Akiba Rubinstein (born 12 December, 1882, died 15 March, 1961 in Antwerp) was a brilliant Polish chess master and a famous grandmaster at the beginning of the 20th century.
He was Jewish, and his family planned for him to become a rabbi, yet he did not finish his studies and chose to devote himself to chess entirely. The decision came in 1903 after he won fifth place at a tournament in Kiev.
Rubinstein flourished especially from 1907 to 1912. Beginning from his win at Carlsbad in 1907, through a shared win at St. Petersburg in the same year, he culminated it in a record string of wins in 1912. He won five consecutive major tournaments that year: San Sebastian, Bad Pistyan, Wroclaw (the German championship), Warsaw and Vilnius.
At the time when it was common for the reigning world champion to handpick his challengers, Rubinstein was never given a chance to play Emmanuel Lasker for the world championship because he was unable to raise enough money to meet Lasker´s financial demands. His plans were damaged by a poor showing at St Petersburg (1914), and ultimately ruined by the outbreak of World War I and the emergence of an alternative challenger in José Raúl Capablanca.
After the war Rubinstein was still an elite grandmaster, but his results lacked their previous formidable consistency. Nevertheless, he won at Vienna in 1922, ahead of future world champion Alexander Alekhine, and was the leader of the Polish team that won the Chess Olympiad at Hamburg in 1930 with a superb record of 13 wins and 4 draws. A year later he won an Olympic silver.
After 1932 he withdrew from tournament play, mostly because his schizophrenic tendencies (he was suffering from anthropophobia) ultimately became prevalent. Although he lived for almost 30 years afterwards, he left behind no literary heritage like the other great grandmasters, which may be attributed to his mental problems.
He was one of the earliest chess players to take the endgame into account when choosing and playing the opening. He originated the Rubinstein System against the Tarrasch Defense variation of the Queen´s Gambit Declined: 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 c5 3.c4 e6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.g3 Nf6 7.Bg2 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Qb6 (Rubinstein - Tarrasch, 1912). He is also credited with inventing the Meran Variation, which stems from the Queen´s Gambit Declined but reaches a position of the Queen´s Gambit Accepted, with Black one move ahead.
- Donaldson, John and Nikolay Minev (1994). Akiba Rubinstein: Uncrowned King. International Chess Enterprises. ISBN 1-879479-19-2.
- Chernev, Irving (1995). Twelve Great Chess Players and Their Best Games. Dover. ISBN 0486286746.