Rank & File

Volume 29, No. 5, September-October 2006

Ursula Foster Memorial Chess Scholarships

Ursula Lowenback Foster, Holocaust survivor and former classmate of the now famous Anne Frank (author of 'Diary of Anne Frank'), died in Modesto, CA, in August of 2004. She was 77 years old.

Mrs. Foster's sons, Rick and Cliff Foster, have announced an annual scholarship of $1000 to be shared and awarded through the U.S. Chess Federation to the Top 13 and under winner from the Denker High School Tournament of Champions and the Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls (currently held in conjunction with the U.S. Open), to commemorate their mother's life and her dedication to young chess players. Mrs. Foster, a long time member of the USCF, was active in over-the-board and correspondence chess for many years. With a career-high rating of 1753, Mrs. Foster was equally skilled in quick time chess and correspondence chess which included being among the top 50 U.S. Women players.

In 1938, at 11 years old, Mrs. Foster fled Germany with her family to Amsterdam to escape Nazi persecution. Two years later, Germany conquered the Netherlands, and brought the same persecution to the Foster's new home. The last time she saw her older brother, Ernst, was July 14, 1942, when at age 18 he was arrested by the Nazis, and sent to Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland, where he died in the gas chambers.

Mrs. Foster is mentioned by name in the book written by Anne Frank. Her time in hiding was fraught with danger, fear, and deprivation. It was during this time that her father taught her how to play chess. On her 16th birthday, she was confronted by two Nazi officers, and narrowly escaped imprisonment when one of the men realized she looked remarkably like his own daughter, and chose instead to walk away. Throughout her life, she kept the yellow star, inscribed with "Jood" (Jew) that she'd been forced to wear as a child.

Though a shy woman, she lent her time and experience to school children at Modesto area schools, giving talks about the Holocaust and its horrific impact on her life and those of her family and friends. She was a civic volunteer, working with the Memorial Center, driving cancer patients to and from medical appointments, and promoting literacy by delivering books to shut-ins and reading to underprivileged children. Her sons are establishing the scholarship to continue their mother's work and sense of civic duty, and keep alive her love of the game and devotion to young people.

Kevin Guo and Tony X. Chen tied for the Top 13 and under for the 2006 Denker Tournament of High School Champions to share the $500 award, and Jordana Williams won the $500 for the 2006 Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls. - USCF news release

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