The Schachklub (I stole their nifty background image to use on my own chess page) of Ludwigshafen, Germany, came to Pasadena in 1993, and played a chess match against the JPL team. Here is the group photo. That's me, way in the back center. Jeff Schroeder is holding up the refreshments, and the JPL top board player Larry Stevens is front right. Each member of the Ludwigshafen team brought a gift for their opponents - six bottles of German beer (one each of six different brands) and a bottle of pink wine. Since I never drink, I passed mine on to a Swedish astronomer of my acquaintance who put them to good use. Ludwigshafen won the match, and the blitz tournament that followed. I managed to lose both of my games aganst Kris Thurner, who is two heads below me, just to the right of the only lady in the group. This picture looks too dark on my monitor, but looks better on some of the others. Hopefully, it looks OK on yours.
I can't remember a time when I didn't play chess; I had already learned the rules from my father by the time I began kindergarten. So you would think that by now I should be a grandmaster or something. As much as I enjoy studying & playing, we do all rise to our own level of incompetence, and I reached mine. My lifetime peak rating of 2154, several years ago, would put me in the top half of the expert class, and within earshot of the master class (rating 2200 and up). These days I am laying around on my USCF floor, rated 1900, the middle of Class A, as of April 1999. I stopped making a serious effort to study a long time ago, and it shows. But it's still fun. Maybe losing will give me an incentive to work at it again?
I graduated from high school in 1967, but it was not until October of 1968 that I joined the United States Chess Federation (USCF), and played in my first rated tournament. That was in the old Monterey Park Chess Club. I had been there more or less regularly as a student, so it was the natural place to start. Since I had just graduated from high school, and was unrated, I was placed in the "kid's" section for my first tournament. I won that contest by scoring 7 wins and 1 draw out of 8 games, and from then on always played in the regular "adult" tournaments. This got me my first USCF rating of about 1620. My rating went up slowly to peak at 1713 before I joined the U.S. Air Force.
I continued to play during my years in the Air Force, but distracted by training and technical school, my USCF rating fell to the lowest ever for me, 1576 by early in 1972. However, once I got settled in at Goodfellow Air Force Base (near San Angelo, Texas), my performance improved steadily. I twice represented the Security Service at the Air Force's World Wide Chess Championship; at Chanute AFB (Rantoul, Illinois; now closed) in 1973, and again at McConnell AFB in 1974 (It was during the 1974 tournament that the Yom Kippur War broke out between Israel and Egypt, prompting the Security Service to alert status; but we continued to play, and the war ended before the tournament did). By the time I left the Air Force in 1975, I had pushed my rating over 1800 and into the "A" class.
It was during my Air Force years that I fell in love with Monterey, California, where I was stationed at the Defense Language Institute, and played constantly at the Monterey Chess Center. Even though my rating suffered from my poor performance, it was an enjoyable place to play. It was in Monterey that I gained the enthusiasm to study after my transfer to Texas. And that resulted in a considerable improvement in my playing ability.
I continued to work on my game, but the Air Force years mark the time of my most intense efforts along those lines. I worked my way into the Expert ranks eventually, and about 1986 or so I managed to reach my lifetime top rating of 2154, in the high end of the Expert class. Since then I have relaxed somewhat; I no longer make the effort to study the game, and I survive for the most part by experience and trickery! As of February, 2004, my regular USCF rating is 1968 (most of the 68 points over 1900 will go away when my latest batch of blunders gets rated), and my quickchess rating is 1967. Quickchess is usually 10 or 15 min per player per game, but I think the rules allow anything between 24 minutes and 6 minutes. 5 Minutes is speed chess, and has a third rating system [speed chess is commonly, but erroneously called blitz chess; blitz historically refers to games played at a time limit of 10 seconds per move].
I am addicted to club tournaments, and I enjoy just playing, though I have never cared for fast chess (5 min per game and the like). I have played in the US Open 4 times as I recall; Palo Alto, CA, in 1981, Pasadena, CA, in 1987(?), Once in Los Angeles around 1992(?), and in Concord, CA in 1995 [I have a hard time remembering the years, so I don't really know when I played, but I remember where I played quite well]. I went with Master Retired Russ McLee to the World Open in Philadelphia in 1981(?) and played a marathon of 22 tournament games in 11 days. I don't think I will do that again. Over the years I have won the Monterey Park Chess Club championship (twice I think), and I tied with McLee for the Arcadia Chess Club championship once. I have won a few local tournaments, and I have even been a certified Local tournament director several times. I have won board prizes twice at the US Amateur Team Championship West, and was part of the "Four Horseman" with Russ McLee, Jeff Long, and Dan Lee, when we finished the tournament in 3rd place (1984).
I have also amassed a library of several hundred chess books, including a major chunk of my antiquarian book collection. I spent some time on the USCF Ethics Committee, and several years as a member of the board of directors of the Southern California Chess Federation. But for now, I have given up chess politics altogether.
I play now mostly at the Pasadena Chess Club, where I was, until late 2003, President & part time TD. After several years of solving everybody else's problems, I decided I would rather just come & play, so I forced an election so I could abdicate! I play in some of the larger Southern California tournaments, such as the team tournament, the Memorial Day Classic, or the American Open, when I can. I also enjoy the history of chess, especially the evolution of the rules of the game, since modern chess was invented in the late 1400's.
I find competetive chess to be remarkably demanding on both the mind & body. It is not just an intellectual affair, but an emotional one as well. You have to really want to play, or the results won't be worth the effort. This is one of the reasons for my own occasional lapses into unconcious stupidity over the chessboard, and my own tendency to blunder badly, even in the opening. It does not happen when I am emotionally committed to the game, but can when I am not. If you want to play chess, make sure you want to play, and be prepared to put everything into every game. The reward is worth it!
A Selection of My Own Games
This is the place where I would like to try to place some of my own games for you to see. To start with, here are 3 games I played in simultaneous exhibitions from 1976-1978. They are against Vasily Smyslov (world champion 1957-1958), Tigran Petrosian (world champion 1963-1969), and Nona Gaprindashvili (women's world champion 1962-1978). I drew against Smyslov and Petrosian, but lost to Gaprindashvili. Brief biographies of my world champion opponents are included. From time to time I hope to post other games I have played in over 30 years of tournament chess.
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