10 January 2009

Alexander Bisno

Following up Soviet GMs on Fischer's Style, I mentioned that Predecessors IV (MGP4; p.316) touched on 'Fischer's desire to bypass the 1964-65 FIDE qualification cycle and play a direct match with the World Champion. "The negotiations with the Soviet side (and, to all appearances, the financing of the match) were taken on by the businessman Alexander Bisno".' As it happens, the text of this agreement is available on the Web, and appears to be the source of the MGP4 discussion.

Bobby Fischer - Alex Bisno Agreement 1964 • 'By the Spring of 1964, the 21-year-old American Grandmaster Bobby Fischer had already established himself as one of the pre-eminent players in the West. However even then, Bobby knew well that any road to the top spot was blocked by the Soviet hegemony. What is not widely known is that he retained an American businessman to help him arrange a match with one of the top Soviet players. A copy of this incredibly interesting document resides in the Russell Collection' (Chesscafe.com)

The passage from MGP4 continues, 'Alexander Bisno -- the same Bisno who was captain of the American team in the USSR-USA match (1954) which had such an influence on the young Bobby.' Here's how MGP4 had earlier described the event (p.209):

With both Capablanca and Alekhine a passion for chess was ignited by blindfold simultaneous displays given by the legendary Pillsbury before their very eyes. For Fischer a similar unforgettable spactacle was the four-round USSR - USA match (June 1954) to which he was taken by Carmine Nigro. Here for the first time Bobby saw Smyslov, Reshevsky, Bronstein, Keres, and other participants in the recent Candidates tournament.

Other references to Bisno connect him to the American Chess Foundation (ACF),

Bobby Fischer, Profile of a Prodigy by Frank Brady • 'When Bobby's tour took him to Los Angeles that spring [1964], he actually secured through Alexander Bisno, a former American Chess Foundation official powerful support in his attempt to renew this practice [when a challenger could get a match with the World Champion simply by putting up enough money].' (p.77; the only reference to Bisno in the index)

Jacqueline Piatigorsky,

Chesquire, November 1961, Herman Steiner Chess Club Bulletin, Vol. 1, No. 4 • 'From a letter written by Jerry Spann to Al Bisno: "...A prime reason for my visit to Los Angeles recently, was to congratulate Mrs. Piatigorsky, not only for her fine contribution in connection with the match, but for the construction of the magnificent new Steiner club, the most beautiful in the United States..."'

Lessing Rosenwald,

American Chess Foundation (also Bill Wall) • 'Formed in 1955, and leading philanthropic organization in U.S. chess. Its original members were Alexander Bisno, Jacques Coe, Walter Fried, Morris Kasper, Rosser Reeves, Lessing Rosenwald, and Cecile Wertheim. It changed its named to Chess-in-the-Schools in 1986.'
Bisguier - Sherwin, New York (Rosenwald) 1955 • 'I visited FM Steve Stoyko the other day and rummaged through his library, where I stumbled across Larry Evans's wonderful little book Trophy Chess: An Account of the Lessing Rosenwald Tournament, New York, 1954-1955 [...] A note in passing: the Rosenwald Tournament, like a number of later events bearing that name, was made possible through the generosity of (to quote Evans's introduction) "a small, unselfish band of chess connoisseurs--like Alexander Bisno, Jose Calderon, Maurice Kasper, and Lessing Rosenwald" who had formed The American Chess Foundation to help advance the game in the U.S.'

and the 1955 USSR - USA match.

Photo Source: The ChessCafe.com Holiday Quiz [2007-8] • 'A: The photo was taken during the US chess team’s July 1955 visit to Moscow, where they played the Soviet team, losing 25-7. 'A' is Gabriel Reiner, travel manager for the American team, 'B' is team captain Alex Bisno. 'C' is Max Pavey, who alternated with Horowitz at 6th board for the American team. (source: Life magazine, July 18, 1955, p. 26)'

A similar photo is on The age of love -- Mark Taimanov at 80 (Chessbase.com). Another photo of Bisno, missing date and venue, is on a review of The Art of Bisguier: Selected Games 1961-2003: A Collection of Art by Steve Goldberg.

Strong Polish connections to Bisno are the Reshevsky - Najdorf match

The California Chess Reporter; Vol. 1, No. 3, August 1951 • 'Alexander Bisno, president of the Manhattan Chess Club, has announced that S. Reshevsky and M. Najdorf have been matched to play 20 games beginning in Buenos Aires, November 1, with the last 10 games to be played in New York.'

and Samuel Factor.

Samuel Factor - wielokrotny mistrz Chicago, which Google translates as 'Samuel Factor - multiple champion Chicago' • Original: 'Max Factor to jedna...'; Google: 'Max Factor is one of the most well-known cosmetic companies in the world. In no way we can associate it with chess, but .... It turns out that the company founder Max Factor had several siblings, including his brother Samuel, a strong chess player from Chicago. Wzmiankowal about Reuben Fine in an interview with the monthly "Chess Life" in October 1984.' • Original: 'Samuel urodzil sie...'; Google: 'Samuel was born - according to some data - September 22, 1892, in Lodz. However, other sources indicate year 1883. This date seems quite likely, since necrology Factor, published in the New York Times in January 1949 provides, inter alia, that the deceased had 65 years.' • Original: 'Latem 1940 roku Factor...'; Google: 'In summer 1940 years Factor Whitaker visits with his family in Washington. After returning home to post to thank him for his stay. Factor all the time he lived in Chicago, working in the company Bisno & Bisno, Real Estate Investments, whose owner was Alexander Bisno, well known in those years chess patron.'

What became of Bisno? That might be determined by following the real estate angle ('Bisno & Bisno, Real Estate Investments'), but would take me too far afield for this post.

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