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Carol Jarecki 1935-2021
Carol Jarecki at the 2015 Millionaire Chess tournament. Photo: David Llada.

Carol Jarecki 1935-2021

PeterDoggers
| 61 | Misc

American chess organizer, international arbiter, and chess writer Carol Jarecki died on Sunday, June 13 at the age of 86 after losing a battle to cancer. An arbiter at world championship matches in New York in 1990 and 1995, Jarecki will be sorely missed in the chess world.

"During the one minute of ascent on the rapid escalator, your ears popped. Here from the viewing platform, there was a wonderful panorama of New York—from the Statue of Liberty to the Brooklyn Bridge... That which I saw staggered me. In a cubic glass 'aquarium' three people were sitting: the two world-famous grandmasters at the chess table, and at the back of the stage a small, frail woman, the chief arbiter Carol Jarecki." (Isaak Linder on the 1995 Kasparov-Anand match in Garry Kasparov on Garry Kasparov: Part Three, Everyman Chess, 2014.)

Carol Hedwig Jarecki (née Fuse) was born on February 13, 1935, in Neptune, New Jersey. After studying anesthesia she worked as a nurse. She married physician Richard Jarecki in 1964. The two had three children, of whom their son John was quite a talented junior chess player: he briefly held the record as the youngest-ever chess master in U.S. history at the age of 12 in 1981.

She was never a player herself; it was her son who connected Carol to the chess world. As a "chess mom" she traveled with him to tournaments all over the country in the 1970s and 80s. In fact, as a licensed pilot, she often flew him to tournaments. She would fly airplanes into her eighties.

Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award Carol Jarecki John
Carol Jarecki receiving the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award in November 2020. Photo: Facebook.

"Fed up with bad arbitrating, she thought she'd do it herself," is how former FIDE Executive Director and good friend Nigel Freeman phrased what happened next. Jarecki started to get more and more involved herself in what it takes to organize tournaments: first to help setting up pieces, then read the rule book and help with pairings, until she became a certified tournament director as well as an international arbiter herself—with the literal peak of arbitrating the Kasparov-Anand 1995 PCA World Championship match at the top of the World Trade Center.

What followed became a long list of high-level events where she was involved, such as the 1997 Kasparov-Deep Blue match, several U.S. Championships, Sinquefield Cups, SuperNational Scholastic Championships, National Elementary Championships, World Opens in Philadelphia, Amateur Team Championships, and also the annual Bermuda International Open where she was arbiter and organizer for 20 years.

1987 New York Open chess Carol Jarecki
Jarecki can be seen in the background in this picture of the 1987 New York Open. Among the games: Julio Granda vs. Dragan Barlov and Tony Miles vs. William Watson. Photo: Facebook.

Freeman, who co-organized the Bermuda tournaments with her, wrote on Facebook:

"Organising a successful chess tournament was easy. One selected the right players, looked after them properly, invited Carol Jarecki to be the arbiter, and did whatever she told you to do! I will miss her terribly and so will many others, she was one of a kind."

Speaking to Chess.com, Freeman added: "She will be missed not only by many Americans but also certainly those international players that came and played in Bermuda. They respected her as a friend, not just an arbiter because she took good care of them. For instance, she always insisted on top conditions for players, such as lighting."

At some point, Jarecki was seen more as a FIDE arbiter than a U.S. arbiter. After she had fulfilled the job of Chief Arbiter in the women's section of the 1992 Manila Olympiad, she would continue working at Olympiads until the Batumi 2018 edition. She was also the chief arbiter at the 2016 women's world championship in Lviv, Ukraine.

"She lived a full life and kept herself fit," recalls Freeman. "I remember we used to organize a barbecue for the players on the rest days of the Bermuda tournaments. She always insisted on walking the 10 kilometers from the hotel to my house. Also, nobody else was seen more in the gym than her."

Carol Jarecki
Jarecki in May this year on Guana Island, British Virgin Islands. She was also the FIDE delegate for the BVI. Photo: Facebook.

Jarecki also helped GM Maurice Ashley when he organized the Millionaire Chess tournaments in 2014-2016. "She was a fighter," Ashley commented. "She had an amazing attitude. She was small in stature but absolutely large in personality."

An interesting period in Jarecki's life cannot remain unmentioned. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, when they lived in Heidelberg, Germany she and her husband were quite successfully involved in gambling, winning more than $1.2 million. It is said that they used a system based on finding roulette wheels biased by mechanical imperfections, which was still possible at the time.

Carol's husband died in 2018. She is survived by a son, two daughters, and six grandchildren.

Carol Jarecki 2018 Olympiad
As the chairperson of the scrutiny committee, Jarecki announces the votes during the 2018 FIDE Presidential elections in Batumi, Georgia. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

CCO of Chess.com IM Danny Rensch commented: 

"As a young man competing in tournaments I remember Carol as a rather intimidating figure - but in a good way! She brought calm and order to every room she entered. A true pillar of professionalism for tournament directors and organizers in America."

CCO of Chesskid.com and writer for Chess.com FM Mike Klein:

"Carol Jarecki was the arbiter of many tournaments that I covered as a reporter, but in time, she became a friend. This probably began in earnest when we had breakfast several times at the St. Louis airport while we both awaited flights home. She would regale me with piloting stories, but never to grandstand. I would sit and eat and ask her about her experiences. Landing in airports in heavy fog, zero visibility, nothing seemed to faze her in the air (or on the ground for that matter). She even had a great theory as to why John F. Kennedy junior crashed his plane — a recent injury to his leg kept him from applying the proper rudder inputs when he became disoriented.

"Carol was diminutive in outward stature but she was the most confident and unbiased arbiter out there. While she was given some private grief because of her low rating, she knew the rules inside and out. Her experience was nearly unmatched, especially in the United States. At the 2012 Olympiad, I tried to sneak a peek at her results sheet, where she had labeled which players would be drug tested after the games. I’m not sure why I thought this was a scoop, but she saw me coming and slyly turned her clipboard over. Luckily she didn’t hold my cub reporter tactics against me.

We talk a lot about confident women in the chess world, and she fit the bill perfectly."

Bonnie Waitzkin, the mother of the famous prodigy Josh Waitzkin, shared memories on Facebook:

"I met Carol at the Youth World Championship in Fond du Lac Wisconsin in 1990, where she was the tournament director. My son Josh had an adjourned game against GM Judit Polgar. Carol wanted Josh to play the adjournment before the next round was paired, which would have been exhausting, 3 games in one day. I said 'no' and she said 'yes.' I said, 'If you want him to lose because his mother said he can’t play 3 games in a day, okay. But I say he can play the adjourned game on the day off.' That was the beginning of a long friendship. Carol was tough but she was fair, and much respected in the chess world."

Beatriz Marinello, the first woman President of the US Chess Federation and the first woman to become a FIDE Vice President, wrote:

"Carol was a remarkable person, tough as a nail, adventurous, brilliant, loyal, and a no-nonsense kind of person. I loved her so much. She was the Chief Arbiter and supporter of the FIDE World Junior Chess Championship for Players with Disabilities. Carol was loved and respected by many in the international chess community - the world has lost a wonderful person. She will always be remembered. RIP Carol."

FIDE's Chief Marketing and Communications Officer David Llada on Facebook:

"We worked together in a few events and she honored me with her friendship. She was the most youthful eighty-something I have ever met, always active and inquisitive. A true inspiration."


Correction: an earlier version of this article erroneously stated that the man on the right side of the picture where Carol Jarecki receives the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award is her son John. It is not, and we haven't been able to find out his identity just yet.

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