25 May 2017

Not the Rossolimo Sicilian

Last summer, the August 1966 'On the Cover' (August 2016) post on this blog featured GM Nicolas Rossolimo on the Chess Review side. I ended the post saying, 'As for GM Rossolimo, he deserves a post of his own.' It's time to make good on that promise.

The Wikipedia page Nicolas Rossolimo provides basic information about his life and career. It starts,

Nicolas Rossolimo (February 28, 1910, Kiev – July 24, 1975, New York) was an American-French-Greek-Russian chess Grandmaster. After acquiring Greek citizenship in 1929, he was able to emigrate that year to France, and was many times chess champion of Paris. In 1952 he emigrated to the United States, and won the 1955 U.S. Open Chess Championship. He was a resident of New York City until his death.

A French language page, Rossolimo Nicolas (heritageechecsfra.free.fr; 'Heritage des Echecs Fran├žais') provides more detail about his personal life: 'biographical elements furnished by Alexander Rossolimo, his son'. One of the recurring stories about Rossolimo is that he drove a taxi cab to make a living (bellhop and busboy are also mentioned) and Edward Winter's Chess Notes for February 2015 has an item '9108. Nicolas Rossolimo' with a complete copy of a long 1958 New York Times article on the subject. Some years later the same newspaper published his obituary: Nicolas Rossolimo, 65, Is Dead; Grandmaster Ran Chess Studio (nytimes.com; July 1975; 'one of the country's 12 grandmasters of chess').

A few years ago I wrote a post, Friendly Chess Players (July 2013), which mentioned Rossolimo.

GM Averbakh divides great players into six groups. [...] Group five - the artists. For them it is important not just to win, but to win elegantly, and to create works of art. • Simagin, Rossolimo.

By coincidence, I found two 1975 appreciations from Chess Life & Review (CL&R), both written after his death, expanding on this idea.

Nick Rossolimo was a chess artist. He won innumerable prizes for beautiful and brilliant games, which gave him greater satisfaction than winning tournaments in an ordinary way. It was his feeling, often expressed, that what distinguishes a grandmaster from ordinary players is his creative imagination. In Rossolimo's case, he was not satisfied to create beauty only in competitive situations, but he also composed many endgame studies, all of which are characterized by high technical polish and simple beauty. • CL&R September (p.571)


Rossolimo's chess style was purely classical, and he relied on his own opening variations. Always searching for beauty and brilliant combinations, he won numerous brilliancy prizes. Nick considered chess first of all an art. He once wrote: "What am I supposed to do? Trade in my romantic, combinative style for 'today's style' and become a hunter of points at any price? No, I will not do so. I will fight for the art of chess. I will not become a monster." He even suggested that points be awarded according to the artistic merit of a game, rather than for its result, so that the loser of a game may earn credit if his play was creative. • CL&R October (p.647) by Pal Benko

The Chessgames.com page, Nicolas Rossolimo, lists a number of his 'Notable Games', including his most famous game, Rossolimo - Reissmann, 1967 Puerto Rico.

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