Saturday, October 15, 2011

Memphis Chess Fever & Fischer–Spassky–72


Fischer All But Clinches Match

November 1971: In the final match to become the challenger to meet the World Champion Boris Spassky of the USSR, Bobby Fischer of the USA is only one point away at this writing to meet this goal.  He is playing Tigran Petrosian of the USSR, who is a former World Title holder.  The score now stands 5½-2½ in Fischer's favor.  He only needs one more point to win the match. 

John Hurt & Victor Lendermon
Just after Fischer successfully competed in the above event, the Memphis Chess Club held the 12th Mid-South Open (Nov. 26-27-28, 1971) at the Albert Pick Motel, 300 North 2nd Street, Memphis, TN.  It was a six round Swiss with a time limit of 50 moves in two and one half hours. The top winners were Elliot Winslow and W. Haines both from Missouri.  Winslow started off badly with a first round loss to Ron Harvey (1789), followed by a lucky win in round 2 from a lost position against Victor Lendermon (1577).  However, his play from then on was very convincing as he finished with a 5-1 score.  Haines almost gave up a draw to Lendermon, but from then on he played very well, giving up two draws.  John Hurt of Memphis finished third with 4½ points.  He drew Haines, Francis Banffy, and International Master Norman Whitaker.  Whiteaker finished with a 4-2 score.  The tournament was directed by Frank Garner. (As reported by Kenny Thomas in the January 1972 Tennessee Chess News.)


International News
The best offer so far for holding the match between Bobby Fischer (USA) and Boris Spassky (USSR) for the World crown comes from Yugoslavia.  It is for $60,000.  The match must take place before June 1972.

Also reported in the 1972 January edition of the Tennessee Chess News, Tennessee won a second match from Alabama quite decisively by the score of 25½-14½. (In the first match the score was 21½-18½ for Tennessee.)


Fischer's Challenge to World Crown Scares Russians
(Condensed from Chess Express)

A meeting was to be held in Amsterdam to determine the site for the World Champion Match in January between Fide's President Dr. Euwe and U.S. Challenger Robert Fischer and World Champion of Russian Boris Spassky.  But Spassky did not show up as scheduled in Amsterdam.  Fischer and US Chess Federation Executive Director Ed Edmondson were present in good faith to negotiate an agreement under Dr. Euwe's supervision.  Mr. Edmondson then traveled on to Moscow to discuss the situation further with Russian officials, but nothing definite was agreed on.

From previous discussion it was known that Mr. Spassky picked as his first choice for holding the match Reykjavik, Iceland, and Fischer Belgrade, Yugoslavia.  As a decision had to be made Dr. Euwe found what seemed to be an excellent compromise.  He announced that the first twelve games would be scheduled to take place in Belgrade and the remainder in Iceland.  Now we hear that the Russians have protested the "Belgrade-Reykjavik" formula.  A meeting between Dr. Euwe and Russian official is to be held in Moscow to resolve the matter.  The match is to begin June 25 or before.

The Cesar's Palace Hotel of Las Vegas is supposed to have come up with the highest bid of $175,000 for holding the match.  However, it came much too late for consideration. 

Reported by John Hurt in the same March 1972 issue of the TCN:

With a perfect match record of 11-0 White Station took the twelve team High School Team title of Memphis.  The teams met for eleven Saturdays at the McLean Library in Memphis under the direction of John Hurt and sponsorship of the Memphis Chess Club and the Optimist Club.


More on the Match

The Fischer-Spassky match for the World Chess Championship is scheduled to commence on July 2, 1972 in Reykjavik, Iceland.  Grandmaster Fischer played in a Celebrities' Tennis Tournament in San diego, California in early June.  He remained in seclusion until June 19, when he telephoned FIDE Vice President Fred Cramer.  It is probable that Mr. Cramer will be accompanying Fischer during the match in Iceland.  Fischer requested Cramer to make an advance check on lighting, hotel accommodations, etc. As many of you are aware, negotiations on the site, financial arrangements, etc. of the Fischer-Spassky match, have been exceedingly protracted. 

The World Championship Match will generate a tremendous amount of publicity for chess in the U.S.  I am pleased to report that throughout the match, George Koltanowski will at the very least host weekly half hour television shows on chess.  This program will be carried throughout California by educational TV stations.  In addition, negotiations are underway to extend this show to the entire National Educational TV network.  If these negotiations are successful, George will urge his viewers to write our Newburg office for a "Chess Kit" from the USCF.  By conservative estimates, if George's show is nationally televised, it should add tens of thousands of new USCF members.  The combination of the publicity given to the Fischer-Spassky match, together with the Koltanowski TV series, would give USCF the biggest membership boost in its history.  Even if it is not nationally televised, I believe that George's show in California alone will double USCF membership there.  George has been consulted for a special on Chess for National ABC television as well as for a forthcoming Life Magazine article.

TCN Editor's note:  The above article is part of a letter written by USCF President Dr. Leroy Dubeck to all officers of the USCF.  I would like to add that it is now fact that educational TV will carry the Koltanowski chess programs nationwide.  The first of these programs should take place on July 9, 1972.  For Nashville it will be carried at 10:00 AM.  For other areas consult your local newspaper or call the local educational TV station.

The July 1972 edition of the TCN added this news:

The match between Memphis and Nashville ended again in a tie by the score of 12-12.  (The last time these two teams met was in November of 1970 and the score was a 15-15 tie.)  The match took place on June 11, 1972 on the campus of Lane College in Jackson.

A high school match between players from Memphis and Nashville took place on June 4,1972 in Memphis.  It was a double round affair on eight boards with Memphis emerging as the winner by the close score of 8½-7½.  On top board Kenny Thomas scored 1½  points for Memphis over Kenny Cohen.  On second board Victor Lendermon (Memphis) and Paul Henry had two draws.  On Board three Peter Cariani (Memphis) scored two wins over Bruce Stearnes.  On a lower board, Leza Sturdivant, the only girl to play, scored two wins over Nashvillian Johnny Moore.

Top scorers of the Memphis City Chess Championship were as follows:  First was John Hurt with 9½-2½, 2nd - 3rd Kenny Thomas and Eddie Middleton with 7½-4½, followed by Hunter Weaks who had 6-6 for fourth place.  Hurt lost only one game to Victor Lendermon.

The "B" Division (Memphis City Reserve Championship) ended in a tie for first between Jim Little and Lesa Sturdivant with 10½-1½.  The event was a round robin affair.

The 1972 Memphis Speed Chess Championship saw a tie for first between Eddie Middleton and Kenny Thomas with 17½-½.

The information gathered below comes from a Commercial Appeal article, July 15, 1972:

Fischer's Off-the-Board-Moves Draw Black Curtain For Avid Chess Fans  
by Mark Schlinkmann

Memphis chess enthusiast Hunter Weaks couldn't be more serious about what he was saying.

"This may be the blackest day in the United States chess history, " said Mr. Weaks when he learned of American champion Bobby Fischer's forfeit Thursday to Russia's Boris Spassky in the second game of the international chess championship at Reykjavik, Iceland.

Mr. Weaks, a 47-year-old retiree who does little else than play, live and breathe the complicated game, looked bleakly ahead to the rest of the Fischer-Spassky duel, scheduled to resume Sunday.

"He can't stand to lose,"  Mr. Weaks said of Fischer.  "If he loses, it will probably be the end of him.  And it looks like he will."

Mr. Weaks and about 40 other members of the Memphis Chess Club have been gleaning scanty reports of the matches from newspaper accounts, radio broadcast, long-distance telephone calls and whatever else they can get their hands on.

"I tried to get information by buying a shortwave radio," said Morris Middleton, Memphis Chess Club president.  "But so far it hasn't worked well.  There aren't even any foreign stations broadcasting the match, move by move, that I could pick up."

So club members relay by phone to each other what strands of information they do manage to pick up.  Most often the calls are aimed at Mr. Weaks.

"He has more contacts with chess people around the country than anyone else here," Mr. Middleton said.  "He does nothing else except play and read and talk about chess.  He's not the very best player in town, but knows more about the game than anyone else."

Mr. Weaks doesn't like to talk about it very much, but he would admit he has assumed a sort of "clearing-house" role among the Memphis chess community, dispensing information and playing tips for the last 15 years.

Although he preferred to be vague about his past, he would say he is from Fulton, Ky., earned an English degree at Vanderbilt University and settled in Memphis in 1956.

"I've only worked at a bank for nine months or so in my entire life," he said.  He said he derives his income from an inheritance, which he said was "definitely not a fortune, but enough to live on."

In a book-stacked den surrounded by chessboard wallpaper, Mr. Weaks continued his discussion of the Icelandic duel and its impact on chess in the United States and Memphis.

"Fischer is a near-god with these people," he said of American chess players' view of the young challenger.  "The have identified with him.  He's got to do it for us.  He's the only American to ever pose a threat for the championship."

But Mr. Weaks said Fischer is plagued by what seemed to be "paranoid tendencies" that are preventing him from playing his best match against the Russian Grand Master.

He said favorable publicity from an American world championship victory could begin a wave of chess fervor here.  But, he noted, a defeat now seems likely.

"We've been sick and embarrassed about it," Mr. Weaks said of Fischer's tactics.  "I've been feeling psychologically depressed myself."

A main contact for Mr. Weaks in the quest for news of the match is Bobby Churchill, a former Memphis chess player now living in New York.  But Mr. Weaks doesn't know where he is.

"He said he was going to Iceland on a tramp steamer," he said.  "I haven't heard from him since.  He's somewhere with the boat."

Another contact is Troy Armstrong, a former Memphis resident who now attends the University of Iowa and managed to land a job at an Iowa newspaper –– near the teletype wires.

"He (Armstrong) was physically ill when he heard of the first day," laughed Eddie Middleton, a Memphis State University student not related to the club president.

The general murky feeling in the hearts of Memphis chess devotees these days was quickly transmitted to Mr. Middleton when Mr. Weaks told him of Fischer's second-day forfeit.

"Oh, my God," Mr. Middleton said, in what appeared to be near-shock.

Source for the below: TCN-September-1972-Volume-14

A new record attendance was registered as 130 players took part in  the three divisions of the 28th Tennessee Championships, September 2-4, 1972, at the Noel Hotel in Nashville. Unrated player Juan Aristorenas of Chattanooga, TN is the new Tennessee State Champion with a score of 5½-½.

Kenny Thomas of Memphis was clear first with 5-0 in the second Tennessee High School Championships.  He received the first place trophy plus $50.

Quotes below are from a Memphis Press-Scimitar article, October 5, 1972:

John Hurt & Kenneth Thomas
Memberships in the Memphis Chess Club has tripled since the beginning of the Spassky-Fischer world championship match in Iceland, reports John Hurt, club member and Memphis Chess Champion who once played Bobby Fischer.

Hurt will direct the annual high school chess championship match which begins October 14, 1972, co-sponsored by the Board of Education and the Northeast Optimist Club.

"There are about 150 chess book titles in the library catalogs, with several copies of each book, and you never can find a book on a library shelf –– they're all out," said Mr. Hurt.

Hurt said sales of chess boards are brisk.

"You can spend a lot of money on them or you can get them for a dollar," he said.  "Chess is played on the same board as checkers although most chess players don't like the harsh red and black of the checker board.  They prefer softer colors." 

Kenneth Thomas, Christian Brothers High School student is the defending champion in the annual tournament starting October 14.

"He's a brilliant chess player and makes straight A's in school," said Hurt.

One of the things which keeps Hurt busy these days is giving illustrated lectures on the recent Fischer triumph over Spassky.

He has a large screen on which are projected the board and pieces, showing the progress of the games.

Hurt, recalling his game with Fischer several years ago, said he remembered the game, move by move, but could point to no move where he went wrong.  Fischer, he said, plays chess at a level which many can't comprehend. 
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