Anthony Edward Santasiere
It is not widely known, but Marshall died on his way to play Bingo, wearing clean underwear. This is just one divulgation to be found in Essay on Chess by Anthony E. Santasiere (Dallas, 1972), a book that we have only just come across, and wish we hadn’t. It is, loosely speaking, a plea for tactical, rather than positional, chess (‘The Queen’s Gambit is neither a gambit nor an honor to any Queen. It is like a piece of dead flesh kept overlong on ice’) by a Believer who makes sure we know it. We have rarely read so many foolish judgements within such a short space.
Lasker (page 21): ‘If he really loved anyone or anything, it was probably himself (I knew him well, was his friend the last two years of his life – he was no longer a lion, had softened, mellowed and – I felt – then understood and was capable of love).’
‘Now Capablanca! the great Capablanca (how well he knew it!), the perfect machine, the fiery temperment [sic] with, especially in his prime, the cold, selfish heart, the incredible insane conceit – Capablanca.’ (page 23).
‘Tarrasch was a egotist, a self-made Prussian God.’ ... ‘He was bankrupt spiritually.’ (page 23).
Page 24 (Capablanca again): ‘But as he grew older there was a sad downtrend (unlike, for instance, Lasker of [sic] Mieses). The weakening was more spiritual in nature than physical, though I believe that in his prime he was insane – i.e., incapable of recognizing an equal competitor ...’ ...‘There never was or will be an egotist quite so extreme as Capablanca’ ... ‘Through him we see clearly that the anti-artist, the anti-Christ, ends only with ashes, dust!’
After all that, the reader dreads what ‘punishment’ Alekhine will take, but the result is a surprise: the author likes Alekhine (despite his adherence to the Queen’s Gambit): ‘Spiritually, out of many sufferings bravely borne, he had patient endurance, humility, courage’ (page 26).
Elsewhere we read of Chigorin’s ‘vanity’ and Herman Steiner’s ‘colossal egotism’ (page 31) and that Rossolimo ‘had been temporarily insane’ (page 43).
This is not an essay on chess, it is the prejudiced rambling of an apparently cultured man who, nevertheless, was gravely deficient in common sense. Once the sub-Fine psychology peters out, our author descends to the usual old chess anecdotes, a minimum effort being made to string them together in any logical order. It is a wretched book.
Anthony Edward Santasiere was born on 9 December 1904 and died in Hollywood, Florida on 13 January 1977 (although his death was not widely publicized).
From page 8 of Essay on Chess
From Anthony Saidy (Santa Monica, CA, USA):
‘It is true that Santasiere wrote badly, wrote poetry that was embarrassing, had extreme views – yet, carving out a niche as our most flamboyant contemporary romantic, he was unique. He was important as an antidote. My early Marshall C.C. games with him were among my most instructive. As late as the Canadian Open, 1960 (which I won with many uneasy moments) he was able to run up to me and exclaim about a pretty but simple knight sacrifice he’d just played, “I’ve just won the most beautiful game of my life”. He really believed it at that moment. A true lover of chess – a type seldom found among top competitors today.’
Readers have been spared a sample of Santasiere’s poetry for long enough, so we now turn to pages 24-25 of The Year Book of the United States Chess Federation 1944, which published ‘Brave Heart’, Santasiere’s tribute to Frank J. Marshall. Written in August 1942 for Marshall’s 65th birthday, it began:
Brave Heart –
We salute you!
Knowing neither gain nor loss,
Nor fear, nor hate –;
But only this –
To fight – to fight –
And to love.’
Santasiere then gushes on in a similar vein for another 40 lines or so, and we pick up the encomium for its final verse:
For this – dear Frank –
We thank you.
For this – dear Frank –
We love you!
Brave heart –
Brave heart –
We love you!’
For unclear reasons, similar verse appeared, with no mention of Marshall, on page 6 of Santasiere’s posthumous book My Love Affair With Tchigorin (Dallas, 1995).
C.N. 2967 discussed the poetry of Santasiere, quoting a clemently brief sample. It may be added that page 3 of his book Essay on Chess stated that among his output ‘there are three volumes of poetry; one of essays’. On page 160 of the March 1977 Chess Life & Review Santasiere’s obituary contained the assertion ‘at least three volumes of verse’. Have any readers seen them?
From a biographical note on page 125 of My Love Affair With Tchigorin:
‘Never content with what he considered his imperfections, he became a recognized author. There are three volumes of poetry; one of essays, Materialism Moribund; a long story for children, Zig-Zag, a novel and three chess books.’
Corroboration of these statements is sought.
From a ‘Chess Movies’ article on the inside front cover of the January 1959 Chess Review:
Concerning the painting by Santasiere depicting the game in question, A Brilliancy by Hermann Helms, Ronald Young (Bronx, NY, USA) reports that he saw the picture hanging in the Marshall Chess Club in 2003 and noted that the position reproduced was not precise. He asks whether a photograph can be obtained.
We are grateful to Frank Brady (New York, NY, USA) for taking the following photograph of the painting, which is still in the Marshall Chess Club’s possession:
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Copyright: Edward Winter. All rights reserved.