Ken Boehm, 1949-2018
NM Dan Heisman's Blog

Ken Boehm, 1949-2018

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Ken Boehm loved to play the rare Sicilian Four Knights Variation for Black (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6).

So when top Western GM Bent Larsen came to Philadelphia in 1968 to play a simultaneous exhibition, Ken was very happy when Larsen decided to play the Sicilian Four Knights against him! I guess Larsen was hoping that his lower rated opponent did not know this tricky line, unaware that it was his opponent's favorite opening! Ken wisely steered the game into the wildest line, Larsen misplayed it, and Ken wound up with a wonderful notch on his belt. (By the way, the top players in Philadelphia gave Larsen a very hard time, as his W26 L7 D7 score would indicate! I got one of the draws; not bad for a teen who had been playing in tournaments for only two years...).

I first met Ken because my high school did not have a chess team. Therefore, I drove over to Upper Moreland, our arch-rival school, to practice with their team. Ken was their first board, captain, and member of MENSA. We quickly developed a strong friendship. A couple years later, when I transferred from Caltech to Penn State due to LA smog, Ken became my roommate and we both played for Coach Donald Byrne.

Ken had a wonderful sense of humor. One year the rating of the annual Bloomsburg tournament was delayed while a snafu between the TD and the US Chess Federation was resolved. That was fine with Ken, who had one of his worst events, losing to a couple of 1400 players.

Several months later we were attending a Marx Brothers movie on campus. While waiting for the movie to start, I listed the team order for the upcoming collegiate championships. I told Ken he would probably be 7th. He exclaimed:

"Seventh! But I am higher rated than {so-and-so)!"

I explained "Not any longer. They finally rated Bloomsburg." Ken did not blink an eye:

"They rated Bloomsburg!" he cried with his characteristic laugh, "That's like telling Napoleon they rated Waterloo!"

By the end of college Ken had gotten his rating back to 1800, whereupon he announced his retirement: "I will always be an 'A' player!".

Later Ken became a lawyer and worked for conservative causes in Washington D.C. His hero was William F. Buckley, the erudite political analyst.  When Trump was nominated, I asked Ken if Buckley would approve of Trump, and Ken answered in the negative, stating that (no matter who won the election), he had already ordered a t-shirt that read "I already hate the next President!".

So it was with shock and sadness that I heard last month from Ken's brother Marty that Ken was on hospice with cancer. A week later Ken passed away. The chess world has lost another, but Ken never lost his "A" rating...

Picture below of my son Delen, when young, with Ken.