Monterey's Chess Oasis

by Kerry Lawless

Ted Yudacufski, a strong amateur chess player, moved to Monterey in 1959. Aside from an occasional armed forces or George Koltanowski tournament, Monterey was a chess desert. Ted steeped in the history and romance of chess, decided, along with his first wife Ruby, to open a daily chess club. The first and second locations of the 'Alvarado Chess Center' were above the Bank of California (1966) and above the Viennese Bakery (1969).

In 1972 the Fischer boom began and the drought years were over. Ted decided that the influx of new players gave him the opportunity to open a new chess center. Thus his new club, two complete floors over the Regency Theater, 'The Monterey Chess Center' was born. One large room on the second floor contained his daily chess/dart club, chess and dart equipment shop, and a tiny sandwich shop. An even bigger room on the third floor was for his frequent chess tournaments. Other rooms held a table tennis table and a pool table, respectively. The grand old theater building contained polished wood paneling and high ceilings, making 'The Monterey Chess Center' one of the most beautiful of the California chess clubs.

Even after the Fischer boom faded away and there weren't enough chess players to support such a large club, Ted kept his commitments to the Monterey chess community and to the larger Bay Area chess community. Ted (a Darts Master) kept the Chess Center afloat not only with directing chess and dart tournaments, selling chess and dart books & equipment, giving and hosting chess and dart lessons, but also by playing in professional dart tournaments.

Now the oasis appears to be drying up. The theater group which is leasing the building to the Chess Center has been hit with a $70,000 fine for a substandard back emergency staircase attached to the back of the former tournament room. The City of Monterey says that the wooden staircase is rickety and must be remade in metal. The theater group in turn, has evicted 'The Monterey Chess Center' saying that it can't afford the $70,000. They have offered Ted a small storefront across the street for three times the price he's currently paying. As it stands, the 37-year run of 'The Monterey Chess Center' will be over by the end of June (2003).

Ted says that his engineering friend could rebuild the stairs for under $10,000. But unless a benefactor or group of benefactors steps forward, that won't happen. The clock is ticking 'THE MONTEREY CHESS CENTER' MUST BE PRESERVED!

EPILOG: The Monterey Chess Center closed for the last time on June 28, 2003. Even though the Chess Center is gone, Ted is trying to find a place where Monterey chess players can gather. But for now, the oasis has dried up. The sands of time are slowly covering over what once was.

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