California Chess History
HALL OF FAME
by Kerry Lawless
Southern California has had a Hall of Fame for many years (See Article in The California Chess Reporter section). Both Guthrie McClain and Martin Morrison have tried (in vain) to create a Northern and Central California Hall of Fame by having their readership vote for inductees. I, on the other hand, have no problem with simply replacing a fair and democratic vote with my own picks. My criteria are simple: 10+ years of extreme service to California Chess or 20+ years of very good service. California Chess Superstars are those Hall of Famers who have given 20+ years of extreme service or have devoted their life to California chess. (California chess refers to the greater chess community, both adult and scholastic, of either Northern or Southern California. Not just one club or school.) This list is only a start, some people I would have put in the Hall of Fame never got back to me. In due time, they will be included... As you can see, the list is short on Southern California and Central California worthies: to have your picks included please email me with their biographical data (birth; death (if applicable); what they did; when they did it; and where (city) they did it). My thanks go to John Donaldson for taking the time to research and write some of these mini-biographies. Corrections to posted material are gladly accepted.
DR. WALTER ROMAINE LOVEGROVE (1869-1956): The good doctor was the first celebrated California champion from 1891 (When he won a match from Joseph Redding, who claimed the championship of the Pacific Coast, by a score of 7-1.) through the First World War. He was a beacon of Western chess strength in a largely unknown age (with regard to California chess history). All the great players who passed through the area (Dr. Emanuel Lasker, Harry Pillsbury, Frank Marshall, J.W. Showalter, etc.) played this SF Mechanics' Institute champion and were generally astonished by his strength. During his later years, USCF awarded him the title Master Emeritus.
ERNEST J. CLARKE (1877-1948): The Dean of Pacific Coast Chess was a strong amateur player who arrived in San Francisco about 1907. He tied H. Borochow in the 1922 (1st) California Championship, behind E. W. Gruer and S. Mlotkowski. Apart from play, he was the Editor of his weekly chess column in the San Francisco Call in 1913 and later in the San Francisco Chronicle from 1921 to 1930. In his later years at the Mechanics' Institute Chess Club, of which he was a member, he used to show a medal he had won, inscribe with 'Pacific Coast Chess Championship' (Mechanics' Institute Medal Tournament) on the front. Then he would chuckle as he turned it over to reveal '1911-1913' on the back.
ADOLPH JAY FINK (1890-1956): One of the strongest of the early SF masters, he took the chess torch from Lovegrove and ran with it. This SF Mechanics' Institute Chess Room Trustee was a USCF Life Master and four time California Champion. As a world-class problemist and Problem Editor of E. J. Clarke's column in the San Francisco Chronicle, his chess problems were highly regarded all over the world. An endgame expert, he served as adjudication judge for all Northern California tournaments and team matches for many years. During his later years, USCF awarded him the title of Master Emeritus.
IGM GEORGE KOLTANOWSKI (1903-2000): The World Blindfold Chess Champion settled in SF Bay Area in 1947 and started his California chess career which included: chess columnist for The Press Democrat 1947-1949, syndicated chess columnist for the SF Chronicle 1948-2000 (the only daily chess column in the world), Editor of California Chess News/Chess Digest 1947-1950, Editor of Chess in Action, chess book author, national chess series on educational TV starting in 1964, chess tournament director, lecturer & performer (The Knight's Tour), chess instructor to tens of thousands of kids & adults, founder of the chess organization Chess Friends of Northern California, and Dean of American Chess. 'Kolty' was Mr. Northern California Chess for over 50 years.
IM HERMAN STEINER (1905-1955): Besides being one of the strongest players on the West Coast, he became chess editor of the Los Angeles Times after arriving in California in 1932. He was a tireless chess organizer who organized numerous Southern California tournaments through the auspices of his Hollywood Chess Group. In the United States he alone was instrumental in organizing the 1945 Pan-American International Tournament and the Second Pan-American Chess Congress of 1954. This three time California Champion also became US. Champion in 1948.
NANCY ROOS (1905–1957): Nancy Roos packed a lot of living into a relatively short life. Born Nancy Krotoschin (mother Cohn) in Germany she later moved to Belgium before immigrating to the United States in the late 1930s. Mrs. Roos was active in New York City between 1939 and 1944 distinguishing herself not only at chess (=2-3rd in the 1942 US Womens Championship) but also at Go where she was also recognized expert. Mrs. Roos and her husband Martin moved to Los Angeles in 1944 where she opened a photo studio in the Wilshire district. Her artistic eye and skill in photography played an important role in promoting chess in her new home state of California. She served as staff photographer, first with George Koltanowski's publications California Chess News and Chess Digest and later with the California Chess Reporter. She took all the photos that appeared in the tournament book of Hollywood 1952 edited by H.J. Ralston and Guthrie McClain. Many of her timeless black and white photos from the late 1940s and the first half of the 1950s can be found hanging on the walls of the Mechanics' Institute Chess Club in downtown San Francisco. They provide ample evidence that Nancy Roos belongs on the short list of the great chess photographers of all time. Besides being an outstanding photographer Nancy Roos was also the first women from California to win a US Women's Championship, tying for first with Gisela Gresser (who she beat in their individual game) in the 1955 event. The next Golden State winner would be Diane Savereide twenty years later. What made this victory particularly significant for Mrs. Roos is that she did it near the end of a nine year battle with cancer.
IGM ISAAC KASHDAN (1906-1985): Before he settled down in California in 1946, 'Kash' was one of the strongest players in the country, having won the US Championship in 1942. In 1955 he became the Los Angeles Times chess editor. He also served a term as the President of the California State Chess Federation. During the sixty's and seventy's he was the top tournament organizer and director in Southern California: with the 1961 Fischer-Reshevsky match, the two great Piatigorsky Cup tournaments, the 1978 US Championship, and all 11 Lone Pine tournaments.
LOUIS STATHAM (1908-1983): While not a strong chess player, he became one of the greatest chess patrons California has ever had. From 1971 through 1981 he sponsored the Lone Pine tournaments held in the beautiful Southern California town of Lone Pine. While originally created to give aspiring California experts a chance to play world class players, it soon evolve to a master only tournament, due to the overwhelming number of players drawn to it from all over the world. During the 1970's, if you were a serious California master, you were there!
GUTHRIE McCLAIN (1910-1991): One of the founding members of the Castle Chess Club, which lasted from 1929 to 1991. Co-founder, Associate Editor (1951-1952), and Editor (1953-1976) of The California Chess Reporter (1951-1976), the most influential California Chess Magazine ever. Twenty-five years of top-notch reporting of Northern and Southern California events, games, analysis, and prose...pure bliss. 'Mac', a National Chess Master, quit competitive chess not merely to direct the California Open or to organize the North-South match but also to be a force for the enhancement of Northern California chess. He was a mentor to most of the talented juniors who grow up in the area, and shanghaied practically all the world class players who wandered into California for countless simultaneous exhibitions in the local clubs. Along with Henry Gross, 'Mac' was largely responsible for bringing the U.S. Open to San Francisco in 1961.
JACQUELINE PIATIGORSKY (1911 - 2012) : A woman of many talents, Jacqueline Piatigorsky is best remembered in the chess world for organizing the Piatigorsky tournaments with her husband Gregor. These two events, held in 1963 and 1966 respectively, featured many of the elite players in the world at the time with Tigran Petrosian and Paul Keres tying for first in the earlier event and Boris Spassky winning the latter with Bobby Fischer a close second. These were not the only major competitions Mrs. P. (as she was often called) was involved with. The 1961 Fischer-Reshevsky match and the 1967 playoff between Sammy Reshevsky, Leonid Stein and Vlastimil Hort are two others that quickly come to mind. Jacqueline Piatigorsky was mentored in chess by Herman Steiner and when he died suddenly in 1955 she took over the operation of his club, The Hollywood Chess Group, which was renamed the Herman Steiner Chess Club. Mrs. P. was a perfectionist who was heavily involved with the organizational nuts and bolts of all the events she was engaged in. These ran the gamut from creating an innovative relay system for transmitting moves from the stage to the analysis room at the Piatigorsky Cups to the mundane day to day activities of keeping a chess club going for twenty plus years. Mrs. P. even designed the cup that the winners of the Piatigorsky Cup received. Jacqueline Piatigorsky did not only confine her chess activities to elite competitions. The Piatigorsky Foundation, which she founded with Gregor, sponsored chess in public schools and for underprivileged and disabled children throughout Southern California for several decades. This was in many ways her most lasting legacy as tens of thousands of children were exposed to the Royal Game thanks to her efforts. One of the highest rated women in the United States in the 1950s and 60s, Mrs. P. played in many US Womens Championships these two decades. Her best performance came in 1965, when at the age of 53, she finished half a point out of first with the excellent score of 7 1/2 - 2 1/2. She represented the United States internationally in the first womens Chess Chess Olympiad held in Emmen in 1957 where she scored 7.5 from 11 to win the bronze medal on second board.
JIM HURT (1917-1999): Founder and director of the Lera Chess Club in Sunnyvale for over 35 years, he organized and was the guiding light behind one of the longest running (1966-2000) and popular SF South Bay tournaments, the Lera Class Tournament. He was also Rating Administrator (1967) and Tournament Director (1968) of the Chess Friends of Northern California. In 1969 and 1970 he was Editor of Chess in Action.
GORDON BARRETT (1921-2010): In Southern California he was called Mr. Chess! A national tournament director, he directed and helped direct, many of the most prestigious Southern California tournaments for over 30 years... from the early 1960's through the 1980's, including the North West Open and California Open. A chess expert for most of his adult life, he was (at various times) Vice-President of the USCF, President and Director of the California State Chess Federation, President of the Southern California Chess Association, and Director of the City Terrace CC. He was the editor of the TERRACHESS bulletin (1961 through 1980) which came out every two weeks. He was also a long-time member of the Southern California HALL OF FAME.
VAL ZEMITIS ( 1925 - 2012): Few individuals had had a longer involvement with Northern California chess than Val Zemitis. Shortly after moving to Berkeley in the early 1950s Zemitis started contributing to the California Chess Reporter. More than thirty years later, in 1986, he helped Hans Poschmann start the California Chess Journal and was a steady contributor for many years. A USCF master, Zemitis achieved his best result at the 1954 California Open in Santa Barbara where he drew with both Kashdan and Steiner while tying for second. Back in 1960 Mr.Zemitis wrote the first book on the new World Champion Mikhail Tal - The Unknown Tal, which was published by the California Chess Reporter. Master Zemitis has been invaluable in helping bring foreign stars to the Bay Area including several top female players. Zsuzsa Polgar made her American tournament debut in the 1986 San Francisco International at Mis Browns restaurant in the Mission thanks to his doing. Latvia's top women player, Dana Reizniece, also made her American debut in San Francisco in 2000 thanks to Mr. Zemitis. He was also a Latvian chess historian and has written a two volume Encyclopedia of Latvian Chessplayers.
TED YUDACUFSKI (1930-2011): Co-founder (with his first wife Ruby), director, and the in-house chess instructor for the Monterey Chess Club (1966 to 2003), which was one of only two Northern California chess clubs that were open every day. This National Director organized and directed most of the Annual Monterey Fort Ord Chess Championships, and the Monterey Chess Club tournaments (including the Monterey International Open). Outside of Monterey, he has directed the Annual Lera Class tournament in Sunnyvale (1973-2000, taking over from George Koltanowski), the San Mateo US Amateur, many of the Paul Masson tournaments, and was co-chief assistant (to Kashdan) for two or three of the Lone Pine Opens. As he was a Darts Master as well, he invented Darts Chess; in which a throw of the dart decides which chess piece is to move. The first U.S. Open Darts Chess Championship was played in San Mateo at the (chess) U.S. Open at Palo Alto in 1981, which Ted directed. He also taught chess classes at Monterey Peninsula College.
HANS POSCHMANN (1932 - 2006): An ICCF Master, he founded the Newark Chess Club (1968-1970) and co-founded (along with Robert Pellerin) the Fremont Chess Club in 1968 and was its President through 2006. He also organized and directed many SF East Bay tournaments; including the Bay Area Team Championship tournaments, and more recently the Ohlone College tournaments. In 1986 he created the California Chess Journal, and was its Editor through 1988. Hans was Mr. Fremont Chess for over 35 years.
ELIZABETH SHAUGHNESSY (1937 - present): This former Irish Women's Chess Champion and Women's Olympic Chess Team member started the Berkeley 'Chess in the Schools' project in 1982. Since then her program has grown to hundreds of schools and tens of thousands of alumni; which include several GMs and IMs. She has the largest such school in Northern California. Such was her success (and her political acumen), that she was elected to the Berkeley School Board and served very successfully as its President. She was also the president of Cal Chess for several years. In 2010 her Berkeley Chess School received the educator of the year award from the USCF; and another in 2011. Among the Berkeley Chess School alumni are a world champion under 18, GMs, IMs, FMs and many State and National Champions.
Dr. ALAN KIRSHNER (1938 - present): A professor at Ohlone College and a USCF Local TD, Dr. Kirshner started teaching chess at Weibel Elementary School in 1989, when his son was a student there. In 1991 when he helped form the famous award winning Blue Knights elementary school chess team (taught by Richard Shorman), he was instrumental in its initial location... the Fremont Public Library. He ran the California Grade Level Championships in 1993 and 1995; and the California State Elementary\HS Championships in 1995 and 2000. The USCF awarded him the Volunteer of the Month in 1997. In 1993 he became a CalChess board member. A few years later he became the CalChess Scholastic Chair, which he sat upon from 1995 through 2004. He also contributed many articles and photographs to the CalChess Journal and in 2002 received the Chess Journalist of America award for Best Chess Photograph. Most importantly, however, in 2000 he created the non-profit Success Chess School which since its inception has taught thousands of Fremont elementary school children - chess. In 2005, he ran the California Northern Regionals in San Jose. He stepped down from running the Success Chess School after the 2005 California Northern Regionals ended. Recently in 2006 and 2007, he ran the Scholastic State Championships for CalChess and the profits from the events brought CalChess back to financial solvency. He still continues to teach chess at the Weibel Elementary School.
RICHARD SHORMAN: A chess columnist for the Hayward Daily Review for over 13 years (1967 – 1981), he also occasionally ghostwrote a couple of other SF Bay Area chess columns; George Koltanowski's column (early 1960's) and Jude Acers' Berkeley Barb (1972-75). He also proofread and corrected the Jude Acers' column. Co-instigator of that famous SF East Bay legend, the Cherryland Café (1962-1977), Harold James (proprietor and cook) provided the place and a sarcastic wit, Richard provided the chess and a dry wit. In 1972 Richard discussed the Spassky-Fischer Match at Cal State Hayward and did behind the scenes Russian translations of Soviet chess publications for KQED's Friday and Saturday programs on the match. His amazing chess classes at Chabot Junior College in 1974 were very well attended, despite the dense curriculum; Pawn Endings by Maizelis, Masters of the Chessboard by Reti, Chess the Easy Way by Fine were among his required textbooks. He also was at various times, editor of the Oakland YMCA Chess Bulletin (1959-60), Central California Chess Association Publicity Director and League Director, Director/Instructor of the Lera late night chess group for three decades, Hayward Chess Club Instructor/Lecturer, Hayward Chess Club President, Chess in Action Games Editor, Scacchic/Chess Voice Games Editor, Lera Brilliancy Prize Judge for 30 years, Tournament Director-Junior Divisions for Chess Friends of Northern California, and teacher to thousands of SF East Bay adults and kids for over 45 years. Also, was the major photo contributor for most of the Northern California chess magazines since 1968. He has added more games to ChessDryad's CalBase than anybody else. Awarded the title, "Official CalChess Photographer", he is also the official photographer for ChessDryad.com..
ALAN GLASSCOE (1943-present): Director of the Berkeley Chess Club since 1979, he became an ANTD in 1988. Highlights of his tournament directing include Assistant Director of the 1984 Berkeley US Closed & Women's Championships; Assistant Director of the 1987 American Open in LA; Chief TD/Assistant TD of the Berkeley People's Tournaments for 1985 through 1991, and 1999; and many dozens of other tournaments. He was USCF Regional VP for 1987-1989, President of Cal Chess in 1989, and has been on the Board of Directors of the Berkeley Chess School since 1995. Besides being co-author of the Budapest Defense, Thinkers' Press 1980, he was also associate Editor of the California Chess Journal in 1991. He wrote a famous satirical article comparing himself to Bobby Fischer, because they have the same birthdates (which will someday be reprinted in our article section).
MICHAEL GOODALL (1946-2010): This National Tournament Director started directing tournaments in 1965 and so undoubtedly holds the tournament directing record for post-Fischer Northern California, including at least a dozen state championships. He was Chief or Assistant TD at least 20 of the 30 Peoples Tournaments. He organized, promoted and directed the Golden Gate Open, which was the biggest tournament ever in SF (468 players). Mike directed the Bay Area League 1969; organized, promoted and was Chief Director of both the 1984 US Men's and US Women's Closed Championships in Berkeley. As the director of choice at the Mechanics' Institute, he has directed ten Bagby Memorials, at least 20 of the 36 Stamer Memorials, and at least 15 of the 30 Capps Memorials. He also found time to direct a couple of international tournaments organized by Guillermo Rey in SF in 1986 and 1987. In 1987, he was awarded the International Arbiter title. At one time or another he has held every office in Calchess, including President in 1981-82. In 1991 he was awarded the Outstanding Career Achievement Award by the USCF. He was also a patron who sponsored the Frisco Masters for the year 2000.
ALAN BENSON (1947-present): This Intermediate Tournament Director was originally an over-the-board USCF Master (1971), ICCF Master (1975), and simultaneous blindfold chess expert (up to 10 boards). He personified Berkeley tournament chess during the post-Fischer era. Some of the many tournaments he directed were the Annual People's Chess Tournament (starting in 1971 through 1980; the 1st Annual Capps Memorial (1971); (Assistant Director) all eight Paul Masson Chess Tournaments; (Assistant Director) 1975 Lone Pine; and the Calchess Masters Open in 1979 and 1981. He also assisted in the Mechanics' Institute Pan Pacific Grandmaster Chess Tournament (San Francisco 1987) and the Pan Pacific Grandmaster Chess Tournament (San Francisco 1991). Alan ran the SF Bay Area portion of the National Telephone Chess League from 1976-1979 (The Berkeley Riots team were the National Champions from1977-78). He was also the Director of the East Asia Book & Game Center Chess Club during Fischer's rein and the Director of the UC Berkeley Campus Chess Club (under the auspices of SUPERB Productions) from 1976 to 1981. He was Games Bulletin Editor of the Lone Pine tournaments from 1976 to 1979. He was Chess Editor of several East Bay newspaper chess columns: the Berkeley Gazette and the Daily Californian. He started as Treasurer of the Professional Chess Association (PCA) and eventually became its President. He was also the Promotions Coordinator for ProChess from 1979-1980. Recently (2004) he worked for Games of Berkeley and ordered the chess books for them.
MARTIN MORRISON (1947 - present): Became co-Editor (along with Elwin C. Meyers) of the Oakland Chess Club's newsletter En Passant in 1964. Later that same year, he resurrected the Berkeley YMCA Chess Club and was its co-director from 1964 through 1973 (during his tenure, the club roster rose to over 400 members). He was co-Editor of a weekly chess column in the Oakland Tribune. In 1968 he created SCACCHIC VOICE (later renamed CHESS VOICE - official magazine of the CCCA) and was its co-Editor until 1973. In 1968, in was also instrumental in helping create the Central California Chess Association and was elected Secretary at its first meeting. In 1969, he was elected to the post of CCCA Chairman, which he held through 1973. Besides directing most of the official CCCA tournaments from 1968 through 1973; he helped rewrite the USCF Tournament Rules; he was the President of the Association of US Chess Reporters; he was Region VIII Vice-President of the USCF; and in 1972 (through 1975) was elected to the post of USCF National Secretary. In 1976 he was elected Chairman of the World Chess Federation's Permanent Commission for the Rules of Play. In 1977 he was elected as USCF Executive Director. He also found the time to come back to California and was one of the guiding lights behind the Paul Masson tournament and its first Director.
IGM WALTER BROWNE (1949-present): Six-time U.S. Champion has (after his return to California in 1974 as an IGM) probably won more California tournaments than anyone else. Besides being founder and editor of the Berkeley based Blitz Chess Magazine (1988-2003) and the founder and director of the World Blitz Chess Association (1988-2003), he's an author, and chess instructor.
IM JACK (JOHN) PETERS (1951-present): The longest running Los Angeles Times Chess Column Editor in history...28 years; from September 19, 1982 through November 28, 2010. He was also a frequent contributor to the Southern California Rank & File magazine.
RAY ORWIG (1954-present): A teacher at Saint Mark's School in San Rafael since 1980, he started Saint Mark's Chess Club and Team in that same year. Over the years the familiar gold-shirted Knights have won nearly 40 State Team Championships and placed in the top 10 at the Nationals a dozen times, including first in junior high in 1990. Saint Mark's has had three individual National Champions, and 11 individual State Champions. Ray was named CalChess chess teacher of the year in 1990. He is a senior tournament director, was CalChess Scholastic Coordinator from 1985 to 1995, and director of the CalChess Scholastic Championships from 1985 to 1994. Ray was a founding board member of the Greater Richmond Chess Association in 1983. He also directed a series of summer scholastic tournaments at East Bay Public Libraries (including the Hayward Library) starting in 1986. Ray has taught chess at the Chabot College's College for Kids summer program, and the UC Berkeley Summer Program for gifted students. He also helped design the chess software program Chess Mates. Ray continues to teach and coach chess at Saint Mark's School.
IM JOHN DONALDSON (1958-present): Besides being a FIDE International Master, he is a FIDE Arbiter, the FIDE USA Zone President, a USCF Life Senior Master, a USCF Senior Tournament Director, many time Captain of the US Olympic Chess Team, a very prolific chess writer with numerous books and articles to his credit, and the senior chess historian on the Pacific Coast. Originally born in Los Angeles, he moved back to Berkeley in 1998 to assume the role of Director of the Mechanics' Institute Chess Room. He writes a regular online Newsletter for the MICC which includes current California events and California chess history. He also posts many of the games played in the chess club in PGN format. Some of his many California chess history writings are: Alekhine in the Americas (1992), A Legend on the Road (1994, 2005), The Unknown Bobby Fischer (1999), E. Lasker in San Francisco (published in Quarterly for Chess History 6/2000), A History of Mechanics' Institute Chess Club (published in Quarterly for Chess History 7/2001), the book A History of the Mechanics' Institute Chess Room Volume 2 1954-2002 (2003), Philip R. Geffe (published in Quarterly for Chess History 9/2004), Imre Konig (2005), Chess in California (published in Quarterly for Chess History 13/2007), The Life and Games of Frank Ross Anderson 1928-1980 (2009). He regularly runs MICC chess tournaments honoring past California players. Recently he reorganized the CalBase chess game database for ChessDryad and has always been one of the main contributors to the site. He is the premier California chess historian.
Dr. SALMAN AZHAR (1967- present): A USCF Senior TD, he started a parent volunteer chess teaching program at Granada Islamic School in 2005. It became so popular that he formed the non-profit organization, Bay Area Chess, in 2006. Being a Professor at the University of San Francisco at the time, he decided to organize and direct his first tournament there. Currently Bay Area Chess (www.BayAreaChess.com) has programs in over 50 schools. Since March 2006, he has been one of the most prolific organizers in CalChess history with about 400 tournaments to his credit; with 7% topping 200 players. Among the many scholastic and adult tournaments he has organized, 9 have been national tournaments; 2 U.S. Amateur Team West, 3 U.S. Junior Congresses, 2 Game/60 and 2 Game/30. Bay Area Chess is the only USCF Gold Affiliate on the West Coast!
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