Bill Addison (1933-2008)

| 17 | Chess Players

bill2.jpgA few weeks ago, Joanne Addison, widow of International Master Bill Addison, saw an article I wrote at about players that quit chess.  I used a statement that Pal Benko wrote in his autobiography that wasn't quite true, and Joanne corrected me for it.  In appreciation, I wanted to do a good bio of the late Bill Addison, a man who should have been a grandmaster (ranked #7 in the USA), but his family life was more important.  He died two years ago today.

William (Bill) Grady Addison was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on November 28, 1933.  He attended Louisiana State University (LSU).  In November 1950, Bill Addison appeared on the first USCF rating list.  His first rating was 2008 while living in Baton Rouge (not Shreveport, Louisiana as listed in an early Chess Life magazine).

Bill served in the U.S. Air Force in the 1950s and was stationed at Lowry AFB, Colorado before moving to Los Angeles, then to San Francisco.  In 1952 his USCF rating was 2095.

In late 1952, he settled in San Francisco.  By May 1953, his rating was 2125.  By the end of 1953, his USCF rating was 2209 (a chess expert was 2100-2299 in 1953; a master was 2300 to 2499).  By the mid-1960s, through hard work and no outside support, he developed into one of the top seven players in the county.

In 1953, he was a member of the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club, the oldest chess club in the United States.  Arthur Stamer (1884-1964) was its director from 1951 to 1964.  Bill remained a member of the Mechanics’ Institute until he died, and made several visits to the club throughout the years.

Bill Addison was also a member of the Golden Gate Chess Club (founded in 1884) in San Francisco.  Pictures of Bill Addison appear in the August 1955 issue of the California Chess Reporter, representing the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club and the Golden Gate Chess Club.

In 1953, he played in the 20th California championship, held in Hollywood, California.  He took 3rd place, behind Herman Steiner (1905-1955) and Henry Gross (1908-1987).  In 1954, he won the Northern California Open and took 2nd place in the Golden Gate Chess Club Championship in San Francisco (won by Bob Currie).

In May 1955, his USCF rating fell back to 2185.  In August 1955, he played in the 56th US Open championship, held in Long Beach, California.  He tied for 20th place with a score of 7.5 out of 12.  The event was won by Nicolas Rossolimo (1910-1975) on tiebreak over Samuel Reshevsky (1911-1992).  In November 1955, he played in the 22nd California championship, held in Los Angeles, California.  In round 5, he drew with Herman Steiner.  A few hours later, Steiner died of a heart attack and the California championship was cancelled.  Addison was the last person to play Steiner.

In 1956, Addison’s USCF rating was 2244, ranked #52 in the USA, earning him the title of chess master.  Players with ratings above 2200 were now considered a master.  Prior to 1956, players with ratings above 2300 were considered a master.  In 1956, he took 4th in the California Open Championship, held in Santa Barbara.  The event was won by Gilbert Ramirez.  In 1956 he played in the Golden Gate Open in San Francisco and the California State Championship, held in San Francisco.   He was also the top board winner for San Francisco against East Bay.

In 1957, Addison’s USCF rating was 2274.  In 1957, Addison played board 2 for the North in the 24th annual North vs. South match, held in Fresno, California.  He won his match against Ray Martin, but the North lost to the South by the score of 36-37.  Board 1 was Imre Konig (1901-1992) for the North and Isaac Kashdan (1905-1985) for the South.  In 1957, he won the Mechanics’ Institute Invitational Tourney.  In 1957, he defeated Samuel Reshevsky in an 8-game clock simul, held in San Francisco.  In July 1957, he played in the New Western Open, held in Milwaukee.    He tied for 6th-12th place.  The event was won by Donald Byrne (1930-1976) and Larry Evans.  In August 1957, Addison drove several chess players from San Francisco to Cleveland to play in the US Open.  The passengers included Bobby Fischer (1943-2008), Gil Ramirez, and William Rebold.  He played dozens of games with Fischer on that car trip.

In August 1957, Addison played in the 58th US Open championship, held in Cleveland, Ohio.  He tied for 13th place with a score of 8 out of 12.  The event was won by Bobby Fischer on tiebreak over Arthur Bisguier.  Addison defeated Bisguier (his only loss), but lost to Fischer in round 11 on August 15, 1957 (Fischer won as White in 36 moves as Addison played the Caro Kann defense).  In September 1957, he played in the California State Open championship, held in Monterey, and tied for 7th-8th.  The event was won by James Schmitt on tie-break over Grandmaster Larry Evans.  In November 1957, he won the San Francisco City Championship and the Northern California Chess Championship and qualified for the California State Championship, but did not participate (won by James Cross).

In 1958, he played board 1 for the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club in league play, which won the Division championship.  Addison won 7, drew 2, and lost none for the best record.  In April 1958, he won the Golden Gate Chess Club Open Championship with an 11-1 score.  In September 1958, he won the San Francisco championship.  In October-November 1958, took 2nd place in the Northern California Open Championship, held in San Francisco.  The event was won by James Schmitt.  In December 1958, he played in the 25th California championship, held in San Francisco.  He took 2nd place, behind Charles Bagby (1903-1975).  By 1958, he was the 19th highest rated active player in the USA, with a rating of 2363.  Reshevsky was rated 2713 and Fischer was rated 2626. (March 5, 1958 USCF rating list)

In 1959, Addison’s rating was 2338.  In 1959, he was the games editor of the California Chess Reporter.

In 1960, he played in the Northern California chess championship in San Francisco.  In early November 1960, he took 1st place in the Palo Alto Open in Palo Alto, California.  In November 1960, he played in the 27th California championship, held in San Francisco.  He tied for 3rd-4th with Irving Rivise, behind Zoltan Kovacs (1st place) and Sven Almgren (2nd place).  By the end of 1960, Addison’s USCF rating was 2327.

In August 1961, he played in the US Open, held in San Francisco (won by Pal Benko).  Addison tied for 5th-6th.  By the end of 1961, Addison’s USCF rating was 2310.

In 1962, he scored a perfect 6-0 to win the Hamilton AFB Open in California.  In 1962, he won the Southern California Open, the California Closed championship in San Francisco, the Fresno Open and the Santa Monica Open.  In 1962, he took 2nd place in the California Open, won by Walter Cunningham.  By the end of 1962, Addison’s rating was 2408.

In 1962-63, he played in his first of five US championships, the 15th US chess championship (Rosenwald tournament) in New York City.  He tied for 3rd place with Larry Evans and Samuel Reshevsky with the score 6.5-4.5.  The event was won by Bobby Fischer, followed by Arthur Bisguier.  Addison defeated Reshevsky in the first round.  In 1963, Addison was in a play-off with Samuel Reshevsky and Larry Evans to determine who would qualify for the 3rd position in the next Interzonal (Fischer and Bisguier already qualified).  The play-off was held in Los Angeles and Reshevsky won the event.  In 1963, he played in the California State Championship in Los Angeles.  In 1963, he took 2nd in the Herman Steiner Chess Club championship, held in Hollywood.  The event was won by Anthony Saidy.

In 1963-64, Bill lived in Los Angeles and taught chess under a grant from the Piatigorsky Foundation.  Under the Piatigorsky grant, he taught chess to minority students in Watts and also to disabled children in the Los Angeles schools.  His talent and teaching abilities helped even the hard-to-reach kids with chess.

By the end of 1963, Addison’s rating was 2462.  In 1963-64, he played in the 16th US chess championship in New York.  He only scored 3.5-7.5, tying for 9th place with Edmar Mednis (1937-2002).  Fischer won the event with an 11-0 score.

In early 1964, he won the Masters’ Round Robin of the Herman Steiner Chess Club, held in Los Angeles.  He scored 10 wins and 1 draw, earning $250 first prize.

In 1964 he won the first annual Arthur B. Stamer Memorial in San Francisco.  In 1964, he won the 4th Central New England Open tournament, held in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.  In 1964, he played for the USA in the 16th Chess Olympiad, held in Tel Aviv.  He scored 7.5 out of 9 (83.3%) with 7 wins, 1 draw, and 1 loss.  He won the bronze medal as second reserve.  The USA team placed 6th.  In 1964, Addison’s USCF rating was 2501.

In 1965, he was appointed director of the San Francisco Mechanics’ Institute Chess Room, which he served until 1969.   His USCF rating in 1965 was 2520.  In December 1965, he played in the 17th US chess championship.  He tied for 4th place with Bernard Zuckerman.  Addison drew with Fischer in the first round and defeated Larry Evans in round 2.  Fischer won the event, followed by Robert Byrne and Samuel Reshevsky.  Addison prevented Fischer from duplicating his 11-0 record of the 1963-64 US Championship.  In 1965, Addison’s highest USCF rating was 2528.

In 1966, Addison’s USCF rating was 2535 and ranked number 7 in the USA.  This may have been his highest USCF rating.  In 1966, he played for the USA in the 17th Chess Olympiad, held in Havana.  The entire USA team, led by Bobby Fischer, won the silver medal for coming in 2nd place, behind the USSR.  Addison played 1st Reserve board, scoring 5 wins, no draws, and 4 losses (55.6%).  In December 1966, he played in the18th US chess championship.  He took 6th place, drawing with Fischer and defeating Pal Benko and Samuel Reshevsky.  The event was won by Bobby Fischer.

In 1967, Addison agreed to play for the Blue Unicorn Bar Chess Team.  The Blue Unicorn was a bar in San Francisco.  In 1967, he played at Maribor, Yugoslavia and tied for 9th-12th place.  The event was won by Wolfgang Unzicker, ahead of Reshevsky.  Addison fulfilled the norm for the International Master title.   In 1967, he was awarded the International Master title by FIDE.  In October 1967, he appeared on the cover of Chess Life magazine.  In October 1967, he tied for 1st with Anthony Saidy in the Santa Monica International tournament.  Addison beat Walter Browne, who took 3rd place, after Browne had one move remaining in a winning position, but lost on time!  In the final round, Addison was in first place and was playing Laszlo Binet, who was in last place.  But Addison went astray in a tricky endgame and lost, allowing Saidy, who won his last game, to catch up.   Both players receive $225 (1st place was $300 and 2nd place was $150).  At the end of 1967, his USCF rating was 2503 and ranked 7th in the USA.

In June 1968, he played at Reykjavik, hoping for a grandmaster norm, but tied for 8th-9th place.  Mark Taimanov and Evgeni Vasiukov tied for 1st.  He was invited but did not play in the 19th US Championship, which was held in July in New York (won by Larry Evans).  In 1968, Addison’s peak USCF rating was 2501, but fell to 2456 by the end of the year, ranked 11th in the USA.  His Elo rating was 2470.

In June 1969, he tied for 1st place with Larry Evans in the 2nd Strawberry Open in Marysville, Washington.  In November 1969, he won the Northern California Championship with a 5-0 score, and qualified for the state championship.  In December 1969, Addison (USCF rated 2497 and 7th highest rated in the US) played in the 20th U.S. Championship and took 2nd place, behind Samuel Reshevsky (age 56, winning for the 6th time).  He won 6 games, drew 3 games, and lost 2 games.  He was ½ point behind Reshevsky and ahead of Pal Benko and Bill Lombardy (who he defeated in the final round).  He qualified for the 1970 Interzonal tournament, along with Reshevsky and Benko.  Benko gave up his slot and allowed Bobby Fischer to play, which he won.  Benko became Addison’s second instead, at the Interzonal.

When Addison played in the US Championship, he was described as a pipe-smoking Californian, often dressed in a three-piece suit, looking like a visiting business executive ready to take over a conglomerate.  Addison would have tied for 1st place with Reshevsky if Larry Evans had accepted Reshevsky’s draw offer in the final round after 15 moves.  But Evans played on and lost, giving Reshevsky ½ point more than Addison.

In February 1970, he won the Central California Chess Association (CCCA) Class tournament at Berkeley with a perfect 4-0 score.  In June-July 1970, he played at Caracas, Venezuela hoping for a grandmaster norm.  He took 11th place.  The event was won by Kavalek.  Addison defeated USSR champion Leonid Stein (1934-1973) and drew with Junior World Champion and Grandmaster Anatoly Karpov.  On October 16, 1970, Bill Addison married Joanne, a preschool teacher.  She happened to have the exact same birthday as Bill (same day, month, and year).  In November-December 1970, he competed in the 8th FIDE Interzonal Tournament in Palma de Mallorca, Spain.  He scored 9-14 and taking 18th-19th place.  His Elo rating was 2490.  Addison’s second was Pal Benko.    The event was won by Bobby Fischer, 3.5 points ahead of his nearest rivals of Bent Larsen (1935-2010), Efim Geller (1925-1998), and Robert Huebner.

In Pal Benko: My Life, Games and Compositions, Pal Benko, on page 430-431, writes, “I remember being Addison’s second at the Palma de Mallorca Interzonal.  His one ambition was to finish ahead of Reshevsky, but he failed, ending up half a point behind Reshevsky at the end.  We were looking at his adjournment against Portisch and he complained, saying that I was finding all the good moves for his opponent!  As it turned out, his wife only agreed to marry him if he quit chess.  After this, Addison vanished from the chess scene.” 

Mr. Benko had incorrect information about Bill and his wife.  Bill Addison was already married to his wife, Joanne, and she never made any such statement.  She never asked Bill to give up anything.  Bill Addison went to Palma de Mallorca with it totally agreed that if he did well, he would continue with chess; if not, not.  Bill later decided he wanted to put down roots and not travel anymore.

At the end of 1970, Addison’s rating was 2478.  By the end of 1970, at the age of 37, he quit chess after returning from the Interzonal in Palma de Mallorca.  He then started driving a taxi in Daly City, California to make ends meet.   He felt he had gone as far as he could or wanted to go in chess, and then gave up the game to devote himself completely to his marriage to Joanne and family.  Joanne had two little daughters from a previous marriage, whom Bill adored.

Later, he happened on the job at Crocker National Bank in San Francisco (not Bank of America as some sources indicate).  They saw his promise and provided him courses in banking.  Over the years, he worked for several other banks in San Francisco, the last being Bank Hapoalim, an Israeli bank.

Bill no longer had any chess set after returning home from Spain, except for a small miniature pocket chess set that he rarely used.  However, he still followed certain games and tournaments, playing over the games in his head.

In 2001, an annual William Addison Open was started in San Francisco, in honor of William Addison.

In 2003, Bill Addison visited the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Room to let people know that his friend Kurt Bendit, a former Mechanics’ Institute Chess Room director (1963-1964), had moved to San Francisco Community Convalescent Hospital and would appreciate visitors.

In 2007, Bill Addison visited the Mechanics’ Institute to assist current Chess Room director John Donaldson in putting together a book of the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Room history.

On October 29, 2008, Bill Addison passed away in San Francisco.  He died of cancer.  He was 74.  He is survived by his wife Joanne Addison and two step-daughters.

His record in five US chess championship tournaments was 19 wins, 20 draws, and 16 losses in 55 games (a plus score). 

His record in two chess Olympiads was 12 wins, 1 draw, and 5 losses. 

His record against Bobby Fischer was 2 draws and 4 losses.

Beside chess, Bill was also a very strong Go player.

My thanks to Joanne Addison for providing me much of this information.  Also thanks to IM John Donaldson and the California chess archives at ChessDryad, maintained by Kerry Lawless.

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