Advance to Ventnor I

Advance to Ventnor I

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     Ventnor City is a charming resort community on New Jersey's Absecon Island, snuggled between Margate City and the more famous Atlantic City.  In the Spring of 1939  Richard W. Wayne, president of the Ventnor City Chess Club announced what appeared to have been a long thought-out plan devised in conjunction with both the chess club and the city officials to hold an ambitious chess tournament that might prove beneficial to both. 
     In the first press release, Wayne was quoted:

   At the Ventnor City Chess Club's annual dinner it was announced that the town of Ventnor City wll sponsor an invitation tournament to be participated in by twelve of the leading players of the Eastern States.  Invitations have been sent to the following: Arnold Denker, New York State Champion. Jacob Levin, Pennsylvania State Champion; Harold Morton; New England States Champion and finalist 1938 United States championship; Harold Burdge, New Jersey State Champion; Fred Reinfeld, A.E. Santasiere. Milton Hanauer, all former New York State Champions and finalists 1938 United States championship; Barney Winkleman and Harry Morris, former Pennsylvania State Champion; Edgar T. McCormick, 1938 North Jersey Champion; and T. E. Knorr of North Jersey.  This strong lineup should make for a tournament of national interest and importance, the winner of which may well lay claim to the Eastern State championship.
     The tournament will be played at the Ventnor Municipal Pier commencing on July 8, and terminating Sunday, July 16.
     We would also like to offer our sincere congratulations to the Mayor and City Councilmen who have the foresight to undertake a project which will undoubtedly bring international publicity to our city. The tournament will be under the direction of the Ventnor City Chess Club.  Attractive cash prizes have been offered by the City of Ventnor, two additional prizes have already been offered by anonymous donors and a brilliancy prize of $10 has been offered by Louis Kligerman.
     In view of the fact that there are so few tournaments of this caliber this side of the Atlantic, it is earnestly hoped that all chess players within reach of Ventnor City will support this event to the utmost by their attendance and contributions.
     The committee in charge of the tournament will be: Harry H. Hodson, Mayor of Ventnor City, Daniel McD. Bruner, Councilman; Richard W. Wayne, tournament director; J. Roy Dessauer, referee; Louis Kligerman, treasurer; and Gerald H. Phillips,secretary, to whom all correspondence relating to this tournament should be sent...
NY "Post" May, 27, 1939

nullfrom "Chess Review" Aug.-Sept. 1940

     The tournament proved to be so successful, that the Ventnor City Chess Club envisioned this seaside community becoming a second Hastings. The tournaments were in fact held annually until 1945.   An event was planned for 1946 but canceled due to conflicts.  In 1947 the tournament was changed from an invitational to an open, but failing to live up to expectations with only 20 participants, it was the Ventnor City's final year as a chess destination.

The Venue

     During the first half of the 20th century, Atlantic City was a premier vacation spot with many large, fine hotels as well as a host of smaller accommodations. Express rail lines, such as the "Blue Comet" and the "Flying Spray" from New York City or the "Ocean Wave" from Philadelphia made the area extremely and affordably  accessible.

null1940s sign showing the island being 125 miles from NY and 60 miles from Philadelphia


Atlantic City, 1940

     Ventnor City, while less glamorous than its neighbor, benefited from its proximity.

     The venue for the invitational would be the Ventnor Municipal Pier.  Atlantic City had in the course of its history many large and fabled piers such as Steele Pier, the Million Dollar Pier and the Garden Pier, but Ventnor City had only one.


     The Municipal Pier was  built in 1914.

null"The Municipal Journal, Dec. 24, 1914

     It wasn't yet the elaborate structure in the above postcard.  13 years after the original pier was constructed, Ventnor City invested in a grand renovation:

nullPhiladelphia "Inquirer" Sept. 12, 1927

     13 seems to be a significant number because on August 1, 1940, 13 years after the renovation, this pier burned, leaving only two structures, those on the shore side, null


     The fire occurred after just the two tournaments detailed below had been held.  However, the tournaments continued to be played on the site.


———   The Tournaments   ———




     The above announcement was released shortly before the July 8-16 tournament.

     The actual line up included Milton L. Hanauer,  Fred Reinfeld,  Anthony E. Santasiere,  Jack W. Collins and Mary Bain from New York;  Edgar T. McCormick,  Harold Burdge and T.Edward Knorr from New Jessey; Harry Morris, Jacob Levin and Jack J. Leary from Pennsylvania; as well as Olaf Ulvestad from Seattle, Washington.


     Milton Hanauer, at the time a NYC school teacher (along with Santasiere) and later a school principal. went through the tournament, 11 games, without a single loss.  Fred Reinfeld also managed that same feat. However Hanauer won 7 with 4 draws while Reinfeld won 5 with 6 draws.  This was Olaf Ulvestad's first major tournament.

     The Players:

nullMilton Loeb Hanauer (1908-1988), had a law degree but never practiced law.  He had also earned a PhD. in French Literature and taught French in Haarlem. He later became a principal and promoter of chess in schools. While not nearly as prolific and Horowitz, Reinfeld or Chernev,  did author a handful of novice-oriented books such as: "Chess Made Simple,"  "Chess Made Easy,"  "Chess Streamlined"  "Checkers Made Simple"  "Chess"  and "Chess For You and Me."

Edgar Thomas McCormick (1914-1991) helped establish the first chess club at his high school in East Orange, NJ.   In 1935 he earned a mathematics degree from Princeton where he was also the star of the chess team winning the Ivy League championship. He enlisted in the army in 1941, stationed in Iceland where we worked as a cryptologist in conjunction with the CIA.  He was a chess promoter, particularly interested in inner-city chess programs.  A member of the legendary Log Cabin Chess Club, he became two-time NJ champion. McCormick also had won the Virginia State Championship once.  At the time of his death in 1991, he was the reigning U.S. Amateur Champion (his 2nd Amateur title).

Harry R. Morris (1905-1966) was a president of the Mercantile Library Chess Club of Philadelphia and eventually a four-time PA state Champion. He was a procurement officer in the Air Force until he retired at age 55.  In April 1942, he beat the Ventnor City Champion,  Jacob Levin for the PA championship - Levin only needing a draw in his game against Morris, lost the game and the championship.

Harold R. Burdge, Sr. (1896-1979) was the NJ state chess champion in 1938 (beating E.T. McCormick, 3.5-.5) and in 1939 , clearly the strongest member of the Ventnor City Chess Club.

John (Jack)  J. Leary of Philadelphia became the PA state championship for the third time in 1943.

nullT.E. Knorr at the Marshall Club in 1938

T. (Ted) Edward Knorr  of Hillside, NJ, like many of the participants was a member of the Marshall C.C. and participated in team events and club championships. He also belonged to Collin's Hawthorne Chess Club. He was a noted collector of chess books and paraphernalia.

Jack W. Collins  (1912-2001) was confined to a wheelchair his entire life.  Although his disability prevented him from attending high school, Collins educated himself, taking up chess during his teens.  He started an informal neighborhood chess club in his parent's home on Hawthorne St. in Flatbush, Brooklyn, calling it the Hawthorne Chess Club.  With this rather inauspicious beginning,  soon the little club was competing successfully in leagues and attracting frequent visitors which included strong player such as Irving Chernev and Herman Helms as well as celebrities such as John Cage and Marcel Duchamp.  Later his club, or by this time just a gathering, included talented youngsters such as Bobby Fischer, Bill Lombardy, Ray Weinstein, Robert and Donald Byrne.  Collins became the U.S. Postal Chess Champion in 1943, the NY State Championship in 1952 and the Marshal Club Championship in 1953.  Collins wasn't so much a teacher as he was a facilitator and motivator, allowing those who met in his home the opportunity to learn by playing and analyzing.

Fred Reinfeld  (1910-1964) is best remembered as a chess writer whose books rank among the most popular of all time. He played fro Dewitt Clinton H.S. in the Bronx and at the N.Y. University, Reinfeld was a star, winning the National Chess Federation Intercollegiate Championship in 1929. He won the NY State Championship twice. The Brooklyn Eagle (Sept. 5,1935) calls him "champion of the Marshall Chess Club." In the mid 1930s, he gave weekly "chess talks" on Sunday mornings at 11:00 am on radio station WNYC.

Jacob (Jake) Levin, a Latvian by birth, came to America as an infant. He graduated from Central High School, Philadelphia and received his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania and was married in early 1941.Levin won the PA state championship in 1945.

Olaf Ulvestad (1912-2000) won the Washington State Championship in 1934 and again in 1952 and 1956. It's unclear why a westerner was invited to play for what was meant to be the Eastern U.S. Championship but since he wasn't mentioned in any of the preliminary lists, he was possibly a last-minute replacement. After the 1939 tournament, Reinfeld called Ulvestad "the finest attacking player I ever had the pleasure to encounter."

Mary Bain had come in 2nd, behind Adele Rivero, in the 1937 National Chess Federation Women's Championship and stood in for Rivero as the U.S. representative for the Women's World Championship in Stockholm.  While she was only a last-minute substitute for the Ventnor City Invitational in 1939, these previous honors most likely earned her the invitation.


     As can be seen, Reinfeld gave Hanauer a run for his money. Although there were "substantial cash prizes," none of the amounts were mentioned.  Besides the  prizes for 1st-4th places, there were "many special prizes."
   The "Best Played Game"  prize was awarded to Morris for his game with Ulvestad.
   Reinfeld and Ulvestad won a joint special prize, "Showpiece of the Tournament" for their encounter.
   Ulvestad also won a special "rapid transit tourney" prize contributed by Dana Brannan of the NY "Times" for his "entertaining style."

   E. T. McCormick won a special prize contributed by Louis Kligerman of the Ventnor City C.C. for best showing by a N.J. entrant.
Hanauer won the "Brilliancy Prize" for his win over Santasiere (Santasiere was said to have been ill during this tournament, which really played against the long, complex games that were his style).

     Prizes were handed out by Mayor Harry S. Hodson during the awards diner.




      Held from July 6-14, the second Ventnor City Invitational had the added incentive of awarding bonuses to non-prizewinners.

      the 1939 tournament proved to be not just enjoyable due to the surroundings and the climate conditions, but so well run "the actual tournament expenses are almost negligible, with the result that the players receive almost all the monies subscribed, thus bringing the prizes to a very satisfactory level."  In 1940, the committee, comprised of Richard Wayne, president; Gerald H. Phillips, secretary ;  Louis Kligerman, treasurer;  J. Roy Dessauer, referee; and the Ventnor City officials, wanted to make the experience even better.

     One unusual inclusion in the 1940 Invitational:

     Half of the contestants for the 1940 event were players from 1939:  Milton Hanauer, Anthony Santasiere, Olaf Ulvestad, Harry Morris, Harold Burdge and E.T. McCormick.  The other half consisted of these new faces: Sidney Bernstein, Weaver Adams, Jeremiah Donovan, Herbert Seidman, Philip Woliston and L. Walter Stephens.
     Jack Collins was supposed to play, but family sickness forced him to cancel. Jeremiah Donovan was a last-minute replacement just as L. Walter Stephens was secured as a stand-in for Fred Reinfeld who had business to tend to. Jake Levin also canceled out citing business reasons.

Jeremiah F. Donovan at the time was a varsity chess player for Brooklyn College after a stellar chess career in New Utrecht High School. He ranked slightly below his classmate and varsity chess-mate, Herbert Seidman, the team captain, who came to Brooklyn College from Brooklyn Manual Training High School.
Philip Woliston 
of Los Angeles whose real name was Philip Reinhold Geffe (this and the following information came from a jointly accredited article by Johns Hilbert and John Donaldson),  was born in Napa, Californina but raised by his mother in Seattle, Washington.  He took on his mother's maiden name, Woliston when he started school.. He attended Franklin High School and joined the Seattle Chess Club. He became friends with Olaf Ulvestad who became his playing partner.  Woliston himself claimed that within 4 month he moved from the lowest ranked player in the Seattle Chess Club to being the 2nd highest ranked player. When he was 16 he beat the nine time Washington State Champion, Leonard Sheets, in a match +5-3=1, then he moved with his mother to Los Angeles, California. He won the Los Angeles City Championship in 1938, age 18, with an 11-0 score. He followed up this achievement by winning the California State Championship, with a 7-1 score, beating out the likes of Harry Borochow, Herman Steiner and George Koltanowski.

Sidney Norman Bernstein
(1911-1992) was a strong player from Brooklyn.  He had played on the City College of New York chess team. While he participated in many tournaments, his shared win at Ventnor City in 1940 was probably his best achievement.

Llewellen Walter Stephens
(1883-1948, ) had been captain of the championship Princeton chess team  during his days there. He then earned a M.A in education from Columbia in 1915.  Both Stephens and his wife Maude, also a chess player, were staunch supporters of the game, giving both their time and money for the cause of chess.
     Arnold Denker, however, gives an rather unfavorable depiction of L. Walter Stephens as an dour man who sucked the enjoyment out of everything, and Maude as an efficient "tall pencil-thin lady with a weakness for flowered hats as lush and wild as any tropical forest."  L. Walter served as secretary of the Manhattan Chess Club from 1924-1941, while Maude replaced him from 1942-1954.  Denker claims they lorded over the club "as if it were the family plantation."
     But Denker was somewhat biased and might have had an axe to grind.  Stephens had been the TD for the 1942 U.S. Championship. During the tournament Denker claimed that Stephens mistakenly awarded a win to Reshevsky in a drawn position, attesting that Denker overstepped the time control.  Denker asserted that Reshevsky's flag had fallen first and that Reshevsky wasn't writing down his own score. Although Stephen's decision was later upheld by the tournament committee, Denker has always maintained it was an error and that Stephens refused to admit his mistake (this win-by-technicality allowed Reshevsky to tie with Kashdan for the title).

Herbert Seidman
  (1920-1994), wunderkind of the Brooklyn College chess team, won the Marshall Club Championship in early 1942 without a single loss. He graduated that same year and immediately enlisted in the army. The next year, he married Phoebe Gilman, a Brooklyn College graduate and elementary school teacher. Although chess wasn't a priority, he still won the Marshall Club Championship in 1944, 12.5-.5 and again in 1945, 1946 (with Milton Hanauer), 1955-6.  Surprisingly in 1965, after a 2 year hiatus from chess,  Seidman won the 50th Anniversary Marshall Chess Club championship with no losses (+36=19). Seidman also played in the 1945 US-USSR RadioMatch, losing both games to Viacheslav Ragozin.

     Herb Seidman earned an M.B.A. and took a job with the American Cancer Society in 1948, attaining the position of vice-president for Epidemiology and Statistics. He retired from this job in 1989. Several of his writings on smoking-related cancer and breast cancer were published in scientific journals and often cited as expert data.
    In 1961 Seidman shared the N.Y. championship with Pal Benko and won the championship outright in 1971.     

Weaver Adams
  (1901-1963), like Seidman, won the Marshall Club Championship numerous times. He was also the NY State Champion .

     He started out wanting to be an engineer and even attended the prestigious MIT but dropped out to become a chess player.  He was the 1924 New England champion and won the US Open 24 years later.

     A dogmatist, Adams is best know for his conviction (and his book to that effect, "White to Play and Win")  that White's first move advantage was decisive.  He was also known for his aggressive style. 
     Jack Straley Battell wrote in Adam's obituary, "Adams was a theorist, and he played like one, calm and unperturbed no matter what was happening on the board. He seldom looked at his opponent but gazed at the position with solemn concentration or else sat at right angles to the board and stared abstractedly into space. And, as stated, he played his own system, regardless of who his opponent might be —losing often to the tail-ender of the tournament but beating the top contender. "



     Hanauer and Sidney Bernstein shared first prize and possession "of the Challenge Trophy, six months each." Frank Marshall himself was present to hand over the trophy.  After the ceremonies, Marshall gave a 10 board simul, winning eight games and drawing two with Wayne Barrett and R. Wellington.

     The Mayor of Ventnor City, Harry S. Hodson, handed out the cash prizes.



     Anthony Santasiere won the First Brilliancy Prize for his game vs. Stephens. Ironically, Stephens had donated the prize money.

     Jeremiah Donovan won Stephen's second Brilliancy Prize:

     Ulestad and Morris won the joint "Most Interesting Game" prize:

     "Best Played Game" prize went to Philip Woliston for this upset:

          Ventnor City allowed the chess club use of the solarium, or sun room, at the base of the Municipal Pier for their meetings.  The tournaments were also held in the solarium. The solarium was one of two structures to survive the fire.
          Hoping to create a cosmopolitan chess interest, the club invited George Koltanowski to give a blindfold exhibition in the winter of 1940.  The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Dec. 19, 1940 wrote:

In his exhibition of blindfold play at the Ventnor City Chess Club, George Koltanowski engaged eight opponents without sustaining a single defeat.  The Coast resort put forth its best talent, but the Belgian master won four of the games and drew the other four.  E.T. McCormick, prize winner in the first invitation tournament at the Municipal Pier, was among the defeated. Harold Burdge, club champion, obtained a draw.  In appreciation of the master's visit, the club conferred upon him an honorary life membership.

nullPart II                                Part III

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