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Chess notes

By Harold Dondis and Patrick Wolff
August 29, 2011

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What is now known as the World Chess Hall of Fame and Sidney Samole Museum is the chess equivalent to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. The Chess Hall of Fame honors the great players who have made chess history and contains a treasure trove of artifacts and historical documents. It originated in 1984 as the US Chess Hall of Fame and was housed in the basement of the US Chess Federation headquarters in New Windsor, N.Y. Each year, up to three great champions are inducted into the Hall. Living inductees receive their honors at the annual USCF banquet.

From its beginning, the Hall has had a great many changes of fortune. With few visitors and even less publicity, it has, to paraphrase Tennessee Williams, depended on the kindness of many strangers to survive. In 1992, with the hope that the Hall might attract charitable funds, the US Chess Trust bought it from the US Chess Federation, locating it in Washington, D.C., with the help of David Mehler, who was then setting up the US Chess Center there.

So, the Hall of Fame moved to a very respectable location and visitors were charmed to walk through the rooms and view the exhibits of the heroes and history of this great game. It seemed that the USCT and Mehler had finally given the Hall a real home with some cachet.

However nice the Washington space was, the Hall needed more room to handle its growth. So, another angel appeared in the form of Sid Samole, a trustee of the USCT and the owner of Excalibur Electronics. Excalibur was based in Miami, and manufactured chess computers and other chess-related products. He thought being connected to the Hall would benefit his company’s sales. So he agreed to build the Hall a new, much larger home, which just happened to be in the shape of a rook! And for years, the Hall of Fame flourished in the warm Florida sun.

However, when Samole died in 2000, his son, Shane, took his place at the head of Excalibur but the Hall showed a substantial loss in operations. With the Hall facing possible closure, Al Lawrence, a former USCF director and Excalibur executive, called Rex Sinquefield in St. Louis to ask for advice. Sinquefield, a retired entrepreneur and a chess philanthropist, agreed to build a new 15,000-square-foot building for the Hall right across from the new St. Louis Chess Club.

This new home for the World Chess Hall of Fame (www.worldchesshof.org) will have its grand opening Sept. 8.

So, with the generosity of Sinquefield and the St. Louis Chess Club, the formerly nomadic Chess Hall of Fame will now be able to take its place as an important landmark for chess in the United States and the world.

Brevity: V. Rauzer vs. Ilyin Zhenevsky (1937) 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.f3 d5 6.e5 Nfd7 7.f4 Nc6 8.Nxc6 bxc6 9.Bd3 Qh4+ 10.g3 Qh3 11.Qf3 Bc5 12.Be3 00 13.Nd2 f6 14.exf6 Re8 15.Nf1 Nxf6 16.Kd2 Bg4 17.Qf2 d4 18.Bxd4 Re2+; 0-1.

Winners: Boylston Early Bird Quads No. 1 - 1st, Chris Chase and Cary Theil, 2-1; Boylston CC Quads 11-8 - 1st-2d, Jonathan Yedidia and Chris Chase, 2.5-.5; Newburyport Tour. No. 108 - Geoffrey Collins, 3.5-.5

Coming Events: MetroWest Mem. Swiss, Sept. 6, 13, 20, 27, 90 Oak St., Natick, inforequest@MetroWestChess.org; Billerica Fri. Night Swiss Sept. 2, 9, 16, 23, 30; 25 Concord Road, Billerica, 978-369-8533.