California Chess History
California Chess Notables
by Kerry Lawless
These inductees into the California Chess Notables have been noted because (in my opinion) they have been of service to California chess or were special in some way. Corrections to posted material are gladly accepted.
PIERRE CHARLES FOURNIER DE SAINT-AMANT (1800-1872): The best player in France, he became the editor of Le Palamede chess magazine in 1941. He played two matches with Howard Staunton in 1943; the first match he won and the second match he lost. The later match is sometimes considered the first (unofficial) world championship. He came to San Francisco in 1851 as the French Consul to California. There are no recorded games from his stay in California. In 1852 he went back to France and wrote a book entitled, 'Voyages en Californie et dans L'Oregon' (publish in Paris, 1854). He was the first world-class player (elo 2400) to live in California.
SAMUEL BEAN (1896-1952): When he was thirteen, an accident destroyed his optic and auditory nerves. Despite this handicap, he became a chess expert who won club and county championships. He also played in the North vs. South matches. Naturally he used a specially constructed board so that he could feel the pieces. Since he had to play slowly, his opponent usually set up another board for his own use while Sam was busy wandering all over his own board. Sam won most of his games and was quick to congratulate anyone who defeated him. He won the Berkeley Chess Club of the Deaf Championship eight times.
LA VIEVE HINES (1896-1997): She learned to play chess as a young girl. In 1918, she moved with her mother to Pasadena; supporting herself with occasional modeling jobs while playing violin for the Pasadena Symphony. According to chess historian, Bruce Monson, she was probably a strong class A player. She was the first strong California Woman player and regularly played at both the Pasadena and Los Angeles Chess Clubs; winning tournaments and giving simultaneous exhibitions. She won the double-round First American Women's Chess Congress in the Pasadena 1932 International Tournament by a score of 7-0. She was unofficially ackowledged as the 'Pacific Coast Women's Champion'. World Champion Alexander Alekhine thought she was the best female player in the country. Unfortunately, there was no United States Women's Championship yet.
HUMPHREY BOGART (1899-1957): He learned to play chess early and as a young man, played for 50 cents a game on the streets of New York. In 1930 as the depression deepened, he went to Hollywood after he was hired for the movie, "Up the River." His first home in California was at Ledgewood Drive in Hollywood. He often used chess sets as props, setup with his own correspondence games on his movie locations. He was on the United States Chess Federation Board of Directors from 1944 through 1946. In 1945, he was one of the movie stars to sponsor the great Pan American Chess Congress held in Los Angeles. He was friends with IM Herman Steiner and frequently attended the Hollywood Chess Group. He played a famous game with IGM George Koltanowski in which he put up quite a fight before ultimately losing. He was considered the strongest chess playing movie star in Hollywood. As a USCF tournament director, he was active in the California State Chess Association.
WALTER KORN (1908-1997): A lifelong passion for chess coupled with great writing talent helped him produce a number of classic chess books, including, The Brilliant Touch in Chess, America's Chess Heritage, and The Art of Chess Competition. He was a contributing editor to Chess Life, British Chess Magazine, and Encyclopedia Britannica to name a few. Of course, he'll best be remembered as the editor of Modern Chess Openings (MCO), the "chess bible", from the 7th through the 12th editions. He moved to California in the mid-1970's and settled down in San Mateo, and I still remember the numerous times he came to 'Games of Berkeley'. He was always impeccably dressed, in suit and tie, as he pointed out the best spots to display MCO. He was a gentleman of the old school, in the very best sense.
EMIL LADNER (1912-1992): Deaf since the age of four, he started playing chess when he was ten and never lost his youthful love of the game. At one time or another, he played in team matches for the Oakland Chess Club and the Berkeley Chess club. Once, he won the Berkeley Chess Club Championship. He was a long time member of the Berkeley Chess Club of the Deaf and won its championship four times. He also won the California Association of the Deaf Chess Championship ten times. Besides being the Chess Editor of "Checkmate" in The Deaf American (formerly The Silent Worker), he co-author the book Silent Knights of the Chessboard.
MIKE PADOVANI (1933 - present): He started playing chess in 1973 at the age of 39 and became an Expert in 1981. In 1983, he donated two dozen chess sets and a dozen chess clocks to the newly re-organized Hayward Chess Club. In 1991, he bought Richard Shorman's first computer (a 386, 16mhz, 30 lb. luggable), used for teaching chess. He was also a large donor to Elizabeth Shaughnessy's "Chess in the Schools" program.
VICTOR PALCIAUSKAS (1941 - present): In 1982, he moved to La Habra, California while he was playing for the World Correspondence Championship. A USCF National Master as well as a International Correspondence Grandmaster, he became the tenth ICCF World Champion, after playing in the Championship from 1978-1984. He tied for second place behind Mikhail Umansky in the ICCF 50 Years World Champion Jubilee; this champion of champions tournament was a special invitational correspondence tournament involving all living former ICCF World Champions. In 1993, he was inducted into the US Chess Hall of Fame. He currently lives in Walnut Creek.
MELVIN ROBERTS (1946-present): In 1980, after getting chess lessons from World Blindfold Champion, Grandmaster George Koltanowski, he joined the Burlingame Chess Club. He quickly rose to a Class B player. By 1995, thinking he wanted to give something back to the chess community, he joined with Gene Hazzard to create the Young Knights Chess Mentor Program for at risk youth in Oakland. The City of Oakland's Office of Parks and Recreation was so impressed with the program that they wanted him and the other mentors to teach chess at the Lakeview Library for six days a week. Both GM George Koltanowski and Irish Olympic Chess Team member and Director of the Berkeley Chess School program, Elizabeth Shaughnessy, were very impressed with the program and gave encouragement. He was also the Director of the First Lake Merritt Sailboat House Tournament in February 1996 as well as the teacher for Crocker's Before and After School Classes program in the Fall of 1996. He still teaches chess.
JOHN ALAN GREFE (1947-2013): Only a San Francisco Bay Area Senior Master without a FIDE title, he tied for first in the 1973 United States Championship. As usual, he was sitting in the lotus position throughout the tournament. He was awarded the FIDE International Master title in 1975. He, along with Walter Browne, was one of the original 'Berkeley Masters'. Even though more than one International Master acknowledged that John had more than enough talent to become a Grandmaster, he chose the Path of Enlightenment instead. In later years, he returned to chess as a spiritual chess teacher. His "outdoor office" was at a Berkeley coffeehouse where he taught chess. (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4OICAFz49Y.)
KERRY LAWLESS (1949-present): Soon after I began playing, I started organizing chess clubs. I organized and directed the Chabot Chess Club and Team (Hayward) from 1968-1970; organized and directed the USS Enterprise Chess Club (aircraft carrier based in San Diego) from 1971-1972; directed the San Leandro Chess Club in 1977; organized and directed the Captain Anchovy Chess Club and Team (San Leandro) from 1977-78; organized and directed the by-invitation-only Klamath Court Chess Club and Team (Hayward) from 1979-1980; directed the El Continental Chess Club and Team (Hayward) from 1981-1982; re-organized the Hayward Chess Club in 1983 and directed it from 1985-1996. During this period, I became a National Master (1981) and a USCF Director. I worked at Games of Berkeley from 1987-1996, where I was in charge of ordering chess books. As the in-house chess expert, I also sold chess equipment at local tournaments. In 1992, Richard Shorman and I created the CalGames (later renamed CalBase) database, devoted to the preservation of California chess games. In 2000, I started ChessDryad.com.
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