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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Karch’s Washington Chess Letter


I found an interesting little bit of history in the form of a pdf magazine from 1958 that was fun to look through.  It’s interesting to note the Pacific Northwest had their own rating system in those days; top rated players were Arthur Dake, Elmars Zemgalis, Olaf Ulvestad and James McCormick who were masters with ratings over 2150. 
On Saturday, August 2nd & 3rd there was a tournament announcement for the Seattle Seafair tournament at the YMCA, 6 rounds. The Entry Fee was $3.00 ($2.00 if under 18).  First prize was $25 and other prizes based on entries and expenses. 
The Western Open held in Milwaukee was won by Pal Benko on tiebreaks over Milton Otteson ahead of the previous year’s winner, Donald Byrne.  Benko had escaped to communists is 1957 and was living in Cleveland, Ohio.  Another Clevelander, Lajos Szedlacsek, and Dr. Paul Poschel of Ann Arbor, Michigan, both masters, also tied with Byrne but had inferior tiebreaks.
As a junior I played in several tournaments where the YMCA was a popular venue.  You got a tiny room (with a community bathroom down the hall) for about $3.00 a night.  The tournament room always had squeaky floor boards and since there was no air conditioning in those days, it was always stifling hot! Smoking was allowed back then and I still remember an opponent who smoked a corncob pipe during our game.  Between the heat and humidity in the middle of July, or maybe it was August, and smelling that stinking pipe smoke, I can remember the nausea.  I don't remember the game result or who my opponent was...but I do remember wanting to puke during most of the game!  Come to think of it, I probably lost.

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