Some Bones to Pick

Jun 7, 2011, 6:12 PM |

 I have some bones to pick, as well as some kudos to pass around.

As an expounder on the culture of chess, I'm particularly sensitive to what degree organizations embrace the history of chess, and, as an American, I'm even more sensitive to what degree American organizations embrace their own chess history.

For years I noticed the poverty of historic appreciation exhibited by both the USCF and it's periodical, Chess Life.  While they seem somewhat current with chess events, they also seem very much out of touch with their past.  Before Wikipedia, possibly the only avenues to specifically American chess history were the few books on the subject and the wonderful and ubiquitous  Bill Wall.  At least today people can find information on the more well-known American players of years-gone-by. Still, The USCF should have readily available stats on players and tournaments, as well as bios on players of quality and other important chess advocates, no matter how obscure to most of us, going back to the early days of chess in the USA.

This task seems to have fallen on the individual state organizations (who for the most part aren't much better than the USCF in this area), on the individual clubs or sometimes just on devoted individuals. While this is a rather haphazard approach to finding and preserving information for posterity, some of these efforts are quite commendable.

          Here are some of the best ones of which I'm aware:

   The crème de la crème has to be Dwight Weaver's blog on the history the
   Memphis Chess Club (and some other Tennessee chess history). It's not only
   informative, it's also quite enjoyable and well presented.

   Kerry Lawless has for years showered us with a downpour of California chess
   history with his Chess Dryad site.

   Nebraska Chess History can be found here.

   Arlen Walker's personal site, The Chessmill, on the history of chess in
   Milwaulkee is also quite good, and this history is very important in the
   development of chess in the USA.

Two places that are a bit slimmer on chess history, but still offer some great work are:
          Michael Goeller's Kenilworth Chess Club site (from Kenilworth, N. J.)
          David Glickman's Boylston Chess Club site (from Somerville, Massachusetts
          - HN Pillsbury's birthplace).


A caveat - don't avoid viewing any of these site simply because you have no abiding interest in the history of those places. Many of the stories and characters have universal appeal and might surprise you.