History of the MI Chess Room


Frank Marshall at the Mechanics' Institute (1913 and 1915)

The MI has a long tradition of hosting famous players from around the world. MI Chess Room staff member Steve Brandwein recently unearthed two visits by the American Champion Frank Marshall not too long after the Institute opened its new quarters. San Francisco had no regular chess column until the 1920s, but the Call, Chronicle and Examiner did write up special events. Often the details in local papers didn't quite tally with the accounts rendered in the American Chess Bulletin, the only national chess magazine at the time.

"Brilliant Play of Chess Master
Champion Marshall Meets Thirty-one Players at Once

"Playing up to his great reputation for brilliance and combinations, Frank J. Marshall, champion chess player of America, met 31 players in a simultaneous exhibition at the Mechanics’ Institute Tuesday Night. A count of boards at the conclusion of play showed that the visiting master had won 25, lost 1, while five games were drawn. The performance was witnessed by a large gallery, who filled the large library room of the Institute. Unfortunately, a lack of boards and pieces prevented a record number of simultaneous games for this city.

Marshall fully lived up to his reputation, and time and again evoked the unstinted praise of the spectators as he evolved a brilliant mating combination or else cleverly frustrated a well laid plan for his destruction.

A feature of the exhibition was the participation of a 9 year old devotee of Caissa, Miss Marie Silvius, at board No. 20, who secured a well played draw.

Bernardo Smith, a member of the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club, was the single player to defeat the master. Those drawing beside Miss Silvius were George Hallwegen, A.J. Fink, E.J. Clarke and Mr. Haring.

Marshall will repeat his performance on Thursday evening at the Mechanics’ Institute, when every effort will be made to surpass the record of 57 boards simultaneously, which Marshall recently played at Pittsburgh, PA. Players desiring to meet the champion are requested by the committee to bring their own boards and men."

San Francisco Examiner July 8, 1913

Marshall in the Far West
Under the caption of “Veni, Vidi, Vici - Marshall,” the San Francisco Call , in its issue of July 6, prints the following account of the United States champion’s doings while at the Golden Gate:

"Frank J. Marshall is no longer a stranger to San Francisco chess players. If perchance he should return to the coast next year he will be greeted by friends who, previous to his four-day visit as the guest of the Mechanics’ Institute, were of necessity his admirers only.

The American champion arrived here last Tuesday morning. Although somewhat fatigued by the railroad journey from Portland, Marshall gave a brilliant exhibition of his skill at simultaneous play at the Institute Tuesday evening, when he met by a strong field of thirty-one players. The master won 25, 6 were drawn and B. Smith alone succeeded in vanquishing the visitor. The performance attracted about 300 spectators.

Wednesday afternoon Marshall played two exhibition games simultaneously against Professor A.W. Ryder and E.W. Gruer in consultation at board No. 1, wile at board 2 he was opposed by A.B. Stamer and A.J. Fink. The allies at board No. 1, defending against Marshall’s pet Danish attack, held the expert

to a well-played forty-move draw. Messrs. Stamer and Fink, with the white pieces, were met by Marshall’s favorite Petroff. This game was also declared drawn, although the master had probably a winning advantage.

Thursday evening Marshall repeated his simultaneous peformance, playing against thirty-eight opponents, winning 27, with 5 drawn and 6 lost.

Friday the visitor entertained with some rapid transit chess at five and ten seconds per move. A.B. Stamer succeeded in putting one over on the champion during the five-second seance.

American Chess Bulletin 1913, page 177

Marshall visits MI February 27 and 28, 1915

"Quite the best showing was made against Marshall at San Francisco, where no less than eight “nicked” his escutcheon, so the report goes, to the tune of a win apiece. There were also four drawn games. The winners were Dr. W.R. Lovegrove, Dr. Henry Epsteen, R.C. Stephenson, S.C. Chandler, J. Drouillard, F.Sternberg, B. Smith and F.C. de Long. The drawn games were scored by F.W. Huber, G. Branch, A. Epsteen and E.W. Gruer and E.J. Clarke in consultation. Marshall also gave a “private” performance against fifteen opponents, making

a score of 13 wins and 2 losses.

An exhibition game between Marshall and Dr. W. R. Lovegrove, at twenty games an hour, at the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club, resulted in a draw after a great battle lasting 81 moves. A similar game with E.W. Gruer, the new club champion, at twenty-five moves an hour, was scored by Gruer in consequence of Marshall’s capturing a “hot” pawn. Taken altogether, the Golden Gate gave the champion a warm reception. A trip to the Exposition grounds was not the least interesting  portion of the programme."

American Chess Bulletin 1915, page 75

Marshall,F - Lovegrove,W [C51]

Simultaneous  San Francisco, 27.02.1915

1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.Bc4 Bc5 5.0-0 d6 6.b4 Bxb4 7.c3 Bc5 8.cxd4 Bb6 9.Nc3 Na5 10.Bd3 Ne7 11.Bb2 Ng6 12.Nd5 f6 13.h4 Bg4 14.Qa4+ Qd7 15.Nxb6 axb6 16.Bb5 c6 17.Be2 b5 18.Qc2 Nf4 19.e5 Nxe2+ 20.Qxe2 fxe5 21.dxe5 0-0 22.exd6 Bxf3 23.gxf3 Rae8 24.Qd3 Nc4 25.Bc3 Re6 26.Rad1 Rg6+ 27.Kh2 Rf4 28.Qxg6 Rxh4+ 29.Kg1 hxg6 30.Rd4 Rxd4 0-1

Marshall ,F - Gruer and Clarke [C44]

Consultation Game San Francisco, 27.02.1915

1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.Bc4 Bc5 5.0-0 d6 6.b4 Bb6 7.a4 a6 8.a5 Ba7 9.b5 axb5 10.Bxb5 Bg4 11.a6 Qc8 12.c3 Bxf3 13.Qxf3 Nge7 14.e5 0-0 15.exd6 cxd6 16.Bf4 Bc5 17.axb7 Qxb7 18.Rxa8 Qxa8 19.Qg3 Rd8 20.h4 Ng6 21.Bg5 f6 22.h5 fxg5 23.hxg6 h6 24.Re1 Ne5 25.cxd4 Bxd4 26.Nd2 Rf8 27.Re2 Nxg6 28.Qxd6 Nf4 29.Re4 Bc3 30.Bc6 Qd8 31.Qxd8 Rxd8 32.Nc4 Bd4 33.Ne3 Bxe3 34.Rxe3 h5 35.g3 Nh3+ 36.Kg2 g4 37.Re8+ Rxe8 38.Bxe8 h4 ½-½

Lovegrove,W - Marshall,F [C43]

Exhibition Game San Francisco, 28.02.1915

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 exd4 4.e5 Ne4 5.Qxd4 d5 6.exd6 Nxd6 7.Bg5 f6 8.Bf4 Nc6 9.Qd2 Bg4 10.Nc3 Qe7+ 11.Be2 0-0-0 12.Qe3 Nf5 13.Qxe7 Bxe7 14.0-0 g5 15.Bc1 Rhe8 16.h3 Bxf3 17.Bxf3 Nfd4 18.Bxc6 bxc6 19.Rb1 Nxc2 20.Ne4 Rd4 21.f3 f5 22.Nxg5 Bc5 23.Kh1 Re2 24.f4 Rf2 25.Rg1 Rd3 26.Ne6 Bb6 27.b4 Rg3 28.Rb2 a5 29.bxa5 Ba7 30.Rd1 Rg8 31.a6 Rfxg2 32.Rd8+ Rxd8 33.Kxg2 Rg8+ 34.Kf3 Ne1+ 35.Ke2 Ng2 36.Kd3 Rg3+ 37.Kc4 Ne3+ 38.Bxe3 Rxe3 39.Nc5 Ra3 40.Re2 Bxc5 41.Kxc5 Rxa6 42.Re7 Rxa2 43.Rxh7 Ra4 44.Kxc6 Rc4+ 45.Kd5 Rxf4 46.Ke5 Rf1 47.h4 Kb7 48.h5 f4 49.Ke4 f3 50.h6 Kc6 51.Rf7 Re1+ 52.Kd3 Rh1 53.Rf6+ Kd5 54.Ke3 c5 55.Rxf3 Rxh6 56.Kd3 Rh4 57.Rf5+ Kc6 58.Kc3 Kb5 59.Rf3 Ra4 60.Kb2

Rb4+ 61.Kc3 Ra4 62.Kb2 Ra7 63.Rf8 Kb4 64.Rb8+ Kc4 65.Rb3 Rg7 66.Rh3 Rg2+ 67.Kc1 Kb4 68.Rh8 c4 69.Rh3 Ra2 70.Kb1 Re2 71.Kc1 Rf2 72.Rg3 Rh2 73.Rf3 Kc5 74.Rg3 Ra2 75.Rh3 Kb4 76.Kb1 Rg2 77.Rf3 c3 78.Rf8 Rd2 79.Kc1 Rd5 80.Kc2 Rd2+ 81.Kc1 ½-½

Kostic at the MI

The Serbian Grandmaster Boris Kostic (1887-1963) was one of the greatest travelers in chess history, circling the globe in the days before the beginning of commercial aviation. Among the places he visited was the

Mechanics' Institute in August of 1915. The American Chess Bulletin from 1915 (page 195) writes about Kostic's exploits.

"Boris Kostics and his Movements"

Boris Kostic, of Budapest, proposes to become thoroughly acquainted with chess players of the United States and especially so in the far West, where he has been since the middle of July. After leaving Chicago, early in the month, he traveled by way of St. Louis, Kansas City, Topeka, Lincoln, Omaha, Denver, Colorado Springs to California, where he stopped in turn at San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento. Wishing to visit the Yellowstone Park, the Hungarian master invested in a special tour, which took him first northerly by way of Portland, Seattle and Vancouver to Spokane, Butte and Yellowstone Park, and from there back to San Francisco by way of Salt Lake City.

He made another protracted stay at the Golden Gate and in addition to giving his usual exhibitions, he met, among others, such strong players as Dr. Lovegrove, S. Mlotkowski, N.T. Whitaker, S. Rubinstein and G. Hallwegen. All went down to defeat before the powerful play of the visitor, whose extraordinary brilliancies have captivated chess lovers wherever he went. Kostic was so well pleased with San Francisco that he prolonged his sojourn there far beyond the time originally intended. Consequently, points in the South which had been notified of his coming were disappointed at his nonappearance. His itinerary will take him though portions of Texas to New Orleans, after which he will come North again by way of Lafayette, Nashville, Memphis, Louisville, Lexington, Cincinnati and Indianapolis, and then proceed to Milwaukee, Madison, St. Paul and Minneapolis before returning to Chicago. His continental tour will be concluded with visits to Saginaw, Toledo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia."

Reshevsky at the Mechanic's Institute

The Mechanics' Institute has a long tradition of hosting Grandmasters dating back to the 1880s. Early Newsletters looked at visits by the World Champions. More recently we covered the period 1910-1919 when Frank Marshall and Bora Kostic came to the MI. Now we move to the 1920s and one of the best publicized chess events in Bay Area chess history, the visit by boy wonder Sammy Reshevsky.

Different sources give different birth dates for Sammy, some list 1909 and others 1911, but in either case he was no more than 11 when he arrived in Oakland by train on June 17, 1921, and took the ferry over to San Francisco. On June 21 he gave the first of two exhibitions at the Emporium's assembly room, scoring eleven wins and one draw 2 hours and 35 minutes. The second event was held on June 23 at the Hotel St. Francis' Italian room, with Reshevsky taking only one hour to down ten players.

Reshevsky's only draw was with Arthur Stamer, one of the top players at the MI and a future Chess Room Director. An annual tournament is held each June by the Mechanics' to honor Stamer's memory.

Ruy Lopez [C87]

S. Reshevsky - A. Stamer

San Francisco (simul)  June 21,1921

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 d6 6.c3 Be7 7.Re1 0–0 8.d4 b5 9.Bc2 h6 10.h3 Nh7 11.Nbd2 Bg5 12.Nf1 Bxc1 13.Rxc1 Qf6 14.Ng3 Ng5 15.Re3 Ne7 16.dxe5 dxe5 17.Qf1 Ng6 18.Nh5 Nxf3+ 19.Rxf3 Qg5 20.Ng3 Be6 21.Nf5 Nf4 22.Kh2 Bxf5 23.exf5 Rad8 24.Rd1 Rxd1 25.Bxd1 e4 26.Re3 Qxf5 27.Bc2 Re8 28.f3 Nd3 29.Qe2 Nc1 30.Rxe4 Rxe4 31.Qxe4 Qxe4 32.fxe4 Nxa2 33.Kg3 a5 34.Kf4 b4 35.c4 Nc1 36.Ke3 b3 37.Kd2 bxc2 38.Kxc1 Kf8 39.Kxc2 Ke7 40.c5 Ke6 41.Kc3 Ke5 42.Kd3 h5 43.g3 f6 44.Ke3 c6 45.Kd3 h4 46.gxh4 Kf4 47.b3 Kf3 48.Kd4 Kf4 49.Kd3 Kg3 50.Kd4 Kxh3 51.e5 fxe5+ 52.Kxe5 Kxh4 53.Kd6 g5 54.Kxc6 g4 55.Kb5 g3 56.c6 g2 57.c7 g1Q 58.c8Q Qe1 59.Qd8+ Kg4 60.Qxa5 Qe8+ ½–½

Italian Game [C55]

S. Reshevsky - W. Tevis

San Francisco (simul) June 21,1921

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 d6 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 Bb6 7.0–0 Nf6 8.Bb5 0–0

9.Bxc6 bxc6 10.Nc3 h6 11.Be3 Bg4 12.h3 Bxf3 13.Qxf3 Nh7 14.Qe2 Kh8 15.Rad1 f6

16.f4 d5 17.e5 f5 18.Qf3 Qe7 19.Ne2 Rf7 20.Kh1 Raf8 21.g4 fxg4 22.hxg4 Ng5

23.Qg2 Ne4 24.Nc3 Nxc3 25.bxc3 g6 26.Qh2 Rh7 27.f5 gxf5 28.gxf5 Ba5 29.e6 Qd6

30.Bf4 Qe7 31.Be5+ Kg8 32.Rg1+ 1–0

Thirty-five years later Reshevsky gave a clock exhibition (45/2) at the MI scoring 5 wins, one loss and one draw against a field made up of Experts and Masters.

Reshevsky's opponent in the following game, former US Senior Open Champion Neil Falconer, had this to say about his famous opponent. "He was one of the smallest men I have ever seen - but he was all steel wire

and blazing tenacity: one of the toughest tenacious chess players of all time."

Sicilian [B56]

N. Falconer - Reshevsky,S

San Francisco (clock simul) February 11, 1956

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.h3 e5 7.Nf3 Be7 8.Be2 0–0 9.Bg5 Be6 10.Qd2 Qb6 11.0–0 Rfd8 12.Bxf6 Bxf6 13.Nd5 Bxd5 14.exd5 Ne7 15.c4 Ng6 16.Bd3 Nf4 17.Bc2 Rac8 18.Rac1 g6 19.b3 a5 20.g3 Nh5 21.Kg2 a4 22.Ng5 axb3 23.axb3 Ra8 24.Ra1 Rxa1 25.Rxa1 e4 26.Re1 e3! 0-1

The following game, from a different Reshevsky clock simul, was played

against the well known bridge and chess master Roy Hoppe.

English [A24]

R. Hoppe - S. Reshevsky

San Francisco (clock simul) 1961

1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.g3 0–0 5.Bg2 d6 6.0–0 e5 7.d3 Nbd7 8.Rb1 a5 9.a3 Re8 10.b4 axb4 11.axb4 Nf8 12.Nd2 Ne6 13.b5 Nc5 14.Nde4 Nfxe4 15.Nxe4 Ne6 16.Nc3 f5 17.Nd5 Bd7 18.e3 c6 19.bxc6 bxc6 20.Nb4 Qc7 21.Bd2 Ra3 22.Ra1 Rea8 23.Rxa3 Rxa3 24.Qc1 Ra7 25.Qc2 h5 26.Rb1 Kh7 27.Rb2 e4 28.Ra2 exd3 29.Nxd3 c5 30.Rxa7 Qxa7 31.Bc3 Qa4 32.Qxa4 Bxa4 33.Bxg7 Kxg7 34.Kf1 Be8 35.Ke2 Kf6 36.f4 g5 37.fxg5+ Kxg5 38.Nf4 Bf7 39.Bd5 Nd8 40.Bxf7 Nxf7 41.e4 fxe4 42.Ke3 Ne5 43.Kxe4 Nxc4 44.Kd5 Nd2 45.Kxd6 c4 46.Kc5 c3 47.Kb4 c2 48.Ne2


San Francisco - Los Angeles Telegraph Matches

Earlier issues dealt with San Francisco's matches with Vancouver and Victoria in the 1890s. Now we start to take a look at the famous series with Los Angeles that started in 1913 and ran into the mid-1920s when it metamorphisized into the face to face North-South matches with the advent of the automobile. Those of you who have visited the MI Chess Room may recognize some of the names of the players in the 1915 event from some of the photographs that are displayed in the Chess Room.

San Francisco, 9 1/2; Los Angeles, 5 1/2, September 1915

Labor Day was utilized by the Mechanics' Institute Chess Club of San Francisco and the Los Angeles Chess and Checker Club for the purpose of holding another telegraphic match, which, after the adjudication of three unfinished games, ended in favor of San Francisco by 9 1/2 to 5 1/2, thereby reversing the result of the last encounter between these two clubs.  E. W. Gruer acted as team captain for San Francisco, while E.R. Perry performed a like office for Los Angeles.  The match went off smoothly, except for complaint from both sides concerning the slowness to which certain of the players were prone.

There was no timing system and play went on under an agreement to keep the games "speeded up" within fifteen or twenty moves an hour.  This proved unsatisfactory.  Such a match cannot be expeditiously handled without the aid of timing clocks, which have always been called into use in telegraphic matches in the East and in the cable matches. Clocks having been installed, it remains only to a point efficient referees or umpires, who will conscientiously watch these clocks and see to it that they are set promptly in motion the moment moves received over the wire have been made on the boards.

Los Angeles found the increase in the size of the teams to fifteen boards too much of a handicap, for, at the last seven boards, San Francisco won outright no less than six games.  The struggle on the first eight boards was by Los Angeles.  Boris Kostic, present during the match, was invited to act as

referee, but declined.  Professor Levy, of the University of California, represented Los Angeles at San Francisco.  It is probable that the next match will again be played on ten boards. The summary of the match is appended:

Bds.   San Francisco          Los Angeles         Bds.  San Francisco    Los Angeles

1.  Gruer............1/2             Mlotkowski.......1/2      9     Stamer........1  Greer...........0

2.  Rubinstein*...1/2          W.S.Waterman 1/2     10   W. Smith......1 Geldert..........0

3.  Hallwegen.......0               Perry................1      11 Dickinson.......1   Anderson... 0

4.  Fink*.............1/2            Woodward........1/2    12 Haber.............1    Moore.........0

5.  Clarke...........1/2          C.W.Waterman 1/2     13 Stephenson...1 Burnett...........0

6.  Nevill.............1/2            Peterson..........1/2    14 Bergman.........1    McAnslor....0

7.  B. Smith........1/2          L'Hommede.......1/2   15    Ford..............0 McMurray......1

8.  Drouillard*......1/2         Lewis................1/2    16

Total .........9 1/2           Total .........5 1/2

*Unfinished and subsequently declared drawn. Mechanics' Institute had the

white pieces on the odd-numbered boards.

Source: The American Chess Bulletin 1915