Saturday, January 30, 2016

Columbia University Area Chess Association

Earl Hall
My first USCF affiliate was the Columbia University Area Chess Association.  I had originally called it Columbia University Chess Association, but I was told that Columbia University might not like that.

The first tournament was December 16th.  I forgot what year.  A friend of my mother got me a room at Columbia University, the smaller room on the lower level of Earl Hall. I expected it to be a small tournament and I was afraid Columbia wouldn't provide tables, so in addition to my tournament directing things, I lugged a big folding table to the site.  I must have been strong then.

It was well attended (maybe 30 people) and Columbia did provide tables.  I forgot all the people who showed up.  I think Thomas Fell and Richard Knight were there.  The top player's last name was Garcia Robles, about 1600.  Alex Sheldon was also there.  He was the first member of the Marshall to be elected to the Board of Governors after being nominated by petition, and prior to me, the youngest member of the Board of Governors.

Chess City
I scheduled two more tournaments Columbia University, but unfortunately, my mother's friend was unable to get any rooms.  Fortunately, Chess City had opened up, and I ran a number of tournaments there with my friend Rafael Ovalle.

Chess City had just opened up at a huge place at 96
th Street, owned by Jerry Bernstein, Vince Caveseno, and Stu Mordon;  two former teachers and an engineer.  I didn't think it would be successful, as the owners had so little chess background (I was one of the most active players in the USCF at the time).   But they did well chesswise, and they made a great deal of money because their last location was the basement of the Beacon Theater building.  It had been an old decrepit movie theater, but when the new owners wanted to make it into a concert venue, they had to buy back Chess City's long-term lease.

We had some strong players, such as Milorad Boskovic, Robert Gruchacz, and Lloyd Kawamura.  Robert Gruchacz unfortunately passed on in 2006.  Lloyd Kawamura used to have incredibly long hair.  Years later I bought a chess history book from Fred Wilson at the New York State Championship, and it had a picture of him with the hair.  His son, Ben Dean was there.  I showed it to him, and he couldn't believe it was a picture of him father.

Dr. Newborn next to WCGM Botvinnik
My Chess City tournaments were possibly the first time that a computer played in a USCF rated tournament.  It was the program of then Columbia professor, Monty Newborn, called Ostrich.  I was afraid that the USCF wouldn't accept a membership from a computer, and I suggested putting the name of a person on the USCF membership application.

Stuart Morden
One of my tournaments was the first for Stu Morden, who was one of the owners of Chess City, who years later would be a real estate broker who tried to persuade the Marshall to sell its building.

My tournaments scheduled for Columbia University were moved to Chess City.  I stood outside of Columbia University in the February cold directing players to Chess City.   After a number of tournaments Chess City threw me out in favor of Max Zavanelli, who had agreed to guarantee prizes.

NTD Steve Immitt
I suppose it was somewhat like the Marshall throwing Steve out, except for two things:  Steve's tournaments were always professionally run to the highest standards.   Steve had been running tournaments at the Marshall for about 20 years and I had been running tournaments at Chess City for 3 or 4 months.  I don't buy the argument that we don't owe Steve.  Of course we owe Steve.  We should have fought harder for him, and we should still be fighting.
Col. Ed Edmondson

I then received a letter from the USCF's Executive Director, Col. Edmondson, cancelling my USCF affiliation.  I had always thought that the cancellation of my affiliation was politically motivated.  The tournaments hadn't gone so badly.  And because Louis and Henry Brockman told me it was.  Before long, Col Edmondson would get what was coming to him.  Not from me. I'll get to that.

I managed somehow to run 2 more tournaments in NYC before I moved to greener pastures.  Eventually I managed to briefly  become part of the chess establishment such as it is.

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