Wednesday, December 27, 2006

My Top Chess Moment

Here is my contribution to Susan Polgar's Chess Blog.

I can’t resist just sharing with you my best PERSONAL chess moment. I discovered Susan’s blog. In order to explain its significance to me, I need to give some background.

Back in the 1970’s chess was all I did. I was President of the Seattle Chess Club. I was Business Manager of “Northwest Chess Magazine”. I played chess in every tournament and studied books all week in between. Because there were never enough tournaments for me, I organized and directed my own. Then I got married and I moved on.

To tell you the truth, it wasn’t my wife’s fault. I was pretty disgusted. The top players had nothing but disdain for the rest of us. Their only relationship to the organizers was to complain.

My most bitter memory was every meeting night of the Seattle Chess Club, Yasser Sierawan would show up with his entourage to draw people away to the basketball court. (It was located in the same building as the club.) Now I tried to explain to them that access to the basketball court was part of the deal that the club had worked with the church wherein the whole operation was located but their attitude was that it was not chess therefore it had nothing to do with the club. As for actually JOINING the club or otherwise supporting it, I will never forget the sneer that Yasser gave me. In those days, chess clubs were for patzers and suckers and were just objects to be squished underfoot. I remember there was actual glee when Robert A. Karch’s Seattle Chess Center folded. (Some of you old timers may remember him – he was Secretary on the USCF Executive Board.) A year later the Burien Chess Center folded. Serves them right! That was the attitude.

I had thought there would be a turn for the better when John Donaldson became Editor of the NWC Magazine (as the mag’s Business Manager, I had had a hand in that) but then he did an issue or two, got tired, and lit out for tournaments in Europe.

So anyway I married, dropped out and the years passed. I was a Life member so I’ve received that monthly Chess Life all these years. I have always liked chess; it was just chess PLAYERS that I couldn’t stand. I couldn’t stand the chess culture. And why did every rated tournament, even the smallest, have to be about winning prize money?

Now I detect just a little of this down-the-organizer syndrome in some of Susan’s rhetoric but there is a difference here. She produces a blog that is quality work. She operates her own chess club and keeps at it. She actually DOES things. And it is more than just the typical write a book, make an appearance, take your bows stuff that has characterized chess master pseudo-promoter that has been what we’ve seen all these years. Most significant, her work does not carry immediate benefits to herself but does benefit the game as a whole. This is such a change from any chess master I have ever heard of before.

About a week after I had made my first entry in this blog (about 3 weeks before right now) an old friend from Seattle wrote me. He had seen my entries on Susan Polgar’s blog. Lo and behold, he lived in Atlanta, too! He was planning on playing in the weekend chess tournament and so I came – my first chess tournament in at least 20 years.

Anyway, thanks Susan! And here’s hoping that things get better from here on.
Artwork from Susan Polgar's Blog. Used with permission.