Person of day - 1 DECEMBER 2023
Akiba Rubinstein was born in Stawiski’s ghetto near Lomza, in a part of Poland that belonged to the Russian Empire. He was the 12th child in his family. His father- a rabbi- died before his son’s birth and his mother gave him to his father’s parents to be educated. After graduating from school, Akiba’s relatives sent him to Biyalistok, where he was to be trained to be a rabbi. When he was 14, he saw two classmates playing chess for the first time. After this, he got hold of Sosnic’s textbook written in Hebrew and studied it diligently.
Nine years later, he became a master after he split 1st-2nd places with Duras in and international tournament in Barmen. Shortly after, Rubinstein became a member of the global chess elite who won tournament after tournament. In 1907, he won tournaments in Ostend and Carlsbad and the Russian championship. In 1908, he defeated Teichmann, Marshall and Mieses and in 1909, he split 1st-2nd places with Lasker at an exceptional tournament in Saint Petersburg.
The peak of Rubinstein’s chess career came in 1912, when he won five tournaments- in San Sebastian, Warsaw, Piestany, Vilnius and Breslau. These successes made Akiba the favourite for a match against Lasker. Alas, the match never took place due to a lack of funds and the outbreak of World War I.
After the War, in the 1920s, Rubinstein continued to demonstrate respectable performances; he won prizes in Vienna, Marianske Lazne, Gothenburg, Merano, Baden Baden, Budapest and San Remo. He also defeated Bogoljubov and Schechter, but he never competed for the world championship again. In 1930, he led the Polish team at the Olympiad and made a decisive contribution to its victory by winning 15 points out of 17.
“Rubinstein played the most sophisticated chess games in the post-Nimzowitsch era… he was the central figure of that generation”, wrote Reti. Nimzowitsch himself noted that “Rubinstein’s playing style seems sophisticated to us. We believe Rubinstein’s fundamental trait to be the “long plan”- a colossal logical conception that leads from the openings to the endgame.”
Rubinstein was a virtuoso at endgames, especially where rooks were involved. He came up with multiple ideas for opening theories like the Queen’s Gambit, the Four Knights Game, the Ruy Lopez, the French Defence and the Nimzo-Indian Defence. Romanovsky named one of his combinations “The Immortal Game” and called it one of the best combinations ever performed.
Mental illnesses forced him to quit chess in 1932. He spent the last few years of his life in a psychiatric clinic in Belgium. In 1950, he was awarded the title of international grandmaster. Akiba Rubinstein died in March 1961.