Volume 14, Number 1, January 1946


U. S. Championship

Sirs: ...The decision to change the selection methods for the U. S. Chess Championship can only be described as a regrettable error. Everybody knows that an overwhelming proportion of American chess talent is concentrated in New York City and, while that fact may be deplored by some, it is a fact. If the Federation scheme is put into effect, the winner will be the geographical champion of this country, and any resemblance to the chess champion will be purely coincidental.

It is alleged in defense of the Federation plan that it will develop new talent. Such laudable intentions can only be applauded. But the method chosen will not attain the end desired. We who have made our mark in the chess world should know something about how new talent is developed. There is one and only one method: an endless series of strong tournaments, the stronger the better, and the more the merrier.

Chess masters are not created by geographical fiat. Furthermore, chess masters develop young. If the Federation wishes to encourage new talent, it should help to pay the expenses of any promising young players to the strongest tournaments held. At present there are in this country some dozen boys under 18 any one of whom could become a grandmaster (again, perhaps unfortunately, about half of them are in New York City). It is a long, hard and frequently unrewarding struggle to become a grandmaster at chess. If the Federation wishes to create some new grandmasters, let them help these boys and any others who come up. We who are now grandmasters have had to make our way with only token support from official American chess organizations; it would have been a lot easier in the past to have had a powerful association in back of us; and it would be easier in the future to have one.

At present, steps are being taken to arrange a tournament for the world championship in Los Angeles in the summer of 1946. The Federation agrees that this is a good idea, but does nothing to help. If the Federation wishes to encourage American chess masters, let them give active aid to those of us who have been successful in international competition and wish to improve our position with respect to the rest of the world.

Among the leading masters, the reaction to the Federation's scheme has been extremely unfavorable. A movement is now under way to hold a championship tournament with the strongest players, regardless of the accident of their birth. The movement is headed by Edward Lasker, the dean of American chess masters, and has already enlisted a good deal of support. I personally expect to play in a tournament organized along the traditional lines, rather than in the Federation sponsored system, and I believe that most of the other major contenders for the title have the same attitude.


Los Angeles, Calif.


...The change in the championship system is the greatest news in U. S. chess history. This will actually put the game out in the field for all. And when a champion finally emerges from such competition we will feel that he really is the champ! But the main worth of the plan will be the great interest it will create in the game. That's why the Russians play so well; they really like chess. As a people we do not yet like it well enough, but we are getting a good start.


Graeagle, Calif.

Return to Index