Arthur Feuerstein, once one of the most talented young chess players in America, even holding his own against Bobby Fischer. He died on February 2, in Mahwah (N.J.). He was 86.
Alice Feuerstein, Alice Feuerstein, confirmed that the cause of death was pancreatic and liver cancer.
Feuerstein rose through the ranks in chess in the 1950s. He quit professional chess after achieving impressive results, including in the United States Championship. He took the path more traveled, finding work with large companies as a systems analyst, while contenting himself with occasionally playing in tournaments with some of the country’s best.
In July 1973, Mr. Feuerstein and wife left Fort Lee, N.J. and set out for their weekend in the Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania. They were not far from their destination when an 18-wheel truck in the oncoming lane slammed its brakes to avoid hitting another car in front and jackknifed into the lane in the Feuersteins’ vehicle.
The top of their car was ripped off in seconds. Something slammed into Mr. Feuerstein’s head and also killed the Feuersteins’ beagle, which was with Alice in the back seat. Alice’s back was broken; she was in an upper body cast for six weeks.
Mr. Feuerstein was in worse shape. He fell into and out of consciousness with a breathing tube in his throat. Alice was informed by the neurosurgeon that his prognosis was not promising. He would probably never be able talk or walk and would require constant care.
One day, Mr. Feuerstein woken up and pulled the breathing tube out. Then he tried to talk. Alice, a nurse called Alice and rushed her to the hospital. He was playing chess with the neurosurgeon who had also been called.
Years later, in a profile that appeared in 2012 in Chess Life, the magazine of the United States Chess Federation, the game’s governing body, Alice Feuerstein said her husband did not even know what a toothbrush was. But, Mr. Feuerstein recalled, “I remembered everything about chess, even my openings.” He also recalled that he won that game with the doctor.
Mr. Feuerstein spent several years in intensive physical therapy and speech therapy. He never fully recovered. He was unable work and was dependent on disability insurance for the rest of his adult life. He did return to competitive play at an level comparable to pre-accident, beating grandmasters sometimes, and he was a master-level player well into his 70s. His last tournament was October 2015, at the age of almost 80. He scored 50 per cent, with one win (one loss) and a draw.
Arthur William Feuerstein was a Bronx native, born Dec. 20, 1935. He was the third child born to Benjamin Feuerstein and Sidonie Feuerstein, who emigrated from Hungary 1919 and owned and operated a small grocery.
Feuerstein was inspired by Harry, his 16-year-old brother, to learn chess at the tender age of 14. He had seen Harry play with friends and had been inspired to learn chess.
He fell in love with the game. He set up a chess group at William Howard Taft High School, and started challenging other schools to matches. He graduated in 1953 and went on to Baruch College in Manhattan where he earned a business degree. He continued to compete in local tournaments while he was there.
It was a golden period for the game in America, particularly in New York City. This helped to foster a generation of future stars. Among them were William Lombardy, who won the world junior championship in 1957 with the only perfect score in the tournament’s history; the Byrne brothers, one of whom, Robert, later became a contender for the world championship and the chess columnist for The New York Times; Bobby Fischer, the greatest prodigious talent of them all.
Feuerstein might have been overwhelmed by such companies, but he kept his cool.
At the 1956 United States Junior Championship, Mr. Fischer was third. He then finished third in the United States Junior Blitz Championship. Each participant had five minutes to play the entire game.
The third Rosenwald tournament was played in October 1956…