Reuben Fine

Reuben Fine was born in New York on October 11, 1914.   He learned how to play chess from his ucle at the age of 8.  He later became member of the Marshall Chess Club and developed into a strong blitz chess player.

In 1931, at age 16, he took 2nd place in the New York State Championship, behind Fred Reinfeld.  He then won the 15th Marshall Chess Club Championship of 1931, ahead of Reinfeld.  He also captained the City College of New York (CCNY) to the 1931 National Collegiate team title.

In 1932, he won the Western Open  (U.S. Open) Chess Championship in Minneapolis, ahead of Samuel Reshevsky.  Fine repeated as champion of the Marshall Chess Club in 1932.  In 1932, at the age of 18, he graduated from CCNY and decided to become a professional chess player.

In 1933, he won the Western Open (US Open) again, ahead of Reshevsky.  He also played board three for the USA team at the Folkestone Chess Olympiad.  The USA team won the gold medal and Fine won the silver medal for board three.  He also won the 17th Marshall Club Championship.

In 1934, he tied for first at the Western Open (US Open) with Reshevsky in Chicago.

In 1935, he again won the Western Open (US Open), held in Detroit.  He also played board one for the USA at the Warsaw Chess Olympiad.  The USA team took 1st place and won the gold medal.

In 1935/36, Fine won at Hastings, England, a point ahead of Salo Flohr.

In 1936, he tied for 3rd-4th place in the U.S. Championship, won by Reshevsky.

In 1937, he played board two for the USA at the Stockholm Chess Olympiad.  The USA won the gold medal and Fine won the gold medal for top board two.  Fine stayed in the Netherlands and married Emma Thea Keesing, a newspaper reporter in the Netherlands.  They were divorced in 1944.

In 1937, Fine played in two strong USSR tournaments (Leningrad 1937 and Moscow 1937), and won them both.  No foreigner did that before or since.

In 1938, he took 2nd in the U.S. Championship, behind Reshevsky.  He tied for 1st place in the prestigious AVRO tournament in the Netherlands.  The tournament included the world’s eight strongest chess players (Keres, Fine, Botvinnik, Alekhine, Reshevsky, Euwe, Capablanca, and Flohr).  First place was $550.

In 1938-39, he updated the 6th edition of Modern Chess Openings.

In 1939, he won the U.S. Open at New York.  He also won the 23rd Marshall Club Championship.

In 1940, he won the U.S. Open in Dallas and took 2nd in the U.S. Championship, behind Reshevsky.

In 1941, he won the New York State Championship, the Marshall Chess Club Championship for the fifth time, and the U.S. Open in St. Louis.  He had won the U.S. Open seven times between 1932 and 1941.

In 1941, he wrote one of the all-time classic endgame books, Basic Chess Endings.

During World War II, Fine was employed by the U.S. Navy to calculate where enemy submarines might surface in the Atlantic Ocean based on positional probability.  He later did research on Japanese Kamikaze attacks.  He also worked as a translator as he could speak French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, German, and Yiddish.

In 1944, he took 2nd in the U.S. Championship, behind Arnold Denker.  Fine won the U.S. Speed Championship.  Fine was 4-time U.S. Speed Champion from 1943 through 1945.

In 1945, Fine was working on his doctorate in psychology from the University of Southern California.  He earned his Ph.D in 1948.

In 1946, world champion Alexander Alekhine died.  After his death, Fine considered himself the current co-champion of the world with Paul Keres until a world championship tournament was held.  He based it on the results of the strong AVRO tournament in 1938.

In 1946, he married Sonya Lebeaux of New York City, with whom he had two children (Benjamin and Ellyn).

In 1948, he was invited to participate in the 1948 World Championship, but declined due to his studies and he was dissatisfied with the scheduling of the tournament and the possibility that the Russians would throw games to each other in order for the top Russian to win.

In 1948, Fine earned a doctorate in psychology and his dissertation was entitled “The Personailty of the Asthmatic Child.”  He was a teaching fellow at USC before entering private practice of psychoanalysis in New York.  He taught psychoanalysis at eight different universities.

On July 31, 1950, the U.S. Chess Federation published its first rating list.  Fine was ranked #1 at 2817, followed by Reshevsky at 2770.

In 1950, he was awarded the title of International Grandmaster by FIDE (World Chess Federation) on its inaugural list.

His last appearance at a major chess tournament was New York 1951 where he took 4th place.

In 1956, the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis published his work, The Psychology of the Chess Player.  The book is a Freudian account of the game of chess.

In 1961, he was Visiting Professor of Psychology at the University of Amsterdam.

Fine won seven U.S. Open titles (1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1939, 1940, 1941), but never the U.S. Closed Championship.

Fine took first place in 23 of the 27 important chess tournaments in his career.

Fine was the only player to have a total plus score in his games against world champions without being a world champion himself.  He played five world chess champions.  He had overall plus scores against Lasker (one win), Alekhine (3 wins, 2 losses, 3 draws), and Botvinnik (1 win and 2 draws), and even scores against Capablanca (5 draws) and Euwe (2 wins and 2 losses).

Reuben Fine died of a stroke and pneumonia at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Medical Center on March 26, 1993.  He was 79.  He was survived by his wife Marcia.  Fine had four previous marriages that ended in divorce.


Fine – Botvinnik, Holland (AVRO tournament) 1938

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.dxc5 Ne7 6.Nf3 Nbc6 7.Bd3 d4 8.a3 Ba5 9.b4 Nxb4 10.axb4 Bxb4 11.Bb5+ Nc6 12.Bxc6+ bxc6 13.Ra4 Bxc3+ 14.Bd2 f6 15.O-O O-O 16.Bxc3 dxc3 17.Qe1 a5 18.Qxc3 Ba6 19.Rfa1 Bb5 20.Rd4 Qe7 21.Rd6 a4 22.Qe3 Ra7 23.Nd2 a3 24.c4 Ba4 25.exf6 Qxf6 26.Rxa3 Re8 27.h3 Raa8 28.Nf3 Qb2 29.Ne5 Qb1+ 30.Kh2 Qf5 31.Qg3  1-0