The US Championships Part 1: 1936

The Tournament

Arguably the first “modern” US Championship because it implemented the Swiss system. Prior to this only matches were played to determine the US championship. In this championship the most common move was 1. d4!! The cross-table is given below (as generated by ChessDB, still my favorite database program even after all these years):

From the initial position 1.d4 was by far the more popular choice followed by the usual favorites e4, c4 and Nf3. The most frequent openings included some real oddballs:

Opening Name ECO Moves Frequency Score (%)
Nimzo-Indian; Spielmann Variation E22 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qb3 5 10
QGD: Westphalia without Bg5 D37b 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 Nbd7 4 62.5
Budapest: 3. … Ng4 A52a 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 Ng4 4 37.5
English: Four Knights A28 1. c4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. c3 Nf6 4 62.5
Spanish: Worrall Attack C86a 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. 0-0 Be7 6. Qe2 3 33.3
Sicilian: Nimzowitsch B29a 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3 50
English: Three Knights, 3. … f5 4. d4 e4 A27 1. c4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 f5 4. d4 e4 3 16.6
Trompowsky Opening A45j 1. d4 Nf6 2. Bg5 3 0

So between the Budapest, the Sicilian Nimzowitsch?? and the Nimzo-Indian Spielmann Variation that incorporated 12 games, or 10% of the total games played. A bit crazy to think that people were playing the Sicilian Nimzowitsch in the US championship fairly frequently (more frequently than ANY other Sicilian line in fact). I am filled with artistic horror at the notion that this occurred. Thankfully we’ve come a long way since then.

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