Kindred’s Special: Women in USA Chess Remembered

Lina Grumette (1908-1988) had a love affair with chess and cherished the many acquaintances and friendships made through the years while exhibiting prowess as a tournament player, organizer, promoter, and found often in the worldly realm of skittles play. Such devotion to chess by a woman in any era seems rare in terms of the long duration of maintained interest. She could be found often in her club she started at her Hollywood home she named, “The Chess Set.”

Like most Californians, the beautiful weather and beauty of California attracted the Grumette family settling in Los Angeles where she ran a public relations firm. After her husband’s death, she decided to open a chess club in her beautiful home for entertaining many friends in show business and soon was drawing many chess fans.  Lina was known to entertain and encourage many of the masters in the region and was perhaps best known for her series of Futurity Tournaments held during the 1970s-80s– events that introduced many masters to international play and FIDE ratings.

She used her talents to promote various humane undertakings, pursuading Chevron among others to help with financial aid when she started the Chess Set Educational Trust–a non-profit venture to promote chess and help kids who had alcohol problems. Like many who brave the unknown, Lina had faith that her efforts in organizing  the lst Memorial Day Classic , 1980, refusing the skepticism of some friends that Los Angeles was not yet ready to support a big-money prize tournament. She skillfully made it a success. And she spearheaded interest of corporations to lend their support to her projects.

Perhaps the chessworld owes her many thanks for her contribution to the success of the World Championship Match between Boris Spassky and Robert J. Fischer in 1972. After Fischer had forfeited the 2nd game by not showing up to play, Lina who had known Fischer and shared respect for her managed by several hours of talking things out with him, convinced him with this exchange of comments (according to Lina), “But I am right!” Bobby declared, to which Lina simply replied, “So be right–and be ruined.”

Sometimes it takes a woman to rule the roost, even in chess. Her expertise of quality performances dealing with public relations she found most useful in her efforts to make chess be more than just a game of inert pieces– but a sport where the symbolic power of those wooden pieces brought forth the aesthetic beauty of both set, board and mental drama.

God Bless you dear friend of chess!

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