CALIFORNIA CHESS JOURNAL (Vol.1 No.12) September 1987

The Dean is coming to Rohnert Park

A contribution from the Rohnert Park Chess Club by Walter Randle

The dean of American chess, International Chess Master George Koltanowski, is giving his memorabilia to the City of Rohnert Park to be put on public display.

The city council of Rohnert Park, at its meeting of August 25, 1987, unanimously approved the placement of the Koltanowski memorabilia display at its Burton Avenue Recreation Center.

The grand opening of the display is planned for January, 1988. International master Koltanowski currently resides with his wife of over 40 years, Leah, in San Francisco, California.

Koltanowski was born in Belgium September 17, 1903 into a family of diamond cutters. He was trained in and was successful in that field until chess took over his life. "From father to son, it was automatic," he says. "But I became a chess professional. I did nothing but chess."

He didn't learn to play chess until the age of 14 by watching his father and brother play. He became the national champion of Belgium at the age of 17, a title he was to hold four times, 1923, 1927, 1930, and 1936. In his tournament days, he played and compiled good records against such Chess Immortals as Capablanca and Alekhine.

He immigrated to this country in 1940, became a United States citizen, and has been promoting chess ever since.

In addition to being the holder of the world blindfold simultaneous games record, he is the author of 28 books on and about chess and has played in the chess Olympics, 3 times for Belgium and once for the United States.

Kolty, as he is known to his friends and admirers around the world, has directed the United States Open 16 times. He is a past president of the United States Chess Federation, and international judge, and co-founder (along with players from 14 other nations) of The World Chess Association, FIDE.

Kolty was the tournament organizer who introduced the "Swiss System" of playing tournament chess to the United States at the Pennsylvania Championship in 1943. This system is now one of the most popular forms of tournament play in the country.

There are many other firsts to his credit. Probably the most amazing thing Kolty has ever developed is his KNIGHTS TOUR. The audience is asked to put some name or number in each square of the 64 squares of a chess board drawn on a blackboard. He will look at the board for two minutes, turn his back, and without looking again, call off every square and what is written in it while moving an imaginary knight, exactly as in the rules, onto every square once without landing on the same square twice. At the age of 78 Kolty used 3 boards (192 squares) for an exhibition and says that he couldn't remember his own phone # for several days afterwards.

Lately he has been promoting Chess for the Young. His most recent endeavor is to have chess a part of every school program in the country, a project well under way.

His chess column has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle since May, 1947 and in many other papers around the country. He was instrumental in establishing the Santa Rosa Chess Club in the late 1940's, a club that is still in existence.

Amazing !!!

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