Fred Reinfeld (January 27, 1910 - May 29, 1964) was a prolific American writer on chess and many other subjects, whose books are still read today. He was also a strong chess master, often among the top ten American players from the early 1930s to the early 1940s, as well as a popular college chess instructor.
Fred Reinfeld was born in New York City, and lived his entire life within its metropolitan area. His father Barnett Reinfeld was of Polish heritage, while his mother Rose (Pogrezelsky) was of Romanian heritage.
Reinfeld learned chess in his early teen years, and played for his high school team. He joined the Marshall Chess Club in Manhattan in 1926. He became involved in correspondence chess while in high school.
Reinfeld attended New York University and the College of the City of New York, studying accounting. He won the U.S. Intercollegiate championship in 1929 while at NYU.
He married his fiancée Beatrice in 1932. They had two children: Donald in 1942 and Judith in 1947.
Fred Reinfeld was a prolific author, having written or co-written well over 100 books.
Reinfeld began writing about chess in late 1932. His first book, co-authored with Isaac Kashdan, was an account of the Bled 1931 master tournament.
He became a charter writer for the new magazine Chess Review in 1933, and was a senior editor there by 1947.
More than half of his books were about chess, including books on the opening (Winning Chess Openings), the middlegame (1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations), and game collections (Great Brilliancy Prize Games of the Chess Masters), as well as biographies of Alexander Alekhine, José Raúl Capablanca, Paul Keres, Emanuel Lasker (co-written with Reuben Fine), Paul Morphy (Andrew Soltis completed and published this book years after Reinfeld's death), and Aron Nimzowitsch.
Most of Reinfeld's chess books, such as The Complete Chess Player, were geared toward novice players. Many players received their first introduction to the game through his books. Reinfeld also wrote books for more advanced players, but they sold fewer copies. He certainly had the chess knowledge, research skills and writing ability to write high-quality books, but decided to specialize in basic books for chess beginners, since they sold much better, and he was able to make a living from this.
In 1996, Reinfeld became the 26th person inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame, and the first inducted primarily for his writing.
Although Reinfeld is remembered today mainly for his writing, he was also one of the strongest chess players in the United States from the early 1930s to the early 1940s, after which he withdrew from competition. He was ranked sixth in the country, with a rating of 2593, on the first rating list issued by the United States Chess Federation in 1950, after Reuben Fine, Samuel Reshevsky, Alexander Kevitz, Arthur Dake, and Albert Simonson. Chessmetrics ranks him as the 64th best player in the world in March and April 1943. However, the next year's USCF rating list did not include Reinfeld, as he had withdrawn from competitive play.
Although he was never formally awarded an international title in chess, his playing strength during his peak years, measured by his rating, places him at or near the International Master class. International titles were awarded by FIDE, the World Chess Federation, beginning in 1950, while international chess ratings were started in 1970. The United States was one of the first nations to implement a national rating system, using work done by Professor Arpad Elo, and his statistical methods were later adapted to international chess as well. The chessmetrics group, which retrospectively rates chess events and players, endeavoring to estimate the playing strengths of players on an historical basis, places Reinfeld with a peak rating of 2532 in May 1942, good for #70 in the world. His highest world rank on this basis was #64, from March to April 1942. However, it is possible that not all of his important competitive events have been included for calculation.
In 1932, he placed third at the Western Open in Minneapolis, behind only Fine and Reshevsky. He was invited to the very strong Pasadena International tournament and placed 7-10th; the winner was world champion Alexander Alekhine.
In the 1933 U.S. Olympic Team Qualification tournament, held in New York, he scored 4/10, tied 8-9th, and did not make the team; Fine, Dake and Simonson qualified. Reinfeld won the Marshall Chess Club title in 1934-35.
Reinfeld qualified twice for the finals of the U.S. Chess Championship. In 1938, he scored 6.5/16, just below the middle, with Reshevsky winning. In 1940, Reinfeld scored 7.5/16 for a similar placing, with Reshevsky once again the champion. In that era, only national championships of the Soviet Union featured stronger fields than the American national championship. At Ventnor City 1939, he was second with 8/11; the champion was Milton Hanauer. At Ventnor City 1941, he was again second with 6/9, behind only Jacob Levin. He tied for the title in the 1942 Manhattan Chess Club Championship with Sidney Norman Bernstein.
Reinfeld never competed internationally outside the United States. He withdrew from most tournament play after 1942, when his first child was born.
Reinfeld wrote his first book about a subject other than chess in 1948 -- an abridged version of Charles Dickens' famous work Oliver Twist.
Reinfeld also wrote books on a number of other subjects, including checkers (How to Win at Checkers), numismatics (Coin Collector's Handbook), philately (Commemorative Stamps of the U.S.A.), geology (Treasures of the Earth), history (Trappers of the West), medicine (Miracle Drugs and the New Age of Medicine), physics (Rays Visible and Invisible), political science (The Biggest Job in the World: The American Presidency), and jurisprudence (The Great Dissenters: Guardians of Their Country's Laws and Liberties). The latter book won the Thomas Alva Edison Foundation Award. In addition to his own name, Reinfeld wrote under the pseudonyms Robert V. Masters and Edward Young. Reinfeld's 19 numismatic works were the subject of an article by Leonard D. Augsberger in the November-December 2000 issue of Rare Coin Review.
From the early 1930s, Reinfeld was a part-time chess instructor in the adult education departments at both New York University and Columbia University, where his courses were popular. He served as a consultant to the World Book Encyclopedia and the Random House College Dictionary. By the late 1940s, he was on the staff of NYU in the School of General Education.
After his death, his widow Beatrice donated his library in 1965 to New York University; it contained more than 1,000 books, of which he had written about 260.
On May 29, 1964, Reinfeld died at the age of 54 in East Meadow, New York, reportedly from a ruptured cerebral aneurysm.
James Grady's 1974 novel Six Days of the Condor used quotations from Reinfeld's 1959 The Complete Chess Course as introductions to three of its chapters.
Other books by Fred Reinfeld (aka Robert Masters):