(August 1950, Volume 3, Number 8)


Ray Martin of Santa Monica won the title in the California State Championship in San Francisco with great ease proving once again that his victories were far from flukes, as some people suggested.

Indeed, Martin's game has improved tremendously; his knowledge of the openings and his middle game judgment show originality. His end game play still can be improved.

His success was well merited, and California has another young master in its midst. He should be encouraged to continue his studies in chess and he will go a long way. The success of both Spiller (Martin's roommate) at Santa Barbara and Martin's superiority at San Francisco tends to prove that the South has a number of top notch players; young men who know how to play, and by their enthusiasm enliven interest for the game among their team mates at the Santa Monica Chess Club.

This makes it a bit clearer to us here why Santa Monica has won the Los Angeles County Chess Championship two years in a row. Martin won six games straight and only lost the last game to Phil Smith of Bakersfield, trying to win a dead drawn game position. George Croy, Los Angeles' 1949 champion, still proved to be a dangerous man to meet, but with Martin in the line-up the result was unavoidable.

V. Pafnutieff, San Francisco, tied Croy with four points. Pafnutieff has a good knowledge of the opening, but sometimes allows his opponent to slip out of a bad position. Smith surprised everyone! He was looked upon as the man who would come in last, but through diligent play, showed a fine sense of harmony in his play, and should have come in higher. His loss to Sven Almgren was unmerited (so was his win over Martin, though!). Smith is going on to Los Angeles where studies and work are going to take up most of his time, but I still say to the Los Angeles boys, watch him.

Charles Bagby, the hope of San Francisco, starting with two points (and lots of luck!) somehow couldn't find his feet. Almgren did very well, getting three out of four, after coming down from Los Angeles with zero points out of three games! It shows he still can play chess.

Bill Steckel had a lot of fun, and Leslie Boyette, who only a few weeks earlier had tied for the Northern title with Bagby, must have been tired…through too much chess. As everyone knows, he is capable of much better than he showed in the Championship.

The tournament saw friendly harmony possible between players from all over the State, and it is understood that ratings of players will be made on a Statewide basis in the future, with lists of the ratings to be published in "Chess Digest."




Los Angeles

Ray Martin's win of the strong Hollywood Invitational Tournament, ahead of Herman Steiner, United States Champion, and Jim Cross, the new United States Junior Champion, came as a surprise to many local chess fans. However, Ray's friends, who noticed his gradual improvements from tournament to tournament, regarded his latest triumph as the logical climax in a succession of victories.

Ray Martin, born Nov. 7, 1924, in Minneapolis, was introduced to the game of chess by his mother. As his playing strength rose with his enthusiasm for the game, his mother soon was not a challenging enough opponent. Hence, Ray looked for harder contests in chess clubs.

Almost since my moving to Los Angeles (1942) I remember Ray, then a very frail appearing youngster, highly sensitive, for his age, too serious in his views on life, passionately devoted to chess already and visibly shaken under the stress of difficult match games.

From April 1943 to December 1946 Ray served in the army. Whenever he was stationed in Los Angeles, he spent his nights off at the Hollywood Chess Group, mostly playing too late to catch his last bus home. Unlike many young soldiers who returned from the war bodily harmed or mentally unsteady, skeptical and uprooted, Ray emerged from his camping experience physically and spiritually matured, more independent and self-confident. This radical change in his personality found expression also in his approach to chess-much more analytical than emotional now, the first promise of progress!

In 1947, although Ray was not yet steady and experienced enough a player for coming off victor in the hard fought Los Angeles City Championship, he nevertheless won the brilliancy prize I donated (the portrait-study reproduced on the cover). George Croy and I played over all the submitted championship games. After eliminating many bad games and reconsidering very carefully the few good ones left, we both agreed on Ray's game against Emil Bersbach as the most outstanding achievement for its pure line of thought and its consequent execution.

Upon his discharge from the Army Ray studied for four semesters at Los Angeles City College in order to become an accountant. But his love for chess became predominant in his life. He moved to Santa Monica where chess theory and praxis became his daily preoccupation at the little trailer he shared first with Paul Quillen and later with his friend Arthur Spiller. This induced the "golden era" of the Santa Monica Chess Club. Its activity grew, its members became team conscious and thus S.M.C.C. became the foremost winner in Greater Los Angeles, with Ray Martin playing at the first board.

Here follows a chronical record of Ray Martin's chess victories:

Brilliancy Prize-Los Angeles City Championship, 1947
First Prize-Los Angeles Open City Championship, 1948
First Prize-Los Angeles Open City Championship, 1949
First Prize-Santa Monica Chess Club Championship, 1949
First Prize-Los Angeles County Championship, 1949
First Board-Inter-Club Team Matches, 1949-50
11th Prize out of 70 players U.S. Open (Swiss) Omaha, 1949
First Prize-Hollywood Invitational Tournament, 1950
First Prize-Prelimin. Calif. State Championship, 1950

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