Borochow v Fine, Pasadena, 1932 by Edward Winter

Borochow v Fine, Pasadena, 1932

Edward Winter


See C.N. 5543.

According to a number of books, the late Reuben Fine once lost a tournament game in seven moves. The score of Harry Borochow v Reuben Fine, Pasadena, 1932 is often said to be: 1 e4 Nf6 2 e5 Nd5 3 c4 Nb6 4 d4 Nc6 5 d5 Nxe5 6 c5 Nbc4 7 f4 Black resigns.

Page 436 of the August 1978 Chess Life & Review published a letter from G.S.G. Patterson, the President of the Pasadena, 1932 International Chess Congress, reporting that the actual moves were: 1 e4 Nf6 2 e5 Nd5 3 d4 Nc6 4 c4 Nb6 5 d5 Nxe5 6 c5 Nbc4 7 f4 e6 8 Qd4 Qh4+ 9 g3 Qh6 10 Nc3 exd5 11 fxe5 Black resigns.

Patterson’s letter specifically corrected Larry Evans, who had affirmed (Chess Life & Review, October 1977, page 557) that Fine won the game. Even so, in a book published several years later – The Chess Beat – Mr Evans repeated, in large bold letters, his claim that ‘Black won’ (after 7 f4 e6), adding ‘But Chernev says Black resigned!’ (page 24). For our part, we see no reason to doubt G.S.G. Patterson’s version of the score. Mr Evans’ unaccountable assertion that Fine won is refuted by the tournament crosstable.


Val Zemitis (Davis, CA, USA) sends us a copy of a 1984 card he received from Harry Borochow (1898-1993) regarding the Borochow-Fine brevity played at Pasadena, 1932.

Borochow states that the correct score is: 1 e4 Nf6 2 e5 Nd5 3 c4 Nb6 4 d4 Nc6 (‘??’) 5 d5 Nxe5 6 c5 Nbc4 7 Qd4 (‘!’) e6 8 Be2 [Sic. 8 f4 must be meant.] 8...Qh4+ 9 g3 Qh6 10 Nc3 Black resigns. He added the following note (given here in the algebraic notation):

‘4...e6 or ...d5 were the only moves ever played. 7 Qd4 wins two pieces or the queen. In 1000 Best Games, he [Chernev] thought shortening it to only pawns against knights was a good theme, but 6 c5 loses, for 6...Qh4+ 7 Ke2 Qe4+ wins a rook. When Fine played 4...Nc6, I saw the entire combination almost at once, but studied for 15 minutes, thinking Fine had found a new move!’

borochow fine

Borochow’s remark that 6 c5 loses in the game version published by Chernev is evidently based on the misapprehension that White has already played f4. Concerning the inscrutable ‘8 Be2’, it may be noted that in 1984 Mr Zemitis took a photograph of Borochow posing behind the final position; the white bishop is still on its home square:



Val Zemitis (1925-2012) sent us the above game-score and photograph on 14 March 1995, together with a cutting from Douglas S. Houghton’s chess column on page 9 of the Pasadena Star News, 27 August 1932:


Mr Zemitis added that according to Borochow the game-score was incorrect.

Earlier, in a letter dated 5 July 1993, our correspondent had provided background information on his contact with Borochow:


As noted on page 315 of Kings, Commoners and Knaves, Val Zemitis wrote further about the game on pages 22-23 of Inside Chess, August 1998.

A comment about the game from page 145 of How to Play Chess Like a Champion by Fred Reinfeld (New York, 1956):

‘This is the most remarkable tournament game – certainly the shortest – ever won by an amateur against a first-class master. The chances are slight indeed that such a feat could ever be equaled.’


See too our feature article on Larry Evans and, in particular, his remark about the Borochow v Fine  game in the May 2000 Chess Life:

‘You can’t take all of Chernev’s “facts” too seriously.’

Our comment in the above mentioned feature article:

Unlike Evans’ ‘facts’, perhaps? Chernev had indeed been wrong (in a book published back in the mid-1950s) to give a seven-move version of the game, but at least he had correctly stated that it was White who won. Question: which author claimed in 1977 that it was Black who won? Answer: Evans. Question: which author was publicly corrected on this point in 1978? Answer: Evans. Question: which author nonetheless maintained in a 1982 book that Black won? Answer: Evans. Question: which author scoffed at that time, ‘But Chernev says Black resigned!’? Answer: Evans. Question: which author nonetheless has the gall to criticize Chernev for inaccuracy regarding this game? Answer: Evans.

Latest update: 14 August 2021.

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Copyright: Edward Winter. All rights reserved.