The 2014 Holly Heisman Memorial Charity Chess Tournament

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My first wife, Susan Hollis (Holly) Bloom Heisman, passed away of breast cancer in Oct 1994. Among her social work jobs had been working with battered wives and runaway teens. She also did extensive volunteering for the American Cancer Society (I used to play simuls at the Neshaminy Mall to help raise money alongside her).

So, to honor Holly's memory, our family started a charity (Fund) at The Philadelphia Foundation called the Holly Heisman Memorial Fund. Its charter is to help women with breast cancer, battered wives, and runaway (female) teens.

Over the years this fund has issued grants to a variety of causes, such as women's shelters and the Evelyn Jacobs Ortner Center on Family Violence at the University of Pennsylvania.

In 2001 I took over as the chief contact for this fund when my sister, a professional fund-raiser, was named President of the National Philanthropic Trust, and became too busy to work with our small fund. Right away I thought "How can I help this fund grow?"

So it occurred to me to start a unique chess event to raise money for this charity:

  • All organizers and TDs would donate their time
  • All entries would be free
  • All prizes would be donated
  • All participants would be strongly urged (but not forced) to make a donation of any size to the Holly Heisman Memorial Fund, with $25+ per entrant suggested.
  • The playing room would either be donated free, or at least inexpensive

Since 2014 will be our 13th annual event, a little calculation shows that I was able to organize and TD the first one in 2002.

This charity event has been held the first Sunday each August at the Kaiserman JCC, at the corner of City Avenue and Haverford Rd, in Wynnewood, just across from Philadelphia. We thank the Kaiserman JCC for donating the room inexpensively.

There are always three sections, usually:

  1. Open - open to all ages and ratings
  2. U1500 - open to all ages with ratings under 1500, and
  3. K-8 U900 - open only to players in grades K-8 rated under 900

The first two sections are five-round swisses and the scholastic section is four rounds. The time limit is usually G/25; d/5 so we can fit 5 rounds in before dinner. We generally get 70-100 players and the majority (!) usually win prizes. Youngsters often win two prizes, thanks to John Bain (and other sponsors).

The most difficult part of the event is figuring out the prizes! When someone donates a prize, they can designate what it is for (most don't), but it can take a while. For example, IM Igor Khmelnitsky kindly donates a couple copies of his books, and specifies that they go to "the highest scoring players in the Open and U1500 sections who otherwise would not win a prize but win in the final round" - a sort of "don't give up!" prize Smile.

Over the years, many sponsors have donated prizes (anyone can - including YOU!). Some of our most frequent sponsors, besides IM Igor, include John Bain, Chess Openings Wizard, Mongoose Press, Russell Enterprises,, The Internet Chess Club, The Dan Heisman Learning Center (here at, and House of Staunton. In addition to the Kaiserman helping with the room, the US Chess Federation usually offers a free Tournament Life Announcement (TLA) and covers the rating fees.

In the past few years I have no longer been the chief organizer and TD. The father of one of my former students, Dr. Ramachandra, took over the organizing aspects and now delegates those duties to his son (that student), Chirag Ram. Joshua Anderson is now the Chief TD and I help out. Wife Shelly is the donation collector and sells refreshments. Last year even son Delen played - his first USCF event in almost 10 years!

A big break came when former student Howard Stern offered to donate a trip to his studio! At first, we offered it as a prize, but that little affect on the fundraising (although it eventually led to my making two appearances on his show with the winners!). Things really got rolling, however, when an astute observer suggested we instead auction off Howard's trip on EBay. That was a great idea, and we've raised more funds via that route than all the others combined. Thanks, Howard!

The Holly Heisman Memorial Fund started with $3,000 in endowment but, thanks to Howard and all the other contributors, we have now made it over $100K. Thanks again to all.

Here's how you can participate as a sponsor (donate prizes), direct donor, or player:

  • To play, put Aug 3 on your calendar to be here in the Philadelphia area. The tournament will be advertised thru Chess Life, my website, and likely here at the event area. If you can't find it, email me thru my website and I will help.
  • If you can't play, but wish to make a tax-deductible (in US) donation, there are two ways: You can donate online via The Philadelphia Foundation (that's a live link - just click on it). Or you can send them a check, made out to "The Philadelphia Foundation" with "Holly Heisman Memorial Fund" in the memo field, and send to:    

     The Philadelphia Foundation
     1234 Market Street, Suite 1800
     Philadelphia, PA 19107

  • If you would like to donate prize(s), they will go to TD Joshua Anderson. Again, simply email me thru my website and I will forward your email to Josh, who will send you his address. Typical prizes could be cash, a generic trophy, book(s), entries to tournaments, chess gear, and/or chess memberships.

You can follow the Holly Heisman Memorial Fund at its Facebook page (the link to our more recent fund, to support junior chess in the state and area, is here).

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