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Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Murder of Russia's Button Czar

     Sergey Nikolaevich Nikolaev (September 27, 1961 – October 20, 2007, 46 years old) was an IM and coach. He abandoned his chess career in the late 1980s to became a successful businessman though he did maintain his interest in chess and continued to attend chess events in Moscow. 
     He was originally from the Sakha Republic (aka Yakutia Republic, it is a republic in far northeastern Russia, in northeastern Siberia). The Sakha Republic is huge with a population of about about a million with a climate and terrain that can only be described as “harsh.” It has the lowest lifespan in Russia and unemployment and alcoholism are common. As a point of interest, Yakutsk has the lowest winter temperatures for any city with temperatures reaching as low aa 30 degrees below zero (F) and a record low of almost 84 below! It is the biggest city built on continuous permafrost and most houses there are built on concrete piles. 
     In the Soviet Era (1917 to 1991) discrimination against the native population was common. There were restaurants in the capital of Yakutsk that didn't allow native Yakuts in. In Yakutsk anyone speaking the native language was often looked down on and told to speak a civilized language which Nikolaev did. In fact, he did not speak Yakut; at home they always spoke only Russian. 
     Even though he was the youngest of five brothers, from childhood he managed the family budget and learned the value of money as he calculated everything down to the last kopeck. Speaking of chess players when he got older, he said some of them stay babies until they retire, but he was already an old man by the age of seven. 
     His father and brothers all played chess. When the chess magazine “64” arrived there was always a fight over it and as the youngest, Nikolaev always was the last to see it. He studied in a group and at 12 he reached the first category. By the time he graduated and went to study in Leningrad he was a Candidate Master. He played in a lot of tournaments, but wasn't a fanatic because, as he said, he got very tired from working so hard at it. 
     After graduating from the commerce institute he returned home and became deputy head of a department in the republic's Ministry of Trade. He continued playing and soon obtained the Master title and in 1984 won the national Spartak championship, a strong master tournament. He was champion of the republic three times. The republic's team, for which he always played top board, placed highly in Russian events.  
     When Perestroika began emerging and opportunities to travel outside the country appeared, Nikolaev was one of the first people to start playing in foreign opens. In Harkany, Hungary, he won a tournament and became an IM. His play was erratic...he could beat GM, but still finish with a minus score. His style was tricky and tactical and earned him the nickname “Cunning Nikolasha.” 
     Chess wasn't his only interest and he often told his colleagues things that to them seemed strange and far-fetched. He would tell masters from some remote Russian town that soon everything would disappear from the shops and they should buy potatoes and flour. He would also remind them that they should not worry about ratings, but rather the future of their children because things were going to change for the worse. Life wasn't going to just get more expensive, it was going to get MUCH more expensive. It was his belief that only those who played at the very highest level could live off chess.  He often spoke about what seemed like odd stuff like getting an apartment, how to get a permit to live in Moscow, how to meet influential people. Everybody thought he was talking nonsense. 
     When he got the opportunity, he organized a tournament in Podolsk, near Moscow. That was in late 1990 and the Soviet Union was entering the last months of its existence and everything was in short supply, but at Nikolaev's tournament there was tea and coffee and pastries for all. Even toilet paper was supplied! He tried to combine playing with directing duties, but it was a bad idea and his results were poor, but the tournament was a success and he decided to continue organizing. 
     As a result, he developed a chess program in the republic that attracted Masters and GMs. He also wanted to put chess on television. It didn't work out and he realized that if he stayed in chess, he'd always be dependent on sponsors, high-ranking officials and circumstances beyond his control. He also realized that having passed 30, he couldn't make it as a professional player and the smartest thing to do was leave the game. He did read chess magazines but completely gave up playing chess and didn't even own a chess set. 
     He did not care much for the attitude many professionals took towards chess. He used to ask young players, "Have you thought about the future? Look at the veterans playing in tournaments, they're like lamp-posts in the street, every passing dog tries to lift its leg on them! And don't complain later that you've wasted your time, that I didn't warn you or you didn't know." 
     Nikolaev got a loan and established a button business. His belief was, "As long as the world turns a woman will always wear clothes, and buttons will always be needed." Back on the streets of Moscow he hired girls, supplied them with sacks of buttons and told them to sell them one by one. It may seem odd, but in those days he wasn't the only on in the button business; there others doing the same thing. 
     He realized there were bigger profits to made in other businesses, but it could be risky; one could go broke and, in those days, even get killed. So, he stuck with buttons and expanded his business to include thread and sewing accessories. He was very successful, eventually becoming the leading Russian supplier. By that time he employed mostly chess players.
     He ran the company with an iron fist, but employees respectfully called him Papa and because of his business acumen employees often referred to him as “the Genius.” If he gave someone a job, it was for a lifetime. In return he expected absolute loyalty. 
     Not a 9-5 type of guy, Nikolaev ridiculed schemes, business plans and timetables for development and wasn't a big fan of paperwork. Employees would spend however much they considered necessary on a job then give a personal report of their expenses and that was it. 
     Despite his personal low-key demeanor, underneath he had an iron will and when talking to him one couldn't read anything on his poker face.   On the other hand, he could read people and often a 15 minute chat would tell him all he needed to know about a person. It was a skill he tried to teach his employees. 
     Nikolaev liked to read books about wealthy people in an effort to learn about how they managed their lives, their money and everything else. That lead him to make the comment, "There are only three things you can earn honestly - calluses, hernias and debts. I'd also like to know, where did the firewood come from? It's a small detail, of course, but they keep it quiet. Where did it come from?"  Along with great self-confidence he also had the gift of persuasion because he believed he could always justify his point of view. 
     A rather odd person, he lived well. Fresh fruits, vegetables, juice, an occasional glass of the best red wine and Evian water were always available. He never drank tap water and washed his dishes in a special solution because he didn't trust commercial dish washing liquid...it left traces on the dishes. Initially he refused to use computers because they gave off radiation, but he eventually learned to use them, but only to surf the web, get the news and keep up with chess. He also disliked animals and tried to avoid them because he believed they carried diseases. Germs lurked everywhere so he wore gloves and was obsessed with health, medicine and nutrition. 
     All his friends were chess players and when they came to Moscow he always invited them to a restaurant. While there he would ask questions. Things like where exactly did the items on the menu come from, were the mushrooms really wild as stated on the menu?   Questions like that.
     He never married because he was skeptical of women and never allowed anyone to get too close because it placed restrictions and obligations on him that he didn't want. Besides, it was his belief that he wouldn't live long. He was right. 
     In 2007, Nikolaev was brutally murdered in the streets of Moscow. He was attacked after a soccer match by a gang of neo-Nazi youths near his home because of his Eurasian appearance. They used a baseball bat and a knife. 
     After the soccer match the gang marched around the southern part of the city, attacking anybody they saw who did not look like an ethnic Russian.  Despite numerous witnesses, nobody tried to aid Nikolaev nor did anybody alert the police for 30 minutes after the attack as he lay dead in the street. The gang of young people, aged 14-16, had disappeared by the time the police arrived. 
     Nikolaev was not the only victim. His friend Galijan Gulyashov was badly beaten, but survived and was admitted to the hospital in serious condition. 
     You can survey his games HERE.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Reshevsky's Last Run

     Back in 1981 Samuel Reshevsky was a few months shy of his 70th birthday when he sat down in Jacksonville, Florida to play two other GMs that were at least half his age. The event was the playoff to determine the third American contender for the 1984 world championship. 
     By 1981 Seirawan had won two strong international tournaments and the world junior and had earned a reputation for long, but tactically dynamic, games. In 1981 at the US Championship in South Bend, Indiana he never looked like a leader until the final week when he suddenly appeared certain to finish first or second. 
     It was Reshevsky and Kavalek who took the lead during the early rounds and they kept it into the second week of play. But then Walter Browne began playing like he did in his early days in the championship. In one game he knocked off Leonid Shamkovich in 107 moves and then Lev Alburt. In his game against Alburt, Browne sealed his move and left, leaving his Hershey bar on the table. The TD sealed Browne's candy bar in another envelope and when play resumed Browne quickly polished off both the Hershey bar and Alburt. 
     In the final round Kavalek and Christiansen drew while Reshevsky defeated Boris Kogan and as a result there was a three-way tie for third place behind Seirawan and Browne. Christiansen had the advantage in the playoff for the third spot because he had defeated Reshevsky in the 14th round which gave him the better tie-break score in the double-round playoff. If all six games were drawn, or if Kavalek and Christiansen were tied, the tiebreaks favored Christiansen. 
    It had been almost 50 years since a player had been near the top at such an advanced age. From his modest home on a shady street in Spring Valley, New York, Reshevsky told an interviewer, ''I'm thinking of getting younger. I'm a happy man because I'm a religious man and I've been that way since childhood. I don't think you can be happy without religion.''
     Spring Valley had been home to three of National Football League players, actress Julianna Marguiles, actor Gerald O'Loughlin, a sports cartoonist, a college basketball coach and a few rappers and musicians, but Reshevsky was probably the most famous resident. However, few recognized him on his walks along the shady suburban streets. As a retiree, Reshevsky spent most of his time quietly at home, giving chess lessons at $35 an hour and conducting correspondence games for a fee, or making an occasional trip for a simultaneous exhibition or tournament. It was said of Reshevsky that he never studied chess, but don't believe it! His basement study, which he called ''my chess factory'', was lined with chess books and sets. 
     Until Bobby Fischer's arrival in 1957 at the age of 14, Reshevsky was the top player in the United States for more than 20 years and he captured eight US championships, the last one in 1971 when Fischer didn't play. And, it was during the 1970s that the words ''twilight of his career'' started being used to describe him. In the playoff, Christiansen, the highest-rated active player, was favored, but Reshevsky said: ''I think my chances are as good as anyone's. It's never too late. It's up to the Almighty.'' Some other Reshevsky comments were: 
     On beating Lasker at Nottingham in 1936: ''It was exciting, of course, because he had been world champion for 27 years. But I didn't make anything special of it. When you're young, you don't even think about getting old.'' 
     Playing Fischer: ''I have played all the best players of this century, and they were all powerful, but I would have to put him No. 1.'' “If he came back, it would contribute a lot to the game.'' 
     Reshevsky insisted that time had not dimmed his memory; he could still play the 56 moves of his defeat of Capablanca in the Margate tournament of 1935, a game that made him a GM. He said, ''Some games don't make an impression on you, but in that game I remember everything. Every move.'' 

1-2) Browne and Seirawan 9-5 
3-5) Christiansen, Kavalek and Reshevsky 8.5-5.5 
6) Shamkovich 7.5-6.5 
7-8) Robert Byrne and Peters 7-7 
9) Lein 6.5-7.5 
10-12) Alburt, Kogan and Tarjan 6-8 
13) Benjamin 5.5-8.5 
14-15) Fedorowicz and Kudrin 5-9 

     Larry Evans was also entered, but after losing to Byrne and Alburt he withdrew and the games did not count. This was to be the last championship for both five-time winner Evans and eight-time winner Reshevsky. 
     In the playoff Reshevsky had only one good chance when he adjourned a highly favorable R and N ending against Kavalek on the fifth day of play but couldn't score the point. The game lasted 90 moves and Reshevsky gave it every ounce of energy he had before agreeing to the draw. With all the playoff games drawn Christiansen won the final spot in the Interzonal. 
     In this game from the championship Reshevsky's opponent was Sergey Kudrin (born September 7, 1959), formerly of the Soviet Union. Kudrin was awarded the GM title in 1984. Kudrin won the United States Open Championship in 1984 and 2007. The game is pretty boring until Kudrins' speculative 18th move after which the tactical possibilities grew thick as hair on a dog's back. Reshevsky's tenacious defense and technique in scoring the win are impressive. 
 

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Other Judd and the 1888 Ohio Championship

There are no known photos of Maurice
     Moyzesz Jakob Judkiewicz (Maurice Judd) was born January 4, 1840 and died in Toledo, Ohio at the age of 74 on July 5, 1914. He was a brother of Max Judd. Maurice was a prosperous jewelry and silver merchant in Toledo and wrote the chess column for the Toledo Commercial
     When he visited his home in Poland in the winter of 1863 he brought his little brother, Max, the youngest member of the family, back with him to the United States about February in 1864. At that time Maurice was living in Washington D.C., and sent Max to school in Washington for about two years.  It was during that time that Max learned to play chess from his brother. 
     Not much else is known of Maurice, but he was reputed to be a skillful player.  His name does pop up occasionally as having been active in Ohio chess organization at the time. When the Ohio Chess Association, which was formed in 1887, held its second annual meeting and tournament on February 22, 1888 in the Cincinnati (Ohio) Litierary Club, the turnout included players from Toledo, Dayton, Xenia, Hamilton, Kenton, Waynesville, Eaton, Wellington, Woodstock, Athens, New London, Piqua and several other towns. Membership was over 100. 
     The President was Dr. D.H. Rhodes of Cincinnati and congratulations and a resolution was sent to the chess associations of Rhode Island and New Jersey along with a request to appoint a committee to join the movement to organize a US Chess Association. Judd was one of the members appointed to the committee. 
     Officers elected were: President, L.M. Jewett (Athens), Vice-Presidents: William Lowe (Cincinnati), Victor Abram (Cincinnati), Maurice Judd (Toledo), E.D. Payne (Toledo) and Dr. C.A. Mills (New London). Secretary/Treasurer, Charles Nordhoff (Cincinnati). 
     As for the championship itself, there were eight entries: Judd, Dr. Mills, Payne, James F. Burns (Dayton), George Smith, T.N. Norton, Charles Miller and S. Euphrat, all of Cincinnati. Games were played on Wednesday and Thursday and Euphrat, who was in very poor health, forfeited his game to Burns on Thursday evening. 
     On Friday several of the players didn't show up as some had apparently made arrangements to stay for only two days. As a result, the tournament was declared to be over with the results of the two days' play deciding the championship. President Rhodes announced Judd as the winner of the Ohio Championship to a hearty round of applause and a complimentary lunch was served to everyone present. Visitors present included the legendary Jackson Showalter, Dr. E.W. Keeney and W.H. Lyons of Kentucky and A. Ettlinger of New York. 

     The was also a Minor Tournament with over 20 participants. The tournament narrowed down to a battle between A. White (New London) vs. W. Strunk (Cincinnati) and H.W. Bettman and William Lowe, both of Cincinnati. White and Lowe won and played for first prize, an imported chess board donated by Will H. Lyons. After a hard fought battle that lasted several hours the game ended in a draw and it was decided that they would playoff the tie a few days later. The final outcome is unknown. 
     Aside from a couple of games played in Toledo, Ohio that Judd lost to George H. MacKenzie during the latter's US tour in 1887, I was unable to locate any of Maurice Judd's games except the following from the Ohio Championship. In 1884, while on tour of the US, Zukertort stayed in Toledo as a guest of Judd.  While in town Zukertort won all eight games in a simul and played a large number of skittles games with Judd. 
 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Alfred Francis Kreymborg


    Maybe I'm wrong, but I think that the people who really enjoy chess are the dubs and duffers, experts who have resigned their ambitions, those who play only for pastime, and, of course, the great fraternity of kibitzers – Alfred Kreymborg. 

     In his autobiography, Troubadour, playwright, novelist, anthologist and editor Kreymborg mentioned his chess activities, his winning of a chess club championship in Greenwich Village as a teenager when all the members were adults and his appetite for the game could not be appeased. Kreymborg also wrote of the time when he was 15 or 16 and tried to play three simultaneous blindfold games and fainted. It scared him out of trying to do it again. His decision was reinforced when not long afterward Harry N. Pillsbury who was famous for his blindfold prowess got committed to an insane asylum though it wasn't a result of blindfold play. It was most likely the result of his playing with a prostitute while participating in St. Petersburg 1895 and contracting syphilis. 
     Many years later he had a relapse when he was talked into playing a blindfold game at a friend's house. While holding one of the host's kids on his lap he played a group of other dinner guest who consulted on each move. Much to the delight of the guests, he won easily, but never played blindfold again. 
     Alfred Francis Kreymborg (December 10, 1883 – August 14, 1966) was born the son of a cigar-store owner in New York City and spent most of his life there and in New Jersey. He was an active figure in Greenwich Village and frequented the Liberal Club. 
     Along with chess, he was interested in music and his desire to compose eventually led him to writing. He began writing poetry in his late teens and soon became an active figure in the Greenwich Village literary circles. His first work was published in 1915. His first book of poetry, Mushrooms: A Book of Free Forms, was published in 1916 and it established him as one of the early adopters of free verse. He went on to author over a dozen more poetry collections. Kreymborg also edited the prominent Modernist magazine Broom, An International Magazine of the Arts and co-founded the anthology series American Caravan.
     Kreymborg was recognized as a Master level player in his youth. On two occasions he played and lost to Capablanca, including a defeat in 1910 due to botching the ending. He drew one game with Frank Marshall in the 1911 Masters Tournament, but shortly afterward left the chess world after a stunning defeat by Oscar Chajes. Kreymborg asserted that, after a painful loss to Chajes he resolved to have done with chess tournaments, chess clubs and chess forever after. However, some twenty years later he “returned to the game of my first love...” 
     Two of Kreymborg's games were published in Chess Review in 1928, the below win against Adams and a loss to A.C. Cass.  In the introduction to the game against Adams, Kreymborg wrote, “I haven’t played hard chess for 23 years...I’m quite certain that after White’s 21st move, a sound, though crazy-looking move, Black must lose...By the way, I’ve written a play called Queen’s Gambit Declined, which is dedicated to the Club. It was published by Samuel French. Maybe we’ll act it out some day. It needs only four actors, but they have to be better actors than chessplayers.” 
     Kreymborg's opponent, Edward Bradford Adams (July 28, 1878 – January 12, 1972, 93 years old) was born in Westport, Connecticut and died in Pasadena, California. He was a member of the Marshall Chess Club in the 1920s and 1930s. He was the President of the Brooklyn Institute Chess Club in the 1930s. Adams frequently competed in the New York State Championship, finishing in 4th place in 1924, 1926, and 1927, 2nd in 1928, 5th in 1929, 9th in 1931, and a tie for 1st in 1934, but lost the play-off to Robert Levenstein. 
     The complications in this game are simply amazing!
 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Capablanca Played Shortstop

     Besides Capablanca, other chess players who excelled at baseball were Arnold Denker who played while attending New York University and Jackson W. Showalter who is reputed to have invented the curve ball. 
     Capablanca once said, "I cherish as one of my special accomplishments my more than ordinary ability in that very mundane, but good American game of baseball." That should not be surprising since baseball is one of the most popular sports in Cuba. It was popularized in Cuba by Nemesio Guillot, who founded the first major baseball club in the country. 
     Capablanca was born in Havana in1886, learned to play at an early age and defeated Cuban Champion Juan Corzo in an informal match in 1901 by 6.5-5.5, turning 13 years old during the match. Capa also finished in 4th place in the first Cuban Championship in 1902, but did not begin focusing on chess until 1908 when he left Columbia University in New York City to study chemical engineering and play baseball. 
     In 1913 Capa told the American Chess Bulletin, “I am afraid that I shall miss my baseball and tennis while in Russia, but I shall try to become proficient in some other outdoor sports like horseback riding, etc. Or I may take up fencing and gymnasium work. I thoroughly believe in keeping in good trim physically.” 
     A 1931 issue of the Columbia Spectator ran the following short article: 

Capablanca in Favor of Exams; Once Played on Frosh Diamond Nine Strolling lazily around his living room, occasionally puffing on a cigarette, Jose Raoul Capablanca, chess champion of the world for seven years and captain of Columbia's Varsity team during his Sophomore year, discussed colleges, architecture, cities, baseball, the drama—anything but chess with a SPECTATOR reporter. While he was an undergraduate in the School of Engineering, baseball had a greater attraction for Capablanca than did the game at which he was so proficient. He was a capable diamond athlete, too, for he played second base on his Freshman team in 1907 and helped them win all but two of their games. When he moved up to the Varsity squad, he was switched to short-stop where he held a regular berth until he left College. When questioned about his recollections of undergraduate life, Capablanca chuckled. "I remember the same things you will when you are my age," he said, with just the slightest trace of a Cuban accent. had some good times, we were annoyed by examinations and we played at politics. Because I enjoyed baseball so greatly, I associate my days at Columbia with that and, of course, with chess." A suggestion that perhaps examinations should be abolished in colleges today brought an emphatic dissenting answer from the chess master. "How else can you find out what a student knows? " he exclaimed. "Eliminate your mid-year and final examinations, yes, but you must have some form of quizzing during a term. The average class is too large for the professor to know each man personally. He must have some way to judge his students." He took a turn around the room and then broke out again. "What colleges should abolish are entrance conditions. Either take a boy without any strings or do not admit him at all. No one can study his best with a condition hanging over his head." 

     Capablanca entered Columbia the year after President Nicholas Murray Butler banished football from the sports calendar, but he could remember little rancor among the student body against the move while he was in College. "Columbia developed a strong basketball team and no one seemed to care whether or not football was played," he said. "I see you're still developing strong basketball teams," he added smilingly.  Refer to the many controversies surrounding Butler HERE.
     The following game, very modern in its appearance, was played at the great Carlsbad tournament in 1929 and is interesting because of the alleged oversight by both players in the opening.  Capa had beaten Bogoljubow in 5 straight games before this one.
 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Download a Gold Mine...Chess Review 1944

I have just discovered a chess gold mine...a pdf download of all 1944 issues of Chess Review magazine. It's available at Simard Artizan FarmChess Review was a great magazine and it was filled with pictures, a rarity for that time. For example, below is a photo of Norma Reshevsky (Samuel's wife) who was serving as a timekeeper at the US Speed Championship.  Her job was to strike the bell every ten seconds. 

In this photo Mrs. Reshevsky is on a break from her timekeeping duties and is watching her husband at play.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The GM Who Couldn't Tell a Bishop from a Knight

     That's how Dutch GM Jan Hein Donner described Lodewijk Prins, his rival for the Dutch Championship for many years. 
     Apparently Donner just didn't like Prins because according to Chessmetrics Prins highest rating was a pretty impressive 2604 in December, 1951. His best performance rating was in the Zonal tournament at Bad Pyrmont when he scored 7.5-4.5 for a performance rating of 2624. 
     Lodewijk Prins (January 27, 1913, Amsterdam – November 11, 1999) was a Dutch player and International Arbiter.  Prins was awarded the IM title in 1950 and was made an International Arbiter in 1960. In 1982 FIDE made him an Honorary GM. 
     Prins represented the Netherlands twelve times in all Olympiads from 1937 to 1968 and won two individual silver medals (1939, 1950) and one bronze (1968). After the German invasion of the Netherlands in May 1940, his name did not appear in any tournament in the occupied Netherlands because of his Jewish origin. 
     After the war, he took first place at Hoogovens Beverwijk in 1948 and at Madrid 1951 ahead of Herman Steiner, Herman Pilnik, and Ossip Bernstein. Prins qualified for the 1952 Interzonal and was Dutch Champion in 1965. 
    Despite his strong performance at the 1968 Chess Olympiad in Lugano, where he scored 9-3 and gained a bronze medal, Prins was not selected for the Dutch team at the 1970 Chess Olympiad. Subsequently he broke from the Dutch Chess Federation and afterwards played only occasionally. His final tournament was a large open in Cattolica, Italy in 1993, where he finished in the middle of the field.      Prins coauthored several chess books with Max Euwe and several tournament books. There also lines in the Sicilian and Gruenfeld named after him. 
     The following game played in the open tournament in Travemunde in 1951 has been described as a “pure circus” that was “almost contrived.” 

1) Lothar Schmid 9.0 
2) Herbert Heinicke 8.0 
3) Lodewijk Prins 7.5 
4-5) Gerrhard Pfeiffer and Rudolf Teschner 7.0 
6) Efim Bogoljubow 5.5 
-8) Ludwig Rellstab and Haije Kramer 5.5 
9) Jens Enevoldsen 4.5 
10-11) Fritz Saemisch and Georg Kieninger 3.5 
12) Erik Richter 0.5 
 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Montgomery Major and the USCF in 1955

     While reading 1955 issues of Chess Life, I noticed that Montgomery Major was the editor and remembered his name being associated with The Chess Correspondent in its early years. Major left the Correspondent to serve as editor of Chess Life from May, 1946 to December of 1957. Of some interest is that there is a Montgomery Major Attack in the Tennison Gambit. 
     Major was described as a Dickensian character and had a reputation for being a curmudgeon as an editor. For much of his tenure he had an ongoing heated battle with readers and officers of the USCF. In 1955 there was also and brouhaha between the USCF and Norman T. Whitaker that appeared in the pages of Chess Life
     Major was born in Chicago and lived in the area most of his life. He originally was expected to earn a law degree, but in his own words he “exhibited his natural perversity early in life by concentrating on Romance languages and literature instead.” Major played for the Harvard chess team before leaving school and becoming an assistant editor for a community newspaper. He later was an editor for a children's book publisher, and later still edited Motor Life and Store Equipment and Supplies, two trade publications. He would also serve time as a Sears, Roebuck copy writer and even work in the accounting department of the Pullman Company. 
Major

     His success in chess were mainly organizational in nature. For eight years he was Executive Secretary of the Chicago City Chess League, while simultaneously active as Secretary or Vice-President of the Illinois State Chess Association. He was also one of the organizing directors of the American Chess Federation (a forerunner of the USCF). 
     George Sturgis, President of the USCF, in early 1941 persuaded Major to edit the USCF Yearbooks which he did in 1941, and 1944 through 1946, before being asked to design and edit Chess Life. By that time Major no longer played chess. 
     When Major took over as editor of Chess Life it was a 4-page newsletter published every 2-3 weeks and the USCF had only about 1,000 members. He contributed numerous articles under various pseudonyms, most notably as “William Rojam” to make it look like the newsletter had more contributors. Note that Rojam is Major spelled backwards. 
     In the February 25, 1955 edition of Chess Life, Major wrote an editorial stating that due to the fact certain minority groups had voiced criticism of the program of the USCF and questioned the intent and advisability of promotional plans authorized by the Ways and Means Committee (consisting of Frank R. Graves, William M. Byland and A. Wyatt Jones) the Committee had asked for a poll of the Board of Directors to determine whether or not they enjoyed the support of the Board. If they did not, they would resign. 
     The vote was important because it would determine how they would answer the “vicious and scurrilous” attacks on USCF officials by one Norman T. Whitaker. If they received a vote of confidence, they announced that it was their intention to expel Whitaker from USCF membership and refuse to allow him to participate in any USCF chess activities or those of affiliated units. 
     In the March 5, 1955 issue there was an editorial concerning a financial crises and possibility of dissolution that had been faced back in July, 1952. At that time Kenneth Harkness proposed a plan to promote the USCF and the Board had created a Promotional Plan Committee composed of Wyatt Jones, Frank Graves, William Byland, Edgar McCormick and Herman Steiner. If approved, the committee would enter into a contract with Harkness. At the same time Major's contract as editor was up and they had to consider renewing it also. The result was the Committee entered into a 5-year contract with Harkness and extended Major's contract 5 years. Their proposal was submitted to the Board of Directors and the contracts approved. 
     The Promotional Committee considered their plan had been successful as membership more than doubled and expenses were met and debt slightly reduced. Nevertheless, according to the editorial, management had been subjected to “severe and constant criticism” of their policies, objectives and accomplishments which had mostly come from the California chess association. 
     USCF officers tried to explain their decisions to the Californians and believed it was all a misunderstanding. The Californians decided to prepare a formal list of complaints to present to the USCF for clarification of the issues. At about the same time Whitaker had attacked the USCF management, but the USCF emphasized the California attacks were constructive in their nature whereas Whitaker's were vicious and unfounded. 
     The editorial went on to add that they were not going to attempt to refute Whitaker's claims in detail nor would they resort to his methods. However, they hastened to call attention to certain facts in Whitaker's background which made “peculiarly inappropriate the high moral tones of indignation evidenced in his letter.” They pointed out a couple of facts: 

1) The Business Mangers and Treasurer were financially bonded (i.e. insured)
2) Kenneth Harkness' salary was $2,549.53 (a little over $23,000 today), not the $7,500 (over $68,000) that Whitaker had “guessed” it to be.
3) Elections were governed by then present By-laws and they were not going to “be stampeded” into changing anything without careful consideration. 
4) Kenneth Harkness had been a resident of the United States since 1918 and Kenneth Harkness was the name he had used professionally since that time. (Note: Harkness was born Stanley Edgar in Glasgow, Scotland on November 12, 1896. He passed away on October 4, 1972). There were no sinister implications in the use of his nom-de-plume and he was not a “deportable alien.” 
5) All the Federation's books had been properly audited and were on the up and up. 

     In the March 20, 1955 edition, the Ways and Means Committee received their vote of confidence from the Board of Directors and in April, 1955 a resolution was submitted to the Executive Committee to expel Whitaker and the causes for such action were spelled out. 

1) Violation of the clause that if any member was guilty of conduct that brings the game into disrepute his membership can be revoked. 
2) As a USCF member, Whitaker had for several years been a disgruntled member and on “many and numerous occasions” publicly denounced the USCF and its officers and “defamed their good name by making direct accusations of misconduct and by innuendo accused them of crimes.” He had recently published a six page letter which transcended “all bounds of free speech and even common decency.” 
3) His letter, which was mailed to various individuals and many USCF members, made false, scurrilous and libelous attacks on the USCF and its officers. 
     As a result Whitaker's membership was revoked and he was barred forever from playing in USCF tournaments. If he did play in a tournament it would not be rated.  The USCF graciously extended Whitaker the opportunity to petition them for modification of their actions and it was noted that if he wrote a letter of apology he would be reinstated. 
     Instead, Whitaker sued the USCF and several of its officers for $100,000 each...about $900,000 today...for damages for the publication of a brief reference to his connection with the Lindberg kidnapping hoax for which he had served time in the Atlanta Federal Prison.
     Whitaker's claim was that it was “a reprehensible liable.” Further, part of the story was false, defamatory, and even it it were true, it had nothing to do with the chess matters under discussion. At about the same time they received a letter from a John Alexander of California claiming he had also been libeled and defamed more than once and he was threatening to sue for damages. 
     But there were more problems. In April, 1955 Sidney Bernstein, Jeremiah Donovan, Eliot Hearst, Carl Pilnick, Anthony Santasiere, Herbert Seidman, George Shainswit and Dr. Harold Sussman wrote a letter to Dr. Max Pavey, Chairman of the International Affairs Committee, protesting the way the US team for the match against the Soviets had been selected. However, it was not Pavey who had personally selected the team. 
     The letter writers agreed that for the most part those selected merited it.  They felt the top 5-6 players on the rating list should be on the team, but the next 10-15 players were so equal in ability that a rating system could not accurately measure their current strength. They wanted a large tournament to select the remaining players, not the four-man tournament the USCF had organized. 
     Pavey replied he thought team selection should be made based on the rating list, not a subjective opinion, and asked why hold a special tournament? He also pointed out many could not afford to play in a qualifying tournament and in Moscow. He believed that a player's rating was a much better judge of performance. The USCF responded by stating the reasons for their decision.
     In the end the US lost to the Soviets by an embarrassing 25-7. It's unlikely that the addition of any of the signers would have helped the US team that much, so it was probably a good thing for them that none of them were a party to the embarrassment. 
     Finally, in the January 5, 1956 issue Major wrote an editorial column that lambasted anybody that tried to influence policy decisions for the magazine Chess Life even if they happened to be officers of the USCF. 
     In Major's opinion the magazine should be an independent publication that was free to criticize even the USCF and not just parrot the views of its officers. He wrote, “There have been attempts to stifle the independent voice of Chess Life, and it is no secret that prior to the USCF annual meeting at Long Beach the USCF Ways and Means Committee made a futile and clandestine attempt to replace the Editor with someone more subservient to their mandates. This conspiracy to gag Chess Life failed; and other like attempts will fail just so long as the membership at large combines in insisting upon an independent voice, representing them equally with management.” In Major's opinion Chess Life was an an independent entity, free to voice their opinion even if it was contrary to the USCF. 
     A lot of people felt Major was using Chess Life as his personal soapbox to voice his own opinions and political views and by the end of 1956, amid a lot of controversy, he resigned as editor. 

See Edward Winter's post number 6092-Fischer and Hastings for a Montgomery editorial.