IT HAS BEEN REMARKED to this reporter that Mr. Arthur B. Stamer is about the oldest living chess player in San Francisco, but Art says, "I'm one of them --, just call me the old guard". Yes, "old guard" he is and so one can gather many interesting anecdotes about chess in the bygone days in S.F.
Art Stamer does not prefer to be regarded as a top notch chess player. He did win the Mechanics' Institute chess championship in 1905 and in 1923, but remarks, "Only because the stronger players didn't enter in those years!". He has two unique looking metals for these achievements and when glancing at them he reminisces, "I sure was proud to get those metals. Nowadays, all a chess player wants is money!".
Mr. Stamer is more noted for his achievements in the various telegraph matches held in the yesteryears. At that time San Francisco had matches with Chicago, Portland, and , of course, our rival town of Los Angeles. He was the toast of the town when he defeated the then Western States champ Schraeder of L.A. Another memorable telegraph match was with Perry, also of L.A., over whom he also scored an upset win.
Art is a San Franciscan through and through. He was working with his dad in the restaurant business when the 1906 earthquake and fire hit our city. In 1910 he began working with Uncle Sam's post office here in S.F. and stayed with it until he retired in 1941. He loves to recall the many great events that have happened at Mechanics' Institute through the years. He believes the most memorable event was when Pillsbury put on an exhibition here in 1902. Pillsbury played 16 games of chess blindfolded while he also played 4 games of checkers and some 6 hands of whist. He won all of his whist games and checker games, and all of his chess games but two - one of the victors being A. B. Stamer.
Art joined Mechanics' Institute in 1901 and is now the chess club director of this organization. He has watched them come and go and knows so many interesting facts of the past one would need a book to relate them. He has seen the many changes. "At one time," he relates, "there would at least be four games of checkers going on besides chess games but rarely do you see a checker game here now". In the old days physicians and lawyers would come in during their lunch hour, get involved in chess games and forget to go back to their offices. "Oscar Samuels, Stewart's dad, quite chess", laughs Art, "because his business was going to pot!" Yes, times have changed but Mr. Stamer, though not the player he used to be, does his best keeping up with the changes. He's still a solid player, and, of course, -- the "old guard"!
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