Upgrade to Chess.com Premium!

Remembering Curt Brasket

  • IM Greenhaven
  • | Jan 30, 2014
  • | 4746 views
  • | 17 comments

FIDE Master Curt Brasket was a towering figure in Minnesota chess, having won the state championship a record 16 times. On January 24, 2014, he passed away in his sleep at the age of 81, having battled Parkinson’s disease for nearly 40 years. His obituary can be found here.

Despite hailing from a small town in southwestern Minnesota, Curt achieved impressive success on the national stage. His most notable accomplishments include winning the U.S. Junior Chess Championship in 1952 and defeating several legendary Grandmasters and International Masters in the famed Lone Pine tournaments during the 1970s. In 2013, Curt received the U.S. Chess Federation’s Outstanding Career Achievement Award.

Curt’s love of the game led him to remain an active tournament player despite the increasing effects of his Parkinson’s. During the 1990s, like other young chess players in Minnesota, I benefited from Curt’s continued participation in local tournaments, as playing against and observing someone of his caliber were excellent learning opportunities. Throughout my formative years, Curt, almost always accompanied by his charming wife, Rita, was an ever-present fixture on the Minnesota chess scene. According to the USCF’s website, Curt played in a staggering 583 tournaments between 1991 and 2011. His devotion to the game was truly inspirational. I will almost certainly never equal Curt's 16 state titles, but I will be happy if I can follow his example by remaining a tough competitor long into my career.

My goal with this article is simply to honor Curt by showcasing ten of his most impressive victories. As some readers may not be familiar with all his opponents, I have included brief biographical information in the introductions before each game.


We begin with an attacking game in which Curt outfoxes Walter Browne. Browne, who earned his Grandmaster title in 1970, won the U.S. Chess Championship six times (1974, 1975, 1977, 1980, 1981, and 1983). Only Bobby Fischer (with eight titles) has won the U.S. Championship more times.

The following game was played the day after Curt’s game with Browne. Here, Curt obtains a winning endgame against Larry Evans with some powerful opening and middlegame play. Evans, who earned his Grandmaster title in 1957, won the U.S. Chess Championship five times (1951, 1952, 1961-62, 1967-68, and 1980).
In the following game, Curt outplays Kim Commons by (1) inducing weaknesses in his opponent’s position, (2) transitioning to a favorable endgame, and (3) smoothly converting his bishop pair advantage. Commons, who earned his International Master title in 1976, was a fixture of the U.S. tournament circuit during the 1970s. Commons counted celebrities such as Mel Brooks and the entire Jefferson Airplane band among his students.
The following attacking gem against Anthony Saidy may well be the finest of Curt’s career. Dr. Saidy, who earned his International Master title in 1969, competed in numerous U.S. Championships during the 1960s and 1970s. At his peak, Dr. Saidy was the 6th highest rated player in the United States. Note: subscribers to www.chesslecture.com are highly encouraged to watch Dana Mackenzie’s November 8, 2013 video titled “Awesome State Champions: The Classic Pawn Storm,” which features this game and discusses Curt’s achievements in their historical context.
The day after his attacking masterpiece against Dr. Saidy, Curt outplayed Arnold Denker in a more positional game. Denker, who earned his International Master title in 1950 (the year the title was first awarded by FIDE), won the U.S. Chess Championship in 1945 and 1946. Denker was named an honorary Grandmaster by FIDE in 1981.
In the next three games, we see Curt defeating three future Grandmasters who were already promising junior players when these games were played in 1977.

In the following miniature, Curt’s aggressive opening play induces a shocking blunder by Michael Rohde. Born in 1959, Rohde became a USCF master at age 13 and was the National Junior High School Chess Champion in 1975 and the National High School Chess Champion in 1976. Rohde earned his International Master title in 1976 and his Grandmaster title in 1988.
The day after dispatching Rohde in only 18 moves, Curt defeated future U.S. Champion Joel Benjamin in a sharp tactical game. Benjamin, who earned his Grandmaster title in 1986, won the U.S. Chess Championship three times (1987, 1997, and 2000). Born in 1964, Benjamin was already a promising junior player at the time the following game was played; a USCF master at age 13, Benjamin was then the youngest master in USCF history, a record that had previously been held by Bobby Fischer.
In the following game, Curt’s aggressive middlegame play yields a winning endgame against John Fedorowicz. Born in 1958, Fedorowicz was the National High School Chess Champion in 1975 and won the U.S. Junior Chess Championship in 1977 and 1978 and the U.S. Open Chess Championship in 1980. “The Fed” earned his Grandmaster title in 1986.
In the following game, despite missing a chance to score a quick knockout on move 18, Curt ultimately outplays Helgi Olafsson in a complicated endgame. Olafsson, who earned his International Master title in 1978 and his Grandmaster title in 1985, won the Icelandic Chess Championship six times (1978, 1981, 1991, 1992, 1993, and 1996).
In the following game, Curt again demonstrates the power of the bishop pair in the endgame, this time against Kamran Shirazi. Shirazi, who earned his International Master title in 1978, moved to the United States from his native Iran in the late 1970s and became one of the most active and dangerous players in the country. He also appeared in the movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer.”

Finally, I’d like to share the following game, which was the last time that Curt and I faced each other in a serious tournament game. It was played in the Minnesota State Championship in 2000, which was the last year in which Curt participated in the event. Even though his Parkinson's had grown quite severe by the time of this game, Curt showed that he was still an extremely dangerous opponent, and I was lucky to escape with a draw.

Comments


  • 9 months ago

    tdosdall

    It's wonderful to see the community in chess. I played in the Sophomore Section of the 2014 Minnesota Open, my first real tournament. It was nice to start the tournament with a moment of silence for Curt. This article is wonderful for us who will never have the privilege of meeting him. Thank you for the very instructive annotations.

  • 9 months ago

    chessredpanda

    cool games

  • 9 months ago

    Jpatrick

    Thanks for this tribute to Curt.  Sorry that I only learned about it now.

    I already reviewed his game vs Saidy in Lone Pine, which is quite memorable.

    Here's another game of Brasket's where he swindled Arthur Bisguier.

     

    http://www.chess.com/blog/Jpatrick/poker-with-chess-pieces-ii-showdown-in-puerto-rico

  • 10 months ago

    IM Fins0905

    Sean, your post inspired me to dig through my old score sheets. I found a couple battles with Curt (strangely, both games featured opposite-color bishops).

    First, 13 year-old John is forcibly enrolled in Endgame Technique 101 taught by the experienced master.

    Invaluable education.

    Next, a more sedate affair where Curt allows me to escape from a worse ending. Played at that defunct West Metro Chess Club, I believe.

    Crazy to think that Curt was pushing 70 with advanced Parkinson's when these games were played. I think we'd all be lucky to still be playing tournament chess at that age - let alone at a high level! An active mind is a wonderful thing.

    Rest in peace, Curt!

  • 10 months ago

    b2ornotb2

    Thank you very much for posting these games and analyses, Sean! I only faced Curt once in a tournament and did not know him personally but I had heard his name mentioned many times and knew he was a formidable opponent. I appreciate that you took the time to put this together.

  • 10 months ago

    candyass4ever

    The Lone Pine tournaments were a great part of American chess history.  Someone should publish a book with all known games.

  • 10 months ago

    NM GargleBlaster

    Thank you for this wonderful tribute.

  • 10 months ago

    Lawdoginator

    Wow! Great tribute. Thanks for telling the world about this fine player. 

  • 10 months ago

    tonychess90

    I really enjoyed looking over the games thank you for posting them, I didnt know Curt Personally, but since I've played chess which has been for the past 14 years I know how much of a legend the man has been. RIP to a wonderful chess player

  • 10 months ago

    rvngska

    Thanks Sean, I was really hoping someone would put something like this together.

  • 10 months ago

    CM smarterchess

    This is a great article Sean, thanks for posting it!

  • 10 months ago

    Pawnslinger1

    Very nice article. Thank you for writing it.

  • 10 months ago

    IM Fins0905

    Fantastic tribute, Sean. It's neat to see Curt's strong play spanning many decades of competitive chess.

  • 10 months ago

    NM FrankieJay

    The thing that amazed me about Curt was how, even in the mid-late 2000s, he could rattle off some long, complicated variation even in a G/10 or G/30 game. He would have all sorts of trouble moving the pieces to demonstrate it, which only made it all the more astounding.

    He really was a Minnesota legend and deservedly so.

Back to Top

Post your reply: