Friday, February 12, 2016

The Women of the Marshall Chess Club

Karff -  Rivero
Heh, if you thought there were going to be pictures of young women with their breasts hanging out, I am sorry to disappoint you.  You should know me better than that.  Actually I can't do justice to all of the strong women chessplayers who frequented the Marshall Chess Club.  I know next to nothing about chess.  I can just tell you that the Marshall was long a major centre of women's chess.  As usual I mostly know about the administrators.  Even there I could use some more information.

I know that Mona Karff provided an endowment which lasts until today, to fund the Edward Lasker Memorial Tournament (Marshall Club Championship).

Caroline Marshall

As much as I can determine, Caroline Marshall was the first female administrator.   Frank seemed to be more into playing than administering.  The minutes of the board meetings suggest to me that Mrs. Marshall was actually the most powerful leader in the club, but there was a kind of give and take in those days.  Of course, in those days some of the board members still owned shares of the building.  Now the shares in the building are owned by the club.

Unfortunately only a few stories about her remain.  It was she who conferred special full member status on GMs Lombardy and Mednis.  She brought Peter Sepulveda on to the board.  He was the youngest board member at that time, and probably is the longest serving one.  One other very prominent club member, I won't say who, remembers Mrs. Marshall yelling at him to pick up the pieces.  Is that all we can remember about one of our founders?

Mary Bain who tied with Kathryn Slater
During most of the Goldwater years, the operations of the club were really run by Kathryn and Bill Slater.   Kathryn was one of the top women's players of her day, and Bill was also pretty strong.  She was the club's Secretary and Treasurer.  Ginny D'Amico (now Ginny Hoffmann) also worked at the club in those days.  Kathryn worked at a bank and she didn't take any bullshit.  My first impression of her was that she was too grumpy and authoritarian.  Of course in a later stage of life, I realize that its the person who is friendly all the time or who seems friendly all the time, who are always causing confusion and animosity by promising or seeming to promise what he will not deliver.

WCGM Carlsen
Betty Trahim Seminara was night manager after Joe Pandolfini (Bruce's stepfather) before IM Jay Bonin.  The club was pleasant when she was there.  She always seemed to know what the young people were up to, but she let us do it anyway.  I believe she was present for Fischer's last televised interview in New York, which was conducted at the chesstable in the South East corner of the great hall.  Its the same place where GM Magnus Carlsen sat, and the same bench, but a different table.  They threw the table out.

WIM Dolly Teasley was a US Women's Champion and a long time Governor of the club.  I think that like me, she like the non-commercial atmosphere of a membership club.  She was the kind
WIM Rachel Crotto
of Governor the club would always count on in a fight.  The club some strategical issues even in those days.  Fortunately the good guys won out for a long time.  Another US Women's Champion who was good friends in the olden days was WIM Rachael Crotto.

Marianna Bellizzi, was a very active president, and deserves a lot of the credit for bringing the club out of the post-Goldwater slump.   I think she is the only female president of either the Marshall or the Manhattan.  Not only were she and her husband Doug presidents of the two respective clubs at the same time, but they are the only married couple where both spouses were presidents of the Marshall.  It was during Marianna's presidency that FM Brian McCarthy brought in Marshall Gambit the Cat.

Polly Wright
IA Sophia was an active volunteer through many presidencies.   Polly Wright goes back to the 80s, when Goichberg ran tournaments at the club.  She was also more recently a Governor and left when Steve got kicked out.  She runs the Robert Peretz Chess Club in Scarsdale.  I also went to mention Adia Onyango, who runs the Kingsman Club in Brooklyn.  The Kingsmen go back even longer than me.  There are currently two women on the board:  Long-time board member Sandra Oliver and FIDE Vice President WIM Beatriz Marinello.

I am not going to say much about the many women in chess organization who are contemporary.  If you think about it, its obvious who they are and how much they contribute.  So they are no less important.  I just want to talk about who kept things going in the olden days.


  1. You do not mention Irina Krush, Elina Groberman, Elizabeth Vicar...

    1. Yes. I am mentioning administrators, not players. There would be too many players to list anyway.