I have written a long acceptance speech that will likely not be read at the Award Ceremonies. I just wanted to get it down on paper for my own record. A far shorter commentary that my designated recipient Jim Eade, a well known name for his years of service to the chess community and a friend, will present on my behalf at Rancho Mirage, CA on August 5. For those that have a lot of time, here is what I have written to date and only edited twice. I am told by my former colleague and friend Dr. Howard DeWitt that things must be edited 17 times at least
When I read the e-mail that said I was selected to receive the U.S. Chess Federation’ Scholastic Service Award in conjunction with the U.S. Open and Annual meeting I thought it was spam or someone was spoofing me. I decided to check the U.S.C.F website to see if such an award even existed. When I clicked on the USChess.org a message appeared that the site was down while material from the new website was being added. I said to myself, “OK, what else is new.” I tried again the next day and was able to search the site. I came to the realization that the letter was for real and somehow I was actually getting the U.S. Chess Federation’s 2022 Scholastic Service Award.
I will start my thank you’s to those who made this honor possible with Jim Eade who has kindly agreed to play me since I cannot be here. Jim deserves my thanks not just because he is here picking up my award, or that he is one of the best examples of someone who has donated, often without thanks, his energy and time to the chess community, but also because I doubt I would be receiving this honor if it weren’t for him. Back in the early 90’s when Jim was President of CalChess he talked me into joining the Northern California Board as they needed someone there who was working with scholastic players. My mother always had a hard time turning down a request to volunteer her time. Like my mother I often went overboard in my community participation. I loved it! Jim also convinced me to do some writing and submit photos for the very professional CalChess Journal he had created.
There had been no one within the scholastic community on the CalChess Board for quite a while. Hard to believe today when it is hard to find someone for the CalChess Board who is not part of the scholastic community. Jim also got me involved in chess outside of California when he convinced me to serve with him on the University of Texas, Chess Board. We traveled there together and got to know each other fairly well. I did get something quite nice for my short time on that Board. I obtained a blue blazer with the UT Dallas Chess logo. I could then look official when I organized tournaments or served as the Chief TD.
There was a Northern California Scholastic Chair at the time, Ray Orwig, who I was told did not want to serve on the CalChess Board. I call Ray the father of scholastic Chess in Northern California. He not only ran the NorCal Scholastic State Championship but a few USCF scholastic quads in the North Bay. His wife was an Alameda County children’s librarian in the East Bay and she arranged for him to run free, non-rated chess tournaments in most of the libraries there. That is how I met Ray who became an inspiration for everything I have done. My middle son played in one of Ray’s non-rated events and did very well. We then went an hour north to Ray’s rated events and later that school year, 1988-1989, my son in First Grade won the K-3 Championship Division in the States. I decided to take him to the 1989 Elementary School Nationals in Phoenix. I there learned what scholastic chess was all about and saw how well a large tournament could be organized. I later mimicked much of what I saw when I organized our State Championships.
My Weibel Elementary School Chess Club began to grow and parents from other schools in the area began to contact me about how to create a chess club. One year Weibel Chess obtained 240 kids out of 770 children in this districted Elementary School. Very few schools at that time in the southern East Bay and the South Bay had chess programs. I helped them organize. I note that this was before any large chess profit or non-profit scholastic chess businesses came into the area. There was a program in Berkeley that I knew nothing about.
With Ray as an inspiration, I began to hold a few small USCF tournaments. Ray decided to leave his position as Scholastic Chair and later turned over the State Championships to me. I held the Scholastic Chair position for 12 years helping programs develop not just in Northern California but in a few other parts of the country.
When I decided to become active in the chess community, I gave up my position in the American Drug Free Powerlifting Association that I and my training partner had brought to California. I had organized many powerlifting events in the 1970’s and 1980’s including a large National Championship. I started holding a few small chess tournaments instead of powerlifting meets. I found that nearing the senior citizen age it was much easier to move chess equipment than barbells. I decided to even hold a large chess event and I created the California Chess Grade Level Championships which I held at two schools about two miles apart due to the need for space--Weibel Elementary School and Mission San Jose Elementary School. Mission had begun program two years after Weibel. A chess guru in the area, Richard Shorman, influenced the programs in both schools. Both schools did well at the National level and won a number of championship titles.
When Ray Orwig decided not to continue running the NorCal State Scholastic Championships, I took over. I turned the California Grade Level over to CalChess. By that time, an agreement had been reached with the Southern California State that we would take turns running the event.
Tom Dorsch, who had been holding open tournaments for many years in Northern California, which seldom had any scholastic players, became my mentor. He took me with him so I could learn how to negotiate with hotel managers and convention center directors. He also funded the first few scholastic states through his Northern California Chess Tournaments business. Once we moved it from a school site to a hotel the event exploded in the number of players, topping 1300. I left running the States for a few years in 2000 but returned in 2006 when CalChess was having trouble locating a local organizer. CalChess funded the event. I volunteered my time, and all the profit went to CalChess, pulling them out of a financial bind. In 2008 I helped CalChess find a local organizer, Salman Azhar and his Bay Area Chess. I continued running smaller events and working with the local chess community. I recently decided that at 84 years young it was time to step aside from my chess organizing activities.
My wife deserves loads of Kudos for her continued support. I also thank my two youngest sons for without their desire to participate in chess events I would not have been volunteering my time. My oldest son knew how to play chess but made soccer his primary goal in life. I had even helped organize soccer events. Now 53 my eldest cheered when I informed him that the US Chess Federation was providing me with an award for my service to the scholastic chess community. He said: “That is so great. Too often people are not around anymore when an organization recognizes them for their achievements. I am glad you held on.”
I am glad that I held on as well for I can provide my heartfelt thanks to the U.S. Chess Federation for this completely unexpected honor.