Saturday, August 24, 2013

Centennial Hallmark–Memphian Captured Western Championship

 Top: Left to Right–Friedlander, Ellis, Daniels, Schrivener, Hine, Harry Lee (referee); Michelsen, Hahlbohm, Crew, Palmer, Widmeyer.  

Seated: Left to Right–Shapiro, Gessner, Winter, Elliott, Morrison, Jefferson, Phillips, Beckner.


    It was 100 hundred years ago today – on August 24, 1913 – that Bradford B. (“B.B.”) Jefferson, a Memphis businessman, stepped out of the shadows to assume his rightful place in the national chess limelight. With a score of 13.5 – 3.5, Jefferson claimed the championship of the Western Chess Association and a prominent place in chess history. The tournament, the forerunner of the U.S. Open, was held Aug. 18 – 24 at the Kenwood Chess Club in Chicago.
    At the time, the Western Chess Association encompassed basically the entire nation south and west of New York, including part of Canada. The winner was immediately acknowledged as one of the premier players in the nation.
    For years, B.B. had been well known in Memphis and throughout the South as a great player, dominating all visitors to the Memphis Chess Club. He also had an enviable record against top grandmasters in simultaneous exhibitions, twice defeating Harry Nelson Pillsbury, beating and drawing Geza Maroczy, and even drawing with World Champion Emanuel Lasker. In 1907, he acted as Referee for the three games of the World Chess Championship match that were played in Memphis between Emanuel Lasker and Frank Marshall.
    Until the 1913 Western Championship, however, B.B. had apparently never ventured outside of Memphis to test himself against the best. He defended his championship the next year, when the Western Chess Association Tournament came to Memphis. But that is another story.

     Two games reported here have been unearthed from the files of the Memphis Commercial Appeal and seem to be unknown. The games are:

John Taliaferro Beckner – Einar Michelsen
John Taliaferro Beckner – William Widmeyer

     Games with obviously corrupt notation have been corrected and verified using Vektor3 for Mac.

     For a more detailed account of Jefferson’s victory in the 1913 Western Championship, watch for the September 2013 issue of the Chess Advocate.

 -- Thanks to Memphis Chess Club member Frank Wranovix for his assistance with this post.

Memphis News Scimitar, August 25, 1913

Put Memphis on the Chess Map
Bradford B. Jefferson
Robert S. Scrivener
By the brilliant showing made by Bradford Jefferson and Robert Scrivener, two of the members of the team representing the Memphis Chess Club at the fourteenth annual tourney of the Western Chess Association, held the past week in Chicago, Memphis has been placed in the limelight of the chess world.

Jefferson was returned the 1913 champion while Scrivener, the newly elected president of the association, finished fifth.  Through the medium of their good showing it was decided that the 1914 tourney should be held in this city.

The new Western champion has for some time been the recognized champion of the South, and upon his entry into the tourney at Chicago it was predicted that he would finish high in the play.

Scrivener seemed to get away with a bad start, but the brace during the latter part of the week placed him above many of the Eastern experts at the finish.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 4, 1913

Western Tourney Game

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 28, 1913

Southerner in the Saddle

Rosa B. Jefferson
As reported in a special dispatch from Chicago to the Eagle Monday, the championship tournament of the Western Chess Association was captured by B. B. Jefferson of Memphis, Tenn, long known as one of the best players in the South.  The Western Champion is a brother of Miss Rosa B. Jefferson, chess editor of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, herself a very talented player, writer, and musician.  In December next Miss Jefferson will have completed ten years as conductor of the chess department referred to.  The following smartly played game was the result of Jefferson's encounter with G. Gessner of Chicago.

Memphis Commercial Appeal, September 7, 1913

Games from Northwestern Tourney–Next Meeting in Memphis

The recent championship tourney of the Western Chess Association, held in Chicago at the Kenwood Club, and won by B. B. Jefferson, chess king of the South, attracted widespread interest.

The tourney started in Chicago on Monday morning, August 18, at 11 o'clock.  There were 18 crack players entered from different states.  Tennessee was represented by B. B. Jefferson and R. S. Scrivener of Memphis, Missouri by J. Daniels of Kansas City, Minnesota by E. P. Elliott of Minneapolis, Kentucky by J. T. Beckner of Winchester, Ohio by S. H. Shapiro of Cleveland, Nebraska by Cooper Ellis of Bloomfield, Iowa by A. E. Crew of Marion and Marvin Palmer of Tama; Canada sent J. S. Morrison of Toronto, the Canadian Champion; Illinois was represented by six of the best players in Chicago, C. W. Phillips, champion of the Chicago Chess and Checker Club; John Winter, ex-champion of the club; H. Hahlbohm, champion of the Northwest Chess Club; E. Michelsen, ex-champion of the association; George Gessner, ex-champion of the Kennwood Club, and J. Friedlander.

Cornell Trophy–MCC's Most Honored Relic
The victory was a big one, not for Memphis, but for Tennessee, and Jefferson deserves unstinted praise for winning chief honors against such strong opposition.  Chicago has held the "championship cup" always and this year had six experts entered to make a big fight to hold it.  That Memphis should have captured it the first time is a double honor for the local expert.

The next tourney will be held in Memphis during the summer of 1914, and if Jefferson should win the cup then it will become the property of the Memphis Chess Club.

It is a rule of the association that in case the cup is won twice in succession by the same player it becomes the property of the club represented by that player.  As yet no player has won the coveted honor twice in succession.

Robert S. Scrivener, the local expert who also made a brilliant showing, was elected president of the association for the ensuing year, and will have charge of the arrangements for the next meeting.
Mr. Scrivener has already begun to plan to make the Memphis tourney a memorable one and to have it go on record as the best one in the history of the North-Western Association.  In all of his plans he will have the hearty co-operation of the players of Memphis.  In fact, it is expected that chess players throughout the south will come forward and help make the meeting an overwhelming success.

Mr. Scrivener won fifth place in the tourney, and by his brilliant play also helped to sustain the reputation of the local club.  He made a splendid showing the first part of the tourney, and for several days took the lead.

Special praise is due him for the fact that he won games from the very best players in the tourney.

On the sixth day of the match, after the completion of the fourteenth round, Scrivener also made a good advance and took third place.  The Chicago papers spoke of the advance of the "Memphis Expert" as the most notable event of the thirteenth and fourteenth rounds.

It was the strain of Sunday's play that brought Scrivener to fifth place.

Jefferson, from a poor showing the first two days, finally worked his way to first place, which he held to the finish.  He did not seem to be in good form until the third day, when he gave evidence of his unusual strength.

An exciting stage of play was reached when, by defeating Judge Hine, Freidlander and Daniels in the tenth, eleventh and twelfth rounds, Jefferson took the lead and left E. P. Elliott one point behind.  His score stood at this point at 9 1/2 games won and 2 1/2 lost.  Elliott had 9 games won and 3 lost.  Morison also stood 9 games won and 3 lost.  Hahlbohn, Gessner, and Scrivener each had a score of 8 won and 4 lost.

The conclusion of the seventh, the final round, found Jefferson still in the lead with E. P. Elliott and J. S. Morrison tied for second place.

Jefferson was widely praised for his strength.  The papers gave him full credit for wresting the title by "strong, brilliant play."

Says the Chicago Tribune:  "B. B. Jefferson of Memphis won the championship in the tournament of the Western Chess Association, which closed at the Kenwood Club yesterday.  Jefferson, who is the strongest player in the south, was expected to take high rank even after making a poor start.  His victory was a popular one and his style of play was much admired.  He and his associates from Memphis added much to the success of the meeting.  The final scores were as follows:

Jefferson––––––––––––––– 13 1/2         3 1/2
Elliott–––––––––––––––––– 13               4
Morrison–––––––––––––––  13               4
Phillips––––––––––––––––– 12 1/2         4 1/2
Scrivener––––––––––––––– 11               6
Michelsen–––––––––––––––11               6
Gessner–––––––––––––––– 10 1/2         6 1/2
Hahlbohm–––––––––––––––10               7
Winter–––––––––––––––––– 9 1/2          7 1/2
Friedlander–––––––––––––––9                8
Beckner––––––––––––––––– 9                8
Daniels––––––––––––––––––7 1/2          9 1/2
Shapiro––––––––––––––––––6               11
Widmeyer––––––––––––––––5               12
Crew––––––––––––––––––––4 1/2         12 1/2
Hine–––––––––––––––––––– 3               14
Ellis–––––––––––––––––––––2 1/2        14 1/2
Palmer–––––––––––––––––– 2 1/2        14 1/2

More games in each diagram below:  Select another game by clicking the bar above the black pieces.

Multiple game selection:  Choose each game by clicking the bar above the black pieces.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Chess Study–Old School Style

The greatest step in my chess advancement was the discovery of the Memphis Chess Club in the Spring of 1973.  The meetings were on Friday night, as they are now, and in those days there were all kinds of chess players in the club ready to engage in a friendly or serious game.  To clarify, all kinds of chess players, means there were plenty of gentlemen brandishing, billowing pipes and awaiting anyone desiring a casual game to approach, while the other half of the club was made up of tournament players, speed chess/bughouse players, and a few young adults.  The young players were mostly junior high and high-school aged folks invited to the club by their chess league's coaches who were, back then, active club players themselves.  And there were a few young ladies amongst the members or else it would have resembled a stuffy chess club for older gentleman.

When I began to seek advice from the chess club's members about which book I should study first, Ruben Fine's Basic Chess Endings, was one of the more popular replies. This book has been revised many times since its first publishing in 1941.

Once my mental fog lifted, good players in the club stood out, so asking them about what to study might have been the next best move.  Michael Bock was one of those young men I asked who, by-the-way, won Bookworm of the Year in 2nd Annual Memphis Chess Club's Awards Banquet in 1975.  His answer about chess opening study was Rolph Schwartz's chess openings series in the German language.  Back in the 1970's you could find these books easily from Ken Smith's Chess Digest, but now-a-days it is best to look on ebay or Amazon.  Oh yes, and don't forget to pick up a German language dictionary if you place an order.  The games are easy to follow once you get used to the notational differences.  Honestly, some of the best features of this old series are the example games given throughout each book, impressing on the reader just how particular variations are practiced.

Another bit of advice from club players, on opening books, was to buy MCO (Modern Chess Openings) which I did right away, only to be told it was the wrong issue.  I had purchased MCO 11, and most of the well seasoned club players scoffed saying that MCO 10 was superior.  It took me thirty-five years to locate someone willing to part with a hardback MCO 10, and I traded a treasured copy of Chess World Championship 1972 by Larry Evans for it.  MCO is now in its 15th edition.

What next, but asking for advice about the middle game.  The most replies on this question placed to the advanced players of the 70's chess club was Euwe and Kramer's The Middlegame book 1 and book 2.  A number of players place more value on book 1.

Chess tactics was to be the next step sought in advancement, and to me its study became one of the best ways to pass idle time.  Fred Reinfield's, 1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate, is my most tattered and worn book.  Gary Pylant's favorite is another of Mr. Reinfield's tactical series 1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations.  My wife's first book with tactics included in the pages was the classic Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess, which is still very good if you know someone just starting out.

Those past good and great champion players in the Memphis Chess Club, during the Fischer years, had many more suggestions in which to improve your game, such as collecting all of the Chess Informants and the ECO (Encyclopedia of Chess Openings), which if you did purchase each one, it could get quite expensive.  In the 1980's I did own a complete set of Chess Informants, but I have since sold most of them.  One note of interest, a Memphis Chess Club's former city champion, Sid Pickard, owner of ChesssCentral, wrote a book of ECO refutations in 1993 called E.C.O. Busted!

Chess Analytical Tree

Think Like a Grandmaster by Alexander Kotov was inspirational in its day.  This book still has some outstanding advice, and some of the pages had an analytical tree, which I thought was very useful when going over a tough position of a recently played game or when solving chess problems.  If you can locate a copy of the aforementioned book, there is an analytical tree example on page 28, 32, and 41.

Below is an example of the tree put to use solving a checkmate in 3.

Forming a Plan

Below is a copy of an analysis form that was sold in multi-page pads at the Memphis Chess Club in 1984.  The late Jack Smith, Mensa member, avid postal chess player and postal chess champion, bought a number of these analysis pads.  I used them myself to map out an opening system for the English.

The form is used by writing down the main line variation at the top left, with the sub variations picked up in the columns below.

Chess Set Window Shopping

Recently I rediscovered a brick & mortar store that carries a large number of high quality wooden chessboards and a wide variety of tournament quality Staunton chess men.  The place is the Tinder Box, a tobacco shop, but it just as well could be a chess set store.  The first location is, Wolfchase Galleria, 2760 North Germantown Parkway, Suite 296, Memphis, TN 38133. The second location, to the Memphis Area is, 36 15 S. Houston Levee Rd. Collierville, TN.  Truthfully, I have not visited the second location, so I can not verify that they too carry chess equipment.  (This is not a paid advertisement.)

One good note to those out of the Memphis, TN area, is there are more Tinder Box stores around the country.  Please visit their web site to find one near you.  Also, it might be a good idea to contact the store you wish to visit, and inquire if they stock chess equipment, before making a trip.  If you can not locate a store near you, ChessCentral handles almost any chess set you might need.

A Look Back at 1970's Tournament Registration

The fellow on the front left is James Rackley.  The man seated on the front right is Frank Hemphill next to Jack Smith followed by Carol Little.  The big stack of blue booklets on the left is the Selected Games of Hunter Weaks, published by the Memphis Chess Club in 1974. A double stack of pairing cards are next to the blue booklets.

The photo above is the registration table at the Memphis Chess Club's Second Annual King Cotton Open, played on May 4th and 5th 1974.  It took a team of folks to look up the player's ratings from either the annual USCF rating report, included in each December's Chess Life & Review, or from the rating supplements sent to affiliates throughout the year.  The names were then added to pairing cards and wall charts–all by hand. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Chess' Family Tree–Memphis Chess Club

Moments, Movers, Motivators, Maintainers in the Memphis Chess Club

by Dwight Weaver

Presented here are links and comments regarding bits of history concerning some of the Memphis Chess Club's officers from its inception, demise, and resurrection.  As time permits, I will add to this post when important events occur.

"Rocky Hill Castle"Childhood home of D.D. Saunders in Lawrence County Alabama

 Rabbi Jacob Joseph Peres, 1st Secretary of the Memphis Chess Club in 1877

Dudley Dunn Saunders, again, President of the second incarnation of the Memphis Chess Club in 1901, following Harry Nelson Pillsbury's simultaneous chess exhibition, according to the Commercial Appeal May 11, 1901

  Hardwigh Peres, Memphis Chess Club Officer in 1901

Dr. Henry Posert, President of the Memphis Chess Club in 1907, and brother-in-law to Jacob Peres.  In that same year, three World Chess Championship games were played in Memphis, TN. 

Bradford B. Jefferson was President of the Memphis Chess Club following the departure from the Business Men's Club in 1934.  In later years, the club was pretty much nonexistent, except for James A. Wright, who in the early 1950's, would on occasion meet with Mr. Jefferson for a friendly game in downtown Memphis as told by Mr. Wright himself to Mr. Weaver around 1987.  By best estimates, in Mr. Jefferson's prime, he was rated somewhere around 2450, because of the comparison rating of whom he had defeated in the 1914 U.S. Open, Edward Schrader and a Mr. George Wolbrecht.

James Alfred Wright, became President of the third incarnation, or resurrection, of the Memphis Chess Club in 1956, following Max Mueller, President of the Club in 1955, of whom I have no information.  

"Iron Jim" in 1975

Gary M. Pylant has the distinction of being the last of the old-guard Memphis Chess Club Presidents, in 1974, before the club restructured and incorporated the following year and became Memphis Chess Club Inc, a 501 (c) (3) organization.

Gary Pylant in 1975
In 1975 James C. Little became the President of the Memphis Chess Club whereby he assisted in giving the club its non-profit status and was directly responsible for manufacturing the club's now famous banner, bringing to Memphis many Grandmasters (for promotion of the game in open public simultaneous chess exhibitions at malls and area schools), and organizing two U.S. Junior Invitational Tournaments at the University of Memphis.

Jim Little in 1975

Dwight Keith Weaver became President of the Memphis Chess Club from Oct. of 1986 thru1988; he then compiled much of the club's forgotten history, resurrected the club's annual printed tournament calendar, advertised the club weekly in the Neighbor's section of The Commercial Appeal, and created a membership phone directory.  Mr. Weaver moved the chess club to a central location on Kimball Ave. where the club remained and prospered for many years.

In 1987 Dwight Weaver is holding the 1st Western Open (U.S. Open) Trophy
showing winners from 1900-1914, won and retired by Bradford B. Jefferson in  Memphis, TN.

Allan Bogle, Memphis Chess Club President in 2004, according to club lore, during its politically tumultuous times, maintained the organization's traditional focus on the club's older chess players.

Allan Bogle in 2010