887-1956) died in Prague at the age of 69.  He was Czech champion (Championships of Bohemia) in 1913 and Czechoslovak champion in 1921 (=Ladislav Prokes).


On July 18, 1956, Dr, Walter Romaine Lovegrove (1869-1956) died in San Francisco at the age of 86.  He was one of the strongest chess players in California in the 19th and early 20th century.  He won the first California championship in 1891.  He was a dentist.  (source: San Rafael Daily Independent Journal, Jul 19, 1956)


In August, 1956, the Chess Olympiad was held in Moscow. The USSR took 1st.


On August 13, 1956, Sandor Farago was born in Budapest.  He was awarded the IM title in 1986.


On August 15, 1956, Helgi Olafsson was born in Reykjavik, Iceland.  He was awarded the IM title in 1978 and the GM title in 1985. He won the Icelandic Championship in 1978, 1981, 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1996.


On August 28, 1956, the US Open was held in Oklahoma City. Arthur Bisguier took 1st.  Fischer tied for 4th-8th.


On September 4, 1956,Thomas Paehtz, Sr. was born in East Germany.  He was East German champion in 1988 (=Lutz Espig) and 1990 (=Raj Tischbierek). He was German champion in 1993 (=Thomas Luther).  He was awarded the GM title in 1991.


On September 11, 1956, Dmitry Gurevich was born in Moscow.  He was awarded the IM title in 1981 and the GM title in 1983.  He won the US Open in 1988, 1994, and 2012 (1st=), and the National Open in 2005.


On September 4, 1956, Anatoly Machulsky was born in Russia.  He was awarded the GM title in 1991.


On October 2, 1956, Jonathan Speelman, Jonathan was born in London.  He was awarded the IM title in 1978 and the GM title in 1980.  He was British Champion in 1978, 1985 and 1986.


On October 17, 1956, Bobby Fischer defeated Donald Byrne in the "game of the century."


On October 24, 1956, Zlatko Klaric was born in Yugoslavia.  He was awarded the GM title in 1983.


On October 24, 1956, Samuel Reshevsky won the 3rd Rosenwald Tourney in New York.  Bobby Fischer tied for 8th-9th.


On November 1, 1956, Lajos Asztalos (1889-1956) died in Budapest.  He was Hungarian champion in 1913.  He was awarded the IM title in 1950.  He was a professor of philosophy and a languages teacher.


On November 23, 1956, Vereslav Eingorn was born in Odessa.  He was awarded the IM title in 1984 and the GM title in 1986. 


On December 5, 1956, Ronald Henley was born in Houston.  He was awarded the IM title in 1980 and the GM title in 1982.  He won the New Jersey championship in 1990.


On December 15, 1956, Adolf (Adolph) Fink died in San Francisco at the age of 66. He was a life member of the Mechanics' Institute. He was California State Champion three times (1922, 1928, and 1929) and co-champion, with Herman Steiner, in 1945. He was born in 1890.