Kindred’s Special: Thumbs Up on Chess

Occasionally I have tweaked the nose of the United States Chess Federation (USCF) with good reason and I am always viewing things with fairness. So, when I received the January 2008 issue of CHESS LIFE, I bow to the splendid accomplishment of a truly enjoyable magazine issue from cover to cover! Lets hope 2008 proves a banter year for my quest of helping to make the game more than simply the moves on the board.

In another area, I want to congratulate the Correspondence Chess League of America (CCLA), not to be confused with that of Australia, for another successful year of cc play leadership with instituting needed improvements by embracing modern technologies and for the efforts of my friend Richard Vandenburg for successes in arranging international team matches for CCLA.  Readers of my many columns under the masthead of CL (formerly USCL) titled KindredSpirit’s Kaleidoscope will remember my supporting the values of playing correspondence chess which domestically is ably handled by the CCLA’s Jerry E. Honn.

Elections seem to be foreign to chess players because neither the USCF nor the CCLA elections ever attract more than a tiny portion of members voting. Thankfully those who do take the time to volunteer or are recruited by nominating committees to run for open offices are at least matched by those who vote and do keep the spirit of democracy and member participation alive.

Those wishing to consider getting their feet wet and want to play in a strong field of entries might consider the upcoming North American Championships run by CCLA. Visit the CCLA on the Internet: chessbymail.com. Also, see page 68 of CHESS LIFE for additional opportunities for cc play.

Support American Chess by considering a donation to the new USCF Patron Program. All donations will be used for USCF projects consistent with U.S. Chess Trust activities: scholastic chess, junior chess, prison chess and U.S. representation in international events.

Mail contributions to Chess Trust, PO Box 838, Wallkill, NY 12589. Make checks payable to U.S. Chess Trust and identify the USCF Patron Program where funds are to be used.

What can the chess enthusiast do locally to boost awareness and promote chess?  Many years ago I held at two shopping malls one weekend at each THE 1986 CHESSORAMA FESTIVAL. It first required contacting the promotional heads of each mall and selling the idea. Each mall felt it was a very good promotional idea: Push Pawns Not Drugs was the theme. I then went to my employer and sold them on the idea, noting that I had the cooperation and support of both malls. My wife and I did all the work; I had many years of old Chess Review magazines going back to the 1940s and made copies of some of the coverage through the years, highlighting important data so viewers could easily scan the materials as well as many picture photos. One viewer from France came up and told me that he was from France and a chessplayer and was taking my idea back to his own club and even made a donation toward our fund to raise monies for scholastic chess and area VA hospitals (both in and out patients)! The next week a scholastic team tournament drew 6 of the area schools to enter. Unfortunately of the 40 some schools sent brochures, most kids who visited the mall said their schools never mentioned it or their teams would have competed. (At that time chess received little or no support of administrators). I got US Master Phil Dorsey to donate his time with multi-simultaneous exhibitions on Saturday and GM Art Bisguier to come on Sunday to give an all day simul at $3 donation a game which raised far more than enough to cover his own fee. Unfortunately while the mall donated $500 to our fund, the businesses refused to let me display our history of chess on their store fronts so they were distributed on the floor around our playing area or propped up against poles and such in the immediate area. I also had a PC set up for kids to use with one of the early chess programs although IBM whom I had contacted refused the opportunity to demonstrate their new PC they were advertising. Well, I was informed by the mall promotion department that it was enormously successful and that over 4000 to nearly 5000 folks had visited the site and we got rave reviews from those attending both malls. My employer (a bank) picked up many new accounts and hundreds of letters hoping I would continue this as an annual event! The raffle, giving away a chess computer each to an area VA hospital and one to the winner of the raffle in addition raised over $1500 at $1 each. To stretch the value, I had ordered many sets, boards, clocks through the cooperation with The Chess Trust where mass purchases made each dollar go much further, enabling VA hospitals to get several sets, boards, and literature as well as many sets and boards to accommodate schools asking for supplies. Readers’ Digest found the idea very worthwhile and donated some really nice books as prizes in the raffle. A special $50 savings bond was awarded for a student prize as well as trophies. A $50 donation by my employer as well as giving me use of their equipment to help with the art work and time needed helped a lot. They were rewarded with many new accounts and business and community thanks.

What support did my chess club give me? I was harshly criticized as being a waste of time and effort and virtually no one helped except a few school chess teachers by bringing their kids to play and one who volunteered to run the team event due to my being totally engrossed in the many needs of keeping things on even keel. Certainly without their support the whole event would have crashed. Subsequently the Community Chess Club President decided to help but wanted to run the event under the club flag and support as a USCF activity. A couple years later the whole project was axed. I got a call from the mall head who said it would help only if I myself ran the event. Unfortunately I was tied up with studies and new responsibilities at work.

This project was for me extremely important because for years I had tried with a few acquaintenances to open the doors of area scholastic chess. Our club had a big group of kids largely evolving from the Fischer boom who had gone on to college and or lost sustained interest for chess play. Yet, there was very little thought about chess other than that it was “just a game” as noted and spoken for our area the famous quote of the female teacher in Searching for Bobby Fischer. I love history and I wanted the kids, their parents, and school officials and general public to come and view chess in a different light–that it had a rich history and was, in fact, more than just a game. I have always felt that school children learn best when they are exposed to cultural development: Science, Math, History, Language, Art and Music.

                          The Rochesster Chess Center (logo)

What emerged eventually from this was the founding by retiree Ron Lohrman of The Rochester Chess Center that he established on Norris Drive in Rochester, NY. Today the entire building of both floors are loaded with chess equipment of every conceivable need and player desire. He travels around the country to regional and national tournaments offering his wares for the chess public. Adult membership is $95.00 a year and well worth it. Tournaments, team play and games like bughouse attract a huge interest. Wall charts, pictures of past and present members, scholastic instruction for after school as well sending out instructors to area school clubs have enriched all aspects of the game and broadened the scholastic programs. Ron is active in the New York State Chess Association as an upstate director, organizer and TD. The excellent results of his teaching program has made his kids among the top in the state.

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